Friday February 19th, 2016

The exercise:

We're skipping our usual four lines of prose on Friday this week, and instead concluding A Tale In Three Parts, the Past Present Future edition.

So today let us see what the Future has in store for our characters.

Good, uneventful appointment at the midwife clinic this morning. Can't ask for much more than that at this point.


Howard sat at the corner table in the games room, staring out the window and doing his best to ignore everyone else in his vicinity. The two men playing a card game he would never understand, the three women watching some godawful reality show on the TV in the opposite corner, the nurses moving in and out of the room carrying trays filled with medicine or, worse, empty trays in their hands.

He hated them all.

"How's your coffee this morning, Howard?"

"It's an amazing thing, Emily," he said without turning to look at the nurse. "For as long as I've been here, the coffee has been uniquely awful every single day. Always terrible, but never terrible in the exact same way. Incredible. Almost think you people do it on purpose."

"Who says we don't?" Emily asked and placed a paper cup with two pills inside it on the table beside his mug. After Howard ignored it, as expected, she added, "I've got strict orders not to leave until you take your medicine."

"Oh yeah? From who?"

"From me, Howie." Grace rolled up to the table in her wheelchair, gifting Emily with a kindly smile before turning her attention to her husband. "You've been skipping doses again."

"Thought you wouldn't notice," Howard said, shifting around in his seat.

"And why would you think that?" Grace asked with a faint smile. "Just because it took me almost a week to realize you'd replaced our coffee pot on our seventh anniversary?"

"Maybe." Howard cleared his throat, finally turning to look at the paper cup in front of him.

"Can you believe this man?" Grace asked Emily with a slow shake of her head. "Nearly fifty-three years later and he still won't shut up about it!"

"Yes, Grace," Emily said with a smile she could not conceal, "I absolutely can believe this man."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Howard asked before shoving his pills in his mouth and chasing them down with a sip from his mug. "And would you please get these bastards to hire someone who knows how to fix a cup of damned coffee?"


Greg said...

Uneventful definitely sounds like the best outcome from a visit to the midwife! I'm pleased to hear that everything's going according to plan :)
I'm also insulted that you think I couldn't handle the future part of my story in just four lines....
Ah, I see Grace and Howard made it after all, and that her suspicions were probably proven wrong. Or at least that they were able to move on past whatever happened then and continue their life together. It's sweet, given the unexpected nature of their first encounter. I rather like how the tale as a whole shows how an impulsive action can affect an entire lifetime, and in the best possible ways. You're an old romantic, but you tell the tale very well!

Violin music floated through the windows. Madame Sosotris – how many years had she been a madame she wondered absently as she pressed a dress against her scrawny chest – felt her spirits lift as she listened to it. There was a concert in the park and the violinists had been pressed into playing from all over the Unreal City, but the effect was entrancing. She leaned backwards slightly, arching her back to press against a lover who wasn't there, and let her hands run over the fabric of the dress again.
The dress was burgundy, as deep as the richest vintage of wine, and was linen – cool in the summer and warm in the winter. A hint of cologne rose from it, reminding her of a promontory from her youth where she stood, kisses stealing down her neck and hands laid gently on her hips. She sighed, wriggled as though the distant memory of sunlight was still warming her skin, and stood upright again. All just dreams.
As she put the dress back in the cupboard her vision sparkled momentarily and the future dropped into place. She saw the harbour, heard the seagulls shrieking and smelled the ammoniac reek of fish sat too long in the sun. A creaking yawn tugged the vision out to the water, and there was the Phoenician's ship, heaving to and dropping anchor. The chain rattled out and down into green waters and as it struck the bottom she felt the binding promise complete.
Every pot, pan, dish and cup in the kitchen was filled to the brim with blood, the red liquid trembling at the rims, threatening to spill over with the softest breath of a sigh, with the merest current of air from her passage. She ignored them and opened the back door to the garden where strange plants grew and nature warred with the unnatural in ways that were entirely normal for the Unreal City. Her sunhat, a paisley, shapeless thing that was only a hat because she chose to wear it on her head, was hanging on its usual peg, bedecked with spider-webs so she took it down, dusted it off, and put it on. Then she walked down the path to the lettuce bed.
The scarecrow swung round as she approached it, still wearing its expensive Italian-made suit that had somehow remained untouched by the weather of decades and the assaults of insects, birds, small mammals and children too stupid to grow to adulthood. A walking stick was still gripped by a hairy, gnarled hand, and a golden glow still surrounded its head though the flesh was nothing more than black tatters on a white skull now. Eyeballs rolled in their sockets until the cataractic white was replaced by sky-blue irises, and an obscene red tongue wormed its way into the bony jaws.
"Don't bother," said Madame Sosotris, waving an idle hand. "I've been here too long to leave now. This is my home." There was a subtle emphasis on those last words. "I may take a small holiday though. Three days."
"Indebted." Did the scarecrow whisper those words or was it just the sussuration in the trees?
"Indeed," said Madame Sosotris. "And there will come a reckoning." That she was talking about the future that she'd seen really didn't need to be stated.

Marc said...

Greg - indeed, I've never denied being a romantic :)

A satisfying conclusion to a fascinating tale. And I like that you've left room for this to continue onward, whenever prompts and inspiration happen to collide.