One-Command Story

You can’t sleep. The sheets feel greasy, your throat parches no matter how often you go to refill your water-glass. The frogs are amorous and wish this to be known. It’s no cooler out here, but it’s better than squirming about in bed, pretending that there’s a chance of nodding off.

Unreconciled Gardens
An Interactive Fiction by intfiction.org
Release 1 | Unform 8 | Serial number twelvety-two

Balcony
A cast-iron structure painted a thick, crumbling white. It overlooks the courtyard, and in winter you can see across to windows on every side; but at times like these, clear nights in the rich heart of summer, the fruit-trees fill up the darkness so densely that you can imagine them an endless forest.

An aged loveseat is propped against the wall. Your room lies back through the French windows, unlit and cavernous.

>INVENTORY

You are carrying:
A Dremel tool
Pants (being worn)
A Map

>x me

Sweat beads on your forehead and your tired frame hangs heavy. Your hair is bed-dishevelled and rings have formed beneath your eyes. You’re also five months pregnant.

> X MAP

A print of Ser Ritter’s latest map of Hy-Brasil, intricately detailed, although you can’t speak to the accuracy. Unfolded, it’s broader than your arms can spread. You have coloured about a third of the map so far, applying ink washes to the provinces that thicken to dense bands at their borders. You could certainly use the money, but of late you’ve had little patience for the fiddly task.

>X TOOL

You bought it from Ser Dremel and Daughters (Constructors, Limited) a year ago. The broadsheet advertisement said “Needs sharpening but once a month!” and astonishingly, experience has borne out this claim. True, the fourth and fifth holes are now clogged and half the pegs are wedged in place with scraps of paper, but the thing basically works.

> PICK FRUIT

One of the fruit tree branches reaches almost to the balcony. You grab it with your left hand, pull it towards you until an orange comes within reach, and try to pick the fruit with your right. But is is far from ripe yet, and doesn’t come loose.

> TIE BRANCH TO BALCONY

You loop the tip of the branch – supple yet strong – around the railing of the balcony, and manage to create enough of a knot to keep the limb firmly in place. The tree looks odd this way, bending slightly over towards your room. It’s possible this will be noticed from below if you leave it too long.

> PUSH LOVESEAT TO RAILING

The aged loveseat squeaks across the balcony to the railing.

You feel a twinge where your stomach muscles used to be. Too much exertion could be dangerous in your delicate condition.

X PEGS

The last peg was the most annoying to fix. That piece of paper, infact, was the least you should have used.

The squeaking noise of the back door opening, under the terrace, says you should start hurrying.

CLIMB BRANCH

[spoiler]By loosening or tightening the strings, the pegs allow you to finely tune the blade’s harmonics. ‘Finely’, if it was a professional build, and it wasn’t in need of repair, and you had flunked out of the Academy after the advanced course. The four most useful pegs have been working loose, and had to be shimmed down. But experience, or perhaps pride, suggests that it can be used perfectly well with just Season, Pitch, Wing, Aroma and Semicolon.

All five pegs are at the slackest setting, as is proper for an instrument not in use.[/spoiler]

Some part of you (nine years old, vexingly nimble, and quite quite full of herself) reminds you that orange trees are too bushy and covered with thorns to be worth climbing. She’s trying to be diplomatic about your weight, but her low opinion of the arboreal proficiency of adults is clear.

>IN

Bedroom
It’s almost completely dark in here, but you know the layout of the room better than anyone: your spacious queen bed propped up against the wall, a dresser on the other side, right next to the walk-in closet. A large, ajar door to the west leads out into the hallway; the windows you just ambled through are to the east.

As your eyes adjust to the lack of light, you notice that the side of the bed on which your wife, Lynda, usually sleeps, appears to be empty, thus confirming your suspicions. You’d better hurry downstairs.

> w

Upstairs Hallway
Shuffling around the corner, your foot lands on and crushes one of Chloe’s Lego masterpieces, which Lynda was supposed to make her pick up before the bedtime story. Probably that was the boat, and Morogh O’Ley and his captors are now drowning somewhere in the carpet.

You kick the pieces against the north wall, where the door to Chloe’s room is. You’ll work out your apology later, or else spin it as an object lesson on leaving things lying around. In the meantime, you’re inclined to limp the other direction, towards the staircase.

> limp s

C Staircase, Upper Floor
The head of a tight spiral staircase, this space has a certain austere elegance in daytime; by night it’s a gloomy monochrome, stark and institutional. The hallway, northwards, offers some relief.

Golden light approaches up the stairwell, with clonks and muffled giggles. After a moment Chloe and Piet appear, headlamps bobbing. Chloe is in her nightdress and rubber boots, which squelch. They are manhandling three enormous tin pails between them.

Piet is barefoot with chinos rolled up to the knee, and has affected a horrible checked waistcoat with no shirt. He has the grace to look somewhat guilty. “Evening, sis.”

Chloe is old enough to have mastered Excuses. “You said the other day that the frogs were keeping you awake all night, and Piet said that if you put them in a bucket with a lid on they stop singing. You have to put a hole in the lid so they can breathe, look.”

Piet grins broadly. “Lunch! Or if you’re feeling merciful in the morning, we can put them back.”

  1. “Piet, are you high?”
  2. “Have you seen Lynda?”
  3. “You took her to the creek after dark? What about the rusalka?”

>2

“Piet, I’m concerned about Lynda,” you tell him. “She’s not in bed, and she didn’t mention going anywhere this evening. Have you seen her about?”

“Ah,” he replies. “She’s downstairs cleaning up. She was kind enough to come with us and use her Tool to keep the rusalka at bay. She’ll feel ever so guilty that we woke you up, especially considering,” he trails off vaguely, glancing briefly downwards.

  1. “Oh, go clean up, then.”
  2. “I’ll just say I had a craving, which is actually true.”
  3. “This shall wait until morning. Go to bed, both of you.”

> 2

“Don’t worry about that,” you say, “I’ll just tell her that I woke up because I was hungry.”,

Piet and Chloe sneak a glance at each other and seem relieved.

  1. Go clean up.
  2. Go to bed, the both of you.
  3. You probably should let the frogs go

> 3

edited because I didn’t see page two. sorry.

“You should probably let the frogs go. I don’t think you caught enough of them to lower the volume.”

They’re crestfallen. Piet has an abiding love of frog-leg tempura, although he doesn’t have the patience to dress them. Chloe… Chloe looks as if she’s convincing herself that she has legitimate grounds for a sulk. This must be nipped in the bud.

“Chloe, you know you have to ask me before you go anywhere after dark. No exceptions, all right? And Piet doesn’t count. Piet, I’ll trouble you to behave like a grown-up around my daughter. Now, let them go in the duck-pond; they’ll find their way home.” Or fatten the ducks; but it avoids more frolics in the creek, and will be quickly accomplished. Chloe must be tired.

Piet looks as if he’s contemplating rebellion, but folds. They retreat downstairs, sagging under the buckets.

>COMMANDS DREMEL

The following Vital Commands are associated with the Dremel tool. You know more, but the tool isn’t capable of performing them.

Accentuate
Cajole
Fetter
Mollify
Palliate
Redact

Currently, only Accentuate, Fetter, and Mollify are possible, given the state of the fourth and fifth holes in the tool.

> TOOL, ACCENTUATE PANTS

The waistband of the pants expands, then settles in snugly around your belly. That’s much better.

>DOWN

C Staircase, Lower Floor
You trudge to the bottom of the spiral staircase that leads up into your family’s rooms, the normally lush carpet here is now bedraggled by boot prints and the mud sticks to the balls of your feet. A tiny harlequin frog tries to subtly hop away. As it’s a frog, tiny though it may be, its attempts at subtlety fail and you clearly see it hop north to the downstairs hallway.

> CATCH FROG

(first following the tiny harlequin frog north)

Downstairs Hallway

Bare plaster walls and an uncharacteristically grimy carpet. Despite moonlight admitted through windows regularly spaced, the hallway is mostly lost in shadow. The hall extends north, before turning a corner, and south, terminating at the staircase to your family’s rooms. The doors to the dining room, east, and the parlor, west, are both shut tight.

A flickering yellow light shines from around the corner to the north.

Someone has left a walking cane propped against one wall.

After a short comical chase around the room, you manage to catch the frog within cupped hands.

>EXAMINE FROG