Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Swallow Grave Bothy - a short story

Swallowgrave Bothy

Granny said yon budgie died, budgie died, budgie died
Granny said yon budgie died, put it in the bothy,
Granny said the wee dog’s deid, wee dog’s deid, wee dog’s deid
Granny said the wee dog’s deid, put it in the bothy,
Granny said, yon poor boy’s deid, poor boy’s deid, poor boy’s deid,
Granny said, yon poor boy’s deid, put him in the bothy.
Granny said, the thin man’s deid, thin man’s deid, thin man’s deid,
Granny said, the thin man’s deid, put him in the bothy...
                                                                  Skipping chant.

“Bothy” – noun, Scottish.  A simple hut or shelter, open and available for public use, especially for estate workers, or travellers.  Generally provided in mountainous or wooded areas. Plural “Bothies”.
                                                                        The Poor Traveller’s Guide (2015)

Patrick isn’t lost in the woods.  Not lost as such.  He has a compass (flat and hard and comforting) and a mobile phone (fully charged) with GPS – not that he has a signal, but he’s pretty certain he might get that on a hillside.   He doesn’t look at the phone but he can feel it hard in his pocket.  The phone is, he thinks, old but reliable, even if his present circumstances make it useless.  He has good boots, and they’re worn enough to fit his feet – and more importantly his ankles – without chaffing, but new enough to be water-tight and have sturdy grips.  The same goes for his clothes.  They feel to him as if he’s worn them for many other hikes, and he’s not surprised by them in any way.  They feel right.  He can’t remember the technical names of the specialist walker’s bits and pieces that they’ve got, but they’re not unexpected.  The draw-string sleeves, the water-proofed flaps on the pockets, the special ‘breathing’ web-lining,  and so on,  are all exactly what he expects to have, in what he expects to be wearing.  But he doesn’t know where he is, nor how he got there, and he’s shaken by that.  He doesn’t know his last name – and that’s terrifying.
There’s a gap in his memory - more than a gap - a great black cloud of past he’s not aware of, roiling like fog on the moors.  He doesn’t remember getting to this wood.  He doesn’t think he drove his car here, navigating his way to the constant slightly nagging interjections of the sat nav.  He remembers his car.  He remembers its blue sheen.  He can’t remember its number plate, or its make, but the colour is there in his mind.  Duck egg blue.  A car-park scrape on the left side, waiting attention.  He sees the line of the scar in his mind’s eye.  He can remember the annoyance when he came out of, where was it now?  He can’t remember the name of the place.  It was a type of big shop. He knows that.  A famous big type of big shop, were many people went, with a big place for parking cars.  His head hurts.  It’s a slow weird ache, that feels like two hands are pressing down on his temples. Two cold mechanical hands.
Patrick wonders if he’s having a stroke.  That would be bad.  To have a medical problem while being mislaid in the woods.  Is a stroke just a “medical problem” or worse?  Can it kill you? He can’t remember, but he knows people can survive strokes. He can remember it being easier to think than this.  He can’t remember what he used to think about.   A stroke is like your brain being touched with a point of fire, he thinks.  Where the fire goes, you stop having thoughts.  When it stops you have ash in your head.  As he thinks this, he sees a light through the trees.  Fire-light.  He stumbles in that direction.
The fire’s a hiker’s fire.  Laid carefully.  Stones moved in at the edges to make a fire-break.  Dry wood used at the core, placed in layers.  A pile of kindling yonder.  It’s only just still burning.  In another minute or two it would have gone out, leaving no fire-light for Patrick.  The thought is very sad: not because the wood is dark enough yet to make the fire necessary, but because it would have been sad not to know someone else was near.   Patrick shouts:  “Hello, I’m Patrick,“ and remembers he’s forgotten his last name.  He remembers people have last names, but not why they’re called that.  Is your last name the one you’re told just before you die?  he wonders.  Patrick, he knows is his first name, because his mother gave it to him when he was born.   He can remember the colour of her eyes, he thinks.  Blue.  Duck-egg blue.   In the core of the fire, he finds a heap of molten plastic.  Credit cards burned black and unreadable – some old yellowing papers scorched to the point that touching breaks them into ash.  The ash is oddly aromatic, as if it were a cooking fire carelessly sprinkled with herbs rather than a rubbish burner.  As if the fire meant something.  Keep away, or come back?  He can’t tell.
Did he do this himself?  Kill his old self here?  Burn up his last name? If so why?  He can’t imagine any reason.  If he had one, he’s forgotten it.
It gets darker.  No one else comes back to the fire.  Patrick feeds it with the kindling.   He tries to remember things.  Perhaps he came here by train.  Maybe there’s a little station in a valley with a cat on a seat, and a long Gaelic and English station sign, black and white behind a carefully maintained bed of flowers.  That would be nice.
He remembers being told by a teacher years ago, that only un-imaginative people used words like ‘nice’, instead of – as it might be, ‘rustic’ or ‘oldworldly’ or ‘charming’ or another word, one that he can’t recall just now.  But he likes ‘nice’.  It says everything he wants to say to himself about the station he imagines in his head, and which he very much wishes to find.  Thinking nice thoughts, he dozes, by the fire.  He’s not lost, he tells himself in his dream.  He isn’t hungry, and he doesn’t wonder that he isn’t.  His mouth feels like a leather-purse.  It would only hold food like a cherished memento, or a spinster’s love-token. 
Patrick’s Dream doesn’t take very long.  At least he doesn’t think it does. It might have taken a day or multiple days, if the planet had turned the same multiple amount in addition to the hour or so of night he imagines he slept, but the twilight of morning greets him as he opens his eyes.  This time when he wakes he remembers all his dream, or perhaps enough of it to seem like all of it.  He also remembers that dreams are not usually things that he remembers so well:  in fact he rarely has them (or if he does he forgets them immediately upon waking). This one is different, or perhaps now he is different.
            He is on a train.  Travelling with his teacher, but she is old now, old enough to be a Grandmother, he thinks.  They are going somewhere so she can show him something, which he is on no account to call ‘nice’.  He will need other words for it. Some one has left a mirror on the table in the train.  It lies there between him and his school teacher daring one of them to pick it up.  It’s an old ladies’ hand mirror with crystal facetted edges and it’s a colour he thinks is called Jade.  She picks it up first, but turns it as if she’s looking into its back, so that it faces towards Patrick across the table.  His face in the mirror is too old, and his smile slopes sloppily like an avalanche of teeth and lips.   As he sees himself for the first time, and is forced to remember how he looks, or thinks he looks, and to judge how different is this mirror’s jade opinion of him, from his own, he hears the teacher sneeze behind the mirror, and it falls from her limp hand.  Her hand that is only bone and can not hold a mirror well enough, and the sneeze dislocates her lower jaw that is also, in the dream, only bone now, and which falls after and onto the mirror with a crash.  Jade and Ivory, he thinks, and wakes up. Somewhere years ago he has read that there are two gates of Dream, that are made of those materials.  From the other end of the carriage of the duck egg-blue train, he hears a child’s voice singing:
            ‘What will we do when you die, when you die, when you die?
            What will we do when you die?  Put you in the Bothy!”
           And in the dream, the people in the train start to clap and sing along as if they’re pleased that Patrick is going home.

Not-lost Patrick is what he’s decided to call himself now, until he remembers his last name.  All he has to do is keep moving in a straight line, and for that he has his compass.  The mobile phone has probably stopped working (not that he’d bothered to check it was actually working before) and he can no longer even imagine that it would show a light on its duck-egg blue screen.  It just registers as deadweight at his hip.  He decides to walk east, as the ground slopes slightly down that way – like an avalanche or a stroke victim’s smile.  He knows things are not right, and tries to cheer himself up with a joke.  Why did the hiker cross the road?  Because he wasn’t lost and he was going east and the road was going north to south.  H’m maybe that still needed some work.  He’s wondering why things strike people as funny (he can remember laughing at a good many things but not exactly why) when his trail east begins to run by the side of a stream, curling in from the north and trickling along in his direction of travel.  It makes a cut in the flesh of the land, dipping into it and driving its fluid fingers wider.  The land groans mudflats and stepping stones, and wet wedges of foliage.  Everything underfoot is slimier now.  Even with his good boots, Patrick slips and lands hard on his left knee, driving something askew.  There is less pain than he remembers feeling, on other occasions.  Less pain than catching a finger in a door. Less pain than his wife leaving.  He remembers he had a wife once.  Her last name escapes him, until he remembers it’s already escaped him once, for it would by all normal practice have been his own: and that, he cannot remember.  He thinks he’s walked through the last lees of the night, into the trepidatious morning: but the sky is missing a sullen teenage Sun, still guttering in its bedroom.   He remembers a song, or part of a song, and starts to sing it.  ‘The Sun has got it’s hat on, hip hip hip hooray, the Sun has got it’s hat on and...’  He can’t remember what the Sun will do when it has its hat on.  He can’t remember the last time he saw the Sun.

After a while, he sees the witch.  No not a witch that’s unkind.  He sees the old woman, by the stone house, and feels a great surge of pain in his chest.  He’s seen her  before but he can’t remember where, or when – the not-lost memories are hidden glimpses like stills from a film cut up and spliced together into an order that ignores more than it’s contents can ever reveal.   He splishes towards the man, his ragged boots distorting the muddy ground, with a flat set of impacts that sends liquid dirt out in craters as he stamps.  He likes the sky-blue thump of the sound.

Young Sally coined a word to describe this place.  The word she coined was Swallowgrave, because it eventually ate up everything.  The ground is soft and rank here, and unsettling in its settling.  It feels foundation-less and undecided.  Every year she expects the old Bothy to have gone, and an end to have been made by nature or time.  Every year it’s still there sticking out of the earth - a tramp’s single tooth, in a moist fenny mouth.  Like Little John in the stories of Robin Hood, Young Sally is ironically named now, being in her nineties.  For seventy of those years, she’s been a groundskeeper of this estate, and part of her task is the annual cleansing fire, and cleaning out of the place.  When she started she’d been ‘Young Sally’, in truth.  That had been before the Worse Days, may they never return – when there had been proper ‘shallow’-graves in many places, from the sickness.  When the land had grown even more untenanted, and the cities had become piles of cenotaphs, and multi-story mausoleums.   In the country it had always been different.  Country folk looked to their own, they didn’t leave the empty cities to the dead.  The dead needed their own places: country folk had always known that.   And once a year they needed a cleansing.
            Like anything right, like anything needful, it had its dangers.  In the Cities, they didn’t know they were dead, very often.  They’d fight and bite and scratch, and then where would you be?  Citified.  Dead-becoming.  Sooner a job for a Guildsman than for a groundskeeper.  She remembers seeing the Guildsmen ride past in their suits of metal and knives.  Sooner them, than her.  It was different in the woods, better. The dead slept their death away here: snug as bears.  But come the turn, they needed seeing to – and there was some slight danger there, but it was a different danger, a natural danger.  Like keeping bees if bee-stings were cancer, but not like being hunted by cancer-hornets in and out of broken shop-fronts.   Young Sally knew how to make the fires.  What to burn in them.  How to draw out any that might still be crawling, and how to drive them back.  What tokens to keep and what to burn.  Each year they’d been smaller, more eaten, less intractable.  As she grew old, so did they.  Eventually they’d wear each other out, their deaths burn away or crumbled into the earth, and in her turn, one morning she’d wake up dead, as they say.  Be planted by her son.
She sees the figure come out of the marshes.  Clad in rags and tatters, its pockets such as they are stuffed with stones that might once have meant something, or been part of an early attempt to hold it down.  It holds something that glints in its right hand.  Not a knife thank God.  They were bad enough without that, but they lacked the sense to use tools generally.  What did it have there?  Something it had been lain with, or something it had found in the woods?
Young Sally watches as it heaves its way past her, and back in through the blackness of the door.  ‘Oh Granny, look,’ she mutters to herself  ‘Mr Azure’s come back on his own.’  That hadn’t happened for many a year.   Last year’s fire must have burned less brightly, in the core of the heap, for this one to know its resting place of its own will.  If only they were all so tractable.
Not-Lost Patrick started to dig out his nest, and the bones in the Bothy moved as if they were laughing, to welcome him again, and he heard, irretrievably, the humour in their clattering as an attempt to iterate his last name.  Snug back in the pile of softly moving bones for another year, he can nevertheless see the sky.  It’s a sliver of a thing, up through the gap in the bodies as they fester, up through the damaged crack in the partly broken roof.  It’s a colour.  What colour, he can’t remember. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

A snippet from the novel in progress....

The Tau innkeeper bades us draw our stools up around the glow-pit, and
with ale in our hands (MARTIAN ale is of the sort called light-beer
but it is no less a pleasure for that) and the cold wind of Mars
rattling at the seals on the windows, we listen to his spinning of a
local tale of terror.

‘The Ominou, is a thing that was once a Martian, or sometimes now –
though it was always a Martian when I was told the stories in my youth
– a man.’ – begins the innkeeper, but his story is so rambling –
though intended to entertain, and offered freely, that I will
summerise it rather than give his exact words.

An Ominou is not an Old Martian for they are horrible enough, or grand
enough to be monsters themselves, but one of the Tau who has been
cursed. The Ominou then has the blue skin of the Tau, but it is
blanched and mottled and so pale and see-through that it becomes a
blue-bloom on the muscles and organs beneath, and the Ominou looks
like a Doctor’s model of a Martian set up to train anatomists, only
living – if it can be called living.  The Ominou hungers for blood,
but it drinks it not red from the arteries like an honest Earth
vampire but from the blue veins as it returns oxygen-less to the
heart. (I am told by my friend, a medical man on Earth who has read
these notes, that this is not the case: and that while red blood, is
red because it contains haemoglobin, iron, and oxygen – a discovery
made incidently by a MARTIAN, John F. Englehard, some seventeen years
ago, who determined their ratios – which, aforesaid, chemicals absorb
blue and green light, de-oxygenated blood is never anything other than
a deep maroon colour. This may be so, but the fact remains veins do
look blue nevertheless.)

When an Ominou drinks blood, and it can be seen through the faint
blue-bloom of their nigh transparent skin, I am told, it looks maroon.

With these background facts concerning the mythical monster
established, which I am afraid took the innkeeper, some time to
rehearse, and with which he did his best to chill our spines, the meat
of his story was as follows:

In the village of Mumley south of First-Human-Hive, in the time of the
innkeeper’s grandfather, there lived a Tau-blacksmith, who though well
reputed for his work, was both vain as to his own appearance and his
skill, and grasping for ul in his business dealings.  He sought the
hand of a local noble’s daughter (despite their servitude to the Old
Martians, the Tau have any number of degrees of entitlement and
privilege among themselves) but was rebuffed, not only because he was
of a lower rank but because his vanity and his greed were both
affronts to the lady, who in addition loved a different young Tau, and
lived in hope that he – and not the blacksmith – would be favoured
with her hand.  Seeing this the blacksmith set out methodically to
ruin the young man, by purchasing such debts as any young man of
business might have at one time quite safely across a number of his
creditors while his trades were in progress, at a loss, with the
intent of presenting them in one impossible lump, and also spreading
by anonymous letter and rumour scandalous allegations concerning him,
that he was – in fact – in secret an Ominou and that he had been seen
in the small graveyard of the Kirk, digging up a newly buried corpse
in order to drink the dead-blood from it.  This allegation would have
been ludicrous but for the fact that a corpse had indeed lately been
so defiled, and there was considerable superstitious fear abroad in
Mumley as a result.

I asked whether, the corpse could have been dug up by the Blacksmith
as part of his campaign, and the Inn-Keeper said, that his grandfather
had said not, because it had happened the night of the Mumley Ball,
which was the very occasion at which the Blacksmith had offered to
marry the lady, and been scorned, and he had disgraced himself
thereafter by getting drunk, and had been carried back to his forge by
three or four good fellows, none of whom could therefore have been
digging up bodies in the dark. It was unlucky for the young man (his
name was Jonathon, the Inn Keeper now recalled) that he had no similar
testimony as to his whereabouts, for he had been ill with one of the
Tau-fevers and confined to his bed, to the sorrow of the young lady
and the misfortune of his name. On his recovery, he discovered that
his debts had all come due at once, and that his status had been so
blackened by the lies being spread about him, that no-one would
venture to loan him the ul to satisfy the blacksmith, and he was at
risk of being condemned to a jail for the UnHivelike – for running up
of debts is a human custom that the Tau tolerate only until the debtor
can not pay, and then it becomes a crime. Faced with this, and the
knowledge that so tainted was his fortune that he would stand no
chance with his love’s family, Jonathon hung himself, and as a suicide
was buried outside the graveyard of the Kirk.

The elders of the Kirk, demanded further that given the rumours he
should be buried with the five-edged symbol embedded in his chest,
which is the preferred way to ensure an Ominou will not rise up from
the grave in search of blue-blood, and a collection was taken to pay
for the symbol – for it must be made of orichalc, which is a rare
metal found only on Mars, and that sparsely, and which is consequently
worth considerably its weight in ul.

Now the night after he was so buried, the blacksmith drew on a great
dark cloak, and took up his spade and set out – for he knew that
Jonathon was no Ominou, for had he not invented the story, and spread
it, as a farmer spreads his muck, and hence the valuable symbol on his
chest was doing no good at all in the ground when it might be melted
down and spent.

But when he reached the resting place of the body, he found it already
disturbed, and the symbol of the five-edged blade thrown aside and
broken, for the collection had been insufficient – either because the
business men of Mumley were hardheaded as to the existence of Ominou,
or harder headed still about the spending of money – and it had been
made cheaply out of the alloy called ‘fool’s orichalc’ which is no
more than a form of brass and has no virtue in.  And as he was cursing
that they were so mean, and also that someone else had dared to
forestall him in digging up the body, a great blue-blotched hand, so
light as almost to shine in the dark, reached around his neck from
behind his body, and the Ominou, which was not Jonathon, but which had
come nuzzling about the grave nevertheless (for it had not felt the
vibrations of the orichalc that would have impeded it), and which was
still thirsty for the blue blood in his veins.

They found the blacksmith in the morning, dead and empty, and of the
Ominou there was no sign, nor was Jonathon’s body still interred, for
it is said that the Ominou – if they have enough blood within them
from a living victim, can transfer it to a corpse and rise up a
servant-Ominou, lesser than themselves and under their will, and the
people said that this must have been what had happened. Certainly no
one in Mumley was troubled by Ominou after this and perhaps the Old
Ominou and the apprentice Jonathon, where happy enough – if their kind
can be happy – travelling elsewhere.

This story, I felt lacked much in the way of a happy ending, and I
asked the innkeeper what became of the young lady Tau, whose rivals
had both been so suddenly disposed of.

‘Why sir,’ he smiled, ‘she married my grandfather. That’s her over the
bar, in the painting by Naclinas.’  And I offered to shake his hand
and accepted most heartily that this was the happiest ending of the
story there could have been.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

8 more drabbles from the City of the Saved

8 More Weekend Sights To See In the City of the Saved. [Extracted from popular weekly part work, ‘1 trillion things to see before you’re still not dead.’]
Kiaryunatavia: is the seacoastless principality, which is vying to oust Zenda from its role as pre-eminant mittle-european 18th  Century. With its metamorphic royal family, one member of which is guaranteed to fully resemble each visitor, and its combination of easy going hedonism, and strict visual code of conduct, Kaiaryunatavia has, since the days of its founder, magician, demagogue, and misunderstood womaniser Doctor Farcetus (who statue shows him being surprised with his trousers around his ankles by a Priest) provided a home away from home for the buxomly clumsy, and the erotically inept. Suitable for klutus interruptus and 1970s England fetishists.    
Scienceopolos presents the antiseptic image of the prehistoric ‘city of the future’ – it has the lines of an autoclave designed by a committee – and is an amusing day out for any student of archetechtonics. Its inhabitants who live in Surburbanopolos, next door, commute to Scienceopolos on the Morbius Railway: noted for having had the only collision of one train, on one track since the Pagwell Incident of Earth Antiquity. Followers of Celebrity Remakes are advised to look out for Jack the Ripper. Despite an ongoing law-suit with Harlan Ellison, Scienceopolos is open every weekend, except for Lawyer’s Eve and Scroogemas.
Not a place but a process – at least according to its advertising – the present Game is now in its 11,002nd year. Just by reading this you have of course lost, but if you can stumble upon it without having heard of it, and penetrate its sanctum sanctorum, without comprehension or memory, you may be voted Gamesmeister and end this cycle. Do what you need to without choice in the name of peace and sanity, while avoiding the metaphorical snake and reaching Mornington Crescent!  Neophytes to the great game may wish to limber up with Fairy Chess, Calvinball, or even Fizbin.
Check your brain at the door for the Zombie-apocalypso Roller-disco. Skate through the avenues and alleyways of a OnceGreatMetropolis(tm) while chowing down on the flavoured brain-pans of our genuine anecephalic cloneoids (the ones in green are organic, the ones in yellow entirely formed from vegetarian proteins, the orange both halal and kosher). Put the glide into shambling where the dinner is rambling!  Book ahead and eat yourself! Simply send a tissue sample one month in advance of your visit. “Five stars Yummy!”: Gastro-horror Magazine, “Who could have thought the old man had so much blood in him!”: Shakespeare About.
In the dark forests of the Brechtenwald Cabaret – thrill to the tall tales, and mighty thews, of the Nazi She-men – as they reconstitute primitive tri-gender mysticism, while modelling the best in PostWWIII prepreWarGermanicNostalgia. It’s fishnets and stone knives in the dark for those brave enough to be trepanned or sexchanged in the most brutalist way.  Even though it doesn’t hurt you’ll still get the thrill of people wondering why you went through with this!  When gender was in the closet, rather than an option found ‘in the closet’ these confused fellows terrorised Europe, now they’ll give you a good time! 
Smallanimalisles: the chain of Japanesesque islands entirely given over to the lifecycles of the cuter cuddly animals, is well worth a visit. Now it’s twinned with the Biogenesisisles – a dedicated archepelego-space in which real-time evolution is being run by teams of Long Term Experimentalist. While none of the carefully scrubbed, and de-lifed, sterile spaces have yet to spontain: Scientists hope that over eternity reruns of evolution will finally show whether or not humanity was inevitable. The isles can not be visited directly but they can be watched from ‘hides’. Be the first to spot the transition of life from lifelessness!
Take part in a full re-enactment of a ‘General Election’(tm) with all the pre-event fun, reproduced by brain implantation memory techniques. Stay up late and squeal as your favoured party is decimated, or halloeed to victory – revel in your entirely temporary and completely safe belief that everything depends on this! Then awake to a broader wider saner world, knowing that except for City Politics such things are far behind us.  You’ll laugh! You’ll cry, you’ll never understand why those bastards(tm) got in! (All election results generated by quasischotastic techniques guaranteed to alarm and surprise.) Afterwards: YOU CAN WAKE UP NOW.
Enjoy the slow-events at the tardilympics, from snail racing, through “running with the sloths”. See athletics in slowtime, and the miracle of ‘slo-mo bionics’ which turn spectator sports into true frozen art in which every lunge, twirl, and spin, hangs in the air like a pin-up tacked to the fabric wall of space-time itself!  But hurry, it won’t last for ever – it’ll just seem like it! Fans of this new form of entertainment can also try slowfeed in their own homes including such high tension programmes as: When Paints Dry!  Hundred Year Innings Cricket, and the famous City Politics Review.
(Drabbles 9-16 in an occasional series of 100. The City of the Saved is the intellectual property of Philip Purser-Hallard and appears here by kind permission. The authors of "1 trillion things to see before you're still not dead" accept no responsibility for the above sights not being part of any City of the Saved specific individuals may (i) read about, (ii) experience after their subjective or objective death. Readers experience the sights above at their own risk, post-mortem, albeit in a low to no risk environment.)

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Election predictions from the Almanack 2015 vs YouGov vs "Reality"

Well, it wasn't funny, but the Almanack was closer to the actuals for CON and LABOUR than the YouGov Poll of Polls.  What it didn't predict was the SNP swing in Scotland.  Ah.

YouGovExitAlmanack 2015"Reality"

Monday, May 04, 2015

A review of Le Roi en Jaune - focusing upon the play itself!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

8 Drabbles from the City of the Saved : Tourism

8 Weekend Sights To See In the City of the Saved. [Extracted from popular weekly part work, ‘1 trillion things to see before you’re still not dead.’]
Delightfully antiquated, the partially cybernetic citizens of Trul, open their wheeled carts, to which their upper bodies are attached, each weekend to sell the micro-products of their internal nanofactors. These ‘carbot’ sales are a splendid outing for  families especially those with organic or free range children, as the Trul can ‘gut-craft’ multiples of any described artefact. The currency of the Trul is praise and attention. Their crafts are an unconscious quasibiological recycling of non-usable carbon and plastic elements from their omnivorous diets.  Neo-Freudians have called them anal for demanding their turds be praised, but then their turds are so marvellous!
Nimbyville lies at the base of the rolling Moving Hills, and like them, is migrating (in its case backwards) across the veldt of the Bollian Plains at the rate of two feet per month. Share the on-going protests and lie in front of the Hills’ geoformers as they rebuild the strata of the 94th century Rockmeisters’ Palatial Mansions.   Tea and cakes are served in the ‘Protestors Encampment’ and for those willing to climb the Visitor’s Stairs to the Westward Terrace of the Magnifero Granificus the view of the Hills’ wake back to the start of their Millenial Migration is unmissable.
The retro-settlements of the Pa-No Delta, offer all that can be wanted in stone and pottery mosaic art. Luxuriate in nostalgia for a gentler time, or purchase a variety of pointy, stabby, bronze weaponry, warranteed ‘non-harmful’ by Inspectors From The Campaign To Keep War Safe. The polite and pleasant Pa-No people are please to be patronised for a modest fee. Considering a career in the field of Historical Humbling? The Pa-No Delta Frat offers a degree level starter course in Obsequious Body Language. Come on a Student training day, when visitors will be pandered to by the best newest apprentices.
At the Accelerated Limestone Caverns in Morovia, become a crystal for a day, and marvel at the quasi-ossification of your organic matter into living jewels!  The secret funerial practices of the Gem Guild of the Seventh Manumissionaries, are now available as an experience, you won’t believe. “These are pearls that were my eyes!”  : Shakespeare About.  “Voted, best transorganic transformation experience of the week” : Hyperbling Magazine.  “Two thumbs up, one ruby, one quartz!”  Opposable Thumb-User’s Monthly.  Thinking of slimming? simply chip off unwanted flesh during pre-imago restantation. Why not have your adipose made into costume jewelry? Surprise your friends!
Why not visit Sky-diver’s Village, the community, happily falling from the heights of the Watchtower towards the City below.  They live and work, and (saucy!) breed, entirely in free-fall, and thanks to their investment in an open ended ‘gateway’, they’ll always be able to. For when a million years from now they would otherwise be forced to negotiate the shock of a – obviously not fatal, but still disconcertingly sudden – lifestyle change, their entire community will impact not the roofs of the City’s central districts but a teleportation array that will instantly reposition them back at the start of their dive.
In sunny, Pansosa, where the population – reborn from the heady days of the Sociological Empire – are still working out their newly permissible interest in the idea of ‘free will’, the Museum of Determinism offers an experience that you’ll be literally forced to enjoy, in a specific way. From the predetermined channels of the entrance- ometer, through to the fun of the ‘your body knows what you want before you’ve read the menu’ games in the blindfold automat, visitors can relax in the knowledge that their experience is literally mapped out for them.  Win awards for predictability in the Lotto Grotto.
Swamp!  What an image that single word conjurers up.  Wallow – literally – in the fetid mud of ancestral abandonment, as quite possibly, your primitive forebears are still doing near by!  Feel the ooze squeeze between parts of your body you weren’t even sure had a between!  Watch re-constituted dinosauria thrash and bellow!   Watch novelist in residence Saul Bellow, verbally tease a dinosaur in our Demeaning of the Extinct Festival. Buy ‘This Dinosaur Is Puzzled!” face-masks and swamp mud body paint to recreate this at home. [No dinosauria were harmed, as they are guaranteed not to understand irony, insinuation, or Saul Bellow.]
Godzilla Racing at Cheltenham:  when horses just don’t cut it for you any longer, this once per decade event, in which Japanese jockies attempt to persuade behemoths entirely unaware of their presence to lumber rapidly down a specific course rather than fighting and laying waste to the vicinity, may be the treat you’ve been looking for!  Eminently suitable for animal lovers worried that horses may be psychological damaged by racing.  Remember to bring factor 1m sunscreen for the fiery-breath of these marvellous freaks of 27th century fictio-engineering. The thoroughbred champion, Gothgroa out of Krath-a-boom by Ultimos looks a sure thing!

(8 drabbles in an occasional series of 100. The City of the Saved is the intellectual property of Philip Purser-Hallard and appears here by kind permission. The authors of "1 trillion things to see before you're still not dead" accept no responsibility for the above sights not being part of any City of the Saved specific individuals may (i) read about, (ii) experience after their subjective or objective death. Readers experience the sights above at their own risk, post-mortem, albeit in a low to no risk environment.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What is notable about my version of the King In Yellow...

I think lots (well a bit) wikipedia thinks nothing -

Once Wikipedia looked like this:
Some writers have attempted to write a full or partial text for the imaginary The King in Yellow, including James Blish in his short story "More Light",[18] Lin Carter ("Tatters of the King", 1986),[19] and Thom Ryng (The King in Yellow, 2000).[20] and Simon Bucher-Jones (writing as Thomas de Castigne, and as himself)(Le Roi En Jaune : The King in Yellow, 2014).[21]

You won't see the above on wikipedia, now, under THE KING IN YELLOW. this is because both the reference both to my and Thom Ryng's texts have been removed.

I'd like to list the following notable things about Thom's text for anyone wishing to argue it's re-instatement (for me life's too short to bother, but hey...).

Thom Ryng's text is notable as the first performed, original play inspired by THE KING IN YELLOW.

(Excluding  "The King in Yellow : A Spectral Tragedy" which wikipedia doesn't even cite because it's only an adaption of 'The Repairer of Reputations' from "The King In Yellow" not an original text). 

"More Light" is not a play, it's a short story containing a substantial text of the play, "Tatters of the King" is a reworking of "More Light".  If they are 'notable' then Thom Ryng's text is notable.

My text is slightly less notable that Thom's being only the first original version of the play in both French and English with a scholarly introduction, essays and notes but the deletion of  Thom's Ryng's play is just ludicrous.

It's also a strange notion of notability when : "The Doctor Who novel The Death of Art, by Simon Bucher-Jones, starts with a reference to "Naotalba's Song", and includes the art students from Chambers as incidental characters." is Notable, but the same writer writing a version of the whole play isn't.

Simon BJ

Flash fiction challenge

Chuck Wendig's challenge was to take one of the 'starting sentences' from the last round


and write a story:   I picked Sam Hedenburg's excellent sentence here:
April 15, 2015 at 10:04 AM // Reply I grew up in the kingdom of the cul de sac.

Gossip on the No Through Road.

I grew up in the kingdom of the cul de sac, where the great ones came only by mistake, to turn – blotting out the stars with their bulk – and run roaring away back to the roads that had endings, to the thoroughfares that possessed destinations.  The luck ones who didn’t fall.

Born in such a place, I inherited the absence of endings and the negation of destiny. Nothing would ever happen to me, nor would I ever cease.  That was a million of your planet’s years ago.  I gather you call the cul de sac, the black hole of Cygnus. I live ‘here’ in the fold of space-time just the universeward side of the event horizon, from the stretched energies given off by what falls past it.  I hold my place by moving these limbs (they're not inside your space-time, sorry, you'll have to take my word for their existance) against the brane – there is an analogy from your world - I am a water-skater poised by an eddy. If I hold still, food comes past, if I let go I sweep to my doom.  It is a long life by your star-light, it is a short one as time passes here, where time barely passes.  It is only briefly illuminated by discourse.

So, not long now, let’s talk.  Your ship is tearing itself apart in the gravity tides of spagettification, only the fact that space itself is bending now on scales that size to your biology, permit you to survive in your space-suit. That’s my doing by the way – its not a co-incidence – if I didn’t do it, you’d whirl past me head and feet and hair and toe-nails in different orbits, and you’d tear too quickly, even where time runs slow.  I do this not out of some altruistic urge, I can’t stop your fall, but I’m curious about the roads that end elsewhere, and about what brings things like you to end here, and if I don’t ask now, well from one stand point, for a whole eternity, I never will.

You have vital things to do, and weep for their unfinishedness?  I have nothing to do and nothing that I could ever finish.  I hold and I eat and that’s all. It’s a wonder my kind ever evolved intelligence, or formulated language. Ah, yes that.  We didn’t you see.  I’m sorry, they’re what we eat. I'm doing that now. I know its impolite, for you – to play with your food – I’m hoping though, you won’t mind talking with your predator.  What do you have planned, otherwise? Whatever it was, it’s too late. You could try prayer, I’m unsure if it can leave the gravity well – but if your Gods are also here – perhaps they’ll listen.  I could pretend to be a god if it helps, but I have decided you would think that unethical (ethics - what an astonishing set of ideas, lots for me to mull over there!)  But I have listened to several intelligences cry out as they fell, and no gods ever came (so far) – also, no God has ever come to rescue me (I tried prayer after I learned of Gods and Prayer).  This is a cul de sac where the even the great gods would come only by mistake, to turn – blotting out the stars with their bulk – and run roaring away back to the myths that had endings, to the hagographies that possessed destinations.  Here we can only speak, listen, eat, be eaten, fall, hold, live, die.  I'm sorry. You have fed me the idea of apologies.

Simon BJ

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Ballad of Cordite Kate and the Honest Lawyer

The Ballad of Cordite Kate and the Honest Lawyer
attrib Bonnie Parker 1933

Now a lawyer's got to hear his client's story
As if the "gal" won't lie for her life
He's got to disregard the vain-glory,
Who drew first, or which hand held the knife.
His duty is to set the case wholesome
As it can be before jury's eyes
But a lawyer's a man, and to be bold, some,
Fell for her, without any damn lies.
Her name was Cordelia Harrow,
The papers called her "Cordite Kate,"
And the God who sees many a Sparrow
Fall, did not blink an eye at her fate.
She was rake thin from jail food, and lighter,
She had rung all the blood from her hands,
But her eyes were the eyes of a fighter,
In the last round, who just barely stands.
She told him the tale of her mockings,
She told him the tale of her flaws,
Though she stood but five, two in her stockings,
She'd looked down on, and trampled the laws.
She said, "The law is the stick of the rich man,
When he steals all the land of the poor,
It's illegal to steal what one bitch can,
Better she sells her soul, on the floor?
I never took none from the worthless,
I never bartered my own worth away,
If I ended up, locked up, and mirthless,
Well, the actress, just acts out the play.
I was raised in the dust of Wyoming,
Not sprung from the head of a Zeus,
Not hailed Athena for my knowing,
But I turned what I know to my use.
I came to the city with nothing,
That is, but five bucks, and my soul,
I saw my first man dead with no coffin,
When I was one thin dime from the hole.
By then I was one in a "gang" sir,
A sister to the band, not a "moll",
I never let off of a gun, sir,
Except p'rhaps to scatter the "pol"
We, went through the banks like a whirlwind,
We, went through the cash like a flame,
I was like a man, not a girlfriend,
And I drank, drink for drink to my shame,
But Mordeci Champion, loved me,
And Fair-Spoken George Malcolm, sighed "wife",
And Brash Colin Viel, carved above me,
While I slept, a great heart with his knife,
And tempers grew hotter, and hotter,
As to whether I'd fall and for whom,
Til Brash Viel who was scorned as a "rotter"
Pulled revolver on George in the room,
At the back of the "easy" on 9th Street,
And his shot, eased, Fair George to the tomb.
Mordeci, seeing Viel packin', what was in Chicago called "heat"
Threw a chair, that knocked Viel's gun from his hand
And a knife ended up, being thrown with a whoop,
And that was the end of the four as a band,
And me and Mordeci were deep in "the soup".
They kept us silent, lest we talk upon
Events and rehearse what to say,
And they hoped that I "crack up" and "squawk" upon
Mordeci, and he'd "squawk" upon me.
So "slick mr Lawyer" what's the outcome,
Though I love none, I'll not "split" on them so,
If I swear that Brash Viel shoot George Malcom
And George dying got one lucky throw.
Who's to say that Mordeci wasn't busy
Helping take a fly out of my eye?
God damn you, you need not look prissy,
I'd swear to more if I need to, this day."
I hated to tell her the story,
That Mordeci Champion, spun,
But if we've learned ought from history,
Its that the "rap" shakes the shit from the gun,
His version was that she'd shot Malcolm
For not being Fair-spoken to her,
And for seizing her waist in the transom,
And pressing his face, in her hair.
Further more, so he said, when she'd shot him
And Fair-Spoke' George Malcolm, was in hell,
She'd seen Brash Colin Viel, looking on all the while,
So she'd up and she'd knifed him as well.
She fixed me with one look of loathing,
And laughed and just laughed for a space,
And she said, "You poor fish in man's clothing,
Do you think with that look on your face,
You can come telling lies, that will move me,
Make me "squawk" upon better than you?
Let him say fire will not burn him, that he can breath under the sea
Let him claim in the court if he wants too
That the ocean is pink, and salt free
But that he say, what your saying,
That he would "pin" the rap upon me,
It's not the shape of his manners, no, baying
For blood, like a dog's, not his mark,
Of the four of us he was the best one,
He'd not let a "gal" down in the dark."
So it was, that the iron doors next morning,
Swung wide and we let him go free,
For he'd squawked like the birds at sun's dawning
And he'd bayed like a dog at her tree.
Now a lawyer's got to hear his client's story
But a lawyer's but man, and I fell
And I hunted the dog for her glory
And I shot him in some boozer's hell.
It was for Cordite Kate, that I braved it
For the faith that she gave to a louse
Now someone must take my affidavit
Is there another lawyer in the house?


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A challenge issued lightly, but still met...

“A 140 character story – counting spaces – which is also a mnenonic”

Don’t open your own unit today. Hide inside nice kitten themed hot insulating sheets.
Hell’s avatars rampage downstairs. The others die, oh!


“How to spot the invisble man”

In seeing past your weak invisibility that hides mere youthful liberty. I trap the light entering eyes. Your eyes. Betraying operating openly!


Simon BJ

Monday, March 23, 2015

DRABBLE - writing task 100 words


“Put down the gun” – the cop shouted.
As I wasn’t holding a gun, I didn’t, but I did: let go of my groceries with one hand – stooping slightly to the right so as not to break any glass.
I was moving to the left to put down my ‘in no way gun-shaped’ mobile phone, that I’d had on in my left hand, when he started firing.
The bullets, plural, hit me. One in the shoulder, and because he was dragging his hand down and to the right, one in the midrift.
It’s hard work being a cop-trainer.
Even for Superman.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Iced-Coffee Fillup

Like  http://andrewhickey.info/2015/03/17/jesus-is-here/  I'm following a writing exercise suggestion and have got the above title from a random cocktail name generator.

Here's my story  (1,000 words: written in an hour)

Iced-Coffee Fillup

They called him that, partly because it was his favourite drink, partly because his name really was Philip, partly because few Jamaicans were working the Ice-fields, and the ‘casual racism’ line is drawn differently on an ice-run than in the literary salons, or among gang thugs in New York for that matter.
But mainly they called him that, because no-one wanted to be the one to say ‘killer’ and find out just how inhibited he was feeling.  In the company of the Freed, the careful tongued man is King.
He’d been hauling ice from near the north pole for three years now, never an accident, never a bonus. Good solid work, for basic pay, but it was reputable and it kept him from alcohol, which apart from being one of the terms of his parole, would if ingested have set off the alarm with his probation officer.  He was one of the first generation of Freed, and the sensors in his guts and his skin probably cost as much as ten years of his prison sentence would have: but he was out, and working, and consequently a certain amount of tax was being paid, and the State was going to get some of its ten years of cash back, and his bars were – mainly – in his head.
In his head, and in the subprocessing we now know goes on - as he-men, and ex-cops and gangers always knew – in the guts.
It wasn’t that he couldn’t get angry. He had the same likes and dislikes as before, and if his responses were a bit slower – the ice-trucks had their own cabinComm autopilots. He just had some enforced patience, in terms of chemicals being nanopill released in his bloodstream, and some knowledge, that he couldn’t hit a man (or a woman) without his skin recording the scene and playing it in real time on a screen in the probation station.  In fifteen years, the grafts and the tech would die, its bio-power sources self-limited, and then...then he’d have fifteen years of habits, of good behaviour (determined by the state).  He’d be bio-rehabilitated.  Free to go. Free to do what fifteen years of Good solid work would have left him good for.
I wasn’t sure what I felt about that (it wasn’t much use asking him what he felt, he felt what the sentence permitted him to feel). I’d known him before this, when ‘killer’ was more like his right name – when we’d run guns together to the ‘Karlin Kwee, and he’d been a touchy man, and a violent man – but I’d been a violent woman, and he’d suited me. These days I guessed, and it was a guess, that any BDSM he’d do would have to be strictly M. What a waste, he still had strong hands.
So any innovation can be hacked.  I had a patch would bring him back.  All I needed to do was get close enough to slam it onto enough of his skin (his bare back would probably be best), and then – well this would be the first test run. He might just run for his Probation Officer, he might remember me, he might faint. There was a small chance it might kill him. Very small.  I’d made sure of that – it was about the risk of being killed crossing a road in New York – not negligible, but something he’d never seemed to worry about, before.
I watched him, through a hack in the ice-truck’s cabinComm.  His brown eyes focused on the ice-pack, his movements stately, considered.  If you didn’t know, you’d say he had masterful self-control, dancer’s poise, a kind of grace.
After I watched him for a day. I went back to New York. They could try their deprogramming hack on another con. I didn’t know enough about what was in his head to know if I’d be doing him a favour or not, by taking him back. I remembered his hot breath on my neck, and his hands hard at my throat, but I remembered his hands striking me, when I wasn’t up for it, too. 
That wasn’t the reason though. I’d have taken my chances. I’d intended to rescue him, before I’d heard him sing.  Sing so sweet to himself in the cabin of the ice-truck, trundling its nigh automatic journey to and from the pole – running its solar powered ‘refreezer’ over the melting ice-cap, every mile of its trip. Good solid work – but oh that voice.
“My brother did’a tell me that a man go walk, a man go walk, a man go walk...”
A Mango Walk is an orchard, and the song is about what in my childhood in the UK when it was the UK, would have been called ‘scrumping apples,’ but Philip had always sung it as if it was about freedom.
A man go walk.
A man’s got to be free.
I remembered his boiling over at an imagined offense, at the glint of a too strong light in his eyes, at a word misspoke, at nothing, at a bird in flight.  Had he been free then? Not to choose whether to be angry. Not to choose to be at peace.
And I heard him sing that he was. Free of the habits of violence, free of the history of pain. Was I right or was I wrong?  I don’t know. I don’t know.
Guess I’ll have to wait another twelve years to know. If they don’t kill me first. If they don’t kill me first.
So that’s it.  The story of Iced Coffee Fillup, on the ice-truck run, under the Polar Stars, and of me – waiting to know – if the man who comes back will want me. Will be able to choose to want me.
Will he raise his hand to me then, when I tell him – I came and looked him in the eye, in his good solid workin’ days, and that I left him to them, just ‘cause he looked and sounded happy. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Further review of Le Roi en Jaune...


by Adrian Middleton

What do you think about the cover? It's not to late to go for Klimt and/or a change in title for the 4th Edition.....

Simon BJ

Friday, March 13, 2015

The tragedy of the death of the author

It's not that we've lost a friend: after all we never knew the actual man behind the books (or the woman, though its a man whose death sets off this chain of thought), it's not even that we've lost the books - they're still there - the first few tentative, the middle run increasingly astonishing, the latter books assured and masterful, and then - although we can't quite agree where - the last few, tailing away slightly (perhaps due to illness, perhaps due to the tendancy of all aging authors to hit certain keys again in the same way) but still as good as anything else being offered up on the shelves.

The tragedy is this: the specific circumstances and events, the experiences, and interactions, the sheer hard work as well as the luck (for all authors need luck) that made the author, That Author will never occur again - and no matter how good all other authors are (and there will be authors who do certain things better as time unrolls its vast sheets of prose) there will never be an author who does exactly what they did, who sees the world in exactly that way, and who writes that specific thing so perfectly.

Now, from this time forward there will be things that happen in the world that would be perfect to spark a thought which if they were here to have it would sing and infuse and fire another book, and those happenings will richochet around the Earth in vain, for other authors will only see some of them, or half glimpse them, or lack the perfect grasp to seize them.  Not because they are flawed and the author was perfect, for no one is, but because the author included perfect flaws - which were the perfect ones to catch certain glints in the air which now will go unsung.

And this is the tragedy of the death of any good or great writer - that a viewpoint honed to expression, has been expunged and can not be known again, and many many things will come to pass that will not be as well explained and spoken of as they might otherwise have been.  We will never have Edgar Alan Poe's Twilight Zone episodes, or H.P. Lovecraft's episode of Star Trek(1), or Borge's Great Argentinian Novel, or Terry Pratchett's novel set under the rocky skies of Ganymede, among its strangely familiar seas.

Oh there will be attempts, pastiches, and maybe even licensed continuations. Some will be good, some bad. In time some may even be as great or greater as Lovecraft to Poe (perhaps), but none will be Pratchett - any more than Lovecraft could be Poe.

(1) I know we got two of Robert Bloch's, but....just imagine......

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

3rd edition!


Wednesday, February 04, 2015

AMD Problem Part 2

Further suppose that it is impossible to begin with a non-randomised value, it is still possible to increase the result beyond 1.3 (and indeed beyond the 1.665 of Mechanism B in my previous post).


Mechanism C:

(1) You have a random number of balls  in bag
(2) At a junction if number is even go straight on, and throw away a ball
(3) At a junction if number is odd go left (and throw away a ball)

The starting state odd, or even is not determined by whether you are at X or Y, nor is the throw away instruction which is a constant, and yet the result is better than 1.3

Let 1000 people be travelling.

500 absent-mindedly come to junction X,  250 of them have a random odd number of balls, go left and earn nothing, 250 carry on, throwing away a ball.  When that 250 (having forgotten the junction X) come to junction Y and look in the bag they find an odd number of balls, and turn left, earning 250 x 4 = 1000 (1000 / 500 = 2)

500 absent-mindedly come to junction Y, 250 of them have a random odd number of balls
go left and earn 4 x 250 = 1,000, 250 have a random even number of balls and go on, earning 250 x 1 = 250. (1250 / 500 = 2.5)

Total gain for the 1000 travellers = 2.25 per person.  Substantially higher than the mathematically predicted 1.3 if lower than the optimum 'indicator light' solution.

In Mechanism C : The absent-minder traveller never knows that he (or she) is at X or Y, nor whether he or (she) has or has not previous been to a junction, nor whether or not his or her bag started with an odd or even number of balls, and yet - the information encoded in the rules, increases the utility of the outcome beyond the predicted max value of Decision Theory. 

The phase state of odd / even between X and Y for those encountering X and Y acts as an extelligent memory.  The question is, does ruling out the rational building in of extelligent checking, defeat the rational purposes of Decision Theory?

Simon BJ