Archive | April, 2012

Mutual Friend

27 Apr

I’ve met someone.

She’s great, we got on straight away, though I don’t suppose that was such a surprise.

It turns out we had a mutual friend who introduced us. I hesitated. I was so unprepared to meet her. Then she smiled and looked into my eyes. We shook hands, and I let my hand linger a fraction too long. She didn’t withdraw, and flashed me that smile again. I was almost tongue-tied, and didn’t know what to say. I supposed she wouldn’t recognise my voice , and said “Hello”.

We talked for hours. She told me all about where she worked, her favourite places and her friends. She wasn’t particularly curious about me at first, and didn’t mind me asking questions. Of course, I’d already known most of the answers, but I still listened. We seemed to share so many interests, it was almost uncanny. Almost.

We swapped phone numbers when we had to go, and she said she’d text me at the weekend. I had to stop myself finishing her number off as she rolled off the numbers. I couldn’t wait to call her again, though of course I wouldn’t be using the number that I had given her.

I arranged to meet her in town, after she declined meeting at my place. She said she had already planned to meet some friends out, and that I should come along and say “Hi”.

Sensible girl.

It’s been a few weeks now. We’ve run into each other a few times, she always laughs at the coincidence. I just smile.

She’s invited me to her place for a meal tonight. She’s an excellent cook. I think I’ll take a bottle of wine, a sweet white that she’ll enjoy. She gave me directions to her flat, but I’ve known the way for a few months now.

Should be an interesting evening.

Infinitely more difficult

19 Apr

An early Flashfic Friday post, screeching in to make the deadline for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: “Death Is On The Table”.

Trigger warnings for talk of death, suicide and depression. Read at your own risk. If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this story, pop on over to The Befrienders and find some support in your area.

~*~

Making the choice to die was one of the easiest decisions John had ever made. So easy, in fact, that he didn’t even remember making it. It was as though his whole life had been building up to this moment. In reality, of course, it had. What could be more inevitable in life than one’s eventual death? For John, he had decided that he didn’t want to wait for an eventuality. He wanted to take things into his own hands. He was going to make it happen.

John had thought about dying for as long as he could remember. To be honest, he barely thought about anything else. Over the months and years, he’d contemplated just about every way to do it and finally decided what he was going to do. He didn’t want there to be a funeral. Even if there were one, no-one would come. Why would they? It would be better for all concerned, he decided, if he just ceased to exist.

His family was long ago and far away. He hadn’t been in touch with his parents since he was in his early twenties, some 15 or so years ago. They didn’t even know where he lived. His job was shitty and pointless. They’d get someone else in to do it in a heartbeat. No-one would probably even notice he was gone. There wasn’t really anyone else to miss him. John didn’t make friends. The people he’d been close to when he was younger had all drifted away over time and there wasn’t anyone new. Knowing that you weren’t going to be around long enough to get to know someone is a pretty strong disincentive to socialising.

John didn’t expect his death to cause as much as a ripple. He had it all planned out. The rent on his flat, and the combined bill for gas and electric, had been paid until the end of the month. It was a furnished flat, so there was nothing to dispose of. He didn’t have much in the way of personal effects, and certainly nothing that anyone would find valuable. He’d bagged his belongings in black sacks with a note to the landlord to have them collected by the charity shop on the high street that did house clearances. His bank account had a zero balance. He’d never taken out any credit cards because he’d never needed to buy anything that required them. He had no creditors and no debtors.

It was almost as if he if he didn’t exist already.

He wasn’t sure what changed or when. It seemed to be around about the time the woman at the check-out in the mini-supermarket around the corner had smiled at him. He’d gone to get stamps to mail out the letters taking care of the remainder of his personal effects and when he said she could keep the change, she beamed a genuine smile and wished him a lovely day.

Maybe it was the fact that the planning was almost over. John had never really thought of it as ending. He’d been planning for so long that now he was looking his death in the face, it didn’t look as appealing close-up as it had from a distance.

But there was momentum now; a whole lot of things that once done could not be undone. He’d given his notice on his flat. He had no money left in his account and had given what he had away to charities and rough sleepers. There was no-one to miss him, but no-one to be thankful he was still there either.

Making the choice to die was one of the easiest decisions John had ever made. Making the choice to live was infinitely more difficult.

Thingy

13 Apr

“‘It was after the Great Recession of 2025 that everything really changed,’ said Jonah James, self-styled warrior against the thing-based establishment. ‘Up until that point, money had value in its own right.’

Jonah reminisces about a time in primary school when his parents had given him money to go on a school trip. ‘I got sweets in the gift shop at the Heritage Centre in exchange for the coins I had in my pocket,’ he says, shaking his head in disbelief at this bygone time.

“Of course, it doesn’t work like that any more. When money lost all value, it stopped being circulated and now we have the Thingcards. National Revaluation really shook things up. Everyone is now familiar with the way exchange works in our economy. The more things you have, the more you are worth – a simple fact of “Thingconomics” as it’s come to be called.

“While people had previously been well-off because of how much money they had, Revaluation allocated assets according to how much stuff people had. Where once there was wealth, there were now things. Wealthy people were now impoverished in comparison to the thingy people – people who had lots of things. The monetary value of those things didn’t matter. When recession and hyperinflation came into effect, currency was worthless.

“Jonah remembers the day the Revaluation assessors came to their house. ‘They arrived with their tablets and counted every single thing,’ he says, a far-away look in his eyes. ‘Then my parents were allocated a Thingcard charged with weekly credits.’ Every year, in a routine each family will be very familiar, Jonah’s family had the Annual Inventorisation Visit, during which all of their things were counted. The more things you can demonstrate you have, the higher your allowance. This has become standard practice across the country and is very much a fact of life.

“‘That’s just how it works,’ says Jonah, shrugging and running his hand through an unruly mane of long, thick hair. ‘Quantity is obviously a better marker of how well off you are. I remember seeing shops on the History Channel when I was growing up that had been thought of as the best places to go back in the old days, because everything there cost so much money. You could only afford one or two things unless you were really wealthy. I remember hearing that the shops said their things were “quality” but as far as I could tell, the food in those fancy places didn’t look any different than the stuff my mum got.’

“Jonah’s mum said that when he was born, people had looked down on her for shopping at Poundland because the things they sold were cheap in monetary terms. These days, only the thingiest people shopped there, and Jonah remembered begging her to go somewhere different because people would know how thingy they were.

“Wealthy. There’s a term you don’t hear any more. When Jonah was very young, he vaguely remembered that one of his aunties was known of as wealthy. ‘She didn’t have lots of things,’ he said, ‘but what she did have was apparently worth lots of money.’ When currency was phased out in National Revaluation, Jonah’s aunt was devastated. ‘All the money she’d had was worth nothing,’ he recalls, ‘and with only a few things, she was suddenly poor.’

“When Jonah got to secondary school he used to get teased because his family were really thingy. They said his family looked down on everyone and thought they were better because of all of their things. Jonah had only ever wanted to be like all the other kids – he was embarrassed by how thingy his family was. ‘ I used to try and pretend like we had hardly anything,’ he reminisces, ‘but as soon as anyone came to the house and saw all the plastic toys, stacks of tinned food and bumper packs of toilet roll, word got around that we were rolling in things and no-one wanted anything to do with me.’

“There wasn’t really any way to hide it either. ‘I don’t know how the people in the olden days managed to convince others that they were well-off when all they had was a house with a few bits in it,’ he says. He knew, because his mum had told him, that people used to get teased for being wealthy when she was little the same way he got picked on for being thingy, but he still doesn’t understand how. ‘It would have been easy to hide if you had lots of money because it didn’t take up any space. If you had lots of things, there was no way to get away from it.’

“As soon as he was old enough, Jonah decided to get away from it all. ‘I always loved the open air, and I could learn to do everything I needed to make a good life for myself,’ he says. Taking off into the woods, he secured a plot of, built a home from the materials he found around him and planted his own crops. He had very few things and all he needed to be happy and free.”

Gillian looked up from the story in Take A Closer Look magazine and snorted.

“What an elitist twat,” she thought, and tossed the magazine over the massive heap of things on the lounge floor and onto the huge pile in the corner of the room.

Bad News

13 Apr

“What? How can that have happened?”

Her eyes, glazed with tears, stared back at the enormous messenger.

His own eyes were large and sad, and stared back; two pools of blackness. He was holding the message  that would bring horrible news in a few impassive lines from a faceless official. The massive face of the messenger was anything but impassive. His eyes summed up his whole demeanour. Large and sad.

It was the face of one who’d delivered tragic messages and cared deeply for each recipient, but powerless to prevent the emotional damage he had to inflict.

It wasn’t an obvious career for someone of his kind. Some were frightened by his sudden and shocking appearance, but were soon soothed by those eyes. His presence was imposing at first, but he soon seemed to melt into the background when the news sunk in.

He did it because someone had to, and he did it as best he could.

He handed the message to the woman. Her trembling hand reached for the envelope.

“Thank you” she said instinctively. The messenger simply shrugged.

“Sorry to be the bear of bad news” he replied sadly. He turned, dropped to his four paws and slowly padded away.

Hit & Run

7 Apr

A story I’ve had in my head for a while, and this is one of the openings I’ve written for it… Hope you enjoy!

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

“Daddy! Look at the funny monkey!”

The little girl pointed through the window at a small monkey doing what looked suspiciously like the Twist.

“Daddy! Daddy, look at the funny monkey! He’s dancing Daddy! Look!”

The little girl was now squashing her face up against the glass, which no doubt actually impeded her view but gave an excellent impression to her Daddy about just how exciting it all was. Daddy looked up from his brochure.

“It says here,” He read “That Rhesus monkeys are diurnal and mainly herbivorous”

The little girl slowly turned towards her Daddy, smearing the breath marks she’d made on the glass with her cheek. He continued.

“That means that they sleep at night and eat vege- Oh, look. That one really is dancing” He had glanced up to see what now looked, rather appropriately, like the Monkey. He reached for his phone to video it.

The dancing Rhesus monkey saw the frantic pocket action and knew what it meant. Once that phone was in his hand, nothing else in the world could distract the big, dumb human from it. Imperceptibly, at least to big, dumb humans, the rhesus monkey gestured and winked to a hidden unit in the bushes.

“Quickly, Daddy!” The little girl cried, “You’re missing it again!”

Daddy was trying to retrieve his phone, but the seat belt, and his belly, was slowing him down. If they had been more observant, they would have noticed the dancing monkey was not paying full attention to his moves, but rather his eyes darted around and under the car.

“Where’s the camera on this damn thing?” The little girl spun around, reached around the seat and plucked the phone out of his hand.

“Honestly, I don’t know why we have to carry around all this gubbins. I remember when a phone was for phoning-”

“Ssh!” The little girl hissed. She had unlocked the phone, found the camera, switched to HD video mode almost as soon as her Daddy had started talking.

The red light on the phone was noticed instantly. The monkey stopped dancing. He was not going to become the latest internet star, despite his dreams. His orders were to attract and hold the attention of the targets. Naturally, he had danced. However, he was also under strict orders not to be videoed putting on too good a show so he wouldn’t attract undue attention. So, he had to bury his ambitions, and work for the greater good. When the red light came on, he sighed inwardly, dropped to his haunches and started picking his nose.

“DADDY! Look at the funny monkey now!” The girl was laughing harder than ever. Daddy looked unimpressed, and dropped his eyes back to the brochure. The little girl happily videoed the funny monkey, while the funny monkey died a little inside.

The big, dumb humans were completely oblivious to the crack unit of six camouflaged monkeys that had slipped under the car from the other side. In precisely twenty-five seconds, the last monkey was counted out from under the car and was beating a tactical retreat back to the bushes, their mission complete, and the vital component captured.