Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Month: October, 2015

Massing

“Honey! Does it look like they’ve moved to you?”

Graham looked out as directed by Sally. True enough; there were more pumpkins in the yard then last he’d looked out.

“I think so. That large one in the centre. The one they’re all gathered around. It’s really starting to freak me out.”

©Suman at Desibuckets

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press. Shapeshifting Challenge number 24.

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Menace

King Rob and his army waited at the castle gates.

Out of the autumn snows came the menace, The army braced.

But these were not monsters of legend, but tired, broken.

The king looked North, wondering what beat them.

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Copyright Philipp Guelland
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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting Challenge number 22.

Replacement

The wind blew coldly through the city streets, the glassless windows lending a low whistle to the symphony of rustling papers and dripping water from countless broken pipes  as Glenda scurried around the long-since mummified remains of a rush hour traffic jam. It was always the hardest part of her journey. The cars were literary bumper to bumper in their owner’s rush to escape the city and so she had to climb over the bonnets and boots of automobile husks now mostly rust liable to fall apart at the wrong touch. She had to be careful; tetanus shots were a long time gone.
After the cars came the monolithic structure, standing as it always had like an eternal sentinel at the end of the street. Like most of the towers looming around most of the windows were missing and what had once been a gleaming front visage had long since tarnished. Above the main entrance the letters S, T, and E were still attached to their mountings but the rest had vanished, further victims of the world’s entropic decay. Glenda walked underneath them and inside.
There were shelves still stacked with rotten fabrics, between crippled mannequins and wooden floors starting to warp in protest of exposure to the elements, Glenda ignored them and gingerly stepped up a flight of stairs towards her goal.
It was probably the most open space in the whole building, largely since many of the shelves had collapsed over the years. Across the linoleum of the floor was strewn a fallen army of soldiers, superheroes and assorted trucks, planes and animals. Again; Glenda past them and on towards the far side of the space.
There; between two rows of miniature houses was a table stacked with hundreds baby dolls. Glenda’s eyes darted across the table, stopping for brief fractions of a second on each one. A few she picked up, turning them over in her hands only to reject them and place them back on the table. It was the sixth that she held, a smallish baby with slightly darker skin, like her own, and green eyes, that transfixed her attention.
Holding the doll close to her chest, Glenda walked to another table that had been swept clean of tattered stuffed toys and removed a knapsack from her back. Keeping one hand around the doll she deftly opened the sack and first removed a small bundle of cloth. Still with the one hand; Glenda placed the cloth on the table and opened it up to reveal a set baby clothes.
She carefully placed the doll on the cloth and delicately dressed it in the clothes then, keeping an eye on the doll, as if expecting it to start crying, she again took the knapsack by one strap and stepped over to a large box left in a dark corner.  
Inside the box was a collection of doll parts, head, arms torsos, all showing signs of considerable wear. Glenda found it hard to look at them and instead concentrated on her knapsack. She placed her hands in and removed another bundle, this one of the paper. Nervous hands opened the bundle to reveal another doll, almost identical to the one left on the table, except to brown eyes, like hers. There was a long crack in the hard plastic of the doll’s body and one of the arms looked like it was about to come loose.
Glenda held the doll gently in her arms, looking into its brown eyes and smiling. She gave it a light kiss on the head and carefully placed it in the box amongst all the other dolls. She stepped back and stood for a second, unwilling to say or do anything, just looking.
Then as if she heard something from the table, Glenda snatched her knapsack from her side and shuffled over to the table and the other doll. Using the cloth the clothes had came in she fashioned a sling that held the doll close to her chest were she could whisper to it or kiss its head.
She walked back and forward and backwards a few paces to ensure that the doll was secure then she grabbed her knapsack, looped it around her arms and walked back towards the stairs and out into the world. She paused for a second at the landing, turning her head for a final glance at the box, instinctively clutching the bundle at her breast, then marched down the staircase, back out into the world.

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Image copyright Jakub Krechowicz

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press mutant 750 challenge number 55.

Picture it and Write: Traces

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy.

It was a boon to the town, the actions not of the supposedly conscientious town planners and managers but rather of one plucky archaeologist and a historian convinced of his colleagues mistakes. They would work for years but finally get their validation.

It rested on an old legend of a battle between a demonic host and the angelic forces of the god. There were a number of versions, all somewhat similar. Differing only in location and the name of the local herdsman/farmhand who witnessed the fight and was inspired to eventually become King, Prophet etc. Most historians considered it just a legend, one of those eternal tales concerning the battle waged within one’s soul. But our guy was convinced that there was more to it.

It started with an ancient catalogue sent to the rector of a university detailing the collection of manuscripts held in the library of a lord’s castle. There was one document that got the historian’s attention. It was called Ae Dyscryption ouf thee battyl beetwin thee dymons oo thee north and owur King’s Godly howst. The date it was supposedly held was in the right time frame to be our battle but, unfortunately, the castle burned down with all its treasures not long after the inventory was collated. It was back to square one.

He combed dusty archives in castles and abbeys across the country. There was no single source, but slowly a picture began to emerge. There had been a battle, quite a large one, against a  large number of Norsemen by the forces of a local petty king by a river in the outskirts of our town. The king was severely outnumbered according to the annals but was able to successfully defend his lands and send the invaders packing. This was one of their first major defeats and was considered something of a miracles. While annals closer to the battle would mention scarce details in passing, over time the battle took on increasing mythical dimensions becoming more and more like the battle of legend. Our historian tried to present his work at conferences and meetings but try as he might his colleagues failed to accepted the admittedly meagre evidence he had. “You need more.” They told him “We cannot take this one faith.”

Meanwhile; due to the inexorable march of progress, the town council sought to build fine new offices on a bend in the river with great views of the city centre. Understandably; there was some objection to this and a small grass roots wanted to protect it. One of these was our archaeologist who had wanted for years to investigate the mounds that had been a source of many local tales in the town. Council experts maintained that they were slag piles from the industrial revolution but the archaeologist swore that there was historical evidence that some were older than that. The fight lasted a long while. In the end the council relented and allowed a quick survey prior to building work commencing.

The first two mounds that were dug into sadly turned up nothing but Victorian slag. There were jeers, actual jeers from the council workers supervising but withing a few short minutes of digging into the largest mound, there were arrow heads, the head of a spear and one human bone.

It was a treasure trove, archaeologically speaking. There were bodies and artifacts almost all the way down. It looked like a mass grave, where soldiers from some long forgotten battle were sequestered.  Some were buried in the armour of Norsemen while others, the heavier plate of the local culture. That was only one mound. Two more were packed with soldiers like that one and a fourth, Much smaller than the others contained a single, very important occupant. A Norse king, slain on that field with so many of his countrymen.

While the archaeologist knew that something big had happened there, he had no historical event to link it to. That was until he read of this historian’s quest in the paper. He only had to read a few details to realise that his site and the battle of legend was one in the same. He took his phone and called the historian, then the world.

It was a sensation. People from all over the world, came to see the sight of the battle between the invaders and valiant defenders. The council, knowing a sea change when the saw one, knew enough to cancel the building work and instead opened a visitor’s centre and museum, the profits from which helped to finance an better office closer to city hall. Everybody won.

The archaeologist and historian were vindicated. The investigation of legend showed up a reality of even greater grandeur. Perhaps this is the way with all legends. All the tales of heroes and god may be unravelled to produce a kernal of amazing truth, if only you look hard enough.

Perhaps you should.

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Export

“Twenty Million Units. Do you think that is a fair price?”

Harold, looked at Bessie, possibly the last cow in the world.

“Sure! I think so.”

"The Six Million Dollar Cow" by Anthony Wolff

Copyright Anthony Wolff

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting 13 challenge number 22.

Picture it and Write: Water Hating

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture ir and write by Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, I am only using it for inspiration. Anyway Enjoy.

Water Hating

“Eureka! I think we’ve got it!”

Bob looked up from his desk at Phil, the grad student who had just punched his door open and shouted out his announcement. There had been many false starts on  this project so he decided to play it cool “Got what?” he asked.

“What we have been looking for Professor.” Phil really was excited, it was as genuine as Bob had ever seen him. “I think we’ve cracked it.”

Bob was intrigued but decided to withhold his judgement. “Let me be the judge of that.” He got up off his chair “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

They walked together down a flight of stairs from the clean faculty offices to the grubby warren of laboratory spaces and write-up rooms. There was a faint smell of solvent and body odor in the air. After a few turns left and right they found the door with Peterson Lab written in black marker. Bob ignored the missing plaque as well as the other signs like You must be at least this crazy to work here and Warning! Don’t feed the Post Docs and opened the door to be greeted by the sound of giggling.

It was Fan, one of the Post Docs whose “Tee Hee” was coming from a huddle of Students and Post Docs around Phil’s bench spaces. There was an “ooooooo” from the assembled group followed by another giggle from Fan. Bob coughed loudly and everyone turned startled to greet Bob. “Oh Hi Professor!” One of the students said “You should see what Phil came up with.”

The crowd parted for Bob like Moses parting the Red Sea. In the center of the huddle was a large beaker with what looked like a piece of fabric in the centre. There was a wash bottle labeled Tap Water which Phil took in his hand. “Watch this” he said and squeezed the bottle gently. There was a small dribble of water from the spout that fell onto the fabric but before the water hit it bounced back off as if it were repelled by some magical force.

“Oh My God” Bob remarked, a smile filling his face, “How did you do this?”

“I took your lead professor.” Phil explained  “I added an extra hydrophobic group to the polymer chain giving it a over all non-polar field.” He dribbled more water on the fabric, it too flew off. “It looks like it is beyond superhydrophobic, water actively avoids it. This is ultrahydrophobic.”

Wordlessly, Bob took the bottle from his student and dropped water on the fabric himself. It again performed perfectly. “How much of this have you made?” He asked. “A whole sheet” Phil replied “It is surprisingly easy to manufacture.” Bob looked at Phil, his smile growing even bigger. “Do you still have your camera?” Bob asked Jenny, another student “I have an idea.”

That was how the video of Bob Peterson’s new style of Boot came into being. The miracle material that not only kept water out but actively repelled it was a media and commercial success. There would be many more applications for this wonder material. But this was the first, and it was a very good start.

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Conflicted

I’m conflicted
It looks so Beautiful.
But; my job’s to sweep it up.

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Image from Grammar Ghoul Press
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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting 13 Challenge Number 21