Confined

By Scott Bailey © 2015

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.

He shivered.

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.

Float….

Concentrate!

“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!”

“Affirmative.”

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.

“New contacts.”

“What?”

“There are two more ships, coming in from the direction of Saturn.”

“More interceptors?”

“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.

What!?

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.

Almost there.

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.

Almost.

“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…

No!

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!”

Questions

By Scott Bailey © 2014

She came out of the store just in time to see her young son playing on the sidewalk directly in the path of the gray, gaunt man who strode down the centre of the walk like a mechanical derelict.

The boy looked up at her once the man had passed, saw the fear, the hatred in her eyes.

“What’s up? What is the danger?”

She looked troubled by his questions, as if he had stirred something in her she did not wish to confront.

He seemed to be seeing this a lot lately.

“He is a leper,” she answered curtly.

“And that makes him dangerous?” the boy asked. She stared at him as if wondering where his curiosity was coming from. And well she might.

That was not important to him now, he wanted answers. The time had come for them.

“You might get it, I don’t want anything to hurt you.”

“So why is no one helping him?”

She shrugged,

“I don’t think anyone can. It’s not curable.”

“So why is he allowed to wander around?”

“I don’t know,” she snapped.

“But why do you hate him so much?”

“Because he could hurt you! You might get it!”

“Wouldn’t it be better the try to help him rather than hate him?”

“Look it’s too complicated for you to understand! I am not a doctor!”

“But you know doctors?” he frowned.

“Look that’s enough young man – let’s get you home and get you a bath.”

The boy frowned. She would not be drawn any further.

He was quiet on the way home. He had come to a conclusion. The mother he had chosen was not adequate – not in respect to answering his questions. Well, there was nothing he could do about that now. That decision was made.

But he could direct his questions elsewhere. He was going to be forced to. If he didn’t get any better answers soon it was not going to bode well for the human race.

The first line is from my favourite book “Lord Fouls Bane” by Stephen R Donaldson, the first part of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

In response to my daily prompt Call Me Ishmael 

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Folly

By Scott Bailey © 2016

She stared at the artefact. It reminded her of a flower. Well, reminded was the wrong word. She had never seen a flower – there were no more left. They had died out long before she had arrived.

Everything had.

But in the last few months, her colleagues had managed to decipher and read the ancient data they had found here and there. They had pieced together a rough history of this dead place. Not much but enough – enough to know what happened.

Enough to know it could happen to them.

Enough to know what a flower looked like.

Before they had died – somebody had carved a final message on this artefact.

‘Man’s final folly!”

She wondered at that. She could not fathom its reasoning.

It was beyond doubt now that this giant metal flower had been the instrument that had called out to them so long ago. Sent its message to the stars.

And they had heard. 20,000 long years ago she and her colleagues had boarded their ship and started on their way.

In all probability, the flower was still broadcasting then. The carver of that message was still breathing good air.

No more.

There was no more good air. There was nothing left to breathe it.

What puzzled her more was the fact that the remaining histories made it plain that it was foreseeable. Preventable even.

Yet she could also see that their own masters back home could easily make the same mistake. As advanced as they were the path was familiar.

So it was that she and her fellow robotic explorers had taken the decision to delay their trip home. It would take them 20,000 more years to get back with the warning.

This – folly – could send the message quicker. So here they were trying to repair it get it working again.

A desperate battle to avoid the fate of these long-dead people who called themselves human beings.

Photo by Igor Mashkov on Pexels.com

Anticipate

By Scott Bailey ⓒ 2017

I anticipate
The dissipation
Of the all
The scattering
Of goals
The rise of dreams
To ride
Upon the mists
To be blown
Upon the winds
To reside
In clouds
And hide
In trees
To sleep
In earth
Drink water
Sup sunlight
Weep rain
And sigh

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

The Jellyfish That Froze

By Scott Bailey © 2014

The jellyfish sighed, in a jellyfish way. It wobbled awake.

Another day after another rough night.

The little jellies were disturbed, heavy currents last night. They had needed lots of comfort. He had wrapped himself around them and rocked them to sleep against the waves. Mrs Jellyfish had bumped up against him, squishing his comfort and rumbled fitfully. Bad dreams, turbulent waters.

He stretched out, taking in as much of the early morning sunbeams as he could, building up energy for the coming onslaught…

The jellyfish swore. Riding the busy jet stream he had just missed crashing into a hard-shell and getting himself shredded.  He had survived the morning scramble, the sleepy then crazed, energised little ones. The rush, the noise.  Now he was squeezing and twisting himself in and out of the flow. Avoiding the less considerate travellers. Collapsing himself sliding like and eel. Rolling up like a ball to barrel through the wake of those speeding by way too fast. One day his shifting and gyrating would not be enough. He would get hit.

The jellyfish quivered. He shook himself more awake and aware. Had to concentrate more or mistakes would be made. The others didn’t help. The one who needed to be high up to avoid the sand. The one by his side who couldn’t help bumping him with every list and move. The on behind who kept expanding and contracting. He was only here because he could adapt, shift his shape to accommodate.

Another day. And tomorrow yet another. And the day after.

The suddenly the alarm. Shark! Here! that was new. It was almost exciting, but he had all the other jellies to think of, to return to, to bear up and settle down. He could not enjoy this. Not without guilt.

They scattered. All of a sudden he was alone. Alone in the deep. No shark, no one.

Sunbeams drifted down through the undulating waves. Debris floated gently on the eddies and sway. It was silent for once. Peaceful

He basked in the peace and dreamed. This he could enjoy.

There was a sudden surge of cold. A surprise current swept in and took him. He curled up and rode it but he was at its mercy. No control.

He pulsed with, fear. And excitement.

This was out of his comfort zone, out of the everyday routine and out of his volition. Therefore he was not responsible.

He let go – he could enjoy this.

The water got colder, He suddenly noticed looming, dark shapes above him. Icebergs. He has heard of them, never seen one. They looked imposing. Hard. Unyielding.

He watched them for a while as they crashed through everything in their path.

And then he made his decision.

He froze. It was a simple act of will. He became as rigid as the icebergs. Shaped himself how he wanted and never shifted his outline again.

He returned to his home. Now, everyone had to shift their stances, adjust their positions and accommodate his new shape. They had to as it was crowded with sharp points and hard corners. He was not comfortable to be near.

Now the world was shaped around him instead of the world shaping him.

He was pleased. So please he did not notice how far everyone drifted from him.

He was frozen and would stay so.

No one had ever told him that even icebergs melt.

Image from Pixabay

A Cracking Five Star Review

For Thirteen Tales

See the original here or read below.

I was very eager to acquire and read Thirteen Tales, by Scott Bailey, as I’m familiar with his writing from his blog. I like everything about his book–the cover art is spectacular, suggestive of Poe’s “Raven”; and the stories read quickly as you hunger for the next one–but try to slow down, and savor each one! I’m glad to have added Scott’s book to my home library–and highly recommend it. It makes a great gift too!

Thirteen Tales of Ghosts

Check it the book for yourself here and see if you agree.

And many thanks to R Ryan – also known as Ennle Madresan over at Abandoned Amenities for the review and kind words.

www.scottandewbailey.uk

Thirteen Tales – Wow! Jumping up!

From 149th to 36th in a few hours!

13talesrank3

 

Spread the word – let’s get it higher! Wonder if I can get it to number 1!!!

13talescoverc

www.scottandrewbailey.uk

Thirteen Tales – Climbing but a long way to go still

Less than a week since the release on its 149th in its category.

13talesrank

Spread the word – let’s get it higher!

13talescoverc

The Execution – Story Featured

A short story I wrote – The Execution has been featured on the writing website Thanet Writers. Check it out here

If you like it check out my other work here or at my website

Short Story Challenge – One down

I finally got time to do the second draft of the first story in my short story challenge. I would have liked to spend more time on it but if I had there was the danger it would never get done.

So you can see it here.

The next one on the list is going to be even more challenging I think.

Short Story Challenge

Looking at my author page www.scottandrewbailey.uk there is one gaping hole. There are no short stories.

I have written quite a few in the past but it was some time ago and they need some editing and polishing before I put together a collection. In the meantime I have decided I need to start writing some new ones.

Short stories are the form I find most challenging – and that I most want to get a grip on.

So I have decided to set myself a challenge and give myself a proverbial boot up the jacksy!

I recently joined a local online writing community and one of the members posted a list of genres – which he is trying to write a story for each. I have appropriated that list but extended it terms a bit. To each genre I have added a constraint – that will make the writing harder but hopefully spark a better creation. So for example one of the options is an action story. So my constraint for that one is to set it in a confined space.

I am posting this list here and will post links to the relevant stories if and when I write them – and its a big if one this one.

But I also thought others might like to take up the challenge. If you do I am happy to post links to your resulting works of art here beneath each section.

I am going to try to work through in the order posted but that’s optional and if I get inspired I may skip to a particular one.

Here is the list

  • Action – set in a confined space
  • Comedy – about an act of terrorism
  • Crime – Set in a police station with CCTV watching
  • Erotica – set in an un-erotic place – such as a sewer
  • Espionage – set in either MI5 headquarters or a cell
  • Fantasy – Set in a shopping centre
  • Historical – Set in the future
  • Horror – A children’s story
  • Noir – based around colours
  • Political – In a hippy commune
  • Post-Apocalypse – In a book club
  • Romance – In a divorce court
  • Sci-Fi – In neolithic times
  • Space Opera – From a droids POV
  • Superhero – In medieval times
  • Thriller – In a Cricket or bowls match
  • Western – From Native American POV
  • Whodunnit – With no apparent crime

Let’s see what happens.

Questions

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Call Me Ishmael.”

Questions

 

By Scott Bailey © 2014

 

She came out of the store just in time to see her young son playing on the sidewalk directly in the path of the gray, gaunt man who strode down the centre of the walk like a mechanical derelict.

The boy looked up at her once the man had passed, saw the fear, the hatred in her eyes.

“What’s up? What is the danger?”

She looked troubled by his questions, as if he had stirred something in her she did not wish to confront.

He seemed to be seeing this a lot lately.

“He is a leper,” she answered curtly.

“And that makes him dangerous?” the boy asked. She stared at him as if wondering where his curiosity was coming from. And well she might.

That was not important to him now, he wanted answers. The time had come for them.

“You might get it, I don’t want anything to hurt you.”

“So why is no one helping him?”

She shrugged,

“I don’t think anyone can. It’s not curable.”

“So why is he allowed to wander around?”

“I don’t know,” she snapped.

“But why do you hate him so much?”

“Because he could hurt you! You might get it!”

“Wouldn’t it be better the try to help him rather than hate him?”

“Look its too complicated for you to understand! I am not a doctor!”

“But you know doctors?” he frowned.

“Look that’s enough young man – let’s get you home and get you a bath.”

The boy frowned. She would not be drawn any further.

He was quiet on the way home. He had come to a conclusion. The mother he had chosen was not adequate – not in respect to answering his questions. Well there was nothing he could do about that now. That decision was made.

But he could direct his questions elsewhere. He was going to be forced to. If he didn’t get any better answers soon it was not going to bode well for the human race.

The first line is from my favourite book “Lord Fouls Bane” by Stephen R Donaldson, the first part of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

A New Short Story

I knew that writing a poem a day would have wider effects in helping getting my creative side going again. For the first time in years I had an idea for a short story. Not just an idea either but most of it all there and complete and ready.

So taking advantage of having a bit of rare spare time I sat down and wrote it out straight away. I thought I would post it and see what people think. It’s raw and fresh and has had no editing but I am excited by the fact I have actually written some new prose so want to get it out there.

Bruised

By Scott Bailey © 2013

 

He would never see his son again.

Unless…

Unless he went made it through today. Found the strength from somewhere. Put aside his pain.

The trauma his son had suffered had not been at his hands. Logically there was no responsibility for it on his shoulders.

Logic was a weak fence against raw emotion. Emotion that told him that he had failed as a father, that the protection he was supposed to give had been lacking, just that once.

Nobody agreed with him.

That made no difference.

So, he would not compound failure with failure. This was his last chance. He would take it.

He had tried all other avenues. Therapy, prayer, medication. Nothing worked, Yet what it had done was show him the way. It had made clear the path he needed to tread.

So he took a deep breath and rose from his seat. He nodded to the doctor signalling his readiness. The doctor frowned but kept his piece. He opened the door and let him enter his son’s room.

The room was sparse, clinical. His son lay curled on top of the bed sheets, motionless. Awake but unresponsive. He did not look up or acknowledge his father’s entrance.

There was a small bedside table to the left of the bed on which sat a plastic beaker of water. The bed was positioned by the window. Sunlight tried to make an impression on the coldness of the room but failed. The only other furniture was a white chest of drawers and some empty white bookshelves.

Then there were the books.

The books, many many books, that should have rested on the shelves or strewn on the floor. An impressive collection for one so young.

They hung impossibly in the air.

He sighed. He knew what came next. It had all become familiar to him. This time though he did not avoid it. He did not flinch or try to defend himself. This time he smiled at his son.

The books flew at him. As if thrown by immense strength and anger. The hard spines whacked into his flesh like dull nails. Again and again and again. Raining pain upon his body. The books that hit him fell to the ground limply, twitched like dying flies, then were suddenly whisked up and flung again.

There was no let up.

He could feel his body being pummelled into a bloody bruised mess. But he took it. Stood calmly, raised his arms towards his son and kept smiling. Gave all he had left to him – gave him his unconditional love. Took the punishment not meant for him.

The books whirled faster as the rage grew. Like a tornado of leather and card they descended on him, pounded him. The pain passed over what was bearable to no longer being processable – so he no longer felt it. He knew he would not last much longer – if this continued his body would fail him. Darkness crept inwards along the edges of his eyes. He kept smiling, locked his legs and stood, arms out.

The whirl became a darkness that was trying to beat his flesh from his bones. He felt like the bones themselves were splintering beneath.

Then it stopped.

Suddenly all the books fell to the floor. Sunlight sprang into the room as is a lock had burst.

His son looked up and held out his arms for his father.

Join on..

So as promised I am posting a short story. It’s a strange little philosophical tale that can be added to by anyone.

The premise is an indeterminate number of friends in a fantastical situation and their response to it.

So to add to it simply add the response of another friend. Keep it short and simple – just a few lines. I have added four responses but even as I was writing them was aware of the myriad of other responses there could be. I am interested to see if there are others I had not thought about.

So here it is.

Lunch Hour

Started by Scott Bailey

There were some friends. And a hall. An infinite hall, with marble walls and pillars that stretched forever into the distance.

And there were tables. Row after row after row of tables. On each table was a never-ending supply of a single dish. In that hall, on those tables there could be found every dish that had ever been imagined, concocted and served up in all of human history.

With a thought you could be sitting before any dish you could think of. Or you could ask your neighbour for a recommendation and try something new. The name of the dish was enough to take you there.

It was time for the friends to eat. They entered and they took their paths through the hall. They commenced their lunch.

As they knew – it was a once only meal.

An hour later they reconvened, look each other in the eyes and assessed their time beneath the infinite arches.

The first spoke.

“I tried as many different tastes as I could. I jumped from table to table and I can honestly say that I know of no one who, could have filled their time here with as many different flavours as I. Yet. Now I am here –  wonder why? I stand here before you proudly stating the quantity of meals I have partaken off – yet I wonder why does that matter? Not one was complete. Have I missed the joy of a meal.”

He hung his head, deep in thought and regret. But second friend spoke.

“You make me wonder. What taste did I miss? I did not try many different meals, For quite soon I found one that I really enjoyed. I sat down and savoured the taste. People around me did the same and we discussed the meal and more besides. I do not regret that – no it was heartwarming – but I wonder at the tastes I missed. Was there a better meal still that I could have savoured with more relish?”

The third friend looked haunted.

“I did not eat. I wanted to try everything but I realised this was not possible, that it was a dream that could only fail. Yet I felt that to just sit down and eat was an insult to the great hospitality and variety that had been laid before us. I fell in with a group of other like-minded people and we were determined to resolve this dilemma with the gifts of reason we have been bestowed with. I have been a fool.”

“You are all fools!” said a fourth friend.

“I knew the way – I understood the correct combination of meals that would allow perfection! I tried to tell you but you would not listen! So many people did not listen! Fools! But there were some and we understand that we have eaten correctly and that we will be rewarded for that. I pity you – you have wasted your lunch hour.”

From Liz Bryant (via Facebook)

“I knew that every choice I could possibly imagine was available to me if only I could be sure to think of my heart’s desire but I couldn’t trust myself to be sure my imagination would conjure my one enduring favourite dish so I watched everyone else and enjoyed observing them choose and enjoy and I admired those who took time to consider, enjoyed and left happy that they had made the right choice”