Monthly Archives: February 2016

Collector

The theme of this story was “leap”, to coincide with the leap year.

Note:  Black birds was what the Vikings called guillemots.

I’m paralysed with terror. I can’t go on.

“Forget your fear, Bjarne,” Thorvald calls over the roar of the sea. “It’s bad luck you lost the draw, but we need food.”

Thorvald, Harald and Rolf are grasping the rope which is all that holds me back from a lethal fall. It’s brand new and staked to the ground, but it still feels horribly flimsy as I hang over the edge of the cliff, the breakers pounding far beneath me. My head spins like a whirlpool as my sense of balance and direction becomes meaningless.

Thorvald’s right; a raiding party’s got to eat. But there must be hares or deer to hunt round here. Why risk all this just to gather eggs?

“I’m going to give you some more slack, Bjarne,” Thorvald shouts. “Watch your feet.”

I feel a renewed surge of dread as I am eased over the precipice. My sandals slither around on the slick rock. A gust of wind buffets me from the left, but my feet are widely spaced and I don’t stumble.

The leaden sky soon fills my vision as down starts to become backwards. Thorvald and the team mercilessly let out ever more rope. There’s no going back. I’m going to have to accept the inevitable.

With a supreme act of willpower I force my knees to bend, then… I leap.

Thorvald and the others are caught off guard by my boldness and forget to hold tight to the rope. I lurch downwards. For a heartbeat, it feels like I’ve made a fatal misjudgement. But then the team takes the strain once more and I wince as the rope jerks me to a stop.

“Bjarne, you mead brain!” roars Thorvald from above. “Don’t catch us by surprise like that!”

Chuckling in spite of myself, I tug the rope twice to tell him, `let out some more’. He does, and as I start to pace my way down the cliff, a funny sense of calm overcomes me. Now that I have leapt from the edge and am against the cliff face, moving down it is really just walking backwards. The winds still howl around me and the waves still boom against the cliff, but it’s good to feel that bit more in control.

About fifteen metres down, I reach the black birds’ nests. They wheel around me, crying shrilly, ready to defend their nests. The chill air is now biting into me, numbing my fingers. I’ll have to work fast.

I snatch the first two eggs easily, since they are exposed and the mother bird slow. They and three more go into my basket. But soon the black birds are wise to me. One spears me with its bill so hard it draws blood. Manoeuvring eggs out of the nooks and crannies also becomes harder as my fingers grown numb.

Twenty eggs is as much as I dare gather. The chill is too much to bear. My hands are bruised and raw. I pull on the rope three times; the signal for ‘pull me up’. I use my feet to guide me as I go, walking forwards this time. When I’m over the edge, my knees buckle and I throw myself onto the grass.

“Nice work, Bjarne!” Thorvald beams, when he sees my basket.

The eggs were delicious once they were boiled. That night, I became the raiding party’s hero of the hour and got the best place by the fire. All the same, I’m quite sure that I’ll have much easier meals in my lifetime.

 

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The Future of Game Shows

This story is designed to be read aloud, to an audience.  Any text in italics are things for the audience to do or say at the appropriate time.

“Now it’s back to The Worm Turns, with Jason Janus, sponsored by Omicron Luxury Space Hotels; the best views in the universe.”

APPLAUSE

“Hello luvvies, and welcome back to The Worm Turns!  It’s the final round and we’re down to our last three contestants.  There’s Walter, 38, human, a therapist from Oxford …”

“Hi!”

“Ulysees, 9, an interpreter droid from New Chittagong…”

“Greetings!”

“And Praxor, 48, Elite Guard of the great Kraton Empire.”

“I shall be victorious, puny host!”

“Er yes, thankyou Praxor.  In a moment we’ll be starting up our wormhole generator, then our finalists will be jumping through one of our three doors and into a wormhole, that will either take them to our Star Prize…”

CHEERING

“Our modest Moon Prize…”

“OOOOOOO!!!”

“Or this week’s… BLACK HOLE!!!”

“BOO!!!!”

“That’s right, dearies, the Black Hole is our booby prize; ditch water dull instead of oodles of fun.  But who will get what?  Let’s find out.  Voluptua, my lovely, fire up the wormhole generator!”

APPLAUSE

“That’s 444 million terajoules of energy flowing through that overhead tube, literally ripping open space and time behind those doors.  And once you go in…”

“THERE’S NO GOING BACK!”

“That’s right, choose wisely, you three, because you’re stuck with what you’ve got.  Walter, you’re the highest scorer in the first two rounds, so please select.”

“I’m going to aim high, Jason, and choose number 3.”

“OOOOOOO!!!”

“Let’s hope all that head-shrinking gave you good insight, Walter.  Alright, get into position.  Voluptua dear, open the door.  And… JUMP!”

CHEERING

“And there goes Walter, speeding unstoppably through infinite space towards his destination.  Voluptua, please turn the number 3 around and we’ll find what prize Walter got!”

CHEERING

“It’s the Moon Prize!  That means Walter is going back to dear old Earth, to spend a week in a Scottish castle, where he will be the laird’s guest of honour at a traditional banquet!”

CHEERING

“A fine prize!  Walter will be in illustrious company among the proud and fierce Scottish clansmen!”

“A fine prize indeed, Praxor, but that means the Star Prize is still to play for.  Ulysees, our next highest scorer, are you feeling lucky?”

“That question is irrelevant to a droid, Master Jason.”

“Yes, quite right, Ulysees.  All the same, it’s time to choose; door 1 or 2?”

“Just processing…  My subroutines are telling me…  Number 1, Master Jason.”

“OOOOOOO!!!”

“Let’s hope your circuits have steered you right, Ulysees.  Step up to door number 1, Voluptua open it up, and… JUMP!”

CHEERING

“And away he goes!  Voluptua, turn around the sign and show us what Ulysees got!”

GROANS OF DISMAY!

“Oh no!!  The Black Hole!!!!  That means Ulysees will spend a week in the administration department of Accountancy Station 15 in the Third Pollux System, where he’ll be helping them file data sheets!”

AWWWWW…

“Sorry Ulysees, but as we all know, on The Worm Turns…

“THERE’S NO GOING BACK!”

“So, just you left, Praxor?  Feeling nervous?”

“Ha!  A Kraton warrior knows no fear!”

“Well said, Big Guy.  Now, don’t forget, you can either claim this week’s Star Prize behind door 2, or trade it in for… what’s in Voluptua’s box.  Don’t forget, this could be better still than the Star Prize.  What do you say?”

“My choice is irrelevant, Janus!  You have been duped!”

“Say what?”

“Ulysees is a droid, lame brain!  He will be thrilled to participate in the logical tedium of filing data!  What’s more, I shall take your Star Prize, but not only that…  Voluptua, bring your box along and you can enjoy my prizes with me!”

“Oooooh, lead the way, Big Guy!”

WOLF WHISTLES AND CATCALLS

“Praxor, put her down!  You can’t just…”

“And… CHARGE!”

“Oh my.  That door was no match for him, was it?  Well, let’s hope he and Voluptua enjoy their week’s holiday on the beaches of Tropicalia.  I’m Jason Janus and you’ve been watching…”

“A BLUE DELFT POTTERY TEA SET?!??!?  What use has a Kraton warrior for that?  Begone!  Now, come Voluptua, let’s find a tavern…”