Friday, 24 June 2016

Here is wisdom.


“Vimes had once discussed the Ephebian idea of ‘democracy’ with Carrot, and had been rather interested in the idea that everyone had a vote until he found out that while he, Vimes, would have a vote, there was no way in the rules that anyone could prevent Nobby Nobbs from having one as well. Vimes could see the flaw there straight away.”


― Terry PratchettThe Fifth Elephant

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Transformation





An alchemist scowled and he said
While gloomily scratching his head
Perhaps I’m too old
To turn self into gold
I guess I’m too easily led.


In Response to Studio30Plus' Prompt "Guess" or "Reckon"

Friday, 3 June 2016

The Watchers on the Wall

An extract from a manuscript discovered in the ruins of Lughdunum in the early 24th century following the great Barcode Wars.  It appears to have been a satirical play, author unknown.

This extract is from Act III of the play and takes place in Adlerstan on the Great Border


Guard 1 (entering):
What news my friend?  The waste beyond the wall?

Guard 2: 
Remains, unchanged. A desolation still.

Guard 1:
This watch is wearisome to me, and is
To each man of renown a burden bleak.
But needful, so they say, our pleasant land
To save and to preserve from evil days.

Guard 2:
What days more evil than those days we have
Could come upon us?

Guard 1:
Soft, and speak no more.
Such words as those are barbed, and pierce and tear,
And risk enough to hear, much less to speak.
There’s men enough to bear a tale for coin
And not for me the prison camp offshore.

Captain (entering):
What ho, what ho, you sturdy men and true

Guard 1:
Captain, good day

Guard 2:
Good day my captain bold.

Captain:
Good day indeed, dear lads, for I have news
Today our watch is brightened from above
For to the wall there comes to see our watch
And I predict on us to praises heap
Our leader, the eternal ruler Trump
Preserved by Art a century and more
Oh glory, glory and such glory thrice
To see our leader, why it’s…

Guard 1:
Very nice?
Oh Captain do we have the right to see
This wondrous Trump, the first of God’s decree
This paragon of triumph and of will?
This golden one?  Oh may he rule us still.

Guard 2:
Your irony is showing friend, back off

Captain:
What did you say my man?

Guard 2:
‘Twas just a cough.

Captain:
Stand to, good men and true, stand to indeed
And every buckle shine and button close
Your halberds and your crossbows polish all
I’ll go escort our leader to the wall
(exit)

Guard 1:
Great God in heaven is this not enough
To insult heap on this injurious toil
To have to smile and fawn on this… on this..
Bewigged, befouled vainglorious old boil!

Guard 2:
Peace, he comes, peace and speak no more your mind

(enter Captain and TRUMP an iron-lung on tracks, a bouffant blond wig blowing on top of it)

Captain:
Hail to the chief, good men, and Hail Indeed

Guard1:
Hail Trump, oh steel encased and mighty one

Guard 2:
Hail Trump, Lord of a time now spent and gone

TRUMP:
GOOD BOYS GOOD BOYS THE JOB YOU DO IS SWELL
TO STAND AND GUARD THIS BORDER WALL OF HELL
FROM TIMES WHEN LIFE WAS SMOOTH I CHOSE OUR FATE
AND AS I SWORE I MADE OUR COUNTRY GRATE

Captain:
Haha, good one, a double meaning there

Guard 1:
Good one my lord

Guard 2:
and is that really hair?

TRUMP:
YOU’RE DOING GREAT.  THAT’S IT I HAVE TO GO
AND RULE SOME MORE THE SHEEPLE DOWN BELOW
SOME GREAT NEW LAWS WILL SHORTLY BE ENACTED
TO SCREW THE [RACIAL EPITHET REDACTED]
AND SOON YOU’LL SEE MY PLAN WILL BE COMPLETED
DAMN THEM [RACIAL EPITHET DELETED]
(he trundles away followed by the Captain)

Narrator:
And so our tale must end this shocking scene
Of futures bleak, that current moods may presage.
And so, your humble narrator I’ve been,
I'm Thomas Marlowe – I endorse this message
(exeunt omnes)

In answer to Studio30Plus' prompt "VAINGLORIOUS"

Monday, 14 March 2016

Sneaky bug(ger)s

What would you do if you were a tiny insect and prey to those swooping swirling creatures of the night that can track you by sonar?

Obvious isn't it?

You learn to jam the sonar.

Bertholdia trigona, a moth native to the Arizona desert, emits ultrasonic clicks at a rate of 4,500 times per second to blur bats' acoustic vision
Next question.



What species are moving amongst us now that have the same jamming capabilities for our senses... and how would we ever know?

"there were never such devoted sisters..."

Some things just cry out for backstory, even though I know in my heart of hearts that the truth of the situation cannot live up to the possibilities.


I like to think that this wasn't some one-off dispute that had got really out of hand, but evidence of a subculture of devoted-duellists who would travel Europe seeking to settle doctrinal disputes the old fashioned way.     One red bead on the rosary for every confirmed kill as a badge of rank.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Romanian villagers: Why investigate vampire slaying? We know what we're doing?



Typical government sticking their noses in where they're not needed.

Before Toma Petre's relatives pulled his body from the grave, ripped out his heart, burned it to ashes, mixed it with water and drank it, he hadn't been in the news much. That's often the way here with vampires. Quiet lives, active deaths.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article24587203.html#storylink=cpy
LINK


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Debtor's Prison




“The trouble with the old stories,” said the old man, thick smoke clinging to his hair as he paused to draw on his cigarette and exhale luxuriously, “is that they never end properly.”

Since his audience consisted of two young drunkards in a Boston nightclub he didn’t get much of a reaction.  The two men, students by the look of them, lounged on the couch across from him and nodded wobbly heads for politeness sake.

“They have ends, but they don’t end,” the old man continued.   “They come back in different ways.   You should read some of the old folk tales from before Disney took his gelding shears to them.  Blood and fire, torture and death and no happy endings mostly.   They should have been allowed to rest in peace instead of dragged from their rest and prettied up.  Like putting a ribbon in a corpse’s hair.”

Another long draw on his cigarette.   “Still he ended up as a head in a frozen jar so the laugh’s on him.   Still awake from what I hear, frozen and aware.   Serves the bastard right.    Like Loki.”

Seeing no hint of recognition on the two listeners he explained.   “The god.   Well half god, half giant.  Chained to a rock beneath the earth, venom dripping on his face from a big bastard of a snake.   Frozen in place and aware of his pain forever.  Just like Disney.”

“Bullshit,” said the shorter of the two men opposite, but without acrimony.

“Probably,” admitted the man.   “Anyway my point is… my point is the stories should be left to end.  But they don’t.  Let me tell you about last week.

“A man came into this club, this very club.   He was a little older than you boys, tall and good looking in a don’t get too close sort of way.  Fair hair with a shine of red when he passed under the lights.   The sort of man that just stinks of skulduggery.   Don’t laugh, it’s a good word.  An old word.   Older than you think it is, that word.   Anyway he was a no good bastard is what I mean.   He bought drinks for people, he laughed and he joked and he flirted with all the best looking women.  Successful too, what we used to call honey-tongued.

“Anyway he ended up taking one of those girls, Sabrina or Selena or some such name, off by themselves for a little while.   And while he was out of the room someone else came in through the front door.   Oh she was something.   Tall and strong, long golden hair, eyes that burned blue.  Nobody could take their eyes of her but she didn’t look like someone here to dance.   Looked like trouble.  Looked like someone hoping to call in a debt.  And guess who she was looking for?

“The man himself was in the corridor outside the rest room, making out with Selena or Sabrina or whatever.  Getting hot and heavy.    Then all of a sudden she tries to pull away.   ‘Something’s burning,’ says she.   He just holds her all the tighter and then something screwy happens.   She makes this god awful choking noise and then pushes him away.    The guy’s lost all his swagger now, looks confused, scared.   He stumbles away and heads for the fire exit.   Meanwhile Sabrina or Selena stands up tall and straight, checks herself out in a mirror on the wall and smiles like she likes what she sees.

“Just then the debt collector woman comes barrelling through the corridor, and I swear to God she had a sword in her hand, a damn great sword.  Out she goes through the fire exit after Sonny Jim and she doesn’t come back.  Not that night anyway.   Meanwhile Sabrina, or Selena, or whatever the hell she calls herself now goes back to the club to drink some more and dance and get laid.   What do you think of that?”

“Still sounds like bullshit,” said the young man who’d spoken before, “how do you know what happened?  Were you watching them make out you sick old bastard?”

The old man drew on his cigarette again, “You know me too well,” he said.   Across the club he saw a tall woman enter, haloed in the light of the club entrance, eyes burning and a debt to collect.    He blew his smoke out across the men opposite, and the big guy, the more drunk one of the two coughed and looked angry.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said to his shorter companion, “I need some air.”   He pulled the other man to his feet and they turned to walk away from the old man, now looking confused and lost.

“Crazy old bastard,” said the short man as they walked past the woman who’d just arrived, not noticing her sudden fierce pace.  “Skulduggery huh?”


“Old word,” said his no longer drunk friend, opening the door and stepping out into the cold night air, “Comes from the Icelandic.  Skuldari.  Means someone who’s trying to skip out on a debt.   Let’s go get something to eat.”


In response to Studio30Plus prompt "Skulduggery" 
Image by Tony Jacobson

Saturday, 28 November 2015

History never repeats itself, but it often rhymes.



Those old men in their towers
Rich in gold and oil and powers
Will never cry 'enough, I'm satisfied'

And they send out their town criers
And their skilful journaliars
And they cast their spell so trusted and so tried

See the other, over there?
What they're doing is unfair
And their ways are wrong and evil and obscene

We must fear them and must hate them
And completely decimate them
For while they live the world is never clean

So they'll march boys off to war
as they've marched them off before
And they beat the drums of falsehood and of shame

And if judgement's to be had
between what's good and bad
then first you need to ask the killer's name


In tenuous response to Light & Shade Challenge's "Incantation" and Studio30Plus's "Attack"

Friday, 20 November 2015

The Stone and the Seven

Cannot sleep my lady?  Then draw close to the candle and listen.

I will tell you a tale of the old old days there were not in fact so long ago as you would hope.

The King in those days had two sons.   The eldest son, the heir was a foul creature, handsome enough to look upon but nobody could long bear his presence without wanting to flee him or strike him.   The King indulged his eldest son and the people suffered for it, but not so much that they would rise up and turn horror into anger.

In those days a traveller came through the wood, astray in the dark heart of it, lost and cold.  Each path mocked him with its turns and every way he took brought him back across his own earlier path.   If he called on the Virgin for guidance she did not hear him or choose to answer.

The denizens of that house were several and they were foul welcoming him with mocking eagerness, complimenting the length of his limbs and the strength of his frame and the beauty of his features.   They themselves were short and twisted things, pale and half formed with faces that called to mind the slack hanging faces of the dead.   They dragged him into their hovel and sat him at their table.   They all assured him that his presence honoured their dreadful cottage, all except for one more malformed than the rest who lacked the power of speech and simply rested his bulbous head on the table and damped the wood with his drooling.

He ate their rancid meat and drank their fusty water as hospitality demanded and he felt his stomach rebel but his manners kept the foul mess down.

And then they offered him a treat fit for a prince.  The offer was  made with leering smiles and wicked hints of tone and gesture.    Behind the cottage there was a path of pale cobbles half buried in the mud, white and brittle they looked and his feet slipped on them as the creatures swarmed him toward their goal, a clearing in the woods like a bald patch on a diseased scalp.   There was a slab there, a stone altar, rough and cruel and well used.   The old worshippers had altars like this before their gods were purged with fire and salt.    There on the altar was a maiden, still and pale and as the stories would have you be assured, fair beyond measure.

The stranger demanded to know what was meant by it, how these misshapen brutes should come to have the company of a woman so unmarred.   The creatures smiled, or scowled or drooled according to their nature and the leader of them explained in sly words how they were commissioned to the work by a great man, and that the lady was a pleasure fit for a prince. 

The prince, they explained, would not visit until later and so if the gentleman visitor wished he could avail himself of the lady.  A modest donation to their coffers would suffice.

The stranger drew his sword and butchered the monsters.   Their pale flesh parted beneath his steel, their limbs fell jointed to the ground.   They did not resist even so much as a child might and died in confusion that their gift should be so scorned.   When they fell dead the stranger tried to rouse the lady and found that no power short of the final trump on the day of resurrection could do so.  She was cold and still and would never rise again from that brooding stone.  What surgeon’s art had preserved her in so fair a condition he did not dare imagine.

He did not hear the prince, the heir approach.  The young man was grievously wounded as the prince slashed his face back and forth with his dagger decrying him as a slayer of his loyal and secret servants, and demanding of him where he would find his cold pale brides now.

And that is the tale I have told.  I do not know if you smile or frown at it, for my brother’s blade took my eyes that night so long ago, when our father still lived.

In the morning I will bring you your breakfast to fit you for your journey.

Blow out the candle when you are ready my lady.


Sleep deeply.

In response to Our Write Side's prompt - Creepy Seven Dwarves

Monday, 9 November 2015

Apparitions

Edmund Jenkin was not an old man but he was weary and reaching the end of his resources.  He had been waiting for his caller who was overdue by an hour and he was worried.  The weather was bad but that was not what concerned him.   What concerned him was that the time was bad, the days were bad, the enemy was breaking through in ways they could not have imagined a decade ago and he was concerned that these were the final days.

When he saw Jacob’s car draw up in his driveway he was not so much relieved as resigned.  There was still work to be done.   When he opened the door to his visitor though he shook his head.

“You should not have brought the boy,” he said to Jacob.   The child was about ten years old and seemed hidden inside a hooded coat at least one size too large, playing some game on a smartphone that was occupying his full attention.

“No choice Ed,” said Jacob, “His mother’s busy, I  couldn’t leave him behind.”   The two visitors entered the house and Edmund disposed of their coats over a couple of hooks in the hallway.

“What’s your name then?” asked Edward of the child, smiling awkwardly.

“Simon,” said the boy, “What’s your wifi password?”

“Wi…?   I don’t think I have one.”

The boy’s father laughed at Simon’s horrified expression and installed him in the parlour while the two men went into Edmund’s study, a cluttered room of books and folders and strange drawings pinned to the wall.   Jacob recognised some of the things in the drawings and they made him feel ill.

“It’s getting worse isn’t it?” he said.

“Much worse.   The stars are right and the old ones are stirring in their strange homes.    Their followers are awaiting their return.   Already there are manifestations.”

Jacob nodded, running his fingers over a pinned up pencil sketch of a formless bundle of ropy sinew.   “There was a shoggoth in the Humber Estuary,” he said very quietly, “we drove it off but it killed Elaine.   Marcus hasn’t spoken since then.  I think he’ll do something… rash… if he’s left alone.   That’s why Sarah’s not here today, she’s watching him.”

Edmund shook his head sadly.   “I heard of that.   The television said it was a chemical spill.    And the incursion in Fiswick?”

“They took a dozen of the citizens, nothing we could do.  Dragged them under the waves.  Edmund… how are they doing it?   They’ve never been able to accomplish so much before.”

“The stars are right,” Edmund said.  He opened up a book on his desk, a very old book with brown and cracking pages.   Jacob knew the name of the book but wouldn’t ever say it aloud, its reputation was so bad.   The page displayed was covered in spidery symbols, pen-strokes of dark ink that almost writhed under the reader’s gaze.  “But even so… the simplest conjuration takes such concentration, such precision.”  He instinctively tried to trace one of the symbols with his finger in the air and stopped himself, clenching his fist angrily.

“We need to find a way to…”  Jacob sighed, “I’m stating the obvious.  What isn’t obvious is how to stop them.   But until we find their rituals, find out where they’re doing the summoning from we’re always going to be on the defensive.”  He picked up a copy of the Daily Mail, the headline CANNIBAL IMMIGRANT RAMPAGE showed a blurry image of what were plainly – to those in the know at least – two ghouls tearing into the crowd after a London football match.   “How did they get so bold?  How did they get so much better?”

“People believe everything and nothing these days,” Edmund said sadly, “the occult is a joke to so many.   They do not understand how the edge of the abyss can crumble so quickly, how deep is the fall that awaits us all.   If only we-“   He stopped suddenly and looked around.    The lights flickered off and then on again a few seconds later and the walls of the house seemed to groan.   The renewed light was wrong somehow, a greenish cast to it, the shadows fell wrongly, drawing inward toward the centre of the room.

“They’ve found us,” Edmund said, his mouth dry with fear.   He fumbled with one hand at the talisman he kept in his waistcoat pocket, a silver square engraved with number-squares that should be proof against the chaotic forces they too-often faced.   The silver felt slimy to the touch, sticking to his fingers.   “My God they’ve found us.”

Jacob ran from the room to fetch his son.  Whatever danger they had to face they would face together and he could not risk them using his child against him.   The corridor had twisted like a corkscrew along its length though it looked no different and as Jacob tried to run down it he fell from floor to wall to ceiling bruising himself and having the breath knocked out of him.

“Simon!” he yelled at the parlour door, “Simon are you alright?”  His words burned like ochre light in the air around him as he called.     The answering cry was petulant.

“Just finishing the level,”  in a tone that meant ‘do not disturb me’

Jacob crawled to the door across a carpet that tore at him like shards of broken promises and he thrust the door open.  Simon was safe though the room around him had become a twisted mosaic of its original form.   The boy hadn’t even looked up from his game and Jacob lurched forward to grab his son, to save him, to take him back to Edmund who was the most skilled exponent of the arcane arts he had ever met and who might be able to protect them all.    A scream the colour of corroded dreams echoed out from the study giving the lie to that hope.

“Dad, leave it, I’m nearly done,”  The boy was unaware of any risk, his finger moving rapidly over the smartphone screen, and Jacob looked at the game for the first time, really looked.   Each time a shimmering green symbol appeared on the screen the boy traced it almost at once with his finger, and then the next, and then the next and the next, the speed incredible, the accuracy such that only a child with a favourite game could achieve.  


Jacob recognised the symbols, but he could not stop the child at his game.  He did not have time.  The walls of the room opened inward like slatted blinds, noiseless and inevitable, and the things beyond the world looked in hungrily and took them both.