Short Story (Part 5 Finale): When The Tide Comes In

In our last installment Aphelia was downed and stranded in the no man’s land of the battlefield where she encountered one of the enemy who showed her a strange mercy. Taking Theran’s lifeless body with her, she finally reached the embattle company of soldiers who are waiting for the artillery barrage to open up an escape route from the hill where they’ve dug in.

So a warm welcome to you dear Readers. It was a push, but I finally just sat here and bashed away at the keyboard until some kind of ending materialised. It represents, at the least, some sense of closure to this little escapade. It’s not quite what I expected or wanted, but instead took a life of its own. Whether that’s for the best I don’t know, but as with many literary works it probably needs several re-drafts before it comes to fruitition.

For now, all I can say is that if it entertained some of you out there, then it was worth doing.

And if you have no idea what this is all about, you can go back and read the previous parts here:

  1. Short Story (Part 1): When The Tide Comes In
  2. Short Story (Part 2): When The Tide Comes In
  3. Short Story (Part 3): When The Tide Comes In
  4. Short Story (Part 4): When The Tide Comes In

Now, without further ado, the finale!

(PS – sorry if there are a few typos. I almost certainly missed a few in my push to get finished).


5

Hear that?” asked the soldier next to her. Aphelia cracked an eye open, the pain in her neck and shoulders a relentless dull ache even after her rest. From afar the concussive blows of raining artillery thudded through the expectancy. The soldier stood up and went to join his sergeant. Together they stared out over the barricade into the no man’s land between the entrenched hill and the horizon.

“You think they’re coming?” asked another soldier hopefully.

“They’re trying to move up from Pallasad,” Aphelia answered.

“Even if they do, I don’t know if we’ll make it through the gap,” said the sergeant, lowering his binoculars and looking down at them. “They’re certainly putting some serious ordinance down though.”

“Better chance than staying here sarge,” said the first soldier beside him.

“Probably,” muttered the sergeant. He climbed down, took a breath and bellowed. “Listen up and pass it on! We’re going to make a break for it in the next couple of hours. The artillery are making a passage for us. Command says to wait for the signal. If you’re not ready, we leave without you!”

Aphelia listened to the men bustling about even though they had nothing to prepare. It was, she reflected, simply a way to take their minds off of waiting, just as the ‘funeral’ for Theran had been. She had resisted at first, but the sergeant had patiently explained that there was no way they could make a run for safety with a dead body in tow. In no uncertain terms he told her that she needed to see sense, and that they would give him a warriors send off.

Just as they had done for dozens of his own men.

“This hill,” he had smiled sadly, “Is a graveyard. He’ll be as safe here as anywhere.”

Aphelia had relented and now, as they waited for the flare to go shooting into another clear cold night, she stared at Theran’s tags dangling from their chain. Inscribed in the tiny metal rectangles was his name, blood group and his service number. At the bottom it also stated his religious affiliation. Aphelia rubbed her thumb over it and wondered why he’d never said anything about being a believer. Oddly he’d never seemed enthusiastic about the Cleric’s exhortations. Perhaps he had not shared their faith in a final, sudden deliverance.

And the truth was that she would never get a chance to find out.

Brooding about it wasn’t going to help, but in the chill of the trench there wasn’t anything else to do. So she waited for the flare to go up. It couldn’t be much longer. With a huff she got up and joined the sergeant, standing up to get a view out across the plain below.

“What’s taking so long?” she asked.

“You hear that?” the man asked her. He had an odd expression on his face and she shook her head.

“No.”

“The artillery isn’t firing.”

Aphelia frowned. He was right, and she hadn’t noticed. As she read the expression on his face, she read the fear that was in his eyes. The artillery wasn’t firing, and there had been no signal.

There was nothing out happening out there..

“Oh shit,” she whispered.

He nodded and took another looked with his binoculars.

“Aren’t you going to do anything?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he replied, his voice strangely calm. “I’m going to sound the alarm.”

“What?”

He lowered his binoculars and looked at her. “They’re coming.”

“Who? The support?”

“No,” the sergeant shook his head, a sardonic smile on his face as if she had cracked a facetious joke. “The Tide of course.”

*  *  *

The horde was a frenetic carpet of impish mayhem surging up the hill, manic and unrelenting. The small bodies simply absorbed the withering hail of fire from the gun nests and rifles. Aphelia stood beside the sergeant with a rifle from the spare supplies and fell to firing, reloading, firing. On and on it went as the horde pushed came closer and closer with their cackling, grinning faces.

Over her head the mortar teams launched their deadly projectiles again and again, the whistle of their trajectory became blisters of light and thumps of dirt as the explosives tore the into the masses on the hillside.

Wouldn’t the damn things never relent?

She had seen them attack Bastion like this, but their numbers were easily dispersed and broken. They had often relented before losing themselves completely, but now there was no end to them. The creatures were without guile, and came en masse without any other plan than to simply swamp the defenders. But the disarray often left gaps in their formations so the waves came staggered, like the waves of an ocean, over and over until the high tide began to recede and the numbers dwindled.

Yet they were persistent, not more than a dozen feet from the barricade and falling over themselves and their own dead to reach her. Another empty clip. They were at the barricade. Reloaded, and empty again, she jumped back and the line of men began to fall back from the first trench to the second, firing.

Every step back was contested, every inch spattered in green blood as the defenders slowly contracted tighter and tighter, stepping around the barricades and tightening the cordon.

The enemy did not relent, but came on wave after wave.

A cry for ammo came up, then another.

“I’m running low too,” said Aphelia to the sergeant. “How long before they give up?”

The man’s breath was coming in ragged gasps as he wiped sweat from his eyes. “This isn’t like normal. We’ve fought them off before, but they never came this hard.”

Tidlings hopped over the barricade and he shot the first, stabbed the second with his bayonet. Aphelia popped the next and it went spinning back over the top with a cry like an injured dog.

The sergeant shouted to her, “It’s like they’re here to finish the job.”

Behind them the mortar team raise a cry – they were out of munitions. . The tidlings fought on, scrabbling over and around the sides of the defences and even as adrenaline and determination to fight on to the last breath they knew it was hopeless. They were being overwhelmed. Once they started to fall it became a cascade, men disappearing under the waves of creatures with muffled cries. One or two saved their last grenades for themselves, and as the dull crump! Of detonations sounded, Aphelia felt the claws clutching, the teeth biting and she was swallowed up into the horde with one last scream of defiance.

Her rifle was pulled from her hand, the other gripping Theran’s tag, the chain wrapped around her hand. As she struggled against the thrashing bodies the last thing she glimpsed was the rictus skull of the Moon’s face grinning down as the Tide dragged her into the darkness…..

*  *  *

Where am I?”

“INSIDE,” answered a hollow voice.

“Inside? Inside what?” Aphelia asked, her mind floating in cool detachment.

“INSIDE.”

Aphelia felt a pulse of meaning, a notion resolving into knowledge. She was inside the Tide, within its consciousness and it was like an ocean. Somewhere in the vast expanse of mental water she floated between worlds. “How did I get here?”

“WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PART OF THE SAME OCEAN.”

“I don’t understand.”

“WE ARE WHOLENESS.”

“What does that mean?”

“WHAT WAS SEPERATE IS WHOLE. CONVERGENCE.”

And then she felt it, a tremor in her soul: there were the high walls of Bastion, her gaze from below rising to see the tiny human figures raining down bullet and grenade. She began to scale the wall; she was attacking as part of the horde. Her mind rode the tidling as it scaled the walls, and all around her the bodies of her kin absorbed the hail of death and destruction and even in pain they did not grieve for their own deaths. They merely returned, energy and nutrient, their death sinking into the soil and feeding life.

For their life and death was part of a cycle that came from a transcendental being. The Tide was neither hateful, nor merciful. It simply existed in a desire to survive and it showed her the day when it had reacted, the day the drill had bitten into the layer of the planet where it lived. It was an organism that had lived on the planet since the dawn of life, and Aphelia sensed that it had been some sort of cosmic spore that grew like a great tapestry through the crust of the earth.

There were times when it had been wounded before, but where it had often retreated from further pain into safety, this time the drill came again and again, deeper and deeper. That cold, biting metal pain had been unlike anything that had touched it before and instead of retreating further, it triggered a surge of primal rage.

It lashed out and attacked.

Aphelia understood it then. It had nothing to do with good or evil, and everything to do with simple self defence. It had protected itself, and the more humanity had fought back, wounding it further, the more the Tide had lashed out with the responses that formed its survival system.

And for all that it was alien, it had been here before humanity and had simply existed for so long it could remember the slow moving of continents, the pain and fear of a fall of meteorites, the joy of seeing life flourish again and again after extinctions. It was a gardener, even an experimental biologist that tampered and evolved strains of beings. Behind the beast was an inquiring mind, an alien sentience that, when she touched it, threatened to lose her within its wildly different perception and thought.

It had seen humanity arrive and been amused and curious, but within a brief span of a few thousand years humanity had suddenly broken with nature and become detached in its little bubble of civilisation.

Within a few hundred years, the blink of an eye to something that watched millennia pass, humanity had come to threaten its existence. Yet even as Aphelia understood it, she lamented that it was tearing down the walls of her home. It drove forth in a final act of destruction, intent on the peace of total annihilation.

“There must be another way!”

“WE SHALL BE WHOLE. WE SHALL BE ALIVE.”

Aphelia experienced the helplessness of the defenders as a mirror to her own inability to intercede. Men and women fell and they too were absorbed. She sensed their souls, like hers, within the ocean, old and young alike. They were all here from the soldiers on the hill to her own family; mother and father, right there, so close as they floated in limbo. She reached out to say something, but instead found herself in a real ocean, the ocean of a childhood memory where she bobbed on gentle waves under the Sun with her mother and father.

Good times….

There were other memories too, but they were conflicted, like waves moving against each. Here she was in Brighton, the southern coast of England, where she was playing with the stones on the beach. But the memory of her mother and father was on a sandy beach and the realisation made her mind bifurcate; two perspectives, one soul….. A soul in limbo, and a thousand other fractal reflections echoing through eternity; everything was possible, but limited within the essence of who she was. A million different worlds, a million different situations, but there she was like a shining diamond twinkling in the sea of possibility, her facets all sides of the same person. Aphelia looked across at Ellie, and Ellie looked back, a million reflects stretching out behind each of them like endless reflections in a mirror.

Startled, both images saw the other panic and flail as if drowning…..

A voice spoke then, but not the hollow mind-speech of the Tide. It was the beaked stranger: “It’s time for you to go back now.”

With it’s words came serenity, and the part of her that was Ellie asked. “How?”

“You know the way. You have always known the way. Trust the gifts that you have been given, keep moving and do not fear.”

Ellie moved, but as she turned away a hand caught her. She turned, floating, to see herself as Aphelia. In Aphelia’s hand was held the glimmering silver of Theran’s service tags, and the dead navigator reached out to pass them. Ellie received and a voice spoke across the gulf between them: “Look after him.”

Then she was flying, tumbling, headlong like a rush to reach a door in the dark. She knew it was there, knew that she would throw it open and there would be light….

The door opened.

And she tumbled to the cold, hard floor of a dimly lit toilet.

*  *  *

You okay?” said a familiar voice. Ellie looked up to see Merrietta standing over her, a concerned expression on her face.

“Merrietta?” Ellie asked, throat dry.

“Nope,” said the big woman and Ellie took in her black garb, the little pin badges and punk patches sown onto her jacket. “You need help?”

“Please,” said Ellie, grasping the woman’s outstretched hand.

“Had a bit too much, eh?”

“You could say that,” Ellie nodded. She was holding something in her hand, and the awareness of what had just happened was making her head spin. But she was clear-headed enough to keep it to herself. “Think someone spiked me,” she offered as a diversion.

“Bastards. If you see ’em let me know,” and the big woman clenched her fist up. “Good job I saw you stumble in here. Even better that you didn’t get proper roofied either.”

Ellie nodded, getting her feet under her, then lurched to the sink where she splashed water on her face. The Tide was already fading in her mind, the war and the cries…..

But the chain that was wrapped around her hand, and she gripped the service tags hard enough to bite her flesh. They were real. She couldn’t let go, not just yet. Sensing the other woman’s gaze on her she pocketed them and said, “That’s better. Think I got it out of my system before it could take full effect..”

“You sure you’re okay?” the woman asked. She looked dubious.

“Yeah, feeling much better,” Ellie replied, and she wasn’t lying. She really did feel a whole lot brighter and turned to smile at the giantess. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” replied the woman, then frowned and cocked her head to one side. “Do I know you?”

“I don’t think so,” Ellie replied with a shake of her head even as she could recall so many stories of their times together in that other world. Still smiling, Ellie shrugged. “Maybe we met somewhere before. I’m Ellie.”

Merrietta’s double smiled back and held out a hand. “Claudia.”

They shook hands, and Ellie had the feeling that they were going be good friends in this world too. “Do you like rum?” she asked.

Claudia smiled. “Who doesn’t?”

“I need a drink.”

“You sure?”

Ellie laughed. “After that close call, I think I can take just a little one.”

Together they headed off back to the bar.

*  *  *

Ellie paused at the entrance of the bar and scanned for any signs of the stranger that called himself Crow. In her hand she clutched the service tags as she held to the memories that were fading to something like a dream. With them she held an image of the feathered trouble maker. He had been in the bar and sent her into the other world where she had met the doubles of this life.

And perhaps even a double of Crow; the Tidecaller she had met was so familiar, so alike but yet so alien. Was his double a creature orchestrating a war against humanity? It begged the question of what Crow’s purpose in this world was, and why he had sent Ellie across.

It would be nice to tell Claudia about it, to confess everything, and although she found believing it easy, once she set about explaining the story would be transformed into something total insane. Right now it was inside her mind, and the tags in her hand made it real. Which also meant that Crow would appear, somewhere, at some time. He too was real.

She was sure she would find him.

“Two glasses of rum,” Claudia told the barman. He nodded. Claudia glanced at Ellie and grinned. “Make them doubles.”

A minute later they sipped rum and stared around the room, making small talk about the place. Claudia had been here several times before, knew a couple of people involved. They were the grand children of the locals who had fought the factory owners back in the day. Back then, pretty much everyone in the village had worked here, or in the dairy farms.

Then the factory folded. There were rumours of murder, and the workers unions had collapsed.

“These parties are like the last gasps of rebellion. Seems these days everyone just wants to get their face on social media and get paid for it doing it too.” Claudia threw back her rum. “All smoke and mirrors if you ask me.”

“So, do you work around here?”

Claudia gave Ellie a grin. “Only the best mechanic at the village garage. I can fix pretty much anything.”

Ellie grinned back. Of course you are.

“You?” Claudia asked.

“Just pointless office work. Pays the bills, you know?”

“Don’t you want to do something else?”

“Guess I never really though about it much.”

“Perhaps you should,” Claudia suggested. “A person needs a purpose or they’ll lose themselves.”

Ellie nodded, turning the glass of rum. It was true. For all the horror and death in the other world, there had been purpose, a sense of life’s value in the struggle. Going back to stale little office with its stale little people was suddenly its own little horror……

Claudia interrupted her thoughts. “Just a minute,” she said, heading for the toilet.

“Sure.”

Claudia wended her way to the door and Ellie turned back to the bar. “Two bee – ”

“Hello my little owl,” Crow said and cocked his head. “Do you have my shiny?”

Ellie stared at the dark orbs of his eyes as they regarded her and shivered. “Wait. Just one question.”

“Ah, you wish to know why?”

Ellie nodded.

Crow leaned back. “You probably think that you’re special.”

“Does this sort of thing happen to people on a regular basis then?” Ellie asked him back.

Crow chuckled. “Who knows the dreams of men and women? Perhaps your should be called homo oblitus, the forgetful ape.”

“I never dreamed of other lives.”

“How can you tell? Do you remember dreaming about frying an egg this morning?”

“I…..” Ellie’s voice trailed away. Maybe I did, she thought. But it didn’t matter. “That still doesn’t answer the question. Why me?”

Crow stared at her for a time, then shrugged. “Do you think that war is always so obvious?”

“Depends what you mean by war?”

“I mean the continuation of life.”

“And the Tide were the continuation of life?”

“As you saw, they are part of the life of that world.”

“And how is that relevant to this world?”

“I suppose it is a question of what will you fight for?”

“I fought for my friends.”

“And if there was a war here, a war that threatened your friends, you would fight it also?”

“I suppose I would, but this world isn’t the same, you said so yourself. Aphelia had a black and white choice, but this world is a dozen shades of grey.”

Crow grinned. “Is it? What if it is as simple a choice as life or death?”

“I would know.”

“Know what?”

“If someone was threatening to kill me.”

“Are you sure? Right now there are people in this world drilling into the earth and altering the planet perceptibly. This is a necrophilic culture, thriving only through the use of long dead things, turning their liquid bodies into fuel by which they convert more of the living world into dead objects for you to possess in your isolated lassitudes. Humanity had made the world conform to its designs, and as the whole world becomes a gilded cage where the rich and powerful perch above the many who are left to scrabble over the crumbs that fall from the table above.” Crow crossed his arms. “In the other world, you fought for your friends, you fought to the last. Why will you not do the same here?”

“You’re mad. The enemy was clearly in front of Aphelia. A horde of monsters. Where is the clarity here?”

“Perhaps it is clear, yet you refuse to see. Now, I have answered your question, and I want my shiny.”

Ellie clutched it tighter. “If I give this to you, will I forget everything?”

Crow shook his head. “The details perhaps, but the understanding? Deep down, are you the same person that went in?”

Ellie smiled. “I don’t think so.”

“And you always did know which way to go. You knew your way here, even though you didn’t want to come. You found your way back from between life and death. And now you’ve met Claudia, and you already sense that your life might find a new track.”

Ellie nodded. “I think your right. Nothing can be the same.”

“So follow your heart and fight on.”

Ellie held out the service tags. She had no need of them. In the other world Aphelia had found peace, and for Ellie she did not need the memories. She needed to act, to change. Crow smiled and accepted.

“I’m glad we understand each other. Now, how about I top your glass up?”

Ellie shook her head and put her hand over the glass. “I think I’ve had enough adventures for one night.”

“Ah, no matter,” Crow said with a shrug, then looked past her to the doors, “Ah, here comes your other half.”

Ellie looked over her shoulder, expecting Claudia, but it was Jon. He was radiating heat and elation, his hair a sweaty mess hanging over his badger mask. For a brief moment Ellie felt a stab of grief. She gasped a small breath and turned to look back to the barman.

But Crow was gone, His presence was like smoke slowly dissipating as Jon sat down on a bar stool next to her and drew her attention. “Hey, where’s you mask?”

“I must have dropped it in the toilet,” Ellie said, making to stand, but as she did so Claudia came back in holding the owl face in her hand.

“Did you drop this?”

“Who’s this?” Jon asked.

Ellie introduced them, and Jon shook Claudia’s hand. “Great party,” he said.

She shrugged. “It’s okay.”

“How about we get another round then?” Jon asked, undeterred. Together they ordered some more drinks from the barman who was watching them. For some reason Ellie had to suppress a little shudder, but for the life of her couldn’t remember why.

“So how’d your mask end up in the toilet?” Jon asked as they sipped some beer, “And how’d you two meet?”

Ellie glanced at Claudia, and for a moment there was a recollection, fading like a dream into the soft clouds of her memory. By the look on her face, Claudia felt it too. “It’s strange, but I feel like we’ve known each other years,” said Ellie.

“Yeah,” said Claudia, holding out the mask. “Perhaps it was just destiny, eh?”

Ellie smiled, taking the owl visage from her. “Yeah, something like that.”

And in the back of her mind, Ellie swore that she heard the rustle of feathers, like a bird taking flight.

Perhaps it was a crow.

Or maybe an owl.

The End


Well, that was a mission and a half – I hadn’t intended for it to end up like some kind of novella but that’s just the way it goes.

At this point I’m just glad to have finished, and now I can spend a little time thinking about what was right and what was wrong, but that’s a post for another day. It could certainly do with a proper edit – again, thank you to the guinea pigs who read through this draft.

Right now, I think it’s time to finish the edits to Red Star Rising and then I’ll try and get the reworking of the Mind-Thistle Run to you. I’ll also look to add a tab where roaming internet travellers can access the back catalogue of stories.

Anyhew, if you made it this far, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read through.

DJC

© 2020

Short Story (Part 4): When The Tide Comes In

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Part 4 coming in. Sorry for anyone waiting – doubly so because this is actually going to be the penultimate chapter. And I know that it’s more than a touch unpolished. Ultimately it’s more like getting ideas down for later. This story likely needs development in terms of plot and character, but as some would have it, “no work is without merit.”

So if you haven’t read the previous parts, you can check ’em here:

  1. Short Story (Part 1): When The Tide Comes In
  2. Short Story (Part 2): When The Tide Comes In
  3. Short Story (Part 3): When The Tide Comes In

Not sure what people make of it. Constructive criticism always welcome, or perhaps you’d like to see it in a more developed form? Let me know in the comments.

Cheers.


4

Aphelia looked down at Theran and smiled sadly. Shifting him had been like trying to move a sack of rocks. Now he lay on the grass pale and still, a piece of shrapnel lodged in his temple. There was not a lot of blood beyond what had leaked onto the sheepskin collar of his flying jacket.

She’d lost people before of course, they all had, and she had grieved for them, standing in the biting cold of the airfield as they saluted those killed in action. Last night they had lost at least four more squadron members, yet losing Theran was different. They had been so close, had loved each other certainly even though they had never been lovers. There was a partnership that went deeper than desire, and Aphelia wanted the empty space she now found insider her to be filled with something that reflected that; loss, rage or something, but instead she was suffused with a cool, calm melancholy.

Perhaps it was because she was a long way from safety, and a part of her had sealed it away until she could release it. So instead of digging for grief, she had instead laboured through the quiet of the night to haul the man from the downed biplane – she still had no idea how she had managed to land the thing without flipping it tail-over-engine – and when done she had slumped over him and passed out long enough for the sun’s light to touch her.

With the dawn there was warmth; not enough to remove the biting chill of night that still clung to her bare face, but a brightness that entered her soul as she looked up. Climbing up onto the wing of the downed plane she looked over the distance to the far, snow capped mountains and just for a moment there was nothing in the world but herself and the rising Sun, the pale sky ripening to a deep blue as lone clouds scudded along in the early breeze.

That was when she also been able to fully appreciate the scenery all around her. In the light of day it had taken her breath away despite being far into what must have been enemy territory, but also far beyond the retreating battle lines. This was the Tides land, a land that had been pounded with artillery, bombed and flamed and scoured until the troops and tanks had been pushed back by sheer weight of numbers. But of the scars, there was little beyond the dimples of craters now covered in a new skin of green grass, shoots and foliage. There were trees that had survived, not mere burnt skeletons but which were whole and budding! The land was repopulating with foliage like scar tissue growing over old wounds and bespeaking recovery.

Turning around she looked upon Theran. He lay on the grass as he had before, his still form clearer now that the Sun had risen, and all around him amongst the green she saw little white flowers pushing up and opening.

Aphelias, her namesakes.

The first flowers of Spring.

*  *  *

Despite the flowers, despite the beauty, Aphelia couldn’t stay. A part of longed to just sit down and stay, yet the fighting spirit in her wouldn’t allow it. The enemy would find her in the end and then she would be killed. So instead she would strike out towards the entrenched battalion who couldn’t be more than a dozen miles from her location.

She would take Theran with her, so set about building a sled to carry his body. There was splintered wood from the airframe, and the undercarriage had come away in one piece as the plane hit the dirt. Perhaps she could wheel him away.

As she worked the land was tranquil and quiet, so it was a surprise to her when she was disturbed by the sudden arrival of a trio of strange creatures. They were centaur-like, but their bodies were more bovine than equine, built more for labouring than for speed. Their torsos were covered in a rough, brown hide that bore long, multi-jointed arms in three pairs. Upon seeing her they emitted snorts and whistles of surprise, but they did not attack. In fact, they seemed more annoyed at the presence of the downed aircraft and quickly became engrossed in inspecting the biplane, prodding it and testing it’s resilience as they communicated to each other with shorts grunts.

Perhaps she could slip away…… but she wasn’t finished building the sled.

At that moment the creatures reached a consensus and suddenly attacked the biplane with co-ordinated vigour, pulling it apart with frightening ease. They ripped through the canvas and tore the wood frame to splinters. As they did so Aphelia dragged Theran’s body clear in fear that they might perpetrate some similar atrocity, but the act attracted the attention of one beast which trundled towards her.

Aphelia stood her ground. She would be damned if she would leave Theran’s body to the carrion things of the Tide and immediately drew her knife, fearing to use her pistol because of the noise. As the thing came closer she waved her arms and shouted, trying to shoo it away. It paused, and the three yellow eyes blinked in surprise. It snorted and grunted and reached forward, not for her but for Theran’s body. She slapped its grasping hand away, and the creature emitted a snort that sounded like annoyance. It’s three eyes regarded her, then poked a finger at her, grunting. She backed away, pulling Theran with her.

Still the creature came on, treating her as a hindrance rather than a threat. As it reached out she slashed at its arm with the knife, but the skin was thick enough to absorbed the cut, so instead she drove it full force into the hide bound arm. The creature bellowed and slapped her away. The blow was light, and she was pumping adrenaline as she screamed and charged, swinging and stabbing. This time the blow knocked the wind out of her and she crumpled to the ground, with a sob.

She wanted to shout, wanted to stand, but could only wheeze out the words, “Stop…. Leave him alone….”

The beast had picked Theran up with ease and was inspecting the deadman, almost muttering to itself. Aphelia drew the pistol now, aimed at the creatures lower chest and squeezed off a pair of shots.

The thing squealed, dropping the dead body and backed away, its hands touching the wounds as it stamped its feet. Yet, to her despair, it appeared to be relatively unharmed, and the other two were now coming to the aid of their companion.

It was the shadow that passed over them all that saved her. The three creatures paused, and everyone looked up at the wheeling carrion mount of the Tidecaller. It circled with avian grace and swooped down, landing lightly with a hop. It looked like a giant crow, and as it fluttered its wings and bent its head down, the Tidecaller dismounted, barking an immediate command that made the three beasts back away.

Aphelia watched him approach. He – if such a thing could be called a he – was robed in feathers like a cloak, their colour shifting from black to green to purple. Woven amongst it were thin vines sprouting small shoots and flowers. In a gnarled, feathered hand he bore a wooden staff while his face was as much a crow as the great carrion mount he had arrived on.

“You?” gasped Aphelia, the fuzzy image of the stranger in her dorm rising to her mind. But the creature did not reply, and instead cocked its head to one side. Aphelia braced herself. Was it looking at the stretcher? She sensed that it was, and was surprised when it commanded the attending creatures to bring her – of all things – the parts she might need.

Then the Tidecaller tipped his head and she understood what he was indicating: that she should continue.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked. The figure said nothing.

For a moment they stood regarding each other, Aphelia feeling studied by the dark orbits of the creatures eyes. Nearby the centaur things stood patiently while the carrion mount preened its feathers. The Tidecaller cocked it’s head. Was it amused? It gestured with a hand for her to continue, and in the absence of anything else Aphelia worked to finish lashing the sled together.

The worse thing about it was not a feeling of threat, but rather the sense that she was a child being observed by a teacher, as if this thing were going to grade her efforts. Still, it didn’t take her long to get it sturdy enough to bear Theran’s body, and lashing the harness she’d made from the parachute strapping over her shoulders she looked to the Tidecaller who nodded and gave a whistle.

In response the centaur things returned to breaking down the plane and the Tidecaller beckoned for her to follow, dismissing his mount with a gesture of his staff as he lead the way at a walk. The great carrion mount cawed with blood curdling fervour and took to the air with great beats of its black wings.

Taking a deep breath, Aphelia followed her strange intercessor, all the while wondering why this creature was taking her towards the entrenched soldiers….

It’s enemy.

Her comrades.

All she could think was that there was some sense of honour in the thing, some intellect that guided its actions in an alien manner she couldn’t understand because if the situation had been reversed she was sure that no mercy would have been given.

It didn’t matter. They would still be enemies, and whatever boon this thing perceived she deserved would not stop the war. So she trudged on, straining to haul Theran’s body over the grass as she promised herself that she would still fight to the death for humanities survival.

The march was hard on her neck and shoulders, but finding a rhythm she pushed on through the landscape as the day passed. Several times she heard the approach of creatures, some of them oddities like the centaurs, others equally strange and some mere tidlings, frenetic and giggling. But the Tidecaller waved them away, and the beasts would fall back and continue on their way without another word. Hours later, as the Sun arced overhead, they reached a strip of land bearing the clear ravages of conflict. On one side fertile grass, on the other a barren, bare earthy….

Like a border between two worlds, and perhaps that was why the Tidecaller stopped short of the divide.

Aphelia almost walked straight into the creature. With aching muscles she straightened and looked to where he was staring. Far off she could see the hill, the matchstick fortifications and the little ants toiling to reinforce their position.

The Tidecaller turned to her and tipped its head before walking back in the direction they had come.

“Thanks,” Aphelia muttered, “I guess.”

She watched the figure strolling away, wondering at the land of greenery and sunshine that was its domain. Envy curled inside her, because all she had ahead of her now was a trek across a blasted landscape. As she picked up the sled once more she heard the Tidecaller whistle once again, a high, piercing note.

She spared the thing not another glance, even when she heard the far cry of his carrion mount. Had it been shadowing them the whole way? She shrugged mentally and set her mind to the task at hand. She set to the burden again, noting the worse thing about taking a moments pause was how much heavier it felt when you started up again. Aphelia took a deep breath, and trudged towards the distant hill.

From somewhere behind her she heard the rustle of feathers and the caw of the Tidecaller’s mount as it landed, and all she could say to herself was, pity the bastard couldn’t have given me a lift.

*  *  *

The Sun was well on its way to the horizon as Aphelia pressed on through the pain and cramp in her neck and shoulders. It had produced a tight headache and terrible muscle pains, but she wouldn’t give up on Theran’s body. She would hold on to it until she was ready to let him go, and so she stumbled on into the waning afternoon, through the wasteland of scorched earth. Smoke drifted across her path and on the left she saw the remains of an armoured vehicle, half sunk in the dirt and bearing the marks of the Tide’s burrowing creatures.

Her mind a blank from strain and weariness, the sound of voices approaching was almost startling alien to her ears. Then the realisation: human beings! She stumbled, finally, as much from relief as exhaustion. The entrenched soldiers had sent out a patrol to meet her and they immediately took up the sled between two of them, while the other two draped her arms around their shoulders and bore her weight.

Into the gathering twilight they shuffled back towards the Hill as the Moon peeked over the distant horizon, a giant mottled peach.

Later, under it’s pale glare they would bury Theran in the makeshift graveyard on the hill and Aphelia, too exhausted to weep, would fall into a deep sleep, Theran’s service tags wrapped around her hand.

End of Part 4


If you’ve made it this far you must be digging it, and so all that remains is for you to move straight on into the finale, Part 5: When The Tide Come In

Peace.

DJC

Covidoverload: Thoughts On Coronaconspiracies

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The world is a bizarre place, filled with unknowable oddities and questionable realities, and adding to this is some of the strange posts that pop up from friends on things like Facebook. I’ve seen anti-vax Bill Gates stuff, the 5G effect with a side order of microchipping coming to a brain near you, the establishment’s deliberate over-estimation of deaths from what is ostensibly nothing more than a “mild flu”.

Then there’s the alt-medicine soap boxers who say that we don’t know anything about the virus so “I’ll just jump in here and say that viruses aren’t a thing” while a ton of ill informed invocations of Orwell get dumped into my feed without recourse to how power hierarchies manufacture our consent on a daily basis.

The internet has, as James Bridle says, opened the door on a new dark age of superstitions.

But don’t get me wrong – I completely agree with the idea that we can’t trust those in power, but what worries me is the impervious nature of these theories to anything resembling reasoned argument, and the way in which they invert the reality of a situation.

These ideas are literally turning everything on its head, and I might question as to whose benefit?

For example, the narrative that their grandad pegged it from lung cancer but the bureaucrat wrote Covid19 on the death certificate. Are they really trying to amplify the death toll? Why would they lie? It’s just the flu, after all.

Well, first thing is that the system is most likely underestimating deaths at this point. Cases such as care homes aren’t going into the system, at least not yet. And this isn’t just a flu, it’s way more deadly, and way more contagious, and when introduced to a medical system that is run on a capitalism business model that has stripped everything down to the bare requirements, the system gets overloaded.

(This is the same mentality as the office I worked in. Reduce staff to save money. You run a skeleton crew, but when someone goes sick while someone else is on holiday, the system falls apart).

When the curve rises too quickly, the hospitals can’t cope – then someone has to decide who goes into one of the few ventilators and who doesn’t. That would also be the ventilators that the government asked Dyson (a billionaire Tory donor by the way) to build. Meanwhile it’s clear that the EU reached out many times to the UK over this issue, but our government didn’t even return the call.

Back to the death certificates then – we might ask then where did this death certificate narrative come from? The answer appears to be that it originated from a right wing doctor who’s worried that we’re being terrorised into giving up our freedoms. She’s also an anti-vaxxer and a pro-lifer.

Once these narratives enter social media, they replicate like a virus through people’s feeds and help trigger symptoms of social unrest such as the protests in America where you can play spot the Gadsden flag.

One report claimed that after a week of such protests in Kentucky, the figures of Coronavirus infected rose dramatically. No surprises there then. Perhaps this virus is here to finish off the losers of the civil war? Let’s follow the breadcrumbs some more to the anti-governmental groups like the Oath Keepers who are ready for a show down with the shadow government of satanic paedophiles who are backed by the Democrats and who want to undermine Trump.

These are folk who have pledged whole-heartedly to the QAnon and Pizzagate stories, and when such narratives become deeply rooted you can surely believe that they are willing to manufacture the evidence to support their claims. So when someone asks “what reason do these people have to lie?” I think we can bridge the gap and acknowledge that humans are really good at lying for a variety of reasons, especially to back up their opinions in face of facts they don’t like.

And here’s a big wave to those Google researchers who spend hours searching for the answers that prove that everything they claim is true, and a big hello to all the real paedophiles in positions of authority who had the support of high ranking bureaucrats (ahem, Jimmy Saville).

Anyhew, when it comes to providing evidence that’s cherry picked, David Icke is a real master of it. He can make a narrative and find whatever information backs him up, and it can be as random and wild as you like because the internet is filled with “evidence”. It reminds me of the book Foucault’s Pendulum where the book editors are working on manuscripts from alchemists and occultist and realise that their “sources” are literally each others books. 

(Counter to this farming and framing of whatever suits your purpose, I was taught that a good scientist should always work hard to disprove a theory, and if it holds up to the rigours of testing, then you know you’re on the right track).

So here we have the strange fractal elements of the right wing in the US – the rural right wing who are anti-government and their poster boy Trump, facing off against a satanic illuminati pro-Democrat element of government while within government the two main parties are essentially different sides of the capitalist coin.

It’s so painful to wrap your head around it that it makes your brain hurt sometimes. So what these right wing folk want is the right to be free to go shopping for capitalist goods while fighting the system that is filling their supermarket with cheap goods for consumption. It’s wanting the cake and eating it without getting fat.

Oh, and making sure that the baker isn’t Jewish.

I suppose that I can at least give them credit that they know if you fight the state you’ll end up like Koresh, flushed out with tear gas and flamethrowered by Bradley tanks.

But how about over here in Blighty?

Are we going to have our liberty taken away?

What amuses me most about the posting of a hostile take-over and the end of civil liberties is the irony of sitting on your phone/computer/iPad and doing nothing but recycling social media posts – if you’re sitting at home posting on social media, then you aren’t really fighting the state: the wage slavery, the consumerist mentality, the urbanisation and privatisation of public spaces, the austerity and bare bones services while tax dodgers and billionaires drain us dry like the parasites they are. 

So just try organising an anarchist revolution and you’ll see how quickly the state deploys its violence against you to protect itself.

A good example came from a few years ago when there were several court cases brought by female activists against the government because men that they entered relationships with were actually undercover agents. Some even had children with these men before the agent just disappeared. The core of the cases were that sexual relations had been had under false pretense – basically rape.

That is the reality of (at least sections of) MI5 – they are quite willing to work against the public if that public threatens the gravey train.

On top of secret police we also have other aspects of a police state: we have the deaths of Ian Tomlinson who was standing in the street when a police officer struck him, resulting in his death. That officer was suspended and never given prison time for murder, which is what it basically was.

And what about Jean Charles De Menezes who was executed on a train? Ahem, and I quote:

In July 2006, the Crown Prosecution Service said that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any named individual police officers in a personal capacity, although a criminal prosecution of the Commissioner in his official capacity on behalf of his police force was brought under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, on the failure of the duty of care due to Menezes. The Commissioner was found guilty and his office was fined.

Fined? Just fined. An innocent man was murdered.The mind boggles.

I actually remember this incident quite vividly because I saw one of the very first reports where an eye witness stated that de Menezes was put on the floor and executed by a shot to the head. She never once re-appeared on subsequent reports.

(Side note for conspiracy fans, our current Labour leader Keir Starmer approved a decision not to prosecute any police over the controversial shooting in February 2009).

And what about the Integrity Initiative? A group funded by the Institute for Statecraft and who appeared to be a charity. A little digging turned up there address was an empty office and that they were farming lists of journalists who worked for the billionaire mainstream press. Nothing shady there then. They also appear to have their fingers in the pie when it comes to the very odd case of the Skripal poisoning – an event that has a D notice on it from the government which prohibits journalists from investigating the case and reporting on it.

A D notice is a DSMA-Notice, or a Defence and Security Media Advisory Notice that “requests” something not be divulged in the name of national security. That would be the  same D notice, one might add, that got served to the Guardian after the Snowden incident in 2013 and where they had the hard drives smashed up. Apparently the state has been spying on us, but found that most of us are just sending each other porn. Remember that?

The Integrity Initiative might also have something to do with Philip Cross, a Wikipedia editor that never takes a day off – even for Christmas – and who specialises in editing prominent left wing/socialist pages like Jeremy Corbyn where he removes information, but who is apparently nice enough to make positive edits to friends like journalist Oliver Kamm who worked for The Times. 

It’s unclear whether this is one man, a bot or a profile used by multiple persons, and it’s unlikely you’ll find out because Jimmy Wales – Wikipedia’s owner and overt fan of war criminal Tony Blair – claims that there’s nothing fishy about it even after several people posted him the evidence.

So when people invoke 1984 they usually do so without realising that the dystopia wasn’t a prophecy but simply a reality. They even bought Amazon Echo for their house and let it listen to them, data mining your life. Data is the new crude oil, after all. 

But I digress. The reality is that you’re not supposed to see the reality of a police state, and most of the time we’re too busy posting on social media, watching porn and buying cheap Amazon commodities while the media diverts our attention to the “others”, those pernicious enemies who are a different race, ethnicity, ideology or whatever.

It sows divisions between us and I might make the claim that conspiracy theories are themselves another tool to do so – after all, the jews are importing muslims to destroy white people and western civilisation! 

So yeah, I think we might consider that these sorts of stories are worth quite a bit to institutional power – it turns away public attention to something else, and blames someone else. For example, it’s possible that the 5G conspiracy originated with Trump in opposition to Huawei’s involvement in US infrastructure – essentially another anti-Chinese conspiracy – but I think the strangest element has been how you can just let the bubbling cauldron spill over as the volatile admixture takes on new and strange cocktails cooked up by the internet. 

Let’s look at how you can get Covid19 from 5G emanations.

This notion appears to arise from alternative health that is grounded in books such as Bechamp or Pasteur?” by Ethel Hume (and others) which rejects Pasteur’s findings regarding viruses as something that is transmitted. Instead, according to Bechamp, the body generates illness when it moves out of homeostatic balance due to poor diet, poor health and even those negative waves from 5G. All illness originated from within.

(Side note: Bechamp may actually have been on to something close to the understanding of the microbiome, and also in our evolutionary past virus DNA played an important part in the development of life).

From that starting point there is, of course, a truck load of homegrown variations and explanations and oh my fucking god! It’s so tiring trying to unravel the knots these people will tie you in if you go down that rabbit hole.

It’s clear from history that viruses are a thing, and have been defeated through proven methods. The fact that capitalist interests have distorted aspects of medicine is also not in debate, but the idea that the whole establishment is in league to screw you over is absurd and again turns reality upside down because the experts and institutes are often in conflict with the government – and in academic circles it’s not just medicine that is in friction with government – all of academia is conflicted by the capitalist business model and the pursuit of knowledge.

Again, the real problem is the prevalent socio-economic model that wants medicine subservient to profit and which has caused all sorts of terrible knock on effects. One that I recall clearly is tuberculosis – remember that? It’s still around – and the way in which it spread in prisons in Eastern Europe and Russia. The treatment’s price meant that supplies was sporadic, and so prisoners got only half the doses before being released (many were only held for short periods because they were not guilty of anything than wrong place, wrong time) – the result was that TB had a chance to adapt and then spread to the families when the prisoner returned home.

Thus drug resistant TB came to be a real problem.

So, the question now is whether we should refuse the academic body of knowledge of decades of research in thousands of papers in favour of a few dissident voices? For some reason the thinking is that the few must be telling the truth because they are being side tracked. Or is it that they are actually wrong and they are encouraging dangerous behavior?

Let’s have a little look at my favourite kinds of crazy, and a somewhat ironic criticism that Chinese herbal medicine is somehow backward, superstitious or hokum. That’s right, if you think it’s crazy to gargle with a tiger’s testicle (making sure the tiger isn’t still attached) to cure Covid19 then how about the alternative US remedy? Try putting droplets of bleach up your nose and in your eyes! That’s right, you can buy MMS – miracle mineral solution – and gargle with it according to Jim Humble, a man who by his own account lived with aliens on another planet.

Sounds legit, right? Oh, did I mention I just made the tiger testicle thing up? It might, or might not, be true. I don’t know.

Or how about the story that the French government had to put out a statement saying that cocaine doesn’t cure Covid19.

Really? Sounds like a cure to me…..

Well, I’ve been rambling a while now and what I really just want to say is, I get it. I get the appeal of the narratives. I myself read Icke’s Biggest Secret when I was a fledgling, and I understand the feeling of revelation, the sense of knowing something that makes the world easier to understand.

But my second thought was to go away and check the data. It was this, along with my interest in shamanism, aliens and archaeology that lead me to study anthropology. So in a sense I can say thank you to conspiracy theories for giving me narratives that were different to the mainstream, but even these narratives are not enough because they themselves mystified power while providing an ego boost. Real academic work should demystify reality, not shroud it in ever greater layers smoke and mirrors.

That in itself should tell us something about the reason why governments like conspiracy theories – because they obscure genuine analysis of power structures in favour of shape shifting, interdimensional repitilians wearing humans like space suits…… although I can totally see the appeal that some of our leaders might be inhuman baby eaters.

The reality is that our governments have handle the situation with epic ineptitude and complacency, using the media to divert attention away from the systemic flaws of capitalism and their own social Darwinist, laissez faire attitudes towards a pandemic that the World Health Organisation warned them would be serious.

Oh, and that would be the WHO who is underfunded and who was routinely ignored, not the WHO who are a front for billionaire Bill Gates so he can get you all microchipped and turned into robots. As I said earlier, not sure why these Bond villains would bother enslaving us when were all sitting at home regurgitating endless memes on social media instead of a organising a revolution for fully automated gay space communism.

Finally, and most importantly, this is not a dig at everyone who indulges in these narratives – I have friends who do, and I know that they are well intentioned, caring and concerned. They are looking for answers that clarify the world because it is reassuring to be in the know, and they hold to ideals of liberty, peace and love.

Nor are they wrong that authoritarian power will seek to capitalise on a crisis even as the global system goes into shock (and just look at oil prices!).

So perhaps it’s for the best that people have been kicked out of a rut and many have found a sense of agency within their communities, or have found time to reflect on where we are at this point in history, and still others have had their true worth revealed as they work on the front lines.

Like many who might wait for the aliens to come down, or the revolution to rise up, or cosmogenesis and angels to appear, I hope that out of this mess there is a better future coming closer every day.

Peace.

DJC


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Short Story (Part 3): When The Tide Comes In

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Continuing the story, Aphelia has a conversation with a familiar (and rather odd) barman before taking to the air on her resupply mission. Sorry if it needs a little more work – you’re really my beloved guinea pigs for these drafts.

Be sure to catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t:

  1. Short Story (Part 1): When The Tide Comes In
  2. Short Story (Part 2): When The Tide Comes In

And if you want to let me know what you liked, or didn’t, then throw in a comment.

Enjoy!


3

Aphelia lay on her side in her dormitory bed, unable to sleep. Across from her, Merrietta lay on her own bed, limbs draped over it’s edges as she snored. Between them was the bottle of rum, half empty and resting on the bedside cabinet they shared. She hadn’t drunk a lot, just enough to warm her against the oncoming chill of night and put her into a light doze.

Yet the knowledge that the mission bell would ring had kept her awake, the anticipation of its chimes making it near impossible for her brain to shut down. Instead she stared at the label on the rum. It was probably one of the very last bottles left in the whole world, and the thought stirred a shadow of a memory. It flitted through her mind. There had been a bar….. somewhere. It was indistinct. There was a stranger who had served her rum and beer, but didn’t want the money she had tried to pay with.

“It’s not shiny enough,” the bartender had said.

Perhaps it had just been some sort of dream. Aphelia drifted through soft, floating memories of another place…..

She was riding in a car through the afternoon sunshine, all rolling hills and woodland. The coming of Spring was in still in the air even as the Moon swung into view; low in the sky, round and pregnant. Theran was driving, but he looked younger and as strange as he looked, the landscape itself was baffling her because there were no signs of war, no craters or skeletal trees, no blasted scars marring a tortured landscape. It was a world untouched by the hordes of creatures that had swept in relentless waves over the face of the civilised world.

It almost lifted her heart, but where she should have been happy, instead she was resentful about something. Yes, she was annoyed because there were going to some old factory and a party where she was supposed to wear a mask. She wanted to go somewhere else, but Theran had insisted and passed her a likeness of a bird. The memory shifted and she caught an image of herself in a mirror: the head of an owl, big eyes in an oval face. She blinked and looked around. She was standing at a bar lit by strings of little lights hung from the walls, incense coiling in the air and a muffled thud of music from somewhere nearby…..

Someone said a name. “Ellie?”

She blinked. The barman had his head cocked on one side, giving her a strange look. Despite the empty, black eyes and the bleached bone of his skull, she was sure that she knew him. “You?”

“Me?” replied the bartender quizzically. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Who are you?”

The stranger cocked his head. “I seem to remember having this conversation before. You can call me Crow, but I think you already knew that, hmmm?”

Waves of memories suddenly crashed against each other in her mind, a tidal collision that tossed her soul on the crest of the wave. Ellie shuddered and put out a hand to steady herself on the bar. This place was so familiar, how was it that she felt that she had been lost in some other world, lost in some sort of nightmare about a war?

“I was dreaming…..”

“A dream? Indeed,” replied Crow. “Want to tell me about it?”

The initial swell of conflicted memories subsided, like a wave pulling away from the beach to reveal freshly washed stones. Each one was a little piece of a life Ellie knew, but mixed into were other memories that she could simply reach out to and pick up.

Each one was a recollection from those eddying currents of that strange dream world….

“Go on,” Crow insisted. “Tell me what you remember of the other place.”

“It’s not real. Just a dream.”

“I thought it was a war. You’re aircraft was downed, but you survived.”

“Yes…..” Ellie wasn’t sure. She shook her head as if to clear the confusion.

Crow continued, “You remember the details clearly enough, don’t you, Ellie?”

“But this is where I belong,” she retorted. “I know this place.”

“Humour me. Tell me of this other world that you dreamed about. All you need do is reach out to them.”

She knew she shouldn’t, and as much as Crow was insistent, it was her curiosity that won over: her name Aphelia and she had been a teenager when it had all started. The first signs had been worrying news broadcasts that talked about a possible toxic spillage, but it was quickly apparent that there was something else going on. The government had a project that was digging a super deep mine to extract the crystals that lived at great depth in the mantel of the planet, drilling deeper and deeper until something bubbled up out of the ground and attacked the machinery and their operators.

The old footage had become required viewing by the time she joined the military effort, a scene filled with the same scrabbling madness, the flailing limbs and manic faces as the creatures who had engulf the biplane. They surged forth, perhaps from a hollow world as some had it, or perhaps they were aliens or the product of a dozen different, bizarre theories. The scientists had analysed what they could, and determined that the things were biological, but like nothing they’d seen before. Given their number and swarming behaviour, they had been dubbed The Tide and they were numerous beyond imagining.

The bizarre goblin gaggle of limbs and laughter had been joined by great lumbering beasts like golems of living rock that had been like living bulldozers, and a myriad of other bizarre things that digested concrete and steel, things that killed themselves throwing their bodies into the engines of jet planes while the tales of deep sea terrors like the Kraken had come to life as great tentacled beasts dragged shipping to the ocean floor.

And flying above the ever entrenching Front had come the Tidecallers, the only creatures that might have been thought to have some sort of human equivalence to intelligence. They were humanoids, shrouded in armoured plates of dark bone or bark who flew astride great feathered, fire breathing carrion mounts. Despite their best efforts, the military had never caught one of these creatures, nor had they ever attempted to communicate with humanity.

The war raged on, and after the shock of the initial assault waned, humanity had retaliated by bombing huge swathes of the tidlings, striking against the greater beasts with their heaviest weapons and searching for ever more ingenious ways to attack the creatures. Yet there had been no end to them and eventually the system became so strained by internecine warfare that it had recycled every last piece of civilisation in order to survive, turned every citizen to a soldier.

Aphelia had been a trainee pilot when the war started, and that had earned her a place in the auxiliary pilots corps, eventually bringing her into the primary force as crews dwindled. A few short years later she had arrived at Bastion which had now held for three years, its foundations apparent proof against attack from below, and time and again had survived the enemy where it had broken through the Front. Yet the Tide never relented, and the Front was a forever shrinking cordon.

“How long will they hold?” Ellie asked Crow.

Crow shrugged. “Days? Weeks?”

She wanted it to not be true, but she had been part of the fight long enough to know that it was hopeless. The Tide couldn’t be stopped, no matter how many you killed; they just kept coming. They were monsters, devils that had escaped the bowels of Hell itself.

“I prefer the term anti-bodies,” said Crow conversationally as he wiped the bar, then placed a glass and a bottle of rum beside it. “Drink?”

She nodded, silent as she tried to process all the material passing through her mind. “B-but what about this life?”

“This life?” Crow mused as he poured. “And what is this life you talk of? The life of a British urbanite? Did you really live in some small, dirty estate on the edge of the big city? A place riven with division against ephemeral enemies that you are either unaware of or cannot comprehend? A world where you can access information at the press of a button, yet still ignorance persists? It is a world of blurred lines and uncertainty, a world that surely must be some fevered dream compared to the war, where there is no need to sift through the endless flow of information buzzing between fuzzy lines: you fight the Tide, you fight for life. How could that not be real?”

Ellie stared at him, and Crow smiled. Was he right? The memories stood in stark contrast, and she was drawn more easily to those of fighting; they were so much simpler to comprehend, the people so bold and courageous in their struggle. They gave their heart and soul to arrest the onslaught. What was real was the war, the coming mission, the comrades struggling against the Tide.

And so Aphelia grabbed the glass of rum and threw it back.

Crow cleared his throat. “I haven’t been completely honest,” he said. “You see, this isn’t a case of one thing being real, the other not. It is foolishness to simply dismiss one as a dream, the other as real. What exists are mere tangents of your soul.”

“Tangent of my soul?” Aphelia frowned. “What does that even mean?”

Crow sighed and picked up the bottle of rum. “Let us assume that can accept that there are other realities?” Aphelia nodded. “Then why would it be so hard to think that your being, the essence of your soul if you will, exists in tandem with them?”

Aphelia shook her head. “That’s doesn’t make sense. If a person has a soul, then surely they have one only.”

“I never said you didn’t,” said Crow as he poured himself a drink, “But think of it like this. If you stand in a river, are you not both above and below the water.”

“Yes….. I suppose I see what you are saying, but why? Why would you show me this other world.”

“Well,” Crow replied, appearing slightly embarrassed. “There is a little matter of payment.”

“What?”

He leaned over the bar and poked a finger at her. “I want my shiny. You still owe me.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? I have no money here. We are at war.”

“Oh indeed you are. Remember that before you surrender to the inevitable.”

“I’ll never surrender!” Aphelia snapped.

Crow chuckled. “Spoken like a true warrior. Perhaps you’ll win the day after all.” Then he threw back the rum and disappeared. The glass hung suspended for but a second before tumbling to the floor and shattering, making Aphelia start awake. She looked around the dormitory, but it was empty. On the floor lay a shattered glass, and the sound had stirred Merrietta too.

“Wha – ?!” the engineer mumbled, rolling onto her side. Her one open eye focused on Aphelia.

“It’s okay,” Aphelia said to her with a sad smile. “Just an accident. Go back to sleep.”

*   *   *

The night had drawn down as the Moon had risen, full once more and there was not a cloud in sight. The temperature had fallen off and frosted the small windows of the dormitory where Aphelia, shaken by the strange dream, had briefly dozed off only to be awoken by the mission bell. The pale light glowed through the patina of ice and she saw that Merrietta had already upped and gone.

She dressed quickly and went in search of her friend in the hangars. It didn’t take long to find the ever smiling engineer doing pre-flight checks on the instrumentation, fuel and under wing mounts.

“You are awake!” smiled the giantess. Her breath made great plumes in the air. “You come back safe my little flower, dah?”

“Little flower?” Aphelia frowned.

Merrietta shook her head, smiling in bemusement. “Your nickname. It’s what I always call you.”

“Of course,” Aphelia smiled. She wondered why this had slipped her mind; her parents had named her after the first flowers of spring which were blooming on the day of her birth. “Where’s Theran?”

Merrietta shrugged. “He was standing out on the strip earlier, waiting for us. He’s eager always to be up in the air.”

Yes, thought Aphelia, he is. He enjoyed the freedom of the air, being above it all and getting a chance to rain fire down on the enemy. He still hoped, still believed that the Tide could be turned. Aphelia sighed. The fight was keeping the creatures at bay, but how long could they keep it up?

It wasn’t a thought to dwell on, especially now that she could hear the Cleric preaching to the work crews in the adjacent hangar: “….. and there will come a day when the enemy falters, a day when their numbers will thin, and if we have been too easy on ourselves in this purgatory, then what good shall it do us? We strive for our very survival! So rally your spirits! Those that do not fall will know that they have been blessed to carry on the light of the human spirit! Fight on, for who knows what tomorrow will bring!”

As the loading crew began to affix their payload, a familiar voice called out, “Ready for the off?”

Aphelia and Merrietta turned to see Theran strolling up. He was grinning with a maniac gleam in his eye.

“What’s so funny?” Aphelia asked.

“Oh, nothing much. Just that there isn’t a cloud in the sky.”

It was true, and all she could say to herself was “Great!” as she rolled her eyes. There was nothing they could do about it, Aphelia reflected. It was in the lap of whatever benevolent powers were watching over them to give them safe passage. There were soldiers on the ground relying on them, and they had their orders.

“Good to go!” shouted one of the loading crew. Theran gave him the thumbs up.

“Looks like we’re all ready,” he said. He checked his watch. “No point hanging around. Let’s get this over with, then we can get ourselves loaded up with something a little more explosive.”

With a grin, he hugged Merrietta and climbed up into the cock pit, and with one last embrace Aphelia bid the engineer farewell and followed Theran into her seat. Theran gunned the engine and the propeller became a blur. A moment later and it was chocks away.

The plane taxied to the strip and joined the other half dozen biplanes waiting for the off. Theran and Aphelia waved to the other crews as they waited for the signal, Aphelia’s leg twitching with nerves. This was always the worse part, waiting for take off out here on the strip. Once they were in the air they would be above the world and she could busy her mind with the navigation.

She didn’t have to wait long. A flare shot up and the biplanes set off, trundling down the grass runway, bumping along as they gained speed, then with a little wobble Aphelia’s stomach lurched and they were climbing up into the sky to join the Moon.

*    *   *

The drawback of a clear sky was also the only benefit: they could see you, but you could see them. At least that was the theory.

It started as an itching on the back of her neck as she hunched over her map and compass, out of the wind with a small torch focused on the details. They were on course – and there wasn’t a one in her squadron who would have doubted her intuition on that whether she had a map and compass or no – and after an hour and a half’s flight they would make deployment in maybe another half hour. But something was bothering her, and she started to scan the skies for a threat.

Nothing.

She leaned forward and shouted her fears to Theran. He nodded and radioed the others. No one could see anything, but the unease amongst the squadron was growing palpable. You could feel it, that sense that someone was watching you……

Another ten minutes went by.

Aphelia shivered and cursed. To take her mind off it she set about checking for a course correction which she knew she didn’t need to make.

And that was when the roar of flames churned the air in a blazing streak, lighting the night sky around them.

A giant avian shadow sped past and disappeared back into the night as the squadron peeled away from each other in emergency manoeuvres. One of their number was burning, the wood and canvas biplane ablaze. Aphelia craned her head and watched in horror as it spiralled out of control, heading for the earth. The crew had jumped but everything was burning, and they were nothing more than blazing candles hurtling toward the ground, parachutes brief wicks fluttering into petals of embers blown on the breeze.

And somewhere out there the great bird wheeled and made another pass.

Aphelia’s heart pounded, every second an agony of expectation as her eyes scried the darkness for their attacker, and when the night lit up again she flinched, her scream swallowed as Theran jammed the stick over and they rolled away. Her head wheeled and she saw a flash, and as they exited the roll her eyes were drawn to the plane that was descending on them, it’s crew jumping from the burning wreck. This time they were lucky enough to make it out before the flames engulfed the plane, but as the doomed aircraft slashed past on the left the fuel tank ignited.

Their own plane gave a little jolt, and she saw Theran slump forward. The nose dipped and they went into a dive that threw her back even as she reached forward to grab his shoulder. Her hand caught his collar and with all her strength she hauled him back from the controls. He was heavy, but with one hand holding his collar, she used the other to take the spare controls and level the biplane out.

Breathing hard, they were stable and Aphelia spared a quick glance around for pursuing danger.

She couldn’t see anything, but the tension wouldn’t relent and the ache of her muscles was beginning. She didn’t have long before she’d have to let Theran go, and she prayed that he was just unconscious. If he woke up in the next couple of minutes…..

But if he didn’t then she better get prepared. They were flying low now, and she needed to get her orientation. Her thoughts turned to the target. They had been quite close to the drop, and she might still manage it. She closed her eyes and breathed. They were close, very close. She had a release on the payload, and she could still make the drop.

If the worse came to the worse she might be able to ditch nearby and take refuge with them. She flew on, flinching as something lit the night, but it had dropped behind and she was moving away from the horror, skimming the wasteland towards the troops.

A flare went up, and she allowed herself a tight smile. With all her strength she guided the plane towards the entrenched soldiers. They were dug in and barricaded on a hill small hill, and as she skimmed the top of it she could see men waving.

The pain in her arm was almost numb now, but she was going to make the drop. Releasing the payload as she buzzed past, there was a moment of relief and triumph waxing in her heart.

She had done it.

The only question now was whether Theran would wake up? For all she knew he could be dead – pleasepleaseplease don’t be dead – but there was no way to tell without climbing forward, and the failing muscles in her arm told her that in a minute she lose her grip on him.

She banked around, intending to try and land as near the troops as possible. After all, there was a relief mission attempting to break through for them. If she could reach them, she might still make it back to Bastion.

At that moment the engine spluttered and Aphelia’s eyes went to the fuel gauge and saw that it had hit empty – whatever had hit Theran must have hit a fuel line or something.

She fancied that she could hear cruel laughter a moment before the engine died and she was suddenly gliding down through the night and into a no man’s land lit by a bulbous, glowing Moon.

End of Part 3


Find out just what happens as the tide comes in for the penultimate chapter!

Read Part 4: When The Tide Comes In now!

DJC

Short Story (Part 2): When The Tide Comes In

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Last week our intrepid party-goer Ellie met a rather curious bar-tender and found herself in a bit of a pickle as she hit the bathroom floor. The question is, where did she wake up?

(What do you mean you didn’t read last weeks installment? What are you waiting for, it’s right here: When The Tide Comes In Part 1)

And so the story continues……


2

Ellie remembered a bathroom floor.

Had she managed to throw up?

She was groggy, but the cold air blowing in from the car window was bringing her around from some nightmare about an old aeroplane. The car bucked and bounced through a pot hole. Jon must have found her and they were on their way home….

Next to her she heard voices speaking low.

“Jon?” she murmured, still half gone.

Damn, it felt cold. Didn’t he have the heating on?

Her eyes cracked opened in search of the window winder but instead found the cramped interior of a truck. The sound of its heavy engine surfaced through the haze of her thoughts as a sudden wave of cold morning air swirled in under the heavy canvas covering. The chill snapped her fully awake; she was wedged between two soldiers, and her head throbbed with a persistent ache. She reached up and probed the bandage gingerly.

“What the f – ?”

The truck bounced through a deep pot hole, nearly pitching her to floor but for the strong hand that held her steady. She looked into the face of the soldier next to her, weariness and resignation haunting his face. He nodded at her and went back to staring at the floor.

Ellie took a deep breath and closed her eyes against the vertigo rising up through the soles of her feet. There had been a bar…. the pill….. Was she still tripping? Dreaming perhaps? But it was all so real as she looked around at the soldiers, eyes glazed and staring at nothing, rifles held across laps or stood upright between their legs. No one seemed to have the energy to speak beyond a few mutters of gratitude for the pack of cigarettes being passed around like a form of communion, and she wasn’t about to refuse this small salvation from absurdity. The soldier next to her struck a match, lit up and offered her the flame.

She nodded her thanks and a moment later sat back with eyes closed against the weightlessness of her mind. She felt like a dandelion seed desperately clinging to its stalk while the wind howled and raged…..

*   *   *

It was the voice, not the name it called, that roused from the vague respite of slumber.

“Aphelia?”

Ellie stared into Jon’s face, but the schism in her mind was prepared this time. The man standing over her wasn’t the same Jon she knew: he wore a flying jacket similar to hers, his hand gripping the overhead rail as he looked on her with grave expression. Despite the knowing that it wasn’t him she couldn’t hold the name back, “Jon?”

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked. “It’s me, Theran.”

“S-sorry…. I…..”

“And who’s Jon?” Theran asked with a smile trying to cover his worry.

“No one, I…. I just got confused.”

“Not to worry. We’re nearly back.”

“Good,” Ellie replied, closing her eyes again. She took a deep breath to steady herself, and searched through her mind for the thread of reality that told her this was all a dream, but instead there was only a void, and she was floating between two memories: both were hazy, like dreams, and she didn’t know which one to go to any more. When she tried to retrace her steps, the place she wanted to go to receded further away until the memories she tried to coax from her brain just seemed like faint after images; she’d been at a party, with other people somewhere, and there had been a stranger in dark clothes. He had given her something and she had woken up here….

Or she had been in a plane crash and just dreamed about a party. That was the more probable explanation. As she wrestled with her thoughts the truck started to slow until it halted and soldiers began to stand, shuffling about and jumping out the rear.

“Like the fucking Matrix or something….” she muttered and opened her eyes to find Jon – no, Theran – staring at her with concern.

“What’s the Matrix?”

She frowned. “You know, I can’t remember. It’s a…. book, maybe?”

“The medic said you might have a mild concussion,” he said.

Ellie shook her head. “I don’t think that’s the problem….”

“You’ll be fine,” said Theran with a wide grin. “Which is good, because we’ll have to be back in action for tonight.

“Tonight?”

“Aye, can’t be flying without my navigator.”

“Navigator?”

“I swear, you must have bumped your head harder than I thought,” he chuckled and jumped down from the back of the truck. “Come on, it’s not much of a trek back.”

Ellie got up and followed Theran to the rear of the truck, hopping down onto a hard packed, gravel strewn road. As she stood in the morning light there didn’t seem too much out of the ordinary. The land here was a mossy heathland, purple heather and soft clouds scudding across the chill sky. The confusion she had felt was like a lurking discomfort, but every time she passed through it her mind became clearer: how could she have forgotten that she was Theran’s co-pilot and navigator? They had flown over a hundred night missions in their time together. Last night they had been on the return from bombing the hordes of creatures collectively known as the Tide when an engine failure had forced them down. They had been lucky to ditch on their side of the Front.

“Stand clear!” someone shouted, snapping her out her recollections as the truck ambled off in an arc, heading back the way it had come; it was heading back to retrieve more of the soldiery as they fell back. Ellie watched it dwindle away, passing an approaching truck laden with more retreating troopers, then she turned to follow Theran up the road –

– and gasped.

“What’s the matter?” asked Theran. “You look like you’ve never seen home before.”

They were a good mile off yet still the edifice’s tiered walls rose immense against the sky, bristling with artillery emplacements and gun platforms. The bulk of it was sunk into a rocky cliff face, and access was across a bridged chasm and through a heavily fortified gatehouse. This was the last redoubt of human courage, the hardened spirit of survival made from concrete and steel. It’s walls were thick enough to resist anything that the Tide had thrown at it, and it’s cannon barrages could pound any attack for mile upon mile, thinning their numbers with each step forward.

For a moment she stood amazed, as if she really hadn’t seen it before, but the fortresses name sprang instantly to mind, as if it had been there all along like a book forgotten on a shelf just waiting for her finger to run the length of its spine.

Bastion; last redoubt of a beleaguered humanity.

Aphelia was home.

*   *   *

Via the bridge and through the gatehouse, Aphelia and Theran made their way through the armoured bulk of the fortress for over two miles until they reached the enclosed airfields on the other side. Row upon row of assorted biplane stood waiting, engineers and crews working on those that had made it back and those that were to fly soon. These represented the last of their airborne capabilities, a hodgepodge of retrofitted civilian aircraft, trainers and purpose built scout bombers.

It was a scene so familiar that Aphelia wondered how she could have ever been confused about where she belonged. It was her workaday world, the reality she had lived for years as she and Theran bombed the advancing Tide over and over, sometimes flying three, four, even five sorties in any twenty four hour period until they bought themselves respite for a week, maybe two. Even so, the Front was a constantly shrinking series of trenches as humanity slowly retreated from the apparently unending numbers of the enemy.

The weight of that knowledge settled on her then, the nudging worry that the enemy was getting closer and closer, day by day. Yet somehow this place had become a mental fortress against the creep of an inevitable end. It’s walls were high and thick, impervious like its defenders.

So too did they had food, water and enough raw materials and manufacturing capability to last many more years. The notion that they could hold was reinforced upon them every day by the sermons of the Clerics who rallied spirits with their exhortations to not lose hope, to fight on, for the enemy must have its limits and it was humanity’s task to rain fire on the unholy creatures until those limits were found, until their numbers ran dry. It was a burden that Theran embraced with casual enthusiasm, dragging Aphelia in his wake day in and day out.

And right now he was gearing up to take them straight back out there, despite ditching in the field and with a navigator-cum-co-pilot who might have mild concussion. It had clearly caused some sort of strange bifurcation of her thoughts when she had bumped her head, but she was fine now, wasn’t she? As her comrades in the hangars hailed them with cheers she was certain the fugue in her mind had passed off.

“Aphelia! Aphelia!” roared a woman who looked like she could wrestle a bear. The ground veritably shook as the giant engineer Merrietta came running and scooped her up in her arms. “Dah! When I heard you had were down I feared the worse, but here you are with a head wrapped in bandages.”

“It’s nothing,” said Aphelia.

“Nothing? Pah!” snorted Merrietta and poked a finger at Theran. “I told this buffoon that the kite needed more work. Now he has lost us a plane and nearly lost us you.”

“Hey,” Theran held up his hands, “It wasn’t a complete waste. I managed to radio in the movement through the Gottane Valley.”

Merrietta nodded. “Dah, they are squeezing us tighter and tighter. I hear most of the troopers made it out.”

Theran smiled. “So, one plane for how many soldiers?”

“I’ll let you have this one then,” replied Merrietta and crossed her arms, returning her eyes to Aphelia. “More importantly, if you hadn’t made it back, then you were going to leave me that bottle of rum, dah?”

Aphelia grinned. “No chance of me not coming back while there’s still a drop of that left. I could use a glass right about now.”

“That,” Theran interjected, “Will have to wait until after we make a report to the captain.”

Aphelia groaned as Theran began to drag her away, and all she could do was give Merrietta an apologetic shrug before falling in line with Theran as the engineer waved and went back to her tasks with a rueful smile.

In the middle ground of the hangars stood the aerial command bunker, and together the pair descended through cordons of guards and officials, down corridors lined with bare bulbs hanging from cords. They were directed to a briefing room where Captain Nerrund sat amid a whirl of paperwork; he was the eye of a storm as his three secretaries organised, tidied and redeployed orders and communiques before they were lost to the constant threat of over-spill.

Theran knocked and the whirlwind paused. A moment later they stood before Nerrund who had suddenly become an isle of calm peering over his steepled fingers with faint gratitude.

“Good to have you back. You were instrumental to our successful withdrawal.”

“Thank you sir,” Theran saluted. Aphelia followed suit.

“And,” Nerrund continued, “I can see you’re ready for more.”

“Of course sir.”

“What about you?” Nerrund asked Aphelia. “You have a head wound?”

“Just a bump,” Aphelia replied. “I’m fine.”

Nerrund sighed. “I’ll have to take your word for it because tonight you’ll be flying resupply.”

“Fly by?”

Nerrud nodded and Aphelia groaned. “Fly by” meant skimming the ground and dropping supplies literally on top of the friendlies. While she had never missed a target, it was the most stressful kind of mission because you couldn’t make a mistake.

That, and the fact that there were Tidlings that could jump high enough to reach the plane. She’d seen it happen before: a crew in front were intercepted by dozens of creatures resembling giant, multicoloured frogs. They came arcing through the air like a jet of water, splashing over the plane and causing it to plummet. Theran and Aphelia has pulled up just in time to escape a similar fate.

“Who are they?” Theran asked.

“We have an outpost in the Chencorn Pass that was cut off. They’re still broadcasting, and the main flow of the Tide is heading past them on the east side. We’ll try and give them enough time for us to move the 7th Artillery Battery up from Pallasad and clear a path for them. So once you resupply you’ll be flying straight back out and pounding the Tide to stem the flow on the eastern side.”

“Very good sir. Who’ll be flying cover?”

“Sorry,” Nerrund shook his head. “You’ll be flying without escort.”

“That’s madness,” Theran retorted, then remembered himself, “Sir.”

“It’s unfortunate, but nothing I can do. We’re low on numbers and I need them covering the artillery.”

“But – ”

“Those big guns are sitting ducks, while you have the advantage of speed over the enemy.”

“No good if we fly straight into them. It’s a full moon out there, and they’ll see us coming if they’re looking.”

“Of course,” sighed Nerrund, trying not to bristle. “I don’t like it any better than you do, but we’re stretched and there’s a whole battalion of troops out there. I have to weight the risks – a half dozen resupply planes against the loss of an artillery battery and a battalion of men. I’m sorry, but I can only do what I can do. You’ll have to pray that it clouds over.”

“But sir – ”

“Dismissed!” snapped Nerrund in a voice that brooked no argument. Everyone stiffened. Theran’s jaw bunched and he looked like he was chewing a mouthful of bees as Nerrund added. “You’ve got six hours to rest, so I suggest that you make the most of it.”

“Yes sir.”

The pair saluted and made to leave.

“And Aphelia,” Nerund called after her, “Get that head of yours looked at.”

“Yes sir.” With a casual salute she pulled the door closed behind her and found that Theran had disappeared. She sighed, and went to find Merrietta.

It was time for that glass of rum.

End of Part 2


Check out the next episode as our heroine has an (un)expected visitor and takes to the air in Part 3: When The Tide Comes In

Hope you’re all keeping sage and sane out there.

Peace.

DJC


Short Story (Part 1): When The Tide Comes In

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No nice way of saying that many of us are having a right crap time of it. Here in England the weather has decided to be a bastard and churn out some clear blue skies while the populace goes on lock down.

As for myself, it’s been difficult to write much with my little boy at home (along with everyone else), but I’ve managed to put together a little something.

It was always a plan to write something seasonal along the lines of the Christmas Crow story I wrote a while back, but there are a load of excuses for why it didn’t work out.

However, this story seemed to come together, so over the next month I’ll be posting it in sections to give me time to finish all the edits etc.

Enjoy!


1

The sun was setting in an orange haze beyond the rolling hills of southern England, its light hitting the pregnant belly of the Moon. Under its pellucid light a car wended down narrow country roads, a young woman in the passenger seat staring out the window into the night sky.

Ellie looked at the rabbit – or was it a hare? – and reminded herself that the Moon was waxing. How she knew that she had no idea. Perhaps some sliver of knowledge gleaned from a nature documentary……

Next to her Jon, the driver, started tapping the sat-nav with a finger. “Damn things on the fritz again.”

Ellie didn’t reply, just kept on staring out of the window as she wondered why they had to come out all this way. There were perfectly good parties in town they could have gone to. This was just another one of his random whims.

Jon cursed, meandering across the road.

“Watched where you’re going,” she chastised him.

“Did we pass the turning?” Jon replied, ignoring her.

Ellie pursed her lips in irritation. The sat-nav had been his idea because he thought that her ‘impeccable sense of direction’, as he called it, made her uneasy. It didn’t really because it was something that she had learned to live with. She just knew which way top go, what path or road to take on any given journey and normally she could just turn it off, or ignore it, but just like that she could switch it on as if it were just in sleep mode. No, it didn’t bother her.

What did bother her was having an issue made out of it, and it was something that he was pretty good at. For the most part she loved his enthusiasm, but sometimes he just couldn’t see the harm he was doing out of his good intentions.

And while it irked her, the gift remained indifferent in its slumber, just waiting to be woken. It was as easy as a quick look out the windscreen. “No, it’s coming up, just around this bend, on the left.”

A moment later Jon swung the car into the narrowest lane yet, lined with high hedgerow. He was theorising out loud: “Must be the hills blocking the signal.”

“Uh-huh.”

They drove on in silence until Ellie spoke. “You know, we could have just gone to the Warehouse.”

Jon glanced over and shrugged. “Yeah, but this is gonna be way more interesting. Spring time costume party! Who could say no?”

Ellie sighed as she stared out the window. She liked the Warehouse, it was familiar and there’d be friendly faces there. Instead, Jon was dragging them into the middle of nowhere for some secret-not-so-secret Spring Surprise. “Just don’t know why you have to do something different all the time. It’s like some kind of fear of missing out.”

“Hey, the FOMO is real,” Jon quipped. “You never know until you know.”

“But I like the Warehouse,” Ellie continued. “We don’t always have to get out of the comfort zone, you know?”

“Come on Flower – ”

“I told you!” Ellie snapped, “Don’t call me that!”

He shrugged, lapsing into brooding silence. He always called her that when he wanted to annoy her, and then played the victim when she snapped back. Jon just didn’t seem to understand how horrible she found that name. It reminded her of her mother……

“Hey, I think we’re nearly there,” said Jon suddenly. He pointed and over the tops of the trees Ellie could see large, industrial chimneys rising up like fingers into the twilight, their long digits pointing to the Moon.

Still irritated, all Ellie could managed was a caustic mutter: “Great.”

*  *  *

The twilight was settling into evening as Ellie and Jon followed a couple of other cars up to a pair of rusty old gates. Up ahead the dark bulk of the building loomed amongst the trees and on their left a sign read: Welcome to Three Moons Ice Cream.

“You didn’t say it was in an ice cream factory,” said Ellie.

“I didn’t know,” Jon replied, grinning, as he slowed the car and slotted it into the faded remains of some old office parking spaces. ““Does it matter? It’s abandoned, which means a free licence to tear it up.”

Ellie huffed, willing that she could be anywhere but here. “This better not be boring.”

“Mask?” Jon asked leaning into the rear and rummaging about for a moment before passing her the pale oval of her owl mask. For himself he wore a badger.

“Looks like a skunk,” Ellie remarked.

“Oh, you doth wound me,” Jon retorted. “Keep it up and I’ll spray you.”

“Now there’s an image.”

Ellie opened her door and the night air was a cool wave compared to the heated box of the car. Coming around she followed Jon towards the silhouetted bulk of the factory, then paused in its shadow to take a hit on her vape. She stared up at the crumbling façade where the dirt had washed over the building, along with moss and small plants that sprouted from cracks in the concrete. As the flavour of cappuccino rolled off her tongue, she shrugged and hurried after Jon into the maw of the old building.

Inside they traversed a musty, long corridor where fairy lights hung in loops from nail hammered into the crumbling masonry and illuminated a mixture of street art, crude graffiti cocks and obscene suggestions in perpetuity. A few guests leaned against the walls, phones out as they smoked. One or two glanced up as Jon and Ellie passed by in a gaggle of revellers, all heading toward the inner grotto, gravitating towards the heavy thud of drum and bass.

At the end of the corridor a pair of heavy double doors waited with green paint peeling and lights flashing though their small windows. Jon pushed on through and Ellie followed, wondering why the doors reminded her of an abattoir as a blast of heat and music washed over her.

The room was huge, like a warehouse but all the a-gleam with abandoned steel piping gone mad under a cornucopia of disco lights. On a gantry in pride of place was the sound system as if raised up upon an alter above the churning masses held in the central floor space.

“Awesome!” Jon enthused, and she knew what the word signified; she had lost him then and there to the pumping atmosphere. His hand slipped from hers and she’d no doubt have to rescue him from the dance-floor later. That was his bag, while hers was finding the bar…. because there had to be a bar, right?

As Jon disappeared down the stairs Ellie instinctively drifted along the landing, took a left through a passage to where a dark room beckoned in revellers with more twinkling lights. The bar inside was decked out like some kind of fairy tale woodland.

“Kinda weird,” Ellie muttered, but she had to concede it was pretty neat compared to the blandness of the Warehouse. She sauntered over to the bar and perched on the railing to wait while a man in a crow mask served up beer, wine and spirits out of a variety of ice packed cool boxes. She smoked some cape and soaked up the ambience; the bean bags and odd lighting, the soft eastern music that was as hippy as the curling patchouli incense.

“And what can I get you young lady?”

Ellie turned to the bar tender. He was regarding her with an intensity she found slightly unnerving, and his mask was so life-like she wondered where he had got it. “Beer please, and a shot of rum if you’ve got it?”

“Sure do. Ice?”

“Please.”

“Coming right up,” and he reached under the counter for a glass. The rum was from a bottle she didn’t recognise, but whatever, as long as it wasn’t Captain Morgan’s, right? The barman started talking as he poured, “So, how do you like the place?”

“It’s growing on me,” replied Ellie, reaching for the glass. The bartender dug out a beer from a cool box. The rum was like liquid fire, sweet and smooth. “Wow.”

“Like it?”

“What is it?”

“Oh, just something I picked up on my travels. I thought you looked like you might appreciate something a little more refined.”

Ellie put the glass down, examining the man and not knowing what to say; it was a bit too up front. Was he coming on to her? Or was it something else….

“Errr…. thanks.”

“No problem,” said the crow, and poured the beer into a pint glass. It was also not a brand she recognised. He pushed it across the counter.

“How much?”

The crow shrugged. “What do you have?”

Ellie fished in her pocket, quite happy to slap any amount she found on the counter just to get away. She found a £20 and popped it down. The barman stared at it with those strange, dark eyes, then picked it up and examined it against the illumination from fairy lights. Then he slid it back across the counter and waited with crossed arms.

“What? Isn’t that enough?”

The crow cocked its head at her again. “It’s not shiny enough.”

Ellie laughed nervously. “What are you, a real crow?”

“That’s what they call me. Crow.”

“Well, you got the right mask for it.”

The stranger inclined his head. “As do you. The owl is an interesting choice.”

Ellie shrugged. “Is it?”

“Oh yes. Often thought of as a symbol of death, but that is perhaps a misunderstanding,” said the stranger. “The owl is many symbols, depending on who you talk to; ruler of the night, seer of souls, incarnation of intelligence and learning.”

Ellie smiled nervously behind her mask. “Really?”

The crow nodded as he continued, “but I have often considered them to be the guardians of the dead.”

“Wow, creepy,” Ellie said with a nervous chuckle. She wanted to escape, the overly intense regard of this stranger what she and her friend Marie jokingly called the serial killer vibe, but she was strangely drawn to those dark eyes. “Not much of a pick up line.”

The stranger cackled, sending shivers down her spine. Ellie was aware that everything sounded as if it had shifted to the periphery, but she couldn’t take her gaze off those eyes as the crow spoke: “Oh, if only we had time for dalliances, eh? No, time is short and there are whole worlds to be explored. What do you say?”

“W-who are you?” Ellie asked, embarrassed at the quaver in her voice.

The crow shrugged. “An explorer.”

“Of what?”

“The expanding realms of existence and experience. I am,” and he bowed, “Angel to some, demon to others.”

Ellie’s eyes narrowed. She’d heard that somewhere before….. but as her mind tried to recall the words she was already being offered the strangers outstretched fists. They were feathered, like his mask, in black.

“Choose, if you will.”

“What is this?” she scoffed, uneasy.

“A choice.”

“Like in The Matrix? Please.”

Crow cocked his head. “Ah, a film that separates the real from the unreal, the simulation from reality. Who is to say that the two are indivisible? Have you read much Dick?”

“Sure,” Ellie nodded and gave him a thin smile. “Three Stigmata was my favourite, although Time Out of Joint was great too.”

“Ah, Palmer Eldritch, one of my favourites also,” and he offered his hands again. “Which shall it be?”

“What is it? Acid?”

“Oh, nothing so mundane,” Crow said with a shake of his head, then smiled. “I can assure you, the result will be anything but boring.”

A little voice told her to turn away, to run, to take the car and leave Jon here. She could come and get him in the morning….. but those eyes, so intense, almost reassuring the way there were filled with knowing……

“Come little owl,” said Crow. “Are you not Athena, brave warrior maiden whose vision pierces the obscurity of the night?”

Ellie teetered on the edge, somehow charmed by the danger, by the slight giddiness and fever of the little bubble she found herself in. There was only her and this stranger; everything else in the world was on mute as his words buoyed her up. She could do anything….

“Fuck it,” she said and tapped his left hand. The little voice, if it be reason, could take a ride. She hadn’t wanted to come here, and the primordial part of her that courted danger was thrilled to just throw it all in Jon’s face. He could go fuck himself, and before her the hand turned over to reveal a little purple pill. Ellie shuddered with anticipation, a strange blasé finger-up-to-the-world attitude suffusing the night. She didn’t hesitate to throw it back with the rest of the run.

“Cheers,” she said, and slapped the glass down, but as did so she saw that Crow had disappeared. Instead the bartender, a young man wearing a cheap toy-shop mask was staring at her with grave concern.

“You okay?” he asked.

“S-sure. Did you…..?” but she didn’t bother to finish. She reached out and grabbed the beer, leaving the bartender to serve someone else. Ellie took a long draft and raked over the sudden question of just what the fuck had just happened.

“That was fucking dumb,” she said to herself, the realisation solidifying around her heart. Was her head starting to swim? She could have taken anything, and the bubble of breathlessness in her chest started to swell as the walls closed in. If she rushed to the bathroom perhaps she could puke it up, two fingers down the throat…..

Pushing through the throng the tempo and volume of the music was increasing, pulsing harder to the beat of her heart. Cold sweat broke over her body, and the voices around her were swirling with laughter as the floor seemed to shudder with a giant’s footfalls.

She pressed on until, with a bang, the bathroom door hit the wall and Ellie stumbled towards the white porcelain, intent on ridding herself of whatever madness was coming.

But the room was canting at ninety degrees. She keeled over, the pounding of her heart reverberating through the cold, hard floor like the pounding of distant artillery……

*  *  *

There was a crunch, a jarring sense of running into a wall and for a moment Ellie thought the lights in the toilet had fused. There was a ringing in her ears, a fuzz around her head that turned like a radio dial to the sound of chaos. She opened her eyes and her brain could not assemble the images, like a muddle of different jigsaw pieces. The physical thump of colossal sound sent a shiver through her body….. and was it raining? But it was more like hail peppering her face. Some had gone in her mouth and that snapped her upright, spitting. Dirt! More grit pattered against her face and she looked around, through the haze, as a series of bright flashes lit up the scene.

She was outside…….

High above the Moon showered her pellucid light down.

A hand grabbed the collar of a jacket she hadn’t been wearing, hauling her up and half choking her as voice shouted over the din, “Snap out of it! Come on!” The hands went up and under her arms, pulling her out of the hole she must have fallen into. With an ooph! her rescuer heaved and together they went free falling into shadow.

A split second and she was pulled to her knees. The man before her wore a flying jacket, his face smudged with soot or dirt, and she knew him.

“Are you okay?” he shouted.

She was bewildered, mumbling. “J – ?”

He didn’t even let her speak, grabbing her once more and pulling her to her feet. Half carrying, half dragging her, they stumbled away into the dark across barren earth.

Bewildered, she managed a look over her shoulder.

“What the…..” Her voice trailed away. Parked at an awkward angle, it’s wheel in a crater, was a biplane like the kind you saw in old movies. its wings and fuselage limned by the light of the Moon, “….. fuck?”

The sight was eclipsed by the flash and concussion of more explosions. The man who was carrying her – the pilot? – was shouting something that she half understood, a name that wasn’t hers, “Come on Aphelia! The ground units are about to fall back!”

“J-Jon?”

“What’s the matter?” he barked. “You bang your head too hard?”

“I think I must have…..” Ellie murmured, taking another look back. Under the silver light she could see the biplane, and behind it a slow moving wave, bubbling and foaming. It surged over the stricken aircraft, engulfed it and kept rolling. Ellie shook her head and half stumbled, snagging Jon – or whoever he was. He cursed and spun her around, dragging her onwards in haste as her brain tried to comprehend the imprint of the image last seen; like a million faces all grinning and laughing, hands and legs whirling in a surging mass of bodies.

They were like thousands of little….

– her brain grasped for a suitable word –

….. goblins?

Sudden dizziness assailed her and she knew nothing more for a time…..

End of Part 1


Want to find out what happens next? Then check out Part 2: When The Tide Comes In

Peace.

DJC


Crumbs For Crow #4: Were You Ever Really Here?

smoking crow
© Larry Vienneau.

With Or Without You

Oh, how many times have you been caught thinking, “I wish I’d never been born?” It’s like the motto of the civilised peon when confronted with their inevitable slavery, so cunning in its artifice that the chains are mere smoke and mirrors, a world of bread and circuses filled with sound and colour all signifying nothing as they clamour for some sense of meaning.

And just what is that, I hear you ask? Nay, beseech! So throw open thine ears dear sinners, for a quick look in the mirror tells me that you know, that you understand, even if it is deep down underneath the veneer of personality that you believe is you. After all, you are the mere spectacle of personality playing out like a shadow on the puppeteer’s canvas, are you not?

No no no, dear Crow, I hear you cry, I am no mere robot, no mere simulcra of personhood but a thinking, feeling being, unique amongst billions of mortals.

And after all, a robot would just get up each day and do that same thing over and over, wouldn’t it? Like insanity, it arises with a surge of espresso voltage and it pantomimes through the rigorous daily motions without meaning or purpose.

Yet when you look in the mirror as you brush your teeth and think about the day, the working day that will be similar to yesterdays and the day befores,  you can be certain that there must be meaning, there must be purpose. In all the possible realities that could have been, yours is the life that was granted to you…..

“What’s that?” I hear the cry! The heaven’s open and a deluge descends, a pattering of  softly thudding rotten vegetables descending like multi-hued hail. Oh, do not shoot the messenger! I was not born to arrogance, merely practiced it well in the shadow of your soul’s light!

Yes yes, I hear the rancour in your cries as you wrinkle your nose at my underhandedness: “Oh, how unfair you are Crow!” Verily, how can any compete with the reality of such false narratives when we all know the world is a complicated onion of meaning and purpose, a society of spectacles that intersect our little bubbles of reality where they glide into one another through the medium of online media…..

Where we are nothing more than echo chambers to our own conceit.

Yes, even I fall victim to my own mind, stabbing myself and cutting away like a sacrificial victim until I peel the skin of perception back and wonder at the raw flesh exposed to a new reality.

“And what reality shall we pretend is real today, dear Crow?”

Shall we pretend that the Cosmos may grant gifts of fairness upon the masses? Shrug if you must, but as you wonder at the life you are given, and it’s apparent lack of justice, harmony and common sense, you must embrace the concrete – YOU were chosen, YOU were given a life.

So what more could you want? Check your privilege humanity!

Don’t sit there in the doldrums and complain, for this really is a special place despite the way the darkness might settle on the land. You are here, and you should relish it as such because, if one were to pick apart the cloying bullshit of quantum physics, you might very soon conclude that you were never really here in the first place!

“But Crow, here I am?” I hear you say.

I? Is the “I” not a construct of the shared reality that you inhabit? One I for how you see yourself, one I for how others see you, and one I for how you might really be. The three I’s of perception that has granted you the misguided belief that in the intersectionality of perceptions you are somehow an event in the Here & Now™, and that’s where you’re going to stay, not delving into some prosaic and mystical origin of time and space, the beginning place that’s nothing more than a pretence of nostalgia looked at through a kaleidoscope of “peak reality”.

It shifts in broken beauty that has nothing to do with truth.

And you wonder what it might be like to let it go? Like a balloon, rising, rising….. what will happen if you let go? How far is it to fall?

I too was once like you: mortal, dependable, stricken with a burden of purpose and meaning. I had a past and an identity, until I was driven forth from the incestuous comfort of belonging. Nor was it as simple as a commitment to something as disingenuous as truth, for what is truth but the footfalls of the Fool beyond the moment when he takes his first step?

“Ah, Crow,” you said, “Does the first step not crossed the world?”

Spare me. I’ve heard it before….. somewhere.

Would that we could all stand atop the mountain, with one foot outstretched and ready to plunge into the canyons of enlightenment, eh? For what did you find at the peak? Just empty air, while down there in the layers of soil and rock is etched the very crystallisation of history.

Your foot sinks into the rich soil of the past, marks it and thus is your position within the world noted for the millennia to come, yet you will not be present to see the lasting effect of this moment. It is like a coalescing butterfly flap that churns the world to chaos, but you will be gone.

But at least you have your hindsight, a short kind of memory that a mortal has for events of one lifetime which makes it seem like it was all so many golden days, those halcyon moments untarnished by anything like the affliction of personal responsibility that you’ve now burdened yourself with.

So you wonder to yourself if it would have made much difference if you’d never been there in the first place? You can flip the switch, like a light bulb or an electric chair, and bright illumination springs to mind as you wonder what makes you hold to the past so dear. I see it in your eyes, that you believe that you possess it. That in itself is the laughable notion. The past belongs to no one, is subject to only the distortions of the present. It wasn’t how it looks, it didn’t feel like it does now. Was it really more intense? Did it have less context?

But you were never really there, were you?

And of course you tell yourself that without it you wont be something, that you wont be you if you sacrifice that splinter of history caught under your finger nail, that you won’t be that special you who thinks and feels and is the eye of the storm. Ha! Special. Is that what you think you are? Oh indeed! The individual, the keystone of everything, the one, the neo, the one….. over and over we tumble into our own minds, a maelstrom of champagne bubbles popping to no purpose beyond God’s hilarity.

Why is it that only hilarity ensues when you claim that you matter?

Excuse me while I puke, for I seem to be a little dizzy, a little light headed……

Get a grip. This isn’t just an exercise in getting the fuck over yourself. You might think that you’ve cracked the whole “you can make it if you try stuff”. But when you’re licking the icing off the top of the cake, are you reall just licking the boot that stamps on a human face over and over, forever.

How does it taste?

“Why do you even pretend to care, dear Crow?”

Hahaha! Why? Is it possible that you have conceived of the pin prick? The needle that is about to pierce the bubble of your reality? I poke not for my own pleasureat your discomfort! Think now upon the very notion of how many universes exist without you, without your footprints in their history, without your bubble floating in their spheres!

Just how many discarded realities have you already created? How many decisions that lead to nothing, to no one, to the simple and inevitable conclusion that you perished in ignominy, that you were turned to mincemeat by the gears of a combine harvester, that you were incinerated in a freak case of spontaneous human combustion, that you mysteriously vanished while hiking through the snow laden mountain passes? Or perhaps you were the chief executioner in a fascist state who was lynched when the filthy peasant masses rose up in glorious revolution?

Or perhaps you simply fell and banged your head.

Aye, how many times a day did that happened? How many realities did you create because you perished, and how many more because you were never really there? That’s right! There are potentially limitless realities in which you died, but even more prescient are the almost infinite number of realities where you never even came into being in the first place.

I suppose that might be a comfort to some, to those who didn’t want to live in a reality where they were best friends with Tony Blair.

Or Robert Mugabe.

Or Vladimir Putin.

Yet amid the cacophony of white noise that permeates these thoughts there is a little boat of solace that floats on the ocean of chaotic interference. A thought asks “what is it not to exist?” It is not pain, it is not pleasure, it is not knowing. It is simple…. not.

So, allow me to give you the ol’ sly wink as I scratch my back side. It’s really nothing to get worried about. The universe is, after all, a big place and even the realities in which your life plays out don’t amount to much more than the tinniest of farts in an oceanic jacuzzi of cosmic dimensions.

I’m not unsympathetic, it’s just that the whole notion is absurdist comedy; what matters? What import anything? Is it hard to find purpose and meaning? I don’t care. Who knows? I might even throw you a bone. Here it comes! Are you ready? Just think, if there is a reality in which you never existed, then perhaps there is a reality in which you always exist. Maybe you are the Platonic archetype of all your other selves, the bow that breaks the wave-front of existence and all others follow in your footsteps, perhaps you could be made immortal by science and medicine, or maybe the sum of your thoughts and feelings will be preserved when they are uploaded into a permanent machine body or turned into a sentient cloud of nanites…..

Maybe you never age beyond the best years of your life and you live in that tiny percentage of realities where humanity survives until the end of time itself……

And as the serpent eats its own tail, you have to wonder if this is that reality, or if it is perhaps a reality close to you. How far away immortality in an infinite sea of realities? How far away the good life? How far away a reality where history passed by without you making any difference whatsoever?

A reality where you were never really here in the first place……


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Crumbs For Crow #3: Apocalypse Disco

smoking crow
© Larry Vienneau.
 

Apocalypse Disco

Pfff! The dust is settling and everyone’s suddenly playing the existential blues on a vintage guitar with two strings while some journalistic hack bangs away on an old, broken piano tuned by an establishment that can only summon enough cognitive prowess to think in black and white.

The proverbial arse has fallen out of the universe it seems, and what else can us ne’er-do-wells do but sniff it up like a line of cheap rate coke cut with a dose of tranquillisers and prance around like getting trashed is somehow rebellion.

Welcome, welcome one and all to the Apocalypse Disco, first Extermination Event where humanity’s vaunted superiority is nothing more than an odious old bastard wheezing the last drag out of a dirty roll-up, a cancerous old clot of a human being who’s about to put his history on the prayer wheel….

And behold! Such prayers are blasphemies I tell you! What will you do when you return, eternally cycled over and over like a broken record that never gets rid of that irritating little pop, crackle, pop…….? You pray that the effluent of your spirit will be poured back into the vessel of another chance but you won’t even take the time to brush the fluff from your spinning platter of revelation!

Who is the fool? And who, who is the deity that possessed just the requisite tool for the removal of spiritual lint? Heed now and await the dance of the dead as I, the almighty and impeccably tasteful Crow become DJ to your inevitable demise.

[You take me aside, indicate that I should perchance cleanse the white tracery of excess from about my respiratory nozzles and ask just what in the name of the Seven Hells I’m prattling on about.]

Prattling? I never prattle, I just provide preamble to the party of all parties, the final party at the End of Creation itself. A wise man once said that Death is but Sleep being shy, so for the love of music, put your party pants on and just pretend that when you lay your head down tonight, exhausted from exertions, you aren’t just practising for the inevitable.

Meanwhile the eternal PA is playing all of the divine’s favourite tunes, for pre-Destined or un-Destined, whatever your destination, you’ll end up on my floor – even if you’ve no eyes and ears like an almighty, vengeful thunder bastard who’s begging the question of just who the hell stole his damn boom box?

You must be ever so sly, my friends, if you wish to purloin the pure beats of Heaven, and even while you raise your hands to the celestial jungle boogie that rises over the horizon of the Anthropocene you must fend off the sense of mortality, that fragile thing we are subverting in the name of hedonistic nihilism, and instead cavort like chimpanzees scratching our posteriors in search of relief. Or belief……

Give it a sniff because you think no one is looking.

Humanity at it’s most genuine! For even the greatest of apes can chuck shapes. Most of the time, that is, and you might dance oh-so-well when compared to that fellow over there who just doused himself in petrol and stepped outside for a cigarette. The room is on fire, and so are you! Hit me one more time! That’s the Apocalypse Disco. Keep on keeping on and let the mood move you towards the revelation!

Oh sweet revelation!

What did it cost? The mere shrug of an accountant! Listen to their plaintive coos of delight as they tally up the GDP of a global funeral: treatment, caskets, urns, and don’t forget the buffet! Business looks goods as the scales of eternity slip slide about and the prayer wheels fire up like damn Catherine Wheels on the rioting bonfire night of self actualisation. You’re getting it on like Guy Fawkes, moving, doing it, you know, like a sex machine man: the lame politics of sexy disco, lights flashing like wicks set sizzling by the matches of ignorance until sweet surrender is a detonation that lights up the face of a pyromaniac at an arms fair.

Dance, sweet flames, dance!

And in the fire of epiphany we shall discover that we are all soul stuff, the spiritual tar upon which temptation’s feathers gather as we fly too close to a nuclear furnace of civilisation! It all makes sense! You came here, again and again, like self-aware water poured from vessel to vessel, but so is begged the question: who turns the tap?

And what becomes of life when the reservoir runs dry?

Can we reasonable assume that there is only so much held in reserve of that metaphysical love juice? You are but one drop in an ocean, but what happens when drop after drop arrives wanting to be human? Are you just the artichoke that rolled the loaded dice and was delivered into another ape suit? No wonder the natural world is in decline! there is nothing to spare!

What? You can’t see yourself as a snail? No? The old bastard takes another wheezing lungful on his turgid rollie as he wishes only to be human again and again, draining the last kick out of the cigarette that is the material world. It’s not to even be considered how beneath them it might be to take the form of worm, or fungus, or blade of grass!

Oh to be green, small and bend in the wind, accepting the bare foot of the mystic upon my dew lined blade! Touch me, oh Sun!

Don’t cock your eye at me like that!

Let us cut to the chase, cut the mustard, nip the bud. Every living thing wants to go to the disco, so as the nulldozers are levelling the lungs of the earth and the cybernetic trans-humanist autolung draws the tainted air from the capitalist crack pipe, you shall be reincarnated as the greatest of species, homo saltatorus! And to hell with you Google Translate! No public school boys were harmed in the writing of this screed! What is the world coming to? You! You, the dancing apes at the end of the world!

You’re all here! Recycled like soylent green soul stuff that only wants to party like existential, phenomenological witnesses of the Apocalypse Disco!

We reach the Climax! The crescendo of a spiritual burden brought about by the ever-so-populous bum scratching ape, flinging what they find into the transcendent scales as they tip, precarious upon the edge of the Void, the living essence of the earth pouring out like a punctured wine sking while the incarnations of endless, cavorting dancers continue to sniff bemused fingers with the sole intention of waking up in a puddle of their own excretion after a clandestine romp through the hinterlands of promiscuity!

That’s right, this party is about to implode! Prayers can be sent via the great porcelain telephone!

Pff!

As the dust settles, the crooked dancers at the end of time light up and watch the smoke rise, content to know that they partied hard and all it cost was everything.


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Crumbs For Crow #1: The Hardest Step

smoking crow
© Larry Vienneau.

The Hardest of Steps

It is never, nor ever has been, the Universe itself that causes you to weep my child. With these words, and through the staunch bastion of determination within you, you have become a seeker. You and I are not unalike, but child, I see that the tears are welling up even now, before we begin. Do not let the recourse to the infantile pseudo-emotional reactivity blur the singularity and purpose of this, the most persistent of conundrums, for it is in your heart that you have come to with the burning desire to unravel that which condemns you. Stand strong, and we shall aim with alacrity to release a salvo of piercing intellectual propositions that course straight at the heart of the suppurating mediocrity of the modern day discourse and expose the wranglings of malicious fools and those serendipitously blessed with a fortune unearned.

Through everything, remember, it is I who understand and answer your call.

Thus, let us not rein in our multitudinous hail of arrows, for they are guided by the power and tenacity of our will and purpose to strike true to the arrow butt of existential and tangential purpose. In this fashion, and by good order, so shall ye reap the munificent bounty of the true sight, the unveiling of your direction via the ever expanding compass of quasi-samsarian egalitarianism vis-a-vis the expansion and contraction of the ineffable and never ceasing continuum of the cosmic purpose that has hitherto remained occluded to your dim vision.

I too, was once like you, accursed, but as one hand pulls another up, so too will you pull those others of misfortune forth into the light of understanding.

Yet beware! For there are critics who raise unambivalent objection to the proposition that there is, not only purpose, but that there is actual significant meaning in one’s pursuit of the enlightening realisation that one can attain a modicum of orientation against the prevailing notion that such a pursuit is merely the recidivistic retreat, nay escape, from the contours and colours of a reality that lies beyond the recourse of individual determination.

Such are the arguments of fools, and if I am any judge of character, you are no fool.

So let us rejoice, for such arguments are exposed as the futile fabrications they are due to their endless repetition ad nauseam, not to mention ad populum, as the enemies of true understanding are forever utilising the inherently self-serving components of expansive relativism, their number established in quantity but not quality, and via the network of methodical information relays they are able to disperse these pseudo-philosophical inaccuracies regarding the endeavours of those such as ourselves who seek until, as previous supplied, the notions that allow us to become insusceptible to infiltration by populist and conformist nonsense.

Thankfully, the true seeker stands above the gathering and decrepit malaise with the proud bearings of warriors ancient and indomitable, those noble of heart who thrust forward with certitude at the uncaring spectre of nihilistic materialism to boldly proclaim that theirs is the right by divinity and dint of acceptance of spiritual burden.

In this way we find each other, and although there must be acceptance, or at least reasonable doubt of knowledge regarding the possibility of the universe which can never offer obeisance, it still remains that we shall possess the singular right of those that may demand such, no matter the futility of such demands, for it is an act of cosmological resistance that one can attain a level of profundity against the enveloping causality of apparent meaninglessness without attributing their stance to the realm of the fearful nor the ignorant.

For if there is one thing alone that the universe is moved to condemn, it is wilful ignorance. Nothing could be clearer to those such as ourselves who move toward unveiling, and rest assured that it is by these very words that we are reassured in the understanding that what is sought is to remove themselves from such callous condemnation, for how could anything be clearer than the reading of these very words?

Now, rest child. There are many steps to take, but it is the first step that begins the journey which will cross the world.

And you have braved that first, and hardest, of steps.


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