Commute Annoyances

My work days tend to start and end the same way. Get on the train, crack open my book, lose myself in it for the next fifteen – twenty-five minutes, depending on whether or not the train randomly stops outside a station for a while.

There are many others who do the same thing as me, and I really wonder, do we share the same annoyances? Because there are plenty of things I see people doing all the time that makes me cringe. But I’m British so I won’t say anything, or do anything, maybe just glare passively at them when they’re not looking…

Two of my biggest pet peeves on the train are people who put their bag on the seat next to them, and people who sit on the aisle seat, both even more infuriating when the train is busy.

But there is one thing above all others that really puzzles me.

There is such thing as train etiquette – you let people get off the train before you get on, you make sure there’s enough room for them to actually get off and move to the stairs/lift. And you patiently wait for your turn to get on.

What I really don’t understand are the people who almost push to get to the front, who slide in front of others patiently waiting their turn or barge on…so they can stand, near the door, and get off at the following stop. All of those things are annoying (and damn rude) anyway, even if they’re doing it to get a seat, but then they just stand in the way. Would it not make more sense, if they’re going to stand anyway, to just wait and get on last? Why do they still have to be first? And insist on getting in the way of everyone else?

What I’m really asking here is what is wrong with these people? Are their lives so devoid of anything good that getting on a train first counts as a victory for the day? Or are they just unable to actually see anyone else around them, and think it is their right to do whatever the damn they please? And yes, this does get me riled up. And I think within good reason. Like I said, I have seen some of these people barge others out of the way to get onto the train first. I’ve gone to step on a train only to have someone shove past me and in some cases…just stand there.

If you do this, stop. Please, just stop. You’re hated, by everyone, who just wants to get on a train, sit down and go home without any fuss. Okay?

Okay.

Rant over.

 

Road To Priesthood (Fiction)

I thought I’d try to post up short, flash fiction on here, hopefully regularly. One, writing it helps me play around with larger novels and stories I’m working on, and two, it’ll hopefully give anyone who reads this something a little entertaining to check out. If it, like this one, is part of a larger world then I’ll explain a bit about it at the end.

The road to being a priest was long and hard. He crouched on the floor before his master, nose touching the marble, and took a deep breath. Closed his eyes and steadied his breathing, focusing only on the calm that descended on him. It had taken him years to reach this point, years of hard work, memorising lines from holy books and learning the various names of the gods. Despite the fact that he would only be serving one, he had to know them all.

He looked up. His master nodded. Stepped back and asked him to recite the five key gods along with each of their roles. He did as he was asked, focusing only on the master himself and not daring to once look at the statues around them for them a guide.

His master smiled when he finished. Commanded him to stand. He straightened his back and stared at a point directly ahead. Still kept his body still as his master walked around him.

“The lands around you,” he said, voice low. “Name them.”

“Tarka and Sharn.”

“And their rulers?”

“King Fredrick and Queen Pine.”

“Excellent work, boy. Tell me, which gods do they worship?”

“The people of Tarka are likely to worship Nex and his pantheon. Those in Sharn tend to worship the wild gods.”

“And the desert?”

“Each tribe has their own gods.”

He paused, rubbed his chin. “The wife of Nex?”

“Lia.”

“Their children?”
“Darius, god of the sea. Lila, goddess of love. And the hero Rosh.”

“The leader of the wild gods.”

“Mayk.”

“And his companion.”

“Juliana.”

“The huntress.”

“Heycate.”

“Good. The wild god of the underworld.”

“Goddess,” he corrected. “Sep.”
“Excellent.” His master turned. Walked towards the door set in the back of the room. Letting out a deep breath, he followed, sweat tricking down the back of his neck at the thought of the next part of his trial.

Like his master, he was to become a priest of Karash, the brother of Nex and god of war. To offer council and perform rituals when required. Not that Tarka had been at war for decades, not since the peace had been established between the three kingdoms and the desert. No, his role was now a more decorative one, and he could not see war breaking out in his lifetime.

He was happy with this. As a child he had adored Karash, loved the stories of how the god had risen up and defeated his people’s enemies, loved the images of the strong man with the mighty sword and shield that would deflect anything.

Once he had begun his apprenticeship he had heard stories that went beyond the usual legends children grew up knowing. Stories of war and bloodshed, moments containing the complete and utter absence of hope as Karash descended on his enemies. He had vowed to serve the god, but he did not realise how much it would actually entail.

He walked through the open door and it swung shut behind him. This was the real test, where simple answers would not help him. This would be a test of how much he could handle of the sort of sacrifices that would be required of him. The efforts of reading omens in the organs of animals he had killed.

His master stood beside him. Together they walked further into the chamber, ready to complete his trial.

Like The Mountain’s Reach (which I spoke a little about here) this story is set in the bigger world of my fantasy novel. This one was just to get a better idea of the gods and their roles in the world, as well as looking briefly at how people actually become priests here. Hope you enjoyed it. It is unedited and brief, but feedback is always welcome.

Would You Kindly…

There are some lines – whether it’s in a book, TV show, film or, as in this case, a game – which just stick with you. Lines which when you quote to someone, they can recognize and acknowledge. As a side-note, this happens to my family a lot when we gather together, where we’ll slip into quoting Airplane!, Mel Brooks’ films and Monty Python back and forth.

One of the most recent examples of this, for me, as you might have guessed was ‘Would you kindly’ from the game Bioshock. For those who haven’t played it, the game starts with your character involved in a plane crash. You swim over to an odd, tiny island and go into a tower, where you are confronted with a huge statue of a man. Walk around a bit and you end up going down into an underwater city called Rapture. And please be aware, from this point on this post will contain spoilers.

So, while in Rapture, you hear – over your radio – a man called Atlas. And unable to help myself, I kind of fell in love with him. He’s trying to rescue his family, and he needs your help to do it. There are splicers (as a friend of mine described them, crack zombies) all around, ready to kill you, as well as the terrifyingly creepy Little Sisters, and the Big Daddys who protect them.

Making your way through Rapture, you learn a little bit more about this strange city. There are recorded diaries scattered around, and picking them up you hear the stories and thoughts of various characters, from a woman whose daughter has been taken from her, to the scientists who developed the most important aspects of Rapture.

These aspects all add up to create a world around you that just feels real. It’s like reading a fantasy novel where the author doesn’t stop and explain everything, but adds just slight touches to help you know what makes the world different from ours.

Towards the point where you’re going to confront the leader of Rapture, you come across a diary that records the moment when a scientist asks a small boy to kill his pet dog. The boy refuses, over and over, until the man says “Would you kindly strangle…” etc. On the diary you hear the boy crying and weeping as he does it, and that feeling lingers with you as you move into the office of the man you have spent the last god knows how many hours heading for.

Here, you discover something very important.

You are not in control of your own actions.

You are being controlled by someone else, almost like, well, like a character in a video game. All those little things you did for Atlas, all those times he asked you, very simply would you kindly…

Turns out, the phrase is a trigger. A trigger for mind control technology, installed when you were just a child. And this is where you discover Atlas isn’t Atlas and is in fact someone completely different and though it’s been a while since I finished the game God damn it that still hurts.

So why am I talking about this on a blog that is about writing?

Easy. Because the writing in this game is fantastic. Everything – from the smallest pieces of dialogue from the splicers, to the words you hear from the diary – adds up to make this a world you can completely plunge yourself into. And ‘would you kindly’ is so simple yet so effective, it results in you taking a step back just to absorb the whole thing. It’s slotted into Atlas’ natural dialogue. It feels real, not forced, and it’s such a simple phrase to have such devastating effects. The game goes on from this point, and it’s pretty much fueled by rage; rage at Atlas, rage at those who programmed your character to follow these orders, rage at the whole of Rapture and the fate of the Little Sisters, now in your hands. Not just for the character. The writing in this game makes you feel all of that yourself. You feel the betrayal, the anger and the happiness with the game’s ending (if, like me, you saved all the girls. I haven’t played through it again yet but I really do plan to).

And, at the end of the day, that is exactly what you want from a good piece of writing. Whether it’s film or TV or books, you need to be drawn in so completely you feel what the characters would be feeling. Yet it’s games like Bioshock that are leading the way on this sort of thing, doing it in a way that other media cannot even think of achieving. Whether you enjoy games or not, if you’re a writer or have any interest in it, I would strongly suggest you check it out for the writing along. And the crack zombies.