Tell A Tale in 500 Words

The Oblong By Carolyn Ward

I woke up that last day feeling nervous. I glanced at my school bag and sighed. Why was I doing this?

I’d met Rudi Gonzalez in the street – given him my spare change, actually. He had lifted his lion-head and stared straight at me with yellow eyes. ‘Thank you, son,’ he’d said, in a crackly voice.

After that whenever I saw him he would scoot over and we’d chat. I sometimes wondered if being super-clever was just as alienating as being slow. The world seemed to run out of kilter for him.

Years ago, he’d worked for Gazella. They were a secretive computing place, and according to him, he’d been the head of research. I watched him, greasy and thin on the town bench, becoming animated when spraffing lines of code and the things they had worked on which would blow my mind.

‘They never made it out of there, son, he crackled. ‘Stuff we did was too good. Would’ve changed the world beyond what was deemed sensible.’

I sipped my soda and thought about this.

‘We can still do it, though,’ he winked at me.

I frowned.

‘I got a little something. When they fired me, I took my dues.’

He was even more baffling than usual, and I was itching to hit my new skateboard. There was a new chick at school and allegedly she liked skaters. Keen to be seen, I was.

He must have sensed he was losing me, so he rumbled in his pocket and plonked a small oblong in my hand.

‘Here ya go, son. Change the world!’

I eyed it suspiciously. ‘What’s this? Is it a bomb?’

‘Hell no! This is far smarter. Put it in your school somewhere, on a window, in the bottom of your locker. I don’t know. Somewhere in the middle.’

‘Dude, I don’t want to kill anyone! Even the douchebags in geography…’

‘I told you, son. It ain’t a weapon. It’s a device.’ He elbowed me. ‘You trust old Rudi, don’t yer?’

Of course I didn’t trust him. Yet now I was at the bus stop with the oblong snug in my bag. My board was tucked under my arm, and I spun the wheels.

‘Nice.’ came a husky voice. I glanced back, and she was there. Her hair was dyed dark and she wore stripy tights like some twisted Alice in Wonderland.

‘S’up.’ I said. Too cool for school, that was me.

She sat by me on the bus, and we walked in together. Her voice was bell-song in my head, and I forgot about the oblong. She was called Nimbus, after the clouds. The longer I looked at her, the more I understood.

I ran back to my locker and pulled out my bag. The oblong was glowing blue, and I picked it up gingerly. It juddered in my fingers.

I was sweating. I carried it outside, and stood blinking in the dappled light, wondering what the hell to do.

On the bench, Rudi counted down.


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