Saturday, 20 January 2018

Four-Minute Warning - Flash Fiction


We had got flabby after the withering away of mutually assured nuclear destruction. Replacing the four-minute warning with our own cosy version, the Bucket List. Taking our own sweet time. Indulging presumed pleasures rather than confronting the other pole of the spectrum, the non-continuum, that of our demise. 

When knowledge of the new imminent extinction event broke, the world soon reverted to type. Full panic mode which should have been enough to paralyse us in place in unremitting contemplation of our gathering cessation. But now, pluckily folk sped up their ambitions and deviated off the inventory into far more extreme vistas. Time for a first taste of the blood of another human on the tongue. Or the thrill of totalling automobiles in the stock car race at the end of the world, or the exasperated exhilaration of finally hurling a Molotov Cocktail at the Town Hall. However looting held no appeal, since what was the point of wearing diamonds for just two days, nor would people be needing stockpiles food where they were heading. 


America and other tribal societies opted to pay off old scores and grudges. All except in one locus. Great Britain remained calm. An equipoise not borne of any T-Shirt slogans, or even the reputed stiff upper lip grin and bear it mien. Rather the nation had experienced a previous occasion for playing out of its collected grief, with the death of their Princess of Hearts. That was the circumstance in which they had mourned for their own unfulfilled lives, so that they had nothing left to give a second time when they were directly threatened with expiration. 



Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Wind Cried Mercy - Flash Fiction



When you prick yourself on a rose briar. When your cat scratches you in play. When you're stung by a bee. When you stub your foot on a forest stone because you're embosomed with your phone cursing the patchy signal. Pain used to bear a twin constituency, travelling along bifurcated tracks; the first paroxysmal path straight up the trunk road to the brain to alert to danger, demanding of immediate double declutch and reversing away from the hazard; the second, a slightly more sedate ache’s progress up the dorsal by-road, analysing the scenery and triaging the body’s response. But that was when the cause of the pain was external. Now with the agony emanating from within, there is no manoeuvre I can undertake to withdraw from its source. Since the source is me. I can fold myself over in two, I can grasp my stomach and squeeze myself, I can ram my eyes shut, but nothing can countervail the spasms. External objects never convulse you. They are hard and unyielding. The body is soft until it locks its muscles and garrottes your organs in peristaltic waves of pain.

I wish the doctor had never told me. I experienced the pangs yes, but I could always see them out eventually. But now I know what they signify, I cannot dismiss them through sheer gritted endurance. I might ride out the throb, but its lasting consequence still attends my conscious mind. The coronation of my imminent death. Heralded afresh with each piercing jag. 

Symptoms and side effects: Chronic fatigue. The divine diapason of the dawn chorus when I am prostrate in my bed, signalling the night has flogged me sleepless. Breathlessness. The delicately vibrating spider’s web, with captured raindrops holding the vista of the world held in their prism fair takes the breath away. Tremors and increasing ataxia. The passing of the clouds in the sky, with their intricately amorphous borders I try and trace the ends of but can never quite fix. Swelling and inflammation. The vibrant colours of the snapdragons in my vase are almost too vivid for me to behold for any protracted period. I try and sketch them but my hand shakes too much to capture them. When the blossoms shrivel and die they resemble nothing less than human skulls and so it is not only their lost colour that is sundered in the calvary of my mind. 


I lie down on my temporarily cease-firing stomach and inhale the grass in my garden. It smells extravagantly luscious. Complex. A mosaic of aromas. Nature’s musky spoor. I have never smelled it quite like this before. Sure I have been struck by the waft of newly mown grass, releasing its joys of being alive in Spring, once trepanned by the metal blade to incite further insurgent abundance. My nostrils, my mouth, my brain ingest such pungent vigour. And mock me for it. For the cut grass grows new hydra heads and will persist. Yet I will be decollated and asunder. There is no efficacy that other human heads persist beyond me for their finite span. Only now do I grasp this sumptuous fragrance, glean the pulchritude of life, but it will all be snatched away from me. I am only allowed a fleeting glimpse. The grass scolds me thus. It prompted rapture not a moment ago, now it only spites me with anguish and the sting within. And the grass, which does not rustle and whisper but rather hollers, is correct. This life that I desperately crave now that I know it is being withdrawn from me, to what end? Seeing that when I blithely possessed it, I was unaware and unappreciative of what it was for? What it offered. I barely occupy its bounties and benedictions, so how can I lament its passing? Yet I'm crying. Crying at beauty. Or crying for beauty. Crying at death. 

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Still - Flash Fiction



My child was finally out of me. Yet the convex salience of my belly still bore her cameoed imprint. No phantom amputee this, I did not still feel her to be inside. I was like the snake who had swallowed prey whole and my body accordingly distended around the shape of my ingurgitation. Yet now that digestional absorption was complete, the evacuation passed as scurf, my hide had not recoiled its elasticity to resile me sinuously lithe. And for what? We had both been destroyed by our co-habitation. For my child had been stillborn. She was the phantom amputee.

Romance Languages - Flash Fiction


“I love you” tasting bile at the back of my throat.

“Je t’aime” tasting saltiness on the inside of my cheeks

“Ich liebe dich” tasting blood on my tongue

“Ti amo” tasting defeat on my teeth


“Te ubesc” tasting betrayal on my lips

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Island Of Stability - Flash Fiction


As dead as the dinosaurs. Though not of course coeval with them. In laboratories chemists create super-heavy elements which exist for mere milliseconds before transforming back into more stabile arrangement of protons, neutrons and electrons. Such elements, if they ever existed in Nature, have such rapid decay rates that they have long ago become iron, lead, radon and the like. Their half lives played out into immutability. Why do the scientists bother when these elements have such a short lifespan, they offer no practical use at all? Because they quest after an ‘island of stability’ at some point on this spectrum, where elements exist with increasing half-lives that mean they have a much more stable existence, only no one has figured out how to create them, nor found them existing naturally. 

Such decay would have taken place by the time man appeared on the earth, but hey who’s present to say what time is at this pre-temporal stage? We use carbon dating and other radioactive decay metrics to back-define chronology, so this cavil still holds in real time. Not that there is such a thing of course. Experienced time is not stable. Only in mathematical terms is it regularly sequenced and segmented.

Ug had mined some lead by cracking open a rock. Unsurprisingly he was unaware that it was a radioactive isotope of lead (210), as he used it for a pillow to cradle his head at night. His body absorbed its decay and would have sparked off carcinogenic mutations within his body, only the era’s low natural life expectancy meant he would not outlive the lead’s twenty two year half-life that would have ravaged him unto death.

Ug pointed to the animal skins on his feet with the very spear that had smote the beast. Unk just assumed he was boasting and flouting his fortune from the recent hunt. Ug danced from one foot to the other, waggling the raised one in Unk’s direction. Unk’s blood was rising at the perceived continued sleight. Ug emitted some sounds, but Unk just shrugged his shoulders, or scratched his head, or held his hands out wide while crinkling the lower features of his face, the precise gestures not having been set in mutual comprehension as such. Ug threw himself at Unk’s feet, then struggled to lift one of them off the ground, sending Unk into a frenzy of hopping trying to keep his balance. Ug pointed at the scars and scabs and blisters on his confrere's foot, then pointed to the skins wrapped around his own and emitted some more sounds to convey the comparative weals of skin. Look Unk, we went through all this yesterday, remember, the petroglyphs? Unk smashed him over the head with his club as his final indecipherable and yet inviolable thought on the matter. 

Wait, hold on a minute Sonny Jim, I can smell it on you. Spliff. Skunk. Yes you do. Marijuana. Sinsimilla, Mary Jane. Grass. Cannabis. Bud. Weed. Collieweed. Reefer. Chronic. Blunt. Draw. Ganja. Herb. Whacky tobaccy. Oh this is hopeless. Let me open my Urban Dictionary translation app… What? Give me a moment here. Is that ‘dope’ as in isotope 13 or 15? Come on, throw me a bone here please. Open your mouth wide and enunciate clearly. As if any imaginary doobie between your lips would fall out… Do you mean ‘bad’ in the sense of isotopes 6, 8 or 10…? Damn youth and their rapidly mutating argot. Or is it ‘ergot’? Either way I’m getting a migraine… Not least think about how much money you waste on that stuff. No not waste, ‘spunk’. What? Money, you know, money? Oh sorry, English as a second language. Bank (isotope 72). Swag. Scratch (isotope 52). Dosh. Readies. Moolah. Lucre. Lolly. Loot. Booty (isotope 107). P’s. Spondoolicks. Skrill. Ah we have lift off! Docking with the mothership. Docking your pocket money might be an idea… Hold it, I’m an ‘askhole’? What the hell is ‘askhole’ when it’s at home...? Oh here we are. Hmmmm. You’re lucky I heard that right first time mistah, see you can enunciate when you choose to… I may be your mum, but even I can see that’s a fauxpology. See not quite as beyond redemption as you might think… How do you spell that…? No, nothing, guess Urban Dic hasn’t even caught up to that one yet goddamnit… Would you care to enlighten me as to its meaning…? Pretty please…? Oh, so it’s just the silent treatment now is it? Words fail me….


Wednesday, 27 December 2017

A Bucket List - Flash Fiction


The milkmaid entered the barn carrying a three-legged wooden stool in one hand, a metal pail in the other. She set down the stool, sat down and decorously arranged the hem of her bodice and smoothed the apron of her dirndl. He wasn’t sure why she was clad in a bonnet, surely it wasn’t as protection from squirted milk? Perhaps it was a covering against straw from the thatch above. Whatever its purpose, it conjured up in him images of hair nets worn in bakeries, that trepanned the wearer and in doing so changed the proportions of the face in unwholesome manner. Always enough to put you off your bread. Now it further induced in him the image of bank robbers who pull stockings over their faces to distort their features. No, enough of this bane, hair is meant to be witnessed! The milkmaid untied the straps of her bonnet under her chin, threw the linen away carelessly and shook out her liberated tresses with such flourish that necessitated a reprise of her raiment redress.

She brought her hands to the cow’s teats. She started plucking and drawing then back and forth like organ stops. The sound emitted was the metallic syncopation of the milk striking the metal sides of the bucket. I shuddered at the thought of her hands working me with such vigour, although the cow was seemingly unmoved by any discomfort in the contact. You were briefly stirred by the tribadic association of two females, however the alien nature of the udder, looking like some sort of deep marine creature shattered any imagining of the human mammary. In addition the stream of jism whizzing evoked by the unending jet of milk was further off-putting and confused any desired picture with him at the centre of it. And finally the soundtrack. That strange stretto effect as if the liquid percussion bifurcated into two notes on impact. To your ear it elicited somewhat the same as that of the men’s urinals with all that entailed. So while the milkmaid’s dress may be playing host to milky white drops resiling from the pail’s steel sides, no happy correspondence can be drawn because of the many occasions of urinary splash-back I had encountered. 

CRITIQUE:

  1. First, second (too passive?) or third (voyeur) person perspective? 
  2. Sounds other than human?
  3. No animals
  4. Keep in mind the visual qualities of fluids (colour)
  5. Consider precise motion and vigour of hands at work in symbolic activity
  6. The images (both experienced and imagined) held before any scenario even starts can knock it off kilter through less palatable associations

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Funeral Rites of JZKU-712 Flash Fiction


Both the digital recorders and our own analogue bodies inform us that gravitational force on planet JZKU-712 operates more strongly than that of our own. We deduce that is the main structural determinant of the aliens’ spherical body shape. They do not have protruding (facial) features as such. The distinctions are to be found in the patterns of tiny raised surface nodules or speckles which vary from individual to individual. We assume this is is also functional, in providing more surface friction to enable their locomotion. They operate with two modes of motion, by bouncing with a forward movement, or by orbiting, in which presumably they give themselves to the gravitational force of each other and large objects in order to cover greater distances. To see this is rather beautiful, like dancers or ice skaters passing on a partner to another, though of course they lack for open hands with which to do so. 

We have also observed their funerary rites. The point to keep in mind is that all stems from their body shape. They have no need of rectangular coffins and graves as we do. Nor do they opt for interment in the ground or cremation by fire. Instead they have what we surmise is a rather touching send off that engages the whole community with grace and due dignity and won us over form our initial irreverent treatment of their race as glorified basketballs. 

The first thing that obtains with death is they seal the departed up in a transparent membrane, which is also perfectly round. This is for the wake, which takes the form of each individual spending time with the deceased before gently and precisely rolling them on to the next mourner. The actual interaction can seemingly take many forms, from their form of whispered locution, which can best be approximated by the sound of letting air out of a ball, through to gently nuzzling or a slightly firmer contact which can induce rotational spinning of the decedent. Now you can see the reason behind our initial irreverence.

But from the wake we move to the funeral ceremony itself. The late individual has ended up with geometric precision unnoticed by us, right in the epicentre of the community. They all move to form a series of concentric circles radiating around the corpse orb. With military exactitude, they all start bouncing on the spot in rhythm with one another. That tempo changes repeatedly, but not a single creature misses its beat, the transitions are mellifluously smooth. The volume is not deafening, this is not a tattoo, instead it is clearly respectful. We conceive of this as their form of lamentation.  

Then on to the funeral march. No pall bearers and no jazz bands to serenade the way. Rather the concentric circles break up as everyone moves into one long single file, with the deceased at its head. Again, with flawless uniformity, each rondure takes a single pace (if ‘pace’ can be applied to brings of curvature), so that the file nudges forward exactly one pace, with the deceased at the head also rolling one pace only. The march inches forward with heart-breaking (to us) agonising slow solemnity. We imagine no individual can feel a personal grief out of whack with the rest, for to do so would be to send the decedent ricocheting off in the vanguard.


Finally they arrive at the burial grounds (‘burial’ again being an inappropriate term). It appears to be a lake of some sort. There is a gentle lap, but it is certainly not tidal. For lined across the water are rows and rows of spherical corpses to which this one is added. The lack of tumultuous swell means that just as with our graveyards, the dead retain their position in the ranks so that private grief can be visited upon them at a later date. While we infer the membranous skeins to be waterproof (and also to  prevent any damage of an inert entity being rolled, nudged and all other funereal impact given the lack of rigor mortis), we have no idea if the corpse decays within. Do putrefying gases within provide the flotation upon the water, where we might presuppose gravity to otherwise press them down into the depths? Whatever the physical processes at work, there is an undeniable delicate propriety to their final resting place.