Thursday, 13 October 2016

Drums


Gad, the heat! And the drums, always the drums. The Colonel stood stiffly on the verandah, dressed in full leathers and a pink tutu, because dammit, one had to keep up standards. He rang to summon tea, then remembered that the native servants had all left weeks before, when the rains had not come. He glanced toward the inert computer in the corner, its power supply burnt out. Was the network still running out there, were the others still hanging on? The natives would know. They always knew. If only he knew what the drums were saying, the talking drums.

Image credit: eatswords

Friday, 12 August 2016

The tailor who worked for the Queen of the Fairies

Once upon a time there was a tailor. He was a very good tailor indeed, and aspired to make clothes for the great aristocrats, or even the king himself. But he was of humble birth, and would never come to their attention, unless he bribed their valets and chamberlains for an audience, for which he had neither the money nor the inclination. At last he decided to make the best robe he possibly could, and display it in his shop window, hoping to attract the attention of those he desired to serve.

And so it happened, for the king's tailor saw this robe. He was at once seized with jealousy against a skill he could see was much greater than his own. He conspired with the constables and the judges to claim the robe as his own work, and have the tailor thrown into the palace dungeons as a thief and passer-off.

The tailor despaired in his cell over the injustice of his position, saying, "Why, I could make a robe fit for the Queen of the Fairies herself!" At once the Queen of the Fairies appeared in his cell. "Well, Master Tailor," she said, "you have a fine opinion of yourself. Make me a robe, if you can." There appeared bolts of the finest spider-silk cloth in all manner of shimmering and sparkling colours, caskets of beads, bobbins of thread, and needles, scissors, and other tools of the tailoring trade, of the finest fairy manufacture. "A year from this day, say 'Fairy Queen, Fairy Queen, your robe is done.' I shall return, and if your work pleases me, I shall set you free." 

The tailor worked hard each day by the light of the high windows of his cell, and each night in his dreams planned how to continue the work. A year to the day after the Fairy Queen's visit, the robe was completed. "Fairy Queen, Fairy Queen, your robe is done," he said. The Fairy Queen reappeared and took up the robe. She swirled it about herself in a dazzling rainbow of colour, and then with a blinding flash of light, she vanished.

When the tailor's eyes cleared, he found himself sitting amidst the ruins of the palace. Clambering out of the remains, he saw the city long crumbled to heaps of stone, and at last understood that for every day he had worked for the Fairy Queen, a hundred years had passed in the world.

But what became of him then is another story.



Written today at the Nine Worlds workshop on drabbles. Yes, this isn't 100 words, but it is the length I want it to be.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Coleridge tells of how an epic poem was revealed to him in a dream, and on waking he hastened to write it down; but a person from Porlock visited, and detained him in business for a considerable time, and when at last he was able to return to the poem, it had entirely evaporated, and only the fragment we know as “Kubla Khan” remained.

How the person from Porlock was delayed

“Such a dreadful business! I was on my way from Porlock to pay a visit on my dear friend Mr. Coleridge, when the coach broke a spring, and not another inch might it go without a blacksmith be fetched to mend it, and it could not be done in under three hours, and when at last I arrived, I found him dead! dead! of a surfeit of poetical ecstasy, and reams of paper covered as though the Devil himself drove his pen to write thoughts vaster than any mortal might bear! Of course I had the housekeeper burn every page.”

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Jar

Bill gets some weird ideas, but that’s what we employ him for, not that he knows that since volunteering for the job. “Have you ever wondered if you’re really a brain in a jar, living in a simulation?”

I pointed out the obvious flaw, “If the simulation’s perfect, by definition you can’t tell. There’s surely a base reality at some level. Isn’t it simplest to suppose this is it?”

He was crestfallen for a moment, but then brightened up. “If it isn’t perfect, though, if there are flaws...”

“Like miracles?” I suggested. “But even religions mostly agree the age of miracles is over, if there ever was one.”

“Right,” he said, “The simulators patch them as soon as they notice. Maybe that’s what happens with freak science that doesn’t pan out, like cold fusion.”

I could see he was still turning this over, so I waited for him to come up with something. It’s what we employ him for, not that he knows it, like I said.

“Enlightenment experiences,” he finally said. “Not as common nowadays, but they still seem to happen. Maybe they can’t patch it out of our brains without destroying whatever it is they’re simulating us for. But none of these meditating monks realise what they’re dealing with, and anyone who stumbles on it by accident ends up either insane or preaching peace and love, not that there's anything wrong with peace and love but this is much bigger. Excuse me, I have to go and think about this.”

I took off my immersion rig and let the simulation handle my virtual body, as I contemplated Bill’s brain in the jar.

We were pretty sure we were in a simulation, and we desperately needed ideas for breaking out. How better than to simulate a simulation?



A shorter version of this will appear at Crap Mariner’s 100 Word Story Challenge tomorrow.
Crash Dive

Always they fly, around and around, now flocking, now scattering.

Above the cities, they block out the skies.

Stand in the remotest desert and wait, and eventually you will see one.

A few have been seen even at the International Space Station.

They mostly drift aimlessly, but they can pace supersonic aircraft, and fly fast enough to evade any missile.

Always more, though none see where they come from.

Do they think? Do they feel?

Some say that when there are as many of them as there are of us, they will stop flying and dive, each to its target.


Crash Dive
Crash Dive.
Posted by Facebook on Friday, December 5, 2014

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Place

There once was a cobbler who made shoes so fine
That he always had meat on the table, and wine
Not for him the rough beer of the unlettered peasant
He had gold and preferred to drink something more pleasant.

He was best and he knew it, no need to be humble
But his neighbours would gather to gossip and grumble.
“He lives like a lord while for us life’s a bitch
“We’d rather go unshod than see him grow rich!”
But in private each one went to him for their shoes
And willingly paid him, whatever their views.

“I make what you want, and you’re willing to pay”
Said the cobbler, “You can all buy elsewhere any day.
“I work all the hours that God sends to me
“Do you think I should work for you all day for free?”
But the more trade they brought him the more they complained
And on church days both he and his wife were disdained.

The moral of this is abundantly clear:
Big fish in small ponds should eat bread and drink beer.


A shorter version of this will appear at Crap Mariner’s 100 Word Story Challenge today.

Clear

Having dismissed my servant for his persistent surliness, I tried his replacement by sending him on an errand to the market. I concluded my instructions by saying, “Is that clear?”

“Truly, master,” he replied, “it is as if a pot that was overturned has been set upright! It is as if a window that was begrimed has been made clean! It is as if an instrument* guitar has been restrung and tuned up to pitch! It is as if an old and broken lamp has been repaired and filled again with oil, and its wick trimmed and lighted! It is as if thick clouds have dispersed and revealed the sun! Even so do your most excellent words turn chaos into order and darkness into light! I fly with the unerring aim of Arjuna’s arrow to the single point of your desire! My path is as clear as that of an army marching down a broad, straight highway, and deviates neither to the left nor to the right! I go on the instant to be the expression of thy will, creating that which is commanded from that which is!”

I wished for my old servant back.


* The translator from the Persian has here used “instrument” in the old sense “unable to be strummed.” Cf. the title of one of Picasso’s paintings of an unstrung guitar, “The Instrument Guitar” (“El Guitare Instromaz”), a symbol of death and the decay of all things.

A shorter version of this will appear at Crap Mariner’s 100 Word Story Challenge today.