Dear Customer

unnamedCongratulations on your purchase of a BioSynthon product, produced exclusively by BiSyInc! We are certain that you will enjoy many happy and mutually beneficial years of wear from your garment but, to make sure, please do study this information carefully and follow the guidance stringently.

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

The Little Shop of Hairs

Phoenix_Old_Spaghetti_Factory_restaurant_barber_chairs“You definitely put the sign out?” asked Bob, peering out of the plate-glass window at the pavement.

“I’ve told you, yes. Calm down. Someone will be along soon.” A faint, disinfectant smell drifted across the salon as Sal wiped a shelf next to one of the large mirrors.

Beep-beep! The door opened and a young woman walked in, flat shoes slapping on the tiled floor. Bob’s green-gold eyes lit up.

“Hello! How can I help you?”

She pushed dark hair out of her eyes with nail-bitten fingers, stared at Bob and shot a glance back at the door. “Um. I just need a trim. Just my fringe, really.”

#

Bob tweaked his bow-tie, tugged on his waistcoat and adjusted the position of his comb and scissors as the girl settled herself into one of the high-backed, black chairs. He fixed his eyes on her reflection in the glass.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Audrey.”

“Nice to meet you Audrey! Right, the fringe? And an inch off the ends, too?” He let the fine strands slide through his long fingers. “Shall I wash it?”

“Er, no, thanks. Just… a dry cut.” Wide, blue eyes stared back at him. “Are those heavy?”

Bob touched his thick, blonde dreadlocks, his smile displaying slightly too many teeth. “These? I barely notice them! Don’t worry, your hair won’t end up looking like mine!”

Audrey gave a tiny laugh.

He picked up his scissors. The metal flashed and danced, the blades snicking around her head.

Right hand busy cutting, left hand picking up something else…

Transfixed by the motion of the scissors, she didn’t notice as Bob wiped her left ear with a square of fabric and made a tiny cut. A drop of ruby blood welled up and he sucked it into the plastic barrel of a small, cylindrical device. A tendril of his hair whipped it away and twisted in on itself, hiding it from sight.

He stood back.

“There, what do you think?”

“Wow! It looks amazing! How did you do that? It’s so much thicker!”

Bob blew across the top of his scissors. “Years of experience! Ah, let me just…”

“Ouch!”

“Sorry! That loose hair wasn’t quite as loose as I thought!” he said, squirreling away the long strand with its intact root.

#

“Did you get everything?” asked Sal, watching through the window as Audrey walked away.

“Yep!”

“Good. I was worried we wouldn’t get the last sample.”

“You weren’t sure? You were the one telling me someone would be along.”

“I’m a pilot, I’m not telepathic. Never mind, we’re done and,” she looked at a grey band on her wrist, “just in time.”

#

Audrey stood staring at a patch of uneven red brick, spotted with fragments of old posters.

“It was here three weeks ago, I swear!”

“It’s a wall,” said her friend, Seymour.

“But there was a hairdresser. He did an amazing job of my hair.” Audrey looked around, forehead creasing.

“You must have the wrong place. Come on, time for food!” said Seymour.


Author’s notes:
This was written for a flash fiction competition, in which ‘showing not telling‘ (the bugbear of any fiction writer) was the key theme. There was meant to be absolutely no telling whatsoever. I almost succeeded, but in the original submission I wrote: “Three weeks later, Audrey….”

This is, of course, blatant telling. And right at the end, too. Curses!

I still got runner up though, so it wasn’t all bad.

The trouble with a story without any telling is that it can be difficult to work out what’s going on. Which is, I fear, the case here. But, regardless, I’m rather fond of this little tale, so I’ve left it alone.

Barring, of course, moving the “three weeks” slip into a piece of dialogue. I’m fairly confident that there really is no telling now. If you disagree, do let me know…


© Kat Day 2016

The Flask

smokeI almost dropped the flask when the genie swirled out. Purple, green and gold smoke shifted and shimmered, forming sleek, masculine features with high cheekbones, full lips and a small goatee beard. He was naked save, thank goodness, for a pair of baggy, golden trousers and a large ruby ring on his right hand. His bare feet hovered a few inches above the ground.

He wriggled his toes.

I coughed on the smoke, realised my mouth was still open and pressed my teeth together. With some difficulty I dragged my eyes away from the apparition and looked behind me.

My cramped office, with its stained whiteboard and bowing shelves haphazardly stuffed with books, papers and dead flies, was still there.

The small, grimy window still displayed its picturesque view of the building works across the road. There definitely weren’t any spiders crawling out of the walls or anything, not like that time back in the seventies. Still… I gave the three empty coffee cups on my desk a suspicious look before turning back to the genie.

“Hail, Mortal!” he said in a voice that invoked images of colliding tectonic plates. “What Is Your Wish?”

My eyes dropped to the flask of dusty, green glass in my hand.

The genie folded his huge, bare arms and looked down his nose at me. “What Is Your Wish?” he repeated.

I stepped towards him and prodded his upper thigh. Solid. I looked at the flask again. “Bloody hell”, I muttered.

The genie’s right foot began to tap the air. “Mistress, I Grow Weary Of This Game! What Is Your Wish?”

My brain kicked into gear. “Never mind wishes! How the hell did you fit in here?” I asked, waving the flask at him. “Have you come from some sort of alternative universe? Wow. I was talking to someone in Physics about the many-worlds interpretation the other day. I don’t think anyone seriously thinks communication between parallel universes is possible though. You know, outside of a single ion or something. Blimey, if this is real it’s Nobel prize-winning. You are real, aren’t you?”

“What Are You Talking About?”

“This is amazing!” I said, pushing my wire-rimmed glasses up my nose. I shoved a pile of partly-read papers on my desk out of the way and grabbed my iPad. “Do you mind if I take a photo?”

“A What?”

“A photo. You know,” I waved the tablet at him. “Like a camera.”

“What Is A Camera?”

“Gosh, how long have you been in there? It’s, um, a magic box that makes pictures. Look.” I pressed the camera icon, took a picture and turned the iPad around, lifting it up so that he could see.

The genie stared. “What Sorcery Is This?”

“It’s nothing these days, everyone’s got one.”

“They Have?”

“Well, maybe not everyone. Some people buy other makes, but then they usually realise they’re rubbish and end up buy–”

“Enough Of This!” thundered the genie. “What Is Your Wish?”

“Hmm.”

He stared at me with eyes of distant, long-dead stars. “What Do You Mean, Hmm?”

“We-ell, you know,” I said, thinking quickly. “I’ve read the stories. I know how this goes. I wish for something, you deliberately mess it up, I have to unwish it, you disappear, and we all end up back where we started. Seems we could save time and skip the wishing bit. I might just get Simon over here from Physics to check out this flask.”

“There Is Nothing You Wish For?”

“There’re things I’d quite like to have, but, WISH for…” I mused, “I’m not sure. I mean, say I wished for money. Money would be nice, but the bank would want to know where it came from. You hear stories of them shutting down people’s accounts for fraud just because they innocently received a transfer from their nephew in Nigeria. That would be such a nuisance. And at the very least, HRMC would on my back next April asking difficult questions about my tax return.”

I sat down on the edge of my desk. “I can’t see much use for a handsome prince and besides, people would wonder where I found him. If I wished for a house, I’d want somewhere fairly close by, and then the planning department would give me all sorts of grief. It’s a devil getting planning permission anywhere near here.”

I drummed my fingers on the desktop. “No, it’s difficult to think of anything that wouldn’t be more trouble than it’s worth.”

There was silence. We stared at each other.

I wrinkled my nose. “Is that sulfur?”

“Sorry.”

“Oh, don’t apologise, you’ve been in there a long time.”

The genie pressed his lips together and looked around the room. “What Of This… Nobel Prize Of Which You Spoke?”

“If I wish for that, the press will be on my case asking me to explain what I got it for. Those bloody science journalists are tenacious.” I pointed the iPad at the genie and pressed the camera button. “Besides, I probably only need to document all of this and cook up some equations with Simon…” I reached into the pocket of my jacket and pulled out my mobile. “I’ll just phone him.”

“Wait!”

I stopped. “Why?”

“You Cannot Tell Anyone Of My Existence!”

“Why not?

“The Wish Will Not Work!”

“Ah, but I don’t want wishes.”

The genie sighed and rolled his eyes. “I Will Be In And Out Of That Flask Like A YoYo.”

“No offence, but that’s not my problem,” I replied, looking at my phone.

“No!”

My eyes drifted to the ceiling.

“Well… okay…. look, tell you what. How about we come up with one really good wish, and you promise not to screw it up or somehow twist it around? In return, I’ll seal up the flask and bury it in a big hole somewhere. Or,” I added, remembering something, “I could wish for your freedom?”

“Freedom Is Overrated. I Will Be Happy With Peace And Quiet,” said the genie. He paused for a moment. “I Believe We Have An Agreement. What Is Your Wish?”

My shoulder bag was hanging off the back of my torn and stained office chair. I rummaged around, pulled out a piece of paper and waved it at him.

“Super Squillions Lottery ticket. It’s a double rollover this weekend. Never mind what that means,” I added, as the genie opened his mouth, “basically, I need the numbers on the little coloured balls that pop out of the machine to be the same as these. Can you do that?”

#

“And that,” I said to Simon from Physics as I sipped from a glass of Pinot Grigio in the pub in a few weeks later, “is how I won the lottery, and that’s how I can afford to take a year’s sabbatical.”

“Amanda, you really are a brilliant storyteller,” he laughed. “I can’t wait to read your novel. Hey, you didn’t actually win the lottery, did you?”

I smiled into my glass. “No, afraid not. My great-aunt died. I was her only relative. It’s not a fortune but it’s enough to keep me going.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, I really didn’t know her. I’ve only met her once. The only thing I remember about her is that she had this ridiculous fake ruby ring. It looked like something out of a cartoon.”

He drained his beer. “Your students are going to miss you. Another drink?”

“You get them, I’ll pay,” I said, giving him a twenty. He grinned and headed for the bar.

I thought of the flask, sealed in a metal tin and dropped into the foundations of the new Astrophysics building opposite my office.

With a smile, I picked up my iPad and carried on deleting photos.


Author’s notes:

I wrote this story for The Chronicle Flask, and people said they quite liked it. So I moved it to a blog all of its very own. Hopefully it’ll have some friends to keep it company soon. In the meantime, enjoy!


© Kat Day 2016