Monday, 30 July 2012
Sunday, 22 July 2012
SILHOUETTES - Second instalment - Chapters four and five.
For more information on this novel, click Here. Next instalment coming next week.
It was twenty to eleven when he finished his second patrol, touring an empty office block for the minimum wage. Not much to do, not much in the way of job satisfaction, but that was the last patrol, and this was his final shift. He phoned the security manager’s office at HQ again and was told by Valerie, the office temp, he was still in a meeting. He changed into the civvy clothes he’d brought with him and folded his uniform neatly and put it in a plastic bag, marked return’s on the bag and placed it in the middle of the desk. Stuff waiting till six o’clock when his shift officially ended. The building he was in contained over two-hundred thousand square feet of office space, and it was all empty but for some office furniture scattered floor to floor, except this reception office just off the foyer on the ground floor. It contained a chair, a table, a phone and a fax, and a small portable TV and kettle belonging to one of the other guards. He got a piece of A4 from the fax and wrote, ‘Please accept my immediate resignation' on it in large letters, then crumpled it up and binned it. He took another sheet of paper, ‘For ignoring my calls, please accept my immediate resignation, you fat bastard!’ and he wrote at the bottom of the page, ‘keys under plant pot in reception’. He signed it, ‘yours sincerely, Dave Stuart,’ then placed it on the fax machine and pressed button one. The machine began the auto dial to HQ. He had about thirty seconds to change his mind. He waited, dithering whether to cross out the ‘fat bastard’, it struck him as not being quite pc – gravitationally challenged with mixed parentage seemed more apt, but then the paper was drawn into the machine, and he smiled to himself wondering if Tony would be dragged from his no doubt fictitious meeting when Valerie read the fax. He put on his jacket and placed the keys under the plant pot, who the fuck would break in before Tony, or some other fucker arrived to take over his shift? And anyway, what the fuck was there to steal, it was an empty shell, an ex-call centre for Telcomcal Services that’d closed after opening up a similar, though cheaper run, operation somewhere in Asia. The phone began ringing just as the door closed behind him. He crossed Grimeforth Street and entered the Salvation Arms. He would get a pint of lager and watch who came to take over from the window. Not that he really gave a fuck, for apart from being free of the job, he was also free from the Agency back home. He realised he was suddenly happier than he’d been for a long time.
It was after twelve before he had the curtain back up in a semi-permanent fashion. If his eyes were in a fit state to stare hard, he was sure that would be all the excuse the heavy drape and rail would need to take offence and come crashing down again. He tip-toed warily around the window, picking up empty beer bottles and filling a black bin bag with rubbish. He noticed a scribbled note from Debbie to walk Bruno at mid-day. He binned that also. Not all his mess, he reminded himself to save that fact as handy ammunition for the row that would erupt sometime this evening. The pizza boxes and globules of dried wax that used to be candles weren’t his, neither were the red open crotch knickers one of the lucky bastard’s had removed from some female and thrown behind the couch. They certainly weren't Debbie's.
After the big tidy, and a quick walk around the park with the mutt, he decided enough was enough, the dog wasn't interested, he wasn't interested in the dog. They paced together in parallel, like a couple on non-speaking terms, contentedly ignoring each other, trying overtly to ensure neither encroached the other's personal space enough to warrant a communication between them. His memory of last night still eluded him, to the extent that he reasoned the only way to bring it back, was to retrace his steps of the night before. That and also the fact that the hangover, instead of abating, was becoming more like a terminal illness of the drugs-don’t-work-and-destined-to-die-in-spasms-of-agony type. The dog back at the Lomond Lane house he shared with four students, and him back out once more, it was with relief when he finally entered the Salvation Arms and squeezed a space at the bar to order a pint. The sweat was oozing from every pore as he took it to his mouth, paranoid that everyone in the bar sensed it was shaking in his hand. The pub was beginning to empty of the lunch time drinkers and he began to relax, feeling a bit better as the beer took effect and he was less crowded in. By his second pint he had a bar stool and could hear the music from the juke box, which was always sedate in the way of volume during the day, to ‘enhance the atmosphere without detracting from the eating experience’, or so he had been told by one of the barmaids. He was unsure whether she’d been taking the piss or not. At present, Thom from Radiohead was singing, ‘I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo’, and he thought about giving Debbie a call and see if he’d fucked up finally forever, which in reality he knew he had. If last night wasn’t the end, then the relationship was in the last throes of death. He’d be lucky to get a few more shags before her consuming hatred of him overtook any regard she had left, and the fact that he was even thinking in terms of a few more shags told him that he was past any attempt at even making a pretence of a meaningful relationship. Cowardice got the better of him though and he decided to send a text instead, and quickly typed in, in his clumsy manner, ‘Hi, Babe, how ru hope no ruf as me lol x,’ he pressed the button to send, and noticed a vaguely familiar person at the table by the window was staring at him. Looked like a nutter too. Paranoia, fucksake, he thought, and turned back to the bar and ordered another pint and a whisky to go with it. She would be at lectures so he didn’t expect a reply till after four, so, he decided, this was as good a place as any to pass away the afternoon.
Next instalment coming soon...
Copyright © Stevie Mach 2012 All rights reserved
Saturday, 14 July 2012
SILHOUETTES – First instalment – Chapters, one, two, and three.
For more information on this novel, click Here. Next instalment coming next week.
It was good to know he’d been stood down and all the controls were in place to allow him to go, wherever he chose, whenever. He would stay for a while, though why, he wasn’t sure, but it felt right to stay a little longer. Call it intuition, or presentiment, or whatever, he had decided to stay.
The sun was rising as he retreated from the Railway Arches back through the park to his room, an upstairs bed-sit in a tenement block in Sycamore Lane, an area inhabited mostly by students. It was a light frosty, but fine, April morning. Birds flittered through the air twittering to each other of his presence, flitting from branch to branch, bush to bush; they knew he was no threat to them though, and the ruckus was more a half-hearted excuse to vocalise their self-importance, than to warn of the impending danger of his approach. Such happy-go-lucky creatures, sparrows, starlings, gregarious and haughty, just like most humans in a way. A dog appeared from a gap in the bushes, panting, and sniffing furiously at some invisible trace of rabbit, or squirrel, scattering the feathered creatures to higher safer foliage. It looked up surprised at his presence, and then darted off down the path to an approaching girl waving a leash and calling, ‘Bruno! Here, Bruno’.
He sat down on a park bench for while, smoking, watching the dog running and retrieving a Frisbee thrown by the girl. His chip tingled, and he rubbed a finger along the side of his temple, flicked a thought to the receiving frequency, the landscape around him changed to shadowtype and he was amazed to see a copter in silent stealth mode float across the sky just above the treetops. Sleek and black, and dangerous. It was one of the latest, he noticed, as even the downdraught from the rotors was masked, and he felt nothing but a gentle breeze disturbing the calm as it passed overhead, heading towards the city centre. There was nothing on the communication bands he could detect though something must be going down close by, but whatever it was it had nothing to do with him. The dog had stopped in mid run and was barking at the sky, at the chopper it sensed but couldn’t see. The girl collected the Frisbee herself and began walking towards him, he switched the chip to standby and the Technicolour of the park returned.
‘Hi,’ she said as she walked past and he gave her a nod in acknowledgement, pretty, blond, twenty-something, he recognized her as one of the students to watch, who attended the nearby Glasgow university, but studying what, he didn’t yet know, she wasn’t at any of the lectures he had sneakily attended. She was with a drunk boy the previous evening. It was almost seven and he would have to get ready for work, but fuck it, he thought, he would pack the job in, get some money sent over, there was so much else to do, and keeping up appearances was becoming a drag.
Simon was in two minds about the war he was told was raging between them and us. It seemed to him that it was driven by fear, fear the governments had of change they couldn’t control, but the war kept him in a job, which wasn’t a bad number by any means, and though boring at times, it paid enough, and he was allowed certain technology and behaviour not available to the masses. Thinking of which, he couldn’t wait to get home and get to work on Suzi.
The target got up from the park bench and began walking towards his home, he would follow him there, wait to make sure he left again for his employment (he had the subject’s work Rota on file), and take a break for a few hours. It had been a long night, and though he still had his report to write up, he was looking forward to his bed.
Although the target was low key, this suited him, he was fucked if he was going to risk life and limb for the job. His employers no doubt knew that, or at least, didn’t view him as the gung-ho type, which was why he was given tasks like this. He probably wouldn’t climb much higher up the ladder than the second or third rung, but he was happy enough to leave the glory hunting to the others. Give him a soft target like this, not much in the way of a threat, and let him play tag from A to B and back again, make his reports, and earn his salary, and have time to himself.
The target entered the stairwell of the tenement where he resided. There was a paper shop at the corner of the street and he bought a Daily Star and crossed to stand at a bus stop. The headlines were more about the missing Glasgow student. Suzi Tanner, eighteen years old, first year under-graduate at Glasgow University studying Philosophy. Last seen leaving a city-centre bar, alone, at ten-forty, Saturday evening, the twenty-second of April. Two days ago now. There was a picture of her smiling shyly. So beautiful. There was also a piece on the latest goings-on with the Scottish Independence debate. Things were heating up in that front, defence chiefs were rattling on about nukes, the USA mumbling about reaching out the hand of friendship, as if there wasn't far more serious considerations on the horizon.
Several people waited impatiently for their transport to work. Some of them were having a talk about the impending referendum for independence, they all seemed to be positive about it. He wasn't sure yet if he should take a view, the UK Government being his employer, and in any event, this was a local Earth issue, a bit beneath his remit in the raging alien war. He alternated ogling the page three girl and glancing at the second floor window where the target resided. Once, he noticed the subject looking out, though not in his direction. The crowd changed several times as buses came and went, and then eventually the target reappeared on the street wearing the uniform of a security guard. He noted the time, seven-forty, threw the paper in an adjacent litter bin and strode off in the opposite direction, finally heading for home.
Ben let the daylight filter through his eyelids. He was quite content this way, for he knew there were questions waiting he wouldn’t like the answer to when he decided to rouse himself. Remnants of memory were already starting to fit into a sequence of events of last night. The Salvation Arms pub, and several pints in there, Debbie finally arrived from the library, where she was studying, and was immediately pissed off at him for drinking so much so early (it was eight fucking o’clock and he’d only had five pints). The concert started at nine. He remembered drinks in the bar at the concert hall. Christ, his mind was a fucking blank, he couldn’t even remember the concert, Katie Melua and her band, they’d been dying to see her for ages. He opened his eyes. He was lying on the couch, not in the bed as he’d thought. Debbie must have kicked him out the room, or didn't let him in, or perhaps he hadn't even made the effort and fell unconscious here on the couch. There was dried vomit down the front of his shirt, there were several empty bottles of beck’s lying scattered across the floor and an open bottle of vodka, a quarter full, sitting precariously at the edge of the coffee table. One of the curtains had fallen off the rail and it was this he was half blanketed with. The sun shone brightly on his face and the onslaught of the hangover began in earnest.
Thank fuck his house-mates were out, he could get the place squared up before they appeared. It was a bad day when even a house of students couldn’t put up with you. They’d have seen him this morning though, unconscious on the couch, and he could expect another final warning when they got back from university this afternoon. His hands were shaking again. Fuck it, he poured a large vodka into a glass, diluted it with some tap water and took a sip. He’d get the place cleaned up then get the hell out for a while, let them come back to a tidy flat and they maybe give him another last chance.
Next instalment coming soon...
Copyright © Stevie Mach 2012 All rights reserved
Wednesday, 4 July 2012
I've decided to serialise my new novel Silhouettes here. I will be posting a few pages weekly till the novel is complete. When a sufficient amount has been published, to make it easier to read from the beginning, I will then publish these extracts, in full, from the start, on my website. I will of course link everything so hopefully it will be easier for the reader to digest.
So, why am I doing this? A few simple answers really.
First, hopefully to introduce my writing to a wider audience. Eventually the full work will be published, either by me, or an interested publisher. However it works out, if anyone desires a full copy of the work in paperback, it will be available to buy in the future.
Second, why not. I spent a great deal of time over this novel, and sending a few dozen pages out to a publisher at a time, perhaps waiting two months for an answer, then repeating the process, and me probably not being the most patient man in the world, well, you can hopefully see what I mean. Get the work some visibility, and see what happens!
Third, the internet is a fantastic place, and there are an abundance of well meaning and good intentioned people out there, and constructive criticism is always welcome, it may or may not be heeded for changes in this particular project, but all good advice is always put away in an easily accessible part of my mind for consideration on future projects.
So, what is Silhouettes about?
Well, no full synopsis here, just a few words to hopefully stimulate some interest.
There is a CIA Agent, undercover in Scotland, A madman, who regards the Agent as an alien. A few Cybernats, A couple of CID police officers, and the novel takes place over a short period of time during the current political situation in Scotland, in the run up to the referendum for independence.
The book opens with Dave Stuart, an undercover CIA Agent in Scotland, sent to investigate Cybernats; who they are, and what bearing they may have regarding US interests, especially if Scotland becomes an independent country. Simon Parker is a madman who has started off by first murdering a young female student, and as the novel progresses, his madness becomes more apparent. He sees the poet Tennyson in periods of stress, and interprets pieces of verse as instructions. He is also convinced Dave Stuart is an alien on earth. He commits more murders as the book progresses.
It is not all horror and political intrigue; there is some humour in there also!
The novel is complete, though there may be a bit of editing or rewriting as I go along, I'm not the greatest proof reader, so there may be an error or two to be weeded out along the way. However, when all is published here, it won't be too different to what anyone who has read the full manuscript has seen.
Timescale? Well, the full novel is approximately 260 pages, around 63,000 words, so posting an average 5 pages per week, it should take a year to read the lot!
The first pages will be posted very soon!
Monday, 2 July 2012
Playing For Scotland Now
He ran like mad, his father close behind, and despite his own breathlessness, he could hear the louder wheezing of his dad at his heels, but he was in front, and leading the way, and he reached the victory mark of the flagpole first.
He put his back to the pole and slid down to sit at the base, his father now walking, bent, hands on each side, but laughing. He knew his dad had let him win and waited for the quip.
'Dogs pee on that flagpole.'
'Not since they changed the flag,' he answered.
The flag above billowed in a breeze that both cooled and reinvigorated him. They had passed the flag pole every week they walked in this park, for years it seemed, yet it never meant so much as to warrant a second glance. The flag had been replaced though, shortly after the referendum. The Saltire flew there now, above, and bright, and new, and for some reason it made the park more appealing, a walk there not so much a waste of time when his father came to visit, it was a sign of better things to come. He looked forward to his father coming to visit, and he looked forward to walks in the park now.
'Tell me again where you work, dad?' he asked.
'I work for the Government, son,' his dad replied, as he always did so, 'the Scottish Government.'
'Tell me what you do there, dad?' he said, and his father reached down and patted his head, and ruffled his hair.
'Ah, if I told you that, I'd have to kill you,' replied his father, looked at him earnestly, and then laughed again.
His father was a civil servant, which his mother said was an office worker, but he worked for the Government, the new Scottish Government, so to him, a ten year old boy, that meant a world of spies and secrets and agents.
'C'mon,' said his father, and pulled him gently up by the arms. 'Time to go back to your mother.'
Mum and Dad were always arguing before, but things were better now, his Dad was working now, his mother smiled more and worried less. Just maybe, please maybe perhaps, they would get back together again. He hated they were apart.
Surprised, they met his mother at the entrance to the park, she had never done this before, and she had a bag with sandwiches and a flask of coffee for his father and a can of juice for him, and she had brought the football they had forgotten. They walked back into the park along the path, he in the middle, a hand in each of his parent's. Things were better now, and getting better all the time, even his reports from school made them happy.
They sat at a picnic table and his mother opened and passed out the sandwiches. He waved over at Michael, a friend from school. Michael's parents hadn't wanted independence, but it came anyway, and according to his friend they were ok now it had happened. Most everyone he knew was ok it had happened.
He didn't let them see he'd noticed, but he was thrilled when he saw his father take his mother's hand. He grabbed the ball from the bag and leapt up and kicked it towards Michael. Michael ran from his side of the park to meet it. He chased after it. He was playing for Scotland now.
'Playing For Scotland Now' also published in National Collective under Flash Fiction, Here
On The Wall
He sat on the wall and tore the mouldy bread to pieces, threw a handful up in the air where a gust of wind caught the bits and scattered them further, an adventurous seagull swept down and caught a piece in flight.
An old man now, but content, he let the spring sun warm his legs as he sat on the wall and watched the young ones walk up and down the path. Up the hill was the university, most of the passers-by were students, young, intelligent, full of vitality, and a full life ahead of them to look forward to. There was a sprightly step in their gait now, whereas last year, in fact in all the previous years he could remember, the footsteps had seemed laboured, like it was a chore, learning had to be done, but it was an exercise of habit rather than a stepping stone to an ambitious future full of goals and aspirations.
Independence had changed everything. Despite all the portents of doom, he wouldn't have to move and live in a cave, his pension was secure, his light came on when he pressed the switch, and the buses ran, and the doctor was there when ever his gout came back in earnest. Life went on, as before, but even the air tasted different, better, as if it was truly Scottish air. The water from the tap tasted better, as if it was truly Scottish water. The thing is, they were, and always had been.
Tomorrow was Sunday and he would take some more bread and go to the side of the park where the football was played, feed the water fowl along the river, and watch the Sunday league play a game. He was an old man now, but he was so glad he had lived long enough to see the hope, replace the despair, on the faces of the younger generation.
'Feel that breeze?' said Tommy. 'That wind powers that light.'
It was twilight now and the streetlight had just come on. Jo looked at the brightness of it.
'See that car,' and Jo pointed.
The car was so quiet Tommy hadn't heard it approach.
'That wind powers that car,' she said. 'It's an electric car.'
They both played this game. It was a kind of ritual now, ever since the government announced that most of the electricity in Scotland was now created from renewable energy.
Tommy wondered if they would stay together. He was starting an apprenticeship in August, and Jo was going to university in Glasgow. He would eventually become an architectural engineer, she a doctor.
As if she knew what he was thinking. 'I want you to design our house, when you become qualified, and I want everything about it green. Solar panels on the roof, wind turbine in the garden, all the good environmental mod-cons.'
'Sure thing,' he said. When she was so confident about them staying the distance, even though they would be apart for a while, it inspired him. He would do her proud.
'Feel that rain?' she said. 'That rain pays for my university place.'
The rain got heavier, he took her hand and they ran for the shelter of a bus stop.
'It's a funny old world,' he said. 'The fresh water supply contracts, the generation of all our electricity from wind and tide, we're living off nature. The whole of Scotland is living off nature.'
'We didn't need the oil and gas,' she said.
'We didn't need the oil and gas,' he said.
'But we've got all that as well,' they both chanted and laughed.
'I want a dog,' he said, 'a Labrador.'
'Well I want a cat.'
It was great to make plans, sketches of floor arrangements and elevations going through his mind.
The rain stopped and they began to walk, arm in arm, both thinking of the future.