The Iron Writer Challenge #168
2016 Summer Open Challenge #5
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Bobby Salomons, Matt Henderson, James Blevins
Money Out the Window
Fear of judgment
You have been summoned to Dumbledore’s office.
WTF is SWAG?
Nicodemus pushed back from the desk and kicked his boots up onto the polymer surface. His coffee cup jumped and brown liquid sluiced out over the side, caramel streaks racing to the bottom of the cup. “Context unknown” The cogitator said again. Nicodemus rubbed his forehead and rolled his shoulders trying to release the tension.
“Next sequence,” he said. A video sprang to life above his desk. It featured a small fur covered quadruped. The creature frolicked back and forth leaping through a series of boxes. Nicodemus had given up trying to contextualize that particular type of media. It was nearly as prolific as pornography, and seemed to serve no discernible purpose.
“Historical significance?” He asked. The machine issued a mechanical grunt.
“Context unknown,” The cogitator said.
“Next sequence,” Nicodemus said. He leaned back farther in his chair and stared at the ceiling. He watched as a small brown insect scurried from crevice to crevice. The little survivor clung to the surface with ease. “What’s so special about you my little friend?” How had they survived when nothing else could. The sequence on the screen had ended and Nicodemus could not bring himself to run it again. He tapped his boot on the desk and watched as another insectoid acrobat defied gravity. “Next sequence” He said looking up. The image flickered and a boy walked into a gothic room inhabited by a wizened old man. Nicodemus let out a sigh. None of the images or sequences made any sense and none of them even hinted at what had befallen humanity since The Departure. It had been left to him and his team to make some sense of it all. Millions of exabytes worth of data and all of it worthless. Endless frivolity and pointless bickering, millions of hours of video captured in smaller and smaller increments. Nicodemus watched the boy in the office pick up a piece of paper that read Dumbledore.
He counted himself lucky that he was given a visual medium to review. Johnna had been assigned a near endless catalogue of social interactions that lacked even the most basic grammar or syntax. It boggled the mind that as they moved through the near endless trove of accumulated human knowledge it became more and more simplistic. Johnna had posited that humanity must have developed a shorthand to help them process the ever increasing inundation of stimulus. It was a laudable theory but there was no clear reason for the seemingly random use of insult and vitriol that the seeped into every facet of human interaction. “Log Dumbledore for historical cross reference,” he said. Johnna screamed, his cubicle partition trembled.
“What the hell is SWAG and why are there 432 trillion references to it in the twenty first century?”
“Next sequence,” Nicodemus said mechanically. A young boy hurled a handful of paper out a window in an endless sequence of loops. Nicodemus sat up resting his head in his hands. “We’re never going to figure this crap out. Judged ineffective, I’ll be back cataloging personal communication devices,” He said. “Figure it out Johnna, or we go back to counting iPhone variants,” Nicodemus said.
Seamus: One Morning
“Hey! I’m so glad you agreed to meet me here this morning, girl,” Seamus laughed nervously. “You look just like I remember; just like the girl I…” he trailed off. He looked out of the freshly cleaned window of the small café, where shafts of sunlight were starting to illuminate the corner where the jukebox stood. There were no dust particles floating in the rays. This place was clean…an out of the ordinary kind of clean. He saw two cars in the parking lot and her bike. Then he lifted his eyes over the parking lot and rested them on a blue heron standing on a sandbar in the middle of the river. The heron turned to Seamus and seemed to shake his head ‘no,’ before flapping his enormous wings, lifting off and flying away in a straight line downriver. This startled Seamus back into the moment. “Just like the girl I knew from class so many years ago.”
“Happy to,” Margaret said matter-of-factly. “You said you needed to talk. Are you okay? How’s the story coming?” she said with a rise in her voice. She picked up her cup of black coffee, and blew on it, before taking a sip. “They have the best coffee here,” she chirped. Seamus watched her, until she put the cup down and met his eyes. He felt pinned against a wall…struggling to speak. Like he felt, sometimes, in a dream.
“No, yeah, I’m fine.” Seamus heard himself say, hating that overused west coast way of answering a question. “The story is…alright,” shaking his head, the way the heron did. His thoughts were racing. “Want to get that coffee in a cup and get some air?,” he blurted. “Maybe we’ll see a redbird or a turtle.” He was babbling. She looked at him and sighed.
“I’m done with the coffee. You were almost ten minutes late,” she said with a level tone but Seamus heard the word ‘late’ in a way that rang out and echoed like a dream sequence from a 1970s television sitcom. “Let’s walk,” she said.
“I’ve got to get a conversation going,” Seamus thought. “I need to ground myself.” Seamus was good with conversation. He made people comfortable. But this morning he felt very far away. Detached. Floating.
“So, yeah…my story. I have some good ideas but,” Seamus started.
Margaret reached out and grabbed him by his sweatshirt. “Ideas!? You have ideas? Dammit, Seam. I believed in you! I know what you have. But I see what you’re doing. It’s like Spanky throwing money out a window. Does submitting a story feel like a summons to Dumbledore’s office? What the hell is this?”
“Well,” feeling his mood lift, “there are wizards there,” Seamus laughed.
At that moment, they heard the dam release’s warning wail. “River’s about to rise!” Margaret let go of him. She looked very deeply into his eyes and then she just started fading away, into the morning mist. He desperately reached for her. “Margaret O’Kelley!”
His hand landed on the alarm clock he had set. He sat up in bed, in a sweat. “Only two hours left to write. Ah snooze alarms…Dammit.”
A Flock of Money
“Is it this stack of bills?”
“Is it this stack of bills?”
“Is it this stack of bills?”
“No! Please stop throwing out all the money!” I begged, covering my eyes. Another handful twirled out through the windowsill.
“How else are we going to find your school fee?” The little man replied and frowned.
“What kind of treasurer are you!?” I wailed twirling my wand in a desperate attempt to return the bills by spell – nothing.
“What kind of sorcerer are you? Can’t do a simple spell!” He smiled smug with chubby cheeks.
“Be quiet! How old are you!? Why would anyone make you a treasurer! You, you big baby!”
The little man stopped instantly.
“You do realize, I’m a giant, right?”
“What?” I chuckled.
He sighed, straightened his hat and crossed his arms.
“We grow slowly, you silly Hufflepuff. What we call a month, you call a decade. As such I’m over three-hundred and sixty years old. I’ve been treasurer for Hogwarts for one hundred years. How long have you been here?”
“Not even long enough to have your fees collected, have you?”
“I suppose not.” I said and shrugged, “Do you think he’ll be angry?”
“You’ve been summoned to Dumbledore’s office?!”
He dropped another pile of bills that flew out the window.
“Yes.” My insides turn to mush. “Is it that bad?”
“Well, I hope you don’t have a fear of judgement.” He squinted self-righteously.
“Oh, no! Please help me… …What’s your name again?”
“Spanky?” I chuckled, “Your name is ‘Spanky’?”
“Please, Spanky – will you help me?”
“You haven’t been very nice, calling me a big baby.”
“I’m sorry, you’re not a big baby. You’re a giant, a big-big giant.” His little eyes began to shine, “And the most talented, experienced treasurer Hogwarts has ever seen, no doubt!”
“Yes, well…” A small blush colored his cheeks.
“Please, Spanky? I’ve only just begun, haven’t even had a chance to learn how to cast a spell properly yet! Couldn’t even cast those bills back.”
“Don’t worry, they’re just out to stretch their wings. They always flock back together and return.”
“I don’t understand?”
“You know money flies, do you not? They come together to form flocks.”
“So they’re not gone?”
“Of course not! What kind of treasurer would I be if I just threw money out the window to be lost forever?!”
“But how do we know which stack is my school fee?”
Spanky reached into the pile of money and pulled one more stack out.
“Watch.” He said and threw it out the window.
In one smooth motion the bills began to flap like birds, circling around into a small flock and flew back inside, twirling around me.
“See?” Spanky smiled, “They’ll come to you.”
Behind us opened a heavy door, creaking ominously.
“Ah, there you are…” Dumbledore said to me.
“I’ve found it!” I wailed just a little too hard.
“Your school fee? It’s been here all along.”
“Then why did you summon me, headmaster?”
“Oh, I just wanted someone to get me some coffee…”