Innocence

I just saw a man get hit by a car, fly up in the air and fall to the ground. Now he lies there without moving. Must be taking a nap. The person who was driving the car is getting out, speeding toward the man on the concrete. The driver bends forward and pushes on the chest of the man lying on the ground. He keeps doing this for some time and then stops. He shouts and cries. I think he’s sad. Mommy comes into the garden, mommy sees what’s happening on the street as well and carries me inside. I say I want to keep playing outside but mommy keeps on telling me I have to play inside. OK, if mommy says so. I play with my police car, on the new carpet we got. My police car used to make the same sound as the siren which I hear outside, but it doesn’t work anymore. Might be because I dropped it from the kitchen table once. It fell to the floor, just like the man outside did. I think that man is a stuntman. I want to be a stuntman when I am bigger.

Superfocus

“How long before extraction?” Wallace shouts. He’s in contact with Eyes, who provides him with intel.

“Can’t –ell, bu- on th- -ay,” the voice on the other side of the comms says. The line is filled with static, as Wallace’s comms are jammed because of the fall he made.

“Copy that,” Wallace says.

The contract was simple: travel to London, kill the target, obtain the briefcase and get out. The reality turned out quite the opposite, however. He’s taking cover because he’s under fire from several directions. Wallace wipes the sweat from his forehead and reloads. He looks at the stairwell leading downstairs behind him, but if he heads for it, he’ll definitely get a bullet in his back. With his back against the flipped table, he looks to his right. There are several windows, some of them shattered by bullet fire. It’s cloudy outside and there’s no sun to be seen. The clouds are dark, indicating it will rain soon. On his left there’s the bar, where he drank a Dashford just minutes ago when suddenly all chaos broke loose. Lots of glass and bottles hanging from the ceiling, ready to serve anyone, but not in these circumstances. At the back of the bar there are mirrors, reflecting the assaultants firing at Wallace. Some bar stools in front of the bar, half of them fallen over, the plant, which miraculously is still intact, and the lights, one of them unlit make up the rest of the bar. The four hostiles are closing in on Wallace, taking pauses between firing to keep the agent behind the table oppressed. He has to come up with a plan fast, or the glass in the room won’t be the only thing shattered.

Wallace looks at the mirrors and sees the four guards are close now, only a few more meters and they’ll have him surrounded, with nowhere to go. He closes his eyes and focusses. No escape possible via the stairwell. A leap through the windows might do the trick, but he’ll never be able to run around the guards. The colours of the environment become black and white and every sound present in the room vanishes. Time slows down and his mind leaves his body, ascending to the ceiling. The enemies are slowly drawing nearer. Wallace notices the wall behind the mirrors at the bar. Besides a waterline and the frame of the walls there’s a powerline running through it. Within less than one fourth of a second Wallace’s mind returns to his body, he aims his gun to his left, at the exact place where the powerline runs and fires. Instantly, all the lights go out and the whole room becomes dark. The guards start shouting in surprise and empty their clips at the table, speeding up their pace. As they blast around it, there’s no one behind it. Wallace looks over his shoulder, at the guards who are starting to rage and jumps out one of the shattered windows. He drops onto a scaffolding, opposite of the building he jumped out of and descends it quickly, by gliding down one of the bars. As he sprints back toward the city center, Eyes contacts him again.

“Wh-t’s yo-r stat-s?” he asks. Wallace doesn’t respond at first, but starts talking after a while.

“I lost him.”

Patience is a virtue

It’s thursday. Norman is visiting townhall because he has to pick up his new identification card. His old one expires in a month, so he had new photos taken and applied for a new one. Upon arriving at townhall, there are seven other people waiting before him. He didn’t think thursday mornings were this crowded, but he can’t change anything to the fact, so he draws a number, finds himself a place to sit in the waiting room and waits for him to be called. The walls in the waiting room are coloured red. There are two plants standing in two corners, green ferns, contrasting with the red walls. Looking at them for a while longer however, the colours seem to blend together. On the table in the middle of the room several magazines lie. A fashion magazine, a magazine about boats, one about countryside life, and a magazine with the royal family on the cover.

Only four people in front of Norman now, the waiting room is becoming less filled with people. A few minutes later, a man walks into the waiting room. There’s sweat on his forehead and after sitting down, he moves around in his seat several times. He mumbles something, but Norman isn’t able to hear what he says. Five minutes later, the line decreases again, one less person waiting. Norman looks forward, with a satisfied smile on his face. He’s got time. Thursday and friday are his days off, so he doesn’t have to go anywhere. The hurried man is still moving around in his chair and says something to the woman sitting next to him. “Darn cityhall, always taking this long.” The woman turns her head as he speaks, but turns it back as soon as he’s done talking. Her facial expression leans toward the ‘mind your own business’-look. The display above the door displays numbers 653 and 654 now. Only one more person and it’s Norman’s turn. He takes a look at his old ID card. He looks a lot younger in the picture, which was taken eight years ago. His hair was full, with its typical black colour. Norman smiles at the fact his hair has been receding for two years now. “Baldness runs in the family, no escaping it,” he thinks to himself.

Three more people come in the room. They sit down and stare in front of them, in silence. One of them takes a magazine from the table, the one about the countryside and browses through it. The rushed man sighs. “Hurry up, lazy civil servants,” he says, moving around in his seat again. The person sitting next to him, the one next in line, looks at him and frowns. The hurried man notices it. “What’re you looking it?” he says. The frowning man turns his head back and matters return back to normal. 655 and 656 appear on the display. “Ah,” Norman thinks to himself. “My turn.” He stands up and walks to the counter. There’s a kind looking lady sitting behind it, smiling as Norman stands in front of her. “Goodmorning sir, here to pick up your new ID card?” she asks. She already knows the answer, but that’s how things work, of course. Norman nods and smiles at her, handing over his old card, which they’re going to destroy to prevent people from counterfeiting it.

After trading cards and filling in some paperwork, Norman and the woman say goodbye and he walks back in the direction of the waiting room, toward the exit. As he walks past the waiting room, he sees there are five people sitting in the room, waiting for their turn. Among them is the hurried man, whose face is completely red and his forehead has even more sweat on it than before. He’s swearing, angry with why he has to wait so long. He gets up and wants to walk to the counter when he sees Norman standing to his right, looking at him. “What’re you looking at, asshole?” the man says. “Nothing,” Norman says. “Still waiting for your turn?”

“Yes for God’s sake,” he says, clenching his fists. “They don’t know even know how to work fast in this stupid place.” Norman smiles, infuriating the man even more. “Why are you laughing, dickhead?” Norman points at the device in the wall of the waiting room.

“Should have drawn a number.”

Curiosity

My grandfather died three years ago. It was the first death I experienced in my family and because of this, I’d never experienced what a funeral was like. Everyone in my family is farmer. Rough people, down-to-earth, but with big hearts. Emotional and kind people. That’s why on the day my grandfather was to be buried, lots of tears were shed. It brought us closer together, as a family.

My grandfather served in the army, where his duty was to drive a high-ranking officer around the battlefield, which was nice, as he didn’t have to do any hard work and he got to drive a jeep. You could say he was a private chauffeur.

After the war was over and he was dismissed, he conducted more creative activities. He ventured the lands of painting, writing, photographing. He even tried sculpting. None of these satisfied his wants however, until he stumbled upon the activity he did until his death. At first, no one knew what that was until after the funeral. The notary read his will and while it were emotional but beautiful words, the last two sentences stuck with me especially. “…and for Garreth, my youngest grandchild, I leave my notebook, which contains all my inventions, as this was what I spent doing the last years of my life. I hope it grants you the same joy I experienced while exploring the world of invention, dear Garreth. Curiosity is a fortune in itself,” the notary read. When he finished, everyone went quiet. Of course, these are the final words our loved one, who has left this world, leaves us with, but the silence also appeared because everyone was reflecting on the things that were mentioned in his will. All grandchildren inherited something from his possessions. I could name it all, but it wouldn’t be of any meaning to someone who doesn’t even know the meaning of them. The notebook however, is a different thing.

My grandfather was a wise man. The moments from my childhood he was in were always filled with words of his wisdom. Advice and tips, on hardships, on joy, on fortune; on life. The notebook he left me had to be a combination of pages filled with this wisdom, written down so it won’t be forgotten. When a twenty year old gets a book while there are videogames, social media, parties, and girls, it might seem unfitting, but in this case, it was a precious gift. As soon is I browsed through the book, I saw lots of notes, in his typical, neat handwriting. Some of them I was able to read, others I wasn’t (at least, not at a quick glance). On some pages, there were drawings. Drawings of machines, objects, and formulas, but also drawings of landscapes, animals, and people. When we got back home, I spent the evening looking through the notebook. Reading his notes, looking at his drawings, and remembering him for who he was and what he meant to me. The evening went and so did the days. I put the notebook away, to read it again later, but that later didn’t come soon. The following days were filled with college, hanging out, parties, and other activities a twenty year old does. The days became weeks and the weeks became months. The notebook gathering more and more dust on the shelves.

Until much later, half a year or so, I was browsing through the shelves, looking for a studybook, when I came across the notebook again. I took it, to browse through it for old times sake. I sat down and read some of the notes I’d read half a year ago, looked at the drawings again and thought about my grandfather. Pages were turned and I was about done reading the notebook when I saw the binding at the back of the book was coming off. “Shame,” I thought, because I wouldn’t want the book coming apart. I took it to the kitchen to try and fix it, when I saw something sticking out of the backcover. A closer look at it determined it was a little piece of paper. The piece of paper turned out to be the edge of a larger piece of paper. Another note, but this one not written down in the notebook but hidden in the cover. It was folded two times, and as I opened it, I saw it was scribbled with words, little notes, and a lot of numbers. A lot of the notes I couldn’t make out and I definitely didn’t know what the numbers were about, but looking closer, I could read some sentences; one at the top and some at the bottom. As I read them, my heart skipped a beat. I didn’t quite believe what I’d read, so I read it again. “Curiosity is a fortune in itself, dear Garreth,” the top sentence read. Even though that sentence had left its importance on me, the sentences at the bottom made no sense. They were unbelievable, but the thought my grandfather had written them made them believable. “While there still is a lot of work to be done, I was already well under way. I hope you will venture onward and complete my life’s work. The notes on this piece and the ones in the notebook are the base of what they call-

 

“a timemachine.”

 

‘A matter of time’ – Short story in Dutch (sorry, folks!)

“Dank je wel! Dit scheelt me enorm!” zegt de vrouw. Ze heeft haar handen vol met boodschappentassen die tot de rand gevuld zijn. De jongen heeft haar net geholpen met het oprapen van de boodschappen, omdat de vrouw is gestruikeld over de stoeprand die net iets hoger uitsteekt dan de stoeprand aan de overkant van de straat. Er liggen nog een paar geplette bananen op het zebrapad en één doos eieren is gesneuveld, maar daar kan de vrouw mee leven. “Geen dank, het is mijn plicht” antwoordt de jongen met een lichte lach op z’n gezicht, een lach die net niet volledig tot recht komt als glimlach. De vrouw lacht. “Waren er maar meer mensen die het als plicht zouden zien!” De vrouw vervolgt haar weg richting de woonwijk en de jongen loopt de andere kant op. Hij kijkt om zich heen, alsof hij iemand aan het zoeken is. Dan steekt zijn hoofd opeens omhoog en versnelt zijn looptempo. In de verte ziet hij een man bij de ingang van het park staan. Hij heeft zijn handen in het haar. “Fred! Fred!” roept de man. De jongen vraagt wat er is gebeurd en de man vertelt hem dat zijn hond is weggelopen. “Is hij nog in het park?” vraagt de jongen terwijl hij weer zoekend om zich heen kijkt, zijn ogen fijngeknepen. “Nee” antwoordt de man, “ik was m’n hond aan het uitlaten in het park toen hij opeens lucht van iets kreeg en het op een lopen zette. Hij rende richting de uitgang van het park en toen ben ik hem uit het oog verloren.” De man en de jongen kijken om zich heen en lopen rond de ingang van het park. WAF! WAF! klinkt het opeens in de verte. Met een ruk schieten de hoofden van beide in de richting waar het vandaan kwam. De jongen kijkt op z’n horloge. Nog 7 minuten. De jongen loopt met een drafje richting een rij huizen waar het geluid vandaan kwam. Wanneer hij eenmaal om de hoek is, ziet hij het hondje rondrennen. De hond rent achter duiven aan, die rustig op een informatiebord wilden zitten. De duiven vliegen alle kanten op, opgejaagd door de speelse hond. De jongen begint “Fred! Fred!” te roepen en de hond krijgt hem al gauw in de gaten. De jongen en de hond lopen elkaar tegemoet maar voordat de jongen naar de lijn kan grijpen keert de hond zich om en sprint weg. “Nee, Fred! Hier komen!” Hij rent achter de hond aan. “Hij wil vast spelen,” denkt de jongen. “Ik heb een beter idee, ik ga hem lokken”. De jongen stopt met rennen en gaat gehurkt zitten. Hij vormt zijn handen tot een kommetje en schud het een beetje heen en weer. De hond, die steeds achterom kijkt, blijft abrupt stil staan en keert terug. Hij heeft wel zin in wat voer. Langzaam komt de hond aanlopen. “Ja, goed zo, beestje,” fluistert de jongen, “kom maar hier.” De hond is op minder dan drie meter afstand wanneer de jongen zich klaar maakt om het dier te grijpen. Bijna.. Nog even.. NU! De jongen grijpt de hond vast bij z’n lijf en tilt het dier op. Het dier begint te blaffen en te spartelen, maar de jongen laat niet los. “Hebbes!” roept de jongen euforisch uit.

Terwijl hij zijn weg terug maakt naar het baasje, de hond voor hem uit lopend aan de lijn, kijkt hij op zijn horloge: één minuut voor twee. De jongen zucht opgelucht. “Nog één minuut. Dat had raar af kunnen lopen,” denkt hij terwijl hij het zweet van z’n voorhoofd veegt. “Geweldig!” roept het baasje terwijl hij op de jongen en de hond af komt lopen. Hij tilt Fred op. “Dat mag je niet weer doen, jongen!” De hond kijkt zijn baasje aan en laat een blaf uit. “Hartelijk dank, kerel!” zegt het baasje terwijl hij de jongen een stevige handdruk geeft. De jongen knikt naar de meneer en loopt weer verder, het park in. Hij begint weer met zoeken, maar deze keer duurt het langer voordat hij iemand vindt. Iemand die hulp nodig heeft. Uiteindelijk valt z’n oog op twee meisjes die op een bankje onder een grote boom zitten. De twee zijn druk in discussie over iets. Ze wijzen steeds naar de bladzijden in het boek dat het ene meisje vasthoudt en kijken elkaar dan weer aan, zonder een moment stil te zijn. De jongen loopt naar ze toe en ziet dat het een schoolboek is. “Kan ik jullie helpen, dames?” vraagt de jongen haastig. Hij heeft op z’n horloge gekeken. Vijf over twee. Nog vijf minuten. De meisjes kijken op met gefronste gezichten. “Ja. Die sukkel denkt dat ze het altijd beter weet, maar deze keer heb ik het juist!” zegt het linker meisje, terwijl ze boos naar haar buurvrouw kijkt. “Hallo! Ook deze keer heb ik het juist. Ik heb altijd gelijk en nu denk jij dat jij opeens gelijk hebt?” antwoordt het meisje dat naast haar zit. De meisjes beginnen weer met discussiëren over wat er in het boek staat en waarom ze vinden dat ze gelijk hebben. De jongen pakt het boek en neemt een kijkje naar wat er in staat. Het gaat over grammatica. Engelse grammatica. Het is een Engels studieboek. “Meiden. Het is jullie geluksdag,” zegt de jongen trots. Hij studeert voor docent Engels en heeft net een grammatica toets achter de rug. “Wat willen jullie precies weten?” vraagt de jongen terwijl hij beide meisjes aan kijkt. De meisjes, die even gestopt zijn met bekvechten kijken elkaar aan en roepen dan in koor: “de future perfect continuous!” De jongen kijkt dolblij en zegt “piece of cake!” Dat heeft hij laatst nog geleerd voor de toets. “Het is simpel, je kijkt eerst of er.. Eh..” De jongen stamelt en begint te stotteren. Hij is druk aan het nadenken en weet niet hoe hij verder moet vertellen. Hij is de draad kwijt. “Zei ze nou … of was het …?” denkt de jongen, terwijl zijn ogen groter worden en er zweet op zijn voorhoofd tevoorschijn komt. Hij krabt zich op zijn hoofd en begint alleen maar meer te stotteren en stamelen.

Opeens beweegt hij niet meer, hij wordt helemaal stijf. Hij slikt en slaakt een zucht, waarna zijn ogen opeens beginnen te draaien en het wit van zijn ogen de pupillen doen verdrinken. De jongen verliest balans en valt als een pudding op de grond. De meisjes geven een krijsende gil. Ze springen op en kijken wild om zich heen, schreeuwend om hulp, terwijl ze naast de jongen neerknielen. De secondewijzer van het horloge van de jongen tikt rustig door. Tik. Tik. Tik. De kleine wijzer wijst naar de twee, terwijl de grote wijzer heel langzaam maar zeker verder beweegt. Het wijst naar de tien.

Het is tien over twee.

(Part of) ‘The Luminous Crystal’

Almost there. One more hill to climb and then I’ll be able to see the city. It lies on the edge of a cliff, over the white sea, in a deep valley, only reachable by climbing the Gargantuan. The sun always sets on it, creating a beautiful, atmospheric sight. As if it were a painting, made by the most brilliant painter, on a canvas crafted with the finest fabrics, touched with a brush made of the smoothest hair. The city is called Celesta, in honor of the eternal sunset. And in the deepest core of the city lies the artifact. The object able to divide good and evil. If there is a time when it is more needed, that time is now. The world is on the brink of disaster.

The Luminous Crystal. It is said to be crafted by the most skilled and talented giants from the past, crafted in the fires of the sun itself, and guarded by the Champions of Cadogan, the most sublime warriors this world has known.

It has been a long journey, but I’m finally there. A few more steps, clambering up, until I’m at the edge. And there it is. As told in many tales and stories. Even legends. The city of eternal sunset. I’m stunned by its beauty. But I have to keep moving. The shepherd told me, when the sun has set, the city will be locked down. Every entrance, gate, portal, and doorway will be closed. Closed until the sun rises again. “To have a chance to get the light, do not enter Celesta at night”. The mysterious rhyme the elder told me makes perfect sense now.

I make my way down, to the Bright Walk: a long pathway leading to the main entrance of Celesta. It’s the only way into the city I know of. The pathway is made from marble, but I have never seen such high quality marble before. It glimmers and shines in the last rays the sun is giving today. As I reach the gigantic gate that marks the entry of the city, I hear a dreadful shriek. The shriek sends shivers down my spine. I look up to the sky, but it’s completely clear, nothing to be seen. “What was that?” I mumble, but before I can finish my sentence, an enormous shadow veils me. The shadow of a beast.

It’s Nyarcham.

Slayer of hunters.