This piece was inspired by two items. Last week’s Simply 6 Minutes photo prompt (photo below) and the criteria for AWC October Furious Fiction – which were ‘500 words, set in a court of some kind, with a character who measures something, and include the words balloon, rock and umbrella.’ I didn’t submit to either – but kept thinking about life on the edge, of a pin. A little more than 500 words.
Court, on the head of a nail, said the colourful old man.
Seems a stretch. Somebody’s having a lend!
I gazed around what appeared to be the set of a French arthouse movie. Sumptuous furnishings, gold everywhere, fussy hairpieces and much braying laughter. Overdressed people. Bosoms bled over the top of gowns.
I couldn’t imagine one of my mates setting this up. Hooded and dumped into the trunk of a car and dragged into a strip club, was more their style. This was a step up.
“Are you okay, sir,” asked the man.
“You’re the court jester? That’s why you’re dressed so … flamboyantly,” I said. “Those balloon pants, that loud … harlequin style.”
“The knock to the head addled your brains worse than I thought,” he said. “I am the surgeon, sir. You took a bad fall. And … landed here.”
“And here is?”
“The court of King Joseph of the land of technicoloured haberdashery.”
“The land of … on the head of a nail,” I stifled a laugh. He was quite earnest. Who’d hit their head?
“Or pin. Some others describe it so. We are relaxed about the exact determination and description of our home. We are one of the peoples that inhabit the heads of tacks, pins, and nails.
Oh sir, it is quite the precarious way of life. At the mercy of man and his humours. Pin quakes are common here, as we are often nudged or moved indiscriminately. And of course, we get a lot of drop off. It comes with the territory.”
“That old furphy, falling off the edge of the world. This rock is round, a globe. Scientifically proven.”
“We are not the world, sir. Only of the world. A microcosm, the edge of which is unprotected and therefore perilous to the unwary.”
“I am a grown man. We are atop a nail,” I said, smirking. “How does that work?”
“A magic I cannot explain. If a man stumbles in exactly the right manner, instead of being impaled he lands atop,” the doctor said. “It is not a reciprocal magic. We are not protected the other way. We believe that our lost have splattered on impact, been trampled underfoot or eaten.”
“What science do you have? Machines, perhaps the power of flight?”
“We understand the sense of these things, but not the devices.” Then smiling, added “we can fly!”
“No bull,” I said.
“We have established contact and sometimes trade with other pin communities. We’ve captured flying insects over which we assert some control. Dandelions are useful too. Beautiful, but fragile and whimsical. Used mainly by the more adventurous type and prone to disaster.”
“Have you tried flight by umbrella?” I offered “Using updrafts and thermals?” The doctor shook his head. “They could be kept at the ready at the edge of your … nail. A last second grab and someone could land safely on the earth.”
“An intriguing idea,” he said. “We have tried lowering brave citizens to the ground via bucket. It is, however, fraught with danger. We run out of rope before achieving success. The distance seems immeasurable and the winds daunting.”
“And telescopes? If you could look more closely at mankind …” I said.
“I gather you mean a device that allows us to distinguish detail, like the zoom glass used for tiny stitches,” he said.
“I guess so.”
“The outside world is so large and so immediate that all is a blur. To stand at the edge of a nail or pin and gaze outward is to witness a kaleidoscope of murky colour, with no clear lines. It causes severe nausea in most,” he said. “I believe that disorientation contributes to the numbers lost.”
“So, what now?” I asked. “Can I return home?”
“Definitely, sir. When you are ready, we shall farewell His Majesty and then shove you off the nearest edge,” he said. He looked quite cheerful at this, with his thumbs hooked into his belt, bouncing on his toes.
“Oh, don’t you mind. It will be nothing to you. Once you step off, you’ll immediately regain your usual earthly parameters.”
“I’m ready,” I cried.
After shaking the hand of the indolent king, the doctor led me through the courtyard to a sign that read No further, on pain of death. Ominous.
“Farewell, young man. Just one step and you will be home.”
“Thank you, sir,” I said as we shook hands.
With confidence I placed one foot over the edge. And as my second foot began to lift, panic hit. Stepping blindly, I landed on solid ground.
“Phew,” I exhaled.
One more step and I stumbled over a piece of wood. Arms wind milling for balance, I settled heavily onto a large nail.
“Bollocks,” I whispered. [791 words]