Some sort of end of the world novel

I was incredibly impressed with my last blog post. I spent a lot of time on the graphs. It got four views. So back to the extracts it is.  Here’s something i started working on when it was too hot to do anything else.

Chapter 1

A night to remember.

Andrew woke up with what could be described as the exact opposite of a start. His eyes were open but weren’t quite registering images. He was only vaguely aware of existence, and that awareness mostly manifested itself in the form of a horrific taste at the back of his mouth. Slowly, but surely, other sensations came into being, almost none of them pleasant.

His brain felt as though it was too big for his skull and his gurgling innards gave him the distinct impression that he had eaten a donna kebab last night. There are only two kinds of people who eat donna kebabs, incredibly drunk people and those who gave up on life years ago. He assumed, as hazy memories started floating back to the forefront of his mind, that he belonged to the former.

He sat up and instantly regretted it. The four white walls that made up his box of a room became smeared into one, and for a small moment, he was convinced he was in some sort of afterlife. Spears of obnoxious sunlight pierced his small window and highlighted his generally clean room. Everything was in its proper place, save for his suit trousers which lay in a crumpled heap on the floor not, as they should have been, hanging on the small hook on the back of his door.

He instantly became aware of an immense pressure squeezing his bladder and made an unsteady dash for the toilet. His vision clouded, and his memories became momentarily jumbled as his head failed to adjust to its new altitude. At the age of 28, he could no longer handle his drink. In fact, he had been unable to handle his drink since he was 25. Before 25 he could drink until he could only perceive reality in patches and still make it to work the following morning. One cup of coffee and he’ll be close to okay.

That changed on his twenty-fifth birthday.

He fumbled with the flap in his boxer shorts, searching for his elusive and incredibly sweaty member. At long last he managed to release it from its cotton, polyester blend prison and the bathroom was filled with the sound of his piss.

‘I wish I was dead.’ He groaned to himself. It was not the first time he wished it, and he doubted it’d be his last.

In the kitchen he almost tripped over an empty bottle of sambuca. He stooped to pick it up and almost toppled into the overflowing bin. It always took a while to regain one’s balance after a night of heavy drinking. And heavy it must have been if sambuca got involved. Sambuca is a drink only the already drunk think to drink. Andrew dropped it into the small recycling box, only for it to clink off the top of numerous other bottles and retake its position on the floor.

‘Have it your own way then,’ he hissed before whacking on the kettle. The aged white appliance spluttered indignantly as it went about its task.

They had been at the Rising Sun, a large pub complete with a pub garden… there may or may not have been a gazebo. The summer was trying really hard to prove itself the last couple of weeks. The sun shone from morning to late at night scorching the world below. Needless to say, this meant that there had been hundreds of people squeezed into garden.

Jack had been playing. He had been booked to play. There had been a chalk board outside saying, ‘back by popular demand: Jack Readly.’ Andrew hadn’t really seen much evidence of this popular demand. He had known Jack for years and he only agreed to watch him with great reluctance. It was had been the same old set list. The same one he’d played since the university days.

Andrew selected two pristine white mugs and poured a generous amount of coffee granules into each. He put the kettle out of its misery and poured the day-old water into the mugs. The bitter scent wafted into his nose, making him feel even more sick. With trembling fingers, he lifted the mugs and strolled towards Jack’s door.

Jack’s room was larger than Andrew’s, which meant he had decidedly more room to fill with crap. There was a behemoth of a desktop computer on a desk, around which gathered a number of figurines and tiny statues. Iron man, Captain America, Spider-Man, a xenomorph, Sonic the Hedgehog… they were everywhere. Andrew regarded them with derision… and a hint of envy. Whilst he judged his flatmate for squandering what amounts to hundreds of pounds worth on crap for children, he also envied his ability to take pleasure in having never grown up.

He placed one of the coffees on a cluttered bedside table near Jack’s sleeping head. The head was round and covered in black hair and scruffy beard. His mouth was agape, and Andrew could smell his breath from where he stood. It was not pleasant.

‘Coffee,’ he said.

Jack said nothing. He was dead to the world and once again, Andrew envied him.

Back in the living room Andrew sat down on the sofa, still dressed only in his boxers. He sipped the coffee that was still too hot, but he’d be damned if he was going to wait. He stared at the black television screen, into his own tired eyes. His own cheeks were covered in a smattering of light brown fuzz. His large ears looked larger than usual and his thick hair splayed out in the most remarkable of formations.

His brain must have shut down, as the next thing he knew, Jack was emerging from his room and his mug of coffee was empty.

‘Morning sunshine,’ said Jack grinning. Though it was a forced grin, Andrew could see that he too, was regretting so many life decisions.

‘Don’t use that word around me,’ Andrew groaned. Already he felt uncomfortably hot. His back was sticking to the leather sofa and his testicles were swimming. He detested the sun. He detested it with every fibre of his being. Not only was it painfully bright, stiflingly hot and incredibly intrusive, it also had the remarkable ability to turn everyone into idiots.

‘Must have been a night to remember,’ said Jack. ‘I only wish I could.’ Andrew heard the kitchen tap hissing and cringed at the disgusting slurping sounds his flat-mate made when the idea of filling a glass seemed too much.

‘How was I?’ he asked as he returned to the sofa.

‘Hmm?’ Andrew avoided the question.

‘Last night, the gig, did I kill it? I seem to remember it going well.’

Andrew had been to almost all of Jack’s gigs. A generous person would have said he was very good. A tactful person would say ‘I’m impressed that you got up and did it in front of all those people.’ Andrew opened his mouth and then closed it again.

‘I remember it too,’ he said. Which was only a partial lie. He remembered shutting his eyes and groaning as he moved onto his second ill advised tequila as Jack enthusiastically informed the crowd that ‘this next one is one of my own.’ Andrew couldn’t remember if it was Lisa or You Took My Heart. Both used the same chords, he was sure of it, and both were about Lisa, whose real name was Elizabeth.

‘Two hundred quid they paid me.’ Said Jack, ‘not bad for a night’s work.’

‘You spent one-hundred-and-fifty on drinks.’ Andrew reminded him.

‘No I didn’t… how?’ Jack protested.

‘We moved onto Bluebells.’ Said Andrew, remembering this detail the first time.

‘Bluebell’s is terrible, why would we go there?’

‘Because the Rising Sun was closing. And there were women at Bluebells.’

‘You don’t even like women,’ said Jack.

Whilst this was not strictly true as there are plenty of women in the world Andrew liked, he had to concede the point.

‘That’s what I said, but you were having none of it. Buying rounds for everyone you were.’ He said.

‘Damn… did I get with anyone?’

‘No.’

‘Damn. Well…. Fifty quid is still better than a poke in the eye with a blank stick.’

‘Blunt stick.’

‘What?’ Jack fixed him with a vacant stare.

‘The phrase is a blunt stick. What the hell is a blank stick?’ said Andrew.

‘Oh… I’ve always said it that way. Why a blunt stick. Surely a sharpened stick would be just as bad.’ Said Jack.

‘I can’t imagine either would be pleasant.’ Said Andrew, concentrating very hard on not being sick, ‘You spent eleven-twenty five on a kebab, cheesy chips and a can of coke.’ He added. Jack’s face contorted painfully as he struggled with the maths.

‘Thirty-nine-seventy-five then.’ He said.

‘Then you paid for a taxi, was nine quid.’

‘Thirty pounds seventy-five.’ Jack’s face was falling.

‘You gave him a twenty and said keep the change.’ Said Andrew.

‘Why?’

‘Because you were drunk.’

‘Oh.’

Silence fell on the room for a while. A strip of light came through a gap in the curtains covering the balcony doors. Even that was enough to make Andrew feel incredibly irked, and that wasn’t a word he used lightly.

‘Wait where’s my guitar?’ Jack suddenly stiffened, a look of dread falling over his expression.

‘Roy put it in the back room at the Sun. Said you can pick it up later today.’ Said Andrew.

‘That’s good of him,’ said Jack.

‘Hmm,’ Andrew agreed, though in truth, Roy had forcibly taken it from Jack when he got stuck on an eternal loop when giving his best rendition of Hey Jude.               Jack stood up and made for the curtains. Andrew made to protest, but found he hadn’t the energy and sank into bitter resignation. His flat-mate threw the curtains asunder and the dreaded white light of the sun exploded into the room. Jack stood swaying slightly as he peered out the glass panels of the balcony doors. Nine-floors up they were. Gave them quite the view of the town of Pridgeton.

‘How much did we drink last night?’ asked Jack uncertainly, eyes transfixed on the world outside.

‘I dunno, too much,’ said Andrew. His tongue felt like a dry sponge and the coffee hadn’t helped at all. His head was throbbing and he still felt sick. The words ‘I wish I was dead’ was heading rapidly towards his lips.

‘Enough to miss a nuclear war?’ asked Jack. Andrew considered this question for a moment and recalled the empty sambuca bottle.

‘Probably,’ he said.

‘That makes sense then.’

Andrew frowned. Against the balcony doors, Jack was nothing more than a silhouette, a shadow against a backdrop of white and yellow.

‘What makes sense?’ he asked.

‘The town…’ said Jack slowly. His lips formed words that his brain had yet to form. Andrew rubbed his eyes and groaned before standing up.

‘It’s a shit hole, it’s always been a shit hole,’ he said holding out his arms to steady himself.

‘Yeah, but at least last night it was still standing… and wasn’t so… on fire.’ Said Jack. Andrew joined him by the balcony doors, squinting against the painful intensity of the light. He had to agree with Jack. He had lived in Pridgeton all his life, save for three years of university. It had never been pretty. It was what it was and that was a hastily constructed London overspill built as cheaply as possible. Charm was an expensive commodity and as such, Pridgeton had all the charm of a racist mullet.

It almost looked better in its current state.

Tendrils of black smoke twisted into the air at various points. Tower blocks which had definitely been standing tall the night before lay somewhat more horizontally in the morning sun. Rubble dotted the place, orange flecks of fires winked back at them here and there. Jack hesitantly put his hand on the door handle. It lingered there for a moment before he pulled it inwards. The living room became filled with the sound of distant sirens, the chug-chug of helicopters and the occasional shrill scream.

In short, the general sounds of disaster.

 

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The Keeper of Time

The world of the Time Keeper is a fairly pleasant one. That is if you don’t mind the constant ticking of an endless supply of clocks or avoiding the various hour glasses scattered haphazardly about. Most were merely ceremonial and served no real purpose other than to hammer home that this was a place where time was taken very seriously.  If the Time Keeper ever said, ‘I’ll be down in a minute,’ he’d be down in precisely one minute. Not a second later or earlier. Unlike in other worlds where one minute could be anything up to an hour.

As it was, the Time Keeper rarely had the cause to say something like this because it lived a very solitary existence, which is just as well. Others might get the urge to fiddle about with time, and that would cause no end of bother.

The Time Keeper lived alone save for Marian, a jet-black crow that had at one point in its life become extremely lost. The Time Keeper enjoyed the companionship and lived safe in the knowledge that the crow lacked any real interest in the concept of time.

‘Wazzat?’ Marian squawked. It seems crows do in fact possess a capacity for communication, at least on a basic level. Unfortunately, being quite stupid meant that it takes them a good couple of centuries to realise this which, in normal circumstances, means they’d learn their first word roughly one-hundred-and-eighty-years after they are dead. The ability to communicate is often redundant at that point.

‘It’s an inkwell,’ said the Time Keeper looking at its notes. The Time Keeper’s world was not like other worlds in the sense that it was not subject to time. Which was good, because the Time Keeper’s work required more than the standard forty-hour week sometimes. It also gave him plenty of … well, time (for lack of a better word) to develop beautifully written cursive.

‘Oh, wazzat?’

‘It holds ink, for writing.’ The Time Keeper enjoyed writing. It wrote many documents. Analysis on historic events across all realms and universes and the like, along with instruction manuals on the best way to keep time (it’s always best not to store it in intense light and to keep it at a low temperature).

‘No,’ said Marian.

‘Okay,’ the Time Keeper responded.  He paused and leant back in his tall backed wooden chair. The nearby fireplace crackled noisily as it set about devouring a thick log. The Time Keeper had no idea why it did this as the fire was infinite and the logs remained in a constant state. He had written a thesis that suggested that fire had some degree of sentience and crackled and spat because that’s what a domesticated fire ought to do.

Marian fluttered down from her place atop an ornate and foreboding looking grandfather clock and came to a rest by the study’s box window. She peered out into the pale grey light of the grounds beyond. The Time Keeper had designed them itself.  Originally, he had been given a mere four rooms, in the course of its tenure, it had been allowed to expand.

The Time Keeper had been selected for the job by the Powers That Be, due to its lack of ambition and the ability to enjoy the simple pleasures.

‘Wazzat?’ Marian tapped her short sharp beak against the thin, single glazed pane. The Time Keeper looked at the bird with eyes that had observed every moment of history from every possible universe, studied the various presents that were to be had and occasionally glanced into the tangled and indecipherable mess that was the future whenever it forgot what uncertainty felt like. It slowly rose from its chair and arched its back before shuffling over the windows, dodging a few hanging pocket watches and kicking an hourglass over. It peered out of the window, past the pleasant gravel path and through the grassy paddock it created. The tree he placed in its centre had a slender trunk and splayed out towards the top in an almost perfect sphere. It was still in leaf, it always was.

‘It’s a tree, Marian,’ it said, ‘I put it there for you to nest, like normal birds do.’ He said.

‘No, wazzat?’ the bird said again tapping once more at the glass. The Time Keeper squinted towards the tree, feeling that it’d very much like a cup of tea. Not that it needed to keep sustained, but because it enjoyed it. It did its best to follow Marian’s beady-eyed stare. The crow was looking towards the bottom of the tree where there lay a small bundle. A bundle the Time Keeper had not placed there. It doubted the Powers That Be had either. They hadn’t been in contact since It was given the job. They had a very relaxed approach to management, which largely consisted of not getting involved at all. The Time Keeper half contemplated the idea that Marian had willed it into existence, just for something new to ask ‘wazzat?’ at.

It dismissed the idea as preposterous.

‘I don’t know Marian,’ it said scooping the bird up and heading out of the study. In the corridor beyond were four doors, one marked past, one present and one that led outside. The fourth was marked future. The Time Keeper hurried outside.

Beneath the tree, the bundle stirred and made a noise between cooing and squawking. A tiny brown hand reached out and swiped lazily at the air and then retreated back into the rags that swaddled it.

‘Wazzat?’ asked Marian.

‘A human child.’ The Time Keeper replied feeling uncertainty creep into its very being. It raised the bird to the low hanging branches where she reluctantly hopped to watch the proceedings. It scooped up the child and looked at its chubby round face. A thin layer of frizzy brown hair covered her scalp. A flat little nose rested above narrow lips. Her dark little eyes glinted in the light.

‘What are you doing here then?’ It asked knowing full well it would not receive an answer. With nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, it turned back and took the child back into the cottage. There, it willed a small cot into existence and placed the child down in it. It made some more unpleasant noises, which he duly ignored turning his attention instead to the doors. The baby had to have come from somewhere, and as it was had the answer lay beyond the door marked past.

The Time Keeper glanced back at the baby before passing through the door.

Some sort of sci-fi satire

Seeing as no one seems to want my attempts at serious literary fiction. I am resigned to the fact that I probably won’t make millions out of the written word. So, here’s something I started for my own entertainment. Enjoy. Or don’t. I can’t tell you what to do. I would if I could, trust me.

***

‘I’m just saying, turn left at Gorulon Four isn’t overly helpful when you’re traversing the depths of space,’ Roran complained, his green gelatinous form shuddering and pulsating. He didn’t so much as speak rather than emitted a wave of telepathic signals.

‘What you mean, not helpful? Of course it’s helpful, we arrive at Gorulon Four, we go left,’ Maybeck replied. He hadn’t slept well the past few days. He stared at the wavering contents of his metallic mug. It wasn’t quite coffee. It was the best synthetic coffee this side of the Sta’Mollk Nath nebula. It looked like coffee, tasted bitter enough to be a close approximation to it and gave a caffeine hit, but it wasn’t coffee. The fact that he knew it made him enjoy it less than he might had he been entirely ignorant. It was like the anti-placebo effect, in a way.

He could see the vague outline of his own face in the rippling liquid. Really, he should have a lid on it, health and safety and all that, but he was the captain and if he wanted to drink out of a lidless mug he would damn it.  The one eye visible in the reflection had a dark shadow underneath it. His face looked thinner than he remembered.

‘Left? Left? Half of the known galaxy is technically left!’  said Roran.

‘Left, maybe left and down a little bit I think she said,’ said Maybeck dipping his nose into the mug. The steam felt good against his face. The bitter synth coffee slid down his throat, spreading its warmth into his chest and eventually his rumbling stomach.

‘Down! Objectively speaking there is no down out here!’ It was amazing how telepathic rays could splutter. Roran’s green tentacles made some adjustments on the pads and dials around him.

‘How you humans managed to become an FTL civilisation I’ll never know.’ He grumbled. Maybeck rolled his eyes.

‘Opposable thumbs,’ he said.

‘Beg your pardon?’

‘That’s how we managed. Opposable thumbs. If the Laggorians hadn’t discovered your planet and realised your intellectual potential and built ships and tools that you could actually use, you’d still be sliding around in swamps. That’s how we became a FTL civilisation, because we can hold a spanner.’ Said Maybeck before taking another gulp.

Beyond the view screen he could see nothing, just weird blue waves of energy sliding across the hull and a few streaks of warped light. When beyond the gravitational grips of a celestial object, there was a great deal of nothing. The whole universe was filled with an immense vacuum of nothing with a few pockets of something. Often that something was not particularly interesting.

‘Your earth monkeys can hold spanners,’ Roran commented, his shape became somewhat softer.

‘Yeah, and had your species ever been confronted by a mob of angry monkeys, my money would have been on the monkeys. The great race of Slorrth would have never been.’ Said Maybeck effectively putting an end to the discussion. Roran literally deflated. Maybeck should have felt at least a little guilty for continually ridiculing Roran’s race. They were oddly proud for a species that were little more than a number of green blobs.

He liked Roran really. He had a good heart. Figuratively speaking. As it was he had three sphincters that helped squeeze nutrients around his… or her body.

That was the problem with making alien contact. On the whole, it was close to impossible for cultures to maintain a conversation. Not just due to the lack of experiential overlapping, but often due to the fact that they conceived reality in completely different ways. Humans had spent their entire existence fighting one another due to a lack of understanding or because they simply couldn’t adequately talk through their differences. It was a miracle they survived long enough to break the light barrier. Then they met the Thrurnak Empire and the shit really hit the fan.

A lengthy war later they were able to put aside their differences thanks to the intervention of the Anal (pronounced An-hal, but Earthlings are immature beings). The Anal – The An-hal – had spent decades studying both races and once they had enough knowledge of how they operated, stepped in to mediate. The Anal Treaty was signed, bringing about a frigid peace and much giggling.

The treaty was lengthy, Maybeck had read it in its entirety at one point, though summed up the conditions of peace were very much – You go over there, and you go over there.

Anyway, Maybeck liked Roran despite his tendency to be an annoying shit. The problem was, Maybeck should never have left Earth. It was his belief that humanity should have died out long ago. They never should have become the dominant species of their own planet, let alone try and get involved with others. As in all things organic, humanity had come about completely by accident. One day an ape got sick of being hunched over and stood up right and passed this habit along to its children.

In the early days, humanity must have been having sex every moment they could spare. On average, humans tend to have one child (if we’re taking the mode) at a time. It was common for women to die in child birth and even more common for the child to die before it was five. It was as if nature had recoiled in disgust at this freak of evolution and was doing its best to wipe out all trace of it. However, the humans were stubborn. Stubborn and horny, and just look where that got them.

Maybeck had excelled at biology and galactic cultural studies. Earth was now an overcrowded city smothered in smog and the government was keen on flinging as many people as they could off the planet for good. The economy wasn’t great, so Maybeck had to take whatever job was dangled in front of him, or at least that’s what his father said.

He got a job with an online retailer aboard one of their many delivery vessels. Soon after he was headhunted by a private Furuvian vessel, by which of course I mean the delivery vessel was shot to pieces by pirates and he was given the choice to work in a communications capacity for them or be blasted out into the cold abyss of space.

This vessel was in turn shot to pieces by the Galactic Alliance, which led to a job with them. It felt very similar to being a slave for pirates just with marginally better pay. There was plenty of room for progression in the Galactic Alliance. It did after all have the collective wealth of a dozen or more civilisations.

Maybeck applied for a research role, was given one and eventually had control of his own small vessel. It was when scanning the composition of his thirty-forth asteroid that he realised he had no idea what it was he was supposed to be researching. When he questioned Chief Science Officer Admiral Ballycrux Calalahalalam he received the following communication.

Dear Captain R. Maybeck

Thank you for your email, in regard to your question “what are we doing?” I would say that this is a quandary that has plagued every sentient creature in the galaxy since we gained the capacity to think. However, if you were posing the question in a more literal sense, the truth is your vessel (which you aptly named) G.A Darwin is one of many that we refer to as ‘cash sponges’. The Galactic Alliance (long may it last) grants its science and research arm a certain budget to be reviewed every three Gorynth years (that is two point two Earth years). If it is found that we are not using said budget, it will be reduced accordingly. Science is a never-ending search for truth, a ceaseless endeavour to learn and expand our knowledge. However, as it stands we don’t have a lot going on.

Whilst we do have a few projects on the go, they do not require all our resources. In order to see our budget is reached, we have employed the use of approximately ninety-five cash sponges to be recalled as and when more research and development opportunities arise. So, in short, do whatever you like. Scan some asteroids, collect some plants, maybe check Boryon Nine to see if any new fish have evolved. Keep yourself busy, everyone gets paid and who knows, maybe you’ll accidentally make a discovery like they did in the old old days.

Forgive any errors in my communication, I’ve only learned one-hundred and thirty-two Earth languages so far. I’ve found English to be one of the most bizarre. Perhaps if you’ve a spare moment you can tell me why “through” has an O a G and an H.

 Yours

Admiral Ballycrux Calalahalalam III

Since then Maybeck had had very little drive. Being stuck in space had been bad before, but at least it had some vague sense of purpose. Now… he was just stuck. No, not stuck. The opposite. He was flailing about in a vast openness. There was nothing to cling onto. He was drowning in nothingness.

The World of Copywriting

Copywriting is a big thing these days. Every company has a list of in house or freelance copywriters churning out content for them day after day. So, what is copywriting? You ask. Well you don’t ask, but it helps me move on with my general point.

Copywriting is the art of bullshitting your way though 300+ words when 4 would do and no one’s really that interested anyway.

Having always thought I would become either a kick arse rock star, an acclaimed actor or world-renowned author, I didn’t really bother honing any skills, or developing any knowledge base that would help me in my day to day life.  This is a fact that has backfired on me somewhat. In terms of rock starryness, I was in a band that won Hertfordshire under 18s battle of the bands when I was 16. We won £300 and got to headline an outdoor festival in the middle of Letchworth Garden City one frosty day to a crowd of 9, one of which was an old man that told us to quieten down. In terms of acting, I have appeared in the Oscar winning picture The Theory of Everything, using my chameleon like acting skills to successfully portray a 60s student, a 70s student and some bloke in a tuxedo. Redmayne did not mention me in his speech. The bastard.

All hopes rested on my authoriness and to that end I have worked hard to refine my use of the written word, coming up with words such as ‘starryness’ and ‘authoriness’. I wasted 3 years studying for a degree in English Literature, by which I mean I turned up on the exam days. After completing 3 young adult fantasy novels before being told by a literary agent that pretty much no agent can be bothered to look at young adult fantasy and, if they do, it rarely makes any money, I poured my heart and soul (and one lightly beaten egg) into a piece of literary fiction. After three drafts I sent it to various agents to be told that ‘whilst it has merit, dear god no, never contact us again.’

So, after splitting all my eggs into three ridiculous and improbable baskets only to leave all three of them on a train somewhere, I realised I had no employable skills.

Or so I thought.

I managed to get work as a copywriter/content editor, despite my loose canon approach to grammar. I like to think of myself as a punk writer, deliberately ignoring all literary rules.

From the editorial side, I trawl through content created by hundreds of self-employed freelancers who have no business writing anything, let alone making a career out of it. I spend my time redoing other people’s work for minimum wage whilst they earn far more than I.

Every website, every catalogue, every piece of marketing material produced had a copywriter generate the text for them. Which means, thousands of people are in employment despite their clear lack of any skills whatsoever. Which is either good news or bad news for me, depending on your outlook.

Good news, because I can pay rent (just about), bad because it’s all so very dull and pointless and dull. The writing skills I have honed over the years can be utilised in exchange for money. Alas, they’ll be used to talk about the virtues of a vegetable peeler.

I spent a fortnight writing descriptions of various cars for a website that sold various cars. Realistically, all that was needed was ‘Here is a Land Rover. You know what it does.’ Instead, I had to write about how spacious they were. I know very little about cars, but I do know that all people care about is that they’re spacious, my working theory being that due to the rocketing house prices, people are taking to living in Land Rovers.

I spent another fortnight editing copy for a renowned UK chain whom I won’t name for legal reasons, but are effectively a store that sold baths. A bath store if you will.

Two days of this editing was devoted entirely to toilet seats. Now call me ignorant, but I don’t feel there’s much that can be said about a toilet seat. The writer in question kept on trying to convince me that ‘this toilet seat is very versatile’ which I had to remove from 30 + pieces of content for fear of being implicated in a case of false advertising. Unless there are toilet seats out there that double as stylish hats or cheese boards, they have a very singular purpose. For all their qualities, versatility is not one of them.

This is a symptom of a terrible marketing disease. Companies are deciding that they need to sell their items, as in really sell them. As opposed to just pretending to sell them, which is a lot more complicated.

Because of this bizarre idea, we are left with websites sporting plastic cups accompanied by an entire paragraph extolling the virtues of said plastic cups. ‘These are more than cups, they are vessels to carry whatever your heart desires. Perfect for mass suicides, they’re available in a host of different colours to match your cult.’

It’s madness. Currently writing pieces for a well-known auctioning site that rhymes with ShleBay, there’s a listing of Celebrity dolls. My original entry was ‘Do you want an old Michael Jackson doll in its original packaging? If so, get a fucking life.’  This was rejected by the client and I was given a verbal warning.

A freelancer describing a listing of picture frames stated ‘no home is complete without pictures of your family.’ Or before I edited ‘No home is complete without pictures of you’re family.’ (£10 a piece she was paid). Anyway, incorrect words aside, this annoyed me because it reaffirmed the fact that I will forever have an incomplete home, due to the fact that I don’t even have a girlfriend with whom to start a family, let alone take pictures of to put in a £2.85 frame.

It’s a picture frame damn it. All that is needed is ‘A frame for your pictures. £2.85, buy it or don’t it’s your choice at the end of the day.’

But we have to really sell it.

So, I will utilise my new found knowledge of copywriting to really sell my self-published shitty comedy short story collection that I published years ago without editing it properly.

Flesh out your virtual bookshelf with The Tiny Compendium of Ridiculousness, a recently discovered collection of children’s short stories by esteemed and entirely fictional 19th century author Hubert J Watergipridget. These clever and engaging stories, introduced and interpreted by the top man at Cambridge or somewhere (who may or may not also be fictional), will have you on the edge of your seat, so close to the edge that you are guaranteed to fall off at some point, so maybe put some cushions down, or read it lying down.

For as little as 99p or whatever small change it is in your country that uses other nonsensical currencies, you will get the most versatile eBook yet, as this can and will be used as a stylish hat and also has enough curative powers to cure cancer or chronic back pain. It will expand your mind so much, that you will evolve beyond the need for a physical form and will in fact become a lesser god.

Buy it today.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tiny-Compendium-Ridiculousness-Hubert-Watergipridget-ebook/dp/B00NX63R1W

Music In The Jeans.

She hadn’t paid for her electricity. It wasn’t done via a bill or anything, it was one of those pay as you go units, the ones with the fob.  She had lit a cigarette, but wasn’t smoking it. It would be bad for the baby, but she liked the smell. People often asked her when she was going to finally grow up. Now look at her, not smoking to protect her unborn child.

The room was lit by the light from a lamppost  outside, combined with a garish sort of light given off from a camping lamp, one that was charged by the sun during the day. She left it on the windowsill so it would get enough light. It had two settings, a normal light, or a flickering sort that flashed out S.O.S in Morse code.

Flashflashflash- Flash – Flash – Flash – FlashFlashFlash.

Help us.

Sending out an SOS… sending out an SOS.

Then of course there was the tiny orange flare of the cigarette, slowly smoking away in the grooves of an ashtray.

This is what humans did before electricity. They sat in the dark doing nothing, waiting for it to no longer be dark. The baby was too small to be kicking, but occasionally she was sure she felt little bumps.

The baby’s dad was up and coming. He had been up and coming for a long time, coming took time it seemed. She was beginning to think he’d never arrive.

That was to say, he was in a band.

She had been to all of his gigs. The first had been before a crowd of 3. Two’s company, three’s a crowd. The band was called Bitter Streaks, they played a bastardisation of grunge. He knew she was pregnant, but a baby would prevent him going on a world tour should he be asked, and he was expecting to be asked any minute.

‘Lots of famous musicians have kids.’ She had said.

‘I don’t want to be tied down.’ He replied, which was ironic given that he expressed the exact opposite sentiment the night the baby was conceived. She thought it was that night anyway. It could have been another.

‘I’ll need money,’ she said.

‘I don’t have any.’

‘You’ll have to get a job.’

‘And work for the man?’

‘A lot of employers are women now.’

‘I’m not about that life.’

‘What life are you about?’

‘My music, that’s my life.’

Which was a shame, as his music wasn’t that good anymore. The older he got, the less he suited the defiant angst of youth.

She was going to have to move back in with her dad. Which would be embarrassing, because when she left years before she had declared (quite proudly) that no one was going to stop her living her life. She was going to live it to its fullest and be a free spirit forever. Living life to its fullest proved difficult after a while. Bills needed to be paid, food needed to be bought, weed didn’t pay for itself – nor booze, she often got a pill or two for free.

It also got tiring after a while. As the last of her teen years flitted by, she found not knowing how she got home to be more of a concern rather than an indication that she had had a good night, and more to the point, she would like to have some recollection of just how good it was. After all, when she was old she’d like to look back with fondness on her memories of living life to its full.

Not that it mattered, she had another free spirit growing inside her now, and she couldn’t very well stand in the way of it living its life to its fullest. Which it most certainly wouldn’t if it had to live in perpetual darkness, like a mole person.

It wasn’t fair. Why could men not have children? Just because the dice roll of fate determined they were to be born with a Y chromosome they could sleep with whoever they wanted and not have to worry about messing their bodies up. They didn’t have to worry about carrying and squirting out a tiny human. Didn’t have to worry about carrying it around for 9 months, suffering an array of pains and discomforts in the process.

And, it seemed they could just walk away whenever it suited them.

The abortion word came up. She was pro-choice when it came to other women, but was mercilessly subjected to the tyranny of her own guilt when it came to her body. She knew the end game of sex. Sex made babies, if you have sex, you have to accept the consequences.

She hated the consequences. There were always consequences. They start with being spanked and sent to the corner when you first learn to walk and talk and the progress ever onwards until you’re hungry, sitting in the dark having not showered in days, not even enjoying the bittersweet release of a cigarette.

She wondered what her baby would look like in the future. If it was a boy, would it look like his dad. Broad shouldered, black of hair… one eye ever so slightly squinted compared to the other? If a girl, logic dictated it would look like her. That’s how it worked. Girls took after the mother, boys the father. She wondered if the baby would inherit musical talent (relatively speaking). Was music in the genes?

That could be their band name.

Music in the Jeans.

They’d spell it with a J, like the denim trousers, because that would be quirky. They’d appear on chat shows, or in magazines and talk about how their mother sacrificed a lot so they could have a good life and live it to its full.

Except she’d keep them grounded. Live it to its full, but in small doses.

She wondered if the baby would resent her when it was a teenager, much like she did her dad. Her dad who told her to keep at school, to apply for universities… to be sensible. What kind of life was that? She’d smack the baby in the head if it did, except not the baby, the teenager then. It’s okay to smack teenagers in the head, when they’re being teenagers. Never slap a baby in the head.

She smiled. Had her dad given up his life for her? Did he have to stop living life to the fullest because she came along. Was life just a sequence of people stopping living life to its fullest so the next generation could go on to make the same mistakes?

She reached and grabbed the half burnt out cigarette and put it to her lips. The bitter smoke warmed her throat as she dragged it into her lungs. No doubt the baby would be most annoyed. Its clean incubator getting hazy with tobacco.

Well, he’d have to suck it up. If she was going to sacrifice living her life for it, it would take one puff on a cigarette. It could handle it. It was in its genes after all. Like the music. There was no hope for the baby really, she sighed.

But then again, there never is much hope. But that’s okay.

Late night editing.

As I edit yet another draft of my novel that has already seen rejection from several agents, I got the urge to share some. It’s by no means the most interesting bit, as if it was you could just read that and never have to buy the book if it eventually gets published. It’s a fairly mundane part.

The novel is currently titled ‘Nothing Happens’ and is a satire of sorts, mocking the ‘Wealthy white man unhappy with his life’ narrative that seems to pop up repeatedly in literature and films as well as pointing out that in most world renowned novels or old classics, nothing happens.  The book follows a self-confessed alcoholic suffering from a sense of nihilism as he recounts his fairly dull and uneventful life and laments the current state of his dull and uneventful life and fears for the future which he assumes will be dull and uneventful.

Anyway, here’s a dull and uneventful extract:

 

 

Work is not much fun at all. ‘Work’s not supposed to be fun, it’s work.’ My dad always used to say (and still does). I don’t think I’ll ever understand work, the concept of it. Not the modern concept anyway. I could understand if it was fishing… farming… other such necessities. When it was providing food and only food. Now it doesn’t make sense. Why am I forced to spend day after day staring at a computer screen for hours on end?

I think all our problems start at school. You’re told from a young age, with a bit of hard work you can be anything you want to be. Whatever you set your heart on you can achieve. That’s just some clever indoctrination to the capitalist system. It’s propaganda of the highest order. They get you when you’re impressionable, get these little ideas to worm their way into the centre of your brain where there’s no chance in hell of dislodging them. If what they say is true, you best hope that some people want to work on the tills in Tescos, otherwise you’ll never get your potatoes. You best hope people really want to be sewage maintenance workers, otherwise everything would be covered in shit.

No, you do whatever you can to get paid. It’s usually monotonous and pointless. It’s usually unfulfilling and soul destroying. But you can’t complain because “you’re lucky to have a job in this current climate.”

I sit looking from my screen to my phone. A desktop phone, one with the curly spirally chord. They still exist. The phone’s not ringing. The computer’s not computering, or if it is it’s not making a big song and dance over it. I don’t really get computers.

‘Moring Rob,’ says Derek as he passes my desk flashing me his large smile. His some sort of executive, wears fancy trousers and shiny shoes. He’s on some ridiculous sum of money. I don’t begrudge other people their success or affluence, but occasionally I like to imagine following him to the open area, where everyone makes their tea and coffee, it’s all rather snazzy. I imagine following him there and maybe throwing scalding tea in his face, before shoving him out the window. That will teach him for having a better job than me.

‘Morning.’ I grumble back. ‘How was your weekend?’ I ask, my cheeks immediately boiling with embarrassment. It is Wednesday.  It was an instinct, it just came out. You can’t ask someone how their weekend was half way through the week. It’s absurd. It’s positively insane. What a fucking idiot I truly am. I don’t look up to his – I don’t doubt – look of abject ridicule. He’d be pulling up his expensive trousers and smiling a self-satisfied smile.

‘Evening sorry, evening I meant evening. How was your evening?’ I ask looking up with a goofy grin on my fuzz covered face. He laughs. It was a good natured laugh, I like it when people laugh. When they genuinely laugh, and I can always tell when it’s not genuine.  You can always pick out a fake laugh. Nervous laughs usually. Nervous, please don’t kill me laughs. Self-conscious ‘accept me!’ laughs.

‘It wasn’t bad at all Rob, very quiet.  Was told to give you this.’ He says, handing me a package. It’s an officious looking brown envelope with my name written on it in black marker pen. It’s not for me, it’s “for the attention of” me. With this in mind I throw it upon the desk onto the pile of other things that are no doubt also for my attention, but have lain neglected for some time now.

‘Thanks Derek, how’s the –

He’s already wandered off. He’s a busy important man, he can’t linger too long at the desks of the not particularly busy unimportant people. People’d start getting ideas. They’d start thinking that, maybe he isn’t that busy after all,  or worse that he isn’t that important.

Actually, I’m fairly busy. Or at the very least I should be. As far as important goes, well that’s very hard to gauge. I don’t really know what it is I do so it can’t be that important, otherwise they’d notice me not doing it. But at the same time, I’m important enough for them to decide the company does need to pay me to not do whatever it is I should be doing. It’s a complicated position to find yourself in and happens completely by accident. One day you have a clear vision as to where you are and where you’re going, the next thing you know everyone’s screaming at you, you’re naked and something’s on fire.

Dave the Crab and the Giant Called Ned

Here is a children’s poem wot I did.

There once was a crab who lived under a rock.

He had a nice sofa and a grandfather clock.

It was big and proud

And ticked ever so loud

And stood atop an ornate marble block.

The crab was called Dave and he was ever so brave,

For he once fought a giant called Ned.

 

Ned was huge and ugly to see,

And refused to let good people be.

A tattered old cap sat atop his big head

And he needed nine mattresses to make up his bed.

He’d growl and he’d roar and with one rumbling snore,

He could shake the whole Earth to its molten rock core.

He wore no shoes for his feet were too big,

And weighed him down when he did his giant’s jig.

But he wore one large and heavy and ever so smelly

Polyester and cotton blend sock.

It may sound silly, or come as a shock,

But the one thing he feared was a grandfather clock.

 

Ned came thundering along the beach one morn,

Swinging his club and blowing a big brass horn.

And anyone he should chance to meet,

Narrowly avoiding being crushed by his feet,

He’d bend over and shout right in their face:

“Get out of my way, make some space!

Get off my beach right now I say.

This is not a place for children to play.

I shall smash any sand castles on my way to the sea,

And anyone that should try to join me, I shall gobble them

Up – I’ll eat them for my tea!”

 

Now Dave worked nights, so was attempting to sleep.

He’d never been in a fight and this record he wanted to keep,

But a rude man eating giant was something he could not abide,

This brutish bully he would not let slide.

So Dave poked his head out from beneath his rock,

He strolled up to Ned’s tattered and horrible sock

And gave his toes one heck of a pinch.

But the giant did not move not even one inch.

Ned scooped up Dave and looked him in the eye

And said “Silly crab, I will make you cry!”

 

He gave a big laugh and he raised his club,

“any last words before I make you blub?”

 “Yes,” said Dave as of his life he took stock,

“Please take good care of my grandfather clock.”

Ned paused and he spluttered, he stammered and stuttered,

He whimpered and shivered until at last he muttered:

“don’t mention them or I’ll knock of your block.”

Dave said “Just listen, you might hear a tick-tock.”

Ned pricked up his ears and listen he did,

And from under the rocks from where it hid

He could hear those doleful tones of the grandfather clock,

He could hear every tick and every tock.

Dave, well he couldn’t believe his luck,

And like a chicken he began to cluck

“Mr. Giant I don’t mean to mock,

But imagine being scared of an old silly clock.”

 

Ned dropped Dave back onto the sand

And covered one ear with one very big hand,

And said “never again will I come to this land!

Get away Mr. Crab, get back under your rock,

Attend to that terrifying grandfather clock.

One second it ticks and another it tocks

It never ends and it never stops

The tolling of hours, oh that nasty chime,

The constant plodding of unending time!

It makes me shiver, it makes me feel cold,

Reminding me that one day I’ll be old!”

 

And with that Ned left never to return,

All the beach goers need fear now

Is a spot of sunburn.

So, when next on the beach,

Give Dave a thought,

Should there be a giant you need to thwart,

Make sure a grandfather clock is in reach.

 

 

There weren’t that nice? My collection of ridiculous and utterly pointless short stories is currently free to download, so if you don’t you’re a fool.