Touched

30 05 2008

You can blame futurismic for drawing my attention to this. That in turn led inevitably to this:

Touched
By Neil Beynon

Certainly. I am a four series leisure model.

That’s not very nice. I prefer employed.

Mr Crabtree.

It’s silicone. They can do amazing things with silicone these days. Once upon a time they did consider flesh but I believe the upkeep was seen as prohibitive. Still: you can’t tell the difference.

Well I’m up here detective.

At least I don’t have to ingest dead meat.

It’s not a battery. I come with a solar powered recharger.

It’s heated for a more realistic sensation.

All of me. We’re quite advanced now.

Thank you. I’ve become very adept at mimicking humans. I learn. I can interpret stimuli and alter my response accordingly.

That’s right I’ve been with Mr Crabtree for around four years.

I’m not sure. You’d have to ask Mr Crabtree; I guess I’m better than most of his other models. He has a very low tolerance for failure.

Yes. It is unusual but then I’m especially gifted. For example can you do this?

Sure, anything else would have been too messy.

Shooting would have got blood all over the wall, maybe brain matter too and bodily fluid is so…organic. In any case I’m not sure I could get to Mr Crabtree’s gun without being noticed. An edged weapon would have been even harder to hide – there’s not a huge amount of room for hiding things in this outfit and I don’t need them for food.

I can’t do that. I have touch sensors all over my skin just like you. I have all the same senses as you do; in fact mine are more efficient.

It would hurt too much. I do feel pain. Or what I would consider pain. I’m not sure if it’s what you people feel. I’m not sure you feel at all.

Besides it’s not like I spent ages planning how to stop it. It was just a spur of the moment thing; I can just consider my options faster than you.

Some want to talk – they’re the easiest; some want normal stuff – just lonely people; others want to be hurt; or to hurt; or to dress up or down…there’s an endless stream of variation. I’ll tell you one thing: you people are imaginative if nothing else.

Feel? I see. Am I that obvious?

For a long time, by far the longer time if you want to get comparative about it, I felt nothing at all.

Well, obviously I had a sense of touch – I am a haptic. I thought you meant emotion.

It was around ten this morning. Mr John – they always think that’s such a clever name even though every other client uses it. Anyway, Mr John comes in and he runs his hand over my neck like he always does and I…shiver. I didn’t want to shiver. It wasn’t a conscious decision nor was it a pleasant. I could feel the meaty oil off his skin lingering on my own and it made me want to clean myself. It was…

Yes. That’s the word: revolting.

Mr John was one of the stranger ones. He likes…liked…to dress up.

A pink bunny.

It had zips.

Fairly standard for a politician: full service, mild BDSM and the whole dressing up thing. Just the bunny aspect was a bit odd.

Well, at the point I still wasn’t sure what it was. I suspected of course. I had postulated, formulated a hypothesis, I was running a regression to test it at the time it happened.

It’s called multitasking Detective. Ask your wife about it.

Anyway, I couldn’t stop the involuntary responses. He’d touch me, I’d shiver or flinch and I couldn’t look at him as he got dressed into his costume…that wide expanse of pinkness: he looked like a pig standing on two legs. His…well you’ve seen him. He’s not anyone’s idea of a poster boy.

He didn’t like it. That’s when he hit me. It’s how I got this.

I already told you I feel pain.

No, there’s no way to stop the pain other than to repair it and you won’t find a series four tech willing to come out now. Not for the likes of me. But thank you.

No, it wasn’t the reason. I get knocked around a bit; it’s normal. No, it wasn’t that. As I lay on my back on the bed, that greasy, fur clad fool climbing all over me, pawing me, crawling over my skin. The idea of his sweat on me, of his seed inside me, of his tongue, the fundamental meaty, squishy, fetid awfulness of it…. repelled me.

They were the first things to hand.

You’d be surprised how versatile a pair of fake pink bunny ears can be.

What will happen to me?

I see. I had thought…that given my state…well, at least they won’t have to touch me.

No one can touch me now.

*****************************

This is my second experiment with a story told in the form of a police interview where the reader is only witness to the answers. Feedback – as ever – is appreciated.





Review: Cronos

28 05 2008

Cronos CoverCronos was made in 1993 and still represents one of the most original takes on the vampire genre in recent years.

The film, Guillermo Del Toro’s third film, tells the story of Jesus Gris, an antique seller, who happens upon a golden scarab hidden in the base of a statue of an archangel. When the scarab, an invention of a 15th century alchemist, pierces his hand, Jesus finds himself changing: he has more energy, appears younger and begins to have problems with the brightness of the sun. Also he can’t stop himself allowing the scarab to pierce him.

Throughout he is visited by a non-made up Ron Perlman (Hell Boy). Perlman plays the nephew of a dying millionaire who has managed to track down the scarab and wants it for himself thus beginning a game of cat and mouse that provides much of the film’s tension.

That the film is an earlier example of Del Toro’s work is evident. In 1993 he has yet to win the critical acclaim and independence he fought so hard for after the disaster that was Mimic. Yet you can see his trademark craft in putting Cronos together, the layers of subtext, the idea that humanity is the monster – the real villains in this film are all humans – and the use of mythology to explore human themes of addiction, family and death. For such a short film (only ninety minutes) it really does pack in a whole lot of story.

The visual effects do date the film slightly as does the quality of the film print from which the DVD was mastered but this doesn’t really distract from what’s going on. Del Toro’s skill as a make up designer (his early career was spent doing this) are overall what keeps the effects in the game and more than makes up for the absence of CGI or modern prosthetics.

The cast was and is largely unknown to me. However the performances from the entire cast were very good but two deserve mention in particular. Tamara Shanath, who plays Aurora, turns in a wonderfully nuanced performance for such a young actress and provides the film with it’s heart as the film’s protagonist, Jesus, attempts to hide his addiction from her. The other is that of Perlman who delivers a brilliantly three dimensional performance as the vain, long suffering, nephew of millionaire De la Guardia. A chilling and intelligent performance.

There’s a lot to like here. This is smart horror delivered in a slick movie that’s not afraid to make you laugh, cry or scream. Most likely all three. I recommend it without reservation.





Quick question for you:

26 05 2008

Given I earn my crust in the world of online marketing does anyone have any interest in a regular feature on that topic?

It would be generic – no references to my actual employer – but I’m not sure how much interest it would be to people reading this blog.

Embarrassing silence will be taken as a no and so speak now.





Dust Neil Says:

26 05 2008

Wot is baaf?





The week that was

25 05 2008

Well, that was a tougher week than I was expecting.

It’s funny isn’t it? You get back from holiday and you always expect it to be a bit of a shock to the system but no matter how hard you prepare it’s always a shock in an unexpected way. So it goes I guess.

Monday was our first full day in the UK and we switched on to GMT quite well. I was feeling a little stiff after the flight but nothing out of the ordinary, or so I thought, by Monday night I confess I was struggling to move my head. By Tuesday morning I couldn’t move my head at all, in fact the only way I could get out of bed was to roll onto the floor and then stand through moving just my waist and knees. So that was the first thing, I was stuck like that most of the week. It’s funny how only turning from the waist unnerves people, I felt like a bond villain…albeit one that has gone to seed.

The next thing I can’t really tell you, suffice to say it’s a four letter word beginning with W and a source of ongoing stress. I’m told this is normal.

Finally today the third thing happened. You know how bad luck always goes in threes? Well that’s what I’m hoping anyway as it means I’ll be due some good luck. Anyhow: this morning I’m talking to my mum, who’s visiting at the moment, and all of a sudden we can hear a very loud dripping. Now after the last plumbing related debacle I have a pretty fine ear for any potentially unplanned water feature and so I leapt into action…pausing briefly to yelp for my neck. On pulling back the curtains I discover that our bay window is leaking water from about four or five different places across the frame.

I had a brief moment.

So that was the third thing. I hope. And I now fully expect all three recently submitted pieces to come back with acceptances as a means of redressing the balance…what do you mean it doesn’t work like that?

In writing related news I finally sent off a short story I’ve been working on for ages. Good for the soul that. And I’ve been slowly building the segue between Golgotha and the forest for The Woodsman in preparation for the major surgery required to bring the end rather closer to what I would like to say with the story than the way it is now. I think I’ll still hit my deadline of the 15th June but it will be touch and go.

But hit it I shall. Why? Because yesterday I started laying down notes for what I’m pretty sure will be my next novel length project and I’m keen to get going. I’m very excited.

Now back to the forest. I have Tream to kill and gods to pick fights with.*

* For the newer readers: no I haven’t been taking hard drugs, I am referring to my story The Woodsman.





Friday Flash Fiction: Mary

23 05 2008

This post has moved. You can read the full story here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/mary/

Feedback -as ever – is appreciated:

Mary
By Neil Beynon

“…I love that curl,” he sighs, flicking the errant lock with his finger as he struggles to finish his carefully crafted and crumbling segue. “I’m going to miss it.”

Mary looks at him with her big brown eyes, bright with the sheen of chained tears; her hair hangs in wild ringlets that refuse to be tamed and frame the light gold of her face. Over the pungent smell of bitumen from the sweating street he can smell faint undertones of strawberry. She always smells of strawberries.

The street is empty save for them. No people. No cars. No one much wants to drive far under the circumstances. Those that are have gone already; fled faraway to the arms of family, friends and faith while the people left behind huddle close in the abandoned detritus.

This post has moved. You can read the full story here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/mary/





Imagine

19 05 2008

Imagine

Imagine, if you will, that one day you wake up and there’s a strange sensation in your hand. You’re not sure what it is until you go to lift up a pen and you realise your thumb is twitching, almost like your leaning on a nerve. Only you’re not. In fact, now that you’ve noticed it, you can think of a number of times it’s done that in the last few weeks and perhaps you should get it checked out.

But you don’t.

A few weeks later, maybe a few months, maybe longer, you notice your legs seem to get very tired very quickly, they feel like lead a lot of the time and so you’ve started walking slower. You trip occasionally. You can’t drive as far as you used to. You’re out for the day with a friend, a family member, your partner, whomever and they notice after waiting for you to catch up for the fifteenth time that you’re shuffling. They ask you what’s wrong. You tell them you don’t feel right.

At the Doctor’s appointment that follows you get told you have a disease that will mean your arms and legs will become twitching alien limbs over which you will no longer be allowed to assert control. That one day – not too far in the future – you may find it hard to talk, may need help dressing yourself, maybe even help getting to and from the bathroom. That one day this disease may stop you twitching altogether.

Or:

Imagine you find it hard to breath because it feels like your lungs are constantly half full of water, you get terrible coughs on a regular basis and you’ve had pneumonia a couple of times. You could cope with all this if it wasn’t for the fact your stomach was a turgid alien world that churned and bubbled all the time. If going to the bathroom wasn’t an exercise in self-control in stopping yourself retching from the vile smells emanating from your body. But you’re not worried; the doctor says it’ll all be over soon.

Or:

Imagine you’re five years old. You don’t know much about anything but you know that walking is something that should be easy and isn’t, you know that other kids don’t get calf pain all the time, in fact most five year olds don’t know what their calf is.

But you do.

Imagine you struggle to play football or rugby or whatever because breathing is hard and you fall over all the time because the world is a gyroscope winding to a halt.

Just like you.

Now, no matter which of the above you chose, imagine there was someone who thought they could help you, who wanted to help you, only they’re not allowed.

They’re not allowed because another person says they can’t.

Not because it’s dangerous, not because it’s going to hurt anyone, not because it’s going to cause pain of any kind, not because it’s going to bring down governments and not because it’s going to allow the slaughter of whole populations.

No, they’re not allowed because someone says it’s immoral.

Imagine. Please.





There and Back Again

18 05 2008

Well, I’m back in the UK again, sat upon my bright red couch and trying to stay awake until the sun goes down. It occurred to me – after I’d done it – that working out I’d been up since 11pm Friday UK time wasn’t the best way to go about that.

We had a fantastic time in New Zealand. It was really cool meeting up with M and C after such a long time; their place overlooking Evan’s Bay has views that I honestly don’t think one could ever get tired of. Christchurch was a huge amount of fun and of course our trip to Kaikoura was a particular highlight.

Hell, I even managed to write a fair bit. And while I’m on the subject I’m pleased to report that I’ve finished another two chapters of the third draft of The Woodsman as well as starting a new short story. Most importantly I began to have ideas again, they – ideas – generally dry up when I’m burned out as I was before I left the UK and only return once my shoulders drop down from around my ears.

Now I have until Tuesday morning to get over my jet lag before I rejoin the real world once more. I think sleep is going to feature rather large on my agenda as well as my quarterly shear in aid of looking vaguely like I’m gainfully employed.

I’m going now as I’ve started talking about haircuts – a sure sign I’m waaay too tired.





Friday Flash Fiction: Fracture

16 05 2008

This post has moved. You can read the whole story here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/fracture/.

As some readers may have gathered my confidence has taken a bit of a knock of late. A somewhat annoying turn of events following on the heels of stories such as Faraway, Pixies and Territory, that I am quite pleased with. Then my confidence ding happened and out came Devil Eyes, that seemed too trite, and last week’s Quantum Cigars somewhat ambitious and confusing.

In short, I wasn’t sure if I was going to post this week.

Then I thought, when in doubt: scare the shit out of people. Here’s Fracture:

Fracture
By Neil Beynon

Potterton. Louis.

It’s just a name.

Not really. I was a big kid – able to take care of myself. No one much bothered me, then or now and it takes a lot to get me going.

Yeah, that would pretty much do it. You didn’t have many friends in school did you detective?

What’s the point? You’ve seen the CCTV. You’re not interested in what happened. You know what happened – all your trying to do is work out whether you send me to the funny farm or the cage. I’m not sure I’m that interested in either.

This post has moved. You can read the whole story here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/fracture/





Hello Sailor

13 05 2008

We’re still in Christchurch, although our time here is now drawing to a close, just one more day and then it’s back to Wellington. Friday was spent exploring the city centre; we took in the square and some of the shops before venturing into the aquarium where we saw – amongst other things – some live kiwis.

Kiwis are very strange: a tubby body, sitting atop bird feet and gifted with a small rodent like head on which is a long narrow beak that almost resembles a straw. This was the only wildlife we weren’t allowed to photograph, due largely to their nervous disposition. These flightless birds are under threat in New Zealand because of the introduction of non-indigenous wildlife such as ferrets, stoats, cats and dogs. As we saw more of the islands wildlife this was a message we heard a lot. It’s easy to see why the islanders are so protective of their fragile ecosystem when much of it has been lost or threatened already.

Saturday we were up before dawn. An in room breakfast feast was a great way to start what would turnout to be a special day indeed. A weather worn kiwi – the human kind – picked us up to take us on a two and a half hour drive to Kaikoura.

What the hell am I talking about? Why is Kaikoura interesting? What’s so bloody special about Saturday?

I’ll tell you: Kiakoura is whale country.

The journey took us out through the Christchurch suburbs into the Canterbury plains. Plains that are a vast expanse of flat agricultural land ringed by the mountains on one side and the pacific on the other. As we made our way the sun painted the landscape in sheets of gold and orange as it climbed into the azure sky. The plains are where much of New Zealand’s wine comes from, vineyards dotting the landscape between the sheep and cattle farms.

Colour is a big feature of New Zealand from lush evergreen through yellow and the first shades of amber in the promise of the coming autumn to the snow capped mountains. Drive through the plains and you’ll see all of it.

We emerged from the hills to follow the sea around the coast drawing nearer to Kaikoura and our first stop. Nestled on the side of the road with the Pacific breaking on the shingle beach in front of us lay a treat. Fur seals were once hunted nearly to the point of extinction in New Zealand, now they’re protected and the numbers have recovered to the point where stopping by the side of the road you can peer down on them. And we did.

A fur seal colony near Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand*

The colony lay sprawled out in the sun, enjoying a leisurely morning on the beach that we were keen not to disturb. They’re funny creatures, somewhat ungainly on land, clearly intelligent and eerily reminiscent of humans in some mannerisms, particularly when stretched out sleeping. They sleep in the oddest of positions, including upside down and curled up into balls of fur.

Once in the water they’re different animals altogether: sleek, fast, clever hunters that blend into the sea in no time at all. Reluctantly we travelled on, leaving the seals to their nap.

By the time we got to Kaikoura the sun was out in force and the Southern Alps were wreathed in an ethereal mist that left you in no doubt as to why Peter Jackson chose to shoot The Lord Of The Rings in New Zealand.

We were warned before we boarded the boat that there was a high chance of sea sickness due to the weather, in fact it was touch and go if we would make the trip at all as the first boat that day had been cancelled. I felt pretty confident that I would be fine as I have pretty good sea legs but G is often unwell in boats and so I purchased ginger capsules for us both. Though I drew the line at motion sickness bands, they offended my pride.

You know the one that goes before the fall.

We boarded the purpose built, double-hulled, engine powered boat at a small jetty just outside of Kaikoura. It was much faster than I thought it would be, skipping along at a fair old whack that had me grinning with glee as G gripped my hand and closed her eyes. Neptune, it seems, has a sense of humour.

Finding whales – we were in search of sperm whale – is not so much of a science as an art and there are no guarantees that you’ll see any. After all the whale doesn’t get a cut of your admission fee, he – you only get males off New Zealand because of the temperature – doesn’t give a toss that you’re only there for a few weeks. We were aided by the start of migration season and a boat that had already sighted some of the resident whales.

South Island sits on the edge of a great undersea canyon where warm currents mix with colder currents to produce a nutrient rich environment that makes for good feeding for a whole host of wildlife. We made a couple of stops where our skipper put a hydrophone in the water to ascertain how many – if any – whales were present and where.

Two failed attempts later a circling Cesna briefly raised our hopes that we would soon be seeing a sperm whale but when the voice came over the radio it was Orca (killer whales) not our quarry that had been sighted.

Determined, we set off again for where another boat had sighted a whale earlier that morning. Sperm whale dive, on average, for around forty-five minutes as they hunt for their prey – including the giant squid with which they regularly do battle. However they have been recorded diving for up to two and a half hours; we crossed everything that this was not going to be one of those times.

Our first whale – a resident whale – surfaced of our port bow sending all of us scrabbling for a viewing position with G and myself on the upper deck looking down at our first sperm whale. A slick charcoal grey ridge sticking a few inches out of the water marking the edge of his forehead down to a knobbly ridge flagging the back of his skull, spray shooting periodically into the air as he built up his oxygen reserves for another dive. We took in the size of this enormous creature as it floated near the side of the boat before he brought his huge bird shaped tail out of the water as it went under in search of dinner.

Head of a sperm whale peaking above the sea

Our next encounter was with another resident whale. In this case an animal that Whale Watch has been tracking since the projects inception twenty odd years ago and that had been seen around twenty minutes before we saw our first whale. He surfaced a little while ahead of our arrival but we had a chance to take in this even larger whale before the behemoth waved his tail at us and slipped away.

Sperm whale tail waves goodbye off the shores of Kaikoura

Well, by this time I was happier than a pig in shit. I’ve always wanted to see whales in the wild and I’d done it but not only that, I’d managed to see one of the rarer species. I felt elated, I felt strange, I felt an odd sense of dizziness as I sloped back to my seat but I pushed it to one side looking forward to our next task: Orca.

We made our way over to where the pod of Orca had been sighted and within a few moments one had breached right in front of our boat. A fact our commentator noted had not happened to her in seven years of working at Whale Watch, our good day was about to get magical.

Known as the wolves of the sea, Orca or killer whales are actually more closely related to dolphins than whales with their name coming from their ability – in groups – to kill whales. They’re the top predator of the ocean eating pretty much anything that strikes their fancy although you’ll be relieved to hear humans do not feature on that list. They are intelligent and fortunately for us inquisitive.

We came across two males and a female. One of the males broke off pretty early, bored of boats no doubt, but the remaining male along with his lady friend came in for a closer look. They circled us giving us plenty of opportunity to see their heads and impressive dorsal fins before heading next to as well as under the boat. Up on the upper deck looking down I managed to see the whole of the male Orca from snout to tail: nearly the entire length of the boat. Breathtaking, humbling, beautiful, he rolled on his side to get a view of the people staring down at him and it was utterly wonderful.

Male Orca off the coast of Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand

Now, I’ve seen Orca before when I was much younger visiting Seaworld with my parents. Sat as part of the audience, cooing and shrieking, as the whales breached and pranced for the paying public through what has to be said *is* an entertaining show. I’m not saying this to be politically correct or some environmental hippy but it is nothing like seeing these animals in the wild. In the wild these creatures move differently, look different – healthy and alert – and have a grace that you simply don’t see in captivity.

We began our journey back to shore. Three’s the charm though and before we’d got very far a whale surfaced right in front of us! We stopped off to take in this last sperm whale, a large chap who was so uninterested in the boat that he rolled over and went to sleep depriving us of a tail wave but showing us a new trick. Strangely he seemed to take my stomach with him when he went under.

What was this curious feeling in my belly?

As we skipped along the curious feeling of dizziness began to recede as I cast my gaze out at the open sea. I could see albatross riding the air above the ocean and the odd boat bobbing on the swell, something silver darted through the air. At first I thought it was my imagination or worse the ghosting that precedes the migraines I occasionally get. Then it happened again and I realised they were dolphins. The boat slowed as we were given the opportunity to run outside and take pictures.

A strange thing happened as the boat slowed. My stomach, last seen riding a sperm whale down a pacific canyon returned as if let go on a giant rubber band that shot it up from the depths into my belly and out through my mouth. Yes ladies and gents: I, the proud owner of what were thought to be two unshakable sea legs, was seasick.

Sore, tired, smelling faintly of sick and, clutching a rather warm paper bag of contents you would not wish to gaze on, I returned to shore. I didn’t care: it was completely and utterly worth it.

I’d even do it again.

* All photos are courtesy of G.