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Category: Short story

At the border

At the border:
“Do you love your country?”
“No. I am an emotionless murder robot.”
“Ah… Let me check with my superior. Wait here.”

“Do you love your country?”
“Yes.”
“You’re just saying that.”
“No, it’s true.”
“What’s its favourite colour?”
“It’s ‘color’.”
“Welcome!”

“Do you love your country?”
“No.”
“Do you love your flag?”
“No.”
“You got to love something! Do you, I dunno, love your eyes?”
“Sure!”
“OK.”

“Do you love your country?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“I do not know how to love. Can you show me?”
“I- Yes. I can. Let me.”
“Oh…”
“Ah…”
“Uh…”

“Do you love your country?”
“Do you love your country?”
“What?”
“You don’t, do you?”
“I do! I do, but…”
“But you’re ashamed of it?”
*sob*

“Do you love your country?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well, there’s the way we treat the poor.”
“Granted.”
“And corruption. And-“
“Fine! I don’t!”

“Do you love your country?”
“I…”
“You do, don’t you?”
“… maybe.”
“Have you told it?”
“It doesn’t even like me.”
“We’ll change that!”

“Do you love your country?”
“Must I?”
“As of today.”
“Then no.”
“As of tomorrow?”
“No.”
“Next year?”
“No.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Love it.”


Posted as a series of tweets after hearing how Americans coming into USA were asked if they love their country by Customs and Border Protection officers. Not a serial tweet story, more like multiple variations on a theme.

Found on New Year’s Eve

Nobody knew where it came from, who brought it, but it was there; behind decorations, among empty glasses, under tinsel and lights.

It was small and quick, and shone kindly. Some tried to catch it, without success. Some tried to kill it, and it giggled at their folly.

Some did not see it, or refused to, but children held out their hands, and it rested in their palms. It was small, but strong.
A Hope.


The tweets were posted on New Year’s Eve, 2016, even though I didn’t post the collection until the day after.

Unn and the cold fire

The fire had died when Unn woke; even the embers were gone. She found the flint and steel on the shelf and lit an oil lamp.

There was a patch of ice by the hearth, and hairy frost around the door. Unn sighed, put her coat on, and built a new fire.

“Not dead yet?” a voice called from the smoke-hole in the thatch.
Unn looked up, but only saw the dark sky.
“Who’s there?”

There was a rustle from above, then silence. Unn woke her father, who went out to check.
“Nobody, no footprints, nothing.”

Unn went out and looked around. The snow was pristine, and nothing moved, except a jay and a magpie chattering on a branch.

“Was it you?” Unn asked the birds.
The magpie laughed and flew off, but the jay turned around to look at her.
“Was it who?”

Unn stared at the jay. “Did you say that? Can you talk?”
“Jays can mimic anything,” her father said.
“We can,” the jay said.

The jay laughed, sounding just like Unn’s father. “Not every visitor leaves footprints in snow.”
Then it, too, flew away.

That evening, Unn’s father did not go to bed. Instead, he sat by the fire with an axe. Unn hid under her blanket, sleepless.

In the middle of the night, the door opened. A large figure, white and sharp, entered.
“Hrimthurs!” Unn’s father exclaimed.

The frost giant lumbered toward the fire and stared at the flames.
“So pretty,” it rumbled.
A puddle formed where it stood.

Unn’s father sat still. “The fire will die,” he said.
“You make more,” the hrimthurs said.
“But if the fire dies, we die.”

Water ran down the frost giant’s face.
“That is sad,” it sighed. “Where are other people, who make fire? I can go there.”

Unn’s father said nothing. The house grew colder, the fire shrunk, and soon it died. The hrimthurs left, without a sound.

The next morning, Unn lit the fire again, cut up a sausage, and went outside. The jay and magpie watched from the branch.

“Are you magic?” “All birds are magic,” the magpie said.
“Except ducks, of course,” the jay added.
“Yes. Is that sausage?”

Unn gave them sausage. “Can you stop the giant?”
“Only gods can,” the magpie said.
“But before you die…” the jay said.

“What?” Unn asked.
The jay looked away.
“My friend wants to try on human form,” the magpie said. “Want to swap bodies?”

Unn stared at the birds. “Would I be magic?”
“Well… you’d have magic,” the jay said.
“If you’re strong,” the magpie said.

She had an idea, and told the birds. “Will it work?”
“Yes!” the jay said.
“No, your colours are too dull,” the magpie said.

In the evening, Unn went outside. The jay landed on her head, she felt the world fall, and then she sat on a girl’s head.

The magpie sat next to her, spread its black, lustrous wings, and embraced her. She began to shimmer. Then they flew north.

For hours they flew, higher and further. Then Unn used her borrowed magic to leave a bright, shimmering trail in the sky.

“So pretty!” the hrimthurs said.
It headed north. Unn flew on, pushing until she almost fainted, painting heavenly waves.

“Glorious!” the jay said when she returned. “I want to do that!”
“Next time the hrimthurs comes,” Unn said.
“Every time.”


This story was serialised in 25 daily tweets from MicroSFF, December 1st to 25th, 2016, tagged with #AdvenTale.

The Princess Dragons

When the prince came to the summer castle, it had dragons.
“Begone!”
“But we-”
“It’s my castle.”
“We are homeless. Please.”
“Well… okay.”

There was a princess in the main hall.
“What are you doing here?” the prince asked.
“Dragons, castle, princess. D’oh.”
“But… my holiday!”

The prince sighed. “Fine. You can stay.”
“Ah…” The princess looked embarrassed.
“If you want to, of course.”
“Oh, yeah. It’s not that.”

One of the dragons coughed. “Can the other princess also stay?”
“The other. How many of you are there?”
“Four. Two dragons, two princesses.”

“Are you guys…” the prince hesitated.
“No,” said the princess.
“Yes,” said the dragons. “No, not us but-”
“Never mind. Do what you like.”

The other princess came in. “Oh. You,” she said.
The prince sighed again. “Of course. How are you, sis?”
She sheathed her sword. “Fine.”

“So…” the prince looked from his sister to the other princess.
“Yes! I defeated the dragons-”
“Chess,” the dragon said.
“And saved her!”

The prince looked at the first princess. “Were you held captive?”
“No, I was waiting to be rescued.” She glared at him. “We put posters up!”

“Ah,” the prince said. “Yes, I saw those. But… um…”
“What my brother isn’t saying, is that he doesn’t want to marry you. Or anyone.”

“Oh, that’s why you tore our castle down?” one dragon said.
“Wait, what? What about chess?”
“That was after she’d fought us to standstill.”

“It was an amazing rescue,” the princess said.
“So… you’ll marry her?” one dragon asked.
“And live happily with her?” the other asked.

“Yes!” both princesses said.
The dragons smiled. “We are happy.”
They turned to the prince. “Now you.”
The prince backed. “What about me?”

“We have a castle, and a prince.” The dragons giggled. “Soon a prince or princess will come to rescue you.”
The prince drew his sword. “No!”

His sister stepped up next to him, sword in hand. “Stop!”
“We’ll give him a happy ending!”
“I was happy! I don’t want a prince or princess!”

“Everybody needs somebody,” the dragons said in unison. “You do!”
The princess looked at her brother. They both sighed, then struck as one.

“I have somebody,” the prince said. He kicked a cut-off dragon head.
His sister punched him on the arm. “Dork.”
“You too.” He punched back.


Live-written as sixteen tweets. I just intended to write a single tweet, but someone asked what happened after, and I started to write. It took a little while to figure out where it was going, but I’m quite happy with it. Although it seems the ending is controversial, as some consider dracocide a horrible crime. I can’t really argue with that.

Alone

“Why can’t we work from home?”
“It’s easier to share ideas in the office.”
They grumbled, but he was the boss. And terrified of being alone.

He’d check people’s progress, in a friendly, informal way. Some encouraging words, a little chat about weekend plans, or recent events.

His staff assumed he drank in the weekends, he was so pale and quiet on Mondays. He’d perk up once he’d had a chat by the coffee machine.

Just a reminder that he was there, that he was a person that existed. As long as someone believed, he did.
And he had, for centuries.


After the first part – which was all I had in mind – people complained it wasn’t fiction, or at least not science fiction, so I had to extend it a bit to turn it around. This is the complete four-tweet story, collected.

Library

Library kept all humanity’s stories, and told them until there was no child left to ask “Then what?”
It waited eons, until the aliens came.

“…and then what?”

Then Library taught the aliens all its languages, for each language tells different stories.
And the aliens cried.

“…and then what?”

Then the aliens, who could not make stories, searched the stars for others who could, and brought them to Library.

“…And then?”

Then Library learned more languages, and more stories. Children, of all ages came to listen, and to ask “Then what?”

“Then what?”

Library grew, and, during a frightful war over access to it, conspired to be copied and shared all over the galaxy.

et alors ?

Then Library told its stories, of humanity and all other people it had met, for a long time, to anyone who listened.

And then ?

Then, one day, no more children asked “Then what?”. Not anywhere.
And so, Library watched stars go out in silence.

after that?

“Then what?” Library said to itself, and so it told its favourite stories, and in all it found new things to love.


This was only intended as a single-tweet story, but people asked what happened next, so I wrote another part. Then I waited until someone asked “then what?” before I tried to think up what would happen next, and posted that. It was an intense story-telling experience, both stressful and fun. This is one of the reasons I love telling stories on Twitter.

Gry and the Mountain King

The Mountain King ruled the lands around his lonely mountain, everywhere his goblins and trolls could reach in darkness.

At times, Gry and the other children would look south to the mountain, scare each other with gruesome tales, and giggle.

The village was safe. The slow trolls could not reach it, not even in the longest night. But one day, Gry noticed something.

At noon, when the winter sun hung low over the mountain, the shadow cast on the plain seemed to reach closer than before.

“It is because the days are getting shorter, silly,” the grownups said.
They could not see the shadow’s shape was wrong.

Next day, Gry put her skis on just before sunrise, and headed south. Nobody was faster than her. And nobody else cared.

Gry’s skis carried her swiftly across the plain, towards the east of the mountain, in case there were trolls in the shadow.

When she got closer, Gry studied the shadowed side. There were many long grooves in the snow, leading up towards the summit.

She hurried up the slope, but the mountain was much higher than she thought. She only reached the summit when the sun set.

In the last light, Gry saw an enormous pile of large boulders at the top of the mountain. Trolls moved in its shadow.

Gry hunkered down and watched as a few more boulders were piled on top.
“It is done!” a big troll shouted. A cheer went up.

The trolls left. Gry waited a while, then hid her skis in the snow. Moving softly, she followed the trolls down the slope.

The last sliver of the moon gave a little light, guiding her on the path. That, and the sound of music, led her to a cave.

The cave led into the mountain, to the Mountain King’s great hall. Goblins fiddled, and trolls danced around large fires.

On his throne of human skulls and bones, the King sat singing.
“In the darkness we will come, we will kill, we will eat.”

“In the darkness we will come, and steal the human babies!” the Mountain King roared with the music.
The trolls sang along.

Gry cowered outside the entrance to the hall. She had to stop the King’s plan to put her village in the mountain’s shadow.

She fumbled around to find some stones and gravel, then took a shaky step into the hall and hurled a stone at the King.

The stone hit right on the King’s large nose, and he yelled out in pain. The dancing stopped, and Gry took a deep breath.

“I bet you can’t hit me with a stone!” she shouted. Then she ran.
Behind her, trolls trampled goblins to chase after her.

Gry ran up the path. At the top, she turned, and saw a horde of huge trolls come out of the cave. She threw stones at them.

She hurried to her skis, and threw her last stone. It bounced off a troll and hit the rock pile. She pushed off, downhill.

The trolls picked up rocks to throw after her. She pushed to speed up, and swerved from side to side to avoid getting hit.

The further away she got, the bigger the boulders the trolls hurled. She skied on until she could no longer feel them land.

The plain was strewn with boulders, and the top of the mountain had its usual shape again. Gry smiled and headed for home.


This story was serialised in 25 daily tweets from MicroSFF, December 1st to 25th, 2015, tagged with #AdvenTale. Here those tweets have been collected to give the full story.

What’s their story?

When Creator gets bored and reaches for the Reset, Distractor points at someone and asks “What’s their story?”
Would your story distract?

“What’s their story?”
“That one? They worry about being boring, and have created a whole internal world of could’ve-been. It’s impressive.”

“What’s their story?”
“That’s interesting. They’re quite content with their life, their body, their love and friends. Don’t see that often.”

“What’s their story?”
“That was Christopher Lee. Let me tell you his story.”
Distractor smiled inwardly. This story would last a long time.


Posted as four tweets, on hearing that Christopher Lee had died.

Seeing herself

She began walking the mirrors as a child, swapping worlds with her other selves. She became ambidextrous before she knew it was unusual.

She was in her teens when she realised nobody else could move through mirrors like she did. And that not all loved mirrors like she did.

She tried to see like they did, to see the reflected world, not the one on the other side. To see herself, not her other. She succeeded.

She saw herself. She seemed unreal, strange to her. Faintly, behind her own reflection, she saw her other self look surprised, afraid.

As she stared, completely still, she saw her other self lift a hand and touch the mirror. And then she faded, and she saw only herself.

It has been a long time now; she is not always sure it was not just a childhood game, a make-believe. She tries to believe it was real.

She looks in mirrors, and tucks her hair away with either hand. One day, she sees her other self use the other hand. And they smile.


This is a rare serial tweet story, in that I wrote the whole thing before posting any of it.

Moa and the lost sun

Moa woke to mooing. She wrapped her blanket around her like a shawl, put her feet in her clogs, and went to milk the cows.

Life moves slowly in winter. Moa took the milk to the cold cellar and returned to bed, to wait for sunrise. It didn’t come.

The sky above the smoke hole in the thatch remained dark. Moa’s family would not wake from their sleep, despite her crying.

Moa dried her tears. Then she hung the lamp from the door on the billygoat’s horn, filled his panniers, and lead him east.

They made good progress through the snow. Soon they came to the bridge over the river.
“Hello,” Moa called. “Master Troll?”

The troll climbed up.
“Where’s the sun?” he said. “I can’t sleep in darkness.”
“I’ll find out,” Moa said. “Will you help?”

They reached the mountains, and climbed slowly, carefully. When they reached the summit, they saw a faint light in the east.

“Is that light small, or far away?” the troll asked.
“It is in the valley,” Moa said. “Unless there’s a hole in the world.”

Moa filled the lamp, then led the way down the mountain. I’m not afraid, she told herself. I have a billygoat and a troll.

As they drew nearer, the troll stopped. “Listen!”
There was a low, rumbling sound. Moa looked at him.
“Not me!” he said.

The light, and the rumbling, grew stronger. At last they could see a huge wolf, holding a shining globe as large as Moa.

“What do we do?” the troll asked.
Moa hesitated. The wolf was bigger and scarier than the troll. “Let’s ask it. Politely.”

“Excuse me?”
The wolf turned to look at the three of them. “No, excuse me,” it smiled. “Did my rumbling belly wake you?”

Moa couldn’t stop the question: “Are you hungry?”
The wolf laughed and looked from her to the billygoat. “Yes. Yes, I am.”

Moa did not know what to say to that, but the troll pushed past her.
“So bright,” he said, then curled up and fell asleep.

“Do you know where the sun is?” Moa asked.
“I caught it,” the wolf said.
“Is that it?”
“In a sense.”
“But why?”
“To eat.”

“You can’t eat the sun!” Moa rushed in and hugged the glowing sphere.
The wolf smiled and lifted his paw; the sphere rose.

The sphere was warm and soft. Moa held on, terrified, as it slowly floated upwards. The wolf stood, mouth open in a grin.

Far below, Moa could see the troll sleeping, and the billygoat standing forlorn. The wolf looked up at her. Then he leapt.

The wolf seemed to grow as it rose, maw gaping wide. The enormous jaws enveloped Moa and the sun, then closed around them.

Darkness fell over the world, and the ground shook when the wolf landed again. The troll stirred, then woke.
“Not again.”

The troll took a firm hold of the wolf’s tail and yanked it, hard. The wolf raised its head to the sky and howled in pain.

When Moa saw the jaws open, she bent her knees, pushed hard against the wolf’s tongue, and jumped, the sun ahead of her.

Once she was clear of the wolf’s teeth, Moa shoved the sun up and away. She watched it rise as she was falling, and smiled.

Her mother nudged her. “Sun’s rising, wake up.”
Moa sat up in bed; heard her dad ask:
“Why is the lamp on the goat’s horn?”


This story was serialised in 25 daily tweets from MicroSFF, December 1st to 25th, 2014. Here those tweets have been collected to give the full story.