Archive for September, 2012

My human was quite in quite an excitable way on Monday, disappearing off in the early evening and not coming home again until quite late. Apparently, he  went to see Sir Terry Pratchett at Ely Cathedral for the launch of his new book, Dodger.

Sir Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry was in fine fettle and ably assisted by his, er, assistant, Rob Wilkins.

Let’s take a moment to examine this situation. The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Ely,  the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, has a book launch event for Sir Terry Pratchett (organised by the local and excellent Toppings bookshop). Sir Terry is well known for his Fantasy novels comprising the Discworld series, a world steeped in sorcery, magic, a fair dose of headology and more gods, goddesses and religions than a multi-armed deity could reasonably shake a stick at.  Sir Terry is a self proclaimed atheist with strong views on assisted euthanasia, views at odds with most religious faiths.

Therefore, you might not be surprised to know that there were several points during the event with Sir Terry where he went off on one, much to the embarrassment of Rob, who visibly squirmed in his chair during those moments.

Only a lucky one-hundred people were chosen, literally by pulling names from a hat, from the thirteen-hundred people who attended the event. Each of these ‘chosen ones’ got to meet Sir Terry in person and have a picture taken with him, as well as to receive a signed book plate insert. My human was one of the lucky one-hundred. Unfortunately, I can only to tell humans apart by their smell. They pretty much all  look the same to me otherwise, so here is a random picture of Sir Terry with one of the lucky chosen few.

Sir Terry and some other random human.

Sir Terry seems to be cranking the output handle at his usual prolific pace and shows no signs of slowing down.  He spoke of several projects in the pipeline including a possible television series based on the characters of the City Guard.

In a BBC interview the next day (and still wearing his top hat), Sir Terry revealed that he is more affected by the aches and pains of old age (he is 64 after all) than by onset of Alzheimer’s disease. He says it’s his will to write that keeps him going.

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Real Life Mupponians!

Posted: September 17, 2012 in Mutterings

The horror! The horror!

My recent flash-fiction, Bastille, features an alien race called Mupponians, specifically two members of that race; Ernest and Bertrum.

It seemed quite funny in my tiny, fury head.

However, these pictures reveal what they might really look like.

Ernest and Bertrum, as imagined in my worst nightmare.

Truly, this is nightmare fuel.

There’s even a yellow rubber duck!

Pass the brain bleach, please.

Less Of Her

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Published

My short story, Less of Her, has been published in the August 2012 issue of the Aphelion-webzine.

Blurb: Claudia’s custom-made prosthetic brass legs are works of art. Lumi loves them and grows to love their creator too but these two women want very different things.

 

 

The Deal

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Flash

Written for the Aphelion-webzine August 2012 Flash Challenge.  The challenge was to write a tale of one or more present-day humans attempting to conduct a business transaction with an alien or beings from another time.

WARNING: Mild innuendo.

—–

I never thought I’d meet an alien. I mean an honest to goodness, extraterrestrial. And I never would’ve imagined that this alien would come in the form of a smoking hot brunette. I mean, I knew about the aliens – who doesn’t? When the Geeks at that place in Europe with the big collider thing created the first superluminal doo-hickies, it was like a big beacon to the universe letting the aliens know we were here. Ten minutes later, the first alien materialised in the control room and politely asked them to turn the volume down. Apparently, our broadcast was like all caps on Twitter. Aliens are all multi-dimensional and whatever. Space ships, ray guns. Forget that. In fact, real disappointing. Aliens look like whatever they want – animals, cars, trees, mostly they manifest as humans.

Anyway, they kind of popped in to say hello, welcome to the multi-verse, here are the rules of etiquette: Rule one – no shouting in the superluminal ether. After that aliens started dropping by quite often, you know, consulting with the big wigs, presidents, captains of industry.

So, I was blown away when I opened the door that morning and found a real, live alien standing there. A smoking hot alien.

“Hello, Mr Carter. My name is Lilith Cambion and I should declare that I am an extraterrestrial. I have come to you today with an exciting, once in a lifetime opportunity.”

I said she was smoking hot, right? Let me tell you, she had that sexy librarian thing going on. Dark, luxurious tresses piled up in a complicated do, dark rimmed glasses, real nerdy but so… you know, right? Her figure? Oh, man! Take every Playboy centerfold you’ve ever seen and just throw them away. She was wearing one of those silky blouse things, nice and tight, buttons straining kind of affair. And a super-narrow, figure hugging skirt to her knees that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. I just stood there and gaped.

You’re thinking, I should’ve known it was some kind of con, right? I mean, it was a classic used car opener. But, she was just so freaking sexy, it was hard to even think straight.

She made a polite cough and I realised that I had been staring at her for way too long.

“May I come in?”, she asked.

“Sure.”

My place was a mess. There were dirty plates with take-out on the coffee table, so old it was making a bid for sentience. I moved a dirty sock from the cleanest spot on the sofa and waved her to sit down. What can I say? Bachelor pad, you know.

“So, Miss Cambion…”

“Please, call me Lil.”

“Lil. You said something about an opportunity?”

“Yes, that’s right, Adam. May I call you Adam?”

“Sure.”

“Well, Adam, I would like to purchase your immortal soul, and in exchange I will give you your hearts desire.”

I know it sounds real corny like that, but the way she said it, the look in her eyes, the little seductive half smile she had on her lips. I didn’t know whether to laugh or, you know, whatever.

“My what?”

“Look, I understand that humans don’t generally believe that they have an immortal soul anymore but, on my plane of existence, it’s a commodity of real value and I’m willing to give you anything you ask for in exchange.”

“Anything?”

“Anything.”

“A billion dollars?”

“Do you want a billion dollars?”

“Wait! I’m still thinking about it.”

“You’re a shrewd negotiator, I can tell, Adam.”

She touched my knee when she said that. It sent a shock right through me, like a little spark of joy. She was sitting forward on the sofa. Her knees were pressed together but I could see a little thigh, and her blouse was really Goddamn tight. I started thinking maybe this was some candid camera type thing. You know, some kind of practical joke.

“Say, how do I know you’re really an alien?”

“Oh, well. Can a human do this?”

She clicked her fingers and a large wad of papers and a genuine, real-feather, quill pen materialised on the coffee table in front of her.

“This is a standard contract for your immortal soul. Once we settle on the details, I just need you to sign it, in blood, and that’s it.” She gave me this thousand megawatt smile. It was so bright, it could’ve made a blind man weep.

“This is getting a little too biblical, here,” I said.

“Oh, this isn’t the first time we’ve been to Earth. We used to visit, oh, such a long time ago, before there were trade limitations against dealing with primitive societies. I wouldn’t believe all that stuff. It was mostly just bad press, sour grapes.”

“Uh-huh.”

“So, what’s it going to be, Adam. What do you want for your soul?”

“A billion dollars and I want to be famous, like, on TV. And I want a Ferrari and, er…”

“Yes, Adam?”

“You.”

Hey, I’m just a man and she was a smoking hot, sexy, librarian, alien woman. Like she said, once in a lifetime opportunity.

“You want this body?” She had such a dirty look on her face, her voice all low and husky. I swear, I nearly passed out from sudden blood loss when it all went, you know, down there.

“Yes,” I said.

“Done.” She pricked my finger with the sharp tip of the quill. “Just sign on the dotted line.”

And that’s how I became a smoking hot brunette. You know, a woman. The book deal, movie rights and TV appearances are making me a fortune. The Ferrari’s on order. It wasn’t the deal I had in mind but it’s still, kind of, almost, mostly okay.

Of course, I worry about my immortal soul.

Why do aliens have to be so Goddamned literal?

The End

The Bogey Man

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Flash

Written for the Aphelion-webzine July 2012 challenge, to tell a story with the inspiration of “something under the bed”.

—–

It has many names. In India they call it Goggayya, in Africa it is called Dongola Miso, in the cold north it’s called the Gryla. Where English is spoken it’s often called the Bagman or Boogerman, but most commonly it is simply the Bogeyman. Parents invoke it to keep unruly children quiet in their beds. Frightened kids will lie petrified, scared that a clawed hand will grab them by a vulnerable ankle and drag them, kicking and screaming, into the unfathomable darkness beneath their beds.

Like most things of myth and legend, there is a grain of truth. The Bogeyman is real but It’s a thing of waveform, not matter. No sub-atomic particles here, no substance that can be examined under a microscope. It is, quite literally, the stuff of shadows. And, as you might expect, it hates the light; cruel photons that interrupt its pattern, that dissolve its essence. And yes, like legend, it steals children, when it can.

Jenny is seven. Jenny knows the Bogeyman is real. She knows it lives under her bed and it wants to get her. She’s heard it whispering and scratching under her bed at night. Unlike millions of other children around the world, in this case, Jenny is right.

Abigail is seventeen. She’s a pretty girl, petite and blonde. She’s used to getting her own way with a coquettish smile and dimples. It works on almost everyone. Everyone except the brats she has to babysit. Unlike Jenny, she doesn’t believe the Bogeyman is real, but she knows the power of the Bogeyman, oh yes. With graphic details of its torments, she rules those young, impressionable minds unlucky enough to end up in her care. She rules them with an iron fist of fear.

“Will you read me a story?”

Abigail scowls. “No.”

She stands in Jenny’s bedroom doorway, her hand on the lightswitch. Jenny sits bolt upright in her bed, the pink, My Little Pony, bed covers bunched around her and a scruffy toy rabbit, also pink, clutched in her arms..

“Can I have a drink of water?”

“No.”

“But I’m thirsty.” Jenny doesn’t whine. Her voice is steady, reasonable. She knows she has to be credible. To whine or show fear at bedtime wins her nothing from her parents, she expects the same of her babysitter.

“No.” Abigail repeats.

“Can you leave the door open?”

Abigail sighs with exaggerated exasperation, “No. The TV noise will keep you awake.”

“Can you leave the light on?”

“No.”

“I mean, my night light.”

Abigail smiles, the dimples come out.

“You’re not afraid of the dark are you?”

Jenny nods her head, uncertain. She’s still trusting enough of adults to try the truth sometimes.

“A big girl like you?” Abigail’s smile deepens but never reaches her eyes. Jenny realises she’s made a tactical error. She says nothing now, pinned by Abigail’s knowing look.

“Is it… the Bogeyman?” The theatrical pause and astonished reaction from Jenny almost make Abigail laugh out loud.

“You know about the Bogeyman?” Jenny asks.

“The one under your bed?”

Jenny nods, solemn, face drawn, she squeezes her toy rabbit closer.

“Want me to check if it’s there?” This is the part Abigail really enjoys. The pantomime of seeking out the monster, of pretending to get caught, of struggling and escaping, of coming within an inch of a horrible death. If she plays it right, Abigail knows she can leave a child in terrified, bed-wetting fear, silent and unmoving for the rest of the evening. But Jenny is shaking her head, very emphatically, no.

“I don’t want it to get you,” Jenny says.

Abigail moves to the bed, gets down on her knees beside it. “It only eats little kids. I’m too big,” she says. Jenny is trembling, Abigail can feel it through the bed frame and is delighted.

“Don’t. Please don’t,” Jenny begs.

Ignoring her, Abigail crouches down onto the soft, beige carpet and puts her head and shoulder under the bed. Out of the corner of her eye she sees movement in the deep shadows. Startled, she cries out, bangs her head.

“Abigail!” Jenny’s scream is full of desperation and fear.

Abigail looks again; A dust bunny, disturbed by the movement of air, settles. Abigail grins with chagrin and then anticipation of what comes next.

“Oh, my God!” Abigail screams in mock terror. “It’s here, it’s got me!”

Jenny’s answering shriek is piercing and loud. It makes Abigail grin even more. That’s when the light bulb blows with a pop. It’s chance, no supernatural intervention required, but it’s what the Bogeyman has been waiting and waiting for.

Under the bed, it’s pitch black now. The Bogeyman rises through the darkness to strike and fast, because as fast as light is, the Bogeyman is faster. Windows to the soul, that’s what they say about the eyes. For the Bogeyman it’s true. Photoreceptor cells are evolved to sense light but they are also a gateway for the shadow creature. It pours its essence into Abigail’s eyes, along her optic nerves and into her mind. Neurons stutter, misfire under malignant attack, and Abigail thrashes, banging her shoulders and head repeatedly against the underside of the bed. Jenny sobs, her worst fears coming true, and tries to avoid the rocking mattress from throwing her to the floor.

Abigail’s young soul is no match for this ancient phantasm. She is quickly subdued, destroyed, dispatched. This isn’t the Bogeyman’s first, it knows how to control its host’s vacated shell. In the dark, dark bedroom the thing that wears Abigail’s body rises unsteadily to its feet. Jenny lies shaking on her bed, unable to stop the whimpers that escape her tightly pressed lips, but the Bogeyman pays her no attention as it lurches from the room.

The night is young and so is its stolen body. The Bogeyman has much mischief it wants to try before the dawn.

The End

Bastille

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Flash

Written for the Aphelion-webzine June 2012 Flash challenge. The challenge was the same as for May; To write the story of a human detective investigating the murder of a nefarious alien named Skekko. Except this time, written as a parody or comedy! 

—–

Nathan Bastille, debonair bachelor and best selling crime writer, caught sight of Detective Stana Kalashnikova as he entered the squadroom. She had the phone jammed against her ear as she scribbled furiously in her notepad. Nathan smiled as he took in the delicate curve of her neck, the strong line of her jaw and her full, red lips. She was his muse, the woman he loved, but she was damaged, driven and could never return his feelings until she’d brought her father’s killer to justice.

“Bastille, what are you grinning at?” Stana slammed the phone down and grabbed her jacket before striding towards Bastille. “We’ve caught a murder at a warehouse down on Sesame Street. Let’s go.”

***

They found Janie, the pathologist, already at the scene in the cluttered back office room of the grimy Sesame Street warehouse. Loose papers and yellow feathers covered every surface. Janie stood over the corpse of a six foot bird.

“That canary ain’t gonna sing no more,” said Nathan.

“Why did you have to bring Bastille with you?”

“Now play nice, Janie,” replied Stana. ”You know the deal, he gets to follow me around doing research for his books and in return his poker buddy, the chief of police, stays off our backs. What have we got?”

“Vic’s an extraterrestrial, name of Skekko, ran an import export business out of here. She’s been strangled. Time of death is between ten and two last night.”

“So, who choked the chicken?” Said Bastille with a grin.

“Skekko was dirty bird,” said Detective Rodriguez, Stana’s partner, as he walked in. “Got a rap sheet as long as my arm; smuggling, drugs, fraud.”

“So, plenty of enemies,” said Stana. “What do you think, Bastille?”

“Ah yes, a case of murder most-”

“I have a gun,” cut in Stana, “Don’t make me use it.”

“She’s been strangled,” continued Bastille soberly. “That’s personal, a crime of passion no doubt.”

“We’ve got her business partners downstairs,” said Rodriguez. “See if they knew anyone who had a grudge.”

***

“Wow, a couple of Mupponians!” Bastille stared at the short, orange humanoids that had been Skekko’s business partners as Stana and he came down the stairs into the shadowy warehouse. “They look so adorable, can we keep them?”

“They’re suspects,” growled Stana, “not pets.”

She turned to the to the Mupponians, her face stern, “So, which one of you is Earnest and which is Bertrum.”

“I’m Earnest,” said the shorter. “He’s Bertrum. I can’t believe the big bird is dead. It’s just so sad.”

“She had it coming,“ said the taller one, “She didn’t make many friends. “

“Can think of anyone who had a problem with the deceased?” Asked Stana.

“Only everyone that ever met her.”

“Now, that’s just mean, Bertrum. She had a big heart under that soft, downy exterior,” said Earnest.

“Have either of you got an alibi between ten and two last night?” Asked Stana.

“We were at home together, all night,” said Bertrum. “Earnest took a bath and I was reading, we went to bed about midnight.”

“Where’s your other business partner?” asked Rodriguez, coming down from the office, a stack of papers in his hands. He turned to Stana and Nathan, “I’ve been looking at the paperwork, there’s a fourth business partner, name of Aloyoshenka.”

“Bah!” said Bertrum. “The mythical sleeping partner. Skekko made him up so she could take more share of the profits. We’ve never laid eyes on him.”

“It’s true, we’ve never met him, but the big bird always spoke very highly of him,” said Earnest. “She said he was a Chameleoprobos, from her home planet.”

“A Chameleoprobus!” exclaimed Bastille.

“What is it, Bastille? What’s a Chameleoprobus?” asked Stana.

“This is so great,” said Bastille. “Detective, I think we may have a witness to our murder most-”

“Bastille!” Cut in Stana, “I won’t warn you again.”

***

“Okay, Bastille,” said Stana with scowl on her face. “What are we all doing back in the office?” The room was crowded with Bastille, both detectives, the pathologist, the Mupponians and the body of Skekko.

“We’ve all been avoiding the elephant in the room,” said Bastille. “Janie, give me your UV light and goggles?”

With an puzzled expression, Janie handed over the equipment. Bastille shone the UV light around the room, squinting through the goggles.

“Voila!” shouted Bastille, and handed the goggles to Stana, “There is your witness!”

“Well, I’ll be!” said Stana with awe, “There really is an elephant in the room.”

“Bravo, Mr Bastille,” the deep voice came as what appeared to be a wall and row of filing cabinets resolved themselves into a seven foot tall pachyderm, its luxuriant fur changing color and texture so it no longer blended with its environment. “May I just say, I am a huge fan of your books. And this must be Detective Kalashnikova, on whom your character Kate Frost is based. A pleasure to meet you too.”

“Can it, Jumbo,” said Stana. “What did you see?”

“Skekko and I were working late last night when Bertrum burst into the office. He accused her of having an affair with Earnest. My species are pathological cowards, I’m afraid, evolved to avoid attention and conflict. I could do nothing to intervene. When Skekko denied the affair, Bertrum went crazy and strangled her.”

“It’s true,” confessed Bertrum. “Even as I choked the life out of her, she denied she was trying to steal my dear, sweet Earnest from me. Earnest, say you’ll wait for me?”

“Of course, my love. But Bertrum, there was no affair!”

“I heard you, Earnest, through the bathroom door that night , saying how you loved the yellow bird. I came here immediately, in a jealous rage.”

“I was talking about my little rubber duckie, bath time just wouldn’t be so much fun without it.”

“Rodriguez, cuff him,” said Stana. “Okay, Bastille, you can say it now.”

Bastille smiled with delight. “Ah yes, a case of murder most fowl.”

The End

Chekhov’s Pun

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Flash

Written for the Aphelion-webzine’s May 2012 Flash Challenge.  The brief was to write a tale about a human detective and the murder of a nefarious bird-like alien, named Skekko.

—–

The uniform logged my badge and lifted the tape for me. Rain was coming down hard, the poor guy was probably drowning under his poncho. He nodded me in the direction of the head of scene. From behind, I could see she was a petite blonde, her hair plastered to her head and hanging in rats’ tails down her back.

“Detective Tervonen?”

She turned from the white tarp that was trying, and failing, to stop the evidence from running down the drain. First impressions; cheekbones, blue eyes as cold as ice, lips in a thin line across her pale face and young. Very young. Too young.

“That’s me.” She eyed me up and down, assessing the threat and then taking me for one of her own. “You must be Chekhov?”

I nodded, “What’ve you got here, kid?”

She smiled at the ‘kid’, didn’t chew me out. It confirmed my suspicion. She was on F, Fountain, the dirty route to youth and immortality. Cheap and safe, as long as you didn’t quit. Quit and it caught up with you quick. Quit and you go down faster than a hundred-dollar hooker on pay day.

“Victim’s known to you, alien, name of Skekko according to ID.” She turned and pulled the sheet up so I could see.

It was a Falconian, that much was sure. A mess of feathers and blood, a yellow, black tipped beak, broken and dripping gore.

“Cause?”

“Jumped.” She nodded over her shoulder. I looked at the apartment block, shielding my eyes from the torrent of water. Curtains waved feebly from an open window near the top. I looked back at Tervonen, she caught the question; Falconians don’t fall, they glide. “Check it out,” she said.

I queried cop-space when we got in the elevator; Detective Eleanor Tervonen, forty-eight, homicide, and here she was as perky as a kid just out of high-school. She lead the way from the elevator to an apartment door flanked by another uniform. My link to cop-space dropped out as I walked in the door.

“We’re off the record, I lost my link.”

Tervonen nodded. “There’s a jammer, techs are looking for it. The bedroom’s the primary.”

The bed was a large doughnut affair, favoured by the bird-like extraterrestrials. The open bedroom window was where Skekko had taken her dive. The terminal velocity suddenly made sense; the room was covered with flight feathers, their stems still wet with blood and gore from plucking. And in the doughnut hole, a clutch of broken eggs.

“Looks personal. Someone trying to send a message maybe.”

Tervonen shook her head. “I’m thinking suicide.”

“How come?” I kept it calm, non-committal, just a question.

She pointed to a set of bloody pliers by the bed. “Preliminary path results on the eggs say they’re all duds. No prints, except the vic’s on the pliers. No prints anywhere else in the apartment. She’s broody but the eggs ain’t gonna hatch, she finds out, she takes the dive.”

I shrugged. No prints – someone had wiped the place down and done their job too well. The whole thing screamed hit. She may have looked it but Tervonen was no rookie. She was going to paper over the cracks and make it go away. Was she in it with the perp or was it coming down from higher up?

“Tell me about the vic?” Tervonen asked as she perched on the window sill and went through the motions.

“Skekko was an ET of interest, ran an import export business fronting an offworld smuggling operation. She was always careful to have a cut-out. I never got close to pinning anything on her.”

“What kind of stuff was she moving?”

“Various stuff, black market tech, illegals, but mostly it was just F.”

She was good, not a flicker when I mentioned the drug, and why would she; Fountain was illegal but no-one went after the users when cold turkey meant the fast-track to a zimmer frame. Even the dealers got left alone. The city was happy to leave it to the ‘market forces’ to keep everyone in line. Was happy.

“Well, if I need anything else I’ll get in touch”, Tervonen said.

I moved in close, blocking her there. She was jammed in the window. I kept my voice low but put enough gravel in to show I meant business, “What’s the deal here, Detective?”

“Get back, what do you think you’re doing?” She tried to push me away but her teenage frame didn’t have enough muscle to shift me. Just the opposite, she ended up grabbing my jacket to stop herself going over the edge.

“This was a hit,” I growled. “You know it. I know it. What I don’t know is, were you in on the kill or are you just covering up?”

She got real still, looking up at me with those ice-cold, baby blues, and smiled. “This goes all the way to the top, Chekhov. You think you’ve got the stones for that?.”

She was forty-eight going on seventeen, she didn’t make enough to maintain her kind of habit. I was the wrong side of fifty and going nowhere fast. I stepped back and pulled her to her feet. My cop-space link came back online, the techs had found the jammer. I logged in, every word would be on the record now.

“You got your riot gear in order, Detective?”

She looked at me, uncertain, and shook her head.

“Skekko was the main distributor for Fountain, ran the network. Supplies are going to run out fast now, the price is going to skyrocket. There’s going to be some serious public disorder. People are going to start dying of something unheard of in this century, old age. Are your superiors ready for that? Are you ready for that?”

She started to look scared. It wasn’t a good look on her.

“Don’t frown, Detective.” I said as I turned away. “It’ll give you lines.”

The End