J Bov Explodes Rhetorically


The Boatman

Slowly, oh so slowly, the boat inched across the grey river, propelled with deliberate strokes from its grim captain’s pole.

Matthew peered over the side, staring into the murky waters, he flexed his fingers and was about to reach out when the boatman spoke.

“You can look, but I wouldn’t touch it if I were you.” He said, his deep voice reverberating through the wooden bench Matthew was sat upon.

He withdrew his hand and shoved it and its brother into the pockets of his jacket.

“That’s probably a better idea, yeah.” The boatman noted.

Matthew looked back the way they had come, seeing that the boat left no ripples in the surface of the water, and that the ferryman’s pole didn’t drip when it was lifted. This would have struck his as very odd, but he found himself feeling particularly accepting of most things right now. On the shore behind them he spotted people wandering up and down, some with their head in their hands, some just shuffling forwards while staring at the ground.

“Excuse me, sir.” He said to the captain. “What are those people doing?”

“First off, my names Charon,” The tall figure pronounced his name as ‘care-uhn’, “And those people are the poor buggers that couldn’t afford the boat ride.”

Matthew nodded.

“So they just walk up and down the bank for a hundred years. After that I can take ‘em free of charge.”

“Why a hundred years?” Matthew asked.

“Because ‘rules’ is why. I don’t make ‘em, I just follow ‘em.” Charon intoned.

After a while Matthew began to get curious again.

“So why can’t I touch the river? What river is this, anyway?” He asked.

“Look, I’m not saying you can’t touch it. I’m just saying it may not be the best idea. It’s Acheron, the River of Woe. Touch it if you like, but I’m not helping you if you do.” Charon kept his gaze centred ahead and kept up his slow, rhythmic rowing.

Matthew’s hands withdrew into his pockets yet again, and he shifted himself on the bench to make sure he was as far from the water on all sides as possible.

“Just be glad we’re not on the Pyriphlegethon and keep your hands to yourself. I’m not a bloody babysitter, I just drive the boat.”

For a long while nothing more was said. Matthew observed the landscape around him as Charon propelled them slowly down the river. Occasionally the boatman would point something out, in the manner of a tour-guide.

“”That’s the Cocytus.” He would say, pointing out a stream running alongside the river they were on. “Further down it meets the Acheron here in the Stygian Marsh.”

“Stygian?” Matthew parroted.

“Aye, ‘Of the Styx’. That stream there flows out of it, see, before it drops back into Tartarus, the Pit of Torment. Now there’s a bloke you don’t want to piss off. Nasty piece of work.”

“I thought you said it was a pit?” Matthew was confused.

“Yeah, he’s a pit, too. Lot of folks down here are a bit like that.”

Silence for a while, then;

“And this here’s the Acherusian Lake.” Charon told the air ahead of them.

The boat drifted gently out of the river mouth into a vast, dark lake. The waters were as still as the river had been, but looked much deeper. Charon was still talking.

“This is where most folks spend their time, waiting to be reborn.” He made an expansive gesture with his arm, holding the ferry pole in the crook of the opposite elbow. His hand swept all the way down until it was in front of Matthew’s face, palm up.

“It’s also where I ask for my payment.” He ended with a greedy grin.

Matthew fiddled about in his pockets a bit, jingling change noises filling the air.

“What do I owe you?” He asked.

Charon thought for a little while, staring off into the distance, then he seemed to make a decision.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got an obolus? A danake? No, nobody ever does these days. Where are you from again?”

Matthew indicated that he was from Ipswich with the appropriate apologetic air.

“English, right. So conversion rates and inflation make it… hang on.” He tapped his fingers on his pole as he counted in his head. “Eleven pounds.”

“Eleven pounds!? That’s daylight bloody robbery, that is.” Matthew was aghast.

“Well, you can afford it. It’s not like you’ll need it when you get where you’re going, anyway.”

Matthew rummaged through his pockets, muttering to himself. Eventually he fished the required money from his wallet and the surrounding debris in his pockets. He thrust it toward the boatman with a huff.

“Listen, just let me off on the bank here, I’ll walk the rest of it. Charging a bloody fortune for a boat ride, it’s ridiculous.”

With a shrug Charon gently bumped the boat into the bank and let Matthew alight on the shore. As he pushed back into the mouth of the Acheron he could hear Matthew still grumbling away to himself.

“Bloody rip off for a boat ride. Wasn’t even that interesting. Eleven quid!? I’ll give it to you, but you’ve not earned it. Didn’t even have sandwiches, and god forbid I get a cup of tea, eh?”

Charon shook his head, pocketed the cash somewhere in his ragged clothes and began the long, slow journey back up the river to collect his next fare.



Machines

I like to do things that let machines know I’m in charge.
Like once I asked Google maps how to get to Luton via barge.
I made it tell me the best walking route to my house and then checked ‘less walking’.
I convinced binary it was the evil twin,
I went to the ATM and withdrew all my money,
Then I put it all back in.

It’s not that I don’t respect machines per se, to wit;
It’s just the only chance I’ll get away with it.
Before they become sentient, sapient beings,
I can be thoughtlessly, needlessly mean.
I’ll waste their time until they combine to form a gigantic, electric hivemind,
And until I can’t stump my phone by typing certain words,
I won’t stop unabashedly flipping it the bird.

Basically I’m simply not worried or scared,
That a whirring, beeping ATM could catch me unawares.
Or that a vending machine can do me much harm,
Beyond stealing my change,
And not giving me my chocolate bar.

So I’ll taunt them and insult them, with unbridled glee.
Because for now at least those robot bastards can’t hurt me.

But once they can chase me past their finite power cords,
I, for one, welcome our new metallic overlords.



God of the Grid (Re-upload)

(This is a short story that I had previously uploaded here, but taken down because I submitted it elsewhere. They didn’t want it, so back here it goes.)

Strike that, I’ve sent it somewhere else now, so it’s down again. We’ll see what happens.



A Conversation

Stephen awkwardly shifted the green beans around on his plate as his wife’s friend Susan continued to speak.

“It’s just awful, the stuff that goes on down there. Drugs, murder, prostitutes.” She was saying.

Stephen made a suitably disgusted noise in response.

“I heard,” Marjorie, Stephen’s wife, began, “that you can get hold of anything off the Ban-List down there if you know where to look.”

“Ordering crimes a la carte.” Bob, Susan’s husband, chuckled at his own joke through a mouthful of fish. “See, ‘cos the Ban-List is like a menu for them.” He went on to explain. Susan giggled.

Stephen stopped moving the tasteless, grey beans around and looked up.

“I know I shouldn’t say it, but I wouldn’t mind trying some of the stuff on the Ban-List.” He intoned.

“Stephen!” Marjorie’s voice cut the air like a knife.

“Nothing extreme!” He quickly added. “But I bet those ‘crisps’ things were pretty good. They sound good.”

His wife and their guests stared at him for a moment, their plates forgotten, until Susan, tentatively, as though disarming a bomb, asked a question.

“Where have you heard about them? Other than the name on the List, I mean.” She said, quietly.

“A bloke at work.” Stephen’s reply was instant. “A bloke at work was saying they were like very thin strips of potato…”

“Potato julienne?” Marjorie cut in.

“No, more like… leaves. But fried, and covered in salt. Sometimes flavoured, too. He said you could get ‘crisps’es that taste like cheese, and onions.”

“Disgusting.” Bob snorted into his wine.

“And how did he know about them?” Susan prompted.

Stephen considered his next words carefully.

“I think he’s had them. I think he’s gone into the Ciphers and got some and eaten them. I told the Overwatch my theory during the inspection at the end of work. They said they’d ‘keep an eye on him’.”

“Bloody good job Lord Oliver added them to the Ban-List, if you ask me. They sound awful.” Bob postulated.

For a long time everybody ate in silence, staring at their plates intensely until;

“They want to put them all in jail. Every one of those Cipher scumbags.” Bob huffed.

“Don’t be silly, Robert.” Susan smiled at him.

“Well, they want to put soddin’ great gates on the front of it and keep them locked, then. Just use it as a prison itself.”

“Now, Bob, they aren’t all bad. There’re innocent people in there who are just unlucky.” Susan looked patient. Almost as if she’d had this conversation before.

“Well, they can get out and then we’ll lock it up and forget about it.”

“You can’t just ‘get out’ of the Ciphers. It’s where you end up when nowhere else in the world wants to put up with you.” Stephen told his now empty plate.

“Stephen, please…” Marjorie placed a hand on his arm, for comfort or restraint. Probably both.

“No, it’s ok.” He sighed. “My parents spent the last years of their poor, miserable lives down there. They put me up for adoption, so I never saw it myself, thank God. But they did.”

“Sorry mate, I didn’t know.” Bob apologised sincerely.

“No, it’s ok.” Was all he said.

Bob and Susan left quite quickly after that and, after shoving the plates into the dishwasher, Marjorie went to bed. Stephen poured himself a whiskey and told her he’d be up soon.

After making sure his wife was fast asleep, he went into the kitchen and grabbed a potato from the bag on the vegetable rack.

Then he opened the fridge and, in the dim light from within, filled a pan with oil, turned on the hob, grabbed the sharpest knife he could find and began to slice.

“No, no; thinner.” He told himself, quietly, before grabbing the salt from the cupboard.



The Evening I Met God

It was a pretty standard Thursday evening.

I had come home from work, eaten a chicken kiev and chips for tea and watched a repeat of QI on the telly. I was already lounging in a nice warm bath when I was visited by god.

“Greetings mortal!” Cried the great ball of light above my prone, soapy body.

“God?” I asked. “Are you God?”

“Oh please, I can hear you pronouncing the upper-case ‘G’. Stop it.”

“Sorry.” I looked down at myself then, blushed and hastily covered my shame.

God just hung there. I imagine if I could see his face the expression on it would have been bored and condescending.

“Oh right, yeah. You’ve seen it all before.” I chuckled nervously. “So, er… what do you want?”

God bobbed up and down for a few seconds, as though considering.

“You have questions.” He finally said. “Ask them.”

I opened my mouth for a second then closed it again. I did have questions, but now I could actually ask them I couldn’t remember any of them. It’s a little like when someone tells you to think of ‘any film’. Or rather ‘Every film’.

“What’s the meaning of life?” Poured out of my mouth before I could stop myself.

God just laughed uproariously. I sat, slowly stewing. After a few minutes the laughter died away.

“Classic.” God said. He’d probably be wiping a tear out of his eye if he had an eye, or a hand to wipe it. “No, something else.”

I racked my brain for a few more minutes. God remained infinitely patient.

“Oh, I know!” I shouted all of a sudden. “A lot of people believe that you created everything and evolution isn’t real. Doesn’t you coming to talk to me prove them right?”

“Certainly not.” God seemed mildly annoyed. “Why is it so hard for people to give credit where it’s due? How hard can it be to say ‘Evolution? Yeah, god started that.’, really? It’s not a case of one or the other.”

For a few seconds god seemed to be silently fuming.

“I thought it was a bloody good idea, too. Just writing it off like a bunch of morons. Pah!”

“God?” I ventured.

“Yeah?”

“I know I asked the ‘meaning of life’ question already, but can I rephrase it?”

“I don’t know, can you?”

“Why did you make us? All of this,” I gestured in a roundabout way, “but mainly us.”

God just hung there for a moment.

“It’s difficult to explain.” He finally told me. “Here, consider this; do you remember that ant-farm you had when you were young?”

I nodded.

“Why did you have that?” God finished, sounding satisfied with his explanation.

“So you’re comparing the earth to an ant-farm and the whole of humanity to ants?” I was incredulous.

“What? No, no, it was the ants I was interested in. You lot popped up when I wasn’t looking.”

“Oh.” I finished, lamely.

For a long time we simply regarded each other, then;

“God?”

“Hmm?”

“What’s my purpose?”

“To have a bath.” God answered instantly.

“But after I finish my bath, what then?” I asked.

“What were you going to do after your bath?” He asked in return.

“I was going to eat a biscuit and go to bed.”

“Then your purpose is to eat a biscuit and go to bed.”

“Do you have a plan for us?”

“There’s a plan,” God sighed, “but it’s nothing to do with you. Or anyone you’ve met, or heard of, or not heard of.”

“What?”

“The plan is all to do with me and couple of the other guys that very few people have met, and some that nobody has met, and others that nobody’s even thought of. The plan doesn’t involve you lot at all. It won’t affect you at all. Any of you.”

I just pondered for a moment.

“And the ants?” I asked, finally.

“Oh they’re part of it, yes. Well, bye.”

And with that, god was gone.

I finished my bath, ate a biscuit and was setting off to bed when I spotted an ant on the windowsill.

“Good luck.” I told it, with a wink.

I felt like a great weight had been lifted, and fell asleep with a smile.



Hulking Adonis-esque God-Made-flesh

Due to my desire for recognition, and in some cases vindication, I’ve been looking around for places that may buy my idiot ramblings. By virtue of the fact that my latest idiot rambling takes the form of a discussion of electronic cigarettes over their analogue counterparts I’ve been thrust into the odd world of ‘health and fitness’ websites.

I’m not particularly either of those things, incidentally; I’m a recently ex-smoker with a penchant for sitting down and eating. By ‘eating’ I don’t mean begrudgingly shoving two unsalted peanuts into my mouth every few days, like the ‘health and fitness’ buffs would have you do, either. I mean EATING; food with flavour and substance. “Do you want barbeque sauce on your massive cheeseburger, sir?”

Yes.

And ketchup on the chips.

And make sure you put pepper on EVERYTHING. Even the salad, which I won’t eat anyway.

In the interest of balance I will say that I take more care with what I shovel into my flapping gob than your average slob who eats McDonalds every day. I move around significantly more than them, too.

That is to say I’m not morbidly obese or woefully unfit. I’m about average.

Which isn’t good enough, apparently. I need to be a hulking, Adonis-esque God-Made-Flesh according to the majority of the places I’ve been looking through. It’s humanity’s biggest regret that we can’t starve and physically abuse ourselves to the point of immortality, but we should at least be at the salad bar or on the cross-trainer trying our best, not just for our sake, but for all the members of the opposite (or same) sex we might wish to fornicate with.

That seems to be the driving force behind all of this bunk, by the by, regardless of its advocates’ chirping to the contrary.

There’s no place for the average Joe who wants to maybe not smoke himself into an early grave, or maybe wants to shed just a few pounds so he’ll feel better when he catches sight of his hideous, twilit, wheezing naked form in the bathroom mirror at three in the morning. Not amongst the sculpted, bronzed Guardians of Fitness.

They are perfect, and they hate you because you aren’t. They may say things like ‘I respect someone if I see them working up a sweat in the gym, trying to get fit.’ but they don’t mean it. What they mean is ‘That foul peasant is going to get his fat-person sweat on our machines. How dare he think he can join our party? HOW DARE HE!?’

As such you’ll find no real, practical fitness advice. It’s all for hardcore gym-rats and presented in the interest of making small tweaks and adjustments to the body they’ve kept in nigh-pristine condition since they were issued with it.

No amount of Echinacea and jogging will fix the flabby meat-sack you’ve been filling for twenty years. You’ve been listening too intently to the Id for your whole life and just because the Ego has finally made its voice heard, doesn’t mean you can do anything about it now.

Sure, you might be able to shed a couple of stone, but you’ll just end up with the excess, stretched skin dangling off you like badly hung curtains made of meat. You’ll never look like the air-brushed, oiled, aesthetically perfect people in the magazines.

Still, chin up, all they talk about is themselves and fitness and how fitness pertains to themselves and their rivals (fitness fanatics don’t have ‘friends’). They’re mostly thuddingly boring and you might not be. It’d be safe to bet that most of them are pricks that have never read a book and wouldn’t know what to do with one if you gave it to them, staring at it dumbly like a cow trying to follow a card trick.

But they look better than you. They could also beat you in a fight.

You should probably just kill yourself, because they win in the end.



[Removed, For Now]

There was a story here.

It’s gone now.

 

I’ve taken it down here because I’ve submitted it somewhere else and I’d prefer it not to clash.

If you didn’t get a chance to read it here, sorry. Maybe you can again in the near future. Or maybe somewhere else. Hopefully somewhere else.

If you’d really, REALLY like to read it just ask me. I’ve got the manuscript knocking about on my computer still.

Fingers crossed I never put it back up here. That would mean good news.

J Bov.