Waterfoul – Part 2: How it spreads

Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/fiction/@mobbs/waterfoul-part-2-how-disease-spreads

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The clarity of mind she felt when seeing the ducks on the news was unlike anything she had felt before. At least, that’s what her suicide note claimed. It was only local news. Just regional, nothing spectacular. But she understood. All her predictions were laid out on her tea-stained notebook, albeit with little useful help in guidance towards, say, a cure or preventative measures. She probably didn’t have a clue.

Her work log described foreboding results with what she considered was an abject failure; chimps ripping out each other’s intestines, mice de-worming each other… to put it mildly. But she claims in her writing that the genes involved with tuberculosis resistance in humans was the crux of her study, and insists humans would be safe from the effects.

Those studying her work corroborated the idea in principle, saying even chimps, a mere 2% difference genetically, lack our resistance to this particular bacterial disease, though chimps have greater malarial resistance to compensate.

‘If true, if all of it is true, we may be looking at little more than a pond infection. I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen pond jellyfish clog up machinery, seaweed drowning hundreds of individuals. Let’s not jump to alarming conclusions’ Dr Jack Zhang said, seemingly to nobody.

The rest of the forensics team were idly watching the news looking for more up-to-date info:

The duck the old, gay men first observed disappeared, as if running away from a crime. Shortly after, the bird that should have drowned worked its way feebly towards the men’s general direction. When it managed to get up on land, within inches of the bench they sat, it simply shook its feathers and waddled away like it couldn’t even see them.

The men, however, were quickly distracted by the reeds beyond the far side of the pond. A swan, neck all contorted, emerged with an aggressive stance, feathers all ruffled. It made room for a water runway and set off into the air, one leg dropping from the sky, bouncing off a child’s pram.

The news continued. The family of the child didn’t even notice the decapitated leg nearby until the baby was firmly strapped in, crying. Presumably because it saw the leg.

The parents saw a duck with half its face missing approach them, and they quickly decided to leave. The husband was ready to release a hefty football kick of course, but considered it could have an infectious disease, and left with his family, a good distance between him and the bird.

‘All we need, is to find a one-legged swan. They typically go to the same brooding grounds, so we simply call the animal control officer, get a team assembled and stamp this fire out before it spreads.’ Dr Zhang, louder this time, head blocking the TV.

Confidence oozed from him. This is easily containable. If it even needs containing in the first place. Just a precaution. Then again, it ain’t tuberculosis, whatever it is.



1

The two men left their interviews, furious that the journalist started questioning their sexuality ON LIVE TV, as if that had anything whatsoever to do with a… zombie duck crisis. What is WRONG with people?? they both thought, more or less in verbatim.

It was time anyway, they had a flight to catch. In all their years together, they had never actually taken a proper holiday. Sure, they did a fantastic road trip from Arizona to Maine, and England was good too but it felt more business than anything. India, however. India was a whole new world. India would be a place to die happy.



2

‘You should really change her nappy before we leave, we don’t want a repeat of last time’ Lisa demanded

‘Me? I did it last time, I thought we agreed to alternate all disgusting chor… besides, she won’t let me do anything without going all mental at me ever since she saw that…leg’

‘Ok Lewis, ok fine. But if we aren’t willing to give things up and just do each other a favour sometimes, instead sticking to these bureaucratic counselling bullcrap rules, Japan is going to be another regret in our memories. Ok let’s just chill. It IS my turn.

But you better drive fast, ok?’

‘Works for me’



3

Dr Zhang was discussing the most likely locations based on the swan’s tag with the control officer when one of his hired goons came up the hill, swan’s wing in hand.

‘Yes! He can’t be far, unless he can fly with his beak.’

The hunt was on. Within minutes, they found a hobbling swan, twisted neck over a trash can, gobbling away at some sausage meat. The officer and his team made quick work catching it – but made sure to keep it alive, as per Doctor’s orders, and they headed back to base.



4

Night was waking. The crescent moon nowhere to be seen. Stars had their chance to finally impress. A shadowed figure approached the park bridge. She, or he, looked busy. Looking for something. Their nose was active, like a rabbit. Dressed in home-made rags, the barefooted individual directed their gait to a meaty smell towards a trash can.

The homeless soul took whatever scraps they could and stuffed them in pockets, took a few bites of this and that, and hobbled off more jovially than before, into the night.



Hope you enjoyed this first of hopefully an ongoing story!

Waterfoul – Part 1

Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/fiction/@mobbs/waterfoul-part-1The cracked mirror reflected a broken woman. Her eyes; windows to panic, her hands withered with stress. Despite the summer weather beaming in from barely 3 feet away through a cracked pane of glass, the light upon the mirror seemed monochrome. At least to her.

She was out of time. Her grant was running thin, and she had spent all year meddling with things that ought not to be meddled with, not least because it was simply over her head. Over anybody’s head, she reckoned.

She took a step back to see whether she could get away with going into the public eye as long as the average person kept to their own personal space, decided she passed despite the wine stains on her sleeve, and left her tiny bathroom.

On the table in the hallway, her life. Everything she had worked on in a single test tube. A failure, in essence. With notes of ridicule. Not even close to what she was going for. Tests on nematodes? They ate each other. Tests on mice? They ripped each other’s skin off. Tests on chimps? She didn’t even want to recall that afternoon. Bloody Mondays.

Self-pity had made her late. It was time to submit her death juice.

The elevator was strangely tall and thin, thinner than yesterday it seemed. Perhaps a projection of her chances of success.
She was to pitch a product, yet she had no product to pitch. She could lie, but people would find out within the hour; a quick sampling of the formula would see to that. She could replace it with the strawberry milk in her handbag and get a better response.

My life is a joke, she thought. Ugh…They shouldn’t be burdening a single individual with a task for an entire industry in the first place. What is this, slavery?

31st floor.

One last ditch effort to check a bathroom mirror to see if her disdain for existence had improved… nope.

What to do… What to do…

Banging her toecaps apathetically on the bathroom wall, drying her hands for longer than is sensible, she had an epiphany.

That’s it! Fuck ‘em!’

She quickly opened her handbag, pulled the test tube out and poured the substance down the drain.

Nobody should get their hands on this. Could be consequences.

She went down the elevator, now wider than ever, and left the building, never to return.



The park was quaint, not in the ‘sales pitch’ kind of way, but genuinely quaint. A small bridge over a small stream – seemingly pointless really – the cracks in the wood filled with moss as old as the park itself. A few benches dotted around here and there with the occasional retiree occupying it, passing time. Two old men were feeding ducks in a quintessential duck pond. Bread is not good for ducks, guys.

In fact, it looks like the ducks were not doing well at all.

‘Hey jim, look a’ that one… you seen a duck keep its head under the water that long b’fore?’
‘Uh I guess, I dunno. How long?’
‘I been watching for like, nearly 10 minutes. How long can a duck hold its breath?’
‘Err, Google says… no more than 5… but I see its tail still moving about all duck-like so you must be countin’ wrong’
‘Nah, I ain’t countin’ wrong, you bloody fool’

The duck in question was indeed failing to drown itself. But if the two old folk had been in the water for closer inspection, they would have seen that was not the intent. The duck was gorging.

Below the water, a second duck, as dead as the first duck ought to be. The first duck was passionate. Its upper beak was driven like a spear into the spine, the lower beak hanging loosely, floating aimlessly, attached to the duck’s body by a mere strand of tendon. But the furious bird was far more focused on driving its face deeper into the spine, deeper. Must go deeper.

Eventually, the bones completely separated, and the corpse floated to the surface.

The seemingly possessed hell-duck finally lifted its head from the water, looked around, and casually made its way to the reeds. The old men stared in disbelief.

Local Walkabout – Shanghai, China

A lot of people post their travel blogs here, which is great, but I’d love to see more local walkabouts in various countries around the world, getting into the grit of real life.

Now, I’m no photographer, and I made no effort to pretend otherwise, but here’s a bunch of photos of my area, no more than 5 minute’s walk from my home in any direction, in the heart of Shanghai, China. Hopefully my descriptions will add some actual value to the sub-par images. So please enjoy the journey with me!

So first up, we have this little enclosed business area with a nice restaurant which is within visual range of my apartment. It’s not interesting in and of itself, but in context of it’s surrounding, I thought it symbolic of the substantial wealth divide rampant in the city/country.

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A few metres away, a typical public toilet. For those who have read my article about toilets in China, your imagination should be running wild by now.

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As you walk, you can see a school is around somewhere…

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To continue, you have to go through a couple of small shack homes pretty much. It looks as if they have been there for many years and urbanization has done its best to consume its surroundings and make it public.

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Around on the side of the little house is a sign in Chinese saying ‘If you want one of our plants you can just ask, stop stealing our shit’ – more or less.

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Here you can see the rich area immediately behind, and some random biker just casually passing through.

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‘Great wall’ internet. 50M is not particularly fast in Shanghai, you can easily get double, but it’s actually faster than I’d ever get back in England (I mean, for the price I’d pay). Right now I have 50M for 90GBP per year.

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Not the best of photos, but I wanted to demonstrate how just about any small home can become a store, and this guy had been doing quite well running a fruit stall until the authorities made all the shops keep to their assigned spaces and to stop spreading onto the street. Now he’s left with a few measly benches of peaches and barely gets by.

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On my way to work, I like to go down these little secret alleyways where the poor families tend to reside. Behind this blue door is a space a little larger than a single bed. Many people use this space as storage down this alley, but at least half of them serve as actual bed-sized homes. It’s quite something to observe when walking down here at night and you get a little peak at them watching a tiny TV with a tiny fan blowing in their faces.

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Trash is typically picked up… infrequently, and most of these trash areas are overflowing for some days, usually until the weekend. In some cases, the piles continue to grow for weeks at a time. On the way to work, one sometimes fills up the entire street until it becomes impossible for cars to actually get by.

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Graffiti in training

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About 2 years ago somebody came up with the bright idea of putting cigarettes into grab machines, and you can pretty much see them everywhere now. Hardly a surprise given that at least 350 million people smoke in China.

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When the trash piles get to a certain size, you can sometimes see weird little auctions where an old lady has been curating various bits of useful trash and others can come and buy it from her, I suppose?

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In the midst of all the housing there lies a secret, female-only temple.

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This guy will unlock any door. I’ve been locked out a few times. It’s quite disconcerting that he can just waltz up to any home and break in silently without a care in the world, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

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Getting into the more populated areas now, you can see the monstrous buildings hiding behind the residential areas.

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Dogs are rapidly becoming a family treasure here, and we’re seeing a growing discomfort with the eating of dogs, and the festivals of dog slaughter, like Yulin Dog Festival, in which 10,000 or more dogs are tortured and skinned alive before eating, because the suffering they go through makes them taste better. Apparently.

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Street food is pretty amazing here. Who knows how safe, but I’d say at least 40% safe.

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Directly across the street you start to see more modern Shanghai. This cafe opened just a few months ago and is proving to be incredibly popular, with customers out the door most days. It turns out the owner of this restaurant is from Hong Kong and is a high school friend of my long-time Hong Kong friend. I’ve yet to take advantage of that via discounts… but I will.

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One of the good things about Shanghai is that they are doing very well at making the city greener. You’ll find most streets lined with trees like this, and in the narrower, French colonial streets, they block the sunlight and create a wonderfully nature-shaded walk. Given the mega city Shanghai is and its mass of cars and pollution, the ubiquitous trees and plants are a very welcome addition.

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I’d say this hospital is about 6 minutes away from my home. This is where I got my toenail removed after it became ingrown. It’s not a good hospital. They removed the whole nail, something that is outdated and generally a bad idea, then they made me return several times to agonisingly and ruthlessly tear off the bandaging and replace it. But the very act of replacing it re-opened the wound and just made matters worse. I took it into my own hands and it healed quickly. Then it grew back even worse and I now live with daily blood stained socks until I find a more decent hospital on the cheap (Work does not provide insurance). Story of my life.

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Going into the subway…

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Down we go. Shanghai has one of the biggest subway systems in the world, and despite its size, a place like downtown Shanghai will see some outrageous numbers of people during rush hour, as you can see:

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Technology is pretty substantial under here. You can scan your phone on this machine and charge your subway card, which also can be used to pay for taxis, buses and all that.

The app you use to scan can also pay for bills, book cinema tickets, flights, book restaurants and all sorts. Pretty amazing stuff.

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Buses outside in this central Shanghai area are powered by electricity. You can see the kind of tram lines above this bus.

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Saw this overtly proud backpacker

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The recent crazy of shared bikes is another pretty wonderful addition to Shanghai and other cities around the country. One day, bright orange and silver bikes popped up out of nowhere on the streets – Mobikes. You scan their QR code and you can download a fully English app where you can locate the bikes in your area (always at least one within a few metres, it seems), then you scan the bike code which unlocks the wheels.

Per use, you will pay between 0.5 RMB and 1RMB (around 10cents), depending on the bike.

Within no time, a new, bright yellow, Chinese language only bike came about – OFO. Many prefer this because it’s cheaper, more ‘bike-like’ in comfort and other issues. Within the week you had blue, even cheaper bikes, green electric bikes and now there are even shiny golden bikes.

It’s a little overwhelming, filling the streets and causing problems, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Quality of life has gone up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see pollution data fall in the near future.

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Sometimes it really does come across like the government can’t physically see residential homes and just blindly build giants on top. In reality, the government has the right to demolish and build on any area, and give homeowners a deadline to get out. They do get a rather comfortable compensation (well in Shanghai, at least), but some simply refuse to leave. In some cases the government, rather than make a big fuss about it, simply build around those homes.

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If you look really carefully, you’ll see two Starbucks in this single image. Can you spot them?

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You’ll often find a lot of interesting information, maps and the like on various walls, even back-streets like this one.

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One of my favourite things about East Asia is the love of secret little Cafes. Some do not advertise at all or even have a sign on the front, but simply depend on word of mouth through social media. This one takes up the entire house and is a lot more than just a cafe. Upstairs there is a Playstation room, a bean bag room, a boxing room, a meeting room, a massage/relax room and a whole bunch more.

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Finally I get back home and take a look out my window

On the surface I guess it’s barely worth mentioning, but this sight is particularly unusual in Shanghai, the world’s biggest city and with a population of 25 million people. Sure, you get all the roads lined with trees the same boring trees, but to see these huge, ancient beasts right outside my window is super rare. Finding this apartment was a stroke of luck – these green giants reduce my stress levels by about 60%!

Thanks for coming with me!

The Cave Pt II

Phraya-Nakhon-cave-Thailand

Convex walls, rising up through the dim, blue light. Mosaics created from scraps of failed crafts plastered the sides of the temple, while the front was embellished with reflective metals mined from the cave’s precious foundations.

The benefit of mining, one scholar once explained, was that their very home expanded over time as they became richer in commodities. Everything had been discovered to have a use; rocks for weapons, farming and building; metals for decoration and culinary experiences; soil for gardening and glow worm breeding – which had proved to be outstandingly unsuccessful.

Many believed Alaff was displeased by the idea of exploiting the glow worms to such a degree. The intellects tried to teach that it was simply the altitude the worms were not comfortable with mating in, but nobody was honestly quite sure. Either way, the intellects assured they were making progress on ways to simulate higher altitudes. In the mean time, the village had to stick to the rapidly declining stock of roof-worms, while accepting that their life would be lived in darker and darker conditions.

When it came to food, the village thrived quite comfortably on a wide diet involving largely meat and fish, but many delicious fruits and vegetables managed to survive without the sun. It was noted years before that the inexplicable glow emanating from somewhere around the centre of the cave seemed to boost crop yields, and there was in fact a specific ratio described by mathematicians on exactly how much energy appeared to exude from a particular level of brightness. The glow was steady and somewhat limited in distance, extending just a few hectares from the brightest point, but it was enough.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before the temple was surrounded by crop fields, tightly packed and blooming taller every year as plant adaptation allowed for more energy efficiency and tolerance for short roots. As population increased, the more rugged plants were cast to the outer edges and given more space to grow. with growing population, farms and ground space, the only resource on the decline was light.

——–

Alaff was in a grumpy mood. Some people had sinned, and although it was none of Alaff’s business really, Alaff felt disrespected. The worms Alaff placed among Alaff were a one-time offer to show Alaff’s altruistic backbone. Alaff did not expect the people to start utilizing ‘science’ in order to basically learn to take Alaff’s kindness for granted.

Alaff wanted to do something about it, but Alaff was in a good place right now, just like everybody else. At the very least, Alaff had no intention on replenishing the clearly dying breed of worms. They could figure it out themselves. Alaff didn’t require lighting as the humans did, Alaff created Alaff’s own, blue-lit gas after indulging in Alaff’s favourite offerings from the people. The glow would linger for millenia if need be, but the humans were gracious and kind, so Alaff would usually allow a steady stream to float down, directly below Alaff’s usual upper-rung hangout, above the temple where Alaff felt most at home. Alaff was unaware that humans could even sense Alaff’s light, let alone utilise it.

——–

As time went by, crops were yielded, homes were expanded and families were enlarged. Darkness came to be at a rate rapidly enough to think about, but subtly enough to ignore the smart people’s desire to do something about it.

Doing things about stuff seemed like effort for most people, and so in a world of plenty, doing stuff was the black sheep. It was better to live in the shade and work on how to get more shiny metal.

Some architects argued that reflecting the dimmer light with shiny metals could enhance the overall glow of the colony, even reaching those far-off corners. Other figures of importance pushed the increasingly popular idea that figures of lesser importance should move into the darker areas, leaving the brightness to the brighter minds.

Hierarchy was on the return.

——–

To be continued…

The Cave Pt. I

Concave walls, towering impossibly into the miraculous light above. Their very peaks lurched over, acquainting each other in the middle.

Below this natural dome, darkness ruled. The light above served as a beautiful monument of nature, and increasingly frequently, a delicacy. But when it came to lighting their way, the people had to consider other methods.

Using a lightly sewn wicker-style jar, the glow worms were transported around the village until their light died out, at which point they were swiftly thrown into the nearest stew.

Getting the glow worms in the first place was an achievement to behold. A member of the village would, over time, carve a ladder into the walls straight to the top. The higher the rungs climbed, the more hooked the carvings became, allowing a person to grab and hang from the acutely angled tops with relative ease.

Of course, anyone who has ever tried such rock climbing would know it to be easier said than done. Those permitted to climb for glow worms were trained and tested, ritualised and awarded the rite to the right to the harvest.

Money and trade were not significant characteristics of this secret underworld civilisation; all commodities were considered to be in abundance, and so all could take whatever they wished – if they had the know-how.

As centuries passed, knowledge spread exponentially. There were once rules to prevent this progression in a desperate attempt for hierarchy, but in a world of plenty, hierarchy is the black sheep.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before every wishful thinker was clambering up the rungs, higher and higher until they either fell to their deaths, exhaustively climbed back down or achieved their goal of a handful of worms.

But worms could only breed so quickly. They rapidly became scarce, the pseudo stars above started to fall into darkness.

—-

Below, hues of dark blue penetrated the central setting from an unknown source. This led to the village’s natural inclination to a higher power, and they had thus constructed a majestic temple directly in this navy glimmer.

The walls of the temple opposed the cave. Slightly convex, they could be slotted perfectly into the segment of cave wall they were facing. This slightly eggshell design was built to withstand forces believed to be pressed upon the people by a vengeful God – the same God that had forced them to retreat into the cave in the first place and now struggle eternally with ventures into the outside world in case He had some free time to slaughter the slightest sinners.

The villagers hadn’t a name for Him, but they had a name for their protector, Alaff who, to be honest, didn’t do a great deal. Any day that went by without incident was generally assigned to Alaff and the village pretty much settled with that.

Exceptionally, praise for the plethora of food and abundance of water in such a drab, dark location was given to the people, the workers, the architects. Those who sat down and furrowed their brows until something sustainable came to mind. Needless to say, Glow worms were also praised for their inevitable involvement.

——–

Alaff looked down on the villagers from some disused upper rung, idly ‘keeping watch’, protecting them all from whatever they pleased. They didn’t really expect much of Alaff, so it never did any harm to take a break here and there.

Alaff knew the other guy was weak. The very thought of entering The Cave spelled certain doom, because Alaff was bigger and more suited to the darkness. Should He threaten The Cave and cause the lights to go out, Alaff will assure a final breath from Him.

Alaff knew he was an effective bluff. And that was more than enough. 

——–

To be continued…

Desert, Coin, News.

Desert Music wailed. Sirens glowed with tortured howls.

‘Any news?’
Nothin’.
‘Alright, well, it’s November so to follow the sun t’morrow at the crack a’ dawn will lead southeast to this here river’
That there river is a long fuckin’ way.  
‘Yeah well. I ain’t sitt’n through anuva o’ those nights’
Suit yourself.

She re-wrapped her scarf, nice and tight around her skull, the remaining end tucked over the back of her neck. Her makeshift overalls would need to be replaced soon. She made a conscious effort not to trip over and further tear the scraggly parts dragging behind her like a gothic wedding dress, not least because they were covered in shit. Toilet paper was hard to come by.

As the sun collapsed into a flattened blob on the horizon, Desert Music continued its wail. Sirens howled unrelentingly, and wildlife simply couldn’t help but get itself into a frenzied chorus of barks, crickets and hisses. Cacophonous buzzing above portrayed an army of absurdly large beetles emigrating northwest. Below, sand rustled and floated in the wind, an army in itself. Unstoppable, infinite and disorganized, it would perpetually attack her face, with or without scarf protection and silently rub her skin away.

Perhaps those bugs’r runnin’ away from summat.
‘Or doin’ a nightly hunt, jue to return to their luscious southeastern home by sunrise. Whaddyou know about bugs?’
Exackly as much’s you.
HAH, TOUCH
É, MEIN FURHER.
Guys, I wanna sleep. Long day t’morrow, probly’

She took her mind to the stars, the best place to find dreams. She thought about the stars as navigation through the night to avoid the blazing heat of day, but she knew that would just mean a rigorous contest with the blazing freeze of night. Sometimes, burning sunburnt skin is preferable to frostbite. Skin cancer would be preferable to all, if it was quick. She had no idea, but that’s where her dreams took her.

Desert Music howled, sirens wailed, skin crawled. As the ripples in her forearm increased in depth, her throat started to induce vomit. But there was no food. When vomiting without food, large bugs tend to come out. And out they came, in their thousands, flying northeast. As soon as they dispersed, she desperately started sucking up the lake on her forearm to avoid dehydration, but it tasted cancerous. Her teeth instantly started to rot. Knowing they were weakening at the gum line, the sirens wailed harder, and harder, trying to shake them loose. Her head was screaming, the stars were falling. Many dropped lightly into her shit-stained hand, making her conscious of her naked self. Only, she was different. Focussing in the mirror, she saw, to great relief, her body in its original state; clean, white, slender. Above, golden coins continued to drop, making it hard to wade through to get a closer look at herself, smiling –

WAKEY WAKEY, RISE AND SHINE. Y’DON’T WANNA BE SETTIN’ OFF AT HIGH NOON AGAIN, DO YA?

Eyes open, she felt her arm. Burn-associated pain shot through her. She was awake.

‘Shit’.

Granite, Bullet, Bib

A new story based on three randomly generated words. The words must be incorporated in some way into the story. 500 word limit. (Not a final edit – I noticed my irritating habit of changing tense at seemingly arbitrary moments)

As the prion disease spread, millions of artists across the globe were frantically painting their final portraits, writing their final novella and composing their final concertos. They were all infected.

The disease in question is particularly disturbing, and devastating to the creative field. The prion digs into the host’s mind. It forces an altered state in which basic motor function is inhibited, balance decimated and, perhaps worst of all, imagination reduced to mere nursery rhymes and schoolyard puns.

Artists, a population already affected by large bouts of depression and addiction, were immediately warned of this. Unfortunately, the global bullet famine meant it was going to be very difficult for most to end it all before their dignity rescinded; these days, everyone’s an artist.

There are two forms of treatment. The first is psychological. As various scientists published studies around the world, it became apparent that the area of the brain responsible for creative thought is the location the prion resides, and thus, the more one attempts to imagine, the more rapidly their health declines. Needless to say, results were very promising for those willing to immediately give up their artistic careers.

For those more valiant artists, there was the dietary option. When it was discovered that the alcohol famine was a result of a single cult of thieves who believed it was the only sinless beverage provided by God, it wasn’t long until their apparent immunity to the disease was discovered. Without hourly doses of liquor, the cult followers rapidly turned violent and cannibalistic, hence their sensationalized nickname – Cannibal Corp.

For most of the artists, this double edged sword was all that was needed to remedy the pandemic: Give up creative thought, give up alcohol. But there was always going to be the stubborn few. Globally, these few totaled a couple of million. This persistent bunch had accepted their fates and it was only a matter of time before they were all wearing strait jackets and bibs, drooling over a canvas or keyboard.

The solution came when a young scientist decided to spend her Nobel Prize money on an inhospitable and therefore bargain island in the South Pacific Ocean. Not one to miss out on a chance to save humanity, she created the first Island Hospital. With well over a million victims, it was only fair to give the island autonomy, economy and political reform.

The Grand Republic of Amicable but Neurologically Impaired Tenebrose Ergophiles, or Granite, became the new symbol for quick and easy solutions to mankind’s problems. It was also a great way to allow the more promising, less prominent artists of the world to bloom.

Nobody ever knew what became of the citizens of the island. Nobody ever checked. Occasionally, nearby sailors would find a blood-stained bottle floating towards them, page after page of inexplicable nonsense within. Looking up, they would see bizarre sculptures carved into the rocky cliffs, eerie but beautiful melodies echoing through the mist as they sailed away to more civilized lands.