Dreaming Dogs

Anything that I write, have ever written, or will ever write; is just a snapshot in time. A tiny glimpse of a small life and the lives and things that I observe.

Anybody reading this today (9th May 2020) will know immediately what Lockdown and Covid-19 mean. Hopefully, at some future point, we’ll have to remind ourselves of that strange time.

The time that the world basically went on hold. Every day similar to the last. Enough variations in the weather and.. oh Thank God… Work, so that I can tell the days apart. For those furloughed, out of work or retired, this must monotonous beyond belief.

Every day.

Just

Like

The

Last

For

Fuck’s

Sake

I’m still living two days at a Time – but the lack of clarity, the screeching of various factions and the increasing disconnect when I talk to friends and family on the phone are all making the part of me that I’m keeping under my own lockdown want to rise up and do something. Fight back.

Against what though?

I’m still no clearer about the risk to myself or others, the relative mortality stats seem to be flawed at best and there are no recovery stats posted in the UK, although I know two people personally over 50 who’ve had it and survived.

But the itch is still there.

I drove halfway to town this morning and walked the dog before it got too hot and I saw a man with a Costa cup. I was actually excited and asked him if they’d reopened.

it was from the petrol station and therefore much more likely an infection vector than an actual shop. I didn’t tell him that, nor did I take his recommendation to go and buy one. He was a nice chap though and we agreed that it’s the little things that are starting to bite.

No physical contact at all for those of us who live alone. No handshake, no hug from a friend, no kiss of a cheek or the prospect of more from a new friend. No cuddle if you’re feeling down or a pat on the shoulder to push you forward.

A huge amount of people are living in solitary confinement and let’s be honest here (at least to ourselves), I have it lucky.

I have a job that never required me to travel much anyway. I have enough friends scattered across the world that I can talk to somebody at any time of the day or night if I feel the need to.

I have Milo.

Milo the Rescue Dog, the dog that I took from a shithole kennel in Warrington.

Milo of the missing teeth.

Milo of the doggie PTSD.

Milo, who spent Twenty PLUS weeks in the cage – the last time that he was dumped.

Milo of the apparently infinite capacity for love.

The longer the lockdown goes on, the more he wants to play in the garden, some variation of me chasing him around to grab a toy or a ball. A game that initiates nine times out of ten.

So I can’t complain. Not really.

The Rescue Dog has rescued me.

I’m one of the few people I know at work who isn’t struggling now. I have regular exercise and I’m not allowed to get too involved in work issues for long as it’s either walk-time or playtime again.

I can cope with this shit for a while longer.

I can take each day as it comes and try to see the beauty that surrounds us .

To appreciate each moment as a snapshot and to look for the next one.

But it can’t be forever and unless we can start being given more than platitudes and stats that don’t add up, I suspect that all those like me who are quietly sitting on the fence of this will take our own side.

Because I want to see my friends again, I want to sit in a bar or a garden and cry with laughter because somebody has left their phone too close to a pack of deviants. Or because somebody has made me wear a dress in public (for fun not perversion… although….).

I’ve made promises to myself.

I’m going to live day by day for now and take it as it comes.

I’m going to live it to the fullest after this.

You should too.

Dem Ole Lockdown Blues

Derek sat at his rig, flexed his fingers and put his mask in place before spinning up his own little VR construct.

There he was. Alive and waiting on the screen, ready to flatter, fluster and bemuse the waiting string of naive and desperate young things who would eventually allow him to lure them out and….

Enough. He had to get into character if this was going to work. He had to BE the character he portrayed. Ironic really, given that his construct was a struggling actor.

Jason Janus, for that was the actor’s real name (according to IMDB, who were the experts in this stuff, so they should know) was just not quite perfect enough to find any real work. Uncredited long-shots in adverts and a fiery death (also uncredited) in a minor blockbuster. He was a polymath by the standards of industry; Writer, Singer, Actor, a real triple-threat who couldn’t quite make it.

And the little girls lapped it up.

How could anybody so handsome, so well spoken, so.. so… Perceptive.. How could he not find real work?

Perhaps he needed a new fan-club leader, or social media expert, or perhaps they could just write to the major directors and work on his behalf?

Because the thing that he was hinting at was too much for somebody like them.. Wasn’t it?

Because he was perfect and he knew THEM in a way that nobody ever had.

He seemed to know just the right thing to say to cheer them up when they were at their lowest and had an uncanny ability to know exactly when they were low. Almost like their souls were bonded.

Except he’d never be crass enough to say that. He might say that he felt like he knew them in a way that he’d never felt before. He might allude to them perhaps having an ‘old soul’. Anything else usually came from them.

His little toys

They were correct though, he knew them in ways that even their best friends and parents didn’t. Every keystroke, every conversation, every whispered secret to their friends, every teardrop from a real or imagined hurt. And he had it all.

From the moment of first, meticulously researched and planned contact, he installed backdoors into their PCs, tablets and phones. Their diaries and secret thoughts were open to him.

And.

He was an ACTOR

In this new world, Actors were somehow classed as key workers, never without a propaganda film to make, an advert to show the masses how to think, who to avoid, which class of people may be somehow filthy.

They looked at the photos on the news and entertainment websites that he directed them to. They loved it.

Look! There he is, just slightly out of focus, being punched by Jason Statham.

Look! There he is behind Dwayne Johnson on the red carpet at a premiere.

Look!!! There’s his script that has just been optioned by a major studio, directors were queuing up to take the job.

And… He had agreed that only HE could be the star!!!!!

AND. AND. AND.

He was looking for a special type of girl, somebody raw but beautiful, somebody without the layers of cynicism that he (they) despised.

He was looking.

She just had to be found somewhere.

AND OH MY GOD!!!

What were the odds of her friend in Singapore pointing her out to him online, inviting him into a chat group?

None.

But that was how it started. Every single time, a friend that only contacted them intermittently would appear and chat for a while before mentioning THEIR new friend. This actor. He was only a friend and he seemed like the sort of person that they’d like to chat to.

Three- way chats became a two way chat at some point and they just got on SO WELL.

And let’s face it, the lockdown had fucked things beyond belief for people like her. The spirited types whose every move now was tracked by contact tracing apps. Where had she been? For how long? Who had she met?

Whole enterprises had sprung up around the apps and the New Puritanism, partly fuelled by the statist tendencies of both extremes of the political spectrum and the religious fundamentalists was now fanning big business.

If she met a boy for more than two minutes, her phone SHRIEKED and her parents would be notified. Try to go to one of the appointment-only bars and the bouncers would be on her in a heartbeat.

Oh. And her parents would be notified.

VR had caught on in a big way, but girls with wealthy parents like hers still had no leeway, they were constantly monitored and couldn’t get away with anything at all.

Or could they?

In his fourth or fifth text-only chat session, he’d suggest a private VR chat, hosted by one of his media friends, it wouldn’t be traceable and her parents would never know.

How could they resist?

And they didn’t, only one had got away.

She spooked when the VR programme glitched, seeing his real face and background. Nothing too horrible, he wasn’t ugly or fat, just much, much older and his eyes may just have looked a bit too bright, shiny and fevered for her liking.

He erased all traces of their chats from her devices and planted a few messages to her best friend that suggested that she’d like to be SO much more. Who’d believe what she said now?

Still, it meant that he now wore the mask and all the facial monitoring was done from within and nobody could identify him no matter what happened.

And now it was time to take the latest little starlet on to her trip with Destiny.

Little Callie Blau. School now finished and in her first year of college. Legally emancipated but restricted by the Lockdown, apps and lack of money as badly as a 19th century convent girl.

Black haired, pale skinned, dark eyed, red lipped. Genuinely beautiful in a way that none of the others had been. He was looking forward to this one more than he ever had before.

The meeting.

The realisation

The horror

The rending

The tearing and gnashing of flesh

Callie was going to be perfect.

Mask on, he initiated the call, a few seconds of noise and there she was. She was in her bedroom as usual, a mix of schoolgirl pink and gothic black decor. She was desperate to change her image to something older, but her parents you know…?

‘Hi’

‘Hello, I was worried that you might not call tonight, you seemed…preoccupied last night?’

He smiled. Outwardly it was warm and sweet, inwardly, it was cold and gratified that she’d walked into the setup so easily. So, so easily.

‘Wow, I can’t believe that you spotted that, I’m so sorry.. I just had something come through and it was just.. so.. so… perfect that I couldn’t believe it’

The girl smiled broadly, god, she really was perfect.

‘What? Is it your script? What is it?’

She leaned further forward into the virtual space, her usual outfit of jeans and ‘something blue’ – always blue, whether a sports top, t-shirt or hoodie. Her little joke – ‘Callie Blue’.

‘Come on, please tell me, I’ll just DIE.’

He smiled again, this was it. This was where the script that he had so lovingly prepared started to work on them.

‘Netflix have been in touch, they want to option it. I’ve played hard on this though and told them that I HAVE to play the lead and that I want to select my own leading lady. This is my only shot and I can’t take the risk. It HAS to be a newcomer, she HAS to be under 20 and she HAS to know how I think.’

‘And, I was.. I was…’

She leaned in again, the construct of the VR putting them into touching distance.

‘What? You were?’

He smiled again. The hook was set..

He leaned in, and…

FUCK.. What WAS THAT?

The girl looked perplexed, her perfect brow furrowing.

‘You were?’

SHIT.. Had she seen the glitch? This was a weird one. He’d seen a darkened space, lit only by soft oil-burners, there may have been something in the dark – but he couldn’t be sure. Fucking software was glitching more than he’d like these days.

‘You were?’

She was smiling nervously now, but he couldn’t see any trace of real knowledge in her eyes. He settled down again.

‘ I was wondering if you’d take a screen test? Tomorrow? After college?’

The girl was beaming now, the smile lighting up her face. This was almost going to be a shame..

‘My parents?’

‘Won’t know a thing, I’ve got a friend who can make your phone say it’s still at home and even if you’re not keen after you meet the casting director, you can keep the hack on your phone.’

The girl was all smiles now – a double-baited hook, potential fame and guaranteed work AND freedom to do whatever she wanted.

‘So how would we make it work?’

She was his now and her life could be measured in hours…

‘I’ll send a driver to pick you up, he’ll fix your phone on the spot and he’ll bring you to the studio. We’ll have a mocked-up set and I’ll be there with a cameraman and the casting director. I just know that you’re going to be right for this, you have everything the script needs. You’ll be gone for four hours max, your parents won’t even know you’re gone.’

That was true anyway, they were so used to being self-medicated after all these years of Lockdown that they were usually out of things by 9PM, knowing that the app would do their job for them. It wasn’t even like she could leave her phone behind, proximity and motion sensors had put paid to that little trick.

‘OK. Thank you, thank you, thank you, I can’t believe how lucky I am, I just can’t…….’

‘You deserve all of what’s coming, just PLEASE don’t let anybody know until after casting though, I have a non-disclosure clause that will kill the deal and take what little cash I have left.’

The girl nodded frantic assent and he moved to wrap the call up as soon as possible, knowing that she would be writing all this up in her ‘secret’ diary. He’d be wiping that before she left the house tomorrow.

The next day passed in a blur, so much to do, so much.

Print a Key Worker pass for one of his aliases.

Change the number plates on his people-carrier

Check his tool bag

Monitor the girl’s phone and activate the tracking programme he’d installed that would spoof her location to the Lockdown control app monitoring stations.

Check his tool bag again

All the good stuff was at the studio but he had a few things in there, just in case he needed them.

Check the VR programme. – that glitch was spooky and it wasn’t one of his scenes – no sign of it, but still a worry. He’d uninstall it after this and start from scratch

Print ‘the script’, the girl could read that while he drove her to the studio,

And finally.

Shower, dress for the part, black suit, white shirt, dark tie.

And leave.

It was an hour’s drive to the girl’s house and another hour from there to the studio- and it was a studio.

An uncle had left him an industrial park and a sizeable amount of cash. He’d taken one of the units and converted it to a working soundstage with lights, cameras and a full remote control setup.

The lights were already on and warming the space and he allowed himself a smile as he saw the girl waiting for him in the arranged place.

He pulled in, flashed his lights and watched her come to the door.

Even more beautiful in the flesh, she GLOWED , there was no other word for it. A simple blue dress, heels and no apparent makeup.

‘Good evening miss, can I have your phone please?’

She handed it over and he made a pantomime of making changes to it, opened up the app that he’d inserted and returned it. She climbed into the back seat , did up her seat-belt and he drove off.

He watched her in the rear-view mirror as she watched the app on her screen and saw that her phone was still apparently within 50 metres of her house.

‘Can I offer you a drink of water for the journey?’

Her dark eyes smiled at him from the mirror, her perfume was understated and smelled vaguely like incense, surprising for one so young – and very intoxicating.

‘No thank you, how long will the journey be?’

‘Just under an hour, Mr Janus is already there and he’s left a copy of the script for you in that envelope.’

That smile again.

‘Thank you.’

A rustle of paper and she began to read, he watched her as often as he could while she did so and was a little worried by what seemed to be dark amusement in her eyes.

‘So Mr Janus, Jason.. wrote this by himself?’

‘ I believe so miss’

‘It’s a little dark, does the girl have to die?’

‘Sorry miss?’

‘Oh. You haven’t read it. It seems a bit bleak.’

And yet she seemed to be smiling, was there something wrong with her?

‘We’re nearly there now miss, just another mile or so.’

‘Your voice seems familiar, have we spoken before?’

‘No miss.’

‘Ah Ok. I asked Jason, Mr Janus a question last night.’

‘A question?’

‘Yes. I couldn’t believe that I was so lucky and I asked Jason if he was doing this just because he wanted to, that he wanted to give this dream to me.’

That strange question from last night, he’d brushed over it with a glib ‘Yes of course, you deserve this’, now here it was again.

Just in time to save him answering the question, the open doors and blinding lights of the soundstage came into view, illuminating the inside of the car and highlighting her perfect features.

‘DO YOU think he meant it? That he’s giving this to me freely?’

There was definite amusement there, if she suspected him, she should be scared, but.. she wasn’t. Why wasn’t she bothered? Why was she…. amused?

‘I.. don’t know miss, I can’t speak for him.’

‘Are you sure?’

The lights in the unit were dimming somehow, the blinding glare was retreating into a dull red glow where no lights should be.

“I.. I.. don’t know what you mean miss, I’m just a….’

She had taken his hand and was looking deeply into his eyes. That dark amusement was all that he could see now.

Fuck… How had he thought that she was young, she was so old.

‘Derek, the time for lies is over. You gave yourself freely to me last night and promised me whatever I wanted. Me Kali Blue, you gave yourself to me. You and that long trail of souls that you carry around you like a shroud.’

Fuck… she knew his name.. She knew about the others… How? How?

‘I……….’

“Enough now Derek, it’s time.’

Tightening her grip on his hand, still with that dark amusement in her GLOWING eyes, she led him into the warm darkness.

Bad Science Fiction (2)

I wrote this back in 1997.

I don’t know why I thought about it today.

It’s not that good, but meh.

It wasn’t anything major that started it all off. Not nuclear testing, or global warming, or volcanic activity or even the pollution from the Gulf War. No, it was something really quite minor and everyday. So, things happened slowly and that’s where I’ll start.

Ever since I was a boy, I’ve been fascinated with Science Fiction. Films, books, comics, cartoons, anything. I especially loved stories about nature gone mad, films like Tarantula or Them. Books like The Rats, Night Of The Crabs, Mantis! , Spiders, the list seems endless.

I’m sure you’ve got the idea by now, ordinary, if disgusting creatures mutated by chemical or nuclear accidents, grown to huge size and developing a craving for human flesh.

If only things were as simple as that, we might have a chance.

When I’ve finished this, I’ll seal it in a plastic container and seal that in concrete inscribed with today’s date and my name. Maybe, one day, in the distant future, it might  be read.

The house is as safe as I can make it, but I don’t think that it will stay that way for long, even steel can only take so much punishment and lead can only screen a finite amount of radiation. The walls are not so thick that I can’t hear them baying and snarling outside, those that are left alive. One of them ripped the TV camera from the wall yesterday, so I can’t even see what they’re up to anymore. Perhaps that is a blessing.

I bought the house from the family of a survivalist. He had built the house complete with a  bunker that had been designed to withstand a nuclear attack, well, theoretically anyway.  The end of the cold war left him in a state of deep depression and he eventually blew his brains out with an uzi. When I moved in, I found that his bunker was well below specification, it was swarming with ants. I put down masses of poison and, when the room was insect-free, I had it sprayed, floor to ceiling with a quick setting plastic compound.

Even at that time, I didn’t fully understand what was happening, I’m not sure that anybody did. Apart from Solcom, who were so busy trying to cover their tracks that they lost sight of the real problem. It was probably too late anyway, the process had started.

If you were here, now, with me, as I look around my refuge/prison, what would you see?

Probably nothing special.

That’s where you would be wrong, as everybody was wrong. We were so busy looking at chemical spillages and nuclear radiation, that we missed the obvious until it was much, much, much too late. Solcom had their suspicions for almost a year before they went to the government. A whole year. It makes me feel sick to think of all that wasted time, all the lives that were wasted, one by one, until it became an epidemic.

The first proven victim was attacked in Devon on a bright summer’s day. Her name was Edith Watson and she was thirty seven years old and married with two children. She was walking down the local High Street with a carrier bag full of shopping. According to witnesses, she suddenly dropped her shopping  and started to flail at the air around her. Then the sky above her head darkened and a loud humming noise could be heard from almost a quarter of a mile away. Within seconds, it was as if she grew a second, lumpy and heaving skin. She let out one piercing scream, but that was almost instantly muffled and she fell to the ground. People ran towards her to help, but were beaten back almost immediately.

All anybody could do, was to watch her die.

Why she was picked out as a target, is still unclear. What is clear, is that a swarm of bees, a whole hive, over thirty thousand of them, attacked her at once. She was dead within minutes as the combined toxin raced through her system. The attack in itself, although horrible, was not unusual; many cases of the kind had been reported over the years, mostly in South America. No, what set this attack apart, was the fact that the bees on the top layers stung the bees underneath them, and the attack didn’t stop until every single bee was dead. I have a photograph somewhere, of this poor woman, buried under a mound of dead bees, unrecognisable as a human being.

There were another eleven attacks of this kind over the next few months. People attacked and killed by bees, wasps and even locusts. On one occasion, a baby was stripped to the bone by ants, while his parents dozed at a picnic. On all these occasions, the insects turned on each other after the initial killing. People in high places started to ask questions. Only Solcom knew the answer and they weren’t telling.

Did you know that some people can pick up radio signals through their fillings or through metal plates in their head? There have been recorded cases of some of these people going berserk and embarking on a killing spree that usually ends with their own suicide.

Something in their minds just fuse and they are as good as dead from that point on.

Did you know that in the early 1990s, a “yuppie cancer” was diagnosed? It was caused by the microwaves emitted and received by mobile phones and developed on the side of the head, by the ears.

Did you know that the radar on AWACS planes is so powerful, that if you stood in front of it while it was operational, that it would literally cook you?

Have you ever heard of Sick Building Syndrome? There are various theories about the cause of this problem, ranging from ley lines to a lack of plant life in and around the building. The Chinese employ a Feng Shui man to tell them the correct spot to build. On or near a “Dragon” is considered bad “Joss”,( luck ) and such sites are avoided. Whatever the reasoning behind it, the problem is real and such buildings tend to have a lower productivity output and a dramatically worse sickness record than that of a “healthy” building.

In 1993, Solcom developed the Nanowave, it was based on the microwave but occupied a millionth of the space and time of its predecessor. It was also capable of carrying two hundred and fifty times more information. This amounted to a revolution in telecommunications, video phones were now a reality rather than an expensive, unreliable luxury. Portable videophones became the norm as people drifted away from the old style of communicating. Solcom became powerful beyond measure, eclipsing the Japanese giants and totally eliminating B.T and Mercury as competitors. Nanowave relays were set up in every country in the world, with huge gigawatt transmitters erected in Antarctica and the North Pole.

In 1995, Dr Ernst Lubin, the inventor of the Nanowave went mad. He started to see imaginary insects everywhere. He was committed to a mental home for three months and was pronounced to be cured after much pressure was applied to the trustees of the home by Solcom. It was considered bad P.R to have an employee locked up. Two weeks after his release, he wandered into a McDonalds with an assault rifle and killed twenty three people before turning the gun on himself.

Shortly after, a game warden in the Kokuri National Park in Kenya started to observe strange behaviour amongst the animals. This was typified by an attack by lions on a herd of impala.           

It started as a normal hunt, the lionesses split into a loose formation and started their initial run to break up the herd. The herd didn’t move. All four of the lionesses scored a kill, easily bringing down an impala. Then it started to go wrong. Instead of running away, the impala charged the predators en masse. The big cats didn’t stand a chance, and the video footage of the charge makes for disturbing viewing. The lionesses were each gored dozens of times by the slim horns of their prey and were ripped apart by the savagery of the thrusts. Within minutes, there was just a huge expanse of red dirt and torn off limbs scattered about. Then the real carnage started. The impala, seemingly driven mad by their frenzied attack, turned on each other. Again the video footage is horrendous, the overall impression is of dust and blood and the death screams of tortured animals. Not one impala survived.

In London, on September 15th 1995, four tourists and one policeman were literally shredded by pigeons in Trafalgar Square. The pigeons then battled in mid-air until not one survived. Eyewitnesses speak of a rain of blood coating every square inch and of Admiral Nelson turning a bright glistening red.

Between October 1995 and April 1996, every single member of the Nanowave team died violently. Some started fights in bars, some committed suicide in a variety of gruesome ways. One team member while on the twenty fifth floor of a building in Los Angeles, turned to his companion and said; “There’s that bastard Robinson down there, I’m going to get him.”

He then leapt out of the window, shouting abuse all the way down.

On April 20th 1996, Solcom finally turned to the governments of the world and asked for help. Many governments, including our own, had already started their own investigations and that is where I first became aware of the magnitude of the problem.

I had been seconded to the American government team, to help them to make sense of the St Patrick’s Day Massacre on March 17th.  

On that day, a peaceful parade in the middle of New York, erupted into the worst riot that the world had ever seen. It had started when one of the marchers, seeing somebody in the crowd wearing an orange hat, leapt at the unfortunate hat-wearer and smashed his skull with his baton. 

This seemed to be the signal that the crowd had been waiting for, friend flew against friend, brother against brother father against son.

The whole parade ground to a halt as thousands of people grappled against each other makeshift clubs and jagged bottles flying. When the police tried to step in, they were swamped and their weapons ripped from their hands.

Gunshots started to echo.

The mayor of New York attacked the Commissioner of Police with the jagged end of a champagne bottle, ripping his throat out on live television across America. The riot spread and spread, the whole crowd started fighting and the police had to fall back to wait for a lull.

It didn’t come.

People killed and killed and killed, until they were in turn, killed themselves. The phrase “rivers of blood” could have been coined for this one day alone. The streets were awash with bright, arterial blood, up to the depth of the combatant’s ankles. Some people who may have survived their wounds, drowned in blood.

And still it didn’t stop.

Eventually, the Army were called in and had no choice but to open up on the crowd with automatic weapons. At first they rebelled against the very thought of killing their fellow Americans and tried to help the survivors. That idea changed when they too, were attacked by the crowd, and, in one unforgettable moment, a young trooper had his throat bitten out by an eight year old girl.

Of a crowd of more than 50,000 people, only two hundred and forty seven people survived.

Bulldozers had to be used to clear the streets of bodies.

Nobody, including myself, had any idea what could have triggered normal people to act like bloodthirsty savages. Have you ever seen a Zombie film? That’s what those people looked like, only they didn’t shuffle and were as quick as vipers. We were getting nowhere with the investigation, and post-mortem after post-mortem showed no tangible results.

Then Solcom came forward and everything changed.

At first, their story was too much to take in, it didn’t make any sense. Then, all of a sudden, it did.

That’s when I bought this house. I stocked it with thousands of books, tons of food and thousands of gallons of water.

Preparing for a siege.

You see, Solcom had found, very early on, that the Nanowave was a mutagen.

It altered, very subtly and over the course of time, the chemistry of the brain.

Let me give you an example.

You’re walking along the road, it’s dark and you can hear footsteps behind you. You hear something that sounds like the snick of a flick-knife. At this point, your body is flooded with adrenalin and the fight or flight response is initiated. The blood in your body drains from your skin and is transferred to the major organs, the heart, the brain etc. Depending on your personal makeup, you will now turn to face the challenge or you will run away. The most common response is to run.

However, the Nanowaves alter the receptors in the brain that govern this response and the only option that your brain will allow is to fight. Studies have shown that many psychopaths have a slightly altered chemistry and that their only response to a threat is a sudden, devastating attack. The problem however, doesn’t end there, once the adrenalin levels are sufficient to start an attack, the part of the brain that governs reason is disabled.

Permanently.

Once the various governments involved found the cause of the problem, they found that they had another.

Everybody was dependent on the Nanowave.

Everybody.

The transmitters couldn’t be switched off or destroyed.

Instead, experiments were tried to change the frequency that the waves used, and more traffic was routed through satellites.

To no avail.

If anything, things became worse.

On August 1st 1996, two hundred and eleven people in a Hackney housing estate were killed by an attack of millions of cockroaches.

On August 13th 1996, four thousand people in New Orleans were killed by rats.

There were countless examples of people being attacked by the family dog or cat. Those people that managed to fight off the attacks, went on to kill family and friends before dying themselves.

On November 21st 1996, a garrison of British Army troops stationed in Crosmaglen were sniped at on a housing estate. They replied with mortars, machine guns and grenades. The dead were uncountable, mainly because it was hard to find all the pieces.

The list was endless.

On December 5th 1996, all nuclear bases around the world were shut down; even the Chinese had to accept that it was too dangerous to leave a single one manned. All nuclear submarines were recalled and disabled. All strategic bombers were stood down indefinitely.

The world, theoretically, was a safer place.

On January 17th 1997, I quietly resigned my job and retired to my house.

Things seemed to get worse from there.

Every day, there seemed to be new atrocities. Nature going berserk, people going berserk. Parliament stopped meeting on April 11th 1997, after a thankfully empty, House of Commons debate erupted into sickening violence. There were one hundred and eleven dead.

All decisions are made from an underground bunker. I’ve seen it, it’s not as secure as mine.

The streets now are full of bloodthirsty, empty-eyed mobs, using anything as a weapon. I saw one of them clutching a dismembered arm, using it as a club.

I have enough food and water to last me for years, my bunker is virtually impregnable, even the air is recycled rather than filtered in. I don’t think that anybody or anything can get in.

What worries me, what terrifies me, is that someday soon, I’ll want to get out.

House Dogs

It’s Easter Monday as I write this and the UK is still under lockdown, it’s day…

Er.

I’m not sure what day of lockdown it is, because I’m not counting.

My guess for the relaxation of restrictions is around the first week of May. I won’t be sorry if it’s earlier of course, but I won’t overly panic if it’s longer.

I miss friends and family, but that’s why we have phones, and Skype and WebEx and Zoom and all the other near-magical tools that can make us feel like we’re in the same room.

Let’s face it, if you’re in the UK, don’t have the virus but do have food and drink, you’re winning right now. Don’t believe me, go to Malaysia where it’s full military lockdown with drones overhead or India, where basic sanitation is still beyond the reach of millions.

Still, it’s tough for many people who haven’t had the dubious benefit of being in a hotel for months at a time where the only people that you’re likely to speak to are waiters or where calls home have to be tightly scheduled.

I had a look on the iTunes Store today for apps that might help with that mystic thing called ‘Mindfulness’ – there’s a lot of them out there and they all seem to want you to spend upwards of $100 a year to look at some pretty pictures, listen to some vague noises and bore yourself into a stupor. I think that they’re probably making a fortune from those poor souls who need a mental boost.

Fuck that.

My only plan for getting through this is as follows, you can follow it or do whatever you want:

1. Take every two days as it’s own thing. There is only today and tomorrow (tomorrow is a work day but otherwise won’t be much different)

2. Avoid TV, Radio and printed ‘news’ – unfollow and actively block people like Piers Morgan , Robert Peston and anybody that you see on social media spreading horror stories and conspiracy theories.

3. Look for the positives in life. Your friends especially will always be there if you need a bit of support on a given day. Spring is here and the world outside is beautiful. Get out early or late if you can and enjoy the sunrise or sunset without so many people around.

4. Revisit the songs, books and films that made you happy when you were younger. Take delight in finding new meanings in each one now that you’re both older and wiser.

5. Seek the things that made you laugh, they probably still do. I’ve been rewatching ‘Bottom’ and it still makes me laugh out loud as the first time I saw it.

6. Drink or don’t. Exercise or don’t. It’s only two days. You can do what you like in the next two days.

7. That’s it.

Today I’ve followed my own rules, I rang my Dad, walked Milo along some beautiful countryside, read a portion of one of my favourite books and I’m sat in the garden writing this with the Lexicon of Love by ABC playing in the background. I’m as content as I can be for now. Later I’ll have a gin and change the music to something more suitable, maybe AC-DC or Manson or Wagner, who knows?

Maybe I’ll update this in the distant future. But that’s after tomorrow, so I won’t stress it.

Small Dog Syndrome

I haven’t written for a while.

To be honest, it’s been too hectic and the hits have come thick and fast.

The long running saga of my Uncle and Aunt still isn’t over and I can’t really say too much as it’s all getting close to the wire for some other people..

Sadly, my Uncle has Alzheimer’s and won’t get the happy ending that he deserves although some other people may get exactly what they need.

Work is massively hectic in a good way and I have a 5 day trip to Europe in a couple of weeks that will take in 5 cities in as many days (Plus Luton on the way out and Manchester on the way back)

And then there’s been HIM.

Milo.

A spur of the moment rescue dog with a whole raft of issues. And a backstory made up of lies. He’s supposedly 8 or so now but seems and acts much younger. He was (again supposedly) owned by one person for seven years.

Except. His vaccination records only go back one year. And I was supposed to be his second rescue home – I’m the third…I don’t know how long he’s spent in cages, but I suspect over six months.

He was supposed to have food aggression and a few other issues – he doesn’t. He does have a doggie form of PTSD where something will trigger his defence mechanisms, but then; he’s missing teeth and has some scars on his head. And if he sees a fat bloke with a beard, he’s like a ballistic missile.

Somebody hurt him badly.

Oh – he’s also not a morning dog, if he could speak, his first words of every day before 7am would be ‘fuck off’.

I don’t do ‘personal’ but a change in circumstances in November meant that I had to find alternative ways of getting him cared for on the days that I’m not at home and this meant interviewing sitters and the various fringe lunatics out there who’ll take your dog ‘if they agree to become part of our pack’ …

I eventually found the right person and after a few meetings, they took to each other and Milo now goes off for days at a time, giving me the comfort to have a work AND social life again, knowing that he’s loved and cared for. And he has a couple of little friends – Luna (she loves him and he adores her) and Roo – a three legged rescue from Romania

He’s also taken to the wider family and I’m now the proud possessor of a drawing by the sitter’s 6 year old brother that just glows with love – I’m currently having that framed.

And….. he’s got a raft of health issues. Both of his back knees have gone and he has a buildup between his discs. So he needs a total of three operations.

And I wonder

Did the previous owner know all this and did they cut and run rather than getting him sorted? I guess I’ll never know.

But.. I wonder….

Anyway, I took out loads of insurance when I got him and he’s now had his first knee op

And he still loves me, despite him being dumped in the vet, operated on, being in pain and wearing those stupid collars. Oh and being locked in a cage.

In a month or so, he’ll have something called a Fenestration on his discs and that’ll be it for this year, I want him to have some summer…And beach and canal time so that he can run around and be the happy little dog that he should have been since day one.

Life has changed so much in the past year that it’s hard to believe. I moved house AND started a new job on the 1st April last year and then took on the biggest project of all in August.

I don’t know where things are going to go now, the job is good, I’ve had a massive stroke of luck with choosing a pension advisor (contact me if you want his details) and much of my free time (when I’m not snuggled on the couch watching bad TV with a snoring dog) is taken up with socialising , travel and fun.

My issues with my Uncle and Aunt won’t end for a while, nor will the trips to Yorkshire, but…

But.

I know that whatever I do next, it’ll include him. The grumpy little lunatic is mine now.

When bad science fiction gets too close for comfort

I wrote this.  A long, long time ago, or that’s the way that 1998 seems to me now.

It eventually ended up in a collection of equally appalling short stories that are available on Kindle under my real name.

I’m not trying to sell it..

When I wrote it, I borrowed from other dystopian stories and added a grim twist.

And now. This week, fiction is hard to tell from reality.

Anyway.

Anybody want to take a bet on the whole thing being real in a few years?

 

Mik darted into a doorway as the poli-cruiser hummed past, red and blue lights blinking their danger signals into his eyes. He wasn’t wanted for anything, it was just an instinctive reaction, similar to an octopus darting under a rock at the first sign of a big fish.

He waited for a few minutes, just in case they decided to pull him in for routine questioning, which always left him bruised and bleeding, and then carried on walking.

Mik was tall, around the two metre mark, and very thin. His blonde hair was thinning and hung in greasy ropes around his shoulders. He dressed well, as befitted a member of his profession, and was one of the lucky few who could afford real leather shoes.

Thanks to a friend, he never had to stand in line for food, or even meat. Although this was not much of a consideration these days, as he was unable to hold anything down for any length of time.

As he walked, he constantly scanned the street, eyes flicking left and right with the regularity of a metronome.

“Mik.”  A whispered call from a shop doorway.

He turned slowly, carefully making his face impassive. George, an old customer.

“Yeah, What’re you after?”

“What’ve you got?”

“Something very special, been banned for years now, one of the first ever to be banned as a matter of fact, just possession of this will be enough for six months in a cube.”

George’s eyes gleamed at this exciting snippet, moisture beading on his top lip.

“What is it? Come on, hurry up.”

Mik, in command now, reached slowly into one of his hidden pockets and found what he was looking for.

Waved his hand in front of George’s eyes, too fast to follow, the contents of his fist a blur.

He grinned, George was hooked.

Slowly he opened his fist and displayed the treasure held within.

George was openly sweating now. “How much?” He asked, voice trembling.

“Four hundred ecu’s to you, being as I know you that is.”

“Okay, okay, here’s the money, hand it over.”

Mik moved like lightning, snatching the small plastic coins from George’s hand with the speed of a striking cobra, and only then did he hand George his prize.

” A real classic that is, first film that Michael Caine ever made as a matter of fact, not many people know that.”

George smiled blankly, oblivious to the world, all he could think of was going home and watching his black-market copy of Zulu.

Mik shrugged his shoulders and walked away, there was no point carrying on the conversation, besides, he was going to the happy clinic soon, and he didn’t want to be late.

He checked his pockets as he walked, running a quick inventory of his stock, more copies of Zulu, Waterloo, The Dam Busters, Henry V, 633 Squadron, The Battle of Britain, the list ran on and on. Most of these films had been banned since 2020, when the EGov had decreed that “Offensive Imperialist Propaganda” would be banned.

This was not a move aimed exclusively at Britain, rather an across the board removal of each member state’s military past. Some subjects were removed from school curriculums, for example the First and Second World Wars were not even obliquely referred to, the same applied to Napoleon’s rape of Europe and Nazi Germany’s attempt to eradicate all “Untermenschen”.

This attempt to somehow lessen the old hatreds between the member states, predictably, did not succeed. The French still hated the English and were coldly polite to the Germans, The Germans still harboured a festering dislike for Britain, as did the Italians. The British still hated almost everybody, with especial venom reserved for the Ancient Enemy, the French. 

People in authority denied that these hatreds still existed, or in fact, had ever existed. But, every summer, coach loads of young men made the trip through the Channel Tunnel and kicked the shit out of people on the other side.

These incidents, often involving hundreds of people, never once made the nightly news programmes. Neither did stories of unemployment or crime, except when the crime rate went up more slowly than the year previously.

In 2018, the EGov decided upon a policy of trying to keep civil unrest to a minimum, therefore, certain news items were banned, crime, unemployment (currently standing at 97,000,000), pollution and Global Warming.

Alongside this policy, the Happy Clinics were opened. For a small amount of money, people could go along to the clinics and take the drugs of their choice.

This accomplished two things very quickly, the first that drug dealers were driven out of business almost overnight. The second was that the number of addicts skyrocketed, and now stood at a staggering 200,000,000.

A side effect of this was that drug-related crime dropped almost to nothing, just the occasional knife or axe-murder committed under the influence. These incidents also never made the news.

Mik was unconscious of most of these decisions, the only one that he was aware of involved the banning of films and books, and he didn’t sell books, too big and bulky. No, give him a mini-vid any day, small, compact and easily erasable with the coat that he wore. This had thousands of strands of wire all connected to a power cell, that when activated by a simple voice command, turned his coat into a powerful electro-magnet.

He drifted along through the crowds, still scanning for potential trouble, occasionally glancing up at the video cameras positioned on strategic rooftops, eyes squinting against the yellow sky.

He was sweating himself now, body reacting to the pressure of the sale. He tried to slow his heart rate down, he was losing weight all the time these days. He wondered if he should mention it to the doctor at the Happy Clinic.

He decided against it, they might want him to cut down on the number of visits that he made. He was up to two hits a day now, heroin followed by crack cocaine at each visit.

He really was getting hot now, sure that he couldn’t remember a January being so hot, it was almost thirty degrees today.

And getting hotter.

A thin trickle of sweat ran down the back of his neck, down his back and spread out across the base of his spine. Making him sticky and uncomfortable, his mouth was getting dry and he had the beginnings of a headache.

He decided to go for a drink before he went to the Happy Clinic, a couple of large vodkas was always a good base for the drugs.

The pub, as usual, was packed. It took Mik what seemed like ages before he could fight his way through to the bar, nobody seemed to mind being pushed aside these days, idly, Mik wondered if they were putting something in the booze.

In fact they were.

Two years ago it had been decided to drastically cut the duty on alcohol, it was also decided to add a harmless tranquilliser. This meant that more people could afford to drink, it also cut down on the possibility of violence, and most importantly, it nipped in the bud any thoughts of “what are the EGov doing about unemployment, crime, poverty…….”

Most people, after a few hours in the bars and taverns had no more thought processes than a homing pigeon.

To save time, Mik ordered a quadruple round of treble vodkas, sinking the first one before the second had even been poured. He paid the surly looking barman and fought his way out to the “beer garden”, which had been covered over with a super hard plastic many years ago.

After a careful look round at the other customers, he casually laid out a neat row of vids on the bench in front of him. He wasn’t too worried about the police, the euro commissioners scared him more, they had almost unlimited powers of arrest and seizure of goods. Within five minutes, a large part of his stock had gone and he was several thousand ecu’s richer.

And quite drunk.

Unsteadily, he made his way out onto the street and just stood there for a moment, trying to remember where he was going to next. Just stood there in the reflected yellow glow from the windows, mouth open and slack. Looking almost like a dummy in a shop window, except that dummies didn’t drool.

After a while, an image of white coats and needles fought it’s way into his drugged brain and he shuffled off like an old, old man towards the Happy Clinic.

He arrived ten minutes later and sat in the waiting room with all the other people, hundreds of them.  He suddenly realised that he couldn’t remember walking there from the pub, had only a vague recollection of moving among a swaying sea of blurred faces. Didn’t even remember sitting down.

He was worried.

He was forgetting more and more lately. He made a mental note to cut down on the booze, he vaguely remembered reading something about it killing brain cells. Drugs were ok though, the EGov had published a report on the beneficial properties of all the major drugs dispensed at the Happy Clinics.

Mik stood up and stretched, rubbed gently at his temples, the headache was still with him, it even seemed a little worse. He looked at the number that he’d been given and compared it to the number currently showing on the monitor above him, just under two hundred to go. Roughly ten minutes. He hoped that he could last that long.

The Happy Clinic was enormous, at any one time; at least thirty doctors were on duty and giving people their dosages. This particular clinic had at one time been a small hospital. It still retained a vaguely hospital-like air about it as doctors and nurses bustled busily about and porters carried the too-far-gone to the front door, where they were dumped.

Mik was starting to get itchy now, the spiders of withdrawal starting to climb all over his body, he tried not to start scratching, knowing that if he did, he’d not be able to stop for hours.

He waited.

And waited.

After what seemed an eternity of the spiders crawling over his flesh, even seeming to creep inside his eyeballs, his number came up on the monitor. Taking his ticket from the grim, unsmiling, security guard, he made his way to room number thirty four.

There was no need to knock, his image was being displayed on the closed circuit monitor inside and compared to a database. This process only took a few seconds and the steel door hissed open.

The doctor was waiting.

Poised over his monitor, Doctor Hamilton looked the very essence of a professional medical man. Crisp white coat, desk neatly laid out, hi-tech monitoring and test equipment surrounding his desk.

Only two things spoiled the look, his cold, cold blue eyes and the bucket of blood-filled used syringes behind him.

“Hello Mik, how’s business?” The question was friendly yet innocent. Professional.

It terrified Mik.

“Oh…. Not that great at the moment….. But it’s picking up. Honest.”

“No it’s not, I was talking to Feo the other day, he said that you’ve been ordering less and less each month. Maybe it’s time that you cut down on this a bit.” Gesturing to the syringes and drug cabinets.

“It’s not that… It’s just that I’ve not been feeling that great for a while now, I don’t know why.”

The doctor’s eyes narrowed, taking in Mik’s appearance fully.

“Yes you do look a bit thin, perhaps we’d better do a blood test. Give me your arm.”

Mik, knowing that it would be pointless to resist, held out a scarred left arm fro the testing unit.

A brief whir of machinery, a sudden sharp pain in his elbow joint, and the machine began its work.

The doctor hummed quietly to himself, Mik sweated.

The display changed, row upon row of figures traversing the screen, reflecting in the cold eyes of the doctor. Coming to a halt. Giving an instant diagnosis.

“Oh dear Mik, this doesn’t look very good at all, perhaps you’d like a small hit of a cocktail before I tell you the bad news?”  Already knowing the answer, preparing a syringe with practised hands.

Mik just sat there, too frightened to ask, and too frightened to do anything except hold his arm out for the injection that would give him the courage to hear the bad news.

He hoped that it wasn’t AIDS, everything else was curable, except AIDS. If that’s what it turned out to be, he’d kill that fucking bitch Martine.

Slowly, the drugs cut in and he felt their calmness spreading through his mind.

“OK, tell me the worst, it’s not AIDS is it ?” His voice seemed wrong, slower, deeper than it should be.

“No, not AIDS, you’ve got cancer of the liver and bowels.”

Mik sighed in relief. Curable.

“What are you smiling at Mik?” The voice was cold, detached.

“Curable.” His voice was slower now, but happy-sounding.

“No. I’m afraid not. We gave up on cancer research twenty years ago.”

Mik could feel panic building up in his head. He couldn’t move his arms or legs.

Or his head.

All he could move were his eyes; he looked at the doctor, who seemed to be smiling.

“As I was saying, there were too many new cancer causing factors around, chemical spillage, air pollution, solar radiation, nuclear radiation. You name it and it was on the increase. So we started doing this.”

He waved the syringe through the air.

“This….. Used to be called a Hot Shot, but these days we just call it Option Three.”

Mik couldn’t see, he could only hear. And his hearing was fading fast.

“It was the best solution really. Cheap, quick, effective. Much better than raising people’s hopes with chemotherapy and radiation treatment. This way you just disap……”

A button was pushed and two burly porters, lobotomized to make their work easier for them to live with, came in and removed the body. Then took it to the sealed-off rear part of the clinic for incineration.

Another button pushed.

A new patient.