Sunday, 26 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Hope everyone is having a great christmas! Between now and 2011, I should really get round to writing about all the cool comics, art, craft and awesomeness that has been going on in the last few months.

I've been busy. Far to busy to blog :-)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

24 Hour Comics Day

This weekend I'll be taking part in the 24 Hour Comics Day event in Heaton, organised by Martin Newman.

You can view the pain, suffering, coffee addiction, words, pictures and magic on the blog set up specifically to monitor those things here:

I've done 24 Hour Comics twice before, first time round I failed to complete the comic, though all that's really left is tidying it up a bit and lettering properly. I might get round to this sometime.

Second time round was at the Learning Revolution / P.R.E.S.S. event in March 2010 at the Tyneside Cinema, which was much more successful as I decided to improvise and experiment with a silent comic.

It didn't make much sense but it was fun. I'll probably print it up soon, but it can be temporarily viewed on Google Docs here. This is Gudrun Black, likely to appear in quite a few comics due to appear before the end of 2010, most importantly, A4 Comics Presents.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Influence Map

They're all the rage, these influence maps. Click to embiggen. In no particular order:

  • Gustav Klimt
  • German Expressionism
  • Antoni Gaudi
  • Dave McKean
  • Francis Picabia
  • Paul Laffoley
  • Tristan Tzara
  • Marcel Duchamp
  • Jack Kirby
  • Larry Marder
  • Man Ray
  • Mike Mignola
  • Kevin O'Neill
  • Richard Case
  • Simon Larbalastier
  • Vaughan Oliver
  • Pablo Picasso
So what have we learned?

I like pictures which are mostly monochrome, usually brown with occasional red highlights, spindly lines, distorted figures, diagrams, nebulous shadows and boobs.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Tower of Babel - Charity Auction

A 14 inch square photographic print will be part of the Crisis Skylight Charity auction at Made in Newcastle on Saturday 25th September.

It's one of the last hand done test prints, and came out slightly darker than the finished prints, but there's only me notices this I guess. If anyone is interested but can't make it to Newcastle, let me know.

This is not a digital image, it's a hand printed photograph of a four dimensional collage.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Unfocused Plasticine

Messing about this evening, felt a bit unfocused... Click image for maximum giffyness.

Monday, 28 June 2010

EGO and Beach

Out and about - attended the EGO festival in Durham, Britt, Daniel and Jack, representing the Paper Jam Comics Collective, then went for a walk up the coast. A good day.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

How I Do Speech Bubbles in Photoshop

This is a real quick tutorial knocked up as a reminder - obviously I'd normally be paying a lot more attention to exact positioning, font sizes and line thicknesses, spending a sickening amount of time selecting the wrong pen tool.

Font wise, I'm using Digital Strip, free from Blambot here, but in this particular comic, I'll be looking for something more European, maybe in proper case.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Picasso Stories

Work in progress on my Picasso story for the Paperjam Comics Collective "Art ... and that" Remember that if you're planning to be involved with this one the deadline is this week.

A bit ambitious to do a comic story about the greatest artist what ever lived, but some of the Picasso's are starting to look like him (the left hand ones are best here) and the cubist forms and tones are working out well.

I reckon I'll not be inking this one but messing with the tones from a scan of the pencils. Hope it'll work out!

ALSO! Other Art... and that previews, both of which contain cocks...

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Artex & Cosmology

Fake Polaroids : Artex & Cosmology

A bit of messing about with depth, light and fake polaroidiness. Rushed and ill so taken this from where I was sitting. The Shakeit app for the iphone emulates the polaroid green/gloom to the degree where every pic I take reminds me of living in a student flat. Granted, the Artex in the hallway doesn't help and needs to go.

I think the fake polaroid is a fad i've just got to work through. Bear with me.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Fake Polaroid : Antiques

The Best of All Possible Playgrounds

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: Obviously it's not May any more - wrote these last week on a tiny laptop on trains and the like... so expect mistakes 

#19 : The Best of All Possible Playgrounds

Through a small gate at the end of an old street in London was an unassuming wrought iron gate, a gate which lead down a leafy overgrown pathway to a magical kingdom. The best playground there had ever been. Swings. Roundabouts. Climbing frames. A wooden castle with a forty foot helter skelter. An intricate giant spiral slide.

And while this may seem underwhelming to you in these days of xbox, iphone and twenty four hour news coverage, the kids put these things aside and flocked there whenever they could.

And if this does seem underwhelming to you, you are drunk or too old and should not enter. For while children will leave their multicoloured screens and have a great time in the morning dew and afternoon sun, the park would always eat alive any adult who should set foot inside.

Sam and Eric stood by the gate. Eric's younger sister, Charleen had just ran inside with her friends Alice and Kylie. Sam and Eric hesitated.

“Do you think... maybe... we're a bit old now?” said Sam

“I'm fourteen in July” said Eric

“Fourteen is definitely too old. Jeremy was fourteen, and went in there with Catherine. She came out and he didn't. Said he'd tried to feel her up, but she wouldn't say what happened after. She won't come near, now” said Sam

“Jeremy deserved it” said Eric

“You're fancy her? Hah!” said Sam “If you want to go find Catherine, we can do that instead, but she hangs out with those lads from East”

“You're only just thirteen” said Eric “You should go in. I'll wait here.”

Sam thought about Charleen. He wanted to go in the park, but he didn't care for rope swings and climbing frames.

“I think... I don't think it's how old you are in years” said Sam “Got nothing to do with Birthdays. I think the park decides who's adult and who isn't”

“You want to go find Catherine?” said Eric.

“Are you not worried about your sister?” said Sam.

“Are you?”

And so they waited.

Louise Bourgeois

seems like someone I should have known better.
As it was, I saw this amazing bloody giant spider in Tokyo.

PS: Gary Bainbridge is more eloquent than I am, here.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Women of New Aretha

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: From this point on they're written on a tiny laptop on trains and the like... so expect mistakes 

#18 : The Women of New Aretha

Anja stood at the gate of the village of New Aretha and looked out, past the graveyard, across the plain.

A distant spiral of dust told her that someone was coming. Another bounty hunter blown in across the desert. Coming for the same thing as the last one. Coming to find out what had happened to the last one. Maybe this one was different, maybe this one...

The last one had been a government man, he'd been sent not to kill or fight, but to try to make a deal, but this had been tried before and it had been made clear that there would be no deal: it was not a matter of improving the offer.

Their town was protected and they would not yield to the bribes and threats of the wealthy and violent. Their blessing was there's alone, and it would surely be taken away if they were anything less than pure.

For it was known in certain circles of government and church, a rumour passed around a select few that any child born of the women of New Aretha would live forever, would live to see Heaven itself grow from the desert sands.

The man would be here in an hour. Anja and her sisters began to prepare their knives.

The Big Sneeze

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: From this point on they're written on a tiny laptop on trains and the like... so expect mistakes.

#17 : The Big Sneeze

Act One
The heat beat down on Joe. His hayfever caused him to sneeze violently every six seconds. Despite the regularity each spasm came out of nowhere. He pushed his way as quickly as he could through the corn field. His eyes itched terribly. He sneezed with a a force that almost knocked him off his feet. This hadn't been a good escape plan. Looking behind him, the police were entering the field. Atchoo.

Act Two

He wiped his nose, then wiped his hand on his pants, a futile attempt to stem the constant supply of wet snot. He wished he'd taken tissues as well as cigarettes from the shop. He considered using one of the pile of ten pound notes that he'd stuffed into his back pockets.

If the police were entering the field, that meant they hadn't managed to get anyone in front of him yet, there was no helicopter, and he still had a chance of getting out of this. The corn was about five foot tall. It should be possible to lose them in here, to double back, or to exit the field at a hidden point by the stream. The stream. He could wash the pollen from his face. Atchoo.

Joe ducked down and found a gap in the corn from the tractor's wheels. Following this back would lead him directly back past the policemen if they didn't find it first. He began making his way back. Atchoo.

Shite they were closer than expected. He hit the ground and listened as they pushed their way through the field. Passing him... Atch....

Act Three

Joe's nose burned as he held in the sneeze. Holding his breath. Forcing the spasm back into every other muscle, and concentrating on keeping them all in check. Tears streamed from his eyes, squeezed through eyelids that barely contained swollen eyeballs. His eardrums threatened to burst.

And the policemen had passed. He was in with a chance. Atchoo.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Mr Roberts' New Friends

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: From this point on they're written on a tiny laptop on trains and the like... so expect mistakes.

#16 : Mr Roberts' New Friends

Mr Roberts awoke early, as was his habit. He lived alone and looked after himself. His large garden and the woodlands surrounding him met all of his needs, he thought.

Again, the same dream of an alien landscape, terrible gigantic vegetation, a red sun glowing in a night sky. Hovering nearby were seven inverted cones of glowing orange material. Eight foot tall by two foot wide at the top, tapering in a lumpy, uneven way down to a collection of gnarled tentacles.

They hovered a few feet above the earth, their tentacles used for tasting the air, feeding and also communication. In the dream he understood: their world was dying, and their race heading rapidly towards extinction. He could help them, they needed bodies in his world. In return, they could give him... well what did he want?

Immortality? Females? Seeds? How do you humans reproduce anyway?

Mr Roberts had more down to earth needs... just wanted the dreams to stop... would be happy to have his loft fixed and any rats that might be living up there exterminated. There was something about those rats. While he was thinking about it if that city chef and his lackeys who had moved into the farm further up the valley could be exterminated too? Good idea, the girl with the camera – she could stay. Maybe chase her down the valley a bit?

He would be a hero, yes, that plan could work. He would cook rabbit. He was getting good at it and had some really nice mustard and plenty of broad beans.

Mr Roberts breakfasted and then got to work in his allotment. The leaks were going unloved, potatoes left largely to defend themselves from insects. The pride of his allotment waere the carrots.

They were growing beautifully now he had been given the formulas for their food, the shapes to scratch into the earth, the words to make the rain the 'right kind of rain'. His new friends were growing. The would be ready soon. Ready to make good on their side of the bargain.

From their vantage point by the greenhouse, bunnies looked on with envious, fearful eyes. Harvey the rat watched too, from a gap in the roof tiles.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Station

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: I've not had access to the internet for over a week, but I have been writing. Still, I  got a few behind, but I can start uploading them now.

#15 : The Station

Seems I'd fallen asleep on the train and missed my station. Not a completely unique event, and it seemed to be an early foggy morning outside. I cast my mind back, trying to figure out where I'd been the previous evening.

Nope. Nothing.

I stood up and surveyed the carriage. No other passengers, but the carriage hadn't been cleaned – coffee cups, sandwich boxes, crisp packets... bags and luggage. The other passengers had got off without taking their luggage.

I checked the time. 7:42am and looked out of the window. Fields, the occasional tree. Morning dew. The fog meant that I couldn't see far, but it appeared that we were at a small country stopping platform, with a tiny shed acting as a waiting room and office.

I made my way to the door, luggage, coats and food had all been left exactly where they were.

Leaning out of the window to reach the handle, I jumped down onto the platform. There was no-one around – the railway line stretched as far as I could see in a straight line in both directions. The train itself was a two carriage cross country engine. No sign of a driver.

There were a number of suitcases and bags lying on the platform, some of these looked very old. Amongst cases and boxes was a coffin with a note pinned to it. I picked up the note. It said:

“Important: Get in the coffin before 8am. Use the handles provided to hold the lid closed. We will fetch you. Do not leave the station”

I looked at the coffin, it was a solid old black box. I opened the lid. The edges had been lined with a rubber sealant of some kind. Some door handles had been screwed onto the inside of the lid to enable a person to hold it closed from the inside. Checking further I realised that the coffin had two wheels and a rope attached to its base.

The rope stretched away from the platform, into the field. I followed the rope down to the edge of the field where a track had been scraped out of the grass. The rope was taught, and the marks on the track indicated that the coffin had often been dragged this way.

I walked up the track following the rope until I arrived at a post with another note on it. It said “Danger of being eaten. Do not pass this point unless completely covered” I looked back – the small station and the train which I'd left was barely visible through the fog. I looked forward into the fog.

I could make out vague forms floating in the fog, which if not for the warning I would have mistaken for something floating on my eyeball. I couldn't make out the details, but they seemed to be getting closer. I retreated back to the station.

As I was stepping back onto the platform I noticed the rope jump, and very slowly, the coffin began to scrape its way across the platform towards the field. I reckoned I had a few minutes before it reached the sign, but not particularly willing to jump into a coffin on the evidence provided, I ran up to the waiting room shed.

I quickly pushed open the door – it had been glued shut with the same kind of resin around the edges of the coffin. I jumped. Amongst the luggage was a human skeleton, in its hands had been a tube of bathroom sealant. One of the opened cases looked like it had belonged to a plumber or a builder of some kind. I looked around the room – attempts had been made to seal the edges of all of the windows and doors, as well as occasional knot holes in the wood.

Outside, the coffin had been dragged about half way up the track and the mist was getting thicker. The forms in the mist seemed to have long, waving strands, stretching many meters into the air, becoming more distinct.

I dumped my bag. There would be no room for it in the coffin. I ran towards the box.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

History and That Preview

Ok, i've taken a couple of days off from the Story a Day in order to get my History and That submission in for the Paper Jam Comics Collective. Technically, it's a story, but for some masochistic reason I'm not including it as part of my story a day. Hmm. I'll get back on that tomorrow.

Anyway, it's all about German/Polish folklore surrounding the presence of nightmares, particularly those nasty sleep paralysis beasties that squat on your chest. Here's the first few panels:

The drawing was done really quick just before the deadline, and is very scribbly. It's my first go at drawing entirely with the wacom tablet. Because you can draw in white on black as well as black on white in photoshop, parts of it come out looking a bit like an etching or woodblock print, which is nice. I've also gone for proper case, basic serif fonts rather than comic ones, and let photoshop handle the caption bubbles as a style. It seems to fit quite nicely I think, different looking and somehow 'right' for subject.

Folks at the PJCC meeting this evening seemed to find the monster disturbing and cute in equal parts, so that's a victory in my book.

What else can we expect to see in History ...and That, then? Preview images can be seen on these here blogs:

And many more! It's going to be proper good this one.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Culture Clash

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: Three behind now. I might catch up this evening...

#14 : Culture Clash

The deck of the steamboat was crowded with local dignitaries, scientists, artists, writers and politicians. It was a warm but dark day, the sky above the Mississippi populated by dark clouds. The air was damp. People were heard to ask why they should not be having this party indoors, but Mayor Fitzpatrick had insisted that what they would see here today would astound them. Misters Twain and Tesla would not disappoint.

They were listening to a man named Nikola Tesla, who had taken the platform with Mark Twain, expound his theories. Most of them were here to see Twain, and ware barely following Tesla’s highly technical speech or the exact purpose of the gathering. It was beginning to rain, and their patience was beginning to stretch.

A more scientifically grounded writer from Iowa asked: “Mister Tesla Are you telling us that you built a time machine... out of a Steam Boat?”

At this, some of the crowd began to pay a little more attention. A crack of dramatically timed thunder interrupted Tesla just as his mouth was open. Standing behind him, Twain beamed, acknowledging the effect.

Tesla responded “Absolutely sirs! for our purposes it is important to have a distinct body, not attached to the earth, large enough to carry all of our equipment, and located in an area unlikely to have been inhabited in the past or future. It is also convenient that the size of the paddle wheels on this particular steamer fit exactly our requirements for the flux capacitors.”

The sky flashed silently, and a moment afterwards, another crack of thunder.

Twain took up the presentation “Yes, mister Mr C. M. Allen is correct, and the way we see it, if you're going to build a time machine into a ship, why not do it with some style: the Alice Eldridge provides the most comfort available anywhere on the Mississippi. Please everyone, ensure that your glasses are full before we begin the demonstration”

Mr listened to the buzz of conversation around him and felt the engines start though the hull of the steamer. The lightening was getting closer, and an terrifying bolt lit the sky around them. The audience gasped and gave the impression that they might be considering becoming worried.

Twain was speaking again “Thunder is good, thunder is impressive, but it is lightning that does the work. So the capacitors are beginning to flux, Ladies and Gentlemen you may begin to notice a blue light surrounding us. There is absolutely not cause for-”

And lightening smashed down from the sky, giving definition to a bubble that had formed around the boat. The crowd watched with awe and some panic held in check.

Tesla observed this all with satisfaction and went back to his equipment, which was recording the progress. Twain leaned over to him: “Are we ready?”

“Oh Yes” said Tesla and pulled a lever which was simply labeled “Go!”

The blue light became increasingly opaque, veins of blue lightening tracing its outline. The banks of the Mississippi blurred for a second and then vanished. And a ball of light containing a Steamer, seventy men and women, three hundred and seven fish and a huge quantity of water dropped out of the world.

“Nikola, without implying any degree of mistrust of lack of confidence in the man, I now worry that this may have been somewhat ambitious and I have to say that I do hope the astronomer Severnius’s calculations were correct.” said Twain as the steamer bobbed around in its unstable bubble, buffeted on all sides by the winds of time.

People were flung across the deck, some came very close to falling overboard, to what fate they preferred not to contemplate. Those who had managed to find something stable to hold on to were beginning to express outrage at their shabby treatment.

Nicola had signaled for the engines to be stopped and the steamer began to stablise. The bubble rapidly became thinner and a dark, rocky landscape began to form around them.

“What have you done Twain?” shouted Mayor Fitzpatrick.

But neither Tesla nor Twain were listening, they were looking at the spectacular night time landscape surrounding them. The Alice Eldridge had splashed down on a canal, a chasm cut into the deep red rock, a straight line to both horizons.

“Ladies, Gentlemen” shouted Twain over the chaotic demands of seventy variously distressed souls “Welcome to the country of Paleveria!”

The last sparks of the time bubble were dissipating into the air. The Mississippi water was already beginning to blend with that of the Martian canal, and three hundred and seven fish began a surprisingly successful new life on Mars.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Apocryphal Picasso Stories

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it:

#13 : Apocryphal Picasso Stories

The sun is going down over the garden. We drank beer, and I listened to a story about Picasso. Jack spoke first...

“Knock Knock Knock.

Picasso awoke in his drawstring pants, pushed aside a stack of canvasses and made his way through the house that was his studio at the moment. That he would shortly sell, sketches and all, making enough money to purchase a larger house and once more begin to fill it with drawings, sculptures and canvasses. The next house may have to have a kiln.

Knock Knock.

‘Picasso!’ shouted a voice from outside.

Picasso made his way through the area where yesterday he had been painting with light, a  pile of photographic film waiting to be developed. He stood on a broken flash bulb and swore.

‘We need your designs today Picasso’ shouted the voice.

Knock Knock Knock.

Picasso picked up one of the flashbulbs that was not spent, put it in his pocket and answered the door. The two men who stood there wore loose fitting suits and hats, despite the sun. They looked Picasso up and down, naked above the waist, his pot belly hanging over his drawstring trousers. Unimpressed.

‘We’ve been sent for the Perfume Bottle design Picasso’ said one of the men ‘Our reputation is on the line if you don’t deliver. You are meant to be a genius’

And Picasso slipped his hand into his pocket and took out the flashbulb. He said ‘Here is your design, you needn’t have worried, it has been finished for a long time’ and gave it to the men from the perfume company. It was art because Picasso said it was art. That was how he paid so many of his bills.”

Jay was unconvinced, he said “Are you sure this story was Pablo Picasso? Isn’t it Paloma Picasso who did perfume?”

“That’s the way I heard the story” said Jack “They accepted the flash bulb since their marketing people realized that what they had bought that day was not just a design, but a genuine ready-made artwork and most importantly, a Picasso Story to talk about with the press”.

Jay shrugged. 

Dan said “I have a better Picasso Story”

Jack shrugged, and Dan began...

“One day, realising that Picasso was in town, a wealthy collector of his paintings invited him to dinner. All of Picasso’s collectors were wealthy by this time, except for those who owned restaurants and bars, who were occasionally paid in sketches.
Picasso showed up, along with many other notable guests from the town who the Collector wished to impress. They ate and drank well, and the Collector arranged a tour of the large rooms in which he housed his collection.

As the group toured the rooms, the Collector introduced this painting and that painting, and described the circumstances under which he had came by it. Picasso inspected the paintings - ‘pleased with this one’ - ‘ah, this one, not so much’ - ‘but this one, yes this one I remember well, you are lucky to have this one’ at which the Collector was very ecstatic with pride.

On entering the third room, Picasso declared them all to be fakes.

The Collector was crestfallen. Some of the guests were secretly pleased, and some of those kept that secret better than others, there was even an occasional snort: pride comes before a fall.

The Collector protested, but Picasso stood firm.

‘They are very good forgeries, but they are forgeries nonetheless, I am sorry’ said Picasso.

‘But Pablo!’ pleased the Collector ‘You sold this one to me yourself - I saw you finish and sign it. Has some master criminal entered during the night and swapped my entire room for fakes? And This is your signature, no?’

‘Ah yes, I remember. But I am not a saint’ said Picasso ‘having been short of cash from time to time, even I will occasionally fake a Picasso.’”


A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: Thanks to Ian Mayor for the words 'erotic discount warehouse'. Oh dear. Better get on with it then...

#12 : Ghost

Michelle James had been sent here by the very pierced boy behind the counter in Sven’s Bazaar. He had been quite helpful once she had got his attention.

She had been sure (well, her husband had been sure - he had done all of the shopping, before she had... he had been... he had died) that if anywhere could meet their needs it would have been Sven’s. 

The boy admitted sympathetically, that no, they couldn't help: Sven’s was more or less mainstream these days. Being close to the centre of town, under a Tory government, a store selling a (relatively speaking) vanilla selection of toys, whips, plugs and restraints had no further need to stock the obscure.

The boy had been certain that the place she needed, on an industrial estate on the edge of town, was the ‘Erotic Discount Warehouse’, or as it was more prominently labelled ‘Unit 23, Clarkson Industrial Estate. Despite it’s nondescript exterior and title, Unit 23, he was assured, contained the widest stock of what might be described as Esoteric Erotica, and was the wholesaler and distribution point for the entire North England.

Michelle parked her car and pushed open the discretely labeled door. The warehouse was quite large on the inside, five aisles of coloured boxes, stacked on shelves up to the ceiling. The place wasn’t as empty as she’d expected, a number of individuals and couples were milling about, making notes of the code names with the pencils and note paper provided by the entrance. Salespeople were stacking shelves and engaging in enthusiastic conversation with anyone they could corner.

Michelle picked up a catalogue looked vaguely and somewhat uncomprendingly at the various products on offer. Some of which she recognised.

“Can I help at all Miss?” asked an amiable assistant, who had ambled up on Michelle’s blindside.

“I uh....” said Michelle “Do you have any, ah... any... toys for ghosts?”

The assistant looked at Michelle and nodded sagely.

“You see, it's quite delicate. My husband... died last year, and, well, we can’t... but... he thought...” said Michelle

“Can you see your husband Miss?” asked the assistant.

“You don’t believe me?” said Michelle.

“I do Miss! the customer is always right, after all, and you can rely on our discretion in this and all matters. I am merely trying to ascertain the approximate density and quantity of ectoplasm which may be required by the gentleman in question sir. A product that failed to make contact and passed straight through would be simply no use whatsoever. As you are already no doubt painlessly aware”

“I... ok” said Michelle “the ropes didn’t work”

“I see. Well, our ropes and straps and handcuffs have been specially treated. Your requirements are considerably more common that you may imagine. Would the undead gentleman in question be capable of visiting our establishment sir? For some quick, and quite painless tests?”

“No, he can’t go..”

“Beyond the confines of the family home, of course.” said the assistant.

“No, I’m afraid, I, we, we didn’t... well, he... we... strayed” said Michelle

“Say no more miss, say no more - this explains the haunting of course” said the assistant “Well, our lives are nothing if not interesting, and a shared love of pottery often fails to cut the mustard"

"If, miss, If I have deduced the details of this somewhat delicate matter correctly, and I believe I have, we have a wide range of products on offer which will, I am sure, meet his, and indeed your, corrective requirements.”

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Proving a Negative

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: Thanks to Britt for the keyword 'Moonbase'. I'm playing catch up now, so this is more the seeds of an idea based on a dream I wrote up years ago.

#11 : Proving a Negative

Walter sat up in his chair and took a sip of his coffee. He looked out across the lunar landscape.

Yup. Nothing. Lunar dust. A large crater about a mile to the east. Same as yesterday, same as tomorrow.

“Esme will live” he thought.

Only yesterday there hadn’t been nothing had there? Yesterday, he’d seen something, and no matter how much he tried to remove it from his mind, to forget what he’d witnessed, he hadn’t seen nothing. He hadn’t reported it.

The daily report he’d filed had said ‘nothing – as usual’ and maybe when the incident is investigated in months, years to come, that report would be stand out as being unusually verbose. Maybe someone would pick up on that and check the network traffic that day.

They’d find an encrypted message, and maybe someone a bit sharp will figure out what it said. An encrypted message signed Frank. A name he’d not heard from in over a year now.

Frank had been the name used by a man (as far as we know, it was a man) stalking Walter’s familty before he finally had been approved for the Moonbase job. Frank had demonstrated how easily he could break into their house, the school where his wife Esme worked and their son studied. Frank had never been seen, let alone caught. He left notes. Ludicrous demands with increasingly serious outcomes.

“Your telephone will ring at midnight. Ignore it for thirteen rings and then answer or your car will not start in the morning. Frank.”

“Mathew must fail today’s Maths test or your taxes will be audited. Frank.”

“A home baked blueberry pie must be left by the kitchen window or your cat will die. Frank.”

The threats were always carried out should the demands fail to be met. The demands told you a number of things about Frank. He had very little by way of morality, and he could make things happen, get anywhere, do anything. Usually bad things. They, and the police, were at a loss. Neither Walter or his family had any enemies to speak of.

Once Walter was approved for work on the Moonbase, Frank’s visits came to an end. Untill yesterday, when an encrypted message had came through to Walter’s account. Encrypted with Walter’s own password. It said:

“You will not see anything outside tomorrow. You will be paid £8,000,000. Esme will live. Frank.”

Walter thought about Doctor Watson. Doctor Watson had been a good cat, as cats go. Hadn't deserved that. Had everything been building up to this? Esme had been taken into hospital last week. She’d been having headaches. Walter wanted to get the next flight back, but that wasn’t scheduled for another twelve days.

Walter sat up in his chair and took a sip of his coffee. He looked out across the lunar landscape.

Yup. Nothing. Lunar dust. A large crater about a mile to the east. Same as yesterday, same as tomorrow.

How could he have possibly seen anything out there? Not a human anyway, not without a suit. Human arms aren't that long. He'd dreamed about those arms. Stretching along the moonbase corridors, hands spidering across the walls. Separated from their torso, blindly seeking him out.

Esme will live, he thought, if I saw nothing.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Just Another Job

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: Thanks to Martin Newman for the seed words 'Fog. Mechanised. Lurk. Apples. Platinum. Atlantis. Assassin. Teeth. Silk. Liver. Jobsworth. Deep Sea Abyss. Solitaire. Poker'

#10 : Just Another Job

The Mi-go are as good as their word. Their fungal webs ease my pod out of Aetherspace and into regular space/time at the edge of the Sol system just beyond Pluto. 

I watch through the cabin windows as the three ten limbed space insects spin a cocoon of Yoggothian silk around my craft.

I don't attempt to communicate with them, they're here to take me to Venus. The advantages of using the Mi-go taxi service are that they don't ask questions and their silk renders us largely undetectable. I'm here to do a job and chit chat wouldn't be wise. They may reconsider their fare if they knew what I was carrying.

I'm an assassin. I kill people and things for a living, but I specialise in things. I'm in this solar system to kill a God, or something as near to a god as to make it almost indistinguishable to most of the creatures it shares a planet with: A currently dormant Great Old One entombed in a deep abyss within the planet Earth, a planet inhabited by a single type one civilisation beneath the surface and four others ranging from point six to point eight.

In theory, the target is stationary, which should make lining up a shot fairly easy. In practice, my clients would like to take control of a functioning Class M planet, so if I want paying, I need to make this a clean kill without too much collateral damage. The central nervous system of a Great Old One may make this a difficult task.

The Mi-go signal in their clicking crustacean voices that we have arrived on Venus. The cabin depressurises and I climb out of the cramped pod, brushing aside the silk and fog of their insulating web that has kept my pod protected for the short journey. I acknowledge completion of the journey in the language which will allow them to be paid and they disappear into the aether on membranous appendages.

Venus is exactly as I remember it. Venus, where plants have teeth. A misty, toxic jungle inhabited by flora and fauna that will more or less eat anything given the time and inclination. The web should keep me undetected by the planet long enough to do the hit and get out.

Unpacking the sniper rifle, and setting up its support structure and associated computers takes three hours. The hard part is ensuring that the ammunition doesn't attract attention. Handle with care.

Once set up, the job is more or less done. Everything is planned and considered, the computers do the work: locate the target within its deep sea tomb, adjust for intervening materials, solid, liquid and atmospheric, relative planetary orbits, solar wind, check for relevant space debris and pull the trigger..

Pop... Pop... Pop...

Brain... Heart... Liver...

It'll take several hours for the bullets to cross the intervening space and hit the target, and another for their payload to take effect. I'm extremely relieved to have them out of my care. If any Elder Things had found me with such ordnance, things would have became very, very bad for me. And probably for everyone I've ever communicated with.

Each bullet contained a platinum chamber housing a bio-engineered Micro Shoggoth and enough supporting protoplasm to initialise very rapid reproduction and growth on contact with the target. Handle with care: you bet.

So, that's that. Over fifty thousand years of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" and such like done and dusted: all lickety split, nice and smooth. The cat is now very much amongst the pigeons as far as the local civilisations geopolitics are concerned. Not my problem.

My problem is that I need to get the hell out of here. The Mi-Go are doubtless already on route with an assassination job of their own (or answer awkward questions about their role in this affair). The Elder things will notice as soon as the Shoggoth awake. I’m also fairly sure that the Earth and Venus talk.

Fortunately for me, the hard part was getting the artillery into the solar system and someone to pull the trigger. All I’ve got to actually leave with is my mind and no-way of tracing this incident back. I activate the self destruct on the pod (gravity collapse in ten, nine...).

I pull the needle holding mind and body together out out of the back of my neck, just as a howling noise in the upper atmosphere announces that they're here and the Elder things are early. I hope the spell keeping me in this body fails before they get hold of it, or at the very least the gravity bomb detonates.

I'm in luck. I'm out of here. Job done. Bye.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: Thanks to Richmond Clements for the seed word 'twins''

#9 : Polarities

It was a beautiful evening. Submagi Floren watched the twin suns begin to disappear behind the woods further up the valley and finished her beer. It was time. The waiter took her empty plate and glass. Floren tipped well, and got her coat, sketchbook and pens together. The Blue Sun was the first to descend at this time of year, leaving the sky a deep red.

The evening would remain warm for a while yet. Submagi Floren set off through the streets of the old town. It took half an hour to reach the south gate and to get on the path leading through the Lux-Garden which occupied the valley between the Towers of the two Priesthoods.

Floren knew the paths like the back of her hand, and followed a dark overgrown path leading beneath the Witch Bridge, down deep into the valley, into the shadows and undergrowth. Eventually the stone part of the path ended and he continued through the mud to the point where the sacred streams crossed.

She arrived at a building calved out of the rock of the valley, and knocked on the small wooden door. A bald man, lumpy, ancient and uncivilised looking, opened the door and gestured for Floren to enter. He wore an old shirt, open down to his pot belly, with drawstring pants and sandles. All of his clothes were covered in paint.

“I have arrived Magi” announced Floren, uncertain of what to say, or what rituals and secrets awaited.

The room inside was quite large, two of the walls formed from bare rock, the others brick and wood. Pots of paint, brushes and old canvasses were piled up against the walls. The canvases suggested bodies, animals and broken vases. Floren looked at them, piecing the imagery together. The Magi pointed at one of the two wooden chairs.

“Sit, Submagi Floren, you’ve come for the secrets of our order I take it?”

Floren nodded.

“Ok. Do you want some tea? I’ve just made some”

“Yes Magi” said Floren.

The Magi poured some strong looking tea from a simple looking tea pot and put it on the table in front of Floren.

“Help yourself to milk” he said, gesturing to a small jug of milk.

Floren looked at the tea, and at the Magi carefully, attempting to deduce the correct response.

“It’s just tea” said the Magi knowingly “It’s not mystical tea, it’s just tea. It’s been brewing a while and I have never allowed the teapot cleaned so you might want a bit of sugar too”.

Floren added both milk and sugar. She took a sip of the tea. The Magi poured himself some and sat on the chair opposite.

“Right, secrets of the order. It’s bloody simple. We’re the Priests of the Moon, we make trouble. That’s it” said the Magi.

Floren listened expectantly.

“Oh, OK, if I must.” said the Magi “As you know, our Two Suns are in orbit around each other and this beautifully futile speck of dust is in orbit around both. Both Priesthoods are preparing for the day when the Sun’s separate, and our planet goes with one or the other

“The Priests of the Red Sun and the Priests of the Blue Sun worship their respective Suns from their high towers primarily through the act of perpetual disagreement

“If the Priests of the Red Sun say Shit the Blue Priests will say Piss. And on it goes, with neither rhyme nor reason. This you know of course. Everyone knows it, and yet people feel compelled to pick sides, are told that they must, and assume that one is right and the other wrong, and that in time soon to come the truth will be revealed, our speck of dust planet will go with one and the followers of the other will be flung into the vacuum of space

“In the lower orders of the Two Priesthoods, this remains the teaching, and they are encouraged in the various esoteric arguments supporting their faiths. The Blue sun is older and wiser, the Red younger and brighter. Almost everything a man can think has been assigned a value by one or the other”

Floren took a sip of her tea. She doubted that there was enough sugar remaining in the pot to make this tea approach pleasant. She made another polite attempt to drink. The Magi took a perverse delight at his discomfort.

“Arse holes the lot of them” said the Magi “The Higher Orders of both have secretly accepted another truth, handed to them by our great cities Scientists: The Suns are not about to fly apart, but are in fact, over millennia, moving closer together.

“So they believe that their constant bickering, argument and disagreement is essential to our continued existence, delaying the collision of the two stars using the power of their infinite hot air.

“There’s not an ounce of imagination between them and their idiot binary way of thinking, those joining the Priesthoods just aren’t the types to think outside the box. The higher orders at least realize this... and this, Submagi Floren, is why our order was founded”

Floren looked up from her tea. The Magi sneered at her.

“The Priesthood of the moon was founded to give the Two Priesthoods something to disagree about. We cause trouble. We howl at the moon, we bring dissonance. We don’t even have to try that hard, they’ll find offense in almost anything. Submagi Floren, do you paint? play music? write?”.

“I write and draw Magi” said Floren quietly, fishing in her bag for his sketchbook.

“You write and you draw? Words and Pictures?” said the Magi “The writers and painters hate each other you know?”

“They’re in sequence Magi, see...?” said Floren and showed some of her pages to the Magi. The Magi took them and looked from picture to picture, a story unfolding.

“An artificial planet? why do they all have balloons in their mouths?” asked the Magi.

“That’s what they’re saying sir. It’s dialogue. Like in a play.” said Floren.

The Magi smiled. Floren had never seen him do that. Sneer, yes. Smile?

“A heresy on every page! These people are eating each other” said the Magi “I am fucking delighted!”

“They’re zombies, Magi” said Floren.

The Magi looked genuinely happy.

“I don’t know what that means, but ... well I would normally suggest that you start by painting a prostitutes arse blue and call it art, but this... Words, Pictures and Science and Time all together on a piece of torn off note paper... heh... heh...” the Magi coughed.

“Magi Floren. Go to it. This is going to piss everyone off.”

Rock Night

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: Thanks to David Wynne for the words 'hairdryer candle jellybeans pearl jam poster'

#8 : Rock Night

Son, she said, have I got a little story for you.

I light the candle.

Scientists have theorised that it may be possible to actually increase my base level of Rock beyond current levels, but that this will require a further thirteen dimensions, seven imaginary particles and an entirely new kind of matter based on the chords of Eddie Vedder.

While we wait for the Large Hadron Collider to establish whether this is possible, I prepare to head down to Trillians. While taking up to an hour to dry and straighten waist length hair, I sacrifice five jellybeans to the Pearl Jam Poster, melting them in candlewax. I Rock.

Interpreting the trails of wax and jelly as I bolt myself in to thigh length platform boots, the signs are... something is wrong. Has the Pearl Jam Poster forsaken me? I look close, analysing and evaluating every rivulet of wax, every particle of burned sugar.

Now I can't see, I just stare...

I double check. It appears that this evening in town, I shall indeed Rock, but there is one coming who shall Rock yet harder than myself. I look angrily at the poster. Pearl Jam have been wrong before? Haven’t they?

And if so... if so...who answers...who answers...

No. The poster, the candle, the jellybeans, they have never yet been wrong. So the question remains: what to do? pledge allegiance to this new Messiah of Rock? My time is over, perhaps. I angrily flick a jellybean at the poster and immediately regret it. I must respect the Pearl Jam Poster.

I'm still alive.

Never. I pull on my leather coat. Never. I shall go down with the maximum power and dignity of Rock. There shall be a Rock off the likes of which we have never seen, it shall be spoken of in hushed awe for years to come. I must time my arrival on the dance floor with care. I’m still alive. These boots are made for Rocking.

And that’s just what they’ll do. I am ready.
The bus is coming.

Oh, I'm still alive.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The Architect

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it: Thanks to Ian Mayor for the words 'architect,light,obsession'

#7 : The Architect

The Tower was destroyed and the people scattered. In less than a generation the One Language had fallen out of use, those who had made their living as speakers and translators had been forbidden from its use, the people believing it cursed.

Without the Tower, they had nothing to unite them.

While many of the Builders and Slaves had been killed where they stood, the King and the Architect had survived, and lived alone in the ruins of the Tower. It would be the last place HE would think to look, and if they had learned one thing, it was that not only did HE exist, but HE jealously guarded the skies.

The two of them became increasingly insane. Their only contact with the outside world was to attack the children who occasionally crept into the ruins from those few families who still lived in what remained of the Old City.

The Architect had been blinded, he had been closest to the light and the wind when HE had struck. The Architect believed that in the split second before he lost his sight, he had seen heaven, and had seen a way to get there. The structure of Light itself was the clue.

Over the years, The Architect lost his memory of the nature of Light, and became obsessed by the notion that it could be a material, which, distilled into solid form, might form the building blocks of a new tower, which HE would not destroy.

Being made of the same material as Heaven, the angels would not identify an intruder explained the Architect to the King.

He further theorised that since light was their material, the Tower could be expanded rapidly and exponentially by the use of cunningly placed mirrors.

This construction would not be rejected by heaven, no Angels, no Un-Bodies would be raised, and using this tower, they would create a needle, stretching not just to the boundaries of heaven, but into the palaces and gardens at the very centre of the city of heaven where they would hide in his many corridors and hallways, multiply and grow, free from the corrupting influences of Earth bound materials.

Once heaven was infiltrated, the Angels could be studied from up close, their sciences and knowledge put to the use of Mankind.

The King, for he too had lost his mind, set out with the Architect to find a Scientist able make Light Solid. Neither had any illusions that they would see this project completed, but they would set events in motion that would free Mankind and remake Heaven in their own image.

Thursday, 6 May 2010


A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it:

#6 : Restructuring

“Look” said Jack “Vampires are boring”

Alan nodded, and stared glumly into the remains of his pint.

“That’s the bottom line and you know it. You’ve been coasting. Pint?” said Jack.

“Ay” said Alan. Alan looked around the pub. Everyone in here was ‘Staff’ or friends of at this time of the evening. It was both repetitive and comforting. Jack had been right though.

The Vampires were boring these days, gone were the good old days, the truly ancient super suave international vampires were gone, either hunted back to their ancestral castles or they’d accepted a deal. The really nasty hellfire and brimstone vampires, usually a few hundred years old, who’d never really grasped style and lurked in the inner cities murdering prostitutes and kids... Well, the blond kid had kicked hell out of most of those before she’d moved on to better things. He wished her well.

His team had done good work, but Alan was still here, hunting what was left. Pathetic petulant, quivering lip, toothless lifestyle vampires, who did nothing but moan on about it, like being a vampire was some kind of addiction. The hardest thing to deal with about these vampires was explaining the pile of dust to the teenage girls they inevitably attracted.

Pathetic, really. Job Done. Time to move on. Possibly Jack was right, and Jack had brought another pint of Beer.

“Thanks” said Alan “I’ve been thinking about the restructuring”.

“And?” said Jack.

“And I dunno, merging the Folklaw Suppression team with the Superhero Control lot... it’s bound to get messy”.

“Daylight working hours most of the time Alan, and you should see the costumes some of the women wear. There’s a super speed girl with ice cream themed powers, for fecks sake”

“I know, I know”

“And lets face it, you could do with learning some new skills, you aren’t going anywhere in vampires. When was the last really difficult one that really made a difference?”

“1997 - the Old People’s Home off the Luxlan” said Alan “He was a nasty bugger. Maybe you’re right”.

“I know I’m right Alan, I know you think Superhero division are all black and white in their thinking, and you’re right, they are. But these days, we’ve got some very morally complex wierdo’s out there these days. Super Speed, Laser Vision, some of these guys have got powers you would never think of in a million years. Girls who can see sideways in time. Guys who can swap people’s brains just by looking at them. The team aren’t used to handling weird. They could use a guy who thinks like you”

“Yeah. Yeah, can we talk about something else? I’ll think about it”.

And Alan and Jack finished their drinks and stumbled off their separate ways.

In a basement deep beneath the City Swimming Pool, a long curved corridor slopes downwards, spiraling tighter towards a centre. The pale light flickers on in the circular room at the centre, a robotic voice announces ‘Authorisation Accepted Alan Arnold, Division V’

Alan staggered into the circular room at the lowest point, steps over the moat of constantly flowing holy water, and kicks at the circle of salt on the floor, creating a gap.

“I knew you’d come” - the voice is old, powerful.

Alan looks up at the Vampire. An ancient, impossibly thin human shape, nailed to a silver crucifix. Alan nods.

“You are in no state to make a deal with me Alan. Come back when you have thought about this properly” said the Vampire.

“I switched off all the defenses that matter to you thirteen minutes ago. Why are you still here?” asked Alan “Why am I still alive?”.

“Professional courtesy, Alan. Oh that and ‘I want never gets’”. The Vampire mocked him.

“You’re playing games with me” said Alan.

But there was no mouth to answer - a swarm of dust and flies, flooded into the ducts and was gone. Alan looked around and checked himself. His blood had been cleared of alcohol, and the Vampire had left a post it note on his subconscious. Enough to convince his superiors that it hadn’t been deliberate.

Yes, that is what he’d wanted. It will be just like the old days. Playing games.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Shining Wire

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it:

#5 : The Shining Wire

The Council of Bunnies came gradually and suspiciously to order. Democracy was a new word. Too many syllables for a start. Vote was easier. They kind of got that. Hop over to the new leader and raise a paw. Done.

“Fellow Bunnies” began President Fennel “It has became clear to me that in order for us to survive, we must find a way out of the crisis that is upon us. Sage Thyme has a proposal to put to you all. If you agree with it, he will lead us and I also will follow. Sage Thyme, please speak”.

A long thin, albino bunny hopped into the centre of the circle of the Council of Bunnies.

“Thank you President Fennel. Bunnies, it has never been my intention to lead, only to serve, to keep my fellow Bunnies safe from all darkness and to ensure a ready supply of both Leeks and Carrots”.

“Hear Hear” proclaimed the Council of Bunnies.

Sage Thyme continued “But it has come to pass that the Glass House and the lands which surround it are now protected by The Man’s Dogs. Rat patrols have been on the increase and a Fox has been seen on the far side of the stream. Scout leader Rosemary tells me that she believes that the Fox knows we’re here but the Dogs will hunt it as they hunt us”.

The Council of Bunnies were silent.

“Radical Change is required” said Thyme “I have consulted with the Shaman of the Tribe of Roaches and we believe that the Carrots, Leeks and Lettuce which were found by the stream last week are an offering from The Man.”

Second Scout Laurel raised a paw. Thyme turned on her “Yes, what is it Scout?”

“They weren’t good Sage Thyme sir” she said.

“They may not have been new or fresh, but they were... considerably... better than... nothing” replied Thyme with an air of menace... “May I... please continue?”

“Yes sir”

“Good. The Tribe and I believe that this was an offering which will have to be... paid for, and the more we pay, the more and better the Carrots will be, and the better the Carrots will be, the more of us there will be. By the offering was a shining wire” said Thyme.

The Council of Bunnies began to chatter. President Fennel was shaking his head. Towards the back of the group General Mace stirred.

“We spotted it straight away. It was too obvious to have been intended as a trap. It was a message from The Man. One Rabbit. One pile of Carrots, Leeks and Vegetables. Enough to feed the whole warren.” said Thyme.

General Mace, a huge dark bunny hopped forward “Enough, Sage, Enough. I have heard Enough. We will not willingly sacrifice ourselves to The Man”.

“This is democracy General Mace, we must hear him out” said President Fennel.

“By my entire hindgut fermentation” shouted General Mace “I will not have it! Thyme!” said Mace.

“Yes?” said Thyme.

“Who would you suggest for the first sacrifice?” said Mace “Leading by example?”

“Hah” said Sage Thyme “No, that is the old way. We are looking to the future. A future without violence... witho-” Sage Thyme was cut off by Mace.

“President Fennel, we are thin, we are weak. This must change. I need more Bunnies, but we do not make deals with The Man. If we end up on his table, it is not voluntarily. If we eat his carrots, we eat his BEST carrots. While we lack brawn, we will use brains. First Scout Laurel has been outlining to me a previously unknown route into the Glass House”.

Laurel looked surprised “I...? I have. Yes SIR”.

“And you will be rewarded for it First Scout Laurel, with the first pick of the takings” said General Mace.

Laurel held herself high, proud and confused at her sudden promotion.

“I protest, I must finish” said Thyme.

“You are lucky you can still speak” said Mace “I have killed Bunnies for suggesting less. But as it is President Fennel’s whim that we are now a democracy, you shall have, for a short time, freedom of speech, and I shall stand against you. My first policy is to ram that shining wire so far-”

President Fennel interrupted, one of few and his last decisive act as President, “General Mace, Sage Thyme, Council of Bunnies. I believe that we have heard the candidates policies. I believe that it may be time for you all to cast your vote.”

And so they did.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

All Lickety-Split

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it:

#4 : All Lickety Split

Summer evening sun streams in low through the shutters. She skims the op-art tiled floor of the 50’s Themed Icecream and Milkshake Diner collecting oversized empty glasses. A six foot tall blur of blonde, red, white and pink on oversized roller-skates. If you blinked, you’d have missed it: red plastic surfaces wiped clean, dishwasher full, shutters beginning to close.

Waitress clothes gone, loose fitting jacket and trousers on, Valerie is sat at the chrome counter, a lit cigarette already in hand. Brunette. Only one thing about her hasn’t changed while you were blinking, as one of the two suits who have just stepped out from the store room entrance is already pointing out...

“So... where do you find a girl who cannot remove her magic hypersonic rollerskates?”

But Valerie has already vanished in a blur of speed. This is normal, this is expected. The men stride into the middle of the Diner.

“A Rollerskate Diner, would surely be the only place such a person could maintain anything like a secret identity.” says the second man in exactly the same deadpan, who is busy typing impolitely into his iPhone.

“Valerie, or should we say ‘LicketySplit!’, in the flesh. We know you’re still here. You haven’t set off any of the time vortex traps so by now you should know that you can’t escape...”

“Please slow down so we can talk... oh.” he says as his eye falls on a brunette wig and a neatly folded pile of clothes on the seat behind the counter..

Three hundred and seventy miles away, Valerie skids to a halt.

Who the hell did they think they were, trying to trap HER? She could have incapacitated them with ice-cream headache fired at the speed of sound with one of fifteen regular flavours and four guest varieties, but the traps came online a nanosecond after she left, so she’d made the right choice.

And her loose fitting clothes have gone, Tightly cropped red hair, frictionless white jumpsuit, and matching the skates, streamlined red knee and elbow pads, helmet and goggles, whose high speed net connection is already scanning the conspiracy chat rooms for the Brotherhood logo.

Not keeping up? Valerie is looking at the wallet that she took from the first man: “Brotherhood of the Flame”. Apparently even satanic conspiracies carry identity cards these days. She looked again - a crossed metal fork and spatula on a diagonally lined circle logo.

They were either trying to keep LicketySplit! out of the picture or coerce her into doing a job for them. That’s the usual deal. She’d seen it all before. Barbecue themed super villains. Ridiculous. Maybe they were planning to invite her to a garden party.

The internet spits out some theories, as the internet will and writes up its conclusion on the goggles display. Aha, the third option. A second later, she’s on the streets of London.

Red boots flaming up the surface of the Millenium Dome. She’s hurled across the Thames. Impact in 0.3 seconds her knee pads pop into balloon of ultra dense toffee milkshake and she’s above over two hundred shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants glued to the pyramid of Canary Wharf. A blast of ice cold Slusho! from her helmet and the glass smashes, she drops into the headquarters of the Brotherhood of the Flame.

She hits the floor of a huge elegant room, belying the buildings glass and steel exterior. A woman, gothic styled suit, black and red, sits at an antique table set for two. She stands, tall on impossible heels and smiles at Valerie without a hint of either surprise or malice.

“Crowley, You’re meant to be...” says Valerie catching up with herself “What do you want?”

“Hello Valerie” says Crowley “You got here faster than expected. Did you take a cab?”

Crowley grins. Slightly sinister.

“This is ridiculous”

Crowley nods “Isn’t it? would you care to try the wine?”

“White or Red?”

Monday, 3 May 2010

King Rat

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it:

#3 : King Rat

Mr Roberts’ cursory survey of the attic had revealed nothing living. No rats this time, though nothing in the traps either, so he couldn’t be certain. They were definitely still around, but not dying like they used to. He closed the door and slumped off back downstairs.

Harvey moved in the darkness, but darkness which, to his nose, paws and whiskers, contained many things of interest. Fur, whiskers, piss and scratches. All of them rat. And all of those Rats that remained had learned that the smell of peanut butter leads directly to a smashed skull. The remains of Philippa in the wall behind them drove this point home.

Of the twelve remaining members of The Family, only seven remained as individuals. Five had became entangled, and over time had became the King Rat. Tails and fur and bones fused and knotted together. Five rats speaking with one voice, demanding to be fed.

And ‘it’ was fed. Unable to move fast or far, The King Rat could do two things that meant it should be obeyed. Firstly, it could still fight. An attempt to kill it by the other seven had resulted in severe injuries. But no death. Because secondly, it could also think, plan, reason. It had left Harvey with only one eye.

Slowly, patiently, it explained to the seven the flow of cause and effect by which peanut butter, cheese and other surprisingly available food leads directly to death. Death means no more mastication at all. No more fucking, no more pups. All of these are necessities if King Rat was to be sustained. Harvey had caught on fast. The other six had taken some time to appreciate the need for added complexity in their lives. The King Rat was patient.

And now the King Rat spoke in its five discordant hypnotic voices, three female, two male.

“Slave Rats. You are still Seven? Better than Six, but not Eight. You must become Eight, Nine, More! Two times Nine, Nine times Nine”

Harvey tried to comprehend more than two times nine and failed. It sounded like a lot. If the King Rat was One and not Five, Harvey understood that this made him not Rat Six but  Rat Two. If the King Rat was not a rat (and he didn’t seem to be anymore.. or... was gone?) then Harvey was Rat One out of ALL the rats in the house. Either way, making seven into Nine times Nine would be his job alone. He was pleased.

“Slave Rats. If we are to defeat the Council of Bunnies and retake the disputed territory that is the outside the house hot glass room with carrots, we must be more... in-numerable. More Rats.”

A less appealing prospect for Harvey. Harvey spoke: “The Council of Bunnies are many, King Rat, and they have an alliance with The Mister Roberts Man”.

The five faces of the King Rat sniffed at Harvey, getting the measure of the runt rat on which they now depended. Harvey flinched at the attention.

“An alliance?”

“I have spoken to the Tribe of Roaches. The man gives them carrots and other things. Old but good. They give him Bunnies”

The rats gasped. Harvey considered some of the other things that the elder of the Tribe of Roaches had told him: More traps, Blue lights, Poison Smoke, Kitties. Harvey kept this to himself until he knew more. Harvey was learning how to learn, and learning a lot of new things. A vague notion that power could come from something other than teeth and claws was starting to form.

“The Council of Bunnies do not make sacrifices or alliances and must be very desperate to have overcame their arrogance. The Man would not negotiate with us and we with him. Their sacrifices will enfeeble both their numbers and joie de vivre” hissed the King Rat .

Harvey struggled with this but got the gist and looked around to see who else was following the words. The female called Mona seemed to understand. Maybe a couple of the others, Arthur, Beyonce maybe?

“Rat Number One, I have orders.” hissed the King Rat.

“Yes” said Arthur and Harvey simultaneously. They looked at each other, confused, suspicious, aggressive. Arthur was bigger than Harvey. The two had never been tested.

The King Rat sniggered... “In-teresting. in-teresting times. Harvey, speak to the Tribe again. Find out what they want in return for in-formation. Suggest to the Tribe that they may find the area under the bath to their liking”.

“Yes King Rat ” said Harvey. He sniffed at Mona, who was inscrutable. He could smell anger and threat and hate from Arthur.

The King Rat dismissed the remaining seven, who skuttled off to their appointed tasks. As Harvey left, he saw the King Rat dragging themself over to where he had been standing, sniffing and pawing the space. The King Rat was weighing him up from his scent. Would he be found wanting?

Harvey was in danger. He had kept secrets. He had made enemies. But he had information and for the first time in his short, dark life, he felt that there might be something else than explore, eat, fuck, fight, run and then, lately, obey... there were options, choices... Suddenly everything was complicated.

The Tribe of Roaches talk to everyone he thought (they even mentioned Other Houses). He’d fought the Council of Bunnies many times, but never talked to one. Maybe even that was possible.