I Have Written A 100 Word Story About A Paradox

[Neither the title nor this gratuitous note count towards the hundred words]

There is sickness in the kingdom; no longer are we a honourable race. The men have grown aggressive, stupid, greedy. The women are vain, lazy and weak. The solution? Remove the men, reform the women. Alex issues the following ultimatum:

“I will kill every man in this kingdom who does not commit suicide before dawn tomorrow – the choice is yours.”

Alex stays up all night, as blood runs through the streets. Reports from the female servants sent out suggest all the men are doing the honourable thing – a welcome change.

Dawn approaches. One choice remains unmade. What must Alex do?

Colleague_2.2

[Colleague_2.1 and 2.0 also available]

09:22 Broomer, Kyle wrote:
Busy this morning hey? Missed our 9 o’clock catch-up the day we have SERIOUS news! Pop round my desk when you’re free

09:47
Come now, you can’t be that busy. Your calendar says you’re free.

From: Kyle
To: Kerry
Time: 10:14
Hey, just been by your desk, your manager says you’ve not called in sick, what’s up?
K

Call Log
Today
Kerry (mobile) (6) 13:37 >>

Monday
Kerry (mobile) 21:27 <<

My best friend Kerry has disappeared. She was in work yesterday – we had lunch together as usual and discussed various theories including that about Tom, the suspected cyborg who works in our office. I mention this because Kerry’s disappearance has coincided with Tom’s getting rid of his glasses. This may not sound like a big deal, but it’s something Kerry and I were waiting for, because we reckon his eyes hold clues about his real identity. This morning, he came in without his glasses. I haven’t gone over to chat with him yet, though I could on any flimsy premise, but Kerry’s disappearance has rattled me because I’m sure Tom’s behind it.

Kerry and I have been friends since our first day of work. We were two of several new starters that day, and bonded within ten minutes of arriving in the building. As a group of us waited at reception, Sarah, another newbie, asked if I had seen the fifteenth anniversary memorial service of 9/11 which had been on recently. I hadn’t but I know plenty about it and when she brought up the footage of the Pentagon impact, I mentioned the hole in the building which is suspiciously half the width of a Boeing 757.

“Come now, you don’t believe those conspiracy theories, do you?” Sarah asked. She was quite a pretty girl, and the conversation had been going well until now, nevertheless I have always been one to stick to my guns.

“There are too many anomalies in the evidence to believe everything the FBI investigations found,” I replied. “Thermite in the wreckage, insider trading on United Airlines stocks…”

Sarah smiled and laughed lightly. The polite response. I was used to that, at best, by now, but was still disappointed when she turned away to talk to the guy across from her. I looked around at the rest of the group, most of whom averted their eyes, but found Kerry’s locked on mine. She gave me a slight nod, and when we spoke at lunch later that day the 9/11 Truth was our first topic.

Kerry was what I like to call a ‘bambi’ – wide-eyed and impressionable, with views that could slide around like a young deer on ice. But she was also a meticulous researcher, and soon we became a great team – more than the sum of our parts. My endless creativity and curiosity coupled with her knack for uncovering information led to prestige in the online world of ‘conspistadors’, as we called ourselves (I came up with the name). And while we had plenty of topics, none was so under-our-noses as Tom.

We thought we had the upper hand, an eye on him, but now I fear he’s got to Kerry and I don’t know what to do.

Experiment Two: The Machine

[Poetic Experimentation returns! Once again, I’d love to know what you think my motivations and ideas behind this were, so please comment with your thoughts!]

Danger
And chains
The Greater Good
Gears clunk, heavy
Grind through stoic routine
Not apparent for those too close
That those whirring blades
Will draw them in
And chain
them in.

And what will slicken these Gears
Down all the Apparatus
Around the Apparatus
The Gears and Levers
Glisten with sweat
Of the workers
The bodies
Flit
Blood runs
For each night
The Machine growls
As the Grinding grows
And the Grinding soothes
And you’ve got to make it stop

Sick
You can’t
So odious
your bodies
Will prevent
You’ve got to
Your freedom
The operation
The apparatus
become so sick
So sick at heart
And your bodies
make you so sick
That you can’t run
Unless you’re free
The people who run it
The people who own it
The people who own you
To even passively take part
will be prevented from working at all.

Wishes (Part Three)

[Part Two here]

August 14th

Dear diary,

It’s been a while… I know I haven’t written for ages, but I’ve been in such a good mood of late that it seemed to make sense to pen a few lines. Life’s great at the moment! Work’s been busy but not overly, so I’ve still been able to get away in good time for my gym sessions three times a week. I know I’ll reread this in a year’s time and think ‘three times a week?!’ but that’s just what’s happening – I’m probably in the best shape of my life with that and korfball training.

Made my first team debut last Sunday and scored three goals in a 20-11 win. Jon bought me a drink afterwards and said it was the best debut he’d seen. He hasn’t played since breaking two of his fingers a few months ago. Attempted comeback last week didn’t go well – even with them strapped up the pain was too much apparently.

Injuries seem really common, which is worrying me a bit. There is a lot of twisting and turning but I didn’t think it was worse than any other sport. We watched an exhibition game after our match between a couple of the region’s top club sides where two guys twisted their knees, and a girl (who had been having a great game) turned her ankle when she slid off the court and almost crashed into me. I put my hands out to stop her but her legs slid from under her and she ended up kicking the wall behind me.

I felt bad but Vix reassured me it wasn’t my fault. We’ve become pretty close of late and went out for a date last Thursday which went really well. It wasn’t awkward, we just chatted about all sorts over dinner. I was a perfect gent and got a goodnight kiss at her door when I might’ve been able to push for an invitation inside. I saw her looking at me as I changed tops at the match and I don’t blame her ’cause I’ve really toned up!

Vix is applying for trials with Birmingham City’s development squad and is trying to get me to do the same. It would be a bit of a trek if I made the squad but something tells me travelling around and playing with as many teams as possible can’t hurt, sonny. << huh, don’t know where that came from! Just sounded like a familiar phrase… I can’t remember. Something off kids TV that decided to surface from my subconscious maybe.

I feel kinda bad about Alastair who keeps reminding me about that hike to North Wales we planned, but I have korfball pretty much every weekend now and it’s going so well I don’t want to lose any momentum. I’ve invited him to come watch a match and maybe even try it out so hopefully then he’ll understand.

Sleep beckons – another early start tomorrow so I can get away to the gym from work before it gets too crowded.

Night diary!

harry

Colleague_2.1

[You’re welcome to read this post first if you’d like]

There’s a guy at work who’s not quite right. I don’t mean he’s crazy or anything – he seems, at first glance, to be a pretty normal guy. At first glance. If you look closer, you’ll see it. It’s that he’s not (totally) human. That’s what isn’t right.

His name’s Tom, apparently. Probably more like evil_office_v9.2.cyborg. Ok, so I don’t know he’s evil. He could be here on a protection mission. But the more we know about him, the better, and we can’t rule out the possibility he’s dangerous. His heightened senses suggest intelligence-gathering; I’ve yet to see any hostile capabilities. Maybe I’ll have to find a way to provoke a response and see what he’s programmed to do.

He’s definitely a cyborg. I considered alien, or demonic possession, but an alien would have a more similar (to blend in) or more different (getting their alien disguise wrong) appearance, not just one of a tall but slightly hunched man with glasses as thick as reinforced doors, and a demon would have caused more disturbances – phantom draughts, weird drawings, suicides, that sort of thing.

I’m convinced his eyes are a key clue. They’re so obscured by his glasses and there must be a reason for that. You can see the machinery working, or something.

I resolve to watch for a chance to knock them off ‘by accident’ so as to get a better look, but he doesn’t turn up to work the next day. I’m packing to leave at 6, the last one in the office, drained by a long day and disappointed my plans have stalled, when Tom walks in.

No glasses.

“Hey Tom,” I call with a smile. He waves back and wanders over to my desk. “Where you been and where are your glasses?” I inspect his eyes. They’re a dull, metallic grey.

“Laser eyes… surgery,” he replies, the pause for me to hear that extra ‘s’ all too intentional.

“Laser eyes?” I say, raising my eyebrows. “What do you need them for?”

Tom touches a fresh scar on his temple, and his eyes flash red as a whirring noise starts.

“Elimination.”

Wishes (Part Two)

[Part One here]

Mist, cold, damp, and a dull ache. I am lying down and can see only grey overcast sky so I sit up. I am in a small dip, woods behind me and hills rolling away ahead. I explore the source of my pain – the back of my head – and my fingertips return with dark, dried blood flaking from them. There is blood on the back of my hand as well, where the skin seems to have been torn off. What the hell is going on?

Slowly, memories drift back to me: packing my bag this morning, driving out to a remote car park, setting my sights on a distant peak and ducking into the woods as the rain began. After that, things grow fuzzy…and colourful. I have a vague recollection of a rainbow – the bright shades searing my memory even now.

I check the time – it is getting late to be carrying on and my clothes are unpleasantly damp from the grass. The hike back to the car takes a good hour and all the time a sense of unease crawls over my skin.

While it doesn’t fade until I drift to sleep that night, the foreboding does not manifest itself the rest of that day and I wake the next morning with the whole episode quite out of my head.

Neither cut seems serious and the head wound quickly heals but the one on my hand, though shallow, remains open and sore. Perhaps it is in too mobile a part of the body to heal well. I figure I will be fine for korfball training on Wednesday and don’t want to miss an opportunity to see Vix, a girl at the club on whom I have a most schoolboy-like crush.

At training we warm up all together which is my favourite part because it is the only time Vix and I are in the same group. I jog alongside her and make small talk and my heart flutters. I don’t tell her about my odd Sunday and how I’ve thought of little besides her face since. We toss a ball around with Jon, an experienced player who likes to think himself an excellent teacher. He spends plenty of time closely helping Vix with her grip before deciding to ‘demo proper passing form’ and bullet a pass at me. The impact makes my cut throb but I focus on imitating his form and return the ball firmly at him. Caught by surprise, the ball slams into the tip of a couple of his fingers and they bend with a sickening crackle and pop. Through the pain, as he is being bandaged by the sports centre staff, he tells me that was the best pass he’s seen me throw.

The whole session goes well – all the drills make perfect sense and I see improvement with each one. When the ‘experienced’ group are a man short for the games at the end, I am asked to move up to take Jon’s place and Vix smiles as I join her team. My first four shots produce goals and, feeling invincible, I shoot from an outrageous distance and the ball bounces back off the rim of the basket.

“If that shot had got in…” Vix says to me after the game.

“Next time,” I reply with a smile, “I’ll make it and you’ll buy me a drink.”

She blushes a little but agrees.

‘Roll on next week!’ I thought to myself that evening.

I had no idea how far this would go.

Tinder: The Burning Truth

[Ha ha ha ha more puns]

–Parts One and Two

Having started Tinder as a bit of a joke and then got far too invested in it as soon as I started considering my decisions, it was nice to realise something that toned my stress levels right back down: people worth talking to will reply to almost anything.

In my case at least, I believe this to be true. If someone’s not open enough to the possibilities, not willing to take a chance on talking to a total stranger, caught up in some ‘I’m here to be impressed’ mentality, then I’m not all that keen to talk to them anyway. The people I want to talk to are open, friendly, and looking to chat just like I am. As such, they’ll reply.

By ‘almost anything’, obviously there are certain things I’m not going to say. I get a lot of joy on Tinder by not being creepy, so suddenly deciding that ‘what are you wearing?’ will draw replies is not going to work. But I’d go as far as to say that ‘hi”, while it should be avoided if possible and followed up with some very good subsequent messages, shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. Better to say something and get the conversation flowing than stew in silence regretting missed opportunities. My most successful Tinder conversation had the good fortune to start with a discussion of her unusual name, but there have been plenty of good ones that started with…

*checks phone*
Oh well this is awkward…

So it turns out all my lasting conversations have come from unusual openers, from pet dragons to life-guarding skills (twice) to a (totally meta) discussion about openers.
This article is not turning out how I expected!
I’ll try again…

I guess a more applicable point is that you can be a bit random, as long as it elicits a response – just find something to comment on, or ask. One of the aforementioned women was wearing a generic Newquay lifeguard top, but my message allowed me to question her qualifications and mention having lived in Cornwall and as such got the conversation going.

I’m rapidly losing the ‘golden thread’ (I might make inane scraps of corporate jargon a regular feature in this blog, signified by highly sarcastic scare quotes of course (thoughts on this new feature?)) of this post but hopefully will distract you, lovely readers, from that fact with interesting asides (see interesting aside [insert interesting aside]). If you’re still reading, well thanks. A few closing thoughts on Tinder:

It’s pretty versatile. You can use it for ‘overnight’ dates, as a game, to chat to people, or even just to get restaurant recommendations in a new city (I will confess to doing this when losing interest in someone but still respecting their food establishment judgement).
Girls will generally talk to you and be nice. I can’t speak for the guys. Their definition of ‘nice’ may include invitations to overnight dates. Be warned – these are not slumber parties.
Having your mum in your photo with you will make more girls talk to you. I can swear to the validity of this claim. It makes you look like a nice guy. Helps if your mum is a bit shorter as well – makes you look tall. Thanks mum!

And that’s about that.

Colleague_2.0

Kyle’s long had his suspicions about Tom. The nagging feeling something wasn’t quite right; that the guy wasn’t exactly what he seemed. If asked to pin it down, he’d struggle, but mutter something about possession or aliens being likely.

Superficially, they got on pretty well – they’d chew the cud at lunch in the canteen or exchange the manly ‘nod & grunt’ greeting if they passed each other in the office – which seemed to suggest no one had mentioned to Tom all the aspersions on him Kyle blurted out to anyone who would listen.

“I think he’s a cyborg,” he was saying to Alex one afternoon by the water cooler. “I think they messed up his eyes but he wears those thick glasses to hide that fact.”

“I think it’s probably just that he’s got bad eyesight,” Alex said.

“He got telescopic eye sight and probably spy-satellite hearing as well,” Kyle replied. They looked across to where Tom sat at the far end of the long office, his eyes fixed on them. Alex reddened and looked away, but Kyle kept his eyes fixed on Tom as he spoke again.

“He can hear…”

He watched as Tom’s lips mouthed the words with him,

“Every…Word.”

Why Is A Duck?

One half the same
Two names the same:
middle and last
they link to my past
because you’re not my present
because you’re not present

Three with you in common: two half and one wholly
Forgetting what bound us as soon as you left
Five A.M. we were roused,
ears attacked with news we were too young to hear
or bear

Six days shy of my mother’s birthday
Ascending to that old tired rhyme of seven’s
The family descended en masse and we
ate and reminisced and I refused
Retreating to the trampoline
To exercise too much and wonder why
we didn’t all have
Nine lives

Tended to by caring family members
Concerned for me and at
Eleven, my younger sister
Too young to comprehend now, she’d come
to grieve and hate the memories
Twelve years ago it soon will be
Since you took your leave
When I was young and scared and shy,
Just shy of
Thirteen, a tender and unlucky age
For teen years would be tough without you
On me, on mum, on sister too

15 (July 2003)
The number still resonates with me
And one more circles through my head
Each day it grows with all I’ve said
And done, and learnt, and loved, and lost
One thousand
things
and counting
that I’d have in common with you now
And cannot share
But your one, old, nonsensical joke
I tell too often,
so know I care.

Wishes (Part One)

It was sunny when I set out, but there’s a flurry of rain so I duck into some nearby woods and carry on heading west towards the distant peak. There’s nothing like escaping the hustle of city life for a Sunday hike through the wild world of North Wales.

I pass out of the trees as the rain is easing and in front of me is the end of the rainbow.  I can’t believe it. Vibrant colours pour out of the sky right into the ground, and lying next to them is a tiny old man. A leprechaun? He looks more like a garden gnome, without the hat or fishing rod, but his eyes, which open lazily at the sound of my footsteps, are a dark, foreboding red.

“Are you a-”

“Don’t start, kid,” he says in a gruff voice. “Just let me explain the rules, OK?”

I nod, suspending disbelief. His eyes burn into me.

“I’ll grant you a wish, but it has to be something already possible, you follow? A series of unlikely events coming together, no problem. Power of flight? Ain’t happening. Kim Kardashian? Sure, if you’re into that, but she’s not going to rock up at your house asking for a bed for the night – head over to the US, enter VIP competitions and things should fall into place. Got it?”

I have a thousand questions, but for some reason can only ask about his last example. “What about Kanye?”

“Oh, you’re that way inclined? Well sure, that can work. That a wish?”

“No, no,” I say. “Just that they’re together, aren’t they, Kim and Kanye so does that…?”

“They are, are they?” asks the man. “Married?” I nod. “Well as long as I know, that’s fine. I can send a few opportunities his way and see what works. Is it Kim then?” I shake my head.

“Well think of something before this thing fades,” he says, gesturing over his shoulder at the rainbow streaming into the earth. I wonder if it’s coming out of the ground at the other end. “Power source, innit. You could be a bestselling author maybe. You still have to write a hundred thousand words, but take a few stylistic risks and they’ll all pay off.”

“OK, I uh…” My mind goes blank. What do I want from life? A face floats into my head: Vix, a particularly attractive girl I met when I started playing korfball a couple months ago. Her smile lights up the sports hall but she always trains with the first team while I’m stuck in the development group.

“I want to be the best korfball player in the UK,” I blurt out. Really? Do I? Sure, why not. A nice, sensible wish. The man frowns.

“Korfball?” he asks. I nod, tentatively at first and then firmly. I’ve committed to my wish now. The man pulls a tablet seemingly out of mid-air and after a few taps on the screen is watching a korfball highlights video. ‘I particularly like the music on that one,’ I think to myself.

After a minute or so he nods. “Yeah, looks achievable.”

“I suppose I should practise a bit every day, go to the gym, that sort of thing?” The man is grinning, his red eyes glowing.

“Can’t hurt, sonny. Sign up to a league, travel around, play as many teams as possible. Should only take a few months – let’s call it Christmas at the latest.”

I consider this. It’s May now. Within eight months I’ll be the best in the country. Vix will definitely want me then.

“Deal,” I say, and offer the small man my hand. He grabs it, sinks his teeth into my skin, and thrusts my bloodied hand into the rainbow. The colours burn as they pass over the wound…

[to be continued]