Thursday, 27 November 2014

Blinkered - Friday Flash

I heard the rasp of the man’s finger down the spark wheel. It’s true what they say, when you become blind, one’s other senses become heightened, for I imagined I apprehended it striking against the flint. I started heaving on the unfiltered tip between my lips but was only rewarded with a few dry tobacco grains suctioned into the back of my throat. Foolish sightless me, the man hadn’t yet brought the flame to the cigarette. No doubt his hand was probably trembling too much and he was afraid I might glean that. The grains were coarse and the paper began dissolving between my lips. I discerned I could taste the scent of the man who had rolled it up, the bitter tang of hatred and despair. Of an army with reduced rations of only the cheapest shag. His troops might be hard up against it, yet it was I who was up against the wall. A bullet pocked wall, that much I knew without having to engage any of my senses, compromised or otherwise. 

“What, not a Sobranie then?”

I didn’t anticipate the cuff across my chops that swiped the gasper from my bushwhacked mouth. Didn’t feel a presaging swish of air, didn’t hear his coarse uniformed sleeve scything towards me. The blindfold had done nothing to accentuate my alertness after all.

“I need another one now. I’m not having that up off the ground”.

This time I did hear the crinkle of his rough worsted, though his arm seemed to be moving slowly rather than with the torsion of violence. The gasper was rammed back in the corner of my kisser. I manipulated my lips to funnel the cigarette into the middle of my mouth, for I wasn’t going to smoke this like some barrow boy or stevedore. I was just in time to receive the flame, whose feeble heat I could feel against my skin. Now in addition to tobacco grains, I could taste granules of earth to boot.

“You Sir, are neither an Officer nor a Gentleman”. I took his silence for agreement. I didn’t even know if he could speak my bally language. 

And what of the rest of my reception and ultimately rejection committee? Do they all smoke in advance of their duty to shoot me? To steady their hands, numb them into unerring aim? I hear no matches or lighters sparking up, but then I no longer trust my senses clouded by the blinkers. Perhaps they will await until after my despatch, lighting up to celebrate a job well done. Or at least not botched. An easy kill, a sitting duck of a target. A cigarette to purge their distaste and their dishonour. They know nothing lies behind my execution other than spite, since the war is lost and no advantage can be derived by my slaying. I hope they choke on their smoke. No, that does not become me. Faced with their position I would act exactly the same wouldn’t I? No, I would never let myself be cozened into such a position.

Normally when one smokes a fag, one indulges in watching the smoke wend its sinuous trail up towards the sky. Such carefree motion helps shapes one’s thoughts at that particular moment. But behind the blindfold I could see nothing of its convolutions. I possessed only internal sensations to fix upon. I breathed the smoke as deeply into the alveoli of my lungs as possible. I imagined I could almost feel the fumes licking up against the pulmonary walls and osculating with its infernal embrace. It was very much like the sensation of the first ever cigarette I had sucked on. A sensation forever sought after again and again, yet never recaptured. Just like the first orgasm. The first parachute jump. The first freefall. The first of each and every one of my daredevil enterprises, pushing myself. Each seeking after that first thrill, never able to reproduce it subsequently. Instead moving on to the next risky exploit. Unaware that all the time adrenalin was my blindfold, the sweat running into my eyes, the accelerating heart serving to blot out all true feeling. Always the quest for onwards and upwards, ever upwards. Now come to a crashing halt, here with my back pressed against a brick splintered by shrapnel and varnished in dried blood.

Two days, maybe a week no more and this damn war would be over. We would win it, yet I am likely to be one of the final casualties for our side. All because I took this outlandish plunge off my own bat. Behind the lines of this beaten army, yet their ideology I knew deep down to be both remorseless and unforgiving. To the last they would not be able to stomach any challenge to the monolith of their assemblage, no matter how gerrymandered. Even with a dearth of numbers on the front lines, they would perforce by their own perverse logic have to take a small platoon away behind the lines to form a firing squad. To eradicate the abomination that my gall represents. The decadence and delinquency that my brazen action somehow symptomises my country and the alliance we are part of. 


I can feel the faint heat of the burning tip close to my lips now. The cigarette is almost done. The reek of it in my nostrils is more like that of the cordite and saltpetre of the recently vacated battlefield. The tobacco and paper fuse to my own destruction was burning down to my own discharge. Now reduced to a dog end, it seared my lips. My nostrils were filled with the scent of burning flesh and brimstone. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

New Cover Reveal

In 2011 I published my novel "Not In My Name" about the genesis of a homegrown Islamic terrorist, in response to the bombing of railways in Madrid and London and the spate of suicide bombings in Israel that prompted the erection of the security wall.

Everything that I wrote in that book, about online recruitment, suicide bombers, beheading videos, martyrdom and the nature of a death cult, is more true today with the emergence of ISIS/ ISIL than even back then.

Recently I've blogged on the factors shared with the rise of recruitment to ISIS to the homegrown suicide bombers who attacked the London Underground, herehere and here. I despair of the pronouncements made by the authorities as they flail around trying to get to grips with the phenomena of 5 Britons a week travelling to join up with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. They seem to me to be utterly clueless with this manifestation of militant Islamic terrorism, but the point is it's not that new. My book lays out the journey from Yorkshire to Syria or Iraq.

I'll be honest, my book hasn't done terribly well up until now. I think part of the reason is not that people aren't interested in this subject, but that I did them a disservice with a terrible original cover that looked like the book was a cartoonish treatment of a serious subject. The fault was mine not the designer, since they were working from my brief. So I'm glad to announce that I have republished the book to Kindle with a brand new cover this time designed by Appleseed Images. It will be interesting to see if the cover makes any difference to sales.

Here's the new cover:






Friday, 21 November 2014

Subjectify - Friday Flash

Flatfoots finally caught up to me, and naturally threw me in chokey. My good run was over. My life was over. Stripped of the freedom to roam by my prison bars, there was only one thing to be done. I fixed on ending my life. The warders were plenty amenable, leaving me with a razor blade after lights out. An unbloodied helping hand. Guess one less for them to scrutinise. Maybe they were just scared of me. Or maybe it was their way of meeting out their own justice. 

But breaking the membrane of my own skin was harder than that of someone else’s. Rather than arouse my blood, it fled away from my veins. My usual sure-handedness deserted me, the blade was all aquiver. And though my dread of incarceration must have conjured up some modicum of fear, I couldn’t smell or taste it like I always could on my prey. 


Guess I wasn’t as good at killing myself as I was at killing others. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Achromatic Landcsape #4 - Flash Fiction




The pylons stretching back like a forlorn wedding arch awaiting for Gog and Magog to breast them triumphantly. 

The slack skipping ropes of their sagging cables, since the escarpment chalk giants are off elsewhere playing hopscotch. 

A mesh of Babel towers all connected up to deliver the illumination for humans to generate their own blaze, glare and incandescence of incomprehensible communication.

Standing like Christmas trees stripped of their needles and baubles in bleakest January, still broadcasting their proudly erect posture but generating only barrenness.

A column of ramrod straightbacked corps disarmed by the ordinance to cats cradle their copulas. 

Multi-limbed blights snarled in the gossamer silk offered by their antecessor as a way out of this never-ending green labyrinth. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Drones - Friday Flash


The pipers settled the three drone pipes across their shoulder and struck up the threnody to the airmen in full regalia who marched into superannuation afore radio-controlled pilotless aircraft. The monotone of his mother’s hectoring had become so annoying to him, a perpetual vibration in his ear as if she were an insect lodged there. The male bees hovered uselessly outside the hive, lacking for any weapons to repel the waves of yellow jackets and robber flies, while their valiant brethren lay down their lives in useless hecatomb before these tomb raiders as they picked clean the  honeycomb’s treasury. He had grown stale to her, idle, unemployed which only increased his hankering for sex, yet his indolence had infected and corroded that one single activity too. He honed the rising and falling intonation of his voice against the continuous pitch of the shruti box, as if the two sounds were doing battle, that the envious drone wanted to suck the very oscillations of breath from him and reduce him to flatness, to prevent him soaring towards god. He had no spunk, no backbone, allowing himself to be pushed around, ordered to do this and that by all and sundry and she hated that she had initiated that and broken him. The villagers recognised the drone of the engine of a craft zeroing in on one of their number in the mountains, but these days there was no triumph in shooting down the foe, for there was no one at the wheel, no corpse to parade, yet still they were the ones accused of lacking humanity? The constant repetition, the sustained pitch, the buzz and hum that never seeks resolution but only to persist like a nag, a vexation, a pest and a pestilence, Aum seemed unobtainable in this life to him. 


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Dr Who Plotholes

I love Dr Who, although since the man who revived it Russell T Davies left the job of producer, I've been less enamoured of it, mainly because the writing has been patchy. The show uses so any different writers , parcelling out episodes to different people, this is perhaps inevitable. And sure it's light-hearted family entertainment with legions of devotees who will gladly receive everything with critical faculties suspended, that perhaps the show shouldn't be put through any analytical wringer. But I'm a writer and I just can't help it. Equally the show currently has such an outstanding central cast I can't bear to see their talents wasted on leaden scripts. The current series has had a couple of excellent episodes, a couple of meh ones and some really terrible ones. But the penultimate and first in a two-part season conclusion was pretty good. The addition of Michelle Goes to an already stellar cast made this pure joy for e to watch. Well almost pure...




Since it was full of plotholes, or at least seemed to be, seeing as some of these might be resolved with the second and final instalment. Now normally I am not in the least bit bothered by plotholes, since plot itself is the least interesting thing to me as a writer. So for me to be aggravated by deficiencies in the logic of events, they must have been pretty glaring (and blaring). See if you agree with me.


1) Danny Pink - Dead!?
He's been killed in a road traffic accident. (Nice touch that it was Clara dropping the 'ILY' bombshell that inadvertently killed him). Okay, the premise was there's a waiting station in Limbo called the Nethersphere, because the dead can still communicate and hold conversations if you care to visit them. So Danny is dead, but still negotiating the terms of his post-life existence (with a wonderfully oily Chris Addison as his sales rep). All this is fine because it's really a front for harvesting bodies to turn into Cybermen.


So:
1a) Do Cybermen require still living bodies to convert, or can they process corpses? The delete option Danny was fretting over seemed to suggest the former, since 'delete' is as we know the first step in the cybernetic process, to remove human emotion. In which case how is Danny alive? If he was put into a coma by the car impact, why isn't he hooked up to tubes and drips in a hospital?


1b) The hoax front is to maintain the fiction that the dead don't die, and if telepathy is used to achieve the impression that they're still sentient in some way, who is the telepathy being transmitted to in convincing us that the dead Danny Pink is still hanging on in there at some level? Because we are inevitably going to get a happy ending, Danny Pink isn't likely to be dead, so that takes up back to the car crash. Did Missy somehow stage it, convince all and sundry DP was deceased, just to capture hi so as to lure in Clara & The Doctor to her lair?


2) The scale of death:
Missy makes the wonderful observation that the shortcoming of the human race is that the dead outnumber the living. Lots of corpses to turn into Cybermen for her fiendish plan then (suggesting that the answer to plothole 1 is that they are in fact dead and only trick projections suggest they are still alive). All well and good, but how do all the dead fit into the crypts of St Paul's Cathedral and how do they get there? We only see about eight Cybermen come down the steps, hardly the whole host of humans past now is it? How extensive were the dark water tanks and again I ask, where and how did they all fit into the architecture of St Paul's? Maybe St Paul's is Missy's Tardis, bigger on the inside etc... When Danny P & his salesman/minder/psychopomp Addison pop out on the balcony for a breather to get DP's head straight, the Nethersphere scape is suggested to be never-ending (as initially established by the view through a porthole). Now London, the city that houses St Paul's is big, but that weren't no London vista through the window. Presumably the Nethersphere too is just a projection.


3) Kids, always a tear-jerker plot device:
Danny Pink is reacquainted with the kid - aka unarmed non-hostile - he shot in Afghanistan. Nice bit of conflict and personal redemption issues there served up in a trice. But why is the kid there at all? He's too short for being converted into anything but a mini-me Cyberman. Why has he been kept alive all this time that has seen DP establish himself in a second career as a schoolteacher? So this swings the pendulum back into it being a telepathic projection into Danny's noggin, that he isn't dead at all, but just having his melon messed with. Chris Addison informs us it's very unusual for such a confrontation in the Nethersphere, while Doctor Chang tells Clara it's equally rare to receive a call on the inside when Danny P is calling her. I hear a plot clunking with the sound of a bolted on solution.


So I'm none the wiser as to how the episode holds together logically. Maybe it will be resolved next week. Sorry but a nerd orgasm induced by the echo of a 1960's Cybermen iconic image on the steps of St Paul's couldn't induce e to overlook all the bits that don't hang together for me.


I stand back and await y lapidation...

Pinboard Wizard - Friday Flash


We were milling aimlessly on the cork surface, just like the students outside on the college green, only our frisbees capped our crowns. The great migration started inconspicuously when one of our number was plucked and removed to the furthest end of the frame pinning a green handwritten note. Gradually more and more of us followed, with typed, pictured, poorly Xeroxed notices and fliers. But it wasn’t for us to judge what we played host to. We only had to pinion them fast in place.

We anchored love affairs and lost items being returned to their owners. We oversaw money making enterprises and charitable deeds both. We silently monitored exchanges both fair and lopsided. We were responsible for people coming together to protest and take action. We rolled out a red cork carpet to new bands and poetry societies. All human wants hopes and offers were pinned on us. 

And some of us suffered for our staunch superintendence. There were squabbles, where some of us were snatched from their current supervision and moved to double up on a piece of paper with a fellow pin. Leaving the pillaged paper to float down to the ground all forsaken. Other brother pins were covered up as a new flyer was insolently just pinned up over their entire handbill, the stud pushing through its impression in the new notice but remaining all forlorn. Some pins lost their caps. Others had their ramrod spines bent and became invalided from service. Chunks of corkboard eroded, making our bailiwick shrink and huddling us closer together and stirring up more agitation accordingly. 


But eventually there were fewer and fewer notices pinned by and to us. The existing ones were never refreshed, but allowed to turn yellow and crumple and curl at their edges. The dust was no longer swept from the wooden frame of the corkboard which continued to seep its fibre on to the floor. We no longer had audiences stood in front of us admiring our pinnywork as they read. Instead the students walked by with their noses glued to tablets and phones advertising their wares. Nobody played frisbee out on the college green anymore either.