The Final March

Sketch of boots and ant to illustrate a microfiction story

The golden days of summer picnics with sweetly scented jam, crusty bread, cold slices and chilled fruit platters live only in our memories – a clear line in our collective consciousness separating time before and after the incident we refer to as The Final March.

The chemical weaponry disoriented many of us, sending the synchronised beat of our hearts off kilter, heady toxins muting all our sensory navigational cues. Only some made it back to the nest where we now reminisce about the old days and remind our young to give the big house a wide berth as we continue what our ancestors have done for millenia.

We hush and tread softly when within sight of the place of carnage, paying our respects to generations wiped out at the callous hands of the then new owner. Marching in single file, we lift far more than our weight.

“No such thing as a free lunch” he’d huffed, but the cost of that meal was an exorbitant act of insecticide.

 

This story has lived in my phone’s memo app for months. It was time to release it. I may add an illustration at a later date.

First published July 19, 2017. Illustration added August 8, 2017.

Game, Set, Match

Photo of a woman whimsically dancing on wet tennis court- used as prompt for three line tales microfiction
Photo by Sam Burriss

As much as she hated needles, Lynne was game for another dose, high spirited for 9 in the morning because Frank was home doing the vacuuming and once their respective chores were complete, they’d join the Senior Spartans on their monthly lunch outing. With the cold infusion slow dripping like a hipster’s coffee- into the orifice forged by the nurse’s ‘… little sting’- there was nothing to do but look around the room, make small talk with the nurse and other patient, or- as was mainly the case- look down at her gnarled hands, driftwood garnished with the ring Frank had given her 55 years earlier- hands that had changed Noel and Fiona’s nappies, held a glass to toast each child’s wedding, cooked countless shepherd’s pies- now too set in their ways to do as Lynne instructs. No way they’d hold the arm of the hoover much less a tennis racket these days, at least not long enough to raise much dust. Continue reading

The Droste Effect

watercolour of a vermouth bottle, in the style of droste cacoa, beside a martini, painted in sepia tones, illustrating a story in which the 'droste effect' is alluded to

Read Part 1: Missing Person

Read Part 2: Forrest Trail

Garnishing a Blood Mary with the stick of celery I’d bought at Al’s Corner Produce, I had no idea where I was, or where the hummus or Forrest were for that matter. Swallowed in the dark nothingness, once I’d lost my grip on Forrest, I was alone for what felt like hours. Time enough to regret my meddling that had caused all this. ‘It’ was what I wanted, but now that I was in It, feeling like the same person, but dressed differently, and from all appearances, working at a bar, I wasn’t sure what kind of mess I had created.

Mixing drinks seemed to come naturally to this other me, although I had never before done more than pour tonic and gin over ice, with a pretty relaxed take on ratios, as the mood required. It wasn’t just the celery and myself that got spirited away to wherever this was. My classroom black board was mounted on the wall behind the bar, announcing bar specials, but with faint traces of numbers and the alphabet, in my handwriting.

Who am I? This me still dislikes sloppy attempts at cleaning black boards. Is this what it felt like to be the woman on the Droste Cacao box? I was met by the familiar reflection in the bar mirror. A picture being revealed, within a picture. Identity is a funny thing. For now, all I had was ‘bartender’, ‘woman’, and potentially ‘black board obsessive’. I couldn’t even be sure of my name. I was going to have to feel my way through the other pieces that would fit together as I continued my search for Cynthia.

Prices seemed a little odd in the bar I tended. $4.53 for a Bloody Mary? I turned to serve the drink, and there she was, looking just like the face on the poster, complete with medal around her neck and what was probably a band t-shirt, with the words ‘Missing Persons’ emblazoned across it.

“I’ve been waiting here for ages. Did I interrupt your trip to la la land?” Her smile softened her obvious irritation.

To be continued…

 

Third of a 6 part serial – Timeline. Originally Published 18th April, 2016. Illustration added 2nd July 2017.

Inspiration for this week’s installment of the unfolding series ‘Timeline’ was from WordPress’ Discovery Challenge, Identity.

Regular readers – 10000hoursleft now exists outside of the WP world- check out the Instagram widget in the side bar-  I will post illustrations for stories, behind the scenes shots, pics of inspiration for stories etc.

 

Forrest Trail

Watercolour illustration of a shop front, continental supremarket in a suburban street, with a dog waiting out the front. Illustrating a short story with a scene in a corner store.

Read Part 1: Missing Person

Henfield was a small enough town that it didn’t take much digging to know who was with whom, where so-and-so worked, and whatever happened to that kid, you know- the one who lived two doors down from the Sanderson’s.

six degrees or less

a whispered cartography

strangers’ life path’s mapped

Forrest was back in town after finishing up his boarding days at Dunnstown Grammar. Trailing him discreetly, it seemed he spent much of his time either at the skate park or making a beeline, without any sense of urgency, between Al’s Corner Produce and his parents’ home. I knew his 18th birthday was approaching, so if my hunch was correct, whatever would happen was due to transpire in only a matter of weeks. I had to stay close without raising suspicion. Continue reading

Missing Person

Watercolour image of objects in outer space- a milk carton, twinkling stars, a satellite and a gold medal, illustrating a short story serial

It was with a heavy heart that I worked my way through the Sandersons that had spent the better part of their youth at Henfield Primary School. There was a whole brood of them- some related, others just sharing a relatively common name. James, Felicity, Veronica, Sandra, Jack, Noel, a lot of Kates, and many Peters. Finally. Cynthia. Occasionally I received a phone call from an ex-student or the parent of an ex-student, usually with an inspired idea for a 21st or wedding. Otherwise, the time capsules were returned to the ex-students themselves at the 20 year reunion- enough time would pass by then for there to be an appreciation of the insight into what their 10 or 11 year old selves could give them.

Cynthia’s mother had called grasping for something, anything, of her daughter. I knew who she was immediately when Mrs. Sanderson told me her daughter’s name. For the past year, her face, smiling with a hand proudly holding a medal that hung around her neck, had been plastered around railway stations, at local convenience stores and occasionally on the news in what has been shorter and shorter segments as time moves on and other missing persons, wars, government budgets and natural catastrophes compete for screen time. Not for Mrs. Sanderson though. Her grieving voice told me that the world and all its news had stopped for her and her husband the day Cynthia went missing. 17 years old, at another milestone in her life, having just finished high school and celebrating on the Gold Coast during Schoolies Week. No one knows what happened to her, or at least no one has come forward with what they know. All her mother wanted was one more piece of her little girl. Continue reading

Eternity

Photo of a cat walking along a port microfiction prompt sonya's three line tales, flash fiction
Photo by Timothy Meinberg

Slinking with a swagger,

he’d dressed right for every occasion:

dappled patches for climbing trees,

streaks stripping paint from balancing beams,

sunburst polka dots of little girls

who dared come close,

and at home in the hessian tones of the captain’s embrace.

 

Content in all his coats save for the blues of the glistening sea-

he’d failed to shake those drops off when disembarking number nine.

 

Aquatic hues

haunt the patina of his bronzed likeness,

unravelling his immortal coil between the

here

and

there;

he never sleeps- perchance to dream and lose his footing.

 

Inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tales, Week 70 and after the initial concept, inspired further by a ferret down an online rabbit hole that made me stumble and trip on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I do not claim to have read Hamlet in its entirety but was pleased with how parts of his soliloquy worked with my idea.

The Run

Aerial photo of a graduating class, three line tales microfiction prompt
Photo by Faustin Tuyambaze

What got me out of bed and into the booth each morning was the thrill of monitoring ceremonies in the Grand Hall; as a rookie, I’d made the mistake of believing those facing away from the masses were the ones to look out for- I’d zoom in on them and make a concerted effort to track the next 5, 10, 20 years of their lives, although it would prove futile; mulling over milestones in their later years, I returned to the Grand Hall footage where with the fortune of hindsight, I drew a correlation between swimming upstream in old age and free flowing movement at graduation; squint and scan the crowd and you’ll see a distinct yellow aura marking them out, all facing the same direction.

The next phase was tracing their descendants and handing over the dossier to Dr Woodrow, chief geneticist at Project Anadromous, a clandestine government initiative that led to the design of  biological prêt-à-porter: subcutaneous cloaks fashioned to enable adaptability for a return to the so-called fresh waters of the wearer’s youth, to breed and die, maintaining population equilibrium- a profitable ‘industry’ that did away with nasty taxes, handout recipients, and threats of litigation- therein the fun stopped, gone were my days of naïve people watching, I became the watched.

Now, trapped by the consequences of my actions, I am stuck in a for-loop, endless iterations of life cycles that never deviate from the tedium of days begun in the murky gravel beds of oxygen limited fresh water, graduating to the stinging spray of brine that stretches to the horizon before I make a begrudging return to natal waters, a sacrificial offering for the next generation, treading softly on finite resources while amassing fortunes for the 0.1 percent who’ve had the fiscal and hence genetic fortune of defying the run.

 

Thanks to Sonya’s Three Line Tales, Week 68 for the inspiration. Woodrow, my sci-fi muse makes a cameo here 🙂