Ponder, Equal, Found

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

In his hands was the Voynich Manuscript. A 240 page document from the 15th century with illustrations and text. Most interesting was the text; it could not be traced to any known language.

The illustrations themselves were also quite interesting. The first half filled with renderings of plants, unfamiliar to the planet. The second half filled with drawings of human forms sliding through tubes, being dismembered, and arranged in some sort of sack.

The manuscript had been found in the early 1900’s and now it was in my hands. An impulse vibrated through me to stuff the book in my shirt and walk out of the rare books section of one of Yale’s libraries.

Instead, I stared into the pages, past the ink, as if something would crawl out of the microscopic fibers. I pondered what this would mean but not for long. A couple of dots over one of the strange letters began to grow. The Umlauts twisted around each other growing but remaining equal to each other in size.

On the page in front of me was now a rendering of a mobile phone with a cracked screen. The text accompanying the previous illustration now changed as well.

I was still unable to read it but the entire page had reformatted itself.

On its own, the page turned and the swirling dots turned the existing illustration into a new one. This time it looked like a bowl holding parts of some sort of machine. The text changed and the Umlauts moved to the next page.

I was in awe. If I could learn the language of the Voynich Manuscript, I would come up with words to better describe my feelings. I can’t so I was in awe of the book rewriting itself while I held it. Each page the dots move faster and faster until the last few pages were a rush of wind before the book shut.

I nearly dropped the book, which pulled me back to reality.

Now I thought about what it looked like to be given the opportunity to hold the original Voynich Manuscript and return a completely different book. I was amazed how the mundane world of social pressure was a stronger pull than the wonder and magic I had just witnessed.

I set the book down and walked out of the library.

Mean, Mean, Mean

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by Dad

One of the oldest debates in history was that of the meaning of mean. For those that study such things, they theorize that something was lost in translation and originals no longer exist.

The confusion lay around the intended definition of the word “mean”. The sentence at the very end of the ancient script read “Discover mean.”

That first interpretation was that the author intended its readers to discover purpose, a reason for living. However, certain philosophers came along and proposed that mean was intended to be mathematical. That to spend time looking for purpose was a fool’s errand, like looking for air. An average, however, could be discovered. In other words they argued, you may not find a purpose but you can find what makes you happy, what makes you content. Discover that mean.

The two theories lived on in two different belief systems, mostly at peace but sometimes at war.

A third theory was introduced mostly from warring radicals on both sides of the two existing theories. Having seen and caused their fair share of violence they put forth the theory that “discover mean” was intended for all to find and root out evil. To slice out cancerous elements everywhere.

Of course, no one pointed out how comfortable the already violent ones were able to adopt this new violent belief. They felt justified in their acts, arguing it was all for the greater good.

In between these three theories were the jokes, sayings and philosophies that people knew but did not widely adopt or apply to their personal identities.

Some said the argument was as fruitless as the Protestant claim that Jesus dying on the cross had said “I tell you today, you shall be with me in paradise.”

A single comma split families, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.

So the meaning of the mean created division.

Only a few thought to ask who had written the script to begin with, where had it come from, what was the context for the rest of the piece.

The scrolls seemed to amount to an individuals notebook filled with records of inventory, lists of people and the odd bit of scribblings which included jokes, philosophical questions and the beginnings of stories.

My favorite theory is that humans tend to believe that our current times and understanding of humanity is the most advanced. But the human experience is the same. To quantify human experience, we’d arrive at the same mean now as in 800 AD. To search for purpose would be to arrive at the same mean. To be kind would be to defeat the same mean.

Word, Square, Nice

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320

words/phrase provided by @justninajo

In Cincinnati lived Samual Meeks. His old colleagues and friends used to call him “Smee”. Now the name felt detached from him, something of myth or legend, just another word that conjured up an old image.

He sat, sipping at his Irish coffee. Really, he had argued, it was the coffee of the working man. Each country had their slight variation on liquor and coffee. Caffeine to wake the body and whiskey to have a nice day, nothing spectacular, just a nice one.

Samuel read the newspaper, something he’d started to do after publishing his memoirs. The publicist he’d been assigned at Hukster & Simple’s Publishing told him he’d be asked about his thought on many topics, not just his book. The publicist said that would make him appear more approachable and position his persona for a much better second book launch.

So he made it a habit of scanning the news. He didn’t need to be an expert, “just care enough to look intelligent but not so much where you become a martyr. Media martyr’s don’t stay long in the public eye,” the publicist had said. He felt more like a square than someone intelligent.

The whiskey in his coffee began changing his mood. On page 6 or 7 of the paper, there was a short human interest piece about a man who claimed to have seen Peter Pan as an adult. The journalist covering the story made the angle more about an otherwise rational adult making an irrational claim. Samuel was curious about the claim itself, in the same way his intrigue was peaked when hearing about UFO or ghost sitings. He didn’t believe it but the possibility was always interesting.

What would make someone ruin their reputation and credibility by claiming to have seen a grown-up that was Peter Pan? That was crazier then Yeti’s or chupacabras.

Samuel finished his coffee, nearly half of it, before finished the article. He squeezed his eyes tight and stretched his throat, realizing how much “a little bit of whiskey” he had actually poured.

The man claiming to have seen Peter Pan was on his way to work at a construction job somewhere in the California Desert. He’d stopped at a McDonald’s for breakfast and said “Peter Pan grew up! He was taking handfuls of salt packets and shoving them in his pockets. He looked homeless.”

That was it. The journalist had not provided any context for which to allow the reader to decide if the man was making a reasonable claim or not.

What ere the man’s religious beliefs? Did he believe in Bigfoot? Had he also seen ghosts and/or UFO’s? A ‘No’ to these questions would make the claim more intriguing, thought Samuel.

Imbricate, Pongee, Zucchetto

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by Dad

In the museum I was mostly bored save for a few minor details that caught my attention. Supposedly, at one time there were these organizations, run mostly like clubs with memberships, that had the benefit of being tax exempt. Religious organizations.

Each one claimed to be different but after millions of years of doubt, questioning, corruption, and frivolous rules, the obvious simply became too obvious to ignore.

There was no catastrophic event, it was only a “last straw” sort of situation.

Now I was passing an exhibit that was part of the Catholic section (one of the largest section of the museum). The guide pointed at an old pink colored hat, just large enough to fit on the back of a skull, and said “Notice the pongee on this Zucchetto. Pongee the Chinese silk fabric on a cap traditionally worn by Catholic clergy. Quite the contrast of cultures and beliefs in one little cap.”

Indeed, the irony was right in front of their faces (or on their heads) the entire time.

We passed a display with all sorts of symbols. The Christian cross was pointed out as another symbol of irony; a torture device used by the Roman Empire became the symbol of a supposedly peaceful belief system.

The Jewish star, a symbol of the merging of heaven and earth, or to others, the merging of male and female. It turns out a symbol of tangled confusion. Most, if not all the symbols had more than one meaning, which, the tour guide pointed out, should have been another clue into the ambiguous nature of religious truths, if it could be called natural.

We passed by books that had been called holy but were now simply considered old and outdated.

We passed miniature cathedrals, temples, churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. All destroyed now and replaced with museums, art installations, libraries or public parks.

When the tour ended, I walked back to the section with miniature versions of the once erected places of worship. They must have been truly magnificent works of architecture and they were inspired by awe, wonder and a deep reverence for something they believed to be as real as the stones, wood and stained glass used to build them.

I stared at one rooftop in particular, the plaque read “This rooftop was built to mimic the imbrication often found in nature. Notice the uneven staggering of tiles, not like a snake or fish but more like that of a pine cone or blossomed flower.”

What was it all about? Who was it really for?

Evolution, Revolution, Patience

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320

words/phrase provided by Dad

He’s still sitting there at Capitol Hill on the steps of the Capitol building. Eighty-something years old with a leather vest, jeans, and a red, white, and blue bandana. He’s still waiting.

He’s sat there through a couple of major wars and a few dozen minor conflicts. His sign never changes “give peace a chance” it says, but it would seem to the outside observer, that peace needs context and that context is war.

I heard people talk about the hippy octogenarian. They say things like “It’s easy to be peaceful when you never try to do anything” or “You don’t get peace without war.”

Is the opposite true? You don’t get war without peace? I’ve wondered. Is this man’s 60-year protest, antagonizing? While some men die, others sit and hold signs? Is that antagonizing?

I’ve thought about asking the old man my questions. I’ve thought about asking him how it felt for other men to have fought proudly for what they believe and die for it? How did he feel about protesting their sacrifice?

I’ve considered asking him about the evolution of man but I realized by watching him that man’s mind doesn’t evolve. It’s a stubborn and unbending thing, especially when the odds are stacked against it.

Evolution only exists in nature and not the unnatural minds of man, who question everything.

I’ve considered asking the old man many questions about war, foreign and domestic policy, the value of human life, and revolution. I haven’t because I think that when i look at that man, the questions only arise out of my own insecurity.

Do I have the strength of character to sit at the same step for 60 years? Could I stand for something so staunchly, even thought it doesn’t affect my day to day life? Is that man my enemy or am I my own?

One day I walked by the steps and the old man wasn’t there. On the local news that night a short segment was dedicated to him.

I watched and changed my mind, a little. It wasn’t about the forces to which he opposed or the forces which other men fought, it was about being a force. All protests come to an end. All war comes to an end. The only force is that he stood for something. It could have been war, it could have been peace.

Exciting, Chocolate, Clock

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by @ladychap84

I can feel that bubble welling up in my chest. No, it’s not a literal bubble it’s that feeling of pressure that rises up and sometimes forces your cheeks into a smile or occasionally causes you to shake. when you’re about to get something you’ve been wanting for a long time. The anticipation of receiving that thing you’ve wanted for a while.

I sat on the edge of the check-up bed, my bare ass sticking to the thin paper they pull over the top to stop cross-contamination. I could feel the paper sticking in my crack and start to curl up my thighs. This part was not exciting.

I was waiting for the news about my cancer. The nurses and doctors had been treating me like I beat it. They were slapping my back and saying things like ” I shouldn’t be saying anything like this but I’m 90% sure you’ll be cancer free. Let’s just wait for the tests.”

That was the excitement. Now I was staring at the clock, begging its hands to speed up. I needed to know.

I heard a soft knock on the door and the doctor came in. He didn’t look like a man about to tell another man that they were cancer free. In fact, the doctor looked the opposite.

He came over next to me and said, “Sam, I’m sorry but I spoke too soon. Your tests came back positive and the cancer has spread.”

I could only muster an “oh.”

“I’m afraid you only have another two or three months to live.”

I looked up at the clock, the hands now looked like they were zipping around its face. I wanted everything to stop for a minute so I could wrap my head around it all.

“Can I put my pants back on?” I asked, not really waiting for his reply.

The doctor was talking but I wasn’t listening as I walked out. I still had on the gown over my pants. Passing the reception desk, I reached into the bowl of mini-candy bars.

“Sir,” said the lady at the desk, “we ask that you only take one at a time. We want everyone to have the opportunity to get some.”

“One at a time.” I grunted, then stopped and pulled out a mini-mars bar and stuck it in my mouth. I reached into the bowl and pulled out a mini-reeses pieces. In between chewing the mars bar, I stuck the Reeses in my mouth.

One at a time, as per the lady’s instructions, I unwrapped and ate chocolate covered candy bars, until they were all gone.

It was too much. I started to gag. The lady pulled a trashcan from under her desk and gave it to me. I threw up all the chocolate, a lot of it still intact.

I wondered if it was my gluttony or my cancer that made me sick but then I thought, with two or three months to live is that really what I’m going to think about?

Account, Arm, Sniff

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

The file had been on my desk since my first week at Lav, Slav and Tony investments. It had been put there by an old man, the founder, who wore a tux and stuffed cotton balls into his cheeks like Marlon Brando in the Godfather. He had dreams of going legit but to everyone’s knowledge he had never actually had any illegitimate business.

So I opened the file and started reading the paper. It was a MEMO, a short paragraph that read:

“ATTENTION: All account managers, please do not keep arms at the office.”

At first I wanted to make a joke about how we would do our typing without arms but then I remembered that the MEMO was nearly four years old.

I grabbed the MEMO and slid it into the waste bin. Now I was all caught up with work. I headed out of the office but before I could go Lav and Slav stopped me (Tony was the cotton ball guy, dead now). They invited me out for a drink. As their employee, I said yes.

They took me to this club in the part of town where they store meat, fish, furniture and other wares. A club with a pink sign in Miami vice style writing that said “Lazerbeam” only the “m” was going in and out so every few seconds it was club “Lazerbea”, which I thought sounded cooler.

We went inside and Slav motioned to a waiter who took us to a booth. We ordered drinks, then Lav took out a little baggie of white powder.

“Time to put on my dancing shoes,” he said.

Then he chopped up an impressively straight rail, a real mathematical wonder. He dragged his nostril across the table, which stood out to me because the table wasn’t so clean. I could see bits of lint, dust and Saltene crackers being pulled into his nose. Lav dabbed at the residue left on the table and rubbed his gums with it. Then he jumped up and ran to the dance floor.

Our drinks arrived and as I reached for my Whiskey/Coke, Slav said, “Ah, I notice you didn’t read our MEMO.”

Delirious, Jaded, Glitter

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

A lonely traveler trudged through the steps of the rice paddy’s. She was approaching the temple delirious with hunger and exhaustion.

The journey had begun in high spirits, now, nearly at its end, she was feeling jaded.

What was so special about this temple? There were many temples in her own prefecture, what drove her to this? Enlightenment?

She reached the steps of the temple and started to climb. At the top, a figure dressed in yellow robes appeared. She hoped he would have a bowl of rice and maybe some sake.

At the top the monk gestured for her to sit at the top of the step. From inside the temple, another monk brought her dumplings, rice and water. She ate until her hunger was gone. She also realized that her mood had improved as well, but her exhaustion was making her annoyed at the monks, that they couldn’t say anything to someone who had journeyed so far and so long to reach them.

One monk beckoned her to a corner where there was a mat with bedding, just what she needed.

She didn’t remember falling asleep but she awoke and found herself in high spirits. She had completed the journey she had set out to finish and after food and a good nap, she could appreciate her achievement.

A monk came and motioned for her to follow. They walked through the temple until they arrived at a statue of the Buddha, a fat, smiling Buddha.

The woman sat and stared, closing her eyes, holding out her low but audible “ooohhhmmmm’s”, opening her eyes, fidgeting. She looked around at the other monks all sitting, eyes closed, facing the Buddha with a collective low hum of deep meditation.

She couldn’t focus. The deep satisfaction she had felt upon reaching the temple and then receiving her humble reward of food and sleep, was not matched by this, whatever this ritual was to a glittering Buddha.

At that moment, she became enlightened. The rest and food, normal and often under-appreciated necessities of life, became her deepest rewards after her journey. She could not fathom a satisfying life of stagnation at the top of a mountain simply staying put.

The woman grabbed her things and began the journey back down the mountain to her home. She looked forward to the hunger and exhaustion that would bring so much meaning to whatever food and rest she would find at the end of her journey.