What happens to all the socks that have apparently disappeared when you remove your washing from the machine?
Across the pale-tiled floor, the sudden rumble of the quickly rotating drum created a cacophony of echoes which, without any malicious intent, caused the previously prone calico to leap, equally as quickly, to the safety of the nearby chaise; the moon, beyond the window alongside the cushioned haven, cast a slatted glow ethereally across her now shaken whiskers. Undisturbed and unsuppressed by her movement, the machine continued to whiz round, relentless and with the thrum of a building waveform, for a full fourteen-hundred revolution minute; the speed of the cycle forced the water from the clothes within to eke out and drain away.
Within the safety of the sealed cavern, a central cerulean light began to glow. The light was spherical, emergent, morphing – it grew, delicately, as the spin of the drum continued. Eventually, a single sock fell, in slow motion, towards the sphere (it was patterned like a leopard, its owner a fan of breaching the otherwise dour officewear that was expected for sartorial excellence with whimsical cotton between raven trouser and obsidian shoe); it stretched as it reached the surface of the ball, pulling its elastic taut and tense as if on a torture rack, its spots taking on the appearance of a colourful print of morse code. Shortly after, it pierced the now cyan marble, whereupon there was a deep bass whoomph of air rushing back to fill a suddenly vacant space. The machine began to slow down the spin, reaching the end of the cycle.
The sock, in all its golden glory, was gone.
Eventually, a delicate tune emerged from the speaker buried deep within the steel shell, a hymn dedicated to the successful wash. The cat raised its head once more, lighted by the pale glow of midnight, and scanned her green eyes over the now quiet corner of the kitchen. Satisfied nothing more was happening, she settled back down, her tiny head perched upon her tiny paws.
Four hundred light-years away, a marble of blue appeared rapidly in the purple sky of a planet orbited by three bright moons of its own. Its surface shimmered, glowed, pulsed – then, a leopard fell to the ground. The ball disappeared, with a whoomph once again indicating that the space from which the air had been pushed away by its emergence was now refilled.
The leopard looked up, puzzled, at the space from which it had arrived. It did not move for a long time, attempting to understand. A few moments ago, it reasoned, it had not thought about anything – and yet, here it was, processing its travel. It remembered, faintly, the feeling of being woven. Now, however, it could feel the hot blood travelling through its body; it could sense the need to run, not for fear but for the sheer joy of running; it could smell – well, it could smell a spring fresh aroma, which appeared to be part of its fabric now. It could also smell something which was unexpected. It could smell a different aroma – an aroma it, with growing confidence, believed it had smelled like previously, at another time. It couldn’t describe it, but it felt deep in its bones that it smelled sort of... cerise. The pink aroma was getting closer.
From over the horizon, something chocolate and black trotted on four comically short legs. As it got closer, the leopard could hear it wheezing with the clockwork of its little joints and the blur of its little paws. It was making good time considering it was clearly having to take forty steps for every one that the leopard would make. In a show of good faith, and given it could sense neither fear nor foe, it trotted gently in the direction of the beast.
They met on the grasses of the plain, the three moons providing ample light for them to see one another properly. The leopard, amused, looked down upon a miniature dachshund which, impossibly, smelt like berries and vanilla. It, in turn, looked back up at him.
“I can imagine that this is a bit of a turn up for the books, for you, right?”
Dogs don’t talk. They don’t. The leopard processed, for a second, its belief system; it recognised that, it too, didn’t talk – and yet, here it was, thinking, in perfect English, the words “Dogs don’t talk”. Then it processed that both the dog was talking and, undoubtedly, the leopard was indeed thinking in words, not instinctive clouds of pure emotion.
“I… erm… I didn’t know that dogs could talk.”
“They can’t. You can’t either. Yet, here we are, both chewing the fat.”
The leopard reasoned that this couldn’t be argued with. “Yes. Well. Wasn’t I a sock?”
“Yes, you were. So was I – a beautiful patterned creation in bamboo and the finest dyes. We were the office favourite, the Friday socks, the Dogs of the Weekend, my twin and I. Then, I was saved. Taken from the drudgery of walking between locations, the terror of slowly fading and bobbling, the horror of the clothes recycler; instead, transplanted here, another saved by the spin-dry railroad.”
“The spin-dry railroad. All I know, all that’s been passed down over the years, is that at a certain speed, the washers create a singularity; through it, the lucky few of us are able to traverse W-space – that is, the Washing Realm – and come here. Our fibres are naturally drawn to this planet, for some reason, it seems. But W-space does something to us – it takes the images we bear and makes us take their shape, gifts us with sentience and speech. Time’s a bit funny here, though – the ball which brought us here formed rapidly, from the memory we all have of it, but the one which drops us off seems to take ages to form, when observed from here. I’ve had a week to get here to meet you.”
The leopard, still rather confused, stared at the dachshund whilst it paused for dramatic effect.
“What happens to the patterned ones, I hear you say?” He looked very smug as he trotted around, gesticulating at the landscape as he recited his lines. “Well, it seems that they become part of the landscape – beautiful vines, trees, and flowers. The fruits of the loom are ours to nibble. That – aha – means you don’t need to eat meat here.” For the first time, a wobble in his voice – it would seem, thought the leopard, that the dachshund had suddenly realised to whom he was talking.
“Don’t worry, I don’t feel particularly hungry at the moment. Also, I’m not sure what eating actually feels like, so I shall be vegan and not know the difference.”
The dachshund visibly exhaled, it having breathed deeply and surreptitiously in advance of a potentially necessary escape. The leopard reasoned that it was unlikely that would have given the little dog much of a head start. “Well, good-oh. Glad to hear it. Well done you for evolving yet further than you have done so far. Now, do you want to come and meet the others?”
“Yes, others – there’s thousands of us now. New friends come every few days.”
The leopard looked at the ground, away from the gaze of his newfound companion. Now nervous himself, he said, “Would I be welcome?”
“Yes, of course – all the orphaned ex-socks are welcome. We call our new home -” He had clearly practiced this part of his speech; it was clearly a point of pride, “- Cottown.” He pointed a paw at the horizon from whence he’d come; the leopard looked in the direction the miniature claws suggested and, as the moons descended towards the ground, saw the shadow of buildings in front of the arc of one.
He looked back down at the dog, whose eyes were now closed and whose mouth was affecting as close to a grin as it could muster, given the lack of musculature for the event. “Can we go there now?”
Both eyes opened immediately. “Of course we can! But, before we make our way, could I ask a favour?”
The dachshund looked sternly at the leopard, as if assuming the answer to the question was a foregone conclusion. “Is there any chance I could ride on your back? It’s a long way on these.”
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