CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
Herbert’s pale and sullen face told me, “You achieved the highest score under ‘emotional detachment’ the Department has ever seen. Under some circumstances you could have become a psychopathic killer.” Then he added, “That is, if you’re not one already—”
I had never before spoken to Herbert Singer and was not used to being called a psychopathic killer, so no ready reply came to me. After a pause, I realized my face had remained fixed in a smile since the start of the interview, so, by way of a response, I simply changed my expression.
He seemed more pleased with my new expression. He slowly nodded, as an undertaker nods at a compliant relative, then looked down, opened my file and said, “The management have decided to call in your loan. They have given you two full weeks to repay it.”
Three months previously, my debts, seeming to have acquired a life of their own, had transformed into an obese monster. There was never any realistic hope of me constraining the monster, let alone slaying it; once I had welcomed it into my life, it seemed inevitable it would one day consume me. And it ate and ate until I seemed empty and my shell trembled with the echo of fear. I was about to grasp the lifeline of “bankruptcy” when the Department, apparently valuing my continued employment, granted me a low-interest loan of one whole year’s salary, which I could repay over the following five years, on the condition my employment continued. I was given a one week holiday, by way of a honeymoon, then I returned to work, and for three whole months I remained faithful and smiling. On some deep level, I knew this was for life. I had finally found Miss Right. What was there to not be cheerful about?
I watched Herbert Singer’s pale face as he announced the management’s intentions and, to me, his words seemed to be saying: “We want a divorce.” I again had no ready response, so all I could do was watch him in stunned silence.
Herbert’s trembling hand lifted his glass of water; he drank and said, “But I have a proposition to put to you.”
I was still too stunned to reply.
He said, “There is a consortium who work with the Department. They will repay your loan for you, but in return you must perform some tasks for them.”
I heard myself saying, “Tasks?—what tasks?”
He said, “They will contact you.”
I, of course, had no choice but to accept. It seemed I was again spoken for. First, I had given myself to Connie, was then enticed into a marriage with a monster, had then accepted the Department’s hand, and now I belonged to this anonymous “consortium”. Somewhere along the way I had forfeited my freedom, though I knew not where.
In the goldfish bowl, Bruce and Sheila Softly were hovering side by side, gazing out into the living room.
Sheila sighed.
Bruce glanced at him, then looked back out to the living room and said nothing.
Sheila sighed again.
Bruce continued watching the living room and said nothing.
Sheila sighed yet again, then said, “Don’t you ever get bored, Bruce, just doing this all the time?”
Bruce said, “Doing what?”
“Just hovering, Bruce, in the same bowl, day in, day out.”
“No.”
“But you must do.”
“Why?”
“I do.”
“Bored?”
“Well... not bored exactly, just—”
“—Just what?”
“I just feel there should be more to it. All we ever do is hover round this bowl all day long—which seems remarkably like the shape of a human’s head, if you ask me—we hover round this bowl like two disembodied consciousnesses, and convert… convert whatever such consciousnesses feed on, into… into something else. There has to be more to life than that.”
“But we’re goldfish, Sheila; what else is there to do?”
Sheila sighed.
Bruce watched the living room, was quiet for a moment, then said, “I mean, you could think about this for days and days, Sheila, only to decide you wanted to be a bus driver.” He looked at Sheila and said, “And I can’t really see you as a bus driver, Sheila.”
Sheila continued watching the living room, slowly breathed in as deeply as he could, then sighed the deepest and longest sigh he could manage.
Bruce said nothing.

Links

Some links to other sites of literary interest.

Project Gutenberg. The first internet archive of free electronic books. There are now over 25,000 books available free at this site.

eBooks@Adelaide. The University of Adelaide Library’s collection of Web books. The collection includes classic works of Literature, Philosophy, Science, and History.

ReadPrint. Online books, free to read. From all the classic authors, though with some authors, only the most well known of their books are yet added. The books are nicely laid out easy to read.

Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Web's first edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. The texts are clearly and simply laid out, making them a joy to read. Navigation within each play is also straightforward.

The Literature Network is a vast store of online texts: books, short stories, poems. The full texts are included but the more popular works are peppered with advertising. If you don't mind that, happy reading.

Gaslight is an archive of classic short stories which were originally published as an internet discussion list. Genres include: mystery, adventure and The Weird.

East of the web. A growing collection of classic and newly-written short stories made available on the Web. Stories are organized by theme: fiction, romance, crime, sci-fi & fantasy, humour, horror, hyperfiction, children's, and nonfiction. Includes works by many famous authors.

George Boeree. This site contains many fascinating nonfiction etexts introducing every aspect of psychology. George's writing is clear and straightforward.

The Internet Classics Archive. An archive of works of classical literature in English translations. The works are mostly Greek and Roman, with some Chinese and Persian works.

Online Magazines

TheAtlantic.com. Current affairs magazine with short stories, essays and poetry. See the archive of short stories.

Narrative Magazine. Fiction, poetry, short short stories, nonfiction, features. Good quality writing. You can subscribe to the site free of charge, which will allow you to read the full text of the stories.

The Oldie. This magazine was created by a previous editor of Private Eye, as: an antidote to youth culture but, more importantly, a magazine with emphasis on good writing, humour and quality illustration.

Zoetrope All-Story. A short story magazine. You can read samples from many of the stories online, but will need to purchase a subscription to read the full text.

3:AM Magazine. Containing fiction, nonfiction, interviews, poetry, opinions.

Resources

How to Write a Story is a blog consisting of articles on how to write.

Refdesk.com. Today's news stories from around the world. And other similar reference material.