Monday, March 19, 2018

Imagery: Fragment 1

Fragment 1

See the whole photo and explanation, here, or by clicking on Imagery, the new page. 

#catpic  #placeholder  #imagery

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Kosi Lionhair: 10. The Princess-and-the-Pea Event

In which Kosi's actions now will have large consequences later, which, much later, will influence a life-changing decision. 

How did Hen get out of the house when my father forgot to leave a door unlocked?

She’d make an exasperated sound, then fetch her …?

Fetch her magnet. That was it, a big magnet. I concentrated remembering its shape and size and weight. A cube that filled Hen’s hand, the upper face in her palm. Her fingers and thumb grappled three sides. She’d heft it and swipe a door lock with it, then put it away.

Where would she have hidden it? I didn’t flutter around searching, wasting my energy or air. I let my mind search the places where my father would never think to look. Therefore not the bathroom cabinet, my shelves or Hen’s shelves. Not under my bed.

I checked the boxes by touch. Kneeling by Hen’s bed I dragged them out. The first one was for the emergency food. I felt around in it. Three packets remained. Shoved that box back. The middle box was for Hen’s outdoor clothes when she was with me, her indoor clothes when she wasn’t. I got a lump in my throat stroking her soft old indoor shirt. Shoved that box back under the bed. If I cried, I’d be using up more air than I could afford.

The last box contained my no longer new outdoor gear, which I might as well put on now. The opportunity to leave might come unexpectedly. I undressed and dressed feeling all the hems and seams and pockets in the fetcher clothes again, in case I missed any secrets in the excitement before. So long ago already.

I folded my indoor clothes into the box as best as I could. Not the magnet yet.

Our living room had my desk by the inner wall, and a table and two chairs by the unit’s outer wall, where we ate and played games. A pretend porthole was set into the wall beside the table that I used to delight in programming with outdoor scenes with palm trees.

Back to finding the magnet. I crawled around on my hands and knees to check the undersides of things. I banged my head on the table and then the desk.

I stopped until I had imagined the rooms and the furniture from my blind point of view on the floor. I think I dozed off. All the excitement, I suppose. Plus being hollow in the gut. I shifted to Hen’s bed. My head near the door, my feet on the pillow. I doubted that Hen would be back to rile at me. Only two doors between me and freedom if I left the door between her room and the living room open.

I would’ve slept but for the lump under my shoulder. What the sun did Hen keep in her bed? I ripped apart her carefully tucked in sheets and quilt.

Whatever it was, wasn’t in the bed.

I folded the mattress back onto itself.

Yes! The magnet! It sat half in the depression left by the bed-leg being extended out further because of Hen suddenly deciding one day that she wanted the bed higher.

I laughed. What did Hen tell my father for a reason that she suddenly wanted her bed hoicked up? I remembered his embarrassment having to hold it up, just so, while she crawled half-under it to adjust the screw collar. Ha ha, she bested you, you unnatural father.

Nothing was going to stop me now. I swiped the magnet over the door lock of the door between me and the study. The door swished open. Swiping the door-stop at the top of the track, I set the door on open. Waltzed through, feeling giddy with excitement and hunger. I swiped the door between me and freedom.

Nothing. No go. Zilch. Zero. Nought. The magnet didn’t work on the back door!

I almost threw the cube at the green line outlining the house computer where it was set in the study’s table top. Just in time letting my arm fall without allowing the magnet to fall to the ground. Whenever Hen let me hold the magnet when I was still real young she cupped her hands under it.

After setting the magnet gently on the table top beside the computer, I threw myself into my father’s chair. “Yes, yes, yes! Tra-lah! Lights! Internal doors!”

I danced into the legal house, laughing victoriously. Hardly any furniture remained. Didn’t look smell a house where anyone would be coming home. That sobered me. Breathing didn’t feel so good anymore. Just the dust was left, and the stale places where the heavy furniture had stood.

In the kitchen was a litter bin with the second half of a bag of stale bread cubes in it. My father thought to feed the ducks twice? Perhaps my brother had proven too smart after all. I was hungry enough that I gobbled up a couple of the cubes.

In one of the staff’s rooms I found a shoulder bag with a packet of coffee shots tucked deep in a corner. I added the rest of the duck food back in its plastic bag. My failure to get out preyed on me and quite soon I was back at the desk.

I found a file with the staff’s codes to get in and out. Household security was not my father’s strong point, I decided. Hen’s code was N-G-9A.

N-G-9A? What did that mean when all codes also told where people lived?

I couldn’t wait any longer, had to know if it worked. I punched N-G-9A into the keypad by the exit door. The door slid open! I was out and could order a ride …

Forgot. No credit on my cell. Beg my new friends up top for a ride across? But after that? I had to eat. Fetching could be irregular.

I drooped back into the study. With keystrokes dropped back into the system. Deeper and deeper. The-man-my-father was a lot more careful with his own codes.

There. Numbers. 

According to his credit records, my father had three children. Each child – Daughter, Son, Daughter – had a row of figures assigned to them that were storing varying large amounts, larger than the amount in my father’s own row.

I transferred one hundred credits from his account to my comcell. Enough so it would be easy to misread the new total of 500 as the original total of 600. I deleted his children and all their credit.

Because he acted like he had no children.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Closed System of Belief: The Minotaur ...

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill

One of my favourite novels illustrating the Closed System of Belief concept, is The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break. First published in 2000, this edition is by Canongate Books of the UK.

This novel is a speculative fiction story for adult readers, set in the present, even though it is marketed as mainstream literature.

In a Closed System of Belief, the fantastical elements are part of the scenery and are normal in the world of the story. There are no Points of Disbelief, as in an Open System, where characters must face the reality of the particular magic or unbelievable logic and either accept or reject it and where reasons have to be invented for both. I thank Scott Westerfeld for this explanation from his blog ... Read the rest of this post here 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Kosi Lionhair: 9. In the Dark

Snack bars from
How Kosi's father means to do what he does and why ... by her reactions, Kosi knows herself his true daughter

Hungering for Hen’s presence, I went through my energy bars faster than I planned. For a while I teased out my hair to be a lion’s mane. Usually that makes me feel better.  Today I was too restless.

Someone came into the study.

A long time ago Hen made a hole in the wall beside the door to be prepared, she said, and to see who entered.

It was my father. He sat at the house desk and woke it.

“Where’s Hen?” I said through the hole.

“You didn’t come back so I put her off,” he said without looking up.

“You sacked her?” I said, not wanting to believe it.

He did his fierce anger thing with his mouth. He snarled silently, showing off his strong white teeth.

I reeled back to my bedroom and my bed, where I was meant to sit with my hands neatly on my lap, my feet together on the mat, while he told me what he thought of this or that of my actions.

He didn’t come.

After a while, as his true daughter, I seethed with some anger of my own. I’d been away less than 24 hours! How dare he give up hope on me so quickly? “Can I tell you why I was late?” I said meekly through the hole again. Previous experience taught me it would do me no good to show my anger.

“Won’t make any difference,” he said.

I abandoned being-good and being-polite. “Difference to what?”

“Maybe your passing will be more peaceful if I tell you of my difficulties. And so maybe you won’t haunt me.”

Thinking that they were the two most awful things a father could say to his daughter if he was serious, and he didn’t look to be joking, I almost missed what he said about my mother.

“Your mother went the way of Life Lottery winners. What was I to do with you when my new wife demanded her rightful two children?” He stared back into his past. “We had our boy. He started off very well and I admit we got our hopes up.”

“For what?” I said to get him out of his dream.

“About the middle of his childhood, his schoolwork went to average. We had him assessed, taught by the best and then retested. I almost had to let you go then, money was so tight. We never dreamed he wouldn’t make it into one of the feeder schools to the University of Alien Biology. We were so, so disappointed.” He drooped, reliving it.

And then he perked up. I wasn’t even jealous about my brother’s schooling because the way my father perked up, so callously. Something awful had to be coming.
“That same week we heard about the Gen-En-Co Smart Kids program. The company provided two ways to get into their program. One, they ran a lottery for five unencumbered places for those who didn’t have any children already or enough credit to buy their way in.”

“Wait, what do you mean by ‘unencumbered’?” I hoped it didn’t mean what I suspected.

“What? Means what I said. People who didn’t have any children already,” he said.
“You had me and my brother.” I surprised myself with my accusatory tone.

He shrugged. Wafted us out of the way with one hand. “We put our names down for one of those places right away. Second, Gen-En-Co auctioned off fifteen places per intake. Though we didn’t have the credit, we thought to maximise our chances. Gen-En-Co had ancillary requirements that not everyone could fill. But we figured we could provide them with the smart male child they required … we had one male already after all … for their experimental education program. A gamble that didn’t pay off.”

My heart beat sluggishly from fright. It was true then, he’d dumped Du. Forgot her somewhere, like Hansel’s and Gretel’s and all the other fairy tale parents abandoning their children. What would he do with my brother? With me? My hands filmed with cold sweat.

“But never mind, yesterday we heard that we’d won a place! We’ve been accepted! One more week and we’ll move into our luxury quarters at Gen-En-Co and the world is our oyster.”

Did he think that if he told me I would excuse him his crime? Hen taught me what was what, and what my father and stepmother were doing wasn’t it.

He shut the computer down and went into the legal house. The louvres stayed sealed. I lay on my bed, did not sleep. I let myself be angry. I didn’t want to be scared. 
Everyone got up with the birds, as Hen used to say. I always asked her, what birds? The ones that sing the dawn chorus, she said. One day I will hear the dawn chorus.

Now I listened at the louvres. I heard my brother pretending that he thought they were all going on a holiday. He knew something was up because half the time he behaved like a five-year-old, like Du, as if he was trying to be her and him at the same time.

A call to the keypad by the living room door brought a stranger, a different voice, a cabbie in to deal with the luggage. My father entered the study through the outside door. He woke the inbuilt desk computer.

“House,” he said. Then, “Go to sleep. Put the utilities into dormancy.”

The lights in the Tween house dimmed. Then the remaining pinpricks of light winked out. I kept my hands flat on my desk to keep it active and glowing. The dormancy state crept around my hands – maybe their warmth stopped it advancing – then edged under my hands. Finally, the desk’s input surface died and went opaque.

Schlick. The door locked itself after my father on his way out.

Hen always let me have a night-light but now I couldn’t see anything no matter how hard I looked. I concentrated on sound. Water gurgled in the pipes. A chugging outside. A low buzzing from overhead.

The buzzing stopped.

The aircon stopped?

I got up from the chair and held onto the desk to make sure it didn’t run away into the dark. Touched the wall with an outstretched hand. How hard was it to remember directions when I could only see stars and them only when I rubbed my eyes. Left hand on the wall.

No. Better idea. I sank to the floor. Crawled to the bathroom, skimming the wall with my left flank. There, the door jamb. I rose to my knees, clambering my hands up the jamb.

The bathroom ceiling was low because I was taller now. I reached overhead. The air-vent was above my head, just inside the bathroom door. I stuck my fingers into the little squares of the grill covering the vent.

On hot days my fingertips would get icy cold. On cold days my fingers used to get warmed. A neat trick I worked out all by myself in my seventh year. Then, I had had to stand on my desk chair.

No air moved in or out through the vents. No air! How quickly would I use up what I had? How fast if I cried and screamed? I bit my lip and stared hard into the dark.

After a while I remembered that Hen wouldn’t have left without making sure I could escape.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Kosi Lionhair: 8. My Little Sister

The kind of louvres Kosi Lionhair might be peering through from

Kosi deals with the fall-out from getting home late. Her discoveries are adult concerns filtered through a 13-year-old's interests. 

The door between the Tween house and the study was shut. Huh? Well, okay. I’d just go to bed hungry. I decided that me refusing to demand food might be the only way to get Hen back.

Breakfast the next day was hard. At first I watched the family eating theirs. My father glanced toward the louvres every time he forked up a mouthful of scrambled egg on toast. I sock-footed to the study door, hoping against hope that it was unlocked and that there was a tray of food for me on the desk.

But the door to the study was still locked and did not budge to all my pushing, pulling, beating it, and jumping on the sensor-mat. I might’ve screamed in my frustration, for the louvres were sealed when I got back to them. 

Out of pure boredom, and hunger – I had to take my mind off it – I started researching our urb. This also to distract me from the biggest no-no quarrel Hen and I ever had. Which was opening a virtual window into the legal house? Quite easy to do, I discovered accidentally.

Hen convinced me that if I were found out they, aka my father, would have me on a Life Lottery ship quicker than I could blink. Promise me you’ll not risk it, Girl, she said. I promised.

But now when I needed to see what he planned? I distracted myself with researching our urb, Parra. You can never tell when a bit of in-depth knowledge will come in handy. It’ll be an info dump.

Satellite views show this complex to be one of dozens. All in the form of a + sign, four dormitory stacks around a utility stack. Dormitories are where people live. Utilities are where they work in shops, stalls, kiosks. Clinics. Schools. Offices. Barracks. Labs.

These days, says the net, most lifestyles encourage further travel. The utility blocks now contain two levels of transport facilities. Where for instance you can catch a bus to the nearest air travel port or a cab to take you home in comfort.

The elevator buggies every complex has threading between their buildings are well past their prime and prone to accident and failure. Duh.

It used to be that the areas in the utilities blocks that are now used for transport pick-ups were food gardens. But since the Life Lotteries have indeed crimped the population, there’s land again to farm. Or so says the government website. 

I’m keeping my hunger down by drinking lots of water. My gut complains loudly every time I think of food. I search out and break into the emergency snack supply that Hen kept under her bed. If I eat just three bars a day I can last for 6 days. Surely my father will have given in by then?

More research will keep my mind off the whole deal.

All the buildings in each complex are eight-sided, with a well in the centre. There’s a lot of maths about the proportions that I can’t be bothered with.

I trawl back to the government site, to the population statistics on the official census site. The big surprise to me is that among all the people in the whole archipelago, only 30% are male. Meaning that 70% are female. There are also pages and pages, millions of words, written by government employees trying to explain why the birth rate of males is still dropping.

Couples producing a son are allowed to have another go. I don’t understand why they aren’t making more boy babies in test tubes. Surely that’s old science by now? But which explains why the only males in this house are my legal father and his legal son. All the staff including the house guards are women.

I’m tired and go to bed early, eating my evening energy bar with the smallest bites to make it last the longest time.

Next morning there’s an upset in the legal house. I hear my little sister screaming and crying, accusing her brother of punching her when no one is watching. I’m on her side, he is such a sly weasel. (A weasel is a slinking olden days predator, now probably extinct.) She begs her mother to believe her. Her mother slaps her and accuses her of upsetting her brother! I am so angry I can’t think of a comparison.

I stare like a hawk through the sealed louvres, in case my anger, like knives, can help my sister. I’m furiously hungry, then just furious. I open a virtual window into the house and save it to my desktop.

I watch my father enter the family room. He frowns about all the noise. His wife is cheerful. They have good news she says. The software translates her mouthings into print but not the secret. Whatever it is, my father cheers up. He says, “Why don’t I take my little sweetheart for that walk I’ve been promising her?”

His little sweetheart is over the moon. “Yes please, Daddy. Can we feed the ducks?” He nods. She glows with happiness. “Please wait, Daddy, and I’ll get us some bread.” 

“What about me?” says the boy. I don’t see what his mother promises him because I’m all eyes for the little mite stepping out proudly with her father, bread bag in hand, babbling happily. 

I hear them passing by the study door. I hear the glass doors sliding open and shut, and the faint whine of a cab sliding away.

My father returns without my sister in 1 hour 47 minutes and 32 seconds. A special little treat for a special little girl? Why don’t I think so? I miss you, Hen.

I name my sister Du because it means strong in Irish.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Kosi Lionhair: 7. Where is Hen?

Pair of vintage style shoes, from
In between doing her first proper 'fetch' and making her way home, Kosi has no idea of the time that's passing ... 

From halfway between level 8 and level 7 in Parra Central, I glanced over to where I’d left the soldier. She was still there, watching me. At the bottom of the level 7 ramp I turned to walk back along the western side of the concourse and imagined that every one of the people around me was watching my dithering path. 

I almost missed the shoes, red, I was so intent on my insecurities. With my face even redder, I backtracked to the seat, put the shoes in my pack and looked around as nonchalantly as I could to plan the next leg of my journey.

This level was much busier and I frequently had to dodge around people getting into and out of their transport. In the eastern half of the concourse, I had to push my way through the crowds in a produce market among the columns.

What with the displays tempting me with their shapes and colours, not to mention their scents, and distrustful stall holders refusing me passage around the back of their stalls, it took me a lot of time to finally arrive on the walkway facing Parra-West across the way.

Which was the name of that dorm block, according to the letters high up under its roof. Did I even look back this morning, to make sure of it? I shook my head at my lackadaisical attitude. Level 7, Unit 12 was where I had to go with the shoes. I punched in the numbers in the Buggy Ordering Box.

Waited. Not looking about very much. Mist gambolled between the buildings. The underside of the caboose under the crane-beam slid to and fro. Comforting. I dropped my gaze. Didn’t want to miss my transport. Didn’t want to seem to be the wrong person, say that soldier was still watching. I tried to stay fully awake.

A buggy stopped in front of me and I got in. I rode up. The hooks engaged nicely with the fists on the buggy. Thank you Jules and Lila. The buggy swayed across the gulf.

On the other side the buggy bounced a little. I imagined the lower fists seeking the rails to hold onto. The machinery under the buggy whined harder as the buggy quested for the exact fit. A balloon of worry swelled and swelled under my breastbone.


There! The fists slid over the rail. The balloon of worry popped. The buggy slid down until the upper fists also engaged.

Clunk, clatter, clash! The hooks went swinging up into the fog. The buggy settled on the tracks. Slid down and passed a number of doorways without stopping. I read the numerals as we passed them. 10, 9, 8 …

The buggy slowed. I read Level Number 7 beside the gate into the exterior corridor. The buggy stopped so that its floor lined up with the level’s floor. The panel opposite to the door I’d entered became a door in its turn. It slid aside, catching a guardrail as it went by. All of it the same as I had experienced before without the interruption. Comforting.

“Passengers may disembark,” the buggy said.

I tottered out. It took me a couple paces to find my normal gait. I looked up, wanting a break in the clouds to see what I’d experienced.  But just rain again blew at me. The buggy clashed its door shut and sank toward the lower floors. I was alone in the Level 7 entry.

Which was good. I took off perambulating, that is walking along the walkway around the outside of the building. Something you’d obviously only do in fine weather, or if you were a fake fetcher, like I was, without the proper codes to walk the inside corridors.

Around the corner from Parra-Central, where I hoped to find Residence 12, I finally saw the sun, almost overhead. The building had hardly any shadow and the sky surrounding the sun was more white than blue. Hen said to never stare into the sun, because you’d go blind in less than a minute. I broke out into a sweat from the heat radiating from the walls nearby and Level 7’s steel walkway. On I go.

As I came around the second bend, I had to grab the balustrade to help me keep on my feet. Urb complexes lay in every direction! How many people lived in this city? Gobsmacked is the word.

Residence 12 was on that corner. I set the shoes neatly side by side, not to give fetchers a bad name, and made for Number 20.

I know, not my level. I figured that I could find the door nearby into the central transport yard where a flight of stairs would lead me to Level 8. 

I was feeling very clever until I arrived in front of the glass doors into the Level 7 corridors. I danced like a demon on the sensa-mats. And swore and screamed sotto voice (ie in a whisper voice, according to my favourite person.) Sotto voice is a good thing to know how to do for a Tween teen. But it didn’t help. The doors stayed shut.

Finally a cab came sliding in, to drop home a night worker. She straightaway saw me sitting there by the doors.

And of course I had to tell her the story Hen told me to say.

“Bardelote Henry?” she said. “ Bardelote is a mother? That’s been a well kept secret.” She looked me up and down for more secrets. “Just started in fetching, have you? I need someone for my groceries. Remember that for when you have a bit of experience, okay? My address is W-7 House number 4.”

While she talked she drew me with her into the building. I didn’t break the spell. In the corridor we parted ways. She went to the left and around the corner. I waited until she was out of sight and made a dash for the concrete internal stairs, up two short flights to Level 8, along the concrete corridor to the door into the study.

At least that was unlocked. My father, at his desk, stared at me with an utter amazement, that changed to disappointment and then white-hot fury. He pointed me into the Tween house.

I went without a protest. I was keen to regale Hen with my adventures.

I searched the place in five steps. No Hen!