FOWC: Inherit

She sat in the solicitor’s office, nervously playing with the strap of her cheap leather handbag. She looked around at the oppressive and solemn decor and watched the dust motes as they danced in the narrow shaft of sunlight that barely lit the darkly paneled room.

She sat in the solicitor’s office, nervously playing with the strap of her cheap leather handbag. She looked around at the oppressive and solemn decor and watched the dust motes as they danced in the narrow shaft of sunlight that barely lit the darkly paneled room.

‘What on earth am I doing here’ she thought to herself as she waited for Mr Bloom to explain the reason for her presence. He seemed like a kindly man, an old fashioned gentleman who’d pulled her chair out for her and offered her a cup of tea which she’d declined after spotting the delicate porcelain cup and saucer on his desk; her hands were shaking and she didn’t want to embarrass herself.

Mr Bloom took the glasses from the end of his nose and wiped them slowly with a small cloth and regarded her with tired and rheumy eyes before smiling distractedly and pulling a buff folder towards him. As he slowly untied the pink ribbon that bound the file he said, “Thank you so much for taking the time to come to my office today Miss Solomon, I expect that you’re wondering why I asked to see you.”

Cathy Solomon smiled nervously and nodded. She was worried. Although Mr Bloom seemed perfectly pleasant, with her job as a social worker she was always at risk of law suits and claims of abuse. It saddened her deeply as she genuinely cared for the broken families that she cared for but she was enough of a realist to know that there were people in the profession who abused their positions. The elderly solicitor was still looking at her, obviously waiting for a verbal response but, as none was forthcoming, he pulled several sheets of paper from the file and began speaking.

“I have here the Last Will and Testament of Mr Sebastian Courtney; have you heard of the gentleman Miss Solomon?”

“Well, yes, of course, who hasn’t? He was a wonderful actor.” Cathy had often watched his films with her mother when she was growing up and she’d always been a fan, not least because of his handsome features and melodious voice. She’d been genuinely upset when she’d seen reports of his death. Her mother had never seemed to take the same pleasure from the movies as her daughter but she was just content to sit with her and watch the awed expression on her pretty, young face. Cathy’s eyes softened as she thought of her mother; they’d had such a close bond and she’d been devastated when she died at the age of just 45. Cathy had been 21 at the time and old enough to understand that her mother’s health had been slowly broken by years of working three jobs and never having enough to eat. She’d done it all for her daughter as she was determined to save enough from her meagre earnings for Cathy to be able to attend college and make a real life for herself. On the day that Cathy graduated her mother was there, so much pride in her eyes, and a beautiful smile on her face despite the pain that she was suffering.

That was one of the last days that they spent together but it remained a wonderful memory. Cathy had always wished that her mother had had someone to love her and take care of her but she never seemed interested. ‘After your father, I couldn’t look at another man’ was always her answer whenever Cathy questioned her about it. She would smile sadly and pat her daughter’s hand and then changed the subject. Cathy didn’t remember her father but knew that he must have been a very special man if he’d loved her mother.

Cathy realised that Mr Bloom was speaking to her and she drew herself from her reverie.

“……so, in conclusion, the house in Chelsea and all it’s contents will pass to you and you will receive a lump sum of £14,500,000. I expect that Mr Courtney’s wife will contest but she has no case; we drew up this will together, Sebastian and I, and it is clear and completely watertight.”

“I’m sorry” said Cathy, trying to make sense of what she’d just heard “did you say that Sebastian Courtney left money to me? There must be some mistake, I’ve never met him. You must have me mistaken for another Cathy Solomon Mr Bloom.” Cathy started to stand up but the solicitor waved her back down into her seat.

“I assure you Miss Solomon, there is no mistake. Mr Courtney carried the guilt of what he did for 45 years and this is his way of making amends.”

Cathy frowned, desperately trying to understand what Mr Bloom was telling her. The solicitor saw the confusion on her face and the penny dropped.

“Miss Solomon, did your mother never tell you about your conception? Who your father was?” he said gently.

“Yes, of course, his name was Michael and he was killed in a car crash a month before I was born. Mum didn’t really like to talk about him too much as it upset her, she really loved him.” Cathy was feeling overwhelmed and her eyes filled with tears.

“Oh dear” Mr Bloom took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose trying to relieve the tension that was building between his eyes. “Miss Solomon, I really don’t know how to tell you this but, under the circumstances, I have no choice. Your father was not named Michael. Your father was Sebastian Courtney. As a young man he was very wild; he was rich, famous and had been allowed to do as he pleased for years without reproach. Your mother worked as a waitress in a restaurant that he frequented and one night……” He hesitated, unsure how to continue “…he made a play for your mother and, when she rejected him, he raped her.” He was quiet for a moment, letting his words sink in.

“Oh God! I think I’m going to be sick!” Cathy fled from the room, her hand over her mouth. She was back 15 minutes later, ashamed, shocked; there were so many emotions on her face and her eyes were wet and smudged black where she’d been crying. She sat back down facing Mr Bloom and, in a leaden voice, said “I don’t want his money or his house Mr Bloom, let his wife have it. Is there something I can sign to waive my rights?”

The solicitor looked surprised and concerned but said “Miss Solomon, you really shouldn’t make a decision right now, take a few days to think about it.”

“I don’t need to take any more time Mr Bloom” Cathy said with perfect dignity “Tell me what to sign and then I’d like to leave please.”

Extracting a sheet of paper from the file, the solicitor handed it to Cathy. He passed her a pen and showed her when to sign her name. “If you can just initial there and put the date at the top, our business is concluded. I’m sorry to have brought you such grief Miss Solomon but I am afraid it’s my job.”

Cathy rose and shook his outstretched hand. “Please don’t concern yourself Mr Bloom, I understand and thank you.” She turned and quickly walked to the door, eager to leave the dark and dusty office and return to her friends and colleagues. She didn’t know yet if she would tell them what had happened but she knew that she didn’t want to be alone.

Mr Bloom waited until she’d left the room, closing the door behind her, before picking up the phone.

“Mrs Courtney, Bloom here. It’s done. Miss Solomon has waived all her rights.” He listened for a moment before replying “Yes, she fell for it. I told her that it was rape, she will never know that your husband carried a torch for her mother all these years and never got over her leaving him”. He listened once again and then said “Yes, Mrs Courtney, you will  now inherit the entire estate.”

They said their goodbyes and Bloom put the phone down before leaning back on his chair, smug in the knowledge that he’d really earned his £1 million fee.

Written in response to Fandango’s one word prompt

Lisa x

 

Finish the Story – The Travelers

an enormous metal beast; it had wheels at the rear but at the front were giant clawed arms which served to change the direction of the machine but also to clear the dense forestation. It halted before the terrified survivors, the massive throbbing engines creating an illusion of life; a black heart of block and pistons beating. In their bewildered state the passengers didn’t see an internal hatch opening, they saw a giant gaping maw that they were certain was going to swallow them whole. 

I Have been tagged by the lovely Rory – from A Guy Called bloke and K9 Doodlepip to take part in Teresa’s of The Haunted Wordsmith Finish The Story.

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 I can find it or link back to part 1.

5. Have Fun!

The Travelers – Teresa’s Introduction

Alexander and Alistair waited in line to check on their flight. It didn’t matter how long the line was, or how tired they were of waiting in it, they were happy to be getting away for a week. Life had not been difficult, but it was still nice to finally get away–alone.

Alexander couldn’t wait to show Alistair around Pompeii and Alistair couldn’t wait to show Alexander around his old home. They enjoyed people watching in the airport and passed time telling stories of the old days.

Finally, it was their turn to check in. Alexander sat his luggage in the bin and watched as a scrawny kid retrieved it and threw it on a conveyor belt. He cringed and crossed his fingers that his cologne didn’t break.

It wasn’t until they were standing by the large window at their gate watching their luggage be thrown around like last week’s trash that they noticed it. Something was not right.

“Hey, Alistair,” Alexander said, pointing out to the luggage cart. “Do you see that?”

Alistair followed Alexander’s finger and squinted. “Yeah. What is that?”

“I can’t be sure, but it looks like …

Part two – Paula of Light Motifs II

The luggage on one of the other carts was all black with a lightning bolt logo. And sure enough, a black stretch limo with the same logo pulled up directly to the plane and out tumbled the crazy rockers the Zappers and their entourage.

“Oh no,” Alistair moaned. “Those lunatics will be on our flight!”

Alexander sighed. “Horrible. They always get up to some ridiculous shenanigans, but surely they’ll behave themselves in the air?”

“It’s too late to change our tickets?”

“Well, yes. Our luggage is being flung into the bowels of this tin can as we speak.”

The men stared glumly out the window, their previous good mood soured. When they were called to board, they stood in line without speaking, having mutually decided to stoically bear the flight and have fun after landing, when the nutty rockers had gone.

Women chatted behind them in line. “Oh my God! Did you hear that the Zappers are on our flight? I’m totally gonna sneak into first class to see them!”

“I have such a crush on Nikki Zapper! I bet he does something wild and we have to make an emergency landing!”

Alistair and Alexander looked at each other and rolled their eyes.

But all went smoothly during takeoff, and then as one of the flight attendants was giving the safety presentation, a blond man dressed in black leather popped out of the first class section, grabbed her, and kissed her.

Part Three Li at Tao-Talk

Several people in coach lifted up their cell phones to record Nikki as he laid one on Myra, the flight attendant, ooh-ing and aah-ing as they did. Myra was torn, as she was supposed to rebuff any advances by the passengers, no matter how famous; but on the other hand, she had been a global fan of Nikki and the Zappers for years, using her bene of free flights to see them dozens of times. She even had a likeness of Nikki tattooed in her cleavage. Throwing caution to the wind, she kissed Nikki back and soon they, locked in an embrace, were stumbling towards the bathroom – where they would be the newest members of the Mile High Club.

As they often synched with each other over the years, Alistair and Alexander looked at each other and rolled their eyes.

“Well, I never!” huffed Alistair.

“Indeed!,” puffed Alexander.

“Let the shenanigans begin. Where are those sleepers you packed? Time to take a snooze until the show is over,” said Alistair.

Alexander reached for his carry-on, which was stuffed under his seat, and retrieved enough for both of them. They asked another attendant for a handful of the little booze bottles to wash them down with. Soon they were fast asleep, snoring to beat kingdom come.

Neither one knew how long they had slept, but both were awakened by the throbbing bassline of the latest Nikki and the Zappers tune, “Don’t Harsh My Buzz.” They were shocked to see….

Part Four Teleporting Weena;

…that the lights in the plane’s cabin had been turned off. Being that it was night time, they couldn’t see a thing in the dark. The bass guitar was still pounding out the beat so loud it shook their insides.

Suddenly an explosion of neon-like lights began flickering all around the plane’s interior, as the Zappers launched into their current number one song.  Passengers were crowding into the narrow aisle, and even just standing at their seats, dancing and singing along to the music.

The captain came on the loudspeakers: “Welcome to the party of the year…we present the Zappers for your inflight entertainment. Free drinks for everyone!

A big cheer rocked this unusual concert venue.

“Can you believe this?” Alistair asked as he busted a move right there in his seat.

Alexander looked at Alistair. They were grinning from ear to ear but didn’t roll their eyes at this exciting turn of events.

Cocktails and cups of beer were passed around, as the party continued through the night, 32,000 feet above the ground, but a sudden lurch of the plane made everyone gasp. The plane yawed to the left, then to the right. People screamed and tumbled into each other.

This is your captain…please everyone…sit down and fasten your seat belts…

***

Part Five – Sadje of Keep it Alive

……..we have a pick of air turbulence. It took repeated announcements from the caption to quieten down the passengers who were still hyped up from all the drinking and dancing. Eventually, everyone was seated, the belts fastened and a hush descended on the plane. Suddenly there was a jerk as the plane lost a lot of height very quickly. It was an air pocket that caused the loss in the plane altitude. There were quite a few screams and shrieks from many people.

The pilot came on air again.

I am sorry ladies and gentlemen we are in the middle of a storm right now. Please keep the seat belts on. I am afraid that we have lost power in one of our engines. I am trying to make an emergency landing………..

His announcement was cut abruptly and….

Part Six – Kristian’s Addition

…the oxygen masks dropped from their concealed compartments above the passengers.

Alistair and Alexander helped each other putting them on and then they squeezed hands.

The atmosphere had gone from one of enjoyment to panic. A few people had begun to get hysterical. Myra the Stewardess was trying to comfort one particularly distressed woman who couldn’t stop crying.

Then there was a loud bang and a hiss as the cabin filled with smoke. Alistair could just see Alexanders face through the haze. His eyes were scrunched tightly together and his grip on his hand was threatening to cut the blood supply from his fingers, but they were together and that was some comfort.

It was the impact of the plane hitting the water that sent luggage pouring out of overhead compartments and a few chairs broke loose, tumbling bodies around like they were dummies.

Myra lay at an impossible angle. Her legs bent backwards and her head twisted.

A figure lay face down in a black leather jacket and the strings of a broken guitar wrapped around his neck.

After the terrific noise of the impact, everything seemed deathly quiet. Alexander’s eyes opened, tears streaming down his face but he fixed Alistair with a desperate blue stare.

They had survived the crash but so many hadn’t.

A panicked voice suddenly came from over the tannoy system.

“This is the Navigator speaking. If there are any other survivors, please come to the front of the plane and make yourselves known.”

Together Alistair and Alexander got up from their chair and slowly made their way down the plane.

They were surprised to see…..

Part 7 – A Guy Called Bloke

cockpit-683529_960_720

………. that the cockpit was empty!

The navigator stood there, in a right mess, another steward was desperately trying to stem the blood flow from his left arm, well what was left of his left arm anyway! They could see by looking into the cockpit was not a good move – the Captain and the Co-pilot were missing. The navigator was mumbling about the fact that the two pilots had suddenly just disappeared into thin air and then all hell broke loose! That the aircraft lurched and then plummetted to the earth.

Alastair and Alex looked at each other in complete disbelief and utter astonishment. Behind them the screams of agony and anguish were filling the small space of the aisle .. and yet when they looked behind them, something was amiss, not quite right, it took them a few moments to comprehend that the loss was actually people. Before the crash, all the seats had been filled with passengers and yet now, if you included the dead, the dying, the subdued expressions of those in shock and the few others still, looking bewildered at them, they came to realise that, a good 50% of their part of the cabin was emptier than it had been?

“Well where, did they go?” Alex said to himself almost as much to the others?

“Which is what l have been trying to say!” mumbled the Navigator, “poof gone! Where who knows, Frank and Thomas were laughing and joking one minute and then l was disentangling myself from metal! Which is why my arm is not right. We didn’t hit the sea, we are not sinking which is good news. From what l could gather as l looked out of the windows as we were skewing across the surface, if anything we were skimming across a swamp!”

“Right!” Al said, “I think we should start to disembark, does this plane have one of those things that are like a Bouncy castle slide?”

“Yes of course.” Answered the Navigator, and with a small cursory move to the steward, he motioned towards the door. The steward after a bit of rough manoeuvring, managed to cast the door open and then aside and for the first time the four of them looked out into the world before them.

An overgrown jungled swampland greeted them, very mangrove looking Alex thought and said as much “Charming, just what we need a bloody jungle!”

“Right, well you must have a passenger list. I suggest we get everyone off the plane as best as we can, there must be other stewards throughout the aircraft? There must be first aid and medical equipment. We need to check the state of the craft itself to see if we are in any immediate danger of blowing up, and then , well then we will have to figure out where the bloody hell we are and what we do?” Alastair said officially.

Alex looked at his friend in confusion, “How do you know all of this?”

“Well l was huge fan of the disaster movies from the 70’s, l am just repeating what they said and it’s common sense surely?”

“Right, well l am very impressed Al, must be said”

“Thanks Alex, however now is not the time for praise, now is the time for action.”

At that moment in time, as the four looked out into the darkness of the surroundings they were now in, they heard something very heavy crashing through the undergrowth! If that wasn’t disturbing enough, the screech was!

“Oh my lord, what the hell is that?” The Navigator moaned.

Before any of them could answer, the undergrowth parted and crashing out towards them was ……..

And here’s my contribution:

an enormous metal beast; it had wheels at the rear but at the front were giant clawed arms which served to change the direction of the machine but also to clear the dense forestation. It halted before the terrified survivors, the massive throbbing engines creating an illusion of life; a black heart of block and pistons beating. In their bewildered state the passengers didn’t see an internal hatch opening, they saw a giant gaping maw that they were certain was going to swallow them whole.

The screaming began and quickly turned to mass hysteria as people fought each other in an effort to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the machine that had so terrified them. Alistair and Alex clung to each other; they too were afraid but their desire not to be separated in this awful moment overrode their natural flight response. Their breath came in short, sharp gasps and Alex could feel Alistair’s knees start to give way.

“Alistair!” he hissed “Come on, you can’t collapse on me now”

Alistair shook his head and tried to lock his knees, he couldn’t let Alex down, but he could still feel the violent trembling that coursed through his body; he clung tighter still and hid his face in Alex’s jacket. Alex’s eyes, meanwhile, were fixed on the hatch in the machine, it was now fully open and someone, or something, was emerging from it. The hairs on the back of his neck rose up and he was aware of being exposed; a quick glance around him confirmed that all the other passengers had fled into the forest. He and Alistair would, it seemed, face this thing alone.

“What do you want?” Even to his own ears, his voice was unsteady.  At the sound of his voice, Alistair turned his face away from Alex’s shoulder and looked at the emerging figure. He fought to maintain control of his bowels as it climbed down from the machine and slowly walked towards them; the last thing he heard before his terror overwhelmed him was the voice of the creature saying……………………………………

I am passing the baton on to Billy because he’s a great story teller and I’ll be fascinated to see what he does with this – over to you Billy :O)

Lisa x

Spin the Keyboard Yarn: I Caught a Fish and it was This Big…

Have you ever been dragged along to something, kicking and screaming and 100% certain that you’re absolutely going to hate it? Well, that happened to me more years ago than I care to remember. My then boyfriend loved to go beach fishing and, for reasons which are still not clear, he especially loved to go at night

Have you ever been dragged along to something, kicking and screaming and 100% certain that you’re absolutely going to hate it? Well, that happened to me more years ago than I care to remember. My then boyfriend loved to go beach fishing and, for reasons which are still not clear, he especially loved to go at night.

Had the beach been in Hawaii I might have been more excited but it wasn’t, it was in Lowestoft, in March, and it was freezing. We were with another couple and, while the boys organised the rods and opened boxes of writhing maggots (eurrghh!) myself and the other girl bitched about being cold and wondered at the stupidity of young love. We had almost decided to dump the boys and go to the pub when we heard them call us over; apparently everything was ready.

I point blank refused to equip my hook with either maggot or worm [shudders] but decided to have a go at launching it into the black sea. After several failed attempts and an unfortunate snagging incident, I succeeded.

“What happens next?” I asked

“We wait” This response did nothing to stop my bitching; I was no warmer standing up with a fishing rod in my hand than I would have been sitting on a rock.

Just then I felt my arms being dragged forwards and I almost lost my balance.

“You’ve got one Lisa, reel it in” yelled my boyfriend in my ear.

I pulled back with all my strength and began reeling for all I was worth. Several exhausting minutes later my boyfriend held up a huge fish; apparently it was a 5 lb cod! I was so thrilled! As I woohoo’d he put it on a rock and hit it over the head. I never went fishing again.

This was written in response to Rory’s new naughty game: Spin the Keyboard Yarn. The idea is to write a believable yarn and then ask your followers to rate it, for credibility, from 1-10. So, what do you think? Believable or not?

Have a super day one and all

Lisa x

FOWC: Release

Mark could feel the touch of leaves against his cheek as a slight breeze moved the frail branches of the bush that shielded him from view. His legs were beginning to cramp as there was a chill in the air and he’d been in the same position for quite some time but he daren’t move, she would be home soon.

Mark could feel the touch of leaves against his cheek as a slight breeze moved the frail branches of the bush that shielded him from view. His legs were beginning to cramp as there was a chill in the air and he’d been in the same position for quite some time but he daren’t move; she would be home soon. He’d been watching Sarah Adley for weeks, delighting in her animated face and her sensual body; he’d always known she was the one.

His patience was rewarded a few minutes later as he heard  a car door opening and Sarah’s laughter as she said something to the driver. A male voice replied and Mark couldn’t make out what was said but he could feel jealousy rising in his gut; Sarah was his and his alone. He changed his position very slightly, careful not to make a sound, so that he could watch her cross the road and skip along the path towards her front door. He could hear her high heels clicking and see the movement of her long skirt as it caressed her delectable thighs; Mark touched himself and felt the swell beneath his hand as he contemplated what was to come.

Sarah had paused with her hand on the control panel for the large gates that marked the entrance to the property. She turned her head, staring into the darkness, a frown on her beautiful face and Mark caught a glimpse of her long neck and the large, single diamond that nestled in the small dip just between her collar bones. How he longed to feel his hands there, to push his thumbs into that indentation and watch the life fade from her terrified eyes. His breathing quickened. There was fear on Sarah’s face now but she hadn’t moved other than to reach into her Hermes clutch bag; her hands were slim and her fingers long and Mark imagined them on his body, touching, clawing.

Mark could feel that he was losing control of his body as his erotic fantasy consumed him. He didn’t want it to be like this but to be so close to her and knowing what was going to happen was too much to bear. Another slight breeze brought her faint perfume to his nostrils and he felt the pure pleasure of sweet release, followed by a heat that ripped into his chest. He fell back onto the grass, lungs heaving and sweat pouring. The last thing he saw before oblivion took him was Sarah’s inviting smile.

“Mrs Adley, I can completely understand your actions, under the circumstances, but you must also appreciate our position” Detective Inspector Slater’s voice was stern “You do not have a carry permit for that gun”

“You’re right Inspector, I don’t” Sarah’s voice was soft and weary “But what was I supposed to do? He’d been stalking me for weeks, sending messages telling me how he was going to rape and strangle me. I’ve shown you the evidence, tell me, what else was I supposed to do?”

“Leave it to us!” Slater was losing patience, he hated it when members of the public took matters into their own hands.

“Leave it to you? Like last time you mean? I told you people that Mark raped me and what did you do? Nothing!” Unshed tears tightened Sarah’s throat and her voice became hoarse “Just because of his fame, his wealth and his insufferable bloody arrogance, I was attacked, hurt and humiliated and you people did nothing!”

Inspector Slater felt sorry for the woman as she put her head in her hands and gave way to quiet weeping but he had no choice; the law was the law and they couldn’t tolerate vigilantism.

“Mrs Adley, Mark is dead. You shot and killed an unarmed man.” Slater took a deep breath “Sarah Adley, you are under arrest for the murder of your ex-husband Mark Adley, you have the right to remain silent but, anything you do say, can and will be used in evidence against you. Do you understand?”

“No, I don’t understand Detective Inspector Slater, I really don’t understand”

Written in response to Fantastic Fandango’s one word prompt.

Lisa x

 

 

FOWC: Forlorn

“OK Miss Bell, you can calm down now, the ambulance is on it’s way, you’ll be in the hospital very soon”

“Ttthhhannnkyou” the hapless Miss Bell sobbed and stuttered.

“OK Miss Bell, you can calm down now, the ambulance is on it’s way, you’ll be in the hospital very soon”

“Ttthhhannnkyou” the hapless Miss Bell sobbed and stuttered.

“It’s alright, hush now, you’re going to be fine” The young woman had been clinging to him like a limpet to a rock for the last 20 minutes and he was fast running out of platitudes. He wasn’t helped by the fact that he’d lost all feeling in his right arm where he’d been cradling her. He tried to shift his position slightly but she just tightened her grip, he sighed and tried to keep hold of  his fast dwindling patience.

“Miss Bell, please” The incessant sniveling was really beginning to get on his nerves.

“I…..I…….could….have…….died”

‘Oh, for heaven’s sake, how many times was she going to say that!’ He tried not to roll his eyes.

“Yes, I know but you didn’t. Miss Bell, honestly you’re going to be fine; look, here’s the ambulance now”

‘Thank God for that’ he thought as he eased Miss Bell up into standing, thereby relieving his aching muscles.

“Alright love, we’re here now, can someone tell me what happened please” The paramedic took calm control immediately.

“Um, well, Miss Bell had an encounter with a tiger..it was only a baby” he added hurriedly “There are notices everywhere warning the public not to enter the enclosure but she just………” He tailed off and look at the incredulous faces of the two paramedics.

“Miss Bell” one of them said “I have to ask, what on earth possessed you?”

“He……he….was..so…little and he….he…just…looked so…….forlorn, I wanted….to….hug….hiiiimmmmmmm” The last word turned into a pitiful wail and she threw herself into the arms of the paramedic.

A tiny tale written in response to Fandango’s one word prompt.

Lisa x

The Meaning of Life (Part 6)

“What in the name of Zeus and all his minions are you eating now?”

“Eanun utta uffn” The unintelligible sounds were the product of a tongue temporarily jammed to the roof of a mouth. A few seconds later there was a noise like a large plunger being forcibly pulled from a drain and some concentrated chewing.

“What in the name of Zeus and all his minions are you eating now?”

“Eanun utta uffn” The unintelligible sounds were the product of a tongue temporarily jammed to the roof of a mouth. A few seconds later there was a noise like a large plunger being forcibly pulled from a drain and some concentrated chewing.

“A peanut butter muffin, I’ve been experimenting” The face contorted with the effort of a tongue not quite long or fine enough trying to remove the last vestiges of muffin from between the teeth.

“Diet going well then!?” Although stated clearly, the speaker tried to cover his words with the shuffling of paper; this was a touchy subject.

“I am glorious in my perfection” He rose to his full height and gathered his flowing robes around his ample frame.

“Only since I let the robes out…….mutter…….podgy…..mutter”

“Hmmph, you’re one to talk, I notice we’re short on chocolate hobnobs again and I haven’t been eating them..hang on a minute have you seen this audit report?”

roman-empire-dessert.jpg“I am not giving up my morning hobnob just because you’ve decided to take up baking! Anyway, have you seen the creatures in the factory these days? Half of them have their bellies hanging somewhere around their knees and your Roman Empire dessert is a least partway responsible you know…….what audit report?”

“Ahhh those were the days” said with fond reminiscence “All those sins at one time; I love it when we’re busy don’t you?”

“Talk about rose coloured glasses! What bloody audit report?” There were definite notes of impatience in his tone

“This one. The latest furry creatures audit” Unfortunately waving a piece of paper within 2 centimetres of someone’s nose does little to aid their ability to actually read it.

“Give that here”

“Don’t snatch!”

This could have degenerated into a hair pulling, air slapping kind of argument had the numbers on the offending piece of paper come into clear focus.

“What the f….?”

“Yes, precisely. What has been going on down there? Who’s in charge of the furry ones because whoever it is they’ve got some explaining to do!” There was no doubt that there would be little time for explaining in between all the noisy berating.

“It’s old Bob but you pulled him off the furry ones so he could help out with the fishy ones after the creatures decided that the water we provided was no good unless it was encased in plastic, remember?”

“Bugger! Yes, I remember now. Get him up here and tell him it’s an emergency, there’s hardly any of the stripey ones left and they’re my favourites, I loved that design”

“I still prefer the tartan but you never like any of my ideas” He received the kind of glare that could melt tarmac and started backing out of the room in a hurry but then something caught his eye

“Boss, what are you doing exactly, that’s my new bum design, I’m calling it the Brazen Buttock” He’d been keeping up with fashion, unlike his boss, and knew that, when it came to bums, bigger was definitely better.

“I’m painting a few” He did indeed have a paintbrush in hand and was drawing an outline, the tip of his tongue poking between his teeth as he concentrated on keeping his hand steady.

“Why and why only a few? I thought we could put that design into full production next week” This said with the kind of disgruntled irritation of an employee who feels that his talents are rarely fully recognised.

“I’m sending a message; I don’t think we’ll need more than 10,000 or so”

“10,000? That’s nothing! I might as well not have bothered!” He could barely stop a tear from falling

“Oh don’t sulk, these buttocks will be very, very special but just not for everyone that’s all” He was not actually an unkind boss and this was said with an encouraging smile. “I’m only going to use them for the creatures that think killing the furry ones is some sort of entertainment or a way to make that honey they all seem so keen on”

“Honey??…Do you mean money?”

“Yep that’s the kiddie. There I’ve finished, what do you think?” He held the buttocks before him proudly. Painted on them were 3 red rings with a red circle in the middle.

Ok, I get it, it’s a target but won’t they just be able to put trousers on or something?” To him it seemed like a pretty large flaw in an otherwise crazy plan.

“Not with the paint I’ve used.” Said with a sly grin “Do you remember when we decided we needed something to jazz up the firmament?”

“Sure, we bought in all that glow in the dark stuff……oh I get it now….ooohhh sneaky, I like it” He grinned broadly and remembered why this was the bloke in charge.

“Excellent! Now run down and find Old Bob and I’ll start fixing on some of these buttocks. I’ll teach those creatures to stop knocking off the furry ones if it’s the last thing I do” With grim determination he fixed his stare on a group of poachers; they didn’t know it but their lives (and their buttocks) were about to change forever.

This was written in response to an announcement from the charity Born Free that the tiger is at risk of extinction, thanks to mankind. The poachers who hunt them and the developers who destroy their habitat are on the road to ensuring that our grandchildren or great grandchildren may talk about tigers in the same way we talk about dodo’s. Therefore, I am using this post to try and do what little I can to help spread the word before these beautiful animals are lost to us forever….

Lisa x

 

 

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

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: Driver

“Can you take me to number 10 Ave Maria Lane please?”

Without waiting for an answer George climbed into the Hackney carriage. He hadn’t much liked the look of it but what was a man to do after a late night at the club? The chaps had certainly been on form tonight and by God he’d feel it in the morning, his head was swimming

“Can you take me to number 10 Ave Maria Lane please?”

Without waiting for an answer George climbed into the Hackney carriage. He hadn’t much liked the look of it but what was a man to do after a late night at the club? The chaps had certainly been on form tonight and by God he’d feel it in the morning, his head was swimming. Suddenly realising that the carriage still hadn’t turned a wheel, he took his cane and banged it sharply on the roof, losing his balance and almost tumbling from the black leather seat.

“Move on, move on I say!”

He was beginning to lose patience. Pulling his fob watch from the pocket in his waistcoat, he tried to focus on the numerals, they were a blur but it was after midnight he was sure. Damn and blast, he was going to get a lambasting when he got home!

The carriage started moving slowly forward.

‘Honestly it’s going to take an age to get home at this rate’, he thought. ‘Still at least the damn things not moving around too much’ he was starting to feel slightly queasy. After a few minutes the gentle clip clopping of the horses hooves on the cobbles calmed his agitated mind and his head started nodding forward as sleep came to claim him.

A short time later the carriage drew to a halt and he awoke with a start.

‘Where the hell am I? This isn’t my street’ he thought. He turned his head left and right trying to work out where he was but it was pitch black, there wasn’t even a street lamp to give him a clue. Despite his intoxicated state he was starting to feel uneasy, one heard of chaps being robbed and the such like, was he going to be prey to a thief?

“Why have we stopped? Move on!”

He banged on the roof with his ebony cane once again but nothing happened. He could hear the horses gently snorting and pulling on their bridles but that was all, no-one answered him. He considered getting out and walking home but he had no idea how to get there. Oh Lord his wife would murder him!

The effects of the brandy he’d imbibed earlier and the mounting fear were taking their toll on him and he began to sweat profusely. What was going on? His stomach was churning violently and he pulled a silk kerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his mouth and forehead, trying to bring his emotions under control. He was not a chap given to flights of fancy usually but, alone in the dark, he was sensing that he was somehow under threat, from whom he couldn’t say…

He heard the slightest sound from outside and turned towards the window on his left. As he watched, the door handle began to turn, slowly. He scrambled backwards against the opposite door, eyes wide and breathing ragged. This was it! He was going to be robbed! The door opened fully just as the clouds breezed away, uncovering a bright moon. A man in a black top hat and cape was smiling at him, his incisors long and white in the moonlight. Was it a smile? It was beginning to look more like a snarl…

“Who are you?” He asked, his voice quavering ever so slightly

“You can call me the Driver sir” he said. Then he struck and the drunken man knew little more…

Written in response to another super prompt from the lovely Fandango . Do have a wander over to his site, I’m sure you’ll have great fun :O)

Lisa x