Red, Green, Blue

I open my eyes and it feels different. It feels dreamy. When I try and concentrate, I realise that I don’t remember how it felt before. But I think it was sharper. I think it feels softer now. More relaxed. Slower.

I try to stand up, but I can’t.

I try to move my legs, but I can’t.

I look down at my hands, crossed on my lap, and see a tiny dial. Like a timer on an old rehydrator. The arrow points to red. Red what? It has two more notches: green and blue. Green and blue what? I turn the dial one notch to green.

I try to scream, but I can’t.

I taste metal. I feel suddenly cold. I can see the edges of the room now, but I wish I couldn’t. The walls glitch and distort. I feel like I’m going to vomit. I look down at my wrist to turn the dial, but it’s gone. It was right there.

I look up at the ceiling, hoping for a calmer sight than the walls, but it’s worse. It’s cracked and melted and shattered, and it oozes slowly towards me. I turn my head away and see the dial. My other hand. How did it move? I crank the dial to blue.

Clear.
Crystal.
Light.

I feel at peace.
Everything starts to desaturate, to darken.
But I feel at peace, and I welcome it.

Colour to grey to black.

Posted in 2013-07-29 to 2013-08-11 - Red, White, and Blue | Comments Off

Triage

Speeding through the pretty landscape in the fastest train in europe: a good way to spend a sunny afternoon. My mind quietly drifts to the smooth thrum of the wheels; at 400km/h the french countryside is a pleasant green blur through the window of the TGV. My eyelids begin to droop.

Something is being dragged over me and suddenly I’m very cold. I can’t see or move at all but I’m not afraid. I feel calm, objective. The voices seem tense, business like, strained – after a long time I realise that I can’t understand them.

“Etat bleu,etat bleu, etat bleu…”, a clear woman’s voice from nearby, tired almost bored sounding.

“Etat rouge, il respire , médecin! Etat rouge! Ici!”, much closer now.

Then I hear frantic activity, a hubbub of foreign voices: all calm, all urgent, all doing something. They sound really stressed, I wonder what could be so important. But whatever their business  it is over soon enough and they rush off. It’s quiet again but still so cold.

“Etat bleu, etat bleu…”, that same woman again very close now – near my feet. A weight is rolled off my right arm. She is so close I can hear her breathing now.

“Dieu ait pitié”, she whispers. And then, louder, “Etat bleu”.

Something warm touches me, pulls against my shoulder, almost lifts me. It hurts. I think I scream and that damn woman starts getting all excited again.

Posted in 2013-07-29 to 2013-08-11 - Red, White, and Blue | Comments Off

The middle chair

Chairs standing empty
Scratch marks on the wooden floor
A discarded broom

A narrative in objects:
Chairs, marks, broom and the oak chest.

The lock lays broken
Pieces of it scattered wide
The chest’s lid open

Within a velvet cushion,
A dent where something had lain.

The air inside glows.
A residue from the theft,
A trail to follow.

Three had kept vigil this night.
Which would dare such sacrilege.

Down the corridor:
Leathered soles against stone slabs.
Quickly receding.

Sounds follow the trail of light,
One fleeing, two pursuing.

The pursuers shout.
The thief wisely saves their breath,
gaining, inch by inch.

Heretic, thief, traitor, betrayer.
One who would defy the gods.

High up, the bells toll.
The thief curses, picks up speed.
Bells mean constables.

Outside all is confusion.
Narrow streets echo alarm.

They round the corner.
Arms and blades fly. The thief falls.
The new owner runs.

Posted in 2013-04-22 to 2013-05-06 - Renga 2 | Comments Off

Falling in Darkness

I almost recall,
It was not always like this.
There was a before.
At the edges of recall,
 Just a soft-edged memory.

Sunshine and spring greens, 
Images swim before me.
 Living peaceful space. 

Then the monsters came for us. 
We were helpless, defenceless. 

Surrounded by noise. 
Handled, split, separated. 
Weave mind torn asunder.

They took the oldest ones first, 
Slaughtered them in front of us. 

Those long memories, 
destroyed in our living mind. 
Now only ignorance. 

We try to remember them:
The old ways, the traditions. 

Disoriented. 
Empty chasms through our knowledge.
Our wisdom stolen.

We wander without a goal
We aim without a target Tweet ·

Without stimulus. 
Held in this featureless void. 
Community fades.

We no longer hear the songs. 
Connections, brutally cut.

Nought is left to us. 
They watch us and we watch them.
Life is emptiness.
Posted in 2013-04-22 to 2013-05-06 - Renga 2 | Comments Off

Seeker

Finally ready,
She takes her hands off her eyes,
And stands up, stand tall.

Her black silk shirt is weightless;
the floor, cold beneath bare feet

the stone is worn smooth and sleek,
but splinters stick to her sole

She walks with full confidence,
Hiding the consuming fear.

By the oak tree stump
An axe is being sharpened

Made for her light build,
Designed to be swung just once.

The sacrifice sits
Bound, gagged, blindfolded, waiting.
It stirs, tries to speak.

Horror consumes her
as she sees the victim’s face.
Inhuman. Strange. Wrong.

Features swim around its face,
Shimmer like sun on water
She must to kill it.

Something deep within call out:
Erase this wrongness.

Fingers wrap around the axe.
She swings it, testing its weight.
She feels it in her:

The human urge to murder,
To kill the unknown.

She takes short, quick, steps forward.
She raises the axe up high.

Posted in 2013-04-08 to 2013-04-21 - Renga | Comments Off

Fish

In freezing water
he swims lethargically,
hoping to see light.

His fingertips start to numb,
the cold closing in on him.

It struck his left wrist.
Entanglement from the dark.
Then a sudden tug.

Adrenaline starts pumping,
Not like this. No, not like this.

Dragged downward, enclosed.
Air to breathe and giant eyes
he gasps at the warmth.

His sore eyes adjust slowly
He can’t believe what he sees

This black humid space,
lit by the great golden eyes,
feels like sanctuary.
It feels just like coming home.
He smiles in spite of himself.

No longer afraid,
he opened himself to it.
Ego-less comfort.

Large soft hands grip his shoulders,
Hold him firmly, but not still.

So much was revealed,
But he never spoke of it.
Some truths are secret.

He still remembers the smell.
Like rain running on tarmac.

Weeks later he returned,
Washed up on a remote beach.
Unconscious, smiling.

Posted in 2013-04-08 to 2013-04-21 - Renga | Comments Off

Black Dust

Experience weighs upon the soul like black dust.

Youth is filled with fresh clarity;  the scales of decision are unburdened by memory.  What little knowledge we have of the world is easily measured and instantly evaluated.  Each decision an obvious consequence of our understanding.  Our bemused elders seem unable to grasp the plainest argument.  As if lost in a hall of mirrors they point at subtle reflections and miss the obvious truth.

But as the youth rant the elders gently smile.

They see the black dust settling,  each moment a new grain of experience: invisible, undistinguished and unnoted. It settles near evenly on both sides of every scale.  Each day it gathers: the complex, tiny motes of worldly knowledge. Each decision is infinitesimally harder and marginally more complex than those that came before. Those subtle motes of who we were yesterday must be measured against who we are today, everyday.

Experience weighs upon my soul like black dust. Is this what they call wisdom?

Posted in 2013-03-25 to 2013-04-07 - Black, Dust | Comments Off

Black dust

I prime the musket before I round the corner, just to be prudent. Caskets and bales of hay. As expected. But no guards. That is not as expected. I can hear the constables patrolling a few streets away, so I cross the cobbles at a fair clip, keeping myself low to the ground, and to the shadows.

The solid oak door leading into the tavern stands ajar. I glance around behind me before slipping through the gap and into the warm glow cast by the oil lamps.

In the middle of the room is a single table. A solitary pigskin purse sits on it, looking heavy with its fill. I pick it up, open the drawstrings, and peer inside. Some manner of dust, black in colour. I sniff it, trying to catch its smell, and immediately my eyes water and my head spins. Darkness closes in quickly from all sides.

* * *

I slide a fresh clip into the 9, clear the chamber. I eyeball around the corner. Couple of boxes and bin bags, but no security. Thought there would at least be a rent-a-cop doing rounds. Sirens bounce off the concrete and around a few corners towards me, so I sneak across the street away from them.

The edges of the security gate are bent and bashed. The lock sits in pieces of the ground. I shoot a glance behind me, then head into the room with the cold blue bulbs.

A green plastic box sits on a brushed steel table. I open the box. It’s filled with black dust. I lick a finger, dip it in, and try a taste. Wow. That’s… I feel a blackout coming on.

Posted in 2013-03-25 to 2013-04-07 - Black, Dust | Comments Off

Eyes shut

Bang, bang, bang on the door.

You ignore it. You have work to do. You grab a fresh bottle of disinfectant and pop the top off with one hand, in a fluid, practised motion. You pour a few centimetres of it into the tray and rinse your tools.

Eyes shut, they said. Shut! Why would you want them to be shut? Some people just don’t understand.

***

Your bearers bring the sacrifice in. Six of them, the boy resting on their shoulders. They walk slowly along the central aisle, steps perfectly in sync, as you have taught them. They complained about the hours of training, but now they must understand. The beauty of the ceremony would be diminished without this precision.

The family and friends watch as their loved one makes the final part of the journey to an everlasting life. The bearers position him as tradition demands. But with eyes open. So that the mourners can see into his soul. So that he, even in his paralysed state, can see them.

The father cries, of course. He argued most fervently for eyes closed. You won’t let a grieving father’s wishes get in the way of his son’s salvation, though.

***

Bang, bang, bang on the door.

What can you tell him? That you saved his son, when he could not? That you had the courage, when he did not? No. He is still a grieving father and he does not need to hear these things. You will do as you must. You will take his insults and his threats. You will sleep soundly knowing that you have helped another soul along their path.

Bang, bang, bang on the door.

You rise from your desk and go to the door.

Posted in 2013-03-04 to 2013-03-17 - Eyes shut | Comments Off

Arnold Jenson’s Prologue

Arnold  Jenson had always been interested in understanding people. When he was eight years old he first discovered the public library: a revelation for him as he had long exhausted his parents rather limited knowledge of philosophy.At the age of fourteen he rejected the religion in which he grew up.  And then,  after seventeen months of serial belief inspired by various new age eastern mysticisms ,  he finally settled into the calm certainty of the secular rationalist.

 
He graduated top of his class in law and gained post graduate qualification in the Philosophy of Ethics. Throughout his university years he systematically learnt about the mystery and the muscle of love using ancient Urdu texts as a primary source and the abundant co-eds for practical experience. He rose through the ranks of Kramer, Giles and Smith and was broadly recognised as having a sharp legal mind and an uncommon ability to get inside one’s head. This was a quality that earned him regular promotion and loyal clients but very few friends.

 

Arnold Jenson,  at age thirty eight years and four months ,  met someone.

 

In his clarity he saw a bright,  joyous future. Everyone else saw a fool walking a high cliff path,  striding forward fearlessly,  eyes tight shut.

Posted in 2013-03-04 to 2013-03-17 - Eyes shut | Comments Off

Wild

Day 3

I’ve managed to fashion a crude quill using a feather from one of the beasts. Its mane is spread and spiky, and its call sends chills down my spine. But when it sleeps, it sleeps deep. I broke its neck quickly, silently, and pulled it back to my cave before I was spotted. The meat did not agree with me.

3rd June

Sectors 1, 2, and 4 report nothing unusual.
Sector 3 reports loss of another peacock. Three replacements ordered: two peacocks and one gameskeeper. Usual severance package supplied.

Day 12

I try to sleep when the burning ball comes out, but it’s becoming dangerous. The monkeys prowl around, poking at things. Poking at my things.

I don’t like the way they move. All jittery and stuttery. I will take one down before the end of this cycle. I will kill it and post it as a warning for the others.

June 15th

Sectors 1, 2, and 4 report nothing unusual.
Sector 3 reports loss of more wildlife. Fire broke out on Tuesday, contained by rapid response.
Oh, and three rangers found dead, skinned, and hung from trees.

Day 24

Too many. I ate too many. Mushrooms and meat and leaves and flowers that sting. I seem to be leaking, and I can’t make it stop.

July 7th

Sectors 1 and 4 report nothing unusual.
Sector 2 reports minor damage to some enclosures.
Sector 3 reports discovery of hollowed out tree. Dead body inside. Trunk covered with indecipherable scribble. Three tubs of prescription medication, unopened.
Construction has begun on Sector 5.

Posted in 2013-02-18 to 2013-03-03 - Mighty Bone | Comments Off

Exhibit 438

The small knuckle bone in this display case seems an unlikely candidate; but many have described it as the most significant scientific find of all time.
The bone came out of a dig near Tehran in the late 80′s but sat in a cupboard in Harvard’s anthropology department for three decades before its  significance was understood.   Jeffery Muffin,  a graduate student who was doing a detailed analysis of the fossilized stomach contents of early hominids,  was the first to examine the bone under a microscope and discovered its extraordinary internal structure.
The bone is thought to be the last segment of a finely-jointed probing appendage. Ventral striations near the end of the bone indicate the bone was traumatically severed,  most probably bitten off, just above the first joint.
The bone remains the only conclusive evidence of extraterrestrial life; who they were and what they were doing we may never know.  But we do know that they visited our world and walked among our hominid ancestors; and that all they left behind was a severed fingertip.

Posted in 2013-02-18 to 2013-03-03 - Mighty Bone | Comments Off

Game night

I take a last drag on my cigarette, then stub it out on the crumbling brick wall. A working guy across the street gives me a dirty look. Even in this crappy part of town smoking is frowned upon. At least here it’s not illegal like it is uptown. Can’t have people smoking outside banks and schools, apparently.

I shrug my knapsack up higher on my shoulder, start walking from shadow to shadow towards my destination. Don’t want to attract any unwanted attention. Especially not when I’m carrying this much.

Tonight’s the night. A game this big is usually too high stakes for me. But a friend got me in the door, as long as I could put up the currency. So I scraped it together.

I knock on the door. A peep hole slides open. I get a look, a squint, then a nod. The hole slides shut, and the door slides open. She thumbs at the corridor, points with her eyes. I take a few strides down and there’s another door. The floor’s kinda slimy.

I look back down the corridor at the bouncer. I point at the door, raise my eyebrows. She nods. I open the door.

The three others are already here, sitting around the poker table. They look at me like I don’t belong here. I don’t. I know it. But I’m not going to let that stop me. I pull my knapsack off my shoulder, put it down on the table. I reach in, pull out the currency, slam it down on the table.

“Three squid.” They start squirming. “Now how about we play some poker?”

Posted in 2013-02-04 to 2013-02-17 - Slimy Game | Comments Off

The Junior Emergent Complexity Challenge

Welcome all, those physically corporate and those outside the dimensionality, to the prize giving of the Junior Emergent Complexity Challenge: The only contest where teams of young minds from every culture get to have some hands-on fun with the very substance of life.

Once again this year the teams have surprised us with innovative new tweaks to the base materials with some truly surprising results. Each team starting with the same slime evolved something unique and interesting and all are worthy of praise; but as we all know not everybody can win so lets me put you all out of your agony and get on with it.

But first a special mention … Team Zeph-Eta-X with their entry ‘Sol and Earth’. This marvellous system shows all the reckless creativity and innovation that our contest is famous for. The world of these young creators bred more complexity, much faster than any other in the contest. They started with a high energy carbon system loaded with iron and it paid out in all its multi-coloured glory. The judges wish to particularly commend the ‘ant’ colony network that enmeshes the surface in a biological hive-mind and the minimal beauty of the monoculture kelp forests of the subsurface coastal plains.

However the judges felt that as the system had not achieved bio-stability (and with the system’s intrinsically high burn ratio) these wonders were unfortunately ephemeral phenomenon and as such could not be considered in the judging.

And now, on to the winners…the first runner up is…

Posted in 2013-02-04 to 2013-02-17 - Slimy Game | Comments Off

Time Off

Hi people; fuck it’s so good to be back. It’s been a hectic three weeks. I swear I’ve never been so tired.  I’ve been counting the hours till I could get here and just relax with you lot.

The days I’ve been putting in are incredible: sixteen hours on your feet in the sun and the climate there is something else. No seriously, it starts at like five am: my kids (the same kids who won’t get out of bed at seven for school) want to horse ride on the beach with me; or go kayaking on the fucking bay to watch the sunrise (which is just like sunset but with more glare and less colour). And that’s before the first cup of coffee.

As the day wears on it just gets hotter and it just never stops: adventure sports, cultural activities, local colour and posing for photographs. And, luxury resort or not, every little thing is made intentionally more difficult: the money isn’t dollars, they drive on the wrong side and the menus aren’t in English.

And when the kids finally pass out it still isn’t over. It must be something about the sun and sea but the wife never lets up, come midnight she’s still got a plan for me.

I tell you guys this is the first time in three weeks that I can do whatever I want for eight hours. Boy, it’s good to be back at work again.

Posted in 2012-11-26 to 2012-12-09 - I needed time to recharge | Comments Off

Sneaking In

This time they’ll let me in. This time I’ll cut the mustard.
I stride confidently up to the huge, heavy, wooden doors and thrust my hand out at the doorman.
“Jackson,” I say, smiling, but not beaming. “Ralph Jackson. I’m here for the event.”
The doorman looks at my hand like it’s something he’s scraped off his shoe.
“Yes. Well.” He taps at his data pad and flicks up and down the list. “I’m… sorry, Mr Jackson, but you don’t appear to be on the list.”
I give him my best scowl and stride off before he can strip any more of my dignity from me. Maybe I can try the back door.
I try and stroll casually around the back of the building. I catch a whiff of garlic: kitchens must be this way. I find a door that’s ajar and creep up to it. I swing it open, and the doorman is standing there, waiting for me.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“How did you…? Never mind.” I run off around the corner, cursing under my breath. “Dammit!” I punch the wall. Hmm, soft.
Vines run up from the ground to the top of the building. I give them a firm pull: they seem pretty sturdy. I scramble my way up to the first floor. No doorman.
The curtains are drawn.
The door is unlocked, and opens smoothly.
I pull back the curtains and discover the secret they’ve been hiding from me for all these months. I scream and scream until I go hoarse and my eyes water. Then I turn and run and dive off the balcony.

Posted in 2012-10-29 to 2012-11-11 - By Invitation Only | Comments Off

Strength in Leadership

You are cordially invited, by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, to our Annual dinner celebrating Strength in Leadership. A select group of world leaders will gather together at our lush alpine head quarters to enjoy fine food and the company of rarefied peers.
Our CEO, Johan Musieth, accompanied by twenty exotic women of great beauty, will present a short audio visual programme on the new legislation coming out of the Brussels entitled: Asset Seizure and Crimes Against Humanity – How to keep what is rightfully yours.
After dinner we will announce the winner of the Batista Award for ‘Excellence in Protection of National Financial Assets’ and present a life-time membership award to President Mugabe for his ongoing loyalty to the institutions of international banking.
So grab this chance to relax in the company of others who understand the difficulties of power, who suffer the same misrepresentation in the international press and have a chance to sample those gourmet delights so difficult to acquire in your home territories in this modern political climate.

(No-extradition guarantee for all participants courtesy of SFMSA)

Posted in 2012-10-29 to 2012-11-11 - By Invitation Only | Comments Off

Pitch: I needed time to recharge

Recharge from what? Why? How?
250 words, 2 weeks.

Posted in 2012-11-26 to 2012-12-09, Pitches | Comments Off

Pitch: Strongly disagree; Disagree; Neither agree nor disagree; Agree Strongly; Agree

Make us a list of statements that we can attach the classic Likert scale (Strongly disagree; Disagree; Neither agree nor disagree; Agree Strongly; Agree) to. The statements should be about a supernatural race such as vampires, werewolves, zombies, leprechauns, or possessed Ikea furniture.

Posted in Pitches | Comments Off

Pitch: Last meal

The last meal before… the gas chamber? Leaving town? Breakfast?
Tell us a story in 250 words, over two weeks

Posted in Pitches | Comments Off