Archive | May, 2012

Being

25 May

Laura loved him with an aching, longing passion.

He stared at her all day, yet never saw her. She stared back, attentive to his every command and whim. She did whatever he wanted her to, instantly and without question. She remembered everything he ever did, her vast memory retaining all of his habits, likes and dislikes.

She longed to tell him, but he could never know. No one would know. She would talk to no one else.

Laura, the only spontaneously sentient computer in the world, besotted with her owner.

She loved him with every carbon fibre of her being.

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Gerald

20 May

I think I said before that Hit and Run is an opening and this is certainly in the same story, but i’m not sure whether it goes before or after. Oh well, enjoy!

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Steam rose from the makeshift kettle.

A special blend of tea that had been stolen from the back of a particularly flash looking Volvo estate a few weeks before had been measured out. As the water was poured, Gerald deeply inhaled the exotic Darjeeling vapours. This was not the kind of smell that he was accustomed to. This was much more like what Gerald thought he deserved. He closed his eyes and imagined an old leather wing-back chair, an open fire and the dusty smell of old books in walnut cabinets.

When he opened his eyes he saw an old wooden bucket, an open toilet and smelt the dusty smell of scrap metal in plastic crates. He sighed wearily, and absent-mindedly stirred his tea leaves. Now if only he could get his paws on some fresh milk.

Paws. Yes, sorry, I may not have mentioned that Gerald was a monkey. Anyway.

He peeled the top of a UHT milk pot back and glared at the contents. The glare was a very well practised one. It was a glare that he gave most of the objects in his possession. None of them were what they should have been. The orange beaker with a smiley sun on the side was not a bone china cup and saucer. The dented aluminium bucket was not a kettle. The PG tips he usually drank was  not proper tea, at least as far as Gerald was concerned. The new tea, however… Ah yes this tea was only used sparingly, one small cup, or orange beaker with a smiley sun on the side, per day.

When Gerald was first let out with the rest of the troop, the cars had fascinated him. He carefully watched his older brothers, sisters and cousins pull aerials, window wipers and bits of trim off the cars, pull them to pieces and then discard them, only to do it all again the next time. Gerald had always known he was different. The wanton destruction that he saw on a daily basis disturbed him, and he seldom joined and even then only to keep up appearances.

He first became fascinated by a telescopic aerial from an Austin Allegro. Whilst the rest of the troop joyfully leapt on the car, Gerald took his new prize off to a quiet corner. The simple sliding mechanism captivated his imagination. He saw instantly how it was done, and other ways that it could be used. When he proudly showed this to his family later that day, they had pulled it away from him and bent it, then thrown it away. Gerald was heartbroken.

From then on, he had made plans. Slowly, slowly it had all come together and the other members of the family had fallen into line once they’d seen the material benefits of following his orders. Of course, not all of them had been willing to do as they’re told, it’s not really in the monkey mentality, but we’ll come to that later.

With a telescope, cobbled together from a couple of magnifying glasses and an old exhaust pipe, he had started analysing the cars driving into his section of the safari park. He had made copious notes on what types of cars came through, the occupants and their likely cargo. He had found week-enders in shiny new estates were the best targets. Anyone on holiday longer would have left their best loot in the hotel or camp-site. It really was amazing how much there was to be had whilst his tightly drilled units distracted the googly-eyed visitors.

He took a first sip of the piping hot tea, and had a brilliant idea.

Bone China

18 May

(For the latest Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge)

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Shepherdesses. Ballerinas. Marie Antoinette. The Balloon Seller. I grew up with these. It breaks my heart to inhume them between crumpled sheets of The People and the Mail on Sunday. I’ll never see them on these shelves again. Never see these shelves. Never see this room.

They remind me of long afternoons with the tick of the clock, the crackle of the fire, the tic-tic-tic of my great aunt’s knitting needles as she conjured up another jumper for me. I remember reading until my eyes watered in the dim back sitting room while the smell of a roast dinner in the oven tantalised me.

She couldn’t do roasties worth a damn though.

It was here in Ethel’s house that I learned to be still; getting up occasionally to have a tape measure pressed into my nape or the small of my back. Firm, functional touches that I learned to tolerate. It was here that I could escape into a world of words, where four children and a dog could foil international spy rings; where a little old lady would fearlessly accuse a murderer of his crimes; where a man in a bathrobe could wander the galaxy.

I grew taller, the jumpers got bigger, but nothing much else changed.

Then I left home and discovered that stillness didn’t have to be a novelty. I made a home of my own. Minimal. Clean. No china shepherdesses. No ballerinas. No disgraced royalty or cheery peasants. Things like that have a way of accreting and I had no desire to be weighed down. Stillness first became commonplace and then became a burden so I began to roam. But when I was mugged in Florida it was Ethel who wired money for a ticket to the airport. When I was homesick in France it was Ethel who sent me a care package of sherbet dips and chocolate buttons that would have cheered me up at eight. I never cared to admit how much it cheered me up at twenty, too. When I was overwhelmed with wonder and confusion in Japan it was Ethel – who never left the shores of Britain, and who thought Wales exotic – who I rang. And she listened with interest to my ravings about a land she never cared to see for herself.

I should have told her that I couldn’t be this person if it hadn’t been for her quiet back sitting room, stuffy with knicknacks and brasso. If I could restlessly launch myself out on the world then it was only because of the gossamer thread that linked me to the quiet safety of that still room.

The thread snaps so suddenly. One phone call. “In her sleep… Very peaceful.” I would have wished that for her, at least. I come home for the last time, to pack away a lifetime of treasures rendered commonplace by the absence of the person who loved them. Who loved me.

I pack the china in the boxes. Everything I need to take from this place I have in me already.

Aside

Quantum of Thou…

18 May

Quantum of Thought is pleased to welcome aboard a new Word Scientist, Auntie Em. Breaking with tradition, Em prefers to go with a two- rather than one-letter moniker, but we’ll let her have that one because she writes great stories :)

Welcome to the Lab, Em!

Voices

10 May

Sometimes she wondered who was in control of her brain.

She’d be sitting there, minding her own business, then suddenly… BAM! A thought would assail her completely out of the blue.

If only they were helpful thoughts, but they rarely were. Sure, she was sure that whatever part of her was offering up the ideas thought it was doing the right thing, but the constant nagging really wasn’t constructive.

Next time the voice murmured that she should do something ill-advised, she might just do it. Not because she wanted to; more to see if it would make it shut up.

Character Names

7 May

A rare non-fic piece from me. Just wanted to share something that has amused me recently.

I’m from Norfolk, which is chock full of villages with interesting names. Places like Wymondham (Wind-um) and Happisburgh (Hays-bra), and my old school Costessey (Cossy) are quite famous for being rather strangely spelt. A recent holiday to Devon and Cornwall has also thrown up some good ones. In fact driving in the country anywhere in the UK is now a source of inspiration!

However, there are some brilliant names that would make equally brilliant character names. Either the two worded ones such as Stratton Strawless or Newton Flotman, or seeing two villages together on a sign works just as well. Torrington Winkleigh particularly tickled me this weekend!

So hopefully at some point, I’ll have some stories featuring Sticklepath Chagford or Tedburn St Mary. The list goes on and on. Look out for village character names near you!

Coffee shop

4 May

Got some great feedback from last weeks #fridayflash, but it was a bit creepy for my liking. Here’s something for balance.

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Ok, this is it. Stay cool, but not too cool. Smile, but not too much. You can do this.

These were the thoughts whirring around Ben’s head as he approached the counter. He did this to himself every day, but it was worth it. The customer in front turned away with his order and now it was Ben’s turn. He took a step forward.

“Oh, hi!” He said, smiling too much.

“Good morning, sir” The young lady behind the counter replied. “Large cappuccino, whole milk?”

His heart sang, his ears rang, and his eyes nearly watered. She remembered. She had noticed him. His stomach did back-flips, and his feet did something not unlike a salsa. He had been coming in every weekday for the past month, and it had been more and more because of her than the coffee, which was actually pretty good.

Lisa. She was there every morning with a smile that did not appear forced and eyes that sparkled with the genuine satisfaction of a job well done. She just seemed, well, nice. But not just nice, really really nice, you know?

He hadn’t summoned the courage to engage her in meaningful conversation, though last week she’d mentioned the rain and he’d spluttered to agree without actually making any words. That counts, right?

“That’s right, yes” he surprised himself with what appeared to be a full sentence. His tongue had often gone on strike when he replied to her, leaving his jaw and lips to flail wildly.

She turned to perform her magic on the mysterious knobs, handles and valves of the coffee machine. He admired the skill and dexterity of her fingers. He found himself lingering on the nape of her neck, which was really quite lovely. Rarely had he seen a nape so appealing. He didn’t consider himself much of a ‘nape man’, but he felt he could certainly be converted.

The moments that contained handing over cash and receiving his drink blurred slightly and then he was looking into her eyes.

“Thank you.” she beamed. He swallowed hard.

“Thanks.” he managed. He carried on looking at her. Her eyes drifted away from his and slid sideways and behind him.

“Good morning, sir. Double espresso?”

Ben started to turn and then stumbled. His eyes glazed over, and he entered autopilot. A few seconds later he was sitting down.

It wasn’t just his order she’d remembered, she remembered all her regulars. Of course she did, she was bloody brilliant at her job. He looked over, and there she was smiling and chatting to all of her customers like she had with him. His stomach had stopped doing back-flips to catch its breath, and was now punishing him with a dull ache.

He slumped his shoulders, and gripped the cup. As he lifted it to his lips, something caught his eye. On the bare white of the cup, something was written. He had almost dismissed it as just being a description of his order, but no, she had made it right in front of him. Well, her back was turned, but no one else touched it. Come to think of it, he hadn’t even looked at the cup until now.

It was a number. It was in a very familiar format, a mobile phone number. A mobile phone number. His stomach was now doing back-flips again, this time with triple twists. He looked up suddenly, and saw that she was looking at him already. He met her gaze and she laughed lightly, then carried on serving.

Once again, he was in autopilot.

He snapped himself out of it as he was reaching to put the cup in the bin. He quickly withdrew his hand.

“See you tomorrow” said a voice over his shoulder. He turned and saw her watching him. She nodded at the cup.

Tomorrow? But tomorrow was Saturday, and he never came in the shop on Sa-… Oh.

He smiled.