no longer an exclusively vicarious one.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Fractured Listless. The introduction

so erm.
the point of all this is not to put the story up so everyone can plagiarise it (although i think i would feel strangely complimented if someone thought it was good enough for that), but to get as many people as i can to read this, easily. it was taking to long just passing the bloody... erm what to call it?...."manuscript" around the group etc.
so here, for all your enjoyment and insulting laughter and probably mostly useless criticism.
no actually i take that back. please say whatever you want.

BIG NOTE! i didnt know that it would turn out like this. well okay, i probably should have known its pretty frelling obvious, but the posts are all the wrong way around.
PLEASE>>> START AT CHAPTER ONE and go chronologically. if you're bored i guess you can go backwards. tell me if it still makes sense...tho it barely does the right way around.

i apologise... some of the layout is a bit dodge, because its blogger.... (no dissin, just the truth). prolly my fault cos i dun really know what im doing on this thingy...

anyway. i believe the "acceptable parlance" (oooh a mckay quote!), is erm. let me get this rite...




all of this stuff is copyright mel. please dont steal it. i will find out where you live and i will hunt you down and kill you slowly with millions of tiny papercuts. you will collapse and die of massive blood loss.
oh. the irony. the irony.


The Fractured Listless. Chapter 5

“Then all the charm
Is broken – all that phantom-world so fair
Vanishes, and a thousand circlets spread,
And each mis-shape the other”
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Josephine awoke with a start. For a moment she was totally disoriented, half a tired schoolgirl and the other half a confused inmate of some unnamed institution. Shivering, she stood and remembered where she was. The sun was midway in the sky, almost directly above her, but she felt no heat. She gave up on trying to get to school, she could deal with her parents’ half-hearted accusations later. The metal roof she stood on was cold to the touch, and Josephine vaguely remembered the lilting melody and rusty ladder that had delivered her here. She glanced about, then checked her watch. It was exactly midday, and she knew she ought to get inside before the searing heat came into effect. As she stepped quietly over to the edge of the station roof, she began to wonder at something odd. It was not even remotely warm, and she should be inside in the next minute. Having been taught since birth about the dangers of the sun’s extreme radioactivity that flared up once every day, she had never thought to look outside during the half hour in the middle of the day when everyone was compulsorily kept indoors, behind shielded windows. Since she was a child, she could remember all the scientific mumbo-jumbo and the barked orders that kept everyone wary of their sun and its predictable solar flares. But now, thinking back, she couldn’t recall anyone ever really explaining what happened to their world three hundred and sixty five days a year. She bent down, a small frown creasing her forehead, and placed her bare hand flat on the metal roof. It was as cold as it would have been in the shade, as cold as it had been while she was sitting, dreaming of another place, a far colder and more sterile place. Josephine looked upwards at the glowing orb hanging over her head, and heard a faint trilling sound. It was the alien melody that she had heard earlier, but once again she couldn’t see where it was coming from. Somewhere in the distance…
Leshala is almost cross-eyed, staring at a single speck on the artwork. She sucks her breath in quickly and her cocks her head in disbelief. Her gaze shifts from the uniformed figure in the middle of the dome and focuses on a small, bedraggled group, painted in harsh black lines, staring from the edge of the painting into the milky white dome. The sun is now at its zenith and Leshala realises that the dome has become almost completely transparent. Both the outsiders and the little girl figure can see each other, and indeed they have.
Leshala begins to hum a high-pitched tune, dug up from somewhere in her memories. She turns away with an almost melancholy look on her face, and sits at the computer alternately staring at the screen and the painted window. Her humming grows faint, until the bare white room is completely silent.
Josephine couldn’t stop her hands shaking. This, then, is what had been hidden at midday everyday from all the hurrying people as they went about their daily lives. The sun wasn’t so hazy and Josephine could see through the walls she had never even known existed. She looked about her at the empty streets and silent homes, windows shut up against an imagined evil. Instead they trapped the evil in with them, never daring to look outside to see what they were hiding from. But Josephine could see now, by a strange combination of accident, coincidence and intent. She knew what she had spent her whole life running from. Something inside her knew the truth, something or someone that whispered in her ear. Now she could see through the milky glass, to the sun and the desert around her.

And in the distance, standing upon the promontory with a joyous smile but aged and weary eyes, a band of travellers will turn away and head back into the merciless desert. They have been reminded of what they had been, what they still could be, and they will know that the truth they sought could never be eternally buried. With a haunting, dissipating song flowing behind them, the Fractured Listless try to continue on their pointless pilgrimage towards a dying sun and eternity.

The Fractured Listless. Chapter 4

“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly… Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.”
- Chuang-tzu
Josephine turned over and frowned in her sleep. She cracked her eyes open a bare millimetre and she recoiled as the garish sunlight burned her eyeballs. Groaning, she flipped open her bedside alarm and realised that it had not gone off when she had set it. It was now ten minutes to the start of school, and her parents would be furious if they knew she was still in bed. Indulging in a quick thump of her head on her deformed pillow, Josephine quickly rose and got ready to go, brushing stray hair out of her face. Throwing her uniform on, she grabbed her bag and ran out of the house, clicking the electronic key behind her as she left. If she could catch the train about to arrive in under a minute she should be fine, but as fate insisted on doing, there was a large crowd of people at the entrance to the underground station. No matter how hard she pushed or how small she tried to make herself, she knew she wouldn’t be able to squeeze her way through in time for the train. Shutting her eyes and forcefully releasing a frustrated sigh, Josephine decided to wait outside rather than stand amongst the suited workers in the clammy terminal.
It was quite warm outside, the sun a disturbing red colour, like a torch seen through cellophane. Josephine unzipped her jacket and glanced about, looking for somewhere to sit for the next twenty minutes. There wasn’t really anywhere she could see. The entrance to the station had been designed to regulate public thoroughfare, not as a rest site. There were two busy lanes, divided by a thin metal barrier, and automated gates every few metres that allowed for passengers to turn off to their required platform. These platforms were situated somewhere deep below the ground, Josephine knew, but she didn’t really understand why it was built that way. She remembered hearing once that it was because the midday sun had strange warping effects on the metal used for rails, but if metal gilded buildings could stand in it, it couldn’t be so bad. She shook her head and walked up a bit of a slope to where she thought she could hear faint music. Streets at this time of the morning were usually quiet, except for the rumbling footsteps of moving people, so hearing music was really quite odd. As she followed the strange enticing music, Josephine lost all thought of time and any idea of where she was meant to be. It was simply the most beautiful, most haunting thing she had ever heard in her life. A ladder appeared that she had never recalled seeing before and she climbed it without another thought. Very soon she was at the highest point in her little town, but instead of peering around, looking at the view, she sat down and closed her eyes.
Leshala leans back as she rereads her masterpiece. A shadowy image comes to her, of a complex, ordered city hidden beneath an eerie silvery dome. Strange little people hurry about and barely notice the refracted and off-colour sunlight that streams through their protective shell. Leshala sighs in sadness for these little people, her creations. They are totally oblivious to the disparity of their lives. They seem blinded by the glass they live in; not realising that the only physical connection they have with each other is via the steel intestines they have bored into the earth. They do not realise how effectively they have cut themselves off from one another.
A suspicious frown comes to her face, and Leshala turns slowly around in her seat. There is no one there, but she still feels something is wrong. She does a visual check of the walls, floor and ceiling, but again there is nothing outwardly different. She shakes her head, shrugging off the thought that something has changed. Then she realises that her first instincts were right. She realises exactly what has changed. The painted picture stuck to the wall behind the false glass window is no longer someone’s interpretation of the scene from that poem. Instead of lush greens and blues surrounding a sparkly opalescent palace, it is now almost entirely a harsh red colour, a desert under a pitiless blue sky. An angry sun hovers above, and below are scattered white bubbles like foam on the earth’s surface.
Somewhat stunned, Leshala carefully approaches her new scenery. It cannot be, but it is. The bubbles from her story, those intricate hubs of deluded activity, they are in the picture. She feels herself being unwillingly dragged towards the centremost dome. Closer, and closer.

The Fractured Listless. Chapter 3

“Slowly I realised I was not really Donald Duck. But this realisation brought no change in my surroundings.”
- Rudy Rucker
Josephine trudged along the kerb, arms out and head down, concentrating on keeping her balance and trying hard not to topple over the side. Neighbours gave her odd, sidelong glances, but they kept to themselves. No one really talked to each other on the street, and even though she had grown up in the same squat, grey cement-rendered house all her life, she still didn’t know the names of some of the kids across the road. Her life was her house, her train, her school. Not much else happened and she had never really been anywhere else. Social lives were not something encouraged by Society. It was much more preferable to do well at school and never go outside, ever. Josephine swung her left arm out to keep her balance, looking up to see a car speed past. She looked back at her feet again and returned to her musings. But even home was just a house. There was no friendly atmosphere to return to, more like a carefully precise ambivalence. She jumped back as a big black beetle scuttled down past her right foot, glaring after it like it had done her a mortal injury. Like her day could get any worse.
Art had been horrible. Instead of doing what she had thought they would be doing, the class had been told to go to the library to research some dead artist and his “groundbreaking” new techniques in repetitive digital media as an improvement over the new-age conventions. Whatever. The substitute teacher hadn’t helped matters, what with staring over everybody’s shoulders and trying to suggest websites when it was quite obvious she had no idea what she was talking about. She had an odd name. Something like… Redhart? One of the other girls had said she came from the correctional school two blocks away, and that she taught philosophy there. Josephine had spent most of the lesson groaning about something or another, with her head resting on one hand and a stylus loosely twirling around her fingers. Even the substitute knew better than to tell her off.
So she had caught the train home in a semi-stupor, simply grunting or murmuring assent in response to anybody’s cautious enquiries. And now, walking down the hot street to her house right at the end of the no-through road, Josephine’s mind had jumped to other things. In fact, it was exploring another world altogether. A world that she thought she had handed in to her mad teacher that morning. A world created by her in a fit of self-enforced creativity that she thought she was rid of, but now was actively furnishing within her own mind. A world inhabited by one lost girl in one small room.
Leshala draws a deep breath and flexes her fingers. Blinking away the afterimage burnt onto her retinas, she stares critically at the screen of the humming computer. It glares back at her, unfeeling, uncaring. She raises a challenging eyebrow, then quickly shakes her head, glancing about to check if anyone has seen her strange behaviour.
Not that anyone is watching, she thinks grimly. Not that anyone would care.
Another breath, then a brief frown and she pushes back the rickety chair, quickly striding to the window. It isn’t a real window, not one that you can see out of, but the fantastic painted image of a palace in the middle of a place she somehow knows is called Xanadu comforts her even though she knows it isn't real. She taps on the dusty glass, staring at the garish 2-D rendition of a row of fluorescent green palm trees on either side of a winding river.
Grinning ruefully at her careful self-delusion, she turns around, for the thousandth time, surveying her kingdom.
It is a small, square room, and with the lights on, she can see all the cracks in the paint on the walls, as well as a cluster of dead flies that someone has thoughtfully swept into a corner.
A padded white desk covers one wall (no sharp corners, she thinks darkly), and an old clunky computer that makes more noise than she would have given it credit sits obstinately atop it. Opposite her workstation, she looks over a low mattress, tangled in off-white sheets that smelled...
Like old nightmares, she murmurs as she lifts them to press against her face.
Deciding against wasting her time folding them, she flings them into a corner and wanders into the doorless adjoining bathroom.

Chrome toilet without a seat, tick.
Rusting metal sink without hot water, tick.
Yellowing shower stall without a curtain, tick.
Twice-used towel hanging off a cracked plastic rail, tick.

No mirror, they don't think she needs one, and they are right in that. Her appearance is just about the last thing on her mind, but they did provide a chunky plastic cup, with handles and edges painted with flowers, to serve as her toiletries cupboard - plastic comb, old toothbrush, half-empty toothpaste tube and a matching pump bottle of some brandless liquid soap she is meant to slather over her body to cleanse herself of the settling dust. She'd never touched the stuff.
Satisfied with the state of the amenities, she gravitates back towards the creaky wooden chair. One of its legs is too short, so it tends to rock backwards and forwards, the splintered leg tap-tapping at the linoleum whenever it reached the floor. She sits with a jerk, and scrapes the chair to the desk. The computer is still staring obnoxiously at her, so she makes a face at it and slowly swivels her head to the only door in the four-sided room. She still hasn’t been able to get used to the idea that it doesn’t have a doorknob. It looks …wrong somehow. Unfinished. The moment she had awakened in this room, Leshala knew the place had never been designed to let you out. If you ever found yourself inside, you could be sure that it was a one-way ticket system. There is no lock, no handle, no clasp on the inside. All power was given over to Them.
Yes, capital "T", she mutters.
But she has never found the stub of her ticket. She doesn't know if her entry had been voluntary, or not. It is one of the things she can't remember. No, that isn't fair. It is one of the things she chooses not to remember. She doesn't know why, and she doesn't particularly care, but she has the sinking feeling that ignorance really is bliss in this case. If she ever finds out why she is inside, she would probably spend the rest of her time trying, and failing, to claw her way out of her prison - and what for?
Since coming in, she has been comfortable, well-looked after and no one has tried to harm her. And if she hasn't seen a single soul for the duration, well, she can't honestly say that she minds all that much. People have always perplexed her anyway. Besides, she has her computer to talk to. All in all, she prefers this life over the old mystery that lay somewhere in the past. Why complain?
The computer starts its whirring, louder this time, as if to grab her attention.
She turns back to her recalcitrant instrument and sets her fingers on the keyboard. They go straight to their corresponding positions like fighter planes in attack formation. She grins, a fearless grimace more than a smile, and begins to type.
“Dawn on a dusty road. The sun slowly rising from the ashes of the previous day, here to give sustenance to a band of weary travellers. A convoy of what had once been gaily-coloured caravans, but which were now tattered and patched buckets of metal, creaking and shuddering as they made their dreary way through their dreary world.
Only shades of brown remained to show for all the years of travel and endless journey. All the joy and the pain, the excitement of a new place and the grief at leaving what could have possibly become their home. All of these emotions and events, and what was there to show for it? A broken line of broken men, encased in a shield from the world, a shield that was now cracking.”
Morbidly impressed with her own imagination, Leshala pauses and reads over her work. How depressing, she thinks. Were they never happy?
“Once, the drivers and their families had been full of hope for a new world they would help create. They spoke with passion and conviction for a future they had genuinely believed in. Their numbers had swelled, and their faith was strong. At every passing town, their vision found knew eyes, and their mission found new followers. People flocked to them like reflective metal objects to magnets. The miles between counted for nothing when they knew of the prize they would find at the end. There was a fascination that no one was immune to, and, all-unknowing, these men and women preyed on this for their own, selfless gain. Their innocence, their happiness and their fervour all combined to create an image of a group of people untouched by the ways of the real world. The cynical, new-age –”
Leshala squints as an odd memory floats to the front of her mind. A webpage, filled with purple and yellow and every colour in between. Something about an artist, seemingly irrelevant, but here:
New Age: adj. Of or relating to a complex of spiritual and consciousness-raising movements originating in the 1980s and covering a range of themes.
She scratches her ear absently, as an impatient thought enters her mind. It’s not very new then, is it?
“- populace lined up to partake in this ignorance. And so, this nameless troupe of evangelistic believers had wound their way through the harsh countryside, never wanting for food, or water, or shelter. Anyone they met was more than happy to give them the clothes off their back or the water in their tanks. It was not charity they lived off, and yet, they weren’t exactly conning these people out of their possessions. They simply believed so faithfully in their cause, that they could not see a different way. There was no other life, any alternate way of living. They couldn’t understand the heartbreak, the raw emotional anguish of what everyone else called life.
Until now.
Now, they truly saw through the multicoloured lenses they had forced over their eyeballs for so long. Their way was broken. Nonexistent. Nothing.
It had begun when they had mistakenly ventured too close to the city on one of their journeys. The sun had shone at a different angle, and their listless feet had led them too close to the din and chaos hidden behind the obscurity of smoke. The smoke of a thousand fires, a thousand passions and a thousand voices raised in a silent cry for help. They had forgotten the pact made all those years ago, a pact that said that those in the cities were beyond their help, beyond even seeing their visions. All of this had been thrown to the wind in a moment of unthinking, and as the sun ascended and cleared their vision, they saw the terrible truth. Their eyes were forced open and they witnessed the true horror and despair of the world they had tried to escape.
There, in the ashes of what had once been ironically called the "New Utopia" by some melodramatic news reporter, lay the hordes of the wraithlike shadows called "people". Among the paper-thin silvery walls of the city the travellers could see the hundreds of thousands of little figures in pointed suits and grey toupees rushing around in neat rows, as though they were on some sort of conveyor belt. They saw the flashing lights and stop signs that surrounded the hardworking ants on their daily routine. They heard, even though they were too small to see with the naked eye from this distance, all the tinny beeps and whirrs of all the electronic gadgetry that each and every individual of the "New Utopia" simply could not live without. They were so connected, via cables and satellites, that they did not know true individuality. They had not a single original thought within their own minds. Separated from the harsh, hot desert of a world outside their shining domes that they seemed unable to see, these “people” didn’t seem to realise that they should be unhappy, that they were being blinded. But on their trips in the underground tunnels that connected all the plexi-glassed towns and cities, they never had time to think about how they felt. They were too busy.
And it was thus that the listless people’s vision lay broken. This was how their way of life, their intrinsic belief was fractured. How could they possibly survive outside this interwoven mesh of being? Their way was impossible - worse, it had never been possible. It was a mirage that they had created to explain away the thoughts they sometimes had in their heads. What were thoughts? They could not get a person job security or a partner to live with and share income with. A thought nowadays was a useless spark of electricity caught in the synapses of the brain. It could not put food on the table or a roof over your head. There was simply no time for thoughts now. Everyone was busy doing...something. Everyone was busy doing some little thing to keep the world going. Who could possibly compete with that kind of mindset?
The wanderers realised that they could never do this, so they had hung their collective head and turned tail, their listless feet fleeing back to the unforgiving desert that welcomed them with open arms. Here, they could at least try to forget all that they had seen. Or so they thought.
Slowly, one by one, their numbers had lessened. With every passing town, they lost another, and another, until only the original, the most faithful remained. But even they knew they had reached the end, even they were broken beyond redemption. Their cause was as much dust as that which covered the never-ending landscape stretching before them. Their futility was as tangible as the red rust that encrusted their giant mobile homes. The flocks of people that had once gathered around to hear them tell their amazing stories of hope and joy, now sat on their porches and watched with dark eyes as the caravans slowly inched their way past them. Eyes once brilliant with the sparkle of prophecy and expectation were now shielded and dim, clouded by disbelief and cynicism. The spark that was the last hope of salvation had been put out with unnecessary buckets of icy cold truth. And as those unfeeling watchers had labelled them so many years ago, they truly became the Fractured Listless."
Leshala smiled, sad and true, at the resonance of her story. She knew it was a figment of her complex and troubled mind, but there was something about it that she felt comfortable with. Somewhere, out in the world beyond her sealed door, her story might be true.
Josephine shuddered and stepped out of her nightmarish daydream, even as she heard echoes of gleeful laughter follow her out. What was this world that she had witnessed? Was it her creation? Or was it this Leshala’s? Shaking her head in frustration, Josephine stepped up to the front door of her grey house and walked in. She swore to herself that there was to be no more of this Leshala nonsense. She would get a decent night’s sleep and stop worrying about imaginary worlds and imaginary people.

The Fractured Listless. Chapter 2

“And he can’t remember waking up,
So he refuses to believe that he ever was asleep and he’s exhausted.”
- Paul Dempsey
Josephine, by using some talent that had nobody had ever been able to explain, still managed to be last into the classroom. She ambled in, chewing her nail, ignoring the curious glances of her classmates and the sharp look of the teacher. Out of twenty-four students, ten had actually completed the set homework task, and for once, Josephine was among the ten. Yes, shocked and amazed looks galore, she whispered to her friends as she stepped up to the teacher’s desk and dropped a dishevelled disc into the awaiting arms of Ms. Hatterfield. Bye-bye Leshala, was Josphine’s only thought. The bytes of Leshala’s made up problems and fears were no longer any part of Josephine’s day. That fictional figment of her imagination had no way to channel through an author any longer. And Josephine smiled contentedly, without fully understanding the warm feeling of authorial pride that was uncurling in her stomach. Even the Mad Hatter couldn’t believe her eyes. She sat utterly still for a few moments before reluctantly clicking off Josephine’s name in the big green monster of a computer that was perpetually perched on the table in front of her.
Class began and Josephine slid back in her chair to rest her head on the table. Ignoring the constant drone of the Mad Hatter’s lecture on iron filings and their symbolism of something that somebody important had lost, she looked outside at the smoky blue sky and pricked her ears up to listen to the birds as they wheeled about. Josephine sighed. It was going to be a long day.

Yet another class, science possibly, they were in a lab. Josephine was doodling on the bench top with the point of her stylus, and didn’t notice when Mr. Khan, the only foreign-looking teacher at the school, pointed his ruler at her. His foreignness did not lessen his impatience and torment of his students, quite the opposite, in fact.
“Outline the process of nuclear fusion, with specific reference to the example of plutonium, and its importance in modern energy preservation.”
Silence. All heads swivelled to face Josephine, totally oblivious to their attention.
Someone jabbed her in the ribs with their elbow, and Josephine jerked up. She quickly assessed the situation.
“Sorry sir?”
Khan glowered and shook his ruler wildly about.
“Young lady. If you do not think that this class is worth paying attention to, then perhaps you would prefer sitting outside the principal’s office for the rest of the day.”
Eyebrows up, lips pursed, ruler pointing towards the vandalised ceiling.
Josephine barely managed to stop herself rolling her eyes.
“No sir. I’m sorry my attention wandered, but, ah, if you could repeat the question? I promise I’ll concentrate harder.”
Practically spluttering, his eyeballs threatening to fall out of his head, Khan tried to repeat himself.
“Nuclear…fusion. Explain…refer to…”
“Sorry sir?”
“Plutonium...refer to plutonium.”
“Oh, erm. Was that in last night’s set reading?”
Josephine had a sinking feeling she was done for this time.
“Yes. Of course. Hurry up now.”
Khan wouldn’t even accept the thought that anyone had not done the set reading. After all, it wasn’t much. Just four or five webpages on any one of several different topics. Josephine glanced about, meeting the eyes of other students who hadn’t done the reading but would get away with it. Most of them grinned pityingly at her.
Hearing an imaginary death knell playing in her head, Josephine uttered the unforgivable words.
“Sorry sir. I, er, forgot to do the reading.”

An empty-handed errand boy ran silently past her, not even deigning her with an interested glance or a pitying smile. Josephine sank back further into the silvery metal armchair. They didn’t even try to make you comfortable in detention. She dragged her drink bottle out of her back and took a long swig. She was lucky that Khan had just decided to throw her out of his class for the rest of the double lesson. She would still be able to go to art after lunch. Still, it was not much consolation. The office would probably have to ring her parents and she would get a proper talking to at home.
Instead of thinking too much about her possible impending punishments (a toss-up between a two-week grounding and restricted net access) Josephine closed her eyes and tried to have a nap. Shifting around in the chair until she found a comfortable enough position, legs hanging off one side, Josephine’s breath evened out and she managed to sleep through the first bell.
Leshala arches her back and looks around her. Nothing has changed, as usual, except the food tray has been replaced. She crawls over to the smoking hot plastic tray and breathes in appreciatively. It smells like roast potatoes and cranberry sauce. Lifting the lid off the tray, the trapped steam rises up the walls, wreathing Leshala’s face in sweet-smelling aromas. She unwraps her plastic fork and spoon from the paper napkin and begins to devour the contents of the tray, wolfing down the luscious, warm food before it has a chance to cool off. It is all finished in under seven minutes and Leshala sighs as she picks up the juice box that had been added on the side. Running her tongue over her teeth, she savours the last tastes of the meal and sits quietly down on her wooden chair. She swipes the napkin across her mouth and aims carefully for the tray. The scrunched up paper gently bounces off the tray and lands close to the door. She might pick it up later.
Sighing, she types at the computer, not really knowing what she is doing. The old page flashed.
“Begin Weaver Program.
Title: Where am I?
Enter Synopsis:”

Leshala squints at the keyboard and frowns.


The program reverts back to the previous command.

“Enter title:”

Okay, we’ll do it your way then, she murmurs.

“The Stately Kingdom of Cereos”

The computer whirrs for a few moments, accepting her decision to play its game.

“Begin Weaver Program.
Title: The Stately Kingdom of Cereos
Enter synopsis:”

Leshala sips at the juice box straw, eyes intent on the screen.

“A tale of a tragic hero and a brave warrioress.
Do you wish to continue? Y/N”

She grimaces and quickly taps at the keyboard.


“Enter title:
The Back Wheel leans to the Left
Enter synopsis:
A magnificently crafted parallel of current issues within the context of seemingly trivial supermarket politics
Do you wish to continue?”


Leshala tries to muffle a giggle and taps idly at the board, looking away. She has to face it. She is bored and she doesn’t really feel in the mood to write some rubbish that no one would ever read anyway. Rattling the empty juice box, Leshala glances at the screen. It has changed colour. Now it is asking her -

“Are you all right?”
Josephine coughed and tried to struggle out of her sleep. She was looking directly up into a set of shiny white teeth.
“I said,” Shiny-teeth continued, “are you all right? The bell for the end of lunch went five minutes ago.”
Josephine shook her head and stood up, still half-confused. Part of her mind was looking over Leshala’s shoulder, trying to read the new word on the screen. But that was only a dream. A dream Josephine thought she was rid of.
“Wha-? Wher-?”
Her wits finally gathering themselves up, she looked properly at her visitor. His teeth seemed to be his most defining feature and she could barely tear her eyes away from their hypnosis. Amused, she took a closer look and could almost see her own reflection. But she had never seen him before. Maybe he was a student teacher, or new office staff? She glanced up at the black and white clock on the wall behind her. Whoever he was, he was right. She had somehow managed to sleep through the second of her detention lessons as well as the whole of lunch. Leave the daydream, she almost muttered aloud, and stood up, working the crick out of her back.
“Sorry, yeah. I gotta go.”
She raced off for art, not wanting to be late to yet another lesson today. The young man with the wide smile was left staring after her.

The Fractured Listless. Chapter 1

‘“If that there King was to wake,” added Tweedledum, “you’d go out – bang! – just like a candle!”’
- Lewis Carroll
It is raining like never before. The heavens open and Leshala looks imploringly up at the vengeful sky. It seems like it only ever rained on her, and she ducks her head and keeps walking, resigned to her fate. The slow and rhythmic thud of the waves washing against the shore keeps her mind from dwelling on her unknown past, and she barely even notices as she walks straight into a door. It seems out of place, this grey door in the middle of a beach-side walkway, but she is curious, so she opens it. The room inside is small and devoid of much furniture, but it is clean and dry and warm. Confused, Leshala looks inside then outside, and she slowly walks around the door. There is no room behind it, from the outside, but as she looks in, she feels the warmth and cosiness of the impossible room seeping into her bones. Barely hesitating, Leshala chooses the obvious option. She steps inside and hears the door click shut behind her. Whirling around, it also becomes obvious that she has just walked into a trap. No escape. She is locked in.

Leshala slowly peels her eyes open. They feel pasted shut, as if she has not slept long enough to wake again. Or maybe as if she has slept too long...
She blinks to try and clear the gummy feeling in her eyelids. It is dark. So dark, but this is how it always is, isn’t it? Finally obeying her, her eyelids fly open. She sees nothing, and there is only oblivion reflected in the vacuum of her eyes. She seems surrounded by mirrors like in a horror show, distorting space and time themselves so that even the most ordinary sound of silence seems like a rumble from the depths of uncaring hell. Leshala is engulfed by its enormity, lying there alone. But there is another sound here, besides the ringing silence of nothingness. She hears the slow drip of an untightened tap in a nearby room.
The echoes ring clear in her mind, the only real thing here in this place she knows inside and out, but cannot remember at all. Oblivion is replaced by chaos and confusion and Leshala looks around her, eyes flicking left and right.
It is not so dark after all, she thinks, not here in this place of musty shadows and sterile, bare walls. Perhaps it is a hospital of some sort? But what is she doing here? The thought brings her back to herself. Back to the broken being lying on a tangled sheet on the scuffed linoleum. She swallows, trying to tell her body to wake up. Waiting for it to respond, her other senses slowly creep back to unwillingly join their master. Her nose wrinkles as she smells an odour, something that reminds her of another place, another time, and people long gone from her life. People who would never have even heard of the kind of place she is trapped in now.
She sighs, long and heavy. Something has happened... something big, something bad, something that altered the way she viewed life forever. If only she could remember...

There, thought Josephine, as she snapped the laptop shut and tucked a plastic stylus into the dim recesses of her bag. The old woman had asked for an introduction to a “story detailing the emotion of loss”, and she would get it. On time. Even if it killed all the poor students who were forced to give up their last waking minute to obey her crazy-brained whims and fancies. Mumbling under her breath, Josephine almost missed the whispered call for her train stop. Glancing out the window, she saw only the dark wall of the train tunnel, but shifting her head to an uncomfortable angle, she saw that she was at the right place. She jumped up and dragged her bag along, one strap swinging idly beside her and slapping against every other person in the carriage. She managed to escape just as the doors were closing in on her, just before she was trapped in the metal can that was the train. Ignoring the mild looks of disinterest from the other departing commuters, Josephine trudged up the steep stairs and fought the oncoming crowd to get in line for a ticket turnstile.
If her ticket got stuck again, she muttered darkly, someone was going to have to take out a large chunk of real estate on the shores of the Styx for her.
She glanced around and saw an orange-vested train guard absently push open the gate. Strategically sidestepping the growing, jostling queue, Josephine slid behind an old woman in a drab grey dress who smelt a bit like dishwashing liquid, and followed her out, flashing her neon-coloured school pass at the nail-chewing guard.
It was bright outside, the hazy red that was the precursor to yet another above average temperature day. She blinked to accustom herself to the light and stumbled on.
She had known that she would be too early. It was either too early or too late with her train, and while she usually chose the stress-relieving option, old Hatterfield had insisted almost a thousand times that everyone be on time today. So here she was. Almost a full hour early, bags under her eyes, and with nothing so much as a crumb in her belly.
She made a beeline for the hot bread shop.

Munching steadily on a fruit-filled pastry of the miscellaneous ingredient kind, Josephine slowly ambled over to the lone bench in the empty park. Sitting down with a thud, she made a heap of all her school things and stretched out on the damp and uncomfortably hard concrete. Staring straight ahead, she had a back view of her school. It was a ramshackle construction, originally comprising of just two buildings – the main block and the assembly hall. Those two looked alright enough, she supposed, if you were into second rate brick monsters built to withstand an earthquake. But since then, more side buildings had been added, the school had bought over the adjacent residential plots and wonderful new demountables had been dumped inside when they had finally realised that there were not enough rooms in the existing structures. Now the school looked like some mystery maze in an amusement park, with false dead ends and deceptive reflecting glass everywhere. No wonder the poor newbies always got lost, even Josephine herself sometimes lost her bearings, and she had been there for six years.
Her mind still on neverending incarceration and torture, Josephine thought she might as well get a move on with her homework. She took out her mini PC and the chewed up stylus, her half-eaten pastry dangling from a corner of her mouth. She had had braces, once upon a time, but now her pearly whites were not only white, but in neat, straight lines, and she had been told that she might have been a shark in a previous incarnation because of her habit to stick things in her mouth when she ran out of hands.
Glaring at her innocently blinking watch, and blaming it for the time (thirty minutes of freedom left), Josephine sighed and tried to write more. After,

Then Leshala was taken aback by all the meat cleavers sitting in a row of bloody chopping blocks.
The end.

, Josephine looked around for some inspiration. Scribbling through the last few lines, her attention was distracted by a small brown snail, making silvery trails all over the pavement next to her. She moved her head a fraction, to get a better view, and as she did so, a rain of pastry crumbs fell onto and around her new friend. It retreated hurriedly, for a snail, and soon all she could see was a smooth brown shell surrounded by tiny bits of pastry flakes. The slug was nowhere to be seen, hidden and safe from all the dangers of its small world. A small frown creased her forehead and she looked back at her story, beginning to write more.

A flash of fluorescent light, and Leshala obeys her first impulse – to screw her eyes shut. Gingerly she lets them open and peers out across the room. The murky darkness has been replaced by a sterile white light, shining from tubes in the ceiling. She looks around and grimaces. She seems to remember this place. The white walls and the feeling of confinement, they are familiar, but she can’t put her finger on the knowledge she needs, the memories that can tell her what she is doing here.
She slowly pushes herself off the cold floor and throws the sheets aside. Looking briefly around, she collapses into the only chair in the room. It rocks back, jerking her blank mind back into action, and she turns to face the humming piece of machinery on the table.
Ignoring every other bodily need, and her mind’s curious interrogation of her surrounds, she sets her fingers and types.


Her fingers are slow, wandering over the keyboard to find the letters she needs. She does not know what the computer is here for. She vaguely remembers typing things in previous days, but the computer never shows any sign that it keeps any of her ramblings in its memory. Her attention is drawn back at the answer the machine has given her.

“Enter title:”

She frowns, confused at the thin glowing text. The title of what? She makes a small sound in the back of her throat and types the first thing she can think of.

“Where am I?”

The computer starts beeping and whirring, and Leshala pulls her hands off the keyboard. A little red light flashes and the machine comes to life. The black screen clears and a new page is displayed.

“Begin Weaver Program
Title: Where am I?
Enter synopsis:”

Synopsis? Frowning, Leshala decides that she has had just about enough of this. She leaves the flashing cursor and walks to the only door in the room. As she raises her hand to knock, she notices something very strange. So strange, that she holds off the knocking and incredulously examines the door.
There is no handle.
No knob, no clasp, no lock, nothing with which she can open the door. It isn’t just missing, like it has fallen off, but it looks like there was never any thought during the design to place a handle in the door. It is just another part of the wall that seems to look like a door, with a frame, but with no way out.
Leshala quickly steps back and sinks back into the thin mattress lying on the opposite side of the room. The old questions buzz around her head. What is this place? What is she doing here?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

the simpsoms...

It was a perfect spring day at St. George Elementary, and Miss Hoover’s students sat in class, watching yet another mind-boggling boring video about the twisted history of the Atreides family. In one corner, the annoying twins Terri and Sherri (whom many people often thought were one person) sat throwing grapes at the misunderstood Milhouse. Flicking their perfect hair behind their ears, and consulting each other on how fat they thought they were, they were being cheered on by Nelson from the back row (ha-ha!) every time one of their projectiles hit its target. Milhouse, exasperated and squirming in grape juice and existential angst, decided to write a poem, much to the delight of his teacher (really an English teacher at heart).
Across the suburb, Sideshow Bob, newly released from jail, sat in Moe’s tavern, twiddling his thumbs and etching “Farscape” into the countertop with an overly long thumbnail. Moe stood back, idly wiping a glass and staring at one of his drooling customers with an avid look on his face. Everyone in the dingy bar glanced up as the door creaked open. Two cloaked figures walked in. One was wearing a perfect LOTR hobbit cloak replica, that he had bought for a ridiculous price over the internet, and it was this one who whispered to the other.
“Smith-Frodo,” he said in a creaky, sinister voice, “how much longer?”
The one called Frodo sighed softly under his cloak, a dark chocolate brown colour, and tried to stand up taller than he really was. At least his height didn’t look ridiculous now that he was pretending to be a hobbit.
“Only a few hours sir.”
“Good, good,” said Mr. Burns, for what is who it was, “and we must make sure nobody else finds out.”
“But sir…” replied Smithers, for that is who that was. But his repeated plea that they go quickly to the nearest chocolate store for the last time in their lives was interrupted by a puffing Krusty the clown and Chief Wiggum dragging a bag of sports gear.
“Eh. Guys – puff – I – puff – just – puff. Oh just wait a second.” The police chief had spent the entire day at various sporting facilities, playing everything from a round of bowling to a fast-paced squash match. Meeting up with Krusty on his way home, the two unlikely friends had made a shocking and dangerous discovery, and decided to sprint all the way to Moe’s. All of this did not stop Clancy Wiggum from carrying a snack-filled esky everywhere he went.
“Um. Does anyone have a jaffle-maker?”
While everybody was munching, Krusty threw an odd look at the two still-cloaked figures and began to speak.
“Does anyone wanna hear a pick-up line?”
“KRUSTY!” Wiggum yelled. “Stick to the point!”
“Oh okay, sorry,” still unrepentant, and with every intention of giving the joke later, Krusty continued.
“The world is ending in six hours.”
He looked around expectantly. It wasn’t a joke, but he still hoped for a reaction.
Sideshow Bob groaned and smacked his forehead.
“That is sooo lame. And not even funny.”
Moe stopped his sniffing of the passed out drooling man’s hair (Pantene).
“I thought it was.”
Bob rolled his eyes.
“Don’t you encourage him. Any of you.”
Krusty waved his hands at the two and pointed out the window. It was undeniable. The sun was inching closer and all in the room felt its impending doom. They could see, in their mind’s eyes, the panic and stress, the wild running and looting and the pages of bureaucracy fluttering in the wind. Everything they had ever learned would come to an end when that horrible sun descended upon the poor creatures of St George that had always known, somewhere in the back of their minds, that something like this was coming. They longed for the blessed aftermath, the cool taste of freedom and heaven, but they knew they would have to go through the fiery inferno of hell to get there.
They shuddered as one and barely noticed as Mr Burns hastily stood up, carefully folding his limited-edition cloak in his gloved hands.
“Yes,” he said. “We have known since this morning, Smithers and I. His knowledge of the heavens and the theoretical physics of the matter convinced us both.”
Bob raised an incredulous eyebrow.
“Then why didn’t you tell us this before?”
“And why,” pointed out Chief Wiggum, his investigatory skills emerging from years of hibernation, “why were you hiding out here?”
Burns was flustered. “Ah. Um. We were at the mercy of a not-very-well-thought-out plot. And we weren’t hiding, but were actually on our way to the school to inform them of the fact.”
Smithers looked distinctly uncomfortable, and would have given it away in two seconds if Burns hadn’t yanked the shorter man’s arm and pushed him into the daylight.
Those left inside shrugged and ran out to join them.
The travellers, or should we say “fellowship”, hurried on to push through the creaky door of Miss Hoover’s classroom. An assorted group of students sat there, seeking lunchtime refuge from freaky juniors and terrorist pigeons.
Ralph Wiggum stumbled up to his father, pointing out the ragged new haircut he had given himself with the class safety scissors.
“But I was bored…hehehe”
Meantime, Smithers had gotten sick of lugging the heavy cloaks around and had left them on an obvious anthill next to the classroom door. Burns was furious, but Smithers didn’t mind as long as he had his next-generation talking Malibu Stacey doll with him.
“Oochie-coochie-coo, my cute little doll. Are you feeling okay?”
The doll stared up, blue eyes twinkling in the sun.
“Fuck off.”
Smithers sighed contentedly and smoothed down the hair he had perfectly straightened earlier that morning.
“Leave my fucking hair alone and get me the cauliflower you cooked before.”
Waylon sat the doll on the nearest table and began to hunt through his pockets.

can you guess who is who? any comments? suggestions? criticisms? places to point a stick at?
please, in the words of the great paul dempsey, "say something"