Saturday, 30 June 2012

Three sentence story

Today we offed two common crims and a political who’d pissed off the local wog brass, yeah? The pol took a long time to croak and in the end we had to speed him on his way so we could get back to camp before taps, and that was the first time in my life I’ve ever felt bad about hurting someone. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it scared the hell out of me when the whole day went dark; capisce?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Over the hedge

   I suppose it had to happen eventually (as Clive always said it would; may he Rest In Peace) and now it’s finally happened and an entire family of them has moved into Number Twenty Three – which was Mrs. Brenner’s old house and though we never got on; what with her not being quite our sort of person and the War and all, though she kept it very nicely appointed and had a gardener who went in every spring and summer after Mr. Brenner passed away but you can afford to do that, can’t you? when you’ve picked up so much money over the years in a variety of shall-we-say ‘businesses’; despite the efforts of hard-working folk (who’d lived here on The Estate from when it was first built I might add) to make a decent living in hard times and all without all the help that only layabouts and immigrants get from the Government these days I might add and I’ll never know why Mrs. B decided to move out of The Crescent at all because we were all perfectly nice and tolerant towards her despite everything, but there you are, so anyway these ones had only been here for a couple of weeks and already they’ve been knocking on the doors and asking the real residents for help without so much as a ‘by-your-leave’, though the wife seems to be nice enough and at least you can see all of her face unlike that sulky little miss at the supermarket (where I only shop for my nephews’ birthdays and Christmases because I prefer to patronise local independent shops rather than those big ‘out of town’ monstrosities because you can still get the service there and they always know your name or recognise your face anyway and they’re run by genuine locals who really know their business though you really can’t beat Tesco’s for cereals and proper scented soap without paying a premium at the hippy ‘boutique’ and cat food’s shocking now even if you buy it in bulk at specialists now that money doesn’t stretch as far as it used to before the Common Market) and anyway she seems to be quite nice, considering, and her eldest son’s still ‘cricket-mad’ which is fine as far as I’m concerned and “Long may it last” say I because as soon as he starts to grow a beard I’m going to get double glazing installed and extra locks on the back door if Nigel will pop round to fit them if he’s not too busy with his girlfriend (that hair!) and she looked really upset about her daughter; the little one by the way – (whom we only saw the once when they and their other relatives turned up in all those flashy Mercedeses to move them and all their movables in) - not the older daughter with the spectacles and the very plain dress but who’s very pretty with a really nice, glossy pigtail (if it’s not ‘politically incorrect’ to use that word!) and who reads a lot and I hope it’s recipes or romantic fiction or something because if she goes all religious I might just take Nigel’s advice and sell this place and invest the profits through his brokerage and move into one of those cosy little park homes up at Lea Green to be nearer to Vera who’s getting nearer to God every day - and who only looked to be about eleven or twelve or so and you’ve really got to wonder if that surly father of hers; doctor or not, hadn’t married her off to some goatherd or something in the old country where she belongs, the poor mite, and though I’m not what you’d call inquisitive she looked as if she’d been crying a lot and I said that of course I’ll keep a look out for the little scrap, we’re all neighbours now and anyway this is called The Crescent, isn’t it dear, and she gratefully went off straight away to tell her family and though we keep ourselves very much to ourselves I got on the phone to the Council at once and they were useless as always since Labour got in and they passed me off to The Police who seemed to be unaware that the girl was missing and who were pretty useless after that as well despite coming to the house and staying with the family for hours and of course they declined to keep the residents properly informed apart from showing us all pictures of her – Maryam she’s called which is so sweet and almost English-sounding – and asking if we’d seen anything unusual on Thursday evening last which of course I hadn’t because: A) I never mind other people’s business, and B) because nothing unusual ever happens in The Crescent which is all part of its ambience and what helps to keep the property prices up, and indeed nothing unusual happens in The Estate as a whole, (except for in The Avenue of course. Baptists; I’ll say no more) and even her at Number Fifteen who’s married to a music teacher who’s years too old for her isn’t what you’d call ‘unusual’ despite those trouser suits though I’ve always thought she can’t be much good at arithmetic (Comprehensive ‘education’, what else can I say?) because it always takes so long for her to argue about the price and the quality of the work done by all the tradesmen who endlessly ‘improve’ her house and garden though why aren’t her sons interested in music at all is what I’d like to know, so of course I couldn’t help the scruffy teenager they sent to my house to impersonate a Police Officer and slurp my Earl Grey as if it was going out of fashion which it never does because though I’m no snob I know that true quality never goes completely out of fashion, but fortunately I always know where to go for advice since Sally moved to Australia and whenever Nigel’s too busy with important people to help out; and of course Mr. Neale’s always ready to listen because he’s never quite fit into our little community here in The Crescent despite our live-and-let-live, always-help-the-neighbours ethnos though he keeps a close interest in his immediate surroundings and we have had some lovely chats in his sitting room despite the smell, so yesterday afternoon I paid him a little visit with a slice of the walnut cake that Clive loved so much in the red dress with the rose pattern and my hair down and tied with a simple ribbon and a dab or two of Indian Coral and the door was on the latch (because it’s still very much that sort of neighbourhood despite - well - you know, them) which was unusual for him because despite his charm he always keeps his doors firmly locked due to his experiences in Kenya (or was it Rhodesia? I forget which) and so I just walked in with a friendly “Coo-ee, Mr. Neale!” but he was nowhere to be seen and the back door was open so I could see all the way through into that high garden of his with its overgrown hedge that blocks the light to Mrs. Middleton’s dahlia beds and he wasn’t in his shed which was bolted firmly enough, though the padlock was off and it looked as if he’d been painting one of his silly boats or model rockets because there was sky blue metallic paint on the bolt and in little drips all along the path that really needed some attention with a good proprietary brand of moss remover, so I went back into the house to call him downstairs but to no avail, which led me to worry that he’d had some kind of a seizure (and given how his complexion has been getting worse these past few weeks I’d been afraid that some such might be on the cards) so I went upstairs hesitantly and against my firm beliefs about privacy to find Mr. Neale collapsed and lying on his side in the front bedroom with the curtains and the blinds drawn and sprawled amid all his ‘ham radio’ equipment and the asthma mask and lots of his orchids all strewn about and torn up (ugly, smelly purple and black things that I’ve never liked and I always told him he’d be better off getting a Pekingese) with splashes of that glittery paint everywhere, and you could have knocked me down with a feather when I tell you that the poor man had not only his shirt off but he also had a big rent in the skin of his back from the nape of his neck down to his, well, shall we just say his waist-line? and his head and entire torso were collapsed and hollow though the rest of him was solid enough; like a banana that’s been peeled and the end half of the fruit taken out but the rest put back inside the peel, though looking into the large gap it seemed as if his insides were a lot less complicated-looking than all the wiggly stuff that one sees on hospital programmes and he was covered in ever so many little round holes about the width of my little finger; and some of which were dripping with the blue paint and there was a sparkly pink pencil with one of those nasty little rubber Japanese cartoon characters fitted onto the blunt end stuck right into his chest area, but I was disturbed right then by hissing from the far corner by the bedside table where I saw what I thought was a ventriloquist’s dummy but when I looked closer was a tiny little naked man like a dwarf but the colour of porridge or a faded wooden fence that needed a good thick coat of creosote and he had one very large eye with a black contact lens that was looking at me though the other eye wasn’t looking at anything because it had been punctured and was dribbling sky blue as well and now I knew exactly where the hairless little brute had recently come from and just then it started, oh-so slowly, to crawl towards me with its pale little pipe-cleaner arms and funny, twiggy hands and toeless feet and I thought to myself: “Doris my girl, you know exactly whom this creature has locked up in his shed and it’s intolerable that anything like this should happen in our lovely town in the nicest county in our dear country with a good British Home Stores and a proper, old-fashioned Marks and Spencer, and that’s so convenient for the station for shopping trips to London and Clive never liked him for some reason but he never told me why not and he came here to be welcomed by us all so nicely and now he’s taken to kidnapping our little girls from under their families’ noses (though he seems to have only a single nostril) and you know your duty,” so I went down to the shed again and pulled the bolts across the door jamb and let the poor little girl out into the sunshine.
   After I had taken Maryam back to her parents who, needless to say, were delighted to see her and not a little flattering in their gratitude though I say so as shouldn’t, I went back to ‘Mr. Neale’s’ house because I knew from The Daily Mail what to expect if the ‘authorities’ decided to treat Mr. Neale as some poor refugee and took into their heads the notion that the Americans had poisoned his home on the Moon or something and that he really deserved our help despite his criminal behaviour and just where could they deport him to? - and like as not they’d let him go free and squander taxpayers’ money on ‘settling’ him and treating him like Royalty and put him above the respectable people who’d have to pay for him to lord it over us and he’d be up to his old tricks again in no time because that sorts never learns, do they? - and what if he brought his family down and God only knows what drugs and noise and diseases they’d bring with them and anyway I had discovered why Clive had come to dislike him so much in recent years and it was a jolly good thing, too, that it had a very long extension lead because if there’s one thing you can rely on in the suburbs it’s that we keep our gardens nice and tidy now that electric hedge trimmers are so cheap and reliable and easy to wield.

The Daily Mail’s very sensible editorial policies about such matters as immigration and law and order and a great deal of up-to-date celebrity news can be read online here.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Sheep Look Down

Another Flash Fiction from Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds writer's blog.
I've used the crooked tree to sketch out another scene from a world I imagined in another Flash Fiction challenge.

   There’s no-one with less job security than an astronomer - with the obvious exception of an aeroplane designer - so I often sit under the crooked tree.
   The twigs resemble blood vessels tunnelling out through some invisible body from the arteries and veins that are the branches…

   it is more like a nervous system, which is how I can communicate with you

   I did not hear the words which were as loud to me as shouting though they didn’t disturb the peace of the glade. The words simply formed in my mind: as real as memories and just as silent to the outside world.
   “Who are you?” I asked the open air or whatever the inner world of my diseased imagination had conjured up after a lifetime’s disappointment.

   i am an exile, the last of my kind; a skulking fugitive below the outer crust of my home planet a century more light’s travelling from your world

  Not one in a thousand people on Earth really believes in other planets any more, or that this world is only one of maybe hundreds in the cosmos. When I tell people I’m an astronomer they often ask me if I draw up horoscopes and then grow blank and bland and apathetic (or else they become piously furious) when I explain that it has long been known that the universe contains many suns like ours (which are what we call the stars) with planets circling them as whale calves circle their mothers.
   Surely this voice was my unconscious dredging up an invisible friend from a place that Mankind is no longer interested in seeking out; comforting me after dreaming back home in Iowa of Outer Space were dashed by academic disappointment as astronomy grew ever less respected by the world’s physicists and after long years at the drafting table, unsatisfied and resentful, in the enormous Boeing shipyards on the Jersey shore.

   you doubt that i exist, sky-watcher, and yet you still do not flee this distressed, receptive organism for your home and the depressive drug you hope will comfort you. you believe in your heart and despite your grief that I am real. i am real and so i speak to you through (alas for you no longer have the physics to understand it fully!) let us call it a wireless radio constructed from this tree’s threatened life. learn well what I have to teach you, former dreamer; for I have a message of dread news and great sadness for you and for all Mankind 

   “I guess the numbers of next Saturday’s Atlantic City Daily Snorkel lottery would be too much trouble?” I asked, thinking about cigars and some very elderly barley water I kept in the closet below the shelf for all my bathing trunks.

   you must learn to be alert to your surroundings once more and to see the changes inflicted on your species during recent decades, lest your nests become tombs and your reefs necropolises just as my people’s have

   If this thing started to tell me how to respect Mom and Pop and how to treat other folks’ property I was going home and have a talk with my good friends Jim and Jack and Mac and Glen and then wash myself thoroughly in the Waters of Chlorine and meet someone not too fussy in the cheap bar of a cheap lido. At least the Exile wasn’t telling me to build a boat. I hate building boats.

   you must learn again – you and all your kind – to construct aircraft and great rockets and so to regain the skies because what is coming to your world and that extinguished my people is more terrible than the dooms of which your religions warn you. the Void grows nearer, little vertebrate; cruel beyond everything that all the generations of Mankind have suffered    

  “Now wait a minute,” I interrupted (myself, I guess) “what changes are these that’ve been inflicted on us? What should I be alert for?”

   remember the fantastic tales that you read as a child? The stories of gallant explorers visiting strange worlds? what of them, now?

   “But I do remember them; The Time Machine and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea has been filmed sixteen times in English. And The Lost World and the comic books about Superman washed ashore in Maine as his parents in doomed Atlantis hoped. I still read them. What’s wrong with that?”

   but what of outer space? what of The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon? and remember from your youth - did Superman hail from Atlantis in your grandfather’s comics? you; the would-be scrutineer of the stars have forgotten that the hero was born on another planet; not in the oceans of Earth. your species has had its imagination turned inward to the waters instead of outward to the galaxy. the Void, my enemy and yours, has long clouded your imaginations and it has done so by altering the chemical balance of your brains and made you all obsessed with swimming and inland waterways and the oceans. unless you teach them anew and urge them to incline their eyes upwards, when the Void’s agents arrive to infest your world your warriors will be obliged to struggle onto dry land from their fleets and learn – perhaps too late – to fight in large formations on the planetary crust  

   I listened to a real radio that night, hiding from the Exile and what it instructed me do. The program was about the Cuban Torpedo Crisis. Depressing stuff. In the morning I’ll get out my chainsaw. But tonight, I’ll dust off my old telescope and take one more look out beyond the orbit of Pluto. Perhaps I’ll see something new.

Skin deep

 “So you’re the mighty slayer who’s going to kill me? I don’t think so,” sneered the vampire.
   “You can’t believe that or I’d already be dead,” I replied, pointing to the coffin with its chains and drifts of silver shavings and wild rose thorns. “You’d be luckier if I was merely a slayer,” I added while turning the cylinder’s nozzle and breathing through my mask. “What I am,” I added; opening my little case of instruments “is a vampire flayer.”

Monday, 11 June 2012

180 degrees Malthus

   It will be dark soon and they will come out to hunt us.

   I slide out of my daytime hideaway under five layers of crushed cars and scrabble up to the usual vantage point in a concertinaed Ford saloon on top of the stack. This gives me almost 360 degrees of vision to scan of the wasteland of the Epidemic. Hunger strikes me only seconds after I awake and I spend five painful minutes resetting the web of fishing-lines hung with the DVDs and strips of cooking foil that are my early warning system.  Waves of nausea and cold sweats assault my body like a fever. To survive for any length of time in this world I long ago adopted the only rules that count: stay hidden; stay covered; stay awake and alert all night long. Oh, and search for the dwindling supply of food that won’t kill you, and do it by using stealth and camouflage. This last consists of a green boiler suit and a hood, boots, respirator mask and gauntlets; all taken from a hazmat technician who no longer needed them. I’ve stitched fishermen’s netting all over it in patches and bunches and festooned the mesh with strips of rag and plastic bags and fake foliage from a florist’s shop so that at any distance I resemble just another patch of rubbish-strewn, weed-covered Epidemic devastation. In short, I look like nothing at all. I wonder if Cal and Jaz will be about tonight (dusk is falling quickly now) so we can forage as a team again for greater ground coverage and hopefully a modicum of protection against stray Hunters.
  I pick at the wing mirror of the Volkswagen one layer down with my multitool: a device so complex, versatile and varied that it makes a Swiss Army knife seem like a flint axe by comparison, hoping to set up another line of sight in my perch so I can monitor the path going westward through the scrap yard to the high wall whilst I concentrate on staring east towards the blocked gates that would one day be unchained and thrown aside. It’s my favourite gadget as it had been even before the Epidemic: before the actual Swiss Army became a blood-sucking horde - as have the Boy Scouts, the Neighbourhood Watch, Greenpeace and the Women’s Institute. The Jehovah’s Witnesses no longer knock politely at your door.
   Before the Epidemic, vampire attacks were rare and were undertaken in remote, undeveloped parts of the world whose natives and law enforcement officials were laughed to scorn by the sophisticated journalists and TV audiences of the modern world: vampires were merely the fantasies of superstitious tribesmen or invented as alibis for corrupt, drug-dealing policemen. When the infection spread and the reality of the Undead became inescapable the authorities rushed to investigate the historical evidence of those old cases and it soon emerged that the world’s thousand or so old-style vamps had mostly dwelt in the West or in Russia and travelled to the Third World for what the New York Times dubbed ‘blood tourism’. A kid turns up, drained and cold in a Manila rubbish dump, and it’s all So what? Plenty more where she came fromMexico City suffers a string of abductions and exsanguinations but when the parish priest shouts ¡Vampiro! it’s Adios, muchacho, and lay off the coke for a while, eh, Father? Nobody knew or cared enough to find out anything much about that older generation, especially as their kills usually happened in hot countries where forensic science and the procedures of post-mortem examination were sketchy at best – and where drained and broken-necked bodies were buried as hastily as all the others. It was only when Stockholm’s early morning streets became littered with corpses over the Christmas holidays two years ago that the world’s governments started to take notice - but by then it was far too late. Humanity never did discover why the old-timers allowed their numbers to rise so quickly or how their growth overwhelmed any customary methods of population control. Perhaps they believed their time had come and humanity was ready to accept them as rather glamourous overlords. By the time the Hindu Kush and Haiti were overrun such questions had become academic.
   I pick dirt from my nails and double check the kit in my rucksack: lighter and lighter fuel; machete; yards of climbing rope and three spools of fishing line. Change of pants and a spare bra. Comb and hairbrush. Rouge and brushes. Roll-on deodorant – I was always a fragrant girl even during adolescence but it’s literally a life saver to be odourless in the Fourth World. A pack of silver plastic survival bags and a Thermos complete my portable wealth – ‘wealth’ now meaning simply whatever’s needed to keep death at bay. Perhaps that’s what it always meant. All those luxuries like television and medicine and law had been camouflage to hide the eternal truth that the world is just one great big food chain and the only true value is whatever is required to keep you at the top.
   In the Third World the old methods seemed to work pretty well at first; the Indian and Chinese governments had sent their huge armies to remote and overrun provinces; the tribal lands and wildernesses where people had always been one step from starvation. The wooden stake and the decapitating stroke of a sword or machete had been enough to dispatch the infected; especially when accompanied by cleansing fire and so the city folk could relax again and turn off their TVs when footage of the charnel pits became too graphic. But it was in the oldest industrialised countries that the contagion transmuted into the Epidemic. Western governments tried whatever they could to keep their territories safe but even a series of twenty megaton extensions to the Panama Canal and flooding the Channel Tunnel were weeks too late. Homeland Security clods must have been patting down returning tourists and missing the signs for at least forty days and forty nights before they closed the airports, and here in Britain it turned out that possessing the right European Union paperwork at Dover really was a passport to previously undreamed of opportunity. Towards the end the TV had begun to blame long exposure to its own broadcasting frequencies or microwaves or mobile phone towers or processed food for whatever had mutated the original vector of old-time vampirism: be it God’s curse (or the Devil’s); a virus; bad attitude; bad breath; sinful thought, whatever. So it became a global pandemic that transformed the pampered citizens of the First and Second Worlds into blood-hungry monsters who can survive in full sunlight unlike their terrified parents (though they still prefer to hunt by night) and who are also strong enough to feed on human survivors and their own horrified progenitors alike.
   The wing mirror comes off the Volks at last and I jam the glass into the Ford’s empty rear-view frame; unlike the Old Ones this new breed of vampire casts reflections. My stomach churns again and I begin to think more urgently about looking for my friends... Jaz said she’d noticed traces of humanity over by the gasworks the night before last; a small remnant of homo sapiens holding out against both races of vampire until their food runs out and both they and the unmutated vampires go extinct. The new ones’ll disappear soon thereafter too, if cannibalism turns out to be a busted flush. I scan the rear view from the driver’s seat. I can see straight through to the back window and then towards the western wall of the yard. Nothing at all obscures my view in the mirror, but then nothing has been able to since the English broke our advance at Waterloo.
      It will be dark soon and they will come out to hunt us.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Bone Cathedral

Here’s another flashfiction from Chuck Wendig’s site Terrible Minds.
This week, we’re down to a random title and take it from there. I chose The Bone Cathedral.

The Bone Cathedral

   “Don’t do it,” the bald old chap said as I took a breather from working in the crypt. He looked about eighty and was dressed in worn, tattered clothes. Rheumy eyes stared from chronic sunburn from an unshaven face that twitched every fifteen seconds as he grimaced, eye-blink fast, and then returned to normal with equal speed.
   “Don’t do what?” I asked, pulling out cigarettes.
   “Don’t use the Displacer to examine the ossuary. You’ll use too much power and displace too much of the Combined Force in both temporal directions and disrupt many complex systems. Use geophysics radar instead.” I curled my hands to shelter the cigarette from the wind. The old chap had read my doctoral thesis and perhaps the Submission to Treasury as well. He must be a Physics Fellow from College. Not content with refusing support for my epoch-defining work, Oxford had obviously kept tabs and were now trying to scupper my marketing Displacer technology; using it to examine the insides of objects for faults or structural weaknesses. Objects such as the unique (and tourist-attracting) bone-built crypt of Ledbury Cathedral. Money from construction and restoration commissions helped to feed Sarah and me and supported my research into Displacer applications. If academia had turned me down and turned me out, I was going to make sure that business would reward my genius. When I looked up, ready to give him what for the old chap was gone; having fled my obvious anger at record speed.
    Later I took multiple readings through the fabric of the crypt; sixteen snapshot slices ten centimeters apart through the cement, bone and rock on which the cathedral stood. The field model Displacer cooled rapidly as its core of rhodium and quartz wafers displaced time and space forward and backwards in uneven - and irritatingly still unpredictable - lengths of time using the combined Weak and Strong Nuclear Forces in conjunction with a little trick of my own using virtual gravitons. The echoes or ‘shadow’ that the Displacement Field generated produced beautifully detailed pictures of the inside the crypt’s construction. One complete skeleton had been stuffed among the respectfully laid and ordered bones of the ossuary; skulls here; ribs there; femurs all lined up as if for inventory there. He was a robust-looking chap; curled up like a mediaeval fly in amber from Ledbury’s mysteriously brief plague month of October 1398. He upset the regularity and respect with which the dead had been cemented into the cathedral, athwart the solid herringbone underpinnings of the apse, and might be the cause of seepage from the subterranean river that was threatening the cathedral’s integrity.
    That evening I discussed the shoot with Sarah. She looked drawn; more so than her usual gaze of weary affection that she has given me from the night she appeared out of nowhere at a University dinner in honour of a physics groupie (a potential patron for my College) from the Bretherton Construction Group. Sarah had made straight for me after dinner; her heart-shaped face framed by masses of mahogany hair, and took me to bed and enrolled me in her life like an addict finding a safe and plentiful source of her drug. It had been her presentation of Displacer technology applications that had almost won me the first Bretherton Scholarship the following summer. Almost; but not quite. Sarah had been with me ever since; following me into academic exile and helping me move into non-destructive testing and encouraging me to develop alternatives to the Displacer, which was expensively energy-guzzling to run and maintain. Sarah had always supported me despite her nerves when my garage laboratory Displacer first sent a coin thirty seconds forward in time and days later when it displaced a dead rat fourteen hours into the future. The rat came back alive: disoriented and relentlessly aggressive but Sarah watched me loyally as I tried to kill it for an autopsy. It took three tries: gas, electrocution and finally the decapitation that actually worked. She never understood why I loved the Displacer aside from the income stream. I lie awake at night looking at her slim, beautiful body as she slept; utterly lovely and unflawed apart from some scarring on her ribcage from a childhood misfortune and remind myself that when rich enough to complete and publish my research despite the prejudices of academia, the pantheon would change to Galileo, Newton and Horton. The laws of nature I had discovered will displace Einstein to footnotes in my biographies.
  That first crypt scan was yesterday.
  Before I came to work today Sarah gave me a watch with a jazzy band she had made from scraps of quartz and rhodium.
 “Can we afford to waste valuable stock on this?” I asked, perhaps a touch churlishly.
 “Think of it as a down-payment for the future.”         
  “Sarah, why haven’t we had children when you love life so much? You never stop touching and smelling and gazing at animals and plants and admiring them.”
   “Might as well ask why I’m called Sarah. And what kind of a world would we bring children into?”

   So here I am in the crypt looking at yesterday’s scans of the twisted skeleton; a big, hefty man for the Middle Ages though he’d be rather short and stocky in this century, rather like me. I wonder what the metallic discolouration about his wrist is. From above I hear footsteps coming closer with that accelerating clatter that Sarah’s boots make when she starts to panic and runs to me with advice about the Displacer. Before she clambers down and advises me not to use it, I decide to do a new scan of the crypt right back to the month of the plague and to juice it up with enough power to take video of the last moments of the skeleton’s life. I simply must know how he died.
   I press the swi

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


Over at Terrible Minds there’s another flash fiction challenge to incorporate 4 out of 8 random words into a kiloword quick fiction. I chose zoo, wheelchair, bully, and heretic.

Conspiracy theories and arcana online:

Los Angeles trial a bully pulpit for conspiracy fantasist Frank Blunt.”

Posted by UKType42Destroyer June 3, 2012, 7.35 Greenwich Mean Time.
How come you Yanks haven’t picked up on this one? It’s in your own back-yard, ffs!

From the LA Chronicle Online June 2, 2012
   Accused heretic, Frank Blunt of Orange County, was brought into LA’s Superior Court in the Esther Williams Building in a wheelchair today to conduct his own defense against multiple charges of heresy, defamation and incitement to riot after his controversial conspiracy website published a forty thousand word rant against swimming on 20 January 2011, the 27th Anniversary of Senator Weissmuller’s death.
   Refusing professional counsel, Mr. Blunt addressed the jury for two hours in defense of his theory that, before the Second World War, swimming was merely a minor sport throughout the developed world and little more than a tragic necessity in naval and other military operations. Swimming’s defining role in human culture, politics, literature and history simply did not exist prior to the worldwide meteorite strikes of 1938, as immortalized by Orson Welles’ news broadcasts in October that year.
   “Sometime between the Austrian Anschluss and the JFK so-called ‘Drowning’, our entire world changed completely; secretly and unremarked by its political leaders, intellectuals and mainstream ‘media.’ What had previously been a hobby in North America and for the √©lites of the Soviet Bloc and the British Empire became an all-consuming and unquestioned obsession with all of Mankind; sweeping every other consideration and value into second place.
    I intended no offense to anyone in my article but I feel strongly that someone, somewhere has been pulling the goggles off our eyes for seventy years and that the human race is in great danger.”
And he’s right. Why don’t you chaps stop obsessing about 9/11 Truth and the Illuminati and mermaids and such nonsense and ask yourselves: where’s all the bloody swimming throughout history before 1938/39?


Anonymous, Roswell NM. June 3, 2012, 02.59 EST
And you Brits accuse us of being crazy! What’s wrong with you, Type42? Don’t you remember Winston Churchill’s famous speech? You Brits quote it all the goddamn time!:

“We shall fight in the surf and in front of the beaches, we shall fight before the landing grounds, we shall fight in the rivers and in the streams, we shall fight in the mountain streams and rivulets; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of its waterways were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, swims forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

UK Type42Destroyer June 3, 2012, 9.17 GMT
But that’s my point. Why did he obsess with the waterways? Why not mention the fields and streets and hills which comprise the vast majority of our country? Why go on about all that hydrology when the armaments of the time were mostly designed for dry land combat – which was where the war was won, after all?

MidwestNavySeal June 3, 2012, 3.24 CT
Are you serious Type42? What about the Normandy landings? Our guys died to keep you Europeans free and all you can do is disrespect them because they swam ashore?

UKType42Destroyer June 3, 2012, 9.39 GMT
I do respect them, and the Canadians and Indians and French and God knows how many who fought and drowned, but why do history books and TV documentaries concentrate on the initial battles at the coast? It was a long hard fight from Normandy to Berlin but who hears about the struggle out of the bocage into the rest of France and towards the Netherlands? You can hardly find anything about the Allied armies until the Rhine crossings. Months of high intensity combat and thousands of deaths followed, but the history books go all fuzzy until the Arnhem disaster. And why is there no discussion, anywhere, of our aviation? Surely the air war must have helped considerably to beat the Nazis? Why have we neglected powered flight since 1945 or so?

MidwestNavySeal June 3, 2012, 3.46 CT
But we don’t. What about the Berlin Blockade? I seem to remember that there was aviation of some kind involved there.

UKType42Destroyer June 3, 2012, 9.49 GMT
Yes there was, and a jolly good thing too. But it’s the political aspect that’s always stressed; not the use of aircraft. And have you looked at the report of the cargo brought in to save the free people of West Berlin. Here’s a report from the (London) Times on Wikipedia.

“…The United States Army Air Force and the British Royal Air Force organized a massive effort to deliver needed water chlorination equipment, snorkels, water wings, nose plugs, food, coal, and medical supplies into Berlin to thwart the Soviet blockade. The round-the-clock operation, which became known as the Berlin Airlift, sustained the residents of West Berlin…”

Look at those priorities, MNS. The Soviets were trying to starve the city and the first stuff off the transports was swimming equipment, ffs! And whatever happened to your air force, and ours? Why did Humanity abandon powered flight in its newfound obsession with swimming and all things maritime?

MidwestNavySeal June 3, 2012, 3.55 CT
Maybe we were doing important things, like Neil Armstrong planting the flag at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, huh? Why don’t you go and watch the Queen doggy-paddling up the Thames for her Diamond Jubilee? You deserve to be in a zoo somewhere Type42, with the dugongs and manatees and Bigfoot.

UKType42Destroyer June 3, 2012, 9.59 GMT
“… one giant dive for Mankind.” Very noble and jolly well done. But why head down into the oceans instead of heading up into outer space? 
    And what kind of global rallying cry is ‘Watch the Seas anyway?’ Who gains?

Monday, 4 June 2012

Three Steps to Heaven

Now there are Three Steps to Heaven
Just listen and you will plainly see
And as life travels on
And things do go wrong
Just follow steps one, two and three

Step One - you find a girl to love.

   The drunk poured himself tequila from a nearly empty bottle left over from Christmas. I bobbed around a bit, hopefully.
    “Go on.” I thought at his mind. “Ask me anything; anything at all.”
   “I wish I hadn’t lost touch with you Sharon,” he whined; his shaking hand clasping a battered snapshot. Gulp. Glug. Glug. Shudder. He emptied the wine(whine!) glass. “I thought we really had something going there at Uni…”
   Ping! A message alert from his PC. He clicked into Facebook. After a moment he started scrabbling in a drawer to find a battered and over-large old mobile phone. It felt like ages while he searched for a Nokia charger and plugged it in. ‘Ages’ is relative in this case – a half hour or so was nothing compared with the decades I’ve been stuck in this blessed bottle, but now I had hope and so the minutes dragged like decades till the green light came on and he tabbed through to the contacts menu.
   I love the Internet and all the modern conveniences. We’re an adaptive type, my folk. I have a kinsman who resides in a decanter in the poshest part of Surrey who calls himself Gordon because - well - because he’s a dry English Djinn. We don’t do multiculturalism. If you live in a country you ought to adapt to its ways. It’s only fair to the locals. But the Surrey people are either so comfortably well off and secure (or so squiffy all the time) that there isn't much to wish for.
   Anyway, that was Wish Number One.

Step Two - she falls in love with you.
   He hurried around the flat; choosing and discarding clothes for his hot date. Next came the shower and the preening and the deodorizing. Then on went the digital watch. Those things are so much more portable than those pre-Columbian South American stone calendars. Not more accurate, mind you; just more portable. Start checking out special offers in bottled water and canned food well before the 2013 January sales all I’m saying. Next he did the wallet check and a last brush-through of his hair and as he pocketed his new Blackberry he took another good long tug at the Tequila for Dutch courage. “I hope she’s there and doesn’t hate me,” he thought.
  That was Wish Number Two.
   He rushed out as soon as the taxi texted him to say it had arrived and I turned and floated and sank a bit in the bottle.
   They call it a ‘worm’ in tequila bottles though it is in fact a larval moth. In most cases, that is. I look close enough to the real thing and it was only by chance that that damned  priest grabbed for the nearest sealable container in his hour of need - and he only managed to reach that just in time. Five minutes later and his brain embolism would have saved my bacon and I’d probably still be swanning around Latin America, living high on the Gadarene hog and leading US Special Forces a merry chase hunting for chupacabras instead of letting them harass perfectly charming but highly illegal, highly alien tourists on safari down in Guatemala. Instead here I am: incarcerated way south of a cork that’s getting steadily further away from my earthly body.
   In my case, ‘worm’ is a pretty close translation if you want to look us up in, for example, Isiah and the Gospel according to Mark. Muslims don’t drink alcohol and they use a word from their own folklore for us. Curiously, worms don’t appear in the Book of Revelations at all where the word used is ‘dragon,’ though it’s pretty much the same thing. Revelations is quite accurate once you discard all that namby-pamby bowdlerization that pretends it’s all about strife within the First Century Church in Asia Minor and so on. You’re going to need rather more than a few cases of Perrier and some catering packs of Fray Bentos for that little party, let me tell you. 

Step Three - you kiss and hold her tightly.

  Oh, bless! Their first date in six years and they’re already on his sofa and at it like rabbits. Oh, and how about a nightcap? Guess what they’re sharing the dregs of before nighty-night?
   And that’s Wish Number Three.
   The British don’t do multiculturalism much themselves, thank the Lord. My Lord, that is: not yours. Most Brits only know a few words and phrases of Spanish: Ole. Vino. Oy, Manuel! That’s just about your lot. And a good thing too for my sake because otherwise Romeo here might have read the warning that Padre Garcia’s capture spell transformed the label into: especially the bit about (approximately) Terms and Conditions Apply. Especially the bit about three strikes and he's out. His loss. And yours, eventually.
   Lover Boy has a good body; what with five-a-side football on Sunday mornings and a couple of trips to the gym before work every week. Oh, I noticed the first signs of lung cancer but it’ll be years before it causes me any trouble and I can always relocate before it grows inconvenient.
  Oh, and here’s one last one for you; Hasta la vista, baby.
  He has good strong hands from all that weight training, and while Sharon’s sleeping I think I’ll guide them into the kitchen and find out what he keeps in his cutlery drawer.

Yeah! That sure seems like heaven to me.

In the UK, Eddie Cochrane’s music can be bought here, here and here, and you can meet those charming tourists here, here and here..