Launch

Launched into this world
hurled from my mother’s womb,
sent screaming into this place
I raise my voice yet again but now,
control it with measured grace
And I raise a hopeful brow
to those of you who sigh,
lie lazy on vestigial wings
and cry
So I offer here, myself, my soul,
my compositions for all to read,
and comment on, if not a troll
as I offer only what I can,
so no screaming please
and comment not,
if you’re not a fan.

The Launch

‘Just launch it…’
‘I will. I just…’
‘Come on Eillidh, you need to launch it. Just throw it in…’
‘I just need a minute Cara…just give me a moment…please…’

The two girls stand at the edge of the pier, their slender outlines gently imprinted on the calm, idyllic coastal scene. The first hint of the early evening’s shadows begin to invade the cool, crisp, and often, unexpected sunshine of the late Spring day. A frittering, uncertain sunshine. Like an infant taking its first steps, desperate to exude confidence, all the while only a heartbeat, a mis-step, a moment away from defeat. Gentle waves prod at the foot of the brickwork pier below them, respectful of the calm, quiescent air, careful not to intrude upon the measured silence. Across the river the Lothians stand proudly, illustriously, distant. The peaks of the far-off Pentland Hills creeping into the horizon. Another world, another life. To their right the Forth bridges cut through the landscape. Each bridge unique, oozing character. Each offering a varied route of travel, a mode of escape, from the introspective small town life, piercing a hole into the seemingly salubrious, high-rolling, problem-shedding city life.

‘You’re going to have to do it sooner or later Eillidh. The quicker you do it the faster you can walk away. Yeah?’

Cara glances briefly at the object, the focal point, the subject of the conversation, forcefully clutched in her friend’s hand. She follows this up with an unsteady, yet comforting, squeeze of Eillidh’s shoulder. The latter’s hand slowly rises to meet Cara’s, gently caressing it as her gaze remains fixed on some nondescript point on the opposite shoreline. A slight smile, more forlorn than joyful, edges across her lips.

‘Do you remember when we used to come here as kids? To the beach I mean.’
‘Of course I do.’
‘Any sunny day. Even some rainy ones. Hiding in the caves-but-not-really-caves further along the coast to keep dry.’
‘That’s right’ smiles Cara.
‘All the way through Primary School,’ Eillidh squeezes her friend’s had before withdrawing her own, letting it hang by her side. Cara taking this as a cue to let go.
‘I honestly can’t remember the last time I even built a sandcastle. Buried someone in the sand. Skimmed a stone, even. No matter how crap I was at it.’
‘Everything seemed…I don’t know…freer then. Easier.’
‘Look Eillidh…you’re still…’ begins Cara meekly before she’s cut off.
‘I had my first kiss there aswell, remember. That English boy, Will, up here visiting his Granny, or Auntie, or someone, I don’t know. Where was he from? Cornwall or something, wasn’t it. God, it was awful. He tasted like cheese and onion Pringles. He wasn’t even eating cheese and onion Pringles.’
‘Yeah, I remember’ replies Cara, now managing to force only the barest hint of a smile.

The light continues to gradually diminish around them, the evening entwining with the daylight, a dusky hue beginning to claim sovereignty over proceedings. Towards the opposite shoreline two birds, seagulls thinks Eillidh, one noticeably larger than the other, suddenly career into the air. The larger of the two confidently cutting through the encroaching shadows, the smaller visibly struggling, ascending and plunging with all the consistency and speed of an unrestrained roller coaster. The larger bird descends time and again, flapping alongside the smaller; in support, in encouragement, in kinship. Until, eventually, the smaller bird finds its stride, its confidence, and propels itself into the air. Gliding gracefully through the landscape, pirouetting over the lush red steel of the railway bridge. The larger bird proudly mirroring its every move, coasting close by as the younger of the two etches its own celebratory path into the coastal expanse.

‘And then the beach parties started’ she says.
‘Well…’
‘Didn’t they?’
‘Well, hardly parties’ answers Cara, ‘more like a group of underagers getting together and smoking and drinking anything we managed to steal from one of our parents’ drink cabinet. If that’s classed as a party then…’
‘Suddenly everything just felt different.’
‘Eillidh…’
‘Like happiness is suddenly something you have to work for, y’know.’
‘Eillidh, listen…’
‘Appearance. Expectations. Responsibilities. Exams. Careers. Plans. Books. Looks. Boys Girls. Everything. Like you’re no longer only making decisions to please yourself and make yourself happy any more. Every little thing you do or don’t do, every little thing you say or don’t say, somehow it suddenly becomes all about pleasing someone, anyone, everyone else. When did that start, tell me that.’
‘I don’t know Eillidh. Look, you did the right thing. You did. It’s not…’
‘And then you end up doing the wrong thing anyway. Making the wrong choice. It’s always about the wrong choices.’
Cara’s voice drops to a whisper. Unsure. Muted. She pulls nervously at her hair, curling it around her index finger, tangling it in the process.
‘Eillidh…’ she begins, ‘you had to do it. Ok? You didn’t have any choice. There wasn’t a right or wrong choice. There was just the only choice. You have to know that. To believe that. You had to get it done. You’re 15 years old, Eillidh. 15! It was the only choice you had.’

Eillidh looks down at the object in her hand. Staring at it. Fearing it. Hating it. She looks up again, indifferently staring across the glistening waves. The skyline above the bridges glows a fiery red, the dying embers, the final flourish of an otherwise fading daylight. She tightens her grasp of the object.

‘I could have waited though.’
‘Eillidh, why say that?’
‘In the first place I mean. I could have waited.’
‘Come on Eillidh, there’s no way you could have known this would happen. No way.’
‘Cara, I could have waited.’ she replies sternly, ‘like you just said, I’m only 15 years old. I didn’t have to do it. Didn’t have to say yes. To agree to it. To let him. Even though I knew…I knew it wasn’t what I wanted.’
‘You just…you only…’
‘You weren’t that stupid were you!’
‘It’s not about being stupid, Eillidh. Like I said, it’s not about being right or wrong. All you did was…’
‘Well, I don’t know. All I know is I could have….I mean, you weren’t…I don’t know. I don’t know.’

Cara looks up at her friend, still gazing blankly into that unspecified spot in the horizon. She gently slips her fingers through Eillidh’s, clasping hold of her quivering hand.

‘You did the right thing. I promise you. School. Your parents. Your own life. It’s still yours to live. You had to do it. You’ve not let anyone down…’
‘I know…’ whispers Eillidh in reply, her voice cracking ever so slightly as she does, ‘I know.’
‘It’s not an ending. It’s just something that’s happened. Something that could have been but isn’t.’
‘Yeah…’
‘So just launch it. Just throw it in, Eillidh. Please.’
‘I will, I just…ok.’
‘Besides, I’m starting to shiver. I told you summer dresses in spring was a shocking idea.’ she forces a trickle of laughter.
‘You did.’ smiles Eillidh, this time tightening her grip on her friend’s hand.

Her attention is drawn to the waves continuing to claw at the foot of the pier below. The gentle lapping of the water against the wall bringing with it an almost serene, hypnotic quality. A distant, echoing seagull screech breaks her repose, calling to her attention the near total darkness now surrounding the two of them.

She squeezes her friend’s hand tightly once again, emphatically even, and then lets go. And with a gentle flick of her wrist she sends the white object flying through the evening air. As Eillidh and Cara turn and walk away the very last fragment of the day’s sunlight briefly enshrines the object in a surreal glow. The white object’s small LED screen, once adorned with the word ‘Pregnant’, glistens under a momentary flash of light, a blinding reflective spark, before it continues its downward trajectory, tumbling towards the shadow-strewn, all-consuming waves.

The Launch

Together we sat,
Resting our feet,
With some cake, and a warm drink
To give us some heat.

We gazed through the window,
Taking in the sights
Of the castle, the Loch;
The calm before the fright.

With one swipe of the arm,
Sudden and quick,
The cup had been launched,
And then came the panic.

Hot chocolate on the table,
Ourselves, and the floor.
Never had I seen a mess
Quite like it before.

 

 

(#chocolatemassacre2017)

The Launch

Here come The Chatterers again, Sebastian thought to himself. They were standing with their silly little planks of wood, staring at him. Sebastian wondered why they stared so much. He was just lying down, having a pleasant day dream. They’d already seen that before, several times. They were chattering away excitedly too, as always. They often seemed to do that. One of them was coming towards Sebastian. His plank of wood clutched in one arm, the other rubbing furiously across it. They seemed to do that a lot too. When Sebastian had first arrived in this new place, these white-coated outsiders had been fascinating to him. He’d never seen anything like them before. Now of course, they were there all the time. Their constant chattering is how he decided to name them. It was very boring in here. There were just a couple of trees and some grass, nothing like where he used to live. There were these strange barriers too. Big white cliffs, not made from stone though. They were some weird material, Sebastian had never seen before. He didn’t much care for them. Ugly things they were. The only punctuation of the white barrier was a hole that The Chatterers would come through. He longed to roam free like he had in the past. The one closest to Sebastian turned to the others and chattered some more. He reached out and grabbed for Seb’s hand. Sebastian let him do it. The Chatterers loved it when he did his little trick, normally giving him something to eat. They clearly thought he was pretty smart. They didn’t know the half of it. Seb let himself be led out of the place he’d been in for the longest time, so long he could scarcely remember when he’d first arrived. They went through the opening in the barrier and out of that place.

The other side of the hole had more of those barriers. The ground was shockingly cold and hard. Sebastian had never seen anything like it before. Each footstep they took echoed around the space. They led him along to another opening and into another place. There were strange objects in the room. Seb had never seen anything like them before, strange parts jutted out of them. A whole group of the chatterers were waiting for him. They didn’t have the same white coverings as the others. Some had dark colourings, with weird shiny colourful bits on their chests. Seb wondered if they were females trying to attract a mate. Seb had never even seen a female Chatterer before. The group were all chattering excitedly. They were very pleased to see Sebastian apparently. He couldn’t say the feeling was mutual. Seb was then inflicted with a prolonged assault of jabbing, measuring, poking and general medical unpleasantness. How long it lasted he couldn’t say, he’d long since given up trying to tell the time in this god awful place. They finally stopped. One of them was walking over clutching something in hands. It was some sort of leaf maybe, Seb wasn’t sure. It was about the size of Seb, so it must be a pretty big tree. A very unusual colour too, Seb hadn’t seen an orange leaf before! The shaky one was now at Sebastian. He stood for a second and grabbed for Seb’s leg. Sebastian was understandable startled by this and promptly smacked the thing right in his quivering jaw. What followed next was a little hazy. Seb remembered a lot of noise. Arms were flailing wildly. Where they his arms? He wasn’t sure anymore. He remembered more of them rushing into the place. He remembered the other thing, the stabbing in his neck. It was painful, but at the same time, it had felt good. An immense feeling of bliss washed over him. That’s when he’d decided to take a nap.

When Seb woke up after what felt like half an eternity, he found himself somewhere new. It was cold. It was a circular tube made of another weird material. Had they banished him here? Looking down he realized the strange orange leaf was encircling him. It had a total grasp on him. Maybe, it was more than a leaf. There was a small bit of light coming from something on the roof. He couldn’t see the sun though. There was a strange noise, like something rustling the leaves. Seb tried to look around but without much luck, the orange thing had him well in place. He could hear one of them chattering. He didn’t like it. Sebastian couldn’t see this Chatterer. It was making him nervous. The chattering stopped. Seb could feel his heart beating frantically in his chest, long forgotten memories came flooding back. Horrific images of his old life came flooding back, how could he use them to help. The whole place started to quake and shudder. There was a distant roar, like a tidal wave somewhere below him. He hoped he was high enough up. The Chatterer was back. This time though he wasn’t chattering. He was slowly saying something at a regular interval. The rumbling was getting worse and worse. Sebastian felt as though his skin would melt off his bones as the whole place juddered. The Chatterer stopped. Seb then felt the space rising up along with him. The whole place was lifting. Seb was screaming and howling desperate for help but the voice was long gone. He was going so fast. He’d never moved like this in his life. It was so wrong. His brain was screaming at him to fix it, not that he could do much. He could feel some half digested food rising up his gullet. A mess of fruit sloshed out of his mouth and floated in the air away from him. Seb’s heart was racing faster now. Where was he? What had he deserved to be tortured like this? Were they trying to make him crazy? Seb eventually blacked out.

When he awoke the shuddering had stopped. He could feel his own vomit plastered onto him as some still floated around the place. He felt weightless, like he was in water. It was amazing. He wished the orange thing would let him go. He was floating off his seat slightly and could see that it wasn’t the orange thing holding at all, but some terrifying black snake that had coiled around him and his seat. Something wasn’t right about it though. It was too still. Maybe it was dead. Great, Seb thought to himself, I’m floating in a weird place made of some weird material, with a weird orange thing clinging onto him and now a weird black snakey thing too. This was not a typical day at all. Seb yawned. The Chatters had always liked that too. He was feeling very drowsy but he’d slept so much already. Well, it had been a stressful day or however long it had been. He was actually feeling kind of light headed. It was like that time he saw one of the Chatterers drinking something in this see through thing. It was a browny golden colour, and when the chatterer was distracted he took a drink of it. He’d felt pretty good after that. Seb yawned again. The Chatterer had been so surprised. Another yawn. Wow, he was feeling kind of weird now. He couldn’t describe it. What was it like? What… When did he start feeling like that? Like what? Who was he talking to? Where did the Chatterers go? Yawn. He could feel his eyes beginning to flutter. Maybe just a little snooze. Yeah, that was a good idea. He would wake up fine. He was sure of it.

The Launch

Counting down,
I’m lost for words,
I can’t think
what to write

This prompt
has got me beaten,
I’m still waiting
for the light

Every time
I think I’ve got
an idea
or a hunch

I start to write
about The Launch
but it ends up
about Lunch

If a ploughman’s
or a sandwich
could be deemed as
just the job

I could write until
the cows came home
about our
Brand New Blog.

The Launch

Craig and William glanced through the draft Steam Store page for what had to be the last time. There had been many last times, interrupted by a sudden realisation or a different delay, but now they were out of last times and out of money.

Only one press of the enter key stood between them and releasing their video game into the world.

Craig nervously flicked through the screenshots. He still wasn’t quite happy with his background art, he worried the animations were a little too choppy and there were elements of the art style he regretted integrating.

William looked at the project and loved the art. He was amazed by Craig’s artwork and the speed he’d managed to create it all. He saw an entirely different breed of problems. He’d never quite figured out that bug that made objects disappear, one in one million times. He hadn’t had time to re-write the audio code, which he knew would be a pain to maintain. There had never been quite enough play testing to convince him the design was actually solid.

“You did good work, Craig,” William said. “It’s a beautiful game.”

Craig scoffed. “The gameplay is the only thing that makes it worthwhile,” he said, and he meant it. In his eyes, William had pulled together a very tight control system, with a seamless design.

“After looking at it for so long, I’m not sure I can see anything good about it anymore,” William said.

“I know how you feel,” Craig said.

They stared in silence a moment longer at the decorated page, the enter key so close yet so inaccessible. It seemed like an optimistic approach was futile. Craig felt a wave of negativity that drew him closer to release; apathy, frustration and a sense of letting go.

“I’m going to hit it,” Craig said, reaching out for the keyboard. “Fuck it.”

“Wait,” William said, causing Craig to hesitate. “What if people don’t like it? What if they hate it, even?”

“That won’t happen,” Craig said. “I think it’s half decent. You think the other half is decent. It’ll be fine.”

William sat back, sighing. “I didn’t think it’d feel like this,” he said.

“Like what?” Craig replied.

William shrugged. “I don’t know. I thought it’d feel satisfying, not nerve wracking. I thought we’d be gaining something but I don’t feel any different. I thought the game would feel finished but it just feels like we’re giving up. Collapsing, instead of crossing the finish line.”

“We could work on this forever,” Craig said. “It’s about time we let go.”

William bobbed his head. “What do you think will happen?”

“There’s a handful of things that could happen,” Craig said. “First, like you say, people hate it, or no one finds it, and it tanks. We give this up and go back to normal jobs to pay back the debt we’ve racked up. We’ll still wind up doing the occasional game jam so essentially we’re back to where we started. That’s the bad option. Second thing that could happen. It does okay, gains some fans, and we get enough funding to make another game. That’s the good option. The third possibility is that it totally blows up, gains hundreds of thousands of followers and we become insanely happy for the rest of our lives, like Notch, Toby Fox or Davey Wreden.”

William snorted and hugged himself.

“What do you want to happen?” Craig asked.

William sighed. “I don’t know. I just hope people like it.”

Craig nodded. “Yeah. Me too.”

Craig hit enter.