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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spectrum of creativity

Because you write does not mean you are special. For every alive human being, there is not one who does not have original and poetic thoughts. Perhaps not all the time, but to those few souls who do spend time and effort to twist and blend their their ideas and opinions together to make astonishing reading, it is still a formidable avalanche to complete against others.

Which is why it is absolutely necessary for you to give yourself the best chance you can by obeying 'the mostly unspoken rules'. Which are thankfully simple. If, as a creative writer, you believe that you are beyond the mundane and the quotidian, that you believe, if on only the merest level, that you wish to work at a more thoughtful pace, with less artistic compromises and that you will not bow to the 'money changers at the temple', preferring to dedicate yourself to idealism, then, unless you are a remarkable genius, you will fail.

Every item, word, sentence, paragraph, letter and script which leaves your hands must be, not as perfect as you can make it, but perfect. Period. For that which you send out says everything about you. On some level, the recipient will have the ability to 'read between the lines' and if you have not given the piece enough thought or care, they might come to believe that you are lazy, self-indulgent, scatter-brained or any other number of ugly conclusions. Certainly they might arrive at the conclusion that you might not be good (fun) to work with. Remember, if nothing else; everything you write says something about you.

Learn the proper rules of the language in which you are writing, become a skilled grammarian, use a Thesaurus and never believe you are good enough to not need one. Develop respect and humility for all you write for. Learn manners. It’s a simple enough premise. Treat people like you yourself would wish to be treated. Like you, although they are not special, they believe they are.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Death of a loyal friend

I remember carrying her back from the kennels; it wasn't a whisker ago either. Maude was alive then. As well as Bobby, and Saul our tabby. How the poor feline hated her at first! I never thought I'd see the day when the two of them were to be found together, enjoying the heat of the fire, apparently watching television! The pup was a wee thing to begin with; a sprat of a creature, thin with nobbled bones sticking through her young and taut fur. A dreadful sight, and a wicked damnation on the farmer who allowed the puppy and her brothers and sisters get into that morally repulsive condition. Rot in hell may he.
When not annoying Saul, as she grew, she felt sweet towards humans despite the treatment she had suffered at the hand of one of us. Maude used to bath her about once a month, and we were convinced she loved our attention. But never a bark she uttered. Her way of convincing us that all was not as it should be was to growl softly, and widen her delicate brown eyes. Her temperament was one of silence, one to which we could talk, as if she understood. But now, with Maude long in her grave, Bobby, lost to us at sea and Saul, the only other animal she had tolerated in the house, long since, I suppose, turned into glue, my dearest companion had leukaemia.
She was six thousand and fifty three days old when we made our final trip together to the People's Dispensary. A suitably dull, thunderous and dangerous day. Young Tom, my next door neighbour's boy helped me place her into the cab, but then I told him he could go no further . A frivolous boy, but that day he understood why and where we were going. An aura of sadness pervaded, but we left him nevertheless. I saw him recede into the distance, and felt a chill as I realised that that was a forerunner of what I would soon have to do.
The vet understood. He was a personal friend, and knew his business. Simon had given her her first round of shots, and had especially cared for her when, in her seventh year she was pained with kidney stones. As I waited in the grey waiting room, her head on my lap, her eyes occasionally flicking upwards to see if I was looking at her, paying her my usual attention, I felt so much complex guilt it was impossible to decode or describe. I pulled so gently at her little terrier ears and felt blocked; in all ways. Close to tears, to distraction, to hell, I had not felt as much when Maude, my only sister, had been lowered into that old Victorian cemetry in that mangy old casket.
I was called, and she managed to walk in with me. Simon knew why we were there, and he very gently lifted her onto the table. He did not speak, but retreated into the shadows, and we were left alone for the last time. I kissed her gently between her eyes, and felt her warmth and in return, she offered a slow lick on my cheek, and then laid her head back down between her paws, her eyes still occasionally flicking up towards me.
Aware of Simon's time, I spoke a last few soft and gentle words, telling her that I loved her, and that I would always love her. There was an unspoken communication between us, and I believe, however impossible it may seem, that she understood. She did not murmur as the needle entered, but I held her right paw and stroked her soft head until, within seconds, her brown eyes closed quite peacefully. Then the last breath and life left her. I was bubbling, and fixed with emotion but I did not cry. It was peace for her; no more awful pain. She was gone; my perfect playmate, chum and companion was dead.
I do not remember reaching home, but when I did, I could smell her and only then did my personal dam break. Much later, after the storm had turned westward, to softer horizons, I gathered her toys, her lead, her basket, my many photographs and placed them in a box. This I stored in the attic, after which I wrote my diary. It was a miserly entry; ruthless and mean, and sadly did not reflect the love I felt or the emptiness and loneliness which was beginning to close, tighten and envelope me; Rose was put to sleep today. Alone again.

Molly Cutpurse

The love that has no name.

She sat, twisted; in an ancient rusty wheelchair that was probably as old as she; this woman in her late fifties. The wheelchair alone betrayed her status, no high-tech aluminium here. Some wood, dirty dry spokes and worn grey paint. But it suited her, this suffer of Parkinson's disease.
She stared. At what, only her distraught husband knew. Her eyes, like her almost white hair were dry; not lifeless but dry in the sense that they understood nothing. She gazed across the large hall to the golden cross, her focus unchanging when anyone passed in front. She could have been seeing into the future or the past as far as I could tell.
She looked relaxed. Except for her hands and wrists, the former, which continually shook, and the latter that cruelly bent back on themselves. Her head hung to one side, her bottom lip glistened with transparent drawl. A white towel lay on her sunken chest.
We were in church. A Tuesday coffee morning, but I'm guessing that she did not know that. He knew that. Her huge brute of a husband, in looks only of course. I'm guessing a one-time bouncer or a boxer. Almost certainly an ex convict. I look for spirituality in his face, but see none. A face that, in its time, had almost certainly made the acquaintance of a multitude of Essex fists.
Nevertheless, where anger and panic once resided, now only tenderness existed. It was clear to all that his concern was only for her. Where had they met? How had she quietened his life? Made him fall so much in love with her? Where had that happened? Such un-opened history.
His suit was poorly made, his shirt un-ironed, a plain blue tie messy with a breakfast, and he needed new shoes. He was a plain man now as well; something of the ego had diminished him. He neither smiled nor frowned but there was panic around his eyes. Panic probably even he was not aware of yet. Although about the same age as his wife (I could see their tokens of love around their ring fingers) he had no hair left and his spectacles were broken in three places. What was their history? Marriage in the seventies? Thinner, hipper, trendier? How has time brought them to this?
His clothes were props now. Props brought at the many local charity shops, as was her simple floral patterned dress, obviously purchased for her as no woman in charge of her own mind under the age of sixty would have considered it. And no earrings or adornments of any kind. Not the sort of things in which he had an interest.
Occasionally, he swung a huge arm out, grasped his cup and passed it under his bland and stale-looking red moustache and drank but, when he was not doing that, both his huge hairy hands were touching hers, trying so absolutely, but in vain to keep them still.
They pampered and pawed, stroked and caressed, knitted and uncrossed, and all with unimaginable, unbearable tenderness. Here truly was a man learning to be another man, and with a woman lost to him. Here was a man who once whispered in his wife's ear, ‘Tienes mi corazon’ - you have my heart. A phrase learnt when honeymooning in Latin America and never forgotten.
They remained like that, facing the alter, while I finished my own coffee, and I wondered what the next ten years would be like for them, more him than her I will admit. For she had already left the marriage, and the life cared for by social services. Although when a sunbeam illuminated her face, her jarring neck twitched gently upwards to meet it, but I've a feeling it was an automatic response. Her fingers never ceased their eternal muscular chatter.
Who would he become after his darling wife died? How would he spend his time? Something told me there were no children. Something told me most of him would die too.
They exuded poverty on every level, but they were a queen and a king as far as I could imagine. A half an hour later, about to get my bus, I strolled through the shopping precinct, and came upon them once again, this time outside Boots.
He was on his knees, his face the subject of immense sadness and concentration as he held a straw to her mouth dipped into a can of inexpensive cola. They were silent, and I wondered about their last conversation.
I pretended to window-shop, but the more I watched, the more impotent I became. I was not the only voyageur; shoppers glanced too, but the man was oblivious to all except her needs. I do not have a name for that type of love. But I have never received or given it.

The hospital ward

I hover, Saturnine like, my scary but welcoming scythe bright over the ward of the dying. I would call them wretched creatures but they are not despite what the eye sees. Saline drips from needles and eyes over soft and wrinkled white skin and I do not hear their broken voices and recognize each one from their strong youths. Is it possible that these people once shouted? Once lifted babies to their breasts? And strong, strong arms and legs. In a moment of forever they once were. Young and cheap by the dozen. Now they lay exhumed, their station in life beyond repair. We talk and they have to listen, nodding with every single prayer.
In still chairs they sit, covered with matting cloth while television bores its vacuous signal into their unfilled brains. A clutter of once precious weeds now fit for not one good thing. They have been altered and altered still by experiences and that attracts me. I mention their pitiable bodies just once. Row upon row of them in a shelter that used to house the young. Behind each, a fiery light burns and it is that which summons me.
When awake, they cough but I do not attend to them. They plead for medicine, for peace but I do not hear them. They pray for courage but I do not issue it. They plead for chemicals to numb the fire but I have none. They mumble as best they can but no sense issues from them. They have taut stretched skin interspersed with needle bruises and some are left alone for hours in their own dark shit.
There is no pattern and no order left for them to explore; just a continuum. What pity must we share before we care, isolated and frameless. They wait for me, past hope, hanging by a silver thread. Yes, my Saturn arcs his way across the sky and sees each in turn, scooping them up day by day, hour by hour in an inevitable battle against the birth of them. Yes, still they come, mask-like and piteous. But we love them still.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Brown Experience

Steven ground his teeth so viciously that the screeching woke Tracy unnecessarily early. After elbowing him cruelly, which gave her ears some relief, she lifted herself out of their huge white bed and struggled, zombie-like, eyes partly closed, to the door, which refused to open automatically.
She sighed, rolling her eyeballs heavenward before yanking at its tiny underused crisis handle. An appendage so minuscule that as she tugged, her fingers slipped and the metal tore the tips of two of her carefully curved plastic fingernails. Now she did more than sigh. Grunting, as the suction from the pneumatics resisted as it released itself allowing her to escape the cloying dark room, she heard her husband’s molars begin to grind again.
Coffee was waiting. At least that machine understood her needs. Tracy managed a smiled, and after pouring a dark strong cup, she sat at their long high breakfast table, her two hands supporting her chin, her long and thin jewellery-festooned fingers stretching up nearly to her eyes, her thumbs locked together near her throat.
She remained in that contemplative position for a few minutes until the sleep which had fogged her mind lifted a little, then picked up a remote, and aimed it at part of a white wall, at the same time lifting the white coffee cup to her surgically-formed lips for the first of several hot and bitter sips.
By the time, she placed the cup back down onto a coaster, a detailed, but altogether too-glossy, simulated female anchor television presenter with an unruly hairstyle and too much make up had spoken the main headlines, which consisted of nothing more interesting than the furore about Mrs Petal, the new Prime Minister and her vicious attack on the opposition’s recent disgraceful behaviour.
By the time she took more sips, had rounded the tips of her chipped nails and devoured half the coffee, the early news was already switching to an outside broadcast where a real live person was braving a snowstorm, commenting on how much more snow that region was to expect in the next week. Despite the hullabaloo that her shrill voice brought into Tracy’s morning, the freezing woman’s unnatural excitement drifted over her, emotionally touching nothing.
Because this was the day. The day Doctor Brown, their Nigerian surgeon, was arriving for Tracy and her husband. Snow would not stop him. Not the amount that the chilled anchorwoman was cheerfully babbling about anyway. Poverty, although not an issue with Tracy and Steven, would not stop him arriving either. Politicians a while ago had had their say, and the opposition had lost. England's National Health Service was a wonderful thing.
Tracy glanced at a picture of an ice building, December’s visual representation of winter on her calendar, and pleasurably noted the crossed off X’s and how they stopped at today. She nearly shivered with excitement despite her blue kitchen being a pleasing twenty-five Celsius.
More hot sips of brain-awakening coffee took her mind briefly away from the achromatic weather, but not for long. Despite the brightening morning outside, and the everlasting gloom which winter brought, she noticed the whipping effect of snow flurries on the double-glazing. A carpet of softness and white furriness had settled over their carefully manicured lawns and extensive gardens during the night. Coffee in hand, she crossed to the glass, and pressing her small and pretty, surgically enhanced nose against one of the warm panes, she smiled delightfully. No, Doctor Brown and his team would be able to get though. It wasn’t so deep. After enjoying, for a moment, the white world, she returned to her stool and muted the television, enjoying the rest of her coffee with only the early morning soft and white visual peace outside as company.
The kitchen was well appointed, unusual considering the type of people they were, and given what the essence of a kitchen must supply. A comfortable space though, and now settled, she did not want to move. However, eventually, a familiar nagging, full and bloated feeling moved though her lower half, and although she foolishly tried to ignore the discomfort, she knew that was quite impossible. How she wished it were next week.
Now she clenched her teeth while a distressing yet familiar feeling came over her until, to a mute yet another joyful weather woman, this time apparently describing the UK’s weather, she uneasily removed herself from the stool again and walked a few paces past the perpetually open door of the kitchen into a darker lobby. With a swish of another door, a door that, amazingly unlike their bedroom one, never failed to work, she walked into an brightly lit clinical area, which smelt overwhelmingly of pine leaves and flowers from some unknown and man-made forest.
Poporee was everywhere. In every assorted colour and mixture. In every glass and china plate and bowl. The sweet and cloying smell was suffocatingly overpowering. Their bathroom was spacious, and completely covered with large white plain glazed tiles from floor to ceiling that perfectly matched the white and dense shag pile. One huge mirror reflected her thin body, slightly trembling under her white chemise. The white sink was plain and functional. Everything was functional. The gold taps glinted. The disinfected lavender soap in a pinkish translucent plastic bottle welcomed her as the only colour. The white bath was huge, oval in shape and sunken.
Equidistant as it was possible to be from those items of bathroom furniture and the only door, the horror sat; the lavatory bowl, Lifeless and white as death next to its associate, the bidet. Beside it and plugged into the only electrical outlet, was a pre-programmed deodorizer, squirting puffs of radiant freshness every seventy seconds except when it detected the presence of a warm body, whereupon it increased its output sevenfold. From above, twin fans, connected to the same sensor, began their silent business of extracting air.
By the time, Tracy had finished glaring at the lower part of her body in that mirror, a process to which she was looking forward to never doing again a week onwards from that day, the deodorizer had squirted out six invisible puffs of scented perfume.
Finally, after checking and manually locking the door against any intrusion, even though only her husband was in the house, she lifted her chemise, and tugged down her knickers before uneasily lowering herself on the toilet’s pre-warmed and spotlessly clean white plastic rim. Tensely, she took a warm and fragrantly scented white towel from a nearby white plasticised rack, and pressed it hard against her mouth and nose. The effect of sitting signalled the increased weight to the toilet’s control system, which governed the waste system, and began a hidden DVD player. Whereupon Wagner’s, ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ sounded loud and sparklingly clear, its dark tones at odds with the barren room.
Now she was nervous. Her bowels, aware that it was time, were beginning to expand, and she was forced to remember, as she had to remind herself every morning, to control her breathing, and take in large gulps of air and not to descend into panic, which was a place to which she could so easily go.
The towel smelt wonderfully of freshly cut spring flowers, and as her anus expanded, she tensed her open legs, knees and toes as she imagined the nausea and overwhelmingly sickening odour, which was probably already enveloping her. She was, as always, grateful for the music although Steven’s choice that day was not one she herself would have chosen. He did have a sense of humour though, it had to be admitted.
As her body began its natural process, expelling its ordure, a frisson of hateful electricity stirred its way up her spine spilling across her rib cage, causing her nipples to rise, and despite the temperature of the well ventilated room, caused virtually all of her skin to experience horripilation.
By holding her breath at the fullest capacity of her lungs, the abhorrent process was eventually over. However, upon it finishing, her bladder sought release, and began its own process.
In her imagination she knew how what she had done might have sounded, and knew that anyone outside the closed and fully locked door, would have been able to hear her efforts if they had wanted too despite the volume of Wagner and she cringed. Moreover, she shuddered, perhaps for the tenth time, as she waited for her morning's ablutions to come to a hideous end.
There was some more panic after her bladder had emptied because it had not been unknown recently for her body to have another go at passing yet another motion. Which was why she regulated and monitored her food intake with almost mathematical precision, working out, to the nearest gram, her intake based upon her dynamic output for the previous day. It was true to say that after twenty-three years of married life, her best friend was not Steven, but the application on her phone, The Delimiter, a specialised medical and nutrient counter.
That first time when she had felt the need to go again, she had been horrified, and that very day had fired off an e-mail threatening a law suite despite having used the device and their service with a great deal of success for over five years. Steven’s own Delimiter had never been in error she had argued, but as the company patiently explained, the science of faecal and urinal matter calculation was one in which development was always taking place, and after assuring her that it would probably never happen again, she retracted her legal threat, her demand for a refund and had calmed down.
Already, and this was two years ago, she had in mind their newly offered alternative, and it was with increasing surety that she looked forward to the day when taking that option might take place. For Steven as well as herself. As Tracy tensed her fifty-year-old legs and stood up gently, she never dared for one moment to look down or behind her, least she saw the dark horror, which nestled at the bottom of the pale blue water.
Keeping the warm soft towel covering her mouth and nose with one hand, easily moved a step to her right at the same time smacking a glass panel with her free hand, which simultaneously released an overwhelmingly large volume of water into the toilet bowl, as well as starting up an extra two fans hidden in the ceiling. Calming herself, Tracy sat on the warm rim of the bidet still clutching the towel to her face.
Immediately the unit recognised her weight it began, and sprayed her with a gentle stream of temperature-regulated and scented water while she closed her eyes in deep relief. The horror, which she dreaded at the beginning of each day, was over. Forever now.
Outside of the white bathroom, and after she had spent a great deal of time washing herself, mostly her hands, Tracy was now undoubtedly a different woman. She hummed a nonsensical tune as she dressed before treating Steven to a coffee as he lazed in bed. It was now nearly nine o'clock, and in the freezing December day, quite light thanks to the new daylight saving time. A winter sun was beginning to enter their bedroom, bleak but nevertheless, welcome. They enjoyed seeing how deep the snow had become overnight for their large estate was now spotless, a white cold expanse drifting in central Essex.
Tracy never joined her husband for another coffee unless she was desperately thirsty and then her App only advised pure water, perhaps because of an unexpected exertion for instance.
However, nothing of that sort was to happen that morning, or indeed for the next forty-eight hours, for all their activity had been scheduled with precision weeks before. More so than on any other day.
For instance, neither of them, besides their one early morning cup of coffee, was allowed to drink anything else except double filtered water. Moreover, and more importantly, no food had been allowed either for the last twenty-four hours. But that necessity had not worried them whatsoever. The fast they had had to endue was even pleasurable. The pain of hunger, they felt, easily outshone the misery of their morning abolitions.
They were to remove any nutritional implants before the great doctor arrived, complete their assigned exercise format for the day and rest thoroughly. These were specific instructions coming from Doctor Brown, their surgeon because he had a known habit of surreptitiously checking the health logs of patients upon which he was going to operate, a habit his insurance company insisted upon after his seventh year of surgery, owing to a patient once dying on his mobile operating table.
Both Tracy and Steve had been on this famous surgeon’s long waiting list for over eleven months, and so it was with great anticipation that they enjoyed some quiet time together on their bed, their arms linked in agreement, watching the snow becoming deeper and deeper.
Until Steve himself sighed deeply, and Tracy knew what that unhappy sound meant. It was his time now. He rose and moved towards the door, and immediately he did, any warmth for him evaporated like ice on a hot day for she was well aware of what his body was about to do, and she found it unbearable. In her mind, he shifted from being her husband, her lover, and her partner to a hateful biological mechanism that daily did something unmentionable and irredeemable. She became angry, as if it were his fault.
After he left, she dressed quickly in slacks and a loose top and, given the choice of walking on a treadmill or shovelling snow for an hour, she opted for the latter and pulled on a cardigan and her favourite pair of boots which had seen better days but today, she thought, was a day whereby she didn’t care less about what her postman thought. She would shovel snow and clear a path for Doctor Brown’s air-surgery craft.
He was scheduled to arrive at four that afternoon, and as he always brought his team with him, the operations would begin at six after prepping his patients at five. By then, the surgeon would have all the information he needed, his team of seven expert assistants and nurses would be up and running with all the programs and permissions loaded and all would be in place.
A reporter was supposed to arrive to cover the opperations, but due to the weather closing in and a report of a far more interesting operation on the other side of London, which eventually appeared as ‘Man has mucus plug problem solved’, the editor of the evening paper decided to go for the nearest and, quite frankly, the more interesting story.
For although the procedure which Tracy and Steve were to undergo was reasonably new and innovative, it was hardly, as the editor explained to one of his reporters who was, at the time, staring dismally though the snowflakes touching the windscreen of her car wishing the damn man would make up his mind, cutting edge. And there he was right of course. A man with excessive mucus was a top story, and was more newsworthy to the general public.
Bowel and large intestinal removal, although pioneered several years ago as an adjunct to cosmetic surgery, although out of the development stage, was still an oddity, but an oddity which was becoming ever more popular as more people discovered that they were becoming ever more distanced from the processes of their own bodies.
In the larger and more famous cities of the world, although it was not yet commonplace, it was seen as the next big thing to do for ones own satisfaction; to replace the foul, maculate and physical process of defecating and urinating by the sanitised process of the urinary drain and the clean and hygienic process of the sterile bag.
‘This eliminates the animal within’, so the public program had informed them. ‘It enables the patient to go about their daily business unencumbered by the very worse that the body so seemingly haphazardly produces’.
As well as the three-hour operation, what was known as a CR (a Compelling Regulator) would be fastened at the end of the small intestine, and that had the effect of only allowing waste to flow when the user was asleep. This was, of course the icing on the surgical cake, as the user did not have to wear the equivalent of a colostomy bag during the day.
Therefore, after clearing snow for fifty-one minutes for Tracy and forty-three minutes for Steve, they spent a quiet day. Resting, reading and slightly excited, but not by too much. They planned to celebrate their last use of the unmentionable room in two weeks time with a celebratory meal, but in the meantime, they enjoyed the day almost breezily, and around three fifty five in the afternoon, listened intently for the National Health Service helicopter.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Vampires in Grays, Essex?

I swung my full carmine cape across my wide and bony shoulders as a simple defense against the low evening sun as I left my watchmaker shop in the precinct of Grays in Essex, inserted my spiky key into a rusty lock and twanged it shut. The weather was quite foul on this celebratory weekend of Jevil, close and light, and the dark and welcome cold of winter seemed a dream away. Why our Saviour did not choose to die during a more pleasant time of year, I have never understood. Moreover, never questioned it aloud either. But I should not complain. We Vampires have many occasions to be grateful, so it is not all hope and light. My name is Broakcan, and I am eighty-six this high summer. Born in the beautiful and fearful occult shadow of night, which naturally accounts for my clear and tight pale skin, strong dark hair and angled physique. Full-bodied suckling added to my growth, and made my eyes the colour of my cape and my sharp teeth as edgy as nature. I snort. I work. I’m keen. A perfect specimen for my race. Strong, virile, bull-like…yet lean, powerful and untamed...just as my wife likes me. I’m Latin. Yes, Quella my wife, whom I am about to meet. What a female! A crown of two thorns, part human creature, part Vampire, a deep orange edible source of a woman. Full breasted and bloodied, her red milk runs from her nipples like no others. Fountains of goodness. Our children are cursed I tell them. Cursed like no other. I order them to be grateful, but, as you will discover, often they are not. I have two. A boy and a girl. Wasis, the female, already has had coitus I am glad to tell, but the boy Lavis... What a disappointment he has grown to be. Two years younger, sure and intelligent, but he shows no interest in our beliefs, and to be clear about him, sometimes I wonder where he gets his strange ideas. The lamb within him is so powerful it is difficult for my ever patient Quella to get him to suck real nourishment with us instead of that heathen and impure vegetable scum on which he nibbles. He has no stick. His balls are watered, and I have seen his eyes glow with some unearthly light occasionally when the sun is high. He’s sickly, weak and, as much as I love him, for he came from me, I hope he will die and leave the rest of us in peace. Although with the luck Heaven has given him, he’ll probably outlive me and my allotted quota of centuries. The times I’ve caught him studying over his prescribed reading times for school when he should be hungering, simpering and yelping with his friends like a normal young vamp I cannot tell you. He is, in short, an embarrassment to my family name of Jaspetic. But my female... She gave away her virginity at school during her one-hundredth and eightieth dark moon and I remember the pleasure my wife and I felt over our evening meal the evening she told us. As usual for her, she described in detail the physical event itself, and what the half-Vamp was like. As I soaked up blood from my plate with some soft cow’s skin, I could not have been more proud, especially when she mentioned that he had to be escorted away by his friends to a clotting house for a transfusion because she had soaked and sucked him dry. I remember that feeling only too well in the early days of my courtship with Quella although she still bleeds me well enough…sometimes more so if I am rough and take my time. I am meeting her and the nestlings at Kaveller’s restaurant in the High Street, and it’s only a short walk. But long enough to be pestered by young people imitating humans and their behaviour. They look completely stupid with their human-like masks and gracious platitudes. I was about to mention that I don’t know why the parents allow them to act as they do, when I remembered that Lavis dresses and acts in a similar manner. Really, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that he’d prefer to be a human rather than a member of Vampire Sapiens. I can see them now through Kaveller’s green front window waiting for me in our usual area, and I reach into my pocket, withdrawing a pleasant-smelling horse’s nail and slipped it into my mouth. The last thing I ate was some baked cheeks for breakfast, and besides being hungry, I had a feeling that my breath was unpleasantly sweet. No need to put Quella though that. I could see already by the way she silently sat, her chin resting lightly on four fingers, that she was not amused by Lavis’ appearance. Wasis was softly scratching her mother’s long and lean arms with a hard red fingernail in a drifting sort of way, but was equally silent. As much as I loved my family, I wasn’t looking forward to this outing. I loath these family traditions that insist we eat out on Human Night. Perhaps when the nestlings leave the home we’ll have an end to it. Kaveller’s was a family owned business, and served good wholesome food, nothing special or fancy, although Sertis Kaveller had been known to boil up a whole carcass or two for a festival or a Union. Unusual, I can tell you, for a man who insists on his food being cold and wet, but business buys business so they say. Moreover, it was Kaveller’s ability to serve nourishment beyond what he would normally eat which made him an elegant businessman. He was a dark-red, glowering sort of Vampire, eternally locked away in his oily kitchen, huge-bodied with a red mouth like an open wound, and with lips ragged and gutted from years of eating flesh and bits of bodies. When visited, he could usually be found chewing the gristle off a stick of bone or sucking at some other organ. I like him. Entering, I kissed Quella, glad to have her scorching red lips touching mine, and I realised she smelt the horse’s nail. Her front incisors also briefly but gently tore at my lips, but long enough to silently imply that she wished we were on our own. However, we were not. Wasis and Lavis looked their usual bored selves. Both were dressed unusually. Even for them. Wasis was in the sinful colour of white, and that overrode any kind of unflattering style. Which was short and cut away from both legs. She looked like a tramp not a Vamp, and I looked away quickly, shaking my head, glad we were in our usual corner. Wasis...After I looked him up and down in silence, Quella met my eyes, and she was as shocked and felt as hopeless as myself, as I exhibited a face of extreme disappointment. Before I sat, I could not contain myself. ’What in the name of Hell are you wearing boy?’ He never answered as the question was rhetorical, but let me describe it. It was a suit. A thin, pale-blue, single-breasted suit. Underneath he wore a plain white shirt and a dark tie. A glance under the flaxen table, and I saw brown leather shoes. Lace-up shoes. Plain and common. His face was covered in white makeup, lightening the obits of his eyes, while rosy cheeks sank his pallor into humanness. He looked outrageous. I sat. ‘You are walking home on your own, because I’ll be blessed if I’ll be seen with you in the street looking like that.’ ‘He has ordered a plate of vegetables.’ ‘And you let him Quel?’ I almost spluttered, broken-hearted that my son looked so derisible. ‘The boy’s old enough to do what he wants, Broakcan. We cannot force him to eat what he doesn’t want. It’s only a phase. Let him be.’ ‘It is not a phase, mother. I’ll want to look like this and wear this forever. Its smart, and everybody of my age is doing it.’ ‘It’s sick Lavis and you are embarrassing the family. I’m telling you again, you are not walking home with us looking like that.’ ‘I don’t care.’ I smacked my fist down hard on the table, and for a second, just a second, the conversation between the thirty or so customers, stopped. ‘You bloody well will care when I stop your allowance boy, and you’re eat properly if I forbid any vegetables to be brought into the house.’ ‘Then I’ll starve and die father...’ ‘Lavis?’ Quella’s arm reached across, and gently placed her long forefinger quietly across her son’s mouth for she could see their food arriving. ‘Hush now too, Broakcan.’ she offered a smile at her husband, ‘I ordered your usual.’ I was grateful to see the plates arriving, and Savne, one of two waitress’ and Sertis’ only daughter, eased her way through the crowded tables and, as head of the family, had my starter served first; Magryana. A steaming warm bowl of kidney, liver and nail bits. My wife and my daughter had chosen thin spits of undercooked red muscle prepared in a sauce I could smell, but not identify. My son however, had ordered water, and he sat there sullen as ever. When the first morsels touched the insides of my mouth, it became awash with saliva, and for a moment, until I first bit into a wedge of liver, I forgot about him, and his fixation with imitating a human, and turned my attention to my host and the mysteries that made up his menus. What was that special ingredient that Kaveller used to turn something so plain and almost vulgar into a dish so tasty? I could smell that whatever I was spooning into my mouth was a mixture of human, pig and chicken, but my rasped tongue hinted at something else. Something unidentifiable. For the moment. Perhaps I would ask Sertis for a tour of his abattoir sometime. Perhaps I might see or identify something, a bag, a horn, a leg...some hair...anything which might help solve the issue of how Sertis had managed to turn bland flesh into a dish so exquisite. However, I knew holy well that he would never tell me. He would never betray the recipe to an outside family member. Propriety would have dictated that he would have slit the throat of every live animal and human that he had out back rather than reveal that family secret. As the offal and the magic ingredient slid down my throat, my often scarlet imagination pictured my son, Lavis, four hands width higher than he was in reality, proudly wearing a dark cape, a strong jaw jutting, eyes black as a raven’s, nails as sharp as an eagle and teeth as sharp as mine, standing proud and tall with a magnificent crop of long dark hair standing next to Savne Kaveller in the House of Conjugation, their Union about to allow him in to the inner sanctuary of the dark and secret world of Sertis’ kitchen... However, the boy himself spoilt that daydream by choking on a piece of turnip. Being the closest, Wasis slapped him hard on his back, and cleared the obstruction, but it brought my attention back to the table and the four of us continued eating silently. In the background, a trio of mournful violins filled the atmosphere. I cast my eyes over what the nestlings ate, slightly annoyed at the extra cost of Lavis’ meal, for Kaveller, I knew, had to buy those revolting and colourful knots in since his growing license to farm them out back had been revoked. Moreover, that was only recently. A few months previously I believe. A half woman, the type we are supposed to socially accommodate nowadays, obviously one of those New Age types, a vacuous vegetarian of probably of no merit whatsoever, had complained that she could taste blood in her clear vegetable soup. An inspector was summoned; an examination had taken place and some blood, mostly human for dark’s sake, was discovered to be seeping through to the earth where the vegetables grew. Unfortunately, the examination of his wild yard did not stop there, for several bodies; both human and animal were unearthed in various decomposed states. Some dead, and others in the process of dying. Those that were dead were taken away for examination, and those that were not Sertis was told to destroy immediately which he did. Thankfully, my esteemed chef was allowed to keep those, although he was given a menacingly huge fine some weeks later when it was discovered that the dead human bodies contained a number of viral organisms. However, as most of us Vampires are immune to almost all of those, virtually everybody I spoke to could not see the point of judging and punishing the owner of the grill house. Except the point really was to bring even more attention to those kill joys who seem to excel nowadays in upsetting the traditional values which so many of us hold dear. Unfortunately, I was sitting next to one of them. Even though he was my son, I had no idea what he wanted to do with himself. He is so strange! As I glanced at his powdered face and suit, part of me felt like eating him, and that would dispose of the problem. However, as we are not allowed to do exercise that right anymore (not since the law was changed a hundred and fifty years ago) and after suffering his weak ways since he was a sickly child, I had exhausted my solutions. Probably he would leave and fall in with some bad lot. I guess he would be dead within a few years. The main course arrived, and its fragrance filled our section of the room, while Lavis covered his white nose in a mock act to annoy me I imagine. Strange boy because he used to love this dish when he was younger, and before he had these irrelevant and homeless ideas put into him. Our main meal was a combined dish, Posryava, and lay, steaming hot, on a burnt black bone dish of ribs, edged together to make a seal, and was as huge as a pig’s belly, oval and deep and partitioned out into three compartments. On the right were a heap of golden tongues, eyes and genitalia of every different species of animal and human we were legally allowed to eat. To the left were dozens and dozens of mouth-sized grilled portions of animal and human meats, each with its own wooden forked stick ready for dipping in the deep brown oily sauce, which waved gently in the middle tray. As Savne gently placed the feast on our table, at least three of us were licking our lips with anticipation. Lavis had to wait another few minutes before his muck arrived. We three proper members of my family did not stand on ceremony. Sticks were taken; meat jabbed, dunked in the mouth-watering brain, white-blood and bone sauce and ate. A previously ordered bottle of warm mixed blood wine accompanied our meal, and after satisfying my hunger with a few first pieces, I lifted my glass, noticed how opaque and clingy the liquid was, as it should correctly be, and smiled at Quella. ‘To you my dearest. May we live forever in propinquity.’ ‘You are getting weak and emotional Broakcan.’ She smiled with a slight grimace, her earrings glinting in the glowing green light of the fire that smoldering and occasionally flickering in the hearth. Nevertheless, I could see she was flattered, and her already stained lips became infused with the gently effervescent quality of the wine. It made her and her irrepressible long dark hair look even more beautiful than she already was, if that were possible. Lavis’ food arrived, and the way Savne banged it down in front of him should have warranted some sort of reprehensible reply from me, but I hadn’t the mind to do it. Were I serving, I would have done the same. Quella had also, upon her early arrival, ordered side dishes of eggs, and part of the joy of this particular meal, or one way of enjoying this dish, was cracking them apart with our front teeth, ripping off their tops before firstly fully immersing the meat from the plate into their yolks before plunging the morsels into the sauce. It was a savage way to eat, and not altogether fully accepted by the so-called more refined members of those with whom we ate occasionally, but as a family we enjoyed it, and we spent some moments snorting our way around the table. I was on my third egg when it happened. My normally silent boy spluttered violently and stood, his chair flying backwards as he grasped his neck swaying gently as if a breeze was about him. It was a surreal few moments, this suited boy, spoiling our evening. He quickly fell to his knees crunching his chin and breaking the sharpest of his upper front teeth on his own china plate as he crashed downwards taking a great deal of our food with him. There he was, covered in mostly monk and animal body parts and quite still. We were told later that his immediate unconsciousness had a great deal to do with his non-recovery, for if he had been able to cough, it may have been quite possible to loosen the offending chunk of undercooked carrot. It is now a week later and Lavis has arisen, deemed not to be allowed to continue, something I did not contest at the enquiry, and therefore been sold on for meat. The white service at the disassembling theatre went well enough and many came. Some were even his friends. It is ironic that my useless offspring’s life, such as it was, was ended by the very same mad and insane habits which he senselessly promoted. Before he rose, it was my duty to read the address, but there was no prosody of sorrow within my voice. My friend, Sertis Kaveller found himself under investigation once more, but I did not press charges, and nor did Quella impress on me the need to. For I also knew how she felt about her only son. The truth was, he was just a wicked and evil boy, and he deserved to be sold on. However, as I made it clear that he was to be sold on outside of Grays, at least there will be no possibility of any part of him entering into me when we visit Kaveller’s again in two weeks time for Quella’s one-hundredth birthday. We do plan to have another son one day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Am I making a mistake?

When I used to be a courier in London...oh...a long time ago now, it mostly struck me how wrong or inaccurate the advice people can offer. I think, almost without exception, if I asked the way or needed directions, whatever they told me, would on almost every occasion, be wrong. 'Go down there, that one-way system, and number 24 is on the right.' It never was not only on the left, but not even down that part of the one-way. 'Don't use the A10, there been an accident, and you're never get through.' Yet I went that way, and it was invariably clear. 'Wrap up warm, there's snow in the air.' Sunny all day of course.
But now I write for a living. No more cold, hard days for me. I've written about 21 novels, and of course, I like all of them. However, I admit, some are better than others. Some, I enjoy reading more than others. One or two of the early ones are indeed, a bit of an embarrassment, and could have been written better. Self-publishing is a bit of an art-form. A combination of science, business and intuition. Yet concerning one, Alien Queens, I find myself in a predicament. Because although I have found people who love it, others have advised me to let it go and concentrate on newer works.
Yet I cannot. Every time I pick it up and read a few pages, an excitement flushes over me, and a small voice inside my brain says, this could be big! Given the chance, science-fiction geeks all over the world could come to love this book. So I struggle with this daily. What it comes down to is, do I trust myself or my critics? I have a passion for Alien Queens I have to admit. It has the most absurdly complicated plot anyone could ever wish for. It's a time-travel puzzle within a puzzle and yet I am proud of it. And it has great, and equally absurd characters.
Yet the thought persists. Am I deluding myself? What must happen for me to 'go for it, 100%' as they say? Perhaps we all, writers or not, suffer with this form of thinking.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'm back!

It's been a time since I wrote anything here, so just an update. I believe I've just published my twentieth novel. Or is it the twenty-first? This is odd. Like getting older, one forgets the actual number of birthdays. I have to look up and to my left to count them. Ah, nineteen. Sorry about that. I've been on a bit of a rampage the last few years. The creativity hasn't stopped. And even some of my neighbours seem to like them nowadays! Whatever! However, I am about to become a writer full time and that's a little scary. What if I cannot pay the gas bill next month? Will I be eating soup around Christmas time? There's no one to look after me. No parents or family to fall back on. So, interesting times.
I've decided to blog a little more nowadays, although at the moment, the question that occupies my mind is what will I blog about? I'm told that blogging will increase sales. I've been told that blogging is the way to go nowadays. But truly, have I the time? I mostly write 3,000 words before breakfast each day anyway. The juice box is normally empty by then. But we shall see.