June Short Story :: Alias

This story was first published in 30 parts via Twitter during May. It is now reproduced now in a complete form, and a number of small edits have been added to improve narrative flow.

Enjoy.


Alias

Christopher Ashcroft piles the white dish with Special Fried Rice, followed by a large portion of Pork and Mixed Vegetables. It is Friday night: this much-needed treat is his anticipated reward after week of healthy lunches and protein rich dinners, plus three nights at the Gym. However, this is nothing compared with the excitement and arousal he’s currently experiencing at possibilities from the evening’s entertainment. Anticipation of what is in store has fuelled Chris since leaving the office; so much potential chaos awaits after finishing this meal.

His current project is coming to a head: it is therefore time to begin organisation of the next campaign. This battlefield is already littered with thousands of angry and upset individuals, all fired by his own brilliantly executed, subversive approach to online encouragement. The almost foolproof technique has been honed over the past five years, allowing Ashcroft the ability to totally demolish other people’s online credibility without him ever being affected. The key is to start fires, but encourage others to stoke their potential for devastation.

With dinner done, it’s time to sit back in his custom-built gaming chair, surveying fresh wreckage of this latest endeavour: turning two online friends into enemies. He’s convinced the other their online confidante’s a conniving and duplicitous liar, slandering behind their back. A quick glance at Twitter notifications offers unexpected surprise: there’s no DM’s from either Abigail or Ruth, despite having formed complex relationships with both over the last month. With rising concern, Chris goes to their Twitter biographies. Both women have blocked him.

Logging to his alt account shows nothing untoward: no mention of his name, indication he’s been found out. Both women’s conversations continue totally as normal. In fact, one of their closest joint friends has chosen to follow on recommendation, which is quickly reciprocated.With an increasing sense of foreboding, timelines are scoured for any indicator of what might have transpired between lunchtime when he was chatting freely to both and now. Then there’s a notification: latest follower has sent him a message. Opening the window, Chris is stunned.

The solitary line of text suddenly turns his blood cold.

‘We know exactly what you’ve done.’

The instant temptation is to feign ignorance, but a second message has already arrived, stab to his heart.

‘Not just to us, but all those other innocent people since all this began.’

==

Chris tried to sleep, but to no avail. It is 3.25am, and time to do what he’s paid for during the week: troubleshooting. This time, all efforts are focused on his own online behaviour over the last month. The object of this exercise is simple: find out where the mistake was made. This game’s been played, on and off for almost ten years: beginning as a provocateur on tech support sites, moving up to an antagonist on LiveJournal, then a successful period of anonymous destruction via Facebook, until the rules were changed and he got bored of the responses.

A lot has been learnt since those early days: how to IP mask, withhold all personal details, have a cover identity written and committed to memory. Ashcroft is convinced no mistake’s been made; his next step is to work out what has missed in the pair’s complex text communications. Organisational fault is obvious, apparent since before this particular exercise was begun. It is not Abigail or Ruth who exposed him, but their mutual friend. It appears this user has been stalking his actions, active within several planned provocations over the last six months.

The same IP address keeps appearing again and again: tracing the machine to a London Internet cafe, he can now go to bed happy. Sending DM to his new nemesis, sense of ability and comfort soon returns.

‘I’m not afraid. No laws have been broken here. You have no power over me.’

==

There’s brief disorientation as Chris awakes, immediate realisation there’s no bedside clock illuminated beside him. It is soon apparent his flat’s without electricity: PC is dead, no smart devices are operational. All he has is mobile phone, on which a text message sits waiting.

“I have plenty of power, Mr Ashcroft. Stop your online intimidation of the innocent, or there will be consequences.’

As the message is read, entire flat springs back to life, and Chris is calling 999, before stopping himself. How does he explain what just happened to the Police?

==

The rest of the day is spent scouring house for potential bugs, disconnecting all internet-connected items that might be remotely controlled and trying to work out how this particular person not only knows where Ashcroft lives, but his real name, which has never been used online. A sense of discomfort and panic gnaws at a mind all too aware of the irony at play: this is what is meted out to those people whom he decides deserve to have their lives disrupted and manipulated to his own ends; drama created as entertainment now skilfully turned in upon itself.

After a while, pleasure emerges from this unseen, expert manipulation: his new online spectator could also be influenced for entertainment. This offered a chance to expose initial actions as illegal: shutting off electricity should be offence enough to get local Police involved. As he masturbates multiple times in the shower, Chris imagines being watched, making sure that performance is as assured as the online personal he knows will emerge as victorious. Going to bed, sleeping with confidence, Sunday will see the start of a new, focused plan of attack.

==

Over the next week, online activity means supportive encouragement of friends, plus a very public, heartfelt apology to both Abigail and Ruth. The entire time, his nemesis’ actions are tracked and recorded: by Friday, pattern of movement has emerged before a plan is executed. After a meeting in the City, Ashcroft suddenly and unexpectedly detours from his normal route back to Canary Wharf, heading for the part of east London where his nemesis’ Internet cafe is located. Arriving at the address, he is confronted with a burnt out, empty shell of a shop.

Sitting in his vanity-plated black Audi TT, Chris can’t work out what is going on. This is the address that Google Maps specified: location that, according to the Cafe’s web-page, is very much active and vibrant right now. Holding phone in shaking hands, a text message appears:

‘However hard you try and win, this reign of terror and arrogance is over, Mr Ashcroft. Time for punishment.’ Unable to move, sense of genuine panic grips his soul. As the man sits and watches, every application is methodically deleted, before the iPhone is effectively bricked.

Staring at darkness from his screen, glass surface unexpectedly ripples. Trying to move, Ashcroft is immobilised via countless thin, black tendrils of smoke that spill unhindered from the phone, wrapping around left wrist and arm… slowly spreading inside suit, onto his chest…

==

After failing to return back to work, it takes three days before anybody thinks about reporting Ashcroft as missing. The car is eventually located, after having been towed away and then impounded by the Metropolitan Police, with both his keys and phone inexplicably locked inside. Friends and colleagues are interviewed: only after his home is searched and PC taken in for analysis does it emerge that a popular, dedicated City trader led a shocking, double life. However, duplicitous alter ego is not a surprise to everybody, particularly his ex-girlfriend.

Andrea left Chris when it became apparent his lust for attention and control superseded all other rational faculties. It had taken some extraordinary measures to ensure she was no longer bothered by Ashcroft, the details of which are not shared when police finally interview her. The terms of her contract had been very specific: we will be happy to deal with your problem, on the sole condition you never mention who we are, what we do and how justice is served. In the modern world, sometimes, the less people knew of real truths within reality, the better.

In exchange for a promise to live decently and honourably, her soul’s forfeit wiped homophobic, narcissistic arrogance off the face of the Earth. Chris’ spirit, with a growing number of others was uploaded to the Angelic Cloud: there it would be saved, inaccessible, for eternity.


 

New Day Dawning

Instead of winding down proceedings ahead of my month off in August, there’s a plan afoot, starting today, to organise content to run in my absence. There’ll be a day next week when I schedule a month’s worth of poetry for the Twitter feed (hence the arrival of daily updates via social media, for which I need to make MOAR GRAPHICS) but after that it would be keep the place occupied and operational. Therefore, let it be known that the following will be taking place here during August:

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I’m currently writing this in breaks between poetry and exercise, and am three weeks ahead. The plan is to stack up enough ‘episodes’ to carry through my holiday and into September. Therefore, this will continue to be published whilst I’m away on Fridays.

Mondays and Wednesdays will have a series of interconnected poems, scheduled in advance, under the banner of SIMPLE. This will be to allow me to spend the time during August to organise my Fanzine over at arguto.net without allowing this site to go quiet.

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Everything will change in September, including the real possibility of a site redesign to accommodate the increasing amount of content. For now, enjoy this month’s content as it arrives, starting tomorrow 😀

Poetry Archive :: All Change

We’re halfway through the year, and this is becoming less and less like wading through treacle. The haiku have always been easier (though occasionally I slip up on syllables) but making decent, fully-formed poems is still causing issues, before making sure the five verses combine to work as a cohesive whole. The learning process on these is often harder than the long-form poetry. Perfectionism is a harsh mistress.

The effort is becoming more and more worthwhile with each passing week.


All Change

Kind, the new mantra
Applied liberally: think
Consideration.

Care, in the moments
Where others falter: conscience
Bought to this debate.

It’s okay to leave,
If all else fails: walk away
Reconsider change.

From this chaos grows
Fresh impetus: defining
Your new way forward.

Congratulations,
It’s happening: transforming
This life, redefined.


Poetry Archive :: And You Are?

This non-rhyming, expressive stuff is getting easier. That’s useful, considering I’m going to be trying a lot more of it in the weeks that follow. For now, there’s a definite path emerging for progress. I can see where the issues are, and am working to correct them. This is the most fun I’ve had with words for a VERY long time.

Learning new stuff is fun.


And You Are?

There has been quite enough
Pandering to people,
Whose social agenda
Arrests forward progress.

Villains in both corners,
Oversensitive souls:
Easily offended,
Contentious reactions.

Everybody, calm down:
Consider consequence.
This continued conflict,
Helps nobody long term.

One moment, taken as
Catalyst: transforming
Remains of relations
Into new direction.

Entire psyche shifts, and
You are alteration:
Modification made
Removal, sweet relief.


EX/WHI :: Part Three

Previous Part :: Next Part


Neither of them trust the car any more, so it is abandoned. Walking into the City, weather is impossibly muggy, precursor to storms moving from Europe northwards, breaking an unopposed two week’s worth of sunshine and shirtsleeves. Chris would dearly like to lose the jacket but remained unwilling in the underground parking area to remove his weapon, a feeling Ami completely agreed with. Both have spent decades understanding that when stuff went wrong, there was always a reason: today’s court appearance may now be anything but routine, so alert is their plan.

Neither is nearly awake enough either, so this unscheduled coffee stop serves several purposes. This is an extremely passable Apple Danish, Chambers decides, almost perfect combination of sweet and soft to make taste-buds forgive him for the handful of peanuts and instant coffee in the hotel room, that pretended to be acceptable as most important meal of the day. As he drinks, his MI6 counterpart’s facial expressions give the impression she’s internally debating something that needs to be shared.

‘I’m concerned about the person who wrote my CIA file.’

‘They’re a moron, without doubt. Don’t stress about it.’

‘It is enough of a fight normally to get taken seriously on my own manor, let alone worrying about what you Yanks are thinking.’

Her broad accent is East London, Chris knows, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what ‘manor’ means in this context. She’s ex-Metropolitan Police, learning the ropes on these streets as he did in Hoboken with the New Jersey PD. They’d both been too smart to stay tied to policing, recruited in circumstances that aren’t really close enough to be considered as co-incidental, but someone probably decided would be a decent way of making him feel at home. Her face finally resolves into a smile, and reminds Chambers not to be a dick because she’s earned the right to be attractive without him flirting at the acknowledgement.

‘How many people have you killed, Mr Chambers?’

‘Twelve. Thirteen if you count the guy I blew up by accident.’

‘So, really unlucky for him, then.’

‘In fairness, it was his own bomb I inadvertently detonated, so we’re not talking about an innocent conscience to stick on the scorecard.’

‘I remember that story from your file: Jihad motivations to martyrdom have always been impossible to understand. Maybe it’s ‘cause there’s too much left I’d like to do first.’

‘That guy was dangerous before the brain-washers got him. Do you keep a card for your losses?’

‘I have a box at home. There’s six pictures in it, all taken on the mortuary slabs. The Department’s Psychiatrist isn’t sure this is a smart way of keeping me focussed on the human cost of protecting Her Majesty and her loyal citizens, but it works for me.’

‘You don’t fit the profiles, that’s why nobody can do a decent review of you. The rest of the World relies far too much on labels and containers. Those of us who prefer to live in the cracks never get a fair deal.’

‘You really want to keep cultivating that maverick persona, Mr Chambers? Your ex-wife wouldn’t take kindly to hearing that.’

‘I don’t give a flying fuck what my ex-wife thinks.’

‘That really won’t help you see your son more than once a month.’

‘I thought about this long and hard on the flight over: maybe it would be best for everybody concerned if my son never sees me again, and we all just move on.’



Previous Part
:: Next Part

Promenade

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‘Why do you write?’

Sometimes, it is compulsion: a injustice observed, moment recalled or future imagined. Often the urge strikes at an inopportune moment. It’s why a notepad and pencil have more significance than transcribing into the Cloud or dictating into an iPhone. Whilst fingers can grasp an implement, the default is always a pencil, making it easier to correct mistakes. There are many in those initial moments. Then there’s my keyboard, copy of an old style typewriter, to remind of the days that was the only option when creating formal work.

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‘What do you write about?’

Everything is up for debate, nothing beyond the remit. Once upon a time, for about thirty years, poetry was evil and impossible to fathom, but with patience and thought that fear is now overcome. I dealt with learning difficulties and social dysfunction via blogging, granting a freedom of expression that remains a constant joy to manipulate. It’s also a source of amusement to observe the interpretations of what gets written. Those loved the most in that regard grasp that writing, like most forms of expression, is supposed to offer at least some level of ambiguity unless you’re told otherwise…

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‘What does writing mean to you?’

Words are my salvation, and my Kryptonite. To be able to express myself is the greatest joy and freedom that has ever been granted in my half a century on the Planet. This is not about a massive follower count or critical acclaim, because neither of those will ever grant the same joy as a well-written story or the blog post that truly expresses my feelings. When those words fail me, inability to express what ails or distracts, it is as if I’ve been struck down. The incapability to write, once destroyed, brings relief that cannot ever be appreciated enough.

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‘What is your favourite writing form?’

Blogging (literally) saved my life when all other effective forms of communication had failed, so to admit a soft spot for just being able to write ‘today I woke up and felt happy’ probably ranks quite highly. However, the storytelling aspects of the craft are where the real satisfaction increasingly lies. There’s been an extension of that into photography too in the last couple of years, and that media degree in my twenties might yet have some actual use going forward.

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‘What advice would you get to start people writing?’

Routine and practice, as is the case in most pursuits, will garner real returns. However, for some people the ability to do this daily can end up stifling creativity, so the better path inevitably includes finding a routine that suits your lifestyle. Write everything down. Planning in advance will help, especially if you’re writing a massive fantasy epic from scratch. The best advice of all however is be you, especially in blogging. An audience will invest in your life far more readily than you will realise, and the more that is given… that’s up to you. All of this, ultimately, is in your hands.

Paranoid Android

I have a problem with self-promotion.

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Things have improved over the last couple of years, but the whole ‘sell yourself’ thing is tough. It isn’t just the British reserve either, far more significant worries from beginning to grasp there’s been a lifetime of misinterpreting the signals of others in personal situations to assimilate first. Getting all that settled in my head’s been a fairly notable undertaking but finally, there is light at the end of the mother of all tunnels.

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This means that, starting in September, the promotion machine will move into high gear. I suspect this site will undergo a revamp, to try and make it more friendly to potential individuals and organisations who may wish to approach. For those of you who don’t like the idea of me getting all commercial? I’m sorry, but at least part of my future is now being pushed this way, and there’s no going back now. This week the first of many applications for writing support is submitted, plus poetry finalisedto be considered for financial gain.

There really is no going back from this path now.

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I’m cautiously optimistic for the future, because pinning all your hopes on summat and then watching it fail is no way to live a sensible existence. We’ll just keep plugging away at this stuff for as long as is needed, and keep on writing in the spaced in between. That’s what matters most of all: not the recognition, but the words that narrate life’s inevitable progress.

That’s something I’m getting increasingly good at controlling.