#50 50 Seconds

It was the longest day of my life. It lasted fifty seconds. It’s funny how time works. People think it’s all a straight line, one year here is as long as another year there, but they’d be wrong. When you’re five, one year is twenty percent of your whole life, at eighty, one year can go by in a flash. That fifty seconds lasted a lifetime, and it stole an infinity of them.

The cracks appeared everywhere and all at once. Darkness spilled out of them like it was something tangible; filling lungs, clinging, suffocating. Everyone succumbed, but they didn’t die. They disappeared. Disappeared from Earth, from time, from existence. In fifty seconds, everything that had ever happened was undone.

And now I’m here. I don’t know why, I don’t know how I know what happened, and I don’t know where here is. Fifty seconds and everything changes.

#43 ‘Outerworlds’ (Ravenna Woods)

“Abe, I’ve worked it out.”

“Worked what out?”

“Why we can’t remember.”

“What are you going on about George? Remember what?”

“Earth.”

Both men had been raised on Earth until the age of three, at which point and thanks to some genetic trickery, they were deemed physically mature, put in stasis and shipped out to one of the Outerworld systems. Everyone’s life started that way.

“We weren’t kids when we came here. We should remember Earth, but we don’t. No one does.”

“So?”

“So there must be a reason.”

“I guess.”

Abe didn’t like to think too much. Do your job, get fed, go home. That may as well have been the Outerworlds motto.

“Abe, they don’t want us to remember because on Earth we were free. Here we’ve never been anything but slaves. I want to be free. I want to remember. I want to go home.”

#16 Traveling

I’d like to be a traveler,
Visit amongst the stars.
I’d like to meet the little green men,
And drink in alien bars.

I’d like to see a supernova,
Be at the end of a spiral arm.
I’d like to stand on new worlds,
Soak up a new sun’s charm.

I’d like to breathe in new air,
Feel the wind of an alien storm.
I’d like to have a conversation,
With a being of different form.

I know that I’m just dreaming,
That I’ll die on the planet of my birth.
But I’d like to think my children,
Will travel out beyond Earth.

Their lives will be much the richer,
They’ll live in a brand new way.
They’ll get to be astro-pioneers,
And wander where they may.

#8 Signs of Life

Sol 27:

We were sent here to find signs of life, the longer I spend on this dust ball, the more certain I grow that we won’t find any. This place could suck the life force out of anything.

Sol 53:

Still nothing. Only three of us left now. Jeffrey was lifted, they needed him back on Earth.

Sol 55:

He never made it. The transport malfunctioned. We’re stuck here until they can send a replacement.

Sol 78:

Something happened. The door was ripped off Hab3. We have to wait for the checks to finish before we investigate.

Sol 78 – later:

Footprints! Claw marks might be more accurate. We’re not alone.

Sol 79:

I’m alone. Sarah was taken last night. Signs of a struggle but no body. John followed the marks in the sand but hasn’t come back.

Sol 80:

There’s a noise outside. A scraping at the door. Good…

Sci-Fi Saturdays: Bangkok Runner

Over the Christmas – New Year period I was lucky enough to go to Thailand with my loving and very patient girlfriend and her family. We did many amazing things and I have lots of happy memories I’m sure I will end up writing about, either directly or by weaving them into a story. In this vein, on the last night, when we were staying in Bangkok, we went up to the top of the Banyan Tree Hotel to the Moon Bar. It was sunset and the views were spectacular, (the massively overpriced cocktails not so much).  As I mentioned yesterday, I’m an avid photographer and I believe my number of shots was in the hundreds by the time we’d left the roof, less than two hours after getting the lift up. Some of them really reminded me of one of my favorite films; Blade Runner.

If I’m honest, I only watched it for the first time last year, (shameful I know), as part of a very interesting module about literary adaptations. I’m so pleased I did. In terms of plot and characters, I prefer Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the novel Ridley Scott’s film is, (very loosely), based on. But the visuals and the look of Blade Runner are so stunning, so striking, that I became an instant fan. 

This sci-fi Saturday isn’t about the film though, (although I’m sure another will be in the future and I will definitely be writing about the sequel when it comes out), but about a photo and a story. The image at the top of the page is one I took from the roof of the Banyan Tree and I’m planning on using it as inspiration for a short story. The fact the setting grabbed me as one suitable for a sci-fi tale was certainly inspired by Blade Runner, but it isn’t my intention to write fan fiction, rather I’m aiming for something more original in a somewhat similar setting. 

I have no clear idea what exactly I’m going to write just yet, so I have no clear idea when it will be done. This post, therefore, is only short and is more of an introduction to an idea than anything else. Think of it as a teaser trailer aimed at getting my vast two-person-strong readership ready for what is to come. I hope you’re both excited.

Sci-Fi Saturday: A New Home

Gemming, a scholar banished from his home, trudges through a frozen forest. He is searching for answers, but are they the right ones?

The trees bow under the weight of snow, postulating themselves to the Gods above. Even the great oaks of the ancient Forest of Eftan are mastered by the spirits of the kings of old, forced to carry a frozen burden along their limbs.

My own weight lies inside my chest.

Avsdel walks beside me, shirtless and seemingly unaware of the biting cold. It is often the way with those of his kind. Tall and rangy, pale and broad nosed, even the female Semarthons are all but covered with dark hair. Not that you often see a female Semarthon, or would be able to tell if you did. Never has a race looked so alike, including to my scholar’s eye. They even cover their foreheads with elaborate patterned tattoos, just to tell each other apart. They are however, singularly adapted to the cold. This has led many, Avsdel included, to make their living guiding hearth-softened southerners like me through the cold places of the world.

Not that I particularly mind the chill. It makes a refreshing break from the pounding heat of the south. Of my onetime homeland. If only I could return this would all be an adventure. If only.

It could still change though. If the talk of the forest Elders is true, and Avsdel assures me it is, a return journey may still be possible. Even in the south, tales of the their magic have spread. Power over nature. Power over life. Power over death.

‘We are approaching.’ Avsdel’s words boom surprisingly deep for one so slight. They say that the Semarthons were the first people. Born of the ground and sires of all others. I can believe it. Avsdel’s voice seems connected to something much richer than anything I can lay claim to.

‘Thank you. Will you wait?’

‘I cannot. The Elders power can flow through only one. I may lead you to them, but you must do the rest.’

‘How will I return without you?’

‘If you are successful, you will have no need of me.’

‘And if I’m not?’

‘You will certainly have no need of me.’

His laughter is enough to shake the snow from the trees above. It lands on my head and passes down the back of my coat. The fur lining no protection against Avsdel’s mirth. The chill that grips me is internal however.

We come to a halt at the base of a large rock formation that I couldn’t see even I few steps back. The trees here seem to grow unnaturally close, as if huddling together for warmth. Or closing ranks for their own protection.

‘I will leave you here. May the fortune of Kings’ be with you.’

‘And you my friend.’

Within seconds, Avsdel’s form is swallowed up by the dense forest. In front of me, the granite wall seems impregnable. I reach forward and place my palm against its surface. It radiates heat, almost searingly so.

‘What do I do now?’

My words barely make it to my own ears, all noise seemingly consumed by the rock.

‘Come in of course.’

The voice jolts me. I could have sworn I was alone. I swivel, trying to find the source of the sound, but there is nothing and no one save countless trees and their snowy adornment.

‘Avsdel? Is that you? Don’t joke. I paid you well. If this is not the place you promised, you still owe me a service.’

Nothing. Silence. Even though I know there must be some other soul about, my heart rapidly calms down from the frantic beat it had started to play at the sound of the words. Intellectually I know someone must be there, I could not have imagined such a voice, but my body once again recognises its isolation. Safety. Perhaps.

After searching the surrounding forest, being careful not to stray too far from the rock for fear of getting lost amongst the endless trees, I decide that Avsdel must have tricked me. Pursuing him would be futile, even without the head start, I could not hope to catch him. His kind is made for places such as these, my flesh has been softened by too much sun and too much wine. Shelter. That is what I need now. A few branches propped against the rock will be enough for tonight, in the morning I must move on anyway.

My new little home does not take long to construct, for all the life that is lacking in this desolate place, wood is one thing Eftan can provide in abundance. Once finished, I crawl inside, forced to my hands and knees by the purposefully low roof, designed to keep in as much warmth as possible. To my surprise, I find I needn’t have bothered constrain myself in such a way. The heat from the rock that nearly burnt me earlier, has filled the space so as to make it almost uncomfortable. I take off my coat and hang it over the small entrance hole I just came through, the forest feels like something to keep out in the dark.

I lie down, back against the rock. It only now occurs to me that I have not eaten since this morning, when Avsdel handed me some cured meat from his pack. My own, left outside due to the limited space, contains only parchment and a few keepsakes from home.

‘What a fool. I should have known better than to trust my luck to a stranger and a few rolls of parchment.’

‘You are a fool Gemming, but not for trusting another. Many of us were once of the Semarthons and a more honest people you will not find.’

It’s the same voice, except, I realise, it is not one voice speaking to me alone from out of the darkness but a collection of voices, speaking in unison – from out of the rock.

‘Are…’ My stutter unmans me, but I would challenge anyone not to do so in the same circumstance. ‘Are you the Elders?’

‘We are.’

‘And can you help me?’

‘Whether we can or not depends solely on you. One thing is for certain though, you are in need of help.’

‘I know. My home has been stolen from me. Will you help me reclaim it?’

‘We cannot and would not if we could. That is not why you have come here.’

I’ve always despised riddles. Why not say something straight if you have something to say? Of course I have come to regain my home. What else does an exile seek?

‘I’m sorry, but I think you misunderstand me.’

‘How so?’

‘I have come because my King wrongly judged me to have committed a crime and banished me for it.’

‘We know this.’

‘So why won’t you help me?’

‘Because you are guilty.’

‘Tales of the Elders must have been greatly exaggerated. You are clearly no more than jesters if you can say this.’ And I the fool among them to have been lured in so.

‘We are no jesters. We are truth-sayers, truth-seers. If you cannot recognise this, it is only because you fail to recognise yourself.’

Jesters may have been too kind. At least jesters embrace their art. Whoever these Elders are, they seem consumed by their own delusions.

‘We are not deluded.’

I did not speak aloud. I am sure of it. How can they possibly be inside my head. I scurry away from the rock, bringing my shelter down on top of me in the process. As soon as contact with the stone is broken, I feel like my mind has been unwrapped. I don’t remember it ever being tied in the first place.

‘You can’t possibly know about me.’ My cries seem beyond insignificant when directed towards the endless forest and the night that now consumes it. My situation is hopeless, that is clear, but I cannot give up just yet. I know the rough direction we came from and the skies are clear. If no snow falls tonight, I should be able to follow the tracks laid down by Avsdel and myself come the morning.

Within minutes I have my shelter re-made, this time leaning against one of the great oaks, chosen for the small hole formed at its base amongst its millennia-old roots. It is a far colder location, but has the benefit of a lack of ethereal voices, intent on damning me.
I must have slept long, for the sun’s light is breaking blindingly through the branches of my shelter. I quickly scramble my things together, determined to get as far away from this place as possible. On leaving the embrace of the hole, I can see the sky is still black. The light shines from the rock itself.

I approach, unwilling. I want to be away from here but my legs don’t respond to my mental pleading. Neither does my hand, once close enough, it places itself upon the granite and sticks there fast.

‘You will listen to us Gemming. You will listen and then you will either heed what we have to say, or you will wander this forest for all eternity, never finding the answer to your question.’

‘Question? What question? Will you not release me? I vow to speak of this to no one. I will never return.’

‘You will do neither of these things regardless. You are in our territory now. You come and go at our request.’

‘Tell me then, just tell me. Tell me and I will be on my way.’

I strain against my own hand, certain that I have no power to overcome it but nevertheless unable to fight my instinct to run.

‘Gemming. It is true, of the crime your King accused you, you are innocent.’

‘Then why proclaim me guilty? Why imprison me?’ My voice shakes uncontrollably.

‘Because you are guilty. Guilty of ignorance and fear. You say you want to return to your land, but your heart speaks otherwise. What you want is a home. Truth.’

‘We agree then. I want to return home.’

‘You have never been home. You don’t know truth.’

The riddles, which angered me before, are now terrifying. How can I escape if I cannot understand?

‘Listen to us and then understanding may come.’ Their power to read my thoughts no longer feels alien, fixed to the rock as I am, how could I expect to keep myself from them?

‘What you seek is purpose. That can never come for you in that other land.’

‘Then where?’

‘Here.’

‘What can there possibly be for me here?’

‘Understanding. Truth. For you, knowledge is home, it is the scholar’s way. Join with us and we can teach you all you ever need to know.’

Their offer makes no sense. I am a scholar true, but not one of great repute. Banished for my unconventional thoughts, my peers never considered me their equal.

‘If that were true, they would not have sent you away. They feared you.’

‘But what could I possibly give to you who already seem to know so much?’

‘Your life.’

‘And what would you do with my life?’

‘Absorb it. None of us were great individually. We lived like pinpricks of light, insignificant in the blackness. But together, we shine like a star. We are energy creators. World makers. Life givers. Join us.’

I know it to be true. Joined with them in this way, I can see there is no lie in their words. Truth is all they know. My hand, now grey and hard, is one with the rock. It has accepted for me. I press my full self inwards. The darkness that I never knew I lived in, blasted away by the searing light of knowledge.

I am an Elder.

We are the Elders.

Humanity, Exceeded: #Part 1

As previously posted, I’m going to start a new series called Sci-Fi Saturdays. This is the first proper post in that series. I hope you enjoy!

I’ve always been interested in technology, (I imagine I’ll write about it here before too long), and in recent years my reading has revolved more and more around dystopia and sci-fi. The first book I read of this kind was Orwell’s 1984 and I still go back to it around once a year. This is my first attempt to write in the genre.

In a speculative paper written by Dr. J. Storrs Hall, ‘On Certain Aspects of Utility Fog‘, the scientist outlines his ideas for utility fog, a vast cloud of nanobots, and how they could change the world around us. This was my inspiration for CreBots and the new world they have helped to create. I also took note of an interview with Storrs Hall from io9, in which he said that the virtual reality possibilities of utility fogs were what excited him most.

Virtual reality has all the buzz in the technology industry right now, so I wanted to examine what would happen if it went from gadget to lifestyle, from consumer product to state tool. This is just the first part of my attempt to realise this world. I’m imagining it, and have it planned out as, a 10 to 20 thousand word story. This is only the first 2800. So I hope you enjoy this installment of Humanity, Exceeded , I’m looking forward to writing more.

 

Humanity, Exceeded

I step outside. At least, it looks like outside. It could still be inside. Maybe I’ve been outside all the time and now I’m just moving to a different place. Who can tell? It doesn’t really matter anyway.

As usual, cars pack the streets, the air thick with their fumes. It feels dense enough to chew, to swallow, to choke on. I adjust my mask, careful to make sure it covers my nose as well. NewGov sent round an Image only last week telling everyone that in the last two years, pollution has been cut in half. It’s bollocks. They send round a new Image almost daily, trying to convince us of something or other. It’s just propaganda; inescapable, virtual reality, propaganda. Today’s image had been all about the dangers of having sex with another human and the benefits of CreSex. It’s been a while, but I don’t remember too many dangers. CreSex is good; you can have who you like, when you like and do whatever you like. Last night I went oriental, the night before I made myself some Scandinavian twins. It feels just the same as real sex, better even. Physically. You can programme the bots to tingle, or massage, touch just the right spot. But they can’t say no. Not unless you tell them to. Without the work beforehand, getting to know someone, chatting them up, going on a few dates maybe, it doesn’t really feel the same at all. CreBots don’t make you feel wanted. A few diseases and unexpected pregnancies are worth it, whatever the Images say. I just wish I could get a few more girls to agree.

At first, when NewGov had started sending out the Images, people had protested. It was a step too far they’d said, an invasion of privacy, an attack on civil liberties. But soon enough, most people quietened down, gave in, accepted the Images as part of life. I can’t say I’m any better. There isn’t much point fighting against it really. At the push of a button, the Creative Ministry, or CreMin, can light up an Image in front of every conscious person in the country and show them whatever they like. It’s why I prefer to be unconscious. Or at least out of the real world.

As I walk into town, most people seem to have adopted my strategy. Blank faces greet my gaze, not quite dead but without much life. Some seem lustful, probably watching ads. There aren’t many faces to look at though. People don’t go out anymore. Why would they? Almost everything can be done, purchased, experienced and, most importantly, consumed from the comfort of your own home. But I’ve run out of tokens and the only place to get more is at the TokMin collection point. They insist on DNA samples to ensure tokens aren’t given to a CreBot avatar. There had been an unfortunate spate of murders when they first got rid of money. The killer would create an avatar of their victim and collect the tokens on their behalf. I lost a few friends to that scam.

Apart from my fellow token-seeking Londoners, the only other people around are ministry workers. They stroll down the streets, knowingly superior, their pinstripe suits and frilly blouses like armour against the world. What they are actually wearing is anybody’s guess. I still prefer real clothes though, even if almost everything else in my life is fake. Today, I’ve teamed my usual scruffy hoodie with my usual scruffy jeans, the latter of which have been getting just a little too tight in recent weeks. Prolonged periods indoors with nothing but cartons of CreMeat to consume tend to have a negative effect on the waist line.

A tall Japanese girl appears in front of me as I walk down the street. She’s trying to sell something but I’m too distracted by what she’s wearing to notice. To be honest, it’s more about what she’s not wearing, which is almost everything. Other than a pair of the smallest lace pants, she is completely naked. Young, with dark hair that flows almost to her hips. Small tits, but perky. Flat stomach, long legs and a perfect white smile. She looks unnervingly like the girl I’d made for myself the night before. NewGov swear they don’t have access to you private creations, but no one really believes that.

I try to suck in my stomach. It’s an unconscious reaction. I want her to like me. Obviously it’s pointless. She’s programmed to flirt so it doesn’t matter what I look like, but some things don’t change and if a pretty lady shows some interest, real or not, I can’t help but try to impress her.

‘Hi there Ben. Want to have a look?’ She holds up the newest communicator from Atwood Inc. It’s just a piece of glass with a small circle visible at the top right where the camera is.

‘I don’t have enough tokens.’ The communicator is almost completely transparent. Through it I can see a nipple, slightly magnified by the glass. She obviously senses where my gaze really is and puts her other arm across her chest. She doesn’t want me distracted.

‘My records show that you are due 1000 tokens this month, you could put half down as a deposit and pay the rest in twenty four monthly payments.’

It starts to rain. Her bare flesh gets wet almost immediately and I can see goose bumps stand up on her skin. My cheeks flush. Why are my ads always naked? What does that say about me? I refocus on the communicator, twenty four months isn’t that long. I’ve been planning on saving some tokens and moving to a better area, but I can just use the CreBots to redecorate, freshen the place up a bit.

‘Okay then. I’ll take it.’ The communicator in her hand instantly turns into a larger screen showing the details of my token allowance. The “1000” disappears and is replace with “500”, underneath an instruction to pay Atwood Inc. 100 tokens a month appears.

‘Thanks Ben.’ Both her arms drop to her waist, one thumb loops around the top of her pants. ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’

I can think of too much. I look over her body. If you try, you can forget they aren’t real, that they’re just ads. You learn to enjoy it.

‘Oi! Watcha think you’re doing?’ The man whose coffee I had just spilled clearly wasn’t impressed. ‘Don’t think you can walk around out here like it’s that CreWorld of yours. Open your eyes for once.’

I try to look taken aback, like I have no idea what this man is talking about, but the surprised ‘O’ I force my mouth to make isn’t really convincing and my eyes, which I know are glazed and red, tell everyone the real story plain enough.

‘Junkies”’the man spits at me in disgust as he walks off.

Some of the coffee is on my hoodie. Looking around to make sure no one is watching, I bend down and suck it off. Real caffeine, amazing. I stand and immediately start to feel hot. I know my cheeks must be turning red. My left eyebrow is twitching infuriatingly, a cute nervous tick Mum always used to say, bloody irritating in reality. The man, clearly a ministry worker, hadn’t even tried to get me to pay for the spilt drink, he’d just marched off, assuming I wouldn’t, or couldn’t pay. The truth is that he is absolutely right. I haven’t even bought myself a real coffee in over two years and the Cre stuff isn’t worth drinking. But knowing that everyone else can see how low I’ve sunk makes everything far worse.

‘It’s not my fault!’ The world already thinks nothing of me so why does it matter if they hear me shouting in the streets? ‘Everyone uses it.’ Like we have a choice. I might be shouting in the street, but I’m not crazy enough just yet to say something like that aloud where anyone might hear.

I continue into town, still fuming, but silently. The Creators have been busy since I last ventured this far out. From the third story window of my rented studio flat in Moore Gardens I can see some of the changes, but further into the centre it is all a bit more obvious. Down this way it used to be a row of 1950s, cheap terraced housing with shops on the ground floor. As a kid I’d often walked down here on the way back from school. Most of the shops had been boarded up even then, London had never really recovered from what they’d called the “financial crisis”. I’d hated those history lessons, all economics and boring politicians. What I really cared about was getting a few snacks from Mr Jones’ place before I got home, especially when Mum was on one of her healthy eating kicks, and he didn’t go out of business till a couple of years back. It looks so different now though. The front of the buildings rise up like Roman temples, all white columns and shining marble. Carvings of microchips and old tech like TV’s sit at the top. I’ve even heard some of the modifications go inside here too. My place is a little less spectacular. It looks a bit like a town house from the old films, neat little windows with boxes of flowers growing outside. It’s just a skin though. Occasionally, if a cluster of bots all fails at the same time, you can see the old building underneath. Crumbling brickwork and rotting wooden window frames. Sometimes I wish we could all just see the truth the entire time, but even the small glimpses we used to get happen less often now. The Ministry of Progress make regular updates according to their Software Streets plan. It might have been nearly 125 years since the war, but I still can’t believe people can stomach a government policy called the SS.

Near the centre, I can see into a few more buildings, their interiors seem almost as nice as the outsides. Some of the big hotels are decorating properly again. Authentic Chic they call it. I’ll never be able to afford to stay in one, but I love the idea of having real things that just look like they are. I turned off all the CreBots in my flat last year, I thought it might give my life a bit more purpose if I wasn’t always surrounded by projected images. I can be such a pretentious wanker sometimes. The rotting floor boards, damp riddled walls and mouldy carpets soon made me think twice. I left the broken window just above the sink though. A brick had gone through it during one of the last big riots. The one Dad died in. He’d stopped going to the protests years before, it’s why him and Mum split, she hated that he’d given up. But that day, he’d felt the need to go. The month before I’d told him that I was moving out of the house we shared, that I wanted to live in the present, with the CreBots he’d banned from the home. The riot started a week after I moved into Moore Gardens.
The last of the big hotels behind me, the only buildings in the very centre of London are the ministries. TokMin is tucked away behind the rest. To get there I walk past several other NewGov buildings, all with their own CreBot fronting. EduMin has numbers and the alphabet spiralling up the columns that guard its doorway. HealthMin is shaped like a big cross, made to look red. GovMin, where all the politicians work, has virtual copies of books fluttering around the entrance like an old flock of birds. The biggest though, rising up from the site of what was once Trafalgar Square, is CreMin. The facade changes colour with the time of day and sometimes, if important dignitaries are coming, they even make it change shape. Most of the time though it’s just a large, rectangular sky scraper. A hundred foot aerial sits on top, broadcasting the signals to all the state controlled CreBots. They’d first pumped them out from here too. I still remember the information leaflet we were given in school just before assembly.

CreBots, Your New Best Friends.

Exciting news! Very soon you will all get to experience CreBots!

Starting next month London will be filled with lots of tiny robots, too small for you to see unless you have a microscope.

These little robots will help you in many different ways. You will be able to use them to play games, help with your homework and let you pretend like you are in far away places. Best of all, you will be able to make your very own CreFriends, who will always be ready to play and do just what you say. Almost like real friends, but better!

Imagine all the fun you will be able to have when every break time can be filled with trips to amazing places with perfect companions!

Your parents or guardians will be getting information packs of their own, so you can ask them or your teachers if you want any more information. Just don’t forget to tell them how excited you are about CreBots!

And I had. That day I rushed home and showed my parents the leaflet, with its gold writing on bright red paper and promises of adventures and perfect friends. They hadn’t seemed so convinced. Sitting at the kitchen table, a pot of tea between them as usual, they were both frowning at a large, ring bound, book. Neither seemed to have noticed they hadn’t drunk anything, the cups left abandoned on the counter by the sink.

‘They’re meddling with our lives. It’s not right.’ Mum said. She picked the book up, slammed it shut and threw it back down onto the table, making the whole thing shake. The piece of cardboard that we used to keep under one of the legs to stop it wobbling came out.

‘Careful Mum!’ I ran forwards and replaced it. ‘Why are you angry?’

‘It’s nothing dear.’ She had smiled at me briefly before looking back at Dad. It wasn’t a normal look though, her eyes seemed sad. And wrinkly too, I suddenly saw how much older she had started to look. All the protests and late night meetings seemed to have turned her into Granny overnight.

‘We can’t do anything.’ Dad carried on the conversation as if I’d never come into the room. His voice was flat and I couldn’t quite associate it with the cheerful and mischievous person I knew. ‘This has been coming, you know that. We went to the rallies, we did our bit, we just have to accept it now. What else can we do?’

I ignored much of the rest of the conversation, annoyed they’d forgotten me. Plonking myself down at my usual seat, I noticed the front cover of the book they’d been frowning at. The cover read: “CreBots: What you need to know”, but not in gold like on my leaflet so I looked away until I could show Mum and Dad my better version. Instead I stared down at the tabletop. I used to spend hours sitting there, just looking and stroking the surface of it. The graining of the wood, the coffee stains from mugs that had still contained real coffee, and even the pen marks from where I’d scribbled on it as a toddler. They had always seemed to me to form a kind of map. It had been a world of its own, of my own, and now this leaflet seemed to promise that it might come to life if only I could make my parents see.

‘Why are you two so worried?’ I still feel a slight sense of embarrassment at how hard my younger self had tried to sound mature, like I knew best. ‘They talked to us about it more in assembly. They explained everything. We even had a man in a suit come in. He said he worked for the government. Miss Bell obviously didn’t like him, but no one likes her, so that doesn’t matter. He said that it was going to make everyone’s lives better. He said that it would make things easier for our parents. Isn’t that a good thing?’

They didn’t speak. They didn’t even look at each other, just down at the table. I could tell though that they didn’t see the possibilities in its graining that I did.

‘Everything will be alright.’ I cannot believe I actually said those words. They still spiral around in my head whenever I think back to that moment. I knew nothing.

Sci-Fi Saturdays

So this is just a quick post to say that I’m planning on starting a new series called Sci-Fi Saturdays.

Since I was a preteen I have tended to read fantasy novels, the stories of Trudi Canavan and Robin Hobb probably being my favorites. The reason I like these books is that as well as their fantasy elements, they also have political bents. In recent years, it has been a natural evolution of this inkling of mine for political stories that has led me to start reading a bit more sci-fi.

Over the course of the last two terms at Uni however, I have been studying them in more detail. Now, I want to try and write my own. My plan is each Saturday, (or maybe every other), to write some kind of sci-fi. This may be a full story or just part of one. They may be 10,000 words, or a six word tweet. I’m just going to see how it goes. I may even end up doing a few reviews or just posting some general thoughts on the genre, particularly as its my current intention to write on the subject for my masters dissertation.

My first post will be tomorrow. I’m quite excited about starting this so I hope all three of you who are likely to read this will enjoy!