Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Questions

Questions

Sometimes, questions just pop unbidden into your head, like, "What would happen if a bear had a fight with a rhino?"

Well, it'd be pretty fuckin' loud, that's for damn sure. Of course, the outcome is mainly determined by the agility of the bear. Does he get impaled by the charging beast, or does he stand his ground and tear it apart, ripping off chunks of flesh like so much candyfloss, blood spewing from the carcass like a drunk on a pavement. Plus, Bear vs. Rhino is a pretty cool name for a band.

**

This was written at a Bear vs. Rhino gig.

I'd kind of intended it to be a review, but wanted to enjoy the music, rather than trying to sit neatly pigeonholing it.

Bear Vs. Rhino. It's good noise rock. http://bearvsrhino.bandcamp.com/

Have a listen. They're nice guys too. They are not paying me to say this. They have threatened to let loose both a bear and a rhino though, so...

Monday, 28 April 2014

Heroes and Villains VIII - The Queen of Hammers

THE QUEEN OF HAMMERS

The Kingdom of the Hammer People is a lot like the Kingdom of Stone, only much louder. Hulking men line the streets, their hammer arms beating sheets of metal, fresh from the forges. Production had slowed since golems had been exiled from the Kingdom. The workers were too busy struggling to pass metal from the forges to bar my path to the castle.

Drawing closer to the castle, I saw two men approach one another, clearly friends. As they embraced, the hammers at the end of their arms crashed on each other's backs. The Stone King's story was beginning to make much more sense.

The queen did not appear impressed that I had made it to the castle.

QUEEN OF HAMMERS: We are not prepared to join your army, human. You are far too weak to stand alongside us.

MINDSWEEPER: I have not come to request military aid.

QH: Si vis pacem para bellum.

M: I understand the quote, your Majesty, yet I fail to see the relevance.

QH: "To secure peace is to prepare for war." If you are not against us, you wish as alongside you.

M: I think you misunderstand my intent, your Highness.

QH: Why are you here, worm?

M: I have a delivery for you.

QH: So you're not the human spy I've heard so many reports of?

M: I am seeking understanding, not surveillance.

QH: The delivery, what is it?

M: I do not know. I was told to deliver it to you part of the way through my journey.

QH: Do not deceive me human. Endangering me will see that you do not leave this kingdom alive.

M: With respect, your Highness, I have already risked death to get here.

QH: Death?

M: I was ambushed by Hollowheart.

QH: Strange...

M: What do you mean, your Highness?

QH: Hollowheart is a contract killer. He wouldn't have harmed you unless somebody wanted you dead. You say you're not a spy. Perhaps he knew something I don't.

M: He said, "I think I'm going to let you live. For now."

QH: Perhaps then, he knew something even you yourself do not know.

M: I don't understand, your Highness.

QH: It is possible he knew you were on diplomatic business, and as such, was forbidden from harming you.

M: By the Council...

QH: Yes. Now. To business. The parcel, please.

A guard was summoned to take the parcel. An opener was summoned, and an object lifted toward the queen.

QH: HUMAN! COME HERE! WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THIS?

She held a piece of stone, into which had been etched the words:

"I'M SORRY"

M: I don't know what that is, your Highness, or what it means.

QH: It's a segment of his heart.

M: It must be etched with tears. He's eroded the words in. One tear per day.

QH: But that must have taken...

M: Since your exile?

QH: How do you know so much about this, human?

M: I visited the King. I spoke to him. He didn't tell me everything, but before I left the kingdom, he had a courier deliver this to me and tell me I was to give it to you.

QH: Two kingdoms...

Two kingdoms, the last words I heard spoken in the court of the Queen of Hammers, the last words I heard spoken in her kingdom.

I left after dark, when all hammer blows had ceased, and the bellows had fallen silent. The air seemed to whisper a misery echoed by the night's shadows.

The path stretched out ahead where I walked until daylight, when I collapsed among the emerging pebbles. I awoke much later, the taste of metal in my mouth. I began to panic, convinced I had lost a large quantity of blood. All I needed was comfortable sleep.

Tooth Fairy

Tooth Fairy

You can come across some pretty disturbing cases in this line of work. Granted, homicide isn't the most pleasant thing to deal with, even when it is routine, but some cases turn your stomach more than others.

One of the tougher cases wasn't even the most difficult to solve. DNA profiling makes things a lot easier now, but to begin with the bodies were difficult to identify.

It became apparent that a spate of killings were sharing a major trait. All the victims had their teeth removed, their genitals mutilated, and their bodies burned. Also, they were all children.

Our killer initially seemed quite particular about avoiding detection, but he hadn't been meticulous enough. He'd failed to wear adequate gloves when removing the children's teeth. His blood was found on the corpses. This seemed to indicate that he had attempted to remove some of their teeth while they were still alive. We can only assume that he was bitten in an attempt to resist.

Eventually, the "Tooth Fairy" was arrested and sentenced to death by lethal injection. I was glad to see him go, but it didn't bring any of the children back, and I still get sick thinking about the case.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Identity

Identity

Funny what makes people think you're important. Go anywhere in a Hi-Vis jacket, and people assume you're security staff. Go to a show with a notepad, write down any old rubbish while the band play, and some finger clicking friend of the band thinks you're a critic, maybe a talent spotter. I think my writing has just taken on a new dimension of fucking with people. Finally a job I can enjoy, and I don't even work here.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Rock and Roll

Rock and Roll

Good rock and roll feels good, like Satan giving you head while he has his pinky rammed in your asshole. You've got that image now, and half-disgusted, you're thinking… why the pinky?

It's not enough reach to truly stimulate, but then you remember. Satan is a god-damned prick tease. Like the best rock and roll, you're left wanting more, almost breathless, and for some reason you're shaking with excitement, despite your hearing no longer working. That and you're horny.

Heroes and Villains VII - Obscura

Obscura

To tell the truth, Obscura really didn't look much like a superhero, or a supervillain.

MINDSWEEPER: So, Obscura, what is it you actually do?

OBSCURA: I'm a master photographer.

M: A photographer?

O: Yes. That's what I said. The comics don't like me. They say this new photorealistic style of graphic is putting a lot of the old timers out of business.

M: And how do you respond to those allegations?

O: They ought to work harder, learn new skills. Not my damn fault they can't keep up. I have my own problems.

M: Such as?

O: Almost getting blown to pieces in warzones across the world. Where else do they send photographers these days?

M: Nothing else earns much money?

O: Nothing else sells, pretty much.

M: How do you cope?

O: I manage. Lucrative business, like you said.

M: Is there any truth to the suggestion that your eyes work differently to everyone else? Our images are projected onto our retinas upside down then converted, yours are right side up, so you can effectively see a few milliseconds quicker than everyone else giving you a better reaction time for taking pictures?

O: No. Complete fabrication from the comics companies. A lot of the more fantastic elements of heroic life are complete crap.

M: You resent that?

O: Not so long as the paychecks keep rolling in, but budgets have been tightened a little.

M: In your photographs, all the dead appear to be wearing black hoods. Is this the work of terrorists?

O: No.

M: Is it related to respect for the families of the dead?

O: No. I do it so I can sell the photos to our Government and to the terrorists.

M: That's… well…

O: Reprehensible? Immoral? Survival?

M: I… don't suppose you'd like to pose for a photograph?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Heroes and Villains VI - Hollowheart

Hollowheart

After I'd left, the Unfinished Man's last sentence finished itself in my head.

"...be disappointed. You don't always go looking for evil. Sometimes it comes looking for you."

As it happened, I wished I had been paying more attention. Thinking back on it, there was a silence beforehand. I felt a blade at my back. It sliced through my shirt and began to dig its way into my flesh. Serrated. A phantom hand pinched my cheeks in hard, and then a voice floated into my head.

"Most attackers will cover your mouth, trying to keep you quiet, but that way you can lick or bite, throw me off my guard. This way, you're unable to scream, and I'm hurting you. You understand without me needing to explain."

The knife withdrew. The grip tightened momentarily, then relaxed. Hollowheart.

HOLLOWHEART: Hello friend. I am alive.

MINDSWEEPER: Clearly.

H: You see, what your people often miss is the psychological aspect. You think violence is enough. You're too quick to forget that the threat of violence can hurt just as much. You destroy yourself so I don't have to. Maybe you're just scared of stretching yourselves. Concerned about being caught. Our lawmen know who I am.

M: So why have they done nothing?

H: Would you dare to challenge me? How do you confine a man without fear within the bounds of the law?

M: I'm not trained to answer that.

H: An honest journalist! How novel! I think I'm going to let you live. For now. Killing you here would be too easy.

M: I was told you prefer a kill to a challenge.

H: And who told you that? Clearly someone who's not seen me stalk my prey before I cut off his head and hold it aloft, sometimes with the spine still dripping whatever fluids were left in his body after I'd finished. Some of them like to struggle. One has to teach them a lesson. After all, there is one specific kill I want. The Unfinished Man is my current target. After that, well, we shall see.

M: Why don't you just kill him? Surely you have the power to do so?

H: The Council of Superheroes won't sanction it. As such, I am physically unable to do so.

M: Surely you could set the ball rolling?

H: He's survived EVERYTHING. Somehow the Council keep him alive. A chance intervention by a superhero, distracting me, or drawing him away. Blasted moral codes, I can't stand it anymore.

M: That's emotion.

H You BASTARD! HOW DARE YOU! HE SENT YOU HERE TO WEAKEN ME!

M: You ambushed me.

A pause. I saw the knife before I saw his face. Glasslike, I saw his face in its reflection, fine black hair like wire in the wind. That smile, the thunder that never came. Knife twist flips his face before mine and for a moment I imagined him as nothing more than a lightning bolt. Showing fear, the biggest weakness of all in front of people like Hollowheart. The psychological aspect.

M: You're scared, aren't you?

Defiance, a bullet to his nervous system, like caffeine carpet-bombing his brain.

H: Of him?

M: Now we're getting somewhere.

A step back briefly, trying to get the knife back in my line of vision. Focus blurs for a moment and I worry that I'll trip.

M: The Unfinished Man?

H: No. I'm not scared of him, I just hate him.

M: Who then? You are scared. The Council of Superheroes?

H: They failed me. All I needed was protection from him. They let me die. That's why they won't let me kill him. As a hero I'd be bound to expose their negligence and punish them. They can't have that. I'd kill them all. They know it's coming.

M: A hero?

H: If I killed The Unfinished Man, a known supervillain, they'd be forced to dub me a hero. Me, a vicious serial killer. It'd bring them down, like collapsing a house of cards. Their magicians have stopped me from harming him.

M: You expect anyone to believe a conspiracy theory like that?

H: No. I've learned that I can't trust any of you. I just wanted friends. That's all I ever wanted.

The knife disappeared again. I saw a few flashes and suddenly Hollowheart held his golden shell in his hand. It pulsed weakly for a moment before his grip tightened. The shell appeared softer than I'd thought. Practically putty in his hand. I'd forgotten how soft pure gold was. His legs went first, buckling, then crashing to the floor.

No scream, more a whimper. His grip wavered, and he tried to stand. Stumbling, he turned to face me. His eyes, childlike, burned brighter than the gold that was crumbling in his hand.

"Why am I such a void?"

The last words he spoke before he dropped his heart. Falling on it, he breathed his last as he crushed it into the road.

His lifeless body was less scary. Juvenile almost. His eyes… a tint of gold. His last heroic act, retribution. A single tear, gold. The boy really wanted to be a hero. I cradled him in my arms and carried him to the next town for a decent burial, villain or hero.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Love letters

You know, sometimes we're just too clingy.

Love letters are disingenuous. All the words have already been said by everyone else. By better men than you. No wonder she's so bored. Every sweet thought you commit to page is just meaningless garbage. We all strive to be adored, and yet all we offer are the meaningless platitudes we've been force fed until we spew them out like foie gras gone wrong. Now the woman you've tricked yourself into believing will be yours is bored and your words have ruined her dress.

Heroes and Villains V - Carlton Luna

Carlton Luna

"So who is Carlton Luna?"

They ask often enough. Everyone's heard the rumours about Old Spaceman. He got teased about the name as a kid.

"HEY! HEY! MOON MAN!"

Over and over. They say he decided even way back then. Some say he never went at all. Some say he never really came back and it was someone else. Truth is, old Carlton Luna told so many stories about being an astronaut, that they had him locked up.

You see, all the poking fun had unhinged him a little, and he started to tell everyone that would listen that he was the Man in the Moon. This all peaked right around '58, September or so, a couple of weeks before he was institutionalised. Eleven years before they got to the Moon and were finally able to prove all his stories were just a load of old baloney. Poor guy.

But who is Carlton Luna really? I mean, yeah, sure, he told a few stories. Yeah, he lied. It made him happy. He didn't hurt anybody. No violence, nothing like that. He never asked for money. He just liked telling stories. People took his stories for free, then once the entertainment urge was sated, they locked him away to rot. What a despicable thing to do to an old man.

How many others are there out there like him, I wonder? How many stars orbiting gracefully around a sun that less interesting people might call mania, thus showing a deficit in both vocabulary and capacity for compassion. Blessed is he who has an imagination. Or she. Either way, when did it become acceptable to ostracise people like Carlton Luna?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Heroes and Villains IV - The Unfinished Man

The Unfinished Man

Beneath the Hanging Cliffs, I met another supervillain. Widely regarded as a joke by more casual observers, who saw him as a lazy artist's excuse for slacking, the Unfinished Man was a much more serious prospect in the flesh. Or lack of it. Bits of him were just missing. Chunks of flesh simply were not there.

Mindsweeper: Why do so many see you as a joke?

Unfinished Man: They think it's an ironic nod to the public's poor attitude to artists. You know, all that arrogant "I could do that, anyone could", or "They're so lazy, why don't they get a real job?"

M: Yes, I know the type. So why are you so feared by everyone else?

UM: I created Hollowheart. I know the name doesn't strike terror into you, but I can assure you that he is one of the most sadistic killers this world has ever known. He was once the Golden Child, the boy with a heart of pure gold. Well, until I defied the Council of Superheroes. I cut him open and carved a pound of solid gold from his still beating heart before sealing it into a hollow shell. Before they exiled me, they had a pack of wild dogs tear at my flesh. Pound for a pound? No. They took more. It turns out that evil is much lighter than gold.

M: You seem to be confusing mass with volume.

UM: Have you ever known a supervillain to be perfect?

M: No.

UM: Then quit being such a smartass before I kill you.

M: Is that all?

UM: If you're after some sort of witty comment then you're going to

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Heroes and Villains III - Average Man

Average Man

It's not every day that you meet a superhero. Schedules tend to fill up pretty quickly. Villain bashings, maiden rescues, world saving, bar crawls, book signings, it's a hectic life. A journalist occasionally has to drop his standards. What the hell, you take what you can get. Ladies and gentlemen, Mindsweeper presents: Average Man.

Mindsweeper: Interesting moniker there…

Average Man: What?

M: Name, mate. Interesting name. I'd have thought a superhero would go for something a little more… impressive.

AM: Well, it wasn't actually my choice.

M: Superheroes don't choose their own names?

AM: No. Not even their own powers.

M: How does it work then?

AM: You apply to the Council of Superheroes to become a new super, and you're allocated a name and powers. You are allowed to apply for a change every five years, but it's not guaranteed. Depends on your timing, plus there's a lot of competition for the big powers.

M: Buy you said you just apply for them… that gives me the impression it's all just paperwork.

AM: Oh yeah, sure, there's a lot of paperwork involved, and I won't mention any names, but I'm pretty sure some of the superheroes are outsourcing the old homework if you know what I mean…

M: Wow. So… what exactly are your powers?

AM: I'm average. Perfectly average in every respect. Designed to appeal to comic book readers with low self-esteem.

M: Pretty big market.

AM: Well, yes. My revenues are far in excess of the average.

After a laughter break of average length, and a coffee break of rather more superhuman proportions, we resumed the interview.

M: So, if you are, effectively powerless, who on Earth do you fight?

AM: My main enemy is Inadequatron, the clumsy robot overlord. I've taken on far nastier villains though, Reaper, Hollowheart, Vampira… and as I say, I've had my fair share of losses.

M: Averaging out?

AM: Exactly. Many of these stories have become boring and predictable haven't they? "OH NO! THEY'VE GOT THE SUPERHERO! HE'S GOING TO DIE! Oh wait, he used his superpowers to get out of trouble and kick someone right off the planet" or whatever. It's just so mediocre. I get that people love it, and I enjoy them too, but sometimes you just need a break from it all, don't you?

M: So not bitter then?

AM: I used to be a supervillain. Feargiver. One Christmas, several orphanages complained to the Civil Liberties Union. The Council of Superheroes upheld the ruling and I was demoted. That's life though right?