Author Archives: andrew
Thomas was going through a shoe phase. A year ago it had been vacuum cleaners, but this week it was shoes that engaged his entire attention. He had already spent the greater part of this journey intently examining the workings of the buckle on his mother’s flats – hard, shiny brass against the wrinkled, twisted tan leather strap.
But now he had noticed the shiny black shoes across the carriage, with long, enticing laces neatly tied, on the feet of the man with the animal face. But every time he wondered over his mother would drag him back and give him a hard look: it was very frustrating.
When the weird lady with the tattoos drops something he leaps out, his mother can hardly chide him for being helpful.
Every time I decide to do it the world undermines me. All my life people have told me I’m a fighter but that’s obvious to anyone who understands my disease. There are only two kinds of CF sufferers: the fighters and the suicides. This month it was, at last, time to change sides: I have closed my accounts, settled my will and written my eulogy.
But this simple train ride undermines me.
It was that vomiting guy that started it – he actually looked worst than I feel most days – I felt for him. First I was reminded that I’ve never danced on a public train and then that kid came in through the window. He looked so alive; like his head was about to explode with the sheer rush of it. It seems stupid to die without trying that.
Before we reach the station I’m a fighter again.
Martin lives in a different world. His world is vivid and thrumming; overflowing with a rich complexity that his fellow passengers barely notice.
He sits, rocking slightly with the movement of the train, in the corner seat. An echoing thrup-thrup means they’re switched from the main track and he feels the driver ease up on the power: approaching a station. He wonders which window that kid bashing around on the roof is going choose for his grand entrance.
Despite the drunkard’s reek he smells an Italian countess: the perfect floral notes speak of perfume over priced and over applied. It intrigues him. Just as he is intrigued by the woman who smells of fear and goat’s blood and whose clothes rustled so strangely.
Martin loves train travel: it’s intriguing for a blind man.
Neville never had this problem, usually it was easy: it just poured forth. His boyfriend once said he had verbal diarrhoea but since the third novel went big he’s had nothing left: constipation.
“Walrus face: it isn’t easy being different” – original but dumb. Maybe he could write a murder mystery, trains are popular, but then the orient express wasn’t populated by drunks and crazies. He could try horror again; that woman in red could be possessed, or maybe her kid. The guy with the retro-tie could be a someone – he looks shifty.
Inside Neville knows he’s a sappy romance writer: an unrequited love between the two cops is more his speed. At least it would sell.
That poor woman in the paisley dress peeping out from behind the overflowing obesity of her co-passenger: she looks like she might be suffocating. She should just tell him to move up; scowling nervously rarely works.
I wonder what she sees when she looks at me. I look fit for seventy but the years of alpine climbing didn’t do much for my skin. She probable thinks I’m some old granny off to collect my pension. I need a certificate about my heart before I go to Bolivia next week so I’m going to visit Michael: an old friend who stills keeps a medical practice. I hope he’ll write me a note if I demonstrate that I’m just as ‘aerobically fit’ as I was in Seoul a decade ago.
I fiddle with this tiny black camera my grandchildren gave me – it’s incredible how they don’t use film anymore. I’ve finally got the hang of the hellish device; if only something interesting would happen on this train I could try some shots.
Why would these two ordinary teenagers be concealing bright red top-hats in their school bags? Why did they bunk class to research a band from a different era? Why did they choose to sit with the man dressed as a Walrus and the mother with the red hippy skirt and the Lennon spectacles? Why are they listening so intently to the audio-stream from their phones?
It started last night, in Toronto, on the streamed version of CHUM Rock Radio. The DJ felt strongly about the Rolling Stones cover story: “The Stupidest Song of All Time?” He felt the playful inanity of the Beatle’s “I am the Walrus” should be celebrated not mocked. By the end of the show he had two hundred locals signed up to dress-up Beatle’s style and sing it live at their studios the next day.
Three hours later, when #iamthewalrussingalong started trending, it had become clear no one wanted to be left out. The meme had taken hold: pictures of people cutting their hair and sewing outfits flooded the net, planning and meet-up threads were created, techies stayed late to beef up the streaming-proxies.
Even now the DJ seemed over-awed at his creation: “There must be a thousand people in our building right now, the crowd is really excited and the outfits amazing. I’m looking at a webcam in St Petersburg, seems those Russian Cos-folk have been drinking since sundown. Hope those of you out in public are ready for this, we got six minutes to go here…”
Walter Millian had not expected to have a good day. He had expected to go to a picnic, with children, and do some good for charity. He would have preferred to be at home with a good mystery novel but, for the sake of another, he had agreed to attend the ‘Looking Glass Benefit Picnic’.
He knew he would wear the walrus suit, but he thought his carpenter would be with him. He had expected to return in his expertly-tuned Jaguar. He had not expected to be using public transport.
Despite all this he is completely composed. His legal experience has given him that power. Even when a drunk points straight at him and slurs meaningless aggression he retains a look of controlled disinterest. That same look could be seen two hours before when the carpenter screamed her accusations and stormed off in his Jaguar.
This practiced confidence ensures the adults ignore his strange attire but the children cannot hide their reactions. A toddler opposite keeps pulling away from mother’s red skirt and reaching toward him – openly curious about the make-up on his face. The two teens in the corner cannot suppress their giggles as they furtively glance towards him.
Walter doesn’t notice them; and if he did he wouldn’t care. He just sits wondering whether she’ll be home when he gets there.
I stare directly at the button. If I stay very still and don’t move my eyes I can almost disappear. A small, black, plastic button: four holes, chipped on the top edge, red criss-crossed cotton loops fraying slightly – totally unexciting. But my eyes keep drifting to the tie, and that just makes me want to throw up.
The nausea comes in waves. Don’t think about it, calm distraction instead. My name means ‘traveller’. My parents toured the world in their youth and wanted to share it with their first born. But I was never to enjoy a holiday. An unusually severe case of Kinetosis the specialists agree: vehicles make me puke.
My eyes drift over that awful tie again. I feel the sweat breaking out across my back and the blood running from my face. Perhaps I can get to the bathroom in time. God, I hate this.
My mother was a throwback, a person from a different time – the final rebel in humanity’s smallest generation. They all made her pay for it of course: most with ostracism, but some with their compassionate understanding of her moral weakness. After her suicide they told me to rejoice that she had finally found moral clarity.
I was alone after that. But I had always been the only child: I was used to being alone.
It wasn’t just my mother’s pro-humanist beliefs that were anachronistic, almost all her out-time was spent researching the twenty-first century: text works , flatties, old reality-stores, music and whatever other junk she could lay her hands on. I grew up with that stuff all around; and I have to tell you: those pre-rational folk were obsessed with their own deaths.
Any disaster imaginable was played out in their fiction: nuclear war, biological agents, the sun going super nova, rising sea levels, catastrophic climate change, monsters from the deep and alien invaders. I spent my childhood watching those ancient flatties, disaster films they called them. Their far-fetched dooms were so romantic, their heroes so brave in the face of annihilation.
But they never imagined the truth, not a single surviving work of fiction from their time predicts the Restoration Movement. Until recently I had assumed the idea of voluntary extinction was completely beyond their moral reach, but I found an old store in my mother’s stuff: a semantically indexed copy of their ‘internet’ (a PubStorage precursor). I learnt a few things. I read about those at Masada who chose death out of principle a thousand years before. I read first of their suicide cults and later of death cults and I realised it was more than just their fiction, they felt it in their hearts – already they wished for the peace of absence.
And I also found VHEMT, the ‘Voluntary Human Extinction Movement’, founded in the late twentieth century. I suppose it was a kind of joke, an idea more than anything else, intended to be thought provoking, certainly not world changing. Its authors may not have taken it seriously but they understood the first question of the Restoration, “Would it be better if we weren’t?”
And they were the first to look with rational eyes and answer: “Yes.”
It was two centuries before those ideas really took hold: the culture of parenting ran. It’s hard to remember that in the beginning the Restorationists were the freaks, their ideas threatening, and the breeders were the vast amoral majority. For years even non-violent Restorationist groups were persecuted but the truth of their basic beliefs couldn’t be repressed. Humanity had lifted its gaze above mere survival and found a greater measure against which to judge its actions.
After forests and the wolves had returned to Europe it was easier – we had caught a glimpse of the post-restoration world and in it we had seen absolution.
I am the youngest of the last generation and our species will end not like an old flattie: there will be no screaming terror; no heroic last stand; nor any outpost of hopeful survivors. We will leave this place in the quiet knowledge that in our final wisdom we have striven to be better than we might have been.
[Based on Parfles The Courtship from micfic]
You left the feather for me, in the agreed place, in the sewer, behind the grating. It’s from a dock-pigeon, greasy and torn, still holding the rich scent of rotting kelp. I would never deny a lady in need so I climb the hospital smokestack amongst the icy, whipping mists. I scrape up the ancient caked ash, fearless of the heat and smoke rising from the inferno below. I mix it with my piss and give it careful form. You will be impressed.
I leave my offering near your highway bridge, carefully arranging it. But you wouldn’t like a pining romantic so I jump a passing bus. Clinging to the wing mirror, I scream my lust and joy into the tearing wind – it all gets a bit hairy when the driver sees me and freaks out, but that is a different story (and it’s a good one) .
When I return I scent your subtle mark upon the token I had left for you. I follow your clear invitation down to a warehouse in the docks. When I find the fallen nest I’m impatient, but your love-sign is eloquent: two starling chicks, newly hatched, one just skin and bones remaining, the other alive but broken. I hurry down your gift, knowing well its meaning.
And so I find you, blood splattered like me, in the scrap heap. Asleep in the soft stuffing of old sofa. I drag you into the air and wrap a cocoon of smoke around us. Tomorrow, I will tell you my name.
I had this idea because I wanted to build a continuity with micfic.
Take a specific micfic that you admired written by someone else in the group, and rewrite it in the same length so that it is clearly recognisable and also obviously your own.
Commitment details: Time period 2 weeks, 250 words, 3+ people
This pitch is in progress, participants: Parf, Stv, Andrew
Deadline: 31st July 2011
I suggest we take this descriptive passage (from Agatha Christie) and give it more meaning and narrative by adding a series of footnotes on each of the nouns in brackets:
The small [drawing-room] was exquisitely neat and smelled of burnt lavender. There were some [Dresden shepherds and shepherdesses], on the [mantelpiece], simpering sweetly. There were [framed water-colours], [two samplers], and [three needlework pictures] on the wall. There were some [photographs] of what were obviously nephews and nieces and some good furniture – a [Chippendale desk], some little [satin-wood tables] – and a hideous and rather uncomfortable [Victorian sofa].
The idea is to provide 10 to 100 words for each marked noun: These chunks might be description, back story or random musing so to create an idea or narrative out of this otherwise descriptive paragraph.
I’ll find some clever hover over way to display peoples definitions on the web.
Commitment details: 3 weeks , 3+ people?