Tag: creative writing


Janice let the couple progress through the hallway, the study and the living room. Soon enough, they had reached the kitchen, the heart of every house. The woman glided her hand over the granite bench top, nodding approvingly. The man gazed up the skylight, then pulled open the German-engineered oven.

‘Good morning,’ Janice said. ‘My name’s Janice. How do you like the house?’

‘It’s nice,’ the man noncommittally. ‘A new paint job in the hallway, I see.’

‘Yes,’ Janice replied. She was glad he had noticed. She had told the Cranfields it was an easy way to add £1500 to the asking price so they had it done three weeks ago. The paint smell was gone in time for house inspections. The Cranfields had also taken their agent’s advice and removed personal photos so that prospective buyers could more easily imagine themselves living here. There were fresh flowers in the house, too. Janice was a good agent. She knew what the punters wanted.

‘I like the natural light,’ the woman buyer said.

‘The skylight really does open up the space, doesn’t it?’ Janice enthused. ‘The owners also installed dimmable halogens. This really is a great lifestyle house. There’s a heated conservatory, and the media room, of course. And it’s close to shops.’ Janice recited this all with the perfect illusion of spontaneity.

‘I’m not sure about the halogens, Dean,’ the woman said, turning to the man. ‘Or the other lights. Halogens use up a lot of energy.’

Dean nodded. ‘Janice, are the lights the energy efficient types? What’s the SAP rating on the house?’

‘SAP rating…’ Janice felt her control of the situation begin to fray at the edges.

‘Yes, the energy rating of the house? The insulation are in the walls? What are the owners spending on energy? Is there a heat recovery system?’

‘Erm.’ Janice started shuffling through the promotional material, scanning for something about the ‘SAP rating’ or heat recovery.

‘Dean, can you ask about the heating controls too? We’ll want to keep the kids’ rooms warmer at night but turn down the temp in the study and guest room.’

Janice was rifling through the brochures a second time. ‘Ah, I’m sorry sir, madam. I don’t seem to have the information here but I’ll call the office now and see if I can get it. Could you hold on?’

The agent darted into the study to use her mobile phone.

‘Troy, what on earth is a SAP rating?… Build regs? You mean people care about that? … Sheesh, I can’t believe it. I’m sure Cass and Jim got asked the same thing last weekend… No, the lifestyle angle isn’t working, you’ll have to send the energy info… That’s three days away! …Oh, fine! Nothing we can do about it now. Bloody marketing. Gotta sell houses like cars these days.’

When Janice returned to the kitchen, the couple had opened up the boiler.

‘Forty kilowatts is a bit excessive for this size house but at least it’s a condensing boiler. More efficient than the electrics. I know this manufacturer, had some warranty issues five years ago but they seem to have sorted it out…’

‘Sorry for making you wait,’ said Janice. ‘We do have the energy information at head office. It’ll be here on Friday. Ah, if you leave me your details, I can post it to you or you could come back…’

The couple exchanged looks. ‘All right. Maybe we come back in a bit. We’ll look around a bit more, see a couple of houses.’

In the face of failure, Janice put on her most genuine smile. ‘Of course! And here’s my card. Give me a call if you think of anything.’

Plugged in

There once was an extrovert, Joan.
She carries a Nokia phone.
With emails to type,
And Aussies to Skype,
Plus Facebook — she’s never alone!

This reminds me of a footwear ditty. Now that I think about it, I think I spelled ‘sandals’ wrong.

I want to be something

‘When I grow up, mama, I want to be a boat!’

‘Oh, dearie! You can’t be a boat. You’re a trailer.’

The little green trailer clutched to his dream. Every birthday, he blew out the candles and submitted his wish to the great big petition box in the sky. But each morning, he would wake up to find his wheels still attached, his body still squarish and, soon enough, rusting.

His hope, now, is small. Years of soul destroying drudgery — lifting and trundling and carrying and bitumen — had ground even the happiest little trailer to trailer trash.

Dispenser of life

‘You’ve done moderately well,’ the guide said, as he handed Pat three large silver coins. ‘This should be enough for you to get something decent. You can make your selection in the next room.’

‘Is that all?’ Pat was disappointed by the unceremoniousness of it all. He had wondered about this his whole life.

‘Oh, no, you’re absolutely right. You get a bonus for believing in reincarnation this time,’ the guide remembered, and gave Pat a smaller brass coin with a hole in the centre. ‘Not many people do, you know.’

Clutching his tokens, Pat walked slowly to the next chamber. It’s funny that it’s come to this, he reflected. He remembered the last time he had gone through. The old fashioned way was that you spun a big wheel and, puff! Next thing you knew, you were a bricklayer’s son or a racoon.

The guide had told him that too many souls had complained about the randomness so they switched to this token system. The market would work its magic so that good souls had the pick of the most popular lives. ‘We’re getting with the times,’ the guide had said jovially. ‘You know, supply and demand and all that.’

It was sensible, Pat supposed. But he still felt a bit glum, standing in front of the vending machine. It hummed and flickered, much like the candy dispenser at the pool where he used to swim. Some of the slots were already empty.

‘Ah well,’ he thought.

He pushed the coins through the slot, saw his credit flash up, and pressed ‘D’, then ‘4’.

Related posts

The Oming Crossroads: Choices

Previously —

Oming resources were poured into the race to adapt the blue fire war weapon for the battle to replenish to the sky’s carbon. It made some Oming uneasy.

‘The ancestor fuel and fire is dangerous,’ was the warning. ‘And it will run out eventually. This is no solution… What if something goes wrong?’

‘Nothing will go wrong,’ the technologists and leaders replied as they lit the black fuel.

There was one accident. And in the densely layered cities, fire easily blazed pathways from Oming to Oming. There was no longer any need for twenty Lower Omings to sacrifice themselves to spread fire. Without help, the fire itself consumed millions.

After that, those that grieved most joined the dissenters to call for the blue fire to be buried under the mountains, as it once was. The technologists also grieved but they knew what had gone wrong and they knew how it could be fixed. The technology could be made safe.

The technologists did their work well. There were no other major accidents.

Indeed, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air did start to rise. At the same time, the constantly burning fuel spat out soot, which was carried by the winds and coated Oming leaves. Lifespans in the worst affected fields were shorter. Oming died younger, as they struggled to shake off the black carbon that didn’t make it to the air. Sometimes, rain would wash the soot away but the rain also pitted wood with acid.

The blue fire was fed for hundreds of years, stabilising carbon dioxide in the air. It could have been called a success but the price of a warmer planet was soot and acid damage to previously productive fields. The planet now supported billions of Omings in a poorer state than when it supported millions.

The coal ran out.

The cooling restarted.

As the planet plunged towards an age of frost, billions of cold-stressed Oming drew on the planet’s reserves of nutrients and thermal heat. But overcrowding in the cities meant that fields were being sucked dry before the natural cycle of death, decay and weathering could replace the soil. Within a generation, fields near the Poles and on the winter islands were desolate stands of Oming stumps.

Those that could retreated to the equator. However, even the equatorial cities had been impoverished by the cooling. With more refugees drawing on the soil’s nutrient reserves, Oming leaders realised that even the carrying capacity of the rich equator could be exceeded.

They were beyond the tipping point. The lesson was learned too late. Every time technology was used to extend the planet’s limits, they encountered another limit. The Oming could have chosen to battle layer after layer after layer of limits, or they could have pulled back to live within them. The survivors lived to regret the choice that was made.

The Oming Crossroads: Limits

Previously —

It took twenty-one years for the Athomfield technologists to complete the solar catcher. Immediately, hundreds were sent to the cities, where they were deployed over open sea to collect and transport sunlight. Within weeks, every field had doubled, tripled, quardupled their productivity.

Canopy Omings, who used to live only at the naturally rich equatorial fields and in the enhanced city of Athomfield, were soon welcomed in the cities with solar catchers. Instead of competing for nutrients and sunlight, now all three layers of the cities worked together in enhanced productiveness. The Canopy Omings fixed nitrogen from the air, the Woodys stabilised the soil structure and the Lowers provided ground litter for rich topsoil. The emergent benefits of coupling the Oming species were unexpected and exciting. As the Omings became more interlinked and co-dependent, the threat of war between species faded.

Once all existing cities had solar catchers, the technologists began sending catchers to the Poles and the winter islands. Frost melted as sunlight spilled in and soon, the formerly dark corners of the world were supporting cities as well.

It was the golden age of the Oming, fuelled by limitless sunlight. The technologists were heroes. Science and technology had brought peace and prosperity. Oming fields were full and happy.

Decades passed before a few technologists noticed something happening.

‘The world is cooling,’ the few murmured to each other, barely able to believe their own measurements.

As frost started reappearing in the most recently colonised fields, the murmurs became louder. ‘The world is cooling!’

‘It’s just the seasons,’ the others shrugged.

The dissenters were adamant. ‘Our records are not long but there is a consistent trend. Temperatures are falling every year. We don’t know how but it is true.’

And soon, they did know how. The small group of technologists discovered that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had plummeted in the past hundred years. Carbon dioxide, they realised, trapped heat and kept the planet warm.

‘There are too many of us! Each Oming is created and grows with the carbon in the air! We must slow population growth or the fields will turn cold and unproductive. Those at the Poles and winter islands will suffer first and most.’

‘Nonsense,’ was the merry reply. ‘We can catch more light. Every year, the technologists invent bigger, more efficient catchers. Sunlight is unlimited and so is the air. These limits you speak of are phantoms.’

Fears dismissed, the Oming continued to grow along its population trajectory and every winter grew longer and harsher. Ice reappeared and encroached on the newest fields. The catchers were made to work harder and longer to pour more and more sunlight into the now great cities at the Poles.

‘We must stop population growth!’ The clamour from dissenters was now too loud to dismiss. ‘The sun and air were limitless when we lived in the natural bowls of productivity. But now, the Oming are of a scale that we are changing the planet’s systems and behaviour!’

‘That is ridiculous! How can we use up the sun or the carbon in the air? The cooling is probably natural.’

‘Does it matter if it is natural or not? There is a global cooling. We need to act now. One way or another, we are approaching our limits to growth. If we go beyond these limits, the Oming population will collapse. Perhaps only those at the equator will survive.’

While the dissenters called for population limits, others approached the problem differently.

‘Our ingenuity is our greatest asset,’ was the reasoning, ‘and we will reduce it if we started talking about population control. If the problem is not enough carbon in the air, then we will put more carbon in the air.’

A group of technologists, better funded than the dissenters, proposed a solution. They reached back into history and pulled into the present crisis the blue flames that burned on black ancestor fuel. The flames could replenish the carbon in the sky. Thus, technology could overturn all limits.

The Oming Crossroads: War

Previously — Part 1: Technology

They used the fireballs seven times. Each time, the Prime Lower Omings picked a densely Wooded city. There was no way to throw the fireballs at long distances – the Lowers were too small and, despite their efforts, their new stone materials could not be fashioned into a launcher. There was no alternative but to send in small troupes of Lower Omings with blue fires enclosed in stone boxes. The soldiers crawled in the darkness of night when the Omings were respiring. The night would soon be bright with dying Woody Omings.

The technologists found that although the Woody Omings could not move to escape the way Lowers could, fire did not spread as easily as it might have at the equator. In the rich equatorial cities, the ground was littered with Omings that had died naturally and were returning their nutrients to the soil. In the Woody cities, the ground was almost bare. Therefore, for each mission, the Primes asked more than twenty Omings to carry their deaths to the enemy. In a community still tied closely together, the deliberate deaths of hundreds of Lower Omings were wrenching.

The Heartwood called for a ceasefire.

‘Stop,’ it said. ‘We cannot run the way you can. It is a massacre.’

‘We ran when you invaded,’ the Primes responded. ‘Yet, you chased us down. Running has not been a way out.’

‘How can you destroy so many? How can you ask your own to die in flames?’ the Heartwood wept.

‘We have no options.’ The Primes also wept. ‘We have nothing left.’

‘What do you want?’

‘We want a Homefield.’

‘How can we give you a Homefield where there was a city you burned to nothing?’

‘It was ours before,’ they said. ‘We know what it is like to have your home taken away. This is justice.’

‘There is no justice in killing those that were not alive when that happened!’

The Primes were silent for a long time. The path they had chosen was already deep with sacrificed Lower Omings. ‘We have nothing left… except more blue fire.’

What they did not say was that they would run out of Omings willing to carry the fires. Near the barren poles, the population was dwindling and families were drawing younglings closer, warily.

At the end of the five day ceasefire, the Heartwood came to the Primes with a proposal. The Lowers could populate the seven charred fields and the Woodys would not send spores by air into those fields. The Primes conferred quickly and realised that the seven sites could not support the entire Lower Oming population. An eight field was needed.

‘We need more soil to grown on,’ they stated.

The Heartwood hesitated. ‘The world’s productive fields are occupied, except for those that were… cleared. The Woody Oming are not mobile. We cannot voluntarily… clear… another field.’

The Primes called for their technologists.

‘We are fifteen years away from a solution,’ the technologists said. ‘We are developing solar catchers that can take the sun falling on the open ocean and transport it to the dark and cold poles. The soil under the frost is rich enough in nutrients. If we bring sun and warmth in, we open up entire continents of fields.’

The Primes turned to the Heartwood. ‘All we need is fifteen years.’

The Heartwood heard this and presented his final offer. ‘Athomfield is eleven days flight south of here. It is a field you have never colonised. We discovered it three years ago and have sent some spores there. There is a copse of about 100 Woody Omings already established. There is room to grow. We had planned to send further spores.’

The Primes understood the magnitude of the offer. ‘We can share Athomfield for fifteen years.’

‘Share your solar catching technology with us,’ the Heartwood said quickly. ‘This technology will benefit all Omings. The sun is unlimited; there will be no wars to catch sunlight.’

‘We will send technologists to Athomfield and train the Woodys there,’ they agreed. ‘Athomfield will be a place for learning.’

So the peace agreement was signed by the Lower and Woody Omings, and witnessed by the Canopys. A year later, the Athomfield University was founded when the Lower Oming technologists and their families joined the Woody copse.

It took twelve years to develop the first large-scale solar catcher. It was not yet transportable but it could catch and store sunlight. Sunlight from the unpopulated corners of Athomfield was caught and released to the city, boosting the temperate climate to the same productivity as the warm equator. Soon, the Lower and Woody Omings were joined by Canopy Omings. The Canopys brought with them great experience in the governance of diverse Oming societies.

In the years the scholars took to develop transportable solar catchers, Athomfield became a known as a centre for knowledge, peace and productivity.

The Oming Crossroad: Technology

The Omings are green. They live on a rocky planet circling around a mid-sized yellow star. The Lower Omings were once nomadic, roaming the continents to follow patches of sun. They had to move because even when they had colonised a place first, the Woody and Canopy Omings would eventually grow up around them and starve them of sunlight.

The Lower Omings didn’t have many options. They were tied closer to the soil than the others. There was once a great Oming civilisation rooted in the fertile soil of an old volcano. The city grew and flowered for thousands of years until the Invasion. The Woody Omings somehow discovered a way to send their seeds by the wind. It was frightening to the Lower Omings, who could only creep. That’s why the Lower Omings traditionally had strong family connections. They never strayed far from their parents or siblings.

It’s all changed now. The only way the Lower could survive was by learning to uproot and move. They teach it in Oming evolutionary science, how the soil huggers learned to crawl. They crawled so fast, away from the advancing Woody invasion. They ran for hundreds of years — but the wind goes everywhere, and every colony was soon followed by more Woody spores.

The Canopy Oming stayed mainly around the equator, where it was warm and humid. Life was easier there. There was so much sunlight that even Woody and Lower Omings could live happily under the shade of the Canopys. But the peaceful sunlight and soil-rich equator was the only place where Lower Omings lived without fear of starvation.

By the time they had reached the barren poles, the Lower Omings were tired of running. So the Prime Lowers directed the smartest of their kind to develop a great weapon, one that could let them defend a Homefield.

The technologists travelled back to the ruins of their original city and listened. They used their roots to follow the rumbles in the ground until they found an opening. It was an opening to a tunnel with shiny walls. Later, they would learn that the walls had been carved out, vitrified, by an outpouring of lava from the old volcano.

They ventured down, surviving only because they carried a newly developed solar storage pack. It didn’t give them all the wavelengths they needed but it was enough to survive the journey.

After six days, the Lower Oming technologists felt a great heat. The walls began to glow. To the Oming, it felt like they were approaching a caged lightning strike. Lightning could start fire epidemics. Fire would leap from Oming to Oming, regardless of if they were Lower or Woody or Canopy. Once charred, every Oming looks the same.

The Lower Oming have learned to predict when lightning would come and could move to shelter. But still, every year, the Lowers would keen in despair at having to crawl, crawl, crawl away from enkindled loved ones. Abandonment was the only way to stop the fire from spreading.

In that tunnel, the technologists found what they were looking. There were black lumps of fire so hot it was blue. The technologists had predicted their existence and were ready. They pulled out stone boxes and collected eight of the balls. They held possible death in their hands, as they crawled back to the nourishing sun.

Later, in their laboratories, they would find that they had their ancestors to thank for the blue fire. Thousands of Omings over millions of years fueled a single black ball. With the natural blue fire as their guide and inspiration, the Lower Oming soon had the terrible weapons they were looking for.

Tracking Cody

I plonked the thick yellow envelope onto the counter.

“Hello. I need to get this to England as quickly as possible.”

Charles the counterhand looked at me doubtfully. “It’s going to be very expensive.”

“How much and how long?” I asked, steely-eyed. He could see that I was serious.

Express Courier International,” he replied briskly. “It’s the very best. You can insure it, register it, track it. It’ll be there by the end of the week, guaranteed.” He named his exorbitant price. I paid in cash.

As soon as the barcode was swiped, someone darted out from the back mailroom and snatched my envelope from the scales. I just managed to glimpse his nametag before he sprinted past.

Cody the Courier ran onto the street, his hand reaching high. He expertly dodged the pedestrains to reach a taxi 60 m up the road.

“The airport, please,” he said. The driver nodded, rubbed his e-TAG to warm it up, then took off from the curb.

As the taxi careened through the suburbs, Cody pulled out his BlackBerry to book his flight. The only seat available was in Busines class on the Emirates.

Half an hour later, Cody was checking in (“No checked-in luggage. One hand luggage, 7 kg. One envelope. Aisle seat, please.”) and boarding the Boeing 777-300.

In the flight attendants’ first sweep, Cody politely refused a scotch on the rocks (“Sorry, I’m working.”) but did accept the offer of a Playstation 2. He played for a couple of hours (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) then watched a nature documentary about beavers before flicking a switch to convert his business class recliner into a bed.

He didn’t bother shopping during the stopover in Dubai (he’d been there just last week).

As the aeroplane approached London, Cody quickly filled in his arrival documents, barely glancing at the familiar options (“Not carrying animals, drugs, plants, radio transmitters, sealskins, vegetables or weapons.”).

He waited quietly as the plane came to a standstill and the boarding passage was extended and docked. He disembarked with the other passengers but as soon as there was space, Cody exploded into action. He sprinted past the crowd transfixed at the baggage carousel, flew through Customs then burst into the wet London weather.

His hair whiplashed into his eyes as he whirled around and shouted, “Taxi!”

And that’s where he is now. How do I know this? Because I’m tracking him, of course. I guess you do get what you pay for.

Cody’s adventures

Little Environmental Engineer

I have an important meeting. My company’s biggest client is in serious negotiations with the EPA tomorrow morning. This client brings in millions of dollars into the company each year. The auditor can’t make it to the meeting. The job manager can’t make it. So it’s all come down to me, little Joan, Environmental Engineer. Not Auditor, not Principal, not Senior Professional. Just Environmental Engineer.

EPA man:

Environmental Engineer, eh? Tell me about this proposed liner! What’s the hydraulic conductivity?


(squeak) 10-9! That’s metres per second!

EPA man:

And what’s the risk to the environment? Well? Well? Spit it out!


Well, there’s already lots of pollution around there…

EPA man:



(bursts into tears) Waaaaaaaaaaaah!