Neanderthal – A Sci-fi novel

Here is a short section from the book:

Chapter 1

 

It was a sunny day in London. The brightness lit up the fancy brickwork façade on the old main block of the Queen Mary Imperial College, one of the many jewels of London University. On campus students were sprawled on the grass talking. Some were reluctantly strolling along the paths towards the many modern buildings that housed their lectures. It was one of those hot summer days in which nobody had any desire to be inside, indeed, nobody had any desire to do anything, except to loll about in the sun and talk.

But inside the Blizard Hall the Perrin lecture theatre was packed. It seated four hundred, but there was standing room only. They had come to hear Roger Comstock give one of his renowned talks on human evolution. He was the main man and could always be relied on to provide an interesting, lively exposition, with a few quirky controversial ideas thrown in for good measure. It made him extremely popular and well worth forsaking the pleasures of the languid summer heat.

Roger was coming to the end of his lecture.

‘And then there is the mystery of the Neanderthal man,’ Roger shrugged. ‘I feel very close to the Neanderthal,’ he explained with a broad smile. ‘Probably because, as a European, I always carry a bit of Neanderthal around with me. Up to 4% of our genome is made up of Neanderthal genes. They live on in us.’

There was a murmur of asides with some titters of laughter.

‘At one time we coexisted with the Neanderthal. We even bred with them. But then that isn’t so very unusual,’ he cocked his head and chuckled, ‘I’m sure we are all aware of some people who would try to bred with any species they could get their hands on.’

A louder chortle went round the lecture theatre.

‘Now I know some of you purists out there will be a bit sceptical here. Were Neanderthals really a separate species of humans? Surely if they were, by definition, they could not successfully interbreed. Well that is certainly open to debate. Perhaps we should technically regard them as a subspecies? It is a moot point. The truth of the matter is that these people were a distinct second group of humans with genetically different genomes and we did somehow manage to successfully interbreed with them.’

‘Just imagine what it would be like if we shared this planet with other species of man – human beings of a different kind with many characteristics that were not the same. Intelligent people like us but yet dissimilar. How would that affect our psychology?’

He allowed his audience to dwell on that for a moment or two.

‘Perhaps their thought patterns would be very divergent to ours. They might have novel ideas and views on life.’

‘Just think what an impact that might have on the way we behave if we weren’t the only intelligent beings on this planet.’

‘We’d probably wipe them out!’ One bold student called out.

‘hmmf – We probably did,’ Roger replied, peering into the dim vicinity from where the voice had come. He chuckled again. ‘We probably did.’

Turning back to address the auditorium. ‘At one point in our evolution, back in Africa, we did share the planet with other species of humans. There were at least four species of early man who coexisted on that continent. Would it affect our religious outlook? Our view of ourselves? Our social aims? Or our politics? I ask you, would we be different people if we shared this planet with other species of intelligent human beings? Would we see ourselves another way if we did not regard ourselves as the pinnacle of evolution?’

Roger paused and looked down at the floor as if in contemplation before looking back up at his audience.

‘When they dug up those early fossils in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf, there was a lot of controversy. To start with there was this huge brain capacity. Neanderthals had considerably bigger brains than us. Their capacity was up to 1,600 cm3 as compared to our modest 1,200 to 1,450 cm3. We certainly couldn’t be having that now could we? It might well indicate that they were a good deal brighter than we were.’

There was another murmur.

‘Of course, brain size doesn’t necessarily equate with intelligence, does it? The sperm whale has a brain that is greatly bigger than humans, as does the elephant. Does that mean they are more intelligent?’

‘Neither of them have to work for a living,’ the same wag called out.

‘No, that is certainly true,’ Roger said smiling broadly, looking round towards the direction of the voice. ‘They don’t have to work. But they do get hunted and killed and none of them have yet developed any technology.’

‘Is developing hydrogen bombs a sign of intelligence?’ the discorporate voice called out.

Roger searched the indistinct shadowy faces for the source of this dialogue. He quite liked getting a response from his audience but liked to put a face to it.

‘Probably not,’ he agreed. ‘But what is certainly true is that human beings do not like their supremacy challenged. There has been much energy expended in attempting to prove that while Neanderthal brains might well be bigger they certainly weren’t smarter. The cynics have churned out paper after paper discussing the relative size of the optical regions and motor regions. According to these research papers, our friends the Neanderthal were brilliant at seeing and controlling their bodies but lacked the cerebral folds to challenge us when it comes to maths or science. They’d be good at body popping though.’

He pursed his lips and shook his head. ‘I’ll leave it to you to check out what you think on that subject and come to your own conclusions.’

‘But I digress,’ Roger said, looking round at them. ‘Getting back to that mystery. Neanderthals prospered in Europe. They had migrated out of Africa at a much earlier stage to us and colonised a wide area. They had developed a rich culture and technology. Their use of fire, tools and cave painting was at least as advanced as ours. But around 40,000 years ago they suddenly all died out. Why was that?

He held his hands out, leaned forward and raised his eyebrows as if wanting to illicit an answer from them.

‘Some say it was due to the climate warming. They were shorter and stockier, with shorter limbs, well-adapted for cool conditions. But personally I don’t hold with that theory. They migrated out of Africa and were highly intelligent. I don’t think they would have evolved that much to find a bit of climate warming a major obstacle. I reckon that if it became too hot for them I think they could easily have migrated further north or followed the herds, just like we did. It does not make sense to me.’

He strode to the side of the stage with his head down, rubbing his chin with his thumb thoughtfully, then stopped and looked back up.

‘Some say it was competition with Homo sapiens that wiped them out. Perhaps it was? We are a pretty competitive and vicious lot.’ He grinned round at them and began pacing to the other side.

‘Another theory is that they were bred out of existence.’ He paused again. ‘There, we’re back to those people who would breed with anything that moved – or indeed, a number of things that didn’t.’

Another chuckle went round the assembly.

‘Personally I don’t hold with any of these views,’ Roger said seriously, coming to a halt and peering round at the gathered students who were all straining to hear what he had to say. ‘All the evidence is that the Neanderthals were highly intelligent, had technology and yet suddenly disappeared off the scene.’

He raised his eyebrows and gestured.

‘So what was it?’ He spread his hands and looked around at his audience. ‘A cataclysmic event – such as volcanic eruptions? But surely that would have affected us too? Or was it a virus that did for them?’

He began pacing again.

‘I guess we’ll never know.’ He shook his head in sadness and then came to a halt centre stage, looking straight ahead. ‘So I guess we’ll never know what it feels like to share the planet with another species of human beings.’

If you would like to read one of my books they are all available on Amazon. Below are some links to Neanderthal:

 

In the UK:

Sci-fi as Ron Forsythe

 

Neanderthal

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Neanderthal-Ron-Forsythe-ebook/dp/B082WL81DH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Ron+Forsythe&qid=1584522147&s=books&sr=1-1&swrs=17C3F1C42D8DCBDBBA4459BE44B869C4

In the USA:

Sci-fi as Ron Forsythe

 

Neanderthal

 

https://www.amazon.com/Neanderthal-Ron-Forsythe-ebook/dp/B082WL81DH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Ron+Forsythe&qid=1584522932&s=books&sr=1-1

Quantum Fever – Fabulous new Sci-fi novel now out in paperback!

Quantum Fever – Fabulous new Sci-fi novel now out in paperback!

The latest in the Ron Forsythe set of Science Fiction novels is now available in paperback!

A great read! A great Christmas present!

Order yours now from Amazon!

In the UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1711327379/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Ron+Forsythe+Quantum&qid=1575722636&s=books&sr=1-1

In the USA:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1711327379/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Ron+Forsythe+Quantum&qid=1575722933&s=books&sr=1-1

In India:

For some reason India does not seem to always present my books in paperback form. I will chase this up!

The Gordian fetish – another extract

Here you go – meet Gerald the All-Knowing – the founder of Geraldism – a new religion that has taken off throughout both blocs.

Come to understand what is meant by communal cleansing. They say that it’s a happy way to go – with a smile on your face!

The Prophet Gerald the All-Knowing lived a fairly short life. People said that he wore himself out in the pursuit of wisdom and understanding and spent far too much time communicating with God and cleansing his body. Sometimes he, and a small number of chosen acolytes, would be up all night communing and cleansing. Many of his chosen acolytes marvelled at his stamina. Though he was no longer a young man he willingly gave his body to the task and practiced what he preached.

His first step had been to set up his own ashram. That was not easy as he had little finance, following the divorce from his wife, and had to rely on donation from his disciples. Fortunately a number of them were wealthy and more than willing to give of their riches for the furtherance of their newly acquired faith.

As a result of these substantial donations a large multi-roomed ashram was constructed. It consisted of many small private bedrooms, communal dining and ablutions and a large room with soft flooring, cushions and couches for group adherence to the principles of Geraldism. Sessions went on every evening and the adherents applied themselves with gusto. Gerald himself was a stickler for the rules. Communal cleansing was a must.

Within the Ashram Gerald himself had a large separate accommodation. That was entirely necessary in case God wished to commune with him again. And indeed God did. From time to time Gerald would appear with another revelation – often a refinement that God wished to make to a section of ‘the book’. Nobody was permitted to enter Gerald’s inner sanctum. That was for him and God, but he did have a room for his own practice and communing in which selected acolytes were invited to join him and assist him to fulfil the commandments as prescribed. There was no shortage of volunteers. It was an honour for the young girls to have the privilege of worshipping with the master himself.

As the word spread, concerning the delight to be found with worshipping in the Geraldian manner, many more young people were attracted in to the order. It soon became clear that more Ashrams would be required. In order to finance this expansion God spoke to Gerald and provided him with the means. The new followers were to sever all ties with the evil State and its mindless parasites, to renounce all worldly consumption and goods and come to the faith as reborn, individuals, naked and free of all vestments of the godless society. They were reborn into the true faith and donated all their worldly goods and creds to the ashram as a token of their desire for rebirth. Cash poured in and more ashrams were set up.

Later on God spoke to Gerald again and assured him that it was permissible for followers to work in mammon as long as the profits of their labours were poured back into the ashram for the furtherment of the faith. This added boost of income heralded a new era of expansion. The increased funds enabled further ashrams to be established in increasing numbers and the cult began to send its root-hairs out through the subsoil of both empires.

I have put this out under my alias Ron Forsythe.

You can purchase it in the UK as a paperback or digital:

In the USA:

For other places around the world please go to your local Amazon stores. Thank you!!

If you enjoyed the book please leave a review!

The Gordian Fetish – My new Sci-fi novel – released under the pen-name Ron Forsythe.

I have decided to separate my books out into distinct genres. Ron Forsythe is a pen name for my Sci-fi work. The name comes from my father’s name coupled with my grandmother’s surname.

I will release my six best Sci-fi books under this name and set up a new blog under the Ron Forsythe name that will solely feature those books and nothing else.

So this is the first release.

The Gordian Fetish.

I am very pleased with the novel. It has a light, humorous touch yet deals with many serious issues.

It can be purchased in both paperback and digital versions:

In the UK:

In the USA:

Elsewhere in the world – please check with your local Amazon or Ebay.

The Gordian Fetish – Now Available in Kindle version!

My new novel is now released in digital format!

The book is the first in my new format. It is released under the pen name Ron Forsythe. I will be revamping six of my best Sci-fi novels under the same name and doing a relaunch.

So The Gordian Fetish – my latest Sc-fi story – is now available in both paperback and kindle. Just click on the image.

Feedback welcome.

The Gordian Fetish – A Sci-Fi Novel – now completed.

I am in the process of publishing my latest novel – now titled THE GORDIAN FETISH.

The editing and rewriting is now complete. I am excited by it. It is the first to go out under my new Sci-Fi pseudonym – Ron Forsythe (coupling my father’s name with the surname of my grandmother).

I am looking for a more professional approach.

This is the writing for the back cover.

Introduction

How important is consciousness? How rare is it in the universe?

It is incredibly rare but not many people here on Earth seem to care about that. But the Gordian’s do – they value it – they seek it out and look to protect it. They have an institute funded by their government that is geared to the conservation of endangered alien sentient beings.

Unfortunately a new Gordian leader has come along who believes in austerity. He is threatening to close the institute.

Humans are sentient and have a modicum of intelligence. They can hardly be termed endangered though. There are 4000 billion of them. But they are incredibly interesting. They have sex. They also have politics and religion. They pretend to be clever and civilised but they are nowhere near as clever and civilised as they think they are.

Most Gordian’s are intrigued by humans. They find sex astounding and humans cute.

Being cute and having sex might just be their saving graces.

 

I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

My Weird Surreal Sixties Book – Chapter 41 – a Sci-fi story – Impostor.

This is a great Sci-fi story in its own right. It was actually a precursor to one of my later novels – Pornographic Syndromes.

Back in 1970/71 I used to like playing with the idea of reality. This story plays with that. I enjoyed typing it up. It was better than I had imagined and didn’t take too much tidying up.

41.

Messny walked along the road glimpsing the regions of construction out of the corner of his eye. But when he turned his head quickly in order to catch them unawares they were too quick for him. They quickly solidified everything into concrete form. It was puzzling. He could not work out how they did it.

He knew they were continuously watching him. They had surveillance built into the structures he passed. He even suspected that a lot of the people he passed were not really human. They were recording what he was up to.

His one task was to try to catch them out. It would prove to himself that he wasn’t insane.

It was on his mind most of the time but sometimes he forgot. He let himself go and relaxed. Then he remembered.

Messny wondered exactly when it had started happening? Had he been whisked off into this place or had he always been here? If he had been transported here – where was he? And what had happened to all the other people?

Messny thought that it had not always been like this. He could remember clearly waking up one morning with a feeling that everything was slightly different – nothing he could quite put his finger on. He had lain in bed looking round at the room. Everything looked the same but it was somehow wrong. There was some subliminal difference. It didn’t feel right. At the time he’d shrugged it off and carried on. But the feeling wouldn’t go away. Everything seemed too perfect; it was sterile; there was no life in anything. It felt weird. At the time he put it down to feeling under the weather but in fact he felt fine. It wasn’t that. He just sensed that something was horribly wrong. But maybe it had always been odd and he had just woken up to it?

That feeling had persisted, to a greater or lesser extent, right up until the present day. As Messny walked about he always felt the wrongness. Most of the time is was so slight that it was almost imperceptible, nagging at him, but sometimes it was so wrong that it jarred in his mind sending shocks through him. Things were so horribly wrong that he wanted to scream.

Messny took to examining things up close. The oldness of the brick and stone of the buildings looked artificial – the way that fakes look – as if someone has worked hard to make it look old and authentic but it doesn’t quite work. The trees waved mechanically in the wind, their naturalness was a rise-paper thickness away from being natural. Even the dirt and debris, the litter, the rust and the blistered paintwork was all a shade too precise.

But it was the people with whom he noticed it most. They were all so lifeless and mechanical. He sat on a bench in the park pretending to read a book so that he could study them more closely. He could not fault a single thing about their performance. There was never a slip. They did it perfectly – perhaps too perfectly. But it was the people who finally convinced him. For it was here that the wrongness was most manifest. It was the clincher for him. They showed him that it wasn’t all in his head – something was terribly wrong.

Friends, who had been close, seemed to be watery ciphers of what they used to be. They had the same physical attributes, the same personalities and yet there was a different quality to them. They had become two-dimensional. He no longer had any empathy with them; there was no communication or harmony, conversations, that previously would have developed, lapsed, as if they did not know which direction to take it next. Messny was disturbed by this more than anything else. He felt that his former friends were not only strangers but had become something more sinister than that. He took to avoiding them. In many ways he felt happier in the company of strangers. At least he knew where he stood with them. He had no need to try to strike up a friendship. He did not trust them either. He had decided they were all part of the same charade, but at least he did not have to feign some kind of relationship. They did not mock him or betray with their strangeness. He could simply keep the distance and not worry. Somehow that wasn’t so scary.

Right from the start he had this feeling that it was important that he kept his feelings hidden. It was crucial that nobody guessed that he was having these anxieties. If ‘they’ figured out that he had seen through the charade something nasty might happen. So he put on an act.

Janey was the most disturbing. He could not escape from her. When they were together, eating a meal, watching TV, sitting around reading or listening to music, he would be watching her. He watched her as she went about her daily routine. There was nothing about her that was inconsistent. Even when they made love she followed the same patterns. Yet all her mannerisms seemed stylised and rehearsed as if she was acting a role. She had the character to a tee. The acting was brilliant – yet nothing quite rhymed.

Messny analysed it in his head. He decided that there was an electricity missing. Not only did the world feel fabricated but the people felt like mannequins playing out a role. There was something lifeless about them.

Messny began to think that he was the only real thing in the entire world – the only part of this that wasn’t a fabrication. He began to realise that the whole environment – the people, buildings, park and city – had been constructed for his benefit.

That was a highly disturbing thought that started a whole slew of other thoughts cascading in his head. At first he had brushed them off. The whole idea of that was far too preposterous to be taken seriously. Yet he could not dismiss it so easily. His mind ticked away picking the thought to bits. He assessed what was going on around him and began to gather all the facts. No matter how he looked at it – it was the only thing that made sense. He had to trust his sixth sense and the evidence of his eyes. The sum total of all his observations led him to believe that it was true – he was alone in a completely manufactured setting.

He did not know why and to try to grapple with that sent his mind spinning.

That was the point where he developed the compulsion to break through this charade and shatter the carefully constructed illusion. Only then would he know for sure. He had to find out what was going on. He needed to prove that his feelings were correct and expose the ridiculousness of this massive drama. There had to be a reason behind it and he wanted to know what that was. It was impossible to go on living this false life. It was driving him mad. It was too frightening to live with. Who was behind it? What were their motives? Was there something diabolical? Who had the ability to construct a replica of his world in such detail? It was boggling and terrifying.

Messny could not imagine how anybody could even have started to do such a thing. Nobody had the technology. Nobody had the means. To create a single android of such complexity was beyond belief. There were thousands of them. To produce one with all the attributes of Janey, to perform at such a level, was unimaginable. Yet it did not make him doubt his sanity. If anything it made him more determined to find out who the architects were and what was behind it all.

After a period of time Messny came to the conclusion that there was nothing to be gained from simply observing. The construct was faultless. If he was going to get anywhere at all he had to deploy stealth and cunning. He had to fool them into thinking that he was OK with it and then catch them unawares in the unlikeliest of places.

That is what he set about doing. He spent hours gazing out of the corners of his eyes, no longer looking for the flaws but to detect the hazy regions where things might be going on. Those were the places he would need to head for. At the periphery there seemed to be what looked like a cloud, a dust storm. Those were the places where he surmised something was being constructed and pulled into shape. If he looked at it directly though there was no haziness. It seemed to gel. He suspected that those hazy areas were places where the illusion was being improved or maintained. Those were the places he needed to get to if he was going to get to the bottom of what was going on.

It didn’t quite stop him from looking for a flaw. He took to breaking things off and studying the microstructure in the hopes that something about the internal structure would give it away as being false. He was disappointed. Even the leaves on the trees seemed to have the correct cellular structure as far as he could tell without access to a microscope. Nothing was out of place. There were no obvious signs.

There were days when he began to waver. Without concrete evidence he was beginning to doubt himself. Perhaps this strangeness was emanating from him? Maybe it wasn’t all a fabrication and all of that was in his head? Perhaps he was suffering from some mental illness that was giving him delusions? It was the most obvious answer. He even decided that he ought to confide in someone and was on the verge of doing so on a number of occasions. But didn’t. Something made him stop. He knew he wasn’t demented and he could not trust anyone enough to divulge that kind of information. They were all part of the thing. There was nobody to trust. Yet what if this was some form of acute schizophrenia that was creating this paranoia? The fear was making him ill.

Finally, in a moment of doubt, he broached the subject with Janey. She reacted both stressed and relieved. He studied her face closely as the tears welled up and crawled down her cheeks. She seemed genuinely distressed. They cuddled and she clutched him to her and sobbed but part of him found himself detached and observing her in this apparent state of emotional turmoil. Something was not right. She felt wrong.

After she had pulled herself together they sat on the sofa. She held his hand between hers and gazed into his eyes imploringly.

Janey told him that she had been aware of him acting very strange. She had seen him looking at her strangely and been aware that his behaviour wasn’t normal. He had been looking shifty. She had thought that perhaps he was having an affair or was planning to leave her. So part of her was relieved. That wasn’t the case. But in a sense this was easier. He had to go to the doctor immediately and explain. She would go with him. He would know what to do. There were simple treatments. He had just been working too hard. All he needed was a course of medicine and he would be right as rain. They could take a long vacation and relax in the sun. He would soon be back to normal.

It was a good performance but he didn’t buy it.

He watched critically as one would a consummate actress on stage. It was sheer perfection. You had to admire it. But deep down inside it only served to confirm that this wasn’t his wife. He should never have told her.

The next day he would have no choice. He would have to go to the doctor’s with her. He lay awake all night feigning sleep and quietly watching the impostor who was playing his wife as she slept beside him. He suspected they monitored his every move. He now had to convince them that he was responding to treatment and thought about how he might achieve that. The last thing he wanted was to be given medication. He knew that would be the end. He had to find a way of appearing to take the stuff. All the time he lay there silently scheming Janey lay asleep.

In the doctor’s surgery they sat and waited. Janey had his hand clasped tightly as if she thought he might run out under the guise of expressing her concern. She reassured him that everything was going to work out fine.

He knew it wasn’t.

The doctor appeared to listen patiently, making the odd note on his computer. He examined him and reassured him that this was unlikely to be full-blown irreversible schizophrenia. It was probably stress. The brain was a delicate organ. It was easily knocked out of kilter. With the correct treatment he would be back to normal in no time. To be on the safe side he fixed up an appointment with a good psychiatrist, but he was sure that would not be necessary. He checked on his computer and sorted out a spot.

He smiled benignly, handing over a prescription and appointment card for the psychiatrist.

Messny noticed that the appointment was for the next day. He had paid particular attention to the doctor’s performance. The mannerisms were nothing short of immaculate. All of the speech patterns, professional demeanour and actions were perfect for the role.

They left the surgery with the doctor’s instructions ringing in his ears. He was to go home, take the medicine and relax. Under no circumstances was he to be left alone. They picked up the prescription. On the way home he knew that something would have to be done before that impending visit.

The one thing he knew he didn’t want to happen was to allow them to ‘adjust’ him. He had no wish to go through life thinking all this was normal.

Once in doors he pretended to take the medication, surreptitiously pocketing the pill, and suggested that it might be a good idea to take a nap. Janey thought that was a good idea.

As soon as he heard her pottering around in the kitchen cooking the dinner he slipped out of the house. He knew they would be on to him straight away so he had to move quick. His intention was to test the limits of the illusion and break out if he could. It was incredible to think that all this one one huge functioning model.

He had too many questions piling up in his head about how they had people it or what was it all in aid of. The real worry was that they might simply have created it in his head – that he might wake up to find himself in some laboratory.

It was too much. Wild speculation wasn’t going to get him anywhere.

The overriding thought was that this illusion was too elaborate to extend too far. They can’t have created a whole world and people it just for him. There were limits. They had to have created one specific area and worked to keep him within those limits.

He took the bus and headed for the small local airport. At the counter he watched the alarm on the face of the desk clerk. She was full of apologies. There was a strike. They were booked up for days. The strike had caused disruption.

It was what he had known would happen.

On the bus ride it had occurred to him that he might not be alone. He might be one of many scattered among this mass of androids.  There could even be real people among the crowds on the pavements. He stared out of the window searching for a spark of life. In all the hundreds of faces he could not see one.

On the way back on the bus he sank into a depression. He had no real plan. The game was up.

Time was running out. They had to be on to him. He knew he was being monitored. How long before they pulled him in? It was only a question of when. He would be forcibly carried off for ‘adjustment’. The thought terrified him. Just in case they weren’t quite as clever as he thought they were he assumed the same zombie-like appearance as all the other passengers. There was no point in making it easy for them. Once off the bus he began ducking down alleys and scooting through department stores in a futile effort to shake off any pursuit. He knew it was pointless. There were eyes all around.

Rushing out of a store he found himself on the pavement. A man in a car was waiting for the lights to change. Without thinking he ran across, wrenched the door open and yanked the startled driver out of his seat. He jumped in, put his foot down and was screeching off. He raced away before anyone had time to collect their senses. For Messny it was as if everything around him held its breath. Nothing moved. Everything was frozen. All the faces turned to look as he roared past.

He had it in his mind what to do. It had been festering for a while now. There was one big patch of haziness that had caught his eye. He aimed to check it  out. He just hoped that he could get there before they organised something to stop him. He put his foot straight to the floor and willed the car to go faster.

Ahead of him he could see the haze approaching like a dust storm, except as he neared it was more like a mist. Without pausing he rushed straight into it at full power.

Messny must have closed his eyes, bracing himself for some impact that never came. When he opened them he found the road and city had gone. In his rear mirror he could see the wall of haze and behind that make out the taller buildings. Ahead of him was a barren desolate plain that his car was bumping and careering over. He brought the car to a halt and stared at the alien landscape as it undulated into the distance like the wrinkled skin of a slumbering giant.

Looking up he could see large groups of beings seemingly suspended in the air on a platforms that hovered in the sky. Some of the nearest were gesticulating towards him. Others were manipulating huge machinery that was focussed on the region of haze. Some were peering through devices that resembled telescopes.

He watched as a small group detached itself from the platform to head down to intercept him but made no move to escape.

‘Sir, CVN 107834346 has just broken out. We are picking him up.’

‘Hmmm. He’s always been a worry. He has never settled. Has he caused much trouble?’

‘Gave the visitors a bit of a fright, that’s all.’

‘That the fifth specimen that has done that. We must be underestimating their intelligence or else we’re getting the simulation wrong.’

‘Perhaps we need to use some psychoactive control?’

‘Rather defeats the object of the exercise, don’t you think?’

‘What shall we do with him?’

‘Never mind. Dismantle the city. We’ll start work on the next project.’

‘Righty-o sir.’

‘We’ve researched this one a lot more carefully. I am determined to make a success of keeping these creatures. They are such big crowd pullers. Well worth the effort. I think they will make a name for this place.

‘We’ve got him, sir. What do you want doing with him?’

‘Oh, I don’t know – wipe him clean and send him back.’

‘You’ve got it.’

Messny woke up in the street outside his house feeling somewhat dazed. Something very strange had happened but he could not for the life of him think what. He leaned against the wall feeling quite weak and dizzy. A stranger stopped to enquire if he was alright. He nodded and pulled himself together. Yes, everything was alright.

My books are available on Amazon in paperback and digital formats. They are world-wide!

In the UK you might like to browse through on my link below: For overseas visitors please refer to your local Amazon. You’ll find me there.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1475747471&sr=1-2-ent

In the USA:

In the USA – https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=opher+goodwin

Here’s a few selected titles:

Rock Music

  1. The Blues Muse – the story of Rock music through the eyes of the man with no name who was there through it all.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=la_B00MSHUX6Y_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475748276&sr=1-6

2. In Search of Captain Beefheart – The story of one man’s search for the best music from the fifties through to now.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Search-Captain-Beefheart-Opher-Goodwin-ebook/dp/B00TQ1E9ZG/ref=la_B00MSHUX6Y_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475748276&sr=1-5

Science Fiction

1. Ebola in the Garden of Eden – a tale of overpopulation, government intrigue and a disaster that almost wipes out mankind, warmed by the humanity of children.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebola-Garden-Eden-Opher-Goodwin-ebook/dp/B0116VXVIY/ref=la_B00MSHUX6Y_1_19?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475749570&sr=1-19

2. Green – A story set in the future where pollution is destroying the planet and factions of the Green Party have different solutions – a girl is born with no nervous system.

Kindle & Paperback versions:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Green-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1500741221/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413306641&sr=1-10&keywords=opher+goodwin

The Environment

1. Anthropocene Apocalypse – a detailed memoir of the destruction taking place all over the globe with views on how to deal with it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anthropocene-Apocalypse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1502427079/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413306641&sr=1-4&keywords=opher+goodwin

Education

  1. A passion for Education – A Headteacher’s story – The inside story of how to teach our children properly.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/passion-Education-story-Headteacher/dp/1502445867/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413306641&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin

There are many more – why not give them a go! You’ll love them!

 

My Weird Sixties Surreal Book – Reality dreams – Chapter 39 – A shit day!

This story is based on real experience with a bit of Biology thrown in, a bit of philosophy and a bit of what could be described as Sci-fi mysticism.

I enjoyed it greatly. It was nice to write it up.

39.

Messny stood poised in the bathroom, bending over the bath as it filled with cold water, clutching a big tub full of used nappies. The early disposable variety had been invented but they were expensive, ecologically unsound, inefficient (they leaked) and not supposed to be as good for a baby’s skin, so Terry Towelling were the order of the day. They provided the opportunity to practice folding and pinning skills which Messny eventually mastered (without piercing the baby) and disposal of waste and rinsing out skills – which he was about to embark upon. The nappies had been discarded, soiled, into the large bin. When the bin was full it had to be opened, emptied and the contents recycled. The object of the exercise was to remove the inner muslin liner, along with as much solid material as possible, and place that in the waste bin, and then place the Terry Towelling in water to rinse out the remaining solids so that they were in a fit state to transfer to the washing machine to render them sparkly white and ready for use.

It is astounding how many nappies a baby will get through.

It is astonishing how quickly the bin fills.

It is unbelievable what smell is released when you remove the lid of the plastic dustbin.

In the division of labour that besets every household this was one of Messny’s tasks. He was the shit remover and squeezer of soiled nappies. It was a task that required a bath, lots of water, a numb nose and a fair bit of strength.

He discovered that if you get into the right frame of mind there was even some enjoyment, or at least job satisfaction, to be gained from the task. You even get used to the aroma.

After transfer to the bath the nappies assume two colours – part white and part yellowy-brown. The object is to squeeze, rub and rinse until the brown has become a yellow soup leaving the whole nappy a mild yellow colour which is deemed acceptable to then transfer to the washing machine.

Messny allowed his mind to roam. In an automatic mode it was easy to imagine the colours as armies locked in battle with Messny as the divine arbiter. Left to itself the cloth would descend into a festering brown stinking mass before finally decaying but with divine intervention it is restored back to a useful white cloth that can be effectively reused (and resoiled). It was a battle for good over evil.

Many questions presented themselves: Does the brown mass have a purpose too? Surely it gives life to billions of minute creatures which return nutrients back to the soil. Was he depriving them of life?

So what?

Messny decided that it would not be so bad if the shit was collected and returned to the garden to feed the plants, but it went down the drain or into landfill. It produced nitrates that polluted the water and bacteria that sapped oxygen from rivers and seas killing most life. It was destroying the environment.

Messny looked at the bin of shit and considered recycling it on the compost heap. But then he considered what the response might be. Janey might not be too enamoured. The neighbours might kick up a stink.

He chuckled and continued to pummel and squeeze.

Shit and disease do not appear to be as closely related as one might at first think. Messny had worked in a sewage farm. On a sewage farm all the raw sewage is processed. Everything that goes down the drains and toilets ends up there and the sewage workers work with shit every single day. They were often covered in shit, stank of shit and live with shit. It didn’t seem to worry them. It was almost impossible to go through a single day without getting plastered.

At first Messny was appalled. When he was instructed to climb down the ladder into one of the huge settling beds he discovered the rungs were covered in an inch thick layer. At first he tried walking down the ladder without touching the rungs but then there was the danger of falling backwards into the foot deep layer of shit at the bottom. He lost his balance and had to grab on. There were no gloves back then. He became used to it. The strange thing was that none of the men working at the plant seemed to ever get ill. It seemed to give them immunity. It was easy to get used to sludge, its smell and texture.

As each nappy assumed a uniform yellow colour it was removed from the bath and placed back in the bin destined for the washing machine. The worse thing was, when emptying the bath, the need to unclog the drain.

So Messny began his own campaign of secretly and surreptitiously adding to the compost heap, returning to the soil the nutrients that would end up in our food – completing the cycle. He delighted in it. The vegetable garden was full of beans, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, spinach, leeks and tomatoes. They were enjoyed by the whole family – full of flavour and goodness. He enjoyed thinking that the atoms that had been in their bodies were once again present in the food they were eating. There was no need for fertilisers or chemicals to force the growth of the plants. It was all done naturally. There was a cycle of life that was all part of the natural harmony. The sun shone on them all.

As Messny squeezed the last of the brownish water out of the last yellow nappy he thought of the sun giving its energy to change that smelly brown substance into life, to make the protein that formed the cells, that gave the beauty to the plants. The vegetation was changed shit, green shit – reaching for the sun. Slowly ……….  Slowly …… they grew up, reaching up while the sun transformed shit to tissues and thought through its light. The plant sat around peacefully waiting to be eaten and went into forming the brains of the humans that ate them. Those brains were able, through their consciousness, to think up stories and invent things, so the sun was really a huge re-aroma machine for transforming shit into imagination.

Atoms passed in, formed chemicals, gave rise to thoughts, and passed out again. Our bodies are only piss and shit organised into a slightly different arrangement for a while.

Messny chucked the last one in the bin. Cleaned out the bath and lugged the bin to the washing machine. He put the smaller bin of shit to one side to deal with later.

Cells come and cells go, Messny thought. Every three months every single cell in our body, apart from our nerves, is replaced. We appear to be stable but we are really temporary and in a state of permanent flux.

Later that evening, when Janey had gone to bed, Messny took the shit into the garden, dug into the compost and deposited the contents. Then he peed on the compost for good measure. The moon looked down on him. All was well. He looked over at the vegetable patch where all the plants were clearly visible in the moonlight.

Their previous bodies and future bodies were growing nicely. The green leaves looked black in the moonlight but in future they would be sparking up in their heads with new ideas.

It was far better this way.

Messny headed back up to bed and climbed in next to the drowsy Janey. He could not sleep. His mind was whirring away. He was imagining those molecules that had resided in his body and been part of his consciousness now residing in the green bodies outside. He wondered what consciousness they were sharing now? Whether molecules could feel or were privy to that consciousness. They were endlessly recycled, back and forth, through body after body, mind after mind. What a strange journey.

He liked to think they were aware of the thoughts and dreams of the array of beings they inhabited – the plants, worms, bacteria, insects and humans. What journeys they were endlessly going through.

Messny wondered whether he ought to ensure that all the waste leaving his body ended up in the back garden, in the vegetable patch, so that all his molecules could be recycled to him and his family in some strange kind of cannibalism. He did not like to think of them being discarded down the toilet, unwanted and unloved; to be soullessly passed down cold, dank drains and adulterated with chemicals; to be removed from the sustaining cycle they were part of. He preferred to think of them being cherished and tended in that vegetable patch where he could watch them grow.

Messny chuckled and Janey grumbled drowsily. He was disturbing her.

Messny stifled his chuckles and contented himself with a broad grin.

He wondered whether the plants were aware of himself and the rest of his family? Whether they knew where the nutrients came from? He wanted to believe that they were full of more wisdom than himself. Maybe they were watching him and willing him to produce the fertiliser. He nearly chortled again.

He lay in the day with his mind mulling over many strange thoughts.

Shit and piss to food …….. and food to shit and piss.

That is the way of the world.

It is the cycle that is important. We are all part of each other. Our bodies have no limit and no end. We are merely a vehicle for molecules to inhabit. We spread out to when life began from the ooze and on to inhabit other forms of life. It is endless.

Maybe all life is just a vehicle for molecules to live a more interesting life? Maybe it is not us that is important but the shit? Maybe it is not our thoughts that are important but shit’s thoughts?

Could it be that we are manufactured by shit? Deliberately manufactured?

Messny quite liked the thought that he might be nothing more than a vehicle to brighten up the day of a few zillion molecules.

With that thought he drifted off to sleep and dreamt.

My Weird Sixties Surreal book – Reality Dreams – Chapter 29 – Religion

This was a fun, sacrilegious piece of writing. The production of a medieval Sci-fi book. I found it very amusing.

These are all first drafts – straight off my keyboard. Rewriting this book is taking me back to the days of yore. I am working from the original manuscript that is typed with my old Remington typewriter. That seems a totally different age now. We’re a world away – and so is this story.

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29.

Messny sat quietly in his room. His mind was fixed deeply into a higher plane. First his body went hazy and transparent and then it disappeared altogether, the atoms and molecules dissipating by a rapid diffusion, his mind expanding into infinite discourse.

Nirvana had to be worked for in easy lessons. He had decided that it would be pleasant to have a short vacation. Two minutes passed and his body reappeared, leaching molecules from the air around and reforming itself. As he sat with his eyes shut a big smile spread across his face. It had been a pleasant restorative interlude. He rose lithely from the floor and walked out of the room.

In those two minutes Messny had floated off through the ether with all time and space at his command.

He reformed his body in a hot, lazy town. The heat of the sun was causing the flies to pant. The ground was so parched and burnt that there was no need to build kilns.

Boldly he walked into the village and was immediately surrounded by a group of people. He was prepared in both dress and language and was familiar with the customs.

As soon as they found he could converse in their own dialect they proved to be a friendly bunch, accepting him in as one of theirs. After lengthy greetings were exchanged the first question was always an enquiry as to whether he had eaten or was thirsty. Thirsty necessitated a shot of the local firewater. It did little to quench thirst but after the first few you simply forgot you had ever been thirsty in the first place. As a newcomer he was expected to make the rounds of the village. Not to do so would have seemed rude.

It was quite an event to receive a guest. He was directed to the largest house where food and drink magically appeared and the whole village, complete with kids, dogs and goats attended. Following that it seemed that he was expected to stay with each of the families in turn. It was hard to know how to respond to such kindness. His next months were catered for.

In the cool of the evening the town came to life. They gathered round a fire, passing drinks, marijuana and stories with much laughter. It was a breath of fresh air to have a stranger in their midst and they were eager for his tales. To them his life story was science fiction and pure invention but they lapped it up with gusto and drank many a glass to the ludicrousness of it. He became a fabled story teller. They thought he was hilarious.

In the early morning he joined them in the fields, hoeing, irrigating and tending to the crops. The animals roamed free, goats and chickens scratching a living from the wasteland and scraps.

By the end of the first week he knew the whole village by name and he was fully accepted. There was even talk of the village building him a house. They took him into their confidence, proudly shoeing off their handicraft, their weaving and pottery, sewing and leather-making, encouraging him to try his hand and roaring with laughter at his ineptitude. He learnt that one of them was considered learned, had mastered the arts of reading and writing and was presently writing his own book. He lived alone in the mountains and they promised to take him along some time soon. At the end of the evenings, when the fire had died down and the stars were up in all their glory they regaled him with their tales, myths and stories. The lore of the people that had been passed down through the ages and Messny listened with great interest for it was rich and colourful. Musical instruments would magically appear and they would sing along to the old songs and dance under the moonlight.

Everything was communal. They worked the fields together, repaired houses together, built barns together, ate, drank, danced and made music together. When there was sickness they all did what they could, brought in the shaman from the next village and collected and prepared the herbs. When there was a death they joined together to celebrate the life and its contribution and to console the grieving. When there was a birth or marriage they all shared in the joy and danced and sang until they were exhausted and collapsed.

There was joy at the changing seasons, appreciation of the sun and rain and awareness of their place in its cycle.

Messny found that even the hardest jobs were enjoyable when there was companionship and everybody pitched in. It was easy to fit in and feel part of such a community. He could easily have stayed in such pleasant company for the rest of his life. But he had come for a reason.

So far he had not seen any evidence to support his reason for coming. Despite the similarities to what he had been expecting it did not yet tie in completely. He was beginning to wonder if he had made a mistake and there was a small error in his time or place. There were probably many things that distorted in the course of thousands of years.

At last it was time to go and visit the fabled story writer in the mountains. A small group of them saddled up the asses with provisions and set off in the cool of the early morning before the sun was up.

The home was modest but comfortable and had all the solitude necessary for the task of writing. It enabled the writer to collect their thoughts and arrange them on the page.

Lined up on the writing bench were the completed papyrus scrolls, all laboriously written on with a precise script that was a marvel to behold in itself.

The book was nearly complete and the subject of great pride. Messny was urged to stay a while and read it through. It seemed that the beginning and middle had been mapped out but there was a problem with the ending. Word had gone ahead that Messny was a man of many fabulous tales and might be able to assist. Proudly he handed Messny the scrolls. He had plotted out the outline of the book as well as the plot.

Messny sat down for a few days to read the manuscript. It was one he was already familiar with, though there were a number of parts that were new to him.

While he was there he received the full story. The life of a writer is a solitary one and there were times when that laid heavy on the spirit. This was a rare opportunity to interact, talk and enjoy the time to the sip of wine and fine simple food.

As they sat around in the evening when it was too dark to read Messny was regaled with the whole story.

It seemed that from an early age the writer had always wanted to be a storyteller. His head was full of tales and fantasies that he had been eager to write and preserve. He had travelled far to master the basic skills and come back to the village eager to put his talents to the test.

The whole village was proud of him and, despite the times of hardship, had conspired to enable him to achieve his dream. They had supported him while he wrote.

His one aim in life was to produce a single book of merit. As Messny listened as the outline of the story was explained to him he recognised a kindred spirit. Even though the writer had not heard of the term they were both Science Fiction writers.

The story had come to him in a dream and he had conjured up the main character out of his imagination and experience, though the imagination of the entire village had been deployed to create this work of art. Its scope was beyond that of one man. The book followed the thoughts, ideas and life of the main character as he travelled through the land. He had contrived a series of fabulous anecdotes and saying to bring it to life and make the unbelievable plausible. It was at once a mystical tale of the character’s experience with the infinite coupled with tales of adventure, intrigue and politics. There was much of social significance that had been skilfully woven into the story. His main character was a social revolutionary who set about arousing the masses and performing tricks that left them amazed.

Messny was impressed. There was much skill and imagination deployed in the narrating, much wisdom and plain good story-telling. It was a major work of fiction. The intriguing thing for Messny was to discover that the writer believed the main character was really an alien. Not that he’d heard that term before. He described him as a visitor from other worlds in the sky. He laughed as he told him this. He thought it was highly amusing.

His other major original inspiration had been to split the book up into four different perspectives so that the reader had the story from different angles, through the eyes of four other characters. He thought that was an interesting touch. In his mind it created a more three dimensional character and provided depth. It had not been easy to do either.

In great application of intelligence he had based his book as a sequel to an earlier piece of fiction that had been highly successful. While not a sequel in the usual sense of the word, in that it did not completely follow on, it was conjoined by virtue of the supernatural deity, that had been further elaborated on, providing the continuity. The hope was that admirers of the earlier work would be attracted to follow on to the second. It was a great marketing ploy.

The writer explained that the earlier work had been around for hundreds of years but though many had tried to produce a sequel they had all proved unsuccessfully. He proudly proclaimed that this attempt might just be the one that worked. Messny agreed. He knew it would.

The problem was that having told the tale and reached a point in time the writer could not think of a suitable ending. It was as if he was blocked. The expectations of the entire village were weighing heavy on him. They were all so proud of the bits they had contributed and could not wait to see it properly produced. But he was unable to complete it.

Then Messny had arrived. Perhaps he could provide the stimulus for the missing ingredient?

Messny felt a bit of a fraud. He had the ending. It wasn’t hard really – he’d read it before.

‘How about having the hero rejected and killed?’ he suggested.

He could see that appealed.

‘They could all turn on him and disown him to save their own skins,’ Messny continued. ‘Just as they were nearing the possibility of all the people coming together for a glorious rebellion to overthrow the military and start the revolution you could have them turn him over to the authorities and executed. The revolution never happens and everyone immediately regrets it.’

‘That’s brilliant!’

‘A final twist to the plot,’ Messny added. ‘That always gets them. You could even have him briefly coming back from the dead with the promise of a glorious finale in the future.’

‘I could! I could do that. That is perfect!’

The next day Messny left to return to the village leaving Abraham feverishly scribbling away in a world of his own. As he looked back at the man, and rapidly increasing pile of scrolls, he could not help but wonder if he had done the right thing.

The next day was a feast day and the whole village gathered to give praise to nature for the bounty of the fields. The harvest was in and bountiful. There was no better time to announce that he was leaving. They toasted him, danced, sang and regaled him. He assured them that he would return again.

The next day he waved goodbye and sadly walked off into the wasteland of the desert. When he was out of sight he sat down and prepared to return.

He had achieved what he had set out to do.

My Surreal sixties book – Chapter 21

I will probably publish this for my own amusement. It is the book that started me off writing – way back in 1970. I’m fond of it. But I don’t know that it will appeal to many people. It is the classic first attempt.

This particular chapter had elements of my first lesson. Boy – was I nervous. I can remember pausing outside that classroom before plucking up courage to go in. It was scary but I learned to love it.

Science for me had been dead. But I was determined to do things in a more interesting way. I wanted to try to make the kids think. I hope I succeeded.

21.

Returning from his travels the first requirement was cash and that required work. Getting by was becoming a drag. He had to find something steadier than an unemployment cheque. After much consideration he settled for a career in teaching – the main enticement being the holidays.

He thought it would be easy. Little did he know.

The closer the day came the more apprehensive he became. What, from a distance, appeared like a simple task became more daunting by the minute.

As he approached the door his stomach turned flips. He gripped the handle and turned it

On entering the classroom he put on a fixed expression and strode purposefully over to the desk, arranged his things and then looked up. A sea of faces were peering back at him, all weighing him up and appearing to not like what they saw. He surveyed the class and they looked him up and down. They had stopped talking and slouching in their chairs and were weighing up the crazy little guy who had just walked in purporting to be their teacher. They studied his every move and expression with seasoned eyes and had already, before he had even opened his mouth, formed their opinions.

Messny, clutching his carefully prepared lesson plan, stood in front of the highly critical assembly and prepared to deliver his first lesson. There was a pregnant pause as he arranged his larynx to articulate a sound and they waited, intrigued to hear what noise might come out.

As he had rehearsed he deliberately moved slowly in order to collect his thoughts and allow his physiology to settle. He knew that the last thing he wanted to project was nervousness. He’d heard how rabid they could be with new teachers. The million rehearsals had gone well. The real thing was a totally different experience. His subconscious was screaming at him – telling him that he was about to be eaten alive and telling him to run.

He conquered that and finally gained control over his wayward vocal cords.

‘Good morning,’ he began in a remarkably calm voice, ‘My name is Messny Krapbutt.’

This was met with a chorus of stifled laughter.

Messny waited for the noise to subside.

‘I will be taking you for Biology this term.’

There was no response.

He tried a smile. ‘It will take me time to get to know you so please forgive my ignorance over the next few weeks.’

The faces remained blank and watchful.

‘Right,’ he said nervously. ‘Let’s get started.’ He stood behind his bench in front of the large blackboard. ‘First of all – a question.’ He reached into his pocket and took out a small ball. ‘We’re here to study Science so let’s start by understanding what Science actually is.’ He held the ball up in the air above the bench. The eyes all followed his hand, waiting to see what he would do.

‘Who can tell me what will happen if I was to let go of this ball?’

He looked around and all the faces were wearing the same uncomprehending expressions. What was the idiot doing? This wasn’t Biology. There had to be a catch. Nobody wanted to be the fool who fell into it.

‘Come on,’ Messny urged as the class stubbornly remained silent, ‘what will happen to the ball if I was to let go?’

One girl plucked up courage to speak. ‘You mean – if you just let go, not throw it or anything?’

‘Yeah,’ Messny said reassuringly, ‘that’s right. If I just let go.’

‘It’ll hit the bench and bounce off,’ she replied with an air of triumph

‘No it won’t,’ Messny replied, cutting her glee dead.

The class shuffled uneasily. They could not see the catch, but they knew there had to be one.

‘If you don’t throw it, it will,’ the girl insisted indignantly. She was not going to be brushed off.

‘No it won’t,’ Messny assured her.

‘What will it do then?’ the girl sneered.

‘If I let go of the ball it will stay hanging in the air for a while,’ Messny explained. ‘Then it will gradually drift off sideways,’ He indicated a sweep with his hand as if following the course of the ball in the air. ‘It will then build up momentum and bounce off the wall.’

A big chuckle passed around the room. The guy was nuts.

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‘No it won’t,’ the girl insisted with a look that said exactly what she thought of him. ‘It will fall straight down and hit the desk.

A wave of laughter went round the room. They were enjoying this.

‘Well,’ Messny said with a raise of eyebrows, ‘why don’t we try it and see?’

Messny held the ball up and let go of it. It fell straight down, hit the bench and bounced up. A roar of laughter rang round.

‘Did you see it hover for a second?’ Messny asked hopefully.

‘Nooo!’ they shouted in chorus.

‘OK,’ he conceded. ‘It did that time. Let’s try it again.’ He retrieved the ball and held it up in the air. He repeated the process a number of times with the same outcome. The class found it highly amusing.

Finally he put the ball back in his pocket. ‘Will it always do that?’ he asked.

‘Yeees!’ they shouted in gleeful unison.

He held his hand up to quieten them. ‘Are you sure?’ he asked with a serious expression. ‘How many times do we have to carry out this experiment before we can definitely say that it will always perform the same way?

There was a silence while they mulled that over.

‘Come on,’ Messny urged. ‘I say that the ball will hang in the air. You say it will drop. But how many times do I have to repeat it before we can say that it will always, definitely, drop – without the slightest shadow of doubt? How many times do I have to do this before I get a fact?’ The class were completely quiet. ‘Ten times? A hundred times? A thousand times? Ten billion times?

There was no response.

‘The answer to my question is that it takes an infinite number of times in order to get a fact. You have to do it every single possible time to be utterly sure that it will always behave in that particular way. Of course we can make mathematical models, use our knowledge of gravity, and predict that it will always behave in a particular way, but it will still not be a fact. A fact is indisputable. There are no facts in Science – only a series of working hypothesis based on experimentation and observation. We predict what will happen and it usually does. But there are no facts. I am not going to teach you any facts at all. Science never got anywhere by believing things. Everything I tell you is a lie.’

There was a pause.

‘Right,’ Messny said, ‘let’s get on.’ With that he launched into the lesson.