05 April 2013

#fridayflash: elementals

The Earth struck first, with tremblers strong enough to make the pictures on the walls rattle. Something got pulled, something popped, something shorted and the electricity went out. It stayed off for less than half an hour, but when it returned the clock on the stove no longer showed numbers. Instead, its seven-bar digital readouts formed alien glyphs.

The stove's timer alarm chirped and chattered to itself. The squat metal box seemed to have had the electronic version of a stroke, reawoken to a delusion it was a baby sparrow.

The Earth rotated twice, with the same speed and axis it always used, and the non-conscious machine that was the oven suddenly realised it wasn't a baby sparrow after all, but a kitchen appliance, and the horror made it scream. And scream. And scream, the long insistence of its alarm beeeeeeeeeeeeeep only fading as the speaker vibrated itself to death, only stopped when the homeowner in despair flipped the breaker switch and pulled the plug.

Fire and Water, mischievous fraternal twins, chose to trade places. A burned-out solenoid rendered the dishwasher unusable, while a tiny drop of water sneaked into an electric toothbrush's inner workings. Damp little ghost in the machine, it made the toothbrush turn on and off by itself, and not turn on or off in response to human fingers pressing the controls.

The final prank was left to Air, element of communication. The radio waved data passing through it were rearranged and randomised. E-mails floated into games of solitaire; photos from porn spam illustrated articles in the Wall Street Journal. Characters and sometimes even whole words would appear in tweets and blog posts from nowhere. All gibberish, the phone's and computer's extensions of those glyphs on the oven clock.

But there is one more element, more ethereal and less frivolous than the rest. She sums and supplants the other four, and what she lacks in tangibility she makes up for in intelligence.

Spirit quietly asked for her turn, and when Air was satisfied he bowed out and gave it to her.

Spirit knows language, and she knows grammar. Spirit knows how cultural conventions work.

She can write blog posts so real they can be easily mistaken for human.


  1. I imagined this finished with a "DUN DUN DAA!"

    Interesting that their malice seems quite local. I normally think of elementals on a big scale but these are more like nasty sprites. I wonder if they have a motivation other than for the fun of it.

  2. Well this ruled! More anthropomorphic and yet less typically anthropomorphic take on the elements. Also, good close with Spirit as a blogger.

  3. What an interesting concept! Elementals as devious gremlins causing our devices to malfunction, and spirt as the wise master overseeing all. And I agree, that close was brilliant.

  4. Interesting. So that's why all the odd words appear in my tweets today . . . And I like the spirit elemental. Clever thing.

  5. I loved the opening as well - the stove clock showing glyphs in place of numbers!

  6. This was awesome! I loved how the oven lost its **** when it realized it was a kitchen appliance. The Spirit elemental makes for a really cool wrinkle in the Classic Four, too.

  7. What a great story! I'm always amazed at what you come up with - such a great imagination!

  8. Killer last line! Very rich and imaginitive story, really enjoyed it.

  9. Oh I loved this! Well played, Katherine/Spirit.


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