Thursday, April 29, 2010

Give Us A Lift, Then

One of my Old Ladies - Le Grand Belle Dames of Waitakere - had an experience today that'll keep her chuckling for a few weeks. I've written of this woman before: she's blind, and recently had a bad fall. So she needed a pick me up.

She wasn't quite expecting the one she got. Seems she decided to walk up to the local dairy, buy a pinta milk. So off she steps, white stick in hand. There's a bunch of roadworkers / drainlayers hard at work just outside her home, and one of the workers comes forward to help her, make sure she doesn't trip. Nice man. Another fellow gets jealous, and also offers a hand. Within seconds these two big chaps have linked hands, and she's sitting up high, laughing like a mad thing. She's carried all the way to the local dairy - around 400 metres, then carried back to her door. Laughing like a drain all the way.

People are just so fucking brilliant.

So. Tax on tobacco's going up. I'm dubious about the efficacy, myself. Having been a heavy smoker, I think that I would have found a way to carry on smoking. It's an addiction, for Pete's sake. People will soon be doing burglaries to pay for their hanbit..

I was having a chat yesterday with a colleague, and I suddenly realised that I had completely unconsciously and naturally used three Maori words in one sentence: Whanau, whakapapa, and korero. Then I'd used taonga and mokopuna in a second sentence. I don't know whether this indicates that I'm becoming bi-lingual, or whether Maori is simply becoming a part of New Zealand English. The latter, I think.

READING: "The Torment of Others", Val McDermid. She writes brilliantly. I'm quite a fan.

LISTENING TO: The divine Joni Mitchell, "Chalk marks in a Rain Storm". It's my favourite JM album: I hear something new in it each time.

WATCHING: Gonna go and see Iron Man II. Culture, your name is Stan Lee. Also - gasp weep wail: I'm going to be in rehearsal when Doctor Who starts. I'm going to have to watch a recording!

More Paper Heroes.

His grandfather had gone to Manitou at four tens, one hand, and four, and that had been thought miraculous.
But on this bone-chilling night, Night is at war, as he has been since his b-day. It is an old war, stretching back many Gens, back to when the Henrys had swept in from the east, with their truk-teks, their gun-teks, their air-teks, and enslaved the Folk.
In this past year Night has loosed eight hands of arrows, and has retrieved all but three of them, bloodied from the flesh of dead Henrys. He had looted the bodies, carrying much loot back to the Folk: gun-teks, bullets, com-teks, food, boots.
The ropes bite his body, but he doesn’t move. He’s accustomed to the rigours of the hunt. He’s been out now for three nights, stalking this pair of Henrys. They are careless, and have fallen into predictable habits and patrolling patterns. This night, Night will teach them to respect the Folk. The Free Folk.
His senses are at a high pitch of alertness: over the hiss and spatter of the rain he can hear a murmur of voices, the harsh scrape of hob-nailed boots on pavement. There: movement in the rain. Two man-shapes, a hint of a light. He nocks an arrow, and braces himself, taking the first strain. As expected, the Henrys are walking together, talking together, talking and complaining. Out on a night like this, who wouldn’t be complaining?
Not Night. He grins his feral grin. He’s picked his place carefully, has scouted his getaway, has everything judged to the finest moment. No one of his Gen had ever killed two Henrys at once on his or her own before.
He lets them approach. He will be loosing from just two tens of metres, so takes full strain when they get close.
Something makes the first target look up as they pass the old bollard, and Night’s first arrow punches neatly between the Henry’s blue eyes, making a crunching sound as it bites through bone and into brain. He is dead and falling as Night looses the second arrow, which catches the second Henry in the throat. Night listens: silence, apart from the scraping and tapping as one of the Henry’s boots dances a death-tattoo on the ancient concrete paving.
Night tugs at the slipknot which holds him secure, and he drops the hand of metres to the ground as it loosens. His long, powerful legs absorb the impact, and he lopes quickly to the two men, slinging the bow over his shoulder and drawing his knife.
The second one still breathes, but his life-blood is slowly pumping onto the pitted pavement and into the waters of the Bay. Night sets to work: get the clothing off, then cut out the liver. The next was the hardest, especially in this light: delicately carve and release the Scarab and get it onto the warm liver. It would recognise the double helix, and the nutrients in the liver would keep it alive for enough time to get it back to Doc Ford. Clothes into a sack, gun-teks into another gunny, livers and their Scarabs into a Tup-tek box, and sealed.
Then a quick kick sends the bodies into the Bay, for the grey and white sharks to conceal his work.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tens of Millions

"It's worth is estimated," shrieked the juvenile TV3 reporter, "in the tens of millions!" Gasp shock amazement. You know the reporter I mean. Looks to be about 15. That Canadian child-popstar, Bieber, looks older than this individual.

The reporter was banging on incoherently about the FIFA World non-Cup / Trophy statuette thing. He was practically foaming at the mouth. What I wanted to know was how much was it worth."In the tens of millions," he swooned.

Yeah. Well. That's a range that goes from 20 million to 90 million. I would think an estimate would get it a little closer than a 70 million gap.

I later learned that it was 20 million. The cub reporter should make the shift to a PR company, now. He makes as much sense.

My experimenting with new age clap-trap has been singularly successful. It has demonstrated to me, in a most efficacious way, that new-age claptrap is just that. Not to worry. I'll just keep on taking more and more Big White Pills.

Rain is interesting stuff. It's kind of nice to see some, at long last. Of course, Auckland's drivers freak out at the first hint of moisture, and immediately slow down to reverse. I continue to be a fan of AKL motorists. In comparison with most small-twon and / or country drivers, Auckland drivers are really good. They could give demonstrations on how to use the indicator switch. Some even know what to do at roundabouts.

BOOZE. Saw a good idea the other day: licence the drinkers. You can only get a drink if you show a photographic licence. If you get pissed and drive, you lose your drinking licence as well as your driving licence - etc etc. If a booze seller flogs a drink to soneone who doesn't have a licence, s/he loses the right to sell it. It you're caught buying booze for someone who's lost their licence, you lose yours, too. You'd be allowed to shout a round, etc, but...

To me, it makes some sense: put the responsibility back on the drinker. People would be incentivised to drink responsibly. Thoughts?

READING: A Val McDermind whodunnit: she writes very well. And Dan Simmons' latest, "Black Hills". That man has a mind that goes into some extraordinary places.

LISTENING TO: Suzanne Vega, "Suzanne Vega". I think it's her first album. Excellent.

WATCHING: Hmm. Eagerly awaiting the new Dr Who.
MORE "Paper Heroes":

He wakens briefly as he coughs a glob of blood onto his chest, and a galaxy bursts behind his eyelids.
This could be it, old man. This could be the day you retire, the day you hang up cape and cowl. More stimulants are pumped into the stricken man’s bloodstream. This is not the way to treat shock, old man.
Less than a mile to go now. The Crusader is barely alive, but he is conscious. He hears Jenson’s voice, dry as a husk. “Master Thomas? Thomas! Pass control of the Battlecar to me, in the cave.”
But it’s too late. It’s all too, too late. The rear looking Infrared detectors have spotted the 1948 Plymouth that buckets along behind the Battlecar, magically matching the Battlecar’s speed, and the monitor blooms white as The Jester mask over the grill is shredded by the Asp missile which leaps from the vehicle.
A titanium-encased warhead containing sixty pounds of tank-killing fury shatters through the Battlecar’s rear armour, splinters the huge turbine engines, and ploughs through the polycarbonate engine-well. The warhead is only 17 inches from The Crusader’s spine when it explodes.
The Jester stops his car and watches in awe as the Battlecar, and Crusader, cease to exist. He giggles, wipes a tear from his cheek, fumbles for a photograph in his pocket, and looks at it.
“R.I.P., Cats: it was nice getting’ to kill you,” he mourns. He rips the photograph into four, then into confetti, which he holds in the palm of his hand. He snaps his fist closed over the scraps, then inverts his hand and opens it. Nothing falls to the ground.
“It’s just like magic, old chap. Hee hee hee! Ha ha! Just like magic! Now, what was next? Oh yes, that insufferable flying idiot. He’ll be here next. So? Come on, you blue, yellow, and red boy scout! Come and try to kill me!”

And so they died. A scarred war-lord lost his life to hypothermia whilst attempting to cross the Cumbrian Alps; a small man died in a gunfight on the streets of Laramie in early 1889. They died. And more died. Heroes all, men and women who had spent time, too much time, living on the outer skirts of society, caring for and protecting those who had dropped through society’s careless hands, to be trampled by society’s careless feet. They were heroes one and all, and they died in ones and in twos; they slept the eternal sleep of the just and righteous. Or they thought they did.

Because, despite their deaths, their violent and lonely deaths, their calm and bitter deaths, one place yet awaited them: the White Room.

Chapter Three.
11.47pm, Pacific Time, Sanfrisco, November 5th, 2386.

The bitter rain whips him as he waits, slung by a small web of ropes from the rusted iron works of the ruins of the bridge. His name is Night, and he is a hunter.
The bridge had fallen a long time ago. Night’s grandfather told of his grandfather watching the fall in a violent earthquake that had lashed The City, and brought down many of the Olders’ great buildings, and killed many hands of folk, and not enough hands of Henrys. That so many buildings still stood was mute testament to the Olders’ great building skills: buildings which soared tens of tens of tens of hands into the sky, with shapes and forms as graceful as gulls’ wings.
The rain that falls on Night this night is the hard, driving rain that will keep all Folk indoors, under cover. It spits and hisses over the flaking metal, and his nostrils are filled with the sharp smell of rusting iron. Only Henrys will be out tonight. Only Henrys, and the hunter named for the time he loves. Tonight, Night has stalked. This night, Night will kill.
He checks his bow again. It is an Older bow, made of Plas-tek, with a syn-tek cord. Night had inherited the bow from his dying father before attaining two hands in age.
Every day since then he had loosed tens of arrows in the underground range as his arms grew thick with muscle, and his back shrieked with pain. Then, at three hands of age he been allowed out to hunt.
Night is now two tens and three years old and, had he been cursed by the Scarab, he would have only two more years of life available to him. As it is, the back of his wrist is clear, and he knows he may even grow to four tens. Even five tens, or ten hands was possible, though unlikely. His grandfather had gone to Manitou at four tens, one hand, and four, and that had been thought miraculous.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXXII

LATE again. This is not because I got up while it was still dark, in order to go to the Dawn Service. I did set the alarm, and had all the best intentions, etc. My body, however, was having none of it.

I'M about to go all Self-help bookish. I loath those types of books with a passion, because of their simplistic, patronising bullshit. But out of desperation, i am going to try something.

I'M tired of being in pain, and over the past few weeks it'[s been getting worse. I won't bore you with details. Suffice to say that I wake up every 15 minutes because of the pain. Pain killers aren't heping. I'm knocking back the super-super Big White ones the doctor's prescribed, but all they do is amplify my tinnitus. This is what overdosing on painkillers does.

SO - I've started my New Age Crystal Sucking Plan. I'm am not going to use the word "pain" any more, especially when I'm talking to myself, or thinking about it. I am, instead, going to use the word "sensation". Hmm. That was an exuberant sensation. Gosh, that sensation was... sensational.

THE thinking is desperate, illogocal, and facile. It borders on superstition. Here's how it's supposed to work: if I stop thinking about it as p**n, then perhaps my reaction to it won't be as negative... therefore I may be able to cope a little better.

STUPID, right? But it's where I am right now.

MY baby 'pooter seems to have stopped picking up my wi-fi modem. Bugger. This means I can't blog from the Notebook... which means I can't cut n' paste the next chapter of Paper Heroes.

LISTENING TO: The Raconteurs, "Broken boy Soldiers".

READING: Greg Bear, "Mariposa". I note that most sci-fi that i'm reading is now American.

WATCHING: Nothing on the horizon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Poppy By Any Other Name

It seems a fox has been thrown into the henhouse. No, wait: perhaps a better metaphor would be a chicken being tossed into a foxes lair. Do foxes have lairs? Or do they have a set? No, that's a badger.

Enough of zoology. The Aotearoa Peaceniks went out on the streets today to sell their white poppies, a day before the Returned Servicemen's Association go out to sell their red ones.

It's ANZAC fever, and the battle-lines have been drawn. The bristly old RSA have harrumphed mightily at the cheek of these peace-lovin' hippie freaks* taking the emphasis away from them. Terrible, harrumph, harrumph. *The RSA guys, being old, have freaky hips.

I can see their point. I also sympathise mightily with the Peace Foundation. They figure it's a great time to sell peace poppies, because what service-person in his or her right mind actually wants a war? And anyway, most new returned service personnel are coming back to EnnZedd after being deployed on peace-keeping missions.

Apart from the SAS, of course, who bugger off to god knows where in order to earn themselves some new bling.

I think there's room for both. The price of the poppies ain't huge. The RSA makes something like $90k from theirs, the peace hippies want far less. If the peaceniks hadn't sold out, I'd wear both. Red to show my appreciation for what our servicemen have done, and continue to do, and white to show I'm all for calling a cessation to hostilities around the world. .

Had to larf, though, at the Minister for Old Soldiers And Their Affairs. She blithered on about how the RSA needs the dosh from their poppy day, and they use it to help poor old buggers who are in desperate need. I noticed she didn't offer to dip into the treasury to offer the old buggers some much-needed support from the Government.

LISTENING TO: Jethro Tull, "Live At Montreux". I'm a major Jethro Tull fan... and they are great, live.

READING: Well, re-reading, anyway. Bernard Cornwell, "Waterloo". i don't know why, but I'm fascinated by the battle of Waterloo. I suppose it's because Waterloo is one of only three things that Belgium's famous for. Waterloo, Audrey Hepburn, and, um, er, oh... Brussel Sprouts.

WATCHING: Tonight - "Prisoner" - taped from Monday night. And "Lost", taped from last night.

More "Paper Heroes".

It keeps well out of arm’s reach, and tracks his progress.
Two miles away, a man with deathly white skin and an insane grin laughs and chuckles to himself and operates the joystick to remotely zoom the tiny metallic moth around The Crusader’s head. The Crusader is so intent on being a nosey-parker, he hasn’t seen the insect. Think you’re so clever, don’t you, Crusader. Oh, yes, yessss, you’re mine now. Mine. After so long, so many humiliations, you’re mine. The Jester can taste the revenge, so swee-et, so mellow, so -
Then The Crusader’s eyes lock onto the spy-moth, and The Jester sees the Caped Crusader’s eyes in his monitor.
“Crap!” The Jester’s shriek echoes off the concrete canyons of New York’s downtown as the moth goes out of control, and the video flickers and goes black for an instant. The tiny machine’s back-up system comes in to play, and it resumed its steady pursuit as The Crusader retreats up the wall.
Well, The Jester thought. Well. Well, shit! The Crusader’s finally doing what I want! If The Crusader can have a Battlecar, then I can have a Jester-plane.
The Jester switches control to his flying weapons platform, a small boomerang shaped aircraft that carries two small missiles. It has been cruising a thousand feet above the building, and now The Jester-plane stoops like a clown-faced hawk, to the southernmost top corner of the monolithic office building The Crusader had been crawling on.
The Jester watches through both the aircraft’s and the moth’s video monitors. His hands dance a merry jig of death as he giggles and croons and twitches.
On the building, the Crusader-suit’s sensors hummed an urgent warning to The Crusader. He slows his rate of ascent, and tries to make sense of the data the suit is projecting directly onto his eye.
There’s something in the air nearby, something the size of a Condor, the giant South American vulture. Wingspan about nine feet, so it’s not an aircraft. It can’t be an aircraft.
The first rocket leaps from The Jester-plane’s right wingtip, and smashes into the balustrade as The Crusader was vaulting over it. Red-hot metal and concrete shrapnel shred his boot, and The Crusader knows that his life must be measured in microseconds unless he does something, and fast. But you’re getting slow now, aren’t you – old man? The Jester cackles, and presses a second button.
The evasion tactic is simple: hurl yourself off the building. Old man, old man, you’re too slow! The second rocket traces a scarlet line, red as blood, in the night air as it homes on the tumbling figure that is desperately hurling itself back over the building’s edge. It slams into a stainless steel flagpole and explodes, and razor sharp shrapnel scythes over the black figure as it plummets into the void.
The metal slices deeply into the cat-shaped helmet, tearing into the Kevlar and mono-filament carbon fibre, slashing deeply into the old man’s scalp.
The Crusader is now unconscious, falling at 32 feet per second squared, and the suit’s automatic devices kick into action.
Five pitons are fired from the utility belt: they slap into concrete and granite on the man-made canyon’s surfaces, trailing their mono-filament wire rope behind them. The unconscious man’s body is gently slowed, then lowered to the ground. Drugs are fed into The Crusader’s bloodstream, drugs of his own devising, drugs which snap him awake, and give him the strength the summon the Battlecar.
He reels to a lamp-standard, and leans on it as the Battlecar shrieks toward him. His vision is fading, and flickering – but oh god, what’s that? The statue of Pan on the intersection of 5th and Wayne is moving, turning toward me, releasing an arrow – unnh! The rocket-powered arrow plunges through Crusader’s supposedly bulletproof costume, narrowly missing his heart.
The Battlecar howls to the broken man in black, who collapses into the machine. The door hisses shut, and he mutters one word only, “Home.”
A black that’s deeper than hell descends on him as he passes out. The Battlecar takes over, automated systems checking his vital signs, needles slipping into veins. He wakens briefly as he coughs a gobbet of blood onto his chest, and a galaxy bursts behind his eyelids.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Death by Cop

The other day, cop spotted a speeding motorcyclist, and decided he would nab this scurrying hero of the highway.

I gather the cop and the biker were facing opposite directions, and the cop's magical device told him that the motorcyclist was in a bit of a hurry.

The motorcyclist hadn't seen the cop on approach, because this minion of the law had taken a leaf from the Duke of Wellington's book: he'd hidden himself over the crest of a small hill. The enemy can't see you when there's a large lump of landscape in the way. The Duke hid his men so the French couldn't kill them. Our cops do it in order to help them apprehend vagabonds and miscreants.

Once the biker had zipped past... the rider no doubt thinking thoughts like "Whoopsy!" (you can tell I'm a fierce bearded road-warrior, can't you..) the cop decided to do a U Turn.

Remember, he was purposefully parked where oncoming traffic wouldn't be aware of him until too late.

Imagine the cop's surprise (not to mention job-satisfaction) when his car stopped a second speeding motorcyclist. Fatally, unfortunately.

Comment on t'media has been furious. I think the cop was acting like an idiot, and should at least have to face charges of dangerous driving, and preferably dangerous driving causing death. Some people point out that if the biker hadn't been speeding, then the cop wouldn't have pulled out to do a three-point U Turn. But I really don't think that any speeding offence is worthy of a death sentence.

LISTENING TO: Roxy Music, "India". No, I don't know why, and am about to go and gargle some sulphuric acid to make myself feel better. Whoopsy! Just changed it for Ryan Adams, "Rock and Roll". Much better.

READING: Neil Gaiman, "Neverwhere", the graphic novel version. Very, very, very good. Be a great movie. Be a bloody great movie. Has anyone told Terry Gilliam about it? (Now is where I read, tomorrow, that the movie's being released next week. It worked that way with Coraline, embarassingly..)

WATCHING: The Pacific. Good battles, well done. I thought they were over the top... then I went and Wikipedia'd Guadalcanal, and have found that, if anything, they've understated the carnage.

More Paper Heroes:

So be it, they thought. So be it.

3.17am, 27 February, 2001.

His vision is blurring, and he knows that loss of blood is close to making him black out. His hands flutter to the wheel, but the massive vehicle is running on autopilot, and flings itself into the Devil’s Bend. The twin Lycoming turbine engines howl behind him, and marbles of rubber spit from the tyres.
Two miles to go, then I’ll be home. Two miles, at 94 mph, that’s, god dammit, think. How long? Stay awake, stay alert.
His head is starting to nod. He won’t make it. Best to hit the distress signal, let Jenson and Sparrow know he was hurt. Autopilot will take you the rest…
No, not Sparrow. Sparrow’s dead, old man. Dead, No time for regrets now. Get back to the cave.
Blood is dripping from the cowl. Using his teeth, he fumbles a gauntlet off his fist, and pulls the cowl back.
An incarnadine river flows over his face. The thick taste of copper floods his mouth.
The cowl had been holding the blood in. Scalp wound only, they bleed a lot. God dammit. That’s not what’s causing this dizziness. It could be the arrow through the lung, or the mess that used to be a right foot. Christ. Autopilot’s on. Relax. Think, go back, go back over it all. Was there anything I could have done different?

They had come, fluttering in the night, their voices a million ultra-sonic squeaks in the cloud-strewn sky. His skin crawled a little under the poly-carb armour, and he wondered how much longer he could stay like this. He’s older now, too old, but no wiser. He still patrols every night. He still hangs from the sides of buildings, listening to the voices within, as they plot their intricate schemes. Damn them. Damn them all. Corporate theft was not only widespread, but encouraged. Damn this criminal fool in the White House, this new president, this bumbling fool who had crawled into office like a craven dog, who not only encourages this theft, but stimulates and legalises it.
Tonight, he’d heard one of New York’s richest men, a man with whom he might share a quiet drink at the Club during the day, a man who he might have called a friend, a trusted friend, and who, god dammit! God dammit! A man who was betraying the trust!
Clive Roberts IV owns and runs a multi-national company, with interests in high-tec weaponry, shipping, airlines, and, of course, the media.
This man, Clive Roberts IV, oh yes we can’t forget that Roman I V, can we Clive, employs over 70,000 people in the USA More than half that number were working right here in New York, and then there was the 90 or 100 thousand who worked offshore. We can almost excuse the sweatshop labour in Viet Nam, Thailand, Malaya, and Indonesia, can’t we, Clive: poorly paid and badly treated though they were, they were still better off than many of their fellow citizens. But not by much.
What strikes at the heart of the black-clad man is the fact that this friend had just admitted within range of a well-placed and well-hidden microphone that he was bilking his American workers of their pension funds. What does a man who has ready access to billions want with more millions? Crusader flicked at a moth fluttering in front of his eyes, and tried to control his anger. The moth flits away, and cracks against the sheer wall before coming back. Crusader’s sensors go to automatic, and his suit feeds him an alert. The moth is, God dammit, a bug! He’s been seen. He crawls rapidly up the wall, his progress followed by the tiny flying camera. It keeps well out of arm’s reach, and tracks his progress.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXXI

The horse isn't dead, and there's still some flogging to be done. The Roman Catholic Church has done some foul things in the poast - instigating the Crusades, establishing the Inquisition, etc - and their record over the child rape horror is right up there.

Over the past few weeks they've ineptly, and scandalously, tried diverting the spotlight.

1: They've dragged up the old chestnut of homosexuality. Apparently the raping of children wasn't "caused' by peadophilic priests. It was done by gay men, dressed in black frocks. Even half-brained people know there's no connection between homosexuality and peadophilia. Blaming gays for the rape of children by Catholic priests is nothing short of evil. Not as evil as the rapes, but it's getting there.

2: Apparently the rape of children by Catholic Priests is something that all Christians must beg forgiveness for. Ratzinger himself, oh Pope Infallible, has trotted this line out. The Church protects the rapists, while Mrs Brown down the road assumes the guilt. I can't figure that one out, but it must make some sort of perverted sense to the Crows of Rome.

3: The children themselves instigated the molestations. They led the Priests into temptation, apparently, and such was the power of their deceit and guile that good men were led from walking the Paths of Righteousness to the Road of Wickedness. It seems to me that their god is not only weak, but in allowing the rape of children it must be a close ally of Satan. Actually, the Satan that is believed in by these so-called Christians is a hell of a lot more honest than the Sky-God they call Jehovah. What a sneaky and horrible bastard their God's turned out to be.

Foaming at the mouth with their deceitful excuses, the gold and red-clad Cardinals of the Catholic Church should resign en masse, and turn the wearer of Peter's ring into the gutters shame.

The Vatican City was given sovereign statehood by fascist leader Benito Mussolini. It's far beyond time that this exalted status was withdrawn, and the criminal leaders of the church were treated to the full strength of civil and secular law. Recognition of this foul country should be withdrawn. Write to the Prime Minister today, and demand that New Zealand once again lead the world - this time by refusing to give residents of the Vatican City any form of diplomatic status or immunity. I am.

LISTENING TO: Van Morrison, "Poetic Champions Compose". It is, i think, the best album he made. And he's made some great ones.

READING: "White Rage", Campbell Armstrong. I discovered this writer twenty years ago when he published a series of books dealing with a Terrorist for hire. They were excellent yarns, and the writing was sublime. I've re-discovered him: he's now writing about a shabby cop in Glasgow. He writes as well as, if not better than, James Lee Burke.

More Paper Heroes.

It was possibly the first time in his life that he had been content.
The statue had been surrounded in bamboo scaffolding, and Prester was only one of forty men on the seemingly fragile walkways, working on one part or another of the statue. He knelt, and carefully opened the sandalwood box containing the gold leaf. He licked his forefinger, and ran it along the top leaf. It peeled up, as it always did. Less then two inches long, and beaten and rolled so thin it was almost transparent, the gold fluttered a moment before wrapping itself around Prester’s finger. He closed the box, and stood, looking at the metal glow. He held his golden finger up, and intoned quietly “E.T. phone home.”
He humphed at his silliness, and reached up, applying the gold to the nose, ready to beat it into place with a small wooden mallet.
A glint of light caught his attention, and his old instincts told him what it was – sunlight off a lens. He shrugged. He had no desire to hurt anyone, and no one knew he was here.
Three hundreds yards away, Nguyen Van Tran, Colonel in the old North Vietnamese Army, adjusted the telescopic sight. He had been in the tree for an hour now, finding exactly the right shooting position. He had it now: the hard points of his body – elbows, hips, knees, feet – felt welded to the branches and trunk.
He allowed one click down, and the cross hairs settled over Prester’s heart. The Colonel recalled the time he had helped put the scars which criss-crossed Prester’s chest there; it had been a fruitless interrogation session. The first pressure was taken on the trigger. Nguyen breathed out, breathed halfway in.
In this microscopic point of time Nguyen remembered the humiliation he had suffered after torturing the American soldier. Prester had somehow contrived to escape, and had rampaged through the prison camp.
One of the men killed on that appalling night of violence, flame, and blood had been Nguyen’s son; but even that wound had finally scarred over. What had made the stocky man’s mind snap had been the re-education sessions, when his ego had been buried under a torrent of slogans and epithets, a river of sleepless nights, a deluge of pain.
The trigger released the firing pin.
The bullet, propelled by 128 grains of Chinese gunpowder, flew straight and true. It was a semi-coated slug of metal: the tip was soft lead which, when it struck Prester’s chest, peeled out and open, so the bullet mushroomed and careened on a mad dance of death through bone and muscle and organs and blood.
It pirouetted through John Prester’s chest, and exited, leaving a hole the size of a saucer in his back. Just the systolic shock of being hit by a bullet like that would kill a strong man. This bullet excavated lung and heart, blowing them into bloody rags. The sudden loss of blood pressure starved the brain, but Prester’s mind was still active when he toppled from the scaffolding.
When they looked at his body after the hundred-foot fall to the ground, the monks were impressed by the fact that, for the first time, there was a smile on the tormented man’s face.
So be it, they thought. So be it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

UnReal Estate

Like many people, I hang onto every word spoken by a real estate agent as though they were spoken by the lord god above.

Sorry - I drank a bottle of Tui an hour ago, and it went straight to my head.

The thing is this: I was listening to Morning Report this morning, and Geoff Robinson (the good cop) was interviewing some character who is, apparently, the Head Blowhard of the Real Estate Institute. They were having a Krispie and a quiet cuppa with their conversation - or so it seemed - when the Head Liar for the Real Estate Insurrection said something strange. They'd been banging on about the Chinese desire to buy 70 North Island farms, and the Chief Dissembler said - I'm paraphrasing here - that "there are a lot of New Zealand buyers out their who want these farms."

Robinson's fangs bared a little. "Really? So why aren't they, well, buying?"

The Wily Spiniard said "Well, they can't get the finance. The banks won't give them the money. What we need is New Zealand lenders to front up with the credit so these buyers can ... buy."

I think even he realised how stupid he sounded. I'd like to buy a Jaguar S-Type, but no-one's going to be stupid enough to front up with the dosh for me. Just because I want to buy something doesn't make me a buyer. It makes me a wannabe.

So when a Real Estate Liar tells you that there are dozens of buyers out there who want to pay top dollar for your house, farm, or second-born child... ask yourself: is the Real Estate BS Artist simply identifying anyone who breathes as being a buyer, or is the truth a little further from that?

LISTENING TO: Fiona Pears, "Fire & Light." It deserves lots of listens.

READING: "The Reluctant Hero", by Michael Dobbs. I think Dobbs might have spent some time as a real estate shonk-artist, because his hero is a politician with principles.

WATCHING: Tonight? The Legends of the Seeker. because I think that I might be on it. Look! Second peasant to the left! Um - I forgot to watch last week, when i was definitely on it. Yep - the one cowering behind the lady with the great arse....

More Paper Heroes.....

Blunt was already too weak to keep hold of the sword, and the last thing he saw before a darting bayonet found his eye was the puzzled look on Sean Whistler’s face as a knife sawed at his broad Irish throat.

11.37am, 30 November, 1987

John Prester murmured the same eight-word mantra over and over as he delicately pressed and moulded the fine, fluttering gold leaf onto the brow of the huge Buddha.
The statue stood 112 feet tall, and had been discovered in the Thai forests only two years previously. When he had heard of it, Prester had felt his call home.
For too many years now, Prester had railed and raged against the demons that tormented him. After his years of insanity Back Home, during which time he had nearly destroyed a small town and done four years hard labour in a high security federal prison, he had gone back to the Land of Bad Things to rescue men who had been held in P.O.W. camps for ten years after the cessation of hostilities between the USA and Vietnam. His mission had been made easier by the fact that the Vietnamese had, in fact, been glad to get rid of the P.O.Ws; they’d been an embarrassment, and a hindrance to any future hopes of trading with the Western world.
Prester was a man who had been bred to soldier. His hardscrabble early life had given him the flinty instincts necessary to survive as an infantryman at times that would have killed most other men. His reaction times would have put a fighter pilot’s to shame, and he had been blessed with extraordinarily good eyesight, and an innate ability to judge ranges accurately, out to a thousand metres.
John Prester had trained harder, worked harder, and achieved more than any of his Special Forces contemporaries. He had been pure soldier, a man who had sublimated his soul to the art of killing and survival. He could snatch the life from a man with gun, knife, rope, and hand. He had used a throwaway ballpoint pen to kill, and a Playboy magazine was a lethal weapon in his hands.
He was, in short, a highly refined killing machine. He had been taught and trained not to think about the consequences of his killing, and so he had taken life without regret, without concern.
And then he had been wounded badly while in Cambodia, and had been nursed back to health by an old Buddhist monk. Prester’s Cambodian was fluent, and he had talked and listened to the old man during his seven month long convalescence.
When Prester had made it back to his headquarters in the Cumh Ran valley, he found that he had been posted as KIA.
There were no relatives to be informed – he had simply been a journal entry in the Brigade’s books. The regimental records has been corrected, and he had been sent home, to try and survive in a country that was, if anything, even more hostile toward him than the Viet Cong had been.
After his subsequent adventures in Viet Nam and Afghanistan, Prester returned to the jungles he knew and loved, to find sanity and reality in the simple day-to-day life of a monk. So it was that now John Prester was sweating under a humid, metallic blue sky, painstakingly applying micron-thin gold leaf to the massive brow of a cheerful, fat, and very tall Buddha. It was possibly the first time in his life that he had been content.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Way Down Upon the Waihopai River....

I heard today that Simon Power, the Minister for Justice, has started a review of the “Claim of Right” defence that the Waihopai Wonks successfully used. It seems he’s a bad loser.

This review is unfortunate. Of course, many things that the Nats do is unfortunate, but this one’s going over the mark.

The problem wasn’t the law. The problem was the ineptness of the Police Prosecutor. S/he should have known that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The moment this shabby trio started claiming to know that the Waihopai base was being used to support the killing and torture of innocent civilians in Iraq, and that they therefore had a moral duty to disable or destroy it, they should have been asked to provide proof. They can believe all they want, as long as they can back their beliefs up with a few facts. They can say they know all manner of things – as long as they can prove that knowledge.

Remember: the older meaning of “prove” is this: to test. I cannot find anywhere that their knowledge / faith / belief / ravings were tested in any way.

This doesn’t stop them being sincere in their beliefs. But nobody should take their beliefs seriously without some form of proof or sensible justification.

Be that as it may. The prosecutor failed in his duty, and a jury made a bum decision because of it. The law didn’t fail me as a citizen of this fair land: the lawyer did.

I think the law is a good one. If I believe that someone’s about to hurt my wife, I would feel quite justified in using force in stopping them – as long as I could later demonstrate to a reasonable degree that my fear was justified.

Simon Power, against all appearances, didn’t come down in the last shower. He is motivated by a desire to limit of your freedom. Far from Labour being the “Nanny State” that the Nats and ACT were constantly wittering on about, we are now finding that it is the Nats who are prepared to ride rough-shod over your hard-won liberties.

I know it’s a cliché – but there are foreign graveyards filled with young New Zealand men who fought to the limits of their lives for our freedom. And while I don’t necessarily see Rhymin’ Simon Power as having a hidden desire to grow a toothbrush moustache, I am convinced that if he railroads through a revision to a perfectly good law simply because he doesn’t like a decision that 12 jurors made… then he’ll soon be goose-stepping his way over other fundamental freedoms that you and I enjoy.

I met a grand old lady the other day. 96 years old, spry, physically active, and a razor sharp mind. Funny as a bottled fart. She wasn’t a member of the Library, but did want to borrow a book, so I had to sign her up. She looked a little askance at that.“But what if my prayers work?” she asked. “What prayers,” I asked in return.

It seems she prays every night that she will wake up dead the next morning. “I’m sick of life,” she told me. “Just want to die. Seen to much life, too many deaths. Just want to die.”

She then told me that one of the staff tries to jolly her out of this mind-set. “Keeps on telling me I’ve had a good innings. But I never played cricket. Soccer was my game.. and any game that lasts for 96 goals is one that’s gone on too long.”

I can’t fault her reasoning.

Listening to: Cream, "Wheels of Fire".

Reading: Nothing. About to start a new book, but I don't know which one yet. I'm tempted to re-read an old Nelson de Mille book, "Word of Honour". His best one. Along with his other two best ones...

Watching: Hmm. Watched "The Pacific" last night. They've left great huge bits off the front of the story, but the shoot 'em up was spectacularly trippy.

Paper Heroes.... now, where were we? Oh, yes....

If the light had been better, neither man would have died. As it was, it was the cold turning point of the dawn, when furtive figures are simply shapes in the grey, where the Devil’s purpose can be hidden in shadows.
But on this morning, the morning after a great and decisive battle, the morning’s thousand shades of grey hid no evil spectres: just four young and very frightened French soldiers. The previous day’s battle had been their first, and would be their last. The noise and terror and confusion of the fight had seen them separated from their comrades, and they had hidden through the night, listening to the after battle noises: the cries and groans of the wounded, the scattered shots as the red-coated goddams killed wounded horses – shots which they believed were actually aimed at French wounded. All they wanted was to get home, and they believed with all their hearts that if they were caught, they would die.
The occasional flat clap of a musket being discharged was ignored by the two English-speaking men. They were accustomed to this sound – the sound of troops finding wounded horses and killing them with a single shot, or of clearing their musket’s load after a few hours on the picquet-line.
Camp followers, women and children, would be on the field of slaughter also, cutting the throats of men too weak to protest, and then rifling their pockets for their pitiful treasures. Some officers may be helped back to the doctors, but it was too late for most now: the battle had been won and lost hours ago, and their wounds had begun to fester.
Private soldiers were left to die. That was the way of it. If they hadn’t been on the Surgeon’s butcher’s block already, then they would perish in pain and in fear and with the blood gurgling in their throats and lungs and ears.
Neither man noticed the hurried whispers from behind the hedge. Blunt’s ears, which had saved his life on more occasions than he could count, failed him on this occasion. Sean Whistler, the friend he had fought beside in more battles than he had fingers, raised the brandy barrel.
“There’ll be no more fighting for us now, Sir. No more fighting.”
Whistler opened the spigot, and let the last mouthful of the raw spirit to pour into his mouth. He shut his eyes, lest the brandy splash into them, but the flash of the two muskets being fired still registered red behind his eyelids.
The first shot killed the dog. Then Blunt was down, a ball as wide as his thumb deep in his belly, but he had still managed to draw his brutally heavy sword as he fell. A scream was leaving his lips as the pain struck home.
“Christ,” roared Whistler, and with the word he shrugged the huge seven-barrelled gun from his shoulder. It was a gun that only an immensely strong man could handle, with recoil that would throw smaller men to the ground. Whistler thumbed the hammer back, and squeezed the trigger, aiming the gun at the four black shadows that erupted through the hedges. The powder was wet as porridge; he had been walking in the rain for an hour, and as the sound of the gun’s hammer falling impotently onto the frizzen-pan reached his ears, a 17-inch long French bayonet was thrust into his chest.
Blunt’s belly was on fire, and he still hadn’t managed to draw a breath when he swung the sword. Razor sharp, it ripped through a Frenchman’s Achilles tendon, and the man fell, leaving his bayonet buried deep within Whistler’s lungs. Blunt slashed the sword back, whimpering now, for he knew that he was going to die stupidly on this muddy path. He drove the sword up, taking a second man under the chin, the blade spearing through tongue and gristle and bone to shatter into the soldier’s brain.
Blunt was already too weak to keep hold of the sword, and the last thing he saw before a darting bayonet found his eye was the puzzled look on Sean Whistler’s face as a knife sawed at his broad Irish throat.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXX

Apologies for missing the blog on Thursday night: i had connectivity problems. For some reason my computer/notebook device wouldn't talk to the wifi thingy, and so I was isolated from the rest of the world. Yes - the huigely big webby thing spurned me.

But now we're mates again, and it's all due to my own technical prowess. I did nothoing. It just, well, fixed itself. How can this be? I am mystified by these things, and wonder if I shopuld hire a five year old to stand by while I play at being technically competent.

The Waihopai Wonks have been in the news again, this time because some bright spark thought it'd be a good idea to sue them for the cost of repairing or replacing what theyb destroyed. It'd be a civil case. I gather this changes the burden of proof requirements.

I approve. I heard a couple of them interviewed by Kathryn Whatserface on National Radio, and they were mouth-foamers. They were claiming things about the Waihopai installation, and saying that the Chied of Defence Staff, the Bossman of our Intelligence service, and the prime Minister were all unaware of these things. Whoa! Back up the horse, Cedric! All these high-level tie-wearing Public Service functionaries didn't know this stuff, but an unemployed priest and his barely literate teacher chum did know?

I cannot believe a jury actually swallowed their bilge. I have no doubt about their sincerity, and that that they really do believe all this tripe. But they still haven't produced any proof of what they claim. If thye civil case does go ahead, I should hope the judge will demand some form of proof from them. If it turns out they're right, and they did save lives, then perhaps they should be congratulated. if they can't prove their accusations, then they should be held liable for at least the financial burden they're asking me to shoulder. And if their actions prevented a suicide bomber from being apprehended, and allowed him or her to kill people, then they must assume a portion of responsibility for those deaths.

The whole mining thing seems to be dying a death. I'm fascinated by this government. Some bright spark has an idea, and they float it out there to see how the public react. It's policy by poll, and it stinks. They don't have the couragew of any conviction. All they have is is Grinning Bill, Smiling John, plum-faced Nick, and Skeletor. Wind 'em up, set them to talking, and if the hoi-polloi holler too loudly, quietly drop it. Sometimes I think the only one in Government with any credibility at all is Hone Harawera. At least he means what he says.

She was 16 years old in 1941. The Germans were in charge of holland, and she was being used by the Underground to courier bits and pieces - false papers, forged ration books, the occasional weapon - under the noses of the Hienies. On one occasion she had five revolvers and two hundred rounds of ammunition in her saddlebags, and she'd been stopped by a roadblock. A bored German Feldwebel was about to open her saddlebags to effect a search...

But, a few miles above, a damaged Wellington bomber managed to jettison its load of 500-pound bombs. One bomb landed mere metres from this little tableau, and exploded. Ditty, the child, was blown thirty metres away, and was badly concussed. The three German soldiers were all killed, and her bicycle - with its load of weaponry - was toitally destroyed.

Ditty is now a New Zealander. She met her future NZ husband in 1944 when he, a downed airman, was helped by the same Underground group she was a part of. he escaped back to England, survived the war, and returned to Holland to find the young woman he'd fallen in love with.

She is now alone in New Zealand, crippled by the bastard arthritis, and going blind. She is one of my readers, and she is astonishing.

LISTENING TO: The best of Credence Clearwater Revival. More fun the beach Boys ever were.

READING: Nothing new. The James Rollins book is nearing the end, and it's been fun.

MOVIES WATCHED: "State of Play", starring Russell Crowe. Not bad, not great.

TV MUST SEE: The remake of "The Prisoner". It's on late on TV1, Monday night. Patrick McGoohan would, I think, be very happy. He wrote and starred in the original, which was must-see TV back in its day. This is must-see TV now.

Paper Heroes:

The pain stops.
Robert looks at what he has done, and faints from the horror of it.
Robert, on this morning, has not been alone. In just three minutes of insanity, over 48,000 suburban Calcutta people died. A further 16,000 survive with the knowledge that they killed their families: their brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, and children. Most of them, fortunately, have been driven mad by the experience. They know what they have done, they know what happened, but they do not know why or how they could have been driven to it. For them, life ended with the lives of their families, of their loved ones.
This is the third time that a catastrophic explosion of violence had happened in the world in the past month. Two weeks ago it had happened in Manchester, England, where 1700 people had hacked, chopped, and beaten each other into a horrific orgy of death. And two weeks before then a small village on the Russian steppes had simply ceased to exist – with the loss of nearly 900 souls.

This is why, at the end of June, 2385, it was decided that Andrew Blunt and his friend Sean Whistler had to die at the Battle of Waterloo. It was also decided that John Prester had to be killed in 1987, and that others must also die before their time had come.

4.20am (approx.), 19 June, 1815.
The moist wind that blew gently over the battlefield carried with it the bitter coppery smell of blood mixed with shit, piss, fear, and glory. Skeins of gunpowder smoke still seemed to cling to grass at the sides of the hedgerow-bound pathway the two men were staggering along, followed by Nosey, Blunt’s rangy wolfhound.
The first grey light of dawn had been playing with the eastern horizon for twenty minutes, and the two men were glad of the light. It had taken the better part of an hour to walk the last mile: the hedgerows seemed to have taken on a habit of leaping out at a man in the dark. The coming dawn had taught the devious plants a thing or two about staying still.
The taller of the men was drunk. Riotously, uproariously drunk. He was a huge man, solidly built, with a plain, even face. He carried a 10-litre brandy barrel that seemed as small as a baby’s bottle in his wide, spatulate hands. He was dressed in a vast coat that had split down its back when he had fallen to the ground, giggling at an unspoken joke.
His companion, while shorter, was still a fine figure of a man. He, too, was drunk – but he had never had the capacity for being both drunk and cheerful at the same time.
If the light had been better, an observer would have seen his face. A face, which, in weariness, was lean and angular, scarred down the left cheek, giving him a rakish, even devilish appearance.
“Christ, Sean,” growled the smaller man. “Is there no way you can keep the noise down?”
“Holy God on His Cross, Colonel,” spluttered Sean Whistler. “Do you know what old Nosey did today?”
Nosey is the name the English private soldier gave to their commander, Arthur Wellesly, Lord Wellington. It is also the name Blunt has given his dog; it amuses him to give orders to Wellington’s namesake.
“Yesterday,” said Andrew Blunt, civilian, sourly. “It’s dawn, we’re both drunk, you’re making enough bloody noise to waken a bloody banshee, and the bloody battle was yesterday, you’re hogging the bloody brandy, and I want to go home.”
“He bloody beat Boney!” exulted the huge Irishman. “We bloody beat Boney! Have a drink!”
“No. No thanks,” said Blunt. He was despondent, weary, savagely bitter, and unemployed again. Yesterday morning he had been Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Blunt, with a roving commission under Prince William of Orange. Yesterday afternoon, during the course of the battle that had broken Napoleon’s power once and for all, Blunt had resigned his commission by taking the simple expedient of shooting the Prince. He was annoyed that he had only wounded the incompetent bastard: he had been shooting to kill.
Whistler looked at his friend’s face in the gathering light.
“Sweet Jesus, but you’re in a sour mood. I’ll finish this brandy by myself, so I will.”
And so he did.
If the light had been better, neither man would have died. As it was, it was the cold turning point of the dawn, when furtive figures are simply shapes in the grey, where the Devil’s purpose can be hidden in shadows.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Good Sandwich

There are any number of good sandwiches. That's a really stupid statement that demands an answer to the question that arises: what in the nameof Nero's Blistered Balls is "any number"?
Well, 3, at a guess.
Anyway. I got lazy the other day, and suggested to the Redhead that we have a Kinky sandwich for our evening meal. She knew what I was talking about, immediately. For those among you who haven't heard about Kinky friedman, for shame. Go to your local Library and get a Kinky or two.
From the Kinky cookbook (our most bedraggled cookbook, by the way): Ratso's fried Egg Sandwich.
If America has done nothing else, the nation should be praised with cries of Hosanna, simply because of this sandwich.


Peanut Butter.
Spring Onion
Cheddar cheese (I use Edam).
Fried Egg.
Crispy-fried bacon.
A simdgin of French-style mustard.
Salth n' pepper to taste.

First, set your bacon on to fry 'til it's nice n' crispy.

Then start your eggs to frying. You'll want 'em over-easy.

While it's frying, toast some decent bread. I use Mollenberg's finest, but I'm informed this works well on white toast, too.

Spread one slice of the hot toast with butter, a thin scraping of peanut butter, and then a thin layer of your favourite red jam. I prefer boysenberry, Jenny breaks my legs if I don't give her strawberry jam.

Upon this exotic (unless you're American) misture, drop a tablespoon-fullof thinly sliced spring onion, and spread it around 'til it's even.

Pop on a thin slice of cheese.

A couple ofslice of beetroot get popped on around about now.

Slip on your fried egg, and enough bacon to make a pig look at you bitterly.

Top with the other slice of toast, upon which you've spread butter and aslodge of French Mustard.

You may need a toothpick to hold the thing together.

Eat. Dribble.

LISTENING TO: Jimi Hendricks, "Experience". All Along the Watchtower's blasting my eardromes apart right now. I'm hearing that goat's jawbone* clacking away... the man was a fucking genius.

READING: James Rollins, "The Doomsday Key". James Rollins writes the literary equivalent to the Big Dumb Action Movie, but with a higher body count. More fun than Tolstoy, I can tell you.

WATCHED AND RECOMMENDED: "Alice". A two-part offering from the SciFi Channel, broadcast on Prime. The special effects cost about 73 cents (US), and it made Tim Burton's recent "Alice in Wonderland" look, sound, and seem stoopid. Brilliantly written, reasonably well acted, and I'd watch it again. And i am finding it difficult waiting for the new Doctor Who.

WORD OF THE DAY: Death. I lost one of my old people today, and within a week I'll lose the young Pommy joker with the brain tumour. This job has its highs. These aren't among them, but.. well, I'll talk about it on Thursday.

*Yeah. Apparently only a clacking goat's jawbone could make exactly the sound Hendrix wanted. And yes, you can hear it.

Paper Heroes:

And, a few short weeks later, a plan was made by a dozen insane people.
The Blood.
Chapter One.
7.50am, June 17, 2385
Robert Singh, a prosperous textile agent living in a tidy suburban street in Calcutta, wakes to the sound of his alarm-cat purring. He smiles and pats the animal, which stretches luxuriantly and yawns.
“Hello, Biggsy,” Robert murmurs to the cat.
“Ten to eight, Robert,” purrs the cat. It sounds like Marlene Dietrich.
“What? I asked you to wake me at 7.30!”
“Angelique asked me to give you another few minutes,” replies Biggsy, her voice gentle. “She and Indira are preparing your favourite breakfast to celebrate your forty-fifth birthday.”

In three minutes time the alarm- cat, Robert’s wife Angelique Singh, and their daughter Indira will be dead, and Robert will not know or care why and how it came to be that he killed them. Robert Singh will be quite insane.

Robert gets out of bed, and makes for the en-suite bathroom.
“The first piss of the day is the best piss of the day,” he says to himself, as he has done every morning for the past thirty years.
Life has been good to Robert. By the age of 22, he had gained a Master’s degree from New Canterbury University graduate, majoring in bioscience. His specialty, monomolecular filaments, had been well used by the Calcutta textile firm, which had offered him a partnership in exchange for his research. The offer had been made possible purely because of the Eneribbon, which had made energy plentiful, affordable, and clean. The firm’s founder became a friend, then father-in-law. Life was, indeed, good – especially when he could take the first piss of the day in peace.
Sometimes it took a moment for the flow to start, and this morning is no exception. He aims carefully, relaxing his shoulders – and is distracted by his tooth-glass vibrating on the bathroom vanity’s marble surface.
Earthquake? Surely not.
The last earthquake recorded had been over 70 years ago, when a Persian canton had been decimated.
He ignores the glass as his flow starts, and the splash of his water is music to his ears when the startling pain explodes behind Robert’s eyes. The pain is so intense that he falls against the wall, his urine arcing up to splash back against his chest. Another sabre-slash of pain bursts in his skull, and he screams with the agony of it all. Blood bursts from his nose, jets down his chest.
He reels back into the bedroom, to see Miss Biggs in a frenzy, scratching and tearing at the door. The cat is screaming, and has fouled herself. Robert, whose gentleness is legendary, picks the cat up, and ignoring the swipes of razor-sharp claws, rips its head off. Blood from the claw wounds splashes onto the wall to mix with the cat’s blood. As Robert reaches to open the door, it shakes with a blow from the hallway. He rips the door open, and instinctively throws out a hand to deflect the axe-head. Three of his fingers fly from his left hand to lie twitching on the floor. The axe cracks into the doorframe, and his daughter, dear sweet Indira is tugging at it, trying to free the blade from the aluminium frame’s grip. She, too, is screaming, and blood is pouring from her nose and ears. Robert’s good hand, bunched in a fist, smashes at Indira’s face, and she is flung back against the wall. He wrenches the axe free from the doorframe, and with a single brutal chop he cuts deeply into his beloved daughter’s head. Bright blood splashes, and the pain comes again and again, nauseating waves that coruscate through him, buckling his knees and blinding his eyes.
A scream from downstairs mingles with Robert’s own cries of pain, and it seems that he can hear the panicked, pain-and-anger-filled cries of his neighbours. No time to think of that. His mind is fogged with red, and the pain slaps at him again, and again. The bellows from his throat are tearing at his vocal chords, and his face is now a horror of blood and snot and crazed eyes. He reels to the stairway – where Angelique attacks him with a spoon.
A tiny part of him is still capable of rational thought, and cries out in protest against his actions, while also shrieking in laughter at the thought of being done to death by a spoon. But the voice is swamped, is buried in the reality of the pain and the rage and the terror and the horror and the lust and the anger and the need to kill, and to kill, and to kill.
Angelique has slammed the spoon into his left eye-socket, and the eyeball pops out and dangles on threads down his cheek. He swats her aside, over the balcony. Even above her shrieks and his inchoate screams, he can hear her legs snap. He races down the stairs, and she crawls toward him, screaming obscenities and inarticulate shouts of rage. He picks up a heavy glass vase and smashes it into her head then kicks into her body, feeling his own toe bones snapping under the fury of his attack.

The pain stops.
Robert looks at what he has done, and faints from the horror of it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sunday Scribbles IXXX

It's just gone 8am, and the day is looking perfect. I've been reading a couple of my favourite blogs, and occasionally looking outside: a light sunshower's comingdown now, and the heat of the sun coming through the window is brushing my skin. It's a beaut morning, folks. Makes me think of how much fun it was to be five years old.

Jenny worked yesterday, and came home to a few treats. There was me, of course, fully dressed, which is a bonus. I'd spent a couple of hours making sure that things were right for her: there was the smell of warm bread through the house, there was an icy gin and tonic waiting, and I was busy in the kitchen. We're eating a little earlier in the evening these days, so by 6 I had the pasta on the table.. and it was, even if I say so myself, delicious. We sat and talked and chatted and laughed for an hour and a half, and killed a very respectable bottle of rose. I had old favourites on the stereo: Dean Martin, Doris Day, Sammy Davis jr, Bobby Darin. The only thing missing was the red-checkered napkins: for a ruistic peasant=sty;le feed a pair of flash white linen napkins don't quite cut it.

I am, obviously, the perfect husband.

We discussed what we'd do if we won Lotto. It's a funny thing, but since we got made redundant and lost everything, our needs aren't great. I'd buy an old 1964 / 65 three litre Rover for myself, and have it done up: air con, a good stereo, leather seats re-upholstered, motor rebuild, catalytic converter, etc. Very good examples of these grand old cars are available for around $13,000, so I should be able to get a perfect one remade for less than $30,000. Jenny wants a PT Cruiser. There's no telling. We would buy a little place in Waihi, or nearby. And the kids would all do well. Then we'd travel a bit. Jenny wants to see the great American civil war battle sites... and Venice. I want to travel through Spain, Portugal, and England. It would be a terrific tour.

Heard on the radio yesterday that someone (don't know who) is suggesting religious studies should be taught at school. I heartily concur. Like it or not, much of the aggro between West and Middle east does have religion at its core. Our kids need to understand what's going on. We are a Judeo-Christian civilisation, and those two religions have provided us with most of ours laws and societal bricks. The Judeo-Muslim civilisations gave us the core of our sciences: mathematics, astronomy, ship-building, navigation. Our children need to know what has made us, and our Muslim / Buddhist / Hindu / whatever neighbours what we all are.

They don't need religious instruction: I, like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, consider that a form of child abuse. But we do need religious studies. Christianity and Islam have given the world a great deal that is positive. The Bible and the Q'ran are magnificent pieces of literature, and our kids need to know what's in them in order to understand our future.

LISTENING TO: Carol King, "Tapestry". It's one of the great albums.

READING: Elizabeth Longford, "Wellington". It's the definitive biography of one of recent history's greatest men.

MOVIES: We watched Nicolas Cage's "Knowing" last night. It surprised me: intelligent, thoughtful, sentimental.

Paper Heroes:

The Heinlein battery is created: a fist-sized unit, it is capable of storing enough energy to power a family air-car for more than 50,000 kilometres before recharging.
Every person in the Commonwealth is routinely inoculated with nanobot machines at birth. These machines flood the bloodstream, doing a more efficient job of scouring disease then white blood cells had ever done. They speed recovery from wounds and breakages. Working alongside the ever-practical nanobots were the specialised embots: when the Commonwealth decides by an overwhelming popular vote that violence and warfare is untenable and illegal, the microbe-sized nanotech computers are programmed to make it extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for a person to contemplate such actions. Embots reacted not to thought, but to the hormonal and bio-chemical changes that trigger the body’s fight-or-flight reactions. As the decades rolled by, they became more sophisticated, working directly in the brain to neutralise the mood centres, to modify the synapses that snap into action when violence is contemplated. It literally became impossible to think of harming another person or sentient creature by either omission or commission. There were, however, exceptions: a group of no more than a dozen people at any time had limited embot enhancement. These select few were able to consider, in the abstract, the theory of violence. These people, and their facilities, were the extent of the Commonwealth’s defence expenditure and planning. The individuals involved were, by all measures, insane: their thought patterns were so distant from society’s norms that they were viewed with great suspicion and caution. Not, however, fear: fear was an emotional, bio-chemical, and bio-mechanical response that was enormously difficult to have. Even individuals whose lives were in immediate peril didn’t experience fear. Fear, in most cases, was debilitating, and took a person’s ability to reason away from them. At times of danger, a person relied on their P-See to save them. The planet was populated by a people who lived in complacency: they were safe, they were wealthy, their children were smarter than they were. The solar system was their oyster, and Earth their glittering pearl, nascent with promise, peace, and prosperity.
Then, in May, 2385, the deaths began. And, a few short weeks later, a plan was made by a dozen insane people.