So we finally come to last years novel. In it my favourite character Colonel Montgomery “Monty” McSwine returns and this time takes the main character role. Created way back in my first Novel “The Search for Goth Disco” as an aside when i ran into a writing wall, he turns up in most of the stories I have written. A 1940’s David Niven-esque Scotsman, served in the British Army during the second world war and is a cross dresser. not in a sexual sense, just because he finds the clothing comfortable. That was based on a couple of things. The film Ed Wood, based on the famous (in certain bad film loving circles) cross dressing film director (seriously go and watch Glen or Glenda for a movie that will enthrall you with…why…wtf…wait!!!). In the film, Ed tells a potential employer that he was perfect to direct a film about a transvestite because he had stormed Omaha beach wearing a bra and panties (or he may have parachuted somewhere…cant remember..sorry) because he found them comforting. Also I had just watched an Eddie Izzard dvd where he spoke about Action Transvestites. So the Colonel was born and he has stuck around for a lot longer than I ever thought he would.
There is the John Barrowman connection by the way. A friend of mine (namechecked in the 2012 novel) suggested that if they ever filmed Goth Disco, John Barrowman would be perfect casting. I had not thought about it until then….now I cannot think of anyone else when I write him. Tall, good looking Scotsman – we could coach him from Glaswegian to Aberdonian accent-wise. He would be perfect.
Anyway when I sat down to write this novel, this opening had been forming in my head for a while. I knew I wanted the image of a tall man in female evening dress (think the brass in It Aint Half Hot Mum in drag) walking into a Police Station and being told that he could not smoke indoors any more. Oh the humanity!!!
The story that follows this beginning is one that really went all over the place. From the streets of Aberdeen, where a high level conspiracy is being played out with utter contempt for the common people – to a moon-base that has gone dark. I could quite clearly see a hot air zepplin style aircraft, sailing through outer space. It included a robotic cat and a man from the 40’s, struggling to adapt to a more futuristic era, that somehow was less technologically advanced than his.
The title came from a misheard lyric from a Garbage song. I thought it was a great lyric until I realised what it really said…then I decided my version was better.
So sit down, pour yourself a cup of something nice (you may need to stand up to do this…sorry!)
This is the first, unedited draft of “The World Is Wrong”
The World Is Wrong
Paul Alexander Reaney
There is an envelope, locked in a safe, held within a room that not many people
are aware of. It has sat, locked away, for decades now. The instructions that
came with it have been passed down from specific person to person over all that
time. The degree of secrecy surrounding the envelope has been tightly
maintained over the years, such is the importance that this envelope and its
contents have. Only a select few are even aware that the envelope exists and
yet no-one know what it contains. It sits within that safe, secured with a series of
metal cogs and a matchstick thin padlock. The instructions clearly state that the
envelope will open automatically on a certain date and at a certain time. Any
attempt to open it before that date and time will fail. Despite all the warnings,
there have been teams of security experts who have tried. Tried and failed,
every single time. The last attempt had taken place over eight years ago and
had concluded with the following report.
So the letter was left in the safe and certain people had kept track of the
countdown. Nothing was known about the contents of the letter, other than that it
was of the upmost importance for the protection and security of the country.
The latest custodian of the letter was the chief of police for Aberdeen. The
instructions that came with the letter had made it quite clear that the letter should
always remain in Aberdeen. Whatever it related to, was going to affect Aberdeen
first and foremost. Since the instructions had made it clear that the contents of
the letter directly referred to the safety and security of the country, the warnings
were taken seriously. Whenever the chief of police of Aberdeen changed, they
were always taken into a small secret room where they were briefed by a strange
figure. The importance of the letter and the security of the country was drummed
into them. This letter had been placed into the security of Aberdeen’s chief of
police, under the supervision of security chiefs of the highest order, way back in
nineteen forty eight.
The date on the letter and the time had been the constant all of this time. That
was when the letter would somehow open itself, probably using the metal cogs
and gears somehow and its contents would be revealed. That day was now and
the time was fast approaching. The chief of police stood at her window, watching
over the city as the night fell. The glistening granite buildings looked so alive
during the daylight but as the brightness fell, the granite seemed to suck all the
light in and the city took on a very grey and cold look. The whole feel of the city
took on a much darker overtone, although that was only if you didn’t know the
place. As the dark fingers of night spread further across the skyline, the city lit up
becoming an oasis of neon in the countryside. The cold was still prevalent, albeit
now as an actual feeling rather than an imagined one. People scurried about
their business outside and up above them all, watching like a benevolent ruler,
stood Chief Barbara “Babs” Gordon. At just a few months shy of fifty, she was one of the youngest chief of police ever in Aberdeen. Her rise through the ranks
had been a steady one. Nobody had expected anything less of this ambitious
lady but at the same time, no-one had thought that it would have happened so
early. Still she had earned her position and title through hard work. Bloody hard
work at times. When she had eventually reached this position, the previous hard
work all seemed to have been worth it. There had been failed relationships and
she had put off having children early in her career and then the chances never
came again. However, it had all been the way it had supposed to be, she
thought. She was destined to reach this position and everything that had
happened beforehand to her was all part of a grand plan. That was how she
explained it to people who asked if she missed being a mother. In some way she
did but overall, this was the path her life had taken and that was enough for her.
When she had been taken into the confidences of the security services and had
the letter explained to her, it had seemed incredibly surreal. Yet here was the
previous chiefs of police standing in the same room, confirming everything that
she was being told. It had seemed as if it was some sort of initiation joke that
was being played on her. Sometimes she still felt that this was the case and that
when the specified time and date arrived, the whole ruse would be revealed and
the joke would be on her.
Yet she had examined the letter on many occasions, turning the slim, cool metal
envelope over in her hands again and again. How could something that was
supposedly made back in the late nineteen forties, seem to be so technically
superiors to everything she had been taught about how society was back then.
The intricacy of the gears and the padlock was a beauty of engineering.
Certainly it looked as if it could not have been accurately constructed nowadays
yet alone back then.
Her desk clock alarm beeped twice. It was almost time. Moving back from the
window, she sat in her very old and comfortable leather chair and looked at the
letter sitting in front of her. She had toyed with the idea of waiting until the
specified time to remove it from the safe but there was an element of excitement
that had lain inside her as the date and time grew nearer. It felt almost like
Christmas and here she was with a present that she didn’t know what it was. It
was a great childlike feeling and she could not resist it. When she had arrived at
her office that day, she had managed to resist the urge to open the safe for
around an hour and a half. Just.
“Barbara, don’t forget the camera please”. A disembodied voice spoke through
the micro speakers that were hidden around her office. Of course, she had
forgotten about these. There were a lot of people who were waiting on the
outcome of this letters opening. Pulling open a hidden panel on the front of her
wooden desk, she entered in the code word and then heard the soft whirr of the
cameras switching on. The select few, who had known about this letter, were
watching and waiting. The feeling that this was all a joke sprang to her mind
once again. Was she about to be made a fool of on camera?
“Thank you Barbara.” The voice spoke again, the many years of tobacco staining
giving its intonation a deep woody sound, “Gentlemen, welcome to what we have
all been custodians of for so many years.”There was a murmur of agreement from the other watchers. Barbara knew some
of them, having met them briefly on the day she had been inducted into this
secret society. Others had stayed in the background, their level of involvement
kept secret from her, despite her level of security clearance.
“Good evening” Barbara spoke. Again came the various voices. There she was
on camera in front of all these people. All waiting for the opening of the letter.
She believed that she would have to read the contents aloud for them to hear.
This had played into her feeling that this was all a big joke at her expense. An
expensive way to take the mickey, she thought as the technology that was
installed in her room for this level of audio and video conferencing must have
cost many thousands of pounds.
A second alarm beeped from her desk clock. It was now time.
The click of the lock opening was just audible to her. The metal slid open and
then the gears and cogs started to turn. She was excited. Finally she would find
out what she had been a custodian of for all these years. The top flap slowly
flipped open, exposing a small thin box. It lit up and Barbara could hear music
playing. The tune was unfamiliar to her, a classical tune certainly but not one
she was familiar with. Words began to appear slowly, almost as if they were
burning their way through the metallic paper of the letter. As Barbara was trying
to make out the words, a flash of light shot out of the small box and formed a
figure of light standing in front of her desk. Looking up, she saw the figure was
clad in a long white lab coat. His horn rimmed glasses shone as if reflecting a
light source that was somehow hidden from her view. The figure was smoking a
pipe and the clouds of smoke that drifted from the pipes bowl flickered in and out
of view. The figure removed the pipe from his mouth and blew a stream of
smoke directly at her, the cloud fizzling out as it got nearer to her. Then he
“Good Evening. Thank you for gathering here at this time and hour. The
information I am about to impart to you is of the upmost importance to the
security of this world.”
The voice was incredibly evocative of the old movies from the nineteen forties,
Barbara thought. Very proper pronunciation with just a very small hint of regional
accent shining through.
“We have been monitoring a phenomenon for the past few months that has
caused us some alarm. There is a darkness coming and when it strikes, we will
have to be ready. We have picked our best agent to combat this threat and he is
just leaving to start his mission. The threat is in my future, your present. We
have developed a basic form of time travel to allow us to send our agent to your
time, I’m afraid I do not have the time to explain how this is possible, so I ask you
to please just accept this. He will be arriving with you shortly. With him are all
the facts and documents that we have gathered about this threat. Please make
use of this information and give him all the assistance that he requires to
complete this mission. Your future is at stake here and we are the only ones who
can help you.”Barbara did not know what to say. If this was a joke it was a very cleverly
constructed one. The man puffed on his pipe, then slowly removed it from his
mouth and exhaled. He looked directly at Barbara and spoke softly.
“I must go now. Please understand that although we have been monitoring this
threat for a while now, we only have a very short time to prepare this response.
Our agent is the best there is but he…” there was a pause and the man rubbed
his brow before he continued,”..He had to leave us for your time at very short
notice. There was not enough time for proper preparation for him. Please
accept our apologies and don’t judge him too harshly. Good bye and the very
best of luck to you all.”
With that the figure disappeared and the room fell quiet. Barbara was stunned.
What did the man mean?
Downstairs at the Queen Street police station the reception had been relatively
quiet that evening. The two policemen were talking about the following days
shifts when the revolving door moved. In walked a man, carrying himself with the
poise and dignity that only comes from a life in military service. Six foot plus, he
strode across the floor towards the desk, his cocktail dress and feather boa,
flowing behind him as he did so. He reached the desk and smiled as he
removed the pipe from his mouth.
“Ah good evening gentlemen, I believe your top brass are expecting me. Colonel
Montgomery McSwine at your service”
The two policemen looked aghast at the man in front of them. Both long standing
veterans of the police force, they had seen many strange sights in their time, yet
this was a sight to behold.
Finally one spoke.
“I’m afraid it’s against the law to smoke in here sir.”