Space. It stretched out before him – endless, dark, enticing. The stars were faint and blurry through the thick glass view port, moving in a slow arc across his vision.
He could feel the endless nothing all around, calling to his soul, a siren’s whisper.
Float with us. Float with us forever! Float and forget.
The dark song was as endless as dreams.
He shook his head, fighting off the draining sensation.
He needed to concentrate.
He turned away to look out the only other viewport.
This one was dominated by the dark shadow of the dead ship. It was only visible against the deeper blackness due to the fading embers of molten metal fragments of its destruction.
They too fade from sight to and die.
Like everyone inside.
Looking out that viewport was hurting his neck. He faced forward again. He was too cramped. He could only move his head left and right and his arms enough to use the control by his hands and the keyboards before him.
He was stuck.
Daydreams had led him here – he couldn’t let them end him here.
A beep from the computer brought his senses back to proper alertness.
It had started. The attacks were coming.
He had anticipated it, though not so quickly and not all at once.
“Update”, he commanded.
The computer’s calm voice responded.
“Interceptors are on the way they will arrive in precisely 623 seconds.”
“They must be responding to the distress call from the prison,” he muttered.
“That would seem a high probability.”
Dammit! He hadn’t been able to cut that off in time.
The computer went on.
“We should send our own distress call, they will be equipped to rescue you.”
“Do not!” he commanded. “Keep radio silence!”
They were not only equipped for rescue. They were heavily armed. Once they learned the truth – and very soon they would – weapons would their first response.
“And our firewall?” he queried.
“The outer defence has been breached but the systems have not yet been compromised.”
That wouldn’t last much longer. The authorities were suspicious already – the presence of such a strong firewall did not to allay those suspicions – so they were hitting the firewall with the best they had.
“And my program?”
“Approximately 800 seconds to completion.”
Not enough time!
He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. There was too much at stake here to fail.
He needed more time.
“Instigate firewall program 42!”
The computer complied and ran the program for him. That would keep the cyber attacks at bay for a little longer.
He shook his head. He had the nagging feeling that this was all just too fantastic!
Only a year ago the only thing he did on a computer was check social media and chat! Spaceships were a thing of science-fiction! Now here he was a master programmer and a fugitive from the authorities flying in space. It all seemed too unreal.
It was the stress of the situation he told himself and he could not afford to be distracted by it.
Besides he wasn’t actually flying a spaceship right now. He was drifting in what was little more than an escape pod.
But the ship he had escaped from was real. As were those bearing down on him. And these were not the only truths he had discovered lately.
He looked at the countdown on the program he was running.
“OK,” he told the computer, “prepare a distress call. But inject the virus I prepared.”
“That is against regulations,” the computer informed him. He barked an override code at it and it proceeded to prepare the distress call.
It was amazing what you could learn in prison. Hacking, override codes. The truth about the universe out there.
Putting him in prison had been their mistake.
Daydreams and curiosity had led him to that prison. he asked too many questions and that had got him into trouble at work and with the Government. That alone would probably not have condemned him but he had also an inventive streak. And a paranoid one.
When they hauled him for questioning he had snuck in a crude listening device.
It had not worked very well but he had caught snippets of conversation.
“He seems immune..”
“Is he any harm though?”
“ … control … inherited or just a ….. “
“He is a dreamer, not a revolutionary.”
“There we go then. We make him a believer…”
Unfortunately, the listening device was discovered – and that sealed his fate. He was shipped off to a deep space prison ship.
A deep space prison ship! One day he was in a world where the space shuttle was the most sophisticated space vehicle man had created and smartphones where the best man seemed to be able to achieve – the next he was in a world of spaceships – and space police!
It was a culture shock, to say the least.
He was dumped into prison and forgotten.
And that was the strangest thing of all. In prison, he flourished.
On earth – in his old life he had been Mr Average Joe to a T. Prison should have broken him. Yet he found that he had more freedom stuck on this ship than ever before.
He learned the truth for one thing.
There existed on earth (and space) a super élite far above anything anyone even suspected existed. They had science and wealth beyond the imagination of most people.
The rests of the population were kept in drug-induced ignorance. Cattle whose sole purpose was to provide this élite with their lifestyle.
Knowledge seemed to flow freely in prison and he absorbed it all. He learnt to program and how to hack computers.
He had vowed to expose the truth and free the world.
So he had concocted his escape. It had cost him the lives of everyone on that ship – and probably his own life too but he didn’t care.
He was filled with fury. He wanted to free the enslaved population of the human race for sure. What he wanted more though was to see the smug bastards who ruled them get their just deserts.
“Distress call is ready to send.”
He nodded, he was about to tell the computer to send it when it preempted him.
“There are two more ships, coming in from the direction of Saturn.”
“No. They bear all the signs of space pirates?”
Space pirates? Pirates? How could pirates exist? That would imply ….
He shook his head. There were too many questions threatening to distract him. He had to concentrate.
“Program completion has been suspended.” the computer announced.
He flung his fingers at the keyboard and dove into code. They had not yet got full control but they managed to stop his program.
Which implied they knew or guessed what he was doing.
He glanced at the other screen. The pirates would get here quicker than the interceptors! And they would shoot first!
He didn’t hesitate now. He called up his virus and made a few changes, then he told the computer to prepare it again and send it.
Then he dove back in and started a counterattack against the hackers. He managed to regain control and get his program running again. He then spent the next few minutes both fighting the hackers off and keeping his exit channels open.
While he did this he also watched as his virus took hold of the interceptors and turned them towards the pirates. They would be forced to fight each other for a bit.
The program was also done. The hackers came on in full force. He struggled to hold them back.
A fireball briefly bloomed in space. All the pirate ships and interceptors signals went dead. They had destroyed each other.
Now the hackers could see the program running even if they couldn’t stop it yet.
A signal flickered back to life on the screen
One interceptor had survived.
It was closing in, weapons charged.
“Program completed!” the computer announced.
“Run it!” he shouted.
He watched the screen as the truth – all the truth – was sent out to every single person on earth.
The lies were exposed.
Come now, float with us…
The interceptor would be in range soon.
He breathed easier.
He had done as much as he could for the world. Now he had to look to his own survival.
He was stranded in space, with limited resources and little time. Air and supplies running out and no hope of rescue.
After the years and years of confinement, he welcomed the challenge – relished it.
“Now this,” he said, with an almost feral grin, “is living!”
Murphy’s Law says, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Write about a time everything did — fiction encouraged here, too! Bonus assignment: do you keep a notebook next to your bed? Good. Tomorrow morning, jot down the first thought you have upon waking, whether or not it’s coherent.
A bird in the hand
Is not worth
Two in the bush
The two in the bush are free
The one in the hand will wither
The two in the bush will multiply
Bring forth bounty
The one in the hand will need feeding
Care and Tenderness
The hand that holds
Is neither tender nor caring
I found a coin
I was newly married
Brown was a new PM
Helicopters and coaches crashed
Here and there
I started a new job
We were still in Europe
We didn't know the joys
And the horrors to come
In the next 15 years
By the end of the next 15
I should be retired
What will happen between now
The purr of the projector Warm popcorn scent Dust motes dancing in the light Deep, dusty heavy red drapes Mumbles and fumbles in the shadows Hand brushing hand by chance Close, sweet breath and perfume The excitement of the old silver screen
Where is our time
The hours saved in the kitchen
The days saved by the robots
The weeks shaved by the ones and zeros
It was all supposed to save us time
We have seconds
Left to think
The roots of the trees are deep In the deep of the old old forest Digging in the dirt, drinking in the earth Long are the memories The past seeping slowly from Root to trunk to branch to leaf Contemplating Ripped up. Houses built.
Selective isolation That would be my goal Off the grid Powered by the sun and wind and tide Food from the earth Room for friends to visit And children to play Security Not much to ask Why is it so distant For so many
Many of us think of our lives as boringly normal, while others live the high life. Take a step back, and take a look at your life as an outsider might. Now, tell us at least six unique, exciting, or just plain odd things about yourself.
I am not one for biographies myself – I only read this one due to the fact that he was featured in one of my favourite old time Science Fiction series – the Riverworld books by Philip Jose Farmer. A series where every single person who ever lived is resurrected on one world all at once – just a fantastic premise in itself.
Farmer uses Burton as the main character of the first book (and others later on.) He writes him with such passion and paints him in such an interesting way that you can’t help but find out more about him.
So I delved into this biography. Farmer had only painted a small part of his life!
Sir Richard Francis Burton, in reality, was – complicated.
He was a man of extremes. In many ways, he was extremely admirable. On other extremely reprehensible! Unforgivably so.
He achieved more in his lifetime than many of us could on six, seven, eight lifetimes! But is beliefs were bigoted and selfish, to say the least.
He was an avid supporter of slavery! He believed women’s places were in the home or the bed! He was vehemently anti-semitic and wrote several books that still cause controversy today!
You could argue he was a product of his time but he was an intelligent man and there were plenty of contemporaries who were seeing past the constraints of their society and challenging the established views.
He was a womaniser – had affairs, frequented brothels. He was a brawler – fought at the drop of a hat earning him the nickname Ruffian Dick. He disregarded authority of all kinds and went his own way, expelled from University and often AWOL from his army career.
On the flip side.
He was one of the foremost fencers of the time inventing some new moves.
He was a masterful linguist – he was fluent in 24 languages – and in many of the different dialects of them. So much so he could pass himself off as a local in many places. He learnt much of it from prostitutes!
He was a master of disguise – not just in the fact he could dress up, makeup and talk like the locals. But that he understood them, he took the time to know their customs and etiquette, the foibles without which he would have been betrayed as an outsider. He immersed himself in their culture.
He made seven pilgrimages in his life. Studying and being accepted into various religions – understanding their teachings while not believing any of them.
He was the epitome of an explorer, making dangerous journey in strange lands, suffering illness and injury, going back for more and pressing on.
He explored and brought to light the many sexual practices from around the world. He brought much middle eastern and eastern culture to our consciousness. He brought us translations of the Thousand and One Nights, the Karma Sutra and the Perfumed Garden.
So as I said, complicated.
It brings up a problem we often have with heroes. We want them to be perfect. We want all those good qualities without the bad. But life is not like that – people are not like that.
We kind of know that – we try and accommodate it. Modern day fictional heroes have their flaws, they are dark and brooding and have emotional baggage. But nothing we can’t handle – nothing really reprehensible.
So it got me thinking. I have a real problem with Sir Richard Francis Burton. I admire what he achieved. I dislike what he was as a person. I certainly would not like not have known him personally.
And I see a reflection of modern men in this dilemma. I have written here about how men (and everyone in fact) are demonised in modern media. On the other side, we are brought up with a set of ideals about what a man should be what we should strive to be.
We end up with conflicting views – an ideal – heroic man to strive for, and the wretch the world tells us we are.
The conflict I feel when thinking about Richard Francis Burton is the conflict we feel about modern men – he is a kind of reflection of us.
We should, I think – start to accept our flaws more, try to improve and eliminate them, yes, but give ourselves a break. They are a part of us, a part of our nature. Nobody is perfect – natures abhors perfection as much as a vacuum. Perfection does not exist so let’s stop trying to achieve it.
Through glass doors, I saw your eyes
They struck me that very first time
And as you waited, I felt surprise
And bells began to chime
I had been resigned until that day
To accept a single life
Now it seemed I must find a way
To make this girl my wife
I opened up those doors that day
And let you in my life
You sashayed by in your silky skirt
More than my heart arose
I wondered if would just be hurt
If this road I chose
History did not promise much
My track record did not shine
But your perfection I longed to touch
Could it be that you’d be mine?
To the smallest hope, I would clutch
And revelled in your shine
Your beauty, your smile they stole my heart
I longed to hold you near
To be your friend was a shaky start
Al least I could be near
Until that day we made took the leap
We became more than friends
Then my heart was forever deep
With a love that never ends
And though age and time forever creep
This love still never ends
Your ever happy shining heart
Lights my life through every waking hour
You are a living work of art
A beauty like a flower
You stir my lust, you stir my love
You want to make me grow
You are sunshine from above
A perfect warming glow
You are my hope bringing dove
May your light forever flow
Shoulda done more
Coulda done more
Would have done more
There was this
And there was that
We did our best
Under the circumstances
Better than them
Better than we thought
For earth we left you
We enjoyed it while we could
So now you can’t
We are blind to the truth Everyday Suffering goes on And we deny it all Unable to find a way Through the maze of our modern lives To a place where we can be ourselves And hold out that hand that helps our neighbour
Instead we clench our hand in a tight fist Holding tight onto what we have gained Not seeing what we are losing What slips away from our grasp Diminishing our souls Focused on our goals With such passion That we are simply Blind
I can’t contain my dreams
So I write
I can’t speak with eloquence
So I write
I cannot fly
So I write
I cannot stand and fight
So I write
I cannot remember
So I write
I cannot still my fears
So I write
There is so much to dream for
So many arguments to win
So much to fly from
So much to fight against
So many memories to cherish
So much to fear
A collection of short stories concerning ghosts. Some are traditional ghost stories in the tradition of M.R. James and Edgar Allan Poe. Others are not. Some scare, some are fun. Some play with the concept of a ghost. There are ghosts who are out for revenge and the living avenging the spirits that curse them.
Ideal for sitting around a campfire and late at night under the covers. Or maybe not if the stories themselves are any guide.