Spotting the hit

July 9, 2016 at 8:15 am | Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment
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Click pic to make big and bigger.

Click pic to make big and bigger.

The dribble of doom …

This little tree did it hard.

Drought killed it outside while critters gnawed within.

Curling bark and chomp trails tell the story.

Now a nice council person has sprayed the tree with the yellow spot of death.

Soon, a woodsperson will be along to cut it down.

Its replacement already incubates at bottom left.

To the right, what might have been.

Life’s tough.

Live it while you can.

Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.

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Only in red

July 8, 2016 at 8:54 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
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Only in red

Click pic to make big and bigger.

‘OK, so they didn’t have it in yellow!

‘What was I supposed to do: not turn up for work?

‘I don’t know why you blokes have to make such a big thing of it.

‘I honestly think the red provides an interesting contrast …

… ‘Fellas?’

 

Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.

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Girl power

July 6, 2016 at 7:38 am | Posted in Short Story | 4 Comments
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Girl Power Med Empire

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Girl evades giant Pac-Man.

Girl meets boy.

Girl starts BBQ fire.

Girl wins see-saw game.

Girl wins swimming competition.

What a fun, successful and totally empowering day!

Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.

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Seeing red

February 23, 2016 at 5:19 am | Posted in Short Story | 6 Comments
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Spin to win.

Spin out.

Guy and Jock were catching up over coffee.

It wasn’t real coffee, because they were 58 million kilometres from Melbourne.

And it wasn’t a real catch up, because they’d spent four years in training, 252 days on a dummy Mars run in a dummy spaceship and 126 days on a real Mars run in a real spaceship.

To say they knew each other well was a gross understatement. They weren’t merely used to living cheek by jowl, they were virtually in each other’s DNA.

Despite the best efforts of mission psychologists to match personalities, such extended intimate proximity can make a person twitchy. So double macchiatos halfway to the Red Planet were a no-no.

Jock looked down at Guy over his nano-wafer sippy cup. ‘So, how’re they hangin’, Man?’

‘Oh, you know,’ replied Guy with a shrug. ‘Same same.’

‘No shit?’

‘No shit.’

A single sphere of brown fluid escaped the straw. Jock trapped it in his meaty hand and mashed it into his mouth.

Guy watched him, noting that this was the seventy-seventh time he’d seen his crewmate do this. They really needed to upsize that cup for Jock’s big, coarse face. He took off his glasses and cleaned them on a napkin floating beside him. ‘How’s that video game coming?’

‘Finished.’

‘Already?’

‘Yep.’

‘That was quick.’

‘I’m getting better.’

‘How many’s that, then?’

Jock looked listlessly around the tiny dining quarters and sighed heavily. ‘All of ’em. And some of ’em twice.’

The geoscientist registered mild surprise. ‘You have come a long way.’

‘Yeah. But what am I supposed to do now?’

‘Shall I ask Control to send you a new game?’

‘You told me yourself; we’re too far gone. The files are too big. We can only receive text now – remember?’

Guy brightened. ‘Ah, yes. But that’s OK Jock; I’ll get them to send us more books!’

The flight engineer glowered. ‘You know damn well I hate books.’

‘Yes, but under the circumstances … ‘

‘Forget it. Always have and always will. Hated ’em.’

‘But what about that moon murder mystery? You seemed to like that.’

‘You read that to me in training. When I was sick.’

‘And?’

‘The drone of your voice sent me to sleep.’

‘Ah yes,’ said the smaller man. ‘How could I forget?’

The pair lapsed into silence. Guy began to look thoughtful. After a while, Jock noticed. He crushed the sippy cup to the size of pea and flicked it expertly into the reconstitution unit. ‘What’re you thinking about?’

Guy looked up quickly. ‘I was wondering if there’s any book you’d read.’

‘You mean apart from equipment manuals?’

‘Yes.’

‘You mean, read a book … for fun.’

‘Yes.’

‘No way.’

‘No?’

‘Never.’

Guy rotated pensively. ‘But what if there were one book.’

‘What sort of book?’

‘A murder mystery, set in space.’

Jock stretched his broad arms, which no amount of weightlessness had been able to atrophy. ‘Did we not just have a conversation about such a book?’

The cleaned glasses glinted. ‘Yes, we did. But what if this book were set in our spaceship?’

‘This one we’re flying in right now?’

‘Yes. Would that interest you?’

The broad arms folded. ‘A murder mystery.’

‘Yes.’

‘On our ship.’

‘Yes.’

‘Who gets murdered?’

‘Me.’

‘By whom?’

‘You.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I set you off.’

‘How?’

‘By bugging you about a murder mystery.’

Jock frowned as his brain caught up. ‘Not much of a f*cking mystery, is it?’

‘That depends’ said Guy.

‘On what?’

‘Whether you’ve noticed.’

‘Noticed what?’

‘The fact that I’ve been writing.’

‘You’re always bloody writing. You send the damn emails.’

‘Do you know what’s in those emails?’ Guy’s eyebrows arched.

‘No. Nor do I give a shit. I do every bloody thing around here and you send reports about it.’

‘So, you wouldn’t know if I’d been writing a book on the side.’

‘Have you?’

‘Maybe.’

‘And why exactly would you do that?’

‘That’s the mystery!’

Jock propelled himself to the snack machine. Not because he was hungry, but to break the annoying patter. He grabbed a tendy sandwich at random. Curried egg. Not his favourite. But he munched into it just the same. He glared at Guy through big bites. ‘Are you trying to tell me that Control have been happy for you to write a damn book instead of doing your work?’

‘Maybe they don’t know. Maybe I’ve done it during your sleep cycles.’

‘But they log every keystroke. What’re you writing it on – toilet paper?’

Guy paused, as if contemplating whether to proceed. ‘What if Control were in on it?’

‘In on what?!’

‘The novel.’

Jock laughed shortly. ‘Bloody hell, Man; have you been sniffing the coolant again?’

‘What if Control said it was OK for me to write a novel to entertain you when you ran out of computer games?’

‘Entertain me?!’

‘Yes.’

‘But why?’

‘To stop you thinking murderous thoughts.’

Jock stuffed the last of the sandwich down this throat. ‘Mate, if you keep this shit up, I’ll have more than murderous thoughts.’

Guy smiled. ‘Maybe that’s the idea.’

‘Oh for f*ck’s sake; are you deliberately trying to wind me up or what?’

‘Easy, Tiger; we don’t want to reach the climax too soon.’

Jock screwed up his face. ‘I really wish you wouldn’t use that word.’

‘It’s a literary term.’

‘Yeah, well keep it up and you may just climax on your own pancreas.’

Guy laughed heartily. ‘That’s very good, Jock. Do you mind if I use it?’

Jock pushed himself from the table towards the VacuJohn. ‘I’ll give you something better than that, Guy.’

‘What?’

‘The murder weapon.’

‘Really? What’s that?’

‘This dunny.’

‘How so?’

The flight engineer opened the cubicle door. ‘I estimate that, with a good seal and enough pressure, I can get your eyeballs out of your skull, down this chute and into the hydroponic radishes in time for dinner.’

Guy’s smile wavered. ‘That’s very … specific, Jock.’

‘It is.’ Jock gazed at his hands – opening and closing. ‘But I’ve been thinking about it.’

Gif by Lookang.


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Your smallest kindness will keep me going strong. With many thanks, Paul.


The very bad detective

February 13, 2016 at 7:59 am | Posted in Short Story, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Nokia

Episode 2. Phone tap.

The dame composed herself and drew up her long legs.

The detective glanced at the scene.

‘Like what you see?’ she purred.

‘I’m not really into pastels.’

‘You think I’ll turn to water?’

‘I’d stick to acrylic for now.’

‘You make me sound so … fake.’

The detective put down his telescope and looked at her squarely, ‘Ms Sutherland, may I inquire again what you’re here for?’

She bridled and tossed her red mane. ‘You received my SMS, I assume?’

‘When did you send it?’

‘This morning.’

He pulled out his Nokia. ‘I got something this morning, but it didn’t display.’

‘That’s odd … ‘

‘Not really; it’s a very old phone. Did you happen to send an attachment?’

‘Yes. A photograph.’

‘Ah, there’s the rub.’

‘It wasn’t very big … ‘

‘Doesn’t matter; I can’t display any kind of file.’

‘And you call yourself … a detective?!’

He stood and pointed. ‘I’ll ask the questions here. OK?’

The dame snorted. ‘Do you even know what network you’re on?’

The detective coloured. ‘I’m not sure: something “G”.’

‘2G or not 2G?’

He threw down the bumper fun book. ‘That is a question!’

‘Someone’s gotta ask the tough ones.’

‘Well, I didn’t get your damn message.’

The dame fished in her handbag and caught up a rhinestone-encrusted tablet. ‘Here, take this!’

It slipped through the detective’s fingers and flopped onto his desk.

‘And what am I supposed to do with this?’

‘Oh, for God’s sake!’ The dame grabbed the tablet and flicked it on. ‘There!’

The detective peered cautiously at the image which had miraculously appeared on the hitherto blank screen. ‘Extraordinary!’

She rolled her eyes and counted to seven. ‘Believe me; you’ll get used to it.’

Gingerly drawing closer to the magical device, the detective examined the photograph it displayed. ‘Who’s the suit?’

The dame adjusted her tresses and drew a long bow. ‘The Chief Ommissioner.’

‘What?’

‘The Chief Ommissioner.’

‘I heard you the first time.’

‘Then why did you say “what”?’

‘I was expressing surprise.’

‘At what?’

‘What?’

‘At what?!’

‘What what?’

Her eyes fell to a paper spike and stayed there. ‘At. What. Were. You. Expressing. Surprise?!’

The detective fumbled for his telescope and rounded on her. ‘His title.’

‘Chief Ommissioner?’

‘Yes. Chiefly the “Ommissioner” bit.’

The dame snatched the telescope. ‘I see.’ She looked to the window and spied a bar. Next to it, two more. Beyond these, a tavern. ‘Let’s get outta here; it’s not safe.’

‘What do you mean?’

She regarded him narrowly over the paper spike. ‘Come with me and I’ll explain everything.’

‘But, I hardly know you! … And I’m really bad at maths.’

Stay tuned for Episode 3.


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Your smallest kindness will keep me going strong. With many thanks, Paul.


 

 

 

 

 

The very bad detective

February 12, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Posted in Short Story, Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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The Very Bad Detective

Episode 1.  Nothing like a dame.

This is a story about one of those detectives with the hat and the fan and the venetian blinds.

Except this detective had wooden blinds from Freedom Furniture. The string had snapped and the slats slid about like ice floes on a warming sea.

He’d been meaning to get them fixed, but it wasn’t worth the candle for Victory Blinds to come out. Nor did he feel he could repair them himself. Freedom Furniture, of course, had laughed in his face. He should never have Skyped them.

As he pondered his inadequacies, a dame entered his office unannounced. By this device, he divined she wasn’t a real dame, like Joan Sutherland. Also, this one was alive. A dead giveaway.

‘The name’s Sutherland’, said the dame.

The detective winced. ‘That sounds like trouble.’

‘How do you mean?’ she inquired archly, flashing her soles.

The spittoon rang: the detective let it. ‘I mean, people will think your name’s Joan.’

‘It is Joan! How did you know?!’

‘Listen, lady; it was bound to happen eventually. I get a lot of dames in here.’

She withdrew an e-cigarette and inhaled deeply. ‘Notwithstanding that, I think it’s a remarkable coincidence.’

‘You’re right; you wouldn’t read about it.’

She exhaled noisily. ‘I suppose you think I’m vapid.’

‘I didn’t before, but I do now.’

The dame began to bristle. The detective replaced the tack he’d been toying with and took another.

‘So, what brings you here, Ms … Sutherland?’

She pouted. ‘It’s what brought me here that’s more to the point.’

‘Has anyone ever told you you’re living in the past?’

The dame glared. ‘All the time. So what? I’m not into this being present crap.’

‘You sound tense.’

She crossed the room. ‘I may be about to be.’

‘Well, none of us are perfect.’

‘Is.’

‘Pardon?’

‘”None” is singular.’

‘Remarkable!’

‘That too.’

‘I think I’ve heard enough, Ms Sutherland.’

The spittoon rang.

‘Aren’t you gonna get that?’

He picked up the offending item. ‘This belonged to my mother.’

‘It’s so shiny. I can see my face in it.’

‘You have her eyes.’

The dame laughed coarsely. ‘Yeah, well, she signed the form and I got lucky. I get a ton of compliments on these peepers. Pretty much every day. You could say I’m in the midst of an eyes epidemic.’

The tack drew blood. ‘I don’t like your tone, Ms Sutherland.’

‘I’m quavering.’

‘Very funny. So, what brought you here?’

‘Mind if I take a seat?’

‘It’s a rental.’

‘I won’t be here long.’

‘I get that feeling too, sometimes … especially at night.’

The spittoon rang out.

Episode 2. Phone tap.

 

 

 

 

 

Blade Runner for town planners

May 16, 2015 at 11:23 am | Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment
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A fresh look.

A fresh look at a cult classic.

I love Blade Runner. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. So it’s a brave soul indeed who dares review it. Chris is one such.

You may recall Chris from this post. Lately he sent me this comment. He’s a fine writer. And his town-planning take on this amazing movie was a perspective I’d not considered.

It made me want to watch it yet again. And that’s surely a sign of a good review.

So thank you Chris – and take it away!

Blade Runner is set in a bleak, decrepit and perpetually rainy Los Angeles megalopolis in the year 2019 (now not so far away as it seemed in 1982!). This cityscape looms large as a character in its own right and speaks to the urban-planning related themes of sustainability, climate change and environmental determinism. It also frames and gives context to Blade Runner’s examination of bio-ethics, morality and what it means to be human … or not.

In the film, so crowded, degraded and polluted is planet earth that ‘Off World’ colonies have been established for humans seeking, if physically and financially capable of acquiring, a better life.

To help build and service the Off World colonies, Tyrell Corporation has created all manner of genetically engineered, humanoid ‘Replicants’ (as well as a few feathered or scaled ones). Replicants are illegal on earth, and it is the role of the ‘Blade Runners’ such as Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) to track and kill, or euphemistically ‘retire’, those Replicants who have made their way back to earth.

The Replicants are smart, agile and tough, but they are also mortal and have a programmed lifespan of 4 years. The current Nexus 6 model Replicants are however so lifelike that they can only be distinguished from their human counterparts through the analysis of their emotional and empathetic responses. Those responses are more limited than their human counterparts’ because Replicants, being ‘born’ adult, have not developed the full range of emotions and values based upon a lifetime’s experiences and memories.

It is this mortality, and the desire to unlock it, that triggers a group of rogue Replicants, led by Ron (Rutger Hauer), to make their way back to earth and to stage a murderous mutiny intent on seizing Tyrell Corporation’s founder, Eldon Tyrell. So begins the film’s cat and mouse game.

On the surface, Blade Runner is an action sci-fi action movie. However it actually presents plenty for urban planners to reflect upon. The setting of a climate-changed planet in which mankind’s blind faith in its own abilities and supreme (god-like) power, and the willingness to adapt (by creating Replicants and moving off-world) rather than addressing the causes of environmental devastation, reflects uncomfortably on our own society’s (and our government’s) tepid responses to tackling anthropogenic climate change and upon our willingness to adopt technological solutions in lieu of behavioural change.

The film demonstrates that humans are inherently flawed, self-destructive and, where it suits their needs, willingly oppressive and segregative (of Replicants, and of the lowly earth-bound humans). At the same time, Blade Runner depicts certain essential and meritorious human qualities that cannot be replicated, such as Deckard’s questioning of his own morality, and that one’s eyes (symbolised by, for example, Eldon Tyrell’s glasses and the eyes of a Replicant owl) are a window to the soul. Moreover, it underscores the message that when mankind meddles with things that it doesn’t understand, then things inevitably go wrong.

As an urban planner, I am drawn to films that in some way explore or present utopian visions. Blade Runner’s Off World settlements are portrayed as ‘sunny, clean and happy’ places. The utopian ideal of settlement is one almost as old as planned habitation itself, and in Blade Runner the Off World utopias sit in contrast to the grimily-depicted Los Angeles, which, as the “City of Angels” itself portrays a utopian vision that has decayed into a Sodom-and-Gomorrah-esque state. The city’s streets have been relegated to utilitarian status by the miserable climate and by the creation of airborne transport corridors (yep, the old flying cars routine). There are visual references to the city’s heritage and formerly distinctive character, which helps to ground the hellish vision of the city in a reality to which viewers can relate, yet at the same time symbolises that which has been disregarded, devalued and lost.

The streets below are inhabited by the sub-classes because they have no other choice, not because it is a setting to which they aspire or from which they derive pleasure. In such places, what social, cultural or environmental cues, other than an overt police presence, can inspire its inhabitants to refrain from anti-social or criminal behaviour and to express their humanity instead?

I can’t help but think that the real-world corporations that presumably paid for the advertising and product placement opportunities that litter the film (e.g. Coke, Pan-Am, TDK, Atari) were unwitting pawns in director Ridley Scott’s game. Blade Runner’s Los Angeles condemns as doomed and unsustainable the dystopian world where corporate control and power has prevailed over that of society and the individual. Even Tyrell Corporation’s headquarters, reminiscent of a Mayan temple soaring above the congested and polluted streets, is representative of an empire and a utopian ideal in decline. Yet the fact remains that the Off World utopias, if based upon the endeavours of an oppressed and disenfranchised Replicant sub-class and the skewed moralities that this engenders (people barely bat an eyelid when Deckard ‘retires’ a ‘pleasure model’ Replicant in the street), surely too must fail.

It can only be when we rise above our own imperfect and destructive nature that utopia can be found. And it’s usually right under our noses.

The Kombi-van rail cannon

May 3, 2015 at 7:21 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
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Three couples sprawled around the lounge, digesting pasta. Wine lapped at tilted rims as wreaths of smoke cruised into guttering candles, spread against the ceiling and descended. Fairy lights completed the scene.

‘Let’s go out!’ cried Yvonne.

A shudder swept through the others. Liam, the host, shot a visual plea to Neil.

‘Now now, sugar.’ Neil stroked Yvonne’s long hair. ‘We’ve got everything we need right here. Liam and Sylvie have created a lovely environment for us; why not relax and enjoy it?’

Yvonne tossed her head. ‘Because I think we should all go out. Club Foramen is only 600 metres from this ashtray. We’re young and it’s only 10:30. We’ve gotta live, before it’s too late! Come on; let’s hear some sounds and see some cats! Whatta ya say?’

Ever the diplomat, Sylvia calmed Liam with a caress. ‘I’m easy; what does everyone else think?’

Yvonne leapt up and gazed into each face.

‘I do not mind,’ pronounced Ulrik. ‘I will go if every body else wants to go.’

Sonya patted his thigh. ‘That’s my boy; two shots of Finlandia and you’re anyone’s. What the hell, we never go out.’

Liam baulked at leaving the cocoon he’d so carefully constructed. ‘It’s your night folks, but may I remind you we have entertainment here.’

‘Guitars and PlayStation?’ retorted Yvonne.

‘Yeah!’ chorused the boys.

‘No way. You guys can do that anytime. Tonight’s a celebration.’

Ulrik looked up. ‘Of what is it a celebration?’

Yvonne whipped a quarter ounce from her jacket and tossed it to the floor. ‘Of the biggest goddamn joint you ever saw in your life!’

Liam leaned forward, beanbag balls streaming like tadpoles under his thighs. ‘Ahem. This er, hmm. This could well alter the fabric of the entire evening.’

‘So we’re going to experience the greatest girl-band of all time?’ said Yvonne.

Sylvia’s eyes sparkled. ‘I’m in.’

‘Me too,’ said Sonya.

‘I also think it would be fun to go out maybe,’ said Ulrik.

Neil looked hurt. ‘How long’ve you had that ganjar, Sugar?’

‘Doesn’t matter, baby,’ sang Yvonne. ‘All that matters is we’re gonna get out and get it on.’

Liam fondled the baggie. ‘Get me the scissors, Sylvie. There’s something I must do – for all of us.’

**********

A chill wind whipped through the railings. Liam swung from the door and let the bright stars careen around him.

‘Come on, you old bugger!’ said Neil. ‘Come away now.’

The others fell against each other in baseless mirth. Liam crashed down the steps and they set off raggedly, reflections dancing in a glittering alterworld.

‘It is nice to be outside; fresh,’ observed Ulrik.

‘Too right, Vegemite!’ said Yvonne.

The Dane frowned. ‘I am sorry? What is that?’

The group cobbled a questionable explanation and Ulrik again lamented that their history could never be his, no matter how he studied the language.

Yvonne raced like a sprite among the puddles. Neil lit a cigarette and ambled after her and the two embraced in the brash night. The others followed suit, savouring their own styles of intimacy.

Eventually they reassembled at a tram stop, their destination visible through sprays of barrelling taxis. Naked bulbs festooned the venue, pulsing counterpoint to the muffled boom within.

Liam signalled for silence. ‘Well, this is it folks … ‘

‘Over the top,’ added Neil.

‘Yes, quite. On the advice of the young and feisty Yvonne here, we are about to enter an alternate dimension, replete with alcohol and very loud music.’

‘Yyyay!’ said Yvonne.

Liam grinned. ‘I want us to form a cosmic circle, to unite our groovy energy before crossing over.’

‘Unreal,’ slurred Sonya, missing Sylvia and Ulrik’s outstretched hands.

Liam guided her back. ‘Is everyone ready?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Then let us clasp fingers, close eyes and meditate on this moment before it is lost forever.’

Sonya giggled. ‘Oummm.’

Another taxi roared past, leaving an uncanny quiet. The ring of revellers listened. The silence continued – palpable; like air conditioning shut down.

Sonya opened her eyes. ‘Sh*t! The place is deserted!’

The street was indeed empty. All noise had ceased, no vehicles approached and light rain had begun to fall, transforming the scene into a surreal tableaux. The six stood in awe of the strange aberration in such a busy district.

‘It is an omen!’ proclaimed Liam. ‘The stage is set; a sign imminent! We must wait and watch.’

‘I’m getting wet,’ said Sylvia.

‘My love, that is of no import. In any case, I presage that this experience will be brief. Just hold for a moment more and believe!’

‘All right then.’

Neil lifted his long arms. ‘Whence shall come this sign, Master? From the sky?’

Yvonne leapt onto a bench. ‘Yeah, from the sky?’

Liam gazed along the glistening tram tracks, listening like a blackbird. ‘Nay, children; not from the heavens. The sign shall issue from the earth. Hark! It approaches even now!’

At first there was only silence. Then a lone light materialized. It grew slowly, but remained too dull to belong to a modern vehicle. The collective expectation of a motorcycle faltered as the engine’s staccato identified it unmistakably as a Volkswagen. At last the image resolved into a Kombi-van. An ancient, dilapidated Kombi-van, with one headlight.

‘Behold!’ cried Liam. ‘The messenger!’

‘Hurrah,’ offered Ulrik.

The group gazed at rusty panels, faded flowers and dribbling slogans. The streetlights splayed over filthy windows, rendering the driver invisible. The rotting muffler vomited detonations as the van shuddered past on the slippery rails, a scrap yard its only credible destination.

Liam stepped into the street to witness the van’s departure. Sylvia spotted a phalanx of traffic and pulled him to the safety of the opposite footpath. The others followed. As the van disappeared, the spell dissolved and the street came back to life.

‘Well?’ said Neil.

‘It has begun,’ intoned Liam.

‘What has?’

Liam’s face was deadpan. ‘The Kombi-van rail cannon.’

‘What is that?’ asked Ulrik.

‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

Sonya punched Liam lightly in the chest. ‘Oh yes you do. You’re going to explain to my boyfriend, in simple terms, exactly what just happened.’

‘I cannot.’

‘Bullsh*t, man,’ said Yvonne. ‘You got us into this space. What was the bloody sign?’

‘There was no sign; I was mistaken.’

Neil approached Liam from behind and put him in a headlock. ‘Are you sure there was no sign, cobber?’

Liam looked at the ring of expectant faces. ‘Very well. Release me, oaf, and I will reveal all inside the beauteous Club Foramen.’

**********

They entered the dark, smoky space as the headline band came on. Pushing through bodies, Yvonne navigated closer to the stage, trailing the others behind her. The musicians tested their instruments, then launched into deafening orbit.

The lead guitarist was elf-like, her legs clad in velvet. A mesh top sat over a yellow brassiere. Over this hung a large flannel shirt, tied at the waist. Her hair was fastened with camouflage netting that trailed to the stage. A hand-rolled cigarette rode her tiny mouth, twisting as she wrung the neck of her Rickenbacker.

Behind her stood an Aryan percussionist. Her face shone as she thrashed her drums. Tattoos flexed and a thonged top strove to contain her as her arms fell in king hits.

To her left stood the bass player; tall and thin with angular face. Sheathed in a cat suit, her only adornments were a gold link belt and a spider ring that flashed and scuttled over her fretboard. She stood with one leg forward, regarding the audience with faint disdain – occasionally favouring the drummer with an undertaker’s smile.

The singer pranced and posed like a demented bride; prowling the stage in taffeta rags. With wild hair reaching for the rafters, she taunted the crowd, raged against them, lifted them and lay them on her lyrical bed. On her feet were silken points. In moments of complete incongruity, she interspersed her base gyrations with perfect pirouettes.

Spellbound, Yvonne and her girlfriends barely registered the boys’ retreat.

**********

Snooker balls clacked over burn-pitted baize, the music blunted by connecting doors. Neil set three glistening beers on the tiny table and took a stool.

Liam drank deeply. ‘Thanks, man.’

‘Enjoy it, friend. You’ll not get another till you explain the Kombi-van rail cannon.’

Liam smiled. ‘That old chestnut. Surely you don’t want to hear about that?’

‘I certainly do want to hear about it,’ said Ulrik.

‘Shoot,’ ordered Neil.

Liam massaged his eyes, triggering a head spin. ‘Under democracy, issues can be debated ad nauseam, increasing the time it takes for government to act.’

‘What is “Norseum”?’ asked Ulrik despondently.

‘Bear with me man; I’ll recap. This delay frustrates all players and infuriates the public.’

Neil took out his cigarettes. ‘I’m with you.’

‘Good. Now, a perennial threat to democracy is that discontent over inaction can lead to such disaffection that the system is rejected in favour of anarchy.’

‘Of course,’ mumbled Ulrik, staring at the filthy carpet.

‘To neutralize this threat, our government has created the Kombi-van rail cannon.’

Neil regarded Liam narrowly. ‘Go on.’

‘The Kombi-van rail cannon is designed to break deadlocks in the sort of drawn-out debates that really get people’s goats.’

‘Like?’

‘Reconciliation, euthanasia, injecting rooms, the Republic.’

‘I see. And how does it work? Exactly.’

‘Well, simply put, each party to a debate constructs a blockhouse to protect a carton of eggs. They then attempt to destroy each other’s installations with Kombi-van rail cannons. The last side with an intact egg wins the debate.’

Neil took a long drag. ‘Are you trying to tell me that what we saw tonight was … a projectile?’

Liam sipped his beer. ‘Precisely.’

‘You Australians are f*cking crazy,’ spat Ulrik. ‘I am going to the band.’

Neil ignored him. ‘How come we’ve never heard about this bold new concept?’

‘The government wants to enrage the media, to maximise subsequent coverage.’

‘How come you know about it?’

‘It was trialled successfully in Chad and our government loves benchmarking. The signs have been there, for those who know how to look.’

‘But, why Kombi-vans?’

‘Symbol of the people. Worked for Hitler. Did you see the detonator on the bonnet?’

‘No,’ said Neil, with heavy sarcasm. ‘And I suppose the windows were treated to stop us seeing inside?’

‘Bloody oath! Imagine the panic if people realised they were pilotless.’

Pilotless?’

‘Of course! Why do you think it’s called a rail cannon?’

‘So it goes on … rails, does it? On our tram lines, to be precise.’

‘Correct.’

‘So, what if one of these vans hits a f*cking tram?’

‘Impossible; they’re launched according to timetable. You’ll only ever see ’em late at night. That’s the best time.’

Neil crushed his butt. ‘You’re full of sh*t, man; I don’t believe you.’

Liam stared at him. ‘Why not? You think our government isn’t capable of something like this?’

A minute passed.

‘All right smart arse; why haven’t we heard an explosion?’

‘Two possibilities. One: we’re in a club with the loudest band in the world. Two: the van hasn’t reached its target yet. That line runs as far as Kew, you know.’

‘My parents live in Kew!’

‘So you believe me.’

‘Of course I bloody don’t! In any case, I’d know if a blockhouse had been built there.’

‘I wouldn’t be so sure, mate. Who can tell what they’re building these days, once those hoardings go up?’

‘Do you know the location of any of the blockhouses?’

‘No. But I’m confident at least one will be fairly pinpointed by morning.’

Neil drained his glass and scowled.

Liam stood. ‘My shout?’

‘For the moment, you bastard. But this discussion is far from over.’

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Beyond Twitter

April 24, 2015 at 9:37 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
Tags: , ,

Twitter may be flavour of the decade. Yet it’ll surely be superseded by the next fad.

As soon as everyone follows everyone, Twitter will vanish up its own portal.

So what’s the next big thing after Twitter? Here are my hit picks for the future:

Fritter

Accounts are allocated just 140 words, which must be used singly and once.

Whereupon the account is closed.

Rotter

Messages must reveal other people’s secrets.

Nutter

Messages must be of questionable veracity.

Hatter

Messages must be patently insane.

Mutter

Messages must be written in Brush Script MT or some other

indecipherable (and ideally unavailable) font.

Nothing bigger than 8 point.

Frotter

Messages must be tapped out in Morse code on the

thighs and buttocks of fellow public transport users.

Natter

A local area network for users with contiguous properties separated by ‘fences’.

Messages must concern infants, recipes, mortgages or water restrictions.

Blather

Messages must exceed 14,000,000 characters.

Blurter

Messages must contain more information than one wishes to reveal

(and others wish to know).

Best used when intoxicated.

Potter

Messages may be typed,

a few characters at a time,

over several weeks.

To be sent

when one

feels like it.

Or not.

Letter

Unlimited characters may be transcribed onto one or more

paper ‘pages’ and ‘mailed’ to the desired recipient.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Seeing Yellow

April 21, 2015 at 10:22 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

The Men came for me today.

Not in a truck this year, but in a white van.

I didn’t expect them.

I had asked The People In Charge not to send them to my home any more.

One of The Men hurled a Yellow Pages into my front yard.

It landed with a loud thud, startling my dogs.

This time, I decided, it would be different.

This time, I would do something.

I stood up.

I left my desk.

I opened my front door.

I went outside.

I picked up the big, heavy, useless, plastic-wrapped, Yellow lump of paper.

I hefted it in my hands.

My heart started beating faster.

I went to my gate.

The van was three doors up and moving.

I yelled.

I yelled: ‘HEY, MATE!!!’.

The van stopped.

Very much like the tour bus stops in the film ‘Babel’.

The passenger door opened a crack.

I yelled again.

The door opened more and one of The Men got out.

He looked at me.

I threw the Yellow Pages with all my might.

Over my fence.

Onto the footpath.

Away from my home.

Back to the earth.

The Man looked at me.

He glared.

He started walking towards me.

I went back into my home and shut the door.

THE END.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

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