Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The start of a short story. Going to be about 4000 words long. Here's the first 1000.


Peter limped breathless from the fight and slumped behind the burning remains of a blacksmith’s workshop. The blood of Pikemen covered his broadsword and the deep wound to his side meant that he would be dead within the hour if Linus didn’t come. He would not have time to savour the victory. He would not have time to fulfil the prophecy. Cattle and corpses lay dying and dead around him as the remnants of an army staggered to the beat of a full retreat. His chest armour battered, he dislodged the broken metal from around him and examined his injury against the flickering light of a dying village. The fading cries of vanquished horsemen were lost to the echoes of the victorious. Iron cannon creaked upon oak frames as the spoils of war were dragged uphill through mud and blood to be prepared for the final battle. Propped against a water barrel Peter realised that without the immediate attention of Linus then he would be no more. Coughing to clear the smoke and dust from his lungs he saw a shadow appear from behind the workshop. He wasn’t sure. Was it Linus? Was it a Pikeman? Was it Death? The figure slowly moved towards Peter holding something in its right hand. Peter steeled himself for one last battle as the smoke revealed the identity of his destiny.
            ‘Drink this, dickhead, I haven’t got all night. I’ve been upgrading my laptop with a new graphics card. Sorry, mate, should’ve texted ya but the iPhone is playing up, Jesus, your character’s beat up bad.’
Peter’s avatar drank the potion and its injury disappeared, though the scarring that was left impressed even Peter in his agitated state. He adjusted his headset and sat staring at his computer.
            ‘Eight months of planning, Linus. Eight months! Where were you? If you’re not taking this seriously, well, goodnight Linus. I’ll see you tomorrow, maybe.’
The screen in Peter’s bedroom went blank. The screen in Linus’s bedroom went blank. They sat there both staring at their monitors, Peter seething, Linus confused.
            ‘That’s the trouble with great leaders,’ Linus said to himself as the crumbs from a microwaved pasty fell across his keyboard, ‘prima bloody donnas the lot of them.’

The Newt and Cucumber was filled to the gills with Canary Wharf’s finest. Traders, brokers and financial analysts flooded to this waterfront bar every weekday lunchtime to catch their reflections in its chrome and be seen to order the most expensive basket of fish and chips in the City of London. Linus hated working there. From the tiny beer mats advertising supercars that he’d never even afford to rent to the professionally ‘distressed’ pub sign that creaked electronically in the breeze. Everything in the bar was unreal to Linus. The pub didn’t even open past seven in the evenings and was closed at weekends as the suits were hung up in the ‘shires as the clientele attended swimming galas, water-skied or yachted or whatever is was that Linus thought City folk did to wash the money from their hair. Linus had just one friend amongst the regulars of the Newt and Cucumber, though he couldn’t talk to him at work. Peter would arrive at just after midday and sit in an unlit corner of the pub. It afforded little view of the Dockland development and he would write. He would scribble on Post-It notes, torn beer mats and scraps of paper. Peter’s unlit position, off-the-peg suit and self-isolation meant that he was little troubled by regulars. Linus would collect Peter’s single bottle of beer at 12.55 which was the signal for Peter to return to his glass castle in the sky. Linus knew that Peter was a Financial Statistician but he had no idea what that was. He knew he had a nice office somewhere in the clouds but he would bet a month’s tips that it didn’t have a view of the Docklands.
            Linus had travelled to London from an obscure art school in an obscure northern town about six years ago to make his fortune. He had calculated that it would take him 87 years and 14 days to make this fortune working at the Newt and Cucumber, including tips, or rather Peter had told him this devastating fact the first time they had met. Linus had told Peter that of all the arseholes in the pub he was the most interesting, if the most depressing. Peter had agreed. And that’s how friendships start. Not with the growing admiration and respect between two people seeking self-fulfilment through shared experience but with the instant realisation that each hated their surroundings and their modern world as much as the other.

            Soothsayer cemented their uneasy alliance. It was billed as the ‘Largest Online Gaming Experience of All Time’. Linus had an interest in graphic novels and fantasy works that had drawn him into this quasi-medieval world and Peter just did not like and would not sanction losing to anyone, and he had the calculations made from Post-It notes and scraps of beer mats stuck to his bedroom wall to prove it. Soothsayer was a never-ending experience, played by millions across the globe. Peter had risen rapidly through the ranks and had pulled Linus up alongside him. They made a formidable team, controlling vast swathes of a fantasy world that apparently existed in a bank of computer servers somewhere south of Croydon. It wasn’t enough for Peter. Winning the wars was easy for him after years of gameplay. Holding onto the peace was where his interest lay. He wanted control through co-operation not coercion. Linus was happy to tag along for the ride and do Peter’s bidding. In Soothsayer some people did work behind the bars in taverns but Linus knew that as long as he was with Peter then he would enjoy all the trappings of success that real life hadn’t afforded him and he would be ordering the victory ale and not serving it.

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