Thursday, 9 December 2010
Thursday, 11 November 2010
I started doing #fridayflash when I put all other writing aside in order to promote and market my self-published novel. But as you probably all know, the ideas don't stop throwing themselves at you like wanton strumpets and flash writing in small bites seemed the perfect solution to feeding the piranha fish nipping at my synapses. Well it's been a year now with just one week missed and the art of flash has taught me a lot about writing. But I yearn to return to the longer novel form. I've got 3 other novels all in finished drafts, but can't decide how to proceed with them. Then there is the labyrinthine WIP I set aside at 40,000 words in, the time the published novel came out. But the twin prompts of NANO (which I'm only shadowing, not doing formally) and approaching my life-long nemesis of genre fiction have combined to give me the solution - a wholly new book and yes, a whole new direction for me as it's genre-based! Having started it on Sunday last, here's the opening 1000 words serving for my #fridayflash this week.
The two outriders slew their front wheels across the gravel, each throwing up a little cloud of brown dust. There was no other motion as the particles forged their sedate, wispy descent back to earth. Only once this tiny portion of the landscape had been allowed to resettle itself, did the two men faceless behind their mirror visors permit themselves to stir. They flicked their kick stands and adjusted their body weight to let their bikes sag from under them as the levers bore the burden of steel and chrome. Still in perfect unison like synchronsied swimmers, the men dismount and remove their leather gloves. One stares ahead of him, while the other surveyed where they had just come from. He spies the outline of a sleek saloon slowly growing larger as it gobbles up his own bike tracks, like Theseus retracing his route through the labyrinth marked by string. He briefly looks over his shoulder at his partner, the statuary symmetry between the pair finally sundered. The other curls his index finger tip to tip with his thumb and jags the 'aok' gesture back at him. They await the arrival of the car.
The car's tyres throw up a quartet of dust nebulae, out-muscling and out-trumping that of the outriders. But these brumes dissipate and disperse as if the car had wanted to spite their reunification with the ground. Behind the dark tint of its windows, the car sits utterly still, like a cat ready to pounce in the long grass. Not even the slowing revolutions and cooling of the extinguished engine dared broach the bated breath of the moment. Finally the tension is broken by the passenger window being cracked with the apologetic whine of low voltage electricity. The nearest outrider marches stiffly up to the car, ducks down to fill the purview of the voided glass. His voice little more inflected than the dull drone of the lowered window. He rights himself erect, steps a couple of paces back, then opens the door as if trying to die stamp himself. From within the interior, one trousered leg swivels, flexes and braces itself against the ground. Followed by a second. The further outrider can only see a pair of black leather shoes beneath the plimsoll line of the open car door. Virtually every day they play out this same scene in different settings, but never with any variation in the actions, the angularity and the algebra. A natural choreography evinced between men of rank.
The leather shoes pivot and the plimsoll line sinks as the mass extrudes itself from the upholstery. The outrider muses his habitual bafflement as to how so huge a bulk can be squeezed into such a confined space. The start of the old joke about how you get a family of elephants inside a Mini plays through his mind, but as usual he can never reclaim the punchline since the man mountain is barking queries at him that demand his attention. His partner is pointing beyond and the gelatinous mass of the superior's head makes an elliptical motion that could be either nod or shake, such are its indeterminate boundaries. Damn, it's happened again. The rear seat passenger has slipped out unnoticed and unremarked. Certainly the car's chassis never even dipped half an inch. For a big cheese, the luminary was awfully small in stature. Mousy. Bird-like. As gauzy as the dust cloud pressed out under his bike wheel. The superior is clearly exasperated that yet again the VIP has emerged on his own cognizance and not at that of himself who is supposed to be running the show. His bear of an arm extends, virtually eclipsing the whole of the cock sparrow. "We haven't established the security of the area yet". The VIP passenger approaches the superior officer and limbos under the outstretched arm without having to crook his body at all. "We've got a forensics team working at the site haven't we?" The larger man's redundant blockading arm drops with an audible displacement of air. "Nobody is trying to wipe out a forensics team. There's nothing to be gained from it". The large man moved swiftly in defiance of his girth, in order to interpose himself in front of Tiny Tim who had started to walk further into the gravel.
The smaller man could not help but be impressed with the man's dedication. If there was a sniper out there and he discharged a round into his covering minder, he fancied the man might deflate like letting the air out of a blow-up balloon. Presumably that's why he had been given the detail. But this whole rigmarole, outriders, bullet-proof saloon, tinted windows, minder, it just made him so uncomfortable. Giving the misleading impression that he himself was some kind of dignitary. When there was never any way to dignify these scenes he was charged with attending. Death scenes.
Fortunately, in the most miserable of circumstances that is, the present circumstance appeared to be in so blighted a spot, there was no crowd of bystanders. No members of his personal fan club to cheerlead him in his work, when all that was called for was a respectful quiet for the deceased. His presence usually engendered a delirious crowd which soon managed to turn every murder scene into a red carpet vigil. When the red carpet was usually woven of blood. But then there were flibbertigibbets at hangings of old, so maybe he shouldn't be so condemnatory. No Press today either, which was a blessed relief. Sometimes they deigned to turn their cameras on the scene of crime, but mostly they didn't even bother. They tended to be the celebrity pap smearers, rather than from the crime desk. Always their telephoto lens were pointed at him, Simon Moralee. Queasy superstar of the criminal investigation world. Maybe that's also why "Jellyneck" Morton had been selected as his minder, to block the clear shots of camera lenses as much as rifles, though the department was never averse to the unfailingly good publicity Simon raked in on their behalf.
Simon Moralee, the man who always got his man (or woman). The man possessed of a unique ability, which made him god's gift to the profession. Which every day made him want to turn his back on it all. If he ever took that fatal step, then indeed he would require a protection squad. For the populace would tear him limb from limb in such circumstance. And in passing over into death, he would be able to finger every one of his killers as his last act on earth. Providing a neat circularity to his life. Back to that moment his gift-curse first announced itself to him. When at seven years old he cupped his mother's lifeless head in his arms. And had a searingly clear image of her killer revealed to him.
Friday, 5 November 2010
Thursday, 4 November 2010
The seats in the bar fulfilled their function through being wholly impractical. They were the brainchild of an award winning designer, or possibly an ex-member of military intelligence with a penchant for torture interrogations. For the seat backs stretched on for ever, so that it was virtually impossible to nestle in them. If one managed to, then the pain in the fully distended calves and hamstrings made any protracted sitting back unbearable.
At the opening night press conference, the designer had defended his execution of the brief. Stating that the bar was a realm of leisure and pleasure, in contradistinction from the office. These seats demanded a different posture from the workaday sedentary, one that resolutely wrung out the spasmed musculature sculpted by the swivel chair. One of his interlocutors challenged him as to how such logic applied to the manual worker, he who laboured by the sweat of his brow and almost certainly uprightly. The designer just blinked the question back incredulously, with the crystal implication that manual workers would not be welcomed in this bar and perhaps more pertinently, would be unlikely to afford the cover price.
Whatever the body and class politics of the seating ergonomics, they did ensure all conversations were conducted with the sitters perched forward on the end of their chairs. Thereby projecting them slightly more confrontationally towards one another then might be the usual proprieties. However another feature of the venue, was that on securing privileged entry, patrons were handed special house lip salve tubes. They were encouraged, though not compelled, to apply these to their labia, whereupon the alchemy contained within served to pronounce the lips, while also blanching out the facial features bordering them. The overall effect was to foster a series of disembodied mouths paddling the air as they exercised themselves in speech. A sort of shoal of oral glowsticks. One might even suspect that the salve's chemical composition were actually hallucinogens. Only for the fact that all reported this hanging mouth phenomenon, rather than fall prey to their own personal imaginings.
A further sensory disjunction wrought by the bar's arrangements, concerned the co-ordination of eye and ear. Like any bar, it had music accompanying the buzz of live chatter. Plainsong, Buddhist chanting, all manner of liturgical airs ancient and modern gently palpated those more prattling devotions beneath the vaulted ceiling. Yet the giant wall-mounted video screens, with their sound turned off, showed frenetic musical performances from thrash and death metal bands. At no point could one match the tempo of the two sets of musicians. Evoked tonsures grated against flying long-hairs . While their flying V-guitars brandished with desperate, uncoiled violence, chimed against imagined genuflected benedictions soothingly conveyed by the august tones. Of course for all the severance between the two, patrons couldn't but stare open mouthed (as it were) at the giant screens even while they conducted their small talk.
Thereon into the restaurant itself, for the ultimate part of the experience. Having chosen your food when placing your initial drinks order at the bar, one was summoned by the groping hand of a blind waiter. For the interior beyond was pitched in total darkness. Impossible to see your own hand in front of you, which is why the entire waiting staff were blind in order to assist guiding you through your own loss of sight. The intention was to have the other senses sharpened by way of compensation. Really to experience the taste, texture and aromas of the food perhaps for the first time in an absolute age. There was no cutlery, one ate with one's hands. Rooting around for its location somewhere on a plate in front of you. Your fingers chose what item you would start levering into your mouth. Hot soup however was off the menu. Who could object if you picked up your plate and licked it clean to ensure you had indeed concluded the repast? There is no etiquette in darkness, other than you must surrender your mobile so as not to cheat by utilising its light.
Such were the enervated appetites of the chic and swanky, Café Sensorium was booked solid for two whole years in advance. It superceded the previous trendy hot spot of Café App. And yet the drinks came from the same made to measure optics. The food was nothing particularly amazing. The conversations of the rarified were the same as they always were, only laced with bromidic observations about their immediate environment and how it worked. Those unable to prick their own senses, now required an establishment to execute it for them. But it couldn't tell them whether they'd actually had a good time.
Tuesday, 2 November 2010
Ow! Unyielding. World already in total darkness, now shrunk to two foot at the end of a chain. Ha, the length of a cubit more like. Tight against ... like ... a radiator. It’s do damn hot here, who’d ever need a radiator for godssakes! Ow! Cuffs cutting into me. My flesh interposed between metal on metal. The weak link. Have to stay perched at the correct angle. An involuntary movement and immediate barbaric retribution! No, I came here to teach these people to repair themselves. And this is how they treat me? Tethered like an animal. At least the painted metal’s cooling I suppose. Let’s see if I’ve any movement at all here. Yes, if I just slide along this pipe, got my very own exercise yard. Have to keep remembering to give myself permission to move. Private Hell reporting for duty in someone else’s war Sir!
Clearly I have been afforded a window. The region of sight. Mocking me. Least it means I’m no longer in a cellar. Still in the pockmarked ruins of the city even? If I can just ... Sun’s definition, without luminescence, so only heat and fatigue to guide me. Got it. Full on now. Bob my face minutely across the arc of its gaze ... How clean the air feels ... Up in the mountains, or down in the desert? Who can tell? Cannot see, yet I am not blind. Have to keep telling myself that. Blindfold merely gnomon on the sundial of my skin. Time marked by coruscation, serves as my flare of distress. And listen out for sounds to narrate my story for me. All one need’s contained in the distant artillery. Meeting as intended, or just recoiling? Then nothing but evaporated silence. Are my gaolers even in with me? Tied to my anchor in here, beneath the unfailing scrutiny of such a powerful daytime flashlight out there, they have no need of perpetual watchfulness.
Jesus, this damned heat! It’s like a wall of steam. Can’t even divine the sun directly on me anymore. Jiggle my head this way and that... Just so till it breaks the surface tension and the droplet leaps to freedom ... or oblivion. And still the water trapped
Thursday, 28 October 2010
The detective tried to look into the eyes of the man across the table, but he would not meet his gaze. He knew the man was straining every muscle to keep himself from trembling. Borne of a chemical withdrawal rather than from any quailing fear abounding within their confrontation. Soon his interviewee would barely be aware of him sat here opposite, so involved in his own internal convulsions would he become.
"Do you want us to provide legal representation?" Of course he doesn't. The delay would only exacerbate his unravelling.
This time the man allowed his head to shake. Just the once.
The boy ever so gently cupped his hand around the butterfly. Trapped, the creature beat its wings feverishly. Even though the feel of it against the flesh of his palm was not unlike that of his rag which accompanied his thumb-sucking, this was far from comforting. Each stroke made his hand judder in response. Like a painless electric shock. As if it were the butterfly controlling him rather than the other way around. The butterfly's feeble surges produced lurching jabs of his hand. Like a shambling punch-drunk boxer.
"What about some coffee at least?"
"Do I look like a barrista?"
"I know my rights. I'm entitled to a drink".
"I can get you a cup of water".
"I need something to warm me up"
"I bet you do!"
"How about a tea then?"
"Don't tell me, twelve sugars! I can just bring you the sachets if you like and you can dispense with the tea. It'll be more tepid than the water that's for sure".
The flapping had become more intermittant. The boy finally permitted himself to exhale. When the spasmodic beats did occur, the boy's hand did not fly involuntarily away from him. Now that the palpations inside his hand weren't constant, he could concentrate on the sensation more. He realised it was more akin to turning a page of a book. That the wings were paper-like, rather than fluff fabric. His more recent books that was. Not the heavier cardboard ones with pictures and pull-the-flaps. He brought his hand up to his eye. Such motion prompted an antiphon from within.
"Hush there wee beastie" the boy whispered into his knuckles. The creature ceased its flurry.
The man could no longer rein in his twitching. He nipped at his skin with fingers clamped like pincers. He was muttering under his breath, but nothing the detective could make out, but he didn't interrupt its flow. Oh how he himself wished for a cigarette to mark out the time of this man's fraying. But the health and safety brigade had seen to that, even though he was more likely to be in danger from psychos with a bad nicotine craving. Fortunately the cold turkeys like this bird were too busy falling apart to launch an assault.
There was only ever an issue if they called for medical assistance. Then it got complicated. One prisoner denied just such a request spat at him proclaiming that he had AIDS and maybe he'd like to get a Doc in now... Animals, absolute animals. The only variable being the physiology of their addiction. In the time permitted to hold them without charge, will they crack under their own persecutions enough to spill their guts? In both senses of the term. So the pair of them just watch the clock countdown. One clock is mounted on the wall. The other inside every cell of the man's body.
The boy had it contained, but he couldn't see anything. This was the problem. He had been lured initially by its bewitching colours. But he had effaced that at an instant. Shut it up in a prison of darkness inside his hand. How he wanted to possess that beauty, but for that he needed to see it. He cast his memory back to the initial fleeting image. There was a searing orange like that of a tiger's, though not striped. Then there were those large white spots, like it had eyes on its wings. But he knew they weren't eyes, because the flutterby had never seen his palm coming. Some of the spots had black in them so that they looked like little skulls the same as on the flag of his pirate ship. Others were like the pattern on his Mum's summer dress, where the colours spread out and leaked into one another. When that happened in the washing machine and white clothes turned pink, his Mum had gone barmy. Then there were those spots that reminded him of his Dad's model aircraft that he showed him from when he was a child. They had red, white and blue circles on their wings. Maybe they copied it from the butterflies.
Now he recalled all this, he so badly wanted to open his hand and see if he was spot on. He didn't know what to do. His dad had told him that people collected butterflies, but that they knocked them out with gas and pinned them to a cork through their hearts. That seemed cruel. To kill something just to keep it in place. Dad said the colours never faded and that butterflies only lived a short time anyway. He lacked for gas, pin and cork anyway. He could just squeeze his hand more tightly. The beastie would die, but the colours would live on. Sort of like those paintings where you painted one half of the paper, then folded it over to double it. If it was rolled flat like paper, he could stick it into his scrapbook.
The boy looked at his hand and weighed up whether to open his fingers or grip them tighter.
The man was by now in a wretched state. He was scratching himself with real ferocity. The detective's gaze was caught by a tattoo on the man's upper arm, revealed as the sleeve of his shirt was wrenched virtually up to his shoulder. The detective had to screw his body round to view the tattoo, but the man was impervious. It appeared to be that of a butterfly. But there was something amiss with it. It wasn't to do with the track marks and wrinkled folds of skin. It just looked, well a bit too squashed.
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
"The idea of a radical Left in this country is a joke. A contradiction in terms. Shall I tell you why -?”
“No, but I’ve a feelin’ ya gunny anyway”.
“In Latin countries, in Europe and the Americas, the foot soldiers of the Revolution can discipline and hone themselves out in the wild, sultry outdoors. Stay hidden in jungles, live out of sight in mountain ranges. Back here, we just don’t have the space. Would-be sans culottes such as the likes of you, are left to fulminate in dingy public houses and ferment your flabby beer bellies. Our climate only lends itself to beer and sandwiches militancy. Pickled onions and scotched eggs. Little Napoleons with their miniature armies of flying pickets. Your activities were responsible for the destruction of those industries as much as economic forces”.
“Is that right?”
“Too damn right it is!”
“Even ostriches have to come up from the sand for air. Your Clydeside may well have been Red, but further upstream, the only thing turning pink under the sun, wasn’t any cadres on exercises, but poached salmon. As in stolen. See, what you fail to comprehend, is most people actually quite like the quality of their life in Britain. There are some birthrights, that even the most foaming fanatic would be loathe to relinquish. How would the new order guarantee such a range of beers in our glasses, from Real Ale to imported lagers? Or maintain a languidly thrilling five test match series against former colonies? Or foster such a thriving music industry, so as to soundtrack their own personal embitterment?”
“Fer sad English bastards mebbee, do’nae tar the Scots wi’all that”.
“You never know, global warming might now foster the conditions for developing a year zero tendency in our midsts, even in Bonny Scotland. You've got the mountains there after all”.
“Yer talking pish and you know it!“
Friday, 22 October 2010
Yet he knew he wasn't returning to any birthplace, though he may well die once he'd reached wherever it was he was aplunging. Once his head had finished splitting in two. His grey matter hellbent on flying away centrifugally (and who could blame it for wanting to secede from him?) Only to be stopped up short by his temples. Jagging flippers on the pinball table of his cranium.
There was only one thing for it. He opened his eyes hoping to focus outwards. But the world registered 'tilt'.
The ceiling rosette directly above his head was whirligigging like a catherine wheel. Possibly without the flaming sparks, though conceivably they might have been dust motes. He blinked his eyes for perspective. They felt like glasspaper and he imagined hearing two great grainy scratches across his retinas.
He chanced gazing upwards again. Now the medallion molding was maybe gyrating like a frisbee. Or a giant chinese throwing star hurtling towards decapitation. He was inclined to duck, only his head was buttressed by the mattress. There was nowhere further down for him to go.
Besides, the curlicued plaster wasn't threatening any sharp edges. Now that it receded into an ebbing stream of menace, the resemblance was more like one of those spinning plates atop a pole, or in this case, the electric cabling of the ceiling light. Gyroscoping good, he could be reasonably secure that it was never going to come off its axis and crown him.
He averted his head so that his eyes were titled to the wall rather than the overhead. Staring right at his girlfriends' giant quilted hanging of the yin-yang symbol. As he blinked his swimming eyes, the curvilinear shape started throbbing and heaving out of the wall towards him. Like a piston, only this one was swirling like those jokey hypnotic patterns. Like a shield wielded by an imaginary Amazonian warrior. Only his Amazonian had deserted him. Which is why he had hit the bottle so hard this night. To stave off one sort of withdrawal, by inviting upon himself a whole set of other symptoms.
The whole room was starting to orbit around him. But he felt far from stellar. When he was a boy, he'd had a mobile of the solar system in his room above his bed. Properly modelled to scale and with the orbits correctly fashioned once you set the thing in motion. But the lie was built in, for there is no friction in space and yet sure enough there in his bedroom, the plastic planetary spheres would eventually cease their movement.
If that travesty wasn't bad enough, because the mobile was situated over his radiator, in the winter they were bristled into strange elliptical patterns by the rising convection currents. There's no heat in space. No gusts of breath. It was these calumnies that made him want to become a scientist.
He gingerly extended his leg, dangling it over the side of the bed seeking out the carpet. Hoping against hope that the floor wasn't awash in convulsions of its own. As he did so, his foot caromed against something harder than shagpile and he darted his head to see what he'd hit.
It was a glass tumbler on its side, revolving wildly about its axis with the force he'd unwittingly imparted it with. He noticed that there was maybe a thimblefull of scotch still in it, though with each turn of the glass carousel the golden nectar threatened to eject and deny him once again. He rolled over so that his head was hanging over the side of the bed. Held in thrall by the glass's perpetual rotation. Where was friction now when you needed it? This was as agonising a wait as for the roulette wheel in a casino to cease its convolution. Red/black anticipation. Each time the spirit eked its way along the flute of the glass, gathered its energies to leap the void, only for it to be whisked back away from the rim as the glass continued to veer round madly.
Finally the glass slowed to a halt. At its termination, the liquid dribbled down over the rim and on to the carpet. Zero, House wins. He flopped back on to the body of the bed and put his hand to his head.
Gravity is experienced as a force in three and four dimensions. beyond that, it is simple geometry. The local warp of space between two objects of large mass. Like planets. Like the headache he was toiling under, when one of the objects had departed the scene and gouged a big hole in his spacetime fabric. He would have a cosmological hangover in the morning.