The Eights’ Shift, Stories

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      And Opening.

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        And please just stop barging in here unannounced! Unless you are back to explain the “Eau de Nil” remark, called out Lavender from her bedroom where she a moment ago she had been snoring like a wart hog.


          Before long Harvey was snoring like a wart hog too. Lavender had promptly fallen asleep again after reprimanding Heliptrope in no uncertain terms for waking her up.

          Well, I may as well go out, Heliptrope decided. I think I’ll wear my new eau de nil shirt.


            “I told you we should have asked her earlier to be tartier; then contradictory as she is, she would have behaved saintly. Now she wants to wear nil shirt!”
            Harvey was mumbling continuously in his hogsleep.


              They’re all as mad as hatters here, Heliptrope said to himself, as he looked in on the snoring pair before making his escape. It was a blessing in disguise when old Lavvie left me for Oleander.


                Ann Tattler beamed in delight, unable to conceal her pleasure and surprise. She had scraped in a pass for “Continuity Class for Complete Beginners”. It had taken months, but under the excellent tutelage of Prof Frantic Moose, she had finally cracked it.

                Her next hurdle was “Meaningful Writing for the Scattered Brain”.

                Her pleasure evaporated somewhat when she read the pithy course description.

                Things most profound can be found in the most shallow conversation. Prof Leone Laminae

                Sadly, I am not sure that “profound” is one of my strong points, she confided later to her twin sister Sally.


                  Despite doing so well in Continuity Class, Ann had wandered off again. By the time she returned, she had forgotten what the thread was. I must sign up for that Thread Refresher Course, she told herself. I wonder if dear old Frantic can squeeze me in?


                    Dear old Frantic was having battery issues, and was unable to assist.


                      Dear Lavender, there is something awkwardly odd to the World Clooh’d. It looks like it’s stuck to this one sentence, a thing never seen before.
                      I wonder what’s the special meaning of it, as there surely is a special meaning for it wouldn’t be the same otherwise:

                      “attempt movements inner communications
                      arona less escape later
                      nobody dream dancing god
                      side needed work
                      shar sort beauty strings thread reality”

                      But Lavender was oddly silent to Harvey’s pleading intonation. A long silence during which Harvey seemed to notice that she had changed her hair… She looked nice in mauve.


                        Harvey nodded to Aspidistra when he told her:

                        “Has been the same cloud over and over… Ain’t it weird?… must be because the cloud’s random feeds on new inputs…”

                        “Oh look, it looked like it budged!”

                        Before their eyes, in the awkward silence, a slightly new message appeared like a new clue to their next adventures:

                        “dear lavender odd world seen wonder
                        otherwise attempt movements inner communications
                        Arona less escape later
                        nobody dream dancing god side needed”


                          The Cloud was indeed responsive and answered back in the echo:

                          “ Harvey Aspidistra told cloud must random
                          looked eyes message next dear Lavender
                          odd world seen wonder otherwise
                          attempt movements inner communications”

                          “Eerie, isn’t it how clear the communication seems to be in the silence,” Harvey couldn’t help but wonder aloud while sipping his tea.


                            “Any idea what this is all about?” Beattie asked, to nobody in particular. A crowd was gathering at the crossroad.

                            The crossroad reminded Bea of a movie she’d watched some years previously, called, coincidentally enough, Crossroads. A symbolic sort of place, although real enough, a junction seemingly in the middle of nowhere. There was a large oak tree looming above the intersection, but nothing else could be seen in any direction but endless expanses of fields. There was a wooden signpost, the old fashioned kind, with two slats of wood pinned crosswise in the middle to a leaning post, but the place names had long since weathered away.

                            It was an odd sort of place and not much traffic passed by. In fact, the only traffic to pass by the crossroad stopped and disengorged itself of passengers..

                            “Is that a word, Bea?” asked Leonora. “Disengorged?”

                            “Don’t butt in to the narrative part Leo, or the story won’t make any sense.” hisssed Beattie, “Wait until you’re supposed to speak as one of the characters.”

                            “Well alright, but I don’t suppose it will have much effect on the making sense aspect, either way. Do continue.”

                            To say it was a motley crew gathering would be an understatement.

                            “You got that right,” Leonora said, sotto voce, surupticiously scanning the assortment of individuals alighting from the rather nautical looking yellow cab. Bea glared at Leo. “I suppose I’ll have to include your interrupions as a part of the story now.”

                            “Good thinking, Batman!”

                            “Oh for Pete’s sake, Leo, don’t go mad with endless pointless remarks then, ok? Or I will delete you altogether, and that will be the end of it.”

                            “You can’t delete me. I exist as a character, therefore I am.”

                            “You might have a nasty accident though and slide off the page,” Bea replied warningly.

                            “Why don’t you just get on with it, Bea? Might shut me up, you never know…”. Leo smirked and put her ridiculously large sunglasses on, despite the swirling fog..

                            “Oh I thought it was sunny” said Leonora, taking her sunglasses back off again. “You hadn’t mentioned weather.” She put her sunglasses back on again anyway, the better to secretly examine the others assembled at the crossroads.

                            “Why don’t you go and introduce yourself to them and see if anyone knows why we’re here, Leo, while I get on with the story.”

                            “Who will write what they say, though?”

                            “I’ll add it later, just bugger off and see if anyone knows who sent us that mysterious invitation.”

                            “Right Ho, sport, I’m on the bobbins and lace case” replied Leo. Bea shuddered a bit at the mixture of identities bleeding through Leonora’s persona. “Och aye the noo!”

                            Dear god, thought Beattie, I wish I’d never started this.



                              Just write anything. Anything you want! It is all rubbish anyway. Let your words dance across the page without thought for meaning! Prof Frantic Moose gesticulated wildly and enthusiastically from the front of the classroom.

                              It is all rubbish anyway! Oh My God! That sounds like something Lemone would have said, thought Ann. Brilliant! and so incredibly freeing!

                              She had been suffering from the dreaded ‘Writers Block’ for some weeks now and was secretly doing a Free the Fiction Writer Within, evening course. Disguising her true identity with a long red wig, dark glasses, and going under the pseudonym of Tracy Hoop, she was already feeling tremendously pleased with her decision.


                                Now Class. Your homework is to write about your first sexual experience, in any way you wish. Have a good week, and see you next Wednesay.

                                My FIRST! God there have been so many. Who was first? Not to worry, it was fiction, she would make it up as she went along. Ann was visibly thrilled at the idea of her assignment. Already a limerick was forming somewhere in the depths under that long red wig ….


                                  Ann handed in her assignment somewhat reluctantly. She hadn’t given it a great deal of thought, in fact she didn’t have a great deal of time to work on it. She had decided to do a haiku.

                                  wet slobber drips
                                  down my chin like rancid butter
                                  gag at first kiss



                                    The bell rang, and Ann made her way to her next class. Professor Amy Less was a new teacher at the Academy, and she was one of Ann’s favourites. Prof Less’s philosophy was that everything was perfect just as it was, which of great benefit to her students. Top marks for everything was such an encouragement to their creative urges. Even if they failed to attend class, or they were late with an assignment, she gave them full credit for going with the flow.

                                    “Good afternoon class!” Professor Less beamed brightly at the assembled students. “Today’s assignment will be to make up a story about an surprise gift that you receive unexpectedly. Part of the assignment is to send an unexpected gift to someone else. You may use this class time to go shopping if you wish.” Prof Less smiled and added “And as always, have fun!”


                                      The shopping trip during Prof Less’s class time was indeed fun. Ann purchased a cruet set with a dragonfly motif, half price in a sale. Just one more class to attend before the weekend, Professor Godfrey Gordon’s class, or Good God Gordy as he was affectionately known.

                                      “Ann, I must congratulate you on doing so VERY well with Continuity.” Gordon said, with much appreciation and deep sincerity. “You’re doing very well indeed. A toast!” he raised his glass, and smiled warmly at Ann.

                                      Ann found herself blushing at the unaccustomed praise. “Gosh, Gordy, thanks!” she gushed. “And what fun to have champagne in class! Cheers, everyone!”



                                        Ann Aspect had started the evening course “Free the Fiction Writer Within” without much hope, but much to her surprise, she loved it. She enjoyed it so much that on impulse she quit her day job at the Frozen Flounder Company and signed up at the Fiction Writers Academy as a full time immature student.

                                        After a few weeks of juggling the struggling to look after the children and cook for her husband, keep the house clean, and all the other things a busy wife and mother does, as well as her assignments, Ann decided that it would be much more fun to stay in the students accomodation. She left them a note on the kitchen table saying simply “Have Fun Dears, I’m off!” and left, taking nothing with her but the clothes she was wearing (and the red wig). She called in at the cash point machine on the way to the Academy and withdrew as much money as it would allow her, and then threw her bank card in the gutter. Free! A clean slate, a new life!



                                          Two students of the Free the Fiction Writer Within evening course were whispering in a corridor of the Academy before it began.

                                          — Did you hear about prof. Moose?
                                          — Yes, you mean what happened with Pedro last night?

                                          They turned their head at the same time to look at Pedro, another student who arrived recently in town. He was sitting on the floor, reading a book and apparently unaware that he was the subject of several discussions.

                                          — Well, yes. Max the janitor was passing by one of the service room when he heard some odd noise. I don’t know if it’s out of curiosity or because it was a service room, but he opened the door and found them half naked between brooms and mops.
                                          — What I heard was that she told him bluntly that she was busy helping one of her students with the assignment she gave her students last time…
                                          — No! she told that?
                                          — Yes, apparently Pedro never had sex before and he went after the class to see her and asked her if she could help him. And after what Max said she was more than happy to help him out.


                                            Indeed, Frantic was more than delighted to help out any of her students. It was her desire, her passion even, that they should succeed in her classes. She chastened herself mentally for making the assumption that all her students would be able to find some reference point in their past to assist them with her assignment. However, as she explained to Pedro, it was not essential for a writer to experience everything they wrote about. What was necessary was a willingness to research. Knowing the boy liked to read, she offered him an extensive reading list of appropriate material, plus a few Mills and Boons she just happened to have in her handbag, and sent him on his way.

                                            She was more surprised than anyone when the janitor came to her the next morning and confessed what had happened in the service room. Apparently he had … well lets not go there, she thought, what is done is done and no harm will come of it if they both keep quiet. The little bouquet of flowers he gave her as an apology gift (GIFTSEE THE GIFT TP) did much to allay her concern. And at least the boy will have something to write about now.

                                            As she put the flowers in water she pondered her next assignment. She could see she would have to give this much careful thought in order to avoid future embarrassing service room encounters.


                                              Arona had no idea what dimension she was in. Or indeed, whether she was where she was at all. Oddly enough, and it was not often now that Arona found anything odd, she was finding the experience rather freeing.

                                              “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Hoooooooooooooooooo” she shouted, and holding her arms wide open, began to whirl joyously around, till dizziness overcame her and she landed in a heap on the ground. She expected to land in a heap on the ground in a soft meadow with pretty spring flowers, but to her consternation realised that she had landed on what felt like polished concrete. She was even more concerned when she realised that she had a large audience watching her with interest, although at that stage all she really took in was a sea of feet around her. On further inspection she appeared to be in what looked like an enormous building full of shops, and, shoppers.

                                              “Are you okay?” A kindly gentleman asked her in a concerned voice. At least that is what Arona thought he said. Although the words were familiar, the accent was strange, and not one she had heard before.

                                              “I am fine, thank you,” replied Arona, trying her best to appear composed and rise gracefully from her sprawled position all at the same time. She must have looked convincing because, after a few more curious looks in her direction, the crowd began to disperse.

                                              Good Grief, where am I now? she wondered. Determined not to be alarmed and to go with the flow, however rapid that flow may be, the intrepid Arona set off to explore her new surroundings.


                                              Arona looked around. It was the strangely spoken gentleman who had first offered assistance. He was brandishing a book towards her.

                                              “Take this book. It is no good for me.”

                                              Arona hesitated. The last time she had heard those words she had ended up with a funny little baby to look after. The man was insistent though, so, thanking him politely Arona accepted the gift.

                                              “Hmmmm, How to Write Fiction, how very peculiar!” Flipping it open randomly she read:

                                              [Random Words Epigraph] Step One: Randomly choose 5 entries from your dictionary. Just flip through the pages, close your eyes, and put your finger down on the page. Copy down the word that is closest to your finger. If your finger lands on a word that you don’t know, you can choose the word just above or just below it. For the purposes of this assignment, count paired words as a single entry (for instance, “melting pot” is listed as a single entry). Step Two: Shape your list of dictionary entries into a poem or story, using all of the entries.

                                              “bugger that,” snorted Arona.

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