Monday, 5 December 2016

Flash fiction - As the Raven King lay dying

A couple of weeks ago my virtual friend and occasional musical collaborator Mark Bennett pointed me towards the music of a chap going under the name of Tyrella.
Whilst listening to his Wrack and Ruin album (that you can buy from the link above) I read the lyrics to As The Raven King Lay Dying and was blown away. So I wrote the little story below because, well, just because.

 As The Raven King Lay Dying

I found him on the corner of Park Avenue and East 20th, slumped on the pavement outside an all-night pharmacy. The day's papers were still sitting in their bundle on the kerb and he'd snagged one but wasn't reading it; just staring across the street as the sky lightened with the promise of another warm day.
"Fisher," he grunted, "come to gloat?"
"Not I." I took the paper and stuck it underneath me as I sat next to him. "I heard your call."
He twisted slightly to look at me, "still as equals then?"
"Always."
His laugh became a long, scraping cough, finished with a heavy spit onto the pavement. "I'm done here. Through. You'll be on your own soon."
"We've been before," I pointed out. "Berlin wasn't it?"
"It's different this time; look at me!"
He looked like shit. His hair had lost most of its famous colour and his massive frame was mostly skin and bone beneath his rags and coats. Maybe he was just a couple of hours from the morgue.
"And my soldiers come, see…"
Another man of rags was approaching, silhouetted in the pre-dawn it took me a  surprisingly long time to recognise him. Tall, gaunt, long grey hair and beard twitching in the soft breeze, he drew himself to his full height and nodded to me before dropping to one knee and giving the full weight of his gaze to the man next to me. Scarred fists as big as melons clenched as he dropped his eyes and waited for Raven to speak.
"Gilgamesh."
"So you named me," said the kneeling man.
"My time's coming."
"It need not be this way."
"But it should be."
We waited like that, we three, for another hour and the high clouds picked up the light of dawn.
Gilgamesh turned back the way he'd come, "Another comes."
This time the silhouette was unmistakable, so broad across the shoulders he was almost square. But he wasn't short with it, oh no; I was just one of many who, in earlier years, had underestimated his reach and regretted it. Dark hair, dark eyes and a dark countenance, with heavy stubble. He looked as if he was doing slightly better than the others, but his skin was pale and his hands were stained with wine or something more.
I got little more than a glare from him before he too dropped to one knee.
"Czernobog," said the King.
"That was never my name." The Slavic accent was still strong, even after all these years.
"But it's what we call you nevertheless."
And then we waited some more. Someone came out of the pharmacy to pick up the papers, thought about saying something but had second thoughts and went back in. The day's early traffic built and pedestrians gave us a wide berth as we talked about old fights and young women. A patrol car slowed but didn't stop. We must have looked a strange bunch; Gilgamesh and the King in old coats and blankets, Czernobog in his worn out biker leathers, me in my funeral suit.
After a while he tried to look down the street but gave up, "Jaganath?" He asked.
"Coming," I said, "but won't be here in time."
"Just us then. And the Reaper. I see you there!" He shouted.
Maybe there was a shadow under the traffic lights, but the sun was shining off the office blocks and it was hard to see clearly.
Shouting cost him heavily and when the coughing subsided he barely had breath left, just the faintest rise and fall in his chest.
"Call your people," said Gilgamesh, "it is time."
"No, not this time my boys, I release them, I set them free. I set them all free."
So we waited a while longer until he was gone, then stood in silence as a slow procession of the city's unregistered passed by, each leaving a feather on his body.
Eventually Gilgamesh sketched a mocking bow and shuffled off, his height masked by a hunch that was stronger than when he came. Czernobog walked blindly across the junction to a 24 hour café; ignoring the screeching brakes and horns he headed inside and I suspected I wouldn't see him again.
Maybe it just seemed like every bird in Manhattan was silent as I walked home. And maybe it was just a story that a storekeeper had tried to move a tramp out of a doorway but he collapsed into a pile of feathers and blew away down the street, picked up by swirling eddies and lifted to catch the sunlight like a halo.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Hawaiian Shirt Day is tomorrow

Tomorrow's the big day folks, the first National Hawaiian Shirt Day!
Traditions have to start somewhere, this one is starting here.
‪#‎HawaiianShirtDay‬

Monday, 20 June 2016

Hawaiian Shirt Day

This Friday, the last Friday in June, is Hawaiian Shirt Day



#HawaiianShirtDay

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Hawaiian Shirt Day -

The UK doesn't have a national Hawaiian Shirt Day.

This is wrong.

I propose we sort this out. From 2016 onwards, the last Friday of June shall be Hawaiian shirt day.

Why this date? Well traditionally summer starts at the summer solstice so generally the last Friday of June will be the first Friday of Summer.

Also next week a few people will probably need a bit of cheering up.

Let's make this happen.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Flash Fiction - Cake

"And then he gave me some cake."
"Sorry, what?"
"He gave me some cake. It was in a Tupperware in his bag. Said he'd been taking it in for his team at work but I might as well have it. To sort of say sorry I think. You know, for the inconvenience."
"I see. What happened then?"
"Well, he climbed over the fence and I stood there like a chump for a moment before getting back on and calling you lot."
"You didn't try and stop him?"
"What did you expect me to do? Wrestle him to the ground and throw him over my shoulder? He weren't a big guy but he's not much smaller than me.
"And he'd already made it pretty clear that he wasn't getting back on the train."
"How so?"
"Well, he said, "I'm not getting back on." But it was the way he said it. Like it wasn't up for debate. And he had a bit of a scary look in his eye."
"A scary look?"
"Yeah, sort of like he was on drugs but not really. Just that getting in his way wouldn't be a good idea. Look the guy who pulls the emergency stop on a train then just gets off and walks off into the countryside clearly has some issues, right? Besides which, he'd left track-side so I was hardly going to pull him back onto railway property was I?
"You'll have him on CCTV anyway right?"
"Probably, but you'd be surprised about how little help that is sometimes. Cameras are old, pictures are grainy and at the wrong angle, and we're looking for a normally-dressed, average-size, brown-haired Caucasian male carrying a laptop bag..."
"Yeah, sorry about that. I'd know him again if I saw him, but to describe him...? Well, he could be me or you or half the people who've walked past that window."
"Do you know where he got on?"
"Not a chance. With cancellations it was heaving on there, I never made it down the carriage."
"Okay, I understand. Thanks for your help. We'll be in touch if we get anything."
"Can I eat it?"
"What?"
"The cake; can I eat it? Well, share it with the team..."
"Yeah, go ahead, knock yourself out. What kind is it?"
"Banana and chocolate chip."

"Leave us a bit."

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Flash Fiction - Walking

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just didn't stop.

Standing here with my forehead pressed against the glass I wonder what would happen if the doors opened and I didn't get off, didn't go home, have my dinner, sink into the sofa, drag my lazy arse into bed, set the alarm to go through the whole rigmarole again tomorrow.
What if I stepped back, away from the doors, let the train pull my weary carcass the wrong way out of the station and north.
Not that you can go that far north. It's not that big an island. But that doesn't really matter. It's not about that. It's about what would happen if I got off where the train stopped and just kept walking.
I used to hand out catalogues in Amsterdam station; when you looked at the destinations scrolling up the board you couldn't escape the fact that you were at one edge of a continent. One train to Moscow, one more train to Vladivostok and you've crossed half the globe.
This train terminates in Middlesbrough. It's not quite the same. In fact it's a shithole. But you probably know that already.
We're not even moving. Waiting for a platform to become available apparently. Eleven bloody platforms at that station and I bet there's not ten other trains there when we get in.
What would happen if I got off in Middlesbrough and kept walking. Just kept going until I disappeared. Can you even disappear in this country? There's CCTV everywhere but it would take a while to find me on the cameras. They wouldn't be looking for me on Teeside. And in Leeds I'd be just another knackered, middle-aged office worker shuffling through the daily routine, one of thousands going through the grey commute. Tens of thousands maybe?
There must be some pretty empty areas of Northumbria where a man could disappear? Just walk out onto the moors, dig a hole, make a shelter, steal a sheep.
I've not even got a coat with me. I'd be dead in a week.
Maybe I should head south?
Pack a few different things in the rucksack tomorrow morning, head to the station as usual, then London, the south coast, a ferry, and then start walking?
Harder to find.
Warmer.
And it would mean I wasn't so tired I'm falling asleep standing up.
Empty the bank account.
Keep to the back roads and minor rail lines.
Head south, France, then Spain. I bet you can disappear there. No job. No rent. No jammed in like sardines for two hours a day in an overheated cigar tin. No fighting your way through the barriers because the machines don't work properly. No performance appraisals. No stretch targets. No desperate clinging on.
Just walk away.
Walk away.
Tomorrow.
And we're moving again.
Back into the station. Back into the routine. The rut. What did Nick say? "The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth."
Tomorrow.
Walk away.
Just walk away.
Just.
Walk.

Away.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Flash Fiction - The River

I've been dabbling in a bit of fiction writing over the last few years, very little has ever been worth even my re-reading but I've been working on a couple of things recently that might have slightly more to them. In the meantime I'm still putting words on the page just to get ideas out of my head so I can think about other stuff. 
For nothing more than curiousity's sake I've decided to start publishing these little bits of fiction (I think the term is "flash fiction") here. Feel free to comment or critique as you like.

The River

"Christ! Did you see that?"
"What?"
"Someone just fell in!"
"What? Where?"
"By the bridge." I jump to my feet, looking across the scattered groups of people, lounging and sunbathing in the early heat.
"Maybe they've gone for a swim?"
"Fully clothed?" No-one else seems to have noticed. I scan around for a life ring, I've seen one already, I'm sure. There! I start towards it.
"No! Steve, that one!" She gestures to one further down the bank, "The current's going that way."
I set off towards the farther ring. People have started shouting and I am properly sprinting across the grass, shouting "Excuse me!" as loud as I can as I cut round (and sometimes though) the groups of people.
Always polite though, very British.
Someone has already got the ring off the stand when I get there, an older chap I realise as he looks up; knows what he should be doing, but struggling to work up the nerve.
“I’ll go,” I say, pulling my shirt off, “tie it on.” I’m already barefoot, I dump my phone and wallet on my shirt (I feel guilty about that fraction of a second delay, but I promise you it’s really quick). Grabbing the ring, I take two running steps and jump in.
Is this what it feels like to be a hero?
I hit the water hard and nearly lose the bloody ring. The drop is further than it looks but I snag the thin blue rope and start to swim out.
Fuck. I’m already being carried downstream, fast. The current is way stronger than I thought and how the hell are you supposed to swim with one of these things anyway? I wrap the rope around my arm and surge into the river.
I can’t see shit.
I look over my shoulder and she’s moving down the bank pointing. I’m already fifty metres downstream from where I jumped in. She’s on the tow path now, shouting at the old guy to untie the ring. It’s a good thing that she’s got the brains.
Change of plan, no point fighting this current, just cut across and try and intercept.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! The rope’s still tied on and now it’s hooked round my leg as well as my arm. A mouthful of water going down the wrong way. Coughing, spluttering, head going under again, rising sense of panic.
No. This is what it feels like to be a hero.
Released! The rope’s been untied. I roll onto my back and spew half-a-lungful of water out.
She’s still pointing where to go and I am unbelievably relieved to see the end of the rope in her hand.
Swim, check, swim, check, swim, check. I must be most of the way across? Why couldn’t the stupid bastard have fallen in on our side?
Suddenly her hands fly to her mouth and she’s not pointing any more. Must have gone under. I try to put on a spurt then check back. She’s pointing again, jumping up and down with frantic energy. Jabbing, not pointing now, I must be really close. I kick upwards as hard as I can to see further and catch a flash of something pale, something that might be an arm, as it disappears.
I’m tiring and desperate now and fling myself under the water, eyes wide, wide open.
There! Yellow t-shirt!
Grab. Slip. Grab. Slip. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Grab… got it.
Up, not far, gasping for breath. One arm through the ring, one under his armpits. He’s twitching thank fuck.
Suddenly I am surging through the water. Twisting, I can see that a bunch of people have taken the rope from her and there must be a dozen of them pulling me in. He’s slipping though, stupid bastards are pulling to fast and I’m struggling to hold him.
I kick and strain and heave and get my other arm down and under his arms; desperately I lock my fingers together, squeezing until my forearms are on fire.
There are people in the water now, taking the weight, untying the rope from my numb left arm.
She’s smiling at me and crying; I think I might be too.