Art.Hu.R.

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Art.Hu.R. is an artificial person appointed with the task of keeping ship-shape a huge spaceship on her thousand-year journey to a planet on the other side of the universe. Little does he know that major setbacks will soon put him in charge of everything, and that
11. Art.Hu.R.
he’ll have to fight against impossible odds to get the half a million unaware passengers stuck in a frozen sleep onboard safe and sound to their destination.

It’s a novella of about 27,000 words.

Enjoy!

 

 

Art.Hu.R.

 

I

The little girl put on her pink sneakers, deftly tied them up, then reached out for the battered skateboard tucked away in the nook of the apartment entrance. As soon as she pulled open the heavy ceramic door, a waft of hot air came in, like dragon’s breath, mussing her hair and drying her nose. The torrid gust flooded the apartment, poking into the rooms, alerting someone bustling about in the kitchen.

“Lucy? Is that you?” a worried voice wondered.

“I’m going out with the skate.”

“We’ll be leaving in two hours. I don’t want to have to scrub you all over, so mind you be right back.”

“All right, Mommy, I’ll be just outside the door.”

Lucy swept out and shut the ceramic slab after her.

 

She found herself in a hot and dusty street leading to the main square at the bottom of Hole 44, one of the many thousand-feet-deep wells mankind had dug in the plain to protect itself from the scorching heat of an expanding sun. The once lush prairie stretching as far as the eye could see had turned into an arid desert of crumbling rock and sand; the life which had infested it had crawled into the holes, wearing on in the cooler night which had become everybody’s day.

At five in the morning, dawn brightened the sky already. Soon, the sun would rise and cook everything in an unbearable heat, and Lucy would have to go back to the thick shell she lived in—until then, she possibly had about a quarter of an hour all to herself.

Lucy put down her skate, set her right foot on the board, then, with a couple of pushes, there she was, off and running down the sidewalk.

She glanced at the familiar shells that had been her friends’ abodes as she passed them. One by one, Beth, Maggie, Paula and the others had left. Milo had gone only two days before. Lucy too was going, with her mother. They were the chosen ones, the lucky ones who would’ve abandoned forever the sweltering pebble Earth had become.

Lucy loved skating; in fact, when she glided parallel to the street with her arms spread out, she always felt like flying. Even if she had never been on an airplane, she could pretend she wasn’t in the Hole anymore, but up there, in the air, like some bird of times past.

She lifted her head and peered at the satellite clouds stuck high above in the otherwise empty sky, in the monotonous repetition of the same-old interlocking hexagonal module. Lucy had seen the fluffy clouds made of vapor in the videos at school, of course. Even so, she had a hard time believing they could take every shape they fancied—from dragons, to rabbits, to cats, to elephants, before they changed again.

She had also seen footage of the crops and prairies which had once covered the plain; of the trees and the horses; of the endless stretches of water called oceans, where enormous animals swam, some as big as houses. But she had never seen all that in person; it was gone already long before she was born—how could she ever miss it? However, the ever-changing clouds were a whole other matter; she was so curious about them!

They were like… magic.

Milo told her where they were going the sky would be thick with clouds. They would bring in storms, and rains so thick one would literally drench in water—how crazy and weird was that, drench in water in the open?

Lucy’s train of thought broke off suddenly when the front wheels of the skateboard caught a crack in the sidewalk, projecting her hard on the concrete floor.

“Ouch!” she cried, holding her scratched knee.

She glanced at the exposed layers of her skin as tiny droplets of blood began seeping through.

“Darn, it hurts!”

“You bet it hurts!” a voice behind her cried. “That’s how your body reminds you to be more careful!”

Lucy looked up and saw a man in a green overall; he had a strange, eternal smile on his face, as if he found the world amusing. He leaned over, inspecting Lucy’s knee, revealing the name embroidered on his bib:

 

Art.Hu.R.

 

“Is that your name?” Lucy asked. “Arthur?”

“Sure, it’s me. I’m Arthur. Oh, let me see this—no, it ain’t broken, it’s just a scratch.”

The man retrieved a first-aid kit from his pocket, opened it, and took out a sterile gauze. He cleaned Lucy’s knee, sprayed some antiseptic on the wound, waited for it to dry up, then put a bandage on it.

“There,” Arthur said. “Give it a couple of days and you’ll be as good as new.”

“Who are you, some environmental operator?”

“Nah. I’m just a repairman.”

“Well, you repaired me…”

“Yeah, it seems so,” Arthur said, loving the sound of it, his face brightening genially. “You better go home, now. You don’t want to be out when the sun rises.”

He helped Lucy to her feet, picked up her skate and gave it to her. He followed her with his eyes as she limped back to her shell and disappeared inside it.

Arthur smiled, proud of accomplishing a good deed that early in the morning, then warily glanced at the still sky, expecting to see the disc of the sun appear any moment now. He crossed the main square and walked toward one of the largest buildings facing it.

 

“The Susan Constant will leave tonight at 0:00 AM,” General Moore said. “It’s going to take off from Moon base, carrying its human burden in the longest, most daring and dangerous journey man’s ever made.”

Moore, a square man with short, graying hair, spoke with the grave voice reserved for momentous events, addressing the selected audience in front of him.

“A new era opens for mankind. This very night, the first stage of a project started eighty years ago will come to completion. Thanks to the joined efforts of us all, half a million people will have the chance to leave a dying sun and system, to start over again on a fresh new planet which will become our second homeland. Sure, we’ll take nearly a thousand years to cover the four-point-three light years which separate us from Ermitara; but with the innovative technology in our hands, reaching it will feel like a minute-long trip—”

General Moore stopped talking as the double doors in the back of the meeting room opened and someone in a green overall came in. The whole assembly turned in wonder as well.

“I—I apologize, I didn’t mean to intrude,” Arthur said. “I’m due for a job interview, but it looks like they pointed me to the wrong room. Just ignore me and go on with your, huh… oration.”

“Come forth, Arthur,” the general bid.

“Do you know me, sir?”

“Everybody knows you, here, Arthur.”

Arthur thought they couldn’t possibly know him; he had, in fact, never seen even one of them—who were they? Why would they be expecting him? What for, anyway? Why didn’t anybody tell him? And yet, the big man on the dais seemed quite sure about it.

Arthur stepped forth, drawing along the stares of the bystanders. He moved up the rows, until he arrived in front of General Moore.

He invited Arthur to climb with him on the dais.

“I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else, sir. I’m not a bigwig, I’m just a modest repairman looking for a job. See? I don’t think I’m your man at all.”

“But I actually have a job for you.”

“I bet it’s the air conditioning system, isn’t it? Oh, that junk always breaks down. If you told me where the main unit is, I would fix it in no time—I don’t want to vaunt myself, but I’m quite good at that!”

“I know. That’s why you’re here, Arthur. Or should I say, ‘Art.Hu.R.’—Artificial Human Resource?”

“I’d rather you called me an artificial person.”

“The job is not here, Arthur. It’s out there,” General Moore said, pointing his forefinger at the ceiling.

“On the roof, sir?”

“Almost. What about keeping in working condition a huge spaceship, for a long, long time?”

“Thank you for your consideration, sir, but I don’t think I qualify to take on something that big. I handle small appliances—I know nothing about spaceships.”

“Yes, indeed. You might not look like it, but your memory contains the complete schematics of every nut and bolt of the Susan Constant. Your duty will be to keep her in shape for the whole length of her journey.”

“And that would be… a couple of months, I guess?”

“More like a thousand years. Yep, you heard right, Arthur. We’re leaving this red-hot bucket for good.”

Arthur scratched the top of his head, evaluating that monster number.

“Sir, I’ll be long dead by then!”

“On the contrary. We spent one fifth of the mission budget to develop and inject you with groundbreaking picotechnologies that will keep you well-alive, young and fit for the required time span. While everybody sleeps away, frozen in their cradles, you’ll be mopping around and cleaning and replacing malfunctioning and worn-out odds and ends of all kinds.”

“You mean I’ll be all by myself? I’ll go crazy, sir!”

“We also designed your mind to maintain maximum control over yourself in every situation—you won’t flip out, Arthur, don’t worry. Anyway, you won’t be alone. The Susan Constant’s mainframe computer will keep you company—you’ll be good friends with Jerry.”

“Jerry, sir?”

Arthur, taken aback more and more with every bit of news, just stood there, totally baffled.

“I don’t know what to say, sir.”

General Moore rolled his eyes at the crowd, causing it to stir with laughter.

“Just tell me if you want the gig!”

“Maybe I should accept your offer, after all, sir. It’s so hard to find a proper job, these days…”

 

Lucy glanced at the mechanical cradle in front of her, not entirely convinced she should get inside it. The black-metal coolant pipes snaking around it looked less than friendly.

“Are you sure this thing is safe?” she asked.

The female technician standing in front of Lucy and her mother smiled patiently.

“It’s perfectly safe. After you enter the sleeping unit, it will activate, lowering the temperature of your body to the point that it’ll freeze like a snowflake. That way, as if a clock had stopped ticking, your every metabolic process will be paused and you will be able to travel across space without aging. Of course, the process will be reversed on arrival, and you shall wake up again.”

“Sleeping through all that time? It scares me.”

“Shut your eyes and your body will follow. I promise you when you come to again, you’ll think only a few hours have gone by.”

Lucy peered at the weird sleeping suit she had put on, then looked toward the huge hall of the cryogenic chamber, thick as it was with egg-looking cradles.

“Is Milo there?”

“Who is Milo?” the technician asked.

“He’s my friend. He left before I did.”

“I’m sure he’s already deep asleep, then, somewhere in the cryogenic hall. Now, will you lie down, too?”

Finally won over, Lucy climbed into the machine. The technician worked deftly, stroking the controls on the side of the cradle, starting the hibernating process.

Lucy yawned. “Mom? I feel drowsy…”

“Sleep then, my child.”

“Hold my hand?”

Lucy’s mother reached out for her daughter’s little hand and held it in hers. As Lucy fell unconscious, her fingers gradually lost their warmth, until they became icy. With a worried sigh, Lucy’s mother kissed her on her forehead, then stepped back and watched the lid above the cradle shut on the child, delivering her to the stillness of the millenary sleep.

“She’ll be fine there,” the technician reassured the woman, and pointed her to the next freezing unit.

A bit unwillingly, Lucy’s mother lowered herself in it and lay back—in moments, she too fell asleep. As the second lid fell into place, the technician moved down the suspended catwalk, meeting more families waiting for their turn to hibernate.

 

Arthur swabbed the metal deck carefully, humming to himself. Since he had climbed aboard the Susan Constant, nobody had paid attention to him; they were all too taken up with the final preparations before takeoff, so he had grabbed the first mop he could put his hands on and had kept himself busy that way.

General Moore told him his mind was designed for a balanced behavior; all the same, he couldn’t deny he was… restless. He stopped swabbing and approached a large porthole past which space could be seen.

He glimpsed, in the darkness and relative coolness of Moon’s shadow, the scaffolding where the Susan Constant had been outlined first, then built, then fitted for the long journey to Ermitara.

A sudden jolt quaked the ship.

Arthur gulped and hung to his mop, wondering if that was it; if the long-awaited for time for takeoff had finally come, realizing it had.

The Susan Constant ignited her rockets, inched out from her scaffolding and majestically paraded in front of the tiny farewell committee launch, dwarfing it with her immense bulwarks. A salvo shot from the launch, christening the departing ship, wishing her a smooth and troubleless journey. The firework flashed along the ship’s hull, brightening Arthur’s awed features, then it dwindled and died out, leaving only the ubiquitous darkness of space.

Arthur, struck by the absolute silence at which the rockets of the ship flared, glanced at the Moon and at the yellowing, scorched Earth as they shrunk away. His thought went to the thousands still hiding in their holes—there wasn’t for them another ship leaving.


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Posted on by Marco in scribd, short stories | Leave a comment

Float City, the screenplay

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Float City, the screenplay

This screenplay is adapted from my novelette by the same title.

I’ve added a whole beginning, improved on Crane’s acrophobia, Val’s need for a vacation, a couple of things here and there, and streamlined more the heist angle. Fleshed out the end as well.

This 104-page long publication is in the standard, life-sized movie script format.

Enjoy, and cross your fingers that one day it sees the light as a science fiction / action movie and thriller on the silver screen.
 
M.

 

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Credence, the screenplay

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Credence, the screenplay

This screenplay is adapted from my novel by the same title, a 2011 Page Awards finalist in the Science Fiction category.

This 112-page long publication is in the standard, life-sized movie script format.

Enjoy, and cross your fingers that one day it sees the light as a science fiction / action movie on the silver screen.
 
M.

 

Posted on by Marco in screenplays | Leave a comment

The Forgiveness Machine

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The Forgiveness Machine tells the story of greedy businessman Bill Pearce. Haunted on his deathbed by the thought of the many people he’s ruined in his life, he seeks a late forgiveness. He turns to his inventor son, Mark, who develops and casts
10. The Forgiveness Machine
an oneiric network all over the country in a collective dream where the most delirious things happen. In this cathartic experience, Bill will have his last chance at redeeming himself. This novelette is about 16,000 words.

Enjoy!

 

 

The Forgiveness Machine

 

Lester Greene marched down the long periwinkle-blue corridor, occasionally glancing at the abstract sculptures and the stylish pottery sitting on elongated daises as he passed them. He wondered what such an uncouth, rude person as William Pearce could possibly find in them, other than their money’s worth. What a waste, he thought, to hide away all these masterpieces; how much better off they would be in an art museum, where everybody could see and truly enjoy them.

Greene stopped at the one door in the corridor and swept in. He found himself in a large, stark room, flooded in a dimmed whiteness, at the center of which a four-poster brass bed rose. In the bed, a large man lay, in a dark silk robe brightened with bird motifs.

Even in his fatal sickness, William Pearce was wary. He stared at the ceiling, his nostrils engulfed in oxygen tubes, his bluish arms injected with dripping IV.

Greene approached the bed, obsequiously standing at its side, without speaking, waiting for his employer to bid his will. Pearce turned his head, acknowledging his faithful lawyer and valued handyman.

“So?” he barked, looking forward to hearing about the task he’d sent him for.

“None will come,” Greene sentenced.

Pearce went back to contemplate the ceiling, taking in his doom, exhaling in a long, desperate sigh.

“I expected it,” he croaked, his voice now tainted with doubt and fear.

“What about George?” he asked.

“Mr. Tidwell’s Rottweiler made sure I didn’t get within thirty yards from his house’s entrance door. He didn’t mind neither the ringing nor my shouts.”

“Norman, then.”

“‘Tell that greedy bastard son of a bitch to go to hell. If he wants to talk to me, he’d better call my lawyer,’ that’s what Mr. Roach told me,” Greene said.

“Patricia?”

“Miss Lamb would not receive me, despite all my efforts. I sent her a bunch of flowers, but she returned them with their heads cut off.”

“What about Rose? She’s my wife, after all—‘in good and bad times.’ That should still hold true.”

“Mrs. Rosalind hangs up the phone every time I call her and won’t answer her door…”

Greene unclasped his hands, stared at them, then clasped them again, coldly assessing his work. Like his employer, human relations were a field he had little experience in; no wonder he had failed.

Pearce shook his head, then dabbed at a droplet of water which had formed under his right eye, quickly, before Greene could see it and think it was a tear.

“I deserve all of this,” Pearce told the ceiling. “I have been ruthless with each of them—my friends. I have ruined them, mistreated them, including the countless others I don’t remember. But these I once knew. If they don’t forgive me, nobody else is going to.”

“Give them time,” Greene daresay. “You can’t expect them to come at the snap of your fingers like they’ve always done.”

“Time? How much time do you think I have?”

Pearce grabbed the medical report from the nightstand and angrily hurled it in Greene’s face. The lawyer didn’t move. He just watched the sheets snow on him, finally settling on the floor.

“Any news from Mark? The last I heard from him, he had a teaching post at the university.”

“Not anymore. The university cut off the funding for his research and kicked him out. He’s opened a little repair shop now. He fixes computers by day and keeps working at his inventions by night.”

“Always with his useless inventions. What an idiot. I expected from my only child a splendid career in the financial world. Had he followed in his father’s steps, he would be rich now, not toiling away at some stupid, ungrateful job.”

“He has the right to live his own life…”

“Nonsense! He never forgave me for having left his mother, that’s the truth. He retaliates against me that way.”

Greene stood there, the obedient employee. Then he thought that, soon, he wouldn’t be so anymore. Why not to speak level to Pearce, then? Why not put him in front of his responsibilities? How long had he deserved a lesson about the windbag he was?

Greene took a deep breath and spoke.

“With all due respect, you know what the problem is with you, Bill? Nobody has ever punched you in the nose hard enough for you to reconsider. You spent your whole life thinking you were the center of the world and that everybody else should conform to your will, or go. How wrong you’ve been. Even I always felt threatened by you. I never put you in your place. But now that—”

Greene stared at Pearce. His flushed, outraged face turned pale at the realization of the bitter truth. He was so weak he wasn’t a threat to anybody anymore. His illness had taken that power away from him, confined him in that aseptic bedroom. Soon, he would die and be buried in a damp, cold grave and nobody would ever remember him.

Pearce put his hands on his face, sobbing. When he looked up again, his eyes were flushed with tears and his voice broken.

“What should I do, Lester? Please, tell me. Be frank with me. I promise I won’t get angry.”

 

The girl stopped her bicycle in front of the repair shop. She retrieved a scribbled note from her pocket, making sure it was the right address. She leaped from the bike and removed the computer case precariously strapped to the bike’s rear rack. She lifted it and held it underarm, stepping toward the shop, where, on its dusty window, a sign read:

 

COMPUTER AND PRINTER REPAIR

 

With a smile, the girl lugged the case to the shop door. She pushed it, entering a cramped front office stacked with discarded computer parts taped together, ready for the dumpster.

She put her computer on the counter, waiting for a clerk or someone, but the shop seemed deserted.

“Hello! Is somebody in here? Anybody?”

Nobody answered her.

She studied the place, sliding her forefinger on the counter to stare at the neat, white ellipse the gathered dust had formed. She scowled—the shop needed a cleanup, the walls could use some paint and the floor was in bad need of washing.

She reached out for a nearby notepad and a pen, about to write a note to the shop technician about her malfunctioning computer, when a strange smell came to her nose—that of burned plastic.

She looked around her, trying to locate the source of the stink. She sniffed at her computer first, shaking her head—it couldn’t be that. Then she pointed her nose at the counter, then at the haphazard junk to be found around, until it dawned on her the stink must certainly come out from a door in the back.

“Hello!” the girl repeated. “Is anybody in there? I think something is on fire. I don’t mean to butt in, but—are you sure you’re all right?”

Again, silence.

Worried now, the girl lifted the countertop, moving past the desk and the shelving unit separating the shop from the back room, arriving at a small laboratory. It overflowed with circuit boards of every size and shape, printers’ yellowing bodies, and arrays of screwdrivers, a couple of soldering stations, disparaged odd-looking tools and air-spray cans.

But what left the girl flabbergasted was the vision, in the corner of the room, atop a pile of technological junk, of a cage—inside it, an alarmed squirrel wrung its front paws around the bars shutting him in, staring at the only other person in the laboratory.

The technician, a strapping fellow in his thirties, sat in his chair, presently fast asleep. He wore a weird contraption on his head—a sort of helmet. Above it, a squat cylinder made of small metal plates spun madly. Every time a plate brushed against the electrodes the helmet was surrounded with, a spark lit up. Seemingly, the cylinder axle had overheated, sending in the air a billow of black, acrid smoke…

With a sudden burst, the helmet went up in flames, causing the girl to jump and shout in fear.

“Hey you!” she shrieked. “Your head is on fire!”

She shook the man in the attempt of awakening him, but he stubbornly kept to his funny dream world, idiotically smiling to things only he could see. Now really worried, the girl tried to push the helmet off the man’s head, but it was held in place by a leather strap. She fumbled with it, but it was fastened too tight to unhook it. She glanced at the wires linking the helmet to a nearby computer—she yanked them, dislodging them, cutting off the power supplying the helmet… but the fire kept flaring all the same.

The girl squealed at seeing the helmet was coming apart now, and that blazing pieces of it had started to drop, rolling everywhere in the laboratory. She scoured the premises for anything to douse the flames with—until she saw a faucet in the corner opposite to that containing the cage with the squirrel. She darted there and turned it on, but all that trickled out from it was a spit of rust and a gurgle.


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Oblivion Island

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Oblivion Island is the exclusive dream destination Felix Morrow has chosen for his family’s memorable summer vacation. But as the days go by and most inopportune setbacks delay his wife and daughter’s arrival, he begins to suspect something is not quite
9. Oblivion Island
right. The encounter of an unpredictable woman and the mysterious disappearance of an eccentric guest force him to investigate on the terrible truth about the island.

It’s a sci-fi novelette of about 13,000 words.

 

 

Oblivion Island

 

Felix Morrow opened his eyes to the darkness.

At once, the realization he wasn’t in his bed swept over him—the mattress was too soft and the sheets were too smooth, too clean, smelling too good. A cold sweat covered his body as panic got him. He couldn’t remember that place.

He threw the bedspread and sat up, listening to the silence, trying to understand where he was, but he couldn’t. The urge to flee took him. He bolted upright and just ran…

He only made a few steps before he slammed into a wall. He lifted his arms, balling his fists, banging on the metal slab in front of him, seeking a way out. When his fingers met plastic, they fumbled about, following the outline of a door, looking for its handle, not finding it—he was trapped…

He flailed his arms, desperately craving freedom, sensing a bulge in the wall—was it a switch? He threw it, waiting for the light to diffuse. He heard a noise instead, a sort of buzz. A section in the wall slid away, blasting the cubicle with a bedazzling whiteness.

Blind and blinking, Morrow put his head out. He couldn’t see anything else than blurred shadows in a glare… yet, there was an odd smell in the air, acrid and salty—the scent of seawater.

“Good day, Mr. Morrow,” a calm voice said. “Did you sleep well?”

Morrow’s eyes accustomed to the light… he saw a man in a corridor. He wore black shoes and trousers, white shirt and cap—he smiled friendly.

“We’re scheduled to arrive in less than an hour,” he went on. “Breakfast is served, and if you will be so kind as to pack your things, we’ll see to deliver them to your hotel for you.”

Morrow, caught wrong footed by the unexpected kindness of the man, stuttered and felt confused.

“T—Thank you…”

As the steward moved to the upper deck, Morrow pulled his head in and shut the door.

He let out a raspy chuckle, wiping his face, feeling the tension abandon him, awakening from the horrible nightmare. How could he be so stupid? How could he forget why he was there? Without even looking at the wall, he confidently threw yet another switch, turning on the light in cabin 538 in the second deck of the Acheron.

Morrow breathed deeply, calming himself, retracing his steps to the bed, sitting on it. He lunged toward the nightstand, picking up the wedding band lying on it, studying it. He wore it—it fit like a glove. Of course it fit, he was a man happily married to a wonderful woman. They had even been blessed with a bright, adorable daughter…

There was a leaflet under the ring. He retrieved it, unfolded and read it. It said:

 

Welcome to Oblivion Island.

Lose your cares and relax in the best

luxury resorts of the world.

 

And then he recalled, and wasn’t afraid anymore.

He was going to have a vacation with his wife Gloria and his daughter Angela. At the moment, they weren’t aboard the ship, they would join him the following day. The girls were coming over from the other side of the globe, while he was back from a long business trip between Japan and China. They would meet on the island, enjoying two weeks of absolute relaxation.

He glanced at the leaflet, at the pictures of fine-sand beaches, princely meal courses, wine bottles sticking out from wicker baskets filled with ice, and avocado slices hanging at the top of long drinks. He sighed. It was high time he had a vacation; work had worn him out to a frazzle. He needed to break off. More, it was three months he hadn’t seen his wife and daughter in person. He needed to hold them in his arms, to smell the comfortable, delicate scent of family. That’s why he had chosen that place. One of his coworker friends suggested it to him and he liked the idea—a secluded island where one momentarily forgot all about chores and troubles.

The thought he would soon see the girls put him in an excellent mood. In a moment’s matter, he got rid of his doubts and fears and hummed to himself, feeling well—fulfilled. Could he possibly even feel happy?

Morrow stood, pulling off his pajamas, looking forward to breakfast, suddenly hungry… when his hand shifted to an itchy spot in the skin, close to his armpit. He peeked at it and glimpsed a tiny, swollen dot, like an insect bite.

Damned mosquitoes, he thought.

 

Morrow, wearing a white suit, white shoes and a white Panama hat, climbed the last steps to the liner’s main deck. But as soon as he set foot on its wooden surface, a gust of wind flipped his hat from his head—it sent it rolling between the passengers’ legs, the air vents, the metal ladders and the deckchairs, inexorably blowing it toward the bulwarks. Morrow swore at realizing it was soon going to sweep over and forever be lost to the ocean’s depths…

The moment before it did, though, a swift little hand lunged out, snatching the fugitive in a firm hold.

Tapered fingers dusted off the hat, revealing the slender figure of a beautiful woman in an aquamarine sleeveless dress and rope sandals. She offered the hat to Morrow, who had just come over.

“Why, thank you,” he told her, taking back his hat, keeping it to his chest, not daring to put it on again.

The woman didn’t say anything. She curled her lips in a polite yet cold smile and rested her hands on the parapet. She lost herself in the contemplation of the sight… In the sky, lazy seagulls circled. On the horizon, beyond the deep blue sea, a thin, dark line could be glimpsed. Land. Possibly, an island.

“What a pity, to forget such a glorious day…” she mumbled to herself, exhaling in a long sigh.

Morrow was jarred by the inconsequentiality of the words of the woman.

“I’m sure you meant to say ‘what a glorious day to remember.’”

The woman jerked around as if she’d been slapped, outraged by Morrow’s remark. She eased up at last, forcing herself to the usual non-committal smile.

“I meant exactly what I said,” she retorted. “Even today will be forgotten, this day in our lives, as if it did never exist…”

“I apologize, but I don’t understand.”

“You don’t need to,” the woman said, returning her gaze to the horizon. “What’s the point of it all, when nobody remembers it? Even these words we’re saying to each other will be lost. The wind will blow them away, as it did with your hat.”

“The wind didn’t blow away my hat—you caught it.”

The woman blinked, coming to, looking in disbelief at the Panama hat in Morrow’s hands, surprised to find it there. She sneered.

“Practice makes perfect.”

Morrow shook his head, even more confused.

“You caught it just moments ago, you can’t possibly have forgot!”

The woman didn’t say anything. She had gone back to being sour.

“I’m Felix Morrow, by the way.”

Morrow reached out, but the woman didn’t take his hand, didn’t tell her name. She just looked in his eyes, hard and long.

“You’re in a good mood for talking this morning, Mr. Morrow. Let me ask you a question, then. Do you believe in change, Mr. Morrow?”

 

The wooden posts of the pier, eaten away by the salt and encrusted with a myriad of algae and mussels, dived in the crystal-clear water of the bay, providing shelter and food to thousands of sand smelt. They shifted and darted with flashes of quicksilver, looking oblivious… but they promptly scattered at a long wave.

The tall iron keel of an approaching vessel plowed through the water, bumping into the pier, scraping along with a screech and a moan, until it stopped.

 

The passengers of the Acheron climbed down the catwalk, ambling along the pier. They came to a wide plaza, on the side of which a lush ten-storied hotel rose, all white, each room with its own private balcony, topping the arcing palm trees. A light breeze drifted through the curtains of open French doors on the ground floor, revealing a bar, a restaurant, a reception desk and a hall. Deckchairs, wicker armchairs and low tables and beach umbrellas surrounded the plaza in an orderly fashion.

Most of the tourists stopped outside the bar, at a long table decked out with refreshments, plucking on snacks or sipping fancy beverages. Clerks wearing the hotel livery swarmed all about, some of them already busy with bringing in baggage carts from the hold of the liner.

Morrow, eager to see his room, went straight to the reception desk. He presented his reservation receipt to a man in his fifties, looking businesslike and down to earth, who took and perused it.

“Welcome to Oblivion Island, Mr. Morrow. I’m Eric Price, the hotel manager. Did you have a good trip?”

“Everything was fine, except maybe for the rough awakening. But I suppose I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”

“Your reservation is in order. As per your request, we booked for you one of our best rooms. Here. If you would sign this form, I’ll be happy to show you to your suite.”

Morrow signed the form with a flourish, turning it to Price. He filed it, then reached out to the pigeonhole behind him, picking up the room keys. He motioned for his guest to follow him to the elevator.


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Posted on by Marco in scribd, short stories | Leave a comment
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