‘The Button’, chapter 5. A book by Katherine M Waters

Being dragged around Sainsburys was usually a huge bore for Charlotte but standing in front of the mushrooms in the vegetable aisle she’d become transfixed by some dark yellow trumpet like ones. “Hey Mum, we must try these”. “Chanterelles? But you don’t like mushrooms and those one are very mushroomy, even meaty”. “I want to try them; cooked slowly in unsalted butter; then erm, we need some really tasty bread, something, a bit sour”.

Passing by the living room door later that evening she heard her mum on the phone. “You’d think she’d been away on a Gastro Tour not a History trip. Suits us though, we can actually start to eat rich food without her normal sanctimonious nagging. Maybe Tony will start getting home earlier, yeah I know, miracles can happen”.

A slap on the face would have hurt less, then anger, how dare she talk about me to that gossipy airhead Shena, Charmain Evans’ mum. Storming upstairs and into her room, Charlotte went straight to FB. It had been three days since saying Hi to Piotre and out of guilt she’d not checked back in. But now! What was the point of trying to impress her mum when she’d betray her like that!

“Hi to you”

Three syllables, three empowering syllables.

Then, the inner struggle. The anger, the hurt child, wanting to retaliate against her mum verses the computer savvy young adult, knowing the stupidity of allowing a dialog with a stranger, just the kind of idiot thing Charmain would do.

The child won, outright.

“How old are you?”

Nothing

Then

“Think I’m an idiot, you might be some sick peedo, I’m not telling you anything about myself without seeing your profile”.

Wow, she hadn’t expected that. She was hoping for an elderly survivor of WW2 and had got an angry dork instead.

Exit

Scrolling through her play list, nothing caught her eye. She still had some credit so downloaded Chopin sonata no. 2 in b-flat minor, it calmed her. She put it on loop and went to bed.

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‘The Button’, Chapter 4, a book by Katherine M Waters

She was at the river again, this time she could see the mermaid, well, it wasn’t actually a mermaid, just a sculpture of one. There was a boy standing next to it but she couldn’t see his face; he had his back to her and was looking out across the water. She could see he was fit, proud even; the way he stood, held himself, like a meerkat head held high looking across the planes. She woke up laughing and thinking of sunshine.

Charlotte’s Aunty Anna said that if you wanted to remember dreams, you had to lie in bed and remember the details as soon as you woke up, otherwise they were gone. Lying there she thought hard, one memory jogged another. She’d never laughed in a dream before, but even as it was happening it struck her as funny that a boy could also be a meerkat; that’s the sub-conscience for you.

Sausages, she needed sausages, with lashings of wholegrain mustard and beetroot on half a french stick, with, erm, apple juice, freshly squeezed apple juice.

The smell of the sausages brought her Mom and Dad into the kitchen, she cooked more and they sat together laughing and reading the papers. “This is what Sundays should be like”, Tony was relaxed, her Mom was relaxed, “Let’s do something today”.

It was the nicest day Charlotte could remember in a long time, sitting in her room later she had an urge to talk about it. She wasn’t allowed a Facebook account but found herself on Piotre Kowaluk’s page, it was, sparce, yes , it was sparce, minimal. a name, no place of birth or education, no hobbies, or friends.

There must be thousands of guys with that name.

“Hi”, shit, she’d done it, on auto pilot, said hi to a total stranger. Heart thumping she cursed herself, knowing she’d gone bright red and waited. Nothing. Thank Christ.

Shut down

School tomorrow.

‘The Button’, Chapter 3, a book by Katherine M Waters

Charlotte’s mother was furious about the laptop but couldn’t appear to be as her daughter had been away for four days and needed a good welcome home. Charlotte got off lightly and her mom spent the evening searching through her reboot cds.

She was standing near a river and knew that a mermaid was close by. Waking up she felt an enormous sense of well being. She wasn’t lonely, in fact she wasn’t alone.

Going downstairs early for breakfast she was surprised to see her father. Tony was cooler than her mom, well, who wouldn’t be! He just wasn’t around much. She made eight slices of cheese on toast, emmental , for it’s sweet nuttiness, white stilton to create a bridge and halloumi to add salt. Split in equal shares, she added diced russett and cucumber to balance the effect. “Hey Jamie, calm down, when did you develop such an appetite? Did they not feed you in Poland?” Tony was always a big joker. But not, it seemed such a big eater, leaving two slices on his plate that Charlotte polished off before heading off to meet Ellie.

Ellie was late, very late. In fact the last two days of the trip, she’d been a real; Charlotte wouldn’t demean herself by saying bitch, but actually….. what was wrong with her best friend? When she eventually turned up Tanya was with her and they wanted to go to NewLook…..ehhm hello, didn’t we outgrow that in year eleven?

Charlotte was home by 4.30pm and kinda at a loss what to do.

Turning on her laptop, she looked up the address in Warszawa again. The screen looked different somehow, googling Piotre Kowaluk nothing much came back except a Facebook page. “no luck there…thanks Mom”, she clicked on to it out of habit, expecting the usual block but was allowed through. “Woo, Mum forgot the restrictions, thankyooo, now my precious, let’s play”.

‘No Worries’, by Katherine M waters

George Pearson was the inventor, founder and eventually the CEO of NO WORRIES. Launching the brand in 2016 it had been an immediate success, outstripping Facebook in its’ member numbers by 2017.

To begin with the idea had been simple, a sort of modern day confessional and, of course, it had been free then. A new member would sign up and be invited to design their own human looking avatar. Every subsequent visit the avatar would ask the member if they had anything to tell them. Once the ‘confession’ had been typed in the avatar would engrave it onto a brass plaque and put it into its’ bag. The more visits the member made the bigger the bag would get.

Membership to NO WORRIES had a hugely cathartic effect on its’ members, people walked taller, moaned less and smiled more. In fact, once the ‘feel good factor’ was recognised people smiled a lot, sometimes at previously ‘out of bounds’ other people. The number of illicit affairs started to increase exponentially, petty crimes and lying were, in surveys, perceived to be on the rise.

However the real breakthrough for NO WORRIES came with the launch of DARPA’s new microchip in 2019. Designed as an implant to monitor the health of the body, wearers were constantly plugged into their personal sets which of course were also in conversation with NO WORRIES.

The friends and family of those who were both NO WORRIES members and DARPACHIP carriers started to notice a change, in fact, a memory loss.

The ‘Act’ that had been written down as the confession was forgotten as soon as the plaque was placed in the bag.

NO WORRIES was soon dubbed ‘GUILTFREE’; membership went through the roof and became a tiered system. Once the micro-bag was full and had to be replaced by the mini-bag charges started to be made; the bigger the bag the higher the cost; it quickly became a more expensive habit than cocaine. And to pay for the habit, crime was the answer; muggings, burglary, assassinations, slavery and the sex industry had never been so commonplace.

The heads of all the churches in the technological world came together insisting that the politicians outlaw the company, but, of course the greatest subscribers were the men and women in charge of the countries.

All law and order broke down as politicians, judges, teachers, heads of police and the army; joined forces with hardened criminals, warlords, the mafia, gangs and drug barons in a free for all orgy of killings, torture, mass rape, cannibalism and bestiality.

The innocents fled to the countryside and hid, leaving the cities to self-destruct.

After a month of mayhem, there was silence.

NO WORRIES had hit critical mass, it could produce bigger bags but the avatars couldn’t carry them. Falling under the weight of their loads the avatars crumpled, dropping the bags and spilling the captive confessions. Such a wave of uncontrolled guilt killed even the most hardened criminals. The cities died.

The innocents never returned to the cities; the churches united under an anti-technology banner and became one. The World Wide Web was dissolved and George Pearson was set adrift in a rubber dingy off the coast of Svalbard.

A Head Louse’s Perspective by Katherine M Waters

Thousands of tiny legs shifted, teetering on oversized claws. Moving quickly through the pink floored forest they scuttled towards their leader.

She stood in a clearing, proud on her hind legs. Her large translucent diamond shaped body, a testament to her age and authority.

She paused a little; then folding her large claws across her chest, uplifted her closed eyes, and offered a prayer so deeply devout that she seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom of the sea.

This ended, in prolonged solemn tones.

“Beloved kinsmen, remember the story of Hexapodicus passed down to us, through our foremothers? ‘And the Gods had prepared a great dragon to swallow up Hexapodicus, for he was sinful and cared only for his own life, not the lives of others and the continuation of his like.

Surveying the crowd, she lifted her forearms to the sky. “The tempest will soon be upon us, get into formations, hold the line, let not a single one be lost in the flood”. She paused “this we can do, if the wall remains intact we survive but if the gods send the great jawed dragon we are all in danger. Be not like Hexapodicus thinking of himself but think of the children. If the abhorrent teeth comes we must move them from the feeding grounds and into the two great caves for safety.”

She dropped and fell away from herself for a moment; then lifting her face to them again, showed a deep joy in her eyes, as she cried out with a heavenly enthusiasm, — “But oh! kinsmen! Delight is to her whose strong legs support her and others, when the ship of this base treacherous world has gone down beneath her.

She said no more, but slowly waving a benediction, covered her face with her claws, and so remained kneeling, till all the beasts had departed for preparations, and she was left alone in the place.

The tempest came, giant waves of foam and rocks beat down upon them and they held the line, the forest rocked with the power of the storm and still they held, the thunderous screams of a thousand seabirds vibrated through their bodies and still they held. And then it was over, not a single one lost.

“Do you see him?” The cry came up from the leader “Do you see him?”

All stood still

“Save the children!” A thousand legs ran to the feeding grounds as the giant metal teeth swept through the forest. Screaming with the voice of the ancients the leader threw herself onto the jaws, trying to stop the carnage.

The monster was gone.

Carrying the eggs to the safety of the caves, the lice worked quickly and efficiently, all were saved.

Looking back into the forest the beasts saw the teeth rake the ground again, “Look it’s her, there’s the old leader”. Caught in the teeth, barely alive, she waved them to stay hidden.

The hot air blew, drying out the rivers, then the night came.

The new leader gathered the females around her, “get to work, we have eggs to lay and children to tend to”.

‘A Canal Journey’, Day 3 by Lucy Waters

Wednesday 3rd June. “We’re going into Oxford today!” I Thought joyfully as I got up, Elsie, once again, was sitting up in the very flowery bed. It’s a beautiful shade of dark red with a criss-cross pattern covering it all like a giant spiders web, huge, gorgeous flowers, buds and leaves in red, green and a gentle blue. It turns out Don had to go to work early so it was just us at breakfast. We were sucked into the fiction and fantasy, non-fiction and informational world of books for hours me and Elsie were. It was incredibly relaxing!

After Breakfast we set about making Kamille’s birthday cards-it’s her birthday on Sat 6th. It took us forever! Until at least 11:10. My card must have been as big as a skyscraper once I’d finished… I stuck a piece of Japanese ink paper on to a plain card and stuck a raised-so you get a shadow effect-piece of Japanese ink paper with holes shaped like butterflies in it on top so you see a different background through the butterflies, next I stuck inside another piece of the ink paper on about ¾ of the card and on the plain part wrote a happy birthday message. I then stuck a new card on the back of the decorated one using thick, sticky foam thing and hid a birthday badge in the space in between, after that, I did the same in the inside page as I did on the first one and stuck japanese ink paper on ¾ of it before writing a poem about being 21 on the blank space. It looked very modern! Finally I drew an extremely intricately decorated 21 on the back.

Elsie, using the ink paper also, make an amazing flag written on which was a message. She singed the edges to make it look old and as though it had been through the wars then, using useful bits of metal, she attached it to the flagpole (which was actually a pencil covered in purple ribbon) and finished it off by making the ends of the ribbon straggly and unkempt to make the whole thing ancient looking. It was wonderful… The message said this… “The four wings flew to the four corners of the earth and protected the traveller wherever she went.!

Having finished the cards, we set of taking the dogs for a walk in the glorious summer heat. The sun’s rays were beating down on us like torch beams and the cloudless, blue sky was like a pane of clear blue glass. Lunch we ate on the move as we walked down to the train station to wait for the 12:55 to Oxford. In Oxford It was wicked! First had to post the birthday cards and when I asked what the damp sponge for wetting stamps was and Elsie answers by explaining that people never liked licking stamps, the women at the counter said she never liked licking stamps because they had calories in them and she got fatter by the day! Elsie then had some bank bussiness to do so we went there next, we ate a yogurt each in the beautiful gardens of Christ Church and I entertained everybody with some gymnastics, then we went to the Pitt Rivers museum which was amazing! And so Interesting!We saw recycled meterials made into board games and such; learnt about tattooing and sacrification; jewllery and saw shrunken heads!

After Pitt Rivers came Ashmolean where we looked at the egyptians, greeks, gods in colour which was about how the statues were painted when they were new and some art done by a guy who looked at the darker side of american lifestyles and pop art.

We then went back to the station to catch the 17:46 train and Don met us at the station so we could drive back to the boat because by now are feet were aching as if they’d been beaten with a stick.

Supper was fish pie with crispy potato followed by a nice, relaxing, finger crushing game of Irish Snap!

Tomorrow morning we shall go back to their art studio and hang out there before my mum comes to pick me up and take me back to Willow tree. I’ve had the time of my life living on the canal and I hope sometime I’ll be able to do it again. 🙂

‘A Canal Journey’, Day 2 by Lucy Waters

6:58 on Tuesday 2nd June. I awoke to Billie breathing deaply in a truelly contented sleep. Jamming my clumsy hands into my eyes I rubbed the weary sleep from them so it jumped up from my skin before realising it couldn’t fly and landing on the matress. The weather was gloomy… Rain slashed through the morning sky in a mountanous veil of water which crashed into and rocked the boat. There are different types of rain: sleet, an almost inaudible shlump, shulmp on the ground and roof, sunshine rain, nothing much, the sun is shining dazzlingly bright and every few steps a few drops of refreshing water drop onto your upturned face, spitting, the sun isn’t sparkling but the sky isn’t grey and tiny drops of light rain fall everywhere in a gentle pittapatta, rain rain, normal everyday rain, what you picture when you’re told to think of it, which makes the sound of a maracca, and rain storm… Callosal streaks of freezing cold water ripping apart the earth and pounding against everything like a hammer as it makes the sound of galloping hooves on concrete!

It was a rain storm today: transparent water horses cantering in a terrific race to catch us first. With an almighty stretch I slipped out of my bunk and made my way towards the door. Billie was still fast asleep the sweety! Yesterday had worn her out completely! Silently so as not to wake her up, I crept past Billie and through the door. Billie, Bless her, didn’t move a muscle. framed by the doorway, Elsie and Don looked like a picture sitting in their make shift bed like that. I shuffled past the cupboards and into the kitchen, then I read them day 1 of this story/diary. Cheerily we all sat on the bed and chatted while they drank tea and coffee.

After a while I glanced over my shoulder to check on Billie. She was still fast asleep and hadn’t moved an inch since I left her! Now it was just getting silly.

“She’s still sleeping like a log!” I cried.

“Really?” Don asked in dismay.

“Yeah!”

“well there was a lot of excitement yesterday.” Elsie stated “maybe we wore her out more than we thought we did?”

“yeah, but still, who sleeps that heavily?”

After breakfast we got dressed and set off down the canal.

A short boat trip took us to an arm of canal where we moored and Elsie and I took the dogs for a walk. It was lovely… The sweetly singing song birds were filling the crisp morning air with their superb voices and the whispering weeds ,swaying in the gentle breeze, were chattering about the latest gossip. Zofia and Billie sprinted ahead, thoroughly enjoying themselves in thrill of it all. We let them of their leads once we were round the corner and walked calmly behind, talking.

After Don at a lock, I went inside and finished The Great Plague my story because by then we were soaked to the bones! 40 minutes passed and finally we reached the incredibly deep lock they’d been telling me about… I stood outside as we sank deeper and deeper into the belly of the beast!

Next we went for another shorter walk and my second pair of shoes got soaking and then had another short boat trip before mooring. Don had to go and get a pump and do a few other chores so Elsie and I did as much as we could of a 500 piece jelly baby jigsaw puzzle. It was so fustrating! Then we we walked down to their wacky art studio and joined with Don again.

At the studio we did some training with Billie and got some footage of me training her. She is such a clever little dog! We did heel, taught her to stay, did sit, lie down, paw left and paw right, beg and walk! She like a cute circus dog!