The second part of this meandering story…

Pass on by rusted engine blocks, dry dusty weeds clawing their way out of gaps in the sidewalk, past the old truck, headlights, wheels and engine gone. Like a primered analogue skull.

Through the hole that no-one ever repaired in the chain link and squeeze between the loose clapboards into cool, dirty air and graffiti.

A huge, abandoned space, cathedral of dirt and crushed beer cans.

Up stairs that squeak and threaten to fall through one day, but never today.

Feeling like an eleven year old, half his age, Val steps out, finally, onto the uneven tar paper of the flat, factory roof and there she is.

Arms wrapped around her, back to him, seeming tall and frail although she is shorter than him, the loose edges of her flannel shirt whipping in the wind.

She looks out over the desert, at least twenty feet from where he stands. Even though he makes no noise she still says, “Hello Valentine,” as he stands there.

She does that, that’s who she is. It’s like a gift that no-one ever questions. It’s not like she talks to the dead or knows when someone is going to die, but she feels people coming and going, moving around the town and everyone knows and says nothing.

It just goes with the territory

he thinks, shit like that happens here.

“Hey Ellie.”

Just looking at her makes him light up, like there’s a small sun inside him, dim without her, that she makes brighter. She always looks different to how he remembers her, always looks better.

She glances over her shoulder, cool blue, cornflower eyes, smiles briefly and nods, beckons him to her side.

Her thin fingers curl tighter into her shirt, going whiter, showing the bones beneath.

As he walks to her, he notices the crumpled back pack and the first discordant note of worry sounds in his mind. He doesn’t know why, at least he says that to himself, because it’s the same back pack he’s seen all though school and on this roof so many times before. Sometimes with sandwiches in it, sometimes binoculars, always a book on birds in there.

A faded drawing of wings adorns it, done in magic marker. He remembers the recess when she drew it on, copied from a book found in the school library.

Looking back now, seeing that bag on the roof, he knows that was the first time he knew she was leaving.

At that moment he just didn’t realise how far away she was going.

“So, ” he opens, “got your call.”

She doesn’t meet his gaze, instead she keeps looking out in the darkening sky, over towards the railroad and bar.

He looks at her profile, the way the wind whips her hair across her eyes. She makes no move to brush it out of the way.

She knows he is watching her and looks away from the pressure of his gaze, towards the town hall and the copper roof of the library where James Connor is hearing strange sounds in the stacks.

Behind her, behind the buildings, the split peak of the mountain looms, the thick, rolling clouds almost seem to be emanating from it, covering the town at its feet, like a massive fog.

Val feels something, at first he feels as if it’s something exterior to him, something big, but after a split second he thinks that it is because he is going to tell her tonight. The realisation that this is a certainty is at once a release and a massive fear.

This is true, in a few minutes time he will tell her he loves her but at the same moment Bear Johnson will begin to remember the warm water and thrashing of small, white limbs and Simon Macready will hear the words that will haunt him (and eventually Lon Fences) for the rest of his life, because something is happening, something really is in the air that night.

Alex Swanmore, Mayor of the town and owner of the general store will give up trying to sweep up outside the store and look into the wind. Breathe it in and realise that the old town is going to start acting up again. He’ll sigh and resign himself to more hard work, harder damn work than any other mayor has to deal with.

“I bet the mayor of Ass-End, Alaska doesn’t have to sharpen goddam stakes…” he mutters to him self and turns to go back into his store and sit heavily behind the counter, head in his hands.

 

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A taster of something I’m working on currently….

They hadn’t met up there in months.
There was a time when they would spend whole summer days up there with a couple of loungers and a cooler with some soda, maybe a bottle or two of beer.
But recently the roof had fallen from favour. Valentine didn’t know why, it didn’t cross his mind, maybe that was just it. Who knew.
He was on his way there now, trying to avoid a sick feeling in his stomach, trying to focus on that other feeling, that light, warm feeling he always got when he thought about her, like something bright and golden in his stomach, even if it was sometimes tinged with a sour sense of the unrequited.
It looked like rain.
The sky was a fantastic bruised miasma of blue-purple clouds and the wind was picking up. Dust and trash blew down the sidewalks and into the gutters.
He looked up from the toes of his Chucks to see her sister walking down the other side of the street.
She had noticed him and was crossing the road.
“Valentine.”
She said it like a statement, not so much a greeting. She did this with other people a lot, but not so much with him. He could see through her most days.
“Rap,” he nodded as she drew to a halt in front of him.
She was small, smaller than her sister by a few inches and although they both shared the same, sandy, white hair, Rap’s was dyed black and cut short, ‘like a goddam lesbian’ as her father often would bark, to which she would raise a middle finger and say, ‘fuck you’.
Denim was the order of the day with Rapunzel, faded, worn jeans and a matching jacket, worn under another jacket, a leather one with a hole though the shoulder that she never talked about but was made with the switchblade that sat in her pocket right that moment. The hole that was made in the desert when that tall, perfect man took the coat off and pinned it to the fencepost with the blade instead of putting it around her shoulders as she shivered, like any other lover would but not him.
Motorcycle boots, but no motorcycle. Black, scuffed and worn at the heels.
Plain white tee, well, washed out and grey now.
Then the belt.
Rapunzel (of course, not her real name, but the only one she would answer to these days) cut off her hair when she came out of the desert wearing that jacket over her thin, cotton dress. Red eyed and sniffing, ignoring people who asked her where she had been, that the sheriff had been looking for her, that her father… ‘I don’t give a fuck about him!’ she replied and shuffled home, took of the jacket and cut off her long, gold locks while staring blankly at herself in the bathroom mirror.
She used the switchblade.
There were questions of course, but not many answers. She hadn’t told anyone about the perfect man and she never would.
Over that weekend, she changed herself. Her hair, her clothes and so far as anyone knew in the town, her father didn’t hit her anymore, ‘cos now she hit back.
Val first heard Kelvine Tynes say at the store that he saw Art Lockheart with a black eye and bloodied lip when he came in for his Luckies one morning, Tynes gleefully suspected it was Rap’s handiwork. And some time later, Val was at the Hammer when he saw Artie knocking back brewskis with Bear Johnson, he sported a fresh cut above his eyebrow then.
Val couldn’t think of anyone else who would hit Artie, the man was too much of a coward to hit anyone he didn’t think would fight him back. Rap had spirit. Ellie? Well…
But the belt.
Rapunzel wore the hair she cut off around her waist. She went to her room that morning and plaited the hair tightly. Now, with the edition of an ornate silver buckle, it sat on her hips, daring you to ask about it. For some reason people didn’t or at least Val never heard of anyone who did, save one time when some woman from out of town was filling up at the gas station and pointed out.
Apparently Rap just glared at her for a second and ignored her, took her smokes (that was new too, she never used to smoke) and stomped away.
She was lighting a cigarette now as she looked him up and down.
“How’s it hanging Valentine?”
“Just fine Rapunzel, how’s yours hanging?”
No-one else could talk to her like that, she just blew smoke out of her nose and turned her head to give a sharp little laugh.
She would of hit anyone else.
Or worse.
“You headin’ up to see the girl?” she asked.
He nodded.
She took a deep drag on her cigarette and looked him over again, “You two have not been up there in months, what happen, you finally get some rubbers again?”
This was typical of her, Valentine never rose to the bait and often wondered if she was attracted to him and then wondered if he was attracted to her, or just what he could see of her sister in her. She knew he loved her sister, it went unsaid between them, but she knew, even if Ellie didn’t.
Val took it as a sign of acceptance.
“Nope, plenty of those, we’ve been doing it in your bed when you’ve been out, didn’t you notice?”
She grinned again, “Fuck you Valentine Cooper!”
He loved her smile, he was one of the few people who got to see it.
He was thinking of that smile again, two months later when she stepped out in front of him and slashed his face with the switchblade.
But is wasn’t a smile, it was a grimace of rage.
How strange, he though as he put his hand to his face and felt the hot blood, I though she was smiling….

An oldie this one.

Started as (but not intended as) a serial on the now, sadly, defunct @theocean ran by Steamshift.

Unsure how I feel about this one, but it was fun to research even though it was hard to write.

I’ll post more chapters if folk like it.  You may, however, be slightly disappointed when the main characters take centre stage…

 

 

Prologue

 

‘In which a prominent member of the aristocracy meets a most unusual end’

 

Hampstead, 1893.

 

Sir Henry Jarrold closed the door to his study and leaned heavily against the white panelled wood. His fingers floundered in his woollen jacket pocket for his kerchief and then, shaking, mopped his damp brow.

Squeezing shut his eyes he took a moment to breath and take stock. Thoughts ran through the fingers of his mind like silver sand, powdered mercury, each grain carrying a disjointed sentence or image from the past…how many hours?

With steadier hands he extracted his fob watch from his waistcoat and fumbled open the worn, silver case.

It was almost midnight, he had spent six hours listening to the madness in..

His thought was quelled by a sudden sharp sound from the other side of the room.

With quick, blundering steps, Jarrold made his way across the floor and to the window that looked down into the street below.

Nothing, not a soul stirred. Just the flicker of lamp light upon cobbles.

At first he fancies a sudden fog rising on the street and his heart began to pick up its frenetic pace once more but he realised it was only his breath upon the glass, his nose was almost pressed to the cold pane.

He chided himself .

He tried to convince himself he was being foolish but it would not work, h had seen the result of their power, his associates sphere of influence moved through the world like a great invisible smoke that tainted everything it touched, leaving small, bizarre marks in its wake and projecting strange portents and omens ahead of it, like a filthy, brown bow wave on the Thames, churning to the surface the skull of a dead dog.

His fingers were all but scratching the paint work from the window sill. He needed to sit and plan. He did not have much time, that much he knew. Although he had said nothing that night, had not spoken out against them and their black idea, they would know his mind almost as well as he did, if not now, then soon. He may well have smiled with them, raised a glass of champagne with them (they had toasted a speedy success, raised a glass so fortune would smile upon them! It turned his stomach) and they had believed him then, not questioned his loyalty but sooner or later something foul would whisper into their ears with invisible, dry, reptilian lips. They may be sat at their great mahogany desks taking afternoon tea or (and this made him chill to think of it) laying in their beds, safe under the eiderdown and they would hear a cold, alien voice, feel it working its way into their warm ears like a pure, sharp icicle, accusing, whispering, instructing.

He must act and act immediately.

He had the means and resourced to leave the country and travel far from London, from the Empire, where they were strongest. This would buy him more time, six, seven months at least, perhaps a year at most.

With cold, horrible clarity, Jarrold realised he was a man with a finite span left upon this earth. His last days were charted before him. It was like living under the curse of an invisible, omnipresent cancer.

But there was a slim ray of hope, a cure for his metaphorical tumour perhaps. There were others on the Earth who may help him, shield him, make him invisible from them. Practioners of strange, sacred medicine in far lands.

People who worshipped a different set of gods…

He sat heavily in his great, green leather arm chair, clinging to a hop as man clings to a length of ruined deck in a high and dangerous sea.

He would need to set in order his affairs and collect the necessary papers and monies he would need for such an exhaustive trip and he would need to do this delicately and with the upmost care to avoid suspicion.

Here, in the safe in this very room, he had several passports under various names. He would start then, with those documents.

He lit the stub of a candle that lay on his desk to add to the meagre light in the gloomily lit room and set about collecting any documents that may be of use and setting aside any that he deemed dangerous and should be destroyed.

It took him a few minutes to realise what was happening to the candle, its flame and its smoke. And before he saw the strange sight, there were other small factors that should have drawn his attention to a change in the atmosphere of the study.

He only realised his ears had been hurting a little when he glanced up and registered that the wisp of smoke from the corona of the candle was streaming almost horizontally away from the wick, in the direction of the firmly closed window.

He turned to look at the glass, there was no discernible draft he could feel and yet as he turned back he could see that the flame had also now followed the lead of its exhaust and was leaning in the direction of the window.

Again, his ears gave a twinge, a spasm. He realised faintly that he was now panting slightly as he raised a trembling hand t his throbbing ear and felt a slight slick of blood on his face and neck.

He felt the slow throb of panic marry that of the pain in his head as he heard a pane of glass crack, dully, in the window.

To his horror the noise of his breathing was slow and distant, heard as if through wadding of soft American cotton.

Dimly, his mind turned absently to an image of slender, negro fingers, picking the fluff from some plant bathed in Atlanta sunshine, the plan, he thought sluggishly as he almost fell at the window, the plan, they know

All he could hear now was the dullest roar of his heart as it fought against the fog. He looked through the cracked pane at the street, indeed there was a shape there now, a man stood o the cobble stones, starring up at him from below the brim of a top hat, clutching a curious cane in one hand and enunciating silent words up at him.

Jarrold registered the vision but found himself more concerned that the temperature had dropped outside, for the window pane had collected frost around its edges. With despair it dawned upon him that there was nothing wrong with the weather, it was his eyes that were failing, just as the rest of his body was.

His lungs hitched in pathetic, shallow gasps as he twisted and fell back, the blood streaming from his ears.

He could only feel the feeble action of his chest now, he could no longer hear it. Through a watery haze of star-shine (was it tears? Sweat? Blood?) Jarrold saw the dim image of the candle flame, horizontal, streaming from the wick and towards the window, flicker and die.

Blindness and deafness overcame him, offering some mercy to his oxygen starved brain.

He was aware of not caring that he had voided both his bladder and his bowels and then his mind haemorrhaged, washing any other thought away on a tiny tide of red.

As Jarrold finally succumbed, the mysterious man in the street watched as the gas light in the room above join the candle by guttering and dying, no longer illuminating the paltry emission of gasses and dust that had slipped through the tiniest of gaps in the window casement.

He slowed the mutter of his words and renewed the grip in his walking cane, the odd head of which he held aloft towards the window in question.

Confident in the fact that his task had been completed and with a sharp little smile, the man turned on his heel and walked quickly on down the street, suppressing the urge to chuckle aloud, leaving behind him in the air a rapidly dispersing cloud of motes, lit by the shifting gas-flame of the street lamp.

To Be Contiued..?

DC Villain Dr Impossible

DC Villain Dr ImpossibleDr Impossible claims to be the half-brother of super-escape artist Mr Miracle, who ever he is, he seems to have all the abilities of Scott Free and a few besides, creating super-traps and using Hush Tubes to teleport.I've probably mentioned variants before, but to the uninitiated variants are a version of an action figure released in smaller numbers and therefore rarer. In some cases they might be a different version of a character, say Captain America but not wearing his mask. They're cheap to make, in the Cap aexample, you just need to swap a head but in this case all you need to do is too repaint a figure.I tend to have a rule with these things; see the variant, but the variant. Even if I've gone to the shop for another character that I may of been waiting months for, if I see a variant, I tend to snap it up. They're hard to find at the best of times in the UK without having to resort to the likes of ebay and the often extortionate prices charged there, so even if its a figure I'm not massively fond of, I'll still tend to pick him up.In Doc's case, I'm pretty ambivalent towards him. He's a very new character in fact and I've only read one story with him in but I quite like his look and I quite like 'negative' versions of other characters. He is a straight re-paint of the Mr Miracle figure but where Miracle comes with flight discs for his feet, a Mother Box computer and a set of shackles to escape from, Doc gets sod all. In the comics Doc uses a Father Box and flying buzz-saw blades. Okay, so the blades would mean molding new parts and thus more expense but they could of at least sprung for a Father Box.But that's Mattel for you.Mattel are producing, in my opinion, the BEST range of comic book action figures on the market today. The sculpts are great (even if they are re-using the same body over and over) and the range of characters are ace, plenty of currant faves and some obscure fellas too. But they seem to be treating fans with contempt. Never have I seen a company bend over backwards so much to be obtuse to a loyal fanbase.Quality control on the toys has ranged from poor to down right awful, the figures have proved to be hard to find with many popular characters produced in limited, exclusive runs only available at one store, the way they run their sales and Q&A's has been frustrating and now they seem to be putting up prices also.I really wonder what is going on over at that company, why do they antagonize their customers so much?

This is the first original fiction I think I have written and completed in about ten years.  Writing has kind of gotten away from me, being excruciatingly lazy and dealing with raising a family has meant that writing really fell by the way side.

My other horrible habit is starting a story and then never, ever finishing the damn thing.  This then, was an exercise in trying to ‘get back in the game’.  I wasn’t trying to write anything groundbreaking or amazing, I just wanted to see if I could bang out a neat little tale somewhere in the mold of Tales from the White Hart.  All the mad scientist cliches are deliberate, like I said, I wasn’t stretching myself with this one.   Still, I liked this idea and it has been kicking around my head for sometime, nice to get it out in the daylight.

This is a first draft, I imagine it’s not that good and it wasn’t really meant to be but still, take a look and see what you think.  Be gentle with me please.

Oh, it doesn’t have a title yet, I’ve been sort of calling it Patterson, any other suggestions gratefully received…

Patterson was probably exactly as you would imagine him.

He was of slight build, undersized and not helped by his apparent dogged determination to wear lab coats that were too big for him, requiring the sleeves to be rolled up around his wrists.

His hair was wild and un-kept and, of course, he wore thick, heavy glasses all the time.

He was as absent minded and lacking in the social graces as you would imagine a man who loved science above all other things would be, but the main thing you should know about him is that he was constantly and incessantly late.

Patterson’s utter inability to attend to any appointment in a timely fashion became his signature motif.  If a meeting was planned for which he was a vital attendee arrangements were made to ensure he was either collected by someone responsible or he was told that the meeting was occurring at least an hour earlier than it really was.  This would usually ensure that Patterson arrived relatively on time.

From talking to colleagues at other universities, it became apparent that this was a problem that had dogged Patterson all his life.  In fact, an old school acquaintance of his told us that he remembered Patterson wearing two watches, one on each wrist.  Apparently an attempt by his mother to try to instil a semblance of time keeping in the hopeless child, even this failed to work, with Patterson regularly turning up to lessons twenty minutes late with his nose buried in a book.

That said, there was no question that the man was quite brilliant.  He would drop solutions to problems into your lap from out of nowhere, seemingly unmoved by the fact he may of solved, in the course of one week, a problem that had tied up a team of physicists’ for years.  Even more galling for some staff was the fact that he didn’t even set out to solve that particular problem in the first place.  It had simply loomed on his narrow, strange horizon as an obstacle to be overcome to reach his ultimate goal, whatever that may be.

Like Newton inventing calculus and not bothering to tell the world at large, Patterson would blunder from discovery to discovery, not really caring that he was setting the scientific community aflame and earning the ire of his colleagues for the ease at which he revolutionised thinking around him.

He was rarely excited about anything, so when I received a telephone call from him almost apoplectic with delight, late one summer morning, I was completely unable to resist his demands that I drive to his house immediately.

Patterson’s home stood on the edge of the university grounds, very close to some terraced houses and a playground.

Some children where heading towards the playground as I parked the car.  They were noisily kicking a football down the street, hooting and shouting at each other.

It was a warm day, clear blue skies with only a slight breeze.  I was excited at the prospect of what Patterson had to reveal.  It was not like him to show such an outburst of emotion over his work, I had already decided that what ever he had discovered was going to be utterly groundbreaking and I was, of course, totally correct, although in reflection, I wish I hadn’t been.

He answered the door with a look of mad glee in his eyes, pushing his glasses up his nose and awkwardly ushering me into the house, trying to look over and around me into the street.

“You’re alone?” he asked.

“Of course,” I replied, some what confused.

He nodded frenetically and said, “Come, come,” beckoning me into the house and up the stairs, past precarious piles of scientific journals, old computer components and unwashed dishes.

Who would keep unwashed dishes on the stairs?  Of course Patterson would.  I had a sad image of him in my mind, perched on a step, eating listlessly from a bowl of noodles at 3am, getting the bother of re-fuelling his body out of the way so he could continue to work.

The second floor of the house (which was relatively large, yet still oppressive due to the sheer amount of, well, junk stored in it) was where Patterson’s lab was situated.

The University really hadn’t minded giving him such a sought after property as they knew from his track record he would deliver the goods.  A blind eye was turned to his pet projects as even they yielded unexpected and welcome sideline results.  But he did require ample space to let his projects…well…wander.

The lab took up most of the room and was light and airy, Patterson had thrown most of the windows wide and the breeze ruffled the odd paper left on a desk and weighted beneath a stack of circuit boards or what have you.

A whiteboard took up most of one wall of the room, covered in dense equations, worked out in red and black marker.

One corner of the room was taken up with a profusion of clocks, infact there were dozens of the damn things, of all types.  Large, red, LED clocks, travel alarm clocks, a grandmother clock and even a silly Felix the Cat clock, slowly wagging its tail and rolling its eyes at me.

How can a man with so many clocks always be late? I asked myself.

Monitors blinked on an off here and there and I had to step carefully over numerous cables both power and data, strewn across the floor.

The normally clumsy Patterson obviously had this terrain mapped down well and nipped through the trip hazards to the far corner of the room where, I have to say, a rather boring and obviously homemade piece of equipment sat.

“This,” he exclaimed, leaning an elbow on it, “is it!”

It was a long box, made of the sort of dull, grey metal that school scientific instruments all seem to be made of.  At one end there was a roughly cut square aperture out of which coiled a profusion of cables and cords, spreading to the floor and across the lab to other various pieces of machinery and PCs.  Stood next to the box was a tall cylinder of glass that held some sort of inert liquid, in which another glass tube was immersed containing an unidentifiable solid rod.  Perhaps some kind of metal or ceramic?  A heating coil?  I don’t know, I still don’t.

A similar construction ran across the top of the metal box, only this almost appeared to be a neon tube of some kind.

In all: underwhelming.

I took all of this in and looked back at Patterson.

“I give up, “ I shrugged, “what is it?”

I’ll never forget the smile, a sort of horrible sickening smile that he gave me.  If I had listened to my gut then, I would of left instead of being at the epicentre of it all, but my head prevailed.

It’s not that Patterson was evil or misguided. I’m sure his intentions were sound, if just a little selfish, but then you could argue that Da Vinchi didn’t have the gunship in mind when he postulated the helicopter.

“It’s time!” he said, “More time!”

I was confused.

“More time?  More time for what?”

He shrugged and threw his hands into the air, “More time for anything.  More time to make that bus, more time to defuse the bomb, to get the heart to the hospital for the transplant… It’s more time!”

“Patterson, I don’t understand…”

“It’s easier if I just show you…”

He punched a few keys on the PC closest to him and (I’m rather ashamed to say) threw a large switch.

The tube atop the box started to glow a dull red, while the liquid in the vertical one gently and lazily bubbled.

I was about to say something, what it was I cannot remember, when I felt the most extraordinary sensation and flavour in my mouth.  It suddenly became incredibly dry and I was reminded of pressing the tip of my tongue to a battery, a sort of tingling, brassy, almost blood like taste and feeling.

The sensation spread to my fingers and nervously examined them as Patterson leaned there and regarded me with a look of superior glee.

I looked up at him and opened my mouth once more, this time to ask what was happening, he chuckled and pointed nonchalantly across the multitude of clocks.

Describing what happened next is hard.

So many things seemed to happen all at once and seemed so disjointed and paradoxical.

Above all there was the sensation of happening or potential.  As if something was building up in the air.  Energy perhaps.  Maybe that literally was the case, the end physics were beyond me and most of them were lost anyway, at any rate there was this feeling of something building up in the atmosphere, in the lab.

There was a sort of  ‘no sound’, I could clearly hear the children in the playground still playing football, yet there was a feeling of being stifled or distance, as if the shouts of the children were receding and a great blank were growing in their place.

As this crescendo of nothingness grew and the pins and needles intensified in my hands and feet, Patterson pointed at the clocks once more and hissed, as if very far away, “Look!  Listen!”

I did as I was told, the clocks seemed to fill my vision and slightly waver, the ticking became ever more distinct and louder.

I watched the large red LED as the seconds marched towards the top of a new minute.

Fifty seven, fifty eight, fifty nine…

And then it happened.

How do I describe it?  As if the world had a heart and it skipped a beat, there was certainly a weird, physical sensation in my chest, a pause a trip of some kind.

The nothing-noise ceased as I watched the LED stutter and read fifty nine again and the second hands of all the analogue clocks joined in, wavering once back before continuing on around the face and into a new minute.

I was clutching my chest and had begun to sweat,  I looked back at Patterson who wore an expression of triumph the likes of which I have never seen and will never seen again on another human beings face,

“What the hell just happened?” I exclaimed.

Patterson clapped his hands together in glee, ”I just let a new second out into the world!”

“You did what!?”

“I created an entirely artificial second and released it into the time stream.  The last minute was comprised of sixty one seconds.”

My head felt numb and I sought out a stool or at least a relatively clear, flat surface to collapse onto.

“Let me get this entirely straight,” I said resting against a desk, “you just created time?  How the hell did you do that?”

Patterson chuckled and poured me a glass of water, “There are two tricks to it, the first is to force your perception of time to change, to make something abstract almost physical.  There are a number of processes at work there, most very local, very low energy and with a few biological changes required, I had to synthesise a new drug, but I only required a very low dose myself, not anything you needed to be involved in for that little experiment just now.”

He handed me the water and I drained the entire glass, he poured another for me and continued.

“Once you force time into a quasi-physical state, or ‘chrono-matter’ as I call it, you need to collect an infinitesimal amount, a shaving of a Planck.  Once stored in the correct magnetic field you can begin the process of a chronal-graft, such as the one we just felt.”

I felt like a butterfly that had been swatted with a telephone directory.

“A chronal-graft…” I repeated like an idiot.

“That’s right and grafts are just the start, I have enough material to attempt the next stage, or temporal cloning as I call it.”

“Patterson, what are you talking about!?”

He placed the water jug down gently on the table besides me and pushed his glasses back up his nose once more.

“Collecting the very small amount of chrono-matter for the graft was extremely delicate work.  I had to capture a second on the cusp of formation, like a butterfly about to hatch from its pupae.  I had to define a point that is utterly indefinable in nature, a finish and start point that does not really exist.

Once I saw that second begin to emerge, I had to strike, to trap it in amber if you will, slow it down to the point it practically wasn’t moving, then I sent a remote nano-probe in to remove the material I need.”

“A nano-probe?” I asked.

“Yes, think of it as undersea exploration, the nano-probe is the ROV and I the operator aboard the ship.  Only the next time, I intend to make the dive myself.”

He crossed to the computer next to the metal box and began to punch in numbers once more.

“I’m going to stop a second.  I’m going to go inside it and take the material I need and then I am going to give the world a whole, new, shiny minute.  Just think, more time with loved ones, more time to cure an illness.  No one need ever be late again…I will never be late again!”

I croaked his name and held out a hand as if to stop him but it was useless, he threw the switch before I could do anything.

And then the world was lost in an invisible whirlwind.

The rest, you already know.  Until now, you will never of realised how or why it happened but you will of read the newspapers and seen the TV reports, I expect you’ve even got one of the many books on the phenomena on your bookshelf, even if you haven’t read it.

In the space of a nano-second, probably less, the world changed, literally and figuratively.

The lab was completely different.  The clocks, the machinery all of it was shifted around me.

The vast majority of the equations had been erased from the white board, some new ones remained but they were incomplete, quite deliberately I think.

There was rubbish everywhere.

Piles of clothes and food wrappers lay strewn around my feet.

I was taking in the sudden and inexplicable change when I realised the children were shouting out side again.

Their shouts were not part of their game, I crossed to the window, passed piles of books that I was positive were not there mere moments ago, over discarded wrappers of chocolate bars, hundreds of the damn things had settled on the floor like a snow drift of gaudy silver foil.

Out of the window I could see my car was in the middle of the playground, the bonnet was up and most of the engine strewn across the grass.  I almost made to shout at the kids, convinced that they had done this in some way when an inkling of what had occurred began to take root in my mind.

My mouth was open, about to form an expletive when the thought struck and I reached for my car keys, which of course, were gone.

The car had only just appeared there, that was why one of the boys had run full pelt into the door and two others had fallen over a battery and some cabling leading to a lamp post.

I looked at the uproar of the lab and back out at the street, most of the front doors of the houses were open, litter drifted down the road.

Some of the cars were like mine.  Was it the batteries he was after?  I think so.

You will of heard how the university library was turned upside down, the labs ransacked, all in an instant and all around pupils, staff and faculty.  There was no transition, no sign of movement (although, even know I fancy that I imagine the briefest of buzzing noises, the gentle waft of his countless passings by me, but I know that there would be no way my senses could record it, they are just the product of my imagination) the rooms went from order to chaos instantly.  People found their belongings scattered, items moved around their offices and homes, even, in some cases their pockets turned inside out and, perhaps more disturbingly, their bodies physically moved through space.

Whole supermarkets had shelves cleared.  The food, vanished.  The packaging scattered around the city.

There was talk of some effects further a field, as much as one hundred miles, could he really of travelled that far?  I find it so difficult to imagine his life, let alone him tramping over a hundred miles on foot, through constant sunshine, constant temperature, through a sea of frozen, laughing people.

Patterson had gone inside his nano-second, his planck, he had entered his frozen moment and then, for some reason, he hadn’t left.

I have no idea what went wrong.  I think he destroyed a lot of his research to prevent anyone making the same mistake, but how long did he spend trying to escape?  Just what was life like for him in that single, still instant?  Did he have to keep moving to breathe (the gases in the air would not be stirred by any breeze)?  I imagine not otherwise suffocation would of occurred so quickly, he wouldn’t of had a chance to tear through the libraries and offices seeking any written knowledge to help him out of his plight.  Computers, the internet, they would of all been useless to him.  But then I wonder why he took the car batteries, the mobile phones and such, surely electricity would have been a useless phenomenon to him frozen in time as he was?

I often wonder if he encountered a naked flame, if he placed his hand in it, would it burn him or would being frozen in time freeze the flame as well?

How lonely he must have been.  All around us, all the time yet unable to speak to us.  How long did he last?  Who knows?

There was, of course, no body.  I should of imagined it decayed and faded away instantly, at least by our perception.

An entire lifetime, lived out in an invisible frenzy before us.

Poor, poor Patterson…

I saw Resident Evil Extinction last night, which I have to say I enjoyed a great deal.  I know these films take a fair critical pounding and fans of the game seem to be a bit dismissive of them, but I dug the whole post apocalypse vibe and Milla Yo-ho-hoavich is always pleasant to look at.

I’ve only ever really played the first and second Resident Evil games on the Playstation back in the 90’s.  Gaming tailed off for me as the kids came along, ange pretty much hates it and I find it prohibitively expensive when you have a family to feed, a roof to keep over your head and a serious toy collecting habit.  Who has fifty quid to spend on a new game?

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that the game wasn’t a holy cow for me that wasn’t about to be butchered by a film adaption that might of played fast and loose with the concepts, characters and settings of the game.  Sure, I would of liked to see a bit more of a ‘creepy mansion’ movie but as previously mentioned, Milla is lovely to look at and with Michelle Rodriguez also kicking zombie ass, who was I to complain?  Plus I dug the dobermen.

I own a copy of the first movie, I ordered Apocalypse and Extinction to watch at the same time but extinction arrived first, figuring that plot probably wasn’t the strong point of the series, I decided it was safe to watch them out of sequence.

Extinction is great fun, zombies in a post-apocalypse desert, biker chicks, evil crows, reasonable CGI and a surprising level of violence/gore for a 15, that’s a great night in as far as I am concerned.

But what I think I really enjoyed was the fact it reminded me of a story I started writing when I was at school, called The Walk.  It was a typically cliched magpies nest of stolen ideas that you might expect from a teenage boy, I stole mainly from Harlan Ellison’s ‘A Boy and His Dog’ (probably just as well I’ve never had any success as a writer, I suspect Mr Ellison’s lawyers would of come knocking and with good reason) but with bits of Romero, Logan’s Run and Judge Dredd liberaly scattered around.

The plot concerned the aftermath of some kind of apocalyptic world disaster, the exact specifics of which were kept deliberately vague.  Needless to say a great deal of people died and the land was greatly changed, the deserts grew larger, the forests smaller and stranger and a great in-land sea was also formed in North America.

Many animals mutate in the wake of the event, becoming more intelligent, in some cases as intelligent as humans.

The survivors were scattered few and far apart in various outposts and colonies, mostly walled and guarded as the dead had inconveniently decided to rise and consume the living.  There was no real rhyme or reason to this, the process was random, with no real way of knowing who would come back from the dead, some regions were safe from the phenomena, others replete with it.  The settlements were loosely controlled by a massive computer network, supposedly tied to a central AI beneath Washington, but many of the links had become severed, allowing the terminals to forge their own strange and unpredictable personalities, with a bewildered population forced to obey the orders passed down from their user interfaces, bomb-proof container like rooms called God-Boxes.

Some of these God-Boxes were affixed to instillations with robotic sentries, shelters and food supplies, others were just left with a shanty town of survivors waiting for news from the goverment.

The story followed a boy and his family who decide to leave their armored  enclave and make a break for the east coast and a supposed haven in a colony that is thriving, a trip that means crossing the entire United States.  The family are killed, leaving only the boy and his father, ‘The Scientist’ to keep going but eventually the scientist also succumbs and dies, leaving the boy to continue alone.

The boy gets a head start of a few days before his father rises, different to the other undead, he retains a purpose and intelligence and begins to track his son, bent on his destruction and forming an army of the undead in the boys wake.

The boy rests at a deserted gas station and is almost killed by revenants but is saved by an intelligent crow with the ability to speak.  The two form an uneasy alliance, the crow scouting for the boy and the boy feeding and protecting the bird.

As the story progressed we discovered that the boy’s blood contains the secrets of a cure for the malaise afflicting the land and in his cybernetic limb, the secret of the disaster and the key to re-instating the computer network to restore the country.

Like I said, pretty much a grab bag of a lot of 70s and 80s sci-fi, but it’s interesting to see something looking like I imagined the story in the shape of Resident Evil Extinction and the likes of the FallOut games to.

Maybe one day I’ll try writing it again, maybe not!

I can tell you when I became a fan of horror movies.

I was 14, my cousin brought round a copy of Day of the Dead on VHS.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it (I’d had a nasty encounter with John Carpenter’s version of The Thing at age 11.  My dad had asked me if I was sure I wanted to stay up and see it on telly, I assured him I was fine and made it as far as the dog mutation scene before all but passing out in pure terror.  My friend Zac had a similar experience but his was enhanced by the family German Shepherd entering the room during the same scene and deciding to cough up a hair ball, Zac tells me he jumped oout of the living room window and needed to be coaxed out of the garden shed by his brother), but went along with peer pressure and loved it.  From then on and for at least five years, horror movies became a pretty big obsession.  Many late nights were spent drinking cider and watching snowy bootlegs of Blood Sucking Freaks and arguing over which version of Halloween 2 was the best*.

Watching horror films became a low-grade badge of honor and rite of passage.  At 14, it seemed to earn me a rep at school, I became the ‘go-to-guy’ for films and recommendations.   My burgeoning video collection became the stuff of legend through chinese whispers, kids thought I had a ‘wall of videos’.  Watching the most intensely gory or a banned movie was the school equivalent of getting a tattoo.

This was 1988, 6 years after the ‘Video Nasty’ furor in the UK, fueled by rants in the Daily Mail about how Betamax copies of Evil Dead were going to turn us all into a nation of pervert psychopaths.  The British Board of Film Classification, or the BBFC, banned several titles.  They may have just as well sent us a shopping list.  These movies became our holy grails, we NEEDED to see them.  The BBFC weren’t going to sit up in their castle in Soho Square and dictate to us what we could and couldn’t see, oh no, they could cut thirty seconds of razor slashing out of Hellraiser 2: Hellbound, but we would track down an crystal clear copy of the uncut version, we were fucking rock and roll man, nothing could stop us!

Well, actually we were more West Coast Electro and Kraftwerk than rock and roll but we quickly found out a series of contacts and started tracking down, snowy, grainy VHS copies of Cannibal Ferrox and Faces of Death.

Considering this was all pre-internet, we did pretty good.  One of our sources was a guy called Neil, he would turn up at the pub and assure us that he had a directors cut of Day of the Dead complete with Bub’s finger biting scene.  We would eagerly snap that up and then he would go on to let us know he could also get us A Hundred and One Dalmations with test animation footage cut in too.  Neil was also a Disney buff, the love of two genres always seemed bizarre to me but I hadn’t realized  that even thought I was mainly interested in tracking down a copy of Night if the Bloody Apes, I too was beginning to appreciate other genres and directors.  I was becoming a film buff.

So, the VHS tapes began to stack up, in one memorable weekend around £115 was spent on dodgy movies.   I remember one particularly odd double bill of Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers and the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher.  Always starting with a hazy roar of static and a wobbly sound track, many late night sessions followed where three or four of us would sit in my front room with bags of crisps and cider watching the likes of the Amsterdam cut of Evil Dead, The Burning, Zombie Flesh Eaters and Tenebrae.

But we didn’t just stay at home.  In 1989 the first Multiplexes began appearing in the UK, I began to steadily attend the movies, at one point I was going three times a week, tickets were only £3.50 back then and I was at that magic age where I could still get a half fare on the bus but pass for 18 at the cinema.  The first 18 movie I saw on the big screen was Hellraiser 2, our plan to get me in was foolproof; all of my friends were actually eighteen or over at the time, I was still four years behind but I would pay for all seven of us to get in.  What ever doubts the box office may of had were wiped away by the fact I was handing over twenty five quid.  Ultimately we were dismayed at the afore mentioned thirty second cut (among others) and left the cinema annoyed, but I had scored a minor victory that night, I was in!

From then on we attended most of the horror movies that got released from eighty nine through to the mid nineties; Society, They Live, Elm Streets part four to seven, God how we cheered when we saw the head explosion in The Fly 2.

In an effort to keep up with the new Cannon Multiplex, the smaller cinemas in town began to run midnight shows and all nighters.  Double bills of Prince of Darkness and Phantasm II, both Evil Dead movies and so on.  We got to know the box office folks well and were actually allowed up into the projection booth for the Back to the Future all nighter.  That was sadly the last late show at the Above Bar Cannon, it got closed down a few months later and was converted into a giant theme pub, again the first of its kind in Southampton.

In the meantime, my video collection had grown.  Well over two hundred videos of all genres now.  Books on cult cinema, John Carpenter (easily my favorite horror director) and Dario Argento lined my shelves.  Movie scores made for well over eighty percent of my record and tape collection and my bed room walls were clogged with movie posters.  The bug had bitten hard.

Times change, people change and friendships evolve and drift apart.  A few of us lost contact with each other or moved in different directions.  One thing lead to another and soon I was seeing Ange, a woman who managed to politely listen to  my drunken assertions that The Rocketeer was one of the greatest movies of all time and still end up going out with me.  I liked this girl, she put on a film festival at uni that showed Interview With the Vampire and wrote her dissertation on the Alien Trilogy (as it was then) and her favorite was Alien 3 (yeah, yeah, whatever, it’s a classic, get over it).

We married in 2000 (in Vegas baby!)  still both major film buffs, regularly attending the film quiz at Harbour Lights cinema and scoring the winning prize on a few occasions.  I watched the Ring movies and had to turn off the tv with a broom handle, lest Sadako drag me through the screen, but horror was tailing off for me.  The arrival of the kids changed things there as well.  Fatherhood put me into a place emotionally where horror didn’t do it for me any more.  From a practical point of view, keeping a DVD of Deep Red around when your five year old is starting to use the DVD player herself is not the best idea, but the current trend in ‘Torture Porn’ is extremely off putting to me now.  Funny to think that at age 15, I would be front and center for Hostel 2, these days, I’d much rather watch Rear Window.

Gore is much less important to me now but I love the element of strangeness, films like Phantasm and Pontypool intrigue me much, much more and they would appear to be on the rise again.

I’m still even hoping Carpenter might direct another decent movie, he’s about due for one…

I’ve just found out that The Darling downs would actually appear to be the name of an indie band after all.  Fair play to them, but apologies if you’ve stumbled across this expecting their blog or something.

How strangely evocative a scent can be.

The sense of smell is such a powerful trigger when it comes to memory and emotion.  I love it when it pulls he rug from under your feet and suddenly dumps you in another time and place.

This afternoon, walking home in the cold gloom, I walked past a garden and was hit by this sweet, musky scent, almost cloying, that triggered a feeling in me that I hadn’t felt in probably 15 years. 

I have no idea what particular plant it came from, but it put me in mind of summer evenings, walking home from the pub, possibly slightly tipsy and in the company of good friends.  The feeling of being free from worry enveloped me; no need to worry about your bills, your career or your health.  Life is just one extended weekend with patches of work to help fuel your next night out.

It’s not that I regret where I am now at all, but it was a small, pleasing shock to remember a time when I could be so blase about my life.

In India, just after arriving after nine or so hours of flying and being away from my family for two days already, I remember being so shocked by the thick, dusty atmosphere and the strange quality of light, the noise and chatter of a language I didn’t understand.

Tired, homesick and edgy I got into the van that would drive us to our hostel.  Yet out on the roads, they had been spraying water to keep down the dust.  Through the gloom, I could see small apartment blocks up on shallow rises and this sight, combined with the after-storm smell of wet earth, immediately transported me to my infancy and the block of flats where my Grandmother lived in Thornhill, Southampton.  Of all the things I expected Delhi to smell of, late 70’s Southampton, was not one of them…

Good to see the Pope endearing himself to the world again isn’t it?

I hope he doesn’t fall on a spike soon.