When I started writing me and a friend, Danny, used to text each other three words and then we would have to write a short story about those things. For instance, one text said, “Goat, money, burgers.” Another one said, “My son, a sausage, 99 encyclopaedias.” We would have one day to write each story and would generally spend about an hour writing them. The above suggestions became a story about a giant magic goat that loved burgers and had the ability to travel in time, and the other was about a baby detective investigating a sausage related murder, the solving of which hung on a single misspelling in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
They were funny, short, ridiculous stories that were never meant to be read by anyone except for us. They are kept in a secret file called, “Do Not Share”. They were writing exercises, and that was all.
However, seeing as I am beyond shame, I have decided to share one of these stories with you. Sadly, I can’t remember what the three words were (we wrote these stories several years ago). I came across it by accident recently and it made me laugh. The story is called…
‘Hey, man, you sure these are safe?’ Smirf held the bag up to eye level, ‘They look kinda wild. Know what I mean? Buzz? Buzz!? You know what I mean?’
Smirf looked over at Buzz. They were sitting opposite each other outside a café. Buzz’s eyes had gone red and his skin looked greyer than normal. A stalk was hanging out of his mouth. He blinked slowly and opened his mouth, ‘Muh.’
Smirf turned his attention back to the bag of mushrooms, ‘Where did you say you got these?’
Buzz opened his mouth again, ‘Summ uh.’
One of Buzz’s eyes closed and the other widened and a weird little grin crept over his face. Smirf stared at him for a while.
‘If you got these from Spaceman Dave I’m going to kill you.’
Buzz sagged in his chair and his head fell forward and landed on the table. He laughed lazily at himself. Smirf opened the bag and took out a mushroom. He squashed it up in his hand and stirred it into his coffee.
‘When will I learn?’ he said, and looked over at Buzz again who twitched and chuckled to himself. Smirf sighed and drank his coffee.
Inanimate objects began to pop and change colour around him. A waitress turned into a fish and swam into the sky humming a beautiful tune. He looked at Buzz. Bubbles were rising from his body. The table blew away like a handkerchief and the ground turned purple. He looked at his arms and they stretched out in front of him like oil on water. Everything drifted away and went dark. Smirf sank backwards and fell gently into a dark abyss. He looked down at his body. His legs slowly faded away followed by his arms and then his torso. Finally his head faded and all that was left was his consciousness falling silently through the soft darkness.
He landed hard on a large cylindrical slab of stone.
‘Owe! What the fuck!’ he said.
Buzz was standing over him, ‘Hey man,’ said Buzz, ‘What’s going on?’
Smirf rubbed his head and stood up. He looked around him. It was just them; Smirf and Buzz standing on a circular concrete slab in the middle of an endless void of darkness.
‘How the hell should I know!’ said Smirf.
‘Yes, Buzz, it’s weird. Of course it’s weird! It’s always weird when I’m with you!’
Smirf looked around, ‘It’s just darkness. Everywhere. Darkness.’
‘Not everywhere,’ said Buzz.
‘Where isn’t it dark?’
Buzz pointed upwards and Smirf looked. High above them was a bird the size of a planet. Its eyes were as big as continents and as deep as oceans. Its wings stretched across space and vanished into the distance. The tip of its mountain-sized beak hung just a few hundred yards above them. The giant bird tilted its head and looked at the two men.
‘Right,’ said Smirf, ‘I didn’t notice that.’
‘Big isn’t it,’ observed Buzz.
Smirf looked at Buzz who was craning his neck up at the bird with his hands on his hips.
‘Yes, it’s quite big.’
Smirf and Buzz stared at the bird for a while and the giant bird stared back.
‘What do you think we should do?’ said Buzz.
‘Not sure, our options are fairly slim aren’t they.’
‘We could jump off,’ suggested Buzz.
‘I think we’re bird food,’ said Buzz.
The giant bird lowered its head so the top of its beak was level with Smirf and Buzz. It then continued to observe them.
‘Hmm,’ said Smirf.
‘I dare you to jump on to its beak,’ said Buzz.
‘No,’ said Smirf, ignoring him, ‘Hello Bird!’ he shouted.
The bird looked surprised and seemed to think for a moment. It opened its mouth a bit, as if it was about to say something, thought against it, and then closed it again. Buzz and Smirf looked at each other.
‘I think he can understand us,’ said Smirf.
‘Hello bird!!’ shouted Buzz.
This time the bird pulled its head back and looked dumbstruck. Slowly the bird got its nerves back and lowered its head to peer at the two men again.
‘Hello?’ said the bird, hesitantly.
‘Hello!’ shouted Smirf and Buzz simultaneously.
The bird panicked and ducked its head bellow the concrete pillar in an extraordinary attempt to hide itself.
‘I think it’s scared of us,’ said Smirf.
The bird slowly edged its head back up and looked at the two men. It felt quite out of sorts. He’d never seen, well, anything before. Just him, the darkness, and the cement pillar.
‘Hello,’ whispered the bird, and then moved its head away in case anything strange happened.
‘Hello,’ said Smirf, politely.
‘You speak bird,’ said the bird.
‘No,’ said Smirf, ‘you speak English.’
‘Right,’ said the bird, and then thought for a bit, ‘I’ve gone mad haven’t I?’
‘Not really sure,’ said Smirf, ‘Possibly.’
‘Are you going to eat me?’ asked the bird.
‘No,’ said Smirf, ‘You’re the size of a planet.’
‘Am I? What’s a planet?’ asked the bird.
‘It’s a big round thing,’ said Buzz.
‘Oh,’ said the bird, ‘But I’m bird shaped.’ The bird’s deep but kind voice surrounded them with its volume.
‘Indeed you are,’ said Smirf, ‘Listen, we’re a bit confused. You’re a massive talking bird and we’re not used to that kind of thing.’
‘And you are a small terrifying pink thing with no wings. And you can speak! Don’t you find that strange?’ asked the bird.
‘It’s never really occurred to me,’ said Smirf.
‘Birds don’t talk where we come from. Just people,’ said Buzz.
‘I see,’ said the bird, ‘And where do you come from?’
‘A planet called Earth,’ said Smirf.
‘Oh. And how did you get here?’ asked the bird.
‘I’m afraid I don’t know. We ate some mushrooms and now we’re here. This doesn’t normally happen but I’m afraid, the fact that this is happening while we are under the influence of mushrooms, may mean that you don’t actually exist,’ said Smirf.
The bird contemplated the ramifications of this idea and then said, ‘Mushrooms you say?’
‘Yes,’ said Buzz.
‘Sounds unlikely.’ said the bird, ‘so you’re trying to tell me that you live on a large round thing, you ate some mushrooms, and now you are here and you can talk?’
‘Yes,’ said Smirf.
‘Tell me,’ said the bird, ‘Are their many types of bird where you come from?’
‘Yes, hundreds,’ said Smirf.
‘Just as I thought. And how many long talking pink things are there?’
‘Just us,’ said Smirf, suddenly unsure of himself.
The bird seemed to have been expecting this answer. ‘I think I have some bad news,’ said the bird.
‘What’s that?’ said Smirf.
‘I think I have gone mad.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ said Smirf.
‘I suspect you are, it does after all mean that you aren’t real,’ said the bird.
‘I think I need to sit down,’ said Buzz, sitting down.
‘Ok,’ said the bird.
Smirf thought for a moment, ‘No, I think we’re real. It’s definitely you who is not.’
‘No,’ said the bird, ‘I remember being here before you got here. I’ve been around forever.’
‘But I also remember being around before I got here,’ said Smirf.
‘How long?’ asked the bird.
‘How long what?’ asked Smirf.
‘How long have you been around?’
‘20 years,’ said Smirf.
‘Pah! That’s nothing,’ said the bird, ‘I am infinite in time. I have always been around.’
‘Well, we’re definitely real,’ said Smirf.
‘What if we aren’t?’ said Buzz, who was now lying down.
‘If I have gone mad,’ began the bird, ‘It is very possible that I invented a whole reality for you. My subconscious has had billions of years to construct a million different realities. I don’t know whether it has. It makes sense that it must have being doing something with its time. All I’ve been doing is looking out at everything.’
Smirf thought about this while Buzz put his fingers in his ears and started humming. ‘How about last week when I found a piece of paper on the floor thinking it was money only to find out when I got home that it was just a used piece of toilet paper. Did your subconscious invent that?’ asked Smirf.
‘That depends,’ said the bird, ‘If you are a figment of my imagination then yes. If you are not, then no.’
Buzz started to hum louder.
‘How can we find out? And if it turns out we are a figment of your imagination what does that mean for us?’ asked Smirf.
‘Give me a minute,’ said the bird, and then the bird looked away. Its eyes dimmed and the bird became vacantly still.
Buzz took his fingers out of his ears and stopped humming, ‘Have you killed him?’ he asked.
‘No, I think he’s gone off to talk to his subconscious,’ said Smirf.
The enormity of the bird hung above them. Its size incomprehensible; each feather the size of a yacht, and talons so big they could easily hook around The Moon. It was a hell of a hallucination if it was one.
‘Right!’ said the bird, suddenly alive again, ‘I have some good news and I have some bad news.’ Buzz and Smirf stood next to each other looking up at the monstrous bird like two children in front of a judge. ‘The good news is that you are real.’
Smirf and Buzz cheered. And then stopped, ‘So what’s the bad news?’ asked Buzz.
‘You are a figment of my imagination,’ said the bird.
‘That doesn’t make sense,’ said Smirf.
‘No, not at first,’ said the bird.
They waited for a moment.
‘It still doesn’t make sense. Will you elaborate?’ asked Smirf.
The bird lowered its head apologetically, ‘Ok, but promise you won’t be mad at me,’ said the bird, ‘I didn’t know what my subconscious was up to.’
‘Ok. I promise I won’t be mad,’ said Smirf.
The bird looked at Buzz.
‘Oh, I promise too,’ said Buzz.
The enormous bird took a breath and then tried to explain, ‘My subconscious has been getting bored recently. Well, I say recently, it’s been the last couple of billion years. Playing little pranks on me here and there, silly stuff, you know; making me bite my tongue when I’m sleeping, that kind of thing; creating a star and making it supernova in front of me. That made me jump! You know, silly stuff like that.’
Smirf and Buzz looked at each other, ‘created a star,’ mouthed Buzz.
The bird continued, ‘He’s been quiet for a few millennia now. I knew he was plotting something.’
‘So what’s he been plotting?’ asked Buzz, with a tinge of worry in his voice.
‘He decided to make me think I’d gone mad,’ said the bird.
‘What did he do?’ asked Smirf.
If the bird had cheeks he would have blushed, ‘He created an entire universe, with planets and stars and allsorts. And, err, talking pink things with fingers.’
Buzz looked at his hands.
‘The problem was, you existed in a different reality so he brought you two here partly to prove to himself that he had done it, and partly to freak me out. We just had a chat about it and he said he was going to keep you here and never tell me what you were so I really would think I’m mad, but then he said he was so proud of what he had created he decided he’d rather boast about it instead. I’ve never invented anything,’ said the bird glumly.
‘You and your subconscious are one and the same,’ Smirf pointed out, quite profoundly.
‘Not in a head this big,’ chuckled the bird.
Buzz nodded like he knew what the bird meant.
‘So now what do we do?’ asked Smirf.
The bird thought for a moment, ‘I suppose you can go home if you like?’
‘We can! I thought we were stuck here!’ shouted Buzz excitedly.
‘No, you can go, but please do come back, I get terribly bored,’ said the bird, with its deep voice falling around them.
‘Ok. How?’ asked Buzz.
‘Oh, good question, hold on.’
The bird went vacant for a moment and then came back, ‘Take this,’ it said plucking a small feather from its chest using its beak. It dropped the slightly larger than average feather at their feet and Smirf and Buzz picked it up, ‘just use it to stir your tea and have a sip. You’ll be back here in a jiffy,’ said the bird.
‘Cool,’ said Buzz, examining the feather. It was the size of a lance and they struggled to hold it. He wondered how easy it would be to stir tea with it.
‘Cheerio then,’ said the bird, ‘Sorry you’re not real.’
‘That’s ok,’ said Smirf.
‘No worries,’ said Buzz.
The giant bird ruffled its feathers and the two men vanished. The platform and the bird were alone again.
‘I miss them already,’ said the bird.
Smirf and Buzz suddenly woke up. It was getting dark but they were still sitting at the café table. A waitress was clearing up around them.
‘Oh good, you’re awake,’ she said, ‘I’ve been trying to wake you for ages. We’re closing now.’
Smirf looked around slightly confused, ‘Ok,’ he said, ‘Buzz, wake up.’
Buzz stirred, ‘Hmm?’
‘Come on, let’s go,’ said Smirf, struggling to stand up, ‘How long have we been asleep?’
‘About six hours,’ said the waitress, ‘Like I said, I couldn’t wake you.’
Buzz managed to get to his feet and started walking off.
‘Hold on!’ shouted Smirf, and caught up with him.
‘Weird trip dude,’ said Buzz.
‘Me too, man.’
‘Damn bird,’ said Buzz.
‘Yeah. What? A bird?’ said Smirf, stopping in the street.
Buzz stopped as well, ‘Yeah, there was a massive fucking bird.’ Smirf stared at him. ‘Are you ok?’ asked Buzz.
‘Did the bird say that we weren’t real?’ asked Smirf.
Buzz looked blank for a while, ‘Yeah.’
‘Was he the size of a planet?’
‘Did you sit down and stick your fingers in your ears and hum so you didn’t have to hear what he was saying?’
Buzz’s mouth lulled, ‘Uh huh.’
‘Oh,’ said Smirf.
They stared at each other for a bit and then started searching frantically for the feather. They couldn’t find it. They looked back at the table they were sat at, and there, under the table, was a slightly larger than average, feather.