You don’t really learn how to shatter someone’s skull – they tell you all about it, they give you all the information on where to hit, and how to hit, but at the end of the day it is something you find out for yourself. Some things are so close up and personal that you have to get your hands dirty. He got his hands dirty.

He stood there looking at her laid naked on the bed, her eyes REM-sleep ticking through Meme Dreams, slightly frothing at the mouth, her ident-mask on the bedside table. She was supposed to help him forget what he had done; some people liked drugs to blot it out, and some people liked women.

She didn’t come anywhere near scratching the colossal itch that was shivering through him. He dressed and he stepped outside, chameleon fractal camera projectors booting up and reparsing the environment around him so that no one could see him. Well, unless they were digging with the kind of spades that the people he knew were going to be using – still, it would slow them down at least.

Barron, his commander, circled around the block where he was stood, in out of the rain and the refraction index issues caused immeasurable stutters in the chameleon suit he wore. He smoked a cigarette while he waited for the rain to ease.

All of them were intimate with the act of fist fighting – they had names to match; they were intimate with shattering someone’s skull. Barron had sent Donkeypunch in after him because the man had had success before; for the lack of subtlety in the method of his kill-strike he was harder to see approaching than a cat in hunting mode.

That thump, that fist, that punch – that thing which you had worked so long to perfect, you always knew that some day you would end up on the end of a similarly fashioned blunt weapon.

‘Jerome,’ whispered the man, as his knuckles connected with the back of Jerome’s head.

Jerome thought of the girl again, and he wished he were sinking into the Meme Dream. But his sleep would be so much deeper than that.

Would For The Trees

He looked at the bonsai that he had been growing and pruning into shape. The picture on the wall matched it exactly. It had been a long project. Here he had crafted his first time machine – through the fractal line, down through the rings of age he would travel, deep into the heartwood.

He had heard that many trees had been falling in The Woulds. Many of his contemporaries had taken their Leave, and were in The Wind. They had dug in hard, long ago, and found the underpinning undercurrent of ideational actuation that drove the super-positional data drive that reality was constructed from, and their metaphorical machines represented complex engines running off the deepest substrate of existence.

It was a lost art – the pruning of these vehicles into something usable, and Hent had been studying for a very long time, and he was now the sole expert left. Why had it taken him so long? Why was no one else interested?

They said it began with the Turn Of The Leaf, that that presaged The Fall, and then the rot set in. People were so apathetic, and the world was literally falling down around them.

He stuck his hands into the dirt, and he grabbed the roots of that little tree, all the time holding the image of the larger tree in his mind – The Yggdrasil. It was said that one saw the Hesperidean Apples falling like golden suns before one, when one had snagged a branchline and was being pulled into the subtext. A moment – an endless moment – he was a still center beneath a tree … apples falling … cherry blossom falling … small children scrumping for gold falling.

And he was falling, out through the boundaries of the room, his body and the small tree folding out through a bright point of light, a tear in the fabric of spacetime, through the twisting throat of a tesseract stint, into the smooth tube of a wormhole, and wham, out through one of the ancient Singularity Gates, and there you are – escaped into something other, something larger.

Hent stands and he looks around him, and he sees no Woulds. He sees dun brown of all the dones, no longer dunderheads … they got here: here to the promised landing zone. Refugees from a Reality Collapse. Hent grabbed something from his pocket – he walked out past the boundaries of the settlement – a long walk (a good sign), and he did as tradition demanded: he scattered the handful of seeds he had brought with him.


He was an on-target Communist who regularly hit the Marx. Sat there, stroking his prodigious beard with his tattooed hand, he wondered about all those visits to Lenin that he had made. So long ago. Now he drank vodka in a bar in St Petersburg, Florida, and pondered how little return he had got on the investment of defection.

Vladimir was smoking cheap Russian smokes and watching the bar’s regulars mill around, turning circles through the dullness of their daily routines, until the momentum petered out and they pitched forward into their pitchers of beer.

He didn’t work now – he had invested well, and he had an amazing amount of resources. He had been a heavy in Mother Russia, and he had used his tendency towards mercy to garnish his pay quite handsomely – let someone off, take a little bit of information, and go and invest based on it. If it worked out badly and the information was bad, you could always locate creatures of habit easily, and you could break a few bones until they either paid up or remembered how to be useful some other way.

People came to ask him questions – students mostly. He was a swarthy good-looking fifty, and he bedded some of the sultry language students looking for a bit of danger. It was not how his life was supposed to turn out. He had been a straight up gangster since he got kicked out of school, and he had been building something of an empire. That period when the underworld was suddenly flooded by ex-KGB was hard though, and he had pissed a fair few of them off. He had to leave – given the death threats and the injuries he received, it did not take much to convince his liaison that he needed asylum.

It was cold outside, but it was bright, he walked down past the art museum to the park, where they sometimes showed movies, and he sat under one of the trees, looking up at the fairy lights, thinking about all he had lost; thinking about how long he had mourned those losses. It was time to go home, time to walk through the town, get on the bus, and make his way back to that little room. He never escaped his Russianness – it was the first thing anyone here noticed about him. He was proud, but it made him sad. Sat on the bus, he fell asleep, as he always did, and he dreamt of walking across the permafrost, seeing the twinkling ice crystals in the air before him – he woke up remembering how warm he always felt in Russia; he thought about how cold he felt in Florida. He laughed – life was a joke most people didn’t get. How often he was one of those.


Strangespace – some kind of exotic byproduct dimension made of stuff that started to foam around the drives which tore apart dimensional properties to get from A to B. The first time it blipped on anyone’s radar was when someone picked up a distortion clambering through the SOS frequencies that mirrored something they had been using in their distress beacons, but with something extra layered under it; almost like it was backmasked into there.

Calumn Storing was the man who named it – Strangespace. More incidents started to get reported, and suddenly you had someone pushing out a communication on a neutrino stream that claimed to be coming from the other side of a dimensional tear.

Calumn moneyed up and funded an expedition into the territory – the territory fought back – it was almost as if an intentional push into the space was antithetical to its very nature, and it therefore pushed back. Calumn coined the term spatio-temporal pollution, and from there came supra-dimensional fragmentation, and a whole philosophy built around the idea of not travelling in the way they were travelling.

Bearer Quinton came up with the notion that the space was being manipulated by a person, rather than any kind of interference from the destructive engines they used. He fingered Calumn as the kind of patient zero that had somehow infected the materials of the localspace he had been studying with destructive intentionality … it worked remotely too … apparently. Fingers were pointed.

When asked what had happened to Calumn Storing in the years after his disappearance, Bearer Quinton was said to have coyly remarked that perhaps his expedition into Strangespace had finally been successful.

Was it that people stopped reporting it thereafter, or is it that it actually dissipated as the engine designs improved. Or was Calumn Storing’s absent intention the reason it vanished?

A New Eden

Weedbed – he’d hacked in deep and left all the routes lying around. We’d bed down as the sun boiled the horizon orange, looking at half written scripts that unspooled into abstract matter. This was supposed to be a place for sunflowers – an abstraction bed, a metaphor chassis for running some larger system on.

Hackspace dug into the reality riptides, and hack-objects provided concrete interfaces through which one could manipulate the world. Some days after a hard day of trying to configure the space, ocular migraines misting at the edge of his perception, he’d activate the hack-plugs embedded in his own flesh, and he’d mess around with himself like he was a chemistry set.

Dandelions and ragwort, little seeds dusting the place, scent strangely strong, and for  moment he couldn’t remember the larger function they’d been assigned. Carlos was named as Chief Gardener, and he liked the littoral territory his job allowed him to occupy. A strange job for a strange man – all quantum entangled deep-ware – move it and write it on a larger scale. He could think with a garden; it was sometimes harder to think of a closely linked ideational space that would fructify with seeds for real world terraforming. It was like being God in denial.

The weeds tested the larger machinery for flaws, and as each diagnostic procedure was carried out, they had to be removed. Flowers were kept, separated off, and passed on to various diagnostic teams – this was harvest three, and with some of the tweaks and experiments he had been able to carry out, he was convinced that they had been able to build a very effective universal engine that they were going to be able to ship out to the edge of scripted space, and plug it in and start generating some deep beds for reality to grow in.

Carlos pressed the end cycle button on the mini-vironment, and watched on his screen as a reality was zipped down, and what physical matter couldn’t be zipped was ported out through the tesseract translation engines. It all looked so simple – building universes. Eden was a crucible – he believed that now; believed that they had developed something analogous to it. He was proud to be part of it.


Disguised as a clock – he checked it out of the Metaphor Bank, dropped it in his Translation Pocket, and moved through the Parse Doors towards Egress Point One.

Fifteen Stories up, and no one willing to tell the prologue. He throat punched three unreliable narrators on the way to this place, and climbed through three framing devices, and now he is stood ankle deep in some of the most cliched similes you could imagine, getting ready to pull the old deus ex machina move just to jump-cut in through the fourth wall.

He straps a book to his back and hopes that the the sequential flutter will start to riffle the pages and slow his descent. Anat is a Bookmarker – punching through half finished narratives into the realm of ideational space, where authorial hooks dig in and start to pull things into being. Muse is an old word – quaint; not useful; barely indicative of the hands-on bullshit they have to pull on a daily basis.

He lands feet first in a meandering digression that is trying for post-modern, and coming off instead as self-indulgent. He has to hit the ground running – they have this one marked up as possessing a pivotal character who is going to have full on Mirror Conversion Potential in the real world, so they have to make sure that it comes off like it’s supposed to.

Through deep golden fields under Van Gogh swirls of cerulean he runs, deep bass cetacean music from some non-descript ocean that will be developed in later drafts sounds through this world, and he sees him. He fires a descriptor anchor at the guy; locks him in, and then initiates a back-track protocol that fires hard and fast out of ideational space at the writer – whoomp! Right into his authorial process, and there you are … Canaster Perflume becomes a fixed point in the fiction. And he drops that thing in his pocket – a link root; a link route, and it binds to Canaster, and it binds to the writer. And all anyone knows is that the writer has an idea for a fantastic wristwatch.

Anat can run now, before the riptide illogic always on his heels catches up to him, swirls around, and locks him into a story he has no place being in. He detonates an Exit Wave and rides it into some notional space that no one can point to, but which works for the translation matrices, and hey presto, he is folding in through the tesseract barriers and arriving back where he started – fifteen stories up, staring at the rococco designs on the door near Egress Point One. Anat is happy – job done.

Or Mr

Smiles. Through flames. Yes, he does. A picture develops under a skin of chemicals. Snap. The moments aren’t quite joined up, fragile like a baby’s skull; pressure distorts the shape. And he moves through images like someone bursting through one of those hoops with tissue paper they sometimes use in clown acts, he thought it was.

He knew that somewhere scripts were pushing the direction of his footfalls. He knew that somewhere edits were pushing back. He was not a sympathetic character – he knew this, but he hadn’t run across many heroes … they were few and far between as far as he could discern.

He pressed each finger against the glass carefully – he did not wish to smudge the prints. Treat every act in your life like it is a potential crime scene. Why was that important? He wanted to make an impact, always. He had a strange sense of the world around him and himself.

The newspaper talked of him – a constant chatter which he had to work hard to tune out. How could he be villain though, if there was nothing he was doing except following around? He circled the word thoughtcrime in his battered copy of 1984. He thought long and hard about many things.

Death came from a rumour. He wasn’t sure who spread it, but it pushed out of the cocoon of its quotation marked genesis, and flapped its chaos butterfly wings to push towards oblivion on eddies that became tsunami. Bang bang. His suit ignited. And he dreamed that he was a phoenix, in moments where he was bleeding out, and … and … back to the beginning. The worm swallowed its tale.

What had he been doing? Who was he? Fingerprints in a room where nothing happened.

His sister wrote a little story about him where he had learned to eat fire. He fell asleep every night in a bed full of ribbons. They had said that he had done things – stolen ideas, wrote them out as his own – but the truth was, his death was the only act of plagiarism he had ever been involved in. It was strange. It was strange.

The gun fires. The fires burning. He gets fired. He gets shot. A photograph.




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