Experimental Writing: Part 11

This is the latest installment in a story that I’ve been writing over the course of the year.  There is a prologue which was used to shape the story, which starts here, but which you can easily miss out.  The story proper starts here.

Meredith got out of the Landrover and looked around.  Llyn y Fan Fach was not quite as impressive as they had expected – the legend that Esther had recounted had built up the place somewhat and the body of water did not live up to it.  A small lake, by virtue of the fact that small rills tumbled down the mountainside as some kind of watery sacrifice, and because, when the lake was high enough, excess water fed into the arteries of the land.  It was these two features that technically made this a lake rather than a large pond.  The lake lurked at the bottom of steep sided mountains.  Bunter being busy elsewhere, the AI took it upon itself to tentatively offer that the shape of the lake was a bit like that of the island-continent Australia, and that the general setting was reminiscent of a a volcano, or an impact crater, that had tumbled down and worn away preferentially on the northern side.  In fact, the AI said, the small U shaped mountain range was the result of glaciation.  Meredith made a note to find out what glaciation was at a later date.  Maybe.  It didn’t seem to have any direct relevance at the moment.  Meredith caught themselves reflecting on how the lake didn’t look anything like Australia: too rectangular and the point bit was in the wrong place entirely.  A speech bubble might be a better analogy.  Meredith ruefully reflected that Bunter would probably have gone with speech analogy option, avoiding the distraction of overthinking things.  Trying to ignore the sensations of missing the sentient sub-routine, and of hoping that it was ok, Meredith gave a virtual shake of the head and returned focus to the tasks at hand.

Owain, by virtue of unmarked farm roads, sheep-tracks, and dry stream beds, had managed to bring the Landrover to the foot of the Picws Du peak, a few hundred metres from the edge of the lake and half a kilometre from the point at which the footpath up from the carpark reached the demesne of Llyn y Fan Fach.

“Owain, just tuck the Landrover back to the edge of the hillside would you?”  Meredith said whilst rummaging in their backpack for something.  Owain obliged, and then hopped down from the drivers seat.  By this time Meredith had found what he was looking for: a small package, the size of teabag.  Meredith issued an instruct/authorise code and the package began to unfold, and unfold, and unfold.

“Esther, Owain, quick!  Grap hold of an edge before we lose it entirely!”

“What is it?” Esther gasped as she grabbed at the proffered edge, reacting to the tone of voice.

“Invisibility cloak…” you could almost hear the smirk.  “Right lets pull it over the Landrover.  Yes, that’s right.  OK, Esther, you make sure that it’s tucked in round the wheels at the front.  We don’t need to worry so much about the back, because nobody will see it, but we do need to make sure that it can’t flap lose or something.

They stood back to admire their handiwork.

“I thought you said it was an invisibility cloak” Owain said critically.  “I can still see the Landrover.”

Meredith attempted to snap his fingers in a grand gesture, and failed due to the lack of sufficient tension between the two fingers.  They both looked at the little alien at the crucial moment though, the moment when the activation code was sent, and that was what mattered.   Looking back to where the Landrover was parked, Esther let out a little squeaking gasp, and Owain gave a low whistle.  He was surprisingly calm and collected, and didn’t walk towards the car, but instead circled around it, wolf-like.  He stopped, shock showing on his face and then he started laughing, beckoning Esther over.   His sister joined him, although in the few moments that it took her to reach the spot where he stood, he was laughing so hard he could barely stand-up.  There, hanging in the air, she saw the part of the Landrover that hadn’t been covered by the cloak.  the back door, the rear wheels, just appeared to be standing there.   She moved her head slightly.  It was impossible to see the Landrover from any other direction, and because they had folded the cloak around at the back, there wasn’t even a tell-tale one dimensional line.

“Come on you two – we’ve got work to do.”

“Coming” Esther said.  BY this time Owain was weeping and practically doubled over.  She couldn’t see the joke herself, but that was boys for you.  She grabbed his sleeve and gently pulled him along, he stumbled slightly but took a deep ratcheting breath and tried to get himself under control.  Esther walked slowly, with many backward looks at the empty patch of ground and the steep slope of the mountainside behind it.  By the time they reached Meredith, Owain was almost master of himself again.  When he finally took in the scene before him, it might have made him hysterical again, but instead his eyes went as wide as saucers.

Whilst the siblings had been distracted by the novelty of the hidden vehicle, Meredith had taken the opportunity to flow out of the clothes that formed the disguise and to tuck the clothes into the backpack.  Space had been made for these by the removal of several items.  The largest Meredith picked up and placed in Esther’s hands.  He took out a couple of plaster-like patches and gently slapped them on the back of Esther and Owain’s necks.

“Right, it’ll take a couple of minutes to synch, but this is my support AI, and I’ve given you both access privileges.  The AI will help you if things go wrong, and will also help you to stay in touch with me.  Esther has priority, because right now she seems the more sensible of the two of you.”

“Hey!” Owain said.  Meredith would have loved to raise an eyebrow at this point, but lacking eyebrows chose to ignore the comment.  Instead, he handed Esther the sunglasses which immediately gave her a heads-up-display of the location.

“Cool! Thank you!”

“So unfair” Owain muttered.

“They’re a better fit for you” Meredith said looking at the girl, “although they’re so easy to use that even Owain could use them.”

“What is this?  Pick on Owain day?  And I did get you here!”

“Ooooh!” Esther gasped, as the patch on her neck tingled.  She wondered if the events of the morning were starting to catch up with her, as a whispering sensation prickled across her brain.  It felt a little like the sensation of having thought of something for a split second, forgotten what it was, but being left with the ghost of the thought.

“And what are they for?” Owain was asking, pointing at the other items on the ground.

“Watch” Meredith said.  Again, an activation code was sent, but this time Esther felt it inside her head, and saw a number of icons appear on the HUD.  On the ground, the packages opened and unfolded like flowers, to reveal small drones which immediately took off and flew up into the sky to give some coverage of the foot-path up to the lake, the carpark and the rest of the Llyn y Fan Fach area.  On the HUD, one of the icons blinked and Esther worked out how to look at it and cause it to maximise.  The video stream from the drone showed some serious looking black cars pulling into the car-park.

“That doesn’t look good!” she exclaimed.  “There are some more of those cars like the ones at the cafe, and one that looked expensive and unsuited to the countryside.  From this one emerged a figure who straightened his jacket and immediately began gesticulating in an authoritative and peremptory manner.

“OK.  Looks like we don’t have much time.  You two find somewhere to hide.  I’ll be back as soon as I can.  I’ll try and stay in touch, but don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a bit.”  And with that the little alien bounced down to the water’s edge.

Just as they bounced higher, preparatory to diving into the lake, Bunter made contact.  Through her link, Esther heard a voice say “It’s me, Bunter.  I’m in.”

“Initiate phase 2.  Esther’s in charge for now” and the spherical alien disappeared into the water.

Esther looked at Owain who said “Who’s Bunter?”

In their minds, a voice said, “Who’s Esther?”

© David Jesson, 2019


During 2019, I’m undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of the story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.

Part 11: to borrow from Terry Pratchett, not quite the final frontier, but pretty penultimate…  Again, no poll, because I know what I want to do to finish off, but if you’ve got any special requests do make sure to let me know!

See you next month!

 

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#FlashFiction – Kilroy woz ‘ere

(Featured Image: By Luis Rubio from Alexandria, VA, USA – Kilroy was here, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3558598)


 

It’s been a busy week, so I haven’t had time to do the longer piece that I’d hoped to do.  Instead, two drabbles for your entertainment:

How does he do it?

The rocket descended gently, settling delicately onto sprung pads. Antennae sprouted, the uplink to the orbiter was confirmed, and, thanks to the techno-miracle of faster-than-light comms, all the way form Earth the Director’s voice said  “OK, open up.  Let’s see what we’ve got.”

The first humans on Kepler-442b exited their craft. ”

Hey, Skipper, look a this!” Santoni cried out.  The Skipper came over.  On the screen in Mission Control, the graffiti was projected 50 metres high, the man peering over the wall and the legend ‘Kilroy woz ‘ere’.

The Director put and hand over his eyes and cried out “Not Again!”

 

The Great Leader

Haz stole a look over her shoulder.  No one was looking.  Quickly she slipped between the curtains, pattering down the steps to the most holy place in the network of shrines.  Down, down, to the cavern that had been built over the piece of ancient wall.  Once, the teachers said, a great city had stood on this spot, long ago destroyed in one of the wars that had shaken the world.  She gazed hungrily at the markings but even alone, she would not break taboo and touch them.  Kilroy had been here. She basked in the aura of his greatness.

© David Jesson, 2019

 

I typed something, forgot to add it to the post & so to schedule it. This year has been a nightmare of inconsistency – roll on 2020 & normality (or what passed for it anyway!)

Graffiti Art

Randall looked around – the place was positively bleak. Grey concrete stretched as far as the eye could see; not the hip and trendy version of the colour which had remained popular for generations now, but dull, drab and decidedly dirty. The more he looked, the more miserable Randall felt.

The accommodation blocks were arranged along a natural slope, where scant evidence remained of the landscaping he’d seen on the architect’s plans in the archives. Now it was a wasteland – thin, spindly bits of twig, spotted with the shrivelled remnants of thorn, leaves and berries –  all that remained of the carefully selected shrubbery. The birch trees, chosen for their sleek design ethic, now appeared like ghostly stakes in the gloom, having long given up any attempt at producing foliage.

Making his way across concrete courtyards, Randall noticed rusting remains of wheeled devices he’d been briefed on – some with two wheels, some with three. A rack containing several of the two wheeled variety was rusted together, the links of the chains and the quaint old locks still in place, if decidedly worse for wear. As he passed the rack, he noticed broken glass and hypodermics scattered across the surface. He’d been warned about these and picked his way past carefully.

Rounding the corner, he reached his goal. Despite having faded somewhat with the passage of time, it was impossible to miss. The structure was covered with bold images, stark black outlines infilled with bold colours. One side covered in a mural of young men – gang members he’d been informed – each of whom was depicted having struck different poses. The proportion was skewed, with their heads and bodies appearing to shrink backwards and their sneaker-clad feet being the over-large focus. Each young man wore a different pair of sneakers – most were black or white, with the occasional splash of colour. But there was one pair – now a dirty yellow colour – with a trace of the original sparkle … for they’d once been gold. Yes – this was the right place.

Randall took out the new image replication device he’d been entrusted with. Carefully he framed each pair of sneaker-clad feet, capturing the image and transmitting it to home base. As he awaited verification the images were of sufficient quality, he walked around, examining the remaining graffiti art. Taking out his own personal image replication device which, although not as sophisticated, would provide him with an adequate record of what he’d seen, he snapped away. Clambering over the slopes and ledges, he smiled remembering the energy and skill those young men had displayed in the moving pictures he’d seen in the archives.

Just as the verification notification arrived, he spotted it – down the side of one of the ledges was this odd drawing. It was striking for being so naive and lacking in skill in comparison to the other work, but Randall quickly decided to add it to his collection. He also captured the crude lettering which appeared alongside it – Kilroy woz ‘ere. He’d not seen any mention of this wording in the archives, maybe one of the elders could elaborate …

© Debra Carey, 2019

 

Don’t forgot, if you miss the deadline, you can always post your story to our #TortoiseFlashFiction page


 

 

 

 

#Secondthoughts: Feet of Clay

What’s your Star Trek series?  The Original Series?  The Next Generation?  DS9? Voyager?  Or one of the new ones – Enterprise, Discovery, Picard?

I think I got into Star Trek via the earlier films, watching reruns on TV.

(Khaaaaaaaan!).

But TNG, DS9 and Voyager were a formative part of my teenage years.   By the time that Enterprise and Discovery came along, I had other interests and responsibilities and never really invested in those series in the way that I had the others.  Similarly, I’ve caught up on some of the originals during repeat runs, but I much prefer the films.

Whichever the series, there were some great storylines.  Storylines that led to character growth.  Storylines that considered political issues.  Stories that challenged the watcher to consider the foundations of ethics.  One story that has always stuck with me comes from Star Trek: Voyager, and has at its heart the Doctor.

If you were not a fan, then a few words to set the scene: Voyager was primarily a research and exploration vessel, but during a mission to chase down a separatist/terrorist group called the Maquis, they are sent across the galaxy to the unexplored Delta Quadrant by an uber-powerful entity.  In the process a number of Voyager’s personnel are killed and the skipper, Captain Kathryn Janeway does a deal with the remaining Maquis to join forces.  Even so, the combined crew lacks medical cover, and so Janeway turns on the Emergency Medical Hologram.  In theory, the EMH is only meant to see duty in difficult situations where extra cover is required, and this in itself generates some plots down the line.  The EMH is essentially a computer program that, through various tech, is able to manipulate equipment and the environment.

The EMH (“Please state the nature of the medical emergency”) had a fascinating story arc across all seven seasons of the show, but as I say, one story has stuck with me.  The EMH, as noted above, is essentially a vast computer program and whilst he takes on his own personality over time, he is heavily influenced by his creator, Dr Lewis Zimmerman, and by a number of real and fictious doctors and medical researchers.  In this particular story, he is faced with a medical problem that he is having difficulty solving, and so he creates a specialist consultant out of the programming associated with a particular individual.  Unfortunately, it turns out that this individual committed war crimes, and not just any war crimes: this is a medical practitioner who experimented on prisoners of war.  The EMH, becoming aware of this, feels that he shouldn’t benefit from the knowledge gleaned in this way and deletes this part of his database.

For this post, I’m not going to delve much further into things than that.  If you are so minded, there are some interesting reviews of the episode (Nothing Human, S5E8) on IMDB.

What brought all this to mind was hearing a piece of music played on the radio.  One of my favourites, and forever linked in my mind to the Ladybird abridged version of King Solomon’s Mines, for which I also had the audio tape (One of the Pickwick Tell-a-tale collaborations).  The lead-in music was the third movement of Beethoven’s Eroica – a perfect piece to summon up the excitement of the coming story.

In some quick and dirty research for a short story that I wrote a few months ago, I’d discovered that some modern scholarship suggested that Beethoven’s feet were more clay-like than I’d supposed.  I suspect I’d latched onto his slightly quirky personality, and the principled stand he had made in removing the dedication of the Eroica to Napolean following the latter’s move to set himself up as an Emperor above the people.

If we look across the Arts there are any number of instances that, from today’s perspective might give us pause.  These range from people with dubious, unsavoury, or even immoral habits, through to simply not doing some aspect of their craft well.  In either case, this leaves the question “should we abandon their work?”

It can be difficult/nigh on impossible to separate out the good from the bad.  We can probably all point to an example of a book or film or piece of music which has some distasteful element that, for us, distracts from the overall enjoyment of the creation.  Or perhaps we have learned of something about the author that makes it difficult to enjoy what is otherwise an excellent and thought provoking contribution.

There are a number of people who feel that the Star Trek episode misses the point or misses the mark.  So what if the information came from dubious sources? It doesn’t affect the current case, does it?  In “Yes, Prime Minister”, Sir Humphrey shows how you can get a person to give the answer that you want to a specific question, by using a number of preceeding questions to set it up.  In the same way you can argue the case for or against.  I’ve always viewed this episode as being an allegory for the knowledge, not just medical, but scientific and engineering knowledge too, that was gleaned by the Nazis and put to use by the Allies after the end of WW2.  The US put a man on the moon as a result of this knowledge.  There were all sorts of medical breakthroughs that are saving lives today, and giving people a much better quality of life.  But people died, painfully and in their thousands for that knowledge.  Should we not use that knowledge?  No, that doesn’t really make sense.  Can we afford to ignore this? Again, no.

Fundamentally we have to be critically engaged with what we read and watch and listen to, and discover the stories in the background, challenging any thing that denies people their humanity.  We need to be wary of lionising people, because there will almost always be something that comes to light that makes us pause.

As a writer, this gives me two things to consider: what can I do to remove prejudice from my work? and, if my work has any positive influence, do I have any opinions/habits that might detract from what I have to say?

How about you?  Any heroes that you’ve suddenly discovered have feet of clay?  Anything that you’re not sure about putting down on paper in case you get judged for it in the future?

© David Jesson, 2019

All the Pretties!

“Oh, look at all the pretties!”

“Can you please stop talking about assault rifles the same way you talk about shoes!”

“What …? I can’t have multiple passions?”

“Yes, yes of course, you can, it’s just … I dunno … weird when you say the same things, in that same cooing tone, to both ridiculously cute high-heeled adornments for your fabulous legs and … those darned killing machines.”

“They’re not killing machines. The people who use them are.”

“Quite! And yet you expect me to be comfortable with your love for them?”

They’d been here before – oh so many many times – Craig realising he’d insisted he was OK knowing what Donna did to earn a living. He was, in theory, but that was before he’d seen her caress and speak lovingly to AK47s. Truth be told, he’d no idea what the current ‘pretties’ Donna was admiring actually were … for he didn’t do guns. He didn’t like guns. In fact, he was quite the pacifist at heart.

She’d sighed and walked away from him, still looking at the display case filled with rifles, while nibbling the skin around her index fingernail. He recognised the unconscious action from previous visits to her parents, knowing she did this when upset but trying not react. Understandably so, he really shouldn’t have said he’d be OK without giving it serious thought. Except he’d been crazy about her … and still was.

Crossing the room, Craig put his arms around her. Feeling the tension in her body, he held her close while rubbing her lower back with his right hand. Slowly the tension subsided, and he was able to kiss her cheek.

They wandered round the rest of the museum arm-in-arm. Finally, in front of that display cabinet again, he asked which one was her favourite. Squeezing him tight, she rested her head on his shoulder as she described each one, telling him what type of occasion made that particular item her chosen weapon. At the end, he asked her if there were any she’d not used before. She took her time, before pointing out one pistol in the neighbouring display case and a rather ancient looking flintlock in the rifle case.

“Uh, right-o …”

Feeling the tension return, Craig was quick to change the subject …

“Is it time for coffee and a cake?”

The question earned him a big sloppy kiss.


© Debra Carey, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

#FlashFiction Prompt – Kilroy woz ‘ere

(Featured Image: By Luis Rubio from Alexandria, VA, USA – Kilroy was here, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3558598)


Back in March 2018, I (David) entered a writing competition organised by Rachael Ritchie.  I didn’t win, but my story did make it into the anthology (which you can find here).  Whilst I may not have won, it was a valuable learning experience, especially with respect to the editing round when I worked with Rachael to edit the story.  There were a few things in the story that I’d taken for granted that *everyone* would get straight away.  One of them was a throw away line that described a carving as being Roman ‘woz ‘ere’ graffiti.  Anyway, it occurred to me that this might be quite a good prompt!  Feel free to take this in any direction you like, any genre, any point in time and space.  And given that it’s a pretty free-form prompt this month, word limit is whatever you think the story needs (although I’d recommend keeping it under 2000 words).

(If you need further inspiration, or would like a quick start to your research, you could do worse than check out Wikipedia – not something I would normally say!).

 

Word count: 100 – 2,000
Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 8th November 2019

Don’t forgot, if you miss the deadline, you can always post your story to our #TortoiseFlashFiction page


Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

A reminder to new readers/writers – if you want to retain the copyright, then you will need to state this, and this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.