Tag Archives: sci-fi

The Man Who Dissected Time

Another off-the-cuff idea for something that could go further… or not.

 

I’m a lanky, bristle-haired daeman from New Africa, and I made a career of dissecting time. It started, as did many things of this nature, with drugs.

In the early days of the Second Enlightenment (the world had perilously skimmed a Second Dark Age, like a nosediving plane pulling up from the sea at the last second, its wings dripping with dumbfuckery), as the leading powers shifted gradually into technocracies (New Africa among them), the political ballast of drug repression thinned, and science began to take as much of as an interest in psychedelic brain expanders as they had in the hippie culture of the 1960s, and then doubly and triply so.

Scientists took inspiration from the hallucinogenic and dissassociative drugs of old, and went into overdrive creating new, synthetic ones. After 83,721 (at least, those were the ones listed publicly) synthetic creations of mind-altering substances, they finally reached a zenith. It was called LDX43iv, although was quickly referred to by all and sundry as ‘Slug’. The adopted name was an in-joke; far from making one’s mind slow, it rocketed it up to unprecedented speeds. To be ‘slugged out’ might hold some truth physically, but it meant the exact opposite mentally. Creative and extremely left-field and out-of-box thinking was enhanced beyond what were initially perceived to be rational levels, at the expense of more straightforward tasks like figuring out how to eat.

I remember the first time I tried Slug. The new textures, new colours, new wavelengths. The giraffes made from felt, in the shape of that old-fashioned written style of the number four. The terrible genius of it all. My mind had raced so goddamn fast I thought I was going to be sick from the sheer mental strain. It was like drinking too much, lolling back in the chair and feeling that void pulling you down, willing you to unconsciousness; but you resist, because it’s scary, and because you know, you just know, that you’ll start vomiting uncontrollably.

It was like that, but with the mind.

The great thing about Slug – once you’d locked it down, and adapted to its speed – was how much your mind opened. For the first time I – and countless others – had viewed their own mind, that is, understood it on a quasi-physical level, an actual perceived dimension. Three dimensions, to be exact. Your thoughts existed not in 2D but across a space stretched without horizon in three absolute directions. The Z axis in particular boggled the inexperienced mind by allowing you, with eyes closed, to go backwards through your own head. The mind-expanse existed where my head was, but without barriers; you simply kept on going, as though your inner eye was also legs and you could walk it or fly it at undefinable speeds.

An increasing number of scientists involved in this field began to take Slug, at first using it to inform their own work, and better understand their experiments on others, but eventually because, for the inquiring mind, there was no way back. Slug opened up scientific possibilities previously thought only theoretical, and delivered new theoretical ideas where previously nothing existed, bar perhaps mad ravings. Scientists also took Slug to understand other scientists whose otherwise unintelligible, yet ground-breaking work had been scribbled whilst on Slug.

As the field continued to expand its sphere of influence, scientists took more and more Slug, for wilder and wilder results. It was still by-and-large in-house at this stage, not technically available to the public (although it was starting to make a dent in the black market). Health consultants were brought in by concerned overseers, and they determined – shocked by the state of some of the scientists, who had been living on high doses of Slug non-stop for months and appeared to be in advanced stages of delirium – that regular ‘complete breaks’ from the drug were now mandatory.

This did not go well. At first, in a case of classic incompetence of bureaucracy, the first scientists were forced to quit cold-turkey. When the last vestiges of the drug wore off, they slipped quietly into something resembling, though not actually, comas.

After that, the weaning-off approach was tried, steadily lowering the dosage until it was negligible. This worked better, although that wasn’t saying much. At best, the scientists became profoundly bored, listless and depressed, showing no motivation or interest towards anything, especially anything based in mundane reality. Their minds, though operating at the same speed as pre-Slug, now felt to them interminably slow and dull beyond belief.

At worst, the scientists lost so much motivation and spark that they had to be cared for 24/7. They had to be helped to eat, bathe, go to the toilet, and so forth. They displayed zero energy or affection for anything around them, existing in a total stupor. They could not even summon the mental will to kill themselves, as was briefly a concern. It wasn’t anything physical, you understand, rather it was a sort of extreme psychological deprivation. The awesome majesty of the universe they had come to understand, and the near-divine sensation of their own minds working, creating, inventing, sorting, imagining at a pace once unimaginable – I’m talking at least several fantastic ideas a second, every second – was now robbed from them, leaving them with a comparable wasteland of sensation in return.

At some point, some of the scientists got together and wrote to be reinstated with the drug permanently, and the new ruling to be stricken. The mental effort to create this petition-of-sorts must have been immense for them, and no doubt they had help from concerned colleagues who either never touched the stuff or only took it sparingly, so as to stay ‘in the loop’ with the cutting edges of scientific theory.

Thankfully, it worked, and the mandatory breaks were removed, it being finally accepted by medical professionals that being off the drugs was more harmful than being on them. If not actually physically harmful, the drug’s absence nonetheless made complete wastes of space of great thinkers. Whether they were on or off the drug, they were no longer fit for regular human society, so society might as well at least let them trip, was the general consensus (although probably not phrased as such).

There was a new ruling, or should I say guideline, that from now on no more academics were to take significant quantities of Slug, for fear of its pressing psychological demands. However, nobody ever bothered to define ‘significant quantities’ (one wonders if those drafting this ruling were partaking in Slug themselves), and so the ruling was at first lax, and then essentially forgotten.

After all, by this point it was hopeless to restrict access to the drug; Slug had now blossomed out of the black market and made its way into the wider public sphere, where it caused as much joy and innovation as it did chaos. Thankfully, the consistently high price of the drug stopped too much regular-use apart from by the rich (who were layabouts anyway and hardly necessary to the common production required to turn society’s gears), and after a troubling splurge, where there were many heavy-handed but ultimately meaningless talks about ‘what to do’, things settled down, and while it remained the psychedelic drug of choice, it dipped far below worldly levels of alcohol and caffeine consumption among the working class.

It also helped that a lot of people just simply couldn’t take it. Or didn’t want to. It boosted the imagination, you see, boosted it beyond the recognisable. Those with little to no imagination saw little interest in the drug; it merely confused the shit out of them. They were much happier with a beer.

Where am I going with this? you ask. How does Slug apply to me? Well, eventually, thanks to many months-long explorations of the deepest mindscape, and new spatial conceptions of reality, we finally unlocked the secrets of the fourth dimension: time. Those taking the highest doses began to break its esoteric workings apart; they passed the secrets to progressively lower-dosed levels of others, until it could go no further without sinking into total non-comprehension. Even now, so many years after those initial manic discoveries (which first took root in New Africa, I’m proud to say), few people in this world understand the mechanics. Even I, whose very job it is to dissect time, barely understands it, and I can hardly be expected to explain it to a thoroughly sober individual like yourself.

So, yes. The discoveries became actionable, and the brightest – and most fucked up – minds of our generation learnt (through concepts once laughably insane, and then theoretical bizzaros, and then veritable eurekas) how to literally make time, how to divide it, how to mathematically add and subtract it, shorten it or lengthen it, alter its intrinsic properties, shape it, cast it in a bubble, grind it into pieces and feed it to things.

Naturally time became a commodity, in the very real sense. You could buy and sell it. And people did, in droves. And it wasn’t cheap.

For single-use it usually comes in capsules; some you press a button to activate, some you break in the middle like glowsticks, some you just throw at something. A bubble forms – a bubble of time. Things can slow down or speed up within this bubble.

It was an oddity at first, something exciting and silly and novel. Little things, at first. Slow down the rate at which your pizza cools (at the expense of it taking longer to reach your mouth), or get more sleep (it was arguable if you actually were getting more, of it was just psychological), or play a trick on someone: a popular, cheap and harmless early one was to cast it on a flicked-on kettle, so the old adage of a watched pot never boils became true.

Then there was “speeding up” ordinary tasks (i.e. making them take less time), like vacuuming the house, although then again we already had robots for that kind of thing and it wasn’t worth the price to attach a time-tube to free labour.

Of course, small bubbles soon weren’t enough. I blame business folk for that. The bubbles became bigger (speed limits had to be redefined after people started attaching time-tubes to their car so they could beat – or outright ignore – the traffic), they took on different shapes, you could have them run only on one or two axis, you could make time go sideways (don’t ask), you could change clocks with them (everybody’s time-tubed and synchronised up to the national Timegrid, except for when it was hacked, which caused a full day of problems), you could manipulate the production of goods, shorten essential tasks, you could use them on robots, on people. . .

It was when people started straying perilously close to paradoxes (such as Amazon, eager for best-delivery-service-in-the-world-status, began delivering parcels before they had technically been ordered), that governments were forced to take some control. This is why the international governmental watchdog and action force TimeGuard exist. To stop people doing dumb shit just because they can.

They could have tried to stamp out Time Co. entirely, but the operative word there is tried, for they’d have failed pretty spectacularly if they had. Time made up more of our respective economies now than it ever had before it had been bottled up and merchandised. Just about every powerful hand was greased by Time Co. and its bought-out partner Slug4U, and the benefits from both of these things were just too great, both in personal fortunes and the general advancement of humanity (working class excepted, naturally).

Time Co. recently bought out TimeGuard, anyway, so that’s that.

Some of the world’s lesser powers and single-states I think were doing okay without it, or with minimal use; they’d observed its effects on us first, and so had strapped in a bunch of new, hard-and-fast laws ready to receive it. The big guns, however, especially New Africa, were in too deep to pull out.

I don’t want them to rub that shit out, anyway. Not yet, at least. Not before all is broken and irreparable. My job depends on it. I’m rare, like a precious bird the world can’t do without. I’m the one who cuts the lines of time. I’m the product man. But I’m more than that, I’m more than just a glorified dealer. I take advantage of the opportunities presented to me. I cut them open and I take my peek.

I might not know exactly how time works, but I know more about what’s inside it every day. In a way, I’m a scientist myself.

 

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All stories free for 3 days! Adult horror, fantasy, dystopian

In advance of WULF imminently becoming an ebook to buy (just waiting on the cover), for 3 days (starting on 13/12/2016) all of my previously published work is free! Click the pictures of the covers below to be taken to the Amazon page to check them out and read samples.

This includes:

Born to be Weird

 

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A short collection of weird, twisted stories, featuring the gothic science story The School of Necromancy (like Harry Potter meets Frankenstein and Lovecraft!) and the very bloody horror The Gauntlet of Gore, which is like nothing else.

Included are the short stories (also available separately):

The School of Necromancy – Deep below the city of York, below the sewers, below the catacombs, lies the School. It is here, if you are privileged to be selected, that you can study the art of raising the dead.

Keep it Clean – Have you ever been swallowed by a public toilet? No? This man has. A truly grotesque and odious tale.

There’s Only One King – Elvis Shadow walks the world, caught between this life and the next. A world containing other half-creatures, other myths and legends.

The Half-School – A dream-like account of a return to an old school.

The Gauntlet of Gore – “When playing the Gauntlet, there are two options. Either you win, or the whole team dies.
Either you die, or you see every other opposing team member blown to bits. There are no corpses, only giblets.”

January 5th – “It was January the 5th, and everywhere things were dead or dying.”

Faces in the Dark

 

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A short collection of strange, paranoid horror stories. Featuring the novella The Violet Dark – a hallucinogenic road horror. Read this toxic lovesong to darkness itself, and see what is meant by ‘a beautiful nightmare’.

Also included are the short stories (also available separately):

Her Parents’ Masks: She has never seen her parents’ real faces. They have worn terrifying buffalo masks from the moment she was born . . .

The Watcher – The air is black, and I do not sleep. The hours tick by. I do not sleep because someone is watching me.

Anamia – Assorted entries from the Anamia Diary, found among possesions. Care is advised before reading, especially for those who have or have had an eating disorder.

The Gremlins – Humanity’s days on this earth are numbered. How do you fight an enemy too small to see?

Dead Streets – A sad and haunted tale.

Moral Zero

 

Moral Zero cover

This is rock n roll writing. Its energy reminds me of early Amis, its articulation reminiscent of a Tarantino screenplay… Brilliantly sleazy, scum and filth visibly oozes from between the words on the page. Each paragraph leaves you breathless, each moving with such runaway-train speed you almost expect one to crash into the next. And it’s very funny.” – Paul Davenport, author of Not Like The Other Boys

I read this sitting next to my wife and after the first three paragraphs I said, ‘This guy can write’… In a word, this is uncompromising, brutal and pulls no punches.” – Joe Carter, author of The Corruption of Michael Blake

The voyeur. The pervert. The sadist. Three tormented souls in the grotesquely twisted city of Rule treat morality like a plaything in this dystopian thriller.
The voyeur: Knowledge is lust.
The pervert: The fantasy is everything.
The sadist: The answer to all things lies in death.

Mr White. Kidd Red. Johnny Black. Three deviants in a violent, sickly dystopia where completely opposing laws and moral codes are just a short walk away. Guided by a corrupt sense of moral subjectivism, they form an uneasy friendship. Each tormented by his own grotesque existence. But the greatest danger is making sure they don’t lose track of what is real…

Enter the city of Rule and the world of the moral zeroes.

 

You can also find the individual short stories, also free for 3 days,  if you browse my Amazon author page.

Moral Zero extract #4

Moral Zero is a dystopian thriller with post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, existential and horror themes. Contains visceral and potentially disturbing sexuality and violence and is not for everyone, certainly not the faint of heart and stomach.

It is currently self-published as an ebook and can be found on Amazon for Kindle here.

Disclaimer: The lack of speech marks and other idiosyncrasies are deliberate.

Here is another extract from it.

 

THE BLACK DREAM

 

Smoke and darkness. Little lights like glowing insects popped into existence and he saw that they were beetles, their carapaces embedded in the walls and their antennae feeling out to brush against him like the hairs of a carpet. They were alive. The feelers tickled his skin as if judging his merit.

It was a tunnel and he moved down it, moving like a phantom, something not really there, perhaps a hallucination or a memory. There was dark at the end of the tunnel and it was this that he was shifting towards. It was this where the smoke was coming from. It billowed like a plume, caught up in the dull beetle light and shining in patches, coming reflective in wisps – and then just a thick, lifeless fog. He could feel the hissing from the end of the tunnel and yet he could not hear it. The tunnel seemed without air and he was not breathing and the smoke as it rolled and writhed seemed at moments as though some creature winding out the netherworlds, and then other moments was a mirror to him, a mirror almost fully gaps and broken shards and the spider-thin fingers of smoke reflected his eyes and nothing more and at one instance a thousand eyes stared at him and then it was just smoke.

He reached the end. The vacuum trembled with the hissing and still all was silent and now he was in darkness.

There was a stretch of time alien and unknowable as he shifted and hovered and drifted as though smoke himself. He felt pulled back and forth as though on currents not his own. His legs remained useless and dangling and his body was pained by the pressures of larger forces upon it. He wanted to speak, to say that he was under his control and his alone, but that which controlled him would not permit this and his mouth stayed shut and sewn.

After the alien time and alien movement there was a flicker of light and he fell to the floor. His legs buckled and jarred and he had to recall the methods of their use. The flicker was growing and the first sound came, that of sizzling meat.

His eyes blinked and there was fire all around him and he was choking. But not from the smoke, which infested him as though part of his being. He choked at the sight of the lumps of meat in the fire, sizzling away, and then great sobs found their way through him and his body racked and heaved and he vomited and drooled and trembled impotently as the flesh bubbled and he traced the contours of the body parts with his fingers as if sketching in the air. The noises of the cooking and blistering meat were now accompanied by screams, even though there was nothing alive to make them and the screams were more like a chorus of echoes.

The stitching around his mouth was gone and he whimpered like a pup and was on all fours as he put his hands over his ears but the screams of the burning woman were still there, now louder and fierce as though the desperation to be saved had reached its point of crescendo and yet any hope of salvation was a lifetime ago and all that resounded within his head was a spirit, accusatory in his not being there and shrill in her anguish.

I couldn’t stop them, he said, all cracked and pathetic like a broken thing. The fires burned brighter and the smoke clogged and almost mercifully began to blind him from the detail.

She wailed as though a banshee and his tears fell so strong that they seemed that they could hold back the fires, and if they did it was only for him, or perhaps the fire just refused itself to touch him, but no amount of tears or buckets or oceans of water could quell its hold on her body.

He fell to the ground and curled up, twisted and unformed, more corpse than babe, some thing almost all dead inside, and even his raging hatred of mankind for its evil deed was at the moment stoppered and empty, ready to fill back up to overflowing whenever some idea of life returned to his body and mind, whatever its guise and whatever black road such an idea might lead him down.

 

Moral Zero cover

Writing update

It’s been a while since my last post, and for that I am sorry. Every revolution on the great ferris wheel of life the doors open – some qualities are gained and some qualities escape me. Qualities like discipline, optimism, motivation etc.

But I’m hardly alone in that.

Perhaps I should give myself space to write about other things, or make shorter posts, so this site keeps on going. I’ve been told a blog should at the least put out something once a week, that two a week is better, and that for some blogs it should be every day (which seems like overkill to me, but no doubt it works). I’ve always preferred quality over quantity, but to keep a blog’s numbers growing perhaps means I should be both more productive (I should always be more productive than I am) and easier on myself with what I put down.

Anyway, there’s more reasons than the unpredictable ferris wheel as to the slow spin of my writing engine. I’m writing a novel again – my first since Moral Zero. Or at least I hope to write it.  That makes it a much bigger – and much more daunting task than writing short stories, or even my novella The Violet Dark. The Violet Dark was supposed to be a novel – until I suddenly found I’d already finished it.

My troubled levels of determination and motivation, discipline and self-structuring will have to really start working out , what with a new (and ambitious) novel to compose, to arrange, to finish.

I also hope for it to be the first in a series. The title, possibly working title, for this first book (my reach exceeds my grasp!) is The Wulf and the Tiger. I don’t really know what it is at the moment; I have ideas, big ideas, but a lot of them are a bit ramshackle, and I don’t have any kind of middle for the book – what takes A to B? I’m not even sure what genre it is – it already seems like it could blend fantasy, high-concept sci-fi, western, horror and even comedy. Hopefully it’ll take on its own form as I write and I’ll understand more what I’ve got as I write it.

It is very early days. Nevertheless, stay tuned for future extracts, and I’ll see how high I can pull my socks up and for how long.

 

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Moral Zero extract #3

Moral Zero is a dystopian thriller with post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, existential and horror themes. Contains visceral and potentially disturbing sexuality and violence and is not for everyone, certainly not the faint of heart and stomach.

It is currently self-published as an ebook and can be found on Amazon for Kindle here.

Disclaimer: The lack of speech marks and other idiosyncrasies are deliberate.

Here is another extract from it.

 

Unidentifiable insects roamed the walls with sneering abandon. This place was theirs first and would be theirs still after the humans and semi-humans and all their creations were long dead. Even the moments when you couldn’t see them you could hear them, tickling the inside of the walls, and in the silent seconds each of their tiny legs resounded like clacking boots.

The last attempt to paint the place must have been in some previous age of humanity, when humans cavorted naked and whooping as nought but shaved apes. As if we had only regressed since then, evidenced in this maggot’s palace. The water ran, just about, and the plumbing worked on occasion, but any upkeep and maintenance more than that was the stuff of fancy. Was the place ever liveable? Perhaps in that previous age. Before whoever owned the place had turned their attention to things of greater import, such as dealing, gambling, prostitution and snuff rackets.

The place was a front, that was clear. But Mr White kept his head down and his eyes blinkered and he made sure he knew nothing. They walked to their room on the ground floor, and any of the rotting wooden doors left open slammed shut as others heard their approach. Red narrowed his brow as they passed one, and evidently he heard something salacious for he smirked and shook his head. Mr White was not listening. He just wanted to sleep.

They entered the room and were surprised to find it no worse than the hotel in District Five. Sure, the curtains were rags that had at no point ever been actual curtains except when defined by their use. Sure, the bed was grubby as muck and painted in a thousand stains, not just the sheets but soaked through into the broken-springed mattress, all those essences of soul and sickness that leaked down into the barrel of the world. But it was a place to sleep, and it was dirt cheap, and that had suited Red, at least, fine.

Mr White looked around the small room, as if expecting something tucked away, as if the room could hold big secrets in its corners. He put his hands on his hips. There’s only one bed. I thought there’d be two.

Shotgun the bed.

What.

You can take the floor. Here man, take the second pillow and the extra sheet.

How thoughtful.

No worries. I’m goin sleep now. You alright?

Yes. Okay.

Guess what we’re doin tomorrow?

 

BAR

 

As soon as they entered the bar Mr White knew something was different. The lighting was the same, and yet the room appeared darker, shrouded and close. It seemed as though the space within was trying to escape the walls, push away from claustrophobia or some dark energy, as though something within was a force without reckoning, something foreboding and fearful that all other matter and empty space shifted imperceptibly away from. The walls showed strain, buckling towards another dimension.

The whole area was a bubble and it swallowed them up. Inside even the air felt sharper, daggered and skeletal. Air colourless as always and yet inexplicably blacker, swaying with dust and decay and creaking soundlessly. It made its place there not as a giver of life but as though it were a saw upon the human soul. The soft lights, still and yet aching under invisible duress, cast shadows upon the wall so dark as to be empty forms in the universe, empty souls and holes in the world. Looking and losing oneself in those small oblivions turned the inconsequential animate and malicious, lengthening such casts to gangling monsters and cage bars.

The bar smelled of whiskey and smoke and death. This was not intangible, a phantasm of the world under the scope of the mind. This was something real to them and they breathed it in as one might breathe in anything that was there.

They found themselves moving towards the epicentre, and that which pushed all around it pulled them in as though they were at the end of a rope.

Rum and mixer. Red was leaning over the bar. Yeah, anythin. No, that orange one. With the pirate. Yeah. No ice. Cool.

Mr White stood by him and shivered though it was not cold. He turned to the man next to him.

Johnny Black’s face was not as conventionally handsome as Red’s, and certainly possessing none of that effeminate prettiness, none of the cleanness or smoothness, the jovial cheek. His face was hard and weathered, as if dashed by sandstorms. His nose was lean and pointed like a weapon. His jaw was tough and grizzled and leant his features a grim mood, as though the grit of it ground his teeth from a life of too much death. His hair and eyebrows were black as the night and his eyes were pits of surging darkness. His was a face of authority and command, of beckoning attraction and obsession. From the feel of it all, from how weak and silly you felt in comparison.

He was sitting at the bar smoking and he turned to look at his witness and Mr White shared a gaze that locked his limbs. It went right to his gut and his heart and the soul of his groin tore like paper.

Um. My name’s Mr White, Mr White said. He was stiff and self-conscious of trying to act normal. Self-conscious of sweating. He curled his toes tight.

You got a first name? The man’s voice was hewn and leathered and edged in Death’s whisper.

Mr White hesitated. We . . . don’t need first names.

Fuck that. The man held out his hand, hot and rough. The name’s Johnny Black.

Kidd Red pushed in front of them, holding his drink sloshing the sides of the glass, and the man whipped his hand back, sheathing the thumb into his belt.

I heard of you.

Well. Ain’t that something.

You murdered three people out in Seven. We were there and I was talkin to some folks and your name kept comin up. They said the cops were raidin places lookin for you.

Wowee, Johnny Black said blankly, his voice low and guttering. Wasn’t me. I distinctly remember not being there. I was out in Nine, killing six. He smiled, and his eyes burned, and he put that fat black cigar of his back twixt his white lion teeth.

You’re joking, right? Mr White said.

Now why would you ask a question like that? His deep southern accent was almost well-spoken beneath the cracks, as though he could belong both at a dinner party and on a ranch. He spoke like a hard-living man well-read.

Johnny Black puffed on his cigar, and crackling desert smoke broiled out in front of them, making Mr White cough. Johnny twisted on his barstool and beckoned the bar girl over.

Three whiskeys. The one with the holocaust on the bottle.

She swamped and fired the little glasses so the liquid was hot on top like bubbling blood. She banged them down in front of the three of them and each one sounded like a gunshot.

He laid out a note on the bar top without looking, wrapped around a knife. His eyes were intent on the floorboards.

 

Moral Zero cover

Moral Zero extract #2

Moral Zero is a dystopian thriller with post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, existential and horror themes. Contains visceral and potentially disturbing sexuality and violence and is not for everyone, certainly not the faint of heart and stomach.

It is currently self-published as an ebook and can be found on Amazon for Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Zero-Set-Sytes-ebook/dp/B00LDWTQC2/ 

Disclaimer: The lack of speech marks and other idiosyncrasies are deliberate.

Here is another extract from it.

 

The streets slid on all sides as if they were on rails. Theatre backdrops turned on some hidden winch, a scenery on repeat, re-using buildings, trash, people.

They passed little cracked bulbs nestled in grating coming out brick walls with the bricks crumbling and broken. Some buildings looked as if they had suffered some air raid or street bombing and if anything they passed looked repaired it was work without effort or hope, as if the builders could not summon any care for anything in these streets. Everything was covered in graffiti. Most of it was people just making their mark, leaving a name and a guess at a date for who knew what day was what in Rule. Much of the graffiti was obscene and sordid and some of it was anti-authority and some of it was dark and cruel.

They passed steel bins left empty while rubbish and refuse of every kind was scattered everywhere, as if the bins themselves signalled some command to order that the people shunned. They passed the homeless or what seemed to be the homeless, though in this city they could be anybody. They sat or lay forlorn in clothes or bundled rags or naked and grimy. Some shivered and some sweated and many writhed on drugs or swayed on drink as if conducting some voodoo incantation to rid the street of its evils. Some of those sat were junkies and one or two were well-clothed and clean-shaven and this did not seem to matter. Some begged and were ignored, some didn’t beg and were ignored. By all except pushers and pimps, thieves and worse. Mr White saw them sidle up and sit down as if friends, to young women and men, to kids, to those well-dressed and those naked, to any and all, for even the ugly and old could be exploited, and perhaps in their desperation they were perfect for it. Mr White awkwardly gave a man with his hands out a few coins, and received a strange look from Red. The man looked at the coins in his hand as if they were foreign to him. He bit into one with what was left of his teeth and a tooth broke and his mouth bled over the coins. Another man came out of the shadows and they saw the glint of a blade and they left quickly while he kneeled down and close to the broke-tooth man.

Mr White followed Red close as he half-strut his stride and both their faces glowed in the light of the neon signs that hung crackling from anywhere they could be seen. Their faces were ultramarine in the hazy light of a peepshow theatre, and scarlet and bloody in the outside embrace of a porn shop. Their features flicked green with envy and yellow with sickness and every colour of the rainbow in a dozen different tints and bleeds. They passed drug dens and brothels and gun-shops and run-down emporiums selling things behind fortified counters to any customer with the money and neither would ask questions nor demand answers. They passed a bright pink lit window and above it was a pink sign of a pizza with red neon meatballs. They entered and bought pizza for that was all the food there was and it came cold and crusty and the meat on it was nothing they could recognise. Red bought them both some kind of liqueur which he glugged and Mr White sipped slowly. Red told Mr White not to make any eye contact with any of the other patrons of the takeaway, to not even look at them, and Mr White replied that he would not even consider it.

They left and continued on to the border between District Seven and Ten. Only once did they pass a cop and it did not harass them nor harass anybody else. They could not see its face hidden as it was behind its helmet but its manner of walking and how it stayed in the light and how its head moved from side to side but too quick to examine anything gave the impression of nervousness, as if it knew its continued solitary existence in these streets had even more tentative a future than those prostitutes and homeless addicts. They did see a number of drones, and heard even more, to the point that the buzzing cat-purrs that crept up on them and then past or were hidden behind walls or flying above them along rooftops or down in the sewers beneath their feet became no more an event than their own breathing.

Nearly there hombre, said Red, as they passed though the darkness under a small dilapidated bridge that leaked some dark fluid from its bones. Mr White thought a few drops hit his shoes but he did not stop to check. The lights were less now and as he flicked his eyes quickly at the people in the street they seemed full of cruelty. He did not dare look at their faces and this gave them an absence of humanity, if there was even any there. He saw Red look at some of the bodies of the girls but he was looking less and less and whether this was due to a dropping quality or apprehension or weariness on Red’s part was unknown. Mr White saw a woman in leather straps and netting and something that looked like barbed wire around her crotch lean out of a doorway at their approach. She had a huge exposed cleavage and her lips were bulbous and sticky red, pumped so fat that they seemed to command her whole face. He looked at Red and Red must have seen her first because without turning his head he shook his head emphatically and they walked on.

Mr White shivered and he finished the last of his liqueur which tasted of rotten fruit but all synthetic and shook full of sugar. He wondered aloud where the next bin was for he had not seen one in some time. Red told him to drop it on the street and after a hesitation Mr White placed it down as near the side of the street as he dared go and then hurried back. They passed a middle-aged woman in furs being sick onto the side of a grey-brick building without windows or doors. Her face was pale and blue and Mr White looked for the light but it was not blue but white.

Should we help her? Mr White whispered as they drew level.

I think you know the answer to that one man, said Red, and Mr White already did.

On both sides of his vision were alleyways and small side streets shrouded in the thickest blackness, both full and empty, like beckoning voids, each one seeming a shortcut to oblivion. As though if he ventured down any he would never be seen again. He heard a gunshot from one and then silence and from another a scream and then silence. Both seemed to come from some other world hidden from his eyes, as though the blackness did not contain such dangers but was merely the gateway, and once you passed through you ceased to be part of this world and would be forever lost. His mind seemed to draw him closer to these shadows, shifting his perspective from side to side, but his body stayed on track out of fear and automation and so it seemed like his mind was struggling to escape its bonds while the body stayed firm and the mind lurched out on its own like some drunken phantasm of the night. It splayed out left and right and tried to fly to the voids and the tether caught and it was pulled back, secretly glad, springing back to safety and full of the rush of terror avoided.

We’re here, announced Red abruptly.

 

Moral Zero cover

Moral Zero extract #1

Moral Zero is a dystopian thriller with post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, existential and horror themes. Contains visceral and potentially disturbing sexuality and violence and is not for everyone, certainly not the faint of heart and stomach.

It is currently self-published as an ebook and can be found on Amazon for Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Zero-Set-Sytes-ebook/dp/B00LDWTQC2/ 

Disclaimer: The lack of speech marks and other idiosyncrasies are deliberate.

Here is an extract from it.

 

On the lowest flight was a grand artistic rendition of some seemingly apocalyptic scene, but it was smeared and sooted from some past fire, and whether the work was of a great battle, a religious revival or a ferocious orgy was unknown. Mr White peered at it as he dropped step to step, and he could just make out in the very centre of the piece some black shape, a human figure perhaps, but it could as well be a curious blot, a burned scar forming nothing but the centre of everything.

Mr White came out of the fire escape into the sun and met Red with his back to the wall, one foot up. Red was wearing shades and pendants on chains and was staring down the sun.

Hola.

How long have you been out here?

Red shrugged. He had a cigarette in his fingers dropping ash and his other hand thumbed his belt. You ready.

Mr White looked up at the sun, still blinking as his eyes adjusted to the light. It wasn’t joyous and rich, it was thin, artificial, as though the sun was an imposter. Perhaps nought but a bright moon shone on them that day, as every day. Cutting through the skim of the city’s milk. As though it were a bubble, and nothing could pass through and keep its lustre, its original power and integrity. Mr White waved a hand through the air and he could feel it. The cloy of the city, the milk, the soul. Sour and pungent.

You ready?

I’m ready. Mr White took a deep breath and the air was neither fresh nor clean.

Red looked at Mr White and grinned. Old habits die hard, don’t they.

Mr White smiled and stretched a little. Yeah.

They moved off, Red leading, Mr White just a step behind. Red walked with his customary jaunt as if he thought he was a rockstar or a drug dealer or a pirate. He could have been all three and it wouldn’t have mattered.

Mr White felt a dull, snapping breeze on his neck as though someone was clicking fingers on his skin. He reached up and found a button undone on his shirt, and he hastily rebuttoned and held his coat tighter to him.

Red glanced at him. It ain’t cold.

I don’t like it.

Red chuckled and kept on.

They walked through trash and bottles span and splintered as Red’s boots kicked them away.  Beside them cruel looking taxis vibrated back and forth along the road. They looked like they were battered out from sheet iron. The windows were frosted to obscure both driver and passengers, but the appearance was more of glass punched and cracked over and over, utterly smashed and held together with invisible tape. Like some crude icing rink after years of use without repair. The wheels were crags that crunched refuse and dead things under their merciless tread.

On their left buildings and shop windows were passed without comment or notice, all the same, all hopeless and blank. White lights shone into the day, advertising, always advertising, but without vigour, as if even the perpetrators of such had fallen to resignation, a disbelief in their products. Once in a while a tree was passed, but they looked plastic and they stood like statues, the leaves as still as iron claws. Beside every one were two benches, one on either side, blue paintwork scabbing away to show a brown leprous heart. On some sat people, and they all stared forward, even those in halting conversation. Talking as if ghosts in a foreign land.

You oughtn’t have done that. An old man stared ahead and he blinked so slow and heavy that it was a wonder if he knew whether he was awake or asleep, or alive or dead.

I know it. His companion was emaciated, looking like something just dug up. You know how it is.

No I don’t.

The man from the grave sighed, and the world seemed to fall off his bones. Every man wants to be seen as dangerous some point or another. Capable of such things. No man can go a whole life otherwise. Every man wants to know he’s a danger. To be thought of such a way. For one moment or two.

You oughtn’t have done it.

I know it. It is how it is.

Red and White walked on out of earshot and at length they came to a checkpoint cutting off the street. It clustered with police, in their black uniforms and black mirrored helmets.

You done this before?

Mr White shook his head.

It’s easy. They got nothin.

They were looked at like robots handling objects but they gave their names in the booth and they were let through without further consideration. There were no niceties. They were ushered in and out and they walked away from the faceless stares, those expressionless things that seemed so alien and hostile, void of feeling. They walked away with their necks prickling into District Seven.

Moral Zero cover