Saturday, 20 October 2007

Still here

This is a really busy time of year for me in RL - work, moving, work, trying to write, work, more work, work.

I'm still writing, but it's all big stuff and that's difficult to post bits of. There is a new part of Group Therapy up at my MSN space (Atlantaworld), and a few bits and pieces at the WritersCafe, but I'm struggling to find time to work on anything else.

I'm still thinking about things, like the new angel story, and publishing - hopefully there will be some news on that front soon. I'll keep you posted.


Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Fallen from Grace

It’s different when it’s your own body. Except for the wings – they were painfully torn off before they chucked me down here. It’s not like I’m damned or anything. I’m one of the Boss’s most beautiful creatures, even without my wings. It’s not vanity; it’s a statement of fact. Unfortunately, I knew too much and gave too much away, and this is my punishment.

I’m a guardian angel, or at least I was. Now, I’m human ... well mostly. I’m still immortal. If I died, I’d have the chance of going back to heaven. If I went to hell, I’d be the highest ranked of the fallen angels – in a position of authority, and I’d get my wings back. They’d be webbed and ugly, but I could live with that. Lucifer himself would be forced to pay homage to me. Besides, I’m not one of them. When they revolted, I fought steadfastly against them. I was Michael’s right-hand man – well, man is stretching it a little, but I do have male equipment.

I’m screwed, and all I did was fall in love. If I was lame, like Adam, I’d blame my situation and the boss for putting me in it. Maybe I’d blame Marilyn for being a perfect partner, a perfect loving soul, and the wife of the body that I inhabited during her last days. Even as the possessor of forbidden knowledge, she got heaven, and I got humanity. I was the one who gave her that knowledge. I fell in love with her, and she loved the body I was in, the body of her husband as he hovered near death. I couldn’t save him – he’d made a fatal mistake, cheating on Marilyn, and she had a terminal illness. Only she could save him. Her forgiveness would have set him right. Unfortunately, she didn’t even suspect him, and I couldn’t tell her. I was there to protect her – that meant NOT telling, easing her passage to the beyond, content with a well-lived life.

I was a good guardian, perhaps even one of the best. Ghandi was mine, and I was part of Jesus’s retinue. He had special status, for obvious reasons, and I was there at the end helping to carry him upstairs. Jean d’Arc was another, Galileo, several Popes, Confucius, Abraham, Moses, Mohammed – when there was a biggie, I was the one for the job. My secret was that I got really close to my charges, loving them was easy, part of my job. Falling in love wasn’t. That was a risk that had always been worth taking. If Jean hadn’t been celibate, I might have fallen then. Perhaps, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened.

I fell hard, landing in London. It could have been worse; I could have been stuck in the middle of Africa, a naked, frightfully pale man left to fend for himself in a harsh environment. Instead, I got humanity, and the only thing that kept me from being thrown directly in jail for public indecency was my crushed shoulder from the fall. That covered up the bloody stumps where my wings had been. I landed in Trafalgar Square in full daylight near Nelson’s feet. Somebody thought I had jumped from the top of his column, but nobody could explain how I got up there, and I couldn’t exactly tell the truth. My cell would be padded instead. Of course, the fact that I survived at all was a miracle.

I was a little dazed when I hit, and couldn’t identify myself. “I’m Davidl” David who? “Just David.” I was too slow to make up a surname or an abode. So they think I have amnesia. The point is that I have no life to remember, since I wasn’t human until 7 July 2007. They’ve kept me in hospital for the past week and circulated my description in the papers. At least they’ve continued to call me David, rather than the ubiquitous “John Doe.”

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Fall from Grace

I'm thinking of another guardian angel story. This one is about an angel (David) who falls in love with his human charge, causing him to reveal himself to her during his brief human appearance. That's strictly forbidden, and his charge dies because of it.

David is therefore cast out of heaven and has to cope with being human, something that guardian angels find mildly distasteful, since humans are the next rung down the ladder.

For my previous one, see: It's got to get better (than this)

Feel free to review it there, if you'd like.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Guardians of the Future

This is the beginning (I think) of a new Ark Project story. Comments please. Title is provisional.

Chapter 1 (scene 1)

Jonas Lake almost missed the most spectacular find of his illustrious career: a tiny, camouflaged door of 21st century design. That it was locked wasn’t surprising. That it had been bolted shut was.

Polar exploration had been dangerous since the first cataclysm. Only a prolonged period of weather moderation had allowed the ice to form into a stable thick sheet. Antarctica’s terrain was rocky, frigid and almost impassible in places and the ice sped transport during the summer daylight months. Winter was still too treacherous for land travel.

Opening the door was awkward even in his modern thermsuit, which was almost like a second skin. It covered him comfortably and completely, and was of the same design used in space. He longed to try it out there, but ongoing difficulties with Callisto made Terran spaceflight rare. The Carterian rebellion had only re-opened trade routes. Callistan and Eran visits were common, but Terrans (he hated the term Earthlings) were home-bodies and rarely wished to venture out. Lake was in a small minority, and longed to see Callisto and its mysterious twin Artemis. Even moreso, he wished to explore Haven, a distant planet still relatively uninhabited and uncharted. It lacked the dangers of Artemis, and exploration was only useful if you survived. Only mining fortresses could stave off Artemis’s carnivorous vegetation.

Ordinarily his people cherished their rescued ancestry, but Lake found it an obstacle. His dark skin was rare even two millennia after his ancesters were rescued. Less than 25% of the rescued families were black and compared to the fair-skinned Campbells, who bred like rabbits, their colour was soon assimilated. Of Earth’s 2 billion inhabitants, only 1% could claim pure-bred African heritage. Lake’s skin colour kept him out of space, so he’d turned his attention to Earth’s harsher climates.

Lake was, in fact, the only black in his landing party. He often joked that he might lose his blond-haired blue-eyed companions in the snow, but on the hard black slopes of Mt Scott, he was indeed the best camouflaged.

Cutting the bolts was easy, but the door groaned on its ancient hinges. Not knowing what was inside they did their best to avoid cutting through the door, but it became inevitable when the hinges froze with the door open only a couple of centimeters. Setting the door to the side, Jonas and his party ventured in.

Surprised to find the entryway in pristine condition and working electricity, he asked his second in command Suli Campbell if there was anyone in range. She was the only telepath in his party. He found having her around convenient in such circumstances. She could also gauge the feelings of their party in an instant, and since she was a profound telepath she could even stir people’s memories. What Lake appreciated most was that she could become his step to the stars. Not only did she have connections, but she was a potential pilot herself, although she hadn’t trained.

With the exception of their heights, both being quite tall, they were polar oppositions. She had thin straight pale blond hair, light blue eyes, and wasn’t afraid to let Lake know that she was attracted to him. Jonas knew that he couldn’t hide from her, but it didn’t stop him from trying. Opposites attract, but her most attractive feature was that she was a Campbell. Lake’s family would not be pleased about a liaison with a Campbell, so they left it as a devoted friendship with extras. He didn’t have a lover from his own race, and approaching 90, he wasn’t getting any younger. She was 96 herself, but as a Campbell had an expected lifespan almost 50% longer, even spending much of her time on Earth.

Lake found living over 200 years almost impossible to contemplate. It was widely romoured that the Campbell genes had been infected by a parasite aboard the Ark Foundation in the twelth millenium, extending their lives by nearly 100 years. It was well known, however, that men had been known to live up to 300 years as early as the fifth millennium as long as they spent their entire lives aboard one of the Arks. Surface life severely curtailed their longevity.

“No one alive nearby, Jonas,” Suli replied. “It is really strange. It’s as if someone still lives here.”

“Let’s have a look around,” Jonas decided. “We’ll travel in pairs and report every 15 minutes.” He knew that was unnecessary. Letitia would keep track of them all, since they all wore thermsuits. She was the on-board computer system in their suits. Officially, her designation was LAURA, but she had a personality and many people preferred to give her a name that suited them better. Suli stuck with Laura, but Letitia’s personality reminded him of his grandmother, so that’s what he called her.

Jonas only just tolerated her presence. She pervaded society and knew where everyone was and what they were doing. If only she could tell what they were thinking, she would be omniscient. He thought that was very bigbrotherish. Strangely, 1984 was required reading in schools. The parallel was so close that it scared him, although Letitia never seemed sinister. In fact, only Earth's government was questionable, and Letitia was definitely anti-government. She could interfere if necessary, but had learned long ago to keep her hands out of human relationships.

“I don’t like this,” Suli confessed when they were alone. “Somebody obviously built this to spend a long time here, and I think they actually did. Look at the wear on the floor around the doorways.”

“I wonder why there isn’t any dust,” Jonas mused.

“The air is scrubbed,” Latitia interrupted. “I can sense the whirr of 21st century scrubbers.”

“Can they possibly still be working?” Suli asked. Latitia/Laura had broadcast her message to both of them.

“Apparently they are,” was Latitia’s flat answer.

“What’s this?” Jonas asked, finding a black box with letters and numbers on little buttons. “Q W E R T Y U ...”

“It is an ancient computer,” Latitia explained. “I was created on one quite similar. There is a switch on the back of the main unit. The image will be displayed in the flat square above the keyboard – that’s what the unit with the letters is called.”

Suli flicked the switch and it sprang to life. Words flashed on the screen until it stopped at a screen asking for a username and password.

“What do we do now?” Jonas asked.

“Wait one moment,” Latitia said, as a tendril sprang out from his pack and into a port on the back. “I can hack it if you will just give me a second. It will consider me to be a virus, but I can get around that.”

A short time later, the screen flashed blue and some graphics appeared. “What now?” Jonas asked.

“That little black oval next to the keyboard controls a pointer on the display,” Latitia explained, “and there is a database that makes interesting reading, but you might prefer to have a look at the science officer’s long and the command log. Don’t worry, I can control it for you, just tell me what you wish to see.” Latitia would have instantly scanned the entire contents of the computer, but this was Lake’s expedition and she wouldn’t interfere unless directly asked for help. He preferred it that way.

“Dr. Lake,” Kevin Weston’s voice interrupted, “I think you should see this.”

“You should,” Suli agreed, having scanned Kevin’s thoughts. “We can come back to this.”

Latitia guided them through a vast wing of empty living units to a laboratory area where Kevin was. Suli was right. The complex had been built to last, and had been lived in for quite some time. Whomever had been the last to leave had cleaned up after himself ... but how had they left?

The lab was extraordinary. Part of it was dedicated to a large wave generated power plant. That made sense, as the complex wouldn’t get sun six months of the year, and solar panels would have been prone to collecting snow. Wind turbines would have been too conspicuous, and likely to break down in extreme conditions. The wave generator took its power from a vast underground sea, perhaps even from the ocean. The generator had clearly been modified over centuries to be self-cleaning and maintenance free. Lake thought to himself how many generations that must have taken.

The inhabitants had been completely reliant upon the generator for light, heat, and food. The surface wouldn’t support plant life, so the hydroponics had to be lit below ground. That was the only area that showed signs of neglect, being overgrown and self-seeded – an underground wilderness of arable crops. Nobody had tended it for centuries.

The most interesting part of the lab, however, was its vault. It opened to a large underwater storage area.

“What do you suppose it holds?” Kevin asked.

“Someone will have to go in and find out,” Lake replied, knowing that meant one person: Suli. She was the best swimmer on the expedition, and was accustomed to swimming in a thermsuit. It provided its own source of air, which was either recycled in space or discharged as CO2 under water. Many, like Jonas, couldn’t help trying to hold their breath as they swam, causing quick muscle fatigue and in some cases a bout of vertigo. Jonas avoided swimming at all costs.

Monday, 26 February 2007

The Rise and Fall

Here is the beginning of a new story. I'm not sure about it's length and the title is provisional.

There’s nothing more political than a church choir. I’ve been in one for the last seven years…well, until two days ago. I managed to avoid most of the politics by being the only professional, or former pro at least, in the group. Ten years ago, I was thriving in the London music scene – in demand as a paid member of the BBC Symphony Chorus and even as a soloist for amateur choral societies in the southeast. They are almost as political as church choirs, to be truthful. Cara, my ex-wife, couldn’t stand my odd hours and all my travelling, and I also think that she didn’t trust me with all those women. Most choirs are at least 60 percent women, and she wouldn’t believe me that most were nearly twice my age, or half. Choral societies are always in need of men and adult women that aren’t past their singing prime. Anyone who is half-decent is doing what I did, earning a little extra money with solo gigs.

Cara made me get a “proper job” in computer support. My typical day used to be: practise for a couple hours in the morning, and then play some piano for an hour. Then, twice a week I’d have BBC rehearsals. On alternate days, I would teach, either singing or piano, and voice once a week at the Guildhall. Altogether, I earned enough to get by, at least until I married Cara. She was used to living a more opulent lifestyle than me, and even though she had a high-powered job in the City, she always said that I would need to be able to earn more if we were ever going to have children.

I think she didn’t really want them anyway. She was dynamite in bed until after we married. Even our wedding night was anticlimactic. We’re both Catholic and I think it was the excitement of breaking the taboo that drove our experimentation. Our rotten wedding snapped two years ago, and that set up my downfall at church.

I’ve never really been the most ardent of Catholics, but becoming a divorcee was the nail in my coffin. Nobody actually said anything to me, but I could sense the whispers. A month ago I decide to start over. I quit my job and bought a plane ticket to Chicago. Everyone said they were sorry to see me go, but only a couple were genuine. Penny, Rachel and I were the “axis of evil” in the group. Not really, but we liked to call ourselves that, since we didn’t take any shit from the blue-haired sopranos. They were the worst; most have a vibrato that you could drive a lorry through, and shrieked at the tops of their lungs, calling it singing. And they are always the first to volunteer to sing the psalm. Since I’d “retired,” I never volunteered, but was often drafted when the song was too difficult for the others.

Both Penny and Rachel were altos, and quite good. They knew how to play the game – something that I had no desire to do. Both were good friends, and I even had a few social outings with Penny, who was about 20 years older than me. There was really nothing special about Rachel, except something intangible that I really liked. We inhabited the same wavelength. Both of us were married, and she had a young daughter, so nothing would ever happen…or so I thought.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Love, Candace

This was a contest entry gone wrong. I hope to expand it. Do you think there is enough there for a novel, or just a short story?

It was a habit that Henry could never break.

“Love, Candace.” That’s how she’d signed her note, spurring Henry into a fit of foolish passion and the letter he should never have written. She didn’t take it well and broke off all contact. Sixteen was too young to meet the love of your life, and he’d learnt the hard way.

Candace, now Sister Mary Dufort, sat before him in his office with a young novice, Sister Catherine. He wasn’t sure that she even recognized him, although she had the advantage of knowing his name. Her surname had been a clue, but he’d never expected Candace to walk into his office that day, much less as Mother Superior of the Sisters of the Covenant. In spite of her salt and pepper grey hair, she looked much the same after 25 years, with her athletic physique and brilliant, sparkling blue eyes. Both women wore demure grey skirts and blouses and wouldn’t ordinarily be recognized as nuns, now that full habits were a relic of the past.

Henry, on the other hand, was much the worse for wear. His brief failed marriage and a subsequent long-term relationship resulted in two children, both girls who blamed him for the break-ups and plunged him into never-ending money problems as he staggered under hefty maintenance payments. Claire starting college eased them somewhat, but his life had just sunk into turmoil again when his latest girlfriend of ten years, Anna, left him and three days later announced that she was pregnant. Broken relationships and alienated children had become an annoying routine.

Working all hours of the day, Henry’s body betrayed him. He’d lost sight of his feet a couple years ago, and his back ached constantly. The little hair that he had left was cut short to de-emphasize his baldness.

“Mr Gordon,” Sister Mary began, “at the Convent we have finally decided to computerize. Sister Catherine has trained in web design, and we have come to you for advice on hardware, which we hope you will be able to install and maintain. I know so little about it myself that I will have to let Catherine take over from here, Hank. I’ll get involved only when we come to costs.”

Hank. No one had called him that in over two decades, and hearing it roll off her lips again made his spine tingle. He still thought of her often, and she had clearly forgiven or possibly forgotten his ancient faux pas. Yes, he saw recognition in her eyes, and it threw him. As Catherine prattled away, he found himself unable to take notes or any interest in her at all, as he realized how much he was still in love with her Mother Superior.

“Mr Gordon?” Mary interrupted, “Hank? Are you alright?”

Henry’s glazed look remained.

“Hank?” Mary persisted.

“I, umm…” Henry’s memories refused to let go.

“That was a long time ago,” she said gently. “We were both young and foolish then.” Meanwhile, Catherine fidgeted, unprepared for the familiarity between the two.

Snapping back to his senses, he replied nervously, “Yes, it’s ancient history. I’m sorry. I don’t know what possessed me.”

He felt the sudden urge to cry, something he hadn’t done in years, neither when his relationships broke up, nor when his parents died. He couldn’t help it – crying was the last thing he wanted to do in front of two nuns. The tears flowed, nevertheless.

“Catherine,” Mary whispered, “would you leave us for a moment?” The novice quietly obeyed. “I’m sorry, Hank,” Mary continued. “I thought that having her here might make our meeting less awkward.”

“No, I’m sorry,” Henry replied, wiping his tears. “This was all so unexpected. But I wouldn’t have anticipated my reaction in any case.”

“Should we come back some other time?”


“I’ve put this meeting off for several months myself,” she admitted.

Too much, too soon. He’d only known her a month when he wrote that ill-conceived letter. Had it driven her to the Convent? Surely, she wouldn’t have made such a decision so young. Yet some hurt remained, undiminished by time. “You could have gone to someone else,” he replied.

“No … I couldn’t,” she stuttered. “I had to face … I … had to … I needed to … ” She found herself unable to say whatever it was. The meeting appeared to be as hard for her as it was for him.

“I’m glad you came, Candace,” he interrupted, relieving her from her misery.

“You mustn’t call me that,” she insisted, struggling to regain her composure. “That was my old life.”

“I’m sorry,” he muttered. Yes, it was her old life. The wedding bands that she and her novice proudly wore attested to that. She was a bride of Christ. He mused on whether it would have been easier for him if she were married to another man. No answer came, so he fought to compose himself. “I think I can continue now.”

As Sister Mary remained motionless, Henry suspected a reason for her visit that extended beyond websites and networks. He was resigned to wait until she was ready. He’d already waited for 25 years.

“We will talk more when you come out to see the Convent and School,” she said abruptly, standing and turning the handle of the door. “As Mother Superior, I have a few privileges.”