The Iron Writer Challenge #26
2013 Iron Writer Autumn Equinox Challenge #4
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
A Magic 8 Ball
Hand held lawn clippers
World’s 1st Submersible Aircraft
A mechanical Geisha
A Day in the Life of an Aeronautical Engineer
As he ran through the seemingly endless halls of the warehouse, James became increasingly more certain that this was not the way the life of one of the design staff for the world’s first submersible aircraft was supposed to end.
It had been a trying day thus far.
James came to a stop behind a large shelf containing boxes upon boxes of miscellaneous objects, reviewed the events that had brought him here, and listened for the telltale snip-snip that he had been running from.
He had flown in from Jordan at around five in the morning, and had checked into the hotel just fifteen minutes away from the Tokyo international airport. He had planned to meet one of his old college friends at a tea-house in the area, but he had received a voicemail saying to meet him at a warehouse instead. James remembered the whirring noise that had greeted him from the aisles of the warehouse as he had opened the door and called, “Hachiro? Are you in here?”
As he walked down the aisles, he had heard slow footsteps echoing around him. “Hachiro, this isn’t particularly funny,” he had said. Then the sound.
It had drawn closer to him, until the automaton had appeared from around a corner and moved sluggishly towards James. It was a Geisha, made entirely from rusted steel. It moved in the same fashion as an old wind-up toy, but with murderous purpose, clutching a pair of old lawn snips. James remembered gazing into the burning orange eyes as they looked at him, from the middle of a beautiful robotic face.
The chase had begun.
Immediately, James had begun at a dead sprint in the opposite direction towards where he believed the exit to be. After several twists and turns in the aisles, he realized that the sound of the snips opening and closing had grown faster, but more distant. Following his memory, he had sprinted down a labyrinth of shelves, only to become lost in the warehouse of junk that seemed determined to serve as his tomb.
At this moment that he had thought that he should focus on somehow disabling the geisha, if he was unable to find the exit. He now knelt behind a shelf. He reached up into one of the boxes and pulled out two objects. One was a magnet the size of his fist, and the other was a Magic 8-ball. Both were of a size that made them easy to throw.
Snip-snip. A moment, and then – there! James muttered a quiet prayer, and lobbed the magnet towards the grim steel figure. It attached with a hollow clang, but the figure lurched on, faster now. James, in a panicked last effort, threw the Magic 8-ball at the geisha that was now only two feet away. It cracked open, and the icosahedral die clattered to the floor.
As the snips swung towards his neck, James read the face of the die.
“Outlook not so good.”
K. A. DaVur
The town was beautiful once. No more. Desires had decayed, cheapened, and the once regal Okikya had given way to bordellos and tourist traps where visitors could pay to be dressed in the elaborate clothes and make up of an apprentice. Hotaru passed one of the former, where a robotic geisha with eerie glowing eyes and a fan made of garden shears propositioned passersby. Her jerky, rusted movements, meant to be provocative, menaced. Some clever soul had stuck a dildo between her legs. Everywhere was filth: garbage shoved up against the wall; oily, foul-smelling pools collected in the street. Hotaru could smell urine and rot; from one of the apartments above she could hear a hungry baby’s cry. When did this happen? Had she really been gone solong? Businessmen, drunk and loud, careened down the street. She pulled one hand close, tight against the night. The other hugged her shamisan to her chest. The men bounced off of her. Faintly, she could hear the silk strings moan inside their case.
Murmuring comforts she hurried on, double-checking the address the ocheesan had slid under a cup of tea. Her thoughts were the jumbled, chaotic refrain of a Magic 8 ball. “Can I do this? Ask again later. Will this work? My sources say ‘yes.’ Will we die in the attempt? It is decidedly so.” She wished, for the thousandth time, that Daito were here. Of course, were Daito still alive, she never would have been given this honor, this burden. Finally, she arrived. Unlike the rest of the buildings, the tea shop had been kept clean; the windows were clear and the stoop had been scrubbed recently. The sweetness of flowers penetrated the malodor. Though the shop was dark the door was open. Hotaru glanced one last time at the heavens, memorizing them as she used to memorize dances, or the planes of Daito’s face, and walked soundlessly through.
Two men with expressionless faces checked her credentials and pointed her down a long stair. Hotaru descended. Cold penetrated her frail bones. She lost count of the stairs after two hundred. The walls turned from concrete to dirt, and then began to weep seawater. Her calves ached and blood whooshed in her ears. Finally, she came to a metal door. She knocked. It opened with a hiss.
Here, at last, was life. Old men, wrinkled as walnuts, sat cross-legged, bringing pictures to life with ink and brush. Somewhere, Hotaru could hear the bell-like tones of a soprano. In another hold Samurai practiced their katas with elegant precision. And, everywhere, were children. Laughing, playing, learning. Daito would have approved. Finally, painfully, Hotaru released her daughter’s hand, watched as the girl ran giggling to join her peers. For the first time in a great while, Hotaru felt as though she could breathe. They would depart in the morning, to soar for as long as they must. So long as they lived, Japan lived as well. Perhaps not all was lost. Perhaps hope lay, not in the stars, but in the deep.
Terrell stood back and stared at the small painting on the easel in front of him. Studying the progress of his painting, he stood frozen in place except for a slow, meditative side-to-side tilting of his head. This motion and his wide-eyed, inquisitive yet reserved expression were reminiscent of a mechanical geisha whose turnkey was nearing its final revolution. He was full of the dichotomy of opinions and emotions that attend creative expression. The handles of the garden shears looked properly wooden, but, unfortunately, the green metal of the shears looked wooden too. Hmm. Ok. Garden art had never been his forte – he excelled at portraits – but his wife had encouraged him to decorate their garden shed with “paintings of garden-y things” and this painting was his third attempt in a series of six 5×7 representational garden implements that, when rustically framed, would grace (cover the holes of?) the shed.
The first of the paintings, lovingly named, “plastic water can,” had received an “All signs point to yes” when asked, “Is this painting complete?” The couple employed a magic 8 ball when they didn’t want to risk the fallout from offering their true opinions of each other’s art projects or when they found it difficult to make any decision in general. What had started out as a jokey third-party inquiry method had somehow become an integral part of their lives. It had even gotten to the point where magic 8 ball had been asked such weighty questions as, “Should we have children now?” “Should we refinance the house?” “Should we order cole slaw with the extra crispy?”
Terrell tended to fidget endlessly with his paintings, so his wife had suggested he use magic 8 ball to remove himself from the decision-making process and allow magic 8 ball to declare the painting good enough or not. So far, “plastic water can” and “seed packet” had received positive, painting-ending suggestions from magic 8 ball. So far so good. He knew the shears weren’t ready for 8 ball’s opinion and wouldn’t be until he could deduce how to properly represent a metallic surface in his painting. Magic 8 ball couldn’t help him there. Stan could. He needed to talk to Stan.
Terrell’s neighbor Stan loved to paint model military aircraft. To date, Stan had hung a menagerie of seaplanes, transports, cargos, bombers, fighters, and helicopters from the ceilings of every room in his house. Even Stan’s bathroom ceilings stood well-guarded against miniature aircraft attacks. When Terrell asked Stan about Stan’s latest vanity license plate, “VTOL,” Stan winked and replied that the acronym stood for an aircraft that he soon hoped “to display in his pool” and left it at that.
Before Terrell left to consult Stan, he suddenly wondered if Stan would indeed be a reliable source to help him with his painting. Terrell instinctively reached over and picked up magic 8 ball and flipped it over. He waited for the inky white triangle to bob into vision. “My sources say no.”
Terrell returned to the easel and decided to figure it out on his own.
“It is decidedly so,” the Magic 8 Ball says. I asked if I was bored – that’s how bored I am. I stare out the goddamned window and all I see are the fish. A school of rose red Alfonsinos that gape at me with their buggy eyes like they’re judging me for having a third martini.
“What are you, my effing wife?”
I sound meaner than I actually feel. I’m not mad at the damned fish. None of this is their fault. Like the fact that the only things that seem to give me one modicum of joy are (and not always in this order) beating off, unloading on Mimoko – who actually is my wife, sort of – and pruning my Meyer lemon tree with a rusty pair of garden shears that I brought down with me from my old house. The one I shared with my real wife and not this Japanese piece of sh*t. She doesn’t even work anymore. At least not after the rear compartment flooded. Now that was a full scale disaster – but hell, I’m alive and Mimoko still looks pretty good even if her eyes won’t move and her voice sounds garbled and creepy when I endeavor to turn her on.
“Never loved you anyway,” I tell her and it’s the first thing that’s cracked me up all day. Of course, she just keeps sitting in the co-pilot’s seat and staring out into the depths with me – pretending to be interested in what I have to say.
“You like Alfonsinos?” I ask her. “They call them Tasmanian Red Snapper down her. Or up there, rather.”
She doesn’t care.
And she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the martini I made for her, either.
“Peeled a garnish for you from my last Meyer lemon,” I remind her.
She keeps smiling, but I know it’s fake.
How can you even try to have a relationship with a goddamned Geisha when you know it’s her job to appear enthralled by your miserable life? It’s like loving a hooker. But at least the hooker’s a warm body. And a warm mouth.
Now I’ve got to beat off again.
Still Day 243
“Signs point to yes,” the ball tells me. My question was, “Can I maintain an erection after three martinis at 46 years of age?” Despite the encouraging answer, I decide there’s not much hope in raising the bridge. Takes too much time. And I’d rather have a fourth martini. Keeps me from thinking about the crack in the cockpit window.
Some fully submersible aircraft.
F*ck. Mr. Sunshine, my real wife used to call me. Don’t have one positive thing to say.
Ah, but the 8 Ball does. So I ask my question – since it’s in such a fantabulous mood today. I shake it and turn it on its ass.
“You may rely on it,” reads the little white triangle.
I asked, “Am I gonna die down here?”