Saturday 28 December 2019

The Woeful Vampire

by Nick Gisburne

Thy skin is fragile to my touch
I kiss thee
The perfume of thy skin fills my nostrils
I hunger, thirsting for the bite
Dawn will not save thy perfection
Tonight the vampire will drink of thee
I take what is mine
Yield to me
And it is so
These knife-like teeth pierce thee
Deep into thy flesh
My thirst is quenched
My hunger stilled
Yet still these torments shall return
Tomorrow will bring the same agony
That most urgent of desires
Driven to insanity
Thus shall it always be
For thou art apple
Food of this vegetarian vampire
My shame is bitter-sweet
As my form becomes fruit bat
I flap dementedly
And leave thee, rotting to thy core

Another old one, found in my year 2000 archive file.

Stark Here

by Nick Gisburne

Stark’s meta-ship quarked out of non-space and juddered to a bone-wrenching stop, just centimos beyond the Guardian boundary.  With the speed of a dyna-cat he rolled from the ship, dodging stun-sparks and acid-gas fired from all sides by Guardian Terror Troops.  Five went down as a hail of proton-caps spattered out from Stark’s Farian Hurler, the only weapon he’d ever trusted.  Others dived for cover – they knew the man they were up against and against such a man, armed to the teeth and protected by Rexaka Force Armour, they knew they could either flee or die.

Then he was in.  The Guardian Prime Task Centre, breached by a lone Alzekkian on a mission of mercy.  Shock rails rattled down to block his path but his Proto-Jammer took them out on frequency 27.  Grav pod to floor eighty.  Cubicle beta-one-nine.  The Ultra-Steel barrier vapourised in a cloud of electrons and there she was.

Tana, First Companion to the Jelestos Emperor.  He tried to ignore her exquisite beauty as he scooped her up and hit the wall with a 3-second Vap-Fuse, activating the anti-shield around them both.  As the entire west wing of the GPT Centre boiled into ashes they descended, cushioned from the cross-fire around them and from the impact on the hover-trail below.

The meta-ship came alive again as Stark’s remote kick-started the twin Braxxo-coils.  Tana, clamped into a shock-rig at the rear.  Stark, held down by velocity straps inside the main con-bubble.  Expert fingers flashed over the tick-levers, flicking and pushing, imparting vital co-ords for a fast non-space steer-out.

Hit red, hit amber, hit green.  Go for non-space.  Outside, the shudders of the bio-release jets told any remaining Guardian forces to get the Faarg out of the way.  Stark gripped the steer-pad and slammed the activator.

Something wrong.  The ship lurched but clung hard to the gantry, its skid-rails refusing to retract.  Stark punched up the over-eye display.  External sense-diodes said nothing on three quadrants, but the left fore-shield of the ship’s under-skin reported non-standard ion-dampening.  Only one way that could happen.


Looking outside through rear-facing dome-slits he saw the familiar shape of a Warden Bot as it trundled down the thin, double-yellow fluoro-tracks.  Stark cursed his luck.  As Guardian capture-tanks wheeled out of their bunkers to surround the ship and peel back its skin with their nucleo-bond rippers, Stark thought only of the number of creds it would take to get his meta-vehicle out of the High Council lock-bays.  If he survived the mandatory 30 years on the nerve-rack, of course...

This story was lost for an indeterminate number of years. I found the document on my computer, but it had passed from system to system as I upgraded over the years, and has now found its way here. The document is dated November 2000, so the story is at least 19 years old, but I have a feeling I wrote it even before that. So glad I found this. It's a quirky little gem, full of invented words and odd, mentioned-once-only technology. Sweet.

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Wings of Hell

by Nick Gisburne

To the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’

Slashing through the bone
To a slaughtered slice of brain
Awful screams and groans
Tortured cries of pain
Hell’s unholy wings
Satan’s wicked might
A swarm of dead and dying things
A slaying throng in flight

Wings of Hell, wings of Hell
Wings of fire and flame
Bodies burned and blazing bright
In a murdered martyr’s name, hey
Wings of Hell, wings of Hell
Wings of death depraved
Corpses torn and traumatised
In a blood-soaked open grave

A baying from below
Where mortals cannot hide
The doom of endless night
With evil at its side
The bile and blood they drank
Is warm with rancid rot
Each traitorous and twisted rank
Obeys the master’s plot

Repeat Chorus

His reign of blood will grow
The gore and carnage swell
As tainted rivers flow
A soiled and septic smell
More legions fill the sky
In a tiny church they pray
But Satan’s vengeance from on high
Will rip their souls away

Repeat Chorus

The Beast is crowned tonight
And from his bride a son
As Lucifer takes flight
His sins have just begun
This diabolic day
Each mortal mouth must feed
The demon spawn, with Satan’s prey
Defiles them with his seed

Repeat Chorus

Friday 20 December 2019

Ten Billion and One

by Nick Gisburne

We all signed up for this. I just never thought it would happen so soon.

Ten billion is enough. That’s what they told us. Ten billion. That’s the limit. One less, what’s that? Something with a lot of nines. That number, we can live with it. And we’ll take one more, to round it up. But another one, one over the top, the one that takes it over ten billion? No. Can’t be done.

Ten billion and one is too many. Too many people. We can all fit, of course we can. Pack us all together, side to side, up and down, and you can fit that many people into a small piece of land. Not small, but you see what I mean. There’s plenty of land. But there isn’t plenty of food.

It’s too many. Too many to feed. The rich, they get to eat, they always do. But we’re not all rich are we? And if we were, who would we buy the food from? We can’t all be rich. You couldn’t have ten billion rich people, and we don’t. We have ten billion ordinary people, and they all need food, and there’s just not enough. Not enough to go round. Not enough to feed us all.

Why did they pick that number, ten billion? Was it just the roundest number they could find? Why not nine billion? No, nine billion, that’s how many of us there were when we decided that ten, ten billion, yes, that’s the number. We all got together and we signed up for it and we said ‘ten billion and no more’.

I didn’t sign it of course. That’s not how it works. The nine billion didn’t sign anything. The rich ones signed it, the ones in charge, the ones who come up with these ideas. They told us it was something we had to do because if we didn’t we wouldn’t get very far. We all agreed though, because we were all hungry, and we didn’t want to be more hungry than we were then. It was hard enough with nine billion of us, they told us, so imagine how bad things would get if there were ten. ‘Do you want to be more hungry?’ they said. And we said no. So that was decided.

Ten billion. That would be the limit. But that was just a warning, a marker. Like a sign: ‘Danger! Do not pass this point’. You need to know what the limits are because then you know you can’t go any further. We’d never cross it because we knew what would happen if we did. There wouldn’t be enough food for ten billion people. Ten billion was the danger point. We’d stop.

Of course, you can make rules for anything, but not everybody follows the rules do they? I’ve seen plenty of Stop signs, and I’ve seen plenty of people going straight through, without stopping. Red lights are supposed to make you stop, but not everybody stops. Sometimes when you go through a red light you end up dead. That’s the danger. There are consequences. Ten billion was our red light, and we were sure we were going to stop.

We all decided on the limit, but what about the consequences? Mr or Mrs Ten-Billion-And-One, you have broken the limit and... and what? We take one bean away from everyone? No, that wouldn’t work. Nobody would take any notice of that. Consequences? That’s not a word to make you sit up and take notice. Penalties. Yes, penalties. That’s a word to open people’s eyes. We should impose penalties. Impose. That too – another strong word. They made that a big part of their decision. The rich people told us we needed a limit, and there would be penalties if we went over that limit, penalties they would impose on us. And we all agreed.

But really we agreed because we thought we didn’t want to be any more hungry than we were already, and having more people was going to make everyone more hungry. No need for penalties because we had something else to stop us getting to ten billion. Rules. Rules help you achieve a big result by telling the small people what to do. Lots of small people, people like me, all needed to follow the rules, and if we did that, all nine billion of us, well of course those penalties wouldn’t be needed.

They didn’t make too many rules, because you don’t need many. If you don’t want more people living in the world, the one big rule you make is that you can’t have children. Someone actually suggested that, back when they were deciding on the rules, but no, no, no, that was never going to happen. Without new people who would do all the work? So people could make more people, but they just weren’t allowed to make quite so many.

Two people could have one child, but no more. We’d see how that worked out, and if it did work, all well and good, but if not, we’d change it. Make a rule, change a rule. That’s how it’s always been. That’s why the people in charge, the rich people who make the rules, always have a lot to say. If it all stayed the same, what would the rule-makers do all day? So, one child per couple. If you broke that rule, you’d be in trouble. Consequences again. Penalties. All part of the agreement.

The rule worked, it really did. It worked if you fed it into a computer, if you made projections, if you produced figures and charts, and if you analysed all the data. People would be born, people would die, and we would never get to ten billion. So we’d never need the penalties. It would all work... if.

People don’t follow rules. Have I mentioned that? Some people had more children, more than one. Many countries were very strict. After one child, they would make it so it was impossible to have another. The mother would be stopped. You know how that works. I don’t have to tell you. There’s a procedure, and they used it. Now I think about it, I don’t remember them ever using a procedure on the men. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s something to do with how many rule-makers are men. They probably voted on it, amongst themselves. The rich men decided.

So that was some countries, but not all of them. Other countries, if they found out that people had had more than one child, they would bring them in, sit them down, and tell them they’d been very naughty, that they shouldn’t do it again. I don’t have to tell you how that worked out. Then the strict countries would tell the not-so-strict countries to change their ways, and they’d all talk, and they’d all agree, and after a few more years when nothing happened they’d do the same thing all over again.

The rules never worked. More babies were born. We’d already decided that ten billion was too many, and that was when we were nine billion. And then we were nine-point-something billion. I don’t remember there being much big news about nine-point-one, nine-point-two, nine-point-three or nine-point-four, but for some reason when we got to nine-point-five that was big news. We were already halfway there, they told us. Halfway between nine and ten billion. Stop now, or we’ll reach ten billion and there will be severe penalties! That’s what they told us.

Well, I remember what they said when it was nine. There wouldn’t be enough food for ten. But I didn’t feel any more hungry later than I did before. Nine-point-five hungry seemed a lot like it had always been that way. A good sign. Maybe we did have enough food after all. No, no, no, they said. That wasn’t right at all. It was all there in the agreement. We had to stick to it. It was the only way. Try harder, they told us. Try very hard not to reach ten billion.

Some of the not-so-strict countries tightened up their rules. But some of them didn’t, and one or two did the opposite. A few countries said no, we’re not even going to be part of the big ten-billion agreement now. We have enough food of our own, so if we keep it and feed the people who live here, that’s more for us and less for you, but that’s your problem. It was more complicated than that, I’m sure, but from the outside it looked like the big plan was fraying at the edges.

I remember hearing about threats (penalties again), military threats from compliant countries, directed at those who wanted out. That worked for a while, until they found out that when a threatened country says ‘we’ll do what you say’, they sometimes mean ‘we’ll look like we’re doing what you say’. By the time that difference was obvious, the world had moved on. It was a nine-point-eight world by that time. And nine-point-eight is when things really started to happen.

Someone set up a big clock, a countdown clock. Not really a clock. It was just a number, counting from 200 million down to zero. That was when nine-point-eight would become ten. I remember thinking it wasn’t moving very quickly, so I stopped watching it. But then a month later the number was a lot lower than I remembered, so after that I took more notice.

At some point the people who made the rules realised that ten billion was going to happen, whatever they said, whatever they did. And all the leaders, the rich leaders who had plenty of food for themselves, told us again that we would not have enough food for ten billion, and that we should remember that they’d all signed an agreement, and that we would have to face the consequences. The penalties would be imposed, and there was now nothing we could do about it.

August the 23rd. I remember the day clearly. It was a beautiful, clear, blue-sky day. Not cold, not hot, nothing you’d even notice. One of those days when you don’t even feel the air around you. Not so much as a breeze. I’d taken my dog for his morning walk and he was pulling me back home, because he pulls me everywhere, but today I wanted to take my time, because before we left I’d seen the numbers. When I’d looked at the clock, the countdown clock, it was only a few hundreds, and I knew what that meant. By the time we got home the clock would be zero and we, the human race, would be ten billion people.

In the end, I didn’t need to see the clock at all because I could hear the alarms. Everyone with a phone, all of them had the alarm, and they all went off together, all ringing when we reached ten billion. And for a minute, the longest minute I can remember, we all looked at each other and wondered what to do next. And then the alarms stopped, and we all went home.

I wasn’t expecting them to be there waiting for me, not right away, but I knew they would come. They looked very unsure of themselves, which I suppose is because they were doing this for the first time. They let me put the dog inside, even let me top up his water bowl. Even in difficult circumstances I’ve usually found that most people are decent human beings. We have to be – there are ten billion of us now.

I said I didn’t need the handcuffs, but they apologised and explained that they weren’t allowed to break the rules. More rules. The ride to the detention centre should have taken us through the city centre, but they told me the roads were cordoned off because of some trouble there. Demonstrations. People angry about the situation we were in. Angry about something we all knew was coming.

When the countdown clock started, every person on the planet was given a number, a random number. Once the population reached ten billion, the agreement we’d made, which we’d all voted for long ago, was that they would use those numbers, one after the other, to choose the people who would face the consequences of a population too big for this world to feed.

My number was easy to remember. It was ten billion and one.

Ignore the ten billion. For me, the one is more important.

The police car didn’t make it all the way to the door. There was a huge crowd gathered outside. Photographers. TV cameras. Media. The duty sergeant came out to meet us, then stood beside me to make a statement. No questions were allowed. I was taken inside and put into my cell very quickly, very efficiently. Maybe that was because I am the first. The first of the consequences. The first of the penalties.

I’ve been given a meal, which did make me smile. They’re doing this because they say there isn’t enough food for all of us. I wonder about the people in charge, the people who made the rules. I wonder about the numbers they were given, their random numbers.

I have one more hour. There are maybe a dozen of us here, but we’re not allowed to see each other. I’ll be the first, but there are thousands like me, all over the world, so the order for them isn’t important. So long as they get the population back down below ten billion, nobody will go hungry.

They’ll do this every day now. Every time someone is born, someone else will have to be processed.

These are the consequences, the penalties. We all signed up for this.

Ten billion and one is one too many.

That’s what they told us.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

They Wanted to Fly to the Moon

by Nick Gisburne

Two excitable sisters were certain
That they wanted to fly to the moon
But they couldn’t think how
And decided, for now
They would ride in a giant balloon

So they built up a basket with boxes
Tied together with tangles of string
And their paper balloon
Raised them up to the tune
Of the silliest song they could sing
And their flight was a magical thing

They soared high over Kilimanjaro
And they waved to the lions beneath
Skimming deserts and trees
And the billowing seas
Where the sharks bared their treacherous teeth

Swooping low they tracked leopards and tigers
Through the snow-covered hills of Nepal
But the dragons which flew
Over China they knew
Were the biggest and best of them all
But they suddenly started to fall

For a powerful storm raged around them
And it tore their balloon into shreds
Threw the box to the ground
Tossed the sisters around
As it lashed at their poor little heads

And they cried through the fury and thunder
As they watched it break all that they had
No more fun, no more play
No, together they lay
Bruised and broken, scared, shaken and sad
And they whispered, “Don’t hurt us. Please, Dad.”

At the end of each day came new dreaming
For the spell of the moonlight was strong
And together they swore
They would visit the shore
Of a land where brave sisters belong

So they chartered a ship from their bedroom
And they sailed on the blanket blue sea
With a pillow to steer
And a mutinous cheer
They were pirates, united and free
And they knew where the treasure would be

Far away in mysterious waters
Where the mermaids sing songs to the stars
On an island of gold
The two sisters were told
Of a secret to soothe all their scars

Climbing down the great creaky stairs mountain
Through the hall where the coat creatures creep
They discovered a room
The lost kitchen of doom
And the ice monster, humming, asleep
How they hoped that his slumbers were deep

Barely breathing, as silent as shadows
Arms entwined, they drew near to a door
In this tower of white
Lived a timorous light
No explorer had witnessed before

They must open this mystical portal
And release the cold secrets within
Each girl stretched out a hand
To at last understand
How such curious beams could begin
But a blaze of pain seared through their skin

’Twas the guardian, queen of the darkness
And her silhouette shifted and turned
Breathing venom and smoke
She made little girls choke
And their arms, with her white wand, she burned

With a scream, she administered justice
Which was angry and ruthless and red
They were naughty indeed
So of course they must bleed
And be dragged by the hair into bed
By a mother who wished they were dead

There are skies where the moon does not glimmer
And young dreams fade or fail in the dark
Life was bitter and bleak
Night and day, week by week
Each new suffering smothered their spark

And the faces of those who should love them
Were the ones they had learned to despise
But the father, they knew
Watched them change as they grew
And he looked now with different eyes;
In their innocence, sensed a new prize

On a night cold and clear, still and silent
Two young sisters knew what they must do
Of the moon they’d once dreamed
But that journey had seemed
An impossible thing to pursue

But the puzzle was finally fathomed
Now they knew how to fly to the moon
With particular care
They began to prepare
And planned all through the long afternoon
Now they waited, for night would fall soon

First, a final, ferocious encounter
With the monsters who menaced their world
But each furious fist
Though too strong to resist
Could not tear down the flag they’d unfurled

For its colours flew freely within them
In a whirlwind of moonshine and dreams
Yet a deepening red
Stained each shimmering thread
Painting pictures of sorrow and screams
Weaving pain through their secretive schemes

But at last these two valiant sisters
Stepped as astronauts into the night
In their raincoats and boots
Sharing solemn salutes
They made ready to launch into flight

From the capsule they gazed through the windows
With a courage that none could deny
And a rumble of sound
Filled the air, shook the ground
As the starship soared into the sky
Holding hands, they both whispered goodbye

No more monsters in space, no more worries
Just the stars and the moon and the night
And the earth with its glow
Wondrous cities below
But the sisters found sleep hard to fight

Though their fuel ran dry and they landed
From the ship itself nobody stepped
In this place without air
No one offered a prayer
But the souls of the sisters now slept
As the stars and the moon softly wept

They were found the next day by a neighbour
In their spaceship, in one of Dad’s vans
But its engines were still
In their bodies a chill
Two small astronauts, still holding hands

Bold, adventurous sisters, so certain
They could visit the moon, so must try
Tiny stars, they burned bright
Two brave shimmers of light
Over seas, over mountains and sky
All they’d wanted to do was to fly

Tuesday 17 December 2019

A Golden Future

by Nick Gisburne

A golden future, easy street
A plan to live forever
The wealthy, prosperous elite
A privileged endeavour
With life to spare, the wealthy knew
Their gold would pay to freeze the few
And someday they would rise anew
At no risk whatsoever

For as they slept their stocks were sold
Invested and inflated
Converted into coins of gold
All fully automated
A scheme of elegant finance
Though shares might fall, the safer stance
A hoard of gold, cut free from chance
Could never be frustrated

For centuries these cold machines
Preserved the wealthy gentry
Their vaults, made stronger by all means
Where gold alone gained entry
Regimes saw change, and borders too
But one thing that was always true
The value of pure gold still grew
The concept elementary

No faults or failures, large or small
No shutdowns or disasters
Then came the time to wake them all
To thaw their frozen masters
And slowly now, from head to feet
A little more, a little heat
Revived the future’s new elite
Who knew they would outlast us

Strapped into beds, for safety’s sake
Sustained by deep injection
They wondered how long it might take
To leave this strict protection
In darkness nothing could be seen
Until a console light showed green
And through a now-clear window screen
The price of resurrection

Arrayed around a central hold
The rich, some seven hundred
Each faced, full on, their pile of gold
The fortune they had plundered
On every face, in every aisle
An arrogant, conceited smile
Their master plan was all worthwhile
Yet somehow they had blundered

The rich awoke, a triumph, yes
A miracle of science
But of the frozen, who might guess
The prize for such defiance?
A shattered earth, scorched black and red
Dark oceans, poison pools of lead
The human race forgotten, dead
Survived by this alliance

They lie, immobile, captive here
Upon these beds, forever
The gold they once learned to revere
A wretched fools’ endeavour
They sacrificed their lives for greed
Each coin a sterile, worthless weed
A golden future gone to seed
No future now, or ever

Fear the Spectre

by Nick Gisburne

Fear the spectre, know her touch
Limping, leering, see her clutch
Child of hate and strangled cries
Wraith of evanescent skies

Beauty, terror, dark deceit
Kisses tainted, sulphur-sweet
Severed soul-strands, grey as breath
Maimed, they scream acoustic death

Smoke and silk, she curls and creeps
Eyes the victim as he sleeps
Twists to give a fiend’s embrace
Whimpers as she sees his face

Dazed, she stumbles, feeble, weak
Drained of murderous mystique
And a blinding, blazing knife
Claims the wicked spectre’s life

“I am druid, know my peace
Love, not hatred, brings release
Overwhelmed, be overjoyed
Merge with sky and sea and void”

Dead, the silent, spectral slave
Swift, the druid charms her grave
Calls the magic of the moons
Seals the space with wands and runes

Thus, the magister of light
Hunts the savage spawn of night
Spectres - wards of dread and gloom -
Fear the druid, know thy doom

Thursday 12 December 2019

What Can You Do?

by Nick Gisburne

They stare as he lowers himself to the seat
Then wonder and guess at his age
His clothing is dated, but stylish and neat
Intentions not easy to gauge

‘Sir, how can I help you?’ The youngster is curt
Distracted, his focus is small
The old man looks sorry, regretful, and hurt
But nods at the sign on the wall

‘Employment - All Ages’, in letters of gold
He points to himself. ‘Eighty two’
Impatient, two eyes of pure boredom are rolled
A sigh, and then, ‘What can you do?’

I’ve worked in the cities, I’ve worked on the land
I’ve worked in most places between
There’s no job I’ve taken too low or too grand
Each day I start ready and keen

My father first taught me to sit out and fish
I’ve made my own rods, my own net
I’ve roasted whole salmon and served up a dish
No chef you could name would forget

I’ve worked on the railways, repairing the track
I’ve stoked up the engines with coal
It’s heavy, it’s dirty, it’s hard on your back
But sweat puts a shine on your soul

Spent time in the army, years earning my stripes
But left it to build my own boat
I’ve been a town crier - a fine set of pipes
But tone deaf, I can’t sing a note

I’ve washed the queen’s dishes, once tried on the crown
I boxed with bare fists in my prime
I’ve been a good juggler, a terrible clown
And I swallowed swords, long ones, part-time

I’ve sold baked potatoes, hot chestnuts, fresh pies
I pushed my old barrow for miles
I’ve wrestled all-comers, whatever their size
And walked every inch of these isles

It’s living with horses, wherever they’re found
That’s built a warm place in my heart
Good years as a drayman, or ploughing hard ground
And times when I worked the milk cart

The finest of all, though, the funeral hearse
Black geldings, they’d always behave
I’d taken on two jobs, to fill up my purse
The night before, I dug the grave

If black is your colour, a sweep beats the lot
There’s nothing that’s darker than soot
They say a sweep’s lucky, but chimneys stay hot
You know what was burning? My foot!

Some skills I’ve found useful for many a year
I mend my own clothes, I bake bread
I know how to brew up a fine drop of beer
And fifty-four years I was wed

I’d sailed off Down Under, for opals and gold
But brought back a jewel worth more
We knew we’d stay happy, live well and grow old
And that’s all we ever asked for

Our children, and theirs now, all over the place
A riotous river of life
But this year, the photos, they’re missing one face
My beauty, my angel, my wife

I can’t bring her back now, just make her more proud
I’ll work hard, if given a chance
I’m not like some buggers, that internet crowd
Not stuck to my phone in a trance

I saw how you looked at me when I walked in
And how you said, ‘What can you do?’
I’ve plenty more stories, so shall we begin?
Let’s start with: a lot more than you!

Wednesday 11 December 2019

British Bathtime Anthem

by Nick Gisburne

God bathe our mangy queen
Hot rinse our mouldy queen
God bathe the queen

Smells of sick tortoises
Rat pee and walruses
Pongs like a hippopotamus
God bathe the queen

Tuesday 10 December 2019

A Busy Weekend

by Nick Gisburne

“What did you do this weekend?” said the teacher.

“We buried grandma,” said the little girl.

“Oh dear, did that make you sad?”

“Only when she started screaming. But when she stopped we were all happy again.”

Design Flaw

by Nick Gisburne

Pull the pin. Throw.
Pull the pin. Let go.
Pull the pin. Throw and duck.
Pull the pin. Throw. Good luck.

Pin pulled. Ready.
Pin pulled. Steady.
Page two. More?
Page two. Design flaw.

Atomic hand grenade. First field trials.
Pull the pin and throw. Seventeen miles.
Hello? Technical support?

A Sapphire at Sunrise

by Nick Gisburne

In the twilight of our history, the end of life on Earth
We together, we, the last of us, made plans for our re-birth
Midst the poisoned seas, the burning lands, the ruins and the dust
Shone our vision for an exodus, and follow it we must

It was not a dream, the science said, our measurements were true
In a perfect orbit of its sun, a world of perfect blue
Virgin seas and sprawling continents, an Eden to our eyes
Those who travelled there would live to see a sapphire at sunrise

Call it courage or stupidity, we built our silver ship
And a billion souls were crammed aboard and frozen, tip to tip
On a voyage of ten thousand years we journeyed into space
To that other star, that other world, we took the human race

What is time? One hundred centuries, unnoticed as we slept
Yet if each of us had known the truth, whose eyes would not have wept?
Did we think that humans stood alone, imperfect but unique?
No, the cultures on that perfect world were climbing to their peak

On the sapphire, kings and empires ruled, while others rose and fell
As its peoples spread and multiplied, discord began to swell
Angry citizens were offered less, but always wanted more
And in haste, on every continent they mobilised for war

Some escaped before the end of days, and knew what they must do
In their vessels, sharp and sleek, they sailed towards a world of blue
For it seemed that in this universe there was another place
Round a perfect star, a perfect world, a sapphire deep in space

They had travelled only fifty years, ten thousand still to spend
When the ship from Earth arrived at last, its voyage at an end
But a billion people woke to find not sapphire-blue but black
Now we have no hope, we have no home, and we have no way back

So our instruments we point towards the planet we once knew
With no human curse, the scourge all gone, the Earth shines pure and blue
In ten thousand years the last of those who fled their dark world’s doom
Will rejoice to find such paradise, while we have found our tomb

We have lived to see the Earth re-born, but mankind now must fall
And the authors of our destiny will surely take it all
We are doomed to die, but they will live to claim the final prize
And awake to see the light upon a sapphire at sunrise

Monday 9 December 2019

Dystopian Children

by Nick Gisburne

Monday’s child has come from space
Tuesday’s child will eat your face
Wednesday’s child, a robot clone
Thursday’s child, the twilight zone
Friday’s child is hissing and spitting
Saturday’s child, time crimes committing
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Needs an army of androids to keep it at bay

Sunday 8 December 2019

The Bloody Christmas Cake

by Nick Gisburne

It’s Christmas, how dismal, how cheerless, how fake
But this year I’m making my own Christmas cake
The oven is ready, I’ve drunk all the gin
So let’s check the list of the things I’ve put in

The leg of a neigbour, chopped off at the knee
Embalmed in a bucket of gravy and tea
The lips of a cousin who would not be hushed
The teeth from his petulant wife, finely crushed

A long middle finger, cracked off with a snap
Its owner died yesterday, caught in my trap
Two rosy cheeks, boiled in fresh tears for good luck
Four eyeballs, they’re always a challenge to pluck

A sprinkling of toes from the nephew I hate
His head I’ve reserved for my centre-piece plate
Intestines, a tender and savoury crop
So hard to know when to add more, when to stop

A scalp full of hair from an old woman’s head
I’m lucky to have it - she’s seven months dead
Four finger-bones, trapped by the edge of a door
A harvest of toe-nails, swept up from the floor

The spleen from a friend who invited himself
Some dried flakes of skin from the medicine shelf
The heart of an in-law, who won’t need it back
I’m shocked it’s so red, I assumed it was black

Fresh larynx of screaming child I could not find
The mother won’t visit, the drugs make her blind
The father dropped in but he won’t be home soon
I pulled out his kidneys with strings and a spoon

The balls from an uncle who no-one will miss
He stunk of stale vomit, old cabbage and piss
And grandfather’s liver, for flavour and taste
We can’t let a lifetime of booze go to waste

A mixture of knee-caps and noses and bones
Their owners all addicts of selfies and phones
A pinch of appendix, a handful of veins
The one thing I couldn’t find fresh was good brains

Black tar, to give all this an overnight soak
From grandma’s old lungs and their 60-year smoke
There’s gallons of blood and a pint of fresh spit
It’s mixed and it’s cooking and here I now sit

You’re welcome to try it, I’ll cut you a slice
And do try the pink skin and tonic, with ice
This Christmas is special, but please stay awake
Or you’ll become part of my next Christmas cake


by Nick Gisburne

When I was a boy I saw a man, a tall, thin man, a tall man who wore a long, black overcoat and silver-buttoned boots. He walked on the cobbles of a lamp-lit street, on a cold, clear evening. He walked towards me, and walked towards me still, until finally he stopped. I saw him and he saw me. He saw me watching him and he stood and stood, still and silent. He did not hide from me, did not look away from me, and I knew that he wanted to share a secret with me. The tall man took a small, black box, a small and perfect box, out of a coat pocket, and he held it up, up to his face, with thin, grey fingers. He waited, and I held my breath, and he waited, until I must breathe again. And we both breathed together, as he swung open the lid of the small, black box.

There. I saw it there, inside the box. A scrap of paper, and only that, a thin, square scrap of paper, plain and white and ordinary. What I saw was very, very ordinary, but I knew that it could not be, must not be ordinary, because it was inside that box. It was special. It was. I knew. The man, the box, the paper, they must all be important and special. As special as this place, at this moment. The man lifted the ordinary paper between two thin, grey fingers, lifted the paper and held it up, up to his eyes. He put the box away, somewhere, somehow, but I did not see where. I looked at the ordinary scrap of paper, and I watched, and I waited.

The tall man twisted the paper this way and that, as if this way was better, but no, that way was best, but then, this way and that, and again. I saw a fold, a fold in the paper, a new fold, but I did not see how it appeared. The twist of fingers and paper, of wrist and arm, of elbow and shoulder, all, all were one, one movement, one this way and that movement, and the fold was there, and I did not see how.

More folds, more folding, but these other folds I saw. I saw fingers folding the paper, twisting edges and corners, bending and folding. Grey fingers folded the white paper, and the white, folded paper, became a shape, a form, a form with a shape I knew. I knew the shape of a boat, and this boat, this tiny, paper boat was no ordinary boat. Here were sails, here were ropes and rigging and masts and anchor, perfect details, a perfect boat. The man, the tall man with thin, grey fingers, balanced the boat in the centre of one thin, grey palm, and we breathed in again, breathed in together. And our breaths ended, together, as before.

Thumb and finger, delicate finger and thumb, pulled and picked and raised the paper boat to his eyes, to the deep, dark eyes of the tall man. Those dark, darker, darkest eyes gazed at the tiny paper boat and those eyes knew what he would do now. I, with my bright eyes, the bright eyes of a boy, watched the man as he lifted the paper boat and held it, held it at both ends, held both ends of the boat, and pulled, and pulled, and pulled them apart. And I was cold, cold in an instant. I was cold as toes in the snow, cold as ice on the neck, cold at the thought that such a pure and perfect creation, this boat, this perfect paper boat, would be ripped and ruined and wrecked.

And yet, I heard no rips. I saw no ruin. I saw not what I knew would happen, not what I thought I knew. I saw something else, something I knew could not happen, could never, never happen. The small paper boat, pulled apart, pulled length-ways and long-ways and cross-ways, now grew. It grew larger, and it grew longer, and it grew, and again it grew. What had been smaller than a hand, smaller than his hand, smaller than my hand, was now five of his hands, or ten of mine, and soon ten of his, ten grey hands from end to end, then twenty, then longer, wider, taller. The paper boat grew, and the man, the tall man, stood now behind it, behind the boat, the boat which now was resting at his feet, but no, not resting, never resting. It rocked and it swayed as the man danced around it. The man with the grey fingers and the dark, dark eyes danced in his silver-buttoned boots, danced around what he had created, danced as the paper boat grew, and grew, and grew.

I did not see when the dance ended, because I could no longer see the man who danced, so large now was the boat, the boat he had folded and grown from a single, small scrap of ordinary paper. The paper boat towered above me, towered above my head, towered above the street. Paper planks, paper sails, paper ropes, paper everything, paper everywhere, but where was the tall man who had built this paper creation, this huge paper boat?

I heard footsteps, his footsteps, steps on the cobbles, but saw nothing, no sign, no tall man. But there, there he was, beneath the flickering street lamp. There, in his long, black overcoat and silver-buttoned boots. The tall man looked at me and we breathed together again. As the breath ended, as I struggled for another, and for more breaths as my heart demanded them, the tall man strode to the bow of the boat and raised his arms, raised both arms, raised them high overhead. His thin, grey fingers found a length of twisted paper twine and he pulled, pulled hard, and released a ladder, a long, loose ladder of paper ropes, swinging low from the bow. His steps were quick, always quick, quick and confident, and the tall man climbed up, up the ladder, up and into the paper boat.

He strode about the deck, fore and aft, port and starboard. I saw him touch the paper wherever he found it, smoothing and shaping, perfecting the imperfect, wherever it was needed. When he stopped, when he was still, I knew that his work was done, and I knew that he was ready. Ready to sail, ready to leave. Ready to leave without me.

“Take me with you!” I pleaded, pleaded to the tall man on the paper boat, though my tears would surely have reduced any paper creation, large or small, to a pile of warm, wet pulp. I knew he would not take me. I knew that his journey was not mine.

His grey fingers tossed something over the side and I caught the small, black box, the box which had held a small, ordinary scrap of paper, from which he had folded and twisted and stretched and grown this magnificent paper boat. The breath I took as I saw what it was, as I saw what he had thought to give me, was the last breath we shared together. When I released it, the paper boat began to rise, rise up, up into the dark of the night. Above the street lamps it rose, above the roofs and the chimneys, until at last the paper sails took a breath of their own and filled out, filled up, filled with the clear air of the cold, ink-black sky. The paper boat sailed away, and the tall man was gone.

I opened the small, black box only once, on that night, on that same night. Inside it I found a scrap of paper, a thin, square scrap of paper, plain and white and ordinary. I am no longer a boy, and have become a man. I am a tall man, but I am not yet an old man. The time will come when I am ready to open the small, black box again. And on that day I will build a boat, a splendid paper boat of my own, in which I will sail the skies, and I will find for myself a place where I can rest. One day. But not today. No, not today.

Saturday 23 March 2019

Ben the Van Man

by Nick Gisburne

To the tune of ‘Enter Sandman’ by Metallica

Always swears at someone
But he loves his son
Never rude to his mum
He spills his gin down his chin
Pees into a bin
Hopes his van will still run
When the pub’s not open
Watch for his van, it’s white

Runs red lights
Turns hard right
Shakes his hand
Ben the wanker in his van

Never long, when he’s tight
Starts another fight
Drinks all day and all night
Smashing cars, slashing tyres
Starting major fires
He’s as high as a kite
Someone’s nose gets broken
Ben’s in his van, turns right

Ben hates bikes
Swerves to strike
Jailed and banned
Ben the wanker in his van

Ben is racing down the street
Finds a victim he can beat
Drives so fast the engine shakes
The van’s a Ford with dodgy brakes

Rushed, Ben is maybe late for his work
Already banned, he’s such a jerk
He puts his foot down, lights on red
Doesn’t make it, winds up dead

Never bright
Lost this fight
No more van

Mum’s boy died
Ben’s boy cried
He’s their man
Broken, bloody in his van