Fable fragment, 12 February 2018, 17:56

“You’ll die. There’s always a chance… but in all honesty, you’ll die.”

“I am a scholar of the fort.”




They walked another loop through the wide, shallow bowl near the overlap with normalcy, through the little spikes of ice-in-the-nethers clarity brought on by the inversion of it all: the once slow-rise into the hill-that-was, now a scarred, shallow indentation. Flaps of excess skin sewn up after excising the cyst. It seemed exactly as overgrown, exactly as furrowed and ploughed-through as on the day of the event, the day of the absence of event.

“Typical Wednesday.”

Their refrain. I did not see this coming.

“Typical Wednesday,” she confirmed. Wednesday 22nd July, eighteen-months-and-change ago. Today she would meet with the anchoress. The third attempt overall, this one long past due.

“It doesn’t have to be you.”

“No. And yet,” she gestured at the absence of volunteers.

They had been two of the first to arrive, a bond that lingered. Two of only a half dozen to have lived within close visual range of the hill before its abrupt absence. They had shared the same mix of incredulity and embarrassment of self-doubt. There were no startled cries, no pontifications. They began instead with:

This cannot have been a singular phenomenon of nature.

Not solely. Around the central shaft downwards—towards one of ten successive, partially-fortified platforms—they had discovered the first set of apparently abandoned apparatus: torches, lamps, simple rigging. No excavation tools. Nothing exotic. It wasn’t clean enough for some spontaneous outburst of new physics, yet too strangely and quickly done for a manned event.

It has the appearance of antiquity.

Each level showed obvious degradation, whether under layers of mosses or the thick accretion of dust.

The revealed structure may be unrelated to the disappearance.

Perhaps there had always been an entrance down into whatever-this-was, the hill always some temporary capstone, no matter how many generations had known and walked it.

Can this really have occurred.

Was there any possibility that they were, if not collectively insane, then simply mistaken? Caught up in some narrow-beam psychological confusion, a hyper-local Mandela Effect? It was wildly easy to doubt what had been cast-iron certainty when all evidence of the certainty was removed. None of them had anything as trivialising as a photograph. Not even showing as a background feature in an unrelated shot. On their phones, satellite images showed only a low resolution static of trees, too far from any mapping-friendly roads for a side-elevation view.

The platforms were a series of sections through stone, as though a mountainside had been cut away downwards to show uncannily uniform strata, each layer apparently self-contained, each at slightly different angles, depths and prominences out into a central funnel of clear space, wider as they descended. Each seemed snapped or broken off, but not artificially so, without any obvious marks of tooling.

The whole edifice had the feel of a nook, of a place set-aside. It had the sense and shape of a shelter. As though a weak seam in the world had been forced open and co-opted as a hiding place.

“Somewhere to sit out the end of all things.”

“And yet you choose not to.”

The bottom. Wide and flat and damp. Clearly concrete underfoot. They turned towards her rooms, towards the woman who claimed to have been living there for notional-years before any of them had arrived that first day. The woman who claimed the underfort had always been exposed to sky.

27 January 2018, 14:37

‘Insomnia’, ‘a man with a facial tattoo’ and ‘romantic comedy’. 😱 Horror is a kind of romance…

#amwriting #shortstorychallenge2018

18 January 2018, 12:06

I had no idea feed reading was starting to properly evolve again. Feedbin now supports Twitter as a source alongside email, RSS/Atom/JSON and directly enables link/quote-style microblogging!


Mystery fiction fragment, 15 January 2018, 18:34

“It’s not an actual written language. He was French. It’s the phonetic spelling of something he overheard.”

“So… we intone it?”

Her torchlight picked and hesitated across the debris.

“Like a rite?”

“We’re not wizards. We don’t do anything with it. We can fiddle the linguistics later.” A long puddle ran a sectioning line across the cave. “Runoff from yesterday? Some issue with groundwater?”

She craned back they way they’d come–“Still pretty fierce out.”

Their landing had been almost vertical, the skinny beach between bridges a natural funnel for headwinds. The entrance was a raised nub up into the storm, a threshold between wet and dry cold, noise and still, an awkward splice of media across the rear of the long-buried little chapel. Here–another transition, stone slabs ending at what was once a wall, now a cavern floor sloping off into deep-black and further branches.

Entirely encompassed within the larger town of B–, scaffolded within the underside of its supporting bridge network–the remains of the historical village of M– sur M– were a warren of temporary housing and storage space grown up alongside the bridge-web as it slowly spanned an expansive, fractal delta, now long-gone. It eventually became a location in its own right through the quirk and fancy of B–’s early aldermen. Its total effective area was a little under twenty thousand square feet. Since the network had never been fully completed it was impossible to walk solely upon, under or through it from one end of the notional village bounds to the other. It existed in pockets only, pooling and congealing alongside cycles of structural decay and renovation.

This breaching space was something more modern, part of a later expansion of B–, running through the old village at a tangent in a long tunnel of last-century brickwork intended as part of a cistern, eventually opening up this wide wedge down into the exposed caves.

This is where the text had been found, part of a tiny, esoteric library-space hidden under rock and fallen masonry. The oddly-distributed set of marginalia listed times, dates and placenames too obscure to correlate; scribbled pseudo-tongue commentary within a little-known antignostic tract.

It wasn’t clear whether the library had been within M– sur M– itself–detritus knocked through into the upper portion of the caves by the structural work–or if it had always been here, in some unrelated den, maybe not even in use around the time of the chapel. The disruption was significant enough to have churned any potential boundary into mulch.

Make A Pet Out Of It

12 January 2018, 17:40

I had a conversation with a friend about Charles Bukowski’s ‘Don’t Try’ philosophy, which seems at odds with yesterday’s resolution:

Somebody asked me: “What do you do? How do you write, create?” You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it.

I think it still fits. My plan is to take a prompt, write whatever (if anything) comes of it, and hope that something will eventually arrive to make a pet out of.

Baby Steps

11 January 2018, 11:41 (link)

Via Chris Bowler:

Before you can write a good book, you have to learn to write a good 500 words. And before you can do that, you need to write 500 words consistently, period. And you have to learn to finish a book before you can focus on writing a good book.

Great point by Chris. I spend way too much time tweaking, editing and re-planning already-written longer work that may never be salvageable (to my taste), rather than trying to create something new based on what I’ve learned.

Project for the year: force myself to write, regularly, in manageable ~500 word chunks, whether those turn out to be completed flash-fiction or just individual scenes or portions of scenes. I’m going to randomise the contraints for each to see if it shakes me out of my rut.

I’ll try to post those experiments regularly and maybe even add a shame counter to the site to track how badly I fail at it.

9 January 2018, 14:08

Now this is interesting—using your own PGP/GPG key as part of an OpenID authentication chain. Easily implemented and seems to work well.


Markdown With Responsive Images

7 January 2018, 13:48

I’ve never liked the overhead of dealing with responsive image sets in Markdown when writing for the web. I’ve set up this site to expect any image links as a simple list as part of the YAML header, rather than within the main body of the post, which is processed further by Jekyll at compile-time.

Since I only need to do this part once it can be as complex and edge-casey as I need while keeping the actual written content short and clean.

This works since I don’t care about in-article image positioning. I’ll either be sharing a single image or adding a single set of explanatory/descriptive images to the end of a post, rather than writing a print-style article with a strictly defined layout.

For example, this Markdown+YAML file:

date: 2017-07-23 15:31:00 +01:00
    - 2017-07-23-chicago-broods.jpg

Chicago _broods_.

Becomes this, showing either a large or small file-size version of the image based on the viewing device type, without my needing to care about those variations when writing the post.

My live Jekyll code is here but to use it you’ll still need to add multiple images to your site, appropriately named. I use @workflowhq on iOS to automate this part.

Journaling While Writing

7 January 2018, 13:44 (images)

I’ve started adding ‘Journal’ Groups to my @ulyssesapp projects if I find anything meta to note while working on them. Rather than keeping a separate writing log, this approach keeps ad hoc notes permanently related to whatever-it-was that inspired them.

If you use tags then they can be re-surfaced under one or more Filters defined at the top level your Library, which also keeps them tied together and readable as a whole. I use ‘Lessons Learned’ and tags of ‘do’ and ‘do not do’.

Even if the containing project is ever archived or moved off into another Group, the top-level Filter remains active and readable.

13 August 2017, 16:23 (images)

2017, the year of the handwritten, artisanal tweet.

10 August 2017, 18:44

So @ulyssesapp goes subscription–after reading their reasoning, I think it’s a great idea. Easily the best writing tool I’ve ever used.

23 July 2017, 15:31 (image)

Chicago broods.

13 July 2017, 11:11

😛👍 @ulyssesapp as Twitter client! @workflowhq adds @jekyllrb YAML, posts to @workingcopyapp, RSS read by @microdotblog, ‘Goal’ set < 140.

11 June 2017, 12:34 (images)

Hmm, is this new with the iOS 11 beta? Apple have added Dropbox-like collaboration for non-iWork arbitrary files stored in iCloud Drive?

23 May 2017, 18:24

The single most terrifying thing I can recall from my childhood: The Owl Service.

20 May 2017, 13:25 (image)

Lovely day for a walk (for at least 45 minutes, suggests @darkskyapp).

13 May 2017, 09:49 (image)

The new .textpack support in @toketaware’s iThoughts imports well into @ulyssesapp.


1 May 2017, 12:35 (aggregated)

I’ve tried a few times to write ad hoc content for the web, but usually end up with something too flabby to maintain. Micro.blog by @manton seems like the start of a potential solution.

I want to keep content short and focused while possibly collecting smaller posts into something larger, syndicating it elsewhere if needed, and retaining ownership of the original:

Whether read on fernseed.org, Micro.blog, Twitter, Medium or elsewhere, all content will originate in my own local git repository which can easily be hosted elsewhere as needed.

I’m hopeful that overall this approach has low enough friction and wide enough reach to keep it interesting and sustainable.

1 May 2017, 08:09

I’m hopeful that overall this approach has low enough friction and wide enough reach to keep it interesting and sustainable.


1 May 2017, 08:08

Whether read on fernseed.org, Micro.blog, Twitter, Medium or elsewhere, all content will originate in my own local git repository which can easily be hosted elsewhere as needed.