‘Tattered man’

Lightning split the sky and the heavens poured, smothering the streets in rain water.

“Could you spare any change, sir? This weather’s foul.”

Adam paused as his father walked on. He looked down upon the tattered man sitting cross legged, eternally rigid, though there was no obvious height difference. Had he not spoken, his exposed existence would have gone unnoticed. From under the remains of a quivering quilt he presented cupped hands.

“Adam! What have we told you?” His father shouted.

Adam closed his eyes and said, “Not for you.”

His father took hold of his wrist, leading Adam away.

***

Adam had always drawn comfort from this kind of weather since he was a child. Never, though, had he grasped the origins he thought born from whipping winds and relentless rain. Whether watching from his bedroom window or listening in bed. After encountering the old man he questioned why, it would be a long time before he could answer it.

Despite the damp the weather delivered, peace enveloped his every thought. Rarely did someone rest as easy under those chaotic skies. Maybe it was the manner the rain rinsed his window as he gripped his duvet, maybe it was the way wind caressed his house. The warring above, outside and distant.

Cocooned in glass and stone, he no longer needed to climb the window ledge as his nights grew longer, still watching whenever the skies decided to battle.

Inside that home were his bed, his clothes, his posters, his TV, an army of musical instruments Aunt Philippa had bought him over the years, and that bland but familiar ceiling. Change on the inside is much more controllable. Outside is disorder, unpredictable but watchable from afar. Knowing this now Adam understood, where the comfort came from.

***

Thunder troubled the skies, scarcely is Adam’s current ceiling ever remain the same and how he longed now for blandness above.

“Any spare change, sir?” He asks.

‘Between Love and Hate’

 

Between Love and Hate

I swig my Jack and Coke and a fleeting darkness is chased away. The leaves that decorate the hotel hiss behind me and I remember that familiar game of hide and seek the sun plays during summer here. Today the sun basks in a rare victory, baking any clouds that dare to impose. I look out at the sea which lethargically licks the beach, even the breeze carries a warmth that itches.

“There you are, I’ve got a bone to pick with you.”

Shit.

“Listen man, I had to bring up Lisbon-” he’s already got me by the neck.

“That was a hell of a speech Lee!” He says letting me go, no need for the nudge though.

“I thought you hated it, Stu.”

“Nah, you nailed it. I knew you wouldn’t let me down.”

“When have I ever?”

Stuart points to his ring, “Seriously man, you kept me on the straight and narrow. We wouldn’t have made it this far without you.”

“You made it yourselves.”

“Have you spoken to Alice yet?”

“No,” I say, gulping my drink and loosening my tie.

“You can’t hide from her forever.”

“Yeah, this place isn’t big enough.”

“Take that up with the missus!” Stuart says as I pour the remnants down my throat.

“Oh look, I’m empty. Better get another drink.”

“Talk to her man, I know she’s eager to see you.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll get round to it.”

I skip up the steps to the door.

“And thanks for not mentioning Luxembourg!” Stuart shouts.

There are two bars in the hotel, one chaperoning the dance floor, or hell as I like to call it, and the other for the professional drinkers. I prefer the latter, she won’t be there. I consider taking my suit jacket off but I can feel my shirt sticking to my back, which affords me a shiver that I savour. I squeeze past faces in the clotting corridors recycling a smile. They want to talk about how good they’re doing but I just want to know who the hell decided curdled custard was the right choice of wallpaper and why the ceilings sagged by what I hope is design.

I stop at the doorway. Her back’s turned but I know it’s her. Sweat trickles from my armpits. She’s sitting with someone. It isn’t her short blonde hair that gives it away. Nor is it the single freckle on her dainty shoulders. When you’ve seen a person stripped bare, when you’ve lain with them, you could spot them blind. The sun beams through the window, that prick she’s sitting with catches my eye. I can feel my cheeks sizzling, I’m already looking forward to drinking in hell as I turn for the other bar.

“Jack and coke please,” I say.

The sunlight floods into battle with the disco lights through the chandelier, conducting above the dancefloor. I lean on the counter, my arms outstretched further than my suit allows, watching the reflection of the dancefloor as those faces and their spouses jolt, bounce and sway teasing me in harmony. I drink, swinging the contents around the glass and drink again, until only the ice is left. I rest it on my tongue, willing it to caress my throat as it drains.

Then she enters. Parading him around.

“Another please,” I say.

They slip into the pack, swinging and sliding. My Adam’s apple retreats as I swallow but my chest fights back against the music, resisting their rotations, denying their demonstration. Beads flee my forehead, racing down my temples as I escape the room.

I slam the door off the wall. I run the tap and grip the sink. I look up at the mirror and cup my hands together, cleansing my face. I look into the mirror again, beads slipping down my face as I exhale.

“Pull yourself together,” I say.

The door swings open and in bounces Mark. Great.

“Eeeyyyy! Lee mate! How are you?” He says, marching over to the urinals.

“I’m good mate.”

“You don’t look it!”

“It’s the heat…” I say.

“Heat? Maybe you’ve had a few too many, eh?” He says, trying to control his aim and maintain eye contact with me.

Only you.

“I’m only joking mate. Listen, that was a hell of a speech! Can’t believe you didn’t mention Luxembourg though.”

Mark zips up and approaches, slower this time.

“Listen mate, I was sorry to hear about you and Alice.”

So I keep hearing.

“I thought you two were great! Sucks she’s here with someone else, seems like a decent sort though,” Mark said.

He drapes his arm around me, did he wash his hands?

“Seriously! We need to go out for a few drinks soon, been too long.” Mark pulled the door against his foot at first, before leaving.

I look up, gritting my teeth I punch the mirror, recoiling, my teeth cling together, I stretch and clench my fist. Small red cracks creep across my hand. I watch as the blood seeps from my hand, smearing the white tiles below. Why am I even angry? He was being perfectly pleasant. I shake my head at the mirror and leave.

They stutter and stop on the dancefloor as I march towards them.

“Alice. Can we talk outside please?”

“S-sure Lee.”

The heat lashes only my knuckles now. I leave my drink on the steps, returning to the front of the hotel. The sea tickles the shore and a solitary cloud flirts with the sun. Threatening to smother it, but releasing it soon after.

“What happened to your hand Lee?!”

I’ve been moulding a face for months but I don’t use it.

“I… hit the mirror in the gents,” I say, looking at my hands.

“Jesus Lee! Maybe it was a bad idea me coming here…”

The temporary darkness cushions the sun, the air licks my neck.

“No. This is on me. I’ve been so angry and I thought I was angry at you, for a while I was…”

“I understand that,” She says, she’s been looking at me this whole time.

“I’m just… You’ve moved on, you’re doing well. There’s a part of me that’s happy about that. I am happy about that. I guess I haven’t and I’m sorry, seeing you now reminds me of that. Everyone thinks I’m a better person Alice…”

“Grow the fuck up, Lee. You are a better person than that: than this. Start acting like it.”

Her words drag my eyes to hers.

“Be the person who delivered that speech.”

I pick up my drink from the steps, swirling the contents. The blood from my knuckles trickles onto the glass but the only burning is in my eyes now. The sun soothes my skin and I place the glass down, determined, not to follow Alice’s lead, but to walk my own path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary

 

I chose to tell the story from the first-person perspective of Lee, the protagonist. I originally intended to write it in third-person, but as I progressed I realised that we wouldn’t be getting an authentic feel for the place, the season or the hotel through the narrators descriptions, it had to be Lee’s perspective. I was influenced in this sense by William Golding’s ‘Miss Pulkinhorn’ here. What I then wanted to do was create tension by building towards him meeting Alice, but his own temperature rising as well. I didn’t want the weather to be inducing this frustration, he draws a different experience from the weather from everyone else because of his own turmoil. The weather doesn’t change much, but his emotions contrast with the positives others experience because of his own turmoil. When he confronts Alice, when he realises what’s to be done, he’s speaks with the cool clarity he had lost when trying to avoid her, embracing the positive warmth of the sun.

I settled on the structure of my story because I wanted to introduce a hurdle for the character early on that the reader will remember, which re-appears throughout the story and creates tension, while also building a sense place early on. Through dialogue I wanted to build Lee’s character as others perceive him, but he’s dodging a conversation with Alice and that creates tension. Why is he afraid of this woman? I felt that having them confess their sadness that Lee and Alice had ended a relationship and having Lee react to it, there would be tension built, unreleased tension as some of the reactions will be through his external or internal actions until finally he confronts her, something he’s been avoiding throughout and the story is brought to its conclusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Primary Sources

‘Miss Pulkinhorn’ by William Golding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Alone, Together’

Bingo! A match!

Aaron examined his match’s profile. Absorbing Becky’s likes and dislikes, any kind of mistake could prove costly.

“So… this is awkward. I’ve never done this before.” Aaron wrote, making the first move.

“Me either.” Becky replied.

“Maybe we should ask three questions to test this match?”

“Okay that sounds good.” She replied.

“You go first, since you’re the lady.”

“Such a gentleman! Okay, what’s your favourite food?”

“Mac’ and cheese.”

“Favourite TV show?”

“Friends.”

“Good so far. Favourite movie?”

“Harry Potter.”

“Which one?”

Aaron smirked as he wrote: “That’s more than three questions!”

“Oh come on, Harry Potter is not an answer!”

“I suppose I’ll let you off the hook. It’s the second one. Chamber of Secrets.”

“No way? That’s the worst one.” Becky wrote.

“It’s Dobby’s debut, though.”

“Snakes and secrets, though. Two good answers out of three is above average.”

“I’ll settle for a rare adventure above average, usually I’m average all over.” Aaron replied.

“Oh I doubt that.”

“How would you like to find out over drinks?”

“I dunno, you’ve sold it really well…”

“C’mon I won’t take no for an answer.”

“Sure… Sure. Why not.” Becky wrote.

“Let’s meet at Delling Station at 8.”

Aaron clicked his phone onto standby.

“The newbies are always the most desperate.” Aaron thought.

“Give them a half-wrong answer out of three and they don’t realise you’re reciting the likes from their own profile.”

He looked in the mirror, yawning and running his fingers through his hair. She straightened every strand. He cupped his hands over his face, testing his breath. She brushed her teeth relentlessly. He grabbed yesterday’s t-shirt from the floor, he always travelled light. She took three outfits from her closet. He pulled on jeans with yesterday’s creases. She unwrapped the newest of her outfits, assessing from every angle as she dressed.

 

Before leaving his room Aaron took a screenshot of the map around Delling station, then checked the train times from the centre for later.

“I’m checking out. Room fourteen.” He said.

“No problem sir, would you like to fill out this survey for a chance to win ten percent off your next stay here?” The receptionist asked.

“No thanks, I won’t be staying here again.” He answered.

 

Glass littered the pavements Becky walked along as the station struggled against darkness, only a few flickering lights resisted.

Aaron crept up.

“You look great.” He said.

“Oh! Thanks.” She said.

“But aren’t you cold?” He asked.

“Maybe a little…”

Her eyes were fixated on the flower.

“For you.” He said.

“Thank you!” She said.

“C’mon the pub’s beyond the industrial estate. I know a shortcut.”

“Oh. Okay.” She said, lingering slightly.

“So you never asked me three questions, why don’t you ask me them on our way?” She asked.

“Do you like your flower?” He asked.

“Yeah… sure it’s nice.”

“Don’t worry, that’s not one of your questions.”

The hustle of civilisation seemed to slip further way, smothered by the quiet.

“I saw the episode of Friends where everyone finds out, I think it might actually be my favourite. What’s your favourite episode?” She asked.

“That one as well. It’s great.” He answered.

Becky’s pace slowed.

“What’s part’s your favourite?”

Aaron started down an alleyway and Becky stopped.

“Come on, the shortcut finishes up behind that bit where the fence is pulled up.”

“What’s your favourite part Aaron?”

“My name’s not Aaron.”

“What?”

“Come here.”

Aaron grabbed her wrist and thrust her against a fence.

“Nobody is going to hear you.”

“Let go of me! Help!”

She wriggled to a moment of freedom before arms locked around her waist and he thrust her into a garbage bin, knocking both to the ground.

Her screams accompanied by tears.

He was on top of her now.

“LEAVE ME ALONE!”

“Your outfit says the opposite.”

He pinned her arms as she writhed and wrangled.

“Don’t act like you don’t want it.”

She sobbed, looking at the flower stricken amongst the garbage in which they lay.

“Stop crying. You asked for this.”

He ripped her top. She kicked hard. He wrestled her again, she broke free of his grasp.

She grabbed a bottle and smashed it across the side of his face.

He rolled off her allowing her to her feet. He grabbed her heel but she dare not lose her balance again and kicked off his grip. Freed from his clutches she pointed the bottle at him.

“Get away from me!”

He hesitated.

“Don’t you dare get up!”

The tears relented.

“I’m calling the police!”

“Call them. You think they’ll believe you? Dressed like that, the desperate teenager met a stranger on a dating app. You don’t even know my name, you don’t know where I’m from and my profile ain’t real.”

Becky opened her mouth but could only scream, waving the broken bottle in his direction.

“Hello?! Is everything alright?!” Voices from the end of the alleyway grabbed Becky’s attention.

Aaron fled.

 

Aaron boarded a train, destination London. He sat across from an older woman who also sat alone. He held her gaze for a moment, looking her up and down before the pulsating heat on his cheek diverted his attention.

“Suppose I better book the next hostel.” He thought.

His phone vibrated.

Bingo! A match!

He checked over the profile. Tina’s likes and dislikes.

“So, this is awkward. I’ve never done this before.” Aaron wrote.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Spoiler free review

Spider-Man slings himself back onto the big screen with an infectious style and excitability. Tom Holland is the perfect fit for both the role of Spider-Man and Peter Parker. 

The movie never feels like it’s going over old, well trodden ground which is testament to the strong writing and fluid plot. 

The opening scenes add a sympathetic element to the antagonist, Vulture, and believable motivations. As the plot unfolds the stakes heighten between him and Spider-Man in interesting and surprising ways. Although, his somewhat flippant descent into being comfortable with killing felt slightly jarring.

Peter Parker’s sidekick Ned provides an extra comedic layer to the film. Their friendship helps to keep things moving during the high school scenes which never descend into the realms of boring. However many scenes are stolen by Zendaya’s character Michelle, who is excellent throughout.

The action scenes are well choreographed, although the climactic battle does get a little hard to follow at certain points. Michael Giaccino provides his usual blend of subtle and bombastic for the movie’s soundtrack.

The romantic element with Liz didn’t quite stick, feeling somewhat contrived from the outset. However, it did manage to add an extra dynamic to the climax.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is an effective reintroduction to a character whom we are well acquainted with both cinematically and in his comic book origins. The movie does an excellent job of reinvigorating Spider-Man and breathing new life into the MCU.

Sony stutters as greatness remains on the horizon.

Coming into E3 2017 gamers questioned whether Sony could deliver another year of dreams. In the past two years we’ve seen them announce Final Fantasy VII Remake, The Last of Us Part II, Crash Bandicoot Remake and Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding. The answer was no.

This year was a return to a more predictable line up. In a similar vein to Microsoft, Sony presented a solid line up of titles during a sleek and uninterrupted conference with only Shaun Layden taking to the stage.

Layden was keen to make himself scarce as he emphasised the importance of focusing on games. God of War’s cocktail of story and combat looks stunning, Days Gone enjoyed a more effective showing this year than last and Detroit: Become Human’s versatile narrative gameplay is shaping up nicely. However, the latter two titles remain without a release window.

There was a lack of concrete release dates which plagued Sony’s offerings. Shadow of the Colossus is getting a remake and Monster Hunter World was also announced, both with a 2018 release window. Sony also offered up several VR experiences in Skyrim, Final Fantasy XV, Bravo Team, Superhot VR and Starchild. Supermassive Games revealed a prequel to their 2015 sleeper hit Until Dawn with The Inpatient coming to PSVR sometime in the future.

We had to look to Sony’s pre-conference stream show for some offerings releasing this year. Highly anticipated Ni No Kuni 2 is releasing November 7th, Knack 2 is arriving in September and Gran Turismo Sport is coming this fall. Sony has once again left the path clear for 3rd party titles during the holiday season like Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: World War II, both announced to be featuring exclusive content on Playstation 4.

This represents a strategy which Sony may at first have inadvertently stumbled upon. Both Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn missed their holiday season release dates in 2015 and 2016, releasing early in the following year. This allowed Sony to release high quality titles throughout the year, whilst having exclusive content deals with big 3rd party titles makes Playstation 4 the enticing platform to buy them on. Both of the aforementioned titles had their big DLC story updates shown during the conference, with Uncharted: Lost Legacy arriving August 22nd. It seems Sony are going to continue with this effective formula, though it certainly damaged the impact of their press conference showing this year.

Sony closed with a mesmerising demonstration of their exclusive Spiderman title from Insomniac. With flawless transitions from cut scenes to gameplay, grand set pieces and a sleek design the game looks like it could be a special title. The only let down wasn’t the Quick Time Events that cropped up during combat, but that this title is also lined up for a 2018 release window.

2018 is going to be an impossibly busy year for video games if Sony hits these release windows, that’s without even mentioning 3rd party titles like Far Cry 5 and Red Dead Redemption slated to release early next year. This conference lacked surprises and titles releasing this fall, but the style of the presentation and the sustained stream of trailers dropping made for an impressive watch.

Just as they hung zombies from the convention centre rafters, Sony dangled several carrots in front of us, however, greatness must remain awaiting for Playstation 4 owners a little while longer.

Microsoft’s hype train is derailed by the Xbox One X

Prior to E3 much of the hype surrounded Project Scorpio. Would this be Microsoft’s big come back, or another terra-flop? Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, wasted no time in unveiling the latest addition to the Xbox One family: Xbox One X.

Priced at $499 and releasing on November 7th the Xbox One X was confirmed to be Microsoft’s answer to Sony’s PS4 Pro, and it’s more than a match for its competition. Its specs comprehensively crush Sony’s premium console offering. However, given the hype, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that the Xbox One X announcement detracted from what was otherwise a solid press conference from Microsoft.

Spencer announced that they would be showing over 40 games during their press conference, with 20 Xbox One exclusive games. It’s important to note that this conference continued the E3 trend of playing fast and loose with the definition of ‘exclusive’, many of the titles shown were ‘Console Launch Exclusive’ titles rather than outright exclusives.

After a lengthy presentation of Forza Motorsport 7, which looked phenomenal, we got our first official glimpse of Assassin’s Creed Origins. Metro: Exodus blended a tense trailer with a remix of ‘In the House, In a Heartbeat’ (the song you remember from 28 Days Later) to whet the appetite and the refreshing visual upgrade coming to Minecraft was a pleasant surprise. The announcements were slick; the trailers relentless.

We were treated to a plethora of titles which will do a solid job of padding out the Xbox One catalogue. Titles like The Last Night and The Artful Escape were the most stylish offerings from ID@Xbox Games. Ori and the Blind Forest’s sequel was announced and Full Bright’s Tacoma is heading for an August 2nd release date on PC and Xbox One. Although, nothing quite enriches the Xbox One catalogue like the big reveal of backwards compatibility with original Xbox games. It’s a wonderfully diverse offering. Closing the show with Bioware’s beautiful new IP Anthem was almost perfect. However, it needed to be an Xbox exclusive. Microsoft needed that mic-drop moment to capitalise on the momentum they’ve built over the past year. With so much hype surrounding the Xbox One X, that expectation corroded the impact of Microsoft’s show reel.

There remains a dearth of exclusive Xbox games which will entice gamers into returning to the Xbox ecosystem. There was no Bloodborne, Uncharted, Persona, Last of Us or Horizon equivalent. The titles announced look fun, some of them look innovative, but none of them are enough to entice gamers into investing in the Xbox ecosystem. Most of the games are mid-tier games which ordinarily would have made for a good showing from Xbox, but they needed more. If these titles were padding out the existing catalogue without the promise of the “most powerful games console ever” then this conference would have gone down as one of their best showings in years. No console exclusive announced, be it ‘console launch exclusive’ or ‘outright exclusive’ (please stop bastardising the word guys), was a console selling title.

That is where Microsoft is right now, they will be compared unfavourably to Sony on exclusives and nothing announced at the conference stands up as a console exclusive. Microsoft’s new console crushes its opposition in terms of specs, but it’s exposed without upcoming quality content of the aforementioned Sony exclusives. It’s not about ‘winning’ but rather offering a reason to play on Xbox. Timed exclusives are not enough. As it stands, Crackdown 3 and Super Lucky’s Tale will be the two games launching with the Xbox One X and, given the hype, there needed to be more.

Microsoft put together a good conference, however, they remain hampered by the false start which has plagued them this generation. The hype train they unleashed last year with their Project Scorpio announcement derailed what would have been an effective showcase. None of the exclusive offerings were emphatic enough to showcase the strength of the Xbox One X. Had those games been announced for a stable Xbox ecosystem things would look much more positive.

It’s testament to how bad the initial Xbox One release was that the presence and unveiling of the world’s most powerful games console could be seen to be detrimental, but what Xbox needs right now is games, diverse, unique and exclusive games. Whilst their conference provided a quantity of those, it didn’t manage to provide a quality exclusive title required for Xbox One X’s unveiling.

Playstation VR – Review (December 2016)

Virtual Reality is a new way to play. Playstation VR is an enthralling insight into the potential offered by virtual reality as a platform, not just for video games, but for visual experiences. Putting the PSVR headset on for the first time mind blowing and in each venture after the wonder remains as each game provides something different.

Competitively priced at £350, the PSVR headset provides the best value for money on the market, particularly if you already own a Playstation 4. The adaptation of the Playstation Camera and Move controllers is a clever reinvention of peripherals which were once defunct but are now essential to the PSVR experience. The only downside is the extra financial cost of purchasing these items, over £100 in total, though many PS4 bundles were sold with a camera and move controllers are not required for every game.

Playstation VR offers a modest selection of launch titles which are geared towards a steady introduction to Virtual Reality. The headset comes with a demo disc which showcases snippets of many of the thirty titles available at launch. Batman Arkham VR is the most enticing of the launch titles. For £20 you can be the caped crusader. However, Playstation VR Worlds provides the best value for money with five varying experiences, from the spectacle of Ocean Dive to the cockney caricatures of London Heist, for £30. The feeling when your body reacts, thinking it’s descending through your living room floor as jellyfish float by is surreal, both first hand and watching someone else experience it.

The headset itself is easy to adjust and to apply. The strap which attaches the unit to your head is adjustable, as is the visor which immerses you in the game. This offers maximum comfort, whilst also taking into account if the user wears glasses, allowing the visor to be adjusted for best visual fidelity. One downside is the wires required to use the headset. They can get in the way, however, once you have set up the bundle a couple of times things to become easier. Motion sickness is something I have yet to encounter, but movement does still require perfecting. Some games move at a pedestrian pace, others use warping instead of walking; it simply depends on the game.

This hardware is not for those who buy consoles for the yearly release of FIFA and Call of Duty. That the headset allows you to play your PS4 titles on a giant virtual screen is an additional bonus, however, that is not the full immersive experience that VR was created for. With Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR mission soon to be released and Final Fantasy XV providing a unique VR chapter, there should be plenty of options to keep players tiding over until the first triple-A release; Resident Evil VII.

Playsation VR offers an exciting new way to play video games. If you don’t want to buy it, at least find a way to try it.