Last night, Kim Curran became the first person to take on our 1,001 Nights challenge: to write a 1,001 word story live, online, using elements and events given to her by Twitter. And my goodness, was she triumphant.
There was a pub. There were several laptops, two phones, and there were burgers. It was like being in an episode of 24, but with wine.
We went live at 19.30 (imagine the 24 countdown beeps, the split screen view clicking into one, dramatic image… That’s totally what it was like). We took to Twitter with the hashtag #1001curran, and we asked for the key ingredients that Kim would need to start her story.
We asked for a main character. @Rhube got in there first with a female android warrior, but @Den_Patrick was just a split-second behind with a ninja and so Kim decided to combine the two. The name of our female ninja android warrior? GRACE (General Robot Android Cyborg Entity), thanks to @_jamesdawson.
We asked for a location. @vonmaraus gave us Swindon. @_jamesdawson suggested that it be New Swindon (the New York of 2213).
Then all we needed was the first line, provided for us by lovely @NonPratt. And Kim was off on an adventure with GRACE the female ninja android warrior, in New Swindon. What happened next is reprinted below. Periodically, we asked Twitter what the next line should be. Those contributions are in bold, and they were contributions and a half, team. GOOD WORK.
GRACE was stuck in the toilet. (@NonPratt) The frosted glass doors refused to react to the wave of her chromatium hand, designed as they were to respond to the warmth of a human’s touch. This was not what her algorithm programs had predicted for the evening. She sat on the seat, staring at the grammatically incorrect graffiti, and ran through her options.
She had been sent to the Persian carpet factory in the heart of New Swindon with a single purpose: to eliminate the Mayoral candidate. (@JessMAuthor)
Joris Bonson, who had a serious Persian carpet habit, was due to arrive in the factory any moment to hand-pick his next woven wonder. That moment – when Bonson’s guard would be down, as he stroked the silken threads, marvelling at the subtle mis-stiches which were a sign of humility to Allah’s greatness – was, GRACE’s probability program decided, when he would be most weak. Most vulnerable. But now she was stuck in a loo that stank of old man’s piss and desperation.
That’s when she noticed the message on the cubicle wall. (@CW_Stagg)
“For a good time, slide Tye.”
The graffiti was tagged with an ID. Tye Carlton: a fifteen-year old girl with a rap sheet longer than the trail of toilet roll hanging from the hook on the wall. Hacking. Cracking. Nanoinvasion. This girl had a serious rep.
What her ID was doing tagged on a toilet wall GRACE didn’t know. But she was desperate. She had only three minutes and forty-five seconds before the mayor arrived. She focused on the tag and waited until the connection was made.
“Hello,” a voice answered
After that there were muffled screams and sound of gunshot, before the voice on the line said, “Try again.”
Sounded like Tye was having some trouble of her own.
To a human ear, the buzzing static would have sounded like a dead line. But to GRACE’s acute gynoid hearing, she knew it was a message. The faintest sound of a series of clicks and hisses, making out a binary code. GRACE responded with her own reply and waited a moment longer.
“Seriously,” Tye said over the line. “I’m kinda busy right now. What with these men trying to kill me. What do you want?”
“What do any of us want? World peace, to meet the man of my dreams… But right now I’d settle for a screwdriver. (@karlequin) I need a hand getting out,” she cries. “A human hand to be precise.”
She hears a sigh. “Then take a seat and hold on tight.” (@vonmaraus)
GRACE sat on the cold ceramic seat of the loo, and braced her hands against the slime-covered walls. The water beneath her began to bubble and steam. And with a blast GRACE was propelled ten feet into the air. She grabbed hold of an overhead pipe, swung her legs forward and landed gracefully on the floor, the grey tiles cracking under her feet.
“Thanks, Tye,” GRACE said. “I owe you one.”
There was no reply. Perhaps Tye’s pursuers had caught up with her? GRACE didn’t have time to worry about the stranger. Even one who had just saved her synthetic skin. She had a job to do.
She kicked the door into the hallway open and stepped out of the toilet. The slightly fresher air came as a relief – the stench of the loo had been overwhelming her systems.
Two minutes and twenty eight seconds remained. Without making a sound, GRACE entered the heart of the warehouse. A scan that took mere microseconds and she worked out the most advantageous angles. She needed to get to higher ground. She headed for a ladder and began to pull herself up, rung after rung, desperate not to make a sound. (@Den_Patrick)
When she reached the roof, she twisted herself in and around the tangle of wires and air ducts that served the warehouse. Anyone looking from below would see only metal merged with metal. And she waited.
Ten seconds early, the door to the warehouse opened and a man in a bright-tangerine blazer walked in.
Blimey, GRACE thought. It’s like looking into the heart of the sun.
Joris Bonson was known to be a flamboyant character. But this was something else.
He had the look of a fat man just waiting to burst out of the muscle grafts and surgery. Something piggy about his eyes. He whistled a jaunty sea shanty tune as he walked in. The days he claimed his Persian carpets from the downtrodden carpet makers of New Swindon were always his favourite.
The tune reminded her of the day Reading fell to the pirate replicants. She’d woken with one hell of a hangover (@karlequin) – and that tune ringing in her ears. That had been a good night.
GRACE ignored the memory and focused on the job and the shining dome of Bonson’s head.
At this point, we asked Twitter for an EXCITING INCIDENT. @serifinaxxx delivered with DRAGON ATTACK.
Just then, there was a roar like the sound of hell opening. Bonson and GRACE both looked up as the metallic roof of the warehouse started to warp and bend. Silver droplets fell from the ceiling and landed on the concrete floor below with a hiss. The roof was melting.
The pipes GRACE was clinging to started to get hotter. And hotter. How much longer could she hold on?
What the hell is going on? GRACE thought.
A second, ear-splitting roar answered her question. The roof dissolved in a ball of red flame and a blue dragon thrust its snout through the hole. One clawed hand followed, reaching into the warehouse and heading straight for Joris Bonson.
GRACE didn’t even have time to react before the black talons dug into Bonson’s head. Ripping it clean from his shoulders. Blood spurted out in a great fountain, splattering across the Persian carpets. They were ruined. As was Bonson’s golden jacket. Perhaps it had been the blazer that had attracted the dragon?
It didn’t matter. The dragon had done GRACE’s job for her.
She looked at the dragon and wondered if after such excitement she might pop back to the loo. (@vonmaraus)
See what I mean? TRIUMPHANT. She took what we gave her, and she ran with it, ladies and gentleman, and all with a burger by her side and a glass of wine in hand. And, of course, huge thanks are due to the kind and clever peoples of Twitter, who populated this story with the weird and wonderful harvests of their imagination. You are all super.
And a MASSIVE thank you to Kim, whose wonderfulness is like a bright orange blazer, so wonderful it’s like looking into the sun except that it doesn’t hurt or potentially cause blindness, it is just wonderful.
And so there we are. 1,001 Nights is go, and we’re on the recruit for new victims – ahem, AUTHORS – to take up the challenge. Watch this space, folks. WATCH THIS SPACE.