Friday, January 05, 2007

Flickr Fiction: Wood and Metal

It was Monday, 3:51 p.m. The man called the Builder--he once had a name but he'd long forgotten, and everyone he used to know was dead or gone or didn't recognize him anymore--the man called the Builder always knew what time it was. An old-fashioned watch that he wound religiously every evening at eight p.m. was his most precious and also his most mysterious of his few possessions. For the most part, he owned only what he needed for survival: a small generator, a camping stove, a tattered sleeping bag patched with bits of discarded blankets, an old, dirty Igloo cooler that kept his food fresh for a few days.

Nobody knew where the watch came from. It was clearly an antique, with brass fixtures; a wide, shiny, hair-pinching wrist band; and ornately painted numbers underneath the glass face. After the Builder wound his watch, he would shine it with a scrap of rag, lovingly polishing its metal surfaces with a spot of oil from his kerosene lamp. Lin could see all this from the side window of his house, had seen this every day of his ten years, that he could remember. The main room of the rooftop shanty, which his father had built above Lin's aunt and uncle's house with his own two hands, looked out onto other run-down houses, other shanties. And the Builder's...dwelling.

There was really no other word for it. It wasn't exactly a house. Part of it was a house, but the rest....It was 3:59, David knew, because the Builder had emerged from his front doorway, which was quite stable but leaned to one side at a disturbing angle. Every Monday at 3:59 the Builder came out, carrying a creation made from metal rods, discarded wood, thrown-away utensils, and anything else long and slender, attached at intricate angles, like a communications tower or a giant comb or a rake. And then, at precisely 4:00, the Builder would gingerly scale a precarious ladder built into the side of his house, carrying his creation over his shoulder.

He would scuttle along the roof, a maze of railings and uneven roof, and add the wood-and-metal object to all the rest, and Lin would gape upwards in awe. It was like the rigging of some small but insanely complicated ship, like a contraption built to contact UFOs, but Lin did not know what it was for. He didn't know if it was "for" anything. He was too afraid to ask the Builder, and his parents warned him to stay away. But one day, when Lin was eleven, everything changed...
***

This week's piece was inspired by WIRE(LESS) by Flickr user min'. I love this picture--really fascinating. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil, Valsha, and Dermot, who's still getting set up.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, interesting. I wonder what Builder was using it for.

Valsha

Elimare said...

yup, i wanna know more alright!

Teaandcakes said...

Oh, now I want to know what happened when he was 11.

a. fortis said...

Yes, me too... ;) No clue where this was going.

Neil Struthers said...

I am liking this very muchly. I love stories about slums and strange, grim things like this. You painted a fine and intriguing picture of the Builder and his strange work, so y'did.

a. fortis said...

The strange thing was, when I saw that the picture was taken in Hong Kong, I immediately thought of our trip to China and this strange half-fallen structure we saw on the roof of the building next door to our hotel in Beijing. And then I thought about the slums we saw outside of Mexico City a couple of summers ago, all hand-built and cobbled-together, miles of them. Third-world countries = very grim...

a. fortis said...

The strange thing was, when I saw that the picture was taken in Hong Kong, I immediately thought of our trip to China and this strange half-fallen structure we saw on the roof of the building next door to our hotel in Beijing. And then I thought about the slums we saw outside of Mexico City a couple of summers ago, all hand-built and cobbled-together, miles of them. Third-world countries = very grim...

TadMack said...

Yeah... I can see this. The weird 3rd World/Western thing clashing away, and ending up with some weird amalgamation of wires and half-crumbled buildings in a slum where people once had knowledge of a way of life, but instead or limited to waiting for someone... or something to notice them and remind them of where they came from and where they were going and how to get out of where they are now.

This could be a story or a really cool role-playing scenario.

a. fortis said...

The other thing I was thinking of, too, or at least inadvertently had in the back of my mind, was Virtual Light by William Gibson. I'm not a huge Gibson fan, but that one had a cool setting, with all these lean-tos and shacks built up the cables of the disused Bay Bridge.

Donal said...

I'm a sucker for characters with just one name, prefixed with 'The'. It sends my brain off in tangents of imaginative fancy.

What's he building in there?