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Mrs. Mundy

d3b54c63cc513eee4c66089211eb865aMrs. Mundy was too busy to die. When she felt a terrible pain in her chest and her vision swam and went black she just gritted her teeth and refused. She shook her head until the pain faded and the stars went away and then she felt a lot better.

“Oh, I can’t get sick right now. There’s too much to do!” She muttered to herself and scrubbed away at the dishes with even more ferocity than she already had been until the last of that dizzy feeling faded away. There were the dishes to finish – and there was melted cheese stuck to them – the floors to scrub, the steps to sweep and lord knew what else to do around the house. It never seemed to end.

It kept getting worse. Things kept piling up that needed doing and Mrs. Mundy was in her seventies now. Nothing happened quickly anymore. There was the hoovering and the dusting, the spare room needed repainting and it wasn’t as though there was anyone else to do it, God rest her dear old Harry. Then there were these blisters she’d gotten and then there were all these flies that had turned up in the house and the little black spots they left all over her nice white walls. She wasn’t having any of that.

By the time she’d dealt with them – flypaper hanging everywhere, spray to get rid of the persistent ones, not that she liked to use nasty chemicals and her daughter had always nagged her about the ozone – and sticking plasters for all her blisters, well, then there were more problems.

She had developed a cold. A runny nose, a bloated stomach, diarrhoea, a heavy feeling in her head. Along with that dizzy spell and the chest pain from the other day, as well as the blisters she clearly wasn’t well. Maybe she’d had a bad reaction to that new washing-up liquid she’d bought? Who had time for the doctor when that horrible smell lingered in the house and her ‘condition’ meant the bathroom needed constant cleaning? At least she wasn’t hungry. That was something, not needing to wash dishes so much.

Still, Mrs. Mundy couldn’t get a break.

She still wasn’t feeling well and somehow she kept getting the most horrible stains on her clothes, green and yellow and fatty, even though she wasn’t eating. No matter how often she ran them through the wash they wouldn’t get properly clean. Who had time to go to the shops for more dresses when there was work to do?

The cat kept leaving dead animals – or at least pieces of rotting meat – around the house and scrubbing those stains out took a lot of effort. All this work meant she was losing a lot of weight, which was a nice thought. She’d have to get some new dresses soon either way if this kept up, but in the meantime, an old belt would keep her dress on, stained or not.

Mrs. Mundy got exhausted. It was harder and harder to move each and every day until one day she simply couldn’t get out of bed, though it pained her just as much to stay there. Housework would be piling up, the cat would be going unfed and his litter box uncleaned but there was nothing for it. She couldn’t even raise her head from the pillow.

So she slept.

The next morning she felt a lot better, light as air, right as rain.

“The rest has done me good!” she said to herself as she set to work. It never ended and now there were these bones all over the bedroom to dust and polish along with everything else.

A woman’s work was never done.

GOD FUCKING DAMN I HATE THESE ‘ARTICLES’.

Ariel!

ArielRapunzel!

Rapunzel

Sleeping Beauty!

SleepingBeauty

Jasmine!

Jasmine

Belle!

Belle

 

Tiana!

Tiana

Snow White!

SnowWhite

Cinders!

cindarella

Merida!

Merida

Mulan!

Mulan

Pochahontas!

Pochahontas

My first audiobook is available for download from Audible.com (and soon from other places). You can get it HERE.

It’s a short(ish) story (about half an hour long – so sort of like a radio play in length) about a grubby, disheveled and broadly disliked London detective who’s given a shit case that leads to an interesting place.

This appears to mean that my setup is now good enough for recording audiobooks and voiceovers. So if anyone needs that kind of work done, let me know!

Art for Stain by the lovely Rowena Aitken.

I’m having problems with my internet.

Specifically, whenever the ADSL is plugged in, the line goes incredibly noisy. If you pick up the phone it sounds like someone crumpling paper while berating you in one of those African clicking languages. This means the internet drops out – frequently – and doesn’t reconnect, sometimes for up to an hour.

Needless to say, for someone who works from home and who also largely relies on the internet for entertainment and companionship, this is an issue.

So, our intrepid adventurer set out to sort this out.

First, he contacted his ISP helpdesk, who informed him that noise on the line was British Telecom’s issue, not theirs.

So he contacted British Telecom, who (eventually) sent out an engineer to tinker with the cables and the faceplates and to test the line. “All is well!” reported the Nepalese engineer, patting our hero’s little wooden statue of Ganesh on his way out. “In fact, your copper wire is much better than it needs to be!”

For a very, very short time, all was well. Then the problem started again.

Our hero contacted British Telecom again, just to be sure and since they’d done everything else (changed filters, tried a different router, replaced the faceplates and tested the line) and since the problem was coming from the ADSL they bounced him back to his ISP.

While consulting at length over days with the ISP and getting things raised up to engineer level, it emerged that our hero apparently had two different ADSL accounts. Each one to a different number.

“This doesn’t sound right…” our hero said, and so looked into it, this time getting bounced between customer service and tech support.

Way back when, due to malicious phone calls to his home number, our hero had had to change his number from XXX to YYY. He had informed his ISP at the time and there had been no problem. Then, earlier this year when he upgraded to truly unlimited business broadband there was an issue. A repeated issue. Despite the number change the ISP repeatedly set up the new broadband on the wrong number (XXX). Eventually, it was sorted out and all was well, it was now – supposedly – associated with YYY.

But no. In investigating this technical issue it seemed that not only was the XXX account still open, but he had been being charged for both for some time. They’d never closed that account. Furthermore, that legacy account, on the phone number he wasn’t even using any more, was apparently the one he was using for broadband now.

Confusion reigned.

BT disavowed knowledge of the XXX number and insisted it had been deactivated. The ISP insisted that this was the number the account he was using (FakeAccountName) was associated with, while the YYY number was associated with FakeAccountName1.

A solution was wrought, though it would have to wait until the noisy line issue was resolved first. FakeAccountName associated with XXX would be closed and FakeAccountName1 would then be renamed to FakeAccountName.

Long story short, I’m taking a couple of mental health days and staying away from telephones for a while, and my internet and email will be spotty for about a fortnight.

*Collapses*

bd2d44e15229844cc03c8ea95360b3c8The moment he awoke he gently began to sob. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to wake up. He was supposed to be dead. Instead he found himself in a painfully white, antiseptic-stinking clinical bed in a tiny room under the migraine-inducing flicker of strip lights.

Nothing hurt though, at least right now, and he felt that it should hurt. It was like the pain was there – his mouth, throat and belly felt ‘wrong’ – but , at a distance.

A hand touched his shoulder in a perfunctory display of affection, a mechanical pat and he realised that he wasn’t alone.

“Jake? I’m Doctor Eich. They told me you’d be awake soon. Do you need a moment or can we talk?”

The little man perched on the bed was a gargoyle of a figure, peering with interest from behind thick, old fashioned glasses. His body odour made its presence felt even over the antiseptic and he was disheveled and unkempt for a doctor, right down to his dirty nails.

“Oh. I’m not that kind of doctor,” he said, noticing the looks. “I simply have a proposition for you, if you’re interested?”

Jake tried to speak, but all that really came out was a croak, a rasping sound like some comic-book supervillain, a wheeze that took a moment to form a “Yes.”

Eich smiled, though the expression did not look like it was used to being on his face and soon sidled off again in embarrassment when it realised it didn’t belong.

“I work for the government on military projects. I’m a neuroscientist, a psychologist and a pharmacologist. I’m working on forms of… ah… weaponised psychiatiry.”

Jake nodded slightly, taking in the rest of the room. As his eyes adjusted to the light it didn’t seem quite so bright or clinical. There was a coffee – or at least a coffee coloured – stain on the wall and an ancient television set into a folding mechanical arm. The ‘out of order’ sign was so dusty and faded he suspected the last thing on that screen had been Top of the Pops.

“If I may be blunt, and I shall be anyway… well, Jake you’re suicidal. You have no family. No parents. No children. You’re in hospital because you were doing shots of Toilet Duck in an attempt to end your life. If you see no value in your life, might I suggest that we do? We need human subjects you see and they need to be ‘disposable’. If you’re that keen on ending your life I can assure you that that’s a distinct possibility. Sound good?”

Jake just nodded, shifting to try and sit up – which made him feel pain even through the morphine haze.

“Excellent,” Eich thrust a sheaf of papers and a pen towards Jake. “Sign these.”

Once that was done Eich gave Jake a too-firm handshake, tucked the notes under his arm and headed for the door.

“Thank you Jake, Mr Bell here will keep an eye on you until you can be transferred.” He hovered a moment by the door, half in, half out. “There’s just one last thing. If we’re going to be working together you should know that I am what a layman might call a sociopath. I hope it won’t put a dampener on our relationship.”

With that, he was gone, only to be replaced by Mr Bell who had the body of a rhinoceros and the face of an elderly fetishists freshly flogged buttocks.

Jake, half wondering if this were a dream, closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

***

It hadn’t been a dream and now here he was, scant weeks later in another room. This one with all the minimalism of a Japanese hotel room and the charm of a late-period George Lucas film. This bed had straps, which was worrying.

Eich was doing something complicated with a computer terminal, centrifuge and a hypodermic while Jake sat, in crinkly paper pyjamas, waiting to hear his fate.

“Doctor, what even is this experiment?”

Eich babbled away while he worked, measuring and combining in a manner that suggested even he might be capable of happiness. “It’s an emotional inhibitor. A complex series of drugs working in tandem to alter your perception. To make your perception more objective without compromising your moral and ethical processes. We’ve had some very limited success but everyone so far seems to go mad for some reason. Not to worry, we’ve made adjustments.”

Jake fidgeted, playing idly with the buckles on the bed straps.

“Why would they go mad?

“Most people,” Eich mumbled, decanting the mixed fluids into the hypodermic “live their lives in a glorious state of delusion. Everyone has degrees of pre-existing bias and many of these are very important to them. Strip away their subjectivity and – I suspect – the world no longer makes sense to them.”

“And why would you want to do such a thing?” Jake swabbed his own arm where it was dotted with marker pen, ready for the injection.

“Can you imagine?” Eich wrapped a rubber tube around his arm and held the needle ready. “Truly objective scientists, truly objective diplomats, millitary advisors. Even soldiers? Police who could make truly rational choices about when to shoot and when not to? The advances in science alone would be enormous and whole fields would have to be excised or rewritten. Sociology for a start.”

The doctor sniffed arrogantly and plunged the needle into Jake’s arm.

“There, much of these molecules are chemically similar to opioids, so you should be fully ‘in state’ in about two hours. Let me just strap you down and I’ll come back then.”

Seeing little reason to fight, Jake lay back, closed his eyes and waited for the drug to take effect.

***

The bright lights, he supposed, as he opened his eyes, were meant to simulate the sun. There were no windows in this block so the light must be important. It could have psychological and health effects so if they wanted a baseline it made sense to reduce such stresses.

The straps were not right, one was tighter than the others and now his hand was sore, to go with the throbbing ache in his throat and stomach that never really went away.

“How do we feel?”

Eich looked terrible. Jake was aware, instantly, of every imperfection in his face. Every line, every wrinkle. He’d known Eich was psychotic but he could see it now, immediately, dead eyes, a mouth that could approximate a smile but never mean it.

“This is interesting Doctor. Very interesting. You look terrible by the way. I suppose I had built up a certain image of you these past few weeks but I see you now. You’re just here for the job, it doesn’t really mean much to you. Nothing does.”

Eich frowned a little uneasily.

“I see every pore Eich, every line, every wrinkle,” Jake pulled slightly at his straps, staring at them left and right with curious intensity to take in the stitching and fastenings before he leaned back again into the pillows. “I feel every thread in these sheets. Every imperfection. It’s like I can see everything as it really is. No beauty, no blindness. Everything is filth and bacteria. Everything is slowly dying. All that stuff we deliberately forget every day to get through our lives.”

Eich bent down and scribbled his notes with a biro on his note pad.

“The ball in that nib has a slight imperfection, the variation in sound is unbearable. That paper’s recycled, rough, it’s like sandpaper on my ears. None of this matters, but it’s unignorable and I don’t feel the need to stay quiet about it.”

Eich made another feverish note and opened his mouth to speak. Breath wheezed in ageing lungs, lips cracked, spittle stretched disgustingly, his meaty tongue twisted behind his yellowing, crooked teeth.

Jake interrupted. “The other test subjects killed themselves. Didn’t they,” it wasn’t a question.

Eich’s mouth flopped shut like a partially deflated paddling pool, teeth clicking. Then contorted his face into a jiggling noise box.

“Yes. They all did. The straps make it obvious I suppose.”

“That and if I wasn’t already at that point, I would want to. I know how insignificant we are. I know how pointless this all is. I know what you are really trying to do here and I know what’s pointless too. It’s not going to work Eich.”

Eich frowned and leant close, cheese wafting on his breath, his pulse audible as his heart sluggishly pumped that rancid stew he called blood around his veins. “What do you mean?”

“Objective soldiers? That was never your plan. Objective scientists? Perhaps. What you really want this for is governance. To control government, to make the best choices. It won’t work.”

Eich leaned further forward, there was a thumbprint on his glasses, each viscous, oily line looming in Jake’s vision like an oil-soaked cormorant. “Why not? Tell me!”

Jake turned his head away is disgust, but the faintly laundered smell of the pillow was little better.

“How do you think the ministers will react when you wheel out the Amazing Objective Man? To begin with they won’t believe you. If I live long enough to be right they’ll get spooked. Each ideology will celebrate when I agree with them and ignore me when I don’t. Nothing will change except we’ll have some certainty that if we’d only done things differently we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.”

“Surely we can convince them man! Think of the good we can do!” Eich was almost apopleptic, and he was lying.

“You don’t care about the good Eich. You’re a sociopath, remember? You’re into it for the fame. You think this is your ticket to history and a justification for your inhumanity. You’re not objective Eich, you’re unfeeling and you haven’t thought this through.”

Eich stepped away from the bed, twisting this way and that, chubby, filthy little meat-tentacle clenched into nascently arthritic fists. “There must be a way…”

“Eich. The poor vote against their own interests. Governments ruin their nations in pursuit of ideological purity and cling to beliefs long after they’re proven wrong. Rationalists and pragmatists have always been ignored. Why would I be any different? Why would you be any different? They’ll kill me as a threat and then kill you. You know it. This is a miraculous dead end. It would be like being the only sober person in the car when nobody else will let you drive. It would be heartbreaking. Even for you.”

Eich’s shoulders slumped and his head hung low.

“You know what this drug does. You know I’m right. The only way out for us is if the drug fails. You’ll have to kill me. Humanity will just have to muddle through. Let them have their illusions and delusions and hope for the best. If you know they’re wrong, utterly, completely, it will only bring despair.”

Eich shuffled back to the bench and drew air into an empty hypodermic.

“You’re right. Of course.”

“Of course.”

There was nothing else to say.

[Brain scan of white matter fibers, brainstem and above. The fibers are color coded by direction: red = left-right, green = anterior-posterior, blue = ascending-descending (RGB=XYZ). The Human Connectome Project, a $40-million endeavor funded by the National Institutes of Health, aims to plot connections within the brain that enables the complex behaviors our brains perform so seamlessly.MANDATORY CREDIT: Courtesy of the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA and Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH / www.humanconnectomeproject.org] *** []

I have something of an on-again-off-again project to re-mystify and update Lovecraft to existential and peculiar horror, reinventing concepts from the books. This story was rejected from a couple of places, so you get it!

MI5: TOP SECRET, DoR/CISP EYES ONLY

From: [Redacted]

To: [Redacted]

Sir, an update on the Mundy situation.

Mr Mundy’s disappearance and the death of his old mentor now appear to be related. Investigations have been hampered by bad practice at the university and hostility towards police and government investigators from students. The reclusive nature of the Professor and Mundy’s absconding with his papers, along with widespread conspiracy theories and disinformation online have further hampered investigative efforts. Nonetheless we have recovered what we can from the internet and from hard drives and other sources to try and get to the bottom of matters.

We suspect cult activity but this is the kind of cult activity which may drive a new source of domestic terrorism. The investigation is still ongoing, but the team seeks direction from higher up on how they want us to proceed.

Pertinent information is attached.

[Redacted]

***

From: ReisenChew@[Redacted]

To: MundayNext@[Redacted]

Mr Mundy,

My name is Jane Riesen. I don’t know if you’ve heard of me but I interned for your great uncle, Professor Angel.

I’m sorry to bring you such bad news, especially in such as impersonal a manner as an email, but the professor died yesterday. He collapsed, suddenly on the street and died on the way to the hospital despite the best efforts of the ambulance men. Some sort of heart attack they tell me, though I’m not family and I’m sure they could tell you more.

I didn’t really know who else to contact about this as he seems to not have any family besides you. I enjoyed many of the books you sent him and noted that you inscribed them to him. A little poking around (please forgive me!) showed that you might be the only member of his family to have stayed in touch with him over the years.

I hope I haven’t overstepped the mark in tracking you down but there doesn’t seem to be anyone else who knew him or who cared about him, apart from me. I don’t want to clear his house of his effects until I know what’s what and whether you want anything as a memento or to preserve for the family.

I’ve attached a map so you can find the house. Here’s my number so you can let me know when you’re coming. [Redacted]

My sincere condolences on your loss, the professor was eccentric, but a good and brilliant man.

Jane Riesen

Assistant to Professor Angel

[Redacted]

***

From: MundayNext@[Redacted]

To: ReisenChew@[Redacted]

Miss Riesen,

I’ve been out of the country the last couple of weeks so please forgive the slowness of my reply. I am upset to hear about the death of my great uncle. We were quite close, despite his troubles with the rest of the family.

I will make arrangements as soon as possible to come and check the house and help you clear his things. Thank you for informing me and looking after his affairs until I can get there.

William Mundy

Author of The Grey Tide trilogy

Born on Munday

***

Mr Munday,

Enclosed are copies of your great uncle’s will and the details of his death. I have attached summarising cover letters in each case as they are quite technical documents. If there is anything further we can do to assist you, do please let us know. We endeavour to make the grieving period and the execution of the will as smooth as possible.

Sincerely,

Albert Cumming

Alexander & Courant

Solicitors

LAST WILL & TESTAMENT

THIS Last Will & Testament is made by me PROFESSOR GEORGE ANGEL of [Redacted]

I REVOKE all previous wills and codicils

I APPOINT as executors and trustees of my will ALBERT CUMMING of [Redacted] and JONATHAN COURANT of [Redacted] and should one or more of them fail to or be unable to act I APPOINT to fill any vacancy JANE RIESEN of [Redacted].

I GIVE ALL MONEY AND PROCEEDS OF MY ESTATE to JANE RIESEN of [Redacted] and ALL PAPERS AND EFFECTS DESIRED to WILLIAM MUNDAY of [Redacted] with any remaining material he does not desire to be sold or otherwise disposed of as he wishes, with resulting monies going to JANE RIESEN.

I GIVE the rest of my estate to my executors and trustees to hold on trust to pay my debts, taxes and testamentary expenses and pay the residue to JANE RIESEN of [Redacted] but if she fails to survive me by 28 days or if this gift or any part of it fails for any other reason, then I GIVE the residue of my estate or the part of it affected to WILLIAM MUNDAY of [Redacted].

I WISH my body to be LEFT FOR SCIENTIFIC OR MEDICAL RESEARCH.

***

Coroner’s Report

Decedent: ANGEL, GEORGE (PROFESSOR)

Date of Death: Monday 24th of February 2014

Cause of Death: Natural causes (Myocardial infarction)

Autopsy Performed by: WILLIS DEBORAH, MD

Summary:

Professor Angel reportedly collapsed on the street, while riding his bicycle and passers by immediately called an ambulance. Medics were unable to revive him at the scene and hospital staff had no better luck. Blood tests showed positive for botulinum toxin of types A, B, E and F though the source of the poisoning is hard to determine.

Professor Angel was of advanced age and had not been eating well. He appeared below weight with a generally poor state of health which explains his lack of resistance to the toxin.

While there are contusions, scrapes and bruises on the body these appear to have been sustained when he collapsed and are not a cause for additional concern.

***

From: MundayNext@[Redacted]

To: ReisenChew@[Redacted]

Hey Jane!

It was great to meet you the other day, despite the sad circumstances. Thank you for letting me in to the house. I’ve filled the skip with things I think are junk and set aside a few other odds and ends I don’t want but which may interest you, or at least may be able to be auctioned off for a worthwhile amount of money.

I must say, I’m shocked at the state of the place. The house is a real tip and looks like it has barely been maintained. My hat is off to you for being willing to work in such circumstances and I’m, frankly bewildered that he had the money to pay you but not to replace the broken window in the downstairs toilet.

As for his notes and other materials I am slowly sifting through them to see if there’s anything worth keeping, but he was clearly getting disorganised in his old age and only his draft manuscripts, next to his typewriter (!) seem to be in any sort of order at all, not that they make a great deal of sense to me either. You might be better qualified than I am to know what material would make a suitable legacy or donation to one of the university libraries.

Amongst his notes I found some interesting pieces of art. My uncle was never much for the visual arts and to have so many similar pieces in his possession seems more than a little out of character. They’re not really my ‘thing’ but they clearly meant something to him. Can you shed any light on what they are or where they came from?

I’ve had a copy of the key cut for myself in town, so you won’t need to be around to let me in any more. Still, give me a text if you are going to be about or if you want any help. I’ll be staying at a B&B in town until this is sorted out.

Cheers,

Bill

***

From: ReisenChew@[Redacted]

To: MundayNext@[Redacted]

Hi Bill,

Nice to meet you too, thank you for the lardy-cake and the tea. I’ll go through what you’ve left when I get a spare morning.

I don’t want you to think too badly of your uncle, he just wasn’t very practically minded and while I did what I could he mostly wanted me there to help with his notes and research rather than as a glorified housekeeper. It’s not like he went senile or anything, or turned into a hoarder, he was as intense and bright as ever as long as I knew him. Scarily so, right up to the end.

He didn’t have to pay me, but he did and thanks for letting me know about the will. He didn’t have a lot but it should keep me from building up too big of a debt, for which I will be forever grateful.

His recent project and manuscript he was being quite secretive about but I think his earlier work on ‘Ur language’ is worth keeping, even if it was never completed. The ideas behind it seem sound to me and it could help whoever studies these things after him to make faster progress. The notes are in the red cardboard files in the bottom drawer of the leftmost cabinet and should be in good order unless he was messing with them.

As to the art, that was somehow related to his recent work I think. Most of it comes from a student on the Fine Arts course, Tony Wilcox. Student admin should be able to put you in touch if you explain what it’s all about. He came by the house a couple of times to drop things off so if I see him around I’ll let him know you’re looking for him.

J

x

***

From: MundayNext@[Redacted]

To: ReisenChew@[Redacted]

Hey J, thanks for the quick reply.

I’ll definitely look into this artist. Maybe he can let me know what’s going on with all that and I can work out whether it’ll be worth anything in the future.🙂

I found the ‘Ur language’ thing, but despite being a writer I can’t make head nor tail of it. I recognise the words but it all seems a bit technical to me. I’ll save it, but it would be nice to know what it’s about so I can brag at parties.

B

***

From: ReisenChew@[Redacted]

To: MundayNext@[Redacted]

Ur language was your uncle’s concept of an original human language, a sort of human ‘root code’ if you will.

You can think of it like this:

There are basic things that are instinctual about human communication. We know what a blush means or a smile, no matter what our culture or origin. We know a scream in pain means one thing and a laugh another. A hiss, a glare, all those sorts of things.

Sure there’s some local variations and nuances but your uncle believed there was some deeper communication possible at this sort of root level, that concepts other than ‘danger!’ could be expressed in this way, perhaps subconsciously as much as consciously.

He didn’t get very far with it, but the ideas always seemed sound to me.

Gotta run. Got a lecture to go to.

Good luck!

J

***

From the personal blog of William Munday, retrieved 23/03/2014

Fine Art and Fine Cake

The poor old duffer was not living well.

Clearing my great uncle’s place is a labour worthy of Hercules, only instead of shit filling a stable it’s papers, magazines and scrapbooks – and they’re absolutely everywhere.

I found a loose floorboard (by putting my foot through and nearly coming a cropper). When I went to fix it I found a couple of shoe boxes full of clippings and photocopies of articles about ‘Marian apparitions’ stuffed into the space beneath the board. Jane says he wasn’t a hoarder but when you find yellowing papers on instances of mass hysteria from the middle of last century, stuffed under under the floor, you have to wonder.

I needed a break from it all, so I headed into the town proper, the ‘dreaming spires’ and all that. I needed to talk to administration about finding this Wilcox guy who did a lot of the art.

How could I skip over this place without taking a moment?

Bicycles, students, old buildings and shitty parking. That pretty much sums Oxford up. It’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer weight of history the place has. History and poshness and students braying like a herd of particularly privileged goats.

I grabbed a spot of late breakfast/early lunch at the Oxford Organic Deli, which isn’t that far from the famous Trinity College. Then I dropped by the administration and put in my request and pottered about doing some touristy type stuff until they called me and let me know Wilcox was willing to talk to me.

Wilcox is a bizarre guy. Almost your stereotypical artist, the kind of thing you expect to see as a stereotype in a sitcom. He had a house-share with some other students who weren’t that pleased to see me and didn’t seem too pleased to be sharing a space with him either. He’d taken over the shed as a work space, perhaps to escape from the rest of them, and that’s where I found him.

Raggedy looking guy. If I put him in one of my books people would write him off as trite and cliché. He had one of those straggly young-man beards, looked like he was on drugs (no, I’m not being judgemental, I remember what cannabis smells like) and all he seemed to care about was his art, at the expense of everything else. Even personal hygiene.

It was the same weird stuff I’d seen at my uncle’s place and it’s hard to describe. Unsettling shapes kind of like a Möbius strip or a Klein bottle but inadequately represented in two dimensions. It hurts your eyes when you look at it, trying to follow all the lines and curves and make sense of it. I can’t really describe it right, but clearly he’d taken some inspiration from mathematics and that’s not that unusual if you think about the golden ratio or a Fibonacci spiral.

You see the same kinds of things in language – rhyme and meter in poetry, the rule of three in public speaking and so on. You even see it in prose, the careful selection of the particular adjective that is weighted to convey the more precise meaning in interaction with its neighbours.

He wasn’t very forthcoming, not really, but it wasn’t just him who’d done the art, it was other students in his tutor group as well. That was a bit surprising because it was all the same kind of shape, the same kind of thought the art was seeking to express, just in different media and from different perspectives. I’d thought Wilcox had done all of it. I thought it was just variations on a theme.

That’s when it got weird, because of course it had to get weirder.

I went back to the admin and tried to get in touch with some of the other artists but, unlike Wilcox they didn’t seem willing to talk to me. Some of them had dropped out without leaving contact information, others I found nothing out about at all. I managed to talk to the parents of one of the students who lived locally, [Redacted] and while they seemed standoffish they told me she was at church that evening and with a bit of wheedling and an accurate sob-story about why I was asking, they told me which one.

It turned out to be one of those weird ‘spiritualist’ churches, the ones that claim to be mediums and to contact the dead. All that ‘Derek Acorah’ stuff I’ve never had any time for.

Frauds.

I dropped by anyway, thinking I’d wait for the service to end and then collar her about the art but standing outside that sad little building and listening to the weird chanting and speaking in tongues going on inside I bottled it and left.

There’s a story of some kind here. I can sense it. It seems weird that my great uncle should die and leave me this mess to investigate. I can’t shake the feeling there’s something big and important going on and I want to be part of it. Maybe it’s all in my head though and I just want a good story, the kind you just don’t normally get in the real world.

But I want it.

***

Extract from Neuroecology by Professor George Angel

The Selfish Meme

It is a sad truth that many people who see fundamental truths are not those who spend their lives studying it but those who take inspiration from elsewhere. It was a biologist, Richard Dawkins, who hit upon the idea of memes, self-replicating pieces of information, as being analogous to genes in biological organisms. Many areas of expertise are now so specialised and so deep that this kind of cross-discipline insight is becoming less and less common.

Dawkins is otherwise most famous for his work in understanding natural selection at the level of the gene. That is, that the individual organism does not necessarily matter in the grand scheme of things, only that the genes multiply and progress to the next generation. This concept reinforces ideas behind group selection, eusocial, self-sacrificing creatures and makes sense of a lot of seemingly self-destructive animal and human behaviour.

An animal though, is not a single gene and a person is not an individual meme, or idea.

Like genes, ideas thrive when they are replicated, whatever the effect on the person who holds them to good or to bad. Some memes are passed on because they’re useful. When you’re taught how to tie your shoelaces you are being ‘infected’ with a meme but it’s the kind of useful meme that improves your life and becomes part of your informational ecosystem, precisely because its useful.

Other memes might by harmless, wearing clothing a certain way or using a particular slang term, and these fall in and out of favour, novelty and ‘tribal’ identification being a big factor. Other memes can be downright dangerous, at least to the individual. The idea of ‘coolness’ for example may lead many a young lad to make a fool of himself or risk his life to impress others and gain social currency. It also might kill him, but even then the idea can and will spread because it’s high risk and high reward. The organism, the person, the greater collection of memes is irrelevant to the spread of that individual meme.

Few memes live in isolation however and just as an organism adapts to fit its ecological niche. So these memetic organisms, or memeplexes, made up of many connected memes can adapt and exist across many minds. Consider religion or political ideology as an example.

Let us take socialism as our case in point. It is a network of interconnected ideas about how to organise society. What is it that makes a good person? What is the state of human nature? These are all bound together in a single memetic ‘organism’. As a memeplex it is well adapted to the poor and underprivileged, to the young and revolutionary and to times that are economically and socially hard. When the situation fits it spreads and thrives, when the situation changes it withers and its rival philosophies do better. Just as in biology these memetic organisms survive, die and spread according to how well they fit their niche.

Can a meme be selfish? Not in the sense that a set of ideas can actually think (though that is an interesting idea, what is a human being after alll?) but yes, a meme can be selfish. A suicide bomber kills himself but dies to spread the idea and the example of his sheer devotion to his cause can convince others through the power of martyrdom.

Like the selfish genes, the selfish memes are all too common.

***

From the personal blog of William Munday, retrieved 23/03/2014

An Inspector Calls

Forgive the title. I couldn’t help myself.

I should really check into a proper hotel or something, but I haven’t had the advance on my next book yet and ‘unca George’ didn’t see fit to leave me any money when he had a pretty intern to give it to. I don’t blame him, I’m not really resentful, but sometimes it can’t help but grate a little. I’ve been here enough days now, untangling his mess, that people know where to find me and I’ve gotten to be on nodding terms with a few dog walkers and the guy at the corner shop.

I’ve been here long enough that a policeman knew to come looking for me here just after breakfast and take me for a little stroll in the park to ask me about uncle George.

I knew there had to be more to this. Since I got here I’ve had this paranoid feeling that something is going on, just outside my reach, just beyond my grasp and it seems like Detective Inspector Grass feels the same way.

He told me he’d worked with my uncle a few times over the last couple of years. It all started with a suicide cult, though I don’t remember anything from the news about it. Grass told me they’d had a bunch of complaints about travellers on a site not that far from here but when they went to knock on doors and move them on, they all already had – apart from one bus load. The people in that bus were almost all dead, weird writing all over the walls, foreigners fresh across the channel different to the other travellers or so the word was.

Nobody could make sense of the writing and the survivors had deliberately poisoned themselves with ergot – the kind of poison associated with outlandish tales of witches and devils in the past. The contortions had broken their backs or spasmed their hearts until the muscle tore. The couple that were still alive and able to speak, did not, would not.

Nobody knew what the writing or symbols were and give Uncle’s work on languages and cryptography (back in the day) they consulted with him about it, but even he couldn’t tell them much about it. It was meaningful, it had structure, but he couldn’t work out what it meant – and nobody really gave enough of a damn about a handful of dead, illegal immigrants anyway. Such is people’s indifference to suffering.

DI Grass seemed a bit intense and it all sounded a bit off the books. He was a bit too excited about everything and told me he’d been looking into this since the first incident and that there were others. That he’d talked to my uncle on and off about it and that these deaths were ‘hidden’ somehow. If he hadn’t had a badge I’d have written him off as one of those internet ‘truthers’ who’d drunk too much of the David Icke Kool-Aid. I suppose there’s no law that says such people can’t also succumb to such ideas.

Plus he seemed to agree with my suspicions that my uncle’s death might not have been as natural as it seemed. So I need him.

He’s going to stay in touch, but I’m not that sure how to take it.

I’m keeping this post locked down for now, friends only.

***

Extract from Neuroecology by Professor George Angel

The Integral Sea

If we think of the memes and memeplexes in terms of organisms. If we think of them like bacteria or animals and, therefore, our minds, our nervous systems, as the world in which they exist do we not have a useful analogy or metaphor for understanding ourselves? Every day ideas, thoughts, fashions, anything that can be thought of in informational terms fights to persist in our brains, to thrive and to spread.

I think of it as an ocean. A deep, dark ocean.

At the surface are our conscious thoughts, the ideas that we are aware of in the moment. Fleet, fast, adaptable but visible. They breach the surface like dolphins or fly in the sky above the waters. As I think these words and move to type them the ideas and concepts that make them up are called to the surface, flashing and dazzling like a shoal of silvery fish.

As I try to recall a memory, larger, slower creatures – whales perhaps – rise to the surface to take a breath and show themselves before sinking back down into the darkness beneath.

Deeper, perhaps, we find the subconscious desires and thoughts that influence us powerfully and subtly. The Freudian id, if you will, or the Jungian unconscious if you won’t. Even deeper still, perhaps, the truly unconscious, the autonomic nervous system, the beat of the heart, the swell of the lungs, the reflexes, the basics of life.

What niches have their analogues in the ecosystem of the mind? Are there plants, passive thoughts, immutable solidities of perception feeding on regular, but weak, use. The recognition of a colour perhaps, or a sound. Are there herbivores? Big, placid, slow moving ideas of certitude and solidity. Are there predators? Fast moving ideas that wipe out and kill others, feasting on their corpses and replacing them?

When one sees a previously rational man overcome with religious fervour, tossing aside the validity of reason and embracing madness it is not hard, I admit, to picture a writhing mass of sharks within his head, frenziedly eating up what little common sense he might have had.

How complex, how evolved can these ideas be? Is our consciousness the apex of the mental ecosystem and does it emerge from or coexist with these other memes? Might there not be other, greater noospheric organisms alongside us, unseen, beneath these metaphorical waves?

Do all ideas, all consciousness, share a common memetic ancestor and can we derive that fundamental root to all thought. The double-helix of the meme. Can ideas exist and express and communicate across multiple minds?

From the personal blog of William Munday, retrieved 23/03/2014

Curiouser and Curiouser

Will keep this private, it’s pretty much a ‘note to self’. Maybe I’ll let a few of you see it with permissions controls.

Been here too long and the landlady is really starting to get on my tits. She keeps going through my things when I leave for the day. I appreciate she has to tidy up but I’ve been stuck here over a week now trying to make sense of all this and she’s had a lot of my money. A bit of privacy wouldn’t hurt too much, surely?

I know she’s been going through uncle’s things that I’ve stored there for research. Sticking her nose in. She knows that I know and I’ve been getting strange, synchronised glares from her and her other guests every morning over my Crunchy Nut, as though it’s me that’s done something wrong. I hope I can wrap this up soon.

I miss London, the easy access to things to do. If you’re not a student there’s not a huge amount to do here and I have to go out every day while Mrs Nosey pokes around my stuff. I am so bored of spending the day in pubs, you have no idea.

It’s not like I’m that isolated, I have the internet, but I dread opening my mailbox or social media because every time I do there’s a dozen crazy messages from DI Grass about his bizarre conspiracy theories.

RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: WHAT’S THE CONNECTION???”

He keeps asking and there isn’t one, its coincidence plus paranoia. What do they call it? False pattern recognition? Apophenia I think. I can’t even be bothered to Google it.

Yet in spite of all this, I still feel this need to know what’s going on. I’ve got an appointment tomorrow that might shed some light.

Mr Wilcox, he of the scraggly beard and Klein bottle fixation, was committed. He got arrested trying to steal money and then babbled enough convincing nonsense at the arresting officers over a long enough period that he got sectioned. The police and his parents asked a few questions since I’d been poking around and they thought that was suspicious, but while they were talking to me I was talking to them and I found out something interesting.

Mr Wilcox had been getting payments through the university for some time related to his participation in some experiment or other. I chased it up with my good friends in admin, worked my charm (and a big packet of Ginger Nuts) and lo and behold I have an appointment with a Doctor Lang at [Redacted] Hospital tomorrow to talk about it. A very nervous sounding Doctor Lang at that.

From the personal blog of William Munday, retrieved 23/03/2014

I have a pretty horrible headache that won’t go away. Worse and better than a migraine at the same time and no amount of painkillers are making a dent. So I might as well sit here in the dark, squint at the blinding light of the netbook screen and get my thoughts down.

I met Doctor Lang at [Redacted] and like everyone else I’ve met on this ‘quest’ to get to the bottom of my uncle’s murder… do I mean murder? Yeah I guess I do. I’ve got no actual proof but that’s my feeling at the moment. Anyway, like everyone else I’ve met along the way Doctor Lang is weirdly obsessed.

Lang’s work is in brain imaging, but it’s not the kind of crude MRI scan stuff we’re used to, those static slices of brain and blobs that show where the blood flows when you think about carrots or whatever. No, this is real time, building on the work of someone called ‘Nieuwenhuijzen’ who uses MEG (Magnetoencephalography) to image brains in real time and even interpret those signals and image them. Nieuwenhuijzen managed to get their device to understand when someone was thinking about or looking at numbers and letters. Lang’s work is a quantum leap ahead of that.

I had to sign some sort of official secrets thing before Lang would even talk to me and even then he was a nervous old bird (specifically a vulture, like in Spiderman, eerily so). I’m not even supposed to be writing this down but what else can I do? It’s how I organise my thoughts. Maybe I’ll delete it afterwards.

Anyway, Lang uses his MEG and a bunch of computers, to genuinely, actually read minds. It uses my uncle’s ideas to interpret what it reads subjectively so it’s not exactly precise but you can literally see thoughts, even ones a subject isn’t consciously aware of.

Lang’s experiments are the connection.

They use my uncle’s theories and ideas about language, and thought to interpret the data. The art students were the test subjects for the machine – they needed the money – and so it all hangs together after a fashion.

It makes sense with the glaring exception of DI Grass’ worldwide murders. For them there’s no damn connection at all.

Lang showed me the visualisations he recorded from some of the students and I particularly asked to see Wilcox’s ones, since he seemed the most affected. The playback was swarming with a familiar image that made my skin crawl and ramped that feeling of paranoia up until I was shaking.

Wilcox’s recording was full of those weird Klein bottle images he’d been obsessing over, strange, twitching, endlessly complicated shapes like bundles of spaghetti passing through too many dimensions, swimming through his mind like so many grotesque jellyfish transforming through all their possible permutations.

Of course, I wanted to go into the machine.

Lang strapped me in, talked me through it, gave me a lecture on the preservation of helium and switched it on.

It’s a weird sensation, knowing your mind is being read. You don’t want to think of anything bad or wrong, which only means you do. Every bad break up, every illicit fantasy, everything you’ve ever done wrong, ever deepest, darkest secret. That was all I did really. I sat in the chair feeling guilty and trying to remember something similar I’d seen on the TV (Persinger’s God Helmet, after I looked it up, but it works in the other direction).

Then it was done and we took a look at what had been recorded.

Sure enough, there were our little Klein-bottle friends swimming around in my mind and as we watched they split and multiplied and my headache got worse and worse.

I made it back here, somehow and now I can’t sleep. I have this irrational fear that these things are still there, in my mind, twisting and turning, eating away at everything else. I see that pattern everywhere now, in my uncle’s papers. In the art. Even in Grass’ stupid crime scene photos he keeps sending me. Pale reflections of that Klein bottle thing but echoes nonetheless and once you know what to look for, it’s all there, or is it apophenia?

I should sleep, paranoia or not.

***

Extract from Neuroecology by Professor George Angel

The Noospheric Ocean

If the human mind is a sea in which ideas swim and compete then the collective human consciousness is an ocean. Ideas are not unique to an individual and are not isolated from each other. Ideas flow from one mind to another and can be gathered from a text, speech, music, an overheard conversation, a picture, a film anything you care to mention.

Like a Cichlid dropped by some passing bird into an empty African lake, a new idea can change, mutate and re-organise to meet its surroundings and might not also something greater be able to live across many seas, occupying this ocean of the mind?

When mankind spread across the Earth, communication was slow, limited to the speed of a man on horseback or the speed of the wind. Ideas could emerge and compete and find new niches.

A perfect case in point might be the American Revolution, where old, strong ideas of monarchy and tradition, removed by a great ocean, could not wield the power they once did and were outstripped by younger, more vital but ultimately vacuous concepts of liberty and freedom that have been dumbed down to the point of buzzwords.

Now with phones, the internet, the telegraph, the television, ideas spread from mind to mind almost as fast as they spread from neuron to neuron. The processing power of the combined human intellect is enormous and yet it does not seem to be working to our benefit. We are still the same, primitive, warring apes we ever were. Is it, perhaps not working to our benefit at all? Are we livestock to some meta-ego above the superego? Some supremely powerful memeplex that operates on the level of civilisations and cares no more for its environment than we do?

The more we talk to each other, the more information we record, process and communicate, the more likely this seems to me and if it hasn’t happened already, perhaps it will soon. Just as humanity emerged from the primordial physical soup, so too might something monstrous and alien emerge from our collective unconscious when the conditions are right.

I think I have glimpsed it.

From the personal blog of William Munday, retrieved 23/03/2014

I‘m making these posts and everythIng I’ve gathered publiC.

I went back to Doctor Lang’s lab today and went through all the recordings, as deep as the records would let me.

Those Klein-bottle things are present in every mind he ever scanned. They’re just dormant in some and active in others, like how a disease can hide away and Flare up again years later, like malaria or the spores of some bacteria.

Ideas can be like that too. hidden away in writing, stone tablets, cave art. Ancient ideas to whom we’re not even alive. To whom we’re a natural resource or a thing to live in and on, the same way we walk the ground, swim the water or fly through the air.

I doubt the idea even knows we exist, even knows we’re alive. I think, though, when we get a little too aware of it it reacts, or its immune system reacts at least. We would put out a fire, seal away toxic waste, clean water and that is what it did when it killed my uncle.

I know how insane that sounds, but there’s no doubt that ideas can kill. Religion kills every day. Hitler’s twisted ideas about eugenics and race killed millions. Millions more died because of the ideas of Mao and Stalin, ideas so powerful that reality was ignored.

Those are crude though, this idea is subtle enough to single out my uncle and have him killed. It’s smart enough to know who I am, what I have done. It’s smart enough to be aware of me.

The way the landlady watches me, the way the other guests watch me. If I could see inside their heads that twisted little thing would be writhing and multiplying, I just know it. I was followed to the lab by someone, some of the porters looked at me strangely and when I left I was followed again but I don’t know by who.

Of course, I could just be mad. Maybe I snapped under the pressure and the grief, under the strange ideas that frankly, I have never understood.

I knew this was big, but I never knew how big. How many more minds have to be infected before the idea truly awakens and then, when it awakes, will it be aware of us now? Will we still be us? Who or what will we be? Am I in charge of my own mind or am I the parasite, the bystander.

I’m part of something bigger now.

I need to tell people about it.

61ne1wukiwlI had forgotten I contributed to this and that it was out. So, yeah!

Go look.

“Lovecraft After Dark,” a is new collection of erotic horror from JWK Fiction, edited by James Ward Kirk and Roger Cowin. We offer short fiction and poetry blending erotica with the Mythos. Erotic encounters, forbidden romances between humans and the gods and demons of Lovecraft’s world. Ever wonder what obscene romance produced the human / elder god hybrid, Wilbur Whateley? How did the Black Goat of the Wood come to have a thousand young? These are just a few of the ideas explored in “Lovecraft After Dark.” Explore what Lovecraft only hinted at. Let your imagination go wild. We did.