Hummus awoke with a start. He looked around at scene that was at the same time both familiar and unsettling. Above his head the bright light – the word ‘sun’ seemed to be relevant though at the moment he couldn’t be entirely sure about anything – appeared to be withdrawing through a hole in some dark grey bubbly things. He strained to find the dusty corner of his consciousness where he was sure a word to describe these things had been carefully tucked but everything seemed cleaned and new and oddly free of angles. Maybe he’d imagined the word ‘corner’ or it applied to something else. Meanwhile as he struggled to get a grip on this vocabulary experience the hole – definitely ‘hole’ and not ‘opening’ or ‘aperture’ – was rapidly closing. Though what did rapidly mean? It felt like he needed something to test it against but since the only other thing that seemed to be moving was the heap of dirty rags to his left, and even in his currently befuddled state the word ‘rapid’ didn’t seem to want to attach itself to the speed with which the… actually they weren’t just rags but rags and two hands. He checked his wrists; he still had two hands hanging loosely at the ends so they weren’t his hands.
The hole was now nearly completely closed and the bundle of rags had developed a pair of legs and what looked like a foot.
Hummus decided to watch. He knew he was in no hurry. Indeed he rather regretted his rash release of ‘rapid’ into his world. Something told him he may come to rue it. The rags sat up revealing a tangled mass of hair and a bleary eye. The eye took a moment to appraise its surroundings moving from Hummus to a heap of cans that someone had carefully balanced one on top the next and back. ‘Cairn,’ said the rags.
Hummus pondered this. He understood there were things such as names and that often creatures with them proffered them like tokens of peaceful engagement. Something in the smooth curvature of his mind – he would need to find out what happened to the corners, for he was sure he liked corners – told him that aggressive creatures, especially those prone to consider you not so much as the enemy as food, hardly ever started a ‘me hungry, you dinner’ interface with an exchange of pleasantries. He shrugged. ‘Hummus’ for in that moment he was sure that was his name.
The creature turned to look fully at him. In doing so a second eye appeared though unlike the first it seemed rather bored and did its best to pull its lid over its head, presumably to grab a bit more shut eye. ‘I’m not hungry.’
‘No, me neither’ said Hummus.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Hummus,’ said Hummus.
At this point, dear reader, the inclination to play with this clear verbal misunderstanding is almost overwhelming but shall we assume the normal seven lines of banter and move on?
‘I’m Riderick,’ said Cairn, who wasn’t.
‘I thought you were Cairn,’ said Hummus, who was. ‘
‘That’s a cairn,’ said… oh, make up your own mind. ‘A can cairn. It’s a sign.’
‘Nope you’ve lost me.’
Riderick stood and moved to the can mound. He picked up the top one. ‘Do you remember yesterday?’
‘Er… what’s yesterday?’
‘Exactly. Yesterday is the past and since you just fell out of the sky you’ve no yesterdays yet. You’ll have one tomorrow.’
‘Is it okay to ask for a heads up on this tomorrow thingy?’
‘I didn’t say I’d answer. Look, you’ll know you’ve reached tomorrow when you find you’ve banked a yesterday. Your first .’
‘Okay… and in the meantime…?’
‘It’s today. Now, if you prefer. If you get confused you can always fall back on now. Though now isn’t back, which is yesterday; it’s more, well this moment, the present. See?’
‘It’ll all become clear, this time shtick.’
Hummus sat on a convenient rock. He felt rather giddy. ‘It might help if you explained the bit when you said I fell out of the sky.’
‘The why bit.’
‘No one said?’
Hummus let his mind wander. There was something a bit loose in his understanding. He must have looked confused because Riderick put an arm around his shoulder. ‘What do you remember before your first remember?’
‘My first remember is waking up here, looking at the light disappearing into those fluffy things.’
‘Yes! Damn it I knew that.’
‘And before that?’
Hummus pulled his mouth one way and then the other. ‘Nope.’
‘Right ho. Not a problem. You’ll soon pick it up. The quick version then. You’re my replacement. I am the Guardian. I’m here to make sure that… well, they’ll tell you.’
‘You’ll soon find out. They’re like you, only smaller and with furry ears. No one knows why. They will revere you, do what ever you say.’
‘Let’s not go there, shall we? Just take it from me they do. So you’ll ask them stuff and demand stuff and basically they’ll get on with it. If you didn’t they might try and run themselves and well, apparently they did that for several million beats ended up with this democracy thing and that meant they ate their planet and had to be rehoused. The Boss decided He couldn’t let that happen again so he reprogrammed out free will and installed a total compliance App. Which was fine only it needed an immortal to give them purpose. Which is where I and you come in.’
‘Is that good?’
Riderick wobbled a hand. ‘The jury’s still out, I think it’s fair to say most immortals find they reach a point where – and this is just between you and me, okay?’
‘We’d rather kill ourselves than have another Fete Day. Which is a problem as immortals and Suicide don’t go together.’
‘So what happens?’
‘Oh, eventually you’ll make it clear enough you want out, the Boss will have a new immortal carved out of the foothills of Olympus and he’ll drop said immortal viz, in this case you, through the sky. It is then up to you to get on with it.’
‘How am I mean to cope? It sounds ghastly!’
‘Nah, it’s not too bad. Anyway, that’s where the cairn comes in.’
‘Yep. They’re the latest in high grade, quintuple brewed ambrosia. If it all gets too much, come back here grab a tinny and have a little moment.’
‘That’ll help, will it?’
‘Let’s just say that after one of those, you’ll be lucky if you can remember now let alone yesterday. My advice it to eek them out. And don’t let the natives get hold of them.’
‘That bad, hun?’
‘Well, if you haven’t heard the expression ‘it will blow their minds’ before, then after a sip of one of those you’ll experience a very real and intensely visceral demonstration of the literal truth of the phrase. Now I need to pack and get ready to move on out.’
‘How do you do that?’
‘In truth I’m not sure. My predecessor received a sign to go to the top of the highest mountain. When he go there it turned out to be an unexpectedly active volcano which blew him into orbit. I made it clear to the Boss that I wanted something less dramatic so he said to meet you by this cove.’
‘You speak to the Boss?’
‘He calls. Sometimes. Not as often as you’d like but, you know, He’s a busy man. Oh, here we go.’
Hummus looked where Riderick looked. The cloud had morphed into a phrase, telling Riderick to go to the water’s edge. As Hummus watched, Riderick approached the seashore. The moment the first gentle wave touched his toes, the sea broiled and an enormous Kraken leapt out of the frothing deep, grabbing the screaming immortal in his jaws and disappearing back where he came before Hummus could so much as utter a squeaky but heartfelt ‘WTF’.
Hummus sat back stunned. He looked at the clouds and waited while they reformed. Finally he could read the message.
DON’T WORRY, HE’LL BE FINE
‘It looked horrible.’
NAH. JUST ME MESSING, YOU DIG. YOU KNOW GODS AND STUFF, WE ALWAYS LIKE A LAUGH.
‘I’m not sure that was funny.’
HELL, YOU WAIT UNTIL ITS YOUR TURN!
Hummus turned away. His eye caught sight of the cairn. He cracked a drink. Lesson one, he thought. Live for the moment. Slowly. Nothing rapid…
This is my response to this week’s #writephoto