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Showing posts from August, 2012

Art Pact 216 - Underwater

Bigger by far than the tanks I was towing were the two huge air tanks attached to the side of the little drone. It buzzed along behind us, its motors making a low thrumming noise quite unlike the high-pitched electric whine they'd made at the surface. The tanks either side of it were almost as large as the drone itself, man-sized tanks with heavy-duty connectors at each end. At the forward end the connectors had been used to attach multi-regulator heads, attachments that would allow two men to breath from the front of the tank - purely a precaution in case any of our suits went out, although we had used them briefly when the time came to change over Alexander's tank and refresh his supply. We'd left the empty sitting on the seabed with a responder beacon, a super-bright bulb that would flash when it received a ping from a friendly device. It would lay hidden until we came to retrieve it, helping to keep our mission secret. I was much more worried about the sound of the dr…

Art Pact 215 - Sub-basement

In the first cellar under the house there was a great woven wool rug, a heavy thing of rich but not bright colours, so constructed that it was just over one and a half times as long as it was wide, a feature that my mother tried to remind me on many occasions was the golden ratio much talked of in antiquity. As a child, erudite though I might have been, I was unprepared to deal with the full weight of the artistic and mathematical implications of this fact, and I dismissed it with a roll of the eyes every time after the first. The first time I heard it, of course, I nodded and became - as parlance has it - all ears, as attentive a young child as has ever hung upon the words of its dam or sire, recording the phrase for later use so that I might confound the expectations of my childhood friends or impress those more educated members of the adult class that I might meet. Teachers especially I delighted in amazing with my vocabulary and grasp on matters more usually reserved for the prod…

Art Pact 214 - Odd Conspiracy

I had discovered a conspiracy - although the nature of the conspiracy was so strange, and its aims seemingly so pointless, that the very word seemed wrong. Conspiracy implied to me a smokey backroom filled with arcane geniuses manipulating the world for their own sinister aims, but the conspirators here seemed to be nothing more than middle-aged idiots, the kind of corporate nobodies that formed the undifferentiated matrix in which traditional conspirators might have floated. If you'd met any one of them individually you would be convinced that there was nothing more interesting going on in their head than the patio extension and last night's episode of Top Gear, but somehow they had managed to arrange themselves into a cabal capable of doing such a complicated and unlikely thing as ensuring that the price of staple-removers remained in a narrow band bounded by £3.49 at its floor and £4.25 at its ceiling. A little digging - now that I knew the names of the main conspirators -…

Art Pact 213 - The Puppet Dragon

Sir Cloister trod carefully into the clearing. Around him the smouldering skeletons of trees formed a perfect circle, as if they had once been distributed evenly throughout the glade but had backed away in horror from some disaster that had occurred in the middle of their ring. The air was quiet - no wind, just the distant call of a songbird high in the sky and the gentle crunch of undergrowth as the knight moved closer, ever closer to the ground zero in the centre of the empty area. There was the stone, just as the seer had told him, and beside the stone the great open mouth of the monster's lair, the den to which it had retreated with the princess, possibly with the gold it had inexplicably taken from the kingdom's coffers.

He moved as swiftly as he could without causing too much extra noise, and soon gained the relative security of the stone, which he placed between himself and the hole, although not without a certain nervousness about whether the creature were flying abov…

Art Pact 212 - Eviction

We'd come to the last branch of the tree, standing underneath it in the remotest outpost of shade that the plant could offer us, and turned to look back at the house. Marshall Flowers was still standing there - still looking at us with that mixture of pity and conviction that he'd had from the moment Justice had opened the door. He nodded, just the very slightest tip of his head, but he did not look away from us for all the time that we were stood there. I don't know what he thought we might do. Assume that he'd gone and make a beeline back? There was no hope of us getting back inside, and even if we did the bailiffs would just have him break in again. It would be a kindness to him, I thought, not to make him go through all that again. Besides, it wouldn't be good for the children. Just more false hope for them. They'd lost so much, it wouldn't be fair to make them go through it all again. They'd need their strength, I supposed.

"Remember it, kids…

Art Pact 211 - In Orbit

When a fortnight had passed, we went over central Europe again.

"Hey, I can see your house!"

I glanced over at Critz, who was pointing excitedly down at some microscopic spec on the landmass slowly rotating under us. Could he actually see my house, or was he just making a joke? His understanding of human idioms had increased vastly over the previous two weeks, so he could just have been parroting something he'd heard elsewhere. On the other hand, it was not completely impossible that he could indeed see all the way down to the surface. His eyes were certainly better than mine - as well they should have been, given how big and numerous they were - and I supposed that if a spy satellite were able to see my house there was no reason why a living thing shouldn't be able to. I checked the continent - it was only patchily visible under a great mass of cloud, but I could see the boot of Italy and the outswelling bulge of southern Spain, so tracking up there were definitely…

Art Pact 210 - Petral Park

Petral Park was a large parcel of land on the north side of the city, in the shape of a circle with its top and bottom removed, an area which the town planners idiomatically described as a "fat square". It would not have been a true circle had it not been decapitated and depeditated, more a flattened ellipse. The truncation - caused on the north side by the coast and on the south side by the Miltown to Capitol railway line - resulted in the park's exterior having four obtuse angles and no acute ones, a situation which was responsible for the confusion of many a young park-goer mislead by the inaccurate depiction of the park as a stylised square on the twenty-year-old map and information boards scattered around the perimeter of the territory.

Visitors often expressed surprise at the linear nature of the coast which bounded it on the north side, but those aware of the history of the park (and indeed of Miltown in general) knew that the answer was more than a hundred years…

Art Pact 209 - The Body

It was an hour before I could move. I knew this because the church bell was ringing when I found him, and it rang again as I finally managed to reach out an arm and touch it gently against his throat. His skin was cold, clammy from the mist in the air that had fallen on him. I think perhaps until that moment I had hoped that he was just sleeping, but that touch dispelled all vain hopes in an instant. He was dead, of course, and all of my hopes for him, my dreams, had died with him. That was a strange thought - to realise that something had died within me, and that at the time I had not known it. Shouldn't I have felt my heart breaking, my dreams collapsing into dust? Shouldn't I have looked up from my book, frozen in my stride, jerked uneasily from a deep sleep? What had I been doing when he had gone, I wondered? Had I been thinking about him? Or had I just been going about my business, completely unaware that the obsession that had grown to take up its own life within my min…

Art Pact 208 - Mermaid Revenge

There wasn't a man-jack of the complement who had the slightest sense of humour about the whole situation, but I tried to soldier on regardless of their intractability, using a little levity here and there in an attempt to make the rest of the journey a little more bearable. The trouble was that without the sails there was no way of judging quite how long the journey would actually be. We were still moving - the captain kept reminding everyone that the current would take us all the way to the coast eventually - but it was very difficult to judge our speed, and the quartermaster reminded us every day that we had only taken aboard enough supplies to last us for the journey as originally planned.

Of course, there were solutions to that - we had plenty of water surrounding us, and although it was not quite fresh water, it was considerably less salty than the ocean, and potable without danger of illness. The overlake was also remarkably well stocked with fish, silvery pilchard-like cr…

Art Pact 207 - What's his name?

What's the name of that guy who works on the hotdog stand at the Odeon? You know the one, the one who was always trying to hit on Alyss every time we tried to get those... uh, what were those sweets we were mad on? It wasn't maltesers, something like that? Began with an M. Oh year, minstrels. God, I hate the orange ones. I know, Alyss used to think that I was weird, but it all worked out. I like the coffee ones. Hmm, I just thought - isn't that racist? I mean, minstrels. Isn't that..? Oh, I don't know.

Anyway, you know the one I mean, don't you? About so tall. You know, always hitting on Alyss, like every time we were there. So annoying, I mean - you know what it's like, they always think they've got a chance with Alyss just because of her - you know - and they never realise that she's just so totally out of their league that a little bit of soap isn't going to get them anywhere. He was the worst of the bunch. I kept telling her she could wait,…

Art Pact 206 - Birds Eye View

The ground glided along underneath me, green patches of garden interspersed with the red-tiled shapes of houses, all bound into neat little plots that were themselves separated by the grey-black rivers of tarmac. I flew through the thin columns of smoke that wafted up from barbecues, through patches of faint perfume that had spread out from flowerbeds until they were almost too weak to detect, through the little eddies and whorls that spun away from the exhausts of central heating units. I looked down on a little gathering that from this height looked like ants.

I swooped down a little closer. Yep, ants. I landed.

Ants are funny things to eat. You have to peck at them quickly, which takes a stable stance, but you also have to do a little dance while you're standing there so that the little buggers don't climb up your legs and start biting your privates. It really is quite uncanny how they know to have a go at you under the wings or around the edge of your cloaca. I suppose th…