This is the second story in the Open Prompts series. Because of the length constraint, it is not a full story, on the beginning. More will come, I promise. Here were the story elements suggested:
1. Title: “Saturday, 4am” (suggested by me)
2. Length: about 700 words (suggested by Reality of Christ)
3. vinyl records (suggested by Alastair)
4. A character named Edward “the Squid” Morrison (suggested by Christopher De Voss)
5. Genre: post-apocalyptic sci-fi (suggested by jomiddleton)
6. an android sidekick (suggested by Exit Fresh)
Edward Morrison was the unofficial king of the decaying residential area known as Free Frall. He worked alone, by night, collecting and gathering and making his influence felt among the ragged collection of survivors that haunted the rotting suburb. They would pay him a share of what they found by virtue of what he called “personality”. They called him the Squid, and he liked it.
Free Frall was in the wrong place for revival. It was too close to the bomb-blasted epicenter that had been London, but too far from the enclave of Cambridge, where a determined remnant tried to piece a civilization back together.
Edward checked his device screen. It was Saturday, 4 am. It was funny—five billion people dead and most of the rest living like trolls, but they still knew the day and the time, thanks to Cambridge. Technology galore, but no food.
He was in an area he rarely went to—the rusted sign named the cul-de-sac Brighton Circle. The last stop of the night. There was a house he had his eye on.
It was 4am and Joseph Watson was just getting ready to go to bed when he heard a creak from the stairs leading down to his cellar home. Droog, a dwarf-sized robot, whirred over to the door and did a scan. The light on his shoulder went red. Joseph was just reaching for his gun when the door flew open and Edward “the Squid” Morrison stepped in.
“What do you want, Squid?” Joseph said, trying to sound unconcerned.
“Joseph, so this is where you’ve been hiding!” Edward said, with a big smile. “I heard you were dead, but then I kept hearing rumors. I’m glad to see you.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet you are. You always took whatever you wanted from me,” Joseph said. “What—what can I get for you?” he added quickly, as Edward started to walk around the cluttered room with an appraising eye.
“Just seeing what you’ve found—you always did get the best junk. Where did you find this thing?” He toed Droog, who was following him around, still scanning him.
“It’s a ‘Munculus Bot. A guy in Cambridge found a bunch and is fixing them up and trading them. His name is Droog. He doesn’t know English.”
“I wouldn’t think you’d be too attached to it then,” Edward said. “Hey, what do you got here?” He picked up a thin, black disc and was rewarded when Joseph jumped up, fear plain on his face.
“You don’t want that, Squid. Here, take Droog if you’d like. Please, just—put it down.” Edward raised his eyebrows and started to twirl the disc in his fingers.
“Okay, I’ll tell you,” Joseph said. “Just—be careful. It’s music.”
“Music? Like hum-tunes? Why would I want that?”
“This is music from Before. There are tiny grooves that hold the music. No, not like that,” he said quickly as Edward held up the vinyl record to his ear. “I wrote an instruct for the scanner on my device to read them. Here.”
Joseph set the record down on the desk and placed his E-device in a wire frame that suspended it above the record. Then he turned it on and a tiny laser flashed rapidly around the black disc.
A sound unlike anything Edward had ever heard started to pour from the device’s speaker. It was a woman singing strong and clear in a strange language. It had such tragic and haunting tones that Edward involuntarily closed his eyes. It was as if a window had been opened out onto another world, but it was too dark to see more than an inch beyond the frame. And he so desperately wanted to see. The music soared and dipped and finally, faded away.
“What is she saying, in the music?” Edward asked.
“It’s another language,” Joseph said, with a shrug. “They say there were hundreds of them, Before. Maybe there still are, somewhere.”
“Where did you get this?” Edward asked. “Tell me, please.”
“I traded the four I have from a wanderer named Ryan. He makes runs from here to Cambridge and around. I’ve asked for more, but he hasn’t gotten me any. Please, take Droog if you want, but not the discs.”
“Fine, I’ll take Droog instead, but only if you give me the instruct for playing the music.”
“Okay, I guess. You’re going to go find more?”
Edward was, but that wasn’t all. Hearing that song at 4 am on Saturday was like uncovering a pearl in a mound of filth. It was something that for years had remained unsullied by the decay around it. There must be more, and he was going to find it.