Category: <span>flash fiction</span>

The Weaver Of Balliguish

In this district, there are few that can match the fame and eminence of the Weaver of Balliguish. Ask any member of the public and they will speak of him in hushed tones of adoration and respect.

Renowned for his remorseless work ethic, his creations once decorated every tavern and watering hole in the locality, yet there are none that could pick him out from a lineup, much less claim to know him.

The textiles he has produced are legendary, but sadly there are hardly any examples remaining in this quarter, the majority long since exported abroad or destroyed through the carelessness and general desuetude of the local folk here.

Credit: DeepAI

Despite this, the weaver’s reputation as an artist grows ever stronger, his designs the stuff of fable. Even the loom he works on is exalted, held up as an exemplar of craftsmanship.

Hand-built in Italy many aeons ago, the loom is said to be tremendously intricate, comprising countless components that are no longer available. Lovingly fashioned by a team of Florentine craftsmen, this vast apparatus was sanded, polished and varnished in a different era, when pride was commonplace.

The weaver keeps it positively glowing through the application, daily, of a special wax. This in itself is no mean feat considering the size of the loom, which is, in every direction, excessive.

It takes up the whole of the poor weaver’s house, leaving him scant room for bed or living quarters, and forcing him to sleep amongst a nest of threads and fibres. He is, of course, usually far too engrossed in his work to notice, but still it cannot be good for his health.

Credit: Dall-E

Many people underestimate the weaving trade, they do not understand the precision necessary to plait each subliminally different shade of thread, one to the other, and then to do this over and over again, joining hundreds, thousands, millions of threads together in an apparently random way, only to stand back and find, suddenly, the most sublime of patterns.

These people, these cynics, patronisingly tend to think of weavers as mere artisans, never artists. They say weaving is a livelihood fit only for the peasant folk and in some cases, no doubt, they might be right, but the carpets woven by this weaver are quite different.

They stand alone as almost perfect specimens of the craft and all who see them marvel at the vivid, lifelike colours. His early creations, it’s true, were rudimentary, and many of those from his middle period do not display the same attention to detail or level of craftsmanship as his finest work, but there is really no denying that, now, in this later phase of his career, he is without equal.

For it is now that he is in the midst of tackling his bravest work yet, his magnum opus, a weave unlike any attempted before, a colossal undertaking.

This new work sees him glued almost constantly to his loom, slaving away endlessly. With this latest design, he has pushed his practice in a radical new direction, seeking new forms, incorporating patterns within patterns in a fractal of near-invisible threads.

Credit: DeepAI

He has created whole areas that replicate his old designs such that the overall appearance is that of an organism growing ever outward. An organism that is now so vast that there is only one edge of it visible. The edge along which he works day and night, deftly ducking and diving. Adding a thread here or snipping one away.

To the outsider, it is impossible to tell the shape or purpose of this vast task. All one can do is place their trust in his vision. Believe in the great mystery.

But sadly, this important work may never be completed, for of late a malady has taken over the poor weaver and it seems the task he has set himself is far greater than his feeble body will allow.

He continues with his toil but, at times, a black look overtakes him and it appears his heart is no longer in his work. What is there to do? Could what was once such a joy to him have become a burden?

Day in, day out, he grinds on, for he can no more stop weaving than he can stop breathing in this world, and yet it brings him no comfort, for he knows that after he is gone all these heaps of half-finished fabric will amount to nothing more than unwanted threads, slowly unravelling.

An early morning walk

Again, I find myself walking down that particular stretch of pavement. It leads vaguely towards the centre of town. A place I haven’t been for many years. Not if I can help it in any case. Too many dangers. Too many triggers. Out here, the air is somewhat fresher. I tell myself that’s the reason. I check the clock on my mobile again but it is still far too early. A dog barks three times. Its owner no doubt still asleep. As are most people out here. Sleeping, dreaming. A man appears from a doorway.

Let me help you he says.

I back off, irritated, telling him I don’t need any help. He stops, respectfully. Smiling very slightly with the corners of his mouth.

I am just out for a walk, enjoying the morning air, I say.

He sniffs the air suspiciously, as if detecting a bad odour. I shuffle awkwardly, indicating the long pavement ahead with a nod. He just smiles his tired smile again, a slight frown furrowing his brow at the same time.

I don’t need any assistance, I repeat.

The man moves to one side. The pavement stretches out into the distance and I find myself sniffing at the bad smelling air. I long to be back in the city. It has been a long time. Too long really, when I think about it. All the circumstances in between. Piled up on top of each other like disused garden furniture in winter. And what is life other than a series of circumstances, one after the other, in any case? The dog again barks three times. His frown has gone now as he towers over me.

If we can’t help each other what then, the man says, what then.

Image credit: Ivars

Prototype 2 / Unsound Methods Anakana Schofield

So it seems I’ve not posted on here for a while and having made it halfway through 2020 and finally managed to log back in it seems a good time to share a couple of pieces of news.

Anthology 2

First up, I’m delighted to have a short piece featured in Prototype 2, the second issue of the annual anthology from Prototype Publishing.

Founded in East London in 2019, Protoype is a multi-disciplinary press that publishes poetry / prose / interdisciplinary projects run by Jess Chandler. It was established to continue and develop the work begun by art press Test Centre. Check out their catalogue here:

Unsound Methods Ep 32

We have reached episode 32 of Unsound Methods already and this month it was a pleasure to chat with Anakana Schofield. Anakana spoke to us remotely from Vancouver and we had a great discussion about working through Christmas, the agony of the cereal packet copy-writer, and the right to life amongst other things

We have some exciting partnership news from Unsound Methods coming soon so stay tuned for more.

It feels surreal to be halfway through 2020 already but fingers-crossed that Part II of the year is a little brighter.

Engineering New Language

[excerpt from London Literary Review]

…It can be argued that the entirety of human civilization has developed purely because of our ability to create those fictions which allow us to co-operate. The idea of an all powerful god, the ideas of nationhood and culture, the concepts of money and capitalism.

These fictions are powerful but ultimately limited. They can be ignored. Tuned out. We can all recognize the difference between our own first-person experience and what we are told by others.

While religion or capitalism may appear seductive they are both abstract concepts, both lack any direct sensory component. We may believe we are part of a nation or cultural group but we can’t smell a country or taste culture.

language fiction Credit: ilcartello

The more our language has developed — broadened in vocabulary, branched into different tongues, deepened in meaning — the more persuasive and powerful these fictions have become but still language has limits.

What happens then when our communication is linked more deeply into our brain? When it is on a par with our other senses? Plugged directly into our first-person experience? Maybe even more primary to our existence than our sense of sight or of taste?

Is it not likely that the forms of fiction we will develop in such circumstances will run deeper even still? If the immediacy of these intercortical communications is on a par with immediacy with our sense of touch or taste will we not believe them more — even if they are deceptions?

A bridge to new language

This is not to say that we will be hoodwinked or deceived in some way — at least no more than mankind was hoodwinked with the development of language.

Language has deepened our understanding of the natural world, doubtlessly, but it has also allowed us to create rich and deep fictions which in some cases allow people to manipulate whole populations. Is it not likely similar themes will play out with any new form of communication?

The rats in the Duke experiment already exhibited some signs of emergent behaviour. Since both rats got a reward each time the decoder chose correctly, the encoder rat started to try and aid its partner in the US by adjusting its movements to create a clearer signal.

Over the course of the experiment the Brazilian rat refined its movements making clearer, smoother presses on the lever. In this case, the system was set up to favour collaboration but what would the result be if only one rat could receive a reward each time? Would the Brazilian rat try to obfuscate its mental signal?

When it comes to human social interactions there are of course a far wider range of options than simply ‘left’ or ‘right’ lever. Some people will blurt out whatever is in their head while others show icy restraint, some people speak plainly while others always rely on irony, some people invariably tell the truth while others lie incessantly.

Would intracortical microstimulation make these variations less pronounced or more? Would an additional sensory input lead to fewer lies or more?

Before the first written language, human cooperation was limited but so too was organised religion or nationwide warfare. Certainly written language has done little to reduce the amount of fiction in the world.

It begs the question — what forms of language will this lead us to?…


Read the full article at London Literary Review

Modern Reading

(originally published in Hourglass Literary Magazine

Credit: David Evers

There is a group, let us call them the anti-fictionists, that proclaims the death of fiction. They call for an end to the make-believe, the fake, the imaginary. Who needs fiction, these anti-fictionists say, when there is the scientific method, progress, development.

We may be a society of readers but how much of that time is spent reading books? Certainly it seems the traditional novel is dead or dying. Is there really any need to read fiction?

It is true that we are reading more than ever, hour after hour spent staring at screens, reading, scrolling, scanning, reading, reading, reading… but the role of fiction in the modern world had never seemed more hopeless.

This group, the anti-fictionists, believe that if fiction is needed at all it should be a commodity. A product that can be pushed into the idle hours of our day, marketed as a consumable, valued according to economics.…continue reading on Medium.

The Slave Traders

It has been known for several years now that slave traders are operating in this area but despite the best attempts of the police captain and his men it has proven impossible to catch any of them.

Some people have blamed this on poor Captain Jacobs himself, suggesting he is corrupt, but this is unfair on the poor man as he is no more involved with the slave traders than the rest of us.

Wherever you go you will hear people talking of them. They are discussed everywhere in this town — from the bars to the library, the primary school to the prison cell — but still no one will come out and name names.

Nearly everyone, when the subject is brought up of an evening, will lay claim to some familiarity, yet when they are called upon as witnesses they crumble and talk incoherently leaving the jurors unimpressed. Some amongst us even pretend that the traders might have left the town or else claim that there have never been any slave traders here at all.

They point out, rightly enough, that……continue reading on Medium.

Credit: Young-Deok Seo
Credit: Young-Deok Seo

The Parcel

It is calm, there are no puzzles, the parcel arrives. 

It is not so big, perhaps the size of your head.

It is a box, a sturdy cardboard box. There is a stamp on it but the postmark is illegible. You pick it up. It is heavy. You shake it — it makes a hissing noise.

You open it; excited. There is a creature inside. Made of metal. Metal wires. An ornament, like a giant spider made of metal wires. It is not pretty.

You feel disappointment.

Who would send you this? It is not pretty. You put it on the side next to the glasses. You look at it again. It is certainly not pretty.

You move it over near the window. The TV is turned on. You watch it for a while. You watch the metal creature also but it does not move. You don’t have long before you have to leave. You wish you could just…continue reading on Medium.