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Category — Flash Fiction

Planet of the Monkeys

Greetings, Flash Fictionaughts. This week, we have bugoids and space weasels on the fearsome PLANET OF THE MONKEYS.

Set blasters for ‘medium rare’!

As you might imagine, this is an insightful analysis of man’s (and woman’s) eternal struggle for redemption in a harsh universe or artistic criticism and post modernistic expression… or in fact, sci-fi popcorn involving space weasels, bugoids, and (ahem) fashion.

Set brains to automatic and let your imagination coast down hill at warp factor 2.5 to where this story is waiting for you with open claw, Roquefort dip and breadsticks.

***

A

polline feels safer in the hours of sunlight. During the day, she can stretch out and sunbathe in front of this yellowy, main sequence star, and not feel the faint pull of transmatic tractors or translocation beacons. She can thumb two Chlachlar at the near invisible ships far overhead. It’s only later, when the solar and magnetic radiation fades into a rolling time lapse of northern lights – the energy equivalent of misty tendrils descending a mountain – she begins to stare suspiciously at the skies.

Before long, the sphere of the heavens rise into darkness and the distant point-lights of fusion burn and twinkle as unimaginable energy expends its power into poetry. But these stars are not nearly as powerful as the Hullian drives that hold newly arrived battle fleets in geosynchronicity. Streamlined hulls slide through darkness – darker than dark – and show on no Earthly detector. The starlight appears untouched as light bends.

Soon the Trovians will be coming.

Frankly, she is unconcerned. And yet – and yet – Apolline has her gun on the kitchen table. The brass and glass globes look archaic against the cracked, gingham Formica. Much she has learned of this planet: QVC, Versace and Jimmy Choo. And B Movies. She loves the giant Ant Men and their whippy antennae – they remind so much of home. But she is somewhat dismayed – as she attacks moving gun parts with Brasso and a shammy – that her erstwhile ‘technology’ would be identified by the more ‘Garshoon’ hoardes of humanity as a sub genus of Steam Punk and Invasion Mars. How embarrassing. She rubs on and grimaces in a symphony of suit servos. Look at that condensing coil – it’s so… Saturday Kid’s Club.

Gun polished, glass glittering with insta-death, she slides aside the patio doors. The night air – as it is relayed to her – is cool. She scowls at galactic north and the no-doubt ships hanging there like paving slabs, and slumps into a lounger. Roquefort dip and breadsticks are close to claw… to manipulator… to hand. It is a hand of rubberised silicate and micro robotics: her skin-suit is an off-the-hanger Angelina Jolie in a weighted morph with the topography of Beyonce.

Inside: funiculus, scutellum, and tarsal claw.

She tunes in, one implant after another, to examine the deployed suggestion fields. Her head hurts. That little rim of a thumbnail the Salorians helpfully embedded in her frontal lobe is encouraging a visit to a rather awkwardly shaped mountain somewhere in the United States; flat topped and unlikely. Looks like a coffee table from IKEA. At this time of night? Pfft! she huffs.

Apolline loads in some cheese dip and stick with manicured elegance and a straight pinky and wishes Steve Jobs had gotten hold of the kill-gun before the Fargon Technocracy, who – in complete contravention of the rules of accessorisation – have created a ‘must have weapon’ which feels as heavy and awkward in a fight as a cheap hairdryer filled with uranium.  And what’s with hairdryers anyway? For heaven’s sake, people – would it kill you to just translocate wet-hair water one foot to the right? And then: Oh. Possibly yes. She grins at mischievous imaginings of scorched monkeys, her flesh-suit manoeuvring a hundred micro servos in the complex ballet of mirth.

A Traysian Llachja winks disconsolately near her third, redundant brainstem, hinting at a rendezvous in a nearby corn field…

***

Geometric resonance and crackling fields of pentronic displacement burn a corn circle into gently waving heads of green barley. A Trovian retrieval ship touches down on silken landing gear, sprung like four counterpoised nail clippers.

***

Apolline scowls. Pfft. If these weasels want to try the whole abduction thing on her, then they’ll need to do it somewhere with a café, a gift shop and a surface conducive to high heels. Or forgeddabout it!

She delicately pushes a breadstick – an inch too long – into her plasticised flesh mask, smunches the stick bulge until the faux flesh finally sticks back to her real face and then rubs the lipstick and crumbs onto a napkin. She misses distensible mouthparts (they’re there – just folded and folded to the extent she’s constantly eating with her ‘mouth’ full of lobster). But oh god, she wails inside, we look like prawns! Versace does nothing on a prawny theme. You think monkeys are bad – try evolving from fashionless space fry!

She loves her fleshy, monkey face with its paltry thousand or so inflections. So much more convenient than the infinite complexities of a body language where the seventh perithenial antennid inclined at a twenty-seven degree angle on the fourth sun cycle of Epicleas intimates mild confusion mixed with a subtle under-layer of concern over childcare and a toasting fork (well, a Shdada).

Not so much a language, she humps, as exoskeletal Twister.

***

A cadre of plasticised bodies dismounts the drop ship, looking somewhat like Emo kids, complete with skateboards. The ship’s cammo screen ripples slightly as the Trovian kill-squad pass through its outer layer – a layer that licks like a bulldog though reflects only farmland.  Between long, yellowed incisors – snug in humanised plastic faces – the Trovians ‘skreek’, and ‘skrerk’ and curse skin-suit fur-sweat, and monkey physiology.  Guns, however, are chick-chacked to vaporise – these weasels know how tricky bugoids can be.

“Flarrrgh! Fan out. Don’t get bit!”

***

Perhaps, on hind stalks, it had been a mistake for Apolline to listen to her advisors, but hiding her – one of the last Harvanian royal pouchlings – on planet Earth (the most distant, low tech, and backward planet of any the Confederacy could imagine) had seemed a wonderful idea at the time. For instance, it was a fact that no matter how much they might wish and desire a most inelegant probing, the monkeys had never once been visited by a proper, honest-to-Y’sukta, alien – until now. Alas for them, the merest glimpse of a battle-class sauceroid could only be attributed to the mad ramblings of an unwashed, class D, ‘nose breather’.

Still, despite the impending invasion, living incognito on The Planet of the Monkeys had its advantages. For one, Apolline had immediately gotten into this whole four limbs business and had contentedly fallen in love with Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, and every other product she could lapidate onto a skin suit (a suit she, praise Y’sukta, had engineered to a perfect 8). She’d never been into painting and sculpture before, and while she’d rather bump cloacae with a Trovian raddled with Septian Gout Worm than a monkey, she did find the attention of the males rather – quaintly – flattering.  After all, as an incipient empress, Apolline liked to win, even if that’s winning at increased persperatory functions and a 5 read on the male meat flakes.

Eat that, monkey fems!

The barbecue goes over. A bin-lid rattles close by. Cool night air ripples onto her micro-pore pressure sensors. Apolline pulls up the kill-gun with practiced efficiency, as servos in the monkey suit whine into bionic assist.

A smallish, hunched, humanoid form emerges with a certain Trovian swagger. A furred head and steely, rodent eyes have been pushed through the mouth of a young, earth-girl monkey-suit (the girl now seems rather snake-like, her dislocate jaw swallowing a mouse).The ‘mouse’ has its eyelids and face pulled back by the silicoid lips it has squeezed between; snout greasy, fur marked with lipstick.  The gun it carries is bigger than a Tropecca.

“I have come for you, hideous princess of Harvania! Prepare for the tractor beams of righteous translocation!”

Hideous?!

BOOM!

Pop goes the weasel.

September 4, 2012   20 Comments

Lion on the Court

Strangely, for me, I’ve been watching the Olympics and quite enjoying it: they’ve been throwing stuff and all sorts and I’ve been paying attention. I used to do a lot of swimming, so seeing that and the other events floating by in the background – while doing something much more sedate, like reading a book – has been pure gold. This week’s #FridayFlash wasn’t planned as an Olympic-appropriate story, but kind of ended up that way.  I guess the coloured rings  must’ve snuck into my subconscious and stuck, demanding sport-related shenanigans.  As I’ve never been one to turn down shenanigans, sporting or otherwise, this one is called ‘Lion on the Court.’

***

K

elly found the lion basking in the sunshine of the court.

At first it was a quality of that high, summer light and the wind-dust blowing across the cracked, compacted grit, and the weed-heads dancing in between – a soft, susserant breath of movement that could be muscle shifting.

How big is it? What does it want? he wondered, even as he knew it was very, very, big and very, very, old (ancient, wandered through his mind) and it wasn’t entirely friendly. Its golden pelt was patched from the glitter of small stone and mica, golden sunbeams and childish wonder. He pictured the soft pad of paws and the warm, soft, fur that could be gathered in armfuls – if only it’d let you.

Where the net sagged, string rotting; where the volley ball plopped, deflated; where the other kids came along with a challenge or other – or laughed at the little boy taking soft-wristed punts and splatting the leather bladder on his wrists (playing  ‘wally ball’, they said) – the lion ran underneath, tail flicking, jaws grim, tongue lolling.

And surely those teeth had to be there, if the boy had stared so long into the sun? Or played so long with a dream in his heart? Or had to overcome so much in such a simple place, where grit and promise, and a skint knee or elbow on the wasteland court, had demanded so much imagination? The lion spoke of an older time, when hearts were inspired and battle raged, when glory was held above all other pursuits, where death was a simple thing, unremarked.

“You have stood guard,” the lion rumbled, “for years of your short life and so I shall do the same.”

Clouds shifted and the lion sat up. Kelly could feel its warm, moist breath on his face and hands; grimaced at the carnivore in it. He punted another shot. Plop went the ball in the dust, unlamented by mum or dad or community or council. Only his grandfather had known: champion of champions, gold so distant it was grey in celluloid. The long shorts, the moustache, the blocky shoes – unshaped and unlovely – the mane of wild hair, were alien, but the look in the old man’s eyes was familiar.

“Yes,” breathed the lion.

Kelly kept the picture close, even when it frayed and he had to tape it.

Spray paint ran in the jumbled mounds of brick and slate amongst the fireweed to the sides of the court; broken glass spoke of dereliction as well as the derelict. Kelly played on in determination.

“Well, you’ve caught me by the tail now,” the lion said. It vanished at sunset, Kelly exhausted, with nothing to indicate the beast had ever been.

That night, the boy flopped into bed feeling sick and sunburned. But the next day he was back and so was the lion, breath blowing through the boy’s sandy hair; and Kelly was intrigued as to what it intended.

The lion’s breath filled him. From dawn to dusk, there was only the boy’s grim smile, the splat-plop of the ball, and the pad, pad, pad and scratch of trainers in the dust as the boy collected the ball, and tried again, punting it once more into the harsh sunlight. Beside him in the endless desert, there were soft-pawed footfalls and the low rumbled purr of approval.

Slowly the boy began to improve.

Though rain came and threatened to banish the lion, or times came when Kelly thought it best not to wolf down his breakfast and do battle on the court before school (when the lion sat on his chest and growled like a motorbike full of rocks until he relented, claws sharp in that first glimmer of light beneath the shades) the boy was given over to his fate and the lion prowled beside him.

Years passed.

Kelly had spent years alone, had gotten some kind of job – not even he was entirely conscious of what – and the ball was now firm, the court cleared of the worst of the glass and cans and condoms, and his gear was cheap but new; if worn and well used. His sword and shield was the light of the sun, and there wasn’t anywhere he couldn’t put that ball if he had a mind to it.

As he’d grown, so the lion had aged. Its teeth were wonky, its pelt moth-eaten; flesh sagged. But Kelly knew this was the state of things – that the old lion must fall away, so that the new may take its place.

“It’s not cold, it’ not sad, it’s necessary,” the lion had once said. And so it was true.  “Take your place in the sun, should you want it” and the lion had motioned to its feet.

A few months later, Don Finch came to the old court – a miracle, he later said: just a detour off the main road to the middle of nowhere and a conversation over a bacon roll and a coffee. A waitress had sat down for a ‘quick breather’ to rest her varicose veins. Amongst other things, she asked him what he did and he’d said ‘sports promoter’.  She frowned where the word ‘sport’ had resonance, and complained that her ‘fool son’ was out in all weathers knocking a ball about. “Good too, them other lads say, though we all wish he’d give it up. ‘Specially his father. Get his head sorted. Get him back to school.”

Well, Don’s heart shrank, of course: all mothers have sons knocking about with some well-worn ‘talent’ or other, but there was something in her vehemence against the boy that suggested there was fight here, between will and woman, between old and new, that made him want prove her wrong.

Fat, arthritic pads wound through the chairs and tables beside him.

A couple of times Don got lost finding his way down into the old factory works – even had to climb a fence – but there was a nudge when he needed it: a yawn of gap-toothed alertness that ensured his onward path to the battlefield.

“This kid’s ‘mazing,” said Motto. “It’s like, it’s like he’s got God in his hands. Jus’ look at ‘im go.” Gutty agreed. So did Franky. So did Stevo.

Don stood back and watched as the court ran with kids, and Kelly sprang the grit and flew and darted and spiked and clawed and played out with all the grace of a feline hunter, all gold in the afternoon sunlight. And later as they talked, Don, who was unfond of melodrama, thought to himself: this kid’s already a legend.

And on the old court, as the last of the sun tickled the bricks and glittered it’s last of the day, the old, old lion roared its agreement, before softly padding away.

August 11, 2012   20 Comments

#119 SUICIDE

Hello there. It’s been ages since I’ve managed to get a writerly post up here and there doesn’t even feel like a particular reason. I just managed to get my flat rented (I’m now a landlord) and I’ve had a few abortive attempts to write various Cafe Short-esque pieces (some too long, others need a bit more work but may yet see the light of inter-web), but other than that, not a great deal.

Happily, though, white screen has been banished with this post, gloriously and morbidly entitled #119 SUICIDE. Do read on and pray I haven’t regressed to teen angst and dark reflection on ‘the pointlessness of it all’ (sigh). The main objective here was to try to focus more of the story through the lens of the narrator’s perception – an effort I was quite excited about. However, I make no claims as to the quality of the result. See how you get on. Damn you Ruben Mancusco.

***

W

hen I was twelve, I was given a black eye by Ruben Mancuso. This was during an argument on the school playground that had been caused by one of the oldest of reasons – the love of a good woman (Sarah Froistad who was 11). I can only imagine where I would have gone if I hadn’t had that fight. But I did, and I resoundingly lost: my mother planting my blackened face in my fathers (raw) steak lunch when I got home. Ruben got hauled out of school for that – he was a bad seed – but not if you listened to the feting he received from the other kids who knew who was the real winner. I had yet to prove myself and took my jeers and sneers with no small amount of depressed resignation. I never did see Ruben again – until today that is. I can’t say I was happy to do so.

Since the time of that beating, I have found the life of an artist to be agreeable. I have decided to go the commercial route and have had much work exhibited in moderately influential galleries, though you might not like it: my work is often dark and malformed (you would say so, should you see it). I give birth to great, shadowy forms on huge canvases that loom out of the darkness with long melting eyes and a shuffling implacability. Some wear musculature looped and overlaid like unwrapped packs of wet sausage; all are brutish. I tell myself the thick paint, scored to the canvas by the brass heads of brushes, is necessary.

But now, Mancuso. It is Mancuso – cappuccino in hand, talking to a slim, European brunette by the door to the gallery book shop – who has risen. They kissed a gentle goodbye. I was entirely transported by their sense of ‘lightness’ in attitude, smiles, clothing (rich and smooth) and sunlight (the windows and doors they were standing near, casting that haloed edge of specular light through their hair). I try not to think about Ruben’s disconnection from his past, how much this image has changed – perhaps how much he has learned – so much so, that he seems to be a fresh, human spirit, reborn a new; laughing and entertaining this unknown girl with her red, damask scarf twisted around a finger.

But I see now I am not similarly disconnected. I can touch this painting on this wall in this gallery – ignoring the warning signs not to touch – and feel the raised, black paint, that is still oily and rubbery and puckered like a scar. I can see the traversal through paintings of my attitude and will, one picture to the next, flicking backwards through those still frames (#118 DESPERATION, #117 LOATHING OF SELF, #116 ISOLATION…) and I mustn’t make this connection: that each painting is the same painting, in as much as it is a still frame of the same moving image. I see it now: one still after the other, each rewinding (I must not consider their return to that first ovum of canvas) and despite changes in scale or medium, it is a blank, soulless brute looming and advancing and bringing up fists like meat, though of course in reverse. As I must not see it, it is rewinding in my mind’s eye regardless (#27 RED ON BLACK, #26 REFORMATION … #15, #14…).

“Five, four, three…”

One…oh, God…

Though I destroyed it, one was ‘GIRL WITH GOLDEN HAIR, CRYING.’

Burn the prospectus now. There is no originality here. If I had a knife, I’d score it all through. Freud is reborn. I thought these twists of image – form flicking in halogenic light behind the viewer (‘brave and original – an artist to watch out for’) had come from pre-conceptualization; were a comment on modern value and expression and immoderate tastes – and that I was uncovering a message; the message; a message I was battling to touch, or grasp or paint into clarity. I felt like I was touched by God or satellites or a dog star, universal. But it was a moment I was copying. Years I spent doing it. But Ruben and both girls are the full cycle. I have gone nowhere in my cold cellars and abandoned properties, my gradual rise through the socialites and parties, the agonising leap at one patron after another – glass in hand, canapé limp and fishy – while he has proven it all wrong. There is no justice, there is no darkness. I’ve lived a child’s nightmare, where Ruben found only sunlight and blissful forgetting on the arm of ‘GIRL WITH EBONY HAIR, SMILING’, age unknown . And…

Beside me, a sculptural form like a basket, but it is a head made from leather belts – the colour of saddle leather – fixed in wax to form a human head. It rests on a clear plastic stand in a clear glass cube, and the whole is on a white plinth. This is not important, other than it is a break in thought. It’s not my creation: I never made it or imagined it. But it is beautiful.

Later that day, I reverse my car backwards off the quay outside the riverside gallery, scraping a huge gash down a side panel as I rush past a bollard (a bollard from when the quay had been used for ship building). The crash whiplashes my neck and bounce-bounce-bounces my head off the head-rest as the back of the car hits the water – near vertical – and the underside grates on the stone pilings, until the front wheels roll for a moment, till the nose grates once more as the back of the car pushes back. We all belly flop together with a splash, a gurgle rushing in behind. The entire accident is just that, my foot slipping off the clutch onto the accelerator, the gearshift sticky around reverse. The freezing inrush of oily water is gaspingly cold, and my mind shoots out to all the things adrenaline suggests as a car sinks (undo seatbelt, un-trap feet, wind down window, whatever else I can make up in the moment as a ‘should do’). But all I can think of – as I get out of that car and sail as a shirt bagged out with water to the nearest ladder, tsunami pouring from the sleeves – is that I’ve finally been released.

#119 sank in the boot of the car.

August 3, 2012   28 Comments