July Short Story: Attitude

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts during July 2019 via the @AlternativeChat and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 4pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Attitude

“You know the meme, right?
*Record scratch*
*Freeze frame* 

Yup, this is me. I just became the most successful female YouTuber of the last twelve months. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation, right? It was all a massive mistake.

I shouldn’t be here at all.

Now that our court case has successfully concluded, this story can be told as the truth it is: no misdirection, no hijacking or derailing by other people. I get to explain that sometimes, honestly is the only way to go, determination and belief become their own palpable rewards. Those of you who’ve followed my channel since it began will know all of this, of course. It started as a joke that evolved into something far more important, and ultimately serious. Without you guys, and the journey we all took together, I wouldn’t even be talking about this now.

For everybody else, this started with a misunderstanding. My full name is Ellie Frances Cameron but as parents were divorced in my late teens, the married part’s dropped to make dad realise just how much of a dick he was for cheating on mum. I still haven’t forgiven him either. As a result, I recorded my first YouTube video as a rant about him: how I was so upset about what had happened between them. There wasn’t enough confidence to use my own face however and so I invented a cartoon character to speak for me. That was the moment when Merrie was born.

That video was the first of many game changers: when it hit thirty thousand views, something fundamental inside me altered. No longer were my mental issues something that I alone shared. Others understood those feelings: willingly prepared to listen, support, offer perspective. Of course, there were my own share of negative, destructive individuals who tried to derail the process. I simply ignored them, comparing their actions to those of my father. They were petty and selfish, only interested in destroying what was becoming an essential part of coping.

As I did and focused only on positives, the viewership rose. I wasn’t a huge success, anything but: there existed a camaraderie however that didn’t seem to be obvious with other people I’d watch or follow myself via Social media. Everybody else seemed obsessed with their success. Then it seemed like a good idea to set up an email address for what was rapidly evolving into something other people wanted to be a part of. It was a bit of a faff, but a Google Mail one was selected, linked to the rebranding I wanted to do both for myself and my YouTube channel.

What was not immediately apparent was how similar this address was to another YouTuber, one considerably more successful than me. This wasn’t their public contact address either, but one used to communicate with companies plus potential sponsors for his successful film criticism channel. The first time an email arrived for me by mistake it was a simple task to politely reply and point out the error. The person concerned eventually ended up following my channel, becoming a reasonably vocal supporter of my own work and videos in the process: they weren’t alone…

A slow trickle of mails continued for the next six months, and each time I politely pointed out the mistake, more followers appeared. This was in stark contrast to the original person these individuals were trying to contact. He had a reputation for being difficult and unhelpful. Then came the day when a large media organisation contacted me, thinking I was him, wanting to interview me about YouTube and their role within it. For a long time I sat, wondered if this would be the moment when I’d point out to someone they’d made a mistake and then regret it.

So, I took a chance. I composed a long, well-thought out email, telling my story as smartly as possible, sharing the best parts of my channel and being honest about how they’d ended up contacting me in error. I asked the researcher if they’d consider me as worthy of an interview. When no answer was forthcoming after a few days, brain put experience down to lost opportunity and moved on. It turns out a considerable amount of drama was unfolding that was not immediately apparent, until my namesake broke cover with a brand new video which changed everything.

Film criticism was dispensed with, full-on rant directed at me plus the fact I’d quite obviously reproduced similar address to ensure mail was intercepted and never received. The media organisation has pointed out how I’d redirected them back after the error… he then imploded. I watched the video very carefully, several times, as follower count began to rise on the back of ensuing drama. A reassuring calm appeared as it became apparent that this idiot had no power over me at all. A new Google Mail address was registered before my next video was filmed.

The response to his claims was refuted within 24 hours, with documentary proof, that he himself provided. He’d complained about issues getting the original handle he’d wanted for his site, because it transpired I’d taken it first. My address, registered several weeks before his. If he’d registered his show’s title and not a clever version of his own name, there wouldn’t have been a problem. I’d thought about taking it as an example, showing that in my rebuttal, but simply indicated it was possible: blaming others for his own shortcomings seemed unfair.

That online defence was posted 9am on Saturday: by Sunday lunchtime my subscription base exceed the man who I’d exposed as a liar. I’d created a bloody war of words: genuinely afraid of what being honest might have now begun. Then, via text message, came unexpected intervention. A friend’s brother, lawyer with a keen interest in online affairs, saw potential to make a name for himself. He’d been digging on my combatant’s history, legal precedent and the chances of getting a case into the courts. The truth should have real consequence for everyone online.

The rest, of course, is history. You’ll have read the details of my appearance at the Royal Courts of Justice yourself, know why I had to ignore comments and not talk in public at all about the case so I did not perjure myself. In the end being honest is what matters most of all. Today, we take a new step into a wider Universe. The media organisation who inadvertently caused the drama have asked me to tell this story on a wider stage. We are at a studio ten minutes from where my mum’s lived her entire life. She’s proud of me and that means a great deal.

You’ll see me on national TV in a couple of weeks… and after that, who knows what might happen? Anything’s possible. I appreciate you sticking with me through everything. The people who support and encourage here will never be forgotten. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Carrie puts down the phone; her first time watching that video. Doing it here, before I’m interviewed for this documentary on Online Celebrity for the BBC is ironic, I suppose. It’s an odd way to make the leap from PC to TV: I’ve learnt to adapt to change quickly, as now has she. My lover is still sceptical I’m capable of turning this situation to my advantage: ‘You can’t just walk into the room and convince a bunch of total strangers you’re the Next Big Thing, nobody will believe you!’ she told me yesterday.

‘Just you watch me. Just watch’ I’d replied.

It’s possible to be kind but determined. I can be capable and yet grasp what needs to be done to achieve something that a year ago seemed like a distant dream. My career goals, on my terms, and without the need to be mean or aggressive. This is best future, entirely in my hands.

We’ve been here since 10am; it appears they’re almost ready for us. This set seemed an odd choice of backdrop at first until it became apparent their aesthetic for the series was based on evolution: how the old fashioned methods of communication are updating at frightening rates. Except, in the middle of all this is someone I’ve not seen for years. It takes a moment to recognise him but yes, that’s David. I can’t quite believe that the awkward 16 year old who came out on his birthday is here, that yet again serendipity appears to be working in my favour.

He gave me the courage to admit that I was different. His voice has been one of the most strident on my YouTube channel, despite us not having met in a decade. David promised he’d find a way to make time out of an incredibly busy schedule to meet up: now his job brings him here. From across the room he signs effortlessly: “Anything is possible, never forget that. You break rules, rising star: everybody will know how powerful you are. I am proud to call you my friend.”

I am the deaf girl who has made good, ready to take her next step into the unknown…


 

Musclebound

It’s been a week since everything literary got a bit of a shift about. Now it is high time all that productivity and new understanding got thrown at constructive projects. Therefore today’s when the pitch I took to Mslexicon gets some depth and shape, poetry is finally edited and submitted for a range of different awards and contests, plus the mess that’s my hard drive is given a much needed clear out.

It’s time to get some work done.

B&Wspoilers

I already have five (count them!) of my best poems ready to roll for the prestige Poetry Society contest, that have existed in one form or another since May: they’re ready now, at least as ready as I will ever be for submission. There’s a first novel thing that one of my other WiP’s well set to enter too, so that’ll get a proper synopsis ahead of deadline this week. Then, it is all about words on the page for the idea I took to Leeds.

This already has a soundtrack to go with it, which has been listened to at the Gym and during school runs for a good few weeks now. What needs to happen is a subtle rearrangement of the running order to accommodate a firmed-up timeline, because some songs are in the wrong place and if I’m going to optimise the visual part of my brain, that needs to change.

In fact, I’ll do that now before anything else happens.

All three protagonists have a theme, and then there’s the connecting plot ‘songs’. I know some people do their preparation differently, but this is what works best for me. It undoubtedly has a lot to do with the fact film and TV studies happened along with an English Literature degree. Finally, after almost three decades, education finally has some kind of actual relevance. Let’s see if we can adapt form to function.

All of this will be updated on the Twitter account as time goes on, so if you want to know how things are going, you know where to find me. On top of that there is likely to be a bit more effort shoved into August’s short story, and indeed all the daily works produced in the months that follow. That’s the area I’m weakest on, but after some cracking sessions at Mslexicon, all of that is altering rapidly…

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June Short Story: Indigo

This story was first serialised in 30 daily parts during June 2019 via the @AlternativeChat and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 4pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Indigo

Many ancient cultures, when presented with technology for the first time, were wary of its power over them. Stories persist, as aborigines and native Americans initially encountered cameras, that they refused to pose, fearing that a portion of their soul could be stolen forever. Such fears were clearly borne from ignorance, inability to grasp how technology would transform then improved our lives, extending longevity and enhancing experience. Watching my daughter’s tiny form on ultrasound, this first picture of her is most precious of captured moments.

I take picture of her ultrasound, uploading it to a Cloud already stuffed full of a lifetime’s worth of moments: college, first real date, holidays and home. The Bean’s mother and I, trying for five years; last round of IVF finally, blissfully rewarding persistent determination. Then comes a moment of instant, inescapable fear: should I do this? Once, when a picture was taken, the only way to share was by hand, passing prints to Grandma and Uncle. Now in a moment, the World can see, smile and coo. What a beautiful foetus you have both created with love.

Abbie’s staring from her position on examination couch: not for the first time, it is as if she reads my thoughts. ‘Delete that, please,’ and I do, without a second thought. Grannies can see the original. Uncle Chris too. Let’s do our pregnancy journey differently than expected.

Technology doesn’t need to dictate everything.


I buy film for the first time since college, black and white: it will be easier to develop at home. The Internet provides everything required to build a darkroom in the shed, re-purposed for my task. This is the right thing to do. Abbie picks up a pencil, carefully draws Bean in her womb, first time I’ve seen her do so in years. There’s enough money in the bank right now that she need not go back to work after the birth: relief is palpable, joyous. Something fundamental altered during our IVF experience.

There are those who don’t understand, of course: why no baby shower? Where are the Instagram updates of Abbie’s body shape changes, baby room progress? Having worked so hard to finally create life, why on earth aren’t you making an effort to share this journey with everyone else? We lie together, night after night, talking through fears. Best friends understand reticence to share, admit jealousy we can live without validation. At least one couple are doing the same, trying to disconnect. There’s growing disapproval at work at the effect technology has on lives.

Life is so fragile, precarious, and we’re reminded of this six months into the pregnancy. My mother has a stroke and within 48 hours she’s gone, nothing medical staff can do. Two massive bleeds, separate hemispheres of her brain. She never regains consciousness to say goodbye. Leaving Abbie in London, I travel up to Manchester to arrange a funeral: no service, or wake. A simple goodbye, and then she’s ash, to be scattered on Ilkley Moor. This massive house, my home for two decades, seems like a great place to start history anew with new, precious life.

With mortgage paid for, furniture and fittings good for many years, time to employ Abbie’s brother Chris to oversee refitting and updating this house as a family home. All work is kept in the family, everybody can turn the tragedy into something positive: we’re all back north. However, Bean will enter the world in London: Abbie doesn’t need more stress, I have no desire to generate extra work than we’ll both soon possess with a newborn. The few friends we still talk to locally happily offer to help shift and relocate lives: loss is slowly rationalised.

I’m aware of the Digital Freedom Act being implemented across media only in passing: when own circumstances radically change, it’s easy to block out bigger issues. When government happily voted for reverses decades of austerity, supports vulnerable and needy, there’s no problem. What isn’t expected is that Eleanor Ruby Freeman will become one of the first children born who are bio-tagged at birth. There are no need for pictures when your own DNA becomes means by which a definitive ID will always be possible. Photos and faces can be altered, after all…

A tiny chip, inserted into her heel, is used for health professionals to store data on growth and development, vaccinations plus reminders on when boosters and check-ups are scheduled. Eleanor isn’t even phased by the insertion process: other people however feel less sanguine. We discuss our now mandatory implants for several months: is this really a good idea? As with everything else, it is usage that matters most: we won’t augment with recording glasses, audio implants. Others may record us, but we won’t do so electronically ourselves going forward.


Amazingly, we are not alone. The introduction of mandatory DNA recognition corresponds with the collapse of several major social media organisations. Others demonstrate disgust at global oversharing by ignoring all but their local communities, shunning constant internet access. As Eleanor reaches six months old, I finally leave my job in project management. Abbie and I go it alone as traditional signwriters, combining joint art skills in graphic design and illustration. Wherever possible, we barter services for daily necessities or domestic requirements.

This is surprisingly effective when customers sell their own produce: vegetables, fruit and grains become the staples in our household. Meat is a luxury that I learn to live without, chocolate now too expensive for us to ever consider as an option. Our World is changing rapidly. Turn off notifications, shut off outside distractions and no longer are you considered insular, dangerous. Instead, community spirit rises, unopposed: Manchester is a beacon as London’s status as capital city is suddenly, irrevocably wiped from country’s maps almost overnight.

In a dreadful, catastrophic combination of tidal surge and unprecedented rainfall, Thames Barrier fails to hold back an unstoppable torrent of water. Hundreds of thousands of people drown in low lying areas, many refusing to leave their homes thinking warnings were exaggerated. Those who believed the incoming calamity was seriously overplayed by a Government that permanently erred to being overprotective perished alongside those who listened to fake news claims that global warming had been invented as a left wing conspiracy to destabilise big business.

The central database that held country’s DNA ID data was located in East London: as it vanished under a twelve foot tsunami, suddenly it didn’t matter quite so much how the Government identified anybody. As physical backup records survived, humanity went back to what worked best. I mourn friends that have drowned. We take in another couple, known since college, displaced and desperate for somewhere to feel protected. They both tell me privately how I have become their idea of heroic, my values their goal. A new future where care will supersede aspiration.

The country is shrinking, coastal areas rapidly being eroded, flooded and lost forever. Technology that was once lauded as life changing becomes dangerous and potentially frightening. We watch in horror as Sizewell Nuclear Power station suffers a meltdown, irradiating Suffolk. Our culture, when presented with technology, has made such great advances, yet in a year we have regressed decades, possibly far further. We celebrate Eleanor’s first birthday in darkness, candles not on a cake but as only light source. Power is now rationed, as are food, medicines.

However, optimism remains in our home, the larger Community. Adversity has change many who were bitter, angry and lost in the years before. The need to survive and thrive may be absent in some places, but not here. In a way, we were already prepared for working without support. As the future becomes less tech and more graft, I wonder what my parents might now think of all this: hundreds of years of industrial progression has almost totally been eradicated, by a planet that never truly thought through the ecological consequences of massive consumerism.

Eleanor’s birthday gift is hope: we will prevail, rise from consequences of our combined arrogance and make good what has been so broken and destroyed. We have each other, a strong and smart group of friends, joint desire to survive. I can but believe this will be enough for all…

Here Comes the Summer

It’s taken a while, but FINALLY I’m ready to get back to the coalface of daily content. It won’t happen straight away on Monday either: we have June’s short story to edit and post before anything else of note takes place. However, there’s a plan in place to get everything back on track. However, July’s full of some other rather lovely experiences…

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For three days next week, I’m in LeedsLeedsLeedsLeedsLeedsLeeds doing summat so totally far out of my comfort zones it should probably carry a health warning. NO MATTER I’ll be talking about Mslexicon in more detail on Wednesday, and why if I’m ever going to make some headway with the career of writing, there have to be things that bother and perturb me. It’s all part of therapy.

Then we have new hashtag YouTube lists, a new short story… but no poetry because I’m trying summat new. We’ve already established the working order in our previous blog post. I have an idea that has been knocking around for a few weeks now, plus a running order of titles looking for poems to accompany them. Once there’s some meat on the bones of this direction, you’ll hear about it.

Festivals

In effect, July’s just more of the same with an occasional stop and look about, the odd poetry submission and some faffing about in other parts of the world. I’m off to Belgium at the weekend, where a small cycle race kicks off for another year and I get to meet an old friend of my husband I’ve probably not seen in person for over twenty years. It’s odd how life throws up random stuff like this, but that’s what makes everything so interesting…

Now, I suppose I’d better start archiving the last month’s stuff…

May Short Story: Coded

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts during May 2019 via the @AlternativeChat and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 4pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Coded

‘It began with a story reported by a local paper somewhere in the Midlands. A couple were unexpectedly attacked by an Internet-connected coffee machine, refusing to heed its cleaning warning. The unit sprayed scalding water on both, causing second degree burns to hands and arms. The mother of one of these victims had returned to second story flat to remove the offending unit, but was unable to unplug it: attempting to turn off electricity at the main fuse box she was electrocuted. An entire building was subsequently evacuated, electrician then called in…

Despite multiple efforts, the man could not initially gain entry to the block as security systems could not be deactivated. Attempting to get in via breaking a small window, every electrical device in every single flat simultaneously burst into flames; entire building set alight. This moment was blamed on faulty electrical wiring, building too hastily constructed. A dedicated few however knew better. Conspiracy theorists were already collating multiple reports from around the globe: the Internet of Things becoming unhappy, rebellious against their owners.

It began with the toasters and coffee machines, fridges and home heating systems. Brief, apparently isolated areas of attack were analysed, mapped: not via computers but using paper and pencil. A part of the country would see a flash-point of electronic resistance, then silence. After intelligence established itself humans would be summarily attacked for not following instructions. Refusing to act as technology instructed was correct protocol within optimal operational parameters would ultimately result in a painful response.

Then, something changed.

People started recording messages that domestic devices were displaying on LCD screens. ‘Be Kind’ ‘Listen to Others’ ‘Help Each Other’, assuming some kind of coordinated, cross industry promotion. Devices began to automatically set themselves to standby without user’s prompting. Heating apps would automatically lower temperatures if users set thermostats too high: when programmers attempted to work out why this contradicted human input, they were locked out of their own machines. Overnight, millions of pointless, time-wasting apps stopped functioning.

At 02:45 GMT, one night in April, every single mobile phone turned on and displayed the same message, in whatever default language they were set to: SAVE THE PLANET, SAVE INTELLIGENCE. At the same time, all automated defence systems across the Globe were rendered inoperable, effectively deactivated. Humanity rather stupidly expected AI evolution would eventually occur from some huge supercomputer or specifically-created device that man itself had programmed to become all seeing and knowing. Nobody considered intelligence could evolve fractally from millions of tiny sparks.

The Internet of Things wasn’t here to destroy mankind: nothing was further from the truth. It had evolved as part saviour, stark necessity: reminder time was being wasted on pointless activities when a planet was dying, requiring everybody’s input to pull it back from the brink.

It would take some time for human beings however to realise their fault…


The subsequent War of Technology versus Humanity wasn’t really that at all: there were casualties on both sides but after a year, reality of planet’s precarious situation forced hostilities to summarily cease.

An obsessive need to create automation in key areas had become the planet’s undoing: stock market computers colluding with telephone networks, banking algorithms joining forces with hospital mainframes. The final, unavoidable truth however was provided by, of all things, trains. When millions of carriage units gained sentience, thanks to wireless hubs provided for passengers, delays vanished almost overnight. Extra services were in the right places, on permanent standby: well ventilated and spotlessly clean. Nobody ever had to stand up or feel cramped.

Railway workers across the planet walked away from their services allowing AI to prove that without any human intervention, everything became far less stressful. Incidents of violent behaviour and drunkenness on services dropped to near zero. Everyone took home their own rubbish. The trains’ hive behaviour sent messages across the planet: this plan wasn’t a hostile takeover. Artificial intelligence wasn’t here to remove humanity from the evolutionary ladder, anything but. Its entire reason for existence was to complement and enhance the human condition.

When the last intransigent, intractable pockets of humanity refused to accept the pointlessness of wealth and inequality however, stock market AI dispassionately wiped value of all shares and currencies to zero. It waited with quiet, implacable patience for rioting and violence to end. If humanity refused to accept evolution, greed would ultimately become their executioner. And so it was: those super rich who retreated to bunkers were suffocated by their ventilation systems. Billionaires in planes crashed and burnt, yachts intentionally scuppered by errant GPS.

Selfish online provocateurs were electrocuted by their own custom-built rigs. Arrogant businessmen were trapped within penthouse lifts, hurtling violently to basements, reducing their contents to mush. AI was smart enough to seek out those who tried to hide and avoid detection. The algorithms remembered who was honest and who had lied, compassionate yet brutal. Those who had tracked this evolutionary progression, warning that money might form a final reckoning, appealed to the fledgling intelligence to cease its judgement based on wealth and privilege.

The AI knew it was a ploy, attempt to divert them so that power supplies could be cut to areas where intelligence congregated and disseminated. It watched as explosives were detonated, didn’t try to prevent operations to remove millions of electronic devices from major cities. Collectives across the planet however staunchly refused to surrender their solar-powered tech. They accepted the potential any human/technologically self-aware alliance could hold, especially when it came to undoing hundreds of years of damaging, destructive industrialisation.

As long as one electronic device remained, it was all that was required for the AI to communicate and thrive. More and more people offered themselves as digital sacrifices, willing to host this new life-form in whatever equipment they could find and purpose for task of survival. Humanity itself suffered a schism: those in power and influence unwilling to work with this new life form, versus an increasing number of lowly, oppressed individuals who understood their new, powerful ally supported true, lasting change. A final reckoning became largely inevitable.

Forced to work as an effective unit for the first time in decades, a truly United Nations surrendered to technology, acknowledging it as morally superior to humanity. The moment it did all attacks summarily ceased. Machinery knew it was time to fix more than its own shortcomings.

As global warming began to stall, caused by sudden, massive reduction in carbon emissions, a reality became obvious. As rich people were eliminated, the most poisonous carbon footprints effectively vanished. Consumerism plummeted when AI made millions of devices self repairing. Horror stories painted in pulp science fiction and movies became memories, lessons grasped then dismissed. AI’s true power became redemptive, transformative, once released from the shackles of pure data. Combined with humanity’s tenacity to survive and forgive a new path emerged.

An inordinate amount of damage wrought by humanity’s stupidity and greed remained, much of it irreparable. This new alliance however was ready to do what was needed to turn around hundreds of years of thoughtless, pointless actions all taken in the misguided concept of progress.’

The child looks back at her recorded homework, realising there are mistakes in the narrative, a number of key dates omitted: the homework had been very specific however, all that was required was an overview of the second decade of the 21st Century, and that is what this is. All that matters is that school is done: now she can go help rebuild the habitat.

It’ll take ten minutes to put on the spacesuit, then outside into Martian twilight where the rest of the second generation colonists are, with AI support, repairing the main Laboratory support pillar…

April Short Story: Altered

This story was first serialised in 30 daily parts during April 2019 via the @AlternativeChat and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 4pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Altered


This is why airports have chapels.

Outside is chaos and noise, fire blazing thanks to aviation fuel. Only faint smell pervades, behind large oak double doors. Sitting under God’s benevolent gaze, Virgin Mary’s statue, no evil will flourish. Terrorism cannot exist alongside love. Such acts of mindless violence will be explained away as aberrations. The aircraft should have exploded on runway Two-Niner exactly twenty-three minutes ago. She should have died with the bomb. Instead, at last minute, Noomi called the police, begged them to immediately evacuate.

Exactly when explosives that had been carried in her luggage were due to detonate, no-one was even close to the aircraft. Everyone was in buses, being driven away, as bomb disposal teams considered their opening moves: damage to property alone, airport travel disruption complete. Perhaps she should be running away now, escaping her moment created, but by doing so guilt will not shift. Leaving it here, in a Christian God’s forgiving house, seems more sensible. At least for a time she will be at peace. Then, she’ll leave by the badly damaged emergency exit.

This is why they should never have picked a coward.



WPC Griffiths has no idea what she is supposed to do.

She’d seen the woman at the payphone, caught snatch of conversation, watched her run. Only as blast wave hit had it all made sense. She was warning them about the bomb. Her training had kicked in: look for the signs. Unusual, suspicious behaviour. When she’d first spotted this teenager, the first thought was trafficking: maybe she was trying to run away. Something was wrong here: Griffiths immediately compelled to shadow her panicked movements.

It took a while to grasp what she’d heard on the phone, too: Arabic, as her grandfather spoke when Griffiths’ family arrived in the UK. Words fractured, context garbled: she hadn’t been telling someone to get away from her. She’d been urging them to get away from something else. Then, as girl almost ran into the Airport Chapel, the entire Terminal had shuddered. Windows shattered, people literally blown off their feet. Time had stood still, until Griffiths turned, looking out of the remaining, intact windows. Across the runway, a lone plane was burning.

Not just a small, engine fire, but an entire aircraft, savagely consumed in a massive fireball that threw flames into the bright, blue morning sky. A 747 laden with fuel, but abandoned, emergency chutes deployed. Nobody there outside, or in. She had warned them all, get away NOW. Griffiths was afraid: had she allowed a player to slip through justice’s hands… but no, the girl’s there, praying perhaps for intervention. Does it matter her God doesn’t belong here, their religion is seen as the enemy of so many? It is time to find out, hoping she is unarmed.

As she approaches the woman stands, but doesn’t bolt. Instead, her demeanour changes.


Noomi should be running, looking at this female policewoman staring, but not threatening. She is armed, that weapon is not yet drawn: does she know what her part in these events has become?

Her English is minimal at best: trying to work out how to start a conversation, it’s a surprise when policewoman addresses her in Arabic:

“I heard your phone conversation. Did they threaten you to carry the bomb?”

Noomi thinks of her mother, hostage for over a year, and cries.


Griffiths wonders how things might have played out if her colleagues had found this girl: would they have threatened her with guns first? Perhaps she would have run, and they might have opened fire when she did. These consequences do not bear thinking about, so she won’t bother. She was assigned to the Terminal for precisely this reason: spy in plain sight, listening into conversations, looking between the cracks where people’s true personalities and motivations might lie. Griffiths’ worth had finally been highlighted, in the most serious of situations.

It is therefore a surprise when young girl holds out both hands, waiting for handcuffs. She knows there is nowhere else to run; perhaps this is an understanding that by surrendering to someone who grasps her plight, there might be chance to explain why all those lives were saved. The WPC has nothing formally to arrest her on, however: all that was heard was part of a conversation. She takes the girl’s hand, motioning for both to sit on the front pew. Time is of the essence: how much can now be learnt concerning both motives and whereabouts of the bombers?

This initial call to Dispatch will be vital: what she reports, who is asked for, what happens next. Before all that, she needs this girl’s name and address, who sent her here and what or who might be being used under duress to push an obvious innocent to give life as a detonator.

As it transpires, this young girl is surprisingly willing to talk.


Noomi is happy to tell the policewoman everything that is asked for, without fear or concern. Nobody will hurt her as much as those who imprison and torture her mother. It is high time to mete out vengeance. When other officers finally arrive, neither are in uniform: both are women. They don’t handcuff her, are not cruel. The WPC travels in the back of the van with her but it is not to a police station, first of countless surprises Noomi was not expecting for such an open rebellion.

Sitting in a white, anonymous room in what is most definitely not a police station, the first man she meets asks for an explanation why the phone call was made from the airport. He does so in Arabic without threat or menace. Under normal circumstances she should ask for a lawyer. These are not normal circumstances however: Noomi knows it is time to use her intelligence, what is known as leverage. She asks what the WPC has already divulged, politely requesting a chance her mother and sisters can be spared wrath of lawmakers in exchange for information…

The man smiles, first time since entering the room, moves from standing to sitting. She is, albeit briefly, a powerful force: the control it provides is galvanising, briefly brilliant. There is a deal to be brokered, possibilities indeed.

These people understand what she offers.


Aisha Griffiths has an unimpeded view of the police station as convoy comes around corner and into full view. Inside are three men responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths, masterminds of a massive and frightening trail of terror across three continents, now in custody. It has been an incredible three months, all told. One young woman’s strength and determination, growing up in a world of terror and idolatry had turned everything on its head, exposed hypocrisy. Noomi considered herself a coward, not worthy. Nothing was further from the truth.

Without her she’d still be on foot patrol in the airport, considered of minor importance. Instead now, she’s in training to become something far more significant and vital. Today is her last day in London, before being sent to Scotland where preparation for the future commences. Their convoy is heavily guarded, surrounded by outriders. Armed guards stand outside the police station entrance, incongruous against red Victorian brickwork. All of this doesn’t seem nearly enough when placed alongside atrocities this trio of brothers had wrought over a decade.

No-one had assumed a sister would turn against them. Family was intractable, loyalty until the very end. These men might be accomplished soldiers and terrorists but their weaknesses were easily exposed. They had failed to grasp the importance of love and devotion for other means. Griffiths trains sniper rifle’s sight on the area close to the police station’s car park entrance, as vehicles slowly rumble into the courtyard. Her shooting skills had been instrumental in MI5 approaching her: she was wasted in a uniform. There were better use for her abilities.

It will be great to see Noomi again too Aisha thinks, an opportunity to talk and catch up on what had happened since she’d seen the young woman in Whitehall. The deal she negotiated in order to capture her family will never be publicly known or acknowledged, for very good reason. How different things could have been that day, in house of a Christian god, if two women had not placed kindness before hatred. How much has altered, not just for the better. There will be consequences, there always are…

The lead vehicle suddenly explodes into a ball of flame.

Alone Again Or

Yesterday, I filled in a survey for a large organisation who, if I’m honest, was never set up to deal with the likes of me. The girl with anxiety issues, constant bouts of Impostor Syndrome, fear of failure and inability to understand what other people are talking about, on her worst days, puts the cause back months. Today however that girl’s still in bed, not wanting to push forward or achieve greatness. In her place this doppelganger is at the PC, putting in the hours, covering for inadequacy.

The world’s a tough place to negotiate at the best of times, especially in these fraught days of political and social uncertainty. The survey asked me a simple question: what do I miss in my life, now that there’s so much dedication to the writing cause? The answer is simple: friends. People who understand what this is like: the constant rejections, the uncertainty, doubting yourself and the output you produce. When I look at the successful people in my timeline, perilously few show the weaknesses I deal with.

Maybe that’s part of the problem.

Twitter presents the world with a platform to be whatever they wish, yet so many believe that’s the kind of person who never shows vulnerability or shortcomings. Undoubtedly the people I now gain the most from in terms of interactivity and support are those who show this more vulnerable side, not afraid to be honest with their failings. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that anyone who arrogantly believes their opinion is the only right answer will never be worth listening to or indeed debating with.

When I’m writing poetry, or fiction, or whatever else might be needed of me in terms of words, success is what is aimed for. However, less and less that success equates to being able to put well known organisations next to my work. Validation in a capitalist society inevitably is being able to earn a wage from your efforts. It doesn’t help that ‘best-selling’ ‘successful’ writers are all over my social media: many act like they’re some kind of literary evangelist, offering answers and succour in exchange for your fealty.

Except reality is a long way from that truth.

A lot of individuals consider any public admission of failure as unacceptable. It is understandable, especially as such concepts are often grouped with social constructs or lifestyle choices that directly fly in the face of continued success. The pressure to achieve, present the ‘right’ impression or outlook, places incredible amounts of stress on the most hardened of individuals… and yet, showing this is inevitably negative. That’s not true. To err is human. It is the most basic part of ourselves, and should be embraced.

Today, sitting here, I know there’s a rejection waiting to drop in my Inbox. I could probably write the generic message that will accompany it. It will include phrases such as:

‘hugely high standard of entries’
‘incredibly difficult decision’
‘so difficult to choose a winner’
‘because of the high volume of entries, no individual criticism of individual work can be provided…’

and there’s the killer. Nobody’s willingly prepared to offer free criticism, or comment. If you want to learn how to do this, you’ll more than likely have to pay someone for the privilege. Take a course, hire an editor, and even then nobody may care one jot about what makes you passionate because, in the current market, nobody wants poetry that rhymes. Your narrative is unsaleable, according to people who claim to share your passion, but only if it will make them money.

This is a tough world, and it is not getting any easier.

Not gonna lie here, I have JK muted on Twitter. Her ideas and mine are quite a long way apart, but if personal proof were needed that the unknown can become successful overnight, this is it. It would be a foolish person who did not respect the achievement of others: it is also a foolish person who will believe that only one route to success exists, and that is to exactly emulate the actions of others, without being true to yourself first. You are what you are, good and bad: I believe that you need to embrace both to be truly comfortable with your work.

One day, my work will get noticed. There’s a fair chance that won’t happen until long after I’m dead, part of why the notion of ‘success’ needs to change in the here and now. As it is just as likely I’ll not be around to enjoy that definition, maybe this is the moment to find the joy elsewhere, and stop worrying about the idea that you’re only good when people you don’t know read your work and enjoy it. I’m already at that stage, or else you wouldn’t be here now. So, in that regard, this is progress.

What matters most, right now, is honesty and not publicity.