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Short Fiction

Night flight from Lincolnshire to Nuremberg

It was black, really black. He couldn’t see his hand six inches in front of his face. The dials of the control panel were such a dim red that they would only render up information if squinted at. Years ago and on the other side of the world Mullins had learned photography while in school. The profound blackness of the cockpit reminded him of the darkroom; the barely visible red dials of the safe light.

They hadn’t taught incredible, horrible teeth aching cold at school though and if they had Mullins would have left; they simply didn’t do cold in Molong N.S.W, not cold like this. Back home cold was sitting around a fire, probably in shorts and a singlet. Here, a tray of photo chemicals (if you were crazy enough to have such a thing) would freeze solid, into a poisonous ice block probably in under minute.

Mullins pushed the control yoke ten degrees forward into a shallow dive, stomped the port rudder pedal. The Lancaster went into a shallow dive and veered left. In a moment he would reverse the sequence, and in this way the huge bomber would maintain a gentle corkscrew motion as it followed a straight course across Belgium towards Nuremberg. The corkscrew was a manoeuvre that he had been assured would confuse the enemy night fighters that stalked the night, their pilots apparently gifted with the ability to see in the dark. Mullins doubted that the manoeuvre accomplished anything other than giving him something to do with his hands that would keep him awake, other than the ongoing terror of night-fighters of course. At any instant, completely without warning, his whole comparatively peaceful world of the plane and the night, could dissolve without warning into blood and fire. In a worst case scenario an attack might detonate the bomb load without warning and, in an instant, he and his crew would simply cease to exist.

Or, and it was not the first time the thought had occurred to him, that eventuality might actually be quite far from the worst, travelling along at eighteen thousand feet above the earth in a fragile tube of aluminium, magnesium, perspex and several thousand gallons of aviation fuel and explosives left the door wide open to many possibilities far worse than instantaneous death. One could crash into the ground have most of your bones broken so you couldn’t run, and be cooked alive by burning fuel. One could be very damaged in some sort of nasty encounter, but not die, and live for months under the care of the Nazi Army doctors – who had no love of terrorfliegers. Possibly worse even than that, one could parachute into a burning city during a raid and probably be pushed into the flames alive by the angry citizenry.

The plane droned on forcing its blunt nose ever deeper into the freezing black air. Mullins kept corkscrewing even though he knew in his heart that if a night fighter was sleazing up behind them, they were almost undoubtedly quite fucked, and indeed they had probably entered that state when their wheels had left the tarmac at Warley Fen back behind them in the relative quiet of England. In point of fact, there was no exact point when “not too bad” had degenerated into “fucked” but if he tried hard enough, fighting his way through the clinging spiderweb layers of memory, it had probably been during a lunch discussion on world events at school.

It was brutally hot in the playground; too hot to move, certainly too hot to run, so they’ taken to congregating in the stairwell of the brick building and talking, and back then, there’d been nothing else to talk of. War was coming! There was no exact point where he’d decided to sign up, it was more of a foregone conclusion. He was moved inexorably in the current which he could not fight away from the life he had been sure of, out to sea, far from the sunny beach, out into the cold open embrace of the ocean, to drown.

LOUD! over the intercom, a scream. Wordless, conveying no information except utter terror and pain. The big plane lurched as Mullins’ body spasmed at the controls. In shock and instant sympathy.

The was a procedure for even this, especially this. He pushed the throttles hard forward and simultaneously forced the nose down into a dive, while stomping hard on the starboard rudder pedal; but all the time thinking that he should have seen the flash of tracer, either from the fighter or from the return fire from whichever of the crew had screamed a warning, and from the sound – either died or been mortally wounded. And, as for everything, there was a procedure for this too. He had to shout to make himself heard over the pandemonium caused by recent events. He tried to sound calm but even as he heard his own words he knew that he didn’t do a very good job of it.

”All right you lot, shut the fuck up! Sound off one at a time if you’re O.K.”
The thing was that the person who’d made that noise was definitely not O.K., in fact the person who had made that noise was probably already dead.
“Bomb-Aimer, O.K Skipper” Mitchy sounded quite startled by definitely alive.
“Mid-Upper Gunner Ok” “Radio-operator alright sur.” Both spoke at the same time, their voices garbling over the circuit, but both somehow remaining recognisable.
“Navigator – it wasn’t me Skipper, I’m alright” Pruett sounded aggrieved, probably shocked into making a mistake in his sums. Silence; well aside from the all – encompassing roar of the engines.
“Co-pilot, I’m fine too.” It’d have been funny if it wasn’t strict procedure. Staples was sitting next to him , their opposing biceps inches apart. Surely if Staples had been the source of that scream he would have known? Would have heard it above the engines? On the other hand, perhaps not. He twisted his head as far as it would go to the right without dragging his oxygen mask off his face. Staples had turned toward him too, his masked and goggled face was practically invisible in the gloom, misshapen, insectoid, faint red reflections from the instrument panel adding to an aura of evil. Mullins knew was reflected in his own shape.

The crew was not complete, ”Cookie?”
“Rear Gunner? Did anyone hear Cookie sound off?”
”No Skip; No.” A series of denials and “Mid upper skip. I’ll check on him if you like.”
“Thanks, Les- I know your arse hurts but I’d be happier knowing you were keeping a look-out. Pruett, you’re closest – go and check on Cookie.”
“OK Skip” he didn’t sound happy about it, but he’d be less likely to have an attack of the vapours than Les. Silence, if the roaring and rattling could be called silence.
“Les? Did you see any thing outside that might’ve done it?” That was Staples, pulling rank to chat on the intercom; Mullins said nothing.
J-Jane quivered as she passed through a small patch of turbulence and Mullins felt the airframe flex slightly under his feet.
“Fuck! Shit!”
It was Pruett’s voice and the lack of solid information contained in it was irritating. Given the situation, doubly so.
Mullins, “Fucking What?” Blended with input from everyone else that sound like the arrival of a fox at a duck farm.
“Sorry skipper, I’m up the back, just at the turret, I’m plugged into the port here. I wish I had a fucking light, It’s horrible!”
Mullins was terrified, and judging by the noise, so was everyone else.
“Sal! No lights! Are you fucking mad? You want to attract every Night fighter in Belgium?”
“No Skip – but it’s Cookie. The doors to the turret were open, and he was half out and I think the back of his neck is missing.”
“It’s been shot out?”
“No, the turret looks fine. It’s just; I put my hand – his head…” Pruett made a wet noise in the back of his throat.
Mullins jumped slightly as he remembered that he was not weaving the plane in the sky, felt the plane quiver in sympathy, resettled himself on his profoundly uncomfortable seat, and stomped the port rudder pedal into a comparatively brisk left turn and pulled the control column back into something of a climb. In the excitement it seemed they’d lost nearly five hundred feet of altitude and that was dangerous. The bomber stream they’re part of had an assigned altitude of eighteen thousand feet and altering height and course massively increased the chance of colliding with one of the seven – hundred and-fifty other planes on the same mission. Mullins squinted furtively out the panels of the cockpit bubble and saw nothing except a few faint stars; it seemed that the high grey haze of cloud was clearing. That was good, it meant that they could not be silhouetted on it by searchlights. His mind went back to the minute of the mission with something like relief:
“Navigator, time to target!”
Nothing. “He hasn’t come back yet Skipper, people usually bump into me on the way past.”
That was Les.
“You poor thing. I’ll tell you what, if you’d like to stretch your legs, you can pop back there and tell him to get back to work” Mullins said this with the air of bestowing a great favour.

”Right away mate.” Les didn’t sound thrilled about his new mission and his Australian twang reflected it.
“Don’t call me mate.”
Silence. Apparently “right away” had meant just that.

“He’s not here Skipper.” There was no preamble; it was Les’ voice.
“Whattaya mean? Pruett isn’t there? Could he have fallen out?”

Les was breathing quite hard. ”No; the turret is rotated and the doors are closed, but there’s blood everywhere, so much blood. My feet are sticking to the floor, its trying to pull my flying boots off!” Les was breathing rapidly, starting to come ugly gulps.

“Get a fucking grip Les,” cut in Mitchell’s voice. “Its just fucking blood mate. It can’t hurt you.”

Les breathed in, a big gasping whoop of air and Mullins reflected that people like Mitchy were beyond any price.

“Alright for you, fucker, right up the other end, lying on an escape hatch; there’s something back here that kills people! It killed Cookie, then it killed Pruett and now I think it’s after me!”

“Something? What do you mean Something; you daft cunt?”

Les’ scream stopped suddenly, mid-scream. It sounded as if his intercom wire had been pulled out of its socket.
“Fuck. That didn’t sound good.” Mitch’s normal optimism seemed to have been worn thin.
“Fucking Fuck you’re fucking right! I’m fucking closer to it than you you colonial bastard!” As radio operator, Symthe, a welshman was closest to the rear of the plane his station being just forward of the main spar.
“Smythe! Stop stalling and come up to the cockpit, but before you do have a squid at The Nav stuff and see if you can work out where we are; it’s important.”
“I can tell you that Skipper.” It was Mitch. He was very sure of himself.
“Care to enlighten me?” They were functioning less as a crew and more as a collection of disparate individuals.
“We’re more or less on course for the target about ten miles out.”
“You can see it?”
“Hell yes! Massive fire, one set of marker flares still going down. They’re really catching shit! “ It wasn’t really a giggle, not really.
“Correct course to target.” It was an order.

“Fifteen degrees starboard. We’re a bit low too.” Mullins pressed the right rudder pedal, watched the compass rotate. “O.K. I’ve got her.” Mullins watched a one degree course change further starboard, and a river back to Port.
“There’s a dark patch in the middle of the fires- I’ll try to hit that.”
He’d have his work cut out for him; the thermals from the fires beneath were already making “Jane” jump like a crazy horse, the control column was wild in his hands.
“Wait for it, wait for it,” ‘Jane’ rocked so hard that his head banged hardback on his headrest.

The cockpit was flooded with the light of the orange fires of hell beneath them. Something burst into the cockpit, grabbed at him, faintly, over the noise of the engines. The roar of the fire beneath and the incessant concussion of the bombs, he could hear that it was screaming. It was Smythe; he was evidently crazy, he was waving his large service revolver, pointing it down the narrow companionway towards the rear of the plane, firing twice. Through the thick baffle plates of his headphones the shots were muted, subsumed into the generalised roar of the engines, the bombs and the flak barrage that surrounded them. For a single horrible second the cockpit was incandescently bright as a searchlight passed over them.

Smythe fired again and something black, the size of a dog, that looked like a spider, pounced on him, grabbed his hand and bit all his fingers off. The gun fell to the floor, the port wing fuel tank exploded, and the wing folded in onto itself near the root. The fuselage rotated port longitudinally with terrifying rapidity and Mullins was thrown hard against the canopy.

He awoke several thousand feet lower in freefall to discover that his parachute had been irreparably torn on his progress through the canopy. He landed, long seconds later in the burning ruin of an apartment building, and died instantly on impact.Mitchell’s parachute did open but the immense column of heated air from the fires carried him to the border of the main conflagration where he broke an ankle on landing in a back kitchen garden where he was captured by a detachment of middle- agedVolksturm anti aircraft gunners who took it upon themselves to douse him in diesel fuel and ignite him where he lay. He died when one of them took pity on him and cracked his head with a hoe.

Smythe was still inside the ‘Jane’ when she landed in what had once been a municipal park, travelling at some four hundred miles an hour, at the moment of impact he was struggling to access the bomb-aimer’s escape hatch while fighting with the thing, whatever it was, that had eaten his fingers.

(C) Copyright Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights reserved.

The Lion King (2019

When I told one of my friends I was waiting for “The Lion King” to start; she said “really?” In a voice so laden with doubt that she might as well have added, “You’re fucking kidding”. She was honestly shocked, as well she might have been .

I have never seen the original film, even on video, and I didn’t see the live show, even though the giraffes’ heads come right out over the audience. I never saw the sequel to the original film, the sequels to the sequels, or any of the spin-off television shows. Likewise I had never purchased, (or used) “Lion King” themed toilet tissue, and had in short done my level- best to avoid the entire franchise right from the start.

Why? I’ve always seen “Hamlet” set in a pride of lions as a rather tacky idea, but from what I saw of the publicity of the first film, I thought the animation looked really naff and things kinda snowballed from there. I fought off the advice of friends that frequently crossed the line into brow-beating and remained “Lion King” free for the last twenty-five years.

I liked the look of the trailers; simple as that. Off I went. Somehow I was 3 rows from the front row on the first session on opening day; either perfectly qualified to be a consumer of the film, since as a complete virgin to the franchise, I would not be distracted by niggley, trivial differences to earlier versions. And the short review is simple; I absolutely loved this film! From the ghastly cartoon drawings to this – I am sure I have never seen more perfect artificial lions. From the first I simply marvelled at the fact that these animals were not living, breathing, pooping animals at all, but creations of CGI and more than being “simply” animals they were called on to act as well; and did so too, not as humans wearing lion faces either but as lions, somehow using cat mannerisms to express completely understandable and moving emotions – and notoveracting either. In recent years a plague of coarse acting has overtaken the American film industry and scenery chewing has become the order of the day. No. The lions deliver precise and economical performances , that frequently had me wondering how the top- priced human talent on display elsewhere gets away with their frequently Academy Award winning melodramatics.

Seriously. I’ve no idea what you call the skill but there must be an academy award for people who coax performances from computer simulacra, and, in my opinion the person or people responsible here deserve one – and an extra Cola at the party afterwards.

“The Lion King” made me cry once, right at the end, so I was caught, tears running down my face, just as the lights came up. Filthy trick. But I liked the rest of the film so very, very much, I was more than prepared to forgive.

Verdict: The magic of cinema does not get more magical.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

The Lion King (2019)

When I told one of my friends I was waiting for “The Lion King” to start; she said “really?” In a voice so laden with doubt that she might as well have added, “You’re fucking kidding”. She was honestly shocked, as well she might have been .

I have never seen the original film, even on video, and I didn’t see the live show, even though the giraffes’ heads come right out over the audience. I never saw the sequel to the original film, the sequels to the sequels, or any of the spin-off television shows. Likewise I had never purchased, (or used) “Lion King” themed toilet tissue, and had in short done my level best to avoid the entire franchise right from the start.

Why? I’ve always seen “Hamlet” set in a pride of lions as a rather tacky idea, but from what I saw of the publicity of the first film, I thought the animation looked really naff and things kinda snowballed from there. I fought off the advice of friends that frequently crossed the line into brow-beating and remained “Lion King” free for the last twenty-five years.

I liked the look of the trailers; simple as that. Off I went. Somehow I was 3 rows from the front row on the first session on opening day; either perfectly qualified to be a consumer of the film, since as a complete virgin to the franchise, I would not be distracted by niggley, trivial differences to earlier versions. And the short review is simple; I absolutely loved this film! From the ghastly cartoon drawings to this – I am sure I have never seen more perfect artificial lions. From the first I simply marvelled at the fact that these animals were not living, breathing, pooping animals at all, but creations of CGI and more than being “simply” animals they were called on to act as well; and did so too, not as humans wearing lion faces either but as lions, somehow using cat mannerisms to express completely understandable and moving emotions – and notoveracting either. In recent years a plague of coarse acting has overtaken the American film industry and scenery chewing has become the order of the day. No. The lions deliver mannered precise and economical performances , that frequently had me wondering how the top priced human talent on display elsewhere got away with their frequently, Academy Award winning performances.

Seriously. I’ve no idea what you call the skill but there must be an academy award for people who coax action performances from computer simulacra, and, in my opinion the person or people responsible here deserve one – and an extra Cola at the party after warwards.

“The Lion King” made me cry once, right at the end, so I was caught, tears running down my face, just as the lights came up. Filthy trick. But I liked the rest of the film so very, very much, I was more than prepared to forgive.

Verdict: The magic of cinema does not get more magical.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

Parasite

Parasite.

World cinema is an interesting pursuit, after awhile you start to understand the world in almost unfashionable ways. Indian films are very Indian and Definitely an acquired taste, French films have a particularly piquant taste all their own. The French sense of humour is frequently very twisted and, when you get the wavelength, sometimes exceptionally funny. German films are never funny. Their comedies are worse. The Japanese have made some of the best films ever, and also some of the craziest shit in history. In fact the Japanese probably provide the widest spectrum of cinematic quality of any nation on earth. From Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran” and Nagisa Oshima’s “In the Realm of the Senses”; all the way through to “Godzilla versus Frankenstein” there is something for everyone.

Right next door to Japan, almost within a stone’s throw(her her) is Korea. With a very much smaller Film industry, they have an utterly different outlook on life, and maintain a remarkably high quality standard in their recent output.Mostly.From “The Host” (which is probably the best “giant mutant creature film ever made )through to fascinating independent films like “lies” and the OTT bloodstorm war movie “Brothers in War” their industry stands on the horrendous trauma of the Korean War, which simply cannot be ignored as a major formative influence on the culture, and by extension, their film industry. In this film “parasite” it does not take much effort to see the formative influence of the trauma of war, on their culture and this subtext adds another layer of meaning to an already very interesting film.
Synopsis: A family of subterraneans live off the grid in a semi basement area in a stinking alley. Their windows provide close-up views of drunks pissing and puking in the street The group like like alley rats, eating what they find, stealing what they need; if they have “hope” it is a very short term proposition; since the concept of “having a future depends entirely on the prospect that you will be able to eat both today, and tomorrow.
Against all expectation however the grown son of the group, has managed to get an education, and has, indeed, graduated school with prospects. This is an amusing point at which one can diverge from the actual film itself and wonder athwart the plot line might have been if “parasite” had been made in different countries. The U.S is dead easy. If it had been made their the family would have been black since it is a commonly accepted trope that the only people horribly grindingly poor in the U.S are black. The clean -cut son, probably played by Denzel Washington, would, graduating school attempt to secure gainful employment. Here, apparently for the first time in his life, he would encounter the affront of white racism as an obstacle to his path. He would meet this challenge nobly, perhaps unburdening himself of some rhetoric at some applicable point, and roughly at the same time conflict would enter the plot! Black hoodlums would attempt to bully him into selling drugs for them! Or get shot! This plot section would form the major impetus for the films climax (usually involving tragically gasped last words from a bullet-riddled body cradled in the street by an alternately crying and screaming mother.
You can rest assured “Parasite was not made in the U.S; it was made in South Korea, and the Korean worldview is entirely different to that of the Western world. In fact, to someone brought up on a diet of American Media, the Koreans are downright weird. So “Parasite” trundled along towards its uniquely Korean and very satisfying ending I was left simultaneously aghast, and post cathartically almost shocked at the way I had found the ending uproariously funny. This is a bloody good albeit niche film that has the makings of a cult sleeper hit all over it, if such things exist anymore,
Copyright(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

Claire Darling

The premise of Claire Darling is simple. A late -middle aged bourgeois lady (Claire; played by the great Catherine Deneuve) is living in a delightful family home in the French countryside. One day, and for no stated reason she decides to have a “Yard Sale”. It soon becomes apparent that she is selling everything including priceless family heirlooms and objects saturated with family memory, for pennies. Her family have various reasons for being aghast, depending on who they are. In fact, as family litmus tests go, this yard sale certainly fits the bill. Claire is interrogated, screeched at, berated and begged, but she sails above the consternation she has caused, if not oblivious, then at worst, slightly pained. Catherine Deneuve brings an odd calm to the character of Claire, sailing above the storm clouds she has caused like a bright, untouchable full-moon. She is still the quintessential French film star and in this film proves it yet again.

The suspense in “Claire Darling” (and there is a fair whack of it) is caused by the desire to know what the old bat is up to. When pressed she says that today is her “last day” but refuses say what she means. The audience is dragged inexorably towards a conclusion that the unlucky few will have guessed before the film’s (unexpected by me) wholly satisfying climax.

A very good solid script, very adequate acting, good technical work, and Catherine Deneuve add up to a very worthwhile entertainment. Recommended.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

Seaside Rendezvous

Copyright (C) Alex Rieneck 2019

“Don’t we have a policy of not taking money from fucking perverts?” Tim was not faking being quite angry and it showed in his voice. He was talking across the boardroom table to Attard, who, as usual was fiddling with one of his gourmet Columbian blended cigars and seemed happy and calm at the prospect of smoking it. Tim, who had cut down on his intake quite recently, found the sight rather irritating.

Young cut in; she was Board Secretary and made sure no-one ever forgot it. “No Tim, there was discussion after the Nazi Holocaust investigation the year before last, but the board deadlocked and in the absence of a clear directive from the shareholders, the matter was effectively shelved.” Atttard swooped in for the kill; “The ratings figures on the feeds are clear Tim, our end users are pretty pervy themselves. They aren’t watching the various main release feeds for historical education, but for pure titillation and the bio-monitors are confirming that as time passes, the end uses are getting Pervier. We are middle men we take projects from the feeds and deliver product. They take their subscriptions at their end – the more sex and violence the better, for everybody; and anyway, it all actually happened, we aren’t making any of it up.”

It was one of the central columns of Tr00 publicity – patently true and difficult to argue against.
“But in concentrating on the negative we’re polluting the present, violent attacks are at an all time high – the streets are a war zone.”
“The news media needs to make a profit too, Tim,” Attard pounced.
“Both my nieces have been mugged in the last month!” Tim felt weak, falling back on the truth. The projects always seem alright, like the Nazi Holocaust job – final, total proof that the Holocaust didtake place and the final eradication of the arguments of the so call “Holocaust deniers” – until it went on release and it turned out that the deniersliked being proved wrong and were watching parts of it over and over – and masturbating.
“The thing is Tim, it happened.”
“The thing is, Attard;” Tim didn’t use his first name, on purpose, “I think we’re making the world a worse place by concentrating on the negative aspects of life.”
“And when we try something that’s supposed to be positive, everybody turns off, remember that feature we did on Jesus? Practically nobody watched it except the ones who were waiting to watch Jesus to fuck Mary Magdelene so they could masturbate – good work there by the way.”
“Thanks.” After all the worthy philosophy, some lusty bonking had turned Tim on too, and he was sure his reactions had transmitted through his Locus work.

“But this, there’s no question about this. This isn’t an unexpected interlude between the Messiah and his girlfriend. This one is just straight-out perversion. On purpose.”
“Oh come on Tim, how could you possibly know that?”
“Owen, I’ve been there. In my university days I spent a year living in Italy, moving cities, in the months I lived in Naples I visited Pompeii at least once a week.”
Attard hadn’t known that about Tim but he had no difficulty believing it.
“The Project briefing says the place is called “The Villa Of the Mysteries” and its purpose has defied explanation by archeologists for hundreds of years”
“are you saying you know something generations of archeologists don’t?” Attard spoke with the air of a rat-trap slamming shut on an unwary mouse.
“Yes.”
“Well seeing that all theories are shortly to be proven or disproven, one way or the other by the Locus; I think now is the time to put up or shut up Tim – and to make it all even more interesting, what do you say we put a little wager on your theory, say 1,000 McPhees?” Attard was all buttery charm and easily earned at least double Tim’s annual pay but one thousand McPhees wasn’t extravagant to Tim either, who wasn’t a betting man.
“Sure thing Patrick.”
“Tim? You haven’t already checked your theory out?”
“No, Mr Attard, I haven’t.”
“No offence; it just occurred to me.”
“None taken, it’s a good idea it’s just this sort of situation doesn’t present itself often.”
The way that Attard was looking at him made Tim uncomfortable.
“So,” said Attard, “this large house or villa is set, perhaps terminates, the walk from the city gates. It is renowned for its fabulous frescos which, it is believed show the initiation, in sequential images of a maiden into the cult of Bacchus, the wine God. The God of parties and carousel. There are various rooms in the place that have identifiable purposes; The room with two ovens was obviously a state-if-the-art gourmet kitchen; there was a steamboat, a hot room and facilities for making wine,”
“Later.” ‘ Tim broke in.
Momentarily nudged off- stride Attard looked over.
“Later than the period of use I’m talking about – or earlier, it doesn’t matter.”
“That sounds a bit slapdash Tim-what do you mean?”
“Look, we’re talking about a large expensive house in the suburban/rural fringe of a holiday resort town, over the period from when it was built to when it was buried by the volcano; during the time it was standing, what with the way the world works, it was undoubtedly re-purposed a few times. My theory is that it started life as a clubhouse for the cult of Bacchus and then went through multiple incarnations before finishing up as the “Villa of the Mysteries” at the time of the eruption. It’s the final incarnation that I’m interested in.”
“ And what was it then?”
“That’s what nobody can work out.”
“Except you, of course.”
“As it happens. I do think so.”
“Well if you wouldn’t mind putting your mouth where your money is, do you think you could bring yourself to fucking tell me?”
“The thing is, I grew up in a small seaside town; so I have an advantage the average archeologist doesn’t – I understand how the places work. People think they go to such places to get away from it all, but really they don’t. What they want is more of the same – but slower paced and with fresh air.”
“Go on.” 
“I grew up in a town called Laurieton, on the East coast of what used to be called Australia. Have you ever noticed how small towns all have a building that used to be a cinema? Back then remote towns were out of Tv transmission range and”
“Get on with it!”
“Um, the most important thing they had to do was, entertain the tourists. You see, you don’t go on holiday to do nothing – you go on holiday to have fun and people are creatures of habit with their fun, they develop tastes, then they want more of the same. They like cinema in the city, they want it on holiday too, but without the knife-fights in the popcorn queue – They want it the same, but preferably better.”
“Get to the point.”
“Right, the thing is, I went to Pompeii and I felt right at home. They had all the normal shit you do in the sun with the kids – boat rides fish’n’chips, swimming, fishing, a heated baths complex – and the ancient Roman equivalent of a Imax cinema.”
“A what?”
“A cinema with a very big, very high resolution screen – a late twentieth century attempt to produce the effects of an input helmet; on multiple people at the same time.”
“Will you get to the fucking point?”
“Fuck you; You asked – the dominant entertainment in Rome was not cinema;”
“Really?”
“It was the arena; or as the Romans called it, ‘the Circus’ – the setting of gladiatorial conflicts – the place where prisoners were fed alive to wild animals. Where sometimes prisoners were tortured to death for the amusement of the crowd.”
“I’ll torture you to detain a fucking minute”
“The blood, gore, and pathos were incredibly popular with the crowd – a roman showed his or her true mettle by not showing empathy with the suffering at the circus – while obviously gaining pleasure at the spectacle and, of course, betting on the fights. The thing was the circus in Pompeii, had on advantage over the big arenas in Rome. Oh sure, they got the big purse gladiator fights, massive set pieces and the prisoner holocausts but they had one disadvantage – They’d gotten too big. You couldn’t really see if a gladiator match was fixed unless you were right up the front, and those seats were far too expensive, so only the rich got the full effect, a good view of the wounds, being able to hear the bones break, being able to smell the blood, everyone else was watching something like cavorting ants on a saucer.
Ok! Ok! The thing is, the arena at Pompeii was much smaller, everybody was closer to the action – It was a perfect example of smaller being better – if you like your murder in high detail.”
“You know, none of this is about The Villa of the Mysteries. None! It’s *All *off the point!”*

“It fucking isn’t! The thing is Pompeii was a typical holiday town, the same as you’d find anywhere, even, well, not now, not anymore. Town Its not different, its similar in its differences! The town where I grew up, had a very nice cinema, never crowded. After I’d left, they built an Imax theatre, people came from miles around.”

“The. Villa. Of. The. Fucking. Mysteries.”

“Big building. Expensive two stories surrounding a small central courtyard. Courtyard fenced by solid brick wall about two metres high. Now Romans were small in comparison to us, the size of children, roughly. I was a young man, not fat like I am now,” he patted his large girth. “And I could barely get over it, before security told me to fuck off.”
“The place was a priceless archeological site, not a jungle gym.”
“I was young. And it turned out not to be priceless after all, didn’t it? Just very expensive, I’m sure the new town they build there will be very pleasant.”
“It’s always unpleasant to be an idealist when politicians are involved.” The statement was rather more philosophical than was normal for Attard who had been known to advocate political assassination for elected officials shown to be guilty of lying or corruption but it did nothing to calm Tim who was firmly in favour of exactly the same penalty for officials who took bribes to sell archeological sites for modern development. He attempted to console himself with the certain knowledge that the Villa of the Mysteries and indeed Pompeii itself would always be present for the Locus, even if the site was covered by a twenty-storey concrete parking garage.
“So your theory Tim?”

“The main Pompeian amphitheatre was good entertainment at a good price for the common holidaymakers who can down from Rome on the big Triremes. The Villa of the Mysteries was top class entertainment for rich connoisseurs who wanted something special; probably something to order, and were prepared to pay for it.”
“Finally! Do you know what time it is Tim?”
“Always Patrick.”
As it happened they had less than fifty minutes before the fusion station came on line and delivered the power they need.

The villa actually looked slightly more bedraggled and decrepit in the Locus than it did in the images that had come with the contract file. The back of the structure was partially covered in scaffolding and men worked on the walls as men have for the last thousand years, neither too fast, or too slow but rather just fast enough to convince middle management that they were neither dead or incompetent.

“They’ll be repairing damage from the earthquake of 5 February 62 AD…” His eye caught the bug in the lower right corner.
“Still? Fuck! that was nearly ten years ago! Either this lot are on some sort of maintenance contract or the place was rubble after the earthquake.”
“Let’s see inside.” Attard had no real interest in the plight of the workers, after all, he was upper management.
Tim ghosted the Locus through the locked front gate and through the big wooden red-painted doors. Light glowed in iron braziers each side of the entrance and the glossy paint glimmered. The inside of the interior courtyard was exactly as Tim had described , except that the two metre barrier walls had been covered with a coat of whitewash and bright braziers lit the space from their positions in all four corners. The space between the top of the barrier wall and the awning above was filled with a heavy, taut rope net. Evening was over and the night was well settled in when things started to happen. The sky above the little courtyard was a deep blue and the stars stared down as cold and as hard as diamonds. They delivered the two men first, a big black unpleasant looking man and s small one with a face like a ferret and more white in his eyes than was comfortable. The sedan chairs arrived an hour later, shown into place by a flunkey who managed to walk backwards while bowing. The sedan chairs were placed on portable wooden trestles that had the riders lying at the same height as the top of the wall, with a perfect view of activities beyond it, well within arms’s reach.

Attard was surprised and gladdened when the big black man actually killed the small high speed ferret man. It was almost a fair fight. The Ferret man had a knife which he slashed his opponent with, often, spraying the white walls with livid splashes of bright red. Then he stabbed the black man directly in the penis and was almost instantly rewarded with a high kick to the chest that sent him flying into the wall hard enough to break multiple ribs. The black man then leapt into the air and landed both feet on his opponents body.
The fat bald man in the right hand chair clapped ironically. They delivered the girl ten minutes after the victor was removed from the premises. She couldn’t have been more than twelve and she cried piteously and begged for mercy. The fat man spat in her face so she sat in a corner and cried there. Tim set the Locus to wide-angle, handed control to Jensen and went to the tearoom for a cup of tea and a bowl of noodles. He had no desire to watch more. He had seen them deliver the lion already, it was downstairs, waiting, and besides- it had all already happened

Godzilla2: King of the Monsters

This film starts big. In point of fact this film starts awfully damned big. In fact if you thought you were going to have to wait for through turgid plot material for your your howling, crashing, trampling, exploding laser firing, more exploding, men with submachine guns firing at giant monsters as a sop to the US bloody massacre lobby, you’d be completely wrong; the shit starts splattering the walls at floor-shaking volume, from the first frame. It is quite disconcerting. One minute you’re sitting in a quiet cinema The next you are in a burning nightmare of rubblerubble that used to be a city. A woman and her daughter are screaming, barely audible in the armageddon that surrounds them. A man calls. He is worried about them. He is either near or far. Neither word really means anything in this jumbled nightmare jumble. You have no idea which city this was, or who these people are. How are you supposed to care for them? They are simply human, you care or you don’t, depending on the kind of person you are. It is a manipulative trick, but it works. All my rational mind could come up with was to wibble ”bags not having to clean up this mess.” That I was immediately ashamed of the thought made me realise that this was was called “a good, strong, opening.”

There was no respite. Even though rather less is actually happening, the melodrama and overacting ratchets up several notches, to the red mark on the main gear wheel. Characters too poorly defined to be seen as more than different haircuts, shouted barely comprehensible twaddle at each other before a shock cut to another haircut shouting more twaddle or to something whizzing by, or whizzing by and crashing and blowing up. Then the tension ratchets up another notch and another.

Goddam huge creatures vaguely recognisable from the Toho Godzilla films start doing goddam huge monster activities exactly wherever they bloody well feel like it. Their activities are increasingly exuberant and acrobatic, except in the case of Mothra, whose activities are acromothic. “Bat” stuff is largely the bailiwick of King Gidorah, who as we all learned at school, has bat wings, legs like a piano, three tails and three heads at the end of three long wriggly snake-like necks.

At one point a giant monster bursts out of an erupting volcano. The local villagers are dubious about this and even more dubious about the small print in their insurance contracts. By the time this happens the film has been going slightly over an hour and has achieved volume levels roughly equivalent to a squadron of F1-11s taking off on afterburners – then King Gidorah stood up, extended his wings, screamed and shot lightning into the sky from his wing joints. I was totally rapt. I punched the air in the cinema and yelled “YEAH!” I haven’t done anything like that in the movies for about the last forty-five years. I was rather surprised at myself. Right then and there in the destruction, I decided that I was definitely seeing “Godzilla II: King of the Monsters” again, soon, with friends and most likely stoned. Its that kind of film.

Copyright(c) Alex Rieneck, 2019All Rights Reserved