Saturday, 9 August 2008


Sitting on the low stone wall, I pull the last cigarette from the crumpled packet, light it and take a long leisurely draw. For once the oft repeated mantra of friends and family "I wish you would stop. They are bad for you!" does not come rushing to mind and this last cigarette is smoked slowly, savored as the sun sets over the western Atlantic.

I don't like watching sunrises anymore in fact if I go out of my way to avoid looking to the east since "The accident". Accident my Arse! It happened because we thought we knew what we were doing. What was that thing my granny always used to say when I mucked something up? "Pride comes before a fall" well boys a dear have we tumbled arse over tit on this one and no mistake!

An errant page from the Belfast Telegraph is caught in a small bush, blown here on always warm breezes from the east. "LONDON FALLS, QUEEN DEAD" screams the headline in 84 point bold text. "That will annoy the Loyalists" is my only thought "now they have no-one to be loyal to, not since Charles and wee lads got caught in Kloisters sking on Day Zero"

Day Zero, ah yes Day Zero! Seems odd to call it Day Zero. That gives it a sort of respectability that hides the fact that we as a species have basically fucked up big time. The world had rumbled along normally the global economy was banjaxed but then I can't seem to remember when it wasn't either banjaxed, really banjaxed, or possibly not quite as banjaxed as we originally thought. True global warming was a worry, but hey the effects of that were something for the great grandkids to worry about and what's a few polar bears and penguins between friends.
America had had a war with Iraq that they won, lost, won, lost, won lost and then it stopped being a war and became an insurgency. When President Bush left office it became a war again cos the new chap was a democrat and of course the it needed a new title because it was all his fault. But all of this was just bland circumstantial wallpaper of little or no consequence. For twas in Geneva that Day Zero would begin at 11:37am on the 18th January.

Geneva, marvellous place, BIG fountain and nice resteraunts. I have never been but I am told it was very nice. However 150m below all that niceness lay the Large Hadron Collider. Thats basically a big scaletrix set for protons where they could be raced around and around this 17 mile track and then be allowed to crack into one another. The results would, they said, tell us more about how the world began. So at 11:37 on 18th January they turned it on and Day Zero began.

Before the internet in Ireland died I looked up shit loads of stuff about this and I think the universe works something like this but I could be wrong so don't quote me. The universe is made up of Stuff and most of the stuff we know about is made of atoms and atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons. No-one knows what the feck electrons are made of but the other two are made of quarks. Now quarks come in several flavours, Up,Down,Charm,Strange,Top and Bottom. Now my old motorbike or that banana you had for lunch is made of stuff built of the UP and DOWN quarks. When 2 UP and 1 DOWN get together thats makes a Proton and 2 DOWN and 1 UP clump up you get a Neutron. Which basically means they are important and in my opinion you shouldn't mess about with important things, but what to I know I am only a Lotus Notes Developer.

The quark called STRANGE is well, for want of a better word Strange . Now I don't mean it likes to dress up as a giraffe,wear a gimp mask and chase the CHARM quark around yelling "Marmalade you furry dice! Marmalade!" it has what particle physicists said was a strangeness value of -1. I would have said that my friend Jon had a strangeness value of -100 but he is a programmer and as far as I know has never caused what happened next.

When the quarks in this big machine in Geneva hammered into each other they were going very very fast and in the resulting BANG lots of things happened. First the men in white coats when YIPEE! because they saw something called the Higg's Boson which basically made lots of men in white coats go "Nah nah nah nah Told you so!" to some other men in white coats. Then they all went very very quiet. Some Strange quarks had got together with some up and downs and formed wee clump of stuff that they could see as a red blob but everything else said didn't exist.
Normally when a Strange quark appears it doesn't last a long time. For some reason when lots of Strange quarks get together with exactly the the same number of Up and Down quarks something called the Pauli exclusion principle kicks in and you get a clump of "strange matter" called a "stranglet". Only one man in a white coat would have gone" YIPPEE Told you so" when this happened and that was Mr Pauli himself but he died in 1958 so was unavailable for any measure of gloating glee.

The men in white coats took a collective intake of breath and in doing so sounded like 300 garage foremen when they first have a look at your sick Honda civic. Thankfully they didn't say "Welllllllllll it's not going to be cheap to fix THAT!"

A few people went "OK what to we do now?" the men in the white coats said "That shouldn't have happened!" which didn't really help, so while they had a think and a nice mug of tea they left the stranglet whizzing around the accelerator.

Then an unknown person plugged a PS3 into the mains electricity in a chalet on the outskirts of the city. The resultant slight drain causes a spike and the lights dipped in CERN. The men in white coats checked the magnetic integrity gauge of the cyclotron, looked at each other and then quietly put on their anoraks and slipped out the back door. There was no Oppenheimer "I am become death" moment although it has been reported that an Irish Physicist was heard to say quite clearly "Oh Fuck that's torn it" before he rushed to get the next Easyjet back to Belfast.

The Strangelet slipped the bounds of its magnetic confinement and shot off on a tangent through the rocks under Geneva. Now loads of very important people said what happened next could never happen, but they didn't think to ask Mr Murphy or Mr Sod who would have told them exactly what would happen next. A strangelet Cascade. One strangelet hits a nucleus, catalyzing its immediate conversion to strange matter. This liberates energy, producing a larger, more stable strangelet, which in turn hits another nucleus, catalyzing its conversion to strange matter etc etc etc Unlike a nuclear cascade this happens quite slowly, 4 kph to be exact. It soon became obvious that there was something amiss. As the little bit of strange matter got bigger and bigger and bigger, energy was released and water was changed to steam which formed a curtain of mist along the edge of the strange matter that was growing behind it. No-one was sure what was beyond the mist but one thing we did know was, if you went into it you didn't come out.

Satellites were training on it and probes of various types sent in. But nothing useful was ever learned. Basically once the mist passed over something it just wasn't there anymore.
So having exhausted all other options what did we do? We fired nukes at it! Well I mean to say! Has no-body in the Military ever watched a SciFi movie? If they had they would know firing nukes at something generally has not effect OR it makes it worse. In this case it had no effect at all as the missiles went into the mist and then just weren't there anymore.

My ciggie is nearly done, as is my tale. I live on Arranmore Island off the coast of Ireland and the line of demarcation has taken 17 days to get here. If I turn around I would be able to tell exactly how close it is. But I am not going to. I am going to sit right here on my wall, smoke my cigarette and watch the waves on the Atlan............

Sunday, 3 August 2008

The Kelpie and the Fisherman

I cannot claim sole authorship of this tale. It is as old as the number of times it has been told in front of fires in Pubs, front rooms, kitchens and anywhere else people meet in Ireland and that talk turns to the "sibh" (pronounced "shee" as in Banshee which is Irish simply means "Woman of the shibh". The shibh where the faery folk and there are lots of different types and Kelpies are ones that live in the sea taking the form of seals in the water and human when on land which they can only come out onto very very rarely). The story is old the telling of it is new every time it starts...

Once upon a time, not that long ago there lived a poor fisherman in the village of Buncranna in County Donegal who went by the name of Seamus O'Doherty. His family had fallen on hard times and he was now the sole provider for his seven brothers and sisters. One day when Seamus was down amidst the rocks at low tide hunting for crabs he stopped for a wee smoke, it was a fine summer day and finding a sheltered spot behind two large boulders he sat on the warm sand and he let the warm sun warm his body. He lay back and fell into a deep sleep.

Seamus woke with a start, the sun was now low in the sky and the tide was almost full in. "Ah Jesus" he thought " the tide has cut me off , Im Stuck!" and indeed he was, it was either swin for it or climb the cliffs neither an option he felt inclined to take. He slumped down in his wee nook between the boullders and lit another cigarette while he considered his options.

Just then he heard the sound of voices, he rose and peered over the rock. Seamus was none to popular in the village as he was prone to bouts of extreme drunkeness so he did not expect it to be a rescue party. He was amazed by what he saw coming out of the water were a group of people, fair of face and lithe of body, these were no mortal folk, these were Kelpies. Seamus knew the old stories and like most villagers half believed them half not, and yet here in front of him was proof.

When the sibh were driven from the land by Patrick and his fellow priests most went to Tir na Og , the land of the forever young but some elected to stay, the Bannshee stayed to summon the dying, the shining ones stayed to guard the holy places and the Kelpies took the form of grey seals and lived almost their whole lives in the sea only taking on their human forms to mate or die.

The group of kelpies 7 men and 6 women formed a circle on the beach, they were dressed only in shifts of a light material, covered with a thick cloak of fur. Their leader, if such he was, stood in the centre of the circle and started to sing One by one the others joined in. Such music Seamus had never heard the like before it drifted over the beach and mingled with the sound of the waves on the pebbles and the breeze swirling up and down in rythmn with the beat of a heart. Seamus slid down into his hollow again, this was something no mortal man had seen or heard for thousands of years. The singing got quieter and eventually died away, Seamus rose again and peered over the rock. The group was standing silent, their leader raised his arms and said 'Go now and make us strong again' He turned and walked into the sea merging with the surf and was gone. The rest of the group quickly paired off and went to find a place where they could be alone, one couple came towards Seamus 'Oh Mother Mary protect me' prayed Seamus for he had been told of the fate that befell those caught by the Sibh. The couple stopped not far from Seamus's hiding place and throwing their cloaks and shifts to one side began to make love on the
sand. Seamus could hear the amorous activity increase in intensity and frantically looked round for a means of escape. He then noticed that the girl had thrown her cloak down carelessly and it was just within reach. Seamus edged himself closer and soundlessly slipped the cloak into his bag, before creeping back to the shelter of the stones. The couples ended their lovemaking and one by one returned to the sea, the girl whose cloak Seamus had lifted searched the beach for her garment but could not find it.Soon she was alone on the beach. Seamus rose from his hiding place, 'Is this what you are looking for?' he asked taking the cloak from his bag
The girl gasped 'Well have you no tongue in youre head?' he asked
'Seamus O'Doherty' The girl whispered in a strange sing song voice, that seemed to come not from her mouth but from inside Seamus's Head. 'How in perditions name do you know me name' asked Seamus 'All the creatures of the shore and fish in the sea know you Seamus' the girl said
'Now give me my cloak so that I can return to the sea'
'Now what would I be doing that for' replied Seamus.'Sure you would just be swiming off and leaving me like the poltroon i am. No I want some treasure, gold or silver'
'Ha' the girl shook her long blond hair 'and how would I do that, all our treasure is down deep in the sea, and you with my cloak how can I get it?'
Seamus thought about this, the girl smiled and edged towards him hand outstretched,
'Please now Seamus give me my cloak'
Seamus looked deep into the girls deep blue eyes, they swirled and sparkled like
the pebbles caught in the waves. Seamus reached the cloak out to the girl, then shook
himself and said ' None of your ould fairey tricks now'
'Och Seamus' said the girl 'sure you'll give me my cloak now wont you' , she was
close to Seamus now and he could smell the salt in her hair. She reached out and
touched him, he felt a tremor run up his arm. She led him down to the waters
edge and reached up and kissed him full on the lips. Stars exploded in his head
his lips tingled and passion flared in every nerve of his body. He pulled her close
and returned the kiss, they fell entwined into the shallow water and embraced.
She started to sing in his ear in the strange language of the kelpies, Seamus
shivered with delight. He felt a tugging at his waist and in a flash the girl had her
cloak and was gone. Seamus was alone and no longer at the waters edge, he had
been pulled out to sea and not noticed. Seamus like many fisherfolk then as now
couldn't swim, he floundered for a full minute before at last his head sank beneath
the waves. Water rushed into his lungs and slowly he felt life leave his body,
as it did he opened his eyes and saw the kelpies male and female surround him
and watch in silence as he died.

In the village that evening the Bannshee howled and the villagers wondered who
had offended the sibh , the next morning they had their answer as Seamus's
body was washed into the harbour.


Thursday, 31 July 2008

A Solider's Tale

He leant against the wall and looked up at the slate-gray sky, another 4 hours and he would be picked up and taken back to base. He clutched his pulse rifle to his chest and willed the time to hurry by.

He was sure standing guard over a warehouse was not what his great-grandfather has signed up for 110 years ago. The scientists after decades of searching had found a signal from what could only be intelligent life in the same galaxy but very far away. The world united to build a mega ship crewed by 2000 which would fly across 100.5 light years to investigate the source of that strange signal. The ship was powered by ... well the solider didn't actually know what it was powered by, the corps called it the BFE, a polite abbreviation for "Big Fucking Engine" ... which pushed the mighty ship and its crew at 99.4% of the speed of light. The scientists had no problem building a BFE but somehow they never found the time to make a suspended animation system so the crew that had originally volunteered did so in the knowledge that it would be their great grandchildren that would complete the mission.

The soldier's great-grandfather had been a grunt and this tradition has continued all the way up to him. From his birth in the 87th year of the flight it was assumed he would follow in the family tradition. He longed to be something different but on a ship where you were either a military grunt or a science geek, his life choices were somewhat limited. Not smart enough enough to be a Sci and to smart to be the cannon fodder he was. Life really sucked sometimes!

"Fuck Him" the solider cursed his great-granddaddy for the millionth time for being such a dick!. It really took a special kind of dick to be suckered by the recruiting officer into volunteering for this mission.

The first splash of rain bounced off his respirator. "Fuck fuck fucking bolloxing fuck" he thought. The atmosphere here was not quite the same as he had been used to on the ship. Not enough something and too much something else was bad for you he had been told. Never the less he had experimented on his first sortie.

"Well", he reasoned at the time, "you can't travel the whole way along one of the arms of the galaxy and not have a sniff, can you?"

It smelt alien, sort of thicker than the ship's air and it left a metallic taste in his mouth. having said that it wasn't exciting enough to be worth the 2 weeks in the corps hospital wing and the 3 weeks of punishment duty he had to endure for doing it. Punishment that made him miss all the fun.

When they arrived the locals hadn't reacted well. The aliens were really rather primitive or so he had been told by a rather nice scientist whose underwear he was longing to explore. When the ship settled into orbit it took only hours for the first missiles to be launched. It really had been pathetic! You see,when you design a ship to travel so far and so fast you had to have really really shit hot shielding or the first comet you come across would leave you FUBARed. The alien missiles where primitive, powerful but primitive and basically bounced off the shielding. Their blast partially reflected partially absorbed by the ship. Mind you it did give the crew a fantastic light show and he got to hold the nice wee scientist's hand!

There had bee a pause as the aliens on the planet considered what to do next. The crew of the ship waited, not out of fear , but because the alloy that formed the skin of the ship had to be dewidgetised, or something that sounded like that, from flight mode. Once this was complete the shuttles and fighters could be launched. Since the ship was close on 50 miles long that is one hell of alot of skin to dewidgetise, at least it hadn't been his job! The wait was boring for the corps but had been busy busy bust on the science decks as the ship's AI compiled the translator code that was downloaded into each eBattleSuit and iSciSuit helmet so they could understand the locals.

Once they landed and made official contact. The corps was tasked with building and protecting a base camp that had been set up below the ship which hung like a dark green moon in a low geo-stationary orbit. It was around this time the solider had taken his first sniff of and alien world.

Tension between the crew and the aliens increased when several of the local religious leaders who had suddenly realised that their prophets, messiahs and holy writings had said nothing about 50 mile long space ships appearing in the sky resorted to what religious leaders do best. They claimed the whole thing to be demoniacally supernatural and declared holy war on the ship and it's crew. This was bad enough but then one of the larger of the alien armies joined in and it all got a bit rough!. Whilst the solider polished the heads on the ship, the rest of the corps had left him to it and gone and kicked some alien butt.

By the time he had been released it was all over, the corps had turned the ships BFGs (the G is for GUN) on some of the larger cities. Within a week resistance had all but disappeared. Slowly very very slowly the aliens were coming to terms with the new status quo and their place within it.

The soldier checked his watch, three and a half hours to go! Bugger he needed a pee, something to eat and a chance, just the smallest chance, with that nice scientist from deck 4. He switched off his suit's personal force field and turned to pee against the wall. Some of his corps mates had joked about making out with one of the locals. The soldier shuddered at the thought
they weren't that different from the crew, two genders and vaguely similar organs. He closed his eyes is momentary disgust and thought "... FUCK! Their knees flex back to front and their eyes! If and it is a really big if ever shag one it would def have to a three bagger. One for my head one for her head and a spare for me in case her's fell off"

His eyes shot open before he even realised the pain in his side. White hot pain erupted, filling his world. His hand sought the source ... and questing fingers found the sticky wetness that had nothing to do with the slowly falling rain. He chanced a look down and noted with horror that it was blood, his blood, from a knife wound just under his ribs. Oh god there was
way to much blood and it was seeping through his fingers way to quickly.

His strength waned with every heartbeat. He sank to his knees, "Fuck it" he though" Not here, please no, not here....." Suddenly cold and useless fingers lost their grip and his pulse rife clattered to the ground. He reached for it but his vision blurred and his balance deserted him leaving him prone on the ground his legs drawn up into the foetal position.

As death approached his eyes opened for one last time and he was looking into the face of an alien man holding a dripping knife the man's face was contorted with rage .. but his eyes like so many of his species were blue ... oh so very very blue! Bile rose in the soldier's throat. Consciousness was slipping away fast. As he closed his eyes the translator unit in his helmet crackled into life, the last thing he heard was the high pitched voice of the alien translated perfectly by the AI ....

"...and you can fuck outa here you bollix. That's one less of you pale-big-eyed-gray fuckers I have to worry about. Your lot will hafta learn that Belfast is only safe for humans! NO SURRENDER!"