Viewing posts tagged fiction

A Ghost Story for Samhainn

Calder's Room

 

Thomas Calder, a lieutenant in the 1st Surreys, was sent back to England in autumn 1917 after being injured during the Battle of the Somme.  He spent a week or so in a conventional military hospital in France, but his wounds were primarily psychic rather than physical, so he was sent back to England, and to Sandilands.

Sandilands had by that time come under the directorship of Dr. K. J. Ravichandra.  Ravichandra was marked out by his universally acknowledged skill, and by his advanced and humane ideas.  Before his advent, Sandilands had effectively been a torture chamber for men who were considered weak and cowardly, in need of being shocked or bullied back to obedience.  Whatever our modern opinion of Ravichandra’s approach, there can be little doubt that his informal and conversational style represented an improvement on treatment through freezing cold water, or electric shock, or cigarette burn.  The men who came under Ravichandra’s care at Sandilands - an Elizabethan manor in East Anglia, bought by the government and converted for use as an Army psychiatric hospital - generally showed great improvement. Calder turned out to be something of an exception. 

One ...

Appeals to Authority

Following the stoically mute Karkus, Felix and the Doctor found themselves in a seemingly endless grey corridor.  It felt like miles of the same tiny patch of space, extruded into infinity. 

"Why do we spend so much of our time in corridors?" asked Felix.

"Because we spend so much of our time fighting institutionalised hierarchies," said the Doctor, "and institutionalised hierarchies depend upon armed force and bureaucracy.  Both of which require staff, and therefore also functional premises in which staff can operate."

"Oh," said Felix, "yes, I see."

He didn't pursue it.  Things had gotten quite socratic enough today already.

*

At the Doctor's command, the Karkus had demanded admittance to the castle.  The great door had swung open for him, a grudging note in the creaking of its iron hinges.  The Doctor had wanted to have a few words with whatever jobsworth owned the voice from behind the door, but there was nobody there when she looked.

"Obviously such a minor character he never even got a physical description," she said, "which explains the insecurity."

Then she had turned to the Karkus and demanded that he tell her about the prison.  ...

Variant Iterations

"I can't think why you would want to spend so much time here Doctor," said Felix, "it seems a very odd place to choose as a regular holiday destination."

"I think it's rather pleasant," said the Doctor brightly, "especially since we cleared out the former management."

"The former management?" asked Felix.

"Oh, Drumlins Westmore tried to enclose this place a little while ago," said the Doctor.

"Drumlins Westmore?  Sounds like a British general.  General Sir George Drumlins-Westmore OBE."

"Ha!  No, it's a corporation.  The Drumlins Westmore Interplanetary News and Entertainment Media Group.  Or something like that.  There's probably an Inc in there too somewhere.  They set up a department on one of their office worlds devoted entirely to fiction.  Hired loads of struggling wannabe authors.  Lured them in with promises of agents and publishing contracts and regular meals."

"You mean they started publishing novels?  They created a sort of novel factory?"

"No, they didn't publish anything.  They got the writers to spend all day writing stories featuring brilliant, dynamic, hyper-capable, unbeatable employees of the Drumlins Westmore Corporation.  Heroic corporate accountants and lawyers and ...

Lost Post

“Twenty-eight minutes past,” said Felix, looking at his watch.  "Nothing."

The Doctor consulted the black plastic Casio with a broken strap that she kept in her pocket.

“I make it 3.26,” she said.  "Any moment now."

They were standing behind some empty flower tubs at the centre of a roundabout.  Every now and then a car would swoop past, but essentially they were alone.  A spray of chilly drizzle floated all around them.  It was almost frozen, and felt curiously oily.  Each droplet turned as bright gold as a cinder as it flew under the beams of the street lamps.

They'd left the TARDIS stuck half-way out of an Off Licence several streets away.

"How do you know there's a roundabout around here?" Felix had asked.

"If we walk far enough in any direction," the Doctor had replied, "we're bound to come across one.  Roads need to diverge, you know."

And, sure enough, a roundabout had eventually presented itself.  It was deserted, so they had strolled across the broad ring of tarmac to the little grassy hill at its centre.

And there they stood, side by side, like strangers waiting for a bus.  They ...

Once

The Doctor and Felix came to the village of Once on New Years' Eve.  Or rather, they came to where the village of Once had once been.

"Where is it?" asked Felix in his lilting German accent, staring into the empty valley beyond the copse in which they stood.

The Doctor tipped her head forwards slightly, to let accumulated snow tumble from the crown and brim of her battered, crumpled old top hat.

"Exactly," she said.

The village had disappeared years ago, she told him.

"Well," she continued, her words turning to steam in the cold air, "nobody knows exactly when it happened... or should I say when it, the village I mean, stopped happening."

It had taken a few months of accumulated surprises and puzzlements and disappointments and silences and ominous remarks before the conscious realisation had gradually dawned upon the people in the surrounding villages that the village of Once was no longer there.

"The government realised pretty quickly of course," continued the Doctor, "because the people in Once stopped paying their taxes.  But the government kept quiet about it, in case it gave any other villages ideas.  As best ...

Darwinia

Here are a few of the fortunes I devised during my first week as a writer of fortunes at Trang's Fortune Cookies Ltd:


YOU ARE CURRENTLY BALD.  THIS IS A MISTAKE.
 
OBEY THE WISDOM OF THE FROG.  HE KNOWS.

LOOK NOT TO THE RIGHT NOR TO THE LEFT BUT SIMPLY DO.
 
KEEP IT SIMPLE.  COMPLEXITY KILLS.
 
HAPPY THE MAN WHO KNOWS NOTHING OF CHEESE.
 
STARSKY AND HUTCH, I SUMMON YOU.

I LOVE YOUR EARS, MY LITTLE FRIEND.
 
ABUSE ANTS.
 

Mr Trang speaks no English, but he pops his head round my office door every day and expresses his benevolent interest in my work by means of gestures and facial expressions.  I show him my work book.  I concoct something in the region of 500 fortunes a day.  More, on a good day.  Mr Trang cannot read them but he casts his eyes over my work politely.  He smiles and nods encouragingly.  Sometimes he bows and mimes applause.  I smile back, bow in return and mime modest shrugs.  This appears to please him and he leaves.

I came to work at Trang's after losing my job at the Ministry ...

The Colour Foundation

More flash fiction.


Marcel Miedinger surveyed the system one last time before he disconnected. The dumbs were already active, weaving their own tagging system to correspond to the existing catalogue. Marcel watched the broad strokes of the semantic filing system get mapped out, but moved on as it all got a bit too big data for him. No intelligence was ever going to need to deal with the dumb catalogue anyway - it was just an underlying system to support the semantic labeling that the Colour Foundation had meticulously created.

There had been some debate right before the downsizing began over whether or not to maintain all four versions of the semantic catalogue, or just the most recent one. Marcel had, romantically, advocated for the full system. He prided himself on an old-fashioned streak that valued preservation. But in the end he was outvoted by a bloc of neo-modernists who wanted to ensure the immaculate design of the Colour Foundation’s final edition. He could have reopened the issue once the Foundation had shrunk to a skeleton crew, but he didn’t. In the end, he understood the impulse; he’d been an iconoclast once too.

Now he’d come to ...

The Death of Marguerite-Charlotte David

If you missed it on Tuesday, the Patrick Troughton volume of TARDIS Eruditorum is part of Storybundle's new Doctor Who-themed bundle of ebooks. You can set your own price to get it, Barry Letts's Who and Me, Nick Griffiths's Dalek I Loved You, and Chris-Rachel Oseland's Dining with the Doctor. Paying over $10 also gets you Earl Green's VWORP! and The Best of TARDIS Eruditorum, a collection of this blog's best posts with short introductions exclusive to the volume. The Best Of book is exclusive to Storybundle, and I have no plans to offer it for sale again this year. Head over to Storybundle to check it out. It's a terribly neat deal. Meanwhile, a bit of flash fiction I scraped up off the bottom of my hard drive:

Marguerite-Charlotte David’s dress sublimates into the guttural crackle of mid-90s Japanese noise music. The shimmer of her dress curls in the informational fire consuming her, the crackle of the fire becoming a kaleidoscopic backbeat, its combusting edges measured precisely as they decay to form the outline of the resulting waveform. Her dress peels off her breasts, which, constructed out of imagination instead ...

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