Writing Prompt 2

16 06 2009

“Use this phrase anywhere in your story: burn the midnight oil”


My name is Jack. I would have started out with something more interesting, but Tara tells me that one traditionally begins by introducing oneself. If she is fibbing me I have no way to know- you are the first people I have ever had to introduce myself to.

No, no, I know what you are thinking but they do NOT treat me badly. There is no reason why I should need to meet anyone. 

The Doctor raised me, with a little help from Tara. He taught me about the stars and forests and cultures from across the wide world. She made sure I ate and had new tunics when my weed-like growth demanded them. Sometimes from my cot blaze-side I would hear her pleading with the Doctor to let me out of the under-city where he chose to live. He always said no and sometimes he struck her when her weeping became loud. I was glad of the “no”- the Upper scared me- though I cringed and whimpered when I heard the blows he dealt. 

I’d been dealt my own share over the years. The scar over my eye and my slight limp both came from the backside of his hand. 

He never told me why he saved me in the first place. Most orphans are killed by the guard as a matter of course, at least the ones under-city. But the Doctor had interfered and kept me. 

So I grew in the lamp-lit halls of the Doctor’s home. I served him as best I could, mainly keeping the Time Mechanism running. My job was the most important one in the Doctor’s home, though Tara and I were not the only members of the household. We were the only ones who didn’t have to sleep in the Cages. 

Sometimes when the Doctor was working on a particularly difficult experiment, he would have me bring the Time Mechanism into his lab so that he would know exactly how much time had passed. The only instances that he ever spoke during these experiments was to remind me to be extra careful about the mechanism. “Burn the midnight oil, Jack”, he would say, and I complied gladly. The different oils have different scents and allow him to notice the hours passing without having to consciously mark it. 

Someday he might decide to take me Up. I might get to see the stars and trees that I’ve learned so much about. I might have to meet new people. If that day ever comes I will be glad to know that one begins a conversation by introducing oneself.

I am Jack, and I keep the time.




2 responses

19 06 2009

Very interesting premise, though I have one thought: I would start it out with “My name is Jack, and I keep the time.” I only say that because I was reading it, kinda interested, and then I accidentally glanced at the bottom of the post and saw that line. Something about it gripped me immediately, and compelled me to keep reading. Don’t know why. It just has this air of mystery and a sense of a bigger story than is first apparent.

19 06 2009

I agree, actually. I would really like to rework this piece (and spent parts of my workday doing so in my brain). I’ll post anything I do..

Thanks for the readership and comments Jason. Blessings on yourself!

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