The Iron Writer Challenge #141
2016 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Anais Nin Bracket
A ball of yarn
An appointment to be abducted by aliens that you are anxiously waiting for.
It’s the Thought That Counts
Jason T. Carter
I bought him “The Isolator” for Christmas last year, because he said he could never concentrate while writing. I never considered his claustrophobia.
He bought me a sewing instructional kit, complete with a VHS tape, needles, and a single ball of yarn. He never considered my arthritis.
We arrogated to ourselves the ability to choose the best gifts for each other, without consulting our carefully crafted wish lists. When he asked for a new laptop, I bought him an antique typewriter. When I asked for a new set of pots and pans, he bought me an outdoor grill.
They say it’s the thought that counts, but I’m not sure how much thinking either of us did in the past. But I have found the perfect gift for next year.
An “alien abduction” retirement package: a one-way trip for two to the Binhinnian system in an authentic extraterrestrial transport vessel. The spacecraft is scheduled to depart from earth the day after Christmas, so those who make the purchase are able to spend one final holiday with their loved ones.
I will start dropping hints soon about what he can buy for me; there are several things that could be useful on another planet. Perhaps a case of canned Cincinnati-style chili and spaghetti, because I will miss that taste so much. And books. I doubt anyone in the Binhinnian system has the collected works of Lovecraft or Poe. And music. How can I go to another planet without Britney and Frank? I would absolutely die if I never heard “New York, New York” again!
This retirement package is the perfect gift really. I just know he will get over his fear of flying before then.
Brett A. Paul
All preparations had been made. My collection had served me well, beginning with the formal instructions arrogated from my friend Clancy. How he was able to get the attention of the aliens I will never know. But he did, and so let’s just say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
I assembled my Isolator unit out of an old trash can lined with egg crate foam. The colorful outside cover was knitted by hand by me – no easy feat for someone who has eleven cats, and who did not know how to knit a week ago. I held the last ball of yarn in my hand and regarded it with the delight of one who has completed his work. It was also regarded by my young tabby Roger. I skritched his head and then tossed the ball aside. It was immediately chased after by him and several other cats.
I reread the instructions. “Place the Isolator on your head and walk to the park, arriving at precisely eight o’clock in the evening on Monday the fourth.”
It seemed an odd thing to make me do, but I was not going to miss my ride to the stars. I placed the Isolator on my head, feeling the insulating foam all around. I could see through the two small eye cups. Roger meowed at me but I could not hear him. I turned the valve on my canister, and a hole between my lips and nostrils supplied oxygen. The two block walk to the park would take no more than three minutes, even as darkness engulfed the town. I left a generous helping of kibbles in the various dishes in the kitchen and walked outside, leaving the front door wide open.
I reached the park and kicked off my shoes. As my bare foot touched the grass, my phone vibrated softly once, letting me know I had arrived precisely as ordered, at 8:00. Across the green, I saw Clancy, wearing his lucky yellow Hawaiian shirt, stepping toward me, a similar contraption on his head, covered in pipe cleaners and duct tape. He walked in ten paces through the grass and sat cross-legged. I did the same.
Then the moment we were waiting for. Through the eye holes I could see a bright light saturating the grass. I craned my neck and looked overhead in time to see the flying saucer hover over the park. The light had engulfed Clancy, and in a moment, he was gone. It was my turn. I stretched my arms to both sides. The light fell on me. My breathing quickened. This was my time!
Then darkness came. Inside the Isolator, I couldn’t tell what had happened. I pulled the contraption off my head and looked up in time to see a note fluttering to the ground. The flying saucer was gone. I grabbed the note and angled it to the streetlight. Scrawled with unkempt writing, it said, “You have already been enslaved by our race. Return to your home and care for your masters.”
Dani J Caile
This was my first day and I was told to report to the Boss. I met him at the main lift and we entered together. He was a good looking man, with a perfect haircut, wearing the best suit I’d ever seen and smelling of Armani.
“Welcome to The Company. Your credentials show you’re in our Writing Department, yes?”
He pressed for the 6th floor and the lift began.
“Please, just call me ‘Boss’.”
“Yes, Boss.” The lift beeped. It was fast but smooth.
“Good. Come this way and I’ll show you the ropes.”
“Thank you, Boss. I’m sure I’ll like it here…” The double doors opened up to a huge warehouse floor with row upon row of people at desks writing with pen and paper. They had strange helmets on their heads.
“As you can see, we don’t believe in computers. We call them ‘preoccupiers’. In the same vein as televisions, really.” He stopped at a desk and picked up some writing. The person at the desk continued on, oblivious. “Mmm, the new Clancy novel is coming along fine.”
“Isn’t Tom Clancy dead?” I asked.
“Yes. And?” He moved to an empty desk. “Here’s yours.” There were pens, paper, a ball of yarn and one of those helmets waiting for me. “The helmet’s called an Isolator, invented by Hugo Gernsback, an excellent contraption which eliminates all distractions so the writer can concentrate on the subject at hand.”
“Oh,” I said. “What’s the string for?”
“One end is attached to your desk, the other to yourself. So you don’t get lost.”
“Right.” This place was beginning to sound a little creepy.
“Do you have your passport and driving license?”
“Yes, I do, but I don’t see why I need to show…hey!”
“I’ll take those.” He ripped them from my hand and passed them onto a weasel-like man who quickly shuffled away amongst the desks.
“What? You can’t do that! That’s ‘arrogation’, that is! That’s illegal!”
“I arrogated them from you? Oh, don’t be silly, I merely took them back. Who do you think gave them to you in the first place?”
“Pah, you’ve a lot to learn, and here, you can. If you do well, there’s a chance for promotion.”
“But…” He put one hand on my shoulder and gave me a well-practised smile.
“Here at The Company we control the masses through the media: television, cinema, games, news, music, magazines, papers, books… you name it, we have our formula.”
“But that’s… ludicrous. For a start, there’s so much choice out there. How can you control people when there’s so much choice?”
“You think that’s ‘choice’? Then we’re doing our job well.” He looked up at a large wall clock. “Oh Lord, is that the time? I have an appointment to be abducted by aliens at 11am that I can’t miss. I’ve been waiting for this since last Thursday. Now, sit here, put the hat on, tie on the yarn and start writing Patterson’s new Bestseller!”
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