22 August, 2015

#SpecialFeature :: #ShortStory - Conversation Starters by C G Salamander

*** Special Feature - August 2015 ***

About the Book:
There is chaos and pandemonium in the streets of Madras, and it is up to Nigel (an officer of the Imperial Police) to restore order to the city... only he hasn't quite learned about India's Independence. Yet.

When the newest and most successful religion (Cabbagism) threatens to bring about the destruction of the world, it is up to a melancholic zombie and a collection of rowdy farm animals to save the earth.

A porcupine, after setting out on a journey away from home, falls in love with an armadillo. 

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“...All this is true, more or less.”

They were my friend's words, not mine. But we'll just have to take his word for it.

A long time ago, a friend of mine told me that words came from somewhere else. But I never listened to him, which might have had something to do with him being a little different.

My friend, he wasn't like you and I. He was disfigured and damaged, perhaps the only thing human about him was the way he spoke. He did however have a wild imagination.

He was the sort of person who lived inside his head, but at times he'd let creativity superimpose onto reality.

This one time, when he stayed over at my place, he started talking to himself – it was the first time I heard him say anything... and strangely enough, I can remember his words as though they were my own.

'...when I close my eyes I see a golden castle with crimson wasps fluttering about, and when I open them, they're still there. I see the wasps whispering words into ears and placing sentences onto lips, but no one ever takes notice of them... they're even doing it right now!'

Eventually I did work up the nerve to ask him about the wasps and he told me. Although in retrospect, I wish I'd never asked.  

He called them conversation-starters, and this is all he told me about them.

'...Conversation-starters are the people who help you when you're at a loss for words. You cannot see them nor can you feel their presence, though if you close your eyes and listen carefully you can almost hear them whisper. And only once you've heard them can you see what they look like. The conversation-starters are tiny people who linger around the corner of your eyes – dancing with your floaters. They are unlike anything you've ever seen before; Kafkaesque, humanoid wasps clothed in words. The men wear phrases for pants and idioms for shirts while the women drape themselves with metaphors and similes.  

The conversation-starters are present whenever someone's in need of a conversation. They've been around since the dawn of time, and were responsible for the first roar that came out of a dinosaur’s jaws. They convinced the caveman to put down his club, and continued to talk us through the course of history. Even today, you are certain to find them at almost every cafe or boardroom or cabinet meeting. You can even find them hiding under the tables of classrooms in schools and colleges.

You're guaranteed to find them whenever an awkward teen is too shy to talk to the girl he likes, or when a girl stretches her arm out to let her date know it's okay for him to hold it. They bolster men who are too nervous to propose, and there's even a special team of conversation-starters for every parent who has abandoned their child and is trying desperately to get back in touch with them.

The conversation-starters can speak over a thousand different languages, including various dialects of animalspeak. They often take on the role of mediators between humans and animals, and let us know if our dogs are hungry, or sad, or excited; they translate their movements, habits and mannerisms into words and put them into our subconscious, and at times they also help us discern between barks and whimpers...

But the job of a conversation-starter isn't always sunshine and butterflies. Sometimes they have to do things they don't want to. Their job is not to question the nature of the conversation, but to make the conversation happen.

There are times when a conversation-starter must provide politicians with lies to present to the hungry or help quarreling couples list out the vices of partners. But perhaps the saddest part of their job is delivering grievous news about soldiers who won't be returning home.

Even right now there are conversation-starters lingering around the emergency rooms of hospitals, swarming around doctors with grim expressions on their faces. Only the most senior conversation-starters are allowed to deliver the hurtful news of a child's death.

Sometimes when you're feeling down and lonely, the conversation-starters sneak into your ears and whisper comforting things to you. They disguise their voices to sound like yours, so that you don't get startled.

Almost everyone is assigned a personal conversation-starter.

They start working the minute you wake up and stay with you throughout the day; sometimes they drive tiny vehicles and park them inside your mouths – which is also why we yawn before and after we sleep. Our conversation-starters watch over us and become parts of our identity. They don't grow old, and they never take credit for the sweet things you whispered on your first date – although they may bring it up with their colleagues during their lunch hours. These tiny people have known you since the day you uttered your first word, and will remain by your side until the day you die...  

And as our voices grow older, so do theirs. They stay by our sides till we draw our last breaths, and get reassigned the minute we die. The only time a conversation-starter is ever allowed to talk, is when a dying man's last words needs completion.

They've been around for millions of years and almost never die. I should have never asked him about his world. He stopped existing the moment our conversation ended.

--- The End ---

© C G Salamander, 2015, All Rights Reserved.

About the Author
It was exactly fifteen years ago that C G Salamander realized he was different from all the other Chinese Giant Salamanders. As a child C G Salamander hated living in the muddy crevices along the river banks, and so he decided to leave the Yangtze river and set out on a quest to find himself.

He spent days travelling across the vast terrains of china and finally reached the foothills of the Himalayas. With nowhere to go, and equipped with a childlike sense of wonder for a compass, C G Salamander began scaling the Himalayas where he would later enroll himself in a monastery. During his time in the mountains, he was taught how to read and write by foreigners who’d come to partake in the mountain’s rich culture and cheap herbage.

He spent most of his time in meditation, and eventually learned how to move objects with his mind.After spending a decade in the Himalayas, C.G Salamander traveled south to the city of Chennai, and has remained there ever since. He now spends his time telekinetically moving pens and pencils across paper.

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1 Lucky Indian Resident will win a Paperback Copy of Palm's Foster Home for Peculiar Stories

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