Sunday, September 25, 2011

12 bizarre real-life places that are stranger than science fiction | Blastr

12 bizarre real-life places that are stranger than science fiction | Blastr:

'via Blog this'

Halloween Photo Story Challenge

The Nautilus Engine is hoping to inspire a bit of creative writing.  Shocking, you say? Indeed.

Here's the basic idea:  any and all who are interested should write a spooky short story in honor of Halloween (which will be here before you know it!) based on this photograph:

Base your story on this photo, either strongly or loosely, but within the guidelines set forth for all our story submissions (see sidebar).  Submit by October 23rd, 2011.  Best story, as determined by the NE staff,  will be published at The Nautilus Engine on Halloween day to much fanfare and accolades!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bring Us the Moon by Chris Castle

Bring Us the Moon by Chris Castle

Jack Trump walked through the misty harbour, watching the drunks and the whores slip through the shadows. London, 1920 and it was as if the nation was slipping back to some base, primal time. Even as he roamed deeper into the fog, he heard noises, some laced with pleasure, others seared with pain. 2 a.m. seemed a time when no-one carried a name and everything was defined by movement and breath. A sharp crack sliced through the air and someone, somewhere, sobbed. Jack walked on, dismissing ordinary crimes in search of a deeper, more powerful evil.
The killer had acted in a cycle, every two or so weeks, as if out of habit or routine. The police had dismissed each idea as much as the newspapers revelled in it. Each day the headlines reported each rumour as fact, each story as evidence. It had culminated today in an absurd concoction; a hand-drawn figure of a spectral soldier, stalking the nights to kill wrong doers and ne’er-do-wells. The restless soul was an Avenger of moral rights, acting on the hand-written notes of Queen Victoria herself. The masses applauded and cheered over their pint glasses and cigarettes.
Jack reached what he predicted to be the latest spot and saw the rough outline of a crowd. As he drew closer, he could feel the penny -- a supernatural, precious thing -- burn brightly in his pocket. It had been given to him on the crater of the First World War battlefields, by a man who knew something of the dark arts. He drew it out of his pocket and watched it simmer with white heat as he edged towards the mob. Whatever was killing in the streets of London was close by.
To his astonishment, Jack found a crowd of almost fifty, gathered and hunched as if a late-night horse race was somehow in the offing on the cobbles. All of them were throbbing with expectation, their voices almost melted together into something like a chant. He edged closer, half in fear and half in expectation. As he slipped into the throng he made out the words that drifted from their collective mouth:
Where is the moon? Bring us the moon!
On they went, swaying as if hypnotised, even as Jack looked left and right, searching for the result of their hushed prayers. Sure enough, a man emerged from the shadows and rose his hands to the crowd, silencing them immediately. He drew his arms down and looked around them, his face a mixture of ringmaster smirk and cold, dead glances.
“Who amongst us seeks justice?” He began, somehow distinguishing himself from the shroud of fog. “Who amongst us seeks entertainment?” His voice was low and persuasive; Jack had the idea this man could steal a pocket-watch and sell it back to the rightful owner without letting his cheeks flush once.
“Aye!” someone in the crowd hollered. Another joined in, until the mob was crying in unison, their blood-lust vocal and unashamed.
“Then, in these hard times, let us see something remarkable,” he went on, drawing another man from the shadows; the man was dirtied and pitiful, though there was something in his eyes, something that burned bright, that made Jack flinch.
“You all know him,” he whispered. Then his voice turned casual, almost goading. “Y’all know him!”
“The killer!” one of them almost panted. “The devil who went looking for the poor kiddies!” The voice tapered off, breathless. Jack noted it was not with horror but with something like exultation.
“That’s right! And who would see this creature downed?” He went on; his voice seemed to veer between accents, as if too many characters lay inside his head, desperate to climb out and have their turn. “Who would see this devil lay bare and be taken from these fine streets?” The crowd hollered on, almost frenzied.
“Bring us the moon! Where is the moon?” the crowd began to chant. The master of ceremonies looked up to the stars, away from them for a moment and up to the sky. Following his glance, Jack saw the last puff of cloud slip away to reveal a heavy, almost bursting moon.
“Behold!” the man cried and then nimbly stepped to one side, as another shadow rushed from the alleyway. As Jack stepped forward, the penny high in his hand, the spell book in his grip, the crowd surged forward, stranding him in the centre of the melee. Helpless, he could only look on at the spectacle.
What Jack had first thought was a rabid dog of some sort exploded over the man on the floor. In moments, blood spurted high into the air, almost tainting the London fog with its force, as the creature seemingly burrowed to the very core of the poor miscreant’s body. A rib was exposed before it snapped away; tissue was pared, much like peel from an apple. Before Jack could fight his way any closer, instruments, the liver, lungs, were sprayed across the cobbles, as if the demon was mining for something else, buried deeper and hidden; perhaps, in that moment, it was trying to eat the very soul of the poor wretch.  
By the time Jack had reached the corners of the crowd, the show was already over. Already, the men were beginning to disperse, their hunger sated, their dark needs satisfied. The creature was gone, back into the alleyways and the dark, so all that was left was the ringmaster, who stood solemnly over the carcass, a look of quiet joy on his face. He looked up and stared Jack right in the eye, winked and then stepped forward, careful to avoid the spray, his right foot hovering over a rib, before deftly side-stepping it.
“I sensed you, I did,” he said, not extending his hand but acknowledging Jack openly, all the same. “I felt the white heat searing the air, like a scythe. Different fingers, same heart. What happened to the old man who went before you?”
“He died defending his country,” Jack said, the pale feeling of what he had seen subsiding and being replaced with a sudden anger.
“And what a country it has become. Tell me friend; do you feel it is one worth saving? Let alone sacrificing noble souls such as the one that went before you.”
“You dare preach after conducting this monstrosity? Sir-” The man waved Jack away and began to walk down the cobbles. Jack followed him, dumb-struck.
“Come now, what is it you can prove? Scum being ravaged by a rabid dog? Or the fifty odd witnesses that cheered it on, before slipping back into the London fog for more depravity and debauchery? You have nothing.” The man kept his eyes on Jack the whole time, as if waiting for an attack.
“But what you are party to…” Jack said, struggling for the words to define just what exactly he was involved with here.
“This country is on its knees. The war has crippled us and people sag though their pockets are empty. The rich laugh from their county piles, while the country goes to the gutter. You ask me what it is I did tonight: I removed a killer and provide entertainment free of charge. I’ll be knighted before I am caged, sir.” They reached the harbour and the break of the fog.
“I will see this is done, sir. This has no place in our city and if you think me wrong you are sorely mistaken.” Jack flushed, stepping away from the man. Somewhere, a whistle blew and the heavy clip-clop of policemen filled the air.
“A country with no wealth is on its knees to any pleasure it can find, my friend. You mark me well on that. You and you’re lucky penny is best served further on up these canals, where the gambles and the cost are far lower.” He drew his cloak together and broke away from Jack’s gaze.
“How do you know about me, sir?” Jack called out as the man stalked down the street.
“Us charlatans stick together!” the man shouted back, as the mist thickened once more and the sound of a policeman vomiting filled the air.
Jack went back to work, unsettled by what he had seen. In the most simple terms, it had satisfied his suspicions that a werewolf was indeed loose in the London alleyways but that was just a single sliver of what was going on here. The man, in equal parts snake charmer and revolutionary, seemed to know Jack’s role better than he did himself. Add to that the seeming acquiescence of the crowd, no, the braying keenness of it, and Jack felt adrift in what his actions should be. It was as if everything around him were turned upside down; the Queen’s own country teetering on the edge of moral decay, its very fibre hovering on the abyss. He thought of monsters to be worshipped as gods and applauded for dealing with sinners while the courts fumbled along.
During the following week, Jack set about his plan. First he oiled and checked the calibrations of the rifle -- one of the last few things he had yet to pawn -- until it was to a standard. Along with that, he worked through the night, accruing hours and removing suspicion until he found himself with a window of time to act. He slipped into the machinist’s work-room and pulled his silver medals of honour into his palm. Without a second thought he poured them into a tool until it became a somehow beautiful puddle. When it was time, he poured the batch into the hollow boards and fashioned six silver bullets mere minutes before sunrise-and the morning crew-arrived at the docks.
On the night of the next full moon, Jack slipped back into the night and the fog, his body shivering with something other than the damp October skies. Rather than the creature, it was the man that bothered his thoughts; not just the eloquence with which he spoke, but the twisted, almost seamless logic he pursued it with. This is a man who could lead us into the next war, Jack thought. As he drifted deeper into the mist he wondered if the ringmaster was insane or close to a genius.         
The crowd had swelled one hundred deep by the time Jack reached its fringes. He wondered how the police could not help but be drawn to such a commotion and then realised with a cool, thin stab of horror that they were probably close by, waiting for the denouement before rushing to the remnants of the scene. Jack wondered if the ringmaster had even managed to talk the coppers into giving up the criminals in some sort of deal. As he peeled away and began to climb the ladder, Jack wondered if the government itself had been privy to a discussion with the charismatic leader of the mob.
Positioned within reach, Jack squinted into the sights of the rifle, trusting his old instincts to guide him towards the creature. The audience-and that was what it was now-began chanting and jeering, shambling as if afflicted by some voodoo chemical, until the master appeared at the very centre of the men. Jack felt the heat of the penny and drew it out of his pocket. Something in him, an instinct that was as unfamiliar as it was over-riding, made him slip the penny onto the edge of the scope of the rifle. Immediately the path way of his vision seemed to lighten, the mists sheared apart, the way unimpeded. Jack gasped once and then tightened his grip, just as the events played out before him.
It happened almost in slow motion; the criminal was flung into the heart of the group, the wolf itself burst from the alleyway and at the last moment, the ringmaster looked up, sensing the white heat funnelled from where Jack lay. The man tried to grab the creature but too late; Jack’s first bullet was true and clinical, dropping it to the floor before the cowed man could be attacked. The mob stopped confused, before cat-calling their master, surging forward, even as he escaped into the alleyway. Denied, the gang turned its attention to the huddled man on the floor and attacked with a ferocity Jack was uncertain the wolf itself possessed. He turned away, setting down the rifle, closing his eyes for a moment, listening to the pitiful screams and the higher, fevered screams of ecstasy that drowned him out.
Jack went back to work the following day, suppressing yawns and waiting for the papers, to see how the news of the night before would be reported. It was the eternal lie; a brave pack of local men confronted the killer and in the ensuing melee, the murderer spilled forth into the docks, his body undiscovered. The men were being considered for medals of valour by the council for their brave actions. Jack thought about the bullet lodged in the poor man-beasts’ heart and wondered which of them were the most monstrous in the whole, sorry affair.
It was as he made his way home that Jack saw the ringmaster, hovering at the edge of the docks and smiling to all and sundry. A couple of Dockers took offence at his grin and approached him but left a minute later, looking somewhat dazed and perhaps lighter in the pocket, Jack suspected.            
“Good evening Jack Trump!” The man called out, looking over. “You’re fellow workers say you are a hard-working, quiet man; they say the horrors of the war left their mark on you. They certainly sharpened your aim.” He pulled one of the Dockers wallets from his pocket and counted the coins as he sighed. “Stealing from the poor is such a redundant pursuit.”
“What do you want?” Jack said, suddenly feeling more tired than he thought possible; The same weariness he felt in the trenches, the idea of dying suffused with a cloak of lethargy that was as heavy as the world itself.
“I wanted to ask if you stayed to see the criminal dispatched. I wondered if you looked through your scope and saw the upstanding members of the community pull the poor lad’s head clean from his neck.”
“I saw enough,” Jack said quietly. He watched the man’s eyes sparkle with something like joy.
“This is the world we live in Jack. You’re penny only detects the ghouls, not the monsters.” He winked and turned on his heels. “I’ll be seeing you.”
Jack watched the man slip into the fog and disappear. For a moment he thought about the ringmaster and how a lunatic with a good line in words could almost sound like a politician. He thought about the crowd of men and how they had savaged a human being like a pack of dogs. The ideas Jack felt bubbled and brimmed in his head and he closed his eyes for a moment until all the hurt and pain subsided. Dawn broke as he walked towards a café, eager for coffee and to search the papers not only for what had happened but also the future and the next task at hand.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tastefully Offensive | Premium Funny: Spacebook

Tastefully Offensive | Premium Funny: Spacebook:

Spacebook! Ha!

Violet Cigarettes by Chris Castle

Violet Cigarettes by Chris Castle

No-one knew how it begun and now everyone was dead. Dominic checked the bar across the front door for the hundredth time and then looked back out to the street. It looked odd, seeing it empty. Without the cars it looked shapeless somehow, as if the vehicles had given the roads its form and structure. Without the children playing outside, running, checking their phones, eating and talking, it looked sad and joyless. Lifeless, a part of him whispered and he knew that was the truth.

“Mr. Bingham?” the voice drew him back from the door to the little girl. Petra Capsi looked up at him, her eyes straining past him and looking out to the street. He stepped forward, trying to block out as much as he could with his body. She gave up trying to see what was out there and looked at him.

“Is there anything out there?” she asked. Her voice was naturally quiet but now, after everything, it was barely a whisper.

“I can’t see anything, Petra,” he answered, glad to be able to tell the truth. As soon as he started the gig, he’d learnt students picked up on lies just as easy as the teachers.

“There’s no-one else out there?” She was searching him now, looking for a sign, a crack. Her voice was devoid of curiosity though; there was only fear.

“It’s still,” Dominic said, ushering her back to the classroom. “Now, I want you to finish the exercises we talked about while I try and find out what’s going on, okay?”

“It’s all empty,” she said, as she took her seat. He knew she wasn’t talking about the classroom but he glanced around nevertheless. Without realising it, he looked up to the back door of the classroom that led outside to check the key was still turned in the lock.

“I’ll find something out, I promise.” Dominic touched the book and then turned the pages. “Three pages before I come back, okay?” As he walked out, he saw the CCTV in the top left hand corner of the room and felt his heart flicker. Petra coughed as he stepped out into the corridor, trying not to run.

What had he really seen? As he sat in the office and played back the cameras on the screen, Dominic really thought about it. In the break between class, he had stood on the balcony and smoked a cigarette, looking down at the small village. Since moving to the country a few months before, the balcony was always his favourite spot. True, he still didn’t know the language but it had started to feel like a home; the boss below him on the second floor, the school itself one level further down. It was enough for him, he had remembered thinking.

Smoking reminded him of his late mother; how every weekend she would dye her cigarettes to match her new dress. It was the most vivid memory of her that he had; violet cigarettes in a small, discreet tin and his mother looking like a movie star. Once, he had kept a list of all the colours in his diary; July and the height of summer was his favourite: emerald, magenta, turquoise and olive. A noise distracted him, bringing him back.

At first he couldn’t believe his eyes: an old woman ran across the street and leapt onto a man’s back. He actually laughed, not quite being able to believe what he had seen. Two people had come out of the local shop to break it up and then suddenly turned on each other. Dominic remembered having to shift his position and tilt over the balcony to see the rest of it. A pane of glass burst and another woman rolled out onto the street, joining the chaos.

The cigarette had burned down to the nub and scorched his fingers, bringing him back to himself. He looked down to his finger and then the small drift of smoke in-front of him. Oh god, he suddenly thought, it’s in the air. He turned and ran inside, slamming the doors closed, stumbling back and falling on his ass. For a second he sat where he had landed, waiting; waiting for something to happen, something in him to…change? Snap? He had no idea. He felt his heart drumming but knew that was only panic and fear. Seconds passed, a minute. When nothing happened, a new jolt of panic ran through him as he remembered her sitting downstairs: Petra.

Dominic sprinted down the stairs and found her sitting in the classroom, looking through her text book; it was dumb luck that she always chose not to go outside during their private lessons. As she looked up, he tried to compose himself and then turned and jogged to the front door. The people in the street had disappeared from view and he wondered where they were, if they were still fighting of it they had…stilled. He looked over the door, saw it was sealed and ran into the office to the computer. As it whirled into life, he reached into his pocket and tried to call his boss, who was on holiday but saw the phone was unable to connect: the two of them were alone.

The cameras went back as far as that morning. Isolating the one positioned over the back door, he wound through it, flickering lines running across the image of the steps and the flower pots. There was no time code to track, so he simply kept winding it on and on until he found something. A shift in the pattern, as the gate suddenly swung into back and a flower pot toppled onto the concrete, breaking and spilling dirt onto the concrete. The shopkeeper came into view, then the old lady, one on top of the other. What made it hard to follow was the speed with which they moved; it was as if Dominic had speeded up the tape, when in fact he had slowed it down. By the time he had managed to see them without any blurring, he noticed the playback was almost on pause. He peered closer to the screen, one question throbbing through his mind; what made them move so fast?

He watched as they tore into each other and then after, what came next. This is not possible, his mind whispered, as he watched the image. He looked at it; the steps, the gate, the broken pots and the…heap in the centre of things. Dominic drew back in the seat and was aware there were the facts of what was happening and what his heart was saying could not be. The dark mass seemed to twitch and Dominic thought for sure he was going to be sick. He left the monitor running in one corner for any more…movement and went back to the news sites. Out of the bedlam of what he’d seen, there was only one thing he’d understood; what he had seen on the cameras were not people anymore but…creatures.

The news came up and to his horror he saw the same scenes being repeated over and over on the screen. Most of it was shaky handheld footage, taken on phones probably, showing the same jerky movements, the same speed and violence. Some of them looked like apes, the way they swung and moved, while others seemed to move quicker than seemed possible, swooping down like birds in a blink of an eye.

The reporters replayed the events, each of them visibly shaking at they did. Information ran along the bottom of the screen, first denied, then dismissed, then finally acknowledged as the truth. This is hell, one newscaster, said, clearly unaware his mike was still on; hell in a handcart. It was such a quaint phrase, it almost made Dominic smile. A new banner headline came up across the screen, one word, which ran across the centre of the screen: FRENZY

“Mr. Bingham?” He looked over to her and saw she was clutching her book to her chest.

“Yes, Petra?” He waited for her to tell him the news; that she had called her parents and gotten no answer; that her friends had told her some horror story that was probably not that far from the truth. Instead, she simply unfurled her book.

“I’ve finished those pages. Would you like me to continue with the exercises?” Somehow, it still matters, he thought wonderingly, looking briefly at her before taking the book from her hands. He marked her answers and skimmed the next few pages, circling each corner.

“Try and finish those pages and we’ll see where we go from there, okay?” He looked up and saw the hurt expression in her face. At first he looked out to see if anything had happened on the street. It remained clear and he peered back down to the book, where she was looking. He realised her book was pristine and all her answers were in pencil; he had circled the book in red pen and somehow ruined it for her. She was probably planning to re-sell it, or just keep it nice. In amongst everything, the look on her face right then made his heart sink.

Petra, I’m sorry…I could white it out, maybe…” he saw as her disappointment turned to embarrassment that he had figured out her reasons. Without realising it, she hid the pencil from view and silently reached out, waiting for the book to be returned. He handed it over, not knowing what else to say and watched as she quietly made her way back to the classroom, without looking back, either to him or the street. A part of him wanted to go after her, to talk with her and somehow make it better. Dominic rose and then sat, the headlines drawing him back.

A third box appeared as he accessed the social sites. The amount of chatter was huge and for a moment, he was surprised the systems were not crashing left, right and centre. He skimmed through the messages, trying to find some evidence behind all the expressions and abbreviations of panic. A bolt of something hit him and he realised in that moment, how lucky he was to be alone. Every message mentioned family, lovers, all the things he no longer had. Dominic read on, thinking one thing; what world is this becoming, when the lonely are the fortunate ones?

Everything was conflicting; contaminated water seemed to be a common thread, even as it was being dismissed by the news agencies; incredibly, conspiracy theorists were already at work, laying blame and accusing those in power. The amount of sheer hysteria overwhelmed him to the point where he shut it down, leaving only the news box and the CCTV.  A sudden weariness rode over him; it could be anything, he realised; it could be in the computer screen, the water, the air. Maybe our own fears have finally made us crazy, he thought. Dominic closed his eyes and for a perfect second everything stopped. It was only the sudden furore on the news report that brought him back.

The announcement was as brief as it was incredible; just a collection of warnings, really, a hell’s-own shopping list. Dominic felt his jaw go slack as they described the symptoms. If it wasn’t for the man reading it, the man who could destroy the world at the touch of a button, he wouldn’t have believed it. As it was, the list went on; ten points of possible ‘extremities’ or ‘points of physical occupation.’ It was finally there, the point of confirmation that it was really happening. When it was over, even the press were stunned into a moment’s silence; then the flood of questions began.

Dominic clicked on another site and read the newly issued symptoms back. The language was awkward; ‘ability to reveal information not previously known’, he assumed, meant mind reading. ‘Removal of necessary layers of clothing’-was stripping. It was only as he read it for the third time, that he actually realised he was not displaying any of the warnings signs; Petra, too, was unaffected. It was only after he went back to the news conference that he realised one thing; no-one had mentioned a time scale for any of it; when it began and if it would ever be over.

Petra, it looks like we might have to wait here for a little while.” Dominic looked at the girl and saw her nod, almost imperceptibly. “Have you spoken to anyone this afternoon?”     

“No,” she said and he noticed she was blushing again. On the desk was her book, a notepad and a bottle of water. She didn’t have a mobile phone.

“Would you like to use mine? It would be no problem, if you’d like to speak to someone, your mother…” he let the words trail away.

“I’m fine, thank you.” She looked at him and waited for a few seconds. “Would you like me to write an essay from the book?”

“Yes, Petra, that’s a good idea. If you could go to unit one and choose either the formal or informal letter. I’ll be in the office working a few things out. I’ll correct it when you’re done, okay?” He watched her the whole time; was he looking for a reaction or a symptom?

“Okay.” Her voice stayed the same, quiet without being timid. Dominic looked away as she glanced up to him. He walked to the door and paused to check on her; she had already begun to write.

The reaction to the news was incredible; riots started almost immediately and hysteria exploded in the cities. The mis-calculation of giving out the warnings was there to see. Dominic suddenly remembered a moment a month before, when his boss had asked him if he’d seen a mosquito. He hadn’t but from then on, he felt it everywhere. People see what they want to see.

The images showed places burning, fighting and looting. The sight of people being hung from the lampposts were brief; the screen blanked for a second when they realised what was being broadcast before hastily moving to something else, some more recognised form of chaos. Dominic wondered if his boss was okay. He looked out of the window to the stillness all around and wondered what was worse; witnessing everything or seeing nothing at all?

For a long time he stared out of the window, thinking about the children. Over year he had come to care for them in a way he could scarcely believe; it was as if the affection he had felt had crept up in him and tied itself up in his bones. And now; if one of them rushed up to the door and shook it? What would he do; the right thing or the good thing? Thinking about it made him sweat; he began to remove his cardigan and then stopped himself, remembering the signs. As he rolled his sleeves up, he shook his head, almost grinning; paranoia in others was one thing but in yourself? He was pretty sure that added up to simple, flat out craziness. The smile left him as he found himself glancing back to the glass door and thinking about the kids and found himself suddenly glad the roads were deserted. As he walked to the classroom Dominic wondered if it was any less insane to be thankful you were trapped.

“Everything okay, Petra?” he said, craning his head around the door. One sheet of paper was already filled and on his desk. The water bottle remained untouched and had started to fog slightly.

“Yes, thank you. I’m on essay number two now,” she said, barely looking up. She was still formal with him, not like a lot of the other kids; he wondered if it was just because he was a teacher of if that was just her way. Sometimes he forgot how awkward and virtually unbearable it could be to grow up; and what’s going to be left to grow up in? He thought sharply.

“Okay. Well done, Petra. I’ll be in to correct them in a minute or two. Then we’ll do something different, maybe a little speaking, okay?” She looked up for a moment to nod before returning to her work; she was student who was distracted from her work by the bell or the teacher rather than other students. Hell, maybe she’ll be the one to figure it all out, he wondered as he walked back down the hall. 

After a few minutes, he closed the computer down. Dominic watched as the camera faded out, the messages disappearing and the chaos slipping away into black. For a moment he found himself thinking of other, better things; a little kid sitting on a milk crate, smiling at the sun. The way the back of his fingers turned silver like fish scales when he had once taken anti-malaria tablets. The sound of his old friends when they laughed, the impossible hours they used to keep.

A noise came from someplace close and he realised Petra was calling him. Think of her, he thought to himself, as he pulled himself out of the chair. Outside the street was clear, though he had a sudden idea it wasn’t going to stay that way for long. Something was about to happen, though he didn’t know what; the air shifted, the way it did before a storm, even though they were inside. Dominic drew the key from the lock and slipped it into a drawer in the office; somehow hiding the key made him feel safer, though it made no sense at all.  She called again and he headed to the far room.

             Two essays sat on his desk now and he smiled to see her with her head still buried in her book. He checked the clock on the wall and saw their normal lesson was over; had it all happened in less than three hours? It seemed like a short amount of time, for the world to collapse but then what was appropriate?

“How about we do some speaking, Petra?” He asked, as he moved into the chair. Dominic knew she found this the hardest part of the lesson and he tried to keep it for the end to make it as painless as he could for her.

“Okay,” she said flatly.

“Let me just correct these and then we’ll begin.”  Dominic drew on his glasses and looked down to the paper. As he began to read, he checked the door was open far enough for any sounds made against the glass door. After the first paragraph he turned for a moment to check the back door of the classroom was still locked. The key was missing and for a moment, his heart stopped. He patted his pockets but felt nothing in there, save his dead phone. Pushing the papers back, he walked over to the door and checked it was secure; the door knob barely moved, let alone twisted. Dominic returned to his seat and picked the papers back up.

The first essay was fine and he ticked the bottom of the page with a tick and an ‘excellent!’ He turned to the second one and read the letter- a story-and felt his heart cool. ‘It was the last day of the world’, it began. As he read more, his eyes darted up over the top of the page to find her face still buried in the text book. She knew about everything all along, he thought. The sadness he felt crawled over him and something else, too: panic. It gripped him in a rush, the sweat building in fat beads across his forehead.

“Let’s do some speaking, Petra,” he said, trying to keep his voice from cracking. “Some questions and answers from the book, okay?” As he set the paper down, he noticed his fingers had stuck to it and he had to awkwardly un-hook them. He smiled, embarrassed but she didn’t seem to notice. As an afterthought, he saw she’d removed her shoes and they were set neatly to the left of her, the socks stuffed inside and each nail was painted purple

“Okay, question one: ‘What do you like to do with your family at the weekends?’” He said, feeling suddenly idiotic to be pretending now. Her brow furrowed for a moment and then she looked up from the book, looking directly at him in a way she had never done before.

“At weekends I like to watch my mother dye her cigarettes the same colour as the new dress she wears each Saturday night…”

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cosmic Log - Apollo 18 in fiction and fact

Cosmic Log - Apollo 18 in fiction and fact:

The Apollo missions ended (officically) with Apollo 17, but a new movie plays with the idea of 18, parts of which were built and now sit in a museum. Check out the link for the whole story.