Thursday, 24 January 2013

Character intro from "Babel."

I wanted to elaborate on the introduction paragraph I mantra-ed while waiting at the doctor's office with the General. The initial idea went in the manner of:

I have been thinking about my friends … Has there ever been a villain more beautiful than the General? A child more wise than Fidie? A monster more honourable than Garrosh? A criminal more honest than Genonnsuke? A pervert more righteous than Cole? Two queens more human than the Annes? More homely globetrotter than Snufkin? A virgin more motherly than Spotter? A God more earthly than Lord Murphy? A dream more flesh-ridden than dD? A revolutionary more sentimental than Pruitt? A secret more perfect than those of prince Prometheus? And my dog? That dog is ridiculously cool. That dog takes the cake. Quite literally.

But then I decided to stretch a little and introduce all the characters as if easing them down onto Pruitt. (The latest addition and the opening narator to the story of Babel.)

Here goes. It's a draft, so no criteria if you're gonna read, needed.

          That moment, that decisive moment, which can claim identity to the whole person ... That moment can be just about anything. It doesn't even have to be a concern of time. It can be the fossilisation of soul around somebody, right then, right there. Objects just get stuck to the frame. That moment, utterly personal, utterly irrelevant to history or others around us. That moment is what weights out everything else in ones short, tactlessly short and often otherwise regretful existence.

         I was thinking about my friends. These people I know. How will I explain them to Pruitt? I can't explain them as if they were normal people … That would be like explaining a fish to an ant. Eh. That would be like explaining a fish to an art. Short stories, though – just one moment short – however, can perhaps assist me a decisive unit.

          The moment when I am walking on a lowland country road; nothing before me, nothing behind me, just the road. That moment, when the General's studious face is perfectly lit by the console and he is making sure everything is functioning properly as part of his evening routine. That moment, when Spotter, pregnant like a whale, is dancing Charleston to Candyman, a song that goes against everything she was brought up to believe, laughing her blond curls off. That moment, when Cole Sherridan, leaning on a streetlight in the middle of Soho, on a gray Friday morning, spots the red car making a turn into the faraway alley and he throws away the cigarette and moves forth. That moment, when The German Anne pauses in her clinic, wearing a dirty apron and a tired smile, and everyone else - the snotty orphans, the exhausted volunteers, the toothless students - are busy and happy around her. The moment in which an Oxford professors polaroids an image of Henry VIII's ill-fated second wife, to open a lecture and turns to the auditorium, turns towards The English Anne in the audience, and she gives him a calm, sad, echo-like smile. The moment in which Fiddler’sCrazyLittleSister, twelve year old witch and comparative biologist, reaches to high shelves and from the point of view of a jarred sea monster, she looks like the most wonderful jarred monster herself. The moment in which prince Prometheus, the pansperming pale god-alien, more perfect than Helvetica, is lying on his lake deck, clothless, and looking up, reaching up, contemplating what stars really are; to him. The moment in which Gennonsuke, smoking a pipe, standing on a good vantage point over his slave pigment-berry farm, feels me coming up behind him and grins. Lord Murphy smiling. Anytime. Anyplace. dDaniel, the retired dream king, with the help of his friend Dieter Niers, conjuring enough strength to lift a pen and write down the first word he’s ever written. The moment in the rain, when Snufkin, the coolest wanderluster I’ve ever met, is pulling a canvas up between trees, using a method he taught me, and the rain is brilliant on his face. The moment Garrosh Hellscream first notices me. That kite! The moment Satra Goymer puts a lid on her DNA treasure trove of all once-were living things on Earth-that-was, carefully conserving them. The moment when Tobi, the holographic ghost of a virus, lifts her electrical wings. The moment Lord Herne, greatfather of all things born, bites an apple. Aranna drawing. Ganimed sleeping. Even the moment in which professor Agyle lectures about Anne Boleyn, even that one. And me walking, with a warm wind in my bare shoulders and my bag and clothes making me seem like a hobo threw up on a hobo. Me moving. Me placed perfectly in no particular corner of any Earth. My hair, my tattoos, my camera, my flipflops, my caffeine-molecule jewelry. The music in my ears. Me on a road.

        If I could show these moments to Pruitt, he would certainly understand a helluva lot better about whom these people are. Or I could just go: This is Cole Sherridan. He likes short conversations, long walks and to kill bad people. He used to have sex with his younger brother, but the younger brother was killed, trying to help me. Or this is Fidi. She’s a witch, her soul is a hornet and she can never age, because if she did she’s turn into a hysterical teenager and someone would probably burn her on a stake. She collects seeds, though. And lives in a tower. True to the point.

         And Pruitt? How would this introduction farce work in the opposite track? Pruitt, Pruitt, who is the smallest, scrawniest boy I’ve ever met? I, who am otherwise appalled by too thin males? General is very large, very tall, very excellently built. The two could not be too unlike. There are certain angles, certain moments in which the tiny revolutionary seems so cute … but as soon as he moves, all you see are those incredibly odd greasy black curls, the bushy brow, the humongous black eyes and the smallest mouth one can ever get on a grown man. I can’t describe Pruitt to my friends as if he is a person. Can hardly to that to my own brain. He is something lost you find washed ashore and put in a sure pocket. A button. The tiny revolutionary who unhinged a world. A flee in Skall’s coat, the coat of the wolf who eats the sun. A woolly cap on the flee of the wolf who swallows the sun. Pruitt, Pruitt. You actually make me nervous in front of the group that finds me odd. What are we going to do with you?

            Well, for starters, we are going to walk into the Anomaly and have breakfast. As asked for last night, everyone else is also here. Only Garrosh and General are missing. Their excuses fairly similar.  “This is the place where I make and sell pancakes. Hey, gang! These are my friends or co-workers. Gang, this is Cyril Pusilin Pruitt. Satra would have loved to murder her current husband and elope with this one, but she asked me to keep him safe until she figures out how to enjoy summer love in her very, very winter season.”

            He paused midway a greet. “You can speak Satra’s name here?”

            “Oh, yeah. You only mustn’t say her name after 2157.”

            “What year is this?”


            “Hm.” He looked around. Needles to say, my shop is very cushy. “It’s nice.”

            “Yeah. I’m a time-traveller and I still consider this time my home.”

            Certain people, namely Fidi and Spotter, waved excitedly. Some of the others, namely Cole and the English Anne, regarded the newcomer with suspicion. The German Anne, gesturing towards me with Satra’s mother’s thick black folder, invited me to sit down opposite. Moving forth, I pushed the boy towards the first two. “You can order any kind of pancakes you’d like. If you don’t know what that means, the girls will help you. Here, you can make great friends with Spotter. She’s about your age and she’s single.”

            “She is also … some fourteen months pregnant.”

            Spotter giggled and grinned. She instantly liked the boy, but then again she instantly liked everybody. I chuckled, too. It was true. Her otherwise lean body looked like a snake swallowed a pony. “When are you due, honey?”

            Putting a large biscuit in her mouth, gnawing on it, she mumbled: “Last week.”

            “Slow riser. I dig,” winked Gennonsuke. Then he thought of something and asked, quickly: “Do you think it’ll be born in an egg?”

            Fidi, who was also eating, sat up. She had to try very hard not to laugh, knowing she will choke and cough the crumps into a galaxy on the table in front of her. Gennonsuke tapped her on the back.

            I pulled a straight face from a pocket to considered this. “Hm. Dunno. Was he in a form of a goose when you guys had fun?” I asked Spotter. She took another biscuit, looked at Fidi and they both rolled their eyes and she moved away to get a plate for Pruitt. Pruitt looked at me for subtitles. He sat down very carefully, in case he got an overwhelming urge to run for his life in the direction of sanity. Disregarding it as uninteresting, I explained: “Spotter is one of very many of Lord Murphy’s cub-bearers, which he sired calling himself a Goose. There was a golden egg involved in there somewhere and he’s a Greek God, so you can never be too careful with him. Have you decided what you want?”

            “Um. That thing you once gave me… The thing from the small bag with hot water?”

            “An instant decaf?”

            “I’d have that.”

            “So,” asked the little witch, who was now sitting opposite and reaching into the same cookie basket as him. “What did he do?” We behaved as if Pruitt wasn’t right there, but he didn’t mind. And we didn’t do it out of rudeness or any such aloof manner, but because Fidi wasn’t sure he would be able to answer these kinds of questions himself. He was looking around, taking this odd mixture of safe homeliness and utter bizarreness in. She then added – which did draw his attention, but he dismissed it as a peculiarity, no better or worse than anything else: “How did he die?”

            “He burnt down the world.”

The German Anna, after she opened the folder and prepared to explain it to me, said: “The first nuke of 2157.”  And everybody went aaaaaaah!

          I sat down next to Pruitt, opposite the German Anne. Others remained in their places, but did pay attention. We brought this folder to her last night. Pruitt got a good night’s sleep, a bath and homemade bread with walnuts and sultanas at her clinic. He peeked outside, but it was a snowy mid-century London, so he wasn’t certain what he’s seeing and went back to bed. I slept, too, albeit not alone, and Anne was reading Satra’s mother’s notes for me. Later I will give them to everyone else also, to see what we can make of them, but for now, I only needed them to be read to me by someone with a beautiful voice.

            “So,” she began. “I went through this. I didn’t sleep at all. This is Jokasta Gomez’s unpublished research.”

            “Ye. She gave it to us on the day she died. I mean, she knew she was going to die. We told her about the nuke and she intentionally walked right in it.”

            Fidi gasped at Pruitt: “You killed Satra Goymer’s mum?!”


            “Anyways,” continued the German Anne, shooshing the kids, “there are things in here which are fairly frightening. Many things.”

            “Like?” asked Cole.

            “Like she found a cure for cancer.”

            Most people stopped eating. The German Anne revised: “Well, she challenged several kinds and according to these notes, successfully. Some of her post-grads were aiding her, although it didn’t seem like they knew what they were working on.”

            “How?” asked Fidi.

            “Do you know what a hyperparasite is?”

            “A neurotic parasite,” said Cole. “A lawyer?”

            The little girl snapped at him: “It’s a parasite that feeds on parasites!”

            Anne pointed at the screen in the folder. “Dr. Gomez wrote a hypothesis on hypercancers, specifically hypertumors and offered several avenues of approach to the theory by experimenting on various cultures herself. No lab-engineering, no nanite tech, just actual natural off growth. She milked this concept to the marrow. Also she cultivated numerous viruses that’d purposefully attack other viruses, radically diminishing their prowess.”


            “Sometimes successfully. But she wasn’t doing this under government funds, so her options were limited. What she did, though, was write every little thought she had on the subject down, and I am thinking she always wanted Satra to have these.”

            “Because if anyone will be able to make anything with this, it will be her.”

            I nudged Pruitt. “If there wasn’t for you, the lady would never have the chance to see Satra again.” I considered, what if Dr. Gomez still hid the folder somewhere where Satra would be able to find it in 2000 years? But not even the mother could foresee Satra will bend the rules of hyper sleep into a loop.

            Fidi asked: “Do you think if Satra officially finds the cure for cancer, they’ll stop prosecuting her?” She turned around to look at most of us, but it was Cole who shook his head and looked down. “That bitch invented Gates, anti-radiation foil, Rhys converter and established a high flying whorehouse that’s been around for two hundred years. She could cure death and it would still just be a drop in the bucket.” He changed the subject. “What else, Anne?”

            “Well, loads of cool stuff that eventually gets discovered anyways. LIKE the Hot gates. Obviously they’ve been discussing this concept before ...”

            Pruitt leaned towards me and whispered. “How far into the future can you see?”

            “To 4012.”

            “Why so?”

            “It’s a long story. But this café? We have one here, now; had one in 3009 and one still strong in 4012 – ish.”

            “Regarding the future?”


            “And regarding the past?”

            “Oh, past is easy. We can visit the past, as long as we have a solid story written down, any day.”

            The German Anna lifted the folder so that we could see the screen that was there in. On the screen were sketches of flat rectangular object with busy cross-sections.”These are so called Echtrae Plates. I think with these she was planning on declaring war on overpopulation and poverty.” The German Anne paused. We were all listening to her now. She had our attention like a schoolteacher – a role she was natural at. “These plates are like building blocks, like Legos, for space stations. Each and every one is able to connect with the other and each and every one of them has an inner network able to transfer air, water and electricity. They are made of a foam she designed, which is sound and radiation proof and in case of severe damage, melts and blocks the damaged pipelines in the area. It’s covered with a shrapnel proof foil and a number of other fancy stuff I wouldn’t know how to explain to you guys over one breakfast. She designed these, and the film to act as connector between them in occasion of assembly, to be manufactured almost priceless in very vast supplies. Next, she designed a space station, which would basically be a living-station for workers. She structured it incredibly mathematically, so as to maximize the functionality, using yaodongs, ‘house caves’, as fundamental model. And she said that if she could get the funding to create two hundred of these living containers in the arrangement she designed, people living there, for shelter, food and every day commodities, would sign contracts to work as assemblymen for the NEXT such station – because you didn’t really need much training to follow the plans. This way, soon, and fast, she could house a viral number of families to create an ever larger supply-and-demand scheme for workers. Since they’d basically be working for no monetary motive, they would be a virtually costless workforce. Yet at the same time they would – self sufficiently – exist in a very clean, warm and comfortable social happenstance.”

            After a little while of listening closely to Anne, (some of those words were very big) I thought out loud: “But that idea has by now been rendered obsolete. There is no need for this type of solution, not in 4012.”

            Pruitt grabbed his hair and sunk his chin almost to the table. Desperate, struck he cried quietly to Fidi: “I killed Satra Goymer’s mum!”

            Fidi nodded ‘yes, unfortunately you did.’

            “She could have saved it! Why didn’t they listen to her?! All these ideas she had! She could have saved it! I didn’t need to plant that bomb! You say I ultimately made the world better, but that lady could have done it without all the … fucking genocide!”

            We decided to ignore him. Cole told me, over him:” Yes, perhaps not around Frère Loup.” (Referring to the shiny pretty administrative capital planet of 4012.) But I can think of several rim dwellings that wouldn’t mind a chunk of space to claim as comfortable. Lemme have that.”

            Gennonsuke reached for the file and stood up next to Cole. “Yes, we are keeping this one.”

            Spotter made her own favourite kind of pancakes and brought them to Pruitt who now, after slowly realising what he’s done, began to go into hysteria. I can’t imagine it’s easy being the one who pushed the button on the curtain call of Ragnarok. Especially the morning after.

            “The kid is looking a little green,” said the English Anne. “Why don’t you take him somewhere not Earth, so he can put some distance between reality and his own peace of mind?”

            “Might as well take him somewhere and leave him there,” suggested Cole. “Lock him in some Zen cloister in Pandaria. We can come get him later, when he’s gray and calm.”

            “If she takes him to Garrosh, Hellscream might eat him,” considered Spotter.

            “We are keeping him. End of discussion.”

“Don’t you already have a pet?” barked Cole. Everyone turned to look at Starbark, who was napping in the corner. What remains to be identified was in bits around her, partially already consumed, partially to be done so after a mini break. The ruckus hardly interrupted her sound sense of serenity. This creature, 90% wolf and 17% beagle, had her priorities straight.

            “He’s not a pet. He’s a person. Would I pity him, if he was a pet?”

            “Probably not.”

            “No. So give me a break.”

            Cole grabbed me by my shoulder in a faux friendly manner. “Well, I would suggest you take him to your favourite porn-horror hideaway scenario, in 2156, but I just remembered. He blew up that one.” The mean man prepared to leave and buttoned up his leather jacket. It made him appear leaner than ever and he still looked uncomfortably sickly. “I am too old to still have thoughts like these, but oh, how I wouldn’t mind watching him being chased around that fuckugly building by Qashkei.”

            Pruitt was happy Cole left and happier still they exchanged no more words. “Who’s Qashkei?” he carefully enquired. I showed him a photo on my iPad. Having never seen an alien, at least not biologically, the boy’s massive eyes got even larger. “What the …”

            “He’s okay. I’m very fond of him and he’s very loyal. Sometimes he helps us on our more violent missions. Occasionally he enjoys chasing people though claustrophobic architecture and rips out their skulls and spines, but he does have a more amiable side.” I decided not to add ‘it’s just not the part that attracts me’ on the first day.

            Pruitt leaned away from me and regarded me with no small amount of reservation. He suddenly remembered his initial instinct – that between Satra and me, he found a lot more normality in Satra.     

            “And who are all they? Are they all from the future? ...” He looked at Spotter, who will always have her 812 AD vibe about her. “Or the past?”

            “Some of them are. Some are from stories. “

            “What … kind of stories?”

            “Whichever kind. Any genre. Any length. One man’s imagination can be another man’s sparring field. A woman can have a lot of fun in her spare time there. Can be good money, too. So we do that, sometimes. Delve in questionable fiction.”

            Cole Sherridan smirked, adding from the exit. “Whose turn for you to be messing with tonight is it, then?”

            “Well, it’s Tuesday. I’ve a second date with Azog the Defiler in his younger days. When he still had most his limbs and they were still calling him the Filer.” I winked at Pruitt. “A Librarian joke.”

            Pruitt, who has never in his life read a story of fiction, (That he knew of. We’ll get to the part of propaganda), frowned. Ambiguously, as he clearly had no way of knowing any Azogs, defiling or otherwise, he said: “Why would you do that?”

            I re-routed the subject and shrugged: “Venture fiction? Can’t think of any reason to overlook such a chance. There can be many things there, you know, worth checking out.”

            “Such as?”

            I grinned. “Isn’t it obvious? Well, such as antagonists.”