When Our Lives Begin

When Our Lives Begin

When our Lives Began

When our lives began disappearing, we didn’t notice at first. Sometimes they simply ran ahead and we lost sight of them. Other times they swerved round hairpin bends spiralling so high we daren’t follow. Or else they dipped and fell away into fallow lands where the wheel ruts meandered and thinned into tendrils of weeds. Now and then they played catch-up with us, hiding behind a milestone or in the blue shadow of a rock, almost within reach. As soon as we got nearer, they’d skip away, fleet-footed, helped by a wind that always blew in the right direction. A quick wink over their shoulder was all we’d see.

So we began to plot. With enough care and determination we were sure to snare them.

 

Conventional traps turned out to be useless; speed bumps and cameras yielded nothing but joy riders, drunk drivers and the occasional motorcyclist opening up the throttle on his Harley or BMW along the arrow-straight road, while steel contraptions caught only rabbits and foxes, eyes white with fear, legs half-gnawed off. Finally, our IT whizz kids came up with the solution: virtual traps. Inspired by the mouths of whale sharks, they designed a sequence of ever-finer e-teeth and filter pads, complemented by snake fangs to induce slewing and temporary paralysis. The success rate was nearly 100%.

At our next board meeting those of us who had been reunited with our lives voted to promote the techies to grown-up status with immediate effect.

 

Naturally, our success didn’t go unnoticed. Google, hard-nosed and greedy as usual, began to charge us for every life recaptured. The premiums went up month on month, until we were forced to increase the number of e-trap beneficiaries.

Then we had an idea. If Google was so keen on screwing more money out of us, how about luring away the lives of its executives and underlings, perhaps by speeding up their electronic equipment so much they no longer had time to go home and play with their kids or look after their wives? Once they were well and truly spinning out of control in the rat-trap of their existence, we would step in, offering assistance.

Instead of lost-property services, we set up ‘Lost-Life Services – “helping you to become who you have always been”’. It was lucrative enough, but not satisfying in the long run.

 

So we sold up and with the proceeds bought ourselves this small island where we now live, young and old together. We grow our own food, catch fish and breed chickens – and of course we plant sunflowers to keep watch over us with their gold-spiked heads. Should our lives ever decide to run away from us again, they won’t get very far. And if they try swimming, our nets will easily retrieve them, saving them from drowning.

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Regi Claire is a Swiss-born novelist and short story writer twice shortlisted for a Saltire Scottish Book of the Year award and longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize and MIND Book of the Year. Her work has appeared in Best British Short Stories and numerous other anthologies and literary journals in the UK, Europe, Australia and the USA. She is a former Royal Literary Fund Fellow and Lector. Regi lives in Edinburgh with her husband and their golden retriever. She is currently completing her third story collection. 'When Our Lives Begin' is her third publication in Litro.

6 comments

  1. Pamela Thomson says:

    Great story. Such a huge concept encapsulated in so few words. Wonderful, as long as I can live on the island!

  2. Sarah Knox says:

    This story packs a punch and has an exacting choice of words, pace and urgency. It’s theme will speak to us all in our frenetic social media fueled world. Please can I come to your colony too?

  3. Ron Butlin says:

    What a really fine story! A wonderful evocation of things often too elusive to put a name to. Depth rather than length, and it says so much. I’d happily join this colony, too!

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