Late April 2011 I discovered http://StoryADay.org and the project that is to write 31 stories in 31 days. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog, knows how passionate I am about short stories so my clichéd eyes lit up at this new marvel. And just a few days later there I was, breathing life into new characters. This went on to become (with some editing of course) my 31-story collection eBook Story A Day May 2011.
And here we are a year later doing it all over again. Today’s prompt was a fish out of water; write a story about a human on another planet or alien on ours. I dictated the first part of this on the morning’s dog walk (usually when I write these pieces) but then had a busy day so typed it up / finished it off just before midnight (and posted not long before the next morning’s interview) so here is my 622-worder.
Don’t Talk to the Food
He knew they could change their shape, their form, be different colours, but he was just one: pink, and sometimes it got boring.
He was still trying to work why he was there, what his purpose was. There must be a purpose. He’d watched the movies; the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where there was someone like him, on a strange planet, and Mork & Mindy, and The Wizard of Oz, although Mork & Mindy was different, it was someone who looked human, on earth and this most definitely wasn’t earth.
He’d moved a few times; from Cornwall to London, then London to Hull, Hull to Birmingham then Birmingham to Dorset. He knew all about cultures, each place was different. He only had to move a few miles and it felt odd. It would take a while to settle in, for the roads to become familiar.
What he wouldn’t give for a road right now, instead of the tram-like cars flying above his head. Everything vertical.
This must be a tiny planet, he’d decided, he could see from one side to the other. There was little space to build around but boy did they use every inch.
There were arguments, accidents, that part of this bizarre world was like earth. He was beginning to realise that regardless of the outside, the inside was pretty much the same. All feeling, arguing. Couldn’t understand a word, of course.
The thing that struck him as most odd was that no-one was taking any notice of him. There were lots of different creatures but they were all weird – they couldn’t possibly think him weird, and therefore normal, could they?
He’d not been there long. He wasn’t sure how long was, how the time went. It seemed to go the same sort of speed, it felt the same.
There was no sun, just a huge spotlight, made everything warm, not unpleasantly warm like underneath a takeaway heat lamp but on a beach on a pleasant day – not quite so hot that you need high factor sun cream but that if you stay out in it too long you might burn. He’d always been a bit of a fair skin.
He was trying to remember what had lead him here, but he could only remember from when he woke up. It felt like the alien from Terminator 1, Arnold Schwarzenegger as it turned out, only unlike Arnie he had arrived clothed. He wasn’t sure what he would have done if he’d turned up naked – he wasn’t sure if they’d take any notice of him then either.
He decided there was only one thing to do; to attract someone’s attention. The adults looked intent on wherever they were headed but little ones were more curious, looking around.
So he decided to try to speak to one of them. They walked in grooves, a few feet apart, never colliding with anyone on the same level so he stepped out, between an adult and child, and the child stopped.
It looked fearful at him then on to its parent. The adult hadn’t noticed it lagging behind.
“Hello,” he’d said.
The ‘child’ had replied, scared, but not in words that had made sense to him.
Finally the adult had noticed and come back, angry. The parent and child argued, the man unable to follow, until the adult had turned to him and spoken. Again he couldn’t understand.
It put out an arm and touched his forehead with a flat palm. It opened its mouth again and this time he did understand. “Be on your way, we don’t talk to the food.”
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.