December 27, 2008


Thread: Alpha and Omega,Equation,Game,His Silicon Hands,Mission,Paragon

There is an old shack and outside it sits a man in his late forties. He sits not on a chair but on a ground of dry dust. It is a sunny day. God made it so, thinks Earl. His tears are exhausted and anger has left his insides charred. Nothing churns within. His heart is dead.

From within the shack, a man who wanted to be God emerges behind him. Yet he is not God. He is Green. He came here out of what he considered free will, but recognised the deceit too late. He sits down beside Earl. Green is quiet, still holding the bloody, sharp wire between his hands. The wire vibrates.

Earl wants to hate Green for what he has done, but it was what God had wished. But to swallow tragedy as if it was just a sliver of beer is not something he finds easy to do. That was God’s lot. And that was why God had waited with him for so long, telling him stories.

‘It was the greatest sin,’ says Green, softly. He sounds damaged, missing the violent determination that had propelled him to his defining moment. ‘There was no grace in my work. I had only hoped to match the master… but I was one of his animals. Moving in his word, the final sound of his voice. I have done what I was meant to do. My purpose complete, I am extinguished.’

‘I don’t care for your talk, mister,’ snaps Earl. The sun’s rays are cold. The solitude is unbearable once again. His wife has been stored in a jar for two years. And now God is gone, his parables complete.

The Paragon, the Student and the Psychologist are dead, killed when they turned on their gods of Elvis, Bliss and Morta, allowing Nhil to rise once more. Weldon has done his father proud, saving one final life, defeating Dog in his last game. Alison redeemed herself, saving a planet that had disintegrated into anti-technological fever and anarchic chaos, but sacrificed things she didn’t know she loved to accomplish it. Mr. Alpha and Mr. Omega’s global pursuit of Morgana came to a disasterous conclusion, as the three of them discovered that all things are terminal; the handle finally turned.

But Earl’s own story has not come to an end. He is still here with the tales he has learnt and no one to share them with.

‘It was his will,’ says Green. ‘I played my part. If I had not done this thing… He would have undone the Project. I carry His blood on my hands, this is my burden. It was His will, Earl.’

‘I know that!’ shouted Earl. ‘I made Him tell me stories for years to keep this from happening! That, mister, was my burden! I kept Him going and now you… you have taken Him away.’

Green stands up. ‘I need to go.’

‘Where to, mister? What’s left for you to break?’

‘The first stranger to cross my path. God returned her to life as part of his blackmail, to force my hand. I want to apologise.’

But Green does not move. Perhaps he is tired, perhaps he is scared. Earl does not know.

Earl says, ‘He was taken from us too soon. He had more stories to tell.’

Green turns slightly, but does not face Earl. Earl is surprised: there is shame hidden on the killer’s face. Green asks Earl, ‘Did He ever tell you about Hammerport?’

‘Hammerport? No, I don’t think so.’

‘It is a story of what men do when they have left their gods behind. He never told you this story because it could only be told once he was gone. It is about how men organise themselves and how this unmakes them.’

Earl looks at the greatest sinner and asks: ‘Would you tell me this tale?’

Green sits down again, careful not to catch Earl’s gaze. He places the bloody wire on the ground before them and stares at his hands.

‘No one remembers the town of Hammerport. Originally it was a small, sleepy town and the people there were neither happy nor unhappy. Little changed between days. This fact was neither resented nor loved by its people. Children were born, grew up, some of them left for bigger places. And then, one day, the shrewd eyes of industry noticed the town…’

The sun holds its position in the sky while the tale is told. Clouds drift overhead in mournful silence. Mountains weep streams into rivers. The human herd sprays signals through the air while the scent of decaying trash floats on a scorched breeze. There are still ashes in the urn but something has changed: a broken watch is ticking again.

These truly are the days of Man, for it was God that made it so.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1413

December 30, 2006

On the Seventh Day

Thread: Game

Graham fiddled with the joystick and hit its red button a few times; the button replied with the sound of weary springs under load. The electrical contacts inside the stick had worn down considerably since he had picked up the Video Computer System and the trigger didn’t always respond these days. Especially in particularly hairy moments when Dog was about to blow away a hundred years of his work. Moaning aside, he was happy with how the game had been progressing. Life was just coming onto the scene and they’d be at the Garden of Eden stage soon; Graham would have to be on his guard.

Dog was always rubbish during the first billion years. He got bored with building ecosystems, it just wasn’t his thing. He’d let Graham do all the hard work, all that boring “resource management” as he called it, only to pounce when the first humans appeared on the scene. He’d encourage them to think that the planet was real and not just a game. When they forgot about the game, they took things all too seriously and started to worry about living for the moment instead of seeing the bigger picture. The bigger picture was that Graham could lose.

His bum was sore, a natural reaction to not moving from the sofa for a billion years. He’d left his special cushion that comforted his tail bone in the wardrobe, next to his Kevlar vest. He couldn’t even spare a moment for a toilet break as it was getting all very tense. Graham averted his eyes from the phosphor glare of the television for a moment and saw that Dog wasn’t even in the room. His joystick lay discarded on the floor like an unwanted Christmas toy. Graham considered abusing the situation and…

Pow! Pow!

Graham looked down to see the white garb over his breast stained with a couple of patches of blood like the bite of some dim-witted vampire.

“Not… again…” he lamented and collapsed to the floor, his final thoughts revolving around a forgotten Kevlar vest.

Dog lowered his pistol and removed the silencer, smiling. Watching for movement, he observed Graham’s still form resembling a pile of bloodied towels heaped on the floor. Dog wasn’t even sure why he used the silencer, it wasn’t as if anyone was going to come to his aid, but he liked the cool snick-snick sound it made.

The phone on the pedestal by the door rang.

Dog turned towards the phone and wondered who it could be.

The phone continued to ring.

Dog hopped over to it, crouched on the floor and snatched it down from the pedestal with his bony, crimson fingers. He couldn’t help smirking as he answered with the lofty voice of a butler, “Yes, hello, this is Graham’s residence.”

The voice on the line was familiar. “Is Weldon. I want to speak a’Dad.”

Dog held the receiver as far from his face as possible as he guffawed into his free hand.

“Allo? Is Weldon here.”

Calmer now, Dog replied, “Yeah, hi Weldon. Uh, Dad, yes. He’s… he’s in the toilet. Yes he is.” Dog shouted in the direction of the sofa, “Graham, it’s Weldon on the phone. Shall I tell him to phone back later?”

The pile of bloodied towels divulged nothing.

“So-rry, Weldon. But the old coot is doing a number two.”

“Is Dog speaking, yes? Is Dad okay? You shoot him again?”

“Good God,” Dog wailed, “how could you say such a thing? I shall tell Graham you said that as soon as he’s finished his dump! Horrible! I am mortally offended!” Dog threw the phone aside as a powerful gust of laughter blustered out of his system. He farted while he did it, a nice wet fart. He hadn’t laughed like this for a while. He’d been bored shitless by evolution, it was so booooringly slow – he’d like to have shot Graham in the head for that wonderful invention. God only knows why someone in his position couldn’t just rustle up a planet with a click of the fingers.

He picked the receiver up again and heard Weldon drowning in a stream of threats. “…sonofabiitch, I fukin kill you Dog. You kant. You fukin kant. Sweet fukin bastard, I kill you. I kill your family. ”

“Now, now, calm yourself. You are my family, you twat. What you going to do, kill yourself you stupid asshole? Go ahead, see if I give a crispy rat’s ass.”

Weldon fell silent.

“I’m waiting.”

“I will fukin kill you.”

“Oh you never killed anybody in your whole life, Wellie. See ya.”

Dog hung up on Weldon, thinking that the boy needed to get himself a decent job. He thought nothing more of it, though, and leapt over the back of the sofa into the old man’s space. He kicked Graham’s corpse closer to the television so that he could stretch out his legs.

Scooping up Graham’s joystick, he grinned. Ah, shit, this was going to be fun. First stop, the Garden of Eden.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2210

June 29, 2006


Thread: Game

In his unfamiliar accent that seemed like a peculiar composite of Indian and Italian, Weldon said, ‘I tell you gain, sugar. You say word, I kill you. I kill your family. I kill everybody. I even kill small baby rabbits with fluffy ears and floppy tail.’

Guinevere was still unsure whether to take Weldon’s threats seriously. He was a touch melodramatic for someone who claimed to have invented the solar system. Thinking that Al Gore had been misquoted for over a century for ‘inventing the internet’, she had asked whether he had really meant to use the word ‘invent’. Perhaps he had meant to say ‘discover’. Weldon protested that the question demonstrated a gratuitous lack of faith and issued another threat that culminated in the mutilation of small rabbits.

‘I told you, it’s all a haze, Myron,’ she said, with a carefully chosen minimalist description that contradicted nothing she had said previously. Lies were easy to maintain when they were kept short, like I love you.

‘Like hell it is, Gee,’ Myron shouted, trying to keep pace with her. ‘And could you just stop for a second!’ Myron had taken the male inability to multi-task to great heights; walking and talking was apparently too much for him.

‘No,’ Guinevere giggled, ‘I don’t think it was anything like hell.’ She stopped and turned to look at Weldon, who was shaking his head furiously like an angry schoolmaster, wagging a cautionary finger at her. He then opened his hand and a small, white rabbit appeared atop his palm. Completely oblivious to the threat that had been made at its expense, the fluffy ball of cuteness twitched its nose and stared at nothing in particular with impassive, opal eyes from beneath the shelter of two canvas-like ears. It demanded to be hugged.

‘Aha! So you do remember something!’ Myron fired back.

Weldon scratched his head with his free hand, apparently concerned. A moment later he realised what was wrong and a top hat popped into existence on his head. He took off the hat and lowered the rabbit into its depths with open-mouthed mock terror on his face. ‘You say something, I kill baby bunny dead.’

Myron cried, ‘For god’s sakes Gee, if I have no results, they are going to close my project! They want some proof that the damn thing works not oh I’m sorry don’t remember, pass the biscuits, hmm nice cuppa tea cheers.’

Guinevere said, ‘Look, Myron what do you want me to say? Would you be happy if I just said something like I passed through the gate and instead of finding myself on the rim of the galaxy I ended up in heaven and met a handsome man who said he was the god Weldon and invented our solar system and threatened to kill bunnies if I told anyone where he was and what he was like and right now he’s standing behind you and only I can see him threatening me not to say anything?’

Myron’s jaw dropped.

Weldon tapped the rim of the top hat with a wand he had chanced upon behind an ear and something noisy started happening inside the hat. It made the kind of noise a coffee grinder might make.

‘That’s not true, of course,’ Guinevere felt compelled to add for the poor animal’s sake. Weldon tapped the hat again and the noise increased in pitch and volume, making it sound more like a blender.

While Myron had no capacity for multi-tasking, he was quite adept in the arena of hysterics and yelled, ‘You’re completely lock-me-up-and-throw-away-the-bloody-key crazy! You’re going to get my project canned. What’s the BFD? Keep this up, I’m going to have to go through myself with the last dregs of the budget.’

Guinevere shouted back over the blending noise, ‘I THINK ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS RE-CALIBRATE A LITTLE.’ After all, that was what Weldon had suggested, but given his penchant for jocularity, it might just send someone to the unpleasant surface of Io. No one would want that, certainly not Myron’s wife after failing to persuade her husband to take out some life insurance. Gate technology is dangerous, she had argued with some precision, but Myron had retorted with a watertight argument. He was not the one having to go through the gate, he had explained, jerking a thumb over his shoulder to point out Guinevere, the current project victim.

‘Why the hell are you shouting?’ asked Myron.

The grinding noise stopped. Weldon pulled the rabbit out the hat in one piece, with a mischievous, toothy grin. ‘See I do magic. See my great magic trick! I am bloody good. You love me, I think.’

The last thing the human race needs is to meet Weldon, Guinevere thought, as he was not exactly the god it had had in mind.

‘Oh dear dear,’ Weldon said, as one of the rabbit’s feet fell off, dropping back into the hat with an unsettling plop. ‘But this lucky charm, yes?’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2114

April 4, 2006

Best of Five

Thread: Game

A few seconds before he went poof, the last man on Earth saw something odd in the sky, aside from the fact that the atmosphere was on fire. A pair of neon blue words, flipped as if reflected in a mirror, had seemed to pop into existence silently. They hung there indifferently as if they had always been there, even though the man was quite sure that they had not been there before. He took a moment to deliberate what ‘REVO EMAG’ was supposed to mean but before the poor bastard realised he was supposed to read it backwards, he was blasted into a shower of ash by the fire shock, like a dandelion’s fragile seed being scattered on the wind.

Poof. And that was that.

* * * *

“Yes!” Dog shrieked leaping up onto the sofa that they had shared for the last four and a half billion years. “I win! Two-one! Two-one! You admit defeat, old man?” Atop the sofa, he began to twirl like a talentless ballerina on heat, repeating “two-one” over and over again.

Dog was a diminutive bag of bones, with a hairless, crimson skin stretched over his spindly frame. Bones jutted out here and there at unexpected angles, lending Dog the appearance of a traffic accident victim who considered a hospital visit to be a waste of his tax money. The only attire he wore was an overly bulgy pair of decrepit navy swimming trunks with the inviting message ‘Eat My Shorts And Don’t Stop There Honey’ splashed across his loins, which was not what Graham had in mind when he demanded Dog put something on while in the house.

Dog suspended his ungainly, reckless spin to unveil a thick, green plume of noxious smoke from his rear end, which exploded out as though dynamite had been detonated in some deep fissure. He returned to his victory jig without further ado.

Graham sat amidst the pea-soup cloud less than amused. He threw the joystick away, with its bulbous red button sticking out like a boil begging to be burst, but its wire pulled taut before it reached the TV and was dragged to the ground.

Towering and austere, yet overshadowed by the inept gymnast bouncing about on the cushion beside him, Graham sported a white, wiry beard that had earned him the barbed nickname of Santa. He bore craggy features that even the most foolhardy mountaineers would have had second thoughts about, and Graham was not ashamed to admit that he once considered using collagen to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. His dress was unflinching in its constancy. Everyday he wore the same tired, sallow toga that pleaded for a trip to the laundrette so it could live in vivid white again, and a pair of home-made ochre sandals with silver buckles that had lost their lustre long ago. Graham carried a certain grace with an uncertain style that Dog commented looked fairly good for a transvestite.

“Best of five,” grunted Graham, who was still not over the incident when Dog shot him in the back thus snatching Graham’s second would-be victory and sticking it so far down the jaws of defeat that defeat had retched up its pasta supper. Dog had protested that it was in his nature. In fact, it was Graham’s fault for inventing that tedious parable about the frog and the scorpion crossing the river. Graham had pointed out that (a) it was a bloody turtle in the story and (b) he could not possibly be the author of a parable that painted people in such black and white terms. It was not in his nature.

Dog broke from his dance and cackled at Graham, “Anything you say, Santa. I can keep my trigger-happy fingers going as long as you can. I practice with these babies all the time!” To demonstrate his meaning, he closed his right hand into a hollow fist and shook it up and down in the air a bit. At least, Graham comforted himself, it was merely a demonstration this time.

Graham sighed inwardly and wished that he were not such a pacifist, because it made the game so much harder. On the positive side, however, it did make victory that much sweeter. When Graham had won the first game, Dog’s face was a complete picture. It was still hanging on the wall behind the TV, having been sliced off and freeze-dried as part of their agreement. Frozen in an enthusiastically blended expression of horror and disbelief, it was guaranteed to make Graham chuckle when the chips were down.

Graham leaned forward and groaned instinctively when he felt the twinge of back pain that was a reminder of when Dog had once stabbed him between the shoulder blades with an oriental ear pick. Before him was the Video Computer System, the bane of Graham’s existence and yet paradoxically the reason for it.

It was a wide, unwieldy black box whose upper surface was dominated by a corrugated plastic surface that drew the eyes towards a slanted control panel that at the back. The Game Program slot sat in the centre of the panel, flanked by three cylindrical metal switches either side. A plastic cartridge poking out of the game program slot bore the words ‘planet earth’ in dull, curvy letters. An apparently pointless wood-trim at the front somehow added a finishing touch to its form. It was a beautiful thing infused with love that Graham detested with a passion.

Graham verified that both game difficulty switches were set to B, to ensure Dog was not going to cheat as he had got away with for around a billion years in the previous game. He depressed the game reset switch. The picture of a scorched, dead Earth flickered briefly and was replaced by a brand new blue sphere with ecosystems, climate and the untapped potential to produce the works of Shakespeare. Or, if Dog had his way again, a TV show called Pop Idol.

“This time,” warned Graham with great authority, “you will not screw with me in the bleeding Garden of Eden.”

Dog snickered, knowing full well that he would screw with Graham in the Garden of Eden.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2301