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Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts tagged with ‘story’

Too long to go in a cracker

Or, what to do if you find yourself trapped by an evil inventor with a passion for marine life

“Behold!” cried the Evil Villain Scientist, his voice screeching and cracking with excitement. “My latest invention, the invention which will let me take over the WORLD! They thought I was mad! They said it couldn’t be done! They said it would break the laws of physics! But here I have it! The Marine Life Invisibility Ray!!!”

“They’ll never let you take over the world, Evil Villain,” I mumbled around my poorly-attached gag. “The Marine Life Academy just won’t allow it. You’ll never get away with your ridiculous plan.” Secretly, though, I was worried. Any evil invention worthy of that many exclamation marks was going to be tough to beat.

“They’ll never have a chance to stop me!” he chortled gleefully. “They’ll never see me coming! And you, miss, are never going to escape from here, so I may as well tell you all the details of just what this invention can do. The Marine Life Invisibility Ray can prevent anyone from seeing any sort of aquatic animal life! It becomes completely invisible to the eye. Before the week is out, I will command a whole school of invisible trained dolphins, and the Academy simply won’t be able to see what’s coming for them. In a few days, I will control the world!”

I was in a sticky situation, I could see, but if only I could keep him distracted and talking I might be able to come up with a chance to escape. “It’ll never work,” I shouted. “Your gadget is never going to handle that. It’ll burn out after one trained dolphin at most, if it even works at all.”

“You doubt me, you stupid girl?” he screamed. “My little gadget? My machine works perfectly! Let me show you!!!”

One wall of the Evil Lair was entirely of thick, smooth plate glass, a window into the Villain’s main aquarium. Every imaginable type of marine life swam peacefully across his window, one side to the other, then circling to pass back again. Octopuses scuttled along the sandy bottom, and catfish clamped themselves to rocks. The villain swung the Invisibility Ray around on its mount, twiddled knobs, and closed a large, well-polished brass knife switch with a sharp electrical crack. A quiet hum rose from bass notes to treble pitch, and I felt the hairs on my arms stand on end as every atom in the air became highly charged. A warning lamp on the gun itself started to blink, and the Villain flipped the safety catch away from the firing switch.

“What shall we show you first, you silly little spy,” he said, panning the raygun side to side. “Look! A clownfish! One button press and…” he pushed the firing switch. I felt a disconcerting leap, as if the universe had suddenly jumped a groove. “…you can’t see any clownfish now!” The hum from the device rose back from bass to treble again.

“A clownfish is one thing, Villain,” I said, “but that won’t convince the Academy.”

“You think that’s all it can do!?” he shouted. “Look! A sailfin tang!” He fired again, and the small striped fish disappeared. “A yellow wrasse!” That jolt again, and the wrasse had disappeared. “A marble batfish!” Again the strange jolt, as if I had jumped from one world to a parallel one. “It’s completely foolproof! It will have no effect, no effect at all on land life, whilst making any sea life completely unseen!”

“Any sea life at all?” I asked. “Really?”

“Really. Any. You can’t trick me!” He cackled. “You really, really can’t trick me!”

“How about…” I said, trying to sound as casual as I could, as if I was picking something at random, “…how about that there?”

“That? That seahorse? Is a seahorse marine life? Is this the Marine Life Invisibility Ray? Of course it will make it unseen!”

“I don’t believe you,” I said, trying to stay calm. “Show me. Please?”

“Why, my dear,” he said, with a wicked grin, “it would be a pleasure.” He pressed the button.

With a terrible cracking sound, the thick glass of the tank shattered into large, jagged pieces, as the foamy salt water of the tank burst from it. Through the foam, I made out a large, dark shape. A loud “NEIGHHHHHH!” filled my ears. It sounded angry and enraged, and with very good reason. Without stopping to see if the Villain survived his trampling, I fled.

Another shaggy dog

In which we tell a tall tale

There once was a teacher, who went by the name of Miss Swing. She was a very good teacher, popular with her children, who were all well-behaved and scored very well on all the tests they took. All the parents at parents’ evening either wanted to be her or be with her, and all her colleagues knew she was wonderful in the classroom, the best teacher the school had.

There was one small problem with Miss Swing, though. She would never agree with anyone else.

If you said something was black, she would say it was white. If you told her the weather was cold, she’d reply she thought it unseasonably warm. Anything you said to her, she would contradict if she could. The only exception was when she was on holiday, when she would be as pleasant and polite a person as you could ever meet. Apart from that, she would always disagree with everything you said.

Finally, one day, someone confronted her. “Why is it,” they said, “that when you’re on holiday you’re as charming as anyone, but when you’re in school, or even after work, you can never agree with anyone?”

“Ahh,” said Miss Swing, “I’m just a contradiction in terms.”

Shaggy Dog (part three)

Or, the conclusion

This is the final part. If you need to catch up, here is part one, and part two.

The next day, crowds went to the carpenter’s workshop, as usual, to try to ask him to build and carve for them. But he was not there. They looked through the windows, but his workshop was empty. They looked through the windows of the house, but there was no sign of him.

They searched the entire village, but there was no sign of the carpenter. After a while the village constable agreed to break into the carpenter’s house, to find him. But he was nowhere to be found.

The whole county started searching for the missing carpenter, but he could not be found anywhere. He had disappeared, completely. They searched for months, but the carpenter never returned.

Some people thought that he had got so angry with being asked to paint everything he made, that he had decided to retire and move away. They could not explain, though, how he had disappeared so suddenly. Others thought that a disappointed client, who could not find a painter, had done something; or that a great lord elsewhere had kidnapped him to create beautiful furniture for the lord alone. Noone ever saw any furniture in the carpenter’s style, though, but somehow this made these people even more adamant they were right. Some thought he had been murdered for the great riches they assumed he had made from his work; but they were wrong, for he worked for the love of carpentry and had spent all his money on expensive woods from overseas.

The carpenter never returned to the village, and noone ever saw furniture like his again. Those things he had made were preserved carefully by their owners, because they knew they were irreplacable. To this day, what happened to the carpenter who refused to paint remains a mystery. As far as anyone could tell, he just varnished.

Shaggy dog (part two)

Or, the story continues

If you need to catch up, part one is here.

The carpenter was asked to build a bookshelf for the mayor of the nearest town. He built the best bookshelf anyone in the area had ever seen. It had strong, firm shelves, yet such fine carving that anybody who saw it was amazed. Other carpenters from around the county came to see it, and all came away disappointed that they would never be able to create such a bookshelf themselves.

The mayor said: “Plain wood will not match the furniture I already have. Would you paint it for me?”

The carpenter replied: “I have created some of my finest carvings for this bookshelf. Painting them would ruin the sharpness and the definition. In any case, I am a carpenter. My craft is wood, not paint. I will not paint the bookshelves for you.”

The mayor went away disappointed, despite now having the finest bookshelves anyone had ever seen. All the visitors to his home wanted to see them and admire them, and the carpenter’s fame grew further.

The bishop of the diocese travelled to the carpenter’s village to see him. “My palace needs a new dining suite,” he said. “Will you be able to build me one?”

It was the carpenter’s largest commission yet, but he took it up with confidence, even though so many people were giving him work that he was having to turn people away. After several months, he had completed the finest dining suite yet seen, with intricate seat-backs and delicate table legs, so finely-carved you would barely believe it was made of wood.

“Will you paint it for me?” said the Bishop.

“I am not a painter!” said the carpenter. “I am the finest carpenter this country has known, but people keep asking me to paint my work! Slapping thick, sticky paint on such delicate chairs would ruin them! And besides, I am not a painter. I am a carpenter. I work with wood. I am the finest woodworker anybody knows, but I cannot paint. I will not paint these chairs, because that is not my craft.”

The bishop went away, disappointed, even though he had the finest dining suite in the land.

To be concluded…

Shaggy dog (part one)

Or, the start of a tale

There was once a man, who was a talented carpenter. He just had to touch a piece of wood to know how it could be worked, how it might split, how it would behave under his tools. He started off as a little village carpenter, making furniture and doors for the people of his village.

One day, he built a chair for a local dignitary. The dignitary asked if he could paint it, too.

“Oh no,” said the carpenter. “I’m not a painter. I only work with wood. I have built you the best chair I can, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it. If you want it painting, find a painter to do it.”

The dignitary took his chair away, unhappy. Many visitors to his home saw the chair, though, and were very impressed. Some of them came back to the village to visit the carpenter themselves, when they wanted furniture making.

To be continued…

Fiction, this time

In which we plan a story

Talking of ghost stories, I dreamed an interesting one a few nights ago. I liked it so much, in fact, that I rather fancy working it up into a proper story.

No doubt the plot is one that’s been covered many times before; but there aren’t really very many ghost-story plots that haven’t been well worked-over. The way it came out in my dream – which was of someone telling the story, rather than of the story itself – it was a version of one of the most frequently-used plots of all, the Disappearing Fellow-Traveller.* However, it was, well, rather inverted. I don’t want to say any more, because I don’t want to spoil it for you if I ever do manage to finish it.

* At least one classic story of the Disappearing Fellow-Traveller genre made it, in a retold version, into an anthology of supposedly true ghost stories. I can’t remember many details at all about it; but it concerned someone who got chatting to a fellow-traveller in a railway carriage, and found that the stranger was a friend of the people the traveller was going to visit. On mentioning him at the destination, of course, he turned out to have died some time earlier. I really should work this up and look up the names of the writers and books involved. I’ve got a feeling the “true” book was Railway Ghosts And Phantoms by W B Herbert, but I’m not at all sure.

Update, 22nd August 2020: Unsurprisingly, I didn’t do anything with the story idea and now have no memory at all of what it was about. I have a nagging feeling the story I talk about in the footnote was by E Nesbit but I haven’t yet tracked it down.