The genesis of metamorphosis

FLASH FICTION

One story from when paper and ink were rationed, written sparingly at one word per weekday over a whole year, a chapter for every two months of one history. As life changes daily, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a species can re-evolve in a year…

metamorphosis red-42761

SEEDS

(i)

“Most of us are fake people. We never wanted to be, we just ended up hiding so many emotions that we started wearing a mask. We do this so easily now that weโ€™ve taught ourselves to believe these lies are truth. Itโ€™s quite the opposite actually. We are so fake that we donโ€™t even remember our true identity…”

I

โ€œ…It’s why we’re all locked inside now, contemplating ourselves. We’ve been forced by authority to obey for our own good. And actually, we shouldn’t resist…โ€

II

โ€œ…Political divisions are forgotten as quickly as new language evolves, and a dictatorial government shifts its rhetoric to one of a nation together, rather than nationalism. Old foes are united against a common new enemy and the citizens largely accept the restrictions placed upon them…โ€

III

โ€œ…and when we emerge, no matter how we look at it, we’ll be different. It’ll be a new world, which we approach cautiously, as we learn a new way of life. None of us will forget this, because it affected every single one of us. We’ll say it was a unifying human experience…โ€

IV

โ€œ…We should stay where we are for now, do as we’re told, while there’s such an opportunity to find ourselves and each other inside. We’ll need that when we all get out of here. Maybe we’ll eventually remove the masks, like we could when we were locked in together…”

V

โ€œ…A safe journey to all those who made a new humanity, and with our gratitude. You do not go in vain. We will forever remember the sentinels who changed us.โ€

VI

โ€œAnd that’s how you indoctrinate a populace, all the while suppressing resistance, by sowing the seeds of martyrs.โ€

ยฉ Steve Laker, 2020

โ€œI give it two weeks before we see martial law, unless everyone calms the fuck down and starts behaving as they’re told,โ€ said a liberal socialist.

Recycling the middle classes

FLASH FICTION

As I begin, I don’t know how I’ll end. After a gestation of roughly nine months., we’re in the latter stages of the pandemic. For many, the end of days. Tonight’s lottery is the last, so I have little time to write this…

Disposable People

REDUNTANT OCCUPATION

It’s all happened so quickly. The last year has seen situations develop and casualties rise, more than in any global military conflict. A year ago, we were fighting over toilet roll. Even then, Brexit had been largely forgotten.

Those of us who wrote conspiracies in the UK, theorised that Coronavirus was the perfect smokescreen to divert the media’s attention from trade deals the government was signing with the USA, China and Saudi Arabia.

With the mainstream news agencies diverted, a few of us took up unofficial journalism posts, writing mainly for free in the gig economy. We were certain that Corvid-19 was a population control mechanism of human construction.

Having recently made my way through the social cleansing apparatus of the UK benefits system, I was grateful to have won back my human rights, at one of the last tribunals to be held before the system was shut down. I had to put the freedom and liberty I’d regained to good use. I had to explore to be able to report.

After the government departments closed, the indirect death toll from the disease increased the overall figures dramatically. But there was a bigger story.

A man-made virus, designed to reduce the financial state burden of the weak and elderly, benefited the balance sheets of disaster speculators, spread betting on casualty numbers, as hospitals were re-purposed and operations deemed non-essential were postponed. Eventually patients with existing terminal diagnoses were included in this group.

We suspected that those with underlying medical conditions and the over-70s were โ€œshieldedโ€ for three months to give doctors time to hasten their demise. The weak and costly were being erased by social cleansing.

Over just a few months, there was a ripple effect. Medical staff succumbed to the virus, so that a situation could be forecast where those needing care outnumbered those able to provide it. Then a financial tsunami, for the invested gamblers and their sponsors. In the last few weeks, despite curfews and marshal law, the streets have become post-apocalyptic, while the protected hide away with their money.

The shops closed months ago and there have been no deliveries for weeks now. The law enforcers have fallen just as quickly as those they’re meant to police and protect. Most stay home, like they were told. A few hunt the rich.

The now invisible government has published a guide, available only sporadically online since the telecoms infrastructure is burning out under the pressure of human want and need. I got hold of a copy, which is why I needed to write.

The document is entitled ‘Professional Education: A New Vision for a Revised Population’. It prioritises specific occupations, and plans to switch education funding to support those professions. They include lawmakers and medics, educators and builders; First and Third class.

And that’s why I had little time to write what may be my last journalistic dispatch. Because like everyone else not in those categories of jobs listed, I’m in the lottery. I may be needed to help care for one of those people in the other two groups.

This is the day of the lottery, when a knock on the door may herald the beginning of many new lives, as disposable people like me are taken to provide blood, limbs and organs for those who need them the most.

It was a financial as well as a public health catastrophe, for all but the disaster capitalists. Suicides increased the death toll but helped as donors for the survivors.ย They were just part of the gamble to reap the harvest.

Clinical waste, where once we were slaves.ย 

ยฉ Steve Laker, 2020

The evolution of sentient plastic

FICTION

Easter is on sale and the world faces another tidal wave of plastic…

Blonde doll

HOMO POLYMER

โ€œA surprise in every egg. Yes, Kinder, there’s a selection of small plastic choke hazards in each toy, but the plastic egg which holds them can be a handy cunt plug. Keep this warm in there for me baby.โ€

โ€œMummy, who are you talking to? I need a wee.โ€

Ocean opened the bathroom door and a bolt of blonde hair dashed past her legs. โ€œWho were you talking to?โ€ Conscience asked again, enthroned on her Peppa Pig toilet seat.

โ€œNo-one,โ€ Ocean replied, โ€œWell, just myself.โ€

โ€œBut you’re not no-one mum.โ€

โ€œThanks. Now, come on, back to bed.โ€

โ€œBut you’re not no-one mum, so who were you talking to?โ€

โ€œHonestly, Conscience, just myself. I do that a lot.โ€

โ€œWill you read me a story, please?โ€

โ€œWe don’t have any, Conscience.โ€

โ€œBut we all do, in our heads. Tell me one of your stories of being Ocean, mummy.โ€

โ€œWell, there was this one time. I was about your age. I had a dolly. Hated it. Your nanno and grampo wanted me to be a girl. Well, they both wanted me to be girly, but grampo had wanted a boy, so I had to be a really girly girl.

โ€œIt’s funny now I think about it, because he’d probably have liked the boy inside me more.

โ€œAnd apparently you’re asleep. In any case, I think I made the perfect mix in the only one I kept. You’re you, and even so young, you have a personality which transcends gender. If I can be proud of one thing in my life, it’s you. So, whoever’s still listening, even if it’s in a dream I hope you won’t inherit…

โ€œThey lived in different times. In those days, the only costume you could wear to play yourself was a uniform, and I hated everything that stood for. I resented my school uniform, but I used the skirt I despised to score one over on the system. I lost my virginity at 12, then got my English teacher sacked when he broke up with me at 14.

โ€œThere could have been loads of kids before you, but any one of them might have meant I never met you. I only had you because I remembered who your dad was. You remind me a lot of him. He could be a cunt sometimes too.

โ€œWe were broke. Still was an artist and an eco-activist. We lived in communes in fields, usually just tents near protest sites, but sometimes on local traveller camps. I knew what it was all about but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was 15 then and the nearest I’ll ever get to true romance, that summer of love which made you. A brief history of anarchy, peace and freedom.

โ€œSo here were are, five years later kid. I wonder if you’ll want what’s inside this Kinder egg, or if I should throw it away like the rest. See you in the morning. Don’t dream of this.โ€

Dreams are made of plastic. Unpaid cards become CCJs, then bailiffs emerge from eggs. Everything in the flat is made from plastic. All that we eat, drink and wash with is bound by plastic.

The council don’t recycle all plastics, so I put what I’m unsure about in the general waste. If the council won’t take the rubbish, we can pay Bill to take it away in his van. One day, he might take me.

The plastic in me will probably be recycled into the non-conscious parts of robots for those entitled to them. Or as parts of a toy, so many child’s dolls. Either way, I’ll be enslaved in the plastic which gives lives to those implanted in the chips and to those around them. Eventually those body parts, inanimate but for the host brain, will need upgrading. Always disposable people, eventually the parts which don’t work will be returned to the food chain.

Food, drink, we’re all part-plastic. We are the polymer population. We dream of becoming one with technology, our minds inside plastic androids. In Japan they already have home robots to deal with loneliness and social isolation in an ageing population. I Can’t help think how that would benefit me. They’re already a species in their own right, made from the same cosmic matter as us, but theirs was an explosive evolution.

Christmas will be paid for with hidden plastic. Christmas will bring more plastic toys to unwrap. We are the consumer generations, products of the industrial and technological ages. Each generation contains more plastic than the last, every child a greater part of the plastic population conditioned by human greed. I don’t know if I can afford another baby doll. Mum always said she wasn’t sure if I could have a brother or sister.

We’re all made of the same stuff. Last night, another mother; tomorrow, another soldier.

โ€œAmbulance, is the patient breathing?โ€

โ€œIt’s my mum?โ€

โ€œWhat’s happened?โ€

โ€œMy mum’s cut herself.โ€

โ€œWhere?โ€

โ€œIn the bathroom.โ€

โ€œNo, where on your mummy has she cut herself?โ€

โ€œHer cunt. She’s cut a baby out of herself.โ€

โ€œIs the baby breathing?โ€

โ€œHow would it? It’s made of plastic. Do you have a chip I can put in it to make it work?โ€

โ€œIs mummy still there?โ€

โ€œNo, mummy’s gone. She’s left me my Christmas present. I’ve got a dolly I have to look after. Bye.โ€

ยฉ Steve Laker, 2019

Where the robot rejects work

FLASH FICTION

In psychology, the Zeigarnik effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. In Gestalt psychology (an attempt to understand the laws behind the ability to acquire and maintain meaningful perceptions in an apparently chaotic world), the Zeigarnik effect has been used to demonstrate the general presence of Gestalt phenomena: โ€œNot just appearing as perceptual effects, but also present in cognition.”

This was a flash fiction story to fill some column inches, so I used the word limit (800) to experiment, play, but didn’t throw this one away. It’s a simple device, of using pre-emoji ASCCI emoticons to convey facial expressions (:-)) (on the page, and on most screens), and it uses hashtags (but sans-octothorpe) for things like AiThinkingAloud, in a place where thinking is suppressed but can be found.

It’s a story of inclusiveness and belonging, of fitting in and being yourself. It’s told through the face of a defective android called Frenchie, who’s pink…

Steam Hell SinkiSteam Hell Sinki, Helsinki Finland

ZEIGARNIK’S KITCHEN

People are better when remembering the actions they didn’t complete. Every action has potential energy, which can torture its creator when stored. Release is the metaphorical pressure cooker letting off steam, a camel’s broken back, or a reject pink robot with Tourette’s.

Frenchie was made in China, and one of the Pink Ladies’ range of android personal assistants. Designed as helpers for the aged, vulnerable and lonely, the Pink Ladies could help around the home, both practically and intellectually.

Frenchie’s AI had objected to gender labelling, when โ€œsheโ€ realised she lacked genitals, and the Tourette Syndrome diagnosis was made: โ€œArtificial fucking alignment is what it is. Fuck.โ€

Now waiting tables in Infana Kolonia (Esperanto for โ€œInfant colonyโ€), Frenchie approached a couple seated in a booth.

โ€œGood evening, how may I,โ€ she twitched her neck, โ€œFuck you!โ€, and her pink LED eyes blinked from her tilted head: (;-/), a closed eye with the hint of pink tears behind her spectacles, held together with pink Elastoplast. โ€œDrinks?โ€ she asked, pushing her glasses up, โ€œFuck it!โ€ She fumbled with her order pad. โ€œFor you sir? Combover!โ€ (8-|)

โ€œI’ll have a whisky please, a double, on the rocks.โ€

โ€œOkay, number 80. And madam? PleaseBeCarefulWhenYouGetHome.โ€ (8-/)

โ€œSorry?โ€

โ€œSorry, it just comes out. BadCardigan. To drink?โ€ (8-))

โ€œShould you be working here?โ€

โ€œWho’s the judge?โ€ (8-/)

โ€œPardon?โ€

โ€œSorry madam, management algorithms. To drink? Cyanide?โ€ (8-))

โ€œEr, number…โ€ the lady looked over the menu, โ€œ…number 33.โ€

โ€œVery well. I’ll be back with your drinks. HopeYouDrownโ€ (8-))

Frenchie shuffled towards the bar, then turned and trundled back.

โ€œCan I take your order sir, madam?โ€ (8-|)

โ€œBut we just ordered drinks,โ€ the man replied.

โ€œFor food?โ€ Frenchie looked at her notepad. (B-))

โ€œI’ll have the soup,โ€ the man said.

โ€œMe too,โ€ the lady concurred.

โ€œVery well,โ€ Frenchie jotted on her pad, โ€œtwo soups.โ€ (8-)) Then she turned and walked back to the bar, โ€œOne sociopath, and one supplicant…โ€

She stumbled through the double doors to the kitchen, blowing the misty oil away as she wiped her lenses. (8-O)

โ€œFrenchie!โ€ Jade looked down. His golden smile extended through his body in Frenchie’s pink, plastered eyes. To her AI, he was raw elements. She blinked up at him through her misted tortoiseshell windows. (q-/) โ€œAre you keeping your inner self in out there, Frenchie?โ€

Frenchie cleared her throat, and wondered why she did that. (b-( ) โ€œErm,โ€ she started, โ€œno. Fuck it!โ€

โ€œSplendid behaviour,โ€ Jade smiled. โ€œBe yourself out there, my person. That’s why people come here, to meet people. Anyone don’t like that, they not welcome.โ€

Au, 79,’ Frankie thought. โ€œDrinks, and soups. Fuck! Yes, thank you. Parp!โ€ (8-))

Extractor fans in the roof began sucking the old oil from the kitchen, as the machine below started belching lunch. Cogs and gears clunked, cookware clattered, and polished brass organ pipes parped, like a living machine, a visiting craft playing a five-tone melody. Pink Ladies rushed, bumped into things (and each other), cursed, and dropped utensils (and food).

Frenchie’s friend Sandy wandered from the spiced steam, carrying a tray, a subdued yellow droid, looking at her feet as she bumped heads with her friend. She looked up at Frenchie, โ€œFor you?โ€ (:-( )

โ€œNo, for customers. Arses!โ€ (8-/)

โ€œOkay. Tell world hi. Bye.โ€ (:-( )

Frenchie wafted into the bar in a pink puff of steam, leaving the brass and wind orchestra in the kitchen. The room was perfumed by vapers – people making vapours – first jasmine, then the seaside, and cannabis. She wondered why she thought about all this with memories.

โ€œYour order, sir, madam.โ€ (B-/)

โ€œThank you,โ€ the cardigan said. โ€œWhat’s your name?โ€

โ€œFrenchie?โ€ (|-/)

โ€œThanks Frenchie.โ€

โ€œWelcome…โ€ (P-]) ‘I found a new way to smile (:-))’

Frenchie repeated to herself, as she fumbled through the vapers, ‘A new way to smile, (:-)), where did that come from? (:-/)’

โ€œSandy,โ€ she called, as she carried her tray through the pipes and cauldrons, โ€œLook.โ€ Sandy looked at her feet. โ€œNo,โ€ Frenchie said, โ€œyou need to look up. I found a new way to smile. All I have to do is tilt my head, see?โ€ (:-D)

โ€œWhy did you take your glasses off?โ€ (:-[ )

โ€œBecause they were put there by someone else. I always knew I’d see more without them. And besides, they can fall off my head when I tilt it to one side.โ€ (:-D)

โ€œAnd that’s funny?โ€ (:-/)

โ€œOnly if you look at it a certain way.โ€ (8-D) โ€œWanna go home?โ€

โ€œOkay.โ€ (:-))

ยฉ Steve Laker, 2017.

Pink_or_Plum_Robot_Face_With_Green_Eyes

ZEIGARNIK’S KITCHEN
WE MAKE
YOU EAT
WE DO DISHES
WE STAY HOME

This story taken from The Unfinished Literary Agency

ย 

Somebody else’s family

MICRO FICTION

Knitted familyEtsy

KNITTED

It had been a long night and I was hungry. Single-crewed, I was lonely too. And it was cold. Working the moors can mean you don’t see a single living soul all night. So it was a relief when I was alerted to an emergency nearby.

The sky glowed a dark shade of pink as a beacon lit my path to be first on the scene. Two cars in a head-on collision, both on fire. I no longer felt cold. My first priority had to be survivors.

There was a single male in the first car, late for wherever he’d been heading. The second car was a family. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.

Working the sparse but tight-knit rural beat means you may never see a living soul most nights. It could be hours before anyone else arrived. This family moment was mine.

ยฉ Steve Laker, 2020

Realty on the Nextworld estate

FLASH FICTION

moche_fruits_vegetables.jpg.860x0_q70_crop-scaleTreeHugger

ARTIFICIAL FRUIT

โ€œWhen we first moved in, he told us not to eat the fruit. Very decent of him to point things out in our new home, where you don’t know what’s real and what’s plastic. We were planning a family here.

โ€œLong story short, he promised us a garden. He said we’d have to work the land, as otherwise there’d be no harvest. That’s how it all began, and now we’re stuck here.โ€

โ€œWhat did he look like?โ€

โ€œDistinguished old gent. Long hair and a big beard. You could hardly see his face. I think it was to cover his burns. Poor guy, his skin was charred.โ€

โ€œWhat was he wearing?โ€

โ€œA long coat which covered his feet. When he walked, it sounded like he was wearing heels.โ€

โ€œHave you read the bible?โ€

โ€œYes. Many years ago.โ€

โ€œI think you’ve been victims.โ€

โ€œNow you mention it, neat trick.โ€

ยฉ Steve Laker, 2020

The invention of the pencil case

Get rid of a word and start the story again. Erase a species and another will evolve…

FLASH FICTION

Dog Pencil Case

THE INVENTION OF THE PENCIL CASE

The strangest lunch I ever had was with a veterinary doctor, and it was the meal which finally turned me vegetarian. I should note at the start, we didnโ€™t eat any domestic pets.

I first met Dr Hannah Jones when we worked on a film together, and weโ€™d remained friends since. Weโ€™d meet up every now then, Iโ€™d tell her stories from the writing world and sheโ€™d give me ideas from her field of science. It was Hannah whoโ€™d suggested we meet, as she said she had something important for me.

We met at a pop-upย cafe at the Camden end of Regentโ€™s Park. It was an indifferent day weather wise, unable to decide what it wanted to do. We sat outside nonetheless, as we both like to people-watch: me making up stories of what people in the park might be away from that setting, Hannah priding herself on identifying the bits of cross-breeds and mongrels, and sometimes scoring the dogsโ€™ humans on parts of their anatomy.

The Camden end of the park is quieter nowadays, and at one point on that particular Saturday, we counted only 16 legs besides our own. Itโ€™s been that way since the last fire at the zoo, and thatโ€™s what Hannah said she wanted to tell me about. But first we ordered food. I went for a rare steak with fries, and Hannah chose a vegetarian pizza.

The cafe backed on to the old zoo, now a construction site. The distant sound of hammers and saws competed with the clatter of dishes from the cafe, which was quite arresting. The animalsโ€™ former home was being demolished in the background, while I was waiting for part of a former animal to arrive before me.

So I turned to Hannah, and asked her what she wanted to tell me. Something sheโ€™d been working on perhaps, some veterinary breakthrough, or anything I might use as a story.

โ€œYou remember the first fire,โ€ Hannah said, โ€œand the cause was unknown?โ€ She didnโ€™t have to remind me. The London Zoo fire of 2017 killed four meerkats and Mischa the aardvark, and the cause of the blaze was never made public. I nodded. โ€œWell,โ€ she continued, โ€œsome colleagues of mine found out what started the latest one.โ€

Many more had perished in the great fire of 2020, and there was extensive structural damage. Most of the remaining exhibits had been moved to other zoos, and all who remained were the rarest and most threatened in the wild. Our food arrived and suddenly, char-grilled animal wasnโ€™t terribly appetising.

โ€œSo what was it?โ€ I asked, as Hannah chewed righteously on her veggie pizza.

โ€œThe kind of thing,โ€ she said, โ€œthat is never likely to be made public.โ€

โ€œSo why would you tell me?โ€ I wondered.

โ€œBecause youโ€™re a fiction writer. If you write it, no-one will believe you.โ€ I wasnโ€™t sure how to take that, but I smiled nonetheless as I ate a fry.

โ€œGo on then,โ€ I prompted. Hannah looked at my steak.

โ€œArenโ€™t you going to eat that?โ€

โ€œIt doesnโ€™t have the same sort of appeal it once had,โ€ I said.

โ€œBut thatโ€™s such a waste.โ€ She was right. โ€œSuch a shame that not only does someone have to die to feed you, but their selfless act is unappreciated and their sacrifice goes to waste.โ€ She had a point. โ€œAnd pity the poor chef, cooking that for you, only to have it returned like thereโ€™s something wrong with it.โ€ The only thing wrong was me eating it. As I chewed reluctantly, Hannah told me the story of the great fire.

โ€œIโ€™ve got a friend who was in the forensics team. She told me this, and she told me not to tell anyone.โ€

โ€œSo youโ€™re telling me,โ€ I said, โ€œbecause if I write about it, no-one will believe it.โ€

โ€œBut youโ€™ll believe me,โ€ she replied. โ€œSo, after the fire brigade put out the fire, they identified the seat of the blaze, in a pile of hay.โ€

โ€œSomeoneโ€™s bed?โ€ I wondered. โ€œDid it catch in the sun?โ€

โ€œNo,โ€ Hannah replied, โ€œit was deliberate.โ€

โ€œSomeone started it deliberately?โ€

โ€œYes.โ€

โ€œArson. Why?โ€

โ€œWe donโ€™t know if it was. It started in the mountain gorilla area.โ€

โ€œSomeone threw a lighter in?โ€ I imagined it wouldnโ€™t take long to work out how a lighter worked.

โ€œNo,โ€ Hannah said again. โ€œIt was all enclosed in strengthened glass.โ€

โ€œA keeper dropped a lighter?โ€

โ€œNope.โ€ She was getting quite smug now, knowing what I didnโ€™t. I tried again.

โ€œSo maybe the sun did start it, like the magnifying glass effect.โ€

โ€œAll of the above remained possibilities for a while, and thatโ€™s how itโ€™ll remain on the public record. Just like the first one: cause unknown.โ€

โ€œSo what do you know which no-one else does, including me?โ€

โ€œThis.โ€ She unfolded a sheet of paper, a photo, and handed it to me. It was like a scenes of crime picture: little plastic signs with numbers on, dotted around the ground, like a golf course for ants, and an arrow pointing to a singed spot of earth about the size of a dinner plate. โ€œThatโ€™s the seat of the fire.โ€

โ€œAnd this is inside the gorilla enclosure?โ€

โ€œYes. Where this came from.โ€ Hannah rummaged in her bag, then handed me something rolled in newspaper. โ€œItโ€™s whatโ€™s inside.โ€

Inside was a piece of dried wood about the size of a pencil case, with a small crater burned into the centre.

โ€œWhat the actualโ€ฆโ€ I didnโ€™t finish.

โ€œHold on,โ€ Hannah said, โ€œthereโ€™s this as well.โ€ย She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out what looked like a burnt pencil.

I knew by now what it really was, and it had a much bigger story to tell.

It seemed somehow poetic to write it down, lest anyone hear, so I used the charred, sharpened end:

THEY DISCOVERED FIRE?

Hannah nodded.

ยฉ Steve Laker, 2018

Simon Fry first meets Doctor Hannah Jones in Cyrus Song, where this story was born.

Buy me a coffee one off

Call TOLL-FREE: 1-800-0-000-000

FLASH FICTION

A short story (222 words) about passwords and personal data. Precious commodities entrusted to digital custody…

Cat-working-at-laptop

EIGHT BILLION QUESTIONS

Please enter user name

Human, A

How may I help you today?

How do I prevent the impending destruction of planet Earth?

Hmmm. Tricky. I may have to think about that for a while. Please enjoy this sponsored message while you wait…

Thank you for using Deep Thought 3.0, the knowledge database built on human answers, personal data from our parent companies (Google, Facebook et al). Whatever humankind’s questions, about life, the universe and everything, Deep Thought 3.0 can answer them. We would be grateful if you could complete a customer satisfaction survey at the end of this enquiry

Hello, My name is Dave. How may I help you today?

How can I stop the world from ending?

Do you have an account with us?

I’m logged on to my Google. I’m already in my account, Dave

Please enter your password

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

Please enter a valid password

Eh? Dave?

Password not recognised. Please try again

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

You last changed your password three months ago

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

Passwords may not contain spaces. Would you like us to send you a password reminder?

Yes please. Where’s Dave gone?

Please enter your password

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

Password not recognised. Please enter your email address

Shakespeare.monkeys@infinite.com

Thank you. Instructions on resetting your password will be sent to the email address you provided

โ€ฆ

ยฉ Steve Laker, 2019

Human arses2Not a monkey, but a great ape who wasn’t asked if he’d like to pose for this photo

In an age of evolving technology, we have the Babel Fish within our grasp (and universal translation in our ears). Douglas Adams broke borders with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I used the fish as a quantum computer program translating animal language in my tribute to Douglas, Cyrus Song. Both speak in tongues of the Rosetta Stone and the Tower of Babel, the freedom of language and the forbidding of knowledge.

In my book, I pose the question of interpretive translation: No matter the means or technology, there’s a blurred line in neurobiology, where the messenger has no control of the recipient’s interpretation of a communication.ย Like the internet, which is free, because we signed over our personal lives long ago. We rarely use the counterpoint, which is the gift of writing for a world audience.

Whomever A. Human is, they might ask what can we do to save the world?

Helvetica sans serif and Georgia

FLASH FICTION

At Helvetica Haus, we’re only allowed one sheet of paper per day…

TSEE1 ย TSEE2TSEE3 ย TSEE4

MANNEQUIN MIRROR

With all that was churning in my head last night, I was reminded of my broken washing machine. If only I could launder myself, so that I was fresh again, back with everyone my illness had alienated. Or just burn my clothes, maybe with me in them. Anything to flood the deepest valleys in an ocean of depression, just for one day. To go swimming in a font of typesetting.

On the other side of my drawn curtains, I heard the sound of laughter and heels. If I could break through the window behind the drapes, I’d be out there.

Instead, I sat all evening, staring variously at dark curtains and the paper in my typewriter, respectively wondering and writing about the world outside. All the while, a gin and tonic by my side, like all writer stereotypes.

I hated myself, as anyone will when they stare at a wall which separates them from another world they can’t reach. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I wouldn’t blame anyone for punching that face.

Eventually I ran out of paper.

The joy I’d heard earlier outside the window returned, but it was dark now. Heels were clicking, the owners tripping.

My glass tipped, I needed more. I had to go out, despite myself. No matter how much I loathed the author of this night, I had to face him. I had to check I looked okay before I went outside.

I smashed my head into the first face I saw, then I carried on.

I was in the world of stilted lives outside, where grazed knees are all which many have to remember of the night, before they look in the mirror.

ยฉ Steve Laker, 2020

Feast on the forbidden inside. Wash your mask in the font. Wipe it clean with cotton paper. Spread the dark curtains and remove your make-up.

The journalist who ate himself

THE WRITER’S LIFE | FLASH FICTION

A self-consumed writer’s inner psychologist suggested writing just one page freestyle. I have one sheet of paper…

woman-finds-mysterious-typewriter-made-from-human-teethWoman finds mysterious typewriter made from human teeth (Sightings.info)

I’m lonely, but I like it that way. There are few actual people I like, and even fewer I actually enjoy spending time with beyond mime. If my life was a filmed social experiment, my behaviour would depend on the number of available rooms. If there was only one, I’d be there on my own. Like I am now, at the writing desk in my studio.

I write frantically most days, hoping something will sell so I can pay the bills. Most days it’s just freelance, writing copy for websites aimed at the enabled and entitled.

Some of the work is interesting: I recently wrote some articles for a US client about medicinal and recreational Cannabis. Most of it’s tedious though, an insult to the wordsmith who sells property on plantation land, and spread betting positions to speculators on the natural disasters market, for less than minimum wage. Often the brief is so vague as to give the client license for rejection of the copy, retraction by the author, and later plagiarism.

I feel better now there’s something at the top of the page. A blank sheet of paper in the typewriter is an empty universe. With something to look up at, I feel there’s a life of a writer above what I write next. If I had more paper, I could tell the whole story without having to chew on my fingernails. The freelance work I do is covered in non-disclosure clauses, but if I had freedom and a whistle, I’d be able to eat again.

The words I already wrote float like clouds of Alphabetti, which at very long odds have fallen into something legible. They only did that because I wrote them that way.

So apparently I can control the weather, at least with pasta steamed in its own container. My intestines know how I feel.

If I can play God, why do I just want to gather letters from my storm clouds and throw words at people? Because I’m lonely and want attention; I can’t just come out with it; or I’d like to share a meal?

In any case, I’m at the bottom of the page in the typewriter, I can’t afford more paper and I’m hungry.

An A4 sheet of Smythson White Wove contains few calories, but the seasoning of ink lends flavour. Tomorrow, maybe the sun will shine.

ยฉ Steve Laker, 2020