The WIP by Esther Kuforiji

The WIP is a collection of interesting things from around the web.

You never quite get used to the beauty of a Martian sunrise. As the sun rises, it lights up the sky like a glowing flame. The air is full of clouds of red dust. In the morning, the the flame of the sun rises and licks the blush pink dust. As the day progresses, the clouds pulse blood red. Sometimes, lightning strikes down through the dust clouds, white veins of light pulsing down to the ground below. I watch the skies, and the ground. My two eyes have to watch everything. You see, I am alone but I was not always this way. There were twelve of us. We came from Earth, the first research expedition to the red planet. We set up a small research station. After we had been here three months, people began to dissappear. At first we put it down to accidents. But soon we realised that something strange, unexplainable, but ultimately dangerous, was happening.  I wish I could explain how twelve became eight, and eight became six, and six became three, and now one, but I cannot. All I know is that there is something out there. Some days I imagine that it is a monster. Other days, I imagine an all-consuming truth. Everyday, I watch red skies and red soil, waiting, wondering when it will be my turn. 
You wonder if it was all a lie. The movies of your childhood have transitioned in your mind: from childish delights, to propaganda, to pure deception. Life is not a box of chocolates. It’s more like a squid game; an onslaught of challenges that you barely know the rules for.   You have just left the office, and your body and mind are exhausted as you make your way home. As you walk, you look the people around you. You wonder if they feel similarly tricked. Perhaps they never believed the propaganda. Or perhaps they have managed to taste from the box of sweetness.  You notice a man at the side of the road. He is seated, head down, with a small container and a scrawled note in front of him. You don’t read the note. You feel inside your pocket, and feel the recognisable texture of currency. It is a small miracle. You rarely have any physical money on you. You drop the note in his container and walk quickly away. He speaks thanks and blessings after you.  Such small miracles must happen everyday, you think to yourself as you make your descent into the train station. Despite the daily grind and the constant demands on both time and mind, somehow the right things fall into place and good things happen. You wonder if that’s all it takes, the combination of provision and opportunity. If small miracles can happen, perhaps big ones are possible too. 
“Who was the first time traveller?”  That’s the question the teachers ask. I listen at the windows of classrooms sometimes when I go forwards. The children usually call out some of my successors. Sometimes there is a clever child, or else the teacher clarifies. “The first time traveller was a dog named Chike,” they say; but little do they know, the chrono-wandering canine is just a few paws from them.  With every jump, my memory of my origins fades a little. I recall that I was part of a secret program. From what I remember, they had expected me to come straight back. Instead, ever since then, I have been lost in time; jumping forward and backward at random intervals. Sometimes I’m in a time and place for a few days or a few months, sometimes it can be a few minutes. The past is quite wonderful. I love to see how people lived in simpler times. Human treatment of my ancestors is generally kind, if a little controlling. When I jump into the future, I get to see the rapid advancement of this world. Then it stops. Sometimes I jump, and familiar places are derelict wasteland. No dogs, no people, nothing. I have never been in that time period long enough to investigate and figure out what happened. Perhaps one day I’ll see the cause of the end. Perhaps one day I’ll jump back to where it all started. For now, I’m just a dog in time. 
There was once a princess who lived in an ancient kingdom. The princess was the youngest of seven sisters. The sisters grew up together in the palace and had many adventures throughout the land. One by one, the sisters got married and left the palace, until only the youngest sister remained. The princess became a strategic advisor to her mother, advising both in matters of state and matters of war.  One day, the queen and the princess were walking the palace grounds when the queen broached the matter of marriage with her daughter.  “Daughter, I don’t want to rush you, but I am regularly contacted by suitors,” said the Queen. “I am glad to have you by my side, but I’m not sure how it will look for you to still be here once your eldest sister becomes Queen.” “You are in very good health mother, so I doubt that will be an immediate concern any time soon,” said the princess. “But, I have been thinking about this for some time, and I have devised a plan.”  In the following months, the princess oversaw the construction of a complex labyrinth. When it was completed she sent a herald throughout the region announcing that any suitor who wanted her hand in marriage would have to submit to the test of the labyrinth. The test was to find the centre of the labyrinth; whoever could get to the centre would have be deemed worthy of her hand. Hundreds of men arrived to enter the labyrinth. The men knew that the princess was a great strategist so they devised various strategies to beat the labyrinth. Some tied string along their route into the labyrinth to help them find their way, some sought to map the labyrinth, some consulted sages seeking the secret of the labyrinth. One after another, they came out, each one failing to find the centre.  Soon, the numbers of men arriving daily began to dwindle. The princess carried on with her royal duties. One day a prince from a far away land arrived. The princess no longer met those who sought the labyrinth, so one of her attendants showed the prince to the entrance.  “What is your plan?” asked the attendant.  “To find the centre,” said the prince. “But what’s your plan, your strategy?” pressed the attendant. “Do you have any devices or any means of overcoming the labyrinth?” “I have nothing, but my head and my heart,” said the prince, and then he went in. After three days, the prince had not emerged. All previous entrants had emerged two days, most emerged before a day had elapsed. By the seventh day, the palace was buzzing with reports that the prince might be injured, or worse. It was at that point that the princess disappeared. Her attendants searched for her, but she could not be found. Some hours later, the princess and the prince emerged from the labyrinth, hand in hand. “Prepare the marriage feast,” said the princess. “So he found the centre,” said the princess’ attendant. “Finding the centre was never the true test of the labyrinth,” said the princess. “The true test of the labyrinth is this: in order to find love, you must enter in without pretence or a scheme, you must be willing to be lose yourself to find it.”
The two detectives stood over the body. They had only arrived a few minutes earlier. The other officers attending the scene formed a jagged but reverential circle around them, watching. Detective Tunde Adewale bent down to more closely examine the body. “Single stab wound to the chest,” he said. “An upward motion and some dragging indicating that the assailant had to use extra force to get the blade in.” Detective Kunle Adebayo nodded and motioned for a junior officer who was holding an evidence bag. “Contents of the dead man’s pockets, sir,” said the officer. Detective Adebayo took the bag and held it to the light. “A receipt for Mancinni’s, paid cash but no wallet on him,” he said. “An empty money clip, wedding band, a bunch of keys and a phone.” Detective Adewale, sighed, “Pretty obvious what’s happened here, don’t you think.” “Indeed,” said Detective Adebayo, “And I think this will give us the smoking gun.” Detective Adebayo retrieved the victim’s phone from the evidence bag and held it to the dead man’s face. The two detectives stood together as they swiped through the phone. Periodically, they arched eyebrows and nodded before adopting matching resolute expressions. They looked up at the officers surrounding them, shaking their heads, as if in disappointment. “This is getting boring,” said Detective Adewale. “I think it’s a bit worrying actually,” said Detective Adebayo. “With clues this obvious, they should be to solve the case without our help.” “Put us out of our misery then,” said one of the officers at the scene. “Didn’t you check his phone?” asked Detective Adewale. “You know we did,” came the response. Detective Adewale rubbed his temples and Detective Adebayo took a deep breath. “The victim had a wedding ring,” said Detective Adewale. “But it was in his pocket.” “A social media post from his friend at 6pm shows the the victim and six friends enjoying drinks,” said Detective Adebayo. “Another post at 9pm shows only the six friends.” “He messaged his wife that he was going out with ‘the boys’,” said Detective Adewale “But he paid cash for dinner for two at a restaurant.” “He was having an affair,” said Detective Adebayo. “The victim’s wife follows the friend who posted the two images,” said Detective Adewale. “It’s likely she put two and two together with other clues, as we have.” “For example, the victim paid cash but kept the receipt, he may have done so before,” said Detective Adebayo. “Plus, the victim has two different colours of of hair on his clothing,” said Detective Adewale. “One matches the hair colour of his wife, who we can see in several of his social media images, the other presumably comes from our mystery woman.” “The angle of the blade and the nature of the force used is consistent with someone the height and build of his wife,” said Detective Adebayo. “The victim ordered a car via a ride share app, but never took the ride,” said Detective Adewale “But the proximity alert for the car he shares with his wife, indicated that the car was here about an hour ago.” “It’s all rather obvious when you look at all of the evidence,” said Detective Adebayo.  “Simple deduction,” said Detective Adewale. “I suggest some of you finish up here, whilst the rest of you go an arrest his wife, their address is in several places on his phone,” said Detective Adebayo as he adjusted his hat. The two men turned to leave, Detective Adewale turned back to add, “And we’ll head over to Mancini’s, I think we can get there before their breakfast service ends.”