Summertime, Part 6

Day 73. 70 pages, 33,036 words.

There didn’t seem to be much else to say, and the Saint was clearly ready to go back to berating the emptiness, so I emptied the jar of grit ceremoniously onto the ground and started back the way I’d come.

The Wasteland is a complicated event – for what it is. Getting there is easy, and getting out is easy too, unless you do it wrong. Then you’re apt to vanish there forever. You can get to the centre in a day, then die of old age without ever finding the edge. You can wander in the desert, the wilderness, the forgotten corners of cities, empires, worlds … and then look up and find yourself looking out on it. And if you’re not careful, you can turn around and see nothing else.

Some of the things you find out there, although saying it that way really gives the Wasteland more credit than it deserves for having things in it, are unexpected. They don’t make sense because they don’t have to. The idea that things need to make sense is an illusion very much limited to the extant and ongoing world. The Wasteland is a lot of things, but extant and ongoing isn’t … alright, I tell a lie. The Wasteland isn’t a lot of things. It’s the opposite.

Maybe the Saint, crazy old coot that he is, was right. The Wasteland was a state of mind.

State of mind, I can handle. It’s as if life with Creepy has been preparing me to deny the Wasteland. That’s probably why it decided to start in our garden.

Decided? Sure, why not?

I checked the lawn on my way inside. There was no trace of white dust – not just yet. I looked up. Summer, however, didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I hadn’t really expected it to cool down and cloud over just because I’d emptied a jar of dirt into the big nothing.

That sort of thing was an illusion very much limited to the extant and ongoing world.


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Men In Black International (a review)

Day 72. 70 pages, 33,036 words.

On Friday we dropped in to see the fourth (and I hate to say it, hopefully last) installment of the Men In Black franchise. Finnkino, in their wisdom, had somehow failed to acquire a 3D IMAX copy of the movie, so we started out with an apology speech about the 2D IMAX experience to come, free Men In Black issue sunglasses and a snack coupon for every man, woman and for-the-record nine-year-old in the cinema.

To be brutally honest, that was a good start to this movie and should probably be made into a standard introduction. I don’t know if an extra dimension would have saved this movie because it still would have been flat as fuck.

Sorry Pawny. You were more amusing than Frank, but Frank went on for way too long. Agent M came close to saving the movie but she could only do the best she could with the material she was given.

Not really much to say about it. I know the main actors can do an amazing job in this genre because hello, Thor Ragnarok. But apparently there just wasn’t as much to work with in this one. Which is ridiculous, because the premise and the plot had all the ingredients. There was a cool twist. The characters were compelling. And of course the special effects and creatures and stuff were perfect.

Just … put it all together and it was somehow a bit of a disappointment. I haven’t really got the energy to go into detail, it was just a bit disappointing. With such perfect ingredients I’m just baffled that this movie didn’t do a better job. Not sure what it was. It can’t just be the absence of Smith and Jones.

Thompson and Hemsworth had it in them to be great. We know this. But instead they phoned it in like they were just paying the bills until the next Marvel movie.

I was also low-key background bothered by the way the movie title reframes and recontextualises the entire organisation. The first three movies are just about the US now, they weren’t protecting the world at all. Why this scope shift when the international element should have been there all along?

By the same shift, I’m guessing this movie will tank in the US and get terrible reviews, but that’s okay because it sort of deserves to. The actors and effects boffins deserved better.

A wait-for-DVD at best. I award this one a Men In Black 3 out of a possible Men In Black and Men In Black 2 combined. Which makes it considerably worse than Men In Black 3, just for reference. Men In Black 3 was pretty good in my opinion but you can’t – fuck all this I’m out of time.

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Summertime, Part 5

Day 71. 70 pages, 33,036 words.

I staggered back a little as the vision passed.

“Whoa,” I said, because it seemed like the thing to say when you’d just experienced a perception-altering trip through time, even if it was all in your head. Probably.

“Heavy stuff,” the Saint agreed perfunctorily, as though he didn’t really care about the topic at hand but was too polite to dismiss how blown away I was by it.

“And that was the – the first time this stuff showed up? The beginning of the Wasteland?”

Even as I asked it, I knew it wasn’t right. On a conceptual level, there was more to it than that. A lot more.

The Saint was shaking his head. “You’re not grasping it,” he said.

“I’m trying. Give me another chance,” I frowned, then pulled out the jar of grit and scowled at it. “It doesn’t appear,” I went on slowly, “it doesn’t start, or spread. It was there – it was there all along, waiting. Everything else just ends up there. It’s just a matter of where and when everything is when that happens.”

“Closer,” the Saint said grudgingly. “But you don’t want to get the wrong idea, like the Wasteland doesn’t have a chronological component.”

“It’s entirely a chronological component,” I said. “It’s a function of duration. It’s everything after the full-stop at the end of reality’s sentence.”

The Saint raised his eyebrows. “Not bad.”

“I dabble in hyperbolic and florid overexpression,” I said modestly.

“So what are you going to do?” he asked. “Get yourself a soap box and stand in your garden?”

“If I did that, I’d worry about doing it until the Wasteland stretched as far as the eye could see, at which point a confused super-sidekick with a jam jar full of grit turns up and we start having this conversation all over again.”

“That’s not entirely impossible,” the Saint allowed, “although it does imply a certain holding-pattern stability to the end of reality that I’d hesitate to put much faith in.”

“What do you think I should do?” I asked.

“You could scoop up the sand as it appears, bring it out here and dump it,” the Saint suggested.

“Wait, would that actually work?”

The Saint shrugged. “Nothing will work,” he said. “The Wasteland is inevitability in solid form. But you might delay it, by active interference.”

“The Wasteland is a state of mind,” I mused.


“‘Active’ isn’t really something I do,” I confessed.

“I know. There’s probably a reason this stuff appeared on your lawn.”

“Last time, it was our couch that became a non-event horiz-” I stopped, abruptly remembering why the term – nongularity – struck such a chord. Sure, it had been the Saint who had thought it, in the vision or whatever it had been, but it had resonated with me for reasons that had nothing to do with his recognition.

“Looks like you’ve reached your answer,” the Saint remarked.

“More like the right question,” I replied. “The answer, like the Wasteland, was always there. Waiting,” I turned to go, then turned back. “Thank you.”

“I didn’t do anything,” the Saint demurred.

“Didn’t you?” I asked with a knowing smile. “Didn’t you?”

It was only when I was halfway home that I realised he really hadn’t. He’d shown me some things I’d already suspected, and let me make up my own conclusions. He’d even let me carry the majority of the Didn’t Help … Or Did He? trope dialogue.

He was good.

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Summertime, Part 4

Day 70. 69 pages, 32,792 words.

The sun blazed down. And yet, it wasn’t hot, not really. It was too listless to be hot. The day had all the relentless bright ferocity and all the wrung-out sluggishness of a murderously hot day, just without the actual heat.

Heat was one of the ways the universe released energy, the young man reflected. This … this empty light, this faded echo of physics-that-was … this was what happened when the universe had finished screaming. It was entropy, but without the dignified atomic death that ought to come as part of the deal.

He stood frowning at the patch of pallid white sand with its cracked crust. He’d run every test he could think of, and more than a few he hadn’t thought of until the existing tests failed him. Everything he knew, everything that science had taught him, insisted that what he was seeing was impossible. No, not impossible – not actually happening at all even though he was looking right at it.

After he’d realised this, he’d realised that his tests had become rituals bordering on the superstitious. He was no longer observing, hypothesising, experimenting, deducting. He was compulsively repeating the same phrases over and over until they lost all meaning. Turning the same switch back and forth until he had forgotten what it did in either position – just that it shouldn’t do this.

Someone had once told him that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing again and again, and expecting a different result. The same person, he was sure, had told him that the definition of stupidity was pretty much the same, and it all came down to which you’d prefer people whispered about you behind your back.

When a madman and a fool give orders, it’s the madman who is obeyed.

Had that been how it went? Or had it been the other way around? Who had it been who told him that? He could almost see the outline of them, shining gold like some canonised figure of folklore.

He shook his head. At the edge of the patch, the pale sand-that-wasn’t-sand gave way to sand-that-actually-was-sand, and then to an expanse of scrubby brush on one side and a sunken stretch of bleak brown-black swamp on the other. The desert and the swamp seemed to come together, feed off one another, cancel each other out and redouble one another by contrast. And none of those things made any rational geographical or geological or environmental sense.

Beyond the warped knot of broken landscape, a city. The city looked dusty, not necessarily abandoned … but getting there. Abandoning itself, perhaps. Forgetting its way, forgetting it was a city. None of that made sense either. It was like his brain had stopped trying to understand what his senses were sending him, and so his … his pancreas or something had taken over. And was doing the best it could with absolutely no training or experience.

His pancreas was pretty sure that what he was looking at was a mortal wound in the surface of the universe itself. If a black hole could express as something other than a super-dense gravitational event – he wasn’t an astrophysicist and he was beginning to wonder if he should go back to university and try to become one … either that or a priest – it might express as something like this. Instead of drawing in matter and crushing it into a singularity, it was … was spreading itself out over the underlying spirit of reality, and bleaching it into a … a … a-

Nongularity, he thought. For some reason the word – it wasn’t perfect, but it was close – gave him a deep chill of recognition. The world, the universe was bleeding to death, and the spreading rot was drawing out all the logic and sense and memory that gave reality’s matter any meaning. It was all leaking into this white, blazing-bright nothingness and forgetting what it was as it stared blankly into the sun. Bit by bit, slowly but surely, it would spread.

The young man went to his car, or wagon, or land-shuttle or whatever the thing was.

He pulled a sturdy box from the back seat. It was painted in bright colours and plastered with labels and logos.

The young man crunched out into the centre of the fifteen-foot patch of white hardpan.

He set the box down.

And then the Saint climbed onto the box, steadied himself, shuffled around to face the mouldering city, and he began to talk.

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Day 69. 69 pages, 32,792 words.

The following post is brought to you by Hatboy’s Hatstand (Premium).

Make Hatboy’s Talented And Potential-Filled Brain Into Your Dirty, Dirty Whore

I have absolutely no idea how this is going to work, let’s see. This post should now contain a link to a PayPal donation thingy. If you click on it and donate me a fiver, I’ll write you into a little short story here on the Hatstand. Short stories on the Hatstand have an amusing habit of becoming parts of larger novels that I publish on Amazon, although that’s technically no more or less public than here on the blog. I guess you’ll also have to let me know you’re donating to my Have Nice Things fund, but this is just an experiment.


I had to do something amusing on the 69th day of my writing process, when I was at 69 pages. It’s post number 2,089 as far as I can tell so that’s not very exciting or funny, but oh well. Here’s a new thing that my blog can do, aside from those weird ads.

You don’t need to pay me. I’ll probably go on writing stuff for free here anyway, and stuff for practically free on Amazon. But if you ever had a fleeting whimsical desire to see yourself in one of my stories, now’s your chance to take part in an experiment that might result in it happening?

I dunno. It’s the weekend. Let’s move on.

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Summertime, Part 3

Day 68. 68 pages, 32,351 words.

“So,” the Saint said, “what can we do for each other this fine day?” he squinted as I drew the jar of white Wasteland crust and powder from my pocket, and rattled it at him. “We’re all good for sand right now,” he went on in mild amusement, and gestured around him unnecessarily. “Thanks though.”

“I found this in our garden,” I told him. “Just … growing in our lawn. Our ordinary lawn that’s still partly alive. Back in town,” I continued to elaborate, as the Saint’s squint deepened into a scowl. “In the still-functional world.”

“In grass?” the Saint asked.

“In – yeah, in grass,” I said.

Living grass?”

“I don’t know if I’d go that far,” I admitted. “It’s not the greenest lawn in the universe.”

The greenest lawn in the universe, out of interest, belongs to Portimus the Yellow (It’s Just A Name). It’s made out of a type of grass called Viridescenzian Dragonmoss, which is technically classified as a war crime rather than a plant, and is so green that it’s been known to strike people insane and send them drooling and laughing back to their travel agents, ranting about things whispering in the depths of the merciless unrelenting greenity. Certainly it’s green enough to spontaneously de-pigment the cones in the human eye that enable the processing of the colour green, so basically everything you see after laying eyes on the lawn for more than about a tenth of a second takes on a reddish hue. This is a recognised medical condition that is colloquially known as The Portimus Hellscape. I haven’t seen the lawn myself, but a so-called friend of ours sent us a postcard once. It was intercepted at the nearest extraterrestrial customs office and toned down using nuclear bleach in accordance with local-cluster bio-weapon ordinances, but it was still green enough to give me a headache every time I looked at Creepy for about a week afterwards. Mind you, I often get headaches when I look at Creepy so it may have just been a coincidence.

“But you wouldn’t say it was desert?” the Saint pressed.

“Only as much as, you know, usual,” I replied, “considering this summer has stayed on way later than it should.”

The Saint looked around. “This summer?” he asked dryly.

“The summer we get in between spring and autumn usually,” I clarified. “I don’t know if it’s this specific one, although I’m beginning to worry they might be merging.”

“Not in desert,” the Saint muttered, then squinted at me again. “No swamp?”

“What do you mean, swamp?” I asked. “There’s nothing remotely-”

“Hold on, back up,” the Saint’s squint deepened yet again and he even took a half-step towards me. “What do you mean, stayed later?”

“It’s been a late summer,” I said, not sure why I felt that downplaying the meteorological event was so important all of a sudden. “Unseasonable.”

“And this appeared on your lawn, with no justifying conditions?” the Saint pointed at the jar.

“Yep.  Creepy doesn’t know what’s going on either,” I offered.

“Were you expecting him to?”

“I guess not,” I gave the jar a final rattle and dropped it back in my pocket. “What sort of ‘justifying conditions’ bring about the Wasteland anyway?”

“The Wasteland doesn’t just happen,” the Saint told me. “It’s not just a big arid patch in the middle of the country, dictated by the prevailing geographical and weather conditions. It’s a state of mind. It’s neglect. It’s oblivion. It’s the memory of a world that has succumbed to dementia. You’ve heard the phrase in a world gone mad?” I nodded. “Well, the Wasteland is what happens in a world gone senile.”

“You’ve been watching it happen for a long time,” I said. “What can you tell me?”

“What can I tell you?” the Saint laughed harshly, turned, and stepped back up onto his bleached and ancient soap box. It looked like driftwood, silver from wind and salt and heavy years. “I can tell you everything. If you have time to listen. But that jar in your pocket, Hatboy, tells me that you don’t. That jar tells me the hour is already late.”

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So I have advertisements now. Sorry.

Day 67. 67 pages, 31,738 words.

I activated the advertising thingy on the blog so now I have some ads running under the main post. Was going to add one under the sidebar too but it wound up with one ad above my right-hand menu and one below it, so it was just too tricky to navigate and I considered the Hatstand’s navigability more important.

Still, I have ads now. Sorry about that. I’ll keep you posted on how much filthy, filthy lucre it’s earning me. So far it’s been about five hours and I think I’m still on zero. That’s in euros though, it might be like one or two US dollars. Not sure of the exchange rate. Zing.

On another amusing note, I now have some limitations on what I’m allowed to post. But I checked into it and it doesn’t seem to say anything about my potty-mouth so I’m probably fine. I already don’t post unoriginal content or images of genocide and cannibalism. If it ever looks like the world’s getting bad enough that I need to start posting about such things, I’ll kick my advertisers in the head. But for now, they’re fine and you should really consider buying their products or services. Mostly, at a glance, right now I seem to just have ads for the advertisers themselves. Which is fine. Meta is good.

Due to the convoluted process of setting up, I also ended up with two highly entertaining e-mails practically back to back. See, I was partly sold on this premium plan by the assurance that I would automatically get advertising privileges (because I was paying for them) without needing to go through the review process the advertisers have for selecting their shillsites. Therefore, when I bought the plan and went excitedly to the advertising button, I was surprised to see that I had to send in an application for review anyway.

After I did that, I found the “just join up and start advertising you big beautiful bastard, you don’t need to wait for review” button (that I swear hadn’t been there before), and clicked it, and started advertising.

So then I got two e-mails. One (seemingly) auto-rejecting my application due to the low traffic on the Hatstand that makes me an unappealing advertising prospect, and one saying HEY HEY, WELCOME YOU BIG BEAUTIFUL BASTARD OH BOY IS YOUR BLOG EVER AN APPEALING ADVERTISING PROSPECT.


See? Now that’s funny.

Anyway, enjoy the selly-outy new look and feel to the Hatstand. Everything else is basically the same.

Sorry about that too.


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