The Tilt. Short Story.

Hope everyones weekend was fun.

I didn’t get up to much, partly because I was really tired and partly because I am still slowly but surely being roasted to death.

I also made pancakes!

On with the show!


The ground started to shake, everything twisting and slanting. “Shit, grab the plate, grab the-” The plate slid off the table and shattered on the ground, the biscuits were covered in shards of porcelain. Everything righted itself again. She bent to pick up the pieces, “they’re getting more frequent.” “No they’re not.” “It’s the fourth time this month. The most we’ve ever had.” “It isn’t that bad. It’s just a bit active is all.” She sighed. “Fine. Believe that if you want.” She righted the cups, “get a cloth would ya and do something useful.” The table top was covered in tea. He left the room, going to the kitchen. “Where’s the cloth?” “Under the sink. What’s it like in there?” “Not too bad.” She squinted slightly, Brian’s version of “not too bad” could mean a single cup had broken or the entire place was destroyed. He returned a moment later and tossed the cloth to her, “here.” “Great. Thanks. At least clean up the kitchen a bit.” “Sure sure.” He left again. The noise hadn’t been too bad this time, normally the grinding was deafening as the gears jammed or stalled or did whatever it was that caused everything to stop briefly. She dropped the cloth onto the table and quickly wiped up the worst of the spill, if this kept happening people would have to start complaining soon. Too much damage was being done. She couldn’t keep buying new cups and plates. It was getting ridiculous. At least most of the important things, or rather things that would fall easily, were secured to the floors and walls. She wasn’t looking forward to opening the bookshelves, last week she’d barely missed getting hit in the eye by a book when she opened them. Brian hadn’t put the brackets down to keep them secure. She glanced at the cupboard, she’d let him open it. Brian came back a moment later, “kitchen is clean.” “Proper clean or your clean?” “Proper clean.” “Good. Did you check the water lines?” “still running.” “Ok, so maybe that damage wasn’t too severe this time.” Usually it wasn’t, though five years ago a particularly severe tilt had stopped power and water for five days. That wasn’t particularly fun. She’d be able to have a shower later on at least. “Do you really think they’re getting worse Allie?” “No, I’m sorry. I was just angry.” She turned away from him, hoping he wouldn’t see the lie. There was no point in worrying him. He hadn’t been sleeping well the last few days. He never slept well this time of the year. They had been lucky really, their parents died on the job, while they had been repairing some of the machinery. The money the state gave to them allowed Allie and Brian to live well enough, they were able to keep the house. Their parents had made sure they paid their state insurance dues, not many did the same. Death wasn’t too uncommon for the workers, but it was rare that both parents would die at once. The Sisters ran the orphanage as best they could, but with so little money from the state, it meant sparse food and depressing dwellings. It was an easy place to forget about, the children didn’t go to school, they worked and their earnings went to The Sisters, at least in theory. Most of the children kept the money for themselves, saving so they could leave as soon as they could, few of them made if very far once they left. Allie left the sitting room and went into the kitchen, it was surprisingly clean. Their day together was slightly spoiled by the tilt, but she wouldn’t let it bring her down. It always unnerved her brother, of course it didn’t help that a tilt had been the cause of her parents death. The machinery was never stopped, doing so would be dangerous, but the tilts were so rare they were usually able to schedule maintenance so the tilts never occurred. Their parents deaths were the second and third to be caused by the occurrence of a tilt while they were working on the machinery.

Allie opened the fridge carefully, hoping nothing would fall out, they had already bought their food for the week and anything that was destroyed couldn’t be replaced. Everything was still in its rightful place. Allie took the chocolate cakes from the fridge, a rare treat they only got a few times a year, and brought them out. They were going to be eaten after dinner, but she figured they deserved them. She placed them on two plates, then filled the tea kettle. It would help them calm their nerves. She took out too mugs and started her preparations.

Brian had gone to his room and she called him into the sitting room. The look of surprise on his face was worth it. He sat down, smiling, “I thought we could do with this.” He nodded and began to eat. Brian always ate his as fast as possible, as though worried someone would rip it away. Allie savoured hers, eating slowly. Brian Had finished his and was sipping his tea, Allie took another mouthful of cake, then put the rest onto Brian’s plate, “really?” “Yeah, go ahead, I’ve had enough.” “Thanks.” He wolfed down her cake. “Do you want to start the game again?” “Nah, I’m ok.” “Yeah. I figured.” The pieces were still on the floor, she hadn’t bothered to pick them up yet.

Allie lay awake in bed, she couldn’t sleep, even though she had work in the morning. She kept tossing and turning, worried about the tilts. No matter what anyone else said, they were getting more and more frequent. What if the engines were failing? That was supposed to be an impossibility, but what if? They could fall right out of the sky. She didn’t know how the island stayed afloat, no one did, not anymore. Everyone knew about their sections and how to keep it going, but no one knew what their section did, or how it interacted with the others. If something vital was failing or needed to be replaced, who would know? She rolled over again, trying to push the thoughts out of her mind. Someone greater than her would know about it, they’d be trying to fix it. She wouldn’t be the only one that knew about it. Someone else must know, but still that fear remained. Brian snored gently, she could still hear it, even from across the hall. When their parents died, she had moved into their room. Brian’s snores were still thunderous, she smiled slightly as sleep pulled her down.

Deep in the heart of the island, people stood around, studying schematics, “we don’t know why it isn’t working, everything is in perfect condition.” “something must be different.” “No, not at all, whenever a part broke we replaced it exactly. It should be working.” “Figure it out. I don’t know what will happen if you can’t.” “It won’t come to that.” “It better not.” Around them gears started to grind against one another, the noise became deafening as the island began to slowly tilt.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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