The Sarah Connor Complex

AsteroidMILLENNIUM Fever was in full swing and it seemed that every man and his dog expected a cataclysm of one description or another by the time the year was out. And just to make sure that even the most logical-minded got sucked in, there was Y2K. Although steering clear of prophecies or New World Order bullshit, I had got wind of a great almighty asteroid heading straight for us. On the 29th of August 1999 to be precise.

I was quite frankly at that point where I had had the world up to my chin. I didn’t want to be in it. Not as it was. All around me what had the cheek to call itself a civilisation was ready to implode, just like all the others before it. If not now, then at some point in the not too distant future. And I almost wished it would. Get it over and done with and all that so that whoever was left could start over.

Being the over-thinker that I was, I prepared myself mentally. Assuming, of course, that I even survived it. And being the self-analyst that I was, I called this my Sarah Connor complex. Syndrome would have been more accurate but complex sounded so much better.

29 August 1999

INSPIRED ages ago by my utter lack of preparedness for life in the wilderness, I had bought Lofty Wiseman’s SAS Survival Guide and built up my ready-for-anything tobacco tin and small ready-for-anything rucksack. I had the tools, Armageddon or no Armageddon. And at least if nothing happened, I wouldn’t make a complete tit of myself.

It was a clear starry evening when a friend and I enjoyed a warm goblet of wine in front of a hot fire. With no intention of bracing myself, I had accepted her invitation to stay over and chat into the wee small hours. She had no idea of the impending asteroid strike and I didn’t discuss it. After all, without proof I didn’t want to scare the shit out of anyone. I felt no anxiety as such, just a sense that whatever was thrown at me, I would deal with it. Bring it on.

In the meantime, maybe I could anaesthetise myself a little … just not too much …

Night came and went. The next time I opened my eyes, I felt a mixture of relief and disappointment.

Bollocks, we’re still here.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

Advertisements

Brothers in Arms

templar

TO THE strains of Dire Straits, I am surrounded by battle in its last throes, a sea of mud everywhere. These fields of destruction, baptisms of fire, I’ve witnessed your suffering, every man has to die …

But not just yet. A trapped horseman is pulled from between his fallen mount and the mire. Am I the one being pulled or the one doing the pulling? I can’t tell which of us is which.

I do not know where I am or who I am other than that I am a man. And I know not how I know but the other man is Rab …

* * * * *

BOTH RAB and I fluttered in the same social circle. For me anyway, the sense of having met before was instantaneous.

It was while walking along a busy street only days after our introduction that I was hit with the cinematic picture of horses flopping about in the mud and an intense feeling of loyalty, brother to brother. I had never had a ‘vision’ with audio before.

Somewhere between a week and two weeks later, I meandered through Leith Links, on my way to the house of the mutual friend who had introduced us. Having never taken that particular route before, I scanned the open green and surrounding buildings. As I did so, got a strong impression of mud where there should have been grass.

The answer to my immediate question came quickly and without the asking. It was my friend who told me that here in the middle of the 16th century, the French had occupied Leith, until they were forcibly removed by the English army in 1560. Like most Scots, I had never heard of the Battle of Leith Links, or rather the Siege of Leith.

A short time later, Rab and I found ourselves blethering – as we were prone to do – like there was no tomorrow. Only this time our conversation took a more spooky turn than usual. Ghosts, dreams, you name it. The situation was ripe for bringing my battle vision into the conversation.

Thing is, Rab beat me to it …

“I’ve been having this recurring dream,” he said. “Well, actually, it’s more like a vision coz I only get it when I’m awake during the day.”

I know what he is going to say. Baited breath.

“I’m in a battle and I’m being pulled out from under a horse.”

I felt my face turn to rubber. It must have blanched, for he said “Not you as well.”

Up to that point, I had told no-one.

I choked “Was it a muddy battlefield?”

“Yes,” came the whisper.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

Bait

salamander

(Mobile phone rings)

WOMAN: Hello.

VOICE: Hello, how are you?

WOMAN: Who is this?

VOICE: It’s Rich. How ya doing?

WOMAN: Oh, it’s you.

(WOMAN pulls face)

How did you get my mobile number?

VOICE: Steve gave it to me.

WOMAN: Oh, did he now? Well, he had no business doing that. What can I do for you?

VOICE: I was wondering if you could do me a favour?

WOMAN: What’s that?

VOICE: Well, you know how you’re presenting the miniature to the Duke of Blah on Friday?

(look of horror on WOMAN’s face)

WOMAN: What? How did you get that information?

VOICE: It’s common knowledge. I heard them talking about it in the pub.

WOMAN: Yeah, but the itinerary isn’t public knowledge. You do know, don’t you, I can’t discuss this with anybody, let alone you?

VOICE: I’m not asking you to divulge any information. I just want you to do something for me. As a friend.

WOMAN: Friend?

(WOMAN’s voice is high pitched).

You’re not my friend. We know some of the same people, that’s it.

VOICE: There’s no need to be like that. Please, can you at least hear me out?

WOMAN: Oh God, I don’t like the sound of this. Get this over with.

VOICE: Well, you know how the Duke is really a high ranking member of the Illuminati? And you know how behind their human façade, they’re really shape-shifting lizards?

WOMAN: Well, I don’t see it myself, but yes, I know what you’re referring to.

VOICE: Well, as you know, they love human blood. And they need to drink a lot of it in order to maintain their human form.

(WOMAN rolls eyes)

WOMAN: Whatever you say. So how exactly can I help?

VOICE: Well, I’d like you to do something for me during the presentation. I need you to entice him into exposing himself on camera.

WOMAN: What do you mean expose himself?

VOICE: Well, most of them are very picky. This guy particularly likes small Pictish women.

WOMAN: Ah now, that rules me out. I’m definitely not Pictish. They were quite dark, weren’t they? I’m as pasty as they come. Have you thought about ask-?

VOICE: Close enough, though. You’re small and dark-haired. Two out of three ain’t bad. Anyway, he just won’t be able to help himself and he’ll go into a feeding frenzy. He’ll break into a sweat and start foaming at the mouth.

(WOMAN scratches leg)

WOMAN: Really? And you’ll be there to catch it on camera.

VOICE: Exactly. You got it.

WOMAN: And what would I have to do to get his attention?

VOICE: You just have to stand directly in front of him.

WOMAN: But I’ll probably be doing that anyway. Why the phone call?

VOICE: I have to make sure you know the plan. And there’s one more thing. There’s a word you have to say to him, that’ll set him off. Guaranteed.

WOMAN: A word? What’s that then?

(WOMAN rolls eyes again)

VOICE: I can’t say it over the phone. It’s very powerful. I will have to write it down for you. It has to be said in a certain way.

WOMAN: So, let me get this straight. You want to sacrifice me to the bloodsucking king of the lizard people?

VOICE: Yes.

WOMAN: Do you not think I might have a problem with that?

VOICE: I don’t see why. I think it’s a great idea.

WOMAN: Even so, do you really expect me to feel flattered? Do you think so little of me that you would be prepared to have me eaten in front of a live audience? I find what you’re proposing quite offensive to be honest.

VOICE: But you would be performing a great service to humanity. Besides, there would be too many people there. You’ll be in no real danger.

WOMAN: And what if he follows me home? I won’t be able to rely on the security services then, that’s assuming that they aren’t lizards as well.

VOICE: He won’t.

WOMAN: How do you know?

VOICE: I just do. That’s not their M.O.

WOMAN: Listen, I’d love to help you, Rich, but if you want to take this any further, you’ll have to do a risk assessment first.

VOICE: Risk assessment?

WOMAN: Yes, risk assessment. You have twenty-four hours.

VOICE: What do you mean, risk assessment?

WOMAN: You know, you’ll need to go on site and scope the place out.

VOICE: What, I’ll never manage that. It’s crawling with sniffer dogs. You know I’m allergic.

WOMAN: Hey, that’s your problem. If you want me to do this, I have to know I’m part of a professional operation. I’ll need to know where all the exits are, where the extinguishers are, how many officers I can rely on, if there are any trained medical personnel on site, where the first aid kit is located, stuff like that.

VOICE: Hang on, I’ll need to write this down.

(sound of shuffling)

WOMAN: And I’ll need a bodyguard. My own bodyguard, fully trained in kung-fu and every martial art known to man. Must have all his certificates. I need somebody who’ll take HIM down not ME if things get out of hand.

VOICE: Bodyguard? Where the hell am I going to get a bodyguard?

(clicking sound)

WOMAN: You’re the professional, you work it out. Oh my God, did you just hear that click? They’re on to us. Hey, I can’t stay on the line. Listen, I want it on my desk first thing tomorrow morning. Then my peeps will talk to your peeps. Gotta go. Goodbye.

 

Copyright © M K MacInnes 2016
Image courtesy of cliparts.co
The above transcript is based on actual events.
The names have been, um, changed to protect the, erm, innocent.

High Altar

El_Greco_13

A LONG long time ago in a far off town, some friends and I were invited to a swanky party at an abandoned Victorian monastery that had been converted into a corporate events venue. Rumour had it that back in the day the monks used to run their own moonshine.

II

ON FINDING ourselves a table, we could queue up at any of the seven feeding stations, themed according to each of the Deadly Sins. The catering staff were fitted with horns and forked tails.

After the buffet and the band, the venue became an instant nightclub, the dance floor in front of the High Altar, the music leaning towards anything with a deep base and a strong beat. Lasers and soft psychedelics blended into stained glass, dry ice oozed from the seams.

Doof. Doof.  Doof. Doof.
Doof. Doof.  Doof. Doof.

I itched to join in the revelry but couldn’t bring myself. Haunted by an image from Sunday School of a psychotic-looking Jesus wrecking the Temple because it had been put to wordly use, I declined all attempts to drag me onto the floor.

Until I raised my eyes, I hadn’t paid much attention to the dying Christ suspended from the rafters. The thorns, the twisted expression of pain and suffering, sinews taut, a cloth barely covering his dignity, the unimaginable sorrow of a man in his final moments.

And punching the air beneath the feet of the naked guy nailed to the cross was the tall man wearing a jumper and a dog collar, his sweaty face gleaming through the fog. The vicar.

Dear God, I’ve seen it all now.

A subtle movement above his head caught my eye. The painted wooden crucifix swung back and forth like a pendulum. Hardly blinking for several minutes, I could see the movements become more pronounced. One swing now for every four doofs.

I ran my eyes up and down, looking for the weakest point. The pendant hung from two long metal chains, hooked onto rings attached to a high wooden beam. Beyond that, it was hard to tell what was what.

But one thing was certain. That crucifix weighed a tonne and it had a life of its own. I could see it all now. The plummet, the loud crash, the gasps, the cloud of dust, the horror as it smashed into the minister and his immediate entourage.

Images of screaming choir boys in St Paul’s Cathedral, a mummified Richard Burton lying in a hospital bed. The bit of paper at the end of the movie scrawled with the words ‘Windscale’ … The Medusa Touch. How little it would take to bring that lot down. I should be careful not to think on it too hard. I might cause it.

And didn’t I know just how easy it was for those screws to come loose. Oh yes, I had watched episode upon episode of CSI. I had just seen the one where the house collapsed because the sonic boom of low-flying aircraft made the screws drop out of the walls …

I could see it now, JESUS SPLATS RAVING VICAR. Great headline … very messy …

Swing. Doof, doof, doof, doof. Swing …

III

I CAN only assume that everyone survived. My friends and I left before we had a chance to find out.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

A Matter of Convenience

kyleakin

A COUPLE rented a weekend retreat on a Scottish island of which the woman was a native. She thought it best not to tell her other half that the lower level of their holiday apartment used to be the gents’ public toilets. Upstairs was the control room of the old ferry terminal.

During their first night she awoke to find him staring at the ceiling. He informed her that there was a bunch of people standing around the bed. She went rigid.

“What do you mean? You mean standing around the bed looking at us? Or just standing?”

He was matter of fact. “Just standing. In a line.”

“What, as in ghosts? I don’t see anything.”

“Yes. I can’t exactly see them but I know they’re there.”

“So what are they doing?”

“Just standing. Like they’re in a queue or something.”

The woman shut up for a moment and closed her eyes. “I don’t feel anything. If this place was haunted, I’d sense something. Besides, the dog would be acting all weird but he isn’t.” It was true, the dog hadn’t moved from his cosy spot on the end of the bed.

Although she knew that this was most likely another one of his wind-ups, for the remainder of the night the woman was tormented by images of rough chain-smoking hairy blokes smelling of motor oil and relieving themselves against the back wall.

II

THE WOMAN was determined that she would only tell her other half where he had been sleeping on their return home. But she cracked. And he handled it much better than she had anticipated. Eager for evidence of some kind of window into the local past, she pushed for more detail about what the avenue of men was doing. More specifically, where were their hands?

In the end, she had to spit it out. “ Could they have been doing, you know, what people normally do in public conveniences?”

“Of course not. Don’t be so bloody stupid. I made the whole thing up. And at what point did I ever say they were all men?”

III

ON THE final day of their vacation, the woman telephoned the landlord to let him know when they would be leaving and that they would put the key through the front door. As she was about to hang up, one thing was still niggling her.

“Just as a matter of interest, this building, it used to be the ferry terminal, didn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“And the living room on the first floor, with the fantastic view overlooking the harbour, that used to be the control room?”

“Yes.”

“And the bedroom downstairs, that used to be the gents’ toilets, yes?”

“No.”

“No?”

“Yes, no. The gents was next door. The bedroom used to be the ticket office.”

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

Dear Dynamo

dynamo

THE other day I had a lunch date in Edinburgh with an old friend who I had just reconnected with after many years. The first thing I saw when I got off the bus near the top of Leith Walk was a massive German Shepherd with the shaggiest coat I had ever seen.

Wow, it’s a bear! With big hair!

I couldn’t help but gape at him, imagining what it would be like to tangle my fingers in his warm inviting fur. I barely noticed the owner, I just wanted to pat the dog. He had a shiny wet nose and soft expressive eyes. Oh, and his ears looked sooo soft …

Don’t look at the dog.

I tore myself away, all warm and fuzzy inside. Even before I sang along to the half-naked man performing White Lines a few hundred yards away, I had a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

II

I LUNCHED as planned with my old friend. We caught up, shared memories and then it was time to go. She told me a story that was even more heart-warming and magical than the sight of the walking shagpile and hard to get out of my head. As I made my way to my next destination, I still had a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

III

APPROACHING the Christmas Fayre in the middle of St Andrew Square, I paused to work out whether to go round it or through it and spied a gaggle of people standing by the open gate. And a dog. A huge mutt that looked like a bear. My heart skipped. The German Shepherd with the Tina Turner haircut. It wasn’t the most spectacular synchronicity I had ever experienced but it sure was cute. And, if I played my cards right, I might get my wish after all.

As I passed through the entrance and readied myself to move in on the dog, I noticed a man in a hoodie who looked like he might have been the owner. Then I glanced at the guy to his right. They were both looking at a mobile phone.

Dynamo?

I thought about the magic trick I had seen on TV the week before. The one where you were in a crowd of people in London or New York or wherever and everybody’s phones rang at the same time, all from the same number. However you did that, it was so cool.

I might have been tempted to approach you and say something like how much I enjoyed your shows, but a) you were talking to someone, and b) I’m suspicious about hidden cameras – and for all I knew I had just walked in on some grand mind trick. So I marched right past, already conjuring up the next story for my blog.

Anyway, thank you, Dynamo, for the bonus plot twist. Just one thing, though, how exactly did you materialise the dog?

P.S. Good luck with the rest of your Dynamo Live Tour 2015.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

The Visitation

sandman

Wee Willie Winkie runnin’ through the toon,
Upstairs doonstairs in his nichtie-goon,
Chapping at the windaes, peekin’ through the locks,
Are a’ the children in their beds, it’s past eight o’clock.

(slightly customised version of Scottish nursery rhyme –
Wee Willie Winkie is the Scottish equivalent of the Sandman)

I

THE NIGHT began just like any other. Mum and Dad had bundled my brother and I up the stairs and into our pyjamas in the expectation of a child-free evening in front of the telly. And, as usual, we chattered across the room for as long as it took. In those days, my little brother really was my little brother. I was seven, nearly grown up, he was still a baby at only five.

Back then I was afraid of the dark. But neither of my parents would have known about my recurring nightmare, the one where I had to hide because the Bogey Man had come to get me and the only place I could think of was under the hearthrug in the sitting room. Of course, he would find me and then I would wake up. Nor would they have known of the one where I would wake up and go downstairs to talk to them, only to find two hooded faceless figures sitting by the fire like Reapers. I would flee the house and keep running until they caught up with me. Then I would wake up for real.

Regardless, the hall light was always left on, the bedroom door ajar to let in just enough light to keep the ghosties at bay.

My brother and I had been chattering for some time, when we heard someone creeping about at the top of the stair. When the hideous shadow appeared on the bedroom door, we knew instantly who it was. I clutched the bedclothes and braced myself, unable to bear the thought of what might happen next.

The bulbous nose, the shape of a Rumplestiltskin hat, the jarring whiny voice … everything about this creature reminded me of the baddie in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, who frightened me more than anything that Doctor Who could throw at me.

The Voice asked if we were fast asleep.

Ours trembled, as we replied “No.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Yes,” we whimpered.

“Who am I then?”

“Wee Willie Winkie.”

“Exactly. And you know what happens to little children who don’t go to sleep after eight o’clock, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, go to sleep. No talking.”

“Yes, Wee Willie Winkie.”

Then the Shadow was gone, the only indication of what had passed the creak of the dodgy floorboard by the landing bannister.

For an hour or so, we were too terrified to utter a sound. It was a blessing when at long last the dreams came to take us away.

II

I WAS in my late thirties when I recounted my traumatic encounter to a friend.

“… and then when I went to school next day, I told all my classmates that Wee Willie Winkie had come to my bedroom door, and they laughed at me, because I still believed he actually existed. Shit.”

“What?”

“The devious jammy …”

“Who?”

“My dad.”

“Why?”

“It was him. In all the years since that happened, it never crossed my mind that it was a setup. Duh, wot a plonker. Ah well, at least I don’t have to scratch my head now trying to figure out if it really did happen.”

III

TODAY, as I was about to pen my tale, I looked up Wee Willie Winkie on Wikipedia. Seems we were double had. The original nursery rhyme clearly states that all children should be in their beds by ten

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015