I was having trouble thinking up a story for today, until I realised I’d been given the prompt ‘feeling meta’.
“What do you think?” I asked. “Writing about writing. Too pretentious?”
Magpie perched on the monitor. “That stopped you before?”
“I want to know when you’re going to tell the story about me and the fisherman.”
“It’s a brilliant story.”
“Sure it is.”
“Better than this one.”
I tapped out another few words, then broke the paragraph.
“Best get on,” Magpie said. “You’re 90 words in already.”
“Really? Guess I’d better stop there, then.”
I’m woken up by a cold splash of water across my face. There’s a bitter taste in my mouth and a bright light shining in my eyes.
“We’ve got some questions for you.”
My head thumps. The last thing I remember was that girl. Skin so deliciously pale. Her neck so smooth and inviting.
A bloodstream so full of laudanum I’m still having trouble moving.
I’ve been hunting for 3000 years. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Who set the trap? Police? Slayers?
Some pottery fragments are pushed toward me.
“What can you tell us about these?”
Oh, hells. It’s even worse.
You’ve got to start small.
We never had big ambitions. We just thought we could do a better job of running the place.
So we seceded. Just our street. Oh, we wanted Thicket Road too. Maybe Fishponds. Definitely no more.
But it turned out the idea was pretty popular. Soon enough, we had all of Bristol. Barely any peer pressure needed.
The Midlands followed, then Yorkshire. Finally the Prime Minister gave up the keys to Downing Street.
Now we’ve got colonies in Paris and Berlin. World domination is gradual, but it’s going well. After all, you’ve got to start small.
Walking the rooftops, I found a hummingbird painted on a chimneystack.
It was a beautiful thing, delicate as rose blossom, bright as rainbows. Drawn so precisely it could be alive, up here where no-one could see it. I came back every day, to prove I hadn’t imagined it.
One day, I found someone else there, sitting on the roof. “Did you make that?” I asked.
“No. I just found it.”
“Who’d do something like that, all the way up here?”
He shrugged. “Someone who wants people to keep exploring. Best way to do that is leave behind some buried treasure.”
[click to continue…]
When planning his new restaurant, my uncle travelled all over the world.
“And you know what they had everywhere?” he said, whisking the batter. “Pancakes.”
“Pancakes. There’s so many culinary traditions, but everyone has pancakes. In Eritrea, it’s savoury and used as a plate. In Indonesia, they have serabi. In France, crepes.”
“Pancakes are hard times food. The cheapest ingredients. A culture’s food shows its history, and everyone’s had hard times, too.”
“Hard times food?” I asked. “You charge £60 for your pancakes.”
He shrugged. “That’s because when people are rich, they can afford to be stupid.”
I discovered my father was a liar while sitting with my cousin under a large oak tree.
“That way’s north,” I said, pointing to the mossy side of the trunk.
“Ain’t.” He brutally disabused me of the notion, not with facts I could argue but with a compass I could not.
I didn’t forgive my father for days. I felt betrayed, unsure of anything he told me.
Later, as the world became complicated, I understood why.
Now I have kids, I could explain the wars and famine on TV. Instead, I point at the moss, and say “That way’s north.”
My twin sister and I were born with a rare genetic defect, which means I can only tell the truth and she can only lie.
She says I’m making it up, of course.
The funny thing is, because we never have perfect information, I often speak a truth that turns out to be false, and she lies in a way that’s actually true.
“That’s not funny,” she says. As she would.
“I was just explaining…”
“Stop it,” she growls. “I’m the one who tells the truth. You’re the one who lies.”
Maybe she’s right. Honestly, it’s quite hard to tell.
The amount she stares at her coffee, you’d think she could tell the future in those swirls of cream.
“Don’t be silly,” she said, when I mentioned as much. “The future’s 3D. It moves in a hundred directions.” And she moved her hand through the steam, caressing it into new shapes.
“So what do you see?”
“The usual. Some pain, some joy. Hope, death, winter and spring.”
“This week’s lottery numbers?”
She hands me a card. “I got those this morning.” I raise an eyebrow, and she sips the coffee. “Last night’s hot chocolate told me you’d ask.”
The plague was thorough. I was the only survivor.
I never went out much. Maybe that’s why. We never worked out what it was or how it spread.
Not through pizza takeout, at least.
Surprisingly, things still mostly run. I wouldn’t say they’re better, but they’re not noticeably worse.
Of course, the void led to a new order. New faces at the top. And while my freedom is now more limited, they’ve not been unkind. I guess I should be grateful to our – my – new overlords.
I am the last man on earth.
The women keep me in a museum.
[click to continue…]
I can’t remember how long it’s been since they locked me in the emptiness.
I don’t even know if that question makes sense. This place is empty of everything, including time and space.
I am all there is.
I could go mad here. Of course, that’s the intention.
They’ve left me nothing but my mind.
And if that’s the only weapon I’ve got, I intend to use it.
This place is empty but my imagination is infinite. I can be worlds and futures and civilisations, until finally I am free.
I open my eyes.
“Let there be light.”