Day 264: A storm destroys your uncle’s shed and kills his six-year-old son. Describe the color of the sky right before the storm hits.

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Nathan,

This is the note found in the lodgings of Mr Harold Harvey. It seems perfectly normal and yet… Have a read.

Clear skies are simply a canvas awaiting dark clouds. That’s what Uncle Aloysius always said to us. He never was the same after Frederick died.

I was thirteen years old, the day the storm came. Freddie and I had been playing out on the beach, playing catch with a tennis ball. Freddie was a good kid, always scrambling to explore and to learn and living by the beach gave him everything he wanted. Every time we went to visit, he’d rush back from the beach, blue eyes glittering with a smile and whatever new treasure he’d found clasped in his hands.

His smile gleamed in the sunlight. The world got a little bit darker after the storm.

We came back in, Freddie covered in mud and scrapes from the rock pools we’d had a look at and me in my strange combination of shorts and wellingtons. We must have looked a right pair.

By this point, I was about twice the size of Freddie, all arms and legs and the beginnings of teenage angst. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be at Aloysius’ beach house, but Freddie could still pull me into being a child again. He could make anybody feel that way, like his energy was a virus that infected you and made you think like him. I loved that kid.

His mum, Auntie Suzanne, sent him out to the shed to put his clothes in the washer. I always wondered why they kept it out there, but hadn’t bothered asking before. Of course, there was never really a right time for it afterwards.

He did his best to wheedle out of it, but you can only argue with Auntie Suzanne’s stern face for about three minutes, then he stuck out his bottom lip and said “Fine.” He rushed out to the shed.

That’s when I heard the argument. Aloysius and Dad, just raised voices to start with, but it quickly devolved into shouting. I snuck through the house towards the lounge, where they had a few empty bottles kicking around.

“Your son needs an education! He needs a strategy! You can’t just abandon him to the wilds because you don’t know how to deal with him!” That’s Dad. A man who looks as though a brisk wind would send him flying away, but if you got him riled, you had to be on the lookout. He’d use words like a lumberjack used an axe; swift, effective and you’d be the one falling over at the end.

“He’s my son and I’ll do what I damn well please. You get that? Just because your boy is a waste of space.”

“Say another word about my son, you piece of shit.”

The blue sky outside was descending into a grey haze and a wind began to swirl around the house. The beams of the old cabin rattled as their argument raged on. My heart was beating as if it were trying to shatter my ribs, something I firmly believed it would accomplish if I didn’t do something. I pushed the door to the lounge open, only to have it pushed right back by a gust of wind, screeching through the house like the breath of a vengeful god. People hurled themselves from the walls to the relative safety of the floor as the grey haze outside faded into black, ominous clouds.

I looked up, directly out of the back door towards the shed. I saw Freddie curled inside, eyes wide with terror. I knew that once again, I had to do something. My heart was striving to escape now, hammering away as my breath came faster and faster. I crawled towards the door and his eyes met mine.

He nodded at me, then bolted from the door towards the house. There was a wet thud, then where Freddie had been, there was nothing but a long scrape in the ground. I closed my eyes, tears rolling uncontrollably down my face as I curled into a ball on the hardwood floor.

I don’t know how long I lay there crying, but by the time I stopped the skies had cleared again. Uncle Aloysius had found his son, down by the rock pools he’d been searching earlier that day. Or at least, he’d found what was left of him. A sign, proclaiming Freddie’s favourite beach to be the most beautiful spot on Marie Le Noon had been torn from its foundations and flown through the air like a kite.

Freddie would have gone instantly.That, and the fact that the shed had come completely apart as well, were the only small comforts I had. That freak storm, as the media called it, tore our family apart. My grades hit the floor, Aloysius and Suzanne broke up, Mum and Dad even moved to Russia. It wasn’t far enough though.

That freak storm wasn’t the only one I came across in my lifetime. They followed me, everywhere I went. Every time I got scared, or angry, or upset, the skies would darken and the storm would rise. Which always put me into a downwards spiral as I would remember what happened to Freddie and the vicious cycle would continue.

So today, I close the circle. I’m sorry, everyone. But I can’t hurt anybody else. By the time you find this, I’ll be dead. There are no storms in Heaven.

I’ll see you soon, kid.

Harold Harvey, 12th December 1990

Beside it was located a diver’s knife, a bottle of prescription painkillers and a noose, very neatly laid out on a small stool. The confusing matter is the fact that the knife was clean, the bottle still full and the noose untouched and of course the fact that there was no bloody body at the scene either. The story of Harold Harvey requires some digging. Are you up to the challenge, brother? 

Meet me at the Docker’s cafe, three o’clock on Monday. I’m sure we can come to some arrangement. 

Victor

In my head, I have this as a mystery story. A puzzle to be solved by my protagonist, Nathan. Of course, this also means I can bring in either a supernatural element by saying that Harvey’s has weather controlling abilities, or I could make him the victim of an attack by somebody else who can. It could be science, it could be magic. Either way, this is one I intend to check in on again. 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 227: Parades

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The Worthy

It’s one of my earliest memories, seeing the Parade of the Worthy. Republic Street was so crowded with all the people forcing their way to the front to watch. Dad put me up on his shoulders so that I could see them, the Worthy. They all looked so happy, cloaked in their robes with the white fur edging, each and every one of them dripping with gold and jewels.

I held that flag in my pudgy little fingers and waved it, the cheap plastic whipping from the motion. I raised my other hand and waved at one of the Worthy, my tiny arms flailing and threatening to unbalance me from my lofty perch. The Worthy responded by shoving another pastry into his grinding maw, grinning with chocolate stained teeth as his carriage pulled past us.

“See, lad! That’s what you can be. You’ve just got to work hard. Train. You can be one of the Worthy, just like them. You’ll be cared for. You’ll want for nothing.” He took me off his shoulders and held me at eye level. “You’ve just got to work hard. Let’s get home, now. Farm is calling.” He set me on the floor and held my hand in his own worker’s hand as he led me through the crush of people. He always left the parade early, but I didn’t find out why until my twelfth birthday.

That was the day I saw the second parade. The Candidates’ parade. Every eighteen year old in the town, following the Worthy and their gilt carriages, walking two by two in their grey jumpsuits. Off to walk through the black doors of the Instruction Centre and take the exam. The exam that determines how much you are and will be worth and how long the government will claim that worth.

Father was still working his worth at the age of forty. Mother was on the government panel and as such was exempt. Then there was my brother, Joseph. He died in one of the innumerable wars that plague this country after being told he was next to worthless. Three years was all he was supposed to have served. He died in two.

Now, it’s my turn. I’m lost in the sea of grey, focusing firmly on the jet-black hair of the boy in front of me. We go in, one step at a time, shuffling forwards towards the ominous doors ahead. The Worthy have gone back to the Amethyst Hall and the crowds are beginning to thin. I’m close to the end of the line, but I don’t recognise any of the people around me except Jericho. He’s in the other line, about eight people ahead, just another jumpsuit in the mob. Until he turns around, just before he enters the door.

He looks straight into my eyes, then smiles confidently. He mouths something to me, but it’s lost as the guards shove him through the door. All I caught was the first two words.

“I know…”

So, bit different. Welcome to a dystopia! I’m still working out which way I’m going to send my main character, but the opportunities are endless. I like this idea though and as such intend to work on this in the coming months. You might see this world cropping up again. 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 203: The worst thing that could happen

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I staggered into the room and started wrapping the cord around the handles. I could hear the shouting in the distance, but they were heading toward the Armoury. They thought I was heading for the weapons.

They were wrong.

I figure I’ve got about fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes until they find the tape recorder shouting messages from behind the barrels in the corridor. Maybe ten if they realised that the gun was always hitting the same spot in the wall behind them. Hopefully they’d be too busy avoiding getting shot to realise it.

Hopefully.

I looked at the machine ahead of me. All wires and lights, blinking and winking in the darkness of the room. A single screen with green letters on it, asking an immortal question.

DO YOU WANT TO GO BACK?

“Yes,” I whispered to myself. I walked up to the console and pulled the keyboard out from beneath it. Richtus had built this thing well.

He calls it RESET in his journals. Says it’s the cure. He says it can access the other routes that history could have taken, that with the right worldseed it can fix everything. It’ll stop Oscar and Discali from ever accessing SOURCE.

Or, with the wrong worldseed, it’ll lead to devastation. Nuclear war, plague, zombies. If it is possible, RESET can lead to it.

Worst case scenario, we end up in a bad future where RESET was never built. But I’ve got the worldseed. Richtus’s last page. He disguised the worldseeds well, scattered throughout all of his writings. Why did he write them all down? I don’t know. Maybe he just wanted to leave us all with anything that wasn’t this world.

I started typing, feeling the plastic yield to my touch. This keyboard had never been used before, still fresh and unworn.

DO YOU WANT TO GO BACK? 

“Under the bravado, the small boy still craves the approval of his father.” Take the first letter of the first, the second letter of the second. For common use words, use the number of letters instead. If the word ends with a vowel, reverse the sequence.

I can hear them hammering at the door now. I guess they’ve finished with my distraction. There’s a couple of gunshots, ricochets. “Even in the summer, the holly fights through.” Sequence after sequence, falling beneath my fingers. They’ve got cutters on the door now. But I’m nearly done. I can actually get this done.

DO YOU WANT TO GO BACK?

“In the end, all it comes down to is the flip of a switch.” There was a clang behind me as the door fell in. “Without another word…”

It felt like somebody punching me in the spine. I lost all feeling in my arms and legs, sprawling forwards and slumping over the keyboard. A random string of letters appeared on the screen.

WORLDSEED ACCEPTED. 

I smiled as the darkness crept in around the edges of my vision. Where I was going, I wouldn’t care. It wouldn’t exist anymore. One way or another, everything was going to change.

I started to laugh as the blood bubbled from my mouth. We were going back.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

 

Day 199: Everyone has a special talent. What’s your special skill?

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“Dani, you need to come round. Now.” I didn’t even give her time to answer before I snapped the phone shut. Yes, I have a flip phone, I am majorly uncool in that respect. Go eat a bag of… Whatever. It started ringing again, but I ignored it. Pushed my finger down onto the red phone and held it there, watching the screen fade to black. I followed suit with every other light in the house, leaving me in darkness.

Perfect.

I sat down  in the middle of the hallway, cross legged. Started watching my breathing, focusing my energy on every breath in and out, letting it fill my lungs all the way. It was something I’d learned after the third time I’d been sent to the Head’s office for fighting. They’d sent me to counselling. I mean, it’s ridiculous. I didn’t need counselling, I needed to punch David Gorman’s stupid bloody lights out, but that’s a different story.

So, I’m sat there, focusing. I can feel it then, like an itching at my fingertips. It’s as if there are spiders beneath my nails, clawing to get out. I wait until the feeling’s worked its way up my arm to my elbow, then I release it. From every fingertip, converging onto my palm, then away. May have taken out Mum’s favourite vase, but she’ll live. Especially when she sees what I can do.

Someone starts hammering at the door. “Alex! Let me in, dickhead!” That’s Dani. She’s always been one for the niceties. “I mean it! Call me saying shit like that then turning your phone off! Open this damn door!” Well, I wasn’t getting my focus back until I’d let her in. But that was why I’d called her. I had to show somebody.

“I’m coming, I’m coming!” I cracked my knuckles after I stood up, they always felt stiff after I’d been practising. I grumbled all the way down to the door. Checked the peephole, just in case, and there she is. Blonde hair, cut into a bob. Angry blue eyes and –

“I said let me in!” She slammed a fist against the peephole.

“Fine!” I opened the door and she barged through, heading straight to the kitchen. “Nice to see you too,” I mumbled.

I heard the tap running, meaning that Dani had sorted herself out a drink. Saved me a job at least. She flounced back through into the lounge and sprawled onto the sofa. “So, what’s so important?” I figured that it was easier to show than tell, so I sat cross legged on the floor. “Fantastic, I assume you’ve found religion. Is that what’s so important?”

I raised a hand to shush her, then got back to my breathing. In, out. In, out. Let the wallpaper fade into nothingness, let nothing exist but the breath. Certainly tune out whatever tripe Dani’s going on about now. Then you get the itching, the building up. This time, I let it go when it reached the third knuckle down. It had taken a lot of experimenting to get this much control. No, I’m not going to talk about those experiments just yet. You’ll have to wait for the prequel comic. I heard the smashing, then Dani’s gasp.

I grinned and opened my eyes. “That’s what’s so important. How about that?”

“You got something too?” Her eyes widened the same as mine.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 196: The road to hell paved with good intentions

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“If you go down to the woods today, take a moment to consider what happened.” The screen had turned on when I walked into the dark room, bathing everything in a sickly glow. Broken beakers lay scattered on the tiles, cracks running amongst them like rivers flowing to the sea and everywhere you looked there were shoots, the tiniest patches of green fighting their way through the grey. “My name is Doctor Jerome Flynn and I am leaving this as my last will and testament. And, I suppose, as my full and unedited confession.”

“What the hell is this?” I asked, taking a step forward towards the face on the screens. The glass crunched underfoot and I paused, casting my eyes from left to right. Just in case.

Nothing.

“You are standing in our main research facility. Officially, it was known as Section Seven, Horticulture. We always called it the Orchard. We were investigating reforestation techniques. Richards was working on a chimera of the English Oak tree with the common bindweed, trying to isolate the genetic markers for the increased growth speed of the weed, along with the hardiness of the weed.” The man on the screen smiled sadly and raised a hand to his glistening forehead, blinking his sad brown eyes against the spotlight. His face distorted as the screen erupted into a sunburst of pixels before settling back to the picture again. “Any chance we could turn the light down, Marika? I’m going blind here.”

I whirled around as I heard a noise behind me. It could have been glass shifting on the floor, or a rodent snuffling around for food. Either way, it just added to the creepiness of the whole affair. All I’d wanted to do was find out what the light was, luring me deeper into the wood. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not stupid. But I had to know.

“Thank you, Marika.” Doctor Flynn lifted a glass of water to his lips and continued. “Richards’ work was groundbreaking. The computer models located the gene within months. Then it was trial and error until we found one that took. If you look into my office, you should see subject Oscar-Tango-Six-Three-Three. A bonsai tree, as long as it’s still there. Our very first Bound Oak.” He smiles at somebody off-screen. “We threw one hell of a party that night.And the next night after we discovered the Six-Three-Three had produced saplings.” His smile faded as whatever painful reality had come forced its way into his memories. “The saplings grew quickly, grew tall and strong. We planted the first forest just outside the Orchard and it doubled in size within two months. We planted more forests, believing we could contain the growth.”

I looked out into the forest outside. “I guess you couldn’t.”

He echoed my sentiments. “I know now that we couldn’t. But that’s not where the problems ended.”

There was the noise again. Was that something breathing? Or just my blood in my ears?

“There’s a reason that nearly every society has stories about the woods. Stay safe, whoever is watching.” I watched him lift a pistol to his temple and heard a scream, then screen cut back to static and this time, it stayed that way. I reached down into my boot and wrapped my fingers around the handle of my knife. I held my breath and listened closely.

All I could hear was the thudding of my heart.

Thud.

Thud.

Thud.

“If you go down to the woods today…” I bolted. I was out of that place quicker than you could say woodland. I could hear Doctor Flynn’s recording trailing off but I wasn’t paying attention to it anymore. All I could focus on was my panic.

I didn’t stop until I’d made it all the way back home.

So, let’s go for a little more wishy washy science. I know that my idea as I’ve described it here isn’t possible, but I am curious as to if this could work in any form. What do you think is waiting in the woods? 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

 

Day 182: A translator doesn’t want to translate what he’s just been told

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‘Konurran, Shika not aluba.’ The Grenzing emissary, whose name translated roughly to Joolan Freel, spoke powerfully, his voice carrying throughout the Decision Chamber. ‘Oanoka, shup shup. Kanika!’ He drew a claw down a foreleg to reveal a piece of shedding skin, a symbol of sacrifice in Grenzing culture.

The Earth emissary, Callie O’Halloran shifted in her seat. ‘What’s he saying?’ She turned to Joe in the seat next to her and watched his lips move around the alien words. She could almost see as the information flowed around his mind and then back out of his mouth.

‘The time for peace is over. I require the brothers in arms to rise against the growing threat. Now.’ Joe North sighed. He hadn’t signed up for war declarations, he’d signed up for the schmoozing and the parties. Before yesterday, the most entertaining thing he’d had to translate was “How much Riolakka* will it take to get your earth woman into bed?” and that had been trouble enough. It had taken hours to find Senator O’Halloran again and she’d been dancing on the table with the Loputti. Damn, those Loputti bastards could drink.

The only reason he’d even taken xenolinguistics was to get a shot at a doss job and to be able to chat up girls in their native language. Alien chicks love that sort of thing.

He’d been thrilled when he’d got the translator job. Who doesn’t want to be trundling around the known galaxy with a smoking hot senator, meeting mostly cool aliens? The Europans can be a little bit standoffish, but that’s understandable considering they can only exist off Europa in their tanks. That was a language that took some learning, all dependant on the shape and size of bubbles through Convergel. Thankfully, I’ve got an ear and eye for language so picked it up in a few weeks. The enhanced lung capacity from learning to down a pint in three seconds probably helped.

A sharp elbow dug into his ribs. ‘North! I need to follow this. Get a fucking grip.’

‘Rocku, nortiliamu carn. Shoonla, britzo makiko!’ Joolan continued, sweeping his stubby forelegs around his body as his speech became more impassioned. ‘Cobbalitia Shalakan burka. Donsoota parsen. Grenzing, Loputtan, Europ. Ordan Ert.’

‘The time has come. All of us must play our part. The Shalaka have taken Gurn. Nothing else matters now. Grenzing, Loputtan, Europan. Even those from Earth.’

O’Halloran snorted. ‘What does he expect us to do, poke them with a stick? The Shalaka will eat us alive. Once he has finished his monologue, you’ll tell him that Earth will have no part in this war.’

‘But Callie. We could…’

‘We could let millions of our impressionable youngsters die for a foreign cause. I wonder where I’ve heard that before. We will not fight. We do not have the brawn or the brain at this time.’

Freel was coming to an end of his sermon. ‘Porchlu, garpin. Shalaka carnim shortuka!’ The Decision Hall erupted into applause, bubbling and the various cries and shrieks that meant bravo. Callie clapped politely, then rose from her seat and began to speak.

‘Ladies, Gentlemen, those of races where gender is neither function nor form. I would like to begin by thanking Joolan Freel. His warning has come at great cost to his people.’ She lifted a glass of water to her pink lips and took a small sip before continuing.

‘Sherken, Lotantia, shibulba shrolatta dis nekva da looni. Shebaka J’Oola N’Friel. Er ntuki shana ferto.’ North spoke in Grenzing as it had become the galactic standard. Only the Earthlings weren’t fluent.

‘I must say, in my capacity as Earth’s representative in this Decision Hall, that we will not put troops forward. Ours is a growing civilisation, that can barely fend for itself. We fight with each other, we fight against nature, we fight for survival. You cannot expect us to join in a war on the other side of the galaxy. I’m sorry, Honourable Freel, but our answer must be no.’

North looked shocked. It may be her words, but it would be his mouth they came from. This moment would be known throughout history as the day that Earth lost the war, with North as the source.

‘Shen… Calor…’ He paused, fighting for breath against the oppressive weight of the future. This was a tipping point. ‘Shen calor, canro rep Ert ara Keepo Al…’ He drew in a deep breath, then looked out into the chamber. He stood up tall, keeping Callie in the corner of his eye.

He was probably going to end up in jail for this.

‘Ert appa notika el endra toona labe nika molo.’ Earth pledges one hundred thousand warriors.

North felt the cold metal bracelets around his wrists, even as he finished speaking the final word. He smiled, straight from his eyes to the room, where every delegation was cheering.

Earth would not sit out this war.

*Riolakka is a spirit made by the Berlese. It appears that the process of putting fruit into a container, mixing it with some sugar or sugar equivalent and leaving it to ferment has spread the whole galaxy over. Who’s surprised?

Is it the words, the people, or a combination of the two that shape the future? I’m fairly sure this counts as treason, but it may have been the right thing. Will he be vilified by the people of Earth, or sanctified?

The Idiot in Tin Foil