C=at²

You have probably heard of me, except you have not. Ay, there’s the rub. Rub denotes friction and that has to matter. An ongoing battle of creation and annihilation and sublation. What about dark matter, I hear you murmur? Scientists say it exists. Where is the proof? Theory is sufficient. All they know is that something is out there. Ooh, spooky!

Ergo quod non erat demonstrandum, dark matter is God. Or a god. Or a collective of gods. The rungs are slippery when you start playing Jacob’s Ladder. Imagine the kerfuffle if scientists discovered they actually worshipped a deity because of an erroneous equation? How would they square that off?

Maybe I am a god? Accuse me of blasphemy all you like, wage a holy war against me. You will never find me. I am in lockdown, Guantanamo Bay style, but in a more (in-)finite way than you could ever imagine. No orange boiler suit for me. I do like orange though, it brings out the colour in my eyes. Your souls are stuffed full of my eyes – I see you all. Melting pots of jumbled protons, electrons and neutrons. Throw in some Higgs bosons for seasoning and you are ready to be served up as stardust to the cosmos.

I digress. Excuse my manners, I am a bit quarky at the moment. Those tech anarchists fired up the Large Hardon Collider again. Oops, lapsus lingus, I meant Hadron. A Big Bang always gives me a headache. Seriously, they will not be happy until they accidentally open up a black hole then…blip! Has anyone seen Switzerland? It was here a minute ago.

If I had my way I would focus the LHC’s energy up into the sky, dial in the numbers for a collect call and bring back David Bowie. A rather sublime deus ex machina. The starman has to be floating somewhere up there, dancing to some cosmic jive. Shiny tin cans rocket into space and zip around the Moon looking for Buck Rogers. Life on Mars? Absolutely. Why do you think so many probes malfunction near that planet?

The LHC is a magnificent apotheosis of our evolutionary creation. It is perfect. If it spoke it would have exactly the same voice as HAL – calm, reassuring, psychotic. I have a recurring nightmare that I am being murdered by a calculator. Surely there has to be a finite set of equations for this?

Trinity was a technological terror which blossomed into a beautiful atomic horizon. The Alpha and the Omega. That was a day for designer sunglasses – ‘Would you prefer Armani Armageddon or Versace Vortex to watch the end of the world, sir?’ – as the sky was riven with fires of golds, purples and blues. Scientists are the destroyers of worlds, except they like to call it progress.

The LHC is progress.

Miaow! I will calm down. Physics is a divisive topic, just ask the atom. Physics can be a Bohr and you may feel like a Planck but ultimately you do not need to be an Einstein to understand the basics.

Here is my take on it…

Reality exists as much as it does not exist. The universe is flux and you are fluxed if you cannot get that into your head, if indeed your head is even real. Flux is both constant and inconstant. Uncertainty is the only certainty. So to sum up, there could be a human out there who could make your head explode through the power of thought.

Despite everything, I believe I have a place in this world. People have written about the presupposition of my existence within an equation. It is not so much quantum superposition as quantum superstition. Alive and dead at the same moment in/out of and beyond time…aren’t we all?

I find the experiment to be fallacious. Where is the saucer of milk?

I reject the premise there is more than one of me. That is the whiff of righteous mortality. I do not care about this entangling malarkey because I have been falsely imprisoned in a chamber with radioactive matter and poison.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you, Schrödinger?

Oh! The cat is out of the metaphysical bag now, if you had not already guessed.

All I ever wanted was a name.

Echo

The horizon was tinged with wispy tendrils of the sun’s fading fire. Shadows tentatively crept out of their diurnal prisons reclaiming their domain of sepulchres filled with dusty relics. The cemetery was a sanctuary for the shadows; they could swathe themselves in melancholy, silence and solitude.

The shadows whispered to one another and the trees rustled uneasily…something was out of place. A girl was sitting on the edge of a tomb. She was wearing scuffed Doc Marten boots, ripped fishnet tights, a short black leather skirt and a black t-shirt with the image of a bleeding heart. Her sandy-coloured hair looked brittle, like it would snap if someone tried to touch it. Black lipstick and deliberately overdone black eye-shadow could not detract from her brown eyes which were overflowing with soul. What was the girl doing here? They decided to observe her.

Priscilla brushed broken twigs and desiccated leaves from the tomb until she could see a name, she read out aloud: Jacques De Villiers! Angels carried him up to the heavens on 2nd July 1886.

The persistence of memory. That was Priscilla’s affliction. What made a tomb? Masonry, marble, grandeur, inscribed words or the skeleton within? Walk through a cemetery, read the names and messages, you can feel an echo of love and loss still lingering, cheating the fickleness of Father Time. The deceased persist in our memories and when we, the torch-bearers of their lives fade, cemeteries are their enduring testament.

Priscilla knew she should not be here. How was it that her journey had started at the end? It did not make any sense. A cemetery was definitely the end of a journey. The things she had seen – wondrous horror and terrible beauty. She lit a cigarette. She could sense the shadows were watching her.

“Do not fret, my sable friends, all will be revealed!”

The shadows rippled. This girl was strange.

“I will tell you a story!”

The shadows stretched closer towards her.

‘A noble family with one heir; the son was raised in the manner of a prince. The widowed father’s design was to have his son marry into royalty and promulgate the family lineage. While Jacques was well-versed in societal protocols, he found his peers to be frivolous and shallow. The De Villiers’ estate was large and renowned for its game. Jacques hunted to avoid the presence of simpering girls tittering behind bejewelled brocaded corsets.

It was during a pilgrimage in the forest when he chanced upon her…a girl unlike any other. She moved with the natural grace of her arboreal surroundings. Her clothing was smudged, the hem of her dress was bedraggled and she had dandelion seeds caught up in her flowing hair. He remembered his botany classes and without thinking spoke aloud.

“Did you know the botanical name for the dandelion is Taraxacum officinale?”

The girl whirled around, grasping a hatchet.

“Peasants call it pissenlit!”

Jacques was taken aback. Nothing in his education had prepared him for this encounter.

“I meant no disrespect.”

“If you touch me, I will hack you to death!”

Jacques laughed. He was smitten. He would often seek her out in the forest. She would always ignore him when he spoke to her about books he had read. The girl loved his stories. She did not understand this strange man at all. One day she would consent to tell him her name. Their lives were intangibly different yet neither of them had ever been so happy.

Charles De Villiers had noticed a change in his son’s demeanour. He charged one of his servants to spy on Jacques. Bernard was a shifty fellow. He reported his findings to his master with glee. Charles was furious! This peasant was a passing fancy. His son was defying him. Charles paid Bernard to remove the problem. The De Villiers’ bloodline could not be tainted.

The girl was missing and Jacques was frantic. He spent every waking hour in the forest searching for her. Charles asked Bernard to bring the girl back. Bernard smirked.

“She was a feisty one, attacked me with a hatchet. I threw her down a well.”

“She is dead?”

“Very.”

Charles could not tell his son the truth, he was quasi-insensate without that damned girl. Time would temper his son’s current fever.

Jacques emerged from the forest one night and saw Bernard chopping kindling. He sat down on a log to watch. Bernard was uneasy. Had the old man let something slip?

“Permit me to assist you, Bernard, it would alleviate my nerves.”

Bernard was bemused but acquiesced. Jacques studied the hatchet Bernard had handed him.

“She never would have surrendered this, it belonged to her father.”

Bernard cursed himself. It had been too fine a hatchet to throw into the well. Death blazed in Jacques’s eyes as he advanced on Bernard. The servant fell backwards, scrambling in the dirt. Jacques gripped Bernard’s left wrist, pinning the hand to a log. The hatchet flashed hungrily in the moonlight. Bernard screamed in horror and grabbed his severed hand. He garbled about following orders and a well. The babbling stopped. The hatchet was lodged in Bernard’s skull.

Jacques ran amok, setting the family mansion aflame. Charles saw his son disappear into the forest and dispatched servants to retrieve him. They followed the glow of Jacques’s torch as it flitted in the darkness until it stopped moving. They were too late. Jacques had flung himself into the well to be with his love.’

The shadows sighed.

Priscilla took one final drag of her cigarette.

“It is a terrible thing to know your loved one will never know your name. It took me three days to die in that well.”

Priscilla lay on the tomb.

“I could not let death keep us apart, your Priscilla is here for you.”

The shadows watched in rapt amazement as a phantasm manifested; it embraced the prone girl and pulled her gently into the tomb. Dandelion seeds floated by in the breeze.

 

Evolution

Ughhhh…

That was the sound that introduced Barry the T-Rex to the day.

Ughhhh…

There it was again!

Ughhhh…Barry realised it was him making the noise.

He had a banging headache. Where the hell was he? What happened last night? They had gone down the local for a few jars of swamp beer and their monthly darts tournament. None of them could actually play darts. T-Rex arms just weren’t designed for throwing things. It was just an excuse to get a night out of the cave away from the missus.

Barry had married Ramona many moons ago. It had been love at first sight. She had been chasing a sabre-toothed tiger, he a Neanderthal. They had crashed into each other. They swapped their kills. That was their first date. They decided to move in together. Barry found a cave which needed a bit of work but it meant they could be together.

The first year went by so fast. They roared together by waterfalls, watched a volcano erupt and laughed when Tony the Troodon fell into the lava because of a dare. Good times.

On their first anniversary, Barry gave Ramona a necklace made out of Neanderthal bones. She loved it. Ramona had taken up art classes and did a fantastic etching on the cave wall of Barry killing a whole village of Neanderthals as her present to him. They were happy.

Then things changed. Ramona was forever asking Barry to move rocks or logs around the cave so she could find the Zen point of their home. Huh? Barry’s first thought was that Zen was another dinosaur. Turned out Ramona had subscribed to Diana the Dracorex’s monthly interior design updates. The cave was littered with stone tablets replete with Diana’s scratched sketches. Ramona adored Diana. The dino surgeon, Ludwig the Albertosaurus, had given her a facelift; her scales shone brighter than any of the others. Ramona had come home one afternoon with painted pink claws and dark eyeliner on…what was that about?

You have to work at relationships. Barry understood that but Ramona was not the T-Rex he married. It was getting to the point that no sooner had he sat down on his favourite rock to read the Saurus Sports tablet then Ramona was looking over his shoulder…nag, nag, nag. Then, Ramona had tried to block Barry’s night out with the boys. She had ordered some new rocks from another valley and surprise, surprise, the Diplodocus courier service Yodel was late. Barry snapped, screeched at her and stomped out of the cave.

Some would say what happened after that was written in stone.

Barry met up his T-Rex buddies, Ralph and Monty. They had all grown up near the same tar pit. They were all up for a mad one and egged each other on. They knocked back the swamp beer at the Primordial Lagoon. And after one too many amber shots, they finally managed to make Freddie lose it. Freddie was a permanent fixture at the Primordial, he liked to sit in the same grove and enjoy his swamp beer quietly. The T-Rexes never called Freddie by his name. They always referred to him by his dinosaur name. They knew it annoyed him. Except on this night, the T-Rexes were so MC Hammered they kept shouting it over and over again: Fukuisaurus! Fukuisaurus! Fukuisaurus!

Freddie threw a log at them and the mood turned ugly. It was going to get bloody. The Primordial’s bouncer stepped in, Spencer the Spinosaurus, and told them to go. After being barred for yelling, “Spencer’s mum was a Skankosaurus”, the T-Rexes headed further into the valley. They stopped by Steggy the Stegosaurus’s takeaway grove, he had freshly barbecued Neanderthal on his spikes. Tasty! Ramona had been telling Barry he needed to lose weight recently. There were only so many salads Barry could eat, he was a carnivore, nothing could beat the taste of freshly ripped flesh. While they were munching their Neanderthal kebabs, a shifty looking Rugops edged over to them.

“Hey guys, having a good night? It can get better. Tear off some Neanderthal for me and we can talk shop.”

Barry would have liked to have blamed the other two for leading him astray but he was intrigued. He threw the Rugops an arm.

“Nice one, cuz. Check this out while I snack.”

The Rugops pushed over a stone tablet. The detail was amazing. The T-Rexes were looking at a sexy Gigantosaurus wearing a wig and dressed in a mini skirt. They were all drooling.

Monty spoke for them all, “I haven’t felt this hot since I accidentally stepped in some lava!”

“I’ve always said T-Rexes get a bad rap because you pretty much kill everything but you seem like nice guys. Get me three large mica rocks and I can lead you her cave. It’s very discrete. Carla is a burlesque dancer and she is a whiz with a feather boa. It’s not at all pervy, it’s art.”

Barry thought to himself, Ramona is always going on about how I should be more cultured, this counts, surely? They had to mica up first though.

The mica quarry was guarded by an angry Allosaurus called Alan. The T-Rexes disguised themselves with masks made of palm leaves then pushed Alan into the river. They handed over the mica to the Rugops. Pre-drinks before the show…the boys chugged the Jagers down. After that Barry could not remember anything.

He slowly made his way back to his matrimonial cave. On the way, he saw Monty being bashed in the face with a rock by his wife, Regina. He didn’t need to see Ralph, he could hear Cindy screeching at him from two valleys away. Ramona was stood at the entrance to the cave with her arms crossed, he could see the rage in her eyes, Barry was scared. He kind of wished a meteor would hit the valley, anything to save him from his wife!

City Exit

Sauf-effing-ampton! The Atlantis of Hampshire. Not. If you ask me the Titanic hit that iceberg on purpose so it never had to return to port.

I was supposed to be on secondment for six months and now I was trapped. It was month twelve.

Before the trouble started, my rule was NEVER to go into the city centre on a Saturday afternoon. This was the peak time, the spike in the head, sorry I mean, demographic where bovine creatures shuffled along in their tracksuited finery, drooling debt like crash test dummies reanimated by Dr Frankenstein. The missing link? Scarily evident and it was breeding.

I used to wish that a huge iceberg would crash into Southampton and unleash an armageddon of bazooka-toting polar bears and penguins with Uzis. It could happen. Global warming, right? And flying killer whales, yeah, that would work. A brattish kid having a strop on the High Street then whoosh! A killer whale swoops in and minces the child in seconds. All that is left of little Tommy would be a bloodied shoe and red rain falling from the sky.

Sometimes I would go into the centre on a Sunday and pretend to be a homeless guy with Tourettes. Used to have some good scraps, especially on match day, until the rozzers turned up and I had to leg it.

People say I have anger management issues…they can go fuck themselves! Anyway, I threw a Molotov cocktail through Primark’s window one night. I was beered up and it seemed like a good idea. I was never identified because I was wearing a Mexican wrestling mask.

A while back I was attacked by a girl. I had made a harmless comment about her hair and she tried to burn my face off with ceramic hair straighteners. I think she was Lithunian or something. That’s why I decided to get a gun – angry birds, the Southampton edition. I popped over to Millbrook to do some shopping and take in the lovely architecture. Left with a snub-nosed revolver and a box of ammo.

You may be judgy and say it is a bit extreme me packing heat like some gangster from Thornhill but I had a premonition something bad was going to happen.

Southampton is now a quarantine zone. Anyone trying to get out over the barricades is shot. The bodies piled up quickly at the beginning. People could not believe they would be executed in cold blood. Blame Brexit.

The bridges into the city were blown up. No one had any interest in getting in. The city was left to fester, decay and burn.

No one really knows what happened other than a cruise ship crashed full tilt into the docks late one night. The emergency services attended and the virus escaped the ship. It’s called the I-Virus and it is one of the most virulent known to humankind. They started burning the bodies alive or dead and the cruise ship was blasted into oblivion by fighter jets. They thought it was airborne virus. They were wrong. It’s passed through saliva. The virus attacks the red blood cells which mutate at an exponential rate. Symptoms manifest in murderous rage and cannibalism.

I still shiver when I think of the first time I encountered an Infected. It ran towards me screeching, its eyes were terrifying, I shot it in the face.

I have not felt pity for a while. The Infected are no longer human. It’s still bad if you have to kill one you know. I shot Dave the plumber. That was tough. He had fixed my ballcock once, decent job for a decent price. Plus he wasn’t stingy with the beer either. I was gutted. I had hoped he was okay because I had a leaking pipe in my flat.

Marvelous, isn’t it? Successive governments allowed the NHS to crumble into ruin, the train services were medieval and the police spent more time filing paperwork than accidentally shooting Brazilians on the Tube YET one little outbreak of contagion and Southampton was walled in quicker than a dead pharaoh. Personally, I think the government always had a plan to do it, they just needed an excuse.

I like the city more than I used to, which is a bit screwed up I guess.

Journey

The train shuddered to a halt. It had been a long journey. The platform was packed. Jack remained seated, he was scared. Jean was the only thing that had kept him going – a beacon of hope amidst the darkness of war. He had survived so they could be together.

He grasped his duffle bag and stepped down onto the platform. Families, friends and lovers were embracing and crying because their loved ones had been returned to them.

Jack was used to tears of despair, hysteria and fear. The tumultuous noise unnerved him. He strained his neck to peer over the melee, where was she?

The train tooted and chugged away. The crowd gradually thinned until Jack was the only one left. His smile had faded. He was alone. Again. He sat down on a wooden bench.

“She will come for me.”

Saying it helped him believe it, helped keep the fear at bay. The day faded into night and a chill pervaded the air. He had managed to scrape together enough money to wear a half-decent suit and tie. He wanted to forget about being a soldier, he wanted to be Jean’s husband. His remaining money had gone towards a ring which was nestled in his pocket.

A slight noise made Jack look up. A small dog had wandered onto the platform. The dog and Jack stared at each other. The dog growled at Jack and walked off. Jack put his head in his hands. He had tried to bury the horror deep down so Jean would never see it reflected in his eyes but she was not here and he could feel it welling up inside of him. The tears for the dead, tears for those he had killed. He had not considered a scenario without Jean lighting his path.

He felt a hand run through his hair and glanced up, hardly daring to believe…it was his angel.

Maracas Beach

Perspective 1

I like Maracas Beach. It’s fun. I play with the other children in the sand. I am the only one wearing a sun hat. Mum pretends to chase me. I run, giggling, half-looking over my shoulder. I go into the water. I can swim away. I am still laughing. The water gets deeper. I know I need to get back. I can’t. I swim and I swim. An invisible power is pulling me away from the beach. I’m scared. Mum is too. I’m crying. Surfers help us back to the beach. Red flags mean danger.

Perspective 2

Maracas Beach! Sprawling and crowded. Shark roti and milk drunk from coconuts. This was a real beach with hot fine sand, none of the infernal stones found on English beaches.

I had never understood the meaning of the flags before this day. Sure I had seen them – yellow, yellow/red and red.

I was messing about with my mum, we were running along the beach and I strayed into the water. I was an able swimmer and had no fear swimming out to escape my mother even if nothing was underfoot.

I felt myself being pulled out by the current. I swam my hardest but was only going backwards. I was in trouble. Mum realised and grabbed hold of me except the current was still too strong. It was terrifying. Luckily, some nearby surfers helped us out until we had shifting sand underneath our feet again. That was the day I understood what the red flags meant, no swimming.

Delay

He could feel the sweat trickling down his back. He had forced himself to sit down to prevent him from pacing up and down the platform. The metal bench was uncomfortable and he had mistake of leaning back against it. His shirt stuck to his sweaty torso. Now he was sitting bolt upright. He reached inside his suit jacket, twisting his arm to pull at his shirt, freeing it from his clammy skin.

His mouth was dry and he had a headache. Paranoia was creeping into his mind as he covertly observed the other people on the platform. The woman with a big pram. Was there really a baby inside it or was she an agent? The old couple smiling at each other, what was their story?

His suitcase was on the ground next to the bench. He thought it would seem suspicious if he was clutching it tightly to his chest. He kept glancing down to make sure no one had stolen it.

It was a business suitcase for travel and it had wheels that made an inordinate amount of noise so he had to carry it. He had bought it a week ago. It still looked new. Too new. Maybe he should have scratched or scuffed it to give it an appearance of being well-travelled.

He had something from the business inside it. He had plucked up the courage to steal the item after months of careful planning and waiting for the right opportunity. The plan was good – structured and logical. The reality of carrying out the plan was another matter. It was terrifying. He had not anticipated how shredded his nerves would become.

The train was three minutes late. Bloody trains! Or were they on to him? Maybe there was not going to be a train at all so they could see what he would do, who he would contact?