In Case of Emergency/ Cat’s Cradle

One of the things I’ve been trying out lately is doing some writing. There is a great game you can play with another person who wants to do some writing where you give each other three objects or prompts and and you have to try and include these in your story. I find it a really good way to spark my imagination. Me and Rob did this exercise together, and this is the story I wrote.

Oh and the objects were a lock of hair, a tin of food in an unknown language and a ball of string.

If you want to give me three objects or prompts to work with for another story, or want me to give you some objects to work into your own story, leave a comment below!

In Case of Emergency/ Cat’s Cradle

Mum always wore this strange old fashioned locket around her neck. It had a lock of hair in it. I asked her about it when I was very young, maybe about 4 or 5, and she said “It’s your brother’s hair”. Then she got this look on her face and I didn’t ask her about it again. I didn’t have a brother.

It was always just me and Mum.

I didn’t even have many friends growing up. I’d get home from school and she’d sing to me, little nonsense word songs. Or one day she got out a ball of string, cut a bit off, tied the ends together and showed me how to make a cats cradle. I always thought there was something magical about making those shapes out of a length of string. Or maybe it was just the magic of doing something simple with someone that you love. Laughing, getting it wrong, our hands brushing, cuddles before tea. I miss that. Some things change as you get older. You can never regain that easy way of being together.

She used to bundle me up in her arms before she went off to cook the dinner. And I’d snuggle into the nape of her neck and play with her necklace. I used to tilt the locket from side to side, watching as the light glinted off the strands of hair. They were funny colour. The hair could look almost red in some lights, almost green in others.

One time, as I was looking at that lock of hair, I almost asked her about my brother, but I think she saw what I was thinking and she quickly disentangled herself from my squeeze and said she had to go cook.

She was a good cook too, I miss her food. We didn’t have much when I was growing up, but when she cooked she made the best of it, even the time when things were so bad we had to live on handouts and food parcels.

I went to help her in the kitchen. I liked to climb up on the kitchen counter, even though I wasn’t really allowed, and help her get tins and things down from the cupboards. I don’t think she was really with it that day because she didn’t even try and make me get down.

Sometimes she was like that. I never really noticed until a couple of years ago when I turned 10, that other people’s parents went out to work, or at least had babies to look after if they stayed at home. My mum didn’t really have a reason.

So anyway, I was rummaging around in the back of the cupboard looking for sweetcorn when I saw this funny looking tin. It didn’t have a picture on it of any food, just loads of weird writing, like nothing I’d seen before, and I know all about other languages. The writing reminded me of those shapes the string made when we did Cats Cradle when I was little.

The paper was a bit loose on the tine, so I pulled it off and folded it up and stuck it in my pocket. Then I could look at it later.

I looked at my to see if she’d noticed but she was just zoning out at the wall and burning the onions. I got down, turned down the gas and gave her a nudge. ” Mum, look.” “Oh….bother…..” she said. “Don’t worry, I like them burnt Mum.”.

I forgot about the label until I was about to put my school trousers in the wash at the end of the week. I pulled it out and looked at it again. I really don’t think those words were like any language on earth. Maybe that was why we were always a bit different em and mum. Maybe we didn’t fit in because we weren’t from here at all. That would explain why people never really invited me round theirs for tea, and the strange songs my mum sang sometimes. Probably in the alien language.

I could check of course. I could go and find the tin that I’d taken the label off and see what was inside. If it was all full of gross blue slime or something then I’d know for sure.

I put my pyjamas on and went downstairs to get the tin. I walked past Mum, who was lying on the sofa again staring off into space. The TV wasn’t even on. When I looked in the cupboard there tin wasn’t there anymore. Damn! Maybe Mum had thrown it away because of the missing label. I walked back out of the kitchen feeling deflated.

Mum looked up from the sofa as I came past. “Come and have a cuddle my love. I’m sorry.” She hugged me close and by habit my fingers went to her locket. “I love you so much, you know that don’t you?” She muttered into my hair. Sometimes I just miss your brother. And your Dad. Somedays I just wish I could be with them. I haven’t been very fair on you. I should have told you about them…” He voice started to slur. Sometimes she did that.

She had a bottle of something she kept in the medicine cabinet to send her off to sleep that the doctor had given her. She was already conked out on the arm of the sofa. I gave her a few gentle shakes in the hope that she’d make up and tell me a bit more but in the end I thought she’d be better off having a bit of a sleep.

On my way up to bed I had a terrible sinking feeling. What was all that stuff about wanting to be with my brother? He must have died when he was a baby or something. What if she’d taken more than just her normal dose of medicine? I ran back downstairs to check on her, she was still snoring, but who knows how quickly or slowly these things kill you? I ran back upstairs and went to the medicine cabinet. Mum thinks I can’t work the lock but seriously I am nearly 12 and have been able to open it for years, who is she kidding? Once open, I looked at the bottle. It was still mostly full and there was a recently rinsed medicine spoon propped against it. Do people wash the spoon after taking an overdose? Do people even use a spoon to take an overdose? To be on the safe side I checked the bins in case there was an empty bottle in them. Nothing.

I went back to the bathroom to close the medicine cabinet, and that was when I saw it. The tin with the funny label. Well the tin that I’d taken the funny label off anyway.

Mum was fast asleep on the sofa, now was my chance to open it. I took it downstairs and got the tin opener out. For once the lid came off in one smooth turn of the opener. Inside was a load of gross blue slime. How weird was that, right? Well it wasn’t gross exactly, it sort of shimmered a bit like a migraine. I sniffed it. No smell. I got a spoon and dipped it in tentatively, in case it vapourised the spoon or something. I swilled it around the tin (as well as you can swill slime at any rate) feeling a bit silly for being scared to touch it. This was probably some very upmarket joke shop slime, right? I dipped my fingers into it, and as I pulled them out, the slime came too, draped over my fingers like a rope. It seemed to very gently cling to my hand, and as I pulled my hand out I saw that all of the slime was out of the tin now and it formed a large loop.

I had to hook my other hand through it to stop it trailing on the counter. Instinctively I looped each hand round a second time, like how the cats cradle starts off, so I could look at it better. It didn’t seem to be dangerous, just very beautiful. And definitely alien-y. Where the ropes of slime crossed over itself as it looped round each hand it had turned a slightly purple-pink colour.

I stretched the substance out in my hands, then hooked my middle fingers through the strings passing over my palms. Where the threads crossed between my hands they turned a yellowy green, and the migraine-like shimmer began to flow around the slime-cord. I went through the whole cats cradle for one sequence, marveling at the beautiful colour changes. As I twisted my hands into the final cradle, the colours and shimmers suddenly disappeared, as if a switch had been flipped.

Well this properly scared me, my heart started pounding, I couldn’t get this strange alien goo off my hands and back in the tin fast enough. I didn’t know what to do about the tin full of weird stuff apart from to chuck it in the bin. Then I put some old newspaper over it in case mum saw. Not that she’d probably notice something like that anyway……though she had noticed the label missing from a random tin in the back of the cupboard…..

I went to bed and tried not to think about what had just happened. My heart was still hammering away and there were a million questions buzzing round in my head that couldn’t be answered until mum woke up.

In the morning I sat up in bed and stared at the label. What could it mean? What was that blue slime?

I walked downstairs still holding the label, wondering whether I’d be able to get mum to tell me anything about what was going on, about the slime or about this brother and father business. She was awake, but still on the sofa, staring blankly at nothing again. “mum” I said “What does this say?”. I put the label in her hands. She looked down and said “In Case of Emergencies…… Where did you….?” Then trailed off with a slight frown on her face.

At that moment there was a knock at the door. I went to open it, as mum didn’t seem to be moving. Standing at the door were two men. One just a boy really, maybe a few years older than me. They both had funny coloured hair. You would probably have thought it was a strange blondey-brown at a quick glance. But I’d been looking at a lock of hair like that my whole life and I could see the way it looked a little red in some lights and a little green in others. “What’s the emergency?” said the man. “I think my mum needs you” I said and lead them to her.


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