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The Nail (standard:science fiction, 3420 words)
Author: Katherine KendrickAdded: Sep 21 2005Views/Reads: 2037/1433Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Our unusually innocent hero, Isos, has questions about his past. Madeliene, an unlikely friend, may be able to help him, but his religious scientist father is definitely hiding something big. . .

The Nail 

By Katherine Kendrick 


The square was deserted and the full moon was high in the black sky. The
streetlights cast a translucent light on the brushed stones, forming 
tiny shadows on their uneven surface. The air was chilled with night, 
and a stray cat stirred as it heard movement below. The feline opened 
an eye lazily to regard the figure as it drew the dark coat tightly 
around its shoulders. Quiet footsteps scurried along the side of the 
empty meeting place and towards the huge imposing building which loomed 
threateningly over it. The giant Gothic Cathedral was one of the finest 
examples in the world and was entered via two colossal doors, each 
adorned with the most intricate carvings of ancient stories. However, 
the person ignored these and ducked to the side, standing for a minute 
fiddling with something in the door. After a few minutes there was a 
click, and the little side door was released. The cat watched the 
figure go in and returned to his slumber. So he didn't see some minutes 
later, as the dark shape re- emerged and refastened the door, clutching 
a tiny box to its chest. 

The Girl 

The sun was just dropping over the horizon, illuminating the stained
street in a strange half light. Bruised foreign fruits lay on display 
outside the grocers, on squares of cardboard, their smells 
intermingling with the fumes of the passing cars and producing a sweet 
but dirty smell. The man observed the shops and people as he walked, 
unlike the other inhabitants of the pavement, who walked as if 
blinkered, eyes straight ahead, but not even seeing that direction. 
Going about their business on autopilot; most of them would get to 
their destinations with no memory of the journey there. His eyes met a 
woman just standing, she didn't seem to be on her way anywhere and was 
just watching the passers-by, she seemed to be assessing them, with a 
critical look in her eye. As she saw him looking at her she raised her 
chin almost imperceptibly seeming to question him. As he didn't look 
away she tilted her head again, this time seeming to gesture for him to 
go over to her. He did so and stood beside her. They regarded each 
other for a moment and finally she spoke. ‘Did you need my help?' He 
wasn't sure what she meant so asked ‘What sort of help?' She raised her 
eyebrows and sighed. ‘Are you shy?' Confused now, he stuttered ‘Well, 
not usually. Do you need my help?' She looked surprised. 'Is that some 
sort of a joke?' ‘Of course not, why would I joke about helping?' 
‘Look, my time doesn't come for free, if you want to hang around you're 
going to have to pay, otherwise piss off.' This time it was his turn to 
be surprised. He looked up the darkening street while formulating his 
answer. ‘You just offered help and now you want me to pay you for it?' 
A look of exasperation crossed her face, but was suddenly replaced with 
intrigue. ‘You really don't know what I am do you?' ‘A woman? A 
conditionally helpful woman?' She didn't miss the glint in his eye as 
he said this, but before she could reply he said, ‘OK, I'll pay you, 
how much do you want?' A souped-up car with a stomach vibratingly loud 
bass stereo system and monster exhaust roared past, so he only just 
caught what she said, but thought it was something like, ‘Depends what 
you want.' She didn't look receptive to the idea of repeating it, so he 
tested, ‘I just want to help you. You look like you could do with a 
talk.' ‘Oh Jesus, you're not one of the God squad are you? Going to 
help me to change my ways for a better life?' ‘A better life than 
what?' This time the exasperated look remained for longer. ‘Fine, I can 
listen to your cryptic conversation all night if the money's on the 
table. Do you want to stay here?' He thought about it for a minute. 
‘No, let's go back to my house.' ‘Fine.' 

His living room was large, but the impression was otherwise, as it was
filled with shelves so full of books and papers that many were now 
piled in every handy spare space and many inconvenient ones. Loose 
heaps rested precariously on tables, chairs and even the floor. There 
were paintings on the walls, but they didn't seem to have been 
carefully chosen, some even looking suspiciously like the generic 
images which come with the frame. There were no plants or ornaments, 
but the furniture was detailed and musty. ‘So do you live here alone?' 
she asked. It would figure, only a bachelor would live in such clutter. 
‘No, I live with my father. But he is out for the evening. Come in, sit 

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