Monday, 28 December 2015

Happy holidays to us all!

Ah, the holidays. Those wonderful few days when we all take a break from the sale of our bodies' productive capacity to relax, enjoying the company of those we love best. It is a time entirely free from the grotesque spectre of capitalism, in which we freely exchange sentiments of affection, express our admiration of our fellows, and praise our wise and benevolent government.

We praise them loudly, and in clear voices, so that the hidden microphones won't miss a word - not so as to disguise the scratching of pencils across paper, nor to muffle the sound of incendiary pamphlets being digested.

In retrospect, we probably shouldn't have had them leather-bound. But they just look better.
What can I say about my holiday celebrations? Only that they were very likely similar to yours; I saw people I had not seen in some time, and one whom I had never seen before at all. This person was only recently born, and as such studied the world around them with the careful gaze of a person who knows nothing; not even the limits of their own flesh. When one is still a baby, one has yet to learn the limits of the flesh; to realise that your consciousness is not part of a perfect hive-mind, attuned to your pleasure. Only later will the infant realise what we all realise: that simple existence is not sufficient, and we must toil in order to have value in the world.

But for the moment, they were still mostly void and partially stars; a two-legged, two-armed space in the universe that did not yet realise it was apart from it. It would have been a sad moment, but luckily there was enough food and laughter around the table that we could all forget that spectre of innocence lost. Thank goodness!
Pictured: the spectre of innocence lost.
She's usually shorter at our table, but I suppose we never had much innocence in the first place.
The nights are getting shorter now, following successful sacrifices of our belts and dignity over the holiday period. There will be less and less time to do the things we have to do at night, when we are hidden from prying eyes and our own guilty consciences. On the other hand, vampire attacks will once again start to fall - but don't let those extra pints go to waste!

Blood is very much like freedom: it is easy to take for granted.
It is also very easy to take by force. So if you've got it, share it!

Finally, a reminder that although we have enjoyed time away from our sacrificial circles and Excel spreadsheets, many people have not - people hard at work in the service industry, the secret police force, and of course the minimum-waged child-slaves who transcribe your words of praise for our benevolent and omniscient government. How else would it stay omniscient?

So if you can, don't forget to tip your waiter; try to avoid getting blood splatter on your local secret police officer; and make sure you don't say anything rude or sexual while near a hidden microphone.

They're only children, after all.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Survived an attempted poisoning

Today has been a very trying day, my friends. As an employee of a vague yet menacing government agency, Death is merely a colleague to me - sometimes we get along, sometimes we work together, and other times I have to wrestle them to the floor while shouting "Nothing to see here, move along!".

But today, I faced a mysterious enemy who had managed, somehow, to poison me. I woke, retching and vomiting, and with such blinding pain that I saw in negative.

The view from my window this morning
However, I have never yet succumbed to the attempts by my enemies to terminate my employment. I was not ready to so today. I stashed three weapons about my person, fed my cat, and stepped into the time vortex that all citizens are legally required to keep under their sink.

I think it smells vaguely like Limburger, but my partner says that's just because
I go in without shoes on.
I arrived at around 4.30 the previous day, and stalked myself through the city. I learned very many things; not least of which is that it is impossible to focus on the back of my head. It just goes fuzzy, like it's permanently out of focus. However, as I watched myself interacting with colleagues, doing the normal things, such as exchanging private information in order to deepen bonds of the relationship.

Throughout the evening I kept a tight grip on my weapons, only passing out once from the pain. Despite the cramp and sweats, I knew that at any moment the insidious villain who had attempted to murder me would appear, and I was keen to pay them back in kind. Yet as the night wore on, I realised with a growing horror that my would-be assassin was not from the Dark Brotherhood, nor a jilted lover, nor even my colleagues playing their humorous jokes.

REAL FUNNY, CARL. He knows I hate adjusting my seat.
No, it was me. I watched my Past Self betray me, pouring down his neck a toxin that inhibits brain and motor function and had inevitably lead to my condition. I shook my head and raised my weapon, wondering if taking my own life would be a better fate than this agony.

My communicator howled. My partner had prepared hot soup and a warm bath, and in exchange for a blood sacrifice my cat would keep me company as I rested. I looked back at my Past Self, his intent to poison me becoming clearer and clearer, and lowered my arm. Seeking out the kitchen and flashing my badge, I stepped back through the vortex.

As I drank the nourishing soup, I watched my partner humming as they tidied away the detritus my Past Self had inflicted on the little dwelling we shared. With her help, I had defeated my would-be assassin; perhaps in ways I did not know I had helped her defeat her own Past Self.

In fact, we are all faced with our Past Selves, and we must fight them or flee them as best we can. At this time of year, it is wonderful to be reminded that we do not always have to do it alone. Or, as our local radio host once said:

welcome to night vale night vale radio night vale wtnv Night Vale Tweets

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Offered a career move

This week has been peculiar. Peculiarities, of course, always come nestled with normality, like cuckoo eggs in a bluebird nest. In the same way, my harmless, every day work of organising death ritual licenses, organising the library rota, and working on the escape tunnel under my desk were punctuated with odd things. At one juncture, for example, I was offered an opportunity to teach the arcane art of mathematics to children - subject of course to the normal checks.

Intrigued, I went along to the place where this education happens. I bought myself new robes in midnight black, planned a lesson around the appropriate size and use of pentagrams in summoning, and naturally brought a small animal to sacrifice to the Governors. Overall, it appeared I did well - the students all summoned a small nether demon and, in an improvised twist, we moved onto percentages to calculate how much of Zaynah was left after the incident.

As I am always eager to improve myself - through self-learning, cybernetic enhancements, or the sale of small-to-medium sized bites of my soul - I sought feedback on the lesson. I was pleased that the assessors thought it went well overall, although since they presented only as silent hovering robes with no discernible faces it is difficult to explain how I know this.

Exactly like that. You can sense the approval.
However, one did comment in a tone of extreme disappointment that my professionalism had been sorely lacking. On one occasion, I had referred to the 3rd Circle of Hell as "no worse than the playing fields"; further, I had described the sight of Zaynah's left arm being torn off by a demon as "cool". Finally it noted that my robes were midnight black, and not the school's regulation sin, pit, or feline black. I made a note of the assessor's comments, thanked them, and then ran screaming from the room. Some people might not have screamed all the way, but I was raised in the correct manner.

Despite this enjoyable segue into the Dark Arts, and the great time I had sharing my limited knowledge with the young people who will inevitably usher us into our graves, I think I will remain where I am for the moment. There is still so much more to learn of the vague yet menacing government agency; so many different areas to investigate - and of course, to report back to you.

Besides - pit black makes me look deathly pale.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Employee of the month


It has been no small amount of time since I last wrote something for fun, and it's making me itchy. Most of my writing these days is either reports or stuff that looks like this:

import itertools
chain = itertools.chain(*work)
work = list((chain))
life = {item: [] for item in work}

and although that's fun, it's also not exactly fun. It's fun in a different direction.

This blog therefore is aimed mostly at being a bit more fun. It'll provide a small outlet for my creativity - such as it is - while avoiding most of what I do, because what I do is super-secret-spy-stuff for a vague yet menacing Government agency.

We are recruiting, by the way, so just pop your CV in an email and send it. It doesn't matter who to. We'll be in touch.

I know, you don't want to hear about my work - but stuff like that gets me Employee of the Month quite regularly. It's a cool award:
Meanwhile, Things Are Happening in the wider world. I can't talk about most of them, obviously, but what I can say is that Netflix is knocking it out of the park with its selection of programming. My partner and I got seriously into How To Get Away With Murder, cuddling up every evening with tea, a blanket, and notebooks to make sure we didn't miss anything. We may be out of university but we still love to learn something new!

It's a shame we have to wait for the next series, but in the meantime we're enjoying Jessica Jones. It's a dystopian world in which a white male uses a power society doesn't believe he has - indeed, a power even he claims he's not sure he has - to brutally abuse, rape, and murder people who cross him. It presents a stark parallel to the world we live in from day-to-day, where that sort of thing never happens - thank goodness!

Oh, and my birthday is coming up soon - that exciting time when my friends and family, thankful that the uncaring universe has not brought my measly existence to an end, give gifts. This year I'm hoping for a smartwatch, the better to record the steady pace of time slipping away from me. Plus, I can answer emails, see my calendar, and control the playback of my Government-approved music - so cool.

And of course Christmas is just around the corner - the point when a combination of the Earth's axial tilt and its passage around a hydrogen furnace ensure long nights and short days. It's a time for family, for eating lots, for drinking alcohol, for realising in the fuzzy maze of your brain that there is something terribly wrong with the people you're eating with. They smile too much, and their teeth are so terribly sharp, and they call you Jonathan. Ugh. Relatives, right?

Still, we should be thankful for them. Relatives, unlike teeth and the biscuits in my cupboard, are never replaced. So do remind them that you love them this holiday season.

We'll know if you don't.