Banyon and his choice: Complete short story

Sir Banyon looked out over the battlements above the gate.

Banyon could see the small fires burning in the distance. There was movement in front of and behind the flames.

He strained, but he could not hear the crackling of wood, in fact, he could not hear much of anything. A profound silence had come with the darkness.

It was so quiet that Banyon could hear the dull thud of his heart. Banyon looked out to the ocean of darkness before the gate. The glisten of large blinking eyes gave away the horde that waited beyond the gate. Banyon reached out and steadied himself on the stone wall. He slumped forward taking the weight off his feet.

“Sir Banyon, the Queen, requests your company,” said a voice from below. Banyon straightened himself up and descended the ladder.

At ground level, Banyon observed the scene. Foot soldiers were busying themselves, sharpening swords and reinforcing barricades. Banyon saw a one-foot soldier with wood standing staring at the gate lever. The foot soldier was in a trance. Banyon approached him.

“Let me lighten your load,” Banyon said taking several blocks from the soldier. The soldier did not respond. “Hey,” Banyon said, the soldier turned to face him, “Let’s get these logs to the shed”.

Banyon and the foot soldier deposited the wood in a shed. “Here, you have my permission to take some extra soup,” Banyon said handing the soldier a coin. The foot soldier nodded and ran in the direction of the mess hall.

Banyon saw Vrigamere talking with some other men. They huddled around a map illuminated by an overhead lamp. Vrigamere saw Banyon approaching and dismissed his council.

“The queen has requested your presence,” Vrigamere said.

“I am aware if she dies of waiting that is a better end than the rest of us are likely to meet,” Banyon said.

“You are more likely to die from making her wait.”

“See how highly strung the men are. The gate lever speaks to them; I caught a man listening”

“The orcs don’t have access to such wizardry.”

“I don’t think they do either. Whatever the cause of bewitchment all it takes is one pull, and our planning has been for nought.”

“We could sabotage the contraption,” said Vrigamere.

“No I don’t want to go down in history as the one who broke the Grand Gate of Tulluthcarr,” Banyon said.

“You don’t need to worry about going down in history sir, I’ve heard the songs that orcs sing to each other”

“I want an archer in the west tower. If someone comes within a pikes distance, then you are to shoot them until dead.”

“Yes sir, permission to speak freely.”

“Always”

“You look, terrible sir, get some sleep.”

“I reckon that I only have a few more hours of consciousness left in this life, I want to see as much as I can,” Banyon said. A soldier approached Vrigamere, “Right to see what her highness wants”. The two men saluted each other. Banyon walked in the direction of the keep.

Tulluthcarr was a shadow of its former self. Once a jewel of the west now a groove where a jewel once laid. The cobbled stones that were the streets were always wet despite it having not rained in over a week.

Banyon was glad that it was dark. The city in the sunlight made him sad. Emaciated women were carrying skeletal children. Sometimes the babes in arms were already dead. People wanting to separate mother and the dead newborns. Not to ease her suffering but that they might get nourishment.

The orc invasion took Talluthcarr by surprise. Banyon remembered submitting reports of orc advancement. Banyon also recalled superiors casting aside those reports.

“Orcs are creatures of habit. They never venture a days journey from their cave,” Sir Igniol said at one of the conflict councils.

Banyon remembered arguing for reinforcements in the outer townships. Banyon was right; they were wrong. He was alive; they were dead. Banyon envied his fallen colleagues. Eternal rest, no decisions to make.

As Banyon made his way towards the keep, he heard a groaning. He looked towards the source of the sound. Banyon could make out the silhouette of a group of children picking at something. Banyon put a hand on his sword and approached.

“Get get” shouted Banyon pulling his sword halfway out of the sheath.

The children hissed and scattered. Banyon stood over what they had been picking at, an old man. The children had gnawed the fingers from his left hand.

“Thank you, sir,” the old man said, frail, hard to hear.

“They will return once I have left,” Banyon said.

“I know sir, could you afford me small mercy?” The old man said. Banyon nodded.

Banyon knelt down close in front of the old man and removed a small knife.

“My biggest fear was the birds would eat my corpse, not the young to eat my living body. I was a traveller from” the old man started, but Banyon cut him off.

“Old man I will do my utmost to ease your suffering, quicken your passing. Please, the last thing the air need carry is another tale of woe. Now, give me your hand.” Banyon said taking off a glove. “Your good hand, that’s it”

“I don’t need my palm read, I know my fate,” said the old man, smile on his face.

“You have a good humour old man considering your circumstance, but I don’t wish to tell you your future,” Banyon said.

“Then what need have you for my hand, I hope you are not peckish yourself.”

“When I part from this plane I would like someone to hold my hand. I would rather feel the warmth of another rather than the cold of steel. Look at the stars; the clerics say that is where we come from and that is where we return”.

Banyon slid the blade underneath the old man’s ribcage as he spoke. The old man gasped, shuddered and was dead.

Banyon watched the old man for a moment longer to make sure that he was gone. The knight continued along the road to the keep.

Banyon entered the keep.

He could see the aristocracy, their little dress half eaten by insects. They may have nibbled on it themselves in their struggle with hunger.

Banyon smiled and walked towards the stairwell. Before he got there a guard with sunken eyes stopped him.

“Sir, the Queen, requests your company in the throne room,” the sunken-eyed guard said.

“The throne room is back in the palace, no one goes to the palace,” said Banyon.

“That was the old one; there is a new one now in the ale store,” sunken eyes said. Banyon nodded and went on his way.

The door to the ale store had become lopsided and dragged along the ground. It was heavy as Banyon lifted it to open more. Upon entering Banyon saw the barrels and at the far end, there was the queen. A throne of barrels improvised for her to sit. As Banyon approached, he saw Miregard on her left-hand side. Someone was standing before them, slouched forward, head bowed. It was not until Banyon passed the person that he could see that it was Flotsom. Flotsam the court jester, a grey blanket, holes left by moths covering a long stained shirt. Barefoot, bare legged, cuts on every part of exposed flesh and knees shaking.

Banyon approached the throne, bowed then instructed to rise with a gesture from the queen.

“Gald that you could join us Sir Banyon,” Miregard said.

“To be of service is to live in pleasure,” Banyon said.

“A great injustice has occurred,” said Miregard

“Yes, the men are exhausted. We’re not getting the required reinforcements.”

“Silence,” the queen said.

“We talk not of military matters, something far closer to home,” Miregard said.

“I see,” said Banyon.

“That is why you are to bear witness to this trial”

“Formal trials can wait for there is a far more pressing one that we must deal with.”

“How do you expect an army to stand united if there is discord in the ranks?”

“You speak of mutiny?” said Banyon

“Worse, insubordination, Flotsom has been found to be a dealer of offensive material.”

“Present it then,” said Banyon.

“It is not physical; it is spoken, the words wildfire burning through the keep.”

“He is a jester; it is his job to lighten the mood of the court.”

“Not when the queen herself put restrictions on merriment, Flotsom is in breach.”

“And I am to be his defence,” said Banyon

“No, we have you here as a formality, to bear witness, so that there are no accusations of a secret trial. When they ask you was justice done, you are to say yes.”

“As a knight, it is one of my sacred duties. If you want me to respond in the affirmative, then I must see justice done.”

“You always find a way to slow progress,” Miregard said.

“You’re trying to say that killing someone over the killing of a joke is the most important matter for us right now. I disagree with that; there are far more pressing concerns upon us that need to be addressed.”

“And you will want to attend those concerns promptly, all you need to do is agree to the set conditions.”

“I would ask to postpone the trial until a later date. Provided there is one.”

“It would take more effort to abandon the trial now. Seeing as it is so close to the end of proceedings, all you need to do is say yes.”

“I must know what I agree to.”

“You know Banyon, your insistence on slowing us down is what is causing the real problems.”

“Fine, get on with it.”

“Well, we were wrapping up, closing statements.”

“I need to see the evidence.”

“Repeat yourself Banyon; I did not hear you.”

“I am to send a man to his death over a joke then at least let me hear it so that I may judge.”

“That would not be appropriate.”

“Unless he has denied that he has told the joke.”
“That is irrelevant; it doesn’t matter if he told the joke or not.”

“You don’t even know if he told the joke, that isn’t fair,” said Banyon.

“He is the court jester; he has a responsibility for humour.”

“Flotsom, the devils come for you.”

“Do not speak of devils in these times.”

“The joke, let me hear it.”

Miregard looked at Flotsom and nodded.

“It’s more visual humour than anything,” Flotsom said lying down on the stone floor. Flotsom lay on his back. Folding himself in two, bringing his legs over his head he began to moan and convulse as if possessed by a demon.

“I don’t get it; this is neither funny or offensive,” Banyon said.

“Hold on,” Miregard said, “Flotsom, tell me the name of this piece.”

“I call it, “The Queen next week,” Flotsom said.

“Right that is enough,” said Miregard. Flotsom got back to his feet. There was a smirk noticeable on his face.

“That isn’t a joke Miregard,” said Banyon.

“I agree it was the worse judged attempt at humour I have ever seen.”

“That’s not what I am saying. A joke is a small truth exaggerated. What Flotsom did was a big truth diminished. Nothing in that act was untrue. Flotsom is being tried for telling the truth.”

“Remember yourself Sir Banyon,” the Queen said.

“With how things are going, Flotsom’s piece will be regarded as an act of prophecy. The orc will get through that gate, and they will take you as plumbers do an old pipe. They will plug every leak.”

“There is no need to be so coarse.”

“There may be no need, but there are those out there who will not care for need and only concern themselves with want. As for me and my needs. I need to get back to the gate.”

“If you need to get back to the gate then there is nothing stopping you except for one thing.”

Banyon looked at Flotsom. Flotsom raised his head and met Sir Banyon’s gaze.

“The kingdom is at stake,” Banyon said.

“I understand Sir,” Flotsom said. “I would sooner be dead than the horror that will be coming through that gate. You lot will look at me with envy. Her highness will wish that those who have their way were as gentle as my joke. Although roughness
may give her the pleasure that she so badly needs.”

“Get on with it,” the Queen said.

“Very well,” said Miregard. Miregard turned went out through a door and when he returned there was an axe wielder with him.

Banyon took off a glove. A crate was dropped in front of Flotsom. The axe-wielder forced Flotsom to his knees and his head on the box. Banyon approached and held Flotsom’s hand.

“Get away from him,” Miregard said.

“I only mean to help ease his passing.”

“His passing should not be easy; he was instigating insubordination.”

“Fine, then I am no longer needed here. Dismiss me so that I may be able to return to the gate.”

“Very well,” The Queen said.

Banyon bowed and left for the gate.

As Banyon approached the gate, he saw the lever. Banyon continued to walk towards the lever. He heard their shouts and cries. Banyon felt the strike of the arrows. Banyon slowed but continued forward. More arrows, his hand reached the lever.

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Surry gation Anxiety: Complete short story

Date with a Surry

“I have a date. With my surry” Derrick said without warning. The waitress set the drink on the table in front of him.

“Sure,” she replied uninterested, unphased and, unlistening. Derrick looked up; an overhead light shone in his eyes. The shine stopped him from reading the name badge. It prevented him from personalising the interaction any further.

Derrick flashed a brief, fake smile at her silhouette standing over him. She in her politeness returned the gesture.

As she turned to walk away, he finally saw the name Ciara emblazoned on the badge.

She must be new as he had never encountered her before. Ciara, the waitress, walked back over to her till on the other side of the cafe.

The cafe had few people in it, couples. They were cosying up to one another as unending soft jazz filtered into patron’s ears.

The shop floor was expansive, littered with round tables and hard chairs. If there was ever a need, it could seat one hundred, but there never was.

The café’s popularity had waned since it was opening many years ago.

Now the skeleton crew that was its staff did all it could to keep it ticking over.

Derrick still liked the place and was one of the few remaining regulars. Derrick came to this cafe for two reasons; the first was for meeting his surry. The second was they did the best hot chocolates in town.

Derrick looked down at his beverage, the awning of the cup chocked with cream and marshmallow. He thought that they always skimped on the marshmallow, even when he paid for extra.

Derrick plucked a marshmallow from the cup. He held it to his mouth and sucked it from his hand swallowing it in one gulp. He looked at the cream that was making the descent from his fingers to his wrist.

Derrick licked each finger. He had now created a clean patch on his skin. Derrick knew he would have to shower but leaving it another day or two wouldn’t make much difference.

Taking a spoon, Derrick began fishing out the clumps of grime.

Derrick tried not to push the flecks into the melting mallows. He pushed the dark intruders to one side of the cup. Lifting them out so as not to let them slip through the tiny gap between cup and spoon.

Derrick grew impatient, pressed the spoon too hard and managed to tip the cup over. Derrick did all he could to save the contents of the cup.

The teaspoon slid across the table. It slipped through a gap between the table and window. The spoon hit the ground near his feet. Derrick did his best to locate the spoon with his feet.

After a considerable struggle, he relented. Derrick and bent down to perform a more thorough search. At his size, even this small task put a strain on his heart causing his breath to shorten.

Looking down he could not see the spoon but knew that it was there somewhere. Derrick managed to get the spoon back to hand by pure chance.

Derrick sat upright.

Another man had joined him at the table.

“Are you trying to give me a heart attack Nick?” Derrick said, “Because I can’t pay you if I’m dead.”

“Are you trying to give me a heart attack Nick?” Derrick said, “Because I can’t pay you if I’m dead.”

“You can’t still be at risk? You’re looking much better these days,”, Mick said.

Nick always complimented Derrick’s appearance at the beginning of their interactions. This was partly to encourage him but more because he had nothing to say.

Derrick had transformed over the period that the two had known each other.

Derrick’s face was becoming one with his chin which in turn was joining his neck.

Derrick’s face was more akin to that a miserable cliff than that of a human. “How’s work?” Nick said to curtail an ever-expanding silence.

“Don’t talk to me about it, another mine closed,” Derrick said.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Nick said, “Something will come along.”

“Thank goodness; I was almost worrying.”

“You’ve been through worse.”

“I have?”

“You always pull through.”

“Otherwise we’d be done,” Derrick said.

“And we wouldn’t want that.”

“Unless you want to work for free?”, Derrick said. The lack of response from Nick spoke volumes, “Thought so.”

“I’m a diligent employee but not a charity. You wouldn’t want to give a surry no money. They find a way of getting paid.”

“So you are like the others?” Derrick said.

“I’m speaking on behalf of the unpaid surries out there. You keep a flow going so, that scenario isn’t applicable. Have you given any more thought to that cruise?”

“Seeing as I may be running out of money in the next month or so I’ll say it’s received the appropriate amount of thought.”

“thought I’d mention it.”

“If you want to top up your tan, do it on your own time.”

“I do.”

“Your natural tan then.”

“What’s the difference?” Nick said, “You should consider getting one yourself, you’ll look even healthier.”

“More money I don’t have spent on things I don’t want. I like that, put that on my gravestone.”

“I’ll never get that self-deprecation thing you do down. It’s the one part of you I haven’t got right.”

“It’s not self-deprecating when it’s true.”

“You need a holiday.”

“I do, but when I get the chance, I want to be the one going on it.”
Derrick said.

“You will.”

“I mean physically,” Derrick said. He had drunk the majority of his hot chocolate. Melted mallow sat at the bottom of the cup, turning into a gooey mush, unable to move, trapped. Derrick reached in dragged it up the side of the cup and placed it in his mouth and gulped.

“Shall we?” Nick asked.

Derrick nodded.

Nick leaned over and opened up the black satchel beside his feet. He took out a device with several ports and placed it in the centre of the table, the Emphatic 2.2. Not the latest model but it did the job.

“You’re going to have to update that soon,” Derrick said looking down at the device. The device had a few more blemishes on it’s surface than it did the last time. “Some of those early memories are starting to get a little fuzzy,” Derrick said.

“Degradation’s part of it.”

“Forgetting is happening too quickly for my liking.”

“If you want a clearer longer lasting memory I’ll have to upgrade the hardware. I need money for that, and since you’re the only one I surry for, it’s up to you.”Nick said.

Nick took out a small display and attached it to the Emphatic. Images flashed before his eyes. Derrick tried to get a look. “Do you want to see it or do you want to remember it?”.

Derrick said nothing, he sat back in his chair, folded his arms and looked out to the street. The steady traffic of people was becoming more infrequent. The business district was shut down for the evening.

Derrick looked back over to Nick.

“What’s taking so long?” Derrick asked.

“I wouldn’t want any of my memories getting in there. It’d bore you, gym, football, meaningless one night stands and way too much masturbation. Nothing you’d want to see.” Nick said.

“Name a price,”

“They’re not for sale,” Nick said. Derrick’s eyes narrowed, “And on that note here we are, date night. Before we go on, I’m going to need payment up front this time.” Derrick was silent, “I have a few outstanding payments with other people, I need it now.” said Nick.

“You can’t wait a few minutes?”

“Oh I can, it’s just that the people I owe to, can’t.”

“You taking again?” asked Derrick.

“Couple of previous clients are in there pretty deep. Every time I think I’m rid of them, those memories come bubbling back up. Wouldn’t want that interfering with yours”, Nick said.

“Get them vaped, I’ll pay for that”

“I’ve heard vaping causes long-term memory damage, I’ve been getting some Ignoral from a friend.”

“This friend, the impatient one?”

“Send me your dignautre”. Derrick took out his phone, made a few gestures and then looked at Nick. Nick took out his phone and received a notification.

Derrick watched as Nick sent the money on, “That should brighten up some people’s evening”. Nick put his phone away and smiled at Derrick, “It’s ready.” Nick said.

Derrick put on the headgear. It looked odd but was minimal enough not to attract too much attention, not that anybody would care. An image faded in, Derrick sees through Nick’s eyes. The image flickers. “Could you mute the blinking?” Derrick asked.

Nick did so.

The image remains constant. Derrick is in a room, a familiar one, his bedroom. Derrick in Nick’s body sits on a futon. He picks up the drink beside him and downs it in one. A tap runs in an en-suite. Steam floats through the door into the bedroom and dissipates. The flow of the tap stops and a woman exits the en-suite.

Stands and walks towards her. Their hands meet, fingers rub and stroke against each other. Derrick notices the woman wearing a beautiful yellow dress accentuating her tan. Something else catches his eye.

“She prettied it up,” Derrick said to himself in the cafe unheard by Nick.

A pale pink line starts between her breasts goes down her chest. The accident happened early on in their marriage. One day she was a keen cyclist the next she was not.

Derrick wondered if Nick ever noticed the scar if it gives him shivers the same way it did him. There were certain things that Nick could give to Derrick’s wife. Some things were only ever going to be between Derrick and Catlin.

Catlin asks if they can talk. Derrick let out a sigh, “Forward” he said to Nick. Nick obliged him.

The images speed up.

Through the talking, which goes on for quite a while and through a cab journey. Time slows and resumes normal speed in a cinema. His hand reaches down and picks up popcorn and shovels it into his mouth.

“Salted?” Derrick tastes it, “Why am I eating salted?”

“Ladies choice,” Nick said, although he is only inches away his voice is that of a disembodied ghost in his head. Did Nick eat salted deliberately Derrick wondered.

“What the hell am I watching”, Derrick demanded.

The film has subtitles, there is no way Derrick would ever watch this kind of thing by choice. Catlin loved this kind of movie. Due to strict anti-piracy laws concerning surries, Derrick could never see top-tier blockbusters. Derrick could never understand what he wanted.

Derrick becomes impatient, “Give me a breakdown.”

“Croatian, first time director. Has a rawness that comes through in the camera work. The minimal story doesn’t quite adhere to logic. Several strong vignettes deal with life after a war”. Nick said.

“Any tits?” Derrick asked.

“No,”

“Forward”.

The images speed up again.

Derrick is sitting with Catlin in a restaurant, food in front of him. A fork in his hand delivers the meat to his mouth.

Sensors in the Emphatic fire up taste synapses. It’s a sweet chicken dish causing Derrick’s mouth back in the cafe to salivate. An inferno ignites in Derrick’s mouth.

“What the hell is this?”

“Chicken Bhuna”

“My brain is going to make my IBS flare up, you know that right, my brain is stupid like that”, Derrick said.

First salted popcorn, now spicy food. Nick was doing this deliberately. Nick was messing with him.

“Derrick, Derrick?” comes a voice from somewhere out of eye line. A man stands at the table, hand thrust out, Bill Carthage. “Great to see you here Derrick, Catlin. Derrick, have you got a chance to review those forms?”

“Did I get them?” Derrick asked Nick back in the cafe.

“You never gave me anything to say.”

In the restaurant, there is silence.

“Take your time sure and get back to me on that,” Bill says, he walks away, returning to a table to sit on his own.

Derrick smiles, for all his looks, his style and colossal wealth Bill seems to have a pretty empty existence. Bill is proof that nice guys finish alone.
Catlin spoke, “Derrick, can we talk?”.

“Does she ever want to do anything else? If I wanted to talk to her, I would make time for her. Let’s skip to the good stuff” Derrick said.

“Sure?”, Nick asked.

“Yes, I am sure,” Derrick said, his impatience growing. The images sped up once more until Derrick recognises his bedroom again,

“Here we go.”

Derrick was kissing his wife through Nick; he could taste her. Derrick enjoyed the kiss, and it manifested itself as a slight groan in the cafe. Nick heard it only slightly.

“Are you sure about this?” Catlin asked.

“Jesus Christ I am sure,” Derrick said.

In the memory, Nick answers on Derrick’s behalf in the affirmative.

Catlin turns and goes into the bathroom. The lights in the room dim. Her figure emerges, silhouetted by the bathroom light.

The light turns off.

She disappears into the bed under the covers. Nick undresses as he dives into a sea of blanket and comfort. Derrick feels the tingling begin in his crotch. The pleasure was cascading down his spine like warm water.

Derrick sees the main reason he hires Nick. While Derrick may not be able to give his wife the pleasure she deserves, but he can afford a person who could.

Derrick feels the passion of their kissing, her body relaxing into his. He slides into her with ease.

Both inhale sharply.

If Derrick were ever to try to do something similar, it would take far longer than this. Fatigue would set in before anything substantial had occurred. Even if he could rise to the occasion, the centre would not hold.

This was the best alternative for everyone. The surrogate was carrying out the physical tasks of being a husband. Derrick would provide the much-needed finance. The kissing stops. She rolls on her stomach. Fingers wetted, and nipples rubbed. His right-hand pushes her upper half down and shapes her back to bring her ass up further.

Derrick’s brain can’t tell the real from memory. Electrons fire, sending messages throughout Derrick’s body.

Derrick tenses up, and his breathing restricts. It takes a moment for Derrick to reassure his body that this isn’t real and to enjoy it.

Back in the cafe, Derrick’s moans increased in volume and length. Nick was aware and becoming more uncomfortable. He had heard the groans of his employer before, but repeated exposure did not make them any more bearable.

Nick cast a stealthy glance across the cafe to make sure that they were not arousing any suspicion. No one seemed to notice. Everyone was wrapped up in themselves. Everyone except the waitress who was staring right at Nick. She knew exactly what was going on.

Derrick went quiet, tilting his head. Nick watched him.

“Go back,” Derrick said.

“No, review it in your own time.”

“Something’s not right.”

“I have places to be.”

“Go back and pause.”

“Alright, say when” Nick rewound date night. Derrick signalled him to stop. The evening froze before him, his wife on her back with her face obscured by a pillow. “You can review this as much as you want in your own time”.

Derrick sat motionless. Within the viewer, his eyes scanned the room.

He had seen something that struck him as not right, but he ignored that notion. Finally, Derrick realised that what was wrong was not what was there but what wasn’t there.

“Where’s her scar?” Derrick asked. The question set off an avalanche of other issues that were in his mind. Derrick noticed something in the image. Off on the sidelines, a slight light reflected in what limited glow there was in the room. There was a person in the bathroom watching the pair make love.

The light was reflecting of glitter, glitter used to pretty up a scar, his wife’s scar. It was Catlin standing in the bathroom, watching him. Who was having their face mashed into the headboard?

Nick would know. Derrick removed the headgear to find an envelope sitting in front of him. Derrick opened the envelope and withdrew its contents. “Divorce,” Derrick said,

“Where did this come from?”

“My bag.”

“That’s not what I meant”

“It’s been there a while.”

“What are you talking about, she hasn’t said anything.”

“She has you just skipped those parts,” Nick said, Derrick looked at him blankly.

“Put it on.”, Derrick said.

Derrick put the headset back on. Nick manipulated the evening taking him back to the start of the evening where she first wanted to talk.

“Derrick, this is it,” Catlin says within the memory, “Derrick if you go through with this it’s over. I can’t wait forever, please this isn’t a memory you want to own, is there anything you have to say?” Derrick had not been keeping up with his memories, so Nick sat silently in the room, “OK”, she said.

Derrick took off the headset and looked up at Nick, “I’m going to have to ask for that money back.”

“You already bought it, and the money is gone, you consented to this memory.”

“You tricked me, you never gave me any warning.”

“It’s not up to me to warn you, I get the memories, it’s up to you to remember,” Nick said.

“This isn’t fair.”

“You know what isn’t fair, having to sit and watch a wonderful person ripped apart. Having to hear her plead with you but I can’t respond because you can’t even bother to listen. The worst thing is that she was always going to give you a chance after chance. You were going to keep ignoring her so yes, I wasn’t entirely honest. If you had been doing your bit, listening, you wouldn’t have fallen for it. ”

“You’re not supposed to get involved.”

“You’re not supposed to be skimming my pay. Like I said surries find a way of getting even.”

“Now what?”

“Fire me.” Nick packed his gear away and rose from the table. Derrick sat unblinking, unsure of what happened. Nick left the cafe. Derick remained there for quite some time.

Nick walked down the street, a smile crept onto his face. He smiled because he got one over on his former employer and because now they were free to be together. He saw Catlin parked up ahead. Nick tried to keep calm, but his step quickened. Catlin didn’t see Nick. He approached her passenger side. He knocked on the window she looked up at him and lowered.

“Nick”, she said.

“Where are we off to?”

“We?”, she looked around, “Oh.” Bill Carthage exited the restaurant and got into the car beside Catlin. Bill ignored Nick.

“What’s this?” Nick asked.

“You didn’t, I am so sorry, I thought you knew,” she said, “I mean you’re a surry for god’s sake.”

“I thought.”

“Surries shouldn’t think”.

“Shall we?” Bill said interjecting.

Catlin nodded, she gave a look at Nick. The car disappeared around a corner.

A woman approached Nick, she was pretty and had a big smile on her face.

“Nick,” she said, “It’s me, Catlin, we have a date.”

“Sure”.

Nights out are a scam

Nights out v night in

Nights out are a thing of the past.

You’re sitting in your house in your favourite seat. The lighting is soft, and you have your head back on the cushion. You’re content, you have a glass in your hand filled with inexpensive wine. You might not be much of a wine drinker, but you like this wine. This is because A, it cost a fiver and B, it’s actually tasty wine, which you didn’t think was a thing that could exist.

You catch a few words from the music playing in the background. You never considered yourself a Daft Punk fan. However the repetition of “sweat” makes you think that one day you should check out more of their work.

Your friend, the one that every group has is telling that story again. The one about the neighbours’ dog and the bath bomb. You’ve heard it a million times before, but you’re always surprised at yourself when you laugh. It’s when they get to the part where the dog almost gets put down due to the cranberry scented foam dripping from it’s jaw. Has more truth been added onto the story with each progressive telling? Yes. Does that make the story any less entertaining? No.

Then that other friend that groups attract voices their thoughts. You know what friend I’m talking about, they’re only ever tenuously connected to the group. No one has any problem with them. Whenever you prod other group members all that they can tell you is that they are “nice” and “haven’t done anything to me”. They haven’t done anything to you either. However, the idea of being alone with them for any amount of time makes you break out in a cold sweat. Let’s hear what they have to say.

“Let’s go out,” they say.

“We’re all good here,” the de facto leader of your group says.

“C’mon I really want to go out,” they say doubling down. You know how this interaction plays out. Everyone is having a good time, and no one wants to cause a fight. Somehow this minority of one gets their way. Every single time. You have your objections, but you get told that you’re being stubborn. You’re outvoted, you end up going out.

I have my own hypothesis as to why this particular kind of person always insists on going out. It’s not the subject of this blog, but you can have this as a bonus. These people crave loud environments. Not because they are party animals but because they need to distract you. Distract you from the fact that they don’t have much in the way of a functional personality. They don’t like quiet environments. This is because it only serves to draw attention to the fact that they have nothing to say.

As this is a hypothetical scenario, let’s ask them why they want to go out in the first place.

“Why do you want to go out?” you ask them.

“Well while I like this wine that is £5 a bottle but wouldn’t you far instead be paying £5 per glass. Another reason that I want to go out, see the way we can all see each other and hear each other, I don’t like that. Why not having just constant noise and pumping music in our ear so that you and I get headaches. We’re also in the same room together. Let’s exchange that for all of us getting separated and not talking to each other for the remainder of the night. When I look around, I noticed that we all have enough space let’s put a stop to that an make moving a couple of feet a chore. That’s what a real fun night is all about.

A realisation

You get to that point in your teens were you are too old for kiddies stuff and too young for adult stuff. That doesn’t stop you from trying. Fake IDs, trying to get on like it’s no big deal because you go to places all the time. Memorising details of a degree you aren’t taking all that nonsense. When you get in it’s something else. You’re cool you’re finally in. You rebel.

Then you turn 18, and you spend the next couple of years going out to the bar or club every Saturday. You get drunk on Saturday and spend the rest of Sunday recovering. One day completely has gone.

Something happens in your mid to late twenties. You’re out one night, and you think to yourself, “I hate this, not now but I’ve always hated this. I only ever went along with it because everyone else went along with it.”

You find it to be a relief, the truth has set you free.

Why do you go for a night out?

To stand near people.

People don’t actually like all the trappings of going out. Humans are social beings, and this is an excuse to stand among people.

The more you think about it, the more you realise that I’m right. What advantages does going out have over staying in?

At home, the drink is much cheaper. You can discriminate against who comes to your house, and you get to put the music to a reasonable level. You can get a drink whenever you want. No queueing necessary.

People just want to stand in groups.

Further proof, why do we still shop? Everything is available online. There is no reason why supermarkets should even have as much foot traffic as they do. The reason you do is that you want to be close to other people and other people want to be close to you.

Want proof?

Next time you are in a supermarket stand next to the most unpopular item you can find. People will be drawn to you.

I’m going out tonight, and I’m kind of dreading it. I feel that I have been prepared to know what the real reason is for doing so.

Now that you know why people want to go out maybe you’ll have a bit more ammunition to say no.

Expiry Date

An expiry date is something everything has.

You could be forgiven thinking that I had entirely given up on romance. For a while I had. As far as I was concerned most relationships were having to do boring stuff I didn’t want to.

Old Rules

There are many different rules in a relationship that I never really cared to get my head around.

You’re told that you should always be honest with your partner yet when you’re at some mind-numbingly boring event that you’re told “would be good to go to” and this person you’re in a relationship turns to you and says “You don’t look like you’re enjoying yourself” the worst thing that you can do is reply “I’m not”

Don’t get me started on the never-ending food debate that occurs.

Them: “What do you want to do about food?”
Me: “I’m good.”
Them “You pick somewhere.”
Me “Pizza”
Them “We had that recently”
Me “Mexican”
Them “At this hour.”

Again I’m terrible at this because I don’t really care about food. You might need endless variety in your diet, not me. I’ll eat the same meal for weeks on end. Then I’ll get bored and switch over to something else, and the cycle begins anew.

I get that from my granny. She was never a big eater. I remember her on many occasions sitting at the head of the table, barely touching her own food while looking around at the rest of us at the table and bemoaning how she would have thought by now that science would have invented a pill that would supply you with all your nutrients so that you wouldn’t have to bother to eat. I hear your granny, the future promised us a lot. Where’re our hoverboards?

I’ve drifted wildly off point, you’ll have to forgive me at some point.

Where was I?

Renewed hope

Oh yes, I was mostly done with the relationships for the foreseeable. I have this urge to be liked which would usually end up with me being deeply unhappy in the relationship and putting up with a lot of things that I didn’t like.

You know where this is headed right?

You’re smart, and that’s why you’re reading this. I met someone who destroyed all my misconceptions of what a relationship could be.

Already gone

She left Belfast for good this morning.

Now you’re probably thinking that’s sad and it’s a shame. It’s actually not. Although we only spent a short time together, it was way more enjoyable than my last couple of relationships.

When we first started dating she was going for an interview for a job in London. Turns out she got it, when that happened I backed off a bit because a part of me thought that I was never going to see her again and that would be that.

A few weeks went by and then she got in touch again, and we reconnected and here’s the thing, I was glad that she did.

I’ve never had so much fun in a relationship. You’re probably thinking, it didn’t last that long, so you were still in the honeymoon stage, so it doesn’t count. You could be right, but there were so many signs that things would have been just as good in the long term.

First of all, I was never meant to feel guilty for telling the truth. If you want me to be honest with you, don’t make me feel sorry for doing it because it is just as handy for me to lie if it means a comfortable life.

Sometimes I’ll be honest to annoy people. People tell you that you should always know the truth, but few consider what that means.

Good time, not a long time

What I really enjoyed about the relationship was that there was an end in sight. It was out of our hands to an extent. There was no awkwardness or having to have conversations about “Where it’s going” and I felt all the more free for having it like that. She could walk at any time, but I could be myself, I could afford to let the mask slip.

Letting the mask slip is essential for me. It’s funny how you will hear the first world feminists tell you that men need to open up more about their feelings. Great in theory. Men have you ever made yourself genuinely vulnerable before a partner if you haven’t, don’t. By all means, tell them your concerns but for the love of God do not understand them your innermost thoughts. Men’s opinions are deep and dark. Most women can’t handle them.

I was fortunate enough to find someone who allayed my fears, and I didn’t have to reveal those thoughts. She kept a favourable cheerful disposition, and that meant that I didn’t get too profoundly at any point. Let’s be honest men and women approach problems differently. Men think every issue has a solution, women have a “speak the devil’s name to cast him out” strategy.

Take away

What am I trying to say in the course of this writing? You’ve been reading along thinking is there a point?

I’ve been standing at my chest of drawers typing away on my laptop thinking to myself, where am I going with this?

If you’re going to take anything away from this let it be as follows.

The universe or whatever you want to call it conspires to make hypocrites of us all at some point. You and I both know that person who has given up on finding someone, next thing you know they’re engaged. Maybe verbally stating to someone that you aren’t going to do something is the first step to doing it. Try it and let me know how you get on.

You can be content in a relationship. This is one that took me by surprise. You are maybe fortunate enough to have already worked this one out for yourself. I’ve always thought that part of being in a relationship was that there was still a base level of discomfort when you were with someone. This is the first relationship I’ve been in in a long time where the other person has been thoroughly chill.

Caring is overrated

You don’t need to care so much. Caring, and this is something that I’m going to tell you about in more detail at a later date, is overrated. Take life as it comes and make the most of what you got as it happens. The future and the past don’t exist so don’t worry about it.

A few years ago if something like this had happened, I would have been bitter that it was over and how it was so unfair. Not me of today. I’m happy that I got to have the time that I did.

If you ever read this.

Thank you, Saba.

Suicide: Some ugly thoughts

Suicide is on the rise

Suicide and suicidal thoughts seem more prevalent at the moment. There have been several high profile suicides in the news recently.

Even at a local level, suicide rates have been on the rise.

A person I knew killed themselves at the start of July.

I wouldn’t say that we were close, but we knew each other. The person was a Mental Deficiency fan so their taste was impeccable. I was surprised that the person took their own life, it’s sad. It got me thinking about suicidal thoughts.

What must happen to someone to let that voice get so loud that it’s all you can hear?

I don’t know.

I’m going to type up an entry from my journal for you. I wanted to get my thoughts on paper. This was for myself. We have complicated relationships with that urge for self-destruction. At least I do. I’m sharing it with you so that maybe if you see someone else expressing these thoughts you can maybe do something to help them.

Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, I’ve been hesitant to publish this post. I understand if you find the content upsetting.

Moral Relativism

No one should kill themselves. Not even bad people.

I’m sure you can come up with instances where I would agree that allowing someone to kill themselves would be OK. You could get me to accept that assisted suicide for the terminally ill is alright.

If I ever get Alzheimers or dementia you have permission to take me out the back of the bunkhouse like I’m Candy’s dog.

If you’re of sound body and mind, you should not kill yourself. It feels weird to have to state this. It also got me thinking. Maybe the person who killed themselves wasn’t of sound body and mind. Maybe they were suffering in ways that weren’t visible.

I know the person who took their own life had health problems were they fed up being sick the whole time?

I don’t know.

It’s not that I am trying to analyse this person. The reason that I’m telling you this is that it felt like it came out of the blue.

Again, we weren’t that close, so I’m not an expert. The surprise of their death got me thinking because I didn’t see it coming. I like to believe that I can spot moods in people. Their sudden death blindsided me and now I’m guessing is there someone else in my circle in pain that I can do something to remedy?

I don’t like the thought of people I care about (even those I don’t) thinking that they are backed into such a corner that they can only see suicide as the way forward.

Life is so good I wish that I could help people see it.

I know you’re out there

I’m worried because I know there’s someone out there who is aware of this person killing themselves and thinking, “This suicide thing is looking more and more like a good idea”. This is to the psychological concept of social proof. One person does it, more people will do it.

I don’t want that to happen.

I know that there’s someone out there with suicidal thoughts. This is because their death rekindled those thoughts in me.

When I was in my teens, I tried to kill myself. Looking back it seems like such an alien concept.

It feels like it was a different person carrying out the actions.

I don’t like to say that I suffered from depression, it feels offensive to people who are going through actual problems. Not me, in actual fact, it was just me being a hormonal teen.

I admit that occasionally there is a voice that quietly whispers to me when I’m in low form. It’s used to be a loud voice. Not anymore, it’s a voice so quiet, like someone accidentally brushing past your chair at a library only instead of a soft “excuse me”, it whispers “It would be much easier if you were dead”. Like a girlfriend who tells me that I need to grow up, I give the impression of listening before disregarding and getting back to doing my own thing.

You and I have those thoughts

Whether you like to admit it or not you’ll have contemplations of ending it all. It’s not even that serious it’s a form of playing pretend.

“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.”- Friedrich Nietzsche

Suicidal thoughts are always there, hanging around in the background. It depends on how much credence you give them.

So I’m going to share some thoughts with you in my journal.

You don’t have to read on but I didn’t know what else to say, I have done some editing and removed names and signifiers.

Be warned when I write for an audience of me I go full pretentious.

Diary Entry -17/7/18

I’m in the midst of mild depression. My sleep patterns are all messed up. I’m waking up late, and I’m avoiding people. A person committed suicide, and it’s left a weird feeling. I wouldn’t have said that we were close, but it didn’t feel like that long ago that when we last messaged. (Start of April)

Do I feel guilty, I don’t know. Maybe if I reached out more than I did. They always seemed to be getting on fine, busy social life and working on projects. That’s how social media can dupe people. When all you see is surface, you don’t feel the need to explore the depths.

It was hard to tell from appearances if I asked more about her. It’s too late now.

It’s sad that they’re gone. There seemed to be a lot of love between them and their family. The hole that they will leave in their lives will be huge.

Knock on effect

Will their suicide lead to a knock on effect with others? I know this because I can feel it in myself. Years ago the siren’s call would have been too loud for me to resist. If something like this had happened I would have dashed myself on the rocks.

Now I’m Odysseus. I hear the song calling me, but the love I have for those in my life keeps me tied to the mast.

It feels so long ago. All the dark thoughts. Looking back it feels like I was a different person. How I had friends, how I still have friends is a mystery. How my family put up with me is a miracle.

I don’t know if anything could cause those thoughts to resurface. If something happened to Claire.

The word itself

Suicide the word feels like it is a means to avoid saying an uglier truth. Regicide, patricide, infanticide all words that are a pleasant way of saying murder.

Suicide is the murder of the self.

Are there even cliches that go around about suicide anymore? Do people say that it is a coward’s way out? Has anyone stopped to consider just how brave it is to take your own life?

When they call suicide bombers cowards, I don’t agree.

It takes a lot of balls to strap a bomb to yourself and blow yourself up. I wouldn’t have the balls to do that.

Do people say that people aren’t in their right mind? What if someone logically worked it out that this is for the best?

The fact is that there is no answer as to why people take their own lives. We are retreating into bubbles. These bubbles keep us safe and reaffirm our own biases but we become dull and fragile. The slightest of pinpricks, it pops and it all comes crashing down. We have replaced our actual communities with digital ones and because you and I are customers, we’re always right. We pick and choose the views that we are exposed to. It’s not good for our mental health and it will take some kind of critical mass to correct the course. There will be more suicides.

In a conversation, someone told me that it wasn’t my place to say that they made the wrong choice. This is an issue that I have with moral relativism. You get argued with that saying that someone dying is sad and a waste.

It’s sad that she’s gone. It’s a waste.

Improv will improve your life

Improv will improve your life. I know this because I used to perform in a group. You wouldn’t say that I studied improv. I’ve been to several workshops, and with my group, I played once a month for three years.

I stepped away because I felt like I took it as far as I could all things considered. My desire wasn’t to be a great improviser. Instead I wanted to take some of the principals and apply that to my storytelling. I was hoping that improv would make me a better writer.

The improv, I’m reluctant to use this word, scene has blown up recently. Accidental Theatre in Belfast is now hosting the first Northern Irish improv festival. There appears to be a growing audience as well as performers.

I know what you’re thinking, improv how lame. I understand your thinking. If you were to do improv, you would see how enjoyable and rewarding watching and performing can be.

Here are five benefits of practising improv.

Not worry about originality

When you first start practising improv one of the things that you try to do is either be shocking or be original. Sometimes they are the same thing.

The more you practice improv, the more you realise that there is no benefit to being original.

Here is something that I have noticed in general. What I have seen is that people don’t like originality.

Think of something you find original. There’s a high chance that it isn’t popular. Think of something popular, there is a high chance that it isn’t original. A vast majority of the population don’t like anything that is too new.

You struggle to relate to something that is too out there. You need a frame of reference to understand what you are experiencing.

Here’s an example: Resident Evil 7 when it first came out was heralded as a bold step for the series. It was considered a new and original take for the genre. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Part of the reason for the high praise is Capcom’s knack for taking the trendy and bringing it in under one umbrella.

Capcom ripped off elements of “the walking simulator” sub-genre and Alien Isolation. This wasn’t even the first, first-person Resident Evil. The Resident Evil series is the pop music of computer games. Remember whenever dubstep was new and cool? Eventually, every pop song had that “dubstep” bit in it, and it became passe.

What I’m trying to say is that the more improv you do, the more you realise that originality is for inefficient losers.

Originality takes effort. I can’t advise that you make that effort all that you are going to do is be rejected or looked at funny.

When it comes to improv, cliches are cliches for a reason. (500)

Realise things aren’t perfect

Another thing about improv is that the majority of it is terrible. Even performers who are at the top of the game could have a hit rate of 50:50.

The good news is that this is OK. When you improv you realise that not only are you not funny but you’ve never been funny and you should hang your head in shame for even trying to be funny.

You want to know the great thing about that?

You’re in good company.

Improv will make you more decisive

The only wrong decision is indecision. You’re fortunate enough that you live in a world where there is no decision that you make that it is irreversible. You should consider yourself lucky.

Your day is filled with many micro-decisions, and they add up they lead to decision making fatigue.

I’m not a fan of making decisions, so much so that I will try to avoid the decision-making process altogether. I tend just to eat the one kind of meal and will wear the same set of clothes over and over. I don’t like wasting time, and I think that people who spend time over thinking about food are wasting theirs.

You know what it is like in a relationship, there tends to be one who overthinks food, and it can be a pain in the ass. You know what I’m talking about. People who won’t take the responsibility of making the decision but want you to do it for them.

That’s what you’ll love about improv, it teaches you to trust your gut more. It takes you out of your head and motivates you to be more present and aware. Improv has a lot of crossover principals with mindfulness. If you are trying to develop your mindfulness take an improv class. You will connect more with your subconscious. Sometimes it all comes together, and it’s beautiful. Other times it all falls apart and guess what? It’s still beautiful. Every decision you make is a right decision. If it falls flat, well you’ll make a different choice next time.

Be positive

The ethos behind improv can be summed up with the expression “yes and”. You agree then you make an addition.

When I first did improv what surprised me most was how welcoming and supportive everyone was. This is especially unnatural in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland being nurturing and kind is a form of weakness that needs stomping out.

Improv teaches you to be positive. You realise that you and your fellow improvisers are working as a team to produce the best content.

I have been involved with local music, film and stand up. These are toxic environments. Three different groups that are bound by a common interest, not a common goal. They are out for themselves whereas in improv everyone wants to play with the best players. It’s in everyone’s interest to be the best and work together. No one wants to be the player that no one wants to play with.

With the “yes and” philosophy you look at things as “how can I add to this and make things better”. Improv makes you not just a “glass half full person” it makes you a “wow, I have a glass to work with, and there’s liquid in there too”.

Even if you’re not funny. Also if you’ve never been funny, you should consider going along, watching some improv.

Maybe one day you’ll take a class, and you’ll surprise yourself at just how good that you are.

Parallelacide: A super short story

Parallelacide: Short Story

Not in this reality would it ever be clear why they sent her to the university for her first assignment. Shelly stood by the coffee station and held a styrofoam cup to her mouth. She wasn’t drinking from it. She narrowed her eyes and scanned the room for an appropriate place to stand.

There were far more seats than were necessary.

As Shelly looked around, she saw a technician adjusting a camera. They were wearing a polo shirt that carried the symbol of Delamore Universtiy. The technician tampered with the lens looked through the viewfinder. She then clicked her fingers in front of the microphone.

There were other miscellaneous people present. They could be reporters, there was more a chance that they were here for the free doughnuts.

Two middle-aged gentlemen entered and looked around. One of them had a newspaper folded over his arm. The man with the newspaper nudged the taller man beside him, took out a coin and flipped. When it landed, he covered the coin. Shelly saw the taller man’s mouth move. Newspaper removed his hand. Judging by the taller man’s reaction, he did not get the result he wanted.

Newspaper went and sat down. The taller man approached Shelly.

“You look like a fresh meet,” he said passing her, grabbing a styrofoam cup.

“Good to see that sexism is alive and well,” Shelly said.

“Oh, as in meet rather than meat, It wasn’t meant to be sexist. While we’re clarifying, when I looked at your chest it’s because that’s where your press pass is, Shelly”. The taller man scanned the table, “Where’s the full?”

“As in fool or full?” Said Shelly.

“I know where the fool is, he’s on the other side of that whiteboard getting ready to embarrass himself again. I’m talking about the milk. I mean milk is bad for you anyway so if you’re going to do wrong, you may as well do it right.”

“I didn’t see any”

“Budget cuts. What a world that they can afford to give this guy a salary but can’t give us lowly documenters of truth some full fat.”

“What a world we live in”

“By fresh meet, I meant that you look like you’re new on the scene.”

“First assignment, I came from,” Shelly said before stopping when the taller man held up his hand.

“I’m going to have to stop you there,” he said. He didn’t speak.

“Any particular reason?” Shelly asked.

“OK, this is going to come across as rude, promise you’ll get upset.”

“Promise?”

“Now, I’m of the opinion that our minds are of limited space and as the years go on that space becomes more of a premium. Space gets smaller, value goes up. Now I’ve been in the game for about a quarter century, a lot of that space is gone. I don’t like wasting space. You aren’t going to be here that long. Start off your career, you got ambition, and you’re going to go on, do better things. This’ll be a forgotten memory in a few weeks. I don’t want to waste the space of getting to know someone too much if they’re not going to be about for long.”

“Oh, OK,” said Shelly.

“You promised you’d get upset,” said the taller man.

“I’m not, you don’t want to talk to me, that’s rude, but you’re a man. I think I understand.”

“Now I’m of the opinion that there’s no point in talking to you, but I can’t bluff for shit. When you’re in debt to a colleague such as mine like Paul over there, you make other kinds of bets. There’s a version were I won the coin toss, and it would be Paul talking to you but, well, here I am.”

“You sure talk a lot for someone who doesn’t want to talk.”

“It’s early” the tall man picked up two cups filled with coffee. He walked over to the doughnuts. They were being guarded by low-level university admins. The taller man turned to Shelly and gestured with his head. She walked over to him.

“The real question is whether these are jam or custard. Grab a plate and lift us one please”. Shelly obliged him. “Come sit up front with us.”

“But I’m not worthy,” she said.

“I don’t care about that. You’re going to want to get as close as possible to a Dr Lazlo Banks presser. Heard of him?”

“Should I have?”

“The creator of telepathy for chickens? How could you not.”

The two made their way to the front and sat down beside Paul.

“See it’s nice to be nice,” Paul said to the taller man.

“I felt my soul die a little” he responded.

Paul leaned forward and looked to Shelly. He extended his hand. As she shook his hand, Shelly noticed that he although he was old his face looked young. He had big round red apple cheeks, and a permanent smile etched on his mouth. The effect of this made his blue eyes look small.

“You didn’t mention she was with the tribune Gary, this changes everything,” said Paul. There was an exaggeration of shock on his face.

“So I have to be friendlier with people unless they’re with the tribune?” said the taller man, who she deduced was Gary. Shelly would make an excellent reporter.

“The tribune is a rag,” Paul said looking at Shelly, a massive smile escaped onto his face. His eyes were wrinkling so much he couldn’t see.

“Who are you two with? I haven’t seen your passes, you’re probably not even reporters” said Shelly leaning in.

“Move back, I can get territorial when it comes to a week old,” Gary took a bite, “Custard, custard goddammit.”

Shelly leaned back.

“You don’t want to know who we’re with. No pass is better than who we’re actually with. We’d like you to have a bit of respect for us old-timers.”

“Tell me,” Shelly said.

There was a noise from the other side of the whiteboard wall.

“Looks like Dr Lazlo is ready to start, you’re in for a treat Shelly,” said Paul. The three of them turned to face the front. Conversations around the room stopped. All eyes were on the door beside the whiteboard.

The side door opened and a man in a white coat entered.

“The good doctor looks a little strung out,” said Gary.

Dr Banks carried a lockbox and set it down on the table.

“This’ll be good,” said Paul.

Dr Banks leaned over the table and shuffled some paper on his desk around. His mouth was moving, but no sound came out. He looked up and focused his attention on the assembled audience.

“This won’t take long. Man’s quest for immortality has gone on since we first stood up and stepped into the sun. In the scientific community there are known to be many universes. These universes are existing now, in other dimensons. Many are concurrently operating realities. They exist alongside us. There are infinite realities. If there are infinite realities, then there are at least several were our wildest dreams are true.”

“What is he talking about?” Paul asked.

“He doesn’t know,” Gary said. Dr Banks looked at them and sighed.

“C’mon guys, questions at the end,” said Dr Banks.

“We don’t have any,” said Gary.

“Well, that’s a wasted opportunity. I’m right here in front of you. What you should be asking is how do we know what reality we’re in?”

“What reality are we in?”

“Shhh, questions at the end. I have a device that will help us discern which reality is the correct one.”

Dr Banks moved over to the box and opened it up. He took out an object that was masked by a purple velvet cloth.

“He’s not,” said Paul, leaning back in his seat.

“Jesus,” said Gary

Dr Banks removed the cloth revealing a shiny silver gun.

“Gun” shouted Shelly.

The whole room recoiled. One man dropped his doughnut another put his hands on his ears.

“Banks, what the hell are you doing?” a voice from the back shouted.

“This isn’t happening,” said Paul.

“Someone call the police” another voice sounded.

“Before you do,” Dr Banks said, “I just want you to know that I pose no harm to you, or even myself. That is if my theory is correct.”

People moved towards the door.

“Now even though I mean you no harm I will have to ask you to remain in the room for a few more minutes.”

People in the room continued to move towards the door. Dr Banks pinched the bridge of his nose with his free hand.

“May I remind you that I have a gun.”

The people stopped moving. Some of the more exasperated in the audience lowered their arms. The room was serene and still. Dr Banks smiled and then looked to the camera technician.

“I hope that’s recording Janice.”

“Let me line up the shot.”

“Me too,” said Dr Banks. He held the gun to his temple and looked to Janice.

Shaking, the viewfinder in front of her eyes, removing her from the realness of the room, Janice focused on Banks. Once she had done so she outstretched her free hand and gave him the thumbs up.

“If my theory is correct then the gun, will not go off and I will be one step closer to becoming immortal. Then, then it won’t matter.”

In one reality, Dr Banks was an undying god.

It was not this one.

Football: Why I’m not a fan

First of all, I don’t dislike football.

I understand that it can be entertaining. Many people have their identity tied to their team. Many people get self-worth from watching other people kicking a ball.

If you were to press me, I’d say that the closest I came to being a sports fan was during the run-up to Donald Trump’s election. I remember how the surrounding events affected my emotional state.

I got depressed when the Access Hollywood tapes came out. Then there was the relief of the debate that happened that night. After that weekend, I had to take a step back from the election.

Having my mood linked to events outside my control was not a good idea.

I like to have the maximum amount of control over myself. I don’t always have that control, but striving to be master over yourself is preferable to someone else having that power.

You think that I don’t understand the appeal of having the choice taken away from you. I do, it can make life a whole lot easier but I don’t like that.

It’s part of the reason why I’ve never loved football.

I’ve thought about it and here are some of the other reasons I’ve never connected with the beautiful game.

What’s in it for me?

What’s in it for you? When the team win what do you get? When the team lose what do you get? Some momentary satisfaction or heartbreak. Then it starts all over again. I guess that’s cool, but I can’t get anything from that.

I love film but what I get from it is an emotional release or the promise of release. Is that what football fans look for from a match?

Watching football and watching films falls into the category of hobby. I understand that many of our hobbies and pursuits are a waste of time and energy.

Taking an active part in your hobby, like playing football or making a film you’re improving yourself. I like films, but I want to make more movies than the one I’ve made so far.

Watching movies is a way of learning what works and what doesn’t work. Refining my own tastes in the hope of making the best film possible for myself. Is football like that, if you watch football but don’t play are you wasting your time?

Football is a nerdy pursuit in the same way that playing video games is nerdy.

You could tell me every team that a footballer played for, it’s the equivalence of telling me all of Charmander’s attacks. Watching football is closest to playing video games.

Watching football is a form of consumption.

Football is boring, and the chance of a good game is minimal

The few times that I have watched football it hasn’t interested me.

On a primal level yes, I see the appeal. When there is a chance at the goal, you feel your body tense up ever so slightly, but this is a physiological reaction.

Aside from those occasional moments, football for me is dull.

If there is to be something extraordinary, then there has to be a lot of factors that come into play.

Take for example one of the greatest matches in football history.

That was when Manchester United went up against Bayern Munich to win the treble. It wasn’t that the game itself was good it was all the outside factors. There was the chance at the treble. The drama comes from the last minute reversal. That United produced goals from two corner opportunities which is a statistical improbability. Consider that George Best, an avatar of the club, the ghost of United’s glory, walked out on them. Everyone gave up hope, it made for one of the greatest comebacks in history.

Football at it’s best is good drama but it takes many external factors to result in great drama.

The likelihood of these moments coming around is rare.

Whereas the theatre experience is trying to create that feeling every time.

Football is unending

I don’t watch football for the same reason that I don’t watch soap operas, read comic books or follow wrestling; they never end.

What I like about films is that they are self-contained I can watch as few or as many as I want. You could argue that certain movies need to be viewed in sequence but again you can watch a film and you’re under no obligation to watch anymore.

You’ll say that you are under no obligation to watch football. You and I understand that, but there is more to it than that.

Football seems like such a time investment as well as emotional.

It’s just that most people we know will watch whatever match is on. It never ends. I like my entertainment to have finality. I can rewatch classic films but do you watch old games? Yesterday’s good games are forgotten, what have the team done for you lately?

Football is a conversation starter for basic bitches

You could walk up to a fella and say “Hey there big guy, see the match?” and nine times out of ten he’ll say “You betcha lil’ dude” that’s fair enough.

Now if you encounter me, that one in ten. I have no interest or general knowledge when it comes to football

I’m able to pick up on some names and teams because most lads talk about football all the time. Whether that is among work colleagues or, my main point of intake, a Whatsapp group.

Now you’ve probably heard a repeated phrase throughout your life, mine is “You’re tall” or some variant. Now if it’s your first time meeting me, this feels like an appropriate comment to make. I disagree, put it like this if it’s acceptable to comment on my height do I not have a right to comment on your width? How about when you see a beautiful girl, you say “Wow you’re a hottie.” she says thank you because people love it when you comment on qualities beyond their control.

“Did you see the match?”, is a close runner-up to overheard phrases. When I roll my eyes, sigh and offer a curt “No” it’s not because I’m repulsed by seeing matches. It’s just that this is the 1000th time I’ve heard this question. You’re speaking about a specific game whereas to me all events are the same. This boils down to two irreconcilable views on reality. I’m just going to have to make peace with this. All I can do is keep saying that I haven’t, nor will I. Sometimes I enjoy lying, say that I have and see how long I can go before getting caught out. Watching someone get invested in a conversation and watching their eyes narrow when you pull the rug from under them.

Football is something that I should like

You may think that I am bashing football with this but I’m not. It comes from a place of frustration that I don’t like it, a massive section of conversational options are cut off from me by default, you feel like you’re on the outside looking in on some conversations. Football is also a social glue for many men in Europe and there’s a whole section again cut off from me. Football is a lubricant for many lads that helps them slide into a friendship. Not me, I have to raw dog it every time.

What’s worse is that technically football is something I should like. Men being men, competition, no talking, results are dictated by action taken. Yet when I look at it, I feel nothing.

Enjoy football, some of us would like to be so lucky.

One thing that I would like to ask is what the hell is the point of TV football commentary? Someone literally telling you what is happening as it happens. “Ehh but blind people, some people can’t see” Have people not heard of the radio?

DUP: 5 things they need to stop doing and one thing they could do

The DUP are a relic of a bygone age. The DUP still holds a lot of power in Northern Ireland politics. It doesn’t look like they are going anywhere anytime soon.

What you might find frustrating is that with a few tweaks they could join the modern world.

To be clear, I’m not a fan of the DUP. I’m amazed at how obvious some of the solutions to their problems are. With a little work, they could soon clear that up.

Now I’m a lowly Catholic popcorn shoveller so I know that none of them are going to read this but this is just for fun.

Happy 12th everyone, enjoy.

5: Drop the whole abortion/marriage equality fight

This is a losing battle for the DUP, and they are taking a long time to realise that they are on the wrong side on this issue. It’s frustrating that the DUP is happy to be part of the United Kingdom, but cherry picks what laws it enforces.

This half in half out policy shows a lack of loyalty and unity with the UK. The DUP must consider if they’re on board with the whole loyalism/unionism factor.

Needless to say that there is a whole section of society that is living as second-class citizens. This is because the DUP is dragging its feet when it comes to progress.

Giving marriage equality to everyone will not bring about the end of civilisation. You might struggle to comprehend what problem the DUP has with marriage equality, I do.

Does the DUP think that homosexual couples are going to demand that they are married in a church? That’s never going to happen. Religious organisations are a private body that has the right to discriminate.

Does the DUP think that homosexuals want to get married in a church? The Groucho quote has it “I wouldn’t want to be part of a club that would have me as a member”.

Abortion

As for abortion, regardless of when you believe life begins, the first step to ending poverty is to give women control of their bodies. This goes against my own personal belief, not because I believe that life is sacred or any of that nonsense, I don’t. I’m not a big fan of abortion. Only because I think the only way to get good welfare reform is to choke the system until it can no longer function. Seeing as single mothers are one of the primary beneficiaries of that system, keep kiddies coming.

DUP need to go with the flow on these two issues.

4: Avoiding controversy

You won’t accuse me of telling tales out of school but the DUP, by today’s standards, hold some controversial views. That’s fine, you can’t control what people think. The DUP can’t control what they think, and you wouldn’t want to change that, would you?

If the DUP have controversial opinions, then they should stick to it. You can have controversial views just hold on to them. These could be opinions like climate change isn’t happening. If you believe this and you’re running for public office let the people know what you think.

If you get challenged and back away from the opinion then how do I know that you aren’t going to do that with all your other ideas?

You can change your opinion but don’t do it at the first sign of trouble. Make it look like you’re not just doing it to change with the blowing of the wind.

3: Apologising

This is a reply to the controversial opinions. If you’re going to have controversial opinion stick to it and don’t apologise. If you feel you are in the right, then stick to your guns.

Can I make a reference to guns when talking about Northern Irish politics? Too soon. Did that line bomb?

This is a general life rule that you can take from this as well as the DUP. If you apologise for nothing, you will apologise for everything. I’m not a big fan of apologising in general. Not because I think you’re a bad person but because I think you’re insincere if you do it too much.

Apologies are like swearing, if you do it too much, it loses its effect.

2: Talking to the BBC

Are you frustrated that we’ve had two years of Trump? The political novice and politicians the world over are looking at it like it was a fluke.

Do you want to know something? It wasn’t a fluke.

You’ll find politics more interesting if politicians took a leaf from Trump’s playbook.

Why is American politics so much more interesting than UK and Ireland? You know the answer, it’s because it’s so much more entertaining. Here it is so much more routine. A politician makes a statement, press questions them, they make a retraction. The cycle starts again.

You could be forgiven for being unaware of what is happening in UK politics because it’s frigging boring. Gimme the American model. President says something ridiculous, the press goes into meltdown. President makes an even more absurd statement and so on. It’s entertaining, and it doesn’t take that much to get started.

Look at Jim Acosta, it is fascinating. You’re watching a man lose his mind in slow motion. You are viewing the development of mental illness in real time. Thankfully Jim Acosta is a journalist so whether he ends up in an asylum or not doesn’t matter. How was this downfall triggered, the President refused to talk to him. That’s all it took.

What the DUP could do

The DUP could take a leaf out of this book. You might agree with me that the BBC is held in too high regard. They have the worst form of bias in the way that they believe themselves to be immune from bias. They’re the only game in town. Think of how funny it would be if the DUP just stopped talking to the BBC. The DUP could control news cycles just by refusing to enter into the conversation. BBC would continuously repeat the DUP message and come across as moaners by going on and on about it in public.

(Bonus: DUP should definitely do this now)

Nationalism has got a bit of a bad rap recently with Trump and the alt-right in America. Couple that with the rise of right-wing parties in Italy, Austria and Hungary.

Why the hell aren’t DUP using this as a stick to bash Sinn Fein over the head with?

They don’t even need to lie about it they just have to keep referring to Sinn Fein as a Nationalist party, which is true.

There is an open goal for you DUP, kick the ball.

This is why I never believe the DUP to be the boogeyman that they’re presented as. The DUP are so retarded and frequently keep miss opportunities.

1: Alienating the Islamic community

There has been some Anti-Islamic sentiment coming from the DUP. I know what you’re thinking, shocking.

This baffles me and tells you all you need to know about the competency of the DUP. The Islamic community in the UK leans conservative. The Islamic community has more in common with the DUP than other Northern Irish parties.

While Northern Ireland doesn’t have a large Islamic community, it is growing. It’s not a substantial voter base now, but with their growth and native populations declining birth rates, the writing is on the wall. You’ll find that elections in future may hinge on their support.

Here’s a slogan for free if you’re high up at the DUP.

DUP: If we had brains we’d be dangerous.

Hereditary: the good, not so good and the weird

I went to see Hereditary and decided to share my views on it with you.

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If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you have either seen the film or don’t intend to. For that reason, I’m not going to hold back on talking about the whole film so consider yourself warned.

The Good in Hereditary

Hereditary falls into that category of a horror film if you like actual horror films. What do you mean by “actual” horror films Kieran? I hear you ask.

Simple, if you’re watching a movie that isn’t reliant on jump scares then you’re watching an actual horror film.

Hereditary is one of those films.

That’s not to say that there are no jumps. The person I was with told me that I jumped on several occasions, who am I to argue? The point is that the jumps in Hereditary are well integrated into the plot. Integrated scares make for a more enjoyable experience.

I’m not a fan of the Paranormal Activity films for that reason. The reaction that you have to them is physiological. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a Pixies song. Paranormal Activity films are quiet, quiet, loud. You can’t control your reaction. If I whisper continuously in your ear and sporadically shout as well, you’re going to be on edge.

What I liked about Hereditary is that when the scares were coming, it was built up. You were expecting the scare.

When the moments arrive, it is a release of tension.

Cinematography

I loved how this film used cinematography to create the creepy atmosphere.

There are many long shots at wide angles on static cameras.

The lighting is effective. Mainly when there may or not be something lurking in the shadow. There is a moment towards the end, it’s a shot of someone smiling through a doorway. The low light makes it creepy because you’re struggling to see and your mind fills in the gaps.

You can consider it high praise when I kept hoping that they used the style more.

Acting

The acting in this film is high quality. Gabriel Byrne does well as the put-upon father whose family is falling apart. Alex Wolff does confused and afraid well.

The stand out performance is from Toni Collette who carries the majority of the film.

What is it with horror being an excellent genre for female performers?

Don’t forget that Collette did one of the most excellent “listening” scenes in history right at the end of The Sixth Sense.

In Hereditary she has such a nuanced role. Is she losing her mind or is there really a demonic cult trying to get to her son?

There is a great scene where she talks about how she used to sleepwalk and almost set her children on fire. Her delivery injects so much uncertainty that you don’t know if she is telling the truth or not.

There is also a scene where she is at group therapy and tells her family backstory. She goes through an emotional journey, and you believe that journey.

This film is an excellent showcase for Toni Collette. You probably think that horror films have cheesy acting, but Collette’s commitment elevates the subject.

The not so good

Spirit Mediums

I’m not a big fan of films that rely on spirit mediums to further the plot. It’s a matter of personal taste. Hereditary had one, I’m not a fan. It took up a substantial portion of the midsection.

Getting there and then dealing with the aftermath. I wish that Ari Aster, the writer and director, had gone for something a little less conventional.

You might think that I’m missing the point. That the whole idea of the spirit medium is subverted. It was part of the cult’s plan, but it wasn’t differentiated enough for my liking.

Could lose 10-20 minutes

Hereditary is two hours long. It could have cut about ten to twenty minutes, and I don’t think we would have lost too much. Especially when there are a few scenes of people watching each other. This had already been established by this point. You don’t need to repeat your points.

Hereditary also features a dream sequence. Doesn’t matter what genre you are working in doesn’t have dream sequences. Nothing makes me think that you are padding the runtime quite like a dream sequence. Hereditary is an even worse offender because it’s a dream within a dream. There are also some interesting dramatic questions raised in the dream. These questions could have been integrated into the main plot.

Soundtrack

Hereditary’s soundtrack is excellent. There were a few moments where it became overbearing.

There is a moment of ADR  that is done so badly “Make sure everyone is in the same room house” it stuck out like a sore thumb.

Ambiguous about ambiguity

The film tends to have its cake and eat it in some instances of ambiguity. Are the events happening or is it all in her head? If Hereditary could have been a bit more sure of itself and picked a lane.

Had the events of Hereditary unfolded from Gabriel Byrne’s POV it may have worked better. Just a thought.

I would have enjoyed the ambiguity even further if they cut the film off a little earlier. Instead, the last minute of the film is an exposition dump.

“Oh my mother made mats like this”

The majority of the film has good dialogue that deals with character. So when this line is uttered it’s almost as if someone walks out, looks at the screen and says, “I wonder where this is going?”

This line and the last minute of the film are the only real bad moments of dialogue.

The weird

Hereditary is concerned a demon that is born into a girls body but desires to be reborn into a boys body. The girl is killed, and the rest of the film is about how the demon strives to be reincarnated into the boy’s body. The process destroys the family.

Could you view the film as a metaphor for transsexualism?

This is part of the reason why I love horror so much. It deals with social themes in an extreme way.

I hope you will consider checking this film out at some point even if you don’t like horror as it is worth a watch.

As far as “actual” horror films go, I still think that It Follows is the one to beat. Hereditary is a definite contender, and I look forward to Ari Aster’s next film.