Saturday, 22 July 2017

Drumbeat

Remember my story Taurus? It never really stopped talking to me. So here is a follow-up on that story, also inspired by two pictures I found on the internet.

Sorry, couldn't find the artists name for this one.

The drumbeat keeps going on, there is no way to shut it out. I know it’s not really there, it is just the beating of my heart. I want it to stop. I’m hiding, yes me, hiding. The big hideous monster of the labyrinth is hiding. I don’t want to see their faces anymore, the young people who remind me of better days, days when the sun was shining and I was running and playing in the fields. I guess the sun is still out there, I haven’t seen it for years. There is some light coming from above here, in the higher tunnels, that’s one of the reasons I like to sit here, hide here, at least a little bit of light, shining on my pale skin. I look at the shadows of my hands, falling on my feet. I look so human, every part of my body, as far as I can see, is human and yet they all call me a monster. Is it my unnatural pale skin that frightens them? I tend to forget what I really look like, I haven’t seen my reflection for such a long time. Sometimes I see it in their eyes, wide spread with terror.

And what do I see on those occasions? Two dark brown eyes with big lashes, curly hair on the top of my head, big wide ears, a long nose. Maybe not the prettiest face. It is not that what scares them, it's not even my nostrils and my horns next to my ears. My bulls head is gentle enough. It is the abnormality of my appearance, it is what I am, an abomination of nature, half human, half bull. And the tales, of course, the tales. According to the tales, I am a cruel man-eating monster. Mothers tell their children, be good or the king will send you to the labyrinth to be eaten by the monster. By me, who has been a vegetarian all my life! Although my stomach is human and can process meat, my teeth are not made for it! I like to eat my vegetables raw, chew on them for minutes.

The beat grows louder, I am afraid. The beat becomes faster. It is not my own heartbeat anymore. I really want it to stop. I don’t want to be confronted with the youngster anymore, not with my memories. And not with my hunger! There is some water dripping from the walls, I lick it up, it saves me from dehydration. But the hunger, nothing to eat! Nothing grows in these dark tunnels. The rumbling of my stomach mingles with the beating of the drums, both getting louder. They are getting closer, why did they bring drums? Hoping to scare me off? They must have seen the bones, the remains of the others. I don’t want to eat any of them anymore, it disgusts me, chewing on their flesh for minutes, making it even harder to swallow. But it is the only food I get, the only way of surviving.

I stare at my hands and feet, so much like theirs. No, I cannot do it another time, eat the same hands, the same feet. I am human! I am not a monster, I have never been a monster, they made me that! I’ll just stay here, hiding. Hoping they won’t find me. They’ll be damned anyway, no one finds their way out of the labyrinth. But it won’t be me this time, I’m done with it. Starvation is just another way of suicide, the only way of suicide in this godforsaken labyrinth. The drum is fading, it is just my heartbeat again, slowly dying. 


Picture: At the end of the Labyrinth by Ivan Kap

Monday, 14 November 2016

Dagenloze dagen (God bless America)

In Dutch this time. Dayless days just didn't sound right...


Het zijn de dagenloze dagen,
De wolken ondoordringbaar dik,
Het wil nog maar niet lichter worden,
De grijsheid houdt hardnekkig vol,
Het wordt geen dag vandaag.

Op dikke grijze dekens,
Oneindig wevend uit mijn raam,
Verschijnen mijn herinneringen,
Zich voegend zich naar het wolkendek,
Troosteloos en eindeloos,
Geen enkel straaltje licht.

Het zijn de dagenloze dagen,
De ergste die er zijn,
Ze willen maar niet lichter worden,
Geen eind en geen begin,
Alleen maar schemering.

Ik sluit mijn ogen half en zie je staan,
De wind waait door je haren,
Ik wil het niet meer zien.
Dat beeld van lang geleden,
Als messen in mijn maag,
Het wordt niet licht vandaag.

De wind waait door je haren,
Je waant je groot en sterk.
Je mond vertrekt zich tot een lach,
Je ogen doen niet mee en blijven hard,
Je haren zijn verward.

Ze zeiden dat het beter werd,
Ze zeiden dat het overging.
Achter de wolken schijnt te zon,
Ach hou toch op, wat weten zij ervan.
Het licht komt nooit meer terug.

Je lach te hard en waant je sterk,
Je ziet me niet eens staan.
En toen opeens vergreep je je,
Je greep me in mijn kruis,
Terwijl de wind nog door je haren blies,
Je kneep en kneep, je deed me pijn.

Het was zo’n dagenloze dag,
De wind woei door je haar,
Je kneep zo hard en zag me niet,
De messen in mijn buik, alleen voor mij.
Je lachte hard en kil, je ogen bleven koud.

Het wil nog maar niet lichter worden,
Het doet nog steeds zo’n pijn.
De grijze dekens helpen niets,
Je waant je nog steeds groot en sterk

En ik… ik keer me om, mijn kamer in,
Ik kots en kots en kots uit de herinnering
Ik wil je nooit meer zien, niet hier, niet daar,
En zelfs niet op het wolkendek,
De wind niet in je haar, nooit meer!
Kil licht, geen licht, nooit meer.

De dagenloze dag keert weer.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Hibernation

I wrote this story for ASU's Climate Fiction Contest. After the downpours of this month, it becomes less and less fiction.
Picture by me, taken at our local Zoo.


As a child I used to think hibernation was a good thing. I envied the polar bears their months of uninterrupted sleep, until my mother told me only brown bears hibernate. Now there are no polar bears to envy anymore, except the ones living in the Winterland theme parks on the floating islands. I have no reason to envy any of these majestic animals, except maybe the fact that they do not have to hibernate.

My month of life is almost over. Never, as a teenager, did I imagine lifetime would be rationed. There seemed to be an endless stretch of life - you were born, grew old and then, in an abstract future, you died. That’s the problem with future, until you live it, it always seems unreal, abstract, hard to imagine. I guess that is the genuine reason why we never really saw it coming, despite the many warnings and predictions, this world we live in now.
‘Next stop, EuroIsland, end station of this tour. Please make sure to take all your belongings and upload your evaluation to our system before leaving Paradise. We will be disembarking within two hours.’

Some PR agency must have had a lot of fun, creating the names of the floating islands; Paradise, Utopia, Nirvana, Shangri-La and of course Walhalla for the Winterland park.
With hindsight I wonder how we could be so ignorant. We knew we were exhausting the planet of its supplies, we knew we were heating up the climate, but nobody believed it would happen in their lifetime, the disasters. We all shut our eyes to the facts, came with different explanations, invented fairy-tales to shush ourselves to sleep.

‘Noah, we have to hurry! We will be floating over Amsterdam within an hour! Now is not the time to be dreaming again.’
My beautiful wife Olivia grabs me by the arm and pulls me to my feet. At the age of 60 she still looks as good as when I met her years ago, one of the perks of our modern lifestyle. Being awake only a few weeks each year is definitely slowing down the aging process. Another perk? Waking up next to your wife after nine months of sleep makes it so much easier to live together in harmony. Nobody had predicted the divorce rate going down when hibernation became mandatory. People are so bad at overseeing consequences.

‘Noah! You’re doing it again. It almost makes me wonder if you’re still believe in our plan,’ Olivia hisses in my ear. ‘You already seem to be drifting into hibernation.’
‘Sorry, I was just thinking. Remembering life before…’
I see it in her eyes, she too remembers life before the big flood, before the storms and rising of the sea levels. It all happened so fast, whole countries swept of the world map within a few years, many people drowning and even more trying to move away, filling the resisting land with refugees. Soon we didn’t have continents anymore, only islands. Our lovely city of Amsterdam, already built beneath sea level, was one of the first to go. Due to the fact that Olivia and I were both doing research on subjects that seemed to matter, we got asylum in Switzerland. There I could continue my work on human engineering and Olivia her research on nanohacking. Soon overpopulation and hence starvation was becoming such a pressing issue that another world war was predicted. And this time it seemed inevitable.

At that time my childhood fascination with hibernation had grown into a real field of research, started as postponement treatment for incurable diseases. Then it was embraced by world leaders as a solution for overpopulation. Today every human being is granted a yearly month of real life on one of the floating islands, made out of the debris after the floods. After this month, you are induced into a state of low energy consuming hibernation. Your body is asleep and only a small part of your brain is conscious, enough for some essential mental work to be done. All physical labour is belongs to a bygone age, we have sunpowered robots now.

‘Noah, you’re hopeless. We have to move now! We are already floating over Wales, we are getting closer. Remember, we are on a tight schedule.’
‘But what if... what if the children…’
‘No, you’re not going to chicken out last minute, are you? The children can take care of themselves, they will follow. But we have to go first, you know that. We have been practicing for weeks now, it will work! You did an excellent job at it.’
Yes it did work, we have been swimming in the artificial lagoons of Paradise like all the other people, diving and admiring the underwater world. Every day we have been taking our little pills, manufactured by Olivia and myself. We had to be careful. Nobody can know we were not using our oxygen tanks, but adjusting our bodies to breathing under water. I wish we had more time for testing. I hand over a small bottle of pills to Olivia, to hide somewhere in her clothes, like I did this morning.

‘They should work long enough. But darling, I am still a bit worried about the side effects.’
Olivia looks at me, I know she is worried too. She doesn’t seem to have them, those side effects, but I appear to be drifting into the past more and more, my mind wandering.
‘You shouldn’t worry about that. What really worries me, to be honest…’
‘Shush,’ I whisper and kiss her lightly on the lips. ‘Darling, I will miss you when we go into hibernation again!’ I declare loudly, as one of the deck robots rolls by. They have excellent hearing. Then I whisper again, ‘to be honest, you worry that the hacking of our chips won’t work,’ I finish her sentence. ‘I know you do, I don’t, I trust you. You are the best.’
Clinging tightly together I feel a little stab in neck, Olivia just implemented her little nanobots that are going to hack my nanochip, programmed to become active the minute we drift over Amsterdam. I know she injected herself already. The bots will reprogram the chips, trick them into sending of a signal that pretends we come home to our little flat in Davos, Switzerland, exactly at the estimated time.

Tenderly Olivia strokes my hair and looks into my eyes. ‘You are wonderful, I am so happy to dive into this adventure with you.’ I listen to the warm and rich voice of my wife, maybe for the last time. Speaking under water is something I haven’t figured out yet. Outwardly very calm, we walk to the boulevard at the edge of Paradise and look down in the ocean. We are just passing London. I can see us floating over the Big Ben and the London Eye. We are getting closer, I hold Olivia’s hand tight. After all these years of research, planning, testing, our moment is almost there. We are sitting on the embankment, our feet dangling above the water, peering down. We both take our pills at the moment we are floating over the once so famous Dutch dykes. A bit later we silently slip into the water and dive, swimming down with all the force we have. There it is, Amsterdam just as I remember it, sunken under the water. I see our old street coming near as I keep swimming down. There’s our old house. I smile at Olivia as we swim through a gap that used to be a window. We are home!

As a child I used to think hibernation was a good thing. Now that I know what hibernation really is, I never want to go that way again. I’d rather die. I know the kids won’t be coming. Olivia knows too, the pills won’t work that long.


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Cloudburst

Inspired by a dream and the interactive installation project my students are working on. Picture from the internet, the source is written at the right side or the picture.


They keep falling out of the sky, little buglike creatures. Their half transparent, fist sized bodies land on my balcony and I look at them with amazement and disgust. As soon as they hit the concrete floor they start crawling, like spiders, fist sized spiders. I shiver and start counting their creepy legs, only six, no spiders after all. But what are they? Those jelly, yellowish, sixlegged spidery beings? I’m glad there is a window between us. They keep raining down and crawling all over the building, the streets below must be filled with their small bodies by now, where are the going? And where do they come from?

For a moment I just want to close the curtains, shut them out, pretend they are not here. Nonetheless I just stand there, staring at my balcony, unable to move. Finally I turn around, the dark yellow light from the sky conflicts the blue light emitted by my computer screen, a huge screen taking up almost all the space on the wall opposing my window. Somewhere in the middle the lights meet, enlightening my highly efficient apartment with a sick green color. I try to remember what I was working on earlier, before the bugs started raining down.

Something bangs on my window, I startle, are the bugs coming in? A big moth landed on the window, now looking inside, scanning me. I take a step back, away from the window, back to my computer feeling the urge to do something, although I have no clue what to do. The moth flutters to the balcony and lands between the jellyfish bugs giving me a clear view of its wings. They do not look mothlike at all, not fragile and soft, but hard and scaly. It’s iridescent blue glow reminds me of my computer screen. ‘This is the queen!’ I am quite sure of this, don’t know how, don’t know why. This is the queen, the central brain of the bugs.

A beeping sound enters my mind, small beeps, long and short like a Morse code. Is the queen communicating with me? That sort of makes sense, the light in my rooms starts to pulse together with the sounds, blue again, coming from my screen. I turn around and look at it, look at an image of a luminous creature, pulsing. I never learned Morse code, but my computer translates it. ‘Cloudburst,’ it says. ‘Cloudburst. Cloudburst. Cloudburst.’

Did I do this? I look back at the queen moth, she seems to nod. It is still raining bugs, the moth spreads her wings, shaking the bugs off. I was working, have been working for hours, probably days straight, when all this started to happen, working on something big and complicated. It must have gone wrong. I walk over to my table and hit the ‘escape’ button. ‘Data overload’ appears on my screen. I hit ‘back’. ‘Are you sure you want to upload?’ askes my computer. I choose ‘No’.

The sky lightens up, the queen moth starts to shimmer, spreading her wings and flying away. Even before she has flown out of sight her image is gone, and so have the bugs. So this is what it looks like. I have been warned about it, the risk of causing a cloudburst while working on this project. Never imaged it to be like this. Time to turn the computer off, I need a break.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

What if I were

Inspired by the Future Learn course Environmental Humanities
More on my new Facebook page What if I were a ...
Photos by me.



What if I were a vulture,
Taking care of the waste of the land,
And you would come down and call me revoltingly beast,
While you are filling the land with imperishable waste.
Well, how do you think I would Feel?



What if I were a lion,
Hunting my prey just for food,
And you would come down with a rifle,
Hunting me and my tribe just for fun.
Well, how do you think I would Feel?



What if I were a river,
Bringing fresh water to all down my stream,
And you would come down dumping waste in my course,
Making me poison for all that I love.
Well, how do you think I would Feel?

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

City Lights

Inspiration: A picture sent by Dave Harris and a dream.


They were an odd couple, the two men wearing once expensive men’s jackets, business suit jackets, now all worn down with holes in it. Maybe that’s what freaked my friend out, otherwise her actions don’t make sense to me. After a long journey to our holiday destination, a beautiful Spanish city, we were pretty much worn-out when we left the train that took us from the airport to the city center. My friend was carrying our backpack. We had stuffed all our clothes and other things together, cheaper on the flight. I have to admit it was a bit overwhelming, being met by a couple of hobo’s who announced it was their wedding day. They had strung some balloons to the caddy carrying their belongings. But they were so happy, despite their poverty, their worn-down clothes, they were obviously very much in love.

My friend looked around, she seemed frightened and hissed something about the huge amount of tramps in the railway station. And then it all suddenly happened very quickly. The train on the platform across ours started to close the doors. My friend took a sprint and jumped in the train. I tried to follow her, but the doors were already closed and the train started rolling away, leaving me on the platforms beneath the signs telling it was going to Berlin. There I was, stranded in a strange city with nothing else but the clothes I was wearing, my purse, passport and my phone, which was now trembling in my pocket. A text message from my friend. ‘I told you I’d rather go to Berlin to start with,’ it read.

I was furious, felt betrayed, how could she! We had discussed this, we had an agreement, Spain first, Berlin later. And now she had just took off like that. I looked around me, the happy couple had disappeared and with them all the joy it seemed. It was getting dark and I had to make up my mind. I was hungry, frustrated, angry and sad and had no wish at all to follow my friend and take the next train to Berlin. The streets surrounding the station looked sad and uninviting and I set my pace direction city center, looking for a place to eat, which there were plenty. But strangely enough I couldn’t make up my mind. Looking through the well-lit windows, designed to invite you in, I only saw couples or small groups of people, enjoying each other’s company, which made me feel the pain of my friends sudden departure even more. While queuing at the ATM, I asked around for a good place to sleep, and got directions to a youth hostel, where I spent the night. They could even offer me a meal.

The next day I still felt sad. I got up early and left the youth hotel, still trying to make up my mind. The sun was shining and the low morning light was setting the buildings in a golden glow. I was determined not to follow my friend to Berlin but found myself having a hard time enjoying the beautiful city sight. A rather small church had already opened its doors and I could hear soft music from inside, so I wandered in. There was a line of people, all waiting to speak to the pastor, standing on a small platform in the middle of the church. Somehow I suddenly found myself at the backside of the platform, while the pastor turned around and said something to me in Spanish. I started to explain I couldn’t understand him while he interrupted me in broken Dutch. How could he know I am Dutch? I felt embarrassed, he just left all the people standing there, waiting for him, and started to talk to me, asking me why I looked so sad. I explained about my friend, how she left me and how betrayed that made me feel. He asked me if I had wanted to come to this city. Yes of course. And did I see the sun outside? Yes I did. And did I see the beautiful light? Yes, sure.


‘So why so sad?’ he said in Dutch. ‘You are in a beautiful place, exactly where you wanted to be. The sun is out. And look around you, see? Lots of new friends to make.’ He turned up the music and held out his hand. ‘Dance with me!’ A little bit shy I started to dance with him, I couldn’t turn down his friendly gesture. More people joined us in the dance and somebody turned up the music even louder. Soon all the people in the church were dancing, while the sun was shining through the stained glass windows, illuminating the scene with lots of colors. People started to talk with me and indeed within hardly any time I made new friends. They offered to help me shopping for some clothes and other essentials. They showed me the best places to eat, they invited me to sleep in their homes. I had the best holiday ever and made friends for live! Later I heard my friend from the train was very lonely in Berlin went back home early.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Tiny grass

Inspiration; a picture sent by my friend Tracey Lloyd, who loves nature. This summer my family met up with her family and we went to Cambridge together, where I took the second pic.


He brushes away the last grains of sand from the grass, the vast greenness of the neatly brushed lawn never fails to make him feel good, useful. Nonetheless it is what lies underneath, what nobody knows, that makes him love his job. Grass is not just a collection of small leaves, it is so much more.

He started this job when the recession kicked in and the demand for craftsmen in the building industry decreased. He was used to working on physical demanding jobs, often running up and down construction ladders, working high up, never close to the ground, all day long listening to music playing loudly from the radio and joking around with the guys.

The first time in his new job, when he was handed over a brush for working on the lawn he laughed out loud, but shut up rapidly, silenced by the stern looks of his superior, it was not a joke. Cutting the grass with his tiny garden shears and brushing off the dirt is considered serious business, a job that demands a high level of accuracy.

Inwardly cursing the recession and unemployment he set to work, missing his comrades, their jokes and the loud music, the last part replaced by music from his earphones. Only once he whistled at an attractive female tourist, which was rewarded with a reprimand that he was now working at a college and not a public area, such behavior could not be tolerated.

One day, a few months ago he forgot his earphones, cursing silently when he found out. He was in for a very boring day. Like the days before he kneeled down on the grass and started the cutting and the brushing, hearing nothing but the sound of his shears and his soft brushing and the murmur and comments of the tourist in the background. But after a few hours he started to hear something else, like little voices humming, although it was very soft and hardly audible. The sound intrigued him, it was a bit like music, but not like any music he had heard before.

Next day, when he put back up his earphones, something stopped him from turning on his own music. He unplugged himself, listening to the soft sounds of which he was now sure were generated by the grass. It was like the voices were calling him, trying to tell him something. This went on for some days until he got more and more used to the voices and he could distinguish words in the soft music generated by the grass. They were inviting him to come and have a look underneath. Using an excuse he dug a manhole next to the grass, knowing he could not hurt the grass. He just lifted a tile next to the lawn, to be as close as possible.

That night he stayed at the college and went down, invited by the little voices, digging a little bit aside until he was under the roots. The grass was cheering and talking to him, very excited this time! It suddenly struck him. He was looking a big brain, all the roots connected like synapses of nerves, idea’s, thoughts, pulses going through, back and forth underneath the whole college, the whole town!
‘Yes dear! This is where we collect thoughts, input from above. This is where we combine and dream up new concepts, this is indeed our brain. From here we whisper our dreams into the world, for those who are able to hear. Thank you for brushing away the dirt from our receptors, thank you for keeping our head clean.’

Looking at the new sign he put up in the lawn, he brushes away the last grains of dirt from the lawn, listening to the soft voices, humming wonderful ideas to him. He records them all and listens back to them on his headphones, digesting it all, waiting to tell them to the world when the time is ripe.