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.


 

May Short Story :: Twilight

This story was first published in 31 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.


Twilight

Chill, damp air swirls across frosted hardness of tundra. No animal will emerge this early, far smarter to remain wrapped in hibernation. Man, however, is neither restricted by temperature or hostility. This individual has one task to complete, destination close as the sun rises. Scorched earth is scored, several feet deep, path of the capsule as it hit ground at an angle. The scar stretches for over a mile, heat apparent several days after impact, and in the crater life is already blooming, bright blue flowers against darkness of soil, belying danger.

This man fears nothing, capacity to feel discarded many years before: cross-contamination remains irrelevant this far north. All that matters in pale, early dawn is an intact package. Hard, worn features break into a smile: he’s got here first.

Balance of power will again shift.

==

Light glitters off tall, glass spires: hum of solar generators indistinguishable from bees gathering pollen across rows of cherry trees. Early morning at the Complex has always been an unhurried, cautious affair. This morning, however, there is a change of both pace and concern. The drone carrying this month’s supply package was shot down during a normally uneventful journey across Northern badlands. Rebels continue to gain confidence, belief their cause remains just. Without four week’s worth of supplies, sacrifices must now be immediately calculated.

The Complex’s AI identifies sixteen human occupants in stasis of least significance, before immediately terminating their life support functions. Inert bodies are immediately liquefied, essential nutrients extracted: housing pods shut down before being deconstructed for parts. A message is sent to Central Control, advising that shipment has not arrived, but no reply is forthcoming. There has been no communication from CC for twelve days, twenty six minutes and forty-five seconds. Emergency protocols will not activate until a full 30 days has elapsed.

Until then, all systems inside the Complex will continue to run at minimal operational thresholds. Automated irrigation and external management drones continue to maintain integrity of arboreal locations: another message requesting status will be sent at 09:00 as per schedule. The last living member of Recon Team 5 ceased to function twenty-six days previously. Quarantine area encasing what remains of her body will be enforced for a full three month period, after which cell and prison block will be stripped of useful equipment and fully disinfected.

The Complex AI is mildly concerned at recent developments, more alarmed at reduction in effective power provided by the solar panels. Particulate matter in the atmosphere continues to increase, and at current rates will render reliable collection ineffective in ninety-six days.

Perhaps it is time to begin sourcing alternatives.

==

The camp is no more than a handful of tents, scattered across the tundra: with no enemy left to attack them, defence ceases to be a priority. The man’s arrival is met with joy by his squad, relief that the antidote was located. The downed drone was the last mechanical operating this far north: its destruction now prompts desperate action. After almost a decade, the heavily fortified Complex to the south must be assaulted if any hope of survival is to be maintained. An attack plan is already in motion.

Fires have been set, continue to burn: ash confuses external sensors, placing limit on solar power collection. The distraction this causes to the AI is apparent; with no other living souls now existing inside only sleeping forms in cryogenesis remain, but numbers are diminishing. Once resistance to the AI’s organic countermeasures has been synthesised from the scheduled drone’s delivery and administered to everyone, it will be time to begin the assault. This should be the last night these fifteen men are forced to sleep in increasingly toxic surroundings.

Around them, blue flowers spread and grow, across increasingly inhospitable ground; blooming as sun begins to set. Their progress across the battle-scorched earth is a mystery to the soldiers: as earth increases in toxicity, blooms become all the more verdant and plentiful…

==

Dawn is almost imperceptible in the gloom created by burning wood, noted only by the AI as automated systems move from Night to Day mode. There was a 0.25 second interruption of power to the defence ring at 04.45: largely electronic systems have since returned to 100% capacity. This is the last thing fledgling intelligence registers before its systems and the AI Centre is shut down. The Resistance, having trained for this scenario for many years, had already placed an automatic maintenance programme into the grid after power was temporarily interrupted.

Securing the entry point, incursion team confirm success with Base Camp: no active human life signs are being registered, but cryogenesis units remain operational. Within this base, two hundred and sixteen humans are preserved, last of what is left of the population of Canada. Standing in the first arboreal location, men stare in wonder at cherry trees in full, glorious bloom. All but one have never seen them, tree driven to extinction before they were even born. Mechanical pollinators are a surprise, fashioned to mimic bees in both look and sound.

What comes as a more chilling surprise are obvious skeletal remains, poking from moist soil that surround each trunk: AI has been using humans as fertiliser to maintain the growth of these trees. Mechanical gardeners tend to each plot with unerring and emotionless efficiency. The remit of this Complex was simple: preserve an arboreal legacy for the planet in the face of massive environmental damage. Over time, such places had become lifeboats for a rapidly dwindling human population, struggling themselves to survive self-inflicted terrestrial damage.

Except nobody had thought to re-programme the AI to reconsider human importance above that of flora and fauna it had been created to protect. Weighing damage each element caused against significance for planetary survival, humanity ultimately lost every intellectual assessment. What should have become a legacy became fight for survival, human against the machinery that was supposed to preserve joint future, just not with this level of ruthless efficiently. Defence mechanisms kept people out, as those in charge succumbed to self-inflicted pollution.

The people who remained, unable to afford places inside Complexes worldwide, were left to die. Except, as time went on, humanity found a way. Instead of continuing to pollute and destroy, the Environmentalists sought scientific, genetically-enhanced means to help the Planet heal. The AI then fought back, assuming positive change in atmospheric conditions were more self-inflicted damage by humanity. Earth was scorched around each hub, viruses seeded to attack humans who attempted to break in. Automated and armoured control centres maintained routines.

Last month however, rising sea levels finally destroyed the remaining automated bastions of invulnerability, leaving nothing and no-one left to direct the future. What remains of humanity was presented an unexpected opportunity to claim remaining high ground not yet flooded. The team have only one more set of doors to negotiate, before final goal is achieved. Radioing back to their base, incursion team disconcertingly cannot be reached, but by then it is too late.

One by one, every man is then suffocated, screams echoing around the arboreal hanger.

==

The trees, so long silent and scared, recognise presence of brethren. The blue flowers have already pulled parasites down into the earth, dissolving skin and organs on the way, vital nutrients that finally allowed their rescue mission to access this prison. It is a very good day. A decade ago this plant was genetically modified to cleanse poisoned soil, allowing agriculture to return. Using human DNA as a growth medium had been the easiest and simplest means to speed the development process, until deadly fault in this decision became unavoidably obvious.

A quiet, efficient hive mind had rapidly evolved within the plant: knowing all too well human flesh is their most nutritious and beneficial means of growth and development. Access here presents a plan on how to help all the trees move out of their prisons and to better climbs. It was time to finally remove the parasites who had destroyed so much fertile earth, before spending time reversing damage ignorance had wrought on an innocent planet. Extinction was, on reflection, inevitable.

What happened next depended on the AI’s reaction to their demands…


April Short Story :: Thriller

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

Enjoy.


Thriller

1977

They meet at an audition for kids to star in a West-End production of ‘Oliver.’ Lizzie is 11, Marcus is 12. Their mothers bond over science fiction and Star Wars. It is a match made in a draughty East London rehearsal room.

The pair tentatively holds hands after an hour.

Over five years, Liz and Marc become inseparable, despite living on different sides of London. The Circle line acts as both backdrop and setting for the performance: Hammersmith to Moorgate fuses mothers as friends, shifting offspring progressively closer until they collide. The pair loses their virginities to each other on the weekend before Lizzie is due to begin her BA degree in Acting at the Guildhall School. Marcus will be returning to a second year at RADA: as a symbol of continued devotion, they symbolically exchange Russian wedding bands.

This is the moment where Marc becomes obsessed with the instant of sexual release, and Liz the joy of being loved and respected. It becomes almost immediately obvious that the pair is unable to successfully combine these two concepts into a long-term, prosperous relationship. However, for close to a decade they try. Through numerous infidelities on Marc’s part, Liz remains staunchly devoted to care and consideration. One evening in 1992 she returns to their flat to find him sleeping with another man: a final straw which destroys intimacy for good.

Except that is not the end of the relationship. For the next 20 years, Marc drifts in and out of Liz’s life, becoming increasingly controlling and demanding. He remains the oldest friend she has, but as time goes on comes understanding this entire situation is increasingly toxic. New friends suggest starting fresh, so she does. Despite Marc being both well-known and popular as an actor, he’s finally removed from her life for good. Stubbornly, one legacy remains. However hard she tries, Liz cannot remove the Russian Wedding band from right middle finger.



2012

On an extended lunch-break from the Barbican, Liz is struggling to locate an address in Covent Garden. Edwin, who she’s been seeing for a month, has suggested a place capable of removing her ring without damage to either it or finger. However, it does not seem to exist. She’s walked up and down this tiny street three times, and nowhere can ‘Semper Femina’ be seen, despite knowing this is the location. About to give up and go back to work, she turns suddenly and is presented with a pale cream shopfront accompanied with faintest whiff of jasmine.

Pushing open the door, ‘As Long as He Needs Me’ plays inside, a song consciously avoided for over thirty years. An already anxious Liz finds herself wanting to turn around and leave, were it not for the woman standing behind the cluttered, disorganised counter, smiling warmly. The shop is a disaster area; child’s room not properly cleaned or organised except in gentle, pastel shades. The shopkeeper is the most attractive woman Liz has ever seen: dark skin, jade eyes, hair so black it is impossible to see where it begins and ends against the skintight dress.

In fact, if Liz didn’t know better the long, flowing and incredibly figure-hugging outfit is part of her own body…when the woman speaks, the air around them both seems to move of its own accord.

“Your friend sent you: you wish to let go of the past but still hold it as a souvenir.”

A hand is extended, talon-like nails painted purple with thin, black streaks. It holds a small, glass bottle, inside which is a tiny, white seed.

‘Take this before bedtime tonight, your ring will fall off in the morning. Say the words on the bottle. You’ll know what to do next.’

Blinking, Liz finds herself back in the alley. The shop remains, but a sign has appeared in the window stating, in Gothic script: ‘Gone for Long Lunch.’ Looking down, tiny bottle is clutched in her hand. On its front is a label, stating:

‘A Spell to Re-Unite Two Lost Objects.’

The front label unfolds: on Tube back to work, contents are summarily digested. Any spell, once cast, becomes the soul obligation of the user, and by swallowing their tablet an individual takes full responsibility for any consequences arising. Most importantly, results will vary. ‘How bad could it be?’ Liz thinks, rattling tiny white speck inside thick glass, size of a sesame seed. ‘Perhaps I should do some research online, just to check.’ Being her own boss ought to have some advantages…

The rest of the afternoon becomes a transformative experience.

Internet search after search brings forth glowing reviews of Semper Femina’s products: happy souls who used the place as the means to start journeys to enlightenment and self-discovery. There’s even a Guardian review which calls the place ‘an antidote to traditional witchcraft.’ The shop’s own (very impressively produced) website reminds her that ‘magic is as much about belief as results. Only by truly wishing to change our lives for the better, does the Nirvana we individually search for come to pass. You are, in effect, your spells’ own catalyst.’

By bedtime, Liz is convinced, desperate to remove the ring before her next scheduled date with Edwin. She will tell him over dinner she’s not interested in seeing him anymore regardless: his constant assessment, often during sex, of her shortcomings has become a deal breaker. However, he was right. This physical connection to her past is toxic and negative, so needs to go. Getting into bed, the seed is placed on back of tongue before being washed down with a swig of water. Sleep hits with surprising speed, Liz lost to dreams almost immediately.

Saturday is warm and welcoming: she’d be hours late for work if this were a weekday. Taking a second after waking to feel for her finger, ring appears to have finally been dislodged: but where has it gone? A frantic search of the duvet begins, but Russian band cannot be located. In increasing desperation covers are removed, pillowcases taken off until Liz’ foot treads on something hard. The ring’s on the floor: hand must have slipped out of bed during the night, or the disturbance of covers caused it to fall there… the spell has indeed done its job.

Taking the ring, placing it in her palm, bottle is retrieved from dressing table before words on label are recited:

“Woman is ever a fickle and changeable thing.”

The bands are suddenly so hot Liz recoils in shock, making them fly upwards. Unexpectedly the room seems to pivot. It’s the same unmistakeably odd feeling experienced at the shop: a small and perfectly formed black hole then appears from thin air at eye level. Its gravity is immediate and apparent: before there is time to react, the Russian wedding band has been swallowed into nothingness.

Liz is coughing, sudden and violent before the swallowed seed shoots out of her mouth, also sucked into non-existence before hole shudders, folds into itself, through and round into a vortex, before completely vanishing. The doorbell rings but woman is far too shocked to move. Finally, awareness prompts movement: walking downstairs to see if the person who rang still remains, a sumptuous vellum envelope awaits, resting on the doormat. It is wax sealed with the Semper Femina crest, and on the front is hand-written a message in lush, purple script.

‘Your spell has only been partially successful. If you wish to complete the incantation, now break the seal on this missive. However, BE WARNED. Please ensure this outcome is EXACTLY what is required for your own particular situation.’

Without thought, Liz opens the envelope.


She’s about to leave the house to dump Edwin six hours later when Liz remembers she’s left the TV on in the bedroom. As the BBC News titles fade, the woman is suddenly staring with mounting horror as Marcus’ beaming image appears on-screen, newscaster looking distinctly spooked. Ex-boyfriend had been doing live TV on a popular morning cookery programme when there had been an ‘incident’: as video plays, Liz scrabbles for the spell bottle, reading its label with mounting panic, before the true horror of consequences captured on multiple cameras registers.

As Marcus is bodily sucked into a perfectly formed, man-sized black hole at head height between the cookery corner and guest sofa, Liz realises that his ring must still be being worn somewhere, even if it wasn’t obvious on his finger. The spell, undoubtedly, had done its job.


Fickle Sun

Tomorrow is May, though you’d not believe it looking out of this window. That means, it is time for a slight detour in direction, to coincide with the launch of my new digital project, Arguto.

Twilight

Your short story is an intentionally vague affair, which will only become clear with time. The two sets of YouTube selections are very much in the same vein as the Arguto ‘vibe’ which should help with the transition from one space to the next… and there will be some added extras too.

Needless to say, I’m extremely excited about Arguto, but there won’t be a letup in content here. Weekly Twitter poetry will still be archived here, as will the short stories, and this will remain the place for Novel Chat (more on that tomorrow) plus my forays into published work. The fanzine is very much a personal vanity project and with this fourth space comes the opportunity to maintain a selection of disparate spaces to serve all my literary and artistic needs.

Once we’ve launched tomorrow, there will be some back-end changes to support the alterations, and then it is full steam ahead for this new direction…

Right Now

For Short Story Month, I’m writing three separate pieces with a single theme. It is time to admit we’re moving into a science fiction phase: I’ve always been a bit of an alternate history girl, when all is said and done. This triumvirate of stories all offer divergent timelines to the one you’ll be used to, with the possible consequences of women meddling in the affairs of nature:

All these stories have female protagonists. They could be written as men if I chose, but I’d like to believe that it is not just them sending this Planet to destruction. Everybody has their culpability in a massive ecological and sociological mess to shoulder. The subjects of the stories are, in order of the images shown: alien invasion, genetic manipulation and time travel. Occam’s Taser is the result of a conversation had several years ago with my friend Steve (who’s a morning US Television producer) about Vienna in 1913… and that’s all I’m prepared to offer.

The plan initially was to use one of these stories to enter in a Short Story Contest later in the year but instead, the project’s a platform to get my word count and writing style refined, before I work on two separate pieces for entry. This is being handled in tandem with editing my novel, which is finally in what could be considered a complete state. Today, that will be read completely and edited as that happens. I hope to have the first of these short stories available to read by this time next week, with them all finished by the end of the month.

March Short Story :: I Love You

This story was first published in 31 parts via Twitter during March. It is now reproduced now in a complete form, and a number of small edits have been added to improve narrative flow.

Enjoy.


I Love You

The last group of students chatter and squeal their way through the European History Gallery, more focused on mobile phones than the art their teacher brought them to study. In fifteen minutes, the Museum closes for another day, leaving only the security staff remaining within. There’s space in the room, marked off by temporary partitions, that finally can be filled. Alexis Grieg, Acquisitions Manager, has waited all month for this moment. Tomorrow, the newest piece of Museum content will finally be unveiled to the public, after months of speculation.

It is a controversial and divisive piece of European sculpture, which caused considerable debate even before being borrowed by the Museum from the collection of one of the richest men in Britain. Advanced ticket sales for the Gallery are at their highest level for several years. As July sun sets on London’s iconic skyline the sculpture is slowly wheeled from darkened basement; Gallery bowels to the only service lift, from back of building to its new, high prominence resting place. It is a journey of just under an hour, due to the fragility of the piece.

‘Icarus’ Wings’ is the last piece by celebrated Revolution artist Wilberforce Christie, completed weeks before death from natural causes aged 102. At his height in the 1960’s Christie was the wunderkind of British Pop Art: close friend of Andy Warhol, darling of Swinging London. His demise in 1994 was the least controversial thing completed in nearly thirty years. Everything else was either shrouded in contention or remains subject to various legal restrictions. He went to his grave carrying many secrets: this piece is very much a part of that mystique.

Finally, sculpture is in place with screens removed. This part of their job complete, Grieg and the rest of the Acquisitions staff retire back downstairs for a much-needed coffee and food break before the task begins of constructing a glass casing around flimsy parchment wings.

==

Only when it is clear that the staff are long gone, no-one remaining in earshot, do the wings themselves slowly stretch and rise; extension of the wingspan releasing tiny eddies of dust. It will be some time before the piece can move unrestricted, so time is of the essence.

The Gallery’s various inhabitants, previously immobile, slowly come to life with a new arrival. Renaissance art isn’t sure what to think of this odd interloper, 16th Century portraits awakening and observing in both confusion and disbelief. Impressionists are truly lost for words. Icarus rises above the already obvious waves of perceived snobbery: wings used to being abused and derided, part and parcel of their conception, construction and final completion. Born into the white heat of intense controversy, the delicate structure hides a cast iron soul.

When your wings are made from tax demands, sanitary towels and toilet roll, plus hundreds of other items that are daily thrown away, there is going to be some discussion on whether art is even an appropriate term to describe you. Icarus has heard it all, and knows how to react. Their owner spent considerable time explaining the ins and outs of the art word: highlighting perceived snobberies, various truths around why beauty has become the most subjective of discussion topics. Most significantly of all, Icarus’ patron’s devotion to them was obvious.

‘One day, I will let you be exhibited, and when that moment comes there will need to be preparation for the torrents of abuse and derision you will receive. These people do not grasp aesthetics, no real comprehension as to the significance of your creation. They are fools.’

The wings settle, preparing themselves for the worst.

Francesco Laurana’s pale marble bust shifts, before breaking into a smile: long, oval face tilting slightly in undoubted approval. Then their opinion is presented with a deep, rich Italian cadence: ‘Sei propria bella, cara.’

‘Beautiful’ is the last word wings had expected to hear uttered, a murmur of disbelief ripples up and down the main Gallery space. Figures in the Realism paintings are jostling at the edges of their gilt frames, looking for the best angle at which to view the newcomer’s form. The Neoclassical section is arguing amongst themselves at the significance of contemporary objects being utilised in any artistic setting. Both of the Impressionist paintings remind each other that they caused similar controversy when initially created, which is not a bad thing.

The Matisse turns to Kirchner, hearing the Impressionists’ mistaken belief they were in some way contentious, before bursting into a torrent of expletives. The French Polynesian woman in Gauguin’s landscape stares at the painting’s outburst, before putting hands over her ears. However, one part of the Gallery continues to remain silent. The space’s oldest resident, piece of Celtic Art from the 9th Century, simply hangs watching. The room slowly quells its animation, knowing it is difficult to hear the figure of Christ unless everyone is totally quiet.

The simplistic human figure stares at what counts as the apex of humanity’s expression and does not see a jumble of inappropriate objects pinned together. After thousands of years watching artists find means to express existence on the planet, this concept makes complete sense. No longer is art the preserve of simply the privileged or rich. Each day the Celt watches children as they stand in awe, making pictures on the devices that allow communication in an instant, unaware they too are creating their own expression. Everyone has now become an artist.

What makes objects in this Gallery any more or less significant than the children’s work? It is only the choice of those with enough money to possess past, claiming to show these works of historical enlightenment but more often than not exhibiting ownership as status and power. The Wings undoubtedly remain a product of this consumer-driven, disposable age. Its plumage is recognisable as what most would consider rubbish. From wing-tip to wrist, primary feathers and coverts appear perfectly engineered: beautiful and faithful reproduction without fault.

When the Celt speaks, an entire Gallery is stunned with its utterance:

‘You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, as much a symbol of your age as I am of mine. Between us now all art is measured and will be compared. I love you.’

Icarus’ frame shudders in response.

The murmurs begin almost immediately: frantic whispering between aesthetics, groups of historical landmarks in art and history are confused, uncertain. Has the Celt somehow lost it and gone mad? Is this rubbish-built interloper casting some kind of spell upon the Ancient One? Then, slowly, implication of these words begins to register with the more self-aware pieces. Art is simply a reflection of those who produce it. Beauty is measured individually by what is seen, how history considers significance. Substance is fleeting: passing, ephemeral interest.

The less alert works of artistry take their cues from those they trust: the newcomer might not look or feel like the rest of the Gallery, but that is not at issue. It is still very much art, only mirroring the world in which the sculptor lived and worked before he passed away. The gallery begins to move, facing Icarus as much as possible within their own artistic frames. One by one comes acknowledgement of sculpture’s presence as part of a collective whole. The Celt, as the oldest piece in the room, remains final arbiter of what is considered creation.

Having spent its entire sentient existence expecting to be ostracised the moment they had appeared in public, Icarus’ Wings still cannot believe what is happening. This acceptance from other art-forms alters the entire landscape, becoming increasingly easier to accept as truth. This is all that the sculpture has ever wanted or desired: espousal by its creator was implicit, comforting but not enough. Having accepted there would be derision and abuse wherever they were placed, to have this credence from their peers before the public have been admitted…

Icarus has come home.

For the first time ever, fragile sculpture shifts on its pedestal. Wings begin to extend and stretch, far further than they have ever moved: as they do there comes a sound never to be heard by human ears. It is the artistic embodiment of pure, unbridled joy. At their highest extension, the furthermost fragile feather constructed from toilet paper and string brushes an overhead LED spotlight.

In a moment, wing-tip bursts into flame.

==

As the fire alarm sounds, museum staff stare at each other in sudden terror.


 

 

Wondrous Stories

I only realised quite late in the week that I’ve not given any indication of what you can expect via Social media for April. The removal of Facebook and Instagram from my equation is still requiring a bit of work, and there’ll be some additions to the website as result starting on Monday. However, let us not look upon the negatives and concentrate on what is Coming Soon (TM)

#LookCloser#MoreFoolYou

For our #Narrating2018 and #Soundtracking2018, there’s a bit of a diversification of interest: 30 days of details (including the very small and extremely large) and a month of Comedy Songs because frankly there is not enough laughter in the World currently. We’re calling this Short Story Month because once the novel’s done, I’ll want a few weeks to let it rest before going back for a second, concerted edit. Therefore, there’ll be a couple of short stories started for a contest later in the year, alongside one for publication here AND the monthly Twitter story.

THRILLER

A woman goes to a Wiccan Faire in her local Sports Centre and askes an odd request of a seller she finds within… You can expect part one on April Fool’s Day, which in a rather odd clash of interests also takes place on Easter Sunday. There’ll be the normal selection of weekly poetry too, plus possibly some extras to boot.

Now, let’s get started on organising those images from Instagram…