24# The Exhibit

DFQMND

This short story is my entry into @ruanna3 ‘s latest fiction competition, The Dark Fairy Queen’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Writing Contest. I’ve chosen the theme ‘fairytales.’ Hope you enjoy, and please click on the blue ‘froggy’ link at the bottom of the story to check out other competition entries. Thanks!

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Lights flashing on outside the museum appeared to be like the echo of the lights dimming within. I remember them that night because of the exhibit, the sealed box which held all the magic the children came to see in such large numbers. It had been so long since such a place had existed in the real world.

During long summer evenings I would often stay to walk among the exhibits alone. I know that other employees found the experience “creepy.” They were afraid of the paintings with their corpse-like eyes, placid and unfathomable. I never had those thoughts because I wasn’t afraid of death as they were. Mine, and the generations before me crafted stories to cope with the passing of life, but now that transfer from biological, entropying bodies to replaceable mechanical models was possible, death had become unthinkable, so that even these paintings of the dead were horrifying to them.

As I headed straight for the Organic Exhibits room I thought about the stories my father told me when I was a child. I vaguely remember one about children being lost in a place where trees thrived, where a bad woman lived who ate children, or was that another tale? The stories had given me nightmares so my father had stopped telling them. Now I approached the museum’s new attraction with a feeling, wonder, I think it was. I heaved its lid open and gazed down.

The first thing I remember, standing over the encapsulated paradise, was the smell. Fresh and woody, the musty scent assaulted my nostrils and almost made me stumble. In that box lay synthesized the last bastion of poets and dreamers: a dell of miniature trees, their trunks entwined with ivy, their roots adorned with bluebells – a pioneering effort all created artificially, but so real they seemed to me, who had never seen a forest, or a flower. For a moment I experienced calm, until I heard a voice in the woods.

“Is someone there?”

It was like a child’s voice.

I dropped the lid back down, stepped away, but then faltered, and lifted the lid again. There were no other workers in the museum, but still I whispered to the voice:

“Stay hidden!”

Speeding homeward on the fetid monorail, I wondered what on earth had been created in that box, and what I might have to risk in order to protect it.

(400 words)

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5: The Woman and the Thunderbird.

Another of my short stories written for a weekly fiction competition. The photo below, was our only writing prompt. To read the other entries check out Flash! Friday. Want to know more about this story? Check out my post on Fifty Tales of Fiction.

(Dust storm in Stratford, Texas, 1935. Public domain photo by NOAA.)

Image

Milo would stare at the image until his eyes hurt.
Every evening after school he would sit down at the old computer that had been left to him when his uncle died. Milo’s mother had gone through every folder on the desk top, methodically deleting everything.
“These aren’t for you to see,” she had said.
“What is it, bad stuff?”
“No, worse than that.”
“What, like illegal?”
“No, not like illegal stuff. Your uncle was an enchanted man, don’t think too much about it ok?”

He hadn’t thought much about it. The only thing interesting about that old computer was the screensaver. He would sit and wait for it to flick on. He always had a system; he would look at the ground first, then follow it up to where the grass met the foundations of the houses. Then he would allow himself to see the figures. In his head they had names, one was simply ‘the woman,’ but the other shape reminded him of a carving on a totem pole, so he called it ‘the Thunderbird.’ It was this figure who intrigued him the most. Once Milo saw the Thunderbird, he would have to look up, and see the storm coming.

Since moving away, Milo had made no friends. His father could not visit them anymore because of the restraining order, but sometimes the Spanish kid would come around. Milo would find him sitting on his little bicycle in their front yard.
“What is that?” he asked Milo, as they stared into the screensaver together.
“I don’t know. I keep thinking one day I’ll see a face in the clouds.”
The kid nodded, in childlike imitation of his own father he said:
“Cara a cara con Dios.”

They stopped looking for Milo’s body on the seventh day of the search. They said he was probably just another run away. The computer stayed on all that week, until finally Milo’s mother had pulled the plug straight out of the wall.
No one had seen the screensaver change, and that there were three figures now, where there had been two; their arms outstretched towards the storm, cara a cara con Dios.

4: Arturo’s Choice

I entered this short story in a weekly fiction competition; the photo below (Unicornio, by Salvador Nunez) was our only writing prompt. To read the winning stories, and other entries check out Flash! Friday.

unicornio-salvador-nunez
“You’re dead of course,” the old man said, and Arturo nodded.
“Now, what that means is that this isn’t a dream, you can have the angel, the unicorn or the magic carpet, but you can’t have it all.”
“That’s not what I was lead to believe.” Arturo said, as somewhere below the table he could feel hot sand beneath his toes. The bitter disappointment he had initially experienced had waned now to sleepy apathy. At first, Arturo had pushed the wine away, but the old man had no interesting conversation, and so far the wine, and the view, were all that appeared to make up heaven.
“You know it’s strange,” he said, as he felt for the brim of his hat.
It was the first piece of his Halloween costume; the last clothes he had been wearing when his wife had seen fit to fire those bullets into him.
“It’s just that I was always taught that when we die, we go to a better place, if we’ve been good, and a bad place, if we’ve been bad. What then, is this place?” He laughed, “it’s like nowhere at all.”
The old man grunted.
“Do you want a gift or not? I haven’t got all day. People die every second. Not everyone gets to be so lucky as you.”
“Lucky?” Arturo asked.
“Lucky,” the old man replied.
Arturo contemplated his choices. Finally, when he had grown tired of wearing the old man’s patience out, he said: “I’ve made my choice.”
“And?”
“I’ll take the shovel.”
“Why?” The wooden face contorted into a tortured shape.
“I’d like to see my wife,” Arturo replied, amazed at how the words no longer burned in his mouth.
“Hell’s that the way,” the old man said in disgust, motioning at the ground with his chin.
Arturo picked up the shovel, and began digging.