Non-Album single and B-Side: It’s coming

Soon, proofing done on the new book ‘The Ombudsman’s Ombudsman’ and once the cover is finished, come on Richard!, we will be ready to go live in digital and hard copy formats.

In the meantime, two things that didn’t make it onto the book, but like Charlotte Sometimes or We Can Work It Out (jaja delusions of grandeur!!), there is still a place for them here.

Neither should be taken overly seriously.

The lead track is A Life in the Day and it’s B-side is an alternative history Wikipedia entry of the life of a Mr A. Hitler.

 

    A Life in the Day

Alternative Universe Wikipedia I – Adolf Hitler

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Alternative Universe Wikipedia I – Adolf Hitler

 

 

Adolf Hitler (Brannau Am Inn, April 20th, 1889-June 8th, 1971) was an Austrian painter, soldier, author, humanitarian and founder of the United Nations and later the European Union. His literary works include “Unser Kampf” in which he detailed his plans for a united and prosperous Europe free from the tyranny of dictatorships, and “An Ideal for Living” in collaboration with Robert Schuman and seen by many as a blueprint for the European Economic Area following the end Second World War (1939 to 1941).

Early Life.

Hitler was born to a comfortable, landed class family and enjoyed a privileged childhood, attending boarding school in Linz. Towards the end of his schooling he showed in an interest in the military and painting, though his masters were often quite direct in their disparaging appraisal of his talents with regard to the latter.

At the age of eleven, he suffered a bizarre accident involving some farm machinery that led to both his hands being trapped in a press. For a while, the family was worried that he might even lose the right hand, but in the end the doctors acted quickly and repaired most of the damage, though leaving his movements hindered. Historians would later suggest that this incident was what severely limited his progress as an artist.

Undeterred, at the age of seventeen, he relocated to Vienna where he would study Fine Arts. After a difficult start to his tenure, he soon became more adept at the simpler painting techniques whilst not showing anything that could be clearly described as a talent, he enjoyed his painting and was a popular figure in the city.

With resources posing an issue and his family unwilling to support him unless he joined the army, Hitler turned to his classmates, and particularly a group of Jewish painters with whom he aimed to exhibit his work in order to raise funds. Hitler’s persuasiveness made up for his lack of talent and a deal was soon reached whereby proceeds from the exhibitions would be split. Hitler used his skills to find new places for their works to be shown, and the Jews opened their doors to him so that he would be left in the ignominy of the poorhouses.

Hope Communes and Mayorship of Vienna.

At this time Hitler wrote back to his parents claiming that he had found a new family in Vienna, and if they were not prepared to support him, he would manage full well on his own. With the exhibitions going so well, Hitler and the Jews were able to use the excess for other disadvantaged groups in society, thus opening his first ‘Hope Commune’.

These were institutions founded with the aim of providing shelter and nutrition for the city’s most destitute, following Hitler’s rationale that ‘that could have been me’ after he hit rock-bottom on the streets of the capital and never forgot how the Jews, rather than turning their back on him as his father had said they would, made him a space in their homes and put food in his belly.

At the age of 22, he was made Mayor of Vienna for his services to the city. These were precarious times, with war around the corner, the Viennese Council decided that some fresh blood was required to drag the institution into the twentieth century, noting that ‘that Hitler chap certainly has some interesting ideas’.

His work was indeed halted by the outbreak of WWI, yet he was found a new role acting as a diplomat between the warring factions after he was stationed in Geneva to form an organisation to try to broker peace. Hitler travelled to fronts to observe soldiers’ conditions and even made a journey to Russia to meet with Bolshevik leaders to discuss their plans for the country in the post-war period.

The Treaty of Freiburg.

When the end of the war came in 1918, Hitler was appointed by the Swiss Government to chair peace negotiations despite him being around half the age of anyone else at the table. That said, his skilful oratory and heart wrenching expositions of life at the front and the cruelty of war, had the effect of invoking a change of heart in Wilson and Clemenceau, the latter particularly keen at the outset to make the Germans pay, and even sway Lloyd-George away from the idea of the hefty reparations.

With little progress being made in the French capital, the signatories decided to move the negotiations away from Versailles and to Freiburg, hoping that the treaty would mark a new beginning for Germany.

The Treaty of Freiburg was the catalyst for Hitler’s political career that would see him change the League of Nations into the United Nations just before the Wall Street Crash in 1929. The recovery of the German economy and the distribution of its agricultural and industrial wealth to rebuild Europe, also meant that the American economy could be bolstered by the Deutschmark and thus a catastrophic recession was avoided.

Inter-War Period.

The hitherto unexpected period of peace enjoyed in the thirties led to an almost multilateral demilitarisation of Europe, even Britain was prepared to relinquish its naval power to use the fleet for more peaceful purposes.

That said, there were elements that still threatened the idea of continued peace on the old continent. The Americans still had an innate mistrust of the Russians, and especially the doctrine of Communism. As part of his work expanding the League of Nations (later the United Nations), all member countries were required to openly outline their policies and take on board suggestions from other members to improve these.

This policy meant that rather than meddling in other countries’ affairs, member states were encouraged to identify and solve in tandem issues affecting their nations in order to put together a trial and error-based solution package for the future.

In Southern Europe, the sceptre of fascism was also proving to be a hindrance to the progress of Hitler’s United Europe. Revolutionary movements in Spain and Italy were detracting from the good work being undertaken in the north. Hitler sent the Condor Legion of Negotiators to sit with Republicans and Franquistas with a view to preventing the escalation of the conflict. Despite the efforts by Hitler and his team being in vain, the level of suffering was drastically reduced as the new United Nations Über Police were given mandate to act in Madrid and Barcelona.

World War II (September 1939-February 1941) .

In Italy, fascist rumblings took an even greater force when Benito Mussolini suggested an alliance with Italy to attack the now demilitarised France and Germany, with the aim of forming a fascist empire with its capital in Paris.

Despite both nations possessing armies vastly inferior to those with which they fought in 1914, the demilitarisation of Western Europe as a result of the period of peace meant the attack went without response. People assumed that the desire to repeat a worldwide conflict had wholly diminished after the lessons learnt from Freiburg, yet the fascists’ attack caught many by surprise and it took almost six months before the Allied Powers of Germany, Britain and Russia were able to train enough soldiers to oust the invaders. The Spanish retreated to the area around the Pyrenees where they continued to hold territories in mountainous areas, yet their captors’ commitment was far from steadfast, and when Franco was removed from power in Spain in 1942 to be replaced by the Nueva Democracia, most returned keen to leave their fascist past behind. The Italians were ordered to take Moscow as reprisal but most of its soldiers never made it past Warsaw as Winter of 1940 began to kick in.

Hitler saw this debacle as a failure in vowed to prevent anything similar happening again. His publication in 1944 of ‘An Ideal for Living’ set out the vision of the future Europe, a region that would lead the world, not with the iron fist, but with the helping hand. The peace treaty following WWII was signed in Manchester and guaranteed autonomy and freedom of movement within the continent.

Formation of the European Union (main article Hitler and the EU).

Hitler’s idea to join forces with Schumann took on extra importance as tensions escalated between the United States and Japan in 1947 with the latter threatening to use its new nuclear weapons on the cities of Osaka and Kyoto.

The European nations formed an alliance, led by Hitler, to conduct the negotiations that managed to achieve a peaceful outcome to the situation, and was finalised with the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1950 through which the production of atomic weapons was outlawed, and those already manufactured were to be dismantled and their power be harnessed to produce clean and free energy.

Once again championed as a bastion of peace, Hitler began work on a central European parliament that would create a powerful trading block, though not focused on world dominance, moreover as a means of providing the possibility to aid ailing states and nations both inside and outside of Europe.

Productivity and efficiency increased notably in all areas, meaning that there was a surplus in terms of agricultural and industrial output. This had the effect of eliminating famine from the poorer regions, whilst European scientist worked on the means of stabilising farming conditions to prevent future catastrophes.

1960s.

As Hitler reached retirement age, he began to delegate powers to his successors and concentrated on more of the cultural aspects of the European Union, particularly his fostering of the Eurovision Song Contest for which he penned the winning entry “Waterloo”.

His health began to decline towards the end of the decade and had to be taken to hospital when part of the team of EU delegates singing the backing vocals on the Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’. By 1969, he was confined to a wheelchair, yet still attended the sessions of the European parliament on a weekly basis. He died in his sleep following a minor stroke that left him with speech problems.

Artistic Output.

Despite his failings as an artist, two painting movements are credited to Hitler, the Crooked Bridge Reprisal and the Angered Smile, the latter being celebrated by artists incapable of drawing human features properly and allowing for a kind of artistic free-for-all.

He also became very interested in music in his later years, both as a patron of upcoming artists (he gave Kraftwerk a residency at the Reichstag Lounge and produced Can’s debut), as well as contributing one song per year to the Eurovision Song Contest.

His two main literary works continue to outsell the Bible to this day, and in most Muslim countries, the Quran has been updated to include elements of ‘An Ideal for Living’.

Personal Life.

Hitler married his childhood sweetheart Eva Weiss shortly after the First World War, they would remain together until her death in 1958 and would have nine children together.

In the 1930’s, a plot to remove Hitler was unearthed as detractors planned to have him fall in love with a Bavarian beauty, Eva Braun, who would eventually lead him into a joint suicide pact. Braun’s plan was scuppered by Hitler, who was able to see through it and rely on the fortitude of his convictions to survive his most difficult period in power.

Hitler said that “I never held power, I had been entrusted with guiding the will of the people away from the dark ages. My dream is to build a union that will last one-thousand years.” During his entire term in office, there was a policy of full openness that allowed any voter to access any aspect of European policy.

In his later years, he divided his time between his grandchildren, all 37 of them, and offering assistance to the EU, though claiming that his time was over, and that the moment had arrived for the younger generation to take Europe, and the world forward. He is interred at the Evere Cemetery in Brussels, alongside his wife and other notable figures of the twentieth century.

His son  Wolfgang (1931-) was captain of Rapid Vienna (1951-1954) and Bayern Munich from 1955 until his retirement. His daughter  Dora (1924-1990) was a renowned painter and sculptor who frequently exhibited in MOMA and other prestigious galleries. His youngest daughter,  Amalie won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1963, in-between Jean-Paul Sartre and John Steinbeck.

Another one of his daughters,  Anna, was a prolific scientist in the European Union and part of the time that worked on the cure for cancer developed finally in 1973.  (Read more) .

 

 

 

    A Life in the Day

 

The liquid felt smooth and not unpleasant on my tongue. Not wishing to do anything untoward, I smiled and settled into position. My eyes heavy, the warm sun lapped against my cheek inviting me to drift.

Is there a line where reality and the vagary of dreams cross? I awoke to find myself on the lawn of the house. Such comfort in simplicity. I was not aware of how long I had been asleep, but the transportation process had been a success.

A spring morning, can’t be more than eleven. That half-hazy feeling of a long-due lie-in mixed with almost a sensation of guilt at having allowed myself to forego the majesty of the morning. The smell of freshly ground coffee pervaded the air, intermingled with the sharp contrast of the burning toast coming from the kitchen.

Dropping my newspaper, I rushed into the kitchen to extract the bread before it was too late, scraping off the charred bits with a knife. My first instinct is to do this into the sink, then I panic as I realise if my wife catches me, this crime will be far more heinous than burning the toast. Hearing her footsteps come down the stairs, I hurriedly try to complete the task and guarantee my freedom. Washing down any rogue ashes with the jet, I survey the area and deem it to be clear.

Returning back to the toaster area, I pretend none of the above took place and finish preparing breakfast. Heating the milk just enough to create a delicious froth for the coffee, my daughter came in and insisted I make her cereals now. Make? She is seven but still demands that her input in this venture be limited to sitting at the table and eating them. I don’t mind, I really should take some time off work and spend more of it with her, before I know it, she will be a teenager who has next to no interest in spending any time with her decrepit, old parents.

As I tend to the flakes, the milk begins to boil over the pan’s side, just in time for my wife to turn it off and save the day, whilst also dispatching a cursory glance over to the sink and spotting the single ash not collected. Entering into CSI mode, she simply says “What have we discussed about scraping burnt toast into the sink?”

How do I answer that? She is right. Again. I simply tell her that it will not happen again, whilst making a mental note to be more thorough next time.

We take our wares out into the garden, moving the table slightly as the rare need for shade causes the morning to become even more special. Those first enchanting mornings once the misery of winter has subsided make the endurance of these bleak months worthwhile as we bask in the reward of the simplicity of the scene. The homemade marmalade seems even sweeter this morning as we glance over the Cotswolds, at our vision of what will always be England, the England so few Englanders will probably ever get to see.

A morning like this really starts the blood racing. Of course, I know there are equally idyllic scenes in thousands of places, but after all that has happened, it is nice to have a little bit of you tucked away down in a valley.

I suggested a stroll before lunch. We could even make a day of it and ramble down to the lovely pub on the other side of the valley. If the carvery proved too much of a temptation when washed down with a local highlight, we could always take a taxi back. My girl is used to treks despite being young, four miles won’t see her off.

We choose to allow her to take her bike, this means the walk back is pretty much cancelled, but ambling through the forest I revel as she reels off the names of plants and fungi. There is truly nothing nicer than the water gleaming as it trickles down the brook towards the town. Well, maybe there is but at this moment, it’ll do for me.

My daughter cycles behind obediently and without straying from the path marked out by so many feet trampling it down over the years. We made good time to the pub and placed our orders just seconds before the weather took a turn for the worse and ensconced us inside for the time being.

As I saw my platter being brought over to me from the other side of the bar with the Yorkshire puddings almost dropping off the sides, my mouth watered as I caught a glance of the beef, lifting the well-earned pint to my mouth as the flavoursome liquid trickled down my gullet. “We are truly blessed.” I said aloud for some unbeknown reason shifted my gaze to the gardens, now in full bloom, offering their wares to eyes of the passers-by while I returned to….

“We haven’t given him enough.” I heard a voice say in Arabic.

As I looked up the sword dropped down and plucked me once again from my dream. A long way from England. The say that your head, or is it your body? Can remain alive for as long as thirty seconds post decapitation. I have been removed from mine now for seventeen seconds, so I guess that all is left is to try and count to thirty.

 

 

The Hooton 3-car

We did say, I say we but I mean I, that we weren’t going to publish anything from the new book between then and now but this has done quite well in a recent competition and can be considered a bit of a must for any Wirral resident.

Apologies to Kevin Maher for stealing the name of his old band.

 

The Hooton Three Car

 

 Bache Station, Chester. 2012

 

Ricky helped his grandfather up the stairs and they took a seat for him to get his breath back. He didn’t mind giving up his Saturday to take his grandpa to the funeral of his best pal, Walter. No-one else seemed keen to make the effort, and he was clearly too distraught to make the journey on his own. Ricky had never seen him affected by anything before. In real terms this may have been because Ricky still had not had time too. Eighty years separated them, his grandad, recently ninety, had always been impeccably dressed in a shirt and tie at the very least and never seemed flustered by the tussles of everyday life. Today he looked different, and Ricky hoped to be there for him.

 

“Train’s coming, Grandad. Shall I help you up?” Ricky asked.

 

“You’re a good lad, Ricky, but I didn’t need help getting out the trenches, so I’ll get on the train myself.” He replied, ruffling Ricky’s hair as reward.

 

The direct train to Liverpool Central would take them to the church where Walter’s funeral would be held with a brief change at Hamilton Square to take them to Birkenhead Park.

 

“Just one change. Some things in modern life are getting better. Not so long ago, the electric line only went as far as Hooton. Then it was a diesel bone-shaker to Chester. Always roasting, lovely in winter, insufferable in the summer. Grandma would always say, “Hooton 3-car”. The old man said with a gleam of nostalgia in his eye.

 

The announcer’s voice came through the intercom system. “Welcome to this 1052 service to Liverpool Central, calling at Capenhurst…”

 

 Capenhurst 1940

 

“You’re meant to run with the bayonet up, you bloody fool.” Walter told his best pal Archie. Both were completing their hurried basic training before joining the Cheshire Regiment. They had enjoyed the spirit of the camp and were genuinely pleased to get the three square meals and a roof over their heads into the bargain. Some of the company was suspect, but in general, the first year of WWII had not been so bad.

 

Archie missed Beryl, and Walter missed Audrey, but everyone missed someone. As the summer ended, the regiment formed and set off for the final training in Aldershot, before heading off to France. It seemed like quite an adventure at the time, it did for everybody, but that would not last.

 

ANNOUNCER: calling at Capenhurst, Hooton…

 

 

 Hooton, 1944

 

Beryl opened the letter with the trepidation that she always felt before one of Archie’s correspondence. Nearly four years at war was changing his prose, and though she knew the things he wrote about barely scratched the surface. She wondered if this war would ever end, if Archie would come back, and would she recognise him. She read:

 

“how can a place of this beauty be the theatre of so much hatred. I no longer know who is the enemy, we believe we are right, but so do they. Life has taken on a cheaper meaning than ever, before they took prisoners, now they kill as they have nowhere to take us. We walk among ghosts. I begin to fear my love for you alone will not be enough to see me through this….”

 

ANNOUNCER: calling at Capenhurst, Hooton, Eastham Rake…

 

 Eastham 1946

 

“It’ll have to do. We can’t afford anything else. You should be grateful to my parents for letting us have this.” Beryl bellowed at Archie.

 

He knew she was right. Nearly a year he had been back, but the nightmares still raged, and the unemployment queues got longer. He knew her parents did not want them there, but until he could find a job… They nervously made love in the evenings, dreaming of making up for lost time but more often fearful of the image of the Virgin Mary that guarded over the bed, and the saintly mother-in-law in the next room.

 

The next day there was a letter for Archie. He had finally been taken on in the refinery.

 

ANNOUNCER: calling at Capenhurst, Hooton, Bromborough…

 

 Bromborough 1951

 

They were never going to send an ambulance. Walter brought his car round and they huddled Beryl in. This was heading towards her fourth miscarriage and the doctors warned her that future conceptions could be harmful to her health.

 

She had almost gone full term this time. Eight months and a day, but when she felt the pain she had felt three times before, she knew the ending would be the same. This time, the child was born alive. She held his skin against hers and watched him fight for breath. But there was little fight, and little hope. An hour later, they were cleaning Beryl so that she could exit the room.

 

ANNOUNCER: calling at Capenhurst, Hooton, Bromborough, Bromborough Rake…

 

 Bromborough Rake 1958

 

“If it will get us a family, it’s money well spent.” Archie told Beryl as they waited to see the private specialist. She was practically dead inside. She had been told his directly by NHS staff, and nicely by the private doctor. The result was the same. She would never have children and could most likely die in the birthing process if she got there again. They walked back to their modest terraced house, Archie taking her hand as she looked longingly at every pram they passed.

 

 

ANNOUNCER: calling at Capenhurst, Hooton, Bromborough, Bromborough Rake, Spital…

 

 

 Spital 1970

 

One too many glasses of cider at the Three Stags, and a walk through Brotherton Park and the pair were like a couple of besotted teenagers. Life had not been overly unkind. Archie had had a good career at the refinery and moved to a larger one with a position of more responsibility.  They soon forgot about the possibility of being seen as they made love upright against a tree, Archie lost in the throes of passion. Once they accepted that the act would be for pleasure rather than business, pleasure was duly taken from it. They finished up and dusted themselves down, rather foolishly checking the coast was clear after the event, and made their way back to the road.

 

ANNOUNCER: calling at Capenhurst, Hooton, Bromborough, Bromborough Rake, Spital, Port Sunlight…

 

 Port Sunlight 1971

 

It would have been a cruel joke. At this stage. That day in the park did bear fruit. And Beryl, despite being forty-seven enjoyed a relatively incident-free pregnancy. Archie was given another promotion that saw him take on one of the delightful houses in Port Sunlight village that they had always dreamed of.

 

One night, Beryl felt a twinge and the puddle on the floor informed them it was time to go to the hospital. There was no fear as she pushed, so much did she desire this moment that the pain was almost part of the hamper. And push she did, and out came a boy. Yet there was more pushing to be done. And a girl appeared. They laughed and took two healthy children home two days later.

 

ANNOUNCER: calling at Capenhurst, Hooton, Bromborough, Bromborough Rake, Spital, Port Sunlight, Bebington…

 

 Bebington 1988

 

Of course, there were times when the screaming, shouting and hating took centre stage, this was family life. But the day the twins finished their “A” Levels and got places at the universities they wanted was a moment that both would treasure for the rest of their lives.

 

The daughter, Susan, wasted no time in celebrating with her friends. A quick livener in The Wellington, before taking the train to Liverpool. As she exited the pub, full of joy and wonderment at the life before her, she never had a moment to see the drunk-driver careering down Bebington Road onto the pavement.

 

 

ANNOUNCER: calling at Capenhurst, Hooton, Bromborough, Bromborough Rake, Spital, Port Sunlight, Bebington, Rock Ferry…

 

 Rock Ferry 1992  

 

Susan’s loss would eventually consume Beryl. Of course, there was still Mike, but their relationship was the same. Until. Until Ricky appeared and made her a grandmother. That first year caring for the baby restored Beryl’s frail health, gave her a purpose and verve for the last months of her life. With Ricky in her arms, in her favourite armchair, she kissed the infant’s forehead and said “pass that on to Grandad for me.” and left.

 

ANNOUNCER: calling at Capenhurst, Hooton, Bromborough, Bromborough Rake, Spital, Port Sunlight, Bebington, Rock Ferry, Green Lane…

 

 Green Lane 2012

 

“I’ll tell you one thing, Walter. I never let my bayonet down.” Archie joked.

 

Walter tried to force a smile, as once again the hospice staff told him not to exert himself. “They brought me here to die and then tell me to take it easy. What’s the worst that can happen?” Walter said. Both laughed and cried at the same time as they hurriedly recapped a friendship lasting eight decades.

 

ANNOUNCER: calling at Capenhurst, Hooton, Bromborough, Bromborough Rake, Spital, Port Sunlight, Bebington, Rock Ferry, Green Lane, Birkenhead Central…

 

“It’s our stop next, Grandad.” Ricky said, gently awakening his travelling companion. “Looks like quite a dream you were having there! Hamilton Square next, then we change. Let me put your tie straight.”

 

“You’re a good lad, Ricky. Grandad’s proud of you.” Archie smiled at the boy who immediately looked away bashfully.

 

With that the train entered the tunnel and Archie decided that for however long he was to remain here, he would not fear the darkness.

 

“Goodnight Susan. Goodnight Beryl. Goodnight Archie.”

 

The Ombudsman’s Ombudsman

Around December and just in time for Xmas shopping, I will be releasing a new collection of shorts to keep CTMP company. It is tentatively called ‘The Ombudsman’s Ombudsman’ as no doubt be the time I write anything else, that term will have been retired and I have always liked the word.

October update: As some of the stories that have appeared on here will be included in TOO in some form or another, they have been tidied away to be polished off in preparation for publication. That means they have been taken down from here.

 

 

Swim Until You Can See Land

Before diving into this one head first, some background.

The story was inspired by the plight of three Spanish firefighters from Seville accused of being involved in a human trafficking racket when they were on humanitarian missions in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Lesbos.

Here is an article on them with links to other parts of their story:

El País article in English

I researched the story a bit and then decided not to stick to the script too much. I preferred the angle of media manipulation and conspiracy with the chance to twist things around and bring down the evil multinational corporation.

The title was a bit of a pun / play on words (not a very good one) at the desperate attempts of the immigrants to find land and the song by Frightened Rabbit as the day I began writing the story, singer Scott was found.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story as I am quite pleased with it as it has Netflix mini-series stamped all over it.

As the story will appear in my forthcoming collection ‘The Ombudsman’s Ombudsman’, I am just leaving here the first page as a taster.

 

Swim until you can see land

Jairo looked at his miserable bowl of cereals and pondered how disappointing breakfast had become in recent times. They weren’t even the chocolate ones with the nice creamy filling inside that he would sometimes treat himself to when HE did the shopping. He looked over to his three-year old daughter who played with and ate hers with the sort of joy only that age of infancy and innocence can bring. Jairo became angry with himself for such frivolous thoughts when he had seen things in the world that made him value every moment like this more than ever, and yet, once again, and despite saying that he would never again fall into that materialistic trap of bemoaning the mundane nature of life when he returned from his last mission. He switched on the news, keen to intake a few moments’ viewing of 3D talking humans before cartoon pigs dominated the screen once more.

 

Even the muesli appeared to be against him. Since when did it require so much chewing? There were days when he was last at sea, wondering whether he would even have another breakfast, let alone complain about it, when he promised himself he would enjoy every morsel, but when you have lived your life so close to the edge, fearing every minute may be your last, the return to the humdrum adventures of an everyday life, even for a firefighter in a city in southern Spain, who had more excitement per pound in his day-to-day endeavours than someone who worked for the water board. He was bored of chewing by the time the news came on.

 

Tragic stories are commonplace on the news, but the item that flashed up before Jairo’s eyes made him almost reach for the remote control to turn it over. This was not something that he wanted his young daughter to see, and yet, it was something she had to see, now, or soon, or later. Once again, a boat carrying migrants had run aground on the Greek coast and bodies were strewn on the beaches. Lying in the water was the bloated corpse of an infant who could not have been any older than his daughter. Despite the early hour, despite the graphic content, the images unashamedly panned in on the lifeless child, life’s lottery showing clearly that she did not even get around to buying a ticket.

 

A tear formed in his eye as he watched his daughter finish her breakfast. “Can I watch Peppa?” She asked, taking another look at her father who she was not used to seeing in an altered state. Jairo took a moment to compose himself and changed the channel for her, leaning over to give her a kiss in the same action.

 

 

GFE

As the story will appear in my forthcoming collection ‘The Ombudsman’s Ombudsman’, I am just leaving here the first page as a taster.

There will be two versions of this story on TOO. The original one for the competition was set in 2018 and a second longer story set in 1953. The premise is the same in both, but the latter takes a vastly different turn early on.

 

 

“She’s in here, Miklowski.” Officer Reynolds informed his superior.

 

Twenty-five years on the force had meant Miklowski had seen it all, twice, some of it three times, but this spate of suicides was beginning to unnerve him. For the first time in his law enforcement career, he was overcome by a sensation that this would be the case he wouldn’t crack.

 

“Same MO, Reynolds?”

 

“Same, Chief.”

 

The apartment looked like a fan site dedicated to the GFE (Greatified Future Existence) Movement. They still did not know who was behind it, but the ethos was all about dumping your useless itinerant frame with which you wandered aimlessly in this life, so that you have a better chance in the next one. A rudimentary website, minimal expense at anything resembling advertising and the look of pure nineties router-based web browsing had not stopped GFE becoming a very real modern-day phenomenon.

 

The first victims had a profile that suggested they could be easily opened up to manipulation when the right buttons were pressed, but now, as the number of victims approached one-thousand, Miklowski and his team struggled to comprehend what was driving successful and popular people to end their lives in ghastly fashion to follow a fad.

 

As the story will appear in my forthcoming collection ‘The Ombudsman’s Ombudsman’, I am just leaving here the first page as a taster.

Blood Alignment Negativity Theory Z

 

Research into Blood Alignment Negativity Theory became popular in the late 1980s though remained a secretive and lucrative side line of the major scientific companies. It was one of a series of research lines that gained in prominence as politicians turned to science to come up with a solution to, or at least an explanation for, the reasons for the failure of Western economies and the unacceptable levels of persons deemed below the quality threshold desired for the proper upkeep of society.

 

Science as a diagnostic tool was considered vastly superior to the extolment of extremist views against one section of society to demonstrate their culpability for the planet’s woes. Those entrusted with the role of reaching this conclusion were not likely to take into account variables such as the fabled 1% of the population in whose hands most of the planet’s wealth was held or other factors that would lead to a significant change in the former’s set-up, which was thought to be perfectly effective yet ruined by a combination of over-population and ill-constructed DNA profiles.

 

The suggestion was made in a 1992 conference in The Hague that there was indeed a surplus, of around 10% of the world’s population, but also that said surplus had a negative effect of holding back the two main groups identified for success; potential performers and intentional conformers. This meant a human imbalance of around one quarter. Thus the elimination of this group would lead to a more than proportional increase in terms of yield and profit for the planet as a whole.

 

Research into a means of profiling these individuals to devise a plan for their control continued throughout the nineties and into this century. Elimination was not a watchword that those in command positions allowed to be uttered but it was clear that any surplus would require a cull, however abhorrent this may appear on the surface. Once the culprits were identified, public opinion would be moved in such a way to defend what was seen as rightfully owned by the other 75 to 85%, allowing for a modicum of fervour and underlying hatred to set the wheels of change in motion.

 

In the meantime, the media tried its hardest to decry other groups as the perpetrators of the world’s ills. None were convincingly proven as being anywhere scientifically liable for anything on a grand scale, but there was growing evidence that the surplus population was not only having a negative effect on business and economic growth, but also causing a latent decline in the output of otherwise hardworking people, who, under the auspices of the decent and productive top 75%, would be able to pull themselves from the mire.

 

The government had special interest in isolating any sort of gene or mutation that would allow for a programme involving the sterilisation, and / or, extermination of this dangerous group, yet they knew that they could not act without scientific proof. With the millennium drawing to a close, pressure was exerted on all those involved in the secret research to give the Prime Minister the boost he needed to enter the twenty-first century with renewed optimism.

 

The first breakthrough was to isolate a DNA trait that was directly linked to laziness. At first, through the studies into this scientific field, progress was slow as scientists were determined that the problem could be solved through the analysis of our genetic make-up, overlooking one major aspect that was common to nearly ten percent of the world’s population. The idea that it was something gene-based rather than race-based was both a revelation and a relief. The idea of taking on an ethnic group would pose endless issues, especially with the burgeoning emergence of social media in the second part of the first decade.

 

DNA strand 326B was found to be present and could be linked to low performance in persons from all walks of life, yet its detection was slow and cumbersome. Plus, it was not conclusive as there were also carriers of the strand who had outperformed other non-strand carriers in a range of indicators. Further to this was the fact that variations of the strand could be confused as pure strand and lead to the exclusion of nearly 30% of the population. Thus, it was deemed, that one could be lazy and productive, or one’s laziness might not necessarily hinder their ability to be productive at another time. No, the isolation process needed to determine exactly which person carried the strain of 326B that caused all of society’s problems.

 

Visionaries often appear at the most unlikely times and it was a team of researchers in a lab off the West Coast of Scotland who began to abandon the idea of the DNA route and work on the isolation of blood itself. The idea that a certain race had a greater propensity to failure held no truck with any viable government plan to create a level of stability for the planet as a whole. Governments worked together, all colours and creeds accepting the idea that a surplus in this issue was a bad thing, and, as the scientists were beginning to prove, every nation had its own group of culpable surplus, this meant that there could be no calls for victimisation of any group. If it was just a clean cull of between 10 and 15% from all walks of life and colours, then the common good would triumph. Dissenting voices would be quashed or simply silenced as the excess could be enjoyed, a song and a dance and a bit of a fuss might occur at the beginning, but after that, people’s natural greed and maleficence would restore things to a more natural order.

 

And so, the lab began to work in different areas, namely the new field of Blood Alignment Negativity Theory, which worked simply along the lines of rather than focusing on the DNA strand, they aimed to prove that entire sets of people with a certain blood group embodied the entirety of the problems faced by the world. Some of these blood group carriers had managed to pull the wool over the rest of the planet’s eyes by accessing positions of responsibility and renown, but this was not the norm and their performance ratings were still vastly below that of people from other blood groups.

 

As 2020 drew closer, the US government demanded a conclusive answer as the fabled recovery after the most recent depression failed to be the boom period that had been forecast. Thus, in a ground-breaking paper published in May 2019, scientists from the lab proved beyond any doubt that the defective blood group was indeed B Negative and that all the carriers of this blood type were an unnecessary burden on society.

 

How this was proven was conveniently kept secret from the rest of society, and, for the good fortune of the writer, from all sources on the Internet. Suffice to say that all relevant boffins and political experts considered the theory to be sound and accurate. Whilst the details of the theory were kept away from eyes that may pry and prod and pick holes in its veracity, its idea was slowly allowed to filter outwards. A tried and trusted method.

 

A clumsily leaked email made its way to a sensationalist tabloid which, seizing the chance to stir up public agitation and claim the scalp of the previously designated politician and scientist scapegoat, hastily published a story claiming that a subversive group aimed to prove that all carriers of the blood group B Negative, immediately stylised to “bNegs”, were the source of all the world’s woes. Inevitably, the theory was decried as nonsense, the scapegoats roundly chastised on social media and TV, enjoying a week as the world’s most hated people and then swiftly forgotten upon the breaking of the next story.

 

But the seed was planted, people began to ask whether there could be anything in it. People began to seek out bNegs and analyse their performance at work, their effect on others. If anything, the initial furore around them led to an increase in their working yield, as if they felt under the spotlight at all times to outwork any of their non bNeg colleagues. The phenomena began to take hold, slowly at first, then gathering momentum, to the governments’ delight, as the inevitable hashtag of #shameabNeg took hold of Twitter. bNegs were exposed on social media, often with side-by-side videos of them “pretending” to be hard at it juxtaposed with another showing their true colours.

 

No movement is complete without the willing force of the uneducated hatred of the mindless masses. Non bNegs who were unemployed began to feel aggrieved that their post had been taken by workshy bNegs. Employers sensed a certain amount of exertion on them not to hire or promote bNegs, or even to remove them from their workforces. All of this gathered pace without any of the concerned governments having to spend a single centime, cent or penny on further research, the hatred bubble was mushrooming of its own volition, the more people seen as reasonable and learned tried to denounce the plausibility, simple social media opportunities presented themselves to further the idea that there really was something to it.

 

Libertarians and voices of reason were the easiest targets to remove. Why would people who had chosen to believe that life’s lottery was preventing their advancement due to the continued support of a worthless group listen to reason suddenly? The proof was there, there was a paper, no-one had seen it but it was known, it contained the facts. The easiest tap ins were when the experts actually carried B Negative blood, so much so that often any voice considered of any worth beforehand refused to opine on matters concerning BANTZ, as this was now stylised, bearing in mind that the supporters of the movement would be less likely to follow something that used up most of their Twitter character allocation on spelling the name. The Z had no place in the theory, but the marketing company believed that it would appeal to the younger non bNegs.

 

With sufficient support from the “grassroots” sections of society, the moment arose to begin taking steps to remove bNegs from prominent positions. A bill was proposed whereby any organisation with bNeg senior executives would have to justify their choice of employment against a criteria checklist (practically impossible for the bNegs to come out on top) and should said bNegs fail to meet these criteria, they were to be immediately replaced by non bNegs.

 

A similar situation was devised for bNegs running SMEs. To be able to continue with their business, they would have to pay a standard PAYE rate of 50% and increase takings with profit sharing for non bNegs. The thinking here was to price them out of the market and thus force them to abandon their professional endeavours. There was another option on the table, the bNegs’ companies could be transferred to non bNegs so that the latter could run them and keep on the original bNegs as employees, though a law passed the week after limiting bNegs earnings to 600 GBP per month (taxable at 49% too).

 

bNegs from all spheres were forced onto the streets. Plans were made to counter any rise in crime as a result of these undesirables by imposing harsher sentences on bNegs for any type of misdemeanour. To finance this increase in potential prison population, bNegs had their assets stripped and could have no more in savings that 1000 GBP or the equivalent amount in the local currency of the applicable nation. It turned out that bNegs had more disposable income than was expected for such a lazy group and this windfall allowed for further expansions of the plan.

 

Whilst certain sectors of society felt bemusement and even bewilderment at the measures arbitrarily taken against people simply for their blood group, governments chose to ignore these, as public opinion shifted in their favour like never before. Whenever questions were raised they were roundly discarded by the findings of a throw-away boffin who came up with fancy looking PowerPoint presentations that were the scientific equivalent of photoshopping a supermodel’s body onto a wallflower’s head and expecting people to fall for it. Of course, they did, they lapped up everything that was thrown at them, the more ludicrous the better, the more obvious the lies, the more they learned them word for word and repeated them with glee among their friends colleagues and on social media.

 

Increases in GDP due to heavy taxation and appropriation of bNegs’ goods meant that the UK government could afford a 3% income tax decrease and pay all non bNeg workers a Robin Hood windfall bonus of 1000 GBP, with unemployed bNegs forced to fill their posts for free, should the non bNegs decide to take a holiday with the money.

 

The next thing to plan for was the bNegs’ uprising. They would surely not take this lying down forever, and any excuse to tighten security against them would provoke little opposition and would indeed prove doubters wrong. Sporadic groups of non bNegs had already begun to form vigilante squads to ensure order in the bNeg ghettos that were appearing on the outskirts of major cities. bNegs were no longer allowed to live in an area within five miles of the city centre, and then only in government approved zones with a limited yardage and value.

 

 

Pockets of bNegs resistance tried to demonstrate, but they knew their hands were tied, if they tried anything, reprisals on groups of bNegs could be disastrous, if they tried nothing, their remaining (few) civil liberties would be completely removed. This logical outlook could not be sustained for a group comprising nearly a tenth of the population. And so, inevitably, a group of bNegs entered a government research centre and set fire to the place, killing three non bNegs. Revenge was imminent.

 

The night after the fire, hundreds of bNegs were attacked randomly as comeuppance for the actions of the twisted firestarters. Many of their residencies were looted and burned, with the government passing an emergency measure that no bNeg could be on the street without registered accommodation, anyone failing to comply with this measure could be immediately imprisoned until they had earned enough to make a deposit on a new property, depending on the waiting list, which was now much longer due to the events of the night known as “the Night of the Long Platelets”.

 

The incident left more than a thousand bNegs dead and many more wounded. As bNegs they were not eligible to use the National Health System and so would have to pay for medical treatment (which they obviously couldn’t do) or take their chances at the bNegs Health Centres (woefully underfunded and staffed by unqualified psychopaths). Within a week of the event, statistics claimed seven thousand bNegs had been removed as a burden on society. With disease and poverty rife amongst them, the stage was set to up operations.

 

Killing four thousand over a couple of weeks would not be a feasible means of removing such a large section of society. We have obviously moved on from the dark ages of transporting them to camps and putting them in ovens. The future was soon assured by passing a law which meant that all bNegs males had to be sterilised. Nobody checked whether bNegs would always have bNeg offspring, but the measure was deemed appropriate and subsequently adapted for bNeg females.

 

In theory then, no more bNegs would be born, but there were still around 600 million on the planet. Waiting for them to starve to death would take an eternity, so the onus was left on the country with most bNegs in the world, Australia, to find a solution. The solution was simple, a kind of home share plan. All the world’s bNegs would occupy Australia until they died. The non bNeg residents of Australia would be given accommodation in the country of their choice until the problem had been resolved, though the thought of an island with 600 million cadavers on it made return less appealing. All Australian citizens accepting the plan were given half a million dollars. Those rejecting it, would be left in Australia. All bNegs’ possessions and worldly goods were to be divided between the relocated non bNegs to compensate them for the upheaval that this would involve.

 

And so, on the 19thof July, 2031, container ships carried thousands of bNegs to their final destination in Australia. All residents of the former British colony were removed by plane or ship to leave the island free of any type of transport, thus preventing escape. Boats carrying the bNegs administered a muscle relaxant in the water to prevent any uprisings, turning their cargo into docile harmless cattle traveling to their fate. As the boats were paid for the number of trips made, unscrupulous captains hit upon the idea of emptying their cargo in the middle of the ocean and returning for more, though this practice was soon decried as the number of bNeg corpses washing up on the shore caused issues for local non bNeg residents.

 

Towards the end of the 2020s, special container ships were built with separate engine and cargo compartments, the biggest the world had ever seen. In conditions of almost zero comfort, up to 35,000 passengers could be transported in an almost harmless sleep to their last port of call. Each participant country, by that I mean every country, undertook to build a number of these proportionate to their bNeg population. The UK had seven of these vessels, France five, Germany eight and the USA twenty-four, even landlocked countries were obliged to have an amount of them and store them at their nearest port, except Switzerland which once again never got involved and still maintained a high level of bNegs and saw no drop in GDP. bNegs tried to emigrate to places like Switzerland (first choice) or Albania (with reservations) or Kyrghizstan (a step up from death) but these nations soon closed their borders as they were swamped.

 

So, at any one time, there could be more than 1 million bNegs under transportation to Australia. This meant that the entire process by this method would take less than three years. Even so, that was considered a lengthy and burdensome process. From places like China, Japan and New Zealand, bNegs were simply ushered onto military transport planes and air dropped to Australia, with roughly enough parachutes for 60% of the plane’s load to ensure a reduction in numbers early on. The problem with Oz was always going to be distance, the reason it was chosen, it being so far away, was also a major hindrance of the logistics. It was also a complicated business getting someone from Utah, for example, to a port where they could board a ship to Australia. As the celebrations for the 10 millionth recorded death of bNegs came to a close, certain voices began to suggest that it might be time to relent on such severity.

 

These voices of dissent were immediately quashed, the destruction of the bNegs and their errant blood group had gone beyond a mere crusade to improve standards of living. Too many people had vested interests and were even looking beyond the bNegs, should the promised Utopia be spoilt by the unsightly presence of the working class.

 

Even people generally seen as wishy-washy lefties began to change their outlook as momentum gathered for what was billed as “definitely not a final solution”. Research was done also to see whether bNegs could be sent into space to colonise the moon but that was eventually discarded when real scientists were consulted once more. The decision was made to use Alaska as a temporary Australia Annex where bNegs could be taken and frozen to death. Nothing was hidden any more, there was no tiptoeing around the subject, news chains and independent groups proudly reported on successful eliminations. FOX NEWS came up with the slogan that “600 million is a lot, but if we all kill one or two, it’s a lot less”. With the reduction in the amount of electricity needed to heat and water this massive group of people, older power stations could be converted into huge furnaces, as many renowned voices concurred, not everything the Nazis did was thatbad.

 

They did create a lot of dust though. Luckily, a formula was discovered soon after, or always known and considered inappropriate, of how to combine mineral water with human ash to create fully functional bricks ideal for housing. In no time, the cost of building a house was reduced by more than ten percent. With non bNegs with more disposable income now, this meant reduced mortgages and fewer foreclosures. GDP took a huge swing upwards as the construction industry soared again.

 

In some places, bNegs fought tooth and nail for their right to live but even in Russia, where the strongest bNegs were found, the non bNegs simply closed their doors in November and opened them in March. “A winter indoors wins wars” Pravda proudly stated.

 

By 2040, there was an estimated world bNeg population of just 11 million people, easily identifiable and avoided with the B-stamp on the top of their hands, the drugs they had been given caused all their hair to fall out and any means of covering the marking was punishable by transportation. Many of these had aided and abetted the destruction process. Australia had been declared uninhabitable although daring farmers found that the arid soils of the desert lands, once fertilised with the rotting corpses of more than 400 million people, turned it into one of the most fertile wheat and cereals production areas in the world. This meant that bread and rice were basically free now to anyone in the world. The top 1% was now the top 7% and everyone, unless they were too lazy not to be, was better off by at least ten percent. The figure of ten percent became the benchmark against which everything was measured, with the idea being that, if it yielded ten percent more, it was worthwhile.

 

Peace was declared on the remaining six million bNegs on the anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 2045. One hundred years to the day since the Nazis were quashed, there were no liberators for those still clinging to life. The only rights that they were afforded were those in place just after the initial resolutions preventing them from ownership and positions of responsibility. Most were old and frail, infirm and unable to work anyway, before taking into account the rather ungentlemanly disservice of allowing themselves to be slaves once more. Most just wandered the streets begging, waiting for whatever force had brought them to the planet to take the ailing frames away from it so they could be with their long-departed souls.

 

One day, before the daily visits of the shrine that is now the old lab in Scotland, receiving thousands of visitors a week to give thanks for the sterling work done to cull the Earth’s population, one of the intern scientists stumbles upon a box that looks like it has not seen the light of day in more than thirty years. Inside he found the original formulae and calculations that led to the great discovery that isolated blood group B Negative from the remainder of society and cast them out like dogs into the night. The intern took the papers and returned to his desk. Despite having the most advanced calculation technology on-hand, he, like the scientists involved in the project, preferred to do his calculations by hand.

 

Most of it was fairly standard up to the point of the DNA strand, then it is when theories began to diverge and the calculations seemed to be askew. He went through them twice and gave out an exclamation that was not exactly befitting of the discovery: “Gosh, it was never B Negative”. He repeated the calculations and looked at the demographic figures, at no time in history had there been 9% of the population with B Negative blood, rarely had it exceeded three. It seemed that the group had been chosen at random to begin the elimination process of all carriers of that type. He found the names on the header and checked them against the records. The findings were signed and approved by the deputy head of the unit, without the approval of the Chief Researcher, a man, it turned out, who spent his whole time trying to belittle the deputy. The Chief was relieved of his duties soon after, his medical examination stating his blood group as being B Negative. On the back page, a message was written in biro that said, “you’ll be fools to believe all this” PLM 2019, and a second message “that’s why it’s so believable” RKC 2038.

 

Cu-tah Than Shakira

As the story will appear in my forthcoming collection ‘The Ombudsman’s Ombudsman’, I am just leaving here the first page as a taster.

This story is meant to be about someone who was determined to be taken away by aliens. The idea is that he was a hick before they got to him and became more lucid and intelligent as they did their work on him.

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be abducted.

 

Maybe I should specify that I mean by aliens. This planet’s not for me and from what I have seen of it from my vantage point in Price, Utah, the great beyond doesn’t seem all that great from Google Earth. I have a friend who was on his way to Salt Lake City but got to Provo and turned back, I think that tells you enough about our dumb bowl to launch a call out to the stratosphere, donthch’all think?

 

At school I knew I was done for something beyond this planet. I tried to get on with the other kids, but it was like they was speaking another language, I still remember a nerdy guy telling to not split infinitives, I never did find out what he was on about. All I know is that he now lives in a trailer-park and I make seven-fifty an hour after tax at Walmart. I’d say I split him good.

 

The noises came at night. When I was 12 it was hell in school. I couldn’t concentrate, and the others laughed at me. I recognise now telling them that when my alien friends finally made it to Earth they would zap them with the old ray gun was not pretty dumb even by my standards. It was only when the noises came to me, exclusively to me, well then, I knew that it would be worth my while to ride out the time on this lowly planet. They would see the real me.

 

Now I am back and can write this story. The first part I couldn’t do because before they took me, I could barely write me name. The second part I couldn’t do because they hadn’t taken me yet and I didn’t have a story. Oh jeez, I sure am come a long way since that hick went up in the spacecraft!

 

My psychologist (who has now offered to be my editor and publisher) told me to structure the story. I’m better now at words, what does she call it? Letterate? But I still have troubles. You gotta see that I was just some dumb kid that the system failed to look after, the Utah school board couldn’t see my potential, but the guys from the sky did.

 

They came for me on the day of my eighteenth birthday. Mom threw a party, but nobody came. Not even my sister came, jeez I hoped she would be first against the wall when the ray guns were primed. As I ate my cake alone in the kitchen (I am not allowed to eat in the living room, anyway that is where Mom and Pop’s friends were celebrating my birthday), the lights came. I had always hoped for something like that scene in Close Encounters, even the screws undoing out of the grate, but there was just a light, the living room door opened I could see the others, frozen, like a photo, then a hand came out and asked me “D’ya wanna go to space?”.

 

 

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