Joanne’s Mutant

(Photo from Morguefile )

“Irish debauchery..22.10..PM..Active..Take down..No prisoners..shoot to kill…shoot to kill..Over”  The voice was precise, unambiguous and assertive.“Copy, Copy, Over”  hissed the compliant reciprocal voice over the scrambled high technology private line.  Joanne jotted down the specifics in her notepad. The paper would be burnt later. Now there was nothing much to do except finish the insipid ice lemon tea.

Joanne was the chief of the Malaysia Mutant Tracking & Preservation Bureau”(“MMTPB”).  A no-nonsense mother of two with degrees in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Quantum Physics, Joanne was the foremost expert on the nuances and intricacies involving the existence and functioning of mutants. She was also responsible for protecting the docile mutant breed from mercenaries hunting them down to serve ulterior motives.

In a crowded mall in a Tony precinct called Solaris in the heart of bustling Kuala Lumpur, a mutant gifted with the skills of Extra Sensory Perception was being hunted down by a militant outfit. Sipping on a pint of Stella Artois in an Irish pub, the mutant was calm personified. Suddenly all hell broke loose! Staccato burst of gun shots riled the bar as glassed and bottles shattered to accompanying screams of hysteria and panic. Joanne waited….

(Word Count: 198)

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Donna McNicol . For more details visit HERE

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, click HERE

VIRUS – The Beacon Of Hope

(PHOTO PROMPT © Randy Mazie )

The lack of maintenance was more a sheer disregard for the extraneous than an absolute lack of funds. Dmitri’s team was occupied with more urgent matters involving, impacting and influencing the lives of millions of men and women. Dmitri’s organisation VIRUS – ‘Voices Influencing Real Understanding Subtly’, indefatigably worked to neutralise the spread of disinformation and deep fake. Targeting troll farms, chat bots and psy-op experts, Dmitri’s extraordinarily brilliant geeks distinguished spiel from substance, channeling and steering online discourses towards a logical outcome. Employing a highly complex & convoluted set of algorithms, VIRUS signified humanity’s one last remaining hope.

(Word Count: 100)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

For more stories based on the above prompt, click HERE 

This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Realty – Peter Pomerantsev

Image result for this is not propaganda peter pomerantsev

We seem to be inhabiting a world whose functioning we seem to be blissfully unaware of. A greater point of concern might be the dangerous reality that we are not aware of the very fact that we are unaware of the true levers that are responsible for the behavior and actions that consume the lives of close to 7 billion human beings on our Planet. An era of digitization has resulted in us being swamped by a deluge of information. A ceaseless, shapeless, and remorseless alpha numeric cascade assails the recipient instead of informing. Conflicting, Contrasting, Condescending and Chaotic, the barrage of information flow competing for our attention makes for some exasperating and most of the times, indiscriminate choosing. Taking advantage of this confusion are spin doctors, chat bots and ‘psy op’ experts who, operating from within the confines of hidden ‘troll farms’ and invisible technology networks feed, instigate, incite and institutionalise dogmas, agendas, beliefs and perceptions that desire a specific motive or outcome.

Peter Pomerantsev, best-selling author and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics, in his book, “This is NOT Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality” highlights in a devastating manner the implications of instituted campaigns against facts. Mr. Pomeratsev in his quest to understand the pervasiveness and perniciousness of this ‘information war’, crisscrosses the world visiting the most unobtrusive of places responsible – paradoxically – for spreading some of the most influential propaganda,

In one of the “oases of malls next to sky-blue-windowed skyscrapers”, Mr. Pomerantsev meets ‘P’, a teen desperate for recognition and responsible for distilling the meteoric rise of Rodrigo Duterte, to the highest echelon of office in the Philippines. A perfect embodiment of what Dr. Jonathan Corpus Ong of the University of Massachusetts terms “Architects of Networked Disinformation” ‘P’ directed a continuous torrent of spiel making the optimal use of a ‘disinformation architecture’ thereby bolstering Duterte’s claims of an urgent need to deal harshly with a surging drug peddling epidemic.

In Russia, Mr. Pomerantsev acquaints himself with ‘Lyudmilla Savchuk’, an intrepid woman who ‘infiltrated’ the innermost recesses of the by now notorious Internet Research Agency (“IRA”). Working within the ordinary confines of a “troll farm” – an “office in a four-storey new build with square pillars propping up the second floor and narrow black-framed windows”, Ms. Savchuk gets a first-hand experience of the remarkable workings of an industrial level disinformation armada. The farm had its own hierarchical structure. As Mr. Pomerantsev describes, “the most looked down upon were the ‘commenters’, of which the lowest of the low were those who posted in the online comments sections of newspapers; a level up were those who left comments on social media. The more senior editors would instruct the commenters on which Russian opposition figures to attack, and they would spend their days accusing them of being CIA stooges, traitors, shrills.”

The disinformation machinery such as the one described above is almost institutionalized in many parts of the world. Most of these initiatives are ‘state-directed.’ For example, in Azerbaijan, there is Ireli, a creation ‘to produce young people who can take an active part in the information war.’ Mr. Pomerantsev also meets indefatigable and determined dissenters renowned for their resistance to the online disinformation campaign. Srdja Popovic, a political activist from Serbia who was a leader of the student movement Otpor! that went a long way in unseating Serbian president Slobodan Milošević, is a much revered and respected figure in the global resistance brigade. Popovic established the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) in 2003 Through the medium of CANVAS, Popovic, teams up with pro-democracy activists spanning more than 50 countries, with an avowed objective of promoting the use of non-violent resistance in achieving political and social goals. Srdja trained activists in Georgia, Ukraine and Iran. These activists were the ones who went on to participate in the popular ‘colour’ revolutions such as Rose, Orange and Green respectively. But even the normally undaunted and determined Srdja acknowledges the perils of the disinformation brigade. “The problem we are facing today is less oppression, more lack of identity, apathy, division, no trust…There are more tools to change things than before, but there’s less will to do so.”

As Mr. Pomerantsev chillingly illustrates not all movements against reigning in trolls, sock puppets and peddlers of deep fakes end on a positive note. The tragic case of a fifty-something physician in Mexico, Maria Del Rosario Fuentes Rubio is a classic case in point. Tweeting under the account handle @La Felina, Maria took on the narcos by demanding their arrests and even posting their pictures. Ironically she was caught by the narcos while treating one of their own gunman who was caught up in a shoot-out. Maria was murdered and her execution was live-tweeted. Her Catwoman Twitter avatar was replaced with her blown-off head.

Mr.Pomerantsev intersperses his adventures with autobiographical tidbits. These principally involve the exploits of his writer father and documentarian mother. His parents themselves had experienced more than a fair share of state-directed ire. Igor, Mr. Pomerantsev’s father was interrogated by the dreaded KGB for distributing “harmful literature” before being exiled to London. He found his voice – literally – in the capital when he became an integral part of the BBC World Service’s Russian department. Lina, the mother of Mr. Pomerantsev ended up producing documentaries that elaborated on the legacies of the Soviet police state, including the award-winning Gulag.

At the time of writing this review, America is left reeling from two more mindless and reckless bouts of mass shooting. On the morning of 3rd August, 2019, 21-year-old Patrick Wood Crusius walked inside a Walmart outlet at El Paso and mowed down 22 shoppers using his Automatic Rifle. Crusius who drove more than 10 hours to the Texas Border City, published a white nationalist, anti-immigrant manifesto on social media immediately before the attack warning readers of a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. The post cites inspiration from the Christchurch mosque shootings and refers to the white genocide conspiracy theory. Barely 13 hours into this gruesome act, America was rocked by yet another manic act when a gunman wielding an automatic weapon sprayed the public in Dayton, Ohio. While 10 lost their lives, 27 others were injured. The perpetrator who was killed by the police possessed writings depicting an interest in murdering people.

As part of a recent campaign rally in the Florida panhandle, US President Donald Trump employed the word “invasion” seven times in less than a minute in a rant about illegal immigrants. Such Dog whistle rhetoric transcends from mere pabulum to influenced actions that have dangerous unintended consequences.

“This is Not Propaganda” – a grim reminder of the portents to follow if man does not mend his ways.

Expectation & Ash

(Photo Credit: Crispina Kemp)

From the refuge of the ramshackle and decrepit cabin reluctantly abutting the pier, Venky zipped up his windcheater. The air was strangely and savagely cold, making his exposed skin erupt into horripilation.  A solitary motor boat chugged along the azure blue expanse of water. The revving engine shattered the calm of the morning. A strong smell of kerosene wafted in towards the cabin as the boat passed by.

Forcing his gaze away from the water, Venky turned back, locked the cabin slowly making his way towards the waiting Taxi. “The problem with expectation is the expectation itself.” Ash had philosophically mused once drying her luxuriant hair after an invigorating swim. He loved to see her after her exercising bouts. She was at her eloquent best. She would break into an introspective monologue on a range of subjects.

She was right. Expectation was a problem. But his only expectation was her!

(Word Count: 150)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #39 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.


It isn’t only nature that is Beautiful

“Isn’t it beautiful?” she exclaimed pointing to the plunging valley

The smile adorning her face was unadulterated, original & full of glee

Yet another peak had been conquered by this inveterate hiking woman

Who lead life to the fullest retaining in the face of all adversity, pluck and fun


But for him, few things mattered including a coursing river or the profuse green

Nor did he have time for lasting monuments or peacocks that gloriously preen;

His heartbeat was the beautiful lady who was the very epitome of bliss and cheer

So long as she was with him there was no force on earth that could induce in him any fear


He lived in her convincing voice and in her dazzling smile lay his sole solace

While days were spent in her memories, nights whirled away framed by her beatific face;

She was his beginning, his end and without an iota of doubt his very destiny

Just her presence and proximity liberated him and set him gloriously free


Undiminished and unfettered,  he found in her company his self, absolute and true

Angels of her ilk were remarkably rare, and unfortunately so very few

But it was his spell blinding fortune that he was a chosen one

For he knew with absolute certainty that another of her like, there could be none


He knew not whether this precious treasure could be his for life

This nagging doubt beset him without respite setting off an internal strife

But the very fact that he knew her would in the end, lend him a modicum of ease

When the time finally comes for him, he would see her magnificent face before resting in peace











Nonchalance & Cameron Highlands

Before commencing the ascent, the driver gently nursed the bus to a halt at a truck layby. “We are going to begin the climb to Cameron Highlands. All those who have prior experience with motion sickness are hereby urged to procure Eco bags at a cost of Ringgit Malaysia (“RM”)0.50 each. If you choose not to, but consequently dirty the bus, the culprit would need to bear the cleaning charges of RM 30.” With this dire warning delivered with a causal tone bordering on the nonchalance, the driver waited for the faint hearted in his bus. With none volunteering, he calmly went back to his seat and proceeded to navigate the bus around dizzying lot of hairpin bends. No puke.

(The prompt for Joelle’s Tales at Ranting along is to talk about the last trip I took in exactly 120 words.)



Joanne’s Humanity

(Photo courtesy of Alexis Ortiz)

The artist looked as if he was plastered against the front of the castle. An intended flattening manufactured to result in equally deliberate consequences. While the purists felt that the splendour of the architecture was being tarnished by such pyrotechnics, the ones calling themselves, ‘the freakish progressives’ delighted in the concept and even coined the term “graffitista” – euphemism for a fashionista turned human graffiti.

Before the “Jumping Graffitista” transformed into an international movement, it’s birth resembled that of an accidental child. An ebullient couple high on both adrenaline and alcohol, while egregiously cavorting in front of the Windsor Castle, broke out into a spontaneous game. Each took the other’s picture just when the subject was jumping. A typical Instagram raw material.

Joanne, an intrepid humanitarian & ecologist while taking her own pictures of the Castle focused accidentally upon a black visage against a white castle. Thus was born the revolution against gun control and racial discrimination. Did not matter which was the colour shooting and which was the one getting shot. Same with racial discrimination. Every horrific massacre triggered a swarm of pictures depicting artists flattened against monuments. White on Black, Black on White.

Humanity against Bigots.

(Word Count: 200)

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Donna McNicol . For more details visit HERE

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, click HERE

The Ash Remedy

(Custer State Park, Black Hills, South Dakota | Cassie Dahl, Google Maps)

Setting his tent adjacent to the ponderous ‘Ponderosa Pine’ tree, Venky plonked  himself down and look a long, hard and introspective swig from a jumbo sized can of Heineken.  Ash had warned him about the Board room battle. While he was prepared for a bout of acrimony what had rattled him was a full blown brawl where two groups of Private Investors shrieked, scratched & set about each other’s hoarse throats – literally & threateningly!

Signing off the papers that provided for divesting his stake, Venky literally bolted from the roiling Board room, scrambling to the nearest airport and booking himself on a flight to isolation. Now a fervour of anticipation gripped him as he waited for Ash to arrive. Her soothing presence would be the panacea for all ailments.

Immersed in her thoughts, Venky didn’t notice the dangerous branch directly above him that had detached itself from the tree…

(Word Count: 149)

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw

For the complete list of entries, please click HERE


(Image Credit: Ted Strutz)

The hovercraft was supposed to gently waft in before floating demurely on the expanse of the vast azure sea. Instead it came hurtling down with its blades whirring furiously like an extremely busy entity racing to keep an appointment. The body of the aircraft swayed like a ragged doll buffeted by strong winds. The sounds created by the combination of a careening aircraft and howling winds sounded like the ferocious and ominous demon’s whistle. The next morning’s headlines read, “Just before the plane disintegrated, the debt laden businessman piloting the aircraft laughed like a deranged soul into his radio.”

(Word Count: 99)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

For more stories based on the above prompt, click HERE