Below.

BFilament lamps struggle to life, as a button with worn off indentations spelling out ‘SURFACE’ depresses into the wall and the restricted access elevator ascends through darkness.

I heard on a radio interview that our generation will be the ones that struggle with it most.

Why?

Because we remember what the world was like before, what outside felt like, as it was meant to be.

I suppose.

The elevator groans and creaks as both workers ascend into the desolate surface growth. Long sturdy cables stretch into the darkness above and below, yanking them into the inevitable devastation of the surface.

I’ve also heard that they’re thinking about reopening the tunnels.

They wouldn’t do that, not after the last disaster with the whirknits.

On cue, the creatures of the tunnels wail in response to the passing of the rickety elevator. Out of sight, yet still terrifying, the several layers of mesh and grating fail to convey a sense of safety; despite the news promising a 100% success rate in whirknit exclusion these days there are always tall tales of the occasional child or elderly person disappearing, and never quietly, or without entrails of evidence left behind.

Nothing is guaranteed, these days anything could happen. There has also been talk of other colonies reaching out to each other.

You know that’s not true, surface gossip, the agreement was that each colony keep to themselves, larger groups of humans are dangerous together, keeping us separate keeps the conquerors from plotting, the predators from thinking we’re worth the catch, and each other against disagreements. Separation is necessary.

The cables twang and screech, yanking the two clumsily to the top, or what used to be considered ‘ground level’ although these days were is no such concept, lost to the years of descent into the earth. Rather than expose the shaft to the environments outside and their countless creatures dying to get inside, each gate was slowly extricated from its locks and replaced with haste.

Conversation had a habit of dying out on sight of what was once the planet that defied all odds. Scientists used to question the earth’s positioning in the grander schemes of things, the idea that should the earth be positioned slightly differently life wouldn’t have been sustained as it had been. These questions eventually died out too, along with the majority of the scientists, and the media harvesting what they could, and the consumers of such nonsense.

In fact, not much is left.

It never gets any easier to look at, does it?

Peering out over a hill, the lift opens up to the view of a ruined city in the distance. Binoculars reveal streets laden with corpses, human or otherwise, slowly regressing back into mother nature’s lifeblood. Skyscrapers hail in comparison to the mutated trees and plant-life scaling and surpassing the once-impressive feats of human engineering. The occasional creature leaping or flying from surface to surface can be seen in all it’s hideously graceful glory, having command of the city in it’s entirety. Undulating appendages drip mucus and aromatic honeys, luring in the unwise, or recently the willing, to a gruesome and agonisingly slow death.

The elevator shaft hums with the screeching of the unseen, as if laughing at the outcome of their destruction.

I feel no better, knowing we haven’t left safety, we’ve simply passed the boundary between below and above. The only differences being the species of things wanting to feed on our remains up here.

That’s enough, be quiet. I need silence, just for a moment.

Revealing a battered mp3 player and some mouldy speakers from a deep coat pocket, the sounds of birds and trees rustling in a lazy wind are sent out into the silence, populating the empty space.

Closing their eyes, the two humans, escaping their grimy lives of darkness and fear try to replace the still trees with images of bark and leaves. Substituting the grey and purple organic masses masquerading as things once arguably tree-like, only ever moving to dart and impale food, for non-sentient bouquets of brown and peaceful greens.

I’m cold.

I know, we all are.

It’s time to go back, our absence will have been noticed. If we aren’t back by the next tectonic movement we’ll have been written off as whirknit meat.

We’ll be back soon though, yes?

If we must.

With this assurance, the mp3 player and speakers are sealed in a bag and stowed in a sunken shipping container not far from the elevator’s entrance, promising to sing of the past whenever it’s needed.

It belongs up here, I don’t need the reminder down there.

And so they return again to the depths below.

Author.

AThe fire crackles, dying embers fly into the chilled night air as the author sits, crumpled in his reading chair. Tired, he groans and averts his gaze from the warmth as he feels his eyeballs melting from the lazy heat.

‘Time to do this’, he thinks.

After having finished his book tour for this last work, the conclusion to the bestselling series he’d been highly acclaimed for, he remembers answering the crucial question he was always asked, with:

YES! Something is in the works, it’s very different. Think: ‘fresh’, ‘exciting’, nothing you’ll have seen from me before.” A statement his agent, and subsequently his publisher, was just as excited a
s the press to hear. Over and over again this same answer rippled through the pipelines to converge on the reality:

Pen has not touched paper in over a year.

The publisher tried to stimulate quick turnarounds. Deadlines passed, advances were offered; eventually these were taken off the table as the idea of getting nothing else from their once-diamond in the rough began to set in. The fame had got to him, the pressure of the adoring fans waiting for this new and exciting creation to arrive, ignorant of the fact the mystery is just that, a mystery to the creator himself.

‘Right, time to get up’, he thinks to himself again. With a groan and a creak of the chair a long shadow is cast behind him, kindly brought to life by the fire before him. Jittering and expanding, this shadow inches towards the writing desk in front of a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of the snow-covered woods. Untouched and pure, he thinks of the ideas that have come and gone over the months, vivid and almost tangible in his mind’s eye.

He stares outside, the snow appearing as if it were giving off its own light, staring back at him. Ideas danced in the cold, falling to the ground before him, ideas of heroes and villains, of issues needing discussed, all falling together into the masses of white coating the view. It gives the author an image of being suffocated with his own imagination.

Which to pick? Which to choose. This is the very issue that has kept him back, the choosing. It’s all so exciting in the beginning, the words flow with the naive notions of the ‘dream job’ and the ability to be heard. Now he sits, having been heard, not knowing what to say next.

Hesitating for a little while longer, he thinks about how he felt before this career threw him in the deep end of deadlines and constant expectation. The need to be better than before, not looking back for fear of shadowing the way forward. Listening to the crackle of the flames from the fireplace and the imagined sound of snow falling outside, he thinks of the solitude surrounding him, the lack of prying eyes, the quiet.

He picks up the pen, and he writes.

To be heard once more.

The April A to Z Challenge 2016.

A2Z-BADGE [2016]I’m participating in the A to Z Challenge again for a third year running! I’ve struggled to write as much in the past year, life has taken over. University commitments and work getting busier has meant writing has had to take a back seat. However, for the next month I’m hoping to get out some of the ideas I’ve had since last April; even trying to start with A has been difficult, we’re on the 3rd now and I’m yet to post A or B, they’ll go up in the next few hours now that I have been able to settle on something; ironically the first post is about an author with writer’s block.

Despite the struggle, I’m so excited to see what I come up with in the next month! It will certainly be a challenge, with exams at the end of the month but I’m going to try make it the entire way through the month, posting every day (allowing myself to post late if needs be) as I haven’t been able to finish the challenge yet!

So, fingers crossed it goes well, and I hope everyone else doing April A to Z enjoys it as much as I will!

2016 goals.

Hello…

I’ll resist the urge to quote Adele, and simply wish you all a happy new year; it is the 5th of January now so hopefully it has gone well so far.

Every year I consider how I have changed, how I have grown and how I want to continue to improve. It’s always an interesting train of thought to embark upon and I’m always glad of it, this year though I hope to really focus on that improvement and so as a result I’m going to try and write as much as I can.

Anyone who has read my WordPress over the last 3 years will know I always try to participate in the April A-Z Challenge. I will be doing that again as I love the inspiration from fellow participants, it is always such a positive community. Unfortunately I have previously given up mid-month, this will be the year I have all 26 posts written and ready! I am determined.

One goal of mine for 2016 is to read 50 books, I know this is a widely subscribed tradition and I only managed to read 15 books last year but I’m hoping that setting such a high goal will spur me on to actually complete it. To help me keep track and motivate the ambitious reading goal, I am going to post reviews for each book when finish them. I have already read one and the review will be going up shortly, very excited.

I have massive waves of enthusiasm for WordPress, which quickly dissipate after realising that life happens and seemingly always gets in the way.  I only posted 9 times throughout the whole of 2015, I know I can definitely beat that. I need to remind myself this year that this is a hobby,  and it enables me to do more of what I love: writing. The 50 book reviews will be a lot of writing to begin with, along with the 26 posts in April, meaning that 2016 will potentially be the busiest year, fingers crossed!

I shan’t ramble on and on. Basically, expect a lot more writing and a lot less silence this year.

Here’s to 2016.

 

Imagination.

IHaving been drawing countless doodles since he was able to grasp a crayon, Theodore had compiled hundreds upon hundreds of pages of colour and indistinguishable shapes, all glowing with the promise of creativity from its creator. Now grown out of the cot, and into a ‘big boy bed’ as he called it, Theo lay in bed with sun going to bed and the moon sweeping greetings across the town for the night. The sky was aflame with oranges, yellows, pinks, and the loose piles of childhood imagination fluttered in the breeze from the window.

The moon, requiring some entertainment for the night, felt it was time Theo’s drawings needed a bit more…life.

A gust of wind lifts the window and buffets the bunches of papers, filling the room with sheets of scribbles and silliness. Whispering wishes of a ten year old were whipped up into the air and as they landed on his bedroom floor the lines and shapes rose from the pages and leapt to life, floating out of the window into the night sky.

Witnessing all of this, Theo reached out to touch his new creations. Some felt soft, textured, hard, rough, gritty, slimy, everything he’d ever felt before. All of these experiences were rising from his childhood drawings into the real world.

Lifting the window fully, he threw the rest of his art into the darkening sky and the moon sang with excitement. Pages landing in his garden, driveway and continuing down the street. Some caught in the trees of the neighbourhood and gave birth to papery birds, monkeys, snakes and everything else a ten typical ten year old would ever dream of.

Holding onto the page of his latest creation, Theo finds a weight and watches it fall right to the ground in front of his bedroom window and a rumble comes from deep under his house. With a groan and a crackle of stone, weathered bricks of a medieval tower begin to form from the driveway and coming to meet his windowsill.

Stepping out onto the tower, it grows further and more spring from the driveway and out into the street, growing in steps as Theo climbs his new keep, ready to defend against the invading barbarians and protect the princess. Or even to prepare to go out on an adventure to save the princess, who knows?

With a deep, house-shaking roar, a pillar of fire bursts from the back yard behind the house and a dragon bursts through the flames and smoke, cutting through the night sky and coming to hover in front of the moon, watching over it all.

Dragon claiming it’s nest, and towers climbing through the neighbourhood, Theo thanks the moon for its help in making his dreams a reality. Tonight was his creation, tonight was his kingdom, tonight was amazing.

Hunted.

Very much behind, here is H. Apologies for the wait, I will catch up with the April A to Z, it’s been a hectic week of new job, revision and planning for the backlog of posts.

HThe growling feels like it’s all around, coming from the walls of hedge as I run through them. Wherever the exit is, it’s evaded me for as long as I can remember. I keep running from the fear of my pursuer springing forth from a bush behind or diving in from above. It’s everywhere.

The loose gravel crunches under me as I dash from corner to corner, it feels as if I’m running in circles but I know I haven’t seen any of this before. New networks are continually opening out in front of me, a never-ending spiral of hunting ground.

This is it’s pantry, and I am the prey.

Curling around corner after corner, I’m getting nowhere without a marker to make progress from. The walls tower over me at least twice my height, casting me in a dull shadow at all times. Hitting a straight path, I slow my pace to approach a lump of what looks like the previous victim. A mix of gristle and hair, the only distinguishable feature of the last unfortunate is the rags of checkered shirt leafing off the rotting remains. Stepping over the warning of what’s to come, it takes me a moment to collect myself before thinking of running again.

I sweep into an open expanse of flattened ground and an inconceivable number of exits. They were everywhere, some thin and sinister, some wide and inviting, all of them whispering with the promise of escape…or the end of everything.

Hearing the rustle of my demise creep up from a nearby pathway, I leap into the middle of the circle and look for some sign of promise in the countless options before me. With a quick spin, I see one path stretching for a distance. Dashing for that, I catch the thing in the corner of my eye.

I have been spotted.

Knowing the next few seconds are crucial, I throw everything into putting as much distance between me and it as possible. Feeling the ground shake beneath my feet, the proximity between me and my death is quickly closing.

This is it.

Flicking my head back to get a glimpse, I trip and fall onto my back and it closes the gap in seconds. Screaming once, faintly, I realise I am alone and it makes no difference. I watch the creature in awe as it towers over me but just beneath the top of the hedges. With a deafening roar, it raises its arm to deal the swipe that will end it all. I close my eyes and curl in on myself, not wanting to witness whatever is coming.

In the darkness, I hear a rip of flesh and another roar, this is different though, not victorious but hurt. I lift my eyes and I’m rewarded with the sight of the thing crashing to the ground behind.

As the dust settles, I see a figure behind the carcass. Covered in greens and a mask, I wouldn’t have seen him if the path wasn’t stretching behind.

He waves once, and jumps clean over the hedge to the left.

Taking a moment to shake the dizziness, I stand slowly, brush the gravel embedded in my thigh and limp forward, searching once more for the way out.

“That’s not the only one” I hear from nowhere.

“Be careful” says the voice again.

Feeling as if I had never heard someone elses voice before in my life, the familiar sound filled me with life, testing the pain with a few tentative steps, I’m ready.

And I’m getting out of here.

Gallery.

GHaving been given the wave of ‘finish up and get out’ from several security guards, Lilith started to pack her things. Sketchbooks, charcoals and research strewn everywhere in one of the public offices of her local modern art museum. Having arranged to use the space for help towards her dissertation, the museum instantly regretted the commitment it took to make her leave in the evenings as she’d refuse for as long as she could before eventually being escorted out of the premises.

Tonight was different though, instead of her usual final call and a brisk escort through the galleries and out of the back exit now that the front had been locked up for the night, she realised the lights had turned off one by one through the glass walls of the office.

Taking this as the ultimate hint, she opened the door and slinked through the first gallery, noting the newly placed yellow tape across the entrance as if to stop entry for the night-exhibitionists…not that there were any.

Music blasting through her earphones, Lilith took comfort in the familiar beats and lyrics she’d grown up with, she felt the music throughout her childhood helped her remember the experiences and, in time, draw themes and inspiration from the lessons she learnt from them.

While the song changed from one frolic down memory lane to the next, in that split second of silence she heard the distinctly alien sound of metal clanging. ‘Were the installing a new exhibition?’ She wondered to herself as she noted there were still no adequate lights lit above her head, she was wandering through the auxiliary lighting meant for alarms and fire exits.

Curiosity being her worst habit, she crept towards the noise in hope of getting a first glimpse at the new creation and maybe even a quick chat with the artist; the creator, as she preferred to call them, she felt it applied a finality to the art itself.

She rounded a corner, hand brushing against the curving white walls, triple her height to allow for the larger exhibitions, and found who she assumed to be the artist lying on the floor.

In a pool of his own blood.

Walking towards him slowly, she briefly thought this could possibly be the exhibition and the artist had walked away, clanging his materials as he left. On approaching however, she realised this was no display. He was dead.

The clanging came again, from the next space this time. Not knowing what to think she found herself dashing for the wall, not wanting to be exposed and vulnerable. It was a heavy sound, continuous the indistinguishable noise of heavy metallic objects clashing and scraping against the floor and walls of the museum. Patterns emerged quite quickly, a long scraping followed by a series of short bangs.

Not knowing what to think, and terrified, Lilith turned to proceed to the exit. Gathering her belongings in her arms, not wanting to draw any unnecessary attention to herself, she lightly padded towards the next corner, now wishing the layout of the building was more traditional compared to this twisting and turning maze of white-washed neutrality.

A security guard passed a the threshold of one of the spaces and, feeling the urge to call out, Lilith quickened her step to catch up to the familiarity of another human’s interaction, she was so confused, dizzy with what she’d just seen.

On catching up, she touched the guard’s uniform and he whipped around, not expecting to be with company. Shining a light in her eyes she recoiled from the sudden blast of light and the guard burst into the usual slurry of disapproval at her being her past closing time.

Apologising quietly, Lilith begged the guard to be quiet as she rubbed her eyes, trying frantically to rub the disorientation away before the scraping approached, as she could hear it following behind. It rounded the corner and, still unable to see, she knelt to the floor, alleviating herself from the weight of her bag just for a second to rub both eyes. She listened to the guard’s reaction as a reliable assessment of the situation.

“Who goes there? Show yourse-”

With a sharp whistle, the guard stopped, and gargled the rest of his sentence in his mouth. Regaining her eyesight she whipped her head up to see what had happened.

A large metallic barb had embedded itself in his neck, slashing it open. He fell to the floor and Lilith then turned to the thing on the other end of the corridor.

It was a large creature, an indistinguishable formation of several different metals all smelted together to form reflective surfaces to catch even the faintest of light sources and reflect them around the room. As the light ricocheted off the creation and onto the walls in varying copper and silvery shades she studied its movements, its behaviour, remaining completely still not wanting to risk drawing attention to herself.

With no obvious eyes, it must detect movement through other means, those being sound or something else, she couldn’t think. Having stared at it as she does to the other creations she found herself for once at a loss for coherent thoughts to string together.

Turning to find the exit, she took shallow solace in the dim green glow of ‘fire exit’ in the far gallery. She was almost out. Deciding to leave her bag, if she got out she could simply request it from the lost property at a later date, valuing her life over her life’s work, she turned on her feet and sprang into a sprint.

Instantly sensing the movement, she creature began its dragging clash towards the commotion, seeking to claim its third victim, assuming the creator and the guard have been its only victims that night.

Wishing the door closer, Lilith had her arms outstretched and ready to depress the bar and spring out into the world outside. She felt the stale night air rush past her face as the clashing and clanging gained on her, moving faster now with a series of appendages over her own two legs, she never considered herself a runner.

Colliding with the door and making an uproarious noise, she whipped the door open and debating whether to close it on the creature a metallic projectile slashed its way across the gallery and sunk straight into the wall behind her, embedding itself deep into the plaster.

Pulling the door closed, she smashed it against the frame, unable to be closed without assistance from the fire brigade, she took down the narrow corridor to the exit, tears stinging her face in the thought of never being able to stay past closing ever again.