‘Heriot’ and ‘This Isn’t Heat’

Excerpts from two stories featured in anthologies from Arachne Press.
The first, ‘Heriot’, is a piece of philosophical sci-fi, originally written for the Liars’ League’s Time & Space event (it was read by the hugely talented Silas Hawkins – you can watch an excerpt of his performance here). It was included in the Arachne anthology ‘Weird Lies’, which has been nominated for a Saboteur Award this year – you can buy a copy here, and, if you like, vote for it to win the award here.        

I was born at some point in the nineteen-sixties. I’m English, I’m from the north of England. My parents – I’m of unknown parentage.

I’m learning, slowly but surely. Everyone here has been very helpful.

‘Do you remember it? Any of it?’ Doctor Wainwright asked me this morning.

I thought hard. I did not remember. I shook my head.

‘Nothing?’

‘Nothing, sir.’

He smiled.

‘You don’t have to call me ‘Sir’,’ he said.

They call me Heriot, which is what I call myself. We are agreed that I am Heriot.

As regards the other data, I accept them without question; without the least question. And yet – 

When I was first asked, I replied that I was born in twenty-one-nineteen, in South Utsire Province of the United Kingdom of Scandinavia and Storbritannien. I replied that my parents were both architects, Ophelia and Hablot Sterne; I said that they were both alive and well and living in the Boknjaford archipelago.

My opinions in this regard were at first contested and then dismissed…

 
The second story, ‘This Isn’t Heat’, is a quirky romance set in a Manhattan apartment building. It was read at the Liars’ League’s Hot & Bothered event in July 2011 (again by Silas, whose reading you can watch here) and included in the Arachne anthology ‘Lovers’ Lies’, which you can buy here.

Outside, a tonne of air sits on Manhattan like a squatting golden Buddha. Inside, James Mercury searches for a friend in his Rolodex.

‘David – nope. Janice – no: how can I call her after last time? Louie Sweeney. Who the hell is Louie Sweeney? So no. Harry, Murray, Cathy – no, no, no.’

It seems that there are no friends to be found within James Mercury’s Rolodex.

Outside, men in shirtsleeves toil and smell richly of takeout coffee. The heavy sweat of the Buddha clings shirts to bellies and to damp small-of-backs. There is a June riot of horn-honking and much profanity from the taxicab drivers.

James Mercury’s apartment building hums in the heat. Here, Mrs Salvatore draws her red wash from her steaming washing machine like a magician producing bunting, and here, Mr Aftad on the third floor peels a pill of garlic with fingers of turmeric yellow.

What a time – with the quicksilver racing towards a hundred-and-three – for the air-conditioning to go down! Listen: a constant whirr such as you might not notice until it stops, and then – what? An electrical fault? We must assume so – and then the slow death of the air-conditioning…   

 

 

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