Cruel And Unusual

Living in a dystopian hell hole isn’t too bad.

For the most part.

That’s what I thought anyway. The horrible stuff only happened to other people, people who stepped out of line, people who didn’t follow the rules, people who challenged the wrong things.

It’s cognitive dissonance of course. I knew deep down that when someone I knew went missing, it wasn’t because they deserved it. But it kept me straight, kept me careful. And the more I deluded myself that my own actions were self-preservation, the more careful I became.

It didn’t work.

They came for me.

Seditious thought.

That was the charge.

And they could prove it.

In sealed documents, that I wasn’t allowed to see, and the court never actually asked for. They didn’t even let me present a defence. They just moved straight to sentencing. That’s when the real horror finally hit me.

I’ve been in this room for weeks now. There’s air conditioning, gourmet meals, luxurious furnishings.

It’s hell.

And it’s hell for one very simple reason.

What they’ve designed, my punishment, for literally doing nothing, is cruel, and entirely unusual.

I can’t stand it anymore.

Over the speakers, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, without pause, without mercy, starting from the beginning, they are reading all my tweets back to me.

Fifty years of them.

In a flat, monotone voice.

And the worst bit, the bit that makes me curl up in a ball in the corner and scream to drown out the noise, is when they describe the Gifs I used.

Cruel And Unusual

Staring Into The Distance

I first noticed the old woman about a year ago. She just sat there, staring at something in the distance, perched on a fallen tree, her back seemingly to the rest of the world.

I asked around, and it turns out she’s been there ever since anyone can remember. Day and night, people pass her, see her in the distance, shrug that she is there again, and move on. But adding it all up, it occurred to me that she never, ever, moves.

The world carries on around her, paying her notice every now and then, but mostly just leaving her to her own thing.

It amazes me that no-one has asked the question.

What’s she doing? Is she okay?

And the more I asked about her, the more people became annoyed at me. They felt like I was accusing them of ignoring an old lady. I guess I was inĀ  way, so I stopped asking, and watched her from a distance.

There we are. Her looking at something, and me looking at her.

I guess it’s creepy in a way, but it would be even creepier if I was a bloke I suppose.

Anyway, I’ve decided to do something more than watch. I need an answer. What’s she doing? Why doesn’t she ever move? I’ve been sucked into the mystery too deep. I spend too much of my day just watching her, and it has to stop.

So, here I go.

It’s a weird feeling, like a mix of nerves and excitement. The closer I get, the more intense it all becomes. She’s only a few feet from me now, and it’s like everything behind me no longer exists. I know there a road back there, and beyond that my house, it’s just, I can’t hear the traffic, or feel its presence. All that matters is what’s in front of me.

So close now I can hear her breathing. She sounds content. It’s not cold here, or damp. It’s the perfect temperature. I can see why she doesn’t want to move.

I’m settling down next to her. Her skin if pale, papery, wrinkled. She smells of lavender. Her eyes are fixed on the distance. She knows I’m here, but she doesn’t care.

“What are you doing?” I just asked, hearing a frog in my throat croaking through the words.

Her bony wrist slowly rises into the air, a thin, wizened finger extending and pointing.

“I’m watching him.”

I look, and see a man sitting on the ground further into the woods. His back is to us, and he is staring at something in the distance.

Together, we sit in silence, watching him.

There doesn’t seem to be much point in doing anything else ever again.

Staring Into The Distance

End Of Level Boss

We took a vote on it.

Looking back now though, it wasn’t exactly they best way to have done it. There were no ballot boxes, or polling places. We just sent a text to a number at the bottom of the screen.

We’d been watching those screens for weeks, ever since the giant ship appeared in the sky. It hovered there for a couple of days, doing nothing. We later found out that it was assimilating to our environment, and the aliens inside were reconfiguring their organs so they could breathe our air.

Then they emerged.

A giant ramp descended, slowly, over the course of a week, and then a massive hatch opened, and a tiny little figure waved at us. He looked like a character from a 1990s computer platform game. That was what they based their new appearance on apparently. The alien was two foot high, and moved about by jumping and spinning, and stealing as many coins as it could.

That should have been our first warning, but we were all too distracted by, you know, the alien. Even if it was nicking all our money.

The whole race had turned itself into that one creature.

And down it came. To talk to our leaders in a series of chirps, whistles, electronic music, and by throwing discs at them.

Somehow, I dunno how, that little thing took over the world.

I suspect it rigged the phone vote in the first place too.

But today’s the day we fight back.

We’ve bred the weapon we need.

It’s a sixty foot thing, green, with a razor back, and it spits pixellated fire every four seconds. It’s not perfect. It can only move from side to side in a pre-determined pattern, and don’t tell anyone, but if you smack it on the top of its head, it loses one tenth of its power.

And we built it in a big warehouse, and now we can’t get it out.

So we’ve had to lure the alien to us.

We built a series of brightly coloured floating brick platforms, and left a trail of gold coins. It’s just down the road now, heading directly for The Boss. That’s what we nicknamed it.

This plan can’t fail.


 

The first part of the Normalverse trilogy is currently free to read on Amazon.

 

 

Rich Food

The revolution came when we least expected it.

For years it felt like it had been brewing, just bubbling beneath the surface, with social trauma after social trauma feeling like it would upend everything.

And then that just stopped.

Dunno why.

Everything just … calmed down a bit.

It was like the energy had run out. Politics seemed … normal again. The anger and division sort of subsided. Things got a little bit better. There was a bit more money about. Queues at the doctors were shorter. Even the roads had fewer potholes.

So what happened?

Why am I now here, gathered around a camp fire, watching a banker slowly rotate on a spit, as the flames cook and crackle the flesh, a delicious odour tickling at my nose, making my mouth water?

It was just one day, out of nowhere, we all decided to eat the rich.

We weren’t hungry.

We weren’t particularly bitter.

It was just like the time was right.

As one, we stood up, went to London, and cooked the Queen. It was only a tiny morsel for each of us, barely a mouthful. And most of us didn’t even get a taste. I didn’t even get a slice of a very minor royal.

It wasn’t until we got to the oilgarchs that I ate anyone.

Rich food we called it.

Couldn’t have too much. Else there wouldn’t be enough to go round.

We ate all the other things we used to eat still. Beef. Bread. Pears. You know, there’s no need to list all the food. And it wasn’t just here. At the same time, all around the world, like a switch had been flicked, the world got up and par boiled the one percent.

It feels like there should be a moral. Or a warning, or some twist to the tale. But there isn’t. We’re all better off for it.

We should have done it ages ago.

Rich Food

The Clout Paradox

You know that feeling when you have an idea, and you sort of have a double take moment when you realise it’s a bad one? Or when you realise you had a good one and forgot it? Yeah, well, this is about that.

Lightbulb moments happen more than we think. Well, they don’t. By definition, they must happen less than we think, unless all ideas, and then some, are lightbulb moments.

That’s what I’m talking about. It’s a good example. See, I had a thought, and then, like a slap about the head, I immediately changed it.

I don’t even know if lightbulb is one word or two.

It’s all beside the point though.

I’m trying to tell you why I invented the machine.

I’ve been wandering through life like this a lot. I have an idea, then I change it, or dismiss it, or doubt it. And it’s tangible. I said a minute ago it felt like someone was slapping me across the back of the head. That’s not a metaphor (it might be a metaphor), it’s a palpable feeling. Sometimes it’s so hard, I recoil like my Dad has clipped my ear.

I started making a note of all the times this happens. Making a detailed list, including the place where it happened and the exact moment it occurred. And from the moment I started doing it, the more palpable the sensation became.

It’s a pretty long and conclusive list now. Takes up a few whole notebooks. I got a bit obsessed with maintaining the veracity of the endeavour. There’s a whole shelf of the notebooks over there look. I normally tell people it’s a diary.

It kind of is a diary I guess.

So I got to thinking, and I had an idea that didn’t result in the smacking sensation.

What if, and bear with me right, what if … I could build a machine that opened a little doorway in time, so I could peek through and see what was happening every time I had that feeling?

So I did.

Took me bloody ages.

It’s up in the attic.

I blew the fuses half a dozen times trying to get it to work.

Point is, I did get it working.

I dialled in the time and place of the first entry in the first notebook, and flicked the switch.

And a little window in time opened up in front of me.

And there I was, sort of looking at myself from behind.

The past me, had an idea. I could see it happen. I sort of sat up a bit, stiffened, nodded to myself like the realisation was a good one. And according to the record in the book, this was me having the idea that it might be worth asking for some more money at work.

Current me knew better. Current me knew asking would probably feel embarrassing, and they’d realise I was redundant or replaceable. So current me got an urge. And current me reached through the window and clouted past me across the back of the head.

It was a bad decision.

I knew it was a bad decision because I felt a clout across the back of my head.

But it was a done deal. Now I have to work my way through the books and smack myself for every entry. And then, here’s the pisser, I have to then go through and smack my current self across the head from the future for doing the same thing in the past. And then, I’ll have to go through …

I need to buy some more notebooks.

The Clout Paradox