A Puddle of Dud

Obviously fictional stories. Occasional bad poetry. A workshed for a word lover who's written too many marketing pieces.

Tag: Invitations

The Island

Every day, for an entire year, I received an invitation to visit The Island. Handwritten but not signed, always with one glossy polaroid picture enclosed. Each day, a different picture: beaches stretching to the horizon, verdant forests with grassy floors, waterfalls plunging into ravines. In all of them, the sun stood tall and beaming.

The invitations were written in a personal style. The author knew me, knew where I lived and worked. But he (or perhaps, she) never gave any clues about who they were, why there were inviting me. And yet every time, at the bottom of the letter, there were clear instructions on how to get to the Island. Obviously this person wanted me to visit, but why would he not reveal his identity?

Curiosity, ultimately, got the better of me. On the three-hundred and fifty-sixth day, I packed a small bag with enough clothes for a handful of days, folded up the three-hundred and fifty-sixth letter and pocketed the polaroid. Then I set out to The Island.

The rusty boat I had chartered – all paid for: “we were expecting you, Sir” – bobbed on the dock behind me when I finally stepped onto golden sands. Seeing a trail of footsteps leading off the sand and into the trees, I headed inland. Before long, I was enveloped in the foliage. It was pleasantly humid under the branches, and soon I could hear the sound of falling water. I followed it deeper inland.

I came to a clearing in the woods. The roar of the waterfall was closer now, surely just barely out of sight, but that had faded into the back of my mind. In the clearing, I saw a wood cabin. And a man on the deck, lying in a hammock. I called out.

“Are you the one who invited me here?”

He didn’t answer me. “You’re just in time.”

His voice made me suddenly want to leave.

“Who are you?” I asked.

He sat up and turned to me. It was Barry Dresden. Non-descript, low-level book keeper’s assistant. He’d gone missing a year ago after I fired him; he was fiddling the books and skimming the petty cash. Not a lot of money, but I couldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior. Barry rolled off the hammock, lifting a shotgun from a table just behind him. He pointed it at me.

“This Island. It’s one in, one out. And I’m the one out.”

The muzzle of the gun seemed to fill my vision. He rounded me and headed back down the way I had walked. After a moment he started running. I stood in shock. One in, one out?

I ran after him.

I reached the beach and bolted down the sand, breath heaving. My rustbucket charter was edging away from the dock.

“One in, one out!” Barry called. “I’m glad I got you. That money I was pulling aside from the company was for medicine. For my son. And he’s dead now.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“I hope you rot here.” He held the gun pointed at me.

The boat’s engine fired. It pulled away from the dock. I was stranded, and no one knew where I was.

Barry’s voice whispered in my ear.

“You’re just in time.”

It had taken me a year to succumb to the invitation.

I walked back to the cabin. Inside, on a bare wooden table was a notice. It read:

“Supplies will arrive at the dock for a maximum of 356 days. Mail service daily. One in, one out, strictly enforced.”

A polaroid camera sits on the desk next to a sheaf of paper and a pen.

I start making a list of names.

One in, one out.

***

Big thanks to Krys and Tara for reading drafts and suggesting some solid improvements.

Half Moon Bay (by Krys Giang)

This “Invitations” story was written by the lovely and talented Krys Giang. She usually writes over here. You should go check out her blog.

***

I rolled the holosphere between my palms before flattening it and folding it up. I put it into my jacket pocket, and then pulled it out again.

***

“You need to upgrade,” Thomas had said during Christmas, and handed me a box. “Who uses touchscreen phones anymore? Seriously.”

“TS phones might be bulky. And they might have a static shape and volume. And they might be old fashioned, but holos are too flashy,” I countered. The crinkly bow and crisp gold wrapping paper were easy to tear off. Once the box was opened, an orb of light drifted up and hovered at chest level. It glowed a faint blue, but in the center was a gold holographic button. Thomas pushed it and the sphere bloomed.

He lifted a holographic camera from the pile and took a photo of himself. When he turned a knob on the camera, the orb of light shifted into a holographic bust of him. “There, now you’ll always remember me when you use your holo,” he said smugly.

“You’re such an idiot,” I said and laughed.

“Here,” his tone softened, “let me show you to set another back ground image. You can even go into amorphous mode.”

“I think I’ve got it,” I said and set it to “Balloon” mode. It drifted to the ceiling.

***

I looked out the train window. We passed under a tunnel, and then the sunlight came crashing through the windows. It rolled around on the floor, before climbing up the legs of other passengers. It reached for me too, and I stuck out a toe to touch it. The train passed under another tunnel before I could.

***

“Have you made up your mind?” I asked impatiently.

“I just, I don’t know, I just feel like you always want me to make these snap decisions,” Thomas said impatiently.

“So that’s it then? Here take this,” I pulled the bracelets off my wrist. “And these,” I pulled two small bags from the closet.

“No, no, no these were for you,” tears welled up in both our eyes.

“And the holo,” I said.

“Keep it.”

It shifted into a sharp dagger and I stuck it in his chest. “Now you know what it feels like,” I said as I walked away. It was just light tricks, completely harmless. He felt it anyway.

***

The train pulled up to the platform and the speakers played a bell sound. I spotted Thomas immediately. He waved and I put my holo away. Earlier that day, I’d received a handwritten note from him on my holosphere. There were few words on it, and I never wrote back.

***

Krys and I will be publishing one ultra short story each, every week, here on this blog. The theme for this month is “Invitations.”

If you’re interested in following along, feel free to subscribe with your email address at the bottom of this blog.

Rich Kids, 2104

Who sends paper mail these days, anyway?

Dear Jim,

You are enthusiastically invited to celebrate my 30th birthday on August 31st, 2104. The party will be held at Club Icarus on the Mars Orbiter Pericles.

Jesus Christ. What the fuck happened to birthdays in Vegas. Get a cabana, wave down some girls, buy a few grams of Sally from a shady guy wearing sunglasses inside. Now we have to go to fucking Mars to party?

Travel to Mars will be provided gratis on our new Space X SunWarp Shuttle. Also known as the fastest commercial spacecraft in the Galaxy – and YOU will be the first members of the public to experience it. Thanks to this new technology, we will arrive at Mars in a matter of mere hours.

Holy shit. That little assflap has been talking about daddy’s warp drives for years.

Since this is a novel experience for all of you, I have prepared some guidelines for your safety and enjoyment.

1. It is advised that you fast for 24 hours before embarking. Warp travel can cause extreme nausea if you are traveling on a full stomach.

2. Bring a common non-drowsy anti-emetic. Club Icarus is a zero gravity environment which may cause motion sickness.

3. You may experience Puffy Face Syndrome (PFS). For the single men and women of this adventure, a word to the wise – the (very attractive) men and women of Club Icarus are not appreciative of PFS, and neither are my birthday photographers. To prevent PFS, avoid caffeine and other diuretics. Olay also sells an anti-PFS lotion.

4. Despite the current trend, don’t wear or bring any Aluminized fabrics. Cheaper versions of these fabrics cause rather explosive reactions with the gasses used to stabilize the atmosphere on the ship.

5. Remember that Mars is a terraforming ecological environment that is under protection. While we will not be going to the surface, many of the residents you meet on Pericles will be surface workers. Mars Orbiter Pericles, by extension, is under the same eco protections as Mars. Do not bring food or fresh fruit. Unfortunately, if you are sick you will not be allowed on the shuttle. Expect to be decontaminated when you arrive.

Ha. I’ve met your friends. Nothing could decontaminate them.

6. If you… rendezvous with anyone at Club Icarus. Ask how old they are in EARTH years. Seriously – 16 years for a Mars-born adult is 30 years.

7. No aerosol cans.

8. Warp travel may cause temporary anxiety, insomnia, drowsiness, euphoria, or suicidal thoughts. The lawyers made me put that in there; personally I’ve never had a problem.

That’s because you’re already crazy, numbnut.

For your convenience, I’ve included a waiver as part of your RSVP slip. Please return the slip before September 15th so I can finalize numbers.

Your friend,

Nikola Musk Esq.

Fucking rich kids.

***

Krys and I will be publishing one ultra short story each, every week, here on this blog. The theme for this month is “Invitations.”

If you’re interested in following along, feel free to subscribe with your email address at the bottom of this blog.

Watchers

I’m going to tell you a story.

When I was four, I realized that I could see things that others couldn’t. About a month after I had started preschool, the teacher asked us to draw what we could see outside the classroom’s window. Stubborn rubber desk feet screeched on the linoleum floor as we turned our desks to face the window, and then, we drew. Some drew the trees, some drew the sun shining in a tall blue sky. Only I drew a line of silent people, hair hanging still in the breeze, peering into our classroom. The Watchers.

The first time one of the Watchers spoke to me, he told me a story. I was sixteen, leaving my sweetheart’s house on a dusky autumn afternoon. He walked up to me, hair hanging still in the autumn breeze, face shadowed in the dusk, and he told me his story as we walked. I listened, hypnotized and enthralled. When he finished his telling he said, “Come with me. I have something to show you.” He walked away, and I followed.

Four days later my parents found me in a park near our home, curled under a tree. My skin was cracked and dry. My nose crooked and bloodied. Deep purple bruises circled by neck, ankle and wrists. My knuckles were scraped and bleeding. I had no memory of what had happened.

At age 32, I married my sweetheart, the woman I have loved for all of my forevers, the same woman I had loved when I was sixteen. I still love her small smile and her patient heart. I love her when we sit quietly and watch foggy blankets rolling over the city. I love her when she falls asleep and I love her in the morning.

But one night, after she had fallen asleep, he came again. I did not recognize this Watcher, nor did I remember his story as he knelt beside my bed and enthralled me in the darkness with his eyes like nets and his words like hooks and he said: “Come with me. I have something to show you.” I followed. To my everlasting sorrow, I followed.

Four days later, I awake. I am in a pool of blood gone sticky and dry, tossed blankets painted red, my wife, my love, beautiful and naked and cold and daubed in blood and lifeless in my arms.

64 years old. A lifetime of sorrow and visitations that i cannot escape. The bottom of a whiskey bottle is my only friend. The Watchers, commonplace now, are whispering, staring and pointing. I am slouched in my wheelchair and drooling onto my chest when a Watcher comes to me. Her face is dark and angry as she tells me a story of 16 years love and sadness, of cities draped in fog blankets. Of blankets daubed with blood and betrayal. Then she smiles a small, pointy smile and tells me she wants to show me something. That I should go with her, that I should see the face of sorrow for all of my forevers.

I agree, and so I go. And now I am here, Watching.

And I have something to show you. Come with me.

***

Krys and I will be publishing one ultra short story each, every week, here on this blog. The theme for this month is “Invitations.”

If you’re interested in following along, feel free to subscribe with your email address at the bottom of this page.