Saturday, 31 January 2009

You’ll Believe A Man Can Fly

He doesn’t come around as much these days: about once a month, sometimes less: though he never forgets my birthdays.

Most years he sends me flowers, or a small gift; something from one of the places he’s been to. Of course he can’t put his real name on the card; the man has a secret identity to maintain after all: but I always know it’s from him.

When he visits nowadays he always comes to the door wearing his civilian clothes; trousers, shirt, tie and those damn glasses: not like when we were both a little younger and he would fly down onto the balcony clad in tight lycra and take me by the hand. Some of the staff here tease me: they say I’ve gotten myself a toy boy. Usually I just smile and let them think what they want to, but to be honest I prefer not to think about that sort of thing too much these days – it gets me frustrated in places that haven’t worked properly in a long time, and besides he could do with losing a few pounds before I’d want to see him wearing tights again.

As I say: he doesn’t come around as much these days, not since Bruce died. I guess I never really understood how closely he was involved with the Wayne Foundation, but he’s certainly been less…attentive since that happened. Although: I did hear a rumour that Bruce wasn’t dead, that he’d just moved somewhere out of the limelight. Christ he’d have to be over a hundred years old now, so I guess it can’t be true.

How long have I been here? Oh about five years now, give or take a few weeks; ever since the operation. Took me so damned long to recover that I just knew I couldn’t live alone anymore, so I sold up and moved in. Mind you: I guess it’s not so bad here. True the food is awful and the walls stink of piss, but mostly they let you get on with whatever you want to do so I guess it could be a hell of a lot worse. Most days I paint. Sometimes seascapes, sometimes people, but mostly I paint our two hands, fingers barely touching against a pale blue sky. That’s the way I chose to remember him the most: still so young and hopeful, so damn full of American Pie that you could almost choke. Eight years of the Bush Administration knocked a lot of that out of him, but sometimes when he comes around now I think I see a little glimmer of that old hope in his eyes.

We even dated for a while: in between the nightly flights, though things were never easy. Every time we started to get somewhere he’d be off, leaving me alone in the bedroom wearing nothing but my birthday suit whilst he went charging around the globe after some bank heist or other. It was me that stopped it in the end, saved him the pain. Despite what you might think I was always the strong one and I think he was grateful when I finally told him it was over. In the end I just couldn’t cope with living with the fear every day. Funny that: the man was as near to invincible as you can get, but I still used to lie awake every night waiting for him to get back, wondering if this time he hadn’t taken on too much. No wonder I’ve got so many wrinkles

Still, it’s not so bad here. I get on well with the other residents, all except that Mary-Jane Watson. I think she’s overheard me talking about him once too often and now she makes out that she knew Spiderman. Well who didn’t? The guy wasn’t exactly publicity shy – I mean just look at that costume. She makes out that he was a newspaper reporter, which is how I know she’s lying; I mean what are the odds that two superheroes would work in publishing? He still writes, you know. Not for that damned paper, and not under the same name: but I can tell the style. A woman never forgets the words a man uses to explain himself, not even after all this time.

And of course, he doesn’t come around that much now, no sir…though he never forgets my birthday. About five years running he sent me diamonds; then I reminded him that I knew he was just crushing coal in his hands and he actually started spending a bit of money on me. He may well be a Man Of Steel, but the bastard’s got a wallet that’s harder to get into than Fort Knox

The last time he came by was about seven weeks ago, so I guess he must be due for a visit. I don’t know though, there was something strange in the way he looked at me last time, like it was getting too hard to see me like this. Plus I think he uses his X-Ray vision from time to time, so I guess he must know how seriously my lungs are shot. It must be hard for him if you think about it; ageing so much slower than the rest of us, staying young whilst everyone he cares about dies. Jimmy Olsen was the toughest for him: the day he died something went out of his smile and has never come back. Poor sweet Jimmy: I miss his optimism so much that it hurts.

Most days I palm the meds they give me. I know it helps with the pain, but it dulls the memory and makes you sleepy: and I’ve done far too much sleeping for one lifetime. Besides, the pain reminds me I’m still alive.

Of course the staff here don’t believe it’s him; they just smile and nod say “Yes Lois, of course Lois” and point out that it takes more than a pair of glasses to change the way a man looks. I don’t bother to tell them that most people are fooled because we look with our eyes and not our minds: they wouldn’t understand. They didn’t live through it the way I did.

Sometimes Lex visits too – though he has to be brought over by his grandson and he can barely walk these days. We laugh and talk about the old times when he would try to kill us both. All that stuff is so much water under the bridge these days, though sometimes when he falls asleep in the chair I think he still dreams about the power, though as he says, “It’s hard to think about world domination when it hurts so much to piss”.

Sometimes when he’s about to leave Lex will stand in the doorway and turn and say something like, “I nearly had you that time back in ’79 though, didn’t I Lois?” and I’ll always nod and say yes, because it’s true; he nearly did.

Mostly though it’s just me, my thoughts and Mary Jane refusing to stop talking about Dr Octopus like all that bullshit really happened. I get my own back though: I remind her that Metropolis is still a safe place to live, whereas crime is still rising in New York and that all that’s left of the old webslinger nowadays is some very faded cobwebs. I’m always tempted to slip a few of my meds into her food: just to see what happens you understand, especially when she starts going on about her glorious stage career…glorious my ass. She was so far off Broadway she was practically in Tibet.

And I understand why he doesn’t come around as much, truly I do. He’s got so much on his plate right now and immortal or not he’s not as young as he was. I can see it in his eye that stuff like straightening out the Leaning Tower of Piza or stopping a speeding train takes a lot more effort these days than it once did.

And then there’s me: slowly going senile, stinking of this place and just reminding him all the time of the good old days when he would carry me to the ends of the earth just to show me a sunset.

No, he doesn’t come around that much these days; I’d say about once a month…sometimes less.

But he never forgets my birthdays, no sir

He never forgets my birthdays.

Monday, 19 January 2009

He Really Painted Billboards

I sometimes wish I could just pick up a phone and call someone. It seems strange to me, having grown up in a house where we never had a phone until the late 1980s, to find myself living in a world where every twelve year old seems to get on a bus with Gangsta Rap blaring out of their I-phone.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m fine with the dread machine when at work and I have actual things that need to be talked about, but talking to a friend or relative at a distance is something I can happily put off for months on end rather than do.

But then I’m the chap at the party who only came because someone needed a lift and sits in a corner all night playing with the beer mats and looking like he’d rather be at home with a good book. It’s not that I don’t like other people – it’s just I don’t understand how they work.

So the prospect of phoning the Arts Guild was one that I had successfully avoided for three months on the very sensible grounds of Severe Intimidation. Would I have to fill in a questionnaire about Gouache? Would they ask me to name five great painters from the Pre-Raphaelite movement (guessing Raphael wasn’t one of them)?

I’d got the number from the main Art Gallery in town because I find art classes quite expensive and was hoping for a cheaper and more sociable way of getting a good practice whilst learning something at the same time. Even so, and even though it was something that I really wanted to do – I felt severely daunted at the prospect of picking up the phone and calling someone who might actually know what he was talking about.

Eventually, last Monday – and as part of my Plans For 2009 – I picked up the phone: asking for TC (Not Top Cat, in case you were wondering) – and, just as I suspected, ended up talking to a man who sounded just shy of the age of Methuselah (or whoever it was in The Bible who lived to be 900).

TC: Hello?
ME: Hello, is that TC? I’m ringing in regard to the Arts Guild – I was interested in joining.
TC: Oh yes? Well we’re a very sociable group – we meet every Wednesday at 7:30pm for a workshop and the first Monday of the month for a Guild meeting where guest speakers come along.
ME: Sounds great – the email I have says that you meet at United Reform Church, opposite ABC supermarket on the GZG road – is that right?
TC: Yes – that’s right. If you’re outside ABC supermarket you cross the road and it’s slightly up the road on the other side
ME: Yes – I know where that is – see you at 7:30pm on Wednesday.

Wednesday evening came and the friend I had arranged to meet in town after work cancelled at the last minute due to an overrunning meeting – leaving me with the choice of trying to rush home, get changed, eat and dash straight back out again or to hang around in town for 3 hours. As TC had said to bring some examples of my work along I elected to stay in town – having photos of my best stuff stored on my laptop.

The time passed very slowly, but eventually I caught the bus to the Church and waited outside at the specified place (around the back, by the door). Inside there was a martial arts class in full flow – but no sign of artists.

7:30pm came with no sign of the group – so when the Martial Arts class finished I asked the instructor about the art group – he had no idea what I was talking about. No art group there: never had been.

Cursing TC under my breath I walked around for a bit trying to decide what to do – there were at least two other churches in the area that I knew of: but which one?

I tried the home number that I had for TC – no response (clearly – as he was out at the art group: wherever that was). I crossed the road to the supermarket, looking for a Taxi home – nothing.

I tried the number again and this time I got TC’s wife – who sounded more elderly and fragile than her husband. I explained to her, above the noise of the traffic and the police sirens, that there was no sign of her husband at the designated church opposite the supermarket – secretly hoping that I wasn’t accidentally exposing some Love Tryst that TC was involved in with some teenage nymphet.

TCs Wife was very helpful – repeating the exact same directions that I had been given by her husband. Then she added, ‘I don’t understand…have you been under the bridge yet?’

I knew instantly that I was in the wrong place – and that the Actual Church was several metres up the road. I walked swiftly up to it – a Unitarian church, not United Reform.

Everything was in full flow – my first glance was enough to confirm my suspicions that everyone there would be getting a free bus pass (IE retired) – although I was not quite the youngest one there: two girls sat in a corner unloved and unspoken to – one of whom was drawing, whilst the other looked extremely bored.

I said hello to the two people that I knew from my course with Mad Penguin Lady (see previous posts) and explained my lateness to TC – who had been unaware of a second church on the road. He whisked me through to the kitchen, where I set up my laptop and proceeded to show him my efforts, accompanied by lots of comments along the lines of “I’ve never looked at anyone’s work on a computer before – isn’t modern technology wonderful”

Finally he pronounced my paintings “Very impressionistic” in an uncertain tone of voice that left me wondering if what he actually meant was “a steaming pile of horse manure” and asked me what Medium I preferred to work with. I successfully fought back the urge to say I usually preferred Doris Stoakes, but had left my Ouija board at home – and replied that I liked oils for texture, acrylics for speed and enjoyed paintings by Hopper…having then to explain who Hopper was.

I even made a point of dropping Rolf Harris’s name into the conversation a few times – knowing that it would annoy them (for some reason so-called “serious” artists have a problem with the clearly brilliant and highly enthusiastic TV presenter/artist/musician – possibly because he has done more to make art accessible than any Picasso and by doing so has stopped Art being the property of the intellectual elite)

Then TC encouraged me to take a walk around the room and talk to a few other people about what they were doing. Each person was busy in their work and I spoke to a few – feeling very much like a walker who has just struggled to get to the bus stop at the top of a local hill, only to find a man there talking to his mate about what a piece of piss Mount Everest is to climb. Each one of them seemed to be producing a work of art so brilliant that I could barely even dream of doing anything that came close and each one of them added that their current work was “nothing much” or “I can usually do better” (don’t you hate talented people? Grrrr!).

TC introduced me to Sideburns Man (we’re talking full on Wolverine sideburns here – in the style of overweight British men who stand in fields chewing stalks of grass and saying “ooh aar” a lot in comedy sketches) – saying “here’s another oil enthusiast”

Sideburns Man sat me down (fortunately next to one of the people I knew from MPL’s class) and – having established that I find Proportion and Perspective difficult - proceeded to lecture me for the next hour on how to measure the body; that you can tell how far apart the arms are by aligning your pencil with the north star (or something like that) and proceeded to draw a stunning sketch of a horse in pencil before announcing easily, ‘of course, that drawing is totally wrong – but you see what I mean’

To be frank it was all a bit too much. He clearly knew a lot about art, but he also clearly knew that he knew a lot and felt that it was his role to remind me how little I actually knew. At times I felt like he was being helpful and informative, but he never bothered to establish what I already knew – saying things like I needed to start looking at objects photographically and composition wise without asking me if I knew anything about this. I got out my pencil case (admittedly my two pencil cases have pictures of Fido Dido and Bart Simpson on the side – to remind me that nothing in life should be taken too seriously) and he started complaining about my sketch pad (you want to buy better quality than that) and the way I sharpened my pencils (you need to use a knife – won’t be sharp enough for what you want to do otherwise)

Looking back on it now I feel that he was trying to establish his credentials as the All-Seeing Oracle Of Art, the man to ask for advice. In a bizarre, almost surrealist way, I think he was trying to be friendly: but in many ways he couldn’t have more clearly marked his territory if he had raised his leg and pissed all over me.

By the end of the evening my brain was complaining – my one or two attempts at humour had gone way overhead and I walked out of the building with a deep built desire to go home and burn my art books and sketch pads. However, having survived the Dodgy Bloke waiting by a car (who, bizarrely, tried to sell me perfume whilst I waited for the bus) I went home having realized that something Nigel (the well meaning, but slightly annoying Sontaran at work) had said earlier in the week was true.

Art is subjective. What one man says is art is another man’s Tracy Emin. And it reminded me of a lyric in a U2 B-side (already quoted on this blog) – the lyric is “He said he was an artist, but he really painted billboards” To me that just goes to underline the fact that anyone, including myself, can chose to view the world from their own perspective. If I say I am an artist or a musician then who can really say I am wrong, regardless of my actual level of knowledge or ability?

OK – so Sideburns Man has studied a lot about art and clearly knows his stuff…but that doesn’t mean that his view of what is right is utterly right and that his methods can’t be challenged. After all, where would we be if no one had ever challenged the thoughts and actions of previous generations?

I think I’m big enough and strong enough to listen to what he says, take on board the things I think I can use and ignore the things I can’t. I wonder if the same thing can be said about him?


A note from the Pixies:

The main bulk of this post was written on Friday 16th January 2009. On Sunday 18th January Artist and TV presenter Tony Hart died aged 83 after a long period of illness.

Tony was famous in the UK for programmes such as “Vision On” and “Take Hart”, as well as the centre of the awful school playground joke that went:
PERSON A: Have you been to bed with Tony Hart?
PERSON A: So you’ve never been to bed with Toe-knee-heart?
PERSON B: Well obviously…
PERSON A: Yuk! You’ve been to bed with Tony Hart (and so forth)

As well as creating a home for Morph the first plasticine creation to come out of what would become Ardman Animations (Creature Comforts, Wallace & Gromitt and The Nightmare Before Christmas) Tony – alongside Rolf Harris – made a generation of children (including myself) excited about art.

Follow the link below for a fairly long clip from Take Hart

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Eyes On The Prize (Part Six)

Nothing alive could have moved like that. Head tilted to one side, neck clearly broken, Claire McKenzie’s body shambled a hesitant step forward. In the moment between death and re-birth the corpse seemed to have forgotten how to walk: but it was learning fast and picking up speed.

Templar darted forward and down, fingers stumbling across the butt of the shotgun and scratching for purchase. The gun clattered a few inches towards him, the impact of the movement sending the one remaining shell loudly into the wall of the plane, leaving tiny dots of light where the fragments broke through the metal. Templar uttered a silent prayer and stepped back from the advancing figure, eyes darting around the interior for some kind of weapon. Somehow in that moment his arm brushed against his pocket, connecting with the crucifix within. He shoved a desperate hand deep into the gap and rescued the object, holding it in front of him. The corpse hissed, its breath already rank, and slowed but did not stop in its advance.
‘Claire’ Templar tried desperately, ‘do you know who I am Claire?’ Templar stepped back again, dislodging some crates. The angry hiss from the creature was all the reply he needed. Templar climbed onto the nearest crate, feeling its wooden frame groan underneath him. He scrambled even higher, aware that he was being forced away from the one exit that might save his life. Desperately he tried to clear his mind, to remember what items McKenzie had been examining earlier: had there been something there that he could use as a weapon?

McKenzie’s corpse stopped following him now, seeming to recognise that he was cornered. All it would take would be one touch and he too might become like this; dead, and yet still alive. Templar tried the crucifix again, knowing that it would be useless in his hands. To make the creature retreat you had to have faith: and he knew all to well that he had lost that a long time ago. No, not lost – he thought in the panic of the moment – things like this in front of him had been too much proof to bear and with that proof had come the gradual loss of hope.

Angry at himself now Templar threw the crucifix at the creature, taking a moment of pleasure in its temporary retreat. He took another step backwards, the connection between his arms and the back of the plane telling him two things: one that the creature had moved out of the inanimate object into something it could mould into new shapes and two that he had no chance whatsoever of escape.


There was a banging from the doorway of the plane, the metal first denting and then giving way to the impact before the door slammed off its hinges and rattled to the ground. The creature turned now, sensing a new enemy, and Templar’s eyes widened in surprise as he saw first one of Fisher’s men and then, behind the hood, a face that he knew all too well.

There was a roar of an explosion and the corpse rocked on its feet as a shotgun shell pounded into the head of the body. Blood and brains exploded everywhere, spattering across the walls.

The body fell, arms still flailing. The sky turned blue again as the energy left McKenzie’s body and flashed towards the nearest possible host.

Templar was already moving towards the door before John Fisher’s corpse had the chance to stand. He pushed his way out into the snow, taking cover with the other five men as they retreated from the plane. As he ran into the snow Templar thought he caught the whiff of paraffin – then he saw the flames.

A few seconds later he saw that each man had removed their hoods and unzipped their jackets to reveal the crucifixes below. Now, as he dove into the cold snow, Templar saw each man raise their cross as one.

Fisher’s corpse stumbled out of the doorway towards them, his advance held back temporarily by the flame. Again there was the roar of a shotgun, but this time the creature was ready and raised a hand to deflect the bullet. As Fisher reached the wall of flame Templar watched it regarding the smoke and knew it would only be a moment before it was strong enough to advance towards them again.

That was when the chanting began. Words so familiar, and yet almost forgotten to him through the mists of time. In the hands of each man the crucifix began to glow: white hot as if caught by the sun and reflecting its power. Templar stood slowly, watching the familiar ritual, and was surprised to find himself mouthing the words in time.

The first of the flames were going out now, the paraffin exhausted, but still the creature seemed driven back by the words until it was forced into the plane. Then, just as the words began to hum in his brain, Templar saw one of the men drop the crucifix and draw a flame thrower.

It was all over surprisingly quickly after that. Even so, as he watched the fire take hold of the plane and begin to gut it, Templar couldn’t help but feel that it had all been too easy. Finally the flames subsided and he turned to face his five saviours
‘So’ he said eventually, ‘You came then?’
‘We did what was necessary’ one of them replied
‘And I suppose that it was you that killed the dogs?’ Templar asked
‘We did what was necessary’

Templar shook his head, ‘You had to draw it out, force it to reveal the location of the artefact, am I right? And the only way you could do that was to give it the chance of life?’
‘We did…’
‘What was necessary’ Templar completed bitterly, ‘Yes… so you said’

One of the men approached him now, gazing at him with something approaching concern, ‘Brother Gabriel’ the man said, ‘We do not understand your reluctance to this action
‘That’s not my name’ Templar replied, ‘And my reluctance is that three people died because of you’
‘It was unfortunate but necessary Gabriel’ the figure replied, ‘you should know that’
Templar shook his head, ‘No – there should have been another way’
‘There was no other way’

Templar looked at the remains of the plane, ‘So now what? Will you kill me?’
The figure shook his head, ‘That is not our way Gabriel,’ he replied, ‘You should know that’
‘Look’ Templar replied, his anger rising again, ‘Stop calling me that. My name is Charles Templar now…no one has called me…that name for a very long time’
‘But it is your given name Gabriel?’
‘And therefore mine to refuse’ Templar responded. He sighed, ‘The artefact must be destroyed…you do know that?’
The figures shook their heads in unison, ‘It must be taken back’
‘It is necessary’

Templar was fuming now, having to fight to restrain himself, ‘But if one single person gets infected then it will spread until no-one is left’
‘It will not happen’
‘But it can’t be risked’ Templar tried
‘It will not happen’

Templar let the last of his anger go. There was no point fighting them: not here, not now. Maybe once he would have tried, but now…He turned to the nearest figure, ‘Leave me a sled, enough supplies to get to base…I’ll do the rest’
‘But Gabriel…’
‘I told you’ Templar replied through gritted teeth, ‘DON’T CALL ME THAT GODDAM NAME!’

The words seemed to echo across the bleak horizon long after the figures had departed, leaving him alone to his thoughts in the wilderness. Finally, when he was sure they were gone he looked through the supplies they had left behind for him until he found a short-handled shovel. Then he dug three shallow graves.

He waited alone in the wilderness until the dawn came and he was sure the bodies would not rise again. Then he packed the last of the supplies onto the sled and headed away into the gathering clouds.


And that, I’m afraid, is that. Not perfect and a lot of room for improvement, but there were some nice ideas in there.

Make what you want of the ending – I don’t believe in giving the reader all the answers, as I think it’s far more entertaining for them to be left with a few things to think about afterwards.

Regular readers of this page will be glad to know that DFTP will be returning to its usual random influences and musings over the next few months, but at some point in the future I may try writing something slightly different – probably off-line and with re-writes so that I can assess which was more fun.

Finally – a couple of notes:

Firstly – when I was thinking about this story I had intended for there to be dialogue between Templar and the McKenzie/corpse, but abandoned this idea as I felt it would take away from the creature to give it a voice

Secondly – if I had been writing this off-line and actually planning the story a bit more then I would definitely have gone back and re-written some of the earlier scenes, especially in line with the final revelations which don’t quite work as well as they would have if I’d planned things a bit better.

Thirdly – the violence. I hope you didn’t mind this too much – I tend to believe that you should only show violence in a story if you are prepared to show the consequences: a subject I may return to in another blog.

Finally: thanks for staying with me – it’s been really great to have your feedback

Monday, 12 January 2009

The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown

Saturday afternoon and I’m upstairs with The King. My occasional bouts of activity over the festive period have resulted in a space large enough in my office for my easel and canvas. Both cats are soundly asleep and even the dulcet tones of Elvis aren’t enough to rouse them.

To be honest Elvis wouldn’t normally be my first choice of creative accompaniment. Much as I like him I tend to prefer something a bit more chilled out: some Pink Floyd maybe, or Peter Gabriel – maybe a bit of world music. But today we are creating with The King because it so happens that I recently bought a 3-CD set of his hits really cheap and haven’t got around to listening to it.

The canvas I’m using is a £1.99 canvas from a bargain basement store in a nearby town. Nigel, the well-meaning but slightly annoying Sontaran that I work with, picked it up for me just before Christmas. I waver in favouritism between oils and acrylics, having never got to grips with watercolours (Rolf Harris says you have to plan watercolours like a military campaign, and anything Rolf says is good enough for me!) – I like the final texture that Oil paints give, but dislike the waiting around for 6 weeks whilst each layer dries. Plus washing the brushes is a pain – involving stinking out the house with turpse and frantically trying to clean the bathroom sink before it dries on. Acrylics dry faster – so they fit my temperament much better.

However, the problem with acrylics drying much faster is that they dry much faster – often before you’ve finished using them. To compensate for this instead of a palette I have a tray into which you fit a water-absorbent sheet, over which you put a second sheet which is similar to grease-proof paper (used in baking)., which you then run a small amount of water over (enough to soak it) before running off the excess water.
So – whilst Elvis warbles away I start to paint the background colour. In the original photograph this is black, but I know that you should avoid black wherever possible (it can produce a very dead look to the picture and absorb the other colours), so go for brown instead. As I paint the brown I use a cheap D.I.Y. brush and apply a bit too much water (hint: if using one of these try to avoid dipping the metal clip of the brush into the water, as it retains it) but refuse to panic.
Leaving it to dry for a while I continue with a smaller D.I.Y. brush from the local hardware store and begin to add a few reds before realising that I need to start with the lighter colours and build up

By now Elvis is singing “Return To Sender”, but I’ve done as much as I can for the day, so I turn the painting upside down so that I can paint the area where the easel was (if anyone knows another solution to this please let me know) and leave it to dry overnight.
Sunday comes and, having turned the picture the right way around, I revert to my actual art brushes and mix some yellows and oranges.

Just as Elvis reaches “The Wonder Of You” and thus the end of the CD I leave it to dry whilst I make some lunch. Coming back to the picture I decide that the white is too strong and add some more colours on top as well as the detail for the bottom of the picture using a purple that I mixed myself (note to self: it may be wasteful, but always make more than you need as otherwise you WILL run out whilst you still need it)

Finally, and working from the top, I complete the trees in the same purple and add a few more touches to the flame

I’m pretty pleased with the final result (and Elvis isn’t complaining either), but am stuck for a title. So far the best I’ve come up with is “The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown” – an extremely obscure reference to a one-hit wonder.

Suggestions on a post-card please…

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Eyes On The Prize (Part Five)

Previously on E.O.T.P….

Somewhere on the edge of the known world a plane came down in the latter stages of the war. It was carrying Oliver Postgate, a pilot and something else: a secret so deadly that Postgate was willing to sacrifice his life to stop the Nazi’s from getting hold of it.

Sometime in the present day or near future a small expedition sets out to find the mysterious artefact. It’s members include Charles Templar, a former priest with a dark background, Mark Brannigan a young archaeologist and geologist and Claire McKenzie – the woman funding the expedition for reasons that have yet to be revealed.

Hot on their heels is the much better equipped John Fisher and his team of five, as yet, unknown men.

Shortly after arriving at the plane the team’s dogs are killed, leaving them stranded. Then, just as Fisher and his team turn up, things start to turn a little supernatural.

When we last saw them blue lightning was streaking across the sky…it seemed to be coalescing into a new, all too alive, shape…

And now…the penultimate episode…


There was a sound, breaking across the sky in a wave of torment. It was a sound that no human could have made; pure in its animal rage. It seemed to be born in that second as the blue lightning touched the ground, sending sparks flying across the snow. It was the sound of a child’s soul in torment.

Icy tendrils of fire snaked across the frozen ground towards the group as they ran towards the empty husk of the plane, chasing their footsteps.

Fisher was the first to reach the hatch and already had it half closed before Templar reached the door, jamming his frame into the gap. Fisher turned the butt of the shotgun and slammed it towards Templar’s face, forcing him to retreat slightly. Fisher tried to close the door fully, but now Brannigan and McKenzie were pushing their weight against him as well and he was forced to retreat far enough to let them inside.

Once they were through the gap Fisher wasted no time in shutting out the rest of his men and looking for something to wedge against the door to stop it opening again. McKenzie shot him a look of dark humour, ‘I see you still have your high moral values then?’ she retorted. Fisher said nothing, wedging a bar between the handles as and jumping back as if stung. Blue lightning flashed across the metal and the plane rocked on the ground as if something had put its shoulder down and shoved
‘What about your men?’ Brannigan asked, snapping a torch off the ground and switching its pale light into action, ‘They’ll die out there!’
‘Fuck them’ Fisher responded, not moving his eyes from the door. Finally he looked away, grinning malevolently at McKenzie, ‘Seems you’re stuck with me again Claire’
‘Well at least this time I won’t have to wait for the divorce papers to get rid of you’ she replied, ‘I’ll just have to feed you to that thing’
‘You too were married?’ Brannigan laughed hysterically, ‘I hope to God you never had any kids!’
‘Shut up’ Fisher replied, not moving his gaze from McKenzie. He grinned, ‘We had some good times though, didn’t we?’ he paused; seemed to re-think his statement, ‘No, actually – they were all pretty shit come to think of it’
Templar looked up from the other side of the plane where he had crouched to look for some kind of weapon, ‘Can that thing get in here?’ he asked, glancing at McKenzie. She shrugged, seeming to dismiss Fisher at the same time, ‘Maybe…I don’t know. The hull of the plane should keep it out for the moment, but eventually…’ she shrugged again.
‘What is that thing?’ Brannigan asked
‘You don’t want to know’ McKenzie replied.
Brannigan rose to his feet, hands shaking by his side, ‘Look – I’m sick of all this bullshit – I want answers. What the fuck is going on?’
‘Shut up kid’ Fisher replied quietly, his fingers seeming to caress the shotgun
‘Fuck you!’ Brannigan replied, ‘I have a right to know!’
Fisher raised the gun and pointed it in Brannigan’s direction, ‘I won’t tell you again boy – this is no time to panic, I have a really bad headache growing and the last thing I need is you whinging that everything is unfair’
‘Oh what the hell’ McKenzie replied, sounding bored with the interchange, ‘Might as well tell him – looks like none of us are going to survive to tell anyone about it anyway’

There was a moment of silence, during which Fisher swung the gun back so it was resting on his shoulder. Finally it was Templar that broke the silence. Standing up he pressed his hands into his trouser pockets and pulled out the crucifix, looking at it as if seeing it for the first time. He was silent for a long moment, then he said, ‘It’s the soul of a demon’
‘What?’ Brannigan responded.
‘Sometimes they fall to earth’ Templar shook his head, laughing bitterly, ‘The bible wasn’t so wrong when it spoke about Lucifer falling from heaven – but he wasn’t the first nor the last. Mostly they’re dead before they arrive…sometimes something of them survives’
‘You really do know how to talk bullshit, don’t you?’ Fisher interrupted, ‘Demons my arse’
‘So what did you think we were looking for out here?’ McKenzie retorted, ‘A pair of Jesus’s sandals?’
Fisher shrugged, ‘Not really interested. Just knew that whatever it was you were looking for would be worth a bit of money.’
‘Don’t be stupid’ McKenzie shot back, her voice sneering, ‘That thing can’t be allowed to get back to civilisation…it would infect everything’
‘Infect?’ Brannigan asked, ‘What do you mean infect?’

Templar looked up as the plane shook from another unseen impact and shivered before continuing, ‘Mostly they come down as rock, but sometimes the last vestiges of life remain inside. That must be why Postgate decided to keep it safe from the Nazi’s – he must have guessed there was life inside: seeing as how it looks increasingly as if he was right I’d guess that when he and his crew walked out of the wreckage of this plane they were already dead.’
‘What do you mean?’ Brannigan asked, not sure that he liked the way this story was going.
‘These people are trying to sell you some kind of Zombie flick kid’ Fisher responded, casting an unconvinced nod in McKenzie’s direction, ‘It’s not working Claire. Whatever it is out here must be worth even more than I thought’
‘Believe what you want John’ McKenzie replied quietly, ‘We’re all dead anyway’
‘Can’t we stop this thing?’ Brannigan asked, ‘Can’t we kill it?’
‘It survived for over forty years in the snow and ice’ McKenzie responded, ‘What do you think?’
‘That’s not entirely true’ Templar responded, ‘It’s weaker during the daytime…and there are ways to kill it – but none of them are pleasant’
‘Go on’ Fisher responded, trying to disguise his interest, ‘let’s hear your fairy tales’
‘Well’ Templar continued, ignoring the shot, ‘there are rituals, not dissimilar to exorcism. Plus if you can contain it in a single host then all you need to do is kill the host to kill the demon’
‘The host?’ Brannigan questioned
‘A human being’ McKenzie responded, ‘Charles is saying that the best way to kill this thing is to let it eat one of us for breakfast’
‘Not the best way’ Templar responded, ‘Just the easiest way’

There was a pause. In that moment of silence each person realised that the banging against the hull of the plane had ceased. Somehow the quiet was worse. Templar moved quietly towards the cockpit, risking a glance through the fractured fragments of glass, ‘Nothing here’ he announced.
‘Could it get in through the window?’ Brannigan asked. His question went unanswered. Instead Templar climbed back through to the main section of the plane, forcing closed the cockpit door behind him. The last sliver of light from the stars was cut out completely, leaving them alone with only the pale beam of Brannigan’s torch.
‘So’ Brannigan said eventually, ‘We’re stuck in the middle of a snow storm with a demon outside baying for our blood’
‘Be quiet kid’ Fisher responded, his eyes narrowing despite the dark
Brannigan ignored the order, carrying on, ‘The only way we can get out of this alive is to keep that thing outside until morning or let it eat one of us’
‘I said shut up kid’ Fisher said again, his voice rising slightly. McKenzie shot him a reproachful look, but said nothing.
‘Why?’ Brannigan demanded, rising to his feet, his hands turning into fists, ‘What are you going to do? Kill me?’
‘I said SHUT UP!’ Fisher rose to his feet, bringing the shotgun down and around in a quick arc to point towards the young man. As he moved his arm seemed to twitch, possibly through a muscle spasm, possibly deliberately. There was a roar as the gun went off, sending a shell straight into Brannigan’s chest. The young man looked down in shock, then collapsed dead to the floor leaving a bloody trail of guts on the wall behind. Fisher dropped the weapon as if stung.

Everything seemed to happen at once: Fisher made towards the door, clearly intending to escape. At the same moment McKenzie and Templar both lunged towards him, McKenzie got there first – ramming his off-balance form against the cold metal wall.

There was a triumphant roar from outside and the beast slammed against the frame of the plane. Blue lightning coursed through the material, conducting through the flesh of the two figures as Fisher fell backwards against the door. Still some distance away Templar forced himself to stop, to hold back, watching as first Fisher and then McKenzie fell to the floor, their bodies slumping into unnatural positions.

The sounds from outside stopped as suddenly as they had begun, leaving Templar alone with the sound of his own breath. There was a small explosion as the torch bulb gave way, leaving him alone and in darkness.

No…not quite in darkness; for as he peered through the gloom towards the two dead bodies Templar felt sure he could see a pale blue light arcing around their frames.

That was when Claire McKenzie’s eyes opened one final time, the dark blue light from inside shining out; seeking to devour everything it touched.

To be concluded…


OK – firstly an apology. I had intended to get this story done and dusted over the Christmas period, but ended up spending very little time online or doing anything creative. I think the break to recharge my batteries was well needed though, as it has given me the chance to put things into order in my head (or as ordered as they get!)

Secondly – I was in two minds as to whether to go for the former-partners line with McKenzie/Fisher as it’s such a cliché, but in the end I just thought “what the hell”

This section of the story was written over three sittings and just about managed to go where I wanted it to – although it did wriggle and squirm a bit along the way.

There’s still a long way to go in the final section where hopefully we will get to find out what has been happening outside the plane…

...finally, and for anyone who was wondering: if you want to imagine the "sound" described at the start of this section then try listening to the unearthly sounds that cats make outside at night...I won't say what it is they do to make that noise, because it's rude!

Monday, 5 January 2009

The Best Laid Plans Of Mice…

About 15 minutes to midnight on December 31st I made the stupid mistake of deciding to switch off the lights. The next thing I knew fireworks were going off – I stayed awake long enough to mutter a quick “Happy New Year” to my partner and to the cats and the next thing I knew it was morning.

Sometimes life’s like that though – like today I saw a report in the free newspaper on the bus that most teenagers think life is pointless. Well duh!

I have a friend (yes, I know – amazing: a whole friend all to myself!) who says that life is a sexually transmitted disease with 100% fatality, which only goes to back up what Obi-Wan Kenobi said about all truths depending on your point of view.

Taking a slightly meandering route towards my eventual point for this posting I’d just like to mention that the thing I miss most about going to the Gym (can’t really afford at present with my salary/mortgage etc) is January – when you get to watch all the New Year’s Resolutionaries pay a year’s membership, hog all the machines for a week or so and then slowly drift off until attendance returns to its normal levels.

But to return to the subject, and via way of quoting Talk Talk, life’s what you make it. 2008 was a bit of a wasted year for me – my plans for the house were spoiled due to the resolutely awful weather, my novel hit yet another speed bump and got turned down a dead end street leaving me with the feeling that the SatNav of my imagination had been stolen and the thieves had gone through my belongings whilst they were at it.

I’ve ended up taking jobs that I didn’t want to take in order to pay the bills, I’ve felt like everything was designed to stop me from achieving my dreams. I’ve felt like those teenagers who see no point in carrying on: living a life in shades of grey. My sense of humour, which has helped me with so many lows in the past, has felt strained and deserted me as I’ve spent yet another bus journey listening to someone talking about their time in prison – only to arrive at work and be bored by the pointlessness of it all, only to arrive at home and find myself alone and wondering what it’s all in aid of.

And the truth is that life is like the flapping of butterflies wings – everything is connected. The cycle is self-creating and self-repeating.

I’m not making any resolutions for this year – we make them about such trivial things and we always forget them – but I have Plans (note the capital letter)

So here’s my list of Things To Do In 2009:
Find some way of achieving fitness without great expense – I hate jogging (far too embarrassing and one always finds a group of Teenagers watching at the point where you want to collapse), but enjoy walking and cycling: so if I have to change the time I do the ironing to ensure I get out and about I will
Get the kitchen done, hopefully the front room and front drive – the lack of progress during 2008 has been like a piece of Kryptonite around Superman’s head
I will join the local art group that has a yearly exhibit at the local gallery
I will continue to work on my art and to write songs
I will finish my novel for better or worse
I will throw out all the junk I haven’t looked at in five years
I will learn more about Bhuddism (Bhudda of Hollywood – can you recommend some books), meditation and positive thinking

But most importantly:
* I will no longer allow the fact that I am not where I want to be to stop me from getting there
* I will show my partner how much she means to me more often, but to remember that my desires are important too.
* I will remember always that, as life is essentially pointless it’s only purpose HAS to be to give it meaning.

And if all my plans don't work out then so what? If we aim high then finally might we not touch the sky?