Proud

Jorininki Castroflame, Necromancer of the Seventh Order of Wrivaca, pinched the bridge of her nose and turned over the page in the grimoire she was studying. It was bound in human skin. It smelled funky.

She muttered words to herself, trying to fix them in her memory. She left careful pauses, of course— it wouldn’t do to accidentally summon the undead hordes— but she had to know her spells. There would be a battle tomorrow, and Lord Alstaz would expect things to work.

The words slid away from her, slippery as freshwater eels. A ball of black anxiety settled in her stomach.

The magical garnet of Ifera set in the heavy gold bracelet on her left wrist glowed red and emitted a cheerful chiming sound. Jorininki sighed and tapped it.

A voice spoke. ‘Jori, is that you? Can you hear me? Hello?’

‘Hi, Dad.’

‘Can you hear me?’

‘Yes, Dad, I can hear you. Are you okay?’

‘Oh, that’s good. We’re fine. How are you?’

‘I’m fine. Look, Dad, I’m kind of busy here… big thing tomorrow, you know. Is it urgent? Can I call you back tomorrow evening for a proper chat?’ That is, she thought to herself, if Lord Alstaz hasn’t thrown me into his dungeons because the undead hordes turned out to be three tatty skeletons with missing bits and a couple of zombie rabbits.

‘Yes of course, darling. But before you go. Um,’ her father paused.

‘What is it?’

‘I know you’re busy, I expect you’re working. You work so hard. Very important stuff. I know I couldn’t do it.’

‘Dad, you have no idea what I do.’

‘No, no, I know. Protecting a kingdom. It’s a lot of responsibility. I can’t imagine. Me, I’ve been a farmer my whole life. I don’t know anything about politics—’

‘Dad, I really am busy…’

‘Yes, yes, of course. Anyway. Look. We were at your aunt’s funeral on Tuesday.’

‘I know. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it.’

‘No, it’s fine. Everyone understands. They all asked after you. It just made me think, you know, it does, doesn’t it? A funeral. Everyone saying things they couldn’t say, you know, before.’

‘Mmm-hm,’ said Jorininki, turning the page back on the grimoire.

‘Well, I just wanted to tell you that we’re very proud of you, Jori. Very proud. You’ve achieved so much. You work so hard. We love you very much, your Mum and me. That’s all, really.’

Jorininki pushed the heavy book away before the tear could splash onto the yellowing paper. ‘Oh, Dad.’

‘I don’t say it enough, I know that. I wasn’t brought up to talk about these things. It’s different these days. Anyway. I just wanted you to know that even if I don’t say it all the time, I do love you.’

‘I love you too, Dad.’

‘That’s good, that’s good. Well, bye, bye, sweetheart. Don’t work too hard. You need your sleep.’

‘I’ll do my best.’

‘All right then. I’ll talk to you tomorrow?’

‘I promise.’

‘Bye, bye.’

‘Bye, bye.’

Jorininki Castroflame, Necromancer of the Seventh Order of Wrivaca, smiled as the red light of the magical garnet of Ifera blinked out.

Then she wiped her eyes and pulled the grimoire back towards her, the words now seeming that much easier to remember.


Author’s notes
It’s a trope of fantasy fiction that the parents of heroes and bad guys are dead. This piece came about after I wondered: what if the evil necromancer still has a Mum and Dad, who like to chat to their daughter every now and then? (And what about grandparents, that’s what I always want to know — maybe that’s for another day.)


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© Kat Day 2019

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Webchat Subject: The Injections You Gave My Henchpeople Last Thursday

~ CLICK HERE TO START A WEBCHAT WITH ONE OF OUR TEAM ~

DRCSHADE: Hello, this is Dr Calamity Shade, I’d like to talk to you about the injections your medico gave my henchpeople last Thursday.

JENI: Hi! My name is Jeni. Thank you for contacting MediHench. How may I help you today?

DRCSHADE: I’ve just said — I’d like to talk to you about the injections your medico gave to my henchpeople last Thursday.

JENI: Let me check if I understand: you’d like to talk about the service you received from one of our operatives last Thursday?

DRCSHADE: ffs. Yes!

JENI: Thank you! Do you have an account number?

DRCSHADE: DR-EVL-OVLD-663CS

JENI: Great! Am I speaking to Dr Calamity Shade?

DRCSHADE: Can you hear my head hitting the table, Jeni? Can you?

JENI: I’m very sorry, but I can’t — we don’t have audio. Am I speaking to Dr Calamity Shade?

DRCSHADE: YES.

JENI: How may I help you today?

DRCSHADE: #@!*$@!

JENI: I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Could you provide some details?

DRCSHADE: Jeni, if you make me say this again, I’m going to aim my zettawatt laser at your offices. After which there won’t be offices. There will be a crater, some ashes, and some blobs of molten metal. I hope we understand each other.

JENI: I appreciate you may be frustrated, Dr Shade, but I really can’t help you unless you give me some more details.

DRCSHADE: Okay, fine! Last Wednesday I called MediHench and asked you to send someone because I had wounded henchpeople. Ms Flamingo got into my compound earlier in the week and summoned her wretched flamingo horde. You wouldn’t think

JENI: Are you still there, Dr Shade?

DRCSHADE: Yes! Dammed flamingoes!

JENI: My apologies, please continue.

DRCSHADE: YOU WOULDN’T THINK they could do that much damage with those spindly legs, but they’ve got surprisingly large beaks. Several of my people had nasty injuries, and who knows what diseases those birds carry. Jason’s left eye looked very red.

Anyway, I know some of my colleagues treat their henchpeople as disposable, but not me. I value my people. That’s why I have a MediHench account. I called, and you sent someone out on Thursday. She had a MediHench badge saying Melissa Maingolf. She patched up all the scratches, put a steristrip on Millie’s head wound and gave Jason some antibiotic ointment.

Then she said something about bird flu and recommended vaccinations. She injected everyone. I think it’s caused some side-effects.

JENI: What sort of side-effects?

DRCSHADE: Jason’s hair has turned bright pink. Today he turned up in white flared trousers, singing Dancing Queen very loudly. I’m an open-minded arch-criminal, I am, but it’s hardly an unobtrusive dark suit, is it? He’s not the only one. Millie was wearing something today with colours that made my eyes water. Each to her own, but Kenjutsu in twelve-inch silver platform soles is asking for a broken ankle. And when I give orders they answer, “we’re just flamingling, baby!”

JENI: Could you bear with me a moment while I speak to my supervisor?

DRCSHADE: I suppose so.

Are you still there?

This is ridiculous.

I’m going to

JENI: Thank you for waiting, Dr Shade! I’ve checked with my supervisor and we don’t have a Melissa Maingolf on staff.

DRCSHADE: What?!

JENI: We’ve been experiencing a high volume of calls. We weren’t able to send anyone until Friday. The operative we sent reported that he was “turned away by a group of people singing and holding placards saying, ‘Party Like A Flock Star!'”

DRCSHADE: So who was Melissa Maingolf?

JENI: My supervisor suggests you consider the name ‘maingolf’?

DRCSHADE: What?

Oh.

Shit.

JENI: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

DRCSHADE: That’s it? My team are completely incapacitated because someone was impersonating YOUR operative!

JENI: That’s not our fault, Dr Shade.

DRCSHADE: I’m going to the laser room.

JENI: It does say in our terms and condit

DRCSHADE: Can you hear buzzing? It’s warming up RIGHT NOW.

JENI: Let me just speak to my supervisor.

DRCSHADE: Good idea.

JENI: Thank you for waiting. My supervisor says that as a gesture of goodwill, she will extend your MediHench membership for an extra month for free.

DRCSHADE: Do you know how much a zettawatt is, Jeni? It’s a LOT.

JENI: And send another medico out to treat your henchpeople, of course.

DRCSHADE: My finger’s over the button, Jeni. And my button works, believe me.

JENI: Er, we can offer you a $20 Yangtze gift certificate?

DRCSHADE: …

… and the extra month and the free treatment?

JENI: Of course.

DRCSHADE: all right then.

JENI: I’ll arrange it immediately. You have a flamingood day, now!

DRCSHADE: Hey, wait a mi

~ WEBCHAT SESSION ENDED ~


Author’s notes
Have you ever had one of those webchat coversations where you started to lose the will to live two minutes in? Yeah, me too.

Also, flamingoes seem to be very fashionable right now but just look at those eyes. They’re planning something, I’m telling you.


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© Kat Day 2019

A Change of Space

“Welcome!” said Captain Shepherd, as the door to the quarterdeck of the ship Starry McStarface slid aside. “Your grandfather’s told me all about you!”

Freddie Feghoot shook her outstretched hand. “It’s an honour to be invited, Captain.”

She waved her other hand dismissively. Her eyes sparkled. “Would you like to sit in the Captain’s chair?”

Who could say no? Freddie sat in the seat she indicated. It was smaller than he’d imagined. Glowing controls covered the arms. A screen floated in front of him, displaying a complicated pattern of intertwined, silvery strands.

“Strings,” said the Captain looking at the screen. “We use them to bend space, allowing FTL travel, you see. Neat tech. Only trouble is–”

“Captain! Anomaly on Zed!” called a middle-aged woman who’d been studying a display to the Captain’s right. “It’s a way off, but I think we’ll need to alter the knots.”

“Drat! Good spot, Lieutenant Motte. Out you get, Freddie.”

Freddie moved, and she slid into place. He stared at the screen. A red dot appeared, growing into something that looked like a child’s scribble. Captain Shepherd tapped furiously at her controls. Silver writhed around the red.

“Captain,” said Motte, “we need to change–”

“I know! Dammit!”

The floor shuddered. Freddie reached out to steady himself. The red scribble swelled. “What happens if we hit it?”

“Don’t ask,” said Motte, staring fixedly at the screen. “Captain, shall I…?”

Captain Shepherd cursed and pushed herself out of her chair. Motte took her place and reached for the controls. Freddie watched as the silver threads began to tie themselves into new knots which appeared, to him at least, to be pushing the red scribble off the top of the screen. He felt his heartrate slow down.

Then the floor lurched again. He looked and saw that the strands had twisted and slipped. “Are… they back to where they were?” he asked.

“Yes, dammit!” said the Captain. “Keep your eyes fixed on Motte while she tries again, will you? There’s a good chap.”

“Why?”

“Just do it!”

Motte jabbed at the controls again, gazing forward as both Freddie and the Captain stared at her. Freddie thought he could make out a flicker of reflected red in her eyes. Then it was gone. Her face relaxed.

“Thank goodness!” she said. “I thought we were going to collide with the wretched thing.”

Freddie looked cautiously away from the Lieutenant. The strings had adopted an entirely new pattern. There was no sign of any red.

“Well done, Motte,” said Captain Shepherd. “The pattern is dammed hard to alter once we’re underway.”

“Well, you know what they say,” said Motte with a wink, “a Shepherd can’t change her knots!”

“Haha, indeed!” said the Captain, slapping Motte on the shoulder rather harder than was necessary.

“There’s one thing I don’t understand,” said Freddie. “Why did we have to stare at the Lieutenant?”

Now it was the Captain’s turn to grin. “As everyone knows, Mr Feghoot, a watched Motte is never foiled!”


Author’s notes
I’ve always loved a shaggy-dog story. One the first I ever heard involved a chef called Gervais, a kitchen assistant called Hans and a small, green squid. If you don’t know it, I invite you to have a read. There’s a history of science fiction stories with these sorts of punchline endings, the most famous of which were written by Reginald Bretnor under the pseudonym Grendel Briarton and regularly featured a character called Ferdinand Feghoot. As you might have guessed, this is my little homage to those. I wrote it for the Escape Pod flash fiction competition. It got a smattering of votes but not enough to get through to the next round. Ho hum. But anyway, at the time of posting, you can still vote in the final of that contest – it closes on 27th June 2018. Go and check out the fabulous final stories!


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© Kat Day 2018

Lessons from Madam Hyacintha

Daisy dug her fingernails into her scalp as she stared at the puzzle pieces scattered over the kitchen table. Each was a lump of smooth stone, roughly cubic. They had the colours of autumn leaves: warm oranges, yellowish greens and rich burgundies.

“How are you getting on?” asked Madam Hyacintha, looking over Daisy’s shoulder.

“Hmm,” said Daisy, distractedly.

“Well, let me know if you need anything,” said her mentor.

#

It had been an autumn day when Daisy had first arrived at Madam Hyacintha’s red-brick town house. Inside, the building had smelled of a peculiar mixture of turpentine and burnt sugar.

“What would you like me to do tomorrow?” Daisy had asked enthusiastically as they sat at the kitchen table drinking tea. “I don’t mind if it’s boring! I could clean the floor? I know that certain movements,” she waved her arm in a circle, “are important to practice!”

The wrinkles around Madam’s eyes had twitched, making Daisy think of sycamore seeds. “Ah? You’ve heard stories?”

“Yes! There’s always something like that to start with, isn’t there? Jumping into a puddle without splashing. Painting a wall. Catching flies with forks. It seems pointless, but it turns out it’s all about reflexes and technique!”

“It seems that you’re ahead of me,” said Madam, producing a small, leather-bound book with ‘Abecedarian Magicks’ embossed on the cover. “Read chapters one to four this evening. We’ll discuss them tomorrow.”

#

Daisy picked up the darkest stone piece and turned it over in her fingers. It was slightly warm to the touch. Two of its sides had been carved into the shape of a scroll, with a deep groove through the centre. Madam had told her that all the grooves should line up, making a continuous line. There were twenty-five pieces; perhaps they formed a five by five square? But no matter how Daisy moved them around, she couldn’t make it work.

She wondered why Madam had given her this task. Was it to teach her persistence? Patience? Maybe she was supposed to use some sort of magical technique? She had learned several already. Madam had even allowed her to help with some quite advanced spells.

“You are more than capable of doing these things, with practice and care,” she had said. “But I want you to appreciate the complexities.”

Daisy had felt this was not the way things should go. Surely she should be absolutely forbidden from dangerous magics until she had somehow proved her worth?

As if reading her mind, Madam continued: “Do not feel that you need to creep around and experiment behind my back. You are welcome to try anything, with supervision. I am merely trying to avoid having to clean up a flood, or untangle a misapplied metamorphism, or possibly both. I will not withhold information from you if you request it.”

Daisy stirred the disassembled puzzle pieces with her finger and frowned.

#

A week after she’d arrived, Madam had produced a sketch. It was a woman with pale skin and pulled-back hair: a single, dark strand falling across her face. The iris of one eye was the colour of lavender. The other was white; nothing but veins crawling across the sclera.

“This is Lady Aniya Aston,” said Madam. “She is extremely dangerous. Should you meet her, I advise that you run the other way, quickly.”

“Aha!” Daisy had said, “But I expect you can’t tell me anything else about her, because it would be too dangerous for me to know! I expect you feel you must protect me from the truth.”

“Not at all,” said Madam Hyacintha. “In my experience, that sort of approach always ends badly.” She had proceeded to tell Daisy absolutely everything about Lady Aston: the prophecy, how Daisy’s parents were involved, and even, much to Daisy’s shock, all about her own past entanglements with the woman. “It is usually best,” Madam had said calmly at the end of her lecture, “to have all the facts from the start.”

#

Daisy narrowed her eyes. “Madam?” she said, as her teacher was about to leave the kitchen.

The older woman stopped. “Yes?”

“Are you sure,” said Daisy slowly, “that all the pieces are here?”

Madam reached into her pocket, produced two more stones and placed them on the table. Suddenly the solution was obvious. Daisy pushed the pieces into a cube, three pieces along each edge.

“Very good,” said Madam Hyacintha. the corners of her eyes twitching upwards. “Remember, Daisy, you only have to ask.”


Author’s notes

We know how it is with mentors in fantasy and science fiction stories, don’t we? Mr Miyagi, Professor Dumbledore, Obi Wan Kenobi, even, I noticed, Odette in the recent animated children’s film Ballerina. They teach via obscure methods, withhold critical information, and generally frustrate their mentee until he, or she, does something stupid and gets into trouble. Then they die. Or get critically injured. Or just disappear.

Well I’m a teacher and I say: bugger that. We’ll have a properly structured curriculum and the teacher isn’t going to die at the end of it, thankyouverymuch.

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© Kat Day 2018

The trip of a lifetime

Dear Han and Lettie,

Having a wonderful time in E. California. It’s so different from the forest – the rocks are the colour of cinnamon and chocolate and the sky is clear and bright, like peppermints. Tomorrow I’m going to visit the local “Nut and Candy Store”. I’m sure I’ll find some lovely knick-knacks to bring back. Maybe something pretty for the gables. I hope there’s air-conditioning. The heat here is ferocious. They say that if you crack an egg into a pan and leave it in the sun, it will cook. I can believe it – the ground is so hot it’s like a stovetop. It’s tough on my old bones! Thanks again for spending some of your windfall on little me – it’s been the trip of a lifetime,

Baba Rosina x

Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley

P.S. Look after the cottage, darlings, don’t eat me out of house and home!


Author’s notes

This piece came from this idea: What if Hansel and Gretel didn’t so much as push the witch into an oven, as send her away to one? All the places mentioned – the Nut and Candy store, Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley – are real locations. The witch’s name is an amalgam of the old “Baba Yaga” myths and Rosina Leckermaul, from the Engelbert Humperdink opera. 

© Kat Day 2017

The only winning move

death-valley-sky-597885_960_720

A landscape of barren, dark-grey stone. Above, a black sky dotted with pinpricks of light – as though someone had taken a piece of paper, repeatedly shoved a pin through it, and then put it in front of a something extremely bright. Like, say, the lights of an oncoming train.

There was no breeze. No sound. No moon.

Since the last thing David Snacknot remembered was playing Go with one of his colleagues at the University, this all seemed rather strange.

“Where in the hell am I?”

“Interesting assumption.”

David looked over his shoulder, giving the impression that while his head wanted to see what was going on, his feet wanted to stay pointing in the direction which might provide a clear run.

He found himself looking at a figure with its arms folded across its chest. Its black robe covered it entirely. Even its face was completely hidden by the fall of the heavy cowl.

At this point, David realised he wasn’t breathing.

He tried to take a breath, and found he couldn’t. Then, more out of habit than anything else he tried to panic, and found he couldn’t do that, either.

The cowled figure pushed back its hood. “Do stop opening and closing your mouth, Professor. You look like a goldfish.”

Unbidden, David’s feet shuffled around as he stared. The face before him was not what he’d been expecting. Not that he knew what he’d been expecting, but whatever it had been, it wasn’t this.

“A-are you… Death?” he stuttered.

“I dislike that name. Such negative connotations,” said the figure. The face was feminine, and it definitely had skin. Admittedly, very pale skin, and skin stretched tautly over angular – one might even say bony – features.

“Er…” said David, then stopped to consider the fact that, despite not breathing, he still seemed to be able to speak. He fought back an inexplicable urge to whistle. Just to see if he still could. Then he had to fight back the urge to giggle.

“I rather prefer Entropy,” continued the figure.

What is it called, thought David, when actors are laughing so much during a performance that they can’t say their lines?

“Because that other name, it’s really not what I do. I don’t actually have anything to do with the D-word. That happens before people get to me. My role is merely to move things forward.”

Oh yes, thought David. Corpsing.

“So,” said Entropy. “Shall we begin? Or perhaps I should say, end? Ha ha.”

“Ha ha,” repeated David.

Entropy beamed. “That’s the spirit! Hardly anyone laughs at my jokes! Oh! Spirit! Ha ha!”

David smiled weakly. His eyes slid from her face to the surrounding landscape, and something strange behind her left shoulder caught his eye. “What’s that?” he asked, pointing.

“What? Ah, yes. Well, once upon a time, it would’ve been a pale horse. But we all have to move with the times.”

“A combine harvester?”

“There are a lot of you these days.”

David nodded slowly. I must be hallucinating, he thought. Just how much did I drink?

“The scythe just wouldn’t be practical.”

“No, I suppose not.” His rational side gave up. If he was dreaming he might as well go along with it. “Er, don’t take this the wrong way, but I thought Dea–, sorry,” he said quickly as she frowned, “I mean, in books and things you’re usually male.”

“How can you tell?”

“What?”

“I’m usually drawn as a skeleton.”

“Oh. Good point.” David resolutely fixed his eyes on her face.

“The people who draw me,” pointed out Entropy reasonably, “are not, generally speaking, people who’ve actually met me.

“Of course, yes. Makes sense. Wait a minute. If there are so many of us that you have to use a piece of heavy-duty agricultural equipment to do your job, why am I here on my own like this?”

Entropy smiled enigmatically. “Good question, professor.”

“Is it?”

“It is.”

“Is it a good question with an answer?” asked David, after a few moments.

“If you flipped a coin ten times, what would happen?”

“What’s that got to do with it?

“Just answer.”

“Well… I suppose you’d get a mixture of heads and tails. You’d expect half of each, but in just ten flips,” he shrugged, “who knows? Could be all heads, could be all tails, could be one to nine, or two to eight, or anything, really.”

“Very good. And if you flipped it one hundred times?”

“Then, assuming you had an evenly-weighted coin, it ought to come out closer to fifty-fifty. But I don’t see–”

“A thousand times? A million? A billion?”

“Closer and closer to an even split. And sore fingers,” he grinned. Entropy didn’t laugh, which seemed rather unfair, all things considered.

“Can you, perhaps, conceive of any other alternative?”

David frowned. “Not if the coin is evenly weighted…”

Entropy dipped her long, pale fingers into the folds of her robe and pulled out a coin. It glinted silver in the non-light. Slowly and deliberately, she pressed her thumb against her index finger, then balanced the metal disc on her thumbnail. With a soft ‘fthick’ the coin leapt upwards, turning over and over in a slow arc. David’s eyes followed it as it reached the apex, and then fell downwards, still spinning.

Clink.

He stared.

“You see,” said Entropy, “you’re like the coin.”

“On edge?”

“Exactly.”

The both considered the disc of metal for a moment, perfectly balanced on its side.

“Are you saying,” asked David slowly, “that I’m somehow between states? I could fall one way, or the other? I could… go back?”

“Perhaps,” said Entropy.

“Perhaps what?”

“Traditionally, in this circumstance, you would challenge me to a game.”

“Really?” asked David, champion Go player, “then I choose–”

“But in this case,” she interrupted, “I think perhaps not, given what happened the last time you proposed a game.”

Memories crawled through David’s mind like a drunk getting back to the house at 3am. They missed the lock, knocked over the furniture and set fire to a frying pan. He’d been playing Go with his friend Jian. And they’d been drinking. A lot. Because, because…”

Entropy shuddered. “Spit all over the playing pieces. Revolting.”

Oh yes. The classic Go variant: I bet I can fit more of these playing pieces into my mouth than you can.

“We’d been drinking,” he protested. “I wouldn’t do that normally.” Thirty-four, he’d managed. Then, before anyone could say Heimlich manoeuvre, here he was having a cosy chat with Dea– Entropy.”

“Traditions,” she mused, “are a very human idea. You spend all this time and energy inventing new and more efficient ways of doing things, but every now and then you insist on making life difficult for yourselves because great-great-grandma would have approved.”

Why had he drunk so much? They’d been celebrating, because…

“I don’t have a ancestors. Or descendants. I remember how everything was done, and I know how it will be done.”

“… brandy. They’d been drinking brandy…”

“And I do have a job to do. I can’t sit around playing complicated strategy games.”

“… because…”

“So with that in mind, pick a number.”

“What?” asked David, jolted away from his fractured memory.

“You say that a lot. Pick a number.”

“Any number?”

“Yes.”

“But there are an infinite number of numbers!”

“I didn’t say it would be easy.”

“Can’t you at least give me a, a, range?”

“I can say nothing.”

“What about fractions? Decimals? Irrational numbers?”

“It’s a round number.”

His birthday! They’d been celebrating his birthday! Jian had been meant to be keeping him away from the surprise party he wasn’t supposed to know about!

“Come along, Professor Snacknot, before the universe reaches heat death, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Fifty! It’s my fiftieth birthday! That’s a round number!”

“Fifty is your choice?”

“Yes!” It was an hallucination! His brain had just been trying to process everything. He’d been trying to find a way back to consciousness! Now he’d remembered, he could go back!

Entropy nodded and raised a finger. Arm outstretched, she drew a spiral in the air, the line picked out with glittering silver. The shape pushed outwards, creating a cone-shaped tunnel. In the distance, David thought he could see colours. The brown of a battered wooden desk, the green of an old carpet…

She pointed.

David ran towards the tunnel.

He could see the desk. See the toppled brandy bottle. See his carpet with round, black and white pieces scattered across it. See the two paramedics. See the figure lying prone on the floor.

He was close. He reached out. Almost there.

And watched in horror as his finger dissolved into a thousand glittering pieces.

Tried to cry out as the fragmentation spread up his arm and along his chest.

Felt his larynx splinter before he could make the sound.

The essence of David Snacknot scattered into trillions and billions of particles and drifted away on the silent winds of the universe, never to be joined again.

#

In the grey-stone dessert, Entropy climbed into the cabin of her combine harvester and patted its dashboard. She sighed. Despite what she’d said about traditions, she had rather preferred the horse.

“You’d think a physicist would’ve worked it out, wouldn’t you?” she said to the silent piece of heavy machinery. “There’s only one number where entropy cannot be. And only one number of playing pieces a very drunk, middle-aged man could survive having lodged in his windpipe.”

The combine harvester, of course, said nothing.

“I gave him clues. ‘I can say nothing’ I said. I mean, short of actually telling him the answer, what else could I do?”

The combine harvester rumbled and rose into the air in an upwards arc.

The silver coin toppled from its edge and fell heads up, a single, round disc of silver against the dark stone.


Author’s notes

This story began life as a piece inspired by the Fibonacci sequence. It didn’t really work, and I didn’t like it. But I had a sense that there was something there, particularly in the character of Entropy, so I picked it up again. I ended up gutting the original tale, chopping up and rejigging more or less everything bar the very beginning and some parts of the end. I hope you like it, and if you do it just goes to show: a writer should never throw anything away!


© Kat Day 2016

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BioSynthon fabric is waterproof, dustproof, colourfast, colour-matching, temperature-adjusting, stain-resistant, crease-resistant, electrically-resistant, stab and bullet proof, flame retardant and SPF 100. If worn in an extreme situation, e.g. in the presence of a large-scale explosion, discolouration may occur. However, do not fear! Your garment IS self-repairing. We ask that you hang it in a cool, dark environment (but see below) for 24 hours before contacting our customer-care line.

Do not be alarmed if your BioSynthon garment appears to be the wrong size. One size fits all! Simply put it on, and its overlapping scale structure will adapt to your body shape to produce the most flattering fit possible. Please note: the fabric may appear thicker on very small individuals, due to the closeness of the overlapping sections. Larger individuals are advised to give some thought to their underwear.

Your BioSynthon fabric will breathe. Literally. It is made of living cells which respire. BioSynthon makes use of sweat, carbon dioxide from your skin and dead skin cells to maintain itself (if irritation occurs, discontinue use immediately). Like all living things it also excretes, however do not worry – it simply produces small amounts of a non-toxic, odourless gas. Although this gas is harmless, it is flammable. We recommend that you keep your wardrobe well-ventilated and avoid naked flames (your garment will not burn, but nearby objects might).

We also recommend that you wear your BioSynthon garment regularly in order to keep it well-fed. Failure to do so may have unintended consequences. We also suggest that you do not hang it too close to other polypeptide-based fabrics such as wool, silk and cotton, as it may digest them (synthetic fibres are fine).

DO NOT WASH BioSynthon. It is self-cleaning.

DO NOT IRON BioSynthon. It is crease-resistant.

DO NOT BLEACH. It doesn’t like it.

Note: BioSynthon fabric is grown from cell cultures here on Earth. The parent Martian cells were carefully screened for all traces of viral contamination, and we have a rigorous quality control process. Your product is completely safe!

(BiSyInc accepts no responsibility for personal injury or damage to personal effects caused by failure to follow these guidelines.)


Author’s notes
This piece came out of a challenge to write something inspired by the photo at the top of the page. I thought it looked like it could be fabric, but on its own that would’ve been too obvious. So I took a slightly sideways approach – this obviously isn’t a story as such, but it is (I hope!) a bit of fun.


© Kat Day 2016