Posted in Creative Writing, Daily Prompt, Self Publishing, Short Stories, Writing

Anticipate

By Scott Bailey ⓒ 2017

 

I anticipate
The dissipation
Of the all
The scattering
Of goals
The rise of dreams
To ride
Upon the mists
To be blown
Upon the winds
To reside
In clouds
And hide
In trees
To sleep
In earth
Drink water
Sup sunlight
Weep rain
And sigh

 

In response to the daily prompt Anticipate

#DailyPrompt #iamwriting

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Posted in Creative Writing, Daily Prompt, Self Publishing, Short Stories, Writing

Sublime

By Scott Bailey ⓒ 2016

“Have we reached full coverage?”

“Not quite yet but we will very soon, the momentum has built and it will hit critical mass in a few days. It needs no further intervention on my part.”

“We have all the channels covered?”

“Everything! From the popular to the obscure. From hard copy books to online articles. From political diatribes to twitter. From old newspapers to blogs and click-bait articles.”

“And we have hooked everyone in – no matter their passion, no matter their inclinations?”

“We have everything – we have erotica, geological patterns in the earth’s crust, astronomy, astrology. We have Game of Thrones and Star Trek. We have novels from established authors and fan fiction. Hell, we have fan fiction erotica stories about the Star Wars characters crash landing in Narnia! There’s no angle we haven’t covered.

His boss laughed.

“Ok, Ok. I get the idea.”

He paused

“And the subliminal messages?”

“So subtle not one has been detected.”

“They are taking effect?”

“They have done their job. The population is yours to command – or will be in a few more days. I would say probably enough to make no difference already.”

“Good. And no one else knows?”

“Just me and you.”

His boss smiled. A warm smile – full of sunshine and hope that he rarely graced on anyone. It made him feel pride in a job well done.

“Good,” his boss repeated, “now, just step through this door.”

In response to the daily prompt Critical

#DailyPrompt #iamwriting

Posted in Creative Writing, Daily Prompt, Short Stories, Writing

The Man in the Meadow

By Scott Bailey 2017

She had brought it on a whim at a garage sale. The woman who sold it had practically thrown it at her when she enquired, took only 50p. With bloodshot eyes, she spat the tale.

“She must have brought it for him! I have never seen before.”

She, it turned out, was some mysterious floozy who had apparently stolen her husband. He had disappeared one night leaving everything behind. His wife had found the picture hanging in his study. She assumed it was from her.

Now it hung in Suzanne’s hall. As she looked at it in greater detail it did not seem a likely love gift.

It was a simple landscape.  A green field of swaying grass and in the distance a lonely figure. A man she thought but there was no telling why.

A simple image but compelling. The nuances of the colour were subtle and life like. She could almost feel the grass swaying. She wondered where the man was walking to. He seemed to be disappearing into the horizon.

A simple picture that had drawn her eye from the moment she saw it.

And so it continued to. As she went about her daily business she kept passing by and stopping to appreciate her new find.

In fact, she realised that she was finding the least excuse to pass that way more and more often. She laughed at herself. What a silly obsession!

But she did not stop.

Finally, she went to bed.

She could not sleep. The picture played on her mind. There was something about it. Something she was not seeing. There must be some subliminal symbol or hidden message that was trying to call out to her.

She tried to ignore it and get to sleep.

She could not.

There was something about the picture!

Something wrong.

She got out of bed. Went back down to the hall and stared at it.

It was mesmerising. The brush strokes were so fantastically real.  Had she stumbled on some forgotten or lost masterpiece? The grass almost seemed to be moving, rippling like water in the wind.

No! It was moving! And the figure, the man. He was closer! Holding out his hand in invitation….


He had not noticed the picture in the catalogue. But now, here in the auction room, it drew him. The fact that it was from the house clearance of a mysteriously missing woman somehow added to his desire for it. It seemed to have no worth. It was described simply as “Man and Woman in Grassy Meadow”. Artist unknown.

He had to have it!

He would pay dearly for it!

 

In response to the daily prompt Nuance

 

#DailyPrompt

Posted in Creative Writing, Daily Prompt, Short Stories, Writing

The Man in the Meadow

By Scott Bailey 2017

She had brought it on a whim at a garage sale. The woman who sold it had practically thrown it at her when she enquired, took only 50p. With bloodshot eyes, she spat the tale.

“She must have brought it for him! I have never seen before.”

She, it turned out, was some mysterious floozy who had apparently stolen her husband. He had disappeared one night leaving everything behind. His wife had found the picture hanging in his study. She assumed it was from her.

Now it hung in Suzanne’s hall. As she looked at it in greater detail it did not seem a likely love gift.

It was a simple landscape.  A green field of swaying grass and in the distance a lonely figure. A man she thought but there was no telling why.

A simple image but compelling. The nuances of the colour were subtle and life like. She could almost feel the grass swaying. She wondered where the man was walking to. He seemed to be disappearing into the horizon.

A simple picture that had drawn her eye from the moment she saw it.

And so it continued to. As she went about her daily business she kept passing by and stopping to appreciate her new find.

In fact, she realised that she was finding the least excuse to pass that way more and more often. She laughed at herself. What a silly obsession!

But she did not stop.

Finally, she went to bed.

She could not sleep. The picture played on her mind. There was something about it. Something she was not seeing. There must be some subliminal symbol or hidden message that was trying to call out to her.

She tried to ignore it and get to sleep.

She could not.

There was something about the picture!

Something wrong.

She got out of bed. Went back down to the hall and stared at it.

It was mesmerising. The brush strokes were so fantastically real.  Had she stumbled on some forgotten or lost masterpiece? The grass almost seemed to be moving, rippling like water in the wind.

No! It was moving! And the figure, the man. He was closer! Holding out his hand in invitation….


He had not noticed the picture in the catalogue. But now, here in the auction room, it drew him. The fact that it was from the house clearance of a mysteriously missing woman somehow added to his desire for it. It seemed to have no worth. It was described simply as “Man and Woman in Grassy Meadow”. Artist unknown.

He had to have it!

He would pay dearly for it!

 

In response to the daily prompt Nuance

 

#DailyPrompt

Posted in Creative Writing, Daily Prompt, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Technology, Writing

Confined

By Scott Bailey © 2015

 

Space. It stretched out before him – endless, dark, enticing. The stars were faint and blurry through the thick glass view port, moving in a slow arc across his vision.

He could feel the endless nothing all around, calling to his soul, a siren’s whisper.

Float with us. Float with us forever! Float and forget.

The dark song was as endless as dreams.

He shook his head, fighting off the draining sensation.

He needed to concentrate.

He turned away to look out the only other viewport.

This one was dominated by the dark shadow of the dead ship. It was only visible against the deeper blackness due to the fading embers of molten metal fragments of its destruction.

They too fade from sight to and die.

Like everyone inside.

He shivered.

Looking out that viewport was hurting his neck. He faced forward again. He was too cramped. He could only move his head left and right and his arms enough to use the control by his hands and the keyboards before him.

He was stuck.

Daydreams had led him here – he couldn’t let them end him here.

A beep from the computer brought his senses back to proper alertness.

It had started. The attacks were coming.

He had anticipated it, though not so quickly and not all at once.

Float….

Concentrate!

“Update”, he commanded.

The computer’s calm voice responded.

“Interceptors are on the way they will arrive in precisely 623 seconds.”

“They must be responding to the distress call from the prison,” he muttered.

“That would seem a high probability.”

Dammit! He hadn’t been able to cut that off in time.

The computer went on.

“We should send our own distress call, they will be equipped to rescue you.”

“Do not!” he commanded. “Keep radio silence!”

“Affirmative.”

They were not only equipped for rescue. They were heavily armed. Once they learned the truth – and very soon they would – weapons would their first response.

“And our firewall?” he queried.

“The outer defence has been breached but the systems have not yet been compromised.”

That wouldn’t last much longer. The authorities were suspicious already –  the presence of such a strong firewall did not to allay those suspicions – so they were hitting the firewall with the best they had.

“And my program?”

“Approximately 800 seconds to completion.”

Not enough time!

He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. There was too much at stake here to fail.

He needed more time.

“Instigate firewall program 42!”

The computer complied and ran the program for him.  That would keep the cyber attacks at bay for a little longer.

He shook his head. He had the nagging feeling that this was all just too fantastic!

Only a year ago the only thing he did on a computer was check social media and chat! Spaceships were a thing of science-fiction! Now here he was a master programmer and a fugitive from the authorities flying in space. It all seemed too unreal.

It was the stress of the situation he told himself and he could not afford to be distracted by it.

Besides he wasn’t actually flying a spaceship right now. He was drifting in what was little more than an escape pod.

But the ship he had escaped from was real. As were those bearing down on him. And these were not the only truths he had discovered lately.

He looked at the countdown on the program he was running.

“OK,” he told the computer, “prepare a distress call. But inject the virus I prepared.”

“That is against regulations,” the computer informed him. He barked an override code at it and it proceeded to prepare the distress call.

It was amazing what you could learn in prison. Hacking, override codes. The truth about the universe out there.

Putting him in prison had been their mistake.

Daydreams and curiosity had led him to that prison. he asked too many questions and that had got him into trouble at work and with the Government. That alone would probably not have condemned him but he had also an inventive streak. And a paranoid one.

When they hauled him for questioning he had snuck in a crude listening device.

It had not worked very well but he had caught snippets of conversation.

“He seems immune..”

“Is he any harm though?”

“ … control …    inherited or just a ….. “

“He is a dreamer, not a revolutionary.”

“There we go then. We make him a believer…”

Unfortunately, the listening device was discovered – and that sealed his fate. He was shipped off to a deep space prison ship.

A deep space prison ship! One day he was in a world where the space shuttle was the most sophisticated space vehicle man had created and smartphones where the best man seemed to be able to achieve – the next he was in a world of spaceships – and space police!

It was a culture shock, to say the least.

He was dumped into prison and forgotten.

And that was the strangest thing of all. In prison, he flourished.

On earth – in his old life he had been Mr Average Joe to a T. Prison should have broken him. Yet he found that he had more freedom stuck on this ship than ever before.

He learned the truth for one thing.

There existed on earth (and space) a super élite far above anything anyone even suspected existed. They had science and wealth beyond the imagination of most people.

The rests of the population were kept in drug-induced ignorance. Cattle whose sole purpose was to provide this élite with their lifestyle.

Knowledge seemed to flow freely in prison and he absorbed it all. He learnt to program and how to hack computers.

He had vowed to expose the truth and free the world.

So he had concocted his escape. It had cost him the lives of everyone on that ship – and probably his own life too but he didn’t care.

He was filled with fury. He wanted to free the enslaved population of the human race for sure. What he wanted more though was to see the smug bastards who ruled them get their just deserts.

“Distress call is ready to send.”

He nodded, he was about to tell the computer to send it when it preempted him.

“New contacts.”

“What?”

“There are two more ships, coming in from the direction of Saturn.”

“More interceptors?”

“No. They bear all the signs of space pirates?”

Space pirates? Pirates? How could pirates exist? That would imply ….

He shook his head. There were too many questions threatening to distract him. He had to concentrate.

“Program completion has been suspended.” the computer announced.

What!?

He flung his fingers at the keyboard and dove into code. They had not yet got full control but they managed to stop his program.

Which implied they knew or guessed what he was doing.

He glanced at the other screen. The pirates would get here quicker than the interceptors! And they would shoot first!

He didn’t hesitate now. He called up his virus and made a few changes, then he told the computer to prepare it again and send it.

Then he dove back in and started a counterattack against the hackers. He managed to regain control and get his program running again. He then spent the next few minutes  both fighting the hackers off and keeping his exit channels open.

While he did this he also watched as his virus took hold of the interceptors and turned them towards the pirates. They would be forced to fight each other for a bit.

The program was also done. The hackers came on in full force. He struggled to hold them back.

A fireball briefly bloomed in space. All the pirate ships and interceptors signals went dead. They had destroyed each other.

Almost there.

Now the hackers could see the program running even if they couldn’t stop it yet.

A signal flickered back to life on the screen

One interceptor had survived.

It was closing in, weapons charged.

Almost.

“Program completed!” the computer announced.

“Run it!” he shouted.

He watched the screen as the truth – all the truth – was sent out to every single person on earth.

The lies were exposed.

Come now, float with us…

No!

The interceptor would be in range soon.

He breathed easier.

He had done as much as he could for the world. Now he had to look to his own survival.

He was stranded in space, with limited resources and little time. Air and supplies running out and no hope of rescue.

After the years and years of confinement, he welcomed the challenge – relished it.

“Now this,” he said, with an almost feral grin, “is living!”

 

www.scottandrewbailey.uk

Posted in Creative Writing, Daily Prompt, Music, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Work, Writing

The Execution

By Scott Bailey © 2014

“My patience is almost spent.”

“I apologise Mr. Dickens. The situation is complicated.”

“I have been hearing that for two weeks now! And have been given nothing! No answers! I don’t know where I am. I don’t know what has happened to me. Everyone talks strange and treats me like some kind of alien or freak show. And where are my fucking family!”

For a second the Doctor looked horrified. Then he quickly composed himself.

“Again I can only apologise.  But I will explain now. When I do you will understand our … reticence. ”

“About time..”, muttered Henry.The Doctor gave him a look of pity.

“Brace yourself. ”

Henry suddenly felt cold. The Doctor went on.

“Our records show that you were in a cycling accident.”

He pronounced cycling as if he didn’t know what the word meant.

“You suffered severe brain injuries. You were put into a coma to try to protect your higher brain functions. When the swelling had subsided the medical team tried to revive you. They failed. You remained in a coma.”

Henry shifted in his chair. His voice was broken as he spoke.

“How long?”

“Ten years.”

“I have been out for ten years?”

“It’s more complicated. While you were under the world around you changed. It got worse, a lot worse. Your wife… well it seems she was a sharp woman. She saw things clearer than most. For one thing she left us plenty of notes. That’s why we know so much.”

Henry felt a growing sense of dread. But he kept silent.

“Because she saw things clearly she prepared, took action.  What I am going to tell you will be hard for you to hear. But bear in mind that with the benefit of hindsight we can see that what she did was for her family. For your children. She took steps to protect them.”

“Protect them?” His heart was racing.  “Protect them from what?”

“From war.”

“There was a fucking war?” The Doctor flinched again, but he went on.

“Yes. It was a dark time.”

“World War Three?”

“Not quite. I mean that’s what people expected.  What your wife thought was coming. But it was not and all-encompassing war like that. No one side against the other. No. What transpired was a series of many many, small wars between countries.”

He shuddered and continued.

“You might think that would have been better than a world war, but it was not.  It was far worse. With just about every country in the world caught up in their own conflicts there was nobody to coordinate any kind of peace deal. No one to talk to anyway if there had have been. So the wars dragged on, for years,  decades.”

“Decades? I thought you said ..” the Doctor stilled him with a look.

“Your wife saw the dark times coming. She took steps to protect her family.  The first of which was she remarried. ”

“She… what? She..”

“She married into immense wealth. And she used the money to protect her children and you. We know she did this well as we know they survived the dark times.”

“They are alive! I can see them!”

“No. You cannot.  They are…. let me finish.”

A lump of dread was threatening to strangle him.

“She also tried to protect you. With all the resources of her great wealth she threw everything they had at the time towards reviving you. Nothing worked. Finally, when it looked darkest and there was no guarantee that anyone would survive she threw you one last desperate lifeline. An experimental treatment.”

The Doctor paused, looked him deep in the eye.

“She put you into suspended animation.”

Henry felt chilled to the bone.

“So no, you cannot see your wife and children. They have been dead for over two hundred years. We have only just been able to awaken you.”

“No. No, this can’t be. It’s some sort of sick joke isn’t it? There’s cameras in here. Well it’s not funny! I want to see my family!”

“Please Mr Dickens, please calm down. I know this is a lot to take in and I am sorry. But there is more. There is something else you need to know.”

“Calm down? Calm the fuck down? I want my family in this room! Here and now! Don’t give me any more bullshit.”

The doctor nodded very slightly, subtly, but Henry noticed.

It was too late.hands he didn’t see took a firm hold of his arms. Held him steadfastly. He felt a cold disc of metal against the skin of his neck, there was a hiss, then he fell swirling into darkness.

 


 

“You want me to what!?”

Henry looked at the panel before him, twelve men and women, with utter disbelief.

“Mr Dickens. We understand that you have a lot to take in over the last few weeks.”

“A lot!” Henry stared. How could they possibly understand. He has lost everything. His family, his love, his world. He had seen very little of this world but he had seen enough to know that it was not his. He was an alien here.

And now this.

“We understand that you have lost a lot. You have to understand that the world has lost a lot too.”

“I have heard all about your wars. Lots of people died. Yes.”

“They were not our wars, “ said the chairman of the panel, his voice calm and cold. “And I don’t think you have an appreciation of just how many people died, or what that meant.”

Henry didn’t see what any of it had to do with him. The chairman continued anyway.

“The population of the earth was cut by 75%. You have no idea what that did to us. There were very few people left to run things. Very few who knew how to keep things running. Power stations failed. Oil wells stopped pumping. Machines broke down. Nobody knew how to rule, how to respond to the disasters. All that had been wiped away in war after war.

“The times after the wars were darker than the actual wars. The world came close to slipping into barbarism. In many places it did.”

“And you came along and saved it,” said Henry sourly.

“We survived. We were not involved – because we were overlooked. We had no wealth, no strategic value. Largely we were forgotten up in the mountains.”

He paused, letting Henry take in his words. Henry said nothing so he continued.

“We don’t really know what triggered many of the wars, people say it was largely financial – but those are theories, based on times gone by. What we do know is that as things got more and more desperate the terms of the conflicts changed. They became more ideological. In many cases fiercely religious. This was why many of them could not be stopped, there came a point where reason stopped being any part of the fighting.

“It was another reason we were not drawn into it. As Buddhists we eschewed all the arguments for fighting. But we were also no threat to anyone. Those that were bent on converting the world, well – most had forgotten us, or were just leaving us to last.

“So in the end, we survived just by being the last ones standing. We were the only thing left close to being a coherent nation.

“And we were used to living frugally. We were in a unique position to fill the niche so to speak.

“So people flocked to us. They saw our way of life working. Saw it as a light in the dark, a hope.”

“And you made them all convert!” Henry spat.

“Not at first,” replied the chairman. “That was not our way, never had been. But it was a disaster. Trying to accommodate everyone’s views, conflicting ways of doing things. Trying to keep on top of all the old tensions, historical hatreds and prejudices. Well it almost tore us apart. And we were so fragile then, we still are.”

The chairman leaned forward.

“You have to understand something. The earth is damaged. It’s worn out, and depleted. It will never recover, not in the ways we would want it to. The comforts and luxuries of generations past have gone. If we are to survive we must change our ways. And some of those ways might seem extreme to you. They are – but so is our situation.”

“So I have to convert to Buddhism! No choice!”

“That is correct. and it has to be genuine. You must live by our ways.”

“What do you do check up on me? Monitor me? Give me exams every month or something.”

“We do not need to. The way our society is structured, if you do not follow our ways, it would be obvious. If your thoughts do not flow with those around you  – it will be grossly evident to all around you.”

“So I am not even allowed to think outside of your precious bloody ways.”

“As I said, the ways are extreme, and your manner does not fit – at the moment.”

Henry snorted in derision. Did they really think he was going to take this.

“And if I refuse?”

“We cannot allow the possibility of disruption to the balance. You will be executed.”

Henry stared open-mouthed.

“You are kidding! That doesn’t sound very like the Buddhism that was around in my time.”

“Maybe not – we have had to make our sacrifices too. But we are humane.”

“How can killing someone be humane?”

“You would die happy and fulfilled. We have our ways”

“Well hoo – fucking – ray!”

 


 

“Are you sure that you do not want to change your mind?” said the monk. Henry assumed it was a monk. He looked like the Buddhist monks from his own era but he just didn’t know any more.

He wasn’t sure he cared either.

“Why would I do that?”

“So you can live,” said the monk with surprise.

“What for? My life is gone. Everything I knew is gone. My life would be as a stranger in a cage of rules I don’t want and don’t understand. I can’t live like that.”

“You haven’t given it a chance. You have no idea the peace and joy of our lives. You are judging us by your primitive standards. You…

“Enough!” A voice of authority barked from a hidden source. The monk started and looked guilty and continued preparing the elaborate machine Henry was embedded into.

Joy indeed! Henry snorted to himself. Get on with it, he thought.

The monk appeared to comply. He stepped back, nodded at the back wall and left.

The machine hummed and enclosed further around Henry like some futuristic iron maiden. A needle swung into his vision, poised at his neck and then stopped.

The voice spoke again.

“It saddens us to do this friend. But our society, mankind, must survive.”

“Yes, yes. I can imagine the tears you are shedding.”

“You will not change your mind?”

“You will not let me live among you without converting?” Henry countered.

“No.”

“Not even for a limited time – say a month, to see if you can change my mind?” The sarcasm in his voice told them all he did not expect any reasonable answer to that.

“No.”

“Then get on with it!”

“Very well. Judge! Carry out the execution.”

Henry didn’t even take a breath. He’d had enough, reached his limit. He wanted it ended.

Nothing happened. He looked up, the needle stayed poised, he could almost see the poison dripping from it.

“Judge! What is happening? Carry out the execution.”

“No.” The new voice was quietly defiant.

“What? Judge, carry out your task, execute him.”

“No!” What Henry presumed was the Judge’s voice was louder and firmer this time. “I will not. He is right. We should give him time amongst us.”

“This is not acceptable, Judge, do your job!”

“What does it say about our society if we do not trust it to be good enough to sway him? If we are scared that it so weak that a single man can topple it? We need to start our own healing, and it should start with him. We will give him his time. One month. If he is still not convinced, I will carry out the sentence.”

“This is not acceptable, Judge!”

Something stirred in Henry. Suddenly, out of nowhere he wanted what the Judge was offering him. A chance. A chance to live.

“You will accept it. I am the only one in this world who can carry out this sentence and I will not.”

“Your apprentice…”

“Will not be able to carry it out. I have already locked him out of all the processes. Only I can release the locks. He will have his time.”

 


 

“Next up, we are talking to the sensation of the age. The man who was frozen in time and has awoken to join us in the future. The man who escaped death twice and who is shaking the world. The man the leaders fear, the man who asks questions.

“Well today, we hope, he will be answering some of our questions.”

The interviewer turned to Henry while the applause of the audience died down. Henry squirmed uncomfortably. Of all the damn things to survive into this century it had to be talk shows! And he was the fucking subject.

He had to remember not to swear too. He had learnt it was considered way more offensive in these times than his own.

“Mr Dickens, thank you for joining us, let us begin with the biggest question.

“OK.” said Henry.

“We have all heard your remarkable story, it has tugged at all our hearts, we all grieve for your losses. The question we have is, why did you refuse conversion when offered at first? Why, as it appears did you choose death?”

Henry was suddenly overwhelmed with emotions that he struggled to keep under wraps. Grieve for my losses? What could they possibly understand about his losses! The very stupidity of the question betrayed how little they could understand.

How could he answer that?

The audience did not let him. A voice shouted out.

“Why didn’t you just convert!? What’s wrong with our way of life?”

Henry couldn’t see the source of the voice. He sounded like a fanatic, a tone not uncommon in this new world he had discovered.

“I knew nothing about it, you expected I would just convert, without questioning what I was getting into.”

“What’s to question? This way of life has saved us, saved humanity.”

People clapped and cheered the questioner.

“Has it? Or has it turned you all into cattle? Sheep that blindly follow ‘the way’.”

The audience booed and jeered at him, he was a little surprised. His opinions were not exactly secret, they had been broadcast around the world for the two weeks since his stay of execution.

He was the biggest news story of the time.

Hardly surprising as very little else seemed to be happening in the world.

They had peace OK. And it was boring.

“Let him speak!” another voice rang out above the protests.

The audience quietened down, shocked that someone, one of their own appeared to be supporting him.

“Let us hear what he has to say. If our society is so perfect then what possible threat could he be?”

Henry was surprised himself to hear a small ripple of applause supporting this new stance.

He spoke.

“Sure, you have peace. Your society is a model of sustainability and balance. I admire it in many ways. But it is frozen, you are so scared to upset the balance you allow no change. You have stopped growing. You might survive for now, but when change comes – when it is thrust upon you, you won’t know how to deal with it, how to adapt.

“You are like a rose, frozen in liquid nitrogen. Beautiful, preserved for all time, but dead. And easily shattered with a single blow.”

“Why didn’t you just pretend? Just convert and be quiet?” said the original voice.

Henry stood angrily now.

“I spent the whole of my old life dreaming of being someone. Of making my mark on the world. Leaving behind a legacy beyond just my genes. But I didn’t, I was nothing. I worked, I existed, I supported my family, I loved. But nothing more than what every other person was doing around me. I always dreamed one day, one day – but that day was never to be.

“And now – you expect me to just shut up and become just another cog in the machine again. With even less freedom and liberty than before? Well fuck you all if that’s what you think.”

Savage!” a woman screamed.

“No! He is right! Why can’t we question things? Why can’t we change things?”

“Do you want war to return? Do you want our blood?”

“We can question without conflict!”

Suddenly the audience erupted. Everyone was on their feet, trying to shout down each other. Henry thought it looked evenly split but it looked messy.

The aggression was rising.

The flabbergasted host turned to his assistants.

“Get him out of here!”

Hands grabbed in and he was whisked away.

In response to the daily prompt Savage

#DailyPrompt, #amwriting

www.scottandrewbailey.uk

 

Posted in Creative Writing, Daily Prompt, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Technology, Writing

Confined

By Scott Bailey © 2015

 

Space. It stretched out before him – endless, dark, enticing. The stars were faint and blurry through the thick glass view port, moving in a slow arc across his vision.

He could feel the endless nothing all around, calling to his soul, a siren’s whisper.

Float with us. Float with us forever! Float and forget.

The dark song was as endless as dreams.

He shook his head, fighting off the draining sensation.

He needed to concentrate.

He turned away to look out the only other viewport.

This one was dominated by the dark shadow of the dead ship. It was only visible against the deeper blackness due to the fading embers of molten metal fragments of its destruction.

They too fade from sight to and die.

Like everyone inside.

He shivered.

Looking out that viewport was hurting his neck. He faced forward again. He was too cramped. He could only move his head left and right and his arms enough to use the control by his hands and the keyboards before him.

He was stuck.

Daydreams had led him here – he couldn’t let them end him here.

A beep from the computer brought his senses back to proper alertness.

It had started. The attacks were coming.

He had anticipated it, though not so quickly and not all at once.

Float….

Concentrate!

“Update”, he commanded.

The computer’s calm voice responded.

“Interceptors are on the way they will arrive in precisely 623 seconds.”

“They must be responding to the distress call from the prison,” he muttered.

“That would seem a high probability.”

Dammit! He hadn’t been able to cut that off in time.

The computer went on.

“We should send our own distress call, they will be equipped to rescue you.”

“Do not!” he commanded. “Keep radio silence!”

“Affirmative.”

They were not only equipped for rescue. They were heavily armed. Once they learned the truth – and very soon they would – weapons would their first response.

“And our firewall?” he queried.

“The outer defence has been breached but the systems have not yet been compromised.”

That wouldn’t last much longer. The authorities were suspicious already –  the presence of such a strong firewall did not to allay those suspicions – so they were hitting the firewall with the best they had.

“And my program?”

“Approximately 800 seconds to completion.”

Not enough time!

He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. There was too much at stake here to fail.

He needed more time.

“Instigate firewall program 42!”

The computer complied and ran the program for him.  That would keep the cyber attacks at bay for a little longer.

He shook his head. He had the nagging feeling that this was all just too fantastic!

Only a year ago the only thing he did on a computer was check social media and chat! Spaceships were a thing of science-fiction! Now here he was a master programmer and a fugitive from the authorities flying in space. It all seemed too unreal.

It was the stress of the situation he told himself and he could not afford to be distracted by it.

Besides he wasn’t actually flying a spaceship right now. He was drifting in what was little more than an escape pod.

But the ship he had escaped from was real. As were those bearing down on him. And these were not the only truths he had discovered lately.

He looked at the countdown on the program he was running.

“OK,” he told the computer, “prepare a distress call. But inject the virus I prepared.”

“That is against regulations,” the computer informed him. He barked an override code at it and it proceeded to prepare the distress call.

It was amazing what you could learn in prison. Hacking, override codes. The truth about the universe out there.

Putting him in prison had been their mistake.

Daydreams and curiosity had led him to that prison. he asked too many questions and that had got him into trouble at work and with the Government. That alone would probably not have condemned him but he had also an inventive streak. And a paranoid one.

When they hauled him for questioning he had snuck in a crude listening device.

It had not worked very well but he had caught snippets of conversation.

“He seems immune..”

“Is he any harm though?”

“ … control …    inherited or just a ….. “

“He is a dreamer, not a revolutionary.”

“There we go then. We make him a believer…”

Unfortunately, the listening device was discovered – and that sealed his fate. He was shipped off to a deep space prison ship.

A deep space prison ship! One day he was in a world where the space shuttle was the most sophisticated space vehicle man had created and smartphones where the best man seemed to be able to achieve – the next he was in a world of spaceships – and space police!

It was a culture shock, to say the least.

He was dumped into prison and forgotten.

And that was the strangest thing of all. In prison, he flourished.

On earth – in his old life he had been Mr Average Joe to a T. Prison should have broken him. Yet he found that he had more freedom stuck on this ship than ever before.

He learned the truth for one thing.

There existed on earth (and space) a super élite far above anything anyone even suspected existed. They had science and wealth beyond the imagination of most people.

The rests of the population were kept in drug-induced ignorance. Cattle whose sole purpose was to provide this élite with their lifestyle.

Knowledge seemed to flow freely in prison and he absorbed it all. He learnt to program and how to hack computers.

He had vowed to expose the truth and free the world.

So he had concocted his escape. It had cost him the lives of everyone on that ship – and probably his own life too but he didn’t care.

He was filled with fury. He wanted to free the enslaved population of the human race for sure. What he wanted more though was to see the smug bastards who ruled them get their just deserts.

“Distress call is ready to send.”

He nodded, he was about to tell the computer to send it when it preempted him.

“New contacts.”

“What?”

“There are two more ships, coming in from the direction of Saturn.”

“More interceptors?”

“No. They bear all the signs of space pirates?”

Space pirates? Pirates? How could pirates exist? That would imply ….

He shook his head. There were too many questions threatening to distract him. He had to concentrate.

“Program completion has been suspended.” the computer announced.

What!?

He flung his fingers at the keyboard and dove into code. They had not yet got full control but they managed to stop his program.

Which implied they knew or guessed what he was doing.

He glanced at the other screen. The pirates would get here quicker than the interceptors! And they would shoot first!

He didn’t hesitate now. He called up his virus and made a few changes, then he told the computer to prepare it again and send it.

Then he dove back in and started a counterattack against the hackers. He managed to regain control and get his program running again. He then spent the next few minutes  both fighting the hackers off and keeping his exit channels open.

While he did this he also watched as his virus took hold of the interceptors and turned them towards the pirates. They would be forced to fight each other for a bit.

The program was also done. The hackers came on in full force. He struggled to hold them back.

A fireball briefly bloomed in space. All the pirate ships and interceptors signals went dead. They had destroyed each other.

Almost there.

Now the hackers could see the program running even if they couldn’t stop it yet.

A signal flickered back to life on the screen

One interceptor had survived.

It was closing in, weapons charged.

Almost.

“Program completed!” the computer announced.

“Run it!” he shouted.

He watched the screen as the truth – all the truth – was sent out to every single person on earth.

The lies were exposed.

Come now, float with us…

No!

The interceptor would be in range soon.

He breathed easier.

He had done as much as he could for the world. Now he had to look to his own survival.

He was stranded in space, with limited resources and little time. Air and supplies running out and no hope of rescue.

After the years and years of confinement, he welcomed the challenge – relished it.

“Now this,” he said, with an almost feral grin, “is living!”

 

In response to the daily prompt Lifestyle

#DailyPrompt, #amwriting

www.scottandrewbailey.uk

Posted in Creative Writing, Daily Prompt, Short Stories, Writing

The Man in the Meadow

By Scott Bailey 2017

She had brought it on a whim at a garage sale. The woman who sold it had practically thrown it at her when she enquired, took only 50p. With bloodshot eyes, she spat the tale.

“She must have brought it for him! I have never seen before.”

She, it turned out, was some mysterious floozy who had apparently stolen her husband. He had disappeared one night leaving everything behind. His wife had found the picture hanging in his study. She assumed it was from her.

Now it hung in Suzanne’s hall. As she looked at it in greater detail it did not seem a likely love gift.

It was a simple landscape.  A green field of swaying grass and in the distance a lonely figure. A man she thought but there was no telling why.

A simple image but compelling. The nuances of the colour were subtle and life like. She could almost feel the grass swaying. She wondered where the man was walking to. He seemed to be disappearing into the horizon.

A simple picture that had drawn her eye from the moment she saw it.

And so it continued to. As she went about her daily business she kept passing by and stopping to appreciate her new find.

In fact, she realised that she was finding the least excuse to pass that way more and more often. She laughed at herself. What a silly obsession!

But she did not stop.

Finally, she went to bed.

She could not sleep. The picture played on her mind. There was something about it. Something she was not seeing. There must be some subliminal symbol or hidden message that was trying to call out to her.

She tried to ignore it and get to sleep.

She could not.

There was something about the picture!

Something wrong.

She got out of bed. Went back down to the hall and stared at it.

It was mesmerising. The brush strokes were so fantastically real.  Had she stumbled on some forgotten or lost masterpiece? The grass almost seemed to be moving, rippling like water in the wind.

No! It was moving! And the figure, the man. He was closer! Holding out his hand in invitation….


He had not noticed the picture in the catalogue. But now, here in the auction room, it drew him. The fact that it was from the house clearance of a mysteriously missing woman somehow added to his desire for it. It seemed to have no worth. It was described simply as “Man and Woman in Grassy Meadow”. Artist unknown.

He had to have it!

He would pay dearly for it!

 

In response to the daily prompt Nuance

 

#DailyPrompt

Posted in Daily Prompt, Fiction, Short Stories, Writing

Devastation

By Scott Bailey 2017

By Francisco Sanchis Cortés (Music at an exhibition) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Francisco Sanchis Cortés (Music at an exhibition) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The God of War awoke. Stirred from his long slumber and stretched. He gave a few swings of his hammer and yawned.
“This is it!” His voice rolled through the thunder clouds like a promise.
His minions had had their fun while he slept. Keeping the family business running so to speak.
That was over. The was The War. The Big One.
Those puny little tyrants and heroes would not know what hit them.
The God of War flexed his neck, rolled his head and shook the sleep from his long, flowing hair.
Lightning gleamed dully in his armour.
He looked to his left, to his right. Stretching out on either side were the flanks of his sisters. Mounted – their wings shining in the rain.
The God of War raised his hammer and with a mighty swoop bore it down on the earth.
Lighting smashed open the clouds and unleashed hell.
People were confused. Thrown off their kilter. They could not understand the petty battles, the conflict after conflict. No one seemed able to stop them. No one seemed to care.
The rich and powerful holed up with their gold. The poor were starved and eaten.
The God of War kept at it. Smiling with fury. This was his purpose, his being, his goal. His end.
So confused and fearful the people did not see, the chances they had slip away. The weapons they might use be consumed by war.
While the battles raged the earth burned. And burned and burned. The forests turned to ash and cities fell. The seas boiled away.
Beyond repair, this was the final battle.
After the long age of suffering the God of War surveyed the devastation with satisfaction. He had won. Nothing survived. The earth was too warm for life, nothing breathed.
He had won. And so now he burned with the earth. Raised his arms in fury and triumph in his final pyre.
With no players, there was no more war.
Peace descended. The earth would rest in it until the end.

In response to the daily prompt Devastation

#DailyPrompt

Posted in Daily Prompt, Fiction, Short Stories, Writing

Devastation

By Scott Bailey 2017

By Francisco Sanchis Cortés (Music at an exhibition) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Francisco Sanchis Cortés (Music at an exhibition) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The God of War awoke. Stirred from his long slumber and stretched. He gave a few swings of his hammer and yawned.
“This is it!” His voice rolled through the thunder clouds like a promise.
His minions had had their fun while he slept. Keeping the family business running so to speak.
That was over. The was The War. The Big One.
Those puny little tyrants and heroes would not know what hit them.
The God of War flexed his neck, rolled his head and shook the sleep from his long, flowing hair.
Lightning gleamed dully in his armour.
He looked to his left, to his right. Stretching out on either side were the flanks of his sisters. Mounted – their wings shining in the rain.
The God of War raised his hammer and with a mighty swoop bore it down on the earth.
Lighting smashed open the clouds and unleashed hell.
People were confused. Thrown off their kilter. They could not understand the petty battles, the conflict after conflict. No one seemed able to stop them. No one seemed to care.
The rich and powerful holed up with their gold. The poor were starved and eaten.
The God of War kept at it. Smiling with fury. This was his purpose, his being, his goal. His end.
So confused and fearful the people did not see, the chances they had slip away. The weapons they might use be consumed by war.
While the battles raged the earth burned. And burned and burned. The forests turned to ash and cities fell. The seas boiled away.
Beyond repair, this was the final battle.
After the long age of suffering the God of War surveyed the devastation with satisfaction. He had won. Nothing survived. The earth was too warm for life, nothing breathed.
He had won. And so now he burned with the earth. Raised his arms in fury and triumph in his final pyre.
With no players, there was no more war.
Peace descended. The earth would rest in it until the end.

In response to the daily prompt Devastation

#DailyPrompt

Posted in Creative Writing, Daily Prompt, Self Publishing, Short Stories, Writing

Folly

By Scott Bailey © 2016

She stared at the artefact. It reminded her of a flower. Well, reminded was the wrong word. She had never seen a flower – there were no more left. They had died out long before she had arrived.

Everything had.

But in the last few months, her colleagues had managed to decipher and read the ancient data they had found here and there. They had pieced together a rough history of this dead place. Not much but enough – enough to know what happened.

Enough to know it could happen to them.

Enough to know what a flower looked like.

Before they had died – somebody had carved a final message on this artefact.

‘Man’s final folly!”

She wondered at that. She could not fathom its reasoning.

It was beyond doubt now that this giant metal flower had been the instrument that had called out to them so long ago. Sent its message to the stars.

And they had heard. 20,000 long years ago she and her colleagues had boarded their ship and started on their way.

In all probability, the flower was still broadcasting then. The carver of that message was still breathing good air.

No more.

There was no more good air. There was nothing left to breathe it.

Was puzzled her more was the fact that the remaining histories made it plain they it was foreseeable. Preventable even.

Yet she could also see that their own masters back home could easily make the same mistake. As advanced as they were the path was familiar.

So it was that she and her fellow robotic explorers had taken the decision to delay their trip home. It would take them 20,000 more years to get back with the warning.

This – folly – could send the message quicker. So here they were trying to repair it get it working again.

A desperate battle to avoid the fate of these long dead people who called themselves human beings.

 

 

In response to the daily prompt Folly

#DailyPrompt, #amwriting

www.scottandrewbailey.uk

Posted in Creative Writing, Self Publishing, Short Stories, Writing

Sublime

By Scott Bailey ⓒ 2016

OK, so this is number 3 in my 52 short story challenge. As I stated I am not going to post all of them but I need to post this one for reasons I will explain later.

 

“Have we reached full coverage?”

“Not quite yet but we will very soon, the momentum has built and it will hit critical mass in a few days. It needs no further intervention on my part.”

“We have all the channels covered?”

“Everything! From the popular to the obscure. From hard copy books to online articles. From political diatribes to twitter. From old newspapers to blogs and click-bait articles.”

“And we have hooked everyone in – no matter their passion, no matter their inclinations?”

“We have everything – we have erotica, geological patterns in the earth’s crust, astronomy, astrology. We have Game of Thrones and Star Trek. We have novels from established authors and fan fiction. Hell, we have fan fiction erotica stories about the Star Wars characters crash landing in Narnia! There’s no angle we haven’t covered.

His boss laughed.

“Ok, Ok. I get the idea.”

He paused

“And the subliminal messages?”

“So subtle not one has been detected.”

“They are taking effect?”

“They have done their job. The population is yours to command – or will be in a few more days. I would say probably enough to make no difference already.”

“Good. And no one else knows?”

“Just me and you.”

His boss smiled. A warm smile – full of sunshine and hope that he rarely graced on anyone. It made him feel pride in a job well done.

“Good,” his boss repeated, “now, just step through this door.”

 

Posted in Creative Writing, Self Publishing, Short Stories, Writing

Present

By Scott Bailey ⓒ 2016

20/07/2016

 

Halfway through the year already.

Where does the time go?

The present is still unopened.

Where is she?

Will she ever open it? Will she ever come back?

I will give it a few more week, then I will put it in the loft with all the others.

Then I will start looking again.

Posted in Creative Writing, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Writing

Short Story Challenge – One down

I finally got time to do the second draft of the first story in my short story challenge. I would have liked to spend more time on it but if I had there was the danger it would never get done.

So you can see it here.

The next one on the list is going to be even more challenging I think.

Posted in Creative Writing, Fiction, Science Fiction, Self Publishing, Short Stories, Writing

Short Story Challenge

Looking at my author page www.scottandrewbailey.uk there is one gaping hole. There are no short stories.

I have written quite a few in the past but it was some time ago and they need some editing and polishing before I put together a collection. In the meantime I have decided I need to start writing some new ones.

Short stories are the form I find most challenging – and that I most want to get a grip on.

So I have decided to set myself a challenge and give myself a proverbial boot up the jacksy!

I recently joined a local online writing community and one of the members posted a list of genres – which he is trying to write a story for each. I have appropriated that list but extended it terms a bit. To each genre I have added a constraint – that will make the writing harder but hopefully spark a better creation. So for example one of the options is an action story. So my constraint for that one is to set it in a confined space.

I am posting this list here and will post links to the relevant stories if and when I write them – and its a big if one this one.

But I also thought others might like to take up the challenge. If you do I am happy to post links to your resulting works of art here beneath each section.

I am going to try to work through in the order posted but that’s optional and if I get inspired I may skip to a particular one.

Here is the list

  • Action – set in a confined space
  • Comedy – about an act of terrorism
  • Crime – Set in a police station with CCTV watching
  • Erotica – set in an un-erotic place – such as a sewer
  • Espionage – set in either MI5 headquarters or a cell
  • Fantasy – Set in a shopping centre
  • Historical – Set in the future
  • Horror – A children’s story
  • Noir – based around colours
  • Political – In a hippy commune
  • Post-Apocalypse – In a book club
  • Romance – In a divorce court
  • Sci-Fi – In neolithic times
  • Space Opera – From a droids POV
  • Superhero – In medieval times
  • Thriller – In a Cricket or bowls match
  • Western – From Native American POV
  • Whodunnit – With no apparent crime

Let’s see what happens.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “32 Flavors.”

This a repost of a quick story I wrote some time ago – designed to be added to

Thought I would give it another airing 🙂

Lunch Hour

Started by Scott Bailey

There were some friends. And a hall. An infinite hall, with marble walls and pillars that stretched forever into the distance.

And there were tables. Row after row after row of tables. On each table was a never-ending supply of a single dish. In that hall, on those tables there could be found every dish that had ever been imagined, concocted and served up in all of human history.

With a thought you could be sitting before any dish you could think of. Or you could ask your neighbour for a recommendation and try something new. The name of the dish was enough to take you there.

It was time for the friends to eat. They entered and they took their paths through the hall. They commenced their lunch.

As they knew – it was a once only meal.

An hour later they reconvened, look each other in the eyes and assessed their time beneath the infinite arches.

The first spoke.

“I tried as many different tastes as I could. I jumped from table to table and I can honestly say that I know of no one who, could have filled their time here with as many different flavours as I. Yet. Now I am here –  wonder why? I stand here before you proudly stating the quantity of meals I have partaken off – yet I wonder why does that matter? Not one was complete. Have I missed the joy of a meal.”

He hung his head, deep in thought and regret. But second friend spoke.

“You make me wonder. What taste did I miss? I did not try many different meals, For quite soon I found one that I really enjoyed. I sat down and savoured the taste. People around me did the same and we discussed the meal and more besides. I do not regret that – no it was heartwarming – but I wonder at the tastes I missed. Was there a better meal still that I could have savoured with more relish?”

The third friend looked haunted.

“I did not eat. I wanted to try everything but I realised this was not possible, that it was a dream that could only fail. Yet I felt that to just sit down and eat was an insult to the great hospitality and variety that had been laid before us. I fell in with a group of other like-minded people and we were determined to resolve this dilemma with the gifts of reason we have been bestowed with. I have been a fool.”

“You are all fools!” said a fourth friend.

“I knew the way – I understood the correct combination of meals that would allow perfection! I tried to tell you but you would not listen! So many people did not listen! Fools! But there were some and we understand that we have eaten correctly and that we will be rewarded for that. I pity you – you have wasted your lunch hour.”

From Liz Bryant (via Facebook)

“I knew that every choice I could possibly imagine was available to me if only I could be sure to think of my heart’s desire but I couldn’t trust myself to be sure my imagination would conjure my one enduring favourite dish so I watched everyone else and enjoyed observing them choose and enjoy and I admired those who took time to consider, enjoyed and left happy that they had made the right choice”

Lunch Hour

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Call Me Ishmael.”

Questions

 

By Scott Bailey © 2014

 

She came out of the store just in time to see her young son playing on the sidewalk directly in the path of the gray, gaunt man who strode down the centre of the walk like a mechanical derelict.

The boy looked up at her once the man had passed, saw the fear, the hatred in her eyes.

“What’s up? What is the danger?”

She looked troubled by his questions, as if he had stirred something in her she did not wish to confront.

He seemed to be seeing this a lot lately.

“He is a leper,” she answered curtly.

“And that makes him dangerous?” the boy asked. She stared at him as if wondering where his curiosity was coming from. And well she might.

That was not important to him now, he wanted answers. The time had come for them.

“You might get it, I don’t want anything to hurt you.”

“So why is no one helping him?”

She shrugged,

“I don’t think anyone can. It’s not curable.”

“So why is he allowed to wander around?”

“I don’t know,” she snapped.

“But why do you hate him so much?”

“Because he could hurt you! You might get it!”

“Wouldn’t it be better the try to help him rather than hate him?”

“Look its too complicated for you to understand! I am not a doctor!”

“But you know doctors?” he frowned.

“Look that’s enough young man – let’s get you home and get you a bath.”

The boy frowned. She would not be drawn any further.

He was quiet on the way home. He had come to a conclusion. The mother he had chosen was not adequate – not in respect to answering his questions. Well there was nothing he could do about that now. That decision was made.

But he could direct his questions elsewhere. He was going to be forced to. If he didn’t get any better answers soon it was not going to bode well for the human race.

The first line is from my favourite book “Lord Fouls Bane” by Stephen R Donaldson, the first part of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

Questions

Posted in General, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Writing

The Execution

By Scott Bailey © 2014

 

“My patience is almost spent.”

“I apologise Mr. Dickens. The situation is complicated.”

“I have been hearing that for two weeks now! And have been given nothing! No answers! I don’t know where I am. I don’t know what has happened to me. Everyone talks strange and treats me like some kind of alien or freak show. And where are my fucking family!”

For a second the Doctor looked horrified. Then he quickly composed himself.

“Again I can only apologise.  But I will explain now. When I do you will understand our … reticence. ”

“About time..”, muttered Henry.The Doctor gave him a look of pity.

“Brace yourself. ”

Henry suddenly felt cold. The Doctor went on.

“Our records show that you were in a cycling accident.”

He pronounced cycling as if he didn’t know what the word meant.

“You suffered severe brain injuries. You were put into a coma to try to protect your higher brain functions. When the swelling had subsided the medical team tried to revive you. They failed. You remained in a coma.”

Henry shifted in his chair. His voice was broken as he spoke.

“How long?”

“Ten years.”

“I have been out for ten years?”

“It’s more complicated. While you were under the world around you changed. It got worse, a lot worse. Your wife… well it seems she was a sharp woman. She saw things clearer than most. For one thing she left us plenty of notes. That’s why we know so much.”

Henry felt a growing sense of dread. But he kept silent.

“Because she saw things clearly she prepared, took action.  What I am going to tell you will be hard for you to hear. But bear in mind that with the benefit of hindsight we can see that what she did was for her family. For your children. She took steps to protect them.”

“Protect them?” His heart was racing.  “Protect them from what?”

“From war.”

“There was a fucking war?” The Doctor flinched again, but he went on.

“Yes. It was a dark time.”

“World War Three?”

“Not quite. I mean that’s what people expected.  What your wife thought was coming. But it was not and all-encompassing war like that. No one side against the other. No. What transpired was a series of many many, small wars between countries.”

He shuddered and continued.

“You might think that would have been better than a world war, but it was not.  It was far worse. With just about every country in the world caught up in their own conflicts there was nobody to coordinate any kind of peace deal. No one to talk to anyway if there had have been. So the wars dragged on, for years,  decades.”

“Decades? I thought you said ..” the Doctor stilled him with a look.

“Your wife saw the dark times coming. She took steps to protect her family.  The first of which was she remarried. ”

“She… what? She..”

“She married into immense wealth. And she used the money to protect her children and you. We know she did this well as we know they survived the dark times.”

“They are alive! I can see them!”

“No. You cannot.  They are…. let me finish.”

A lump of dread was threatening to strangle him.

“She also tried to protect you. With all the resources of her great wealth she threw everything they had at the time towards reviving you. Nothing worked. Finally, when it looked darkest and there was no guarantee that anyone would survive she threw you one last desperate lifeline. An experimental treatment.”

The Doctor paused, looked him deep in the eye.

“She put you into suspended animation.”

Henry felt chilled to the bone.

“So no, you cannot see your wife and children. They have been dead for over two hundred years. We have only just been able to awaken you.”

“No. No, this can’t be. It’s some sort of sick joke isn’t it? There’s cameras in here. Well it’s not funny! I want to see my family!”

“Please Mr Dickens, please calm down. I know this is a lot to take in and I am sorry. But there is more. There is something else you need to know.”

“Calm down? Calm the fuck down? I want my family in this room! Here and now! Don’t give me any more bullshit.”

The doctor nodded very slightly, subtly, but Henry noticed.

It was too late.hands he didn’t see took a firm hold of his arms. Held him steadfastly. He felt a cold disc of metal against the skin of his neck, there was a hiss, then he fell swirling into darkness.

 


 

“You want me to what!?”

Henry looked at the panel before him, twelve men and women, with utter disbelief.

“Mr Dickens. We understand that you have a lot to take in over the last few weeks.”

“A lot!” Henry stared. How could they possibly understand. He has lost everything. His family, his love, his world. He had seen very little of this world but he had seen enough to know that it was not his. He was an alien here.

And now this.

“We understand that you have lost a lot. You have to understand that the world has lost a lot too.”

“I have heard all about your wars. Lots of people died. Yes.”

“They were not our wars, “ said the chairman of the panel, his voice calm and cold. “And I don’t think you have an appreciation of just how many people died, or what that meant.”

Henry didn’t see what any of it had to do with him. The chairman continued anyway.

“The population of the earth was cut by 75%. You have no idea what that did to us. There were very few people left to run things. Very few who knew how to keep things running. Power stations failed. Oil wells stopped pumping. Machines broke down. Nobody knew how to rule, how to respond to the disasters. All that had been wiped away in war after war.

“The times after the wars were darker than the actual wars. The world came close to slipping into barbarism. In many places it did.”

“And you came along and saved it,” said Henry sourly.

“We survived. We were not involved – because we were overlooked. We had no wealth, no strategic value. Largely we were forgotten up in the mountains.”

He paused, letting Henry take in his words. Henry said nothing so he continued.

“We don’t really know what triggered many of the wars, people say it was largely financial – but those are theories, based on times gone by. What we do know is that as things got more and more desperate the terms of the conflicts changed. They became more ideological. In many cases fiercely religious. This was why many of them could not be stopped, there came a point where reason stopped being any part of the fighting.

“It was another reason we were not drawn into it. As Buddhists we eschewed all the arguments for fighting. But we were also no threat to anyone. Those that were bent on converting the world, well – most had forgotten us, or were just leaving us to last.

“So in the end, we survived just by being the last ones standing. We were the only thing left close to being a coherent nation.

“And we were used to living frugally. We were in a unique position to fill the niche so to speak.

“So people flocked to us. They saw our way of life working. Saw it as a light in the dark, a hope.”

“And you made them all convert!” Henry spat.

“Not at first,” replied the chairman. “That was not our way, never had been. But it was a disaster. Trying to accommodate everyone’s views, conflicting ways of doing things. Trying to keep on top of all the old tensions, historical hatreds and prejudices. Well it almost tore us apart. And we were so fragile then, we still are.”

The chairman leaned forward.

“You have to understand something. The earth is damaged. It’s worn out, and depleted. It will never recover, not in the ways we would want it to. The comforts and luxuries of generations past have gone. If we are to survive we must change our ways. And some of those ways might seem extreme to you. They are – but so is our situation.”

“So I have to convert to Buddhism! No choice!”

“That is correct. and it has to be genuine. You must live by our ways.”

“What do you do check up on me? Monitor me? Give me exams every month or something.”

“We do not need to. The way our society is structured, if you do not follow our ways, it would be obvious. If your thoughts do not flow with those around you  – it will be grossly evident to all around you.”

“So I am not even allowed to think outside of your precious bloody ways.”

“As I said, the ways are extreme, and your manner does not fit – at the moment.”

Henry snorted in derision. Did they really think he was going to take this.

“And if I refuse?”

“We cannot allow the possibility of disruption to the balance. You will be executed.”

Henry stared open-mouthed.

“You are kidding! That doesn’t sound very like the Buddhism that was around in my time.”

“Maybe not – we have had to make our sacrifices too. But we are humane.”

“How can killing someone be humane?”

“You would die happy and fulfilled. We have our ways”

“Well hoo – fucking – ray!”

 


 

“Are you sure that you do not want to change your mind?” said the monk. Henry assumed it was a monk. He looked like the Buddhist monks from his own era but he just didn’t know any more.

He wasn’t sure he cared either.

“Why would I do that?”

“So you can live,” said the monk with surprise.

“What for? My life is gone. Everything I knew is gone. My life would be as a stranger in a cage of rules I don’t want and don’t understand. I can’t live like that.”

“You haven’t given it a chance. You have no idea the peace and joy of our lives. You are judging us by your primitive standards. You…

“Enough!” A voice of authority barked from a hidden source. The monk started and looked guilty and continued preparing the elaborate machine Henry was embedded into.

Joy indeed! Henry snorted to himself. Get on with it, he thought.

The monk appeared to comply. He stepped back, nodded at the back wall and left.

The machine hummed and enclosed further around Henry like some futuristic iron maiden. A needle swung into his vision, poised at his neck and then stopped.

The voice spoke again.

“It saddens us to do this friend. But our society, mankind, must survive.”

“Yes, yes. I can imagine the tears you are shedding.”

“You will not change your mind?”

“You will not let me live among you without converting?” Henry countered.

“No.”

“Not even for a limited time – say a month, to see if you can change my mind?” The sarcasm in his voice told them all he did not expect any reasonable answer to that.

“No.”

“Then get on with it!”

“Very well. Judge! Carry out the execution.”

Henry didn’t even take a breath. He’d had enough, reached his limit. He wanted it ended.

Nothing happened. He looked up, the needle stayed poised, he could almost see the poison dripping from it.

“Judge! What is happening? Carry out the execution.”

“No.” The new voice was quietly defiant.

“What? Judge, carry out your task, execute him.”

“No!” What Henry presumed was the Judge’s voice was louder and firmer this time. “I will not. He is right. We should give him time amongst us.”

“This is not acceptable, Judge, do your job!”

“What does it say about our society if we do not trust it to be good enough to sway him? If we are scared that it so weak that a single man can topple it? We need to start our own healing, and it should start with him. We will give him his time. One month. If he is still not convinced, I will carry out the sentence.”

“This is not acceptable, Judge!”

Something stirred in Henry. Suddenly, out of nowhere he wanted what the Judge was offering him. A chance. A chance to live.

“You will accept it. I am the only one in this world who can carry out this sentence and I will not.”

“Your apprentice…”

“Will not be able to carry it out. I have already locked him out of all the processes. Only I can release the locks. He will have his time.”

 


 

“Next up, we are talking to the sensation of the age. The man who was frozen in time and has awoken to join us in the future. The man who escaped death twice and who is shaking the world. The man the leaders fear, the man who asks questions.

“Well today, we hope, he will be answering some of our questions.”

The interviewer turned to Henry while the applause of the audience died down. Henry squirmed uncomfortably. Of all the damn things to survive into this century it had to be talk shows! And he was the fucking subject.

He had to remember not to swear too. He had learnt it was considered way more offensive in these times than his own.

“Mr Dickens, thank you for joining us, let us begin with the biggest question.

“OK.” said Henry.

“We have all heard your remarkable story, it has tugged at all our hearts, we all grieve for your losses. The question we have is, why did you refuse conversion when offered at first? Why, as it appears did you choose death?”

Henry was suddenly overwhelmed with emotions that he struggled to keep under wraps. Grieve for my losses? What could they possibly understand about his losses! The very stupidity of the question betrayed how little they could understand.

How could he answer that?

The audience did not let him. A voice shouted out.

“Why didn’t you just convert!? What’s wrong with our way of life?”

Henry couldn’t see the source of the voice. He sounded like a fanatic, a tone not uncommon in this new world he had discovered.

“I knew nothing about it, you expected I would just convert, without questioning what I was getting into.”

“What’s to question? This way of life has saved us, saved humanity.”

People clapped and cheered the questioner.

“Has it? Or has it turned you all into cattle? Sheep that blindly follow ‘the way’.”

The audience booed and jeered at him, he was a little surprised. His opinions were not exactly secret, they had been broadcast around the world for the two weeks since his stay of execution.

He was the biggest news story of the time.

Hardly surprising as very little else seemed to be happening in the world.

They had peace OK. And it was boring.

“Let him speak!” another voice rang out above the protests.

The audience quietened down, shocked that someone, one of their own appeared to be supporting him.

“Let us hear what he has to say. If our society is so perfect then what possible threat could he be?”

Henry was surprised himself to hear a small ripple of applause supporting this new stance.

He spoke.

“Sure, you have peace. Your society is a model of sustainability and balance. I admire it in many ways. But it is frozen, you are so scared to upset the balance you allow no change. You have stopped growing. You might survive for now, but when change comes – when it is thrust upon you, you won’t know how to deal with it, how to adapt.

“You are like a rose, frozen in liquid nitrogen. Beautiful, preserved for all time, but dead. And easily shattered with a single blow.”

“Why didn’t you just pretend? Just convert and be quiet?” said the original voice.

Henry stood angrily now.

“I spent the whole of my old life dreaming of being someone. Of making my mark on the world. Leaving behind a legacy beyond just my genes. But I didn’t, I was nothing. I worked, I existed, I supported my family, I loved. But nothing more than what every other person was doing around me. I always dreamed one day, one day – but that day was never to be.

“And now – you expect me to just shut up and become just another cog in the machine again. With even less freedom and liberty than before? Well fuck you all if that’s what you think.”

“Savage!” a woman screamed.

“No! He is right! Why can’t we question things? Why can’t we change things?”

“Do you want war to return? Do you want our blood?”

“We can question without conflict!”

Suddenly the audience erupted. Everyone was on their feet, trying to shout down each other. Henry thought it looked evenly split but it looked messy.

The aggression was rising.

The flabbergasted host turned to his assistants.

“Get him out of here!”

Hands grabbed in and he was whisked away.

 


 

Two days later he was back in the machine. He was not afraid, or angry any more. He just felt resigned.

He couldn’t resist a dig though.

“What happened to one month?”

“The situation has become critical,” said the hidden voice. “As feared your presence amongst us has caused much disruption.”

So he had heard. It seemed the feeling of that show audience reflected that of society at large. It has sparked great debate. Even some protests he had been told.

Well, maybe that was something.

“So Judge?” Henry asked wryly. “Changed your tune too?”

“The Judge is not present,” said the original voice. “His apprentice will carry out the execution.”

“Oh? Worked out a way past the safeguards and locks then?”

“Unfortunately no. We have been forced to take more drastic measures. This injection is more direct, more painful I am sorry to say.”

“What happened to your humanity then?” smiled Henry. He felt slightly manic now, he could almost laugh at his own imminent death.

There was a sudden bang, and he thought he could hear shouts in the distance. He looked up surprised. It felt suddenly like something unplanned was happening.

“Please continue,” said the voice. It sounded hurried, unsure.

The machine hummed into life, the needle bore down on him.

Well this was it, he had tried, in this his second life, to make a difference. It was a shame he would never know if it had worked.

There was a louder bang and suddenly glass broke. Henry turned his head to see the room being broken into. People were storming the place.

He seemed to suddenly see very clearly what was happening. They were trying to save him, but they were doing more than that.

They were leading a revolution.

Maybe they would bring conflict back to their society, maybe they would tear it down, but he was sure they would build something better.

As the crowd tried to surge past the security trying in vain to hold them back the needle pierced his skin.

They were too late. Even as they broke through he felt the darkness descending.

But he was happy and fulfilled.

Posted in General, Short Stories, Writing

The Jellyfish That Froze

The Jellyfish That Froze

By Scott Bailey © 2014

 

The jellyfish sighed, in a jellyfish way. It wobbled awake.

Another day after another rough night.

The little jellies were disturbed, heavy currents last night. They had needed lots of comfort. He had wrapped himself around them and rocked them to sleep against the waves. Mrs Jellyfish had bumped up against him, squishing his comfort and rumbled fitfully. Bad dreams, turbulent waters.

He stretched out, taking in as much of the early morning sunbeams as he could, building up energy for the coming onslaught…

The jellyfish swore. Riding the busy jet stream he had just missed crashing into a hard-shell and getting himself shredded.  He had survived the morning scramble, the sleepy then crazed, energised little ones. The rush, the noise.  Now he was squeezing and twisting himself in and out of the flow. Avoiding the less considerate travellers. Collapsing himself sliding like and eel. Rolling up like a ball to barrel through the wake of those speeding by way too fast. One day his shifting and gyrating would not be enough. He would get hit.

The jellyfish quivered. He shook himself more awake and aware. Had to concentrate more or mistakes would be made. The others didn’t help. The one who needed to be high up to avoid the sand. The one by his side who couldn’t help bumping him with every list and move. The on behind who kept expanding and contracting. He was only here because he could adapt, shift his shape to accommodate.

Another day. And tomorrow yet another. And the day after.

The suddenly the alarm. Shark! Here! that was new. It was almost exciting, but he had all the other jellies to think of, to return to, to bear up and settle down. He could not enjoy this. Not without guilt.

They scattered. All of a sudden he was alone. Alone in the deep. No shark, no one.

Sunbeams drifted down through the undulating waves. Debris floated gently on the eddies and sway. It was silent for once. Peaceful

He basked in the peace and dreamed. This he could enjoy.

There was a sudden surge of cold. A surprise current swept in and took him. He curled up and rode it but he was at its mercy. No control.

He pulsed with, fear. And excitement.

This was out of his comfort zone, out of the everyday routine and out of his volition. Therefore he was not responsible.

He let go – he could enjoy this.

The water got colder, He suddenly noticed looming, dark shapes above him. Icebergs. He has heard of them, never seen one. They looked imposing. Hard. Unyielding.

He watched them for a while as they crashed through everything in their path.

And then he made his decision.

He froze. It was a simple act of will. He became as rigid as the icebergs. Shaped himself how he wanted and never shifted his outline again.

He returned to his home. Now, everyone had to shift their stances, adjust their positions and accommodate his new shape. They had to as it was crowded with sharp points and hard corners. He was not comfortable to be near.

Now the world was shaped around him instead of the world shaping him.

He was pleased. So please he did not notice how far everyone drifted from him.

He was frozen and would stay so.

No one had ever told him that even icebergs melt.

Posted in General, Short Stories, Writing

A New Short Story

I knew that writing a poem a day would have wider effects in helping getting my creative side going again. For the first time in years I had an idea for a short story. Not just an idea either but most of it all there and complete and ready.

So taking advantage of having a bit of rare spare time I sat down and wrote it out straight away. I thought I would post it and see what people think. It’s raw and fresh and has had no editing but I am excited by the fact I have actually written some new prose so want to get it out there.

Bruised

By Scott Bailey © 2013

 

He would never see his son again.

Unless…

Unless he went made it through today. Found the strength from somewhere. Put aside his pain.

The trauma his son had suffered had not been at his hands. Logically there was no responsibility for it on his shoulders.

Logic was a weak fence against raw emotion. Emotion that told him that he had failed as a father, that the protection he was supposed to give had been lacking, just that once.

Nobody agreed with him.

That made no difference.

So, he would not compound failure with failure. This was his last chance. He would take it.

He had tried all other avenues. Therapy, prayer, medication. Nothing worked, Yet what it had done was show him the way. It had made clear the path he needed to tread.

So he took a deep breath and rose from his seat. He nodded to the doctor signalling his readiness. The doctor frowned but kept his piece. He opened the door and let him enter his son’s room.

The room was sparse, clinical. His son lay curled on top of the bed sheets, motionless. Awake but unresponsive. He did not look up or acknowledge his father’s entrance.

There was a small bedside table to the left of the bed on which sat a plastic beaker of water. The bed was positioned by the window. Sunlight tried to make an impression on the coldness of the room but failed. The only other furniture was a white chest of drawers and some empty white bookshelves.

Then there were the books.

The books, many many books, that should have rested on the shelves or strewn on the floor. An impressive collection for one so young.

They hung impossibly in the air.

He sighed. He knew what came next. It had all become familiar to him. This time though he did not avoid it. He did not flinch or try to defend himself. This time he smiled at his son.

The books flew at him. As if thrown by immense strength and anger. The hard spines whacked into his flesh like dull nails. Again and again and again. Raining pain upon his body. The books that hit him fell to the ground limply, twitched like dying flies, then were suddenly whisked up and flung again.

There was no let up.

He could feel his body being pummelled into a bloody bruised mess. But he took it. Stood calmly, raised his arms towards his son and kept smiling. Gave all he had left to him – gave him his unconditional love. Took the punishment not meant for him.

The books whirled faster as the rage grew. Like a tornado of leather and card they descended on him, pounded him. The pain passed over what was bearable to no longer being processable – so he no longer felt it. He knew he would not last much longer – if this continued his body would fail him. Darkness crept inwards along the edges of his eyes. He kept smiling, locked his legs and stood, arms out.

The whirl became a darkness that was trying to beat his flesh from his bones. He felt like the bones themselves were splintering beneath.

Then it stopped.

Suddenly all the books fell to the floor. Sunlight sprang into the room as is a lock had burst.

His son looked up and held out his arms for his father.

Posted in Short Stories, Writing

Join on..

So as promised I am posting a short story. It’s a strange little philosophical tale that can be added to by anyone.

The premise is an indeterminate number of friends in a fantastical situation and their response to it.

So to add to it simply add the response of another friend. Keep it short and simple – just a few lines. I have added four responses but even as I was writing them was aware of the myriad of other responses there could be. I am interested to see if there are others I had not thought about.

So here it is.

Lunch Hour

Started by Scott Bailey

There were some friends. And a hall. An infinite hall, with marble walls and pillars that stretched forever into the distance.

And there were tables. Row after row after row of tables. On each table was a never-ending supply of a single dish. In that hall, on those tables there could be found every dish that had ever been imagined, concocted and served up in all of human history.

With a thought you could be sitting before any dish you could think of. Or you could ask your neighbour for a recommendation and try something new. The name of the dish was enough to take you there.

It was time for the friends to eat. They entered and they took their paths through the hall. They commenced their lunch.

As they knew – it was a once only meal.

An hour later they reconvened, look each other in the eyes and assessed their time beneath the infinite arches.

The first spoke.

“I tried as many different tastes as I could. I jumped from table to table and I can honestly say that I know of no one who, could have filled their time here with as many different flavours as I. Yet. Now I am here –  wonder why? I stand here before you proudly stating the quantity of meals I have partaken off – yet I wonder why does that matter? Not one was complete. Have I missed the joy of a meal.”

He hung his head, deep in thought and regret. But second friend spoke.

“You make me wonder. What taste did I miss? I did not try many different meals, For quite soon I found one that I really enjoyed. I sat down and savoured the taste. People around me did the same and we discussed the meal and more besides. I do not regret that – no it was heartwarming – but I wonder at the tastes I missed. Was there a better meal still that I could have savoured with more relish?”

The third friend looked haunted.

“I did not eat. I wanted to try everything but I realised this was not possible, that it was a dream that could only fail. Yet I felt that to just sit down and eat was an insult to the great hospitality and variety that had been laid before us. I fell in with a group of other like-minded people and we were determined to resolve this dilemma with the gifts of reason we have been bestowed with. I have been a fool.”

“You are all fools!” said a fourth friend.

“I knew the way – I understood the correct combination of meals that would allow perfection! I tried to tell you but you would not listen! So many people did not listen! Fools! But there were some and we understand that we have eaten correctly and that we will be rewarded for that. I pity you – you have wasted your lunch hour.”

From Liz Bryant (via Facebook)

“I knew that every choice I could possibly imagine was available to me if only I could be sure to think of my heart’s desire but I couldn’t trust myself to be sure my imagination would conjure my one enduring favourite dish so I watched everyone else and enjoyed observing them choose and enjoy and I admired those who took time to consider, enjoyed and left happy that they had made the right choice”