The Fly: A Short Story

Peering at it he saw translucent wings that could be seen against the screen which, in turn, were attached to a fat round body with pinprick legs.  Looking more carefully he could just about focus onto the fly’s multi-lensed eyes and searching feeding tube, flickering as it was here and there.  The folded first pair of legs rubbed against each other seemingly in pure joy at the location that it had found itself in.

A flicker of disgust rose in his belly on seeing all of this.

To top it off that incessant buzzing noise was so annoying!

‘Hey there, do you mind not staring at me as I try to feed please!’, politely opined the insect under view.

Jumping back slightly and slowly rocking in his seat Joseph sensed that this was not quite right, flies did not normally respond in such a manner to human inspection.

‘I… well I beg your pardon Mr Fly!  It seems as i you have chose a rather inconsiderate position, upon my computer screen where you currently reside, to settle yourself’, he stammered with half empty lungs still gulping down air in mid shock.

‘Well be that as it may but give me some peace please!  I am more than half way through my life cycle and my weary wings need a rest!’ replied the fly curtly.

‘Also, could you please stop spraying that awful chemical around your house!  You have already killed my brothers and sisters willingly, at least let me give your screen a quick clean’.

At this the fly gently patted his first few limbs against the screen’s surface and shook his head slowly to express his disappointment.

‘Well yes of course, please make yourself at home’.

His default manner in shock was one of prime consideration to his fellow man and, in this instance, insectoid.  If the fly really did make itself at home and start to feed in such a manner flies are known to feed in, well then he felt that he really wouldn’t be able to keep the rising bile contained within his throat and would have to let rip in full bodily disgust.

‘So… how did you come to be able to speak?’, his question contained mild awe at the somewhat deep voice that the fly had spoken in.

‘Well sir, you are really asking but two questions there and I shall have to go into them on a granular level’, counted the fly in reply.

He started to regale the fellow as to how he first noticed he could talk to these upright lumbering beasts…

‘Since my answer is granular on a most profound scale, could I ask of you that you lay out some bread crumbs first so that I may feast before I tell my tale?’

‘Yes, why of course I shall be back in a moment’.

In the kitchen Joseph couldn’t quite believe he was rubbing pieces of bread together to collect a small surfeit of crumbs for his winged guest.  Winged speaking guest no less!  A dab of water was needed to cool his forehead but he did as Mr Fly suggested and brought the crumbs through to the office room and lay them out on a small dish.

Choking back the sickness that had welled in his throat he watched Mr Fly saunter from screen to saucer, hop onto a large crumb and attach his sucker.  Presumably he digested it there and then, but his human audience did not care to look upon this part.

‘Just the ticket!’ squealed the fly in sheer delight.  A small leg pad rubbed his belly and Joseph almost swore he could see a smile on his little insectoid face.  He had to admit he was growing quite accustomed to his winged guest and admired his good behaviour.

‘Thank you Joseph for the food, it is much appreciated.  Now let me start my tale of when I first knew I could speak to you humans…

On a summers day I found myself seeking shade from the blazing sun, we flies can get too hot you know and I could spy a blackbird, a hundred seagulls and more, who were all desperately trying to peck me.  So I flew and I found shade and safety in an office, the door magically opening as I followed a human in.  This human was bald, not like the rest of you haired apes (Yes Joseph, I too know my animals!).

He moved into another smaller room within this office and closed the door, but not before I snuck in and latched upon the wall, resting, tasting.  I could hear him speaking but at first I could not make out the words as to what he was saying.  This was to be expected! Fly speech is very different to human speech, our special buzzes hide all sort of sonorous tones that emit signals for how we are and what we want.  You may hear our buzzes and
think nothing of it but we are speaking Joseph, we are speaking to each other!

I was glad to be on that wall, the pesky bumble bee bastards were buzzing me earlier in the day and getting me agitated.  I knew I had to find a safe and clean place, and what is more sterile than a human office!

As I tuned in a most magical thing happened!  I could understand partly what he was saying.  I caught the odd word as he stared at his face in the mirror world.

I could hear ‘ha ha ha, haha haha haha, haaa haaaa’ and variations within.  Every once and a while the words ‘game plan’, ‘going forward, go-ing forr-wood’, ‘in this instance’ and that most special of words – ‘granular, grain ula, gran-ular’ were spoken a hundred times, each inflection more varied than the last.

I admit it Joseph, that word had a special effect on me.  I could feel the bass notes shivering through my thorax and my wings fluttered in simple delight.  I felt I must try this word, I must speak it myself!’

At this Mr Fly shivered and slumped upon the remaining breadcrumbs and remained quiet.

‘Are you alright Mr Fly?’ ventured Joseph to no apparent reply.

‘Mr Fly… ? Hello… ?’

After what seemed like an eternity Mr Fly shook his wings and re-awoke.  Joseph shook too, but with with thankfulness that his little insectoid friend had not become the late Mr Fly and instead resumed his previous courteous manner.

‘And so, when I had heard those words uttered from this humanoid form I could not help but be bewitched and in turn wanted to utter those words myself,’ he stated having not realised he had momentarily passed out.

‘But.. but how could you?  You do not have the right anatomical equipment to utter such words nor the brain to understand them!’ stammered Joseph, at a loss to explain how this fly had gone from pest to best friend within a matter of some minutes.

‘Well all you see is not what you all get my dear fellow’.

A forelimb wiped gently at his lensed right eye and a quick shake of his wings indicated Mr Fly had something rather further more to say on the matter.

‘I practiced again and again at getting the words just so, how I yearned to emulate my master in the mirror world and utter the word ‘granular’, how beautiful did it sound to my fly ears and how each letter reverberated across my thorax!  You see you humanoids all think that we insects are the same, that we cannot think individually and act instead as a mass of self denial, acknowledging only our queen or basic instincts but this is simply not true!

We lead lives just as you do!  We too have feelings, thoughts, desires and romances, our hearts, little though they are, burst forth with the beauty and decadence of this life as do your best writers, painters and actors, thinkers and do’ers.

But of course we cannot express this – we are entwined with nature in such a way as to be invisible without it whereas you humans, you create whole new worlds of meaning, locked away in sterile isolated buildings full of arbitrary rules and regulations to govern each and every action and reaction.

No, I know of your world but I am not of it.’

Mimicking a courtesy head bow Mr Fly prepared to fly off into that world once more.

‘But wait!  Why mimic human speech?  Why become fascinated by something so much that you emulate it and then cast it aside?’ questioned Joseph, an imploring look plastered across his shrew-like features.

‘Why use language, we could talk you and I, our species could talk!  Good God Mr Fly, could you think of the implications!’

At this Mr Fly shivered, cast his multi-lensed eyes across the room and wiped them once more with his tiny forelimbs.

‘No, I have seen your kind, preening in the mirror world.  Only for today are my words for your ears Joseph.

I thank you though for sharing your bread with me, it is much appreciated and it will not be forgotten.  But now I must go and join my own!’

‘Thank you, a thousand times thank you!’, cried Joseph in return.

The fly raised its head as if to sniff the air and then flew off, out of Joseph’s home office and back into the world of the living.

Meanwhile, in the work office in which the fly had learnt to use the language of humans but briefly, the balded man sat at his desk staring into his computer screen.

First his arm spasmed, then his left leg jerked uncontrollably.  He tried to speak, to shout out in mounting horror but no words emanated forth from his now twitching mouth.  Instead, only a series of low buzzes poured out which attracted each and every fly around to dance around his shoulders and atop the crown of his head.

The staff, not quite used to seeing the spectacle of winged insects invading their office, quickly shrieked and shirked in primal horror and abandoned their workstations en masse.

Mr Fly, at the centre of it all, landed on the computer screen observing each and every movement made by the now crowned man and his flailing colleagues.  Yes, he thought, they may run now but in time each will respond as did Joseph, with warmth, kindness and compassion.

He flicked his wings, clicked his forelimbs and took flight.

2 Minute Poem

Chairs or spiral stairs, hair stands on end at the thought of them.
Hands grip the sides ever tighter,
As I gasp for breath, feeling ever lighter.
I’ve changed so many times I’m not even sure
where I’m meant to sit, not even sure of my
place in this ever lasting race.
—-
I just want a comfy chair, computer set up
the way it should be, the way it could never
be, as if I were to sit still in silence, the music
still blaring.
Instead I curse the empty air as, once
again, my pattern changes, new dangers arise –
Are they an officer, an assessor?  What can I say or
cannot say in front of them?
Does it matter, are we ever really in one
place forever or are we always racing against the tide of change?
 —

Quickly Pressed On Paint

Below is something that I quickly painted with acrylics onto canvas yesterday.  The canvas had already been home to a few different paintings but each time I wasn’t particularly happy with the outcome and I quickly painted over them.  I think this one will survive, I like how textured the paint looks, helping to give it depth, and how rough the effects of the palate knife have made it look.  Regardless of how much I would love to paint the human figure, I always get a jolt of joy spreading the paint thickly across the canvas in no particular form or direction, to let the colour and shapes come though organically.  It is probably a life lesson for me to form some sort of coherent plan, but, much like my own life, it is a random process, completely at the mercy at the junction of the interactions of the biological and the physical.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

‘We Are Improv’

Humans have expressed themselves for many thousands of years in the form of portable carvings, cave art, open air art and monumental structures, however what cannot be excavated or reconstructed is the pure visceral thrill of the performance, be it on the part of the actor or of the audience.  Whilst we today we have the wide choices of plays, films, games, and television to watch and entertain us, there is nothing quite like watching or partaking in the performance of improvisation, a free form expression in which the subject and responses can be as varied as you can imagine.

I am very happy to introduce my friend Katy Bateson, a Lancaster based performer, who has started her own improvisational group entitled ‘We Are Improv‘.  The group have been together for a number of years now, regularly meeting up to improvise and improve their skills and ideas.  They have attended workshops throughout the country, and very soon they themselves will start playing live in Lancaster and will start putting on shows further afield.  I recently had the chance to ask Katy, the founder of ‘We Are Improv‘, a few questions on the nature of improvisation, her influences and why we should all join in.

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DBA (Don’t Bend, Ascend):  Katy, in your spare time you are a improvisational teacher and performer, but why did you decide on improvisation in the first place?  Who where your influences, and why did you feel like you wanted to set up your own group?

KB (Katy Bateson): Improvisation is acting without a script, where you respond to offers from the audience or your fellow improvisers.  There are a wide range of different styles from short form improvisational comedy like ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway‘ and ‘Paul Merton and Chums‘ to the improvised staging of Jane Austen novels (‘Austentatious‘) and musicals (‘The Maydays‘).

I was given the gift of improvisation when I was 8 years old, and 16 years later improvisation still fills me with the same wonder and joy.  Most children reach an age where they stop playing, their barbies are packed away into the loft, they no longer pretend to be flying ponies or get married to each other in the playground.  In short we begin to grow up and begin to live more in reality and less in our imagination, but I am truly blessed that finding improvisation so young means I have never stopped playing.

Most people think that improvisation is a terrifying concept with people always saying “I couldn’t do that” but everybody improvises every second of the day, you don’t wake up and plan the encounters and conversations you will during the day, we all improvise everyday and it comes very naturally.  The thought of having to learn a script fills me with terror after the freedom improvisation allows, in improvisation there is no wrong because there is no plan!  Improvisation is built on the idea of saying “Yes and…” where you accept the offer of your fellow improviser and add to it, you can’t fail if whatever you say is going to be accepted!

Improvisation is breathtakingly beautiful and exhilarating, every performance or workshop is shared between the actors and the audience only to ever be seen by the people in that room, as soon as the final bow is taken everything exists only as memories.  No film, book or television program has ever made me laugh as loud, smile as wide or cry as hard as improvisation has.

It is safe to say that Improvisation is an addiction, what starts as attending a few classes can quickly become travelling the length and breadth of the country to do courses, and before too long contemplating scaling the globe to attend improvisation festivals.

I decided to start-up my own group whilst on holiday in Turkey, my brain suddenly decided that I needed to start my own group so I did.  Although I loved doing improvisation courses around the country, I wanted to be able to improvise closer to home where I could focus on improvisation that interested me, and that didn’t break my bank balance with trips to London.  I love improvisation with a passion and teaching it and spreading some of my passion and joy seemed like the most natural thing to do.”

DBA:  It is clear to see that you are very passionate about the art form, however what do you personally hope to achieve?

KB:  “I hope to have an improvisation group that is performing regularly in Lancaster, we have currently performed once for friends and family and we’re working towards our second performance in April.

I want to help spread the word about improvisation and bring improvisation to the North as at the moment it is highly concentrated in the South of England, mainly in London and in Brighton, but small groups further North are helping to spread the improv joy.

I also want to encourage more people to get involved with improvisation by running courses.”

DBA:  How do you feel that improvisation has helped you develop as a person, and how have the people you have met and taught helped?

KB:  “Improvisation has helped me become the person I am today, if you can stand up in front of a room full of people with nothing but an audience suggestion and create something beautiful there is nothing that you can’t do.  I have the confidence to speak in public and laugh more in one improvisation class than most people probably do in a week.  I have met some incredible people through improvisation.  My fellow improvisers are the most inspiring, creative, encouraging, intelligent people I have ever met.  I have improv friends that span the globe who I have shared more laughter and honest moments with than most people have with friends they have had a lifetime.  Although the time I get to spend with these people is often brief, it is worth every glorious second.

I’ve also done a lot of improvisation with The Maydays who are an improvisation group from Brighton that specialise in musical improv.  I’ve done some wonderful workshops with them including going to their 5 day improv residential that they hold in Dorset each year.  I’ve also done some amazing workshops with Parallelogramophonograph from Austin Texas and Jason Chin from Chicago.”

DBA:  I think I know the answer, but finally why would you recommend improvisation to other people, especially to people who have never tried it before?

KB:  “Improvisation is life changing, if find the right teacher you can find a place where you are truly accepted for who you are, where you are surrounded by a group of people who are encouraging you and supporting you.  Improvisation will boost your confidence and your happiness.  You will meet wonderful new people and feel exhilarated and free.  With improvisation the possibilities are endless, it is very therapeutic.”

It is clear to see the passion and high esteem that the founder of ‘We Are Improv’, Katy Bateson, has for her art and the hopes that she has for her company.  It is an especially brave act to start your own improv group, at a time when the cultural cuts in the UK are affecting the access and funding of culture throughout the country.  However, where there is a will, there is a way, and Katy has demonstrated her steely determination to help bring laughter and smiles to audiences across the country, wherever her and her improv partners go.

For further information, or to register an interest and book a performance, please email Katy at info@weareimprov.co.uk.  The website, www.weareimprov.co.uk, has recently been upgraded, and visitors can look forward to an introduction to the group, and be kept informed of upcoming shows and blog entries.  Currently ‘We Are Improv’ are based in Lancaster, but hope to provide shows to a wider region.