Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Illness, debt, parking fines and other good news.

Today’s SoCS post takes the form of an update on a previous rant and should I manage to crowbar in Linda G Hill‘s prompt, that’ll be a bonus;

” “in other words.” Use the phrase at least once in your post. “

Ok, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Things are looking up.

As I mentioned in this post, it has been an anxious couple of weeks, wondering whether we’d be able to finance Rhonda and Audrey’s upcoming visa renewals, so I was rather nervous when I walked into the bank on Wednesday afternoon.

It didn’t hurt that I’d woken up that morning with a hideous cold; my head appeared to be stuffed with wet cotton wool and it felt like someone had filled my sinuses with glue, so I was experiencing events through a kind of virulent sensory fog, which may have actually taken the edge off the stress.

Anyway, long story, short; after twenty minutes of watching compulsory, cheerfully-voiced warning videos, detailing the dire consequences of not paying back the money they were about to lend me at an extortionate rate of interest, then signing multiple copies of finance agreements, I was the lucky beneficiary of another seven years of debt and, far more importantly, the wherewithal to keep my family on the same side of the Atlantic for another thirty months.

In other words; Mission accomplished.

It was amazing, the difference that successful act of financial negotiation made to my mood for the rest of the week, despite my steadily worsening man-flu and the fact that both Rhonda and I were still working every available shift and barely saw each other until Friday evening, when she had an unexpected night off.

I decided, in deference to my cold and our small monetary victory, that I’d give myself a weekend free of overtime, so Audrey and I went into town yesterday; to trade in some of her old DVDs, buy a game for her Nintendo DS, (a Christmas present designed to coax her attention away from YouTube for a while) and get a battery for my watch.

Having selected a Sims game Audrey had already expressed an interest in and got it half price in exchange for a few old Barbie DVDs, I spotted this gem whilst waiting to pay…

…which, needless to say, I couldn’t resist.

In other words; What a bargain.

Next stop, the jewellers, where I remembered I had a “battery for life” deal on the watch I bought there, my first freebie for the day. Then, as we left I spotted a sale in the clothing store next door, where I picked up a half price winter coat. Not bad, huh?

But it didn’t stop there. Next door to the clothing store is the 3 Store, my phone provider and I thought I was due an upgrade soon, so I just stopped in to check.

“Oh, yes, you’re actually due an upgrade now…Yes, we have a very good deal for existing customers at the moment, too..”

Really? That’s a first, usually they couldn’t care less once they’ve got your money, it’s the new customers who get all the perks.

So, half an hour later, after Audrey had played with every mobile device on display and inspected the huge wall of Instagram photos for cute animal pictures, I walked out with a brand new £400 phone and the aforementioned offer for loyal customers; an £89 pair of Bluetooth headphones, all for free, gratis and no charge.

In other words; Time well spent.

We returned to the car, on the way to pick up my de-kerosene’d work clothes from the laundrette and grab Audrey a take-out from McDonald’s, (an exception I make very rarely, I can’t stand the place, but having two Americans in the house means I occasionally compromise my principles; Audrey claims the chicken nuggets are just not the same anywhere else and Rhonda has a weakness for their strawberry milkshakes) only to see a traffic warden standing over my car, electronic terminal in hand, stylus poised over the screen.

“No no no no no no! Oh bugger, am I late?”

“I haven’t issued it yet…”

I don’t think I properly registered this unheard-of response from a parking nazi council traffic warden before, so I continued to apologise.

“I’m sorry, I got held up in the phone shop, how late am I?

“Ticket says 12.19, by my watch it’s 12.39…I haven’t issued it yet…”

He looked at me over his glasses and actually smiled, as I stood there laden with shopping bags and Audrey watching curiously from behind me, (I’m not certain, but I think his eyes might have even had a bit of a twinkle, but that could be wishful thinking) then he clipped his stylus back into its slot and nodded.

“They don’t pay me any more if I give out more tickets, you enjoy the rest of your day.”

“You, sir, are a truly wonderful man, thank you.”

And off he went, looking happy in his work, probably unaware that he had rescued me from ruining a near-perfect Saturday and helping restore my faith in the goodness of people for a change.

In other words; Things are looking up.

************

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Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Occupancy extortion occurrence.

For this week’s SoCS post, I thought I’d take another break from fiction and have a quick rant, using Linda G Hill‘s prompt to inspire me;

” “oc.” Find a word that starts with “oc” and use it in your post. Bonus points if you start and end with your post with an “oc” word. “

Yes, I can do that…

Occasional occurrence of occupancy extortion.

Occasionally, you have to accept that the Powers That Be have you over a barrel and you just have to pay the piper when he calls the tune.

Well, we’re almost at that point again; (where does the time go?) when Rhonda and I have to bow to the UK Border Agency’s immigration regulations, go through the hideously complicated process of renewing her and Audrey’s resident visas and try to find the extortionate amount of money they demand in exchange for our continued happiness.

As many of you know, Rhonda and Audrey are American and have only been in the UK since 2014, after we began our unconventional relationship on Facebook, from opposite sides of the Atlantic.

The process of getting them here was bad enough, but it doesn’t end there, oh no. Following the pair of “fiancé visas”, for Rhonda to come here with Audrey in the first place, we had to get resident visas immediately after we got married, which have to be renewed after two and a half years. And it doesn’t come cheap.

Yesterday I went to the library and paid £15.80 to have all 158 pages of the forms printed, that Rhonda will need to fill in for the two of them…

…after I spent the last few days trying to secure an extension on my personal loan, (which was obtained for the aforementioned official extortion last time round) to pay the frankly obscene price of £993 EACH! And that’s just for permission for them to remain here, contribute to society and continue paying the government income tax. While, I might point out, (for anyone who may have accidentally read a Daily Mail article) being totally ineligible for any state benefits whatsoever. Because we also have to jointly meet the income threshold requirements, to make sure we can support ourselves with “no access to public funds”, as it says so bluntly on their visas.

We have to submit this mountain of paperwork without the slightest error or omission, along with the money, for acceptance by some faceless bureaucrat, who has the ultimate say in whether or not our family stays together on the same continent.

No appeal, no refund.

How they justify that ridiculous expense is beyond me, but we’re now aware that their primary concern is to make money, whilst simultaneously making it as difficult as possible for anyone to come here to start with.

Hopefully the next time we have to go through this, two and a half years from now, it will be to grant my family “indefinite leave to remain”, finally giving us peace of mind until we decide/can afford to pay the even more jaw-dropping price to make them full British citizens.

I am constantly amazed at how fortunate I am, to have found these two amazing people by chance, (a nudge from The Universe may have been involved) but it must seem very harsh to them, especially since they have come to love this country, when the system seems intent on breaking the spirit of people whose only wish is to become a permanent occupant.

*************

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Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Words, sounds and pictures.

It’s time to delve into the world of Linda G Hill and her SoCS feature, for today’s attempt to crowbar a random word or phrase into whatever post I had planned anyway find inspiration in the weekly prompt, which this week is;

When you’re ready to sit down and write your post, look to the publication (book, newspaper, permission slip from your kid’s teacher, whatever you find) closest to you, and base your post on the sixth, seventh, and eighth word from the beginning of the page.

Well, I found, this on the living room table beside me…

…one of those free catalogues of useless gadgets, gizmos and questionable “fashion” items that comes stapled inside the TV guide.

A crapalogue, if you will.

Giving me this as my prompt;

ORDER WITH CONFIDENCE – We Guarantee You Will Be Happy!

Ok, then.

You will be delighted to hear that I’ve been experimenting with my audio visual toys again this weekend; namely, my edjing mixing app and a selection of video imaging and editing gadgets.

My first sonic hybrid creation is an atmospheric and vaguely cinematic piece; electro-goth by way of Twin Peaks, (just for a change) using Dark Water by Hide and Sequence, from this excellent album of Peaks-inspired, retro-synth tunes, combined with the bass line from Sanctified by Nine Inch Nails, who appeared in the recent third season of David Lynch’s oddball masterpiece.

I used Poweramp to generate some fancy visuals and set up my temporary studio in the airing cupboard to shoot the accompanying video, managing to re-synchronize the soundtrack perfectly, (even if I do say so myself) which you can experience in all its glory, right here.

You will be equally thrilled to learn that I’ve had a go at combining another trio of Kraftwerk classics; mixing the German and Japanese versions of Pocket Calculator together, (or Taschenrechner and Dentaku, if you prefer) to make a frenetic bleep-a-thon I like to call;

***DENTAKULATOR***

Then I took a few samples of Music Non-Stop, from the 1986 album Electric Café, adding them to a version of Radioactivity to produce this bastard lovechild of a track, the epic electro megamix called;

***RADIOACTIVITY NON-STOP***

You will be able to listen to and/or download my remixes if you wish, using the links above. And you will be able to find many more of my mixes and strange compositions on The A/V Project page.

************

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Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Neighbourhood Watch.

Well, that didn’t take long, I’ve already had to graffiti Jily‘s new SoCS badge, (the arrival of which I’d somehow managed to miss for several weeks) but that’s not really a surprise, is it?

Anyway, now I’m back to my more regular Sunday slot, it’s time to start the new year with a new story, having finally finished my second improvised serial last week. So let’s see what Linda G Hill has left us in the way of inspiration this week;

” “eco.” Find a word that starts with “eco” or has “eco” in it, and base your post on that word. “

Hmm, fair enough…

Neighbourhood Watch.

Decorations from last night’s Halloween party still hung from the trees next door; grisly-looking skeletons rattling in the cold wind, red eyes flashing malevolently at Jamie and Phil as they hurried up the path to their front porch.

Phil glared at the detritus of beer cans and take-out containers which littered the neighbour’s yard, much of which had already blown onto their lawn. He was simultaneously appalled at such slovenly behaviour and relieved beyond measure that they had been away working and hadn’t been invited to the party, however unlikely that might have been.

Because, let’s face it, the chances of “The Queers” (as Jamie had heard them called, much to his amusement) being included in local social events, cook-outs or holiday celebrations were, thankfully, zero.

But hadn’t that always been the intention, when Jamie and Phil had chosen this conservative suburb of middle class, humourless, right wing, wannabe-white collar rednecks with ideas above their intellect?

A place where they wouldn’t merely blend into the background, but would actually be carefully ignored; after all, who wanted to stick their noses in the business of, well, you know…those people?…just imagining what they got up to was bad enough.

So they were tolerated, (they both had good jobs and money, which they flaunted with a casual vulgarity that at least earned them some sort of grudging respect from the other well-heeled vulgarians in the vicinity) but nobody made any effort to socialise, beyond the occasional mumbled “Morning” in the street or at the store, when it was impossible to avoid them without appearing openly rude or hostile.

Which suited Jamie and Phil just fine, because it meant they’d been able to carry on their lucrative sideline with no interference and minimal risk of discovery. In fact, they probably would have needed a body decomposing in the basement before anyone thought it worth the risk of entering their debauched lair to investigate.

And anyway, they weren’t that careless.

*****

Jamie threw his keys on the kitchen counter and dumped a bag of groceries next to them.

“So, you’re cooking tonight?”

Phil nodded as he started to load food into the refrigerator, then reached into his bag and looked at him with a smile.

“Yeah, I’ll do the linguini if you like, with the clam sauce?”

“Oh, yum! Right, I’ll grab a quick shower, you pour the wine and I’ll be back before you know it.”

Jamie blew him a kiss, shrugged out of his jacket and headed upstairs, leaving Phil to his pasta and clams.

*****

Sometime after midnight, Phil went out to pick up the party garbage from the lawn and saw a grey van he didn’t recognise, parked about thirty yards down the street. Noticing details like make, model and licence plate was second nature, but he didn’t sense any threat from the obviously empty vehicle, so after a final look round he turned off the porch light and returned to the warmth indoors.

Jamie had turned in soon after dinner, so he checked all the windows and doors, stopping in the hall to set the alarm and once again look across the street, to where the van was still parked, before going to bed himself. Nothing had changed and he guessed it belonged to one of the delightful neighbour’s drunken friends, who was probably still sleeping off the effects of the night before.

He found Jamie reading yet another of his apparently endless supply of “political thrillers”, which all seemed to have the same plot; a disgraced agent and/or assassin has to save an unbelieving agency and/or country from The Powers That Be, who want to rule it and/or blow it up, all with only a plucky sidekick for company and a tortured past threatening to catch up with him in the final act.

Phil thought they were all crap, but as Jamie said when he made fun of his literary choices; “We all need a bit of escapism in our lives, it helps me relax, that’s all.”

Which was fair enough, but you’d think he’d pick something a bit more, well, relaxing.

He climbed into bed and smiled as Jamie absently patted his leg with one hand, turning a page with the other, clearly engrossed. Phil leaned over and kissed his cheek, receiving a lop-sided grin in return, Jamie’s eyes never leaving his book.

Yawning, Phil reached for his laptop, which he’d left charging on the nightstand and was about to shut it down for the night, when he saw he had mail. He clicked on the icon and was suddenly less sleepy.

“Hey, looks like we’ve got a job.”

“Really?” Jamie looked at his watch, “It’s gotta be pretty urgent, they don’t usually leave it this late.”

“Well, we’d better see who it is then, hadn’t we?”

Phil opened the attached file with the laptop’s specially installed decoding software and began to read.

*****

It was true, Phil and Jamie’s neighbours weren’t the most enlightened folks, not when it came to, shall we say, diversity. But it wasn’t strictly true to say they were without humour. It was a mean-spirited, malicious kind of humour, to be sure, more like schadenfreude if we’re being honest, although it’s unlikely if any of them would recognise it as such, let alone be able to spell it.

So any chance to have a laugh at The Queers’ expense was too good to pass up, which goes some way to explain why Brad, their neighbour and “private security consultant”, was at that moment hunched over a closed circuit television monitor in his basement man cave next door; surrounded by the other white, middle aged, beer swilling, reverse baseball cap wearing, rabidly homophobic members of what we’ll assume he calls his “crew”, who are becoming increasingly rowdy.

Because Brad has had a brilliant idea for a Halloween prank and he’s called in a few favours from a similarly hilarious work colleague, whose camera feed they are eagerly waiting to watch.

“What’s the deal, Brad, I thought you were gonna show us something cool?”

“Yeah, Brad, what the fuck is the deal? Hahaha.”

Now they all get into the swing of it.

“What’s the fucking deal Brad! What’s the fucking deal Brad! What’s the fucking…”

“Yeah yeah, shut the fuck up, ok, it’ll be worth it, I’m telling ya. Just be fucking patient, alright?”

*****

Jamie looked up from the screen with a surprised expression, sitting on the edge of the bed while Phil read over his shoulder

“Wow, that is short notice. Tomorrow night, that’s cutting it really fine for recon, even if we do have his schedule.”

“I know, but they say all the assets are in place, all we have to do is get there and wait for him. Disposal could be a problem, but if we can make it look like an accident as they suggest, it might not be necessary.”

“A fire, perhaps?”

“Nah, too much attention, too much potential for collateral damage, he lives in an apartment block.”

“Upper floor?”

“Yeah, good idea, I like it. Right, suicide it is, then.”

Which was when they both heard it; a cough.

Coming from under the bed.

Instinct and ten years of surviving in the lethally competitive world of freelance hit men instantly took over.

Phil rolled to the left, Jamie jumped to his feet, laptop crashing to the floor but not before they each grabbed for the guns clipped to the underside of the headboard. Phil dropped to the floor and looked under the bed. He looked shocked and recoiled from whatever he saw there, then yelled;

“Knife!”

It was all Jamie needed, he fired three shots straight through the mattress without waiting for further instructions, only stopping when Phil held up a hand and there was a moment of silence as he reached for something Jamie couldn’t see.

“What the fuck?”

“What? What is it?”

Phil’s hand came up holding something white and floppy, which Jamie realised was some kind of rubber mask.

“Michael Myers, what the..?”

“Huh? What are you talking about?”

“It’s some guy in a Michael Myers mask. You know, the killer from Halloween?”

“I know who he is but, and this is the most important part; what the hell is he doing under our bed?”

Phil shook his head and grabbed hold of the man’s lifeless feet, dragging him out from under the bed, confirming, in case anyone was in any doubt, that he was very dead. Two holes in the chest and one in the face will do that, no question.

But, despite his recent ballistic makeover, he was still recognisable.

“For fuck’s sake, it’s Brad’s basketball buddy from work! What the actual fuck is going on here?”

He was right, Jamie had seen the hopelessly out of shape pair lumbering around under the hoop Brad had over his garage door, high-fiving each other like college jocks whenever one of them scored a lucky jump shot and trying not to look their age.

“He’s got a…what the hell?”

Phil suddenly rolled the body face down and looked up in shock at Jamie, who gave him a pained look.

“Dude, you’re getting blood all over the rug.”

Phil stood up, grabbed Jamie’s arm and put a finger to his lips, pulling him into the hallway outside the bedroom door, where he whispered urgently;

“He’s got a webcam on his chest, clipped to his jacket!”

“You’re kidding! My God, what was he doing here?”

“I don’t know, but that knife isn’t even real, it’s a toy. Jamie, we’ve got to get rid of the body before we…”

He stopped and looked thoughtful.

“Wait, I’ve got an idea, help me take that camera off him and we’ll get him wrapped up…”

*****

“Hey, you guys, shut up will ya! I’m trying to listen, someone’s talking, I think it’s one of those goddamn fags.”

Brad’s crew of upstanding heterosexual comedians turns their attention to the small screen on his work bench, eventually belching and farting their way to some semblance of quiet as their leader strains to hear the muffled sounds coming from the monitor’s tinny speaker.

“I can’t make it out; something about a fire in an apartment?”

“This is bullshit, I thought you said we were gonna prank The Queers, Brad, you told me…”

BANG

BANG

BANG

Brad almost falls off his stool.

“What the fuck was that?”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Brad, did Dougie go in there armed?”

“Don’t be fucking stupid, Jerry, you saw him, he had that dumb mask and a rubber knife. Dougie wouldn’t know one end of a gun from the other.”

“Then how do you explain that?”

A white faced Jerry points a shaking finger at the monitor and the rest of the crew stare at the black screen in shocked silence.

Suddenly there’s a change in the texture of the darkness on the monitor, followed by a flash of bright light. The camera takes a few seconds adjusting to the increased brightness, then the picture comes into focus.

“Is that a ceiling fan?”

“I think so…hey, it’s gone dark again, what’s going on?”

They wait for a full minute before anyone else speaks, then Brad clears his throat uneasily.

“I, um…I guess Dougie must’ve taken off without…I mean, he got out ok, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, must’ve, it was only a couple of queens, after all, what’re they gonna do, rape him? Hahaha.”

There is some half-hearted macho laughter, but something about this doesn’t feel good anymore.

“Well, good party, Brad, really. But I’m going to hit the road…”

“Yeah, me too, can I catch a ride, Jerry?”

“Sounds like it’s time to make tracks, Brad, my dude, laters.”

Minutes later Brad was alone in his man cave, yet he had a strong urge to look over his shoulder all of a sudden. He hurriedly disconnected the monitor cables and packed the equipment away, then turned off the lights and went upstairs to watch Game Of Thrones with his wife.

*****

When he returned to work on Monday and found Dougie absent from the office, Brad was nervous but not overly so.

“He’ll turn up when we’re all shitting ourselves and laugh at us all for worrying, you watch” he told himself and he nearly convinced himself, too.

Until he saw the newspaper headline, that really spoiled his day;

LOCAL MAN SHOT DEAD IN GAY LOVE PACT.
Dougie Randall, 43, was found dead in the apartment of the man police believe was his lover, Paul Hartwell. Both men had gunshot wounds and, although police describe the scene as “unusual”, they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the case…

************

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Stream of Consciousness Saturday: The Accumulator, part forty nine.

Yes, amazing as it may seem, the final SoCS post of 2017 is actually on time, on a Saturday.

Not only that, but my intention is to actually finish this long-running story by using Linda G Hill‘s last prompt of the year, which is;

“resolution.” Use it any way you’d like.

How very apposite. Right, let’s do this…

The Accumulator, part forty nine.

Scene: The bunker room.

The scene opens with a shot of the crackling log fire, as we hear a woman’s voice saying “Let me tell you about my sister and what she stood for, then maybe you’ll understand why I, too, have no choice and that you have to die.”

Then the camera rises until we can see all four occupants of the room, reflected in the mirror above the mantlepiece.

The Woman sits in an armchair in front of the fireplace and Carlisle stands opposite, gun still trained on her, silently looking for the slightest sign of deceit.

Patrick can’t disguise the look of disgust on his face as he watches the woman who has so completely destroyed his life, only Adam seems unconcerned by the whole thing, observing the others with apparent amusement, seemingly unaware of the tension in the room.

The tableau remains frozen for a few seconds, then The Woman laughs and continues in a relaxed voice, as if recounting a piece of particularly juicy gossip to a group of close friends over drinks.

“You see, it was all down to one random chance; that I wasn’t the one lying in some godforsaken warehouse with a hole where my spine should be; that Cathy isn’t the one sitting here now. If The Department had chosen her instead of me, groomed her to fulfill the destiny they choose for me, then perhaps both of us could have lived to see the final resolution of our lifelong project.

But she is dead. And you are all accountable for her death, you have caused the Accumulator programme untold damage, delaying our work for months, maybe years…”

Patrick cuts her off, the fury clear in his voice.

“While you ensnare some other innocent victim into your vile scheme, you mean?”

“Oh, please, don’t give me that holier than thou crap, you’ve done more than your share of killing, so don’t expect sympathy from me.”

“You stole my life, you bitch!”

Patrick goes for The Woman, his hands raised, but Adam steps forward and grabs him, looks him in the eye and shakes his head silently. Patrick turns against his grip, eyes now locked on the Woman’s calmly smiling face, but eventually he relaxes enough that Adam releases him and Patrick has to content himself with glaring at her from a distance as she resumes speaking.

“My sister sacrificed her entire life in the service of our work; before she could talk, The Department was preparing for her to become the perfect agent. Every last detail of her life was mapped out in advance, before she was even chosen, selected at random from a pair of newly-orphaned twin babies, so it could just as easily have been me.

The theory is that psychological programming from infancy is the only way to ensure total and unquestioning loyalty, so The Department decided to conduct an experiment; they took one twin and put her through the most intense and rigorous programme of mental and physical conditioning ever attempted, literally a lifetime of preparation, specifically designed to end in her being embedded with a test subject..”

She pauses and looks directly at Patrick, the same cool smile on her lips.

“…such as yourself and your new friend over there.”

She nods at Adam, who smirks but doesn’t rise to the bait.

Patrick clenches and unclenches his fists and stares silently at her, but he makes no further comment and The Woman continues.

“And the other twin? Well, I was given nothing but the very best of everything; adopted by a wealthy and influential family, the head of which, a government minister, was a long time supporter of the Department; enrolled in the best schools and provided with private tuition to further advance my studies; inducted into the Department’s executive branch at the unheard-of age of 21 and fast-tracked to Director in less than three years.

A test of the Nature vs Nurture theory, I suppose you’d call it. Is it best to involuntarily indoctrinate by force, or to gently guide the subject with stealth and calculated kindness? And which of those techniques are best applied to achieve the most useful results?

It turns out The Department had done their calculations very well indeed, the results couldn’t have been more successful; Cathy’s artificially structured and minutely programmed life was the most efficient way ever conceived to manufacture an undercover operative. Whilst the intellectual freedom and rarified existence I was given, despite the subtle influences brought to bear on my life choices, allowed me to develop the unique abilities required to run such a complex operation as the Accumulator programme.”

Patrick can’t help himself, he has to ask.

“So, what did I do to deserve the attention of your damn Department, what made them pick me?”

The Woman raises an amused eyebrow and shakes her head.

“Oh no, I’m afraid I can’t tell you that it’s classified.”

Adam laughs derisively.

“I thought we were all about to die, haven’t you watched any movies? The evil mastermind always reveals their cunning plan, before dispatching the plucky band of underdogs in an ingenious and grisly fashion.”

This is the moment the director chooses to daringly break the fourth wall and have The Woman deliver her line as an aside, straight into the camera, complete with a knowing wink.

“Ah, yes, but if I recall, those movies usually end with the plucky underdogs escaping at the last minute, with details of the cunning plan. That isn’t going to happen here, so the narrative doesn’t demand I reveal any such thing.”

Then she looks at Patrick and her expression changes, he voice takes on a wheeling, persuasive tone.

“I’ll tell you what, if only for your peace of mind, if you come over here I’ll whisper it to you.”

Carlisle shakes his head.

“You’ll do no such thing, stay right where you are, Patrick.”

“What’s she going to do, bite me? You know she doesn’t have a weapon, what’s the problem?”

“You don’t honestly think she’s going to tell you, do you?”

Patrick looks thoughtfully at The Woman and then at Carlisle.

“I don’t, no. But I’m curious to know what lies she’s going to tell me. I’ve learnt that I can tell a lot by the lies people tell me, over the years.”

Carlisle looks at Patrick, then at Adam, who shrugs a yes, then turns back to The Woman and takes a step closer to her chair, the gun never wavering.

“Ok, but if she tries anything I’m blowing her head off and not asking any questions later, so I wouldn’t get too close.”

“Fair enough, I’ll be careful.”

Patrick crosses the hearth rug and approaches the smiling woman who has been the unseen puppeteer in his life for so long. She sits upright in the straight backed chair, hands gripping the wooden mouldings that decorate its carved arms, as she watches his face with that knowing, almost serene smile.

Carlisle tenses, aware that she isn’t to be trusted, but unable to discern any specific threat. He is so focused on her face, waiting for a telltale sign of what she intends to do, that he almost misses it. She is an expert at misdirection, her eyes locked on Patrick’s face as he comes towards her, but they flick downward for a split second and that’s all the time Carlisle has to work it out.

A small black mark on the floor, barely noticeable if you weren’t looking for it and not in the least bit suspicious, but…she was looking at it, he saw her.

Carlisle looks back at her and just catches the movement of her right hand, twisting something on the arm of the chair as Patrick reaches the marked spot on the floor.

Carlisle doesn’t even bother pulling the trigger; he launches himself at The Woman, knocking Patrick sideways and only feeling the hot explosion of agony in his side as he crashes into her, pushing the chair backwards with his momentum before slumping heavily on top of her and lying still.

Adam sees Carlisle suddenly burst into action at the same moment he notices a brief flash and a shower of sparks from the fire, which seems to come from behind the flames. It’s only when Carlisle collapses and Adam sees the blood spreading from under his body that he makes the connection; she has somehow triggered a hidden weapon in the fireplace and Carlisle has just saved Patrick’s life.

Patrick sees what happens next from where he landed on the floor after Carlisle shouldered him out of the line of fire.

Adam looks at The Woman as she struggles to lift Carlisle’s dead weight from her legs and takes two short steps towards her.

She looks up at him as he reaches past her and grips Carlisle’s wrist, then he smiles at her and places his hand on top of her head, closing his eyes with an expression which Patrick will always remember as one of sublime relief.

The Woman’s face, however, registers a fleeting moment of horror as she realises her fate.

Then she starts to scream.

*****

Later, much later, when he had been able to sit and process what he had witnessed in that underground room, Patrick found the only way to explain what he’d seen was some kind of feedback loop.

That was how he could best describe the sight of Adam, eyes closed, head tilted back, peaceful look on his face, shuddering with the surge of Carlisle’s expended life force. Then he channeled the burst of lethal power into The Woman, down through Carlisle’s jerking corpse and back through his own body, completing some kind of self-sustaining cycle of death.

He staggered to his feet and backed away, watching in blank-eyed terror as the three figures took on a hazy, dirty yellow glow and the sickening smell of burning hair filled the room.

Just before Patrick had to look away from the seering white light for the last time, Adam’s eyes blinked open, two bright spots in a twisted and tortured face. He stared straight at Patrick for a second, then the eyes closed, he lowered his head and Patrick’s world turned into a white explosion of pain.

When he regained consciousness (he had no way of telling how long he’d been out) Patrick found himself alone in a smoke filled room with the only a wide black circle where the armchair had been, the stone of the floor seemed to have actually melted in places.

He eventually located the underground garage and, with no interference whatsoever from Department agents, simply drove away in one of their cars.

And now he was back where he started; a fugitive with nobody he could turn to and a secret so terrible he could never tell another living soul.

One of a kind.

Unique.

Alone.

The man who thought of himself as Patrick looked out of the window at the sparse mountainous landscape and wondered how long he would be safe here. Then he picked up an axe and went out into the bright winter sunshine to chop some wood for the stove.

*****

Under the trees at the edge of the woods, on the far side of the mountain valley, a man dropped a pair of high powered binoculars to his chest and made notes in small book which he stuffed in the pocket of his parka before keying a small radio.

“Control, this is Alpha two reporting: Subject is still performing within expected parameters.”

“Understood, continue observing but take no action. Control out.”

************

THAT’S ALL FOLKS.

#SoCS

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Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Melodic Randomiser.

Ok, look, I’m going to level with you; the chance of me getting round to writing a proper SoCS post in the next couple of weeks is pretty slim, (i.e. non-existent) what with working overtime, Christmas shopping, school holidays and all the time consuming preparations that the festive season entails, so I will finish this story during the Christmas break, honest I will.

But until then, I’ll cheat with another of Linda G Hill‘s prompts, which this week is;

” “contrast.” Use the word “contrast,” or talk about contrasting things “

Ok then, I think I’ve got this…

Melodic Randomiser mp3

In contrast to previous attempts to inflict my latest sonic experiments on you, this time I’ve decided to cheat by bringing you another in my occasional series of Melodic Randomiser posts, whereby I shuffle through my mp3 collection and play you whatever comes out.

I asked Rhonda to pick a starting point for today’s random trio of contrasting tunes and she chose Sum 41 and We’re All To Blame…

…which shuffled rather nicely into Morning Dew by industrial oddballs Einstürzende Neubauten, whose name, if I remember rightly, means “collapsing concrete buildings”…

…finishing off with the laid back robo-funk of Gary Numan and a track from his Dance album, Boys Like Me.

************

#SoCS

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Stream of Consciousness Sunday: A musical interlude.

Hello there, I hope your weekend is going well and isn’t spoiled too much by the failure to finally conclude this story in today’s SoCS post, inspired by Linda G Hill and her prompt;

” “ink.” Use it as a noun or a verb. “

Well, you see, it’s like this…

Having been up since five this morning, (to do overtime at work) my brain is now a little too mushy to do much in the way of creative writing so, to save precious internet ink which could be used by someone in need of coherent wordage, I’m cheating.

What I actually mean is, I’m using this post as a thinly veiled excuse to inflict another of my DJ mixes on you.

This one, many of you who grew up in the ’80s may remember; it’s a remix of a Big Audio Dynamite song, with lyrics that (should you have ever wondered) are in part references to the movies of Nicolas Roeg.

My mix is a somewhat exuberant and frenetic version, (with the obligatory, ’80s style, extended intro and plenty of rhythmic indulgence) using a sample from the same song to add extra…well, extras.

And because of this, it seemed only right to rename it E=MC³

Use the link below the cunningly customised sleeve artwork to listen and/or download it for free.

Go on, you might like it.

*****LISTEN TO E=MC³ HERE*****

************

#SoCS

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Stream of Consciousness Sunday: The Accumulator, part forty eight.

Ok, after a somewhat patchy schedule of SoCS posts, I’m back with the next chapter of this story, inspired by Linda G Hill and this week’s prompt;

” “psst, or any other attention-getting noise or word.” Find a word or noise that you’d use to get someone’s attention, and start your post off with it. “

Right you are, then…

The Accumulator, part forty eight.

Scene: The underground bunker.

“Oi, you two! Come on, you might as well join us, apparently we were expected.”

Carlisle lowers his gun as Adam and Patrick appear at the door, glancing suspiciously around them as they take in the unexpected opulence of the room.

When Patrick sees the room’s only other occupant he freezes, his mouth hanging open in shock.

“But…but you’re…I saw…how can you?…”

“Well, this is a twist I didn’t expect, I have to admit.”

Adam looks from The Woman to Patrick and back again, shaking his head in amusement at the shocked expression before turning to Carlisle with a smirk.

“So, Philip, aren’t you going to introduce us to your friend?”

The look Carlisle shoots him converts Adam’s smirk into a grin, before he turns to Cathy’s mysterious twin and bows his head politely.

“Perhaps the lady would be more inclined to make the introductions; after all, we are in her house now, gentlemen.”

“Anything she tells you, will be either a lie or a stall, while she thinks of a way to kill you. Don’t trust a word she says, I warn you.”

“Oh, Phi… I’m sorry, Mr Carlisle, I’m disappointed in you, whatever happened to that wonderful working relationship we built up?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe it was finding out you were experimenting on innocent civilians, or possibly it was when I found you’d put me on the termination list, take your pick, ma’am.”

The vitriol in Carlisle’s voice is obvious and, from the dangerous glint in his eye, it is clear just how close he is to losing control.

“I have no interest in your pretend humanity or hypocritical outrage, you’ve no claim to the moral high ground, not after all the things you and I have done in the name of progress.”

Carlisle looks at her for a moment, then the tension seems to drain from him and he sighs wearily.

“I’m not even going to argue, because you’re right, you know it, I know it, we all do. But enough is enough, we all have a limit and I’ve reached mine, I don’t feel the need to explain myself any further than that. You forfeited any loyalty I had to you when you sent a kill team after me, so now, all bets are off.”

Finally regaining his composure a little, Patrick points a shaking finger at the woman, who watches the three of them with cold detachment from in front of the fireplace.

“Who the hell is she?”

She pinches the end of her cigarette from its holder, tosses it into the crackling flames and immediately replaces it from a box on the mantlepiece, as Patrick moves closer to her, staring at her with a mixture of amazement and horror.

“It’s really very simple; you murdered my sister and now you are all going to die, that’s…”

“Wait a minute, we didn’t murder anyone, she betrayed us and we were about to use her as bait, but nobody was supposed to get hurt! She tried to escape, she nearly killed Adam, he had no choice.”

“No choice? No choice! No choice but to burn a hole through her chest? No choice but to rip her spine out? You fucking animals don’t deserve to live, any more than the scum Carlisle has been liquidating for me all these years.”

Patrick stares at her with

“You’re mad. How can you call this…this insanity, progress? It’s an abomination, what you did to me and Adam, it’s obscene, a curse.”

“Oh don’t make me laugh, you didn’t seem to mind when you were murdering your way round Europe with my sister, like some sort of Bonnie and Clyde with superpowers, did you?”

“There’s no comparison between that and what you did to us, I only killed when I was attacked and we only stole from criminals, it was a matter of survival.”

“Ah, so more like Robin Hood, is that it? A romantic notion, I’m sure, but I doubt the police would see it that way.”

“You aren’t going to be calling the police, so that’s hardly relevant.”

“No, I’m not, I’m just reminding you how hopeless your future is, how pointless it would be to think you can live a normal life at all.”

She moves toward Patrick, lighting her cigarette as she speaks, but stops as Carlisle brings his gun up, the barrel only inches from her head.

“You are so jumpy, Philip.”

She smiles at his reaction to the name and indicates a chair by the fire.

“Well if you’re not going to eat, at least we can be comfortable, won’t you sit down?”

“I’ll stand, thanks.”

“Suit yourself, I’ll sit, if that’s ok with you..?”

Carlisle walks over to the chair, feels down each side of the seat cushion and checks the side table until he is satisfied she doesn’t have a weapon hidden there, then motions for her to sit.

She taps her cigarette in a crystal ashtray on the table and looks up at Patrick with a tight, cold smile.

“She took you in completely, didn’t she? You really thought she loved you, you poor fool.”

Patrick holds her gaze and his voice no longer shakes when he speaks.

“Now I know she was your sister and what she stood for, I’m glad to find was lying, I would hate to think I had inspired any affection in the evil bitch.”

She becomes very still and her eyes seemed to bore into his, then she laughs and smokes for a moment, watching him thoughtfully as he glares at her.

“Let me tell you about my sister and what she stood for, then maybe you’ll understand why I, too, have no choice and that you have to die.”

************

To be concluded (using next week’s prompt)…

#SoCS

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Stream of Consciousness Sunday: The Accumulator, part forty seven.

It’s finally time to return to this story, using Linda G Hill‘s SoCS prompt for the week and it’s a tough one;

” “which/witch/wich.” Start your post with the word “which” and try to fit the word “witch” in somewhere if you can. Bonus points if you use a word that ends in “wich.” As an added rule this week, you will lose all the points you’ve ever earned if you type “which witch is which” anywhere in your post. “

Yes ma’am, I’ll do my best…

The Accumulator, part forty seven.

“Which part of ‘don’t try anything’ did you not understand?”

Patrick leans over the low stone wall, peering down into the well, while Adam stands with his arms outstretched, like a conjurer about to vanish a glamorous assistant in a puff of smoke, shouting irritably into the darkness.

“I told you, I’ll vaporize you and we’ll take our chances with the hatch, so stop stalling and enter the damn code.”

The voice of the Department man echoes up the shaft, losing none of its sneer in the process.

“I can’t help it if they changed it, can I? Zap me if you like, but there’s nothing I can do without the new code.”

Carlisle, listening to this exchange from his position surveying the yard, speaks without turning round.

“He’s lying, splat him.”

“Right you are…”

Adam pulls up his sleeves and flexes his fingers as a panicky shout comes from the well.

“Wait, wait, what are you doing?”

“My friend here says you’re lying, so you’re dying.”

“Why would I lie, what good would that do me?”

“Maybe you think you can keep us here until backup arrives, I don’t know. But nobody is coming, so open the fucking hatch, I won’t tell you again.”

“They’d trust me not to lead you up here, so it must be a security sweep in case your friend has access, they’ve probably changed all the entry codes.”

Patrick looks at Adam.

“Sounds plausible, they must know Carlisle might have inside info…”

Carlisle laughs and strolls over, speaking into the black hole of the well with a grin and a wink at Adam.

“They’d give a team like yours a one-time code, specific to the mission, only cancelled when it’s complete, correct? Changing it when your team is already in play and without a confirmed termination, that would only happen if the team itself was compromised. I don’t think you had a chance to get word out that you’d walked into a trap, so you’re lying; you have the code.”

There is only a brief hesitation, but it is enough.

“I told you, I…”

“Ok, then. Bye.”

“No, no, no, no, no, stop!

Adam stretches out his right hand and points into the dark, a hazy white glow already jumping between his fingers as the Department man starts yelling and Carlisle knocks his arm sideways at the last second.

There is a noise like a firecracker going off and a chunk of stone the size of a cricket ball ricochets off the wall an inch from where Patrick is leaning and clatters down the well.

“Ow, ow, fuck! Ok, ok, I’ll tell you. Just stop him, will you!”

Carlisle grins at Adam and winks again.

“Just open the hatch, there’s a good boy, we don’t have all day.”

“I’m doing it, ok? Look I’m doing it now…”

Our view changes and we cut to a shot looking straight down the well. We see a powerful flashlight come on, lighting up the bottom of the shaft. The Department man glances nervously up at us, places the light on the ground and moves to the door of the hatch, entering a code on the panel beside it.

He reaches for a lever on the hatch and pulls, then again, harder. Looking up with a puzzled expression, he opens his mouth to speak when there is a loud CLICK. He smiles with relief and turns to the door, reaching again for the lever…

Then: blinding white light and the hollow, concussive thud of a contained explosion. A cloud of dust billows up towards us and we see Patrick and Adam pull back from the edge, before the cloud explodes from the top of the shaft, enveloping us and and everything else.

We hear Carlisle’s laconic voice;

“I guess they didn’t trust him as much as he thought.”

…as the screen fades to black.

*****

Scene: At the bottom of the well.

Carlisle climbs down the last few rungs of the ladder, set in the stone wall next to the hatch and mostly intact, joining Adam and Patrick in the cramped, scorched and…messy space, in front of the gaping hole where the hatch used to be.

They had waited nearly ten minutes, expecting to be overrun by Department security at any second, but it seemed as though no alarm had been raised by their unfortunate hostage’s unsuccessful attempt to gain entry.

Adam had most succinctly summed up their options.

“The most likely explanation, of course, is that it’s a trap. But since we want to get in there and they clearly want us to go in, why not accept their invitation and see what they have to say?”

“I’m not sure they’re interested in talking, as much as they are in killing us and getting on with taking over the world, or whatever these lunatics are up to, but I see your point. I’m in.”

Carlisle shook his head.

“You’re both fucking mad, but I may as well see it coming, rather than look over my shoulder for the rest of my life. Let’s finish this.”

Which is why they are now creeping down the silent concrete corridor where we last saw Dorn make his hurried exit, heading for the suspiciously unguarded and open door at the end.

When they arrive at the doorway, through which the sound of a crackling fire can be heard, Carlisle motions for Patrick and Adam to wait, shrugs and takes a deep breath. Then he steps through the door and swings his gun round, pointing at someone in the room we cannot see.

*****

Scene: Inside the bunker room.

When Carlisle steps through the door, the first thing he sees is The Woman. Standing in front of a roaring fire in that huge hearth, her back to him, smoking a cigarette in an ivory holder, she watches him with those dark, cold eyes in the mirror above the mantlepiece.

At this moment she reminds him of the Wicked Witch in Sleeping Beauty, (or was that Snow White, he could never remember?) as calculating and deadly as an assassin, with a matter-of-fact indifference to life that is somehow more chilling than any amount of bloody violence.

She smiles and turns towards him, her hands held out to her sides in an open, non-threatening pose he knows to be entirely deceptive.

“Hello Philip, it’s been a long time.”

Carlisle winces and slowly shakes his head, never once moving his gun from where it’s pointed, right between her eyes

“Nobody calls me that anymore, you know that.”

“Oh of course, how silly, please excuse my manners, what was I thinking?”

She waves a hand in the direction of a table on the other side of the room and Carlisle risks a look, seeing a selection of cold food and drinks has been arranged there. The woman smiles and nods at the open door.

“I was expecting you, that can’t really be a surprise, Philip, you don’t usually miss much. Now, you must be hungry, why don’t you ask your friends if they’d like a sandwich?”

************

To be continued (using next weeks week’s prompt)…

#SoCS

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