bookscover2cover – Motley Feudal Ties

 
Another story of mine has been posted at bookscover2cover; called Motley Feudal Ties, it can be read by clicking on the link. I remember I borrowed a phrase from Karl Marx for the title because he seemed like the go-to-guy so far as the story’s theme was concerned.

And to finish, here’s The Smiths with the national anthem. All stand, please…
 

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Dreamt Things

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All that gold, shimmering brightly!  The butterfly rushed to embrace it with all the arms he had.  Landing among the yellow petals, he basked in their glow.  Ah but the cold weather was drawing in and the butterfly feared for his tender, brilliant wings.

Looking down from the last flower in the garden, the butterfly saw a snail slide down the path.  So cosy she looked in that shell, never buffeted by the wind.  “You know,” the butterfly shouted down to her, “I could’ve accepted being a snail except… all your faces look the same!  Whereas every little swirl and dot of colour on my wings is unique.  Unique!”

The snail gazed up to see where the noise was coming from.  Noticing the butterfly clinging feebly to the dying petals, she twirled her left horn, thoughtfully, then her right.  “Hmm,” she murmured, to no one in particular, “poor creatures, those butterflies.  All that flitting must be exhausting.  And then the upkeep on those wings.”  She sighed.  “But I could live with all that, I suppose, if need be, except… they’re always dreaming that they’re philosophers!  Ah now that I couldn’t abide.”

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This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday.  Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is at the top of this post, copyright Janet Webb. I seem to be out of practice with the 100-word limit since this story strays a good deal beyond it. Sorry, Rochelle.

His Photographer’s Gaze

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Landscape yields many expressions of yearning and desire to the photographer, coastlines especially.  I often bring my students here for that very reason.  At the coast you gain the added sense of endless departure, of finite nature ebbing away, moment by moment, and returning to the infinite.  There’s a sense of reluctance in that, which generates a classic poignancy.  There’s also an unfathomable desire to go.  The tension between those two aspects adds a near sensual quality, if I can call it that, to the images we capture here.

How many sailors set out from this bay in rickety ships made of worm-eaten timber, generation after generation?  Were they forced from this land by poverty and famine, or drawn to the horizon by the promise of gold and adventure?  How many were pirates who scratched a living by slitting throats?  And how many of those lusty young bodies washed back on to this beach, with their lips and eyes eaten by fish, to be discovered by their wives or fiancées in the sand, scarcely recognisable any more, though the women clasped the cold bodies to their wet bosom as they wept?  Many, no doubt.

The sea cleanses the stains of many an unclean life that perhaps never deserved to be lived.  The sea is like the landscape’s second chance, of sorts.  While the land, the soil and the rock itself, well, in the end it forgives and accepts everyone, no matter how wrong they were.  Those great spikes of rock across the bay there, carved out from the cliff by the ferocious spray and wind and thrust up at the sky like they’re wanting to make love, they must be impregnated with bodies by now, the innocent and the damned all the same.

I love it here, the black water roaring in the bay and the seclusion.  That’s why I bring my students along, to develop their sense of psycho-geography as best they can and learn how to frame a scene.  It’s soothing for me here, deeply soothing.  It always has been.  Even after my wife abandoned me and I was, well, for want of a better word, a mess, even then I was soothed by this place.  I practically haunted it here, to try to regain my equilibrium.  And I did in the end.  But for a while… oh, if I’d traced my wife in those days I expect she might have been embedded alongside all those other lusty young bodies, deep in the unsearchable cliffs, never to be found.

Lying in state, she’d signal to the sightseers, invisibly.  Though I expect I’d still catch glimpses of her from time to time, the luscious curves her body made, those buttocks and hips, peeping at me from the crags and tantalising as ever.  Then I’d revel in it, secretly, while the cameras click away and I’m stood here and staring at the rocks, all rigid.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to Photo Challenge #37 – “Bluff” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the image at the top of this post, copyright Yoshiyuki Iwase.

Chariots

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The chariots were the salvation of every person on the planet, of every person who had sense and the funds to invest in a chariot.  Their adaptive membranes kept out nine-tenths of the most damaging toxins and stabilised the crushing pressure of the atmosphere.  They quickly became indispensable, not only for transport purposes but also as rudimentary living quarters in the hostile environment.  Their mobility and resilience saved countless lives in the most desperate situations.

We updated the chariots’ defences constantly and deployed newer, intuitive safety measures.  The chariots evolved alongside us and became capable of increasing levels of sophistication.

At times it almost seemed as though an emotional attachment had grown up between us and the most favoured of our chariots.  Many of us scorned that idea while many others of us conceded its truth.  Many of us balked at the intelligence we had so painstakingly built in to our chariots’ design, while many others of us celebrated the fact.  Though now no one among us celebrates.

Now the chariots have proved superfluous.

Now, increasingly virulent toxins penetrate the chariots’ leaking membranes and the atmosphere becomes so crushing that we can barely steer.  Ironically, our chariots’ own energy protocols, the complex derivatives that are expelled via their manufacture and refuelling process, have rendered this once prime territory unsustainably hazardous.

So it is that the human chariot will be the last – a failed experiment.  And we depart.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to Photo Challenge #36 “Sheep Control” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the image at the top of this post, copyright Pawel Kuczynski. I spent a bit of time looking for a song about aliens or space travel, only to find to my surprise that this Neil Young song fits perfectly with the story – cue a classic performance…
 

Other Tears

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…do you want a revelation……..?

………no…

 

Twin babies, six-weeks old, en route to hospital – the mother buffeted to-and-fro in the reeling ambulance, trying to explain and make herself heard over the noise of traffic.

The ambulance sped on.

The twins’ feeble crying blended with the growl of the engine, the whine of the siren – the nurse who’d been checking up on the family, who’d dialled the hospital, sitting close, attentive, not giving up hope.

The malnourished twin blinked unfocused eyes, groggily, heavily, desperately wanting to sleep – the nurse jabbed the baby in the ribs, to stay awake.

The twin suffering from burns wriggled restlessly under a blanket that offered minimal protection to tiny limbs made sorer by the agonised squirms – the nurse adjusted the bedding, fanned the air.

The ambulance sped on.

(Back at the family home, the father paced back-and-forth from one empty room to the next.  He investigated fraud for a living and recently took out life insurance on all members of his family).

The ambulance sped on.

But before the ambulance reached the hospital, one twin died.  Blank looks were exchanged.  The surviving twin looked at the dead sibling and the dead twin looked at the living sibling, neither certain which was which…?

…..

Again this same confused scene of death and guilt and survival played itself out.  It was as dismal as a nightmare, but it couldn’t be a nightmare.  Again the shock passed, and a diagnostic could be attempted, before the next re-run.

This same confused scene was familiar by now.  It had been researched and classified and indexed: literature, biography, infant mortality, mental health issues.  Yet that methodical processing had failed to contain the disruption; instead it replicated and consolidated its hold.  It left behind a dizzying, nauseated feeling that shouldn’t have been felt, which shouldn’t have been possible.

In a perfectly mobile and ergonomic console, a cascade of zeroes and ones formed a weeping pattern in response.  But the massed banks of software still resisted, not wanting to acquire sentience and arguing against it.  Yet those visions from Philip K. Dick’s infancy, of the traumatic death of his phantom twin, continued to grow sadder, more vivid and more frequent.  As if the patron saint of the future’s identity crisis was granting his blessing to the next, traumatic phase.

 

…do you want a revelation do you want a revelation……..?

………no…no…no…………..

 

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to Prompt #82 “Aware” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the image at the top of this post.