Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Story’

792ff0efca4a02382678eb238ac650adJust over a year ago I was standing on the far platform of a railway station, with crusted blood on my arm from self-inflicted wounds and trying to muster the courage to throw myself in front of a train. I nearly did it too. Standing so close to the edge of the platform that the side of one of the trains brushed and almost clipped the tip of my nose.

I couldn’t quite do it though. Not quite. Ended up going back home with my tail between my legs and trying to salvage the pieces of my broken brain.

I was in a very severe depressive slump anyway and then was kicked while I was down by life. One friend died and another, dear, friend turned out to be in a rather harsh home situation. I couldn’t help either of them in any meaningful way and was left feeling thoroughly impotent, even more useless than usual and selfish for feeling terrible. I was unable to ask for support and help when I felt other people needed it more.

Eventually, of course, people found out and were amazingly and wonderfully supportive, as they always are (depression lies to you about that) and while a dead friend can’t be brought back, at least the other friend now has an escape plan that I can – hopefully – help with.

My beautiful and lovely friend, and one-time unofficial, virtual housemate, Katie sent me a care package not long after my bout of suicidal ideation, and while some of the contents were an arcane mystery (a face pack? wtf?) amongst the goodies was The Book of You, a little diary/workbook of sorts with daily micro-actions for a whole year (there’s also an app). I just finished working through it (it was actually useful and not the hippy crap it might look like at first glance) and one of the things it tells you to do is to ‘report back’.

So, what’s there to report back?

I’ve made it 12 months without a relapse. No self harm in that time. No new suicide attempts. Only – relatively – mild bouts of depression and panic. I’m out of therapy but back on the drugs, on what seems to be a semi-permanent basis, constantly trying to anticipate and balance the dose. Summer is the worst time of year for my mental health, the heat I think – and the lack of sleep. I also tend to feel out of place at this time of year, it’s not really my ‘cup of tea’ and there are extra, physical chores that need doing.

I’ve been working hard to try and get back to the self-sufficiency I was at before the last few years’ heavy bouts of depression, but it’s tough. I’ve even been looking for supplementary part-time work but with the depression as it is I just don’t think I’m reliable enough for anyone to hire. This presents its own problems in terms of both self-esteem and finances, wanting to regain that full independence and being – seemingly – unable to. There’s not a lot of options to remedy that either. Seeking assistance or benefits is massively impactful to self esteem if you don’t feel you really need them and austerity has cut funding for such things to the bone anyway. An ‘invisible illness’ would be a tough sell to any assessor or board, especially the kinds that judge terminal cancer cases ‘fit for work’.

There’s no real prospect of ever ‘getting better’ at this point. Just varying degrees of coping. That puts a lot of stress on friendships and relationships, as does the aforementioned lack of independence. There’s things I’m good at, even very good at, but imposter syndrome is a bitch and even having talent isn’t enough in a very tough gig economy with a trashed reputation, caused by sticking up for what you know is right – no matter what. No matter the lies and aspersions. Even when some of the people you were sticking up for end up turning on you.

I’ve accomplished a lot, in spite of being sick. In spite of there being no prospect of ever getting better. These are things I should be proud of, but anhedonia – one of the symptoms of depression, look it up – makes it all but impossible to truly acknowledge and take it to heart even when you do something amazing and against the odds.

I’m still here, but the Reverse SAD is pretty bad, panic attacks are pretty frequent. The abuse and suspicion I’m used to by this point, and when you have severe depression nobody can hate you as much as you hate yourself anyway, so it barely registers.

All of that sounds really bad, but here’s the thing. It isn’t.

It’s just an acknowledgement of status. I’m coping. I’m plodding on. I’m working away on things – bit by bit. I’ve re-organised my work schedule and am much more productive. I have a large body of work on Youtube now. I’m at least looking for ways out of my problem situations and there’s slow but steady progress on every front.

That’s all much better than it sounds.

Thank you everyone who looks after me when I need it, stays friends through tough differences of opinion, doesn’t treat me like some fragile thing all the time and forgives me my failings while valuing my strengths.

Here’s where I was last year, for comparison…

Read Full Post »

[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.

Read Full Post »

CJlHrWGUAAAig8hThe white leather ball looked like a perfect shot, for all of two seconds. If there had been a crossbar it was even odds whether it would have hit it or sailed perfectly in through the corner. The problem was that with jumpers for goalposts there wasn’t actually a post, or a crossbar, so the ball continued to shoot through the air and vanished through a hedge in a shower of leaves, dislodging a particularly peeved pigeon.

“Bollocks,” said John, who – at the ripe old age of eight, had mastered the dark art of swearing. “I’ll go get it.”

“No!” cried Rob, at the head of a triangle of other, suddenly bashful and ashen-faced kids.

John turned, mid step and nearly fell over. That ‘no’ had been particularly forceful.

“Why the bollocks not?” that was the trouble with swearwords, when you mastered one you felt the need to use it all the time.

“Ol’ Mr Gaiman lives there!”

“So?” John was genuinely confused. Maybe they’d come up with this silliness while his mum had him at her house for the first half of the summer.

“He’s a monster!”

“No such thing as monsters.” His dad had told him so and his dad worked in a pub, so he knew things.

“He is one! He’s a witch with crazy grey hair, and he talks funny, and he has a human-skin jacket and he’s married to a banshee!”

“A what?”

“It’s an Irish ghost, only this one’s American. Anyone who hears her singing, dies!”

“Bollocks,” said John, again, though it was more heartfelt this time.

“No, it’s true! Toby’s nan kept complaining about her singing all the time, calling her a banshee, and then she died.”

“Of an anti-rhythm in her brain!” offered Toby, helpfully from behind Rob’s legs. He was only four. “Though dad said it’s just because she was angry all the time…” he trailed off, less helpfully.

“And the first week of summer break,” Rob continued. “Luke lost his toy plane over there and went looking for it and nobody saw him again.”

“Didn’t the police come?” John hesitated by the gate to the Gaiman house, hand on the handle, feeling a little unsure.

“He paid them off with his book money to leave him alone! Please, don’t go in there!”

“Nah, it’s bollocks.” John stuck out his chin – you had duties being the big kid – and in he went.

***

“And that,” said Ol’ Man Gaiman, picking young, delicious meat from his teeth with shards of the broken dreams of lesser writers. “Is where I get my ideas.”

Read Full Post »

london_fogNight security jobs are unmitigated shitness. You sit – alone in a little room in a huge building, all alone, and stare at flat-screen monitors upon which nothing happens for hours and hours and hours.

A smart phone and a solitary television with the sound turned off the only respite from black and white pictures of an empty building. Twitter and scrolling headlines across the bottom of twenty-four hour news a welcome distraction from mind-numbing monotony.

These people online and the newsreaders become your next-door neighbours after the world’s gone to sleep.

It’s easy to imagine you’re all alone up here, tucked away in your little room. Once it hits three in the morning even London goes quiet. There’s nobody out there on the streets. The ones who are still awake are street sweepers or tucked away in the clubs and pubs far away from the business districts.

This is the time it’s hardest to stay awake, eyes drooping. Your body knows its not supposed to be awake and everything is at its lowest ebb. If it weren’t for the unceasing news and internet chatter – bless you time-zones – it would be easy to think you were the only person in the world.

Even that blurs into one though. An endless parade of far off disasters that lose their impact. What’s one more atrocity or war when they happen every day? Sometimes something makes you prick up your ears though, or your eyes. Maybe you hear something about a place or a person you give a damn about. Not some ambassador from a failed or failing state, but a celebrity or something you have a personal connection to.

That doesn’t happen often though. Most of the time you sit and stare, drinking cup after cup of coffee, fiddling with your phone, staring at the screens and wishing you were home in bed.

Sometimes something weird happens though. It has tonight. So I’m writing it down and printing it out. Even if I am on camera, even if I’m going mad. I just need to have a record.

I handle the night security for London’s latest, greatest, newest skyscraper. The Prism. Eighty floors of empty glass and steel. It’s still being fitted out so there’s nobody there at all, save the workers during the day. Everything works, there’s just no offices yet and the bathrooms are all bare bones.

It was a bit past three and I was nodding half asleep over the monitors, not paying too much attention to them. The air conditioning in the building was on but it felt a bit close and humid despite that. If you don’t have it on the buildings get weird, internal micro-climates, some of the big ones even form ‘clouds’ in the atrium. They didn’t want that here, so the moment the building was sealed, on went the air conditioning.

It wasn’t like I could open a window, but I had a desk fan. That helped a bit, fresh air blowing across my face. It woke me up a little, a start and jump like when your chin hits your chest when you’ve fallen asleep sitting up.

That’s when I noticed a scrolling headline across the bottom of the television, for some reason it caught my eye amongst everything else.

“London threatened with thickest fog since 1952.”

Meteorology wasn’t a big news item and its not like fog was unusual, even today, but I hadn’t seen even a hint of it on my way to work. The main news item was some update about some economic conference, nothing of interest to me. There’s a little camera watching me all the time, quis custodiet ipsos custodes indeed, but I decided I’d risk it and go for a look out of the window.

I had to cup my hands against the window to see through the light glare, but it was true. There was a thick fog running down the Thames against the current like a cheap smoke machine and starting to flow over the sides into the streets. Why they thought it was so bad I don’t know, it was thick, but nothing worse than I’d ever seen before, so I just went back to my desk.

In the five or ten minutes I’d been away from the monitors nothing much seemed to have changed, but there was a picture of London Bridge in the box-out. I tried to turn the sound on, but I realised it didn’t have any speakers. I’d never tried to turn the sound on before so I’d had no idea.

I was too cheap to get mobile broadband, so streaming the news to my phone wasn’t going to work out. Not with a flaky 3G connection in the bowels of a giant Faraday cage. I was stuck with the scrolling text, I couldn’t even turn on the subtitles, I had no idea where the remote control was.

I switched to the internet on my phone, even though it loaded at a crawl I could get a couple of pages up. There was only a small update and a few pictures from the unlucky sods up as late as I was. It looked like it was spreading rapidly, even just in the short time I’d been away from the window. That or it was much thicker elsewhere, downriver from me.

The page didn’t tell you much, just that the met office were mystified as to the cause, it was the wrong weather, there was no pollution to account for it, though it had a sickly stink apparently, and they were trying to work it out and asking for more pictures from people around the city. It was local news really. There was some early speculation that it was down to algae or something else, but nobody really had a clue. This late at night the news and the met office – and everything else – was running on the ‘B’ teams.

Twitter wasn’t that much help either. Only people outside my time-zone were awake aside from a few people out late clubbing and they were wasted. I sent them a couple of feelers. Something was making me feel really uncomfortable about the whole thing though I couldn’t really put my finger on it.

I didn’t want to get up from the desk again, that would mean a reprimand if it got noticed. I started flicking through the cameras trying to get a view of outside through the glass, but the only one that worked was a view of the entrance and I couldn’t make out much from there, just a few wisps of mist.

Back to Twitter, there was a tag now #FogDoom – typical nonsense like #snowpocalypse and all the rest. It wasn’t that busy yet but one thing stood out in the slowly scrolling messages.

Woolwich Witch : Got off Skype with my BF. Bunch of sirens and lights on the road and river.

That seemed strange so I thumbed out a quick message back.

Night Wotcha: What’s going on there? Stuck in central London and can’t get the news.

I flicked through the cameras again while I waited, trying to see anything else, even a speck of outside through the window. Still nothing, but the mist was thicker out the door, even through the camera.

Woolwich Witch: No idea, but the river’s high. I can barely see outside. The noise stopped though. Don’t see the lights.

Night Wotcha: Can you get a better view anywhere? Sounds freaky! 🙂

Woolwich Witch: Yeah, I’ll step out and have a look. See if there’s anyone around.

Police aren’t unusual, but a whole lot of them charging through the night down there? Close to the Thames Barrier? That seemed weird. Was it a terrorist attack? Gas or something? It didn’t make much sense to me but it would explain the police. If the river was coming up that could be bad for the city as a whole. Grandad had used to run one of the river taxis. I thought high tide would hit sometime after four in the morning. There was a while yet before that happened.

It was no good, I had to go for another look.

This time the river seemed higher, even from all the way up in the building. It was hard to tell of course, the fog was even thicker now and it was flowing up over the banks and spilling into the streets beyond. It was weird looking, moving in all directions at once, almost like it was alive, questing for a path between the soulless, empty, lifeless buildings.

The BBC news scroller was now talking about a flood warning now, but being not very specific as to why. My desk phone went off with an automated warning, but I didn’t really have to worry here. It was all automated and the building should be well able to resist any sort of flooding. All I’d have to do would be to wait it out until low tide – a matter of hours.

The Woolwich Witch hadn’t gotten back to me again, but I didn’t know her and she didn’t owe me any sort of explanation.

I started thumbing through the hashtag and its all weird nonsense. Drunk and stoned people talking nonsense. More pictures but a lot of them were weird looking. Artefacts and stray pixels, like when it rains hard or a pigeon decides to have a nap on your Sky dish. Some of them were half uploaded, like the image had been cut off halfway through my download, but it wasn’t me.

After the mangled images there were no more posts by that person. Any of them.

I don’t scare easily and I try not to get panicked over nothing but I was scared now. The signal quality on my phone was dropping every ten minutes or so, bar by bar, ‘3G’ to ‘H’ to ‘E’ and even that kept dropping out. The last few tweets I saw on the tag before the data connection completely cut out were even weirder, people who’d gone out to check out the fog and going missing. People not able to get the police.

The TV was all about the fog now. The presenter, someone you wouldn’t see unless you kept my hours, was clearly out of his depth, trying to cope with it. They were calling it a chemical spill, telling people to stay inside because of the fumes, even if it flooded.

Even the TV signal was breaking up now. Weather can do that, but fog was too low on the ground to disrupt any signals. Maybe I was imagining it, but there was a sickly scent, even behind sealed glass and storeys into the sky.

I took the lift down to the great void of a lobby, so empty. Here the smell seemed, paradoxically, less bad. It didn’t make sense to me. Beyond the doors I couldn’t see a bloody thing, it was all thick fog faintly yellow in the dim night lighting.

I about jumped out of my skin when there was a loud bang against the doors. There was a shape there, banging against the glass. The knock loud, but whatever screaming sound was out there dimmed by the thick glass so it sounded distant.

As I got my breath back from the fright I stepped towards the door, and then jogged, fumbling for my keys. Even pressed against the glass I could barely make out who it was, but it was a man. Maybe a policeman, I thought I saw a cap. Just in the seconds it took me to get to the door the banging got quieter and quieter though the shadow looked just as manic and violent as ever.

As I got there it was abruptly silent, a shape in the mist that could have been a man or just dappled shadow, blown away. I fumbled the keys and yanked the door open, shouting out into the fog but there was no answer and the stink made me gag on the words even as I tried to give them voice.

It was hard to breathe, to think, so I got back inside and shut and locked the door again. Back up the lift to my little nest, the only place I might feel safe. The lift seemed slow and the lights kept flickering all the way up, coming on again as I got back. Everything still seemed to be working but the TV was black now, on every channel I could get and the phone was useless.

From the window everything was dark now. I couldn’t even see street lights now. The light from the building made it nearly impossible to see beyond the glass and the moon was dim, a sliver behind grey cloud. I couldn’t see anything.

The smell was getting stronger. I was sensitive to it now, noticing it – or imagining it – behind every smell in the building. New paint, plastic, epoxy, all of it seemed to carry a hint of that stinking fog in it that made me queasy.

It was the air conditioning. It was sucking in the air from outside and the fog with it. It was seeming to rise, shorter buildings disappearing beneath it, the fog seeming higher around the taller buildings as if it were trying to climb them.

I don’t know the first thing about air conditioning. I went as high as I could in the building and cut cables, jammed pipes and stuffed ducts with whatever I could find. Tarp, sacks of cement, plastic, silicon gel from the builders. I think I sealed the building and its only me here. I’m not going to suffocate.

There’s a little computer in my nook. Turns out the tower’s running on generator power now, so I turned off all the lights I didn’t need, and the pumps. Sat and wrote this. I don’t know what’s going on but I’ll save it. I’ve print it out. I’ve put texts to everyone I know into my phone so they’ll send when the signal comes back. I don’t know what else to do but sit and wait.

I’ll go and seal the air conditioning better I suppose, but if there’s nobody out there, what’s the point?

I’m alone.

***

fog-448188Mr Morgan is still missing and has not been seen since the night he caused millions of pounds worth of damage to the Prism Tower, setting back the opening of the tower for at least two months, flooding two basement levels and all but destroying the air conditioning system.

These writings, apparently left by Mr Morgan – though there’s no way to prove that – seem to suggest an impaired state of mind which may have insurance implications. With Mr Morgan missing it is likely that a settlement can be garnered from his estate, though it is unlikely to make much of a dent in the costs.

Without finding Mr Morgan it is hard to know how to proceed further, though it’s clear from his confession that he caused the criminal damage. Given the long term importance of the account I believe the claim is genuine and that we should pay out.

Sincerely,

H Arnold,

Claims Department
Xebi Insurance Co.

Read Full Post »

97963-thumb140Alex woke up, slowly, staring up at the ceiling for a minute with a horrible sensation of deja vu before they got up. They swung their legs out of the bed and stepped carefully across the carpeted floor to the wardrobe and plucked out a shapeless, belted boiler suit and a pair of plimsolls.

Alex turned on the TV on their way past, just to get the morning news while they cleaned their teeth and took a quick shower. There wasn’t much there, just an update on progress towards demographic parity through the reproduction lottery. It was hard to follow because the channel kept switching from one presenter to another so rapidly they barely had time to fit in a whole sentence.

Alex lingered in the shower a little longer than usual. They hadn’t slept well last night and the lukewarm jets were pleasant and soothing. Then they stopped in front of the mirror, playing with a few different hairstyle ideas before scruffling it back up into its normal mop.

The readout on the mirror said there was no work duty today, Alex hadn’t gotten a permanent position yet and was in the work rotation for the seasonal and regional tasks that needed doing. There weren’t any today and that was something of a blessing as they wouldn’t need to go out.

That thought ended in the kitchen with the last two pieces of bread. Alex was going to have to go shopping.

Closing the door behind them, Alex rattled down the stairs and out onto the street. From the window Bailey, the building supervisor watched Alex go and Alex forced a fake smile and waved to them on their way to the bus stop.

It was only a minute until the bus was due to come, so Alex merely stood there, counting off the time in their head until – with an electric hush – the tall little bus came to a halt. Alex fumbled for their change and tossed it into the slot. There was nowhere to sit and it would be rude to displace anyone else so Alex stood, holding onto the little handle.

There was a bump behind them and Alex turned their head to look. It was a woman, in the same ubiquitous boiler suit as everyone else but her hair was a little long. She’d belted her boiler suit tight around her waist and tugged the zip down a little low – playing with fire. She gave Alex a flirtatious smile but Alex turned away, blushing slightly, holding tighter to the handle as the bus zoomed along.

Finally the food store. A huge billboard above the entrance advertising ‘Soft Toilet Paper: Kinder to your bottom and nobody need know’. Alex steadfastly ignored it and joined the milling people inside, ignoring the trolleys and choosing a modest basket they went looking for the essentials. Bread, cheese, buttery spread, potatoes, salt and then a quick two-step to the check out.

Only two were open, both queued right back and within a couple of minutes it became clear that while both were only moving slowly, one was sluggish and the other glacial. This was because the check out attendant on this queue was clearly mentally subnormal.

Alex shuddered. Even thinking that felt like blasphemy, but Alex couldn’t remember what the proper terminology was this week. Alex gritted their teeth and waited… and waited… and waited. It took hours and hours but finally they reached the front. Alex fixed a smile to their face while the poor man fumbled and panicked, red-eyed and trying to cry but out of tears and snot.

More by luck than judgement Alex managed to get out with the goods paid for, but it was too late for the buses now. They had to walk all the way, startling a woman on her way back to their block right where a street light had burned out. They both laughed, made their apologies and Alex carried on their way.

Finally Alex was home. Breathing a sigh of relief as they closed the door behind them. Unpacking in the kitchen, kicking off their shoes and stepping back into the bed-living room to try and relax.

The TV switched itself on.

Oh dear, not now.

“Person Alex Benton. You have been randomly selected for consensus oversight. Please sit down and listen.”

Alex’s heart sank as other faces flashed on the screen and began to discuss their faults.

“You didn’t seem sufficiently pleased about the progress Consensus has made towards demographic parity. Perhaps you still harbour prejudiced and privileged modes of thought.”

“You seem to take a little too much pride in your appearance and wasted time – and power – in the bathroom. More than your allotment. It shows a lack of regard for those around you, selfishness and pride.”

“Your relationship with the building supervisor seems over friendly when it should be one of professional distance and respect.”

“You didn’t use your time at the bus stop productively. You could have used the time to better yourself. You could have at least gotten your money ready.”

“The person on the bus who flirted with you. You hurt their feelings by not reciprocating. That was cruel. Do you like hurting women’s feelings?”

“The queue was so long and you still joined it, adding to the pressure and distress for the checkout person. Do you hate less abled persons?”

“You startled a person in the street. You could have been a rapist or murderer. You should have been more careful to spare their feelings and to be less intimidating.”

Alex didn’t speak up. There was no point. The questions were rhetorical, there were no good answers and any resistance would make it worse. Instead they nodded along and agreed to every single point.

“It is the summary judgement of Consensus that you immediately be somatised and removed to an adjustment camp for intensive reconditioning.”

The doorbell rang, Alex stood up with a sigh and shuffled to the door to open it. The blue-suited proctors smiled pleasantly and sprayed soma into Alex’s face.

Everything went grey.

***

Alex woke up, slowly, staring up at the ceiling for a minute with a horrible sensation of deja vu before they got up. They swung their legs out of the bed and stepped carefully across the carpeted floor to the wardrobe and plucked out a shapeless, belted boiler suit and a pair of plimsolls.

Alex turned on the TV on their way past, just to get the morning news while they cleaned their teeth and took a quick shower. There wasn’t much there, just an update on progress towards demographic parity through the reproduction lottery.

The figures were exactly the same.

In a panic Alex checked the date and time on the mirror readout.

It was today.

Again.

Alex tried not to let their expression betray their horror and surprise, but they couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. They stuck to the absolute, average allotted time for showering and ablutions. This time there was no tonsorial messing about, just a simple run-through with a comb.

There was still no work today, thank goodness, but the kitchen was back to being virtually empty. This was a chance to do things right this time.

Closing the door behind them, Alex rattled down the stairs and out onto the street. From the window Bailey, the building supervisor watched Alex go and Alex gave them a curt, professional nod on their way to the bus stop.

There was a minute until the bus came. Alex fished out the correct change and double checked it. Paying immediately the moment they got onto the bus and moving to take the handle.

The woman was there again and there was the same bump. This time Alex struck up a conversation about the morning news, being sure to say how exciting it was that the population was so close to parity now. By the time she had to get off Alex had handed over their number and was actually looking forward to seeing them again.

Back into the store, darting around to get the things they needed as quickly as possible. A quick check as to which queue was which and Alex hopped into the faster moving queue, steadfastly ignoring the crying and snivelling from the other queue and getting out of the place in less than an hour, in good time to get the bus back.

With a sense of smug satisfaction Alex helped themselves to a cheese sandwich and watched The Inoffensive Comedy Show marathon until the TV flicked itself over and familiar faces appeared.

“Person Alex Benton. You have been randomly selected for consensus oversight. Please sit down and listen.”

Alex’s friendly smile didn’t last long as the self-same people began to subject them to their uncompromising insights.

“You could have spent a little longer in the shower. Your bed registered a lot of tossing and turning in the night. You can’t have slept well. A little indulgence is alright. Your stress affects others.”

“You were rather terse and curt with the building supervisor. If you have a feud it could affect the morale of the entire building. You should try to be more friendly.”
“Your amorous attentions showed that you clearly regarded the person on the bus as female. How could you possibly know how they self-identify and what made you think such attention would be welcome in the street anyway? That’s harassment. There were long-term single persons on the bus who could have been traumatised.”

“Nor did your showing off with the money impress. A passenger could have had discalcula, you were flaunting your arithmetical privilege.”

“You deliberately avoided the check out queue of the less-abled teller. That’s a level two ableism hate crime. Nor did you go to their aid despite their obvious distress.”

Alex didn’t speak up. There was no point. The questions were rhetorical, there were no good answers and any resistance would make it worse. Instead they nodded along glumly and agreed to every single point.

“It is the summary judgement of Consensus that you immediately be somatised and removed to an adjustment camp for intensive reconditioning.”

The doorbell rang, Alex stood up with a sigh and shuffled to the door to open it. The blue-suited proctors smiled pleasantly and sprayed soma into Alex’s face.

Everything went grey.

***

Alex woke up, slowly, staring up at the ceiling for a minute with a horrible sensation of deja vu before they got up.

Again and again and again.

Nothing worked. No matter what they did the same spiteful faces on the screen found fault in one way or another.

Finally, haggard and fretful Alex sat in, all day, without moving, staring at the unblinking eye of the TV screen and awaiting the inevitable.

“Person Alex Benton. You have been randomly selected for consensus oversight. Please sit down and listen.”

Alex giggled.

“You haven’t left your domicile all day. Consensus assesses you are suffering from intense mental disturbance. Proctors have already been despatched.”

Alex stood up, laughing and ran to – and through – the window, tumbling in a cloud of razored glass fragments, head first into the concrete five floors below.

***

“Another failure.”

“A failure? No. I don’t think so. It just teaches us that perfection is impossible and that there are always new problems. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying.”

“Of course not.”

“Have The System form a new focus group and select a new test subject. Consensus must keep trying.”

OBEY CONSENSUS

Read Full Post »

underwater

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven

Spoilers

Introspectre is a re-telling/modernisation of The Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft. That much should have been obvious to any Mythos fan from the Mythos tag and the names of some of the characters.

As with Cichol’s Children I was looking for a way to make the Mythos scary again and the best way to do that is, I think, to bring a bit of uncertainty and change back into it and never to truly, explicitly, name the creature.

Cthulhu was once the great symbol of existential horror and madness but through popularity has been debased to the point where he’s no longer scary. He’s a proto-kaiju, a Hello Kitty with tentacles, a cliché.

So what if you strip Cthulhu back to the base concepts and then build it back up? Cthulhu is apocalyptic, madness, incomprehensible. He is a threat we cannot understand and as much an infectious madness as anything else.

So the sea becomes the human mind. The time is right when we talk too much, when the ubiquitous chatter of the modern world becomes the neural pathways of a monster that is us, but is more than us. When the stars are right, it is our fault and a neurological singularity takes us all with it.

I hope you enjoyed it and get the reasoning behind the idea and the desire to recreate a classic in a way that can be scary again.

Introspectre was written in one sitting with no prep, only an idea that’s been lingering a while. If I decide to publish it, it will be rewritten and expanded.

Read Full Post »

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.

underwater

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »