Tag Archives: short story

Natalia’s Night

The freezing winds heralded their arrival and their arrival meant death. The winds were always cold this time of year, but these winds were far more ominous, bringing polar temperatures that the north had not seen in centuries. The fields of barley had stood no chance, each stalk ripped from its home and cast into the night. Starvation had begun to take hold of Natalia long before the first signs of them had approached their cottage. The locals called them frostmen, beings that walked silently, the cold was the only omen of the frostmen’s approach. They came in the night and her mother’s screams reverberated in the confines of their small cottage. She didn’t run to save her. Instead, she hid under her thin blanket until she was sure all that remained in the cottage was her mother’s frozen corpse.

She found her mother panting heavily on the floor, her skin deathly pale. Pale, but alive. Her mother gasped when Natalia’s light footsteps approached her, but smiled a weak smile at the realisation that her daughter was safe.
‘Natalia…my flower, safe and… and all alone in this world now…’
‘Mama, I’ll get you warm! I-I’ll s-start a fire and we’ll be w-warm and…’ she stopped when she realised her mother was crying. She reached for Natalia’s face, gently caressing her cheek and sliding a lock of golden silk behind her ear.
‘My flower…leave me, Mama will be fine. Run Natalia, they’ll be back and-‘
‘I won’t go Mama, I won’t leave you, please don’t make me run,’ she whispered, clawing at her mother, desperately clinging onto the life she had known for nine years. Her mother smiled and her eyes drifted shut, tears frozen on her face as a silent prayer formed on her lips and the cold overtook her.
‘Run Natalia…’ She murmured as the ice overcame her face and she lay still, limp and cold and dead.

Natalia ran into the night, panting, her breath condensing as shimmering vapour streamed from her mouth. She stopped and looked back at the cottage, the sight of her mother’s body still visible in her mind, branded into her memory. She wanted to go back, to hide herself in her mother’s arms, to hide from the cold and the ice but she knew better. She knew they would catch her like they caught her mother so after a final glance at her security, she whimpered and bolted into the forest of larches.

Freezing tendrils grabbed at her, spreading a plague of glacial dominance over the lands. Their winds chilled her, ice creeping into her bones. It was cold. It was so very cold. She had wandered down the path warm, heat in her soul, warming her like a wildfire blazing through a forest. She had to run, she would always run, but her fire was dying and those frigid fingers would not release her.

She gained sanctuary from the winds as she stumbled into a cave, blinded by the snow whipping around her face. The sight of the dull embers burning in the cave made her rub her eyes. Could she be so fortunate? Natalia crept towards the flames but the sight of a figure resting against the wall caused her to jump back. She shrank back but the fact that the figure was wrapped in furs made her realise this was not a frostman. It was a human.

She inched closer to the fire, warming her palms, the heat filling her up, and she greedily accepted it. The figure was forgotten and all Natalia could think about was this relief from the cold.
‘A child should not be running around in the night.’
Natalia spun around to face the speaker. It was a woman, wrapped up tightly in furs. Brown strands of hair poked out from under her hood, which covered up most of her head. A pair of gentle brown eyes observed Natalia, welcoming and kind.
‘It’s cold out there, take this to warm yourself,’ the woman said, as she threw a cloak to Natalia. Natalia buried herself in the cloak, grateful of the stranger’s kindness.
‘Th-thank you. Please don’t l-leave me, my mama’s gone and I-I have nowhere to go,’ she sobbed, her small eyes pleading for the woman to stay. The woman smiled a reassuring smile and reached for Natalia’s hand.
‘You’re safe now, little one. Don’t worry, I won’t leave, I’ll protect you,’ the woman repeated into Natalia’s ear as she drifted off to sleep. She was tired, she had run for a long time. But now she was safe, she was safe. Her thoughts of home and her mother and this kind stranger dissipated as she gave into her weariness.

Bernard Tso 9L

Coinflip

Quick, someone approaches. Hide it. Conceal it.
That was close, remember why you’re doing this, remember what he did to your father. The screams and the splatter, oozing redwater over the chalk white floors. Never forget. Never forgive. His empire built on suffering souls, screams drowned out in the quest for progress. But you don’t forget, you never forget. Every time your vision fills with his coal powered dragons, roaring through the streets, blowing their grey flames over the lost and the helpless, the hate resurfaces. Murderer. Murderer!

No more.

His day has come, no longer will he live in the hall of heroes, like a wolf among sheep. No longer will the demons of hate starve in their hellholes, the hand of fate points its writhing finger. Judgement day has come for Aloyious White.

The decadent slug oozes from its foul den. Ready your weapon, the thieve’s-silver barrel weighing down on your fingers. Weighing down like the scales of judgement tipped against this murderer and his empire built on suffering. Never forget.

One clean shot through the head. No. Death would be the mercy of a mother’s love. Make him suffer. Suffer like the enslaved, the poor, the poisoned, those poisoned by sin, those men who have no home but hell. Men like Aloyious White. Men who act as if they had the slightest chance to earn God’s favour, but prey on the weak like a catcher in the night, its beady eyes stalking, its intense fixation on the hunt.

But no.

Even a wolf belongs in a pack, a place of acceptance. Even you, once had a father, a sense of belonging. But it was taken. So take it back now. That’s it… feel the trigger in your fingers, like your father’s touch.

Now.

Thud. Such is the frailty of life, a billionaire gone, a company fallen like the Kingdom of Babylon or the Empire of Rome. Never forget, that when the fog clears, even a blind man can see the truth.

Well… fancy meeting you here. You’ve gotten yourself into a ripe mess. My fault? No. All this falling apart is on you.

Sigh.

Perhaps your delusion has clouded your thoughts so badly that even simple truths fail to be perceived. Not unlike your father, whose only source of comfort was the bottle and the bongs. Even when Aloyious offered to pay for his rehabilitation did he not relent. Perhaps the sight of seeing him passed out lifeless in a puddle of his own heroin-laced vomit shut down your ability to rationalise. Never forget that like a coin, there are two sides to every story.

Aloyious was a good man, not unlike the saints of old. The values of honesty and charity carried him through his life, his noble deeds bringing hope to an otherwise bleak world. Now he has gone to the true hall of heroes, a hallowed place not even the highest of demons could reach. Let their hatred starve, there is a reason they prowl in their sootblack pits.

Were you so blind to the fireflies illuminating the cold emptiness in the absence of the sun? Or the lime pioneers rising majestically from the devastation of an arsonist’s red hot passion. Hope exists where all seems dark and Aloyious was that hope for the masses of powerless. In a world ruled by capitalism, who dares to stand for equality? Who risks their status, family and reputation for the crowds of the faceless? Who in their right mind chooses them over me? What motivated this man to be different? We may never know.
Spring follows every winter, like the youngmen follow the pungent aroma of pastry. Time is the mistress of all and in a few lonely moments all that will be left of a great man are his ashes, finally floating free in the world he so longed to better. Except, he has left something lasting-his legacy. The legacy of a single rose in a field of weeds. Never forget. What will your legacy be? Murdering a righteous man and wasting away in a padded cell? Today the world mourns the passing of a hero, tonight they sleep knowing he has gone off to a better place.

Bernard Tso 9L

The Prisoner

The hive mind of individuals scuttle through the streets as they progress through each moment of their lives illuminated by bright, fluorescent streetlights. A businesswoman waits patiently for the light to turn green while vehicles drive past her towards their destinations, her eyes fixated on the phone clasped in her right hand directly in front of her, listening for the signal to cross. She disinterestedly reads the news, scanning across the titles of the main stories promoting products and portraying optimism. Surrounding her, the quiet hum of engines overlaid with subdued voices and the constant tramp of boots on the pavement form a cacophony of a bustling but lifeless city.

The normal goings-on of city life are punctuated by a brief flicker followed by sudden and unforeseen darkness. The sound of footsteps, transportation and chatter is replaced by sudden silence then cries of panic and confusion as the lights blink out and fail to turn back on. For several seconds, people stop in incomprehension.

The silence is punctured by a woman’s scream.

“Why aren’t they turning back on?”

This unanswerable question is met with speculation. “The back-up generators have probably failed,” postulates one man. “The machines running the power station have failed,” suggests another. A group of children begin crying, their din adding to the dissonance. One child tosses his handheld computer
onto the ground, its dim screen a shining beacon in blackness.

The businesswoman gasps in disbelief as the energy is sapped out of her body, a grip of concern twisting around her heart. Where before she was alive and well, she is now filled with panic that reverberates throughout her body, urging her to join in with the others, to try to come to some sort of understanding of what has happened.

Yet their desperate pleas remain unanswered as the situation unfolds in the city’s power station several kilometres away.

***

Tony Scott is a deeply troubled, dissatisfied man, his bloodshot, blinking eyes reflecting the light of a world he has seen slowly degenerate around him. Throughout his life Tony was a man who loved the outdoors, spending most of his early years as a farmer. However, he was renowned throughout his neighbourhood for his delicate arrangements and meticulous caring for his camellias, tulips and acacias in his private garden that the locals nicknamed ‘The Garden of Eden’. Tony led a cheerful and simple life, free from the worries of people consumed by the desire to rise above in the corporate sphere or participate in convoluted city life.

However, after Tony lost his job to a machine, his flowers began to wilt mysteriously and reports of unsustainable air pollution circulated. The bright sun that had warmed his skin and allowed his garden to grow gradually became hidden behind a fog of pollution. Tony’s love for the environment and natural beauty transformed into an animadversion against the apathetic people and the ‘goddamned machines’ he saw at the heart of the problem. Whereas his friends or family willingly became prisoners of technology, Tony resisted, his faith in the natural world impervious to mechanisation and industrialisation. He continued watering his garden until the last shrub shrivelled up, refusing to be chipped, refusing to let himself become one of them, another cog in a machine run by heartless mechanical slave masters.

Tony vented his anger and frustration not only towards the robots contaminating society but the uncaring populace who let his life’s work be destroyed. Tony, however, knew the futility of sharing his views with the brainwashed population, and began searching for likeminded people, forming a covert organisation with the aim of ‘preserving humanity in the face of inhuman machines.’

Despite initial difficulties, Tony’s side project proved to be a great success, his years of discontent and planning finally paying off as he achieved recognition among others who wanted to alter the course of society’s progress.

From humble beginnings, Tony became akin to a radical, a leader of those rebelling against the system. Today, resting his arthritic joints in an armchair in his apartment, a grin of pure pleasure spreads across his face. When the lights flicker off and the panic sets in, Tony’s smile only widens.

His years of planning have finally come to fruition.

***

Groups of rebels storm the power station, equipped with guns and a powerful sense of justice. Khan Swayne, leader of the squad, gruffly issues the men their orders: “Shoot only if necessarily – the control room is this way.”
The men progress down the hallway, guns levelled in case of discovery. However, their surroundings are eerily silent, the only audible sounds being far-off motors running and buzzing of electrical wires.

Khan feels alive, the electricity flowing through the wires around him mirroring the buzzing of energy through his veins. Although still young at the age of 24, he is beyond his years in wisdom, seeing through the guise of modern life as normal, safe and fulfilling. Growing up in this world Khan has known nothing of a life before computers as people rely on technology for their jobs and interactions, becoming less interested in the real world and the people that inhabit it.

Khan still vividly remembers his first day at school, being called in front of the class and told that learning facts was a waste of time when one always has access to a computer’s more accurate and reliable opinion. His father had been an important and wealthy scientist and had taught Khan how to read, write and reason before beginning school, but the educational system gradually ground down his interest in academia, interested only with preparing him for his future job.

Although on several occasions Khan was offered the opportunity to develop more advanced and sophisticated forms of artificial intelligence in recognition of his natural ability, he repeatedly refused. He, like Tony, did not want to see a world populated by humans that could not think independently and relied entirely on computers to form their knowledge of the world.

Khan thinks that there must surely be something more to existence, something he finds himself drawing closer to as he ventures further into the power station.

“Good thing they replaced these people with robots, eh? Means we don’t have to cause as much trouble,” remarks Khan with a slight smirk.

Consulting a digitally stored map, Khan navigates the bifurcating paths until they reach the heart of the facility. The squad splits into separate groups, one heading towards the backup generator and the other towards the main control room.

Without conceiving of the possibility of a break-in, security in the power station is weak and sparsely spread. The greatest barrier to entry is the electrified fence, which the rebels earlier hacked and disabled. From there, security cameras had tracked their location but they had yet to meet with any opposition.

Reaching the terminal room, Khan wrenched the door open, exposing the various controls within. There is no-one there – humans are not required, then sets to work achieving his revenge. With his aptitude for computers, hacking into the central authority takes mere seconds.

In a matter of minutes, power to most of the city is cut off, leaving people without the power that they so desperately needed.

As the city plunges into darkness, in Khan’s head there exists only light – the possibility of a new future where people are individuals free from the omnipresent, controlling influence of technology.

Hypertext Fiction: The Rope, the Stars and the Night Sky

swans
Album art from Swans – My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky

Constricted breaths fill my lungs with water, starved of oxygen, a shrivelled inner body cavity burning with acid. Oxygen, oxygen – a gasp and a shrill cry emanate from my core. The noose, wrapped around my neck, renders me a weak child, scrabbling for life that has been lost.

The deep blue of the ocean water fades to a deep black before my eyes, the chroma fading into anachronism. My cannibalistic throat makes me weep in pain and cry out in despair. The mind of a lunatic tells me that the water that I am drowning in is an ocean of my tears, but I cannot admit my sorrow. Thrashing against the invisible forces, I cannot admit what I have done. Inhaling water with desperation, I cannot admit that I am here.

I cannot admit it.

I am dead.

The noose loosens and my leaden arms grasp it, for whatever remains within my soul tells me to hold onto the last scrap of my existence. It lifts me, propels above the sinking depths to the sky above. The sweeping waves below dissolve into spittle as the mouth of the ocean snaps shut below me. I narrowly escape its scathing white teeth, lifted into the sky above.

The rope above me is rising into a milky mass of bright stars with a cerulean tinge, surrounding by a black emptiness. Absurdly, I think of one of the stars as my life extinguished like a candle, the rope guiding me to a final farewell. The other stars are all alive, continuing in their ignorance, and despite not knowing how long, they too will one day fade to join the blackness.

The light of the world dries my skin as my lungs breathe a sigh of release. My pale mottled fingers adjust, still clenching the rope ascending above into the unknown. Ignorance is bliss; bliss is ignorance. A star never has to think, or reason, or feel alone, or be afraid. A star is just a light in the sky, just part of our universe. People want things. People make me feel sick.

Despite the unreality of the situation, a burning question sears through my mind: Am I here because I am different, or because I am the same?

The stars coalesce into a stream as coloured dots form before my eyes. Above me, there is a living galaxy of colour, childish smudges forming a central brightness that threatens to envelop my vision. The quiet rustling of the surging waves is overshadowed by the chaotic music of the planets. Deafening high-pitched ululations penetrate my ear drums and rattle my brain inside, forcing each of my fingers to slowly separate from the rope.

My senses overwhelmed, I can no longer hold on.

I fall down into the night sky.

***

Note: This is a hypertext fiction reply to Will’s post Wata/October 2014.

Reading Will’s post last week and its inspiration reminded me of My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, and ‘Oxygen’ from To Be Kind by experimental rock group Swans, released this year. Similar in its minimalism and ambiance, but with a heavier and more progressive structure, music by Swans never fails to elicit some sort of personal response within me. Amid the disorienting dissonance of the instruments or the fevered yells of Michael Gira, there is some intrinsic beauty to be found.

Though perhaps not as much of a direct influence, drowning also reminded me of Patrick Ness’s More Than This, one of my favourite novels, where the protagonist drowns and wakes up to find himself in a new world. I really enjoy how Ness connects with lives through his writing, and is truly able to empathise what would drive someone to commit suicide and then to rediscover within oneself a capacity for enjoyment of life. I have attempted to emulate his style in understanding the human psychology through deep depression and supernatural occurrences.

Within the chaos of life, there is the peaceful emptiness of death – an alternative available to those who sink into the depths of depression, but ultimately acknowledges that you come to nothing. The conflicting, chaotic final moments of life are an accumulation of noise and life experiences, followed by silence. After life, you are everywhere at once, part of the universe, and simultaneously nowhere and no longer in existence. But really, we can never know.

I hope that wasn’t too depressing. Sometimes I wish I could write happier things.

Short Story: Inerrant Isolation

Long ago, I left the normal world above the ground, in physical or mental contact with human beings every hour of the day.

I left them long ago, created by own isolated world beneath the ground, and separated myself from any contact with the outside world.

There are things that I miss, yet there are things about the life that I lead that I greatly prefer. Being alone every hour of the day can be better than you think.

There is only yourself, your thoughts and whatever you are capable of conjuring out of your imagination.

 

Since the beginning of our existence as a species, Homo Sapiens have attempted to find meaning where there is none to be found. The most obvious example of this is the question of the meaning of life, to which the most obvious Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy answer is ’42’.

Looking deeper, does life possess any inherent meaning? Isolated from the outside world, with only myself, food, my thoughts and books, I have had plenty of time to ponder this question.

The answer lies in the realm of fantasy. There is no objective answer, unless you count reproduction as found in nature. Every species that Mother Nature has every cultivated in her arms has evolved and adapted in order to achieve this fundamental. We, as humans, are incredibly successful at it, our burgeoning population having strained the planet’s resources so far that  much of the world is no longer habitable.

If there is any real objective of life in our modern society, it is to make money. Money is the driving force behind almost everything we are able to accomplish. Although people say that money cannot buy happiness, it can do anything else. You do not need people to survive if you are separated from society. You need to keep yourself sane.

To keep yourself sane, you plausibly need human contact, or some kind of motivation. For me, the motivation is knowledge. To quote another age-old saying: “Knowledge is power.” Those who have knowledge have a greater understanding of the universe that they inhabit.

As I have discovered, however, academic progress is ultimately fulfilling. Making a genuine discovery is more difficult than most think. We still have yet to find a way to restore sustainability to the ravaged Earth, to create new lives out of sterility and debris. Finding a solution to a problem is far more difficult than finding the problems with a solution, and the matter which I face today is one that is not easily resolved.

 

To re-enter and somehow re-integrate into society is to leave my sober thoughts and individuality behind. It is to step back into chaos and disorder, yet uniqueness and individuality.

Some people prefer independence, but what they find is that when there is only independence, socialisation appears far more attractive.

 

At least, that’s how it seems to me.

 

To leave or not to leave.

I lose either way.

 

 

 

Originally posted on my personal blog.