Back in 2008, Livejournal conducted a flash fiction contest where 500-word-stories had to be written on the theme: journal. They gave us a sop saying that all selected stories ‘might’ go into a published book, and we were allowed to send in more than one entry. This was either before or just after I’d sold my first novel, so I was on a high. I wrote five stories and sent them in. I will serialize them over the next five weeks here. This is the first of the five.
I’m leaving the stories as they were written in 2008. I’m resisting the temptation to edit them again.
Lagna looked at the numbers slide past the wall-mounted time ticker. Fifteen minutes to go for the Family Dinner. Time enough, perhaps, to flick again through the journal she had found that morning.
This didn’t look like a normal journal. It didn’t have buttons and speakerphones and touch screens. It was made of paper – real paper.
She had literally stumbled upon it when covering a story for her holoscroll about the ruins at the Northern end of the city. It had been buried under a thick layer of dust, and if she had not accidentally kicked it, it would not have been sitting on her table right now.
She picked it up and opened it, gingerly turning each page, smiling at the wobbly letters that were on the verge of fading out. When she had opened the book that morning for the first time, she had had to concentrate really hard to read the imperfectly shaped words, but now, second time around, she had far less trouble.
The girl to whom the journal belonged had written a poem about her family. Below the poem were three human stick figures, the smallest of whom was in the centre, holding the hand of each of the larger figures. All of them were smiling. Below the central figure was a crooked arrow pointing outward, and next to it was a single wonky word, “Me”.
Lagna frowned. The picture had bothered her in the morning as well. Did that mean the girl in the picture had only two parents? Lagna had heard stories of times when children had only one set of parents, but she had always brushed them off as meaningless myths. Her own family had seventeen people in it – eight parents and nine children. She was the youngest of four mothers in the house.
Yes, her family was the smallest in the city, but that was now. Once it becomes financially feasible, she thought, they will expand, too; they had to! She knew as well as anyone how children growing in smaller households could get affected. She was not about to let any of her kids grow up to be social misfits.
But what about this girl? She only had two parents. Imagine the psychological handicap of growing up with only one role model of each gender! Six of each was the optimum number, as everyone knew. One of each – well, one of each was just criminal.
And worse, what about companionship? How many children could a single couple possibly have? Not nine, surely. In such a small family – heck, it was blasphemous to even call it a family! She ran her thumb tenderly over the central stick figure. Poor girl. What were her parents thinking?
The Family Bell beeped, calling her to dinner. But Lagna didn’t hear it. She was staring past the grimy page, her thumb still stroking the little stick figure’s face. And then, quietly, she started sobbing – for the poor girl in the journal.
Image Courtesy: Aaron Southcott’s Media Blog