Browsing Category Wildgenus (2021 – Vol 2)

A Seal’s Skin

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Fey stood looking out of the window. ‘How had what seemed so right gone so wrong?’ she thought—

She and Andrew had had a good life in London. They lived in a flat at first, tiny, but all they needed. She remembered—He had pulled her close, whispering—‘all we need is a bed to love in’, then adding, ‘and maybe a kettle.’ Then the good jobs, a bigger flat, friends, social life and holidays. (The holidays of their student days, it was hitchhiking across Europe and island hopping in the Mediterranean. In the first-years of their married life, it was staycations, friends and families. The mortgage, the bills, the jobs, ate into both time and finances.) But things eased, promotions and a move for him to a better job. Money was easier; the world expanded—now package holidays and then more expensive long-haul ones. Andrew was a snob, and so the holidays needed to be cultural and enlightening, or strenuous and adventurous. He liked to boast to their friends about the museums and galleries, the concerts attended, or the peaks scaled and hardships overcome. She loved him, so enjoyed culture and enlightening holidays, and endured the strenuous and adventurous, and said nothing. She let him decide where they went and when. After all, his career was far more important than hers. She would sometimes watch as her friends looked at her while he expounded some story about their latest holiday—the treks to high altitude, the wonderful tenor at the opera. She could almost hear their thoughts—wondering about her, about the two of them, wondering ‘what he was doing with her’.

They had met at university. She was the first member of her family to go to university. Her roots were ‘working class’, her background in Northern city. She came from a family of intelligent, hard-working people. She never went short as a child, but there was no money wasted, either. He was from a different background. It had all been so easy on campus. The new situation had levelled everything out. They were making new friends, new networks. She had somehow fallen into his group, simply by being second from last in a philosophy lecture. She had slipped into one of the few seats at the back. He was even later, so had done the same and sat next to her. A few whispered comments, and that was how it had all started. She had discovered the strange world of the back rows of a lecture.

School had always seen her at the front of class, ready to be seen, to ask and answer questions, to prove she was intelligent, hardworking, all the things that her teachers loved. She was now in a quandary. Andrew, that was his name, liked to sit at the back, where he could ignore most of the class. She had become infatuated with him, and so had sat at the back of the class, and at the front, when she was on her own. The day the degree results came, she had to come clean. A double first (he got a 2:1) caused him to be annoyed with her. They had stayed together, and moved to the city, and started on the career path, Andrew always climbing higher, while she took openings where she could balance her career and her conscience.

One evening, after a very expensive meal, Andrew had just been talking about his close encounter with a black mamba—one of his many stories about the latest holiday. He leaned back in his chair and sipped the very expensive wine he had ordered. Fey looked at the group. Esmerelda (was that really the woman’s name?) cooed at him. She knew he secretly fancied Esmerelda; she was thin and had long fine hair of the palest blonde. Petite, she wore designer clothes and worked as PA to some Russian magnate. She was all bones, heavily made-up eyes, draped silk dresses and very wide belts cinching in her tiny waist. The core remained constant, Andrew’s friends from school or university, and respective partners. But there were always some new members appearing, and tonight, one gang had bought a new friend along. Hamish MacSomething—she hadn’t caught his full name. Andrew, confident that Hamish couldn’t beat a two-metre black mamba on the holiday front, had asked—‘where did you holiday this year?’ Hamish looked at him and smiled. ‘Oh, I always just go home.’ Esmerelda turned her enormous eyes and simpered. ‘Home? Where is that?’ Fey watched. She could expect the snide jokes about ‘home’ and felt sorry for Hamish. Then Hamish smiled and said: ‘You won’t have heard of it, it’s a tiny island in the Outer Hebrides. My family has lived there for over a thousand years. My uncle is the clan chief.’

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The Baker And His Wife

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Under her hands, the dough felt like flesh. Smooth, pliant flesh. It made a wet sound—a thunk—as she slapped it against the worn wooden benchtop.

It was soothing, this rhythmic shaping, kneading, pulling, coaxing.

The way her frothy starter ate the flour, she fed it daily, asking so little of her yet delivering so much in return.

Cecily Sehar’s loaves had made her into a small-town celebrity since she’d started entering the annual Baking Contest. High on a kitchen shelf, seven shiny trophies sat. 1st Place, 1st Place, 1st Place—all bar one. The fourth one, slightly smaller than the rest, had taunted her for months, until she finally turned it around.

She remembered that year. It had been difficult to source her ingredients. For some strange reason, the townfolk had been unusually healthy. There were too few accidents, too few casualties. She didn’t dare risk too many trips for fear of attracting attention.

For Cecily, the key was taking just enough to keep her bread loaves dense and delicious. But not for people to notice what was missing.

As she pommeled today’s ball of dough, it occurred to her she was running low. She needed to make another trip, and soon. She couldn’t risk running out. Oh, no… The secret ingredient made her bread loaves so extraordinary.

Why bother? Said a voice inside her head. All this baking, so pointless.

Just like you.

Cecily’s hands slipped, mashing the dough sideways. She leaned forward, breathing hard, her heartbeat building to a crushing crescendo.

She didn’t understand! She never normally entertained such thoughts. Those words were reminiscent of her now-dead husband. Little barbs, designed to land, to sting, to fester in wounds so hidden they settled deep into her bones.

She couldn’t escape him. Even now.

Someone knocked at her door, and she jumped. Sighing, she brushed aside an errant curl of hair with a floury arm. Who could call this early? She knew the humidity of her baker’s kitchen would have drawn tiny dewdrops of sweat along her brow. The red cotton headscarf she’d knotted so carelessly barely contained her black hair. She hadn’t expected a visitor.

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The Shifting Face

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Perhaps, living the first twelve years of his life in a little home, in a little town, is the reason for his shrunken stature. Or maybe, his name is to blame, a manifestation of his mother’s poor choice during his premature time of birth. It feels like there’s a quota, and he never grows past what the town of Saddlewood allows. Despite all that, Little-One Knox has a sizeable nature of sorts that defies his very name.

His little nose is perfect to stick into unwelcome places, and despite the size of his ears, he can hear whispers from a mile away, if he really pays attention.

He makes up fifty percent of the residents in his home. His mother, the other fifty, is a woman with lithe fingers. They have a simple motherly feel when they run through his hair, but only when he’s done something good. Of course, Little-One has trouble doing said good things. Rather, he has a tendency to seek out the opposite. It’s the careless venturing that makes his mother pull at his hair instead of carding through it. Though even when she screeches his name, it sounds like a term of endearment.

Little seeks out excitement by crawling in dirt holes and jumping off the odd tool shack. How he manages to climb them is an irritating mystery to all. Especially Old-Man Dooley, who has an abnormal amount of little shoe dents atop his metal shack.

The route he takes home from school has the quality and charm of a small rural town. Though the sidewalks are cracked and damaged, the clover weeds that grow in between make for a pretty picture. There are lines of red maples on either side of a winding road that tower with age, and every autumn he walks home on a bed of brilliant ruby leaves. At the end of the road, just as he turns right, the tallest red maple droops over a rickety fence overlooking a farm. And on the very top, seven branches part ways and reach towards the sky, making a surprisingly comfortable spot in the middle.

Often, Little climbs all the way up, up, up, and enjoys his late lunch on a seat that nature fashioned just for him. He stays long after he finishes his food, watching little sheep roam the farm grounds, until his mother leaves work and meets him at the base of the tree. A simple call of “Little!” and he packs away his things and climbs on down. From there, they walk home together, swinging their linked hands between them, while Little gushes about his day. And his mother, knowing she’s a true confidant, listens diligently until they reach home.

***

“Little,” his mother whispers, shaking his shoulder gently. Little peeks out from under his blankets only to promptly shut his eyes at the sight of his mother. She’s dressed up in work clothes. “Little you gotta get up, quickly, I’m gonna be late,” she shakes him again, swiftly pulling his blanket off and towards the ground.

Grumbling, he rolls this way and that, wishing he can soak up all the warmth from his bed and bring it with him to school. A pair of cold hands reach under his arms and pull him up and off the bed too. His toes curl inwards, trying to avoid the onslaught of cold tiles that seem to leach his remaining warmth.

“Quickly, Little, I’m not joking, hurry up,” his mother pats him on the butt, shoving him towards the bathroom just outside the hall, “Brush your teeth quickly,” she pushes a tiny pill into his palm, “and take this,” Little puts it in his mouth, “Kay, you have five minutes.”

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The Outlet

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(Year 2051)

“I’ve had a revelation, Doc,” said Jacob Allan Gibbs, suspended in an empty white room, “I don’t trust my Father.”

“That’s quite… that’s quite the revelation,” replied Dr. Natalie Dower-06, almost as if she was seated in the air, levitating across the room, adorned with minor but significant cybernetic enhancements, imprinting the words unto a projected digital page with her blue mechanical eye.

“I’ve always admired my father,” said Jacob, levitating an inch from the floor, pivoting in the air with the metal implants around his joints – unable to stay still.

The white walls around Jacob project images of Raymond Allan Gibbs, a master – no, a pioneer of Neural-engineering, “I admired his incredible intellect, his wit, charisma, and accomplishments, both as a family man and a scientist.”

The projected image lingers on an engram, a preserved narrative of Raymond opening presents with his family – the memory slowly begins to play across every wall before gradually transitioning to Raymond’s crown achievement – The “engram” microchip.

“By every conceivable definition of the word,” Jacob places his hand on the back of his head, caressing the glowing ports attached to his cerebellum, “he was the perfect human being.”

“Was? As in, the past?” Asked Dr. Dower gently, attempting to establish eye contact with her patient, “what caused the distrust – this rift between you and your father?”

Jacob pauses for a second, carefully contemplating the intent behind his words as the white walls turn blank as he struggles to come up with an answer.

***

A rustling noise echoes through a dark room – an office decorated by a slew of medical diplomas and Avant-garde paintings. There are four security cameras in every top corner of the room with beeping red dots – save for one, which turns purple between every three blinks. The beeping stops as the cameras lower their head towards the floor. Jacob gently opens the door with the help of an implant – emerging from his finger like a swiss-army knife.

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The President

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A dark dungeon glimmers with blue fluorescent lights as two shadows glide across the bland metal wall, decorated only by portraits of the President, A half Mechanical, expressionless man with sunken eyes replaced by two soulless visors.

Two men emerge from the shadows, dressed in Navy-Blue uniforms, containing a striped red and blue flag with one large star framed in the middle.

“So, how many today?” The Guard declared with his robust voice, adorned with a breathing contraption wrapped around the throat like a collar, not unlike his partner.

“Sadly, five,” said the Warden, who was far more intimidating with his ghoulish, almost emaciated demeanor.

“Just five?! The Guard exclaimed, “that’s…unfortunate.”

“I know,” smiled The Warden, “but still, today will be an exciting demonstration.”

“I’ll say,” The Guard clenched his fist up as the sound of the leather glove tightening ripples throughout the dim chamber, giddy with anticipation, “I have been waiting all day.”

“It’s odd,” The Warden conceded, “I don’t understand why people commit such heinous crimes.” “Right? It’s insane, what were these men thinking?”

“They weren’t,” the Warden adds as both men laugh outrageously. “They weren’t what?”

“Thinking,” the Warden firmly stated as the two men continue down the narrow path, passing different doorways of misery.

The Warden withdraws a small booklet from his breast pocket and starts flipping through them. “Man, I love these dungeons,” The Guard yawns, “so relaxing.”

The Warden suddenly stops, comparing the notes in his booklet to the number plastered above a particular cell, “first thing’s first.”

“Is he part of the demonstration?” The Guard points to the shivering mess, huddled in the corner of his cell, drowned in his one excrement.

“No, of course not,” the Warden added casually, “look at him – the only good thing he inspires is proper hygiene. No, his trial sadly starts and ends in this cell.”

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The Chronicles Of El Dorado

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After finalizing his divorce following the death of their 2yrs old daughter, nothing in life seems to make sense. He had shutout the world blaming everyone and everything. The only place he now found solace was in spending long hours driving around and exploring new places whenever he wasn’t working. He was angry with life, destiny, fate and anything that had an influence over his existence that he couldn’t control.

Today wasn’t suppose to be any different from the other days that he had spent driving for long hours at the outskirt of town and sometimes hiking except that for the first time in two years, he was lost without a map because the best part of his routine drive and hiking was the thrill of discovering new places with the element of surprise still intact. The presence of a map or a GPS only took away the thrilling part of his trips. Sometimes he spent the nights in a motel before heading back home. He had been so absorbed in his trance of daydreaming that he had not paid attention to the routes he had been travelling in the last few hours after grabbing his backpack and deciding to go for a hike in the forest. Currently his situation was further complicated because he had no juice on his mobile phone whose battery was already dead. He checked his wristwatch and to his disgust it wasn’t working. He was sure he had been walking for some few hours in the forest and his quartz wristwatch had stopped at 5:13pm but he knew it was not yet dusk because a chainsaw was still audible from a distance. He kept his eyes fixed on the two-lane road that snaked up into some trees as he deliberated on what to do next. It wasn’t long before he made his decision after hearing the howling of a wolf from a distance. He took the right lane and hurried through the forest circumventing trees as his heartbeat accelerated with the thought of having a run-in with a pack of wolves on his mind even though he had no idea where he was going. The irony was that today he had no one to blame but himself.

He lost track of time as he jogged without a destination but with hope of finding a route that could lead him out of the forest. The forest was slowly becoming dark as night gradually approached. He could no longer hear the sound of the chainsaw and the only sound audible to his ears was that of his heartbeats and the constant howling of the wolves.
The collision was sudden and unexpected and he fell to the ground. Without wasting a minute he picked himself up but froze when he saw the double barrel of a shotgun pointed at him. Earlier he thought he had run into a tree. Slowly he put his hands up in surrender. She asked him who he was in an authoritative tone. He told her he was a hiker who had lost his way in the forest and he meant her no harm. At first she seems reluctant to put down the weapon but she slowly lowered the shotgun. He asked her what she was doing alone in the forest but she ignored him as she dusted herself.

The good looking woman before him was dark in complexion and tall with an athletic body, oval face, hooded eyes, turn-up nose and full lips. She was wearing a blue insulated down coat on a black jeans and a black knee high boots. She was also putting on blue gloves and head warmer which revealed strands of brunette hair. He guessed she was in her early to mid thirties. She had an air of confidence and authority and, she held the weapon in her hand with great ease and expertise. She was also carrying a backpack and she looked like a hiker.

She asked him his name and he told her his name was David Finch and, he was a writer who had gotten lost after driving for hours before deciding to take a hike in the forest. She didn’t trust him because she still had her finger wrapped around the trigger of the shotgun as she kept her eyes trained on him. She asked him why he didn’t have a map with him like most hikers. David told her he didn’t know he was hiking without a map until he got lost and couldn’t find his map in his backpack and the absence of network coverage on his mobile device further complicated matters for him. She told him her name was Sarah Jones and she lived some miles away from the forest at the outskirt of town. David told Sarah he was happy to meet her and he would appreciate it if she could help him find a way out of the forest or to the nearest motel to spend the night. Sarah sighed and looked at him exhaustedly before she told him she was also lost. David was left baffled as he asked her how could she had ended up getting lost since it appears it wasn’t her first time in the forest. Sarah told him she never went hiking with a map because she was familiar with the forest and she never brought a mobile device along with her because she knew there was no network coverage in the forest except you had a satellite phone which she didn’t. David couldn’t believe his luck was that bad as he sighed frustratingly and looked up at the approaching dusk. Sarah sensing he was worried told him to relax and that this was the first time she was getting lost in this forest but if she wasn’t home by midnight her dog Iraq who was familiar with the forest was likely to come looking for her though the only reason he hadn’t accompanied her was because he wasn’t feeling too well.

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