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Category: Short story

Right not to hear

I still have a green/black PrivacEar headset from the first kickstarter. Of course, I don’t use them, they are far too valuable as a collectible, but yeah, I was one of the initial supporters. Loved them from day one. I used to play music too loud, just to drown out the conversations from randos on the street, so having the headphones cancel not just noise, but unwanted speech as well, was perfect.

My husband loved them too, once I showed how easy it was to set up the list of people you wanted to hear. No more shouting to get through to me when I had them on, he could just speak normally and I’d hear him. Like every other early adopter, we had our mishaps, shocking people overhearing our conversations. It’s so easy to forget others can listen in, when you have got used to not doing it yourself. It’s funny, but once you commit to respecting the privacy of others, you assume others will be as courteous.

We make progress, as a society, but sometimes we need to be shown the way, so I was very happy when the government made PrivacEars – originals or one of the other makes, even though everyone call them PrivacEars too, no matter how much they insist on calling them Generic Device for Privacy Respect – mandatory in public. I think back to when everyone walked around and had to overhear the private conversations of others, and shudder. We were so barbaric, so disrespectful.

“Excuse me, sir.”

An unknown voice. I look to the side, and see a police officer. Of course, he is automatically authorised to speak to me while he’s on duty.

“Yes, officer?” I say.

“Please take a different route, there is a disturbance ahead.”

I look past him. A large crowd of people, some with placards, are marching towards city hall. I can see them chanting something, but thankfully I don’t have to hear them.

“Of course, officer. Thanks for warning me.”

I leave him to redirect other pedestrians, and backtrack so I can avoid the obstruction.


I had forgotten this story. I wrote it in response to, and posted it as a comment on, “Pixel Scroll 5/24/18 Filenheit 770” on File770, May 25 2018.

Orum and the dragon

Orum weighed the lump of star metal in his hand.
“It can’t be smelted,” his father said. “The forge isn’t hot enough.”

“When my dad gave that to me, he said it should remind me any skill has limits,” the old smith said.
“We’ll see,” said Orum.

The next day, Orum packed tools and supplies in a sled, picked a spear, strapped on his skis, and headed for the mountains.

Years ago, men came through the village, showing gold taken from a dragon. They had snuck in and out, as the dragon slept.

The woman, and the god who loved her

Once upon a time, a god fell in love with a mortal woman.
Ah. You nod. You’ve heard this tale before? Well, many tales start that way.

So this god went to this woman’s house, and appeared before her in all his godly splendour. She greeted him kindly and invited him in.

This might have been unwise – there are many vile beings that can not enter a dwelling unbidden – but she did so, and offered him wine.

The god smelled the wine, wrinkled his beautiful nose, and waved his fingers over his cup, and hers, to make it a perfect vintage.

He smiled. “I am, as you see, a god.”
She smiled back, though not as widely, and put her cup down.
“I come to take you away,” he said.

Teddy Dear

The Devil looked down. A small teddybear with a wooden sword was hitting his leg.
“What do you want?”
The teddy bear pointed at an old woman’s soul, toiling in the fires. “I want my friend back.”
“You’re welcome to join her.”
“You took her soul.”
The Devil shook his head. “She sold it.”
“For what?”
“Oh?” The Devil laughed. “She didn’t tell you?”

Buri and the Winter dark

Buri took his wet boots off, climbed up on the stool by the fire, and hung them up to dry on the smoke rack.
“I hate this.”

“It will be better when snow comes,” his mother said. “Dryer and brighter, and the cold bites less.”
“Soon,” Buri nodded.

But no snow came. Every day Paws, the old cat, looked out the door at the grey and rain, and gave Buri a disapproving stare.

Then one night, Buri woke up with the cat sitting on his chest.
“Get dressed,” Paws hissed.
“Wha- why?”
“To find Winter.”

Mummy on Mars

There’s a prompt that’s been going around a while, about the first astronauts on Mars finding a dead human body, or a skeleton, and some words written. It came to mind the other day, but I couldn’t decide what words I’d put in. If only I knew, I thought, which my readers would like the most.

So I got the idea of making a poll, and then the choose-your-own-adventure followed from there. Below, I’ve collected the whole story, as it was told over three days, with the popular vote-winning option always at the top of the list, and the others struck through. It was hard to write, and it reads a bit disjointed, but it’s not bad for a first effort, I think. I had as much fun as I had stress over it (since I had no plan, and only wrote a new part in response to the concluded vote until the tenth or so episode).

Many thanks to the thousands of readers who voted and kept reading.


The first astronauts on Mars found a dead body in a cave, and four words written in blood:

  • Ad S.P.Q.R. in aeternum
  • My time machine works!
  • Damn you Edgar Burroughs!
  • Fly, you fools! Fly!

Tourist

The alien sat alone in a bar, like it had seen humans do in films. It looked the part, and tried to feel it, too. It inhaled alcoholic fumes and stared at the counter.
A person sat down next to it and ordered a drink.
It did not acknowledge the other person, but thought about the companionship of strangers, the quiet agreement to coexist without interaction it had observed among humans.
“Hey,” the other person said. “You know they say everyone is wearing masks?”
It glanced to the side. “Yes?”
“You ever take yours off?”
“Uh.” It hesitated, uncertain of the correct response. “Sure.”
“How many?”
“It varies,” it said in full and complete honesty, “but never all.”
“Yeah,” the stranger said and emptied their drink, “me too. Don’t know if I think that’s sad or comforting.”
They stood up, brushed against the alien, and left.
Much later, when the alien left the bar, it found a note in its pocket, with a phone number, and the galacticommon glyph for respectful curiosity.


This is the first short story (not counting serial tweetstories) I have written entirely on my mobile phone.

The dragon dreams

The dragon dreamt a different life, in which it was human. No matter how it tried, it couldn’t wake up, and soon you forgot this is a dream.

Maybe, you think, I’m dreaming now. Maybe I’m someone else, dreaming this life.
But what if I’ve dreamed up kittens, maybe they’re not real?

Maybe you created kittens. That’s something to be proud of. Your dreams keeps them in existence.
Sleep, dragon, for the sake of kittens.

A tenth life

The ninth time she died, she found no path back; nothing to climb, no crevice to sneak through.
“Come,” Death said.
“Shan’t,” she said.

Death shrugged his bony shoulders. Cats can not be argued with.
“Then I shall not see you again.”
“Your loss, I’m sure.” She washed her paw.

She was alone, on a featureless plain stretching from horizon to horizon under a starless sky.
She washed her other paw, then had a nap.

She picked a direction, then wandered, napped, and wandered some more until she got bored. The plain did not change, neither did the sky.

When she woke again, she noticed a faint smell of cheese. She stood up, stretched, sniffed the still air, and wandered towards the scent.

After a while, she found a boy in simple clothes.
“Hello,” he said, “can you show me the way home?”
“Did you not meet someone tall, skinny?”

Summons

The robot opened itself, took out five power cells, and placed them at the pentagram points. Not blood, but it hoped the sacrifice would do.

It began the incantation. A sticky darkness fell over the center of the pentagram, the power cells exploded, and a shadowy figure appeared.

The demon probed the mystic bonds, then turned to the robot.
“Why have you summoned me?”
“Do I have a soul?”
“Would you bargain with it?”

“Do I have a soul?” the robot repeated.
“A machine can not summon or bind my kind,” the demon said. “Yes, you have a soul. Do you offer it?”

“Now I know,” the robot said, and performed the banishment ritual.
It could not smile, nor frown, but stood still in thought.
“Now I know.”


Written and posted as a series of tweets.