After coming home from a weekend camping trip, I was surprised to find that dirt had discoloured the insides of my nostrils. The contents looked something like black seaweed. With that in mind, I wrote a silly story about a kid with a cold who makes an inexplicable discovery. Enjoy.
This story was originally published on 10 May 2016 on Needle In the Hay (http://needleinthehay.net/): http://needleinthehay.net/short-story-flash-fiction-lydia-trethewey-black-seaweed/
Black seaweed came out of my nose today. I dug it out with my fingernail, a thin sliver of mucus, folded it into the center of a tissue. It wasn’t really seaweed, but that’s what it looked like. Result of dirt gotten into my nose, or a fungal infection, according to Web MD.
But you don’t want to hear about that. You want to hear my story, to know what really happened. How a teenager achieved sudden and inexplicable fame. You know my name – Jarrod Helm – from the 24 hour news, and you want to know if it’s all a hoax. I can tell you that it isn’t, that the miracle formula is 100% real. That even the brain of a C-student in some backwash town can produce greatness (that was the “inspirational” angle the news took, before, you know, all the unpleasantness.)
That brings me to the day in question. It was a morning of indeterminate weather, when the dust gives way to rain and mud, and soaks up your pant legs. I was in Biology class, maintaining dim eye contact with the clock. The second hand was limping along, the minute hand lagging behind. The hour hand was in a coma. A general air of tedium rose in lethargic breathes from the class, and Mrs. Teakettle droned on and on about mitosis or meiosis or something. Business as usual.
Except that I had a cold, which made it a million times worse. My head was full of thickness, and my nose was runny on one side and blocked on the other. Mum had sent me out the door stacked up with throat lozenges and paracetamol, threatening a thermos of some concoction she’d whipped up at work. She’s a pharmaceutical researcher, and I think a little too eager with the prescriptions.
Mrs. Teakettle was glaring at me, possibly remembering the time I pretended to be sick and went walkabouts in the town. The squiggly diagrams on the board, what I supposed were cells, swam about in my vision, dividing and colliding and causing general havoc. My brain started to drift a bit above my head, feeling the slow scrape of time, the inescapable monotony, and the giddiness of cold-remedy drugs.
That’s when it happened, rising up within me like an insuppressible bout of mucus. The formula came into my mind, clear as day, swimming with the cells and snot and Mrs. Teakettle’s frown. It was a moment of inspiration, like you hear about in old documentaries about Einstein on the TV. Insight formed in the crucible of drudgery. I wrote it down. And as soon as it came it disappeared, sinking back into murky depths.
I know what you’re thinking: there must be more to it than that! And I’m sorry to disappoint, but that’s all there is. Except that I got detention, because as soon as I had the formula I jumped up and ran from the room, waving the bit of paper like a lunatic. The school apologized though, after they realized what I’d done, that I’d formulated a cure for the common cold.
Now I’m sitting in the mansion, delicately flensing the inside of my nostrils. Black seaweed. I feel a bit bad sometimes, about the side effects. So many angry people, wondering if their snot will always be the consistency of living tar. Small price to pay I think, to be free from the headaches and coughing, but then mum’s company is working on a cure for the cure. Every day she brings me a steaming thermos, and afterwards I can feel my brain buzzing.
This story was short-listed for the “Company Mannequin” award. Check out the rest of the short-list here: http://needleinthehay.net/tag/company-mannequin-award/