Award for Excellence for Short Fiction (Day 4)

09/05/2012 19:06

Fiction 8

Full-time holiday

        It is an ordinary Monday morning. People from the past, however, would be very surprised at what is considered ordinary. The Revolution ended two years ago, on 15 October 2098. Soon after, people in most parts of the world stopped working. It may sound absurd and, of course, it did not happen in a day, but people really gave up their jobs or at least stopped doing them for money. To solve critical situations, some professions, such as doctors, fire fighters and police officers still function, but these people do not receive any salary. They do their job voluntarily and there are other people who do their jobs voluntarily – such as scientists, artists and technicians. And then there are also people who do not do anything, but these are not very well-liked by the others. The reason for this change in the society is that people tried to figure out the reasons of the economic crises and realized that it was usually not enough job opportunities and the government not putting enough money in some fields, such as education or medical care. Someone came up with the idea that people should stop working and using money as such, because otherwise people will always be dissatisfied. As people got fed up with the high percentage of unemployment and the various economic crises they had been through lately, they decided to listen to this someone and apply the idea in practice.

        On this particular Monday morning, Catherine is sitting at home eating a bowl of cereal and drinking a cup of green tea. It is 9 a.m. already, but there is nowhere to hurry, because she has no job for which she could be late. Catherine smiles to herself. She has never been good at coming on time. While she was still at school, it was very difficult for her to get there on time in the morning and she rarely did so. Now she does not have to care about being on time anymore. It is not that the time does not matter in the society, but people have a plenty of free time. In fact all their life people could do what they want, more or less. What would she do with her time today? She will feed her cat, then go into her own garden and collect some vegetables for her lunch. You could ask if just vegetables were enough for her lunch, but there were devices to help her create a nutritious and tasty lunch. It is still called cooking as it had been called for long years, only you do not need to participate much. There is a universal cooking machine in her kitchen. It is enough to press the correct button, put in the salad vegetables and the machine will add all the ingredients needed for a tasty meal. It is enough to choose which meal she will have. She is thinking about spaghetti with a vegetable salad today. After the lunch she will probably paint in her atelier, which is also a part of her house. She is a painter, though an awful one. Since nobody has to work to pay the bills, she can invest most of her free time into painting. Sometimes she paints a picture or two for her friends, but most of the time she paints just for herself. That is the basic philosophy these days: there is no necessity to work, because you can do almost everything by yourself and if you cannot a machine will do it instead.

        It is 4 p.m. and Catherine just finished a new painting. She looks satisfied. She turns on the TV. There is a documentary on a country in the Central America, a small island which surely must be very old-fashioned, because people in there still work. Why would they do that? Cathy wonders to herself. She likes the look of the country and the beautiful environment there and she is a bit bored alone in her house anyway, so she packs a few things with her and goes to the airport. Travelling is easy these days. You do not need to buy any flight tickets nor book a hotel. You just take a plane a flight to where you want. Of course you do not fly the plane yourself. There is a pilot in the plane whose hobby is to fly planes. The same as anyone else in the modern parts of the world, he does not get paid. Since travelling by plane has undergone a lot of modernisation in the last century, aeroplanes are really fast these days. Catherine got to her chosen destination in a half an hour, even faster than she expected.

        As soon as she got off the plane, she is amazed by the beauty of the country. This must be paradise, Catherine thinks. She spends the first two days walking around the country, admiring its rainforests, tropical plants and exotic animals. The third day she is sitting on a beach chair on the beach. However wonderful this island is, at the end of the day, unless you feel like going to one of the discos, you are bored. There are a few natives on the beach and she finds out they speak decent English, so she decides to have a chat with one of them.

        “Hello, could you suggest anything interesting to do in your country. I have already seen a lot of the surroundings and I want to do something else now.”

        “Our country is beautiful, but I do not think you can enjoy as much of its beauty as we can, ” replied the man she was talking to.

        “Why is that?” Cathy wants to know.

        “Because you people from the more civilized part of the world do not work and therefore cannot enjoy life as much as we do.”

        “I do not think so. We have all the time in the world to enjoy whatever we want” Cathy says.

        “I do not think you understand what I mean” answers the native.

        “Maybe you could explain it to me, then?”

        “If you have nothing else to do I could show you.”

        “I have all the time in the world. Show me what you want, ” Catherine replies.

        She follows the man as he goes to his workplace at a cocktail bar. They spend the rest of the day there and Cathy keeps asking him questions:

        “When tourists come into your country how can they pay for things when they do not earn any money in their homeland? Aren’t the native people who live here angry that the tourists who come here do not have to work when they return home?“

        “The tourists do not have to pay if they show their passport to prove that they are from a country where people do not work. The natives have to pay for things, though. They are sometimes jealous of the tourists, for sure. But in the end I think we are much happier than them.” the man answers.

        “How do you mean that?” Catherine looked surprised.

        “I do not work during the weekend. When I do not work I can do whatever I want and I never get bored of having free time.”

        When Cathy thought about that, it seemed logical. When you have too much free time, sooner or later you get bored with it. If you have little free time it is precious to you and you enjoy it much more.

        The next day Cathy returned home and started thinking about what else she could do besides relax and paint. When she was younger, she wanted to be a psychologist. Maybe she could try studying psychology, so she could work as a psychologist if people started working again. She did not know it, but many other people were thinking the same thing at that very moment.

        Another revolution is in the wind.

 

Fiction 9

Round and Round Goes the Ferris Wheel

        The night was rainy and cold but there was a crowd near the Ferris wheel. People were gathering around, some were looking at the Ferris wheel, some were staring at the concrete beneath their feet. There was no shouting, no cries of joy, no happy voices. The crowd was mostly silent, only whispers could be heard from time to time. Even the wheel made no sound save for the occasional creak. The rain drops were making circles of ripples in the puddles on the ground.

        In the dark, everything – the people, the wheel, the water – looked a shade of grey.

        An old man joined the gathering. He was wearing a black raincoat and a well-worn brimmed hat. Every time he moved his head, the water would spill out of the brim and run down his shoulders, but he didn't seem to notice. His eyes were fixed on the Ferris wheel. Suddenly, someone tugged on his raincoat.

        A little short-haired girl stood behind him. With her bright polka dotted green jacket and yellow umbrella, she definitely stood out. She looked slightly angry.

        “Why are you leaving?” she asked the old man.

        He sighed, “I already told you, Sam. Where's Grandma?”

        “Home. Why are you leaving?”

        “You didn't tell her you were coming here, did you?”

        “If I had, she wouldn't have let me. Come back with me and she won't even notice,” said the girl.

        He smiled. “I would be surprised if she hadn't noticed by now.”

        People started to form a line. “I'd better get going. You go on back home so Grandma won't worry about you,” said the old man.

        “I'm coming with you!” replied the girl fiercely.

        “No, you can't.”

        “I can and I will!” She stomped her foot.

        The man looked around helplessly. No one was paying attention to him or the little girl. “Listen, you could wait in the line with me. But then you have to go home.”

        This appeased her slightly. She took hold of his wrinkled hand and together they joined the line. They were the last in line; no one else came that night to the Ferris wheel. They stood in silence for a moment. As expected, it was she who broke it.

        “Why are you leaving?”

        “I told you. I have to.”

        “Why do you have to leave?”

        He took a deep breath as if he wanted to say something, but he didn't say anything for a while. They shuffled a few steps forward, towards the wheel. He looked at her. “Samantha, I just have to. I don't know why. Some people do know, or claim to know. Others never find out, but at some point, everyone leaves.”

        She looked sullen. “And if you left a little bit later?  Wait at least till Sunday. We could go to the park and feed the ducks. Do you know there are eight new ducklings? I'll show you.”

        “I'm really sorry, but I have to leave tonight.”

        “I can hold you back. I'm strong, you won't even budge!”

        He chuckled. “I'm stronger than you. Remember when we tried arm-wrestling last summer? I won.”

        “But I won against Grandma!”

        “That's true,” he nodded.

        “And when I wrestled you with both hands, I almost beat you.”

        “But I still won.”

        She pouted a little. “All right, you're stronger than me.” She had to admit it.

        The line in front of them was getting shorter. They were getting closer and closer to the Ferris wheel which now towered above them. It was old, constructed from wood and steel. It was turning very slowly so that the people in the line could get in one of its cars. There were twelve wooden cars in shape of giant birds in flight. Now that they were closer, they could get a better look at them. They were incredibly detailed, carved to the very last feather. They had big beautiful eyes. They were painted, but the colours were faded although shades of red and yellow could be distinguished. The girl seemed to be scared of the birds.

        The front of the line was close. There was only a handful of people remaining. The girl started spinning the umbrella in her hand. Drops of water flew off of it, some of them hitting the old man in the face. He shielded himself with his hand.

        “Stop it! You're getting water in my eyes.”

        She gave it a few more hesitant spins and then stopped. “I'm nervous. It's almost time.”

        “It is.”

        “I'd rather it wasn't. I wish we could wait in line forever.”

        “You really don't. Your feet would hurt. And you would have to sleep on the concrete.”

        “I wouldn't mind as long as you stay.” Tears started forming in her eyes.

        “Sam. I already...”

        “I know! I know, I know, I know! Stay anyway. Please. Please stay with us.” She was crying.

        He knelt down and hugged her. She cried on his shoulder for a while.

        Dawn was about to break.

        “Leaving is better for me. I can't say it's better for you and Grandma without me, but probably it is. I'm sorry, I don't want to sound selfish, but I'm tired. I'm so very tired,” he whispered in her ear.

        Sniffing, she wiped tears from her eyes. “You could sleep. I promise I won't wake you up early. You could sleep in.”

        “Sleeping doesn't fix it anymore. I'm worn out.”

        “And riding the wheel will fix it? Sleeping can't and the wheel can?” she asked.

        “Yes, I'm sure the wheel will help.”

        The girl sighed. She looked resigned. “Are you sure you'll feel better?”

        “I am.”

        “And you absolutely couldn't get better if you stayed with us?”

        “I couldn't. I'm sorry.”

        She hesitated a moment. “Then you should go.”

        “I will.”

        The second to last car, now full, rose from the ground as the last came to a stop, its door already open to let the final riders inside.

        “I'll miss you,” she blurted out.

        “Me too.” He kissed her on the cheek and ruffled her hair a bit.

        She protested, “Grandpa, I'm too old for kisses!” But she smiled.

        The dawn was about to break. It was the old man's turn to get in the car.

        He let go of her hand. “It is time. Say bye to Grandma for me.”

        “I will. I promise.”

        “Goodbye.”

        “Goodbye,” she said, waving. “And don't forget me!”

        “I won't, I promise,” he said and got in the car. The door closed behind him.

        The rain was slowly starting to taper off.

        The girl watched as the Ferris wheel began to turn.  It went round and round, faster and faster, and as it was picking up speed, its colours seemed brighter and brighter.  The eyes of the birds were deep green and their plumage was red and orange and yellow and light blue, as though they were aflame. They looked as if they might come alive any second and fly away to burn in the sky as new suns. And perhaps they did, because the air appeared to be filled with strange shadows.

        The ground was shaking.

        Then the rain ceased and the dawn broke. As the sun peered through the clouds, its rays touching the flaming wheel, the spinning and the shaking stopped almost instantly. The doors of the cars opened, but there was no one inside.

        The concrete on the ground was cracked in places and grass and flowers had grown inside the cracks.

        The place was deserted, save for the girl in the white polka dotted bright green jacket and the (now folded) yellow umbrella. Tears glittered on her cheeks. She stood staring at the wheel for a couple of minutes. Her hair, which somehow seemed to have grown a few centimetres longer, kept getting in her eyes. She shook her head and ran. She ran, away from the Ferris wheel, splashing through the puddles, her boots leaving circles of ripples in the water.

 

 

Poll

Which story do you prefer?

Fiction 8 (12)
57%

Fiction 9 (9)
43%

Total votes: 21

Comments

Date: 09/05/2012

By: Olivier

Subject: Ferris Wheel

First and foremost, let me praise the second story author's style. It really can be seen that she (I'm like 150% sure it is a she) put much time in the choice of words, sentence structure, everything. It reads very smoothly and has all I expect of a story like this. There's enough but not too much description, nice images, great dialogue. Simply put, the language is very appropriate and the narrative very interesting. Well done.

When put in contrast with the first story, Full TIme Holiday seems a bit clumsy and straightforward regarding the language. It is plainly descriptive, and I lacked something which would make the narrative more interesting. The idea is nice, but maybe it would also benefit from being thought through a bit more deeply. To sum it up I would say that it's the straightforwardness and simple descriptiveness of language that makes it a bit dull.

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