Dwindling Numbers

Having the misfortune of being a literary genius and international author of vast repute, it’s not often that I find the time to drag my attention away from all the wondrous creations that have sprung from my ageing, yet still fertile imagination and actually scan the WWW for signs of life, particularly in the blogs that I used to follow in the early days (when I was still relatively new to this blogging thing). Well today I found that time and I was shocked. They’ve been (mostly) deleted or abandoned. Their creators, it seems, had simply given up in the face of planetary indifference. So I took a wander through more recent blogs. In many cases their authors are lamenting about falling readership. Some are considering calling it a day. Others remind me of the old axiom: ‘If it isn’t working, try something else’. This gave me cause to pause, as it were, in the pursuit of readership and – hopefully – commensurate book sales. I logged on to my publishers’ web site and checked out my book sales. Ten books sold in July – seven of which were freebies. Not good. Then I compared the numbers of visitors to this blog. Disappointment turned to concern; despite the fact that the number of ‘followers’ have continued to slowly increase, those reading my literary and photographic efforts have fallen spectacularly. People really do seem to be giving up on the Internet – or at least WordPress. In May 2017 I had 3600 visits. The same month in the following year saw only 1800 readers call by. This May I got just 524 visits. By June I was down to 302. I know Summer is never a good time: people have other things to do; so I was slightly relieved to discover that July hasn’t been quite so bad. As of the moment I’m up to a heady 767 hits. On Flickr figures are better; but I can’t post stories and comedy there – although I do air a few Earplug Adventure photos to mix it up a little. So, with dwindling numbers, I’m beginning to question the logic of continuing HamsterBritain.com. But I don’t want to stop promoting my serious fiction, hamster-fiction, or earplug silliness. That would be a crime against humanity – wouldn’t it? Maybe it’s time to try something else. Any suggestions?

Tooty

Distant Land (part 26)

Five minutes later the Cyber-Oracle was surprised to see, not only the Captain, but also the ship’s compliment of senior officers. “Hey, guys.” It responded to their encirclement. “How ya doing?”

Cedric Mantequilla’s response surprised the Cyber-Oracle rather less: “We are in need of your wisdom and guidance.” He said succinctly, if sparingly – on detail at least.

“That’s what I’m here for.” The fountain of all knowledge replied. “That’s why every star ship has a Cyber-Oracle aboard. For just this sort of occasion, when silicon life-form’s brains simply aren’t up to making big decisions, or for plumbing tips, or sometimes need the latest cricket score.”

But when Kragan Welliboot blurted out the details of Cedric’s request, the Artificial Intelligence found that, in order to respond positively and accurately, it required to activate a whole gamut of memory banks…

It decided to play for time. “Hmmm, that’s a tough one.” It said. “Now, if our glorious leaders had installed some kind of rule or regulation that might guide space-farers, such as yourselves, the question would probably never need be asked.” Then it fell silent.

“And?” Hooper Helstrom inquired.

He was quickly followed by Cams Layne: “So what’s the answer?”

The Cyber-Oracle regarded his inquisitors…

“Captain Mantequilla.” It said. “How long have we been working together?”

Cedric responded in the only way he knew: “Ugh?” He grunted. Then, recovering, he added: “Zero time. Since the Brian Talbot’s shake down trials and the beginning of this mission, I have never ventured into your presence.”

“Precisely.” The Cyber-Oracle replied. “You and I know nothing about each other, yet you are prepared to place the safety of this ship and it’s crew in my metaphysical hands.”

Captain Mantequilla hadn’t gained the position of Ship’s Captain by being overtly thick. Unlike his subordinates he appeared to understand in a second. “Ah, I see. This is a question, not of logic, or even ethics: it is a question about being a living, breathing life-form. They, those Skail brothers, are earplugs: we are earplugs. The question should not even arise.”

The Cyber-Oracle, had it been able, would have looked proudly at Cedric. But it didn’t get the chance, because Grenville Hill said: “So I guess you’re superfluous, right?”

“No,” Cedric answered upon the machine’s behalf, “it’s wisdom has already been imparted. Let’s go.”

So, at their Captain’s command, the bridge crew of the Brian Talbot about-faced…

…and departed. But it was quite a while later, when Cedric and Grenville were alone in an otherwise deserted corridor…

…when Grenville was surprised by his commanding officer:

“I was just showing off, back there, Grenville. I don’t follow sub-text overly well: what did the Cyber-Oracle actually say?”

“It said, Cedric,” Grenville snapped, “exactly what you appeared to think it said. Act upon it, or I’ll tell the others what a nincompoop you really are.”

So, five minutes later… 

“Er, run V.T?” Captain Cedric Mantequilla suggested.

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Polystyrene: A Fiction Author’s Best Friend

Now I expect you’re thinking, “How the heck can polystyrene possibly aid a tapper of keypads? I mean, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it?” Well if the author’s name is Wilbur Smith, Arthur C Clark, Catherine Cookson, or the like, then your doubts would have substance. But when that author is me, it’s a whole different ball game. After all, aren’t I the creator of…

…the Earplug Adventures? Yes, I am; and I’m telling you that the whole affair would have been a whole lot more difficult to produce without the aid of this…

Polystyrene. It may be deeply non-ecological, but look what I did with this particular lump of packaging…

That’s right, it became a monastery…

On the top of a mountain no less…

Other bits invited the application of paint…

The result on this particular occasion looked slightly like…

The wonderous product can produce convincing buildings such as this…

 

And this…

Day or night…

It’s especially wonderful for distant buildings…

Or unusually decorative interiors…

It also makes fabulous corridors, down which earplugs can either meander or rush…

It’s not bad for creating distant hills either…

Guess what scene this created…

Yes, it’s the Museum of Future Technology’s busy Transfer Conduit Terminal…

But (if you’re a regular reader) you will have probably noticed that polystyrene’s most prolific usage…

…comes in the creation of Star Ship bridges…

How often have I used these circular (ceiling fan) packaging pieces to tell daring tales of all sorts of earplugs…

…as they dash about the Galaxy, doing stuff…

…and often almost shitting themselves…

Lots of times; that’s how many.

So there you have it. If you’re anything like me, your greatest literary aid is the garbage that other people throw away. And why not? It’s called recycling. Very eco- friendly.

©Paul Trevor Nolan

Next time I’ll bring you examples of another great chum of mine: discarded cardboard. A marvelous material. I’d be stuffed without it.

Distant Land (part 25)

But, most remarkable of all, the greater the distance that the ship travelled away from the Galactic Lens, the more the earplugs resembled their true selves…

Or, to put it another way: Richter and Beaufort turned yellow again – which pleased Richter no end; but left Beaufort…

…most annoyed: he didn’t much like the colour yellow and he’d enjoyed being purple. And as his mood darkened so did the shade of his skin. “Bum.” He complained bitterly, “You can contact the Museum: I’m off to the galley in search of some space biscuits: I feel the need to comfort-eat.”

Meanwhile, aboard the Brian Talbot, the watching crew jumped in alarm…

…as the Red Alert sounded…

“Sorry.” Folie whispered to Cedric. “But my bladder is absolutely bursting. I simply had to press the Red Alert button on your Captain’s chair. I wonder; would you kindly call an intermission? I need to go pee-pee.”

The interruption gave Captain Mantequilla a moment in which to consider the entire situation. “Intermission.” He snapped curtly. “Stop the video.” Then he added: “Senior officers to the Thinking Compartment.”

So, whilst the new arrivals raced away to unburden themselves, Cedric Mantequilla, Hooper Helstrom, Grenville Hill, and Kragan Welliboot, assembled in a compartment adjacent to the bridge that had been designed purely for the expounding the verbal results of clear and logical thought…

“Well?” Cedric inquired without preamble. “Whadda ya think?”

Hooper Helstrom replied with a question of his own: “What do we think of what?” He asked.

“This whole thing.” Cedric answered unhelpfully – or so thought Kragan Welliboot – before comprehension dawned:

“What – you mean the video message? Oh, it’s the real deal alright: no one could fake those special effects.”

“I concur, Captain.” Grenville Hill said in his most professional voice. “What we are seeing is definitely an accurate account of two alien earplug’s adventure. Clearly there is another Museum of Future Technology out there somewhere; and that it’s in deep, deep doo-doos is without doubt.”

“That’s what I thought too.” The captain spoke as he ruminated upon the subject. “But that brings up a question of ethics.”

“Ethics?” A puzzled Kragan responded.

“Indeed, ethics.” Cedric said as he looked up from his navel gazing. “Do we have the right, the wit, and the wisdom, to go poking our noses into the affairs of an alien world that has developed in an incredibly similar way to planet Earth, but which appears to be on the brink of ecological ruin?”

“Do we have the right to ignore their plight?” Hooper responded vehemently. “Are they not earplugs? Are they not our brothers?”

Cedric thought long upon his officer’s outburst. “Tell you what.” He said at last. “Let’s go look for a second opinion. Follow me.”

So, a few moments later…

…the entire bridge crew descended into the veritable bowels of the Brian Talbot.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

 

It’s the Earplugs Fifth Anniversary! Well Nearly.

Mooching back through my few remaining ‘old’ blog posts, I found this, from August 2014…

As you’ve probably guessed, it’s been a little quiet at work recently. Although this is an unfortunate situation, I’ve made it tolerable by allowing my creative juices to flow and doing what I do best – that is thinking up really silly rude stuff. The result – The Ear Plugs.

tooty nolan holds picture

Whadda ya think so far?

I can’t believe I’ve been shooting these daft pictures and writing this ridiculous prose for a full half-decade. Interestingly, the rude aspect of the stories was shelved early on. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But, whatever, the Earplug Adventures continue to roll. Honestly, don’t I have something better to do?

And the question still stands: Whadda ya think so far?

Distant Land (part 24)

Richter could feel them too. “I wish those jackhammers would stop.” He wailed. “I keep fumbling with the tumblers!”

Worse still, Beaufort thought he could see dust on the near horizon…

So he intervened…

“No, you complete Plugmutt.” He growled. “Mother was born on the Forty-Second of Plinth!”

This was all the information the more svelte brother required to complete the difficult task of opening the door. So moments later…

…he watched as Beaufort, in a near panic, pushed through the widening aperture. Then, in the blink of an eye, they were both inside – with the door slammed closed behind them with a resounding ‘clunk’…

Then, and only then, could Beaufort finally relax and release the ultimate fart with which he was certain he would win the contest with his brother…

It was ghastly and left a nasty black smear upon both the floor and the walls.

“Autopilot.” Richter said with a sigh. “Get us the hell out of here. Maximum speed. No need to batten down the hatches or seal the lavatory seat. Just go.”

Minutes later…

…the Gravity Whelk was, once more, in its natural element: the stark vacuum of interplanetary space.

On the rudimentary bridge, the brothers discussed their recent adventure…

“Do you think there really was a secret energy source on the Plain of Shadows?” Beaufort asked.

“Nah.” Richter dismissed the notion. “That Knobby was a con-artist. He wasn’t the king of anything. That was an End Cap world. He was probably their court jester.”

They continued ruminating upon the subject for several minutes before they noticed that the ship was getting nowhere…

“It’s this damned Galactic Lens.” Beaufort complained. “It’s holding us in place by its mighty gravitational whatsit.”

Richter looked out of an emergency evacuation hatch window…

He spotted a lone star in the vastness of space. A thought occurred: “Beaufort.” He said. “It’s no good blasting away for ever and a day: we need to winch ourselves free of the Galactic Lens’ power. Turn the ship through ninety degrees.”

Beaufort would have argued, but he couldn’t think of anything significant to say. So he said: “Right on, Bro!”

“That star, dead ahead.” Richter said as he re-joined his brother. “If it has a rocky planet circling it we could latch on to it with our tractor beam and pull the ship free.”

Well, to call Richter’s idea inspirational, verging upon genius was an understatement; but Beaufort called it that anyway. Then he aimed the device, which usually grappled objects like asteroids and derelict space vessels out of the Gravity Whelk’s path, at the target star. He then waggled it about infinitesimally, until it connected with a medium-sized planet.

“Got one.” He informed Richter. Then he switched it on.

No one could honestly say that the forward tractor beam light grew more intensely pink as the ship began its long, but inexorable climb from the Galactic Lens’ influence, but both earplugs certainly felt it did… 

The escape was so slow, and took so long, that there were times when the siblings forgot where they were, what they were doing, or why they were aboard an otherwise empty star ship. But eventually, after three months subjective time (but two years objective time beyond the Galactic Lens), the invisible elastic band that had held the Gravity Whelk against its will, snapped. And in an instant the ship leaped free…

“Whee!” It’s occupants cried in joy. “Yippie! Now let’s try to contact the Museum of Future Technology. We need an update.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Sources of Everyday Earplug Inspiration 1: Canderel Sweetener Dispensers

As I nonchalantly dropped a quartet of sweeteners into my cafe au lait, I took a moment to consider the dispenser in my hand. “Hmmm,” thought I, “that’s an interesting shape: maybe I can use some of that in my stories.”

So, once it had become exhausted of little white tablets, I wrenched the thing apart and considered the constituent parts. And guess what: I was right. I was hoping to find something ear-pluggish that was analogous to either the dog or the horse. I was also in search of a personal transport vehicle for my characters. In the Canderel dispenser I found both. Witness the emergence of the Plugmutt…

They have proved so useful that I’ve used them over and over again – in all sorts of colours…

And, of course, they’re great for riding upon…

Which, by chance, were the dispensing mechanisms too…

Of course the ‘buggies’ don’t have the character of the Plugmutts, but they are excellent for moving my characters from one location to another…

But other sweetener dispensers haven’t been ignored: not in the Earplug Adventure world. Some of them have made quite pleasant boats…

And others, wheel-less wheel barrows…

Is there no end to their usefulness? Sweetener dispensers: where would the Earplug Adventures be without them?

 

Distant Land (part 23)

Richter and Beaufort regarded the strange, alien sky…

Although unimpressed, they wanted to remain in the King’s good favour and thereby glean some energy production secrets; so they said otherwise. Knobby was most pleased and offered them both some advice: “Out there, on the Plain of Shadows, you’ll find a power source that will solve all your problems in five minutes flat. You have my permission to go find it. But don’t ask me to come: I’m afraid of the dark.”

So the siblings made their farewells and proceeded in the direction indicated by Knobby…

Inexperienced in the skills of prospecting, they waited there for something to happen. It was dull work and the semi-monochrome vista seemed relentless. At first they shuffled their feet a little. Then they yawned hugely. And finally they both sought to relieve the crushing boredom by indulging in a wind-breaking contest. But had they known that a pair of scavenging End Caps were just out of shot nearby…

…they might have reconsidered their actions. End Caps – especially the scavenging type – are very methane-averse, and should never be angered in their own back yard…

“Ugh, nice pong.” One of them grunted, as the evil stench seared his sensitive nostrils.

“You think?” His incredulous (and vastly more intelligent) partner replied. But before he could say anything more, his innate ultra-patriotism kicked in. “Invaders.” He snarled. “This must be reported to the Hive instantaneously. Quick: let’s go!”

As a result of this outburst the scavenging End Caps raced away – quickly entering their subterranean dwelling place…

…and rushing along for all they were worth whilst…

…shouting out a warning to anyone who would listen. Well, a whole bunch of people thought they were worth listening to; and before long…

…a rabble descended upon the plain – intent upon only one thing: repulsing the invading earplugs, using any means at their disposal, which included devouring them without mercy. And it wasn’t long before their collective nose detected Richter and Beaufort’s distinctive pong…

“Argh!” Richter screamed as he and Beaufort took to their heels. “We appear to have angered the local populace. Run. Run as though your life depends upon it.”

“Do you think it might be wise to stop farting too?” Beaufort half-asked – half-suggested, before adding: “They are unusually aromatic in nature after all.”

“Probably due to the foil-wrapped space meals.” Richter agreed between pants and wheezes. “It’s probably enough to annoy the most placid of natives, which this lot clearly aren’t.”

So, without further ado, the off-worlders ceased their wasteful, energy-sapping farting; and in doing so placed a slightly greater distance between themselves and their pursuers…

“Which way to the Gravity Whelk?” Beaufort gasped. “It can be our only sanctuary.”

Fortunately, as well as being fleet of foot and ripe of wind, Richter also possessed an excellent sense of direction. “This way.” He replied. “Let’s put the metaphorical pedal to the metal, Beaufort: we need to leave these guys behind.”

Soon the Plain of Shadows receded beneath the brother’s lengthening strides like a…um…receding thing. And as they approached their vessel’s pedestrian airlock…

…the sounds of pounding End Cap feet had become inaudible.

“Can you remember the combination?” Beaufort managed between great inhalations of foreign air.

“Um…” Richter answered reluctantly…

“It’s our mother’s birthday, isn’t it?” He added.

Beaufort didn’t answer. He wasn’t really listening. He could feel the ground at his feet vibrating beneath the pummelling of multitudinous hobnailed boots. And he didn’t like it.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

 

 

Distant Land (part 22)

Sadly the direct hit had completely blown the robotic vessel’s mind. But, by remotely hacking into it’s computer, Richter and Beaufort learned of the vessel’s last encounter, and so set off in search of a metallic world. Naturally it was just around the metaphorical corner – cosmically at least – and soon the Gravity Whelk swept across it’s magnificently bejewelled surface…

But when they tried another pass…

…and nothing happened, Beaufort decided that he didn’t want to stay somewhere he wasn’t welcome.

“Right then.” He said as he left Richter standing at the window. “On to the next item on that invisible space ship’s list.”

Moments later they were upon their way again – blasting into open space…

But Beaufort had taken only a single step when…

…the autopilot announced: “Guys: we’ve entered some kinda’ Galactic Lens.”

And it was right!

Then, after rushing to the perfunctory bridge, Beaufort and Richter were confronted with the impossible: they had entered a region of space in which earplug pigmentation completely…

…reversed itself.

“Ooh,” Beaufort said – not for the first time, “pretty: I’ve always wanted to be purple. Now my wish has come true. Do you think we’ve died and gone to heaven, Richter?”

Richter had other concerns. “Hmmm.” He failed to reply to his brother. “If we’ve reversed our colour, maybe there’s a chance that the engines might reverse something unexpected too. Autopilot: cut the motors.”

Instantly the drive unit ceased operating, and the Gravity Whelk drifted across the Galactic Lens like so much space flotsam…

It was then that the brothers noted a planet dead ahead.

“That looks promising.” Beaufort observed. “Let’s go there.”

A while later – because they didn’t dare use the Star Drive – the Gravity Whelk bathed in the glow of the mysterious world…

Almost immediately they received a hail from the planet’s surface.

“Hiya.” A cheerful voice boomed. “Why don’t ya come on down: maybe we can do business.”

So, three minutes later…

“Hi.” Their host said politely and pleasantly. “If I lived on any other world, I’d be a big red knob. But here, as you can see, I’m a big aqua blue knob. You can call me Knobby. What do you think of my world? I’m the King, by the way. Nice, huh? “

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Sample the Silence Once More

Every so often I try to introduce readers of this blog to my more serious fiction. It’s not exactly plentiful. Four books in total – and I haven’t written a new one in years. But oldies can be goldies – right? Right! And just to prove it, here is a sample from this book/e-book…

Although it was now over a year since disaster had struck across the entire globe, and reduced humanity to scattered remnants, we were still careful to walk at the side of the road, and be prepared to leap to safety on the verge or through a hedge. Few cars remained running – their owners eking out what remained of their precious fuel – but we weren’t surprised to hear the approach of an aging diesel engine.

Stepping onto the grassy verge we checked each other’s haversacks for signs of protruding semi-automatics. Of course, had there been a need for rapid deployment of self-defence weapons, we both carried Colonel Cosgrove-supplied Berreta 84Fs strapped to our ankles.   

Unsurprisingly a well-worn four-wheel-drive vehicle rounded the nearest corner. It was towing a small trailer upon which several straw bales were lashed expertly. I couldn’t help but notice that the vehicle was a Land Rover, and appeared to my eyes to be identical to the one in which Candice had sacrificed her life so that the rest of us could escape the clutches of Nigel Hawley and his private army. It even had the same fawn canvas cover on the rear bed. Even now I could still see that cover bursting off as the two hand grenades exploded inside the vehicle.

I must have made some sound at the recollection, because Tasman’s head snapped around to look at me.

“What is it?” He said nervously as his hand began to reach downwards towards his hidden Beretta.

I shook my head. “Nothing.” I said, “Don’t worry about me. Just concentrate on the driver; see if you can deduce his intentions.”

It was necessary for Tasman to relax in order to best use his telepathic powers. He shook his joints loose; closed his eyes; and breathed out slowly through his nose.

“I don’t get a name.” He said as the Land Rover laboured up the rise to where we stood, “But he comes across as non-belligerent. Ah, he’s a farmer’s son. Hmm – he seems to be having trouble keeping the farm going. Lack of staff, maybe. He could be eyeing us up as potential work-mates.”

“No thanks; done that; bought several T-shirts.” I replied. “Is he alone?”

Tasman nodded. Moments later the vehicle covered the final few metres.

“Here he comes.” I said out of the side of my mouth. “Big cheesy smiles.”

As the Land Rover pulled alongside us, we could barely hear the driver’s cheerful hail above the din of its clattering diesel engine.

“Hello, you two.” He shouted from the side window of the two-seat cabin, “You’re from yon farm along the way, aint ya?”

I raised an eyebrow at this; I was somewhat surprised that the young man of (I estimated) eighteen or nineteen was aware of us. We’d chosen a well-hidden spot in a shallow valley that was all but invisible from the road.

He must have read my mind because he tapped the side of his nose, winked, and said, “Spent all me life ‘round these parts: pays to know who the competition are – ‘specially during times of plague and pestilence.”

“Yes, I imagine so.” I said as I extended a hand towards him. “Felicity Goldsmith.”

“Graham Perkins.” He replied – cutting the engine, and taking my fingers in his huge, calloused hands. “It’s nice to meet someone’s what’s civilised for a change.”

I was surprised at the coarseness of his hands. They felt like those of a man three times his age that had spent a lifetime tilling the land.

‘A farmer’s son. I think I can trust this man.’

Tasman then introduced himself as Brian Wilkins. I was glad that Tasman had slipped in a pair of his contact lenses; explaining his oblong pupils would have been problematical.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Graham spoke to both of us, “but I’ve been keeping a bit of an eye on your farm. I figured everybody’d be here when I found Soverton empty a few months back.”

I nodded; it was from the village of Soverton that we’d recruited the members of our co-operative.

“If you don’t mind me saying,” Graham was continuing, “you could use a bit of expertise down there.”

Although I bristled inside, I said nothing to the older boy. I merely looked at him with what I hoped was an inquiring expression.

“Them winter crops in the lower field.” He went on, “You need to sow ‘em further up the slope.”

Tasman threw me a glance. I could read nothing into it, and so wished that he could have used his telepathy upon me.

“Would you be interested in joining our co-operative?” He asked the young farmer.

Graham pretended to pause for thought. “Well I wasn’t exactly planning on something quite so bold.” He replied eventually.

Tasman continued as though the other boy hadn’t spoken, “It’s just that Felicity and I have business elsewhere, and it’s…you know…”

It let his words trail off into nothingness.

Graham grinned. “And you’d like someone what knows what he’s doing to take over?” He said hopefully.

“Pretty much.” Tasman replied.

I was surprised at the sudden turn of events.

‘Hey, this isn’t part of the master plan!’

I was concerned that we were in the process of giving away the fruits of many week’s labour to a complete stranger.

‘But wait a moment, Fel: Tasman might be too polite to read your mind, but you can bet your last…whatever…that he’s read Graham’s. Now would be the perfect time for two-way silent communication between us.’

I tried ‘sending’ Tasman a thought, but I expected him to be too busy concentrating his attention upon Graham to even begin to ‘hear’ me.

“Is this boy the real deal?”

Tasman’s eyes flicked in my direction: I detected the minutest of nods.

Graham appeared to be prevaricating, though I was certain it was just an act.

“It’s not every day that a lad your age gets offered the manager’s job on a working farm, complete with live-in staff.” I pointed out to him.

Graham’s head tipped to one side slightly in agreement. He then added, “No, and it isn’t every day that world ends either.”

I wasn’t absolutely certain what he meant by that remark. Perhaps he had more work on his hands than he could deal with. Maybe running our farm as well as his own would be too much for him.

“Could you give me a tour?” He inquired.

Had he asked the question twenty-four hours earlier, Tasman would undoubtedly have agreed to his request: But today wasn’t yesterday. Although no one at the farm knew it yet, Tasman and I were Absent Without Leave. Or in Lee’s parlance, we’d ‘done a runner’. We couldn’t go back; it would require that we explain the reason for our departure, and then face all the arguments that would no doubt be intended to keep us there.

“Tell you what.” Tasman said, “You know where the turning to the farm is: If I write a quick note of introduction, you can find your own way there. Ask for Carl, and show it to him. He’ll gladly show you around. He knows the farm isn’t nearly as efficient as it should be, and could use some pointers. And if truth be known – we’re a little over-manned: Perhaps you could take a few kids back to your place?”

‘Brilliant!’

This must have been exactly what Graham had wanted to hear. “I accept your kind offer.” He said whilst shaking Tasman’s hand.

He then produced a dog-eared note pad and an almost blunt pencil from a cubbyhole in the dashboard of his Land Rover.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

Needless to say, this charming (and at times violent) e-book is available all over the place – see beneath the header, or on the sidebar, for some of the better-known outlets – and as a paperback at Lulu.com.

Special Earplug Effects: Just How Special Are They?

If you are a regular visitor to this cyber-shore, you’ll probably be aware that I like to take photos and write stories. I particularly enjoy combining both…er…shall we say ‘passions‘? The result is – the Earplug Adventures. I like trying to make something out of very little. Taking something unspectacular and prosaic, and turning it into a vivid scene is a challenge. Often I find the aforementioned unspectacular and prosaic somethings standing right in front of me. For example, like this…

People who catch me snapping merrily (and know about my harmless perversion) can be often heard saying: “Don’t tell me; it’s for one of your Little People stories.” They don’t ask what I expect to do with the resulting picture: they just know it’ll be something unexpected. Can you figure what I created out of this door? Check out the peeling blue paintwork; that’s what gave me the idea for…

…some islands for Magnuss and Hair-Trigger to fly above…

The story is entitled Mutant Island; and when the daring duo discovered the titular island, they took a closer look…

Wow, that’s some really rocky island down there, huh? Well, actually, no: it’s…

…a tree stump. But what about a few drops of condensation on a frosted glass window? *

You don’t get many things duller and less interesting than that. Surely nothing neat could possibly be made out of a gents toilet window and some dripping water! Well…

…I beg to differ.

Ah, little things. Very silly, I’m sure. But it keeps me happy and stretches the brain cells, so I don’t grow old too quickly.  Where’s the harm in that? 

* Those Magnificent Earplugs

Distant Land (part 21)

Of course Beaufort had not the slightest inkling that a space-dwelling life-form had been ignored by he and his brother. Consequently he hadn’t a clue that they’d missed a perfect opportunity to learn the secrets of Nul-Space energy production from a creature that did it as naturally as earplugs breath air; drink water; cough, when they do both at the same time: and secretly break wind in supermarkets. So he busied himself reading the electronic users guide…

…before making the adjustments necessary to the star drive unit’s fuel supply…

…and listening carefully to the retuned motor as the Gravity Whelk blasted across the Milky Way…

…in a most photogenic manner.

A short while later, Richter decided to test the ship’s defensive capabilities by firing off a salvo of proton torpedoes…

Richter couldn’t have known it, of course, but directly in the line of fire an invisible vessel flew furtively. But with it’s cloak disabled by a direct hit, it became visible briefly…

Richter wasn’t particularly impressed with this turn of events, especially when it disappeared once more…

“Evasive!” He yelled at the autopilot, which did as it was bid with the greatest of alacrity…

And when the Gravity Whelk came under fire, it returned said fire without commands from either earplug aboard…

“Oh cripes!” Beaufort squealed. “We’re going to be blown to smithereens, almost before our great sojourn has begun!”

“Fire all weapons.” Richter commanded. “Really fast and lots of times.”

The autopilot duly obliged…

…and made a lucky hit. Moments later the Gravity Whelk came alongside the mysterious vessel…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Distant Land (part 20)

Unfortunately space travel can prove very tedious at times, and soon the siblings felt compelled to overcome the boredom of infinite darkness and distant sparkly lights by taking to their beds. But, following a fitful sleep, soon the alarm clock woke Richter. For a moment the former power engineer was confused by his surroundings, so he lay still and allowed his eyes to wander around the cabin…

Slowly his memory returned, and he eased himself from his futuristic bed…

He quickly recognized his horrendously dry tongue as the result of a combination of space sickness and open-mouthed dreams of scary, mindless zombies…

He chose to shake off the recollection by staring out of his porthole…

Now fully recovered, he decided to go wake his brother…

When Richter entered he found that Beaufort remained deeply ensconced within the Land of Nod…

Before checking out the view, he first regarded the pleasant poster that the cabin’s previous user had pinned to the wall…

Shortly after determining that Beaufort’s porthole was no bigger or better than his own…

…he shouted very loudly indeed. This had the desired effect…

“Ah, brother.” Beaufort said cheerfully, as he hopped from his equally futuristic bed. “Before we have breakfast, I’d like to take a minute to check out the main drive…

…It sounds a little off.”

Richter didn’t like the sound of this. “How about we do it now.” He suggested.

So soon they were on their way to Engineering…

Despite the sense of vague urgency, they couldn’t help but stop by the passenger view port…

“Pretty.” Beaufort opined.

“Yeah.” Richter agreed. “But it’s a bit ‘samey’ don’t you think?”

Beaufort didn’t argue; and soon they moved on, which disappointed a passing vacuum-breather…

…who was really cheesed-off: he hadn’t interacted with any sentient beings since his seven-hundredth birthday.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Distant Land (part 19)

Meanwhile, Beaufort and Richter (as brothers are wont) had experienced a joint moment of clarity and inspiration. So they took the shortest route possible…

…towards their immediate destination. But as they walked the corridor outside the Royal Meeting Room, doubt began to creep in…

In fact Beaufort was beginning to feel decidedly yucky. And Richter didn’t feel much better. In fact they might have chickened out all together, but a royal summons made them pull themselves together…

Well, when they elucidated their idea, Dido Warblington turned away in derision: Frutilda Spelt looked at the brothers as though they’d just grown a joint second head: Denis Tawdry stared straight ahead, as though in denial of such brilliance of mind: Princess Cake of Potwell looked from one scientist to the other, in search of guidance and an opinion: and Whoops Brannigan used his casting vote to rubber stamp their proposal. So, a few seconds later…

…the Skails felt very pleased with themselves.

“Gosh, that was easy.” Beaufort said cheerfully.

But as they entered a link-way to their new destination…

…something occurred to Richter. “You know, Beaufort.” He said. “I think the only reason they agreed to our plan was because…”

“They were desperate?” Beaufort interrupted.

“Well, yes.” Richter conceded. “But more importantly, what with the whole power generation thing running out of global juice, you and I are surplus to requirements. In short; we’re expendable. If we fail, it will have cost them nothing.”

Then, as they entered their final destination…

…he added: “All they stand to lose is an old, defunct, scientific space vessel. By the way, would you care to push the ‘go‘ button, Beaufort?”

“Thank you, Richter.” Beaufort replied, with a tremulous voice. “I think I would. “

Moments later…

…the Museum of Future Technology’s interstellar science vessel – the Gravity Whelk – lifted from the mottled lawn just outside the Ministry of Science. Then, after aligning the vessel with a predestined course, the automatic pilot hit the forward thruster. The sudden acceleration caught Beaufort by surprise and his yell of alarm confused the autopilot so much that it immediately flipped the ship into a vertical position…

…which had its sole occupants staring at an early demise…

“Pull up!” Richter yelled.

“Yeah.” Beaufort’s scream supported his sibling’s suggestion. “Pull up, for flip’s sake!”

If nothing else, the autopilot was fleet of thought. A split second later the Gravity Whelk made an abrupt about-turn…

And before long it plunged from the planet’s atmosphere and slipped into orbit…

“Hooray.” The brothers cheered. “Now all we must do is make a radio report to the Orbital Way Station…

…and we’re on our way…

Next stop: the stars. Someone out there, in the vastness of the Galaxy, is bound to have discovered, or invented, a non-polluting, infinitely renewable, source of power. And we’re gonna find them!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 18)

But events outside the museum were even more disturbing. Earplugs, in their droves, assembled at the ticket offices, demanding entry – as noted by a passing Richter Skail…

…who called to his brother, who, in turn, berated the would-be customers…

…and told them to shove their money in their ears. “We’re full; you’re not coming in.” He finished. “Sod off!”

Other ticket office employees, in fear for their safety, resorted to fixed smiles and crash helmets…

“Yes, I know there’s been an environmental disaster out there.” They would say, “It’s not great here either. You should see the queues for the toilets. But if we allow everyone inside, our scientists will spend all their time tending to your needs, so that there will be no time for them to use their great intellects and cure our world’s excessive energy consumption problems. Just leave us alone and we’ll sort this out. Honest.” 

So, whilst the best brains in the museum turned their attentions to the currently most pressing needs…

…the survivors of the energy deficiency took to caves, basements, atom-proof bunkers, and other subterranean places…

…where they stood around in the eerie glow of solitary light bulbs and felt sorry for themselves.

Meanwhile, the museum’s scientists ran a quick inventory of their problems. Dido Warblington was particularly hard working…

He investigated every squeak, rumble, and unexpected anomaly. He spoke with every power engineer…

Even those who were up to their ears in trying to squeeze every erg of energy out of their failing generators. He even volunteered to interview disgruntled public lavatory users…

“Hello, Frutilda.” He said, when he spotted the beautiful female scientist standing in line. “Have you been partaking of the emergency cider barrel again?” 

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 17)

Meanwhile Princess Cake had returned to the Royal Palace…

…where, certain that doom approached, she gave a photograph of her ancestors a sidelong glance. “Hi, guys.” She said. “Guess I’ll be joining you in the hereafter soon.”

A short while later, in another region of the vast edifice, several scientists had assembled for an important discussion. They had invited the Princess to join them, who, in turn, had invited her two favourite power engineers – the Skail Brothers – to attend…

The scientists present were known as…

…and the outstandingly attractive and much-loved…

“Has anyone noticed recent technical problems?” Whoops Brannigan inquired.

It was a rhetorical question, which, naturally, no one answered. So Whoops continued: “Private toilets are giving so much grief,” he grumbled, “that the public bogs are quickly filling up. Even the futuristic toilets are experiencing extreme strain…

“Indeed.” Frutilda Spelt interrupted. “I was interviewing a visiting End Cap and his Plugmutt mount, only this morning…

…You should have heard what they had to say about the curators.”

“I did.” Whoops complained…

“They called them big fat wallies, who, due to their ineptitude and laziness, had allowed certain members of the populace to believe that the end of the world was coming and that…

…it had culminated in an insane buggy race in which none of the racers wore either seat belts or crash helmets and cared not one jot who won or survived the race or whether they had silencers and catalytic converters fitted to their race buggies. He was considering making an official complaint about the noise and smell: luckily I was able to side-track him with a big, sloppy punch in the mouth.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Cricetinae Fictionem – or Something Like That: 26

Several eons seem to have passed since my last excerpt from one of these wondrous tomes…

So, naturally, I thought the current era just right for a corrective splurge of hamster fiction. On this momentous occasion I’ve plumped for a nibble of Fanfare For the Common Hamster. And why not? It’s fab! Here’s the proof…

It was cold, dark, and down right nasty beneath the surface of the River Turgid, as it ambled between Prannick’s twin towns of Near and Far Kinell with all the pace and alacrity of a bout of constipation. But Perfidity Gallowsmith had scant moments to consider such discomforts: Her immediate concern was the severe depletion that had taken place to the air reserve that she’d managed to accumulate in her hamstery cheek pouches moments before being knocked unconscious by a huge torpedo-shaped cavy-dropping, and falling into the river. Since then she’d been forced to ditch her famous chainmail knickers and leather breast-hammocks in order to remain above the mucky goo of the river bed, and now she was feeling distinctly naked both outwardly and inwardly

It was difficult for her to judge whether the onlookers upon the bank were still ‘on looking’, but she couldn’t take the risk of being discovered by them: In Prannick the vanquished leader was always put to death in a most public exhibition. She would rather drown than face that ignominy. Then, as she drifted with the river’s flow, the town’s sewage out fall pipe seemed to crawl past at a snail’s pace. It was dark and foreboding; but it might also supply a temporary sanctuary for her.

“With any luck,” she spoke to herself through lips that were clenched so tight that they might have been hermetically sealed, “there’ll be air at the top of the tunnel.

Striking out for the circle of black in an otherwise colourless environment Perfidity tried to gauge the time of day: She must be in and out of the tunnel before sixty-three minutes after thirteen o’clock, when the Town Ka-ka Release Officer emptied the slurry pit below the public toilet into the river: An ignominious departure into the hereafter was preferable to Death By Excrement. But as she approached the outfall she became aware of a subtle change in its appearance. It seemed to have become somehow blacker. A more intense black. A negative-light sort of black. She blew-off several times to dispel the intense feeling of fear that was threatening to steal her reason away. But despite these gaseous out-pouring, the darkness seemed to be drawing her to it. Then, as she began to struggle against the impossible pulling sensation that seemed to be acting upon each and every atom that made up her rather large, but surprisingly curvaceous body, the darkness seemed to leap forward to engulf her. She had just sufficient time to break-wind once more, and then scream incoherently.

Upon the bank Felicity and Roosevelt were walking paw-in-paw. They were chatting excitedly about the day’s battle, and their triumph. They also wanted to find a nice spot in which to perform some form of warm, cuddly, sex-act. Felicity noticed the bubbles as they burst from the surface of the water. The first few were rank and foul, and were immediately dismissed at ‘swamp water’: But the final few smelt far sweeter, and, much to their surprise contained a sound, which went, “Arrgh!”

“I’m sorry,” Roosevelt said apologetically, “is it alright with you if we pass on the vaguely-planned activity that would undoubtedly have culminated in non-reproductive sexual intercourse? Those mysterious bubbles have quite put me off.”

Felicity had to agree with her chum: Under these altered circumstances she didn’t even think that she could stretch to heavy-petting: It was a documented fact that drowning hamsters and their talking farts had a nasty habit of utterly deflating libidos.

© Paul Trevor Nolan

Please check out the titles beneath the header or on the side bar to locate the better-known outlets for this magnificent piece of literary genius.

 

Distant Land (part 16)

Meanwhile, the Skails had rushed back to their work station at the top of one of the many huge energy production towers…

…where they discussed their concerns…

“You know, Richter,” Beaufort whispered as his eyes wandered the room in search of other potential anomalies, “I don’t think I can ever recall an energy deficit before. It’s unheard of, but it is the only explanation for the non-opaqueness of the lavatory door window and the gaseous, non-flushing loo.”

Naturally they went directly to a huge screen that displayed CCTV pictures of the power generation towers…

To their dismay, one of the tower roof tell-tales was glowing red.

“Flipping heck!” Beaufort exclaimed. “Have you ever seen that before, Richter?”

Richter looked closer – hopeful that they were sharing the same illusion. “Er…no.” He replied. “Pull back a bit – to get a wider view.”

To both engineer’s relief, other tower lights remained blue, which meant that they were operating within normal parameters.

“I like normal parameters.” Beaufort said, as he made his way back towards his work station. “That red tower doesn’t come under our jurisdiction: I’ll let someone else worry about it.”

But Richter wasn’t really listening: his eyes had alighted upon another view screen: one that showed a portion of the world beyond the massive walls of the Museum of Future Technology…

“I don’t get out much.” He said. “What season are we in right now?”

Beaufort felt a rumble in his bowel. It was the unmistakable sensation of primal fear. “Um, High Summer.” He answered; then added: “So why is the sky a ghastly shade of pink?”

“And why have all the leaves fallen from the trees?” Richter added.

“By the Saint of All Earplugs.” Beaufort wailed. “The Eco-Wallies were right all along: It’s Global Warming gone mad. It’s Climate Change on a grand scale. What are we gonna do?”

“Do?” Richter replied. “Why nothing, obviously. This isn’t out fault. We’ll let someone with a much larger brain worry about something so vast. I know – let’s have a nice cup of tea. That fixes most things.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Distant Land (part 15)

Cedric then displayed a remarkable degree of imagination: “Has anyone heard the theory of Parallel Development?” He asked.

Folie hadn’t and doubted that it meant anything at all. But Placebo was slightly more worldly-wise: “Oh yeah.” He exhaled. “What a terrific idea, Captain. Two worlds, totally isolated from each other, upon which evolution and the development of civilization are almost identical. It’s a theory that I have always adored, personally.”

“And now we appear to have discovered an example.” Cedric replied. Then, to the video tape machine operator, he added: “Shoot. Let’s see some more.”

So, as the screen burst, once more, into vivid life…

…the co-hosts exchanged places. Richter Skail now spoke: “Our planet has suffered a calamity.” He said. “And we’d like to tell you all about it. But we don’t want to start at the beginning of the end: no, we want to set the scene first, so that you’ll understand why certain people did what they did; and why they ended up mired in the ka-ka. Regard our home and place of work…

For uncounted eons our world enjoyed virtually unlimited supplies of power. Why, we had enough surplus energy to run huge arc lights to illuminate the Museum of Future Technology all through the night and no one batted an eyelid.”

“But nothing lasts for ever.” Beaufort interrupted. “My brother and I first noticed problems appearing when, one day, he called me to toilet number One-twenty-five…

“Ooh-er.” Beaufort squeaked as he peered through the door window. “The clear glass has failed to go opaque at my approach. If I try to poop in there, passers-by will see my pants down around my ankles and hear me heaving and straining and making plopping noises. As a power engineer I think I’d better call my brother for a second opinion.”

So, having hung an Out of Order sign upon the door, a short while later…

…the two brothers peered into the lavatory hole.

At first Richter felt relieved. “This looks fine.” He said. “I think we can rule out vandalism. Try flushing it.”

Naturally Beaufort acquiesced. But when this happened…

…they quickly realized that something was seriously wrong. But they weren’t alone in making awful discoveries. Outside, in the museum arboretum, the token ruler – Princess Cake of Potwell…

…became acutely aware that the weather control centre had (apparently) turned the beautiful and luxuriant gardens into a desert.

“Hmm.” She hummed to herself. “Nasty.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019