Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Category: Writing

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.”

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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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Picture it and Write: Wife

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 Lily Little at flicker, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Wife

“So this is what married life is like?” Carl spoke softly to himself.

Denise was still in bed, the covers wrapped around her naked body. She must have been exhausted after all of the hullabaloo of the day before.

Funny; he thought, things felt different. He had noticed it the night before. Whenever he referred to his new scenario

“Would you like to meet my wife?”

“My wife will be along shortly?”

“I am just going to go and get my wife.”

Every time he said that word he could feel a tingle, it reinforced a feeling that had kept him walking on air for the whole of the day.

But strangely, as far as he could see nothing had changed. She looked the same, he glanced at the mirror, and he looked the same too. Denise still did that thing with her hips when they made love, she still snored and drooled when sleeping, and she still mumbled unconscionable swearwords in her sleep. Everything he loved about her was still the same, but something had changed.

“Carl! Are you just going to stand there gawking or are you going to say something?” Denise must have been faking it.

“Hi honey! I was just down in the local shop, I’ve got your magazine.” He placed the glossy down on the bed. She reached from beneath the sheets to grab them and then lay down on her stomach, letting the morning sun play on the pages she was perusing. Carl said some more, “I also checked with the front desk, if you want I can bring you up some breakfast from the restaurant. They have french toast, your favourite.”

“Yeah!” She said in that mischievous way that made him smile and got back to her reading. Carl turned to go.

“Oh Husband!” She called just as he was opening the door. Carl looked back, Denise had paused for a second, the same grin on her face that he had saying wife, “Could you bring up some bacon with that, and sausages and beans? I was three months starving myself to fit into that thing.” She gestured at the wedding dress rumpled on the chair “I want to make up for lost time.”

“OK Wife!” Carl said and grinned. Denise grinned back and then returned to her reading.

As he walked down the hallway towards the lift, Carl thought again about the change.

Everything was the same as far as he could tell, but they seemed different, as if the word wife made it all new.

It was better, he thought. Yeah, much better.

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You are what you eat

You are what you eat.

That is what they say.

That is why I eat meat, beef especially.

And why I’ll not consider vegetarianism.

I can just imagine it.

A whole body made of vegetables

It is simply unnatural.

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Vortumnus-(Vertumno) by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifter 13 challenge number 3.

Picture it and Write: Safety First

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.

Safety First

Marcus’ Hi-Viz jacket chafed at the top of his neck. He wanted to take it off but knew that the dressing down he would get from Phil, his boss, would not be worth it. “Safety is the most important part of our job.” the middle aged farmer would say to whomever would listen, “You think that farming is a hum-drum activity but if you knew the number of people who have had a sticky end working the land you would have another think coming.”

Phil’s zeal for workplace safety was, in reality, not something to dismiss off hand. Still it grated somewhat. It meant you had to consider every step you made since Phil was ultimately watching you and was liable to call you out if he saw anything potentially dangerous. Add to that his ‘Four strikes and you’re out’ rule and Marcus found himself in a working environment almost as toxic as the conditions Phil was trying to ameliorate.

Marcus was out in the south feedlot, replacing old fencing when there was  a general summoning over the radio. “Everyone over to silo five. Quick as you can.” Phil sounded irate. Well; more irate than usual.

Marcus couldn’t just leave what he was doing so he was a good half an hour before reaching the small group of people gathered around the tall metal silo. Phil glowered at him but Marcus held his head high. Phil new what he was up to and couldn’t say a word about leaving it. This seemed to irk the manager even more.

“The reason I have called you all here.” Phil began emphasizing the ‘all’ when looking that Marcus, “Is to discuss the gross error that Julio has made when filling this silo.” Marcus and everyone else looked pityingly at the young immigrant worker who had earned their manager’s wrath this time “Julio could you come over please?”

Nervously, Julio stepped forward. Phil grabbed him by the shoulder and pointed at the silo. “We had a delivery this morning did we not Julio?”

The young man nodded “Sí Señor. Yes.”

“Enough to fill the silo by a third, was it not?” Phil had all the amiability of a hungry shark, Julio scuffed the dirt with his boot. “Sí”

“So that means that two thirds is empty does it not?”

“Sí! It does.”

“Wrong!” Phil almost shouted causing the young man to jump, “It is not empty. Because when you get grain being shifted you get???”

Julio looked confused, saying nothing. Phil’s face got darker and darker.

Marcus decided to give Julio a break “You get dust.”

Phil glowered at Marcus even more darkly than before but he continued talking “Yes! You get dust, you get grain dust, that floats in the silo for hours. And if you can answer directly.” Another sharp look at Marcus “What does that mean?”

Julio stuttered “I, I don’t know Señor.”

“Well since you don’t know the answers. Marcus?”

“It means an explosion hazard.” Marcus made his voice as neutral as he could. “If a spark gets in.”

“If a spark gets in.” Phil repeated “Very good. That is why we??” He gestured up the long winding stairs along the side of the Silo.”

Julio finally caught the import of what Phil was saying “We turn on the spark suppressor.”

Phil look into the sky, as if in to say ‘finally’ and the out loud “Yes we do. Which you failed to do this morning. And which you still haven’t done.”

Julio blurted out “I shall do it now Señor!”

“Yes you shall!” Phil snapped back “And you shall consider this the first strike on your record.”

Julio nodded and ran to the silo. The clanging of his boots on the metal stairs made it hard for the others to hear Phil shout out his latest lecture. “You may think that I am too strict or that these rules are for fun. But you are mistaken. This are all for your safety and for the safety of those around you. Julio’s mistake left this silo a powderkeg just waiting to go off. It was only a miracle that….”

Julio must have made it to the top by then and must have pressed the suppressor but something went wrong. The next thing anyone knew was a deafening roar followed by an avalanche of high velocity grains flowing at them. Most of the men were knocked out instantly but one or two would later claim that they saw the silo climb slowly into the sky, flame and grain pouring out of the bottom, and a very surprised Julio on top.  

They found the Silo a half-mile away, splattered across a third of a feedlot, as was Julio. The rest of the workers all got away with minor injuries, from a broken bone or two to rough grain abrasions. All except for Phil, who was just a little too close to the bottom of the silo.

Marcus over from Phil. They all say that he was a nicer, friendlier man to work for. But that he was still a stickler for safety, at least as cautious, if not worse than his predecessor. And he would often tell this story, to anyone new, or just anyone who would care to listen, so that they would know, like he did, why you should put safety first. 

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