Thursday, 6 November 2014

Short story- A shipload of trouble.

When I got his communique, it was clear that Tesla was having one of his episodes. Not those ones where he would talk to birds for hours. No, the other kind. It appeared to be one of those occasions where he had created and/or was fixating on something potentially devastating. I knew he had been recently seen in the company of a man by the name of Gonzales. A man whose reputation was spotted with accusations of illicit goods smuggling.

I braced myself as I rode steam cart toward Limehouse. Knowing Tesla, I would soon be faced with something truly diabolical. My destination was a small, discrete dock -- the perfect place for vices of our modern age to gain entry, and also a place where one can go about business without a multitude of questions being asked . I arrived and dismounted the cart, grateful for the shroud of heavy fog which blotted my observable presence from unsavory sorts. My concern for my colleague drove me forth at a quick pace. I noticed a bright light abroad a ship, which was moored along side the dock. It’s beacon light was too bright to be any ordinary lamp, and the vessel itself were too humble to bear the large spot lamps, which were commonly powered by steam-tomic generators.

“Gabriel, you came.” Tesla’s heavily accented voice found me before I viewed him by sight. When I looked up at the ship’s deck the jittery excitement in his restless hands as drew out his pocket watch, and the manner in which he barely glanced at it before quickly slipping it away, worried me further. He jerkily waved me up to meet him upon the deck of the schooner.

“Of course. I feared you were about to do something undoubtedly silly,” I replied as I climbed the gangplank

Tesla puffed out his chest and then sighed heavily, “Despite your lack of faith in me, Gabriel, I am glad for your presence. We’re almost ready.” He gestured to a pair of feet poking out from behind some crates.

“This is my benefactor Senor Gonzales, he’s sleeping at the moment. I daresay he will wake up soon.”

I leaned over to garner a better look, bottle clasped in hand, the long haired, spanish sailor snorted and then continued his slumber. I quirked an eyebrow, looking back to Tesla. “He is aware of your presence here tonight?” I inquired cautiously.

“I’m sure he remembered.” Tesla replied, stalking toward that fierce light which blazed sorely from the cabin.I followed his tall, lean form inside, blinking against the glare.

When my stung vision cleared, I soon realized this was not one of Tesla's average experiments. The machinations of this thing were completely beyond me.

“What is this?”

A great metal engine lined the back wall and protruding outward from it was a metal sphere, rolling slowly, suspended in air, hovering between two rods. I saw markings upon it, boarder outlines and shipping routes. It was a globe, a map?

“It’s a drive zat creates negative mass aft allowing us to move faster than light to a pre-set location… if it works.” He added.

I suddenly felt queasy.

“ Don’t worry, I have done the calculations. I am sure they will be right.”

“How did you conceive of this?”

“Tesla looked at me,  “really? I believe that would be akin to attempting to explain strudel making to a monkey”

I scrunched my face into a frown, “I mean, what possessed you?”

“Nothing phantasmagorical possessed me that I know of… Although if you really have to know-- the breakthrough came because of Ishtar.”

He paused his dark eyes taking on a wistful look.“She has a higher resonance than the rest of creation. She’s impossible really, but she was the key to the mathematics.”

Yes she is impossible I thought. Impossibly beautiful.

“I’m glad you have found a muse Nikola, she’s a fine woman.”

“It’s not like that. She’s a whore…”

My eyebrows leapt up. “Of Babylon,” he continued.

“You mean the Whore of Babylon,”

“Yus, that’s what I said.”

“I suggest you don’t call her that. I believe she would take offense and destroy us all, Nikola,” I suggested gently, but he wasn’t listening, instead he was winding a crank vigorously, totally lost in his enthusiasm for power and machinery. Woman didn’t even seem to register on Tesla’s internal RAdio Detection And Ranging-- very few human beings did.

However for some reason I did. He quite often disparaged my academic background and specialties, yet it was always I, he called upon. I often wondered if it was because he trusted my judgment when it came to his potentially destructive inventions, or if he just enjoyed rubbing my long nose in his genius.

“So you intend to move this sailing ship, faster than light to…where exactly?”

Tesla grumbled incomprehensibly for a moment and that was enough to tell me that he didn’t really know.

I was appalled.

“So you were going to preform this experiment with no idea where you were going to end up?”

Tesla’s clean-shaven cheek twitched, he stooped to check his machine, the action was mere pretense; a tactic to avoid further conversation.

“Thank God I’m here to put a stop to this madness,” I muttered, “Syfus will pluck you like a pigeon if you don’t happen to roast yourself first.”

Tesla looked up, “If this works, we can get anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye. I expect he will whole-heartedly approve.”

“Can you assure me there is no risk in this?” I demanded.

Tesla’s only response was a drawn out and nervous hum.

“Just as I thought. I forbid you. That’s what you want isn’t it, that’s why you brought me down here, to save you from yourself.”

Tesla dark eyes met mine, He looked pale and exhausted, as if all his energy had been going to his mind alone and his body were being slowly starved. “Lets get back, look at this tomorrow, with the others, find a way to test it that doesn’t involve you going God knows where.”

“You make a lot of sense Gabriel.” He relented, his voice sounding bone-achingly weary.

I reached over and rested a hand on his shoulder.

Then our moment of brotherly solidarity was shattered by a drunken oaf named Gonzales.

“Lets get this show on the road, Indian.” The long haired, swaggering captain of the vessel announced as he his dragged reluctant feet into the cabin and reached out for the device.

“I’m actually Serbian, and we have decided to delay… no, no don’t touch that.”

“It was this lever wasn’t it.” The man slurred, his grimy hand took hold of the red handle.

Dear God no!

We both panicked and collided with the man in effort to stop him, but our motion only sought to hasten the inevitable, pushing his hand down firmly upon the lever.

A high pitched whine shook the air. We all collapsed to the ground. I writhed, putting my hands to my ears. For a moment the pressure seemed enough to cause my brain to burst from my skull. Then the light faded and dark reigned. I felt a sense of weightlessness but that quickly changed  when I fell toward the ceiling. It became clear though that the ceiling was falling too. Even as I landed I knew the boat was still dropping, taking us with it. Then there was a shattering crack and crash as we hit. Debris flew in through exploding windows: leaves, splinters and branches. The boat sluggishly ceased its descent and the crash of our arrival muted to a lethargic groan of wood under strain.

I felt the sensation of swaying and scrambled on my belly toward the window least shrouded by invading conifer.

The ground was a mere 10 feet away and I sighed in relief. The remains of the mast had lodged in the earth below. Tesla stood up and looked at the now upside down sphere which continued its lazy turning as if nothing untoward had happened. “It looks like we are in a forest, in Germany if this is right.” He said.

“How to we get home?” I groused, nudging the now blissfully passed out smuggler who had caused this misfortune, with my shoe, none too gently.

“May I suggest we take the scenic route home.” Tesla replied, “ and take our time.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

Tesla managed a weak smile, “But Gabriel, at least we know it works.”

© Copyright 2014 Ami L Hart 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


On Sunday 26th October we went into the central city to mark the Festival of Transitional Architecture. (FESTA)
It's hard to describe what I saw/ felt and thought, but I'll try...

Our city is in a state for flux. So much has been torn down. The grand buildings that remain standing are barricaded behind fences waiting for their turn to be either crushed into the dust of pre-quake memory or transformed and remodeled. For years they stood there, industrial, strong, concrete armored and standing tall in their geometric sureness, until the ground they stood on betrayed them.

Something struck me as I walked around the inner city that day. The silence. It was heavy and lonely.

And yes, those yawning empty spaces where buildings used to be practically screamed that silence.

 Yet amongst all this negative space, something else was beginning to take form. A new identity and tentative new voice. Whispers echo in those empty spaces speaking of a future beyond this current emptiness, loss and desolation.

We made our way toward a new fluttering heartbeat. That led us to the Transitional Cathedral, with it's looming presence, endless light and simple lines. This monument glowingly depicts the perfect triune nature of the deity it glorifies. Not only that but its very construction (out of cardboard and other renewables) speaks of  the inevitability of change here on Earth.

 There are many temporary solutions, while the larger rebuild gathers momentum. Each piece of installation art and each mural speaks of hope for the future (form, colour and vision). These structures inject much needed life and soul into a city that has had it heart torn down and out. 

I remember what it used to look like.

I have these wonderful paintings on our wall. These are a precious reminder (even more so now) for they depict a place that now only lives in our collective memory. These wonderful paintings were created by Susan Ferguson- an extraordinarily talented local artist.

Now as we walk down Oxford Terrace we are guarded on one side by the river and on the other stand the wire fences, protecting skeletal remains and empty space.
The wind funneled through this particular building, rattling the blinds. This discordant tune chilled me as it rose above the burble of the river and the hushed rush of distant cars.

An alternative to the mangled bones above is the Christchurch Town Hall. Here nature has started to get a foothold, giving it a strangely magical yet intensely lonely quality. It won't stay like this though. The town hall will be repaired eventually.

I'm not sure how our city will look in decades to come but I'm sure I will look upon the new spaces that emerge with a mixture of both excitement, and sadness. 
 Old will become new and this city will transition. It will stop looking mournfully at the past  and set its gaze upon a brighter future.

This is my hope, my prayer and my dream.

Photos: © 2014 Ami Hart/Jessica Colvin. 
 Paintings: © Susan Ferguson

Friday, 24 October 2014

Gearing up for Nano 2014

Here we go ... NaNoWriMo is almost here, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Only a week to go! 
If you are not familiar, Nano is that yearly event where you are tasked with writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I've done it two years running and won both times -- but not without making a splendid mess, naturally. 
(Whispers) "it's OK first drafts are almost always terrible". 
I'm planing to continue with my Liberty (A Fragile empire) rewrite which is sitting at 50,130 words, I'm pretty certain I have another 50,000 words in it.
Here's what I have been working on... Yes the excerpt is rather first drafty and stuff, but heck, I had a tonne of fun writing it. Yes, Nano's a blast! Check it out, maybe even try it!

So, the excerpt below is from the first half, which I wrote during Camp NaNoWriMo. I'm looking forward to tackling the second half from November 1st, and hopefully by 30th November I'll be writing those wonderful words -- THE END. Then I'll have yet another first draft to clean up ... uh yeah, well...

Anyway, that aside, here's the excerpt from The fragile Empire.

 (Excerpt chapter 4) 

Ash cleared his throat, “Um, I could come back.”

“You’ve seen me practically naked now, no backsies from that, you might as well stay.”

Stay, that word definitely had a pervy undertone to it, Fleura. Are you hitting on him now?

She heard him chuckle. It was a deep sexy sound, like a purr from a motherfucking big cat. She turned clutching the front of her towel and looked at him speculatively. He looked nice, clean cut, his blond hair tufting up in long messy spikes of fun, thrown this way and that to give him a designer bed head, She gulped. His tee was classic black, with some retro design and white tube pants with grey trim. They made his legs look long, his hips narrow and his chest, just right, not broad but neither slim. Lean and trim, perfect. Her mind flew ahead of her, wrapping itself around him and throwing him into bed.

“So, get dressed, there’s something I wanted to show you,” he said breaking the spell with a genuine smile and a light conversational tone. All undertones of tension fizzled.

Fleura snapped back to friend zone reality with a cold hard thump. Her hand clutched the towel around her a little tighter. She turned and gathered some clothes — any clothes! The word idiot revolved around inside her head in garish neon red as she slid back into the bathroom cubby, frustration burning beneath her skin. Damn it.

Less than 5 minutes. Body fully covered, Face lightly painted, hair blown dry, she stalked back out into her room, feeling less than peppy. She had dressed in tights and a Mondrianesque tunic tight geometric fun. She stepped into her one pair of pretty boots. As the faux swede adjusted, shrinking around her feet and legs, she looked up at him, expectant.

He turned toward the door with a smile and she followed. He took her straight to the sliptube. She looked at it dubiously as he silently gestured for her to enter, a small annoyingly secretive smile on his lips. 
“Where are we going?” She asked. 
“Wait and see,” came the cryptic reply.
 In most circumstances she would begin to lose patience with this sort of behavior, but he was too damn intriguing to let go now. Intelligent, rebellious, chivalrous, charming — her internal perfecto meter spazzed glowingly. He took out a small cold colored metallic card and slipped it into a slot beneath the floor buttons. The doors hissed shut and then suddenly Mr Perfection blurred before her. It felt as if her stomach had dropped into the soles of her too-expensive boots. She grabbed at the closest thing, him, and hung pathetically off his arm until she gained some still-wobbly equilibrium.

He patted her hand reassuringly. She gave him a sheepish smile and disentangled herself, explaining “I wasn’t quite ready for that.”

He replied with that small chuckle, and a smile that reached his blue, oh-so-blue eyes.

She looked past him and out the transparent door. The dark blur suddenly disappeared and her gaze plummeted into a sea of stars. Her breath shuddered, as her brain — caught in a spiral of awe-panic — tried to work out whether inhaling or exhaling was more appropriate in the circumstance.