Sunday, 3 August 2008

In Viridian

The angel looked through the bars of the Faraday cage that imprisoned it at the empty workshop. It was silent, though there was a slight static crackle surrounding it at all times, right on the edge of hearing, like an untuned television in a room somewhere else in the house. Tiny little arcs of electricity constantly wrapped themselves around its body. Normally they would be invisible, but the Faraday cage contained it and raised its potential to the point where the energy had to change form in order to dissipate. Left in the cage for long enough, the angel would effectively evaporate. When this was realised, and the comparison with Hawking radiation for black-holes drawn, there had been a proposal briefly to call them Hawking Angels. That had fallen flat however, and was nothing more than an embarrassing footnote in the minutes of many Physical Society meetings.

The angel flexed its wings yet again, testing once more the limits of motion, how well the cage contained it. Fully extended, an angel's wings were like the faintest tracery of magnetic fields in the air. They reached hundreds of feet into the air, and several tens of feet either side of the angel's gaunt, glowing body. They generated enough lift to carry the angel, and they generated electric currents in any conducting object they cut through. An angel could fly through a city as street level and not physically touch a single building, but the wind of its passage left static discharges and lethal currents wherever it blew. While angels walked our earth, people died in epidemic numbers.

The angel settled down again, seeming to wait. There was a soft fluorescence around its eyes that might have been tears, or might have been some natural angelic function. Even at rest it glowed slightly too brightly to look at. People had attempted to view them through smoked glasses and optics designed for watching solar eclipses, but this annoyed the angels and brought a rain of lightning down on those who so dared. Trapped in a Faraday cage, there was at last the chance to see what an angel really was.

In an adjacent room, a young lad with a confident swagger, a broad Essex accent, and a silver shell-suit grinned cheekily, and laid a sun-bed-tanned hand on the doorhandle that led to the room holding the Faraday cage that housed the angel. He had figured out how to trap it by accident, but now he intended to make a name for himself by studying it. His hand tightened on the door handle, and he pulled the door open.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Crimson Jimson Weed

The butler harrumphed behind me like a dyspeptic horse, and stopped pushing the bath-chair. I pretended not to hear him, rearranged the blanket over my legs a little, and refused to move the steering rod.

"I fear, Sir," said the butler in his deepest, most gravelly tones, "that if I continue pushing the chair at present, we will run straight into that knot of small children gathered by the bandstand."
"So?" I snapped, annoyed that he was paying enough attention to spot what I was up to. "They've been lined up like skittles..."
"Nonetheless, Sir," said the butler slowly, "there are members of Her Majesty's constabulary watching them. You can see them over there, Sir, in uniform. I suspect that they would take a dim view of such a happenstance."
I sighed, and pushed the steering rod to the left, aligning the front wheel of the chair with the cycle path, and the butler resumed pushing. We started off slowly at first, then gained a little speed as the butler overcame the chair's inertia.

The cyclists hated me for using their cycle path, but the butler adamantly refused to run down the less deserving members of society, and had threatened to leave my employ unless I stopped throwing lit cigarrettes at shell-suit clad scum while we were out. Irritating the cyclists seemed to be the only past-time he was willing to indulge me in.

As he grunted and panted behind me, I laid one hand on the customised controls (one of which would pogo a sharp stick in and out of the side of the bath-chair fast enough to catch in the spokes of a cyclist's wheel and retract while being hard to spot), and pulled a book from under the blanket spilling over my seat. I lazily opened it at random, not looking at the pages but scanning the area for cyclists and any small children the butler might have missed, and stabbed my finger down onto the page. Now I looked down to see what sentence I had struck:
"The head is somewhat broader than the rest of the body, and often assumes a spatulate form."
I frowned, wondering what kind of person had a spade-shaped head, and how that could possibly affect my future.
"Are you indulging yourself in bibliomancy again, Sir?" asked the butler, who disapproved of most of my hobbies.
"Faster!" I shouted, at my most imperious. If the butler had the breath to talk to me, then he wasn't pushing hard enough.
"Turn left," gasped the butler as the bath-chair gained speed. "We're headed for the ducking pond!"

I pulled on the steering rod, and we took the corner in the cycle path sharply, the butler being forced to run at an angle to the bath chair as he tried to follow the curve. To my utter delight, I saw his foot catch the walking stick of an elderly lady, flicking it out into the middle of the ducking pond. She stood there, wavering, not wanting to move without anything to lean on as the butler caught his gait again, and managed to get square behind the bath-chair.

The ducking pond, mostly covered with blue-green algae and festooned with rotting wooden warning signs, was used up until 1961 for testing for witches. In 1961 the witchfinder general for the area found so many witches, (it being the flower-power era) that he declared the whole town to be ungodly and called for the wrath of God to descend and cleanse it. Quite dramatically, as he stood there his eyes flashing fire, his fist aloft, he was struck three times by lightning and cooked to a well-done state before he hit the ground. I've been petitioning for the job of witchfinder general to be reinstated, but with little success so far.

As we carried on down the straight away I looked in the wing-mirror and saw that the butler had his head down and his shoulders thrust forward and was clearly concentrating on maintaining speed. Looking ahead, I saw a couple of park-keepers not paying much attention to the cycle path as they tried to carry too many tools over to their little shed. I adjusted the steering rod.

The butler looked up just too early for me, and stopped running, throwing himself backwards while holding onto the handles, braking the bath-chair very effectively. We stopped just two inches in front of the lead park-keeper, who looked up himself then, and startled, dropped a bag of fertiliser and a large, flat leaf-rake. The rake bounced towards the second park keeper, who leaped backwards to avoid it, and then turned towards me to see what had happened. The spade that he was carrying over his shoulder struck the nanny of my neighbour's hell-spawned children square in the face with a crunch I found very satisfying indeed.

I glanced back down at my book, and smiled, happy that the prediction had once again come true. The butler leaned forward and said in low tones, "I think, Sir, we should leave as soon as possible." When he leaned back, he had taken my book with him.