Remix: PIM PANDOER 2130

Finally we see new stories of the “Batman of the Netherlands”! Pim Pandoer!

Amphibious cars, smuggling, crime, inventions, inventiveness, gadgets, espionage. The Dutch Pim Pandoer already had it all in 1953.

Pim Pandoer 2130: exiting, smart, literary stories of adventure, engineering and science!

The shift from drug smuggling to politics in Pim Pandoer 2130 is a stroke of genius

Pim Pandoer 2130 is so much better than “Kapitein Rob, rebooted”

Another remix!

Who is Pim Pandoer?

Pim Pandoer!

From International Hero

As ex-smuggler, technician, nuclear physicist and electronics expert, he is just a very highly skilled hero, with many very finely honed skills. He had built by himself the Pegasus, a small submarine (mainly for use in rivers), which he lost in the second book. With the money he got as a reward in that book he built the Salamander, a red amphibious sportscar, which could be used as boat too. The Salamander was his usual means of transport in the series.

Pim Pandoer was originally, in the first book in the series, an opium smuggler, but that was because those times were more innocent. Pim Pandoer was on his way to becoming an evil villain, rather than just a smart guy making some money in a way not entirely legal, but a dramatic confrontation with his foster father in a sinking submarine saw his good side take over.

[…]

He is the best example of a dark hero, a hero with a traumatic past, a vulnerable one with a thirst for vengeance in the Dutch long underwear crowd; the “Dutch Batman” had arrived.

Pim Pandoer in Paris

Pim Pandoer 2130. The story (a beginning)

After the alien invasion, the Netherlands and the rest of Europe are in reconstruction mode. Countries in Europe have been broken up in self-governing provinces using Game Theory and Win/Win and Zero sum games as a starting point for economical and human welfare. An old super computer is restarted and slowly things come into order again.

Pim Pandoer emerges in the chaos. At first a villeinous villain bitter and at war with the world for the death of his her parents in the Alien Goelags, Pandoer slowly  starts to understand the world is not as black and white as he believed.

The story starts with Gert Geertje Welders, a short blonde all-Dutch misguided youth, growing up in the region of the Biesbos. Mentored by the devious Fred Balkenstein (a retired politician and statesman who milked his political position in many ways), driven with revenge and genius, Welders works his her way in local politics to re-purpose parts of the money flow towards their secret operations and destroy the Dutch society and the European Union by using the D.C.S.M. (Deep Cultural Sabotage Method) he  she and Balkenstein have developed in secret.

All to give power back to the few.

A fragment from the story:

“My computer has calculated the short term effects of your new campaign and the results look good,” Balkenstein said. “Our D.C.S.M. is working well. It was a stroke of genius to put the blame on the Germans and claim the French had said this to you in a private conversation ‘you could not keep secret anymore for the public interest’.”

Balkenstein laughed and drew smoke from his cigar. “A stroke of genius, Geertje.”

“Thank you,” the young Welders said and smiled a sinister smile. “You taught me well, Fred.”

As Gert Geertje becomes a loved public figure, using the still present hate for the Aliens and the role the French and the Swedish played into the fall of Europe, his her dark and sinister alter-ego — still under the influence of past Alien mind-control — is growing into the scourge of the Biesbos, stealing from the rich and giving it to the French.

Only at the end, where Welders almost switches completely to the “dark side”, the turning point comes: when one of his five foster parents — who took care of Welders as a child and survivor of the Goelag — begs him to see the broader picture as they are trapped in a burning Alien ship. To understand that the hate that is consuming Welders is only going to destroy himself herself and kill the people she loves.

At the end of the story we see Gert Geertje Welders stepping down from his her public position “to write a book”, but in reality to emerge as PIM PANDOER 2130, HERO OF THE BIESBOSCH.

Welders: A short bio

(Replace “him” for “her”)

Living in the Biesbosch area, Welders initially works in the Insurance of Bodily and Mental Health industry (IBMH). His interest in the subject leads him into politics as a speech-writer for the Netherlands’ Party for Liberty and Financial Independence for the People (LFIFP). He starts his political career as a parliamentary assistant to the party leader Fred Balkestein, specialising in foreign policy. He holds this job from 2120 to 2125. During this time Gert Welders travels extensively, visiting countries all across Europe, including Germany, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Balkestein is the first Dutch politician to address the consequences of mass extermination for Dutch society, including a sharp criticism of Alien extrogants. He sets an example for Welders not only in his ideas but also in his confrontational speaking style. Political analyst Antoine van Bunsink to Gelderen will describe Welders as a “sorcerer’s apprentice” to Balkestein.

In 2125 Welders is elected to the municipal council of Tiel, the fourth largest city of the Netherlands. He lives in Kanaleneiland, a suburb with cheap social housing and high apartment blocks, and which has a relatively high number of immigrants.

While a city councilor, Welders is mugged in his own neighbourhood; some speculate that this may catalyse his personal transformation. He is not rewarded for his time on the municipal council of Tiel, for in the following elections he will score well below the national average in the University city.

A year later, he is elected to the Netherlands’ national parliament, but his first four years in parliament draw little attention.However, his appointment in 2128 as a public spokesman for the LFIFP leads Welders to become more well known for his outspoken criticism of Alien extrogantism. Tensions immediately develop within the party, as Welders finds himself to be to the right of most members, and challenges the party line in his public statements.

He is expelled from the LFIFP parliamentary party, and in September 2128, Welders leaves the LFIFP, to form his own political party, The party of Welders (POW), later renamed the Party for Truth (PFT).

Source 1 and 2

Retelling/remixing: The fast and the furious

Future praise for “Fast and furious poetry”:

Fast and furious poetry and paper folding have never been taken to this level of exitement before

Each time I read the poetry recitals in “Fast and furious poetry” my blood starts pumping and I want to run out in the streets and do the same

The men are manly. The woman are feminine. Even though there is romance, Kaptein knows to keep the fast and furious poetry a central piece of the story

I can see sequels coming. Like: “Fast and furious poetry II” and: “Faster and more furious poetry”

This is SciFi taken to the maximum!!

Today I decided to write a story with more man-crying (to happen somewhere in Jan/Feb). Since I have a man-crush on Vincent Diesel, I decided to take “The fast and the furious” as the template for my rewrite. (See other posts on rewrites here)

A summary: Fast and furious poetry

The story will be called “Fast and furious poetry”

Usually I have the plan complete before writing a post like this, but I simply am too busy to sit down properly. So this will grow as I add things in the next days.

Here is the basic plan / remix:

  1. It follows closely the plot — Scene by scene will be reviewd for use and — if used — remixed. Some scenes will be dropped to keep the story below 10,000 words
  2. Car-chases become man-poems — each car-chase will be replaced by man-poems about flowers, reflecting the actual scene from the movie in poetical terms.
  3. Contests / races between men become recitals — Each time there is someting like a competiton, these will become man-recitals of man-poems. Note: this is not like rap-battles. This is poetry recited!
  4. Explosions become acts of paper folding — Each explosion will be replaced by a casual man-creation of paper folding
  5. Guns/weapons are man-crying — Each time a gun/weapon is used or shown, man-crying takes place instead. Of beauty, joy, sadness, anything
  6. SF — It will be a SF story in an SF setting
  7. Manly — While a lot of beauty and man-crying takes place, the main character will remain a manly man. With curly moustaches. All of them.
  8. Man-focus— I will do some gender/role bending to restore the balance a bit
  9. Dress-code — Double breasted for gentlemen and gentlewomen. Or dresses shaped like eggs that can inflate/deflate for practical reasons.

I will keep the car-driving and the sceneries, but they will never drive faster than 40 KM/h and the moment stuff becomes ridiculous, paper-folding man-awesomeness bursts out. It will be very emotional, manly and sweet.

Plot brief

Brian is an undercover cop. He is set on the case of “underground poets” whose poems start showing up everywhere. Being a poet himself he works his way into the world of illegal poetry of “the fast and the furious”. His assignment is to discover which underground poets have been also involved in the illegal act of paper folding.

(to be continued)

Backgrounds/reason/triggers

There is a lot of confusion about “what it means to be a man” including the belief that “No” means “maybe” and that you will lose your penis and your balls (the very definition of manhood) when you do “women’s jobs” like dish washing and cleaning fish.

After watching (a TV show on Spanish television) and reading several things and writing several stories without any (heterosexual) man at all I decided to write a man-centered story, about manly men doing manly stuff.

Snippets to use

(Courtesy to postings of @requireshate)

“But then one day she saw a secret underground demonstration of the now-banned art of samurai combat paper folding man-poetry, and everything changed”

“He recited his first poem, while folding a black rose. His hands were moving rapidly, showing incredible skill, folding, folding, folding. He raised his voice as he came to the climax, his words strung together. It was loud! It was bright. It was very explosion-y. Then he threw the rose and a deep silence dropped as it hit the floor.”

(See? Manly man poetry. I will probably add some “thrusting” as well.)

“I’m white,” he said, “but one thing I’ve made a major point in my life is to never see skin color. Adding people of color into things just for inclusion is just as bad. However, this is not about racism, this is about fucking with my fandom. Stay away from my elves folding”

All I saw was a white man standing up to white people around him. A new poem was born right there and then.

(Not sure if I can get/find a right angle on this.)

Writing: A time travel story that is not a time-travel story

This weekend I finished version 4 of the draft to my short story I will call “Scars” for now.

Main elements

It takes four main elements.

  • “Time to leave” — And more specifically: the first draft of a time-travel / time crime story by Jurgen.
  • “The Story of your life” — Where the main character, via a alien language “remembers” her whole life.
  • Concepts of time and parallel worlds I used in a 1995 story — Where time is “like a sea, moving and changing in all directions at the same time”
  • Dutchification — “Time to leave” was mainly situated in New York. Eventually and reluctantly I did the same for “Scars” but after feedback from Rochita Loenen Ruiz I changed that.

Dutchification

After the Dutchification, the “Time travel” agency is situated in Haarlem. It is hinted in the story that the technology itself is a Dutch invention as well, developed in the city of Delft.  The main character lives in an apartment in Sloten. His girlfriend in Amsterdam, close to the Sarphati park. He grew up in Petten and with the sea. The Dutch colonial history and the history in slave-trade is used when — mirroring Jurgens story — the main character goes back to the 1800’s on the traces of a killer to find a murdered girl. (This is still draft)

1825, The Hague, still referred to as Des Graven Haage, the lands of the Duke. We almost have you. We find the dead body of a young black servant, sixteen years of age, called Catharina. A servant. A slave. She belonged to a rich family. Riches from stocks in boats of the Dutch United East Indian Company. Riches from the colonies. Indonesia: Java, Bali. Coffee, spices. I count several stab wounds on her body, her throat slit, belly cut open, legs bound together by copper wire as a way to express the blockage of that one place that will someday originate you. The body is already a day dead. Disposed of in a morgue for the poor, not relevant enough for anything, waiting to be buried in a nameless grave. The smell of decay all around us.

The use of Dutch locations makes it harder for an international audience. It breaks the flow a bit as “Petten”, “Breukelen” or “Haarlem” are less well known as “New York”, “Harlem” or “Brooklyn”. And I deliberately had to add “The city of” and “the town of”.

What it does and did was to add more depth to the story as Dutch history has enough nasty things to build interesting stories around.

Time travel

The concept of “time travel” as used in many stories is a bit suspect to me. “You go back in time and change the present”. Like it time is one single line. Like you push a coin on a table full of coins and somewhere another coin will fall off as a consequence.

“If time-travel is possible” — my assumption was somewhere in that 1990’s — “then time itself is one single point where all time is available at the same moment. If you can ‘change events’ in the past than time itself is fluid.”

The short story was about four kids in a tiny bubble-universe with special powers. “Mutants” as they would have been called in the 1960’s.

One of those powers was to “stand outside of time” if it was only conceptual and perceive time itself.

Time as fluid and multidimensional

What better than to show you the beginning of the first chapter:

Once you move past the limitations of human perception you will find that time is fluid. Reality is fluid. You will find time and reality are an ever-present now. History, future, present. Are all there at the same moment, all there in the same place: now. And they change. Each next now is not what it was before. Things change. Things move and history as was a moment before has changed, branched. Time passes. And at the same time, still no time has passed at all.

Others, who are like me, have said: “time is like an ocean floating in space”. And in a way it is true. It is not just one single line. It is not a flat space. It has multiple dimensions. It moves in all directions and all directions are there at the same moment. Time is like the water in a wobbling, growing, endless expanding, multi-dimensional bubble in a space without gravity.

Time itself moves through time.

It makes more sense to me than anything else.

And linear time?

You see: linearity is like looking at time and reality through a tiny hole that you move in one direction. It represents nothing. Nothing of the real thing, but it keeps things simple for the human mind. It keeps you grounded in reality.

Here on the other dimensions of time, dealing with a past and present which are there at the same time.

They taught me to look at cause and effect in terms of: “forward”, “backward” and “sideways”. “Branching time”. “Branching moments”. It was all so simplified that it almost became bullshit. “Forward”. “Backward”. “Up”. “Down”. “Branches”. But you need to start somewhere. You need to anchor somehow. You need some language to convey the concepts. It is the best we have for now.

Cause and effect and “time moving through time”, learning and evolving as it goes

They taught me two other ways to look at “cause” and “effect”. That of evolution and as a process. A compulsive, excessive endlessly expanding process of trial and error. “What if?” What if – the big bang? What if – elementary particles? What if – clustering? What if – space, dark matter, stronger forces, weaker forces, gas nebula’s, attraction, suns, planets, complex molecules, life?  It was a nice way to look at it.

And freedom to choose/free will:

And God? Free will? It was all there if you wanted it to. Nothing was fixed. Anything was possible. And all of it probably had some sort of purpose, even though I had no fucking clue what it was exactly.

Time Travel and scars

“Time travel” becomes like moving through all these variations. As “time” is happening all at the same moment and at the same place, moving to the past and the future is no longer impossible. You simply visit a “possible variation” that might be your past and future, but actually is not.

When you change that “past” or that “future” what you actually are doing is changing that specific branch of time. When you do that drastically, you create the so-called “scars” in time. You break a logical line of developments by interference from the outside (another time line as it were).

The “soul”, pre-cog and “changing reality by the power of the mind”

At the time Jurgen was writing “Time to leave” I was working on a story that would give a more sensible view on concepts used in “The Secret” and comparable models of reality and the influence of your mind.

The idea was simple: “Imagine that any time you ‘change’ something by the power of your mind, you are not ‘changing’ anything but moving into another variation of your reality where that ‘dream’ is real.”

So: instead of you changing all this complex heavy shit that is reality, your “essence” simply moves to another parallel world.

I was not satisfied with just that. “But what happens with the essence of you in that world?” And I figured something vague like: “that one moves on as well”. Having this basis for a story: what if some parts of “you” — the bad seeds so to say — do not want to improve stuff, but wreak havoc instead? Move to other realities, pillage, plunder, break things and move on to even deeper regions of hell.

Seeing the future

Regarding to pre-cog, the ability to see the future: what if — when time happens all at the same moment — pre-cognition is simply information bleeding from one “self” to another? Especially when these moments are emotionally charged, creating a “hook” between You-“Present” and You-“future”. Allowing you to remember “future” events happening at that exact same moment in another place “up” or “down” in time.

Which is not your future.

Memories and experience of time

What if some memories are just pieces of information bleeding through “time”?

What if the “soul” or essence itself is able to freely move through “time”? (The concept I was working on moves even further, assuming we are all one and the same soul and that “soul” itself is moving through “time” and living all these lives anywhere and everywhere to experience all and everything that is possible. Bringing us back to once concept of: “God” and reality as a complex dream.)

What if our experience of time is not the “normal” but simply a limitation we put upon ourselves? To keep things sane?

What if anyone and everyone is capable of releasing this bond and move through his/her own time-line freely? Past, future, present, all part of the same thing. For “Scars” I decided to use the old concept/shortcut of “mutants” again. Mostly to keep the story within the 10.000 word limit.

As understanding […] grew, so did the understanding of some very specific mental diseases. That is how they found my mother. That is how they found me. And many others like us.

[…]

My mother was half-sane when I was born, sliding off more and more as her condition progressed. Dreaming, confusing the now with any other time and place. When you would address her, she might still confuse the “now” with the “10 years from now” where her soul had been just moments before.

I come back on this later in the story, where one of the many selves of the main character was not that lucky:

We drop out in 2095. I am still alive in this reality, but things have happened in the years shortly after my birth that have torn the country through three civil wars. I am alive, but live inside an asylum, like my mother.

I am still a woman here. Double bound, double trapped.

I look at myself from the rooftop, my coat hiding me from my sight. Hiding myself from all the eyes down there. Hiding me from my own eyes. My own eyes which look like those of someone who is drugged. I am hidden but not from me. I am hidden until that very moment where I suddenly lift my shaven head and look around, searching, talking something that looks, sounds like random words, where I return to the now, then point my eyes at me at the rooftop and squint and raise my hand in greetings, tears rolling down my cheeks in that moment of clarity, before rage and sadness take over. I feel her as she felt me, but it is distorted.

The “double bound, double trapped” refers to the asylum and the fact that this version was not able to do a sex-change: trapping a male spirit in a female body, trapped in an asylum.

Combining the stories and ideas

“The story of you” triggered me to re-visit my own concepts and combine it with that of: “Time to leave” by Jurgen. Put them in a blender and remix the two.

From my concepts:

  1. Time travel that is not time travel — Instead moving through possible realities in all directions of time and reality
  2. Branching time — Each event leading to many branches of time and reality
  3. Multiplicity — You do not exist once, but infinite times
  4. Feedback — Things you feel and experience can feed “back” in time, but also feed back from parallel branches of reality
  5. Proximity and zones — As time branches, there will be branches “further away” where certain events did and did not happen. If these events move far enough “back” in time, this can include the non-existence of you and a completely different line of developments leading to the “now”. Proximity is “closest” and “farther away” from your specific line. “Zones” are where things start to be clearly different
  6. You and other you’s — You can meet others of yourself in any moment of time. They are not “you”, but close enough.
  7. Multiplicity of actions and events — When time branches, your actions branch as well. When you perform a specific action, it is not just ‘you’ but ALL of ‘you’ in that and similar moments.

Time crime in this type of universe is incredibly messy. It is not just one perpetrator, but MANY. Millions. Infinite numbers.

Here is how I tackled that:

He was bleeding through worlds, through history. Each moment he was there, he would commit another murder. And not just one of him. Thousands of him. Branches and branches of branches. Increasing as time expanded and shivered and gave birth to even more possibilities. Millions in infinite variations of the now. Increasing our pain, increasing the number of scars on time itself.

From “Time to leave”, first draft

  1. The main character is a member of the time police — Called Mike Andrea. He is a hard-boiled type of character. Following his instincts.
  2. The previous murderer was his son — Being put into prison already.
  3. The murders are committed in time — The son of the main character travels through time and leaves several bodies behind
  4. The murders have a signature — Including the use of copper-wire.
  5. His wife gets murdered too — Somewhere halfway in the story
  6. Names and events change throughout the story — “Eva” becoming “Ava” and things like that.
  7. Several elements and scenes — As the original is around 40.000 words, I cut a lot. But key elements of “Time to leave” are referred to in “Scars” and then twisted to follow my direction.

I am trying not to give away too much beyond this and for that reason stop here.

Findings

  1. All male cast — The original story had an all-male cast and focused on the main character and his slow decline. While there are female characters, they hardly have a voice. Who are they? What do they want? As the story itself is from a single point of view (that if Mike Andrea) any and all other characters have that same lack. But.
  2. Hidden sexism/disbalance — But: Females are under-represented in many, if not all stories written by men before 1970. The role of females is secondary and usually mostly because (the writer realizes) “Oh blast! This world cannot only consist of men!” And so women are put in as an afterthought and in general depicted in very limited ways. Mostly ‘pretty’ (why else mention them in your story?) or somehow ‘ugly’ (and ‘old’) (to explain why the main character is not trying to jump her right there and then and has something like a conversation instead)  or ‘sensual/seductive’, giving some excuse for fan-service and an opportunity for male-boners for the male readers. Women in these stories hardly ever they play an active role. Or solve a key problem. Or play the true lead role: where the male is the secondary character, even IF it is told from his point of view. I found my remix/story reflected this kind of hidden sexism. All the women I mentioned were either dead and murdered or the girlfriend of my lead character: ending up dead and murdered. Even the murderer is a man. Where was the balance? Where are the women in this world?
  3. My first, unsatisfying male/testosterone ending — A male-dominant story without balance can end with a manly end like: “I look at VinsonLevvy and JonJon and when they finally finish their checks, we jump […]. To give you what you want. Oblivion.” Yeah! God they are tough! Jumping and hunting down other variants of the killer. To me this felt wrong. A more balanced story in my writings does not end with that. Especially when it is your own (life)partner being killed.
  4. Honesty — As I wrote the story, I realized that if you can foresee (parts of) the future, to engage with someone who will be murdered because you engaged with her has several consequences and implications. One is that you drag that person into potential doom. And what do you do with that? Lie? Say nothing? Let the love of your life be unaware of anything and everything? And what do you choose? To not engage at all? (Some of his versions do. They avoid the pain.) What if you choose love over pain and risk? Knowing that death is likely to come from that?

Adding Chapter 13

I needed to solve some open ends and I did by adding chapter 13. I liked the fact that the final chapter is #13. In European Pageant beliefs 13 (as far as I remember) is the number of the moon and the associated goddess. It is a feminine number. So many things came together nicely here. (I might rewrite some minor things later.)

Ending of chapter 12.

[…] I look at VinsonLevvy and JonJon and when they finally finish their checks, we jump: to follow yet another trail of your hard, frozen tears. To give you what you want. Oblivion.

#

(Note: as written, the original version of this story ended here, which is usually seen as a “satisfactory” ending when you focus on a male reader. We have a conclusion and a wrap-up. But what about the partner of our main character? He hurts like hell, but why? Where is she in all of this except in chapter 5 where they first meet? Why is she so awesome? So I wrote chapter 13. Wrapping it all nicely up in short flashbacks, to cater the emotional gap still there.)

13.

Silver: your crow wings spread as you stand on the rooftop, the wind playing with your short hair. Is that not what life is about? you say. “To risk things? To do things that might end up badly because you believe it makes sense?”

I switch off the eight-legged horse. “And what if that end is death?”

“What if?” you say. “So what?”

You put your hand on my shoulder.

“You can consider yourself cursed by a possible future or blessed to live the moments that matter until that point. Which does not mean I will say ‘yes’ to you. I will take you just for a test-ride tonight, try you a bit before I buy you. From there we will see how this turns out.”

You have this ferocious/sweet smile on your face as you said this, the animal inside of you already awoken.

I take your hand, kiss your knuckles and laugh, knowing what will come. “I accept your invitation.”

#

Silver: you look at me from the edge of the bed. It is four months later. Your eyes are wide for a moment when you look at me. You smile and you look relaxed.

“I think it is time to admit that we have reached a point of no return,” you say.

I nod, dressing.

You move your legs over the edge of the bed. “How big are the chances?”

I shrug, open myself, flash out, come back. “He has not reached this branch of reality yet. It might never happen.”

We are in France, the tiny cottage house that has been left by my grandparents, upgraded by my father. I am about to go out to buy breakfast.

You frown as your mind branches through all possible scenarios you can come up with. Then you shake your head and smile.

“I think I will take the risk, Roman. Let’s make this something more substantial.” You rise, towering over me, look down. “Be my man.”

“Gladly.”

You laugh. “Fucker.”

#

Silver: another moment. You are in my apartment. Glass panels moved to maximize the living room. The pin that keeps your long hair together is on the table. You have been growing it for two years now. You are brushing the auburn strands in front of one of the panels that reflects your image, then you put everything down, remembering something.

When you come back from the toilet you are smiling.

“I am pregnant.”

You see my face and your eyes becomes dark.

I am crying and smiling, stand, embrace you.

“You will stop him,” you say several minutes later, holding my face between your big hands.

I nod.

“Realities will branch from here,” you say. “In some I will be killed. In others I will not.”

Your eyes capture mine.

“You know what matters most, Roman? What matters most to me? You are the most beautiful man I have ever had, the most beautiful person in my life, the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. All of these five years have been full of light, have been worth it. Including the fights.”

I take her arms, close my hands around her wrists.

“I love you Roman. Make it worth.”

“Stay,” I say.

You shake your head.

—I want to live, Roman. (You: two years before.) Not to become a prisoner of a future that might or might not be. So find a different kind of solution. Find a way to deal with this, to keep me safe from harm without making me a prisoner.

I nod and take the three sentinels: black globes the size of your fists. Special issue. They are supposed to protect you. In some branches they will fail.

You touch them, activate them. They fall in position.

I kiss you as if it is the last time and you accept me with open mouth. I kiss you like it is the last time. All of me in that one moment and we part our ways smiling.

It will be another three months before you reach this branch of reality and use your knife to cut her open, Roan.

#

Silver: this is our last day together. You have left your hairpin on the table as you usually do. Forgotten. It is dark brown with white flowers on the sides. This is the kind of carelessness you do not allow in your work. It has become harder and harder to get past the pain of the things that will come and it is influencing me, influencing us, getting between us. It is getting between us, regardless of the efforts we make to clear things out. Regardless of our love…

There is this place of stillness in my heart. (You: the day before.) And in that stillness is one beautiful flower. That flower is our love. My love for you. The love you feel for me. Whatever happens between us, whatever has happened to us, that place, that flower remains untouched, unspoiled. It has only become more beautiful as the years passed.

We had an argument at the end of this day. You have left without a word, sent me a text later. “I love you, Roman.”

The next day you are dead.

#

I rise from your grave. You were, you are. The most beautiful woman in my life. Goodbye Silver.

(The end)

In this ending it is not just men running around with pistols acting tough. It is a full acknowledgement (as much as is possible in such short space) of the other. Silver in this case. By being honest and involve her from the beginning (the scene with the horse is the first time they meet and he already informs her of on of the possible outcomes of their relationship). By letting her speak. By reserving the last words for her.

Reflecting the multiplicity

In several moments in the story Roman (the main character) has to fight the concept of murder, of killing his own partner/”wife”. This is one at the end of chapter 5. (He collapses in chapter 6.)

Flashes, flashing by like memories of things that happened and still were to happen.

I killed you. I killed you both.

The blood was on my hands as well.

The messy nature of “time travel”

Time travel in this story (and my story worlds if I ever take on more of this kind of stories) is a mess. It is a mess as time itself is not linear and not a singular line. Unveil the fabric of reality and probably things are overwhelmingly complex.

Within infinite variations of “your” reality there are equally infinite variations of what comes “after” and what happened “before”. Like this, for instance:

In this reality Europe had never made it into the Industrial Revolution. Several fragments from a huge comet of ice and dirt had hit the surface somewhere in 1745. Volcanoes had spit out clouds and clouds of ashes. The temperature was over 400 degrees centigrade. The sky hidden by black clouds. The pressure of the boiling atmosphere massive. Like standing under 40 meters of water.

We were standing on the remainders of a great desert with ruins of buildings that would have been New York if this line had had a different past. There were no others of me in this branch, no others of VinsonLevvy.

This reality was eerily quiet.

The random events that lead to the birth of Roman, the main character, have been erased in this reality. The world is basically a boiling pot where life as we know it is not possible anymore.

Attributes

I attributed two writers in the first version: Keith Laumer with his several series of stories in which parallel worlds and travelling over these worlds played a main role, and Roger Zelazny who wrote the Amber series — among others — taking similar concepts on parallel universes.

The Jet Li move “The One” can not remain unmentioned either. Even if it was not a starting point, the story has enough parallels to several elements mentioned (and makes enough wrong assumptions when you start taking it too seriously). I saw it in the cinema when it came out.

There might be other stories with similar themes, but I simply do not know them.

Re-tellings: The Dark-hooded girl

Short stories are not my best thing. I want to do too much in too little space and usually end up writing 10.o00 and more words.

About a month ago, I decided to do something to attack that issue: take an existing short story and then retell it. Sometimes within my own future history, some other times maybe in some other kind of reality.

What I found

I left a lot unexplained in the story. Also, the sparse elements I introduce in the story are used more strictly than usual. In short: it is very sober for my doing.

Also: the stories have nice details I would have overlooked otherwise. The custard, the flowers and the sweet singing of the birds are almost directly taken from the Grimm version as is most of the main dialog.

Taking on red-riding hood

I did not intend to take Red riding hood first, or at all. It is one of the most well-known and most used and re-told stories. But a spark flung two days ago and that spark caught fire. And oh: I really like what happened with the wolves while writing the story.

Finger practice

Note that this (and the other stories) are intended as finger-practice. How do I solve specific problems? How do I remix existing ideas? How can I create that fresh feeling even when that story has been told many times before? Can I make it my own?

You can find more info about the choices I made in this same post: after the story.

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The dark-hooded girl

[STATUS: First rough version, some minor edits done]

1: the journey begins

All the children of the village called her a bastard. Once her great-great grandmother had befriended a local man and given birth to a baby girl with a dark skin and curly hair.

Her own face, her own hair and her own skin still showed the traces of that blood, even though that girl had given birth to other boys and girls from several fathers: three in total, and none of these had been black.

They also called her a witch because Christianity had taken on more strongly in the past century and people from African blood were feared for many things of which reality had nothing to do with witchcraft at all.

And yes: there were many strange things to her, she discovered as her consciousness developed. For instance: she remembered everything. Everything tracing back through the generations until that great-great grandmother, over 200 years ago. And all these memories made her very wise for her age.

It was a beautiful morning in May when her mother said to her: “Come Catharina. Here is a nice piece of meat, a custard and a bottle of wine. Take these to your grandmother. And please, take the long road. You know the forest is full of wolves and they will try to distract you.”

And Catharina said: “Yes mom,” and went out with the basket under her arm and dressed in the long dark cape with the big dark hood, which she loved so much and suited her so well: making her look older and somehow more mature than her ten years.

Morning dew was still on the grass and the orange morning light bathed everything in its soft, golden glow. Flowers and long grass waved gently in the wind and as she went on her way she sung a sad song about a girl that had been almost forgotten by time.

Time itself seemed to have almost forgotten the village Catharina lived in, close to the coast of Bretagne, in the middle of the mountains where nature was wild and abandoned villages had been scattered over the stretch of the flatlands. Where the forest had claimed many of the lands that had once been cultivated for cabbage and carrots and cattle.

Time, but not the government. And so drones still floated in the air, some way past their life-span, but still operational: living on the light of the sun that fed their batteries and kept them floating in the air, observing the people in these stretched lands.

Her parents were poor. Her grandmother was poor. The cape she wore had been made from smart fabric that had been passed to her from her grandmother from a bed sheet that had been worn by decades of use.

Her body was an antenna. Her bones were ingrained by crystalline processors, able to do many things. And as she walked, she expanded the scope of her vision, tapping into the drones that floated above her, that went unseen for most of the people she knew. And they gave her a birds view of the forest and the road. They gave her the pointers of where the wolves were.

Where the people were.

Where the kids were.

When the first stone hit her, she turned around and looked up.

“Suck my balls, Cedrique, Marq, Evengaline. Cowards! You want me to come over there and hit you?”

Even though the kids were two years older than she was, they feared her. Even though they were hidden, she could see them.

There was just one dilemma. To kick their asses she would have to leave the basket on the floor and there was another kid, Pierre, lurking on the other side.

She looked up at the wall: grown by moss and saw the hands of one of the kids being withdrawn. There once had been a garden on the other side of that wall: two meters higher. Now it was wilderness with apples and pears and peaches growing from wild trees when fall would come.

Against the warnings of her mother, she decided to take the short cut. There was more trouble coming over the long road and most people avoided the woods.

She spit in the direction of Pierre, who was hiding behind another wall on the same level as the path she was walking and flipped him the finger when he looked around the corner.

The forest started almost immediately on the border of the village on the south-side. Fertile ground had given sufficient food for the trees and people had long given up to maintain that part of the village more than was needed to keep the forest from obscuring the human footprint of stone and tarmac.

Not many people went there. The ones who did were the wood-choppers who would go down to fell the trees to build and repair houses and build the stock for the winter.

The road through the forest had once been filled with cars. As had been the custom a long time ago, concrete slabs had been put first and in later times covered by layers of tarmac. It was one of the main reasons that the forest had been unable to reclaim that path and now it cut through that forest like a scar.

“I am going through the woods,” she said to her mother as she stood on the edge.

Her mother sighed as Catharina showed her the people on the long road.

“Very well. Be careful though. I feel something bad might happen today.”

“I will keep a line open,” Catharina said and flipped open the exo-skeleton.

It wrapped from the package on her back, hidden under her cape around her arms and legs like a spider about to wrap its prey and clicked into place on her wrists and hips and ankles and knees.

Then she started running, using her second sight to see past the fabric of her hood.

Running like the wolves did.

Running through the forest.

And it was not long when a globule descended, sending several warning signs through her system.

“Where are you going, little girl?”

“To my grandmother,” she said.

“What do you have in that basket?”

“Meat and bread and wine,” she said, “as you can see for yourself.”

She jumped over the log of a fallen tree.

“Why are your bringing that?” the globule asked.

“It is her birthday tomorrow. We baked the meat yesterday.”

It resisted the calls from the system that was ingrained in her bones. It used several encrypted lines she could not hack into easily.

“And where does your grandmother live?”

“Forty minutes from here with this speed, beyond the mills, the first hous in the next village, but I think you know already,” she said. “Who do you represent?”

“That is not of your concern,” the globule said.

She avoided branches hanging over the road, jumped over several cracks where the slabs had been moved up and apart by the roots of the trees.

She came to a halt.

She tried to contact her grandmother, triggered by the feeling that something was amiss.

Grandmother did not respond.

“Do you have a human operator?” she asked.

“That is not of your concern,” the globule said.

She closed her eyes and looked at the status of the deep-hack that was going on, reached out to her mother and subvocalized her concern.

“Yes,” her mother said. “Something is amiss.”

She tapped into the network of drones, knowing she was losing time. More than the usual drones were collected around the area where her grandmother lived: a small village like hers with less than a thousand people living there.

“So why do you want to know about my grandmother?” she asked.

“We want to see her as well,” the globule said.

“Why?”

“That is not of your concern,” the globule said.

“Very well,” Catharina said. “You better be on your way then.”

The globule hesitated, then shot up again.

“What do I do?” she asked mother.

“Stay in the forest as I find out what is going on.”

And so she did. She wandered from the path into the direction of a small lake, knowing she would run into the wolves at some point.

2: Meeting the other wolves

It was not long for the wolves started running alongside, their breaths and the crackle of leaves and branches reaching her ears as they drew nearer. Their furs grey and striped with black, their faces white and grey.

“Hi Catharine,” one said when they reached the lake. “Where are you heading?” the crude voice barking and guttering.

“To my grandmother,” she said.

“Yess,” the bitch said. “We figured. Will you be running with us?”

She shook her head.

“This time not. Something is amiss and I am waiting for my mother to find out what.”

“A pity,” the she-wolf said disappointed.

She slowed down to a walk, slowed down to a full stop.

The lake was surrounded by an open space of grass and rocks and flowers. Birds sang sweetly and cheerful. Bright flowers were all around her.

The se-wolf sniffed the basket as the other wolves slowly gathered

“The meat smells delicious,” she growled.

“I wish I could give you some, but my grandmother has run out of meat herself. It would be unfair.”

“Yes. We hunt. We do not steal.”

“I know,” Catharina said and flapped back the dark hood to bare her head and her face.

“You sure you do not want to run with us?” one of the other wolves said.

“No,” she said. “I really need to go to my grandmother.”

“The one living on the outside of the other village.”

“Yes.”

“We can run with you.”

“I like that,” Catharine said. “But I fear there is danger.”

“Danger,” the wolves repeated.

“Death?”

“I do not know. I hope not.”

There were these stories about government officials that made her shiver.

She walked to the edge of the water, where some late lilies were blooming: purple and white flowers shaped as chalices. She plucked some daisies and walked to a wild bush of pink roses.

The wolves walked around her, talking among themselves and sometimes addressing her.

“No running?” was the most repeated question and she continued to say: “No, not this time.”

Then they took off.

“We will be around,” the she-wolf said before turning herself and running off after the others.

“I will smell your scent downwind,” Catharina said. “I will call you when needed.”

She knew that would not happen, but it was good to have friends.

3: Grandmothers house

Catharine ran. She ran and she saw the wolves following her on the right side of her, running along with her. She barked something that was a greeting and heard the barking that was an acknowledgement.

She ran past the hills where high in the sky the three fingers of wind mills no longer turned on the wind. Where the white had turned into grey as nobody no longer cared about the antique turbines. Where nobody had ever taken the effort to take them down as it was easier to let them rot and fall down on their own.

When she reached grandmothers house, she knew that danger was afoot.

The cottage-door was open.

From inside came the sweet smell of meat and on the edge of the bed was a man: the official from the city further down the old road.

“Hello Catharina,” he said, his voice sweet.

“Where is my grandmother?”

“Out for a while.”

She looked at his face while her software continued to scan the environment, her surroundings, this man.

There were signs of struggle.

His smile was wide. His eyes cold. His hands big. His teeth perfect rows of white.

“Now put that basket on the table and take off your exo-skeleton and your cape,” he said.

She walked over to the pot, which was the biggest her grandmother had had. Chunks of meat were cooking in it. She opened the fridge where fresh meat was sitting on each shelf. Right in front of her a big fresh liver, smaller than that of a cow, but bigger than that of a sheep was resting on a plate.

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“To see you,” he said. “To see your grand mother.”

When the globules rose around her, she knew she had made a huge mistake.

“Why don’t you sit next to me?” he said.

She no longer was able to reach her mother. It was as if all lines had fallen dead.

She looked at him again, looked at his eyes and felt deep fear for the first time of her life. Dread. It was impossible to resist.

So this is how he did it, she thought. And deeply regretted her boldness.

“You deep-hacked my system,” she said.

“I did.”

“Why?”

“So that I can see you better,” he said.

She started to undress further, looking desperately up at him. Looking desperately at that face that no longer reflected any humane feelings. It was the face of a predator. The face of a killer. The face of a man without conscience.

“Did you kill my grandmother?”

“I did,” he said.

“Why?”

“Because you are an abomination,” he said.

“I might kill your mother too,” he added after a brief pause.

“You see, it has been a while since I ate human flesh and the mind gets hungry.”

She now noticed the cap in his hand, the one her grandmother used to wear to cover her hair.

She cried as she dropped her shirt.

She shivered as his hands touched her shoulders.

“So young,” he said and she knew she would not die immediately when he directed her to the bed.

As he readied himself to mount her, the globules dropped down and a figure appeared in the opening of the door. Her body started responding again and one knee hit him in his solar plexus while her elbow tried to crush his larynx, barely missing it as he moved aside.

“Wrench!” he shouted as he rolled aside, quicker than expected, facing the woman in the doorway: face black as the night.

“You! You are dead,” he said and she shook her head, advancing.

He reclined, his face becoming pale, sweat forming on his forehead as all of his trickery had failed.

She raised one hand, twisted it and looked as he dropped to the floor: dead. Then she shifted her attention to Catharina.

“Are you OK?”

Catharina nodded, crying, moved herself from the bed, grabbing her clothing from the bed.

“How could you be so foolish?” she said, then checked, shook her head, unweaving the infections that had taken over the system of Catharina.

“Poor child.”

She took Catharina in her arms.

“You were hacked from the moment you met the first globule,” she said. “By trying to access it you opened yourself for attack. We will address this later.”

She turned the dead body around, so it faced up. The stench of faeces and piss came from the man on the floor.

“How pitiful. How corrupted. How sad.”

She looked at the pot on the fire.

“How horrid.”

Catharina worked herself loose from her great-great grand mother, ran outside, stepped off the pavement and puked in the bushes. Then she started crying out loud, sobbing and heaving as the full scope of what happened finally reached her conscious mind.

The end.

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Behind the scenes

Versions

Red riding hood has several versions. In one, from my youth, she is eaten by the wolf and rescued as the wolf sleeps by a wood-chopper who happens to pass by. Freed from the wolf her grand mother, the hunter and red riding hood put stones in the wolfs belly and when he wakes up thirsty to drink the push him either in the well (sub version 1) or the pond (sub version 2)

In the Grimm-telling, the story has two other possible endings. In one, he eats Red riding hood and gets killed by a passing huntsman. In the other ending Red riding hood reaches grandmother before the wolf and they trick him and he falls from the roof and drowns to death in the “stone through”

In the Charles Perrault version of the Mother Goose stories: “The wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding hood and ate her all up”.

A much earlier version from the French telling is more cruel. There the wolf kills and cooks grandmother. When Red riding hood arrives, the meat is already on the fire, cooking, spreading a lovely sweet scent. The wolf is the wolf and Red riding hood asks the same questions about the eyes and the claws but scared shitless as the wolf asks her to undress and get into the bed. Red riding hood is killed and eaten as well.

Backgrounds to the story

I mixed several elements. I used dialog from both the Grimm and Mother Goose story. I used the ending of the earlier French version where grandma is killed and cooked and the Wolf does not pretend to be grandmother.

Deus ex machina  – I used a similar “Dues ex machina” ending as in the versions more known. In my case not the hunter or the lumberjack, but her great-great grandmother appears and kills the “wolf”.

The element of warning – Red riding hood heeds a warning that is in most versions. It is this: “Little girl, do not listen to strangers. Do not go with strangers. Be aware because they might have evil in mind.”

Keeping the dark hooded girl alive – It might have been more shocking to kill Red riding hood as in some of the versions. However: such ending touches another more grim aspect of these kind of stories about little girls and wolves. I have nothing to add of value to the kind of stories where the child dies and the child molester wins. It is not written or intended to warn and refer to like the original is: “Do you remember the story of Red riding hood? Yes? So don’t go with strangers!”

Note that the happy ending is a wrong choice. In many if not all cases the last minute rescue will not happen.

Why does she go in grand mothers house alone? – I followed the story as true as possible, including Red riding hood wondering off in the woods to pick flowers as happens in one, and taking a longer road in the other. The character of Red riding hood in my story is all but naive. So I used a trick to solve the conflict of common sense.

Her great-great grandmother – Well: she is supposed to be dead, but is not. She is close to immortal as this is the future, for Pete’s sake! And she lives close-by enough (60 minutes by air)  to be in time to prevent even bigger wrongdoing.

Retelling: The true short story about the Dutch barrel organs

[This one is for Robert Gaal]. There is nothing so loud as a Dutch barrel organ. When you walk the streets of Amsterdam, you will find yourself overwhelmed with the joyful sound of pipes, drums and flutes jolly spouting one or another inane tune.

Where most barrel organs are quite small and modest, the dutch (also check these images) can be huge and are loud enough to be heard in a radius of kilometers.

An impression of a small Dutch barrel organ in action

This is not strange as it origins from a war machine. This is the remarkable story mostly known only inside the group Dutch barrel organ players, as hardly anybody else really cares:

Origin of the modern Dutch barrel organ

At the end of the Eighty years war, the Dutch resistance got short on resources and money. It was only a matter of time before the war for Dutch Independence would end in defeat and we would remain just one of the other province of the Hispano Portugese empire.

Based on known technologies a new instrument of terror came from an unforseen corner: the Portable Pipe Organ developed by Guido Warnies of Gent. Originally designed to enable churches to move their assets to a save haven quickly when a new battle would take place an unknown soldier opted the plan to use these musical instruments as an instrument of terror.

Naturally these organs did not have the complex “pianola” like mechanics to play music. They were manually operated by organ players.

Instruments of terror

Using not only  dissonant or discord music through pipe flutes, also mechanically driven drums were added to increase the level of intimidation. Moving five to ten Portable Pipe War Organs at the same time, the dissonant music would be so loud and intimidating that it became unbearable.

Naturally the War Organ players were chosen from the brave Dutch who where deaf from birth or due to hearing impairment from the sounds of gun and cannon firing at close range. The Dutch warriors would wear hearing protection in the shape of clay or wax props.

Playing the War Organs day and night the Dutch exhausted the Spanish conquerers and drove them close to madness: to the levels of breakdown after which they were easy pray for cleverly laid ambushes.

While the peace negotiations were progressing at a snail’s pace, with the Portable Pipe War Organs, Frederick Henry managed a last few military successes: in 1644 he captured Sas van Gent and Hulst in what was to become States Flanders. In 1646, however, Holland, sick of the feet-dragging in the peace negotiations, refused to approve the annual war budget, unless progress was made in the negotiations.

Where history forgets

As sometimes happens, in the course of history, the role of Portable Pipe Organs as a whole moved into obscurity. As none of the Spanish soldiers were able to tell and the Dutch simply closed the book due to Frederick Henry’s impopularity as a troublemaker in the peace process, mostly all records of this clever strategic use of Portable Pipe War Organs simply vanished.

Rediscovery of the concept

Only about 1850 the italian Ludovico Gavioli re-invented the concept of Portable Pipe Organs and created a new branch of barrel organs, but qua size and loudness they were not half as impressive as the original Belgian / Dutch Portable Pipe War Organs.

Seeing that the market was ripe, in 1875 the  Belgian Leon Warnies started his own production of barrel organs. As he needed something more powerful than the French Italian barrel organ he based his designs on the remnant Portable Pipe War Organ sketches by Guido Warnies of Gent inherited from his family lineage. His organs thus became much more impressive than the ones developed in Paris by Gavioli due to the loudness and use of drums and bells and adapted soon in the Dutch culture. And so an old Belgian Dutch war machine was revived again in an completely different form.

“Cultural service”

Nowadays Dutch organ players hold an almost religious belief that playing the Dutch barrel organ is a cultural service to community as where even an single instrument is actually too massive and loud to please a person even momentarily and the element of terror is still present even though the concept of the original Portable Pipe War Organ has been scaled down to the size of the current instruments.