Monday, 20 December 2010

Solstice market

El clutches it in his hands. It is precious, the last element of his life that makes him the person he is. There is a faint glow; the amorphous shape seems to try and slip through his fingers. He holds it tight but without pressure, as though it is a live butterfly.
The marketplace is busy. There are many here; the greedy and the desperate, the curious and the disapproving. Addicts chatter amongst themselves, clutching to the edges of tables and rambling in forgotten languages. Smells of food and urine mix with the mud. Lights flicker around the edges of the stalls, their brilliance clashing with each other, points of hope amonst the darkness to lure in the customers aided by shouts and harangues. Jugglers toss fire amongst themselves over the heads of children who stare, wild-eyed and feral. Garlic is crushed and rubbed into meats to be roasted with cinnamon and paprika. Silent, darkened faces mingle while hands seek purses and jewellery. The rich whistle amongst themselves, daring each other to greater debts of remembrance. Jars of memories glow, gentle opals, vermillion and crimsons spin and wrap themselves into marble-eye threads.
“It’s all I have.” He says.
The buyer looks at him with distaste. The buyer is bloated with memory. El knows the type, the ones who do not live their own lives but grow on the lives of others; the light seeps from his eyes.
El shakes his head. He cannot let it go for that. Without it he is nothing remaining. Some part of him knows that ten is too small a price to pay to lose that.
“Fifteen.” He replies. He is scared by his own defiance. If the sale fails, if he cannot find the money then more than his self will be lost.
The buyer shrugs. Inspects the tiny, blurring ball of light in his hands.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


A drop of blood fell from my nose and landed on the pure white of the tablecloth.
'Ah.' Said the man who sat opposite me.
Nothing more was said as the crimson flood diffused out like the contagion it represented. Fading and diluting like a warm breeze on a cold day.
Eventually I had to say something, my head aching from the blow.
'I didn't expect that.'
Another lonely drop of blood dripped out of my head and fell downwards. We both watched its motion as if expecting it to do something unexpected.
'I wouldn't have to do it if you would listen to reason.'
I thought about this statement. The man was right. It was my fault that this was happening. I wondered when would have been the stage to have done things differently but I found that no particular moment in time stood out.
So I shrugged.
The blow came suddenly and even though I was expecting it this time I flinched as the contact struck my head and knocked it out of its position.
'Ouch.' I complained. Knowing my voice was vague and pathetic, not knowing what else I could do.
'Will you yield.'
I watched my white-knuckled hands grip the edge of the table, skewing the cloth, preventing further droplets from corrupting the purity of the thread.
I braced myself but no blow came. And this, I soon decided, was infinitely worse...

Sunday, 12 December 2010


Silence apart from the muffled sound of his own movement. Xu twists to look up. Sunlight plays on the blue surface overhead. He floats, a gentle kick keeping his momentum with the rest of the group. He checks his watch. Lets air out from the BCD, sinks with a pressure that requires him to equalise. Links his arms back under his chest.
The pressure is lighter than he is used to. The dive tables are wrong, they are using adhoc extensions based on calculations that may be wrong. The effect of the lighter gravity, of the lower air pressure, are based on altitude tables that were little more than guesses when they were drawn up.
The leader of the group drops again. The group follows. Gentle kicks, watching the air, keeping an eye on each other. As they start to drop below the shelf they hit fifty metres. They are falling into the blue. Robots have already mapped this area, taken samples, photographed the indigenous wildlife; that means that it is safe. They are not here to explore, they are here to test the limits of their own bodies. The multiplicity of effect of diving on an alien world is completely unknown and there is only one way to find out. Suck it and see.
Xu feels a tug on his fin. The is a shot of alarm, Rado is behind him, he turns to see. Rado is grabbing at his legs. Xu’s instinct is to kick back, instead he tries to twist away. He needs to calm Rado down. They are under strict orders to follow the schedule. Rado’s eyes, distorted and wild behind the think glass of his mask, betray a panic. Bubbles spill from his mouth. Communication while diving is a matter of pre-arrangement. There is no empathy, no connection. It seems impossible to offer reassurance.
Rado starts to kick for the surface. Xu is reluctant to follow but he pushes after him, trying to draw their bodies together, to link arms, to bring their eyes together so that they can find that sense of humanity. Rado’s hand clutches hard, the coolness of the contact belies that they are touch flesh. Xu reaches for Rado’s BCD to stabilise him, to check his air supply. Their dive is over now. Once they have started an ascent the rules are clear. Rado has re-gained his composure. He looks at Xu with what he knows is apology. Xu feels himself shrug. He looks down at the others, already nearly lost in the dark, only the occasional silhouette against the glow of the cliff sponges.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


R's angular face is made of lines that are not quite cohesive. A disruption introduced by a slight imbalance across the eyes and cheeks, a sharp nose that does not quite follow the vertical. His irregular lips are tight with a tension he otherwise hides. He exhales, closing his eyes, the long, white hair that curves over one side of his face twitches.

The warrior facing R smiles. The scrawny boy in front of him is no danger. The warrior hefts a sword heavier than his opponent, its weight comfortable in his strong arms. The others in the room are looking bored. The mixture of spectators is mostly male, drawn by the prospect of violence, uncertain as to the sport of what they are about to see. Most are occupied more with talk and drink than the contest. There has been little gambling. The bookmakers's frowns are not the concern of the meeting, though; a challenge has been made and it must be answered, whatever the prospect for profit.

White orbs of different size float through the room offering light. The ceiling is low, the floor sloping towards the small arena space in the middle. It is made of worn wood and crudely assembled. The arena floor is darkened with stains from previous bouts.

There is a thin noise of a pipe. Glimmering shields rise up, a hiss of force that slices air, separating the crowd from the two men. The warrior growls, his cry becoming a scream as he lifts up the oversized sword in his hands and swings it with a practiced lunge. R tries to dance out of the way while loosening his own weapon in its scabbard. He falls, the warrior's sword slices through his leggings, tearing lightly into flesh. Pain sears but R sweeps his leg away. Blood slips down his leg, sticky and warm. He must finish this quickly.

R drags his weapon out. A dagger that screams its existence with a deafening roar, a blade that folds light around itself with a sense of darkness that cannot be directly perceived. The warrior frowns, dragging his sword upwards. The boy, R, sees his chance, leaping forwards he drives the dagger up, through the stomach of the warrior, towards his heart. THe blade cuts through the lacquered armour, sliding easily through gristle, flesh and bone. The warrior hisses, his muscles contracting and shaking with a loss of control. His blood spurts from the wound as R drags the dagger back out. It fizzes as it hits the screen and disappears with a blue spark. The warrior falls, still.

The crowd is silent. Watching. Shock quickly turns to anger.