The Caged Type

A home for Craig Thomas Boyle's writing and life.

The Cost of Greatness

I

The blacksmith worked in the searing, familiar, heat of his forge. Sweat trickled from his brow, rolling down through his thick beard before dripping onto his bare chest as he worked, furious yet methodical. Each hammer blow was a thing of precision, each movement carefully calculated. He folded the glowing hot metal, shaping it. Each strike was accompanied by the slightest draining sensation, and he felt The Stranger’s hand guiding him. 

After all, he thought, it would be a shame to waste this Gift. 

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Dropping By

The scream of pulsing engines made it hard to read the notes on the digiscreen. The flickering text warned me that this planet’s native species had destroyed the first human colony that landed, long ago, and had repurposed our weapons to fight more ferociously than ever. But it’s hard to take in that kind of information when you’re hurtling through the sky at 200 miles per hour. Instead, I just stared at the dim reflection of my eyes in the screen. They were wide with fear.

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Tyneside Poem


This is a love story

Not of a face, but a place

A feeling, an echo, a collection of space

It’s filled by all sorts of bodies,

That move in their own ways

Whether that’s students partying,

Or people drinking away days.

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A Land of Tooth and Claw [Chapter 1]

Vincent had killed thousands of men in his long life. This next one would be no different.

The night had brought peace to the wasteland, disturbed only by the clumsy movements of his prey. Vincent kept his eyes on his target as he followed him, his own steps deathly silent on old concrete. Ahead, a man with a backpack slung over his shoulder and a flashlight clutched in his shaking hand was heading towards a building long forgotten by the new world. Its crumbling walls promised ancient scrap and with it, potential reward.

This man that wandered alone through the wastes, however, would find nothing but death inside.

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Paul’s Fall (Poetry)

Look,

I’m not much of a toilet brawler

Don’t like a taxi rank skirmish

I do like a drink

But I don’t get churlish

Don’t like aggro

Prefer to walk away from it all

Because nobody wants to end up like Paul.

 

Not me

Not you

Not what Paul’s been through

Knocked clean out

In a dirty nightclub loo

 

Sound funny?

It isn’t.

Paul’s head hit the cistern.

Coma for weeks

If only his friends had of listened

If they’d left it where it started

Way back at the bar

If they’d walked away and laughed

Joking about it from afar

 

But Paul’s mates liked a rumble

When the drink was inside

Everyone’s Mike Tyson

When the night comes alive

Spilled drinks

Crossed words

Things mistakenly overhead

Eye contact

The contest

Who backs down first?

Was never Paul’s mates

All alive with the thirst

 

Paul wasn’t like that.

A considerate young lad

Didn’t see the point in it

People acting mad

He was there for a laugh

Not for a scrap

Only fight he’d had

At 5 his sister gave him a slap

But boys will be boys

And mates are your group

So Paul was stood there

When it got thrown out of loop

When the testosterone boiled

And the aggravation bubbled

And suddenly

There it was

A whole lot of trouble

 

Bystander calmed it

Just a spilled drink they’d said

But Paul’s mates kept on shouting

And their opponents turned their heads

Walking away

For now, at least.

And Paul felt relief

As he slid into a seat

 

Two drinks later

A bit of dancing

Bit of flirting

And Paul’s last worry

Was of any more trouble occurring

 

Into the toilet

To empty the bladder

As he unzipped

He heard the chatter

The lads from before

Not his friends, but the foes

Planning an attack

When the club came to close

 

Paul should have stayed quiet

But peacemaker kicked in

Lads came out the toilet

The story gets grim

Quick recognition

A grin of realisation

Four versus one

In toilet isolation

 

Paul, innocent paul,

No idea of the trouble he was in

Kept talking them down

Should be saving his skin

 

The punch came from nowhere

Broke his jaw with the force

But Paul didn’t feel anything

Just the darkness of the fall

Head, the back of, colliding with ceramic

Paul’s consciousness, leaving the planet

 

Paul’s mother and father

Getting the call

Tears and terror

All because of a bathroom stall

The tendrils of influence

Stretched out that night

Lives changed forever

Because of meaningless fights

 

The guy who punched Paul

A promising grad

Lost control that night

And lost everything he had

Five years in jail

Guilt every day

All just because

Couldn’t keep anger at bay

 

And Paul’s friends got worse

Didn’t learn their lesson

Righting your wrongs

Beyond their comprehension

Even angrier nowadays

Don’t cross them on a night

But all of them cried

When they saw Paul after the fight

 

His head cracked open

Blood on the floor

Moaning aloud

But not here anymore

Eyes glazed over

Memory deleted

Verbal communication

Broken and fleeting

Confined to a wheelchair

A husk of what was

And all for nothing

A drunken encounter, just because

 

Just because some men

Justify their lives by their actions

And don’t feel like real men

If they’re not fighting or attracting

Females for fucking

Men to be battled

And bystanders like Paul

Just doe-eyed cattle

 

Paul’s story has a bright side

He’s not even real

But the stuff I’ve seen in my life

Tarnishes the grand reveal

Because what happened to Paul

I’ve seen more than once

I’ve watched punches thrown

Without slight remorse

All over nothing

Just beers and masculinity

Uncaring for reality

Human fragility

 

Let’s hope you’re not like Paul

And you’re aware of danger

Keep an eye out, for the anger of strangers

Distance yourself

When fists start to fly

Or it’ll be your mother

Who’ll weep, when she hears that you’ve died.

 

Last but not least,

Don’t keep the company of beasts.

Make sure your friends

Don’t have anger to unleash.

Enjoy your drinks

But beware of past midnight.

One punch can end it

Stay away from the fights.

The Strangest Weekend (Long Read)


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I

If you’d told the man sitting in a Newcastle pub that he’d save the life of one of the rarest creatures in England on an otherwise dingy weekend, he’d have laughed in your face. Then, he’d probably have had another pint. Maybe he’d have had a shot too, for good measure.

 

This pint, his third, went down as willingly as their predecessors. He sat in the corner of the bar, underneath the picture of the fat lady with her breasts out. This had been their favourite spot, but now Thomas sat alone – and he drank.

 

But the bar itself wasn’t empty. Far from it. His phone buzzed constantly, GPS and NFC notifications lighting up to let him know that there were non-humans nearby. But Tom didn’t need a phone to notice that. In the Town Wall, people looking to dull the pain of a recent breakup weren’t the only beings around.

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The Visitor (Sci-fi short)

Yilrah’s cocoon broke through the atmosphere of Earth in a blaze of red flame that lit up the night sky. Inside the vessel, the traveller was awoken by the force of the entry. Minutes later, the whole structure shook violently as it thudded into the ground.

The news crews and scientists were already waiting. Inside, wrapped in the warmth and comfort of her planet’s birthing liquid, Yilrah breathed a deep sigh of trepidation. Here was her destiny, the same each of her species faced. Launched out into the universe asleep, forever immortal until they found planets that showed signs of life.

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Amnesia (Sci-fi Short)

The first question is where?

The second is why?

The third, and perhaps the hardest of all, is how?

The where is a maximum security prison called San Quentin. I’ve been put in here with some of the meanest, toughest human beings I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Tattoos on their throats, scars on their faces. Men who have killed and enjoyed it.

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The Stranger

A stranger came from a forgotten land

He wore golden hair, carried gold in hand.

With a sweet and lashing tongue that spoke aloud

The stranger he stood there tall and proud.

 

The stranger he tells us right from wrong

He masks untruth with his golden song.

And the stranger he carries gold in hand

Promises it freely to each and every man.

 

The stranger he removes the weak from the strong

Protects us from those who mean us wrong

Cut them off from the sea, off from the shore!

The stranger he guards us more and more.

 

And then the gold pours, thick like blood.

The stranger he slowly removes his hood.

We see his horns and we see his claws,

But it matters not, because he aids our cause.

 

The river runs deep, red and dark.

The stranger’s teeth, sharp like a shark.

He consumed them all, and we were glad.

But his eyes turn on us, hungry and mad.

 

The stranger he feasts on the fervor we fed him,

The lies and the fear and the hate that we let in.

Once he’s done with the others, none left to challenge his rule,

His jaws close on his loyal followers, the blind land of fools.

Do We Still Have Compassion?

2016 has been a horrific year for planet Earth. Regardless of your political views, personal position in life or your attitude towards others, we’ve all read some horrific storylines in the media – from the deaths of much loved actors to an unparalleled refugee crisis.

But wait, I hear you say, what about our own homeless? What about Kim Kardashian?  When I first started writing, I always told myself I’d avoid putting my personal opinions out on a soapbox. Instead, I’d stick to sports journalism and fiction with some inspiration from our own reality. But sadly, it’s time I spoke some truth to anyone who reads the things I pen: It’s time to stop focusing on emptiness and start having some compassion.

We live in a world where more people care about themselves than they do others. This is understandable. We all want to go home to our families and see our own lives progress. We all want a nice, comfortable life. Unfortunately, the reality is so unbelievably far removed from that ideal that we must all now confront some of the crisis erupting around us.

But what is compassion, really? I’ve recently turned vegetarian after learning about the plight of animals in slaughterhouses, yet any time I tell people about it I get the same reaction: “I don’t want to know about the slaughterhouses. I just want to eat meat.” To me, that’s the symptom of our entire worldview and how we lack compassion. We watch the news, shake our heads, then we switch it off.  But really, that’s not good enough. We need empathy.

Syrian Migrants ARE NOT taking your job

This year has witnessed one of the greatest humanitarian crises  of our time unfold on the news. The refugee and migrant situation across Europe has spiralled out of control. And yet, a quick glance at the comment section of any national newspaper and you’ll see people furiously attacking these so called ‘economic migrants’ for wanting, how dare they, the free healthcare and good standard of living we have in the UK. The same free healthcare we are all entitled too, and didn’t pay a penny towards until we were 18+

These people are human beings. They come from a country that is involved in a complex power struggle, but they themselves only want the same thing as all of us. Food, shelter, warmth and a chance to succeed at life. Whatever country they flee too, who are we to judge while we sit in our homes and sip tea and coffee. Have we lost our ability to empathise?  Imagine you and your children suddenly had bombs falling on your home, a war on your doorstep and killers in your neighbourhood. What would you do?

It is not ‘Us vs Them’ – it doesn’t matter if they’re children, male or female. We are human beings. They are human beings. Nobody chooses where they are born – so why feel you’re entitled to more than they are?

People on benefits are not the enemy

I’m lucky. I’ve got a university education, thousands of pounds of debt and a rental flat that costs way more than it should because I can’t get anywhere near affording a mortgage. Despite this, I am healthy, happy and live in relative peace. The worst threat of violence in my life is getting chinned at the chip shop if I’m out drinking.

Some people are not so lucky – and the media is beginning to demonise the lower working class and those on benefits in a sickening fashion. Whether they’re immigrants, those who have fallen through the gaps or even voluntarily on benefits, the fault lies with the system. We live in a world where the 1% have more than the 99% – and yet somehow we focus on the poor? Open your eyes.

Be kinder to others (and yourself)

In this world, you’re branded a ‘leftie’ or a hippy if you preach compassion. However, even the most flagrant racists I’ve met have some good in them. I strongly believe that people are, against all media portrayals to the contrary, inherently good. Almost all of us have kindness in us, excluding a few complete bad eggs. Whether this kindness manifests as holding the door for someone, making someone a cup of tea or just being polite – it’s there.

This has all been spurred by watching Ken Loach’s incredible film: I, Daniel Blake. In it, a good man makes a big impact in a struggling family’s life – but finds himself a victim of our merciless benefit system. Despite that, the film for me was a strong reminder of the kindness of the human spirit. The sense that, if people try, we can really change things for people.

I’m writing this, unlike the stories and poetry I produce, for no real reason. I may be shouting into the darkness – preaching my ‘leftie’ views to people who won’t even consider this message. But, like a ship in a storm, I’m pressing on with it. Human beings, each and every one of us, has a story or a struggle. Whether it’s mental health, poverty, homelessness, seeking refuge or just feeling down – we all have our cross to bear. But it’s time to stop burying our heads in the sand, or placing our fingers in our ears. Each and every person can make an impact – whether it’s buying some food for a food bank, volunteering in some way or just being kinder to people.

If just one person reading this watches a news story about migrants, or beggars, or people on benefits and rather than instantly condemn them, thinks a little harder about the situation – then I’ve done a good job.

We are all human beings. We all come from our mothers. We all share this planet, for better or worse.

Think a little harder, care a little more, hate a lot less.

 

 

 

 

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