Revealed: 5 short pieces of fiction for Future Way project

Redcliffe Requiem is my submission for the Future Way project now available to read for the first time without QR codes

These were the planet's final moments - Redcliffe Requiem QR Code for Future Ways project, a short story by Science Fiction Dark Fantasy author David J Rodger

Redcliffe Requiem QR Code

Earlier this year I was commissioned by the Future Way project to write five very short pieces of fiction that demonstrated how Redcliffe, an area of Bristol, next to the harbourside, could evolve in the future. Future Way is a collection of short stories whose chapters were only accessible by walking around the area and scanning QR codes with your mobile phone.

Right now, Redcliffe is just a mass of high-rise tower blocks, main roads, bleak underpasses, clinging onto a post-industrial feeling of decay.  There are some magnificent gems of history amongst it all, but they’re almost lost within the mass that does little to attract visitors.

That’s the view of Toby Smith, the architecture student who conceived of a way bring people into the area ahead of the launch of one the city’s most ambitious redevelopment projects ever.

Redcliffe Bristol as it is today - subject for the Future Way project and Redcliffe Requiem by David J Rodger

Redcliffe Bristol as it is today

In what represents a litmus test for localism, this drab and shabby post-war planning disaster could be transformed into a destination, rather than an ugly bypass.

Future Way follows on the success of the Bristol Story Trail earlier in the year, created under the Toby Smith umbrella of  Dream of a Shadow,  described as an online project bridging the gap between reality and fantasy through storytelling.

The Future Way trails take you from Wapping Wharf, alongside the Floating Harbour, to the blocks behind the church, and from the serene Quaker’s Burial Ground below the Colosseum pub to the squeezed pavements of the dated, grey bypasses of Redcliffe Way and Redcliffe Hill.

“This is an area with great potential,” Toby says, clutching a pot of ramen noodles below the tower of St Mary Redcliffe. “But currently it’s not living up to it. It would be one of the best areas in Bristol – if the development just gets the backing.”

Draft plans drawn up by the neighbourhood development forum could see the area become a grand European-style boulevard from Temple Meads to St Mary Redcliffe Church, acting as a “gateway” to Bristol taking visitors to the centre via a grand plaza.

The brief was to write five sections, around 250 words each, describing how Redcliffe might be used in the future. I started with the near future and then took it way, way out there.   See what you think:

~ONE~

Monica Meisner smiled around the rim of a wide coffee cup. The cup, by Red Clay, was one of many products emerging from the tech and craft facilities in this part of the city. She breathed out slowly with deep satisfaction, eyes soaking up what was around her.
This was the new exhibition centre at Redcliffe Wharf.  Cast iron chains of long vanished ships, anchors and other items that would have featured in the daily grind of industrial dock workers and medieval riggers.  None of it was real.  A holographic display formed from tangible light.  Smoke and mirrors. Conjuring trick for mass of investors flooding to the new Redcliffe Technology Zone.
Monica was project leader.  Money was pouring in thanks to the slick PR machine being driven by her friend and part-time lover Jordão Nguyen.  She wasn’t sure about him.  Tall and rangy with a distinct American accent even though he claimed to be European.  His features were a mix of Portuguese and Pacific Rim.  Against her sense of better judgement she suspected they were going to be involved for a very long time. See that? What had just happened there? Monica shook her head, brought her mind and focus back to the HTMDs that were creating the distant past right in front of her.  Mental sleight of hand, she folded away her thoughts about Jordão. Staring at a very lifelike glare of hot coals within a glass-blowing kiln, she wondered about where all this technology was taking them.  Here was the past, but what would she see if she were able to turn the machine to paint the future?

~TWO~

“Gurt Lush” flickered with staccato strobe effect above Redcliffe Hill.  Letters larger than the new sports centre and nearly matching the height of St Mary’s 15th century spire.  The words were so bright they seemed to burn into her retinal implants.  And this wasn’t an isolated problem.  Monica Meisner was annoyed by the graffiti invading the digital layers wrapped around the city.
The local government Virt Committee, headed by Jordão Nguyen, was currently debating legislation for the control of virtual space associated with any physical space.  Redcliffe was leading the way in this debate.  With good reason: the GATEWAY development project had already ear-marked regeneration opportunities.
The community seemed willing to participate in one of the most exciting social technology projects conceived within the Euro-Federation.  The problem was that open access to the digital realm had created a mess of overlapping layers, from reviews to personal notes to spam: basic text to pictographics to “living breathing” sprites and demons left lingering in a no-place where random passers-by could be dragged into their chaos-logic.
No better than commercials but with even less point, was what Monica thought about them. What was needed was a way to tie together ownership of physical places and the digital spaces around them. The GATEWAY project was now talking directly to Com-Squaw about supporting their proposed protocols for public and privately-owned cyberspace.  Some saw it as freedom. Others saw it as the segregation of imagination. A new class divide, being hard coded into the fabric of the digital universe.

~THREE~

Monica Meisner stepped outside onto Ship Lane to join Jordão Nguyen, who was already inhaling on a stim-pipe.  The streets were quiet.    Daylight  hours were mostly spent plugged into TiPods (Total Immersion) traversing the Earth or beaming digital awareness up into habitats circling the planet in High Earth Orbit. The very nature of work had changed beyond all recognition in the last decade – and Redcliffe seems to be at the core of this revolution.
Central to this was the recently constructed Pyramid, straddling the void at the base of Redcliffe Hill and overlooked by the Gothic edifice of St Mary’s Cathedral.
The Pyramid was a temple to technology.  Iconic to this sector of the Euro-federation and hallmark of Bristol’s status within the fiercely competitive tech wars.  Redcliffe was at the heart of this singularity.  The Social Housing Reform programme had come out of the urgent crisis of resources.  People who didn’t work paid for their subsistence with the time on their hands.  Either through community projects or through portals into virtual worlds where physical disability did not limit potential.
It was why Monica and Jordão were working near the Pyramid.  To be there in reality for the people who they believed really mattered.  Both of them had always argued that people starved of opportunity by socio-economic misfortune could become great achievers if motivated in the right way.  Some of Redcliffe’s best ideas had come out of the Reform; people can do incredible things when necessity bites.

~FOUR~

Monica Meisner admired her new simicrant body.  Long limbs encased in highly glossed carbo-plastic, bright scarlet in colour; the tight, stylised curves the best in design from Makosi Zinbado.
Her human eyes, large and blue, were set within a fleshy, organic face that was not unattractive, based mostly on her true form.  The machine body was not.
Golden sunlight glinted off the smooth flanks of the Redcliffe Pyramid.  How many decades had it been since she’d watched its original construction?  Sad to admit she had lost count.  Time, however, was about to become an even stranger concept.  She was leaving home.  Leaving Earth.
The Sun was dying, faster than anyone had first predicted. And she was one of a small team with the right skills to find a solution, or die trying.  A soft chime inside her awareness announced the physical arrival of Jordão Nguyen.  She knew  Jordão would be cursing the last minute formalities.  But he wasn’t coming with her.  His plan was to black-ball his conscious mind and go into BASIC Storage.  He would either wake up in a million years or sooner, if she came back.
It would be strange to not have him near.  But life was never easy.  Tough choices were required when evolution was in the driving seat.  She would miss Redcliffe.  Yet it felt appropriate to be setting off on such a monumental journey, from a small place so intrinsically entwined in the colonisation and industrialisation of the planet.

~FIVE~

Monica Meisner and Jordão Nguyen stood on the deserted platform at the truncated tip of the Redcliffe Pyramid. Their bodies were pure energy.  These were the planet’s final moments. They stood hand in hand, energy fields mingling at the quarm level, radiating emotions through colours that resonated with touch.
The Sun was about to explode.
Monica had tried with many others to stop it but now she was back, here where it all began, here with Jordão.
There were millions of unofficial observers, of course. Minds that refused or were unable to leave, self-termination or poverty being the main reasons.  But for Monica and Jordão they were privileged guests of the Consortium.  Their Final Experience would be broadcast through their Ku-weave: a latticework of quantum fibres that tied their consciousness to the Great Repository.  A technology that had changed the course of human history, developed right here, in Redcliffe.
This was a significant moment for the entire species. History had reached a point of closure, even as 73 trillion human minds watched from the minimum safety of the First Arterial Wormhole. Humanity would be observing the death of the Birth Planet for millions of light years as the supernova’s impending flash spread through mundane space.
Monica and Jordão would die but the sub-quark tendrils of the lattice would capture their tumbling minds like a net and fold them carefully back to the source of their ascended existence. They would be resurrected again, as pure energy, within a Mutu facility in the new cradle of humanity.  Every bold step in evolution lifts its feet from one place or another; no matter how small or humbling the beginnings – every journey has the potential to lead to great things.
Imagine where your feet will take you next?

// END //

That’s it.  You can read an interview I did with Toby Smith about this piece of work, here {click}.

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If you enjoy the flavour of stories set in Bristol, try the nerve jarring near-future thriller Living in Flames.

Living in Flames a science fiction dark fantasy novel set in Bristol expanding the cosmic horror of the Cthulhu Mythos by David J Rodger

Available in paperback and Kindle format

Living in Flames

By David J Rodger

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A fast-paced British sci-fi horror in the very near future

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GREAT BOOKS ARE HARD TO FIND. SHOP TODAY!

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“Atmospheric and Creepy” – The Guardian on The Black Lake

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“…the best Sci-Fi horror I’ve read in ten years” – Floyd Hayes, Creative Director of World’s Fastest Agency on Dog Eat Dog

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Living in Flames carries a chaotic mix of big characters through the meat-grinder fury of the Cthulhu Mythos. This is H.P.Lovecraft for the 21st century. Even if you don’t know what the Cthulhu (quote – how do you say that word?) Mythos is; if you enjoy the idea of an unconventional terror that flows down through the bloodlines of ancestry then this book will provide the required spine-convulsing chill.

The ex-marine, selling drugs for a crime-syndicate psychopath whilst desperately seeking any way out. The deal-maker, running from a violent past and who just needs one final big score before retiring to sunshine and sangria. The once privileged daughter, rejected by her wealthy merchant family as a child, now grown-up and struggling to come to terms with the shocking legacy of her heritage. And a multitude of vibrant, secondary characters. These are the people who fight to survive as an ancient abomination surges out of history to flow into the dark spaces beneath the city.

Compared to “Shallow Grave meets Reservoir Dogs with razor-sharp teeth”, Living in Flames shines an uncomfortable light on the secret history of a now global corporate family, the Carthews: a gruesome truth that snakes back three-hundred years to a time when ships carried human cargo, and the repulsive cult that rode the 18th century seas with it. Living in Flames introduces a new monster into the pantheon of cosmic horror from beyond the stars in the form of a new Great Old One, and the deviant, twisted human beings who worship it.

This is a fast-moving, intelligent horror story that ends in absolute carnage.

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