Sunday, 27 November 2011

Red, Yellow and Blue

P   R   E   V   I   O   U   S   L   Y      I    N 
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S

This wasn’t right. None of it was. She had to get off the bus. Vision clouded by fear and embarrassment, Steph pushed her way to the front of the vehicle, pleading with her driver to let her out. From the drivers seat he - The red man - looked up at her, and whispered.

“We all take our turn, Storm Eyes. We all tell the story.”
The sapphire light of late afternoon had transposed its eeriness over the great and the small. Feathery creatures that would scatter and then reappear – they appeared to have blue cuddle-worthy coats. The damp grass of this wide open space also appeared rather bluish, a mild cobalt instead of the expected green shading of each blade.

The birds in the sky and the insects of which were many, they bathed in the fantastic brilliance – not to mention the ruined stone monoliths towering high. All shared this shading of slight navy primary. Even the sun far up was a victim of this illuminate trickery that washed brazenly into this valley that Steph had escaped her purple bus for. She walked, she ran. She’d slow down again. The day was giving way to a rather impatient darkness. Steph would give up a limb for her puffed pillows. Rushing and pacing according to her fear of what this nowhereville might be like at night, Steph forced herself to take as few ‘walking’ breaks as possible. If only her diet hadn’t been so very poor these last few months.

    Across muddied marsh-like growth she fled, listening, hoping not to hear the sounds of the bus engines growl getting louder. Louder still. A half remembered idea about Alice and her adaptability in worlds of magical realism attempted to capture her focus, but the single mother continued to ring and call and stab her mobile on and off.

    No signal.

    Despite her fear, Steph found herself looking up to marvel at odd shaped trees. She noted their branches hanging down so low; contorted and eager for the impending twilight to grant them permission to carry out surgery of the unsolicited kind. She fancied them as giant elongated fingers. And what had just happened there, on the purple bus, which really wasn’t easy to comprehend – it was a chaotic episode that had a rather threatening agenda. What if this was like the Truman Show, what if a hidden camera crew had been stalking her for the better part of a year? Spiderfingers or someone employed by him had to be a hypnotist. She tried to house the maddening concepts as she neared the water’s edge.

    From the great distance at which she’d approached the vastness, Steph had mistaken a great lake for the land's horizon. The newly blinking lights on the other side promised help. People who thought purple busses with storytelling passengers weird, they lived over there. One of these good civilians would in the asking offer Steph a working phone; she’d phone Milo and pour her heart out about falling into the clutches of an experimental travelling theatre company.

She noticed the boat by the gravel shore and was thankful for its existence and apparent availability. Her stumble into the boat was miserable and served to underscore her anger regarding the casting off process. Her olive wellingtons were filled with water and she had begun to sneeze. 

    ‘Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream,’ sang Steph gently sublimating her fear welling up as it did now that she’d reached the middle of the lake, which seemed to become ever more expansive as she ferried herself across. Steph regretted her adventure now more than ever. She could have played it safe, writing up stories of Spiderfingers; working on back-stories for his Discordians. Steph longed to be in a warm, familiar place constructing her fantasy world. But here she a boat...lost in the night...fighting the triggering of horrific childhood memories.

‘Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.’

Then the mists came. Fog that settled around her wasn’t at all welcome. She feared the darkness of the world, its speedy descent into an inevitable black would be upon her before crossing the waters stretch.

When her craft capsized and the something pulled her down under, Steph could see nothing but the black water. Then she saw the flicker of light in the window of the semi-detached house beneath her, the Byzantium inky liquid funnelling out of the house's chimney. It jetted through the murky depths toward her, gripping her left ankle. It dragged her down, swiftly down.

Her mind allowed itself to faint away the icy gloom completely.
In the shadow-strafed enclosure a deluge of silence flooded every room and crimson fish licked the windows that wouldn't admit them. Only Steph's spluttering disrupted the near darkness. Her hair was wet and yet each black strand burned with the crown of her absent idol. However, she was not ready to acknowledge the spectacle and would vehemently deny such a happening were she asked.

    “Are you quite finished?”, said the man with the blue skin, standing over her. He turned on his heel, walking away to halt beside a blood-spattered wall. He observed her, this blue-faced gentleman with the purple turtleneck top. This man with a third unblinking eye above his brow. He watched Steph as she pulled herself up on her knees, surveying the scene before her.

The bodies of furry Dilf warriors were everywhere. Among the heap of the dead was a limb, a small dismembered arm. The name Vicky had been cut into it. Uneasy, Steph pulled herself upright and began to run, slipping and sliding on blood and torn limbs, falling again and again into the fleshy pools as she tried to make her escape.

She couldn't share a room with a blue skinned man, his temple sporting a third eye.  She dashed out the doorway, away from the front entrance, afraid of the surrealism beyond it: fish swimming out there, that place she'd dare not open the entrance to. She took her chances upstairs in a gallery of mirrors. She knew what this room provided. She began to psyche herself up in her stepping through one of the portals in front of her, then somebody began stepping out, into the room, his green eyes wide open and his red skin just as alarming. Down the stairs she ran, picking up a Dilf blade from one of the torn furry arms on the landing. She rushed into the living room, bumping into the blue man, slashing at the air between them with the knife. 

    “Stand back!” She wailed entering the living room, “Keep back!”

    “Do you like the red herrings?”

Steph was quiet for a little while, her weapon pointed but shaking at the blue-faced stranger.

    “Are they yours? The fish?”

The blue man inspected the shoal outside. He used all three of his eyes, searching hard for an inscription but of course he found no labels, nor branding of any kind. He shook his head,

    'No, sorry. I don't believe any of those Red Herrings are mine.'

    “There’s no such fish called a Red Herring.” said Steph.

    “Maybe not where you come from.” The blue man agreed, “I suppose it’s all a matter of belief.”

    “This can’t be real.” Steph said, "People only have two eyes, and they don't have blue skin."

    “Or perhaps this place has its own logic?” said a voice from upstairs, a monotone Edinburgh accented voice. The creak-creak of the steps soon revealed a grey-suited man with the rose stuck fast to his lapel. His eyes were emerald and wolfish and his skin was the colour of freshly chopped meat.

    “Greetings brother blue.”

    “Oh, hello,” replied the blue man gesturing towards the well-dressed red skinned newcomer, 'I take it all memories and figments are accounted for?'

    "You really should get used to calling them prisoners brother,' replied the grey suited man with the dark red skin, 'And no, Mr Lime has escaped, again."

This grey suited arrival was He Who is Red, and he took it upon himself to sit down upon one arm of an armchair. His blue familiar perched upon the other.

    “That red man came out of a mirror upstairs,” said Steph in a small voice, “and you’re with him. Right?”

The blue man turned to face He Who is Red...and shrugged.

    “We are brothers.”

There was a sudden squelching to the right and behind of Steph. Something had crawled through the living room door. Steph raised her jagged weapon above her head, screaming like a frightened child tripping backwards and over a mangled torso. She battled back to her feet, covered in Po warrior blood. Her Dilf blade quivered in her hand. Yellow Baby had crawled into the room.

The sloth stank of garbage – a culmination of mush you regret stepping in. His skin was a sickly yellow, decorated with brown patches and a constellation of warts. Puss oozed out over his sweating mass. From the blood-smeared floor, baby’s voice was a raspy gasp – the sound one makes when atop a mountain where the air is thin.

    “Are we there yet?” asked Yellow Baby crawling further into the space.

Red answered, “No, not yet. Come back later.”

So Yellow baby elbow-draged his legless torso back out through the door and into the hallway. The blue man addressed Steph once more, 

    “Chaos gave you a lot to think about this year, didn't he? How are we doing on the deciphering front?”

Steph just shook her head. Her eyes were still transfixed on the door the yellow baby had departed through. She was well aware that the yellowy behemoth was waiting out there, wheezing in the hallway.

    “Don't mind Baby...little brother can't quite help his appearance. Anyway, the common theme between these…”

    “Let me out of here!” Steph gripped the Dilf blade so tight that blood started to drip passed her whitened knuckles.

    “You won’t last long like that – not on your path – not in this place.” Said Brother Blue.

    “Well?” He Who is Red asked her, “Where are we, Steph? Take a guess. But guess wrong storm-eyes, and I eat a toe.”

Almost immediately, her lips spilled what she’d suspected all along. After all, she had seen this living room described in the notebook. There was also her dream of Spiderfingers' death. That fiction, It had taken place here:

    “This is number three Forrest Avenue, said Steph, 'The Buchanan's live here.”

    “Seems they died here, didn’t they, eh? Storm eyes.”

    “Let me go home, please?”

The man with the red skin laughed, outstretching his upturned palm in the blue man's direction.

    “What part would you like?” The blue man inquired.

    “Oh I think you know.” replied Red in his eternal Scottish burr. 

The blue man nodded reaching up, fingers digging into his forehead, squeezing out the eye from atop his skull in an impressive display of on-the-spot surgery. It occurred so fast, Brother Blue popping out his favourite peeper to the incidental music of Steph’s hollering.

Yellow Baby oozed back into the living room.

    “Are we there yet?” Yellow asked.

    “I think so.” Red replied juggling his optical prize, “Do you wish to leave for home?”

Steph nodded frantically, her eyes mesmerised by the phlegmatic sloth, the blade she wielded at her hip being her only defence.

    “Are you sure?” Blue asked again.

    Again she nodded.

    “But don’t you want to know what happened here? Doesn't all this death intrigue you?”

    “You want to tell her everything, but she must live through it.” Red reminded his sibling.

Yellow baby tickled his own belly, openng his mouth. He vomited out a sparkling ruby shoe.

    “And the other one! C’mon baby, you can do it!” said Red.

    “We don’t want her getting stuck half way home.”

Maybe she was drawn to the glitter, shining so radiantly in contrast to the dead bodies heaped on the floor? Or perhaps it was because of all her fear? Whatever the catalyst, Steph made a great leap of faith from earth logic to story logic. She thrust herself at the ruby slippers. She forced the goo-covered shoes onto her feet, clicking her heels together – click, click, click – afraid of where her train of thought might lead.

    “They're not working! Why aren’t they working? Do I have to see The Wizard?”

    “No, you really aren’t ready for that,” answered He Who is Red, "Even when you are, you won’t wanna meet him. As for going home, you’re doing just fine.”

    “Are we there yet?” cried the yellow baby on the verge of tears.

    “Yes.” answered the blue man.

    “Do I get to eat her now?”

    “Knock yourself out.” The Yellow Baby opened his mouth wide, revealing tombstone-size teeth that paved the gums right back to his dark mucus-frothing throat.

Steph imagined Keira Knightley being cast as her. She dreamt of red carpets. Hollywood. Newspaper-men questioning her about Spiderfingers as she squatted on the road, hair bedraggled, eyes vacant. She was the homeless and the wretched, filthy and unloved. Famished and crying. A fragile vagabond wishing she had done more with her life. Creating a worthy pop culture phenomenon, perhaps. Through him she could be more. She would be more than ugly Steph. Cold, lonely invisible Steph. She sat underneath a billboard with Spiderfingers' face splashed across, howling like a mad woman. Steph forced her jeans down, defecating under the billboard of her ‘creation’. As people walked past, she barked at them. Commuters added frustrated seconds to their journeys, choosing to cross the street.

    “Woof! Woof! Woof!”

N   E   X   T      T   I   M   E      I    N
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S

There are those living mysteries that are wise and dangerous with their wisdom.
For them, the currency of social influence is all.
To survive as they have,
You must ask yourself,
As they too have asked themselves,
Who do you know?
How do they see you?

V    O    L    U    M    E    III 
Chaos for all 

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(N.B The comments posted below pertain to an extended version of this story, truncated due to issues of pace).


  1. Well. I am stunned. Am I to believe that Steph was homeless for this entire story-arch, making up all the Spiderfingers shenanigans as a way to cope with her painful predicament? It's a twist I certainly didn't see coming. I feel like there are more unanswered questions though. The beginning of this piece is particularly opaque. I suppose nightmarish is the correct word for it - but I'm still confused as to who the Buchanans are, and why there was a war in their house? I wonder if this is all part of your grand plan to portray a character in the grips of a mental illness? If so, it is an interesting representation - but the sense of confusion that encapsulates Steph's mindscape might also alienate some readers. Is there any way for some of the answers to be more definite?

    The writing is excellent as always, and well-proofread. There was only one sentence that I felt unsure of: "My red brother he asks Steph, ‘Where are we.’" This sentence implies that it is Red who is speaking, but then the next sentence seems to suggest that it is Steph who has spoken - "Red goads her because that’s what red is good at, ‘take a guess,’ he suggests, ‘Guess wrong and I eat a toe.’" I think that this exchange would benefit from so further clarity.

    Is this the end of this story arch? I think I might benefit from reading the whole piece through, to see if it flows well as a complete entity. When I have time (perhaps this weekend) I will endeavour to do this and give some feedback. If this is the end of Steph's story, does this mean there will be a new story arch next year? Any sneak-peaks/trails to impart upon us?

  2. It's a twist? I'd say if that's what happened, it'd be a BIG cop out! I guess this is my way of exploring the idea whilst we watch the 'High Priestess' lose the plot...

    Originally, I intended this piece to be answer heavy but I had to cut the chapter in half. You have no idea how burnt out I am as a writer right now. Or maybe you do? HAHAHA!
    The Show fucking killed me though Ashley certainly has mentioned that I've been in need of a break for a few months...

    I'm in love with ambiguity; almost as much as I love everything to piece together so hey, you'll get more cohesion in volume II. And about this volume malarkey - I wanted to give the impression that we are not done with Steph's tale but that a 'phase' of the Russian Doll Stories was coming to an end. You dig? For some, this 'ending' demands a more resolute closure and I can appreciate any angst coming my way. I won't seek to justify it as I've long since been happy to propagate my serial format as being very much like the seasons of a T.V show - ALWAYS end with the audience begging for more.

    Suggestions on the sentence you noted needed de-cluttering please! I am sooooo beyond tired that I trust in your (and anyone else's) well meaning critique as to how this Big Yellow Baby can be more exciting/clear/sexy/whatever.

    I cannot believe that you would read the whole thing through in a weekend! How lovely. I might just have to do the same. I reckon that some issues won't be in the collected version as they are too tangent and obviously me experimenting with different styles. To be continued on that one. If I've learned anything about writing this year it would be come up with a novel concept AND involve your protagonist earlier rather than later.

    That's a lie actually.
    I've known about involving the protagonist early on in the plot before this year - I just found my concept more fascinating. I guess writing on the hoof can do that to you and I am very much into the idea of something more Shutter Island than say Inception now. See these films if you haven't already.

    See them now!

    Sneak peaks you require are as follows:
    1) More clarity on how Spiderfingers came to be
    2) A step forward on EVERY story strand courtesy of a certain housebound gallery
    3) The Discordians/The Buchanan's get more of a looking into (talk about dragged out)!

    My laying of many story eggs is good in that you forget about one and then a WHOLE issue is spent on it (Ring Ring Ring was about the algebra killings) whilst laying others that are not at all as random as they first appear.

    Above all - I'm not a huge fan of Lost since they had no idea what the ending was when they first started and so were in essence building to the ultimate anti-climax that I keep hearing about. I am a HUGE fan of Twin Peaks where they knew the ending and thus had more of a well rounded whole. Interestingly enough, the second season of Twin Peaks answered the question of who killed Laura Palmer early in that season. I saw a documentary where Mark Frost said he regrets not setting up the next mystery a lot sooner.

    We WILL lose interest in Spiderfingers if we guess his grand plan too soon. Thankfully, and as always, the fucker has more than one.

    Yes, I'm a believer that MY stories (no matter how much licence they have to be chaotic) are more satisfactory when they stop playing games.

    The endgame is coming.
    First? First some children's books...

  3. Fuck me...

    Yes, ok...



    Alright then...


    Yup that about covers it. You git.

    I liked this piece. It's strong, imagery led and confusing as hell. Obviously following 'The Show', at least to me, puts you in a difficult position because I have such high opinions of that piece. This works a nice stopgap of irreverence and madness, more heavy on the surrealism chaotic than on the confusion with overriding pattern/logic of the previous piece.

    I agree if the whole things has been hallucination I will stab you in the head, but it's a great twist to leave the audience guessing is she?/isn't she? about it. I'm trying to remember where I've seen a similar, but it feels almost like the submersion into psychoses to make the character question their sense of reality - Which is quite an easy thing to do with insular Steph and her Wacky Adventures(TM).

    I'm assuming 'He Who Is Red' is the driver of the bus?

    I also notice the reference to the Oma, I take that these are creatures escaped from the realm of gods, or at least need some of it's essence to survive in the mortal realm, like a diver needs air?

    Enjoyable, random, mental and intriguing continuation. A short bridge that leaves me saying "Ok, more please!"

  4. Your assumption regarding He Who is Red is bang on. I wasn't sure if I should confirm it for you but it's pretty damn obvious so I figured - fuck it. Lord knows there are enough mysteries in this thing as it is.

    I've JUST read through all of the stories this year (beginning with Steph's Gold Medal) and can honestly say that with a bit of de-cluttering (Dangerous Beginnings is the biggest yet more innocent culprit) these tales are a good showcase for Spiderfingers.

    What do you think?

    When you talk of escaped creatures from the Oma, are you suggesting that they and the house Steph was delivered into was an underwater locale on earth? Interesting conclusion...

    Any idea as to the function of He Who is Red, He Who is Blue (the narrator) and the Big Yellow Baby?

    So, Steph's gone round the bend; how will this turn of events affect her life?

    Any predictions?

  5. I've purposely not read any of the comments above because I want to tell you what I made of it.

    I found it really intriguing and figured that she would end up here from the episode before last, but what confused me was the 3 men(?) type creatures. Clearly the blue one wanted to tell her what actually happened so why did he let her leave? You'd think after all the crazy crap Stephs been through she would have been far more reciptive to what she was going through now?

    I do feel a little bit cheated by the ending however. If all these past events were in Stephs mind and she is in fact insane then what does that make Spiderfingers? In fact, what does it mean for your whole story so far?

    Right now to read the above comments.

  6. By now you've read the comments and probably have surmised you've no reason to feel cheated. No way would I make up a load of guff and then end the volume/season in a quick fix 'it's-all-in-her-head' explanation. I just figured I'd explore the possibility (and probability) that instead of reaching for a rationale, Steph would cling to something fantastical (ego being planet size, she is just the type of person who swears out loud in the street that they are the latest incarnation of Vishnu or something).

    Remember, the comments that are left under each issue of Spiderfingers 'interrupt' the story logic rendering any 'uh oh, this could be all in her head' scenario defunct. It's as much my fault as yours because I don't have to confirm or deny where the plot might be taking us. Drat that blasted ego of mine!

    You figured she'd go mad after reading Ring, Ring, Ring yeah? Nice. I thought I had to have made it clearer that she was going doolally but evidently not.

    For the purposes of me improving the work, can you be specific about what you found 'really intriguing?'

    I see that you've developed a trend for keeping a close eye on character consistency and motivation. Cool.

    You didn't get why the blue man didn't explain what's been going on?

    We as readers want answers but unfortunately, Steph is in no mental state to pursue them on our behalf.

    The following few lines show her slip into shock:

    She nods frantically, her eyes transfixed on the phlegmatic sloth as the blade she wields is at her hip now. I busy my fingers across my temple sealing up the crevice that was my third eyes nestling place.
    ‘Are you sure?’ I ask.
    She nods again.
    ‘But don’t you want to know what happened to Spiderfingers? Don’t you want to know what happened here, all this death around us doesn’t intrigue you?’
    Again with the nods as He Who is Red reminds me, ‘You want to tell her everything but she must live through it brother.’
    I concede his rare show of wisdom. I concede with an empty smile,
    ‘Shame,’ I say defeated, ‘Ah well…let her have it baby.’
    I believe that whether she is told what’s going on or preferably finds out what’s going on through experience isn’t quite the question just now. Now it’s about Steph surviving the shock of recent visions/events. I’m sure that I can keep you entertained/stay true to my vision without compromising/circumventing Steph’s current mindset.

    No, in my opinion she really isn't ready for the truth. Maybe when/if she regains her sanity she’ll be handed a reason to seek out the house and its surreal occupants again?

    Further Excerpt:
    ‘This can’t be real.’ Steph says whimpering a little, waiting for an explanation that only experience –not words – can grant her.

  7. Well – that was weird!

    I really enjoy the chapters you write that are like this – insanity pasted onto insanity (like The Show... the one with the bus?). I know that most of your chapters are odd but this one was particularly ... yeah.

    My red brother he asks Steph, ‘Where are we.’
    I didn’t understand this sentence. :S Is Red speaking to Steph or is Steph asking, where are we?

    So these dead bodies; are they just random dead bodies or are they the bodies of everyone who has been murdered in the series so far? Cause I saw no explanation for them being there in the story... or are they there to represent Steph fragile mind set at that moment... (Can’t think of the phrase to describe what I mean, hopefully you get it!)

    I like the nods to the Wizard of Oz in this. Kind of wants you to believe that this whole thing is a dream... but you know, Oz isn’t a dream; IT’S REAL!

    “So, Steph's gone round the bend; how will this turn of events affect her life?”
    It’s interesting that you would comment saying that “Steph’s gone round the bend”. It kinda suggests to me that the events leading up to this chapter – or this chapter – have forced her over the edge, not that she was already insane. Or maybe she had been before... Reading too much into it? Probably!


    On a separate note; if this chapter happened to me in real life, there’s a 90% chance I would go crazy.

  8. Cheers for the comment!

    You thought this was the most far out? I guess it's all about opinion but then, she is in a totally alien environment. At least The Show had other human looking characters about right?

    Glad to gear you;d go crazy as this piece relies heavily on Steph's madness being provoked convincingly! Steph has alluded to her previous mental illness (check out Man is the Meal, my 2011 March post) so yeah, these events were bound to unhinge her regardless.

    'This is what Leanne had to say about the clarity issue:
    The writing is excellent as always, and well-proofread. There was only one sentence that I felt unsure of: "My red brother he asks Steph, ‘Where are we.’" This sentence implies that it is Red who is speaking, but then the next sentence seems to suggest that it is Steph who has spoken - "Red goads her because that’s what red is good at, ‘take a guess,’ he suggests, ‘Guess wrong and I eat a toe.’" I think that this exchange would benefit from so further clarity.'

    ...soooo, I'm gonna go clear it up. Regarding the dead bodies don't forget that in TRIANGLES, Spiderfingers was privy to the bodies as well. In that sense they are real.

    Glad you clocked onto the wizard of Oz references! Read Why is Wigloo to get more clarity regarding Steph's state of mind. Also, a rather interesting observation has been made by Ashley. Do I treat women badly in my fiction or not? Go read but don't feel obliged to comment on the piece as a whole till next've got a lot to comment on in other peoples work and I don't mind if you're a month behind - it all helps in the long run so long as your insights are well thought out and individual.

    He Who is Red, The Blue man and Big Yellow Baby...

    Any theories on who these wierdo's are?