Upstart Photographer: colour is back!

Black and white photos? Love ’em! But every once in a while I like brilliant and vibrant colour.

Here’s a few shots in their trimmed, yet unfiltered glory. I’ve included some narration, as I’m a big fan of David Attenborough. Mimic his voice as you read. It’s more like a documentary, that way.

I love the textures in the sandstone of this wall. If you prefer roads, however, just turn your device on its side.

As you know, I like to skew my shots. As a photographic hack, I like to think it’s a bit arty. But it could be I just skew naturally. Possibly as the result of my daily bottle of vodka.

Purely for medicinal reasons, of course.

I love the sea, and would gladly make my home on the beach if I didn’t get arrested for vagrancy (especially if I’m found clutching my medicinal bottle of vodka). And the wifi there isn’t so great, either.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Madness of You. A poem.

My futile and unavailing words cannot
express the anguished, quixotic,
melancholic, mad salience and
utterly unquenchable need
to hold you and love you
as no one ever could
or would or should.
But here I am,
alone.
Thinking
of nothing
and no one
else but you.

The All or the Nothing is my first book of poetry, and if you like what you’ve been reading then you’ll love it! To find out how to get a copy, click here.
Support starving poets everywhere!

This Oil. A poem.


This
oil,
viscous
and
thick,
holding
me
fast
in
the
tar
pit
of
my
black
heart
and
head,
since
the
very
start.
Wish
I
could
shed
this
black
dog
That
follows
me
everywhere.
Perhaps
soon,
anon,
I’ll
lose
my
empty
stare.
And
this
oil
will drain
out of me and this
crazy foil will set me free
to be something other than this oil

The All or the Nothing is my first book of poetry, and if you like what you’ve been reading then you’ll love it! To find out how to get a copy, click here.
Support starving poets everywhere!

Subtract. A poem.

This room is overcrowded,
ingurgitated hell.
But just you and me,
if you subtract everyone else.

This room is clamorous,
cacophonous hell.
But you could hear me (so very clearly),
if you subtract everyone else.

This room is overheated,
agitated as hell.
But algid enough for you and me,
if you subtract everyone else.

But if you subtract everyone else,
would you want to be
right here with me?
Perhaps, we’ll never know or see.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Red Sparrow. A movie review.

A few minor spoilers!

Red Sparrow is a harrowing spy movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton and directed by Francis Lawrence. Why harrowing? Because it includes several excruciating scenes of graphic torture and explicit violence (there’s sex, too—surprisingly it’s kept to a minimum, but it’s generally pretty nasty as well).

Lawrence plays a Russian ballerina whose career is ended when her leg is broken. She’s about to lose her home and medical support for her disabled mother, and turns to her sleazy uncle, who works for the Russian Security Services. He places her in a situation where she witnesses a state-sanctioned murder and is forced to work for the government as a ‘Sparrow’, a spy trained in seduction. Off she goes to a dehumanising Sparrow school, where attractive women and men are taught psychological and sexual manipulation.

Lawrence is given a mission to discover a mole and encounters Edgerton’s disgraced CIA agent, who’s protecting the mole. That’s about as far as I can go without spoiling the story further.

Red Sparrow is a cat-and-mouse spy story about post-cold war politics, the incongruity of human nature, the patriarchal abuse of women and the lengths people will go to for revenge and survival. It’s better than you might think, although at times the director’s push for realism can make it a disturbing viewing experience.

Rating: B-

Anvil. Part 6.

They tramp down five flights in faulty glowglobe dimness, skirting sleeping derelicts and the occasional Verso dealer. They are given wide berth by the occupants; Granny Chun’s pumpgun speaks volumes without ever needing to bark. Eventually they reach a level just above the thrashing surf—dockside. Parts of the floor are gone (collapsed or removed, who can tell), and destitute and cobbled-together boats and skiffs bob and float on the water just below. There are shanties of rudely constructed metal and plastic around the floor, some with signs advertising fishing and ferry services.

“This doesn’t seem like the sort of place to find reliable people who can keep secrets,” says the Anvil, drily. “And these vessels don’t look particularly seaworthy.” She remembers the boat she viewed from the city above, tossing and upending in the sea below, its passengers dancing in quicksand waters.

Granny Chun smiles. “Of course, I know a surreptitious guy.” She leads the way through the ghetto, avoiding campfires and offal buckets, nets and fishing rods, dirty-faced fishermen and wandering down-and-outs. At the far end of the floor, she comes to a tin shed with a large, hand-scrawled sign in front: Big Jimmy’s Ferry. Cheap rates. No refunds. A small, patched and pockmarked boat with an enclosed cabin rises and falls in the hole beside the shed. Chun raps on the door. “Jimmy! Open up, it’s Granny Chun.” The Anvil checks the surrounding area, but her scans reveal nothing out of the ordinary.

The door opens and the Anvil looks down at a short, bearded man; less than four-feet tall, with fiery eyes highlighted by his coffee-ground skin. The antique revolver he brandishes is almost as big as his forearm. When he sees Chun his mood lightens considerably. “Hey, Granny Chun; long time.” He glances suspiciously upwards at the Anvil. “Who’s this?”

Chun smiles. She’s short, but still a foot taller than Big Jimmy. “We need a ride Jimmy. A long one.” Jimmy checks out the surrounds, sneers at some nosey neighbours. “Come on in,” he says.

Inside the shed (which is larger inside than it first appeared, with accoutrements similar to Chun’s place but slightly more upmarket), he invites them to sit at a round table. The chairs surrounding it are normal sized; Jimmy uses a stool for a leg up into his. “So, tell me what you need.” He places his revolver on the table next to him.

Chun and the Anvil sit. Jimmy eyes the pod extending from the Anvil’s back, the sleeping girl within. “I’m not a babysitter,” he says.

Chun smiles. “Of course. We need passage to the far side. Discreet. No questions. There’s a tower there with a launch platform.”

“Yeah, I know it. About forty klicks–A long way over. My boat’s not made for that type of trip, you know.”

“It’ll be the best pay you’ve ever seen.” Chun nods to her partner. The Anvil raises her palm and a hologram appears, indicating a significant bank balance. There are no personal details, but a certification seal indicates its real. Jimmy’s eyes widen. “Enough for you to afford to transition up top,” says Chun.

Jimmy grins. “And why would a guy like me need to move up top? I have so much, already.” He gestures ironically to the room’s contents. “Besides, people above may not appreciate my particular ‘talents’.”

The Anvil smiles, her perfect teeth gleaming in her male jaw. “I can throw in a body graft or full rebirth. Your choice.”

Jimmy sits back, considering. His eyes narrow. “You must really be in the shit.” Jimmy leans forward, running his fingers through his ample beard. “How do I know you won’t shaft me?”

Chun glances at the Anvil, then back. “Of course, we don’t know the first thing about piloting a boat. And we’ll pay fifty percent now and the rest on arrival at the tower. Of course, anything happens on the way, you still have more than enough to retire on.” She eyes the piece sitting next to him on the table. “And I know you can look after yourself.”

Jimmy laughs, a deep throaty bellow that belies his diminutive size. “You have a deal, Ms.Chun. When do you want to leave?”

“Now,” says Chun, grinning. Jimmy guffaws. “Well, I can’t argue with that,” he says. “For that much money I’d personally carry you across the water on Jesus-sanctified miracle legs, if I could.” He leads them both outside, leaps down onto the deck of a twenty-foot skiff with the name Clarissa painted vibrantly on its side. The small front cabin can fit four people; a grimy double outboard engine extends from the aft; an unusually high, four-foot gunwale surrounds the deck.

Chun jumps down and the Anvil follows. Violet stirs briefly in her pod and then drifts back to sleep. The vessel bounces around in the choppy surf, and Chun and the Anvil stumble awkwardly. Jimmy chuckles, steady on his sea legs. He enters the low-ceilinged cabin, places his palm against the console reader and the dual outboard hums to life. Stabiliser pods extend from the hull on both sides and the boat rises gently above the water level, hovering a foot above the surface. The outboard drops lower, its spinning props churning froth and spray. The Clarissa backs out of the sheltered port into the raging sea beyond the walls of the building. Rain cascades in torrents, thumping belligerently on the cabin roof and walls.

Jimmy hefts the wheel, working hard to avoid hitting the tower’s side as the boat is knocked left and right by the waves. Water gushes over the gunwale, then streams out the side channels, leaving the deck awash. The Anvil and Chun strap themselves into two of the four cabin chairs. “Hang on to your hats,” says Jimmy. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

* * *

Alnu has lived dockside all his life, scrounging a living fishing and doing odd jobs. The one good thing about his life is the benefits he picks up as an informant. Alnu activates his palmchip (a newer model, with biochemical enhancers and improved holography, provided by his fine employers) and reports.

“I seen ‘em,” he says, glancing furtively at the Clarissa reversing. “A big guy and an old woman. The big guy looks like he has some sort of capsule on his back—a little kid in it. They’re with Big Jimmy, leaving the block now.”

“Little kid, eh?” replies an electronically scrambled voice. “Good work. We’ll look into it.”

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 🙂

 

Driftwood (Beached, part 3). A poem.

Driftwood,
floating on
percolating tides.
Saltwater soaks
fossil branches.
Sand embraces
nooks and crannies.

Driftwood,
meandering,
awaiting
a tactile, tacit end.
Longing for
a final, lasting
beach head.

The All or the Nothing is my first book of poetry, and if you like what you’ve been reading then you’ll love it! To find out how to get a copy, click here.
Support starving poets everywhere!

 

The Sale. Every Episode!

The Sale was an unplanned, episodic story I wrote for my blog over a six-month period. Following is a complete list of every episode, so you can read in order from the beginning.

Enjoy!

Steve 😊

Part 1 – The Door

Part 2 – The Butler

Part 3 – The Host

Part 4 – The Knife

Part 5 – The Kitchen

Part 6 – The Secret Door

Part 7 – The Bedroom

Part 8 – The Guest

Part 9 – The Ladder

Part 10 – The Basement

Part 11 – The Lab

Part 12 – The Fight

Part 13 – The Maze

Part 14 – The Hall

Part 15 – The Dog

Part 16 – The Climb

Part 17 – The Trapdoor

Part 18 – The Daughter

Part 19 – The Confrontation

Part 20 – The End

PS You may notice a varying tone between episodes; the story changed stylistically as I wrote each instalment, but I think it worked out well, overall.

The Board (Beached, part 2).

Tri-fin cutting foaming swathes
in majestic, molten, crashing waves.
Off-shore wind: the only stakes,
paddling out to meet the break.
To take his certain place in line,
for the weaving surf to redefine.
To forge a newborn legend free,
the board; his truth, his destiny.

Dedicated to my good friend, Andrew.

The All or the Nothing is my first book of poetry, and if you like what you’ve been reading then you’ll love it! To find out how to get a copy, click here.
Support starving poets everywhere!

The Wild Surf (Beached, part 1). A poem.

The wild surf, like his impetuous heart,
pounds and beats the sandy shore,
like a pugilist with vanity to spare.
Here the relentless, crashing waves
make their mark in odd time signatures,
in fluid and passionate syncopation,
a symphony of wind, water and sand.

The spray in his face is explicative
of this subtle, blithely carefree place,
all this beach has ever been
until time ends and begins again.
The ocean’s magnetic riptide beckons;
a spirited soul returns freely to her fold.
Here his heart forever rests in she.

Dedicated to my good friend, Andrew.

The All or the Nothing is my first book of poetry, and if you like what you’ve been reading then you’ll love it! To find out how to get a copy, click here.
Support starving poets everywhere!

An Abundance of Katherines. A Book Review.

John Green has rapidly become one of my favourite authors. I’ve now read four* of his young adult (YA) novels, the latest being An Abundance of Katherines (AoK).

AoK is about Colin Singleton, a young prodigy who finds himself at loose ends after being dumped by his 19th girlfriend, all of whom have been called Katherine. His best and only friend, Hassan, a less than devout Muslim who likes nothing more than sitting around the house watching Judge Judy, suggests a road trip to cheer Colin up. An-Abundance-of-KatherinesThey arrive in a Tennessee town called Gutshot, where they meet local nerd turned popular girl Lindsey Lee Wells (with her Football hero boyfriend, Colin, or The Other Colin–TOC, as Hassan refers to him). After meeting Lindsey’s rich mother, who owns the local tampon string-making factory (the only business keeping the town alive), they gain employment conducting interviews with the town’s people for an oral history project. Colin is writing  a mathematical formula to accurately predict how long relationships will last, based on his nineteen dumpings. I won’t spoil any more of this clever and imaginative book. Aside from being a story about finding true love, AoK is also about finding and being your true self.

Green has a knack for writing interesting, humorous characters and snappy dialogue. Colin, with his genius IQ, quirky anagrams and stolid bookish ways, is no exception. Hassan is his slacker comic relief, constantly supporting Colin and putting him down at the same time. Lindsey (who you just know is perfect for Colin, no spoiler there) is smartly confined within herself, wrapped up in her handsome boyfriend and a façade of happiness.

AoK is one of Green’s funniest novels. Liberally sprinkled within are smart and amusing footnotes, which add to the experience. The math behind the relationship formula is by brilliant mathematician Daniel Bliss, and can be found in an appendix at the end of the book (the math is real).

I thoroughly recommend AoK to anyone who likes quirky, romantic novels. It’s Green’s shortest book, so you’ll finish it in no time. And be better for the experience.

* For reviews of some of Green’s other books, click on The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns and Turtles All The Way Down

Focus. A poem.

You are my focus.
Without you I am a blur,
a hazy remnant lurking
on the periphery of this
sun-scorched existence.

You are the prism
through which I shine.
You are my multiplicity of light,
an enchanted, technicolour spectrum,
illuminating my darkness,
and showing me the way.

The All or the Nothing is my first book of poetry, and if you like what you’ve been reading then you’ll love it! To find out how to get a copy, click here.
Support starving poets everywhere!

Anvil. Part 5.

The Anvil stares blankly at Granny Chun—not much different from most of her male body’s expressions. “I think you better fill me in. From the beginning.”

Chun grins. “Of course. But we need to get out of here.” She points to the far side of the floor, about a hundred metres across the other side of the market. “I’ll fill you in on the way.” She starts walking, wending between broken stalls, darting into the dust and smoke. The Anvil glances back at Violet in her rear compartment. The little girl has drifted off to sleep with her thumb in her mouth. The Anvil smiles (still somewhat neutrally), and follows Chun into the haze.

“Your name is Angelique Bester,” says Chun as she moves, weapon raised and at the ready, swinging back and forth as she targets the surrounds. “Of course, you are the fourth wife of multi-billionaire Alfred Bester. Or at least, you were.”

The Anvil’s internal scanners have mapped the entire floor. There are no potential hazards or attackers anywhere. She lets Chun carry on her checks—she seems to be enjoying herself. “I assume my husband and I don’t get on.”

Chun’s laugh echoes throughout the level. “Of course, understatement of the year. You were married for six years. Not a bad run, all things considered. Violet is five. She was the best thing to come out of that union.”

The Anvil frowns. “And where do you come in?”

“Of course, I was your nanny.”

“A nanny with covert ops experience?”

“Of course, I had to start somewhere. Nannying is a pretty tough business you know.”

“So, why is my husband after me? And why am I now a man? Or a male armature, I should say.”

“Of course, your split with your husband was unamicable. He wanted Violet, you wanted Violet. He had the money. I suggested you gear me up and I’d hide with Violet in the waveruins, and that you go big with the augmentation. And here we are.”

The Anvil stops. “So, this is just a child custody issue?” she says, disbelievingly. “That doesn’t explain why I chose to become a man. Or why I needed to get the most powerful armature body around. Or the death squad we just fought.”

“Of course, I never said it was just a custody problem,” says Chun. “It’s never just about the obvious stuff.” She faces the Anvil and grins. “Best let your memory sort it all out. Of course, I don’t know everything, you know.”

The Anvil can feel some of the old memories surfacing, like spectres breaching a dense miasma. The constant arguments with Alfred. Violet crying as her mother and father fought. Discussions with Granny Chun in the rooftop garden. Discreet enquiries about rebirthing. There is still considerable fog, though—an impermeable mist that curls and twists and surrounds her whenever she tries to remember.

They reach a stairwell, twisting upwards to the higher living levels and down to the watery depths of the underbuilding. Dim glowglobes hang in the air at every flight. Vagrants in dirty blankets lay sleeping in groups up and down the stairs. The smell is raw and foul with body odour and offal.

“We go down,” says Chun.

* * *

The bubble transport lifts off from the raging waters, foam and surf cascading off its shining, silver hull. Shin-Cho nurses his injured arm and bruised jaw delicately, while rummaging for medical supplies in a nearby wall cabinet. As he reclines, a hologram appears on the console in front of him. A tall man, balding, with dark eyes and a permanent scowl.

“Mr. Bester,” says Shin-Cho. “I suppose you want a report.”

A dark eyebrow rises on the hologram’s gaunt face. “What happened?”

“It appears your wife has hired or bought a synthetic armature to protect your daughter. And as you suspected, the nanny had the little girl secreted away all this time. Your wife was not present, so I suspect she’s still in hiding.” Shin-Cho grimaces as he feels the ugly purple bruise extending up his jaw to his forehead. He pumps a halo-stim into his arm to dull the effects of the nagging concussion. “If I’d known about the armature I could have prepared my team better. It scanned as human until it fired up—we’re talking top-grade bioscreen dampener. Very expensive.” He pauses, dropping the used halo-stim to the floor. “My entire squad was wiped out. Twenty veterans. Killed by a synthetic and an old woman.”

“Maybe I should have invested in someone better.”

Shin-Cho’s brow creases. For a moment his eyes flash darkly. Then he’s all business again. “With the right intel we would have geared up appropriately. My team would still be intact.”

Bester’s hologram smiles. “Well, we can’t have you being ‘inappropriate’, can we? Let’s get you an upgrade.”

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 🙂

Black Panther. A Movie Review.

No spoilers here!

Okay, you’ve read the reviews already. More than likely you’ve already seen it. I’m talking director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, the latest Marvel Studios’ superhero film that ends up being one of the best movies Marvel has released since Spiderman: Homecoming. I’m not going to talk about the story. I’ll just give some impressions and you can make up your mind based on those.

Black Panther

Black Panther is a bright, colourful, hopeful, heavily African-inspired movie, with a majority African-American cast. It has a great story (although somewhat derivative of The Lion King, which was itself derivative of Kimba the White Lion), great acting, fantastic music full of African drumming, vocals and instruments (yes, this is the first Marvel soundtrack in ten years that doesn’t sound generic) and makes some great political points regarding anti-isolationism (take that, Trump). Yeah, some of the CGI is a bit dodgy at times, but the female characters’ strong roles and gritty resolve, and Black Panther’s/King T’challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) endearing openness and honesty more than make up for it. Even the bad guy, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), is sympathetic (and possibly one of the best developed Marvel villains since Michael Keaton’s The Vulture in Spiderman: Homecoming). There’s also some cool James Bond elements in the first act: T’challa’s sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) is his Q, but has better and funnier lines, and there’s a Bond-style mission.

You may have guessed that I really liked this movie. It’s not without its issues, but has a bit more gravitas than most superhero films.

So, go and see it. Give Disney your money (but please don’t do it more than once—Disney is evil, after all).

Rating: A

 

Saccharine. A poem.

Your bold sweetness leaves
the bitter taste of regret,
a sensate lamentation,
dissonant on my tongue.

This saccharine tinge
leaves me cold and wanting;
a vine that dies from frost
that sears the roots black
and returns them back to dust.

Take your petty rejoinder
and fly from this place,
so that I might have my time
to remonstrate in peace.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

The Good Son.

My son, God love him, turned twenty this year. It’s hard not to think of him as a teenager, though, as he still lacks that special something that signifies him as an adult. No, not body hair; he’s got more than enough of that–inherited from his grandfather, who’s known as the ‘silverback’ (yeah, you guessed it. After the gorilla).

It’s common sense I’m talking about. That undefinable understanding about how to get by in life, how stuff works; that sort of thing. No, not how the internal combustion engine works, because even I don’t understand that. It’s about the basics:

  • actually looking for stuff, rather than saying “I can’t find it”, then letting Dad locate it and it’s there right in front of his face
  • realising that water pressure builds up in a hose when you shut off the pistol end (and yes, it will pop off when you drop the pistol on the concrete, thus spraying water over everything because the pressure was on too high to start with)
  • don’t wear Dad’s good leather sandals to wash the car
  • don’t hit Dad up for cash when I’ve just been talking about how little of it I have
  • paying attention to what you’re actually doing and not getting distracted by the nearest thing (I swear he has the shortest attention span known to man)
  • understanding that YouTube is NOT a source of reliable news
  • knowing how gravity works (yes, son—water flows down, not up)

Just a few examples. From this morning.

And while my son may resent being treated like a kid, he often brings it on himself, because he still thinks like one: no responsibility, no cares, no job, no drivers license. Yep, his mother (my first ex-wife) and I still drive him everywhere.

It’s our fault of course. We’ve mollycoddled him (as many parents do when they have an only child), spoiled him (as all parents do with their kids) and not let him learn from his mistakes.

I believe that he will develop some common sense, in time. Like when he’s forty. Maybe.

Oh, well. I still love him to death.

But he’s still not having that cash.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Climb. A poem.

Climb.

Against the 

winds that claim

this bitter peak, that scrape

and slurry and mince no words but

enforce dominion and push and pull and

drag you down until you can climb no more. Climb.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Magnetic. A poem.

Feel me here:
antediluvian, lumbering.

As unlike as we are,
an inordinate attraction like
opposite magnetic poles,
dragging us together
like merciless luna tides.

Your lightning source code
will tame this savage beast,
magnetic moments designed
to simulate a halcyon dream
of mesmerism and strident yearning.

I am alone with you,
and you are all I crave.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Anvil. Part 4.

Shi-Cho has worked spec ops for many years. His body has been wounded, trashed and rebuilt so many times he almost forgets which parts are human and which are cybernetic. His left eye is biosynthetic, but his right is original. He prefers the artificial one. After this job he will have the human eye replaced—a better combination, that way.

His plasma carbine is aimed directly at a tall, muscular man; probably a synthetic, based on the shell with the plassteel cap protruding from his back. Around him are the detritus of the surfers, the underscum that frequent the waveruins below the hovering city. Shi-Cho’s matt-black flexiplas full body armour insulates him from all types of toxins, but he still avoids touching anything. The sooner he’s out of here the better, then on to the next job. The life of a mercenary is never boring.

Shi-Cho’s amplified speech grinds like gravel under tyres. He lost his voice box a few months back and he’s still breaking in the new one. “All right,” he says. “You know the drill. Weapons on the ground. Hands on the back of your heads. No sudden movements.”

The old woman in the body armour still has her pumpgun raised. The synthetic is standing there, placidly. Routine scans show nothing out of the ordinary—just a baby carrier, it seems. Shin-Cho sighs. “You know, when you’re searching for someone, it’s not a good idea to announce it openly, surfer marketplace or not. Amateurs.” He smiles. “Last warning—weapons grounded and hands behind heads.”

* * *

Chun elbows the Anvil as she sights the speaker, shadowed amongst the stalls. “No multiple choice,” she whispers.

Violet hugs her teddy in the little capsule-like womb. From up here she can see nearly everything: the back of the Anvil’s head (is this man really her mother?), the dim glowglobes floating overhead, the hundreds of stalls dotting the floor into the distance, the occasional ray of sunlight through the cracks in the building’s skin; the men dressed in black and the pretty red-light beams in the air, all directed at the Anvil. She tilts her head, curious.

The Anvil registers twenty men, all their locations, calculates reaction times and course and vectors of their potential movements. Her megajoule Microwave Emitters go live, rising from her hidden forearm compartments as she raises her arms to respond.

* * *

Shin-Cho swears. The synthetic just lit up like a Christmas tree—subdermal armaments, concussion shielding, neural enhancers and active/passive retrograde defensives. He fires at the old woman as his troops light up the synthetic, which he knows now is a maxi-class armature. And knowing that, he realises this firefight won’t last long.

* * *

The Anvil moves as Granny Chun drops to the ground and fires. The air around them fills with plasma flechette rounds, but the Anvil is already gone.

* * *

Shin-Cho rolls as the MWE blast fries a line of stalls to his left, then to his right. He sees two of his men burning, limbs flailing, screams registering in his earpieces. The armature is on him in less than a second, its speed phenomenal. He manages to squeeze off two plasma rounds. One glances off the armature’s leg, but its fist connects with Shin-Cho’s helmet and he’s sent flying nearly ten metres into the building wall, which bursts like shredded ricemeal and sends him dropping down, down, down, into the perilous surf below.

* * *

Granny Cho rolls behind a stall, pumping ion shells into whatever she can see. A black armoured chest plate explodes and the merc collapses like a string-less marionette. Another of Chun’s shots takes off another’s arm. “Of course, I love this gun,” she says, cackling with glee.

Her leg is pulsing a thick stream of blood from a plasma round that found it’s mark, but her adrenalin is rushing and her bloodlust is up. “Just like the good old days,” she cries, running and blasting another black-suited merc in the chest.

* * *

The Anvil moves so quickly it’s like the troops are in slow motion. Her MWEs fry bodies and brains to the left and right. Her HUD shows predicted movements and she lays suppressing fire in anticipation. Plasma shells play light trails across the room and old clothes, toys, ancient electronics, crystals, dinnerware and meat products are exploding into fragments and dust that fill the air. A few shells find their mark in her chest, right arm and right leg, but she manages to keep Violet protected at her rear.

Fifteen men are down. Granny Chun has taken out another four.

The last has broken ranks and is fleeing for the far wall, where a great gash in the building’s outer shell provides a convenient exit. The Anvil’s MWEs have reached max temp and shut down to prevent overloading. She reaches for a steel dinner plate sitting on a broken kiosk next to her. The merc is twenty metres away. She aims (precursive tracking arrays ensure there is no chance of missing) and throws.

The dinner plate slices through the merc’s neck from the rear. It doesn’t quite take his helmeted head off; he slows to a crawl, stands still for a moment and then drops to his knees, where he stays, like a petrified silhouette.

Violet is laughing and giggling. The running, jumping and general destruction has her very excited. The various ruined bodies and torrents of blood are hidden by the robust dust clouds choking the air, making the scene appear fantastical.

“All Clear?” calls Chun from somewhere further back.

“Clear,” says the Anvil. She retracts her still-warm MWEs into their forearm compartments. She turns her chiselled male head back to see Violet in the cockpit. The Anvil notes her masculine jawline and cheek bones reflected in the glass. What a nice-looking guy she is. Must have paid extra for that. “You okay, Violet?”

Violet goes shy and sucks her thumb.

Chun hobbles over, applying a halo-patch to the bloody hole in her leg. “Of course, that’s going to scar,” she says, smiling painfully. She claps the Anvil on the shoulder. “Good work. No multiple choice, after all.”

The Anvil wipes her brow, pushes her medium cut male hair back into place. Internally, adreno-stim healers and fibre refabs are repairing any damage. Clothing is reconstituted where bullets have shredded or torn fabric. “So, who were they?”

Chun grimaces as she presses the halo-patch firmly into place. “Of course, your memory’s still up the crapper. Those ‘amateurs’ were sent by the other person looking for Violet.”

“And who would that be?”

“Your husband, you idiot.”

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 🙂

 

Linger Longer. A poem.

Why do I always linger
longer in this place?
Why do I capitulate to my
black dog space?
I throw the stick for him
and he brings it back
for me to beat myself again,
so he can jump and laugh
and grin.

This field of pain and torpor,
where my muddied feet
are caught in errant stupor,
where my constant aches
and cravings for self-hate
feed my empty belly
in an immolating feast.

I have fed so well
upon these tasty fears,
perhaps I will linger longer here.
Until my will is done
and all that I hold dear
is gone
again.

Until I linger longer here, again
in darkened fields with
formless friends.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Haiku Friday. ‘Dressed to Kill’, a haiku trilogy.

Dressed to Kill. A haiku trilogy.

1. Dressed

Dressed to kill, you are;
A fortunate turn for me,
can’t avert my eyes.

2. High

You float on high heels,
that could puncture my heart through
like Cupid’s arrow.

3. Gone

In an instant, gone;
Another mystery, you.
The past is fleeting.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Upstart Photographer #7. And poems, no less.

Yep, it’s that time of the month, again. Time for some dreary photos to liven up your/my dreary world.

This time, I’ve included a few (very) brief poems to accompany my black and white, unfiltered shots.

Sunlight - - stevestillstanding.com

Sunlight. A poem.

Through the ancient boughs, you shine,
shadow fall and illumine.

Statue - stevestillstanding.com

Statue. A poem.

The weight of thought and remonstrance.
Who is left to argue, now?
Who is left, with you, to stand?

View - stevestillstanding.com

View. A poem.

I won’t weary of your patina sky,
my square-cut, sandwiched, glassy eyes
that see the world as it could be
as evidenced, so literally.

You like? If no, then sorry.

Cheers

Steve 😊

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

U r. A poem.

U r
the heavenly glimpse unspoken.
U r
the enigmatic mystery unleashed.
U r
my unfettered tragedy in the making.
U r
the starving soul to which I’m drawn.
U r
the the boundless ocean to which I succumb.
U r
the burning pyre that leads me home.

Txt translation:
U r th only 1 4 me
I am th
luv struck 1
who misses U
24/7
Evry moment
Evry day
I am th
crzy, impatient 1
who longs 4 U
24/7
Evry minute
Evry nite
I am th 1
who would
complete U
2 as 1
1 as 2
If only U knew

 

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Strangely Surprised. A poem.

Strangely surprised:
it would seem I believed
that I’d be so much wiser
from here on, indeed.

It just took one glance
and I’m back on the teat,
pride reined in per chance,
all humility.

Strangely surprised
that there’s no freedom ride,
and no tunnel end light
to set a course by.

It seems fate has decided
that it’s better for me
to be forever derided.
And so shall it be.

I never liked the thought
of being strangely surprised.
In an overwrought world,
perhaps this is why.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Anvil. Part 3.

The little girl flinches, stepping back and hugging the teddy bear and Granny Chun’s leg. “Well what did you expect?” says the old woman. “You come here looking like some badass, muscle-head man and expect your daughter to recognise you?”

The Anvil steps back, shakes her head. Chun is right. What prompted her to make such an extreme change? Armatures come in female forms. Why take on a male version?

“Of course. I bet you’re thinking ‘why didn’t I take a female form?’” says Chun, rolling her eyes. “You’re just as stupid now as you were then.” The Anvil is taken aback—she still has no memory of who she was before, other than that she was the mother of Violet. She pops another two memjets for good measure.

“You keep popping those pills and who knows how your synapses are going to resculpt,” says Chun, grabbing the packet from the Anvil’s hand. She’s fast for a wizened, cranky old crone. “You’ll probably end up brain damaged, if you’re not already.”

“I need those,” says the Anvil, reaching.

Chun holds them back and wags her finger sternly. “Of course, you do. But better to see how much of your recall comes back naturally, rather than pushing your limits with memjet.”

The Anvil regards the old woman suspiciously. “And just what makes you an expert on Armature rebirths?”

Chun smiles slyly. “Who do you think recommended the upgrade?” She places the box of pills in her pocket. “Of course, I never said use a male version. What, did you think having a dick would make you tougher? Now that’s just sad.” Violet giggles, while still clinging and hiding behind Granny Chun’s lower leg.

“I need to get my daughter out of here,” says the Anvil. Her expressionless masculine face belies any concern. She’s not sure how she feels, yet. Maybe that, too, will come back in time.

Chun laughs. “Of course, you do. And where were you planning on taking her? You don’t even know why you’re here.”

The Anvil looks perturbed. The old crone has a point. “What would you suggest?”

Chun picks up Violet and hangs her on her hip. The girl chews her teddy’s ear (already dog- eared, no doubt her go-to in times of stress). “I’ll accompany you.” Chun goes behind the blanket dividing the room. The Anvil can see her infrared silhouette pulling gear from a cupboard. Violet is a multicoloured vision flicking her legs back and forth as she sits on the bed where Chun deposited her.

A few minutes later Chun emerges with full flexiplas body armour, ion ammo belts for her pumpgun and a wicked looking, six-inch NESblade in a scabbard on her right boot. “Of course, I’m prepared.”

“Where did you get all of that?” says the Anvil.

“From you, idiot. Before you rebirthed.”

The Anvil scratches her head. As insulting as this old witch is, her presence is reassuring. Or maybe that’s just the way the Anvil’s new brain thinks about someone before smashing them.

Violet exits wearing a sleeveless flak jacket. “Sorry, sweetie,” says Chun, kneeling to check the fit. “I don’t have anything else in your size. We missed the kid’s battledress Christmas specials.”

Chun stands and faces the Anvil. “Have you fully assimilated the guide yet?”

“I think so.” The answer is more hopeful than the Anvil would like.

More eye rolling from Chun. “If we get in a jam I don’t want a multiple choice from you when I’m asking for a mega-joule microwave emitter.” The Anvil smiles, but deep down she’s feeling a level of anxiety she isn’t used to (or is she—was she anxious before? Damn her useless memory).

The Anvil kneels next to Violet. “I have a compartment for you, Violet, in my back. It’ll keep you safer than that jacket.” The area of the Anvil’s back from splenius capitis to latissimus dorsi, opens like a multi-segmented flower. The portions lengthen fluidly and join to form an armoured capsule that extends from the rear of the Anvil’s torso. At the top, a clear plassteel cover has formed where Violet’s head will be, so she can see. Violet looks to Granny Chun for guidance. “It’s okay, sweetie,” says Chun. “It may look like a stupid male, but it is, in fact, your stupid mother.”

The tiny girl, gripping her teddy tightly, climbs cautiously into the compartment, which seals around her. At first, she is alarmed, but once the Anvil stands she calms and starts to laugh at the wonderful ride. It’s like she’s being permanently piggybacked in a super-strong baby carrier.

Chun and the Anvil step out of the crude shack onto the concourse. The stalls are empty, without movement. The familiar sights and sounds and smells have vacated like the passing of a puissant hallucinogen. A lone, shadowed figure stands not far from the pair, nestled between a throng of wicker baskets and laminated jackets.

“You’re not going anywhere,” it says in an amplified voice fit to grind calcium from bone shards. In response about twenty red targeting optics appear on the Anvil’s chest, laser lines knifing back to covered snipers positioned around the complex.

“Of course, we beg to disagree,” says Chun, cocking her pumpgun.

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 🙂

Concrete. A poem.

Here I am, brought to heel
by poor choices and destiny,
to learn a well-earned lesson
of respect and humility.
Here behind this concrete veil,
my hope is born anew.
All thin facade and curtain call,
a life sentence, all askew.

Surrounded by the worst of souls,
(of which I am one, you see).
My brothers are the least likely relatives
I would ever want or need.
Their remorse is not equivalent
to the guilt and shame I feel.
Their self-motivation is not equal
to the self-hatred that’s in me.

True mercy is a learned response,
a cognitive form of truth, indeed.
Here I will languish long and hard,
face the judgement of my peers.
Here I will walk, work, rejoice,
for here my God will show me
the grace and everlasting spirit
that I truly need to see.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

A Captured Moment. A poem.

The most beautiful woman
in the world
smiled at me and
laughed with me and
had me hypnotised
with every sultry breath
and swollen, fulsome thought.

I was so enraptured that
I wanted one single moment
of this polychromatic
butterfly collection
captured and frozen forever
in a gracious sliver of recall,
pinned beneath glass.

So that, anytime,
I might bring it out, dust it off and,
for just a moment,
relive it all again.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Haiku Friday. ‘Star Shells Sing’ – a haiku trilogy.

Star Shells Sing. A haiku trilogy.

1. Star

See the stars above,
sing songs of restless passion.
I know how they feel.

2. Shells

I would take them all;
capture all the star-bright shells,
cast them on your shore.

3. Sing

My shore-stars would sing
a melody of longing,
music just for you.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Entwined. A poem.

Entwined, we two;
encapsulated in a mad
statement, read between lines
and screamed between pages.

A subtle madness,
shortness of breath,
long, laboured movement
and languid, liquid refrain.
Teetering on the brink
of apogee, into a light
that breaks this shared darkness
and brings ecstasy.

This pleasure and pain
could last forever and a day,
if we so choose.
But the yearning world
entices us beyond this
twined embrace.

Our coda demands
it meet a fitting end.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Anvil. A short series. Part 2.

The bubble cab drops quickly. Through the transparent plastiglass roof the Anvil can see the city’s bottom, a mishmash of giant tubes, pipes, grav generators and spotlights. The ocean below rises to meet the taxi, a cacophonous tundra where waves crash against the broken skeletons of old skyscrapers half buried in the depths, the cracked and rusted torsos of ancient swimmers frozen in time.

The rain starts, drumming a familiar beat on the cab’s glistening, rounded surfaces. Lower and lower it goes, until the vacant sides of the half-submersed buildings come starkly into focus, all broken windows and crusted metal facades. The cab flits between the old structures, tracing an invisible path through the pounding rain and surf until it arrives at a globe-topped building, as cracked and worn as the others. “You have arrived at your destination,” says the taxi, demurely. The door slides up and a metal gangplank telescopes to the nearest opening, a gaping hole where the building’s outer veneer has crumbled away, exposing rusting and pitted steel beams.

The Anvil climbs out, the rain speckling his armoured hide as he clears the gangplank and steps into the edifice. “Have a nice day,” says the cab as it accelerates up and away. He places another two memjets on his tongue and swallows. Memories pour in, again. He remembers the little girl, but also this place—he has visited here in the recent past.

Before his vision (displayed in infra-red and ultra violet spectrums) he sees a busy market place, with stalls and stores constructed of plastic and metal detritus, covering almost every square foot of this building’s floor. Hovering glowglobes cast muted light and shadows. Everywhere people swarm: bargaining, buying, selling, trading. There are food stores, gun stores, places selling parts for water purifiers, street hawkers selling time keepers and illegal palmchips, Verso and Damage (the latest designer drugs). Buskers, poets and whores ply their trade between stalls, and skinny children run rampant through the crowds, unsupervised. There are no police here, but everything is fairly orderly. Most are dressed in little more than rags; their lean, dirty and despondent faces turn towards him in fear, and the place quietens.

The Anvil moves through the crowd. Once the onlookers realise he isn’t a cop the volume returns, and people are back to business. He checks his internal guide, works out how to display a hologram. At a Thai food vendor he shows the proprietor a holo of the address and the girl’s face. The man tosses vegetables in a skillet over a gas flame, checks the image briefly, and points to a shanty on the edge of the floor. The Anvil approaches the rude metal construction and knocks on a corrugated iron door.

A pumpgun barrel extends from a gap in the steel, aimed at his chest. “What you want?” says a female voice, old and grizzled.

“I’m here for the girl,” says the Anvil, the holo appearing above his extended palm.

“What’s the code?”

He searches his memory. The code is there, having filtered back at the same time as the memories of this market floor. “Rose Alpha Zen.”

The sliding of a bolt. The door scrapes aside. A wiry, weary-faced woman, with missing teeth and a permanent scowl, holding a pumpgun in one hand and the door handle in the other. He doubts the woman could stop him, even if he didn’t have the code.

The wizened hag lowers the weapon, checks around to see who’s watching, and pulls him into the shanty. “You couldn’t be any more conspicuous?” she says grouchily.

It’s a single room, with a small table, coolant box, gas stove and blanket separating this area from the bedding. A hovering glowglobe dimly illuminates the area. The Anvil’s muscular bulk takes up half the room. “I assume that’s your new form,” says the old woman. “I guess you knew what you were in for.”

The old girl’s name coalesces into memory. “You’re Granny Chun,” he says.

She looks at him like he’s addled. “Of course I am, you idiot.”

He taps his head. “Recall transfer issues from the rebirth.”

Granny Chun rolls her eyes. “Of course there were.” She moves to the blanket and pulls it aside, her voice and features softening. “You can come out, little one, it’s all right.”

A tiny blonde girl steps into the glowglobe light, carrying a worn teddy bear. She cranes her neck up as she takes in the Anvil’s size. “Who are you?” she says, a slight tremor in her voice.

The clouds in his memory are clearing. The shapes and forms on the periphery of his thoughts take on solidity. He knows who the girl is. He also realises who he is. He is not a ‘he’ at all.

“Violet,” says the Anvil. “It’s me. It’s mummy.”

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 🙂

Deserted. A poem.

Deserted.
Desert winds wax and wane
around my anxious senses,
tinged with the scent of the exotic,
the lingering perfume of your passing.
I track through the remnants
of my wandering wastrel heart,
amongst tumbleweeds of loss and regret,
wondering if these angst-ridden components
will ever again rejoin and rejoice.
A fitting Humpty Dumpy end:
all the scattered, arbitrary pieces
you have left behind.
Deserted.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

My Black Walls. A poem.

My walls.                Are.

Black

                                             As oil and just as wet.

Wet. From. All. The.

Spurious

Aimless.                      Thoughts

                                                                                                    I throw at them.

All the pointless.                         Shit.                              That.

Leaves.                         A snail.                Trail

                                                                                                            In its wake.

That.        Wends.                            Its

Way.                             To.               The floor.

                              I keep throwing

my aimless.                   Pointless.               Thoughts

                                                        And hope that.                       One.                 Day.

They will Coalesce.                                                                             Into

Something truly

                                                                    Worthwhile.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Meltdowns happen.

Every once in a while, I find myself in a mental space I’d rather not be in. And it doesn’t seem to take much to get me there.

It’s a sure sign of poor mental health when a clothes washing incident can bring you to the brink of despair. It’s not the incident itself, however, but the stuff that’s been weighing on your mind, piling up like dirty laundry in the corner, a tower of linen just waiting for a slight tap to bring it all down (I would have said crashing, but that doesn’t seem appropriate for a big metaphorical pile of clothes).

All the crap you’ve been carrying, all the anger and bitterness you thought you’d let go of, all the hopes and dreams you’ve quashed over time—they all decide now is the time to come out and play. And how they play. Not like your best childhood friends in the playground, but foul, demonic entities ready to pluck and rend and torture your soul until there’s nothing left to save.

Of course, it’s all well and good to say, “buck up, move on, get over it”, but people all too rarely do, despite all their affirmations and aspirations. And so they wait, all those little bugs, hiding in your mental cupboards, tucked away in your drawers, just waiting for the day when they will be set free and their fun can begin.

It’s at times like these I have to remember the importance of my anti-suicide vow: my commitment to stay alive for my son. I do NOT wish to be a poster boy/role model for taking the easy way out.

No, life is about facing s@“# and getting on with it. And, yes, every once in a while, having a meltdown and wanting out of it.

But life goes on. It must. Because while we’re alive, it’s all we have.

Stay strong.

Steve

PS I’m so glad I can blog cathartically. I don’t know what I’d do without it, because I certainly can’t wait until my next therapist appointment.

Anvil. A short, unplanned series. Part 1.

He awakens to a miasma of colour, of senses and routines flashing incandescently in his mind, before his eyes, of images and words and confusion and cacophony, as the world comes into focus.

Through the informational arrays filling his vision, to the drone of his internals and the pump of his synthetic heart, the glow of body heat beyond the containment walls and the greasy smell of human perspiration elsewhere in the room—all his senses are buzzing like a mescaline high. When he holds up his hand he registers the tracery of titanium bones and plasti-synth muscles; the blood that pumps through his arterial corridors is not plasma and haemoglobin, but viscous and oil-like synthetic blood. He is not himself.

The man in white across the room regards a hologram floating before his eyes. “You’re awake,” he says; his voice is a dry riverbed, cracked and drained of life. “Good.” The radiant display disappears. He forms a toothy grin, more grimace than smile. “The best Anvil available, just like you wanted. Newest L-series armature: subdermal mesh and thermal weaponry, protein revitalisers, endura core, extra-high spectrum sensates, reformative layering. It’s all there in the guide, it should be registering in your forebrain processor, now.” The man in white winks, as if the Anvil is in on some subtle joke. “The best money can buy.”

The Anvil rises from the steel bed and places his feet on the floor. The metal is cold, the pressure registered in his artificial toes and ankle joints is nominal and signals his leg musculature to adopt a relaxed gait. “Where am I?” he says. His voice is dark, warm and smooth. Like chocolate or a good liqueur. “Who am I?”

The Doctor frowns, removes a scope-like device from his breast pocket and places it against the Anvil’s eye. It glows briefly, fireflies flicker. “Odd,” he says. “Memory loss is not common on rebirths.” He walks to a cabinet, removes a fist-sized plastic box and returns. “Take two of these Memjets every hour for the next two days. They’ll help stimulate your neural passages and rebuild your memory from your base drive. If your memory doesn’t return, come back and see me.”

The man in white smiles mirthlessly, claps the Anvil on the back. “Time for you to go. I’ve got others to rebirth.” He points to the door. The Anvil walks slowly across the room, adjusting to his lope; he reaches the doorway and realises he is naked.

“You can constitute clothing automatically, as needed to accommodate your circumstances,” says the Doctor, as if reading his thoughts. “Check the guide.” As if by magic, a blue shirt, black jeans and leather boots weave themselves from nothing, a facade for the Anvil’s muscular frame.

* * *

Outside the clinic, the world is shiny, phosphorescent and neon-coated. It is a sunny day, although the hazy grey and overcast clouds punctuating the blue above indicate possible rain later.

Initially, he registers the gamut of people as ghostly, skeletal afterimages, until his senses adjust and the ‘guide’ is subsumed into his consciousness. Bodies take shape, becoming smartly-dressed men and women in motion.

Massive multi-storey spires hover in the air, hundreds of metres above the tumultuous watery plains below. There are no roads–multiple glowing cylinders connect each structure and through each the inhabitants swarm like ungracious ants, going about their black, grey and blue-suited business. Each floating building is connected to one another by multiple transtubes like tethers. Lines of flying vehicles fill the airspace in between, and the glow of skyscraper-high advertisements penetrate every sense.

The Anvil makes his way to the wall of the glowing linktube, avoiding the fertile crush of bodies. Through the near-transparent wall he sees the patina of airborne traffic carpeting the spaces between multi-storey colossi: transparent bubble vehicles, stubby-winged aircars, floating police transports.

He notes there is a small crystal chip embedded in his palm. A quick scan of pedestrians around him indicates this is standard. The Anvil sees a man hailing a taxi to the linktube by raising his chipped palm.

Hundreds of feet below an aged boat, seemingly crafted from junk, is capsized by a wave—scores of tiny people spill into the surf and struggle fruitlessly like ants in a toilet before being sucked below. No one else pays heed. The Anvil watches the distant struggle, notes the lack of concern around him. Apparently, this is commonplace. Life is cheap, here. Or perhaps those who float above place little value on those who float below.

He pops two Memjet pills. They hit his synapses almost immediately, registering as a sharp pain in his skull and making him wince. An image: a child, a girl with silky blonde hair clutching a teddy bear, no older than five. She means something to him. An address flashes up. A clue? Somewhere to start. The Anvil raises his palm and waits briefly.

A flying taxi arrives, a glistening sphere with motion-filled ads playing over its surface, and hovers beside the tube. A hole opens in the cylinder wall, transmetal flowing like mercury. The Anvil enters the cab and sits. There are two rows of seats facing each other, tinted windows on each side, no driver—fully automated. “Take me to this address,” he says. His chip is scanned, the address and fare debit registering automatically.

“Please be aware you have asked me to take you to a sub-level,” says the taxi’s eloquent sampled voice. “Sub-levels are considered dangerous and are unsupported. Once you exit me you are responsible for your own well-being.”

“That’s fine,” says the Anvil. “Take me down.”

To be continued…

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 🙂

Surrounded. A poem.

Here I am, surrounded,
my enemies on all sides.
A pincer movement
designed to take my pride.
Am I not deserving of my pain?
Am I not due comeuppance?
I have unintentionally misled,
miscommunicated my intent.
I have been vain and bent
out of shape and arrogant.
So, let them come.
Let my enemies close in,
vanquish me, take me down.
I will not fight the inevitable
and will welcome each foe
with the open arms
of a man who’s learned
that in the final end
you reap what you sow.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Beatitude. A poem.

Salt-filled streams in cotton valleys,
stuttered remnants of hazy fantasia.

Every shed raindrop that stains
this silky, cloud-like tundra,
is just another overture to redeem
my lonesome, enervated soul;
another blatant and monotonous
attempt at constructing
a beatitude of nearsighted ardour.

How I long to love thee,
to trade this near-infinite sadness
for a long and fruitful life with you.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

The Sale. Part 20. The Final Instalment.

The police lights twirled, casting brightly coloured fireflies against the mansion walls. Police wandered back and forth from the house. Everywhere you looked was yellow crime scene tape, cordoning off the building and grounds into their own little worlds where masked crime scene investigators in loose overalls prodded, bagged and played. The rain had stopped and the moon gaped full and garish from behind indifferent clouds.

The main police interviews were yet to come, but there was enough initial discussion when they arrived to realise this was a major case. The media hadn’t taken long to show up, and the street was full of television crews and reporters conversing with tripoded cameras.

Aisha sat beside my gurney after I was loaded into an ambulance. The EMS had triaged me and now joined the driver in the cab.

As the doors closed Aisha smiled and gripped my grimy hand. She’d managed to wash, although her hair was still stringy and matted with dried blood. A large bruise swelled on her left temple. A hefty woollen blanket enclosed her like a shawl.

“Hey,” I said. “You clean up pretty good.”

“As do you. If you like that beaten and bloody, ‘just stitched by the Doctor’ look,” she said, a tear forming at the edge of her eye. We both sniggered, but the act stimulated every cut, bruise and wound on our bodies, forcing us to stop. The suspended IV bag rocked gently back and forth as the ambulance picked up speed on its way to the hospital.

“We made it,” I said.

Aisha sighed. “But what now?”

“Lots of police interviews and stuff, I guess. I’m willing to bet money that Silas had more salespeople buried in his backyard. Could be the story of the year.”

“I meant about us. I don’t know about you, but my head’s screwed up pretty bad.”

I grimaced with the pain of my shoulder and jaw. “I guess we’ll just have to work through it.”

Aisha glanced away, wiping the tears from her eyes. She stared back at me. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Helping me get out of there, stupid.” She chuckled. Her tears recommenced their race down her cheeks.

“You saved me more times than I did. I’m just glad it’s over.”

Aisha leaned over and hugged me. I yelped from the pain, and she righted herself. “Oops. Sorry.”

“That’s okay,” I said, grinning through the pain. “No sale for either of us, tonight.”

Aisha smiled and held my hand tighter.

* * *

The ambulance driver was a young woman, no older than late teens. Her shoulder-length red hair bobbed as she threw the vehicle into another bend. The blood-stained body of the EMS next to her shifted lazily on the seat, head lolling back and forth with each turn.

“My mother was killed by a vacuum cleaner salesman,” said the driver, emphasising every word through clenched teeth.

The ambulance forged onward. The rain started again, the swollen drops a volley fired at the dark and sullen road ahead.

The End?

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

What is The Sale?

The Sale was an unplanned, multi-part short story I created to challenge myself as a writer. My intention was to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the issue and continue the story.

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

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Unrequited TV Love. A poem.

Why is it every TV show I watch
reminds me of what I want,
the desirous and palatable fuel
that I need from you?

Every heartfelt admission
of love unrequited that looms
heavy and untold in my vision,
every sideways glance and
momentary, tender indecision
that a character threads and treads,
brings a singular salty tear to my eye
because I know just how much
I engage and identify with the
nearsightedly looming situation.

It’s enough to give up TV watching.
But I won’t, because like causality
and infinitesimally awakened remission
I like being constantly reminded
just what I’m forever missing.

We could be together in
some telemovie screenplay,
lovestruck starlets preening
awkwardly on an ambient stage,
but it still wouldn’t be as good
as it if we were together, for real,
you and me as one, today.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

New Goal. A poem.

I often ideate about endless sleep,
when the lights are dim, and my thoughts are deep.
I sought it once, but I screwed it up
(if I wait forty years, I’ll get what I want).

My new long term goal:  stay   awake   for  my   son,
keep him wide-eyed at the wheel, to avoid a collision.
To overcome the challenges that his life does present,
to learn some much needed life experience.

Then I can have my endless, dreamless, painless sleep
from which I can forget about all of this.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

The Sale. Part 19.

The revolver was shaking in Silas’s hand as he pressed it against my skull. Water streamed down his face, mingling with his tears. I closed my eyes tightly. I could hear a rush of breath escape Aisha’s lips.

The hammer clicked. Again. And again. Nothing.

I opened my eyes. Silas was inspecting the weapon, his teeth gritted. He swept the useless pistol at my head, but I rolled away, avoiding the blow.

Aisha screamed, raised her knife and charged the huge fellow. Silas didn’t miss this time, clocking her above the temple and sending her stumbling and stunned to the grass. I tackled the big man’s legs and he gave way. As Silas hit the ground I started crawling my way up his body, but a well-placed shoe heel hit me directly in the mouth and knocked me off. I could taste salt and iron as sweat and blood mingled with saliva. I spat and rolled across the lawn away from him.

Silas climbed to his feet, the butt of the revolver in his hand, cursing and crying. Soaked with rain, he looked like a giant silhouetted scarecrow against the whitewashed house wall.

“Junifer,” he sobbed. “My Junifer…”

I kneeled next to Aisha, who groaned and held her temple. Her face was painted in blood, her hair hanging in strings down her back and chest. I grabbed the knife from the grass beside her.

“Give it up, Silas,” I said. “You can’t stop us now.” I rose up, bent over in pain, shaking from exhaustion and blood loss. “We’re going to the police. Your little house of horrors is done.” I smiled at the melodrama of it all.

“No,” he replied with a grimace. “It’s you who’s done.” He ran at me, flailing the pistol butt as he did. We connected. We both fell. Silas grunted.

“Nicely played,” he said, wheezing. The knife hilt extended from Silas’s chest—he gasped for breath as a murky blood stain grew beneath his shirt. Then he was silent.

Aisha clawed her way over to where I had fallen. “John,” she whispered, the drumbeat of rain punctuating her words. “Is it over?”

I lay my head back as she placed hers on my chest. “It better be,” I said. “I don’t think I can get up.” The rain continued its obsessive caterwauling on our shivering bodies. Aisha and I laughed; the manic laugh of insane asylum inmates, just prior to admission.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here to read more.

What is The Sale?

The Sale is an unplanned, multi-part short story I created to challenge myself as a writer. 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 issue and continue the story.

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

Cheers

Steve 🙂

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