37, day thirty five
More stories in the vein of Five Very Short Stories. These are a tiny bit longer than those, but still short enough to be going on with.
Secrets Between Friends
“Just tell me!” said Alex. She threw one of her poker chips at Sam. “Whatever your secret is, I don’t care. We’re besties. We’re not supposed to have secrets.
Sam cringed. “Yeah, but this is a big one. You won’t want to be friends with me afterward.”
“Of course I will. That’s what it means to be besties. It’s non-conditional. So just tell me!”
“I never should have brought it up, but…”
“Out with it Samantha Shea!”
“I’m a werelion,” Sam blurted.
Alex rolled her eyes. “Listen, if you’re going to make something up, at least make it more…”
“I am!” Sam protested. “I swear on…Jensen Ackles’s underwear!”
“Prove it,” said Alex.
“Then you’re lying. I can’t believe you would lie to me. I told you about Tommy and the locker room after the lacrosse game, and here you are…”
“No,” said Sam, looking downward. “I can’t because I might hurt you. I can’t…I can’t always control myself.”
“Fine, fine, whatever. Sorry I brought it up. It’s your deal,” Sam passed Alex the deck. “Liar.”
“Fine!” Sam snapped. “You want to see? Fine! But if you get hurt it’s your fault.” She stood up. Intense concentration filled her face.
“What,” said Alex, “are you constipated or something? Do you have to…”
There was a loud crack, and Sam cried out in pain. She hunched forward. There was another crack, then another. Sam’s face distended and stretch forward. Hair erupted from her skin, and fangs burst out of her mouth. Alex’s jaw dropped open as a lion in shredded pajamas paced towards her. Lion-Sam looked down at her friend. She had never seen her like this before. The way her tender flesh hung on her bones. Irresistible. She leaned back on her paws, claws extended, and leapt.
A minute later, Sam stood over her best friend’s mangled body.
“Oh my god,” she cried out. She looked down at herself. Her clothes were ripped, and she was covered in blood. “What have I done. Oh Alex, I am so sorry, I’m…”
“Wow,” said Alex as her eyes popped open. “You really are a werelion.”
“But…” stammered Sam. “How did you…I…”
“I’m immortal. I can’t die.”
“You’re immortal? Why did you ever tell me?”
Alex shrugged. “I told you about Tommy. It was your turn to give up a secret.”
“Oh,” said Sam, considering. “Yeah, that’s fair. Whose deal is it?”
The day Evelyn’s husband left her for one of his rock-climbing students she pulled off her wedding and engagement rings and flushed them down the toilet. She ripped the expensive dresses he had bought for her for birthdays and Christmases from her closet and cut them to ribbons with a pair of scissors. She gathered up the crystal wine glasses he gave her for their fifth anniversary and brought them to the third floor balcony where, and one by one, she hurled them out onto the paved backyard BBQ area. They shattered with a satisfying crash.
Next she turned to her jewelery box. She lit a fire in the fireplace. When it was tall and blazing, she threw in her gold necklaces and watched them melt. Then Evelyn removed her pearl necklace from the box, took it into the kitchen, and laid it on the marble counter-top. She picked up a hammer from her former-husband’s toolbox, and lifted it into the air. She paused. This was the first thing John ever bought her. Maybe this one…no. It all had to go. The hammer smashed down and crushed the two small pearls at the end into dust. She lifted the hammer back up.
Something in the powder moved. Evelyn watched in astonishment as two tiny things crawled out of the pearl-remains. They looked like they could be insects, only they glowed with their own light. One of them glowed black—if you can believe it– and the other very dark blue. Each of them leapt into the air and hooked together. They floated there, buzzing. Evelyn was always one to finish what she started, and she wanted to see where this went. So she smashed the other pearls, two by two. Out of each one, another glowing creature emerged. Each was a different color, all very dark, all luminescent. They hooked together, and formed a mouth.
“Thank you for freeing us,” fourteen tiny, buzzing voices as one. “Who is to die?”
“Come again?” said Evelyn.
“We are the death-sting. We have slain subatomic gods and felled branches temporality and collapsed quantum-parallel empires. You have freed us. Who is to die?”
She almost said “John.” It was on the edge of her lips, nearly before she could stop herself. If anyone deserved to die, it was that two timing bastard. But no. She didn’t want to be responsible for his death. She hated him right now, but there had been good times.
“No one,” she said. “But thanks for the offer.”
“Very well,” said the death-sting. It flew out through the window, and was gone. Evelyn walked back into the bedroom and collapsed onto the pile of shredded clothing. She had started destroying objects out of blind rage, with no real plan. But she had to admit, she did feel better.
“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the great news I am here to tell you tonight. Anything you can dream, you can be. Anything you dare, you can achieve.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, it would seem we have a doubter in our midst.”
“Damn right you do.”
“Sir, do you not believe you can be anything you want to be, if you set your mind to it? If you dare to dream?”
“No I certainly do not. What if I wanted to be, say, the king of France? I certainly couldn’t do that.”
“That’s just your doubt, talking. That’s just that little voice that says, ‘I can’t.’ You’ve got to fight that voice, my friends! Fight it with everything you’ve got!”
“Are you bloody serious? You think I could be the king of France?”
“Because I’m fifty-two, my only marketable skill is laying down pipe for sewer systems, and France hasn’t had a monarchy for almost two hundred years.”
“This is why you can’t listen to your doubt. Do you think Steve Jobs listened to his doubt when he set out to revolutionize the computer industry? Do you think…”
Bernard turned off the television, and the motivational speaker’s image blinked out of view.
“Bloody motivational speakers. Always trying to tell you that you can do the impossible. Load. Of. Bollocks.”
Djinn and Crumpets
Gerald Pickering was sitting alone waiting for the tube when he got a bit of a craving.
“Damn. What wouldn’t I give for some crumpets with butter and raspberry jam?”
A meter or so in front of Gerald, near the little trash bins, there was a magnificent burst of shadow and fire. Streaks of darkness shot up to the rafters, and heat seared Gerald’s face. From the chaos, out stepped a creature with skin the color of flame and great wings that stretched like sheets of raw darkness out of its back.
“So,” said the ifrit, running its spindly fingers through its oiled beard, “what wouldn’t you give for some crumpets and jam?”
“Well, I suppose I…” Gerald almost answered, then stopped himself. “Wait a minute, is this one of those tricks you types like to pull? Am I going to say that I’ll give you half of what I have on me, and then you end up taking my entire torso, or something?”
“I certainly should think not,” said the ifrit, looking affronted. “What kind of a thing would that be to do a person? And what use would I have for your torso? I’d have to lug the great thing about, now wouldn’t I? I just asked you a question, the same one you posed yourself. What wouldn’t you give for some crumpets and jam?”
“Well, my hands, I suppose. I wouldn’t give those up for crumpets no matter how good they tasted. Wouldn’t make it half difficult to eat the crumpet, now would it?”
“Very good,” said the ifrit. “Here you are then.” He handed Gerald some warm crumpets slathered in butter and jam, then disappeared in a burst of shadow.
Gerald took a bite and then considered. This all worked out rather well. Last time he got a crumpet from an ifrit, he’d had to give up any future possibility of ever becoming a rock star. He resolved to be more careful with his public declarations of desire in the future.
“It’s not easy.”
“You have to choose one of them.”
“Alright. Thai food.”
“Thai food? Are you serious? It doesn’t matter. You’ve made your choice.”
“Why? What’s wrong with Thai food?”
“You remember when Pakistan was bombed.”
“Of course. It was all over the news.”
“He chose Indian food.”
“Oh, wait, can I change my– ”
“Your lunch will arrive shortly.”
What a Queen Must Do
On the day that Trellisandra was crowned Divine and Infallible Queen of the Thirty Seven Kingdoms and the Nine Realms, she issued only two edicts. The first was that all the frogs under her rule be gathered– unharmed– and banished from her lands. The second was that a story be spread to the far ends of her vast territory, that the prince destined to be the new queen’s true and only love had been turned into a frog by a twisted sorcerer.
The story was to be repeated, and whispered, by courtier and farmer and tradesman alike, until even Trellisandra herself believed it. There was nothing more dangerous to a new queen, she thought, than to have everything she could possibly desire placed at her feet, and to have nothing under all the sky for which to yearn.