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Showing posts from January, 2012

Art Pact 113

Mara Kieta Poulde Vors Ratin, having endured years of teasing about her short name, was a "blow it up" enthusiast. If she'd had psychic powers I doubt one rock would have been standing on top of another rock anywhere on planet Earth, if you catch my drift. She had rages that went on for hours, indulgent rants of screaming and shouting and wishing that the core of this world would just crack and let out the lava like white out of an egg. She hated with a fury that was terrifying to behold, and during one of these episodes no-one but me would go near her. Even I was a little afraid, but I'd known her long enough to understand that the anger behind it was because of an impotence regards actually affecting the world. She was strong, stronger than most of the boys we knew, stronger than most of the women and a good proportion of the men, but there was something in her that reigned her back from physical violence. Perhaps if she'd been able to release her fists she mi…

Art Pact 112

In between tossing the books onto the fire, we took drinks from the bar that the science club had set out. They were mainly rum, but diluted to a greater or lesser degree with pineapple juice. The mousy bespectacled young man behind the counter must have been at his produce, because the counter-top was covered in spills and the ratio of rum to pineapple juice varied wildly between health drink and pure alcohol. When Brad found a glass with no juice in it he took it close to the flames, taking mouthfuls and then blowing them out in a mist so that clouds of blue fire burst at the edges of the clearing, and Sissy shrieked with laughter.

I could tell that Mr. Dodgeness was getting pretty pissed with Brad, but the burning was going speedily enough, so he kept his mouth shut and made do with pursed lips and a disapproving expression, the sort of look he'd have given us back in school if we'd been taking too long to get the right answer. I didn't feel threatened, though - I knew…

Art Pact 111

If it was up to me I wouldn't talk about it at all, but I suppose I have to admit that I have a pretty good home life. It's just something you don't like to talk about - perhaps even think about, because there's always the chance that I might jinx it. What I'm trying to say is, don't tell Dad or Phyllis that I said anything.

My dad isn't around much - not physically, I mean, but his presence is everywhere. Our house is the biggest in the road, and it's mainly due to his constant obsession with adding rooms. Once (before I was born) it was a three-bed semi. Then he built an extension to the kitchen, then above that an extension to the bathroom, then Carrie was born, then the extension was rolled into the rest of the house so that there were two new rooms above the garage, then I was born, then a utility room came out of the other side of the kitchen, then Bridget was born and mum died, then there was the porch, then the conservatory, then the living roo…

Art Pact 110

Let me tell you about Doug. If there were no Doug, it would be necessary to invent him, if only for the sake of argument - by which I mean that unlike other people, who are blessed in their life with awkward discussions in which they are neither totally right nor totally wrong, I had been given a living straw man - as if the heavens had opened up and dropped upon me the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, except less jolly and considerably more opinionated. Doug needed both a heart and a brain, although he did not lack in courage (if by courage you mean the strength of will to hold unpopular opinions when everyone around you thought otherwise).

First in his long list of qualifications for straw-man-ery: he was unattractive. Not necessarily ugly (although I had heard that word bandied around, and it made me feel a brief sympathy for him that lasted just as long as it took for me to meet him again and hear words come out of his mouth), but repulsive in an all-inclusive manner. He refused …

Art Pact 109 - The Previa Hemsfoot Interview, pt 3

Fifteen years ago no-one had heard of Previa Hemsfoot, but now it is a household name. As its careful approach to Jack suggests, it has no natural inclination towards self-publicity. A lot of this is the work of the charity's PR department, headed up by Bellami Coil. Coil is undoubtedly a genius at his work, but he is also notorious for his past work advertising for the cosmetics industry. I have my own grudge to bear against Coil, his advert for Clairol Corporation's Mane-Ribbon oil having cost me a girlfriend in university. I don't hold this against Previa, of course, but it has always given me a rather ambiguous attitude towards the charity's work. Not my most level-headed attitude. I mention Bellami to Previa, and am pleased to learn that it is also not as enamoured of him as their success as a partnership might imply.

"Uh, yeah. Well, Coil's Coil, right? He's been good for the charity, but there was a little tension between us. Certainly the first ti…

Art Pact 108 - The Previa Hemsfoot Interview, pt 2

There is a mantelpiece in the living room, although the fireplace inside it either never existed or has been bricked up and plastered over. Pride of place goes to a photo proving the meeting that Previa claimed: Markham Fothergill as an old man, already showing signs of the liver problems that would eventually claim his life. He looks pleased, and Previa looks happy - as though it has met a hero.

Markham Fothergill was not typical hero-fodder. Curmudgeonly, but not in a witty way that could be forgiven as a sign of genius, conservative in his views towards integration, in his early life even a member of a separatist group (Fortego, long since gone, its more liberal members dispersed into the community, the right-wing rolled into DKB and its equally objectionable splinters). Fothergill's degree in psychology led him eventually to work in the Toronto Baines clinic, where he was to meet the first example of a sufferer of the syndrome that would later take his name. Fothergill's …

Art Pact 107 - The Previa Hemsfoot Interview, pt 1

I meet Previa in its apartment, a neatly-kept five-room space on the third floor of a block that had once been offices. The exterior of the building is in a fairly advanced state of decay - the metal cladding that once covered it all the way down has (almost unthinkably) rusted near the top, and at the bottom to a height of about four or five meters the panels have been removed, presumably stolen for scrap by the local gangs. I note with interest that it is about as high as a normal ladder could reach, so the thieves must not have had access to a cherry picker. Under the cladding the building is a morbid grey, and the whole scene feels like some frightful photo from the new world, a dead body having its clothes slowly stolen, lying face-up in some slum in a parody of sun-bathing. Graffiti on the walls suggests that there are (or have been) DKB supporters in the area. I wonder why anyone would choose to live here, much less a Myrmian, much much less a Myrmian with Fothergill's Syn…

Art Pact 106

Our stakeout, now well into the fifth week, was beginning to take its toll. There were twelve of us on the team, three shifts of four, two cars per shift so that for eight hour stretches we sat with other person and tried to ignore the fact that we had exhausted all possible avenues of conversation a month ago. We were supposed to be radio silent, but after the first fortnight it became obvious that the target had absolutely nothing in the way of electronic equipment, hence there was no chance that they would pick up our transmissions. On day thirty-two I was switching shifts, so I had a double - the morning with Sutter, the afternoon with Evans. I took a book (Gross's Psychology, the textbook for the evening classes I'd had to cancel because of the case), and lay the passenger seat as flat as I could so that I could lay down along it and prop up the book on the back seat at the relevant page.

"You see Blue Court last night?" Sutter asked.

"No."

Wrong answ…

Art Pact 105

In the dug-out trench, clutching his rifle gloomily, Baggsie listened to Father Feldman giving the blessing to Carruthers and Strone. He put up with it as far as the speech went (there was little he could do to stop that, after all), but when Feldman came to make the mark of the fifty gods on Strone's forehead Baggsie slapped the big man's hand away angrily.

"Leave him alone, you goddamned vulture. Hasn't he done enough for us?"

Feldman withdrew his hand, but stayed close to Strone as he marked Carruthers's forehead. Carruthers himself shot Baggsie a dirty look, then closed his eyes for the final prayer. After that it took him another five minutes to die - an agonising gurgling five minutes which Baggsie tried in vain to ignore. In Feldman's favour, at least the big man stayed with Carruthers to the very end, crouching over him protectively and holding his hands, whispering constantly to Carruthers about the reward he could look forward to in the afterli…

Art Pact 104 - Machine of Birth

"It's a new app," Mei told me, holding out her phone. "Jordan got it for me. He's on thin ice."

I looked at the screen. It didn't look particularly impressive. It was a single word, rendered beautifully in a serif font - I recognised that from graphic design class, so that'll show Chrissy the next time she gives my dad some blah blah about how I can't be taught. What does she know?

SAMBUCA

"Is this something to do with AA?" I asked suspiciously. Mei's parents are constantly going on and on at her about drinking at parties, they're strict as. She scrunched up her lips and frowned at me, which she doesn't realise makes her look like her mother. I didn't say it though. I wanted her to stay together with Jordan, and if she was already grumpy later on when she saw him...

"It's a new app," she said slowly. "Apps for old lushes are one hundred percent yesterday."

"What does it do?"

"It tel…

Art Pact 103

We entered the library through the third-floor window. Either the ground had piled up around it or the entire building had sunk, so that the windowsill was actually about a foot below ground level, and we were forced to step down and bend awkwardly to get under the upper half of the sliding window frame - empty of glass except for a few shards trapped around its edge, but held solidly in place by some hidden nail or perhaps a warping of the outer frame. As I passed underneath it I felt my back scratch across the underside, and a shower of paint flakes fell behind me.

"Careful," Taspet said. I rolled my eyes at her, then stepped down onto a chair on the other side of the window and then to the debris-littered floor of an administrator's office. She clambered in behind me, and Raffla behind her, and it was only when we were all in that I realised that the chair was not where I might have expected it to be.

"Someone's been here before."

"They can't ha…

Art Pact 102

"I suppose," said Brightman, "that a person has at some point to plant a flag."

Rogers looked at him, bleary-eyed, and tried to focus. They had been drinking heavily, and now his eyes seemed to be under the control of some malignant operator who adjusted their lenses nearer and further, so that the objects along the rough line between him and Brightman swam in and out of clarity - first the half-empty pint-glass that Brightman was holding up near to his face, ready for his next swig, then the man's round magenta face itself, and the two thin lips trapped on its surface as though abducted from some other face at an early age, finally the light-up sign on the bar-room wall that advertised Heineken.

"Oh?" said Rogers, leaving his mouth open so that he could add something. After a few seconds he realised that the bon mot which he had been preparing was utter gibberish, and he closed his mouth again, embarrassed but at least relieved that he was not so fa…

Art Pact 101

On the top of the mountain sat a pile of stones, a salt-and-pepper collection of granite, chalk, and flint pieces, rounded by wind and water into smooth fist-shaped pieces. It had stood there for hundreds of years by the time the little group reached it. They sheltered in its lee from the northerly winds and looked back at the way they had come.

There was no doubt about it - the waters were rising, and rising fast. To the far south the could no longer see the familiar inward curve of the bay - now a ragged line of white cut across the land, separating the ever-shrinking green of farmlands and woods from the endless gunmetal grey sea beyond. Of the city only the very tips of the towers remained, poking out of the choppy water, and a rhythmic flickering that was the fire at the top of the lighthouse. The attendant had kept his promise, then - marking the site of the port as long as it was possible to prevent ships from colliding with the submerged buildings and perhaps draw the attenti…

Art Pact 100

It was the morning in the suburb, and fire sprites danced from rubbish-bin to rubbish-bin, leaving behind them melted plastic lids and the acrid scent of smoldering waste. Cats watched them from the safety of the spaces between double-glazed windows and net curtains, feline breath misting up the glass in front of them as their eyes tracked the bright spots from one bin to the next, ever alert. In the Wilkinson's house their own cat Damson let her tail flick idly as she watched, sending ripples up the fine lace material of the net to her back, and thought more about her plan to catch one of the things.

Damson the Tortoiseshell, her peers called her, or if they were of that set of disrespectful half-growns who thought of all older cats as irrelevant furniture, Damson the Tortoise. She herself preferred Damson the Calico, since she had been born in the new world before the Wilkinsons had moved their family back to their old house in the grey drear of Slough, and she liked to pepper h…

Art Pact 99

It became clear to us that what we were seeing was actually some kind of religious ceremony, a revelation that sent the ethnographers on the orbiter into an excited frenzy. A machinegun stream of (sometimes contradictory) demands came down to the camera bots, as the scientists changed and rechanged their minds about what waqs hte most important aspect of the ritual to focus on. They seemed to be finding endless nuances and intricacies among the crowd, although to me it just looked as though they had arranged themselves pretty much randomly along the beach front, all facing out into the choppy but slightly odd waves that covered the surface of the sea.

"We should probably move back a bit," Vincenzo suggested. "I mean, what if they're precious about it?"

The boffins backed him up, Karenova in particular pointing out that segregation in Earth religions was extremely common, a fact which she explained to me as if I had been born on moon. When I sarcastically asked…

Art Pact 98

"A full-frontal assault," Henni says, holding her hands out as if she has a pistol in one hand and is steadying her aim with the other, "on the youth market." She mimes pulling the pin out of a grenade with her teeth, then lobbing the imaginary explosive over the boardroom table. I imagine it bouncing once off the lip of the table's painfully shiny polished mahogany surface, leaving a scratch that the furniture restorers would be called in to deal with immediately. Then it would fly through the open door, coming to rest in the little space outside the boardroom where the coffee machine is. Two temps are blown to smithereens. They can't be repaired or restored. They'd simply be replaced by the agency.

Henni is standing still again - as still as she ever gets, of course. Her hands are on her hips, defiant, and she shifts her weight from leg to leg every few seconds so that her arse cheeks dance side to side beneath the edge of her tailored jacket. She lo…

Art Pact - Brief Pause

I am currently doing a story for submission as my daily writing, so I'm not posting here. Normal service will resume in a couple of days...

Art Pact 97

The next day, at first light, the human was back. Loso, the least wary of the group, walked to where the thickset creature was sitting and nodded to it, gesturing it to stand up. Again, the thing's size was unnerving - a head taller than Loso, its two upper limbs lumpy and misshapen with muscles.

"We don't want it walking around like that," the abbots had said in the half-light of the previous evening's meeting. "Hopefully it won't return, but we can't have it carrying things."

"It's strong," Loso and Conyiad had argued. "We couldn't have carried that many blocks so fast. If it comes back, why not use it?"

"It's a disturbance," the abbots insisted.

That had been the end of the argument. Nothing could break the peace of the construction site, that was the rule and they would stick to it as much as possible. Sectarian nonsense, Loso thought, but there was no-one he thought sufficiently of his mind to sponsor t…