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Sometimes Seth blurts things out, even though his lawyer continually warns him not to. It’s not something we can control, even with ‘special trousers.’
This time it was a one-line pitch of a story that Jack agreed had promise. Normally these two authors – these Cadillacs among men – work together to turn their terrible ideas into even more terrible stories, but this time Jack was left completely out of the process.
A while later, Seth came up with a whole finished story all of his own. Then he went away and came back with the same thing only different. We might never know what changed for that moment is lost forever to the ever-flowing sands of time, vanquished to antiquity like Seth’s ability to wear grown-up pants.
For your continued bemusement, here is a thought-provoking, smart piece of micro-fiction.
Seth Godwynn - Jack wants no part of this...
Hi, I’m Jimmy, 13 years old, and today’s a very exciting day! Today’s the day mum and dad are sending me off to a special academy for people just like me!
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Why don’t we rewind the clock a bit…
Alright, I’m not going to beat around the bush here; I’m just going to come out and say it.
I have a special power! Mum and dad always told me never to talk about it, because people are scared of things they don’t understand, but I’m pretty sure half my school already figured it out. My old school probably knew about it too, especially after the ‘incident.’ That wasn’t why I left, of course—I’m 13, I finished primary school years ago…
Anyway, my gift is the ability to ‘Truthwrangle.’ I don’t know how or why it works exactly, but basically, I can say something and it’ll be true, even if it wasn’t true before.
It’s not quite as easy as just saying it, of course. It’s a skill that needs to be developed, and it can be a bit hit and miss at times, especially when animals are involved. Mum and dad tell me that with great power comes great responsibility, and that’s why they’re sending me away: to learn to use my power properly.
I honestly don’t know how long I’ve had it, but I first discovered it when I was eight years old. I was sat in the classroom, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed the teacher didn’t have any trousers on. I blurted out, “Vostie forgot his trousers!” and straight away the kids all started laughing, because it was true. He was walking around the class in his underpants. Well, not just his underpants—everything but his trousers. You know what I mean.
That was when it struck me as odd. If he’d forgotten his trousers, and gotten all the way into school, and stood there teaching all day, why did nobody else notice? Could it be that my saying it had somehow made it real? Perhaps he had been wearing beige trousers that I mistook for skin… I asked Rick who lives 2 doors down and Isaac from number 57 why they hadn’t noticed until I mentioned it. They both shrugged and said they probably hadn’t been paying attention. I wasn’t convinced, but they certainly seemed to be.
I wondered if I could do this again, and on purpose, so I started doing some experiments. I said some things that I knew weren’t true: I’d pick up an apple and say that it’s a banana, but nothing would happen. I tried it over and over again, and it never worked.
But then one afternoon, as I was walking home with Rick, I saw a lady walking what I thought was a spaniel—it was actually a jack russell; I looked it up after. They don’t look anything alike… I said to Rick, “That’s a cute spaniel!” and right before my eyes the dog changed into one. Rick didn’t seem to notice, and nor did the lady walking it.
Of course, that made sense, kind of—I had to believe it was true to make it true. But what if there was some way to force myself to believe something was true, while also knowing that it wasn’t? And what if that’s just the first step? I thought back to how my dad taught me how to wiggle my ears. The muscles are there, you just don’t understand them. He told me that when you raise your eyebrows, the ear muscle is also activated, so if you practice raising your eyebrows in front of a mirror a lot you can learn how the ear muscle feels. Keep practicing, and eventually you’ll be able to just move your ears without your eyebrows.
I prepared myself a training programme. I got three tennis balls of different colours and put them in a bucket. I’d then shake the bucket to mix them up, reach in and grab one, and without looking, say, “This is the green ball.” I knew there was no way it could be the green ball, and sure enough it wasn’t. I tried it again, and again, and again, for a whole hour. Not once did I pick out the green ball. It was like my mind was toying with me; it was as if, because I believed one thing and said another, it made what I said deliberately untrue just to spite me.
So I tried something else. I shook the bucket up again, and then tried to imagine where the green ball was. I imagined the way they’d bounced around, I visualised them in the bucket in my head, and after a few minutes of contemplation, I felt quite certain of exactly where the green ball was. I reached in, grabbed the ball and said, “This is the green ball.”
It was the green ball.
But surely that had to be a fluke. There was already a one in three chance it would be green, despite what the last hour’s efforts had suggested. So I tried it again: green. And again: green. And again: green.
The first time had taken about 3 minutes. The second time was a little quicker, and the third a little quicker still. I practiced this at every possible opportunity for weeks before I was able to pick the green ball instantly, without even thinking about it.
But picking coloured tennis balls out of a bucket is one thing, the real world is something else. It was time to move on to the next stage of training.
I popped into the kitchen and picked up an apple again. I was on a roll, and didn’t want to mess this up and undo weeks of progress, so I held it in my hand and closed my eyes. I knew it was an apple but… what if it wasn’t? What if I made a mistake and picked up a banana instead? What if I just remembered it wrong? It sure kind of felt like a banana, the texture of the skin. I imagined it smelt a bit like a banana too. I pictured the banana in my hand, really pictured it. Yes, I had made a mistake. I picked up a banana thinking it was an apple. This was the truth. Keeping my eyes firmly closed, I said the words that could possibly change my life forever.
“This is a banana.”
Slowly I opened my eyes, and there, in my hand, was a ripe, yellow banana, just as I’d imagined it. I couldn’t believe it, but I’d managed to convince myself that I could. I’d done it!
That poor apple/banana took a lot of abuse that day, constantly shifting from one state to the other and back again. I tried with other household items too: I turned a coaster into a toaster, a box into socks, a book into a hook, and a welly into a jelly—I didn’t dare eat it, I just put it in the fridge.
I considered turning some sauce into a horse, but my mind was suddenly filled with a vision of some abomination I’d seen in an adult comic book that was strikingly missing from the movie. Some things in nature are not to be trifled with, so I skipped that one and turned the other welly into a telly. It wasn’t a very good one. It was one of those old box types you see in really old movies from, like, the 90s. I guess that image must have been in my mind, because by this time, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was just saying it, and it was instantly true. I had found the muscle, and using it was now like riding a bicycle.
You have to understand that this is an awful lot of power for an 8 year old to weild, so I did what any well disciplined child would do with such a thing: I made my teacher’s life a nightmare! He’d open his desk drawer to find his stapler set into a jelly—I saw that on the telly—it was really funny! Another time, Mr Vost had been angry with the class after ‘somebody’ had drawn a big willy on the board while his back was turned. That was funny too. He came into school the next day dressed as a clown, in full make-up and those giant floppy shoes. The headmistress sent him straight home to get changed. That happened the next day too, because it was so funny the first time.
One day though, something strange happened. Well, stranger anyway… It was football practice—I was never any good at it: on the rare occasion I got anywhere near the ball I could never kick it straight. It would always shoot off at a completely different angle to where I wanted it to. On this occasion, I somehow found myself able to get in a kick which shot the ball right out the side of the field. Just for fun, it occurred to me to shout out, “Goal.” Sure enough, the ball was at the back of the net, and not off to the side at all. That’s when it happened.
One of the fourth year juniors standing near the pitch shouted a single word.
Confused, I glanced around and saw the most disturbing thing. The ball in the net was now see through, and a similar see through ball had appeared where I’d originally kicked it. It was like both realities were phasing into each other, both simultaneously true and yet not true.
He marched over to me angrily. “Jim!” he accosted. “You never scored. Take it back!”
“What?!” I blustered.
“Take it back!” he repeated. “Say the words, ‘I take it back,’ now!”
He was bigger than me. I thought of turning him into a frog, but the image from that comic book popped back into my head, so I quickly thought better of it. “I take it back,” I eventually said, somewhat sheepishly.
I looked again, and the ball was gone from the net and was just sitting off to one side. Everybody stood there groaning at my poor ball control skills as if nothing unusual had happened.
Not the boy though. He continued to glare at me and said, “I know what you are. I’m watching you!”
What was going on?! I figured it was about time I spoke to mum and dad about this. Two things were certain: it was going to take a lot of explaining, and they were not going to take it well.
“Actually Jimmy, I’m afraid we both knew all about this right from the beginning.”
“You did?” I stammered.
“Of course,” said dad wearily. “You come from a long line of Truthwranglers. How do you think my grandad became such a decorated war hero?”
“He just lied about it and made it true?” I suggested.
“No, he made a habit of running into enemy fire at every opportunity while declaring out loud that nothing was going to harm him that day.”
“Wow,” I said. “That’s pretty badass!”
Dad rolled his eyes. “Of course he just lied about it! I was being sarcastic!”
Mum shook her head sorrowfully. “Your dad never had the gift. The gene must have skipped a generation. You just have sour grapes, don’t you dear.”
Dad grumbled something incomprehensible under his breath before regaining his composure. “I never fully developed the gift, no. I can see when something has changed, but I can’t change it myself. Your mother’s the same, though she never had the gift at all—she just taught herself to see, like anyone can if they put their mind to it. Don’t think we didn’t both notice that welly in the fridge. Or the one on your bedroom table plugged into the wall.”
“We’re just glad you didn’t try to turn sauce into a horse,” added mum. “That Lovecraft chap was one of us, you know.”
Then I remembered what had happened earlier in the day.
“A boy at school saw me change something. It was like he had power over it. He made me change it back.”
“Take it back,” said mum. “The correct phrasing is ‘I take it back.’”
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s what he told me to say. How would he know about this?”
Dad sighed deeply. “I hoped we’d never have to have this conversation, but there are a lot more people out there with the gift than you might imagine. Most never get to realise their power like you’ve done; most either don’t realise they have it, or it manifests as an ability to see all truths simultaneously, and to know which is which.”
“Long, long ago,” interrupted mum. “A group of people just like you formed a faction called the Truthwranglers. Together they would use their powers to try to shape the world into a better place. At first, their efforts caused more problems than they solved, because power has a way of corrupting, as I think you’ve already found out. You’ve been playing with household objects and bullying your poor teacher—yes, we know about that too—but the things these people were doing were lightyears ahead of that. They were changing entire civilisations into their image of a perfect utopia. The result was destruction, war, poverty, crime, creatures from beyond hell… it was a dark time before they learned they needed to temper their skills. Somehow, they managed to ‘take it all back,’ but it was already too late.”
“A group of people like myself,” continued dad, “knew everything that had happened, even if most other people were blind to it. They declared Truthwrangling to be an abomination, and broke off into a divergent faction called the Furnishers of Light. They developed their powers in a different way, like you saw earlier, and made it their mission to expose the Truthwranglers wherever they found them. The Truthwranglers fought back, of course, and fought back hard! Do you know what they did?”
I shook my head, enraptured by the tale.
“They called them names,” he said. “It was that simple. They said they were liars. They called them criminals and scoundrels, uneducated idiots, bigots, you name it. As soon as they said it, it became truth, and the Furnishers of Light lost their influence each time, because who would want to listen to a person like that?”
Mum nodded her head. “The Furnishers of Light are a bunch of old busibodies who should just stay out of other people’s affairs. They’ll come for you too! That’s why your dad and I have made an important decision.”
“What’s that?” I said.
“There’s a special academy for people with your gift, a gateway into the faction of Truthwranglers. You won’t be able to join until you’re 13, so you’ll need to keep your head down until then. Keep practicing, but be discreet! At the academy, you will learn to master your skills sufficiently to move planets out of alignment. But you will also learn not to. You’ll learn restraint, in knowing that often the best Newtruth is almost indistinguishable from the Oldtruth.
“And from what you’ve taught yourself so far, I think you could go a long way!”
So here I am, five years on, ready to join the academy, my gateway to mastering my skills and entering the hallowed halls of the mighty few that have gone before me.
No more hiding in the shadows. No more pretending I’m some ordinary 13 year old, resigned to a life of mediocrity and crushed dreams. Finally I get to be with my own kind, the Truthwranglers. Together, we will build a better future, shaping our societies into the kind of place we’d like our own children raised, free of greed, bigotry and intolerance. An end to suffering, an end to poverty, an end to entrenched systemic tyrannies that pit one race against another. Together, we will make the world a better place!
Today, I take my place at the School of Social-Political Journalism!
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