What’s going on here then?
Good question… I’m afraid I’ve never been altogether sure! Broadly speaking, I’m not one for standing still and change isn’t something that particularly bothers me – consequently I feel that my blog should reflect that and be capable of accommodating a degree of diversity and change.
This page is an attempt to capture that feeling. It’s very much experimental and isn’t terribly structured or formulaic I’m afraid – think of it as a sort of scrapbook. You will find it a little grubby and unwashed behind the ears at times.
What goes here? – Stuff that doesn’t fit so easily within the main bloggage… writing that’s unrelated to sl or, for that matter, rl – perhaps a touch of rampant fiction. Short stories, maybe even just random notes intended to provoke the imagination – often a little more edgy or darker than what you might be used to from the everyday sweet and innocent me.
The truth is, this is an unstructured and evolving space that will change on a whim, and if you like it, hate it or want to add your own critique, thoughts or observations, please feel free.
Only the most recent addition will feature on this page. To see previous works, please visit the Alt. life: Archive page.
17th May 2020
The Fear Factory
It is dark, and the yawning shadows close around you, confusing the senses and instilling a feeling of deep disquiet.
A steady, slow drip of water echoes in the cavernous space; the silence punctuated by unexpected creaks of indeterminate origin, and the occasional crash and rumble of distant, heavy machinery. There’s an almost imperceptible, yet pervasive bass hum that seems to permeate every fibre of your being, a muted dissonant, discordant tone, suffused with the unidentifiable clicks, rattles and cracks of a building easing its bulk into night-time somnolence.
It is deeply unnerving, claustrophobic and disturbing, you are disorientated: No clear sense of direction or awareness of your surroundings… You inch forward, hands outstretched, feeling your way in the darkness, every step uncertain and unsteady, and – despite the muted background clamour – you have a profound sense of silence, so loud, it buzzes.
A tuneless whistling breaks the stillness, then a metallic clatter as the night watchman’s keys are thrown onto the desktop. A fluorescent flicker shocks the darkness, stuttering into harsh luminescence – the watchman’s cabin a bright oasis in the all-pervading darkness. Thankful to escape the clutches of the dark and seek human company, you hurry towards the light, stumbling in your haste.
The watchman frowns at your approach, then a glimmer of recognition that all too soon turns to indifference. You are expected, but not necessarily welcome.
“Tea?” he grunts, nodding dismissively in the direction of a grimy kettle and some chipped and stained mugs. Gratefully you help yourself, and cradle the mug in both hands, finding solace and comfort in the feel of its warmth. There is only one stool: Like the watchman who now perches on it, it has seen better days, tufts of yellow foam rubber escaping from the gaffer-taped wounds in its shiny plastic cushion. In the absence of any other seating, you lean, self-consciously against the doorway, the metal edges uncomfortable against your shoulder blade, and sip your tea.
“You came back then?” – It’s more an observation, than a question. Without waiting for a response, he picks up his newspaper from the desk, shakes it open and loses interest in you, momentarily distracted by Emma – 26 – a checkout girl from Berkshire, who wants to be a model and work with animals.
Embarrassed by the lull in conversation, your eyes wander the small cabin. There are just two security monitors, glowing in pale, over-exposed greys on the desktop. It’s all he needs. The watchman is lord of his domain – sees all, hears all, knows all. Involuntarily you shudder… You can’t help but feel he knows you as well as you know yourself.
As if reading your thoughts, he mutters, “bugger all”, sighs and drops his paper.
“What’s that?” you say, startled. “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch…”
“Bugger all!” He repeats, with finality. “Nothing worth reading about. Same as always. Just doom and gloom. Look at this!”
He stabs a stubby finger at the front page headline. For a moment, you miss his point – instead, finding yourself at once fascinated and repelled by the grime beneath his stained fingernail. You want to be charitable: This is good honest dirt, the evidence of hard graft and toil. It’s salt of the earth muck; but who are you kidding? You find it repellent and gross, an unpleasantness you’d rather avoid – yet, like an accident at the side of the road, you’re fascinated, compelled to stare, even though everything in you is telling you to look away.
He coughs, and the fingernail’s hold on you is broken. You’re not sure what you’re supposed to say: The headline is unremarkable, and its significance is lost on you.
The watchman is staring intently at you. Again, that feeling he is reading your thoughts.
“Doom. And gloom”, he repeats. “It’s always bad news… A bombing here, a beheading there, people dying, poverty, wars, disease and madness. Horror stories. The evil of mankind laid bare before us in our tea breaks.”
He does have a point, you muse.
“And, as usual, some bugger’s nicked the cartoons and taken the sports pages. All I’ve got left is the sodding horror stories! Oh, but they leave me the bloody cryptic crossword, and those sodukos, or whatever they’re called!”
You make sympathetic noises, and bury your face in the mug of tea.
Thankfully, his attention is distracted by the monitors, which have begun to flicker, rapidly and chaotically. The watchman leans forward to inspect the screens. “Now, it begins”, he says with some satisfaction. He looks you in the eye and states philosophically, “the world sleeps, but the factory never rests.”
“They tried changing things, you know?”
Confused by the sudden change of topic, you try – and fail – to react intelligently. He doesn’t notice.
“Sent some berks around with stop-watches and clipboards. Wanted to computerise the place, make it ‘lean’ and ‘agile’ – idiots. They wanted to replace me – replace ME! – with a load of electric sensors and infra-red cameras; got all the kit in to do it too, until someone broke in and nicked the lot! Happened on my night off, which kinda proved my point! Never did catch the buggers who did it.”
He gazes at you steadily, almost daring you to ask the obvious question.
“You can’t computerise the factory. What goes on here is craftsmanship, it’s living, organic. It’s real. Look at them screens!” They were now stuttering wildly, a crazy pattern of interference and static. “That’s real. That’s how things really are…” He grabbed his newspaper, waving it in my face. “That’s the real, without the sugar-coating; the violence; the horror; the fear!”
He collapsed back onto his stool, face red and blotchy. Then, almost to himself, “It’s real, alright. It’s not numbers on a computer screen and little flashing lights.”
In the silence that follows, you can hear a clock ticking, then another muted clang, deep within the bowels of the factory breaks the watchman’s reverie.
“Tea break’s over. I’ll see you later.”
He gathers his torch and keys up, nods brusquely and shuffles off into the cloying darkness outside the cabin, his footsteps growing fainter and more distant.
You are alone.
Your gaze falls on the discarded paper; the front page headline intruding upon your thoughts: ‘Manufactured Fear!’ The monitors glow, flickering and blinking, in the throes of REM sleep…
As the nightmares begin.