Emanations X

He tries to carve out a space of his own in the landscape, but he only succeeds in stretching it. Five fingers pointing out into the air, pushing the very fabric of his surroundings into unnatural shapes, is not enough. He can enter the warped area without a problem, but every time he does, he is bounced swiftly back into reality. He lands hard on his backside for the fifteenth time that day. Perhaps the glove he is wearing isn’t configured correctly: Jamie could easily have made a mistake. He wipes the dew from his trousers and looks across at the van; the computer equipment and flashing LEDs blinking from within. Maybe just a little tweak wouldn’t do any harm?

The neon green tables and numbers separated by asterisks, dots and dashes were familiar to him from watching Jamie, although the programming was really her domain. He was responsible for designing and building the gloves themselves. Connecting the hardware up to the main system is the easy part; now comes the need for concentration. He finds the section of the table relating to environmental plasticity and rebound, makes a few mental calculations and overwrites six of the numerical entries.

Returning to the outdoors with his re-configured glove in position, he wonders where Jamie has got to. Ten minutes, they’d agreed. Of course, she deserves as much alone time as she wants, but this is all still very new. A single moment of concern washes over him; a tugging in his gut. But he pushes the thought away before it’s fully formed and stretches his arm out in front of him. The mountains begin to twist in his vision as he spreads his fingers. The grass at his feet is suddenly much further away, and the stream appears to flow upwards. This has all become a familiar sight over the last couple of hours, so he takes it as a sign that he hasn’t messed anything up too badly.

But then he sees something different. Something unprecedented. Instead of a mere change to the shape of reality, there is now a crack forming between his body and his surroundings. It’s completely black and without quality. Everything he knows – even the air – is on the other side, and he’s struggling to hold on to the breath in his lungs. He retracts the glove back to his side, but it changes nothing. The crack is growing wider.

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Mind in the Gap

Just a quick note to let you know that Mind in the Gap by C.R. Dudley is available at a special price of just £1.99/$1.99 on Kindle for the next 3 days only! We don’t do discounts very often, so grab your copy while you can via this Universal Amazon Link and explore this unique, multi-dimensional story collection.
Reviews:

“After reading the last piece, I started back at the beginning and experienced the closest thing to a psychedelic epiphany I can imagine without the help of a mind altering substance.” – Pablo Cuzco 

“While this is an incredibly smart book worthy of deep dives and focused attention, it does not change the fact that this book is also pure FUN.” – Logan Ryan Smith

“Clear, elegant and gripping prose turns deep philosophical concepts about the nature of reality into a real page-turner.” – Pete

“Mind-bending, truly original science fiction.” – Kip Koelsch 

“An engrossing exploration into consciousness, identity, and reality itself. A layered multiverse populated by surreal and sometimes outrageous characters, in a sweeping narrative that is skillfully woven throughout seemingly disconnected stories.” – Matthew Davis

Signed paperback copies are also available directly from us at Orchid’s Lantern Press.

Emanations IX

Thinking about myself. Placing judgement thereon. Judgement that was meant for other people, but I can no longer tell the difference. They show me images on a cinema screen of a woman with my hair and my physique in all kinds of conflicting situations. She robs a bank. She climbs a mountain. She takes her six children to the park and smokes a joint. And when she looks to the camera, without a doubt she has my face.

Only I didn’t do any of those things. Not that I remember. And I can’t help but judge those who did.

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe these actions are approximations, or metaphors for things I have done, and they want to see how I react to more explicit versions of my petty crimes and achievements. They want me to judge myself because they can’t decide whether or not I deserve to go to jail. Maybe it’s to introduce empathy into the entertainment/justice system. Or maybe they’re merely giving me a taste of my own medicine.

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Emanations VIII

I found you in a different place. You were all tendrils, mostly black with the occasional flash of colour. I focused on your heart, as I always used to, and it vibrated in perfect time with my watch. The ever-flowing water of the fountain beside you reminded me that time was passing. We didn’t have long.

I don’t think you realised you held the key. I don’t think you realised you were gone from my world, or that the only thing holding you together in that moment was the little piece of tech on my wrist. I don’t think you realised who I was.

I reached out with one tentative arm, though in that place it appeared only as a beam of light. It had to touch you gently enough that you wouldn’t disintegrate, but firmly enough to forge a tight connection. None of the information must be compromised during the transfer, or the key would be lost to the void.

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The Pack

I see them gathered behind the twisted metal fence I walk past on my way home. Black-eyed and spitting out curses. Kicking at the mesh that holds them back. Leering and screeching like mad men against a high-rise backdrop.

But I must walk along the crazy paving.

The children they still are quake beneath the weight of their shadows. They’re scared. Scared that no one wants their 2 cents. Scared that no one is coming.

“You shouldn’t be out walking on your own, little lady,” one says. “There are very bad men out there who would do very bad things to you. I’m a feminist, myself.”

I pick up my pace, but he matches it.

“Hey, didn’t you hear? I’m a feminist. That means you have to listen to me.”

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Beneath the World, A Sea – Chris Beckett

I can’t tell you how excited I was to discover this book. Like many other reviewers, I was initially pulled in by the magnificent cover but stayed for the promise of unconscious mind exploration: exactly what I love to read.

A policeman is called to investigate a number of killings in the Submundo Delta: a highly unusual but naturally occurring basin in South America. To reach it he must travel by boat through the Zona del Olvido: a region people forget the instant they leave it, including everything they did there. (Just like sleep, I thought. A gateway to the unconscious.) But the creatures that are being killed aren’t people. Not exactly…

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Biohacked & Begging – Stephen Oram

Biohacked & Begging is the second volume of Stephen Oram’s Nudge the Future series, which collects the best of his short near-future fiction pieces.

Containing 25 stories across 170 pages, some of these are obviously very short, but there are so many ideas packed in that it’s a real achievement. It’s a brevity that suits the fast-moving culture we’ve found ourselves in, where apps compete for our attention and information is trucked into our minds at every second. You can easily read a story on a coffee break or commute, though I have to say I found myself racing through this in only a couple of sittings in the end. They’re moreish, see. Like those weird flavours of crisps that you think you’ll try once for novelty and move on, then find yourself licking the packet an hour later… But maybe that’s just me.

Oram forgets no one in his vignettes of future life. Young and old, rich and poor; we’re all hurtling forwards with a real possibility of bio-hacked bodies, behaviour-based payment systems and AI-integrated societies. It will affect all of us differently, especially with an approaching climate crisis and political turmoil layered on top. This makes Biohacked & Begging a necessary kind of book for our time, as well as a necessary form. How better to open eyes, start conversations and play around with ideas than in speculative narrative? This is the kind of science fiction that has always been fuel for imagination and drive: far enough from reality that we thank our lucky stars but near enough that we’re left contemplating. What if that was me?

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Emanations VII

And why shouldn’t he be naked, as he scuttles around my kitchen like a rat? I’d probably do the same in his situation. Harry’s lost his cloak, see. His cloak of mirrors, made from fragments of every surface, sound, scent or taste in which he’s found a piece of his soul reflected back at him. Fairground mirrors are ten a penny; true mirrors are a treasure to find. So when he comes across one, he cuts it out, stitches it to the others. Trouble is, mirrors change just as we all do. Sometimes they become foggy or scratched, or show versions of us we’ve long since surpassed. Sometimes they show us the future, and we don’t recognise those at all. Cloaks become lost.

So now, in my kitchen, he lifts up linoleum squares to caress the concrete beneath. He sniffs around the waste bin. Then he cries until I put his favourite drone track through my loudest speakers so that he might hear it in this new context.
“If I can find the mirror of the moment, I will know who I am,” he says. I nod. I know. “Perhaps we should move the sofa?”

But Harry’s looked behind the sofa before. He’s spent time buried in a pile of rocks, he’s watched television static for 24 hours straight, he’s rolled sewing needles between his forefinger and thumb at the top of a mountain. He’s set an alarm for 3.44 in the morning to take the hottest shower possible. Always looking for the Harryness in things. He’s used every part of his body to make paintings, sometimes on drugs so he can paint with their melting counterparts. You’ve got to wade through some mud before you find the truffles.

“Ssshhh,” Harry says, raising a finger to my face. He cocks his head to align with the worktop; has his metaphysical scissors at the ready. He’ll only take a sample: a swatch big enough to start a new cloak. That way, I’ll never lose myself. It won’t harm the mirror, of course, because they grow back to fill the space they’re afforded.

I used to think, when he collected enough mirrors, there’d be a gateway. A way out of this labyrinth. We’re going to see the goblin king! Perhaps he’ll take our souls! But now I know the whole thing is only a matter of preserving sanity. No matter the meaning we choose, so long as we do choose, right?

Harry has a gift for finding the glimmers among unexpected and discarded mental combinations, but today is not meant to be. There’s nothing there for him.
“How will you be soothed, Harry?” I say. “Shall I take you to the sea?” They say there’ll be a storm tonight. Harry likes storms. But his wrinkled flesh has already begun to shudder.
“The mirrors just don’t have the timeless quality we’d like, Stephanie. They show us only how our souls are trapped in time. Trapped in time!”
Trapped in time. I stroke his grey hair, and he sucks his thumb. We’ll probably stay this way until morning.

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***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These surreal fragments come from states of meditation, excitation, or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing. I consider them to be little windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Emanations VI

A world of light. It’s quiet here. Peaceful. My forehead is pressed against yours, and I think: you are older now. So much older. Am I older too? Sunken eyes. Grey, worn skin. Wise with it, though. For a moment it seems as though we are about to kiss, but no. We’re way beyond that.

There are no words, categories, or sensations anymore. Only thoughts mingling as one. I send you the violet energy from my reserves, so that you might be nourished, rejuvenated. I see it tunneling through your veins, and you gasp.

In your eyes now there’s a different light. An abstract sort of light. You send it shining right at me. I know it’s time. We have to let go. The cogs whir into action all around us, all at once. The hands begin to twitch. The face is blank. A new consciousness will soon rise.

***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. Each slice is to be read as a stream of consciousness, a little window into the back rooms of the mind.

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