Two of my stories ( "The mePhone" and "The Day Death Died" ) were read out recently on Australian radio program "Queensland Storyteller" by the host Kim Dodsworth.
I think his reading adds an extra dimension to the stories. It's always interesting to hear how other people interpret your work.
You can listen to it at the link below. It's a 10 minute recording.
I also include both stories below, if you wanted to read them at your own pace.
One day a new type of phone that you could use to call yourself appeared on the market. All one had to do was dial a certain number and one would be connected straight away with oneself. The quality of the reception was so good that the voice on the other end of the line sounded as if it was coming from the very same room.
Inevitably, there was some initial apprehension about using this phone, for no one quite knew what kind of a response they would receive when they rang themselves out of the blue for the very first time. What if their unexpected call was considered to be an impertinent invasion of privacy?
Eventually, these fears subsided as most found that they were greeted with warmth and enthusiasm and their calls were seen as a pleasant surprise. Talking with yourself was just like talking with a dear friend you haven’t seen for a long time and
conversation flowed easily.
People rushed to purchase this new invention, which was marketed under the brand name of “mePhone”. Suppliers could not keep up with the demand and there were ugly scenes as customers fought amongst themselves for the last available mePhone.
For mePhone to work properly certain rules had to be followed, and these were set out in the Owner’s Manual. First, the reception only worked in particular areas, access to which required an extra fee. Second, there was a strict time limit on how long you could spend speaking to yourself. And third, when using the mePhone, one had to wear special, rather cumbersome apparel that was sold separately from the phone. Also, owing to the technical complexities involved in establishing a connection, the cost of a call was outrageously expensive, although some enterprising phone companies, hoping to capitalise on the popularity of the mePhone, for a while only charged it at a local call rate.
However, these inconveniences were more than outweighed by the benefits you gained from having a good chat with yourself, for no one had ever had the time to stop and take a good, honest look at their lives. Everyone was always rushing about, preoccupied with the mundane details of existence, trying to silence the nagging question of whether they were happy with their lives and if they were being true to their inner selves.
And so it was an enlightening experience to be able to have a deep and meaningful talk with oneself. The users of the mePhone could now catch up with all the things in their lives they had never had the chance to think about before, to find out the vital news that fell by the wayside as they were speeding along the road of life.
People found that talking with yourself was a lot like talking to an old confidant, with whom the most intimate matters could be discussed. Not infrequently tears were shed as truths one had been hiding from oneself for many years were conveyed in blunt and forthright terms. Conversations gained a confessional aspect as darkest secrets known only to oneself were divulged openly over the phone lines. Quite often, surprises were lying in store as people discovered what they were actually feeling inside. At other times, the voice on the other end of the line would remind you of your long-neglected dreams, of desires and needs you had suppressed for far too long.
Many found out they weren’t really happy in their places of employment. Some realised they had fallen out of love a long time ago. Others saw for the first time that they had deluded themselves as well as others into believing they had reached fulfilment, regardless of how they actually felt inside. Quite a few recognised that they had become so comfortable with being miserable and disenchanted that they shrank back in fear when contentment appeared to be within easy reach.
The world became a better, happier place because of the mePhone as people at last began to be true to their own selves, for they knew they could no longer get away with lying to themselves. The way life had been before the mePhone was just a distant, faded memory and no person could imagine ever being without one.
THE DAY DEATH DIED
It was widely known that Death had been ill for some time. Its poor health made it rather slipshod in the execution of its duties. Whole generations were being taken away in the flower of their youth, while other people were living for an extraordinarily long time, over 400 years in certain cases.
For a while Death hovered in a half-alive condition, with one foot in the grave, and mankind held its breath, fearing that it would rally and make a complete recovery.
And then the day came when Death breathed its last and nobody could believe their good fortune. It was hard to grasp that Death no longer dwelled in the world, and that one’s life would never again be burdened with the ever-present spectre of extinction hovering nearby. No one would have to grapple any more with the problem of incorporating one’s own demise into their lives.
The most eminent pathologists of the land were assigned the task of performing autopsy on Death. Their unanimous conclusion was that it died of natural causes. What nobody had suspected was that Death possessed a finite life span. Everyone always assumed that it would live forever, yet it too carried within itself the lethal seeds of mortality.
The next most pressing issue on the agenda was the burial of Death. Issues that never have been considered before needed to be addressed urgently, for the world wanted to be sure that Death really was dead and would not rise again. Where should the funeral ceremony be held? According to which religion’s rites should the memorial service be conducted? Who should give the eulogy? Where to entomb it?
The matter of whom to invite for the service proved to be the most intractable issue of all. It was nearly impossible to determine who was genuinely grief-stricken by Death’s passing and who only wanted to attend the ceremony so as to be a part of a historic occasion.
Eventually, all of these matters were resolved, although not to everyone’s satisfaction, and the world gave Death the sending off that it deserved. Straight after the funeral, the world kicked up its heels and started to celebrate.
After the wave of joy at being liberated from its tyrannical rule had abated, people sobered up and started to remember the ways that Death had helped out in the past.
They recalled with fondness Death’s unique ability to resolve every inextricable problem of existence; its unmatched faculty of erasing all pain, shame and misery; how it provided an honourable solution to hopeless situations and readily offered its helping hand to anyone that would ask for it; the way that it brought equality to the world and granted everlasting rest to the weary.
Religions could no longer survive without Death, for their appeal and authority derived from the promise of ideal existence in the next world. New religions arose which prophesied that one day mortality would return to Earth and that the virtuous would be rewarded with Eternal Death.
Mankind recognised how fundamentally it depended upon Death’s existence for the maintenance of social order and peaceful international relations. Given that capital punishment and armed conflicts ceased holding any threat to a person’s life, nothing stood in the way of lawlessness and immorality in human affairs, and countries went to war on the slightest pretext.
Life soon lost its meaning, for Death had been needed to provide the contrast that distinguished being from non-being. Without it, existence seemed tedious, no longer worth enduring.
Each human being was forced to find the strength to face a baffling future in which the saving grace of demise was no longer present. Only then was it realised how Death had woven its fateful thread into every aspect of man’s existence and how much had been irremediably lost the day Death died.