The Perfect Plot

Love this story. One day, i too shall train my plants to be attack dogs!

Short Stories | Fish-eye Perspective

Author’s note: This story was inspired by a post by Petra Jacobs about the Mysterious Magical Death-Weed Seedson her site Inkbiotic, and the follow up discussions in her comments section.

It was the perfect plot. In the nursery itself, I could see it unfolding in my mind’s eye, as I bought the seeds of the exotic plant–an anniversary gift for my wife of 7 years–a gardening-enthusiast with a huge Greenhouse full of other exotic plants.

This one’s a quick-growing African vine with bright red-green leaves. It is no secret that all plants are sensitive to the moods and emotions of people around it. This plant took this sensitivity to another level. It used it as a defence mechanism against anyone who intended to hurt it–it strangles them.

Imagine my wife approaching this vine with a pair of clippers to chop off errant leaves…

I took great joy in visualising the…

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Trod in a bees’ nest!

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This is not as melodramatic as it may sound.

I was dead heading roses (does any gardener actually like roses? They’re shitty, fussy, spiky plants) and I stepped back and felt my foot slip into a slight hole. I walked back and looked down to see twenty or so bees come tumbling out of the hole. I was ready to run, ready for the stings, but nothing.

None of them stung me. Not a one!

They were a bit smaller than usual honey bees. At first I thought they might be hover flies, which mimic wasps, but have no sting, but they were too fluffy. My boss reckoned they might be leaf-cutter bees, which are awesome fellas.

In fact I have a theory that now many of the usual bee species are becoming extinct, leaf cutter bees (and other less common ones) are increasing in numbers to fill the space. Look out for small , neat semi-circular holes missing in leaves – that’s the leaf cutter bee.

OR alternatively, I am now Queen of the bees and none shall sting me. It is true I once stood in a swarm of killer bees (I think) and didn’t get stung. Unfortunately everything else is still attacking me and a colleague asked if I’d been bitten by a wolf because of the huge red and purple bruise that came up on my leg after getting stung by something that wasn’t a bee.

And these are the kind of rambling thoughts that gardeners have.

In other news: no sign of evil pea seedlings yet.

Have you been stung much this year?

Peas? Evil peas?

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It seems that the evil of peas has made it into a book. Good.

I planted some of my mysterious Chinese seeds today (post about them here) – the ones that have newspapers like the Express all in a flap (I wonder if Express journalists are as hysterical as their headlines, or if they just see every situation as potential clickbait).

express seeds

But it seems I’m too late, because I posted up that I’d sowed them on my work Whatsapp and it turns out my boss got some of the seeds too. And she sowed them ages ago! And they grew! And they’re peas! Peas!

Now I have an all encompassing hatred of peas, little green bastards. So I take back anything reasonable I said about China. This is an invasion! They are evil geniuses! They want to ruin all dinners with pea juice (because that is the evil of peas), so that we become hungry and grumpy and subduing us will be easy. I know I’m going to have trouble convincing others of this plot. Logically it may not make sense, but in my heart, I know the truth.

And I’m still going to grow the seeds.

Great review for Supernice!

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So the talented and delightful Shameful Narcissist wrote a review of my book Supernice  (to be found on the link to the right). With whatever she’s reviewing, she tends to be thoughtful and entertaining, and it just so happens she likes my writing. So Yay!

A funny and gripping story about a tyrannical alien invasion in a sleepy seaside town.

Chirpy YouTuber Nick and his cynical teenage daughter Natasha have their lives thrown into turmoil one afternoon when the walls start swallowing people. Over the next week, more and more are snatched away, until the announcement is made: Earth is under new management. Aliens have taken control and they’re not happy with how humans have been behaving.

The new leaders introduce a series of increasingly oppressive rules. Make a single mistake and you’ll be taken away – to be transformed into an upstanding member of the community.
An upstanding, smiling member of the community with a brain like mashed potato.

As their town, and the world, are thrown into chaos and the streets are filled with grinning automatons, Nick and Natasha each find their own way to deal with the horror. Nick becomes a YouTube celebrity, convincing the public to behave. Natasha joins a makeshift rebellion working out how to dodge the alien demands. Each wants the best for the other, but they end up on opposing sides in humanity’s most vital and bizarre battle.

Will they ever be united against the real enemy? Will the human race become the docile drones that the aliens want? Or is universal niceness an impossible and undesirable dream?

Supernice reveals the disparity between how the younger and older generations view and deal with an alien invasion, and the author showcases this early in Nick and Natasha, the father and daughter MCs whose perspectives the narrative bounces between.  This isn’t to say neither of their viewpoints change/evolve, but it is fascinating to witness how easily some people are taken in for the benefits, while others, while afforded and seemingly offered some of the same, understand the deeper implications sooner and reject them despite the cost.

This is one of those stories where the bad happening seems almost good, similar to the sentiment of “we’re the virus” in response to the current global pandemic.

People are forced to be nice, which sounds wonderful until you realize people are forced to be nice, and just like it is in our reality, it will be the children who save us, a frankly terrible burden to put on them, which we should all be embarrassed about.  However, if YA fiction has taught me anything it’s that the younger generation is more than up to the task.

Every single book I’ve read by this author is better than the last, which says a lot as Riddled With Senseswas excellent as was Peddling Doomsday.  Her take on current culture becomes more acerbic and accurate with each addition to her body of work, because what happens at the end is exactly what we’d see (and have seen) in the real world.  The mindset of frightened people who either don’t know know or who have forgotten how to critically think as well as mob mentality would inevitably lead to this conclusion.  There would also be profiteers, because nothing causes roaches to crawl out of the woodwork than a major disruption.

5 stars.

The blog itself The Shameful Narcissist

Mysterious Magical Death-Weed Seeds

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Mysterious seeds

CNN –

States are warning people about suspicious packages of seeds that appear to be from China

I was reading the above story – how lots of gardeners across the US (and also UK) are randomly being sent unlabeled seeds from China and this is causing panic. The recipients are warned DON’T SOW THEM, WHATEVER YOU DO! CALL THE POLICE! STEP AWAY FROM THE SEEDS!

I was thinking that sounded interesting. And then I thought, Wait a minute! I’ve got some of those. So I went to my fridge and pulled out the little baggy of seeds in the photo.

How did I get them? Well during the lockdown I bought a load of seeds online – Coleus, Thunbergia, a few Cosmos for work. Partly to have something to put in my garden, partly for something to do. I thought they’d all arrived, but then an unmarked box arrived with this bag inside. No note or receipt, no email telling me I was getting a parcel, and no indication of what the seeds were. I assumed it was some I’d forgotten, and put them in the fridge since it was too late to plant them for this year.

I’m fairly sure that they are the seeds in the article, since they have the exact same label as the ones in this article. So I think I’ve been sent seeds from China as part of some, what? Attempt at an invasion? Are they triffids? I showed them too a friend and he said, ‘They don’t look like seeds, more like electronic circuits.’ Fabulous.

There’s talk that they are part of a scam called ‘brushing’, which is a way of getting reviews by sending people things and then stealing their details. To be honest it doesn’t make much sense to me – if they’ve already got access to my Amazon account, then surely they can post a review without giving me stuff. And it must cost a fortune to give away so many free seeds. So I am still not sure.

Just to add, I’m joining in with this because I love the mystery, but I’m still wary of these China are Evil stories that are so popular. It’s true that China is something of a superpower now, which means other (failing) superpowers such as the UK and the US feel threatened, and that leads to our media spreading fear. On the other hand, what is reported as happening to the Uighurs in China is horrific, so I’m not sure their government is especially benevolent. But the shittiness of a government definitely doesn’t mean the people of that country are shitty (I really hope or I’m screwed too). And I know plenty of Chinese people who are lovely. So an addendum to this seed mystery is: is this an innocent mistake that UK/US press are distorting to spread ill-feeling about China? Or are these robot-controlled, demon-summoning, mind-controlling, triffid seeds?

I’m going to have to plant the seeds, aren’t I?

 

 

Abandoned London

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It occurred to me walking to work today, that London may never look this empty again once the virus is over, so I took a couple of photos. Although Dan reckons that London is changed forever now, the people won’t return.

‘So London will become a rotting husk? Just the occasional cyclist and confused tourist wandering about?’ I asked. He nodded.

Okey doke. We know the movies and the TV series, the plague comes and the busy city life never returns. We end up huddled around a camp fire roasting cockroaches on sticks and trying to open a tin of beans with a plastic spork. And yes, I am aware of how melodramatic I am, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

LONDON

But… but… how?

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Not a huge drama this one, but a mystery none-the-less. So Jessica took out a can of diet coke from her locker, then looked at it in confusion, then at us in confusion, then back at the can.

‘Ok, so mystery of the day,’ she said, ‘is how is this can empty?’ She put the unopened can on the table. I went and shook it, I could feel there was a dribble of coke left. There were no holes in the can. There was no sticky drink all over her locker, but the can was empty.

I feel like I’m leading you into one of those lateral thinking riddles, like how did the man hang himself with only the puddle of water or why didn’t the doctor use the elevator? But no, I genuinely have no clue.

My thoughts so far:

the can was always empty and Jessica somehow didn’t notice when she bought it

a thirsty poltergeist

a new side-effect of Covid (I mean, they’re all so weird anyway, why not this?)

Any ideas?

 

What can I summon?

Found this in one of the gardens. It looked like someone had made a bit of a camp in between some trees and this was left in the middle. I’m not sure what it is, but it moves in an out like a pump and makes a whistly sound sometimes. I thought it might be a bird caller, but much of the time it doesn’t make a bird call noise at all, more like a wheezy gasp. Could it be a wheezy-smoker caller? After all, smokers have become pretty unpopular these days. My colleague Jessica has to walk out of sight of her block of flats to have a cigarette or her neighbours complain. Which is ironic because apparently they’ve had a number of dawn drug raids, but they still consider her to be the troublemaker to be kept at a distance.

Anyway, maybe the wheezy-smoker caller is to round up all the smokers and take them to a safe place far from where anyone else might be breathing. Harsh, I know. I’m glad I have it now and the smokers are safe.

And then, I found this too:

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I’m less confused by what this is. I reckon it’s the kind of thing a serious hiker would have. It has a thermometre on one side and a compass on the other. I’m assuming a mountain guide owned it as they led a troop of thrill seekers through the treacherous mountains of London. I only hope our plucky guide still has their machete and crampons. It’s a bleak world out there, but presumably they’ve been trained in the art of finding their way by tube.

Do you think if  I stand in Trafalgar Square tomorrow and blow it I’ll get a group of tourists to guide? And what will come if I blow the whistle and use the wheezy smoker caller at the same time?

Writing questions for YOU

So I got nominated for a blogger award by the talented short story writer Gifted and Chilling – Thank you G and C! And I’m going to use this as an opportunity to ask you, dear reader, lots of questions. I’ll answer Gifted and Chillings questions below mine.

My questions are all writer based, but that can be for a blog as well as something bigger. So if anyone is inspired the following, then please write in the comments below or your own blog 🙂 :

  • Do your dreams ever give you inspiration for stories? If so can you describe one that has?
  • Do you feel comfortable writing characters of other races/ genders or with extreme experiences you’ve never had? What are your no go areas for characters?
  • Have you ever written anything that you wouldn’t write now? What was it and what’s changed?
  • Do you ever work on a style? Or do you simply write and a style happens?
  • How about a genre? Do you always stick to the same one? Is there a genre you’d like to work in, but don’t know how?
  • If you’ve written a novel, what was your method? did you plan it all out beforehand with flow charts and lists? Or did you have a vague idea of what would happen and just start writing?

And the questions for me

Gifted and Chilling writes stories, often heartbreaking and poetic, so go and check out her blog if you haven’t before. Here are her questions:

What inspired you to creating your blog and choosing your niche?

I just wanted somewhere to write. Writing was always important to me, but I did too much of it in isolation. I wanted to write stories that people read, to have it as a form of communication instead of just capturing images out of my head and trapping them on the page because I like it.

Which blogs inspire and entertain you?

This story from Getting On is just great, (and he has many other fine posts too)

I love the nature pictures from Fish-Eye Perspective

Samantha Henthorn just published a book here. But check out any chapter of Curmudgeon Avenue for a a very funny read.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt so far?

From the blog? That I can write many different stories at once. And that’s good, because if I get sick of one, I can move straight onto another.

How would you like your life to be different (or the same) in a year?

At the moment my biggest fear is losing all the good things in my life. So mostly, I want my life to stay the same. At least for a little bit longer. Oh and I want some kittens.

What piece of work are you proud of the most and which are you itching to finish?

I’m weird about pride. When I’m still writing something, it is the most important writing I’ve ever done. and then when it’s finished I cease to care. So the truth is, I’m not proud of anything I’ve written – not in a bad way, I simply don’t think about it. I’m itching to finish The Catford Catastrophe Project, which is set in a dystopian future filled with killer plants and mutant insects. The characters are sociopathic twins, a spy and a super hero with PTSD. It’s fun to write in a complicated and mind-twisty way.

Finding weaponry

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Not a wildly exciting day today, but I found this cannon in the office garden. Maybe someone is preparing for that Covid Apocalypse. I will keep a close eye out for tanks and fighter planes, and keep you posted,

In more important news, I had a dream last night that one of our gardens was filled with hundreds of tiny sloths (you could fit a few in your hand). They were definitely sloths and had little sloth faces, but they were also a bit slimy and could run about very fast, so they weren’t your average sloth. I told my boss about the dream and suggested we should work out where you can buy them and she reluctantly agreed. So hopefully I’ll be working with slimy sloths soon.

Now I’m watching Tiger King (a few months late as always) and wondering if you’d have the same fuss over sloths as pets. To be clear, I think keeping tigers OR sloths as pets is wrong, but I still imagine sloth breeders being a bit more chill. I guess it’s difficult to be macho over a sloth.