Monthly Archives: February 2015

Doctor Gachet (a poem)

Inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s portrait of his therapist.

Oh, the puzzle eternal that is the human mind!

What thunder and tumult that batter his soul

Must smother his will and his patient heart?

What are these attacks that he makes ‘pon the canvas?

What battles does he fight with his many-haired sword

That hack down the soft tones of seascapes and frescoes

To bring forth a scream that assaults your tired eyes?

And what joy!  See, he brings forth a likeness of me!

Oh, look at my old hat, shapeless as a flour sack,

See the brim, all disjointed, and look at that hair;

Like flames lapping forth from the temples and ears!

Ah, the eyes!  Not engaged, but a-pond’ring his dreams,

As I rest my poor head upon a fatigued hand.

There’s the mouth, so soft, not relaxed but resigned,

And above it the brow, lined in weary symmetry.

Follow the arm, then follow the foxgloves;

See how their lines and their tones are akin.

But note how the blue and the ultramarine

Are swamping the warmth and the glow of the flesh.

Could this be an echo of where he is heading?

Might he tear free his torture-bound soul from his body?

I pray not, dear Vincent.  May both you and the world

See your colour and light shine forth from your darkness.

Time ‘Tecs

Written for a short story competition, but not submitted.  It’s too high concept and unpolished, I felt.

Peculiar events were unfolding somewhere in mid-20th century Limehouse. In a little street just off Commercial Road, visitors not of that place, or even that time, were meeting in secret.

Who would have guessed that somewhere along that street, inside a blue police telephone box… an elderly lady was telephoning her daughter?

Well, she had closed the door behind her, so how could anyone see in?

Meanwhile, in a nearby house, a quartet of very special detectives was meeting around the living room table. They came from 600 years in the future, an era when time travel had become possible. Although this technology had been rightfully greeted as a marvel, powerful criminals were now sneaking back into history to take advantage of people in more primitive times.

To counter this threat, an elite undercover police force was formed, which these agents belonged to. They were often referred to as Time Detectives, or Time ‘Tecs, but their formal name was the Bureau for the Investigation of Temporal Crimes throughout History; B-I-T-C-H.

The acronym had different connotations in the 26th Century.

“Do you like the pipe, Agent Salome?” smiled Commander Highbrow as he sat down. “Bought it two days ago, don’t you know.”

Commander Highbrow, the leader of the squad, had arrived in the 20th century during World War II, posing as an aristocratic naval officer. Over the years, however, his façade had eventually become his character. He was a thin, sharp-featured man in early middle age, with light brown hair and a cheerful, intelligent expression. He wore an immaculate blue blazer and held a pipe between his teeth.

“Very distinguished, Sir,” smiled Agent Salome. “I take it you’re using Safe-Smoke?”

“I jolly well am!” chuckled Highbrow. “To think twentieth century people smoked tobacco! All that tar, benzene, nicotine and other muck getting into their lungs… Ugh!”

Agent Salome was a young woman with maple-coloured hair, wearing a strapless scarlet cocktail dress. Her face and figure were enough to make a marble sculpture of Aphrodite insane with jealousy. She was, however, an infiltration specialist, with surgically implanted flesh-warping systems that could change her appearance to resemble just about any female.

“Now, to business,” said Highbrow drily. “Any leads on Doctor Miasma?”

He spoke of a dangerous, power-hungry criminal that BITCH had been on the scent of for quite a while. He had been using future technology to hypnotise unsuspecting victims into his service over several time periods, building an army that could challenge any authority in the 26th century.

“Sadly, my research shows nothing conclusive, Sir,” said Agent Babel (a natty-looking man in pebbly glasses, with a 26th century mnemonic implant at the base of his neck). “Agent Stonewall was pursuing a lead concerning some suspect electronics companies, but we can’t reach him just now.”

“Why not?” Highbrow asked.

“The police have detained him. He visited a local molly-house that got raided while he was there.”

“The twit,” snorted Agent Hereford, the fourth member of the group. “Visiting an establishment like that in a time when there’s anti-sodomy laws and no effective sexuality reassignment therapy? The academy should train ‘em better.”

Agent Hereford was… a bull.

Yes, a bull.

A spectacular one too, with immense curling horns, shining chestnut hair and a body that made a cape buffalo look like a limp strand of spaghetti. He had once been human, but while on assignment in 8th century France, he had encountered a wild aurochs in the forest. Saddened to think such a magnificent creature would become extinct, he had transferred his mind into a bio-organic replica body of an aurochs with a human brain and vocal chords, so that they might live again.

“Maybe he’s going to hijack some big event,” rumbled Hereford. “Remember last year when I posed as a yak, so I could stop Sherpa Norgay carrying that hypnotic transmitter up Mount Everest? He might try something like that again.”

“No, I know Miasma,” said Highbrow thoughtfully. “He’s a clever bounder and doesn’t repeat himself.”

“That rules out Miasma taking advantage of this year’s football World Cup,” said Salome, “And he wouldn’t try going after Churchill or someone on his cabinet. Not after I posed as that Egyptian belly dancer and stopped him turning President Nasser evil.”

“Yeah, we can safely say that guy won’t try and put a stranglehold on Britain anytime soon,” scoffed Hereford. “Salome always manages to… Have I said something funny, Babel?”

“And to think you just called Agent Stonewall a twit,” sniggered Babel.

“Well, if I’ve missed some historical fact just tell me, Four-Eyes!”

“Hey! I resent that, you two-ton sirloin!”

“Well why don’t you smack me then, you little BITCH? Oh, I forgot! I’d smash you against the wall like a buuuuu… Whoa.”

Babel and Hereford stopped their argument to gaze, slack-jawed, at what now ballooned from Salome’s midriff.

“I say, Salome,” beamed Highbrow. “FABB.”

“They are, aren’t they, Sir?” sighed Hereford.

“No, you silly bull,” tittered Salome, as her bosom shrank back to its usual size. “He means my Flesh-Augmenting Bust Booster. It never fails to stop men bickering. It even helped me stop Mark Anthony and Octavian arguing on previous mission. Cleopatra was not happy, I can tell you.”

There was a knock at the door.

“I’ll get that,” chirped Salome. She skipped from the living room to the front door, while the others listened carefully. “Good evening, young man. Thank you. Let’s see… There’s no reply. There’s a sixpence for your trouble. ‘Bye!”

Salome raced back to the living room, holding a yellow slip of paper.

“It’s a telegram from Agent Stonewall, Sir,” she puffed.

Highbrow ordered her to go ahead and read the perishing thing.

Urgent, stop. Sending message only way I could, stop. Miasma at West India Quay, warehouse 3, stop. Stonewall++

“Well done, that man!” beamed Highbrow. “Let’s tool up and head for that bally warehouse! And Hereford, don’t forget to bring that gadget Babel was working on.”

The Time ‘Tecs took advantage of a dense smog bank rolling eastwards to sneak up on West India Quay. The wooden door of warehouse 3 may have been sturdy, but Hereford’s 1200 kilograms of bovine brawn made short work of it.

“Alright, have you chaps all got your ear canal blockers in?” whispered Highbrow. The team always wore in-ear deflection devices when hunting mind criminals, to deflect any hypnotic sound waves while letting other sounds in.

“Yes Sir,” murmured Babel.

“Yes Sir,” murmured Salome.

“And you, Hereford?” hissed Highbrow.

Hereford just kept lumbering forward.

Hereford!”

“Oh, sorry Sir,” said Hereford sheepishly, tapping his ear with a hoof. “Had mine set to full blackout by mistake.”

The warehouse was empty apart from stacks of wooden crates piled in the far end and, for some reason, a row of Citroen and Volkswagen cars lined up against the wall to the agents’ left. Highbrow ordered Hereford to pry open one of the crates with his horn. What they saw inside made their eyes widen.

“Holy moley!” whistled Hereford. “Aren’t these those, what were they called… Transcriber radios?”

“Transistor radios,” corrected Babel. “So that’s it! Doctor Miasma must be hiding his hypnotic technology inside those radios. The cunning devil knew that just such an advancement in radio technology happened around this time, so he got ahead of the competition, knowing people would buy them by the million!”

“So, we’ve uncovered Doctor Miasma’s plan,” said Highbrow happily. “Now all we need to do is find the man himself.”

“I’ll save you the trouble, my dear toffee-nosed time traipser!” crowed a malevolent voice from behind them.

The four agents whirled around to see Doctor Miasma standing before the shattered door of the warehouse. He was a short, sinister looking little man, with ophidian eyes, skeletal fingers and a rounded bald head like a basketball. Knowing how dangerous he was, the three human agents drew laser pistols from their pockets and Hereford lowered his deadly horns.

“Doctor Miasma, you are under arrest under the All-History Mind Crimes Act of 2503,” shouted Highbrow. “Now step forward and surrender, there’s a good chap!”

Miasma laughed like a madman. “I think not! Well done for tracking me down, I must say. But you’re mine now, BITCH’s!”

He snapped his fingers.

The Time ‘Tecs watched in horror as the cars inside the warehouse began changing shape. Panels spun, doors folded back, robotic heads, hands and toes sprang into view, until a tall and menacing troop of robots stood where the cars had once been. They lumbered towards the helpless agents, cutting off the warehouse doors and denying them any chance to retreat.

“Do you like my latest creations?” said Miasma smugly. “I got the idea from a television show that’ll be popular about thirty years from now.”

“With sound effects as catch as that, I’m not surprised!” called out Hereford.

“Amusing words, you bothersome bovine,” smiled Miasma. “Too bad they’re your last. Kill them!”

The robots advanced irresistibly upon the Time ‘Tecs. Babel and Salome fired shots at their chests, but the laser bolts just bounced off them and the robots kept coming. Hereford made ready to charge.

“Don’t do it, Hereford, old boy,” warned Highbrow. “You’d defeat a few, but the rest would overpower you.”

“Hereford, give me that device you brought with you,” said Babel. “Now, if one of you could provide a distraction, there’s something I might still be able to do.”

“Leave the distraction to me,” said Salome.

Once again, she activated her FABB. But this time, she also changed her skin and hair colour to silver grey. Her eyes became emerald green lights, while welds and rivets appeared on her arms and torso. Soon she had turned herself into a heavenly female robot, no longer warm flesh, but red hot steel.

“Well hello, bots,” she purred, wiggling her hips.

Miasma’s robots stopped in their tracks, making bleeping sounds that sounded oddly like wolf whistles. Moments later, Salome was taking to her dainty metal heels as the robots followed her in state of circuit-frying lust.

“What are you doing?” Miasma shrieked at his robots. “Attack, I say!”

Many of the robots ignored him, but some kept advancing. Luckily, there were few enough of them for Hereford to bowl over with a mighty charge. As the robots were distracted and Doctor Miasma raged in the warehouse entrance, Babel took one of the doctored transistor radios and started pulling out the circuitry. He then began fitting it to the device Hereford had brought.

“Damn you, BITCH’s!” screamed Miasma. “You’ve foiled me again!”

He turned round and started to run.

“You won’t get far, you rascal!” cried Highbrow. “Music, maestro!”

A strange, warbling tune began blaring out through the warehouse. It was coming from an electronic instrument with a keyboard that Babel was playing.

“You’re not the only one who can hijack past technology for your own ends, Miasma,” said Highbrow. “This beezer little instrument is a clavioline. Babel’s souped it up with some of your mind-control technology. It’s now sending out a signal that turns your robots over to my control. Go get him, chaps!”

The robots who had been chasing Salome now pounded after Doctor Miasma, who was seized and brought before the Time ‘Tecs. Highbrow handcuffed him, read him his rights and then chained him to one of Hereford’s horns so that he could be led away securely.

“You know, Babel, that tune may have been designed to mesmerise the robots,” grinned Hereford. “But all the same, it was very catchy.”

“That’s why it’ll get to number one, Agent Hereford,” replied Babel.

“I beg your pardon?”

“In just under ten years’ time, a band will release that same tune and it’ll top the charts,” explained Babel. “Look it up sometime. It’s called ‘Telstar’.”

Shakespeare Made Simple (Flash Fiction)

Billy was sitting in his room with his English homework.  He stared hard at his books and file paper, but just couldn’t seem to make a start.  He banged his fists on the desk in frustration.

In came his father.  “Why the aggro, Billy?”

“I’m studying Shakespeare in English, Dad,” Billy snorted.  “But none of it makes any sense to me.”

“Oh, Shakespeare’s not that difficult, Son,” said Billy’s father.  “Just remember that all the men’s names end in “O” and all the women’s names end in “A”, and you’re one step forward!”