Emanations V

 The memory man wanted to leave scars. To stun and ravish, scorch and discard, slice and heal. He wanted to cleanse the mind, beating thought down as it arose to leave a blank canvas for the marking. It was said that he would bind his victims to chairs and play heavy, emotion-laden songs while whispering stories to complicate their depth. I was all ears.

I was all eyes for the images he tied to scents. All skin for the scraping he tied to taste. He parcelled them up with pretty pink ribbons and hooked them onto my neurons with bent silver pins. His name was etched upon every one because that’s how the magic worked.

The magic. The pain. The scars of remembering. Will they ever be gone?

Laying me down on a child’s bed and showing me the moon. Hanging a playing card on a chain around my neck and shooting the Joker. Blood running down my collarbone, words only gurgles and spits. Filling in the holes with soft towels and expensive shampoos, unwashed bedsheets and no safety catches.

Locking me out but forcing me to look in, lids forced open with drops of barbed verity. The pages of the memory book jumbling before my eyes, but don’t worry. The magic will stick them back together with sour milk and tears, all in the wrong order. Force them into geometric shapes with folds that shouldn’t exist. Boxes and boxes and boxes filled with terror and a hint of lust ‘n’ lemon. They might be here forever.

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These absurd little stories burst directly from states of meditation, excitement or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing for clarity. They are intended to be read as impersonal streams of (un)consciousness; windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Emanations III

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In October of last year, I fell into my shadow. She was vicious, bold and offensive; unafraid to say everything I never could. And she was so damn attractive with it! I never stood a chance.

As soon as she knew she had me, I found myself alone on her shore. The sun had set long ago, but a cold glimmer from her skin lit up my world. Her eyes brimmed with the awe of all I could become. How do you extract your good potential when it’s so mixed up with the bad? Everything beyond ego, including the shadow, cares little for the distinction. I didn’t know the answer, and that could only mean she held that particular key.

So, when I raised the question, she raised her mace. I cowered. I screamed. I tried desperately to claw my way out through the sand. But she was quick, and she had no mercy. She swung her weapon and thumped me right in the chest with it. My rib cage shattered into a thousand jagged pieces, and moths burst out in a cloud. Some turned to dust upon contact with the air; others flew away across the sands. I strained to take a breath, but my lungs and throat were pierced in too many places. Through fading consciousness, I could just make out my shadow picking up a piece of bone, turning it over in her fingers and admiring herself in its reflective surface. With the other hand, she ripped out my heart.

The life poured out of my veins. I could do nothing but lay in wait of the tide. It was over.

My shadow flicked away her makeshift mirror, and pulled a jar out of her back pack. She squeezed the contents of my heart into it: a deep iridescent red. Memory, personality, soul. As she took a sip, her sharp posture began to dissolve. Her black hair softened to light grey, her fur robe melted away to reveal the pink butterfly dress I’d been wearing that day, and her smile turned from cunning to kindness. At first I could only see through her eyes from a distance, but it didn’t take long for my mind to recognise its home. Everything came into focus. I screwed the lid tightly onto the jar, strapped it to my back pack, and began my ascent back to the village.

***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic flash fiction writing. These stories are intended to be read as streams of consciousness; little windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Emanations II

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Is that a uterus or a spaceman with his arms outstretched? The rose-lit dome I visit in my dreams has begun to play tricks on me over the last few nights. The hospital say it’s one of the signs. I know that should terrify me, but it doesn’t. It just makes me feel I’ve been taking the pills properly.

His thoughts are channeling through my veins. I can hear him in my spleen. He’s saying something important.

“I don’t know if you can understand me. They say you can’t, that you aren’t developed enough. But I believe there’s a chance, and it feels only right for me to talk to you. I’ll be the provider of your nourishment, after all. I’ll be your guide. So we need to establish our bond, don’t we? You need to know it’s all going to be ok.

You are in the womb of the fourth dimension. Everything you’ve learned in your ‘lifetime’ is simply the pieces clicking into place to prepare you for a normal birth up here. You have to learn three to know four. All the sights, sounds, smells: they’re chemical reactions as your mind builds itself. Side effects. Echoes. A vague awareness of what’s beyond.

Linear time is a weird phenomenon that happens only while in the womb, too. I can’t imagine what that’s like. But please know that all the mental suffering, the cognitive dissonance, and the sense of taking a one way trip is because you are not here. You are not where you belong. You are contained in a space of limitations that is unnatural to our kind. You are but a cross-section of what your whole self will be.

When you take your infinite breath, there’ll be treasures you can’t imagine. I promise you that, my angel. Movement without boundaries, and a plane of time. You and me. One more pill. Just one more pill.”

*

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

~ C S Lewis.

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic (but human) fiction writing. The words come from states of meditation, excitement, or indifferent vacuity and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing. They are intended to be read as streams of consciousness to open windows to the back rooms of the mind.

Emanations I

I had a date with chaos. I knew it would come, but never when, until one Tuesday when it spontaneously crashed in around me. It sent wine bottles flying and blasted out the music of my scent. Static interference. Sferics, I thought, as I bit my tongue. Chaos struggles with language, so, as it made itself at home in my cellar, I translated its vibrant colours for the sake of conversation.
“Human beings always coming with their whys,” it said. “Making connections. Putting meaning on my doings. The only disease that afflicts me. Billions of whys.”
“Giving things meaning is what we do,” I replied, curling my forefinger around a lock of hair. “We are castle builders. We pull the loosest of your sands into mind-buckets and force them into aesthetically pleasing shapes. We do it because we can, but also because it’s fun. Don’t you like the whys?”
The skies opened then, and flies with beating red hearts for eyes poured upon us. In seconds they covered every bit of visible skin. They crawled and buzzed and ate and loved. Grotesque things. So I said, in the most flirtatious tone I could muster, “I’ll take that as a yes.”

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These absurd little stories burst directly from states of meditation, excitement or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing for clarity. They are intended to be read as impersonal streams of (un)consciousness: windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Psychopomp

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Johnny found Psychopomp while browsing drug categories on the dark web. It had 6,000 logged purchases worldwide but no user ratings, which the seller said was a true mark of its success: this was a trip from which there was no coming back.

It was three months since Romeo had passed. Accidental overdose. Johnny knew what they were all thinking, but they were wrong. Romeo wouldn’t do that, not even after the money and creativity had dried up. “You should be back out on the scene by now,” his friends said. They meant well, he knew, and cooping himself up in the flat staring at a dead man’s poetry on the walls was surely not a healthy way to spend his days.

He tore himself away from the bedsheets and reached for the fridge, taking out a three-day-old milk carton. A tentative sniff, a moment’s hesitation, then he drank from it anyway, not caring how much spilled. He wiped his mouth on a bare arm and turned back to look in the mirror beside the bed. Could use a shave. A wash, a hair comb; a pair of eyes that weren’t so grey with goddam heartache. His thoughts were interrupted by a clatter at the letterbox: fast, anonymous courier delivery. Psychopomp had arrived.

Continue reading “Psychopomp”

Moon to my Waves

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I sit downstairs in a lonely, low-lit bar, nursing a double whisky on the rocks. A damp smell oozes from ageing posters of Frank Zappa and The Rolling Stones, and my feet are sticking to the floor. I’ve put Real Love by Swans on the jukebox. I don’t hear the lyrics, but its sombre tone is the moon to my waves. They rise up in my throat – salty lithium water – and the bartender looks concerned. Inside, there’s a trickster laughing at me, smothering me. See, I can’t even enjoy my last drink without being a bother to someone. I down the whisky, though it is but a homeopathic remedy in the sea that drowns me. I feel for the knife in my coat pocket and head for the bathroom. I’m ready.

***

It’s 3 am. The stereo is loud and my eyes are shining wildly in the moonlight. Real Love comes on at random and I pause at the top of my ladder. I have a paintbrush in one hand, a pot in the other, and a cigarette hanging out of my mouth. There’s a distant pang of recognition at the song, like the flinching of a deadwood puppet in my mind. I let it play through, not because it fits my mood but because it’s a fleeting pleasure to mimic my other self. I glance at the scar we share on our left wrist, and I think of him sitting in the dark, sinking into the ground. The poor shit couldn’t see colour for all the pity and spite. I should look after him better next time. Then again, it’s entertaining as a replay. I toss my head back in laughter, and a faint voice tells me I should be careful, I’m toppling. But then the track flips over to Super Charger Heaven and I go back to making the grey walls blue.

*****

For more of my flash fiction, check out my book Fragments of Perception: out now in paperback and e-book.

On 20th February I will be attending the Virtual Future ‘Near-Future Fictions’ event in London, where my brand new story Toxic Duck Inc will be read to a live audience. Tickets are available here.

Connections

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“Help! I’m stuck in the Internet!”
“Nan, you can’t be stuck in the Internet. You mean you’re stuck on the Internet. What are you trying to do?”
“I’m trying to get out!”
“OK. Well do you see a little cross in the top right-hand corner?”
“No I don’t Eamon, sorry. There’s just lots and lots of little boxes with faces in them.” She turned her voice to a whisper. “Some of them are other body parts!”
“It sounds like you’ve got a virus, Nan. I’ll come over and sort it out again OK?”
“Oh you are a good boy. Maybe I just need a kickstarter, eh?”
“See you soon Nan.”

***

There was no answer when Eamon knocked on the door, so he let himself in. Nan’s laptop was out on the kitchen table with the Windows default screensaver scrolling. Sticky notes bearing passwords in her distinctive scrawl were everywhere, but the woman herself couldn’t be seen.
“Nan? Where are you?”
“Oh hello, lovey! I told you, I’m in the Internet.”
The voice did indeed seem to be coming from the computer.
“Nan, what are you up to? Come out please.”
“Oh don’t be silly. I’m stuck here, else I would!”
“I haven’t got time for games, I’m supposed to be at a lecture in half an hour. Where are you?”
“I think you just have to give the mouse a waggle, that usually sorts it.”
Eamon gave the mouse a nudge; he had little choice but to play along with whatever prank the old lady had come up with this time. Sure enough, Nan’s image came up on the screen. Her hair had been freshly curled, and she’d put on some blusher and her favourite violet cardigan. Eamon looked for clues in the background as to where she might be hiding. Continue reading “Connections”

Hiding Habit

C.R. Dudley Author, Orchid's Lantern Blog

I’ve always had a habit of hiding. Hiding from their stares, from their words; from their judgement. It’s like being suspended in a space outside time, as though he who is not observed does not exist. I’ve always been good at it, too. As I child, I would sometimes stay hidden for hours at a time – in the cupboard under the stairs, in a hole in the ground, or high up in a tree – long after the seekers had given up.

It was after my first Valentine’s Day blunder that I learned how to step up my game. Shame expanded inside of me, making my skin puffy and red, yet strangely pliable. I wrung my hands together and squeezed water from my eyes, and in doing so I became smaller. I hid in my locker at school all day. Its darkness and cold metal edges held me tighter than anything I’d hid in before. I never wanted to leave.

I soon developed the ability to make neat little folds in my skin during such times. I’d practice pouring out the tears every evening until I was completely dry, which is necessary for the folding. It’s a bit like forcing the air out of an air bed to put it back in its box. I began hiding in smaller and smaller places, pushing myself further outside of time with each attempt. There was the cutlery drawer, I remember. Then the pencil case, and the teapot. Snuggly snuggly.

Now, several years later, I am in the midst of my most successful hide yet. I’m scrunched up in a Japanese puzzle box: one inch by two, 36 moves to solve. I’ve never felt so secure, which is probably why I’m able to write all of this down. But, although I feel secure, there is a tiny part of me – just one little fold somewhere near my heart – that hopes someone will come and find me. A puzzle-master in shining armor, perhaps. But no one ever does.

***

For more of my flash fiction, check out my book Fragments of Perception – out now as an e-book and paperback.

On 20th February I will be attending the fourth Virtual Futures ‘Near-Future Fictions’ Event in London, where my new story ‘Toxic Duck Inc’ will be read to a live audience. Tickets are available here.

The Scheme

Orchid's Lantern blog C.R. Dudley author

 “Sounds like you need to start selling your petaFLOPS, mate.”
  That is what Dave had said back in the good old days when they drunk in the Queen’s Head. At the time, Geoff had lost his job as an Accountant for one of the big 5 firms and was struggling to adjust to a life of leisure. He’d find himself staring into space for hours at a time, unsure of what to put his brain into next. Once upon a time, a GP might have prescribed him some ‘happy’ pills, but diagnosis of depression and stress was a thing of the past: the symptoms had long been recategorised as ‘misused capacity in the mind’.
 Dave’s suggestion for money-making wasn’t unusual, and the papers said the scheme could even become prevalent in years to come. With six pints swimming around his system, Geoff imagined he might be ahead of the curve; one of the trendsetters that would mark a new and enterprising use for the human brain. And, once the hangover of the next morning had subsided and he swore never to drink again, it still seemed like the only logical thing to do.

  Geoff signed up to have a tiny sub-dermal chip installed in his head that connected him to the worldwide network. It was a simple procedure, done under local anaesthetic, and had a surprisingly fast recovery time: in just two days he was ready to come online. He popped the prescribed pill under his tongue, sat back in his La-z-Boy and selected ‘join game’ on his console.
  And that is how it was, 9-5, Tuesdays through Saturdays. As per the deal, he would do one of two things: play a match-3 game or watch sitcom re-runs on TV. The former gave him enough of a dopamine hit to keep him awake and powered up; the latter allowed him to enjoy taking a passive role while still earning a healthy income. Repetitive, predictable tasks that used only a small proportion of potential brain function were essential, so that the remaining neurones could be isolated by the drug and fired over the network to perform a range of data-crunching tasks.
  Any number of corporations could bid for the use of human processors, which were sold in petaFLOPS. For them, the efficiency in terms of energy usage, space and cost was unparalleled. For Geoff, it was a dream form of employment. He bought Dave’s drinks all night whenever his generous pay packet came in, to thank him for his valuable suggestion.
  “Honestly mate, you can’t tell anything’s going on back there,” he told him one day. “You just sit making rows of colourful sweets all day without a care in the world, and you get paid for it. And another thing: you feel like you’ve done a day’s work. I feel as fulfilled as I ever did being a bean-counter.”
  Dave swigged his drink and wiped away froth from his beard. “Aren’t you ever tempted to – you know, take a peek behind the curtain as it were?”
  “Ah it’s against the rules.”
  “Not even once?”
 “To tell the truth, I wouldn’t even know how. Besides, I’m onto a good thing here, why would I risk throwing it away?”

  But a seed had been planted, and come the next Tuesday morning, Geoff was wondering. What exactly are they using my brain for? By Friday, he had decided to try and find out. He split one of the little pills in two, and put just half under his tongue. He spent the morning building up his puzzle game score as usual, but after lunch during Only Fools and Horses, columns of moving numbers began to overlay his vision. They made no sense at first; they were just vaguely hypnotic. He was elated that his brain could be used for feats he did not understand. To be a cog in a machine that would better the world was enough for him, and he swore to go back to taking the full pill straight away. But then he began to notice patterns in the numbers: it was a code, and it was recording transactions. Geoff grabbed a pen and paper and started scribbling down what he could see.

  On Saturday, his access to the game was prohibited: the agency had locked him out. A message appeared on the screen: Security violation detected. Await instructions. Geoff’s mind worked overtime thinking about what that could mean. It had to be something to do with what happened the day before. Did they think he knew something?
  “I swear,” he said aloud, “I saw nothing but a series of random numbers.”
  “Tut tut Mr O’Brien,” said a voice from behind him. “We can’t have our operators breaking the rules. Our confidentiality has been breached. You must be disconnected now.”
  A big hand grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. Another pushed his head back against the chair, and a third sliced into him with a scalpel, removing the chip amidst Geoff’s screams.
  “I swear!” He cried out in desperation,”I swear I know nothing!”
One of the hands held up the notebook he had used to scribble down the transactions.
  “But I don’t know what it means, it’s just a load of numbers!”
  “It’s all up here,” the man tapped his temple. “And now we have to remove it.”

*****

For more dark imaginings of our future with tech, and fictional explorations of ontology, check out my collection of very short stories: Fragments of Perception.

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