In Remembrance of Colour

A ghost of a tear crawled down Alice’s face. Even though it wasn’t really there she knew how it should feel. The heat welling between her eyelids, the tremble of eyelashes as the tear overwhelmed them, rolling down the side of her nose and into the laughter lines which had deepened with age. Finally meeting saltily with her lips. She missed crying. Alice missed a lot of things. Like lying in a park under the hot sun, absorbing its wonderful heat.

The thought returned Alice to the memory of tears. She couldn’t remember how a tear would fall on the left of her face. Had she only ever cried on the right? Perhaps this was just another of her mind’s deceptions. It was difficult to hold on to the memory of sensation without being able to test them, to confirm whether a thing feels as you think it does. Nothing could feel the same twice; the experience of remembering itself a trick of memory recreated each time through comparison and repetition until we believe we know how it feels to be ourselves.

The sky used to be blue, the bluest of blues that there could be. Holding the memory of it seemed so clear. Yet when Alice conjured red (a glorious colour) and compared it to the blue she knew they were different but was unable to recall how they varied from yellow.

Cold blue lights flickered and arced along the long white and grey walkway, disappearing around a distant curve. Ribbons of bright lights sprouted from edges, illuminated glassy panels and ran along the letters that spelled out Alice’s name. Two men in drab olive clothes followed the path of the light down the corridor. They were trailed by a large wheeled cart. It kept pace with them as they chatted amiably about nothing in particular.

Halfway down the corridor they started to read names until they reached Alice’s.

“Surname: Tars, Forename: Alice.”

A quick check of the tablet on the cart, “Yep, this is the one.” Charlie manoeuvred the cart in close to the wall while Joe pressed buttons.

Alice wondered about love, that faint flowering of passion she half-remembered. But she didn’t want to think about crying anymore. A day in the park returned to her. Lush green grass, daffodils. Swans and children milling around and in the water. The tall trees magnified the sky’s blue, or at least she remembered that it did. She felt happy.

A sensation of extension intruded on her and she felt suddenly elongated, then bifurcated, and again. Stretched and teased out her mind filled this new volume. With it came action. Alice raised a hand, in it was a glass which refracted the sunlight. A series of shapes shot across her vision: hexagons, squares, circles triangles in achingly clear colours. How could she possibly have forgotten how different they were? They hovered until she acknowledged them and then fled into her imaginary environment, hanging or rotating around the trees, swans, children.

She looked hard at the thickly clustered yellow hexagons which followed the children as they played. She blinked. They became hot red triangles. A series of tiny movements in her extended awareness. Alice thrilled to the dexterity, the minuteness of the movements. And the red lights blinked out in a stutter of light. The children were gone. Alice felt a familiar unease, a coldness settling over her punctuated with hot parallel lines of focus.

“She’s coming back,” Joe commented as Charlie twisted a dial on the cart and idly tapped a lever with his thumb.

Alice’s beautiful park dissolved, colour draining into the pond until only the swans were left with their glowing green circles. Grey light poured in from the top of her world seeded with white streaks that plummeted to where the ground used to be. Charlie continued his adjustment and the image resolved. A tiny man stood beside Alice, twisting and turning her qualian translator. She felt it as a cold ripple through her abdomen. A yellow hexagon lit up over his head.

“Ready?” Joe asked Charlie.

“Ready,” he confirmed.

More buttons, more cold flushes of sensation. Then came a glaring heat that travelled the length of her body as control returned. Slowly Alice rose to her feet; metal and plastic slid together in harmony and she stepped off the cart. Her feet spread. She could feel her enormous weight and the pressure of the deck underfoot.

The two men had moved back to give her space to move, and remember how big she was. The yellow hexagons danced on them.

“Welcome back ma’am,” said Charlie.

She heard the man, dressed in a dirty green surrounded by the bland white corridor. Was this what she had missed?

“Your combat drop will commence in,” he checked his watch, “forty-seven minutes.”

Alice looked down on the two men and frowned. She tried to frown. She couldn’t frown. Alice focussed on the hexagons instead, blinked. They wouldn’t turn into triangles.

Joe chuckled politely, “Combat functions will be activated during the drop ma’am, apologies for the inconvenience.”

Alice felt a sheer pulse of frustration and longed for her park, however poorly imagined.

“Please come with us, the rest of your team is being incorporated now.”

Alice looked back at the wall where she had been kept. Tiny blue lights ran down the letters of her name like tears. She wished she could cry.

The Triffic Adventure – now with sound!

Ahar mates – I keep forgettin’ to remind ye that I’ve been recording me tales on a ball o’ twine and a magnetic banana for ye listening pleasure, should you be too busy or lazy to read. This is me tribute to one of the finest science fiction authors, the wonderful John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris – a lengthy but worthy name for so fine an author.

And so – ye may listen to  The Triffic Adventure,  or read it below:

Gaargh, I awoke from a night o’ disturbin’ dreams. We’d been swiggin’ vodka for a change, since takin’ it off Danish merchants just after dawn. Me final memory o’ that night were haulin’ Billy aboard after ‘e leapt from the bow to catch a shootin’ star. Yarr, all night the sky’d been full o’ light streakin’ down as if aimin’ for the giant crabs crawlin’ across ye sea-bed. ‘Twere pretty, like a rainbow on fire, though technically it boded ill for us all. Read more

Timothy’s Little Helper

Warm amber light crept under Timothy’s eyelids and softly poked at his dreams. He stirred, not much, but enough to startle the tiny robot that stood on his chest. It back-pedalled furiously, its single balancing wheel weaving back and forth on the bed clothes. Sure that its master was not yet waking up it cycled over the bed, compressed its central spring down and jumped to the bedside table. There it steadied itself again, bumping against the base of the lamp and busied itself preparing the morning pills.

Red, blue, white, oval, circular, diamond, orange and brown, green. Meticulously the robot counted them out into a tiny china dish and re-sealed all the bottles. Then it unsealed them again and began a furious count of their contents. All the bottles were short. It double-counted those it had prepared. Correct. But there were six days of missing tablets. Six days… to its horror it checked its internal clock and discovered that it too was missing six days.

The robot hopped off the bedside table and rolled into the kitchen. It eyed the calendar suspiciously. Timothy’s familiar crosses went nearly a whole week past the robot’s date. There was no doubt about it. Six days lost. It had been dormant, but why? Had its counts been off? Surely not – it existed to measure Timothy’s doses, exactly as he had programmed.

The sound of footsteps stopped the little robot in its tracks. That wasn’t Timothy. The footsteps had come from the always unused, always full of boxes spare room. The robot bolstered its nerve and hopped through the cat flaps which Timothy had cut into each door, when he could still care for a cat. There – the footsteps had moved to the bathroom. Even from the end of the hallway the robot could see an unmade bed, a suitcase and clothes lying on a chair. It was not alone with its master.

An intruder. The robot raced back into the kitchen and opened a door made especially for it. Within was his power point and those tools that Timothy had designed for all the household tasks he not might be capable of. One of them was an electroshock stun weapon. The robot reversed into the dock and the weapon clicked onto its back, the pronged barrel resting across its shoulder, and the trigger in its claw. The sound of the shower slowed, dripped and stopped. Perfect timing.

Almost skidding over itself with the extra weight the robot reached the bathroom door just as it opened. A cloud of steam gusted out, temporarily blinding it. Then a woman, wrapped in a white towel, legs still wet from the shower emerged. The robot darted forwards and jabbed its electrodes into the leg. The human woman barely had time to gasp “you again” before falling twitching to the ground, cracking her head hard against the doorframe.

Satisfied with its defence of Timothy’s house the robot replaced its accessory and returned to the old man’s bedside. Somehow the robot had failed to notice there had been additions to the room – a stand next to the bed dangled a tube into Timothy’s arm and a trolley with a series of screens and panels blipped and beeped in the corner. None of these were part of Timothy’s bedroom layout. The little robot pulled the needle out of Timothy’s arm and pushed the stand into the wardrobe. The monitor stand was larger, but easily unplugged from the wall. The robot climbed and hopped back onto the bed to detach all the messy wires.

It looked anxiously into the face of its master as it unstuck pads and rolled them up along their wires. This was all very wrong. By now Timothy ought to be having breakfast and should certainly have taken his pills. They still sat in their china dish. The robot considered feeding them directly to its master, it would need to remove the mask from his mouth first.

A voice came out of the corridor: “That damn robot’s awake again. No, I don’t know how. It bloody well tasered me this time – seriously. I’ve got a lump the size of an orange on my head,” the footsteps drew nearer, “No – from falling. Just get someone here now. Oh my god.” The woman from the bathroom walked into the bedroom as the robot tugged free the tube from Timothy’s throat. “I’ve got to go.”

She snapped the phone shut and stood nervously in the doorway, her eyes torn between the old man, the robot and the silent equipment. The little robot froze and stared at her. The stun gun was back in the kitchen. The robot whirred forwards, straight off the bed and bounced onto the floor, keeping its balance as it rushed to the door. The woman panicked and seized the walking cane which stood beside the door. The robot swerved to get past her legs but she swung the cane hard across the front of her body.

The wheeled robot flew across the room, smacking into the wall where something cracked loudly and it fell, twisted, to the floor. In its final moments the robot watched the woman tear his master’s sheets off and urgently pound his chest with her hands. Timothy wouldn’t have liked that, not at all. He would be needing his pills. The robot tried to get back up, but the movement separated something inside and its little mind became dark.

The Grass Knight

A stillness lay across the glade. It froze the twinkling motes in sunshine that daggered between trees. Even the birds were quietened from their song. The verdant grass over which butterflies and bees normally bumbled was flattened and spread in long dragging streaks into the centre of the glade. There a man lay, obscenely splayed; his open chest seeping red blood into the green grass.

He had crawled this far into nature’s embrace, clawing at the earth with bloodied fingers. But no further. He had rolled onto his back so that his last memory might be of the glowing leaves. His chest rose and fell in fast aching bursts. Blood leaked from his many wounds to the rhythm of his breath. He had discarded his armour, for the weight was too great and carved a furrow into the turf. He fingered the edges of the holes made by the sword and pike thrusts, his jerkin and trousers greasy with draining life. He felt a need to be closer to the greenery and thrust his hands into the grass.

The glade waited patiently. The light scarcely changed in its marmalade glow that lit the dying man’s features. When his breath finally ceased to come he gave a final bubbling choke and was still. The glade returned to life, but slowly. The motes twisted in the shafts of light and funnelled down through those streams into the dead man, soaking into his body with the sun’s heat.

The grass that was crushed by his dragging passage unfolded itself and his tracks vanished. The grass beneath his body thrilled at the influx of nutrients from his congealing blood and sought out more. The grass sprouted vigorously around the dead man and jabbed fresh new blades into the wounds that had laid him low.

The insects resumed their dance from leaf to flower. A single butterfly alighted on the fresh grassy tip protruding from the cavity in the man’s chest, and was drawn down inside him as the grass spread through the man’s ribs. It grew, and hugged close to the broken flesh, weaving in and out of the gashes and holes that perforated him.

The sunlight dwindled as the day faded away. The flowers ceased their gaping at the sky. Shadows fell over the corpse, now cloaked in grass, and chased he hungry blades back into the earth. Moonlight took the place of the sun, stretching the glade into a rainbow of greys.

The dead man stirred. His hands moved automatically to the rips in his chest and stomach. Unsteadily he climbed to his feet, pulling free of the verdant embrace.

He felt light and curious. Once dead, and now returned. He thought of those who had wrought their havoc upon him and felt a fresh writhing in his heart and a tight bunching of his guts. His sword and armour lay spotless and sharp against the roots of an ancient oak. He buckled the armour on and slid the sword into the scabbard that hung from his waist. The Grass Knight looked to the moon and left the glade behind.

The Peninsula Creature: part 1 of 5

This is the first part of a story based closely on a dream I had last week which I’ve been writing up for my morning pages – I’m tidying it a bit and putting it up in roughly 600 word chunks. Enjoy!

Part 1

Tales of the Ultrashark had drawn us to the tiny port town of Mongolith which lies on the tip of the Northern continent where it projects into the steamy waters of the Aberrian sea. The town was the link to the popular Holiday Archipelago which sprouted in a chain of beautiful tiny islands dotted with hotels, chalets and beach camps. Fear of the Ultrashark had kept us on the mainland for days, like the holiday-makers not already in their bathing suits on the islands. No one wanted to take us across the water with a genuine sea monster on the loose, indeed there was much grumbling from those whose vacations were being spoiled. Instead we absorbed the local gossip, examined the remnants of boats and the terrifying images captured of the creature.

That it was real we had absolutely no doubt. Dozens of small fishing craft had disappeared, as had the larger fish. Until the town finally prohibited swimming there was a steady stream of fatalities. The clearest picture of it, taken by a man on a fleeing vessel, showed a huge maw chomping through the hull and cabin of a fishing boat. We were eager to get closer to it, but still no amount of money (what little we could afford in bribes) would take us to sea. Of course, if we’d still had the university’s research ship we would have been out there already. But the Spirit of Inquiry lay in pieces at the bottom of the Invex Gulf. The creature was disappointingly elusive and we suspected it was prowling the (belatedly) safety conscious waters between the islands.

After six days of frustrated pacing of the beach and half-glimpsed fins our search was ended. A fisherman was found suffering from an hysterical fit. The constables followed his footsteps back down the beach and discovered the decapitated head of a gigantic shark specimen. They assumed it had been washed up with the morning tide. I mused that the enormous head – with a mouth wide enough to drive an omnibus through without scraping the roof on the cleaver-like teeth – had been tossed up the beach, since it lay some fifty feet beyond the tide’s reach. The fierce predator’s head had been severed by something even larger. The brief relief that its death brought was overshadowed by a very real fear of whatever had pushed it down the food chain. There was little doubt that this would be quite bad for the tourist industry, but for us this was gold. We took our measurements and records before the locals whisked the evidence away and transformed it into a gruesome tourist attraction.

We determined to charter a flight instead which could put us in the heart of the fragmented peninsula. Finding a suitable pilot and plane was difficult: you see, I travel always with my two companions, they are friends and colleagues from the university. The first, Harvey is a giant sentient millipede from the Southern Continent (professor of Diverse Biology) and the second is Maxwell, my black and white cat. Cramming the three of us in is often a challenge, though I admit that Maxwell is not the one who presents the problems. Our former aircraft (its lifespan was sadly too short to achieve a christening) had been destroyed while we escaped from the Bitter Forest. As with the Spirit, our employers had been lax in its replacement. Maxwell successfully found us an alternative, a somewhat reluctant gentleman predictably named Bob, whose aquaplane had sufficient space for Harvey to coil within.

Part 2 coming soon….

This week, Monday 16th July 2012

Mucosal Delays

Ye captain’s been grossly beleagured by hayfever this week – tis as if Neptune’s swept some bastard trees out to moult upon me face for bangin’ his merwench daughters. Tis ticklesome in the faceholes. Regardless, though in some way held back by the sheer itching horror and incessant sneezings I’ve continued me mindless scrawlings. I’ve been especially annoyed not to be able to contribute to the magnificent Flash Pulp for a few weeks as my speaking voice is completely shagged.

This weeks’s scribbles

Tuesday:  the second part of the mini-serial The Peninsula Creature. Tis going well I think, and the action and mega-beasts are hotting up for the luckless adventurers.

Thursday: Cecily’s Adventure. This is a super-short morning scribble written using the Alphabetic principle which successfully engages my mucoused brain with peculiar results. I hope you like it, it features a servant girl who discovers terrible things in the cellars beneath the kitchen.

I’m also hoping to finish a pirates vs. zombies story which might go up on Friday – if my brain starts functioning correctly (hmm). The morning pages writing discipline is working well for me, and I’m finding time to at least edit or type up other stories even if I don’t get to write a new one.

Poetry for your ears

Right now you can enjoy some Shankanalia (super-short Twitter verse) which I recorded a little while ago and forgot to upload to my Reverbnation page:

Round Up of Last Week

5th July: Timothy’s Little Helper – a short dose of robotic science fiction

10th July: The Grass Knight – vegetation and warriors unite!

12th July: The Peninsula Creature – Part 1 – fantasy adventure expedition into the Northern Continent…

The Peninsula Creature: part 2 of 5


This is the second part of a story – read Part 1  first!

Part 2

The sea sparkled bright and clear from our high vantage and we were perkily alert for more anomalous monsters. However, the only shadows that marred the water were those of ordinary fauna: shoals of Goading Fish and the huge but harmless Rooted Jellyfish which are common in the Aberrian shallows. As we flew over the picturesque reefs and atolls our pilot grunted (more than he had so far uttered) and said he couldn’t get through to island control. This was unusual enough to set him grumbling about the safety of his “bird”. Our intention had been to set down on the farthest island and work our way back using the endless string of hotels and rustic ferries for transport and comfort. But the crackling radio and Bob’s rising anxiety about the silence from the islands prompted a reluctant change of plans.

Harvey, Maxwell and I held a brief conference. We agreed that we ought to proceed, but with perhaps a mite more caution than usual. Accordingly we requested that Bob set us down near the middle of the archipelago. That was when we caught our first glimpse of the thing that had casually snapped the head off the Ultrashark and spat it onto the sands.

We were passing over one of the larger islands with an apparently jungle-themed hotel dominating the shoreline, when fire erupted out of the complex. Billows of thick black smoke rose upwards as Bob banked the plane sharply to avoid being blinded. The smoke obscured our view but between the clouds we could see movement – a huge shadow within the murk darting back and forth across the island. We circled it, trying to get a clear view of the animal but it plunged back into the sea as the smoke began to blow away. Its length was swallowed by the deeper water.

The fire was short-lived, burning itself into a blackened smear. We could see no one on the beach, not even people running from or to the hotel. It seemed that our investigation might not be as merry or straightforward as we had hoped. But we are scientists (with the exception of Maxwell; he is an enthusiastic amateur) and mere discomfort would not impede us.

We chose the beleaguered island for our beginning (which Bob informed us was named after a local saint – St Balm’s). Although this appeared wildly foolish to our pilot we had our reasons. We knew the beast had been there so physical evidence ought to be widely available. There was also a good chance that it would not be returning if it had already denuded the island of life, and we would be able to pick up its trail. Clearly the creaure was dangerous and carnivorous and we preferred to be behind it than in its path.

I referred to my holiday guide. St Balm’s was the second largest island and sported two hotels: the beach front jungle-hotel and another set into the lightly forested centre of the island. There were also cabins dotted about and a range of recreational activities. It sounded lovely although none of it gave the impression that it would withstand anything with more teeth than the rain.

Bob touched down lightly on the sea and we splashed awkwardly onto the shore. We prepared for our expedition by piling Harvey high with the bags and packs Bob hurled from the plane. Bob declined the opportunity to wait for us and was in the air again almost before our feet left prints in the sand. He had promised to stay near the radio though and would keep an ear open for our inevitable cries for aid. We gave him an optimistic wave as he vanished into the distance.


Part 3 coming soon….

Cecily’s Adventure (Alphabetic 21)

Cecily clomped down the hall in her orthopaedic shoes. Down the corridor were such delights as the Wine Cellar, the Salt Cellar, the Cool Room and the Potato Cupboard. Every time she had ventured this far into the culinary catacombs beneath the manor she had wasted hours in complex adventures. For three weeks she had had the head of a fish and lived in an aquarium. Good job the Vinegar Tender had been doing his rounds or else she would probably still be blowing bubbles.
Her heart thumped a little faster as she passed the Can Cave, partly from fear but also a romantic stirring at the memory of the brave knight who maintained order in that terrible realm. It had been nearly six months since she had come to his aid, dealing out vicious twists with a tin opener as he lay trapped under a mountain of corned beef. Just thinking about those rebellious misshapen tins made her hands shake.
Kindred spirits, at least that’s what the knight had said before stealing a kiss and lancing an enormous tin of tuna in sunflower oil which was sneaking up on her. Leaving him had not been easy, though she had kept the armour they’d fashioned from that punctured can even though it was too weak and reeked of fishy oil. Maybe it was just not meant to be.
Nearing her destination in a sort of daydream was unwise. Ordering herself to pay attention, Cecily noticed that the door to the Potato Cupboard was already subtly ajar. Prying it open further with her foot she drew her twin weapons – the silver masher and a nine-inch slab of sharpened steel she called The Dissuader. Quince, or rather quince’s slightly sour smell came from the shadows… but that was impossible.
Rory, the Provisions Master, had sworn to her that the quince was safely imprisoned. Seething, vicious fruit whose embitterment at being sidelined by larger, sweeter fruit had utterly soured them and they had sworn vengeance upon the new staples. That included potatoes, whose own turnip forerunners were merely a sulky stew-doomed bunch with no ambition to former glories.
Under the sacks of potatoes that filled the chamber Cecily could hear a sour chuckling, which grew louder as she tore open first one then further sacks with The Dissuader. Violated hollow spuds rolled out. Within each potato lives a potato fairy, from whom it obtains its magically versatile properties. Extinguishing the fairies was an unimaginable crime – if the Potato Fairy Queen still lived then perhaps all was not lost. Yet there was no sign of her, just the darkling shades and tuberous corpses.
Zoetrope-like, the quince rolled and hopped out from their hiding places. Arms borne aloft Cecily mashed and slashed at the fiendish revenging fruit. Boots many times larger and heavier than normal footwear proved their virtue, pulping the fairy-slayers. Cook would doubtless scold her when she returned without his ingredients, but perhaps he’d like to make some quince conserves.

This week, Monday 23rd July 2012

Stag Action

Ahar, tis a fractional delay in posting this week. Me apologies. Tis the result of spending all weekend engaged in stag party activity for me dinky brother. A splendid and fun weekend, with very little sleep in Cardiff.  My Dad and I took advantage of the post-hangover Sunday to visit the Doctor Who Experience!

I very much recommend it – there’s a great interactive tour at the beginning (get menaced by Daleks and Weeping Angels) followed by a happy hour wandering around staring at cool props, Tardis sets, costumes and villains. There’s a lovely range of Daleks,  including a few from the ’80s series that I don’t recall at all.

I had a marvellous time, and managed to leave the gift shop with only a few sets of badges and postcards (it was damned close though). It was a beautiful day and the Experience is in a huge warehouse building right on the edge of the bay. I imagine it’s slightly different when raining.

This weeks’s scribbles

Tuesday:  the third part of the mini-serial The Peninsula Creature. It’s all going very wrong for our mismatched heroes.

Thursday: The Lobster Adventure. Finally! A return to Captain Pigheart. This one’s been tormenting me for a while. As you might guess it features some lobsters. But not just any lobsters, oh no! These babies are bad.


I’ve started writing a follow up/prequel/something or other  to The Peninsula Creature in the mornings. I’m also ambling along steadily with the next Alex Trepan / Galaxy Team story. I think it’s going to be a detective story, likely with some new Galaxy Team characters. So long as the heat doesn’t kill me I should have either one of these or something completely different for next week.

Round Up of Last Week

17th July: The Peninsula Creature – Part 2 – a cryptozoological expedition gets into serious trouble

19th July: Cecily’s Adventure – a cellar full of monsters delay the kitchen assistant

The Peninsula Creature: part 3 of 5

This is the third part of a story – read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

Part 3

We spiralled inwards from the shoreline, keeping an eye out for the creature while scouting for tracks and survivors. Every human structure, from kayaks to chalets had been destroyed and scattered violently. The beach resort had been pounded into the sand. Fragments of furniture and roof sloshed gently in the surf. We were somewhat shaken by the degree of devastation and flinchingly sifted through the wreckage, fearing what state the casualties might be in.

Following the trail that had been beaten into the forest we came to the flaming beacon which had lured us in. The fire appeared to have come from the hotel’s power generator which lay behind the main complex. It looked as if it had been stamped upon, rupturing the boilers. An avenue of smashed trees and flattened cabins led away on both sides of the smoking ruin.

Either fear of the Ultrashark had dissuaded the holiday makers from their annual vacations or the creaure we’d seen skulking into the sea had been disturbingly thorough. We found no survivors or even any bodily remains, beside a long red smear within a footprint. The beast’s tracks were plentiful and had provided most of our footpaths; Harvey and Maxwell measured them while I took photographs.

The creature, we surmised, had the gait and rough anatomy of a large aquatic reptile but was far larger than anything found even in the Southern Continent. Some of the clearer markings where the animal had paused before changing direction showed a length between forelegs and tail tip of fifty feet. We had no idea of its head shape as yet, though there were grooves in the sand where it might have ducked to graze upon its prey. Harvey expostulated that it was naturally at home on the bottom of the ocean where it would feed on anything that came within reach until the stimulation of the Ultrashark brought it to the surface. Maxwell considered it an interloper from distant waters. It was an exciting discovery and a number of papers were likely to emerge from its study.

Our intent had been to island hop with the ferries or local boat men, but there were no longer such facilities available. The detritus of boats and the buoyant stern of a ferry were visible from the beach. Some of the islands were only a few hundreds of feet apart (even less at low tide) so Harvey proposed that we travel on his back instead, as we had often done in the lakes of the Eastern Mood jungles. This was not the most appealing prospect but past attempts at raft building had met unfortunate ends. It was only a little water after all. I tucked Maxwell into his perspex box; he hates the water, but not as much as being unable to see.

That first passage between the islands was tense, but brief. Harvey’s light step skimmed through the shallow waters and up the next beach before we’d had time to truly unsettle ourselves. Harvey shook his articulated length dry and I released Maxwell onto the sound. Perhaps we’d find a whole boat on this island. Without an aerial view we had to trust that the creature was still ahead of us. On reflection it would have been the ideal time to unhook the radio from Harvey’s pannier and check whether Bob was still airborne.

Even now I find it hard to believe that a creature so large could move with such stealth. Indeed, the noise we heard, which alerted us to the imminent danger, was only the sound of water cascading onto wet sand. We turned; Harvey instinctively circled around us like a wagon train. We three watched the enormous head of the creature rise out of the water. It had a long broad snout with the appearance of a salamander or newt save the powerful jawline and rows of wicked teeth which gave it an alligator’s grin. Instead of eyes set into its head, it boasted a pair of mobile eye palps resembling horns. They rotated smoothly towards us with alien grace and its cave-like nostrils flared. Maxwell named it for us, in a low mewl of disquiet: “it’s a… a… a Colossal Death Newt!”

Part 4 coming soon….

The Lobster Adventure

Twilight snuck upon us as a lobster does its pink fleshy prey, its pinchy pincers sneakin’ out in wispy streamers of cloud. Gaargh, we’d good reason to spout purplish in our fear of the night. I’d begun to see a mandible behind every branch, every rock the crusty carapace of horrible doom. Terror had ceased to thrill and I’d only a dreadful lurking fear whenever the moonshine tricked us with shadows.

Ahar! Twelve men and I had been abandoned on this isle following a minor disagreement regarding ship management. Fine; twas a mutiny if ye must have the word. It seemed the quest for me merlass love was not shared by all of me crewmen. Gaargh, our nightmare began within moments of being tossed into the spare long boat. We had front row seats as a krakenish monstrosity rose from the frothy waves, for ye see backwards when rowing forwards. It smashed the ship in two and feasted upon my rebellious crew. We rowed faster.

The isle we hastened towards was naught but a large rock pool – a ring of stony land encircling the blackest water whose depths hid all but the creepiest fronds of anemones and maybe a grinning skull. Twas already fading to dark so we sheltered sleep-wise beneath our boat and suckled from the knitted tuna bag o’ fresh water we’d been allowed. On waking we found to our horror that Alexander Gimpskin’s feet had been nipped off at the ankle. At first we were suprised at his not calling out, for surely twas a thing o’ some annoyance, but then we discovered his head was also missing. Thank goodness that mystery was resolved. The sky was clear and bright – a beautiful day and we were all going to die, for the tuna bag was and without water we were doomed. The prospect quite distracted us from the vastly more pertinent point o’ poor Gimpskin’s noggin pruning.

Daylight revealed a secret what the night had hid: at the pool’s heart was a circular atoll upon which were a heaping of man’s treasures: drink, swords, gold and dainty china crockery. To my finely honed senses it had the scent of a trap. However, our usual caution competed with an abundance of ill temper and thirst. Twas surely not a terrible danger to men such as we pirates. Now a stranded nun and her gelded serf, well they’d probably not even know it for a trap. As I explained to the lads, since we expected it to be a trap then it were no longer a trap – for we knew it to be one. Ye see? Ghostly Steve alone resisted me logic. Gaargh, he was ever troublesome when deciding where to go out for meals as well.

The remainder of our party rowed across, elbows tucked in and rows barely patting the water. Our passage was undisturbed. With caution we probed the barrels and chests. I allowed Billy No Mates to test the water. He gargled a mouthful and snorted it from his nose. (Well if ye know a finer way of testing water’s purity, be sure to share it). We had salted apples, water, swords and rum. Aye we were still marooned but now it felt like a holiday.

We hailed Ghostly Steve across the way with a mug of rum. He took a running dive into the water and began his fateful swim, “Nay,” I bellowed, “We’ll row back for ye.” But it was too late. Perhaps it was his thrashing paddle, or else the gleaming glare of his pallor but he swam only half the distance before a look of pure terror distorted his pasty features. A moment later he was gone – naught remained but a glut of bubbles. I was glad we’d used the boat.

Well that quite dispelled the beach atmosphere. We continued to enrum ourselves (o’ course) but we did so clutching our swords. The moon lingered sickly in the night sky, offering scant light for us poor pirates to which we added rummy brands. A chorus of chitinous chinklings set our nerves a-quiver; the feel of feelers fingering our faces pushed us to breaking point. When they finally came for us we were almost grateful. Massive lobsters bristling with sharp hairs and claws emerged from the black water. Gaargh those terrible click-clacking claws! Even now they disturbs me otherwise bawdy dreams.

They rushed at us, seizing men with rending pincers, flinging them out into the salty water from which they’d not return or squeezing ’em to popping. Nimble and armoured, they danced around us while our sword points rebounded and we grew desperate. With a mighty bellow, Hamish McMuffin belly-butted one of the beasts, knocking it stunned to the ground. I seized me chance and drove my blade into the gummy scabs between head and neck. I stamped upon the hilt and kicked it through the creature’s brain. When dawn came they retreated and we found we’d traded five mates for two lobsters. If we were to survive another night we’d need of plans – and good ones. Thankfully ye captain’s a veritable Pandora’s box of notions. We’d two of the menacing buggers cracked open before us and a day to fill.

With the tedious repetition of life, night returned and so did the Nefarious Night Lobsters emerge from their hell water. Gaargh, and what surprise for them to meet lobsters in opposition to their cause? We’d spent the day hollowing out their comrades, hauling their shrimpy guts onto the barbecue. No Hands Mick and I then donned the beasts’ shells, swapping ourselves for their organs. Gaargh, ye cannot imagine the sensation – twas like climbing into a gristly sleeping bag reeking of pasteurising cockles.

Ahar! With our armourous extensions we turned the tide on our seeming cousins. We swung our great claws, and darted hitherwise, ripping off eye stalks and whipping them by their curly tails. We pulled ’em apart and punched them in the nether pits till we stood atop a mound o’ crippled crustaceans, victoriously thrusting our feelers in the air.

No more lobsters crept from the black, and now lumpy waters – we were safe, and yet still marooned. On the morrow we feasted upon lobster-flesh till we’d carapace enough to contain the crew and blubber enough to fill the shells. Full fitted to our crusty suits we dove into the ocean and swam for home. Twas a sea voyage o’ joy and terror in equal parts for we battled Vile Eels and demonic Sea Lettuce across the sea bed, and discovered shockin’ truths about the habits o’ lady lobsters. But tis for another time.

When finally we were trapped in a rock pool high upon the shore we’d lost all sense o’ manhood. A pack o’ children descended upon us armed with poking sticks and the jovial cruelty of youth as we anxiously awaited the tide’s return. We were reborn into humanity mewling, weak and naked in the shattered shells, grimed and reekin’ of lobster grue… Gaargh, twas not me proudest striptease.

This week, Monday 30th July 2012

Oh, it’s another week… already.

Okay, sort of back on track… every weekend seems to be busy at the moment. This weekend contained lots of being awake and improv shows with MissImp, which was great fun, despite a tiny Friday night audience (damn you Olympics) and having to be awake on Saturday for Nottinghamshire Pride shows in the comedy tent. Not to worry – it won’t stop the yarn-spinning.

I also caught the new Batman film today The Dark Knight Rises – I enjoyed it, but have not been thrilled. They tried to wedge too much stuff and characters into it without maintaining a decent action quota throughout; it’s almost like they’re reluctant to put the Bat on screen. I still prefer the first of Nolan’s Batman films. I am however, absolutely loving the current series of Primeval. They’ve upped the stakes from dinosaur hunting adventure to apocalyptic science fiction on a low, trashy budget. I can’t get enough of it – this week we got to see a hideous Gollumesque future predator rip one of its mates’ arms off in a Graeco-Roman wrestle and beat it to death. Awesome.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday:  the fourth part of the mini-serial The Peninsula Creature. With the beast revealed it’s munching time for the archipelago.

Thursday: My Grandfather’s Watch. I love HP Lovecraft and can scarcely resist scribbling what I think of as homages, but are probably just bad parodies. Anyhow – enjoy!

Pleasingly I have some travelling to do this week so while my absence from work will undoubtedly generate quite a bit of stress I will at least get some extra writing time on the train (in the exciting run up to a week off I’ve ended up with just two and a half days in the office). There are a couple of short flashish stories that I need to tidy up and I’d lke to put some effort into Alex Trepan too. I have a determination to get my sleep back on track this week in readiness for a week of my own time wasting, so that should get me some morning writing time too.

Round Up of Last Week

24th July: The Peninsula Creature – Part 3 – a cryptozoological expedition gets into serious trouble

26th July: The Lobster Adventure – Captain Pigheart faces marooning and evil lobster monsters

Slightly Broken: Awake and Tense

I find myself awake in the early hours of Monday morning, a burning knot of tension in my stomach -well, not my stomach, but that odd place in our abdomen where we somehow transmit emotional stress into a muscular churning. It’s a curious and deeply unpleasant sensation. Believe it or not, I used to be unable to distinguish it from simple hunger, and at one time I think I could reduce that tension simply by filling up. I think eating something actually just distracted me, so was a good in itself as I’m a devil for skipping meals when left to my own devices.

This is lovely prevarication. It has been far too long since I’ve sat myself down to write something self-indulgent, despite really needing to. The fact that I am wide awake and really ought to be asleep seems to be as good a reason as any to return to the self-analytic fold. I can guess at my reluctance to write and think about myself – a lot of it is related to my decision to self-refer to ISAS (Incest and Sexual Abuse Survivors) which has itself generated a lot of stress. I’d finally managed to get myself to call them (I’d chosen to make contact myself rather than let my Brain Lady do so – on the basis that I needed to make decisions for myself, otherwise I wouldn’t have demonstrated to myself that I wanted to…) but I didn’t get a call back when I’d left a message. That cut pretty deep – deeper than I’d anticipated. I hadn’t even poured my heart out and already I’d been rejected.

Of course, that’s just me swimming in the self-pitying waters of egotism. ISAS are appallingly busy. And that kind of makes it worse for me. I usually say of myself, and of what happened to me that it wasn’t really that bad – I wasn’t beaten, violated repeatedly, enslaved, destroyed – y’know, it could all have been so much worse. So who am I to take up time that others need? I’ve no doubt that there are much more damaged folk out there whose needs are greater. But this is minimisation, and an excellent avoidance strategy. It’s one that keeps coming back to me – I accept that what happened to me happened, and I pretend that is all there is to it. However, here I am again at one in the morning, a bundle of tense nerves and a powerful desire to draw my own blood.

So I’m not fine. I do need help. Of some kind, of some sort. I have drawn a temporary compromise with self-harm I believe. It’s something I have to resist – because it’s easy. And addictive. And maybe because I don’t know what its purpose is. There’s a distraction there and a seizing of control – but it’s false. What fucking use is carving a groove out of myself? Or burning my hands in near boiling water – that’s a good one. It vibrates all down the nerves and flips from awful pain into a glowing pleasure and warmth. It’s a peculiar temptation. Right now I’ve settled for the vastly more mundane glass of water and some co-codamol. I realise that sounds a bit odd, but in twenty minutes or so it will have taken the edge off my tension. Yep, that’s a drug addiction to resist as well. Sigh.

What’s brought this lot on eh? I reckon it’s a bunch of stuff – I’ll just list them, because despite my general habits as a story teller and improviser I’ve totally shagged up any narrative here so far. Y’know, I’m in the mood for bullet points. Sorry.

1) I got myself to make a second phone call to ISAS the week before last. It was really difficult to call a second time, but I made myself do it at work, at lunchtime. Somehow that seemed optimum… I called, I left another message. They said they had a long waiting list and it might be weeks, even months before someone called me back. I felt worse. I felt better – there was every reason to think I had not been forgotten and I could possibly be assured of weeks before I had to do anything decisive.

They called me back the next day. It was a shock. I was just heading out for lunch and standing in the bike sheds answering  a string of the usual sort of questions asked in the most gloriously matter of fact way. You see, despite my knowledge that being abused doesn’t make me special, and I’m very aware of how widespread this crap is, I still clearly feel that I am special and that somehow these questions ought to be asked in some esoterically gentle and obtuse way (so yeah, I do need help). I powered down my obfuscation circuits and seized the first possible date the nice lady offered me for an initial assessment. That’s this Wednesday.

2) Work is a mess. I’m a drifter by nature and have drifted into a decent enough job purely by chance and avoiding any serious decisions. In fact the prospect of making decisions often fills me with dread. I seem pretty decisive to others, but I think that’s just because I’m clear and speak forcefully – good trick. But it’s a frustrating workplace where I do very much enjoy the company of my immediate co-workers but the organisation itself is packed full of twattery and self-destructive irrationality. All that with the looming spectre of massive budget cuts and privatisation (oh and an utter obeisance to some appalling management consultants who are beyond doubt the worst kind of lying blood-sucking homeopathic-efficiency pushing scum you can imagine). Makes for a stressful environment sometimes.

3) A couple of bad – well not bad, just disappointing improv shows over the weekend. I know that I hang too much on them personally. There are few things more satisfying than getting on stage and doing clever and silly things for the appreciation of strangers and your peers. So when it doesn’t work out that way it’s quite crushing. I certainly rely on the lift that it gives me. I’m afraid of not being good enough, and envy the skills of those who are better at it. At the same time I hold myself back from investing the time and energy I’d really like to – just because (I think) I’m afraid of failing further at it. I find it hard to imagine myself taking the risks one of my friends does in pursuing it. I suppose I’ve trapped myself with my work and making enough time to do things I love becomes difficult. There’s also a lot of stress with one individual in the group who just is not gelling and is causing, I think unintentionally but with a terrifying lack of self-awareness, a lot of dissatisfaction and frustration for me and many others. I have so far failed to find a way to resolve this. I think I have some stress because I have a bunch of work to do for a show in three weeks time and this weekend has given me an unhelpful slap in the confidence gland. That makes it harder to then do that preparation. Stupid self-destructive impulses.

4) I’m coming up to my thirty-fourth birthday (this Sunday) and I’m filled with a dreadful apathy about it. My girlfriend, The Lady M wants to make sure I get everything I want and am happy, but I’m just worn down and don’t know if I want anything. I don’t wish to disappoint her and I don’t want to disappoint myself either. I know that if I did nothing I would feel I’d utterly cheated myself of the things I love – opening presents, affection, the company of friends and rambling conversations. And yet it feels so hard to plan. So hard to consider the future even a week from now.

5) Two days before that is a much more important occasion – I will have spent fourteen years of my life with The Lady M. I don’t want to pretend that they haven’t been tough at times for both of us- they have been. We’re both fucked up in our own charming ways. I love her though, she’s a part of me. And I’m utterly ashamed that I’m also finding it near impossible to look even these four days ahead to spend time with her. I’ve gone as far as taking the day off work and planning the card to make for her (we always make each other birthday, Valentines and anniversary cards), but I just feel like a failure. I feel like I don’t give her enough and that feeling just makes me back away more, which is the last thing I want to do. If I could just be with her all the time and rediscover those fun, free parts of myself. Where the fuck have they gone?

6) The weekend before last (after getting an appointment with ISAS) was my little brother’s stag party. I can’t believe he’s thirty – that means I’ve done almost literally fuck all for the last decade. Anyway we’ll try to skip a little self-pity if possible. I spent most of the weekend with my Dad – three hours or so each way and we had a hotel room together (we’re both too old for six to a room and shots till dawn!). It’s more time than we’ve spent together since I left home and it was quite wonderful. Dad makes me feel incredibly sane because he’s so damn calm and supportive. I’ve always kept Dad more or less in the loop with where I’m at mentally and emotionally and I knew we’d be talking about all sorts of stuff in the car. And we did. We got very deep into stuff indeed. It’s this point six that I suppose is bothering me the most – let’s get away from the bullet points.

I can’t hope to recall the whole conversation but I think what disturbed me most, and disturbed Dad most was me realising that I still don’t know how I feel about myself, and about my abuser. I have no illusions about what actually happened, that I was exploited and preyed upon, influenced and used. But I am confused about the man himself. This is a guy who was a close friend of my Dad’s, very much a trusted intimate with whom much of life was shared. He was (I thought), a good friend of mine, someone who took an interest in my life at a time when I was vulnerable and badly needed a friend. He got me into improv (an endless headfuck for me – the thing I love doing most inextricably linked with someone who caused me to cut holes in myself), into films I would never have seen; made me happy and less lonely. Did the same for my Dad and step-mum.

Except when he was trying to touch me, when he’d let me get drunk and stay in his house. I was a physically very tense teenager (I’m a fairly tense adult; I just hide it really well) so a friendly massage made a kind of sense (no, I’m well aware that makes no kind of sense), and if hands just happen to drift well… that must just be an accident right? It won’t happen next time, probably. Oh, well, I’ll just drink some more and it won’t be so bad. It’s the realisation that you’re completely in someone else’s power and that’s why you -why I found myself doing things I would never even contemplate. Who lets an adult watch you in the bath or “help” you towel dry afterwards? Jesus fuck, these aren’t even things I’ve specifically thought about for years. But the dread, the scar of remembrance lurks in me always. But the thing I struggle to reconcile – the bit I don’t get and the part I had difficulty even expressing to Dad is: what was real?

I don’t mean that I fear I’ve made this up, that it’s some messed up “repressed memory”, I’ve got my diaries from the time and the scars to remove any of that occasional creeping doubt. No – I mean… this guy made me happy so much of the time, he was a good friend. Except for that other stuff. You see? It just doesn’t hang together for me – the good friend of the family and the sexual predator… How do we reconcile that? What of it was a lie? Was he ever my friend, my Dad’s? Or was it always just tactical? But all that effort, all that time – years of building and maintaining relationships just to fondle some teenage boy? Seriously – what the fuck? I just can’t grasp it. I just cannot understand how you can be bothered to do all that just for – well, something that I don’t consider to be of value I suppose. And maybe that’s the point. It’s certainly the point that Dad struggles with – that betrayal of his trust and friendship too. But these people are monsters. They are prepared to invest this huge amount of time in a long confidence trick – fake lives just to get close to vulnerable kids.

I don’t know how that makes me feel. I fear that he could have made me like him. That in the right(/wrong) circumstances I could find myself doing the same things that were done to me. I’d rather die. My Dad was horrified by that idea. He had a lot to say about that (I love my Dad) and he’s right I think: it’s possible to overthink this stuff. I have never had even an inkling of a desire to touch kids – I’ve had the opportunity in spades and I’ve never wanted to do anything; the idea makes me sick. I think what is in my head is a distorted notion – to take on from what was done to me some sense of sympathy with my abuser, that maybe he was a victim too and that this cycle might repeat. Because then he wouldn’t be just a monster – he’d be a victim too, and the good things he did, the friendship – well that could be real, and it wouldn’t all be a lie.

Yeah – that’s where I am in the head. Trying to convince myself that I might also molest kids because then it would mean that the good times I do remember between the bad weren’t lies and I can be allowed to take happiness and good memories from them. Because to me, if it was all a ploy, all a long con to abuse a teenage boy then it was all a lie. And none of it was true. So how can I do something I think I enjoy when it came from him? Fucking cunt. I’m not a great person, I try (sometimes) to be better than I am, but I don’t deserve to have this sort of bullshit in my head – no one does. I don’t know where this leaves me. I still don’t know how I feel. I am though convinced that I do still need help. Guess Wednesday’s going to be painful.

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The Peninsula Creature: part 4 of 5

This is the fourth part of a story – read Part 1 , Part 2  and Part 3 first.

Part 4

In pursuing and investigating unusual creatures we have found that there are three choices when confronted by what is supposed to be our quarry: make a great deal of noise to either scare it off or establish our dominance, remain terribly still and hope to be ignored, or flee. The decision is usually made instinctively, and quickly. This was no exception. As the rest of the Collossal Death Newt’s blue black bulk slid smoothly out of the sea and its mouth gaped at us, we ran. For fear of separation I scooped up Maxwell even though his nimble cats feet are quicker than mine, and tried to keep up with Harvey’s fluid scuttle.

Before we knew it we had reached the other side of this isle and pressed on across the narrow sandy spit to the next, on which we saw lights and smelled cooking meat. The resort was fully occupied and families ate, played and slept in a broad clearing ringed with chalets. We had no choice but to lead the beast into their midst as we bellowed at them to run.

The creature flattened trees and cabins under the weight of its low-slung body. Its locomotion appeared to confirm Maxwell’s newt thesis, although unfortunately we had little time to examine it in detail. Our fears about the former inhabitants of the first island were confirmed as it made a point of snapping up screaming holiday makers, or knocked them down with its long tongue and sucked them in over its teeth. From our selfish perspective the holiday camp gave us good cover and we were in the lead as we continued our escape, dashing from that island to the next.

The Death Newt’s progress was quite evident behind us – not only was it huge enough to be readily visible but the collapsing trees, buildings and panicked people scattering outwards pinpointed it perfectly. It seemed intent on eating every person in its path. While it was busy we hopped across to yet another island and fell to the ground for a moment’s respite. Harvey still bore most of our equipment in the saddlebags strapped across his shell. Several of the bags were torn and others had been left behind in our scramble, but we still had the bulk of the photographic kit, specimen jars, and food. Our rather feeble store of weapons – a rifle, a pistol and some caving explosives were also intact. How I rued the butchering of our armaments budget.

Most importantly the radio was still present, and dry. With some haste I hailed Bob. His voice was a tonic. He had returned to the mainland and reported what little he could to the authorities. They were now in the important governmental stage of dithering. Meanwhile, yet more smoke was visible rising from the Holiday Islands and its population was rapidly diminishing. I explained that we were now ahead of the monster – a wholly undesirable outcome and were in urgent need of assistance. Bob was quite clear that he wouldn’t land anywhere near the creature, but he would come and fetch us – if we made it alive to the Petits Dansons island, the closest to Mongolith.

There was only forward (or South as the maps will have it) left to us and even as we set off we could hear the monstrous newt’s earth shaking tread behind us. Our expedition had degenerated into a blind race across islands and splashing through waist-deep water. It was constantly on our heels, except for whenever we passed through a holiday village or hotel resort. Then the behemoth would ignore us for a few minutes while it hunted down the luckless vacationers with its terrible flickering tongue. I soon gave up stopping to photograph the carnage. As Maxwell pointed out with the grip of his claws, those brief distractions were all that kept us ahead.

By the sixth hour of our flight Maxwell and I were beyond exhaustion and had taken to clinging onto Harvey’s panniers as he deftly wove through the foliage. Evening was preparing to condemn us to night when we burst through a final stand of shrubs. Before us there was only open water, and perhaps only a mile away – the mainland.

Quite why its prospect seemed any more secure than the ravaged islands I do not know. The amphibious terror would be equally at home mangling the thriving shore of Mongolith – but the port-town positively hummed with safety. I would of course wish to be a very long way inland, but nonetheless… to be away from the sea outweighed even my desire for a cup of tea.

The end – Part 5 coming soon….