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Rated: 13+ · Folder · Personal · #2287005
A series of linked flash fictions written Dec 19-Dec 32 2022.
Listed here (revised, edited as originals couldn't be changed after the deadline).


Pond's hand clasped another's1. It was soft and exhilarating.

He didn't care whether anyone was watching. No one dared comment as he strode upright and resolute towards the market stalls. He was hungry. He was always hungry.

The sounds of the market were muted as always. No one yelled like a fish-monger2. They sold grilled chicken livers or strips of pork on a stick, piles of insects by the kilo, iced mango, banana or papaya drinks in a cup to go. He bought two.

Smells enveloped him with aromas he'd always known; but, the clasped hand was new to him.

He shared his frozen delight as he guided his new-found friend to a seat where they could eat. He had chosen something tangy but not too spicy. He guided rice and squid onto a spoon with his fork and offered it to his companion.

He thought of his mother and sister who lived hours away. He often felt lonely when eating. He didn't feel quite so lonely today.

He smiled. He intended to not be lonely tonight either, nor for many nights to follow.

The evening walk home, hand in hand, was peaceful, until...

His reverie was interrupted by a loud bang coming from the direction they were headed. No one else seemed to notice as the market murmured unaware; but, at his side, he heard a gasp and felt a hand unclasping... like a sigh.

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The tuk-tuk3 revved its motor as it swerved to miss the man standing by the railroad tracks, its blue curtains flapping, the driver unflappable. Blaring his horn would be rude.

Startled, Lim jumped back, raising his yellow sleeve to shield his eyes and then remembered... it must be Monday4.

He wasn't used to the chaotic traffic5. His hometown of Yala6 was modern, orderly, and civil. This city of golden duckies was wild!

His deep blue eyes measured his companion. Tall, slender, as beautiful as any model, well-dressed in a navy business suit. So professional. So naive.

He stepped over broken concrete and around the abutment as his hand was grasped. His guardian angel wasn't about to let him become road-kill.

They were headed out to eat before the sun set and crowds gathered.

Lim liked walking but his short legs found it hard to keep up. Apparently someone was hungry... not him.

His hand was cradled like a precious gem as hot food and cold drinks were ordered. Mango, coconut? His mouth opened every time a spoonful was offered. Squid?

He tried to relax. The gunfire of his youth seemed distant here among the busy vendors and cheery customers as two monks glided past sipping saffron-colored slush through plastic straws.

Then a bang.

Lim jumped as his hand went slack and slid from its embrace. No one else seemed to notice, but then... music? Someone singing the blues? No... just a whining siren coming from the direction they were headed.

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Sato-san walked past the clipped hedge of tea and jasmine shrubs and headed to the market on the other side of the tracks where frogs and turtles sat in buckets and fish swam in tubs.

The yellow and polka-dotted butterflies ignored his passage.

It was not-so-nice to be ignored. He noticed everything, careful of the high curbs, the tuk-tuks that appeared out of nowhere, the mist that always disappeared, along with the morning's ennui.

He decided that duck noodles would make a good lunch.

The market offered everything Chinese. He could read some of the signs, could speak some Hokkien, some Thai and Lao, a smattering of this and that. He spoke Japanese and English with the ex-pats living in the condos.

He thought of the new resident Lim and wondered how he was coping. Eurasians with fair skin were a sought after commodity. Pond was besotted with him.

He ate and continued his wanderings, then back to Mill Place7 to sit with tea, hoping for some company.

He dozed as the afternoon blazed8 and dreamt of butterflies dancing.

He woke to a dog barking. At first he ignored it but finally got up to see why people were gathering by the tracks.

The sun was casting long shadows as a bang rang through the air.

There was blood, there was yelling, there was...

Sato-san turned back. There was no need to get closer. He picked up a six-pack of water at Seven-Eleven and an evening meal, and headed home, noting the sparrows flitting through the jasmine as if nothing had transpired.

He made it as far as the smoking gazebo before his legs gave out.

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The spirits had fled, no need to linger over bits of bones and leaking liquid.

Pond saw them hover then vanish as if they were mist. The scene by the railroad crossing was gruesome. Lim gripped his free hand as they crossed the pedestrian bridge over Posri Street. Now, the evening train, its sleeper compartments lit but ghostly, slumbered south bound as the crowd dispersed. Life was fragile.

They stopped at the 7-11 for bottled water. Neither spoke.

The bang had alerted them that all was not right. Apparently, a tuk-tuk alarmed by the loud noise had swerved and crashed into a crowd while avoiding a dog. It had happened in an instant. No one quite knew what had caused the bang.

They approached the gazebo where they heard someone weeping. Sato-san weakly motioned for them to join the smokers. One had a bottle of spirits he was passing around. He mentioned that one of their neighbors had been whisked away, sirens blaring.

So sad. So stupid. So predictable.

Anger and disbelief filled the space between them.

Pond and Lim just nodded. Life was what it was and traffic accidents were common. Pond believed that life was recycled. Lim believed that the spirit returned to its source. They both believed traffic accidents were horrifying.

Sato-san remembered someone telling him that Thailand would heal him or break him. He grimaced then smiled at Lim and Pond standing as close as possible, hands clasped, clinging to each other. There was always hope when two became as one.

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Lim couldn't relax. What was real? If death was real was life real too?

The accident earlier that evening wasn't artifice. The blood smeared on the pavement was as real as real could get.

Pond didn't seem to be fazed. Sato-san had once told Lim that Pond was simple and accepting and that he was complex and overthought everything.

It was good talking to Sato-san. He was older and seemed wiser and accepting of his relationship with Pond. While Pond was surrounded by friends Lim always felt disconnected, like when Pond wanted to hold his hand in public. He wasn't used to that.

Pond was a beauty consultant and influencer. Pond manipulated reality but it was still real at the core. At times Lim felt artificial like a robot. While Pond lived in the physical world of family, friends and beauty products, Lim worked online. Without A.I.9 he wouldn't have an income. He was too intellectual to work in a store selling... anything.

Did opposites really attract?

Every day Pond looked into his deep-blue eyes and said he was beautiful. Was that mere artifice?

As they snuggled in bed, Lim felt Pond's warmth enveloping him. There was no deception in that.

He felt their spirits lean into each other. As he drifted off images of tuk-tuks, butterflies, the smell of durian10, the quiet after the Big Bang, and the taste of chicken livers swirled in his mind. He wondered, do real robots overthink, do robots ever sleep?

The yellow pall of the day had winked out. Tomorrow would dawn pink. Tuesdays always did.

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Pond dreamt of butterflies, how an ugly caterpillar can destroy a plant yet become its beautiful pollinator and savior.

He dreamt of how someday Lim would act less like a robot after he morphed.

Pond put his leg over his lover to claim him, to announce to the uncaring world that this awkward nerd, this squirming worm, would be someday become a butterfly, and that that butterfly would still be his and only his.


Lim's nightmares made him toss and turn but Pond's leg kept him in place. His mind replayed a video of a human becoming a robot, a robot becoming human. In this liminal space he sought an answer beyond the limitations of artificial intelligence and the trappings of reality.

The cool breeze finally brought some surcease as nightmares eased into dreams, the transformation seamless, even to the Programmer11 monitoring him.

Dawn painted the horizon peach, and the pink rose that Lim had given Pond dropped another petal.


Sato-san sat with the other residents of the condos until news came that their neighbor might not survive. Plans were discussed to make sure she wasn't left to the whims of an inadequate nursing staff. Sato-san volunteered to visit in the morning.

Now listening to the night's silence giving way to the birds he remembered noting earlier how one spirit had been reluctant to leave and how Lim appeared to be less stiff as he walked home with Pond.

Sato-san's position was to merely observe and never interfere. He posted a note to the One12 who had sent him.

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Lim heard the morning train to Bangkok rumbling south-bound as he stood on the balcony with his instant coffee still steaming. It was 8:20. Time to wake Pond so he could jog before going to work.

While Pond jogged Lim checked in on-line. His boss had sent him an email stating that his last project was satisfactory... and could he start a new one tomorrow? He had the day off.

He celebrated by following Pond into the shower when he got back. He didn't even mind that the water was only lukewarm.

After dressing, the taste of Pond's lips lingered as Lim grabbed Pond's hand and lead him to the elevator. He felt rested and cheerful for some reason. Pond just smiled back and chuckled, squeezing his hand.

As they passed the smoker's gazebo, Lim raised his free hand to wave. His shirt sleeve was pink. It was Tuesday. The gardeners were watering, adding the fragrance of wet tea leaves to the flowering jasmine, creating puddles for the small blue flutterbies to sip.

What is the sound of two hands clasping? What is the sound of two hearts beating as one?

Pond had noted the change in Lim and hummed a few notes.

They nodded at Sato-san on their way to take the bridge over Posri Road, never glancing towards the scene of yesterday's nightmare. They headed for a breakfast of chicken-basil rice.

Sato-san turned at the 7-11 and walked to the hospital. His neighbor was still sleeping peacefully. He sat down beside her.

While he was waiting, he heard a soft voice inside his head. My programming worked better than expected. I got your note. Thank you. Our task here is complete.

His neighbor opened her eyes, smiled, then closed them again.

Original post

{dropnote:"Stray thoughts"}Would the next day dawn pink? After-all, it would be Tuesday.
Bang (#1,#2,#3) = accident?
One hand clapping... in this case clasping. What is the sound of two hands clasping? (#7)
Buddhist/Muslim influence. Isan is Buddhist-Lao, Yala is Muslim-Malay.
Sato-san gazed at Pond and Lim walking hand-in-hand and smiled. Some changes were good.
Pacing: 1,2,3: intro to characters and setting. A mysterious sound (accident?)
4. Lim and Pond arrive at the scene and sit with Sato-san.
5. Lim ponders his situation.
6. Nightmares? Dreams? A pink day dawns.
7. Cycles back to hands clasping. Programmer, One and Lim-Pond resolved.

Characters: Pond (introduced in #1) and Lim (named in #2).
Pond is Isan-Lao, assertive, proud, unafraid, beautiful, tall, slender, traditional, realistic. Can he transform a loved one?
Lim is Euro-Malay, blue eyes, skittish, bruised intellectual. Is he a robot or merely an intellectual who overthinks?
Sato-san (introduced in #3): Japanese, observant. Has he been sent to observe but not interfere?

1  Public displays of affection are taboo in Thailand but holding hands is apparently okay (personal experience)
2  Thais don't yell nor display anger.
3  Probably a 'skylab' but tuk-tuk is the more generic term that's broadly understood.
4  Each day has traditionally been associated with a color. Monday = yellow; Tuesday = pink; Wednesday = green/grey; Thursday = orange; Friday = blue; Saturday = purple; Sunday = red.
5  Much of Thailand is known for chaotic traffic and traffic fatalities. It is one of the most dangerous countries in the word in this repect.
6  In southern Thailand, Pattani; mostly Muslim.
7  actual place in Udon Thani
8  Strong sun 10-14; heat of the day is 13-17.
9  A.I. = artificial intelligence
10  Durian is called the stinky fruit as well as the king-of-fruits.
11  purposely capitalized
12  capitalized on purpose

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