Greetings all. Today I went back and chose a nice little exercise I had not yet attempted, the 777.
Some of you may be familiar with this. You go to your bookshelf, and starting at eye level (or any random shelf if you want), you chose the 7th book. You open the book to the 7th page. Then you go to the 7th paragraph on that page. The first sentence of that paragraph is now the first sentence of a short story. All the regular rules apply. You keep writing until time is up, try to establish a setting and at least one major character, and above all just let the ideas flow.
So, the book I chose was an Anthology, and the 7th paragraph was actually just one word. But I liked it, so I didn’t try and cheat and choose another book.
Anyway, today was just a bit of fun trying to stimulate my creativity. It was supposed to be a weird little scene that might set up a bit of a horror story later on. Let me know what you think, and thanks for reading.
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 878
The crier was blocked from view by the market crowds, but the word cut through the noise of haggling merchants and squawking chickens like a shark through open water. I put down the clay pitcher I had been examining, it being of poor, and relatively recent, quality despite the wiry merchants claims that it was an antique of superb craftsmanship, and began to thread my way through the throng of people. I was used to duplicity in places such as this. Anywhere humanity gathered in sufficient numbers you would find one group trying to take advantage of the rest. It didn’t matter if it was in the sweaty, cramped, open air markets of the middle east or the sprawling, air-conditioned mega stores of the civilized world. I saw it everywhere I went, and I admit a morbid fascination with witnessing it first hand. Perhaps this is what drove me to the voice on the other side of the square.
“Come!” cried the voice again. “Feast your eyes upon a wonder of world.” It repeated itself in several languages, some that I could speak, some that I couldn’t, but always it dripped sweetness and charm. “You,” it seemed to say. “I am speaking only to you. You alone are worthy of this marvelous delight. Come and partake of it deeply.” The man was speaking to my head, but the voice commanded my feet, and my feet obeyed.
I came to an open patch of ground, a rarity in a market such as this. The passers by gave it a wide berth, which I found odd, and did not seem inclined to notice the man with they honeyed voice, which I did not. When I cleared the crowd, the man looked only at me. He was short and dark, of skin and hair, but his teeth and eyes were bright and pleasant and—piercing, almost—sharp. He wore sleeveless robes of deep, midnight blue, and he gestured towards me with a muscled arm, welcoming me to come closer.
“Well met, friend,” he said as I neared him. “I’ve been waiting for someone like you.”
“Like me?” I asked. I wished my voice was as steady as his, but it seemed only a whisper. He seemed to hear me, though, and smiled broadly.
“Yes,” he said.
“Why me?” Again my voice was quiet.
“Who can say?” the man replied, shrugging but not looking away. “When the Fates speak, it is often merely a whisper, and they do not answer the questions of mortal men.”
“Who are you?” I asked, perhaps a bit rudely. The man gave no sign of offense. Instead he chuckled softly.
“A simple man. I find things. I sell things. I live and I listen.” His bright eyes seemed to flare for a moment, and then he winked. “I have something for you.”
He reached inside his robes and pulled out a length of string. The ends were tied and in the middle hung what at first appeared to be a simple stone, but as the man lifted the necklace the stone began to twirl slightly, catching the sunlight. There was something else there, on the surface or deep below it, I couldn’t tell, but it shimmered hypnotically. All the colors of rainbow and more besides. At times they seemed to be images, at others words, and then things I could not explain: visual depictions of sounds, olfactory footprints. The words I had were all wrong but it was all my brain could do to decipher the information it was receiving. Then, the man clasped the stone in one dark hand and I slipped out of my trance.
“You—you said you’d been waiting for me?” I stuttered, unsure what else to say.
“Or someone like you,” the man replied. “It is the way of things.”
“But, why me?” I asked again. “I don’t understand.”
“Are you saying you do not want it,” asked the man. He moved to return it to his robes.
“No!” I cried. “I mean—I’ll take it. How much?”
“Nothing,” smiled the man.
“Oh, no,” I stammered. I pulled out my wallet. “Please, take everything I have.”
“Please,” said the man. “I could not except more than a single lira.”
“I can give you everything but my coins?” I asked. A part of my brain knew that this was not how haggling worked, but I pressed on. Perhaps this was—what was it—the way of things?
“Let me see,” said the man, taking a moment to peer over the proffered money. He picked through the bills and coins, all from several currencies. His selection process was inscrutable, seemingly random. He would pass over one bill but take another that appeared identical. The coins he wanted seemed to be at the bottom of the stack. When he was finished he took the money, a startlingly small sum, and slipped it into his robes.
“We have an agreement,” the man said.
“And, the stone?” I asked. The man smiled and gestured with open palms just below my chin.
The stone was there, resting against my chest, the string suddenly making the back of my neck itch.
“Come back tomorrow,” said the man as he turned to leave. “I have a feeling I will have something else for you then.”