Friday 20 April 2012

Strangers on a Train... To Watford

I boarded a train at King’s Langley in 1978. Nothing remarkable in that, you might say other than the fact that I’m old enough to have done so. I, with my sister and mother was, as usual, late and we ran for the train. Out of breath- panting like puppies who’d rediscovered their tails and had been trying to catch them for the previous ten minutes, we flopped into the available seats in the crowded second class carriage. I note the class for reasons that will hopefully become clear.

My mum, bless her, had an uncanny ability to pick fights with perfect strangers and this occasion was no exception. We wanted the window open and the apparently un-aristocratic, fairly pretty young lady sitting opposite wanted it shut. Imagine my surprise when, after some heated exchanges, which looked like they might soon come to blows, between her and my mother, she cried “…anyway how dare you talk to me when we haven’t even been formally introduced!”

Formal introductions were definitely out of vogue even as long ago as that.

The timing of this encounter (which, by the way, appeared to be quite entertaining to the other passengers judging by their smirks and sniggers) was such that, shortly before arriving at our station, the young lady (having made no progress with my mother) turned to me; I had kept entirely out of the discussion until then.

I forget precisely what she said but she was clearly keen to try and recruit my services as another antagonist. The retort usually only occurs to me hours later. But this time it came to me in a flash; so, in my poshest pompously pretentious pronounciation I said “Do you mind? I’m not responsible for my family’s actions. I’ve never been so insulted in all my life!”

And got off the train.

Sunday 15 April 2012

England, Circa 2052

The following is taken from a stream of ficly stories ( by me, Malcolm Ramsay and Vacant Eye, started by Malcolm:
Amy had had enough. Life’d thrown her more than her fair share of troubles in the last few weeks. First her dog, Bonzo had died. Cheesy name of course, but she’d known a Bonzo years ago as a child, an old, fat Golden Retriever. About a 150 dog-years and seemingly as many pounds.
Then she’d lost her job. It wasn’t much, just serving at the local Bug-n-Bun. She’d done nothing wrong as far as she could tell, but some prima donna had complained and insisted she be fired. That had meant she was no longer entitled to her semi and had to move out into one of those new ‘onebeds’.
That was the personal stuff. On top of that was the political situation. Not that Amy understood it or anything, but it still bred an unrest that even she could not ignore. About a week ago had been the plane crash. Planes crash, if not exactly all the time, often enough, but this was different; it hit smack in the middle of the houses of parliament and the PM and most of the cabinet had died.
Everything went haywire after that.
On the fourth- or was it fifth?- day of the riots that the news was carefully not calling a revolution, she had to leave the flat for food.
She cautiously left the apartment building, glancing furtively down each alley and side-street as she walked to the supermarket. The idiot eyes that were broken windows stared at her as she scuttled from cover to cover and the shops drooled glass from the slack jaws of their product displays; she caught gut-wrenching whiffs of tear gas from time to time, and once some kids in hoodies, the oldest of whom couldn’t have been more than fourteen, raced past her, shouting about “…da Feds, fam, innit!”
Fires burned out of eyeshot, plumes of thick, black smoke rising above the city, but there were no sirens. An unmarked helicopter thwacked overhead once, but it was heading south, towards the coast.
After two or three hours, she returned to the flat with bread, cheese, bottles of water- and a nice pair of trainers that she found. After all, she didn’t break the window. Somebody else had done that before she got there. “How long’s this going to go on for?” , she wondered.
Minding her own business, she munched on the cheese and bread – it was stale. No surprise there, then. Then she lay down on the fluffily soft sofabed that was artfully designed to unfold into a shower cubicle to save space in the tiny ‘onebed’ she called home.
Just as she was trying to squeeze into her brightly adorned, newly acquired shoes, it hit. The micro-machine-filled missile landed surprisingly sedately through her bedroom window with a soft ‘plop’. Not knowing what it was, she cautiously examined it, but did not notice the grey powder that seemed to be oozing out of the bottom of the device.
She started to cough and wheeze as if she’d smoked far too many cigarettes. Dropping the device onto the floor she realised her brightly coloured shoes were now as dismal as the clouds that took safe refuge in the sky. She coughed once more, this time spraying crimson dots onto the palms of her hands.
After falling to her knees she stared through the empty frame which once held her window. “Hell! Hell!” she gurgled as she tried to scream the word help. Trying once more only to fail she sprayed more crimson specks from her mouth onto her once pristine carpet. What’s the point anyway?! she thought to herself. No one in this apartment block knew or even acknowledged her existence. Was it the way that she spoke? The colour of her skin? Probably not…
They probably know about me. Disfigured and ugly he sat in the corner of the room and stared at her with hollow eyes. I’d better give Amy the fix or it’ll be too late, Brian, the disfigured one, thought as he withdrew a metallic cube from within the folds of his tunic. Placing it on the now crumbling table, he switched it on.
The seemingly unexciting machine purred quietly to itself; however the table stopped crumbling. So did everything else. An almost imperceptible grey mist drifted from all corners of the room towards the cube. Brian took what seemed to be a perfume atomiser from his pocket and sprayed Amy from head to toe. She brightened, coughed once and screamed.
“Don’t be frightened. I’m here to help you.” Said Brian. Amy stared. “Whh…wh…h…a…who”, she stammered.
“Are you trying to ask who I am… or what I am, perhaps?
“Either. Both…I dunno.”
“Well, my name is Brian. That’s probably enough of the who for now. As to what, I’m not sure quite what to tell you. I was human, once. I lived in the Ukraine during April 1986. I survived Chernobyl only through the use of classified technology.”

I'm Sorry?

I was walking, weaving, ducking, diving my way down Oxford Street on a crowded busy Wednesday afternoon last summer when I was suddenly confronted by this tiny woman with spiky blue hair. I don’t mean it was a ‘blue rinse’ or that it had been gelled in a slightly upward style. I mean that it was an outrageous bright electric blue and had been carefully formed into about fifty cones all pointing outwards as if she was trying to imitate Sonic or something.
She was clearly trying to ask a question and hadn’t noticed I had my cans on. So I popped out my ear-candies. “I’m sorry?” I said.
“c?ny?d?r?ctm?t?th?r??lw?yst?t?n?” she said.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t quite catch that.” Not quite; I hadn’t caught any of it.
Oh no, here comes the third one. “Pardon?”
“Can you drive me really insane?!” Probably. Can’t have been what she said. Can it?
“Can you direct me to the railway station?”
“Oh… I’m so sorry it took me so long to get it.”