In a pickle. What kind of phase is that? Now you’re in a pickle. A more fitting phrase would be – now you’re fucked! Maybe pickles are fucked. Drowned for months in brine after being ripped from their vines, only to be eaten… Yeah, fucked. Being in a pickle is bad enough but it’s worse when you are not the only pickle left in the jar. It’s a pickle jar – it’s airtight.
So how does one find themselves in a pickle? Simple really, you go with the impulse – spanner. You came up with it – make something with it. You must have had an idea when you said it. It wasn’t because you were wearing a spanner around your neck, was it?
Yes, yes it was.
It’s getting out of the pickle that’s the hard part. You have to think. Attempt to free yourself from the airtight pickle jar. Take a firm grip on your imagination and twist.
The bolts had come loose once more. It wouldn’t be long before the thing fell apart again. It really was a piece of crap but it was mine and it was all I had. What a pain, a physical pain in my head. Pounding like a hammer, crushing like a vice and sharp as a chisel. Take the drugs, my spanner, tighten the bolts of my pain and close shop on the migraine.
Cheh – it’s not even a drabble…
He stood very still as the feathers fell. Collecting at his feet, forgotten memories. Maybe they were his memories. Memories as unreliable as feathers in the breezy air. This way, that way – which way is true? Which memory is true?
He reached out and grabbed one of the floating feathers and brought it to his chest, making the memory his. But he knew as soon as he opened his hand the memory would fly away and be lost in the swirling memories around him. So they weren’t his memories. He was lost without his memories and felt so alone. Quickly, in desperation, he reached out again and again gathering as many memories as he could. He would keep them all. They would all be his, pressed to his heart because it knew the truth. He would hide the truth with the forgotten memories that weren’t his own. He would not be lonely and the illusion of his sanity would not be ruined.
But his heart would not be hidden. It mocked him for his vain attempts, his deluded ideas. He wept as the feather fell from wilted hands, his heart laughing. Slowly, tentatively, he reached into his heart and began to pull free his own memories. It hurt but they were his. He began to remember… There was so much sadness at first but he pushed his way through the sorrow and the heartache and found laughter. It was his – he was laughing.
Every kid has a favourite bedtime story. The story they want to hear over and over. My bedtime story was the best and my mother was the best at telling it. It started with a man, a man full of faith. This man was so full of faith that he believed it was his destiny, no, his purpose to rid the world of all evil. He had been ordained by his god to do this. And he believed he would be victorious.
Every night he would set out to rid the world of the evils that festered in the dark corners and seeped into forgotten thoughts. He would go forth with his cross, his holy water, his book and his utter conviction that he was right – his true belief. The story went on to tell of the horror that he came across, the fallen and the unmentionable.
My brothers and I would sit, begging for more as the sun started to rise. Once more before we go to bed, oh, please. Once more so our day dreams were filled with our heroics – we would vanquish this man, his faith would fall before us and our might. We were children in shadows but in our dreams, we were heroes. Hail the victorious Undead.
Thomas took another hesitant step towards the counter. He scratched at the back of his hand and the chip underneath. It contained his last twenty thousand credits. But he had a tip: Pretty Face, three o’clock, track fourteen.
He glanced across at the cages again. The next six runners were wallowing around in filth, oozing and bleeding. Third from the left was Pretty Face. Poor bastard, he thought, turning away.
Taking a deep breath, he took the final steps to the counter and placed his bet. He felt a pang of guilt, betting on this man as though he were a dog or a horse, but the chance to eat more than just mouldy bread and sap was too good to pass up.
He walked around to the viewing stand and used his bony shoulders and elbows to needle his way through the crowd to the grate at the front. He got there as the klaxon sounded and the electric fence began its loop around the track, spurring the racers out of the starting block. Thomas gripped the fence so tightly that his fingers had turned white by the time Pretty Face had lurched across the finish line in first place. As a mark of respect, and thanks, he watched as the fence finished its circuit and reduced the runners to smears on the cracked tarmac. He scuttled back to the counter with a slight smile on his face, clutching his hand to his chest, eager to collect his winnings.
It used to be a sure thing. Sunrise. Golden rays creeping over the ground, lighting the world. Not that the sun doesn’t light the world now. I’m just not there to see it. I see the sun, alright – you can’t miss it in space. Actually, you can’t miss them – they are everywhere. And nowhere. Speed of light? Fast. There are no windows other than the bridge. What is the point of a window when you are moving too fast to see anything.
Out here you live by sure things. They keep you sane, they keep you safe and they keep you alive. To be sane – it is a sure thing that your contract will end and you can return to Earth. Safe? Don’t accept things from strangers – there are many strangers in the long dark. And alive – you will die in space, there is no air. Soon, my sunrise.
I am waiting for his return – my one sure thing. My days are long and alone without him. I have no strength for the day and the sun seems to blind me. I know he sees many suns out there but here is his sunrise. Together we will watch the sunrise, huddled in the chill purple air. First, light will hit us and then the warmth will seep into us. Giving us strength for the day. My days will be short and I will be happy. Soon, his sunrise.
James and Ella shared a passion for food that lasted their entire life together. Therefore, when Ella died it seemed fitting that he cook for her and their friends one last time.
When all the arrangements had been made and the bureaucracy dealt with, he closed himself away in their kitchen and made soup. It was a good soup; warm, rich and satisfying. Ella would have approved. Afterwards, when friends talked or thought about Ella, her life and their loss, they would remember the soup.
It was not something that would easily be created again. James could not remember most of what had gone into it. When questioned, he could only remember four ingredients, although he was sure there were many more. He would have based the soup on a hearty stock, probably chicken. He and Ella had always enjoyed how food could be connected in this way, with the core flavours of one meal condensed into a rich, tasty base for another.
Then there were tomatoes; plump, deep red and sun-warmed. Ella had presented him with a perfect tomato every Valentine’s Day. “It’s a love apple,” she would say. “It symbolises the rosy, sweet core of our love.” She never missed a year.
He also knew that he had added garlic for piquancy, and smoked paprika for spiciness. Almost everything they cooked together contained these two ingredients.
Eventually when people asked, he would just say that the soup had been made of memories of Ella.
I must have been standing here for a good five minutes, staring across the road at it. The place looks ghastly. I’m not sure one could even call it a greasy spoon cafe. I think it would offend the grease. Nevertheless, I have been charged with reviewing this so-called restaurant and that is what I shall do. I give my monocle another quick polish on my monogrammed handkerchief and cross the road.
I manage to avoid touching the door handle by using my elbow pad to open the door; that’ll need a jolly good scrubbing tonight. I keep my eyes to the floor and scuttle across to a table. As I’m trying to locate a safe spot to put my hands on the plastic tablecloth, the waitress arrives.
Ah, yes, a South Londoner. I’ve read about them.
“Cuppor Tee, Luff. And…” I peer over my spectacles at the menu in its perspex holder. “Soop.”
She skips off to kitchen. A shell suit, honestly? I don’t suppose they even have a company dress code.
Now she’s talking to the chef. Oh, goodness, he’s looking over at me! My hand shoots up to cover my face. A shadow falls over my table – he’s standing right next to me. Various sauce stains decorate his apron. I think I spot a piece of broccolli.
“Hi,” he says. I lower my hand slowly and look up at this giant looming over me. “How’ve you been, Dad?”
Falcon sat still in the warm afternoon sunlight, the warmth eased his aches. The air was still and the churned ground empty after the fury that had spread across it some hours ago. The wounded were resting, the weary were watching and the dead were at peace.
The battle had been long. Neither side gaining but both loosing. All were tired – tired of fighting, tired of living on the edge. Those that did not walk the green field of Elysium wished for home. But home was far away behind them and there were battles before them. And until the path was clear there would be no returning home.
Fires had been lit and food was being prepared. The smell of cooking barely masked the smell of earth, sweat, blood and death. But after so long on the battlefield Falcon only smelt the food. His stomach growled with hunger. He knew it would be soup again. He had no desire for soup. For days they had been eating soup. No wheat meant no bread so the cooks made do with what could be found on the trampled earth. Twigs and roots throw in a pot. Boil it long enough and it became soup. But with so many men to feed options were limited so soup it was – day in day out.
Falcon gazed across the front line bathed in setting light. All that meat on the battlefield… It would be a shame to waste.
The sign over the door read “Pulse Trading Emporium.” The advertisement had guaranteed in soothing tones that the experience would be pleasant, even positive.
This kind of thing used to be illegal or impossible. However, two breakthroughs in different sectors paved its way to acceptance and possibility. First was the landmark court case of Smith vs Evans, which resulted in the recognition by law of people’s inalienable sovereignty over their physical bodies. Thereafter, if you could show that you might continue to live a satisfactory life, as defined in White Paper #4C35A, you could sell any part of your body to benefit that life. Later cases confirmed that this ranged from the equivalent of renting space, as in modeling or prostitution, to the equivalent of selling goods, such as a kidney or a tooth.
The second breakthrough came from bio-rhythmics. What had been a highly esoteric semi-religious practice turned out to have practical benefits. When practitioners learned to save their breath, using modified Tupperware containers, industry moved in. Within a few years, the range of commodities that could be harvested from the human body grew enormously. Not only could you sell half a lung, you could sell 1000 breaths. There were controls, of course. No one could legally reduce a life below the recognized Reasonable Life Span of 70, and you had to be healthy, otherwise the breaths would be substandard.
All of which made this moment possible. I took a deep breath and pushed open the door.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to present to you today.
We call our product Breath.
You will call it amazing.
I think we’re all agreed that, despite their best efforts, the science guys aren’t fixing the air. The newscasts say it gets worse every day. All the white lab coats and clipboards in the world can’t change the fact that going for a walk in the park is, well, no walk in the park.
Can you remember the last time you went outside with anything less than a level 4 helmet on? What the sun and wind felt like on your face?
So, here it is: Breath.
Looks like an egg, doesn’t it? Same oval shape, same compact size, same pale blue sheen.
You simply place it your mouth and wait. The shell of this little guy breaks down on contact with saliva and releases the twelve hundred specially programmed nanobots inside. They swarm your respiratory cavity and anchor themselves around the edges of your mouth and nose. Then, they activate and form a wall of air that lets them capture and sanitise anything you breathe in.
No more bulky helmets, and no more being trapped inside because of the warnings on the vidscreen.
Pardon? Yes, sir, it’s perfectly safe.
No, those charges were dropped.
I hardly think that –
That was proved to be an unrelated condition, on several occasions.
Oh, curfew already?
Thanks for your time.