Friday, 23 December 2016

On The Third Day

It happened in the time of war, and when Zachariah was at the right place, and at the right time – or perhaps that’s dependent on your point of view – and who or what you are.

The US and Russia had formed an alliance in those days. Each of them building weapons, not against each other (at least that is what they stated) but to keep China, North Korea, and India in their respective places.

Then it happened, as it surely must – the Russian President slapped his US buddy on the back, making an off-hand remark about the American’s sister. That was all it took.

There wasn’t a war – at least, not at first. First there was the rhetoric – the words – the apologies – then these two, these statesmen, found each of them taking a road where they would have to lose face to turn around, something they weren’t willing to do.

Initially there was the week of fear, followed by the first rockets. What can you suppose about the mental state of each of the leaders that they should go so far? It’s not as if we didn’t see it coming. The black money was on the Chinese as the cause, but they resisted, against great odds.

The rockets, when they came, arrived in the middle of the night in Western Europe. Most never got to see the flashes, most souls never got to cry out, most were blasted from their sleep by a nuclear storm.

Then came the silence.

It was on the third day that Zachariah moved from the cave. He wasn’t too sure how long he had been there. If there was any nuclear debris, then 3 days wasn’t enough – not nearly long enough. They’d been taught all that stuff in school. Just in case. They’d even taken exams on it: ’The Long Nuclear Winter’.

As Zachariah stumbled and slid down the road, he saw the outlines of dust, possibly the last shadows of humans. Those people who hadn’t taken the warnings seriously, or maybe they just got caught – like billions of others probably did. It had all been a joke – hadn’t it? Just like the way folks had underestimated Hitler – at least until the camps and ovens were built.

The War wasn’t like any other Wars. There hadn’t been time. No time to say ‘Goodbye’, or ‘I love you’, or ‘I am sorry’. How many souls died with love on their breath, unspoken?

In the inevitable course of things, the low Winter Sun returned, and then with it a new Spring, followed by a cold, dark Summer. In all that time Zachariah never found another living soul. He wondered if he could deal with the loneliness? And yet, nothing seemed to faze him.

He ate what he had expected to be contaminated grasses and roasted, dried flesh. Yet each night he examined his body and found that there was still no sores – no sign that his body was about to die.

He calculated what he assumed to be Christmas Day, and in celebration, he ate a dried-out bird he had found on top of a skyscraper several months before. He sang a Carol, and then slept that night dreaming of Santa Claus – the ghost of the Red Man who had haunted his childhood.

What would he have liked for Christmas Day? Probably to have another soul to talk to, or more importantly a body to hug. Some contact. Some warmth.

As he fell into a deep slumber, he failed to notice (or feel) the large tear in his back. The one that exposed the Titanium framework, and the cybernetic mechanisms of a truly Godless creature.

His programme would go into self-repair while he slept, and his reboot would always (always, mind) let him think that he was human - a man with a soul.

bobby stevenson 2016

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Santa's Last Present

At the end of it all, he always felt the same, he could sleep for a year (at least) except he’d be needed long before then. 

Mistress Claus knew what to expect. He’d be grumpy and tired and full of stories of what went wrong here, or what went right there. He never found the reindeer any company, those kids were working flat out and there wasn’t any time to talk.

The elves had their break. He gave them from Christmas day until the 20th of January, then they all had to report fit and strong and ready for the next year’s onslaught. It was tiring making up the lists of who should and who should, get presents. But it had to be done.

On the morning of the 26th, Mistress Claus usually gave her husband a cup of tea in bed, followed by toast and jam. He might stay in bed until 3pm, before he even thought of standing up. Let’s face it, he was tired.

By tea-time of the 26th they would be all packed and ready to go. It was always Santa’s last present - to himself and to his good wife; two weeks at their little holiday home just north of Tornio.

They’d climb up those wooden stairs, place a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door, and the rest of the days were theirs. 

bobby stevenson 2016
painting: Pascal Campion

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Morning of the Day.....

She could feel the sun on her heart, as its rays broke through the window. There was a bird, a blackbird, singing in the old twisted trees. She heard the cyclists from the city, shouting to one another as their bikes sailed past her front door. 

The aroma of the freshly made coffee had skipped the stairs and had, instead, entered her room through a little opened window. There was a quiet tap as a Bee kept hitting on her glass pane, looking for somewhere new to live.
Then without warning, the heat started to bubble though her veins, and pumped her lips and brightened her eyes. No longer did her heart skip a beat, it was like an engine, blasting a way forward.

She had done with the dull days, and the rain, and the mist that had arrived with the darkness. She had done with avoiding mirrors and reflections. She was finished with treating herself as the enemy, and listening to the sourness of others: their paths were their problems, their responsibilities.

She sat up in bed, smiled for the first time in a long time, and decided it was the day to be happy again.

bobby stevenson 2016

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Day That Loved Was Invented

The midday sun warmed his metal quicker than it warmed his skin parts. In this field, like every other field in the quadrant, everyone was equal. No one got more than any other cyborg, and, equally, no one would expect any less. It was the way it had been since memories began.

That was the way with memories – you only remembered the last time you thought of something. What you remembered was the memory of remembering. 
Memories were not permanent. When you thought of a holiday or a Christmas day in the past, you made a new memory and the old one was gone – for good.

The masters had still not perfected the droid body, it was easier just to grow the organic body in the sheds. No one ever went there, to the sheds – those places were for the farmers, the old ones, those who created all of us. No one knew who they were, but it was peaceful to know that they existed.

The head, the metal head, which heated all too quick, was the part that was created by the cyborgs. The old ways, the old brains had faults, had errors, had too many weaknesses wired into them.

In this new world of metal heads, everyone was equal. With the organic brain, no unit had the need to weep, or to laugh, or shout, or love. No one really knew what love was anymore. It was a concept, a memory, an old-fashioned trait which had been eradicated. How could we all be equal if only some fell in love, and others did not. What if the love was not returned? It was unfair. It was gone. It was unequal.

Those who lived in the far sheds, had talked about love coming from the brain. Those who had existed before the cyborgs, had left books in which they wrote about love coming from the heart. But where in the heart would it have come from? There was no centre of thinking or feeling in the heart.

That was why the masters knew that it was simply a safe organic pump. It maintained the liquid which circulated the fleshy body. A cold super-liquid kept the metal brain in motion.

There were two meetings each day – one before the fields, and one at the end of the shift. The fields were difficult places to work, but they were necessary to keep the organic bodies running, and to keep them stoked with energy.

The Prefect would take note of all cyborgs working that day, and check that all of them returned to the rest pods.

Each day, Borg 12a4 would stand on the third row and each day he would identify himself at the start and the end of work. In front of him stood a female labelled Borg 49b7, and as the days and weeks and months progressed, a strange thing happened to him. He felt a great elation when he saw her and looked forward to the end of the end of the day when he would see her again.

He had no idea why or what he felt.

During the work day, as each Borg tended to the crops, any weeds or any other wasteful growths were removed. Except he did another weird thing: he put one of these weeds in his store cup and did not destroy or tell the Prefect about it.
Therefore he could not understand why, as he waited on the Prefect calling his name at the end of the day, he wanted to pass the wasteful growth to the Borg who stood in front of him.

If there had been a witness to this, on that day when this first important action had occurred, perhaps they would have thought that indeed there was a ghost in the machine, and that perhaps love and loving was universal and not located in an organic brain.

Perhaps love wasn’t located in any place, at all.

bobby stevenson 2016

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Thursday Angel

She had been born on Christmas Day.

As the woman with the watery eye had mentioned to her mother, “She is your little Christmas gift, your little bundle of joy”.

And she was.

She had grown in a very happy home, and that joy had penetrated her very bones.

She had grown in body and soul and stood tall as one of life’s darlings.

She preferred to give happiness than to receive it.

There had been boyfriends but nothing that serious. Every time she felt she was falling in love, someone or something would cause a change in the way she lived.

She had met Patrick at a bus stop one yellowy autumn day and she told herself that this was the one. He proposed on New Year’s Eve and she had said yes.

“I was going to do it on December 25th but I didn’t want to overwhelm your birthday,” he had told her.

They were to be married on the following June, but that was a long time away. Life crossed her path, put its hand up and shouted ‘Stop’. Her father, worrying about his wife’s health, and on the way to the chemist, hadn’t noticed the bus.

Patrick called the wedding off, and she had made that condition permanent. Her mother was a widow now and needed all the support and help that came her way.

She told herself that it wouldn’t be forever, her mother would learn to live without her dad, and then she would set her life to rights; she’d finally settle down and find that one special person.

She remembered the day well, that day her mother dropped the groceries on the stairs. It was a small stroke they had told her. Things could go either way.

They went the dark way. Her mother saw things, and said things that were not her. The illness ate along her brain and chewed every last piece of her personality.

When her daughter held her mother’s hand, she couldn’t recognize her anymore.

Her mother tried to say something, so she put her ear to her mother’s mouth just as she had done when she was a child. She felt her mother's hot breath caress her face.

“I love you,” said, her mother.

“And I will always watch over you, always look for the angel. I'll be there."

Her mother lived on for several more months, but she never spoke of such things again. Love had been eaten by the disease, too.

They buried her mother on a Thursday.

On the way back from the cemetery she saw an angel of sorts. Just some random person riding a bicycle. She wondered if she had overtaken the bike that she would see her mum peddling away with a huge grin on her face.

Then she did a strange thing. She decided to follow the angel. She did so through the town square, and through the old streets of the western half, then the cyclist disappeared down through a wooden gate. She couldn’t follow anymore but next to the gate was a young man, attempting to get a cat down from the tree.

“I don’t suppose you could help me?” He asked.

And she did help him, as he helped her.

Now she was sitting at the Christmas Day fire thinking of the old days.

"Tell you grandchildren, honey, how we met, how you followed the angel."

bobby stevenson 2016

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Ship

For as long as anyone could remember there had always been the ship. People were born, people lived their lives, and people died, on the ship.
Salt water was converted to fresh, fish were taken from the sea, and fruits and vegetables were grown on the upper decks. The ship never went anywhere in particular, because no one knew of the concept of ‘a place to go’. The ship just kept sailing on towards a horizon which it never reached.
Over the years the fuel had gone from steam, to oil, to a combination of wind, solar and nuclear. It never occurred to anyone on board to stop the ship – because that’s what the ship did, it always kept moving.
As each generation was born on to the ship, theories would arise as to how the ship had been created. Some believed that a race of beings had built the ship many, many eons ago – some believed that the ship had been provided by a god for the good of all those on board.
Over the years there were two types of people – those who explained all the ship’s trials and dilemmas in terms of science, and those who described the ship as a ‘toy of a greater being’. Both had rules, the science created rules to allow everyone to live comfortably on the ship – the others, well they wrote rules about who and what you were permitted to do. They felt that as their god had provided the ship, then that god should not be angered. People had to marry, have children and thank their god at every opportunity.
In the end, no one ever really knew what the truth was. The scientists believed there had been a world, once upon a time, which had flooded – and that those on the ship were the only souls left. When someone from a science family died, they were buried overboard in order to feed the fishes – ‘the circle of life’ they called it. When one of the ship-god souls died they were also buried overboard, but were expected to rise to the heavens and live among the stars.
No one was right and no one was wrong. Each generation felt that they knew the secret of life and each generation ended up in the sea – either as food, or as a means to pass to another world.
Someone, in times past, had scrawled a message upon the wall on the lowest deck – it read:
“We have no means of knowing why or how we came to exist on this ship. We must live together, not taking too much or destroying too much. Only by living in harmony and love can the ship keep moving.”
Underneath the phrase was a little wooden block which had been interpreted as the name of the soul who had etched the message.
It read: ‘RMS Titanic’.
bobby stevenson 2016