( Flash Fiction 01 / Sane In A World Insane )

May 24, 2013

The man made absolutely no sense, whatsoever. He seemed to want to burst from his skin, twitching and shivering.

“... so then, you’ll get to a little clump of grass. It’s not very big, but not very small either. There, you’ll take ten steps forward (measured ones, mind you), and turn right, whereupon you’ll come to a derelict little path and that little path...”

And so it went, till Niall’s head fair ached with the sound of endless directions. He knew he was close, he just did. Perhaps the closer he came, the madder the folk about got. Of a certainty, the poor fellow reciting directions to the-gods-alone-knew-where seemed as insane as they come.

“Yes well... ah, thank you,” Niall said nervously before tipping his hat and continuing on his way. He walked with the easy step of the experienced traveller  not wasting time, leaping about here and there, all a dither with the excitement of a journey but rather putting one foot firmly in front of the other.

It was the tread of a man who knew where he was, which made getting where he was going that much easier.

Around him, the landscape went horribly awry with a wildness that grew trees twisted and odd in their branch expansion, sent grass sprawling in all directions rather than neat, quivering lines. And when Niall happened upon the path (because, of course, he counted his steps and they were measured ones), it squiggled around like a child’s drawing.

He thanked his lucky stars his memory hadn't yet given in, especially after all these years adding and subtracting and recalling the exact weight of a bolt of cloth and just where in the lands you could get the best deal. Those who reckoned the life of a peddler just buying and selling were profoundly wrong, he thought, and not for the first time either.

Niall hummed tunelessly as he followed the old path. The directions were remarkably precise. Follow the path till you get to the stream (it bubbled pleasantly) and wait on the bank for the space of four heartbeats before crossing. Take two deep breaths on the other side, turn to the left and walk for a steady count of sixty.

Niall arrived at the promised little hollow in the ground, placed his heel firmly within and spun two rotations before getting out and continuing the required twenty paces.

It was a jumbled mix of things to do and the peddler quite lost himself in the little tune that had taken hold in his mind and the series of bizarre actions he had to, well, action! He crossed the little stream twice more; the last time in one jump as per instruction.

For a while, he minded his location till even the urge to do that fell away and Niall, slowly forgetting himself and all the things he knew, spent the sunshine hours marching from here to there, hopping to his left and spinning once, twice... sometimes three times! It was a most impractical way to travel and while his innards rebelled at it, he continued for he must find the temple, as he had sworn he would do.

Deaf to his better judgement, he went on, step by step. Once, he looked up and could not fathom where he was, for everything looked the same; he wondered if he’d even moved. He had, though! Niall could feel the effects of it in his muscles and the shortness of breath, for there had been leaps and bounds involved and he was not a young man anymore.

Indeed, he took the moment to pause and await his second wind, which was longer in coming every cycle of seasons. Well and so, age was the one thing he could not escape. Nor could he escape the sudden, unsettling feeling that this, all... this, was for naught and done on the word of a madman. It was madness!

“But isn't that what you want?” The voice echoed from behind, sliding over his shoulder and taunting him with its promise.

Niall whirled and found himself back where he started, eye to eye with a man who twitched and shivered, as if his body were too tight for his soul. “What do I want?” he challenged, suddenly at odds with himself and irritated with the man. But he seemed unfazed by Niall’s rudeness.

“My dear, sweet, peddler ” he cooed, sashaying forward with an unholy elegance and his touch, when it came, chilled and thrilled Niall right down to the marrow of his bones. The man’s hand was on his shoulder, and it squeezed tight and all too real. He pulled Niall close, uncomfortably so; so close he could see an erratic pulse jumping in the man’s neck. So close he could feel hot breath on his ear as the man, who still twitched and shivered, whispered the answer.

“The only way to the Mad God lies through madness!”

Despite himself, Niall laughed, and the high, hysterical sound of it chased all the sanity away.


Challenge: here
Sentence: “A veteran peddler is seeking the Temple of the Mad God.”

Comment: Rather more... inconsistent than I would like, I can only justify and say it fits with the feel of the piece. It's the first standalone piece I've done in far too long, but enjoyable despite that.

( Currently 01 )

May 22, 2013

How happy is the little Stone 
That rambles in the Road alone,
And doesn't care about Careers
And Exigencies never fears—
Whose Coat of elemental Brown
A passing Universe put on,
And independent as the Sun
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute Decree
In casual simplicity— 
E. Dickinson

I'm always reading a great many things at any given time. But at the moment, I am doing my annual revisit to the Duncton Chronicles, a trilogy of books introduced to me just as I was entering my troublesome teenage years. I believe it was the first, great epic that I read and it set a pattern for me that's still very much in place today: I like reading books that you could knock someone out with. There's a special pleasure in those kinds of books. Re-reading is something I only do with my favourite series, and with this particular one, I am still always moved and learn something new about the characters and their story, every time.

L I S T E N I N G   T O

I am the worst when it comes to music. I tend to get very... set in what I like and don't like. Consequently, I often stumble across new music long after the rest of the world has, and tend to fall in love not so much with bands themselves, but with their albums. For example: I am not a big Foals fan. Unless we're talking about their new album, Holy Fire which, dangit, you should go and listen to because it's absolutely great. I like to listen to it in the morning, on my way to work (the civil service my iPod provides is for another post altogether) and I couldn't think of a better way to get your day kicking. Unless it be the Black Keys. But, I digress.


I'm doing, I believe, a great many things. Truth be told, I don't even want to list them here. However, worth mentioning are two little projects I happen to be working on. You could, in a sense, think of the one as rebranding and redesign, as well as a little help towards establishing an online presence. I am wielding my SEO skills like I haven't in a year. As for the other project, it's a simple little redesign for my father's blog, which is in need of some work. As for the rest, writing. Always writing.


I have always liked to say that I have no interest in politics and current affairs, like those lucky few who can turn away from the bad news and get on with their lives. Sadly, the decisions I have taken in my life have ensured that saying the aforementioned has never been an option. Still, there's just no denying that we are now well into the election year and it would all serve us well to remember that, whenever we read the news, or hear about politicians shouting at us, protests and strikes. I am quite certain that it will be as tumultuous as it has always promised to be and quite uncertain of what will happen at the end of it all, too.

( A Few Words )

May 18, 2013

when all is said and done
there are no endings, just beginnings
no goodbyes
just the certainty that one day
in some other place
I will see you again
till then, I will be fine
and so will you.

( Playlist 03 / Make You Tick )

May 14, 2013

So, ages ago, I emailed Kongos and asked them if they'd put together a playlist for me. I received possibly the best playlist ever from Dylan, the lead singer. These are the songs that make them tick, plus a little note about why. Thanks Dylan!

Amadou & Mariam - Djama
"A blind couple from Mali who inspire us to dance and 
make music that gets people dancing."

These Days (Solo Acoustic) - Jackson Browne
"One of our all time favorite Jackson Browne songs - written when he was 
sixteen, its lyrical depth is well beyond his years."

Tinariwen - Mano Dayak
 "Another band from Mali - one of our favorite bands. They make 
blues music like you've never heard before."

Respect - Biggie
"This song is the shit. That's all."

A Rush Of Blood To The Head - Coldplay
"Back in the day when all I had was a 28mb mp3 player, this album was 
all I listened to. Made me realize just how great of songwriters they actually are."

Spiegel Im Spiegel - Arvo Part
"An incredibly simple piano and violin piece by this Estonian composer 
that puts you in a completely different state of mind. "

Natural Mystic - Bob Marley
"This song (and the live video in Dortmund, Germany) is what 
we aspire to in terms of groove. There is no one better."

Graceland - Paul Simon
"One of the first/most prominent uses of South African rhythms and 
harmony in Western music. A great story too."


( Ohai Winter )

April 21, 2013

It's been a stupidly long time since I have written anything for this place. I'll put it down to the fact that we are between seasons and my mood was sour on account of that. More truthfully, though, work has been crazy and when I get home in the evenings, the most I can do is call for wine and turn on the television. Thus: winter is coming and work is hard.

Nevertheless, I shall persevere! I have emerged from my transitional slump filled with the fire of productivity, determined to populate the internet with my rubbish and perhaps make a valid point or two along the way. More importantly though, winter is here (at least, it certainly feels that way in Cape Town) and I plan to spend this one quietly banging away at my novel, improving my Photoshop skills and undertaking the odd writing project here and there. And while I'm not as inclined to talk about my novel as I had originally thought, I will mention the other two in some detail.

During one of my many, endless web trawling sessions, I stumbled across the Pugly Pixel blog. The blog itself is incredibly good-looking, and informative; interesting too. And then I discovered that Katrina, who writes the blog and describes herself as a 'web design enthusiast', offers these great Photoshop tutorials. Now, I have only been an ardent lover of Photoshop for the last year or so, but have always nurtured an interest in design. And while I know people can come to understand Photoshop intuitively and completely on their own, I don't have that kind of time. So I'm going to try out some of her tutorials and maybe, if it looks nice, I'll put them up here. Maybe.

In other news, anyone who has ever heard me talk about books and authors and great writers in general will know who Chuck Wendig is (aside from my literary spirit animal, I mean) and the man authors one of the best blogs on the internet, in my opinion: Terrible Minds. On Fridays, he issues a Flash Fiction Challenge. And I think it's high time that I got up off my rump and started participating. His challenges are fun and interesting, different and, well, challenging. It's an excellent way to keep in the swing of things and my new found purpose is to do as many of these as life allows; they'll be going up here too, for your reading pleasure (or, you know, not... anyway...).

'Tis the season of betterment, readers, and the aforementioned will be how I shall attempt this... betterment. (I scoff in its general direction!). Whether I'll actually achieve something meaningful, as with all forms of betterment, remains to be seen.