Saturday, November 15, 2008


A couple of years ago my sisters and I started a writing prject together, we would pick different subjects and write little stories or essays about them. It only lasted a couple of weeks, but some really great writing came out of it. Here is one of those. This particular short story was inspired by the photo, the ideas was to get a random photo and start writing about it. This one came from my friend Michael Wiltbank's collection. And this is the story it inspired.

a short story by Preston Smith

Etulia clung to thick metallic chains that hung around Sourire De Grand-Papa’s neck. She and Sourire De Grand-Papa had been friends from the beginning of their journey. They didn’t speak the same language. Sourire was from Togo, a sliver of a land between Ghana and Benin. Etulia didn’t know anything about Togo; all she knew was that Sourire De Grand-Papa had been kind to her on the boat. He was the only friend she had known besides Libre, her Cheetah. Sourire had very dark skin as apposed to Etulia’s light milky dark skin. When Etulia first came on the boat, lost and disoriented, Sourire took her by the hand and crouched down to her level and smiled, his white teeth were beautiful to Etulia and she felt safe with him. Soon she began to call him Sourire, or Smile in her native tongue, French.

The boat was rancid with sweaty bodies. Malnutrition plagued the boats occupants. The wood floor was slippery from human bile and vomit. The bread that was given to the occupants was often to rank to eat and the people would use it to calm the slippery floor. Later they would gladly take all the bile and vomit infested floors for one morsel of rotten bread. Adults like Sourire were chained to one another, but the children were not. Everyone was naked. Etulia got use to feeling tired and hungry; her stomach soon ballooned out giving her a little pop belly. It didn’t bother her but then she didn’t know it was the onset of malnutrition. Sourire knew too well what it meant; he had lost two children to starvation and knew it was only a matter of time for Etulia. But he would only continue smiling at her, knowing there was nothing he could do.

One day, 4 weeks into the journey, Etulia became disoriented in the mass of sweaty bodies. Sourire found her body curled in a dark corner barely alive. He pulled her clear of the throng and held her near his warm body. He began to cry and the tears fell on Etulia’s face. Her weak eyes opened and she looked up into her friends smiling face. She smiled softly and closed her eyes again. Sourire held her tight. He saw his daughter and wife back in Togo struggling to survive without him. Their dark faces looked sad and feeble. He continued to cry.

Etulia’s breath got weaker and weaker. Her pot belly rose and fell gently under Sourire’s hand. Etulia saw herself lying on her back in the desert. The warm sun danced on her naked body. She stood up and squinted in the bright sun. In the distance she could see an object moving quickly towards her. Under her breath, Sourire heard her say Libre over and over again. Unable to understand, he spoke the word out loud. Soon someone next to him was saying Libre, and then another and then another. Before long the entire group was yelling Libre! Libre! Libre! Free! Free! Free!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chapter Three: Conversation

Chapter Three: Conversation

Building 772-232 quivered with commotion; its steel frame stood magnanimous in the core of the city. It was surrounded by lesser buildings that reached gallantly for its supremacy but failed like younger brothers often do. The casing of the building was glass and glowed dully in the masked sky. It had 198 occupation floors that consisted of 75 rooms on each floor, totaling 14,850 rooms and as many occupants. Each building was self containing; there was enough work for all occupants to have an equal share, no one worked harder, no one worked less than any other. There was a cafeteria, entertainment hall, theater and everything else needed to keep people inside. Truth be told, not many people ever left their building. Of course there was no law against leaving, but one needed to be careful when venturing out into the city.

Not even the city workers, who traveled nervously out into the city to labor, were comfortable. In fact, it had been decided that out door city workers would be able to retire 10 years earlier then building workers, for the very fact that is was considered a harder job.

Dark streets, infected with nauseous silence, crept around the city during the day. Encased by huge buildings; even when the sky had burned with a beautiful blue, you could barely see it.

Though it was unpleasant, occasionally it was necessary to travel to a location other than your building. On these rare occasions, one either used the underground, or took the air transit. Either way, it was easy to avoid the streets.

From Lake Michigan raged the ancient wind that gave Chicago its previous name: Windy City. The water slapped against the crumbling concrete walls and buildings that lined the shores of the lake. Reinforcements had been applied where a new barrier should have been erected, but they were gone now and the cold water was winning the battle. In some areas, the water’s fury brought it over the side of the waterfront, in these regions the street was wore and emendable.

A melodic rain fell on the city, casing the streets with blackness. From inside building 772-232, you could watch the weary rain drops weave a cool path, skipping from one path to another, building momentum as smaller weaker rain drops were devoured by larger drops. Eventually, the path would run its somnolent course and disappear into nothing.

“How long have I been staring?” wondered 22914. He moved his eyes from the glass wall and about the silent room. “It’s just a bit a’ water.” he told himself. His brave eyes fell on the water again. Instead of seeing paths of water, this time he saw specs of water randomly spread over the breast of the window. A vague reflection bounced back to 22914. He stood evenly gazing back at himself. Over his shoulder was a white strap attached to a gunny sack that hung around his left hip. The sack bulged a little and made a plastic titter when he walked. He wore thin white pants and a white V-neck shirt that exposed the upper part of his chest. The sleeves fell right at his elbow, so they bothered him every time he moved his arms. His hair was randomly placed, there seemed to be a little order on the sides but the top was very avant-garde. The standard length was 2 inches on the top and 1 inch on the side, but there were no specification for style, so 22914 was liberal with his hair. The Theology for Personal Grooming Department had warned him not to draw attention to himself. 22914 ignored them all the same.

Again 22914 caught himself staring. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a pair of glasses. The ear pieces were a metallic black and attached to a clear glass lens that wrapped around the front of his face. There was a clear plastic piece on the front that fit gently on 22914’s nose. Once the glasses were in place, 22914 tapped his ear and the scene before him was deluded with the UWN (United Wed Network).

“Done with work? Go see the new movie, ‘Why are you so Quiet’. This thriller follows young 10113 as he discovers how boring it is to…” 22914 blurted, “Games… United Vs West… Field Combat… Yes…” At this he walked away from his reflection and the rainy window. He hated the noise, but found himself getting into trouble when he sat in silence. His eyes had no problem both walking and playing the game. It had been a technique drilled into his head as a student in sleep theology.

Quickly he walked to the night stand and reached into the sack at his hip. He took one green pill out of his sack and placed it on the stand next to the glass of water. By the time he had gone to the next room and delivered the pill, he was already on level two of United vs West. Room after room he entered and placed the solemn little pill on the night stand. He didn’t think of anything, but his task and the game. Every so often, someone would be in their room. 22914 would either be ignored or the person would hale him with, “Hello brother.” Or “Thanks brother.” However, most rooms were empty.

Four floors went by and 22914 was making fantastic advances on the game. He was now on level 15 and in an all out nuclear war against The West. He would whisper his commands to his glasses, “Launch on the count of 3, 3… 2… 1.” And missiles would fire in front of his eyes and immediately he would see a full diagram charting his successes and casualties. He was gaining great advantages in the Western Baja and the Western Pacific, but some how he had lost a large portion of land east of Kansas City and Winnipeg. The West had captured Minneapolis and was on the brink of capturing the waters of Lake Superior. These stats flashed elusively before him; interchanging with the white monotonous halls and rooms. The translucent war went on. He backed his troops to the border and slowly began to recapture his lost territory.

i think we're in

Came blinking distractingly in the left corner of the screen.

LOL i did it

Flashed underneath the first

Distracted, 22914 began to loose ground again. “Remove all programs to backup.” He whispered and the comments disappeared. He resumed his game. In a matter of second the comments were back.

what do i say

um… are we even in its vison

ya its just not doing anything… i think it tried to remove us… u say something

u say it tolking to them crepts me a litle

hey number how do u like getting ur ass wiped for u

lol lol lol lol

lol… seen the sun in a year number

22914 was staggered. He had completely forgotten about the game, and didn’t care. He quickly blurted, “Screen… Virus… Code Omega… Source… Now” A small red screen flew into the left corner and latched itself onto the box with the comments.

hey did you see that

yeah… i think we better go

30 more seconds… whyd ud harass it… we dont get paid wtihhut 2 minutes of conectin

The green bar in the corner of the red screen was flashing wildly; counting, 28… 29… 27… 26. 22914 saw nothing else. He stared at the digital dialog in the corner. “It’s probably a test of some system” he hopefully thought. Still he needed to go through protocol other wise his system would be replaced and that could take weeks. Weeks using an old XXERO21 would be too much; so he resolved to solve the problem that moment. 20… 21

15 more

how much are we getting off this one


lol… youre so tight… what the hell is it going to do report us


Then the dialog was gone and the virus screen flashed, “NO VIRUS DETECTED, NO VIRUS DETECTED”

22914 suddenly saw past the screen and into the eyes of two women staring at him. They had been walking down the hall when they saw him staring blankly at his screen. At first they thought he was just finishing a game; generally people stop at the end of a game to enjoy the victory. But when he didn’t speak, only stared, they began to wonder.

Quickly he shouted, “Launch… Mexico City and Honolulu… Now.” But he had spoken too loud and had sounded fake. He smiled feebly and walked past them mid smirks and whispers. At least they only thought he couldn’t handle translucent walking. That was better then knowing what had really happened, he wasn’t really sure if he believed it. He hadn’t understood most of the dialog. He didn’t want to think about it. He tapped his ear twice and said “Movies… Sort by Genre… Noisy… Newest… No.” and the latest noisy film flashed in front of 22914’s eyes and meaningless noise pounded in his ears.

Soon he was gliding from room to room and hall to hall placing pill after pill. The dialog soon became a faint memory stored in the back of 22914’s mind. He screened his glasses 4 more times and found nothing. It was a test and he had passed, he proudly thought. Though in the back of his mind he knew it was not a test. He hoped he would never find out what it meant, or what it was.