The Eaters

16 07 2009

I have such a strong visual for this piece, but is has been deliberately excluded, and it’s all pure dialogue. What if we had souls and our souls had predators? Why would the universe waste anything? Maybe souliverous insectoids could take that role. And maybe their fathers had issues with the kids just like we do.


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Now, ‘spring. We’re getting close, not so many steps left to take. Remember. What happens when we get to the Sheen?
» We stand beside each other, a little apart.
How far apart?
» Just as far as it takes for my claw to touch the tip of your claw.
And what happens then?
» We..uh..we take a firm stance.
Yes…
» And we..um..wait. We wait for the souls to come through.
And what do we do while we are waiting?
» Um…
Hmm?
» Eh..do we just wait?
Yes. We just wait. No talking. No moving about. Be still. You’ve practiced that with the other ‘spring, haven’t you?
» Yep! I used to lock my leg plates together and that was cool, I could stand totally still!
Don’t.
» Don’t what?
Don’t lock your leg plates together! What are we trying to do here? Catch souls! That’s what! Catch them! Not wait for them to fall into our mandibles. You need to be able to move at a moment’s notice. Don’t lock your plates together!
» ’k, dad.
And don’t call me dad when we are at the Sheen! You’re going to be just one of us eaters. So what do you call me?
» eater, dad.
Good. Ok. So we are waiting at the Sheen. We are spaced correctly apart. We are eaters. We are waiting – without the benefit of locked plates – for a soul to appear. How do we know that a soul is coming?
» The Sheen will ripple a little bit.
Right. Now, when you see the ripple, what do you do?
» Be ready! Soul’s coming!
And where does the soul come out?
» Near the ripple, but not at the ripple.
And it is for that reason that you…?
» Say “soul’s coming” loud enough so that you and the other eater next to me can be ready.
Perfect. That’s it. That’s why we stand so close together, it’s because we don’t know where the soul will come out. And we don’t know when, but when there is a ripple, a soul will arrive soon.
» Does a soul ever escape, Dad?
Yes, it happens. If someone locks their plates together, for example, and can’t move quick enough to grab it. Or if two or three come through really fast, but that doesn’t happen that much. Remember I told you that souls come in different sizes? Well some of them aren’t the length of my radula. I usually don’t bother with those ones – and sometimes the ripple they make is so small that you could barely notice. Not much nourishment there.
» What happens to them after they escape?
Well, nobody knows really. I mean, why would you want to chase after them? You couldn’t catch up, and there are always more on the way, so nobody pays any attention to them. Maybe they just mill about in the galleries or something.
» Maybe they go back into the Sheen somewhere else.
That’s an odd thought, why do you think that might be the way of it?
» Well, if they were moving around the galleries, wouldn’t somebody catch them and eat them? Wouldn’t we hear about it?
I suppose we would. Maybe they just get lost, or stuck in the rock, or fade.
» So what’s the Sheen, really?
What?
» What’s the Sheen?
You know what it is – it’s where we get our food. Has your memory got a crack in it? You’ve nearly used up all the food that you had in your body when you began, if you don’t go to the Sheen to take the souls, you’ll slow down and you’ll stop. You’ll be just like that rock over there. You won’t get bigger either, so you’ll be just a little rock.
» But where do the souls come from?
No-one knows – they just arrive, ok? You a see ripple, then you pay attention and then the crisp little soul pops out and you grab it and you get it into you, and then you wait for the next one. Nothing else to it. See soul, crunch soul, feel good, grow. That’s the clew and the claw of it.
» Can they talk? Can the souls talk?
No, they can’t talk. Neither can they roar, nor clack their plates. All they do is slide out of the Sheen and move away from it. They aren’t even aware we are there.
» They have plates like us? I thought they were kind of, you know, like our moving parts, but all over.
Tell you what, ‘spring, when you grab your first soul why don’t you have a chat with it and see does it bend? Then you will have a level of practical experience that during all my attendance at the Sheen I will have not achieved. Eh? What about that?
» Sorry dad, I’m just excited, it’s all new to me.
I know, I can feel the heat off you from here. We’re nearly there, count off your paces and let your fires bank a bit, I don’t want you grinding to a halt just before we get there. This is it ‘spring, you and me are both eaters now. Let’s get stuck in, eh?
3
1

Now, ‘spring. We’re getting close, not so many steps left to take. Remember. What happens when we get to the Sheen?

» We stand beside each other, a little apart.

How far apart?

» Just as far as it takes for my claw to touch the tip of your claw.

And what happens then?

» We..uh..we take a firm stance.

Yes…

» And we..um..wait. We wait for the souls to come through.

And what do we do while we are waiting?

» Um…

Hmm?

» Eh..do we just wait?

Yes. We just wait. No talking. No moving about. Be still. You’ve practiced that with the other ‘spring, haven’t you?

» Yep! I used to lock my leg plates together and that was cool, I could stand totally still!

Don’t.

» Don’t what?

Don’t lock your leg plates together! What are we trying to do here? Catch souls! That’s what! Catch them! Not wait for them to fall into our mandibles. You need to be able to move at a moment’s notice. Don’t lock your plates together!

» ’k, dad.

And don’t call me dad when we are at the Sheen! You’re going to be just one of us eaters. So what do you call me?

» eater, dad.

Good. Ok. So we are waiting at the Sheen. We are spaced correctly apart. We are eaters. We are waiting – without the benefit of locked plates – for a soul to appear. How do we know that a soul is coming?

» The Sheen will ripple a little bit.

Right. Now, when you see the ripple, what do you do?

» Be ready! Soul’s coming!

And where does the soul come out?

» Near the ripple, but not at the ripple.

And it is for that reason that you…?

» Say “soul’s coming” loud enough so that you and the other eater next to me can be ready.

Perfect. That’s it. That’s why we stand so close together, it’s because we don’t know where the soul will come out. And we don’t know when, but when there is a ripple, a soul will arrive soon.

» Does a soul ever escape, Dad?

Yes, it happens. If someone locks their plates together, for example, and can’t move quick enough to grab it. Or if two or three come through really fast, but that doesn’t happen that much. Remember I told you that souls come in different sizes? Well some of them aren’t the length of my radula. I usually don’t bother with those ones – and sometimes the ripple they make is so small that you could barely notice. Not much nourishment there.

» What happens to them after they escape?

Well, nobody knows really. I mean, why would you want to chase after them? You couldn’t catch up, and there are always more on the way, so nobody pays any attention to them. Maybe they just mill about in the galleries or something.

» Maybe they go back into the Sheen somewhere else.

That’s an odd thought, why do you think that might be the way of it?

» Well, if they were moving around the galleries, wouldn’t somebody catch them and eat them? Wouldn’t we hear about it?

I suppose we would. Maybe they just get lost, or stuck in the rock, or fade.

» So what’s the Sheen, really?

What?

» What’s the Sheen?

You know what it is – it’s where we get our food. Has your memory got a crack in it? You’ve nearly used up all the food that you had in your body when you began, if you don’t go to the Sheen to take the souls, you’ll slow down and you’ll stop. You’ll be just like that rock over there. You won’t get bigger either, so you’ll be just a little rock.

» But where do the souls come from?

No-one knows – they just arrive, ok? You a see ripple, then you pay attention and then the crisp little soul pops out and you grab it and you get it into you, and then you wait for the next one. Nothing else to it. See soul, crunch soul, feel good, grow. That’s the clew and the claw of it.

» Can they talk? Can the souls talk?

No, they can’t talk. Neither can they roar, nor clack their plates. All they do is slide out of the Sheen and move away from it. They aren’t even aware we are there.

» They have plates like us? I thought they were kind of, you know, like our moving parts, but all over.

Tell you what, ‘spring, when you grab your first soul why don’t you have a chat with it and see does it bend? Then you will have a level of practical experience that during all my attendance at the Sheen I will have not achieved. Eh? What about that?

» Sorry dad, I’m just excited, it’s all new to me.

I know, I can feel the heat off you from here. We’re nearly there, count off your paces and let your fires bank a bit, I don’t want you grinding to a halt just before we get there. This is it ‘spring, you and me are both eaters now. Let’s get stuck in, eh?

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10 responses

17 07 2009
Laura Eno

Great! It’s difficult to write pure dialogue but you pulled it off well. The father/son conversation is humorous. Glad to see you join the #fridayflash group!

17 07 2009
Anasazi Stories

This line made me laugh: “See soul, crunch soul, feel good, grow.” Sounds like instructions for a fast-food place — which is what this is. Nice little father-son feel here. You’ve definitely quickly created a new world that my mind can imagine vividly. It makes me wonder, what would a soul taste like after the crunch? Thanks for sharing.

17 07 2009
skrblr

Thank you for your kind comments — that’s always a spur to write more!

17 07 2009
Frances Wookey

Now is this heaven or hell? I ask myself. the eaters were unpleasantly real!

18 07 2009
KjM

Souls go “crunch”? Who knew?

I had to laugh at “Don’t lock your leg plates together! What are we trying to do here?”. The son was doing his best, but when he fixated on the reference to souls and plates I could hear his Dad’s frustration.

And “That’s the clew and the claw of it.” is just gorgeous.

Well done.

18 07 2009
J. M. Strother

An interesting piece. There is a lot left to the reader’s imagination, which I tend to like. I have visions of big praying mantis type things waiting at the gates of Hell, so I’m not sure if it’s better to be eaten or to “escape”. I also like the curiosity of the kid here. He seems to be thinking outside the box. Nice addition to the #fridayflash.
~jon

18 07 2009
battypip

I like this very much. It feels like the beginning of a novel – there are lots of things that could be explored. Lovely dialogue.

18 07 2009
Chris Chartrand

Take your soul eater to work day. Your character’s dialogue is great. Very nice.

20 07 2009
2mara

I stuggle with dialogue, so I am incredibly jealous of this story. It’s got a sweet spin on a somewhat eerie topic, and I am left grinning.

I can’t wait to read what you post next, and many apologies for arriving late (#fridayflash)
~2

20 07 2009
skrblr

Dialogue can be difficult – this piece, and the two previous pieces on the blog, were deliberately written as dialogue exercises, with very little in the way of prose. After writing them, I found I was able to go back to a different story where the dialogue was terrible and apply my newly-buffed dialogue-writing gland to give it good revision.

By the way, dialogue only really works, I find, if you feel comfortable actually acting it out. I even went as far as having a writing pal and myself do the role play of the beasties, using the text as a script (with a writing workshop audience!).

Thank you kindly for your feedback!

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