Categories
Pirate Film Reviews

Vampires Vs. The Bronx

I was really looking forward to this film, the overall premise seemed so promising! A teen Vampire film with an interesting subtext regarding gentrification sucking the lifeblood out of urban areas. Hopes were high when I fired it up on the big screen TV, assuming it would be a woke mashup between Fright Night, Lost Boys and possibly Vampire in Brooklyn.

For the first half it seemed like the film might deliver. But unfortunately for the second half ‘Vampires Vs. The Bronx’ turns into a flapping rubber bat of a film. It toothlessly ditches the gentrification angle, trades characterisations for stereotypes and shamelessly rips-off better teen Vampire films of yesteryear.

Don’t worry it’s just the hidden hand of the market.

The Good

Credit where credit is due. The film does starts brightly enough. The post title screen montage shows neighborhood kid ‘Lil Mayor’ Miguel as he cycles through the Bronx putting up posters for a Block Party benefit to save the local Bodega, which is run by his friend Tony. It’s a pretty good way to introduce all the named characters and setup all the locations, showing the spread of blood-sucking real estate company ‘Murnau Properties’ as it aggressively takes over the local small businesses in the Bronx.

Obviously ‘Murnau’ is an outfit owned by and for vampires that chose to ignore the recent memo from the Vampire Grandmaster regarding ‘Coach Feratu’. Seeing as they named themselves after F.W. Murnau the director of Nosferatu, and use a well known portrait of Vlad the Impaler for a logo.

In addition to turning nail salons into hipster coffee shops and artisan cheese bars, Murnau has also bought up the local creepy looking courthouse. Which it plans to turn into luxury apartment vampire nests. It’s not exactly super subtle but it’s a campy kind of fun befitting the genre. Plus there are so many po-faced, clangingly scored horror films out there now that a fun bit of pop horror goes a long way. In VVtB you get precisely 37 minutes of fun and then it loses itself.

The Bad

For me, the film starts to fall apart when the main trio get arrested for trespassing on one of the Murnau properties. The boys are trying to get proof that vampires exist. But of course vampires don’t show up on video! So when they show their phone camera footage to the cops and the gathered chorus of community members and nothing shows up on screen, cue the drama.

So far, so formulaic. However this is the Bronx! Suddenly having all the generations of assorted adults become law abiding to the point of screeching authoritarianism felt especially jarring. It didn’t stop there either. The V-Blogging character, the neighborhood girls and the two aspiring rappers all get their licks of disapproval in on poor Miguel and friends. You’d think the whole neighborhood had never known anybody who’d sat in the back of a squad car. At first it just seemed unrealistic. But the longer it went on the whole sequence came across as condescendingly moralistic. In the age of Black Lives matter and the victimisation of so many young people of color by the police, it hit a bit of a bum note.

‘Lil Mayor and his little friends got caught up by 5-0 for trespassing, such fine boys aren’t they?” Lawful Smugness does not endear.

In fact, regarding the characterisation of ‘the community’, which is always a problematic construct. The portrayal is not exactly deep and meaningful. Being comprised mainly by the usual mish-mash of urban stereotypes that commonly stand in for cultural heterogeneity; Friendly street drinkers playing cards, a couple of aspiring street corner rappers, a handful of gangsters and then the god fearing parents who work 8 days a week as office cleaners or full-time grandmas.

It’s wiggety wiggety wiggety wack.

Another issue is that the ‘kids’ are supposed to 14 or 15 but they’re presented as though if they are dorky ten year olds instead of being urbane and street-wise teens. Nowhere is this more apparent than when Miguel’s mother goes ape-shit at Tony the Bodega guy for letting the main trio watch Blade. Fucking Blade. As though a 1997 comic book movie was too adult for teens.

This also includes Cliff ‘Method Man’ Smith who plays the local priest. I was holding a fucking votive candle for Method Man’s big appearance for the entire film. Considering how many times the film mentions ‘Blade’, I really hoped he would turn up as a kickboxing ecclesiastical vampire slayer. Possibly sporting a bitchin’ Wes Snipes high top fade and wearing a pair of $300 Oakleys. Nope! Method Man’s big line is and I shit you not “They stole my Sprite.” That’s it. That’s fucking it. That’s all he gets. What a fucking waste.

N.Y.C Everything but not my Sprite? Criminally under-used in this film.

He’s not the only one. Rita played by Coco Jones, is one of the better characters of the film’s second half. She gets to go with the ‘boys’ on the climactic vampire hunt and has some funny lines. But it still feels like she was tacked on as an afterthought rather than given anything meaningful to do. Overall it’s like if some dry-drunk supply teacher who’d just speed read a pamphlet on inclusion, was asked to direct a school cast version of ‘Lost Boys’. It lacks the wit and nuance.

The dry sarcastic wit of those 80’s vampire films was what made them great. The two Corys in the Lost Boys and Roddy McDowell in Fright Night had bags of it. These were knowing films that didn’t take themselves too seriously, and reveled in playing up the comedy horror angle whenever they could. Even the more serious remake of Fright Night with Colin Farrell was still a comedy horror, though in an darker toned noughties style. So VVtB should be part of a good comedy horror genre lineage.

The Ugly

Unfortunately it’s a lineage VVtB chooses to squander. If not actively ignore in favor of theft, hoping we won’t notice. The scene where the kids go searching for the vampires in their den. Only to find them hanging upside down above them is lifted outright from Lost Boys, almost shot for shot in fact. But is entirely lacking the humor and originality of that scene. In fact at this stage of the film the vampires aren’t even a credible threat anymore and this really is the big problem with this film. It coddles the main characters so much that you know nothing bad will happen to them.

“We are Nihilists Lebowski! Fear my creeping manicure! I as reach for your humous! Do you listen to Depeche Mode btw?
“Grasping hands, grab what they can, everything counts in small amounts..”

It also means that the character’s lack any real flaws which squashes any agency or growth. If they are good to begin with then what have they learned by the end of the film? There is no journey for them to take. No arc. Just plain old return to normality. All of this totally screws with the flow of any movie. This is doubly compounded when you have three little Mary Sue’s versus your stereotypically unoriginal pale Goth bloodsuckers*. Along with any sense of suspense and drama, the cartoonish thrill of the genre itself just evaporates.

*There’s the blond one with long hair and a long coat and the bald one in a black suit and then the lady one and they are all gothy goth goth.
Hisss.

As for the plot about gentrification? Well, that is forgotten about so rapidly it’s insulting. It leaves so many unanswered questions. What happens to the area now that Murnau Properties has been staked through the heart? Who takes over the stolen businesses? Does a law firm run by Werewolves buy up the vacant properties? Why even bother with a gentrification angle to begin with?

Moving to the suburbs is portrayed again and again in the film as good thing. As something nakedly aspirational, even though these character’s spend their lives in a tight-knit urban community. In my experience young people and small business owners living in the real world city are completely loathe to move. Especially to some fucking car-centric suburb well away from their friends and customers. The film just lets this whole subtext go in favour of a superficial and shallow idea of community. One that is defined by block parties rather than daily lives lived enmeshed via the pressures of circumstance.

What are they gonna do for a sequel? I’m hoping an NGO run by Egyptian Mummy’s buys up the leases for the rent controlled apartments in the neighborhood. Ooh scary.

In fact by the end the whole film is unsatisfying and anemic. Phwooshing off into the ether like one of it’s vampires in daylight. It really needs some fucking hot blooded passion coursing through it’s veins. Instead we get a hollow streaming service cash-in masquerading as young adult ‘wokeness’. It’s fake, insincere and symptomatic of the recent trend of teen movies spoon feeding their target demographic de-politicised milky pap.

Stay for the first half, fall asleep before the end and you’ll think it’s just dandy. Otherwise, do yourself a favour and watch something else this Halloween. For a good fix of nostalgia horror, and if you find people in big mascot costumes creepy I thoroughly recommend the Banana Splits Movie instead.

Categories
Articles Collapse Culture

Body Horror: The Dark Patterns of Algorithmic Dysmorphia

When you’re tired of winning
When you get tired of fame
Or when your head is spinning
And you’ve drunk all the best champagne

Then we’ll all sing together
To society we’ll be true
Then we’ll all sing together

Society waits for you
Beware the CLAW of the mighty D’Va Fiddler Crab! She also looks like she could give birth to her own head.

While I try to pretend I’m innoculated against the accelerated forms of outrage culture that proliferate like fungal spores over Social Media platforms. I do enjoy engaging in a bit of schadenfraude when it comes to bad photoshop, bad cosmetic surgery and the shameless shenanigans that people engage in with their hungry-ghost like quest for endless attention.

One of my favorite places to visit for this kind of fix is Reddit’s Instagramreality, where the range of Body Dysmorphia on display is simply breathtaking.

Bongo buttocks bap dap dap bap bap. Shape seems very familiar though…

Why?

So what the Hell is going here with these ridiculous morphed-to-the-moon O.T.T. figures? Does it benefit those who do it? And if culturally monkey-see monkey-do, given that culture is a two way street, what the fuck is it doing to us?

Previously I’ve discussed shock value and it’s role in Collapse Culture and how when algorithmically regarding value, ‘ethics’ as a consideration is neither here nor there as long as a flow of attention is forthcoming. Put succinctly value is a numbers game and it doesn’t matter if you are leveraging sex, suicide or fascism, outrage sells and an eyeball on your product is eyb+1 to your internet valuation.

Dark Patterns of influence seems to be a factor in this process. Both economically and culturally, as the interplay of new digital image manipulation technologies enables the push of aesthetic boundaries. These images are the bleeding stump of surveillance capitalism, which appears to be in it’s third or fourth incarnation as it searches for yet another new frontier to tap.

But what exactly are these patterns? What are the rules of this strange new game? Whereby attention, outrage and new dysmorphic aesthetics push us into decadent new realms of dopamine addiction.

There it is! Knew I recognised it! I never forget an ass or a face. Or an ass-face.

Insta-Corporate Your Individuality! Or Die in Obscurity

Spend any time on Instagram and it’s hard not to be struck by the formulaic types of photos and the flattening effect it has regarding how people construct images. This flattening affect is probably the most interesting thing about Instagram for me, the endless copying of formulas that are purport to make the user popular and gain more followers seems counter-intuitive for a medium that is supposed to be ‘creative’. Especially when it makes everything look exactly the fucking same.

I would have used actual images from my Instagram feed but it’s shadowbanned me from viewing # topics. Fuck Instagram and Fuck Facebook too. Use a container if you have to use them.

This is partly the result of Instagram positioning itself as an all-in-one application. From the app you can take pictures, filter the shit out of them and then post the result with a few lazy flicks of your fat fingers. But that’s just the front end. Culturally this streamlining process is a kind of corporatisation of the individual, whereby a person is expected to comport themselves ‘just so’ or else be doomed to eternal indifference.

By following the ‘how to get followers’ instructions what we end up with is a simulation of a person rather that an actual being. A simulation that is wholly accumulative regarding ‘relationships’ with other ‘things’, be they people, pets, panoramas, food or appearances. A simulation of idealised life, refined into simple easily digested shapes like McNuggets. Filtered and filtered yet again until all the proverbial and actual grisly bits have been pureed away.

In addition to Instagram’s own filter version there are numerous other alternative tools. By far the most popular and pertinent one with regard to retouching a person’s physical features is Facetune. So much so that ‘tuning’ has become verb shorthand for retouching in the same way ‘to google’ has for using search engines.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with a bit of retouching, we all do it to a degree, I try to hide my big fat paunch in every photo for instance. But when it’s taken to extremes and purports to be ‘true to life’, well, then it starts getting weird. So weird in fact that it’s hard not to see it as a kind of contemporary freak show. Complete with spider-limbed ‘influencers’, wasp-waisted fitness gurus, glowing brown Fruitarians, dumpling bummed dolls and ‘roided out action men. Images such as these seem like a high tide mark for body dysmorphia.

To cynical nihilists such as yours truly, it feels like we’re only a half step away from surgically enhanced children. Although in a sense that is was we are already getting, because there is something extremely child like about these crudely manipulated figures. The way they are constructed like poorly made knock-off dolls. Which in a sad way is exactly what they are.

Cultural Domestication/S

The flood of warped cartoon shapes is utterly hegemonic on Instagram and other third and fourth wave forms of social media. In a sense there are number of contributing causes and though I don’t necessarily agree with how the term cultural domestication has been appropriated by a narrow field of technology studies. It is accurate to acknowledge that we are in an ongoing phase of technology domestication. Whereby these algorithmic image manipulation technologies are still being understood and mediated by their users.

Kill it with fire.

There are some interesting theories regarding the driving processes of domestication: One is that urbanisation and what we understand as cosmopolitanism functions as a kind of social domestication for human beings. When we look at animals that have become domesticated, we find they lack those hard edged traits that are:

A) Symptomatic of territorial sexuality i.e they cease to chase every interloper off their patch.

B) They remain at a threshold stage, that is their looks and manners adjust to consistent exposure to numbers of their own kind and are receptive to consistent interaction with such.

C) Their physical appearance stays in a proto-maturity and is altered so they become less threatening; Sharp teeth and pointed ears are rounded, jawlines soften, eyes stay large and open.

Domesticated or Eusocial animals, such as ourselves, exist in a prolonged liminal state, neither fully emerged in one phase or another. Domestication therefore operates as a kind of prolonged adolescence, whereby certain traits are extended or linger on into adulthood. It could be argued that a fascination with appearing ‘young’ beyond a certain point of your life stage would be a part of this process.

I’m not arguing that this form of urbane domestication is necessarily a bad thing. Hell I’m a product of it myself, but that there is a overwhelming tendency for it to become over focused on one realm of life over any others. Take the fetishisation of technology for instance, such things become mandatory regarding mass participation. Not just recent technologies either such as mobile phones or computers but older technological mediums such as printing presses or radios.

From that point on, technological mediation is but a short hop from becoming fetishistic and obsessive. Something we might recognise in a contemporary sense as ‘fandom’. Such as it is now, some of the most potent and profitable of these are the triple C cultural industries: Comics, Cartoons, and Computer Games. Again rooted wholly in youth culture, either current or nostalgic. This fascination with youth culture into adulthood has given rise to whole slew of cultural standards which simultaneously project youth backwards whilst bringing childhood forwards, if you catch my drift (think under 10 beauty pageants rather than child labour). All of which might help to make more sense of why some cosplayers market themselves as preternaturally young kawaii cartoon characters. These are adult women who choose to resembled sexualised children.

Do you want a lolly on your loli-chan? Or maybe some tiny fruit or skeletal hand to make your massive sword look bigger.

Cos/tume/Play

Ah Cosplay. Where the unreal becomes real. To me Cosplay used to seem like a fun endeavor, back when freewheeling amateurism was the name of the game about 15 years ago. Now the formerly enthusiastic amateur is now expected to conform to higher standards in order to stand out. Like so much that was and should be fun it has now become a serious business and staple of the adult entertainment industry.

The ever ubiquitous Cosplay staple..

I don’t want to do a disservice to the ‘original’ fans who possibly still enjoy playing dress up as their favorite characters but in it’s contemporary industrialised form over the last decade it could be considered one of the prime progenitors of this dysmorphic wave. Which if anything might be the only original cultural contribution considering ‘Cosplay’ itself is predicated on being entirely derivative. Being almost totally comprised of third order IP recreations with little to no true originality apart from reconfigured blends or mashups of popular tropes. Not that that in of of itself isn’t problematic enough! See any number of black facing, bullying, sexual assault or thinning out controversies! Without the factor of easy recognition or at least recognisably obscure referencing to other members of whatever fandom you wish to be considered a part of, Cosplay ceases to be relevant. It’s like when you go to a Halloween party and no one ‘gets’ your costume.

Today we have media sanctioned exemplars of Cosplay, who far from donning tights and papier mache instead parlay good genetic fortune with studio quality technical skill regarding make-up, masks and prop-making in order to make the classic ‘six figure income’ beloved of successful internet attention whores superstars .

Cosplay as a form of Live Action Roleplay therefore works to blur the boundaries of reality and fantasy, a form of Hyper-reality as postmodernist thinkers would have it. Where the cosplayer appropriates attention by clothing themselves in the skin of culturally significant fictional characters, pulling the objectively unreal into the gross physical universe. The characters they choose to inhabit are not situated inside their own narrative spaces anymore but utilised as symbolically significant attention gatherers.

Like Prometheus stealing fire from the gods or some kind of post modern Xipe Totec, Cosplayers cloth themselves in the flayed skin of their object of desire. In so doing seizing a piece of the spectacle that also might just elevate enough to grab their own slice of the attention pie and all that might accrue with it. Fame, Fortune and Fuckability is the endgame. That cosplay is based on cartoons, comics and computer game characters part of that hybrid born of cultural domestication, which is the prefer to term cosmopolitanism.

In addition to this Cosplay was partly created and resides in a continuum of other fetish related fantasy realms that often feature heavily sexualised youth tropes; BDSM, Furries, Picture books about Übermenschen in Tights. This link is explicitly important (no pun intended). For they share the same type of spaces and the same methods of technological dissemination both online and in ‘conference’ space. The latter of which is essentially a form of modern carnival whereby an inversion of norms takes place by embracing the extremes of whatever it is that the conference is for. Such spaces are also heady blends of futuristic and fantasy thinking as well as being nakedly capitalistic regarding sex, success and hierarchy. Becoming quite literally modern day festivals of Hero Worship.

Honestly in two minds about how old this person is. Definitely the most uncomfortable picture here but I want to include it because it shows how algorithmic filters can utterly de-age subjects.

So, we have these hyper real forms taken from cartoons and extrapolated into the real world. And of course 90% of the time the aesthetic is borrowed from goddamned anime, which quite frankly I am increasingly learning to hate. The main reasons being for it’s over-sexualisation of children, incomprehensible and inane storylines, and predictably lazy tropes that add absolutely nothing to your life apart from killing time by indulging in the dreaded binge watch.

I’m not talking about the good series here nor Studio Ghibli or Akira either, because everyone loves that stuff. But for every gem like Satoshi Kon‘s films there are a bajillion regressively rapey, wankhandedly crappy series about some fuckwad high school kid/s with a magical tentacle/s up their bum/s that makes them rip flesh/cook omelettes/fold origami/carry a big wangsword.

But I digress, the main point is that if there is any hegemonic aesthetic of algorithmic dysmorphia it’s found in this style of drawing fucking cartoons.

Objectify Me Rando-Chan!

Oh how we all get richer
Playing the ruling game

Only the poor get poorer
We feed off them all the same

Then we’ll all sing together

To society we’ll be true
Then we’ll all sing together

Society waits for you

The distorted bodily proportions on ‘offer’ in these photos makes feminist concerns about ’80’s Barbie look almost quaint! Many of the people in them are totally explicit about their referencing of Anime characters, referring to such either by name or ‘Real-life Anime Girls/Guys’ (without any apparent trace of irony). Where as others are more circumspect, but still utilise ‘the look’.

As for that look; BIG TITS. Big. Back-Aching. Tits. Massive Lil’s. Bazoonga Cannons. More front than Harrods. Huge long Giraffe Legs. Massive boat like feet clad bare or in heels or better yet in Big White Trainers. The Feet MUST be bigger than the Head, like loads bigger. Ctrl +++++ Bigger. While the Head should be tiny in proportion to the arms legs and torso.

As for the face, it should be as doll like as possible which means Big Eyes. Big Lips. The Pointiest nubbin of a Chin you’ve ever seen. Oh and absolutely no fucking PORES at all. Any Skin texture is a Mortal Sin. Behold:

The proportions are pretty much the quintessential manga face. I often wonder what the world would be like if some other style of cartoon facial features had become as influential. Say for instance Beryl Cook‘s or Tom Paterson’s faces. Would filter apps tune sausage noses and hooded eyes as defaults? Anyway the face is one of the most tuned aspects in many of these photos, followed by the waist, bust, butt, legs, feet, arms and hands. And genitals. In fact just fucking tune it all.

Of course there are variations; one of the most recent popular shapes is the Super Ass. In which a person will attempt to out-ass Kim Kardashian. As though they have swallowed and are about to imminently poo out an entire Vegas Surf and Turf Buffet.

I like big butts and I cannot lie. You other brothers can’t deny. That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist..
And a round thing in your face You get sprung, want to pull up tough
‘Cause you notice that butt was stuffed.. No wait stop stop I want out
The story of Sarah Baartman is heartbreakingly tragic. She had no choice about being objectified. A South African Khoikhoi woman who was effectively a slave and exhibited around Northern Europe from 1810 to 1815.

It might just seem like harmless fun. I mean who is really fooled by the obvious fakery? It is so blatant that it is laughable and when you see so many of them you start to question your own judgement. Am I missing something? Is it tongue in cheek? Are there really that many horny fetishists out there? Is it other people who manipulate their own photos and simply B-E-L-I-E-V-E? Or is it mostly just sad fuckers like me, who sit there tutting and shaking their head quietly in front of the computer? If it is the last one than the joke is definitely on me, but the truth is it that is probably a combination of all these types of people. And in our own way we’re all fooling ourselves. In that case then what is the harm? If Lolo Ferrari were alive than I would probably try to ask her but she isn’t.

RIP Lolo.

Lolo didn’t have the dubious luxury of algorithmic dysmorphia. She had the real deal. Here is what she said about her surgeries;

“All this stuff has been because I can’t stand life. But it hasn’t changed anything” and “I was frightened and I was ashamed; I wanted to change my face, my body, to transform myself. I wanted to die, really.”

The point is that like the head of a particularly egregious pimple this is a symptom of something deeper.

Yo dawg checkout my laser hair removal and my wasp thin waist/end of the wedge. Cosmetic surgery is just the bestest.

Great Unrealistic Expectations / Or Loss and Gain IRL {o<>0}

Some may call us sinners
We think of ourselves as saints

Some may call us killers
It’s done with such restraint

Then we’ll all sing together
To society we’ll be true

Then we’ll all sing together

Society waits for you
Not really that appropriate but when you see it..

Instagram likes to act as though it is a broker to better, more open communicative world. That it functions as a magic mirror whereby not only can you see the fairest of the land but you can reach out and talk to them. This is where the realms of luxury themed aspirational lifestyles begin to displace the cartoonish ones. Or is it the other way around? Either way, Instagram likes to portray itself as a kind of cultural lodestone for aspirational living. But really that’s a fucking crock of shit. Back in 2017 Instagram came out as the worst social network for mental health. It’s easy to game and chock full of snake oil masquerading as positivity, be it body, mind or soul.

In fact masquerade is probably the most accurate way to describe these forms of co-option or coercion.

It’s still filtered. But ‘naturally’ so.

Take for instance the sheer number of posts on r/Instagramreality regarding Eating disorders that show Instagrammers using tuning software to sell themselves as preternaturally thin to profit off the IRL dysmorphia of others. This is one the grossest things about algorithmic dysmorphia and is worth checking out for yourselves.

These were the top search results for “Eating Disorders”.
Second Page
And it goes on and on beyond this too.

It seems Instagram has a pretty lax policy regarding ‘Thinspo’ posts aimed mainly at young adult women and juveniles. In this regard it actively allowing profiteering from people who sick.

The image on the left was used for Thinspo posts on Instagram
Teen girls don’t need rib cages.
Subtly impossible standards. She isn’t cooking anything her non-existent internal organs can’t digest.
Bitch tit Mr Burns needs a glass of water stat.

Even supposed ‘body positive movements’ perpetrate dysmorphia to quite a staggering degree.

It’s positively good to be body positive as long as you aren’t fat. Apparently.

In fact take any given hash tagged #topic on Insta. It was recently brought to my attention that #QueenoftheMountains, an attribution commonly used by woman cyclists to post photos of themselves from their bike rides had been co-opted. Effectively hi-jacked by what is essentially an East Asian outfit that spams semi-softcore photos of woman in lycra posing on bikes, using exactly the same fucking dysmorphic anime proportions. What was once an actual space for woman to showcase their cycling prowess and achievements, virtually overnight became yet another #hashedout grouping that objectified an unreal representation of sexualised ladies in tight lycra sportswear.

The anime ratio. Big feet tiny head.
This one isn’t too bad but yea, you know I don’t think she really is a member of the 12 O’clock Crew

It is these subtle displays of algorithmic dysmorphia that are the most damaging. A constant drip feed of adjusted imageering that lodges itself in the imagination. I’m old enough to remember the furore the first time it was revealed that magazines used this form of editing, although it is arguable that it was never to this degree. With the rise of deep fakes, it seems we might spend the next decade or so attempting to tame our new simulated realities.

If you know who he is, this man is a massive pederastic piece of shit.
This woman, less so.

In it’s current incarnation Instagram is in fascinatingly decadent place at the moment. An aging third wave social media platform, not only is it one of the worst alongside Facebook regarding it’s many, many controversies. But it is also currently in competition with other forms of Fourth and Fifth generation social media in this area such as Twitch, Tik-Tok, Zoom etcetera. In some ways there appears to be a kind of ‘sphere of influence’ war regarding these platforms and their supposedly differing ideological agendas (which some of them certainly have whilst others are more nihilistic).

Viewed through this lens Social Media ends up looking somewhat like the old fashioned 20th century state propaganda networks. In this case US versus China rather than the USSR, seeing as how Instagram is banned in China and Tik-Tok is restricted in the US and banned outright in India.

These kind of social media sphere conflicts may be a defining point of the culture wars. Along with their corporate enablers. Chase where the money goes and global system deconstructionist billionaires like Peter Thiel, who founded Palantir hand in hand with state surveillance investors such as In-Q-Tel are never far away. These systems are here to safeguard and ensure the status quo, as unfair, destructive and parasitic as it currently is.

If we are indeed engaged in a culture war mediated by technology than we need a sixth wave of social media, one that functions by the people for the people. Rather than a rapacious, private information harvesting system of near monopolies with links to openly despotic and genocidal regimes. They cheapen us. All of us.

Our attention spans are preternaturally shortened as images flicker past in the manner of wheels on a slot-machine, and that is the point. The Dark Pattern par excellence, your social life as loot box mechanic. You get your hit of dopamine and then move on to the next thing and there is always another thing. Anything that isn’t crazy, cringe or common categoric currency; say aspiration, luxury, or beauty as a designated and trademarked product, might as well not exist. So it is no wonder we are continually carpet bombed by cartoonishly shaped beings. Because the outrageous is what your eye will be drawn to. It’s also where some of the most interesting tools of manipulation are aimed at. Your social media life is now a shitty Gacha RPG.

This shit needs to die.

In any event not only does tuning software give us either the hit of shock or outrage. It also give us the illusion of control via limited ‘choice’. That not only are we in control of out ‘tastes’, which we are encouraged to waste time curating and cultivating like our own pathetic little gardens of the mind (Yes that’s right they are 90% bollocks and you and I both know it). But that when so many of us lack any actual political or economic clout as compared to previous generations, the one thing you can do is refine your physical form. Groom your online identity and to Hell with the rest of the world.

So many of us are the wage worker, as portrayed by Karl Marx. Dependent upon our bodies as potential, symbolic of lost labour power. No consistent means of income and nothing other than bleak apocalyptic future horizons. So we look back to the cartoonish and grotesque spectres of childhood, with nothing left to work on but our own bodies and the abstracted value that they might produce. And so we sell them. For something as cheap as attention. In the hope that someday that might turn into some form of tangible power such as fame and fortune.

Little wonder dysmorphia seems to be at an all time high then. Warping your booty up to Planetoid level might seem like the least worst thing about Collapse Culture from a certain point of view. Although, little head, big body, obviously fake image… Where have I seen that before?

Oh yea! Prize Livestock! I wonder if we’re being fatted up for something?

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to belittle people who are currently at the mercy of Body Dysmorphic Disorder but rather examine the cultural artefacts and image manipulations that in many cases are considered to be the new norm in social media. If you feel you are suffering from body dysmorphia or any other similar obsessive compulsive disorder (and possibly hiding it) please do not suffer alone. Help is available!

Categories
Short Stories

PreMachine|PostHuman

“Remember when we did that stupid super-villain thing?” She laughed.

Amongst all the layers of tone enhancement and sampled affectation I could still hear an echo of her original laugh. It gave me confidence in my decision to get back in touch. We hadn’t spoken in a decade, maybe more. Since then we had both changed.

“I do! Gaah, what was that about? Mid-shift crisis or what? Panthro the Panther man, so butch, I even had that Jaguar..”

“Oh yea that construct side-kick! You spent a bundle on him and you had to have that humongous litter tray in your lair for it to crap in! Why you went full bio on that thing I don’t know!”

And she laughed again, I noticed she had it so it sounded like the theme song from a cartoon made way back when we were still, when she was still, a young female, made of actual multicellular flesh and blood.

“It was a she actually.. yea that sucked, I had that robot that was supposed to collect and incinerate it.”

More laughter. What was that theme song from? Maybe it was a custom composition.

“Yea I remember! It didn’t work and we had The Pterodactyl and Brickfists and whatshername, thingygummy with the telekinesis that always gave her a migraine, for the Meeting of the Scorpio Five and HAH! The whole lousy lair just stank of burning catshit the entire time!”

Oh I remember all right. I forced an agreement laugh. I needed a come-back otherwise the teasing would go on and on.

“I remember your gimmick though; The Sorrow, you were supposed to be dark and brooding with that whole mysterious angle, you had those implants that was supposed to exude those chemicals that would..”

“Make everyone so sad they couldn’t do shit, I know! It was so lame.. it was way more fun when I programmed them to exude that DMT/MDMA gas mix though..”

“Oh Hell yea, but that’s the thing, you thought you wanted to be the silent mysterious one at the back who comes in wipes everyone out, but you were the total opposite! Like always the first to get stuck in kicking the shit out of those fucking dweebs we used to run against.. ‘The Chums of Chance’. Like some roided up cyborg Nancy Drew bullshit, what the fuck happened to them?”

“Got into the exploration scene and set out across the galaxy with a bunch of other egos in their hotmodded probes. Looking for life, some higher calling. Its kind of sweet but they take themselves so seriously, beaming back pictures all the time to the cloud, total oversharing overload because they’ve got nothing else to do and it looks so boring out there in deep space ‘ oh look another interesting Pulsar wave!’ She sighed. You’re lucky you’ve gone back to being a full meat and potatoes human, you don’t have to put up with all that bubbins.”

“Yeaa… there’s other things though”

I felt a light tingle around my left eyebrow as she charged the molecules in the air around it, her version of a caress. It moved across my eyebrow, around my ear and stayed there.

“Like touch?” My skin tingled as though bubbles in soda water where fizzing against it.

“There’s that. But you can touch and feel too.” I reached out to the large cardboard box, the arbitrary form her ego had manifested. It was the sort of box a small fridge might come in, heavily bound with brown sellotape along every seam and around its top and middle. An arrow that should be pointing up pointed down. I pushed a fingernail into a crevice and made a small slit in the tape.

“OOOOoooh not so rough! Gah we haven’t seen each other for ages and your already being totally dom”

“Weell, you started it. But why the box?”

“Because a large cardboard box is just so mysterious! Its chock full of possibilities, imagine them all!”

“Yea on the other hand its just a box, you could be anything, but really what if If your just a dead cat in there?”

“Oh I’m something alright!”

The fizzing intensified it ran down my face and neck, across my humungous traps and my boulder shoulders, it felt like someone unwinding a tape made of pure electricity as it carried on down my back and across my buttocks and hung there. My breathing got heavier, I was becoming aroused. I pushed another finger in the tape on the box, making the slit bigger and wider.

“mmmMM—OHH! YOU BEAST!”

Suddenly the fizzing caress shot down between my ass and unrolled over and around my cock and balls. The buzzing grew in intensity. I grunted as I began to grow hard, I could feel something like flies landing on the tip of my dick.

“Fuck you’re such a bad bitch, you like when I treat you mean though, don’t you? Answer me cunt!”

The electricity tape became a tight band across my body, I could feel it juddering.

“UH- HuuH..” She said in a little girl voice now

I reached out with both hands and began to tear at the tape, the cardboard started to give.

SNAP

My body spasmed, I jerked and stifled a moan as the band cracked like a whip, I felt it sting everywhere it had lain.

SNAP

“yessssssss”

SNAP

“uurrh yesssssss”

And then with every crack I tore at the cardboard, shredded it with my fists. And she began to cry.

“OoowWw! OOWW! OoooOh yourr hurting meeee.. yourr hurting meee.. “

“Yea you fuckin like that you whore, what are you,?”

“I’m a fucking whore”

“That’s right. Hit me again bitch I fucking dare you.”

SNAP SNAP SNAPP

The lashes felt cruel but immaculate, clean and scouring. I fought the urge not to give in to them. My teeth clenched so hard my jaw clicked and I went down on one knee. But I kept a firm grip on the box, and pulled more of it apart. A shape within was metamorphosing into something tangible.

I plunged a fist in and grabbed soft curly hair. My other hand went in and I felt a mouth, a tongue, soft and long licked my fingers. Lips began to suckle them. I pushed all four of them into her mouth and heard her gargle as I tickled the back of her throat. I let go of her hair and went around the back and felt soft warm wetness there too.

Fingers in either end.

Enough was enough.

I pulled them out suddenly and she moaned with a mixture of pain and pleasure.

With my hands slick from her juices, I ripped the last of the box away.

And there she was down on all fours, all limbs tied to wooden rockers, her fleece a soft creamy white, her tail wagged and she turned her head, looked me in the eye and winked.

“Baaaah” She bleated.

Everything was just like I remembered when I first met her.

Categories
Pirate Film Reviews

Sputnik /Спутник (2020)

Last night I got around to watching Russian Sci-Fi / Horror film Sputnik which is a clever, compelling and beautifully shot post soviet rethink of the xenomorph body-horror genre.

Sputnik, is misleadingly not about the first satellite to orbit the Earth. Instead it’s a fairly well crafted sci-fi/thriller/horror set in 1983. Russian Cosmonaut Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov) crash lands back to earth when something sinister causes his Soyuz capsule to malfunction. He has no memory of the catastrophic re-entry which may or may not have killed his Co-pilot. Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk), suspects something funny regarding his claims of amnesia and recruits unorthodox and controversial neuro-physiologist Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) to treat him at distant military facility in Kazahkstan. Of course, as the promotional poster makes clear, Konstantin did not come back to earth alone..

Ok, but is it any good?

So this film is Egor Abramenko’s full feature directorial debut and certainly marks him out as one to watch in the future. The setting of the film at the just before Perestroika and subsequent fall of the USSR is particularly interesting as it makes it feel like Post-Soviet-Soviet film! No really. I’ve always thought that period of USSR history would make a brilliant setting for a whole series of films. (A vampire film set in Soviet Norilsk anyone? Mutant Siberian Tigers terrorising a gulag?)

Anyways the Eastern Bloc has a long and storied history of producing great science fiction films. If you haven’t seen any I strongly urge you to check out the films of Andrey Tarkovsky. One of the hallmarks of the classic Soviet sci-fi films is it they push well away from convention; ‘Stalker’ 1979 and ‘Kin-Dza-Dza’ 1986 respectively being both well-feted internationally as genre breaking films that don’t rely on the conventional sci-fi tropes.

However even within the well trodden science fiction conventions i.e. space ships, robots and aliens, etcetera, there are Soviet era films such as Ikarie X-B1 1963 and Solaris 1972 that have subtle cerebral and culturally salient takes on such thematic standards. That both those films are based on Stanislaw Lem stories is also rather telling.

Sputnik also knowingly references it’s sci-fi B Movie roots.

In any event Sputnik is more akin to the latter genre of Soviet sci-fi films. For it is essentially a reworking of Alien (1979) and this isn’t a bad thing, but the parallels are fairly obvious:

For instance the main protagonist is a strong female lead and the creature is a violent, body-horror xenomorph not too distantly related to the H.R Giger vision we all know and love. That the powers that be also wish to control it in order weaponise it, and in so doing allow it to munch men in body armour like popcorn, also relates it to the second and third Alien films.

What Abramenko does do differently is add a more intimate and complicit relationship between man and xeno than we might normally expect. Without overly fetishising the creature itself as an intrusively sexual or pointlessly savage. Though visually the beast is well actualised via CGI, it’s not really anything genre aficionados haven’t seen before. But it is suitably alien both in design and behaviour, straddling the line initially between gross and disarmingly menacing. When we are shown it in full in the third act it is not disappointing as it still manages to be inscrutably intelligent and a credible threat.

VISUALS & THEMES

As far as looks go, Abramenko perfectly captures a stylised and aesthetically pleasing version of early 1980’s USSR. The sets and locations are striking and completely of the era and Abramenko makes full use of Brutalist space. The period buildings and internal sets are all heavy concrete and stained birch veneer. Their frontages and auditoriums both massive and gloomy yet seemingly empty and underpopulated. This is clearly the USSR of committees and reports. Indeed we are introduced to Dr Klimova, who is being censured for her unorthodox clinical treatments by just such a committee.

Although much of the film is primarily set inside a military base, there are exterior shots of the Kazahk steppe. Frequently Abramenko has the wide-open slate skies and distant rolling hills bisected by an almost needless chainlink fence. Which is a nice touch regarding other subtle themes about illusions of constraint and control present in the film.

CHARACTERS

The characterisations in Sputnick are fairly robust and well construed. Dr Klimova is suitably hard willed and humanistic, Konstantin the Cosmonaut is funny, rueful ambitious and sly. Anton Vasiliev as Dr Rigel provides a decent cowardly turn. But the standout for me though is Colonel Semiradov who rather than being the hard nosed military man associated with the stereotype in such films is warm, considerate and forward thinking. This also muddies the waters somewhat between whether there is a definite ‘good or bad side’ in the film, which is when it is at it’s most interesting.

My main negative criticism of the film is that I found the score un-necessarily intrusive at key moments, being thumping and fast paced. Others may not mind it so much. There is also a more schmaltzy subplot that does not detract from the film but does feel that it is there mainly to provide closure at the end. All in all I highly it’s an interesting film that provides a decent twist on the genre and it is well worth a watch.

Categories
Articles Collapse Culture

Work 12 Hour Days? Call 996 Then Drop Dead.

Billionaire Jack Ma of Ali-Baba spits on you for only working 8 hour days. 12 hours should be the norm! Here he is using his big ole brain to telekinetically send you a shoddy knock-off that takes six weeks to arrive. *NN-NE-NE-NE-NNNHH*

Management Schmanagement

I’m always a fan of business human management systems. Their quasi militaristic names; Lean Six Sigma, Kaizan, ERPS. I consider them to be a latter day cargo cult of the flow chart. Complete with devotees who absolutely insist ‘This is the WAY!’

Like many things that linger on from the 80’s and early 90’s they seem to come dressed in a pastel power suit, reeking of cheap Sushi, clutching a copy of the Celestine Prophecy and with a slug of cocaine perched in one nostril. Not a fan of working under them of course! Nor the way management consultants try to shoehorn them into every institution they encounter, such as schools, universities and hospitals.

Sometimes though beneath the jargon there are some sound principles at play. A six sigma approach to cutting down waste, carbon footprint and reducing workplace injuries is not necessarily a bad thing.

However that was proto-collapse and now we a fully mid stream in the flow of current collapse . Therefore we should exalt the new paradigm for end-of-days working from our new Chinese economic overlords: 12 hours a day, 9am -9pm six days a week. Hence 9-9-6. That’s the Jack Ma way!

“To be able to work 996 is a huge bliss…If you want to join Alibaba, you need to be prepared to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why even bother joining,”

Who? What?

Whose Jack Ma? He’s the founder of the Alibaba group, a large multitech and e-commerce organisation. Essentially a Chinese Amazon.com, Ebay, Paypal and Conde Nast all rolled into one (Just don’t ask what he did with the Forty Thieves). Rather than through any major innovations, Ma’s success more or less appears to be predicated that he was right man at the right time to bring his site first to market.

Oh and he worked in KFC in 1994. So he knows the pain of the everyday man. Apparently being the only applicant to get the job out of 24 applicants is tough competition. Seems pretty tame to today’s applicant heavy labor market though.

Jack Ma is not alone in pushing 996 as working culture. In fact it seems fairly de rigueur across the board for a Chinese Tech companies and Startups. Liu Qiangdong, billionaire owner of JD.com and alleged rapist of students and interns is also a big fan.

Liu states that 996 is the official work-time scheme for employees at JD and claims “Slackers are not my brothers”. Huawei and at least forty other Chinese tech companies have also implemented 996 as routine, among them Xioami and Bytedance, the company behind TikTok, which has it’s own disturbing agenda.

996 has not been without its critics within China. Even state media has chimed in to reiterate that the standard rate for daily work is eight hours (Not that it will enforce that standard). And there has been pushback online from workers in these companies, who use the slogan 966-ICU. The ICU part meaning work until you end up in the Intensive Care Unit. Funnily enough any outright attempt at revolt seems somewhat stymied given the collaborative efforts of the current generation of Social Media platforms at halting threats to their extractive corporate culture. So much so that the main repository for information is GitHub. A site most commonly used to share code and open source programs by developers.

12 hour days or 60+ hour weeks are nothing new in the tech world and exploitation of workers regarding ‘crunch time’ is well known and documented. The games company Blizzard, who’s workers are recently in open revolt over poverty level wages, continues to set a precedent it has long held in this regard.

Paging r/hittablefaces. Oh too late it’s there already.

Historical Precedents?

Anyway. Saying this is ‘nothing new’ is ‘nothing new’. Modern day tech-mill serfdom and billionaire swine being predicted long ago. I seem to remember Naomi Klein calling it way back in ‘No Logo’.

But it is interesting to see parallels in other places. In this case Doctors and Nurses working in hospitals for unbelievably long shifts. Frequently as much as 120 hours out of 168 hour week. Not only does this lead to fatigue and a higher medical ‘error’ rate. (If you’ve ever been in hospital for a surgery and they’ve drawn a big arrow pointing to the part that needs fixing, error rate is one of those reasons.) Something that is particularly salient given the current pandemic. For a brilliant, funny and heart rending take on why this is a ‘bad thing’, I cannot recommend Adam Kay’s book ‘This Is Going to Hurt’ highly enough. Suffice to say, if excellent doctors are sacrificing everything only to burn out after five or six years than the system needs fixing.

Of course the other reason this is really bad is that Doctors have the highest suicide rate amongst any profession. 966.ICU is not just hyperbole, it does kill people. Usually those who staff Intensive Care Units for instance.

Apart from underfunded and over privatised healthcare networks, the main reason for this chronic hour overload has it’s roots in William Stewart Halsted. Halsted was an early 20th century surgical pioneer who helped formulate and codify the original ‘Residency’ system, so called as medical students ‘reside’ within the hospital or clinic they are attached to in order to better learn their trade. Halsted also pioneered the use of surgical gloves as we know them today.

More relevant to this article perhaps is that he is also renowned for working a particularly punishing schedule of 120+ hours a week. Which he considered to be particularly important with regard to teaching practice and experience for medical students.

William Stewart Halsted. ‘Haha Perla y Chiva makes medico go BRRRRRRT’

‘Oor Wullie’ was also an avid fan of ‘speedballs’. A cocktail of Morphine and Cocaine beloved by the late great Richard Pryor, John Belushi and River Phoenix. Apparently Halsted took up to 200 milligrams of morphine a day. For reference a non opiate habituated person would find a 60+ milligram dose fatal.

Some might say his massive drug use might be a mitigating factor regarding Halsted’s tolerance for such a punishing work schedule. But bearing in mind that Halsted concocted the residency system roughly one hundred years ago and that suicide rates of today’s medical practitioners are sky high; the powers that be may want to rethink their outdated approach to training somewhat.

It remains to be seen whether the Chinese Tech bubble approach of 996 is causing a comparatively high dropout/suicide rate to that of medical personnel. But I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest it’s probably pretty damaging in similar ways, if not more so. I mean who doesn’t want to slave their lives away for their billionaire overlords?

At least medical personnel have the caveat that they are literally saving lives. Working your life away to bring about the latest Flappy Bird clone that sucks personal information out of people’s phones? Not so much.

It’s not quite here (i.e. the West) yet but if professional bootlickers such as Forbes’s Rebecca Fannin get their wish we may yet see it become corporate collapse doctrine across the board. Farfetched? Maybe, but then so was zero hours contracts and President Trump not that long ago.

Categories
Short Stories

Enraptured

‘Christ what a fucking bitch.’ She said when she thought I couldn’t hear.

I flinched. I could either react and show that I heard and am still easily provoked. Or just ignore it and let her walk away and let the day go on. I mean it stung but coming from her it was no big deal right? Like I’d totally had worse things said right to my face. Just not by her.

I guess I thought we were still cool. Maybe we were and she was just venting? I mean I totally can be a bitch!

I watched her walk away. Then I picked up a big ass lump of concrete that had broken free from the curbside. Like was the board ever going to repair the parking lot? This thing was the size of a baby’s head and it had just rolled loose. I mean if a lifted truck wheel kicked it up it could kill someone and the seniors were always doing burnouts or rolling coal around here. Yea. That’s what I could blame it on.

I carried it like a football and ran up behind her and hurled it caveman style square between her shoulder blades. She went ‘ugh’ and threw out her arms to the side. That was all. Just ‘ugh’. Kinda funny really, like in a cartoon. Then she flopped down onto her front and lay there flat-the-fuck-out gasping for air. Maybe it chipped a vertebrea? I don’t know. I didn’t hang around to find out. I was gone gone gone baby. I almost ran all the way home and believe you me I HATE running.

When I saw her again the next day after IT happened she was still lying there out in the sun. She must’ve been one of the good ones I guess. That fucking bitch. LOL.

You see that was the funny thing! That wasn’t the only weird shit that happened, like there was totes strange things going on that day. Even as I was running home after having nailed marvellous Miss Melissa Krubstandt as she walked away from me and our joint bioscience assignment. (Okay so maybe she did do most of the work and also the reason why she was pissed at me and wouldn’t let me use it. But she knew I would fail if I didn’t have nothing to show for it and that’s why she’s the real bitch here.)

Anyway all that’s not important anymore. Because when I was running home, like in total fear of my life, there seemed to be an awful lot of other people in an awful big hurry too. At first I genuinely thought they were out to get me. Like Melissa had called 911 and there was an APB amber fucking alert thing out for me.

Seriously guys I can not explain how scared I was! Fully expecting the cops to pull up next to me at any second and just take my ass to jail. So when the first prowler went screaming past all blued up I damn near pissed myself. But it didn’t stop it just kept on going and then when I saw the auto crash near the on ramp I was like that’s weird. Like four maybe five cars all just banged up onto the sidewalk. One was sticking out a shop window like WTF?

But like even then I didn’t stop. When I reached my block there were like people just laid out lying in the street but I just was like fuck the homeless. There are sooo many of them around here. I just figured maybe they got into some good shit like the bath salts from a few years back. Plus the cops might be on my ass. I just carried right on.

Home

Then when I got home like Pops was still there. So nothing really seemed out of the ordinary apart from the fact he was banging on and on about hearing heavenly fucking trumpets or some shit. I didn’t really pay him any mind because I thought he was just drunk as usual. Kept asking me if I heard them? I didn’t. Although I told people I did later. Just to fit in I guess. Didn’t want to seem all weird ya know?

I didn’t tell him about Melissa. Figured if the cops show up they show up. Where the fuck would I go anyway? I’d just stick to my story about a truck catching the concrete and flipping it up. Hell that might help the bitch out. Lawsuit against the school board motherfucker! Kaching!

I go to my room and just chill the fuck out in there Juuling some mango clouds with a towel taped to the door because Pops would FUCKING kill me if he smelt me vaping. When he banged on the door I thought he was all het up about that or maybe even the Melissa fiasco. So like I didn’t unlock it but he just shouted some fucken Xstian shit at me. Like we needed to go to church or some shit? And I was like hell no I’m not opening and then he went and I never saw or heard him again.

I think when I came out later I nuked some pizza rolls for dinner but I can’t be sure. Something cheezy with tomato and oregano in it anyway. Then there was a huge fuck off storm and the power went out. Which was kinda cool so I lit a bunch of candles and got in bed and jilled it while I listened to some mellow shit on a spots playlist. Couldn’t tell you what it was. Normally I listen to heavy shit like Papa Roach, Staind or P.O.D.

School

When I left for school the next morning, I thought that during the night like a coyote or something had clawed up the screen door because it was totally shredded. That was the first clue that some ill ass shit was going down. The second was all the people lying dead everywhere. Like everywhere. Street corners, doorways, bus benches. I kinda got excited then. Like fuck is this the zombie apocalypse or what? I went into someone’s yard and took their rake for protection and I don’t know why just carried on going to school.

Like where else was I supposed to go? I mean I wasn’t the only one, some people obvs freaked the fuck out, screaming about end times and behold a pale horse and demons and shit. Which is cool as fuck by the way. But others, they just tried to carry on like nothing was happening. One dude even came up and asked me for some change. Like Jesus of course the bums didn’t get raptured did they? Although I didn’t know it was the fucking rapture then. I still thought it might the zombie apocalypse so I like lifted the rake but he was all like ‘Ma’am I ain’t doin’ no goddam yard work no more’ and off he went.

Okay some of you more popular peeps out there maybe asking why I didn’t like text or whatsapp anybody but the truth is I did but everyone just left me on read. That’s kinda the problem with me I guess. Like what the fuck do you do then? To my uh esteemed pears I either don’t exist or am like a social warning. Like ‘don’t be like that weird bitch over there she’s a freak’ and of course they mean me.

I mean it’s not all bad like I just slide on through ‘doin ma thang’ most the time. Oh and when I was younger I had friends but shit changes. Reasons, seasons or a lifetime Pops used to say and he was hardly mister popularity. I guess we had things in common.

Oh I should say I do have online friends. But who the fuck are they really? And what would I say? Help me guise! It’s the apocalypse! I couldn’t even do that though because the signal on the phones was like super fucky. Just screaming static when I tried to call Pops or internet pages not loading.

When I got to school that was when shit got real. Like ALL the girls were fucking crying, like bawling, and most of the boys too to be fair. People were actually sheltering there as well. Mrs Schneider was like ‘We gotta turn the gym into a dorm’. Because there was like a lot of people who gone there to ‘find others’, or seeking sanctuary or whatever the fuck they thought they wanted.

Kristen and Sabrine Hooper, those fucking varsity twin cunts were just hysterical. Turned out like their parents got raptured while they were all out to lunch at Chick Fil. Like their mom and pop just keeled over into their fucking shitty chicken sandwiches and they were beating themselves up for not being pure enough to go with ’em. ‘Please God take us too please!’ they were SCREAMING it and I couldn’t help it but it was so cringe I just had to laugh. It was funny as fuck.

Actually you know I take that back. Chick Fil is fucking delicious even if they do hate gays.

Storm

So some people who were sheltering there they were freaked out. Some said giant dog faced monsters had attacked their homes in the night and it wasn’t safe. Others said they’d seen things with long tails flying around in the dark. One dude was like they got my wife they got my wife, like he was in shock. Full blown PDDT or PSDT in my opinion.

Then this chubby bearded dude came up and said he was Pastor Abe. He was all like ‘er can you help us we need everyone to pull together!’ And though I wasn’t that into it I couldn’t say no. At first he was like ‘please help us dig graves for the dead in the football field’ and while that is metal as fuck there was no way I wanted to do that. Maybe they picked on me because I was still carrying that stupid rake?

So I lied and said like I had a back injury from a car crash and instead spent a couple of hours smearing marg on Wonder bread which was kinda cool because if you put sugar on it its delicious. I eat like a loaf and half of that shit why is why I’m so goddam fat. Seriously.

Then weirdly it started to get real dark and the wind picked up like a huge ass storm was blowing in. Suddenly all these furniture sized chunks of ice started to fall from the sky and they wrecked ALL the shit. Like they just smashed the gymnasium roof right the fuck down onto the cots. People ran screaming for cover and of course the kitchen where I was at was like one of the few places because of the concrete roof. They just crowded right on in. So many of them and I got fucking pushed to the floor and my phone got fucking stepped on. Oh my god the screen was toast I was so fucking pissed.

But yea that was also when I thought; ‘Fuck this is going to be the apocalypse and I’m just making fucking sandwiches for these assholes like kitchen bitch?’ I’ve seen horror films! people get real nasty real quick and I don’t want to be the pathetic bitch all crawling on the floor getting trampled and busted up. Hell Nope. Not me. So I snatched my phone up real quick and crawled up the counter and took the biggest kitchen knife I could lay my hands on. Which wasn’t that big really but still I needed some protection. Beggars can’t be choosy. I snuck it up in my hoodie sleeve.

The hail stopped eventually. The people caught out in it were PULPED. Some of them, man, just like hamburger meat. People didn’t even know who they were anymore. I think the twins got then too. Because I didn’t see them anymore. Guess they got their wish!

We needed somewhere else to go and Pastor Abe suggested the church because the roof was still standing so we trooped over. The door was barricaded but the pastor took it down and let us in. Prolly about 40 of us? Inside it was quite nice. Not like a chapel church all Catholic and shit but more like a conference center. They even had a pretty bitching PA system would’ve loved to have played some tunes over that!

Church

That night a lot of the other guys were trying to find out who had been raptured and who hadn’t. Pastor Abe filled me in the deets about what that meant. In other words its when god cancelled the world and copied the saved characters he liked so they could go and live in his version of Animal Crossing. Surprisingly, well not to me but to them, a lot of the churchy set had been ‘left behind’ but it turned out a lot of the nerdier boys had received the call funnily enough. Virgins someone said, and I thought if that were the case then I would have gone too.

The pastor was a fucking nerd though. You could see it really eat at him that he was still here. On that I’ve never heard so many ‘Oh why me Lord why me?’s’ in all my life. Everyone was freaking about what they had done not done to be still here. Like they were confessing fucking everything! That was like the best part actually.

There was just so much fucking juicy juice just pouring out everywhere! Winnie Hooper said she jacked off her dog on the reg. Kevin Seagal said he sucked his cousin’s dick. I asked him if his cousin has been raptured and he shook his head with tears rolling down his cheeks but I don’t think he got the joke. Then Sienna Powell came over and hugged him and said it’s ok. Judgement was for the lord and torment was the devils business and it wasn’t up to him.

The demons came that night. They just busted down the door, like Fuck You Guys we’re demons! They certainly looked like demons alright! Proper silicone mask 90’s horror film shit. They chased us into the ah shit, what’s it called? It had a special church name but I forgot it. Anyway we went in there and locked the door and hid and shit our pants.

It was so fucking good! Real house of horror type shit, but REAL! They got like 8 or 9 people. A few others that escaped into (godamnit what the fuck is it called? Everyone kept calling it by this special name I’m a just gonna call it the Clergy) so those that escaped into the Clergy they got stung or clawed or bit and they got sick and there was nothing we could do. We had no medicine because we were in a fucking church.

People cried and prayed all night. While the infected moaned and screamed. Real metal it was. Though it did get to be kind of a pain in th ass.

About 3 am when Pastor Abe was counting heads and saying Dear Lord they took So and So and Whatshername from our congregation and it was pretty much everyone that got grabbed. Something clicked with me then. Anyone who was all fucking word of god or Jesus this or banged a bible talking all about being ‘one of the faithful’. Those people the demons went at like steak and lobster in a Reno buffet. I mean they went for whoever they could snatch but like those people they defo liked more than others. Just thinking about it made me hungry so I went to see if I could scout out some Wonderbread and sugar in the Clergy and bumped into Sienna sitting weeping and softly singing hymns.

I tried to step over her but she reached up and grabbed me. ‘Bailey, she said. Bailey please. I need you to help. You’re strong Bailey.’ And she kept on going on and on. In the end I just said yea sure. I’m not sure I even heard her correctly but then Pastor Abe came over from tending to one of the ladies that got a good clawing.

To be honest I was just looking to sneak off but Sienna started babbling at him. ‘Pastor I know you’ve always challenged me that I didn’t use my faith or look to god when I came here with my mom.’ She sniffled daintily and his chunky ass face was the fucking picture of concern. ‘But Bailey and I were talking about we’d like to make a commitment to God and help you go out and look for the taken tomorrow.’

Ah FUCK. I never believed in any of this shit to be honest. That’s Dad’s thing and that well. That was just him being a dry drunk you know? I mean I did some flipside shit right? Tarot and the usual wiccan and crystals crap but you know I never really believed in that shit either. And now here she is saying that she never really believed too but now she sees the light and truth and that she believes with all her heart in the lord and jesus and in my head I’m like bitch are you crazy? Now?

Haven’t you figured that even saying that shit out loud is like rolling in garlic salt and ranch sauce to these fucking monsters? Now when all those thirsty bitches was judging you for being all about tha partay, this is the time you actually fucken choose team Xtian? Because I believe quite firmly that those fucking monsters are gonna eat your ass! And not like half the wrestling team did either!

Pastor Abe nodded all sagely before opening his mouth. ‘Angels. That’s what you are.’ He actually fucking said that.

Outside

Dawn came. Fuck it I thought. Lets go outside with the crazies. Maybe I can find something to eat. Pastor Abe had armed himself with like a chair leg and also managed to talk Kevin Seagal into coming along. Though cocksucker Kev didn’t look like he wanted to, kept shaking his head and murmuring. Gotta hand it to him though, as soon our weakass barricade came down he booked it right away. Sienna even screamed at him ‘OH NO KEVIN!’ He didn’t even look back. Oh and the sky had turned this sweet shade of purple too.

So we’re outside and no demons. Sienna and the pastor seemed pretty relieved. We didn’t exactly search too hard for the people the demons took. It was more of a quick scoot around the parking lot and over by the school fence. There was a shit ton of blood everywhere and what was left of any bodies was totally chewed. Like a I found a hand and set of Yeezy’s with the feet still in them!

When we got to the fountain down by the sidewalk I was about to call it quits with them and go on my merry ass way. But Pastor Abe, took hold of Sienna and mumbled some prayer and she actually looked all tearful and happy. Then quick as you like he just dunked her ass in the fountain. She came up all gasping and shit. I burst out laughing. Then they turned to me.

‘You have to make a choice. You can either choose to believe and accept God to be saved or suffer hells torments on this plane. Those that went have eternal life now. Eternal bliss with all the other good people. That’s what you deserve Bailey’ The pastor nodded at me so did Sienna, she had those big wide eyes like they do when they’re try to convince you of some bullshit. I nodded at both of them.

Absolutely. Totally sir. I believe you a hundred and ten percent sir. I can make my eyes go big and serious too. But seriously, you want me pray to a god who has left us to this? Not only that but actually get fucking dunked, sorry ‘born again’, from some dirty ditch ass fountain water? Have they not notice that shit attracts these things? That the lord baby jesus is happy to let things that look like the dude from Jeepers Creepers fucked a cockroach tear people to pieces? All because it’s what ‘the Lord willed?’ How does that prayer go? Please god may abominations rip out my guts and string me up from a sycamore because I don’t want to live on this world no more amen? Yeeeeaaaaaaa rrrrriiiggghhttt.

I could hear the buzzing of the wings of the hellspawn already. Like a thousand thundering horses my ass, they sounded more like yellow jackets riding dirt bikes. I think I was still smiling as I backed away but Sienna wasn’t having it. ‘Please let us save you!’ She was crying and grabbing at me, so and I ain’t proud of it but I just pulled the knife on her like get the fuck off me. I didn’t mean to cut her really. You know when your a kid and you throw a ball hard and you think your pop will catch it and you want to make it difficult but it just hits him in the balls? Yea it was like that. I mustve nicked an artery because she reeeaaaaallly bled. Screamed too. Then the things came for her. Oh boy.

What they did to Sienna didn’t shock me. I mean their fucking demons right? What do you expect them to do. If you watch a lot of horror films too it also looks weirdly mundane. Like when you see a racoon or a chicken being killed and this growling or clucking living animal with its own personality becomes just a thing lying there all still. Now it’s just an object and the energy of life has just gone from it and now it’s all it will ever do is rot. That’s the most horrifying thing about death, even violent death.

At least in horror films you know everything is an object and even when they die the vivid colors and makeup make ’em seem still alive somehow. But like when they’re really, really dead a person just looks like meat. Stick it in a styrofoam tray and saran wrap it and you wouldn’t know the difference apart from maybe the hair.

Anyhoo pastor fuckface ran towards them crying out. ‘Begon oh foul beasts in the name of jesus’ or the blood of the lamb or some bible babble I don’t remember exactly. I do remember he was crying, like proper like a baby sobs and tears and then they turned on him too! He got out one final jesus, really shrieked it at them and held out his cross and they just burned that shit down with a click of their tentacles.

And then of course once they’d chicken nuggeted him, they looked at me. Well the one with a face did anyway, and I kinda felt the big one with the mouth in it’s stomach did too. it appeared that religious or not, I was next on the menu and the entrance to the church was like a hundred yards away and remember I hate running? I pulled out the can of paint and sprayed a circle on the ground, begon demon i shouted you cannot enter! And the one with the face started, well I wouldn’t call it a laugh but his mandibles chattered like he was having a jolly old chuckle and well I had to laugh too.

When he spoke his voice sounded like a squeaky toy. All high like he’d been huffin helium. He said to me. ‘Hey sis, You wanna smoke some shit?’ And quite frankly what the fuck was I gonna tell him? No? Nah. I said ‘Yo aiiight!’ and stepped out the circle. He clapped me on the shoulder with like his third arm and you know it felt kinda good! ‘Go see shorty over there.’ He said. I looked over at this squashed looking motherfucking midget demon. It winked at me. I shrugged and went over to it. ‘Guess you wid us now huh?’

‘Yea I spose.’ I said. ‘You got something to smoke for me? I’d fucking kill for a vape.’ ‘Oh yea? Well now you gon do both girl! Come over and help cut the heart out this church cut motherfucker.’ So I followed the little creep. And you know what, fucking Kevin Seagal again! This big ass abomination with like sixteen arms was holding him up for me. I was like Holy shit hi Kevin! Took a hit on their weird ass fleshy pipe thing and just buried that fucking knife up to the handle in his chest. It felt pretty good. The vape and the killing. He made a noise like a sheep too. Blleeaaaatttt! LOL. Fucking sheeple! I guess deep down he always was just one of the flock.

Lil’ midget holmes demon seemed pretty pleased. Told me how to cut out the heart as well. Easier than you think! When I asked him whether they were gonna eat my ass or jump me and him the big sixteen armed monster just started laughing. Apparently I was good!

So you see, that’s how I totally didn’t hear the trumpets of the fucking metatron or whatever the fuck it is. They just weren’t meant for the likes of me.

Categories
Articles Collapse Culture

What is Collapse Culture?

Culture:- The power by which humans create meaning in their lives encompassing the total sum of ideas, knowledge, values and beliefs that underpin social action.

Collapse:- To fall, break down or fail completely.

When I was younger I used to enjoy reading and watching science fiction. Especially the grim, post apocalyptic genre. But over the last ten years what I thought were apt fictive warnings for the dangers of human hubris have increasingly come to manifest as brute reality.

So much so, that it is hard not to see life right now through an overheating montage of cataclysmic events. Images and videos of systems breaking down proliferate in every available form of media.

Indeed as I write this;

Uyghurs detained and being transported by train. Xinjiang Province.

And so it goes on. Until it feels like we’re living under a barrage of anger and despair. Now due to the current pandemic we have ample time to reflect impotently on these issues. Political corruption and oppression. Social breakdown and general disorder. Climate pollution and mass animal death. Playing out on a loop through our own individualistic lenses of collective desolation, and internalised as rage, fear and guilt. Much like the opening overture of Soylent Green. Except without the benefit of Chuck Braverman’s excellent piano composition. .

LAPD fire rubber bullets at a homeless man in a wheelchair during the BLM protests 5/06/2020

So What?

So this blog is an attempt to reconcile these latter day horrors. For myself but mainly to pin down what Collapse Culture is and how it is manufactured. I don’t wish it to be a kind of compendium of agony so much as it is a vehicle for my own work here. Which is directed at how we actively attempt to ignore the yawning abyss. Those ways we attempt to keep the capricious capitalist fires still burning in a zero sum future. And in those efforts identify how we retcon the old consumable tropes that slid down so easy all those years, into something deconstructively new. That’s what I mean by collapse culture.

Hyper-reality.

Manufacturing Collapse Culture

At the moment it feels like technology has bloated many cultural conceits, mutating values and perceptions into absurd parodies. To such a degree that it is now acceptable and rewarding to retune your face via software and surgery in order to flex Gucci at Auschwitz. Shock value catches eyes and shifts units. Maybe it always has. But now any attention is good attention as long as a person is getting a lot of it! The algorithms that measure taste, and to an extent dictate it as well, are mathematical monuments. Heavy edifices of code that grind down meaning into siftable samples. Scale is key. Ethical and moral considerations are tertiary considerations. Relegated behind ‘reach’, ‘runtime’ and enterprise. As Stalin may or may not have said “Quantity has a quality all of its own.”

Current pop culture or pop tech doesn’t just eat itself. It makes you eat it and then hoovers up your leavings, like so many chocolate hundreds and thousands, that it then sprinkles all over itself to entice you to take another bite. The process repeats ad infinitum until you lose interest and/or it withers away to be the captive preserve of self appointed enthusiasts, aka fans and nerds.

Vuitton but you get the point.

Whether we do this by seeing our folk heroes afflicted with Alzheimers and bone death. By letting our televisions exhort us to part with time and money in ever more infantile and elaborate ways. Or just by feeding into the fucking beast like your doing right now reading these words. In terms of the time-cultural continuum we are constantly surfing the bleeding edge of how we create meaning. It’s just that right now that that edge is hemorrhaging out because the beast whose belly we’re all trapped is in is dying.

Federal Agents use a futuristic teargas gun on protesters in Portland Oregon.

Categories
Short Stories

Tweety Pie

I didnae ken when it arrived like, a even how. Ah jist woke up wun efternoon an it wa thir at tha foot a ma mattress, chewing throo ma duvet. I thought it were a burd at first, cuz it had wings and a beak but it wiz some proper effed up type a burd wid sum brutal fokkin disease if it wiz. Bald and scraggy an purple, like a rotten ol bawbag. An’ wit tha few fairthers it’d gut, it wiz like something yid see on the news efter an oil spill. All torn and drippin wi greasy shite erf tha end a its wings. It wisnae small ithir, fokkin muckle in fakt. Wae mair than a seagull. Big ugly fucka wi tha radgiest eyes ah’ve eva seen in ma puff.

“Gerrootofit!” I tried tae yell, but it wiz mair of a croak and it didnae even luk up. “Git Tae FUCK!” A bit louder this time, but it still didna move, jist looked up at me, strands a dirty polyester comin oot its big black hooked beak like ah wiz tha wun thit shouldnae hae bin thir.

I wisnae feelin well. Acktually thass a fokkin understatement. Ahd pished the bed, agin, an thir wiz sick oan the floor by tha cookir and reet doon tha telly screen. Ma bedsits nae tidy at the best of times but that mornin it wiz a right fokkin state even by ma haigh standards. Me Ma, God rist her soul, wud a had a fokkin fit. She didnae approve a me guin in the services but sid tae me, eh Barry, you’ll come oot fit n mannered an reet fir a burd a yir ain.

Did ah fuck. Went doon tae Pennycook tender age a six fokkin teen and came hame at twenny-foor wi a fokkin bottle in ma hand tryna firget tha Shock an’ Awe a Helmand. An Ma, well, hir health wisnae all that well so ah did ma money for er care like, win tha cooncil couldnae put in, but Barry in tha end it still wisnae enough. God rist er soul an aw.

An noo ahm in this hafway hoose on tha nash. An it seems tae me that ah’ve got a burd noo allreet but its no tha one she intended.

Ah sat up n held ma heid, tryin no tae boak as a luked fae somat tae batter it wid. But tha jist seemed tae encourage tha wee bastid cus it cocked its heid and did this fokkin hhhhorrible thing wi its eye poppin in n oot when it luked at me. An then hopped doon ontae ma duvet. Ah fukin booked it up a that n went in n stood in ma press wi its horrible wee wrinkly face turnin tae look at me from the middle o ma beid.

Reet than and thir ah thot ah’d try tae wrap it in ma duvet. But it wisnae havin none a it. Win ah tried tae chuck it aver it, it jist fokkin grabbed it in its beak and man ah got ah gud fokkin luk aht its claws in akshun. Fokkin huge like as it mangled up tha duvet. Jist tearin easuly intae wee shreds an sat there glarin at me. Than it spread its wings an battered them hard like, sendin this broon crap fleckin off n pebbledashin tha walls an alluv tha dust rats and dog ends whooshin aroon ma room.

Well wile it wiz busy wid that ah ran roond tae thae hob thinkin ah’d crack a windae n like mek a sugary brew wid ma kettle so ah cud chuk it over this bastid. That’d fix it. It’d be reet oot wit a gud scald. Ah wiz well wary mind! An ah got tae the sink but thin as ah turned awae, I heard it flap like a fokkin B52 o sumthin an its fokkin claws grabbed me in tha back a tha heid! Luckily I had ma hoody oan so when a ducked that hood came over ma heid but still even thru that it gut me a good bastid slice reet throo tae ma scalp. Laid me open like fokkin Geronimo!

Ah divent mind tellin ya ah wis in shock! Pishin blood oot ma heid doon ma back. Ah turned as it flapped at me! God it stunk! Like a latrine filled wiv deesul. Ah goat one a its claws rakin me across tha chin, an catchin ma lip, rippin tha fucka open tae.

Ah thought I’d crack it proper yin and swung wi all ma right but this wee shite burd, noo laffin fit tae burst. Makin like this hhorrible “Hukukukkukkukkuk” soondin like fokkin Popeye. It jist flapped higher oot a reach, an ah missed. But oan that backswing, an ahm nae shittin yous noo, it had me fokin timed. Grabbed ma wrist wi its fokin talons and as a I shook ma arm like crazy tae get it off. Bit fuk me it wiz heavy!

It wiz like havin a big fat bairn swanging off ya arm, flappin its greasy shite sprayin all over ma pus an ma SuperDry hoody. Ah couldnae shake it. Yellin n skrikin as it beat me roond tha heid wid each flap. Propa hard, yer ken hoo thuv always said a swan kin break yir arm? Well ah’ve nevir beleeved it til that moment likesay? Allova sudden it stops like, wings still oot, still hauldin on ma fokken arm and looks reet at me. Wi it’s eyes doan this wird poppin thing and its still fir a mooment then casual as you like, it bent and wi’ its beak just snipped off that end ah ma fokkin index finger.

Ah screamed fae real then. Really real. Like tha time ah got zipped by seven-six-too win oot on patrol. Wurs thin that aktually. Fokkin ran roond and roond screamin, blood spurtin oot mae fucken stump while this CUNT burd hukukututktutk at me from oan top ah ma droars. Ah didnae see wit it did wi ma finger tip. Swallod it probly ah eckspekt. Then ah jist fell doan on tha pahkeh, blud all pulin in tha cracks in tha vinyl.

Trooth is ah wiz in a reet state an thank fuk it decided tae let go cuz trully it’d tha best ah me. Ah put ma hood up and cradled ma hand. Maniged tae grab a few strands a pollyester an tied oaf ma stump. Furst aid wunowun likesay.
Wile ah wiz doan tha it marched aroon ma bedsit like a wee fascist bastid, its claws all goan clickety clickety as it roamed wun way than tha ethir.

Ah wiz seein red cuz ma fokkin hand throbbed tae bursten and ah’ve claret jist pourin doon ma heid, ma back, ma arm. yelled oot.”FUCK YOUS YA WEE BAM CUNT” and chucked a fokin bottle at it. BOOF! Glass went all owa ma gaff! Clattered it reet gud tae but the wee fuck jist shook it ahf! Well that wir a mistake cos then it came runnin at me hard like. Ah’ve nevir felt threatned by ah fokkin burd before noo but it were trooly summat oot ay Jurassic fokin Park. Ah turned an ran fae tha door but didnae mek it. Ah heard it takin off an felt the flekkin shite splatter on ma heid. Thank fokk ah hit tha deck then, cos it hit ma door wi ah gud thump. Claws oot.

Seein tha skratches it left in the wood freaked me reet oot. Ken like a bat wi nails in it? It flapped oot n roond and ah wiz backpedallin like. It had tha evil bastid luk in its eye agin and a cud see it squarin its wings gittin ridy tae flap at ma nut agin. Ah needed summat qwik sharp and ah grabbed tha bin and put owa me heid like a helmet. Jist in fokin time like, cos tha next thang. BANG! Scrabble scrabble an ahm fallen back intae tha glass. Cut me gud that did too. Ahm screamin wi pain noo. An then CHOMP! An ah felt tha worst pain in ma ankle cos that wee shites bitten me in agin. Shaken it like a fokin dog. Ah kick oot an catch it square an it lets go soon and ah hear it stalk ahf. Claws a clicky clacking agin.

Ah dinna ken exactly how long I sat thir, bin ower ma heid in tha glass an ma blood an lass night’s sick. Lang enuff fae tha booze tae leav ma system cos ah wiz gettin tha shakes summat rotten. It muttered a me tha whole bluddy time too. Jist shit like repeetin tha names of fitballas, fokin like ‘JOHNTERRYJOHNTERRYJOHNTERRYJOHNTERRY.’ Ova and ova n ah don even like fitba tha much ken? Nevir mind a cokeny fokin wanka tha played for Inglan.

Then ah hear a snap an am like wat tha fok? An ah realis its tha fokin moose trap! The wee shit must ah caut itsel in tha trap. Fokin A! Ah tek tha bin offa me heid to get a luk in and fok me! Its no caut. Up on tha fokin fridg lukin doon a me. Ahf a fokin moose in its beak. Ah swear ah didnae ken a burd cud smile till tha moment but sure as shit it wiz. It tossed it aht me and that haf a moose landed wi a plop in ma blud.

“EAT!” It says tae me. I luk doon at tha moose bit. Erse end too, tail all fokin flubbery lukin. Tha bugga wiz defanatley smilin.

“SCRAN THA FATBOUY! EAT EAT BUKUKUKUKUK! EAT FAE YIR MAAA PRITTTY BOY!” Like ah wiz tha fokkin pet burd! Ah luked up at it an it opend up its fokkin beak and clakked it. It luked lke a fokin butchas cleavah.

Ah luked doon at tha moose erse. Ah didnae wantae. But ah didnae want tae lose another finger either. So ah picked it up and popped it in ma gob. Them scratchy wee moose claws n ma mooth wiz tha wirst ahvit. Ah boaked win a felt tha guan doon. It didnae feel gud comin bak up eethah. A boaked a propa whitey, nae mistaken. Propa bile tae.

“HUKHUHKUHKHUHKUK!” The wee shitter kept on chucklin at me. Ah took ma chances then. Ran fae tha door. It came efter me too. Ah meant tae slam it in tha door but ma bottle had gone and it jist whooshed it open wi its wing. Ah ran fae tha toylet, doon six stairs awcros tha middel landin. Least it hud a lock. Ah yelled oot as ah wen tae it but naw anser. Ah divint kenwir every ova fokker hud guan? Fuoor ether alkies sposed tae be in this place like wi me?

Ah slammed tha door an dropped tha hook n tha eye n sat wi ma back tae it. Ah cud hear tha soond a its claws rattlin doon tha bannister ahs it slid doon. “Heeelllloooo-OOO?” It says in that creepy wee baby voice agin “Huuuulloooo Baabby? Hulloo Babby!” An thin BANG an tha scrapin as it rattled its beak owa tha fokin door. Chills doon ma spine. Ah wrapped masel n ma woonds in toylet papir and wondered jist wat tha fok tae do? Thir wiz a windae but ah wiz still a good story up mind. Still naethin else wiz presentin itself.

Took up tha bog brush an battered oot tha windae wi it. All the while, tha burds is ootside tha door workin away, chompin oot that bottom ay it. Ah cud see tha hook jigglin. Ah droppd doon a tool owa tha brokn glass n skweezed oot ontae tha wee ledge. It wiz dark noo, bit nae bugger aroond. Ah jist assumed it wiz pritty late o summat. Wiz thinkin get me tae tha fokkin A&E an thin call tha newspapers. Sell ma story for a tidy wee sum an at least git summat ootay it. Git this bastid danger oa burd bak in tha fokin zoo, or mair like come back wi sum mates and batter tha fokker.

So ah start callin fer help! “HaaAAAEEELLPP!” Thinkin sum cuntll come at leest but nae sooner have ah opened ma gob than I herd it.

Flappin. Muir flappin.

Ah luk up an, thir, jist oan top ah tha lampost above me, an then oan evry fukin lampost and rooftap doon tha street, hundreds ah them. Demon Burds. Jist like tha wun ah’ve escape fae. An thir ah’ll lukin doon at me.

Ah slippd n fell. All tha way doon tae tha pavement. An tha wiz far enuff ken? Knocked tha shite oota me. Well nae kwite like, cos ah fell strait ontae whit luked like the body o an auld biddy. Ah leest ah think it wiz. Jist a scrap a mac an a wheely shopper. Ah saw wit luked like a propa horror show skull tae, but by tha point ah’d grabbed tha mac owa oan tap a me an rolled awae under a car.

So noo thass me. Thir wiz a mobile in tha pocket a tha biddys jaykit an ah’m recordin this oan ma socials voicemail lyin squeezed under a van parked ootside ma gaff. Tha nearist hole ah cud git tae.

Ken thit they ken ah’m here, cuz they kin hear me fir shur an ah kin defo hear them. Mutterin and shriekin aways. If any wun get tha message or finds this phone, ma names Barry an ah swear ah promise if y kin find me and get me an tell me its nae real. Pleeze. Tha none ah this is happnin, ah promise ah’ll stay offa tha hooch fir gud. Nevermuir. Ah swear on ma Ma. Nevermuir.

Categories
Short Stories

Cold Blow Lane

Apologies for all the swears and noise and carrying on and that. Didn’t mean to wake you. Yea I feel a little bit better, thank you. Now that I’ve had a good drink. I think I’ll have a few more if you don’t mind? I don’t want to get too out of it. Just a couple of drams to take the edge off eh? Honestly every little rustle or creak at the moment has me instantly on up me toes and I feel pretty flippin’ keyed up and brittle enough already. No really, I’ve still got that prickly back of the neck, eyes watering feeling.

Clenching my jaw? Christ your right. It aches like I’ve been chewing my face off. Jesus is it quarter to four? Bastard O’Clock. Thanks for staying up with me. I had the TV on for about 10 minutes while you were in the kitchen, thought it might help you know? Bring me back to normality. But nah. It’s not working. I kept muting it thinking I’d heard something. Think I’d rather sit and listen out if it’s all the same to you.

Alright. Okay. You wanna record it? For your blog? Well. Yea I guess I don’t mind. Start at the beginning? Sure. So walking home last night, well this morning actually, down the New Cross road.. Where’s New Cross? You having a laugh you know where bleedin’ New Cross is. For the blog? Oh right. Describe it? Ok Ok. Give me another drink then. For those that don’t know. My name is Malcolm I am 48 years old and I live in an area called New Cross which is in Lewisham, South of the river right? Yes in London. England. The British Isles. Happy?

What’s it like? Well it’s not a pretty area. Its not bad, but its not like a bleedin’ UNESCO world heritage site or anything. In my youth I would have said it was shithole but London prices being what they are its pretty darn cushty for the money nowadays. At the moment I live in a room in a housing co-op called Sanford, with about four other people usually but three of them buggers is out God knows where. It’s not far from Bear’s Den, which is Millwall FC’s ground, home of the Bushwackers hooligan mob if that means anything to anyone. Oh and there’s a some railway tracks for the Overground and beyond those there’s a ginormous rubbish incinerator. Beautiful place it is.

Anyway specifically I live off a street called Cold Blow Lane. Google map it if you want. If you street view it you’ll see exactly the place I’m talking about. Go on, I’ll have a another drink while you do so. So right I’m walking home about what 40 minutes ago and believe me Cold Blow lane is aptly named. Especially about three AM with this bleedin’ freezing cold spring in London in at the moment. Proper Brass Monkey weather. We’ve even had snow today haven’t we? More of a sleety hail you reckon? Yea I suppose so. Bonkers weather anyway. Christ its like I want to talk about anything but what just happened.

Stick to the story. Ok sure. Does this feel like its helping? No not really.

Right so I’m walking back from the New Cross road about what 2am? It’s a busy main road. I’m about 10 minutes off the nightbus from a night out, and its fucking freezing. I’m fucking freezing. Now to get to here, Sanford, from the direction I was coming in, you’d have to walk through two long, dark tunnels that run beneath the Overground railway. Quite frankly its bloody grim. It looks just looks like the sort of place a serial killer would dump a body like on ‘Cracker’ or ‘Luther’. I feel like such a dumb old tosser for even thinking about doing in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t recommend it during the day! Let alone in the dark. I mean I usually go the other way. Why didn’t I go the other way? Oh yea cos I got off the nightbus a stop early. Jesus wept.

Alright yea so anyway the road into Cold Blow Lane goes from being a wide open avenue with these ugly looking 1980’s new build houses on the left. Then you turn right and there’s this overgrown bit of embankment shrub that hangs down from the Railway line on one side. Then you’re under the railway bridge proper and with these tall, dark sooty brick walls on either side. That’s where it becomes a bit of bottle neck. If you go into the first of the tunnels, it funnels up into a choke point. The road turns into a single lane and the pavement just kind of dead-ends at this brick wall under the tracks.

People are always fly-tipping rubbish right at that wall. Well tonight apparently someone has dumped a load of old furniture. I saw a lot of busted chipboard. All spilling out into the road and a couple of cars have obviously gone over them because even from fifty feet away there’s all them little flakes of pressed wood caught in the asphalt. Just shit everywhere really. But right by the entrance to the tunnel proper, someone’s dumped these two big white wardrobes.

One of them is upright with its back propped up against the brick next to the tunnel entrance and there’s a big pile of bin bags and God knows what in the corner next to it. The other is lying on its side with it’s back to me, about ten feet in front of the upright one. Like it’s just been dropped out the back of a lorry, cos it stuck out off the curb and into the road at a bit of an angle.

It’s pretty dark in the tunnel but because of that one street light behind me I can see well enough. Normally I wouldn’t look twice at crap like that. I mean they were nothing fancy, just dated cheap white veneer that looked piss yellow in the glow of the sodium lamp back toward my end.

But they’ve both got great big mirrored doors, so I’m kind of half interested. A decent full length mirror can go for about £20 down on Lewisham Way so these monsters might net me close to a hundred for four of them, maybe a bit more. If they’re in decent nick of course.

The doors of the one on the ground are reflecting into the upright one and in one corner they’ve got that kind of weird infinity effect going on? But mostly because of that they’re angled I can just see all the rubbish on the ground between them. I could also see my reflection, well from about the waist up. I actually gave myself the nod, as you do. Sexy fella.

I’m not bonkers. I wasn’t that drunk and I, like its a practical joke really. Its got to be. Someone fucking about now I think about it. Now I’m sitting down here in the lounge and telling you this. Yea it sounds fucking ridiculous. I mean what else could it have been? Kids or some scaghead fucking about that’s what. And now I’m sat here nerves jangling harping on about dumped furniture at 4 o’clock in the morning. I mean are you sure people’ll want to listen to this shit?

Carry on? Alright, alright.

So I’m a good forty-ish feet away maybe? And as I get a bit closer, I can see in the reflection of the upright wardrobe that the door on the one in the road is busted at the hinges. Meaning the mirrored door on the bottom is propped at an angle on one corner and there’s a decent sized gap at the far end where that infinity effect is. But there’s a like a thing sort sticking half in-half out of that gap. I didn’t know what it was at first, it just looked like a pale little tube, like a sweetie wrapper or some other bit of litter. I didn’t even notice it at first glance, because it just you know, why would you? There’s a big pile of crap spread all around the gaff you know? But then I do notice it. I see it move. Just a little bit. But yea, it. It caught my eye, and I just thought ‘ooh issat a rat?’ but then it wriggled, like up and down.

Ok. Just let me have another glassful. Yea that’s better.

And now, for the life of me, I don’t know people are bloody stupid aren’t they? Especially when they coming home half pissed. I can tell myself that now, like hindsight is a wonderful thing and all. But I honestly thought it was the tail of a big rat. But it was moving all wrong, like it was.. crawling. Like the rest of the rat was stuck or something and was trying to get out backwards through the bottom of this crack, cos its not moving forward, its just sort of wriggling. Undulating.

Anyway I’m sort of standing in the road, moving out ready to walk through the narrow tunnel. But I’m stuck watching this, this thing moving in the reflection of the upright wardrobe. I can see my own puzzled ugly mug reflected in that mirror too. Trying to figure it because it seemed sort of wrong for a rat-tail. Like it had a sort of a hook on the end of it that kept catching on the tarmac. I could almost hear it scrape.

Suddenly there’s this rustling noise. And I half startle. I’ve been distracted by this wriggling thing and not noticed there’s a bleeding fox climbing out of the pile of black rubbish bags next to the upright wardrobe. And he stops and sniffs and has a good look at me. You know like foxes do when you catch them getting into the bins or crossing the road. We both sort of stand there still for a moment sizing each other up. Then he looks down, this skinny little dog fox. He’s seen the thing. I swear he cocks his head and I know what he’s going to do, he’s gonna jump down, have a sniff and gobble whatever it is up. I almost yelled ‘GERTCHA!’ cos I wanted to figure it out what the bloody hell it was. So I raised a hand, opened my gob, saw my reflection doing the same, mind. And then, well fuck. It happened really quickly. You know when you’re riding a bike and your realised you’re about to have an accident but its already happened? Yea that.

The fox jumped down and the.. the tail thing in the mirror stopped moving. Sat there all still. Like it sensed the fox was there. But when the fox sniffed it, whoosh it was gone. Vanished back into the wardrobe and the fox turned as if to go.

I realised what it was in that moment. Or maybe I saw it. I can’t. Fuck man. It just looked so, so strange and foreign, that I didn’t get it right off.

It was a finger mate. Not a rat-tail. A fucking finger.

And then whack. This, this.. hand, shot out from the gap, grabbed the fox by its hind leg and pulled it back through the gap in the bottom.

I screamed. Honestly all ‘WAAHH FUCK!’ Jumped up about 10 foot in the air too!

You know what it reminds me of? Just like a trap-door spider grabbing a beetle like you’d see on of them David Attenborough nature shows on the telly. Bang. Gone. Just a split second of something horrible and then everything is back the way it was.

But then I swear, I swear to you, that this fucking fox pops back up. Just saunters out as if by bloody magic. Coming out round the other side of the prone wardrobe like no biggie. Not a mark on ‘im! He sees me and because he hears me shouting, he’s off! Running up that tunnel as fast as he can. I watched him go all the way and slip through a fence into the bushes and he’s gone. Looking like, fine you know? Like a bleeding fox just does.

But it couldn’t be! I swear to you I saw it! I saw that fox, turn around, all snarling and vicious and watched it sink its teeth into that, that arm, just before it got hauled backwards beneath that wardrobe mirror. I close my eyes now and I can still see it. Hell I even remember the wardrobe rocking and shaking! I know for a fact I saw all that in the reflection. And then Mr Bloody Fox pops out the other side all fine and dandy? Explain that? You can’t mate.

Why I didn’t turn around and run? That’s a good question. Thinking back now, honestly mate. I think. I think cos there hadn’t been any noise? Like when I saw that fox get snatched there was no snarling banging, yipping or nothing. In fact there was literally nothing. No sound. When I remember it now I try and add the sounds but really when it got grabbed it was dead silent and that.. well mate, that just shit me up good and proper even more.

I need a top up please? Cheers.

Anyhow the fox is away dead quick and as daft as it sounds now, I started to laugh. And when I say laugh, it was that or start crying cos I must be losing my nut. You know when you just need to make a bit of noise? Reassure yourself? Yea that. So’s I looked back down the tunnel. Stood there for a long minute in the wind and its freezing cold. Then I looked back at my reflection in the wardrobe mirror.

Maybe I just imagined it. You know? Had a bit of a brain fart from all the gear I did back in me salad days? Like an acid flashback or something. I tell you though, I looked good and hard at the spot where the finger had been and nope there wasn’t a trace of nothing. Kept thinking that dark gap at the bottom looked slightly larger too. Like the shadow it cast was just a touch bigger. Though I couldn’t decide one way or the other. I kept my eye on it though. Still didn’t like it.

So what do I do? Do I walk the long way around? That was probably about about a twenty, twenty five minute walk or so. That’s the trouble around here in South London, the railway slices up the neighbourhoods so much, that you have to meander well out of your way just to get to a point that’d be just round the corner as the crow flies. Plus I live literally on the other side of that tunnel. A two minute walk at most. Did I bloody well dither though? Stood there for a good long while wondering what to do.

Of course in the end I told myself it was just my imagination. A trick of that sickly yellow sodium lamp casting funny shadows and that I was being a stupid sod just standing there freezing my bollocks off. That’s when I told myself to man up. You know your little inside voice? Well I let that give me a telling off. ‘Check it out’ it said. ‘That’s a hundred quid probably standing right there’ it said. ‘‘Go and have a look’ it said. ‘Your a big man, junkies, tramps and feral bloody youth don’t bother you’ it said. So off I went . One, two, three, four, five steps forward.

So of course like a fuckin’ muppet I walked right up to ’em didn’t I? Thought I’d have a decent butchers at the state of the glass, and if they’re cushty I’ll come back with a screwdriver tomorrow and have ’em away. Of course I did, that was the, er, how would you put it mate? The only ‘rational response’? And suddenly standing there I felt all very bloody sober and rational indeed. Gone all impatient with myself, standing around in the cold, playing spooky woo-woo with my fucking reflection and a load of old household rubbish.

Yea I’m empty again mate. Just leave the top off the bottle.

So it was maybe fifteen or sixteen steps between me and the wardrobe on the ground? I could see myself reflected pretty much every inch of the way in the upright mirrors. I kept looking at that gap, willing something to come out of it again. Even said ‘Hello?’ a few times like a plonker, just in case some nasty crack head did pop out but I don’t bloody know which way I would have run if I’d seen or heard anything!

For the last few yards I moved out of view of the reflection. Just so I could keep a bit of space between me and it like. I crept forward round the far edge of it. But then when I got up close and was looking at it directly what I saw was that there was no dark gap at the bottom at all. It wasn’t askew or nothing. The door was flush. Christ I was relieved! I even picked up a lump of wood chucked it so that it banged on the side of it. Just one big hollow thud and then silence. Empty.

So I stepped forward. Right between the two wardrobes. When I looked at my reflection in the mirrors of the upright wardrobe, the door on the one behind me swung open right behind me.

Just give me sec. Yea no I’m not good mate. You know when people tell you that it’s fight, flight or freeze? Never thought I’d be the type to do that last one. Yea just fill it to the brim this time. What did I see?

Alright. I’ll tell you.

Four ‘fingers’ splayed out on the tarmac. No thumb where it ought to be. Like just a big cat claw hooking out halfway up the wrist. Fingers like hooks. Too long for the arm. Arm too long and at a, at a.. funny angle. Elbow all bent. Ready to spring. All tensed up. Like it had been listening. Positioning itself like a cat waiting for a mouse all that time. The sound that came out of me. Christ. Proper screamed blue murder. Leapt forward and up and bang right into the mirror in front of me. Swung around to fight it off and, and.

And nothing there! The wardrobe door was still closed!

I turned back around and saw it all in the mirror. All weirdly out of synch. Those long claws grabbing my ankle and my reflection stumbled over backwards as it pounced out of the wardrobe on top of me. I went nuts. Just a blunt, blurred shadow as it come out. Flashed out and back. I went down. Or rather my reflection did. Because I was still standing there. Just watching.. this, this fucking horrible fucking thing. It fucking had me and oh Christ it’s face. Then it opened its muzzle. And god my eyes! I can’t forget my eyes! Like I’d been struck by lightning. Mate the terror you don’t know… Watching my own fucking death. I saw. I saw it. I saw me. Me! Looking up at me.

I said Help.

And then it bit down. It bit me! Reflection me! I ran up banged on the mirror. Try an.. I dunno help me out? Try an do something. Then it shook me and the blood. Gushed right out of my neck. Stood there watching it drag me back into the wardrobe. The look in my eyes. It was just… Saw the light going out in them.

Then it. It looked up at me. Real me. Not reflection me.

I ran. I’m so sorry reflection me. I fucking ran for it. I didn’t know I was making a noise till I’d screamed all the air out of my chest. And then some. That was when you heard me. I didn’t stop until I was inside here with the door bolted and the table up against the window.

I didn’t look back. Is that bad? I’m going to finish the bottle now. Fuck. You know mate? You know what the worst bit is? Sure I screamed real fucking loud. I can still hear myself echoing from one tunnel to the other. But it didn’t quite drown out the sound of breaking glass behind me.

Categories
Short Stories

Snow Fun

Burn Him! Burn Him! Konstantin gave Dieter the finger, He’s a Witch! Burn Him! Lieselot could not stop laughing, Bernard pulled out his lighter and flicked it into Konstantin’s face, he’d jacked it earlier and a 4 inch flame sparked up for an instant, before vanishing into Konstantin’s nostrils. He screamed and leapt back screaming, dropping the joint which died with an audible spptt in the snow.

Prick! Are you ok Connie? Prick! Connie let me look! That fucking asshole always goes too far, he’s too desperate to impress Liese! Konstantin rubbed his face. He knew he was perfectly ok, but the sudden shock had got to him. Leoni took a-hold of his face and looked up his nose, placating. Oh a little well done but I think you’ll live. YeaYea, I can smell his bogies cooking from here. Dieter picked up the joint and relit it. Bernard looked a little shaken, the same look as before when he had had too much to drink last night. I’m sorry man, it was stupid. No, its ok, I still have my eyebrow’s at least. Anna who had kept schtum during this moment, which was only the latest episode in a recent spate of what she considered moronic behaviour, decided to move things on. Fucking Christ people, its as cold as the dead out here, can we get a move on?

They, Konstantin, Lieselot, Dieter, Leoni, Bernard and Anna, had decided that they needed some music to accompany the grunt and growl of their rented snow mobiles. Dieter had purchased a cheapish portable stereo for about 1500 kronor and duct taped it to the back of the Skidoo. Bernard had purchased the beer and schnapps. Konstantin, the poorest, now had to put up with their teasing, Dieter was his friend, Bernard was Dieter’s friend, who was going out with Lieselot, his sister’s best friend, which pissed of his sister Anna, more then she wanted to let on. Leoni was Dieter’s girlfriend of last weekend, in more ways than anyone had really conceived of, this trip was really Dieter’s vanity project; all attention led to him eventually.

The night was clear, and slightly too breezy to be comfortable, the snow shone muted in the starlight and though the quarter moon could be seen, it didn’t sit high in the night sky. They had come to Lulea, in the North of Sweden too late for the Aurora Borealis, but it didn’t stop them from hoping. They all avoided looking up at the cold glittering emptiness above them, not because they didn’t find it beautiful but because it made them feel the vacuum of the space above more than the -10 C through their thermals and expensive ski-wear.

The snowmobile’s engines caught on the second and third turn of the key, Bernard took this to mean that his rented Husqvarna was slightly better then the two other Skidoo’s, and turned smiling to Leoni, before revving the engine and dropping down the steep bank onto the sea-ice. The others followed, Dieter pausing to ask Lieselot to push play on his ghetto blaster. Even with the volume turned up full, the burnt CD of Black Strobe and Kitsune Midnight was barely audible over the engines.

The ice was special. You had no idea how thick it was until you had to drill through it, sometimes two metres, sometimes only 40 centimetres. The locals drove trucks on it with impunity, fashioning roads and ice-skating circuits that lasted from mid December to mid April. A road ten metres wide, with a cracked surface, opaque and translucent depending on where you stood and how you looked into it, the debris of trees, picnics, fishing nets, yachting buoys, and constant human activity were locked in, on display until the late spring thaw or the return of the massive 3 Icebreakers, which were each as large and imposing as 10 storey modernist tower blocks, they spent the winter out at sea, keeping the shipping lanes clear for the container vessels and oil tankers.

After 2 kilometres the snowmobiles stopped at an island, a hump of land and dark fir trees rising out of the ice, for brief refreshment consisting of Schnapps and cookies. The boys tried to build a fire but their success was hampered by inebriation and a sense that this was not where the night’s end lay. The girl’s rolled another joint and sipped a beer each, talking amongst themselves, Anna intended to drive the Husqvarna before the night was out and challenged Liese, then Dieter, to a race in quick succession.

While the bottle of Schnapps was shared she took her chance and roared out, revving the engine and leaning her body off the powerful snowmobile into figure eight turns, which fast became noisy over revved skids. The others grinned, only Dieter complained that she was wasting fuel and energy, making enough noise and heat to melt the surface of the ice. At this thought, Konstantin proposed that they seek out the edge. Where the thick, frozen shelves became thinner cracking floes, eventually turning into circular platelets, that would freeze together as night drew in , released by the melting of currents and the heat of daylight combined. It would look like a soup he firmly predicted, a whole sea of the stuff. And before he realised it, the bottle was empty and they were on their way.

The flag stood still in the dark, head lights hundreds of feet away played over it briefly, casting a flickering shadow over the fractured, tessellated surface that it had been screwed into. Bernard, Liese Konstantin, Anna, Dieter and Leoni, wouldn’t have noticed its colour, pattern and warning.

They barely noticed the sudden opening up of the ice beneath them, certainly none of them screamed, the breathe they drew was sudden, shocking, and full of freezing, thick water that filled their lungs. Only Konstantin was aware. The deep black of the cold ocean enveloped them in an instant but he reflexively kicked up and off the back of the Skidoo as it sunk.

The current had already carried the machine and Anna twenty feet along beneath the ice, which he struck with first his head, then his fists and as he realised that he was bumping along the underside of it in what was quite definitely the wrong direction from the hole they had broken through. He stopped struggling, and looked at his watch, it took 1 minute and 17 seconds for him to lose his awareness another 20 seconds to actually die, trapped uselessly underneath the ice pack, frantically treading water to avoid the deep blackness below, swept along in the gentle but firm current.