A Democratic Vote

She didn’t believe in the continuity of personhood, so she knew that it wasn’t fair to make such a big decision without consulting the others. The best way was to take a vote.

Like the ancient Greeks, she cast stones. Each day she wanted to keep living, a white stone in the glass jar. Each day she wanted to die, a black stone.

She already knew how she wanted to die. Neat and tidy, no loose ends, no selfishness.

She would do this for a full year, and count the votes on the 365th day. There were already strata in the jar. A white streak when the blossom was falling. A black streak when the phone hadn’t rang.

Soon she would know for sure, and either way she would be at peace.

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The Climb

Branches twist outwards and upwards, leaves sparse and small, knots scattered about. You move from foothold to foothold along the main trunk. You can’t see the ground. Lines of thousands of tree trunks stretch infinitely downwards. You climb upwards. Your feet chip away at the bark, shards of sadness and regret tumble down. Sometimes you think of just letting go, allowing gravity to take you.

The climb is difficult.

Beneath the canopy, it is hard to tell day from night. Some days the sun is a ribbon. Some night the stars pass you by, the moon hangs heavy and large, silhouetting leaves. There used to be birds, but now you don’t hear them; you’ve climbed higher than they can fly.

We don’t know if the climb will end, but we climb together and hope that it doesn’t.

The Ritual: Part 3

Open the envelope. Inside is a key and a number.

Walk that number of steps east from where the body is buried. Use the key to open the car door. There will be a satellite navigation system inside. It will already have a destination programmed. Do not travel to this destination. Look at the postcode. Move each of the letters down in sequence and each of the numbers up.

Travel to this destination. Do not loose the tooth.

This is the ritual.

Roses

This is a short story I originally wrote in Summer 2009 while on vacation.

This story comes with trigger warnings for gore.

They had thought really hard about the colour scheme. The way the creams interacted with the blues had been of particular importance, but Mrs. Daventry was convinced it would never work well with red. Her husband had only sighed and muttered something about immutable poppies under azure skies, which she took as condescending. The fact was, the blue and the red would look just fine together, and it wasn’t even as if the room received many visitors. Why, if they decided it was too passé, they could easily decide to update to lemon yellow, that would go well with the red. They had called up the painter and it was all arranged, and the plumber would be here next week to sort the drains and showers.

Of course, during the redecoration it was quite an inconvenience to not be able to use the room. On one side the neighbours were quite unfriendly, and on the other the house was empty and waiting for a re-sale after the little lady had passed on. They still got by, and managed to rig up a little bucket situation. “Just pretend it’s a camping trip”, Mr Daventry would say, while his wife mumbled something about gnats the size of slugs and leaky tent roofs, which he took as insulting. As ever, the contractors took more time than they estimated, but they were pretty quiet, and hardly made small talk or demanded tea, so Mrs Daventry was quite pleased with the situation.

Having retired years prior as a school teacher, Mrs Daventry rather liked to involve herself with matters of horticulture, and generally enjoyed digging holes for new trees and extolling the virtues of a good pig-blood based fertiliser to get those nice full roses. Those roses were her greatest pride. She had carefully spent years cross-breeding to get both the perfect shade of red, and the best spread of petals, with the most pleasing aroma. There was a time when she would have entered them in contests, but she won so regularly that there was no longer sport to be had, and she was very content to keep the fruit of her labour all to herself.

Mr Daventry was still a working man, though he didn’t work as many hours as he had once done, and his work place still urged him to take retirement. He was very afraid of stopping and couldn’t for a moment imagine slowing down. He was pretty convinced that his heart wouldn’t handle the sudden change in pace. Besides, so many of the youngsters were moving away to the big city that the company found it hard to fill up the spaces, and he knew that if he left they would be understaffed and ill-equip to deal with demand.

But all that is neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is, Mr and Mrs Daventry were refurbishing the room, and they were both convinced it was a good investment. It was rare they ever fully agreed about something, but this was one of those things. With the new drains the place would be easier to clean, and the new shower was just powerful enough. Why, there was even a hand-rail for those days when their backs were playing up.

Of course, as soon as the room was done, Mrs Daventry was very excited, and wanted to try out all the new features. Her husband joked that they didn’t want to mess it up right away, but they both were really eager to make use of their new investment. They decided to go out and celebrate at the local pub. It was a pretty lonely place to be, especially as not many kids went there any more  Most of them had moved on, after all, and it was just the older folk left, dreaming about their own youths and wondering about all the choices they made.

Over the course of the night, Mr Daventry got talking with a young girl on her gap year. Apparently she was on her way home for a while after having done her bit to save Africa, and she had dozens of photos to show of grateful villagers and sparse landscape. Mrs Daventry invited her over for tea, and the young girl was only too happy to oblige, feeling as though she was doing something to help the elderly in the community.

Oh, it was such fun! The handrails really made swinging the axe a bit easier, especially with Mr Daventry’s inner-ear problems. The contractors had soundproofed the walls too, so they didn’t even have to worry too much about being careful. Mrs Daventry, of course, was delighted by how much more blood she could retrieve because of the new drains – her roses were going to look spectacular this spring. Mr Daventry liked to keep the remains a while, and his wife would roll her eyes and mumble something about it being obvious what he was up to, but after being married for so long she’d accepted there were some needs she couldn’t always cater for, and at least it kept a few afternoons free for her knitting.

Isotope

She was dancing, an isotope; uneven numbers and separate from her kind. She extended a hand, which was made of parts defined by the great void inside them, parts that would never truly connect with anything. She was joined by string from her fingers and wires in her brain to people she would never know and never touch. The barriers, the void between atoms was there for a reason. To force two together? The folly of man. No. She was an isotope, living a half-life.

The Ritual: Part 2

You will arrive in a field. The field is empty. There is a barnhouse by the field. There are four bales of hay in the barnhouse. Move the bales into the field and arrange them in to a line directly down the middle of the field. When the sun is at its highest point, the shadows of the bales will converge.

Find the shovel in the barnhouse. Dig where the shadows meet. There is the body of a man buried thinly in the soil. Extract his silver tooth, and take an envelope from his left jacket pocket.

This is the ritual.