Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Category: Writing

Discovery

The sun was high and the desert wind blew dust continuously from the steppe into the shallow trench of the dig-site. They had been working there continuously for close to a month and already had uncovered a  veritable treasure trove of fossil life. There were massive herbivores, ferocious looking predators, a suite of bugs, crawling things and perfectly preserved plant life. A grad student was chipping away at the rocks at the edge of the trench, brushing away the powder as carefully as she could.

Unexpectedly, the grey-brown of the rock substrate gave way to a brilliant sheen of metal. She called everyone else over.

Metal? In rocks that formed millions of years ago? What could it mean? Some unusual geology? Evidence of some technology from the deep past? Something even more unexpected? Any one would be a noteworthy find.

With even more care than before she slowly chipped away the base rock from the find. It reached an edge, a straight edge, almost unheard of in nature, then a corner, a right angle, even more uncommon.  There were three more corners in total making up a plate of metal roughly the size of a legal pad.

Breathing softly, the student and two other colleagues, gently pried the plate off the rock it was lodged it and turned it over. There was a gasp from everyone around.

There was markings, indecipherable but clearly some form of writing. One set was engraved into the first ten centimetres, of the plate. It was ordered and had obviously had been placed there by some form of machine. The second, though apparently made of similar characters, were instead crudely fashioned with something like a rock.

The students, helpers, volunteers and professors who had all shared in this unforgettable find looked at the plate and then at each other. Where had it come from? What did this strange language mean? Whoever figured it out would undoubtebly discover a remarkable story.

*****

Daniel 153827 kicked the spherical machine that laid under the tropical sun, “Stupid rental” he muttered to himself as the engineering section gurgled something as if in response. “That’s just great.” He looked around. There were a lot of plants and some unfamiliar bugs crawling around but none of the bigger creatures that the brochure had talked about. They seemed to be keeping well away. It didn’t matter much. The cockpit had a mean looking blaster powerful enough to give even the largest predator in history a really bad day. He was in no danger…. Yet.

Thinking about the orientation lectures he’d had that morning (relative) he remembered, barely, what he had to do next. He felt around the back of the seat until he found the metal plate with “CronoCorp time travel rentals. Please follow these simple rules to enjoy your voyage through the fourth dimension”

There were then a list of ten don’t, normal stuff, common sense. “No killing historical figures, Not even Hitler” for example.

Grabbing a sharp rock he scraped a short message into the lower half of the plate. Starting off with his coordinates in time and space followed by “drive coolant system not working. Unable to effect a field repair.” and finally “If you find Johann 96891 in sales please tell him it is NOT like falling off a log.”

He walked over to the soft mud next to a pool of water and dug a shallow hole in which he placed the plate. He then washed his hands in the pool and walked back to the dead machine. It shouldn’t take long now.

As if on cue an identical sphere with the CronoCorp logo on the side appeared about five metres from his own. A woman in a technician’s coveralls and holding a tablet came out.

“Daniel 153827?” she asked “Sorry about the delay. You won’t believe where your message ended up.”

 

 

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Essence

The frothy mess bubbled furiously around the view port of the copper still. Professor Jennsson took an appraising look and then let his apprentice Philip see.

“The distillation is the most important step.” He said to Philip, “It is the only way we have to extract the essence of the wormwood root. Its spirit if you will. Once we capture it we will be able to proceed with the next step of making our formulation.”

Philip was still looking into the view port his voice muffled by the protective robes he wore “Is it meant to move so violently?”

Prof. Jennsson looked over Philip’s shoulder to say something reassuring but saw how the froth had started to extrude through the seams of the view port. “Down!” he shouted and pushed Philip hard making him fall over.

Within seconds of them hitting the ground there was a loud band as the glass circle of the view port shot out and smashed into the wall of the workshop. There was a roar of escaped gases and scalding froth which caused the two men to make a rapid retreat to the relative safety of the filing cabinet.

From behind the pile of books and old notes they looked as the seething mass of noxious vapours hung angrily in the air. Slowly, it formed the shape of a head filled with menacing teeth and then faded into nothingness with the distinct impression in the silence of evil laughter and shouts of “I’m free! I’m free!”

Prof. Jennsson and Philip looked at where the apparition had been and then at each other. Silent for a second Jennsson was the first to speak “I was hoping to wait longer to start this part of your training but I suppose now is as good a time as ever.”

“What is that?” Philip asked “Some new spell? Something to make everything alright?”

“Close.” Said Jennsson “I will now teach you the dark art of blaming the still maker in front of the safety committee.”

Six Word Stories 240618

The president now rules the cinder.

It turned out, God hates lawyers.

Tortoise and rabbit race, Vegas madness.

Voices demanded Murder. I decided who.

Whale watching. They’d seen Moby Dick

Alien contact mishap. Translation only swearwords.

The wrong kind of love

General Sorcerer Daniel Victor raised his head as his latest patient, a young man, came in through the door. He was holding a long stick with large dog at the end. The dog was struggling to get around the pole at him.

Daniel thought a second then said, “I need you to show this. Let the dog go.”

The young man, reluctantly, released the dog. It took a bounding leap towards the young man, knocking him down, licking and nuzzling him. Daniel had to paralyse the dog with a quick spell.

Embarrassed, the young man got up and said, “I don’t understand. He’s never acted like this before. Must be bewitched.”

Daniel asked, “Have you bought any love potions recently?”

The man made to protest then said resignedly, “Yes I did. What of it?”

“I’ve seen this before, most potions don’t make someone fall in love with you but rather amplify any existing feelings for you. The thing is they can affect anyone, and anything” He gestured to the dog.

“What? Him!”

“Do you give him treats? Talk to him.”

“Occasionally.”

“Well that’s your problem. You’ve fostered an affection. The potion made it stronger”

“But what can I do?”

“It will wear off after a week.”

“A week!” The man gestured at the dog. “What am I to do until then?”

“There is one other way, but it may not work.”

“I’ll try anything.”

Daniel rolled up a newspaper and handed it to the patient. “You know what to do.”

Misunderstanding

When the Tel’krit embassy in New York was first opened it was expected that they would, like all their interstellar compatriots, staff themselves with natives of their home planet. But it turns out, it was just too expensive for the planetary government to pay for transport of sufficient staff and instead decided to hire locals.

This was, of course, looked upon as a mild case of madness by the rest of the diplomatic community and dire warnings, hushed gossip and no small amount of currency wagered on when things were going to go balls-up.

The Tel’krit though were having none of it. They’re a stoic race and were certain that any problems caused by hiring humans could be sorted out a few days “Cultural Training” and good old fashioned “common sense”.

And they were right, at first, that was until Sandra Kulinski came into work one morning and was instructed by the ambassador’s chief aide that they would be requiring a human dish specifically an omelette for a breakfast that would be held for some human business executives that morning and that she was to check the pantry for whatever they had that could be used and to buy the rest.

She quickly found the vegetables, spices and oils for cooking but was short only one ingredient, eggs. No matter, she was about to set out to the local store to buy a dozen when she saw through an open door, a half dozen just lying there on a bed of sand. They were a little big, slightly grey in colour, but not far from the norm. They would do nicely.

What the embassy staff would later find out, after quite a deal of consternation, is that common sense didn’t always cross species boundaries, things that every Tel’krit child knew like red lines should never be crossed, or how doors left open signify something inside that owner wants to display but certainly not take.

Most importantly, however, they found that while Sandra had been learning Kritian for some weeks she still had a lot to go and, for example, did not know the prominent sign on the door she entered said “nursery”.

The memory of White

The man was old,  his body shriveled by years of hard work, his skin the colour of leather from too much time under the harsh sun. He stood on a the porch of his modest home, surrounded by the parched dust of what had once been his garden.

“Yo recuerdo los cumbres blancos de la cordillera.” I remember the white peaks of the mountains, he said, “Yo recuerdo los como el pelo blanco de mi abuela” I remember them like the white hair of my grandmother.

He pointed to the mountains in the distance, the grey of the rock, shaded blue by the haze. “Yo recuerdo el nieve, y el agua corriendo por todo el año” I remember the snow, and the water running all year. He looked at the dry pit that had once been a canal, “Yo recuerdo una tierra verde, una tierra llenado con vida, flores, arboles, mariposas.” I remember a green land, a land filled with life, flowers, trees, butterflies.

“What happened?” ¿Que occurido? I asked him. His greying eyes watered up and his voice crackled with dry emotion.

“Mi madre me dijo que lo estaba ira de Dios” My mother told me it was God’s wrath, he said, “Construyamos ciudades demasiado grande, suciamos el aire y el agua. Dios no pudo permitir el nieve blanco puro en un mundo malo. Tampoco aqua puro.” We built cities too big, we polluted the air and the water. God could not all pure white snow in a dirty world. Pure water neither.

“How did you survive?” ¿Como sobreviviste?

“Trabajo duro. Vida dura. Mucho muerto en mi pueblo. Perdi muchos amigos.” Hard work, Hard life. Many dead in my town. I lost many friends. There was a tear in his eye. “Perdimos mucho, perdimos todo, cuando perdimos el blanco en las montañas.” We lost a lot, we lost everything when we lost the snow on the mountains.

He grabbed my arm with his hand, a grip stronger than his frame suggested. “Recuerda nuestra historia.” Recuerda nuestra avisa.” Remember our story. Remember our warning.  

“Si tengas blanco nieve en tu pais. guardalo, protegelo. Los cumbres blancos salvarán tu pais.” If you have white snow in your country. Guard it, protect it. The white summits will save your country. 

“Nunca les permitas morir.” Never let them die.

The Night without Memory

It was the night without memory. Across the town people celebrated this gift from God and did everything they wanted to and more. They let their basest desires control their actions. It was an orgy of self-indulgence.

In a small cafe, tucked away from those excesses, a man and a woman met.

She was well dressed; he wore grubby work clothes.

Her skin was pale and smooth; his grizzled and bronzed by the sun.

She had a wedding ring, his fingers were bare.

He smiled at her, she grinned like a girl.

He took her hand, she squeezed his gently.

She pulled him forward and he wrapped his arms around her.

He kissed her, she kissed him back.

They talked about their memories, about how their lives had changed, and especially about what could have been.

As the night went on they stayed close to each other, dancing slowly to their old songs. It was as if the years had disappeared and they both felt young again.

They held each other closer and made plans, swore that they could leave the lives they had and run away together. He said they would have no money but they would be richer than ever because they had each other.

Then the bells started to ring, the warning that the night would soon be over. In seconds the noise from the party outside was noticeably lighter.

They kissed a final time, made each other promise to meet again. But as they walked away from each other, down the emptying streets, the feelings and the memories of the night were already starting to fade. By Sunrise, it would be gone.

That was the gift and the curse. The night would be erased.

It was the night without memory. There would be no new tomorrow.

Day Release

Mark waited in the foyer, security guard keeping an eye on him. The clock had passed ten in the morning and he could feel a pang of nerves starting to bubble under the surface. He took a deep breath and surpressed it. Things were going to go well, he just knew it.

There was a screech of brakes as a car came to a sudden stop outside followed by the slam of a car door. Then David, Mark’s brother bustled in. He shot across the tiled floor, grabbed Mark in a hug, and said “Great to see you out again brother!” Mark was too overwhelmed to say anything, but he did return the hug, the contact helped the nerves go away.

The car down the steps was the same one that David had owned before. One of the doors had a dent that he didn’t remember but it was nice to see something familar. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there waiting for you Mark.” David said as he got into the driver’s seat “But Cathy is after bringing her new baby over from London” Mark said that he didn’t know his niece had  been pregnant. Cathy had been sixteen when he last saw her. By the time they allowed vistors she had moved to England for Uni, details after that had been fragmented. “Well you’ll get to see her at the house and your new grandnephew. Oh! I tell ya! It is going to be a veritable family reunion this afternoon what with all the phone calls Marian’s been making. Everyone will be there.” then he paused for a second “Well.. Maybe not everyone. But you’ll still have a great time.”

But Mark wasn’t really paying attention to David. They had reached the gate between the towering walls and he felt a momentary fear as he saw the traffic pass by on the street. What if someone saw that he was coming out and copped what he was, even what he had done? But none of the anonymous drivers even made to look at him as they passed. Quickly; they were away from the high walls and out in suburban Dublin.

Mark’s brother had always been a talker. A conversation with him usually involved a lot of listening. Mostly it was about Cathy’s new baby “The first time he ever saw me, he smiled at me. She said he hardly ever smiles at anyone new.” and being a grandparent “It’s a great feeling being a granddad but I have to say, Marian’s a granny now too, that feels a little weird.”, and then to “So I told him, right. I told him to his face ‘These doctors, they have more brains in their little finger than you’ll ever have in your fat head and if they say it’s going  to be grand then it’ll be grand.’ so then I just walked out and I haven’t had a drink there since.”

“Will Gloria be there today?” the question came out of Mark’s lips unconsciously. David stayed quiet for a minute, as if uncertain what to say. Then “You know how it is Mark, it’s been hard for her and Sally, what with what happened. We see them every now and then, not as often as we’d like, they’re doing great. But you know; they’re still nervous. Maybe the next time. Provided.. you know.” Mark knew what was being said by that pause. Provided you don’t do something. “But don’t dwell on that!” David regained his cheerfulness “You’re only out for a day. It took longer than that to build Rome.”

It took them twenty minutes to reach David’s house, there was a banner,  Welcome back Mark, and bunting on the walls. There was no one outside to greet him but when David opened the door there was a chorus of welcome. Nearly everyone was there. There was Marian, David’s wife, his son, Robbie and his new fiancee, Cathy, the daughter, with her husband and their new son John, named after Mark and David’s departed father, Mark’s widowed mother , a smattering of aunts, uncles and cousins as well as a couple of friends from the neighbourhood his former workplace.

It was good to see them all again. Many had visited him over the years but this was different, happier. Everyone wanted to talk to him, the conversations ranged from from the supportive “Glad to see you’re out Mark. We knew you’d pull through.”, to the wildly inappropriate “So. What’s it like in there? Can you tell me?”, to the mildly indignant “What do you mean you can’t have a drink? Not even a shandy?” He had been arguing with that particular questioner, one of his oldest drinking buddies when the rest of the room went suddenly silent. A voice from behind, a voice he had not heard in a long time “Mark”.

He turned slowly and there she was, Gloria, a woman he had pledged to love and protect but whom he had failed miserably. She looked exactly as he remembered, save for the scar on her cheek, very faint now, it had healed up well.

Mark made a move towards her but she shrank back, fear filling her face, the kind of fear you saw a lot of inside. He stopped himself, instead saying “It’s good to see you.”

Gloria wavered for a second, as if conflicted between moving to him or running away. Marian, by then close to her side placed a hand on her shoulder, this seemed to calm Gloria and silently placed her hand over it in thanks. Her eyes were starting to glisten with tears as she said ” I’m not going to stay here long Mark. I just came to say… To say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not coming to see you.” She sniffed, her voice breaking, but there was a smile on her lips “They tell me you’re getting better, that, maybe, you’ll be able to come home. That’s good. It’s hard for us. You have to know that. But I wanted to tell you that if you’re back. If you’re really back then we’ll try.. For you.”

By then the tears were flowing uncontrollably and Marian had wrapped a hand around her to lead her out of the room. David at the same instant had his arm around Mark, who was also starting to cry and took him out a doorway into the back garden. When they were away from from everyone David stopped and turned Mark to look into his eyes “Did you hear that Brother? Did you hear that? You have a chance, a second chance to get it back. All you have to do is get well again. Do you think you can do that?”

Mark didn’t know. He had been a long time before he even admitted that he was sick and even then it was a long road to get just this far. “I don’t know.” He said “But I’ll try… For them.”

Picture it and Write: Real

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, it is by paleotic, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Real

Robert Fields was in a bad mood. Today was turning out to be one of those kinds of days at the DinoZoo, America’s primary prehistoric park.

The Pachycephlasaurs were pummeling each other.

A Triceratops had toppled a tree on a Troodon.

The Mammoths were moulting.

And the T-Rex had a toothache.

Each one of these on their own would be a great enough problem to lead to Robert pulling his hair off. But then, to top it all off, he had just gotten a call from the raptors.

Just to be clear, this wasn’t about the raptors, it was from the raptors. They had turned out to be a lot less aggressive but considerably more intelligent than originally envisaged. They were so smart, in fact, that the park was forced to consider them employees rather than exhibits. Pretty good wages, their own on-site apartments, lunch breaks, full health insurance, and paid leave, though few places actually would let them visit (a team of lawyers were working on that).   

Knowing better than to let his prize attractions wait Robert rushed to the Raptor exhibit. As expected; they were not on display, it being lunch time, so he went on back to the employee lounge. There they were, all five of the raptors and maybe another eight human park rangers, sitting around a table, chatting away. There appeared to be a heated discussion going on and Robert caught Billy, the head greens keeper end with a “You’re right! It is a disgrace. We should give those guys back in the office a piece of our mind.” There were shouts and hisses of agreement from around the table. But that all stopped when someone spotted Robert at the door.

Every eye turned at once on Robert, human and raptor both equally cagey. Then Doris, the raptors’ pack leader, and union rep for the whole zoo (raptors were very good negotiators, even without the threat of disemboweling) got up and walked over to him. She had some papers in her talons, this was never a good sign.

She practically tossed the papers at Robert. “What isssss the meaning of thisssss?” she asked in accented but perfectly passable English. He read through the first few. It was a selection of articles harvested from the internet. He knew quickly enough what this was going to be about.  Oh crap, he thought.

More feathered dinosaurs discovered in Mongolia, one headline said.

Tyrannosaurus; Scaly or Fluffy? said another.

And most damning of all, All Real Dinos had feathers; how DinoZoo got it wrong.

“Thisssss isssss Outrageousssss.” Doris said. There were ‘yessssses’ and ‘damn rights’ from back at the table. “You make usssss. But you do not do it right. Exssplain yourssself.”

Robert let out a sigh of anguish. He had tried everything in his power to prevent the raptors finding that out, no modern text books, censored internet access, everything but it was only a matter of time. He still wasn’t  sure how it was going to explain it. The lab boys had their share of the blame, using lizard and crocodile DNA in the mix. So had marketing, convincing everyone that ‘scaly is scarier’. But he had a feeling that most was going to fall on him, like it always did.

He checked the organiser on his phone. “Dave from Head Office will be over for the next Board meeting on Monday. I can add your concerns to the agenda an discuss them then. Is that alright?”

“For now.” She nodded in assent “We exsspect an apology for this abysssmal treatment.” She turned her back on him, that meant their conversation was over, you didn’t argue with a raptor.

Robert left the room and headed straight for the office, his mind already thinking of the thousand other problems that demanded his attention. Still; ways to diffuse this latest raptor problem occasionally surfaced in his head. What if he got an artist to draw Doris as she would with feathers? Went all out ridiculous, maybe she would find it so silly she wouldn’t speak of it again. Or what if he changed the rosters for the petting zoo so that Doris got out of it? The others would get jealous at that and maybe he could break-up their united front. He shook is head, Doris would see through that in a second, he’d have a strike on his hands quicker than he could say “Clever Girl”. Nobody wanted that.

Robert mulled it a bit more as he walked past the rest of the exhibits and thronging visitors. He laughed at himself. If anyone told him back in business school that he would he negotiating with a dinosaur…much less how good she’d be at it.

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Picture it and Write: This City

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.

This city

I love this city. I love the vibrancy, the constant bustle of people, the lights, the smells, the sounds. I love the fact that you can live in the same building as a beautiful woman for years and meet her for the first time this morning. I love the people from all over the world who have flocked to these scant few square mile for a shot at greatness. I love the fact that here truly anything is possible, no matter how unlikely the dream. I love the way the city fills with possibility every new day.

I hate this City I hate the crowds, the constant noise and bustle, the fact that there is no place you can go that will get away from it. I hate that the city never sleeps so neither can you. I hate the crime, I hate the garbage, I hate the pollution, the chemical taste in the air and the water. I hate how rude people can be. That you can live next door to a person for years and they will still never give you the time of day. I hate the fact that the streets are filled with people who came from all over the world but never made it, I hate the way their numbers are added to each and every day.

I need this city. I need the excitement, I need the shops, I need the restaurants. I need the connection with the multitudes, I need something new everyday. I need the hope of a better life, I need the reminder that it sometimes does not work out. I need the buildings around me, comforting me like a warm urban blanket. I need this place.

I love this city.

I hate this city.

I need this city.

I am part of this city.

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