Picture Challenge Story

The challenge: to write 500 words about this picture. I went for an exact word count.

 

A chill spread across the land as the wind blew in from the sea. The trees shivered in response, awaiting the opening of the skies. A clap of thunder heralded the threat, but the promise of rain was enough to make the trees tremble with excitement. The clouds were dark and heavy, ready to burst, ready to shower the land. A glimmer of light flickered through the clouds. Not lightning, but the Sun itself, forcing its way through, threatening to overthrow the darkness, to dry up the rain before it had begun.

The trees grew restless. They had need of sunlight, they had need of rain, yet where did their loyalties lie? ‘Who cares about the rain?’ cried one youthful tree, merely a sapling not three years since, ‘there are all sorts of rivers and lakes around here’. The elder trees were not at all impressed, after what seemed like an age one of them replied, ‘you know nothing of the replenishment of the soil, young one, you know nothing of drought, though perhaps one would do you well.’ The outspoken younger tree rocked in the wind, deep in thought. ‘I heard thunder, what if there’s lightning?’ A susurration swept through the forest, for the electric threat was all too familiar to some of the older trees, and the younger had heard terrible tales of flames and fear. ‘You’ll be begging for rain if fire catches,’ declared a particularly stout tree who had seen his fair share of flames.

The argument raged back and forth in the bustling wind, until one of the oldest trees in the woodland pointed out that it was not in their control, but that whatever happened there would be good and bad. They fell silent, but for the wind buffeting them to and fro, and watched as the battle between light and cloud commenced. The contrast of the dull clouds and the pure light cast strange serpentine shapes in the sky. They appeared almost to be writhing, attempting to strangle the Sun and subdue it. Screams echoed across the land from the serpent’s many mouths as the heads were forced apart. The Sun was winning, forcing its way through the vaporous vipers, illuminating the forest below.

In the distance the skies grew darker and heavier as the clouds were forced back by the Sun. Before long their hissing could be heard as they proclaimed defeat and released their rain elsewhere. The light of the Sun was soaked up by the trees, young and old, as they began to discuss the hostility in the heavens.  The young trees could not hold back their excitement, nor could they stop themselves from gloating. The older tree shook slightly, ‘let them have their moment,’ he thought, ‘for soon they will be dreaming of rain, wishing for the return of the serpents. The sounds of thunder may yet be the music they choose to dance to, if they ever should feel the fire of dragons or the damage of drought.’

Possible writing project

I recently had an idea for writing which I might actually follow through with. Normally I have big ideas and never get round to starting them, but with this I want it to be different. I intend to write some zombie apocalypse fiction, well aware that it is popular at the moment and that it seems like a bandwagon I’m jumping on. In a sense it is, as my love for zombies waxes and wanes every so often, depending on how much I immerse myself in the fiction. I took part in 2.8 Hours Later last year and would thoroughly recommend it, especially if you love zombie fiction. My current interest is not due to World War Z, though I have seen it and did enjoy it, though I wouldn’t exactly think of it as a zombie film. It is because I finally got round to watching The Walking Dead and have even managed to get my hands on the comics, which I am thoroughly enjoying.

Last year I wrote a zombie short story, which you can read here. I’d figured out some of the logistics of a zombie threat, hinted at mostly, though one of my main ideas turned out not to be as original as I’d hoped. I went for the fungal-infection version of zombies, which appears to be becoming popular. The rage virus types would scare the crap out of me, but I wouldn’t call them zombies. I prefer the slow, lumbering types. My more recent short story is meant to be more touching and is set towards the end of the major conflicts, or at least well into them.

I’m thinking of writing a series of short stories which will be collected as a larger whole. They are provisionally called Where Were You? but I am considering changing that. Some will be very short, others will be quite long, and will each be about a character at the time of a zombie outbreak. Each story will explore what it was like for them to survive in the place they happen to have been at the time. I’ve been thinking of how much luck would be involved in such a scenario. There are times in my life where I know that I would have stood little to no chance, whereas in some locations or with certain people there are more possibilities for survival. At a music festival, for example, I’d have been completely overwhelmed, whereas those rare occasions spent on an army base would have improved things somewhat. My main decisions now involve style and localities.

Unnamed short story

This was my latest entry in a Facebook short story competition, I don’t think I got any votes this time. I can’t be bothered to give it a name. I actually got to choose one of the topics, but ran out of time to submit my choice (they used something from a comment I had made which wasn’t completely serious and didn’t change it later when I had an idea).  The topic choices were:

“1) A soldier (male or female) returning from war and the reception by those at home. The war can be past, present, future or fictional.

2) Amnesia – take it any direction you want. ”

Enjoy…

 

The street was empty, fortunately. The front gate was only slightly open, a good sign, I thought. I crept carefully past the side of the house and noticed that the back gate was still closed. I used the wooden gate to help myself get up onto the shed next to it, allowing me to check the back garden. It was clear. The back door to the house was wide open. I’d left it open only a crack but expected it to have moved. I carefully dropped down off the shed and made my way back to the front of the house with my crossbow ready. Underneath my old bedroom window was a ledge, with a chest height wall nearby. I slung the crossbow over my shoulder, easily lifted myself on to the low wall, and then reached up to the ledge to prepare myself for the difficult part. I spotted some movement near the garages opposite my house, a safe distance away, but I couldn’t resist having a shot. The bolt flew from the crossbow and lodged itself in his brain. I never miss, at least not when they aren’t chasing me. I made a mental note to collect the bolt later; it would probably be broken, but was worth collecting nonetheless.

I struggled to lift myself onto the ledge, scraping my chin and arms in the process. I wasn’t as agile as I used to be, when I’d sneak off out of the house after being grounded. I’d left the window open a crack, just enough so that others wouldn’t notice it. I opened the window as far as it would go and threw the crossbow onto the bed at the other side. Hauling myself through took a lot more effort, I felt like I was going to tear myself in two when I rested all of my weight on my stomach, but I made it through eventually. My bedroom was unchanged, so I carefully and quietly gathered a few supplies. I had a couple of survival guides, some weaponry which was mostly useful for display but could come in handy, a first aid kit I used to use whilst camping, an old torch which needed fixing, and considered taking a guitar as they are always useful for boosting morale. I left them all on the bed, except for one of the swords, and tried the door.

The door had been locked from the outside using a very simple lock. I knew that I had to make some noise to open it, there was no way around that, so I pulled as hard as I could. In the silence of the house it sounded like an explosion, I struggled to keep calm, but nothing came. I breathed a sigh of relief, then stopped breathing when I saw her. She was lying outside my room, not moving, she looked as though she was sleeping. Her fur couldn’t hide the bones that had become prominent through her skin. As my eyes began to well, I forced myself to step carefully over her body, so that I could check every room in the house. The whole place was untidy and stank, but each room was empty. In the kitchen the sink had overflowed, but the tap was no longer dripping. I’d left it to steadily fill up so that they wouldn’t struggle to find water.

I saw no sign of the other dog, she must have escaped. She was capable of climbing the high back wall, but she must have been petrified or desperate in order to do so. She could still be out there and I might never find her. I felt sick. I gave myself a moment and resisted drinking from the water in the sink. My whole body was shaking as I returned upstairs. She always waited outside my room when I was in there, and she was still waiting, even though she was gone. I cradled her body in my arms, slumped against the wall, and wept. I remembered the welcome home I used to get; even when I had only been gone for half an hour they would throw themselves at me, wanting to lick my face, wagging their tails, their whole bodies wriggling in excitement. This time there was no such welcome. I tried to take comfort in the thought that she had not been attacked or eaten, but all I could think of was her starving to death waiting for my return. She’d always loved food. She used to beg for it too much, but I’d have given anything to have her annoying me, pestering for leftovers.

I tried to tell myself that I did the right thing. If I had taken them with me we would almost certainly have all died. Those… things, they were attracted to sound, and my dogs are noisy creatures. Were noisy creatures. I felt selfish, I felt like I should have given them a chance with me. Other dogs had survived with their owners, but I panicked and fled, leaving them without food. They were my family, I had a responsibility to look after them, and I failed. I don’t know what I expected. I deserved no fanfare, but I still had hope. Even with the dead stalking you, their companionship would make it bearable. I came looking for something to live for, I came looking for the love they gave, but found only death. That’s all there was in this world – death. It was the only constant, whether the dead got to you or you were simply unable to live in this world, death was the only guarantee.

I looked down at the animal in my arms, she’d waited for me, but the other got away. There was some slim hope. I kissed her forehead, tears streaming down my face, and whispered “Goodbye”. I laid her down gently, found a blanket in a nearby cupboard and wrapped her up in it. There might still be time to find the other alive; I might still get that fanfare.

Low Spirits

This was an odd competition as only two of us entered so we both became default winners. Before it was announced there were hints that the topic would include ghosts, which gave me some trepidation as I cannot take them seriously. Due to me inability to take ghosts seriously I realised that I could write the story as humour, which led to around 600 words just flowing straight away. Then the competition was actually announced and the topic wasn’t simply ghosts, but had to include humour, sex, or both. This bothered me because it meant that my story might not stand out, but then the topic was changed due to some confusion and became simply ghosts. This was my contribution.

Low Spirits

Night was drawing closer, like the scribbling of a small child who has discovered the ability to make marks on paper with a pen. Two men were standing, surveying a grisly scene. Their faces were similar, though one of the men was substantially larger and hairier than the other, looking as though one day he had eaten three of his friend and the universe decided that “you are what you eat” should be taken quite literally for a moment. The larger of the two showed little interest in the crimson carnage at the foot of the cliff, most of which was the car, whilst the smaller looked close to tears. “Do you believe in ghosts?” he asked his hirsute companion.

“A right load of bollocks, if you ask me, Pete,” came the reply.

“I was asking you.”

“Well then now you know; ghosts aren’t real.”

“I don’t know how to say this, but I think we are ghosts, Carl.”

Carl laughed, his beard shaking, “Why on Earth would you believe such nonsense?”

Pete pointed at the wreck in front of them, “Well, I think those two bodies are ours.” He gestured towards a slim corpse just outside the car and a larger, hairier corpse which was too big to have been ejected during the crash.

Carl scratched his beard and looked pensive for a moment. “I always thought that you were a handsome man, but you make a bloody ugly corpse, look at your face, it’s a right state!”

“I don’t think that’s my face,” Pete responded, “it might be my elbow.”

Carl continued to laugh, “Anatomy was never your strong suit, or so your wife tells me.”

Pete looked horrified, “A joke about my wife, at a time like this?”

“What does time mean to a ghost?” Carl pointed out. “What are ghosts meant to do anyway?”

“Why are you asking me?”

“You’re the expert, I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“Well, I don’t know,” Pete pondered for a moment, or at least he looked like he was pondering, he may have been getting gassy, if ghosts can even get gassy, “maybe we have unfinished business.”

“I’m going to sneak into changing rooms and watch women getting undressed,” said Carl with a hungry look on his face, which appeared to be his default setting. It is no surprise that his ghost beard had bits of chicken from a past meal, tangled in the hairs. Somewhere out there is the ghost of a chicken, looking to be reunited with parts of its limbs.

Pete appeared to be furious, “We die and all you want to do is be a pervert?”

Carl was unfazed by the anger, “Unfinished business. I’ve not seen nearly enough naked women and now I have the power of invisibility, isn’t that what everyone wants to do when they become invisible?”

Pete gave this some thought for a while, “The best idea I read was to beat up a mime.”

“Can we move things? Are we pole-vaulters?”

“You mean poltergeists.”

“Yeah, them, I wonder if we can work out. If I sneak into a changing room in a gym I may as well use the equipment, I need to get in shape and I can spook people at the same time, it’s a win-win-win situation.”

“There’s a lot we have to learn.” Pete looked close to tears again, possibly having gone full circle through all the emotions he could muster. “What do you think the funeral will be like?”

“Mine will be better than yours, more people will cry, and then there will be a massive piss-up. I hope we can get pissed too.” Carl was wondering what beer tastes like for ghosts and thought about making a joke about spirits.

“We’re brothers; we’ll have the same funeral.”

“I’ll be there to comfort your wife, you’re out of the picture now and I’m sure she was only with you to get to me.”

“You’re a ghost too, you idiot.”

“I told you, I don’t believe in ghosts.”

Carl watched as his brother stormed off, unable to decide whether to follow or to wait for the emergency services to arrive at the scene, which might have allowed him to hop into one of the vehicles and get a lift to somewhere closer to town. Eventually he decided to head up to the road at the top of the cliff, as it was better than doing nothing; ghosts should always be doing something, that just made sense to him. Whilst at the top of the cliff he considered throwing himself off again. He’d never been bungee jumping and this was surely much more extreme, even though ghosts couldn’t die. Or could they? Carl decided not to risk it, as he’d hate to become non-existent like fairies, dragons, and ghosts. He’d never really figured life out and would be damned if he could not figure out this strange post-mortem existence, perhaps even literally. As Carl looked down at the bodies below he decided to have some fun, picking up a rock and hurling it at Pete’s body. But nothing happened. Carl had to face the fact that as a pole-vaulter he would never touch and feel again. No more sex. No more food. No more sex. No more drink. No more sex. Not that he really got much, but it upset him nonetheless. The ghost of Carl collided with the floor at the bottom of the cliff with the same amount of force exerted in a staring competition.

As the Sun set, giving off colours which suggest that the child had discovered crayons, Carl morosely shuffled home, a failure in life and a failure in death, unable to even kill himself a second time, though he might have been responsible for the first. Several cars sped straight through his body, if you could even call it a body, clearly unable to see him. He’d have given anything for a car to swerve, even if it took them off the road, that way he could have a few friends, mentoring them in the way of the ghost, which Carl thought sounded like a form of Kung Fu involving blowing on your attacker and making eerie noises. Bouncing off of a bonnet would have been a God-send. As Carl walked into the town he passed through a bus full of passengers, a couple of people jogging, two old ladies having a loud conversation about some youth who had spat at them, a young woman walking a dog, and a youth who was spitting at old ladies.

The streets were all familiar, yet seemed so strange and unreal to Carl. He wasn’t sure where to go as his ghost pockets held no ghost keys so he couldn’t go home, not that they’d have worked anyway. After a short while of wandering, probably not long at all when Carl’s attention span is considered, he spotted something which cheered him up: the local swimming baths, nearing closing time. A group of young people with wet hair and the distinct smell of chlorine were walking through one of the open doors, but Carl went straight for the closed door next to them, bouncing off of it like a ghost bouncing off of a door, if you believe in ghosts. He dusted himself off, removing no dust as he was a ghost, and waded through the kids at the open door. Carl headed straight for the changing rooms, making sure to pick the right one, which was of course the wrong one as Carl could never be mistaken for a woman. The room was completely empty, so he decided to get some sleep inside an open locker.

Carl wasn’t sure if he was dozing off or not, as he was mostly wondering how he could close his eyes at all, considering his eyelids were now translucent. His wondering was interrupted by the closing of the locker by the caretaker, trapping him inside. Instead of panicking, which he decided is a bit useless when you are dead, Carl saw the brighter side of the situation – he could get some undisturbed sleep in here and would wake up to naked women getting ready for a swim.

Hours of thinking about eyelids passed by before Carl heard any signs of life, which caused him to wonder what signs of death sound like, concluding that they sounded like him. He had spent some time pondering the possibility that he was a ghost, and then went back to thinking about eyelids. The voices he heard were not women, which panicked Carl until he remembered his rule about ghosts not panicking. He pressed his ear up against the locker to listen to the conversation.

“What are we doing with these lockers?”

“Scrap yard I think, they’ve been here since I were a lad, who’d want them?”

Carl spent the rest of the day being tossed about, thrown into what felt like the back of a van for much of the time. He had a new goal in death. He would find whoever made up the rules for ghosts and give them a good telling off, maybe a slap if that was within the rules, for who in their right mind would allow cars and people to pass through a ghost, yet not allow ghosts to pass through doors and walls and lockers? And that rule about not panicking, that one annoyed him the most.

The Dance

The short story theme this time was “a life changing decision”. I didn’t get any votes this time, ah well.

The Dance

The first was the One, and he taught the dance. The Ancients learnt their steps patiently, dancing at first the dance of light. Solo they moved, spreading to the furthest reaches, pushing light into the darkness, following the rhythm of the One. His guidance led them to one other, teaching them the ways to move their bodies to create beauty and harmony, building the dance in complexity. They grew in knowledge and love of one another, memorising each move, forging unity in a dazzling swirl which shall never fade from memory. Their bodies moved with increasing intensity as they filled the darkness with light and colour. But the One had never the intention to be the sole leader of the dance. All that is would use his steps, yet would repeat them to their own desires.

He displayed to the Ancients a beautiful dance, full of splendour and harmony, with bodies moving in ways which they had never thought possible, yet he did not teach them these ways. They saw a world take form, with bodies seeming to collide yet keeping their grace. They met one another and each transformed the dance of their partners, guiding them into a dizzying spin, full of power and intensity. More entered the dance, and the Ancients saw oceans form, moving to the most incredible rhythms. They witnessed continents join the routine, rising and falling, moving with the water and against it. They pushed each other to new heights, the air blew over the lands and waters, and they took the dance in new directions, building and building with unceasing beauty.

The One said, “This is what may become, but you must dance your own dance and create in my name, for I shall be sending others when the stage is set.” And with that message he sent forth the Ancients to dance their own dance, but for one of their number. He chose for himself a favoured one; the most beautiful of all the Ancients, for the stage was not set. The favoured one was not able to understand, and so kept a partner, refusing to let go, not wishing to dance alone. The other Ancients were astonished and feared the wrath of the One, for disobedience leads to chaos in the Great Dance. They were not of the knowledge that this was all in keeping with the One’s will.

They were clumsy in beginning, striving desperately to do as they had seen. They danced and they danced, day and night, and times came when it was almost as beautiful as that which they had been shown. But they faltered, not often, but enough to cause them dismay, for the perfection of the dance of the One was always beyond reach. Some of the Ancients tried to learn new steps, and the Earth shook and cracked, the seas roared and clashed, the air blew violently over the land and seas, where even fire did spew forth. The dance continued, yet not the dance of their desires. The Ancients feared that the One would end their dance without sending the favoured one, but he showed no such displeasure. He waited, for the right moment drew near, and commanded the favoured one. “You shall be life,” he said, “And you shall dance with unparalleled elegance, filling the world with new dancers, and they will learn your dance.”

And so it was that life entered the world, spreading far and wide. Life’s partner followed and they began their dance slowly and steadily. The Ancients were in awe of Life and rejoiced in her every move. The dance of Life changed the ways of the waters, where her dance had begun. It transformed the air and moved steadily over the land. Her partner followed, obsequious in her shadow, constantly in line, constantly guided. He grew jealous of Life. He wanted for himself the ability to change the dance and win praise from the other Ancients. It built inside him as his partner grew in confidence, adding new dimensions to the dance. As he followed Life he learnt from her the ways of creation, of how to move in new ways.

The tension and envy built, dwelling close to the surface of his heart. All of the other Ancients were creating, yet he only followed, and eventually he found the courage to try something new. At first these steps confused Life, but she recovered gracefully, moving with them and adapting to the changes. Her partner started to try to lead the dance, but she would allow no such thing. The tension they created transformed all, pushing Life to her limits, which she always surpassed. The dance of the Ancients would never be the same, as Life and her partner exploded in confidence and courage. Their dance swarmed the seas from the depths to the shores. They caressed the land and transformed its face. They took to the skies and grew in the confidence that there were no limits, seeing their future in the stars. The One had willed it all. They performed, thinking for themselves, and the One smiled.

Occasions arose when Life and her partner would lose control and the dance would come close to a halt. But Life was learned in the ways of the One and she kept the rhythm flowing, taking the lead over her reckless partner. She led many dancers and they were blessed with their own abilities, each one as precious as the next. They danced in the seas and on the lands, in the air and looking to the stars. From them came new dancers, some of which were able to lead their own dances. The One saw this and chose to complete the dance, for his will to be done in fullness. He came down into the dance and he was Love. He filled the new dancers and danced with Life, sharing in the dance with her partner and all of the Ancients, to a rhythm which will be without end.

Roulette

The competitions are back on, so that means more content here from me. The theme this time was exceptionally broad, being simply “horror”. Considering my past output this could have been perfect for me, but I honestly struggled to get ideas. I got a fair few likes for my story, but didn’t win (I’ve won none so far). Here is my entry:

Roulette

It was night when they came. I put up a fight, tried to resist, but there were too many of them. When I regained consciousness all I could see was black. I was struggling to breathe, there was a cover over my head, my ribs felt sore, and my nose had been broken in the fray. My hands were tightly bound behind my back and my legs strapped firmly to the uncomfortable chair on which I was sitting. I could hear others around me, sounds of muffled panic and pathetic attempts to move surrounded me, but nothing else, until I heard footsteps. Several people had entered the room, the sounds of their feet echoed, moving in unison. Their movements sounded deliberate and organised. The sack was forcefully wrenched from my head and my eyes struggled to adjust to the light.

Every one of them looked petrified, some had even wet themselves. There were eight of us sitting in a circle, strapped to chairs which were bolted to the floor. Behind each one of us was a figure clad in black from head to toe, whilst another man wearing a suit and balaclava set up a small table and placed a briefcase on top. He removed several syringes and proceeded to go around each prisoner, forcing whatever poison it contained into each of us. I felt the needle slide into my neck with the mixture of pain and pleasure of penetration, leaving me feeling violated and scared.

After he returned the empty syringes to his briefcase he started talking. He sounded excited. He told us that we were part of a game, sort of like Russian Roulette, and that most of us had been given a harmless drug. We would all react differently to it, ranging from no effects at all through to terrifying hallucinations. One person, however, had been infected. Something vile would grow inside them rapidly, eating them from the inside out, and they would be the starter in an eight course meal. In this game of Russian Roulette nobody wins. The man closed his briefcase, I could sense him smiling, as the bags were forced roughly onto our heads and everything went black again. Their footsteps echoed as they left the room to the sounds of a woman screaming.

I felt a pain in my stomach, as though it was being punched from the inside. I was helpless, I had been too tightly bound to the chair, I could only move my head and scream. The pain spread up into my chest and I vomited, filling the inside of the sack. My arms and legs were shaking and my head felt like it was going to explode. Why me? was the only thought which found its way through the excruciating pain. Then it stopped.

It wasn’t me. As the pain disappeared I could hear the screams of others, writhing in their seats. It wasn’t me, and that scared me more. It could all have been over, but now I would have to wait for it to happen to another, I would have to listen to it devour the rest of them one by one, wondering when it would reach me. That’s when I joined some of the others by wetting myself.

The person in the chair to my right was silent, not even breathing. His chair started rattling violently, his throat gargling, his bones crunching, and there was the sickening sound of tearing flesh. I felt something warm spray over me as I listened to a complete stranger being eaten from within, worrying only about what would happen to me when it finished with him. It finished quickly. I felt something writhing around my ankles, hot breath beating down through the cover on my head, something clawed wrap around my wrists, and I heard a noise which pierced my soul. I started to suffocate as I panicked, inhaling some of the vomit and choking on it. I felt as though this foul beast was engulfing me, wrapping around me. Its weight was overbearing and it felt moist. I feared every death I could imagine. It could tear me limb from limb, smash me to pieces, devour me slowly, slice through my flesh with ease, crush me, it could even drown me. Whatever was about to happen I just hoped it would be quick. Then it stopped.

I had fainted. Somehow I had survived. Did it only like to feed on conscious victims? Was there something else wrong with me? I was so confused, I was certain that I was about to die. I listened for signs of the beast but heard nothing, only the sounds of breathing. Others were alive, but how? I don’t know how long I sat listening, fearing that the beast would return, but eventually I lost consciousness again.

When I woke up I was strapped to a bed, more comfortable than the chair, though I could not even move my head. There were no other chairs in there and it looked like some sort of hospital room, with the typical antiseptic smell. Standing over me was the suited man, still wearing his balaclava. I could sense him smiling. His smug voice asked me lots of questions, at first forcing me to give an account of what happened in the room, but later asked questions about my personal life. He threatened to throw me back to the beast if I did not answer, so I told him everything, I could not handle such fear again. Then he laughed. He laughed at everything I had told him, then he scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to his assistant who promptly left the room. When he eventually stopped his cackling he started to tell me everything. Nothing in that room had been real. Nothing in my life had been real; they had completely manipulated my thoughts, implanted memories and forced foul dreams upon me. He would not tell me who ‘they’ were, but I hated them, from the pit of my stomach. My stomach. Why was I thinking about my stomach? I stopped paying attention to what the man was saying, it was too much to take.

When the man was eventually leaving the room he picked something up from somewhere over to the side and made his way back to my bed. It was a mirror. He laughed as he held it up so that I could see my reflection, first showing me the top of my head. Wires were hooked up to my brain, which was exposed, that’s how they were manipulating me. Then he showed my neck, but there was nothing else. I had no body, just tubes and wires everywhere. I had no body, just a head, and nothing which filled my mind was my own. That’s when I asked to be returned to the beast.

 

 

The Desperate Fate of Dunning-Kruger – Poem

Whilst out walking I wrote this quatrain based on my experiences of certain individuals on Facebook discussion boards.

 

His weapons of choice are bluster and scoff,
He likes to think that we feel his wrath.
His ego pumps up this strange illusion,
It is rare to find such a strong delusion.

Decisions – an old story

Another one from four or five years ago. More of a thought experiment than anything, though it does have some themes in common with some of my other stories.

Decisions

The bus was trundling along as per usual; I thumbed through my magazine in search of an article that might pique my interest, eventually stumbling on a piece about Hugh Everett.  Over the top of my magazine I saw a figure lumbering about with incessant music blaring from his mobile phone, so I glanced up for a better look; in front of me stood a tall, thin figure with harsh facial features, tracksuit style clothing, and a beanie despite the blissful weather outside. He caught my wandering eyes and slurred “What the fuck do you think you’re looking at?” I panicked and mumbled, “Nothing, sorry, I wasn’t looking at you,” and looked away as he laughed, increasing his swagger as he headed for the back seat of the bus. My heart was pounding, my palms sweating and I could no longer concentrate on the article, as I feared he might come back for more confrontation.

The bus was trundling along as per usual; I thumbed through my magazine in search of an article that might pique my interest, eventually stumbling on a piece about Hugh Everett.  Over the top of my magazine I saw a figure lumbering about with incessant music blaring from his mobile phone, so I glanced up for a better look; in front of me stood a tall, thin figure with harsh facial features, tracksuit style clothing, and a beanie despite the blissful weather outside. He caught my wandering eyes and slurred “What the fuck do you think you’re looking at?”  He was glaring at me to force me to respond. He had picked the wrong day, I wasn’t about to just lie down and take abuse from this nobody. “Not you” I said with derisive laughter in my voice “You aren’t my type; too fucking ugly!” The whole bus went silent as he moved towards me, though I did not feel scared as the adrenaline coursed through my veins. “You fucking what?” He responded aggressively. He was obviously trying to re-establish his dominance but I was not in the mood and took my chance. “If you don’t want fucking up I suggest you stay away from me.” I realised this wasn’t the most well crafted of threats but it appeared to suffice. He merely glared at me briefly, looked around at the shocked bus passengers and took a seat behind me.

I alighted the bus at my usual stop, which is a very short walk from my house through an area which few frequent. I could tell that the aforementioned thug was getting off the bus at my stop and knew I had to face him. He slurred yet more obscenities at me and I realised I had to fight him; something I had little experience with. I could almost feel the testosterone charging me, my hands shaking as I clenched my fist and prepared myself for the fight. I hesitated. Big mistake! He saw me coming a mile away and knocked me to the floor with three well timed punches. I had never been so disoriented in my life as I crashed to the floor in a heap, my pride bringing me down even further. Vulgarity spewed from his mouth as I curled into a ball to protect myself from his repeated kicks. Eventually he stopped, though I have no idea where he went; I was lying curled up in a pathetic ball, eyes firmly shut as I prayed for him to leave. I eventually staggered home and sat in silence, drowning in regret, weighed down by my dented ego.

The bus was trundling along as per usual; I thumbed through my magazine in search of an article that might pique my interest, eventually stumbling on a piece about Hugh Everett.  Over the top of my magazine I saw a figure lumbering about with incessant music blaring from his mobile phone, so I glanced up for a better look; in front of me stood a tall, thin figure with harsh facial features, tracksuit style clothing and a beanie, despite the blissful weather outside. He caught my wandering eyes and slurred “What the fuck do you think you’re looking at?”  He was glaring at me to force me to respond. He had picked the wrong day, I wasn’t about to just lie down and take abuse from this nobody. “Not you” I said with derisive laughter in my voice “You aren’t my type; too fucking ugly!” The whole bus went silent as he moved towards me, though I did not feel scared as the adrenaline coursed through my veins. “You fucking what?” He responded aggressively. He was obviously trying to re-establish his dominance but I was not in the mood and took my chance “If you don’t want fucking up I suggest you stay away from me.” I realised this wasn’t the most well crafted of threats but it appeared to suffice. He merely glared at me briefly, looked around at the shocked bus passengers and took a seat behind me.

I alighted the bus at my usual stop, which is a very short walk from my house through an area which few frequent. I could tell that the aforementioned thug was getting off the bus at my stop and knew I had to face him. I took my chances as quickly as I could and threw punch after punch at his pathetic excuse for a face. I had never hit anyone before and knew that my punches were weak, but the surprising barrage had him unconscious on the floor. I could hear my heart pounding in my head, my hands were shaking, and I had never felt anger like this before. The events which happened next felt like a dream or some bad film where the protagonist’s actions go unexplained. I picked up his limp body and carried it to my house, dumping him in my kitchen as I prepared another room. I laid out a sheet of plastic and placed a chair in the middle, barely taking my eyes off of him in case he stirred. I tied him up in the chair and waited, I wanted him to be awake, wanted to hear screams. I got out a toolbox full of rarely used appliances, some still in their original packages.

When he eventually awoke I sat in front of him, staring at the intense fear and confusion so evident in his eyes. I had stripped him completely naked and burnt his vile clothes for further humiliation. In my hands I caressed a pair of pliers as I decided which order to pull out his teeth. I forced his mouth open and he resisted, trying to scream for help, not realising that he was spurring me on. I gripped the first tooth in the pliers and began to pull, there was a sickening crack and I realised that I had failed to get it completely out. I felt the tooth resisting as I pulled harder and wrenched it free from its safe, gummy home. The scream of pain was like music to my madness, almost arousing. I continued with each of his teeth and every satisfying crack was accompanied by an even more satisfying blood-curdling scream. My skill at removing his teeth increased with each fresh pull and I discovered a variety of ways to cause him unimaginable pain in that vulgar orifice of his. Teeth were scattered around the room and my foresight to put down plastic proved fruitful as the blood spilt all over of it, staining all in this precious, life giving liquid.

With his teeth out of the way I was free to move on to the next target, known as ‘lingua’ in Latin. I crudely hacked at it, yanking it out of its natural home and waved it in his face. He was groaning in agony almost constantly, stopping only when he was struggling to breathe. For the finishing touches I took out a pair of secateurs, maniacally chopping off each off his fingers and throwing them casually over my shoulders. I took a hot poker from near the fire and cauterised the wounds, causing possibly the most satisfying of all his screams, as I contemplated giving abacination a try.

I cleaned up the whole mess as one would whilst doing normal mundane housework, even dancing away to music as I went. I left him strapped to the chair over night, returning the next morning to find him on his side, shaking. I kicked his head remorselessly, until he fell unconscious yet again, I dragged his body to some nearby woods and dumped it, wrapped in a blanket. I wanted him to survive; I wanted him to live the rest of his life in agony, unable to tell anybody who his attacker was. I would leave the country; an obvious choice, but now seemed like as good a time as any and Egypt had always appealed to me, perhaps it was the mummification process which intrigued me.

The bus was trundling along as per usual; I thumbed through my magazine in search of an article that might pique my interest, eventually stumbling on a piece about Hugh Everett.  As an unsavoury character entered the bus I reflected on the possibility that all the decisions we do not choose are manifested in some alternative universe, branching out from our own. It really made me think.

Photographs of Dogs

As I have decided to share photographs as well as stories, here are some pictures of my dogs. The one which I consider to be my dog is the bottom one, though she doesn’t seem to be as much of a poser.

Pea in the sea

Peanut eyes 3

Peanut scared CU 2

Puddy white

Taizé – not a story

I used to regularly visit the Taizé community and once took the opportunity to write about it for a local church newsletter (I forget which one). It is not a story, but it felt worth sharing. I wrote it in 2oo9. Accompanying it is a picture I took whilst there several years ago, it is one of my personal favourites, taken at the grave of Brother Roger, the founder of the community, who was brutally murdered during a church service. It is one of those pictures which, for me at least, tells a story of its own.

Taizé

Going on a ‘pilgrimage of trust’ to an ecumenical community of dedicated brothers can sound very daunting to a young Christian and trying to explain how amazing it is to visit is often fraught with difficulty. It truly is a place you need to visit to understand as it is often quite paradoxical. When people ask questions they tend to somehow instinctively hit on the negatives, which for someone who has been are bizarrely not negative at all. “What is the food like?” “Very basic” “Can you drink?” “One weak beer per day” “Are there showers?” “Yes, but very unpredictable” “Where do you sleep?” “In a tent, often on rough ground” (I got a beautifully placed stone this year, right in the middle of my back and pointing upwards).  One friend quipped that it sounded like a concentration camp, which is surprisingly similar to Brother Paolo’s remarks that it is like an upper class refugee camp. These seem like insurmountable obstacles to fun and enjoyment, yet every year thousands upon thousands of young people of all walks of life make this pilgrimage and find it worthwhile, often wanting to come again. I’ve now been six times and fully recommend it, so what is there to it?

Part of what I have already described is part of the fun, as odd as that sounds, they are only ostensibly negative. Taizé takes us back to basics in many ways, whilst there we appreciate the beauty in life from the perspective of a simpler mode de vie. We spend so much time tied to our material lives: constantly texting; obsessively checking Facebook; watching too much television; yet in Taizé we find we have everything we need without these incessant distractions. It is refreshing not needing beer for a good time, something many often need to realise – myself included. Living for a week without a proper bed or shower helps us appreciate it more when we return to it; Taizé can help us discover that these things truly are luxuries we do not need. This is often an unnoticeable part of the Taizé experience which lasts for longer than the week there. Could you imagine eating every meal with just a spoon and considering it normal?

The biggest parts of the Taizé experience are, in my mind, relationship and discovery. In Taizé you can really discover yourself, whether through silent reflection or through communing with others. Taizé’s most beautiful paradox is that on the one hand it is a place where you can go and be at complete peace if you wish; if you want it you can find it, in church, down by the source or by going into silence (if you dare). On the other hand it is a place where you can socialise with thousands of young people from all over the planet, singing, dancing, chatting, laughing and much more. Taizé is one of the few places in the world where young people from warring countries have been known to get along and laugh together. The opportunities for making friends in Taizé are endless and from every continent too, though Antarctica may have to be missed out; I thought I saw a penguin once but it was just a visiting nun. The coach journey, discussion groups and visiting Oyak are all great places to make new friends and learn about diverse cultures.

In Taizé the days have structure and everything flows well. There are three church services per day (optional but recommended) and they allow for deep reflection. The chants are beautiful and simple, and I would be surprised if someone came away without a favourite (unless like me they have several favourites which they can’t choose between). There are no sermons to endure, just short Bible verses and psalms. Silence is at the heart of the service and is the perfect time to reflect or to simply open yourself up. Whilst there you can also opt to do a job, ranging from washing the pots to washing toilets; keeping people quiet in church to keeping people quiet late at night; there is something for everyone. Work is usually seen as something to grumble at, I know I’m guilty of a lot of grumbling, but in Taizé it just does not seem like a bad thing at all, quite the opposite in fact. Mundane jobs become fun and feeling part of something bigger needs to be felt by everyone from time to time. Taizé works so well because everyone contributes and gets into the community spirit.

Through forging new relationships and through self discovery Taizé can be an incredible experience. It also allows for us to discover more of God too. Church gives us the time to reflect and open ourselves to Him if we wish, but nobody is pushing. The Taizé community allows you to go along at your own pace, never pushing or dragging, but offering a guiding hand where it is wanted. Discussion groups can vary from dealing with tough questions about faith, to simply having fun and playing games with people of differing backgrounds. It is a place where you can feel safe even if the Bible intimidates you as you will not have it thrown at you or forced down your throat; if you do want to plumb its depths then Taizé can be the perfect place to do so.

I always come back from Taizé feeling refreshed both emotionally and spiritually, and want to share it with everyone I meet. This year I found myself in the odd position where so many amazing things had occurred whilst there that I struggled to say anything about it to my friends and family! It was beyond words and I get something new from it every year; burdens are lifted and my mind is often more clear and focussed. Taizé is a deeply personal experience which unusually can be shared with others; they will find it to be an amazing place too, even if their reasons are different. This has been a description of my own views on Taizé, something I like to try to put into words and often struggle to do. I can only recommend visiting, if you haven’t already, as I guarantee you will benefit. Hopefully my words can at the very least get people wondering.

Frére Roger