Six experimental openings

Six experimental openings


She opens her front door to find a transparent robot.

From behind that clear thorax and those poised limbs of tubular precision, the familiar distant hills show through, under a sunset of fire-ribboned clouds – familiar, though seen there as distorted as memory.
Within that wide chest, embedded chrome nodes glint… amid other, complex items, which seem to shift somehow under her gaze without exactly moving, so evading precise scrutiny.

She avoids looking at the face – the eyes…

The usual expression, she knows, will be there.

‘So – you’re back.’


She opens her front door to find a transparent robot.

She clutches the doorframe in a spasm, swaying back on her heels. Even seen from a city block away, the giant figure towers upward into the night.
The robot’s monumental proportions seem sculpted chunkily from the darkness: glinting reflections, skewed shards of cityscape, outline its form, fleeing across its contours as it moves. Inside it, glowing internal paths interlace, like so many nerves or sinews. Along these, throbs and pulses of alien light are flowing, animating it – a colossal diagram of power.

She has had to crane her neck to see its top. Slowly… steadily… that impersonal head is turning her way.
Lurching back, a hot drumming in her temples, she slams the door.
Moments later, stabbing searchlights slice around the door’s edges.
She finds herself crouched hollow and trembling across the hallway, against the foot of the stairs. A faint buzzing, hardly heard at first, grows in her ears: more distinct, it becomes a rumbling clatter. Then she realizes: those are helicopters, drawing ever nearer.


She opens her front door to find a transparent robot.

Futilely, instead she finds emptiness facing her. She’d felt certain though – of hearing its tread – just now, on the boards of the verandah. As she had each time before…
Putting belief and unbelief on hold, and some of her skin upon the battered wooden handrail, she looks both ways along the silent street. Some scattered papers blow fitfully across the dusty road, and seek refuge in the open garage of the house opposite… a reunion at least with their own kind, as they add to the drift of litter already there.

Not again.
How much longer will this experience repeat itself?…
…This life of hers, go on?

She nudges the door shut with an unregarded elbow, slumping back to the synthetic-leather sofa in the lounge. A coffee-table stained with forgotten rings patiently bears its burden: linked and unlinked paperclips, some twisted out of shape; and a ruffled document, now left unread for several days… as if its meaning has been worn away, abandoned as the workings of an exhausted mine.

There are moments when she doubts herself. Could it all be true?
Everybody else…

Once, she had been sure. Now…

Her thoughts circle slowly… blur, into soft vagueness…

Suddenly she jumps – hard clarity, alert.

She must have dozed… how long? The echo of a doorbell is jarring in her ears.


She opens her front door to find a transparent robot .

There it lay, cradled in a basket on the frost-dewed doorstep; delicate and elfin, partly-hidden by hasty wrappings. She feels divided: half her breath rising as a nebulous fugitive, going who knows where in this new winter morning landscape; half her breath holding itself still within her.

This is an enclosed moment; she dimly senses the arms of Time around her. Past and Future, the two limbs of this present Now, are poised, offering their precipitous embrace… perhaps threatening to engulf her… guaranteeing nothing, except that something must follow… a decision she must make.

As she stares, crystalline digits emerge from their covering blanket, flexing to grip its edge; and then the miniature hand reaches up toward her. Quickly she crouches down. A round head shifts in its cocoon of cloth, facing her with an unfathomable expression. Inside, tiny jewel-like wheels spin and brighten.

This one small form seems to hold within it a swarm of stars. Before thought can come, her arms have picked it up and are holding it to herself. It feels warm, and does not resist; oddly, comfortably warm, matching her own body.

She realizes that, through it – nestling here, nurtured – her own heart will be clearly seen.

From this moment, she knows she will never want to let go.


She opens her front door to find a transparent robot.

It will be, she instantly sees, no easy search.

Flakes, detaching from the icy darkness beyond, are driven fluttering inside: seeking refuge in the light and warmth of the House, losing themselves on contact. Outside, nothing can be seen except whirling snow, each particle destined either to venture its all through that doorway, or else remain unknown.

She tugs the parka-hood closer round her face and shoulders, and thrusts her hands into the heavy mittens. Their furry lining tries to comfort her. She shrugs her life-support pack more securely onto her shoulders, and steps out onto the metal walkway.
The door slides shut behind her. She feels herself buffeted.

The wind is not exactly howling; rather, murmuring a big intent. It is not offering help.

Her eyes begin to adjust, discerning vague forms, and she activates the goggles. The large lenses swing across her view from each side and lock into position; she turns her head slowly, scanning an environment still shadowy but now rendered snowless to her gaze.
Ahead, beyond the clear ground surrounding her House, the once-visited forest waits; in league with it, the framing hillsides, and the hostile sky. She knows that the unseen river, her source of power, must be swollen by now into a heaving tumult: it lies out of sight beyond a ridge… A ridge on which oddly-posed house-sized boulders brood.
The goggles are overlaying this ambiguous dark landscape with their hints and suppositions: flickering green outlines and orange text. Irritably she decides that the display will not help, but would only distract: she does not know how long the robot has been outside, nor in what condition she might find it. It may even be giving off altered traces, by damage or design; all of which make it a difficult target to define. She could hope that it is still moving; but in that case, it is also growing ever further from her.
She switches the goggles off; they part and retract, allowing her face to be offended afresh by the intimate threatenings of the chill gusty air.

Something of the forest, though, is in that air too – something vital, that awakes ancient surges in her heart and will and limbs. Questing, she will be guided by instinct; even in this age of new machines and unprecedented challenges, some things that are very old work best.

If nothing else, her hunting ancestors across ten millennia will recognize her spirit.


She opens her front door to find a transparent robot .

She has never seen it before in her life. She has just come home. It is in her home.

Both face each other, saying nothing, as if unprepared for the role thrust on them as fellow-occupants of this same moment. They size each other up pretty quickly.

As she takes a step forward, the robot takes a step back, perfectly in time, like partners in a dance.

She clutches her key fob firmly and points it at the robot’s face:
‘How did you get into my home? What do you want?’

The robot, in artistically-modulated tones, begins to speak.

Not apologizing, not explaining… It is listing its attributes – recommending itself, as a desirable product to own.

A sales pitch!

It is doomed to fail.

From the start, she has seen right through it.


Six experimental openings


Dunfermline, United Kingdom

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 1

Artist's Description

Alternative story openings, from the same start-point but then taken in various directions.

My idea is to branch out from an identical opening line but in a number of different ways. Anyone else, have a go? Choose an evocative idea, then stretch your wings..

(I suggest that ideas shared this way are available as springboards, for anyone to develop further – as stories perhaps for publication – provided appropriate acknowledgement is always given to the original author. )

Artwork Comments

  • Jonathan Dower
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

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