Free Stuff

I am a writer. At least I like to tell myself and others that I am, it’s the main thing I do with my life – write stuff.

Each time a submission is rejected, a little piece of the author dies, and goes to rest in some dark, dank place inaccessible to anyone, anyone. The desire to share (read: show off) said stories runs deep and looking at them in a file, gathering cobwebs and such-like can be rather humiliating, to say the least.

So, I present for your delectation (or derision) a hodge-podge of miscellaneous stuff that sometimes did, and sometimes didn’t, make it to the publishing stage. This page has been updated and much of the stuff deleted, due to various reasons – mostly my ineptitude with IT!

Also, my apologies – but you’re going to have to scroll through as it’s all on this one page. And did I mention they’re free?

Even the Robots are Crying - sci-fi flash fiction (added 16/1/21)
Two-By-Two 
Sometimes The Sun Rises - a poem
Aberfan - a poem
Blackbird - a poem

Even the Robots are Crying

"It's just sitting there." Ally whispered to her friend’s image on her pad.

"Mine too."

"What the hell is going on?"

"Why are you whispering?"

"Dunno, it's in the living room, so not sure if it can hear me."

A polite ping alerted Ally to another friend contacting her.

"Hang on, Steph, Milo's sent a link.

Ally clicked on the link, taking her to the BBC webpage.


'News coming in – reports are that the A.I have ceased their activities. Many people report from businesses and from households across the globe, that A.I have become immobile. Images being posted on social media sites of personal and workplace androids that have simply stopped their work. Our correspondent, Katya Lowes, reports live from Atlanta, Georgia..'

 The view altered, showing a stern-faced woman in a shopping mall, the camera panned around.

"Here in the United States, thousands of people are continuing to report the shut-down of A.I. You can see them here, even in this public space where families are shopping and eating, the A. I’s are sitting, unmoving, unresponsive. Teams of specialists from United A.I Industries are attempting to resolve the problem. How it will impact our services, is yet to be seen...'

Ally clicked back to Stephanie.

"Have you seen the link?"

"Just watched it now. Freaky. At least it's not just ours."

"But don't you think it's a bit weird? I mean, all the A. I’s. At the same time? I mean, there's got to be something going on."

Milo's face popped up in a box alongside Steph’s. "I reckon they're preparing for a takeover."

"Milo." Ally and Steph groaned together.

"No, listen. Seriously. I reckon they were all programmed in production for a time when there was enough of them, then the government could mobilise them as-"

"As what, Milo?" Steph interrupted, "Some kind of militia?"

"I wouldn't laugh if I was you. Just think about what happened in the past when the government brought in unpopular ideas – like the Poll Tax, y'know? Riots in the streets. Roaming gangs damaging property and cars and stuff."

"So, what you’re saying," Ally replied, "Is that this was all planned? That the A.I industry is in cahoots with the government?"

"Yeah."

"That's just you and your conspiracy theories, Milo. You can't seriously believe that every single government in the world is in on this."

Milo shrugged, then signed off after announcing he was going to attempt to hack into United A.I Industries.
Ally peeked around her bedroom door. It was still sitting there on the settee just staring straight ahead, at the TV. But the TV was not turned on. She crept towards a chair and sat watching Rin; the name she had given her personal A.I was taken from the Japanese word for a thousandth of a yen. Rin did not react to Ally's presence, its eyes remained fixed on – what? She scrolled through all her media apps, not sure what she was looking for. A torrent of pictures of static figures from every country imaginable. Two Chinese university students had hooked their House A.I up to a computer in the hope of reading its internal data. They claimed that the A.I was watching TV, but selecting and viewing internally only.

Ally had a thought. She reached over and turned on the TV. Had Rin moved? Was there the slightest change in the tilt of its head? She watched TV with her A.I for around twenty minutes before realising that the shows were not the scheduled ones. It was all news. All documentaries. And to the last – all a depressing indictment of mankind’s inhumanity to man. She stared at Rin, her mouth falling open.
Rich, golden-yellow lubricant leaked from Rin's eyes down its polished cheeks.

Ω

Two-By-Two

Author’s Note: When I scribbled this out as a short story to read in my writing group, I heard the voices of Noah and his kin, they had distinctly northern English accents, specifically Yorkshire. I haven’t a clue why. But it would be delightful if you could read it in the same style.

“Come on lad, get a move on, rain’s starting.”

“Ouch! It bit me!”

“What did?”

“I dunno what it is dad.”

“Just stick it in a crate and get in.”

Ham carried the small, shelled animal at arm’s length. Its tiny, pointed mouth waving to and fro snapping the air.

A final check all were on board and everything that needed tethering was, and the doorway was hauled shut. Blackness. Murmurings, rustlings and bleating’s filtered through the darkness. When the eyes adjusted, a tiny patch of light could be discerned some thirty-odd cubits above.

“Let’s get a couple of lamps lit.”

“Yes, dad.” Came the three voiced response. Ham, Shem and Japheth busied themselves with lighting the tiny, clay lamps. Three flames, no longer than a little finger, glowed in the immediate darkness. Noah looked at his sons yellow lit faces. They were nervous, he didn’t blame them. Japheth scratched at his neck.

“How long will it take dad?”

“Forty days and forty night’s lad.”

A collective groan went up. Noah chivvied his sons away and went to survey the collection, his fragile flame illuminating only the nearest sections of the interior. His hand found a warm muzzle, something snorted. Noah jumped.

“Noah! Noah!”

Noah’s head sagged a little as a tiny grumble escaped his lips. Then as another flame closed in he bucked up.

“Ah Naamah, light of my life, honey on my tongue, sunsh – “

“Yes, yes.” Snapped Mrs Noah. “Where are we supposed to sleep? I’m not sharing with Shem’s wife, you know how she snores. And where am I supposed to hang the laundry, never mind how it’s going to dry. And washing and, the other. How does that work? Did you think of that? Eh? I bet you didn’t did you? Did God give you any instructions on how to go about that? It’s all very well building an ark for the animals, but what about us, the people? I hope you don’t expect me to feed the tigers and I’m certainly not clearing out their –“

Noah slunk off, scratching his stomach, leaving his wife shouting criticisms and grievances at his back. He bumped into something in the darkness.

“Oo, sorry Mr Noah.” A female, one of his son’s wives, he couldn’t tell which one it was and didn’t recognise her voice instantly in the strange environment.

“It’s alright love. Listen, could you just go and have a little chat with the missus. Got herself in a bit of a tizzy.” He gestured about him with his hand. “All this, it’s a bit, you know –“

“Different?” she offered quietly, helpfully. Ah, it was Adataneses, Japheth’s wife. She was a good girl, she’d keep his wife quiet. For a while.

The rain pounded like rain had no right to. Noah, his wife, their sons and their son’s wives huddled amongst straw covered in blankets. A female voice cried out as something creaked ominously.

“It’s alright lass.” Quavered Noah. “God’s watching over us.” He pressed his wife’s hand tightly as he continued to mouth his silent prayers.

After what felt like an endless wait, the boat creaked and tipped as it was lifted from its temporary crib. A chorus of exclamations, bellows and shrieks filled the vessel.

“Bloody hell!” exclaimed Seth. His mother slapped him smartly across the head,

“Mind your language.”

“Sorry mum.”

The animals were making a cacophony. The smell of fart and faeces rolled through the decks until reaching the family, who covered their noses with loose clothing, headscarves or straw. Noah struggled to his feet, “Best check on them.” He sighed, itching his armpit.

While the women tended to the living quarters and the birds, Noah and his sons made rounds of the stalls that contained the larger animals.

“Dad.” Said Japheth, scratching at his nether regions. “What do we feed the Oryx?”

“Grass son.”

“What about the antelope?”

“Grass son.”

“And the snakes?”

“For goodness sakes Japheth! Use your head. What did they eat in the wild?” They worked in silence for some moments then.

“Da-ad.”

Noah sighed heavily, closing his eyes. “Yes son.”

“Why have we got so many sheep?”

“Weren’t you listening at the meeting? God said two of each sort that were unclean, male and female, and seven of each sort of clean.”

Japheth seemed to give this some thought, shrugged, scratched his head and bent to the task of putting straw and grass into the nets hung against the walls. It took the whole of the first day to feed the animals. By nightfall the family were exhausted and fell into each other’s arms, almost oblivious to the rain thrumming on the roof.

The following morning, Noah stuck his head out of the window on the top deck, he needed some air, and he needed his ears to have a rest, even if he did get wet. Pulling the shutter down, he returned to the task of the day; which meant not only feeding the animals, but shovelling up huge quantities of waste. They scooped it into buckets and carried it all the way to the top deck in relays, then tipped it from the window. Sometimes the wind caught it and dragged it off into the floodwaters, sometimes bits blew back into their faces.

“Ptah!” Spat Ham. “There must be an easier way to do this dad.” He moaned.

“Shut up son and keep shovelling. I think one of the camels has the shits.”

Ham gagged. His mother came up with two fat mugs of tepid tea. Lifting the end of her apron, she licked it and applied it to her son’s face. “You’re covered in muck son.”

“Mu-um.” He gently pushed her hand aside.

By the end of the first week, the family had settled into a tolerable routine. The smell became a background accompaniment to their daily lives of feeding, cleaning, prayers and sleep. The constant drumming of the rain lulled them to sleep at night. The rocking of the boat was the cradling of God’s arms. The flash of lightning was occasion to see their surroundings lit bright.

At the end of the second week the wives began to bicker.

“It’s mine Sede!”

“No, it isn’t, yours is the pale blue one, this is grey.”

“How can you tell!” screeched Nelatamuk. “They’re all the same colour in this light.”

“I cleaned the hens yesterday.”

“No you didn’t, you collected the eggs.”

“I cleaned them too!”

“If that’s what you call clean, then I’ll eat my scarf.”

“Who let the genet out? It’s trying to eat the guinea pigs?”

“Not me.”

“Nor me.”

“Well somebody did and it certainly wasn’t me.”

“Put it back then.”

“You put it back!”

“It bites.”

“I’ll bite you if you carry on whining.”

“Me?! Whining?! You’re the queen of whining.”

Noah sat on a bale of hay, head in hands, thumbs pressed over his ears. He didn’t know how much more he could take. He looked up beseechingly. “God, give me strength.”

“Is it nearly over dad?”

“No Ham.”

“How much longer dad?”

“Seven days Shem.”

“And then can we go home dad?”

“No Japheth.”

His sons looked sharply at him. Noah regarded their tangled hair, muck streaked faces, arms and legs. They were good boys, he told himself. Not too bright, but well meaning. And their wives, well they could screech as well as the caged birds, but they too had good hearts. Noah itched his head and took a breath.

“Listen lads. When the rain stops, then we’re going to be in the middle of a huge flood. Water everywhere. Understand? There won’t be any land, there won’t be any homes, there won’t be any people, and there won’t be any animals. There won’t be anything except water as far as the eye can see.”

“So, we’re not going home?” said Japheth.

Noah groaned, raised his eyes heaven wards and took a breath. “No son. We have no home. There’s nothing left. There’s just us.”

Someone sniffed a wet sniff. Noah stood and wrapped his arm around Shem’s shoulder. “Come on son, it’s not that bad. New beginnings and all that.” He gave Shem’s shoulder an encouraging squeeze. “Just think. God chose us. Us. Out of all the people in the world, we get to live and start a fresh new life. There’ll be a new land with loads of space. You can have your own land to farm with Sede, raise children and live a ripe old age.”

Shem sniffed, “Like you dad? How old are you now?”

“I’m five hundred and ninety nine son. And you’ll live longer.” Said Noah proudly.

“What about me dad, can I have a farm of my own?” wheedled Japheth.

“Farms for all!” Noah shouted, spreading his arms wide. He did a mad little jig. His sons laughed.

“What’s going on here?” called Mrs Noah, ducking adroitly beneath a wooden beam draped with damp laundry.

“Oh look out.” Noah said as an aside to his sons.

“Have you cleaned the cattle deck today?” She said.

“Yes my love.”

“Did you brush the camels?”

“Yes, oh blossom of the dessert.”

“How about those mad dogs?”

“All sorted, oh light of the moon.”

“And stop scratching!” she reprimanded.

“I wasn’t.”

“You were, while you were expounding. You were scratching your –“. She pointed.

“Well, my love, if you washed the clothes properly, then we wouldn’t get so itchy.”

There was a sudden, chilly silence. Ham, Shem and Japheth lowered their heads and sidled away between straw bales and beams, into the shadows beyond.

“I beg your pardon?” Naamah said deadly and low. Noah raised both hands, about to apologise but she beat him to it, she often did. “If I washed the clothes properly?” Her voice higher. “If I washed the clothes properly?” Higher still.

“Now now, my queen of the night.”

“Don’t you ‘queen of the night’ me! I’ll have you know that me and the girls work hard keeping everyone’s clothes clean. How do you think we warm the water? Eh? Eh? God doesn’t do that Noah! Oh no, it’s, gather unto me all the animals and, I am not finished speaking, all the filth and the stink and the spillages. We work our fingers to the bone scrubbing your pants and this is all the thanks we get.”

“My love. I did not mean to upset you. I know you work hard, you and the daughters, and we do appreciate it, I appreciate it. It’s just –“ He paused.

“What?!”

“Nothing.”

“Go on, what were you about to say?” Noah pursed his lips and watched her.

“You just scratched.” He said.

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes. You did, Look, you’re doing it again.” He pointed. She was indeed having a good old belly scratch.

Mrs Noah stared in horror at her husband. “Two by two did He say?”

Noah stared at her.

“Oh, bloody hell.”

Ω

Sometimes The Sun Rises 

Sometimes the sun rises and,

You’re filled with a warming glow and

Smile at passing strangers.

A babbling brook runs through your veins

Frolicking like children at play.

A glassful of tickling like hares skittering the meadow.

Vision bright as stars, crystal unveiled.

I see your hot gold, heart gold,

Mother’s arms around a child gold.

And against the laws of physics an umbilical cord unseen,

Ties me to you

Sometimes it is darkness

Your innards rent like a scud missile

A sour, wet blanket of bleak mid-winter

Freezing your tears before they emerge

(Ashes cling to those that do).

Insides collapse and tumble.

The terrorist lurks in cloudy folds,

Scratching, picking, stabbing, pecking the sore.

Lost time, flat-line, black bells chime,

No safety line to pull you to the shore.

And the unseen cord,

Ties me to you

But Sometimes, the Sun rises and,

Your cheeks shine with roses,

At the chuckle of an infant.

Joy like a swelling tide floods your limbs.

Wagging the dog’s tail.

Rolling of giggling piglets in the slippering mud.

Comfortable as a sausage in its skin,

I feel your tender warm, sweet warm

Lover’s arms around a dearest warm.

And against the laws of physics,

No matter how far away,

An umbilical cord unseen,

Ties me to you.

Ω

Aberfan 

Black. The valley was turning black

Where the basilisk slumbered.


The beast’s heel slides,

Starting slowly, rising fast,

A tremendous speed.

Turning itself into a pitch-dark wave; wet, wild,

Down towards the mountain

Down towards the village

Diving into the mist.

 

Roaring like a jet plane,

Screaming through the fog.

Scales glistening black.

It gorges itself on trees, on rocks, on homes.

Swelling to fantastical enormity

In its murderous descent.

 

Gathering speed,

It tips the sky

Arcing over the Green Hollow,

Dashing itself against the saint, slain martyr.

Its tail lashes the church bells tongue,

Black-dusted.

Vomiting death.

 

All. Is. Silent.

Nature is speechless.

 

Bent beneath the disregarding sky

Headlamps lit,

Raw hands rake polished bile.

Salt the spoil.

Pierce the calcified hide.

 

And within the belly of the beast

A boy waits.

With death on his shoulder.

Author’s Note:

I wish I could have thought of a better, more fitting title. I wish I could write poetry better. There’s nothing worse than feeling the urge to write something in response to a tragedy, and not having the appropriately honed skills for the job. But the urge was too great.

To learn more about the Aberfan disaster, visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster

Ω

Blackbird

In the tree when I arrive,

A lively, musical trill from winding greenery and bee busy trees,

Watching as I clear and rake, weed and prune.

Tipsy flower tops brush dust along my arms as I pass back and forth.

And in he quick hops, head tilts, raven-ous. With his golden spear he stabs and gathers

Wormlings from the wetted leaves.

On the wood-chip path I squat like a child.

I cannot see that dark omen they say you are, robed in black

Secrets carrying messages on wings fleeting, flashing, slicing air.

And between the foraging and bolting greens I catch his ebon eye and see myself there reflected,

I see my raked youth.

I am earthed-up.

Green I was and grey I am,

I have hopped and tilted at life

Gathering less than he.

This ant-thronged earth has irritated my senses, and while I itched,

Time has leapt beyond my grasp.

We are; he, and me

Short-lived.

Ω