A Waiting Game

The valley was magnanimous in it’s apathy. Ancients who had sat and lived in it all their lives could observe new arrivals with comfortingly communal certainty. The sparsely wooded cliffs of carboniferous rocks looked on with thoughts, like theirs, containing nothing but tired indifference.

An odd place to call home. Where houses clung to foundations which barely tolerated them. Ever ready to shrug off the greasy layer of living irritants and waiting only for a shift in the winds as a trigger to do so. Freed then to return to silent solidity, there to rest for another million years before an inconvenient ice age broke the silence once more – forcing the drama of pangea and drift. But at least those would be real events, far beyond the minutiae of life’s eternal revolt against it’s opposite.

The old man knew all of that, in his own way. For all of his long years sat amongst the rocks he’d never lost the certainty of transience that framed and overawed his life. Never forgotten the delicate strands, ever fraying to nothing, that threatened to break and loose not just himself but all else that he knew into the silence of non-existence. He was happy enough with that though. Why fear the unavoidable? As he lived so did the trees, shallow roots no more anchored than his own. Each of them breathing with the breeze, not yet severed from bedrock but never so unwise as to imagine themselves permanent.

For sixty years now he’d sat waiting. A long term commitment to uncertainty.

Be sure to check out my new book No Cure for Shell Shock.


The world’s biggest city condensed down to nothingness, and with indifferent cruelty burrowed its way into her optical nerve. A miracle to the technologically illiterate but one robbed of it’s grandeur by sterile routine.

The procedure had been her choice. Though she was far from the first to undertake it. If anything she was a latecomer to the Grey Revolution. Not quite a hold out but far from the rash crowds of early adopters who’d undertaken a mad rush towards a muted future.

The result of the blinding shots of images into her eyes was near instantaneous. All consuming grey swept over her, obscuring the functionally bare and insufferably bright room she’d been in, the last she’d ever be in as far as the reality out there went. What came next, the artificial city, looked, felt, smelt and tasted grey and within a second she had accepted it. How could she not? The procedure bore absolute results, re-building her mind to account for a new, if unreal, world. It wasn’t a thing to look through or around or behind, because there was nothing else left. Even if there were any discordant traces of colour or clashing images beyond the grand and dull city scape it would be no more than a jarring oddity. A quirk of a brain spasming against imposed alteration. Such things were not meant to exist in this new place and so they couldn’t. Not to her newly closed eyes anyway.

It was an escape undertaken less for the destination than for what was left behind. Lights, colours, potential – ideas of hope for those with the will to live for them. But living for something wasn’t easy. Or living for the illusion of something wasn’t easy. That’s what it had become, out there, an overload of enthused purpose, meaningless in it’s fervour and all consuming in it’s demands. And hollow, at least weighed against the solid mass of mere human experience.

Rather than fight the inevitable openness of opportunity, or the imposed demand to pretend to it, she and so many others had opted to sink back into the one offered alternative. The grey city, the Grey Revolution. Serene certainty in a hallucinatory dream state compiled and controlled to fit the resigned observer. Already it could boast more inhabitants than any metropolis outside of it. More than whole nations where grand, if not noble, ends had been declared as things to live for rather than landscapes to live in.

She watched the grey walls of estates, houses, streets and offices she’d now committed herself to. A minimalist mirror of the world outside, neatly stripped of anything beyond the necessities of a silent existence. It felt indifferent. It felt like heaven. And for the rest of her days she would live in it.

Be sure to check out my new book No Cure for Shell Shock.

No Cure for Shell Shock – Out now! (Sticky)

Well it’s taken a while but my new Prose/Poetry collection No Cure for Shell Shock is officially out! You can buy it online from Amazon in either digital or paperback formats, or if you’re a bit more old school you can order it through your local bookshop of choice. And given the excellent cover design by the very talented Kim Norton I’d recommend going for the physical copy, which is well worth it.

I’d also like to ask that, if you enjoy the collection, you make sure to add your review on Amazon and recommend it to your friends/family/neighbours/strangers/farmyard animals/deities of choice. The only way this works is if you, the reader, make it because for all I can write getting my work into the great big world is still one hell of a challenge.

Anyway, I sincerely hope you’ll have a look and, even better, enjoy it!

No Cure for Shell Shock is intended as the antithesis to the war story. Each part of this collection of poetry and short pieces was designed to search for those lost, silent moments which shape the human experience of conflict but which are left unmarked and uncommented on in the aftermath.

Anti-war by intent the focus throughout is on the human, attempting to find the self that endures beyond comprehension and judgement.

No Cure for Shell Shock Update

Just a quick update to say that NCfSS, my upcoming collection of short stories and poetry, is well on it’s way to completion. Currently it’s being reviewed and edited with cover art being worked on too but, for the most part, the writing bit is done. Unfortunately I still can’t give a firm release date but early November is looking increasingly likely in both eBook and paperback formats.

I’m also planning to release a separate collection of short pieces around the same time which won’t be tied together by any particular theme. That’s an as yet untitled side project but it does mean that it’s going to be a busy end to the year, so hopefully lots to look forward to. If you want to be kept in the loop then I’ve included the sign up form for my newsletter below or you can follow me on Twitter @dylanorchard.

I’ll finish up with the brief outline of NCfSS that I put up a few months ago, as well as some links to excerpts which have already been released…

It’ll be a very different piece from either Crashed America or Laikanist Times. The style is far more ‘literary’, for what that label’s worth and given the subject matter it’ll be a far heavier read too. Which, hopefully, is no bad thing. A mix between micro-fiction, short stories and poetry it’s a collection rather than a single coherent story and in case you hadn’t guessed it’s about war. Not about the conflict itself but about the human result of it, the instances and effects that the individuals involved endure.

I’m not writing from experience here, nor am I aiming to present any ‘truth’ from the subject. Instead I’m trying to present potential ways to understand those experiences which lie so far beyond the normal realm of human life as to be incomprehensible. It’s an outsider’s attempt to make sense of what is so easily judged and so seldom understood about the frayed edges of human experience. I feel that personal ignorance is worth stating more than once. With everything human the only real representation is the original, everything else is an aspiring imitation polluted for better or worse by the creator. And hopefully with NCfSS my polluting touch leads to something worth understanding, or even better, just worth thinking about.

Preview pieces:

Immaculate Fracture
Forgotten Light

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One of the things that’s always struck me as, to be honest, quite funny about travel is the bizarre approaches people have to cultural their experience in the unfamiliar. I’ve seen gap year Hippies growing out their manky dreads while Buddhist monks play StarCraft opposite the residence of the Dalai Lama and I’ve seen red faced French ex-pats listening to the strains of traditional Oud music and buying up djellabas while local youths kick it to Hip Hop in their knock off Adidas. It can be hard to tell who’s desperately trying to find some cultural meaning and who’s just earnestly found some. Beyond that though there is something deeper. Not theft or appropriation, too strong an accusation on an individual level I think, but certainly some discomfort around the process of staking claims. Anyway…

They’d never harmed the beast or taken anything that wasn’t otherwise wasted. Tamouz was certain of that. They had no reason for guilt, no reason for shame and no reason to recoil from what they did. When they’d found it the creature had been half made and half blind, driven to agony by the infanticide it hadn’t even realised it had committed. Still leaking life though, unwitting as it drained off into dry sand. If they’d fed greedily was that a reason to look upon themselves with disdain? It wasn’t them who’d culled the infant calves after all. That was an old crime undertaken by lesser nomads. Neither Tamouz nor the others would offer any defence of that, a fact to shout out as salve for any awkward pangs of uncertainty.

Continue reading “Tamouz”