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.
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.
Is there still time for hot chocolate? Riley asked.
The-End-is-Nigh guy blinked. Ah, maybe, I don’t know.
― Jana Oliver, Forbidden
Why, thank-you, dearie. I never say no to a biscuit. And what’s your name, young lady? Louise? The old face cracked in a smile.
Do I believe what? That the dragon is coming and the world will end tomorrow?
Now, when I was your age, the world was always coming to an end. Left and right people were predicting disasters. I think it’s because they want the world to change. And right they are! But no, I don’t think the world will end tomorrow.
The dragon, now, that’s a whole other story. The old eyes twinkled. I’ve seen it myself, you know…
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?
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.
He loved public demonstrations. This one would be a triumph.
When he came with an order, the technicians always growled. Impossible, they would say. Not enough time, no resources. Grumble, grumble, grumble. But lay on enough pressure and, hey presto, the impossible would happen.
He gave his developers a pointed look and turned the key. Nothing. He tried again. The silence was deafening.
If you want us to build a car, said one technician,
…in two weeks, the second chimed in,
…entirely from recycled cardboard…, the third,
…surely, they went unisono, you don’t expect it to run?
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.
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.
I once read that when you’re depressed, you find it hard to make small decisions. I guess that means I’m not depressed. Pizza or pasta, the green shirt or the blue one – not a problem.
But I’ve got this offer to work in Hong-Kong. It sounds great, maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But it’s a three year contract. What if I hate it there? What it I don’t find a new job when I come back? Either way, whatever I decide could ruin my whole life, and I’ll always regret it. What do I do?
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.
Democracy is the worst form of government
except all the others that have been tried.
– Winston Churchill
RB dragged his burden to the store-room. The sentry waved him in.
– Cast your vote yet? the sentry asked.
– Nah. RB scurried out. He wasn’t sure. The National Block wanted to keep things as they were. The Forwards Party wanted change: Shorter hours, less military service.
Shorter hours sounded good. But where was the food to come from? With less military service, more workers would be free, they said. Would the sentries know how to forage? What if there was an attack?
Difficult questions. RB’s antennae waved ceaselessly. Getting the vote didn’t seem to make life easier for a worker-ant.
Usually my physicist friends’ conversation goes right over my head – bad enough, but when they really try to explain things, it’s worse.
Last night, Josh explained about quantum foam. How space isn’t infinitely divisible or smooth, but there’s a smallest distance two things can be apart. And that there’s really no reason why time should be different. So there isn’t a smooth timeline, but really a succession of separate moments, like pearls on a string. And we hop from one to another.
You know when you look everywhere for your glasses, and you can’t find them? And then they turn up on your head? Or the book you hunt for high and low? That was on your bedside table all along, lying the wrong way up? You get so annoyed while you’re searching, and then a little embarrassed…
No, it’s not age. You see, something I’ve always been looking for. One day I realised, suddenly, it was in my hand. It always had been. But I couldn’t see it because it didn’t look like I thought it did.
She wasn’t sure what the attraction was. It had always been there: even as a girl, she’d stood for hours at the railings of a high bridge. There was some indefinable quality, a thrill she couldn’t explain.
She looked down into the depths knowing it would take just one little step, one little push. A frisson ran down her spine. Did she want to die? No. She loved life far too much.
Was it the risk? That maybe somewhere inside her there was a little rebel who just might push her over? To fly through the air, only the once?
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I look forward to your stories!
You inherited feuds and prejudices like you inherited clothes or memorabilia. But those you threw in the bin.
Yes, her parents had been outraged when the international courts had given the Browns full citizenship rights. And had steered clear of them ever since.
You’d think it would be the other way round. It wasn’t the Browns who’d slaughtered people. And none of them had ever indicated anything like hatred or reproach. To anyone. Ever.
Did she really want this legacy?
She walked over to the old one and touched his gnarled limb. His leaves rustled softly over her hair.
I decided to give you two-stories-for-the-price-of-one, as this week’s 100wcgu prompt “Legacy” inspired both.
Do you have it too? Yes, of course. Everyone does. It’s the universal experience when faced with a blank sheet of paper. Only children and fools are exempt.
The paper is white and fresh, unspoilt. So full of promise, of infinite potential. We’re afraid that our first mark will spoil it. It will ruin everything, deny the promise, wash away the potential. Once we’re working, we’ll do just fine. But that first line is terrifying.
So I sat staring at my pad. I’d already wasted all the time I reasonably could. Time to jump in.
There! The line was drawn.
This week’s 100wcgu at Julia’s place: …the line was drawn…
I don’t usually read the papers, but this morning was special: there just might be a small piece about my paintings in the local section. Not that I really care. No fame and glory for me: I know I’m not exactly Picasso. But all my friends would read it!
Then I found it: pure poison. Oozing condescension. I couldn’t believe it! That supercilious little jerk. Angrily I tore the offending paper to shreds. Take that you bastard! And that!
When James came down and wanted his paper, there was only confetti on the floor. I blamed it on the dog.
My contribution to this week’s 100wcgu: …I blamed it on the dog…
Does it happen to you? You see someone, and you’re sure you know them. From school? From work? An old neighbor, maybe? This woman I saw yesterday seemed so familiar, but who was she? The whole evening I couldn’t let it go, and kept on searching in the dark recesses of my mind.
This morning I suddenly knew. Alice! The bitch who had pinched my boyfriend Thomas. Tall, elegant, charming Thomas. And married him.
Wasn’t it just last year he was sent down for bigamy and swindling all those women out of their savings? Serves her bloody well right!
A slightly late entry for the current 100WCGU: …in the dark recess of my mind…
If at least people asked directly it would be a clean death. These oblique questions were torture. He’d tried evasion. “I work for the government.” It didn’t help, just drew the painful process out.
Unfortunately, he was a bad liar: he’d stammer or choke. He blushed to recall the amazed and unbelieving looks. “I work for a business consultancy”, whatever that meant. Once, in a panic, “I’m a funeral director.” Well, everything was better than the truth.
That’s what he would do. Gerald heaved a sigh of relief.
The decision had been driving him crazy. He hadn’t been able to sleep for almost a fortnight. There were so many factors to consider. So many things that could go wrong. But now all that was over. He’d made the decision, and all would be well. It was a great weight off his mind.
He turned over in bed: now for a good night’s sleep. He closed his eyes, ready to drift into oblivion. It was several minutes before he heard the niggling voice.
“It’s mine!” “No, it’s mine.” Melissa took a deep breath and then went on peeling the potatoes. She knew any minute the fight would spill over into the kitchen.
“Give it back.” “Mummy, she started it.” “If I hear one more word, I’ll lock you both in your bedroom until tomorrow”, she fairly screamed. The girls looked mutinous, but left the room for now.
Melissa’s hand shook as she reached for her glass. It was a little early, but she needed it. They were such little angels when they were asleep. She wondered how many mothers actually killed their children.
A hand shot up. “My mum says we don’t believe in all those things.”
“I know, Bobby. If your mother has a problem she can come to me.”
He wished the fundamentalists would keep out of the classroom. The amount of fighting over the science curriculum was unbelievable. And as a natural history teacher he didn’t even get the worst of it. Poor Mrs. Withers, teaching alchemy…
If Bobby’s mother came what would he show her?
He sighed. It wouldn’t matter. The fundamentalists never bothered with evidence.
The young woman fiddled busily with her phone. Another meaningless message, no doubt. I’m in the train. I’ll be with you soon. How I hate the rain.
Her eyes scanned her inbox for the umpteenth time. No new messages.
She saw the disapproval in his eyes. But he didn’t understand. The phone was her. It had all her pictures. Contained all her friends. Was her eyes, her ears, her mouth. Her memory of the past and her plans for the future. When noone called, or texted, did she really exist?
The phone vibrated and she answered eagerly. She was alive.