Announcing our short story contest winners:
1st Prize went to Jane Dougherty’s In a Blue Barque and 2nd Prize to Baris Cansevgisi’s The Mouldy Loaf. Congratulations both! Find an excerpt from Jane’s story below (You’ll find the full story in our debut issue!) and Baris’ full story following after:
In a Blue Barque by Jane Dougherty
They stole a boat from the riverbank, a blue barque with a white sail. It had been his idea, Haakli, the desert nomad’s, not hers. Two slaves on the run; nobody would follow them seaward, he said. Haakli knew nothing of the sea, but Uma had loved his eyes, the way they laughed only for her, even when his master had had him flogged, and so she had agreed. For his laughing eyes and his strong brown arms, she had chosen the barque herself, because she knew about the sea.
Before they pushed the boat into the current, Haakli placed an amulet, a pearl, fat and mysterious, around her neck. To protect her from the sea devils, he said. It was an heirloom, a trinket passed down from one desert tribesman to another. Haakli’s people were in awe of anything that came from the sea. He must have thought there was a deal of power in it. She murmured words of thanks because she would not have him think her ungrateful.
Haakli kissed her on the forehead, and the whites of his eyes gleamed bright in his tanned face. He smiled, a rare and fleeting thing, for slaves only smiled with the private, secret ripple of the eyes. He smiled, and the magic whorls tattooed in blue dye that covered his face shifted into motion. Uma bit her lip and refused to look at the pearl where it lay between her breasts, but her flesh squirmed at the cold touch of deep sea death. He thought it was for the best. She would not tell him what all the sea people knew, that pearls brought bad luck… [Read the rest of this story, published in Issue 1 of Lucent Dreaming]
The Mouldy Loaf by Baris Cansevgisi
Some objects scattered through our daily life have immense powers unexplainable by common sense, science, religion or even magic. This is the story of a freshly baked… or rather… a made loaf of bread in the year 2055. The maker of the bread, Philip Bryce was an ordinary man testing his new 4D nutritional printer. Perhaps his being ignorant and lazy with no genuine interest in pursuing explanations was why he could not explain the huge, mystifying power the bread held: the ability to time travel with its wielder. When held in both hands like a chubby, two-handed sword, the bread glowed with a soft green neon light, and instantly took its wielder to a time concentrated upon.
The first journey through time was an accident. When Philip held the bread, he went back in memory lane to his childhood, and remembered his grandmother’s bread-baking skills involving classical methods; flour, yeast, sugar, salt and an oven. It took him some time to realize that he time-leapt backwards and was standing in his granny’s kitchen. The tiny red lights on the oven were bright, indicating a loaf of bread–if not two–were about to be ready. The fresh smell of dough vagabonding the room confirmed its authenticity. While trying to figure out what this sudden enlightenment meant, Philip heard his grandmother, who should have been dead for at least two decades, calling his name in a soft, luring tone:
“Philip! It’s time for breakfast.” The sound of approaching footsteps made him fully aware of the situation he was in, and in a state of confusion he was about to shout back when he heard 6-year-old Philip’s childish voice coming from the back room.
Instinctively, the older Philip hid behind the kitchen door and wished he was back where he had started: his time. And, instantaneously he was standing in his own kitchen, still holding the loaf of bread firmly in both hands. It was still warm and appetizing, but he made some pancakes instead, and prepared a large cup of 4D coffee to go with them.
The bread, still smelling fresh, took its place on the nightstand by his bed. He liked the smell of it and thought it would ease him into sleep like an olfactory lullaby.
The second time he successfully time travelled was almost a week later, as he had difficulty relating the loaf of bread to his last adventure, despite witnessing the neon glow covering the bread on the first trip. Philip wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but he wasn’t a total moron either. Anyway, although the bread still seemed fresh, complete with its alluring smell after several days on the nightstand, it somehow survived being consumed during the week and was thought upon once more on a beautiful morning, when Philip was just out of bed, still in his pyjamas.
He had weird dreams about the bread the previous night; with the loaf stuck half way deep in a massive rock formation. It did not come out no matter how hard he pulled. In the end, the bread, still trapped halfway in stone, started glowing. Then the whole scenery changed. He was in his bedroom with the bread and the stone still sheathing it. In that instant, he woke up, finding himself on the floor next to his bed, minus the huge rock. He was covered in sweat and his muscles ached as if he had been working out for hours.
A lightbulb flickered feebly in Phillip’s mind and he decided to give something a try. He reached for the bread on his nightstand. It was still warm. The never-disappearing fresh smell had helped him during hard-to-sleep nights. Holding the bread tightly, he concentrated hard on a time he thought he knew about and immediately found himself in a distant past. The bread was all mouldy and had lost all its visual charm. Disgusted by its new appearance, but scared to throw it away, Philip tucked the loaf in his inner jacket pocket and looked around.
He was standing all alone on the meadows surrounded by… meadows. The distant mountain range in the skyline confirmed that he was indeed where his house would be centuries later. He wandered aimlessly in the open for hours, breathing in scents of wildflowers and enjoying the soft grass tickling his bare feet. Grass was so rare back in his time. Philip wanted to experience the feeling as long as he could, scared that he would not be able to do it again.
He visited the lake near his house and watched the sun set. All the colours he could see were so natural. In 2055, “natural” just meant “close to the original”. Enjoying the scenery and doing nothing for hours, Philip got hungry and although berry bushes were in abundance in his surroundings, he was afraid to satisfy his hunger with them. Natural food, like everything natural, was something scary in his time. From the excitement of the incident and without giving it a proper thought, Philip munched on the mouldy bread with frequent gags until he realized that consuming his way of time traveling could make him stuck there forever. The loaf, housing patches of mould almost everywhere, was highly uninviting, anyway. But for him, it was still safer than any other food he could find in this time. He guessed the amount of mould had to be related to the amount of time he had travelled into the past.
He had a final glimpse at the stunning lake scene and held the bread like a broken sword as he imagined he was home, in his time. He was back next to his bed, now holding half a loaf of mould-free bread with bite marks on one edge.
The loaf of bread was never complete again, no matter how many times he travelled back to the day he had made the bread. All the novice experiments he conducted concerning a brand new time-bending bread were fruitless, and their results did nothing more than accompany him at breakfast times. Well, half a loaf was better than none, and surprisingly the bread still worked in full capacity.
Philip enjoyed the benefits of the bread for almost a year. He witnessed wars, saw rulers change, and experienced history from the first hand. The downside was that no matter what time he travelled to, the geography he found himself in was the same; near his house in an insignificant town. Philip wanted to see the world at different times, but the bread seemed to disagree. The physical traveling after a time jump was wearing him down. He had witnessed incredible things but for each one he had to find a kind of transport in every time.
The last straw was nearly losing the bread on a mega-fast train on the way to witness his favourite rock singer Chick Lea’s suicide on stage in 2042. She had shot her brains out with a plasma beamer. Having watched the holographic footage of her demise nearly a thousand times at the comfort of his house, Philip had always wanted to be there and perhaps prevent it from happening and alter the timeline. But, not only did he miss the incident, he nearly lost the bread as well. He had to rip it out of a homeless man’s hands, who had found it on the train.
Upon his safe return to his time, Philip decided to stick to geography. He would take long walks in the vicinity of his town and often visit the lake in different time periods. Seeing the lake not stuck in-between ugly buildings somehow relieved him.
The patches of mould that appeared in longer time jumps made him worried, so in his last few trips, he either went to the near future or the near past. Well, almost always to the near past, as his poor speculative skills prevented him to foresee the future, concentrate on it and travel no more than a year into the unknown.
The year 1995 soon proved to be his favourite year. Philip first met Agnes that year by the lake and fell in love with her at first sight. She was everything he wished for. Everything was going perfect. Philip could still enjoy the greenery by the lake, the bread had only a tiny spot of mould and Agnes was falling in love with him. An ordinary man in 2055 seemed attractive, intellectual and popular in 1995. Philip was the happiest man of all times. After a few more trips, he even considered moving to 1995 permanently to live a life full of love.
On his next trip, Philip smelt the flowers, tasted various berries, walked barefoot on the grass holding Agnes’s hand, watched the ducks and occasional frogs in the lake and finally looked Agnes in the eyes. He proposed, and she readily accepted. Now there was one more thing to be done: to travel once more to his own time, get the winning lottery numbers for the year 1995 and return to live in his favourite year with his favourite person. He didn’t want to work for a living. Besides, his skill set was not exactly suitable to live a comfortable life sixty years before his time.
It was a warm day on his final trip and Agnes asked for ice cream. Philip took off his jacket, folded it neatly and placed it on the bench where he and Agnes were sitting. The initial plan was to run to the ice cream truck that had passed by moments ago and get refreshments. He caught up with the truck, bought the ice creams and hurried back so they could enjoy the ice cream before it started melting. But, luck was not on his side… Agnes had found the loaf of bread in the inner pocket of his jacket and had been feeding ducks with crumbs for a while. Philip saw to his horror that the last piece of bread Agnes threw into the lake was also the last piece of the mouldy bread, floating but soon to be swallowed by a duck. Two cones of ice cream fell onto the ground and Philip just stared at the scene with watery eyes. He had left the winning numbers back home.
A strange thing happened 149 years later, long after Philip’s death, when nearly all the animal population had ceased to exist and the world had been dying. A flock of dreamer ducks suddenly appeared in one, nearly dried out lake, restoring hope for life on a dying planet.