Endlands

flickering greys, the sea
changes: unaltering,
silently, chivvies, switching
the soft primrose sand; one
grain flicks position with
another — impossible, inevitable.

the boats are silent- they
cross this expanse at the end of lands
vikings first, then pirates
raid and burn, settle and farm,
netherlanders, flatland explorers,
hunting the new crossings, echo
the dykes and drains- invisible tracks,
eat their way into the soft marshes,
expose the rich peats,
carve and create out of nolands.

inlets creeks and badlands,
flatlands perfect
for creeping smugglers lands
illicit acts in shifting edges
land of no land
sea of no sea

estuary

but the sea can rise,
crawl towards the sky,
the moon cries, desires,
dragging it over land hand made land

water
energetically, without mercy,
rushes over the flatlands,
washes away the coastlands,
demolishes all in its pathlands,
creates new edgelands —

nomanslands


catherine-jonesCatherine Jones is a musician, writer and artist based in the west of England but studied and lived for 8 years in East Anglia, the fens and flatlands of the east coast of England. Living near the coast in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, for 3 of those years really brought home to her how fragile the coastal environment is and how a very small sea level change would have devastating results. Much of her writing harks back to her memories of living and working in an unstable environment. She originally studied music but for some reason became a lawyer for twelve years, during which time she constantly wrote statements and affidavits, not really realising that actually what she enjoyed was telling a story. She rediscovered her need to write while completing a Masters in Fine Art, during which time she illustrated her dissertation with poetry. Since completing her Masters exactly a year ago, she’s been busy writing, teaching piano and singing, making art situations, mixed media pieces and installations, and dealing with two lively tweenage boys. She’s been an environmentalist since she was a child, growing trees from acorns and conkers on her windowsill and worrying about saving the whales when she was about 7 years old.

hourofwrites* This vision was submitted for the “Life plus 2m” prompt at Hour of Writes, which carries out weekly, peer-reviewed writing competitions.

Bacon for everyone

The future, writes Philip Ridgers, will bring some good with the bad.

It was early September 2060, and the town of Flotsam was literally in hot water. Tom Williams wiped sweat from his sunburned brow, peered down the hill at a small boat meandering among pale chimneys and mosquito swarms.

‘Poor folk,’ he said, as the boat receded.

‘Nothing to be done though,’ said Dan, his brother. He’d had the sense to wear his black cap that morning.

‘I suppose not,’ Tom replied. ‘Reckon they’ll be back?’

Dan did not bother answering. The Styles family needed to find cows if they had a hope of returning. Most of Flotsam doubted anyone within a hundred miles had come across beef in ten years.

‘Well good luck to them,’ Tom said. He wrung sweat from his brown factory sleeve and wiped his face again. If it’s this hot now, I dread midday. He thought the same thing every day.

‘I s’pose we should get to work,’ Dan said. ‘Pigs don’t kill themselves.’

They turned from the lake that had swallowed Bath a couple of decades earlier, and headed for the town slaughterhouse. Dan whistled as they walked.

‘You’re in a good mood,’ Tom said. He watched his footing, careful not to tread in the copious amount of pig dung that covered much of the town.

‘Well why not?’ Dan asked.

‘We just saw a family of four go to their likely deaths.’

‘They’ve got a chance. The professors gave them a month’s worth of insulin.’

‘Pig insulin.’

Dan shrugged. ‘It’s all we’ve got. Better than nothing, right?’

Tell that to Anne Styles, Tom thought. All three of her boys had grown resistant to porcine insulin, and their blood sugars were constantly skyrocketing.

Flotsam was primarily diabetic. Some doctors with type one diabetes had made their home in an abandoned MOD site, on the hill of what had been Lansdown in Bath. As the waters rose, someone found it amusing to call the place Flotsam. The name had stuck. They made insulin for themselves from pig pancreases, and diabetics had rushed to the area.

‘Maybe they’ll manage to get some live beef after all,’ Dan said. ‘Dr Shortwick can have the pancreases, the rest of us can eat something different for once.’

‘And the waters will recede, and everything will be fixed,’ Tom said. ‘We’ll walk down to the city centre like we did thirty years ago, when we were kids. Maybe we’ll even go for lunch at the Royal Crescent hotel cos we’ll be rich too.’

‘Sarcasm only buys you an injury,’ Dan replied.

‘All right, save that for the pigs,’ Tom said. They pushed through the doors of a makeshift barn. It was even hotter inside, and the smell was incredible. Men and women were already hard at work, herding squealing pigs into a large room.

‘Oi, Williams and Williams! You’re late,’ shouted Rick. The bald old man was in charge of butchery. Tom wondered why he bothered with a meat cleaver, his tongue could almost lash skin from bone.

‘We were seeing off the Styles,’ Dan said.

‘Grab knives, and use ‘em an extra hour past everyone else,’ Rick said.

‘Balls,’ Dan said, though not loudly enough for Rick to hear. ‘I want to get my Friday started on time.’

‘It’s only fair,’ Tom replied, picking up a long sharp knife. He joined the other workers, waiting outside the room of pigs. Someone pulled a lever, and CO2 stunned the squealing swine.

‘They get a comfier death than most of us,’ Dan said.

‘That’s cos the whole world’s gone to the pigs,’ Tom replied. ‘But they should enjoy it while it lasts.’ Like everything else, Flotsam was low on CO2.

A gong sounded. The workers moved through the doors and among the unconscious swine. Tom grabbed the hind legs of an enormous sow, dragged it onto a table with Dan’s help. He ran his knife across its throat, grimaced as blood poured copiously.

We need more aprons, he thought. He doubted his three minutes of authorised shower time would give him a chance to clean his clothes properly.

Soon, dead pigs were being hacked into their various useful parts. Dan started whistling again as he chopped.

‘You know what tonight is,’ he said.

‘Obvious statement awards night?’ Tom asked. It was the hour of power. Once a month, Flotsam’s mayor allowed residents to draw an hour’s worth of electricity from the grid for entertainment purposes.

‘What shall we enjoy?’ Dan asked.

‘I was thinking a film,’ Tom said. ‘We could invite Bella and Amanda over.’

‘It’ll cost us,’ Dan replied, chopping away. ‘Bella’s had three hypos this month. She’s almost through her glucose rations already, and looking for help.’

‘We’ll just say no,’ Tom said.

Dan laughed. ‘When have you ever resisted her smile?’

Fair point, Tom thought. ‘It’ll be fine,’ he said. ‘I’ll persuade her to see the docs, reduce her insulin dose. If she sits nice and still, she’ll be ok. I’ll do the cooking, serve up my world famous regulation bacon, sausage and cabbage.’

‘You convinced me,’ Dan said, his broad chest spattered red. ‘We should watch Toy Story.’

‘That’s almost an hour and a half long.’

‘We’ll just act the first part of it then.’

Tom grimaced. ‘Don’t you dare…’ he began, but it was too late.

You got a friend in me,’ Dan sang.

I hate that bloody song, Tom thought. Dan sang it about six times a day. However, Tom seemed to be in the minority. To his horror, other workers started singing along.

In barbershop harmony.

‘You’ve ruined it even more,’ Tom said. ‘When the hell did you find time to rehearse?’

‘Oh come on, it’s catchy,’ Dan replied. Then, he launched into the chorus. Tom tried to frown, but a smile tugged at his mouth. He had to admit, they were rather good. He hummed along in spite of himself. Before long, everyone was singing.

The heat gathered, pig entrails were everywhere, and music covered the town of Flotsam.


philipPhilip Ridgers is a piano teacher and accompanist currently living in Bath. When he’s not busy at a piano, he also enjoys writing. As a type 1 diabetic, it was a natural choice for him to centre his contribution around diabetes. You can judge him for his opinions here.

hourofwrites* This vision was submitted for the “Life plus 2m” prompt at Hour of Writes, which carries out weekly, peer-reviewed writing competitions.

Slowly too late

Slowly
The light enters our eyes
Slowly
The answers now too late
Lie scattered on university tables
In books
In speeches
In films
Plans are hurriedly hatched
To save what is left
Too slow
Too late


majelMajel Haugh is a writer based in Limerick city. Her work has appeared in Abridged, Limerick Literary Revival and Burning Bush 2. She was also a finalist in the Desmond O’Grady International poetry competition.

hourofwrites* This vision was submitted for the “Life plus 2m” prompt at Hour of Writes, which carries out weekly, peer-reviewed writing competitions.

I don’t like these storms anymore

Ben Ruddell’s view on storms has changed, is changing and will change…

As a kid in the Midwest, the distant rolling thunder of a summer soaker was soothing, and the lightning bolts were exciting, bursting with neon light and color. Those storms were beautiful, with their sunbursts, whipping winds, and towering black clouds sweeping across the flat open land.

Those storms changed, flooding fields and towns but leaving withered crops and dry riverbeds in the summer. Those tenacious farm towns survived fifty years of depopulation, but collapsed as the groundwater ran out and the corn moved north to Canada. We followed so many others when fled the economic blight of the Midwest for greener pastures in the Mountain West. There were jobs, and the reservoirs had enough water for the dry spells.

The Southwest was so beautiful: pristine pine forests ringing towering mountains, vistas and red rocks, deserts and flowers. I never saw anything like it, and once I came I never wanted to leave. We had storms here, too, but they brought the most welcome rain to the arid hills. And rainbows- so many rainbows in these desert storms. No wonder these mountain towns are so popular. Everyone wanted to come here.

The kids felt the fear before I did. We tried to calm them when the lightning struck, but they felt a fear too deep for a parent to reach, a fear I didn’t understand. My oldest piled rocks around a tree to keep it safe from the lightning. It was cute. I thought he would grow out of it, but he didn’t; we did. Us older folks fooled ourselves with a lifetime of false experience.

When I first smelled the smoke, I felt that same fear- ominous, imminent, unavoidable. The fires were all over the summer news. A million acres here, a hundred houses there, year after year. Fort McMurray burned in Canada, but it was always far away. Still, my subconscious mind was catching on. When I caught myself hugging the kids because I was scared, I knew didn’t like storms anymore. The lightning made me jumpy, and if nobody was looking I would walk nervously to the window to check for smoke. I wrote my Congressmen about funding for the Forest Service after I read they only had money to manage a tiny fraction of the public forest in these mountains.

Every year the fires were worse than the last, and Congress finally funded the overdue thinning project out here. It was ten years of work, Billions of dollars. It was too late for us. That big, dry monsoon storm came in at the wrong time, and the lightning set the forest ablaze in a thousand fires. A hundred years of overgrown fuel went up in smoke, along with the power transmission lines and half of the town. It was all the fire service could do just to keep the highway open for evacuation.

The mountains burned, leaving a charred and sediment-choked moonscape. The power and water were out for a long time, and most of us had nothing to come back to after the evacuation. The tourists and students vanished, and with them my job. We moved back east to live with family, and figured out how to make ends meet. We survived, but things aren’t the same. I heard that a few of the mountain towns are recovering, but only rich vacationers can live there now. These fires woke middle class folks like us from our Southwestern dream.

Now, on those the terribly hot Chicago summer nights when the rain falls, I tell the kids these storms are as beautiful as I remember from my childhood, and we’re lucky to be here. But to tell the truth, I don’t like these storms anymore.


ruddellBen Ruddell Ben Ruddell is from the Midwestern U.S., works on the faculty at Northern Arizona University, and lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with his wife Jennifer and their children. This vision published in Life + 2 meters is vaguely autobiographical.

The sentencing

Annie Percik puts some perspective on the difference of two meters.

“Life plus two metres!”

A collective gasp travels around the courtroom, and the judge’s gavel comes down like the final nail in my coffin.

I hear the words but I can’t process them. There are fingers clutching painfully at my arm, and I look down into the despairing eyes of my mother.

“We’ll fight this,” she says, trying to sound confident, but failing by several degrees.

The likelihood that any appeal will go through before the worst part of the sentence is carried out is vanishingly small. And, once that part is done, there’s no going back, no matter what may be decided later.

I’m still finding it difficult to understand what’s going on. I realise I’ve stopped breathing, and I force myself to take in a strained lungful of air. Suddenly, my knees feel weak and I slump down onto the wooden bench, utterly defeated.

For a crime I didn’t commit, I have been given the heaviest sentence possible. I will have to serve a lifetime of indentured servitude, working the hardest tasks in the most inhospitable and dangerous environments. It’s no consolation that the other part of my sentence will equip me better for such work than I am now. It is not an equipping I want or will be able to endure without great suffering.

Sooner than I can imagine at this moment, I will be taken from this place and delivered to the Department of Transmogrification. There, my bones will be broken and extended, and my body stretched almost beyond its capacity, adding a full two metres to my height. Then, I will be provided with acclimatisation training, to teach me how to live and move in my new body, and how to use it to the benefit of the establishment that has forced it upon me.

I have heard tell that everything slows down when the two metres are added. Having such reach and such mass may be useful in undertaking certain types of manual labour and military tasks, but it necessarily results in a slowing of all movements and accompanying thought processes. It is not possible to utilise the familiar speed and flexibility of the human body on a grander scale.

I will no longer be able to meet the gaze of my friends and family eye to eye, even if I get the opportunity to see them at all. I will no longer even be able to relate to them on a level playing field. They will never be able to comprehend my new existence, and I will quickly forget what it is like to be one of the small and hasty beings that will soon be scurrying beneath my notice.

It may be a life sentence, but it will be the end of the life I have known up until now. The person I am now will cease to exist as surely as if I was to be executed. A new being will take up my newly assigned role in society, with different abilities, a different perspective, and different companions in my servitude.

My mind shies away from the implications of what has just happened, and I retreat into the oblivion of unconsciousness, hoping I will awake to discover it has all been a dream. More likely, I will awake to a nightmare of a new existence I will have to endure for the rest of my life.


annieAnnie Percik lives in London with her husband, Dave, where she is revising her first novel, whilst working as a University Complaints Officer. She also publishes a photo-story blog recording the adventures of her teddy bear. He is much more popular online than she is. She likes to run away from zombies in her spare time. Annie has won the weekly Hour of Writes competition four times, and been runner-up on several more occasions. Her collected entries are due to be published in two anthologies later this year.

hourofwrites* This vision was a runner up in the “Life plus 2m” prompt at Hour of Writes, which carries out weekly, peer-reviewed writing competitions.