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December 29, 2009
So a while ago I kind of made up this solar system in my head where people have rayguns and flying saucers and are unhappy a lot of the time despite this, except for this little flying saucer crew of goodfornothings who kind of wander from asteroid to asteroid avoiding the cops and being anarchists and mostly making mistakes; and I thought I might put up one of the stories about them that I wrote. This one is in three parts. Here is part 1.
Trees lined the edge of the valley basin for as far as the eye could see.
The basin was so large that if you were to stand within a kilometre radius of its central point, you would not be able to see any of its edges without a decent pair of binoculars. There was no real river running through the valley, it was a man-made depression: when the Edward Moon had first been colonised it had been mined extensively, but now the vast quarries the machines had created had been abandoned. Every piece of machinery that even vaguely worked had been shipped out to other, more profitable worlds and every machine that didn’t had been salvaged and vultured until every last scrap of metal, every last trace of civilization, had left the valley. Over the years it had been coated with the same layer upon layer of dust and sand that covered everything else on the Edward Moon. Intrepid shrubs had sprung up, encouraged by slow-running creeks that cut tiny scars along the valleys edge. The hungry deer followed the creeks, and the hungry fleas followed the deer, and the hungry little thunder lizards smelt the fleas and heard them chatter and followed them in the hope of deer meat, and the hungry big thunder lizards followed the tracks and scatological trail that little thunder lizards leave, and so the valley was gradually populated with life.
This was what had drawn Tolc to the tree line, and he perched between two trees, gazing intentlyinto the long sights of his raygun-rifle. The sights were pretty poor, and blurred much closer than they should have done, but he could see the herd of deer slowly moving toward a watering hole. This was, in fact, what had drawn Tolc to Edward Moon in the first place, and out of hiding on Venerability, where right now his flying saucer the Edom B-52 and its two crewmembers were dwelling in a cave.
“Here’s the thing,” had said Piper, stroking his moustache thoughtfully, “here’s the situation, man. We know there’s enough Navy ships in orbit around Venerability to give us, like, a really long chase. I’m not saying – I’m not saying we can’t unrun ‘em though. In fact, I’m more or less pretty sure we can. What with the engine modded out like it is, and what with the amount of fuel we managed to steal on our last job, I’m pretty sure we can make it to Outrim. Maybe park on Quattro Moon.”
There was a dark pause in which Bailey and Tolc realised that they knew something Piper did not.
“You’re wrong,” said Bailey, finally.
“I’m telling you, she can do it, man.”
“It’s not the engines,” said Tolc. “It’s the supplies. We’d’ve starved to death before we’d spun a third of that flight.” Bailey nodded without looking up from rolling her cigarette, and said, “Sad fact is, boys, we’re gonna have to wait for a gravity channel, spin out on the Winter Canal. Live through the autumn on what provisions we have, maybe do some oddjobs in the town, and then take the Canal up to Alter and stock up proper there before hitting Outrim.” Bailey, for all of her aloofness, sounded like she was about to cry. Piper, on the other hand, actually did start to cry.
“Here? The whole fuckin autumn?” he said, slow teardrops tearing trails of peachpink through the dirt on his cheeks.
Venerability was, by anyone’s standards, a shit hole. An unfortunate orbital path combined with a faulty terraformation process had resulted in an endless desert of mud that covered most of the planet, preventing any proper cities from springing up. What’s more, a whole flock of Navy ships were permanently stationed there: a now obsolete garrison had been set up during the war and no-one had bothered to dismantle it.
“I’ve got a plan,” said Tolc. “It’s stupid – and I might get killed, basically. But on the other hand, I might be able to get us the food we need.”
“Fucking do it then,” said Piper.
Tolc was a little put out.
“I mean, you guys could come too, but the shuttle only fits one, and if we were to take the saucer then the Navy would see it,” he said, as if Piper had hesitated, but again, Piper did not hesitate.
“So you go,” said Piper. Bailey laughed. Everyone had tears on their cheeks.
“Ok,” said Tolc, “Alright. I’ll take the shuttle. I’m going hunting.”
It was the right time of the month for it. The Edward Moon was in sunlight, not the weird psuedolight that strained your eyes and made you feel like you were never quite awake enough. How anyone lived the whole year round on a moon was beyond Tolc’s reasoning.
Still, he didn’t have long. What with these dodgy sights, hunting was going to be difficult enough without having to deal with pseudolight. Maybe four days if he was lucky, Tolc thought. Not too good on working that kind of thing out. Never really had time for it. If you’re gonna make landfall, you make landfall, or moonfall, or whatever, and you concentrate on getting out of space and getting on dry land, not on the clock, and the calendar. Mostly, you concentrate on avoiding Navy rocketships, to be honest.
Deer have an extraordinary sense of intuition. All herd animals are at least partially telepathic, able to transmit sensual and intellectual information through metaphysical communication, and as such, there is always a chance that a deer will telepathically sense the sights of a rifle being trained upon her. But the herd mentality relies on several deer becoming aware of this sensation before any action is taken. This is the brief window of opportunity that a hunter has in which to make their wounding shot: the moment before the tipping point, when the deer are bristling and static, attempting to calculate and assess their situation, just before they realise it is in their best interest to run manically in all directions other than up and down. Realising that this moment was upon him, Tolc squeezed the trigger.
There was a disappointing pop and hiss, like a beercan being opened. What there wasn’t was a heat-ray shooting a perfect cherrypit-sized cylinder out of the doe. Tolc grunted in dissatisfaction as the herd scattered but he didn’t really have time to get disappointed because there was a moonman burrowing a shotgun into the small of his back.
“You wan’ know why that di’n’t work?” said the moonman, sounding like he was chewing something.
“You froze up the shooter.” said Tolc, genuinely impressed. “You used to be a soldier, didn’t you?”
“Either you was a soldier yourself, or yer a thief, to have yourself a fancy weapon like that,” said the moonman.
Tolc smiled. “I’m a thief,” he said, warmly, “but on this particular occasion, I do not happen to be stealing from you, so as such I’d be most grateful, most extremely grateful, if you’d not blow a hole in me,” he said, and, trying his hardest to maintain some joviality, “and I’d also quite like it if you removed that shotgun from where you have placed it, as it’s making me somewhat uncomfortable,” he said and thought he might as well carry on, “and while we’re on the subject, I wouldn’t be at all displeased if you was to unfreeze my raygun so I can shoot one of those deer,” he said, and then, as an afterthought, “but to be honest, both of my latter requests are utterly secondary to my first one.”
“I reasoned,” said the moonman, “that you’d have no cause to mind if I kept my shotgun jus’ where it is and left yer shooter all fucked to shit an’ all, if I was to go through with blowin’ yer fuckin’ spine apart.” A foot in a dirty white training shoe struck Tolc viciously in the pit of his knee and knocked him to the ground just as a denim clad knee sunk into his lower back, sending him sprawling forward even as he fell. “The matter being,” said the moonman, who Tolc could now see wore a suede jacket and had long hennaed hair, standing out dramatically against the wan, muddy skin of a moonman, “that when you tell me you ain’t stealin’ from me and mine well, that’s where you’re mistaken. These deer are what we live on round here and we don’t much care for spacefolk and greyfuckers killing ‘em.”
“You were a soldier,” said Tolc. “You were a good soldier too, to sneak up on me like that. I’m not known for being easy to fool.”
“Is that right?” said the moonman and he sneered. “Are you known for trying to change the subject?”
“War’s over now, though. And you’re stuck on some damned moon in the arseend of nowhere, sneaking up on starving men.”
“What’s more,” said the moonman, “I’m killing ‘em, takin’ their stuff, and overall living my life to its utmost.” He lifted the shotgun to shoulder height. “Don’t bother sayin’ no prayers now. This here is a godforsaken spot.”
March 13, 2009
lent part 3: rejected monologue for the new series of Spooks
On my first day they gave me a small plastic packet in which two squat white cuboids sat resolute. I pried open the seal with my fingernails. It was contact lenses. One set was hazel, the other green. I considered giving myself one hazel and one green iris but obviously, that would’ve been foolish. It would’ve been suicide. Obviously I didn’t do that. It was obvious what they wanted – no blue or brown eyes. DNA samples can recreate a blue or brown iris with ninety-one percent accuracy. Green or hazel eyes reduce the accuracy of such measures to under seventy-five percent. I had brown eyes. Now I have hazel eyes in some countries, green eyes in others.
In the locket round my neck is small camera that transmits to a smartphone in my belt-buckle. These are difficult to detect in x-rays because they are difficult to recognise. Because the technology is so rare. Because so few people have been trained to recognise such technology because it is too rare for precedents to be made available for recognition training. Making such training rare. It comes down to luck; luck is a synonym, referring to your preparatory measures compared to theirs. Bad luck is what happens when they are more prepared than you. Good luck is a direct result of your superior and more thorough preparatory measures. Bad luck would be facing another operative with an x-ray. Good luck would be either no operative operating the x-ray, or recognising that an operative is operating the x-ray and removing the evidence before it can be exposed by the x-ray.
My pockets are stitched together with threads of magnetic tape. This was my own invention. Only I know about it. No other operatives, ours or theirs, will be able to receive the information written on that tape. I will personally unsew my pockets, remove the tape and read it. I will then pass the information on to my superiors. They can trust that it will be accurate. I am the source. They do not want to know my methods. Just like they don’t want to know that the reason I know so much about the x-ray machines and what they can or cannot recognise comes from an episode involving another man’s jawbone. I placed his jaw between my elbows. I brought my knee up. I felt a soft pain gnawing beneath my knee, I felt a beautiful snap, I heard a crack like tiny thunder cracking. He screamed from his gut and now I know what an x-ray machine can or cannot recognise. The information was received in a series of guttural sobs recorded on magnetic tape stitched into my pockets which I then removed and played back. The quality was poor, his pronunciation was worse. But I had enough precedents to make my conclusions. I removed my contact lenses and placed them into his dead eyes. I opened the second cuboid. I blinked green eyes at his glazed hazel eyes. I left him softly bleeding heartbeatless on the bathroom floor.
March 02, 2009
….lent, part 1
inspired by jennifer mellor and ivan juritz I am giving up not-writing for Lent. here's how it's been going so far. xx
How’m I supposed to explain it all on a day like this. That is to say, one thing will lead to another. By accident kisses will happen, I am hoping. I can watch the way light moves through your hair, rather than bounces off it. I can watch this for hours, though its physical effects mean that I will see nothing.* I will just keep watching. I could watch for hours. And I will see nothing. It is difficult to explain. Today being how it is. That is to say, today being today. I hope for accidental kisses. The light will move through your hair. It will be to all intents and purposes invisible. Hours will pass. I will watch, I will see nothing. I will just keep watching, for hours. And see nothing. Explain! Today, now! Say it! One word will lead to another! Kiss me, accidentally! I continue to hope, as if by accident. The light moves through your hair, by accident. It forgets to collide and bounce. Hours pass, and I watch, watching your invisible hair. For hours. I continue to watch. Hours! Nothing! Plain day now, say, hoping, watching, invisible hours. How am I? I am supposed to explain. Explain it all, in one day! Today, no less. Of all days. Today, when every hour passes invisibly. I watch your day, I watch your hours, passing like invisible hair. The light ignores you and I. The hours pass with the light.
*i.e. becomes no reflected light will enter my retina. BRO
Covered in bruises and silly-string I emerged from the pub.
- For God’s sake, look alive!*
That was the sound of a bus almost hitting me. Well – the bus sounded more like – skreepow, brrmmm, but the driver opened his mouth and he said aye ooh ah aye and bordered it with consonants.
I should thank him. If he hadn’t yelled, I might be dead. As it is, I look alive. No matter how I may actually feel, this is how I appear.
What time is it? It is night time. Could sailors tell the time from the stars and moon, as from the sun? Did time stop at night? Did the night watch guess based on how much of the candle had burnt down?
- Christ, what happened to you?*
What happened to me? I cannot remember. I wasted time, remembering. Am I drunk? Who is speaking? Is it me speaking? I don’t remember drinking. Perhaps I am too drunk to remember drinking. Was there a fight? I try to work out how my body feels. I make the mistake of starting with my toes and get confused. I cannot remember whether I meant feel as in physical sensation or as in perceived emotion. I struggle to give my toes emotions separate from the emotions felt in my brain. I confuse the words emotion and motion and am temporarily satisfied by simply wriggling my toes.
My Samaritan looks at me, expected a response to his well-meaning enquiry. He looks baffled at my bafflement. It was a simple question. I try to bring it to mind. I am the resurrection and the death.*
*The savagest trinity lashing (Whitman). BRO
Morning staggered hungover into my bedroom, almost smashing the closed window, clawing desperately at the ragged curtain like a drowning sailor. The figures in the bed shrugged off the hairy sleep-smell’s albatross talons. From miniscule future-technologies alarm bells that would have terrified generations of European monarchs (and rightly so) raised an unholy din through tiny tinny tune-holes. The shrill demonic howl of last night’s demiurge! It manifests itself it crunchy wrinkles around the reluctant pupil-filled eyes.*
I think today will be the day I actually attend lectures and classes. I think that will be today.
*Your love has taught me to be cross-eyed. BRO
January 29, 2009
Haiku on the subject of law
You get what you can from your good sense of humour but if I’m being objective I have the wrong kind of sense of humour. That is not to say I don’t have a sense of humour but more that I see everything as the wrong kind of joke. I find it difficult to see the differences between reality and art, for example. Which doesn’t seem particularly important. It really isn’t very important. But when you are standing in front of a painting of a lily covered pond and you think you are drowning, lilies slappin against your face, then you know you have problems. Unimportant problems.
“This is fuckin brilliant.”
Well man I wish it was, I wish it was. I can look at your eyes and I can see you really are having a fucking good time.
“Mate – your eyes.”
That’s him talking, not me. But I’m looking at his eyes. And it occurs to me that when you are in extremely close proximity to someone and you look directly into their eyes for an extended period of time well they are not unlikely to end up lookin back at yours and some of the time not all of the time but some of the time this would be the desired effect so you’d be forgiven for thinkin that this was the desired effect so I forgave for thinkin that was the effect I desired but end of the day, bottom line, it wasn’t, I wanted to look at his eyes to see that he was having a fucking good time and take him at his word, but lo and behold now he looks at my eyes.
“Fucking brilliant isn’t it?” he says all stressing the consonant.
I am Lacan, I am Foucault. Bollocks. I fuckin don’t know a thing. How can I know anything, when everything I say may be something he is saying, and everything he says I assume comes out of his mouth.
“Greg,” I say, “Greg, I’ve got to get some air, man.” He follows my eyes across the room. Shit, “Alone, Greg. I kind of want to be alone.”
Has this music always been playing? How long has this music been playing for?
“Yeah, wicked.” Like I’m going to have the best time in the world. Like I’m not, immediately that I’m alone, gonna curl up like a foetus and pretend I’m a curled up foetus.
What’s happened when it’s reached this stage, when every joke is an old joke just because it’s a joke and jokes are old? Like I looked across the fireside last night and Fergus looked at me.
“Your eyes,” he said (why is it always the eyes?), “the fire,” he said, “reflected off that guitar,” the guitar that was by my lap, “reflected in your eyes.”
It was a genuinely romantic moment. I wished we were in love but we were not in love.
“Beautiful,” I say, all of a joke, “nice manifesto.”
What is the shit I talk when I am sober, I suddenly wonder – is it as bad as this that I am talking now? Are there people somewhere in the world that do not listen to what they say? Maybe there are people in the world who simplesay charming and clever and accurate things. But it occurs to me that every word I say requires an immediate doubletake.
I step outside of myself, kick myself in the face, and return to my shattered body with its kicked face.
Fergus grunts in annoyance. It’s not his fault that he’s a poet, that what he says is poetry. It’s not his fault. Why am I making fun of it? Why am I belittling it?
“You can’t say a fuckin word around here,” he says, “Fuckin A,” he says.
I’m sorry, I want to say, I’m so sorry. It’s me that can’t say a word. You’re alright, I want to say, you’re alright. Pity me, I want to say, for this.
I wake up with my clothes and my skin smelling like woodsmoke. Nice enough smell. My skin and my clothes have also been dyed the colour of woodsmoke. I could be a soldier, perfectly camouflaged in a burning city. If, er, the city was made of wood.
Such points, as these, such points. Point B. Second end of a straight line. At point B, which is waking up, reeking of last night. At this point I have these two feelings which stick with me for days, weeks, ever. These two feelings are: one
I am no different from anybody else ever and must never consider myself different because that suggests, even if it is in self-deprecation, that I consider myself better and I do not believe myself to be better in fact, but worse…
You can see where it all falls down and how quickly it all falls down. How can I be so arrogant as to be self-critical? I ask myself, critically… The circle appears to be endless. But there is another feeling also, there is feeling two
I am so unbelievably lonely.
The two feelings connect and disconnect seamlessly. Like magician hoops. Thus I am led to believe that one I am no different to any other human being and two that I am unbelievably lonely and thus three: that every human being is unbelievably lonely. This falls down pretty much straight away.
I am left smiling to think that at least we’re all in it together.
January 15, 2009
ever since I came down the steps
Who are you?
That’s your name?
Mark was what they called me when I came down the steps. I guess it suited me. I kept the name, anyway; it seemed the right thing to do at the time.
Did you have a name before that?
Does it matter?
I can’t remember.
Can’t you remember?
I just said I couldn’t.
(pause, intake of breath)
(breathily) I can’t remember, no.
So you chose your own name?
They chose it, they said it.
But you chose to keep it?
It seemed like the right thing to do.
So you did it?
So I did it.
(pause, intake of breath)
(breathily) I kept the name.
That’s your name. Mark.
Ever since I came down the steps, yes.
(writing) M – a – r – k…
Yes. Ever since I came down the steps. Mark.
January 04, 2009
several reasons not to have sex
Several reasons not to have sex
Number one is you are on your own. You will be on your own for a bit now. You know what you’re doing here; at least, more than you do anywhere else.
Number two is you probably don’t know how.
Small numbers can feel like large numbers at times like these.
December 18, 2008
where is Corsica, does it even exist, did I make it up, did I get it from Asterix?
Corsica could've shimmered like a christmas tree for all he cared, but his head was full of the balloon above him, pulsating with the ex-in-spiration of heated air. Maybe forty-four seconds if he was lucky and then kablam-oh, this whole thing would split to shreds.
She had said as a joke but she had said "pack a parachute" but maybe it wasn't a joke, maybe it would've been smart. Did he really know how to use a parachute anyway? Do you just drop and wait til it feels right and not before or after and pull the cord and hey presto you're alive, sitting dazed on a beach in Corsica?
better perhaps to go like this. would be embarassing to fail to use a parachute correctly. coroners report would suggest a character rife with low confidence/self-esteem and o, no sense of personal consistency or conviction. he imagined it as a grade card for a bad academic year. red crosses and "see me" on a maths test at school.
Death is the last big test, he hoped, and then no more tests. Is there a heaven? he hoped not. Better than a hell. Or traditionally assumed to be. It would suck to go to heaven on fire. You're meant to go to hell if you want to be on fire. Do you get to choose to be on fire in heaven? Maybe he would choose to be on fire. Everyone else, every other loser, walking about in heaven, all serene and sanguine etc etc; be brilliant to be the one guy who said fuck it, I am going to spend eternity on fire. Everyone would think he was fucking mental. In heaven.
The balloon exploded but to him it looked like Corsica was exploding beneath him.
October 17, 2008
be what not is
I wanted to not, to isn’t.
Struggling next to her I said that I loved her. She leaned in, kissed me between the shoulder blades.
“I love your shoulders,” she said, through my shoulders.
“You can have them,” I said, I did not want them, “take them. Take my spine,” I said, “I’m not really using it. It is a pole holding up a lump.”
She softly slapped me on the neck and she called me an idiot. I was an idiot, apodeictically.
August 13, 2008
a sci fi opening
“You Navy?” croaked the voice, its source invisible in the reddish fog around the mud-dunes except for the broad double-barrel of some primitive weapon protruding from a long-necked, chubby silhouette of an alien, with a tone clearly implying that the answer would let the creature know whether to shoot or not.
It was not clear to Harry whether yes or no would have been the answer that resulted in the trigger being pulled, only that it must be one, and not the other. But Harry found he was living for – and possibly in spite of – those moments when honesty was the only form of compromise, as well as the most dangerous option.
“Yes and no,” he answered, grinning milkily through the incomprehensible air.
July 21, 2008
His air felt heavy in his lungs and his hair was plastered to his forehead with dust and earth and he crossed the road swaying slightly, like an old bent spring. There was the Chippy where it had always been, and although it had shut hours ago and it was well past midnight the television behind the counter was still on, but the sound was off. A young chinese boy sat behind the counter, in the dark, illuminated only by the silent screen. He thought about that boy, whose family owned the shop and lived above it, and he remembered that the boy was attending the primary school that he himself had been to, so long ago, and he thought how much the boy must hate chips, how all the boy’s clothes must stink of chip-fat, how the boy’s bedroom and curtains and sweat must reek of it, how if the boy was to chew his pillow in his sleep, it will probably taste like chips. He crossed a second road.
Keeping his eyes to the ground, because he was developing some kind of agoraphobic vertigo which made him deathly afraid of gravity reversing and him falling up into the convulsing clouds, he saw he sign, just around the corner from his own house. It was a rectangular piece of tile, outside a house that, when he had walked past it as a child, had always been dilapidated, but was now gleaming and charming, and neat, and this sign sat in its driveway and proclaimed
but to what? Whatever had been on offer had been snatched up by passersby. It must have been some good stuff. He continued to stare blankly at the sign, as if trying to unlock its mystery.
To his surprise, he unlocked its mystery. He took the words literally. The events of the past year hit him like a tidal wave. His breath shortened but it did not increase in pace. His knees went weak. He wanted to fall to his knees, but he didn’t. He felt like a child, forcibly removed from childhood and placed in the body of a man. He wanted so badly to help himself.