A walk at night

Inspired by ‘Stars over Cloughanover‘ by The Saw Doctors. A song from. my past that came into my head tonight, and it’s. still just as excellent as I remember.

I say goodbye in the door of their house. The sun set a long time ago, and the stars are scattered like dust across the sky. There’s a full moon too, behind me as I walk. I walk down along the track, fields stretching out to either side. There’s the sound of my footsteps on the dirt, loosely compressed through light usage. The occasional sound of some nocturnal animals, badgers maybe. In. the open, quiet space it’s easy to pinpoint where they are, off to my right. It was drizzling earlier. Only lightly, but enough to leave everything smelling fresh now.

I amble slowly along the tracks that lead me home. To my left, the faint outline of the ruins rise up. I turn towards them and walk. There’s something. mystical about the stones here, they almost seem to be glowing. Approaching the first stone on. the ground I pause and I lay. on it, legs just reaching off the edge, bathed in. the light of the moon and the stars.

I stare up at the black sky. The stars thrown across it. The moon hung up in the air.

And I exist. I am.

Renovation

A country lane. An iron-wrought gate. It opens automatically. The car silently glides up the winding drive. A turning circle in front. The car stops. I emerge.

Walking forwards. The doors open, and I enter. The high-ceilinged entry hallway is bathed in light streaming through the high windows above. This is an old house. Hidden passages, though you wouldn’t know it without a careful eye. Wood panelled walls. A library. Several living rooms. A conservatory, a large kitchen to name just a few. The pipes rattle as you draw a bath. That kind of house. A house, with character. With a presence. Even standing there now I can feel the house. It’s looking at me, and sizing me up, as much as I am looking at it.

I didn’t have much stuff to move from my old place. Mostly books and clothes. A minimal amount of furniture. And whilst I could tell that the house wouldn’t have a problem with books being housed inside its walls, it might not be quite as happy with having a refit of its electrics and plumbing.

When you end up owning a house like this, you have to negotiate with the house itself as much as with the seller. If the house doesn’t like you then you’ll have a hard time changing it. Sometimes it will want to change, but other times, like now, a house might be resistant to being brought into modern times. And when a house is in that kind of mood you might suddenly encounter unexpected issues whilst renovating. Issues that would cost a fortune to try fixing, only for them to recur again and again. Damp. Subsidence. Rotting roof beams.

It’s funny how people say that objects sometimes have a mind of their own. They never realise how close they are to the truth. But every saying has to start somewhere with some truth to it.

I know that to renovate this place for the modern era I’m going to need to first get to know the house. So I set about living in her, as she is used to being lived in. I fill her with books. I work around the limited electric points and make do with using logs fires for heating. I get to know her quirks and explore her passages.

Eventually I feel I’ve gotten to know her. And so I start doing some re-wiring. Stripping her down slowly. one room at a time, where possible. I know she likes her period fittings, so I’m careful that new sockets will keep to the existing style, even if there are now far more of them. By the end of this her electrics will be far more suited to our modern needs.

The hot water and heating system proves more of a challenge. She is reluctant to let go of the traditional wood fireplaces, and no amount of experimenting seems to go without resistance. problems continuously occur, as I feared. Eventually, having realised we are at an impasse, I decide to communicate directly with the house. Usually this isn’t necessary, in fact although it’s documented and taught how to perform this rite; there is no record of it having been performed in living memory.

Having found its core whilst first exploring and getting to know the house, I begin the preparations. Runes are sketched on the floor of the library in the middle of the house. Circles. are inscribed, and herbs are prepared.

The following evening, just as the moon is rising I perform the. ceremony, summoning the house to take on a form I can directly communicate with. As I complete the summoning and open my eyes, a fox is there. to greet me.

The fox tilted its head to one side and I blink.
“Not what you expected?” the fox asks from behind a grin.
“Not… exactly,” I stumble out “I expected a more human appearance”.
Bother. This was going to be more difficult than I expected. There’s a reason the saying is that someone is as sly as a fox.

Leaf

Sun shines
Birds call
Squirrels run and trees rustle

We lay
Leaves fall
One lands right upon your nose

You sneeze
I smile
The world sighs and it is right

Travel

A winding country lane. You know the sort. Hedgerows on either side. Bendy and narrow, miles and miles from anywhere and definitely no streetlights in sight. No artificial lights at all…. except for your headlights.

You’re playing music over Bluetooth from your phone. There’s no mobile signal here. Let alone any data. Spotify is out, you’re relying on what you have stored locally.

Sure, you could put the radio on but then you’d be connected. You’d know you’re still in the world. You need to just be alone for a while.

Driving down these unnamed country roads, occasionally passing a farm where the lights are off. If anyone is there they’re fast asleep at this time.

You find this relaxing. It’s just you and the car. No signs of modern civilisation. The stars are clear and the moon is full. What more do you need.

You’ve been driving for hours now, you start to wonder if you’ve switched to a different universe, because anything at all could be happening. It’s a pure escape.

A glow on the horizon. A city is now on the horizon. You sigh. Streetlights. Cars. People. You switch back to the radio. You wonder when you’ll find time to do it again.

Silence in a storm

Inspired by The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

I stood. Looking down upon the streets, as hundreds walked past. I could see the blue of a phone screen infront of them or, if not that then headphones. There was sun. There was silence.

There was noise. Birds chirping, people talking or laughing. But noise was all it was. The sounds didn’t matter to anyone but the one making them. There was silence.

Clouds darkened the sky, and still the people walked unseeing, uncaring of what was happening all about them. The silence continued. The skies opened and rain comes pouring down. Thunder crashes and lightning flashes. Still the silence reigns. No-one caring, except that now the people are carrying umbrellas, or wearing coats. Obscuring from on high the sight of the earbuds.

As a peal of thunder crashes I scream. The thunder fades, the scream fades. I scream again, without the thunder. And still the silence holds. I wonder if others are doing the same. I don’t look to find out.

I leave the roof, go down to the street. I put my headphones on, pull my hood up, and walk. The Silence was undisturbed.

Silence at 200km

Ever since the first days of humanity, we have been fascinated by the stars. By the blinking lights in the sky at night, by the massive light that rises in the morning and sets in the evening. We mythologised the ones that moved, assigning them the status of gods like Mercury, Jupiter, Mars. We grouped them into constellations, seeing patterns among the random scattering. As we stared, we learned more about them. As we stared, we learned more about the universe, from their motions and from their light. We moved from calling them gods to calling them lumps of rock, or balls of gas. Our understanding grew. And as our fascination grew, we dreamed. We dreamed of the day we’d send probes up there. Maybe even men.

In 1957, we launched Sputnik 1. It was meant to be the first probe to orbit the earth at a height 215km. Except as it hit 200km above sea level, it vanished. The signals stopped. The Russians assumed it had been lost for some reason. An engineering defect perhaps, after all nothing had gone that high before. No debris was reported or found.

The near success of Sputnik 1 started the space race.

Sputnik 2 rapidly followed, with the engineers having tweaked the designs in the hope it was simply a manufacturing defect. It too, disappeared. The US tried too, and again at 200km it also disappeared.

This caused the scientific and engineering communities great concern. Nothing in the theories or models predicted anything that could destroy a probe at 200km. Probe after probe was tried, and they all failed. No signals were received after a probe reached 200km. Religious communities seized on this failure of modern science, trying to portray it as a sign that science was wrong, that it didn’t know everything.

The Space Race ended, inevitably, when both sides agreed that the 200km phenomena needed cooperation to resolve. And so that lead to today, where we’ve worked together to engineer a rocket capable of reaching almost, but not quite 200km, and capable of sustaining life for a time so we can report back what can be found, as our probes are evidently incapable of detecting anything.

As we launch, I’m in constant contact with mission control, as is my one crew mate. We both know the risks, that we might not see our loved ones again. As the rocket lifts us up we keep looking ahead, straight out of the window to see what, if anything we can see. The altimeter in the corner of my vision is counting upwards. 50, 60, 80, 100, 150. The rockets cut out, momentum should be enough to take us to our desired height now, at which point we’ll just maintain altitude. As we hit 199km we can just see space. It’s beautiful. It’s exactly as we’ve always seen. Below there are clouds, and in some places ocean and land. It is beautiful.

We know what we need to do. Our sensors, and senses, report nothing unusual. Looking at each other, and with a silent nod, we tell mission control that, against orders, we’re going higher. Silence in response.

We go higher, and higher….. the altimeter ticks over to 200.

The hollow cuboid

An image of the Enclosure sculpture
Enclosure – Paul de Monchaux. The inspiration for this piece

The structure appeared one day.
You might expect that no one paid much attention to it, that they believed it to just be another art installation in a city park.
But people noticed. It wasn’t an art installation. At least, not one sanctioned by the local administration. Not the national one for that matter. And the international bodies didn’t concern themselves with art. Usually….
The first person to see it in the early hours of the morning on their bike to work noticed The Quieting.
Approaching the frame, they realised they could no longer hear the sound of their bike on the path. The sound of the wind in the leaves. But they were running late to take over their shift and so onwards they peddled, putting it out of their mind. Or trying to.
As news spread of The Quieting the military was mobilised. You could hear them coming with their loud rattling Jeeps… so long as you weren’t in The Zone.
They came with their devices and their guns – not being sure what to make of it. Enquiries were being made to determine where it came from.
The first thing their devices told them was that The Quieting was absolute and, apparently, passive. It wasn’t like noise cancelling headphones – emitting a sound that just cancels out other sounds. There was no sound. None. It was as if the air was perfectly still, held in place. Except, of course, it wasn’t. You could still feel the wind.
Enquiries came back with no information. No one knew where it came from or why it was there.
And then the military scientists had another result come back that resulted in the cordon being widened.
They simply walked through it. They didn’t do this immediately naturally. They’d tested with microphones, speakers, cameras, sensors of all kinds and nothing had happened. But when the junior scientist walked into it they simply vanished.
Everybody was shocked. You would have heard a yell from the soldiers. Screams from the observers. Except for The Quieting.
It took a minute or two in all the panic for the soldiers and people at the cordon to notice… but where the cordon was previously outside of The Quiet Zone, it was now silent. The Quieting had reacted.
Military rushed to widen the cordon again, but really there was little need – the public had fled after seeing the soldier disappear.
Day after day, week upon week, this continued. Experiments that, while consistent and repeatable, refused to make sense. And slowly The Quiet Zone expanded as more experiments triggered its apparent defences.
Eventually the size of The Quiet Zone, and the refusal of The Quieting to yield to science lead to weapons being used. It was attacked with jackhammers, drills and power tools of all kinds. Each caused a reaction from The Quieting.
The public was scared. The Government was powerless despite the assistance of international bodies.
One by one countries, governments, fell. With The Quieting becoming ever more aggressive the political ramifications were felt the world over.
And when The Quieting was complete, when The Quiet Zone was global, what happened? Something spoke. Not out loud, for no longer was there sound anywhere. But something spoke into the minds of everyone.
‘You are ready’