Anew. A poem.

All my dreams

returned to dust
whence they sprang,
embittered and tweeted
into the ionosphere.

I am guilty

of a life lived lost,
of times counted down
but launched anew,
in an empyrean embrace.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

The Narrative Poem.

Here’s another response I did for uni. You might want to try it out.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Write a narrative poem of no longer than 15 lines about your childhood. Remember the narrative poem is a journey. Take the reader on a journey of your childhood.

Free

Stephen Thompson

This new yard, so voluminous and green, where every potential meets possibility.
Far away from the housing commission ghetto that predicated deeds,
where every child was built on foundations of paternalistic greed.
Here, the air is plain and untinged by the sedentary.
Here, I can run free.
 
This new school, so quaint and reassuring, where unfamiliarity is as anonymous as mediocrity.
Far away from the amorphous tincture from which my primal learnings seeded,
from where the outcome for every child was branded into flesh.
Here, the opportunities avail themselves, a future not yet set.
Here, I can learn. Free.
 
This new life, so fundamental and correct, where philosophy waxes agnostically.
Far away from dreams cluttered with rusty cans and shoebox schemes,
from fundamentals like crack whore 101 and burglary.
Here, a path lures me from the box that long confounded me.
Here, I can be truly free.

I grew up in a low rent housing commission area, riddled with drugs, crime and violence. When I was the tender age of eleven, my family moved to another suburb nearby. It was the exact opposite of the one we’d left: quieter, safer, subdued. We didn’t have any more money and we weren’t especially privileged, but the move opened up what seemed like a different world, even though it was geographically only a few kilometres away. A world of nascent opportunity.

Looking back now, hindsight is clearer than the proverbial deer in headlights.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Haiku Friday. A lone haiku.

Embalmed. A Haiku.

I’m embalmed by life.
I will lie in state for you
to consume your fill.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable structure.

Okay, okay, I know you know that already!

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Sad Life. A poem.

Is this nothing more
than a sad life?
Materialistic imposition
and perspicacious exposition
all meaning nothing more
than a sad life?

Take this sad life,
open the cage perennially
and set it forever and eternally
free.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

New Face. A poem.

I am the ripple that turns the tide,
the plaintive cry that shakes the world,
the angry soul that brings the pain,
the lonely man, slowly gone insane.

Every time I turn around
I see my new face
and it haunts me.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Every Blue Thought. A poem.

I prefer black
but I wear a lot of blues
and this ever-lasting weariness
goes from my head
down to my shoes.

EVERY

aching, grinding, groaning, spattering, spluttering, shadowing, beseeching, bemoaning, bewildering, disturbing, destabilising, escalating, ego-destroying, undermining, undulating, failing, falling

THOUGHT

from my head down to my shoes.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Signal Fire. A poem.

This indolence tosses me
like autumn leaves,
mere whispers in the breeze.
Corkscrewing ever round,
intoxicated by thoughts
that reminisce amongst
far flung ports-of-call.

These empty seas would remit me
unto an isle,
stark, sun-bleached and worn,
smoothed by time and vapid waters.
From here I could scrutinise
the present and the past,
incongruent exhortations
unworthy, ad hoc companions
in perpetuum.

The thought of rescue lies
far beyond these nascent incubi,
continually beseeching me
from beyond the far horizon.
Perhaps I will light a signal fire,
a plethoric plume
to engulf this loneliness
and bring you to my shore.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

An Exercise in Poetic Styles

Here’s a response I did for Uni. You might like to try the exercise out yourself.

Cheers

Steve 😊

Write a haiku (formal style) on the theme of water and then write a free verse piece (of no more than 10 lines) on the theme of water. Which style worked best for you? What stumbling blocks did you have to overcome in each?

Water Haiku

Your water cascades
Caressing valleys and hills
I will drink deeply

Stephen Thompson

Deep Water

Deep
 
How deep my heart has sunk,
into depths
unmeasured
 
(I swim
amongst broken hulls and dead men’s skulls,
coral memories and crustacean verdigris,
viscous cold and furtive shoals
shaping origami headstones,
draped in ocean’s finery.)
 
How drenched is my heart,
drenched in depths
unmeasured
 
Deep  

Stephen Thompson

 

I enjoy writing Haiku because it can be challenging to find a theme that works in the 5/7/5 syllable structure. Haikus can say so much in so little space and it’s one of the reasons I love them so much.

Free verse is always fun, because I can play around with meter and time, line length, enjambment, etc. without any need to worry about poetic constraints; it’s easier for me to come up with interesting imagery. Often the theme of the poem presents itself as the poem progresses, or a new one is formed when the poem is completed.

I love free verse, but I believe that learning forms with specific poetic structures (such as the villanelle, sestina, pastoral, etc.) force you to be a better poet, because you have to work outside your comfort zone and within a stricter format.

Cheers

Steve 😊

Save the Poet!

via Save the Poet!

The All or the Nothing is my ebook of poetry. Click on the link above to find where you can download it.

For poetry lovers and endangered poets everywhere!

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Haiku Friday. ‘Journey’. A haiku.

Journey. A Haiku.

Our journey begins:
gentle solicitous touch.
Now, scream together.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable structure.

What, you knew? Fair enough.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

F$&@UP. A poem.

I

                       Wonder

What

MY

LIFE

                       Would

Have

Been

Like

               If

I

Wasn’t

Such

                A

F$&@UP.

Maybe

I

                          Wouldn’t

Have

F$&@ED

You

                  Up

SO

MUCH.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Horizon. A poem.

In the setting sun,
a hazy miasma of watercolours spilled,
an adventitious mix
of variegated textures and tones.

With every highlight
and every shifting coruscation,
I think of you.
This miracle horizon cannot compare.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

New World. A poem.

All in an idea that surpasses
every living, livid, longing, licentious
breath that screams in ecstasy
from the darkening depths
of a soul long since condemned
to a purgatory of your own making.

If only you had read the signs.
Your illiteracy and myopia
have brought you down to size
and from here everything else
is so incomprehensibly huge
and overwhelmingly threatening.

Welcome to the new world.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Upstart Photographer – Black and white photography is da bomb.

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if we were frozen in a moment of time, just like a photograph. Would we feel trapped? Would we experience emotions, needs, the impact of physics and quantum mechanics, the way we do in the real world?

Okay, I’m rambling. I wasn’t sure how to start this post.

Anyway, on to the pictures in all their unprocessed glory.

Shoreline - stevestillstanding.com

Above: This is an old photo, before better camera lenses and improved clarity. The colour version is nicer (I’ve used it for one of my Poetry headers), but the black and white gives it a haunting dimension, I think. Well, it’s certainly murkier. Message to self: stop taking photographs while drunk.

Not my dog - stevestillstanding.com

Above: This is my son’s dog. He’s called Jet and he seems entirely suited to black and white photos. Well, he’s not complaining, anyway.

Twisted - stevestillstanding.com

Above: I took this shot on a nature walk. I love the twisted and seemingly evil nature of this tree, especially the way it’s silhouetted against the others. Maybe it’s just waiting to betray them? Maybe it’s a metaphor… You may have seen this one in my short story / flash fiction header.

Cheers

Steve 😊

Believe in Love. A poem.

Believe in love.

Believe so ardently that your heart
burns from the pain of longing, loss
and subtle expectation,
a flame that reduces you
to dying embers
at the thought of that special other.

This aching lamentation
is for the cold shouldered,
the one who got away,
the one who stole your anxious soul.

Explore your separate paths,
you forlorn and weary travellers
and perhaps you will find each other,
somewhere on the periphery
of a merged existence.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Hand. A poem.

Hand in mine, you lead
me far from dark entwined.

For certain death
                            does this
                                      way lie.

Awakened from the brine
that soaks me here;

bitter, murky soup
                  in which I float,
                                       resigned.

Take this hand, and lead
me far from death’s brigand.

Comfort me for I have been
                              led astray from
                                               all I need.

 

 

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Haiku Friday. A lone haiku.

Uncertainty. A haiku.

This uncertainty
stems from not knowing the truth
that lies in all things.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable structure. You knew that already, so I’ll just shut up now.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Juncture. A poem.

At this juncture,
decisions made:
A change of season,
a chance parade.

At this juncture
of no return,
no looking back
at bridges burned.

At this juncture,
we’re laid to rest
in hallowed ground,
without contest.

At this juncture,
the time has come
to decide our futures
‘til time’s undone.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Father. A poem.

I remember my father,

as he is

now
and
then,

anchored to that
fading chair

with

fading hairline
and
fading eyes,

the absence of smoke

from

unfiltered
cigarettes,

not so heavy in the air.
Less the cough

from

tar-filled lungs
and
asbestos alveoli.

Finger in ear,
a book his constant

companion,

weary
and
weather-worn,

the walls echo

with

odd angry shots
and amnesiac spite.

I love my father,
even if he is

only

half the man
he
used
to
be.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

 

Tangent. A poem.

I’m off on a tangent,
tangentially related to
this relationship
that doesn’t exist
but continually insists
betwixt was and is and not
that it could and should and would
be something worth waiting for,
despite the frustration
and inevitable fall,
the appalling nature of its form,
and the tangent to which
it’s only barely related at all.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Anvil. Part 14.

“Get to the interceptor,” says the Anvil, gritting her teeth. As Chun, Jimmy and Olsin exit stage left, she flexes her fingers and tenses. Autonomic sensors and variable defence pattern assessments are whirling around her brain. Her HUD is flashing multiple warnings, red, red, red. She’s outclassed by the hulking armature before her.

Shi-Cho is relaxed, almost casual. He doesn’t take his eyes off the Anvil. All his sensor readings indicate his power levels and damage capacity easily outweigh his opponent’s. He’s aware, however, sensors can be deceived, and challenges are measured by more than just heads up display data.

They move simultaneously, twin blurs of motion. The impact of collision cracks like thunder, shaking the room and making Chun and her companions stumble as they climb into the nearest jet—Shi-Cho’s interceptor. “What the holy,” says Jimmy, grimacing. Chun frowns and points to the rear bench, climbing in after him. Olsin takes the flight chair up front, strapping in and activating the console. Multi-turbine engines churn into motion.

Shi-Cho fires his MWEs blindly, but the Anvil has his arms held up and away from her bulk. Her own MWEs are out of their forearm housings, pointless in this position. She headbutts the big armature hard, but the resounding crack leaves both none the worse for wear. Their legs strain against the deck as they vie for position. Holes appear in surrounding walls like magic, plasteel melting like butter as random MWE shots miss their marks.

“Not bad,” says Shi-Cho. “But my little upgrade hasn’t shown what I can really do, yet.”

“Less talk,” replies the Anvil through clenched teeth.

She senses Shi-Cho’s power level increasing. At the same time readings show her own levels dropping–strength, leeched away. Staggering, she releases her grip. Shi-Cho’s fist strikes her chest and pain receptors go wild as she’s flung back into the hangar’s rear wall, crumpling the plasteel like foil.

Shi-Cho brushes dust from his shoulders. “This new model has a parasite flange. When we’re close enough I can drain your energy and supercharge my punches.” He smiles, smugly. “Just thought you’d like to know.” Shi-Cho marches forward through the debris, an ominous premonition veiled in dust and smoke.

The Anvil rises, fires her MWEs directly at his skull. The invisible beams have no effect. Moments later a Microwave Dismissal Field registers on her sensors—it must have been cloaked. She returns the MWEs to their housings. No point leaving them out. She can taste the iron of synth-blood in her mouth, smell her fear as if it was a tangible, lingering scent in the air.

“You are hopelessly outgunned,” says Shi-Cho. “Want to give up now?”

“I’ll take my chances,” says the Anvil, not as audaciously as she would have liked.

“I hoped you’d say that.”

The next impact drives the Anvil through the wall into the room beyond. Metal and plasteel debris, dust and synth-blood fill the air. She’s conscious of multiple wounds across her body. Pain is a constant cloud, mulling through her brain, racking her body. Damage inhibitors work overtime to repair her, taxed to their limit. The last thing she sees before passing out is Shi-Cho leaning over, a huge hand reaching down.

* * *

Memories flood her senses: she sees a boy, fresh out of cadet school, raising his first plasma rifle; now a teenager, making his way efficiently through a zero-g assault course; a weary adult male in jungle fatigues, sniping insurgents with gola rounds.

At the same time her daughter, laughing and playing on the rooftop garden of Bester tower. Several guards stand protectively around her. The Anvil sees the child smile at the man she pictured earlier, this time in a business suit. He smirks in return, puts his hand to an earpiece, responding to orders from an unknown source.

The Anvil is rudely awakened, screaming as her left arm is torn from its socket.

* * *

Lady Chao finishes Shi-Cho’s soldier off, twisting his neck until it breaks. The body drops listlessly to the floor. Alida looks on, eyes and mouth wide, blood-spattered face pale.

“Come now, Alida,” says Chao. “If you want to be my assistant, you’ll need to be made of sterner stuff.” She strides off to the waiting orbital shuttle, hanging vertically within its launch chamber and visible through the room’s transteel windows.

Alida stumbles behind her, glancing nervously back to the closed iris door they entered through prior to taking out the troops. “Won’t they shoot us out of the air?”

Chao smiles. “They will try.”

* * *

Olsin hovers Shi-Cho’s interceptor just outside the ruined hangar, fifty metres above roiling waves. The rain has started again, great torrents of water shadowing the surrounding buildings, flyers and seas below. Around them Shi-Cho’s fleet is assembled: multiple troop carriers, interceptors, bombers. They choke the open space between the waveruins, flitting this way and that, all with pre-assigned tasks, none paying attention to Olsin’s jet.

“Now’s our opportunity to get out of here,” she says.

“Of course, not until we have the Anvil,” says Chun, watching the gaping gash in the hangar entry for any signs of movement.

Jimmy glances anxiously from port to port. “It won’t be long before these guys realise we’re not their boss.”

Olsin grips the flightstick tighter.

* * *

Shi-Cho holds the Anvil’s left arm aloft, synthetic blood dripping, frayed plasti-synth muscle fibres dangling from bicep and tricep joins. Subdermal mesh closes over the gaping wound under the Anvil’s shoulder, protein revitalisers and antishock gels flooding her system. Her HUD registers massive system damage.

“This would make a nice trophy,” says Shi-Cho, before tossing it aside. “But I’d rather have your head.” He reaches down, fingers enclosing the Anvil’s mouth and lower jaw.

She murmurs something through his grip. Shi-Cho’s eyes widen as the world turns phosphor white.

* * *

The hangar erupts, a massive explosion ejecting debris into Shi-Cho’s interceptor. Most of it bounces off the vehicle’s shields. Olsin and her passengers are buffeted left and right by the blast. “What in the holy was that?” cries Jimmy.

“We have to go, sugar,” says Olsin. “Look, the guy is hot, but if we don’t move it we’re going to end up swimming, and I hate swimming.”

“Not yet,” says Chun.

* * *

The smoke is thick. Most of her sensors are out. The Anvil clambers over Shi-Cho’s unconscious form, shaking and weak-kneed, falling every few steps. Synthetic blood leaks from numerous gashes and tears across her male body. Her power is almost shot—a full discharge was enough to take out Shi-Cho temporarily, but she has nothing left. She can barely make it to the edge of the hangar, where flames play tag around distorted metal and transteel detritus. The Anvil collapses.

A shadow appears, tethered to nowhere, consumed by oily smoke. “Of course, you can stay here if you want,” says Chun. “But I think you’d rather be elsewhere right now.”

The Anvil manages a tight-lipped smile as Chun wraps an auxiliary tether around her battered form, then signals Olsin to reel them in.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’m creating week-by-week to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Inconsequence. A poem.

Spectacularly inconsequential,
a life subsumed
in lack of meaning
and purpose.

A breeze blows through
and every tinder brush
and tumble weed
seems like it’s heaven sent.

 

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

The Not-So-Burning Bush. A short tale.

I haven’t written a flash fiction for a while. Here’s my poor attempt at romantic fiction.

Cheers

Steve 😊

I was ensconced in the bush, its leaves and branches irritating and scratching my face. Completely hidden, I craned my neck to hear what was said, while trying to maintain some sort of focus on Jenny. I could see her back through the foliage.

“…and I just couldn’t believe what she was telling me, y’know? Like, the guy she’s been going out with has been cheating on her for weeks, and she knows it, and she’s still seeing him. Is that pathetic, or what?” The other girl nodded and they both laughed. A few more words and her friend left for a lecture across campus. Jenny sat on the bench near the tree I was hiding in, started checking her iPhone.

At that moment, a sparrow landed next to me on a branch near my head. It was so unexpected that I yelped involuntarily, spun, fell through the bush and collapsed on my back on the pavement next to the bench. My head hit the concrete with a crunch, and I’m sure I saw stars. Yes, just like in cartoons.

Jenny swore, startled by the sudden miracle of a man from a not-so-burning bush. She stood over me, looking concerned (I assume for my potential medical condition, and not for any perceived mental condition). “Jacob? Oh, my God, are you all right?”

I was swearing. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” I rubbed the back of my skull, tried to get up, decided I felt better lying there. “I take that back. No, I’m not.”

Jenny kneeled next to me, unsure of what to do. Students walked past, amused, bemused, uncaring, or a combination of all of the above.

Jenny raised an eyebrow. “What were you doing in that bush?”

“I think I might have a concussion…” Avoidance is the better part of valour, so someone once said. I think it was me, just now.

Jenny frowned as it dawned on her. “Were you stalking me?”

“No, I was just…resting in the bush. For a moment. Getting my bearings. Bird watching. I love trees.” Lying on my back, rubbing my painful head, coming up with terrible excuses. I was the cover model for lame. “Yes, I was stalking.”

She crossed her arms, tilted her head in that delightful way she did when she was being judgemental. “Oh, my God, that is so creepy. And I used to think you were cute.”

“You thought I was cute? I had no idea.”

“Obviously, or you wouldn’t be hanging out in bushes, spying on me.”

“Would you like to get a coffee, or something?” In hindsight, probably not the best time to ask, but I was hurt, desperate and concussed, covered in leaves, scratches and embarrassment. Probably could try for the sympathy vote. Or an insanity plea.

Jenny laughed. She laughed so much she had to wipe away tears. After about a minute of further humiliation, she smiled. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but okay.”

“Really? You just caught me stalking you like some crazy guy.”

“Oh God, you really are an idiot, aren’t you? I said yes, already. Shut up, get up, and let’s get that coffee, before I change my mind.”

Jenny helped me to my feet. I stumbled a bit, grinning all the while.

“Am I going to regret this?” she said.

“Maybe,” I said. “Maybe not.”

We both smiled.

Haiku Friday. A lone haiku.

Trepidation. A haiku.

My trepidation
lingers like dirty feet on
too-clean front door mats.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable structure. But you knew that already.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Stand and Deliver. A poem.

Quick stop. Quick start.
The car sputters like an old man
who’s walked better roads than these
but only just remembers how.

Simple arrangements
for endearingly simple times,
handed across the threshold
to smiling eyes with insouciant grace.

The tarmac beckons,
the junkyard dog barks and moans,
its lassitude temporarily forgotten
in the whine of acceleration.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Life of the Party. A movie review.

Saw Melissa McCarthy’s new movie the other day. I’ll admit up front that I am a McCarthy fan. I like her sassy, in-your-face and inappropriate witticisms. I guess they remind me of my own big mouth. Her movies tend to be overly formulaic, though, as scriptwriters and directors stick to the McCarthy formula her core audience admires.

Life of the Party is a bit like that, but in this case, McCarthy is a recently-divorced mother who goes back to her alma mater to finish the last year of her archaeology degree. Oh, and her daughter is attending the same campus. Let the fun begin. McCarthy plays the motherly role well, limiting the language and capturing the fish-out-of-water mother mannerisms well.

life of the party

Yes, the movie is funny—not overwhelmingly so, but it was enough to keep me amused for most of its running length. The story is clichéd and the characters stereotyped, but McCarthy’s likeable enough to carry it through.

Life of the Party is one for the McCarthy fans. If you’re not an admirer of her performances, you won’t be after this, but if you are you’ll have a good laugh and leave the theatre with a smile on your face. I did.

Rating: C

Emptiness. A poem.

Empty like the bottomless glass,
the view from here so circumspect.
Empty like the void above,
between star shells and light effects.

Empty like the cheerless heart,
opened upon a mortuary slab.
Empty like a suicide vein,
eyes open wide for every stab.

Where does this emptiness end?
How will it be filled and when?

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

REckLEss. A poem.

HEre I am

REckLEss when you’re ARound.

Should I STay

Should I GO

Should I CHance the EBb and FLow

A MOment’s INdecision

And I’m CAught up in YOur SHow

ONce again I’m REckLEss

BUt I’ve noWHere else to

GO

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Anxious Thoughts. A poem.

Sweat on brow,
an
incessant
reminder.
Heat that censures
from deep within,
the cloying depths
of double-shotted anxiety.

Wait, breathe, wait,
all analgesic flutter.
Harder
to
escape,
these walls abound and
heighten further with
every calamitous thought.

Relax, they say,
think of brighter,
cleaner, fluid things,
that wax and wane like
a somnambulant moon.

Remember, lest you forget:
you are not the fear,
and
the
fear
is
not
you.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Anvil. Part 13.

Olsin leads the motley crew of escapees through gleaming corridors towards one of the many tower hangars. As they approach a corner she places a hand on the Anvil’s groin and whispers “Wait, sugar.” Her hand lingers for an uncomfortably long time, then waves them onwards. Olsin’s carbine is at her shoulder, eye to sight, darting the weapon back and forth as she aims and walks.

The building rocks to the sound of a muffled explosion. “What the holy was that?” says Big Jimmy, glancing up as several hovering glowglobes flicker above.

“Of course, it sounds like Bester’s men have found this place,” says Granny Chun. “We need those weapons now, Olsin.”

Olsin grimaces as the building rocks again to the sound of numerous distant thuds. “This way,” she says. “And move it.”

***

Shi-Cho watches with satisfaction from the cockpit of his interceptor as Lady Chao’s Triad headquarters is pummelled and pounded by a succession of missiles and plasma beams. Gun emplacements erupt, hangars spew flame and debris, communications arrays splinter and fall. He’s surprised the building is so robust—obviously internal armour and a strengthened superstructure—it didn’t look like much to begin with, but outward appearances can be deceiving.

He addresses his commanders in the concealed fleet by com. “One carrier to each entry port or hangar, another two carriers at ocean-level to prevent any boats leaving. External assault will be over soon and internal opposition may be high. I want Lady Chao taken alive. Anyone else can be terminated.”

A hologram of Bester appears on the console, his face livid. “Shi-Cho! I thought I told you I didn’t want to make enemies of the Triads. I’m informed that your fleet has assaulted Lady Chao’s tower. Is this your version of diplomacy?”

Shi-Cho smiles, but keeps his attention on the attack. “Listen boss, do you want your daughter back or not?”

“Of course, I do, but—”

“Then let me do the job you’re paying me for.” Shi-Cho flicks the holo off.

***

Guards run left and right, rushing to defend demolished hangars and other entry points. Smoke fills the corridors as Olsin leads the group to an armoury. Her palmchip opens the sliding door and she ushers everyone in as she keeps watch. “Grab what you need and make it fast,” she says.

The external attack appears to have ceased; the building no longer stutters and shakes, the occasional electrical failure and cry of wounded echoing through haze-filled corridors denote its passing.

The walls of the armoury are filled with gun racks. The Anvil watches as Chun and Jimmy seize flechette carbines and plasma pistols, flashcans and frag grenades. Chun takes a pumpgun for good measure. Both strap on armoured vests.

The Anvil activates her MWEs, popping them out of their forearm housings. Her sensors are on full alert, scanning the surrounds, sensing body heat through walls, calculating movement vectors and intercept algorithms. “Ready?” she says.

Chun cocks the pumpgun for effect. “Of course. Feels good to be armed again.”

Big Jimmy pouts. “I’d rather have my Magnum any day. Let’s go get it back.”

The Anvil raises an eyebrow. “And Violet.”

“Yeah, yeah, her too.”

They meet up with Olsin outside, who eyes the MWEs cautiously. “Don’t even think about using those on me, sugar,” she says.

The Anvil frowns. “I gave you my word.”

“Yeah, well you can walk in front from now on.” Olsin nudges the Anvil with her carbine barrel. “Straight down here, then turn left. There’s a hangar about twenty-five metres down that corridor.”

Chun and Jimmy hold their carbines at the ready, covering the rear as the party moves forward through the smoke.

***

Lady Chao clutches the armrest of her ornate throne, crushing the antique wood with durasteel fingers. The hologram in the air before her plays out the battle, showing the de-cloaked carriers and interceptors surrounding and docking with her tower. Separate views show firefights and skirmishes between her guards and assault teams on various levels.

“Should have known not to trust Bester,” she says, sighing.

The tall aide-de-camp standing beside Chao shivers and self-consciously straightens her uniform. Her shoulder length blonde hair glimmers with biocrystal highlights in the glowglobe light. “It appears the battle is not in our favour, Lady Chao,” she says nervously.

“You have a wonderful capacity for stating the obvious.”

Chao rises and the aide cringes, expecting a physical rebuke. “What’s your name?” says Chao.

The girl stammers in response. “Alida.”

“I’m going to need you to accompany me to my orbiter, Alida,” says Chao.

Alida’s face brightens and she bows. “Thank you, Lady Chao. I am most honoured you feel me worthy to continue as your assistant.”

“I may need a human shield,” says Chao, exiting the room with Alida close on her heels.

***

Shi-Cho strides through wreckage and torn and bloody bodies. Assault troops in blue exo-armour on each side of him cover his entrance. He addresses a nearby Captain. “Update?”

“Ground resistance at all entry points has been neutralised,” says the Captain, standing to attention. “Sporadic skirmishes further into the superstructure. We should have a retrieval team at Chao’s inner sanctum within minutes.”

Shi-Cho smiles. “Good. Anything else?”

“We have a fireteam at the cellblock reporting that one of the guards was found dead and the cells empty.”

“Continue with sweeps. The synthetic and its companions are on the loose. Advise your men to be cautious when approaching—the armature is dangerous and its companions are probably armed by now.”

The air erupts with gunfire as flechette rounds ricochet and burst. Armour and limbs are shredded as frag grenades detonate. MWE blasts take out the remaining guards, heads erupting in pulpy masses. Shi-Cho stands amongst the detritus, dust and a few scratches marring his otherwise perfect countenance. The captain lies sprawled on the floor beside him, his skull flowering like a bloody rose.

“Of course, this may be a good time to surrender,” says Chun, appearing through the smoke, her pumpgun raised expectantly. Olsin, Jimmy and the Anvil appear beside her, cannons bristling.

Shi-Cho rubs his palms together gleefully. “You’re the armature that’s given everyone so much trouble,” he says, nodding to the Anvil. “Remember me? You tossed me through a wall.”

The Anvil grins, shrugs. “I’m sure you deserved it at the time.”

Shi-Cho laughs. It’s a creepy, grating laugh that sets all on edge. “I’ve been looking forward to a rematch.” He clenches his fists, which glow with a pale, internal light. “You’re not the only one with hidden surprises.”

The Anvil scans the big man in front of her. The previously ‘human-elementary’ reading is now lighting up with all sorts of emergency vectors and warnings. “Let’s get this over with, then,” she says.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Half-light. A poem.

Sweat and toil and creaking
springs, grasping fingers and the scent of hallowed
limbs. Perfect and imperfect rhythms in
motion, bestial howls and fire and tender
susurration, collated in the
half-light of a muted TV.

From this vantage point we survey the hedonic
battlefield, where dust and smoke dissipates and we
victors rejoice with liquid tongues and golden
perspicacity. The half-light lingers;
we prepare to charge into the fray again.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Everyday Rhythm and Poetry

Here’s an exercise I did for Uni, a fair while ago. Use the question for a writer’s prompt, if you like.

Do some exercise, listen to some music, or even listen to the clock tick. Find an everyday rhythm and write a poem of no more than 7 lines in response to the theme ‘Women’. After writing your poem, tell us if finding an everyday rhythm helped you or hindered you in your writing practice?

Woman. A poem.

Round and round it
goes, the anxious tide in ebbs and
flows, her conversation running on and
on, but leaving me with nothing

How I mourn my woman’s
song, but she’s long gone, a
whirlpool like no other

Stephen Thompson

The washing machine clunked and whirred through its cycle. Watery imagery crept into my poem in the first two lines (probably because I had no idea where I was heading at that point. I knew it had to be about women. Then, as usual, it became personal. Most of my poems are). I’m not sure if the machine’s rhythm helped at all.

I’ve been a musician for about 30 years, starting as a drummer and percussionist and then moving into guitar and singing, so rhythm and syncopation are things that come naturally to me. My ex-wife hated my constant hand and finger tapping.

When I write, I like to establish a natural flow. My recent experiments with enjambment on my blog have mixed up that rhythm a bit, and even though I used it in this poem, I found I maintained a rhythmic consistency.

Maybe the wash cycle did help after all.

Cheers

Steve 😊

Dragon’s Ahoy! Like Chips Ahoy, but with less chocolate…

Time for another of my Laidback DM posts, and a new free map! I love drawing maps for D&D adventures. I have far too many, though, so I’m giving them away every chance I get.

This week: Dragon’s Lair!

This large cave system has a number of shelves that vary the level of the terrain throughout the caverns, making for interesting challenges for the party. You can make the shelves any height you want, of course—the bigger the better. There’s also lots of hidey holes between pillars and stalagmites.

What the dragon doesn’t realise is this cave system’s original plunderer inhabitants built a number of well-disguised secret passages. Or maybe it does realise, and woe betide any characters that use them…

Dragon's Lair Map

Above: Actual map size is 14cm x 20cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

Backseat. A poem.

Random musings and the
explicit constancy of touch,
a quickening cadence
strafing the scene like
machine gun fire.

This beckoning equivalent,
captured in steamy windows
and whispered expectations.
Here on this unsubtle backseat,
fertile new world exploration
begins and ends.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Unknown. A poem.

She does not and will never know me.
She will never read between my lines.
She will never walk the halls of my history.
She will never cry a tear for me.

But I have known her.
In the briefest of shimmering moments,
caught between copious minutes
of self-involved convolution,
in dreams, memories
and facile fantasy;
I have known her well.

How I wish she would know me,
would read between these devoted lines,
create a dutiful shared history
and cry winsome tears of joy with me.

And that I would not remain unknown.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

The Night. A poem.

The night is not my friend.
I lie here, encapsulated and encumbered
in darkness’ vice-like grip.

The night is not my friend.
I lie awake, turning and tossing,
trying to escape
my funereal thoughts.

The night is not my friend.
But it returns to goad and sway,
to play me for the fool
and make my wakefulness its own.

The night is not my friend.
And yet, its routine is so reliable,
so infallibly certain,
that I wait with expectancy
for it to claim me.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Stray Thoughts. A poem.

Stray thoughts, like alley cats,
prowling amongst the refuse
and detritus of my memories.
Sally forth the dogs of war,
to clear these backwaters
and scare away this pain.
Until stray thoughts wander
back to sully my streets again.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Avengers: Infinity War. A movie review.

Okay, okay! I said I wasn’t going to the movies this week, but I did. Couldn’t help it.

Avengers: Infinity War is a star-studded extravaganza, the culmination of ten years of Marvel world-building. It’s one of those movies that fans will love to death— you need to have seen the previous movies to be truly invested in the backstory, the characters and their tribulations—but one that may not be very accessible to anyone who’s a casual Marvel movie-goer or first timer (read: confused if not fluent in Marvelese).

avengers-infinity-war

Thanos, the big bad guy intent on balancing the universe by wiping out half of every living being in existence, is well-developed and almost sympathetic at times, which makes a change from smirking on his big throne. He wants the six Infinity Stones, which were formed at the creation of the universe and represent all sorts of comic-book hokum but really just make Thanos impossibly powerful once he has them. There are lots of big battles, big action set pieces, big team ups, and decent jokes—more than enough to keep me and any other Marvel fans happy.

There are also lots of deaths. So many, in fact, that you just know the next movie in a year’s time will ‘rectify’ the situation, which left me feeling the stakes were a bit pointless. That being said, I still enjoyed the ride.

A friend of mine commented she would rather have waited for both movies on DVD so she could watch them back-to-back. I feel in the long term that will be the preferred viewing experience, however Avengers: Infinity War is a movie that looks great on the big screen and should be experienced that way.

If you’ve read my blogs before you’ll know I’m no fan of the Disney corporate monstrosity, but I really enjoyed this movie and recommend it heartily for invested Marvelites. Take my money, you devil-mouse you.

Rating: B+

What I’ve been Watching.

No movie reviews this week, but I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix lately (Australian Netflix – some of these series are on different networks in America and Europe). I haven’t found a series on the streaming service I haven’t liked, yet.

Here’s a short sample of what I’ve been watching:

Stranger Things – 1980’s nostalgia and Stephen King homage. Kids on bikes and strange goings on in a mid-west American town. An awesome must see.

Rating: A+

13 Reasons Why – thirteen tapes left by a suicide victim indicting the people who directly or indirectly caused her to kill herself. Gripping and confronting.

Rating: A

Lost in Space – remake of 1950’s TV show, updated. A family lost on another world after a space-borne attack, trying to escape before the planet or their shady companion kills them. A bit slow at times but the character development and Dr Smith make up for it.

Rating: B

Black Lightning – family drama centred around a high school principal who brings his superhero alter-ego out of retirement to fight crime bosses and manipulative secret government programs. Still finding its feet but lots of promise for the second season.

Rating: C+

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – quirky and out there detective story about time travel, parallel dimensions, coincidence versus determinism and friendship. Wondering what Elijah Wood’s been doing since The Hobbit?

Rating: A

Santa Clarita Diet – mum’s a zombie, and dad and daughter are fine with that. But the zombie virus is making life difficult… Blackly comedic and violent.

Rating: B

Altered Carbon – noir-style sci-fi mystery; the world’s richest man’s murder can only be solved by a reanimated terrorist. Dark, violent and deep.

Rating: C+

Riverdale – Archie, Veronica, Betty and Jughead updated from the comics for the 21st century. Dark, over the top soap opera.

Rating: C+

Ozark – a mob accountant sets up a money laundering business in the Ozarks, failing to realise just what he’s up against. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are superb in this Breaking Bad-wannabe.

Rating: A

An Unfortunate Series of Events – based on the Lemony Snickett books, this excellent series has an absurdist sense of humour. Neil Patrick Harris steals the show.

Rating: B+

Jessica Jones – hard-ass alcoholic detective superhero from Marvel. Surprisingly deep.

Rating: B+

Atypical – comedy/drama about a high functioning autistic boy, his search for a girlfriend, and his neurotypical family. Enjoyable, but a little stereotypical at times.

Rating: B

So, what have you been watching on Netflix lately?

Steve 🙂

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