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.
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…
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This week’s 100-word-challenge at Julia’s Place: …they worked when I put them away…
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.
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.
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.
She hated frills and furbelows. A complex machine, now, that was beautiful. Everything in its place, functioning together as a harmonious whole.
She had spent aeons on the design, fine-tuning the different factors to achieve a delicate balance. Everything would be perfect. A few simple laws, that was the trick. No tinkering would be needed: only mechanics did that. It was fitting that to breathe life into her creation she would explode into a trillion trillion pieces.
She looked at her plan, and saw that it was good. Her final thought was: “Let there be light.”
And there was light.
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T. Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: Simplicity.