Archive for the category “Stories”

The boy who saved the world

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There was once a sun that shone on a distant planet very similar to ours. There were boys and girls and animals and plants on this tiny planet, including a young lonely boy who had no friends except for those hiding in the wardrobe in his bedroom. He would play for hours with these friends, but when he was away from them, like when at school or out with his parents, he would speak to the sun, ask her to be kind and light the day for as long as possible. Not because he was scared of the night, but he loved the sun’s warmth, and, as much as he loved sunsets, it always left him a wee bit upset whenever the sun disappeared.

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His parents were clearly worried about him, especially whenever he returned all sad after school, where his class mates picked on him and invented all sorts of cruel lies. Sometimes he felt so hurt and lonely that he would ask his parents not to send him to school again. And after sunset he would ask the sun to ensure that its light, the next day, would warm the world and people’s hearts and make them friendlier, nicer. Sometimes he even asked her to take him with her somewhere nice.
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The sun had long been watching the boy and keeping an eye on him, pondering how she could help him. It was hard, though, because there was no way the sun could get any nearer without burning the planet and all living things with its fiery flames.
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Other suns, stars and planets nearby could clearly notice the sun’s incessant anxiety, although they couldn’t understand why she looked so worried. At times she rose late or mixed up the seasons, shining strongly in winter and forcing people to remove their jackets and scarves when she was meant to be much milder.
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The planets finally decided to tackle the bull by its horns, or rather the sun by its flames, and called for an inter-planetary meeting in which the sun would be heard and the best decision taken.
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What’s wrong with you, our dear comrade sun? one of the oldest stars asked her. You’ve been very, very distracted recently. You’re confusing the animals, who are thinking winter is over only to discover the next day that it isn’t. Plants can’t figure out whether they need more water or if they should hold back their flowers from blossoming. And the people – not that they don’t deserve a punishment for all the the wrongs they did to their planet – but you’re just confusing everyone with your behaviour. Tell us what it is that’s troubling you.
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The sun told them about the boy. She cared for him and wanted to get closer to him and keep him company. Some of the stars were quite shocked. For thousands of years they learnt to observe everything without intervening, sticking to the order of things and letting the universe decide everyone’s fate.
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Surely, my dear, you must be extremely troubled to be thinking of these things, said one of the Grand Suns. You remember one of our first instructions we were given on the day we were set alight was to keep our distance from the little things we can’t change, and to stick to our simple job of giving light and warmth in enough measure for everyone and everything. It is then up to them to decide what to do with it.
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The sun felt embarrassed, admitting her love for one little boy in front of so many others who thought she was going crazy, but she couldn’t help her feelings and always had some reply to the others’ words of warning. She had decided to get near the boy and be his friend forever.
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This is madness, the Grand Sun said again, raising its voice now. Do you know what your madness will lead to? Sure you do. And yet, we understand, that once in a thousand years or so, one of us feels it is more important to leave everything for someone. And we have to accept that such madness is also part of our universe; it came with the light and the dark and the raging infinity in which we live. But beware: Your love will change everything. You’ll have to leave your flames behind you and deprive billions of humans, animals and trees of the light that keeps them alive. And you will no longer shine for as long as you stay close to your loved one, and eventually die together. Do you really want to do all this for one person?
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Yes, I do.
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Then crazy might not be the right word for you, but this is not a reunion of linguists, so let it be. May you find the happiness you so crave. In time we’ll find the words to describe the destruction you’re about to bring, but meanwhile, make the best of it and leave the rest to history.
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Not wanting to upset everything at once, the sun decided to wait till her last sunset before turning off her flames and start her journey to the boy, so that it looked like a normal night as all the others before it, only there would be no sunrise the next day; there would be no next day at all.
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In just a few hours the sun was well on her way towards the planet, shrinking as she got nearer, and just a few minutes after midnight she was knocking outside the boy’s window. The child couldn’t believe his eyes when he finally realised she had come all that way down for him. He was so excited and wanted to introduce her to his wardrobe friends and show her around the house – obviously in perfect silence not to wake up his parents.
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Back in his room, they partied all night – which seemed to never end – and played all sorts of games that the boy never had the chance to play with normal friends; from hide and seek to hopscotch and snakes and ladders.
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Of course the night never ended; his parents stayed asleep, as did everyone else, and all the plants and trees started to die slowly. The birds stayed all huddled in their nests and all the world’s clocks and watches stopped working, having realised this was the end of days and there was therefore no point in keeping the time any longer.
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It took a while for the boy to realise what was happening, caught up as he was playing with his new friend.
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It just occurred to me that you will soon have to go back to your place so that you can shine again on our planet, the boy said. I will miss you.
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I’ve decided I’m not going back. I want to say here with you.
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But so many planets and animals need you, you can’t let them down like that – they’ve done no wrong.
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I see you’ve left out your fellow humans. They’ve been cruel to the planet and also to you.
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Quite, but there are good innocent people who do not deserve to be punished. And I too love you alight and giving your warmth so generously to everyone.
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In that case I’ll have to go back, but the only way to set me back alight is to have someone with me who, once we’re at the required distance from the planet, brings the flames from our neighbouring suns and gives me the right amount of them so I can continue shining.
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I can do that.
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Humans never did this before. The flames will be too strong for you and you will cease being a boy after that.
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You’ve given up your flames for me. Why are you surprised if I give up mine for you? Come on, let’s go and do it before it gets too late. We’ve left the world in too much darkness already. Let’s get going.
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The sun was so touched by the boy’s kindness that she struggled to hold back its tears, which she had to hold back at all costs if she wanted to flare up again like the sun it was. Holding the boy’s hand, she opened his bedroom window again and started flying up high, from where the boy could see all the houses, towers, rivers, mountains, deserts and forests of the world, and it was beautiful, an entire world asleep, snoring, dreaming or just sound asleep, waiting for the first rays of the sun to wake up.
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It’s time, the sun finally told the boy who was still breathless from the speed at which they were travelling, You can see those flames on the star in front of us. Fetch one of them and bring it to me. You will be able to handle it but once I’m on fire everything will change, and I don’t know exactly how.
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It will be all right. You are my sun, I want you to shine, and that’s all that matters.
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I love you, the sun told him just as he set her alight again.
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As the sun was slowly sending off her rays towards every corner of the planet, everyone started waking up from their long sleep, the clocks started ticking again, and the birds started chirping as if nothing ever happened.
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In fact nobody knew that the little lonely boy had saved the world, and much less that he had become the new moon, who once in a while, when he really misses her, gets so close to the sun again that he blocks her view, triggering all sorts of stories and rumours about the end of days.
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Only the sun and the moon know how true those stories are, and it is only thanks to their undying love that there has never been an eclipse as long as there was on the day the sun stopped shining; just brief visits that always, inevitably, captivate the entire world, short enough to keep it alive, intense enough to be marked on everyone’s calendar, as you can see for yourself about their past and future encounters.
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The locked chamber

She stared at the door, terrified of opening it. She had the key he had given to her, which included no warnings and no instructions, contrary to all of the fairy tales she had read and conventional wisdom. He just asked her to take her time to get to know his house, at her own pace, so that she could enjoy herself and be ready to open the last chamber, the only one that’s locked.

Her heart, her little fickle heart, what was it telling her? She raised the key to eye level till it blocked sight of the door.
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Open the door.
You are the one who holds the key.
 
In her mind, all the tales of gory massacres, dark chambers of torture and death, were racing like a film reel with the bloodiest images.
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This is not a fairy tale, nor a dream. Can’t you feel the door breathing?
 
She waited by the door, holding the key, unable to bring herself to unlock it. She forgot the rest of the house – the places where they had played and laughed and made love – torn as she was with her doubts and fears. Until one day she crawled her way out of the house, tired, her clothes in tatters after an eternity waiting in front of the locked door. The sun blinded her, she started to see the state she was in. She loathed him and the key, threw it away and walked as quickly as she could from the house, and she felt breathing life again. She’d start afresh, new beginnings.
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Can fear lead to freedom?
 
She’d deny she was afraid. It was just a dream. No need to behead him.
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He was behind the locked door, waiting, alive with the hope that she would open it, dying further with every step she took away from him.

My little accomplice

ImageLast time I saw him, I was just about to tell him that I was going away, when he finally just flew off to the roof of the abandoned house next to the office, picked up a twig he had left there earlier, and disappeared into thin air. Which is just as well; I hate goodbyes and I’m crap at them.
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Our affair started on a long dreary day at work in which we were forced to attend this full-day meeting on some HR bullshit. Incredible how employers manage to make an otherwise decent job dreadful, and so uselessly. The sheer amount of platitudes coming out of these meetings is enough to write a legion of bibles; which, come to think of it, is also part of the industry.
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I was sitting next to an open window – it was a warm sunny April day and the others’ words seemed to just float around me and fly outside, becoming things, animals and people. Trees, flies, spiders, cars, donkeys, cats and children, mostly.
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Without thinking, I was crumpling little pieces of bread from my sandwich into tiny cannon balls to be shot by my finger. At one point, he came into my frame, so calm and peaceful until his unannounced intrusion from nowhere. He started approaching the tiny pieces of bread that had landed on the window sill, picking them and pecking at the larger ones, hopping, staring at me for a second, and picking more. It went on and on, and he also started picking the larger pieces and flying with them to his little secret place in the abandoned house and come back until the day was thankfully over and we were liberated from the tyranny of management.
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From that day onwards, he kept visiting me by the window, hopping along the ledge where I left him breadcrumbs and an ashtray with fresh water, which he would drink from and bathe in under the sun. Whenever I was away from the office, I would leave him extra supplies of bread, but my colleagues told me he would peck all day at the window, driving them crazy. My manager once even threw a cup of coffee at him, but he obviously outsmarted her and she ended up hitting a wheelchair-bound child in his face while he was passing by. So for most of the time, especially when I was away, people avoided my office, which is great.
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I wanted to have a quick word with him before I left on a new assignment a year ago, tell him to behave, reassure him that my colleagues had clear instructions to feed him everyday, down to the type of bread he loved most (crunchy dry pitta). But he had none of that as he flew before I opened my mouth.
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Yesterday my manager sent me this desperate email.
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Your fucking sparrow is back with an entire family all knocking on our windows. COME BACK NOW!
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I think it’s hilarious. She also called to make sure I got the message. She was hysterical, accusing me of sabotaging the office. I still can’t believe I’m going back, because of my little sparrow.
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I’m coming, I told her at last. But calm down, I can’t fly.

Waiting for the revolution

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He had been waiting at the gate forever, an eternity. Unshaven, dirty, ridden with fleas, scabs and bruises inflicted by the seasons, he waited patiently to be allowed in, as he watched high dignitaries, emissaries, entire cavalries entering freely, only to see the gate closed in his face. He wrote messages on the walls around the palace, got beaten up by the guards as he sung and screamed for the King to come out, lost his voice and his tent, and even his coat was taken, making his life harder, more miserable. Tear-gassed he didn’t even have the chance to cry his fate, lost as he was trying to survive, struggling to enter while stuck to the ground. Little did he realise that behind him, new tents were being erected, new faces blossomed and stronger voices were joining his – voices with different accents and dialects, faces darker or fairer, forming one big colourful tent of the oppressed. Even the guards, or most of them, had grown wary of their fate, paid to stay out on attention come rain or shine and just shut up everyone and clean up the palace street of the unwanted rogues, their own brothers. Stripped of their uniform, they were part of the gathering masses with a humiliating salary.

That’s how the guard who shall remain unnamed told the waiting man, Why do you want to enter this soulless place? Look behind you, everyone else is waiting, we can force through the gates by sheer force. But what do we do then? Install you as the new King?

That’s not what I came for.

I know, I’ve been watching you everyday.

Although now that I think of it, I’ve forgotten what I came for.

That’s even better. It means we can all start afresh.

And that’s how the guard and the waiting man realised that all they needed to do was to lock the King and his followers inside, give them their mausoleum, let them rot under their crumbling walls, dying of their own tyranny. Freedom was out there, on the streets.

The weatherman, his lover and the end of the world (2)

The weatherman, his lover and the end of the world

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His eyes betrayed that he was elsewhere, somewhere between melancholy and elation. She couldn’t quite grasp where, exactly.
She was staring at him from the other side of the room, holding the white plush towel tightly around her, the yellow stripes enhancing the curves of her body while giving some semblance of protection. Like the towel was the last shield left that could offer it. But nothing could protect her from herself, the burning questions inside her were filling her with the acrid smell of jealousy and the rancidity of resentment.
She was looking at him as if he was a book written in a foreign language that she couldn’t read. Probably some old forgotten language. He was always a bit quirky, which made her want to know him even more. Was it too late? Could she learn his language? Would he bother teaching her?
But that’s not what she was thinking there and then. She was scrutinising him accusingly, his initial endless fidgeting driving her crazy, just prolonging the silence, the pain, noting down his every breath, sigh and eye movement as he sat on his side of the bed in his boxers.
He rose to roll a joint.
He wasn’t afraid to tell her the truth; or maybe he was, a bit, but he was mostly wary that she wouldn’t understand it. She couldn’t. She would only get hurt. It would be pointless even trying; just a dragging, tiring argument. Putting it in words, just then, felt like defiling one rare corner in his life that was left sacred.

I didn’t sleep with her, he says inhaling the first puff, or rather I did. Literally. We just slept together, in the same bed.

 
Just?
Just. Just not. Whatever. I didn’t fuck her if that’s what you’re asking. We didn’t even get naked, if that’s what you’re thinking.
Does that make you feel less jealous? Because it shouldn’t. Because if you asked me if we made love, then yes, we did. We made the best love in the world, old ancient love that lasts forever, the love of happiness. We stripped ourselves more naked than baby skin, more naked than water, we entered each other bearing fragile candles just so we could blow them out in our darkest places, and we flew across forests on broomsticks and laughed pissing ourselves from up there, and would never get back down here were it not…
Stop it… 
 
A cloud of smoke now separated them by light years, like the monsoon and the desert that with the help of computer graphics he could switch from at the touch of a tiny button. He was panting, sweating at the eyebrows. She was frozen.
 
This will never end. It’s useless pretending otherwise.
He didn’t want to hurt her, but that’s only as possible as having no casualties in war. She wanted to know all the details and now she was just lost, unable to understand, like he knew she would.
He had thought about killing it all, he thought it over and over again, killing this improbable fling that became an obsession, so as not to hurt her, so as not to hurt anyone. That’s like keeping your car in the garage so as not to run out of fuel, his lover had told him once while he was somewhat reluctantly, or more confused, lighting candles in her bedroom, the night he slept with her.
So yes, my dear, I slept with her.
What’s sex but a tickle next to all that? Maybe a punch, granted. Not to downplay orgasm but, you know, sometimes you don’t even get it. You, as in women, not you as you. I know you do.
But you know what I mean.
Well if you don’t it just proves my point, my dear.
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You don’t expect the weatherman to announce a scandal do you? Or to break news of a new world war. It wasn’t the weatherman who told us they shot Kennedy.
But you know, sometimes they do. I guess that’s what happened to me. I was watching the weather report, as always, barely regarding his everyday nonsense, clouds, peshing rain and thunderstorms are my everyday life this side of the world, and I like it because I can wear jumpers and scarves. It makes the sun even more valuable. It’s useful to know if it’s too windy (god I hate wind except when I’m on the cliffs watching the sea) just so I can decide whether to carry one of my colourful umbrellas that I like matching to the handbag of the day (I have looots of them, both umbrellas and handbags, all bought from sales or flea markets, a couple of umbrellas I stole from nasty people), but my pragmatic side tends to take over so I always carry my wee foldable umbrella with me, and in any case my friendly trees along my street always warn me when I wake up to tell them good morning. And well, when it’s sunny, the light comes into my room first thing in the morning and shows me my otherwise dark tiny abode that I love lighting with tiny candles that I always steal from my wee little brother’s and sister’s birthdays.
One day, as I was eating takeaway sushi, he just stopped halfway through his report, as if realising I wasn’t listening, and looked me in the eye from inside the screen to announce that the world was about to end. It’s ending, now, just like we’re dying, you know, he told me. I blushed. For a second or more it felt as if something heavy was going down my throat to engulf my guts. It’s been a while now but I remember well that we then both broke out laughing, crazily, slightly out of nervousness, but mostly out of this sense of freedom. There’s nothing that is more liberating than knowing that the end of the world is now, right now. The end of the world makes every moment monumental, immortal, to die for. Like reaching orgasm with the person you love.
I have his lighter that I keep with me. It’s the kitschiest thing on earth, with a red heart on it. He used it once to help me light the candles. I nicked it from him but just before he left the next day he remembered it and pretended he had lost it, telling me to keep it.
So for me it stopped being the daily weather report, it became this daily programme I got addicted to, a daily telenovela if you like, just because it was so crazy, because it felt so good, it was right. And it’s there for me, playing and replaying itself everyday, retelling our tale forever, because the best fairy tales have no ending, and our last chapter will be written together.
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Cloud formations covering half the world are currently being drunk by the sun in a phenomenon never experienced before.
All the world’s armies are on the other half of the world, missiles pointed towards the sun although experts tell us there is no rocket on earth that could reach it.
It is also feared that when shot in the direction of the sun, missiles might defect and turn back to explode where they left from.
Government sources tell us a Universal War Cabinet has been formed and is convening now in a secret location. The ministers, whose names have also been kept secret, are reportedly flanked  by chess grandmasters from all over the world, together with eschatologists, pathologists, astrologists, astronomers, soothsayers, dream interpreters and psychoanalysts.
The Minister of Information has appealed for calm.
Meanwhile hurricane Manuel is sweeping across the United Arab Emirates uprooting all fake trees and destroying every tower and crane on its way. The hurricane is also estimated to have left millions of dollars of damages in US military bases abroad, from where all drones seem to have disappeared. It is now moving westwards where it is feared it might be joined by cyclone Morgane that has been wreaking havoc across Europe. A toddler who escaped miraculously as Morgane brushed by the south of France told his parents that he realised the cyclone was on its way when the dragon kite he was flying just, quote, “escaped like in a fairy tale”. Earlier today while still raging over the UK, Morgane destroyed what was once the Olympic Village built for this year’s event as well as carried with it all advertising billboards, except those publicising Gothic films. A spokesman from Saatchi & Saatchi’s regional hub in London told us that from his office, quote, “this all looks like a f****** sick joke”.
And in an unrelated story that just reached us from news wires, a mother in Guatemala gave birth to a baby boy with a tooth in his throat. Doctors say this unprecedented…

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