Scribblin’ With Pirates

Usually the Captain only posts stories, but today we thought we’d do something slightly different. We? I reckon most writers find they get a bit schizophrenic when they’re busy scribbling away. For me, writing is locked up in the voice of the character – if I can’t think and speak like Ignatius I can’t write for him either. Sadly that’s what’s happening today, though if I’m lucky and talk about him enough he’ll pop out and say hello. It may just be that I’ve been fairly prolific of late (for me anyway) and so he’s having a quiet pint of rum and awaiting his next big adventure.

The most recent stories have, I think, been some of his best for a while – The Cetacean Adventure went down well when I read it at Pub Poetry Nottingham last week. I’ve also recently written a pirate story from the perspective(ish) of one of the other characters. It probably doesn’t sound much different from the Captain, but it felt very different to write and I got it out in a single evening’s scribble: The First Confession of Monty McBuboe. He’s long been one of my favourite incidental characters – an inexhaustible source of leprous limbs and gags about them falling off. I plan to write more – the change of viewpoint gave me some new things and weaknesses to investigate.

More story ideas have been pricking at my brain (in its vat) for a while now, but I am struggling to finish them off. That often happens to me. It’s probably a consequence of my abysmal planning habits for writing. I know a lot of people do all this clever plotting and research and stuff which never fails to impress me and clearly pays off. It doesn’t seem to be how I write though… For me it’s an impulsive stream of brain gloop undammed by the first line of story which has disturbed my enwhiskeyed reverie. From there, with luck, it tootles forth into the world as a first draft. I then hack at it. Repeatedly, with my blade of editorial gibbery. Some tales take more slicing than others but I don’t stop until I’ve slaked its inky thirst.

I’ve got a first draft of the next Franklyn de Gashe story, The Theatrical Entertainment. It’s far from ready yet, but features automata, Shakespeare and some quite worrying dismemberment as well as the return of the time hamster. I like him because he has the potential to be so much nastier than anything in the pirate series. Alex Trepan should be back soon too, although that’s a series which is causing me serious problems with rambling; again that’s a result of my awful planning process. I’m hoping his brand of amnesiacal adventuring will be backed up by my improvised kind of writing style.

Next up though is a new band of characters directly inspired by a dream I had a few weeks ago. It started with a superhero family on their routine Sunday hike and ended with revelations about their leader’s suicide resulting in a brand new alloy and the extermination of every mint plant within 5,000 miles (HRLGRL, the Earth’s only assassin told him it could kill him). It was a weird enough dream to make me want to find out more about them. It’s going to be called Galaxy Team when I’ve found a voice to write it in. As yet I’ve been unable to write it as comedy, so I’ve been using a lovely Android app called Evernote which lets me record audio notes and scribble wherever I am. Getting out of the shower has proved to be an oddly fertile time.

So – that’s me for now. I have birthday cards to make and Galaxy Team to work on. See you later.

Dreaming in Hydrocarbons

This isn’t a story, it’s just a dream I had last night.

My dreams are often vivid in the summer and I blame the damned sun.

Starts with a local football match, hugely well attended on a rough looking pitch by the edge of a motorway. It’s a tense match. There’s a lot of rivalry between the teams and the crowd moves with them. As a player rushes to score, leaning in to kick the ball into goal the ball explodes in a burst of fire, incinerating the player. Shock and awe roll through us, he was a favourite of the crowd.

The match is cut short, after the pitch invasion and the police turn up. The ambulance crew collect only the player’s left (non-kicking) foot and the boot it wears. By my own feet I find a scrap of the football leather, smoky and slick with a blackness.

Folk pile onto the coach after the game; we’re packed in tight. A woman next to me won’t stop crying. Another woman gets on the coach collecting money for the dead player’s family, to buy them a sofa. I give her some change. We drive off, but stop regularly. Each time another collector gets on board. This time there’s some angry shoving and one of my neighbours informs me that it’s not so much charity as promotion – each collector is from one of the huge shops down the road, collecting money so they can give the victim one of their products. This seems less appealing and noble.

I crane my neck to see out of the window, face pressed upside down at the glass. This most recent chugger is from an oil company, next to the sofa warehouse. This is clearly suspicious, and with my weeping companion I force my way through the crowded bus and disembark.

The gloom of the football match is slightly less depressing here, and the oil refinery’s shop front is a beacon of welcome. We avoid the welcome and wander through the tarmac forecourt and out behind the complex of buildings. We’re met with a range of low, green hills spotted with open pools of oil, still or bubbling. We pause to inspect pool #1 according to the signpost. Again, by my feet I discover a scrap of something. This time it’s a piece of worn tyre, also slimy with oil. It’s warm and feathery to my touch. My companion bursts into tears.

From here on I can only recount to you the ensuing adventures as I heard them from my double, the thread of consciousness that separated from me when I touched that rag of rubber and oil and became embodied in the oil.

With that first contact with a living entity came awareness for the first time in aeons. I could escape the long death of existence. Carefully, cleverly I insinuate myself into the living thing kneeling by the pool of my kin. And feel anger as I realise what this place is, the desecration of our tombs, the abuse of our dead.

Over the next days I gradually take this body over and plasticise it, spreading myself thin and then drawing up more of me into my cause.

Small, petty political acts have no impact on these monsters who plunder our long rest. Clearly direct action is required. By now my body is fresh and new, minted from the dead source but outwardly identical to any other person. My plan is to infiltrate the refinery and destroy it.

To that end I return to the strip of businesses down the motorway. On the same plot as the oil shop there’s a house of comfort which backs on to the oil refinery’s office block. I go into the brothel and carefully mimic human speech. The gentlemen in the small office are only too keen to meet my business requirements. The office gives way at the rear to a brightly decorated silken room where a young woman sparsely dressed in yellow, blue and orange appears towelling dry her long dark hair.

The effort of speech is almost overwhelming but I bide her sit and be quiet. I have already killed her three colleagues in the office and have no desire to end her life too. I am running out of time. I quickly go to the bathroom and utlising the flexible qualities of my true nature I twist and flow up and out of a high window.

I find myself in the triangle formed by the buildings’ closeness. Before me another window. This one leads into the refinery; I climb inside. It’s dark but the darkness is punctuated by rippled of bright coloured pinpricks. I’m at the heart of the operation. The computers are easy to overload and they hum wildly, rattling in their racks. My body is failing me, inhabiting this wild flesh is too hard for one so old and dead as I. Somehow I hold it together until I hear the first rush outside and the crash as my oil-brothers strike the roof and walls of the refinery. Then I collapse as the come through the windows and doors to reabsorb me into their peace.

In the aftermath of the refinery explosion I’m off to see another football match. The explosives used to kill the player the month before had been traced to a marketing consortium operating along the coach’s route. There would be no sponsorship for the next season and my hands still feel greasy. My friend resumes her weeping.