Contest #128 shortlist ⭐️

16 comments

Fantasy Fiction Urban Fantasy

Have you heard of Mr Mallory?

Mr Mallory lives in a huge tree in a dense green forest. But it's what Mr Mallory can do that makes him truly special.

Lost souls wander through the forest and stumble upon Mr Mallory's tree house, and he whispers for them to come up for some tea.

There's a battered old tyre swing with a rope older than your granny's teeth that sways gently in the breeze. People sit in the tyre swing, and Mr Mallory slowly pulls them up towards him, high up in the canopy of the trees.

He grunts and strains and clenches his jaw, his wiry arms bulging from the effort. Once the wandering soul has been hoisted up, he makes them a special brew he calls 'tea'.

He's a polite man, Mr Mallory, and always asks how many giggles people take in their tea. Any more than 3 and he swiftly kicks the unsuspecting person off the edge of the tree with his abnormally large feet. 

Once the wandering soul has drunk the tea, they'll feel ever so strange. This peculiar feeling will nibble its way from their stomach to their chest and their throat, and very suddenly they'll hurl like never before.

Rainbow gloop will explode from their mouth in wave after wave, and Mr Mallory will dutifully catch it in a wooden bowl. Once the wandering soul has hurled everything, they'll usually fall asleep and Mr Mallory will get to work.

Mr Mallory, the dishevelled towering bag of bones he is, will mix and whisk and blend the rainbow gloop and add his own special ingredients. He'll then wait until it's very gooey and make small balls out of it. Usually 2 dozen, but sometimes more depending on the wandering soul.

Some souls hurl enough just for a few gooey balls to be made, whereas others keep Mr Mallory busy until sunrise, with small dumpling like balls laid neatly on a wooden tray, his smile gleaming in the moonlight as his wiry chest heaves from the effort of his endeavours.

The wandering soul will wake suddenly and Mr Mallory will be standing there, holding out a small leather pouch. Once the wandering soul takes it, Mr Mallory will grin, revealing a toothy smile, and collapse in an exhausted heap on a nearby branch. He won't move until a new wandering soul comes along, as he needs time to recover from exerting himself so much.

And what's in the leather pouch, you ask? Well, the wandering soul will climb down from the tree and make their way home. No one needs to be told what the marbles are - everyone innately knows.

For example reader, a wandering soul called Fliss (a non-committal name if there ever was one) may empty her leather pouch onto her bed and observe the multi-coloured array of marbles gleaming proudly back at her. But as she picks one up, she will clearly and effortlessly recall a terribly traumatic memory of hers. Perhaps it's a car crash, an episode of bullying or her first heartbreak. Perhaps it's even worse, and she had buried it deep within her mind, under the foliage of false pretence of pretending to care about mortgages and interest rates.

It won't be blurred, rushed or smothered in uncertainty where one tortures themselves with intricacies. No, it will be a perfect replica of the memory, along with sounds, smells and the dryness of ones mouth.

But back to Fliss. She can pick up a marble, observe it, experience it, and for as long as she needs to, carry it around with her. The moment she puts it down, the trauma will become separate from her character, and the only thing that will linger will be the experience she's gained from ruminating upon it.

If Fliss doesn't want dark thoughts to bother her, she can pop all the marbles in a pouch and shove them in a drawer somewhere, and those thoughts will never surface in her mind. 

Holding the marble gives the same clarity as when you strain your hearing in an empty cave. Everything is amplified and it's crystal clear. Putting the marble down makes that memory the same as trying to hear someone while you're underwater. Garbled, incoherent.

These marbles have a name. They are called traubles. They were designed by Mr Mallory to help human beings process and understand specific traumatic memories, so they don't leak into our minds and become mixed up like spaghetti with other memories.

But there's a problem. Mr Mallory isn't human, and he never understood that trauma isn't meant to be put in a neat little marble and experienced at will. Although it's a comforting thought to know you'd be in control of all traumatic memories, being human means we need to assimilate them, and allow them to become part of our fabric.

If Mr Mallory was at a picnic, he'd draw a neat rectangle in the middle and ask everyone to spill their juice and crumbs there, and only in that perimeter. But everyone knows that's not how picnics work. The picnic blanket is hammered with all sorts of crumbs, splashes and globs of jam, and this ends up becoming its identity.

Mr Mallory's traubles can't be compared to a trivial picnic, but it's this approach that so many are drawn to. Those who want to 'minimise' their trauma like a browser window, and then open it again when they want to explore it. 

But Mr Mallory isn't human. Not even close. He's a demon banished from a place so old, the letters in its name got bored and found new homes in more commonly used words. And this is why Mr Mallory must be approached with caution.

He's not just an old man whisking away at a bowl of hot trauma, he's a misguided and vindictive creature you must be careful of at all costs, reader.

So if you're sitting on a tyre swing somewhere in a quiet forest, and you feel an inexplicable tug, and your toes start to leave the ground, just jump - and whatever you do, don't drink the tea.

January 10, 2022 17:08

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16 comments

Martha Sanipe
20:41 Jan 22, 2022

Loved this story! Told with the sweetness of a child's tale, yet with much darker undertones. A great allegory. I think it deserved to win! I look forward to reading more of your work.

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Hamzah Malik
19:51 Jan 23, 2022

Thank you Martha! I really appreciate the feedback, and I’m thrilled you enjoyed it. I have a new story up, again quite dark, which you may like. Hope all is well with you :)

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Ashley Mc Murray
10:41 Mar 30, 2022

original.

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Sharon Hancock
03:00 Mar 05, 2022

-He's a demon banished from a place so old, the letters in its name got bored and found new homes in more commonly used words. I love this line, so original! This story is fantastic! I’m glad to know I’m safe since I’m a coffee drinker , also I’d have been kicked off the tree for wanting more sugar😂 I really enjoyed this, thank you!😻

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Hamzah Malik
19:50 Mar 05, 2022

I’m so glad you enjoyed it Sharon, and thank you for such lovely feedback. Us coffee drinkers have to stick together! 😂

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Graham Kinross
23:00 Feb 14, 2022

Great description “older than your granny's teeth” is a perfect little snip. Great as always Hamzah, keep it up.

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Rachel Smith
07:15 Feb 04, 2022

Omg I loved this story so much. Great storytelling style. Made me think of Roald Dahl. Congrats on the shortlist, well deserved!

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Hamzah Malik
19:15 Feb 04, 2022

Wow thank you, that’s such a huge compliment!

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Katie Kanning
21:41 Jan 22, 2022

Hi Hamzah, I really enjoyed how you explored this concept in such an out of the box way! I'm wondering if I could read it on my podcast, "Unpublished, not Unknown"? It's all about giving voice to indie authors' short stories and spreading their reach a bit further. You retain the credit and I find fun ways to promote you and your story. I'll credit you and link your profile in the show notes. People can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Youtube, and 5 other locations. If you're in, just go my website unpublishednotunknown.com and cl...

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Hamzah Malik
19:52 Jan 23, 2022

Hey Katie! I’m glad you enjoyed the story, I had so much fun writing it. And of course, I’d love to read it on your podcast. I’ll get in touch tonight :)

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Katie Kanning
22:37 Jan 23, 2022

Fantastic!

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Katie Kanning
01:06 Feb 02, 2022

Hi Hamzah, your story is officially live on the podcast! Visit unpublishednotuknown.com for all the ways to listen and share. Enjoy!

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Hamzah Malik
19:16 Feb 04, 2022

Hi Katie, thank you for reading it, you did such an amazing job!

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Katie Kanning
21:32 Feb 04, 2022

Thank you so much! I had a lot of fun with your story :)

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Melissa Balick
19:58 Jan 15, 2022

Neat story. Some funny bits. Clever!

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Hamzah Malik
20:00 Jan 15, 2022

Thanks Melissa!

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