Monday, 1 March 2021

End of the Blog

 It's been fun but also it's been going on for too long now. So I've shifted over to a new blog.

You can check it out here.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Unfinished Story #5

After redundancy he’d turned to painting local scenes and there had always been a cow in the picture, always the same breed. Residents who knew their livestock remarked upon this, that the idyllic image drawn, with its glossy dark red coat and pure white horns looked more like the American Milking Devon – though originally derived from the British North Devon, they were not to be found in the area. However, these cows were somewhat handsomer, and any question over why the artist had chosen the breed over any other was put down to aesthetics by all but the Japanese businessman who one day offered the sum of fifty thousand pounds for the purchase of one of these paintings. During an unplanned visit to the south-west coast of England, the businessman had entered the local art gallery of Roswell (the English coastal town, with no connection at all to its American counterpart; with no hint whatsoever of a UFO sighting).
In 1997 this was a fair fortune and enough, almost, to set one up for life.
Champagne was popped. Our artist, you see, had had the wonderful idea of hiring out a room in the local art gallery for a month of the summer season and filling it with his own work which he’d priced to levels of extortion. He would only have to sell one painting …
Sat on the floor of the circular room, stared down at by twenty-two versions of the American Milking Devon – stuck in the corner of a pasture at night; beside an old barn; holding up a line of early nineteen-fifties sports cars on a gritty, country lane; the moon, stars, bright sunshine and cool dusk – he felt them from distance, always in the background, slowly chewing and always far away. In another picture the sports cars had been replaced by a group of schoolchildren. In another the same children were dancing round a maypole. A local fair, a farmyard scene, harvest and haystacks and always the cow looking on from far away.
In one picture alone the cow had been at the forefront, pushing its wet nose up to the artist. But this picture was no longer there for the Japanese businessman had taken it.
His mother, the artist’s mother, found him a week later at his flat. She’d heard of the sale, she knew about his pictures. In truth the artist owed her for a small loan he’d been promising to pay back but she hadn’t been there for a handout, no. She’d gone there to advise him.
Divorced and then redundant; living alone, the artist had turned to gambling, turned to drink; he’d been irresponsible, unable to cope with such a large amount of money.
She’d walked over to where he lay, unconscious on the sofa. Called an ambulance.
My son …”
But it had been two days too late, and afterwards, almost as long as a year afterwards, she’d found herself flying out to Tokyo.
From the airport onwards she’d swum through a confusion of trains, taxis and rich new buildings; strange young fashions; through a plethora of foreign scents and the buzz of an alien race.
She had a card:
Mr Suzuki,” repeated the doorman.
He’s expecting me. We’ve been in contact. By telephone.”
The doorman spoke to her in English, though unaware of this (for his accent was strong) the artist’s mother nodded and smiled, nodded and waited until eventually a man came down; not much taller or younger than herself and they shook hands; the grey-haired old woman and the ageing businessman, welcoming, smiling and bowing. “Won’t you come up?” he said to her, and she understood perfectly for Mr. Suzuki’s English was much better than the doorman’s.
To the artist’s mother it was like a high class hotel but it was apartments and his on the fourteenth floor. As they entered he gave her slippers to wear and she thanked him, taking off her coat and counting four rooms in total, three closed doors. In the main living space there was a shallow dining table, calligraphy on the walls and a small television next to a strangely archaic stereo for long players – an extensive collection of the latter took up a whole wall from floor to ceiling in a fine set of cabinets.
Tea?” the businessman asked. A record was playing which she recognised as jazz. Old jazz from the forties or fifties. Her son’s picture hung amongst the calligraphy.
It stands out,” the artist’s mother told him. They were sat by the table. He had prepared a selection of snacks.
It does,” he agreed.
And why that one?”
Ahhh …”
The businessman stood and went over to the picture, pointing to top right corner. “The cow is quite something, but the, up there …” He pointed to a splodge of light. “You know,” he said, turning around and back to her, “when I went to your country, it was quite by accident.”
The artist’s mother fiddled with her chopsticks. “Not something you’d planned.”
Something … what is the word … a feeling …” The businessman sat down again opposite her, took up a piece of dried tofu while she sipped at her tea. “Once arriving, in London, I had the idea of driving out to the countryside. The city, it didn’t …” He smiled, thinking back. “I drive. I drive and I drive.. And then I see the sign for Roswell and, fate!” he remarked, eyes brightening. “You see, I was there.”
At Roswell?”
Yes, yes. But not your town. I mean I was there, in New Mexico. In 1947!”
You mean when that alien landed?”
The businessman laughed. “Yes, yes, the alien.”
So horrible,” the artist’s mother shuddered. “Why did you have to go and do that?”
No, no. No alien. Not true.”
Of course, of course,” she said. Then absently: “You know I saw it on the television. Alien autopsy, they called it. And it reminded me of that cow cut in two.”
Your son’s …?”
No, no,” she laughed. “The one by that artist, Damien something or other.”
Ahh, Damien Hirst.”
Was that his name?”
Mother and Child Divided. The cow and calf in … formaldehyde. Very famous.”
Yes …”
There was silence for a fair few minutes before he filled her cup, explaining: “I was part of a team. Long time ago now. Aircraft. Experimental, new models. That alien business. The UFO sighting. A misunderstanding. A story.” The businessman opened his arms wide.
I see.”
Long time ago.”
And that’s how you made your money? The aircraft?”
Ha, ha. In a way, yes.” He sat chewing, saying no more while awkwardly the artist’s mother picked up a fresh piece of okra.
Your home here is very nice.”
The businessman smiled again. “In Tokyo, the apartments are small. Not like the houses in your country.”
No, no. It’s lovely. You’ve done well.”
He thanked her humbly, made a short bow, then caught the artist’s mother looking again at her son’s picture.
He died, you know.” She was clutching at her tea cup. “He’d been celebrating.”
Celebrating …”
The artist’s mother had closed her eyes and in her mind she was moving over to the picture; smashing at the glass – she was throwing her hot tea against the bare, naked canvas.
I’m sorry,” she said, opening her eyes to the worried expression before her. She made as if to stand, then sat back down, defeated.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Miners - deleted scenes

_ _ _ _

You’re on Earth, looking at a dark pink poppy, cupping it in your rather tired, leathery hand; in a park alone, surrounded by scrappers and the hum of distant automotives. You fly upwards to the busy skies. Further and further you rise. Beneath you is nothing. White and blue.

Continuing to soar, out through the atmosphere, your home planet is soon but a dot in the background.

A spaceship lies ahead. A turd shaped heap of junk housing a thousand TG mining robots. They sleep in their cells – inactive, powerless. Only two ordinators aboard, yourself and your partner, in a cell slightly bigger, two beds, two cupboards and a shared toilet cube.

_ _ _ _

Mate …”

Pretty good, huh?” you say with a puff of white breath.

Incredible,” he sighs.

And how many …?”


Eight dead.”

Thirty injured. But yeah,” he huffs, getting to his feet. Could’ve been a lot worse.”

The first accident had been the worst.

Toughens you up,” they told you.

The sacrifice those miners had made. It sickens you to think of it.

But you’d been happy on that day. On that day you’d been a success.

_ _ _ _

A Melody, a pretty name and just as you’d expect she’d been young and beautiful (or do you just remember her that way?). Her first day on the job and she’d died in a cave-in that could have been prevented with a little more funding.

Chocolate, a buddy of Manny’s for almost a month. You’d been jealous in a weird sort of way. But when his suit had malfunctioned, when you’d witnessed the freezing and crumbling of his face … you’d told Manny that he’d died quickly and peacefully. The expression of horror in his eyes staring up at you, it was something you’d always been able to, had to shake off.

Vandermeer, Miller, Tessa, Nathan, Eli … somewhere in your subconscious you carry stories of these people too. And explosion on Demos. A gas leak on The Good Companion.

Captain Worrit. Did he die or just leave? He’s there in your memories. That’s right. He’d been the one before you. Manny’s original partner. His mentor.

Whatever happened to Captain Worrit?” you feel like asking Manny. And you will, you will ask him.

_ _ _ _

The bomb that went off killed thirty of your colleagues. That had been the second time, also on the moon. You’d tried to blame the authorities, back in the bar at moon base alpha, you’d all had plenty to say and most of it had been directed at them. Some of it at the inevitable danger that these jobs took – even Manny hadn’t blamed you. But you’d been tired, it was a careless mistake. A minute too soon and it had blown away those just a hair’s breath from safety.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Unfinished Story #4 part 2

There’s three of them and the perfect opportunity already. I take up my seat, order a pitcher of wet.

Captain Flycatcher,” I state. “Here to welcome you all.”

To what?” one of them hogs.

To the legend,” I answer.

They’re Grinthems. Planet Grintha natives. Green-skinned with large ears and bulging eyes. Their fists have claws which can extend to become deadly – though in modern Grinthem culture it is something of a faux pas to use these claws in battle. It shows weakness, an unfair advantage.

The fattest of the three gets down from his stall. He’s short but stocky. They all are and I’m disappointed.

To the legend,” I slur, raising my glass at them. I swivel, challenging them to meet my toast. “You’re lucky it’s my day off,” I say. “Or it could be an early night for you all.”

The fat one who’s standing, he squares up to me, butting his shoulder against my side. Part of my drink spills on my lap and I have an idea.

An early night, you say?” he’s sneering.

To your good self,” I reply, feigning drunkenness. I raise the drink at his ugly face, knocking it against his flat nose and the contents spill down his front.

His two friends stand.

Well look what you’ve done now, Mr …”

Captain,” I correct, swinging about on my stall. “Captain Flycatcher.”

You seem very sure of yourself, Captain Flycatcher,” says another of them, emphasising the ‘captain’ part with a sarcastic twang. “Seems to me you’d be better off offering my friend here an apology.”

Don’t be ridiculous,” I slur. “It is you three who should be thanking I.”

I let that one hang until one of them finally answers. Here in the bar the only sound is now from their grunts.

Thanking us?” one of them relents.

For not taking you out where you stand,” I reply. “I am, after all, trained in sixty-eight forms of martial art.”

Sixty …”

Unlike the three of you,” I continue. “I hear on Grintha it’s all hugs and growling. That is, when you’re not using your claws. Rather dull if you ask me. Neanderthal,” I laugh.

Neander –

Backward, my good sir. Simple. You wouldn’t stand a chance.”

He’s mocking us,” says one of them.

You want to try me?” says the fatter one. He moves forward to grab me by the scruff of my suit.

Lifting me, he proceeds in hurling my body across the bar where I land with a crash against a stack of bottles that clatter with me to the floor.

Well,” I say, now standing from the mess. “Looks to me like you fellows need to be taught a lesson in manners.”

I apologise to the barman who is very much now next to me.

We don’t want any trouble here,” he’s saying. “This establishment is a peaceful one.”

He’s roughly dressed and of geriatric age. I pat him on the shoulder, brush myself down and smile.

No need to worry,” I say. “Got it all under control.”

I’d say he has,” says one of the Grinthems, and they each begin to laugh.

Take the damages out of their credit,” I grin, patting the barman on the back. Then I launch myself up and over the bar again, lunging at the nearest Grinthem with a flat palm swipe.

He falls to the floor, dumbstruck.

I’d say you asked for that,” I scold, then smile towards the remaining two.

They look down at their companion. He’s not out, not yet. Instead, slowly, he’s getting to his feet awkwardly.

Back for more?” I say, putting out my fists. I move two steps forward, then back. Then the three of them are suddenly running at me.

I kick at the one on the left; the fastest and lightest and he’s spun and over a table. In the same move, with my left fist I’ve done a ‘duck and under’ at the next. He’s stopped in his tracks and looks perplexed at where I got the strength from.

While dodging the third Grinthem’s run, I spin and hit him again, watch him slowly fall to the floor.

You Quelga!” the third one says.

Now, now, no need for that kind of language.”

This Grinthem whose run I avoided is the one who I hit first. Standing before me, he’s snorting heavily, full of spite. “I’ll kill you …”

Now, now …”

But his claws are now unleashed.

I’ll murder you …”

Now hold on,” I try. “Wait a second here …”

What d’ya say?” he asks the others who have each now risen to their feet once more. “Last night on the station? What difference would one more kill make?”

Now wait here a minute. I was only … only playing here.”

But all three of them now have their claws out.

You’ve no idea who we are, do you?” says tallest and thinnest of the three. Their eyes are filled with venom. On their belts I take in the clubs.

Grintha, Grintha, I think. Those clubs, they mean something.

Afraid I don’t,” I relent, which by the look of their expressions could well have been the wrong answer.

On their right breasts are the crests of the Grinthem monarchy. A slug-like creature split into two over a red moon.

I’m … how about a round of drinks here?” I say to the barman who’s standing there watching us. Whatever it is I’ve missed here, it’s hard to guess whether he knows, but he knows I’ve missed something. Hell, they all do.

I look around the rest of the bar. Count twenty pairs of eyes, watching us sullenly. Three humans, two together and one by herself at the back. The two are young men like me. Officers. They’ll be of no help.

Would Captain Flycatcher prefer to be slashed or ripped?”

There’s four Capulka, and with their tentacles I’m sure they could hold off these Grinthem for long enough for me to get away.

Hey, guys,” I try. “A little help here?”

The three Grintha begin to snort and bellow in laughter.

Seems Captain Flycatcher has a lot of friends today …”

Two Falunas covering in the corner. A couple of droids and then the woman again. She’s coming this way. She’s holding …

Problem?” she asks. In her left hand is a large motor-shooter.

The three Grinthems turn.

Well look what we have here?” one of them sneers.

I’d say we have three dead spies,” says the woman. “You want to keep up the act with him, then fine. But my ex-husband was a Grinthem, and I must say, I’m insulted.” She points the end of the motor-shooter at their claws. “A royal guard would never need to be reduced to such barbarianism. You even know how to use those sticks?”

So maybe we kill you too,” says the fatter Grinthem to her. “You accuse us of not being who we are. If you were married to a Grinthem, you should know,” he coughs, “that such an insult cannot go dismissed.”

You calling me a liar?” she spits.

Each of them is now taking out their club.

Royal guard, I’m thinking. But I’ve got nothing – this woman’s knowledge of Grinthemian culture is obviously far greater than mine.

They’re advancing at her and she’ll either shoot them dead or suffer that consequence herself.

Now wait a second here,” I try. “No need for any more trouble.” I offer my apologies, doing a little bow. “Should have recognised three Grinthems of status when I saw them …”

The Grinthems stop: three ugly heads turn back at me. The word ‘status’ is rather generic; though I know they must have some kind of position, even if only Hades knows what it is.

Need your girlfriend here for rescue?” asks the shorter one.

Yes, yes I do,” I relent. I’m a good actor, always have been. It’s got me out of a lot of scrapes. Knowing when to quit, knowing when not to.

It’s fine,” I say to the girl. She’s pretty but I’ve hardly had time to acknowledge that yet. “My friends and I, we were just playing,” I tell her. It’s a risk but better than getting anyone killed. I stumble over to the three Grinthems, arms out and full of warmth. “My friends,” I slur, then pull them into a rather clumsy embrace. For the bystanders watching, it must be the strangest sight they’ve ever seen.

Think of it in slow-motion. Three ugly expressions of confusion, then disgust. They rip away, then push at me and I let them. Then they’ve lifted me up and thrown me at the bar again.

Once more I fly, at the stack of bottles the barman has just reassembled. Again I crash to the floor.

Though this time I’m playing a different character.

My sincerest apologies to you all,” I sing with the same piteous performance of a bow. “And a round of drinks for everyone.”

I gesture to the crowd, my audience of yellow studs.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Unfinished Story #4 part 1

I don the red suit ’cause that’s the way it is.

I’m looking for a fight, to freshen up, to kick ass to the three months of nothing – mining negrolite for credits on that godforsaken planet and here I am on Station Electra, no plans for what’s next.

I stare at the mirror, tighten the suit. It’s beautiful, pathetic. Wonderfully idiotic.

Captain Flycatcher,” I mumble.

Pulling on the dark red boots, I smile at my reflection.

A young face, thirty years of age; stubble and flushed cheeks.

I stand and the fake leather squeaks with my joints. My lanky figure accentuates the haplessness. A blonde fringe waving to his left and my right; blue eyes, the perfect victim.

Captain Flycatcher,” I repeat.

And I stride to the door.

Whoosh, it sounds, shunting upwards.

Stepping out into the corridor, I make my way to the bar while the videoscreens scream at me. This room, that room. Injections for pleasure. Rides to Gzynthem. Casinos that value the customer and opportunities in a life of trade.

Turning left along a series of flashing oblongs, I measure my pace, ignoring it all.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Jimmy's Room - part 3

Dawned on me tonight how I’ve never seen Jimmy outside his room. Remember wondering for a while – and still now – if he’s got some sort of problem. Like agoraphobia or whatever. After seeing him again just now, I’m more certain than ever.

Was a good night at the start, listening to tunes and playing Tomb Raider. This time it was mostly Jimmy, I and Led Zeppelin, an old band Dad used to like when he was younger. There was this funny moment when we imagined if aliens were observing the planet to study human behaviour and they’d homed in on us. The two of us sat there, listening to seventies metal and generally chilling out. How the aliens’d be deciding that of all the people on campus, we were the ones who knew what the score was. Who were using their time in the best way possible. (Doesn’t sound as funny as I write it now but at that moment we were finding this scenario hilarious.)

Then, just as the night was ending, the worst thing happened in that Jimmy said he was leaving university. The situation is, he hasn’t been to a single lecture since getting here (he’s supposed to be studying political science).

When I asked “Why not?” he simply replied that he hadn’t felt like it; like his heart hadn’t been in it. His course I mean. At least I think so. But anyway he got a letter last week kicking him out.

Jimmy didn’t seem particularly bothered when telling me. Said it was fate and probably a sign he was meant to be doing something else. Said he’d miss halls and the friends he’s made, but that he’ll still visit from time to time.

Bit strange to say I’d miss him, but finally said I was sorry to see him go, which sounded better I guess. Dawned on me again how I’ve never seen him anywhere but his room – a few times we’ve been out as a group, Graz, Jung, Adam and even Sean, but though Jimmy always says he’s gonna join us on such occasions, he never does.

Playing Tomb Raider with a random selection of people dropping in and out to say hello. Next term there’s gonna be none of that. A few weeks from now and it’ll be a blurred, “See ya later,” sort of farewell that won’t properly sink in until the option of going up there is no longer around.

Ahh, Jimmy’s room … I’ll miss it for sure. But at least now I’ll be forced to kill the addiction.

Reckon I’ll make cornflakes with hot milk before going to bed. For some reason I’ve got a real craving for cornflakes.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Jimmy's Room - part 2

Now I’m not saying every night is as great as all that. Sometimes it can even get a bit boring, especially when it’s just me and Jimmy. And then there’s what happened a few nights ago, which was downright strange.

Started off all right. There they were, Jimmy and Sean, sitting on the bed playing Mario Cart as though they hadn’t moved since the last time I’d been in there – imagine it seemed to them as if I’d only gone downstairs a few moments before, at least, that was the way it felt. No need to even say hello. It was simply, “Got some gingerbread,” and “Cooool,” and, “Have a try on this, Bradley.”

At first, as I say, it was just like normal: but over the next few long minutes of nothing I began to realise that something was kinda wrong. It’d been a tiring day with three lectures and an extra maths class, maybe that’s why, but pretty soon my head was in a right mess.

Paranoia set in and suddenly Jimmy and Sean were plotting something against me; literally plotting – they’d been waiting all day and now I was here they were gonna do something terrible, like, I don’t know what. Kill me?

I mean it all went from me happily eating Mum’s carefully sliced gingerbread pieces, pleased to’ve decided to go up to Jimmy’s room, them playing Mario Cart and us all getting on really well; me thinking that maybe I had two great friends here and how much better it was in Jimmy’s room than downstairs by myself … but like I say, before long the whole feeling on this night was kinda different from most and I needed to get out.

Thoughts of escape swirled confusedly round my head before finally I mentioned the firework display on campus; asked if they were up for it. Then without even speaking to each other they were silently refusing, showing a complete lack of interest.

Sean changed the CD and in my paranoid state I couldn’t understand why he’d chosen this moment to do so. Then it occurred that it was a two player game and when was the last time they’d given me a turn? Could’ve only been a minute before; the state my head was in, I had no idea and was becoming convinced they never let me have a go so what the hell was I doing sitting with them? Why the hell should I put up with that?

In a blur I stood up, saying I had to go see the fireworks, trying my best to be polite and not cause a scene – which of course I wasn’t doing, but with the condition of my emotions at the time, simply leaving the room was a mammoth task.

Next thing I remember was walking over grassy fields in the pitch black, finally finding my way to the top of the hill and being rewarded with the best firework display I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Fireworks after being in Jimmy’s room is awesome, I’ve gotta say. Stood there at the edge of the small crowd that there was, gaping up at the sky, completely taken aback by the whole experience.

Funnily enough (and quite randomly) Jung was there too. All at once I’d found myself stood next to him in the dark. Can’t remember exactly what I said but his reply was something along the lines of, “Man, you so wasted,” which I thought was quite funny. Although when I was laughing and saying, “Yeah man,” he didn’t seem to be finding it as hilarious as I was.

Same with the fireworks. I think he considered the whole thing pretty lame.