Metal

Based loosely on idea I had for a world after a particularly abstract nightmare. More of a taster to see for myself if the world holds together. Present tense feels clumsy to me – I’d initally thought about writing the second section in the usual past tense to show that the creatures experiencing the different parts are different (you heard me!), but I’ll post it up like this for now. The tense transitions might work in a longer piece to show short little vignettes from the “enemy’s” point of view. The idea was to paint two portraits of the war, one showing the inhumanity of the humans trying to hold on to the dwindling remains of their empire, and the other from the creatures slowly advancing, and their reasons for doing so.

Meh, enough waffle. Here it is, warts and all.

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Even at this altitude, the air is warm and thick, oppressive as a sauna. A range of mountains, bare rock flanks glistening with frost, dominate the view. A slipped halo of misty cloud obscures each snow covered tip. Below lies the shallow foothills, rolling acres of stony barren ground descending haphazardly to the boulder strewn glacial valley below. There is no large scale vegetation here to anchor the soil, and it shifts and moves leaving the ancient rock below to be cracked and split by the wind and sun where once is was scoured by ice. The numbing monotony of the brown landscape is broken here and there by a languid pool of brown water, hemmed by dull green algae.

Halfway up the undulating foothills, revealed by the brown scars of ancient terraces carved into the hill is a sprawling camp, a darker brown stain on the grey brown sameness of the downs. Row after row of tents of various sizes, once white canvas turned sludge brown by time and weather, seem to tumble down the hill with the viscous brown rivulets of filth stained run off.

Below the camp, separated from it by a wide, litter strewn stream, is a large flattened field. This terrace is much wider, a large section of the hillside has cut away and the boulders moved to form a rocky wall on the opposite side, leaving a compressed earth plaza.. There are machines squatting on the field, each a beetle-like ovoid made of timber and metal. At first glance they appear to be arranged at random, but after a moment a pattern emerges. Where once an orderly array of thousands of machines had stood, each parked side by side, aligned toward the outer wall, there are now more empty spaces than machines to fill them. Two tin sheds dominate one of the lower corners of the field, a huge scrap pile the other. Figures pick over this heap of rust, and the clamour of metal on metal can occasionally be heard as a figure hurls a useful item into a barrow.

While the clouds continue to shroud the upper reaches of the mountain behind the camp, the sky overhead is blue and clear. A weak rainbow in the mountain’s spindrift throws a cheery splash of colour onto this monochrome landscape. The air is humid and oppressively warm. At least water is plentiful despite the desolation; it can be wrung from the air. Flies rise from the sodden ground in whirling clouds, appearing to be columns of dust drawn up by slow tornadoes. The figures below know them for what they are; dust does not exist here. A solitary buzzard wheels high in the sky, soaring on thermals from the cliffs.

Outside the camp, a straight grey road of worn rock slices through the valley, from the great pass to the distance north, where the sparks of reflected sunlight dance on a shallow sea, to the hazy southern lowlands. There, far to the south, can be seen a bright demarcation, so stark it appears to stand out from the blurry landscape, a razor blade spanning the vista from horizon to horizon. As the sun catches it it glints, like edge of a knife. The road is but a pencil mark at this distance, all depth flattened into an oil painting. Roads from valleys to the east and west converge on the razor, merging into a single plane of naked grey rock. Occasionally a rumble of thunder rolls up the valley. Despite the lack of any clouds, the noise sparks no astonishment from the multitude below.

As the wind gusts, a drone can be heard. This is different from the incessant hum of the billion-billion insects; is the rhythmic groan of a human-made mechanism. An elegant cigar shaped craft, sweeping lines marred by two square fins adorning its flanks, flies sluggishly up the valley toward the camp, losing height fast. An oily haze is following in its wake.

A fart of a horn somewhere in the camp triggers a swarm of browns and grey. People boil from tents and the shadows beneath dilapidated machinery like termites.
There is a flash high above, something swift catching the sunlight lancing down between the occasional thin cloud. Several humans point, some yell out in alarm. The bright shape darts into another small cloud, sheer speed and rapidly shifting reflection conspiring to defy identification. Another flicker from a patch of vapour little more than a wisp of mist on the breeze causes a rapid swivelling of heads, and then panic. The airship crew, just visible sat in the open seats under the lozenge respond to the yells of people on the ground and begin working to increase their already breakneck rate of descent. The pilot, one arm limp, hauls on a lever, and the tiny airship begins to turn into the breeze.

Without warning a silver shape appears over the ridge of the hill behind the camp, whistling low over the tents and gathered bodies. Crossbowmen on the ground, rushing to form a firing line, launch hurried shots at the speeding shape. A repeating ballista mounted on a cart just inside the fortified walls looses a trio of bolts in rapid succession. They buzz like angry hornets as they pass over the ranks of crossbowmen, and a lucky quarrel hits the blur as it passes over. The creature’s shape seems to flow like mercury as it snaps into a bone crushing ninety degree turn. Before the shooters can adjust for a second shot the shape has climbed back into the stray cloud.

Crossbows are lowered, suddenly robbed of a target. The shooters stare at the cloud, eyes searching the shifting shadows for signs of movement. Only a handful of soldiers turn as a stray shadow dances over them. One or two shade their eyes and squint into the sun, panic rising.

With a piercing cry like a saw on stone, a silver shape extends four long blade like wings, sun glaring from the rippling mirrored surface like halos of flame, and pulls out of it’s dive. Men scream, and scatter as the creature screeches past, barely missing the ground. The concussion of the creatures violent manoeuvre throws several from their feet. A frantic squeaking of gears can be heard over the shouts as the ballista turret tries to swing around for a shot, but it is frustratingly slow. Crossbows are fired in desperation, but the creature is moving too fast. Tortured air screams as the razor wings flick this way and that, causing the creature to jink and weave with bone-snapping force. The crowd of unarmed on-lookers yell and gesture at the crew of the airship, panic in their voices plainly audible even if the words are robbed of their meaning by distance.

The crew, however, can do nothing. They look on in dumb resignation as a silver wing tip tears through the top of the reinforced canvas gas-bag like tissue, and gravity reclaims them and their vessel. There is a single clear scream as the disintegrating wreck smashes into the ground not a league short of the camp with a sickening wet noise and a screech of tearing metal; the cry is cut off abruptly. For a moment all that can be heard are the discordant pings of metal falling on stone, before silence rolls in like a suffocating fog.

Of the silver shapes, nothing remains.

A few moments later the camp is just a speck far behind. Ahead is a shimmering silver expanse, rapidly expanding from the horizon as it approaches, shining brightly in the summer sun.

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Guildswoman 2nd Class Bethany Freedman – dissident, convicted murderer and aristocrat – slumps back in the seat behind the repeating balilsta and gazes up at the large but distant zinc coloured creature souring high above. As she watches, it turns lazily and begins it’s cruise back to the front.

It’s fast moving kin are nowhere to be seen.

She lowers her eyes and mind back to the plume of oily fumes that is beginning to dissipate in the heavy atmosphere. The scout balloon had been the vanguard of a larger force consisting of about eighty bombers and troop transports. That the scout balloon was the first to return was not a surprise, but that it had been tracked so far beyond the front did not bode well. It would be the only one to return to day, she suspected. She slips to the ground, and tugs on the sleeve of the man next to her and sets off at a run. She hears the thump of the mans boots on the compacted dirt as he obediently follows in her wake.

At a jog it takes ten minutes to bring them to the base of the column of smoke. The crash site is confined to a relatively small area of swampy dirt in a dip not far from the road. A number of scrap workers are already there picking over the remains, although they were mercifully leaving the cockpit area until last. Beth sneers at them with half-hearted contempt as she squats on her haunches and peers down at the remains of the pilots’ seats. They languish at the bottom of the stagnant pool, a dense cage of twisted spars. With only a momentary hesitation, Beth takes a deep breath and slithers down the incline. Awkwardly she collides with the wreckage, trying to spread her weight while doing so in case someone lived within. The scrappers regard her with sunken eyes from the rim of the hollow as, with a sodden squelch, she kneels by the crumpled remains of the pilots seat. The first thing she sees is the arm protruding from the crushed metal, several fingers pointing entirely the wrong way. She grimaces, and peers between the lips of the metal clam the pilot’s seat had become. A moment later she is several feet away vomiting into the mud.

When the nausea recedes enough for her to think, she glances up at her companion. He is stooped, hands on knees watching her dry heave with a look of amused sympathy. With a flash of irritation only Colm could instill, she shakes her head to indicate the fate of the crew, if the vomiting had not already. Guildman Colm Roper shrugs, an impressive sight considering his lanky frame, and extends a rough hand. As she is hauled easily up the slick slope, Beth watches the scrap vultures descend. The Guildguards start back up the hill without a backward glance.

As they approach the camp’s fortified gates, the pair wave at the gate guard atop his stumpy tower. The walk under the stone arch, and onto the plaza, past two of the huge Scarab war machines. As they round the second machine, Beth spots a group approaching them.

“Shit,” mutters Colm under his breath. This rare utterance from the big man makes her peer closer at the group, and she sees at their head Sergeant Jan Rutter, a gleeful thug in his mid-forties, proud rapist, and the leader of her detachment.

“Terrn-shun!”, bellows the Sergeant as soon as he is in ear shot. Freedman and Roper comply; there is no other way. Boots thump to attention, and they stand rigid until the Sergeant and his entourage arrive.
“Just WHAT the fuck was that, Guildsman 2nd Class?!”, thunders the bald man, his pale blue eyes aflame with malice.
“Sir?” Part of Freedman crawls at dignifying this weasel with the honorific.
“I said-!”
“I went to see if the crew could be saved..-”

He is now no more than six inches away, and Freedman feels the spittle on her cheek – her ear drums  twang with every bellowed syllable. Behind the Sergeant’s reddening face, she sees the smirking figure of one of his nameless goons, a tall blond haired youth with a pretty face marred considerably by a scar like a fault line which twists his nose and pulls his mouth down in one corner.

“Not that, SCUM, the shootin’! Your crew failed to defend that balloon! Your tardy response meant that you only JUST had a shot at the first Glint, and didn’t even see the second!”

Beth feels her already simmering rage rise further at the injustice of the accusation.

“The attack was fast sir, we responded as fast as we could!” she hears herself say, and curses her tongue; defending herself would be the same as an admission of guilt to the likes of Rutter.

Rutter grins in predatory delight. He’s enjoying this, the bastard, she thinks bitterly.

“That’s as may be, but was it fast enough, bitch!? You know, I am tempted to punish you, Freedman.”

The last is said in a hoarse whisper, his mouth so close that she feels his lips brush her unruly hair. The unspoken connotations cause her to shudder, and she feels the fury bubble over. Rutter’s thugs chuckle, enjoying the impotent rage passing across her face, like storm clouds ahead of a hurricane. She sees Colm’s fists clench out of the corner of her eye and risks a sidelong glance at the big man. His fury is naked and white hot, and he is staring openly at Rutter. She shakes her head, warning in her eyes.

The exchange is not lost on Rutter.

“Guildsman, you are dismissed!”, he yells. Pointing at the shorter thug with the dreadlocks he quickly adds, “You, get him the fuck out of here, this bitch is far too full of herself with her little boy toy watching”. Dreadlocks nods, and gives Colm a shove toward the camp proper.

Colm stumbles. The thug turns to grin at his partner, but Beth hasn’t taken her eyes from Colm. She has seen him do this before – the stumble is far too controlled. As the thug turns back to his prey, Colm’s fist meets him coming the other way. Rutter moves like a cobra. Before the stunned man has landed, Rutter kicks Colm in the back of the knee, bearing him to the ground. The blond, expression only just morphing to one of surprise, is jolted into action by the heat of Rutter’s furious gaze. He goes in boot first, catching Colm in the chin with the steel reinforced tip.
The big man collapses like a side of mutton. Unthinking, Beth lunges to catch him, and Rutters forearm catches her across the bridge of the nose, effortlessly knocking her backwards into the dirt beside Dreadlocks.

She curls up as Rutter delivers two vicious kicks. Pain blossoms in her back and head. When the third kick fails to arrive, she risks a glance around, and rolls over with an involuntary groan.

Dreadlocks is on his feet, blood dripping from a split lip. He is dealing kick after kick to Colm’s unconsious form, with a grinning Rutter watching on. The sergeant turns, sees her watching and spits contemptuously. The gob hits her in the forehead. He sneers and leads his men away without another word.

Beth lays still, a metallic taste filling her mouth. She rolls over, coughs and spits blood into the dirt. She heaves herself to her knees and crawls to Colm. Something pierces her hand, but she gave it no mind as she sits down and hauls Colm’s head and shoulders on to her lap. His jaw is broken, she is sure, and he’s lost several teeth. She lifts his jerkin to see several livid bruises blooming on his abdomen, and leaves a smear of blood from her palm. As she wipes her forehead with her sleeve she notices a sharp chip of tooth embedded in a rip in her palm that throbs with blood.

There they stay until a passing medic stops and yells for a stretcher. While the two medics bustle around them, Beth seethes silently, the pent up rage of the last month smouldering in her chest. The injustice of her trial, the implacability of the enemy and the cruelty of this existence on the Razor Front combine, rendering her numb and disconnected.

When she is finally returned to her tent an hour later, she makes straight for her hammock. She brushes off her bunk mates urgent enquiries without so much as a glance, curls up with her back to them and, cradling her bandaged hand, cries for the first time since her childhood. She sobs at every image flowing through her head like drifting clouds, her room in the city by the sea, her piano, her family visible from the window playing on the beach. Sack cloth pillow dark with tears, she finally sleeps.


The Blue Marble

NASA’s Suomi satellite, a cutting edge Earth-observing craft designed to observe long term climate change and short term weather effects, has beamed back this awesome image.

There is a brilliant flickr gallery of the spacecraft being built, launched, and a few images that is has beamed back – Click this finely crafted link.

And best of all? Click the image below to see it in glorious high resolution.

https://i2.wp.com/www.nasa.gov/images/content/617883main_VIIRS_4Jan2012.small.jpg

Quite a pretty place, really.


God in a Box (Working Title) – Part 3

A longer bit – I was going to do this as two bits, but it didnt seem to flow as well that way, so here’s the lot! I guess I need to get a move on and write some more stuff. Slow updates, sorry, busy busy week this week.

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The caravan wound its way through the barren canyon. This was dangerous country. The smashed remains of gutted carts were strewn along the canyon floor, to lie with the dessicated remains of their guards and pack beasts. The lead cart rumbled over the rocky surface, grinding pebbles to dust under its great weight. Each time a wheel stuck on a rock, or fell into a pothole, the cart beast grunted, but the drum roll of its eight massive feet never faltered.

The guards clutched their long bladed spears tightly, every knuckle on all four hands white with strain. They scanned the jagged crests of the hills; any silhouette was studied carefully. The tribes would be watching. The guards were on edge; no-one wanted to get caught out here, when the city and it’s fortified sanctuary was so very close.

The captain clutched his spear two-handed, and used his other hand to shield his eyes. The double blue sun was bright today, it would give their attackers an advantage attacking from the top of the crag. His phantom hand twisted uncomfortably, bringing to his face what passed for a grimace among his people. That wound still bothered him. It was long past the time the limb should have regenerated, but he wasn’t as young as he used to be, and the long years had hardened his chitin, making the process more painful to boot.

*They come!*

The alarm slammed into him, each molecule of the alarm scent crashing into his receptors like a rock from a catapult. He spun in time to see the painted brown figures detach from crevices in the wooden walls of the canyon, each one a feature of the landscape until they moved. The sinuous movement of their eight limbs emerging from the background hypnotised him, but their rage filled screams as they charged brought him back to himself, and he readied his weapon.

A long spear whisked past his head, the fluidic air parting with a thin scream. He ducked, and jabbed, using his attackers momentum against him, and the spear tip plunged into the tribers thorax with the crack of splintering chitin. He jerked the spear free as the body spun past, parried a hastily thrust attack with his lower forearm before swinging the bladed edge around. Using the last of the dead creatures momentum, he smoothly separated the attackers head from his body. Both fell at his feet, twitching. He jumped, air molecules moving aside reluctantly as he did so, and landed on another triber a split second after it cut down the paralysed guard it had been attacking. The captain screamed, a screech of pain and fury as he felt the tribers head cave in under this feet.

A spear haft hit the captain in the head, and he went down, his vision blurring. He hit the ground, and rolled over. His spear has gone, flicked away by the force of the fall. A triber stood over him, and his mandibles clacked together in a smirk of pleasure. He was a tense, malevolent oasis in the chaotic melee whirling around them. The blue suns glinted off his dark brown armoured body as he brought the blade spear up in a four-handed back-swing, and began the final downward stroke.

The world blurred and rolling wave of deafening sound bounced and ricocheted down the canyon.

The ground fell away from beneath them, throwing the triber off his feet and into a heap beside the captain. They were still falling as the ground rose again, and the captain felt his chitin crack as the rock smashed into him from below. And the world went black.

—————-

Blinba looked up. He had been concentrating so hard on his new little world that the slamming of the door had taken him by surprise. He could still feel the violent concussions rolling around the winding canyons of the wooden plank floor. If he was human, he would be annoyed. He flared his eye-orbs in what he’d learned was a menacing fashion.

“What do you want, now? It is annoying when you surprise me like that.”

“I-I-I’m s-sorry. This door doesn’t ‘alf st-stick.”, said a thin male voice apologetically.

“I was busy.”

“Ooh, w-w-what w-with?”, said the voice, curiosity momentarily getting the jump on fear, before it caught up causing him to squeak, ”I-if you d-don’t mind me ask-k-king?!”

Despite himself, Blinba liked this mind. It was fractal; the simple pattern of swirls and knots was repeated at smaller and scales smaller. And the closer he looked the more complex the pattern became, at every level. Unfortunately it was also a vivid shade of yellow. He could feel the cloying sense of unforcussed dread of the world drifting around this mind like oily smoke.

“I was building worlds.”

“Really? W-would you tell me about them?” The stutter was suddenly almost absent, forgotten. Blinba heard a rustle of paper.

“I would like to, but I would like to be left to build my worlds more.”

“Oh.” The mind flattened slightly, almost a slump of disappointment.

“But, since the world has apparently all but ended now, I will talk to you,” Blinba continued, feeling curiously reluctant to disappoint this earnest little creature.

“W-wow, thankyou!”, the shape sat on a previously unnoticed stool, pencil poised over a sheaf of paper.

“I built a city and some small creatures to make stories for me watch. They lived on the floor, in the floor. They fought, they loved. They were unique, for they were just an inspiration, and I let the nature of this universe shape them. Their shape gave them what they thought of as free will. In this they were the same as you. Their will caused them to act and from these acts emerged stories.”

“Y-you built a world, in the floor? What are they doing now?”

Nothing, they died, as all stories do. Each hour was a century to them; they had plenty of time, but their world was transient and the opening of the door was too much for it.” The scratch of pencil on paper halted suddenly.

“W-what?! Really? And I killed them by opening a door!?”, the voice exclaimed, horrified.

“Yes. Does that upset you? You did not know. You were but a natural disaster, you could not communicate with them, or they with you, you were the equivalent of a magma eddy that triggers an earthquake. You did not murder, your action merely had a consequence that you did not predict or observe, as all your actions do. That is how the world is, and that is what makes it interesting.”

“B-b-but still, I killed them. Did they suffer?”

Blinba shrugged. “Many of them did, but not for long. And at the end of things, what is the difference?”

The mind shrank slightly, and its hue became more orange.

“You are g-getting b-better at acting like w-w-one of us, you know. You can b-be mean.”

Blinba looked at him, genuinely surprised. “Do you think so? I admit I feel that I have changed. I cannot observe the world, I am broadly as limited as you in my perception. Do you think that has altered me? But I do not think I am being mean. I did not mean them to suffer, any more than you did.”

“B-b-but you made them. That makes their suffering y-your f-fault.”

“So I should have let them remain unrealised potential? Suffering and happiness are consequences of existence.”

“Can y-you not make them just happy?”

Blinba looked at him, eye orbs flaring once again, “That would be boring.”

“You seem to have an answer for everything. More so every day.”, he muttered reproachfully.

“I have little to do but to think about things from your point of view, so I suppose that I seem to have more relevant answers. It is most distracting, my mind wanders. I prefer our conversations, it allows me to focus on one subject. Does the old man know you are still visiting me?”

“No, he told me not to. He said I had not done a good job of understanding you. I think he was just angry that I hadn’t agreed with what he’d taught us.”

There was a long silence as Blinba thought about this, then he said, “So, am I to be sent out into the world again? It has been some time, has it not? I find it difficult to tell.”

The young main looked sad.

“The Reverand Scholar said that w-we w-w-were not t-to let you out again for a w-w-while. He said you are g-g-getting uncooperative. I’m sure he b-blames our talks, the ones w-we had b-b-before he b-banned me from seeing you.”

“And stopping me from doing the work he wants me to do is a punishment? If I was uncooperative, I was at least being uncooperative while working.”

“He’s just trying to hurt you isn’t he?”

Blinba’s shoulders became mistier, and rose a couple of inches; his version of a shrug, and nodded. Exaggerated affectations which took far more effort for him than speaking, but it seemed appropriate. The young man looked about to cry.

“But w-why? W-w-what have you done to him?”

“I have done nothing, I think that is why he is angry. Until he trapped me here I did not know him, or you, or anyone. You were just talking chemicals. Despite his assurances to the contrary, he is a pious man, and I have disappointed him. He believed in a god of power and influence and manipulation, something he could use. I am just a god of stories. All I really do is watch.”

“But surely that is better? We are our own, not something’s play-things.”

“I am glad you see it that way.” Blinba looked into the eyes of his only friend and his voice took on an edge of pleading. “So, can I go out again? Please?”

Even Blinba couldn’t decide if the emotion was voluntary.


God in a Box (Working Title) – Part 2

A short section this one. Just long enough for a coffee break.

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“Well, that was a resounding success, Tosty, well done!”, said Professor Aardvark Chopsticks, thumbs in his equatorial belt.

Tosty Architrave, kneeling by a half-filled chest, glanced up, triumph still glowing on his skinny face, and grinned up at his mentor, the wispy fluff of adolescence quivering on his upper lip. The professors kind eyes peered down at his protege over the curve of the enormous belly like two watery eggs in a nest of white eyebrow.

“Thankyou, Professor. That demonstration with the diffraction grating and the peashooter was a triumph. How did you know that peas could exist in superposition?”

“Ah, well, lad, I knew it had to be possible; light is made up of tiny pea shaped things that act as waves and dots, so it stood to reason that peas could do the same!”

“A marvel, sir.”

“Yes indeed. And besides, I felt a presence when we began this morning; I knew things would work properly today.”

Tosty looked uncomfortable. “Sir? Isn’t that a bit like religion?”

The big man smiled beatifically.

“A bit, my lad, but religion is only religion when faith is involved; guesswork and wishful thinking to believe blindly in a myth. When you know something exists through testing, through facts, faith isn’t needed any more, do you see?”

“Not really”, Tosty said, looking worried. The Professor patted him on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry, you will. I have decided to nominate you for a place in the Grand College in the autumn, if you are still desirous of a place?”

“That would be magnificent, sir!”, exclaimed the boy, the packing of apparatus suddenly forgotten, “I won’t let you down, I promise!”

The professor laughed, “I know you won’t lad, a great scientist I see in you. You remind me of myself at your age; you will go far.”

Tosty just grinned inanely. The professor coughed theatrically to cover his doubtful expression.

“Yes, well. When you are done packing, please be so good as to see the innkeeper about our dinner.”, he said, turning and striding to the exit, “A good glazed ham should do the trick. And perhaps some of those lovely buttered potatoes with the tasty little green things.”

“Herbs, sir. Certainly, Professor. And thankyou again!”

The professor beamed at him, and closed the door.

Tosty turned back to his task, lifting an experimental accordion from the pile on the floor. And stopped. Under the instrument was the metal plate used to display the pea diffraction pattern.
The peas had dried and had begun to flake off, but in the complex pattern of yellow-green splotches there could be clearly seen two words.

“TeSTIng tEstInG”.


God in a Box (Working Title)

A part of a story, from somewhere right of the start, but left of the middle.

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Blinba sulked. He sat on a small stool in the centre of the Space and peered out of his own head sullenly. The term “he sat” was somewhat misleading, Blinba considered. He was a he only by convention; his shape was certainly not female, but he definitely lacked some details which would have lead an observer to conclusively declare his masculinity. Then there was the word “sat”. True, his shape appeared to be that of a cross legged figure with his rump on or about the seat, but a careful watcher would see that he hovered a fraction of an inch above the rough wood. He was also rotating slowly. His extremities faded into motes as they approached the metal slabs making up his cage, and were whisked away in a speedy half orbit, before a rapid but smooth deceleration as they re-attached themselves to his other side.

Blinba felt the iron hard knot of His mind approaching, along with another knot which was more of a heap. A thin wooden door rattled a couple of times behind him, and there was a muffled curse. The knot of the mind grew spikes.

“Bloody damp, I swear, damnable fores-” There was a splintering crack as something came free. The knot smoothed out again. The room rocked, and boots clumped on the wooden floor.

“Good morning, Blinba”, said a voice full of meticulously rationed joviality.

“Only here, elsewhere it’s the afternoon”, replied Blinba, attempting pomposity. He failed.

“Quite so, quite so. I am glad you are concentrating so much on these things, there is so much that needs to be watched, after all.”

Blinba didn’t reply.

Once, he thought, he had drifted through the world; watching, nudging a mind here, tinkering with an action there. Enjoying himself. He had been free in a creation of his own mind. Maybe it WAS his own mind, once. But his attention, while vast, was not infinite. For humans, he thought, attention span referred to time, but to the likes of him it was more a matter of radius. Time was not an issue, everywhen was now when your memory was perfect, and the future perfectly predictable. But everywhere was behind you when you were concerned with those tiny fascinating details. Things sneak up on you, even in your own mind. Without warning he had been crammed into this Space, and his attention was cut free, his predictions shattered. Now all he had were his eyes, the local limit of his attention, formed with care into two glowing blue orbs in the top of his shape.

And they were BORED.

The cage ringing the Space was made of twenty-one metal slabs about six feet tall by one wide, each with a tight coil of copper wire at top and bottom. Engraved on each was a picture. Blinba had studied them many times; the Heirophant, the Lovers, the Tower.

Shortly after he had gotten bored with these, the visits had started. The man had been okay; blond, tall, shoulders that made him look vaguely triangular. An archtypal hero, and thick as a sawmill of planks. He has been good conversation and charming. Blinba had wanted to give him a boon or, failing that, a treat and a pat on the head. His mind had been like a duvet – soft, warm and full of air.

Then there had been the woman. Blinba shuddered, and then out of pride at this human-like reaction, did so again to show off. The woman. Her mind had been a granite ball, polished to a mirror shine, but containing a seething mass of molten ambition. The man, whom she called Your Highness in Blinba’s presence, but “Dolt” when she thought he couldn’t hear, had been scared of her too, and had looked at her before every question, like an actor who had forgotten his lines.

Then one day – Blinba didn’t know how much later, he had never been good with time – another man had arrived. He was bearded, grey and hunched, and his mind was metallic, at once both sharp and malleable. He was a man used to adapting, and used to having things turn out to his advantage. Blinba had liked the beard, sharply defined and grey, like a piece of flint. He had tried to copy it until the man politely told him not to, and ripped Blinba apart. When Blinba had pulled himself together, the man had told Blinba that they were going on a journey. A score of younger men, all similarly robed, had rushed in. They’d manhandled Blinba’s cage through the door and out of the castle. It had been dark, but Blinba didn’t need light to see the citadel, and the mountains, and the sky before the door of the cart had closed them off from him one again.

He’d tried to copy the human shape in the intervening months out of a lack of anything else to do, and, using the shiny surface of the metal slabs to judge the results, had got very good at it. He hardly had to concentrate any more. The illusion would have been perfect but for the fact that that he couldn’t change colour from that of early morning mist, and that the motes making up his body would get dragged away by the intense field at the edge of the Space. After the ripping apart incident, Blinba didn’t go near to them. In the end, the boredom had rendered him lazy, and it was this laziness that left him in his current form, an androgynous figure made of solid mist, with few details.

“We had a problem several nights ago, my friend”, continued the knot, measured steps circling his enclosure so that they were always behind him. Blinba stayed silent.

“One of our shows went wrong, and I know it wasn’t our methodology that caused it. Some damage done to equipment and personage, and a lot to our reputation. I am not ha-ppeey!”.

This last sentence was delivered in a childlike sing-song voice, and was all the more menacing for it. The mind spiked and then went mirror smooth. The clumping stopped.

“This world was created by you, we were all created by you; you owe us for that. This world does not run well, it runs erratically, driven by emotion and stories”, the man sneered,”not by fact and rigorously enforced RULES!” The last word was a savage scream. Blinba jumped, and congratulated himself.

These conversations were getting more common. For all his attempts to ape human behaviour (he applauded himself on the pun) he hadn’t yet got the hang of fear. This human enjoyed creating fear, and when he couldn’t instill it in Blinba, he got angry.

“So, now you are going to try again.”

Blinba felt the field around him relax its grip, and he let his mind reach out, fingers of consciousness swirled through the gaps between the slabs. He flailed for a moment, and his world flooded to meet him, tendrils intertwining. The most tenuous of bridges, the most fragile of freedoms from this prison. Blinba exalted.

“A town, east of the Sunset mountains, on the shore of a great lake. Are you there?”

Blinba felt the words flow across the bridge with the world, and he focused, a concentration of attention on the small town. He saw the cobbles, the harbour, the sun reflecting on the deck of the schooner, the men kneeling in rows scrubbing her deck. He saw the gulls swirling overhead, he saw the rat scurry through the unloaded cargoes. He saw everything at once, and every one thing in detail.

“I am here, I am everywhere, but am mostly there, yes.” He felt the grunt, and the brief annoyance at his verbosity. The heavy footsteps resumed. There was another groan of arboreal protest as the door was opened.

“There is a show, a small cart and a stage in the square. Things must be consistent. Ensure it.”

Blinba set to work as the door shut. He was dimly aware that a couple of heavy blows were needed to ensure it stayed that way.

A small human wandered into view, holding a notebook and a quill.

“W-whenever you are ready, s-sir”, said he, in a squeaky voice.

Blinba concentrated.


Jesus and Mo respond to UCL / LSE nonsense.

Media_httpcdnnearlyfr_mdean

I chuckled heartily at this; perfectly put.


That time of year again!

Squee, it’s that time of year again! Those anticipation filled weeks in which the F1 circus start revealing their challengers for the year! I have a strange tingly sensation.

This year it’s Caterham’s CT01 which is the first have it’s cosy cover swept ceremoniously aside, to leave it sit blinking in the spotlights.

Ta da!

Well….yikes… A face only a mother spoonbill could love.

That horrific nose is borne of the new regulations for this year governing the height of the nose cone (to improve driver safety in the event of it t-boning another car) so I can imagine that other teams will have similarly ugly solutions in the offing. I guess we’ll get used to them, though. We got used to the lawnmower front wings in 2009, after all!

This car certainly appears less conservative than the previous two years, especially in the rear aerodynamics and the side pods (look how small they are compared with last years blocky design?). It should be interesting to see how Caterham get on this year! I will get a Caterham t-shirt at my yearly F1 race visit (tbc!) to go with my Jensen hat.

Here’s to a new F1 season! In the words of Tychus Findley, “Heyll, it’s about daymn tarme.”


Cake 'n' Stabbin'

The Life and Times of Tinycat

The Hobby Project

A Hobby Blog for everything miniatures, including the Imperial Crusade Project.

stuffandthings152

Just stuff... and things...