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.

A New Look and Hopefully a New Attempt to Create Some Kind of Schedule Here

Lookit – pretty new theme. Nice and simple. Took a long time to choose…

In addition to this visual remodel, this blog’s content needs a bit of a remodel, as well. And, when I say remodel, I mean actually release content in a vaguely consistent and predictable manner as once used to be the case.

So, current plan:

Sundays: post a randomly generated scene, a picture in 100 words or a Balderdash (or any other format I can think of – been tossing around an idea for a while tentatively titled the other-other archetypes)

Tuesdays: post some meek attempt at poetry or a six-word story

Thursdays: post the next album piece

Any days (if at all): post random, chatty, observational posts

I don’t think I’ve explained the album pieces at all… I meant to get right into it last year with Genesis, but, as you might have seen, I only wound up writing the next one, Salt In The Wounds, the other day. Basically, I choose an album – I’ve started with Pendulum’s Immersion – really good album; you should have a listen, if you’ve not heard it. For each song on that album, in order, I shall create a short piece written while listening to that song on repeat, the word count taken from the length of the song – for example, Salt In The Wounds is six minutes 39 seconds on the album, therefore, I wrote a piece 639 words long.

I think these will have to be considered a little like art pieces… all in the name of writing practice. I’m trying to link the songs on the album with similar ideas (a bit like an ultra-short story cycle, I suppose) and by ending them the same way, however silly it may seem. I may try something different with the next album – the current plan is to write for The Jezabels’ album Prisoner next.

So let’s see if I can stick to this proposed scheduled. Most likely not… at least, not at the rate I’ve been blogging recently. I should probably try to use transport time for planning instead of just staring into space…

Salt In The Wounds (Immersion #2)

Salt In The Wounds, track 2 from Pendulum’s Immersion.

Album time, 6:39.

*

Through smoke, crashing and tripping over our hastening feet, we flee. Our filthy hands, fingers quaking, desperately clutch our gushing hurts, flesh ripped to bloody strings and raw. There is no time to bind them – even now, the booming monstrosity at our backs – far behind us; please, far behind – rattles our eardrums a third time, rallying our pursuers and startling cries of terror from our lips. We must stumble on – quickly, quickly – even as we feel our limbs weaken, step for step, drop for oozing crimson drop.

We cry out again; agony and fear are identical. In a strangled hiss, we try to hush ourselves as a shriek of hunter’s pleasure ricochets through the darkness, honing in on our position. The words die on our parched tongue. Even if we cut it out, so damaged and in such terror, we could make no less noise in this chase – bare feet slapping concrete, crashing into brick and cowering for bare moments in alleys before taking off again – than a herd of ravaged cattle eager to escape their tormentors.

We are cattle. Only, we share a further demon.

We know about the abattoir.

Gritting our teeth and forcing all that near consumes the remains of our common sense deep down our throat, we try to rally some logic as our hunters do the same with numbers on our tail. But we smother coughs, breathing hard from our race, inhaling fumes that leak from factories and sewers. We flounder, disoriented. We cannot let the poison stop us, scatter us! There is no shelter in this concrete maze! So we turn east, pulled by some magnetic force toward fresher air, for the sea.

We belt along bitumen roads, now, the claustrophobic towers and walls left behind, but the booming – it is like terror itself! Like the very darkest sins of nature and not so hideously twisted into sound – assails us again. With moans, we begin to drop to our knees, spent and helpless. We won’t all make it. Even as we begin to leave ourselves behind, we drive our feet harder, faster, into the ground. Sweat streams down our limbs, getting in our wounds. The salt is unbearable, before-throbbing damage now stinging three-fold. We dash our feet to the stones in the road just to draw away the intensity, another hurt to occupy our mind.

We see the sand dunes ahead, lit silver in the searchlights.

Fuelled more by fight-or-flight and the lingering, nauseating effect of adrenaline on our nerves and brain than our depleted lifeblood that only minutes before had carried the hormone through our system, we hurl ourselves over the dunes, tumbling through bristly scrub and falling – falling further, metres and metres – into loose sand. The impact jars us, but within moments we are up and tearing away, racing – toward what? The sand stretches left and right, before us inky ocean. We know what lies behind, closing in fast beyond the dunes.

This is not sense! Where are we to go!

We feel our hunters’ presence as a sack dropping over our head. Any moment, we are sure they will show themselves over the dunes and the sound will swell again and paralyse us as we dither, trapped, confusion reigning on the beach these short moments of pseudo-freedom.

But they cannot see us yet.

With a last push of effort, we cover the distance to sand hard-packed where foam laps. Our feet are the first victims, howling as the salt in the sand bites deep. We will ourselves silent and, trying in vain to protect our broken skin, splash into the ocean, pulling ourselves under, digging in our fingertips and clinging to the roots of weeds that hold the seabed together.

Submerged, our body screams, afire.

We barely hear our pursuers take the beach.

But the searchlights permeate the salt.

Hold…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHtUAl785cQ

*

This was Salt In The Wounds (Immersion #2). If you missed it, here’s Genesis (Immersion #1).