One-way Ticket

This for the Wednesday write-in at Cake.shortandsweet

“Don’t make any silly moves, old man. You know the score.”

He turned slowly to face the speaker, partly because he didn’t want to get hurt and partly because he was tired. And sad. So sad. “I don’t have much to give. It’s all gone now. Given away. To family. And friends. Except for the, you know, the body parts. They went to strangers. Kidney went three months ago. In keeping with the law. As per, you know… . You get to keep the eyes until, well, you know, afterwards. Then it’s out with both. Somebody will be lucky. People have always admired my eyes. They’re blue, you know.” And his eyes, his watery blue eyes, swept slowly around the vast expanse of the neglected, abandoned, dangerous park, knowing that apart from himself and the boy, it was empty. No one else. Just the two of them. Himself about to shuffle it off, the boy just starting in life.

“Your wallet.” Demanding.

“You’re wasting your time. So, youngster,  what’s brought you to this?”

“This? What’s this?”

“This.”

“Is that a question, old man?”

“Yes, a question. What’s brought you to this?”

“I’m educated, you know. Did a PPE at Oxford. I’m now a philosopher. No room for any more politicians or economists. Oversubscribed. Overflowing. Full up. Don’t bother to apply. So I’m a philosopher. I think. That’s my job. To think. And ask questions. And answer questions. My particular interest is the study of being. According to my CV.”

“Your CV? Your curriculum vitae? The story of your life?”

“Yeah, that’s the one. I’m a thinker. A profound thinker. According to my CV. My curriculum vitae. A profound thinker. I think about being.”

“Being? Existence?”

“Yeah. That’s it. Your wallet, old man!”

“You’re wasting your time. Here. See? Nothing.

“What’s this? A train ticket?”

“Ah. Looks like it. You want it? It’s one way, you know”.

“One way is interesting. Profoundly so. One way is deep. A return ticket is prosaic. Anyone can have a return ticket in their wallet. So many people have return tickets. How dull is a return ticket. Dull, dull, dull. Yours is a one-way ticket. I am excited. Very excited.”

The old man stared at the boy and blinked, “You are excited. I’m delighted you are excited. I’m delighted I’ve been able to excite you, to bring some excitement into your life, to see such excitement in your eyes, to bring you joy.”

“Joy? No joy. Don’t say joy. It’s not on my CV. My curriculum vitae. Don’t say joy. Joy? What is joy? Do you know joy, old man. Do you know joy?”

“Tomorrow I will use the ticket. The one-way ticket. Tomorrow I will use it. I must. It is the law. I may feel joy then, I don’t know. But now I am sad. Very sad. After tomorrow I will not be; I will not exist. Something for a philosopher who likes to think about being to think about. Can you think about that for me.”

“I will think about that for you. It’s my job. I am a philosopher. I have a PPE from Oxford. I think. It’s my job. To think.”

“Thank you. I am old and sad. I am used up. Wasted. Empty. I have given my teeth, my liver, a kidney, bone marrow. And blood. All in keeping with the law. As per. Tomorrow they will take my eyes. Think about it. Tomorrow they will take my eyes. Not my heart. It’s worn out. Worn out.

“Tomorrow I take the train to the reduction plant. One way. Of course. No return. No return from the reduction plant. Unless you work there. Pressing buttons. To switch on the reducers, maybe. Or to mix the soups and the sauces. Or bottle them. Tomorrow I will be soup. Or sauce. Reduced. Have you ever cooked? Sometimes you reduce the soup or the sauce. Tomorrow I will be soup or sauce. Reduced. I asked the official, the man in the uniform and the peaked cap, if I could choose between soup and sauce, but he didn’t respond. Apart from giving me that ticket. That train ticket. That one-way train ticket.”

“A one-way train ticket. It’s so exciting. Will you use it?”

The old man wiped his eyes, his beautiful blue eyes. “I must, you know. It’s the law. I am old and empty. Used up. Wasted. And others are young and, well, not old and empty, not used up. Nor wasted. I must use the ticket.”

“It’s so exciting. See. It says quite clearly, ‘One-way’. So exciting. Many people have return tickets. This is a one-way ticket. So exciting.”

“Tomorrow they will take my eyes. And I will be soup. Or sauce.”

“This is so exciting.”

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11 Responses to One-way Ticket

  1. Elaine Peters says:

    Creepy! The use of repetition in the dialogue gives it a very unsettling quality. It seems in this future the robotic young people don’t have normal emotions programmed into them. (A nod to Soylent Green?)

  2. SJ O'Hart says:

    Whoa. I feel like I’ve just watched a really intense SF movie, or something – what an atmospheric, creepy and effective narrative style, and powerful use of language. I really liked this, Patrick. Well done. I’ve never read anything quite like it before, and that’s saying something!

    • Thanks for the really encouraging comment. I’ve just finished reading JG Ballard’s autobiography where he talks about SF that’s based in the real world and not space ships etc. So I think that’s where it came from.

      • SJ O'Hart says:

        I think that’s what makes it such a good piece, actually – this chilling, SF feel overlaid with the familiarity of it being part of a recognisable world. Excellent!

  3. Elaine McKay says:

    A mixture of ‘Logan’s Run’ and ‘Waiting for Godot’ ! My, this was powerful even if I still don’t fully understand it.. Is the young man a kind of ‘pre-incarnation’ of the old man? He seems robotic or soulless. Just a few thoughts.
    Loved it and will read it a few times more.

    • Waiting for Godot did cross my mind at one point. Not familiar with Logan’s Run (blush, blush). The young man? Certainly soulless. Otherwise just a representative of young men in that period (next decade, maybe). As for being a re-incarnation, that’s a brilliant thought. It would change the last third but would have been a better story. Write it before someone steals it.

  4. Tessa Sheppard says:

    A little confusing at first, trying to figure out why the two people were in the abandoned park, but it made better sense at the end. All the dialogue gave it a quick pace.

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