Microfiction and Perl Testing

I was looking for information on writing tests in perl for Bugzilla, since I’m working on developing for it, and I came across chromatic’s web site. “Chromatic” is the pseudonym of a Perl hacker who co-wrote the book “Perl Testing” and apparently also writes fiction. His website includes a “microfiction” section which seems to generate a random assignment for each day. I decided to complete today’s assignment:

Given the character of a wise monkey, write a story in the steampunk genre, using the subject a character description and the theme a warning. If you feel extra creative, use only conversation.

Your word limit is 250 words.

I went 82 words over the limit, but don’t feel like editing it since I’m not getting credit. Here it is. Kelsey even says she likes it.

The cymbals clanked. The gears ground slowly down and just before halting, disengaged, sending the flywheel spinning. A paper ribbon curled out from the slot beneath the statuette of a monkey; its arms moving together for one last soft touch of the cymbals.

I took the ticker-tape between my fingers and felt the tiny bumps stamped into it.

“It knows!” cooed the old man, leaning forward to crawl on his knees zig-zag across the chipped marble floor.

His rags brushed an angular serpentine trail on the dusty tiles. He lifted himself up, bracing against the machine, until he stood in front of me. Leaning out until his long grey whiskers almost brushed against my face, he cackled again “It knows!”

His smile was sparsely populated with yellow teeth and his breath stunk. His eyes were clouded with cataracts. His large knuckled hands clung tightly to projecting parts of the machine and fumbled for the ribbon.

“Let me feel,” he whined.

His hand found the statuette, and he breathed once again, “It knows…” as his calloused fingers slid down the tape.

Shouts were heard outside. A gunshot followed a bang at the door. His smile disappeared, but his hand still traced the bumps on the ribbon.

I looked for something to bar the door. The high window shattered. The old man knelt down and began to crawl towards the coal bin. He dragged it slowly across the floor as I dragged the table towards the entrance.

Another gunshot outside, and a bullet grazed the wall, shattering plaster. The old man started stoking the furnace. The monkey started clapping. He adjusted valves and lifted himself up once more to pull the lever.

The door fell from its hinges and the table was slowly pushed back. The flywheel engaged and the ribbon spat forth again. Another shot rang out and the old man groaned, slumping over the lever. The monkey’s clapping slowed, then stopped.

I ripped the ticker-tape from the slot beneath the monkey and ran.

p.s. Chromatic wrote a book called “Gravitas.” If you want to read an excerpt about a fight at a comic book convention, follow the link.

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