Humor Fiction posted January 12, 2020

This work has reached the exceptional level
Spoiler: Get ready to be bombarded by the number 20!

Grandpa's Meteorite (v 20.0)

by Aaqib Naeem

Short Story Contest Winner 

"Twenty billion years ago, Ibrahim, when your grandfather was but a boy; just as you are one now but only older, the sky__". That was all Jamal could manage before being cut off, by both his elderly wife and toddler of a grandson.

"Ha!" his wife snickered and coughed in a fit of laughter. "I know some exaggeration exists in every story but, do you really have to start in this manner?" Ibrahim, a chubby little puppy-eyed boy of 4, who could barely even count to twenty on a good day, looked rightly confused. "Is that a very long time grandpa?" was all he could muster.

Jamal shifted in the bed and incidentally, disturbed the blanket by pulling too hard. He had to move and readjust the blanket again so his wife, Zarina, Ibrahim and he were fully covered again. Looking over the adorable child lying between them, his eyes found Zarina and with a gentle chuckle, conveyed the message; that after all these years together did not need to be said out loud. 'Just let it go!'', he had thought to himself, 'This is story time, and I can say whatever I deem to be funny. So, play along!' And she had understood.

"Now, as I was saying...the sky once glowed red and yellow as far as the eye could see! I looked up and saw fire-balls heading down straight towards Earth. Even though I ran to take cover, I could not help but feel mesmerized at the sight. I started counting them, to find out how many there were, you see, and before I knew it; I had counted them all. All TWENTY of them!" That drew another chortle from Zarina and caressing Ibrahim's hair she whispered in his ear.

"Your grandpa loves this number for some reason. Twenty! I guess you'll find out soon enough." Ibrahim showered her with a quick, half-understanding smile and eagerly turned back to Jamal. He wanted to learn the tale of fireballs, twenty or not.

"When they landed with distant booming crashes, I ran towards the crash sites one-by-one to appease my curious nature, you know. Massive, shiny pieces of rock and metal they were as if broken fragments of a star. Meteorites is what people call them now, I suppose." Jamal smiled mischievously now, having laid a solid base to his story, and prepared to fully launch into his outlandish and improbable tale.

"To my surprise and wonder, I found out that..." he paused and leaned in for dramatic effect and exclaimed, "Every Meteorite was neatly cloven in half with a clear message, precisely written. That message, in-fact all 20 of them, were addressed to me, your grandfather!"

"Wooooow!" said Ibrahim. The word elongated by the wonder in his voice and also, the yawn he had tried to stifle. Jamal beamed proudly and patted himself on the back for captivating the kid's imagination. Zarina had also started to get into the story by this point. Silly or not, her husband was known to spin a tale or two. She acknowledged that. Yet, she inquired, "How do you know that message was meant for you?" Jamal had expected that question and with a clever grin, replied immediately.

"Well! Because, it had my name on it! In capital letters no less. So, I knew this was no coincidence. But the message itself was a strange one, to say the least. Was it cryptic? No! Was it a prophecy? No, Ma'am, not that either! On second thought, it was one I suppose! A prophecy indeed but that is not all." He pondered over the right word for a moment and then, continued. "They were a set of instructions, telling me to go to a particular location. A place where I was supposed to, and I quote, "Find love"."

"Where was that place, grandpa?" Ibrahim asked in an urgent tone. "You'll know that soon enough kid. Let me tell you first what the complete message was." Jamal shushed him with that and hastily tried to mash together a poem.

"Twenty meteorites you found,
Twenty yards apart on smoldering ground!
Twenty messages they have for you;
Twenty times you should memorize; lest you forget!

Twenty cities you must pass;
Twenty rivers you must cross!
Twenty miles south of the twentieth city;
Twenty nights you must spend!

Twenty days later you will find love!
Twenty you shall be in those twenty days;
Twenty will also be her age; and
Twenty words of love will woo her!"

Nearly out of breath, Jamal finished his monologue and exhaled deeply. He then quickly turned his head around to judge the looks on the listeners' faces. Ibrahim had a dreamy, dazed expression on his face, mixed largely with confusion. It was safe to say that his innocent mind had lost track of the sequence midway and yet, he was satisfied. Most likely, the number twenty was swimming all around his consciousness by now. Repetition always has that affect.

Zarina, on the other hand, was visibly in a state of shock. For she, as an adult, could actually appreciate the wit required to come up with such non-sense off the top of your head. And this wasn't really non-sense either, if you thought about it. The fact that Jamal had just conjured, a full-fledged prophecy out of thin air deserved appreciation. Her husband, of over a lifetime; still had the ability to render her speechless. Amazed by his word-play, she started laughing out loud in merriment and applauded Jamal openly for his prophetic poem.

"Bravo! You had me there, my dear old man! I know this is supposed to be just a bedtime story for our grandson but; I'm also fully invested in it now. I am dying to know what twists you twirl next." After spending an era together and having gone through the ups and downs of life as a couple; that is as high a praise as I'll ever get again, thought Jamal. He was glad and beamed with pride at such gracious comments.

Jamal's chain of thought was interrupted by Ibrahim, once again. The sweet angel was impatient to hear the rest of the story. He lovingly kissed his grandson on his nose-tip, then leaned back and moved further into his creative arc.

"Well, baby (the word secretly meant for his wife as well at this point) listen up! At first, your grandpa was confused. One must always question oneself, even when the task is crystal clear. I mulled over the enchanting prophecy for a little while and then, my curious side won. I decided to undertake this hardy journey, on foot. In those days, your feet were all you could depend on and I was a strong lad. Always ate healthy myself and that's what I want for you too. Humph! Come to think of it; you are pretty meaty for a boy your age! Good...good!"

"Ah! I lost track there for a minute. Only want what's best for you child. Anyway, I traveled far and traveled with haste. I was adamant about reaching the designated scene as soon as possible. After all, I still had to wait for twenty days and twenty nights once I got there. Step by step, I overcame the herculean milestones. Many a city I saw and many a river I waded through. Well, twenty of each to be exact. And I did not stop unless I had to, for sleep and shelter. Your young, agile grandfather only stopped for good once he had passed the twentieth city. Even then, wait for it...after exactly twenty miles south of the place".

Jamal decided to take a little break here and reached for the water jug. His continuous rant had left his throat dry and aching. As he poured water into the glass, he decided to analyze his audience. Resulting, in him spilling a few mouthfuls on the bed-side table! While his narration had been excellent; sleep and laziness had started to take over his beloved grandchild. Zarina had a peaceful look on her face. Her eyes were somewhat unfocused but her mind was still up for the final part of the story her husband was masterfully weaving. She had guessed beforehand that the next part would include her and had begun rooting for her husband to get the girl. Meanwhile, Jamal had quenched his thirst and was ready to talk.

"I was finally there. The place where I was ushered to be at by some Divine Intervention! And come to think of took me twenty fortnights to get there. I am not even making this up at this point. Alright, alright I am, of course I am! But this also adds up to good effect doesn't it? Ha-ha! Ok, where was I...?"

"Yes, now I had to wait. For the fatal twenty days and twenty nights to pass! I must admit that tested my patience. What if all this was simply an Almighty prank? HA! Did you get it? Anyway, I sat and slept underneath a grand oak and had to forage for food. Each day went past slowly and the lonely nights were longer still. Eventually, I was bored out of my senses. I lost count of the days and awoke one day (sure as the sun's routine, it must have been the twentieth day) to a pleasant surprise."

As if on cue, the old couple's eyes found each other and twinkled. Simultaneously, they checked on the child between them; who had apparently slipped into slumber some time ago. Good, thought Jamal, let him sleep! This next part wasn't meant for him anyway.

He freely looked into his wife's eyes now and asked her if she wished to hear more. "Of course!" came the instant reply. Zarina was travelling back into the fond memories of the good old days. Emotions and memories flooded her consciousness and she yearned for a private tour through time and space. She was desperate to be there; even if the story really did begin 20 billion years ago.

"Well, honey, I woke up to gaze upon you! A woman for whom I had fulfilled the Prophecy of Twenty-ness! There we were under that merciful tree...Young and Beautiful; fresh out of our teen-years. A most elegant lady as you had come wandering around to where I was sleeping. Your sashaying footsteps, on fallen autumn leaves, had brought me back to the land of the living. A pleasant surprise indeed it was; and a gift too. Remember...that was my 20th birthday!"

"Indeed it was!" chanted Zarina from within her trance. What a journey life had taken them through and back again. Suddenly, she thought of something that she knew Jamal would find amusing. "We are both 80 now, you know! Been together for 60 years...pray tell, what mathematical table, we seem to be destined to follow, my love?"

Without hesitation, Jamal took her hand and kissed the wrinkled skin and proceeded to hold it against his cheek. And a soft murmur escaped his lips, "Twenty's!"

Writing Prompt
Write a short story, 2020 words, about 'Message in a Meteorite'.
Story begins with and ends with the word 'Twenty', on its own or in a sentence.

Short Story
Contest Winner

Author Says:
Here's my 20 cents on this piece:
The contest demanded that I, both start and finish the story, with twenty. Guess they had no idea I would run wild with this!
I tried to get it to 2020 words but couldn't without compromising on quality.
Also tried to make the poem 20 lines long but could not do so without compromising quality.
Every pun is intended, even the ones that are not!
If, at any point during the read, you get sick of the number 20 then...You're Welcome!
This is the best I could do for the 20/20 contest and I hope all readers, with their perfect 20/20 vision, find enough entertainment to keep reading.
Happy 20th Anniversary FanStory!
Note:The picture was "borrowed" from Google.
Let's aim for 20 reviews!
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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