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Monday, 26 January 2015

The Sayers ::
Two Out of Three (Three)


Exposition Time!


This is the latest instalment of my first long-form piece, The Sayers. You can find links to every chapter of the Novel at the dedicated blog page. If you notice any grammatical errors I have overlooked, or you have any observations to make on this piece, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.



For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.


==


Daniel blinks, confused at the Direction he's heard from Alexa, questioning unconsciously her rapidly changing state. The previous day presents itself in his head without a prompt: slim fingers, running across the unmistakeable Mark of the Third Eye, sudden tingle stimulating well-worn skin, sour taste of vomit as she'd recovered from being forced to kill, standing in the garden over the boy's dead body.

Something in the seal had told her to wait.

'I don’t know why the Sisters sent him to kill me.'

Alexa is off at speed, leaving Daniel confused in her wake. He is careful to clear the room before following back down to ground level: she crouches by the bar, rummaging in a heavy canvas bag before pulling out the scroll, breaking the seal in one quick motion. Something around her ignites, flash of white then darkness. An oddly familiar smell swirls from her hands: dense, small patches of black are rapidly disintegrating, consuming each other whilst evaporating into nothing. Everything around the woman slows and stretches, Earth shuddering into something disturbing yet familiar.

The room shifts; pre-planned deception, cleverly placed phantoms behind his field of immediate vision he knows are a lie. Alexa is transfixed and it is another long second before Daniel puts all the pieces together. The scroll isn't the message. He picks up the now-discarded parchment and stares in mounting horror: there is nothing written on it at all. The seal contains everything that was intended for her, sent straight through her lungs, into the bloodstream. She stands, frozen in time: as he approaches her eyes have lost all darkness. The irises are completely swallowed, grey-blue storms that block out the present.

She has been given the Sight by the Sisters. The future is hers now to behold, whether she likes it or not.

Caramel ripples in his mouth, joint taste heightened, accompanying an implicit understanding he's also been influenced, but neither is he drunk or drugged. Perception shifts as reflex, awareness of the road outside the inn, two female Junta officers approaching the front entrance. Daniel lunges for Alexa, pulling her down below the level of the windows, away from the doorway. The two women confer: no need to check the Inn, their assassin already long gone, heading for the Capitol where friends would shelter her. They should head back for the Base.

He is too afraid to reinforce the speech with Direction, scared of the echoes in his own mind that the drug has begun to create. He has never desired the Sight, the concept scared him. The future should be yours to dictate and no-one's else's to direct.

Certain the officers have gone, Daniel turns full attention to Alexa, in his arms as she shakes, events still playing out for her beyond his control. A memory surfaces, so fast he has to struggle to intercept it, knowing it doesn't belong to her at all: it is Riverman's, the boy she was forced to kill, sent to his death by the Sayers themselves. He watches as the boy slits the throats of two Sayer Attendants who had refused to service the needs of the nearby Base’s Commander. The Sisters had asked for this boy specifically, so his death at Alexa's hands would be revenge for his actions against their number.

She had been used as means to an end, nothing more. The greater significance was to bring her here, to open the scroll. In your arms. If he can garner all this simply from one memory, that he wasn't even supposed to see, how much information must Alexa be processing?

The woman is sweating profusely, thin trail of blood escaping her nose, rapidly overwhelmed by whatever the scroll has delivered directly into her brain. Concerned now for her welfare, and the fact they are a long way from a safe place to be incapacitated by anything this sophisticated, he decides it is time for action. Ignoring the turmoil now swirling around them both, Daniel closes his mind, reaches directly into her brain, and plants a single and decisive phrase of Direction.

Alexa, sleep.

She immediately goes limp, breathing rapidly slowing and heart rate decreasing. Daniel sits with her on the dusty floor and quietly strokes her hair, waiting for when he knows he will not wake her with movement. I'll leave the bag, someone can be sent back for it. I'll stay until the Afternoon Shift begins and carry her to safety. If I stick to the smaller alleys there'll be little chance of us being seen...

Hilltop briefly considers waiting until dark, but with the speed at which information is moving, time is a luxury that he no longer has. They need to be away from here, and soon.

==

For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Voices in My Head


Buy a Seconda, it will fill you with gladness... ^^

This week has been one of many revelations. The most significant one came yesterday, when it dawned on me why I'd become so emotionally fragile in the last few weeks.

It has a lot to do with the thousand or so people currently in my head.


Data Overload.

I started a gaming project back in August, and the amount of interest it generated took me totally by surprise. More importantly, I'd not anticipated the effect that absorbing all the data I collected would have on me, and on reflection I probably made some fatal errors in wanting to experience everything. I decided the only way to understand what people had decided to share with me was to read it all, and by the beginning of December I'd done just that, except I found it incredibly hard to then make any real sense of what I had. Notes got trashed, scripts written and binned. I couldn't find the angle I needed until I got to Christmas and a chance to actually sit down and process what I'd seen.

Then, odd things began to happen.


Deliberate recycling.

Over the course of a week, a path became clear, and I was able to produce the opening episode. Splitting the questions I'd asked up into a different order was the key, and after the first one was done it was as if someone handed me a map: the path through to my conclusion became incredibly clear, so much so I found myself wondering why I'd spent so much time procrastinating all those months. Except, I hadn't. The stories I'd read and the lives I'd fallen into had made me afraid: I wasn't sure I'd be able to tell these stories in the right way. I didn't want them to be massive votes of affirmation because the more I read, the more I grasped how so many people had encountered issues or had problems, and had told me in writing I suspect far more than they would ever have voluntarily offered if we were face to face. It was more than that too: some of these people made me question why I played, challenged my conceptions of a group of pixels. Some of these people were really, REALLY angry about what the game had done to their lives... and then it all imploded into my brain.

I was dreaming about interviewing people. I was seeing people's responses when I played the game and then I knew that I probably needed to take a step back. So I took a week off last week and did just that, and forced myself to actually process the more difficult things I'd absorbed. It was as if a dam broke in my brain, and suddenly a ton of personally relevant stuff gushed out, all tied up with how I'd dealt with the last ten years and how that was being mirrored by the people whose memories I'd been given. It is no wonder therefore that the last ten days has seen some of the most productive work I've ever produced, and that as I have become more capable of expressing myself, the rewards have begun to manifest. Clarity has come by being able to stop being consumed by the madness of all the data, all at once. Revelation has sprung from the knowledge that actually, stuff has changed in a decade that is bad as well as good. That's the key for me, in all of this. I refuse to present an overly sunny or optimistic view of the 10 years that this game now represents. It isn't just about patting yourself on the back at a job well done. The real trick is to embrace both the good and the bad, and to move forward with something better than the sum of these parts.


Free falling.

I have gained an enormous amount of respect in this research for people I have never met, whose stories of struggle and real life events are painted with a computer game as a backdrop. Their memories aren't just of Warcraft, this is far more than just 10 Questions about what Blizzard did for people's lives. This is about the people who took the time to tell me their histories with this game as the common thread. It is difficult and emotionally draining being in the eye of this storm, and I'm getting angry and tired and upset at what I've read and how that is changing me as a person, as I try and do these lives justice. Some of them I talk to daily, and I wish I could tell them just how much what they are has now affected what I am. In many cases, I don't actually feel I'd be confident to go up to them and use the words.

So, instead, I'll do the only thing I really know.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Push It


Clearly NOT Rocket Science. At all.


Mankind has done some wonderful things in the last 40 years. The Selfie Stick is not one of them. Although some will argue they serve an important purpose, the rest of us are already predicting the imminent downfall of Society as We Know It as a result of their popularity. If all I have to do is mention the damn things on Twitter to automatically get followed by a robotic sales representative, frankly, everybody's in trouble.


YEAH RIGHT.


The thing is, actually, these sticks could have another use that maybe the traditional photographic industry's overlooked. I sense if we let the Adult Entertainment People at these things, the Selfie Stick could take on a whole different life, and the phrase itself could grasp a new, entirely 21st Century double entendre. What if 'giving yourself a Selfie' meant using an entirely different part of your anatomy as the means to trigger your own personal money shot?


WORK IT OUT ^^


Now, you're already shaking your head, believing I'm massively overthinking AND oversharing this, right? I wish. You see, people have already had these ideas, and are selling them. You're just not reading about them. Let me fix that for you: the people who make the Fleshlight, the male 'sex toy' that relies on penetration for your male satisfaction, already has an attachment for an iPad. As the Verge article so elegantly puts it, the idea is to 'attach the Fleshlight to the iPad and play a sexually arousing video on its screen. A person can then pleasure themselves with the iPad while watching the video in landscape mode, all for the price of $24.95' Our Selfie Stick idea would take auto-stimulation and the Vine/Instagram/Flickr trend to a new level of financial exploitability. Of course, I suspect that Apple might get the hump if someone tried to patent the name of this as the iCum, but hey it could yet be worth the hassle just for the Court appearance you'd have to make to demonstrate the device in action.

You'll need a thicker shaft for the grip, I reckon, and I'd start doing those Kegels to make sure you can activate the shutter at the crucial moment. Then, all we need is someone to start a website so you can sell your snaps for a quick profit after the deed is done (www.selfiemoneyshots.xxx) will do: and remember folks, this is the sexytimes exercise you can do all on your own.

Trust me, stranger things have happened to your nether regions in the course of History.




YES THAT'S HOW IT HAPPENED.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Cloudbusting


Seminal works.

In the last few weeks, there has been a not inconsiderable amount of reflection around the notion of awareness. It has been combined with an exercise in grasping what I am and what I have come from, and two pieces of that I wish to share before we move onwards to more interesting diversions. Firstly, the picture we lead with (The Kiss, 1907-1908) was a significant visual influence in my early teens, and my first exposure to it coincided with my English teacher presenting me with a particular piece of poetry to read, with the two combining for a profound emotional response:


Her Song :: Brian Patten

For no other reason than I love him wholly
I am here; for this one night at least
The world has shrunk to a boyish breast
On which my head, brilliant and exhausted, rests,
And can know of nothing more complete.

Let the dawn assemble all its guilts, its worries
And small doubts that, but for love, would infect
This perfect heart.
I am as far beyond doubt as the sun.
I am as far beyond doubt as is possible.


Up to that point sex had been summat you learnt about in Biology. I'd never considered what it meant to me. Needless to say, after over thirty years, this is still very much an ongoing process.

I have been doing quite a lot of exploration in my fiction of late, especially in reference to the various sexual orientations of various characters. This has taken in the more conventional notations of preference, and thanks to contacts via social media I've been exposed to a spectrum of new dispositions which I've now begun to jokingly refer to as 'The Sexuality Wallchart.' There's also a Glossary of Terminology that was, I have to say, something of an eye-opener. I'd always though of myself as being fairly progressive in my outlook, but my naivety has been quite staggering in the face of a generation who appear to have a definition for absolutely everything. What this has made me realise is just how far awareness has moved in such a short space of time. It has also made me sit and reassess where I live in this Brave New World.


Yes to both. For the record ^^


I have a lot of empathy with 007 in this situation, because it does to me feel like I've turned up from being drunk and lost to discover that somewhere along the line in the last decade everything changed and nobody told me. Playing catch up as a result therefore has been pretty fraught, and has resulted in, on a number of occasions, me being caught out over defining one word as one thing when for other people it does clearly mean summat completely different. Fortunately for me however, I am, like Bond, still required to pull the trigger to complete the exposition. My presence is no longer outmoded or insignificant, if I move with the times. That means, with careful consideration, I have to be VERY particular as to what kind of ammo I'm loading when I write anything of note.

As a result of all this, in the current work I'm serialising, some subtle but very significant changes have happened in the last few weeks.


Honesty? I think so.

I wrote the original draft of The Sayers very clearly with a cis mindset, because that's how I originally envisaged it. However, over time, and with the inclusion of a particular scene in the early chapters, my characters have begun to develop more unique lives, and as a result I have found myself not wanting to impose my limited sexual references on what they are capable of. Once I took off the blinkers, events have moved in far more interesting directions almost immediately, and the narrative is beginning to diverge from its original path. I would be concerned at this if I thought that what I'd learnt and what I was deliberately exposing myself was negative, but as it transpires the effect is the exact opposite. It is giving me more avenues to explore, and is migrating the main plot off the more established track it had been taking and into areas I am finding fascinating to explore.

As an exercise in enlightenment, this has been quite the eye-opener.

Now I really begin to understand that the best writing comes with the widest possible frame of reference. It isn't just what you want as consideration, it is how you take that and encompass everything else that occurs around you, how this then blends and shapes your final view of the worlds you create. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to gain these insights on my terms too, and in what is an extremely conducive environment for creativity at present. Long may it continue, and if I can keep the mindset and remain a grumpy old cow to boot, so much the better.

Some things may change, but others will remain reassuringly intractable.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Sayers ::
Two Out of Three (Two)

Exposition Time!


This is the latest instalment of my first long-form piece, The Sayers. You can find links to every chapter of the Novel at the dedicated blog page. If you notice any grammatical errors I have overlooked, or you have any observations to make on this piece, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.



For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.



==


She locks the door with the tools, conscious of maintaining an illusion that the Inn is secure. Not for the first time there are silent thanks to Marchant, mentor and friend, for teaching the skill she took so long to master. His patience was a rarity, constant temper never frayed. When the Locksmith had declared her untrainable, he had persisted. ‘Gaining entry should never looked forced,’ he told her ‘and must always be reversible. Speed will come with confidence. You will improve.’

The Cherry Tree is dark, musty warmth even with shutters drawn, and Alexa spends a moment recalling the floor plans, before stowing her backpack well out of sight. Despite the comfort of the presence that exists above her this could yet turn into a flashpoint, and she should be prepared. At the top of small, steep stairs leading from the back entrance were four rooms, mostly used for 'private' meetings. Alexa assumes Hilltop will not play games, that the rules they have always lived by will still apply. She climbs silently, considered care before moving to the end of the landing, checking each closed door as she does. There is a smile at the two symbols marked in grey chalk on the furthest, same colour as the fading paint. Her finger traces them, reassurance in the action: one man inside, fully armed.

The code of another age, her past remembered.

He tells of what to expect, yet the fear will not subside.

He pronounced her dead so she could escape from the inevitable. His parting gift was a freedom that has been wrenched from her hands. Alexa never asked how he felt, what he wanted, and had simply run. Once gone, she'd been too afraid to look back.

She pushes the door open to find him sitting on the table opposite, arms across his chest. He has not changed much: scruffy dark hair, warming brown eyes, unsettlingly handsome. The smile that breaks is enough to make Alexa forget herself, wish he was all that now mattered in her world, allowing mouth and mind to shatter an unshakeable resolve. He is off the table and hugging her with a passion reassuringly overwhelming before she can regroup and respond with relief. As they separate Daniel's eyes quickly cloud, guilt and regret all too obvious.

'You have no need to apologise. I should have come and found you as soon as I knew you were a target.'

'If you had I would not have done as good a job as I had hoped.'

Alexa absorbs his projected sensations, knowing concern is real, not Direction talking as it often did when he would cheat and respond with ineffective excuses. He is genuinely upset at his admission. There is a flash from his mind, previous event illuminated unconsciously: a message reached him, one of the First-Generation Military Assassins had been sent to kill an unnamed target. He had known, without understanding how or why, that it was her. It is also a concern how easily the two of them blend after such an absence, comfort from his hands resting on the curve of her back. Necessity pushes: she should move away, but there is no desire to comply. It is the past that rises as a reminder, why this must stop. She cannot stand with this man any more. If she does, his life will be in danger.

She had been named successor of the Assassin's Guild, not Daniel, but when her moment came the pressure of legacy had begun to eat away at her sanity. Suddenly she had vanished, presumed missing after a routine reconnaissance, and while teams searched the river where her boat was found destroyed, she had ridden south. There had been no body recovered, only a uniform left abandoned at the muddy shore, bullet hole to the chest. Hilltop had presented it to Maximus and declared her dead, and claimed the right of succession for leadership.

From past to present, her last desperate words echo, bleeding into his consciousness: months of trauma compressed to a heartbeat.

Please, just let me go.

He takes a step back, hands hovering uncertainly, breathing suddenly laboured, and Alexa shuts herself away. Their past has no part here, not now.

There is no time for anything except exposition: she tells him of Riverman, her house in flames, the incident in the carrier relayed with a quiet and sad efficiency. She cannot remember the last time she has spoken so much and at the end her throat is sore, fatigue suddenly tugging at her ability. Hilltop listens, picking up brief flashes of memory from her, tiny moments of shared understanding before reaching over to take something from the table, handing it to her without ceremony. The parchment is rich and expensive, the proclamation hand-scribed.


BY ORDER OF THE MILITARY GOVERNMENT, let it be known
that any member of the now-outlawed Assassin's Guild, or any individual
believed to be aiding or abetting said Guild is considered an 
ENEMY OF THE STATE AND THE PEOPLE, 
and will be dealt with accordingly. The penalty for soliciting an Assassin, or for colluding with an Assassin, will be SUMMARY EXECUTION. 
Any individual who brings an Assassin to a Magistrate for the
appropriate punishment will be rewarded with the sum of
1000 Florins. Any individual who can provide details of an
Assassin's location will be rewarded with 500 Florins. 
Assassins are to be considered DANGEROUS INDIVIDUALS and
will be dealt with appropriately by local government. 
His Great and Glorious,
High General Marcus Maximus.


Alexa holds this weapon in unsteady hands as significance sinks in. Dated exactly one month previously, the threat is suddenly intensely personal. These rewards were more money than most would see in a year, yet Daniel remained a free man. The military's grip on the people must be far weaker than she had perceived.

'I'm guessing all this coincided with the first Military Assassins being placed into active service?''

Daniel's shoulders sag: he can't look at her any more, staring away to when she begged him to lead a celebrated organisation, not the shattered, splintered group of fugitives it had become.

‘After you left, I was forced into one compromise after another. Like the Apothecaries and Physicians I agreed to integration, and assumed this would be granted without interference. I don’t think anyone ever considered just how much we’d be expected to ignore, and how much the Military intended to ‘oversee’ across the whole of the Country, even at the most local levels. The Junta took the best we all had, and if people refused to toe the line or work under the Military Code, they’d just vanish. Threats would come at night, the black-coated men at your door. Serve Maximus without question, or face the consequences. It made the Imperialist Purge look like a summer picnic.’

Alexa listens with a rapidly heavy heart: Daniel had tried to hold the Guild together, despite his deepening disquiet of the Military’s intentions. Eighteen months previously Marcus demanded the summary execution of one of his most trusted Lieutenant’s families, in front of him, to show the man that the rule of the High General was without question. When Daniel had refused to have any part in the process, Marcus had taken his own pistol and shot both the man's wife and twelve year old daughter at point blank range. Then came the ultimatum: all remaining Assassins would be absorbed into the Junta's own teams. Anyone failing to comply with the order would themselves be shot.

'I'm betting that went down well.'

'Overnight nearly all of our number vanished, myself included. The contingency had been there: we knew it might come down to this to save the ethos. The Junta kept the illusion of the Guild remaining intact as I later discovered was the case with both the Apoths and the Physicians. All the best people have either gone underground or maintain an illusion of integration into the Military's ranks. After that, revolution on our terms became a discussion every Guild needed to have.’

Alexa’s mind moves, compiling a new chronology, the last five years being shifted and folded, wrapped around the memories Daniel has provided. Events in her village take on new significance: the Apoth’s Shop being expanded and rebuilt, the disappearance of various notable men and women over five summers. Her Direction had always been enough to deceive the visiting Military personnel, position in the town as Herbalist and Leatherworker never questioned by anyone. Her skills were unparalleled, discretion without question. The secrets she held, even in a small village many miles from the Capitol, enough to keep suspicion at bay. She could have remained anonymous forever.

‘I’ve spent a long time ignoring reality, and it isn’t healthy. Tell me the people I care about have managed to avoid the cull?’

'I know Boyd's alive, and Atlas. Ruth went to the west with Amy, and they were training local rebels the last time I heard. Petrelli is having fun starting fires in the Mid Lands... everyone who is capable is causing some kind of trouble, keeping busy with various projects to frustrate the Military... hence why this new proclamation was scribed. I’m pleased to say that even with the lure of more money, nobody is particularly disposed to claim the rewards.’

‘Well, that is no surprise, having briefly spent time in town. You may have changed clothes since you set the explosion, but the smell in your hair gives you away. Your handiwork has been very well received, if today's gossip is any indicator.’

When he reacts, Alexa allows herself a moment to enjoy both the smile and his pride.

'I don't blow things up, I stand and enjoy watching other people's efforts. I take it as a metaphor for the situation I find myself in. If any of us had known the freedom we’d have lost helping to overthrow the old government… in the last few weeks even the Sisters have begun to feel the lash of oppression. The local Priory was ransacked last week, the entire population vanished overnight.’

The mention of the Order is dissonance in Alexa’s mind, blood suddenly rushing in ears that tingle, the same feeling in fingers a memory from the day before. A moment that pulls the past into the room with a speed and clarity that surprises her. The message she was sent remains unopened.

The scroll Riverman had delivered, removed from his jacket, sits waiting in the top of Alexa’s backpack. She had gone to do so in the garden after she killed him but something had prevented it, an inescapable feeling that it wasn't yet time.

Two out of three.

==


For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Scary Monsters and Super Creeps


Bury them there, nobody's looking... ^^

Just an advisory, to anyone on Social Media who thinks they're clever enough to diss their friend(s)/colleague(s) without anyone else working out the fact they're doing it. You know, the one(s) they were as tight as Kim Kardashian's ass with: suddenly they've fallen out over something, and now the anger burns with the heat of a thousand CGI-generated Suns. They think they're being clever and oh so subtle in their abuse of them... but the thing is, if I can work out what you're up to from a semi detached in South East England, your plan is failing. You're also making complete wankers of yourself in the process.

The problem with your cunning scheme is twofold. Firstly, you forget all the other people who saw this event play out from both sides, and have worked out that you're the one making the storm in the teacup. Secondly, and more importantly, you've also failed to grasp that if you'd like people to take you seriously in the future and not consider you whiny drama queens then filling your timeline with thinly-veiled pokes at the person who has aggrieved you is really not the way forward. You're hoping most people aren't paying attention. Yeah, well, the problem there is that, as I have discovered to my cost, an incredible number of people do nothing but.

Available to Embroider and for sale on Etsy  REALLY SOON... ^^

Drama is great when you're not in it. When someone else generates it you're more than happy to sit back and lap it up, oh, and add your own tuppence worth in the Pot of Recrimination (available in three colours and four styles.) However, when it's you caught up with the backwash things get really old, very fast. In fact, this is always a good moment to work out whether the people you call friends are indeed actually that to begin with. because, as I've said elsewhere today, knowing who those people are is useful for future reference. But most importantly of all, all those people who you think don't have a clue who you are because of that Great Internet Anonymity you have because you're not using your real name? It's not that simple any more. You'd be amazed how clever some people can be in tracking down connections and joining the dots. They're the same people who lap up the Internet drama. Except now, these people get paid to do this for a living.

So, when you next decide to spread your drama all over cyberspace? Remember how much it smells, how well it sticks and how difficult it can be to clean up afterwards. Oh, and don't assume because you'll forget about it all that everyone else will too.

Some people have VERY long memories.

Monday, 12 January 2015

The Sayers :: Two Out of Three (One)


Exposition Time!


This is the latest instalment of my first long-form piece, The Sayers. You can find links to every chapter of the Novel at the dedicated blog page. If you notice any grammatical errors I have overlooked, or you have any observations to make on this piece, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.



For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.


==


Two Out of Three.




Alexa arrives at the outskirts of Durobrivis as the noonday bell rings.

Here stand two recently-constructed factories: one for the building and supply of parts for Military Weaponry and another for the ancillary services the blacksmiths require. Alexa mingles between the dozens of workers who pour from both into the main cobbled street, heading for the Town Square and much-needed distraction. Without a thought she becomes indivisible from the mass, thoughts reflected and absorbed as she joins the migration inwards, the call of food and company compelling. Her gardening hat is discarded, a scarf liberated from a pretty blonde girl preoccupied with a muscular dark haired man and his tale of sheep shearing. Quickly hair is tied down and to the side, immediate mirror of current fashion. Such things never bothered her alone, but to be part of a whole she must adapt with speed.

Voices around her are strident, yet feelings stay guarded and veiled: people almost too obvious in the pronouncement of the mundane. Many minds are filled with the preoccupations of freedom, filling Alexa with unexpected excitement. The explosion she learnt of in the Carrier inspires many, hushed agreement as people pass the military checkpoints which are oddly unmanned. Alexa wonders if recruits are lacking, or if a bigger issue is at play: there will be time enough to catch up on current events once she has located assistance, for which she must place herself quickly at the town's heart.

The Town Square heaves with life and warmth: key traders and manufacturing guilds vie for the best spots around a large stone landmark, ancient reminder of the Ancestors and this spot where their army first rested on their way to the Capitol. Stalls fan out, circles around the centre, a mass moving in surprising order between selections of what currently passes for luxury goods, stuffed between numerous food vendors. The glorious smell of pig attracts many to a double spit, large bowls of fresh vegetables dunked in copper pans of boiling water, cooked to order. It had been a harsh winter, and Alexa gives into her urge, not knowing when she might eat well again.

She chooses a large pastry sandwich, rich gravy dripping into her hand plus a bottle of dense fruit cordial, blackcurrant sharpness against the beef and potatoes. Then she fights her way out to the large cobbled thoroughfare where many simply stop to eat and talk, to stand and survey her territory. Her anonymity is secure as a space of low wall is located to sit on, slowly taking in her surroundings as the pastry diminishes. It is far too dangerous to use Direction, no idea of who might be in the crowd to detect her. The reality of travelling spies was something she knew too much about, as that had often been her task to locate in the days before the last War.

Across the street is The Beggar's Rest, neatly placed boards obscuring whitewashed glass, and with a stab of anger Alexa grasps she’s encountered another sign of oppression. The Inn was somewhere she'd visited, that Boyd had favoured for a time on his travels across the South. The proclamation sits pristine, pinned to the door, marked with the Military Seal of Maximus. This is how the people are silenced. Their buildings burnt and gutted, meeting places destroyed or closed. Those who chose to stand in defiance and proclaim their freedom are summarily punished. If she is to find help, it would inevitably be well-hidden. First, lunch would be finished and then a walk to the Apoth's Shop east of here, in the hope she might catch sight of a familiar face...

Something moves in the breeze, the faintest of hints. A smell out of context.

Alexa blinks, aware her mind has been briefly touched, and is on alert. Around her utter normality continues, men and women talking, laughing: flirting and arguing over food and drink. Her body is reacting to something unseen; familiar feeling, muscle memory from a time hidden away and long forgotten. Salt and sweet. Caramel. Perhaps one of the traders sells sugared nuts, but such fripperies are unlikely this far from the Capitol, especially as the Junta has restricted imports of anything not deemed essential except for the military. Eventually she acquiesces, allowing past and present to overlap, and the taste of forgiveness floods her mouth. Eyes closed, semi-clothed, the fabulous combination of sharp and rich sends her tongue into sensory meltdown. The mattress gives, weight next to her, warmth at her shoulder. His finger traces her bottom lip, smearing stickiness like balm, a smudge he defies her to lick away.

This is a memory she owns, but is not simply hers to share. Ignited by design, only he could arouse her this way.

Daniel.

Push me.

The world stops: she is alone, every voice around her silenced. His touch, as it always did, renders parts of her brain utterly incapable of anything except need until adrenaline takes over and focus returns. Absolutely the last person on the Earth she expected to be here invades her mind. The reaction is instinct, need to repeat after countless cold, lonely nights of regret and loneliness.

I'm sorry.

His calm wraps, silent support, reassurance of times past. Subtleties were never lost on her, the understanding that the mind's complexities must all be considered when judging a person via Direction. His bitterness is inescapable, as is the fatigue, a mind weary and battered. The past to which they both briefly retreat is a warmth neither of them wanted to leave, yet now she must. Instantly she concentrates, the town flattening around her, buildings becoming blobs on a map, the parchment she stole from the Carrier. She holds cartography in her mind and searches for Hilltop, the movements in the air connecting their positions, closing the distance between.

The Inn to the north, well-worn retreat Daniel had favoured when he travelled to the coast. A faded sign, gnarled tree overhanging the decaying, red-brick well. She had slept there too, further memories instantly stimulated: dark ale and rich pies, a landlord with green eyes and a wandering hand. It was closed and boarded, but not unoccupied. He sat there, eyes closed, willing her to join him, taste of salt caramel on hungry lips. The sweet so detested when their lives were joined, until he licked it from her skin, making it part of her taste.

MOVE.

Commotion erupts to the south: reality and necessity pull her back to the crowded street. Alexa is immediately aware of the two female Junta officers, pushing through the crowd, fixating on faces. One has Direction and is probing further, seeking out the unfamiliar. Aware that someone will be hiding in plain sight.

They are already searching for me.

Shutting her mind to everything, Alexa vanishes into the throng and heads north.

==


For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.


Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Name of the Game



I need to be IN the car, right?

The last five days have been some of the most staggeringly unsettling I think I've experienced for a long time. The Real World continues to be dark, unpredictable and full of more angry people than I think most people actually realise. Most of the time that anger only manifests in Social Media. This week, that was peanuts in comparison to what we saw play out in Paris and across Northern France. These are places I've stayed in and I love, which hold memories that I refuse to be allowed to be sullied by the disenfranchised souls that decided to try and destroy what is held dear by so many. It might just be a coincidence, I suppose, but anger and confusion seems to have spilt out across the virtual world I inhabit too. It makes sense that people would feel threatened by events, and maybe this would translate into big things causing little things to ignite. When this all happens simultaneously, the World becomes a fight. Except, if I'm honest, that's always the way it's been.

This morning, I finally understood something significant for the first time.

Mr Alt got on my back before Christmas about my repeated use of the word 'perception' when trying to explain things to him, and last night, as I lay in bed, the word began to peculate in my head. Whether it was the row I had this week concerning what I thought the definition of a certain word actually meant, or the blog I was writing that sprang from the definition of another in someone else's head, things have stopped being about general concepts any more, and they appear to be boiling down to single expressions. Accountability. Extremism, Feminism. These are definitions that people use to help them understand the World around them. They do this in many places: work, home, social media, and while the rules that govern the first two are often very rigidly defined, those of the third are almost perpetually in flux. What many individuals fail to grasp is that once you cross a line and engage someone else in a conversation via Social Media, your rules fail to completely apply. Notice the deliberate capitalisation there too, because once this happens even the environment may change at a moment's notice and you could end up being sucked into an abyss you might never escape from.


Turbulence incoming :D

Last night, I witnessed a meltdown on Twitter I had nothing to do with, but plenty of other people did. I went away and did some digging, and it became really rather apparent what had transpired, and from a distance the utter ridiculousness of the incident became all the more apparent when painted beside what the day had presented to me in World News. I suspect this kind of 'flashpoint' is happing everywhere, even as I type: Person A strays into Person B's space and says something that contravenes/upsets/aggravates THE RULES. More than likely Person A will be completely unaware of said Rules in Person A's space, and the reaction Person B gives is completely acceptable to them, but the opposite to Person A. DRAMA ENSUES. Then, as more people dive in and the Chinese Whispers increase, it becomes a swirl of turbulence, hapless pulling total bystanders into the vortex of recrimination and judgement.

The thing is, and this is important, these flashpoints do matter a great deal. They can affect Person A's understanding that people don't care or grasp how they feel, and that their defence of them is clearly correct: instead of providing illumination and understanding, they simply bolster anger and determination. Person B may stand by their assertions they did nothing wrong, but simply typing what they thought might not have been the most sensible cause of action on reflection. The standpoint of 'well, that's how I see it' is fine until presented with someone who doesn't. This is how conflict is born, and often the most damage is done to the people who find themselves caught between the two standpoints. The argument of 'I don't know these people and therefore it doesn't matter' becomes less and less moot with every Real World incident where people under the radar die because of events that could have been prevented IF PEOPLE HAD LISTENED. Just because its not happening in your social sphere, doesn't mean it never will.

Needless to say, Twitter needs to consider who it recommends to me for follows based on a more sensible algorithm than simply who everyone else reads and who's in my 'circles', because really? Social media is NOT that easy to define any more.


If all else fails...

I've long made the joke that my 'brand' on Social Media matters a great deal to me. The Alt is a mark I now use everywhere, because I understand the need for continuity, but more importantly I want to make sure people can see me for what I really am. Although it is unchanging on the surface, I am rapidly altering with every day. My attitudes, whilst once static and unmoving, attempt to shift and accommodate as the World evolves around me, and its hard, but what I stand for remains the same. To have the chance to interact with so many people is an opportunity I never thought I would ever see in my lifetime, and to turn any of this down, even the bad stuff? I would be the most stupid of fools. You'll never have these opportunities again, and every moment is precious, after all. To learn to live in this world is a challenge, and to succeed is always a triumph.

In summary? Take your choices, and if you don't like them, do something else. But NEVER FORGET the world isn't just you. Please, PLEASE try and find a way to get on with the rest of Humanity, and don't deliberately isolate yourself, because there are ALWAYS alternatives.

Trust me, down that road only danger lies.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Gimme Shelter



This year's got off to a worryingly good start.

There's no need to go hide from the world until February, which is how the first few weeks of a new year always feels. In fact, all told, this is all a bit too good to be true. I've spent the last three days, for the want of a better word, 'standardising' my various web presences. I have a couple of places still left to play with (Twitch most notably) but that really needs me to connect my Webcam and bite the bullet of doing on-screen appearances. It will all come however, because I have decided I am determined to do lots of shit this year I've promised myself would happen, and now will. Because, as my mother never tires of telling me whenever I see her, we'll all be dead eventually.

I'm hoping I can get a bit done before that happens :P

This means pushing a couple of projects out of my brain and into the World, but first I have more pressing concerns. There's six weeks worth of Gaming Podcasts to knock off, for starters, but I'm quietly confident I can break the back of this by the end of February. It is what I then have time to throw around that: the Novel's written and fairly solid for that same period, I'd like to try and push another work to completion so I can have a go at pitching it online. Then, I have two other things I wanna do: we mentioned the Bond Movie thing late last year. Well, that has a logo now, and a webspace ready. All I gotta do is stop worrying about everything Eon produced between the Spy Who Loved Me and The Living Daylights and the fact I'd actually have to watch the torture scene in Casino Royale without looking away. Having seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I believe I am now mentally prepared to watch Mr Craig being tortured. This means the first film I review and break down for my own benefit and your general entertainment will be Dr No. Connery, I come for you.



Arriving before the end of January. I hope.

Finally, there's what I'm going to dub 'The T Shirt Project.' I'd hoped to do this once a week and I'm still aiming for this, even if it means stacking up half a dozen pictures at the first time of asking. All will become clear as we go along, and I'll be asking people to present their own 'entries' for my Online Gallery too. 'Favourite Shirts' should also launch before the end of the month, barring any major apocalypse-type real life events.



And there's the other idea. BOOM!

This means that the personal site might start generating its own separate traffic eventually. That's the plan, and this is why I've made both this and the gaming site so generically similar, because although the two different spheres are largely indivisible in my mind, they're not for others. This way, I get to keep everything roughly together but at the same time very much separate, and it allows me to stick stuff online that I think people might find interesting. Most importantly of all for me, none of this really costs any money at all. It is just time, which is becoming an extremely precious resource, but I am learning to use in more sensible ways than I ever did in my past. If there is one enduring legacy to all this working stuff out, it is the importance of time management.

There's an awful lot to be said for getting yourself organised.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Sayers :: The Drawing of Plans (Three)

Major Plot Development is imminent...


This is the latest instalment of my first long-form piece, The Sayers. You can find links to every chapter of the Novel at the dedicated blog page. If you notice any grammatical errors I have overlooked, or you have any observations to make on this piece, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.



For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.


==


Daniel picks the lock without thinking, slivers of metal moving effortlessly from force of habit. Eventually there is the click, success and entry into the deserted building. Light is swallowed silently by shadow and dust, pushing against the door as it closes: consciously shutting the world out, away from his immediate need.

He tries to retain a semblance of equilibrium, but his body refuses to co-operate.

Closing eyes, calm will not be summoned: arousal also fails to dissipate, refusing to vacate a mind stimulated by far more than the possibility of her return. Sliding to the floor, the ache in his groin is enough to make him groan out loud. This inn has been deserted for over a year: he is the only one who comes here, more from habit than anything else. It is a haven to lock himself inside, safe spot where demons will never find him.

The smell of her refuses to leave his nostrils.

Direction was a curse, he had realised early. The benefit of immersion in the Earth was only as good as his ability to divide and separate the disparate elements within it, and there were days he couldn't cope. Normally, those moments wouldn't coincide with anything of particular importance, but this morning he'd been caught off-guard. Olivia knew what he had imagined, and he'd run from her intentionally, simply because it was easier. They would have to talk, especially as he's certain Alexa's arrival is imminent.

Maybe this time, if he reaches inside himself, his ex-lover can be found.

His skill was never as practiced as hers, ability to merge the Earth without thinking, flip place upon place with languid grace. He'd never accept her ability as superior either, false chiding of the brilliance at every opportunity. The last times they were together only proved how adept she had become at manipulating them both.

'You never believe me even when I do speak the truth.'

Alexa is beneath him, staring at nakedness with hunger, considering the act he wishes to indulge. His sobriety is concession, a desire to show willing, that they can couple without stimulants. He wants to be inside her without the conversation but knows her mind won't let him. To truly fuck her now is simply a part of a far more complicated equation, one to which he has become willingly addicted in lieu of ale or opiate. An explosion from the shaft is no longer enough, he craves more. He needs to disintegrate in her heat.

'I like to push you, so you'll push back.'

'You wilfully antagonise me for pleasure?’

'Everything I do is for pleasure. All I want is here, now and always.’

‘You and I know its not the whole truth. Any Sister could offer what I give.’

‘I have no desire for anyone else.’

‘What you desire isn't me, my capability is what you crave.’

She teases him but it is her that is melting first, appetite suddenly greater, urge to be filled rippling across her stomach. Unconsciously he reaches in her head, a caress from air to mind and her eyes flutter, breath stuttering as internal muscles contract. Her arousal tastes warm, salty, caramel splinters from the sweets he bought her as appeasement for his latest misdemeanour. Now he shifts, hovering almost close enough for skin to touch. Every movement up to now was designed to provoke a reaction without contact, sensing the chemical changes finally sublimating within them both. The trick is to push the limits until they strain, and he is supremely practiced at self-control.

He is also determined to never demean her again to get what he wants.

When her mind assents, he pushes into warmth, world beneath him opening and deepening simultaneously. After the first thrust they merge in minds, she accepting him as he falls unhindered, breathless amazement as the waves of his pleasure become inextricable from hers. Resistance shatters as anger melts, pretence of disappointment dissolved as the air around them begins to move. His whole body tingles, desperate friction, allowing her to take them both to climax, sensations almost painful, a shared emotional overload…

The orgasm hits with a force he milks, alone in the dust: seed caught by the linen cloth he stole from the Apoth's shop, wrappings for the last consignment of elegant glass vials. Once upon a time there would have been disgust at his own actions, that he needed her image in his head to even consider arousal, but not now. Daniel doesn't understand what is going on, but instinctively knows the Earth has changed around him. Tastes are heightened, smells denser and more difficult to ignore. His current relationship was coming to an end, this he finally accepted, and he had assumed when everything disintegrated he would again be alone. Except now came the understanding Alexa truly never left him to begin with.

The past appears to be regaining a life of its own.

Starlings fly from a tree, horse chestnut to the South, suddenly scared by movement. The briefest flash of comprehension, a second of primal understanding, and he knows he has his wish: the connection he's craved since he made her fugitive. Her hair is dyed, the uniform a disguise, but the flesh and bone beneath cannot be hidden, never from him. She is coming, and this Inn will be her destination.

As soon as she is close enough he will reach for her, and everything will change.


==


For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.