57 plus 02: As Time Goes By

Posted: 19 August 2021 in 57 plus, 57 plus new fiction, fiction, new fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, sparked by an image I come across entirely by chance, usually while looking for something else entirely.

As often as not, I have no idea why the image appeared in a search for something else, and equally as often as not, I have no idea why that image sparked a story while another didn’t.

I came across the following image the other day, and this sparked the merest gem of an idea.

And here’s what that spark led to.

As Time Goes By

He landed on the grass, as light as a feather, as usual.

[The Richter gauge recorded 8.2; about average.]

He smiled, glad to be home.

[Home was a place he hadn’t seen in decades, but he never knew that, and never would again.]

And he knew she was waiting for him, unchanging, ageless… his love.

[Something was waiting for him.]

The door to his house slid open as he approached. He liked the swish swish noise as it opened and closed, and smiled again.

[After hundreds of replacements, they’d changed it for an automatic silent one, concluding he wouldn’t notice by now. They were right.]

And she was waiting for him, as she always did.

[That bit was true; her entire purpose until that moment had been to wait for him.]

Her. His love. He could barely remember how they’d first met, how fumbling, embarrassing shyness had given way to fondness, then desire, then deep, true, love. How pleased she’d been, he grinned in recollection, when she realised her crush on him was reciprocated.

[She’d been scared shitless when it started. The most physically powerful man on the planet, wanting her? She almost deserted there and then.]

That first kiss. So gentle in his memory.

[She’d required eight hours of surgery and six months of rehabilitation; they’d told him she was on assignment. And they kept telling him that for the next eighty years. Until his mind had started to fail. Until his mind had started to fail but the body never had.]

He remembered everything so clearly.

[He hadn’t remembered anything accurately in almost a century.]

“Hi honey,” he said, “I’m home.” He laughed, gently.

[New alloys prevented the resulting sound waves destroying this property as they had so many before. In retrospect, having to manage him after the senility had started had been a blessing. A mixed blessing, admittedly, but a blessing. So many new inventions, so many original discoveries that benefited mankind. But they were by-products of a single project: how to manage an old, ill man… with the power to fly, to shoot lasers out of his eyes, to kill in a nanosecond, and then not remember any of it.]

He greeted his love with a hug.

[And those watching from behind monitors scanned the screens for evidence of stress and… and there it was. Any second now.]

She smiled at him, and stroked his face.

[She just stopped working, bent at an obscene angle. Early examples had exploded but they found that confused and panicked him too much. So they’d strengthened the skeletal structure, developed entirely resin based circuitry and now – when he crushed the simulant that only bore a rough approximation to a woman who’d died 180 years ago – it merely crumpled, and bent. The lights went out while he looked… forlorn. He’d just started to open his arms, when the lights flashed out, then rapidly flashed in a pattern they’d discovered wholly but fortunately by accident. The pattern fascinated him, and while he stared, slack jawed, the floor opened, she fell through, and was replaced by another model.]

The lights stopped flashing and he grinned at her. “I wonder what happened there?” Then forgot it in the joy of being home with her.

[That was the first replacement tonight. They expected another dozen or so. On average, there were fourteen replacements a night, and those watching always did the rough calculations and uttered a slow whistle at the cost. But the expense was worth it, seeing as they couldn’t figure out a way to kill him. and they’d tried. Oh, they’d tried so many times.]

“You know,” he suddenly said, “maybe I’ll take just one more patrol over the city?”

[Alarms sounded, and buttons were pressed, and…]

“Stay home,” she said, and something approximating a smile appeared on her features. “Stay home, with me. Why not have a nap while I prepare dinner?”

[The programmed question sometimes worked. Not often but sometimes.]

“OK,” he said, and forgot about going out. Until the next time it occurred to him. He sat down and closed his eyes, and slept.

[And those watching a house, on the moon, hoped he’d never wake up, and prepared for the next minute, the next hour, and probably the next decade.]

© Lee Barnett, 2021



See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.

Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

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