Dear funny old Mr Leon

“Get him!”

The sound of the oldest boy ricocheted down the alleyway. I ran. I hadn’t done anything but it didn’t matter. Those boys always bullied me. They were about my age but I was small for ten years old.

I ran around a corner only to nearly crash right into some of mother’s friends, especially dottering old Mrs. Wendy who was still wearing mostly black after her husband passed away four months ago.

“Kevin!” Miss Hazlemeare snapped.

“I know!” I managed “I’m sorry”

Behind them I saw a small alley and shot down there, the path rounding it’s way between towering tall buildings. The brick road became narrower and I stopped and cowered in a doorway with a large grey metal bin between me and where I had come from.

I couldn’t hear them. Just the drip, drip, dripping of water from somewhere nearby. I didn’t want to head back the way I came yet, but I had not been in this section of the city before.

I started walking thinking I had the way sorted out. I knew which way home was from when I ran past the ladies so I just needed a road that crossed again and took me that same way.

But then I realized the boys might know I had come down this way and were waiting for that.

Unlikely I realized as I started walking.

Above me in the narrow passage you could barely make out the sky, or any sun at all with the grey network of structures climbing all around. I was supposed to be home by a certain time. I knew I was trouble. They never listened if I talked of bullies.

Then i heard something very strange. It was a plunking sound with a tapping sound going along with it.

Tap tap…ta tap tap. Plunk plunk pu plunk. It made no sense and that is why I stopped. I looked around. Just high walls. Just steel doors. Just a grey street in the shadowed light of what i could guess was around five o’clock.

Then the noise again. I saw it. A single door was opened. But this door wasn’t grey. It was yellow like a gold mark in parts, red like roses in parts and blue like a summer sky. I walked quietly up to the strange door. I looked around to see if anyone could see me inching closer. The sound that went up and down in tone was coming from in there.

I looked in to see the room inside was lit by four handsome lamps, which by itself was extraordinarily extravagant as mother and all the other adults would never abide more than two. And in the middle was an older man, sitting on a simple wooden chair. Beneath him was a piece of wood which he tapped. In his hands was the strangest thing I ever saw. It was golden in parts and chocolate brown in others and had three cords that ran across it which he plunked withone hand, while the other moved a hand along a bright white plank. I didn’t see anyone in the room and he seemed completely fixated on what he was doing. His eyes were closed.

On the wall were other smaller pieces of wood that, like the door, were covered in colors. In one side of the room he had a collection of other devices, in every shape that I never could have imagined.

“Hmmm mmm hmm” he said to noone as he continued, the tone of his humming then rising and falling.

It was strange and I could only stand by the door mesmerized. People didn’t make their door or anything in funny colors. People didn’t make funny noises to the air for no reason but there he was.

“You going to stand there all day boy?” He said with his eyes still closed as he continued to plunk and tap, the plunking changing tone quickly as he went up the white board to its end.

“I’m sorry, Sir” I said as I went inside. Then I saw one of the coloured boards that really caught me off guard. It looked like the great commons in the heart of the city but it was made in his colors. In this case layers of different blues like the sky, the rivers and distant mountains.

“Do you want to take something with you?” He asked.

I just stood there. I was perplexed but also wondering what mother would say if I walked in with something like what I saw.

“You must be late for dinner, young man,” he said “I’ll take you home but here…”

He got up and went over to his desk by the hearth of his fireplace. He took a little wooden bird and brought it over to me. I had never seen anyone make a pretend thing like this, let alone how it seemed colored to look like a baby chick from the farming lands.

“Do you like it?” He asked.

I looked at it. It clearly had taken him long to make it just so and given it bright colors. It felt light in my hands. I have never been to the farming lands but I could imagine it was like that. I liked how it made me think of that.

“I do like it.”

He smiled and gestured for me to follow him. We went outside into his front garage where he had one of those metal grey engines with the side car. After clearing the side car of all kinds of strange things he seemed to have picked from the forest, from the beach and from the cheap markets he had get in. I got in and he passed me a big oversized black helmet which on my head both made me look ridiculous but also made me feel invisible which I liked as well.

“But Sir…” I said as he got on the motorcycle and started it with a loud roar.

“Yes?”

“Why do you do these things?”

“I never know,” he said and thought about it “It could be the lady from the moon who started it.”

And with that we zoomed into the street and raced down the road, the cobbles bouncing me so hard that I swear, I thought the vehicle would come apart and I would crash. It was fun as we raced through my old city, passed the commons and into the roads where the housing lights of people were lit warmly. We slid up to my front drive where I could see mother.

“Who’s the lady in the moon?”

“That’s for another time!” he said.

I thanked him and went inside. I told mother about him but decided to keep the bird to myself. She said he was a widower named Mr. Leon and how oh yes, people knew about him. He was very strange and told stories which we dont do because they are lies.

I had supper and after doing homework by the fire I kissed mother goodnight. Upstairs I was soon lying in my bed. The sound of funny Mr. Leon’s plunking came back to mind. Through my curtains I swear I could see the lady in the moon give me a wink.

the Quiet City reminder

Just a reminder to be here Thursday for the Halloween bonus of a free first chapter of the Quiet City.

It’s gonna be spoooky!

👻

Like, follow and have a look around the blog for more information!

Thank you for stopping by and reading!!!

Sincerely,

Tom Pogson

The Lie that tells a truth – a Quiet City blog

Fact : The place of Emmett Till’s death is now on its third physical sign, a teflon coated, bulletproof marker that weighs in at over 500 lbs.

Lie : Atticus Fitch and To Kill a Mockingbird really happened exactly like that with those specific names.

Now, by no means am I comparing my story to Harper Lee’s justifiably Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece, or my subject matter as powerful as how one speaks to the injustice and still present anger, but I literally just saw the article about the new sign (Washington Post Article ) and it is the broadest and most blatent example of this.

Such things show the function of fiction. Through a story you can bring people in and let them fully experience truth at a gut level. To Kill a Mockingbird caused a visceral reaction in 1960. So did Philadelphia when that movie came out in 1993.

For me the story of The Quiet City speaks to both the magic and the extremes of my hometown, which is really like many places but packed between a Malahat and a Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.

In one block in Victoria are the vvery poorest and most extremely wealthy. Working in our service industry for decades in a world class tourist destination I have long compared it to a theater stage. There is a glorious performance up front, but backstage the paint is peeling and the coffee machine needs replacing. Even more so now as working people can’t survive on one job and the need for “low income housing” keeps exploding, as well as animosity to people who have properties here from out of town.

Whitechapel all over again, and here comes my ripper.

There’s also the enjoyment of the books creation. Outside of my own political and editorial sides, to come anywhere near creating this work I had to dig into every story, many of which just unfolded more secrets and stories about our city such as the network of tunnels…

and like this image, Victoria’s story is one of a vibrant mix of cultures as in the early days we were more the destination than Vancouver. As such this new furthest flug city of the commonwealth attracted everyone, from First Nations to across the Pacific, from Europe to every other corner of the

Inner harbour 1910

…world to create their own chapters.

What is still interesting is due to the natural barriers of water and mountain rock, our mix of stories is crammed together so within a few miles it is as though every possiblity is played out. And of course there’s poor dear Agnes Bing, who perished on September 29th 1899.

I had the idea for the Ripper coming here only to find out that this lady who co-owned a bakery with her husband John was tragically killed in that same way trying to cross the then Johnson Street bridge late at night. Songhees people were blamed but we never learned the truth. Like with the Ripper crime scene investigation was in its infancy.

So is The Quiet City true? No. The settings are as accurate as I could make them, and certain people such as Rattenbury, Carr and the Vital Statistics agency in the West building are absolutely fact. My story is silly but the rest comes from a love, pride and fascination with #yyj

Ok, speaking of, time for some story to happen.

As a bonus Halloween treat I will be posting the first chapter of The Quiet City so you can finally dig into something.

Stay tuned, like and definitely follow so you can read it as so as it drops!

Thank you for reading!

Cheers,

Tom Pogson

Who was Jack the Ripper? The Quiet City blog article

The year was 1888.

The place was Whitechapel, east London, England.

In a year of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and the height of the British empire a single person would thrust the world into the next century. A single murderer, a serial killer would push social change and create a legend that is still mysterious and compelling today.

From a letter that started “Dear Boss” referring to George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, the name was born. Whether it came from the killer we will never know, but it was crudely signed “From Hell, Jack the Ripper.”

Between August and November of that year is believed to be the Ripper’s main period of activity. During that time seven or more kills are attributed to Jack, with five that cannot be questioned.

Called the Canonical Five, their deaths shocked people around the world with the sheer brutality and the Ripper’s ability to kill so savagely and then seemingly blend into the night. It did not help that crime scene investigation was still in it’s infancy with the exception of the French legend Eugene Francois Vidocq in 1857 who incidentally inspired both Sir Authur Conan Doyle with his character “Sherlock Holmes” and Victor Hugo with his character “Jean Valjean.”

The Canonical Five were, in order…

Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly

Whitechapel 1888

Named the Whitechapel Murderer and Leather Apron for a piece of cloth that was left at the crime scene of Catherine Eddowes (though it could have also been a piece of her own clothing) the number of possible suspects are numerous.

Many are connected to aspects of the crimes and a few have confessed but with no final conviction ever publicly made.

William Henry Bury caught the attention of Ripper investigator Frederick Abberline for the fact that Bury had killed his own wife in a similar way to the death of first victim Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols.

Thomas Neil Cream who had been a killer in both North America and England, and was a doctor with the knowledge of anatomy that would have assisted in the killers more vicious trademarks famously had the last words while being hung “I am Jack the…

There is the Royal Conspiracy, portrayed by Johnny Depp in the movie “From Hell”, which involved members of the freemasons leaping to the defense of the Royal family who were being blackmailed by a prostitute.

There was polish immigrant George Chapman who had poisoned three of his wives before being hung in 1903. Like Thomas Cream he had a high degree of medial knowledge which is still debated as to whether necessary. Many maintain that a butcher could have been just as effective, provided the person had the strength to inflict the wounds that were done so deeply and quickly. The change in way of killing makes Chapman also potentially unlikely.

Francis Tumblety was another possible killer who knew Whitechapel well. Arrested for gross indecancy he collected uteruses and pretended to be a doctor. He fled London in November 1888 at the end of the murders though his kind of kill never came up again in the North American cities where he fled to, something unusual for a serial killer.

Most famous and considered very possible was Aaron Kosminski, a 23 year old polish immigrant who was certified insane in 1891 and was committed an asylum. His name first appears in a police constables memo as a possible killer with a strong hatred of women and homocidal tendancies. One theory is that the police themselves kept his incarceration quiet as no good could come from the suggestion that a polish jew was guilty of something that had already incited antisemtic and racial hatred in the London streets. Kosminksi also resembled a man who ran from a constable during one of the murders. But there is also every possibilty that his connections to the murders was put in place to create the perfect hated scapegoat so even with recent findings involving the DNA of a decendant of Kosminski we will never know.

In The Quiet City I will bring in my own version of the ripper again, one connected to Whitechapel but in very new and hopefully unexpected way.

Thank you for reading my blog post and if you like it and want to know more about my historical thriller set in Victoria Canada, please follow and give this post a like! I have more blogs planned before I launch the book as well as the “Writer” section of my site which has links to some of my other work including the Telus Optik winner “Ollie and Emma”.

Thank you again for supporting indepedant artists!

Cheers,

Tom Pogson

The Quiet City – the characters

On a fall morning in 1910 a Vital Statistics clerk was found with his neck broken inside the west tower of the Victoria, British Columbia legislative buildings…

And that was just for openers.

Developing characters and how they interact is the most important part of any work, from drama to comedy to even this kind of historical fiction. Two are based in modern day Victoria BC, the rest are in 1910.

Born : May 5th, 1887 Kingston

Government employee and veteran of the Boer War, he never left his standard of military excellence behind, or the thingas father told him about why they had to leave his hometown behind.

Born: Sept 1st, 1997

Having worked at the Royal BC museum as an archivist for a year, this 23 year old First Nations anthropologist came home one day to more than she bargained for.

Both born : October 31st 1870

Highly educated, not just in England but as far flung as the Al-Qarawiyyin libraries of Morocco, James and Penny are the illustrious fraternal twins with connections from royalty to architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury.

Born : August 21st, Cridge home Victoria .

Daughter of Lekwungen mother Marie and French Canadian father Rene, Jenny tries to take care of her mother since father went missing. One day, taking care of everyone as the cheery nurse she was known to be, she met a very interesting man.

Born : November 13th, 1987, on a ferry.

Resident of Beecher Bay reservation and his own private retreat on southern Pender Island, to say Michael is an unusual man is an understatement. His strength with special gifts started very, very early in life, so much that he has found crowds too uncomfortable. He will soon have to face this head on.

Born : 1844 London, Whitechapel

Now the Sergeant at Arms for the British Columbia parliament buildings, Roger takes his role in security seriously. He doesn’t talk much about his life before he settled in Victoria.

Stay tuned!

Thank you for reading and supporting independent artists. Please follow as I get closer to my first The Quiet City teaser!

Cheers,

Tom Pogson

Introducing “The Quiet City”

One day the world’s greatest killer came to town
Things would have to change.
When you’re Jack the Ripper in 1910 Victoria, British Columbia, you can easily stand out.

Such is the book project that I have been working on now solidly since spring of 2019, with the original idea for its historical fiction originating almost ten years back. It will be my first major project since being a writer on the Telus Optik webseries Ollie and Emma.

The Quiet City initially began as just a murder mystery set where my Mom use to work in the Vital Statistics offices of the Victoria Legislative Buildings West Annex. It was also first inspired by living in the heart of town and working as a cleaner in a variety of heritage buildings all over the Capitol Region. Was also a University of Victoria writing student at the time and been also playing with the idea of screenwriting at the time.

It didn’t hurt that my Grandfather, my Dad and now myself have an absolute love of going over what use to be where. My grandfather, Roy Pogson, was pretty much the head of BC Hydro on Vancouver Island and my Dad Jim was a service planner so not only did I get to see lots of new developing subdivisions as kid but I early on about the trains and streetcars that served Greater Victoria.

I don’t know exactly when I started humoring the idea of bringing in the more supernatural elements and Jack but once I did the floodgates just opened.

Not only was the rumor of Jack the Ripper in Victoria an actual theory based on a tragic and horrible murder of a 44 year old baker named Agnes Bing on the night of September 22, 1899, but the more I dug into strange things about Victoria the more it gave back.

It is Victoria’s paradox of being both this “more English than the English” (it’s background is actually Native, Scottish, French Canadian…the only Brit was Richard Blanshard who bailed instantly and died on the way home…anyways…) small town but it is also the second most active Satanic community in the world after Geneva with a thriving Wiccan community. We have secret tunnels, a Forbidden City, Michelle Remembers and above it all its a city that markets itself as quaint when it can be as quietly rough and tough as the worst of them. And it’s beautiful. And if was the other side of the world from the heart of the Commonwealth with Government Street as the oldest street in Western Canada. I love Victoria but it is a fascinating city of various types and contradictions all stuffed into the same community from the Malahat to the Ferries. It’s creative as hell, the center of seven First Nation bands, it’s the capital and a Naval base and a cruise ship destination.

Oh yeah and when it comes to spirits, legends and lore it continues to unfold.

For ghost activity, we are pretty much Woodstock.

This is the key reason why I’ve taken so long at this book of historical fiction which aims to be in both 1910 and present day. Being that I knew I would be taking huge liberties with actual history I have been spending just months on research as well on the more natural writerly challenge of characterization. Both of these have influenced the plot and continue to as I build the tracks in front of my train. Obviously some facts change but my job one is to be able to drop you the reader back into the sight, the sound and the pace of our city just after the turn of the century.

My goal is to have this out by summer of 2020 with some teasers and things before hand.

There is some social media for The Quiet City already which has more details…

http://facebook.com/thequietcitynovel

http://instagram.com/thequietcitynovel

http://twitter.com/thequietcity1

I will be updating here regularly as well as on those platforms so please follow and check back! Also check my “Writer” page for more about my other work!

I can’t wait to share more if this adventure with you!

Cheers,

Tom Pogson

Thank you for taking the time to read and support independent artists!

🙂

Read the World

What is really happening around you? The truth is that there are numerous things that we don’t know about and couldn’t know, because we all have our own personal stories.

Consider how many stories that is, around the world, every single day.

Now I am not a voracious reader, no way as much as I’d like to be, so I tend towards piling on the audiobooks. These days, one of the benefits to smartphones is the ability to get audiobooks and books on demand. Between Hoopla (free library) and Audible (Not free but expanded) you can easy learn about every corner of the world.

Here is a direct screenshot from my device, no b.s. of the book that got me fascinated about the subject of North Korea back in December of 2016…

Later on I actually took out the following hardcover book from the Greater Victoria Public Library which may be available in your area as well.

On the same subject this book is amazing, written by an author still residing in North Korea who goes under the pen name “Bandi” which means firefly in Korean. Suffice to say he had the book smuggled out miraculously and cannot dare reveal his name.

When it came to my study of the broad subject of First Nations, well the first thing I learned straight away that can’t be one subject as it’s a bit like “ok, learn everything there is to know about the history of Europe”, so I narrowed my focus to then Coast Salish (and even that is far too vast, so I tried to focus on this area).

Of the many I read, this one stood out with it’s honest accounts of local history.

There is also an amazing dissertation by Allis Pakki Chipps-Sawyer called “Standing on the Edge of Yesterday” which you can pull down from Google as a PDF that explains so much about what is misunderstood about Coast Salish culture.

My mom got me reading a book ages ago from a middle eastern writer, who’s name sadly escapes me (gotta ask her on Monday) but here’s one that is totally worth getting however you can..

Set around the period of the Iraq war the protagonist is an American Iraqi woman who is trying to help her family and community, falling into questions of loyalty when things are seen from their perspective.

Now it is no coincidence that I picked three groups of people who have been seen as “other”. From my own experience with studying Native culture (and more) for writing, and just learning in life, when you are brought into a conversation things suddenly become clear.

The idea for this was me and a friend on Facebook talking about violence, both agreeing that noone should hit anyone. From my love of true to life things like the BBC’s The Office or NBC’s Parks and Recreation the idea of violence is uncool, pathetic and even just embarrassing.

As a human species is was not our ability to physically fight that kept us alive, it was our ability to plan and create cooperation.

A lot of violence, and the worst tends to come from faith reasons, which is how it becomes so deep set. As someone raised Catholic but a woman who would have been a nun if it wasn’t for his Dad (no kidding, mom was head of the British Columbia Secular Franciscans for years) I utterly disagree with the idea that God or any deity needs our help in enforcement.

100000000 Arnold Schwarzeneggers would be nothing compared to your supreme beings ability to snap his/her feelings and instantly fell your foe, so why does he need your help for that?

He does need your help to spread his love.

Ooh and in researching this I can a blog by a lady who has read way more than me (not hard to find)

Here’s the cover for it with the link below…

World Tale-Away challenge

Oh yeah and the music for reading, blogging and totally chilling comes from this favorite. Now I have listened to Tycho – Dive before but here’s their album from two years later called awake. Sort of reminds me of Groove Armada and Air so if you want great working ambient sound you’re good to go.

Tycho – Awake

Cheers,

Tom

🍻

P.S. checked with Mom and it was called Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana

The Room of Oog part 2

So it’s been a while so I’ll do a quick recap…My name’s Cece, I’m Tom’s girlfriend and on the first floor of the building is something really crazy. It’s a room that actually says “Oog” on it’s door. Seriously. Look.

I saw it for ages and then one day, while doing laundry (right next door) I found a key behind a machine that said “Oog”, put two and two together and ended up on the other side of the door. It went from boring as it was a storage thing to very interesting as it lead to another unlocked door, a hallway and this suite that’s actually under the building. The suite looks like somewhere Austin Powers would have lived with a slight purple tinge, lava lamps and autographed photos on every wall.

Seriously, it’s like a thrift floor exploded in here. Where I left last time, I was sitting on a white leather sofa and Bengal tiger rug, near the old TV and a floating white crystal ball.

The TV looks like it was from 1963 but on the table, no kidding was a big and even a little heavy remote control. I aimed it at the TV and hit power. On it’s antique TV stand I watched it spring to life on what looked like a program guide.

Some were in English but lots weren’t with a little flag next to the number, and there were just hundreds of them. I flipped through them, down and down and down until I just gave up and hit one, admittedly that wasn’t English but I didn’t recognize any shows anyways. I just wanted to see if it worked I guess. I still felt like the owner was gonna interrupt me, but seriously, besides the power being on and the weird crystal ball in the coffee table spinning slowly and undulating white steam, it looked empty for years. Oh yeah and the place was spotless for what it was. Only clued into that recently.

What I saw looked like a sitcom. It was three mid twenties girls and three mid twenties boys who were getting ready for an evening. The language from the tv was strange, but then from the crystal ball I heard it.

“Come on Petro, you should pick one too,” said a tall fellow to his two friends as they walked around what looked like a video store and corner store rolled into one.

“I don’t watch videos. Who rents videos? Do we even have a DVD player?”

“I can use my laptop and a cable-thing. Seriously, this is like the most popular vintage store in Odessa and Nadiya wanted to do this.”

“Oh…so this is about Nadiya,” chimed in the third curly haired guy.

There was a ripple of laughter on a laugh track.

“Vanda…what?”

“You know. Nadiya… Videos,. I’m with you Anton ” Vanda smiled.

“That’s great Vanda. Guys it’s my first dateish thing. And I need a video that is cool, but doesn’t lead to no conversation. So…ok, here…Eat Pray Love.”

“No, too obvious, how about…the shades of grey thing” said Petro.

“Obvious and possibly awkward,” Vanda.

“That’s his style,” Petro quipped.

“Hey!”

Then it was over to girls, where they were getting food and back at the apartment…

“Wonder how the boys are doing?” Said who I learned was Liliya.

“I told them maybe 7 pm here. So it should be a while yet,” said Nadiya.

This went on for sometime, like a show does and it got pretty good until finally we got to a scene where Nadiya and Anton were on the balcony and it was just driving me crazy. Anton was sure that Nadiya actually like someone totally different, not even at the party and Nadiya thought he was trying to let her down easy but neither was sure because they knew that the other was a nice person and it’s so easy to mistake that for thinking the other was cute.

And after years of Ross and Rachel I just couldn’t take it…

“Oh, you like each other! Just kiss you weirdos!”

I hadn’t even noticed that when I began with the “Oh” the white smoke from the ball had filled the room. I was no longer sitting on a white leather couch with a Bengal tiger rug. No I was on a porch in Odessa, Ukraine. Not even a sound stage like I was in their filming the show. Nope, this chick was in the logic of the show “Forth Floor”, standing in front of Anton and Nadiya, who both looked at me stunned.

“Hello? Are you a friend of Alina’s?” asked Nadiya.

“No, you must be Vanda’s girlfriend. He said you were from…well…where are you from?”

“I’m Native, but…not to here…anyways…it doesn’t matter..” I gave up on asking them how I got there. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t know either “You guys do like each other. And you should totally kiss. I just realized I’m probably speaking Ukrainian right now. That’s so crazy. I’m gonna leave you both to it. But definitely kiss, definitely…”. I walked off the porch, past four other stunned people who I just smiled and waved to and then out the door.

I went down the hall and turned the corner and that’s when things went Misty.

I was staring at the vintage TV again, white smoke dissapating into the coffee table around the crystal ball. I looked up to see that Anton and Nadiya had just kissed.

I sat there with my mouth open.

Well that was interesting.

To be continued.

Diner Lights Ep1 Road’s End

Bus Depot on Douglas Street, Victoria, BC 2014

Sam knew something was wrong.  It was the first time they had ever separated, but the reason for it seemed perfectly legit.

“Ok man, can you just go ahead and we’ll meet you there.  We’ve gotta sort shit out with Donna.”

That was the last thing Gav told him at the bus station in Vancouver.  The gig that night didn’t happen because it never would have.  The next one was a fall through as well for reasons of some kind of confusion between Donna and the venue which turned out to have way less money and naturally Gav wasn’t going to go for that.  They could have played anyways but Gav was in a mood.  Donna suggesting busking didn’t help.  Nothing like being stuck in a rainy night in a hotel where everyone pretends the others aren’t there.

The next show would have been some place called Steamers in Victoria.  There was a local funk band called Three Sixty that was going to open.

Sam sat on the wooden bench inside the old bus station, looking stupidly through the houses in a real estate magazine.  It was the only thing you could count on to be free.

There were payphones but he didn’t know if they were on the ferry or even on that last leg that goes through all the farms and small communities in the Saanich Peninsula.

All he could do is wait.  He looked inside his pack of cigarettes.  Not many, but he wasn’t too bad.  He looked around but the place still had those ashtrays on the metal stands so he lit up and blew smoke towards the stained plaster roof.

“Excuse me!”

Sam almost dropped the smoke as he looked up to see a man looking at him from behind the sliding glass window of the bus station’s office.

“Sorry, man…I thought,” he said pointing towards the ashtray.  Some places were becoming non-smoking but then, why would the ashtray still be out?

“No, no you got a phone call buddy.”

Sam butted the dart out and went over to the glass window, the next of his guitar bag hanging over his bag on the end of the long bench.

He picked up the phone.

And got the news.

The band was over.  Donna and Gav had just this huge fight.  Like, huge.  Like cops were involved.  They hoped he could somehow get back to Perry Sound.  After that Sam didn’t really take in what they were saying.  He just felt faint.

“Yeah, that’s fine.  I understand.  No it’s ok.”

Sam gazed off into space while the man in the back occasionally looked at the young man with the mess of dark hair whose face had just gone pale.

“Right.  Bye.”

He put the plastic black phone back on it’s cradle and nodded to the man with the striped white shirt and grey balding hair.

“You ok, there?”

“Oh, uh thanks,” Sam stammered “Yeah.”

Sam went back to his stuff and just sat there.  He picked the cigarette out of the ashtray and struggled to find his lighter.  Then it wouldn’t light.

“Come on!”

Nothing.  It was out.  He tried shaking it.  Sometimes that stuff works.  It didn’t

“Here,” said the older guy holding out a pack of matches.

“Oh, thanks man!” he said quickly getting them and sitting back down again.  He lit up and looked at the matches that said Empress Taxi.

He had some money but only just enough to get back to Ontario.  That’s what he should do,, he thought.   Back to the group home where he was staying. Back to that tiny room in late October with the frozen air coming off Superior.  He looked at the board and the next bus back to the big station across from Science World was coming up.  He would have to buy a ticket soon.  From there he could get a bus to Winnipeg and from there he could get that same route they took months ago, just heading east.

He sat with his smoke and looked out the window where the bus that brought him here was still lurking under the canopy out of the light rain.

 

(Ps I must add, my band is fine lol)

 

Velios


Velios

By Tom Pogson

“cause and effect is as absolute and undeviating

in the hidden realm of thought as in the world” – James Allen


Four


He did not know when it began.  The slightest sound inside the pod could overwhelm those first pops and clicks from his makeshift scanner with its three pin lights.  When the frightened voice first spoke he was elsewhere, more than likely standing in the center beam room.  Sam kept flawless records from the digital readouts below, the thick curved glass separating his face from the hum of the beam.  Its radiance swelled and shone bright, showing the Captain’s age.

Every five hours he would do this.  Sam still used the same tablet that the Kel had left for him a decade ago.  Most pod miners could not even keep the same tablet running, let alone the rest of the work Sam did.  He liked to keep busy.  There was always something to do on the Howe Shelf, far away from the noise and the dust and the bars of the Central Commons.

How Nina could stand that place, Sam never knew.  What kind of life was that for Eliot anyways?

The front room was his workshop, flanked by the mudroom on one side where he kept the tools for the hoverbike and the other the kitchen which was kept spotless.  He did have one comfortable chair in the front room, next to where the scanner was chirping louder as the signal grew stronger.  The chair was for reading.  He had been studying the Kel language ever since his posting.  Few things remained of years in the service.  His uniform he long ago had incinerated.

Satisfied with his readings, he plugged the tablet into the port in the center tube.  The beam itself would carry the signal far up to his exchanger and along the beam in the sky until it reached the Kel Station far in the northern mountains. 

It was as the upload finished that he first heard the sound coming from the front room.  He leaned over to peer towards the room, having to keep the tablet in place until the upload was finished. 

Complete.  Hit Send.  Send.

In seconds he was kneeling down in front of the table, staring at the black metal console with the rounded ends and the green blinking lights.

The squawk of the noise and static grew with lashings of clear sound.  Kel words were coming through the little speaker on the back.  It was broken like a sun scraping through clouds.  Sam placed his finger over the voice button.  With his other hand he gently tried the dial on the side, looking at the tiny digital screen for the strongest signal he could find.

“Pod Miner 78-A listening, anyone out there?”

Silence.  Then more noise but it was completely illusive.  He moved the dial around more, squinting hard at the little screen.

“Come on,” said Sam “Where are you?”

Then dead silence.  Only one light shone; the principal running light of the machine.  This meant that there was no signal.  Sam moved the dial more, half tempted to slap the side of the machine as if something had suddenly gone wrong with it.  He put his hands up in frustration.  He had done little tests on the scanner from the radio on his hoverbike, but other than that, the little machine had never been used.  He connected it exactly the way he was trained in the W.A. Field Operations.  It was flawless then, so what was the problem?

He got his answer.

The sound made him nearly jump out of his skin and reach for his thermal TR-90 in the corner.  It was the sound of a ship, its engines crackling and burning hot, racing just over the beam exchanger above the white cluster of his pod.  Sam burst out into the Velios night to see the dark grey craft roaring towards the southern canyons.  The back of the ship was smouldering great pillows of smoke.  Just then the radio scanner burst to life.  Sam could only watch, following the ship’s path as a voice filled the front room.

“Going down!  Going down!  Please assist!  We are going down into the Southern Canyons of Velios.  Important cargo is ab-“

With the sound of a struggle, the voice cut off sharply.  A moment later the ground shook from the impact.  There was no explosion or fireball.  Sam stayed motionless as the sound returned to the flat quiet as a slight breeze came across the water to where he stood on the edge of the peninsula.  High above, the trail of smoke began to dissipate in the evening sky. 

Coming to his senses, Sam raced inside.  He grabbed the TR-90, his coat, his pack and soon was slicing just over the water’s edge on the curved steel of the hoverbike. 

Sam followed the crest of the great falls, a seemingly endless line of froth from the world below as the sea of the Howe Shelf fell away into its roar.  There were very few other Pod Miners on islands this far to the south, but he could still see the occasional pod as he flew towards the distant rise of hills and then wooded mountains of the west.  No trees grew outside those higher elevations.  On the islands of grasses and other meager growth, the nearest working pods were far away, but he could spot them by the thin white line of the energy they pulled from deep in the heart of Velios up to the hovering exchangers in the sky.

He didn’t wear a full rider’s helmet as he always hated those things.  He wore that sort of stuff in the early part of the wars and could remember the screaming matches with General Casson when he would insist that all of Sam’s men should be wearing them too.  Now he just wore a wireless over one ear.

With his eyes scanning the approaching westlands, he looked for anyone else that was going to swing around the edge of the falls and head south.

“Pod Miner 78-A here, en route to the crash.  Anyone else see that?”

No response.  The signal went back to the music that Sam had loaded into the bike’s computer.  The music was electronic but from decades back.  He was barely listening to it as he interrupted it again.

“Hey, Sam Krellor here.  Seriously, did no-one see that?”

Somebody must have seen the ship go down, but he was a little concerned to find out whom.  It was late on a Friday night and way too many of the other miners were more than likely at the Commons.  It was not the kind of help he would want.  It would take them far longer to get there and they would be more than likely intoxicated. 

“Jesus, aren’t any of you sober?”

Just then, Sam reached the edge where the falls broke into three rivers that split into the southlands and the grassy westlands.  He swung around and began the trek into the heart, the map display lighting up below the white wheel.

At least he would be able to secure the crash site before any of those guys showed up.  Story of his life, he thought, dealing with a bunch of dumb kids.

He knew where that ship had probably landed, occasionally glancing down at the map.  He pressed the spot with his finger quickly.  The spot flashed red and blue symbols appeared over the map, detailing the elevation and deciding the best course.

“On board.  Navigate lock.”

“Lock complete,” came the female voice response from the bike’s computer.

With the route laid out before him, he soon was able to find his way there.  With the spray of the falls at his back, he swung the bike into the narrow slot canyon.  The path was so tight that his knees could easily scrape the layers of earth that blurred passed, the spectrum of packed red soils falling away to a soft dirt plain.  He began slowing as he passed over a hilltop and came down towards the crash site.  There was no question that his work pod was due north of him and high up above the falls.  There was no question as the red dot on his map display suddenly changed to an apple green.  He was there.

The ship was not.


Three



Around his white bike floating just off the surface of the soil, the southlands slept quietly.  Just the slightest breath came from the north, and the slightest low roar of the great falls separating Sam from his home.

From the side of the bike he opened a hatch and pulled out his binoculars, scanning the horizon.  Was it possible that it had crashed further to the south?  The area was flat for miles in every direction with bluffs and hoodoos only breaking up the canyon-lands.  He was certain of it.  The ship should be here.

The bike whirred to silence as he stepped off onto the soil and began just walking around, feeling like a fool.  As if not being on the bike would solve much of anything.

He kneeled down and looked at the soil beneath him.  If something that big happened, there would be a trace of it. 

Reluctantly, he got back on the bike and headed further south, ignoring his certainty about where the Kel ship went down.  Maybe he was wrong.  It was a Kel ship and having travelled on one Sam knew they are incredible machines, so perhaps it made it further than he considered.

But for the miles and miles that he scanned, climbing the bike up to the top of one of the gently sloping bluffs it became clear that there was no ship; just the soft evening wind, the scent of cherry that came from the undergrowth on Velios and the cloudless sky above.

Soon he was back on the whirring white hoverbike, flying past the falls and northeast.  For a while it was just him, a single white dot sailing over the water and the low islands.  Then he saw another pod, miles from his own.  And then another.  He knew he was getting closer as they began to pepper the surrounding landscape, and the voices of drunken Pod Miners occasional shouted out.

Ahead of him were the lights of the Commons, a round city stuffed onto the largest of the islands, its two story buildings clustered together like seagulls on a buoy.  He swung around to the eastern entrance. There were other bikes and the guards in their grey armor suits watching them come and go.  He was always worried that one day the guards would be off duty at the wrong time.  He slowed the bike to a crawl as he approached the mouth of the east gate.

“Hey Captain,” said the taller of the two guards flanking the opening in the wall that ran around the noise and the cooking smells and dull orange light.

“Ryan,” Sam acknowledged as the young Pod Miners were coming out single file.  Their bikes swayed but at least they had the ability to get the guys home, homing on each pod despite the state of the passenger.

“Captain Viking!” came a cheer from a couple bikes back in the line, a phrase that then rippled through the crowd as they were either familiar faces to Sam, or they just did not want to be left out of the fun.

Sam just waved his hand from the two horns of his white steering wheel as he cruised past the ever-increasing line.  He didn’t want to ask these guys about the lights in the sky.  He was absolutely certain on how painfully annoying the responses would be at that time of night.  Very few girls worked as Pod Miners, with the exception of a handful that lived close.

“Well, this is an unexpected delight!” said Nina as she looked up from the autowasher which was always getting jammed with crap from the wide mouthed beer mugs.

“I’ve been here before.”

“Not frequently,” she smiled as she looked into the autowasher, “stupid thing.  Hey, you’re a tough guy…want to help me with this?”

Sam walked behind the counter over to Nina who stepped back, pushing the long blonde hair behind her ear that managed to escape her black hair clip.  Sam looked inside the orange glow of the machines single opening.

“Wow,” he said with his eyebrows raised.

“Oh, don’t give me that,” she laughed “You never think to clean the thing that does the cleaning.”

“Okay,” he said reaching in and then stopping to look at her.

“It’s unplugged.”

“Thank you,” he said, grimacing as he inserted his arm inside the machine and began trying to clear away the hairs and food that circled the gears like lichen “Everyone behave tonight?”

“Thanks to the guards.  People are accusing the food now of being the source of the problem and of course that’s yours truly.  Still waiting for a re-shipment.”

“Like these guys would even want kids.”

“I don’t know, some might.  Give Eliot someone to play with.  He’s the only person under ten in the joint.  Best excuse ever to skip school.”

Just then Sam pulled something out from between two large cogs that shook the whole machine.  He reached down and plugged the autowasher back into the wall and the machine chugged at first until it began humming contentedly.  He held up a small toy man, made of solid plastic that looked as though his spaceship had just taken a tumble.

“I told him not to go near this thing.”

“Go easy on him.  He’s a good kid.”

“I know.  You want a drink?  I am sure the only thing it does is make you drunk.”

Finally Nina Staarsgard had a chance to sit down.  She dropped with a plop into her favorite place next to what the Kel designers though must have constituted a normal fireplace, complete with the metal tools on a rotating rack, and the hearth, only with an oddly oval shaped mouth from which an actual fire relayed heat into the room and smoke up from the pub’s long chimney.  Nina had a pink cocktail in a tall glass and her face was covered in the salt of her own sweat.  She sat next to Sam on the single couch, looking at him with her large blue eyes as he looked into the fire.

“I don’t see you enough, you know.”

“I know.”

“How have you been sleeping?”

He had been sleeping a little better for the last few weeks.  He was almost up to sleeping most nights of the week.  Any sound would do it.  Silence would do it.  Dreams.  Sometimes he would just turn over on his bunk and find himself shaking as the tears rolled over his cheeks.

“You didn’t hear about a Kel ship crash landing did you?”

“A what?”

Sam explained what he knew.  He described the radio.  The great shadow that passed above the pod, the falls and deep into the south.  By her expression, and the fact that he had not met any of the boys on the way to the Commons, he guessed the answer.

“Oh, Sammy,” she said putting her hand on his knee.

“What?”

“I’m worried about you.”

“I didn’t imagine it.”

“I know, but you know what job I did before I became this and you became a miner.  This is a symptom.”

She could feel him tense up on the grey cloth and wicker couch.  She looked at the big man who stared into the flames, unsure what to do beyond just be there.

“I know.  But I saw the craft.  I could describe it right down to its intake converters.  It was there.”

“Until it wasn’t.”



Two


The clock read 3 am as he switched on the front room lights.  The air was still.  He had been through the same steps as before, its rhythm soothing the fading shouts as he would duck his head between the rooms of the pod.  He had the shower to wash away the sweat.  His night robe was clean and soft, hanging in its place on the silver hook behind the door.  The coffee had chugged away almost imperceptibly until he returned to kitchen barefoot under the bright halogen light.  He reheated food in one of those little black bowls.  He put both down next to the radio and turned its volume up just slightly.

He went out into the cool of the Velios night and looked out at the south where the sound of the falls softly rumbled below the canvas of starlight.  The glow from the beam at night brushed the back of his greying brown hair.

Below was the soft green of the growth that seemed like grass but never grew.   Little grew here or ever changed that he had seen.  The breeze from the north hills was almost imperceptible.  He had never been near the hills that climbed to the mountains, for the simple reason that he calculated only so much time between his regular reports.  For a moment he mused that it was too bad his dreams didn’t fall in line with the quiet of the Howe Shelf.  Some of the miners hated things in their new home, longing to be on some other planet where the other survivors must be having a great time.  Sam almost preferred to stay here.  Dani was here.  His work was here.  It was better than his dreams.

For the past few weeks, they began with the same strange story being played out before the usual barrage of gun fire and the scrambling of men.  It was his home town, but desolate.  That at least was like Velios.  It was as if everyone had simply winked out of existence.

He would walk down Main Street, past the white tall trees and red swing sets of the park to the heart of town to find he was completely alone.  He walked into the back of a bakery and up into the law offices that had always looked down from above.  It was all there, every detail.  Eventually he would run into the girl.

He never saw her face completely but she was young and had never seen her before.  She always grabbed his hand to try and pull him away from where he was going.  But where he was going was inevitable.  It was a place where he shouted orders as he ran to the transport, its mouth open like a great bear trap.  Fast forward to the crash.  Then again to things that he could not even describe.  Reports of the bombs falling.  Blood of his troops on his face and his uniform.  Bodies of civilians, or at least parts of them.  He knew they were the lucky ones.  It was all going to end soon.  The reports continued.  He was never as good at science in the academy but only a fool would not realize that there would soon be no place left to hide.  

Then came the Kel.  It wasn’t like any movie.  It was done so fast that everyone in the ship surrounding him seemed to instantly arrive.  Some were military like him.  Some civilian.  No one spoke.  No one moved.  

The ship left orbit, with the remnants of Earth visible below.  There it was, inflamed and sick, its atmosphere soon worse than Venus or Jupiter.

No one moved.

Sam sighed out and turned around to go inside.

“Sam Krellor?”



One


Sam stood in shock.  It was her.  He could absolutely swear it.  It was that same girl from his dream.  She looked like a young girl from earth in her mid teenage years somewhere, but it wasn’t quite right.  Even though the shape was essentially the same, her skin had too much an overall blue tint.  Her eyes were a shade of bright green that he had not seen before the time he would want to forget.


“Hello?” was all he could manage.


“There you are,” she smiled “I have been looking for you since the crash.  We all have.”


His mind raced.  She wasn’t human.  He had never seen a Kel before.  The rescuers of everyone had remained tucked away somewhere on the ship that no one could find them.  Even here on the planet, they supposedly lived in the north mountains, but the kids that went up there never found anyone.  The said it was like a tomb.

“We?”

“I’m a representative.  You may call me Baye.”

“You were on that ship!” he suddenly realized.

“Yes.  And your action did you credit.  It is but another reason we sought you out.  Come.  It is time.”

She took his hand this time and let him inside of the pod, passing the living room towards the beam room where she walked around the humming light to the one place the hatch could open.

“Time?  For what?  I’m sorry, Baye…I don’t follow you,” he stammered with his eyes widening as she opened the glass case that separated the room from the great beam.  He had never opened the case before.  The sound was excruciating.  

Her grip on his hand tightened.  She smiled at him like a mother smiles at her child as her other hand went into the beam.  Sam did not have time to scream.


                                 *   *


Sam awoke in a leather chair.  The similarities to his chair in the pod were so close that he briefly thought it was a dream.  As his eyes opened the reality became apparent.

Before him lay the world.  The rays from the distant sun had begun to creep across the landscape.  Through the round glass windows he saw a beam of white energy that slid from the Howe Shelf now far away, passing high above the Commons to just beneath where he sat.  He was in the Kel sanctuary, a tower high above the rest of the building.  It was near the converter where the ships would refuel.  It was that place the kids had explored.  They found nothing.  That was years ago.  On this day it was he and the one called Baye.  The room was silent.  It seemed peaceful despite the confusion he felt.  He got up and turned around to face her in the round room.

She stood by the center of the room where the wooden floor boards intersected at something that resembled a podium. A single black switch rose from a square flat top.  

He tried to formulate a first question.  He opened his mouth to speak.

“We have been watching you for some time, Captain Krellor,” she said, motioning almost reluctantly then to the black switch “we knew that this task needed the right person from your people.”

“For what?” he asked “Task?”

Her smile had gone.  She paused.  She looked to her left as if she had been instructed to continue.

“The Kel have been given a sacred trust since the founding of the Great Council.  We come to the aid of people that have fallen, we plea for their path to be changed through further research…and then, when that hope is lost…we complete our duty.  It is our sacred trust.”

Sam felt himself go cold.  He had not felt this way since the first moment in the Kel ship.

“What do you mean?”

She seemed to force herself to keep looking at him.  She continued with her softly spoken words.

“It will be instant.  There will be no pain.  No suffering.  All biological life on Velios will simply vanish.”

“But,” Sam said imploring to her “is this happening everywhere else?  Why is this happening at all?  Why am I not trying to break your neck right now?”

She did not back up at the last threat.  Sam did step forward but something about her seemed more dangerous than she looked at first glance.  He turned to find a door.  There was nothing.  The room had become smooth like the inside of an ostrich egg.

“I am but a vessel of the Kel people, so my ‘neck’ as it were is indestructible, as am I.  To your other questions, your species suffered immediate sterilization during your planet’s final hours.  We have been trying to fix this, but we have had no success.  And the stories of your people being on other planets were admittedly a lie.  All of this was, even your work.  The ships that came were our own.  We needed to keep your people calm and busy while we pleaded with the Council.  We endeavoured to give you hope.  That is our charge.  And then…we knew we must find a person who would be appropriate…for the final task.”

“Final task,” he said.

Sam walked around to the front of the podium.   It was a switch, lit blue that was clearly meant to be turned to the right.  How the kids who came up to this room never found this escaped him.  He looked from the switch to the world below.  He thought of Dani and little Eliot.

“But this…” he tried “This can’t be it.”

He turned to his right to face her.  She appeared on his left.

“Is any of this real?”

“It is your choice now, Captain Krellor,” the voice of the girl changing into that of a more masculine voice.  A voice of soft authority “You could delay a little while.  We could continue research, but… we have very few provisions left suitable to sustain the human species.  We have hoped for more promising outcomes, but they never came.  Our records indicate the health of the young boy…he will be first to perish.”

He stood there for a moment.  He placed his hand on the podium.  His knees felt almost weak.

“We are sorry.  So many of your people made such incredible strides to avoid coming to this but…this is not the first time Velios has been used for its final task.  We can only pray it is the last.”

“So that’s it,” Sam said, a tear coming down his cheek “that’s it.”

The rising light of the distant star crept into the room, warming his skin.

“This is the one word we left out of the Kel language you studied.  Velios.”

“Hospice,” said Sam.

He placed his hand on the dial.  Baye lowered her head.  The dial turned.

There was a moment after Sam was gone, that the Kel stayed motionless.  Baye stood with her head lowered, not looking up even as the podium lowered into the floor, disappearing with the softest click.

“New species en route.  I will make preparations.  Yes.”

end.



Writer’s note.


I did not arrive at this plot or my publishing it lightly.


Whether it resonates or if there is a benevolent people like the Kel or a place like Velios I don’t know.


I do know that each and everyone of us, and not just people in power, can make that dial stay to the left or swing to the right.

Our world is our choices.

When we support hate, when we demonize, when we practice any form of discrimination, when we go on the attack instead of trying to learn and empathize we threaten the clockwise motion of the “Velios Dial.”


This story is my ghost of Christmas future for the world.  It is the opposite of Ollie and Emma.  Every cause has an effect.  Some doors you can’t go back through.  


We are one 7.5 billion member family.  Our family comes from many different cultures with different views on the details of life.  No one is the enemy.  No one is wrong.  We can learn from each other.


Our strength is communication.  Our power is community.  Our future can only occur united.


This was but a shadow of things not yet occured.


Tom Pogson

September 2017