Tales From The Ridge

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Weekday mornings

I head west before dawn breaks, fleeing the sunrise. My windscreen weeps rain, the world is blurred by its tears. Ahead of me, always, a column of red eyes, glaring angrily but constantly backing away as though afraid of me. We swim through the darkness for a time, but the sky behind grows blue. I can't outrun the sun. It arrives eventually, its light stained grey as it passes through the clouds, and the red eyes disappear. They must be scared of the dawn as well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Shorty and the sights of Nepal

Two weeks ago I went to Nepal
But I didn't see all of its mystical sprawl
For most of Nepal was behind a wall
And diminutive stature was my downfall

So I made up a story to cover the lack
Of photos of temples and minaret stacks
Alas, my friends were taken aback
And made a complaint to the head of Kodak

Ten packs of film was their gift of a sort
And off to Nepal without time to abort
I'm back at the wall and regret to report
Lo and behold, I am still too short

Hmm...perhaps poetry isn't Ecks' thing. Many thanks to Mark, who must be a poetry engineer (as he fixed my metre).

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

An eye-watering work of staggering mediocrity

"Sir, the prisoner swears he doesn't know anything about any terrorists."
"Did you torture him?"
"Well go and do it some more, then."

"Good news - he gave us a name, sir."
"Excellent. Have someone look into it. And clean your hands, they're dripping on the carpet."

"What is it?"
"The name he gave us was fake."
"Really? How odd. Get in there and torture him as punishment for giving us a false name. Then torture him some more to see if you can get him to give us some real information."

"Two more names, sir."
"Good thing too. I was getting annoyed with the lights keep flickering; I was trying to read. Have someone investigate them, and torture him a little more in case he made them up again."

"Sir...the names were fake again."
"Unbelievable - the cheek of the man! Go and torture him some more. So help me, we'll get these terrorists!"
"Sir, I think he's just giving us names so that we stop torturing him."
"Hmm...that is possible, I suppose. In that case, don't stop torturing him at all, even when he gives you information. That'll spoil his little plan."

"What is it? No, don't sit down, you'll stain the chair."
"He told us there was no longer any incentive for him to talk, so now he won't say a thing."
"Torture him harder!"
"But sir, it'll kill him."
"He should have thought of that before he started giving us the runaround. He's only got himself to blame."
"What if he doesn't actually know anything?"
"Impossible! Just get back in there."

"Well, he's dead, sir."
"Damn! Oh well, bring in the next one and get started. One way or another we'll beat these inhuman monsters!"

Monday, October 10, 2005

Bride of the return of the son of As Yet Untitled

OK, admittedly a little sooner than anticipated (Ecks has been a bit too busy to write anything new lately and this was already sitting there begging to be posted), here is the continuation of the start of Ecks' second book. Remember, it's still very much a first draft, so it'll be more Dan Brown than Gabriel Garcia Marquez...

We left Sucre in a hurry twelve days ago, Mirceles and Kinderman and I, so quickly that we didn’t even have time to pack a change of clothes. If we’d stayed any longer than we had to we’d be rotting in a cell by now, that’s for certain.

We were at my apartment, all three of us, when I found out that they were coming for me. We were in the middle of planning our trip to the coast when we were interrupted by a knock at my door, nervous knuckles rapping urgently on the flaky paintwork. The knuckles were thin and pointy and belonged to Lano, my neighbour.

“The police are coming,” he said, glancing down the hallway as he spoke, “I heard them talking to Crazy Emerson on the ground floor and they mentioned your name. He’ll keep them occupied for a bit, but they’re on their way up. If I were you I’d get out, and I’d go by the back door.”

Lano and I were hardly what one would call friends – I tended to keep myself to myself, restricting myself to a civil nod as we passed one another in the corridor – but in this neighbourhood the enemy of your enemy was your friend, and the police were the enemy of pretty much everyone.

“Thanks,” I said.

He grunted, and peered at me like a rat over his shoulder as he scurried down the corridor.

“This conversation didn’t happen, understand?”

I closed the door and turned to Mirceles and Kinderman.

“We’ve got to go,” I said simply, “The police are looking for me.”

They didn’t argue, and that made me smile. I think their unquestioning trust of me is one of the reasons I like them both so much.

I gathered a few basic items into a worn old rucksack and threw it over my shoulder before opening the window onto the narrow walkway that led to the fire escape. I helped Mirceles and Kinderman out onto it before following them myself. Within moments we were threading our way between the fly-blown dustbins, wading through the sticky-sweet odour of rotting fruit.

Luckily my car was parked down a side street a short distance from the apartment block; if I’d parked it out front, out where the police cars were now brooding like chickens, we’d all have been wearing matching steel bracelets by now. I threw the rucksack into the back and helped Mirceles and Kinderman onto the cracked leather seats, then clambered behind the wheel. Five minutes later we were out of the tangled backstreets and onto the main road that oozed like a cholesterol-choked artery through the middle of the city.

Our flight south took us right across the city, past the 1895 Grand Revolutionary Stadium, past the abandoned cigar factory that was once the beating heart of this city, past the drunks, the junkies, the hookers and other heaps of human rubble that collected in drifts on the edges of the Red Barrio. In a rash blaze of arrogance I chose to drive straight past the Presidential palace, but as we neared its vast marble archways my nerves jangled in my stomach and I wondered whether I hadn’t made an enormous mistake. My worry turned out to be misplaced; no-one looked at us twice. We were just another car on the road. I laughed at the colossal bronze statue of the President as it stood astride the arched entranceway, frowning in disapproval at all who passed, and I was still laughing when the traffic thinned to nothing and the dust of the city limits curled up behind us in the rear view mirror.

We sailed along the empty road, the big old car wallowing like a breaching whale as the asphalt slid beneath its wheels. Although the ribbon of tarmac that stretched out in front of us was cracked and dusty, it was to me a highway paved with gold, a highway that led to our salvation. Wiry grey bushes floated past with a regularity that hinted at landscaping. We passed a snake basking amongst the rocks by the roadside, with lurid crimson scales that were iridescent in the sun and a flickering black tongue, the only thing that betrayed that it was alive.

The car ran out of petrol shortly after we saw the snake. It coughed and choked and protested for a short time that it could carry on, but we had no choice eventually but to guide it to the side of the road and leave it to turn brown, disintegrate and die amongst the scrub; there was no question of going back for fuel. I cursed our luck, but we all knew that stopping for petrol in the city would have been far too risky, and the next service station was miles away. I helped Mirceles and Kinderman out of the car, took my rucksack from the back and started walking. We knew that the President’s thugs would have finished scouring my apartment and roughing up my neighbours and be glued to our trail like dogs by now, so we headed away from the road and off up into the hills. I hoped the abandoned car might confuse them a little and buy us some time, but I am a realistic enough person that I was planning for the worst case.

I had no compass with me, and of course neither did Mirceles or Kinderman, but I knew roughly the geography of the barren lands south of Sucre. Most of the desert was undulating sand and dry, baked earth punctuated by stunted bushes and tufts of coarse grass, but a great range of shifting dunes ran south for miles before turning east, framing the arid lands with an L-shaped border of sand. If we could keep the hills of sand on our right, we could travel relatively comfortably until we reached the southern dunes.

At first we travelled parallel to the road, but after an hour of walking it swept guiltily away from us, as though ashamed of our company, to head instead towards the sultry, mosquito-flecked swamps of the coast, and we were left without landmarks by which to plot our course. Before us lay a rolling dry sea of pink earth and grey rock, as featureless as the wide ocean. We had been cast adrift, left to the mercies of these desiccated waves.

Today is World Day Against The Death Penalty. If you want to know more about this, go here