A Very Good Liar

My entry in the Writer’s Weekly 24-Hour Flash Fiction contest. Below is the prompt they gave us.

The fruit vendor smiled at her through sightless eyes, enjoying the warm breeze and salty air. During casual banter with his customers, he seemed to remember the smallest details, even ones they couldn’t remember sharing with him in the past. The girl had been coming to his stand daily for as long as she could remember. As she turned to leave, she patted his hand and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, friend.

Still smiling, he replied, “No, you won’t…”


We had from noon Central time on Saturday to write something and submit by the same time on Sunday. I was pretty drunk when I wrote and edited this at 11pm, so we’ll leave it up to the fates whether it gets noticed.  Enjoy!

A Very Good Liar

Inigo had a very good memory. Some said it was rare for a man of his years to remember things as well as he did. Others said that he made everything up, a liar.

Aside from selling fruit, Inigo was a storyteller. To some, this was endearing. They said that people–especially children–needed a dose of fantasy, no matter how wild it might be. As the oldest man alive, Inigo had many stories.

“There used to be more,” he would say, twirling a strand of beard between fingers. “We used to be more.”

Children would gather around his cart in the evenings–with their parents’ permission, of course. The young were in love with stories, those things that older people said, legal lies, fiction. Adults could tell lies and not get in trouble. The fact that Inigo was as old as he was made the stories seem so much more real.

He would sit on an old wooden stool when enough children had gathered around, their dirty butts on the concrete, turning gray with dust, filthy faces tilted upward. They would tug on his hems, gently, just enough to let the old man know he had an audience.

“Tell us,” they would say.

“Yes, tell us of the time before.”

“Tell us of the time before the white.”

And Inigo would laugh. “Oh, so you want to hear about the white again. Haven’t I already told you all about that?”

“Yes,” they would say, “but we love the stories so. We love to hear. Did it hurt, the white?”

“No,” Inigo would tell them. “It did not hurt at all.”

Sometimes parents would come by and take their child away, feeling in the dark for their grubby hair and dragging them, protesting, by an ear or an elbow. “You should no listen to such things.”

For knowing such things was dangerous. Making children think that there was once a time when we knew more, when we were more than we are now. It was a cruel thing Inigo did, telling children how the people before them were once so powerful, back in a time before the white descended.

One time a woman had set fire to Inigo’s cart, screaming at him as the flames spread. People ran and cried. They did not know what to do. The fire ravaged several houses before the soft rains quenched its thirst.

“You are a cruel, cruel man,” she screamed at him as the town burned. “You tell them things they can never be. How can you do so? You are a monster!”

“I only tell them the truth,” said Inigo, clutching the last of his wares, a bunch of bananas and dried pears. “I only tell them what I know.”

Tears ran from his useless eyes, down his leather cheeks and onto his shirt, brown and reeking of filth. It took Inigo five years to build his business up after that day. But the woman never returned. Some say she was run off by the other townspeople, shamed for her outburst, for the reckless damage she had caused.

But still the children came, pleading, begging for stories.

“Tell us,” they cried. “Tell us what it was like.”

And eventually, Inigo conceded. “Okay,” he said. “I will tell you of the time when man owned the earth.”

“The ground?” asked a young boy.

“No, Philip. Not the ground. Not the soil. The earth is this world, a giant ball of rock and water. It hurls through the universe at a terrible speed.”

They laughed. “How do you know?” asked one child, for there was always one in the group who would question Inigo, always a challenger to his stories.

“Because I was one of them,” he said. “That is how very old I am.”

And it was true. Inigo was perhaps the oldest man in all of Nova Illuminati, a man so old, he remembered things called pictures, a sense called sight. He told stories of humans who had not four senses, but five, a time when eyes were more than useless pale stones in people’s faces, collecting flies and disease.

“A fifth sense,” parents would exclaim, “Can you imagine who would say such things to children? Sight. Such bullocks.”

“Well, before the white, before the virus…” others would argue.

“Fairy tales,” others would argue. “No one is that old!”

But Inigo knew his time in Nova Illuminati was almost up now. Generations had all but forgotten. The woman who burned his cart, who accused him of lying, she was not alone. There would be more like her. Yes, it was time to move on.

Inigo had been packing up when Lizbeth arrived right on schedule for her morning apples. He recognized her by the clicking in her throat, echoing off the nearby walls and gutters, navigating by sound like all people.

“Good morning,” she said and he could tell by her voice she knew. She had been crying.

“Hello, Lizbeth,” he said handing her a ration of dried fruit. “You should try Rodriguez tomorrow. I’m afraid I do not feel so well.”

As he handed her the bag, each of them finding the other’s fingers in the dark–the eternal night all humans lived in now–he felt her pat his hand.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, her voice hopeful.

“No,” he said. “No, you won’t.”

(c) 2011 Marlan Smith

The Tragic and Untimely Demise of Uncle Ilbert

Chuck Wendig at TerribleMinds gave us another challenge. This time with the picture below as our prompt. The picture is Chuck’s not mine.



The Tragic and Untimely Demise of Uncle Ilbert

Uncle Ilbert Notwithstanding was always my favorite of twelve uncles. An explorer, con-man, literary agent and hunter, Uncle Ilbert was somewhat of a black sheep in the Notwithstanding household, a title which took a considerable amount of effort on his part.

The majority of my uncles were scallywags to some degree, each of them doing his best to try and one-up the next. Uncle Ilbert was the oldest, and thus, the most ambitious to try and make a name for himself. He wanted to leave a mark on the world. I would say he succeeded.

When he announced that he would set out to discover the largest library ever known, none of us were surprised. Hyperbole was practically a genetic trait in in the Notwithstanding family. Being somewhat short of stature even by most standards, exaggerated stories were what we used to draw attention away from our shortcomings–a pun that often resulted in some form of disciplinary action when used by the youngest of my brothers and sisters.

The library was a great distance away and not exactly a place we normally even think about going. No one in their right mind would have made even a claim to visit such a dungeon, much less risk being caught by the monsters who dwell there.

Perhaps the whisperings of Uncle Ilbert’s insanity were more than just hearsay. I would like to think that they were only rumors and nothing more. To think that he would have risked (and lost) his life over a mental illness is just too much for me to bear. I rather like to believe that it was pure chutzpah that made him do what he did.

He had convinced his youngest brother Jacob to go with him on the expedition, something that my father never lets me forget. I understand that he and Jacob were close. The library was only accessible through a small opening on the rear wall, a tight squeeze for most, but the Notwithstandings are a resourceful folk.

“There ain’t never been a space too tight fer me to fit in, lad,” he told me once, pulling off my hat and mussing my hair. “The world’s a big scary place. Ye gotta use ever’thing in yer arsenal.”

The story I always tell my children about their Great Uncle Ilbert is one of heroism. If it is ever brought into question, a quick trip to view his hunting trophies is usually enough to silence them.

Once inside the library, he was confronted by a dog so large it nearly towered over him. It was like staring at the middle head of Cerberus, all snarling teeth and slobbering drool. The beast’s breath was foul and in the middle of the night, its howl echoed through the vast halls.

Uncle Ilbert had come prepared of course. Something as mundane as a watchdog was not going to deter a man who kept the heads of far worse creatures mounted on the walls of his study. His harpoon gun was made from found objects and fired with enough power to punish the beast, blinding it in one eye and sending it screaming across the floor to lick its wounds.

“And ya better stay outta ma sight,” he yelled after the animal.

Only once the danger had passed, were they able to completely appreciate the immense hall laid out before them. The pale moon shed dim light on the spines of a million books, all looming over them like sea cliffs  etched with bright words.

“We’ve got ta bring one back,” Ilbert said, panting in his elation. “Jus’ one ta prove this place exists.”

“I don’t think its existence has ever been in question,” said Jacob. “The fact we’ve been here should be–”

“What in the world is that?” Ilbert was always more of a doer than a talker.

He stepped away from the conversation, drawn by something on a table. A book, the huge spine visible over the ledge. A YOUNG PERSON’S GUIDE TO HORROR was written in gold.

The table itself was something used by giants. It towered above them, requiring Ilbert to outfit a rappelling line to his next harpoon. It speared the table with a heavy clunk. The climb took them longer than they had expected. It was the second to last mistake Uncle Ilbert would ever make.

The thing about gnomes, a little known fact to the Massives, is that we have a somewhat adverse reaction to sunlight. It paralyses us, causing our limbs to freeze and our lungs to halt. Direct sunlight is the worst, causing the joints to calcify and the heart to stop.

The giant clerk entered the library unexpectedly, alarmed by the shrieking terrier.

“Hide!” shouted Ilbert

“Where?” cried Jacob. Already the sky outside the window was beginning to lighten.

“Grab the book!”

“The book? There’s no time!”

“There’s always time!” he yelled, their voices nothing more than a mouse squeak to the owner, who swung a beam of light around the shop like a lighthouse.

So they each grabbed a book by its spine, two little men, clad in their finest expeditionary clothes. They gripped it as the owner looked for the intruders. They held on even as the sun rose, fixing their bones and melting their skin.

Today they are something of a legend in our family. Late at night–well before the sun rises, mind you–we will sometimes take the children out to the empty street and look in the giant window. We smile as they “Oooo!” and “Ahhh!” at the diminutive skeleton clinging to his treasure.

“There lies your Great Uncle Ilbert,” I say to them. “A man so much larger than life, he belongs with the giants.”

I’m sure he would have appreciated the sentiment.

(c) Marlan Smith 2011

Irregular Creatures

Chuck Wendig asked for some submissions for his blog under the prompt of  “irregular creatures” and this is my entry at 900 and some odd  words.

Jon was nervous.

It wasn’t because he had been out of practice so long, or because he hadn’t spoken to a person face to face in five years. It was just plain old nervous energy. He checked the mirror, checked his clothes, checked his pants–

Shit.The pants didn’t match his shirt. Why didn’t he notice that before? He had paid good money for them too and now they looked almost pea green next to the emerald shirt. He removed them in disgust and tried on another pair.

Brown… he looked at the time. Brown would have to do. Rose would be here any minute.

He had been shy about using the dating service at first. It wasn’t until his best friend, Bobinator1982 had sworn by it, that he had even considered something so extreme.

“I am telling you,” said Bobinator1982, “She was fucking hot.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Jon had said, the cold glow of the screen reflecting off his glasses. “But did anything come from it?”

“Oh hell yes!”

Bobinator1982 went on for another fifteen minutes describing his date with Hillary, in detail, from dinner to her cup size, color of panties, the hair style (above and below the belt). It was more than Jon had really asked for, but Hillary sounded amazing and if Date-2-Go was really that good, if he could even do half as well as Bobinator1982, Jon would consider himself lucky.

“This isn’t an escort service,” Jon said. “Right?”

“No. No way man. It is totally legit. I had no idea that I could even meet someone so amazing.”

So Jon signed up, installed the plug-in, the addons, the mobile app. He had paid the $200 fee up front and waited, tapping nervous fingers on the desk while the software installed. He made a profile, made an avatar, made a link to his various online profiles, complete with stats, equipment, swords–Jon had a kickass rogue in Silhouette Nights, so it only made sense to lead with his best foot forward. Jon listed his preferences: gender, race, appearence, financial stability.

He had been slaying werebeasts in the Upper Golden Valley when she contacted him.

“You’re Jon?”

“I am.”

The conversation went from awkward, to nervous laughter, to some harmless, but promising flirts and winks.

“I’m not looking for normal,” she said. “I’ve dated normal. I don’t want that anymore. I want excitement. Someone who can show me things I haven’t seen before, an irregular creature who lives a life worth living, not some schmuck with a boring career and a standard house.”

“You would like my house,” said Jon.


“Yeah.” And then he described it.

“I’ll be over at ten,” she said and disconnected.

Step 1 was over and done with before he had even given it a second thought. Maybe Bobinator1982 was right. Maybe this service was totally worth the money. They already had so much in common.

As he looked around his house, he had a pretty good feeling Rose would be impressed. He had designed it himself and to very specific and whimsical specifications. Not everyone had an indoor pool, or a game room, or balconies overlooking the ocean.

That isn’t to say that it hadn’t cost him. But money was never a problem for Jon anymore. Slaying monsters in-game was just something to kill the time. He was honestly bored.

He strolled through his courtyard that separated the gaming room from his dining area. Maybe he should start the tour with the game room. She was a gamer–obviously!–so maybe the game room made sense, or was that just too redundant?

Five years since he had spoken to a woman face to face. Well, there was the bank clerk downtown. He saw her every day practically. You didn’t get to be a man with Jon’s wealth and status without talking to your banker regularly about investments, stocks, porfolios. It took time and patience, but most importantly, he hadn’t been helped by anyone. Jon was a self-made man.

But his patience was sure being put to the test tonight as he stared up at the full moon, fighting back his nerves. It had been a long, painfully long time.

He heard the hooves outside his front yard and nearly ran to the door, forcing himself to walk. Can’t be too anxious!

Rose knocked. He opened the door and held his breath. She was a knockout.

She stood six feet tall with hair so blonde it was almost white. It rippled down her shoulders, over her pauldrons (Etherial pauldrons! So hard to get!) Her eyes were large, blue as seas and wide-set under long lashes. Her tiny elfin nose rested above pouty red lips–like a rose, he thought.

“You’re a troll!” she laughed, but not cruelly. “I never thought I’d date a troll!”

“Well you said you wanted an irregular creature.” He flashed his tusky smile at her as a golden trinket dangled from one elongated tooth. “Want me to show you around?”

“Actually,” she said, twisting a finger by her dimpled cheek, “I need some help with the Goblet of Amarrians quest. If you think you’re up for it.”

“Honey,” he said slyly, “I was doing that quest when you were level 2.”

She laughed again, perfect white teeth shining as brightly as the claymore strapped to her back. Jon whistled and a silver dragon appeared with saddles for two. There would be time for pillow talk later during the nightly server maintenance. There would be time to meet in real life when the game got boring… if the game ever got boring.

For now, they were off on the best date of Jon’s life.

(c) Marlan Smith 2011