Freitag, 30. Juli 2010

Around the world

He is one of those people you could listen to for hours. Whatever place in the world you ask him about, he knows. Faraway islands, gigantic cities, mountains, oceans, caves. The world really is his shell. He knows what you can see there, talks about the sensations and experiences, has tiny anecdotes ready for your personal amusement. Is it history you are interested in? Geography? Economy? He knows it all.

A day at the café with him is like traveling around the world in one afternoon. He will talk about the white beaches of Thailand or the Aurora Borealis, as you may only see it in Greenland during the winter months. While enchanting you with his knowledge, he will drink cup after cup of Oriental coffee, with lots of sugar and a dollop of real cream. I have seen strangers stop and sit down at his table, buying him cup after cup of his favorite beverage, eagerly waiting for his next story.

He loves telling his stories. And when the skies turn dark, he will turn around his wheelchair and carefully navigate back home. This is all he has. He has been this way since birth. He has never left this part of town. Hard to believe he only ever leaves his flat for coffee.

Dienstag, 27. Juli 2010

Movie

[I apologize in advance if the following story should offend someone. Originally, the title was a different one, but it would have given away too much. Enjoy.]



The moaning from the next room sounds almost genuine. In here, it’s colder, and there is hardly any light. Martina can hear the camera guy shouting something – Jeff probably has lost his act again. It’s difficult for the man to do his part, she knows. And on a day like this… Maybe they should all take a break. She clasps her water bottle. There are water drops collecting on the smooth surface. It fits her hand perfectly. This is the main reason she buys this water brand.

The blanket does a poor job keeping the cold away from her nude body. She has been sweating in front of the cameras and all the big lights. Twenty minutes of filming sometimes feel more exhausting than a complete workout. At least she doesn’t feel as guilty if the whole crew goes to the fast food parlor afterwards. She loves socializing, and if it requires an unhealthy meal now and again… she can do this, as long as she pays attention to her overall balance. Mustn’t forget, her body is the main source of her income. Maybe she should take a shower before she has to be on scene again – she likes being fresh and clean for her partners, even if they have already had some together action on that day. The job is hard enough as it is already. She even takes the time to brush her teeth after every snack – or oral action.

Her mother must never find out about her job, and she knows it. Fortunately, this is not the kind of movie the old lady would be caught watching. It would interfere with her attempt to catapult her soul into heaven. Besides, she does not like all this “dirty, uncomfortable physical stuff”. And that’s fine, since somebody has to earn money to pay the rent, and university fees… Martina knows she is not bright enough to win a scholarship, but she wants to be a social worker, she wants to make a difference. Her family thinks she does some minor job for a professor, sorting magazines and stuff, typing letters. Martina does not think of it as a lie, it’s rather an act of mercy. After all, there surely are professors watching. She dreads the day when someone at university might recognize her.

With a buzz, the loudspeakers in the upper corners of every room come to life. “Everybody on the shooting range for the big final. I want no messy hair, no fluids. Clean up and get your asses over here!” The speakers die before the camera guy has stopped snickering. He likes ordering the others about. Martina runs both hands through her copper-colored locks, sheds the blanket and walks over into the next room. Nude, she looks more regal.

Samstag, 24. Juli 2010

[Fabulous Flash Award]

Another nice award was bestowed on this blog - the Fabulous Flash Award. Thank you very much, pegjet! It was a pleasant surprise!



The rules connected with this award include passing it on to four other excellent flash fiction writers, and it took some thinking to decide... but finally, here we go.

1. At Coffeerings Everywhere you find not only flash fiction, but most often intelligent drabbles (stories written in exactly 100 words). It doesn't matter whether the stories are based upon reality or upon imagination, they are worth reading.

2. Another short story blogger I recently came to enjoy reading can be found over here - Superfluous. I especially enjoy the clever way in which the stories are written, and I am sure you will, too!

3. True Stories Honest Lies is the third blog I would like to pass this award on to. The stories are short, imaginative and fun to read, and they sound fresh.

4. Mindspeak, finally, is one source of #FridayFlash I always look forward to. Go there and take at look at the stories, and you may understand why. They are clever, dark and fast.

There are, of course, a lot more deserving writers out there. Honestly, each and everyone who takes up the challenge to write and put their stories out here where everyone can read and comment and, if they want to, tear them apart - it's brave, and it's generous.

Freitag, 23. Juli 2010

Inside

Remembering all my old cases, it should be hard to pick the strangest. But there was this woman, back in the early 1950s - it seems I can't get her out of my head. She had those huge pleading gray eyes... like lakes in early morning mist.

Her husband had made the appointment. I hardly knew anything about the case, he had only said that his wife was behaving "strange" and "talking nonsense" and that it was "nothing physical". Then she walked into my office. Tall, slender, shy. Her clothes were not the height of fashion, but she looked beautiful in them. You know, beautiful in this "I don't care" way. Her hair was this nondescript color, somewhere between dark blond and light brown, with the first gray strands already appearing at the temples, although she was hardly any older than thirty. I checked her file - thirty-two, to be exact. Her name, her age. That was all I had. I rose to greet her.

She sat down on the opposite side of my desk, tiny brown purse in her lap, smiling hesitantly. "I have to admit I am a little bit confused. When my husband said he had scheduled an appointment with a specialist, I had expected a specialist in internal medicine, or maybe a cancerologist."

"So, you have cancer?" I looked at her. She seemed normal enough. But you can never tell with this kind of patients.

"Probably not. But, you know... I have got this feeling as if something was eating me from the inside."

Our conversation took its course. I quickly ruled out several standard problems. Yes, she had seen several physicians. No, they had not found any explanation for her discomfort. She answered my questions willingly, as polite and thorough as possible. In her agenda, she had written down several appointments she had kept during the last few months, and she also produced some neatly folded letters she had obtained from these physicians. "You must know, I expected you to be an expert in the - more physical field of medicine. This is why I brought the documents. However, if you want to, please take a look at them."

My colleagues had actually ruled out about every source of physical discomfort known to man. Which were not as many as today, given the circumstances. Medicine has come a long way since then. I browsed the reports, which basically said that the discomfort was in the patient's head. Well, she was my kind of girl, then.

There was another possibility. "Do you have children?"

She looked down, her shoulders slumped slightly. "No, unfortunately we do not. We have been... trying to conceive for almost two years. My specialist says there are no organic causes for my infertility, he advises us to - well, keep on trying." At this, she actually blushed a little. What a wonderful girl, I thought, her guy must be lucky to have her.

At the end of our session, she rose and shook my hand. Looking closer at her, I detected the first signs of nervousness. There was this squint to her eyes, and her gaze flickered around the room.

We scheduled a series of appointments, and she arrived punctual as a clockwork every time. Her outer appearance did not change, but within a short time I came to understand the "behaving strange" part of her husband's instructions. I could watch it becoming worse every time we met.

In the end, I thought it best for her to retire to a special facility for a couple of weeks, or maybe months, until she had regained her balance.

"A mental institution?" She was outraged and rose abruptly from her seat, where she had placed herself less than five minutes before. "I will have nothing of this. I am leaving. Have a nice day."

I had expected this behavior. Her husband was informed. He was waiting outside, together with two strong guys I had ordered over with an ambulance, to give her a safe ride to her new destination. It was a sad moment, seeing her fall apart like this. But a quick injection, and we could carry her outside.

"Really, there is nothing wrong with your wife", I assured the husband. "All she needs is some rest. Believe me, in a few weeks you will have her back, all shiny and new."

Well, things never turn out as you expect them to.

The woman died.

I received the call a few days later, while her gray eyes still floated through my imagination. Of course there was an autopsy, and they found the most disturbing thing. My friend Harry, director of the institution, who had been there, told me.

"You know, physically, there seemed nothing wrong with her. No bruises, no cuts, no wounds or scars. And the medication had taken care of her nervous behavior. I thought we'd discharge her less than a month from now. And suddenly, she is lying in her bed, all bloated and dead. And when we opened her..."

A moment of silence.

"What was it?" I asked.

On the other end of the line, I could hear him swallow. "Her intestines were literally crawling with maggots. Don't ask me how they came to be there."

I hung up without another word, returned to my desk and retrieved the bottle of Scotch.

Seemed as if something had been eating her after all.

Dienstag, 20. Juli 2010

Sybil

"Hi Mom... uh, yes, everything's going fine. How about you?... Yes, I know. I'll send him a card. Thanks for reminding me, though. ... Aha... aha... yes, I'll do it. Sure.

Now, the thing why I'm calling... no, I am not pregnant... What do you mean, 'that's a pity'?... Yes, I know I'm not getting any younger.

Now, why I was calling... the weirdest thing happened last week. Let me tell you. You know how I usually take a bottle of tap water to work with me? ... Yes, you've already told me these bottles are germ reactors... Thanks, I'll stick with it. However, imagine what came out of the faucet!... Water, why yes! Stop trying to be funny, I am trying to tell you something. Suddenly, there was this tiny thing in my bottle... like a tiny animal. Four legs, head, tail. Not larger than my thumb nail... Yes, I'm sure I looked stupid. You know my funny expressions... Mum, I KNOW the story about the frog in the lunch box. I was trying to tell you something! Would you stop interrupting me, please?... No, I am not being difficult. Are you going to listen now or what?...

Okay, I am sorry, too. Well, about this thing in the bottle - what was I supposed to do? I was in a hurry, so I just put the bottle on top of the counter and ran off to work. And suddenly I remembered that I had put the lid on the bottle! Now, I was half expecting to find that thingy suffocated by the time I'd come home. The other half of me was convinced I had been hallucinating... No, I am NOT doing drugs.

So, when I got home, that thing was swimming around in the water bottle and enjoying itself. I unscrewed the lid, put a sock over the opening and tight it in place with a rubber band... What it looked like? Kind of bronze-colored, I'd say, but SLIMY. No fur, I think it has scales. I haven't touched it... Yes, it's still here. I moved it to my old fish tank a few days ago. It's growing rather fast. I called it Sybil... How I know it's a girl? Mum, you're being silly. I just decided it. Anyway, Sybil is growing really fast. I called some guy over at the Veterinary Clinic and he promised they'd drop by tomorrow way early and get her. She's in the living room at the moment, but she hardly fits in the fish tank anymore... I'm feeding her chaps and sausages, she seems to like her proteins raw, haha... Well, I TRIED to feed her salad, but she wouldn't touch it. I guess if she likes it, it's good for her.

Now, I was wondering if you could give me a ride into town tomorrow? I'll never be on time if I have to take the subway... Thanks, that's great. Let's say, 8:30? - wait, I guess I heard something in the living room. Maybe the kids hauled their football through the window again. Those dirty bastards... Yes, I told the landlord about it. Just hang on a second, I'll go and check..."

Freitag, 16. Juli 2010

Arcade

When he woke up, he didn't know where he was. The floor was black, the walls were blue. His head hurt. The last thing he remembered was that chick at the bar, and the funny drink she had ordered for him. What a nice rack... had they hooked up? He hoped so. What a pity he didn't remember a thing about it.

Every surface was smooth, and the air smelled funny. Like being in one of those tiny, dusty electronics store on a hot summer day. Where the hell...? Carefully, he stumbled to his feet, turning to the wall for support. When his hand touched the surface, there was a sudden tingling, like the tiniest of electric shocks. Surprised, he drew his hand away - and almost fell to the ground again. There probably had been magic sauce in that drink.

In the distance there was a strange, howling noise, which drilled itself through his tortured brain. Damn, shut up, he thought. The sound reminded him of something... like sirens, but faster. In his memory, there were flashes and noises and tiny shapes moving around... - whatever. First, he had to get out of here.

Distances were greater than they seemed, and it took him quite a while to reach the next corner. The howling moved around, but it didn't come nearer, and he was grateful for this. But what was this?

In the next corridor, there were strange white dots on the ground. They grew brighter as he approached, and flared up when he stepped on them. All he wanted to do was get out of this strange fun house. Was this some kind of prank somebody was playing on him? He'd teach them a lesson, as soon as he was home. And had gotten some sleep.

The corridor seemed endless. Slowly his mind warmed up to operating temperature, and now he remembered where he had heard this sound before. Not this loud, of course, and with a more artificial ring to it. The arcade, where he had spent so many exciting afternoons when he was a teenager. What was that game again?

A soft vibrating sensation made the hair on the back of his neck jump to attention. The howling was closer now, and the colors gained intensity. He had almost reached the next corner. Surely the exit was here somewhere, and the noise was just to scare him off. He reached the corner, turned round - and froze. A glistening yellow sphere raced down the hallway, and wherever it passed, the glowing white spots disappeared from the ground. An obscure mint-colored shape was right behind it.

He prepared to run, but in that instance, another ghost appeared. The red one. They were closing in on him rapidly. And now he remembered what that game with this sound had been. Pacman.

Everything turned dark. Game over.

Freitag, 9. Juli 2010

Frozen

Sometimes I dream that I am awake.

I am lying in my bed, unable to move, with my eyes staring at the ceiling. The smell of burning olibanum fills my lungs. It is difficult to breathe.

All I can see from the corners of my eyes are the small dresser next to the door and the window, with its drapes closed. Everything looks just as usual. The bottles, the stuffed toys, the dying plants. I have never had a green thumb.

My body feels as if it is made of lead. In my dream, I don't even try moving my limbs because I know I will fail. All I do is breathe and wait.

For what?

The afternoon sun caresses the drapes, and some rays wiggle their way past the cream-colored cloth. Dust particles bathe in the yellow light.

I would like to have some fresh air, and come to think of it, the smell is strange. Why would someone burn incense in my apartment? There is no sound, although I really strain to listen.

It feels as if I was the last person on earth - unable to move, trapped in my own body, with only dust and sunlight as company.

The smell makes me want to puke.

Donnerstag, 1. Juli 2010

Rain

Hell, and I thought rain would make everything better.

't was a long summer, as hot and as dry as your grandmother's - excuse me. I forgot there are ladies present. Let's say it was really hot and really dry. The gras kept dying in every garden, no matter how much water the people poured over it. The town counsil prohibited watering gardens as the resources shrank. Some old sharts wouldn't listen, of course. You know, they are as stupid as dusty boots. We even had the police come out and tell them off.

Speaking of which - the dust was everywhere. While the plants kept dying, the ground dried out and was ripped apart. Nothing like the forces of nature to show you where the hammer hangs. Going to the store for some fresh fruit, all you found was shriveled up and looked rather sorry than tasty. And it was covered in dust. My sister, who has always been obsessed with everything home-made and as fresh as possible (her husband used to joke, "If we have left-over horsemeat, I'll ride it to work tomorrow." - well, he used to when he still was her husband; the last things they said about each other were less than nice) - where was I? Ah yes... my crazy, vitamin-obsessed sister started buying canned goods. You had to take the cans home and clean them off, otherwise all the dust ended up in your dinner nevertheless.

And the sun kept shining.

Soon everything was brown and gray, and the people became increasingly aggressive. Next was a ban on fire weapons. If the mayor hadn't been clever that once, we'd probably all be dead by now.

I wonder if it would have made a difference.

The strangest thing was that, one by one, the bigger radio stations and TV programs started dying. The shows became sporadic, and then they stopped. We started playing cards again, like in the old times. A few old folks even had ancient grammophones - you needed to crank them up, literally, for some music, and the records they had were not old-fashioned, but rather dead-fashioned. But as Pa used to say, you got what you got.

And when nobody expected it, the rain came. At noon the clouds began to gather, as if they had rehearsed it again and again. The light show was great, but the thunder drove the cattle mad. I hear Johnson had to shoot all his young bulls. Stupid animals. We were mesmerized. Whoever had the opportunity to abandone his work did so and went in search of a safe place to watch.

That was six days ago. The rain hasn't stopped since. The ground was much too dry to take it up, so our streets became rivers. A few people drowned. I haven't seen an animal in days. Still no sign of life by TV or radio. The people I have met the last few days went about like zombies. We don't know what to do, and we are afraid.