Sharing ideas, in any form, is what the web empowers us to do. This is my online journal and commonplace book.

Elsewhere, I write and draw In Abeyance, a bi-monthly newsletter for people actively curious about the built environment. Subscribe.

Throughout November I have been writing a story daily (a micro version of NaNoWriMo). It’s called The Mark and you can read the entire story (along with the last installment) at it’s dedicated page.

29. Stepping back into the world Odysseus looked around for a suitable host. Ah, yes that one will do fine. Before he switched hosts, Odysseus planted one final message for Asteer to follow, ‘Find Helen of Troy. She is the key to what you are looking for.’ Odysseus then strode into the world un-tethered. While a dazed Asteer boarded the next glider that was heading back to the Mark.

28. Odysseus opened his eyes. He was in the Agora sat next to Helen. She looked over, half hoping that his plan would fail. He gave her a knowing smile, nodded and without saying a word got up and left the Mark forever.

27. The gathen tried to resist the new host but it didn’t matter. Odysseus had taken full control of Asteer’s mind. His memories. Every part of his consciousness was malleable to any suggestion. Asteer’s mind would remain dormant. Odysseus made the jump out of Helen’s mind.

26. Odysseus approached Asteer purposefully, his arm extended, aimed at Asteer’s gathen. ‘This is going to hurt,’ he said ‘a lot.’ Odysseus then began to slice the gathen from Asteer’s head. The pain all but consumed Asteer who faded in and out of consciousness. Lying on the ground, the last thing he saw before completely blacking out was Odysseus grafting the gathen onto himself.

25. ‘They use extraction to take what they want, breaking our minds and bodies in the process. No more. We’ve worked out how to travel between our minds without causing damage. We will hide Applonia inside your head and lure them there. You will act as our trap. Whomever they send will act as our escape vessel.’ He paused and took another drink, ‘Oh and one last thing. Your daughter goes last.’

24. ‘Centuries and a new reality haven’t changed you. You’re still a self centred son of a bitch. How does any of this help my daughter?’ said Helen. Odysseus poured himself more wine, ‘To survive, your daughter has to find refuge inside your mind. Her existence is an aberration in this world. As they cannot control it, they have decided to finish it. To help you get Applonia inside your head we need something from you in exchange.’

23. ‘Since this place came to be, they have been treating us like common farm animals. They offer us their latest techniques and technologies as though they are a gift. Only to mine our ideas. Our thoughts,’ Odysseus took a large swig of wine and continued ‘I was born to discover. I cannot be contained. Ever.’

22. Helen sat down directly opposite Odysseus. The table was adorned by a purple cloth, with golden trim. Even across centuries, some wounds are hard forgotten or forgiven. Odysseus poured himself a glass of wine. ‘Thanks for coming, it has been a while,’ he said. She offered a thin smile. ‘I’ll get right to it then. I know that Applonia is dying. I can save her.’

21. ‘What have you done to my gathen? How are you doing this?’ said a more composed Asteer. ‘How indeed.’ Odysseus offered cooly. He turned to Applonia, knelt down, his eyes level with hers. He seemed to be trying to reassure her. Applonia looked defiant. Unflinching. Odysseus got up, faced Asteer, pointed his glowing knife straight at him.

20. Odysseus waved his hand in front of Asteer who suddenly found himself screaming out, ‘RELEASE ME RIGHT NOW.’ Odysseus paid him no heed and unsheathed a knife from his belt which began to glow a bright red. ‘You are in no position to demand anything. When you have served your purpose you will meet the same fate as all those spectres you’ve terminated.’

19. Applonia was now standing right in front of him. Even though he had monitored her his entire life, this was the closest he’d ever been to her…even though this wasn’t real, right? ‘A magician with a single trick. You would expect the audience to see right through you. Then again Helen is a much better looking package than that wooden horse.’

18. Helen of Troy had a daughter with Isaac Newton. They named her Applonia. She was the first child born in the Mark. The event warranted her own dedicated minder, an honour that fell to Asteer . When her surveillance signal had stopped, he had been given simple instructions, ‘Find her. Bring her back. Don’t come back until you’ve done both.’

17. He tried to move but his feet didn’t respond. He tried to communicate with his gathen but it also was silent. All around him was nothingness. Bright. The silhouettes became clearer. A man and a child…a girl. The man walked straight up to Asteer and whispered, ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.’

16. Entering the mind of a spectre was a particularly disconcerting experience. You were subjected to a cacophony of whispers of every tone and intensity. Something was definitely not right. Asteer stood still. It was completely silent. He could no longer feel his gathen. In the distance he could make out silhouettes approaching him.

15. The Mark was created to be where ideas were farmed from the greatest minds that ever existed. Rules were created to ensure that none of the spectres had any illusions that they were in control. As expected, some couldn’t accept that. This had lead to organised culls being used as an example to deter others.

14. ‘Do what you must,’ submitted Helen. He touched her shoulder. Time stopped. All of reality collapsed into this moment. It felt like every nerve in his body had been set alight. He had no reference any more. The journey could have taken seconds or all of eternity. He was now inside her mind.

13. Everyone has one life to live. Except spectres. They have been afforded a second. Helen had effectively forfeited hers to enable her daughter’s escape from the Mark. Asteer had lied. It wasn’t just the where he was interested in. He was also curious about the why.

12. The Mark existed as a haven for the very best, and absolute worst, that humanity had ever produced. They were given a second chance to produce more works or repent for what they had done. If you were of the Mark you could never leave this place. This cardinal rule was enforced with draconian effect.

11. ‘That’s good. I’m not interested in the how. I’m interested in the where,’ responded Asteer. The Mark had rules. If they were not followed, untold chaos would be unleashed. He was now looking forward, careful not to make any eye contact. ‘Where is your daughter, Helen?’

10. She sat next to him on the bench and gave a hesitant smile. ‘Not sure how much assistance I can be,’ she said. ‘I have no idea how she managed to leave the Mark,’ she continued without prompting. Asteer knew not to believe her, theatre was just part of the process in this division.

9. This place had gotten its name after those who had left their mark on the world. How that was decided was not clear nor particularly important. One look at her was enough for Asteer to understand why she was here. Helen of Sparta. ‘Yes. Breathtaking,’ he managed.

8. Asteer understood why he was anxious. Only a fool ignores his gathen. He finally made his way to the agora, sat on an empty bench and looked up into the night. The sky was peppered with stars. Time rotated. Eras merged. ‘Breathtaking isn’t it?’ He looked across and knew straight away that it was the key.

7. Without a gathen no visit to a division was even possible. It’s what grounds you and acts as both a guide and interpreter. It attaches onto your ear and then continues to grow inside your head. Once a gathen latched, it becomes a permanent part of you. You felt what it felt. Asteer’s gathen was frightened.

6. It was hard to tell how long it would take to reach the Hellenistic division. Exits didn’t always stick. Time was not absolute. Rather it meandered. Overlapped. Flexed. Like a Möbius strip. It was hard to tell how long it would take to reach the Hellenistic division…

5. It didn’t matter how many times he walked between divisions. The experience always left him in awe. There were extraordinary meetings on every street. There was Salvador Dalí playing chess against Boudicca. Beyond them, on a bench was Che Guevara sharing a pipe with Antonio Vivaldi.

4. Entry wasn’t guaranteed as there was always the possibility that your mind might break. Across the Grand Arrivals Hall was evidence of those who hadn’t made it. Asteer opened his chamber, strode out confidently and headed straight for the Hellenistic division to meet the key.

3. Asteer stepped across the threshold. Whenever you entered the Mark your perceptions are under assault. Your entire life got played out infinitely; cycling through how it all could have gone differently. He didn’t fancy this part. It was however a small price for the privalege to congregate with humans across time and space.

2. Something was still bothering him. The gathen in his left ear started to burn. His body tensed, his awareness amplified. He centered his thoughts and approached the counter purposefully. The official looked up, smiled wryly and said, ‘Welcome back to the Mark, Mr.Asteer.’

1. The flight felt long. Likely because he was feeling anxious. The weather was fair. This gave him a glimpse of the island from the tiny glider window. The view lasted seconds but gave a perspective Vii maps failed to convey. Hopefully the key was waiting for him on the other side.