On a Halloween night in the 80s… (a poem)

As time dissolved at the arcade
All through the night he played and played
Through pixel dungeons fought and flayed
til the owner pulled the plug

his neon kingdom overthrown
Astride his bike he heads for home
The roads are dark he’s all alone
the trick or treaters dreaming

Pumpkins line the streets for miles
Crinkled faces, seedy smiles
Sharpened teeth like crocodiles
So soon they’ll start to rot…

Through the graveyard theres a quick route home
With ominous oaktrees, paths overgrown
He manoeuvres softly o’er gravel and bone
So as not to break the silence

Then he hears a whisper close and slight
Lets loose a whimper- cocooned in fright
he pedals so hard his bike takes flight
and he falls into a grave..

he hits his head and vision swirled
and stumbles on some underworld
then before his eyes great wings unfurled
Nevermore! Nevermore! Nevermore!

and when he rose from that grave place
with body stiff and blood-streaked face
he smiled and felt the nights embrace
and went to find a victim…

***

The real me

In fleeting words
Like hummingbirds
The real me
The real me

On mountain high
Neath twilit sky
The real me
The real me

A bar in shadow
Jazz piano
The real me
The real me

When someone farts
And laughter starts
The real me
The real me

When face is stuck
In a good book
The real me
The real me

Through all of life’s complexity
It would bring about such ecstasy
If I could be
Eternally
The real me
The real me

the phantom painter (surreal flash fic)

Dearest Theo,

It has been far too long! What is it, almost two months since last correspondence? Anyhow I Hope all is well with Ellen and the twins, and that business over at the publishers continues to run in all its usual proficiency. Apologies but preliminaries must be cut unusually short– i have the most astonishing story to tell you of the events of these past few days.. contain it any longer and I fear I shall be sent quite mad! So Recently I’ve been working at night rather than by day.. trying to find some spark in the dark.. spice things up a bit. Thus the studio is black, adumbral, the objects and oil coated canvases lit by only the faintest, chalky flame.. like Rembrandt, I find these objects to be so much more beautiful when draped in shadow. Consequently Ive spent many of these past days in an abyssal, positively ursine sleep.. waking only in the nocturnal hours, and feeling somewhat as if Im still teetering on the brink of a dream. Every thought seems to echo, to send ripples out into my personal cosmos, and those dim unconscious wanderings that are usually so easily silenced, are now raucous, even threatening to take sway.

Although more than a little discomfiting this delirious state has done wonders for my art, a seismic change, and no doubt i shall continue to drift in this stupor so long as my painterly endeavours continue to exude such inveterate vivacity. But there is something else more pressing — before this metamorphosis of art and mind I had been content enough with painting still life, but after turning nocturnal I quite suddenly became dead set on testing my newfound aesthetic gall on figures, and so sought out a muse. initially, I struggled beyond mannered expression to find someone willing to come down to the studio at so exclusive and unconventional an hour, and most the stragglers who found willingness demanded such extraordinary monetary recompense that I had no choice but turn them down. Fortuitously enough however, I was aided by a similarly manic-minded artist friend who pointed me towards a very singular fellow who was agreeable to lending his presence at such hours for a reasonable sum.

My friend had informed me beforehand that the man was mute, which I found rather endearing, but had revealed little else of him. Having now met the man and spent some time with him these past few nights i can tell you he is without doubt the most enigmatic of personages I have ever encountered. Not only is he mute of voice but in expression of any kind, and yet there is an invisible, silent intensity there.. like that which one feels when observing a truly great portrait of a figure who bears no expression.. but who is nevertheless radiant with some unseen aesthetic, some .. atomic energy. He is strikingly handsome, as a Michaelangelo, certainly on a par with cousin Jane –which as is well known, is no mean feat. And that stare.. by God! it is like lingering in those slowed down seconds just before the lethal pounce of a great beast..

Anyway Last night curiosity got the better of me, and after having drawn a few charcoals, like shaping smoke with the tip of a finger, I told the man that he could leave a little earlier than usual – but for the same fee of course. So he took up his coat and left, then I was struck by an irresistible urge to follow, to find out more of this enigma, and so found myself stalking the city streets in the pitch night. the streets of Amsterdam were so staggeringly beautiful I almost wept — the stars pranced and pirouetted on the canal, the cobbled streets shimmered with lunar hue, the cathedral spires pierced the sky like ethereal stalacmites.. it was divine. But i digress.. I pursued the mute some way through the silent city streets, a small few other phantasmal wanderers adrift in my periphery, and he moves towards the gates of the cemetery.. understandably hesitant, I followed into the dark, and thought Id lost him amongst the clustered silhouettes of trees and elaborate headstones.. but then caught sight of his fleeting form and resumed pursuit.

i couldn’t help but think of the gravestones as being like withering teeth, that I was moving deeper and deeper into the gullet of some slumbering titan.. lost in such dreamy thoughts I again almost lost sight of him, when I glimpsed him clambering over the cemetery wall. he climbed over the seven foot stonewall with a grace and ease that seemingly verged on the superhuman.. I followed, with the grace of a wounded seal and fell over the other side a minute or so later. small wonder i landed in time to see him enter one of the buildings a little way up the street lit by a flickering streetlantern. Apartments. I approached the dilapidated looking place, and the main door was unlocked. I entered, and moved towards the dim light upstairs and saw he had left a door slightly ajar.. I should have turned away then, but was somehow unable to suffocate my curiosity.. I knocked lightly, like a whisper of a knock, and when there was no answer I pushed open the door and entered. Well I was astounded. His room was filled, crammed, with glorious works of art… hundreds of sketches, less but still a great many paintings.. some larger and more intricate, others more like studies of shape and form, they were all strewn about haphazardly. the paintings were mostly shadowy figures, though some were of buildings, castle ramparts, manses, and one  striking work of a ship in the midst of a great biblical storm.. then one particular work caught my eye, clearly a more recent addition, still resting on the easel.. as I gazed on it i felt a terrible upsurge of nausea take hold of me … like that moment when one realises theyre still asleep even when theyre most certain they had woken up…. 

The painting was of me. sat in this very room, face half masked in shadow… and the likeness was so exquisite, so perfectly rendered.. why such a work could only be the creation of innumerable hours, and whats more it could only be a painting by an artist looking directly upon a model.. but how?! I had never before set foot here! Had i at some point sleepwalked to this place and sat for this man to paint my like? Madness! Id have had to come down for hours, days, for such an image of greatness to emerge… what a wonder it was! what a wonder I was! I could not but think that looking upon this image brought about the very same feeling as that conjured in the breast of Narcissus at the edge of the pond.. then, Just as I was overcome with this paranoiac blitz of thoughts I heard the door close behind me and there stood the phantom himself. “Ah, my muse arrives” he says.. “please, do resume position. Ive to make some final touches” — he points to a chair in the corner of the room, lit by pale candlelight from one side.. all was configured exactly as in the painting……………. words escaped me……. I couldn’t speak…. I wouldnt. and so I wordlessly sat in the chair as he delicately dipped his brush, and began paint…

Dear Theo, it occurs to me to ask– have you ever heard your own voice whilst in the midst of a dream?? Do try to keep up writing me, i so often lose all sense of time without your words to keep me aground.

Ever your loving brother,

Anthony v B, september 5th 1633

Continue reading “the phantom painter (surreal flash fic)”

Louis Zapruder: Time Traveller (sci-fi flash)

‘you know you’re the first reporter they’ve let in here for nearly 10 years? It’s been that long I’d assumed they weren’t going to let anyone see Zapruder now other than close family and friends until he finally, you know, bit the dust’ said the nurse conversationally, ‘then again I suppose if they were going to let anyone in it would have to be someone with a little… notoriety’, she added with a flirtatious wink.

The nurse walked through the meandering hallways of the facility, escorting the reporter, a handsome man who dressed like an undercover detective, with slicked-back hair, sharp features and a voice rougher than sandpaper. The two of them approached another of the security doors spaced throughout the ward. Armed guards patrolled all around the white-walled corridors in their pure-white body armour. Some of them stood so still that they were almost invisible until they shifted stances and their shadows jerked spasmodically about the walls. The nurse showed her ID to one of the guards, and the guard wordlessly opened the secure door.

‘Well maam, the world needs to know what finally happened to the last of the legendary time-travellers’ returned the reporter, ‘Most of them are lost somewhere in the vast maze of space-time, Zapruder is the only traveller the government have managed to trace for centuries. They’ve managed to keep his whereabouts quiet for a long time, but now things have changed. There are too many underground meddlers, deviant scientists, too many who have access to the scientific archives and are unaware of what their heavy-handed dabbling with time and space can lead to. They need to know the repercussions. Even the greatest geniuses of time-travel throughout history, past and future, became wise to the extreme dangers of temporal distortion of any kind. Zarkov, one of the original scientists who was there at the very beginning of it all, described it best. He said that before time came to be wielded by man, it was like an almighty river, and this great river was the original timeline. But as man began to alter time, to shape it to his own will, the sides of the river began to breach into masses and masses of tiny tributaries, an infinity of vein-like streams, branching out and eventually seeping into one another until they became so muddled that there came to be still bodies of water. These are places where time is so clogged, that entire histories end in nothing more than singular moments… fixed and unmoving for all eternity.’

the nurse stared at him wide-eyed, her mouth opening and closing faintly, as if all the questions in her head were jammed before she could choose which to ask. Long moments passed. Still tangled up thinking on his words, it took her a few moments before she could speak.

‘I.. I.. I once read this crazy theory. It said that whenever we experience deja vu, that uncanny feeling we experience is actually the distant echo of an alternate timeline, a timeline where time had stopped at that exact moment. In one of those lakes of time you mentioned I suppose. It said that the closer you get to that blocked timeline, the more likely you are to be dragged into it’s field… to feel its steady pull, slightly slowing each and every moment until eventually time simply stops… and remains stopped forever’ she said, and her face momentarily showed a look of terror ‘whenever I experience deja vu now, I always have this strange feeling of being on the brink of infinity, as if I’m experiencing my last few moments’.

‘There are a great many theories on time out there but the fact is, the vast majority of them are wrong’ replied the reporter, quickly, trying to set the nurse at ease. ‘In fact, oddly enough, the original scientists like Zarkov and Tremblany were the closest to a truly mathematical theory of time. You need to remember maam, the timelines in which we’re situated are among the safest of all, the least scarred. The tributaries of our timeline are so small and insignificant that they are almost unnoticeable except to the most sophisticated machines which are programmed to seek them out’.

She smiled gratefully, before bringing him to a stop. He saw there was a faint film of tears in her eyes, and he cursed himself and his trigger-happy tongue. They were stopped in front of some double doors, above which a sign read: DEMENTIA WARD.

‘this is as far as i can go’ said the nurse.

‘Okay thank you. It was nice to talk to you’ he replied

‘and you Mr Nash’. She turned and slipped away into the bleached corridors.

Nash went through the double doors and into the ward.

As he entered the large room, he was momentarily stunned, barely noticing the many patients who wandered around dazedly, muttering and humming tunes of the distant past and future. The ward was decorated in such a motley patchwork of styles, it was as if in here, time itself had imploded, and all the fragments from past, present and future had been cobbled together like the shards of a broken mirror. One part of the room was adorned in ancient Greek decor, with stone columns and graceful carved statues of deities. Another part was decked out to look like a saloon bar of the Wild West, along with all the old cork-stopped bottles of liquor and the splintered, weathered woodwork. Elsewhere there were more futuristic motifs: shifting, simulated landscapes and ghostly figures were projected by tiny machines which buzzed about like flies. Nash also noticed some strange glowing metallic items which were covered in symbols, and he could not decide if they were the objects of some vastly ancient tribe of man or from some immeasurably distant cosmic future.

in the ward there were 8 patients that he could see, 4 men and 4 women. He scanned the men’s faces but knew instantly that none of them were the man he had come here to see.

He heard a voice coming from somewhere at the back of the ward, a woman’s voice, a strong and authoritative voice, which had more intent, more inflection to it than any of the other voices around him. He made his way towards this voice, threading through the many rooms as if through a museum, each room an exhibit of a different age, a new era of human past or future. As he moved towards the voice at the back of the ward the lights grew steadily dimmer, then their hue began to change, from white to blue, first a pale, icy blue, and then steadily to electric blue, thrumming as if from a gigantic neon sign. The light made Nash feel he was getting colder, moving through some arctic cavern, even though the whole ward was the same temperature. Nash saw that the blue light seemed to emanate from one room, the same room from where he heard the woman’s voice.

He hesitantly pushed open the door, which was slightly ajar, and drew in a sharp breath.

The gigantic room was decked out to simulate the control room or bridge of a space shuttle. There were flickering control panels all about, screens displaying spatial geographies and various modules with vacant seats where a crew might sit. On the far side wall was an enormous TV screen on which there was a moving picture of outer space. It was so realistic that for a brief moment Nash felt the floor begin to sway ever so gently, his body aligned with the image as the ship steadily drifted through space.

And then he saw the woman in the corner of the room. She was stood next to a bed and  continued to speak freely, openly, as much to herself as to anybody within close proximity to her. She continued to talk absently as she went about her routine, checking the wires and the screens which were attached to the bed which was turned away from Nash to face the large screen which displayed the moving image of space.

Nash could jut about see the profile of the man in the bed, his face lit up by the many stars on screen, and he immediately knew that this wizened figure was the man he sought. The man of legend, the last-known time-traveller in existence, who had traveled across millennia, who had explored and altered and conquered timelines innumerable. The man was Louis Zapruder.

After a few dazed seconds, Nash knocked loudly on the door causing the woman to jump, almost dropping her tray which she carried on her arm like a waiter. She made her way brisquely towards Nash, frowning menacingly, as she neared him Nash saw that she was powerfully built, and her frame was barely contained by the grey uniform she wore.

‘What are you doing wandering around here unescorted? Almost gave me a heart attack you did’ the burly woman said, seething. She shepherded him back out of the room with her wide build and closed the door to Zapruder’s room behind them both.

‘Another nurse showed me here, said she couldn’t come in and so left me at the door’ answered Nash, a little more intimidated than he’s have liked to admit.

‘well I suppose it’s not all your fault. There’s so few visitors allowed here it’s no wonder that the protocol is so shoddy. Are you the reporter everyone’s been talking about? The hotshot who only writes about the big celebrities? I’m Mona by the way, chief nurse of this ward, nice to meet you’ she said, with the barest hint of a smile.

‘Carson Nash, and to you too’ he said quickly ‘when can I speak to Zapruder? I’ve been given authorisation to speak to him and I’d like to start as soon as I can’

Speak to him?’ she barked, incredulously ‘no one has spoken to Mr Zapruder since he came here I’m afraid, he speaks only to himself and to people who are not yet of this world’

‘what do you mean by that? sounds like some mystic bullshit to me’ he said, immediately regretting his words and gazing off like a guilty schoolboy

‘I assume you have some idea of what dementia is as seen as you’ve come to write a story about someone suffering from the illness’ she smiled a little more broadly now, seeming to enjoy being the one to talk down the big hotshot reporter she’d so much about the past few weeks.

‘I’ve some idea… trapped in the past, stuck in a loop, not fully aware’ he said, clearly wanting to move on from the topic

‘Mr Zapruder’s case is a little more complicated than that. What do you suppose “the past” means for a man who spent most of his younger life thousands of years in the future?’ she asked.

‘Okay his past then, the past as perceived by his inner world, by his own psychological chronology’ he replied, somewhat skeptically.

‘But there’s a problem isn’t there – his past has not yet occurred… do you see the paradox?’

Nash remained silent, thinking it over.

‘You’re right in saying that ordinary dementia sufferers are stuck in a kind of loop of the past’ she continued, ‘they see images from their younger years, from the chronological past, over and over. But Mr Zapruder’s younger years are way off in the distant future, and so he doesn’t see images from the past over and over… he sees the images from the future over and over. He’s reliving moments right now which will not happen for another 5000 years.’ Said Mona, her gaze now distant, awed.

‘Well can I still go in and see him? I need to write something about his condition at least, the world has a right to know’ said Nash.

‘Go ahead’, she replied ‘just don’t touch any of the wires or screens on his bed and don’t block his view of the screen, he likes to look out there, it seems to remind him of better times, of times yet to come. – oh and if he says anything about seeing the light, come and call me, he sometimes gets agitated after saying that for some reason and I might need to sedate him’

‘OK’ he answered simply.

She walked off towards the museum part of the ward where the other patients were, and Nash opened the door to Zapruder’s room, this time closing it gently behind him.

He made his way over to the bed, walking slowly, reverently, as if afraid to break the concentration of a Buddhist monk in deep meditation. Zapruder’s eyes were open wide, they were intelligent, brilliant emerald eyes, eyes still youthful and full of wonder, somehow separate from his shrunken, withering body.

‘It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr Zapruder’ whispered Nash, expecting and getting no answer.

Nash sat down on a chair placed next to the time-traveler’s bed. Nash found it much harder than Mona to keep talking without an answer, and preferred rather to sit in silence, to simply share the presence of this great man. Nash looked around at the many objects which rested on the tables around the bed. Mementos brought by friends, many new articles bearing his name.

Zapruder remained still and unmoving, and continued to gaze at the large screen. Nash looked over at the screen that kept Zapruder’s attention, and gazed at the stars for what seemed like a long time.

Then, as he gazed silently at the screen, he heard a faint voice behind him..

‘do you see the light?’ whispered Zapruder, his voice as delicate as the finest sheet of paper.

Nash looked around at him, stunned by the sudden emergence of his voice.

‘did you say something Louis? Something about the light?’ asked Nash

Zapruder continued to stare at the screen, silent. But he seemed more alert now. More aware. After a few more moments waiting for a response Nash again looked over at the screen and at the stars gently rolling by. He stood to go and fetch Mona, but caught something in the corner of his eye, something on the screen. A small light had appeared in the center of the screen, a little brighter than the other stars, gradually getting bigger. It started as only a minute spot of light, but it was growing with each second, getting slightly larger and brighter, like some glitch on screen, some programming flaw.

‘the light… see the light…’ muttered Louis again

‘yes. I think I see it too’ said Nash, hypnotised by the growing shimmer

After a few long moments the light seemed to take on more of a shape, more complexity, and Nash realised then that it wasn’t expanding at all, it was getting closer. Was there an asteroid programmed to appear on screen? Was this the white light that was causing Zapruder distress? As the seconds passed the object came nearer and nearer until it filled up almost 80% of the screen with it’s burning white light and then came a sudden flash.

At that exact moment the lights in the ward flickered off and on, and Nash could feel the floor of the ward rumble. Ripples appeared on the surface of the water in a glass on Louis’s bed.

‘impossible’ Nash muttered

But as he looked back to the screen he saw that there was now a crack in the dead center, a crack which was arcing outwards, like an invisible spider were weaving a web.

Just then Zapruder grabbed Nash’s hand, and looked straight into his eyes,

‘You see the light?’ he said urgently ‘then we must go from here’

Then the window to the room blew inwards and swept them both out into space.

***

 

marooned (impressionist-style poem based on Ben Gunn of Treasure Island)

stirring swirling lapping waves rushing flushing airways saline torrents congest coughs coughs face eclipsed buried harsh sands hands seething writhing bloody stumps bloody clumps sand silt streaming screaming veins gaping eels feels way sway swaying ashore sore eyes sand barbs bawls shallows shells shards coarse coursing veins visions fission distant muskets musk blood cough cough cacophony clamour clambering futile mutinies unfurling sails drawn dawn awning skies scarlet spatterings brushtrokes violets violence voices silence murmurs murders marooned doomed terror unfurling sails wails curling alone lost isle defiled landscape escape scraping crawling scrawling forwards towards luscious bush hush hush ushers utter dark stark silence islands sussurant hissing waves craves light slight light falls foliage verdant verandas phosphorescence essence enchanted pillars parasites pirouetting behemoth moths churning cirrus clouds cosmic dust must hide eyes watching bloody scent drawing clawing carving bark hark hunger slumber lumbers rasping clasping gasping grasping growth thunder undergrowth grumbling thundering stumbling flash lightning flash flare glare glancing glistening listening watching waiting hidden faces flash faces black white lattices markings dark things wings moth markings scars scoring flash moorings more eyes dread deadeyes striding nearer fear fiend foe find friend end near friend near fear ebbs foe flees please please panting wanting waiting .. waiting … waiting

Continue reading “marooned (impressionist-style poem based on Ben Gunn of Treasure Island)”

erosion (dystopia flash fic)

Bruno gazed at the giant TV screen which lit up his small apartment like a neon flare. Reams of paper coated the floor: pages of frantically scrawled notes, splayed case files, journal articles spattered with annotations, graphs, charts, mathematical diagrams and photographs. He had been glued to the screen for the past four hours, barely blinking. It was unlike Bruno, who, being a typical gym freak, was fidgety and itching to move around if he had been physically inactive for anything more than an hour. There were times when he had spent six hours straight working out on his virtual home gymnasium, fearing any even slight deviation from his racehorse-like physique. But these past few days, things had changed. Awake all hours of night, mostly reading scientific texts, newspapers, online articles, taking down ample notes. Before this, Bruno tended to read  little beyond the vacuous thoughts and ramblings of his like-minded buds on social media. now it was deep into the night, the curtains were still open wide, and the lights were all still switched off. Bruno’s apartment was on the twenty-third level, just about where the dense city fog lingered perpetually. Viewed from the dingy streets below, the flickering colours of the TV lit up the fog like sparking synapses in some elemental cerebellum. On screen were four figures intensely debating the latest victims of  experiments by Nadercorp, the company who, over thirty years ago, had first developed the technology capable of inducing mild telepathy, telethesia, and certain types of herd telekinesis in animals. The corporation had spent decades refining the technology, steadily working their way through the intelligence strata of the animal kingdom, and, in the past few years, had finally begun testing on volunteer human subjects. Millions had come forward, keen to go down in history as the very first telepaths; the first genuine superhumans. No doubt a great many of them had their own private agendas: they sought fame, money, power. Bruno himself had been one of these volunteers, hoping to dazzle the world with his sculpted abs and telepathic powers, like some ancient Greek hero reborn, a dazzling superman known and loved by all. many philosophers had predicted that the emergence of telepaths would eventually result in the creation of an exclusive ‘higher order’ of humans, and that in time, the non-telepath would become extinct. The technology had been controversial at first, but as animal success rates went up, and the scale of the surgery went down, fear and worry of the masses turned to intrigue and then to obsession. In the months following the first successful human implants the world waited in silent wonder, waiting for the first superhuman to emerge, the first god among mortals, the marker of what was to come… 

The device was a biotechnology: a microscopic implant which was installed into the inferior frontal cortex using a needle-sized drill. The inferior frontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for instinct. All animals have instinct to a greater or lesser degree, including humans. Back in 2020, two maverick scientists, Higson Nader and Eugene Laing, competitive and prodigious close friends and colleagues, discovered the potential to alter and reprogram instinct using a microscopic technology which manipulates electrical currents. Instinct is on a level beyond the 5 senses, and a universality among species. a vast prehistoric cache of unconscious knowledge which, if consciously tapped, can give the animal astounding capabilities. For the most part, humans have naively clung to the belief that to master instinct is to bury it. But to keep these primitive, animal urges in captivity is, as Freud proved almost two centuries ago, to suppress an intrinsic part of that which makes us human. Consider this, what if man were to gain complete control over these embedded animal instincts? To master fear, to obliterate greed, frustration, anxiety, the desire for revenge, to gain complete control over libidinal urges, to modulate adrenaline.. in short, to utterly dislocate oneself from the herd? with animals, It soon became apparent that this mastery over instinct gave rise to an obsequiousness among others of their species: implanted birds were able to control entire flocks from afar, implanted great apes were able to bend the will of the members of their troop with little more than a glance, forcing them to give up food, even perform sexual favours on a whim; one case led to thousands of inuits fleeing what had been their home for generations, after an implanted polar bear – normally solitary hunters – gathered the beasts in enormous numbers and began leading them south, to areas more fertile with prey.

Of course human beings are a great deal more complex than any other animal, and as such there was no telling how the implants might affect them. It was commonplace knowledge that one of the founders of Nadercorp, Professor Laing, had attempted to implant the technology on himself years before the trials even on the greater apes, a move which led to his breakdown and eventual institutionalisation. now, almost 2 years after the first human trials, after 2 years of waiting, of symptomless disappointment, as well as the hundreds of billions pumped into funding Nadercorp, and the countless hours dedicated by the world’s leading biologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, neurosurgeons, parapsychologists, you name it, the human test subjects were slowly but surely, losing their minds.. Of the 25 ‘lottery winners’ who had been selected, 12 were showing signs of acute mental disorder: experiencing delusions, hallucinations and withdrawal. It would seem that, much like the great Professor Laing, in coming into contact with this world of pure instinct they had began to lose touch with the real world around them.

Bruno, still tranced by the screen, watched an interviewer talking to two nondescript scientists, a nervous man and a stern, sharp-featured young woman:

‘the implants were installed successfully, the operations were a roaring success on that front, and the recovery rates were even more rapid than we’d anticipated, it is only the adjustment process that seems to be causing certain unforeseen… complications in the patients’ the male scientist argued shakily,

‘complications you say?! how many more test subjects do you plan to send mad whilst working around these complications then?’ returned the interviewer

‘what my colleague is trying to say is that we’re moving into vastly new territory here. The complexity of the human mind exceeds any structure in the known universe, we know more of the events which occured billions of years ago than we know of our own inner worlds for heavens sake.. as such, there has to be a much more complex assimilation process before the biotechnology can take proper effect’ said the woman

‘Are you then saying, that it may be the case that temporary insanity is a necessary step forward??’asked the interviewer

‘maybe, we can’t know for sure just yet. For now we have to work out, based on the reactions of the test-subjects, what effects the biotech is having, and formulate logical deductions. We know that other animals are still in touch with their instincts, still heavily reliant upon them, and so it makes sense that they are more easily able to tap them. Whereas humans of the modern civilised world are so used to burying instinct, suppressing it, that they are in a sense wholly detached from it.. It is therefore reasonable to assume that a human may be required to re-access and reawaken this buried atavistic aspect in order to regain access to the potential that the technology provides.. the human mind is thoroughly fixed in its ways, cordoned by logic and rationality, this makes it a far more intricate and complicated process than first thought’ she replied

‘yes’ the man cut in, clearly feeling somewhat overshadowed, ‘what we are seeing now is the next stage in human evolution, we cant expect it to be easy. This is the ‘cognitive erosion’ stage- where the mind chips away the concrete walls of civilised society, and reverts back to an early stage of pure instinct.. then, and only then, can humanity move onto the next stage of its journey’..

*

Bruno awoke early the next day. he showered and dressed unconsciously, then made his way down to the tired streets below. The air was rank, the pavement and edges of the road packed with litter like the silt deposits at the side of a fast-flowing river. He headed round the corner to the alley where he parked his old rust-crusted mustang. it woke  unwillingly and the engine coughed like a hundred year old smoker. He drove out towards the edge of the city until the entire world seemed made up of gigantic warehouses and abandoned factory buildings. One of the buildings, behind a thick metallic weave of barbed wire, had a graffitied sign that could be seen just beyond the  fence. COOMBESMEAD PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL. Bruno noticed a little way up there was a truck-sized hole in the barbed fence – it seemed that there were already others here. Bruno drove through the hole and approached the large arched entryway to the hospital. In front of the building there was a few dozen other vehicles, haphazardly abandoned with doors open wide. a few cabs aldo, their drivers stood confusedly by their cars, looking towards the entrance but not quite working the courage to go any closer. Bruno left his car and walked to the hospital entrance. he went in, and as he got deeper inside, he saw patients wandering dazedly in their white-walled purgatory, hovering between worlds, unphased and uninterested by the new stream of people walking their bleached halls. .. no sign of doctors or hospital staff. Bruno came to a room at the rear of the building, in which there was a crowd of people huddled together. One man was sat on a doctor’s swivel chair at the very center of them. He wore a lab jacket, and had written in red ink – Professor Eugene Laing. Laing was expressionless, totally at ease. he radiated authority. deep in the echochamber of all their minds, all those who stood about him, including Bruno, Laing’s voice spoke to them with godly authority: the next stage in human evolution is here

***

NB: cover image is ‘Streets’ by Sanchiko on deviantart