Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas Special

At a quarter to eleven, Ebony Zerkel smiled beatifically as she folded the last of her ribbons, and traversed the length of her flat to the haberdashery drawer. As she walked, she took great pride in the home-made decorations which adorned the dining-room table. She neatly laid the scarlet ribbon in the drawer, then allowed herself a peek through the kitchen window at the snow outside. The sight of falling flakes upon the adjacent factory roof made her literally ‘eep!’ with joy.
She made her way to the bedroom and routinely checked her digital alarm clock. Already the display read 1 AM. How could this be? The thing must be broken. She pressed the necessary combination of buttons until the correct time synchronised with her wrist-watch, and lay back upon her bed. No sooner had sleep swallowed her than she was awoken with a chill, and a presence at the foot of her bed. With a start, she sat bolt-upright to survey this spectral apparition before her.
The figure was female, over six feet tall, and though not fully opaque, her body could be seen to be shapely. Long, shiny black hair swept down from her crown. Her face was distorted and sinister: Her lips were bloated like those of a carp, and her skin was stretched and pulled back as though tied in a knot behind her head. Draped over her breast was a necklace composed of a number of credit-cards and bank-notes. At the end of each long, slender arm was a collection of designer shopping bags, each one bulging and angular.
The apparition silently surveyed Ebony, and for some time, Ebony could only stare back, at a loss as to what she should say. Eventually, having ascertained that the ghost would not break the silence, Ebony cleared her throat, and meekly enquired ‘Who are you? What do you want?’
The voice that returned her questions was soft and low, and had a numinous quality to it: ‘Ebony Zerkel, I am the Ghost of Rampant Consumerism, and I am here to teach you the true impact of Christmas. Over the next two nights, you will receive two more visitors; the Ghost of Catholic Guilt, and the Ghost of Non-Biodegradable Landfill. You shall heed our warnings, Ebony Zerkel, and you shall mend your ways.’

Many years later, Ebony (now plump with middle-age) reclined on her sofa with her husband, who was already watching a Christmas Special on the television. Suddenly, the memory of her ghostly visitations returned to her. ‘How strange,’ she thought, ‘that such an event should have so little effect on me.’ As the third spirit left her that Christmas Eve, Ebony did indeed vow to mend her ways, but each successive year, a little more festive cheer returned, a few more mince pies on the table, a little more tinsel on the tree. Slowly, the effect of the visions had waned, as the cultural omnipresence of Christmas bombarded her cerebellum.
Dressed as Batman, Del Boy ran through the streets of Peckham, Rodney close behind.

Thanks everyone, and Merry Christmas. I'm going to take a short break over the holidays. I'll be back in the New Year with more nonsense.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Temporary respite is achieved through the knowledge of two scientists and a time-travelling bird.

In the midst of all this, right in the middle of all the foofaraw, after the phone call, but before the whole thing erupted, Maurice read in the New York Times about a pair of scientists named Nielsen and Ninomiya who had hypothesised that a bird may have travelled back through time from the future to disable the Large Hadron Collider, and they had proposed a thought experiment in which a card is drawn from a deck of one hundred million cards, and if that one card is a spade when all the other ninety-nine million nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine are hearts; if that one card is drawn then the Hadron Collider will be switched off forever, and they submitted this in all seriousness, and the news brought Maurice a real feeling of relief, and of lightness and buoyancy, and a quickness of step which lasted for the remainder of the morning.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Computer is slow

The computer is slow. Infuriatingly, stupidly slow. He watches as the computer tries to open a third application and counts the seconds: ‘One, two, three…’
At fifteen, the window opens at last. ‘Fifteen seconds!’ He thinks, ‘Fifteen seconds is ridiculous.’ He stands up, paces from his desk to the sink in the shared office, then back to his desk again.

As he resumes his position, he tries to look unapproachable, so that the customers will avoid his desk. He leans his head forward, furrows his brow, and picks up a pen as if in the middle of a difficult calculation.
His plan fails. Two well-dressed overweight middle-aged women loaded with shopping bags sit down at his desk. They smile disarmingly and patiently wait for his attention.

He glances back at his supervisor’s door, then corrects his posture and his countenance: ‘Yes ladies how may I help you?’
‘We’d like to book a cruise please.’
‘Certainly,’ (all the while, clicking with his mouse, to open the software) ‘is there anywhere…’ (he tries to keep engaging with them while inwardly fuming at this wickedly slow computer) ‘…special you have in mind?’ (Why won’t this evil machine work? Why won’t it open?)

He fantasises about jumping to his feet, snatching the computer monitor from the desk, raising it above his head, and launching it across the room, smashing it upon contact with the wall opposite, shards of glass and electrical sparks dropping and slicing into the meaty backs of the simpering bovine idiots before him.

The idea is greatly appealing, but what then? Having destroyed this machine, what then? He would have to walk, embarrassed, out of the shop, and down the street in just his shirt sleeves, with people watching, open-mouthed. Suddenly, he realises that he has been staring at the customers all this time, his fists balled up, and his right eye twitching.
‘Please bear with me. This computer is very slow.’