Sleep, Store, Offense

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Lemuel rested his eyes, just for a moment. The last few days had forced him to be alert, but the moment he let down his guard, he was out. His eyes fluttered rapidly behind his eyelids as his mind processed all its eyes had taken in.

Lemuel watched skeletons running around on a beach with black pebbles. Their bones clacking on the rock as they swiveled their heads around, which, their heads were cameras. Cameras with long lenses that whirred when they zoomed and had cables attached that ran all the way to somewhere Lemuel couldn’t see. The camera head skeletons crowded around Lemuel, pointing their lenses at his lemon stuffed mouth.

The setting and characters shifted. The clacking bones and whirring lenses morphed into the strange noises coming from all the people in the marketplace. All the strange noises from the other creatures in cages also stirred into the blurry soup being made in Lemuel’s mind. He stood in front of a long table, octopi crawling all over each other and up the pillars holding up the tent. A man came out making guttural noises from his mouth and maybe even nose before taking out a giant clever and hacking at the squirming maw of tentacles and beaks on the table. Heads, beaks and tentacles still suctioning flew everywhere.

One landed on Lemuel’s face and he tore it off with a hiss and pop. Lemuel stared horrified at the massacre of the sacred creatures he was taught to hold in reverence. The providers of the ink that allowed the lemonmouth to speak, to stand out amongst themselves and the rest of the world. The ink that allowed them to tell their stories, both ancient and new.

Lemuel began to cry, his tears hot and angry. He began to shake violently. His arms and legs stretching and growing wider all at once. Tiny suction cups dotted his growing arms and he grabbed at anyone with his new tentacles, anyone in the marketplace, but their quick pace and constant noise prevented them from noticing anything was going on. Every person Lemuel grabbed continued making their noises and looking around as if they had forgotten something.

Then Lemuel woke up. Someone was shaking him. He looked up into the eyes of a woman, she smiled but there was no lemon in her mouth and also not a single tooth. She spread her arms wide in the greeting he understood. On her bare chest, between a shirt, he could see the lines of the lemonmouth, from a different ship most likely, and quite old judging by its faded color.

The lines on her chest told a story of motherhood, of disgrace, of shame. There was also a new line, one Lemuel hadn’t initially noticed. It was a skeleton hand, it’s pointer finger and pinky sticking straight up while the thumb and other two fingers were pressed into the palm, almost like a head with horns. Lemuel didn’t recognize that symbol, but in looking up at her face and keeping the new lines in his mind, he noticed a strength.

She motioned for him to follow and he did, this being the only other lemonmouth, or closest thing to one, he had found in a few days.

Confusion, Mosque, Slow

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Nothing made sense at the edge of the blue. On land there didn’t seem to be any order, to anything. Nothing was categorized and everyone moved rapidly, never seeming to take a break. Those weren’t even the strangest things. There was nothing in their mouths and they all seemed to be constantly making noises through them.

Lemuel had heard crying or retching or coughing but never the cacophony of sounds he was hearing now. None of it made sense. His eyes darted everywhere for some daubing, some symbols on these strange people to learn something about them.

Opening his arms at everyone coming toward him didn’t seem to be effective, if anything, they walked faster and made an obvious turn to avoid him. There was so much stimulation, Lemuel couldn’t think. He looked for a place that might be quiet so he could gather his thoughts and process what he might do. It wasn’t even that long ago that he had suddenly regained consciousness on shore. He still hadn’t gotten over the shipwreck, seeing all the ropes, sails, wood, and various supplies scattered in the mouth of the bay. All those lemons, bobbing up and down, rolling back and forth with each wave stretching onto the edge of the blue.

Looking up, Lemuel spotted a tall building with round towers poking up above the other tall buildings. Moving toward it, he pushed through people carrying strange objects he’d never seen. Moving creatures in cages, baskets of bright red, round objects, shiny things twisted in dangerous shapes. He had to keep looking up at the towers because at his level, there was only seeing just past the next person.

Finally, he looked up and then down to see the entrance of the building he sought. A giant archway patterned with tiles on each side marked the mouth of what he hoped would be a quiet or at least a quieter place.

Walking slowly towards the entrance, Lemuel noticed shoes just outside the large wooden doors. He took off his sandals and peeked into the door that was slightly ajar. Two men emerged, not noticing him. They carried rolled up rugs and stopped to put on their shoes. Lemuel slipped past and stopped, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness.

As his eyes took in the little light available, they began bouncing off information for Lemuel to see. More giant arches marked a long, vacuous hallway but they were not plain. Every wall, pillar, arch and windowsill was covered with carvings. Images of birds, geometric shapes, slivered moons, suns and stars.

Lemuel looked at his own bare chest, seeing the tattoos that made up who he was. Perhaps they spoke his language. He moved forward through archways, looking up at gigantic hanging objects holding, what looked like, thousands of candles. Ahead of him, he saw more men. They faced down on rugs just fit for them and rocked back and forth from kneeling to touching their heads to the rug. They were also making strange noises from their mouths, but these were not the chaotic sounds from outside, these seemed to sooth him. Lemuel knelt down, mimicking what he saw and began to think. The storm, his grandfather losing his grip on the rigging and disappearing over the side of the ship, screaming, blackness, the beach. Lemuel had found a quiet place but his thoughts were booming.

Canvas, Excavate, Term

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Stretched out before him was a blank canvas. Lemuel dipped his fishbone quill, into the inkwell fashioned to look like an octopus fanning out its legs, its bulbous head removed and shaped into a bowl. He hovered the pen over the paper, thinking hard of what he should daub. Looking over at the rest of his shiplings who were already daubing the familiar shapes of fish, boats, mermaids and lemons. He looked back down at his canvas and found that ink had dropped in a small crown on the page.

The instructor came by and shook her head. “Lemuel, you must look around you and put down to the canvas what you see. Remember, we are what we see, hear, touch, smell and taste. Don’t think so hard, it needn’t come from within you.”

Half paying attention, Lemuel dipped the quill again, this time down to the fingertips holding onto the bone. More drips appeared all over the canvas. He whipped his hand away, sending a line of paint streaking down one side of the canvas. The sight of it excited him. The line curved upwards to a point, reminding him of the crest of a wave. He looked over at the instructor, smiling and nodding at the illustration of fish and boats.

Lemuel dipped his pen again, this time intentionally getting his fingers and half the pen dripping in ink. He whipped his hand in the opposite direction, sending lines and splatters down the right side of the canvas. Something inside him was waking up, something that had been buried deep below everything he was told but something that he felt was right and true to the patterns of ink appearing before him.

Again, he dipped the ink and again he whipped his hand over the canvas until before him was the rough shape of a choppy sea. The dots, he thought reminded him of the spray that splashed off the crest of two waves coming together or from the bow of a ship crashing through the water.

He hadn’t noticed that his fellow shiplings had ceased their daubing and began huddling around him, watching him furiously swish and splash paint onto the canvas. Lemuel felt as if he were the very creator, whipping up the ocean and providing it with movement, light and life. These lines did not resemble anything created by daubers before him, but he wasn’t thinking of that. Right now, he was only following something inside him that told him this was right and true.

“Lemuel!” shouted the instructor. “What are you doing?”

Lemuel was shaken out of his daze. He looked up to see all of his peers staring. Some snickered, some looked horrified and the instructor stomped over yanking the canvas from table.

“These are not the lines of a lemonmouth. This is blasphemy. Perhaps you do not know what you have done but in creating such chaos you have also created an imbalance in the sea. This does not bode well. I will show your grandfather.”

The instructor rolled up the canvas, smearing the wet paint and ruining what Lemuel had thought was something he had never seen before. His excitement turned to disappointment and quickly into fear. His hand was covered in ink and his pantaloons had black splatters. Then he looked at the table, it was covered in wild lines turbulent drops, resembling the waves he was creating on his canvas.

Lemuel couldn’t quite put into words what he had felt while painting but he knew that he needed to feel it again.