Deign, if you will, to hear my humble mind – Sonnet #2

And now, a brief rant in a not-much-anticipated second attempt at iambic pentameter.

Deign, if you will, to hear my humble mind:

In the depths of those who look to you, sow

only that which brings light, else be enshrined

in culpability – because we know

Work. Craft wonder, limbs wing weightless on air

But mind your rule, for you are naught alone

A signal, a plea passed over; you dare

surge on? Of course: what matters but your throne?

What is broken sums beyond stars and sand

without your negligence, your apathy

Yet showered with praise and glory you stand

while we mend and shed tears of empathy

But we know – we know. And I pray you’ll rue

that it was you, it was you. It. Was. You

Here’s To Another Round of Bombarding Every Literary Agent I Have On My List Right Now

Sat up late last night double-checking cover letters, brief synopses of varying lengths, and preferred formatting of sample chapters before sending submissions of my more user-friendly novel, Missing Exhibit – the young adult/fantasy/psychological drama one as opposed to the not-so-young-adult/fantasy/maybe a little sci fi/psychological drama one, in case anyone was wondering… – into another six UK literary agencies.

Not exactly a relaxing evening, but a hopeful one.

I’m still surprised when I sit down for a spot of nervous editing (this is most of the time right now when I sit down to do anything remotely writing relating – just can’t focus on newer projects at the moment… and that’s getting kind of old) when I find most of it reads pretty well.  I like it, and enjoy reading it over. Almost a year after finishing Missing Exhibit, for the most part, I’m still really happy with it. I like to think that’s a good sign.

So I maintain hope that this novel will eventually stand out from amid its fellow slush. It only has to stand out to one person. Just one. That’ll be more than enough, for now.

I look forward to the day this unknown, but already much revered and appreciated literary agent can help my stories stand out to others, too.

Watercolour (Immersion #3)

Watercolour, track 3 from Pendulum’s Immersion.

Album time, 5:04

*

We have some difficulty with breathing.

Our bed breathes. It rises and falls as we make it, neatly tucking in sheet corners each morning as required. The fridge in the communal kitchen wheezes, droning with its aged compressor.  Centre cars gulp for air and trains snort. What gets us worst is when steaks and sausages respire, partially defrosted in the sink.

Our bag dangling on the back of a toilet door shouldn’t faze us with its inhales; we’re bobbing up and down bare-arsed where we sit, porcelain lungs beneath us.

Still, it’s a blow.

We can’t even piss in peace anymore.

Sick of this, we close our eyes and stare into mercifully still lids as we finish our business here. Minders will be in calling our name if we’re any longer. With a brisk flush and a slam of the seat, we unhook our bag and leave the stall.

The minders wave us over, and we shuffle in their direction. The gallery is awash with movement. Guides. Patrons with loud questions and secreted cameras. Security guards pacing, batons at their waists.

Statues suck in oxygen as we pass.

Pillars supporting the soaring ceiling spot us and sigh.

Gold-plated frames expand, stretching their canvasses.

The very bones of the gallery compress.

The world breathes.

We feel faint. The wall is no support, and our hand slides from it as we overbalance. The minders’ hands reach for us. We try not to cling.

It’s worse here, worse than it’s ever been. The minders notice.

But there’s more than us to mind. Their eyes soon turn elsewhere, and we’re left to find rhythm in the swell of tiles beneath us and lumber gracelessly behind.

An outburst of unhappiness occupies the minders around the corner, a massive mural their backdrop. We edge forward. The entire wall barely contains this scene of violence, encapsulating our fellows’ miseries.  Broken figures throw themselves into sea as others swarm in pursuit. We blink, squinting in cold light the hunters carry, painted so bright. If any hope for safety in the water, they have only seconds of relief.

We see then – every face is turned away. But perfectly-etched shoulders betray their breath.

Then we notice…

And we frown. We frown, perplexed, and lean in.

We aren’t mistaken. The pursued pant in fright while the frame that edges their nightmare breathes deep.

We glance to portraits and serene landscapes to our left and right.

All breathe with their frames in perfect time.

‘Please… take me out of here…’

We jolt at the choking whisper.

Every figure, arced in dives and half-submerged, goes still. This paint is the only matter in existence that doesn’t breathe.

We lean in closer and stare. Then we smell it – salt.

‘Hold…’

Near falling into the scene, we raise an unsteady hand. Cool air buffets our skin. And we see – shadows of torsos lump together on our palm, cast by the blinding searchlights beyond.

Hypnotised, we are drawn within the watercolour.

We let ourselves tip.

…But the minders catch us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tb0CwlQW0M

*

That was Watercolour (Immersion #3). If you missed it, here’s Salt In The Wounds (Immersion #2)

Yes, Toil For Flares Far – Haiku #7

Technically, this counts as Haiku #7, what with Haiku #1 plus Five Haikus in Five Minutes. This also counts as shower poetry – I believe I said something here once about good ideas and showers. Not that I’m convinced this is good, but it is, at least, an idea.

And it’s in haiku form.

*

Yes, toil for flares far

But never let stars rival

Your glistens in reach

Semiautomatic Sons

And now, a randomly generated scene…

Nouns: adjustment, son, burn, structure, brass, news, trade

Adjectives: cryptic, inflexible, limited, frequent, semiautomatic

Verbs: underscore, carry, scale

Adverb: amazingly

worn white cardboard box isolated on white background..

A harried skip to his step, commonly seen in those eager to reach a destination or keen to escape their previous one, Kwan scaled the low stairs in the lobby and jabbed the upward-pointing arrow by the lift. The doors opened moments later, though it had travelled from the thirty-second floor to reach him. This structure – this company – never boasted anything less than the best technology could produce, the very best money could buy. Generally speaking, though, ever-cryptic Benton & Brown had a hand in the production of this very best of technology;  money had little to do with its presence here. And money, Kwan fathomed, had become an issue after their most controversial brainchild had been taken off the shelves a year ago. They were staking an awful lot on this new version.

On level twenty-three, Kwan was expected. Still, Song-Hee looked surprised to see him, shaking his hand and her head simultaneously as security and shop staff looked on.

‘You’ve got some brass, working your way through that crowd,’ she said. ‘I was sure, after one look at the fuss down there, you would reconsider my offer to discuss your purchase electronically and have your order couriered straight to you.’

Her eyes flicker to the large windows. At eye-level was a stunning vision of the city in the glow of the late afternoon as it faded. Straight down, Kwan knew the protesters remained with their banners and megaphones, rights activists mingling with bigots and dissatisfied customers, these starkly different minds united only by their abhorrence of Benton & Brown. Amazingly, he’d made it through the front doors unscathed as police officers held off the crush of angry bodies.

‘If you’ll follow me, sir, we can talk about your order.’

Song-Hee invited Kwan into her office. Following the Benton & Brown representative, Kwan bypassed shelves stocked with large, glossy boxes of replacement parts and examples of the new version standing freely at strategic intervals about the shop, their eyes down, un-activated and powerless.

‘Please sit down.’

Kwan sat in the offered plush lounge chair across from Song-Hee’s clinically-clean desk.

‘Our sincerest apologies again for what became of Jessie.’

‘It wasn’t your fault,’ Kwan waved a hand in what he knew was a dismissive fashion. ‘You didn’t lead that mob to my door.’

‘It is remarkable you are unhurt.’

‘Well,’ Kwan said, indicating a cut by his lip, ‘mostly unhurt.’

He winced, jaw still aching. Se-Jin could really land a punch, and Miller had told him to make it look like it hurt.

‘We know it must be hard for you, but we can’t express how pleased we are that you wish to purchase a new version. We’re very excited about our first line – Semiautomatic Sons. They’re not boys, though, of course – gender neutral, all of them. We learnt from that mistake… I have to ask, though, sir,’ Song-Hee said, looking uncomfortable, ‘you will be taking every precautions to keep it safe? We’ve made an adjustment so pain sensors can be deactivated, but that does hinder its learning process. Our products require protection from certain… well, you’ve experienced that unpleasantness yourself.’

He hadn’t. But Kwan had seen the news. The predecessors to Semiautomatic Sons were too human, was the most common gripe. He’d seen more in the streets – an abandoned child-version wearing out, synthetic skin dotted with burns, denied the adolescent upgrades it needed. Owners – parents – trading to other parents. Parents trading to labs. Trades from labs to criminal syndicates. The city had become very unsafe for synthetic persons from the day they were released.

‘Of course I will do everything in my power to protect it – it will be my child, after all.’

‘Well, all of your fresh screenings have checked out,’ Song-Hee said, though she still pursed her lips uncertainly.

‘I have bought a new apartment since the attack,’ Kwan said, producing details on his tablet and sending them to hers. Assured that no unwelcome, frequent visitors with violence on their mind would be able to find him or his Semiautomatic Son for some time, Song-Hee immediately relaxed.

‘Before we finalise the purchase, I just want to double-check my research,’ Kwan said once Song-Hee had updated his customer profile. She nodded, clasping her hands on her desk and smiling professionally at him. Kwan cleared his throat, recalling the questions he’d been instructed to ask.

‘How exactly does the new version differ from the originals?’

‘It’s all in the name, sir,’ Song-Hee said fervently, leaning forward in well-contained pleasure and excitement at the advances they’d made to synthetic persons since the original release. ‘Semiautomatic Sons. They’re still intelligent, learning products; they’ll think as well as the originals, as well as you and me – better, if you let them. But they’re limited.’

‘How so?’ Kwan asked, surreptitiously confirming his tablet recorded every word.

‘They are now subject to inflexible rules that govern their learning, actions and beliefs, rules that can be set and adjusted as you see fit.’

‘Such as?’

‘I’m sorry for the simple example,’ Song-Hee smiled, well-prepared, ‘but say you had a room in your apartment you didn’t wish your Semiautomatic Son to enter. You can instruct it not to do so, and it never will. It will never question you about it, never wonder about it – never even think of disobeying to satisfy its curiosity. Put simply, such a rule would wipe that room as a subject it is able to learn about.’

‘So, basically, I can make any rule that would keep it from questioning anything I liked?’

‘Yes. Of course, many of the original versions were very obedient, compliant – often it depended on the buyer’s parenting skills.’

‘Of course,’ Kwan nodded, thinking how Miller would laugh if he heard. For him, Jessie had been anything but compliant.

‘But this just ensures their best behaviour. Honestly, sir,’ Song-Hee confided in him, ‘the main reason we’ve limited our Semiautomatic Sons is to keep the protesters happy.’

‘Which ones?’ Kwan asked, smiling crookedly.

‘The ones who are frightened of them,’ Song-Hee sighed, running a hand through her perfectly-combed hair in general frustration. ‘Scared they’re too smart, convinced they’ll take over the city… this should calm them down for a while. But those protesting poor treatment of synthetic persons… this will only rile them up. We’ve as good as taken their freedom to learn, their free will. But there’s fewer activists to worry about,’ Song-Hee shrugged unhappily. Clearly, this seller of synthetic persons sided with the activists. Just as clearly, despite her eager investment in their development, Song-Hee was in the wrong line of business.

‘Of course, these limitations aren’t the only thing that’s new.’

Song-Hee moved on to underscore more new features, Kwan now barely listening. He already owned the information he’d been sent for. Now he just needed the box with the Synthetic Son inside.

‘In response to public surveys, we’ve toned down the human appearance – not by much. Focus groups have said they look partway between dolls and humans, now, and responded very positively to their new appearance. We’ve placed controls where they can be seen, as well – mostly on the wrist and arms – and adjusted their joints so they can’t move as smoothly.’

‘Little things keep the bigots quiet,’ Kwan said, nodding distantly. ‘To remind everyone they’re just machines.’

Song-Hee blinked.

‘They’re hardly just machines, sir…’

‘And they’re gender neutral now, you said?’

‘Yes, sir. Well, genderless would be a more appropriate term.’

Kwan paid with credit – he would be given the equivalent in cash over the next few weeks – and an employee emerged from a storeroom with an enormous box.

‘Here you are, sir. It’s set with the name Jordan – that was in your customer profile as your next choice after Jessie. We didn’t think you’d want to re-use that name so soon after…’

‘Jordan’s a lovely name.’

‘Make sure to keep your receipt for discounts when it’s time to upgrade to older child-versions and adolescent stages.’

After reassuring Song-Hee, again gone anxious, that his car had taken a lift up to the top level and he was meeting his driver there, Kwan wheeled the box with the new Semiautomatic Son out of Benton & Brown’s synthetic person store.

Miller’s new Semiautomatic Son.

Jordan.

Miller would be glad Se-Jin had convinced him to keep every part after scrapping Jessie. Once he’d heard of the new version’s limiting factors, he’d been quick to take her apart. And there was at least one new feature Miller wouldn’t be so happy about. Kwan would need to replace a few parts before he activated Jordan.