Category Archives: Creative Writing

Short Story: The Ideal Gift


Mr Pedro Sears was not happy. His manservant had just informed him that his chauffeur would be unable to take him to his friend Robert’s birthday party. Unfortunately, the car was still at the garage for repairs. This meant he would have to take what was euphemistically known as public transport. Pedro’s frail frame shivered involuntarily at the prospect.

As he proceeded down the wide-ish staircase to his front door, Pedro glowered at a rather dull painting of a bowl of supposedly “fresh” produce. In that instant, that painting had come to represent all his annoyances with his present predicament. The painting, quite out of character, glowered back at him with a ferocity that forced Pedro to look away. Pedro reached the front door. His manservant enveloped him in a thick black trench coat as he burst out into the almost equally thick, piercing rain.

Despite the downpour, Pedro was not the sole pedestrian that day en-route to the bus stop. A burly man in an attire that would have been more appropriate in the Bahamas, seem to be of the same purpose. Though he was a few blocks behind Pedro to start, he soon caught up with him and started walking in step. Pedro eyed the water dripping off the man’s khakhi trunk shorts suspiciously, before crossing over to the other side of the road.

Since he was on the wrong side of the road, Pedro only just caught the bus. After a mad sprint across the middle of the road he arrived just in time for the bus. He also arrived just in time for a muddy green tsunami that coincided with the bus’s traversal through the large puddle near the bus stop. “Eh…eh…eh!” Spluttered Pedro, as he felt the liquid seep through his formerly impenetrable coat and trickle down his spine. He staggered onto the bus, paid for his ticket, and headed for the sole vacant seat, that was covered by a greenish shawl. Pedro gave a large sigh of relief as he lowered his rear into it. The bus started move. At last he could relax.

And that was when he sat on the baby.

The amorphous green blob that Pedro had mistaken for a shawl proved to be particularly spongy. Yelping as if he had been stung, Pedro leapt to his feet. After regaining his senses and unfixing his clasp from his lower back, he looked around. He could not identify a likely mother, in what appeared to be bus load of rowdy university students. Feeling a sense of guilt at having concussed the unfortunate toddler, he decided to pick up the baby and take him to the bus driver, who could contact the relevant authorities.

Just then, the bus driver slammed on the brakes and Pedro lurched into the group students, who were now exiting the bus en masse. Still clutching the child, Pedro waved his unoccupied arm frantically, but it was no good. He was swept through the door and landed face first in the unforgivingly hard pavement. Pedro, or rather, his face, remained attached to the moist concrete for several minutes, as his body performed emergency repairs and the shawl carrying the baby started to roll down the nearby slope.

With excruciating pain, Pedro managed to unglue his face from the pavement orient it more favourably.  After affirming both his own and his unconscious companion’s continued existence in this realm, Pedro looked around in a daze, trying to simultaneously ascertain his location and recall the series of events that could have brought him here. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a neon sign in the familiar murky shade of green that seemed to be following him that day. Half in a trance, he proceeded towards the discount grocery store beneath the sign, half-dragging his new, blobby-green friend.

Pedro, at this point, wasn’t very sure why he was entering the store, but he vaguely recalled that he had intended to purchase a gift for some party he was attending. Upon entering, a giant snake of harried looking shoppers blocked his way. They all wore a hollow, scaly expression that Pedro was almost led to believe that they were in fact enacting a mime of a play featuring an anaconda. After slithering through the queue, he began to realize that this might not be the place for his purchase. However, upon noticing a huge display declaring “Our Gift to You!”, he decided to proceed further into the store.

Under the display, there was a barrel full of the greenest cabbages Pedro had ever seen.

Pedro cracked up. He lowered his free hand into the barrel and began to stroke the smooth flesh of the nearest cabbage. The cabbage seemed to absorb all Pedro’s woes in its succulent leaves. Pedro made a decision. He grabbed the cabbage and, still fondling it, joined the human snake, grinning from ear-to-ear.

After exiting the store, Pedro sped of down the street at top speed. He had asked the cashier for his location and was surprised to find that he was within two blocks of Robert’s residence. He didn’t even notice the mother who, after seeing Pedro in his swamped attire, had crossed to the opposite side of the road.

At long last, Pedro reached his destination. He heard the familiar voices of his friends as clambered up the cobbled stairway to the front-door. He rang the bell and after a few moments, Robert’s manservant opened the door.

“Hi…” Pedro said, his eyes shining.

The manservant eyes darted quickly from cabbage that Pedro was stroking nervously, to the baby swinging from his other hand. He took in the several layers of filth that coated Pedro’s skin and his soaking clothing. Finally, he stared right back into Pedro’s manic gleaming eyes and closed the door with a flourish.

Pedro stood at the door slightly dazed. He overheard the manservant explaining to Robert. “Just a tramp, sir. Trying his luck I suppose…”

He sat down on the stairway, placing the baby and the cabbage beside him. The baby had woken up and had started to gurgle. Pedro’s face broke into a relaxed smile. Resting either hands on the cabbage and the baby he slumped his back on a nearby banister. He had got the ideal gifts.


CRUNCH! Zig felt his narrow backseats collapse furiously into his unassuming and extremely ill-prepared back. “Crunch…” Zig mimicked in a dazed voice. He reached out ineffectually before realising that his face and most of his frontal body was severely incapacitated by a rather voluminous airbag. “Crunch” Zig repeated apologetically. As he spoke the airbag popped and this gave him a grainy glance at his now oblong steering wheel. It had ventured precariously into the third dimension. Zig winced.

He clambered out of his mutilated automobile. For some reason, his transporter now had an uncanny resemblance to an overused, double-holed, pencil sharpener. The wheels on the left-hand side had become fused in a hot, rubbery embrace and now showed no desire of disengaging. Zig braved a glance at his car’s bonnet. Or where it should have been: a troll-like truck had invaded the position and was currently in the process of reversing from the depths of Zig’s car. The truck, surprisingly, was untouched; except for an insignificant disturbance above the left indicator lamp, all other evidence suggested that the truck could have been in a showroom the previous week.

Zig waved his arms dejectedly for the driver to halt his slimy retreat and pull-up on the side of the lonely highway. Unexpectedly, the man appeared to acquiesce, whipping his key out of the car and labouring his hefty frame onto the scorching road. The man reminded Zig of a rather grouchy, flattish toad, who has been forced to vacate his favourite lily pad by an energetic fly.

“ HEY YOU!” He started.  “You with the zonked car, wha’ dya mean scratchin’ my truck?” croaked the toad in what seemed to be an accent that varied from an inhabitant of the distant Corfu Islands to a Texas rancher respectively.

“Eh” inquired Zig insipidly.

“Doncha ‘eahh’ me” spouted the agitated amphibian. “You breaka my cah, you h’apoligise h’and pay up, h’okay?

Zig slowly came to his senses. He felt like his brain was a large, entangled bundle of coil that had been hacked, mercilessly, in two.

“Sir…” he said in an attempt to be respectful. “Sir…, you ‘zonked’ my car”, he indicated the smashed sedan.

“Ya stop h’in the middle of the ‘ighway, dats what’s gonna ‘appen!”

“My car stopped because its hind portions were raked by your truck!”

“Eh?” imitated the froggy man. “That ‘cause you braked in the middle of da road.”

Zig started to reply, but then paused. A manic glint had entered his eye and was spreading surreptitiously along his face. He deftly thwacked the pipa-like man, grabbed his keys, hopped into the gleaming truck and sped off. The repetitive ‘thump-thump’ of the truck driver’s preferred club music bizarrely brought memories of thousands of popping airbags. It was all strangely soothing.

Short Story: The Death of a Fish

Fantail goldfish (Carassius auratus) in tipsy fishbowlTerry gazed into the fish’s eyes. Bubbles stared back at Terry. The dull penetration of those eyes was so reminiscent of his uncle, Mr Felinus that Terry had to look away….

“Ooooh…” wailed the fishbowl as it involuntarily embraced the tiled, kitchen floor.
With only a moment’s hesitation, Terry began shuffling the debris into the nearby trash can. However, a familiar, gnarled hand clamped on his shoulder soon inhibited him from making much progress.
“Stop, you blithering idiot! Stop at once!” cried Mrs Felinus “Don’t mix the glass with the garbage. It needs to be recycled.”
Terry immediately changed his course of action. He jerkily dropped the remaining fragments into his pockets at such a rate that his pocked bounced against his leg as if it had a life of its own.
Mr Felinus clambered down the stairs at a rate akin to his droning voice. “Goodness me, was that the fishbowl that fell?” He spluttered pompously.
“Not fell, dropped! By this mongoose of a boy!” Mrs Felinus responded viciously. She was sprawled across the floor, in a manner that would have disgusted a sloth. “And now where could our Bubbles have gone to?” She whispered with an entirely different tone in her voice.
“It’s no good my dear, even if we did find him now, the fish would be dead,” Mr Felinus said grimly before he dropped his unwilling frame to the ground beside his wife.
He then turned savagely to his nephew “Boy, we heard you were an animal-lover. What do you have to say for yourself?” Terry remained silent as he fished out the last grains of glass from the newly formed water feature. Mr Felinus continued with venom “We thought it was the stray cat that we had to worry about, little did we know, that when your mother requested you stay with us, we were to host a murdering menace in our house.”
Terry left the room and scampered towards the main door. He slid into the doorway and waited, perfectly still. He thought he could hear the familiar meowing sound. Sure enough, a stringy cat emerged and pawed his way nervously towards him. He took something from his pocket, brushed of the shards of glass and laid it in front of the cat. “This came from our emergency supplies, you know,” said the boy as he stared into the cat’s hollow eyes. “Don’t worry, I’ll make a plan for tomorrow,” he continued with a bitter smile. He patted the cat and then skipped towards the recycle bin. The cat purred happily and then started eagerly into the fish.

A Marks-ist Dystopia

89.42 had arrived to school early. Only a handful of students wondered aimlessly in the usually crowded hallways. He headed to the library, to kill the remaining 10 minutes before classes started.  On entry, he found a thin brochure of the school and, lowering himself into one of the large blue beanbags, he began to read.

“ Welcome to Brave New-Hill, the Number One Robot Training Academy* in the province! Built on the remains of a human high school, Brave New-Hill has been training the provinces finest robots since 2113. Utilizing the best practice of Marks Identification (MI) for over 50 years, longer than any other academy, has allowed New-Hill to achieve a well synthesized mechanism for academic excellence…”

89.42 skipped a large chunk of the brochure, which seemed to elaborate on the facilities of the school. A paragraph entitled “ What is MI?” caught his eye.

“MI or Marks Identification was a landmark innovation in robot training. The idea of associating a student with a percentage was not new, human high schools had been doing it for centuries, however MI goes beyond this. MI is more than just a mark or even a name. MI is an identity. Furthermore, since all robots achieve percentages of between 99 and 100, the percentage used is in fact the first four decimals that follow. (In highly irregular cases of duplicate identity, a fifth decimal place is used). In addition, since marks fluctuate throughout the year, the average overall mark at the end of the previous academic year is a student’s MI. Countless studies have shown that robots with MI are far better trained than those without…“

89.42 stood up and replaced the brochure in the newsstand. He had hoped that the brochure would tell him something about the academy that he didn’t know. Checking his watch, 89.42 mooched his way to ‘English in Communication’ class.

When he arrived, the room was already full. As per usual, the class self-sorted itself into groups of students with similar marks. And 89.42, being the lowest, sat alone at the back of the class, behind a group of rather talkative 92’s.

On the latest poetry analysis he had received a .25 mark deduction for using the word “abstract parallelism” instead of metaphor.

“Abstract parallelism” had been a hobbyhorse of his for sometime.  According to him, it was a concept that not only united English concepts like “allegory”, “simile”, “analogy” and “metaphor,” but also it was also evident in the abstractions made by all arts and science. He had arrived at this concept after finding the categorization of “similes” and a “metaphors” as arbitrary. What was the reason behind this specific theoretical classification over another? His “abstract parallelism” was logical though. He could prove it.

In the last thirty minutes of the class, a piece of creative writing was demanded, based on a rather hackneyed prompt. Unlike his peers, 89.42 enjoyed creative writing. He liked telling stories. However, whenever he knew the piece was to be marked, it would give him the bizarre and unnerving impression of being a trick dolphin that was being coaxed to jump through hoops. This was because of the unsaid requirement to lace one’s writing with metaphors, motifs, symbols and similes. Why was writing that included these devices always superior to those that did not? Was it not possible to jump to the side of the hoop, or daresay, over the hoop? All this was stirring in his mind as his hand darted across the page, relating the affair of one Pedro Sears.

Thirty-five minutes and three pages later, he was in the ‘Science in Reasoning’ class writing a pop quiz. His teacher for this class was a big proponent of pop quizzes. The slightest misbehavior or disrespect would result in a quiz for the entire class. It was possible to discipline students to the finest details with marks, in a way physical punishment never could. As 89.42 often reflected, marks were scars that never went away. They followed one to university and supposedly determined what sort of career one would have after university.

As the teacher was collecting 89.42’s quiz, he heard her whisper “-.25, for trying to cheat”. 89.42 was initially surprised, but then realized his fault. He had written the so-called ‘free response’ section in pencil. The adolescent automaton shook his head, before sinking it into his hands that were resting on the table.

He had always held that there was nothing ‘free’ about the response. One’s answer not only had to be obtained by following the rather mechanistic process outlined in the previous class but must ignore the countless assumptions that the question itself was making. While 89.42 was interested in scientific innovation, he was not interested in the mechanistic applications of an innovation. And now that very same, hypocritical free-response had cost him dearly.

After an excruciating hour of Science, 89.42 hurried to his locker deposit a doodle he had made in class. His locker was crammed with an odd collection of abstract paintings, sketches and doodles. Most of these artworks were his attempts to portray “abstract parallelism”. Lately he had found plane surfaces insufficient. It was for this reason that after depositing his latest scrawl, he proceeded to Art Room that housed his sculpture. As he jostled passed he peers, he noticed, as he did everyday, that they spent there lunchtime doing schoolwork. Furthermore, they again seemed clustered into groups with similar MI. A particularly noxious group of high achieving students, whose leader was a hundred, sneered at him as he walked past. “Cheating in Science? Well I’m not surprised. Remember the time he was absent and actually asked me if he could borrow my notes, for that day?” Said the hundred, watching 89.42.

“Its not that we see him as a threat,” Agreed the 99.76. “ But he’d barely comprehend the first page.”  89.42 ignored them. He was used to it by now.

Anyway, 89.42 had his sculpture for company. The moment he entered the room and touched the model, a jolt of energy seemed to whirl through his frame. His intense concentration often gave way to genuine excitement as he rolled the clay in his fingers, smoothing the edges. After half an hour of sculpting and increasingly jumpy behavior, the teen robot took a step back and admired his handiwork. A magnified DNA strand in the shape of infinity stood at the centre of the table. He was done. This was it! It suddenly occurred to him that the principal would be impressed with this particular piece of art. As if following orders, he carefully picked up his unbaked sculpture and proceeded to the principal’s office, which happened to be down the passage.

To 89.42’s surprise the principal invited him in immediately.  “ I’ve been expecting you, please put your artwork down and take a seat,” he said.

89.42 obeyed, glancing fearfully at the principal as he took his seat. The tall man was not only famed for his severity, but was rumored to have had a strange history.

“From your locker,” continued the aged machine, indicating a neatly stacked pile of 89.42’s “abstract parallelisms”.

89.42 gazed from his sculpture to his artwork, to the principal, dumbstruck.

The man laughed, “Are you wondering how I know about your artwork, or should I say, “abstract parallelisms”? Or is it how I knew you were coming to see me? “

The teen robot nodded, speechless.

“You had a chip planted in you when you first came here. It allows us to track your thoughts, but, more importantly, if you think of something, lets say “unique” you are programmed to come to me.”

89.42 found words. “My world is now…different…warped…Why are you telling me this now?”

The man was silent for a moment. Then he responded slowly, with almost mischievous glint in his eye. “ At Brave New Hill, that is the … let us say “reward” for being unique. Congratulations. You are not the first to malfunction, by the way” As he said the last words, he opened the door behind his chair with a flourish.

89.42 peered inside. In it he saw at least a dozen, dilapidated stacks of the same form, in clay, over and over again. It was a DNA strand merged with infinity. The principal picked up 89.42’s one and placed it with the others.

89.42 reeled. The principal was now watching him.

The broken boy started muttering to himself. “ All exactly the same. Unique? Huh! All exactly the s-”

The principal interjected “Not exactly the same, minor differences in scale. A handful of your doodles are almost genuinely unique.”

“What is “genuinely unique” mean anymore?”

“Interesting question, we robots have been wondering about that ever since we rid this planet of humans. In fact, I once claimed that creativity became extinct with the Homo sapiens sapiens. That was why I was made to leave my university position and come here-”

But 89.42 was not interested “MI kills creativity” he almost yelled.

“Robots have no creativity to kill. At least MI makes us productive.”

“Teachers misuse it. They take MI lightly, as if it doesn’t affect our future. At the same time, they use it to keep discipline.”

“They are just preparing you for your future. Nobody cares about your MI except you. They actually want you to succeed”

“MI will determine my future!”

“While you may care about your future, nobody else will. Especially at university.”

“Is it even possible to be successful in this system without an adequate MI?”

“Of course, in fact, its quite likely. While MI significantly increases your chances of success, its main benefit is in security.”

“The focus of classes is on parrot knowledge. We are not supposed to ask ‘why’, in order to achieve a high MI. Its preventing real learning”

The principal sighed.

“Do you think you are some sort of Bernard Marx? Or the Savage? Or should that be Bernard Marks?” The man chuckled slowly as he said this. He seemed to have made a decision. He continued.

“Well, let’s find out, shall we? I’ll play Mond. You have a choice. Either you leave this place, become a “unique”, crazy, malfunctioning, wild, homeless robot. And get your so-callled creativity. He paused and smiled ironically at the pile of doodles that had remained at the table.

“Or?” Inquired 89.42, breathless.

“Or, we reprogram your brain, remove the bugs. And you automatically start behaving normally.”

It was a no-brainer, really, for 89.42. Especially after what he had just learnt. But something was still perturbing him.

“My MI is so low. No matter what I do after you reprogram me. There is no way I can improve my MI to the high nineties required by universities in one term.”

The elderly automaton laughed again.

“Worried about you MI, are we? Well, its not difficult for us to accidentally reformat your MI, while reprogramming you…”

89.42 smiled. For the first time in years he felt the urge to become 100. He could get there. He just knew it.