Normally when I’m anxious I calm myself by feeding the ducks at the park at the end of the street. So when I found I couldn’t sleep, I went to the park. The only problem was that there are no ducks to feed at 2am, so I just sat on a bench and watched the lake. It was a calming sight, the smooth surface reflecting the starry sky.
Category: Short Stories Page 2 of 3
Now featured in StoryFest 2020
Mother had told her not to talk to strangers. It was what she told Red Riding Hood every time she sent her into the woods. The creature looked so very hurt, though. It could barely move, using what little energy it had to clutch at its wounded side. Red crept closer. “Are you all right?”
It was mostly curiosity that brought us here. Really. Okay, we were bored too, and maybe a bit tipsy. Well, I definitely was, and Macey seemed to be. Don’t judge. Benny had just dumped me, and Macey was nearly a year out of work. I’d heard she was probably going to lose the flat. So we both had our reasons for having a few drinks in us at three in the afternoon.
The priest did not greet Mirenna when he opened the door to her room. Not that she minded. She was more concerned with looking past him into the grand hall beyond, which she had only seen once. All she glimpsed now was a stained glass rose, framed in gold, one of many that had been set in the walls. Her room was tiny in comparison, and so dull – bare walls, a plain chair and table, a wooden shelf she could not reach. She waited until the priest had shut the door and sat himself down before she spoke.
“New dreams have come to me,” she told him.
The note read: An official from the company is on their way to your establishment. We trust you will be sufficiently prepared to receive him and show him around.
These words were enough to sent the entire place into a panic.
The old god sat in a corner of his workshop and regarded his creation. It was nearly done. He’d laid the foundations of fire and clay, he’d shaped the mountains and the seas, he’d planted the seeds that would grow into grasses and trees. He had spent the last several hours painting each grain of sand just the right shade of gold, each wave in the ocean the right shade of blue, and each cloud just the right shade of silver-grey. This world was his masterpiece. It was lighter than the ones he’d made before, but heavier than the airy worlds his brothers and sisters made. It needed only a few finishing touches: balancing the poles, stoking the fires within to just the right heat, giving the mountaintops one final polish. Once he was done, this world would outshine all the others.
Okay. This is an exercise in imagination. A thought exercise. Just go with me for a minute, and imagine this is all true.
In fact, I want you to imagine that everything is true. Everything you ever thought of, every story you ever read, every lie you ever told. All true, all real. Not here, of course. This world is a very strict, rules based world where not everything is possible. But out there, somewhere, in some other dimension that we can’t quite reach, it all exists. And here’s the thing: it all exists because we believe in it. In fact, we don’t even have to believe in it! Just imagine it. That daydream you had about the perfect life, the perfect job, your dream house, your dream man or woman? All there, somewhere. Just out of reach.
Hell was full. It had taken all the souls it could possibly take, filled every space. But every day, every hour, the souls kept on coming in.
“A place must be found for them,” said the Devil.
This is was partly inspired by the Matrix and every Matrix-like story, but mostly it was inspired by Steve Reich’s first experiment with phasing, It’s Gonna Rain. I actually like phasing as a technique and enjoy later works like Piano Phase and Violin Phase. On the other hand, the first part of It’s Gonna Rain (The phrase ‘It’s gonna rain’, on repeat, slightly out of sync, for about eight minutes) is akin to being punched in the head repeatedly for eight minutes. I started out trying to replicate this in prose form but fortunately, I don’t think I succeeded.
Truth time: This is mostly an excuse to link to a story I wrote that was published as part of the Short Fiction Break 2018 Summer Writing Contest, which you can find here. It’s called Trial by Fire and involves a prisoner being offered a chance at freedom … as long as she can pass the trial.
On the other hand, I also have something to say about how I wrote this story, and maybe learnt a lesson from it, although I’m not sure what that lesson was.