Sunday, April 15, 2007

RIP Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I know I'm a bit late on writing something about the death of Kurt Vonnegut. I've only read Slaughterhouse 5 and Breakfast of Champions but both books are two of the best books I have ever read.

My reason for posting this was that I found a link (via BB) to a blog post with a list from Kurt Vonnegut on how to write a good short story. It's good advice, with added chuckle factor and worth a read.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Not fallen, but falling

Another, this time in the spirit of Hemingway's greatest story ever told.

"Forgive me," his penitent eyes pleaded.

Not fallen, but falling

This is the literal interpretation of the title.

Warmth. Warmth and blackness. Warmth, blackness and safety.

I float. I am nothing. I am free. This is a Sunday morning. This is a lie-in. This can be eternity.

Yet there is that smell. A smell wrapped in a faint roar. Growing louder and more pungent. This isn't my home; this isn't my bed.

I find my body. The cold pulls me back to it. I open my eyes. Black fades to blue through white. No puffs of white smudge my perfect sky.

Shards of ice rip my nostrils as I try to restrain my thumping and rolling mind. Everything starts to speed up. Air, oxygen and life return to my lungs. Every breath is a fight, the wind and frost hack through my chest. At least I'm conscious again.

I struggle to turn my head against the icy ropes that lash and tug at me. The blue rotates, it slides away. The wind blasts tears from my eyes. A snow blanketed world lunges for me, ready to receive me back into the earth.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Not fallen, but falling

My entry into Kirsten's contest. It's actually based on a true story.

It was the first building that I'd seen that just the sight of frightened me.

I'd turned off the main road onto this small side road about five minutes earlier. The main road was cutting through a forest at this point, the trees and the pitch of the land blocking any sign of the side road until the small white sign which showed the Entorix logo came into view. I'd been lead to believe that this place was easy to miss and I wasn't disappointed. I drove with less speed than usual down the winding side road; despite the tarmacked surface being cleaner and smoother than most of the council run roads of the dozy suburb of Winchester that I lived in. I felt a brief pang of jealousy that I didn't live down this road with its perfect camber and its pine tree guards lining the verge.

My tentative driving was due in no part to my destination: it was only that I had written off my last Lexus on a similar country road less than a year previously when a deer decided that it would cross the same patch of road that I was using. It was an experience that my insurance company, myself and all deer the world over probably didn't want to repeat. Paranoia twitched up my spine: I couldn't help thinking that this road had been laid in such a sinuous path purely to allow deer and other wild beasts to surprise travelers as they rounded each of the repetitive corners.

The road straightened and I could see a thining in the trees ahead that I expect would mean the end of my blanket of pines. Yet I wasn't prepared for the building that lay in the large clearing, on the other side of the security fence, beyond the half full car park. Reduced to its most primitive elements this building had been designed by someone who liked dark concrete, didn't like windows and who felt that the appreciation of curves was an ugly artifact from our biological heritage.

Each of the five floors of the building was represented by a large rectangular concrete block. These floors were stacked on top of each other with short rectangular blocks of concrete which can't have been more than half a foot wide. Each of these shorter blocks was two or three feet in from the edges of the larger concrete blocks. I couldn't tell if the architect had decided to use a lighter tone of concrete on the four smaller connecting slabs or if they had been sheltered from the elements due to the overhang of the floors above each. Deliberate or not, the effect was a noticeable one and mirrored the warning stripes of nature perfectly. The center of the front of the building had a pair of glass doors, which I assumed must lead to reception. The right side of the building was the only other part where the harsh concrete surfaces were interrupted. A few pipes, all different shapes, sizes and colours, snaked out of each floor and up and down the side of the building seemingly at random to the other floors.

The overall feeling this building gave was one of fear; not mind numbing fight or flight fear, but something stronger than mild uneasiness. Had the building been shorter it would have looked too much like a hut, even though each floor must have been able to house one hundred office workers. Had the building been taller it would have seemed like a large folly into angular concrete architecture. This building didn't impose on you like a skyscraper, it didn't impress you in awe like a cathedral, it just scared you.

I slowed down as I pulled up at the small guard hut. The guard lent out the window and looked at the pass that I was holding up. He considered my face for a few seconds and then leaned back into the guard hut. I heard a loud buzzing sound and the chain link gate in front of me slid jerkily away to my right, out of sight behind the guard hut. I scanned the car park for a suitable space and pulled into my space of choice.

As I walked towards the glass doors I scanned my eyes over the edge of the door for a button to push or a slot to swipe my card in. A small red light in the middle of the right hand door highlighted the position of the card slot and that the door was locked. With a glance upwards to the security camera which watched the door, I placed my card in the slot. There was a whisper of a click and the light turned green. I walked through the door into the plain reception room that stood behind it. There was a pine reception desk to the right, staffed by two receptionists. The rest of the room was painted in a light grey colour. More security doors, this time solid looking dark wooded doors, lay directly in front of me. I chose the closest of the two receptionists, a blond man in his early twenties who looked more like a bouncer than a receptionist, and walked towards him.

“Good morning Mr. Farleigh,” said the other receptionist, a petite brunette in a smart black suit, “Welcome to Entorix's Forest View office.”

“Thank you,” I responded, “Is Dr. Litchfield in yet?”

“She's been in for hours, in Forest View we don't work nine-to-five office hours,” she gave me a sweet smile, “Go straight on in.”

She clearly saw the slight look of hesitation on my face so added instructions, “She's on the third floor. Go through these doors and take the lift to the third floor. As you leave the lift turn left. She should be in the refrigerated dissection lab on the right at the far end of the corridor. If she's not in there then she'll probably be in with the primates, their cages are across the corridor from the lab.”

None of my years of training or even the week long induction in Entorix had quite prepared me for what I saw and what I worked on in the months following.