LEADERS - not followers

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fourth Millennium (8)


5 Eye Contact

Birch led them, on foot, three kilometres or more, to the northern outskirts of the Sector. The bitter chill that continued to bite did not hamper their progress. They walked at a brisk pace, and their journey was completed some twenty five minutes after it had begun.
Their guide directed them towards a door, indistinguishable from any of the entrances on the countless dwellings in the Sector.
He reached, with a quivering hand, towards the Introcom, and tapped a short sequence of keys on the colour coded panel, below the communication grille. A brief, silent pause followed, before the door was opened. An elderly man, wearing a suspicious expression gave the three visitors a cursory glance before diverting his attention to their surroundings. He shifted his eyes to left and right, to satisfy his curiosity, before allowing them inside. Without uttering a single word, and with an unhurried, shuffling motion, the frail septuagenarian led them into the living room and gestured towards the matching suite of comfortable easy-chairs.
“He’s deaf,’ explained Birch. “He doesn’t talk.”
Once they’d all settled into their new, but familiar surroundings, Birch suddenly, unexpectedly announced that he was late for an ‘appointment’. Starling was amazed to notice that he had employed the exact same, two-handed V-sign gesture he’d seen Robin using, a few days earlier.
“It must be the latest thing,” Starling supposed; nudging Nightingale with his elbow.
Nightingale had seen neither Robin nor Birch perform this act, and was at a loss, in respect to Starling’s comment.
“He’s never early for appointments. That’s the one thing that has always irritated me about the man, but he just says it’s fashionable,” he offered, in interpretation, as Birch departed
The expression, on the face of the fragile old man, that had regarded them with such suspicion, on arrival, had transformed into a warm smile now that he was more at ease with their presence. The two friends noticed that he wore a name tag depicting a sycamore seed case. Gesturing eagerly with his bony hand, he invited them to follow him once more. Starling and Nightingale complied, trailing the faltering footsteps of their escort into the rear bedroom.
The bed had been positioned too close to the entrance, obstructing clear access to the room, which meant they had to squeeze, uncomfortably, past the unintentional barrier.
Power tools and decorating equipment cluttered the remaining space, and a paint-splashed dust sheet occupied the centre of the floor. This was painstakingly removed, by Sycamore, using a length of off-cut Carbolite tube.
Starling and Nightingale approached hesitantly, to inspect the opening in the floor that the removal of the dust sheet had revealed. Nightingale let out a gasp of surprise, on seeing that a set of roughly fashioned steps had been cut into the earth beneath the house. They were urged to descend, into a basement, roughly half the area of the floor above them.
Centrally positioned in the room, a table, stood surrounded by four, unoccupied wooden stools. Towards the corner furthest away from them, a man also stood; hands behind his back and facing away from them. He was nodding his head rhythmically, as though listening to music, or drawing a conclusion. As Starling and Nightingale approached, he turned slowly, towards them. Something, indefinable gave Starling the impression that he recognised this person, or that he reminded him of someone. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but was halted in mid-speculation, by the man’s next action.
He appeared to be in his late forties; clean shaven, and casually dressed, in a plain white tee-shirt and a pair of beige slacks. He extended his right hand and announced,
“Welcome to the last days of our time.”
Starling felt even more convinced that he recognised something in his host. Not the voice; perhaps the mannerisms. He was still unsure.
He offered his own hand, which was gripped tightly, and shaken vigorously.
“Happy to be a part of it,” was all that Starling could think of, in response.
At that moment, he realised what it was about this man that he recognised. It was the smile that settled it for Starling. The clean-shaven face had thrown him off the scent, momentarily, but now he was convinced he had it right.
“What I meant, of course, was good morning,” the familiar stranger continued. “By the way, do I know you?”
It could only be one person, Starling deduced; Robin, the bus driver.
“I…think so,” Starling answered, still a little hesitantly. “Weren’t you our…driver, on the journey from Sector 401?”
“Driver? Now there is an unusual occupation.”
“I’m s-sorry,” stuttered Starling. “I…I thought I…”
“Recognised me? Come on Starling; try to keep up with the plot!”
“I knew it!” Starling was still not quite up to speed with the situation. “How come you always say things that leave people guessing what you really mean?”
“Physics,” was the temporary extent of Robin’s reply.
“There you go again,” complained Starling.
“I’m attempting, with some success I might add, to break the laws of Physics.
Reactions, Starling, are what life is all about. Say or do the same thing a million times, and I’ll guarantee you get a million different reactions.
Don’t let that confuse you though. Reactions are important. You could say they’re the tools of my trade; and I don’t mean bus driving. They assist me in gauging the effectiveness of my actions, as well as the intelligence, or lack of it, of their intended targets or recipients.
If you’re unsure of whether or not to go ahead with a particular action; do it anyway. See what the reaction is. It’s a sure-fire way of gaining an increased understanding of things; of all things.
Whether you’re satisfied or not, with a particular item, or service; complain; just to see what comes of it.”
Starling took a moment to digest the information before declaring,
“Wow! I think I’m beginning to see what you mean…a little bit. It kind of explains the moustache; or absence of it.”
“Nicely worked, Starling. You’re learning, but consider this to be lesson one; lesson two actually. Lesson one was on the bus the other day. But don’t worry; the first lesson is always free of charge.”
“How much is it after that? I have to keep a careful watch on our cash.”
“Starling, Starling, Starling…You shall learn; it may just take a little while. Your green-tinged honesty and openness though, are so refreshing; so very refreshing.”
“I always try to do my best.” Starling’s naivety was digging him into a pit.
Robin rescued him, by placing a hand on his shoulder, before extending it in the direction of Nightingale.
Once the unnecessary formality was completed, Robin sat down on one of the wooden stools, and invited his guests to do likewise.
“I’m going to ask you to do something you may find unconventional. Don’t be intimidated by my curiosity. This is an essential part of the process of getting you to your target destination.” Once again, Robin displayed his, by now, characteristic animated quotation marks.
“We trust you implicitly, Robin. We’re open to any guidance you can provide.” Starling was keen to make this clear.
“Another good reaction, Starling. Now this is a test, but not something I intend to use against you, for the wrong reasons. I don’t want anything to stand in the way of your progress.
If I was a few years younger…but that’s another story; a true one actually. But things were so different, even just twenty years ago.
I want you to tell me everything; everything you know or believe, everything you’ve heard and, most important of all, everything you’ve done so far to reach this point. When you’ve finished telling me; keep talking. I also want to know everything you intend to do.
We’ll call it payment for lesson two, and if I like what I hear, I’ll throw in lesson three as a bonus.”
Nightingale looked at Starling, confidently.
“I’m with you, Starling. This may be the only chance we ever get, so don’t miss anything out.”
Nightingale indicated that Starling should do the talking; an unspoken acknowledgement that it was Starling who was the leader; the decision maker in their quest.
Starling stood up and paced the floor as he spoke; partly to deliver his monologue with added emphasis on certain aspects; partly to disguise any apprehension he felt, about speaking openly, on the subject of his past and potential future, for the first time in his life.
He told of his lifelong desire to obtain confirmation of the existence of ‘them’; to discover what he could about the three thousand years of existence, prior to today. He knew all about his own past, as well as much about that of Nightingale. Other things; incidents, his questionable memories could supply him with; he knew next to nothing about; even his own family. He knew absolutely nothing about other people, or even significant events, prior to his own existence.
The stories; snippets really, he’d heard about ‘them’ and their activities, amounted to only a relatively insignificant collection of trivia and possibilities; ‘the mumblings of madmen’, as they were ‘officially’ labelled.
His friendship with Nightingale, and their mutual dream; their mutual thirst for that rarest, yet most satisfyingly thirst quenching beverage of all; knowledge, were his most respected, most valuable assets. His hopes for what they may be able to achieve for the good of all people, by completing their quest, was what made his otherwise futile existence, tolerable. His greatest hope was that, one day; sooner or later, whichever it took, he would be able to speak with both confidence and authoritative knowledge, on the subject of…well, anything. He just hoped that it could be addressed to a receptive audience, who would both understand, and believe his words.
He spoke, uninterrupted, for almost an hour, while his audience of just two, listened intently to what he had to say.
Nightingale listened in awe, barely even realising that Starling was repeating the thoughts that had run through the minds of both of them, and not just his own feelings.
Robin sat in silence, analysing each individual word, as well as Starlings actions and body language. At the end of the oration, Robin joined together the fingertips of both hands, and brought them up to his face, to touch his nose, while leaning forward with elbows on knees.
Gently rocking, back and forth, he began to speak.
“Thank you, Starling; thank you very much indeed. I have to tell you, that was without doubt, the most comprehensive, honest, and emotional address it has ever been my privilege to observe. It confirms to me that my assessment of your integrity, and my feelings towards your quest, that have been developing from the first moment I laid eyes on you, were, are, correct. You have proved yourself more than worthy to accept this challenge; and judging by your own assessment of your good friend, Nightingale, you couldn’t wish for a more qualified companion. This is an assessment I tend to agree with wholeheartedly.
Continue to conspire; I am convinced that, before too long, you will be breathing together, the sweet, fresh air of enlightenment.
My sincere thanks, once again, for sharing with me, your innermost secrets. Today, we have successfully completed just one part, in a series of ‘tests’ you will be required to pass, in order to achieve your aims. You may not be aware of this, but you have already managed to clear at least two of these hurdles. But, take heed; harder ‘tests’ are to come for which you must be prepared. I will assist you in any way permitted, as will Birch. Never underestimate the value of his contributions. He is a man with an uncanny knack of getting things done.”
Robin reached into his pocket and produced another silver coin, handing it to Starling. This coin had, on its face side, the impression of the profile of a woman; this time looking in the opposite direction. On its reverse, it depicted the mythical creature that Starling recognised as a lion.
The lion; extinct, according to ‘them’, was often used as a metaphor for courage. Myths, as such, were not considered ‘politically correct’ by the ‘authorities’, who discouraged the use of such symbols, claiming they were an ‘invention of delusion’.
The numbers impressed onto this coin were also different to the previous one. Above the crown of the woman, was impressed the number, or year, 2765. The number, or value, on the reverse was 500.
Starling accepted the gift with gratitude, saying,
“Thank you; I will keep it safe, just as the other one you gave me.”
“Your reactions are the strongest indications of your character, as well as intelligence. So far, they have impressed me.
Take this disc, and show it to man named Hawthorn…473520. I won’t tell you where you may find him; this you must do for yourself. It’s your next ‘test’.
Now, I have an assignment for you. Follow me; I’d very much like you to meet someone special.”

To be continued

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinsk

Click Fourth Millennium (7) to go back to conclusion of chapter 4

Click Fourth Millennium (9) to read on

Click FORBIDDEN to start at Chapter 1

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fourth Millennium (7)


4 New Year (cont)

As time passed by at a snail’s pace, it became increasingly a concern to Starling, that no ‘quest’ progress had yet been made. By January 2nd, he began to fret. Nightingale attempted to alleviate matters, by stating that it was still only hours after the New Year holiday, and there was still the charade of meeting Maple later that day, to consider.
“Patience,” he reminded Starling, “is a virtue. That’s what my old grandfather used to say, when he was still alive.”
Starling accepted the mild reprimand, as it was intended; a shrewd, although rare, item of common sense from Nightingale.
“You’re right, of course, Nightingale. Let’s put the quest to the back of our minds, for now, and I’ll make my way to the ‘Official’ Headquarters, and get this meeting with Maple out of the way.”
“Good for you, Starling. When do you expect to return?”
“I’ll get it over and done with, as quickly as possible. Give me a couple of hours.”
“Right you are, Starling. Have a successful meeting.”
“I will; that’s already guaranteed. You know what these real government reps are like; all talk and nothing constructive to say. Underneath, they’re as shallow as a damp patch on a wooden plank; just about as thick as a wooden plank, as well.” Starling was impressed with his own ironic simile, and gave credit to the bus driver who had brought them to Sector 4735; Robin.
“His influence,” Starling breathed, “must be beginning to rub off on me.”
The meeting was as brief; its outcome as successful, as Starling had predicted.
Maple, also as predicted, lapped up the ‘fantastic ideas’ that Starling presented. He missed, entirely, the irony of the meeting. He was completely unaware that was it not for his own shortcomings as an effective communicator; his chosen and dedicated profession, after all; the meeting would be as unnecessary as the repetitive directives it was his job to deliver to his apathetic; at best, audience.

On Starling’s return, he was confronted by Birch, who was anxious to talk to him.
“Starling; you’re back at last.” Birch declined to mention that he had, himself, only arrived back at the house, a matter of minutes ago.
“I’ve been gone less than two hours; and it was official business I couldn’t get out of.” Starling defended himself.
“Yes, I realise that. How did it go?” Birch knew nothing of the object of Starling’s meeting.
“Predictably,” Starling answered, simply.
This comment brought a smile to the face of Nightingale, who delivered a double thumbs-up signal, in acknowledgement of Starling’s success.
Starling nodded to his friend, in appreciation of the gesture.
“Great; I always said you were the man.” Birch lied enthusiastically to ‘the man’ he’d only known for a little over two days.
“What is it that you’re so anxious to talk to me about, Birch?”
“I met a man today; a contact; for you know what.”
“Oh, really?” Starling successfully disguised his growing excitement.
“Yes, really; I wouldn’t lie to you, Starling. This contact; he wanted to meet with you, but he set a condition. He said, if you really are who you say you are, then the meeting can go ahead for sure; tomorrow morning, at ten. Don’t worry; I’ll get you there; providing, of course, you can pass his test. He told me you met someone recently; who gave you something; a small object; as well as what my contact called a ‘password’.
Does this riddle mean anything to you, Starling? I’ve got to get back to him with the answers, before the end of the day.”
“What do you need to tell him exactly?” Starling asked.
“Five words, basically.
First word; the name of the person who gave you the…thing.
Second word; what it was; a rough, but accurate description, he said.
Third and fourth words; it offered two views. That’s his words again. What were they?
Fifth and final word; this ‘password’.
Can you help me; us; yourself? Do you have any idea what he was getting at?
“I think so.” Starling reached into his pocket and began fondling the coin Robin had presented to him.
“Tell me then; it might be important.” Birch understated, in apparent ignorance.
“Are you ready? Repeat after me. I’ll say it slowly; in order.
The words are;
One; Robin.
Two; Disc; silver disc, actually, but I think just ‘disc’ will suffice.
Three; Head; profile of a man. Again, I think just ‘head’ will suffice.
Four; Building
Five; Robin – that’s not a repeat of the first item.”
Starling found it necessary to repeat the exercise several times, before Birch was able to consign all five words to memory, and repeat them himself without hesitation. Starling gave credit where it was due, and was suitably impressed by the fact that Birch even remembered that the disc was silver-coloured, and the head it depicted, was the profile of a man. Just to make absolutely certain, he showed Birch the actual coin, and continued to test his memory, at regular intervals, before allowing him to return to his contact.
Birch’s absence lasted no more than an hour. He returned, smiling.
“Five out of five, Starling.” Birch was beaming. “You passed! Congratulations! Now he wants to see you…and the disc…tomorrow; at ten.”
“Real progress at last; thanks Birch; I was beginning to wonder when things would start to happen.” A less than honest admission to the frustration that had been welling up in him since he’d arrived in Sector 4735.
“You’re welcome, Starling. I may not be fast, but I am good.”

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski
Click Fourth Millennium (6) to go back to start of Chapter 4
Click FORBIDDEN to start at Chapter 1
Click Fourth Millennium (8) to read on



It started as a minor infection
An inconvenient irritation
Spin doctors named it ‘General Election’
The fever spread, and it gripped the nation

Symptoms ranged from coughing and sneering
To pressure peaks and palpitations
Speech affected by grunting and jeering
Consultants scripted a publication

‘Manifesto’ (or doctors Prescription?)
Confusing in its presentation
Illegible in its encryption
Hard to swallow in its translation

Campaign slogans provide the solution
‘Keep taking the medication’
‘Does wonders for the constitution’
‘Exceeds every expectation’

No need to miss the fun of the fest
Broadcast on every TV station
Genuine change or same as the rest?
Accept the Party invitation

Respond to the rhetoric, join the debate
Make your vote count in the situation
Cure the condition before it’s too late
Give yourself cause for a celebration

Landslide, or merely majority
First past the post gets the adulation
Remember it’s still a democracy
A process achieved by legislation

Did you go Red, or did you turn Blue?
Do you feel bitterness or elation?
Only four years of this deja-vu
Barring impeachment, assassination


Parliamentary by-election
Caused by minister’s defection
Cabinet reshuffle pending
Hansard’s minutes need amending

Constituency paralysed
Sworn allegiances compromised
Converted or impulsive whim?
Floating voters sink or swim

Public opinion takes the view
If you don’t vote red, then you’ll vote blue
Voting yellow is hard to swallow
Undecided – who do you follow?

Left of centre you’re a Communist
Right-wing you’re labelled a Fascist
Liberal by your own volition
…A Molotov Cocktail coalition

Secret ballot, X marks the spot
Cast your vote, throw it in the pot
Exit-poll can only guesstimate
Who will be the likely candidate

Opposition wins by a nose
Adding to the government woes
Calls are heard from a certain section
“Put it to a General Election!”

Click Fourth Millennium (7) to continue reading
The Fourth Millennium

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mad Kane prompts



Is it accident or design
That causes your constant WHINE?
You may be the boss
I don’t give a toss
I’ve had enough…I resign

Vintage Year

Summer WINE – long gone
Autumn hangover – over
Winter’s end toasts Spring

Click Fourth Millennium (6) to read
The Fourth Millennium

Sunday Scribblings

On reflection:


Forgive me
For my improprieties
Inappropriate actions
A host of deeds
I can’t justify
Hear my plea
This petition is a cry
From my conscience, stained with guilt
I am human
But that’s no excuse
In my life
I’ll endeavour to make use
Of my powers of reason,
In order to prove
My value
I am not trying to soothe
My pain, brought on by knowledge
Of Mother Earth
And her influence
Combined with common sense
And critical appraisal
Are my penance.
In my assessment
Of no worth
Such meagre reimbursement
For the staunch stability
Of the one friend
I take for granted

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Isn't It?

For WI 3 ‘Breaking Through’
MM 15 ‘Indomitable Spirit’, ‘Rise of a Champion’.


He’d tell me to leave my window
Open just a touch, at night
And don’t draw the curtains tight-shut
Because the air won’t circulate
And leave your bedroom door ajar
So we’ll always be sure you’re safe
I knew Dad had his own good reasons
Not just a case of ‘just in case’

He’d always wear that hat, with the hole
And leave his top button undone
His manners weren’t always perfect
But who was I to question him?
He drank from a cup with no handle
Chipped and broken, from years of use
Just like the plate that he ate from
‘Unhygienic’ I used to think

He forgave all my misdemeanours
And said “You’ll learn from your mistakes”
He got that right; I’m still learning
And mistakes are part of daily life
“Actions are never automatic
It takes thought to provoke each deed”
Words of wisdom from my father
I’ll remember till my dying day

He shaped my thoughts, my dreams; my life
Asking for nothing in return
A loving dad; he had his faults
Just like anybody else
He was a diamond in the rough
Flawed by life’s consistent unfairness
Fractured, fragmented, forsaken
By the forces of fickle fate

Cast out, displaced, relocated
Rejected by the rogue regime
That raped and pillaged his homeland
He showed no anger, bitterness
I’m not certain time healed all these wounds
But as Leonard Cohen once said
“There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”…Isn’t it?

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fourth Millennium (6)


4 New Year

Frustratingly for both men, there followed two days of virtual inactivity, with regard to their quest. Realisation was mutually acknowledged that, although the ‘holiday’ justified their visit to Sector 4735, it also hindered somewhat, their hidden agenda; their real purpose for undertaking this expedition.
As a result, Starling and Nightingale were subjected to an increased awareness of the sluggishness of the passage of time. During what would, in ‘normal’ circumstances, be a period of relative excitement, in which their restricted freedom of movement would seem more relaxed, they had to endure the tedium of indolence.
Once they’d become accustomed to long periods of idleness, frustration had been replaced by a sense of resignation to the fact that Time, which was clearly not going to be the governing factor in their quest, was after all, on their side.
Starling realised that they were, in effect, attempting to manipulate what was, fundamentally, a process. As such it would have to be allowed to run its course. At the same time, he believed that it was a course that had been contrived to suit the ambitions of people now long dead; therefore it no longer had any relevance. Even if the ‘authorities’ had failed to acknowledge, or fully understand the properties of the evolution of sequential developments, they would, eventually, have to succumb to the consequences of the legacy they had inherited from their predecessors. Unknown to Starling or anyone else, history had dictated, on numerous occasions, that this was an indisputable outcome of any situation; fabricated, conceived or imposed by man, or naturally occurring. Just as day follows night; sunshine follows rain; reason and logic would surely follow the irrational imposition of the detrimental syndrome of pettiness and despotic-minded control of thought, word and deed.
Starling utilised some of this time reflecting on his strategy for achieving the acquiescence of the local ‘authorities’, to his request to travel at this time.
In order to gain initial acceptance of his travel requirement, and engage in the ‘official’ aspects of his jaunt, Starling had covered all the angles.
During his preliminary interview with Sector 401 officials, he had supported his application for the travel permits, with a concise, but carefully worded speech.
He had presented an emotionally charged and dramatically delivered, petition for reason and prudence.

“A new year; I’m urging, yearning for a new start; especially for this millennium year.
It may be complacency, or it may be that people find the official diction of the directives, too complex, or perhaps ambiguous in interpretation, to convey the precise sentiment of the communications.
My heartfelt desire is to witness an end to all the unnecessary misunderstandings, and the avoidable consequences of the confusion this can often create.”

Despite the ostensibly liberated open-mindedness of the occasion of the new millennium, the surveillance of public activity was heightened furtively, exponentially.
The New Year holiday meant a vastly increased presence of the, nowadays, seldom seen, uniformed ‘Service Personnel’; essentially, the Secret Police. This mysterious group of ideologically engineered government devotees would emerge from their shadowy existence, in an extrovert display of solidarity. It served as an intimidating, rather sinister reminder, that despite the relative satisfaction of the general population; any acts, or even thoughts of dissent, towards the ruling administration, could, and would be dealt with, in the form of a massive and brutal, rapid response.
Within the grounds of the sprawling, government complex of Sector 4735, and strictly ‘off limits’ to the ‘Riff Raff’, was housed the anonymous, district headquarters of the Department of Social Correction. This facility, a network of several thousand dwellings, which appeared outwardly identical to the everyday domestic neighbourhoods of the district, was home to this Response Unit. The buildings were, in fact, their barracks. Each structure accommodated twenty men, or one Company, in a cramped living space, containing only beds, and lockers for their uniforms. They possessed no ‘personal effects’.
On the inside, these single-roomed dormitories, with no internal party walls, resembled primitive hospital wards. The clinical atmosphere and anti-septic smell associated with infirmaries, was replaced by the equally intimidating air that characterises the harsh regime of any brutal, criminal correctional facility.
The largely unpopulated, central portion of the no-go zone was, in fact reserved for this very purpose.
Although dissenters had become increasingly subdued, and their message viewed with increasing scepticism, as time had softened attitudes towards the ‘authorities’, the ‘prisons’ were still substantially populated. The ‘authorities’ would deny the existence of these people, or places, if the subject was ever mentioned, but local officials had been heard to refer to their inmates as the ‘unconstitutional element’ In reality, they were largely, ‘token’ prisoners; absconded during the infrequent ‘Service Raids’ which were carried out to serve as an additional, though basically unnecessary, reminder that order would prevail, and no displays of opposition would be tolerated.
The complex, and the knowledge of what it stood for, was an unfortunate feature of many Sectors.
Starling watched impassively as the seemingly endless procession of gaily festooned floats, passed by the front of the house, on their day-long circuit of the Sector. The march was accompanied by the incessant performance of ‘Brave Nation, Brave World’, that was broadcast continuously. It was delivered thunderously, from each passing float, as well as from both the interior and exterior walls of each individual building. It was literally impossible to escape the thud of the refrain of the National Anthem. Even the hourly propaganda bulletins had been suspended, to accommodate these renditions, for the duration of the ‘holiday’, which had commenced at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, and continued for a full twenty four hours when the ‘holiday’ came to an abrupt end.
The one hundred thousand ‘Service Personnel’, sombrely clad in the plain grey tunics and slacks that formed their undecorated ‘uniforms’, goose-stepped, with clenched fist to chest. A single Company acted as ‘escort’ to each of the five thousand floats.

To be continued

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski

Click Fourth Millennium (7) to read on

Click Fourth Millennium (5) to go back to conclusion of Chapter 3

Click FORBIDDEN to go back to Chapter 1

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fourth Millennium (5)


3 Tour Of Duty (Cont)

Daylight, as ever, during the bleak, winter months, was a long time coming. It didn’t help matters that the sullen sky remained overcast, with a steel-grey sheet, fore-warning of yet more snow to come. At least this meant that it wouldn’t be quite as cold as it had been, during the month immediately prior to the arrival of the snowstorms. The high-pressure system that had displayed a seamless expanse of blue sky, by day, and a starscape of breathtaking clarity, by night, had also ensured that temperatures had remained well below freezing by both day and night.
Watching the passing scenery was just about the most uninspiring pastime Starling could imagine. Everywhere looked exactly the same, and the monotony of it all was mind-numbing. Kilometre after kilometre of identical-looking buildings presented a recurring nightmare of a landscape, totally devoid of recognisable, individual landmarks, man-made or natural. No natural features existed even, to break up the uniformity of the horizon. As far as the eye could see, in any direction was nothing but a level surface of tediously similar, snow-covered townscape.
As the day became lighter, the pure, brilliant white of the snow-blanketed ground, took on a dirty grey tinge, matching the despondent mood of the gloom-bearing clouds, and the dejected passengers alike. The once visible horizon disappeared as heaven and earth fused to form a void, which could be quite accurately, and entirely appropriately, described as purgatory.
Starling had made a point of taking note of the precise time the bus had set off from outside Nightingale’s house. For the record, he had registered the time as 06:17:24. He mused that, according to Chestnut at Transport Headquarters, they were due to arrive at their destination at 09:18:00, on the dot.
Robin had noticed, in his rear-view mirror, Starling’s purposeful glance at the digital timepiece, integrally situated into the back of the Aspex enclosure, surrounding him. He was well aware that Chestnut had guaranteed a travelling time of three hours and thirty six seconds. Without hesitation, he adjusted his navigational controls to achieve an average speed that would accommodate this guarantee.
As the bizarrely repetitive backdrop dawdled it’s progress outside, Starling found himself taking increasingly more frequent upward glances at the chronometer. This served the dual purpose of, not only providing a welcome distraction, but also allowing him to check the accuracy of Chestnut’s prediction.
At precisely 09:18, the vehicle came to an abrupt halt. It had been an incredibly smooth ride and, despite the monotony of the view to the exterior, a very comfortable and relaxing experience. So much so, in fact, that it took Starling and Nightingale several seconds to realise that the bus, had indeed stopped moving.
It was not until they noticed that the Aspex enclosure, surrounding Robin, had begun to move, and the driver himself, adjusting his position, to turn and face his jaded passengers; that they were able to confirm, both the stationary status of the vehicle, and the current time.
Starling and Nightingale collected their personal belongings, and disembarked, thanking Robin for his efficiency; at the same time, wondering whether or not Birch, the person Mallard had arranged to meet them, would be aware of the bus’s arrival.
They stood together for a few moments, bags in hand, close to the front of the bus, debating the reliability of ‘uncle’ Mallard’s instructions.
Robin leaned his head out of the window, and delivered a short, shrill whistle, beckoning to Starling with his left arm.
“Here,” he called.
Starling approached the window hesitantly, but before he was able to query the driver’s signal, Robin handed him a small, silver-coloured disc.
“You might find this useful,” he offered, in hushed tones.
Starling inspected the silver coin, lying in the flat of his hand. One side depicted the embossed likeness of a man’s face, surrounded on the perimeter, by a series of strange symbols, he was unable to recognise. They were, in fact, words. He did, however, recognise the numbers that also appeared to the upper left side of the profile, above the man’s forehead. They read 2736, which held absolutely no significance whatsoever to Starling. In similar fashion, the rear of the disc contained a representation of an ornate building. More words appeared to the upper portion of the coin, while lower, close to the base, stood the number 100. Unbeknown to Starling, this was a unit of currency, dating back to almost fifty years before the ‘Purges’.
“Thanks, Robin. What is it? A good luck charm?” enquired the bemused Starling.
“Now why would a man like you need one of those?” replied Robin, cryptically.
Not to be outdone by Robin’s verbal evasion, Starling returned the question with one of his own.
“Oh, no reason. Why give me such an item?”
“Perhaps you might be able to tell me; at a later date, of course.”
There was no reply that Starling could think of, to satisfy safely this development in the conversation. He looked Robin directly in the eye and simply agreed.
As the younger man started towards his friend, once more, Robin continued to speak.
“You know, Starling; from one bird to another. The use of the name ‘Robin’, sends a very powerful message, when applied in the correct environment.”
With that, Robin smiled, and saluted. An inexplicable expression appeared on his face.
Starling returned the salute nodding; realising that no further words were necessary. He now, more than ever, firmly believed that his initial perceptions had indicated accurately, that this man, Robin, could prove to be, one of his most valued, important, and influential allies.
Birch’s arrival, at shortly after 9:45, triggered the traveller’s departure from the grounds of Sector 4735’s Transport Department Offices.
With one last, deliberate glance, from Starling, in the direction of Robin, they made their way, the short distance, to the home of the Birch family. This was where they would be staying, at least until they had made further contact with, as yet unidentified leads, to ‘them’.
Birch was younger than Starling had been led to believe. He was, Starling discovered, thirty four, and not in his mid forties, as Mallard’s description had implied. Perhaps this was because Starling had imagined him to be only a couple of years younger than his sister-in-law, Nightingale’s mother, who was forty eight; the same age as her husband. Birch had, somehow, managed to retain his youthful good looks, which made him appear to be no older than late twenties; thirty at most.
Starling and Nightingale were informed, unsurprisingly, that they would have to sleep in the living room. They would have to make themselves as comfortable as possible, by utilising the rolled-up Portabeds that lay on the floor, behind the leisure seating.
This was ideal; it meant the maximum amount of time could be spent together, and plans could be formulated jointly, without having to wait to receive the other’s approval.

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski

Click Fourth Millennium (4) to go back to start of Chapter 3

Click FORBIDDEN to go back to Chapter 1

Click Fourth Millennium (6) to read on

Top Justice


A hundred years from now, we’ll all be dead
A hundred years ago, we weren’t alive
Following in the footsteps that we tread
Others will learn from our mistakes; survive

But will they do any better than us?
Any different; more successfully?
Or will they be just like the knockers now?
Never satisfied with what others do

How many times did you hear someone ask
Why do it? Where did it ever get you?
In reference to an interest that you have
An obsession that brings rewards to some?

They just don’t understand the benefits
That are derived from ‘amateur pursuits’
Perhaps they think that they’ve got better things
To occupy their ‘precious’ leisure time

They’re quick enough to ridicule your work
Quoting lack of rewards for your efforts
‘How did it ever benefit you?’ They’ll ask
They obviously mean ‘financially’

Cos money’s all they ever think about
How to get it; what things to waste it on
Without ever fulfilling their ambition
Of living the carefree life of Riley

So of course they’re jealous of things you do
Hoping that you’ll never make it pay
All the while, looking over their shoulder
To check you haven’t ‘hit it big’ this time

When they ask, ‘What do you get out of it?’
You know they’re asking about the money
And reading in between their prying lines
You’re pretty certain what they’re getting at

They’re not asking, ‘Does it give you a buzz?’
They don’t want to know how it makes you feel
The question that they’re really asking, is
‘Where’s my share of anything it got you?’

They’re always looking for rewards for nothing
Despite the unused talents they possess
They’ve never spent a moment of their time
Constructively; working creatively

But as time passes you live, and you learn
To ignore their thinly disguised appeals
They’re not really any of your concern
You hope one day, they’ll find out how it feels

Reading 'The Fourth Millennium'?
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Matinee Muse 14

Juxtaposed Realities and Strange Bedfellows


You know the old expressions
‘Eyes too close together’
‘I couldn’t even trust him
As far as I could throw him’
That was Johnny to a tee
A former friend, of sorts
When I was just a schoolboy
So many moons ago
He was much smaller than me
‘Knee-height to a grasshopper’
Skinny’ undernourished
Devious expression
But I kind of liked him
He lived on the New Estate
‘The wrong side of the tracks’
Out of bounds, for ‘good boys’
Which I was, in theory at least
I often used to wonder
Just how far I could throw him
A few pounds, soaking wet
I wouldn’t even see him land
‘Porky’ once said to him
‘I can read you like a book’
That one really threw him
(What had ‘Porky’ read lately?)
It just goes to show you though
Nobody should ever try
To ‘judge a book by its cover’

Splitting the Infinitive, Splitting up Infinity

To split the Infinitive
Is as devastating as
Splitting the Atom, to some.
I don’t know how to do it
Atom, not infinity.
To carefully split a verb
From its infinitive is
Not acceptable at all,
But does it really matter?
Worse things have happened at sea,
Any sailor will tell you.
Do they split infinitives
So they can know without doubt
Which is bad and which is worse?
Let’s look at infinity,
Beginning to end (?) of time.
Almost infinite options.
It can be split up in years
Centuries, Millennia,
Hours, days, weeks; even months.
Then there are minutes; seconds.
In time, anything applies.
To justify existence,
A lifetime is an ‘Era’,
The Past is called ‘History’,
The Present is ‘Here and Now’,
The Future is ‘Yet to Come’.
Infinity and Tenses
Go together, hand in hand.
Why no justification
For splitting Infinitives?
Consider Infinity.
The same consideration
Applies to infinitives
Surely there’s something in that.
To completely illustrate,
(To illustrate completely,)
I’ll offer an example.
I’ll leave you to work it out.
Is it ‘To Over Sleep’? Or
Is it ‘To Sleep Over’? Which?

Was that a Preposition
At the end of a sentence
About five lines ago?
Or are things like that allowed?

Nothing is ever easy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fourth Millennium (4)

Robin's Style - for Sunday Scribblings


3 Tour Of Duty

Robin, the bus driver, ‘sounded’ his horn, to alert Starling to his presence. Starling was mildly surprised. He had been completely unaware of the existence of the Vibro-klaxon, a gadget that sent a series of tremors in any given direction. It had been designed originally, with the sole intention of penetrating the soundproof building and motor vehicle manufacturing materials, to act as a warning, advising of traffic presence. More commonly, it was used for, or at least intended for the purpose of, alerting sleeping citizens to the outbreak of fire, or any other disastrous scenario that may occur.
What surprised Starling more than the actual sensation that he had felt from the device, was the fact that the bus had arrived so early. It was particularly uncommon for anyone to be up and about, prior to the seven o’ clock wake-up call of ‘Brave Nation, Brave World’.
The icy conditions had not relented, and a fresh flurry of snow was beginning to descend. Steam shot from the mouth of the middle-aged driver, as he leaned his head out of the window, to call his greeting; unheard by Starling, who was peering, bemused, through his bedroom window.
Still drowsy, from his sudden return to the land of the living, Starling raised his right hand, showing all four fingers; a signal to the driver indicating that he was at least conscious, but needed a short period of time; four minutes, in fact, in which to get his possessions together.
The patient, cheerful featured driver, sat back in his seat, sanctioning the mimed request which, he assumed, entailed a body sweep, and a couple of precious minutes, for Starling to gather up his thoughts, as well as his belongings. The latter had been left in wait close to his bedroom door, in anticipation of his departure.
Starling wondered why the bus was belching thick, black, albeit odourless fumes, as he tramped the fifteen paces from the front door to where the stationary bus was docked.
“Don’t worry about that,” the driver reassured, noticing that Starling had raised a hand to his face, to cover his mouth and nose. “It’s just for effect. She’s powered by an Ultraslim energy panel. It’s not real smoke; and she runs so silently, you can’t even tell when she’s turned on, without the obvious signal. It’s a reminder to us to switch off, and to let ‘all the other vehicles’ on the road, know she’s actually breathing.” The laughing pilot explained.
A number of things amused Starling, about the driver. He sported a surreal looking handlebar moustache, he was forever rubbing, and shaping with his forefinger. Its expanse had the affect of making his face appear too small for his body. Starling was intrigued also, by Robin’s rather obscure, use of both language and animation. To begin with, Robin had referred to the bus as ‘she’. He’d never before heard anyone refer to an inanimate object, in the third person personal. Robin had also said ‘when she’s turned on’. Starling was unable to determine whether or not, there was any hidden sexual connotation in this particular phrase. Another thing was Robin’s manner of expressing the phrase, ‘all the other vehicles’. He’d animated this phrase, by forming two ‘V’ shapes with his two, middle and index fingers, positioning them close to his ears as he spoke.
Starling was quietly impressed by these novel characteristics, but wondered, initially, why Robin had even bothered to mention ‘other vehicles’, which the roads were so clearly lacking.
He’s a subtle one, Starling thought, blissfully ignorant of the fact that he’d just received his first lesson in the use of irony, for the purpose of humour.
It wasn’t until Starling boarded the single-decker bus, through an uncovered doorway, to the right of the driver, which mysteriously emitted a short hissing sound as he passed, that he became aware of the nameplate, on the drivers jacket pocket. Starling needed no clarification on the species of bird it portrayed. It was, quite clearly, a Robin, complete with scarlet breast feathers.
“You’re Robin, I take it. My name’s Starling; pleased to meet you.”
“I am indeed. Top of the morning to yerself, sir;” another use of unfamiliar terminology.
Starling was already beginning to like the man, who gestured, by jerking his head in a backwards motion, when the travel permission disc was produced. Such barefaced informality was unheard of in Starling’s social circles, but he correctly assumed that it indicated, ‘No problem, carry on; in that direction’.
A housing of clear Aspex descended to envelop Robin in splendid isolation, inside what he always referred to, again mysteriously, as his ‘cockpit’.
Smiling at the segregated ‘pilot’; another of Robin’s puzzling designations, Starling felt inwardly relieved; secure, with the agreeable driver. Not least for the fact that he could safely conduct any conversations with his ‘partner in crime’, Nightingale, shielded from earshot as they would be, by this heaven-sent, soundproof canopy. At the same time, he felt somewhat deflated, already missing Robin’s amusing banter
Robin still managed to have the final word, however; and it was the last time he spoke, for the entire journey.
Raising the enclosure, he tilted his neck backwards, and chimed;
“All aboard? Steady as she goes!”
Something about Robin’s name, struck Starling as somehow exclusive; distinctive. It sounded comforting somehow; more individual; personal than his own. Starling was unable to think why this should be, especially as he realised that it was, in all probability, a name shared by perhaps scores of other people.
Robin had not forgotten his instruction to pick up Nightingale. He knew this was the only stop he would have to make, before arriving at the destination. He also knew that Nightingale would be the only other passenger, and knew exactly where to find him.
Nightingale was as unprepared for the early start as Starling had been. Like Starling, he believed that the expression ‘first thing in the morning’, meant after seven o’ clock, and the National Anthem. Arriving before seven, was, he felt, taking the word ‘first’ just a little too literally. Nevertheless, this rude awakening did nothing to diminish his enthusiasm, nor prevent him from leaping out of bed, grabbing his solitary piece of luggage, and rushing like a madman to join Starling, on the bus. A matter of only seconds; perhaps not even a minute had elapsed, since Robin had eased the vehicle to a halt.
Nightingale had taken a body sweep, and dressed in his travelling clothes, before retiring, the previous evening. He didn’t wish to be accused of slowing things down, or be the cause of any unnecessary delays. He was every bit as eager as Starling, to commence the quest they had been planning together, since childhood.
He stowed his bag hurriedly, and sat down, beside his friend.
They were on their way at last.
Their quest had finally begun.

To be continued

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski

Click Fourth Millennium (3) to go back to conclusion of Chapter 2

Click FORBIDDEN to go back to Chapter 1

Click Fourth Millennium (5) to read on

Thursday, October 16, 2008

TOP Internal Rhymes 2


Make the vocal the focal point.
In the background, the sound of jazz.
Hip-hop is born; Be-bop, old hat,
And that yackety sax is torn
From the track, replaced by pure
Mellow tones, that endure, not drone.
Say hello; cherish what you own.
Perish the thought of losing it.
Fusing the muse, refuse the shit.
Keep the spirit of jazz alive;
Allow it to survive. Dig deep,
And an urge will emerge within;
A temptation to commit; not a sin;
A creation; make it fit
The lifestyles; the attitudes,
The moods of the word on the street.
Have you heard the beat that exudes
From every pore, when you play
From the core? Pay your due respect,
And reflect your true sense of pride.
Don’t drop behind and hide your love
Of what you hold above all else.
Ring the bells; shout out loud, state it clear.
Never fear, just be proud of your thing

Monday, October 13, 2008

TOP Internal Rhymes


Who am I?
Half of ‘we’ -
Stop trying to fly
I’m no longer crying
Tears shed
Put to bed a long time ago
Oh, I cried
Sure I cried - forever
I cried - tears have all dried
So I’m not bitter
Fitter now than ever before
Sure, passions paused
And in my loneliness, I doubted
It took a mighty beating
But I picked up
And started over, on my own terms
Oh, I cried
Sure I cried - forever
I cried - but not any more
An endless dark night
No distant light to guide me back home
Still, I forgive you
Do you have it in you – do you?
Are you ready to open your mind?
Find a reason
To rescue what remains of my heart?
…or not

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Matinee Muse 13 A Matter Of Trust

Tough-guy Dad

He hadn’t cried since he was six
He’d taken the knocks and fought back
Always the leader of the gang
Thought he had what others lack

Unlike his friends, he got married
Faithful to his wife, loved his son
Some things have to be respected
A happy home is number one

He would never blink an eyelid
When presenting gifts to his lad
No acknowledgement; no ‘thank-you’
Tough-guy lad, just like tough-guy dad

Words were not needed, actions spoke
The final kiss goodnight revealed
The true depth of mutual love
Unconditional, unconcealed

Beside the boy, tucked up in bed
Toys, clothes, gifts tough-guy dad had bought
Wrapped in his arms, close to his heart
Inspired tough-guy dad to deep thought

Turning away to leave the room
Tough-guy dad battled with the tears
That welled up in his tough-guy eyes
Driving out doubt, allaying fears

What about people who say
‘Children should be seen and not heard’?
Had they really paid attention
Considered their thought, deed, or word?

Observation, care, devotion
Render spoken thanks obsolete
The forces of pure emotion
Produce feelings that can’t be beat

Speak gratitudes, give platitudes
Shallow praise for the simple mind
Locking doors, closed by attitudes
Tough guys see all; some think love’s blind

Mad Kane's Twitter


More speed, less haste, less litter
Without the gloss and glitter
Plain English? Morse Code?
Did something explode?
Leaving fall-out of 'Tweets' on 'Twitter'


In equal measure
Add ‘Twitter’ and ‘Tweet’ to ‘Birds’
= Communication

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fourth Millennium (3)


2 Permission Granted (cont.)

“I have become increasingly anxious to get my quest under way, as this year, 2999, especially, has progressed.
Nightingale, my ‘accomplice’ has also displayed similar anxiety.

The time is now!
So it is written; so shall it be done.

This entry, possibly my final one, shall describe my environment, in anticipation of the events, the adventures, I am about to embark upon with my most trusted companion, Nightingale.
Events and adventures that may change, forever, our philosophies; all in fact, that we have come to regard as ‘normal’; from our surroundings, to our lifestyles, to our very perceptions.
Nightingale and I are ready, after years of careful preparation and consideration, to face the challenge, and its consequences, whatever they may be.

Here is written, my contribution to history, for the understanding of future generations; dated 30.12. 2999.

7.00 am. I awake, to the tones of the National Anthem; ‘Brave Nation, Brave World’; broadcast over the domestic sound system, a micro device, with audio outlets implanted into the walls of each room.
Instructions, advice and warnings, are delivered in hourly bulletins, from the ‘Voice of the Nation’ studios, inside the local government headquarters.
These continue throughout the day, until 7.00 pm, when the National Anthem is played once more, to indicate the close of transmission.
I visit the cleanroom and take an electro statically charged body sweep.
Standing naked, beneath the orange beam that emanates from the wall fixture; the appliance removes all dirt, as well as unwanted facial hair, in a matter of seconds.

7.15 am. I join my family; my parents, for breakfast; a bowl of Fibrotins; a cereal containing the optimum daily intake of dietary fibre and vitamins; and a glass of Procarb; a meal in liquid form that contains all the dietary requirements, to set me up for the day.

7.30 am. A short walk to Attire, and my job, as a quality control inspector, at the garment factory.
A superfluous position; all items are of identical standard, and there is never more than a 0% rejection rate.

11.30 am. Break for lunch, and social interaction.
Lunch is two portions of Sustocrisp biscuits, containing minerals as well as other dietary supplements.
As a rule, I participate in the Suggestions Forum, in which new ideas, for improvements to working conditions, are invited to be voiced.
However, agreement, as always, is reached, without exception; that satisfactory conditions prevail, and the ‘Any New Business’ function is as superfluous as my own position.

12.30 am. I attend the local Education Complex, to deliver my presentation to the students; a recruitment drive, offering secure employment and a steady income at Attire.
This presentation is always eagerly anticipated by the students, even though their studies include handicrafts, as well as the 3 L’s: Listening, Looking, and Language.

1.30 pm. The afternoon shift, back at work, ending at 3.30, with collection of wages, paid daily.
Payment is made in the form of cash; 5 tokens per day.
10 tokens paid on Saturday; the end of the working week.
A total of 35 tokens per week is adequate for our day-to-day requirements of food and clothing.

4.00 pm. I return home, to a home-cooked meal of locally reared and grown, high protein, low fat, cholesterol-free chicken, and HiVit vegetables.
Preparation takes seconds, under the portable electrostatic cleansing device, similar to that used in the cleanroom.
Cooking, again, is completed in a matter of seconds, utilising the microwave appliance.

4.15 pm. Home maintenance tasks are undertaken.
The settings on the climate control apparatus are modified, using the optimiser on the hand-held controller.
Energy for this, and all appliances, is supplied by the micro solar cells, implanted into the Carbolite roof.
This year, we find that the volatile nature of the weather, and the exceptional severity of winter, have combined, to render this function a requirement, at more frequent intervals, than in previous years.
My mother attends to the laundry; a similar exercise to taking a sweep, or preparing raw food.
This function occupies a little over two minutes of her time.

5.00 pm. Leisure Time; consists of conversation with my parents, and discussions regarding the day’s activities; basically repeating the previous day’s conversation, with the addition of only minor, seasonal references to weather related observations.
Also reminders of the daily, Voice of the Nation broadcasts, in case any new instructions, or warnings, were missed.

7.00 pm. The family stands for ‘Brave Nation, Brave World’, before my parents retire, for the evening.
At this point, I usually visit my friend, Nightingale, unless he decides to come over and visit me.
Our conversations revolve around preparations for our quest, and take place out of earshot of my parents, who are either sleeping, or remain awake, behind the closed door of their soundproof bedroom.

9.30 pm. Later, on rare occasions; our conversation draws to a close, and we express our mutual ‘good-night’s’.

So ends my description of a typical day in my life. The theme of repetition is constant, as there are very rarely any distractions to disrupt events; other than the increasingly minor, amendments to the Voice of the Nation transmissions.
It is a tried and trusted formula they use, which ensures that the indisputable paranoia of the ‘authorities’, are not transmitted, like some virulent ailment, to the collective consciousness of the general population.
They may appear to be sitting pretty right now, but they may just have an uncontrollable fire to contend with, once Nightingale and I have returned from our quest.
Let’s hope this will be a fire that cannot be extinguished, and that it eventually engulfs the ‘authorities’ in a blaze of eternal flames; while leaving the remainder of us, to experience, for the first time in our lives, that unknown pleasure, and as far as we do know, unpredictable, but enjoyably so, factor; choice.”

Starling reflected on the incident that had allowed him to include in his entry, mention of his plan to commence their quest.

During one of their evening discussion sessions, Nightingale had announced that he’d been in contact with his uncle, Mallard.
“I have some good news, and some bad news, Starling, regarding our quest.”
“Well, tell me both, Nightingale. So far, it’s nothing more than a plan; an ambition. Any news is welcome.”
“OK, but remember; I’m just acting as the messenger-boy…
Now…you remember I told you about my uncle…Mallard?”
“Oh yes, I remember.” Starling became excited.
“Well…it turns out he’s…not the…actual, er…contact…with ‘them’…after all.” Nightingale paused, waiting for Starling’s response.
“But he knows someone who is…doesn’t he?” Starling queried, reasonably.
“Oh, yes!” Nightingale sounded relieved at Starlings reaction. “But…in order to meet with the real contact…and he’s only a stepping-stone, in the process of actually making contact…we have to travel…to another Sector…” Nightingale’s hesitant delivery, served as a plea for help, from his friend, Starling.
“Obviously travel permission will be difficult to obtain,” Starling began, “but let’s remain positive, and assume for the moment, that it’s possible…Continue please, Nightingale.”
“Mallard said that if we can find a way of getting to Sector 4735, then he can arrange for his brother-in-law; a guy named Birch, to meet us, and point us in the right direction.”
Starling thought for several minutes, before verbally assessing Nightingale’s news.
“We’ve known all along that we will have to use all our powers of analytical thought, imagination and invention, to stand any chance of achieving our aim. Why should the first part be any different; any easier, than the rest? It’s just the first of many challenges and…by all accounts…if those accounts are to be believed; they will become increasingly difficult. There is no point in kidding ourselves that it’s going to be a formality, so let’s approach the practical in the same way we’ve always approached the theory…with determination to succeed.”
“I honestly thought you’d be disappointed. I was actually quite nervous about telling you,” Nightingale admitted.
“Quite the contrary, Nightingale, we’re one step; albeit a very small step, closer to actually putting our plan into action. I’m excited…nervous too…but can’t you see? The door has been opened; all we have to do is walk through it; and beyond it, we now know for sure…there are others! Where they lead to…only time will tell.
You’ve supplied the motive, Nightingale…and we already know we only have one method available to us…Let’s see if I can provide the opportunity”

Starling was nothing if not resourceful, and left no stone unturned in his meticulous preparations for the commencement of his mission. He devised a foolproof plan, to ensure official recognition, and therefore, acceptance of, even assistance in his expedition.
He applied for, and received the necessary authorisation to leave his district, under the pretence of conducting essential, official business, in his newly adopted and self-appointed role as Community Spokesperson. He was to meet with a fellow representative, from Sector 4735, in order that they could implement certain communication techniques.
He had further strengthened his application by stating that these techniques would ensure that everyone received the same message from official briefs. In this way reducing the number of occasions on which travel to discuss such preventable matters, would be required.
The permission was, in fact, a mere formality. So few people ever actually required, or even qualified for a travel pass, that in truth, the local authorities had no procedure for declining an application. As they were mere minnows in the ocean of bureaucracy, they were expected to conduct their own affairs, proactively, without ever seeking the aid or advice of higher authorities.
As a fortuitous condition, which was attached to the ‘permission to travel’ authorisation, it was also a stipulation that any traveller should be accompanied ‘by a person of sound mind, and high moral standing’. Initially, Starling thought that this clause may rule out the inclusion of Nightingale as his travelling companion. However, for similar reasons that led to his own undisputed permission, Starling encountered no obstruction to his nomination of Nightingale as the man for the job.
A further, highly fortuitous consequence of his application was the inclusion of an extremely generous cash allowance, to cover ‘essential’ expenses, while on official government business.
As was the case with everything else, the government officials were so far removed; so far out of touch with the ‘real world’, that they had no idea, no concern that this amount was far in excess of what any single person, working in any profession, could ever expect to receive, even as an annual salary. Not that it would have made any difference, even if they did know. Government Officials, which was what Starling was, as far as they, or anyone else were concerned, were entitled to much more than the ‘Riff Raff’ could expect to receive. ‘Riff Raff’ was a term that was applied to anyone who didn’t work directly for the government, whether they were a farm labourer or a brain surgeon.
The fact that Starling was himself, a mere employee, in a clothing factory was never taken into account, despite the fact that he only fulfilled his official, government duties, on an unpaid, strictly voluntary basis. This was unbeknown to the local authorities; they had neither the intelligence, nor the inclination, to question the authority of anyone so clearly qualified. In reality, they wouldn’t even be aware of any procedure to deal with anyone who falsely claimed to be something he was not.
In their eyes, both Starling and Nightingale were their equals; perhaps even their superiors; untouchable by the harsh rules that applied to the, essentially honest ‘Riff Raff’.
Official permission to travel was granted the same day Starling made his ‘diary’ entry.
A local government official, sporting a lapel badge, depicting a tree that he explained was a poor likeness of a Chestnut; clearly his name, and clearly a name from a different Sector, handed over the permission disc; a five-sided coin that acted as both ticket and confirmation of permission to travel. He had also given Starling a bulky envelope, containing the cash; the princely sum of two thousand tokens. Starling slipped the hefty envelope into the inside, self-healing lining of his attaché case.
“The buses are parked in the compound, just behind this office. All you need to do is tell the attendant what time you wish to leave, and he’ll make one available for you. I’m sure you’ve got bags to collect, and of course, your travelling companion has to be picked up. Let the attendant know all your details, and he’ll arrange it all…Are you leaving today, or tomorrow?” The official smiled, revealing a set of perfect teeth, as white as the snow which continued to fall outside.
“Can we expect any delays, due to the inclement weather?” Starling wanted to know.
“Don’t worry; all paths are thoroughly cleared, in every direction; traffic or no traffic. The journey time, from here, to Sector 4735, is exactly three hours and thirty six seconds, if you go direct; guaranteed.”
“In that case, I’ll let the attendant know of my intention to travel tomorrow, December 31st”
“Very well, sir, that will be fine. Have yourself a happy New Year, and give my regards to my old friend, Maple, the gentleman you’ll be meeting with, after the holiday. Hope it all comes to a satisfactory conclusion.”
“So do I, and thanks very much; I will. Happy New Year to you and yours, too.”

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski

Click FOURTH MILLENNIUM to go back to start of Chapter 2

Click FORBIDDEN to go back to Chapter 1

Click Fourth Millennium (4) to read on

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


For Sunday scribblings 132 -
not exactlty history...but one day...?


2 Permission Granted

Blizzard conditions; ice and snow, heralded the dawn of the fourth millennium. Temperatures had remained below freezing overnight, and bitter cold had prevailed during the hours of daylight; such as it was, for over a month, before it began snowing, just prior to X-mas.
‘They’ say that X-mas was called Christmas, at one time, long ago. No-one could explain, or even hazard a guess, as to why; or why, indeed, the name of the holiday had been changed; if it ever really had been.
Peace reigned on Earth throughout the festive season, as it had done for over a century.
All wars and conflicts had been multi-laterally abandoned, abruptly during the ‘General Armistice’ of the late twenty ninth century; the ‘Purges’; yet another thing ‘they’ say.
A universal amnesty was declared, in which all hostilities, of any nature, worldwide, were ‘advised’ to cease; a situation that had been accelerated by the development of ‘Ideocide’; a computer generated philosophy; in fact a weapon of ideological adjustment. The hardware with which it could be administered, nicknamed ‘The Persuader’, combined with the very real threat of its deployment was, in no small measure accountable for the fact that Peace on Earth, actually came about. This was, perhaps, the solitary meaningful achievement of an otherwise indifferent world order that was neither concerned with, nor advocated, humanitarian compassion.
Ever since the time of the ‘Purges’, the global authorities had devoted, dedicated virtually all their efforts to ensuring that the truth behind the ‘Armistice’, may never be revealed.

“Of course, this theory that ‘they’ are responsible for spreading, is merely conjecture, as far as anybody really knows, or cares.
Most people are content to accept the way things are, and would prefer to remain ignorant, than know for sure.
As far as the general population is concerned, it is all a myth.
It is neither mentioned nor denied; the subject is never even raised, in ‘official’ circles.
It is considered, by sceptics, to be no more than just a dangerous rumour; yet it is as brutally oppressed, by the ‘authorities’ as any of the freedoms that are no longer considered appropriate, or ‘politically correct’.
But someone, somewhere, always has to know exactly what it is that someone else doesn’t want the rest of the world to know about.
The only trouble is; ‘they’; the ones who do know, and would be able to tell, have to live secretly; isolated from the world at large.
‘They’ are outlaws, and as such, are the one group, to whom the death penalty; also a universal thing of the past, still applies.”

Starling, and also his loyal confidant, Nightingale, were well aware of the severity of the penalties for even so much as listening to these preposterous, unsubstantiated items of gossip; hearsay. They were also aware that this was as close as the ‘authorities’ ever came, to acknowledging that the ‘stories’ even existed.
Despite this, they were in no way intimidated by the prospect of flouting the law, and discovering the truth; if that was any different to the official line of propaganda.
This year, 2999, Starling had decided, would be the year that his quest would begin in earnest. Nightingale was in complete agreement. It had been both men’s personal discipline that had kept their hopes; their dream, alive for so many years. Now, perhaps, they were about to realise their ambition.
They didn’t have much time left, to make their initial move. It was already December 30th, but this would, in fact, be the day that was to change the lives of both men; potentially, the lives of all people, forever.
Starling had risen early, on December 30th, as was his daily habit, despite the bone-gnawing grip of this year’s extraordinarily severe winter, and the luxurious warmth and comfort of his bed. His sense of well-being did not desert him on confronting the arctic chill. He had much to do, and was hoping, beyond hope that his good friend, Nightingale, was with him; that he was as able to walk as he was to talk.
To claim to know something, is one thing; quite another to be fully conversant with a subject, and a different kettle of fish altogether, to have actual, practical experience of a situation. This was even more of a potential obstacle in the case of Starling and Nightingale, now that so many restrictions had been placed on even the most basic of functions requiring the use of transport. Journeys to destinations outside the borders of a particular district were, in theory at least, especially subject to intense scrutiny, and viewed with intense suspicion. The only exception to this official stance was if the journey was being made in order to carry out an official government function.
In order to ensure that he would not be made the subject of prying eyes, Starling took a precautionary glance around his house and its surroundings.
His parents were nowhere to be seen, having risen early and left the house, in order to participate in the final preparations for the official New Year’s Day Parade, which was to take place in just two days time.
Their role, in the Parade, was to act as standard bearers, and between them, carry the flags of both the Nation and the New World Order. The tasks were handed respectively to his mother, a forty nine year old, still physically attractive brunette, and child care assistant; and his father, a rapidly balding, former building maintenance supervisor. Starling senior; ID number 40149, was the elder of three brothers; now approaching sixty years old, he was already almost five years beyond the official retirement age of fifty five.
The family home, was a single-storey dwelling, comprising two compact bedrooms, a less than spacious, however, adequately sized living room-dining room combination, a basically installed, although fully functional kitchen, and a bathroom, or cleanroom that also served as the laundry area.
Like all modern buildings, it was constructed from ultra-slim, high density Carbocon; carbon-concrete panels. Delivered in standard, modular units, they were laid between carbon fibre, supporting columns. The roof was a single, folded sheet of corrugated Carbolite. As its brand name suggests, this is an exceptionally lightweight, carbon fibre material, designed specifically for this purpose. There was but one exterior door, situated at the front of the building. Like the three interior access openings, it was of traditional, timber composition, as were the door and window frames. The windows, manufactured locally, as all the building materials had been, were made from clear Aspex; a tough, virtually unbreakable substance that was, in fact, produced ‘naturally’, from the resin of the Aspex plant; a laboratory generated hybrid, similar to an oversized rhubarb stalk.
All of the building materials, including the genetically engineered hardwood, used for the doors and frames, had one property in common; they were all completely soundproof.
The Starling residence was very similar, although not identical, to virtually every other property in the district; in every district. Exceptions existed, naturally. Official government buildings were constructed on a much grander scale; places of work had to be of a size that would accommodate their workforce. Then, of course, there were the luxurious, spacious residences of the ‘authorities’; bound by impenetrable fences, and set in acres of beautifully landscaped, pristine grounds.
There was also a standard sized plot of land surrounding the Starling home, which measured, about the area of a football pitch.
A highway; the main route linking Sector 401, with Sector 400, to the south, and Sector 402, to the north, lay approximately two hundred and fifty metres to the west. It was a rare event, to see any traffic on this carriageway, but January 1st would be an exception, when it would be filled with the marchers and flotilla of the New Year Parade. Further to the west, Sector 301 was located, while to the east, lay Sector 501. The sectors were laid out logically, in a square grid, and were of approximately equal dimension.
With a calm, controlled sense of excitement, at the prospect of potential new discoveries, in his mind, Starling returned to his bedroom. Here, he retrieved from under his bunk, one of the small sheets of Carbolite that he had removed from his father’s store at the Department of Building Maintenance, in the district headquarters, some years earlier. Accompanying it, was a small length of carbon rod, that when applied to the Carbolite, made an indelible mark. In this way, Starling had managed to keep a ‘secret diary’.
As the written word had been abolished, a hundred years ago, or more, the art of writing, itself, had been lost. However, Starling had devised his own, unique, method of recording events, by utilising a kind of shorthand; part hieroglyphic, part alphabet. He was the only person who was able to understand, or decipher this secret code, or language, but even articles such as this, were highly irregular, and the discovery of it, by the ‘authorities’, would result in severe repercussions.
The ‘diary’ contained extracts from his own life, and those of others, as well as events of note that had transpired during the course of the previous half-dozen years. It was actually, not strictly a diary; notes were only entered at irregular intervals; such was the monotony of day-to-day existence. Nevertheless, it provided an incredibly compact, concise, yet comprehensive account of thirtieth century life, and described, in minute detail, Starlings surroundings, habits, and desires.
He reviewed the entire ‘document’, nodding and smiling; satisfied with its content, before entering his latest thoughts.
A typical day in the life of Starling 40157, unfolded before him:

To be continued

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski

Click FORBIDDEN to go back to Chapter 1

Click Fourth Millennium (3) to read on

Monday, October 6, 2008

TOP Discoveries


Undiscovered – unimportant?
Out of sight and out of mind?
In a sense it’s lying dormant
Waiting for the world to find

Buried treasure? Cure for cancer?
Meaning of life? Proof of God?

None of the above; the answer
Even though it may sound odd
Is right before our very eyes
Quite simply, vision; clarity
Allowing us to see through lies
Discover truth; reality

Sunday, October 5, 2008


The first chapter of The Fourth Millennium


1 Uncertain Times

“A hundred years from now, we’ll all be dead.
A hundred years ago, we didn’t exist.
Time is precious; it only lasts while it happens.
Beyond the ‘here and now’, time is gone; forever.
This is not because we only live for ‘the moment’.
Times have changed.
Things have changed.
Everything has changed.
The year is 2999; today is the last day of the year, New Year’s Eve, 31st December.
Tomorrow, it will be not only the start of a new year, not only of a new century, but also of a new millennium; the start of the fourth millennium.
That’s three behind us already.
Doesn’t time fly?
But what of the three thousand years that have passed?
Three thousand years since what?
Have there only been three thousand years since the beginning of time?
Does anyone know?
Does anyone care?
No-one will tell us.”
All mention, all recollection, all recordings of the past, have been outlawed.
People are no longer even permitted to keep diaries.
We have to rely on our memories, in order to look back on events, but even then, it is expressly forbidden to discuss former times with anybody.
History is a thing of the past; literally.
It was outlawed in the ‘Purges’ of the 2800’s; so ‘They’ say. But who are ‘they’? No-one even officially knows.
If anybody ever admitted to knowing ‘them’, or even of ‘them’, there would be no end of trouble.
‘They’ tell us that old men used to relate stories from their youth; pass them on to their children and their grand-children, in order that the youngsters could learn from the mistakes of the old, and build on their successes.
These days, nobody even possesses a photograph.
All recording equipment; all images; still, or moving; all audio files, and even written accounts of events, were abolished; destroyed, and subsequently, outlawed, during the ‘Purges’; so ‘They’ say.
A few examples survived, but these are as rare as the truth about the existence of ‘them’, in these times of uncertainty. Anyone who wants to find out who ‘They’ are faces an uphill struggle.
In addition to this it is necessary to know, or at least be conscious of the existence of, certain people who do not ‘officially’ exist.
The surviving examples, artefacts from our past are, allegedly, the closely guarded, secret property of the enigmatic sect, or cult, commonly referred to as ‘They’.
As such, they re not made freely, openly available to the general public.
It is precisely for this reason that they are particularly challenging to obtain, or even learn of.
In order even to get to talk to somebody who might know of somebody, there are a significant number of qualifying factors.
Having satisfied any and all requirements, your enquiry may lead to the discovery of somebody who may have heard of somebody; who may, just possibly, be able to put you in touch with somebody.
Yet another ‘person unknown’; for the right price, among other requirements, might be responsive to an enquiry, and perhaps even be aware of, a method of transport to convey you to the place, if indeed, such a place even exists, where ‘They’, whoever ‘They’ are, might reside; or not.
It would obviously depend on who you are, where you come from, who you know, and just how good you are at following instructions, as well as clues.
Because, once you get ‘There’, you’re very much on your own.
You have to be very determined, very intuitive, and very patient, as well as prosperous, if you genuinely desire to meet ‘them’; whatever your motives may be, for actually making contact.”

At twenty four years of age, Starling considered himself a suitably motivated, determined, intuitive and patient person. All his life he’d harboured, in his imagination, ideas of how things might have been; once upon a time, and privately questioned the order of things; the impositions that had clearly led to the apathetic attitudes of most of his acquaintances.
He even questioned the validity of his own name.
Why did all of his family members possess the same title? How come everyone else in his district was also named after a species of bird?
He had heard, from somebody who had privately claimed to have known someone, ‘a friend of a friend’, who had been in contact with ‘them’, that ‘traditional’ names had also been abolished during the ‘Purges’. Now everyone, from the same family, or bloodline, was known by their ‘new family name’, and they were identified according to their area of origin, by generic designation. In each area, or district, everyone was named in line with a similar reference point.
Only the number, which appeared on their official identification documents; the only documents they were permitted to possess, distinguished them from the other members of the same family.
Starling’s full title was, Starling 40157; 401, after his name, being his area, or Sector code; 57, the number of births in his family, since the inception of the ruling.
Starling 40157 had always believed there was at least, some truth in his friend’s claim. He found it difficult to imagine that his parents, or anyone else, for that matter, lacked the originality to tackle the simple and undemanding chore, of presenting their child, with a unique identity.
How inappropriate, that word ‘chore’. He had often reprimanded himself for referring to this; in his own mind, essential parental function, as a chore, and endeavoured to be more considerate, more appropriate, in his future choice of expression. It was, he felt, a labour of love, and every parent’s fundamental duty, to recognise each of their own offspring as an individual. Furthermore, Starling felt; it was every child’s right, to be granted this small, yet significant, gift of respect.
“Just like it used to be,” Nightingale 40141 would comment, whenever they were able to converse confidentially.
Nightingale, who was the individual who had claimed knowledge of contact with ‘them’, was also Starling’s most trusted companion; indeed his only trusted companion. The fact that Nightingale was two years Starling’s senior, in terms of age at least did not affect the esteem in which they held one another. However, Nightingale was not the quickest witted person Starling had ever known, which meant that, in reality, it was the more rational Starling who assumed the position of superiority in their joint activities.
Starling and Nightingale were able to speak freely with one another, whenever circumstance, or opportunity permitted, which was not very often. Nevertheless, they had formulated their own theories regarding the issues that they felt were unjust and unreasonable. More than that; they had pledged to untangle at least some of the mysteries that haunted their energetic imaginations.
As soon as they were able, they would commence their quest for ‘them’, and attempt to discover some of the solutions to the conundrum; some of the answers they craved. It was their sincere hope, that in this way, they would be able to enlighten, not only themselves, but the entire population.
It was a dream, a vision they had shared for a number of years. They believed that the knowledge they sought was available; somewhere. All the stories they had heard about ‘them’ couldn’t be entirely fictitious; they had to be at least based on fact. After all, there’s no smoke without fire. Even if the smoke is so dense, the flames are undetectable; it doesn’t mean they are non-existent.
They were in no hurry to begin their quest. They knew that certain restrictions, applying to their freedom of movement, for one thing, would prevent them from taking any action until they were fully prepared for the task. They were also well aware that the consequences of such an exploit, were not only extremely severe, but that the action itself, involved an expedition that was, potentially fraught with hazardous incidents. Besides, the one thing they were in severe shortage of was hard cash; something they would require in copious amounts, in order to even contemplate a serious challenge to the numerous difficulties which so clearly lay ahead.
A further requirement would be the familiarity with, and acquaintance of, a third party; somebody who was completely reliable; somebody in whom they could place their unconditional faith. This person, if he or she existed, would have to reciprocate their trust in an entirely discreet manner, and would be somebody who was not inclined to ask too many questions. This particular individual would also need to know, without doubt, where to begin making contact with the characters who would lead them towards their ultimate goal.
The quest had been in the research and development stage, for a number of years, but little by little, the preparations that had been painstakingly made, were beginning to bear fruit. By this time, they represented an almost feasible plan of action.
Once Nightingale had actually put some serious thought into the matter, he realised that both questions; that of money, and that of a discreet and reliable go-between, were by no means insurmountable obstacles.
He realised that his father, who was much younger than Starling’s father; just forty eight, and therefore, still in employment, as, ironically, a teacher, had managed to save, two tokens for every single day he had worked. Having worked for the past twenty five years, he now had a stash, in excess of fifteen thousand tokens. He kept this money, in a Carbolite container, under his bed.
All Nightingale needed was his father’s key, but with or without it, he decided, he could take the money, container and all, and work out a method of unlocking it at a later date, if need be.
As for a trustworthy contact with, or at least lead to, ‘them’, he need look no further than his uncle, on his mother’s side, Mallard; the person who had himself, allegedly, been in contact with, ‘them’.
He put his ideas to Starling, who wondered why these connections to their quest, had not been established much earlier. Of course both suggestions were valid contributions to their cause; their quest, and as such, should be put into action forthwith.

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski

Click FOURTH MILLENNIUM to read on

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Matinee Muse 12

Oppressive heat followed by torrential
rain - What are the odds of sustaining
a way of life?


Water of Life

Evening falls on treetops
Thunder in the air
Grasses rustle in the breeze
Shadows all around
Silence as the wind drops
Animals prepare
Hostile clouds gather to tease
Moisture deprived ground
Spirits rise as raindrops
Fall on land laid bare
The season’s first rain will please
Satisfy, astound

Relentless, torrential
Harder, stronger, faster
Breathing a new lease of life
On parched, barren land
Unleashing potential
Sparing disaster
Rewards for labour and strife
Given by God’s hand
Praise, respect; essential
Rain is the master
Its servants; husband and wife
United they stand


Two Types of Obedience

There are two types of obedience
One is born of respect
The other is born of fear
If your superiors command respect
Your obedience is guaranteed
But you are merely a follower
If you respect yourself
Others will, in turn, respect you – obey you
You will become a leader
If you fear the pretender you follow
Obedience is a result of this fear
Respect is mutual and breeds obedience
Delegation works both ways
Fear is a one-way street
Obedience from intimidation
Breeds only contempt!