Alone

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The entrance to the viewing platform closed at six, and George knew just where to slip in and hide while the stragglers were shepherded out. He disliked the subterfuge, but didn’t want to spend his last moments dodging tourists with selfie-sticks.

With just two more hours to go, George entered the waiting room. He had chosen the name at random, but he had promised himself he would give it this one shot.

The consultant saw a man in grey. Many of her clients looked nervous when they first came, some were defensive; this one had an air of suppressed agitation.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
George ruminated. “Empty,” he said. “Blank.”
“How long have you been feeling like that?”
“I don’t know. Ever since I can remember.”
“I want you to close your eyes and try to think back to the first time you ever felt it.”

George sighed. He closed his eyes.
“When you remember the first time you felt like this, I want you to picture the situation in your mind. Where were you? What could you see?”
An image came into his mind. “I remember,” he said.
“Good,” she said. “Now I want you to open your eyes and draw a picture of what you saw.”

George groaned inwardly. But too late now, he had struck a deal with himself, and anyway it was just the once. He started to draw.

The picture was bleak. There were dark walls, a corridor with a window, the skeleton of a tree blocking the view. A small figure in the foreground, all alone. No colours, no hope.
She asked him to describe his drawing, the scene he remembered, and how he felt in the picture.

“I want you to sit back comfortably in your chair. Feel your body. Feel the ground under your feet, feel the chair. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply and let go of any tension.” Her voice was calm and reassuring. “Now I want you to imagine that just in front of you there is an opening. A door in time and space. And just beyond it is the scene you just drew.”
He nodded.
“And now, in your imagination, I want you to step through that opening into that world as your adult self. What do you want to do?”

Without a thought, George stepped through the opening and scooped up his child-self in his arms. He could feel the fragile figure nestle against him, tiny arms wrapped around his neck. His heart was full, but he had no words. His eyes were wet.
Time stood still.

“Now I want you to take a deep breath. Feel your body, feel the chair. Slowly come back into the room.” The image faded.

When George stepped out of the building, a bird was hopping across the path. He followed it, and sat down on a bench.
The clock struck six, but he took no notice. He could hardly abandon the boy in the picture, could he?

Holding On

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Once there was a man whose name was Tim, though most people called him Fetch thinking that was his name.

Tim, or Fetch, was slightly eccentric and always dragged a large dead branch around with him. It looked like half a tree, really. One day the neighbourhood bully had mocked Tim walking by with his branch, tossed him a ball and yelled, “Here, fetch!” The other boys had laughed, and somehow the name had stuck.

Dragging a branch around with you all day every day brings a lot of problems with it. Tim had a hard time finding a job or a flat. Shops didn’t like it when he came in, and after an incident with the door, he couldn’t even go on the bus anymore. People mocked him and sometimes threw things.

Whatever difficulties the branch caused him, Tim found a way around them. Sometimes he thought wistfully about all the things he couldn’t do because of the branch, and then he hated it. Again and again, he decided to let it go, but somehow he just couldn’t.

A few times he tried to get help. The first time, they wouldn’t even let him in to see the doctor as he refused to leave the branch outside. Then, one day, he saw an advertisement for a new therapist promising a 100% success rate in letting things go. Tim decided to try again and made an appointment.

The man with very shiny teeth invited Tim to lie down on the couch. He was to close his eyes, let go of the branch, and count backwards from 100 in steps of 3. When he opened his eyes, everything would be alright, and he would no longer need the branch. Tim was scared, but he so longed to free himself of the branch that he screwed up his courage and forced himself to try. When he opened his eyes again, the branch was gone.

Tim screamed and screamed, and even under sedation he only calmed down when he was safely holding on to his branch again. He left the office shaking and promised himself he would never, ever trust anyone again. Better to live with his branch, however poorly, than to subject himself to such an ordeal again.

So time went on, and Tim still lived with his branch. The many practical difficulties didn’t bother him so much, but he did get lonely. No one seemed to want a friend who dragged a dead branch around with him. So when one day, as he was walking in the park, a lady looked up from her book and gave him a nod and a hint of a smile, it was almost a shock.

Tim thought he might have been mistaken, so the next day he took care to walk past the bench she was sitting on, and again she gave him a smile. It became a habit: he would walk past her bench, and they would exchange a smile. This may not sound like much, but for Tim it quickly became the best part of his day.

So when one rainy day she wasn’t there, he was very disappointed. He turned to leave the park, but then she called from a pavilion. Elated by this sudden turn of events, he went up to her, sat down beside her on the pavilion steps, and said hello.

From then on it became a new habit: they would sit on the bench together a while and talk. Nothing much, just things about the weather and the park, or maybe the squirrels. Then one day she asked him whether she could touch his branch. This was quite a shock for him. People had mocked his branch, some boys had tried to kick it, but no one had wanted to touch it, much less asked his permission to do so. But still he shook his head, he’d rather she didn’t. “That’s fine,” she said, “it’s your branch.”

A few days later, he shyly said she might touch the branch if she wanted. And she did. Gently, and not for long. “It’s a good branch,” she said. Tears came into his eyes, and he hurried off. “Why did you say that?” he asked the next day. “Well, it clearly means a lot to you,” she replied.

One day he asked about her job, and she told him she was a therapist with an office beside the park. He told her about his experience with the man with the shiny teeth. He couldn’t quite hear what she muttered, but he did catch the words “dangerous” and “quack”. Some weeks later, after making her promise she would never try to take his branch away from him, he made an appointment.

“Where did you get the branch?” The question surprised him. He had never really given it much thought, it seemed to have always been there. But slowly it came back to him. The sea-trip when he was a boy. The accident, the screaming. Grabbing hold of a floating branch, and never letting go.

“So it saved your life,” she said. Tim looked at his branch with new eyes. “I guess,” he said. “That’s something to be grateful for,” she said. “But maybe you don’t need to hold on to it all the time anymore?”

Step by step, Tim learned to let go of the branch. First just for seconds, then minutes. Soon he could cross the room and sit on the couch, hardly taking his eyes off it in the beginning, later only glancing at it now and then. Then he could leave it in the waiting area, and one proud day he came to the office without it.

Tim kept the branch, in his bedroom at first, then moving it to the spare room, and finally into the attic. And when he came across it by chance he would remember that whatever difficulties it had caused him, one day, when he had nothing else to hold on to, it had saved his life.

The Iron Kingdom

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Once upon a time there was a king who had four sons. The sons’ lives were ill-fated: one died of illness, another fell to his death from a tower, and a third was killed in battle. Then there was only one son left to succeed his father. The last young prince was a sickly boy, and doctors warned the king that his son’s heart might not be strong enough to let him live to be king.

This was a tragedy, not only for the king and queen who loved their last little boy dearly, but for the whole kingdom. Without a clear succession, many feared it would once again be racked by civil war. So the king offered the highest reward for anyone who could save the prince’s life.

Scores of healers and magicians made their way to the castle, but all the herbal droughts and magic amulets did not make the young prince any better. Indeed, he grew weaker by the day. So when at last a man came along and proposed a radical solution, the desperate king and queen were willing to listen.

The man who called himself the magister said he would take the prince away to heal. And as the problem was the boy’s heart, a band of iron would be set around it to make him strong. This had worked well on many a sickly boy, the magister said, indicating the hearty adolescents in his company. The king was impressed with the lads, with their mature and resolute air. Such a lad could well succeed to the kingship, he thought.

The queen did not want to part with her precious little boy, but the magister was persuasive. The young prince needed to be away from the restrictive castle atmosphere and the nurses’ coddling, to play and be educated amongst other boys of his own age. A boy who would one day be king, he said, must needs let go of his mother’s skirts one day. The prince would be in the very best hands and the iron band around his heart would make him strong. Reluctantly, the king and queen agreed to let the magister take the prince away.

The prince thrived, or so the magister’s reports told the king and queen. And once the boy had mastered his letters, his tales of sport and play warmed his parents’ hearts. As the king’s son and heir had been sent away, many noblemen’s sons were sent likewise. And their letters too told of sport and play, of lessons and rewards.

Now and then, the prince was sent back to the castle to visit so his parents could assess his progress. The queen would cry a little when he came, and more when he left again, but the king would always remind her it was all for the prince’s own good.

The years went by, and at last the prince returned for good. He was tall and strong now, fearless and resolute. But the queen found it hard to recognise the son she had sent away all those years ago, and she grieved for the little boy she had lost.

As the king grew older, the prince took on many responsibilities, and finally became king himself. He fulfilled his promise and became a strong leader, though he had little time for those who were weak or poor. Away from home he had known only the company of noblemen’s sons: now he knew little of ordinary people’s lives, and cared less.

When the young king in turn had sons, he too sent them away, and had an iron band set around their hearts to make them strong. His aging mother protested, surely they were healthy enough and didn’t need it. But her son only laughed: it never did me any harm, did it? So it became the fashion, and all the noblemen’s sons were sent away, and soon the daughters too. And an iron band was set around their hearts to make them strong.

For most of the children it seemed to work: they became resourceful and independent, if a little distant, a little cold. But some had their spirits crushed by the iron band: they died or left the kingdom, never to return. These were the weaklings, it was said, and the kingdom was better off without them.

Over the years, the kingdom changed. There had been greed and nepotism before, but there had also been laughter and music. Now the rulers had only cold disdain for all who were not of their kind, laughter was mockery or icy ridicule, and the music died away. The land became the Iron Kingdom, ruled by people with iron in their hearts.

But for those who fled, there was a signpost behind the pass leading out of the kingdom. It showed the way to a forge by a river where a smith with a crinkly smile would receive the traveller kindly. If they had that look of cold despair, he would offer to remove the iron band. “Can you do that?” they would ask in disbelief. “It will hurt,” the smith would say gravely, “but it can be done.”

Once the operation is over and the traveller is up and about again, they walk by the river. And soon they sit down, and the tears start to flow. Suddenly, they can hear the sweet gurgle of the river, the singing of the birds, and the shepherd’s pipe. For with an iron band around your heart, you cannot cry. And without tears, there can be no music, no laughter, and no love.

When the traveller sets off again there is still pain, but there is also hope. With heartfelt thanks the traveller takes leave of the smith, offering payment. The smith waves it away. “I was once like you,” he says, and shows his scars.

As the traveller leaves they exchange a smile of kinship: the kinship born of shared pain, which, eternal or fleeting, runs deeper than that of blood.

Perfection

“It  will be fine, It will be fine.” Edith repeated her mantra. She was on the way to the medical center with her mate John, to receive their baby’s test results. It was their third attempt, the first two hadn’t passed the eugenics review. Maybe their genes just weren’t good enough.

The tube coasted to a stop. A woman and a child were waiting on the platform. Edith flinched as they got into the car. Clearly there was something wrong with the child: it’s awkward walk was painful to watch. She saw the mother looking at it with fierce protectiveness as other passengers turned away and some got up and moved away.

As the tube surged forward again, Edith instinctively put her hand on her belly. Suddenly she wanted her baby, whether or not it measured up to some arbitrary standard of perfection. It was hers, theirs. Even if it didn’t, there was no reason to be ashamed, no reason to hide.

To hide…

Maybe the reason you rarely saw disabled people anymore wasn’t the huge success of mandatory genetic screening. Maybe they were simply pushed out of sight by the contempt and disgust they were met with.

She gave the child’s mother an awkward smile.

* * *

T. Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: If natural selection (survival of the fittest) is the means by which the process of evolution unfolds, is eugenics wrong?

Sugar on Top

Cavern put the phone down slowly. After thirty years on the job, he didn’t need telling a summons to the White House wasn’t good news. When crisis after crisis hit, protecting the quality of drinking water suddenly became an important job.

More than an hour into the meeting, the cards were finally on the table. The president was instructing him to introduce antidepressants into the water-supply.

Cavern looked down. “It won’t work.” he said quietly.
“How do you know that?” the President asked. “You haven’t tried it.”
Cavern could hear his voice from a distance.  “They did. Nearly thirty years ago.”

There was a stunned silence. The Defence Secretary was the first to recover: “So what was their solution?”

Cavern swallowed. “Soda,” he said weakly, “they put it in the soda.”

* * *

T. Mastgrave’s Philosophical Story Challenge: Is greatest happiness the greatest good?  

A Fresh Start

When he woke up, his mind was a blank.

He would learn later that he was in a hospital and an accident with the wiring had erased his memory. In the beginning the doctors were hopeful his memory would return, but in the meantime he needed to start from scratch.

He was a quick learner. Walking, eating with a knife and fork, and brushing his teeth were a breeze. He loved mathematical puzzles, and once he had mastered  “See Spot run”, he quickly became an avid reader.

When the doctors pronounced him as good as new, he went home to his family and his job. He did his best to settle in, to do the things he was told to do. But as often as not, he didn’t see the point. He hated the noise, and was puzzled by the empty conversations.

One day he took a boat, and sailed for the horizon.

Nobody had told him he couldn’t.

* * *

T.Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: Do our memories make us who we are?

Dizzying Heights

I inched forward, holding my breath. Don’t look, don’t look. My eyes flickered downward, and I gave a little lurch. I was falling.

Get a grip! a little voice inside me growled. People are staring! I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Everything’s fine, the voice breathed.

After a while the idiocy struck me of standing by one of the most spectacular sights of the world – with my eyes screwed shut. Come on, the little voice coaxed. With an effort I opened my eyes: first one, then the other. I looked at the cliffs opposite. Breathtaking.

Suddenly I was soaring.

This week’s wcgu prompt. Photo by Julia.

Dreaming of Spring

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I lay in the grass finishing my newest Terry Pratchett and drifted off to sleep.

I was Anselme Lanturlu tiling the surface of the earth to measure its curvature, and then turned into a gardener. I won a million dollars in a competition I hadn’t entered, and flew to New Zealand. Suddenly I realised I was a bear: lovely, I can sleep right until spring! My cozy cave was on the edge of town: close enough to the shops, but within easy reach of the forest. The walls were filled with writing and paintings: bears are pretty much all-rounders. They said I had no sense of taste, but bears mostly go by smell anyway. Especially the smell of hyacinths. Time for another snooze.

I awoke with a start: I’m coming home was playing on the radio.

(11 facts about me, answering Eve’s 11 questions.)

A blog is one more drop in the ocean of the internet, so it’s lovely to get feedback. My heartfelt thanks to all who have read, liked, or commented.

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Particular thanks to those who have passed on awards:

Daniel has collected the rules (Thanks!)
– Link back to the givers (√),
– display the awards (√),
– tell n facts about yourself (√)
– and pass the award on *.
Rules / logo for the Liebster Award seem to be evolving and may now include answering questions (√) / I chose the nicest one :-).

* I’ll nominate “Bertie’s Favourites” separately, offering them the choice of awards.

‘Tis the Season

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The holiday season. You could smell it in the air. The spices, the cakes, and the candy. Wrapping paper crackled and tinsel sparkled. There was a general air of anticipation and fun mixed in with frantic holiday shopping. Everyone was awash with mulled wine, goodwill, and charity.

Not everyone was happy, to be sure. Jody and Fred spent the days huddled together in wordless misery. Nobody had told them, but they knew.

One of them would be for the pot.

* * *

A bit of a downer for a holiday? So how do I turn that round? Well, maybe Jody and Fred will follow this example.

Round Robin

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Dear Friends.

as usual our family has enjoyed an eventful year, and we’d like to share our news with you all.

As some of you already know, our house was repossessed earlier in the year, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding with the tax authorities. Happily we’ve found the perfect little family home, and we’re currently parked just 3 miles up the North Road. Grant attached it to a power line with his usual technical skill. Later in the year he was fired from his job, but not before he got hold of some choice bits of information on several members of the board. We are looking forward to a comfortable retirement in the near future.

Our pride and joy Sharon failed the entrance exam to the new school, but with her usual courage she’s decided to soldier on and try again next year. Her charming new boyfriend Dwight is very successful in the pharmaceutical line, so let us know if you need anything. Our dear son Steven was arrested (his first time!!!), but we’re confident he will get off on a technicality.

After our move, Rover went missing, though we believe he may still be in the area. We have heard of a number of chickens disappearing, and he always did love chicken. Ginger on the other hand is thriving – and providing us with regular fresh meat: the local butcher has a cat-flap.

As for me, I’ve got my little flask, and am fine as always.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and an equally successful 2013.

Donna + Grant + Sharon + Steven + Rover + Ginger

A New Dawn

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Time was running out. He had put off the decision as long as he could.

Engrossed in the project he had asked strangers their opinion. The fuzzy answers annoyed him: what use were they? He studied ancient books and their sweeping judgements made him angry: it was just words. None of these philosophers had known the responsibility he faced.

It was up to him to finalise the program. His hand would flip the switch. Future generations would thank him – or curse his name.

We have many needs, he thought. Big ones and small ones. Some we all share, others are peculiar to ourselves. Sometimes we value one more; another time we valued it less. Not all our needs are met, indeed, some may never be.

So that is what he taught the machines. They would preserve life. They would consider needs varying in individuals and over time. They would do what was possible to restore the scorched earth. But when the planet was habitable again, they would relinquish their power.

And give mankind the freedom to make its own mistakes. Again.

* * *

T. Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: the relationship between “good” and “pleasurable”.

Up in the Air

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It was a beautiful day; clouds drifted lazily overhead. Jack and his Grandfather were lying in the grass.
– See the dragon? It’s turning into a duck! They laughed.

– Look, those two have joined. Are they still two clouds? Or is it one now?
Jack frowned in concentration. Over the meadow, the clouds seemed to peter out.
– What do you think happens to the clouds when they get there?
Jack pondered. People were always telling him things. Only Grandfather asked what Jack thought.

It would be the last time the two were together. Back in school, Jack’s teacher commiserated.
– It’s alright, Jack reassured his teacher. He’s in the air now.

* * *

T. Mastgrave’ philosophical story challenge: What is the soul?

A Good Morning

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Some people go to endless trouble preparing for a job interview. I say, get there early, and take a quick look round. It’s what I did this morning. I went inside and quickly looked over the instruments to see how they worked. When I put them away, I thought I could field any questions likely to come up. Now for a cup of tea and a nice chat.

What a total waste of a perfectly good morning! I didn’t even get the job. Next time, I’m not applying as a neuro-surgeon. I think I’m better suited for a managerial position…

* * *

This week’s 100-word-challenge at Julia’s Place: …they worked when I put them away…

A Bit of Peace

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Robbie sat down on a log and let out a sigh, Rufus flopped down beside him. The two had scampered up the hill and dashed into the woods, now both needed to catch their breath.

Robbie thought it was unfair. He was sure he tried to be good. OK, so he probably shouldn’t have tried to drape the neighbour’s tabby on his snowman – though it made a great fur scarf. He was sick of being lectured, especially when the lecture involved innocent animals.

If animals are innocent, why aren’t I? Rufus looked up at him, thumping his tail, and woofed.

* * *

Today’s philosophical story challenge: Is man innately good or evil?

And the Sunday Post Challenge: Peaceful.

The Veil

Art: the reproduction of

what the senses perceive in nature

through the veil of the mist.

Edgar Allan Poe

When I was young I thought a lot about life, truth, what is right, and what is good. I was confident that, with time, I would know more. Now my eyesight is fading, and it seems that the answers are further away than ever. Indeed, I’m no longer sure these questions have an answer at all.

As if reality is receding into the mists, leaving more and more grey areas. I wonder whether you become less and less sure of your ground, until you are swallowed by the mists of uncertainty?

Is that why they mean by “behind the veil”?

* * *

The 100-wcgu at Julia’s Place: Grey.

Victory

The secret of all victory

lies in the organisation

of the non-obvious.

Marcus Aurelius

Always an early riser, the leading counsel for the plaintiff had made his way to court at the crack of dawn. He could barely keep still as he surveyed the place where only hours from now the historic hearing would begin. Steadying himself on an ancient tree, he suddenly realised he had spent almost 20 years – nearly all his professional life – preparing this case.

They had carried the point that the hearing take place in the plaintiff’s presence, hence the unorthodox venue. The motion to banish wooden furnishings from the court’s temporary residence had also succeeded. But only yesterday the decision had come through that would almost certainly clinch the case: as the plaintiff was suing for recognition as a full citizen, his full name was to be read out in court in an English translation.

20 sonorous pages, a few lines for each decade of the plaintiff’s life:

I am the tree who stands on the hill…

* * *

T.Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: “What does it mean to be equal?” A prequel to Neighbours.

Every Which Way

The pessimist complains about the wind;

the optimist expects it to change;

the realist adjusts the sails.

William Arthur Ward

Project winds can be gusty, especially in I.T., but this was really something else. We had been buffeted to and fro all year by changing requirements, priorities, and resources – but this? Major design changes in complex accounting software, just weeks before go-live? At the end of User Acceptance Testing?

It was quite a serious meeting, and I really tried not to laugh, but I simply couldn’t help it. Then, of course, half the team went into hysterics. It was Eric’s fault, really, for keeping a straight face when he asked:

Er, were you planning to do any actual testing before go-live?

* * *

This week’s 100-wcgu: …I really tried not to laugh…

Any resemblance to real projects, live or dead, is purely coincidental inevitable.

Heartbeat

When the message came it was not what they expected. Scientists had been monitoring the electromagnetic spectrum for decades, but what came were gravitational pulses. Astronomers puzzled about what could be causing them, searching the skies for new comets. Then a series of prime number pulses showed it was a message, an alien intelligence trying to communicate.

Linda had joined the analysis team straight from Princeton. She spent hours listening to the pulses transformed to sound. There was an underlying thump, steady and rhythmic, always there. A heartbeat, she called it. There were many layers of other rhythms that had been filtered out to show the prime number message. Just noise, everyone said.

But Linda listened to the plaintive beats, over and over again. The others joked about her late night listening sessions. It’s lonely, she said, it wants to be heard.

After two years of research there was still no clue where the message came from. Now the most bizarre theories were being considered. One day Linda ventured hers:
I think it’s not alien at all: I think it’s the Earth.
She knew she would get enough flak for this, so she didn’t add:
I think it’s in pain. I think it’s screaming.

* * *

T. Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: What does it mean to be an individual?

Granpaul

In a modern comedy, a bachelor left to bring up two children would be half a child himself; they’d have marvelous fun together. Real life isn’t like that.

Granpaul’s approach to life was methodical; he was a chemical engineer, after all. When a driving accident left him with the task of bringing up his sister’s children, he took his new responsibilities seriously. Things were done by the book: luckily, the book was Dr Spock. The idea that you know more than you think you do confused Granpaul, but he soldiered on, trying to let the children unfold their personalities on the book’s instructions. He didn’t buy other books. They were all written by experts, surely, so they’d all say the same thing.

In the picture below, you see my mother and uncle Ted holding on to Granpaul’s hands. The sun is in his eyes, but he was probably born with the serious expression. I’m not sure I ever heard him laugh. Not because he didn’t get the joke, but because he never took time off from the serious business of living. Being accurate was important to him: he would never let us call him Grandad, though over time “Great-uncle Paul” did get shortened. Was he secretly pleased it became nearly Granpa?

It’s really only when people die that you realise how little you knew them. He tried hard to do things right. He never spoke about his feelings. He approved of trees. I think he liked them because they were sturdy and predictable. You can depend on a tree.

On my way home for the funeral, I saw a tree, and suddenly the tears came. I hope that in his own way he understood how much he meant to us all.

Photo courtesy of the Daily Post,
this week’s prompt for the DP Writing Challenge.

Follow Your Heart

Ben had followed his heart. The heart he had lost to Jessica, the dreamer.

He had heard tales of the city since childhood. He had never realised how big the city was, how impersonal. People moved around in rivers, pouring out of metro-stations and down streets. And they lived in big concrete blocks, grey and dreary, like this one.

It had been stupid to come. How could he ever hope to find her? He had trailed around for days now, and hadn’t seen a sign of her.

Suddenly he saw it and smiled. He had found her. He was sure.

* * *

Julia’s 100-word-challenge: the significance of an orange spot.

The Secret Ingredient

You want the recipes for my potions, my girl, the ingredients and the incantations.

For potions of love and of nurture, you must take what is growing: the early bud, the first leaf, the tip of the vine picked at dawn under a new moon.

For potions of destruction, duplicity, and death, take what is dying: the wilting leaf, the withered stem, the hardened fruit picked at dusk when the moon is full.

But the true secret is that what is in your heart when you stir the pot will enter your potion.

So be careful what you hope for.

* * *

I was stumped by Julia Skinner’s 100 word challenge to write a recipe fit for a witch, until I came across inspiration in Lillie McFerrin’s 5 sentence challenge: Potions.

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K’12 Ink & watercolour sketch. Ceci n’est pas un chat.

I’ve always been fascinated by the gaps.

You know, there’s a blind spot,bang in the middle of your field of vision, but you don’t see a blank there, your brain covers it up. And you only see colour in a very small part of the picture, just where you’re focussing; the rest is gray. But your brain colours it in, or just lets you believe it’s in colour.

We only experience very small bits of the world, and extrapolate the rest. I  only  see  this  corner  now, but I imagine the rest of the room will be there  when  I  turn  around.  I can hear the cat in the kitchen. Rather, I hear noises,  and  I  think  it’s  the  cat in what I remember as the kitchen. I assume that if I get up, I’ll find the kitchen, and probably even the cat – but do I really know that?

What if the world is only what we perceive? What if things come into existence as we approach them, and are erased when we turn around or walk away? Maybe we live in a small bubble of reality we carry around with us.

I have to accept I can only check whether reality lives up to my expectation. If the kitchen is there when I go fetch a drink, I suppose it’s enough. I do worry about the cat, though…

Sorry, I know this must sound strange to you. But life isn’t easy when you live in a computer simulation.

* * *

My second attempt at answering T.Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: Knowledge.

The Writing on the Wall

I don’t really know when it started. At first, I just thought graffiti was on the rise. When I mentioned it to a neighbour, she just stared. Then I realised it was only me seeing the messages.

Some were more general “Who are you”, “Cheer up.” Then it was “Don’t” and “He’s a liar” when I was considering an offer to work for this chap.

The doctors have checked me out: my eyes are fine, and it seems I’m not properly crazy either. So am I getting messages from somewhere? Or just hallucinating? And how do I know the difference?

* * *

T.Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: Knowledge. My story is inspired by Joan Slonczewski’s The Children Star: a lovely read!

Buried Treasure

For in the true nature of things,

every green tree is far more glorious

than if it were made of gold and silver.

Martin Luther

Nora has sharp eyes, I’ll give her that. But she does tend to exaggerate.

Her daughter had come home with news of the landslide. However dangerous, landslides were also life-givers. They threw up much that was buried under the wasted surface. They had become more and more frequent, as the underground nets weaving the soil together slowly turned to dust.

Nora had always been excitable. But now she was babbling of buried treasure. A seedling! It can’t be that! Time will tell…

Tears filled Neesha’s eyes as she remembered what had once covered so much of the ravaged planet.

Trees.

* * *

This week’s 100 word challenge at Julia’ place: …it can’t be that time…

Watchdog

Watching? Or dreaming?

No more surfing today, Kyledrone said evenly, you set the limit yourself on Wednesday.

Kyle hated the goal setting sessions. He always ended up setting goals he didn’t want. It was his decision alone, but somehow his parents and the drone always seemed to win. He hated his drone sometimes. It protected him, it was always there. But it should let him cheat sometimes!

The drone hovered. Only recently a neighbour had given his drone the slip, and thrown himself over a cliff. Kyledrone would never let that happen. It had put in far too much hard work for that.

* * *

T.Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: Whose body is this?