Wednesday February 7th, 2018

The exercise:

Write about: the lock.


morganna said...

Lowering and raising, my
Only job,
Careful to
Keep the water in.

Greg said...

@Morganna: nice: tight, descriptive, and self-referential. Great work for just four lines!

"No," said Sberychev. "At the very least we need to stop whatever they're doing in here. Creating these prisons is a bad thing, I think, the maths points in some entropic directions. One prison, constantly moving, there's a dynamic flow, some orbits on chaotic manifolds that mean it can be sustained for a very long time, maybe even indefinitely. But as you create more of them they start to constructively interfere and it cuts down the dimensions and as soon as they become finite there's a very real problem. A hole-type of problem."
"I stopped listening after 'No'," said Snake. "Right, what do we need to do then? Let me out, and I'll go and peer in the windows."
From the look on Sberychev's face the practicality of the idea had kept it from occurring to him. He half-smiled. "Ok!" The 'floor', if that was the right name for it, of the Tesseract suddenly became completely insubstantial and Snake fell through, landing on his feet about two metres below. His ankles jarred, pain shooting up his shins, and he crouched, then shuffled quickly sideways until he was leaning up against the walls of the shack. He noticed immediately that they were oddly warm to the touch. He looked up, and realised that he could see the sky, the wispy clouds scudding across, and some distant wheeling black shapes of birds, but there was no sign on the Tesseract or Sberychev.
"Weird," he muttered under his breath. There was no window is this wall, so he shuffled slowly round to the back of the shack, keeping his movements small and quiet. The desert smelled cooked; like it had been sat in the oven too long and was now dry and inedible, and the sand crunched quietly beneath his feet. He reached the corner and carefully peeked round.
At the back was a generator, clearly running and with a plume of greasy grey smoke coming out of a tube at the far end. A purple haze just visible around it explained to him why he couldn't hear it at all, or why the smoke wasn't lifting up any higher than maybe a half-metre. Long, thick cables ran from the generator through holes in the wall of the shack, and there was a small, unglazed window next to a rusty looking door that had a big shiny padlock on a new hasp.
He stood up, carefully, and stepped, his feet picking up and setting down with exaggerated care, until he could just, obliquely, see through the window. The room beyond was dark but looked empty except for a couple of steel-grey boxes with red and yellow push buttons set in a row on the front. One box was dark, but the other had the buttons lit up and flashing in some kind of pattern. The cables than ran through the wall attached to both boxes.
"A back-up in case one fails," said Snake under his breath. He was used to talking to himself, it helped him clarify his thoughts before he took any action. He looked back at the generator: he had no idea how to reach inside the purple haze to get to it and turn it off. Sberychev probably could, but – he looked up again, but the sky was still empty – he had no idea where the madman was right now. Which left him with the lock on the door, and maybe turning the boxes off that way. Though he would have to hope that Sberychev could somehow pick him up without cooking him like the goat, and before the guy in the trenchcoat caught him.
He looked more closely at the shiny padlock, turning it over in his hands, and a thin smile started to form on his lips.

Anonymous said...

Typos, grr, try sgain...

The Lock

She handed him the key. It was made of wrought iron, terribly old, perhaps ancient. He’d no idea how she came about having it but nor had she. It’d come down through the family.

He held it and closed his eyes, typically the stance of a medium. He was very quiet and it seemed ages until something happened. She watched him pensively. He shuddered and then spoke in a timbre slightly deeper than his natural voice. The accent sounded English. In commanding tones, he began...

“Aye, I remember this ‘un,” he started. “Ugh, ‘tis cold down ‘ere. I ‘ave to check on the prisoners, give ‘em a spot of gruel and take away the night bucket, that’s the worst o’ this job, an’ all.”

As he spoke, she could see in her mind’s eye what sort of conditions he was relaying - old stone walls, blackened by age and green with the mossy damp that oozed out of the walls in this dungeon below the castle keep.

“‘Ere we go, I a’ways ‘ave trouble with the lock on this ‘un,” and she watched, fascinated as he made moves with the key at a lock only he could see. “There it is!” he continued, triumphant. Inside, the prisoner looked somewhat worse for wear. He still wore the doubloons and frilly shirt worthy of a pirate of the seven seas, but they were stained and in tatters. His boots were leather but now smelled of mould, not beeswax and cowhide. His hair was matted and long, greying at the temples, for he was no longer youthful. He scratched his scalp and the jailer was taken aback (he’d no wish to inherit a batch of lice off the ol’ pirate, now).

“‘Ere be ya gruel and black bread then; don’t eat it all at once. I got ye an extra treat today, there was fresh oranges at table so I snatched two, one for me an’ one for you.” The prisoner smiled a toothless smiled to the jailer in thanks. Bread dipped in gruel plus orange juice was all he could muster now with his poor teeth. He was unaccustomed to anything rich anyway, his stomach had long since shrunk from the lack of mutton, potatoes and good wine stolen from the coffers of rich galleons heading towards the Straits of Gibraltar.

‘Those were the days,’ thought the old pirate, but he’d been captured and indentured here in the King’s castle, now a disgrace to his former Navy training, having gone rogue with the tempting treasures often accrued during his pirating escapades later in his career. Oh well, he’d not be here much longer. He was getting thinner by the minute and the cankers sores on his legs looked worrisome - he’d seen grown men succumb to them and in a matter of months death would save them from the worst of the pain of decay. He appreciated the occasional kindness of the jailer, though, which he knew he didn’t deserve, and he told him so - they’d once been friends, you see, with the pirate keeping the jailer in tobacco.

The medium came to and ceased talking. Opening his eyes, he adjusted to the dim light in the room and handed the key back to the woman, her curiosity seemingly satisfied. “Hm, there were rumours of a prison in one branch of the family tree, but we didn’t know if it referred to the prisoner or the jailer. I guess it’s the latter...?”

“That’s my take on it,” the medium said. “Looks like the jailer kept the key; maybe the lock was changed if it was always so troublesome.”

Marc said...

Morganna - what Greg said :)

Greg - while I did not stop reading after 'No', I do feel Snake's pain a little bit :)

Annnnd the tension is ramping up nicely, with the fear of getting caught in the act now a very definite possibility. You've definitely got me hooked on this tale!

Dragonfly - this is a fun and intriguing little tale. I'd be quite happy to hear more from any of this, as all four characters are interesting in their own way.