Archive for love thy neighbour

Tree Tuning

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2012 by javedbabar

If radio waves made tomatoes grow, and mushrooms acquired personality from satellite TV, then Bobby wondered what effects such signals were having on him. Were they helping or harming him? What should he do?

He worked hard, around twelve hours a day. “Fulltime Farmtime” the farmer called it, but as long as Bobby watered and weeded regularly, he could spend his time as he pleased.

In the middle of the day when it was too hot to work, it wasn’t worth going home. He lived too far away. He should get somewhere closer to town, maybe even live on the farm. Each afternoon, Bobby spent the first four hours sleeping or walking in the forest. The bugs were annoying but it was so cool there. The tent he’d bought from the thrift store was good enough.

It was strange to get good cell reception in the forest. His fellow worker, an electrical engineering graduate, had fixed Bobby’s smartphone to receive unlimited data, and he could stream TV and movies all day. But for this, of course, he needed a five-bar signal.

In the forest he got that, but it shifted around. He’d sometimes spend fifteen minutes walking around to find it. It was never far away, usually near the biggest Arcadian Firs. It was just a matter of tree-tuning.

One day Bobby spotted a wire in the forest, strung between two firs. It was very high up, maybe fifty metres. What was it doing here? Was it a power line or telephone line?

He followed the line for 500 metres but found no towers or transformers, just a wire stretching between firs. The signal near it was very powerful. There was never any buffer, just smooth, clear streaming of shows.

Bobby returned to the wire daily, and on his days off even followed it along. He told his fellow worker about it, but he wasn’t very interested. Instead he made poor jokes rhyming wire, tire, sire, dire, and forest fire. Bobby decided it was probably best to minimise time spent with him.

A month after he’d first seen the wire, Bobby found a cable leading off it, climbing the hillside. He followed it to a log cabin with a beautifully tended garden. There were masses of red, blue and yellow flowers; each seeming to greet him individually. He saw carved boards nailed to trees, stating Love Thy Neighbour and Strangers Welcome.

An old lady called out, “Hello there, stranger! We welcome thee! We rarely get visitors. Please join us for teatime.”

Bobby walked towards her. She said, “We moved here one hundred years ago, my husband Alan and I, Patricia. It seemed lonely at first with just the two of us. Later came radio but there was poor reception. Alan was very resourceful. He found abandoned spools of telegraph wire and strung the wire along the tops of young Arcadian Firs. As they’ve grown, so has our world, and we’ve listened to every bit of it. We’ve also watched the world’s TV. Our wires pick up internet signals too.

“Where is he?” asked Bobby, and then thought, I shouldn’t have asked that. What if she’s a widow?

“Oh, he’s just in the workshop, preparing for 4G transmissions.”

Blue Man

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Infinite City, Unknown with tags , , , , on February 19, 2012 by javedbabar

“Has he been here before?” the customer whispered.

“I can’t say that he has,” said Hari. “And I’m not sure why he’s here today.” He looked at the blue man slyly; it was the first time that one of them had entered his barbershop. There wasn’t a notice forbidding them, but they knew they weren’t welcome; they weren’t welcome anywhere, but it never stopped them from coming.

This wasn’t your average blue man though, for he had said nothing. From what Hari knew, they never stopped talking. Their incessant chatter drove people mad; it sounded like turning train wheels, and to humans was incomprehensible. They tried to conceal it in public, but were rarely successful. This blue man, however, was very well behaved. He just sat there quietly, looking out of the window.

“What will you do for him?” whispered the customer. “Is his hair like our hair?”

“I’m none too sure,” said Hari. “I’ve heard it’s much thicker, like a horse’s tail.” He glanced in the mirror at the blue man. “A huge curly horse’s tail.”

After their unusual skin colour, blue men’s most distinctive feature was their mass of golden hair. It went down to their waist and often beyond. They wore it loose, never tied up with anything; for it was necessary for their hair to “see the sun”. It was rumoured that if their hair was covered for a day they became ill, and if covered for a week they died.

Hari allowed only classical music in his salon. He knew that his apprentices played dance tunes in his absence, but as long as it was back to sitars and tablas, or the news, upon his return, he was ok with that. He listened beeps, and then: “This is the twelve ‘o clock news on Global 12. Riots continue for the fourth day in the City. There is a heavy police presence. The Authority is not blaming anyone, but says that both humans and blue men are involved. It has threatened stern punishment for anyone caught and convicted of crimes…”

“Bloody hell!” blurted out the customer. There was a mutter of bloody hells around the walls, from others awaiting their short backs and sides. Everyone looked at the blue man, wondering if he’d begin his train wheel chatter, but he didn’t say anything, just kept sitting there, looking out. The customer pushed Hari’s hand away, spun his chair around, and said to the blue man, “What do you have to say about that?”

In Hari’s book this was not good manners. He spun the customer’s chair back round, and said, “There’s plenty of time for chatter later. Let me finish your haircut first.” His years in the merchant navy had taught him the value of running a tight ship. He was captain here and must retain good order.

The blue man turned towards him and smiled. His perfect golden teeth seemed to increase the light in the room. They dazzled Hari momentarily and he lost concentration.

“Ow! Ow!” said the customer, pulling away. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry Sir,” said Hari. “No harm done. It’s just a tiny nick. No bleeding.”

“Leave me alone.” The customer swung his chair around again. “I want him to answer. What does he think of the rioting going on? Is he going to do anything about it?”

Hari swung the chair back around. “You can have a beer with him when I’ve finished your haircut. Till then sit tight. And if he…”

Police sirens rent the air outside; there was thumping and running; garbage cans clattered and car alarms wailed. The sound of a helicopter somewhere and…. turning train wheels.

The customer pushed Hari’s hand away and stood up. “See! I told you! Look what’s going on!” He stared at the blue man.

Hari said, “Sir, you are welcome here. However please stop bothering my other customers.”

“Bothering your other customers? Bothering your other customers? Who are you kidding! I think your ‘other customers’ are bothering us!”

The blue man looked over. He was no longer smiling but his golden teeth still showing. Was he grimacing?

Hari had a flashback. Upon leaving the merchant navy, he’d taken over his father’s salon. Those days were different. People came in once a month, sometimes weekly, and you built good relationships. You sold them razors, scents, creams, first aid materials, and of course, “something for the weekend”. You got to know their families. Now it was only quick ins and outs between phone calls.

Hari wondered about the blue man’s age. Though it was an unforgivable cliché, they really did all look the same – short, sturdy bodies, blue skin, and golden manes. Like those two staring in the window right now – they could be twins. Others running with garbage cans, and those throwing real estate boards and poles, could also be related.

“Bloody hell!” shouted the customer. “They’re coming in here!” But the only action “in here” was that the blue man arose, walked to the window, and went outside. They heard turning train wheels and the radio signal was lost. “That bastard’s joined them! We should have nailed him here while we had the chance. Lads, get ready to fight!”

Beeps and dashes repeated on the radio. Though his Morse Code was rusty, the third time around Hari got it. The message said: “These young ones are foolish. You have done what you can with your people in here. Now I will go and speak with my people outside. Please offer my turn to someone else. I’ll come for my haircut later. What time do you close?”