Sudden smell of scorched hair & fats. A man in a white shirt stops walking past & looks up into the sunlight. He’s dressed for crown green bowling. He thinks: the wires, always tangled up. Who knows what he saw. At the window you only know what you could smell. The man, dressed in his white shirt & white hat for crown green bowling, will say later that he doesn’t remember anything. He has always felt a deep nostalgia but it is not based on memory. As a result he is forced to look forward like someone with a cricked neck. He is forced to find his memories in front of him–scorched hair, tangled wire, warm sunshine & another man looking down from a window on the shady side of the street. It’s almost seven in the evening, those lazy days of summer.
Category Archives: predicting the present
You sit over a one-bar electric fire in a rented room. As soon as you feel recovered from the commute you’ll boil some potatoes on the gas ring, then, three minutes before they’re done, drop an egg into the same water. You can hear the family downstairs laughing at something, some dressed-up cats or something, on the internet. After people have cooked, they can often get use out of their gadgets–join a world building game, preorder the gadget they want next–although the load soon precipitates a brownout. During the day you work in a 7th floor office in the Strand. Publicity for a fuel corporate. It’s nice. All very heads-down but worth it to have the security. Last year you got involved with an East Midlands junkie who claimed to have a telepathic link to another world & to be able to control a 3d printer with their mind alone, & they turned out to be seventeen not twenty seven as they said, & after their staffie/mastiff cross, which they were looking after for a friend in rehab, bit two fingers off your ex’s left hand when he came back from an oil-exploration contract in one of the ‘stans, you forget which one, they fitted all the lights in the house with blue bulbs then tried to commit suicide in your bath in an excess of adolescent self-disgust. It was a cry for help. They’ve gone now–last you heard they were with a grindcore musician in Peckham–and you’re glad, but you miss their smell, which was instantly exciting; & their dysfunctionality, which you remember as “character”. The sex was tremendous, if a little full on & tiring. Outside it’s minus ten & you have no idea what’s happening on the old housing estates by the river. “Welcome to London,” someone in the office said today. That got a laugh. “Welcome to the managerial classes.” All he really meant was that like everyone else he would do anything to stay this side of the line.
A fat pigeon that seems to live on the fence nearest its main resource–next door’s vast complex bird feeder–raises one wing high into the straight-down rain to flush out parasites, prospecting the result briefly but decisively with its beak, leaning to the other side & repeating the procedure. It settles, ruffles up, settles again, stares towards the bird table with one speculative eye. Perhaps a little something? Perhaps it’s too soon. You always think of birds as living–quite furtively–in foliage and thus somehow finding shelter. But here’s one carrying out what might be termed a life in the complete open, all-weather and for anyone to see. There’s something honest, something impressively direct about that. It wouldn’t do in my case. I could never relax. Meanwhile the rain is so heavy that where it falls on the lawn it makes a doomy hollow rushing sound, as if falling on an invisible iron roof. Thunder rolls too, if more distantly. Should this turn out to be UKIP’s Finest Hour–remembered by the winners’ historians as the day they laid the ground for 2015′s “Hall of Mirrors” putsch–they can add to their lists of those things that belong solely to us, the English, this most traditional of features–the 21st Century English Monsoon.
Shifnal, Ercall, Gnosall, Wergs. It’s all too Viriconium for me. If I hadn’t stolen those West Midlands place names in the 1970s, I wouldn’t be living surrounded by my own fictions now. “Be careful what you write,” Hilary Bailey once warned me, “in case it comes true.” Did I pay any attention then? No. Will I pay any now, even though I know she was right & that you are making some unpredictable, oblique, weirdly successful guess at your own future every time you write up a dream, or tinker with the implications of someone else’s relationships, or push their character until it falls over an edge you believe only you can see? No. But I might soft pedal a little on the kinds of objects people discover in a roof void last opened up during the Victorian period. & at least I never called anywhere Great Bolus.
If a slow accumulation of time is necessary to completely separate you from an event or condition of the past, a single moment is often all that’s necessary to drag you forward and into the present. Suddenly, a time that still seemed close–almost revisitable, like an annex to now, so fresh in the memory–is re-sited forever. It is irreducibly past. Before that moment, it could still be touched in some way. It still seemed accessible: now it isn’t. Even the illusion of accessibility is over. The past is the past. This frees you to move forward, at least into the present. (Although if you aren’t careful–and you feel, for instance, “liberated” as opposed to liberated –it’s easy to mistake that movement for the beginning of a journey into the future you’ll never reach.) Perhaps because I’m the kind of person who can live in a vanished present for two or three years before something tugs me out of it, the whiplash attendant on this process–this fallacy of a sudden acceleration and a simultaneous catching up with yourself, as if you had moved ahead and left part of yourself behind–always both astonishes and delights me.
Southern England just doesn’t seem as nice as it did, dear, so your father & I are moving north before Thames Valley prices drop even further. We were thinking of somewhere in the Harrogate area. Above 100m, obviously, and with a bit of ground for the dogs. It will be such fun for them, especially Pinnie. The fact is, darling, your father and I are rather surprised that this has happened to people like us. You do see why some of the Somerset people complained, don’t you, but I think we’ll always vote Tory. Anyway, best wishes as ever, and I’m sure you’ll do well with your little wellington boot shop.
As soon as we get the alien starship I will be known as Ms Jet, or Lady Jet. You will be Lemmy. Other members of the crew will be Spike, Smork, Cookie & The Crow. & we will have jokes, for instance in any bad situations–like we are running out of ammunition & surrounded by enemies–I will always say, “Cookie, this is the worst porridge you ever cooked up!” & we will all have a favourite weapon. Spike’s favourite weapon will be his rusty Earth .40 snub. & I will say, “Seriously Spike you expect to hit anything with that, anyone is always better with the four inch barrel & the adjustable backsight.” & Spike will always say, “Captain Jet, a four inch barrel is for vermin control.” & I will say, “That’s what we do here in space, Spike.” Then I will give him a significant look & add: “We control vermin.” & everyone will laugh and Spike will admit ruefully, “Guess you got me there, Ms Lady!” Spike makes his own bullets & has Outworld hair. Cookie is always “Fat Cookie”. My special weapon will be a fifteen petawatt proton gun which only I can lift, aimed telepathically through advanced radio telescopes distributed in the Cat’s Eye Nebula & accurate to less than one Planck length. Our main enemies will be: Bizarro Nazis and The Junk. Our signature will be: Earth Advengers!
Is that understood?
Project Trap: Project Trap was never completed. Project Soul Gem was a project to collect “evidence-free innuendo”. Soul Gem was wound down in 1945 upon the birth of the resource (see notes). Several similar projects wound down naturally with the resource itself. Eat Cake, a hardened version of Soul Gem 2: the Eat Cake abstract promised abjection, violence, denial. Eat Cake was unlisted. Various other projects: Project 121 (see appended material). Mex Lite, Max Eight & Lite Core were clean product generated during varied initiatives and test runs. “Initiative B” ran successfully until 1978, when it was replaced under the Dark Stork programme. Project Veil Grain was an unsuccessful add-on to the Main Stem series. Vague Heart: Project Vague Heart remains partially operational but is identified under recent initiatives as “2014″. Resource appears to have retained motility & limited function.
Project 92 is the shadow of something much larger.
Beige Ops team: we fade into the background. Beige Ops are in the walls. They are in the paint on the walls. Beige Ops are so secret & so pivotal they are in the paint itself. They are in the grains of pigment, and how the grains of pigment arrange themselves. No one sees a Beige Op. No one ever knows if they were part of one. Ask yourself if you are a part of the paint on the walls. There’s no answer to that question. We are all in the most comprehensive Beige Op ever staged. The whole of the 1950s was a Beige Op, run out of a livingroom wall in Harrow. Beige Ops are a decision made by the visible spectrum. Unpredictable but inevitable. Beige Ops are galactic. They are nationwide. Keep watching the walls.