Sorry to have been so silent for so long. I'm not deliberately imparting a monthly blog or anything like that, it's just what seems to be happening right now. I've been rather busy doing a fine ol' mixture of reading excessively, watching Doctor Who, helping a friend with his current Xbox situation, job-hunting and (most important of all) WRITING! Sadly though, the last activity has been slipping back somewhat in my priority list of late.
However, I have indeed been writing a few things and have been trying my absolute best to make it some of the finest examples of my work and style to date. I've spent a considerable amount of time on two short stories in particular - "Small Things in Battle" and "Mummy's Boy". With these I have begun the slow and difficult process of picking myself up and dusting myself down in terms of the whole writing thing (in case you didn't know, I've only just finished the final assignments of my course and so have been both physically and mentally drained in a very thorough fashion).
"Small Things in Battle" is a highly condensed and compacted version of a story that I have long wished to write but have otherwise been unable to. The tale features two first-person perspectives: the goodie in plain text, the baddy in italics. Please don't feel like I'm insulting your intelligence here, I just want to make it as clear as I can that they are not the same person. I won't give away the theme yet, but I can tell you that war fiction is not quite what I'm talking about here. At least that's not what I think I'm talking about - the power of the subconscious mind can be a tricky thing, especially in terms of individual inspiration.
"Mummy's Boy", on the other hand, is on entirely the other side of the coin: it's a story that I've had great reservations about writing but ultimately knew I could and must. I had the idea for it around Mother's Day, as the title suggests, and that little voice that says spiteful things and whispers wicked thoughts just took over for the majority of it's conception. It's safe to say that the theme, which again I will not reveal to you here, was not one at the top of my list to explore. Nevertheless I think that the subtlety with which I wrote it will dampen the shock sufficiently. I hope.
Anyway, without further ado (and further improvised typing), here are the stories :).
SMALL THINGS IN BATTLE
He's here with me. Who's he exactly? Can't tell. Yet.
An enemy though, no doubt about that. One of the other side with the bombs and the bigger brains. There's a crafty trigger finger round here. Somewhere.
In all the fuzziness I recall a name. Begins with 'm'. Martial? Marshall. I can see a face now. His old man's smirk. Bastard.
He's got to know something about this place. From all the big boxes and dusty metal I'd guess this is an abandoned cargo bay. Enemy ground, anyway. Unfamiliar. Potentially hostile.
I've crossed this pillar four times now. Damn funny looking thing. It's got bumps all over it - ins and outs. Wooden too. Didn't realise that the other side were so...flamboyant. I wonder if this is what they mean by 'the art of war'. Personally, I don't get it.
Urgh, I don't know what I'm thinking. I'm just sick of the waiting now. That distant empty hum's scratching on my last nerve. Give me an exploding minefield any day.
I shout "Show yourself."
He'll bite, sure enough. He's gonna bite back real soon.
Look at you, grunt. Little one.
That's it. Keep stomping around with your pea-shooter, your empty brain bucket. Look up if you want.
But you won't. Of course you won't. Incompetent subordinate. I can tell from your weary eyes, your sullen expression. You're broken. But you won't desert; you shan't change your course. I respect that. I know your angry little heart. I've seen the same in so many men; some smaller, most greater.
Ho, ho, you're wandering in all the wrong places now. You'll never see me there. Maybe I should wave, dance around, draw you out. Make it easier for the both of us.
Yes, I did hear you before. No reason for me to respond though, for what have you got on me? I'm up here, you're in your place. And if that should suddenly change, I always have this. My service revolver. I haven't used it in a while though. Oh, what the hell? A quick spot of target practice certainly won't go amiss. It'll do us both a world of good...
It's clogged. Damn. I need time to clean it.
He's getting close. Damn! I just need the time.
Hmm, this block. Big and wooden. Rather solid too. Uninspired as far as traps go, but it will do.
Heave-ho, and down we go...
Was that a laugh?
Sliding. Something's sliding up top. And falling.
Quick forward roll.
Out of the way. Just.
Let's see what we have here... Some kind of block. Hell, it's big. Had to be pushed. It's him. Heads up. Hello, jackboot.
Gun's heavier than I remember. And where's the trigger? Shit, it's broke. Ah well, it'd have been too late anyway. Already out of sight.
At least I know where he is now. Old men like him can't run too far.
I need some kind of ladder or at least something with footholds. Giant work-station like this, there's gotta be some way to get on top. All I can see is that construction over there. Don't know what the hell it is but it looks a little like a bureau. Huge wooden sliders poking out. It'll have to do. Marshall's getting away.
I grab onto the first ledge, unsheathe my knife. At least this'll work.
You've disappeared. You're a ballsy one, aren't you? Can't say that I like that.
Nonetheless, I think I know how you plan to get up here. There's really only one plausible way, after all. Time to jump into the car.
It's a classic. It has that vintage sheen, the heady scent of times past, leather upholstered seats. However it's rather snug when you climb into it. Disappointing. It's really just a shell now; the engine having been removed. Still I can move it a shudder and that's all I need from it for now.
I look behind. That strange luminescent green rope I found before is holding just fine. It was a little frayed when I found it but it'll hold just long enough. It's tied between the back bumper of the vehicle and the handle of the topmost drawer. When you reach it, I'll power forward and snap your last ledge shut. Then, I think I'll leave you hanging. That'll teach you to treat your betters with more courtesy.
You're certainly taking your time. Any of my boys would have scaled up here within minutes. It's a pity none of them are around right now.
Strange, that. We were running together, before all this, guns aimed high for the castle stronghold and then...nothing. It's like I've been asleep and, since waking, I find myself stranded. I can conceive of no credible reason. It must be conspiracy.
You're getting near; I can hear your husky breathing. All I need is this slight push forward. Roll, you beautiful husk. Drive!
Snap. The ledge is gone. Bastard's got me.
Or maybe he hasn't. I see that green line he used, think I can use it for myself.
Reach up for it. Yeah, just about taut enough. Dumb move, Marshall. Very dumb.
Gotta say it's been a while since I last climbed rope. Boot camp? Comforting to know that nothing goes to waste. Just got to keep steady.
And there he goes. Typical. Nice wheels, though. Wonder why he's left it behind? Hope he kept the brakes on...
Whoa! The fucking car's slipping back! Lightest damn vehicle I've ever seen. Luckily I'm already halfway onto the top. Move a little to the left and...
Whammo! Helluva crash down below. Wonder if he had insurance on that thing. Shit.
Marshall's still near. He got out so fast, he's stumbling. Gun's still bust though. I'll have to pursue. Don't like it.
Not my finest plan, I'll concede. You're obviously a quick learner, for a common runt. A pity about the car. I suppose beauty is yet another casualty in the tides of battle.
Well, if waste is what you respond to, then have some more. Wooden sticks. Steel cubes. Tin containers.
Hmm, how odd. This thing looks exactly like a ruler; though the biggest I've ever seen. And that: a ball-point pen. Well, if it rolls, it impedes.
I just hope we get there before you lay your grubby little hands on me. I'm quite surprised you haven't fired at me yet. I suppose your gun is blocked too. How fortunate.
I wonder if you've fallen yet. You're obviously quick, spatially aware. I do want you to meet with me but in good time.
Ah, and there it is. Just within sight. My last resort. A few more obstacles and you'll be here too.
Goddamn it! That thing nearly bowled me over!
Good news is he's desperate. His movements are erratic; he could slip at any moment. Then it would be a clean shot. Soon as he's down I'll stab him in the calf. No more fucking running.
Marshall's gotta know something. With any luck, he'll lead me to the right place. Maybe he's leading me there now. Nah, he's too smart for that...
What the hell is that thing? Looks like a holding cell, only big, shiny and special.
What's with all the buttons on the side? It's all numbers and squiggly lines. Is that the door? Feels warm. Can barely see inside. Something nuclear, I'll bet.
And where's Marshall gone?
Click. Jackboot footstep. Cold barrel on the back of my neck.
Grunt. "One last trap, huh?"
"Of course." I see his smile reflected in the door. Yup. An old man's smirk alright.
"Drop the knife." And you do. Good show. "Don't turn around."
I glance at the thing. A little old and weathered but still distinctly sharp. Hmm, much bigger than the standard commission. You certainly like your blades, don't you, grunt?
"Silent, eh? The mark of a good POW. I respect that. But before you tell me your name and service number, I think you should know that I don't really care. From your actions, I doubt you are any wiser than I am about our current situation. Also I must admit to feeling a little intrigued by this...contraption here and how it operates. Get inside."
I prod but you don't move. Defiance? Honestly?
"Now, I really haven't the time for this. Surely your simple grunt brain can comprehend a clear instruction. Not to mention, a loaded gun."
You still don't move. I see your fingers twitching near your back. I see them crawl towards the butt of your rifle. I see...
My fist. He never saw it coming. Now he's laid out on the floor. Weak jaw. Typical.
I grab the rifle, slam it across his face. No getting up. Even old men are dangerous here. Need someplace to hold him. Something strong. Let's see this 'contraption'...
Door won't budge. One of these buttons must open it. How about this one? The lowest. It's clear: no words on it or anything. Here goes...
There. Hmm, funny looking cell. What's this see-through plate thing for? Ah well. In you go, Marshall. Stay down.
That door's pretty heavy. Shuts nice and solid though. Now, which buttons do I press? Need to seal him up - maximum security. Looks like it operates by time intervals. Now let's see, I'll call in on the radio with what intel I have, but it'll still take my squadron a little while to find my exact location. Like, half an hour? Yeah. '30 mins'.
Wait...what's that humming? The machine? Whoa, that's hot! Gotta get out of the way...
Thing sounds like it's about to explode! Where's the fucking off-switch? Maybe the blank button again.
The door springs open. Shit, is that steam? Aw, God...
Gloop. Everywhere. Is that him? Marshall? Oh, shit.
Did-did that thing just...melt him? God. What the fuck do I do now?
I raise the radio to my ear. Procedure. "This is Private Jay, over. This is Private. Over." I look at it. Really look at it. "H-hello...?"
It's...it's plastic. Just a stupid wad of plastic.
Turn back. The goo's dribbled out, run up to the heel of my boot. Kneel down, pick up a bit, run it through my fingers. Plastic too. Familiar texture.
And that's not it. Everything - shit - everything about this place seems familiar. Domestic, almost. The giant pencil things, the ledges like bureau sliders, the pillars like table legs. Shit.
I've been missing it. So big. Everything's so goddamn big here.
I drop the radio. The gun too. Just hunks of plastic now.
And what about me? What am I made of? I'm nothing. Here. Somewhere. Alone.
What do I do?
The tray wavered and almost slipped as it skimmed past the banister. Rex's fingers tried their best to wrap around the sides. Most of the time Rex could hold onto big things like this, sometimes even bigger, but every now and then his hands suddenly felt very sore and tired. He bit his lip, holding back the naughty word that Dad had taught him a few days ago but told him never to repeat again.
Leaning against the rail, Rex slowly made his way up; his eyes fixed on the coffee cup. His thumb twitched as the warm brown liquid sloshed lightly over the rim. He remembered the last time he got too near hot water. Mum had rested the kettle near the edge of the kitchen counter top for a bit and he had stretched up and prodded the handle with one curious finger, trying to get a grip on it. Before he knew what was happening, it suddenly slipped and started tumbling forward. It was a good thing that Mum had caught it in time before it scolded him badly. Instead it just got a bit of his finger. It hurt but, after running it under the cold tap for a bit, the redness started to disappear. Mum, however, wasn't so lucky; there was a long splash of red across the wrist of one hand and the palm of the other. He said sorry but she told him not to cry. Not to worry. These things happen, after all. It had happened nearly three years ago but Rex certainly didn't want to risk feeling that tingly burn again.
Eventually he reached the landing and stopped to catch his breath. Mum and Dad's bedroom was just around the corner. They would probably be asleep because it was Sunday. They were always asleep on Sunday mornings. Except they called it 'snoozing'.
As gently as he could, Rex knocked on the door and pushed it open. They weren't snoozing this time, they were awake and hugging each other. There was a big smile on both of their faces. Dad noticed him first.
"Well wahey, champ! That's a top notch breakfast!" He winked. "Isn't it, mum?"
"Oh, yes. Yummy-yummy." She sat upright. "Take your time, dear. Don't want you hurting yourself, especially with that plate. Oh, and that coffee looks piping hot! You helped him with that, didn't you, dear?"
Dad chuckled and kissed Mum on her forehead. "Of course."
She reached out and grabbed the handle of the coffee cup. It had 'No. #1 Mum' on the front but she didn't notice. Instead she rested it on the table and reached out for the tray. "I'll take that, Rex. Oh, this all looks wonderful! Thank you, dear."
Rex stared at Mum. She looked very pale in the morning light and a little bit wrinkly. Dad referred to this as 'showing her age' and insisted that there was nothing wrong with it, but swore Rex to secrecy all the same.
She smiled, showing even more wrinkles around her eyes. "Come here, you." She tousled his short blonde hair and hugged him close. "My little angel. And you dressed in your best clothes too!"
He had. His blue and white striped t-shirt tucked neatly into his black shorts. Rex had even picked out his nicest pair of glasses too, the ones with the green rims. He'd cleaned them especially before coming up. Mum didn't like seeing greasy finger marks all over the lenses and Rex really didn't want her to fuss today.
He looked up at her. She was reading his special card, bits of glitter coming off on her fingertips.
"And aren't we forgetting something?" Dad chimed, "Where's the prezzie, champ?"
Licking his top lip, Rex tried to remember where he had put it. Running into his bedroom, he brought out a clay bowl. He'd made it at school with some help from Miss Wembley, but the thumbprints around the rim were definitely his own handiwork. And the message on the front too: "Mummy's". He didn't quite know what she would use the bowl for, but he wanted to make it specifically clear that it was her's and her's alone.
Dad reached over and inspected it. "Nice. Very nice. It's got that personal touch. What do you think, Mum?"
"Oh, yes." She said, running her fingers delicately across the edge. She stared away and smiled dreamily.
"Miss Wembley said it was the best she'd seen all day." Rex announced.
"I'm sure she did, champ." Dad laughed and winked.
Mum gave him her cross look. As always, Dad quickly recoiled.
"It's wonderful, sweetheart." She ruffled his hair and drew him in for another hug.
"Anyway," she said, patting him on the back, "it's time me and Dad were getting up. Now have you brushed your teeth yet?"
Rex shook his head. He knew that she knew he hadn't. He'd come to learn that Mum had the uncanny ability to see inside his head. Rather than arguing, he ran off to the bathroom. He heard his parents chuckling as he approached the sink.
An hour later, Rex scampered down the stairs and past the banister again. He needed a good spot, one that they'd never think of; but he just couldn't decide. Usually he was very good at hide and seek ('small and crafty', as Dad once put it) but the barely audible sound of the slow countdown from one hundred was filling his ears and he was shaking with excitement.
Rex stopped and took a deep breath in, like Mum had taught him to. He needed to think carefully but also quickly. He could already hear Mum and Dad approaching the stairs from above. He pictured a hiding spot. A spot he could fit in easily and that neither would ever discover...
He opened his eyes. Of course. Rex sprang forward, making a bee line for the back garden.
Closing the back door behind him he ran towards the far left corner of the grassy patch. Adjusting his glasses, he looked up and down at the thing stood in front of him. The old wooden shed with bits of green paint flaking off the front. It was perfect. The last time Dad had found him in here he was very surprised, but not angry. Not quite. It was filled with old junk, he said; his father's stuff. Rex tried to ask about Granddad, but Dad was anxious that he got back out into the sunshine. In all the places in the house, Dad would never think to find him in here again.
Rex opened the door and hurried inside. It was very dark but he could be patient. Nevertheless, he kept the door open a crack so he could peek through. Holding in his breath, he waited.
Keys rattled in the back door and the handle was forced down. Mum and Dad strolled outside, holding hands. Mum let out a sleepy sigh and rested her head on Dad's shoulder.
"Oh, I do love a blue sky in April." She muttered.
Dad nodded. "It's always clear down here. And, to think, you didn't want to move."
"Well, what could you expect? There were so many memories back home."
"Like what?" Dad turned to her. "Not him, surely?"
Mum stopped and looked at him with infinite patience. "He was a good man. I know you two never really got along, but he was essentially good. I loved him."
"I didn't." Dad mumbled.
Mum gave him her cross look again. "He taught you a lot, you can't deny that."
"Doesn't mean that I ever liked him. Ever had a reason to." Turning away, Dad frowned and pouted. "He left us, or don't you remember?"
"I know he left but it wasn't out of spite. It...hurt him. He didn't understand. He couldn't bring himself to."
"Couldn't..." Dad grumbled.
"But think of what he did in doing that." Mum touched the side of his face lightly. "He brought us closer. Made our home happy again."
"And all it took was a few years for the old bastard to realise."
Mum grabbed hold of Dad's face. "Sweetheart, he was your father. He was a kind and good man. It wasn't his fault. It was just his nature."
Dad turned away again. He knew that she could see inside his head too.
"Now, let's not think about him anymore, eh?" Mum said. She raised Rex's bowl into his line of vision. "Think about your son. Our son."
Dad reached out for it and held it with both hands. A smile crept across his face. "Nice. Very nice."
Mum laughed and kissed him on the cheek. She ruffled his hair. "My little boy."
Dad laughed too. "Happy Mother's Day, Mum."
With one last glance around, they made their way back towards the other end of the garden. From the crack in the shadows, Rex watched and wondered why.
And that'll do. Whatever your opinion, please feel free to post a reply on here or on Twitter - look for 'mrpondersome' and the blue question mark with the top hat, stood proudly beside it. I may make another email address especially, depending on the reaction I get after this post takes off for the great wide internet highway. I won't bite if you don't :).
Thanks for reading (and waiting, as always),
Thanks for reading (and waiting, as always),