CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
Gail told him, without looking up, “When I grow my hair back, my luck should improve. I think there must be something genetically wrong with men who’re attracted to bald women,” tap, tap. “One day science will find the answer,” tap, tap, “and be able to genetically modify them,” tap, tap, tap. “Now that I think of it, that last one must have shared the genetic makeup of a basset hound,” tap, tap. “When he kissed me, it was like a dog lapping up water—and he had such big ears!” tap, tap, “Oh! sorry, Nigela; I wasn’t talking about you,” tap, tap, tap, pause. “Daniel, you look so ill. Is it something you’ve eaten?”
Daniel tried to say, “I’m alright,” but he could not force out even the first syllable.
Gail said, “You look ill. You should go home.”
For the following hour, Daniel worked in silence. He was afraid to try to speak, lest he was unable to and his disability provided Gail with material for a future episode of Gail’s Tales. For the moment, at least, he wanted to hold on to his affection for her, to enjoy this feeling, before he was robbed of it by her satirical instinct, which, he thought, she would surely be unable to resist. And then Wendy was standing over him and leaning close to him to whisper something. He glanced up at her and his eyes were drawn to her two warts which, he thought, he could now definitely confirm, did not have hairs.
She whispered, “I have a relative who’s disabled. He walks with a limp.”
Daniel wondered whether his own mind had invented her words. It seemed obvious she was referring his father, yet it was impossible she could have even known about him, and her words seemed to hypnotize him.
She continued, still whispering: “In fact, it’s my father who’s disabled. But I don’t tell anyone about it,” and she waited for a response, but he remained transfixed by her warts, as though it were those that were performing his hypnosis.
She whispered, “What do you think I should feel about that?” and she watched him sitting there, silent and motionless, like a startled child faced with the evidence of a lie he could not manoeuvre his way out of but the inquisition was assembled before him, demanding his explanation: “What do you say to that, Daniel. Come on, what do you think I should feel?” and Daniel was, indeed, back in childhood; he was stood in the playground at school, watching the satirists latest production and it seemed as though the whole world were weighing down on him and crippling his faculty of speech; he could feel all the words he wanted to say, or that he should say, but they were buried beneath this great weight, beyond his reach, helpless, trapped—as a rabbit might be in a snare that had been expertly laid in the path of its play by some human adult with grown-up intentions, with their own agenda to satisfy, their own survival to fight for, and that adult had stood over him, whispering her trap, whispering her own satirical production. “Daniel,” she whispered, quietly but expertly, as a hunter stalks a timid bird who could bolt at any moment, “Daniel, tell me, do tell me; what do you think about that?”
Daniel looked up into her face and his mind was filled with those two defining features of hers and he had to shift the great, suffocating weight that was still pressing down, heavier and heavier, onto all those words that were dying within him and needed to be said; if ever he was going to breathe again, they needed to be said, and he stood up and shouted, “Get your warts out of my face!”
Wendy Jenkins, also now startled, said, “My what?”
“Your warts!”
“What—?”
“You’ve got warts! Haven’t you noticed?”
Shell-shocked and pale, she withdrew and wandered back to her desk in an apparent daze. The whole office remained hushed for several minutes, as though Daniel’s words had, indeed, shaken the fabric of the office as a bombshell might do.
On the publication of Cogitation’s scholarly (and impressively thick) paper forty years ago, the local government passed a bylaw, making it illegal for any household to not possess a goldfish, and ordered Cogitation to test her findings in Perception and the surrounding county. But they required her to do this single‑handedly, because they found her paper so impressively thick that they did not want to waste any money on her ridiculous project.
She conducted her research for the past forty years, and now, at the age of seventy‑one, was nearing the completion of her trial. Near the beginning, she noticed that because Grumble Factor was slowly being converted into Comprehension Factor in the goldfish bowls, an imbalance was caused between these Factors in the community. To bring the system into balance, the residents started to produce a new type of Factor. This Factor only existed for a short while in a person and she called it Trivial Grumble Factor—because it produced in the person a Grumble concerned with an apparently trivial topic.
Over the past forty years, the residents needed to produce so much of this Trivial Grumble Factor that they had no time to spare for committing crimes. This gradually caused the police force to become incompetent in all matters except the entertaining activity of thinking up stimulating things to now use their truncheons for.
Then, one month ago, the residents awoke to find a second murderer loose amongst them. Cries of alarm and of panic‑stricken terror were rife. But the loudest of these came from the county’s police stations. This went on for a whole week, by which time the death toll had reached six people. That afternoon—amid glorious sunshine, the tweeting of birds and much wafting about of warm air—the mayor of Perception (one Ivor Medallion, whose middle name was rumoured to be Silver) finally stormed into 121 Misapprehension Lane (the police force’s headquarters—otherwise known as Bright Spark House) he stormed in—he’d had enough; by golly, he’d had enough!—and he stamped his foot several times—and rather firmly, too—and shouted that it was their job to apprehend the murderer.
In the face of this shocking outrage, half the force resigned. The numbed residue were sent on a rigorous three‑week training course and then two days’ recuperation at Clacton‑on‑Sea. On their return to duty the death toll in Perception (perhaps not surprisingly, since the entire constabulary had been absent for three weeks) had reached twenty‑one people.
This brings us to the present day in July of 1986. The mass murderer was still loose and many of the citizens had by now become somewhat hysterical.

Links

Some links to other sites of literary interest.

Project Gutenberg. The first internet archive of free electronic books. There are now over 25,000 books available free at this site.

eBooks@Adelaide. The University of Adelaide Library’s collection of Web books. The collection includes classic works of Literature, Philosophy, Science, and History.

ReadPrint. Online books, free to read. From all the classic authors, though with some authors, only the most well known of their books are yet added. The books are nicely laid out easy to read.

Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Web's first edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. The texts are clearly and simply laid out, making them a joy to read. Navigation within each play is also straightforward.

The Literature Network is a vast store of online texts: books, short stories, poems. The full texts are included but the more popular works are peppered with advertising. If you don't mind that, happy reading.

Gaslight is an archive of classic short stories which were originally published as an internet discussion list. Genres include: mystery, adventure and The Weird.

East of the web. A growing collection of classic and newly-written short stories made available on the Web. Stories are organized by theme: fiction, romance, crime, sci-fi & fantasy, humour, horror, hyperfiction, children's, and nonfiction. Includes works by many famous authors.

George Boeree. This site contains many fascinating nonfiction etexts introducing every aspect of psychology. George's writing is clear and straightforward.

The Internet Classics Archive. An archive of works of classical literature in English translations. The works are mostly Greek and Roman, with some Chinese and Persian works.

Online Magazines

TheAtlantic.com. Current affairs magazine with short stories, essays and poetry. See the archive of short stories.

Narrative Magazine. Fiction, poetry, short short stories, nonfiction, features. Good quality writing. You can subscribe to the site free of charge, which will allow you to read the full text of the stories.

The Oldie. This magazine was created by a previous editor of Private Eye, as: an antidote to youth culture but, more importantly, a magazine with emphasis on good writing, humour and quality illustration.

Zoetrope All-Story. A short story magazine. You can read samples from many of the stories online, but will need to purchase a subscription to read the full text.

3:AM Magazine. Containing fiction, nonfiction, interviews, poetry, opinions.

Resources

How to Write a Story is a blog consisting of articles on how to write.

Refdesk.com. Today's news stories from around the world. And other similar reference material.