Thursday, 27 June 2013

Red Weeds

It being almost Martian invasion time (HG Wells Martians invaded in the summertime), here's a wee excerpt from my War of the Worlds story Terminus, which is a collection of personal histories, poetry and banned texts detailing the truth of the Martian invasion.

“While visiting a friend in Southsea recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited to an evening dance in one of the many villas. The hostess - a charming lady renknowned for such gatherings - had arranged for a medium to be present, perhaps to give a small show during the band's intermission. At first I must confess to thinking this a terribly vulgar addition to so formal an evening - I believe such characters to be charlatans who should remain at the furthest away end of any seaside pier. My friend shared my opinion, but in the interests of etiquette, we stayed silent on this matter.

The intermission arrived, and a woman took to the stage. She introduced herself as a Mrs. Guppy and I must admit that she was not the sort of swarthy individual I had been expecting. Indeed she looked entirely at home in such company. After the traditional summoning up of various deceased family members, she looked toward my friend with a great deliberation. She asked - though it sounded very little like a request - that he should join her on stage.

Naturally my colleague complied, though I am certain he would have done almost anything to avoid this fate. She lulled my friend into a sleep, and explained that through him, she was going to 'channel' a message from the stars. I was incredulous and asked why she could not channel this message herself. Mrs. Guppy explained to myself and the crowd that there were only certain of us who could receive these messages. And while she herself could not, she was able to "sense" those who could. Such bunkum continued for a further five minutes, and I was surprised to see that the rest of the audience were enthralled by her theosophist babblings.

After a time, I began to see a change come over my friend, his complexion paled and although his eyes were now opened, he seemed to be staring into space. I was about to move toward the stage to rouse him from his trance, when all of sudden...there was the most frightful howl. It took me a few moments to realise that the source of the noise was my friend himself. Again he howled "Ulla! Ulla!". The sound was like no other I have heard before, and it was obvious that my friend could not be the true source of so inhuman a cry. I resolved to wake him from his stupor, for I had the most definite belief that he was in danger. The howling rang out again, certain of the ladies were beginning to weep and couples were making to leave. I stepped toward the stage and reached out for my colleague. Mrs. Guppy chastised me sharply. 'Do not touch him. Despite what you hear..he is not in pain. It would be more dangerous for you to wake him from this trance so suddenly. I will bring him back.'

I asked her what the noise was....where it was coming from. I still hoped -half heartedly-that there was some sort of theatrics involved. She turned from me and addressed the remnants of her audience. 'This is the sound of the dead planet Mars preparing their forces for attack. You will hear this sound again. When they arrive.'

Mrs. Guppy woke my friend gently, and then left the stage."

Terminus is part of the Stramashed ebook which, as has been previously noted, costs less than many of todays popular chocolate bars, with markedly better impacts on health.

Here's an even briefer excerpt, a wee Martian invasion haiku

Dead trees are daubed 
In gaudy red violence 
As the weed marches.

And if you would like to send actual haiku to Mars, the MAVEN spacecraft which is heading to Mars this November, is looking for your poetry. You have until July 1st to enter and potentially have your name and poem basting off towards the supposedly dead planet Mars...

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Doctor Who - Schadenfreude

There are not many constants in life, Doctor Who is one of mine. Peter Davison is My Doctor, the one I enjoyed writing stories about and pretending to be when I was 8 years old. I've written some Doctor Who fan fiction before, quite indulgent, but comforting - like ferrero rocher.  

Nyssa tried very hard not to smile as The Doctor wandered crestfallen from the cricket field.
"Bad luck."
He glared at her politely and stomped off towards the Pavillion.
"Or not."
"Did you see that?" he asked "Did you see what he did? Totally inappropriate!"
"Totally." agreed Nyssa.
"Celebrating like that…"
"Entirely unsporting." she shook her head, "Can we go to the fete now? I thought that's why we were here. 'The best church fete and custard scones in the galaxy' you said."
"Well I'm certainly not going to dignify the rest of this match by watching it. Disgraceful."
The Doctor grumbled off to get changed.

"I was expecting it to be a bit more…picturesque?" said Nyssa.
The Doctor looked at the rows of vandalised cottages; here and there, dustbins burned gently. In the short half mile walk of the village main street, they had passed two ambulances and three police cars attending various incidents, including the rescue of a man who had become trapped under a grand piano he was trying to lift up some stairs.
"Yes. It has been a few years since I've visited…but all the same…"
"Look out!"
Nyssa jumped into the road, pulling an elderly lady back onto the pavement, out of the way of an out of control ice cream van.
"Oh! Thank you dear!"
"Are you alright?" asked The Doctor.
"Getting so you can't go out your front door this week."
"It's been like this all week?"
"Yes dear. At first it actually seemed rather funny, that local councillor slipped on a banana peel and fell down an open manhole, but then the really bizarre things started happening - raining frogs at rush hour or houses being hit by meteors and frozen…toilet stuff…from planes."
"So…a very unfortunate place to be then Mrs..?"
"Delighted to meet you Mrs Pepperton. I'm The Doctor and this is Nyssa. Now, before all this started happening…was there any unusual activity, lights in the sky, that sort of thing?"
"Oh no. Nothing like that round here. Only thing that's happened in Shepley recently is them starting to build that new supermarket no one wants."
"Nothing unusual there I'm afraid Mrs Pepperton."
"They've had to stop though…since they discovered that time capsule."

Mrs Pepperton showed them into the museum.
"And it's been on show in here for the last week?" asked The Doctor.
"Yes…not much to see really. There was a big hole in it when they dug it up. A couple of little straw soldier dollies inside..."
The rusting capsule and the accompanying dolls were in a glass case in the corner of the room. The Doctor started searching through his pockets, eventually producing his sonic screwdriver. He began examining the capsule.
"A few folk think that one looks like Hitler, but I'm not convinced..." said Mrs Pepperton.
"There is definitely a malignant energy," he said.
"That's probably just the community council meeting upstairs…" said Mrs Pepperton.
Nyssa looked at the box.
"It doesn't look very old."
"It isn't," said the Doctor, "mid 1940s I'd say. There!"
"I think I've isolated the source. Let's get back to the TARDIS and follow it back along the timeline. Back soon Mrs Pepperton."
"Be careful!" suggested Nyssa.

The TARDIS had materialised near a small forest at dusk. The Doctor and Nyssa quietly walked towards the small fire visible through the trees. Two figures moved around the flames, chanting.
"What are they doing?" asked Nyssa.
" looks like a really rather traditional black magic ritual."
"Does that require them to be naked?"
"Generally that depends on the ritual. Or the coven. Or the weather actually. We’re near midsummer. Midwinter magic usually involves a lot more robes and jumpers."
"And this dancing and chanting is actually magic?"
"Well...they certainly think it is. That’s half the battle. Come on, if we get a little closer maybe we can make out what’s really going on."
As they drew nearer, it became clear that it was two rather elderly gentlemen that were standing in the clearing.
"Hill.Ash. Land. Flesh. Baals fire ever burns. Flesh. Stone. Tree. Bone. Baals fire ever burns!"
"Oh great ones! From beyond our ken...listen to our supplication and....join us!"
There was a slightly awkward silence while nothing happened. One of the old men coughed.
"Did you bring that flask of tea Jack? My knackers are going to drop right off if I don't warm up here."
"Wilf! We’re in the middle of the summoning. And it said in the book we had to be 'skyclad' for it to work properly."
"Well its no wonder Irene didn’t come when you told her that. You’re very lucky not to have got a black eye for your trouble."
"Yes. She was a bit upset about that wasn’t she?"
"I'm not in the best of moods myself Jack! We’re supposed to be Home Guard not up in the forest playing Merlin and Mandrake with voodoo dolls."
"This is Home Guard. If we get this ritual right the war could be over by September."
The air fizzed and crackled, there was a low gurgling laugh.
"What’s that? What’s happening?"
"It’s working. It’s working! Focus on the box."
The trees shook and splintered as the laughter gave way to a manic giggling.
"It’s coming through the trees!"
"The box Wilf!"
Nyssa looked worried.
"I thought magic wasn’t real. It seems to have worked."
"In a manner of speaking. Look out! Its coming."
"What is it?"
"It’s a Ghanfelik! And it looks terribly hungry!"
"A what?!"
"Ghanfelik. A sort of trans-dimensional imp. It creates bad luck and feeds on the resultant negative energy. Usually more inconvenient than evil."
There was a shriek and a muffled crunch as the huge creature stood on Jack.
"Though this one may be the exception to the rule."
Wilf ran towards them screaming, still holding the box.
"Drop the box!" shouted the Doctor "It's being dragged towards the power in the..."
Wilf was squashed nosily underfoot. The Ghanfelik glared briefly and ravenously at the Doctor and Nyssa before disappearing. The box rattled angrily, and then was still.
"Those poor men." said Nyssa.
"Yes. Well…misguided, but brave. Still, we know what we're dealing with now. So, let's get back to Shepley and sort it out."

Things had not improved in Shepley, the fire station had caught fire. Mrs Pepperton was trying to help put it out with increasingly leaky buckets of water.
"So how do we get rid of it?" asked Nyssa, dodging a randomly tossed custard pie.
"What we need is a concentration of negative energy to lure it…Mrs Pepperton, I need you to go and speak to the people in charge of the fete, I think I know how to catch it."

There were stories told about the last Shepley Fete for many years; how you couldn't win the bottle stalls, that the fortune tellers all overcharged and then gave you bad news and that the prizes in the fixed raffle were all awful. But mostly people remembered when a big green monster rampaged through the car park and squashed the local radio roadshow truck upon which the Old Folks Home display team had just started their zumba demonstration. It was chasing a man dressed in his cricket whites and a girl in a very plummy jumpsuit.
"Run…into the tarot reading tent!" shouted the Doctor.
The Ghanfelik ran after them both, disappearing into the tent, which promptly started wheezing and then collapsed entirely as the TARDIS inside disappeared.

By the time the Doctor and Nyssa returned for some of the famous Shepley Custard Scones, the town was already on the mend.
"It wasn't keen on leaving the TARDIS was it?"
"Yes, a real shame, we had to jettison so many rooms. I was very fond of that swimming pool. Still, can always build another."
"Could it really have caused all that bad luck Doctor?"
"Hmmm. Most of it. Though it would have required the folk of Shepley to give it a foothold. Mind you, I suppose it could explain my performance at the cricket match earlier. That was very unlucky."
"Hmmm. Very." said Nyssa. "Speaking of which, there's the Captain of the other team."
"Really? Being rude to someone is he?"
Nyssa pointed across the street to where the man was walking past some of the rebuilding work that was already underway on the main street of the village. As he passed a scaffold, a pot of paint toppled off, hitting him squarely on the head and covering him in light pink paint.
Nyssa silenced The Doctor's laughter with a very stern look. He gave an embarrassed cough.
"Yes. Well. Probably just some residual energy. Let's just get back to the TARDIS shall we?"
"Yes lets. Carefully."