Thursday, 12 July 2012

Abacus - Friday Flash

Ein: The war hero was adorned like a Christmas tree. Gold piping and brocade ran down from his shoulder like poison ivy. Multicoloured banded ribbons of military decorations distended across his breast like chromatography analysis. One empty sleeve of his uniform lay against his chest just below, pinned in place by a medal. The silver branches of its star echoed the shape of the shrapnel that had originally caused his arm to be severed. He gave a salute with the hand of his only arm.

Sechs: The Hindu deity had six arms. In one was the ubiquitous wheel, symbol of the perfect creation of the cosmos. While another carried a fearsome pronged trident. A third cupped a snake, seemingly slithering free from her grasp. A fourth had a lotus bud sitting in the palm of the hand, offered up to the heavens. The fifth countered it with a thunderbolt raised high as if it had issued from the sky and the goddess had snared it in her grip, saving her people. Or perhaps intending to hurl it herself, having snatched it from heaven's quiver. Her last hand gripped a conch shell, poised to be sounded, so as to summon the primordial creative energy of the world.

Sechzehn: The boat was a thing of beauty as it sliced through the water. Sixteen sculls in perfect periodicity, retracted into the stomachs of the oarsmen leaning back, before being repelled away from them again. The upright blades ducking and doffing the last possible moment, at the point which they break the water like a guillemot hunting from the surface. Like the delicate hand movements of an Indian dancer clacking her narrative rhythms. And yet this sixteen limbed beast is more about rhythmic power than grace. The cox with his hands to his exhorting mouth, twitching like the two antennae around the maw of an insect, while its centipedal limbs flared out as the thoracic body of the boat was propelled along. One of the rowers catches a crab and is forced to raise his appendage above his head, perpendicular to the rest of the limbs. As if he had snapped the bone at the elbow.

Acht: The octopus was going ahunting and afishing. Two of its tentacles curled their suction cups around a rock in order to anchor it. It extended a third outwards, wiggling it to make ripples in the water to give the impression that it was bait. A fourth arm was surreptitiously doing some surveillance of its own, monitoring the field around the lure-limb. A fifth arm shot out to grab the victim once it came into range, and the sixth clamped itself around the fifth and reeled its brother back towards its mouth to inject it with venom. The seventh arm prepared to amputate itself as a sacrifice, should the octopus be disturbed while in the act of eating. The last arm wiped a morsel that was clinging to the outside of its maw with the gesture of full satisfaction, like a diner might use the napkin at the end of his meal.

Vier/Zwei: The boy stood with his arms crossed over his chest, each hand hugging its opposite shoulder as if he were in a straitjacket. The man craned his arms out to bid his son into their embrace. The boy didn't move. The man wiggled his hands beckoning to him. The boy stayed held in place. The man took a step forward, his arms still extended, like the prongs of a forklift truck. Sensing no rebuff, the man chanced another forward stride. His face cracked into a lop-sided smile, trying to accentuate the consoling nature of his gesture. The boy seemed to slip further inside his own lost folds, even though there was no discernible outward motion. The man crept forward with slow, unbroken steps until he could envelop the boy. He slotted his arms around the boy's shoulders, but the latter's own arms remained resolutely pinned to himself. "Come on son, come to Dad". The boy spat at him and in the reflexive recoil towards his sullied face, the boy ducked and escaped the older man's flailing arms.

Drei: The clock had three armatures circumnavigating its dial at various velocities. A two-dimensional solar system, wreaking the maximal gravitational force on the observer, holding him in its thrall. He watched as the thick, stubby arm planted itself ramrod straight along on the inside track, all but motionless to the eye. Moving in increments only barely noticeable, was a thinner spine. Laboriously circuiting the clockface, inching away from its larger cousin stood to attention. Like an arthritic limb, slowly it completed a full circle, all in order to nudge its fellow traveller one notch along, before leaving him behind and embarking on another tour. And thus did it proceed once again on its Sisyphean toil. Lapping them both was the thin red pointer, hurtling along with its streamlined needle. Lighting the way for its two country bumpkin bodkins as it studiously ticked off every indented segment round the perimeter of the dial. Its motion a blur, the observer could not always take its progress in. When he tilted his head, sometimes he managed to make the red indicator freeze momentarily in place. Before it skipped off merrily resuming its unfettered revolutions.

Zwei/Null: The frame of the bow was twitching with the pent up force of the string pulling it. His hand steady and steadying at the perfect centre of the wood. His other arm was perpendicular, to them both, as it drew back the wire to where it caressed the stubble of his face. His jaw was being grazed as the cable oscillated with the tension it contained within, exactly mirroring the tendons and ligaments in his arm which were burning with the exertions of containing such elastic power.
One arm precisely cupped the barrel along its entire length as if they were two entwined serpents. The other cocked at the elbow, jutting away from the man's sleek prone form, as his finger palpated the harsh curve of the trigger.
Right arm telescoped out in front of him, the left wrapped up and over the metal tube resting on its shoulder. Like he was carrying harvested wheatsheafs. But the metal tube was like a third limb, his heaped up rear arm like a chancre, an outgrowth of grizzled, diseased tissue. He pressed the trigger and was rocked back by the unseen fourth arm, the trail of fiery smoke that shot out behind him. He released his forward hand from gripping the RPG and brought his hand over his eyes to peer at his target ablaze. Then he swung the tube across his shoulders and casually threaded both hands over it as if he were tied to it like a condemned man as he strode off back into the mountains. 


from the Flash Fiction collection available from Amazon


Helen said...

This was such an interesting piece, I liked the analogy between each of the subjects and how their limbs were counted. I'm wondering if the one at the end was the cause of the one at the beginning?

Eitherway good flash!

Anonymous said...

Great idea for a flash where you develop some intriguing descriptions. I'll never look at rowing the same way again. And that word "maw" always makes me feel sick!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Octopi terrify me! Fascinating concept though I wouldn't expect anything less from you.

Simon K. said...

I really enjoyed "Vier/Zwei" - the subtle push and pull between them, a lovely bit of writing.

Steve Green said...

All of these are beautifully descriptive, My favourite is ACHT, I'm not really sure why, possibly because I quite like octopi.

Deanna Schrayer said...

Our arms and hands - something we take for granted every day, but a part of us all with more power than most realize. You showed that power, (and lack thereof in some cases), very well here Marc. Love it!

Cindy Vaskova said...

So wonderfully descriptive Marc. I enjoyed all of them but Drei stuck out for me. I like clocks I suppose :)

Great piece as always.

Danielle La Paglia said...

I love that you did a theme of arms for this week. Each so unique, but tied together. My favorite was Sechzehn because of the image of the broken arm.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Marc. Thought-provoking, as usual.