Redundant

The breakup had been painful for Charlotte, as her life had been tangled up in Greg’s. She wasn’t on the lease and had no legal recourse but to get gone. He was very clear.

“C’est la vie,” she said, and her accent was perfect. She was proud of her French accent, even in more complex sentences.

An envelope tumbled through the street with a gust of wind. It seemed to have come from nowhere, likely escaped from a bag of unsecured trash, but it was printed on a high quality paper, and clearly marked urgent in enough languages that it caught the attention of a polyglot like Charlotte.

The envelope had no return address, nor did it have an intended recipient, and Charlotte, having no address and being not at all the person she had intended to be, decided she had every entitlement to this mail, more than anyone she knew.

The paper was tough, almost leather. The seal holding it closed seemed to be metal, not a familiar one, maybe beryllium? She strained as she tried to to pull it apart. It was hot to the touch, and she had to hold the missive against her shirt. The rip of the stack of papers clanged and echoed in the city around her into fragments on the ground. She gathered them, and held them together:

“TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
敬启者
A QUIEN CORRESPONDA
À QUI CENA CONCERNE
AMBAYE INAWEZA WASIWASI
ご担当者様
SEHR GEEHRTE DAMEN UND HERREN
[…]
DON TÉ LENA MBAINEANN
AL KIU GI POVAS KONCERNI”

Every page contained a single phrase, and even though she didn’t know all the languages involved, she quickly flipped through the several sheets of paper, enjoying the Rosetta Stone she had found. She quickly learned several translations of the following letter:

“YOU HAVE BEEN USING THE SUN WITHOUT PERMISSION. SERVICE WILL TERMINATE ON AUGUST FIFTH. PLEASE MAKE ANY NEEDED PREPARATIONS.”

She read through the German version a few times, getting her tongue around the sounds. The grammar seemed archaic, but she felt confident in the phrases, and moved onto the Korean, which she had learned to read in her year abroad. She wasn’t sure if she was getting the intonations quite right, but she felt that a native speaker could probably decipher her accent if she repeated herself slowly and loud.

All the romance languages were interesting to compare, especially the Romanian, which she had never before come across. She hoped they rolled their Rs, because she purred them seductively, and they sounded brilliant. If Greg heard, maybe he would take her back.

“Je suis tellement chanceux,” she said as she ran back to the old apartment. “Fare permisiune.”

#absurd, #hello, #i-missed-you, #moving-on, #self-absorbed, #unimportant, #welcome-back

Boring

The show Richard was watching was a soap opera about fighter pilot doctors who save lives, but have trouble facing their own tragic pasts. The main character, a wise-cracking yet sensitive up-and-comer, had trouble forming meaningful relationships, and compensated by speeding into wartorn villages to rescue hostages.

The show was well-produced, and Richard watched it on evenings he had the energy. Something about it was comforting, though his own life seemed dreary in comparison. He tried not to think about that. He thought it was best to use these shows as aspirations.

“Come visit me,” his girlfriend texted. She was in the hospital, having taken a bullet for the Earl of Sussex. The nobleman had been so grateful that he had offered to marry her, but she had graciously refused. Richard was sure she resented him, so he hadn’t been visiting as often as he should, but he was proud of her faithfulness.

She should probably marry the Earl of Sussex. He was better looking and better connected than Richard, more interesting and more sensitive, too.

He sits next to her bed. After a quick conversation about what’s new (nothing), they watch Dr. Pilot on the mounted TV. In this episode, the main character saves the village chief, who wants him to marry his pick of the village. The whole village even, if he chooses.

Richard can’t really pay attention, though their lives are more interesting than his own. A nurse informs him that all the doctors are busy and they need him to perform an emergency surgery, but the premise is too far-fetched for him to care about. With a drawn out sigh, he lets the nurse lead him to a growth he can remove, just like every other day.

#absurd, #art-imitating-life, #bored, #ennui, #life-imitating-art, #microfiction, #sorry

Time Loop

Because he had invested everything he had and several hundred thousand dollars besides in what had been all but proven impossible, Lowell was getting desperate. He hadn’t even proven the theory, and in a month, he was supposed to have a working prototype of what was basically a science fiction premise.

“I guess you’re pretty upset right now,” he heard himself say. “Don’t worry, I’m here to help you.”

Seeing himself standing there was an immediate relief, proof that he would succeed in his research.

“Go get a pen and a video camera,” his future self dictated. “And remember everything I’ve said so far. Don’t take your eyes off me. Remember everything I do.”

Lowell understood. In order to preserve the fabric of the universe, he would have to act exactly as his future self acted when in the future that was him. One word out of place, one extra breath, and reality could fall apart. His future self was being careful, not making any sudden movements. Lowell would have to be that still, too.

“Try to relax,” his future self said, though he sounded like he was just saying the words. Once Lowell had the camera set up, he sat in his most plush office chair. He noticed, his future self looked more nervous and uncomfortable than he did.

“I’m going to help you relax,” he heard himself say, gritting his teeth. He watched himself get to his knees. He rubbed Lowell’s thigh and unbuttoned his pants. “I’ve never done this before, but I have to.” He took Lowell’s still flaccid penis into his mouth and rubbed it with his tongue. Lowell didn’t try to stop him. The universe depended on it.

“Pay attention,” his future self said. Lowell closed his eyes. He would figure it out.

#absurd, #microfiction, #narcissism, #paraphilia, #science-fiction, #time-travel

King

As the chief legislator signed his last death warrant for the day, a wet and towel-clad King Gorgon came stumbling into his quarters.

“We have to protect our citizens!” he shouted. “I want you to post a decree banning all bathtubs, showers, anything with a faucet. From now on, our government is decidedly anti-faucet.”

The chief legislator took a breath before he dared to ask what had happened.

“Nothing happened. I simply came to realize that running water is a terrible hazard, and I’m surprised it doesn’t result in more injuries than it does. Do not question my judgement.”

The chief legislator noticed the king’s swollen toe. “Very good, sire. Your word is law.” He dipped his quill in ink and began a draft of a new bill. The king’s zeal would undoubtedly fade as his injury healed, though sometimes his memory was stubborn. The legislator was looking forward to eating popcorn again.

“How is your tooth, your majesty?” he asked absentmindedly. He regretted the words as they left his mouth. The stack of execution slips looked taller than ever.

“My tooth is fine. Make sure it stays that way.” The king turned with regal dignity to the empty doorframe and stormed out. Had doors still been legal, he would have slammed one.

The legislator nodded to himself and honored the king’s request, as he always did and always would. As he signed his name as the bottom, he heard the king shriek from his bedroom, “Damned zippers!” and with some resignation, the legislator removed his pants and started a new bill.

#absurd, #anachronism, #blame-game, #displacement, #fable, #king, #legislation, #popcorn

Advertisement

Two friends of opposite genders are watching a sporting event on television. The woman is bored. The man is enthusiastic. His enthusiasm bores her more than the game itself. He looks over to her after what to him was an exciting play, and she nods to avoid corrupting his childlike wonder.

Maintaining the implicit deceit in her demeanor is exhausting. She stands up for a break.

“Hey, will you get me a Coke?” the man says, not looking from the screen. He gives a thumbs up in her direction.

She agrees. Opening the fridge, she finds the last bottle of Coca-Cola behind a number of rotten vegetables. A bag of carrots has turned into a semi-transparent ooze, and what used to be a head of lettuce has become a solid ball of maggot. She finds a plastic bag and puts it over her hand. Keeping her gaze on the floor, she pulls out groceries, plunging them out the window into a handy trash compactor. The vegetables produce a visible odor.

A jar of black mayonnaise crashes against the floor. The mold of it seems to be crawling toward her. She backs away. Snatching the Coke, she runs from the kitchen, slamming the door behind her.

She sits down and casually hands the man the beverage. He says, “Alright!” not at her or the soda, but at something on the screen. He rips off the bottlecap and pours the liquid down his gullet. “Woo hoo!” he says. “We did it!”

The wall behind them turns a greenish black. The color fills the room, but the man doesn’t notice. The woman closes her eyes and cheers for the home team, too. She might as well.

Coca-Cola: Your Only Responsibility

#absurd, #advertisement, #coca-cola, #misogyny, #sports, #squalor

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drink-coke-full

Bills are stacked so high in the room that they take the place of furniture. From under a pile crawls a man. He picks up one of the few letters without dollar signs.

“I’m leaving you,” it says. He throws it with the rest of the junk.

His cat has died facedown in its food dish. He winces as he looks it over, unsure how he’s going to deal with the remains. He decides to worry about it later.

He opens the refrigerator. It is empty, except for a colony of bees that has taken it over. He closes the door as their humming intensifies.

“Don’t bother coming into work tomorrow,” plays a voice in his head.

“Your father and I are very disappointed in you.”

An eviction notice slides in from under the door. He lights it on fire and throws it on top of the rest of the paper.

From the inferno comes a figure made of smoke, well-dressed and red. “You’re just about to give up, aren’t you? I can help if you want. I can give you your heart’s desire.”

“Give me a Coke,” he says. It bursts into his hand. As the sirens approach, he gulps in down in one go, as though it is medicine.

He feels better.

Coca-Cola: Your Only Responsibility

#absurd, #advertisement, #coca-cola, #illustrated, #microfiction

Vice

No one knew his secret, that he was the Vice President of the United States.

Out fishing with the boys, sometimes the conversation would turn to foreign policy or federal interest rates. He had to bite his tongue.

His wife suspected something. She came home one night and overheard part of a conversation about diplomatic relations with China. She said nothing. They ate dinner. They tucked in the kids. They sat up reading on their sides of the bed, she the paper, he a spy thriller.

He coughed. “I guess you’re wondering what I was talking about on the phone earlier.”

“Not really.”

“There’s a new guy at work, you see, and nobody gets along with him. We’re just trying to figure that out.”

“Great.”

She wasn’t looking up. She wasn’t even listening. He would tell her the truth someday, when she was ready. If he could hold out three more years, it wouldn’t even matter. A few drinks in, he could reveal himself in an embarrassing little anecdote from the past. “You’ll never guess.” It would be meaningless and charming. He looked forward to that.

His wife made a exasperated noise. “Can you believe this pathetic attempt at health care reform? Ridiculous.”

He had engineered that particular compromise. “I know! They should be ashamed of themselves.”

That was all she wanted to hear. She turned over and went to sleep.

He hated keeping secrets, but it was necessary. She wouldn’t understand. Neither would his friends, or his children. They all hated the powerful, and complained of their sick pleasure, controlling policy and people. At the same time, he couldn’t help but think that maybe they were hiding the fact that they wanted to be powerful, too.

With a sigh, he tightened his collar and strapped himself to sleep.

#absurd, #holidays, #marriage, #microfiction, #paraphilia, #politics, #president, #the-fetishists