The Storyteller

This is a short story that I edited right down (much against my better judgement) for a flash fiction competition.  Needless to say, it did not win, although it was published in a now defunct web magazine called ‘The Brevity Thing’. Someday, the original version will be improved and completed.  For the time being, here is the short version.

I can write.  I can make something out of anything.  The old lady who showed me the way to the tax office.  Her limp now a wheelchair, eyes harbouring a sinister gaze, twitch taking over her features.  And is that a slight cackle as she points me to my doom?

I carry my notebook with me everywhere, scribble in it all day long.  A thought, a quote, a random person in the street…  How I swoop, whir, flutter in like a vulture.  To dissect, examine, pin down.

I do not love words, no!  I analyse them, pour over them, roll them about like slave girls, prod them with my pen as if undressing a coy lover.  Quite frequently, I hate them: with their wriggly, slippery ways, their lack of nuance, for daring to resist me and my art.

One day I’ll write her into a story too.  Ever since I first saw her, I have not ceased to attempt to describe her.  Blushed peach skin.  Flicking back that silky hair.  Nostrils flaring as she invokes, ‘ Cappuccino for you, sir!’  The spell she casts, with sound, with touch.

For weeks I’ve been trying to nail that butterfly into its case.  She brushes against my clumsy fingers and flies into the summer sky. Each time she escapes, the taste grows bitter.  Like truant words, her essence escapes me.  My soul becomes enraged.  I know she laughs at me.

Witches, old and young, someday I’ll show them all!

Harness

‘You’re sure it’ll work?’

‘Trust me, it will!  I’ve seen it happen over and over again.’

‘So all you do is strap those babies on either end…’

‘And the female will then obediently yoke herself into the harness and start ploughing her furrow.  Clever, isn’t it?

‘But when she realises she’s only moving around in circles, what happens?  Doesn’t she ever try to escape?’

‘Not once.  That’s the beauty of it.  When we feel a little tremor of rebelliousness, we just grow the children a bit.  They get heavier, they start complaining, she worries about them more… and back she goes to her plodding!’

‘And what do you give her?’

Give her?  Oh, rewards, you mean? That’s the fantastic part – you don’t need any.  When the kids grow up, they just hop off, run off without any thanks. Sometimes they don’t even wave goodbye.  She still cries when they leave, no matter how much she sacrificed for them.’

The alien students nodded in wonderment at their professor.  ‘Wow – humans sure are fascinating…’