His question ripples through the room. Silence follows it. We look at each other. At him. Did he just ask who Barry is? After seconds that feel like centuries, one of us coughs. Another one finds the composure to speak. Probably Mike, but it may have been Matty.
‘How do you mean, who’s Barry?’
He focuses on Mike/Matty. We sense bewilderment, a hint of anger.
‘What? Why are you acting all weird? I hear Barry this, Barry that, like he’s the greatest guy ever. I want to see for myself.’
‘But,’ Mike/Matty says, ‘we thought you’re Barry.’
‘We’re calling her Crystal,’ Dee says, ‘or you’ll be a single father.’
He looks at his newborn daughter. Crystal – clear, transparent, cheap diamond replacement. He has a vision of a dazzling young woman in the distance. The closer she comes, the more ordinary she looks. On close inspection, she cannot hide her plainness. She cannot hide anything.
‘I don’t like the connotations,’ he mumbles. Her reply booms along the maternity ward.
‘You’re going to argue? I’m serious – it’s Crystal or…’
Nix nods. He has to think fast. Naming is destiny.
‘Calm down, Dynamite. How about we call her Crystal Sphinx?’
It’s almost the weekend, which means it’s time for Friday Fictioneers. Rochelle’s flash fiction challenge is popular, so there are plenty of stories to read – enjoy!
Eat local. I can’t. Council’s turned all the bins into ones you can’t look into. I’m not rooting around in rubbish on the off-chance.
Sleep local. I would. Not allowed anymore. Shop’s complained. I’d leave way before they opened. It’s the warmth seeping out that made me sleep in the entrance. Since sleeping by the river, I can’t shake the sniffles.
Read local. I’d like to. You know how much a book costs? More than a day’s worth, these days. Mind, they don’t want me in there since the owner changed.
‘No,’ Three says, grabbing my hand. ‘Here, like this.’ She hands me chopsticks, says something that sounds like it’s a ducky mess* and tucks in. I look at the sushi. Why can’t I take it in my hand like I normally do?
Two bursts in. ‘Donde esta mi arroz?’ She glares at Three. ‘Don’t you dare use that lame excuse again. I checked. They sell Japanese rice online.’
‘Say something, One,’ they whinge in unison.
They’re driving me bonkers. I wanted my clones to travel. I wanted to absorb their experiences. Instead, I’ve become the arbiter in the rice wars.
The story was inspired by the following posts (thank you, ladies!), which in turn were a response to the Clone Wars prompt:
* As much as I’d like to be able to take credit for it’s a ducky mess, I didn’t come up with it. It’s from the Sarah & Duck episode Fast Slow Bungalow. If you have small children, check it out. It’s brilliant.
Kim’s words echo through my mind as I throw a few essential things into my backpack. Sunscreen, hat, t-shirts, shorts, the sundress Kim loved. I don’t bother with a raincoat. If I haven’t reached shelter by the time the storm hits, I’m screwed.
Kim got it wrong, though. Nobody’s learnt any lessons. Look at them, believing the barrier will keep the worst out, protecting their houses with sandbags. They’ll be washed away by the storm surge. Kim died for nothing.
Outside, the air is still. Won’t be this calm much longer…