Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Please allow me to introduce myself



I smiled, oh my brothers, but how I hated him.   He was head honcho, big cheese, grand panjandrum and didn’t he know it just.   He smiled the expansive smile of a perpetual winner and his happiness was sickening to normal, that is to say lesser, types like me.  Not that I let on, oh no.  Foremost of the archangels, and captain of the heavenly host my job was to look magnificent and adoring and to do his bloody will whenever he expressed an opinion.  He had a lot of opinions, cryptic and unknowable, but the ones concerning the physical realm, the human race, the dirtball little planet of water and mud and living clay, those opinions were sweet and smiley and joy joy joy.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Radio Silence...


It’s been a while hasn’t it?

Come in and sit down, make yourself comfortable.   I’d offer you a drink but the glasses are all a little dusty.   I haven’t been around much to keep an eye on things here at the Manor and there are cobwebs in the corners and an unpleasant scuttling noise from behind the wainscoting.   Rats probably.  Hopefully.   Make yourself comfortable.   Try not to worry about the noises.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Spectator Sport




image courtesy of freeimageslive.com

Alan finally managed the lock, hoping that the vodka would numb the impact of a too quiet house and painfully empty rooms.   It didn’t, and the silence prickled his skin.  He’d sleep on the couch he decided but needed the bathroom first.   Stupidly he wandered afterward into Megan’s room and ran a finger along the Disney princess border on the wall near the door.

Something gleamed on the floor, something dropped.  He picked up her funfair snowglobe and saw how dull it looked.

It only became beautiful when shaken up.


He wondered if that was how God viewed human lives.


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Messenger



Photo by Lyssa Medana

My real name is Myer, but I go by the nickname Angel these days.

I’m not an Angel.   Not in the sense that most people understand, but I think it’s justified.  You see “Angel” means “Messenger” and that’s what I definitely am.    When my boss wants to send a message, he sends me.    When people see me turn up they get the message.   Of course by then it’s too late for them, because the message my boss sends is for the benefit of others.   The messages I deliver encourage other people not to make the same stupid mistakes as the recipient.

Am I being too coy?

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Gotterdammerung





Edward DelRay was the last of the DelRays that there would ever be.

Prove it he told himself.

He had burned the last of his books that afternoon and inhaled the smoke of his imagination as he watched the fire.   Now he took his melancholy out the back door and stood silently in the garden where a thousand lifeless stems grew, each one marking a future he had buried.

He was silent and unmoving but he screamed nonetheless.


Beneath the ground each strangled dream held its neighbour’s hand and smiled, writhing toward the surface and a reunion rich with potential.

(in response to a prompt from Light and Shade Challenge ("Prove it") and Studio30Plus ("He took his melancholy out the back door)

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Boundaries



Picture by Aesop Clerk
Peel away the layers of myth, Sarah thought, and it came down to this:   Beyond the iron posts was Outside and dangerous.   The waterfall was falling light, dazzling and glorious, churning the pool, outflanking the iron posts.    The cliffside hinted at faces in that flickering light, smiling, laughing, beguiling.   Outside was dangerous, but that had not stopped Sarah’s sister wading out a year ago, deaf to Sarah’s cries of warning, pleas not to leave her alone.

The elders of the Last Human Settlement had strict rules.  Only children could draw water.  It was safer.    But Sarah’s sister had drawn water too often, and now she was gone.

Sarah filled the containers and mourned her sister.   For a moment only she glimpsed a smiling youth fetching water on the far side of the pool, Outside.   Handsome…

No.  She imagined it.  

Perhaps she would imagine it again tomorrow, she hoped.

Prompt from Light and Shade Challenge using the image above, and Studio30Plus using the phrase "Peel away the layers"

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Quaff the Marlowe, evermore...

My great friend Lyssa Medana returned from a family holiday yesterday with a gift for me - a rather splendid mug sporting a rather splendid raven.   She knows I have a fondness for corvidae.



If anyone reading this hasn't checked out Lyssa's blog yet, they really should.   She's a fantastic writer with a great take on the fantastic and magical, yet always managing to ground things in realistic and well observed characters.     The link to her blog is here so treat yourself and go take a look.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Hey, you. Yes. You.


Hey.

I’m sending you an image.   It will reach you somehow.



You’ve been unresponsive since we got you back from the enemy, but the doctors say your mind is active in a  dream prison they made for you.  A life so real you can’t escape it.    Reasons to stay there.   

I don’t know what dream it is but my words have to reach you.  

Maybe you’ll hear them, or read them in a book.  

Maybe on a screen.

You have to walk through the door to wake up.  The door in the image.


Please.  Do it now.

(Don't walk through the door, this is just a response to a writing prompt from Light and Shade Challenge, that's all, just a writing exercise, nothing else.   The picture is just a picture from the internet by someone called Sulaco299 at rgb.com)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Helping Hand

Picture by Ayla87 on rgbstock.com


I clean the shop, I mend the shoes, I help the downcast maiden choose
Her future prince, her future bright, her perfect brave and charming knight
I bless the baby that she bears, I honour every oath she swears,

I prophesy of days unborn, of trials to come, of oaths foresworn
Of fallen thrones and mirrors smashed, of crowns cast down and glories past
And then I turn and start again, I’ve seen each story wax and wane

And in each tale of destiny, in each strange tale there’s always me
A little voice, a hidden hand, a sprite perhaps with so much planned,
A crone perhaps, a crone I am, Or sometimes yet a wizened man,
Or youth in green, or far off light, or voice that whispers in the night,

My favours come to those in need, my favours plant the fertile seed
I’ll stack the cups up on the table, to spin the straw to gold I’m able
I’ll give you all the riddles’ answers, I’ll train the girl to join the dancers,
To sing with angel’s voice and soar, to bring her love back from the war

I’ve seen ten thousand stories told, I’ve seen ten thousand lives unfold
And touched each one, and made them mine, I know the ways to make them shine
The mundane waste of mundane life, in seconds passing, dismal strife
Or dismal joy, so pale and weak, I cannot bear such futures bleak
So I step in with sharpened story, and cut so deep in search of glory
And cut away the life that bores, and cut away the life that’s yours

I know you see, I know what’s best, the shining tale, the mighty quest
I’ll put you on the path I choose, I’ll see you walk it, don’t refuse,
Dull daily life requires mending, and who would shun a happy ending?

I’m here to help,

I’m good, I’m nice,

 I never ever name the price


(in response to the picture prompt shown above from Light and Shade Challenge)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Unaware



Image courtesy Vierdrie of www.freeimages.com 


Hiram Harrison left the pulpit of his megachurch, smiling.   His sheep were his to fleece and he knew a text for every bit of hatred to stir up, every appeal for more money.

The stranger in his office looked like trash,  tattered , unkempt,  a tattoo on his arm:  Hebrews 13:2

Hiram, sneering,  went to snap out a text about marking the skin and instead said “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…”  and he went on, unable to stop.


“Carry on till you’ve heard,” said the stranger, and then he was gone, leaving Hiram helplessly, carefully, reciting.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

All That Glitters

image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The conqueror rose from his seat at the council table.  Of the six lords seated, four were likely to
become his supporters, one his enemy, and one would bide his time.   It was always like that, and easily dealt with.

He strode from the chamber followed by his young courtesan.   She’d knelt silently, patiently, head lowered at his side throughout the council session.   He had spoken passionately:   He and his warriors had conquered the small kingdom, all the armies of knights and archers not by superior numbers but by greater discipline and organisation.   He would teach his new subjects this.   He would raise their kingdom, his kingdom, to a place among the empires of the world.   Their ambitions had been paltry and he would show them that what they’d considered the ceiling of achievement was what he would consider merely the floor to stride upon.   


And he had won them over, four new loyal provinces each with their own levies of knights and men at arms.   The others would fall in line, or they would fall.

He opened the door to his tower room and held it for his courtesan who skipped nimbly ahead of him, gorgeous and scantily dressed, his little piece of fluff, of happiness, of distraction.   And who would begrudge him that?

He closed the door then crossed to the bed, and stood motionless.   The young woman kissed him on the cheek and then caressed the back of his neck.   Finding the access panel she slid it open and removed the batteries that powered this most sophisticated of androids and then slipped them into the charger unit in the generator beneath her bed.

Nobody would dare enter the chamber before dawn, which meant she had plenty of time to catch up with her reading.


(In response to prompts from:
Light and Shade Challenge - Sometimes glass glitters more than diamonds because it has more to prove.- Terry Pratchett
Studio30 Plus :  Fluff of happiness
Write on Edge: “Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?” ― M.C. Escher)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Vodoun



(image courtesy of Wikimedia commons)


Bronte Belvoir was three generations adrift from from  her ancestress  the most feared woman in Port-au-Prince.  Her Manhattan apartment was further adrift from Fredeline’s spice-haunted shack.

She opened her laptop and closed her eyes momentarily, feeling the light of the screen on her eyelids.  Instead of drums, the soft whirr of a hard drive and she was ready.   No sacred names, but a username and password.  No drawn veve, but a cryptic Captcha.  And no sacrifice but her career and a USB stick full of secrets.


At the crossroad where meatspace and cyberspace touched, Papa Legba, lord of messengers, grinned as she passed by.

(Written in response to Light and Shade Challenge's prompt using the quote: “the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” - Roald Dahl)

Friday, 9 May 2014

Pocketful of Hope



Image courtesy of Jiimm of FreeImages.Com

The rain turned the trenches of the western front into a hell of muddy immobility.   Edward Royce, returned from leave, stepped back into real life.  Back home he’d worn a mask made of pre-war life, but every conversation, joke and smile was something he’d simply worn.

Back home they said the enemy was monstrous, barbaric, guilty of vile atrocities.  He’d nodded, but knew that in the trenches Death was impersonal.   Moral high ground was a precarious perch easy to slip from.


They said the war would be over by Christmas but nobody here believed that.   One sergeant in B platoon had planted daffodil bulbs on the lip of the trench so that if the war lasted till spring they’d have some colour and even a bit of cover.   

Private Royce was a clearer thinker. He’d brought back a dozen acorns to plant on the muddy edge between life and death.


(inspired by a prompt from Studio30Plus to incorporate the phrase Precarious Perch)

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Half Full


(A response to a  prompt from Light and Shade Challenge - inspired by the phrase "Optimism is like a spiritual magnet")

(Image courtesy of Hills22 via sxc.hu)


The young man would die unless he received aid, that was clear.  Nobody was more surprised than him.

“Can’t be killed,” he said, almost petulant as he lay there doubled over in the moss, “Prophesy.  When I was a child.”

“Aye, well,” Lucas crouched down, stroked sweat-slick hair from the youth’s forehead, “maybe the Hive didn’t know about that, eh?   Typical of them.  Never do their research.”

The Scotsman’s weak jest drew a grin from the pained face of the other.

“We’ve changed context,” the youth said, only now taking in the scene.   Tall old trees and thick undergrowth, a sky of deep blue.   Moments ago it had been night, with steel and concrete towers twisting in anguish through the blazing sky, sirens howling from all directions.

“We have.   No drones here, we can rest.  Well you can rest anyway, lie there till help turns up.”

“Is help coming?”  There was sudden hope in the young man’s voice.

“Someone’ll turn up,”

The youth laughed, then winced, clutching at the wound in his side, a spreading continent of dark inevitability on his tunic.    “Never… never figured you for an optimist Lucas.”

“Optimist?”  Lucas spat the word.  “Me?”

“Expecting help to arrive.   Optimist.    Glass half full, that’s you, secretly, that’s you.  You think the glass is half full.”

“Oh aye,” sarcasm sizzled in that syllable, “Optimist thinks the glass is half full, pessimist thinks it’s half empty, right?    Well I’m a realist.”   He paused for effect.   “The glass is entirely full.   The top half’s full of air, the bottom half’s full of whisky.   Not empty at all.   And don’t tell me air’s not important or I’ll prove you wrong.”

The young man smiled at the familiar chiding.   “Why whisky?” he asked.

Lucas shrugged.   “Why not?  Anyway lie still.  Help will be along shortly.”   He stood up and walked a little way, toward the rough track that snaked through the woodland.   He ignored the mocking cry of “optimist” that followed him.

Lucas could already see the horsemen approaching, just as he’d expected.   Half a dozen mounted men on barrel chested dark steeds.   As they drew closer he saw the lofted banner with the scarlet hunting dog on the sable field, and thrust his hands into his pockets and waited.

The leader of the horsemen drew to a halt by him and looked down, raising his hand to the visor of his half helm and raising it.   The face beneath was cruel and carved from stone and war.

“You,” the warrior said.

“Incisive as always,” said Lucas.

“You know the king’s edict.  It’s death for you to return here.”

Lucas shrugged.   “There’s a warrior back there with a stomach wound.  Do you still have that senile old healer at the castle.   Aye, good.  Well he’s a bloody genius.   See to my friend and I won’t even resist arrest, how’s that.”

“Resist?” the mounted man said, “You, alone?  Against six armed knights?”

Lucas just smiled until the other man nodded once.


Optimism.


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Nuptial Feast



(picture courtesy of flickr.cc)


The city was burning,  the choking smell of war-despair heavy in the streets.  Refugees of a moment’s notice, an hour ago simply people, rushed and stumbled with their hearts in hasty bundles and packs, desperate.   

Quick and lethal, the Duchess’ armies had struck after their mistress had been refused one last time,  rejected by this city’s eleven year old Duke who was, she said, the love of her life.  

Three proposals, three rejections, and now her armies came in like the tide.  Spurned and insulted, she told the world.  She did not mention the city’s gold reserves.

This is in response to three prompts - Write on Edge's quotation (“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”), Studio30Plus's phrase ("Quick and Lethal") and Light and Shade Challenge's quotation ("She tells enough white lies to ice a wedding cake")

Monday, 28 April 2014

Shades


(a prompt from Light and Shade Challenge using the following picture)



I wake, with slumber fogging up my  head
And turn to where your sleeping shadow lies
And stretch my arm across the half cold bed
And miss your eyes, and miss and miss your eyes

Coffee for one, and while the water drips
The light moves slyly and I watch entranced,
Upon the kitchen floor, a cruel eclipse,
The moving shadows of the waltz we danced

I need to clear my thoughts, and breathe fresh air
But in the garden there’s no solace found
In silhouette a summer’s kiss hangs there
Upon the fence, and in the past I’m drowned

The car was coming fast, too fast it sped
A thunderbolt, a kraken on the lane,
Then painted new in Rorschach-inkblot red
It left you there, unmade, in shaded rain

The future’s long and cold.  How can I last
So haunted by the shadows of the past?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Light and Shade




Born from a late and lengthy conversation with my good friend Lyssa Medana the other day we've decided to start up a joint blog with the primary purpose of providing writing prompts for any and all who may be interested in linking up and sharing their work.

 I'd love it if you'd feel able to take a look and hopefully be inspired to contribute - our aim is to get two prompts up each week, one longer and one shorter piece, each based around a choice of either an image or a quotation (or any combination that pleases).

The new blog, Light and Shade Challenge, is HERE and our first prompts will go live on Sunday evening. It would be great to see you there, and please give us any feedback you can as to what you'd like to see there as it grows.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Gardener

(a prompt from Studio30Plus using the phrase "It Should Pounce" in 150 words or less)



"The thing about inspiration," Simon said, "is that it is not a tame thing.  You can’t force it, it should pounce on you unexpectedly,"

"From outside?"  I was bored with his nonsense and this dire little bar.  I wanted to get home and write, but I was suffering a bad case of writer's block

"Yeah," his eyes drifted to a woman sitting nearby, shabby and reading a paperback.  "Yeah..."  She looked up and met his gaze.  Her eyes narrowed.

She strode across the room and slapped him hard across the face.

"For the last time," she said, "I am not your muse!"

She stalked away.   I looked at the shocked expression on his face and at the blossoming painflower of red on his cheek.

Painflower I thought, A garden of painflowers raising their heads towards a dying sun.

"See you later," I  told Simon, "I'm away home."

Monday, 7 April 2014

Silence

(a prompt from Studio30Plus to simply address the 3rd 
dictionary definition of "Love" : sexual passion or desire)


It is too tame a word for summer lightning
And the high winds over the moors.
Just a word,
Too small to contain new lives and dreams
And whispered forbiddens shared in smiling seething night.
A single sound
Cannot within it bind the shattering of ease
And its glorious rebuilding.
It should burn
Not sit so simply on the tongue
Lazy and heavy like an easy thing.  It should pounce
And grasp
And bite
And hold so close and for so long
That worlds could rise and fall unseen
And do.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Clear Path Forward

A prompt from Write on Edge based on this image:


to which I'll add the following, just for jollies:



Often she dreamed of towers and dragonback flying and strong hands holding hers, of golden rings blazing with power and of long tracks in the wilderness that led, finally, to nowhere at all.

At precisely 06:15 the screen in her apartment blared out its alarm and dragged her upright and attentive while she was still not yet awake.   Stretching and calisthenics until 06:30 and then a breakfast of souring milk and tasteless Libertyflakes before the long walk to work.  Her bicycle, requisitioned a month ago and, melted down, was helping to secure victory against the relentless inhuman enemies of her freedom to obey and work herself to death.

She didn’t think that thought.

Between 08:58 and 13:01 she sat at a desk with a shiny plastic table whose top didn’t quite look like wood.   Documents arrived on her left and she corrected them using a combination of voice recognition software which didn’t work and a grubby grey keyboard that mostly did.  

She dreamed often of a world of glorious cold dawns and sisters with corngold hair, of incantations and dancing barefoot in forbidden places, and of a lover as wild as drunken lightning and  as gentle as summer waking.   She dreamed of a kiss on her lips, and of wearing the necklace he’d given her, a fallen star sheathed in whispergold.

Between 13:05 and 13:25 she ate with the others in ordered rows.  Noodles and soya cubes and the news broadcast at full volume gleeful with imminent victory and sombre reminders that the enemy could strike at any time and hated hated hated the luxuries and freedom that were so commonplace here.   The noodles were undercooked and crunchy.

Between 13:29 and 17:32 she sat at her desk correcting errors and omissions.  She excised a photograph of a dead eyed man from a ministry bulletin from a year ago, it had been placed there in error.  The man had never worked there, though she was sure she’d seen him just once on the day she’d first been shown her desk.   Another error corrected.

She dreamed some nights of a long trail in the wilderness, through grass, that led nowhere.   She’d held the hand of the man who was her wildfire and told him that if she fell in battle she’d want to be buried beyond that horizon, with his necklace on her cold breast.   He’d smiled and said she would never die for he was a king, and he would never allow it.

At 17:36 she began the walk home, with all the others.   The bulletin had promised sunshine and clear weather for the evening commute.   Someone fell into step next to her, took her hand.   This didn’t happen.     He was lean and grim and she did not know him.

“Let go of me,”

“Don't think I haven't tried,” his accent was Scottish, his voice insistent, “I need your help”

“What?"

“You need to show me where to dig,”

It was about quarter to six and raining gently.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Tuesday's Train




“You don’t get frosts anymore, not real frosts, not here,”

I looked up from my book, surprised at being addressed.   The speaker was sitting opposite me and I hadn’t noticed him arrive, he must have got on at the previous station I suppose.

“Frosts?”

“Your book, Frost.   Just saying you don’t get frosts these days.”

He was an old man, small, tidy looking, with pure white hair and a neat beard, he wore an old but dark suit beneath a thick winter jacket.   His smile had the mischief of a kitten looking at a precious vase.

“It’s not about weather,” I said holding the book up, “It’s poetry.  Robert Frost.”

His smile widened.

“You don’t get real poets any more either,” he said, “I remember poets that could charm summer out of snow, and lightning from a clear sky.    Babies into cribs too, most of them.   What’s this fellow like then?”

“He’s good,” I said, “I like his work.”   It had been a long day and I didn’t feel up to a conversation anyway.    Work had dragged eight hours into twice that and this train had been diverted so far from its usual route I’d be lucky to see my home before midnight.

“Like his work?   A poet’s words should stab you to the heart with florid flame and turn your world to ash in an instant, hah yes, and then build a new and better world an instant later that makes you wonder how you ever bore the last one.”

That was quite an expectation, and I said so.

“Guilty as charged,” replied this exuberant fellow, “and unapologetic.    Words are too wonderful a thing to expect anything but magnificence from them.   So what did this Frost fellow write that was so good?  Do tell me, I adore being proven wrong, it has an enjoyable rarity value about it.”

I couldn’t help but smile in response to his unabashed impudence.   I flicked through the book to find my favourite quotation.

“Here,” I said, and quoted, “I would have written of me on my stone: I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.  And it is, you know, it was used as his epitaph.”

The old man considered this.

“A lover’s quarrel with the world,” he said, musing and stroking his beard, “A fine phrase, but maudlin perhaps.   I’ve never really understood lovers quarrelling.   I’m more the one night stand sort myself.”   He chuckled at some hidden joke of his own.

“New lovers are easier to find than new worlds,” I replied, nettled at his dismissal of my favourite quotation.


“Now what makes you think that?” he said leaning forward and pressing something into my hand.   A movement at my elbow distracted me, a flutter of wings and an impression of something large and tattered.    When I looked back the old man was gone, utterly gone, and a ring of ancient gold lay in my palm shining with truth and the burning cold of ancient winters.


A response to a prompt from Write on Edge using the Robert Frost quotation mentioned in the text

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Metallic Sonatas





The Rapture turned out to be a faulty product recall and we, the remnant, felt as free as mice in a house with only senile felines.  Then the new angels came to play.

The prompt is from Trifecta - 33 words including a palindrome (highlighted).

This is the last prompt Trifecta are running and I was sad to read that the site is closing its doors.  I've not been a member for very long but I've enjoyed responding to the prompts (those strict word counts have really helped me tighten up my prose) and meeting the other members of this great community.   The feedback I've had has been a great encouragement for me to sit down and write, and I've enjoyed reading the work of such a diverse and talented crew.     I'm hoping that I can keep in touch with, and follow the continued work of the rest of you.    To Trifecta and the people behind it - my thanks and gratitude, and best wishes for your future life and works.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Remembrance

(a writing prompt from Write on Edge)



The bells of St Brigit’s are calling tonight
Recalling a trio of baptisms made
One not long past springtime three boys all in white
Soon muddied and grinning they grew and they played
In green hills and wildwoods, valley and stream
Three bold brave adventurers seeking their fame
Then home for their supper, a snug bed and dream
And each new day shines brightly,  life is a game
The bells recall years far too fast as they pass
And three called away, told to fight the good fight
Foreign fields, noble causes, and dreams drowned in gas
The boys of St Brigit’s are falling tonight

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Portal


Thomas Leuthard  Foter.com  CC by 

On each walk from slumber to drudgery I pass you.   Free behind glass, learning, lost in the new.   How many worlds would I glimpse if you looked up, our eyes met?   Save me.


(A writing prompt from Trifecta - 33 words based on the photograph above)

Monday, 20 January 2014

Before the Dawn




Clean drinking water commanded a high price in those last days before the dust covered the last outposts.   Jayva moved through the  dark bar with experienced grace, cylinder of water hung over one shoulder, its black nozzle cupped tenderly in her hand.   The patrons, sullen and closed in as family secrets, barely looked up as she worked, just holding up a cup, or glass, or can for her to fill in exchange for a pair of coins.

One man, skin tanned leathery, but with pale blue eyes smiled as she filled his cup.  Smiles were rare and she didn’t have one to spare in return.    The next man who took a drink tried to take more and she pushed him away, swearing at him.

I loathe this planet she thought yet again.   A decade since she’d arrived and learned that dreams could dry out as easily as flesh.

The man was persistent and stood, showing a stubby ceramic knife.  Jayva backed up a step, then another.  She knew nobody would help.  Why would they?  She collided with someone standing behind her.  Nights in the dust could turn bad in a moment.

“Remember your place, sir,” the leather-tanned man’s voice was calm, polite, almost quaint in its formality.  He placed one hand on Jayva’s shoulder and stared at the other man.  That man saw the butterfly tattoo on the back of the leathery hand, flinched, sat down quietly.

Jayva turned, nodding gratitude.  She saw the inked butterfly.

“The founder’s sign,” she said.   He smiled again.

“Are you a believer?” he asked. 

“Only in dust.”

“Perhaps that fellow’s a believer though, in the Holy Founder, and his Nine.”

“Legends,” Jayva said.

“Legends can be useful.   I rarely have to raise my voice, let alone my fists when I show this.”

She nodded and filled his cup again, not asking for coins.

“I believe in dust and heat,” she said, “not in angels and deathless knights.”


He savoured the cool water.  “Very wise,” he said.

*

In response to prompts from Studio30Plus: Loathe & Planet
and Trifecta:  Quaint (in the sense of Pleasingly or strikingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar)
and Write on Edge: "Sometimes legends make reality and become more useful than the facts"

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Relativity



“I’m such a fan of hers,” Samantha said, peering round the corner of the alcove where she and Lucas were lurking.   The dour Scotsman seemed distracted, rummaging in the pockets of his overcoat and scowling.

“Eh?” he said, “Whose?”

“Miss Goddard’s,” she replied, “I’m such a fan.  You’re not planning to do anything unpleasant are you?”
Lucas looked hurt and pulled something absolutely hideous from his pocket.  It writhed unpleasantly, a rainbow shimmer of carapace and mandibles, and the dim light of the alcove bent around it as though unwilling to touch it.   The creature was only a few inches long and hard to look at.  It made Samantha’s head hurt.    “When would I ever do something unpleasant?” Lucas asked her.

“Whenever you want to,” she replied
“Whenever I need to,” he said, “Anyway it won’t hurt anybody, not what you’d call hurt.  Not actual hurt.  Anyway we need to get it done.”
Samantha sighed and held out her hand.   Lucas dropped the creature onto her palm and she felt it land a few seconds after she saw it resting on her flesh.   She grimaced at the touch, and also at the impossibility of the thing.   She wondered if there was any point asking the enigmatic Scot what the creature-

“It’s a tikworm,” Lucas said, the moment before she opened her mouth to ask the question.
“Time parasite?” Samantha asked and then wondered why she’d asked.

“It’s a time parasite,” Lucas said and then he grinned wickedly.  “You’re already noticing things getting out of order.   Well don’t worry, nothing’s permanent unless-”

“Why would I let it bite me?” Samantha asked before he finished the sentence.  She hesitated as her mind caught up and put things in the right order.  “Damn that’s annoying.  So what do I do with it.”

Lucas looked out into the small restaurant where New York’s finest sea-food was being consumed with gusto by a generous population of diners.
“See that fellow with your Miss Goddard?”

Samantha nodded.  She’d wondered who he was, certainly no movie star like the woman he was dining with.   The man was a bit unkempt in her opinion, hair too long, gestures just a little bit too expansive and clumsy.   “Not her husband,” Samantha commented.

“They’re just about finishing up their meal,” Lucas said, “Go over there and let the tikworm have a good bite.  Of him, not her.   I wouldn’t like to mess with Charlie Chaplin’s wife, can you imagine the hilarity of his revenge, eh?   Pursuing me halfway across the world with his bandy legged walk and an angry twirl of his cane.  Eating my boots.”

Samantha looked at Lucas incredulously.  “You want me to-   Won’t they notice?”

“Trust me,” Lucas said.   She’d done that countless times in countless contexts, a thousand thousand realities, a thousand thousand of her, and each of them with only the vaguest notion of what the others were up to.   None of them entirely trusted Lucas though, but all of them trusted him just enough.

“Alright, alright.”   She palmed the tikworm and set off across the Oyster Bar toward the table where Miss Goddard and the stranger were chatting.  The man was dabbing at his moustache with a napkin.

“An absolutely fine time,” he was saying as Samantha drew close, “I really must thank you again for taking the time to…”  He stopped as Samantha stopped by their table.  He and Miss Goddard looked up at her questioningly.
“I’m such a fan of yours,” Samantha said to the actress, “I wondered could you possibly…”

“I’d be glad to,” said Miss Goddard with a smile, reaching into her purse.  Samantha wondered if requests for autographs were so common that the star had simply anticipated the request or whether the tikworm’s effects were being felt.   Still, this was the ideal opportunity.   While Goddard was looking in her purse and her companion was watching her search for a pen, Samantha reached out and pressed the hideous little invertebrate against the man’s neck just above his collar.  Mandibles closed.  The man opened his mouth to object.  Samantha remembered the smell of the rain that morning as she stepped out of her home, thought of the scent of her mother on the day that Samantha was born, heard the quiet voices of the nurses in the care home decades afterwards.  And then the tikworm was back in her hand, concealed again and Miss Goddard had already signed the autograph.

“Thank you,” Samantha said gratefully.  She accepted the treasure and turned to leave the table.

“Strangest thing,” the man said to Miss Goddard as Samantha walked away, “We’ve been here for an hour, a simply wonderful hour, but it feels as though almost no time at all has passed.”

Samantha returned to Lucas as quickly as she dared and handed over the now bloated tikworm.

“Beautiful,” he said as he held it up and watched it wriggle and twist, and bend light around it.

“Mind telling me why?” she asked him.

“Soon this wee beastie is going to change into a butterfly,” he said, “Well… sort of a butterfly.   And it’s just fed on an hour of that man’s time.  A whole hour that’s going to grow and blossom and shine inside the little creature.”

“And that’s useful to… us?” she asked.  She wasn’t really sure who “us” was, except that she was always on Lucas’ side, and that there was a dreadful war spilling out across all of reality that Lucas was helping to fight.


“An hour of Albert Einstein’s time?” Lucas said, still admiring the vile larva in his hand, “Oh aye.  Useful enough as it is.  But wait till this little chap spreads its wings for the first time.    And starts to soar.”


A response to a prompt from Studio30Plus based on the words "Time" and "Parasite"- in this case both.
For Professor Einstein's version of the encounter click here.
For more about Lucas and his antics click on the "Lucksmith" tag below

Monday, 13 January 2014

Reflections on a life



A33-word response to the following snippet: The first time I saw. . . 
Here's the catch: all of your 33 words must be one syllable each 
(a writing prompt from Trifecta)



The first time I saw him I thought he was Death.  He looked the part.  Gaunt, pale, more skull than face.   I reached out to fend him off… Smooth glass.  Then I knew, and I laughed too long.

Travelogue


“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

~ L. P. Hartley: The Go-Between

(A writing prompt from Write on Edge)

I travelled when I was younger and smiled more often, as part of my job carrying the message of my company’s utter excellence and trustworthiness to far flung marketplaces and offices.    Back then when I was first starting out I had a lot to learn and learned it well and with delight.

It was the differences that made the job interesting.   Not the little differences in dress and speech, for I picked up new languages with ease or at least those parts of them relating to my job and to socialising.    I could get by well enough to understand what was being said and to make myself understood in turn.    The differences that counted were the differences in customs and culture which could make or break a whole encounter.

In Japan for instance it is considered impolite to issue a flat “no” to a question, so if you need to make sure the people you’re presenting to understand your pitch then never ask if people understand a point…  they’ll say they do to avoid giving offence and the whole thing can break down.   Ask what things need clarifying instead, then you’ll learn what’s needed.   And while it’s important to give a small gift to your host it’s absolutely improper to expect it to be opened there and then as it puts so much pressure on the receiver to look happy at what may be a substandard offering.   Instead make sure the gift is beautifully wrapped so it can be cooed over gratefully then taken away for unwrapping behind safely closed doors.

Every country has its own particular ways.  They’re getting homogenised now to an extent but they still linger on and it’s wise to learn the nuances.   The Dutch expect punctuality and avoid small talk until after the business is done, while the Egyptians would consider talking business without getting to know their contact as abrupt beyond belief.   Little things to learn, and I enjoyed the learning.

They say the past is a different country too.   So true.   I can smile at the strange costumes worn by the inhabitants and laugh as I recall the language they speak there, so unfamiliar now to my ear through lack of use.   But it is in considering the customs of that country that I find the most difficulty.    There, a young man with an easy smile and a gift for languages will cast aside the only gift worth receiving and by careless and ill-chosen words drive away the giver, dimming with cold disregard the shining light in her eyes until finally, reluctantly, she grows tired of giving and gives no more.   There a young man will not know until it is too late that he is walking into an empty room of old age and isolation and  cruel realisation that even behind closed doors the gift is no longer there to unwrap.

It’s a strange custom and a strange country.   If it wasn't that bottles grow empty I’d never visit there again.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Once upon a laptop tapping




A writing prompt from Trifecta
WHATEVER 
3.   (adverb) Used to show that something is not important



I had been trying to write.   To write poetry in fact which is an infection that flares up every now and again.   It wasn’t flowing though, I couldn’t get the rhythm right and it wasn’t helped by the pernicious temptation to browse the Internet in between thoughts.   Even that was interrupted by an irritating repetitive scratching at the door.

Roused I was from browsing languor, roused from torpor into anger

I got up and let Edgar in.   He gave me the look of self-satisfied contempt that comes so easily to his kind.
“What on earth are you looking at now?” he said in tones of mock outrage as he saw my monitor.  I hastily closed the browser down, almost knocking over my glass in the process.

Guilt and shame made me a fumbler, racing swift to shut down Tumblr

“Inspiration,” I said, “I’m writing poetry.”
Think cats can’t laugh? It’s all in the ears.  Edgar hopped up on the desk, nudging my mouse a few times.  He likes his little visual jokes.

There he sat the feline critic making mock and oh so clever

“You won’t get inspiration from looking at those pictures,” Edgar said, “not for poetry anyway.  Not for poetry you’d want anyone to see.  You only write poetry when you’re miserable.  Are you miserable?”
He was curious (naturally) but not concerned.  His enquiry was entirely academic.
“Not particularly,” I replied, “but I’m sure you can help with that.”
Edgar thrashed his tail and narrowed his eyes.

Angry now at being challenged angry now but still so clever

“I’m sure I can.  I’ll consider that a life goal, shall I?” he said.
I sighed.  Edgar in a bad mood was not a comfortable housemate.
“Sorry Edgar,” I said, “You just caught me at a bad moment.   Why don’t I open up a can of tuna for you?”
He swished his tail as he jumped down from the desk and sauntered from the room.

Quoth the feline, “meh, whatever.”



(Edgar also appears here)