For a minute Rudolph McMurdo had been worried. He was hardly old. At the age of eighty-two he was still a year short of another media magnate, and his own news empire supplied him with the best health care money could buy. Yet he had been warned by medics that he had cardiac problems and the crushing pain in his chest had felt like the end. It wasn’t entirely comforting to realise it was. At least he had the satisfaction of knowing his demise proved he wasn’t has heartless as the smug bastards in the liberal media claimed. Nevertheless, it was cruel that death had finally come on his honeymoon night with his fourth and presumably final wife.
It was a sense of injustice over this that gave him an anchor in this new place. It was hard to tell exactly where he was. It was black, but well lit — though from no visible source. It certainly wasn’t dark. He could see himself well enough, a cursory examination of the back of his hand revealed the usual mottled. That was another thing someone would have to sort out. If he was dead then there was no need for him to be old.
The noise from behind was quiet, but was the only sound in the otherwise silent place. Rudolph spun round in surprise. Some distance away an old man in what may have been a robe, or possibly a toga, was shambling towards him. His gait was hindered by the need to avoid his overgrown beard that could have slipped beneath his feet as he walked. His head was stooped, like the most fascinating things in the world were his toenails. The image was everything Rudolph associated with religious nutters. Christ! You can’t even escape the bleeders in the afterlife. The man seemed to be muttering to himself. As the figure got closer it wasn’t what Rudolph had expected.
“…and then someone says ‘let’s have some religiously-inspired genocide.’ It would be nice if, just once, they thought of the poor sods who have to process everyone afterwards. I told him ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and ‘Turn the other cheek’ were too ambiguous, but would he listen? Ooof!”
The final syllable punctuated the man’s collision with a fascinated Rudolph. The man looked up and into Rudolph’s face with benign incomprehension. Rudolph waved his hand in front of the man. “Hello? D’yer work here?” Rudolph asked. Continue reading
To add a little context to the previous post: I’ve taken a course in short story writing, and Silencing the Echo might have been an entry for a short story competition in Wales — but I decided against entering it.
The inspiration comes from a druid who campaigned for reburial of prehistoric remains in the UK. Avebury, I think. Reburial was, he said, a matter of “common decency”. As phrases go, it’s a good one. It taps into the British sense of decency and reasonableness. Or at least it does at first.
When it keeps coming up again and again it loses the feeling of a sincere spontaneous statement and starts looking like a soundbite. Looked at closely, it gives away the intolerant nature of some of the campaigners.
Imagine we’re on opposite sides, and I’m campaigning for common decency. What does this make you? I suppose it could make you uncommonly decent, but the insinuation is a moral failing rather than simply a matter of disagreement, and when the same tag is used over and over then it looks less like an accident.
An unquestioned assumption is that reburial is what the person buried would wish for. This is not certain. Continue reading
The black clouds unleashed their rain, pelting Adlais’s face. The drops melted into her tears. Now, in the centre of the circle, the priests gripping her, she understood what happened to her friend Branwen.
Once again the crops had failed. The gods were angry. Someone in the tribe must be angering them and the tribe would have to be cleansed. Adlais had been called to the priests, who had asked if she would sing at the cleansing. She had never liked cleansings, but it was important it was done right, so she had willingly agreed and drank from the horn to signify her submission to the gods. Now, barely an hour later, her head felt like it was splitting, her ears rang with sound of her own heartbeat and her limbs jerked of their own volition as the priest listed her crimes.
Witnesses came into the circle to testify to seeing events that had never happened, to spying acts that had never been committed. They briefly recited their words, as they had for Branwen last year. Then they scurried back beyond the safety of the ditch that separated the world from this cursed space. As always, the accused was challenged to deny her crimes, but Adlais’s blood felt thick and poisonous. The words would not come to her tongue. She had been on the other side too many times to hope that people would see her distress. Her silence would condemn her. Her spasms would be visible evidence of the guilt torturing her.
The judgement came. Adlais filled with fear. Not for herself, her future was as obvious as the grave in front of her, but for her family and her friends watching from beyond the ditch. They were desperate, hoping this cleansing would finally rid the land of the blight. But what gods would be appeased by falsehoods?
It was almost a relief when the last act came. The blow to the back of her skull surprised her, as she discovered the pain in her head could indeed get worse. She stumbled, then fell into the pit dug for her, to the cheers and relief of the watchers. Still awake, she lay in her final bed as the priests began to cover her. Adlais cried. Not for herself but for the friend she had abandoned a year ago. Continue reading
There’s a crimewave in southern England. Deal Town Council have been been recklessly using the coat of Arms granted to Deal Borough Council in 1968. As heraldry aficionados will know, Deal Town Council covers a slightly different area than Deal Borough Council. Therefore there’s been a stretch of almost 40 years of law-breaking since the borough council was disbanded in 1974.
Deal Town FC have also been told their kit is illegal due to their badge. Presumably because people might confuse them with the entirely non-existent Deal Borough FC.
According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.
Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. “We’re really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time,” he said.
So apart from the quotes completely disagreeing with the headline in the story, has Dr Viner’s prediction come true? Does global warming mean we’ll freak out when snow comes?