Empabots

“Do you know Paul, I’m really not sure about this, I’ve honestly been doing OK these last few weeks” He’d tried for certainty but even he could hear the hesitation in his voice; he hadn’t been doing OK at all but was this really the answer?

“Do you know Paul, I’m really not sure about this, I’ve honestly been doing OK these last few weeks” He’d tried for certainty but even he could hear the hesitation in his voice; he hadn’t been doing OK at all but was this really the answer?

“Look mate” said Paul, gently squeezing his best friend’s shoulder “you need to talk and, more importantly, you need someone to listen. Please trust me, this is cutting edge in the field of psychology and I should know, right?” He grinned and nudged the man so terribly kind but deeply unwilling to bare his soul. He’d been treating Dave for many months and, close as they were, he could not break down the barriers that were preventing his friend from moving on with his life. Added to that, Paul felt that their sessions were beginning to put a strain on their relationship and he wasn’t prepared to take that risk; he was sure that this was the answer.

“Yes, I’m sure you’re right but why would I want to talk to a machine when I have my friends?” Actually Dave wasn’t sure how many friends he had left these days, what could he contribute to a party or a night out? He was 31 and should be out and about enjoying life but how could he without Sammy and their daughter?

“They’re not machines mate” Paul’s voice interrupted his morbid reflection “they’re Empabots and they were specifically designed to help people caught in emotional loops. Traditional psychologists, however well trained, however well-meaning cannot truly empathise with their clients and, sometimes, that is the only thing that will actually help them; feeling as though someone genuinely understands what they’re going through. The Empabots have been programmed to ’empathise'”

“How can they” Dave said, flatly “they don’t have feelings or experiences, they’re machines for christ’s sake” He was beginning to regret coming here today, he loved his best friend but wasn’t he just looking for an easy out? He’d tried to open up to Paul but, although he said all the things that he supposed people thought they should say, none of it made any difference and he felt his friend’s growing impatience.

“They’re not toasters Dave!” Paul was desperate to elicit a smile but his attempt at humour fell on deaf ears; when was the last time that Dave had smiled? He ploughed on “This is next level artificial intelligence my friend. The Empabots have been fed millions of scenarios and have been programmed to ‘feel’ the corresponding emotions. They don’t have solutions for all the negative emotions that are causing people to suffer, they offer understanding in its purest form” Paul had been brought on board with this programme by a colleague that he’d first met at Oxford and what he’d seen so far had deeply impressed him. Emotional loops were a massive challenge for everyone in his profession as having feelings about feelings, as was often the case with grief, could be without limit; the cycle just went on and on and the patient continued to suffer.

“Why don’t you just watch an Empabot at work and then you can decide for yourself if it’s something you want to try” Paul knew that it wasn’t strictly ethical but whatever patient he selected wouldn’t be aware that he or she were under observation. They both sat down in front of a two way mirror which offered an excellent view into a small, comfortable room. A woman and a man were in there, sitting opposite each other. The woman was listening intently, her face a reflection of the emotion that seemed to be pouring out of the man in front of her.

“There’s something I don’t get” Dave had turned to face his friend and was actually looking him in the eye which was something that happened rarely these days. The tragedy that he’d suffered had caused deep lines to form around his gentle brown eyes and he looked profoundly tired.

“What’s that mate?” Paul was happy to answer any question. At least it seemed as though Dave were taking an interest.

“What will happen to you? If these ‘bots’ start doing your job, what will you do?” There was a genuine concern in his voice

“Well, one they’re not used to treat all conditions so they won’t ‘take over’ but a number of us, who are recognised as experts in our fields, have been offered contracts by the military. With the war still going on there are too many soldiers returning from battle, with PTSD, who are just falling through the cracks and turning to drink, drugs and crime and it’s a big problem for the authorities. I’ll be one of many who will help soldiers adjust back to civilian life in the 3 months before they’re discharged” He didn’t add that the contract he’d been offered was extremely lucrative or that the new generation of anti-psychotic drugs would make his job pretty straightforward. In the coming weeks he knew that he would need both money and time.

“Oh, that’s good” Dave had lost his mildly concerned expression and Paul thought that his face would quickly revert back to its normal mask of quiet despair so he was surprised at hearing another question

“What do they think, these Empabots? What do they think about this job they’ve been given?” Dave wasn’t looking at his friend any longer but watching the scene being played out before him in the little room. The man was sobbing uncontrollably and all his pain appeared to be etched on the features of the woman facing him. Dave had, by now, realised that she was an Empabot but, even knowing she was a machine, he was beginning to feel sorry for her.

“They’re not programmed to think per se” said Paul. He was frowning as he tried to think of a simple way to express the science. “They are programmed to feel. Humans attach feeling to thought and it’s virtually impossible for us to have one without the other. The depression that effects you now, for example, is a feeling attached to the thought of their loss and the guilt is a feeling attached to the thought that you are to blame. An Empabot has not had the experiences and the attached thoughts needed to generate feelings but they do have artificial ‘memories’ and, obviously, they learn to ‘feel’ more, the more time that they spend with patients”

“So all they have is pain, without true origin, without reason?” Dave was watching the female Empabot intently, she seemed to be shrinking somehow, folding in on herself as she listened to the pathetic litany of the desperate man before her.

“Well, yes, I suppose you could put it like that” Paul was not comfortable with this question as it implied a level of suffering from the perspective of the Empabots that simply wasn’t there “But remember Dave, they’re AI, not real people”

“Look what it’s doing to her Paul, just look” Dave had not moved his gaze from the Empabot; something was breaking inside her as he watched. She was taking on all the pain of the human before her. “How many times a day will she go through this?”

“She’s not ‘going through’ something Dave, it’s a treatment and she will see 6 to 8 patients a day” He wasn’t sure where his friend was going with this but he was mentally searching for a change of subject

“6 or 8 times a day, every day, she will take on more and more pain? She will feel the pain of the people she sees all day and every day? Is that it? Is that what you’ve created here Paul? An endless cycle of pain?” Dave’s face was both tortured and incredulous

“Well, I didn’t create them mate, I mean, I helped a bit along the way but it wasn’t me who came up with it” Paul held his hands up in front of his chest as if to ward off his friend’s anger.

The previous patient had left the little room and the Empabot appeared exhausted, shoulders slumped as if carrying the weight of the world, eyes sunken and limbs heavy.

‘I know that feeling’ thought Dave.

As he watched the outer door opened slowly and another patient sidled into the room looking lost and apprehensive. The Empabot roused herself from her apathy and greeted the girl with an understanding smile and a small hand gesture which indicated she should sit. Her face was, once again, a mask of pure empathy and, in minutes, the girl was opening up to her like a flower to the sun. She began to talk and the subtle lines of stress and cracks of pain once again distorted the Empabot’s fine features.

‘I can’t watch this’ Dave thought ‘she is in pain and it will never stop. All the negative emotions and feelings that people bring to her will stay locked inside going round and round and………’ He felt tears spring to his eyes, unbidden and he turned to Paul

“That’s what I’ve been doing isn’t it?”

‘At last’ Paul thought to himself. “Yes my friend, that’s what you’ve been doing”

“For 10 years this pain has been going round and round inside me, getting worse and worse, I can see now what I’ve been doing but…….” His voice broke and Paul knew what he would say next

“It wasn’t your fault Dave” His voice was gentle but he grasped Dave firmly by both shoulders as he spoke “Yes, you were driving but no-one could have avoided that accident, even the scene investigators said that. It was obvious to everyone that you did everything you could to prevent the crash”

“It wasn’t my fault” It was said in a whisper but, for Paul, it was a start. His plan had been elaborate to say the least but, if his friend was saved, it had all been worth it. He loved this man but, it was his professional judgement that Dave needed to feel someone else’s pain before he could begin to heal his own. Somewhere along the line, immersed in his own suffering, he had lost the ability to empathise and remained caught in his emotional loop. Paul would pay the actress well, her portrayal of an Empabot had been inspired…….

I have no idea where this story came from but I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it

Lisa x

The Meaning of Life Part 5 (maybe)

“What’s going on down there now?” said with delicate mastication and a small spray of biscuit crumbs

“Don’t sneak up on me like that! You made me jump and look…oh bugger….I’ve spilled my tea” There is much huffing and ineffectual wiping that does little to stem the steady flow as it makes its way across the desk

“What’s going on down there now?” said with delicate mastication and a small spray of biscuit crumbs

“Don’t sneak up on me like that! You made me jump and look…oh bugger….I’ve spilled my tea” There is much huffing and ineffectual wiping that does little to stem the steady flow as it makes its way across the desk

“So much for ‘all seeing'” snickers quietly

“What was that? Hmmm what did you say?” It’s surprising how effective hearing can become when an insult is in the wind.

“Nothing boss. Anyway, what’s going? Anything interesting?” He looks down onto the factory floor, trying to divert his bosses attention, not realising for several seconds that his left elbow is resting in a puddle of rapidly cooling tea “Sod it!”

“Mind your language! Not very much to be honest, all the usual: nice people being shot and complete bastards enjoying life; you know how it is”

“MY language!!? I’ve been meaning to ask, what’s that Dump bloke been up to lately? Did the essence of sheep have any effect when we brought him in for reprogramming?”

“Nope, not one iota and I’d made a fresh, extra concentrated batch especially; he’s still determined to put a bloody great metal wall across half my factory, damn cheek! Are you going to put the kettle on?”

“grumble…….it’s always me that makes the tea…….moan……mumble” There is the sound of a kettle being filled with much bad grace.

“And don’t forget the hobnobs while you’re at it. Do you know, I just don’t get it. Why would you want to shut yourself behind a huge wall, it makes no sense to me at all”

“Are you talking literally or metaphorically boss? Tea’s up by the way and we’ve run out of hobnobs but I managed to find some jammy dodgers”

“Literally. Mmm thanks, are those the ones with the cream in the middle or just jam?”

“Just jam. I don’t know guv, I mean, he’s got the walls of that big white house he lives in, walls around the gardens, people with guns behind those……makes you wonder what he’s afraid of really. I mean it’s not like he’s going to end up with all the good people on one side and all the bad ones on the other. Talk about naive” this was said with a slight pause mid-sentence to dislodge a particularly sticky smidgen of jam that had welded itself to the roof of his mouth and a roll of the eyes.

“Oh you know I don’t like those, have we got any shortbread? Yes, I’ve been wondering that too, so I’ve decided….oooh thanks, I thought we were out of hobnobs” happy munching ensues.

“So…you’ve decided…..”

“Oh, yes, right. I’ve decided to give him something to be really afraid of; can you go and get me one of those lightening bolts we keep stashed behind the hall cupboard?”

“You sure boss, they’re a bit old fashioned and not all that accurate if I remember rightly”

“I don’t need them to be that accurate but I will need a few of them if you don’t mind; can you see what stock we’ve got left? I think I’ll have some fun keeping him behind his walls for a little while….literally and metaphorically” There is an evil gleam in the eye that really shouldn’t be there but that won’t come as a surprise to most people……..

Lisa x

 

 

 

 

Finish the Story — The Final Hunt: Part 6

There was a noise overhead and both Alec and Sam turned sharply to try and identify it’s source; necks craning upwards they searched the sky but there was nothing other than a dense cloud bank.

Fandango has tagged me for something new today and that’s to add to a story originally started by Teresa, the Haunted Wordsmith; it’s like a kind of blogging relay race apparently. This is the story so far……

Teresa’s Part:

Anne and Gladys waved as the men left for their hunt. When they were out of sight, they both laughed knowing full well that none would have the heart to really shoot anything. They liked a boy’s day out as much as they liked a girl’s day in.

“So,” Fred said as they passed the gate into his family’s hunting grounds. “What do you think the girls are up to today?”

Alec laughed. “Talking about us, what else?”

Sam nodded. “Yep.”

As they walked through the fields into the tree line, the dogs’ ears’ picked up. Boy whimpered and cowered close to Fred’s legs. Toby’s fur stood on edge as he stared into the woods and growled.

“Easy there,” Alec said, trying to calm him.

Sam kneeled and unzipped his gun as quietly as possible. Suddenly, both dogs were on alert as a …

Morpethroad wrote:

small, bespectacled man stepped through the bushes. The dogs were going berserk by now straining at their leashes. It was clear the dogs sensed a danger the men did not see.

The man walking towards them was squinting as he approached as he had the sun in his eyes.

“Good afternoon,” he said as he drew near, “your dogs won’t bite will they? I do have a fear of them.”

Sam stood with his gun in his hands unsure of what he was seeing and hearing. The place they were in was a piece of rugged bushland, no one lived there because it was the family’s hunting grounds and it was considered unsafe to even camp on the land for any reason at all.

Fred was trying his best to hold onto his dog, and Alec held firm on Toby’s collar. Once the small man came within a few feet of the hunting party, they could see…

Pensitivity101 continues:

he was holding something in a plastic bag.

Fred lost his grip and Boy lunged at the man who dropped the bag on the ground and threw his arms up to protect his face.

Fred was afraid they would have to shoot the dog but Boy wasn’t interested in the man at all, just the bag, which he snatched up and obediently brought back to his master.

The little man was shaking with fear as Sam reached out his hand to help him up.

“You realise you’re trespassing don’t you?” he said.

The man straightened his glasses and collected himself.

“I’m sorry about that, but we’d received a repor….”

“We? Who is we? And what are you doing here? You could have been shot!”

Fred had taken the bag out of Boy’s mouth and stared at the contents in disbelief.

“Guys? I think you need to look at this.”

Sadje’s contribution:

Sam and Alec stepped forward to take a look at what was in the bag. Fred’s hand, clutching the bag, was trembling. The bag contained a severed hand, the digits were shaped like a claw. But it was like no human hand they had ever seen. It was like it belonged to someone very big and skinny.

“Whe…, Ahm….Where did you find this?” Alec uttered the question through vocal cords which were refusing to cooperate. Sam and Fred were looking askance at the stranger. The whole situation had taken on a nightmarish quality.

The man, again made an attempt to introduce himself. “I am Bennett, from The Agency of Alien Detection, TAAD. We received the alien activity signals from this area and a party has been investigating the situation. This is part of the remains we were able to recover. Do you have any information regarding this?”

The three men stared at him with gapping mouth and glazed looks. Who in their right mind would believe this man. But the evidence was in their hands.

Sam took the bag from Fred and was going to examine it closely when…

Cheryl added:

…when the bag’s contents started moving. The claw-like severed hand was scratching at the plastic bag. Sam dropped it like a hot potato! The boys started to freak out and started to whimper. The spectacled man even stepped back. “Oh my,” Bennett stuttered, “I thought it was, uh, uh, dead!”

Sam kept his gun at the ready. There was no way this “thing” was going to hurt the boys. Bennett fumbled nervously in his pocket to retrieve what looked like a cell phone, but was actually a communicator to the rest of the landing crew. His face seemed to change shape a bit and he started to adjust his hair. Sam looked at the little man with more than just curiosity. Who was this guy, really?

This was Fandango’s contribution

“Do not touch that bag!” Bennett, who was no longer a small, bespectacled, unimposing man, shouted. He had suddenly grown taller. His skin took on a shiny, reddish tone and his hands took on the same claw-like shape of the severed hand in the bag. The three men stepped back and even the two dogs stopped barking and cowered.

“What are you?” Alec asked. “you definitely are not human.”

“No,” Bennett admitted, “I am not. My companion and I were sent here from our home planet to explore your planet. Our mission was peaceful. Our intent was merely to collect air and mineral samples. We intended no harm. But then we encountered a hostile group of creatures who jumped my companion. I’m ashamed to say that I ran for cover, while these creatures devoured my companion. All that was left of him was the hand that I put in the bag. But he is apparently beginning the regeneration process.”

“Creatures? What kind of creatures?” Sam asked.

“Similar to those,” Bennett said, pointing to the two dogs, “but larger and much more viscous.”

“Wolves,” Fred said.

Sam raised his rifle and aimed it at the alien. “Sam, what are you doing?” Alec shouted.

Suddenly…

Now over to me:

There was a noise overhead and both Alec and Sam turned sharply to try and identify it’s source; necks craning upwards they searched the sky but there was nothing other than a dense cloud bank.

“Looks like there’s a storm coming” said Alec “Perhaps it was thunder we heard”

He turned to look at Sam who had resumed his position; stock still with his gun aimed at Bennett’s head

“That wasn’t thunder, was it Mr Bennett?” Sam said quietly

“Sam! Please put down your gun, there’s no need for threats, Mr Bennett has explained that he has no beef with us, he’s just doing some research”

Alec was surprised at his friend’s behaviour especially as Boy and Toby were no longer agitated but laying peacefully at their feet. In his experience dogs were far better attuned to sense danger than any human.

“And you believe him do you?” Sam was absolutely rigid and he spoke from the corner of his mouth through clenched teeth as though in mortal terror or suppressed anger, Alec couldn’t be sure which.

“Yes I believe him Sam now put the gun down for God’s sake before some gets hurt”

Alec was becoming genuinely concerned, they were both hunters but he knew from long experience that Sam was not a violent man. He stepped forward to try to placate his friend and persuade him to drop his weapon.= but just then the sky darkened and………..

That’t it from me, I’m passing the baton to Billy at GoodtobeAliveToday to carry on with the tale

These are the rules:

1. Copy the story as you receive it.
2. Add to the story in some fashion.
3. Tag another person to contribute to or finish the story.
4. Please use FTS as a tag so Teresa can find it or link back to part 1.
5. Have Fun!

Thanks again Fandango for the tag and over to you Billy..

Lisa x

FOWC: Stymie

“Are you sure that you want to go ahead with this John?” He was not normally one to shy away from difficult cases but he had deep reservations about this one.

“We’ve already discussed this ad nauseam Peter, I’ve made my position very clear and I have no intention of deviating from it” He didn’t even look up from his paperwork, his very body language left Peter in no doubt that he was being dismissed.

“Are you sure that you want to go ahead with this John?” He was not normally one to shy away from difficult cases but he had deep reservations about this one.

“We’ve already discussed this ad nauseam Peter, I’ve made my position very clear and I have no intention of deviating from it” He didn’t even look up from his paperwork, his very body language left Peter in no doubt that he was being dismissed.

“You do realise that, should we win, a very dangerous legal precedent will have been set?” Peter was loathe to arouse the wrath of this powerful man but he could not, in all conscience, let him continue on this path without a last ditch effort to change his mind. He was not even granted the courtesy of a response and so left the office with a heavy heart and a wish that he would not have to be the one to take this case to court.

“Do you deny, Mr Senator, that you had regular meetings with a member of the banned political group Action Against Atrocities” John felt that his opening was strong; to link the senator with known political activists would turn the jury against him from the start. He doubted that any of them understood the group’s manifesto or their political intentions, it was enough that the Government had handed forth a ban against membership. He wondered afresh at the political naivety of the majority of his country’s citizens….

“The ‘member’ you refer to counselor is my daughter and so, to answer your question, yes I had regular ‘meetings’ with her. If you have children, sir, I have no doubt that you have regular ‘meetings’ with them too” His sarcasm and hostility was not lost on the jury but Peter did notice that one or two were looking at him with something close to sympathy.

“Be that as it may Senator, you were aware that she was a member of Action Against Atrocities were you not?”

“For Christ’s sake, the girl is 19 years old, she’s passionate but naive and, like many kids of her age, she wants to change the World, she didn’t know what she was getting into and being a member of this group was not made illegal until 6 months after she joined” The man’s frustration was obvious, he knew that he was trapped in a situation not of his own making but how could he condemn or deny his own daughter; his only recourse was to fight back.

“No, I doubt that she did know but you did, didn’t you Senator? You knew that this group of activists was causing trouble for the Government with their hacks and their threats of action against the military. You knew that they were labeled a banned organisation after their attempts to free dangerous political prisoners from Guantanamo. You knew Senator” Peter could feel the jury stirring and knew that his use of the phrase ‘dangerous political prisoners’ would be enough for most of them to lose any lingering sympathy for the Senator.

“Oh Jesus” the man in the dock put his head back and stared at the ceiling, maybe trying to hold back tears or maybe just looking for divine inspiration.

“You knew, didn’t you?” Peter pressed him once again and waited patiently, like a snake for his response.

“Do you know who those men were that they tried to release?” the Senator’s voice was strong now, defiant and he half rose from his seat

“Sit down Senator” The judge spoke harshly from the bench, he had not wanted to be part of this trial and was determined it would be over as quickly as possible.

“They were innocent. They were men who had family in the Middle East and who visited them when they could, when they’d amassed enough money for the plane ticket home. They worked two or three jobs just so that they could go back and be with their families but, because their loved ones lived in towns that harbored suspected terrorists, and their travel records showed more than 2 visits in one year to those towns they were arrested and sent to Guantanamo. They have been there for almost 18 months with no explanation and no prosecution, they are merely suspects whose only crime was to want to see their families. They are subject to appalling conditions and treatment and..”

“Stop! That’s enough Senator, this is not a political platform and I will ask you to please restrain yourself and answer the questions that you have been asked by Counsel”

Peter smiled a mirthless smile and repeated his question

“Senator, did you have regular contact with a member of the banned organisation Action Against Atrocities?”

“Yes” Utterly defeated, weary, the man, father, senator slumped down in his chair and lowered his eyes.

On the day of the verdict John was in Court, he did not sit beside Peter but at the back close to the huge double doors. He was wearing a hat pulled down over his eyes and was, uncommonly, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Peter wondered if this ‘disguise’ would be enough to fool the waiting press but he doubted that his patron even cared.

“Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict upon which you are all agreed?”

A middle aged woman stood up, her hands shaking slightly, nervous at being the centre of so much attention

“We have. We find the defendant guilty as charged” the words came out in a rush and the woman was grateful to retake her seat

“Senator McBride, you have been found guilty of treason against the Government and you will be remanded in custody until sentence is passed 14 days from today. Take him away” The Senator’s legs buckled as his was led back to the cells in handcuffs; he realised that all hope was lost, for him and for his beloved daughter.

“Well done Peter, you broke him” John was smoking a fat cigar and looking approvingly at the younger man standing before him.

“He as good as admitted that he is against this Government and our great nation and he deserves what’s coming to him” He lowered his substantial buttocks into a black leather chair and puffed away, deeply satisfied with himself.

“John, you cannot possibly mean to continue with this? You’ve won, your running mate for the Presidential candidacy is out of the race, he’s finished and the road is clear for you. In a few months time you will be President, you will have it all!” Peter was beginning to fear that the man before him was losing his sanity to political ambition.

“You know that the underdog sometimes wins Peter; the public loves an underdog”

“John, he cannot come back from this!” He was, against his better judgement, raising his voice and his patience wearing thin.

“Peter, you are a lawyer so, you tell me, is treason a Capital crime or not”

“Yes but..” he stopped abruptly as his future President fixed him with stare that was vicious and feral

“Yes. Peter, there are no buts, Senator McBride has been found guilty of treason and he will be sentenced to death in 13 days time; this man tried to stymie my political ambitions and he failed; don’t you make the same mistake”

 

This longer that usual tale was written in response to another super prompt from the lovely Fandango

Lisa x

FOWC: Metamorphosis

“Can she hear us do you think?” The voice was strained and anxious

‘Yes, I can hear you but I can’t see you; where are you? Where am I?’

“Doctor, it’s been 3 months, do you think that there’s any chance at all now that she’ll recover? Please be honest” The plea was desperate, there was naked longing in the voice which cried out for an answer, any answer.

“Can she hear us do you think?” The voice was strained and anxious

‘Yes, I can hear you but I can’t see you; where are you? Where am I?’

“Doctor, it’s been 3 months, do you think that there’s any chance at all now that she’ll recover? Please be honest” The plea was desperate, there was naked longing in the voice which cried out for an answer, any answer.

‘Who are they talking about?’ There was no fear, there was nothing to fear in this place but she was curious

‘You’ The word was a gentle sigh that softly touched her cheek

Standing before her, bringing a subtle illumination to the darkness was the shape of a man; she couldn’t quite call him a man as he had a fluidity that does not exist within the human realm but he had a male presence. She was reminded of her Father. There were no clear features that would bring her to this conclusion but she felt a sense of belonging that enveloped her.

‘Why? There’s nothing wrong with me’ She was indignant, she felt healthier than she ever had in her life; her body had a lightness to it that she’d never experienced before. She was sure that she could run all day without tiring in the slightest. She smiled; it was a wonderful thought. As it entered her mind a field unraveled before her eyes; bright golden corn raised up before her, she could smell the damp earth as if it were soaked with summer rain. In the distance there was a glade of trees and the light from the sun played between the branches, illuminating, in turn, bright green leaves and the mossy floor beneath.

“I’m sorry but there really is nothing more that we can do, I’ll leave you to say your goodbyes and then we’ll shut down the machines…….” The words were delivered with a gentle compassion but with an unequivocal finality.

‘It’s time’ The soft tones of her Father’s voice reached her ear. Was it her Father? How could it be? She’d lost him so many years ago…….but…….

She turned her face away from the swaying corn and the seductive play of light in the glade and turned to face the being that bathed her in such subtle surety.

‘Time for what?’ She turned her head back to the trees that seemed to be calling her; the lightness that she’d felt before was almost overwhelming her and a place between her shoulder blades was tingling.

“Goodbye my love” The voice broke, the words, unwilling to be formed, stuck in the man’s throat.

She turned towards the voice but could see nothing; there was a deep desire within her to run towards it but the glade called to her, pulling her, the very earth was seducing her with its soft warm smell..

‘Please don’t be sad, not for me. Goodbye’

As the word hung in the air for a brief moment she had a strange sensation; something was erupting from within her and it brought with it power, a freedom that was entirely new to her. From the corner of her eye she could see brightness unfold as gossamer fine wings appeared and gently bore her away from the ground and towards the sunlit glade.

‘What’s happening?’ Did she care? Really? Such peace!

‘This, my daughter, is your final metamorphosis. Come’ He held out his hand and guided her towards the light….

Thanks once again to Fandango for providing the inspiration for this story with his daily one word prompt.

Lisa x

 

FOWC: Denounce

“What’s going on? Why has my wake-up been initiated?” The pod was still almost entirely in darkness but a soft golden glow illuminated the very edges as the sunrise programme activated.

“What’s going on? Why has my wake-up been initiated?” The pod was still almost entirely in darkness but a soft golden glow illuminated the very edges as the sunrise programme activated.

“Good morning Thomas, are you feeling well today” The soft tones of his pod companion rose him to full wakefulness

“Yes, fine but what’s going on, my wake-up is not normally scheduled at this hour” Thomas rubbed his eyes, any kind of negative emotion was futile and therefore not forthcoming but his routine had been disturbed and he felt slightly off kilter

“The Central has made a momentous announcement so all citizens are being awakened early”

Thomas sat up. “What announcement?” He was not concerned as there was no need, suffering had long since been eradicated,  but he was intrigued as major announcements were uncommon

“The Central has finally succeeded in creating a hologram with feeling capabilities, both physical and emotional” His companion spoke without intonation but Thomas was not blind to the significance.

“Thomas, watch the screen please” He turned his attention to the screen that covered the far wall of his sleeping pod, fully engaged. The image of the rising sun which normally completed his wake-up process had been replaced by 6 members of the Central; between them stood a short dark man who looked, at once, defiant and afraid. His black eyes flashed at his unseen audience; the screens could be activated for full interaction but Thomas had a feeling that this man would be kept in darkness, at least for a time.

He moved to speak but the Central silenced him with the use of a holographic cuff which coiled around his throat. He tried to tear it away as it tightened but that caused him very obvious distress so, after a minute or so of struggling, his hands fell to his sides. At the same time the Central were all taking it in turns to address him, their words could not be heard, as was traditional, but they were having a strange effect on their target

“Who is that man?” Thomas asked. Punishment this cruel was unusual in their World and never made public in this way; he was horrified.

“His name was Adolf Hitler” The information was given as fact and without emotion.

“I remember…….something……..from the 21st Century perhaps?” Thomas tried to recollect his ancient history

“The 20th. The Central will be reporting details of his actions later today”

Thomas turned his eyes back to the screen and the agonised expression of the man being tormented. He was trying to cover his ears to stop the terrible words of the Central from permeating his brain but another cuff had wrapped itself round his torso leaving him unable to move his hands high enough.

“What are they doing to him?” This level of violence was unknown to him and he could not tear his eyes from the screen.

“They are denouncing him before the entire World”

The screen indicated that interaction would be permitted shortly. This meant that Adolf Hitler would see those people to whom his torture was being broadcast and that they would be able to contribute to his punishment. The words of the Central would be augmented ten thousand fold.

“But why now?” Thomas was curious

“Because now we have the technology to ensure he will suffer; there is little point in denouncing a dead man who can’t feel his accusers wrath”.

Thomas could not argue with this logic and decided he would watch this afternoon and discover more about this strange, black eyed man; he was intrigued.

Post written in response to another excellent one word prompt from Fandango

FOWC: Magical

“How’s she doing Sergeant?” Inspector Carlton look up from his paperwork, eyes red and sore behind his old horn-rimmed specs as DS Marlowe entered his office.

“As well as can be expected Guv, she’s seen the doc and he’s said that, other than being under-developed for her age and malnourished, she’s not in too bad a state”

“How’s she doing Sergeant?” Inspector Carlton look up from his paperwork, eyes red and sore behind his old horn-rimmed specs as DS Marlowe entered his office.

“As well as can be expected Guv, she’s seen the doc and he’s said that, other than being under-developed for her age and malnourished, she’s not in too bad a state”

Carlton could see that the younger man was agitated and indicated that he should sit down. It had been a difficult case for all of them but Marlowe seemed to have taken it all very badly; he was an experienced copper and had seen far worse so Carlton felt that he needed to get to the bottom of things.

“What’s going on Gary?” They could dispense with Serge and Gov for this chat.

“I’m sorry Dave, I shouldn’t have let this get to me but I just can’t stand what’s been done to that kid. She’s 11 years old for Christs sake, she’s never known a minute of love or affection and she’s seen things no child should ever have to see” He was shocked to find that his voice was breaking and tears pricking his eyes. He turned his face away from his superior, embarrassed at his lack of self-control.

Inspector Carlton was a kindly man who took a personal interest in all the members of his team and he knew that Gary Marlowe had suffered the death of his youngest daughter two years previously. It had been a freak accident, nothing that anyone could have done but he had taken the loss very badly.

“She’s safe now mate” Marlowe felt a hand on his shoulder and was grateful.

“Her mother was a drug addict and her father a pimp. She’s seen other addicts, even prepared their hits for them; she’s seen women sell themselves and be beaten for not performing well enough and now she’s seen her father kill her mother in the worst possible way. These are things that will scar her for life but at least she has a life to live thanks to you. If you hadn’t have worked out who was controlling the drug cartel and prostitution ring, we wouldn’t have been there to stop Maccy before he turned on Megan, you need to remember that Gary”.

Marlowe stood up and shook his commanding officer’s hand

“Thanks Dave, that means a lot mate” his obvious sincerity touched Carlton but he said

“Get on with you, go and look after Megan….hey, I’ve just realised, it’s bloody Christmas day tomorrow” With all that had been going on with this case, he’d completely forgotten. “I’m off to buy something for the wife, see you on Sunday”

“OK boss, Happy Christmas” Marlowe headed back to the interview room, giving a thumbs up to his colleagues as he passed the canteen.

Ten minutes later Megan was standing, with her hand in Marlowe’s, staring up at the worn paper Christmas decorations, the tacky plastic tree, the fake presents and the mound of sausage rolls and sandwiches that covered the tables in the canteen. Her mouth was a perfect O as she walked across to the tree, dragging Marlowe behind her. She reached out her other hand and gently touched a slightly grubby fairy with a torn skirt before smiling up at the Sergeant and saying, in a voice filled with wonder

“It’s magical!”

His own smile was warm as he saw her experience, probably, the first real joy she’d ever known.

“It is isn’t it? Happy Christmas Megan”

Written in response to another motivating prompt from Fandango

Lisa x

 

FOWC: Target

“You bitch! Can’t you see what you’ve done with your moaning and carrying on all the time”

“Me? It’s thanks to you that I don’t have any friends, that I’m stuck in this place day in and day out”

“Yes, that’s right, turn it round like you always do. What happened with Michael huh? You loved him, you hated him, you were clingy then, the next minute, you didn’t want to know. It’s no great surprise that he took of with Sally in the end is it?”

“You bitch! Can’t you see what you’ve done with your moaning and carrying on all the time”

“Me? It’s thanks to you that I don’t have any friends, that I’m stuck in this place day in and day out”

“Yes, that’s right, turn it round like you always do. What happened with Michael huh? You loved him, you hated him, you were clingy then, the next minute, you didn’t want to know. It’s no great surprise that he took of with Sally in the end is it?”

“Don’t you dare throw Michael in my face, you know he broke my heart”

The tears came then, slowly at first but then in great gasping sobs

“Oh stop with your whining you pathetic little cow, I’ve got no sympathy for you, not after what you did”

The tears stopped abruptly and her voice was like a whiplash

“He deserved it! Don’t try and tell me that he didn’t, leaving me all alone and parading around with that slut! You can’t say I didn’t give him every chance”

“What chance? You practically stalked him for 6 months. That guy didn’t get a moment’s peace with you around. You hounded Sally and made her life a bloody misery and it wasn’t her fault the poor mare”

“He left me” her childlike voice sounded pathetic

“Of course he left you, everybody leaves you” the words were vicious

“I know…” the tears had begun again

“The problem with you is that you don’t deserve to be loved, even Mummy and Daddy couldn’t stand you”

“That’s a lie! They did love me” Even as she said the words, she knew in her heart that they weren’t true.

“No! You want to be loved but you don’t earn it, you demand it and, when you don’t get it, you destroy and chance that you might have had. If you hadn’t been so obsessive about Michael you might still be with him, had you ever thought of that? If you hadn’t been so possessive of Daddy, he and Mummy might still be together but no, you drove them apart too.”

“That wasn’t my fault” her voice was little more than a whimper now, damn the truth hurt!

“It was your fault. It’s your fault you don’t have any friends too; you find fault with everyone, you’re suspicious, devious, you tell lies. It’s no wonder that no-one wants to be around you” all said with sneering contempt.

“I just want to be loved” her voice rose to a plaintive wail then cracked as the sobs began once again

“You will never be loved. Never. You don’t even love yourself, you’re just a pathetic excuse for a human being”

“I know” she hung her head, quiet now and resigned.

She took one last, long look in the mirror at the face that she hated so much and put the sharp blade to her throat. Finally she had found a target for her rage.

Another little tale prompted by the inimitable Fandango

Lisa

x

FOWC: Free

He almost felt sorry for the woman in the witness box, she looked so pathetic with her scraggy hair, tiny watery eyes and turned down mouth. ‘She really is one of the most unattractive women I’ve ever seen’ he thought to himself.

He almost felt sorry for the woman in the witness box, she looked so pathetic with her scraggy hair, tiny watery eyes and turned down mouth. ‘She really is one of the most unattractive women I’ve ever seen’ he thought to himself.

“So, Miss Babcock, you maintain that, on the night in question you were in the Downey Arms until just before 11pm, is that correct?”

He had always prided himself on his beautiful speaking voice and one glance at the jury told him that he had their attention.

“Yes……yes I was” Her voice was like the feeble twittering of a baby bird

“And can you confirm who you were with until this hour?”

“The defendant” He could barely hear her answer so he was sure that the jury couldn’t

“Louder please Miss Babcock, for the jury if you please”

“The defendant”

Her voice cracked with the effort, it was as though she was so used to cowering in the background that she’d lost the power to be heard. Her eyes were downcast and she was twisting a small handkerchief between her fingers. ‘The ultimate wallflower’ he thought.

“The defendant, ladies and gentleman of the jury, she was with the defendant. This means that the man accused of these crimes cannot possibly have committed them as, at the time of the attack he was with Miss Babcock. Thank you miss, I have no more questions”

The prosecutor tried every trick in the book to trip the witness up but she would not be swayed. He showed the photos of the poor young girl that the defendant had brutally raped and then stabbed to death and, although, she looked aghast and started to cry silently her resolve never faltered. Damn! He hoped that the evidence he’d presented would be enough; he had a witness and there was a certain amount of circumstantial evidence but no DNA.

He glanced across at the defendant. The man was, in the prosecutor’s opinion, too good looking by half and even he had to admit that he had charisma but there was something off about him, his unshakable self-belief, under the circumstances, just didn’t seem natural. ‘May be he was innocent after all’ he thought…

“Not guilty” the verdict rang out around the courtroom and there were several gasps of surprise but also a few concerned faces, this meant that there was still a vicious murderer out there somewhere. Reporters dashed off to file their stories and elaborate warnings and the public gallery slowly emptied. At last just he and Miss Babcock were left

“You did quite beautifully my dear, well done”

He took her clammy hands in his own and tried to suppress a shudder of revulsion. She looked up at him and gave a tiny smile

“I did it for you” her little voice was full of adoration and she took a half step closer towards him

“And you will always have my gratitude”

He enveloped her in his arms and felt her cling to him like a barnacle, as though he was giving her a life line. ‘Such a sad little thing’ he thought ‘she’s never known the pleasure that a man can give, that’s for sure’.

“I love you” she whispered.

He couldn’t bring himself to say it back to her but he held her even closer and hoped that would be enough. She’d been such easy prey, an obvious target with her little pink cardigans and sensible shoes. He’d flashed a smile and listened to the boring stories of her boring little life, he’d bought her drinks and then dinner, all the while flattering and cajoling. Their night at the Downey Arms had been almost insufferable for him but, for her, it would never, ever be forgotten. He’d walked her right to her door, arriving just before 11.15pm, he’d taken her face in his hands and kissed her gently on her drooping mouth

“You’re beautiful” he said before he turned and walked away.

At first when they spoke of it she said “that special Saturday”, obviously he’d had to remind her that it had been Friday several times before it became fact in her mind but for her it was their date and not the day that needed to be preserved in her memory. They’d talked about it so often after that; he’d call her or send little text messages just to let her know that he was thinking about her, remembering…..

Of course, he’d had no choice but to defend himself in court; he knew she’d be only too happy to share her special memories with him but he couldn’t trust her if she was under attack from an experienced barrister. It was a risk he’d had to take and it had paid off and now he was free to pursue his passions; there’d been a particularly juicy looking journalist in the gallery, he couldn’t wait to hear her scream!

As for little Miss Babcock, well, she’d have her memories….

Written in response to a gentle prompt from the lovely Fandango

Lisa x

 

FOWC: Pencil

“I’m here to help you, do you understand?”

The man had a calming, gentle voice and his face, behind his large black spectacles, was kind. He could elicit a response with nothing more than a well timed pause and an encouraging smile. The prisoner before him was known to be recalcitrant but he’d worked with him over several weeks and felt that they were finally getting somewhere.

“I’m here to help you, do you understand?”

The man had a calming, gentle voice and his face, behind his large black spectacles, was kind. He could elicit a response with nothing more than a well timed pause and an encouraging smile. The prisoner before him was known to be recalcitrant but he’d worked with him over several weeks and felt that they were finally getting somewhere.

“I know that the terrible crimes you committed were in response to a fear that lies deep within you; do you think that you can share that with me Peter?”

Dead, cruel eyes stared back at him. Peter had demonstrated a penchant for violence since early childhood, according to the notes that he had read before agreeing to meet with him and his attacks had escalated over the years until he progressed to murder. 11 women were dead; brutally tortured until their poor broken bodies just couldn’t take any more.

“Perhaps you can you write it down for me?”

He was quite shocked when Peter began to scrawl on the paper before him but said nothing for a few moments, hoping that he would finally get to the root of this man’s problems.

“That’s it Peter, well done, just write down those things that you really fear and we will be able to find a way to set you free”

He leaned forward a little in his cold, metal chair and attempted to read upside down. It was not difficult as Peter had only written one word, over and over again – ‘Fire’. Of course! This was the key, his parents had died in a fire and the local police always thought that Peter had set it but had never been able to prove it and, as he’d only been 7 at the time, what was the point? However, if Peter had set it, why was it his deepest fear?

“Were you there Peter? Did you see who started the fire?”

Had this been the trigger for all his subsequent violent behaviour? Had he witnessed an arsonist setting a trap for himself and his parents? Could that really be enough? He thought again about the terrible crime scene photos that he seen and he wasn’t convinced…

Peter had paused in his writing while he’d watched the emotions flash across the other man’s face. ‘People are so stupid’ he thought and he smiled to himself, a twisted grimace that brought no light to his dark eyes. He was scared of fire, not because of his parents, they’d deserved to die, but because he hadn’t been able to control his one and only experiment with it. He’d thought that the blow torch he’d found in his father’s shed would be so much fun but the flames found the edge of a table cloth and it was all over far too quickly. He’d immobilised  both his mother and father with his baseball bat, what a great birthday gift that had been, but instead of being able to take his pleasure with their prone forms, the fire claimed them and the game was over. Yes, fire terrified him; it took away his control…

It was almost as if he could hear the flicker once more, feel the heat as the red and orange tongues licked at everything they found. He remembered the pain as the fire had streaked across his left hand and it jerked involuntarily.

“Do you see now Peter? Are you finally facing your fear?”

He looked up to see the man smiling at him but it was no longer kind and gentle, it was predatory, the satisfied smile of a hunter that’s finally caught it’s prey.

Peter could feel the flames now, dancing around his feet. He pushed the chair violently and stood up, backing away from the table. He looked down and saw that his white, prison issue trainers were smoldering. He flung himself onto the floor and tried to tear them off but the melting rubber stuck to his hands and began to burn. He screamed as he watched the flames begin their dance and felt the pain as it started to spread……

“I’m sorry Inspector but there’s really nothing I can do with this one, he’s finally tipped over the edge and I don’t think anything will bring him back now”

He turned back and passively observed the prisoner who was now writhing on the floor in apparent agony although no-one could see any immediate cause.

“What happened?” The inspector asked as he indicated to his men that they should take Peter to the psyche ward; if he was any judge this prisoner would end his days there.

“He finally faced his fears” The man looked tired but satisfied

“How did you get him to do it?”

“Me? Nothing. I just gave him the pencil

A gruesome little tale once again inspired by Fandango and his one word prompt

Lisa x