The Need to Create

January 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Writing Space

I’m thrilled to share a very special story with all readers of The Calm Space! This short story was written by Emma Newman, exclusively for Em’s Short Story Club in December 2009. The story was inspired by the phrase “…but the recipe was very specific… 67 minutes…” that I submitted as a member of her short story club. Em has very generously agreed to allow me to share the story here, the first time one of these stories has been seen outside the members of the club. See below for the link to join the club yourself – it’s free. Grab yourself a cuppa and enjoy!


CoffeeThe Need to Create

Written by Emma Newman

“They’re getting boring again.”

“Who?”

“Humanity.”

“All of them?”

She sighed at him. “Yes, all of them.”

“You’re just bored with everything,” he picked up the long spoon and dipped it into the tall glass cup, swirling the frothy foam into a vortex that sucked it down into the dark coffee beneath. So beautiful. “How can you say humanity is boring in a place like this?” he gestured widely to the rest of the coffee shop. “And when there are such marvels as double choc latte coffee with caramel syrup? That’s a wonder in and of itself.”

She rolled her eyes. “You can’t seriously be arguing against my observation with an overpriced beverage as your evidence?”

“Why not? It’s as good an example as any.”

“Of what?”

“Creativity.”

She turned away from him, almost as bored by him. “Look at them,” she said after a few moments of gazing out onto the high street. “Rushing around, going hither and thither-”

“Here and there.”

“What?”

“Here and there. Come on beloved, at least try to use the vernacular.”

Here and there,” she resumed, mimicking his clipped English exactly. “And for what? Nothing important. Nothing interesting. Nothing… exciting.”

“It might be for them.”

“Darling, I love you more than it’s possible to express with this dull language, but you’re being tedious.”

He frowned at her jibe and went back to sipping the coffee. She was making him tense, this conversation, her mood, none of it would lead them anywhere good.

“I want to ‘shake things up again’, to use the vernacular,” she smirked. “It’s time. It’s all stagnated again.”

He dropped the spoon back onto the saucer. “Not yet, surely? It’s hardly been any time at all since the last one.”

“Years!” She retorted.

“Can’t we give Obama a chance?”

She wrinkled her nose and picked up the biscotti she had abandoned earlier. “Oh he won’t do anything interesting at all. I guarantee it.”

“Hasn’t he already? First black president. That’s something.”

She dunked the biscuit into the coffee, watched the liquid being sucked up into it. “He won’t do anything big. He’s just one of them, tied into systems and rules and not really powerful at all. He won’t do anything radical or dramatic. Not like my last one.”

He winced. “The last one was a disaster.”

“The Cultural Revolution was not a disaster!”

He glanced at the woman at the next table who had looked over at the outburst. “Keep your voice down, beloved.”

She laughed and glared at the woman who looked away with all the British embarrassment bred into her for generations. “It wasn’t a disaster,” she whispered across the table in a mock conspiratorial tone.

“Millions died!”

“But it was so interesting.”

He sat back, his body wanting to distance him as far as it could without offending her. He hated it when she was in this mood. “Don’t be so heartless.”

She laughed again, this time almost knocking over her coffee cup as she struggled to stay on her chair. It seized her completely and he forgot his tension briefly as he savoured the sight of her so filled with amusement.

“Darling, admit it, it’s time for another one. Don’t you remember Hitler? He was thrilling.”

“He was a madman.”

“At least he did something. Not like your last one.”

“Hitler’s antics led to the deaths of thousands!” he snapped. “Why do you have to be so bloodthirsty?”

“Me?” she widened her eyes until they were big and round, like a coquettish girl. “I didn’t give birth to him. I didn’t raise him.”

“Technicalities. Besides, my last one did do wonderful things, you just didn’t notice.”

“Enlighten me.”

“Oh she only helped to discover DNA. But I suppose that isn’t nearly interesting enough for you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh please. Don’t try and pass off a dud as an accomplishment. Besides, that one doesn’t count. You did that one behind my back.”

He didn’t try to deny it. The silence stretched between them until she leant forwards and grasped both of his hands in hers.

“Darling, don’t be like this. Look, humanity needs this. It needs another visionary. Someone bold, daring, someone with an idea that will change the world.”

“It’s different now. It’s not the same as it used to be.”

“It should be easier than ever.”

He sighed, caressing the back of her hands with tiny circles of his thumbs. “I don’t know beloved. It always ends up in a huge war or a new religion. Neither do any good. And there are the rules to remember too.”

“Don’t worry about those. One little change and no-one will notice. They’re old and stupid anyway. I do take your point about the religion or war thing though. That’s why I was so pleased with Mao.”

“That was just religion in another form,” he muttered.

“Darling, you’re bored too, you just won’t admit it. You used to find it so fun. Don’t you remember-”

“Don’t bring him up again,” he warned and pulled his hands away from hers. “That was just freakish. That bloody Peter… he just went on and on about it…”

She laughed. “What about Constantine? He was interesting.”

He shrugged.
“Oh come on,” she sighed and sat back herself. He knew she was thinking of the next argument, she wouldn’t let this rest. “What about Genghis?”

“Good grief no!”

“Charlemagne?”

“He couldn’t even read. I don’t know why you were so pleased with him.”

She shrugged. “He was enterprising, despite his limitations. I know one you’ll remember liking; Shankara.”

He blinked. “Which one was that?”

She tutted. “Chisti then. He was charming. You know, the Sufi.”

This time he shrugged. “I’m sorry beloved, but I just don’t want to see yet another grand war or religion spring up.”

“It’s not our fault!” she said peevishly. “It’s not like we interfere once we’ve started it off.”

He threw his hands into the air. “Oh go on then. I know there’s no talking you out of this. What did you have in mind?”

Kneading the dough“She’s going to do it!”

“Shhh.”

“Why? It’s not like she can hear us.”

He frowned. “Because I want to be able to hear her.”

They were standing in an average suburban kitchen, watching the woman read the recipe.

“I love this part Darling, don’t you? When she decides whether to try it or not. I bet she’s thinking; ‘Is this real? How could it work?’”

He couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm. “Yes, but it’s harder to find women who’ll try it these days. It was so much easier when there were wise women who’d sell them a fertility recipe for a goat. But there are few people more desperate than a woman who wants a child and can’t conceive.”

“She’s already decided, she left the bowl of water out last night. One more cup of tea and then she’ll start. I bet you she will.”

He squeezed her hand. “I won’t bet. I agree. One more cup.”

The woman put the kettle on and they laughed at her. Moments like this made him so happy, the way they could share the minutiae of events leading to a Creation. All that potential being brought into the world, there was nothing better.

“Okay Pammy,” the woman muttered to herself. “Nothing to lose. The worst that happens is that I make an awful cake. And the best… well, let’s hope for a boy. No a girl. Actually,” she looked up at the ceiling, “actually Universe I don’t mind if it’s a boy or a girl, I just want it to be healthy.”

They watched her read through the recipe again as the kettle clicked off. She made a cup of tea, sipped it and then retrieved a large bowl of water from the garden to place it on the large kitchen table.

“Right,” she said, placing the piece of paper next to a basket of goods that waited near the bowl. “One pint of water that has caught the first rays of sunlight on midsummer morning… check. The heart of an unopened rose… check. Two pounds of flour milled by a son without a father… well, this will have to do. Check. Three tablespoons of honey from a hive less than a year old. Check. A drop of blood from the hopeful mother. Oh, that’s me, and I’ll do that at the time so ‘check’. A tablespoon of salt, check. One ounce of yeast… check. Right then. Time to start.”

They watched her measure out the ingredients into a traditional mixing bowl. “I like your recipe. Do you think she’ll get it right?” he asked. “She’s been thorough so far. Maybe this will be a good one.”

She shrugged. “Maybe. They always get something wrong. Who knows.”

He watched the woman, Pammy he reminded himself, begin to knead the dough. He could feel the potential filling the room, crackling like static electricity. It always made him feel light headed but he persevered. He felt the hand he held quiver and smiled at his beloved. She was too fixated on the process to notice.

Pammy leant into the dough, compressing it with her hands and pushing it away before folding it back on itself. She soon fell into a rhythm but it was hard work, harder than she thought. After quarter of an hour she’d built up a sweat and wanted to stop, but the recipe had been very specific. Sixty seven minutes…

“You’re making her work for this baby, beloved,” he whispered and she nodded.

“Why don’t you go and find us somewhere to celebrate?” she whispered back. “I’ll keep an eye on her.”

He agreed readily. It had been a long time since he had managed to last through a Creation from start to finish. He got too caught up in that meeting of forces, the swirling maelstrom of magic and mundanity. The image of his swirling coffee cup foam came to his mind as he wandered out of the house. True creation was like sucking something light down into the darkness. The mundane plane was so very dark.

He found himself back on the leafy street, saw a woman walking a dog, a car drive past. All so normal. No-one knew that the next world shaker was being made in the house behind him. The secret made him smile.

He strolled under the avenue of trees, looking for the perfect place to rest with his love once their work was done. She was so thorough. She always rode out those strange feelings made by the creation, letting him relax. And these modern times were so much more comfortable. Twenty first century Winchester was a world away from the filth of Mongolia and Palestine and the ancient world in general.

Then it struck him. He was getting lazy. Just like these modern times of convenience and comfort, he was taking the easiest route through something that he once took so much pride in. They’d spent too long here, it was evident. As soon as this Creation was over, he’d insist they went and spent some time somewhere more challenging. Africa perhaps, or Bangladesh. Somewhere harsh.

He went back to the house, hurried down the hallway to the kitchen, expecting to see his beloved standing where he’d left her. It hadn’t even entered his mind that she could be doing anything else, let alone be pouring something into the dough as the poor woman was staring at the clock, willing the minutes to tick by.

“What are you doing?” his voice boomed and the culprit leapt away from the woman. “What did you add?”

“Nothing critical,” she said back hurriedly, watching his form change with his emotions.

“Rule breaker!” he pointed a finger at her that was shaping itself into a talon. “How dare you! How dare you intervene once the Creation has begun!”

He watched her shrink away from him, all the while the woman kneaded, on and on, push, stretch, fold over, as his wrath filled her small kitchen.

“Darling one, please don’t be angry, I just wanted to make this mortal even more special!”

He raised himself up to his full height and she cowered beneath him, his fury taking her from the mundane plane with him, making the kitchen fade into pastel colours and transparent shapes around them. As he seethed, he realised that she had been doing this every time, every single Creation that he had dawdled away from, she had interfered. Hitler, Genghis, Jesus and all the others, all made extreme by her meddling.

He knew he was going to end her, and as soon as that came to him, he calmed. It was inevitable, and something he should have done a long time before, had he not fallen in love with her.

As he calmed, the kitchen restored itself around them. He saw the hope and relief in her eyes. He smiled, she didn’t see the lack of warmth in it. He went to the woman pounding the dough and sniffed at it. A bitter spice had been added.

“You wanted another war,” he said sadly but received no reply. He didn’t need one. He got to work.

“What are you doing?” she asked nervously but he ignored her. “Darling? What is that? Is it a spice? What’s in that bottle?”

He poured three drops from the bottle he kept in his pocket. “Tears of joy wept by a man who had lost all hope.”

After sweet spices were added to balance out hers, powdered breath from a lover’s sigh was added, then distilled hope from a crystal vial.

“Why are you doing this?” she shrieked. “You’re breaking the rules too!”

“I’m undoing your work,” he hissed and she backed away. “It’s too late for this to be a normal child, even to be a world-shaker. So I’m making my own child. This time, I won’t get the ingredients wrong.”

“This… time?” her voice quavered.

He simply looked at her, and from that she knew that she had been made. They weren’t equals as he had let her believe out of love. Out of carelessness.

“But you said there can only ever be two of us, male, female, with humanity to reflect us. What will it mean to have a third?”

“Third?” He replied, stepping back from the sparkling dough, feeling the heady rush of a thousand million potential lives coalescing under the mortal’s hands. “There will be no third. Only two. Only ever two, once beloved. And the final ingredient comes from you.”

He caught the sound of her scream, pressed it tight between his palms into an oily, cold droplet and let it slide into the dough. This one would be different. This time, the recipe was perfect.

“Sixty seven minutes!” the woman cheered and flopped into her chair. “Thank God for that.”


Writer Emma Newman invites you to join Em’s Short Story Club to receive a new story each month by clicking here. You can find more about Em at Post Apocalyptic Publishing or at her day business Your Nisaba for online PR and B2B copywriting.

Thank you for your generosity in allowing me to share this story here, Em!

Comments

4 Responses to “The Need to Create”
  1. Hilary says:

    Hi Karen and Emma – that was mesmerising as I followed the story through – a really good read. I’m not sure I now feel in a Calm Space! Interesting thoughts and a different approach to short story writing.

    All the best – Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  2. Emma Newman says:

    Thanks Hilary. I’m glad you liked it, and I hope some calm returns soon!

  3. Annie says:

    Emma what a wonderful story! I love your writing style and imagination. Since it’s still early in the new year, I am grateful to have had time to read and enjoy it.
    Bless
    Annie

  4. Chris Owen says:

    An intriguing story that kept me hooked to the last words. Thanks Em and Karen.