Kodama – a String City micro-story

String CitizenLast summer, I live-tweeted a piece of micro-fiction called Kodama. It’s an ultra-condensed story set in the twisted world of String City. The Twitter account I used to broadcast the story – @stringcitizen – never picked up many followers so I’ve collated all the tweets and run them together here as a single narrative.

There are plenty of folk out there experimenting with Twitter fiction. One of my favourites is @jeffnoon. Kodama was my first attempt at presenting a coherent story in bite-sized chunks, and I’m not really sure how effective it is, especially having lost its ‘live broadcast’ gimmick. It may also too much on familiarity with the String City universe – which is a weird place at the best of times. If you think it works, let me know with a comment below. And don’t hold back if you think the story stinks – I can take it.

Kodama

3.01pm Isembard Farthing’s in the office. String City’s shadiest lawyer. Hired me to serve an eviction notice.

3.05pm The Mayor wants to evict a kodama. Kodamas are tree spirits. This one lives in an oak tree outside the new City Hall.

3.10pm The oak tree blocks the sun outside the Mayor’s window. Guess why the big guy wants the kodama evicted?

3.15pm Checked the planning records. City Hall opened last month. The oak tree’s 7,000 years old. Due to be felled. This job stinks.

3.20pm Walking to City Hall. Wearing snowshoes. The drifts make String City look like it’s been iced by the gods.

3.25pm Standing under the oak tree. It’s forty storeys high. Two blocks wide. In autumn they evacuate the neighbourhood.

3.30pm I brought a Teach Yourself Kodama phrase book. Tried an opening incantation. No response. Tried kicking the tree instead.

3.35pm The kodama’s materialised. An old woman’s face moulded in the tree bark. Big as a Buick. Eyes like pools of sap.

3.40pm I served the kodama with the eviction. She chewed it up, spat it out. Now the Mayor’s Guard’s turned up. With guns.

3.45pm Isembard Farthing’s appeared. He’s talking on a two-way radio. The Mayor’s voice is coming from the earpiece.

3.50pm The Guard’s setting explosives round the tree. Sap’s gushing from the kodama’s mouth. Melting the snow. Also the street.

3.55pm Turning my coat inside out. Once, twice, three times. Now it’s made of sap-proof gaberdine. Up to my knees in acidic tree-juice.

4.01pm Sap’s still rising. City Hall’s lower storeys are dissolving. So’s the Mayor’s Guard. Glad I’ve got my coat.

4.05pm The kodama’s speaking to me. It’s asking if my coat’s got pockets. At first I don’t get it. Then I understand. I say yes.

4.10pm The explosives have gone off. The oak tree’s toppling. Giant roots breaking through the street. Time to run.

4.15pm The tree’s falling on City Hall. The Mayor’s running out. He’s naked. So’s his secretary. I give him poor odds on re-election.

4.20pm Woke up in a snowdrift. Flying branch must have knocked me cold. The oak tree’s down. City Hall too.

4.25pm The Mayor’s in cuffs. Farthing’s vanished. Typical lawyer. Damn shame about the tree. Snow’s started coming down again.

4.31pm Back at the office. Pulled a broken branch out of my coat pocket. Something’s still in there: a single acorn.

4.35pm There’s a face in the acorn. An old lady. The kodama. She says thanks. I say no problem.

4.40pm My office is shabby. There’s a desk, a filing cabinet, a coffee machine. Now there’s a plant pot in the corner too.

4.45pm The acorn’s started to grow. Give it 7,000 years it’ll look pretty fine. Ever seen a sapling smile? I have.

4.50pm Reckon I’ve earned a shot of bourbon. Time to kick back, wait for my next case. And watch the oak flowers grow.

Comments

  1. Definitely an interesting idea.

  2. This is the first time I’ve heard of micro fiction. I’m not really sure what I think about it. It’s a really neat idea, but as a voracious reader I’m not sure I can handle getting a story bit by bit. I like the story though. I need to think about this some more.

    • In the case of this example, I don’t think I spent enough time crafting the individual phrases – with so little text, every word counts. And subtext become much more important. Then there are the constraints of the episodic format. Do I try to write self-contained one-liners? Or rely on the reader’s anticipation for the next tweet? It’s a surprisingly complex business.

      • It does seem really difficult. I think that you should keep on doing it though. It’s a very interesting concept. Just like writing anything else, it will take practice to hone your skill. I think that you should keep trying. I would be quite interested to see what you do with it from here.

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