Tag Archives: existential fantasy

A Quiet Night

                  A QUIET NIGHT


They certainly had a sense of humour.Christening their product with an acronym which also meant ” Die ” in German.

And here he was,stood next to the STERB ( Self-Termination Booth )the only one still in working order in his neighbourhood,at 4 in the morning.


Good thing was he’d remembered to renew his annual registration only the other day.You don’t access a STERB without all  the bureaucratic necessities taken care of.

And despite all the official media denials,there was an uptick recently in the informal practice,which of course was not only frowned upon by society but also crucially denied revenue to VIVAT,the makers and operators of STERB.

For avowed libertarians they sure didn’t mind regulation by the quasi-state when it suited their pockets.

Anyhow, 4 in the morning on the Sunshine Estate and the STERB resplendent in all its diffident,opaque utilitarian glory inviting him to partake of the ultimate eucharist.

Earth,pardon me we’re supposed to spell it Erth to promote the sacred tenet of Inclusion, anyhow this cosmic dirtball we’re all stood on is way past its Happy Hour.

Not that a solid century- and- a half of Degenderisation hadn’t put the brakes on in a way that Malthus wouldn’t have approved of.But 19 Billion? Really?and the off – world colonies were taking fewer every day.

But even just the idea of genomic reconfiguration & physio-reconstruction was simply too big a leap for too many even for those with low socio-economic ratings such as him.


Seriously who’ d want an extended “life”- presence on an alien world as a diamond miner- 5 feet tall weighing 350 pounds in order to adapt and cope to an alien gravity?But hell,apart from that, the job prospects were always good.


The DNA interface clicked and the booth opened its maw.


Soft lighting,ambient music- JS Bach he guessed- welcomed him as he sat on the facsimile classic barbers chair. In that regard,VIVAT the makers and operators of STERB didn’t spare any of the proverbial expense.
The handy data lonzenge swiped over the screen array; a flow of easy-to-comprehend numeric indices glared back at him.
A synth-voice cooing in all 9 official languages, asked whether he wanted to proceed.


He was momentarily distracted from his induced reverie by a violent banging coming from the outside of the booth.
A muffled, distant voice exclaiming ,”Hey you in there,you gonna be much longer,some of us ain’t got all day you know!”

That wasn’t supposed to be part of the advertised “Termination Experience” , but what can you expect with this being the only STERB in working order on the whole damn estate?
He could of course change his mind even now and go back to his apartment on subterranean level Minus372 and prep for Communal productive activity later this morning.But it wouldn’t count diddly squat toward his ratings and that really was the thing.The thing that mattered.


The dormant booth AI voiced a prompt ,could he please choose an option and initiate the connecting nano-probes?
And then there it was.The giant red numerals commencing at Six – Zero.


It was that attention to detail and responsiveness to user demand and preference that led VIVAT marketing to go with the now iconic 60 seconds visual countdown thereby enhancing the Termination Experience.


He didn’t mind one way or the other.


Was that nongender specific citzen outside the booth still exclaiming about having to wait so long to use the booth still there?


He didn’t mind.


Beats being reshaped as a five foot human gorilla to go exist on an alien world even with a guaranteed additional longevity and enhanced ratings.


He..he didn’t..mind..


And as he exuded his last gasp of air he heard the AI synth-voice pronounce the sacramental blessing: 


VIVAT thanks you for choosing STERB for your Termination Experience.

A Sailor’s Lament

They departed the harbour of Reason,

set sail across the Sea of Madness

with no prospect of making landfall any time soon;

” Come with us to the edge of the World “,

” Voyage with us into the Unknown “;

And the Sailor looked at the King’s

shilling which he held in the palm of his

hand,had exchanged his liberty for it

and after mature consideration

tossed it into the waves.

Locomotive Breath

The rumble of passing trains,

going where they’ve always gone

at times we knew

and could set our watches by,

their metronomic clatter,

their iron rail rhythm

remorselessly bending nature

to their will;

Pressing on through the seasons

the rumble of passing trains;

Unfolding the countryside at

which passengers are staring,

watching and waiting

for their destinations to arrive,

as if by magic,

outside of their carriage windows,

Oblivious to the locomotive’s

kinetic brutality beating down

the miles as houses roll past

like a tracking shot in a film,

where the footage repeats in loops

and in time-less labyrinths

of their own purpose and making

and unmaking and remaking,

till the metal leviathan

heaves its last breath

and sighs contentedly,

at ease,

on time,

at the platform,

where no-one disembarks.

Dummy

In the darkened gloom

of a wooden tomb,

you kept me smothered

in a dank ,musty cloth,

my burial shroud wrapped around me,

like nightmares wrap themselves

around my dreams

were I be allowed to dream,

to suffocate on my own dust

passing time watching iron nails rust,

distant noises muffled

my own screams caught in a throat

that cannot issue its own currency of speech,

my counterfeit visage

its motionless mouth,

my fugue turns a darker shade of night;

until,

until,

until you release me

on parole again;

and as I sit obediently on your knee,

the applause reaches its crescendo

and you bow your head

as Charles did upon the chopping block

to which my thoughts stray

and before you put me back

into the wooden tomb,

I know now,

what I must do…

The Stranger’s Absence

I recall him saying,

” of all the possible possibilities isn’t it possible

that there being no possibilities is amongst them? “

To which I countered,

” We cling obsessively to those pieces of a jigsaw

we’ve somehow come to accumulate by chance,

accident or ulterior design, only for those pieces

never to fall into place or even bear any resemblance

to a discernible outline or pattern or a promise of coherence. “

I contemplate the solitary glass of absinthe

that sits forever stationary on a marble top table,

un-paid for and un-drunk until The Stranger returns,

and quaffs it savouring the liquid’s unique indifference

as it surges down his gullet;

We are only led to imagine such things

because we imagine that the Stranger,

long since absconded into the obscurity of the world-at-large

might somehow re-appear unannounced as if by chance,

fate or ulterior design,

And then we might recommence the desultory dialogue,

the Stranger and me

that dialogue which he chose peremptorily to abandon

with his trademark flaneur disquieting insouciance;

and so I sit and toy with the pieces of jigsaw

left me as a memento or perhaps not,

some pieces are clearly missing and

the glass of absinthe requires that I pay for it.

……………………………………………………………………..

Author’s footnote:

My previous poems featuring “The Stranger” are

The Stranger,One Last time ( 23/4/2019 )

A Stranger Returns (23/4/2018 )

Encounter with a Stranger ( 3/10/2017 )

Interstellar

Standing in our stockinged feet

on the surface of an alien world ,

wondering whether we can ever go back

go back go back again to that

place where we started from ?

So very far away so very

long ago that somehow we left

somehow find ourselves in our

stockinged feet standing and staring

staring across an unfamiliar horizon

wrought of jewels burnished with gold ,

dazzling and shining and when

all is done and all is told

we simply stand with one question

remaining on our lips ,

How do we get back home ?

With Good Intentions

Tears welled in his eyes,
his breast filled with relief,
another young life saved;
his surgical skills
again exonerated,
despite the excruciating cramp
around his fingers and
stiffness in his joints;
Master Surgeon still after
all these very long years,
shuffling down the corridor
eyes wearied by concentration,
flickering billowing gaslight
making it seem darker still;
He had saved a very precious
young life, that knowledge lit
his footsteps the way out,
out into the daylight;
A great doctor who had
fretted and performed
near surgical miracles,
now face to face
with the anxious mother,
“ Is He..? ”
“ He is fine,there are no complications ”
“ when he fell ill,I thought he might die ”
“ no worries now,I’m sure your son will
enjoy a long and happy life ”
“ Thank you Herr Doktor ”
“ Good day, Frau Hitler,”

Fleeing the Scene

Heart and lungs ached beyond mortal endurance as he fled, and heard with dread the footsteps behind him,seemingly chasing after him on the dark country lane.He cursed his own folly for having given in to a panic which as a veteran practitioner of the dark arts of espionage and assassination he ought not to have experienced let alone given into so cravenly.

He’d gotten there late in any event,long after the three others had commenced partaking of the sumptuous repast.And natural inquisitiveness,especially from Marlowe, had caused him to recount as plausibly as he was able the reasons.He realised this was more to put the other two, Poley and Skeres at their ease,for they too were more than a little anxious at his, Ingram Frizer’s tardiness.With formal,gentlemanly apologies now aside,he partook of the repast with uncommon relish.

His ride from Walsingham’s residence out here to Eleanor Bull’s reputable lodging house here at Deptford was far too hastily arranged and improvised for Frizer’s own professional liking.Scant planning and the gift of one of Walsingham’s own blades that had seen action across the water in Holland were hardly compensation enough for his disquieted demeanour. What was asked of Poley, Skeres and not least himself would  under more reflective circumstances been rejected as too hasty and open to failure.

But Marlowe the scribbler. the critic nonpareil,the one who shared his outrageous opinions with all and sundry;those who would listen and many more who heard them because of the timbre of his prevailing larynx,proved alluring enough for the three of them to go ahead with the bare bones of Walsingham’s idea

.With the sumptuous repast coming to an end and their bellies and spirits satiated with Mistress Bull’s copious wines and ales;the boisterous exchange of opinions both large and small took an inevitable turn,one that Frizer was alerted to wait for as patiently as need be by Walsingham himself. The turn that came when Marlowe, ever the disputant, could not hold himself or his temper so fused by imbibing,back from the precipice he himself was allowed to carve.

 Afterward,standing in front of their Master Walsingham ,they would all remark how so like one of Marlowe’s or indeed Master Shakespeare’s stage plays with its own cunningly crafted directions for the players it all seemed to unfold at the time.Which of course was a lie,as Ingram Frizer, his heart and lungs fit to burst on this deserted country lane in the pitch black with hell hound footsteps behind him,knew perfectly well.

He had to come out of this mise-en-scene more alive than that poor sod Marlowe whose last look in this passing mortal sphere was one of sublime incomprehension.And as his loping strides brought him ineluctably to the stables at the rear of the tavern by the bridge and his silken tradecraft let him deftly unhitch and ride off on a stolen steed back to Westminster with his report of mission accomplished- his mind conjured one more illusion.

What would Christopher Marlowe write of this night in one of his plays?With the footsteps heard on a dark country lane receding far, far into the background Ingram Frizer let his imagination roam thus:-

 ” Four figures in a room darkly conclaved,hushed breaths escape from the mirrors’ taut embrace.Leaving no trace of having been expelled from any mouth nor orifice so plain that might betray the breather’s fear.
Malice aforethought alone leaving imprints in the air amid this spectral scene. A coven’d place where meaning and word
intertwine where shadow and light danced their furtive Pavane,
Swirling about,word without meaning,meaning without form,form without content into an empty shapeless void.And in the dimness of guttering candles, the trails of reason evaporated and in the morning to come a new naive horizon bearing a false dawn. “

The Stranger, one last time.

There he sat,

in the place where he sat

the last time that we spoke

all those years ago;

And there he sat

as if he’d never left

and the years hadn’t passed us by;

” I’m still waiting for my absinthe that I’ve ordered ” ,

he ventured apropos of nothing,

his deprecating smile lingered

as he brushed some imaginary

cigar ash off the table;

A faint susurration arose

from a Greek Chorus somewhere

in the background of this

mise – en – scene ;

” Years in a desert of empty days,

years in a white nothingness,

Time itself marooned in

a white swirling fog “.

” Waiting..” the Stranger began,

my curiousity piqued,he continued,

” is the worst part of waiting “.

I concurred,which seemed

to set him at his ease,

though he glanced obsessively

at his pocket watch;

” Time flies and having flown

runs out of fuel and crashes

amidst the contretemps and vicissitudes

of our world “.

He once more glanced around for signs

of a waiter with the absinthe which he’d

ordered such a long.long time ago;

but no-one was forthcoming and

overcome by ineluctable disappointment

he rose and bidding me adieu

swept with customary insouciance

from the cafe into the busy boulevard;

as I turned my gaze from the departing stranger,

I saw the waiter arrive with a tray

bearing a singular glass..

**********************

Author’s Footnote:

The reader might care to also read ” A Stranger Returns ” -April 23 2018

and ” Encounter with a Stranger ” -October 3 2017 .