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 Eng - Short Story - Fallspeak 
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Post Eng - Short Story - Fallspeak
Genre: - Science Fiction
Story Title: - Fallspeak
Author(s): - Nusinge
Style: - first person, soft scifi
Goal: - response to Kiya's challenge to write a story without violent elements, while not being "overly cute"/"children's" story
Rating: - none
Language: - american english
How to join: - n/a

There is a moment, just before falling to the ground, when a blink takes 365 days to complete in a single second.  And in that brief year human beings have the ability to actually invent entirely new languages.  In my case, just before falling, I blurted out,
It made perfect sense at the time.

I crashed into a small brick wall, smacking my head soundly against some kind of pottery, the hard kind, and fell backwards on a stone walkway.  As I was dazed from my trip, I had a nice opportunity to observe the sky here.  Blue.  Nice white clouds hurrying on their way somewhere.  Rubbing my forehead briefly, trying to determine the extent of my injury, I slowly rose to a position of greater dignity.  That's when I found the poop, which I was sitting in, and which was now apparently smeared all over the back of my pants.  Looking down betwixt my legs, I could see the artistically coiled soilment resting on the stone path, half of the monument to a meal past being smeared beyond recognition.  Architecture to art, and now I was wearing the part open to interpretation.  Delightful, I'm quite sure the boys at home will enjoy this experience as well.  Spiffy.  I had three years of training for this?

I reached into my antique vest and pulled out a shiny pocket watch, complete with a nice little chain.  I had two full hours.  I snapped the watch shut, as I had practiced so often in the past months, and began slowly looking around, alert for danger.  It was a perfectly ordinary scene, I suppose, a small house and well tended back yard largely hidden by a wood fence, the path I was on near the front porch, and the road a dozen steps away.  Nothing to be concerned about, unless I was spotted appearing out of a clear blue sky and trying to smash these poor old sods pottery with my braincase.  The whole time traveler excuse wasn't likely to go over well, aside from the fact that our research showed I'd be shot, maybe more than once, if I tried to use it.

I poked at my head again, partly to see if it hurt, partly because I knew it would hurt.  I had no business exploring it, not being a medical man, but it really was a bit painful.  A nice lump appearing there.  I sighed, not exactly an injury in battle.  How silly if I were to get a medal of some sort when I got back, and had to explain to the family why I had a purple gappy ribbon.  Well, I was a writer after all, I suppose I could invent a story about some swashbuckling fisticuffs or some other.  Well, so much for it, now I had a real mission to take on and not much time.  I looked up and down the road, seeing a series of small homes, regularly spaced, all with the nice pastels and style of the period.  Porches with white columns, short landscaped paths, and no driveways at all.  A sweet little English community, with the plain and simple style of the time.  I was becoming excited now.  I was in country, thrown back a hundred centuries to the very heart of...bicycle country.  I felt sure I could find one.  

That's when I heard the dog.  It's always much worse when you hear the dog before you see it, I've just now learned that, and I leapt to my feet, anxious to back away from the pooches poop in the event he felt that my time surfing didn't accord me the right to disturb his delicate brown sandcastle, or whatever it was he was going for in the way of architectural expression.  The black Labrador, or so I guessed it was, growled in a thought provoking fashion and encouraged me to hasten backwards, away from the porch and into the street.  I slowed my pace several houses down and tried to catch my breath, wondering how I was supposed to actually find a bicycle.  Theoretically they should be "all over", or so the decryption people claimed, and I should "stumble across one shortly", but I saw no evidence that the research was accurate.  I might stumble across a brick mailbox or rut in the dirt road, but there was nary a bicycle in sight.  I was becoming more a bit concerned, looking up and down the street, scanning for any side of "lots" of bicycles, as they should have been "everywhere".  It would be quite the blow if I returned without riding one.  Better to not return at all.  I can't imagine what would happen to the family, if I failed.  I wouldn't think of it, I couldn't.  
I poked my head again, hurting myself, and tried to think of a way to find a bicycle.  Some of them had bells, yes, I had trained for nearly 3 months on different bell sounds.  Ding a ling, ring a ling, ring ring oh a ling, I could probably identify one from kilometers away.  I cocked my head, listening a moment, hopeful.  Quiet, other than a few parting barks from the black dog.  I didn't have time to wait for a bicycle to simply appear, so I walked down the street, checking the homes on each side for any signs of wheel tracks.  There are 14 different tire tracks that a common bicycle can make.  I was tested endlessly on pictures of them all, whether made in mud, grass, gravel, before rain, and after.  If a bicycle had crossed this road in the last week, I felt confident I could spot it.  

After walking for 20 minutes, I jerked my watch out again.  How long was this search going to take?  I didn't feel like much of a winner right now.  A light breeze kicked up, brushing my face and hair, drawing away some of the sun's tender warmth.  I managed to win a lottery among millions, and now, actually being here, would I strike out?  The program might fail, my own work would fail…no, chin up, I'm sure I can do this.  I tried not to think about what would come after just finding one.  My assignment was hardly THAT simple.

I finally came to a cross street, where a smaller road, almost a path, was running perpendicular to the main street.  It stretched out toward the afternoon sun, slipping between trees and friendly shrubs.  I stopped, frozen, awed.  It was…a country lane.  I gasped, and felt a welling of emotion in my chest that made it hard to breathe.  An orange butterfly flapped lazily across the lane between two drooping oaks.  I smiled…now the lane was just showing off.  Tufts of grass were growing along the gentle dirt path, supporting the occasional flower.  A sweet and grassy breeze tickled my nose, inviting me forward.  This was the place.  It would have to happen here.  I smiled, a big goofy grin and felt a sense of floating, as part of my mind drifted down the lane, inspecting each flower for an original bend or neatly turned petal.  

And then I heard it.  The distinct tinkling ring, a sound that was 1 part sweetness, 1 part nostalgia, 1 part annoying, 1 part jangle, and 2 parts essence of childhood.  It had to be a bicycle.

I crouched and dashed to one side of the street, hiding behind a small hedge, breathing heavily.  Where would it come from?  What would I do?  If the bicycle was occupied, then what?  The trainers, despite repeated questions, were unwilling to address the issue.  Violence in the future was illegal – indeed, they couldn't even discuss it without fear of retribution, so they couldn't train me in such techniques.  If I hadn't watched a few illegal boxing 3-vids I'd have no concept of real violence at all.  But could I do that to someone riding a bicycle?  I didn't even really know how fast they might be traveling.  While I was thinking furiously, heart pounding,  I heard a sound that was almost music to me.  Swish, swish, swish, the sound of gently spinning rubber, the bicycle cutting through the air in a dreamy mechanical way.  Fortunately the rider wasn't coming up the lane behind me, but from further down the larger road, so I remained hidden.  Frantic to calm down, wanting to do something with my hands as I waited, I fished in my vest, tugging the watch chain roughly and barely looking at the hands, now pointing down, nearing the 1 hour mark.  Disregarding the grass stains, as my pants would clean themselves later, I peered around the hedge, careful to avoid the unknown leaves, and watched.  

The bicycle appeared so quickly I couldn't focus on it until the rider was several houses away.  It was gliding, purely gliding, supporting a small boy who periodically waved his arms and legs, apparently practicing some signaling method.  It was beautiful, the bicycle, yellow and white, with a small seat, a plain style, an older style.  I didn't recognize the manufacture, but that was even better.  A sense of mystery, it was perfect.  I had been sent to record the actual experience of riding a bicycle, to bring an authentic and new description back to my time.  To describe a new type of bicycle also was, well, more than I could have hoped for.  I could destroy two hundred years of clichés about bicycle riding.  My family could finally appear in public again, no longer outcasts, the "dark and stormy" tragedy finally behind us.  I almost wept for joy at this opportunity, though I hadn't done so during any of my training, not even the dreadfully anxious night before I traveled.  But now for the hard part.  

I took off running.  I ran for all I was worth, trying to catch up to the rider.  I didn't have a clear plan in mind, but I certainly wasn't in good enough shape to keep up.  So I had to catch the bicycle in a sprint, and then…then do something.  I was actually catching up to the boy when I felt my legs turning to lead, my breathing was laboring, and an odd pain started growing in my side.  One hundred feet, two hundred feet, I thought I would pass out when the rider turned gracefully into the house with the black dog, rolling too fast up the stone path, and stopping with a hint of a skid at the steps to the porch.  Panting heavily, in real pain now, I slowed down two houses away, bending over heaving.  I coughed for a moment, which stopped me from berating myself.  I had run away from this house so quickly I hadn't bothered to check for tracks.  The kid was playing with the big dog when I recovered enough to look up.  There it was.  The bicycle rested against the wooden steps, suddenly bereft of motion and life.

The metal lines gleamed at me, the white plastic seat seemed to wink slowly, the grey spokes teased.  So close, and yet so far.  I stared, stared motionless until the boy and dog finally noticed me, and stared back.  I was afraid to move.  This was the movement of truth, we writers would call it a climax, and here I am.  I don't know how to ride a bicycle.  My training had included everything except this one crucial lesson, in order to make my experience more original and authentic, I was never given an actual bicycle to ride.  Saliva snaked out of my mouth through a thousand tiny pores, and reappeared as sweat on my palms and lower back.  I felt a trickle running down my spine, the gentle heat of the day finally getting to me.  Out of some deeply ingrained reflex, I managed to check my watch, snapping the lip open and closed with a professionals hand.  Watch flipping and pulling I could do – but riding?  A small half of one hour left.  A groan escaped me, I could not imagine failure, but this, how could I learn to ride so quickly, what made me, ME, think I could do this?  

I started walking, more like a controlled fall, toward the dog-boy's house.  I felt as though I was going to meet my doom, staggering to a unknown but without question unpleasant fate.  I reached the grass and stone path at the border of their property, the dog lifting his front legs one after another and placing them down square to me, licking his lips, watching.  The boy hadn't moved since seeing me, one hand over the dogs back, watching me in a quiet, unafraid, patient way.  My hand twitched…I wiped it on one pant leg, started to open my mouth to speak, to ask, but my feeling of shame increased.  This boy knew how to ride, a real bicycle rider, and he would think I was quite foolish.  And my eyes suddenly dropped to the bicycle again, when I thought of the lane.  The country lane, the sweet highway without time, I imagined myself riding there, hair whipping back, legs pumping furiously, jangling the bell for all I was worth.  

All I had to do was seize the bike.  Just run forward, grab it, pull it upright, yell at the dog and boy to frighten them, or confuse them.  I could leap on the bicycle, jerk it's head toward freedom and just ride.  The country lane was calling me, I know it wanted me to succeed, millions of writers and countless readers were cheering me on, riding, riding down that wonderful country lane.  I smiled, both from the pictures in my mind and the sudden sense of power, of action to be had, a flush of purpose.  I knew my mission was too important to fear the consequences.  I must charge forward and seize my fate, and ride to where time had no meaning.  I could be a hero.

My smile turned harsh, as I pushed aside my fear of the dog and concern for the boy.  The kid would have his bicycle back soon enough, and I would have my prize.  I jumped across the invisible border separating this property from the rest of the world, starting the dog barking.  The boys eyes widened in surprise as I barreled forward, starting to run in long loping strides to reach my goal before they could respond, before I had to use my desperate roundhouses and jabs and crosses upon them.  Abruptly, the world tilted insanely, the sky seeming to rotate around, spinning toward my feet.  I cried out in agony, was I too late?  No, it couldn't be!

I crashed to the ground and hit the back of my head hard enough to see stars.  I was too dazed to be in any more pain, and only vaguely remember the boy hovering over me…asking me if I wanted to ride his bike?  Are you ok, mister?  You slipped on some dog stuff…Hey, are you ok?

I was weeping uncontrollably as I made my report.  It was carried live, on 380 stations, across the solar system.  I had failed so horribly, so badly, I wished they would execute me.  How could I ever face…Ouch!  Some white coated technician had just slapped something on the back of my head.  People were suddenly moving around me, and the audience, the live audience, was cheering.  I was really confused, perhaps they were going to wipe my brain, or something?  Someone patted me on the back, the president, the head of the writers guild, saying something to me.  I couldn’t concentrate enough to hear him, but I could see a 3-V screen off to one side in the studio.  Under the picture of me, doctors clamoring around, was a scrolling announcement, Writer discovers entirely new language!  Linguists thrilled!  Language of falling to be explored for many years to come!

I would have felt some happiness, some pride, but as I was coming around from my dazed condition I heard one of the network executives whispering…they should send someone else back to do more research…someone less…smelly.

It all worked out in the end for me though, I wrote a book, you've probably read it, The Bike I Rode?  You'll like the sequel also, I think I'll call it, Lane of Butterflies, and not a cliché fluttering inside.

Last edited by Nusinge on Sun May 21, 2006 11:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Mon May 15, 2006 11:06 pm
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