Windups in the Library: Seville

“I was looking in the travel books, and I can’t find anything about Seville.”

“Where?”

“Seville? You know, Spain?”

“Are you sure you were looking in the right place?”

“Where else might it be? Have we got a display?”

“No, Cookery?”

“What? Cookery? Like famous recipes as a travelogue?”

“Certainly, though probably about preserves.”

“Preserves?

“You know, like marmalade?”

“Marmelade?”

“Yeah, Seville Oranges.”

“No! I meant the place!”

“”Where?”

“Seville!”

“The oranges?”

“No – oh wait, you swine! Give over!”

Inspired by a conversation at work today

Short Story/Drabble: The Struggle

She looked him in the eye and saw the end approaching like an oncoming freight train. Even now with the clich├ęs, she thought, and prepared for the worst.

“Listen, can we talk?” He said. He had at least brought coffee and what looked like cookies in a bag.

“Go on then.” She said, pausing her editing to give him her full attention. It was only polite.

“Look, it’s not you…”

“Correct. I’m working damn hard on things from my end.”

“Yeah. I know.” He looked embarrassed. “It’s just, this is all so new for me.”

“Fine. Start the story again.”

Short Story: Sunrise Shenanigans

“So, let me get this straight, you’re telling me that we’re actually living in a magical construct designed to make us think that there’s no such thing as magic.”

“That’s right.”

“You’re also trying to tell me that the sun comes up each morning as a result of a series of spells enacted by wizards that involve a sacrifice; and that you know where the people who run it all are going to be this morning? Have I missed anything?”

“No, that pretty much covers it.”

“You’re mad.”

“Maybe; but don’t you want to know what’s really going on?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

“What were you expecting? Look, if you want me to come running off on one of your hare-brained urban exploration schemes, ask properly. Don’t spin me a line.”

“Well, I just thought -”

“What? How many times have I told you I’m not listening to your bullshit stories any more?”

“But that’s why -”

“Why what?”

“I’m not lying to you. Not this time.”

“So you admit you were lying before?”

“I…Look I know I’ve stretched the truth a bit, exaggerated stuff, but honestly, you really won’t believe what’s going on down there. Don’t you want to be a hero? Stand for something?”

“What on earth are you going on about? And sacrifice? Just what have you been smoking? That’s rank, even for you.”

“It’s what I heard. That the magic needs a special kind of person for it to work – someone who doesn’t believe in spite of everything.”

“Well given it isn’t real, that’s hardly going to be a challenge is it?”

“What if I could prove magic is real?”

“But, it isn’t.”

“What’s this then?”

“Okay, you’re going with a flame out of your thumb? I’ve seen special effects guys do that in how many shows? Forget it. I’m going down the pub. You go play with your new friends and try freaking out some students or something.”

“I really am sorry about this.”

“…”

“The sun must rise.”

Short Story: Choose Your Heroes

“The stories are always about the heroes with useful super powers, have you noticed?” Clive said. He waved his comic book in the air in emphasis. Neil grunted noncommittally from behind his own book, intent on his breakfast cereal. “Are you listening?”

“Yes, yes. Look, stands to reason, doesn’t it? People want a bit of fantasy to distract them.” His spoon clinked in the now-empty bowl and he risked a look at Clive. “A bit of flight, x-ray vision, muscles you could bounce a penny off? It’s all wish fulfillment isn’t it?”

Clive pulled a face. “It’s all the same though isn’t it? With great power, and all that. People doing the right thing and tidying all the toys away at the end. But they’re always amazing powers, never crap ones.”

“Well that’s not entirely true.” Neil felt compelled to defend his favourites. “Some of them don’t have powers at all, and others just have something minor, or something that’s a huge burden, like not being able to touch anyone.”

“Oh what, billionaire playboys with all the cool toys and plans, or some oddly specific skill that gets used in looser ways over time?”

“So what? It’s a bit of fun. Occasionally there’s a writer gets really deep with them, but they’re comics! It’s a genre with conventions.” Neil reached for the cereal box and poured out enough to refill his bowl. The sound of pouring milk filled the air for a moment.

“Yeah, but why not write about, oh I don’t know, heroes who can make people burp on command, or always pick matching socks in the dark?”

Neil chewed on his granola with gusto a while to give himself a chance to come up with an answer. He thought about pretending not to have heard it. In the end he settled for: “Because it’s not very super heroic, and frankly a bit dull?”

“Oh sod off. I was trying to make a point.”

“Just not a very good one. Go write one yourself if you think it’s so easy.”

“I will, I’ll blog it.” And Clive swept out the room, leaving his comic behind. Neil sighed and finished his meal. He could hear Clive stomping around upstairs; and the noise of the water in the central heating and mains pipes; and next door’s cat; and the sound of the delivery van driver’s shoes hitting the front step outside.

It was more of an effort not to hear everything really, just easier to pretend to be half-deaf so he didn’t have to bother trying to filter it. He chewed some more granola to drown it all out instead, and got ready to start his day.

Short Story: Ugly Truths

“Everywhere I look, I see ugly people.” Lorna said, and I was momentarily unable to summon an answer. I put my phone down and looked at her. My frown invited her to say it again, just in case I’d misheard her. She frowned back, and repeated herself. “Everywhere I look, I see ugly people.”

I straightened up in my chair and looked round. The coffee shop we’d stopped in was pretty busy, but everyone looked – well, normal. “What do you mean?”

“Just look. There, and there, and there, and there.” She pointed at four couples sat at various tables, each intent on their conversations. I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary at first. Then I thought I could see what Lorna was talking about.

Every single one of them had a look of disgust on their face as they talked to their partner. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, and wasn’t even sure if they were even necessarily reacting to the same things. The range of expressions was wider than I’d have thought, but by and large they centred around wrinkled noses and downturned mouths.

“See?” Lorna repeated. “Ugly. They’re fair on the outside, but ugly on the inside. They’ve settled for their lives, have turned their hope to regret, and it has poisoned and turned them.”

I didn’t know what to say at first. Then I took her hand to get her attention. “Then, am I ugly? Are you?”

“Have you settled? For what you do with your life? For this relationship?” There was a coy smile on her face that caught at my heart.

“No.” I said with more certainty than I’d thought I would. “No, I’ve not settled. Not for what I have, not for who I’m with. Not for you, never you.” We smiled at each other, and she nodded with satisfaction.

“Good, neither have I. Life’s too short to settle.”

Short Story: A Conversation

“What’s that noise?”

“Hmm?”

“There – that noise; can’t you hear it?”

“What are you on about?”

“Look, just stop what you’re doing come over here.”

“Fine. What am I listening for?”

“That noise – the high pitched one.”

“What is that? It’s like, what, a buzz?”

“More like a whine?”

“No, definitely a buzz. That’s a flappy noise.”

“What, like a bug?”

“Maybe? Where’s it coming from?”

“Don’t know, thats why I called you. Wait!”

“What? Why are you shouting anyway?”

“Look, that book wasn’t there a minute ago.”

“The poetry?”

“No, the history book – the local one, blue; there.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, look and now there’s another on top of it.”

“Eh? Where’d – okay that’s odd. How’d you do that?”

“I didn’t. Look, there’s some more over there. That was History a minute ago, now it’s Travel!”

“Are you feeling okay?”

“You can’t hear that noise, can you?”

“No, but – woah!”

“See! Told you!”

“That’s fast!”

“Oh! Wait! I know what this is!”

“What?”

“That new library assistant, started yesterday? They said he was quick as a Flash, but I thought it was just a saying.”

“Oh… Reckon he needs a tea break?”

“Well he probably shouldnt have any more coffee…”

Fiction Fragment: Sassing An Angel

Wrote this recently as a block breaker:

“I know I’m not the world’s greatest theologian,” Paul said, “but aren’t you guys supposed to be pants-wettingly awesome instruments of divine will whose first words are usually ‘Do not be afraid’?”
The freckle-faced teenage girl in front of him blinked and became a towering multi-headed giant with three sets of wings, and a flaming sword. Silhouetted by the sun behind it, the angel leant forward. “When you’ve changed your trousers, we can start again if you like, but time as you experience it is running rather short.”