Rescue

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You dragged me from the water for the third time that day with a look of determination on your face. A look which seemed to be new, even to you. This whole charade was driving you into uncharted territories; testing your endurance. I slumped myself down next to a rock, feeling nothing but raw. My senses were protesting at the stimulation they were expected to process. Not this again. The world was an inconvenience. I was sick from the things I once loved. We were way beyond reassurances by then, and there were no more words you could say to me. So instead you paced back and forth with your hands in your hair and your eyes to the sky.

What happens when things have fallen apart about as far as they ever could? Entropy take me.

Then you gathered a bunch of sticks, much faster than I could comprehend, and right there in front of me you started a fire. My tired eyes were some way comforted by the sight of colour, my worn and crumbled body warmed by the flame. In the crackle of the wood I heard you promise that you would find me a desert in which to dwell if that is what it would take to keep me from the waters edge.

We sat there for some hours in silence: I as a pile of stones and you as a boat. I fell asleep, and you took me home.

Progress

C R Dudley Author - Orchid's Lantern

Exciting things are happening behind the scenes at Orchid’s Lantern!

I have finally decided to independently publish under the name C R Dudley: some of you have already noticed I’ve started changing my social media accounts to reflect this. Orchid’s Lantern will be the name of my publisher and I’m having a logo designed for it, which will appear on the back of my books and my website. 

I am currently editing and compiling a selection of flash fiction for my first official publication. I expect there will be 30 – 35 stories included, many of which have already featured here on my blog but some are brand new. I am working with the title Fragments of Perception which I believe captures the essence of my work, what do you think? I’d also be interested to learn from my regular readers what genre you would describe my stories as? This could play an important part in how I present them.

Once the editing is complete in about a months’ time I will be looking for a couple of beta readers to look over the collection with a critical eye. If you’d be interested in doing this, please drop an email to orchidslantern@gmail.com so we can discuss. I will gladly return the favour if anyone is in need.  

My novel is progressing and about to enter a second draft stage. This will involve a fair amount of re-writing from the first draft as I now have a stronger, clearer idea of what needs to happen to achieve my vision. I’m working under the title The Enlightenment Machine for this. Broadly, it is about a man taking part in experimental therapy living underground with similarly afflicted individuals. The world he is exploring is changing his outlook but something unknown is slipping through the cracks that no one is yet equipped to deal with… 

Some of you may be pleased to know I have also done some more work on The Old Woman, The Stag, And Me (working title only as it’s grammatically incorrect among other things). Looking at the outline, I think this will likely end up at novelette length but could be slow progress as I am desperate to press on with the novel foremost. 

Lastly, I’ve written a couple more flash fiction pieces to submit to anthologies which I hope are fruitful.  

I hate to be creating new work and not sharing it straight away, but hopefully it will all be worth it. Once I have Fragments of Perception nailed, I will be back to putting my flash fiction straight onto the blog as it is ready. A big thank you once again to everyone who follows and interacts with this blog (almost 500 of you now!), your support is my confidence.

Fragments of Heart: Alien Dust

Orchid's Lantern C R Dudley

Black skies lit by the whole moon reminded me of you. They reminded me of your warrior stance, and the soft dark hair you had no right to boast. They reminded me of the time I danced around my pole to Marilyn Manson’s Sweet Dreams, and you watched through the bottom of a whisky glass. I told you that night that I wanted to climb inside you and live there, and you agreed. But I must arrive on foot by the ordeal path, you stressed, because no one ever touched a star by wishing alone. I was inclined to agree.

So after you were gone I listened out for you in the thunder, and savoured the rain on my face as though it were the tears you made me cry. I felt your presence when wandering the forest at night, when the eyes of shadow creatures were upon me; when I was hurt, lost and alone. In the night at least, you were real.

One such night, on an aimless stumble among the trees, I found a house in a small clearing. I could swear it hadn’t been there before, and the overgrown flora remained on all sides undisturbed. And yet, someone clearly lived there. In fact they were up and about, because I could hear a shuffle and a sigh that only man could make. I turned on my flashlight but could see nothing, so I edged towards the sound, untangling my ankles from the grip of branches as I went. There was no fear in my heart, which meant I was likely getting further away from you, but still my curiosity forced me to persist.

At last I saw him: a slip of a man moving along his flat rooftop on his hands and knees.

“Well don’t just stand there,” he said impatiently without looking up.

I didn’t move. The shadow creatures had averted their eyes as if declaring me sacrificed, and I felt unusually free.

“There’s a ladder round the back.”

The rungs were illuminated by moonlight, so I didn’t even need my flashlight to see where I was going. I crawled to his side on my hands and knees in case it was a custom I was expected to observe. In one hand he held a transparent plastic sample bag, and in the other he used a brush to sweep tiny pieces of grit into it. Perhaps I’d have asked at that moment what on earth he was doing, had I not been overwhelmed by the sense we had met before. Despite his wiry frame, spectacles and sunken eyes, I was as drawn to him as I had been to you all those years ago. It was almost as though…

“Can you see any more?” He asked.

“Any more? What am I looking for?”

“Alien dust. Rocks. Fragments of stars. They’ll be shining tonight if they’re here.”

I took a cursory glance around the rooftop. “I can’t see any.”

“Then we’re done.”

I followed him back down the ladder and into the house, noticing for the first time he had bare feet and that made me smile. His carpet was red and heavily patterned, just like my grandmother’s used to be. His walls were almost entirely covered by shelves holding jars of stones and powders, and his furniture looked as though it hadn’t been moved or cleaned in decades. I watched as he painstakingly trawled through his findings from the roof, discarding anything that his magnet took for its own, and setting the rest onto a piece of clear plastic. He didn’t utter a word for an hour or more, but I waited patiently until he excitedly ushered me over to his microscope.

Peering through the lens, I saw the most beautiful, intricate formation of pinks and blues and charcoal blacks. This tiny particle had a whole world of its own contained within it, made from smooth edged mountains and deceptive whirlpools. It felt like home.

“Anyone can find them. They’re falling from the sky all the time, right onto our heads! So few take the time to understand.”

“So many wish, but so few seek.” I added. A single tear was running down my face; the first to fall in years without pain. He wiped it away with his little finger, and took me into his arms so tightly it took my breath away. My suffering was done, and finally I was allowed to lay beneath a star.

The Gardener

Orchids Lantern, thoughts of a writer

Ideas grow in the mind organically, like flowers in a garden. Now and then a gardener comes along to sprinkle some water and tear out the weeds, and we are grateful that the more exuberant species can thrive once more. Sometimes the gardener cuts the heads off the fullest of rosy ideas, and though we mourn them for a time we know that he only does so in order that more will flourish.

But sometimes the gardener does the strangest thing: he takes the best of all the different kinds of flowers – picks them right out at the root – and puts them together in a vase until they die. He draws pleasure from this act, as though he were honouring his produce in allowing it to fulfil its purpose. As though declaring them beautiful and arranging them in his preferred manner makes them more valid. Those flowers, those ideas, are complete. In their final configuration they are the best they will ever be, and the gardener prides himself on capturing that moment. Because he knows, I suppose, that more will grow.

*****

The key to raising orchids lies in their roots. We need to understand what makes them different to help them to grow in a potted environment.”

*****

You can now follow me on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates on my writing projects and inspirations.

Recent Reading: 5 Reviews in Brief

Book Blogger Review

I haven’t written a review for a little while, because not everything I read gives me enough to say without spoilers. However there are a few books I have read recently that I feel are particularly worthy of mention, so I’ll share them with you here.


Fever Dream – Samantha Schweblin 

This book was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize. It’s a small book, and with less than 200 pages it is readable in one sitting. This also adds to its rather disorientating effect. 

It’s about a woman in hospital, telling the story of how she ended up there to a little boy at her bedside (who may or may not actually be present). The boy is adamant that she is missing a vital detail that could save other lives in the village, if not her own, and tries to guide her towards discovering it. It is a frantic story of motherly love, desperation, and the way we select or reject sound reasoning. 

Fever Dream left me feeling as though I had been given a box of puzzle pieces, that no matter how I tried I could not quite piece together. It stayed with me for a long time, and eventually the point of the book just clicked. One of the reasons I didn’t review this in full is that the pleasure of the book is in figuring out the meaning for yourself.  


Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness – Bruce Rosenblum

I was half expecting this book to be another attempt to shoe-horn quantum physics into someone’s idea of spirituality: there are too many pseudo-scientists out there who either misrepresent quantum theory, or apply it completely out of context. However I have to say I was pleasantly surprised here. 

Quantum Enigma is very readable, yet it successfully explains the roots of quantum theory, its possible applications and the gaps that still exist in our understanding of it. There were some minor annoyances: for example the authors spend far too much time repeating what they are going to show us and how it will blow our minds, but all in all this is the best explanation I have received on the topic, and will no doubt keep referring to it. 


Shark – Will Self

Similar to my feelings on J G Ballard, I have a lot of respect for Will Self, but I can’t say I’ve loved everything he has written. I am still addicted to picking up his books though, because I know they will give me an experience; they will stir something in me, be it joy or disgust.  

Shark is technically the second book in a trilogy, though I don’t believe they need to be read in a particular order. It is a stream of consciousness from multiple points of view, presented as one long paragraph, starting and ending mid-sentence. Although the style is reminiscent of Joyce, this is a whole lot more accessible and flows beautifully. I found it very difficult to put down, not only due to the struggle in finding a natural stopping point, but because I really got into the heads of the characters and their trains of thought. 

Plot-wise, Shark is about a ‘concept house’ identical to that set up by R D Laing in the 60s as an experiment in the treatment of schizophrenia. The doctors are on an accidental acid trip with their patients, which plays with their lucidity and comprehension of their personal situations. One of the patients we get to know is an ex-serviceman, traumatised by the dropping of bombs on Hiroshima and the subsequent shark attacks upon the men of the USS Indianopolis as it sunk. We also see through the eyes of Jeanie/Genie, a drug addict with an overbearing mother; and Kins, a ‘conscientious objector’ during the Second World War. All of these characters have very distinct perspectives, but are cleverly linked. I now can’t wait to read Self’s new book Phone which is the final book in the series.  


The Gift Garden – Kenny Mooney

The Gift Garden is a novelette written by indie author Kenny Mooney. At 80 pages, this is another book that is easily and best read in one sitting. It is a dark and claustrophobic look into one man’s mind: a mind which is apparently unraveling, eating itself away with gloom and distraction. 

The story is set in an apartment, which is the protagonist’s world. We watch him writhe and struggle with abstract elements: the mould in the walls, a tree growing in his garden, and an ethereal female offering fruit. I took the story to be one long metaphor for the protagonist’s mental state, mixed with smatterings of his reality. This is a concept I love, as anyone who reads my fiction will know. 

Although I didn’t quite know what to make of it at first, the fact that The Gift Garden’s mood stuck with me for so long afterwards I believe is the mark of a powerful read.


Astronauts & Other Stories – Ash N Finn

This is a collection of very short stories by fellow WordPress blogger Ash N Finn. There’s a bit of everything here: laughter, sadness, surprise, clever symbolism, and mild horror. Every character is well thought out and has a voice of their own, and every setting is described with skill, so that even in such short segments the reader is fully immersed. 

Although some stayed with me more than others, there isn’t a weak story in this collection. If you enjoy reading in short intense bursts, this book comes highly recommended.  
*****

You can now follow me on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates on my writing projects and inspirations. 

Fragments of Future: A Glitch in the System

Dystopian future fiction

“We shouldn’t be so concerned with what it would take for AI to develop self-awareness: the more immediate problem is what it would take for us to lose it.’

That’s what the patient had said just moments before she disappeared, and it made Liana shudder to recall it. Something else, too. Had there been something else? The patient had been her charge. It had been her decision to allow her to use the bathroom unmonitored for the first time in weeks, it was her who was last to speak with her, and it was her who would be blamed for losing her.

There were no windows in the toilet cubicle, and even if there had been they wouldn’t have offered an escape route on account of being some 60ft above ground. The ceiling was solid, so was the floor. There was simply no way this was possible by any rational means.

Liana had followed protocol. The patient had been displaying definite signs of improvement, and in such cases it was within the capacity of the warden to grant small periods of unsupervised activity.

Continue reading “Fragments of Future: A Glitch in the System”

Frederick

Frederick's Writers Block

On occasion, it becomes necessary for Frederick to leave the flat. Of course he gets his groceries delivered along with any other items he may require, which as it happens is very little. However in order to sustain himself and his craft, he once in a while needs to experience human contact.

Frederick gave up seeing his ‘friends’ long ago. He knows what they say about him: ‘Frederick is always working! He could do to take a break one of these days, he doesn’t even post on Facebook! He just needs to get some perspective or a wife or a wi-fi. You never see Frederick smiling anymore.’ There was no sense to be found there.

Instead, he visits other men – and women too – in the private booths near the train station. To ensure the authenticity of the participants, recording devices of any nature must be left at the payment kiosk: it is assumed that if no one is streaming video to gain likes and bait trolls, then they must be in it for the genuine desire to grow brain function and further knowledge. Participants are paired off at random, entering their allocated booth on opposite sides of a plasti-glass panel. They then have the duration they have paid for – usually one hour – to converse, debate and discuss any topic of their choosing without the watchful eyes of their peers and public being upon them.

Continue reading “Frederick”