Played Your Eyes 3: Headshot

He wasn’t a spokesperson, he was a tactician – he was somewhat good with words so they hoped that he would be able to convey what it was that ARMY stood for and what this last action they had carried out meant for them and the rest of the country. The government was in disarray and what remained of the cabinet had been unable to offer anything to assuage the fears of the country. That was not unexpected though, given that it wasn’t their country anymore.
The King and all his heirs were either dead with a bullet in their skull or on the run somewhere. They had taken all of the major settlements across the country – there were still small pockets of resistance scattered in certain places but how long would it take them to mop those up?
His group was composed of one particular section of the community but he had to speak to the whole community – had to let them know that ARMY was here to free everyone; that it realised everyone was held in chains. PEACE was the next phase – Project England: All Communities Embraced. That was the important thing that he wanted to talk about – the war was yesterday and it was tomorrow that they were interested in.
He was worried, because they believed that the media was not sympathetic to them – that it supported the deposed government and believed that the remaining royals with a rightful claim to the throne would rise up and claim back rulership. They had to be convinced that this was not a conceivable option for anyone anymore – that England had moved beyond such considerations. He had to convince them that he and the others who represented ARMY were not just some bunch of thugs who had driven away the bigger kids so they could just play with their toys. ARMY had to seem more than just a fighting force; ARMY had to transform before their eyes into its adult form: PEACE.
They’d been working on this a long time behind the scenes – everyone in the army knew of the intention; knew that this was what they had been planning – knew that it was their final goal. What use would it have been if they had fought to get all this way and then the troops had felt like they had been cheated by what kind of system was put in place to replace the old one?
Peter Hent was one of the first to step up and say – they all know what we’re against, but what are we for? And it had been a question that not one of them had been prepared to answer: no one had thought beyond the possibility of ousting the oppressors. Before the war he had been studying politics via the internet, trying to get a degree – here he was getting a chance to bring what he had learned to bear on the future of the country … it was terrifying and it was exciting.
Who would they send? What journalist would get the scoop? He kind of wished that there had been more options as far as media groups but that was part of the set up of the country they would soon change.

Played Your Eyes 2: Tracking Shot

‘So, Banks, do you wake up every morning looking like you tried to fuck a porcupine?’
‘Did I invite you in? I seriously doubt it – I gave up on poisonous cunts the day I dropped out of my mother and she walked away from me.’
‘You know you have an appointment today, yes? With the head of ARMY?’
‘Yeah, I’d heard something along those lines. Some stuck up bint gave me a phone call and told me I need to get myself detoxed.’
‘So you – ‘
‘So I went and got seriously fucked up, yes. Why? Because I haven’t written anything of worth in a long time and I was hoping that if I took enough drugs you all just might evaporate. But of course I am still held by the rules of some arcane contract that dredges me up out of the shitter every time they need some dispensible turd to go and stir up the other shit that floats around the bowl they call England.’
‘Yeah – okay – so how much detox juice am I going to have to pump you full of before you approach being somewhat more human?’
‘Are you sure you want to do that? I’m a bastard when I’m intoxicated, but I am way worse when I have sobered up – especially if you enforce rapid cold turkey.’
She looked at him – seriously, was this some kind of joke? A puke covered addict who according to the column inches he had managed to rack up since his spectacular implosion had barely been given the time of day by a single editor on even the smallest newspaper. She had to babysit this narcissistic no-mark prick while he jacked every known narcotic in the book into his veins? Was this just some kind of colossal fuck you to ARMY? It seemed kind of pathetic and low that this was all they could muster – here’s your big story so we’re sending you the worst journalist in the country to cover it. What did it say about what they thought of her? Asa Blumen one time hope of female journalists in the industry having to mollycoddle this fuckwit.
Banks leaned himself just close enough to the edge of the bed so he could puke on the floor. He began scrabbling inside the bag that was next to him on the bed and fished out a handful of ampoules of some dark scarlet drug.
‘Are you not worried you’ll OD?’
‘No, I have the constitution of cornfed cheerleader, and all that after I’ve been more fucked up than a funk band and an after party.’
Asa hit the speed-dial for Hunt Parser her editor.
‘Hunt – this is Asa Blumen; I have a question for you, sir, with all due respect, is this assignment some kind of fucking joke?’
‘Oh yes, Asa, of course it is. But the thing is you aren’t in on the joke, and you won’t be. You’re there to do a job – except if you ever call me again and use the tone you just used you’ll be writing the obituaries of diseased parrots and three-legged dogs from now until you retire. I can find some pimply intern who will be more than happy to shepherd our resident junky fuck-up around for minimum wage. Yes, you’re a babysitter, but you’re a very expensive one – so please quit your whining and do what you have to do to het him ready.’

Played Your Eyes 1: Establishing Shot

Rumours were that Banks had been out with a bad case of Plagiawrist for two months. He’d won the award for warzone reporting in a sinkhole estate in Essex but had felt burned out thereafter and had resorted to taking Remix – a neural net hack drug that allowed you to speed-edit someone else’s work and pour back out onto the page through an instantaneous thesaurus filter that made it sound like it had been written by someone else. The reason he was in charge of the team being sent in to cover the ARMY taking of the last royalist stronghold in the country was because no other fucker wanted to do it.

ARMY stood for Anti-Royal Mass Youth and they had been possibly the biggest surprise that had ever come along to kick a sitting government up the arse and shake them out of the circle-jerk revery that a third term seemed to have pushed them into.

You were born criminalised – the profiling taking a long hard look back down your ancestral line to determine by very clever maths what exactly it might be that you were worth. Generally the answer came back – not much. If it wasn’t true the computers didn’t care, and the civil servants operating the consoles didn’t give two tugs of a dead politician’s cock either.

Anti-social behaviour orders had once been issued as social control means that sought to prevent the need for police intervention – they didn’t work. The Anti-Social Person Identification Card (ASPIC for short) was a pre-emptive strike that kept you locked down as soon as your first kick from the womb was felt and recorded.

The youth had nothing to lose. They couldn’t get jobs, they weren’t allowed to travel freely, and they were constantly hassled by the police force; the only thing that gave theem any kind of protection and sense of place was the gangs that they all gravitated towards. Given the intense pressure brought to bear on them by the situation they were in it was hardly surprising, at least to the people who had been watching, when the gangs began to organise into a larger structure.

The hit and run tactics of the early months got them labelled as terrorists and the measurements used to deal with them were escalated accordingly. It didn’t matter – they were fighting for something bigger than the individual lives of their members. The future shouldn’t be locked up or witheld from someone, but that was what had happened. The royals were just a symbol of what they stood against and were by no means the main target – turn the country on its head and start at the top – that was how the thinking went.

There was no single leader of ARMY, no matter the propaganda that the government issued, and there wwas no need for one. Each leader, gathering together in a council could speak for their own men without fear of misunderstanding. It worked perfectly well – the government just didn’t understand so tried to promote the idea that it didn’t work.

Today was a big day.

Tales Of The Knotlands: Bow Loin – 1. Channel Watching

Stood looking out over the Channel, that thin ribbon of water separating France from England – Angleterre; the Angled Tear; the Spirit Of Angle Hand sat next to him. Robespierre’s thoughts were guillotine edited; a swiftness cutting through the pretence he had been wont to display in the past. Wanker they called him – and they laughed as he tossed merde tete back at them.
How long was it since those forces had invaded his home and buckled the tower, razed the remains of their culture to the ground? Every single person with any kind of power suffering, it seemed, l’esprit d’escalier; tongue-tied when their words of power were most needed. France had fallen, like everywhere else, under the tide of shadows that swirled through the body of their planet.
‘So, exactly how fucked is it old chap?’
‘You are, how do you say, the spirit of the place? You should be able to sense that, non?’
‘Of course, Jacques, I was just hoping you might give me some conflicting information. Yes, cross to the front of me, dragon to the rear, I surely do have a good notion of precisely how far up the river we are without the proverbial paddle. it’s just not bloody cricket, is it?’
‘Hmm, je voudrais un biere, et tu?’
‘Anything stronger?’
‘Sure, why not? Can’t do any more bloody damage, can it?’
John let out a sigh that had so many things to communicate it wasn’t exactly sure what to sound like. The Spirit Of Angle Hand – they told him the piece of metal in his possession was the sword of King Arthur and that he could slay anything that threatened England with it, but the fact that he had been forced to turn tail and go to ground in this sympathetic hidey hole in France didn’t give him much hope. Seriously though, why was the bloody thing so small? If he was threatened by a slightly menacing cocktail sausage then he might be able to despatch with one swift prod of his trusty Excalibur; other than that he’d have to rely on a miracle to get him through.
Jacques returned with the beer and the absinthe. They’d bonded over their common roles; their common failures. They were both resurrected archetypes meant to protect their homelands but both countries had them set to revenge protocols which meant they were both activated once the damage was done.
‘You know, Jacques, old bean, I feel like I’m about as much use as soft toilet paper at a colostomy bag convention.’
‘I know what you mean; it’s like we’re patients on permanent bed rest who they roll once in a while to stop us getting pressure sores.’

Tales Of The Knotlands: Decanted Berry Tales – 1.Ushering In A Pilgrim Age

‘Pissheads are fiction factories, as are drug-users; we’ve been setting the seeds and then harvesting them later when they ripen.’

‘These motherfuckers that you call Pilgrims?’

‘Yes, they sometimes take a while for the calling to reach them, but the keywords are out travelling the land in many forms.’

‘What do you mean, Harview, the memes? The urban myths?’

‘The graffiti, the folk songs, the poems – anything that can convey information is used.’

‘And what are these fictions for? What do we need these psychic engines to do?’

‘Well, the forefront of this conflict is going to be fought in words …’

‘A debate?’

‘Of sorts. From the heads of these poor unsuspecting dreamers shall spring forth the saviour of mankind.’

‘Sounds a bit far-fetched if you ask me.’

‘You’re employed to be the cynic in this venture, Clint, so if you acted in any other way I would be somewhat disappointed – no, more than that: I’d be worried. Reliability is a key ingredient in what we’re doing here. Prophecies only come to fruition because we can rely on certain things – that’s how prophets operate, even if they don’t do it on a conscious level, they have an ability to analyse all the data which is there in the world and pick out the elements which are going to be of paramount importance in shaping things the way someone wants them to be shaped.’

‘This has to do with what happened recently in L’undone, doesn’t it?’

‘Yes. No point in lying to you we are readying a force to go after the Great Bittern.’

‘How? Why?’

‘Because it should have stayed dead. That was what was intended – but the way in which it was despatched was sloppy. This time we won’t make the same mistakes.’

‘But, Harview, this thing came back from the dead as a man, how do you expect to kill that?’

‘We have our ways and means – one man’s god is another’s devil, and we just so happen to know some people who believe that the worst thing to happen to this country is that thing coming back from the dead. These people have long known what to do were such an eventuality were to occur …’

‘Let me guess, they have some kind of sacred blade that will despatch their quarry.’

‘My, you’re a bright one, Clint – not much keeping things from you, is there? Don’t worry, the sarcastic tone from you doesn’t bother me – you don’t need to believe in any of the mystical bullshit as you so charmingly describe it – no, all you need to do is believe in me and what I say.’

‘Well, you can count on that.’

‘Good, that’s good to hear. And of course I already knew that or we wouldn’t be sat here having this discussion.’

Tales Of The Knotlands: Ah, Freak, Ah – 1. The Green Man

No one remembered what had burned this place so badly, but they did know who was reponsible for the healing of small parts of the country. His green skin marked him out less than his tribal scarrings did – some revivalist branch of one of the Masai tribes, so he believed. It was hard to remember anymore – there wasn’t anyone else to confer with and since the event, which remained large, though sketchy, in everyone’s memory most people had suffered some memory loss regarding what they did before.
He wasn’t really sure how much of the body he occupied was human anymore, but the genesplice which allowed him to photosynthesise had been a necessary procedure if he was going to be able to eke out a living. He’d been crossed with a particularly hardy strain of plant so he didn’t need much of anything to survive and it was rumoured that he might die without water only to revive on its return.
The dream: Africa. So many places huddled together inside the embrace of that word. The white man, the black man, the green man – all born here from inside the bustling skull of a dreamer that did not know whether it was Darwin, Hanuman or a waking Dogon prince come to reclaim his throne.
He called himself Sika, meaning honey, for he arose after the land had been stung many times in the dying throes of those who tended the flowers, brought forth food, drank nectar. Many confused mythologies, many roots hacked, many branches bleeding sap. His name was a backwards reaching link: an invocation of a past no longer close at hand.
They called him the Green Man; Vert – his visits were a benediction to most. Some hunted the rumour in hope of finding promise of a brighter future; some just hunted for him, wishing to do him harm. He was not easy to catch; he became many things as his homeland did. His long stride carried him across the vast plains, across the shifting sands; he swam Mother Nile, looked up at vast continental swathes of dream condensing into stars above his head.
They said it began here. They said it ended at the heart of the Knotlands – L’undone.

Tales Of The Knotlands: A Merry Curr – 1. Liberty

How long had he lived inside the hollowed out form of this ancient thing? He wasn’t sure it really meant anything to him or anyone anymore – they had stopped calling it the Statue and referred to it as the Shrine and he had become some kind of priest by default. It was true that he defended the thing but he didn’t believe in liberty or anything.
Seriously, what was it that they were free of? Authority had disappeared for sure – when it became obvious that a centralised power system wasn’t going to work anymore the country had fragmented not just into the constituent states which made up the country but communities operating on a much smaller basis and with a more local site specific set of laws. No one felt oppression being pushed on them from above – instead the thing that oppressed them was the all pervasive poverty and the lack of any route out of it. America didn’t mean much as word or a concept any more. Did he think they might be able to rebuild it from the raw materials that they had here? He doubted it – he didn’t actually think that anyone was even vaguely interested in that kind of horseshit anymore.
Vulture was out on a sweep to pick up what carrion he could – he was the best scavenger in the business, and Charley Stick did not think he would have fared so well for so long without him. Charley Stick: High Priest of Liberty – he climbed the stairs and went to light the torch.
He’d heard that packs of bootleggers were roving through his neighbourhoods; doing battle with a group calling themselves Prohibition. These rats weren’t bothered about being on a sinking ship as long as they got to call it their own.
The dry twig snap of gunfire in the distance was a daily thing. People being territorial in a kingdom of fuck-all; it was as stupid as it had always been, but it was their choice, and they held to it steadfastly.