Moral of the story

The moral of the story is one of the most essential parts of a story.

I’m going to save you the reading. I’ll tell you that if you have a story that you like to tell but it’s got no ending just add “the moral is this” then tell them.

You don’t have to read on but thank you in advance for doing so.

Let’s get on with it.

It took me a few years to understand adding a moral to a story.

Every story, whether you like it or not has a moral. It may not be a good one, it may not be a needed one, but hey, every story has one.

What’s your favourite story that you like to tell?

You probably have a few stories that you like to tell. They either make you a secret genius, or you’re comfortable enough that you don’t mind coming off as a bit of an arse. I bet that as you’re reading this right now, you imagine a few of those stories.

I am too.

There are a couple of stories that I like to tell over and over again. There’s the time I pulled in Brussels and almost ended up stranded in Europe. There was the fancy dress party where I made everyone cry. There’s also inside stories that my sister and I love reliving. Claire if you’re reading this, the goat on the road, “he has asthma he might die”. Oh and something to do with a wig that scared granny.

Now you might think that these stories don’t sound too great but you have them, and I have them. These stories have clear beginnings middles and ends. There is a message that doesn’t need overtly stated. You know a good story when you experience it.

What about the other stories?

You mean the ones that aren’t so good. The ones that have a beginning and a middle but no real ending.

Those are the stories that I want to talk about.

I have a couple of stories like that. I like telling them but they just kind of fizzle out rather than come to a definite end. Also I love telling them because they have enough detail and suspense present that they’re enjoyed. That is until I get to the end zone.

You know what it’s like you tell the story, and it’s over, but it has no end. You can see their faces can’t you? They’re looking at you expectant.

“Then what happened?”

“Well then I left”

“Did anyone say anything?”

“No”

“You just walked out of there?”

“Yeah, I thought the commissioner recognised me.”

“Oh.”

“But she didn’t”

“Oh”

Why do people keep asking questions

When people ask you questions like that what they’re doing is looking for some kind of closure to the story. If people ask what happens next, it’s because they are expecting some sort of conclusion. You didn’t provide them with one, you told an incomplete story. If people ask for details “What were they wearing”, “How did they react” it’s because they want to fully see the story in their head. You told a good story.

These incomplete stories, I’m going to tell you how to complete them.

It’s simple, you say “The moral of the story is” and then sum it up.

As an example, I’m going to tell you a story that I like to tell but has no end. Then I’ll give you the moral, and you’ll see that it’s an improvement.

Before you start reading let me give you advance warning that this will not be the best story of all time. With or without moral it’s not the best. Let’s manage our expectations accordingly, shall we?

Good.

Donegal Story

Back in school, before I’d turned 18, I spent a few weeks during summer out in Donegal. Four of us from school went. A friend invited us to his holiday house, and merrily we went.

There was a local pub that we went to. It was local by Donegal standards, in this case, a 45-minute walk on a country lane with no lighting. None of us could drive, and so my friend’s parents dropped us off.

The group of us sat in the pub and drank. I remember looking at some of the local men who sat in stoic silence at the bar not talking to each other. I told my friends that if I lived out in the wilds of the country, I’d try heroin. Only because what was the worst that could happen?

As the night went on, there was a band that was playing traditional music. Was never much of a fan but a friend asked me to request some song that I never heard of and can’t remember the name of. The singer gave me a historical lecture as to why they no longer sang that song.

The night grew longer. At some point, we’re all a little worse for wear now, the “boyos” arrived. They were loud and spotted us immediately. They crowded around our table. The boyos knocked into us on a few occasions sending precious booze spilling. They were doing it deliberately. I may have been drunk, but I wasn’t blind drunk. I saw them smirking and winking to one another.

The pub shut and we made our way out into the windy Donegal night and began the walk home. It was a 45-minute walk sober, God knows how long when pissed.

We walked, talked and stopped for toilet breaks. We passed a school that Padraig Pearse had taught at. Down the hill around the curve.

As we were walking, we noticed behind us lights getting closer in the distance. We kept walking.

The lights were closer, and we could hear an engine rattling getting louder. We all stood in close to the side of the road. Is it with or against traffic?

The vehicle passed, it was a bus. It pulled over and idled. My friends and I stopped in our tracks, the door of the bus opened, and several of the “boyos” appeared.

“Are you going to Seaview?” the largest of a large bunch asked.

It took us a moment before my friend who organised the trip offered, “No we’re having an early one tonight.”

“Fair enough,” says he before disappearing back inside the bus. The bus pulled off. In my drunken haze, feeling brave I shout at the bus pulling away, “Aye, fucking drive on you wankers”.

The bus stopped, and I returned to my natural cowardly disposition. The large one emerged from the smoke and the light.

“Did ye say something there lad.”

“Ehh, have a nice night,” I said. He nodded, disappeared and short after that so did the bus. The four of us left us alone, in the cold and dark with further to walk.

The moral is

Now that is where the story ends. If you liked the story, thank you but let’s add a moral. Imagine I’ve finished telling that story. Instead now right after the last line, I say “So the moral is if someone asks you are you going to Seaview you say yes”.

Might not be the best but it’s an improvement over the original.

Try it yourself.

So remember, the moral of this post is that you add a moral at the end.

Advertisements

Mountain Climb: Kill Phrase Engage Part 2

The knights needed to get up the mountain as fast as possible.

Despite being exhausted, the knights ascended the mountain. It was a steep climb. Remi could hear his young mind saying that it was not possible but that voice was faint a whisper.

The wind was gaining strength and speed the higher the three knights rose. Remi had never been this far west. He was born in the south-east, a small village that was surrounded by flat farmland. Remi struggled to believe that this part of the land was still in his country. He would remind himself that he was from Veromirel, but he had seldom been there. He had seen foreign shores to wage brutal wars. The blue sands of Balsino had been dyed red by whenever he left there. The narrow streets of Keruct clogged with the dead. The people of Keruct known for their diminutive stature. Affter he and his fellow knights of Gohla had cut them down they were shorter still.

The higher Remi climbed the further back he was taken by the beauty of his surroundings. A valley of mountains clumped together. Smoke rising from little towns that were somewhere out there.

As Remi looked out, he realised that he was looking eastward. East was where they had come from. The journey, the other four who started with them, his horse Hixen. It felt like a forever ago. They had covered so much ground in such a short space of time. The days stretched out, his perception had become distorted. Now he was here, barely a quarter way up a mountain. Climbing with the speed of someone wishing to escape a pursuing conflagration.

When Remi felt his spirit flag all that he would have to do was look up to see Falrod bounding.

It was as if some invisible harness aided Falrod. While personal details were forbidden, Remi suspected that Falrod was from somewhere near. Falrod had a rough face, descended from hill folk. It would explain his natural ability when it came to the scaling of the cliff face.

At the next admission ceremony, he would admit to having a certain amount of respect for Falrod. Here Remi was, getting ahead of himself. This journey had cost them several allies, and he might be another extension of the price.

There appeared to be an area of flat just above them. Remi figured to himself that if the other two were to stop for a rest, then he too could rest otherwise, it was upwards.

When Remi arrived at the level as his companions, he found that they were not alone. There was an encampment of twenty men. They were not expecting the intrusion. By their tents, there were casks of gold and jewellery. One of the men stood and immediately drew his sword.

“Oi, we stole this fair and square”, he said.

“To steal is to be most unfair,” said Falrod.

“Either way this is ours.”

“I pass not to question the ownership of your ill-gotten gains. I am simply a traveller on my way upwards under the command of the queen. Our path lies ahead. All that I ask is you stand aside.”

“You’re not taking it.”

“I agree, I am not, however, our way is through that cave.”

“Pick another way.”

“But I have already decided.”

Vilko and Remi closed in behind Falrod. The other men and women at the encampment had drawn their swords. Falrod had not brandished his steel. This meant that there was still a possible peaceful resoloution to the scenario.

“All we ask is for passage. My travellers and I will put our hands behind our backs, our noses to the sky. If we so much as let them dip you may have them for recompense.”

“This way is barred.”

“We are under time constraints, as knights of Halmodar we have a certain pedigree to maintain. You know our rule. Never to sheath a blade that has not quenched the blood of enemies.”

“You’re a little far out of the way, wouldn’t you say.”

“No distance is too far for my queen.”

“You’re going to have to go a little further than.”

“This is a shame, there’s no talking.”

“No there isn’t”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” said Falrod.

The three knights unsheathed their blades.

After they surveyed the remains of the camp.

“Let’s put this gold to some good use,” said Falrod.

“The day grows short.”

“This will only take a moment.”

The three of them pushed the plunder to the precipice and with a final shove sent it over the edge.

The three stepped over the bodies and followed the cave in the back.

The howl of the wind grew louder.

There was more climbing ahead of them. Remi has lost track of time he thought that it would still be daytime, but it seemed to be getting darker as they rose. HE put this down to exhaustion, new land and a constant throbbing where there was once a finger.

Remi took deep breaths. It was not much of a consolation. The other two appeared to be flagging in their upwards ascent, and that made him feel less of a failure.

The climb went on into the early evening. Remi did not know if there was an end in sight. There was a voice inside him that told him to just let go and tumble down to the ground. Let all the worries of this world slip away and have a well-earned rest.

There were moments when that thought sustained him.

Remi climbed on.

The climbing continued for several more hours.

The three knights reached a plateau.

They looked around at the surrounding area. The knights could see a small campsite over at the other side of the flat area. There was a river that flowed past the tent and over the edge. Remi licked his lips but waited for Falrod to take the lead. He would not drink until the other two had. Remi would also get a chance to inspect his hand better. That was if this was the place that they were supposed to come to.

Mirwolves: Kill Phrase Engage Part 1

The mirwolves were getting closer. Now the three of them were nearing the mountain. The mountain’s shadow had left the surrounding area in early darkness. Visibility was low but for Falrod, Vilkon and Remi that was the least of their problems.

The three men were being pursued by mirwolves. The hope was that once they had entered into the darker territory, the wolves would give up on the chase. That was not the case. The shiny coats that gave them their names made them more accessible to spot at night. That did not make them any less dangerous.

The three knights happened upon an unusually narrow point of the forest. Falrod stopped in his tracks and turned to the other two.

“This is where we make our stand.”

“Yes sir” Vilkon replied. The three of them stopped, turned and waited. The denseness of the forest lowered visibility. However, they could see the reflection of the mirwolves through the branches. The mirwolves would be on them soon enough. Vilko and Remi sought to steady themselves by the trunks of trees. Falrod stood in the most open part of the area.

“Here they come,” Falrod said, “on my signal”. The mirwolves bore down on them they were so close their paws breaking sticks could be heard. Falrod gave the signal, Vilko and Remi sprung from their spots to engage the mirwolves.

The mirwolves thick coats meant that piercing the hide was a more trying experience.

Remi struggled to find an exposed area with his opponent. As he circled it taking swipes with the sword, he caught a glimpse of Falrod in the periphery of his vision.

Falrod had an arm thrust entirely down the throat of a wolf.

Falrod was able to do this because he was one of the few that still had kept his armour.

Remi didn’t know where Vilko was. Taking inspiration from Falrod, Remi threw himself at his wolf. He attempted to get his arm around the neck of the wolf.

The beast bucked, but Remi held tight. Taking a short knife, Remi began to thrust into the underside of the wolf. He felt the piercing of flesh and then hung in all the tighter for it. The wolf yelped in pain and bucked all the harder trying to dislodge Remi, but Remi held on tight.

The beasts jumping and kicking declined in both frequency and ferocity. It hit against trees as it circled an are before finally, its legs gave up, and the creature went to ground. With one final shudder, the beast sighed out the last of the life in its body.

Remi smiled, but his victory was short lived.

He realised that his arm was stuck.

Falrod still had an arm down a throat of a mirwolf and was attempting to dislodge something within the gut. The wolf was biting down on the shoulder plates of Falrod’s armour which as a result was becoming more mangled.

Falrod would have to achieve victory soon or else his arm maybe forfeit. He was also fending off the attack of two other wolves at the same time. Falrod was known for his love of challenges. As the wolves attempted to bite, Falrod fended them off with his sword. He used the wolf he had inserted himself into as a shield.

Vilko emerged from undergrowth with the head of a mirwolf in his hand.

Remi was using all his strength to free his hand which in the meantime had gone numb due to the weight pressing down. One of the wolves that was attacking Falrod had peeled off and set their eyes on the vulnerable Remi.

“Vilko help,” said Remi. Vilko turned to see Remi but did not move. Remi realised that he would have to fight this one on his own. The mirwolf was approaching. Remi knew that he would only have one chance at this so he stood as much as he could. The mirwolf lowered himself down ready to pounce. Remi looked directly into the eyes of his predator. A flicker, the mirwolf jumped. Remi dropped flat. The mirwolf hit into the body of the slain pack member with such force that it rolled freeing Remi’s hand. The beast was stunned. Remi pulled his knife from the fallen wolf’s body. He grabbed the dazed one by the tail and thrusting the blade into a part of the wolf that was particularly tender. The mirwolf collapsed dead from the pain and bleeding. Thick black blood stained all of Remi’s knife and arm all the way up to the elbow.

Remi turned to see his colleagues. He saw that Falrod had yanked the innards from one of the wolves. Falrod was now forcing them down the throat of the other causing it to choke.

Falrod could be heard taunting the suffocating animal, “C’mon I thought you were hungry”. He held the beast’s mouth shut as it shook violently before succumbing to Falrod. Falrod seized the opportunity and sliced the wolf from jaw to belly making sure that it would not wake up.

The three knights stood victorious.

“I dare say Glarman’s bow would have been useful in engagement such as this,” said Vilko.

“Ay but Glarman is dead, and we worked with what he had. Still were victorious. Remi I heard you call for help.”

“That you did sir, a moment of temporary loss of control but that is no excuse. May I offer my ring finger, for no woman should enter union with a coward.”

“A good choice, present it please.”

“Yes, sir,” said Remi taking off the glove on his left hand. He exposed his ring finger on a nearby stump. Vilko brought his small axe up and brought it down quickly, severing the digit. A brief moment of intense pain and it was over. The finger came off in one swipe. Remi tore some undershirt and used it as a makeshift bandage to curtail the bleeding. He put the glove back on.

Falrod walked on ahead before shouting. “Now to get up the mountain.”

Banyon and his choice: Complete short story

Sir Banyon looked out over the battlements above the gate.

Banyon could see the small fires burning in the distance. There was movement in front of and behind the flames.

He strained, but he could not hear the crackling of wood, in fact, he could not hear much of anything. A profound silence had come with the darkness.

It was so quiet that Banyon could hear the dull thud of his heart. Banyon looked out to the ocean of darkness before the gate. The glisten of large blinking eyes gave away the horde that waited beyond the gate. Banyon reached out and steadied himself on the stone wall. He slumped forward taking the weight off his feet.

“Sir Banyon, the Queen, requests your company,” said a voice from below. Banyon straightened himself up and descended the ladder.

At ground level, Banyon observed the scene. Foot soldiers were busying themselves, sharpening swords and reinforcing barricades. Banyon saw a one-foot soldier with wood standing staring at the gate lever. The foot soldier was in a trance. Banyon approached him.

“Let me lighten your load,” Banyon said taking several blocks from the soldier. The soldier did not respond. “Hey,” Banyon said, the soldier turned to face him, “Let’s get these logs to the shed”.

Banyon and the foot soldier deposited the wood in a shed. “Here, you have my permission to take some extra soup,” Banyon said handing the soldier a coin. The foot soldier nodded and ran in the direction of the mess hall.

Banyon saw Vrigamere talking with some other men. They huddled around a map illuminated by an overhead lamp. Vrigamere saw Banyon approaching and dismissed his council.

“The queen has requested your presence,” Vrigamere said.

“I am aware if she dies of waiting that is a better end than the rest of us are likely to meet,” Banyon said.

“You are more likely to die from making her wait.”

“See how highly strung the men are. The gate lever speaks to them; I caught a man listening”

“The orcs don’t have access to such wizardry.”

“I don’t think they do either. Whatever the cause of bewitchment all it takes is one pull, and our planning has been for nought.”

“We could sabotage the contraption,” said Vrigamere.

“No I don’t want to go down in history as the one who broke the Grand Gate of Tulluthcarr,” Banyon said.

“You don’t need to worry about going down in history sir, I’ve heard the songs that orcs sing to each other”

“I want an archer in the west tower. If someone comes within a pikes distance, then you are to shoot them until dead.”

“Yes sir, permission to speak freely.”

“Always”

“You look, terrible sir, get some sleep.”

“I reckon that I only have a few more hours of consciousness left in this life, I want to see as much as I can,” Banyon said. A soldier approached Vrigamere, “Right to see what her highness wants”. The two men saluted each other. Banyon walked in the direction of the keep.

Tulluthcarr was a shadow of its former self. Once a jewel of the west now a groove where a jewel once laid. The cobbled stones that were the streets were always wet despite it having not rained in over a week.

Banyon was glad that it was dark. The city in the sunlight made him sad. Emaciated women were carrying skeletal children. Sometimes the babes in arms were already dead. People wanting to separate mother and the dead newborns. Not to ease her suffering but that they might get nourishment.

The orc invasion took Talluthcarr by surprise. Banyon remembered submitting reports of orc advancement. Banyon also recalled superiors casting aside those reports.

“Orcs are creatures of habit. They never venture a days journey from their cave,” Sir Igniol said at one of the conflict councils.

Banyon remembered arguing for reinforcements in the outer townships. Banyon was right; they were wrong. He was alive; they were dead. Banyon envied his fallen colleagues. Eternal rest, no decisions to make.

As Banyon made his way towards the keep, he heard a groaning. He looked towards the source of the sound. Banyon could make out the silhouette of a group of children picking at something. Banyon put a hand on his sword and approached.

“Get get” shouted Banyon pulling his sword halfway out of the sheath.

The children hissed and scattered. Banyon stood over what they had been picking at, an old man. The children had gnawed the fingers from his left hand.

“Thank you, sir,” the old man said, frail, hard to hear.

“They will return once I have left,” Banyon said.

“I know sir, could you afford me small mercy?” The old man said. Banyon nodded.

Banyon knelt down close in front of the old man and removed a small knife.

“My biggest fear was the birds would eat my corpse, not the young to eat my living body. I was a traveller from” the old man started, but Banyon cut him off.

“Old man I will do my utmost to ease your suffering, quicken your passing. Please, the last thing the air need carry is another tale of woe. Now, give me your hand.” Banyon said taking off a glove. “Your good hand, that’s it”

“I don’t need my palm read, I know my fate,” said the old man, smile on his face.

“You have a good humour old man considering your circumstance, but I don’t wish to tell you your future,” Banyon said.

“Then what need have you for my hand, I hope you are not peckish yourself.”

“When I part from this plane I would like someone to hold my hand. I would rather feel the warmth of another rather than the cold of steel. Look at the stars; the clerics say that is where we come from and that is where we return”.

Banyon slid the blade underneath the old man’s ribcage as he spoke. The old man gasped, shuddered and was dead.

Banyon watched the old man for a moment longer to make sure that he was gone. The knight continued along the road to the keep.

Banyon entered the keep.

He could see the aristocracy, their little dress half eaten by insects. They may have nibbled on it themselves in their struggle with hunger.

Banyon smiled and walked towards the stairwell. Before he got there a guard with sunken eyes stopped him.

“Sir, the Queen, requests your company in the throne room,” the sunken-eyed guard said.

“The throne room is back in the palace, no one goes to the palace,” said Banyon.

“That was the old one; there is a new one now in the ale store,” sunken eyes said. Banyon nodded and went on his way.

The door to the ale store had become lopsided and dragged along the ground. It was heavy as Banyon lifted it to open more. Upon entering Banyon saw the barrels and at the far end, there was the queen. A throne of barrels improvised for her to sit. As Banyon approached, he saw Miregard on her left-hand side. Someone was standing before them, slouched forward, head bowed. It was not until Banyon passed the person that he could see that it was Flotsom. Flotsam the court jester, a grey blanket, holes left by moths covering a long stained shirt. Barefoot, bare legged, cuts on every part of exposed flesh and knees shaking.

Banyon approached the throne, bowed then instructed to rise with a gesture from the queen.

“Gald that you could join us Sir Banyon,” Miregard said.

“To be of service is to live in pleasure,” Banyon said.

“A great injustice has occurred,” said Miregard

“Yes, the men are exhausted. We’re not getting the required reinforcements.”

“Silence,” the queen said.

“We talk not of military matters, something far closer to home,” Miregard said.

“I see,” said Banyon.

“That is why you are to bear witness to this trial”

“Formal trials can wait for there is a far more pressing one that we must deal with.”

“How do you expect an army to stand united if there is discord in the ranks?”

“You speak of mutiny?” said Banyon

“Worse, insubordination, Flotsom has been found to be a dealer of offensive material.”

“Present it then,” said Banyon.

“It is not physical; it is spoken, the words wildfire burning through the keep.”

“He is a jester; it is his job to lighten the mood of the court.”

“Not when the queen herself put restrictions on merriment, Flotsom is in breach.”

“And I am to be his defence,” said Banyon

“No, we have you here as a formality, to bear witness, so that there are no accusations of a secret trial. When they ask you was justice done, you are to say yes.”

“As a knight, it is one of my sacred duties. If you want me to respond in the affirmative, then I must see justice done.”

“You always find a way to slow progress,” Miregard said.

“You’re trying to say that killing someone over the killing of a joke is the most important matter for us right now. I disagree with that; there are far more pressing concerns upon us that need to be addressed.”

“And you will want to attend those concerns promptly, all you need to do is agree to the set conditions.”

“I would ask to postpone the trial until a later date. Provided there is one.”

“It would take more effort to abandon the trial now. Seeing as it is so close to the end of proceedings, all you need to do is say yes.”

“I must know what I agree to.”

“You know Banyon, your insistence on slowing us down is what is causing the real problems.”

“Fine, get on with it.”

“Well, we were wrapping up, closing statements.”

“I need to see the evidence.”

“Repeat yourself Banyon; I did not hear you.”

“I am to send a man to his death over a joke then at least let me hear it so that I may judge.”

“That would not be appropriate.”

“Unless he has denied that he has told the joke.”
“That is irrelevant; it doesn’t matter if he told the joke or not.”

“You don’t even know if he told the joke, that isn’t fair,” said Banyon.

“He is the court jester; he has a responsibility for humour.”

“Flotsom, the devils come for you.”

“Do not speak of devils in these times.”

“The joke, let me hear it.”

Miregard looked at Flotsom and nodded.

“It’s more visual humour than anything,” Flotsom said lying down on the stone floor. Flotsom lay on his back. Folding himself in two, bringing his legs over his head he began to moan and convulse as if possessed by a demon.

“I don’t get it; this is neither funny or offensive,” Banyon said.

“Hold on,” Miregard said, “Flotsom, tell me the name of this piece.”

“I call it, “The Queen next week,” Flotsom said.

“Right that is enough,” said Miregard. Flotsom got back to his feet. There was a smirk noticeable on his face.

“That isn’t a joke Miregard,” said Banyon.

“I agree it was the worse judged attempt at humour I have ever seen.”

“That’s not what I am saying. A joke is a small truth exaggerated. What Flotsom did was a big truth diminished. Nothing in that act was untrue. Flotsom is being tried for telling the truth.”

“Remember yourself Sir Banyon,” the Queen said.

“With how things are going, Flotsom’s piece will be regarded as an act of prophecy. The orc will get through that gate, and they will take you as plumbers do an old pipe. They will plug every leak.”

“There is no need to be so coarse.”

“There may be no need, but there are those out there who will not care for need and only concern themselves with want. As for me and my needs. I need to get back to the gate.”

“If you need to get back to the gate then there is nothing stopping you except for one thing.”

Banyon looked at Flotsom. Flotsom raised his head and met Sir Banyon’s gaze.

“The kingdom is at stake,” Banyon said.

“I understand Sir,” Flotsom said. “I would sooner be dead than the horror that will be coming through that gate. You lot will look at me with envy. Her highness will wish that those who have their way were as gentle as my joke. Although roughness
may give her the pleasure that she so badly needs.”

“Get on with it,” the Queen said.

“Very well,” said Miregard. Miregard turned went out through a door and when he returned there was an axe wielder with him.

Banyon took off a glove. A crate was dropped in front of Flotsom. The axe-wielder forced Flotsom to his knees and his head on the box. Banyon approached and held Flotsom’s hand.

“Get away from him,” Miregard said.

“I only mean to help ease his passing.”

“His passing should not be easy; he was instigating insubordination.”

“Fine, then I am no longer needed here. Dismiss me so that I may be able to return to the gate.”

“Very well,” The Queen said.

Banyon bowed and left for the gate.

As Banyon approached the gate, he saw the lever. Banyon continued to walk towards the lever. He heard their shouts and cries. Banyon felt the strike of the arrows. Banyon slowed but continued forward. More arrows, his hand reached the lever.

Surry gation Anxiety: Complete short story

Date with a Surry

“I have a date. With my surry” Derrick said without warning. The waitress set the drink on the table in front of him.

“Sure,” she replied uninterested, unphased and, unlistening. Derrick looked up; an overhead light shone in his eyes. The shine stopped him from reading the name badge. It prevented him from personalising the interaction any further.

Derrick flashed a brief, fake smile at her silhouette standing over him. She in her politeness returned the gesture.

As she turned to walk away, he finally saw the name Ciara emblazoned on the badge.

She must be new as he had never encountered her before. Ciara, the waitress, walked back over to her till on the other side of the cafe.

The cafe had few people in it, couples. They were cosying up to one another as unending soft jazz filtered into patron’s ears.

The shop floor was expansive, littered with round tables and hard chairs. If there was ever a need, it could seat one hundred, but there never was.

The café’s popularity had waned since it was opening many years ago.

Now the skeleton crew that was its staff did all it could to keep it ticking over.

Derrick still liked the place and was one of the few remaining regulars. Derrick came to this cafe for two reasons; the first was for meeting his surry. The second was they did the best hot chocolates in town.

Derrick looked down at his beverage, the awning of the cup chocked with cream and marshmallow. He thought that they always skimped on the marshmallow, even when he paid for extra.

Derrick plucked a marshmallow from the cup. He held it to his mouth and sucked it from his hand swallowing it in one gulp. He looked at the cream that was making the descent from his fingers to his wrist.

Derrick licked each finger. He had now created a clean patch on his skin. Derrick knew he would have to shower but leaving it another day or two wouldn’t make much difference.

Taking a spoon, Derrick began fishing out the clumps of grime.

Derrick tried not to push the flecks into the melting mallows. He pushed the dark intruders to one side of the cup. Lifting them out so as not to let them slip through the tiny gap between cup and spoon.

Derrick grew impatient, pressed the spoon too hard and managed to tip the cup over. Derrick did all he could to save the contents of the cup.

The teaspoon slid across the table. It slipped through a gap between the table and window. The spoon hit the ground near his feet. Derrick did his best to locate the spoon with his feet.

After a considerable struggle, he relented. Derrick and bent down to perform a more thorough search. At his size, even this small task put a strain on his heart causing his breath to shorten.

Looking down he could not see the spoon but knew that it was there somewhere. Derrick managed to get the spoon back to hand by pure chance.

Derrick sat upright.

Another man had joined him at the table.

“Are you trying to give me a heart attack Nick?” Derrick said, “Because I can’t pay you if I’m dead.”

“Are you trying to give me a heart attack Nick?” Derrick said, “Because I can’t pay you if I’m dead.”

“You can’t still be at risk? You’re looking much better these days,”, Mick said.

Nick always complimented Derrick’s appearance at the beginning of their interactions. This was partly to encourage him but more because he had nothing to say.

Derrick had transformed over the period that the two had known each other.

Derrick’s face was becoming one with his chin which in turn was joining his neck.

Derrick’s face was more akin to that a miserable cliff than that of a human. “How’s work?” Nick said to curtail an ever-expanding silence.

“Don’t talk to me about it, another mine closed,” Derrick said.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Nick said, “Something will come along.”

“Thank goodness; I was almost worrying.”

“You’ve been through worse.”

“I have?”

“You always pull through.”

“Otherwise we’d be done,” Derrick said.

“And we wouldn’t want that.”

“Unless you want to work for free?”, Derrick said. The lack of response from Nick spoke volumes, “Thought so.”

“I’m a diligent employee but not a charity. You wouldn’t want to give a surry no money. They find a way of getting paid.”

“So you are like the others?” Derrick said.

“I’m speaking on behalf of the unpaid surries out there. You keep a flow going so, that scenario isn’t applicable. Have you given any more thought to that cruise?”

“Seeing as I may be running out of money in the next month or so I’ll say it’s received the appropriate amount of thought.”

“thought I’d mention it.”

“If you want to top up your tan, do it on your own time.”

“I do.”

“Your natural tan then.”

“What’s the difference?” Nick said, “You should consider getting one yourself, you’ll look even healthier.”

“More money I don’t have spent on things I don’t want. I like that, put that on my gravestone.”

“I’ll never get that self-deprecation thing you do down. It’s the one part of you I haven’t got right.”

“It’s not self-deprecating when it’s true.”

“You need a holiday.”

“I do, but when I get the chance, I want to be the one going on it.”
Derrick said.

“You will.”

“I mean physically,” Derrick said. He had drunk the majority of his hot chocolate. Melted mallow sat at the bottom of the cup, turning into a gooey mush, unable to move, trapped. Derrick reached in dragged it up the side of the cup and placed it in his mouth and gulped.

“Shall we?” Nick asked.

Derrick nodded.

Nick leaned over and opened up the black satchel beside his feet. He took out a device with several ports and placed it in the centre of the table, the Emphatic 2.2. Not the latest model but it did the job.

“You’re going to have to update that soon,” Derrick said looking down at the device. The device had a few more blemishes on it’s surface than it did the last time. “Some of those early memories are starting to get a little fuzzy,” Derrick said.

“Degradation’s part of it.”

“Forgetting is happening too quickly for my liking.”

“If you want a clearer longer lasting memory I’ll have to upgrade the hardware. I need money for that, and since you’re the only one I surry for, it’s up to you.”Nick said.

Nick took out a small display and attached it to the Emphatic. Images flashed before his eyes. Derrick tried to get a look. “Do you want to see it or do you want to remember it?”.

Derrick said nothing, he sat back in his chair, folded his arms and looked out to the street. The steady traffic of people was becoming more infrequent. The business district was shut down for the evening.

Derrick looked back over to Nick.

“What’s taking so long?” Derrick asked.

“I wouldn’t want any of my memories getting in there. It’d bore you, gym, football, meaningless one night stands and way too much masturbation. Nothing you’d want to see.” Nick said.

“Name a price,”

“They’re not for sale,” Nick said. Derrick’s eyes narrowed, “And on that note here we are, date night. Before we go on, I’m going to need payment up front this time.” Derrick was silent, “I have a few outstanding payments with other people, I need it now.” said Nick.

“You can’t wait a few minutes?”

“Oh I can, it’s just that the people I owe to, can’t.”

“You taking again?” asked Derrick.

“Couple of previous clients are in there pretty deep. Every time I think I’m rid of them, those memories come bubbling back up. Wouldn’t want that interfering with yours”, Nick said.

“Get them vaped, I’ll pay for that”

“I’ve heard vaping causes long-term memory damage, I’ve been getting some Ignoral from a friend.”

“This friend, the impatient one?”

“Send me your dignautre”. Derrick took out his phone, made a few gestures and then looked at Nick. Nick took out his phone and received a notification.

Derrick watched as Nick sent the money on, “That should brighten up some people’s evening”. Nick put his phone away and smiled at Derrick, “It’s ready.” Nick said.

Derrick put on the headgear. It looked odd but was minimal enough not to attract too much attention, not that anybody would care. An image faded in, Derrick sees through Nick’s eyes. The image flickers. “Could you mute the blinking?” Derrick asked.

Nick did so.

The image remains constant. Derrick is in a room, a familiar one, his bedroom. Derrick in Nick’s body sits on a futon. He picks up the drink beside him and downs it in one. A tap runs in an en-suite. Steam floats through the door into the bedroom and dissipates. The flow of the tap stops and a woman exits the en-suite.

Stands and walks towards her. Their hands meet, fingers rub and stroke against each other. Derrick notices the woman wearing a beautiful yellow dress accentuating her tan. Something else catches his eye.

“She prettied it up,” Derrick said to himself in the cafe unheard by Nick.

A pale pink line starts between her breasts goes down her chest. The accident happened early on in their marriage. One day she was a keen cyclist the next she was not.

Derrick wondered if Nick ever noticed the scar if it gives him shivers the same way it did him. There were certain things that Nick could give to Derrick’s wife. Some things were only ever going to be between Derrick and Catlin.

Catlin asks if they can talk. Derrick let out a sigh, “Forward” he said to Nick. Nick obliged him.

The images speed up.

Through the talking, which goes on for quite a while and through a cab journey. Time slows and resumes normal speed in a cinema. His hand reaches down and picks up popcorn and shovels it into his mouth.

“Salted?” Derrick tastes it, “Why am I eating salted?”

“Ladies choice,” Nick said, although he is only inches away his voice is that of a disembodied ghost in his head. Did Nick eat salted deliberately Derrick wondered.

“What the hell am I watching”, Derrick demanded.

The film has subtitles, there is no way Derrick would ever watch this kind of thing by choice. Catlin loved this kind of movie. Due to strict anti-piracy laws concerning surries, Derrick could never see top-tier blockbusters. Derrick could never understand what he wanted.

Derrick becomes impatient, “Give me a breakdown.”

“Croatian, first time director. Has a rawness that comes through in the camera work. The minimal story doesn’t quite adhere to logic. Several strong vignettes deal with life after a war”. Nick said.

“Any tits?” Derrick asked.

“No,”

“Forward”.

The images speed up again.

Derrick is sitting with Catlin in a restaurant, food in front of him. A fork in his hand delivers the meat to his mouth.

Sensors in the Emphatic fire up taste synapses. It’s a sweet chicken dish causing Derrick’s mouth back in the cafe to salivate. An inferno ignites in Derrick’s mouth.

“What the hell is this?”

“Chicken Bhuna”

“My brain is going to make my IBS flare up, you know that right, my brain is stupid like that”, Derrick said.

First salted popcorn, now spicy food. Nick was doing this deliberately. Nick was messing with him.

“Derrick, Derrick?” comes a voice from somewhere out of eye line. A man stands at the table, hand thrust out, Bill Carthage. “Great to see you here Derrick, Catlin. Derrick, have you got a chance to review those forms?”

“Did I get them?” Derrick asked Nick back in the cafe.

“You never gave me anything to say.”

In the restaurant, there is silence.

“Take your time sure and get back to me on that,” Bill says, he walks away, returning to a table to sit on his own.

Derrick smiles, for all his looks, his style and colossal wealth Bill seems to have a pretty empty existence. Bill is proof that nice guys finish alone.
Catlin spoke, “Derrick, can we talk?”.

“Does she ever want to do anything else? If I wanted to talk to her, I would make time for her. Let’s skip to the good stuff” Derrick said.

“Sure?”, Nick asked.

“Yes, I am sure,” Derrick said, his impatience growing. The images sped up once more until Derrick recognises his bedroom again,

“Here we go.”

Derrick was kissing his wife through Nick; he could taste her. Derrick enjoyed the kiss, and it manifested itself as a slight groan in the cafe. Nick heard it only slightly.

“Are you sure about this?” Catlin asked.

“Jesus Christ I am sure,” Derrick said.

In the memory, Nick answers on Derrick’s behalf in the affirmative.

Catlin turns and goes into the bathroom. The lights in the room dim. Her figure emerges, silhouetted by the bathroom light.

The light turns off.

She disappears into the bed under the covers. Nick undresses as he dives into a sea of blanket and comfort. Derrick feels the tingling begin in his crotch. The pleasure was cascading down his spine like warm water.

Derrick sees the main reason he hires Nick. While Derrick may not be able to give his wife the pleasure she deserves, but he can afford a person who could.

Derrick feels the passion of their kissing, her body relaxing into his. He slides into her with ease.

Both inhale sharply.

If Derrick were ever to try to do something similar, it would take far longer than this. Fatigue would set in before anything substantial had occurred. Even if he could rise to the occasion, the centre would not hold.

This was the best alternative for everyone. The surrogate was carrying out the physical tasks of being a husband. Derrick would provide the much-needed finance. The kissing stops. She rolls on her stomach. Fingers wetted, and nipples rubbed. His right-hand pushes her upper half down and shapes her back to bring her ass up further.

Derrick’s brain can’t tell the real from memory. Electrons fire, sending messages throughout Derrick’s body.

Derrick tenses up, and his breathing restricts. It takes a moment for Derrick to reassure his body that this isn’t real and to enjoy it.

Back in the cafe, Derrick’s moans increased in volume and length. Nick was aware and becoming more uncomfortable. He had heard the groans of his employer before, but repeated exposure did not make them any more bearable.

Nick cast a stealthy glance across the cafe to make sure that they were not arousing any suspicion. No one seemed to notice. Everyone was wrapped up in themselves. Everyone except the waitress who was staring right at Nick. She knew exactly what was going on.

Derrick went quiet, tilting his head. Nick watched him.

“Go back,” Derrick said.

“No, review it in your own time.”

“Something’s not right.”

“I have places to be.”

“Go back and pause.”

“Alright, say when” Nick rewound date night. Derrick signalled him to stop. The evening froze before him, his wife on her back with her face obscured by a pillow. “You can review this as much as you want in your own time”.

Derrick sat motionless. Within the viewer, his eyes scanned the room.

He had seen something that struck him as not right, but he ignored that notion. Finally, Derrick realised that what was wrong was not what was there but what wasn’t there.

“Where’s her scar?” Derrick asked. The question set off an avalanche of other issues that were in his mind. Derrick noticed something in the image. Off on the sidelines, a slight light reflected in what limited glow there was in the room. There was a person in the bathroom watching the pair make love.

The light was reflecting of glitter, glitter used to pretty up a scar, his wife’s scar. It was Catlin standing in the bathroom, watching him. Who was having their face mashed into the headboard?

Nick would know. Derrick removed the headgear to find an envelope sitting in front of him. Derrick opened the envelope and withdrew its contents. “Divorce,” Derrick said,

“Where did this come from?”

“My bag.”

“That’s not what I meant”

“It’s been there a while.”

“What are you talking about, she hasn’t said anything.”

“She has you just skipped those parts,” Nick said, Derrick looked at him blankly.

“Put it on.”, Derrick said.

Derrick put the headset back on. Nick manipulated the evening taking him back to the start of the evening where she first wanted to talk.

“Derrick, this is it,” Catlin says within the memory, “Derrick if you go through with this it’s over. I can’t wait forever, please this isn’t a memory you want to own, is there anything you have to say?” Derrick had not been keeping up with his memories, so Nick sat silently in the room, “OK”, she said.

Derrick took off the headset and looked up at Nick, “I’m going to have to ask for that money back.”

“You already bought it, and the money is gone, you consented to this memory.”

“You tricked me, you never gave me any warning.”

“It’s not up to me to warn you, I get the memories, it’s up to you to remember,” Nick said.

“This isn’t fair.”

“You know what isn’t fair, having to sit and watch a wonderful person ripped apart. Having to hear her plead with you but I can’t respond because you can’t even bother to listen. The worst thing is that she was always going to give you a chance after chance. You were going to keep ignoring her so yes, I wasn’t entirely honest. If you had been doing your bit, listening, you wouldn’t have fallen for it. “

“You’re not supposed to get involved.”

“You’re not supposed to be skimming my pay. Like I said surries find a way of getting even.”

“Now what?”

“Fire me.” Nick packed his gear away and rose from the table. Derrick sat unblinking, unsure of what happened. Nick left the cafe. Derick remained there for quite some time.

Nick walked down the street, a smile crept onto his face. He smiled because he got one over on his former employer and because now they were free to be together. He saw Catlin parked up ahead. Nick tried to keep calm, but his step quickened. Catlin didn’t see Nick. He approached her passenger side. He knocked on the window she looked up at him and lowered.

“Nick”, she said.

“Where are we off to?”

“We?”, she looked around, “Oh.” Bill Carthage exited the restaurant and got into the car beside Catlin. Bill ignored Nick.

“What’s this?” Nick asked.

“You didn’t, I am so sorry, I thought you knew,” she said, “I mean you’re a surry for god’s sake.”

“I thought.”

“Surries shouldn’t think”.

“Shall we?” Bill said interjecting.

Catlin nodded, she gave a look at Nick. The car disappeared around a corner.

A woman approached Nick, she was pretty and had a big smile on her face.

“Nick,” she said, “It’s me, Catlin, we have a date.”

“Sure”.