Tales From The Ridge

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Time, and its associated problems

So, Ecks has been quiet lately. That has largely been because he was working on the "Last Chance" piece below, but also because work, play, novel writing and assorted elements of real life have begun to fill up more of his time than they have done for some time. As such, http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifthe posting on this blog may have to become a little less frequent for a while...

The Dancing On Fly Ash book arrived yesterday, though, so that was a good thing.

Tunbridge Wells Writers

Friday, April 07, 2006

Apologies to fans of real science fiction

They discovered the first one in 2091, during the seismic lunar surveys. It was communicated to the lab at Mare Anguis 4, in that self-consciously ambiguous way that scientists have, as an 'anomaly' - an unexpected spike on the graph, an unusually sinuous line within the oscilloscope, a decimal place lurking too far to the left - which meant that they had got their predictions wrong. A second survey was ordered, but the results were the same - anomalous - and so an excavation unit was dispatched. Three weeks and several metres of basalt later, a message chirped through the satcom to Mare Anguis 4:

"Littrow? Are you there?"

"Go ahead, EX2."

"You're not going to believe this."

"What have you found?"

"It's...well, it's a bell. A giant golden bell."

The bell, some thirty metres tall and sunk like a boil deep into the epidermis of the moon turned out to be made not of gold but of a material greatly resembling it. Science scanned and centrifuged and resonated and imaged and oscillated, but no conclusion could be drawn from the find other than that it was of non-human origin, and it remained a curiosity, a tourist attraction, until the seismic surveys of Mars in 2118.

The western slope of Olympus Mons was the site of the Martian anomaly. Excavation crews were soon on the scene, and Littrow was contacted immediately when the scientists at Olympus Station received the call to inform them that what seemed like an enormous sunken bell, thirty metres high and made of gold, had been found beneath the surface of Mars. Naturally, Littrow boarded the next available shuttle and was there in hours. But again, weeks of scientific endeavour gleaned nothing more than that the bell was not of human making, and it too fell into folklore.

Then, in 2130, deep beneath the rushing clouds, seismic surveyors on the surface of Venus were alarmed to notice a glowing blip on their hand-held screens as they logged the surface of Ishtar Terra. Checks and double checks led to the deployment of the excavation units, and Littrow, long retired, could scarcely breathe when he was contacted by his old friend Juralle at the Lakshmi outpost.

"I thought you'd want to know," he said.

"Another bell?" said Littrow.

"No...that would have been fine. That was almost what we were expecting."

"Then what?"

"It was a pair of cherries."


"A huge representation of them, thirty metres high. Carved deep into the earth and painted bright red."


"But wait, there's more...next to it there was a message inscribed into the bedrock. Each letter was twenty feet high. Can you imagine?"

"What did it say?"

"That was the funny thing...it said 'Bad luck! Three matches required for jackpot. Better luck next time.'"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The perception of guinea pigs

As is often the case, Pongo Richter himself was the only person who did not think that he had gone mad. The authorities certainly thought he was; they were convinced of it. And the guinea pigs were convinced as well, which was ironic as they were the ones responsible for his condition.

Pongo hadn't minded at first. It was unusual, certainly, to be sharing the Tube with a six-foot tall guinea pig dressed in a business suit and reading the Financial Times, but no-one else batted an eyelid. And besides, he didn't think that guinea pigs were so bad; in fact he thought the way they snuffled those little noses of theirs was rather charming. So Pongo simply accepted them as one of the changes that he had to accept as part of modern life - some new genetic miracle or something - in the same way as he had accepted the Chinese family that had moved into the house across the road from him.

He saw more and more of them. Working in his bank, driving about town, playing football in the park, they were everywhere. He looked forward to seeing them; their soft, exuberant fur always made him feel calm. The guinea pigs, that is; not the Chinese family.

But one Sunday morning, as he was digging his garden, Pongo saw in the street one of the guinea pigs hop up onto another's shoulders, crack into its skull with those brutal incisors and lap at the brains inside as though they were the yolk of an egg. Horrified, Pongo leaped over his fence and whacked the guinea pig in the head repeatedly with his shovel until it lay crumpled in the street, dead. Panting, sweating, he walked into his house and called the police.

The police arrived within minutes, and the psychiatrists soon after, when he'd told the police what had happened.

"We can't have this," they said.

"You're telling me," said Pongo.

"Just killing people like that."

"You mean guinea pigs."

"Ah yes, the police told us about that. Do you see these guinea pigs often?"

"All the time. They're everywhere."

"And you say they're six feet tall, some of them? The same size as us?"

"Yes, yes! Haven't you seen them?"

"Dr Berner?" one of them called over his shoulder, "Will you bring the kit, please?"

As the sedatives began to take effect, Pongo reflected to himself that he really should have expected this - one of the psychiatrists was, after all, a guinea pig herself.

Even after years in the asylum Pongo didn't consider himself mad. But unfortunately for him, everyone else did. Especially the guinea pigs. Sadly for him, it was all simply a matter of perception.