THE CREATIVE APP • by C Barker

I awaken on a park bench slouched over like a hunchback. Starlings announce daybreak. Their sharp chatter punctures my eardrum. I’m even more distressed by the flavor of stale beer on my sandpaper tongue. Grogginess fades away with a whiff of fresh cut grass. My eyes focus on what seems like Central Park. I can’t remember my name and I think I’m lost. I rub my chin in contemplation and discover a 5 o’clock shadow, but no answers.

My thoughts are consumed by a forgetfulness that can’t be shaken off. It’s the kind of fear where you talk extra loud all alone in a dark alley to convince yourself you’ll be okay against all odds. Get a grip. Don’t give in to paranoia. I’m dizzy, from whatever I did last night, and won’t stand up anytime soon. I wonder how the hell I got on this paint peeled bench.

One hand is free and my other clings to a phone; my only salvation at the moment. Thank God.  I’ll call for help. Someone will remember me. I stare at the phone. The screen is black. My mood mirrors the screen. I’m overwhelmed by my identity crisis. In the midst of panic logic kicks in. I better keep cool or end up in a psych ward.

The blue light on the side of my phone shows that it’s charged. I tap the screen a bunch of times. Nothing happens. I press the screen with a string of finger circles and it changes from black to iridescent. Stay calm. I’m frazzled and continue to poke the screen until one icon appears; the Photo Gallery. Oh, thank God. I’ll find my phone list. Numerous attempts to find the list elude me and the S.O.S. call never materializes. Damn it. If I look through the pictures maybe I can remember where I live. It must be close by if I got drunk and slept on this godawful bench.

I open the Gallery icon to the first three horizontal pictures; a chocolate ice cream cone, a six-pack of beer and a pair of high tops like the ones I have on. I swipe the picture of the ice cream cone to the left and the phone resonates with a single high pitched chime. The cone flies onto my bench, rolls down to the worn gray pavement and cracks into several pieces. A real live ice cream cone from the picture on my phone? I better perform a reality check to prove it’s not a dream, or worse yet, a one-way ticket to insanity.

My fingers wobble as I manage to scrape up some of the chocolate mess. I lift the chocolate dribble to my nose and I’m surprised by the miraculous scent of cocoa. I dab my tongue and confirm that it tastes just like genuine chocolate. Even in the chaos, I remember to check my phone and it’s still fixed on the three original pictures. Wow, I’m wide awake and my phone creates an authentic chocolate cone.

I slide the cone picture to the left and hear a loud chime. Another chocolate cone flings onto the bench, rolls to the pavement and cracks, just like the first one. Where was I last night? Did someone slip me a mickey?

I struggle to focus on a logical explanation, but a primal curiosity takes over. If I proceed in the Photo Gallery I may gaze into my forgotten life. Why am I afraid? I have a fleeting idea to try again and search for my phone list, but I do not submit. I can’t resist the temptation to scroll down to three more pictures.

My persistent fingers do the deed but I look away to avoid any shock. I muster courage and squint with my head cocked back at the next three pictures. One picture stands out from the others. I’d rather be hit by a ton of bricks than see this picture. Maybe I was hit by a ton of bricks and I’m really unconscious in an Emergency Room somewhere or maybe I’m dead. Get your head straight, damn it. My index finger and thumb quiver as I pull outward on the touch screen and create a larger version of the picture. With digital perfection I see the wicked close up.

The enlarged picture shows the scene I woke up to. It shows every detail; the starlings, the fresh cut grass, the weathered bench and me, one hand free, while the other clutches a phone. I’m compelled to understand the source of my existence. I know what I must do next.

I make numerous attempts to slide to the left the picture of myself. I fail every time because nothing happens. I’m infuriated and slide the picture of myself to the right instead. I hear a chime that is much louder than the first two chimes I heard earlier. I shudder in response to a sudden gust of wind that comes from the phone and goes right through me like an invisible force field. I look all around me and nothing has changed. Intuition twists my stomach into a firm knot. My gut feeling must be the undeniable truth. I fight the urge to faint from the horrible consequence of my action. What have I done? How many times have I created another version of myself? I collapse in distress because I know that far away in a new dimension a man awakens on a park bench. He slouches over like a hunchback and hears the sound of starlings.


C Barker lives in the Northeastern U.S., and says, “I publish a quarterly Journal on esoteric topics to help promote the work of holistic practitioners. I am part of a local Writers’ Group. I aspire to be a good science fiction/fantasy writer.”


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Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I liked the idea behind this story, but felt it could have been used to more effect.

    • Vicki Doronina
      How?
      • Paul A. Freeman
        That's for me to know for use in a future short story.
        • Vicki Doronina
          As usual, the nebulosity of the critique intended to hide the green-eyed monster.
          • Paul A. Freeman
            I'll tell you when you learn how to spell 'H.G. Wells'.
  • Paul A. Freeman

    I liked the idea behind this story, but felt it could have been used to greater effect.

    • Vicki Doronina
      How?
      • Paul A. Freeman
        That's for me to know for use in a future short story.
        • Vicki Doronina
          As usual, the nebulosity of the critique intended to hide the green-eyed monster.
          • Paul A. Freeman
            The green-eyed monster would be me from an alternate universe.
  • S Conroy

    Gripped from start almost to finish. I think the ending from ‘intuition twists my stomach’ would have more impact if some of the sentences were cut.

  • S Conroy

    Gripped from start almost to finish. I think the ending from ‘intuition twists my stomach’ would have more impact if some of the sentences were cut.

  • MPmcgurty

    I hope the comments of other readers will elucidate this for me. My thought after reading was, “Why didn’t a version of himself fall onto the bench.”

    Something else, too, perhaps for the EDF editors? I observed two spaces between sentences, and I found they rather affected my reading of this story. Gave it a staccato feel and took away from it. Not sure if it was intended to read that way.

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell
      Sorry about that. I just spent four minutes removing all the extra spaces. Hope it reads better now.
      • Paul A. Freeman
        Leaving two spaces dates back to the era of typewriters, as does underlining everything you want italicised. Unfortunately, the William Shunn guidelines for formatting manuscripts have not been updated for the computer age and are constantly touted by small, independent and one-time publishers as the way to professionally format a manuscript - hence the lost 4 minutes of your life, Camille.
        • Camille Gooderham Campbell
          It may also be just habit. I've been told people who grew up typing two spaces after a period have a hard time breaking themselves of it. I do understand, and once I'd had my tea, I wasn't so grumpy about fixing it (which I should rather have spotted and done prior to publication anyway). The "guideline" that really makes me crazy is using underline to represent italics.
          • In my experience, it's a VERY hard habit to break. But I'm proud to say I'm a reformed double-space addict.
          • MPmcgurty
            I also am a reformed double spacer. So I was kind of surprised that it bothered me.
          • Chris Antenen
            I knew underlining was just a way to represent italics, so obviously when we could create italics, that changed. But two spaces between sentences?? When did that happen? It appears I'm hopelessly behind and have even gone into a piece to check for that.
        • Carl Steiger
          I always use two spaces between sentences except when I write something I intend to submit for publication. See there -- I just did it again. As habits go, it's pretty harmless.
    • I was wondering that too. Perhaps you can't swipe yourself into a place where you already are?
      • S Conroy
        Yes. Think that makes sense. He couldn't swipe the photo left and swiping right swiped some version of him into some other reality. I thought maybe that other reality was 'our' reality and the version of himself that he'd swiped into it might have been one of his virtual selves. In the meantime he's stuck in the virtual world where swiping materialises icecreams etc. Well that's one interpretation anyway...
  • MPmcgurty

    I hope the comments of other readers will elucidate this for me. My thought after reading was, “Why didn’t a version of himself fall onto the bench.”

    Something else, too, perhaps for the EDF editors? I observed two spaces between sentences, and I found they rather affected my reading of this story. Gave it a staccato feel and took away from it. Not sure if it was intended to read that way.

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell
      Sorry about that. I just spent four minutes removing all the extra spaces. Hope it reads better now.
      • Paul A. Freeman
        Leaving two spaces dates back to the era of typewriters, as does underlining everything you want italicised. Unfortunately, the William Shunn guidelines for formatting manuscripts have not been updated for the computer age and are constantly touted by small, independent and one-time publishers as the way to professionally format a manuscript - hence the lost 4 minutes of your life, Camille.
        • Camille Gooderham Campbell
          It may also be just habit. I've been told people who grew up typing two spaces after a period have a hard time breaking themselves of it. I do understand, and once I'd had my tea, I wasn't so grumpy about fixing it (which I should rather have spotted and done prior to publication anyway). The "guideline" that really makes me crazy is using underline to represent italics.
          • In my experience, it's a VERY hard habit to break. But I'm proud to say I'm a reformed double-space addict.
          • MPmcgurty
            I also am a reformed double spacer. So I was kind of surprised that it bothered me.
          • Chris Antenen
            I knew underlining was just a way to represent italics, so obviously when we could create italics, that changed. But two spaces between sentences?? When did that happen? It appears I'm hopelessly behind and have even gone into a piece to check for that.
        • Carl Steiger
          I always use two spaces between sentences except when I write something I intend to submit for publication. See there -- I just did it again. As habits go, it's pretty harmless.
    • I was wondering that too. Perhaps you can't swipe yourself into a place where you already are?
      • S Conroy
        Yes. Think that makes sense. He couldn't slide the photo to the left and swiping it to the right swiped some version of him into some other reality. I thought maybe that other reality was 'our' reality and the version of himself that he'd swiped into it might have been one of his virtual selves. In the meantime he's stuck in the virtual world where swiping materialises icecreams etc. Well that's one interpretation. I'm not totally hung up on it though...
  • It seems to me that quite often, when a writer uses a modern piece of technology in a story, and that technology becomes a major part of the story, it falls flat in the end. I’m not sure why, but sometimes the introduction of modern technology, even in a modern story, cheapens it for me in a way.

    That wasn’t the case here. I thought the story was very well-written and quite engaging. There was just enough information to make me feel like it was happening to me, and I could picture everything. That’s a sign of a great story, in my opinion. Great concept and execution. I enjoyed this one from start to finish. Thanks for sharing!

  • It seems to me that quite often, when a writer uses a modern piece of technology in a story, and that technology becomes a major part of the story, it falls flat in the end. I’m not sure why, but sometimes the introduction of modern technology, even in a modern story, cheapens it for me in a way.

    That wasn’t the case here. I thought the story was very well-written and quite engaging. There was just enough information to make me feel like it was happening to me, and I could picture everything. That’s a sign of a great story, in my opinion. Great concept and execution. I enjoyed this one from start to finish. Thanks for sharing!

  • I’m afraid I don’t get it. How is what happens here different from when I turn on the camera in my phone and see myself and all that’s around me? That it gets duplicated? Or triplicated? or multiplied a million times? It’s a good idea but I agree with Paul that it could have been “used to greater effect.”

  • I’m afraid I don’t get it. How is what happens here different from when I turn on the camera in my phone and see myself and all that’s around me? That it gets duplicated? Or triplicated? or multiplied a million times? It’s a good idea but I agree with Paul that it could have been “used to greater effect.”

  • Chris Antenen

    Sometimes when a story is complicated, I’ll reread it, but even then, the story has to be significantly interesting on the first read. This one wasn’t. It was well written, but confusing. So in this case, I think the author needs to read it a second time–even more perhaps–and clarify.
    Still worth a four.

  • Chris Antenen

    Sometimes when a story is complicated, I’ll reread it, but even then, the story has to be significantly interesting on the first read. This one wasn’t. It was well written, but confusing. So in this case, I think the author needs to read it a second time–even more perhaps–and clarify.
    Still worth a four.

  • There aren’t many stories that keep me reading when they drop into my inbox but ‘The Creative App’ was definitely one of them. I loved it! Why not try and develop this into a full-blown novel? I loved ‘Inception’ and ‘1Q84’ and this story idea sort of brings the two concepts together – parallel universes born out of a virtual reality.

  • There aren’t many stories that keep me reading when they drop into my inbox but ‘The Creative App’ was definitely one of them. I loved it! Why not try and develop this into a full-blown novel? I loved ‘Inception’ and ‘1Q84’ and this story idea sort of brings the two concepts together – parallel universes born out of a virtual reality.