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Friday, April 19, 2013

And A Child Shall Lead Them

This is a short (1800 words) story for the second leg of the Midnight Fiction writing competition. The given genre is Sci-Fi. The story must include these elements: Olympics and personal trainer. I am now one of 125. The contest had 650 to start. If this story is in the top five against 25 others in my genre, Sci-Fi, then I will compete against 25 for the title. Fingers crossed! --Dedicated to the victims of craziness at this year's Boston Marathon


Before the disappearance of the ozone layer, before the first atomic skirmish and before the Age of Chaos, there was a world we knew. Can the New Humankind find a path back to a civilization when time, genetics and life made sense?  


“Look Addie!” Liam said turning the poster toward her. “They are actually going to revive the competition. I guess they think it is time. They’re calling it The New Olympics, probably because they want to convey new hope. Listen to this… “


The World Federation hereby announces

A grand competition, open to
all with skills and talents
to amaze and offer
a token of togetherness
to the new world order
for all humankind.

This is a
to promote a coming together
of all people
at last, united again.

“Do you think that Jacob could… ”

“STOP LIAM! Don’t you believe that Jacob has suffered far too much already? Genetic mutations have blinded him and he has felt our trauma. He is only six and he has… ”

“But he is special, Addie. We’ve talked about that. He has a remarkable tenderness… and compassion… something these catastrophic days have taken from us. The boy has qualities for good that our new world has rarely seen. He is bright and old enough to share… and we are needing to care.”

The Aussies hosted the last ‘old style’ Olympic games before the world went mad. Things were certainly different then. Swimming and track and field… that’s what they did. Certainly, there would be no swimming now since clean water has become too precious to spoil with thick-skinned, scaly bodies that shade us from the merciless sky. And today’s people were not made to run and jump as in past days. Shorter legs to better steady the body on an unstable soil is the new ‘six-pack.’ This ‘Super Olympics’ will be far, far different. Has the world got talent other than hiding and killing? God only knows.

Centuries ago Charles Darwin, an English naturalist, alit from his ship, the Beagle, onto the Islas Galapagos and formulated the most accepted theory of evolution of that time. His book, The Origin of Species, still stands as the definitive text in understanding the adaptation of man and monkey alike in a changing world.

What Darwin could not fathom at the time, nor could anyone until after the change, was how evolution could proceed at such a break-neck pace. If a Galapagos tortoise could live 170 years, how could one adapt faster than at turtle-pace?

That was before the disappearance of the ozone layer, before the first atomic skirmish and before the Age of Chaos when the world held 9 billion souls. That was before the advent of New Humankind. While even the earth beneath our feet quivered and half of its land mass became uninhabitable, there has been but one constant: Man is resilient.

In the mere 500 years since Darwin’s revelation, man is back and there is a new spring in his step. There have been 30 years of peace and man is giddy. It has been a slow movement to this point but the New World sees it as a time to breathe once again.

Jacob was excited to learn that he would participate in the upcoming New Olympics. Of all within Liam and Addie’s realm, Jacob was the one who most carried in him the hope of a different future. He possessed the innocence and qualities that once filled the civilized world before being buried by fear, loss, hate and revenge. That he was blind was of no consequence. He was simply one of millions who had no sight. He blessedly escaped a deaf birth in an age where many children are born without ears.

Jacob had a tenderness that seemed rarer yet.

“But what will I do?” Jacob asked. “What is my skill?”

“Do not worry, Jacob. Grandmother will teach you. She will show you the path. You will spend the months remaining before the contest with Grandmother,” Liam told him. “She will show you.”

“But Grandmother is very old…”

“She is well over 100 years… perhaps the oldest still on earth… and she is rich in her memories and stories passed down from her grandmother. She knows much of the past… much that has been lost in our struggles.”

“But dad, mom… I want to be with you.”

“It is only until the competition. Then we will all be together again. Grandmother is expecting you. We will take you to her tomorrow.”

“Welcome Jacob. “ Grandmother greeted him with a hug. “I have longed for someone wanting to share my stories. I am very happy you are with me. Now it is late. Get ready for bed and I will be in to say good night.”

“Are you ready, Jacob?”

“Yes, Grandmother. Please come tuck me in.”

With a smile, Grandmother settled into her rocker beside Jacob’s bed. “Jacob,” she said, “I am going to tell you a story my grandmother told me… one she learned from her grandmother who learned it from hers. It is called Sleeping Beauty.”

            Once upon a time…

… A few days later, the castle that only a short time before had lain in silence, now rang with the sound of singing, music and happy laughter at the great party given in honour of the Prince and Princess, who were getting married…

… And they lived happily ever after.

“Oh Grandmother… I really liked that story. Is it true?”

“Well, some say it is true in your heart… and that is the best place.”

The next night, Jacob could hardly wait for his story.

“Now I shall tell you the story of a girl named Cinderella,” Grandmother said.

            “Once upon a time… ”

And for many evenings to come, Grandmother told Jacob about a man named Aesop who lived a very long time ago. “He had wonderful stories and I shall tell you all I remember.”

And so it went… every night at bedtime… and sometimes after lunch… and whenever the time seemed right. Grandmother told Jacob many tales.

She told Jacob about the stories of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis and Maurice Sendak and Hans Christian Andersen and E.B.White… and all the others her mind and her notes kept fresh to pass along. And Jacob ended every story with a plea: “Tell me more Grandmother. Just one more please.”

Finally, it was the last night before the competition and Jacob had become so rich with Grandmother’s stories that he didn’t want to leave.

“Grandmother, please. I am not ready. All this time and I haven’t learned anything for the contest. Grandmother, I am frightened. What will I do? What shall I say?

“Why Jacob,” said Grandmother, stroking his head that last bedtime, “just tell them a story… and if they like that, tell them another.

The big day of the start of the New Olympics was at hand. Mom and dad had dressed Jacob in new clothes and told him how proud they were that he would be performing at the competition.  Frightened but courageous, Jacob gave them each a hug and was escorted down the long hallway to wait his turn.

The arena, which was filled with more than 100,000 people, was decorated in colorful ribbons and an abundance of flowers and banners with slogans of the new togetherness. People of the world were very anxious to watch and participate in something that had meaning other than war… something where all could cheer and yell for the same good reason. It had been so very long…

After what seemed like hours of festivities… bands playing, girls and boys dancing in rhythm and soldiers from all lands leading a large parade to throw their weapons of death into a large fire pit as a token of a new time, the announcer said, “Let the games begin!”

The multitude stood and roared its approval.

The first competitor was a tall, other world man with clawed hands and very short legs. The crowd cheered as he ran around the track as fast as he could. The people were amazed that such a simple skill could be so overwhelming. Next was a group of 100 blind women and men who demonstrated how they could knit and crochet… a forgotten art in these days… and the crowd approved. It had truly been that long.

The third, the fourth and the fifth and onward showed various forgotten skills as tricks with ropes, lifting very heavy objects, dancing on ones toes and the like. How utterly refreshing! The crowd enjoyed the show and all its pomp and ceremony. But the day was long and the applause began to wane.

Finally, the announcer introduced the day’s last competitor most simply… “Ladies and gentlemen, the child Jacob.”

The tiny figure was lead down the long path to the center of the arena. He was dwarfed by its enormity.  Jacob sat quietly in a simple chair, tailored to his size. Some in the crowd yawned as others rose to leave. A blind child offered no promise. A murmur ran through the impatient mass. That was quite enough excitement for the day.

The announcer sternly rebuked them. “STOP! Listen to this last contestant.” And being used to taking orders from others, the crowd stopped and sat.

When all was quiet and dusk was near, a microphone was adjusted to Jacob’s small stature and he began to speak in his soft, child’s voice.

“Once upon a time… ”

Jacob told story after story since no one told him to stop. There was no applause. There was no rise to leave. There was nothing… except listening, which makes no noise at all.

When Jacob was finally done, no one moved. No one spoke. No one applauded. Everyone just sat.

They sat and cried. They sat and hugged. They sat and remembered what their world was like at some time very long ago… a time of reflection… a time of love… a time of anything other than war. A wonderful time. A wonderful time.

Somewhere, at Eden Hospital in a large city, a child was born to a blind mother and a father with scaled skin and short, stocky legs. The child had ears. The child saw. The child’s skin was smooth and soft. The child was free of every genetic symbol of the world of today and reminiscent of what came before. The child carried the promise for all humankind that life is good and love is forever important… and living can begin again.

The child cried and stretched its tiny arms to be wanted.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr. Seuss

1 comment:

  1. First of all I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question in which I'd like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I've
    had trouble clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there.
    I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually
    wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints?

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