It seemed the most fun in the fairground was in the small kitchen where Aaron and I worked over the summer; preparing batter and churning out waffle after waffle, talking about our dreams, confiding our fears and laughing the laugh of two people on the same wavelength, a side glance enough to set off a shared, unspoken joke and a fit of giggles. When it quietened down, he’d create masterpieces – a kitten with waffle whiskers, a hot air balloon, and bravely, a telephone- I’d noticed the nerves when he asked for my number as I bit its curly waffle cord, the memory a welcome distraction, my mind wandering, pondering how dull that telephone would look if he were to make it now- imagining straight crisp edges, chocolate sauce dabbed in dimples for battery life, and maple syrup drips of reception silenced my inner critic’s commentary on broadened hips, silver streaks, and traces of life’s lines on my face as I approached the man sitting across the room. Continue reading →
The emphasis on political discourse rather than scientific rationale in arriving at 2C was my first experience of the compromises that my degree had not prepared me for; sure, we had the Monte Carlo method to deal with uncertainty in numbers, but no amount of elegant code could model the unpredictability and irrationality of my species.
Months before the inauguration of the Leader of the Free World, my department was earmarked for the puppet show it was to become, strings dangled in wait, to be tied as soon as the acceptance speech concluded; I couldn’t bear to make any more compromises so I resigned and now, years later, as I wade through my submerged island home, occasionally diving in to retrieve mementos of my sunken world, that decision haunts me more than the sight of a bloated corpse, for I could have been the change that I so desperately wanted to see.
I write this in the hope that if it is found, the world I inhabited is not shrouded in mythology; it happened, we were here, and perhaps our failings can be lessons for whatever or whomever is to come.
Not for the first time, I approached the table that had been set for eleven, my mother’s best plates out for the occasion and a sense of abundance and joie de vivre conjoured on the surface by a decadent floral burst and fruit too waxy to tempt a bite. I stood at the head of the table, guests paused in a still life for my perusal, waiting for their cue. I noted they were all there- my three brothers, mother, father; their faces, clothes, expressions and mannerisms reflected by their mirrored selves across the table; my role as hostess was to select the ‘right’ version of each family member to take a seat, at which point I’d wake to the clammy anxiety of the pre-emptive consequence of getting it wrong, leaving the cold bone china plates empty, my appetite suppressed.
At parties, he’d tell strangers he was a problem solving janitor, piquing interest to proceed with tales of clearing debris from crash sites, labeling and cataloging pieces of aircraft jig saw to reveal the reason for lives abruptly left behind.
There was the official record, he’d tell them; black boxes that were sole survivors, names, dates of birth, nationalities, scattered corpses confirmed by dental records. For the still interested, and by that point having finished the wine he’d been nursing on first introductions, he’d confide that what he most loved about his job was the unofficial records, stories pieced together after surreptitiously removing film from cameras in varying degrees of integrity, watching traces of lives lost in flight reform in subterranean chemical baths; his new acquaintances usually excused themselves to mingle or get another drink before he had a chance to pull out his little album of best ofs.
The silent assassin, a chameleon with a saccharine smile, gracious only in affording her victims their choice of poison. Salivating, they were lulled into a false sense of security with the crayon hued assortment. Nostalgic for the colours of their youth, their mouths moved of their own volition, each bite leaving tell tale crumbs of life’s gradual erosion.
Today is our wedding anniversary- Mr & Mrs Billingup; a date I’ll never forget, curved round my ring finger with his initials, the permanence of ink marking the impulse of a fleeting moment. Looking at it now, I can laugh at that tired old joke my girlfriends used to make, the BB of Bryan’s initials implying a best before date. Holding the last of the photographs, I wished away all traces of that day as I threw it on the fire and watched the edges curl to weightless ashes.
One by one, they filed in. Azure dust coating their usual sheen, and joints creaking from the unforgiving strain of extra duties since our unscheduled landing. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a spray of WD-40®, but it’s the corrosive atmosphere that’ll likely be the undoing of the entire fleet; just now when we need them most to get out of this hell hole and return to earth.
It had to be timed perfectly; the final breath of a soul feeder coinciding with the first light of day. Accelerated transmission of human collective consciousness via wheat fields, using the sun’s rays as a carrier, letting photosynthesis do the rest. Dr Woodrow believed in his technique and the benefits to what remained of the human race, and so had no qualms being among the first of three to go, each lying in their tents till curtain call.
A range of inspirations here for what will be a multi-part story- in part from watching A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Sonya’s Three Line Tales Week Twenty Sixwhich provides the intriguing photograph, and Jane Dougherty’s latest microfiction challenge, but that will be a separate post. Woodrowhas featured in a couple of my stories previously and makes a welcome return here as my sci-fi muse.