All Quiet In The Western Fold

By Jamie Brindle

Fantasy, Sci-Fi


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3 mins


It was midnight in the Western Fold, and the stories were far too quiet. There was no susurrus of conflict, no flashes of tightly-wound plots clicking into place, no shocking revelations or grand resolutions. It was uncanny.
Sheriff Indigo Shuttlecock surveyed her anthology and frowned. She was relatively new to the job—she had been in her post for little over sixteen narrative cycles, which basically made her a novice—but she knew a problem when she saw one. Even from this distance, it was obvious something was wrong. Stories were not meant to be this quiet, especially in the Western Folds. That was her patch, a mixture of ghost stories, mysteries, and cheap thrillers. Typical rookie district—nothing too complex, nothing too literary, easy stuff, and if she had been happy to be given it when she graduated from the Academy, she was quickly becoming bored and eager for a promotion. So far, it had been almost too simple: textbook problems. She had had to find a hero who had accidentally wandered into the neighbouring story and got lost; a few of the simpler tales had contracted a disease that caused them to start using overly-complicated locutions. Nothing challenging. It had been a good rookie assignment, but not something a Sheriff could make a career of, not without becoming a laughing stock.
This, however…
She stared again at the huddle of little stories. They bobbed merrily, glistening orbs of lightning blue and burning red, curious folds of narrative potential wound up into those most elegant of sensical things: stories. They seemed completely oblivious to any problem. Still, Indigo knew there was a problem. No healthy story would appear so completely calm. Stories weren’t meant to be calm. They ran on conflict, after all. Without conflict, there was no story.
Indigo smiled. Well, if there was a problem, she would deal with it. That was her job, after all. Maybe this would be the case that would make her career. Perhaps this was her chance for the promotion she had been looking for…
Time to investigate.

Indigo decided to start with Blood Ties. The silly little chiller was as good a place to begin as any. She concentrated on the twirling red-blue twists of narrative potential that composed the tiny story, letting herself fall into the dance. The loops of story became huge and swollen—or perhaps it was Indigo herself who shrank, who could say?—and soon she was inside the story, watching the comings and goings. The tale was spread out before her—characters, plotting, motivation, everything glimmering in perfect detail. After all, she was the Sheriff, and all the stories in her patch knew to do as she asked.
“Evening, Sheriff Indigo,” said Blood Ties. The little story had personified itself as a small anaemic man with glasses and big teeth.
“Good evening, Blood.”
“Everything okay, ma’am?” asked the story.
“Not sure about that, Blood,” said Indigo. “Why don’t you tell me how you’re feeling?”
“How I’m feelin’?” Blood repeated. “Why, very well, thank you! Truth to tell, haven’t felt this good for… well, not since I was first told!”
“Oh?” asked Indigo. She kept her voice nonchalant. “How’s that, Blood?”
“Well, see for yourself!” said Blood Ties, spreading a hand to indicate his main characters.
Indigo looked at the three protagonists. They were smiling and holding hands.
“They look well enough to me,” said Indigo.
“Oh, they’re happy as anything!” said Blood. “That’s just it. Usually they’re at each other’s throats by now!”
Indigo passed a hand through the folds of plot. It was true. The story was meant to revolve around a lover’s quarrel. There were supposed to be hidden letters, the discovery of a mistress, a row that escalated to violence…
The three protagonists were dancing around in a circle. They appeared to be singing some kind of nursery rhyme.
“I see,” said Indigo. “When did this start?”
“Difficult to say,” said Blood. He looked shifty.
Indigo Shuttlecock narrowed her eyes.
“You do know that to withhold information from an officer of the Council is a serious offence?” she reminded him. “If I find you’ve been holding out on me, it could go bad for you.”
The little story clenched his fists. For a moment, he looked as if he would say something.
Then he swallowed.
“I don’t know nothin’,” he said stubbornly.
Indigo stared at him.
“Fine,” she said at length.
She let her concentration falter. The characters and plotting of the little story began to fade, shimmering back to the red-blue twists of narrative.
“What… what will you do now?” Blood called after her.
“Find someone who does know something,” Indigo told him.
Maybe the next story would be more useful.

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