The Planets Series – Jupiter

Juniper Gentlin fiddled with his tie once again, then buttoned and unbuttoned his jacket, feeling the strain of his ever increasing waistline. He shot his hand into his pocket again, reassured that it was still there.

The man behind the large desk in front of him stood to catch his attention, informing him that the Premier would see him now. Juniper took a long inhale of breath through his nose, exhaling violently through his mouth. He gripped the arms of the chair he was sat in and pushed himself to his feet. Go time.

“If you could just face the pad and hold very still” instructed the man behind the desk. The security pad scaled the full height of the wall in front of Juniper. It scanned him from head to toe and then a burst of light blinded his vision. When he opened his eyes the reception he had stood in had gone and he was stood facing a large imposing oak door with the title of ‘Premier Benchoullah’ marked across it. He knocked once then delicately pushed open the door.

“Junie!!”

Premier Edson Benchoullah rose from behind his desk to greet his old friend. Genuine affection laced his tone as they first shook hands then embraced. “Please. Sit”. He gestured to a large comfortable looking couch in the corner of the office.

Benchoullah was of small height but he had a large, undeniable presence. His every word was complemented by a jerking gesticulation. The Jupitan media had referred to him as ‘The Italian Stallion’ an old earthling term, such was his habit of using his hands whilst conversing just as much as his voice.

The two old friends shared a drink and reminisced. It had been a lifetime ago that they had bunked together whilst serving with the Jupitan Army. International Service was required of every Jupitano ages 18-21 and it was a right of passage for every member of society. Every Jupitano had their own anecdote about their time fighting The Great Red Spot, the famous anticyclonic storm at the heart of the Solar Systems largest planet.

“So Junie, what brings you to see me today?” asked the Premier, placing his hand on his old friends knee affectionately.

Juniper cleared his throat.

“Well Premier, you may be aware that I was recently elected leader of the UMJ.” He bristled, awaiting a reaction from the notoriously hot-headed Premier. Instead the response was non-plussed. “UMJ?” asked Benchoullah.

“The United Moons of Jupiter?” replied Juniper. “I was elected by voters from all 79 moons, Premier. Having moved off-planet ten years ago to Europa, it occurred to me that decisions are made here on the mother planet which directly affect billions of families living on our moons. I felt someone should be representing the views of the UMJ to try to influence decisions made by you and your Cabinet. I’ve come to you today with a proposal, Premier.”

Benchoullah stood from the couch and paced the room. He began nodding and muttering to himself. Finally, he fixed his gaze back on Juniper. “Well, that’s quite the tale” he chuckled. “As you well know Junie, the Luna’s who elect to live on our moons do so off their own volition. They are afforded no Jupitan rights and nor are they, technically, able to call themselves Jupitano.” He scratched at his chin and ruffled his hair, pacing again as if trying to solve a puzzle which had a missing piece.

“So, let me get this straight“ he went on. “You’ve decided to cash in on our relationship to see what you can get for these billions of Luna.” It was a statement not a question.

“Please Premier” said Juniper “we prefer not to use that word, we see ourselves just as Jupitan as you do.”

The word ‘Luna’ was a derogatory term used by the Jupitan to refer to those who lived on the 72 surrounding moons. It’s origin came from the Earthling phrase ‘lunatic fringe’ meaning a political group which shared extreme or foolish ideals.

Benchoullah threw his hands in the air. “Well they’re not fucking Jupitano” he spat. “I govern this planet Junie” He rumbled, arms flying in different directions to pontificate his annoyance. “And you fucking Luna’s will accept any decision I make. You’ll get on with it whether you like it or not” he banged into a chair whilst pacing and turned to kick it hard across the room.

“No Junie” he continued. “I’m sorry but you Luna’s will be happy with what you’ve got. You’ll take what you’re served, you’ll eat it up, smile and ask for more.”

Juniper sighed. He knew Benchoullah as a hot-head from their time together and what he’d watched on TV but he hadn’t expected this reaction. Regretfully he placed his hand into his pocket, felt the device between his thumb and forefinger and clicked it three times.

“I’m very sorry old friend. My intention was to come here and talk things through. Have a measured discussion about what you could offer us. I never wanted this.”

The man from behind the desk who had beamed Juniper through, entered through the office door behind him. He held an automatic pistol in one hand and a recording device pointed at Benchoullah in the other. The Premier shielded his eyes from the shining light coming from the recording device. Suddenly, he saw the weapon.

He began to protest at Juniper. He tried to reason, then he aggressively spat threats then pathetically begged for help, snivelling and crying on his knees.

Juniper took the weapon from the man and turned to face the recording device.

“My name is Juniper Gentlin. I am the leader of the United Moons of Jupiter. This man here makes decisions everyday which affects billions of people living on our planets‘ moons. I came here today to discuss the rights of those people to state their opinions on decisions which affect them. He refused. Therefore, this is now a coup. The UMJ runs this planet.”

He turned and blasted a hole through Benchoullah’s forehead. Blood and brain matter spattered the walls and carpet. He turned back to the recording device. “I suppose you might say the Lunatics have take over the asylum.” He kicked Benchoullah’s lifeless body, adding “and nobody calls me fucking Junie anymore”.

The Planets Series – Mars

I’m writing this on the eve of my 25th birthday.

Can you imagine every miniscule detail of your life being documented on a daily basis? Think of some of the stupid shit you do every day when no-one else is around, then think about everyone you know watching you do it. Bad huh? You might pick your nose on your daily commute. Chat to yourself whilst you pee. Trip up over a pavement then do that little run/jog thing that people do then look around to see if anyone noticed, remember to laugh so people think you’re a good sport. Yeah that would suck right? Now think about not only everyone you know watching you but everyone on the planet watching you. No, everyone on the planets!! That’s right, planets – PLURAL. That anxiety-inducing thought I’ve just introduced to you is my life. You see my name is Martel Venson, you probably know me as Marty or ‘Mars Boy’. I’m the solar system’s first ever Martian.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m not a green skinned little guy with three eyes who flies a saucer shaped ship. No, nothing like that, it’s much more straight forward than that. I was the first child to ever be born on Mars.

In 2040 when humans officially began to migrate to the Red Planet, my parents were part of one of the very first groups to make the momentous trip. Two twenty-somethings with very little money, not much prospects and one very real bun in the oven. After they miraculously won Elon Musk’s Willy Wonka-esque Red ticket competition they were inducted into an intense life changing experience which whisked them away on a one-way journey to Big Red.

Dad had been a great manual labourer on Earth and despite his modest upbringings, he had become instrumental in helping to develop and build the societal infrastructure which we now live in today.

Fast forward 3 months and I was ready to make my first appearance. 10 or so years had gone into prepping and colonising Mars before the first group of travellers embarked on the journey with health and medical care at the forefront of developments. Thankfully therefore, the medical care both me and my Mother received in the Neuralink Royal Medical Centre was technologically groundbreaking and so beyond the medical attention we’d have received had I been born on Earth.

By my 6th birthday the population of Mars had exploded to 4 million. More new migrators were arriving annually whilst the birth of Martian children increased year on year. Even so, The Red Media Team (RTM was our planets flagship mainstream broadcaster) had never forgotten Mars’ favourite son. Luckily for me, my parents in their infinite wisdom, had decided to sell away the rights to my life. ‘Marty – Mars’ First Son’ would be an innovative reality television show which would document, yep you guessed it, the life and times of the first person to be born on Big Red. The 25 year, multi million Musk deal (Musk was the Martian currency, modestly named after the man himself) had dramatically changed my parents fortunes and had cemented me as the planets premier megastar.

I’ve never ever been able to come to terms with strangers approaching me to tell me how thrilling it was to share with me my first bath, my first feed, taking my first steps or horrifyingly my first kiss. It’s absolutely mind bending. And, for me, completely inescapable. On my first ever trip to Earth in my teens I had concocted a foolproof plan to escape the film crew and disappear into anonymity on the planet for the remainder of my days. Foolishly I hadn’t realised RTM broadcast the show into the TV screens of Earthlings too. As I had tried to slip away into a crowd I was chased down a street by a bunch of screaming Earthling teenage girls as they sang in unison the theme song to ‘Marty’. “Mars Boy, Mars Boy, You’re Our Favourite Mars Boy” they sang. Eventually I gave into the inevitable and posed for the selfies they craved.

It’s so incredibly odd how people, Martians and Earthlings alike, treat me as a commodity. An object they want to attach themselves to so that they can post a video or photo online to gain internet points from strangers. Others believe they know me, feel that I’m part of their own family. They’ll stop me and tell me they’ve grown up with me and laugh and joke about some horrible experience of my life I’ve since tried to forget. But I don’t know them. I don’t really know anyone. I don’t have any friends. And I certainly don’t have any girlfriend. I soon learned in my late teens that the type of girl who gravitated towards me wasn’t doing it for my rugged looks and charming personality.

So, although tomorrow I’ll be completely free of the blood sucking agreement which has literally followed me around my entire life, I’ve come to the realisation that I’ll never be free.

“Marty? Where are we going?” enquired the cameraman as Martel Venson put down his pen and slowly walked out of his bedroom, down out of his front door into the enclosed night, safely breathing the internal Martian air. “Marty?!” he asked again, this time with a little apprehension in his voice. Martel approached the emergency doors and typed in a code. He bypassed the external Bio suits hanging by the doors and opened them out into the gravelly red field. He quickly sealed the doors and paced forward. “MARTY!!” screamed onlookers.

Martel Venson, Mars’ first son, fell to his knees sucking for breath that would never come. As he lay alone beyond the transparent quadruply sealed glass a large group of Martians gathered, watching him from inside. They wailed and weeped uncontrollably as Mars’ first son who had shared so many firsts with his fellow Martians shared with them his final ever smile. He was finally free.

The Planets Series – Saturn

I sat alone in the small, dark cockpit large enough to fit one average sized person and no more. My senses tingled as the lights on the dashboard blinked yellow and orange in my peripheral vision. I dipped my head to look left, then right, through the side windscreens of my pod at 2 of my opponents. It gave me some small sense of relief to see that each of them looked as nervous as I felt.

My ear piece crackled to life giving me a jump. My AI co-pilot, VAHMIS (Vehicle and Human Maintenance Internal System), advised me that the race would commence in 2 minutes time and that he had began warming the engines. The large transparent bag strapped to the right hand side of my seat expanded with a dark yellow as I involuntarily emptied my bladder for what felt like the hundredth time since I’d climbed in the pod. I compulsively checked to make sure my feeding tube was plugged in correctly above me then sat back to take in the view in front of me.

2 or so clicks (km’s) ahead of me stood the enormous, terrifying black void. Only the twinkle of star light and the shining of 2 or so of Saturn’s 62 moons provided a hint of illumination ahead. The mixture of the gritty brown and icy white track below me seemed to be swallowed up by the darkness as it disappeared off into the distance.

This was it. I’d literally dedicated my life to this moment. 12 participants. 550,000 miles. 1 lap. I would be navigating this icy, rocky terrain for a period of 2 days (or slightly less I hoped). But the navigation was only half the battle. The other, arguably tougher test, was the mental game. Confining yourself to a small box with only a computerised voice in your ear for company and carrying out all bodily functions through tubes was not everyone’s idea of a good time. It was all I had dreamed of since I was kid.

In the 3 days previous I had embarked on an intensive stretching routine for 4-6 hours a day. This would allow my body to settle come crunch time. I’d also went through 2 hours daily digestive therapy involving a number of terrifyingly huge needles. This would provide me with a specially developed serum to relieve my body of all requirement to sleep for the following 72 hours, maintaining my optimal functionality for what was to come. The reported after-effects weren’t pretty – a migraine on steroids mixed with temporary paralysis of the body – but these were the sacrifices those at the very top of their field required to make and I was more than ready to make them.

“30 seconds” crackled VAHMIS. As the familiar cranking, whirring and whooshing of machinery and engine fire burst into life my small pod raised itself slightly above the track until it hovered a metre or so in the air. Following my pre-race routine, I slipped in my gum shield to avoid crushing my teeth during the initial acceleration and then commanded VAHMIS to commence playing my personally devised playlist. An aggressive, thumping bassline filled the space around me and vibrated through my whole body. I watched the lights above me begin their ten step sequence to indicate the start and bit down hard on my gum shield.

As they hit green I slammed both feet down onto the accelerator and planted them as hard as I could. My teeth bit down even harder on the protective shield in my mouth whilst my head and neck slammed back against my chair. Pinned there for a number of minutes I began to panic as blood poured onto the panel in front of me. On cue, VAHMIS indicated to me over the pounding bass that I was experiencing a number of ruptured blood vessels in my face but it was not a risk to retaining normal physical or mental functions. Great.

I felt a slow trickle of relief as the initial rush of acceleration eased and I settled into a steady pace on the shoulder of the defending champion who had evidently elected to make himself the pacemaker. I could see on my screen that one pod had already crashed out, disappearing wildly off the pod’s radar as their name was dramatically scratched from the digital leaderboard. 11 of us remained.

With 499,000 miles to go, I spat my bloody gum shield out, checked my vehicles’ vitals across the panels in front of me and slowly began to settle my nerves.

The annual F Ring Endurance Grand Prix around Saturn had begun.

The Game

Sam Thompson removed his jar of coffee and ‘Mr Grumpy’ Mr Men mug, placing it on the cabinet above him then emptied his pockets, placing his phone, wallet and keys into his small locker.

Zombie-like he trudged through to the clinically white small kitchen area and filled his mug with boiling water from the communal urn. Slamming the fridge shut he spun round and filled his large mug up to the top with milk.

It was 8 weeks since Sam’s wife had given birth to their first child, Harry. The period of paternity leave had been dream-like as Sam and his wife Holly had existed in their own little bubble, changing nappies, sharing feeding responsibilities and making lots of tea and coffee for excited visitors. The little guy had quickly become the centre of their world and at times Sam couldn’t remember what life had been like before Harry had come along.

One thing he could remember, however, and had been fantasising about since Harry’s Moses basket had replaced his bedside table, was how good it had felt to wake up naturally after a sleep longer than 4 hours. He was happy to split the baby responsibilities with Holly, he wouldn’t have had it any other way, but he missed his bed. He missed a decent sleep.

“Hey Sammy boy!!! how goes it?”

Jack Fennel flew into the kitchen area like a cyclone, slamming cupboard doors, throwing his tupperware lunch into the fridge and spinning to look at his workmate.

“Aye, not bad Jacko, how’s you” muttered Sam. It was as auto-pilot a response as you could get. All over their office-space you heard variations of the same conversation. Pleasant morning greetings followed by hollow small talk as people started their days. One of these days someone will answer that question truthfully, thought Sam, and the person asking the question probably won’t like the answer.

“Excellenttyyyyy” Jack replied enthusiastically in a faux Spanish accent. He was a morning person, everyone in the office commented on it. As sure as it was likely to rain in Scotland’s capital city where they worked, you could guarantee Jack would be bright eyed and bushy tailed first thing in the morning.

“Well?” Jack prodded at Sam’s shoulders as he trudged from the kitchen to his desk. “Well??” he repeated. Sam, concentrating on the task of not spilling his coffee during the walk, ignored him and slumped down into his chair. He unlocked his computer and turned to look at Jack. “What are you saying pal?” he asked.

“Wellllll???” asked Jack, a giant smile on his face and jazz hands shaking directly in front of Sam’s tired eyes. “Did you watch the game last night? It was amazing! What a masterclass from Messi eh?”

Football had been Jack and Sam’s common interest when they’d both started together at the company on the same day. It was an easy conversation piece to break the ice and as much as Sam enjoyed watching games when he was younger, in recent years he’d fallen out of love with football.

The outrageous sums of money shelled out by British clubs who were predominantly owned by Russian oil barons and Saudi Prince’s to kick a ball about had left him soured. In a world where his newborn child’s children may not even have a planet to live on, he couldn’t swallow watching talentless athletes being paid £100k a week to flop and roll about on the floor feigning injury in an attempt to con their way to a victory.

If Sam had a fiver for every time he had been asked this question by Jack – “did you watch the game last night?” – he’d have been able to pay to take Harry and Holly to Disneyland for his 1st birthday.

Whenever he was asked about the game which had been on the previous night, Sam had politely feigned interest with enough vague knowledge of some of the players Jack was enthusing about to hold a convincing conversation. After 10 minutes of an expletive filled rant from Jack about the influence of Italian defending on the Chelsea back line, Sam would nod, shrug his shoulders and turn back to his computer. This, he had learned, would signal to Jack that the conversation was over and he’d bound across the office starting up the same conversation with whatever poor soul was stupid enough to make eye contact with him. He was like an energetic puppy. But even the cutest of puppies urinate on carpets and tear apart your brand new sofa.

They had been going through the motions of this conversation about ‘the game’ for 18 months now.

“I’m saying” replied Jack in a mocking tone “did you see the game? You must have surely?”

“Do you know me and Holly had a kid 8 weeks ago mate?” replied Sam.

Jack looked at him blankly. “Uh, yeah. Enough about babies though! That’s women’s chat!” he laughed. “Did you watch the footy last night?” He shrugged off Sams question and pursued his opportunity to wax lyrical about Argentina’s greatest gift to the beautiful game since Diego Maradona.

“No mate. I was in my bed by 8 o clock. Holly stayed up to do the late feed and then I was up again at 2am to feed Harry. I didn’t get back to bed until 5am so I’m really quite knackered. Do you mind if I just crack on here? I’ve got things to do and I really need this coffee.”

“You didn’t watch the game?” Jack said, his face contorted in disgust. “It was the Champions League semi finals, how could you not have watched it?” he was incredulous. It was as if Sam had said he’d went into town and beaten up a few homeless people then burned down an old folks home for good measure. Jack took a minute to let this information sink into his hyperactive brain.

“Sam” asked Jack sheepishly. “Yes, mate” Sam replied without looking up from his computer. “Did you really watch the game or are you having me on?”

Sam’s heart thumped in his chest as his blood bubbled to boiling point . His sleep deprived brain sent adrenaline flushing throughout his body. Jacks mouth gaped wide open as Sam’s mouse disintegrated in his bright red hand. He flopped back in his chair before Sam grabbed him by the badge-covered lapels of his jacket and screamed in his terrified face. “I. DIDN’T. WATCH. THE GAME. YOU. IMBECILE” he raged. “I’M TIRED AND JUST WANT SOME PEACE. PLEASE JUST SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!”

He threw Jack back down into his seat and stormed off to the kitchen area. Breathing hard, he filled his coffee cup, slowly coming to the realisation of what he’d just done. Four of his colleagues popped their head round the kitchen door to ask if he was OK and to congratulate him on finally shutting Jack up. He assured them he was fine and just needed five minutes. He wasn’t proud of himself for losing his cool and felt bad for Jack, who just wanted someone to chat to. He shuffled back round to his desk with the intention of apologising.

“Listen Jack” started Sam in a low voice, his head dipped in regret “I’m really sorry about that, I’m not sleeping well since..”

“It’s fine!” interrupted Jack, puppy-like excitement had returned to his face and he was smiling erratically at Sam. “Did you watch the game though? You must have!”

By the time the twinkling shards of glass from the 3rd floor window had stopped raining down around Jack’s lifeless body which lay contorted, leaking pools of scarlet on the car park below, Sam was in his car and already out of the office car park. He opened his window and flicked on the radio, allowing the breeze to cool his adrenaline sapped face.

“This is BBC Radio 5 Live.” said the soothing voice of the radio presenter. “So, Maureen, before I ask you about what weather we’ve got coming this weekend, I have to ask you…” “NO!” screamed Sam. “DON’T YOU DARE!!” he shrieked.

“….did you watch the game last night?”

The Book Assignment

After another round of aimlessly running his index finger along the dusty row of books, Thomas sighed and slumped down in the uncomfortable plastic chairs which were dotted around the school library. He was running out of time now, the library closed at 4pm and it was pushing 3.40pm. He had been here since lunch time and was yet to find anything he was remotely interested in.

Mr Graves had been clear about the assignment. Pick a non-fiction book, preferably an autobiography, written about someone you’ve never heard of. The 3 month assignment then required pupils to read the book, do some follow-up research then submit a report to Mr Graves about who the person was and what you’d learned about them. Tomorrow, Thomas would be required to tell Mr Graves the book title and subject, right now he was looking at failing the assignment before it had even began.

His friends had been so excited to come along to the library after class had finished. They were all having a great time picking out all sorts of weird and wonderful titles, laughing at the strange characters who adorned the front covers. Mrs Mayer, the head librarian, had warned them that if she’d heard anymore laughing and shouting when there were people trying to study they’d all be banned for a month. She explained to them in great length how she she’d happily tell Mr Graves why none of them could complete their next English assignment. As their heads dropped and they apologised in whispered grunts and shrugs, she returned to her task of stamping a large pile of returned books with a smug look of satisfaction on her face. This ticking off had resulted in the group grabbing books in the ‘biography’ section of the library at random and trudging out one after the other like a conga line of extras from Night of the Living Dead.

Thomas, though, couldn’t find anything that interested him. That’s why he’d decided to use his free afternoon to find something and someone he could get lost in. He had an obsessive behaviour type and he felt there was no use spending 3 months researching, reading and probably obsessing about someone if they’re as dull as dishwater.

Sat there, drifting off into thought, Thomas cursed Mr Graves. Why couldn’t they have done what his brothers class had done only 2 years ago? That would have been so much better. They had each got to pick a book and research someone they classed as their hero. Thomas’ brother, Barry, had ended up actually meeting his hero, footballer and infamous granny-botherer Wayne Rooney, after messaging him on the social media site Twitter to tell him all about the assignment.

These thoughts vanished suddenly as Thomas was jolted backed into the present when the library bell rang out to signal 3.45pm.

“15 minutes children! grab your books and bring them to me at the desk” announced Mrs Mayer.

She pursed her lips and seemed to be making a particular point of looking directly at Thomas. He acknowledged her with a nod of the head and pushed himself out of the small, uncomfortable chair. The plastic arms clung to his thighs as he tried to make his way out of it, almost as if to try to coerce him into sitting back down again. He shrugged it off and gave it a little kick back under the small desk.

He had been sat opposite the ‘autobiography’ section and as he stood up the pitch-black spine of a book caught his eye. It was tucked in between 2 brightly coloured books which each had small square pictures of their subject with bright, witty titles dancing down the sleeves. This one, however, was completely black. He placed his finger on the top of the spine and gently pulled it out, blowing the dust off the front cover. It was completely black. No title, no author – just black. He flipped it over to check out the blurb on the back, but to his surprise the back was the same as the front – completely blank, pitch black. This was clearly odd but it was also really intriguing to Thomas. The mysterious cover had drawn him in, he needed to find out more. His quiet surroundings and the ticking clock evaporated as all he was concerned with at that moment was opening the first page and finding out more. His eyes danced across the page as he took in the introduction.

“My name is Frank McQueen. I’m 25 years old and I’m a Newark native. I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve walked up and down these streets my whole life, as a kid and as an adult. If you’ve lived here and walked these streets too, we’ve probably bumped into each other once or twice. But, you wouldn’t know me. I’m no-one. No-one has ever given me a second look. I’m a boring-looking average Joe. I look like every other dumb schmuck who sleepwalks his way through his life from being a gormless kid beat up at school to suffering through some dead end job to make ends meet. No-one will remember me. No-one.”

Wow, thought a dejected Thomas. That’s about as boring as it gets. That’s the dull dishwater he was looking to avoid. Mr Graves had said they should look for a book that would challenge them. Thomas thought the only thing challenging about this book would be staying awake to read it.

“Ouch!!” shrieked Thomas. Pain radiated between his shoulder blades as something piercing struck him and burrowed into his muscles. He spun, switching his focus from the words on the page of disappointing mystery book to the cause of the pain. Mrs Mayer was stood staring down at him, hands on her hips, lips pursed like she was sucking on a lemon with a solitary long red nail pointed directly at him.

“2 minutes Thomas.” she squawked. “Some of us have homes to go to you know.”

He looked down and realised, in his haste, he had dropped the black book at his feet when he had been prodded in the back by the stuffy librarian. As he reached down to pick the book up with the intention of disappointingly putting it back on the dusty shelf, he noticed it had landed open on the following page from where he had been reading. Putting Mrs Mayer and her oddly sharp, painted talons to the back of his mind, he read on.

“My name is Frank McQueen. I’m 25 years old and I’m a Newark native. I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve walked up and down these streets my whole life, as a kid and as an adult. If you’ve lived here and walked these streets too, we’ve probably bumped into each other once or twice. If you’re a dirtbag, a scumbag peddling drugs to our kids or fancy yourself as some kind of kingpin, well we’ll have definitely bumped into each other. You’d know me. I’m the guy you met in the dark. The guy who made you rethink your career choices. I was your worst nightmare. I’m the man they called the New Jersey Devil and I stalked the streets of our great city from 1982 to 1987 wiping scum face-first from the earth. This is my story.”

“Wow” said Thomas out loud into the silent room. He grabbed his bag from his feet and ran to the check out desk. Mrs Mayer sucked her teeth and tutted as he snatched the book back from her and flew out the library door in a haze of excitement.

Wrestling With My Demons – The Mike ‘Miracle Man’ Morrison Story

The following is an excerpt from the controversial autobiography of professional wrestler Mike ‘Miracle Man’ Morrison. Get your copy in Hardback, in the Kindle Store or on Audiobook when it’s released 14 September 2019

Chapter 14 – Revival

The least expected revival in the wrestling business came at a time when I was sure I was done. I was a journeyman. 46 year old, living on the road 320 days a year. My kids were in school and I was missing out on them growing up, every time I’d get a text or a Facetime I’d be staring into two ever-growing, ever-changing faces. And they were staring into the face of an ever-aging, out of shape, has-been. Sure, whenever we rolled into Pittsburgh I’d see them but it was never for long enough. With both knees having been replaced, my right shoulder hanging on by a thread and the threat of another concussion looming over me, I’d almost made the decision to pack my bags and tell the company I was done after Ring Revolution, our year end PPV. That was until that fateful August Monday night.

I got the call from show writer Dirk Henley that I was to meet him in the writers room as soon as I got to the building that evening. This wasn’t too peculiar an event, normally if I was going on first to open the TV show it would be to job to (lose to) whoever they wanted to get over. They’d let me know who it would be and in what fashion. I’d then meet up with whoever the new young wonderkid was I was laying down to that night and work out the details of our match. As I knocked and went in, I realised there were alot more bodies in the writing room than normal, including Henley, the boss Harrison Pritchard and our companies champion, Achilles Cage.

Cage was the biggest thing in the wrestling business, probably ever. He was so over with every single demographic that he’d never had to pay for gas or food as we travelled across the country that year. The fans absolutely adored him. As did all the guys (and girls) in the back. He represented us professionally across every platform. Articulate and intelligent he could hold his own debating politics on Good Morning America just as well as he could throw a football and bench press the equivalent of a large family of Samoans with the guys in the gym. Only in his mid-20’s, he was destined to be a star for the next 25 years at least.

Cage, glistening gold Championship belt thrown over his shoulder, welcomed me into the room with a chiselled, handsome smile and laid a large hand on my shoulder as I walked in. Pritchard, backed by four or five writers, looked extremely animated as he began to explain my segment in the show that evening. To my utter astonishment he explained that they were going to turn Cage heel tonight, in my hometown. For those that aren’t up to speed on their wrestling vernacular, the companies blue eyed boy would be turning bad guy. Remember, Cage was the darling of every living room in America and he was making the company so much money through merchandise that they could have probably put him out in the middle of the ring reading a telephone directory and still made a profit. So, to turn him heel was a shock to say the least. The part I didn’t get at that point was why Pritchard emphasised that this was my hometown and, more to the point, why he was telling me.

“Obviously you’re massively over with the fans Mike, especially here.” he began explaining. “Yes, you’ve had some bumps in the road lately but you were a Territories legend. First ever NCPW champion, first ever PNWD champion. You’re a living legend. To people in this town, you’re a hero.” I felt my chest begin to swell with pride, then, just as I began to feel some warmth course through my my cold, aching body, POP! I was deflated like a burst balloon. “That’s why you’re the perfect guy for Achilles to turn on. We’re going to use you to turn him heel, tonight. I want you guys in a tag match against the Boom Benders. You guys will beat them handily then Cage will turn on you after the match. I want you to get up and make it a fight, but you’ll take a severe beating, that’s how it has to be to get him some serious heat. Cage, you know how to work the crowd after that. This is history in the making guys! The biggest star in our company turning heel on the hometown legend. Achilles, this’ll set you up for a momentous rivalry with Black Mamba which we’ve planned to go right up until Ring Revolution”.

Admittedly I was excited, slated to work with the biggest star in the business again after years of jobbing to younger guys on the come up. I’d be top billed with Cage on the Monday Night Mat Slam TV show, something for my kids to boast to their friends about on Tuesday morning at school.

Cage and I met with the Boom Benders backstage to scope out the plan for the match. The Boom Benders aka Jackie Ace and Fergus ‘Braveheart’ Ferguson are two amazing guys, genuine lifelong friends of mine. They wouldn’t mind me describing them as a couple of journeymen wrestlers – they’d done it all in this industry as solo competitors – but recently they’d built themselves a new lease of life and a huge following as a heel tag team in the company. Their ‘Here Comes the Boom’ shirts were in the top three sellers in the company, just behind Cage and Mamba’s merchandise.

The plan, as we had put it together, was for me to basically take a beating from Jackie and Fergus for a good ten minutes, allowing them to showcase all their best tandem moves. They were so innovative as a team and produced so many new, original moves together. Eventually, though, I would counter and tag Cage in to unleash hell on them and finish them off with us ending up eventual winners. This was a fairly standard, well used tag team blueprint: one of the good guy takes a beating from two heels, eventually he tags in the hero, the hero whips some ass and finishes the match off. That would only be the appetiser though. As Pritchard had told us earlier, the real main event of the show would be the heel turn of Cage.

The tag match went without a hitch, almost exactly as planned. The beating I took from the Boom Benders was brutal and convincing. Given the number of matches I’d had with both Ferguson and Ace across the years as single competitors, our chemistry was excellent. I was selling their moves like I was back in my twenties. The crowd were eating it up, booing them and chanting for their Miracle Man almost non-stop. From their perspective their hometown hero was being given a hellacious beat down. Ultimately, once Cage got in, he cleaned house quickly and put them both away in impressive style.

It was at this point that things swayed from the plan.

After the Boom Benders had cleared the ring, Cage gently picked my broken body up from the bloodied canvas and lifted my right arm to the adulation of the crowd. They were going wild. “MI-RA-CLE, MI-RA-CLE!!!” reverberated around the arena. As I raised my left arm in unison, Cage slipped my right arm behind my back, snaked behind me, grabbing me from behind and suplexed me hard onto the back of my neck.

As I landed on the hard, bloodied canvas my brain rattled about in my cranium and my shoulders and back burnt like they’d been set on fire. I lay there, as if I’d been ejected out of a fighter jet, eyes to the rafters as the crowd fell completely silent. They were shocked. I tried to suppress a smile as they’d reacted exactly as Pritchard had hoped. Cage walked over and grabbed me by the hair to lift me back up. He whispered into my ear “one more, then reverse it” I nodded briefly. He slipped my lifeless arm behind my back again and brutally suplexed me once more. This time the boo’s from the Pittsburgh crowd were deafening. My lifeless body lay, eyes closed, as Cage began to berate the crowd and then berate me. He stood over me, arms raised, soaking in the boo’s of the crowd.

He decided he hadn’t gone far enough. He leant down over me and spat directly in my face. The crowd erupted, they began throwing whatever they had to hand into the ring. Drink cup, hot dogs, burgers, programmes rained down on us.

The heel turn plan had worked perfectly. But at what cost? I felt I’d not just been used as part of a plan to get Cage even more over but I’d been wildly disrespected in the process. Spitting in my face? Listen, anyone who has ever worked with me will tell you, I’ll sell every move in the book, I’m happy to be used to put over any new young guy in the industry. I understand how hard it can be to get heat from the wrestling crowds, especially a guy who was so over that he was a household name on every sports and celebrity channel going. But, spitting in my face? What was left of my ego couldn’t stomach that.

“Fuck was that?!” I shouted up at Cage as I lay there as if beaten to a pulp. “It’s cool” he grinned as he bent to pick me up by the hair again “just go with it, I need the heat. OK, reversal time”. As he held my wobbling body by the hair he lifted 3 fingers to the crowd to indicate I’d be going for my third ride courtesy of Cage airways. However, as planned, I slipped behind him and yanked his right arm hard behind his back. “Here’s your fucking heat” I spat into his ear. I grabbed him round the midriff with his arm trapped and suplexed him as hard and fast as my broken body would allow. We both landed with a sickening crack onto the canvas. He screamed. Not, ‘wrestler selling a move’ screamed but genuinely screamed in excruciating pain. I can admit right here right now that I immediately regretted it. I’d lost my temper, the spitting had royally pissed me off. I’d reacted in the worst possible way.

As all this had transpired and I lifted myself up to check on him, the crowd were going absolutely wild for what had just happened. Referees and company officials flooded the ring, pushing beyond me to check on Cage. Within seconds, EMT’s were called and Cage’s battered body was quickly lifted onto a stretcher and moved to the back. The crowd, still believing this was a work, continued to litter him with trash as he was wheeled past them into the back of the arena, beyond the curtain. This poor guy was being stretchered out with what would ultimately result in a broken right orbital bone, a broken right collarbone and a fractured right humerus and he was being pelted with half eaten burgers and watery light beers.

I’d resigned myself to the fact that I would be fired. I’d probably get my ass kicked once I made it into the back from some of Cage’s closest friends, particularly former MMA Heavyweight fighter Mamba. But that was the least of my worries, I can handle myself physically, despite my age. It was the threat of legal action from Pritchard and the company that scared me. I’d not only just ruined their headline feud for the foreseeable future but I’d also just potentially ended the career of the biggest star in the wrestling business.

As the TV show went off the air I soaked in the adulation of the crowd for one last time “MI-RA-CLE” still rang out through the arena and each time I climbed the turnbuckles to raise my arms and thank them, they got even louder. I trudged slowly to the back, the fans chants ringing in my ears.

As I emerged through the curtain into the backstage area, I was met by, amongst others, a red-faced, perspiring Pritchard and a clearly enraged Dax ‘Black Mamba’ Duffee.

Wrestling with my Demons – The Mike ‘Miracle Man’ Morrison Story is in stores 14 September 2019

An Everyday Scottish Villain

Before A tell ye my story, there’s somin ye should know. A didnae ask for this. A didnae ayways want tae be like this. A didnae create some mad serum in a lab to give ees super strength or build a mental technological suit to help ees fight crime. Christ, A barely even looked after myself. A wee 5km run there, a game of 5’s wi ma pals if they were short o’ bodies there. Maybe a’d half-arsed try tae diet if I noticed the auld capital D graun in the mirror but that was it.

And listen, am no writing this tae ask for yer apologies, for ye tae turn up at my door an’ say “it’s awright mate, aw is forgiven”. Am dain it cos A wantae be left alone. Aye A ken how that sounds but it’s true, A wantae be able to sit aboot in ma kegs playing FIFA or just gaun oot wi a bird to the cinema withoot some arsehole interrupting the film tae tell ees am their hero, or worse, expecting ees tae save their fucking granny fi dying eh cancer. So, here gauns.

First time A ever flew was the night A tried tae top myself. A was absolutely fucked, A’d been on ma ain aw day listening to depressing as fuck music, drinking aw the bevvy in the hoose until A’d drunk it dry. By the end ae it, A’d decided A’d had enough.

So, there a was, stood in the pishing rain, greeting ma face off, pish staining the front o’ ma joggies and shite running doon the back of ma leg. What a fucking pathetic excuse for a human being. A felt sorry for the poor cunt that had tae wade oot for what was left o’ ees the next day or even worse scrape ma brains up fae the side ae the water. Sorry mate, A thought, shouldae stuck in wi yer exams though. What a fucking weird thought that was eh? My last ever thought and am critiquing some poor bastard coonsel workers life choices.

A looked doon intae the dark unknown and stepped off the edge. It’s true what they say mind, as soon as e dae it, ye regret it. A’d have geen anythin tae have reversed that decision. Lucky for me A never hit the concrete wall ae water 50 feet beneath ees then eh? aye lucky boy, that’s me right enough.

A opened ma eyes and looked oot at the darkness. A could see fuck all, a wondered if a’d somehow woken up in a fuckin box. That’d have been the perfect fucking end for a fuck-up like me, couldnae even dae that right, A thought, a’ve ended up waking up in my fuckin coffin destined tae fuckin rot tae pieces. As it turned oot, A could tell that A was getting soaked tae ma skin, so A kent A was still ootside. A felt the pulsing waves beneath ees tickle ma feet through the cauld ae ma trainers. A looked doon and if a hadnae shite ma’self awready, A’d have done it right there and then. A was stood, naw that’s no right, I was hovering half a metre above the waves. Then, just as easy as it is tae get oot yer wankin chariot in the morning and shuffle through for a pish, A took off toward the edge o the water, landing on the safe, solid concrete. As A hink aboot it now it sounds ridiculous. A wouldnae believe it if some cunt started slaverin oan about how they were takin their dug for a walk and suddenly they realised they could shoot lasers oot their eyes.

Fae there A developed mare hings. A could lift anyhin A wanted. A could run fast as fuck. And aye a could shoot lasers oot ma eyes. Ma body started lookin like one o them erseholes on the front o Men’s Health magazine. Ripped as fuck. Like Hulk Hogan on even mair steroids than he was on when a was a bairn. Even if A ate 7 chippies a week I was still ripped tae fuck. Listen, superpowers or no, A wisnae planning on ditching ma king rib suppers fae Sergio’s.

Efter realising A was the only person on Earth wi superpowers I did what maste folk would dae. A got fuckin steamin and sterted textin aw ma auld birds selfies eh ma 6 pack and muckle biceps. A got a class yin o me shooting lasers across ma kitchen, burnt right through the front o ma fridge door tae. Course the replies were pretty much aw the same. “Aye gid yin dickhead” came the first. “Nice special effects app, whit yin is it?” came another. The best one though “Haha, there’s mare chance o me graun a muckle cock than there is o you being ripped like that”. Aye, cheers Big Courtney.

The final hing A realised A could dae was heal hings though. I say hings cos A only realised it when A was oot running fast as fuck and belted straight intae this wee dug. A went right through the wee bastard, blood and guts awwhere. A went ower and picked up his wee heid, greeting an apologising like it’d make the blindest bit difference. Except, it fuckin did! The next hing a knew the wee bastard was licking ma face and kicking his wee back legs intae my stomach.

After the dug A decided tae dae a wee experiment. A waited until the middle o the night and ran doon tae the cemetery. A took a wee wander roond in the pitch black, shining ma laser eyes tae illuminate the grave stanes until A came across a tiny wee yin. Some poor wee laddie that had deed at 8 yer auld. A’d love tae tell e A stood there debating the moral consequences ae what a was aboot tae dae but to be honest a couldnae have started shovelling the dirt up fast enough. Quite literally. A had the wee coffin up in nae time wae ma mental strength and fast as fuck airms. A ripped the top off and grabbed the poor wee laddie in ma airms. He can only have been deed weeks or months cos he wasnae rotten or that but he was grey as fuck and he was definitely fuckin stinkin. His dusty wee eyes flickered open and he started breathin fast as fuck, shiting umself. “It’s awright wee man” A says tae um “A’m healing e.” Poor wee bastard almost passed oot straight away, thankfully eh managed tae croak oot where eh lived before he slumped back intae ma airms. A flew um hame and left um in his wee bed, still aw made up.

If yer reading this e probably ken much o the rest. The parents woke up, shite themselves then sterted posting photaes eh the wee fellae on social media. Cos nothing’s every really happened unless e post it online eh? Fuds. What seemed like the whole world, had set up camp ootside this families hoose in Bathgate. Fae aw kinds ae media, tae cults dedicated tae the wee fellae, tae religious freaks thinking this wee boy was the second coming o whae-ever. The family were making an absolute mint off it. And fair play tae wee Andy he never said what happened tae him. Maybe ae couldnae mind but A suspected he wanted tae keep me his ain wee secret.

A gave it a few weeks before A eventually came forward and contacted the BBC tae tell them what a’d done. They immediately banned ees fae contacting their social media accounts and somehow managed tae cut off ma phone line and broadband efter contacting them that way. A wouldnae have believed ees either of course. They left ees nae choice but tae make a wee surprise appearance on the 6 o’clock News. A rushed past security, flew ontae the screen and picked up the tidy wee lassie dain the weather. She was lovin it, nae doubt about it. Efter A stopped the bullets fae the security and they stuck the cameras back oan, a was able tae tell ma whole story. A telt yees aw aboot ma superpowers and how A found oot aboot them. It was class. I was living the high life. Getting sent aw this designer stuff tae wear and getting DM’s fae aw the top models.

For aboot a week, that is.

Then it started. Locally to begin wi. Folk fi ma auld school knocking doon ma door asking me to heal their maws arthritis or take a look at their da’s prostate. They didnae even have the decency tae try and get on ma gid side either. No even “awright mate, mind that time a knocked e oot behind the bike sheds cos e looked at ma bird in fourth year”. Naw. It was mare like “Haw you, heal ma maw.” “Hoy, dae what ye did for that wee laddie tae ma Uncle’s deed budgie”. A ended up just flying away up tae the sky and thrawn stanes at them. A obviously didnae mean to kill that cunt wi that stane, a forgot ma ain strength. And a flew doon and healed him onyway, a never understood what the big deal was.

Soon efter the Government were doon ma throat, getting me tae dae wee missions for them. “it’s yer duty son, for Queen and Country” they said tae me. Flying intae war zones and lasering fuck oot ae these mad Barbarians and jihadis. I soon realised that it was up tae me tae make that decision though. This isnae Gotham City. There isnae the good guys and the bad guys. And there’s nowt tae say that the Government are the gid guys. In fact there’s alot o evidence tae suggest otherwise. Why should a knock off wee Kimmy Jong just cos some posh toff cunt tells ees tae? How div a ken he’s no sound? He hings aboot wi Big Dennis Rodman so I reckon he must be awright like.

That’s why a did what a did. A realise now that it was a bit extreme but if you were a miserable wee shite that wanted tae top yersel then ye turned intae Superman mixed wi the Hulk, ye might gaun a wee bit power hungry tae. A ken A shouldnae have done it, but a did. Folk need tae get ower it.

Am sorry for slaughtering aw they MP’s awright? Is that what ye want tae hear? Am sorry. A was steaming again. I flew doon tae speak tae them at Westminster, they started freakin oot and condescending ees and a lost it. The lasers came oot, heids started rollin and my thirst fur blood turned ees a wee bit mad. These things happen. Well they dinnae anymare obviously cos av calmed doon a bit. There’s nae point sending the airmy, there’s nae point the Yanks trying tae fuckin nuke ees again cos none o it works. So please just leave ees alane. If ye want tae say awright or gees a wee high five when e see ees that’s fine, a’ll try no tae break yer wrist like a did that wee laddie in Washington. A was still learning then.

Am no a Villain just cos a dinnae want tae heal the world like Michael fuckin Jackson. Am just a normal guy. So, please, next time ye see me dinnae ask ees tae bring yer wee guinea pig back fae the deed, dinnae ask ees tae assassinate that fanny in the White Hoose and for the luv o fuck dinnae ask ees for a selfie, am fed up payin oot for new phones. Stupit fuckin laser eyes.

Oh aye, and for aw the folk asking online: no am no single, aye A am gaun oot wi Margaret Boaby, Hamilton’s very ane Margot Robbie Impersonator and naw, nae amount o superpowers stop e fae blowing yer load prematurely.