Sunday 17 June 2012

Death and Taxes

The story so far,

Following a trail of notes asking for help has lead our three heroes to a small red planet where they have been unexpectedly shot dead.

The fifth part of the trilogy:

Skimming time like a stone on a pond

It's turned out weird again

Trail of Crumbs

An unfortunate bullet in the head

"You useless, slow witted, pompous, stupid Englishmen," the thin, ethereal, yet strangely resonant voice began, "Have you got you heads stuck up your respective bottoms?"

"I'm American. And a woman."

"THEN YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER." The voice cut her off dismissively.

"We're alive?!" I said, looking down at myself and feeling my head.

"Of course you're not alive, you bloody half-wit. You were shot in the head. Right through your brain. You are dead as a dodo."

"I'm alive. I was sure I was a gonna there," said Roth, now suddenly standing next to me.

"I'm not going through all this again, look over there." A single skeletal finger pointed from under his black cape to an untidy pile on the ground.

"I'm dead and that's my body over there?"

"There is some hope for you, the tall one who smells faintly of pepperoni catches on fast. Yes, you are all dead. Those are your bodies."

"Why is the outer casing of a ball point pen sticking out of the bullet hole in my head?" asked Roth.

This was quite a lot to take in. The three of us stood facing the black caped skeletal figure holding a scythe. He was deep in thought.

Eventually he spoke, "I expected one of you to get shot and killed, hence my warning on the bus where I told you one of you would not be returning. I didn't expect the other two to stand around in the open arguing until they got shot too."

He paused and thought some more, "Your mission is too important, you must go on and help the writer of the notes."

"You are here to reap our souls?" I asked.

"I am the Grim Reaper, the personification of Death. I live with three other guys who also like horses. Of course I'm here to collect your souls."

"But I didn't eat the salmon mousse," said Roth.

"I hear this three or four times a day since that sodding Monty Python sketch. It is wearing really thin." He pointed a bony finger at Roth, "I would suggest you shut up."

He thought some more. "I have three souls to collect. You need to continue with your mission. So I think I have a solution. Look over there."

In the distance our murderers had broken cover and were walking over to where we lay. Clearly they couldn't see us or the Slightly Peeved Reaper. There were three of them and they were dressed like scrawny versions of John Rambo. They suddenly froze in mid-step.

"I'm going to collect their souls, pop yours back in your bodies, and fudge the paperwork. If I switch the mental records I shouldn't get found out." As he spoke, six folders appeared on the ground, three really fat ones and three slim ones. He picked up the three slim folders and flicked through them, "Fairly straightforward murderers." He picked up the three thick folders and read through them, "Wow, you guys have mental problems I've never seen before. And the pages are all out of chronological order. I think some of the time stamps are wrong too. That page is marked with the date Atlantis sank."

Eolist coughed and Indigo Roth looked down and shuffled.

Death waved a bony hand, the folders switched contents and vanished. "Stay here and don't move."

He walked over to the three murderers. Our murderers. They unfroze and fell to the ground. From their bodies we could see their souls drift out and upwards. A slight wind blew our way so we could just catch the conversation.

"But I didn't eat the salmon mousse," protested the first murderer.

The Slightly Peeved Reaper swung his scythe and the three souls vanished.

He stomped back.

"Right you three, I don't do this very often, so hold on."

"Will it hurt?" Eolist asked.

"I don't believe I shall feel a thing. But you'll be in agony. For hours."

I woke up. It was dark, my mouth was full of dirt and the throbbing in my head was unspeakable. I realised after a few seconds I had fallen on my face and slowly lifted myself up. Eolist and Roth were sitting on the ground. Eolist was extracting a pen casing from the bullet hole in Roth's forehead.

Death spoke one more, "The next note is in that cave over there." He pointed a bony finger again. "I could die of boredom waiting for you to find it. I can't actually, that was just a figure of speech, but you know what I mean."

He added, "Please don't let me down. Or else."

What will our heroes find in the cave? What agency is powerful enough to have enlisted Death's help? Surely our heroes must be hungry again by now, so will they get to eat?

Wednesday 13 June 2012

An Unfortunate Bullet in the Head

The story so far...

Your three heroes have been fed and are following a trail of notes left by a person as yet unknown, asking for help.

They have been on a bus ride driven by Death. They have sat in perfect darkness until they worked out it was an Imagination Powered Spaceship. They have traveled on a pretty good approximation of the Starship Enterprise to a red planet, whereupon they received a further message and beamed down to the surface.

It was here the story took a darker turn.

We rejoin our heroes on the surface of the planet. Indigo Roth has been shot.

"Max, I think they've shot him in the brain!", screamed Eolist.

At times of stress I have a tendency to say stupid things. I didn't fail this time, "Damn, they must have been extraordinarily good shots."

"You're a doctor, do something!"

"I'm a PhD in Fabrication & Lies. I have a Master's degree in Being Useless."

"That's simply great. I was hoping you might be able to save his life using the outer casing of a ball point pen or something."

"We could stick the outer casing in that hole in his head."

"Help me drag him somewhere safe."

At that point another shot rang out and Eolist collapsed across Roth. I had but a few seconds to assess the new situation before I heard another bang, felt the pain, light-show and then darkness.

Are all our heroes dead? Will we ever find out who the note is from? What were the other horsemen doing whilst Death drove the bus?

Saturday 9 June 2012

Trail of Crumbs

The story so far...

Our heroes (the tall one, short one and fat, bearded one) have been fed, then transported by the one bus driver of the apocalypse to help an, as yet unknown, person or persons in distress.

As we rejoin them they are sitting on the floor in an impenetrable supernatural darkness. They have already discovered the floor has the single word HELP inscribed in it.

"OK, let's stand up, link hands so as we don't loose each other and try to find something," Roth suggested.

"Hopefully that something might be a light switch," added Eolist ruefully. “Or, possibly, a nice cup of coffee.”

"Yes, this dark is really tiring on the eyes," I said.

Roth reached out in the darkness, holding Eolist's right hand and I holding her left. This was a slow way of searching but the best we could do since it didn't look like assistance was going to turn up soon. Most of the time it was less like exploring and more like stretching a small person.

"I can feel something. It's big and curved. Partway up one side is something. It's like a hoop sideways," said Roth. "It feels like it's made of ceramic - really smooth. And warm."

"Can you smell something?" Eolist asked.

"COFFEE!!" we all said at the same time.

"I think this is a giant coffee cup. It's as tall as me!" exclaimed Roth, although he was probably exaggerating.

We moved around until we could each feel the cup ourselves.

"Who would have a cup of coffee this size? Have we been miniaturised?" Roth mused.

"Yes," said Eolist.

"You have!" Roth and I said together.

"There is only one place this is likely to exist," I said, "The one place in the multitudes of universes and through the breadth and depths of space and time where such a thing could exist.”

“Could you possibly be any more long-winded?” Roth interrupted.

“I think this exists in Eolist's imagination."

"Hmm. Interesting. I've read about this somewhere before." She paused. “They've really built one?" asked Eolist.

"I think so. We're in an Imagination Powered Spaceship," I said. "If it is I’m sure the three of us shouldn't be allowed within miles of one."

"How do you control it?" asked Roth.

"By holding a clear image of what you want in your mind. But it's unstable, a slight deviation, distraction or inconsistency and we're in trouble." I said, re-iterating what I too had read. “Try not to think about really deep mineshafts with spikes at bottom."

"So, if we're going to get out of here, rescue the person from whom the notes are from and get back home, we need to get ourselves a ride. Let's all focus our minds," suggested Roth.

The darkness began to lighten, shapes were visible and began to focus. Distinctly odd. Circular openings. White walls and floor. In the middle was an octagonal console.

"The TARDIS!" I said. "We all thought of the TARDIS?"

"Well, with one of these we could get anywhere," Roth justified the choice made by our imaginations.

"True, but there is a bit a of a problem here."

"Yes, none of us know how to fly one," Eolist caught the essence of my argument.

"OK," said Roth, "Let's concentrate again."

The column in the octagonal console began to rise and fall - nice touch I thought - before fading to darkness again. In front of us a screen appeared. It showed the stars and below the Earth. There was a captain's chair. Everything, but everything, made bleeping noises.

"The Enterprise NCC-1701. Not bad at all," I looked around some more, and I was very impressed as to how detailed our imaginations had been. We were even dressed for the occasion. Eolist was in blue, I was in gold and...

"I'm in RED!!!" Roth picked at his top. "Dammit, I'm a dead man."

"OK, we still have the problem of flying this thing," I said, ignoring Roth and his red uniform.

"I'm not so sure. On the console here is a big red button marked GO with a note underneath saying Help. Desperately need your help.", Eolist informed us.

"Go on press it. If there is a big red button, someone has to press it," I encouraged her. It was an unwritten rule of science fiction that if there was a big red button someone has to press it.

The Enterprise went to warp. The noise of the engines was truly impressive, with an ever growing whine, and the star-field on the main viewing screen streaked past us.

We had little to do but wait until we arrived. The Enterprise was on auto-pilot to a destination none of us knew. This was a puzzle - everything here was from our imaginations, but the destination and the note for help came from somewhere else. Who was leaving messages in our imaginations?

“I’m going to explore,” I said and walked towards the exit from the bridge which slid open with a satisfying whoosh. “I've changed my mind.”


“Which one of you thought of the mineshaft? It's just outside that door.”

Before we could get to the much needed attribution of blame, the Enterprise dropped out of warp. The stars stopped streaking by and it seemed we were in orbit around a small red planet. A voice spoke over the bridge speakers. It said, “I need your help. Please beam down to the planet below.”

This time when we went to the exit from the bridge, there was a turbo lift, not a mineshaft. Someone somewhere was forcing our hand. Manipulating us, first blocking the exit then letting us through to get to the transporter room.

We arrived on the planet. It was all rocks, red soil and pink sky.

“Be careful everybody,” Roth said.

A single shot rang out and Roth fell to the ground. Eolist ran over to him and checked his injuries. “He's dead Jim,” she said.

Is Indigo Roth dead? If he is will the takeaway pizza industry survive? Is this the completion of the bus driver’s prophecy? Will he find being dead an issue, or just get on with things as before?