Tales From The Town #2: Three Short Tales About Antoine

Outside The Cave

Agnes sat on the rock and looked out to sea. Behind her, in the shadows of the cave, a slightly darker shadow lurked.

“I know you’re there, Antoine,” she said. “It’s okay. I just came to talk.”

She took a sandwich from her bag and had a bite.

“What’s there to talk about?” he said. “I’m happy and you’re happy and we’re all happy and everything’s okay, everything’s just fine.”

“I brought you some lunch.” She held out the bag of sandwiches behind her, and almost instantly it was snatched from hr hand. “And we’re worried about you, Antoine. This cave can’t be good for you.”

“What’s wrong with my cave? I love this cave. It’s exactly what I need right now. It’s perfect.”

“Well,” Agnes said carefully. “Maybe so. But it’s damp. And the smoke from your fire just lingers everywhere. It’s a health hazard.”

“It’s atmospheric.”

“And there’s the crabs, Antoine.” Agnes looked down at the little crowd of them on the sand, as they raised their little claws up at her defiantly. “I don’t know how you put up with them.”

“They’re not as aggressive as they look,” Antoine said. “Well, they are, but, you know, you just need to give them space.”

“We still don’t think you should live in the cave.”

“So can I come back to the house?”

“No, Antoine, of course not,” Agnes said. “Don’t be silly.”

“Well, where else am I going to live?”

“I don’t know. But there must be somewhere nicer than this?”

“I am not moving into the well,” he said. “Not ever. No way.”

“Who said anything about the well?”

Agnes waited, but there was no reply. When she finished her sandwich, she jumped down from the rock and started back across the beach.

“Do they miss me?” a distant voice said.

“Of course they miss you,” Agnes said, unconvincingly. “They miss you terribly.”

Inside The Cave

Antoine spent his evening how he spent every evening and would spend every evening for quite some time. He sat beside the fire in his cave and thought about all the conversations he had ever had.

He was going through them in order, and was currently trapped somewhere in his teenage years. Once again it seemed like they would never end.

It would have been simple enough if he was content with simply reliving them, but instead he tried to correct them as he went, so that this time through they didn’t spiral out of control and make him look a fool in front of everybody all over again.

The trouble was that even now, as he carefully reworked them so that he had a ready made answer for everything, he still ended up losing the argument. He didn’t know how, but he did.

And not just once, but thousand times, in a million different ways, until each individual conversation from the past became a fractal filled with an infinite variety of easily rebutted idiocy and absurdly pompous ignorance.

Even his own mind was against him.

A Dream Of Mermaids

I was the middle of the night. In the dark, Antoine thought of the mermaid. She swam and swam in the silence of his dreams.

At least his mind never made him argue with her. No matter what he said, she just nodded in agreement, and occasionally splashed the water with her tail. That meant she was particularly amused by whatever it was he had told her. He told her a lot.

She was perfect, he thought. She didn’t even have a voice to answer him back with.

“I do,” the mermaid said, as she popped her head above the waves of his imaginary sea.

“You don’t,” Antoine told her.

“Of course I do,” she said. “How else would I lure anyone into the sea?”

He blushed. Why would she need words for that?

“Not that I’d want to lure you down here, Antoine,” the mermaid said, before disappearing beneath the waves with a defiant splash of her tail.

Antoine lay back in the sand and sighed. The wind moaned through the cave like the lament of some lost and distant whale. The crabs tugged at his sheet, but he would not relax his grip.

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Notes:

1. Written on April 29th, 2021
2. Please see the cast of characters for more information about the protagonists

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Tale #43: The Girl In The Bear

In the lands far from here, a forest. In the forest, a cave. In the cave, a bear. In the bear, a girl. In the girl, a heart, and in the dark, it beat, beat, beat.

The bear slept. The girl crept and wriggled and squirmed her way through the bear. She pulled herself up with her hands and pushed herself forward with desperate kicks of her feet, until finally she found herself inside the sleeping bear’s mouth, and almost free.

With a final heave of strength she pushed apart the bear’s jaws and stood there defiant in the great beast’s mouth.

And then, overcome with weariness, she tumbled forward out of the bear and into the dirt and fell asleep against the warmth of the bear’s belly. And all through the night in her dreams she heard the beat, beat, beat of the bear’s huge heart.

In the morning the bear awoke and looked at the tiny thing sleeping beside her, a shapeless lump of gristle and bone, covered head to foot in muck and filth.

And the bear licked the dirt and the blood from the girl’s head and from the girl’s body and watched in wonder as beneath the slow rasps of her tongue her new child began to take shape.

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1. Written between July and November 2016
2. The title comes from the wonderful David Hockney illustration The Boy Hidden In A Fish, which I’d misremembered as The Boy in The Fish
3. The bear licking the girl into shape comes from, well, bears licking their children into shape, in medieval bestiaries

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The Beast




















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Notes:

1. Written on 8th November, 2012
2. Any similarity to the author is entirely incidental

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Support An Accumulation Of Things

If you like the things you've read here please consider subscribing to my patreon. Subscribers get not just early access to content and also the occasional gift, but also my eternal gratitude. Which I'm not sure is very useful, but is certainly very real. Thank you.