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!

 

Experimental Writing: Part 10

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.

“A map?”  Owain exploded.  “We don’t need a map.  I know these hills like their the back of my hand, isn’t it.”

“Is it?” Meredith asked, confused by the idiom.

“Definitely,” Esther chipped in.  “Owain’s been back and forth over the Brecon’s on foot, by bike, and in the Landy.  Llyn-y-Fan Fach’s a favourite place to visit.”

“OK…but we need to keep off the main road, whilst getting there as quickly as possible.”

“Easy – and you can keep your map!”

Owain guided the 4×4 along narrow country lanes, back on to the main roads, more side roads, cut through fields across rivers.  Inexorably they closed in on Meredith’s target.  As he drove, the alien told them why they were heading to an obscure, beautiful lake in the Welsh countryside.

“Up there, out there amongst the stars, there are uncountable numbers of alien species.  Some you would call civilizations.  Some are not.  Some are as chimpanzees are to you.  Some are just different, and they wouldn’t give a squirld for what you call civilization.  I guess that doesn’t really matter.  I guess the key thing is that no-one has really noticed that you’re here, and there’s nothing important enough in this part of space to attract people to come and look at you…except…”

“Except what?”  Esther asked, eyes sparkling with excitement and interest.

“Except that something got lost.  It happens more often than you’d think.  Wars can start sometimes – or end.  Sometimes no one notices, and sometimes it doesn’t matter either way.  In this instance…well…  Thousands of years ago, a piece of alien technology got mislaid and no-one noticed.  No one even really knows how it went missing.  No one noticed it had gone missing for quite some time.  And then they did realise, and then they went looking.  It took them a while, because somehow it ended up in this cul-de-sac of the galaxy, where nothing interesting happens, and so know had bothered to look before now.  They picked up on some of the signals that you’ve been throwing out into space and discerned that against all probability you guys were here after all.

“I’m not sure, how I feel about that,” Esther said, frowning slightly.  “It doesn’t paint us in a very flattering light does it?”

“I wouldn’t worry about it too much.  Anyway, the aliens hired me to retrieve their tech for them.  They can’t come down to the surface of a planet like this.  It was supposed to be…covert…but someone seems to know that I’m coming.  I’m not sure what that’s about.  But I need to start making some preparations.”

“OK…but do you know anything about where we’re heading?”

“This Llyn y fan fach place?  No, nothing.  Well, not beyond what I’ve been able to glean from your Internet.”

“Huh.  Well there is a legend that three brothers lived around there.  They were famous herbalists, and physicians, and they were supposed to be born of woman who lived in the lake and rose from the water.”

“Well, well, well…that’s interesting. But that’s not the whole story is it?”

“Well some say it’s a version of the story of the Lady of the Lake from the tales of Arthur, but the one we know dates back around a thousand years, and was first written down in one of the most ancient books of Wales.   Supposedly there was a farmer who spotted this beautiful woman down by the lake.  He proposed marriage and she agreed, but said that if he struck her three times, she would leave and go back to the water.  They had a happy life for several years and had three sons.  But over that time there were three occasions where she became hysterical.  The story says he tapped her, whatever that means, and on the third time she ran back to the lake.

“And there’s the lake now, look you” said Owain.  “We’re here!”.

 

© 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 10.  Part 10!  Nearly all the way through.  Slightly shorter one this month, and no poll, because I know what I want to fit into those two episodes.  However, if you’ve got any special requests do make sure to let me know!

See you next month!

 

Your Life: Now with More Sci-Fi

As it says on the front page, whilst Debs and I write the majority of the content on this blog ourselves, we’re also delighted to post contributions from others.  The periodic fifth Sunday in the month frequently causes consternation as we try and figure out what we’re going to be putting in that slot.  This time around, that fifth Sunday has coincided with our third birthday (time flies…), and we wanted something extra special.  This month we kicked off with a prompt we came up with in honour of James Pailly.  James runs the Planet Pailly blog, which is completely awesome, and well worth your time (once you’ve finished up here of course).  James has been a great friend to this blog, and he has very kindly written this article for us. I feel very privileged that we get to post it here.

–    David

They say we’re all the heroes of our own stories.  I always wanted my story to be a Sci-Fi action adventure with lots of aliens and cyborgs, some cool spaceships, and maybe a light sprinkling of time travel.  As a compromise with reality, I thought I’d pursue a career in television.  My dream was to end up working on the set of Star Trek or Doctor Who or some other science fiction TV series like that.

But upon graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in TV/Film production, I soon learned the truth about the entertainment business.  It’s just… it’s the worst.  There was no way I was going to Hollywood.  There was no way I’d end up working on the kind of cool Sci-Fi shows that I’d watched as a kid.  So I took the best job I could get: editing the news for a local TV station.  And I was lucky to get that job when I did, because the 2008 financial crisis was right around the corner.

People have pretty strong opinions about those of us who work in the news media.  Some of those opinions are probably justified, but let me tell you this: if you think watching the news is depressing, try working in a newsroom.  Every day, you’ll be exposed to the absolute worst that humanity has to offer.  Murders, rapists, dishonest politicians?  Sleazy businesspeople ripping off their customers?  Huge mega corporations laying off their employees?  It’s all just another day at the office.  You either find a way to compartmentalize this stuff or you have a nervous breakdown in the middle of your work shift (yes, I’ve seen it happen).

Was I the hero of my own story?  I didn’t feel much like a hero.  I felt pretty sure that I was in the wrong story, that I belonged in some other story world entirely.  But as I already mentioned, the 2008 financial crisis was coming, and once the crisis hit, finding another job was no longer an option.  Not for a kid like me, fresh out of college, with such an embarrassingly short résumé.

So there I was, trapped in a depressing and demoralizing job due to economic circumstances that were beyond my control.  I was frustrated.  A lot of people were frustrated.  One day I was sitting with a reporter who, for the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to refer to as Susan.  Susan and I were commiserating over the stresses of our jobs.  The hot story that night was a missing person’s case, except it wasn’t really a missing person’s case.

The police weren’t saying anything yet, and neither were the family, but Susan was a seasoned journalist.  She’d covered stories like this before, and she knew that this so-called missing person’s case was really a homicide investigation.  The police just hadn’t found the body yet.

“It’s like I’m from the future, and I already know everything that’s going to happen,” Susan told me.  “But I can’t say anything about it on air because that would make me look unprofessional.”  Of course I don’t remember Susan’s exact words.  I’m paraphrasing, and I’m leaving out a lot of expletives.  Anyway, the next morning we found out Susan’s prediction was 100% right.

If I’m supposed to be the hero of my own story, then I’d say Susan fits the character archetype of the herald.  She was the catalyst for change, the person who made me suddenly see things from a new perspective, the one who finally set my real adventure into motion.  I just had to use a little imagination, a little creativity, to transform all my professional experiences (and all my professional struggles) into science fiction.  In my head, journalists became time travelers.  Camera people could be cyborgs, and the stories we covered for the news–they were the great conflicts and calamities of a vast, sprawling intergalactic civilization.

The Tomorrow News Network: Bringing you tomorrow's news today.

I have to confess I do have an ulterior motive for telling you all this.  As of this writing, the first book in the Tomorrow News Network series is nearing completion.  In a matter of days, I expect to be handing my manuscript over to my editor, and shortly after that, dear reader, I will have a book to sell you!

In the meantime, if you click this link here, you can learn a little more about the Tomorrow News Network and see how they covered the beginning of the universe.

But the more important reason I wanted to share my story with you is to set up a writing prompt.  Life doesn’t always go the way we planned.  Life is full of setbacks and frustrations.  So I want you to pick something really frustrating in your life–some frustration that you’re dealing with right now–and try reimagining the situation in a science fiction setting.  What would change?  What would stay the same?  And how would you, as the hero of the story, handle the situation differently?

Or if you’re not into Sci-Fi, do it as a western, or a romantic comedy, or a film noir detective story.  Use whatever your preferred genre of fiction happens to be.

Oh, and one last thing: no matter where you are in life, no matter what you may be dealing with right now, never forget that you really are the hero of your own story.

© James Pailly, 2019 (Main text and embedded graphic)

Experimental Writing: Part 9

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.

Owain had parked as he’d been taught, front facing out for a ‘quick get away’ – this was probably not what his Father had in mind all the times he’d said it whilst teaching his son how to drive.  After ensuring Esther and Meredith had their seatbelts, he started the engine, which come to life with a throaty roar.  Even as he was pulling out of the space, Meredith was providing directions, courtesy of the AI.

“Turn right out of here, onto the A40.”

A warning message popped open on Meredith’s heads-up-display.  There was some kind of tracker system on the car, and the circuitry was not of Earth origin.  The diagnostic package determined that it had been stuck to the inside of the back near-side wheel arch.

“We’ve been tagged” Meredith said to Owain.

“What?”

“Just keep driving! Whatever happens next, just keep driving away from here – don’t go too fast though, and look out for a van or something ahead of us.”

Once again, Meredith oozed out of the disguise.  This time, instead of forming into a perfect sphere, a thin tentacle like protuberance extended.  The tractomorphic ‘limb’ reached out and wound down the window – conversation with Owain and Esther in the front of the vehicle was now almost impossible over the noise of the air flowing into and around the 4×4.  Meredith oozed more of themself into the appendage which was creeping its way along the line of the window frame of the rear cabin. When the limb was directly above the wheel hub the limb made a sharp right turn and made its way down towards the wheel arch.

Owain was concentrating on the road, with the occasional glance to see what was coming up behind.  Esther had no such distraction.  Initially she’d try to see what was going on in the side-mirror, but disbelieving this reflected image she’d tried to squirm round in the seat.

“What are you doing, bach?” Owain bellowed over the noise of the air rushing through Esther’s open window. “Get your silly head back in before it gets tangled in the hedge or something!”

Quickly Esther pulled her head in and did the window back up, before trying to find a spot that would enable her to look through Meredith’s open window.  She gasped as she say the tractomorphic limb develop some fine, finger-like features.  The tip of the limb made her think of a star-nosed mole, and she struggled not to gag at the thought of the little wormy features wriggling on the front of the mole’s face.  She watched as the weird, slightly freaky ‘hand’ pulled its way to its target.  Somehow the limb was stuck to the side of the Landrover.  She surprised the desire to be sick, again, as she watched pulse waves travel along the limb, as it thinned out and extended further.

She kept up a running commentary on everything that she could see until her brother let out an exasperated “Shhh!”  In a more kindly tone he said “Put a sock in it, bet, I’m trying to drive us away from whatever’s back there!”

The ‘hand’ had now reached the rim of the arch, and Esther held her breath as the hand disappeared under the arch, so close to the rotating wheel that she thought that it must be dragged away from the electronics package that it was seeking, pulled down and crushed between the wheel and the road.

A moment later the hand came back into view carefully retracting, bulky now, with something held in its grip.  The hand eased passed the wheel with only millimetres to spare.  As it came up, the arm came loose from the side of the Landrover, as if the tracker was too heavy, and peeled away, dropping towards the road.  Even as it do so, Meredith retracted and the hand came whipping back around, up and into the open window.

Two more appendages extruded from Meredith.  One reached out to the little box and with the original hand started turning the tracker over and over.  The other one extended out towards the door and, almost absentmindedly, wound the window shut.  The immediate reduction in noise was almost startling.

“Is that it?  Is that the tracker?” Esther had turned round in her seat and was looking into the back.

Meredith reformed into something approximating a human being.

“Yep.  Give me moment.”

Bunter? How would you like some more responsibility in this organisation? Meredith woke up the AI sub-routine.  I’ve got a job for you…a couple of jobs actually.

“There’s a van up ahead” Owain said, to no one in particular.  “It’s indicating.  Look’s like it’s going to turn right onto the A479.”

“Can you close up on it a bit?”

“I’ll try…what have you got in mind?”

“You’ll see!  Don’t worry too much – look it’s just turned, quick carry straight on past the turning, but speed up quick, at least until we’re the other side!”

Meredith gave the tracker a last caress and, in something that was halfway between a lean and a slump, reached over to the other side of the vehicle and opened the window behind Owain.  As they continued past the turning, the tracker shot out of the window, propelled by a peristaltic pressure wave emanating from inside the alien.  The lorry was perhaps ten yards away and accelerating off down the road, but the tracker arced upwards and came down on the roof, where it stuck.

Release the hounds…

Bunter wondered if it was possible to change names.  In the virtual reality of the AI interface, Meredith caught an image of a man of average height in pin-striped trousers black jacket, black tie, well shined shoes, holding back a pack of large dogs that were straining at the leash.  At Meredith’s command, Bunter let go of the leads, and the dogs ran off down a gravel driveway, seeming to discorporate in mid stride.  Bunter swung itself onto a motorbike, which bore the legend “Triumph” in curly gold lettering on the black paintwork of the fuel tank and set off in pursuit of the hounds.  He too disappeared leaving nothing but a spurt of gravel.

“Right, I definitely owe you two an explanation, or at least as much of one as I’m able to give.  First off, Esther, you’d better take this.”  Meredith handed forward a piece of what looked like a thin film of plastic, but which was as rigid as a piece of glass.  The edges were lipped to prevent accidents.

“What is it?”

“A map.  We’re heading to Llyn-y-Fan Fach, and my computer reckons this is the best route.”

© 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.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another.

Good grief!  Three quarters of the way through the year already.  Three installments to go, so time to start wrapping things up.  Apologies for missing-out the poll last month – life got a bit hectic.  As ever, I’ll put this up on Twitter as well, or you can leave a comment.

What sort of ending do we want?

1 – A happy ending e.g. everyone gets more than they deserve.

2 – A tragic ending – Meredith is ultimately unsuccessful, people day

3 – Somewhere in the middle – Meredith wins through, but not without a cost.

4 – Other – Let me know!

See you next month!

 

Now with added Sci-Fi

Regular readers will recognise this as the story that I wrote for last month’s ‘Cluedo’ prompt – but now with added #scifi.

The Colonel lightly waxed his moustaches with 4D kinetic product, and the smart long chain polymers caused the hair to twist and curl up at the ends.  He’d been playing the role of a slightly bumptious senior officer for so long that it came as second nature these days.  He looked in the e-mirror, through habit rather than necessity.  As he knew they would be, the moustaches were perfectly even. He was more concerned that his hair seemed to be even thinner than ever, although he’d turned off the mapping function that would have confirmed this.  It might be time to start a treatment.  Either that or he should shave it all off.  He didn’t like the idea of that though, because it would show off the implant scars, which he really didn’t want to do.  At least his clear hazel eyes still held the bright alertness that had earned him his nickname all those years ago: he’d always been as keen as mustard, so Mustard is what they’d call him.

He’d had a different code name during the war of course, but that had been rarely used. Ostensibly he’d just been a junior staff officer, supporting the General Staff to the best of his humble ability – the hackneyed phrase was engrained in his mind, the number of times he’d used it in conversation over the years.  In practice his was a Security role, ensuring that no undesirables got close to the plans that were being formulated for Africa, the Middle-East, the Med, and finally France… In some respects, it was impossible to know how successful he’d been.  Who knew how many attempts had been made to access this vital information?  He’s been responsible for blocking a few agents, uncovering a few moles, but he had a lingering suspicion that there’d been someone, a ghost, who’d managed to evade him.  Had they been in the background directing the operations against him?  Or had they been actively probing the defences he’d put in place, penetrating this cordon, but ultimately unsuccessful in finding anything of use?

He gave his head a shake, as if to dislodge this thought.  Time to dress for dinner.  Things had changed since the War, no doubt about that, but Septimus Black was an old fashioned cove and he liked things to be just so.  There’d be a cocktail hour or so before dinner, and a very good dinner it would be too.  All sorts of things that were difficult to get hold of under the current legislation, like meat, were standard fare for Black.

The Colonel completed his preparations.  A vague sense of uneasiness had encroached as soon as he’d received the invitation for tonight’s dinner, and it had only got stronger as the week progressed.  Now it was a positive itching of his subconscious.  True to form, with only a few minutes before he needed to leave, he placed himself at the writing table and dashed off a note to the Chief Constable.  Colonel Gregory was an old friend and thoroughly deserving of his current appointment.  There were any number of ways that the information could have been forwarded, none were terribly secure, but the Cardinal cypher was as close to unbreakable as you could get, especially on the limited timescale available.  The Colonel rang the bell and whilst he was waiting for an answer to the summons, he withdrew a gun from the drawer of the desk.  By rights it should have been his Service blaster, but the Webley 500Z, whilst able to drop a battle-droid at 30 meters  was too big and bulky – it would have complete ruined the line of his jacket as well as being rather obvious.  Instead he slipped a slimmer Beretta Sorpresa into his jacket pocket.  This was more subtle, elegant even, if no more civilized: this was a flechette pistol, recoil-less, and capable of delivering either a single large needle at a velocity that the Webley could only dream of, or a cloud of smaller needles so fast it would make a fighter pilot’s head spin.  In for penny, in for a pound: he slipped a couple of spare ammunition clips into the opposite pocket.

Capes had come back into fashion for some reason, and his valet entered with a plain black one draped over one arm, anticipating that his Master was ready to leave.  Plain it may have been, but it could absorb the whole gamut of physical threats, however much kinetic energy they had on arrival.  The valet, as was traditional, was his former batman, not so much reprogrammed as…augmented.  The Colonel swapped the letter for the outerwear, walked down the stairs and out of the front door and into the summonsed taxi-pod.  It would be some time before he returned home.

© David Jesson, 2019



I went for a different tack to David, writing a new story. A normal one – for me – about people, life, emotions … and then added a #scifi event. That’s the great thing about prompts & writing – we all go off in our own different directions :o)

The nausea in the pit of his stomach was back – ever present at this time of year. Angus absolutely hated September, for with it came the first day back at school. An army brat, Angus had never experienced anything other than being the new boy. Everyone else had been going to the same school all their lives and knew each other. Knowing they’d soon be off again, local kids largely ignored army brats. After all, there was little point making friends – unless you were looking for a pen friend.

Lots of army families bought a house near one central base – giving wives the company and support of their peers, their children a settled run at school and the opportunity to develop friendships – while fathers travelled to ever changing postings. Angus had begged his parents to do so this time last year. His Dad had seemed to understand, but his Mum just said “maybe” and “your Dad ‘n I will think on it.”

The next day, his Dad said “sorry mate, I tried …” before heading out. Angus pursued his Mum, trying to talk about it, but she kept fobbing him off. Desperate, he locked himself in his room, refusing to come out, to eat or drink. His Mum just kept saying is “you don’t understand”. Finally, the CO’s wife visited. She’d made it clear he had to support his Mum as she was having a difficult time. Angus had no idea what she was talking about, but he was army, and when the CO or his wife spoke, you didn’t argue.

It’d been a quiet summer in the new posting. With his Dad away on exercise a lot, it was just him and his Mum. She was off doing stuff with other wives, spending evenings at the NCO’s mess, so Angus was left largely to his own devices. They’d bought him off with the promise of an X Box for Christmas but, till then, he’d been making the most of the local library. When the weather was half decent, he’d go off on hikes. The surrounding countryside was made for walking and the library was stocked full of books about local places to explore. Catching the bus with his rucksack packed for the day, Angus often didn’t get home till just before dark. His dinner on the kitchen table with instructions for warming up, he’d go to bed having spoken to no-one all day. Sometimes he’d catch himself staring at the other kids on the bus, joshing and joking amongst themselves, almost overwhelmed with loneliness.

His parents were arguing a lot. But one night it all blew up. Starting out as a low rumble, it quickly became scarily loud. Soon the neighbours were round, knocking loudly on the door. After a while, things calmed down and he heard his Mum leave with Jennie from next door.

Angus didn’t sleep much that night, so was up early the next morning. Finding his Dad’s by the front door, his stuff all packed up, he’d cried out “why’re you going back on exercise so soon Dad?”. He’d got a shrug from his Dad and a “I’m sorry son, you know it’s got nowt to do with you, don’t you?” Without the faintest what his Dad meant, Angus stood there bewildered – how could his Dad going away on exercise be anything to do with him? “Your Mum’ll come over when she sees I’ve gone – she’ll explain.” With that, he gave Angus an awkward hug and left.

It wasn’t his Mum who explained in the end, but Jennie from next door and the CO’s wife. His parents were having a trial separation. If things didn’t get better, there’d be a divorce. Hiding in his room, Angus kept away from his Mum for the rest of the day. When she went to the NCO’s mess with Jennie that evening, the CO’s wife appeared at the door – this time with a scruffy young lad by her side. She introduced him as Matt – her nephew – staying with them for the next few months. She asked Angus to take him out on a hike the next day.

While out there, they got talking. Turned out Matt’s Dad was in the army too. He’d been sent home with a serious injury, so Matt was staying with his aunt and uncle to keep him out of his Mum’s hair. Angus could see Matt was pretty cut up about it, so shared his own bad news.

Having someone in the same boat as him – in the same class – made September an easier experience. He and Matt got along pretty well as it happened. Matt was a reader and a walker too. He’d gone camping regularly with his parents, so they were soon allowed to get away on overnight camps at the weekends – so long as they’d done their homework.

As the weather turned cold, Matt’s aunt insisted their camping trips would soon have to stop so they decided on one final trip to a favourite destination where they could shelter inside a cave. Having gathered a huge amount of fallen wood their previous visit, they’d be able to keep warm and dry. Packing up their supplies, they were successful in cadging a lift from the CO’s driver so didn’t have to lug their heavy supplies too far.

The little stream which ran past the cave was useful for fresh water, but – as Matt mused out loud to Angus – it didn’t half make you go more often. Laughing, they’d gone off to their separate spots. Hearing Matt yelp, Angus assumed he’d tripped over something and chuckled, till he heard his name being called repeatedly and urgently.

Hurrying to Matt’s spot, Angus found him crouched down behind some brush. “What’s going on?” his voice sounding more high pitched than he’d like for, while they both carried mobile phones, the signal wasn’t always that great near the cave. Matt pointed into the darkening distance. Angus could make out some lights – pulsing regularly on and off. But they were white, rather than blue or red – so, not emergency vehicles then.

“What is it?” he hissed.
“Dunno. It came in over my head, ‘n made me jump …” Matt pointed to a wet patch on his lower leg.
“Eew!”
“Yeah I know, but … what should we do?”
“Hide? Call home? I dunno, what d’you think?”
“Shall we get closer and try to take a look?”
“Is there an exercise going on?” With his Dad living in baracks, Angus had no idea when exercises were scheduled.
Matt shook his head “Nothing planned, although could be one of those snap inspection thingies.”

They retired to the cave and stoked up their fire, agreeing to take turns to keep it going. If there was an exercise – for what else could it be – that would ensure they were seen and be safe. Neither slept well, to be honest, so when dawn arrived, they ventured out to the brush for a look see. There seemed to be a fair bit of activity in the distance. They still couldn’t see much, but they could hear the sound of vehicles and people moving around.

Agreeing it must be one of the snap exercises the army is so fond of, they returned to the cave for breakfast. When it was properly light, they took their day packs and headed off to investigate, being careful to stay in clear sight. Striding along the path, chatting quite loudly to each other, they found their path blocked by a couple of guys in NBC suits as they rounded a corner. Stopping and holding up their hands, they expected masks to be ripped off and a bollocking to follow. Except, it didn’t. Gesticulating with their weapons, the like of which neither boy had seen before, they were frogmarched into a clearing.

In the clearing were loads more men in NBC* suits, all rushing about. Several turned and looked at the boys, making Angus wonder if one was his Dad – with those suits on, you couldn’t recognise anyone. Passing a bunch of strange looking vehicles, Angus realised why they were so odd – none seemed to have wheels. Exchanging decidedly worried looks, they were dragging their heels now, Angus admitting to himself he was actively hoping to face an angry Colour Sergeant, even a furious CO.

Pushed right into the centre of the clearing where there was a veritable blur of activity, they saw brush and branches dragged and heaped up over a large … something-or-the-other. On and on they were pushed towards the something-or-the-other, through an opening to face lights so bright they were blinded. Shading their eyes with their hands, they were pushed through a doorway, and pressed face-down onto separate bunks. As Angus tried to turn, he became aware of a prick in his thigh and … the world went dark.

When Angus came to, the lights had been muted. He saw Matt stirring and swung his legs over the side of his bunk to walk across. An ear splitting alarm shrieked out, not stopping till he lifted his feet clear of the floor. Matt, now fully awake, Angus warned him the floor was alarmed. Both boys started fidgeting. “Need to go?” asked Angus, Matt nodded. The door opened, an NBC suited man walked in and handed each some sort of bottle-like receptacle, gesticulating how they should be used. The man waited till they had, then took both away.

When either spoke a need out loud, they were met by a wordless NBC suited man. No explanations, no questions. Just silence. At what seemed the end of a day according to their watches – two men entered. Folowing a brief prick to the thigh … darkness. This happened for three days. On the fourth day, having finished eating, their NBC suited visitor was collecting their plates and glasses, when – much to their surprise – he dropped everything and ran. “What’s going on?” Angus exclaimed just as Matt – nearest the door – asked “Was that gunfire?” Deciding the safest thing to do was lie flat on their bunks, the boys waited.

They heard a lot of noise outside but, it being muffled, they couldn’t make head nor tail of what was going on. Both hoped it would lead to their release – but from what and who exactly – they’d no idea. Eventually, the door started to glow as a small opening was cut. It seemed like an interminable wait till the hole was pushed through, setting off that ear splitting alarm. “Now” yelled Angus, and they rang for it, climbing rapidly through the hole.

The CO and Angus’s Dad were in the group of armed men waiting on the other side. The boys were whisked away in an armoured Land Rover, spending the next week in the Medical Centre, being poked, prodded, having blood taken and multiple x-rays. In between all the medical activity, they were asked a lot of questions by the CO.

It rapidly became clear that although they were curious and had seen some stuff, they didn’t know what it was. He told them very seriously that everything they’d seen was Secret. They’d have to sign The Official Secrets Act and couldn’t talk about it – to anyone. Not even to their parents.

“Was it a flying saucer?” Matt asked cautiously.
”Is that what you saw?” replied the CO.
Matt nodded “When it first flew over.”
The CO looked enquiringly at Angus who shook his head. “I never saw it properly – it was either dark, too far away or covered up. Are they gone – the … people?”
The CO nodded.

Life returned to normal, as it’s wont to do. Matt’s parents came to collect him and Angus’s parents got divorced. Angus attended the same school for the next 5 years, before heading to University – where he joined Matt. For they’d become firm friends.  They’d shared something big – very big – and they couldn’t talk about it to anyone else.

They’d returned to the cave to camp every summer since. They’d never admit it to anyone else, but there was hope – a small one – that they’d be there to witness the return visit. For they were sure there would be one.

© Debra Carey, 2019

*NBC suits are protective gear worn in the event of potential nuclear attack.

Experimental Writing: Part 8

Meanwhile, in Cardiff, a mere 26 miles away for a theoretical crow, the retreating Landrover made its way off one giant TV screen and onto another, as it left the field of view of the art gallery’s external security camera and was picked up, briefly, by a traffic camera.  The Landrover disappeared from view completely: the coverage out in rural Wales was less than complete.

A withered hand reached forward, fighting the cocooning embrace of the large leather chair, and picked up a phone handset.  An extended finger pressed a single button, and two floors below a phone rang.  The duty supervisor picked up the receiver.

“Hello, sir, how may I help?”  There was only one person who had this number.

“Are you tracking the car?”  The quavery voice matched the liver-spotted and boney hand.

“We’re doing our best sir.  There’s no visual at the moment, but Maddox planted a device, the signal is very weak though.”  A bank of plasma TV screens filled an entire wall some 20 metres in length.  Five people watched intently.  Three were dealing with other matters, whilst the other two were flicking through various camera views trying to locate the Landrover. On a single screen a map showed a large-scale map of Brecon and environs.  A red pin had been placed where Meredith’s spaceship had landed.  A blue pin marked the art gallery.  A dull ruby red dot pulsed faintly as it moved along the A40.  The dot suddenly became a lot brighter.

“Ah, the signal seems to have improved.  They’ve turned off the A40 and onto the A479 towards Talgarth.”

“What’s that?”

“They were heading North-West, ish, and are now heading in a more Northly direction.”

“Pah.  You’ve lost them.  That fool Maddox must have put the device somewhere it could be found.  They’ve put it on another vehicle to try and fool us.  Get a visual – NOW!”  The phone slammed down as hard as an elderly hand could manage it.

As the supervisor pondered options, directing the two operators to find cameras on likely routes and wondering on the feasibility of getting a drone in the air, the old man returned to watching the art gallery.  The muscle were starting to pull themselves together and were being shooed out by the tea lady, assisted by an expertly flicked tea-towel that was adding further insult, not to mention pin-point accuracy injury, to that already suffered.  They shuffled outside quickly and discovered the damage to their car.  They would not be going anywhere in a hurry.   He watched as one pulled out a mobile phone and –

Ring ring!  A phone on his desk chirped to life.

“Er…boss… bad news…we…er…lost the alien…”

“I can see that you idiot.  Wait there for further orders.”  Again, the phone was returned forcefully to its cradle.

A desk drawer was pulled open and a little glass bottle of tablets was brought out.   There were only a few in the bottle, rattling madly as the palsied hand tried to tip one into the other hand.  He would have to ask for some more, he reflected, and soon.  He washed the tablet down with a glass of water and slumped back in the chair.  Five minutes later, his eyes snapped open, and he sprang to his feet.  He gazed at himself in a large mirror with a garish gilt rococo frame.  The age had dropped away from him: he pulled out comb from his jacket pocket and placed a ruler straight parting into thick black hair which he swept back into place.  The chocolate eyes were no longer rheumy, and anyone could see for themselves the hard glint that was a characteristic of one of the hardest gangsters in Wales.

“Jenkins!” There was no infirmity in the bellow that summoned Rhys Probert’s right-hand man.

“Jenkins!”

Colwyn Jenkins was surprisingly average for someone who’s name was a byword for efficiency in the criminal community and was also known to be the only person that Probert would listen to straight away.   Jenkins was average height (although an inch or two taller than Probert), had an average face with no distinguishing features to hang a description off, and had the kind of average build that comes from not going to the gym, but rarely giving into temptation either.  He eased into the room, neither noisily nor oleaginously – just average.

“Yes, Mr Probert?  You called?” There was no inflection to indicate irony, obsequiousness nor any other emotional response that might be expected from an assistant when peremptorily summoned.

“Get them to get the car ready, and get the Gardeners on the road too.  We’re going to take charge of this ourselves.”

“Do you think that’s wise?”

“Yes, I bloomin’ well do!  It’s been a thousand or more years, but they’ve finally sent someone to collect their lost belongings and we can’t let that happen.  We’d lose all of this, for a start -” he gestured taking in the whole of the room and indicating somehow the whole of the elderly tower block that had been refurbished to modern standards. “It’s not what She wants either.”

“As you wish.  We’ll need to be careful though.  I’ve been interrogating the database on the basis of the information that we’ve managed to collect so far.  The agent that has been dispatched is actually of another race entirely to the original owners.  Shorter life span for a start so much more intent on the here and now.  Also, the database suggests that the agent is likely to be…tricksy…It won’t want to force a confrontation but will try and do things…elliptically.”

“Whatever. Tell the Gardeners to take it alive if they can but not if its going to cause too much trouble.  I don’t care what happens to the kids.  I want to be on the road in 10 minutes.”

Probert opened another desk drawer and pulled out a small pistol which he placed in one pocket and a taser that went into another.

© David Jesson, 2019

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

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another.

I’ve been a bit pushed this month, so haven’t thought of what to poll on yet.  Will update when I know!  In the meantime, feel free to let me know if there is anything that you’d like me to expand on/any characters that you’d like to see more of.  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

 

Experimental Writing: Part 7

Owain and Esther sat open mouthed staring at the creature before them.

“What…what just happened?” Owain stuttered.

“I’m afraid that my employer’s Security clearly isn’t as tight as they believe it to be and my mission has been compromised.  What is incredibly disconcerting is that whoever was behind this attack is clearly working with someone local.”

What are you?” Esther exclaimed.

Meredith slipped the beanie hat back on, followed by the dark glasses.

“It’s probably best if I go now, and if you forget that you ever saw me.  Go and get your sister.  Go and do something fun – away from here.” The alien slipped out of the door, leaving the two conscious humans gaping at each other.

Esther pulled herself together first.

“Quick!  After him Owain!  We can’t just leave him!”

“I don’t know, bet.” He took in the muscle entangled with furniture and sprawled on the floor in a localised disaster zone around their table.  “This looks like it could be serious – and we don’t anything about Meredith really.  Maybe he deserved this?”

“Owain Rhodri Griffin!  You ought to be ashamed of yourself!  I hope Ma and Da never hear you say such a cowardly thing.  Meredith is clearly in trouble and we should do what we can to help her.”

Before Owain could react, Esther had slipped round the tables after Meredith, and out of the door.

“Wait! Come back!” Owain’s shoulders slumped and he ran a hand across his face.  The gesture turned into an unconscious imitation of his father as he tried to make his adolescent fuzz rasp like a day’s worth of stubble – without success.  It suddenly occurred to him that there might be more of these jokers outside.

“Hey!  Come back!” he repeated, as he followed the path his sister had taken moments before.

*****

The lady on duty in the cafe came from the kitchen behind the counter, carrying a plate, chattering away.

“I’ve just made some pice bach*, cywion, would you like a few?  The Director likes us to have some on the counter all the time, but they much better fresh.”

She looked up and took in the scene of devastation.  A goon spread-eagled over a table, head hanging backwards over the edge, twitched.  Another, contorted around a chair, groaned.

“Ach-y-fi!”

*****

Esther burst through the door of the Arts Centre and into the car park: Meredith was not there.  How could she have moved so quickly.  The girl ran to the pavement and looked up and down the road.  There!  There was the strange creature hurrying along, whilst still somehow looking unobtrusive.

“Meredith!  Meredith, bach!  Wait!” Esther ran after the alien, as Meredith looked over a shoulder and did a double take.

“Meredith!” The girl panted; youth was on her side, but she was distinctly bookish, not completely hopeless at PE, but it was not her forte.  “Meredith, I want to help, if I can.  But I need to know why you’re here, and why people are after you.”

*****

Owain fumbled the keys to the Landrover from his pocket as he cannoned down the corridor from the tea room to the main entrance.  He nearly dropped the bunch as he barrelled through the door.  He regained control on the fourth attempt, having looked like he was juggling a hot potato, the keys slipping, sliding, falling, up again, begin again, as his hands tried to hold on.

“More haste, less speed” he muttered under his breath as he finally caught the bunch, having turned the clumsiness around and caught the bunch with the ignition proud of the rest and ready for action.

As he came through the door, he could hear Esther calling Meredith, but the majority of his attention was taken with the two shiny black SUVs that were parked-up outside the Arts Centre.  The two cars looked like sinister twins, and were the sleeker evolution of his own vehicle.  They had certainly not been there when he, Esther, and Meredith had arrived some thirty minutes before.  As he ran to his own Landrover, he started thinking that perhaps he should do something to slow these monsters down.  He had some thought of sticking a screwdriver from his tool kit through some tyres, but as he passed the SUVs, he noticed that the tyres were already flaccid and in fact seemed to be dribbling and flowing.

Owain shook his head and climbed up in to the driver’s seat of his car.  He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, started the ignition and put the Landrover into gear.  He pulled out of the car park and set out in pursuit of his sister.

*****

“Why are you here?  Why now?”

Meredith was just drawing breath to reply when Owain pulled up beside them.

“Get in quick, then, and we’ll be off.”

Meredith looked up at Owain and back at Esther and was trying to work out what to say when Esther grabbed an arm in one hand and pulled open the door behind the driver with the other and pushed Meredith in.

“Well done, Owain!”

“Right-o.  I’m just going to drive for a bit and then you can tell me where we’re going.   If I don’t know just yet, then I won’t give anything away by my direction.  But Esther asked you a question, several questions, and I’ve got one of my own: what have you done that’s got you into trouble?”

“Hmmm…it’s probably best if you don’t know everything, but you’ve probably worked out that I’m not from Earth.  I’d don’t know who those people were, but they’re obviously trying to stop me.  As for what I’m here to do….it’s a…it’s a…well let’s call it a rescue mission.

*****

*I’ve slipped in some Welsh here and there, and hopefully I’ve got it more or less right.   If I revise this story, I might add in a few more “in a minute now”s, “ti’n iawn”‘s and “shw mae”‘s…we’ll see. Perhaps I should put in a guide for the words I have used.  On the other hand, most of the terms I’ve used are exclamations and terms of endearment, that don’t really need a lot of explanation.  Pice bach though might need some description beyond the context: essentially these are what the Welsh call Welsh cakes, although there are a couple of synonyms as well.  If you’ve not come across Welsh cakes before, these are a little flat, round cake, cooked on a griddle or stone.  They are lightly spiced – nothing too exotic – and contain dried fruit like raisins and sultanas.  They are delicious, moreish, slightly crumbly, and best enjoyed with a cup of tea.

© David Jesson, 2019

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

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another. We’re over half way now and I know where we are heading but there is still some way to go.  I think that we’re due for some plot exposition, so…

Option 1: Straight Q&A between Meredith and friends

Option 2: Flashback, from Meredith’s perspective

Option 3: Cut to Antagonist…

Option 4: Other(?) – Please comment!

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!