Saturday, 16 November 2013


(a writing prompt for Trifecta in honour of National Erotica Day)

“I’m worried,” Graeme said, sipping his coffee. She looked at him curiously, she’d never noticed his skin’s texture before, the smooth and rough of him, his scent. “That book you were given… you’re different.”

The first night she’d looked on that intricate symbol in the book and her dreams were vague and heated, and she’d awoken hungry for release, seeking it with her fingertips.

She’d been his friend for a year, a pure platonic friendship. Right now her body wanted him inside her.

The second night she’d drawn the symbol on her belly and dreamed of dark chambers and tall spires and a lover of inhuman beauty and appetites, waking shuddering to the cries of her own release.

“Is it some kind of cult thing? Maybe give it a break for a while. Let’s get away somewhere?” He touched her hand reassuringly. She shuddered in pleasure and he recoiled.

The third night her lover had walked her in his dream palace through an archway of pearl and she’d learned the touch of another woman, spending the next day in a fever for the coming night.

“Relax G, it’s… like meditation.”

Night four, rushing into sleep, into dream, her lover and another man this time, together, at once, and the next day each time her mind wandered she felt them again, felt it happening again.

“Okay,” Graeme sighed, “call me, okay?”
“Sure,” she lied imagining him naked and hard. She’d paid a tattoo artist to engrave the book’s intricate symbol on her and if the artist been embarrassed at the pleasure she’d shown as he inked her, he’d hidden it well.

Tonight would be the fifth night and the book promised… much. She barely noticed the waiter approach, then turned to him, opening her purse.

Her lover, of inhuman beauty and appetites, took her hand.  The cafe melted away like perspiration running across hot skin, revealing halls of marble and obsidian and the waiting, adoring, worshipers.

“The fifth night,” his voice burned, “and forever.”

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Scent of Apples

A writing prompt from Write On Edge - to create something for Halloween - and from Trifecta to incorporate the word "boo" - defined as a call to show disapproval - and from Studio30+ to incorporate the word Mask or Red (I chose the latter and made a hat of it...)

 She had been holding my hand, woolly glove in woolly glove, as we stumble-shuffled our way through the crowded market.  Autumn chill was biting and the market was a treat not to miss.  Stalls crowded with toys and trinkets, cakes and biscuits, and the beautiful smell of hot spiced wine and honey buns.   We'd turned a corner in the crowd, my hand was empty now.  I looked back to reach my hand for hers, but she was not there.  I looked the other side of me. Not there.  The crowd filled the space meant for her, panic punched me in the chest.

Surely just a step away, a step beyond the moving mass of shoppers in their garish scarves and hats, just a step and I'd take her hand again, and she'd chide me with her only-child authority so natural and so unusual in a girl of seven.   I pushed back the way I had come, eyes raking, desperate for the sight of a red and green bobble hat a size too big.  Nothing.  I called her name heedless of dignity.

I smelled hot cider.  The scent of apples had haunted me since my childhood and the desperate flight from chaos and nightmare and into a world where time passed second by second and the spoken word did not take flesh or flight, where magic was just a story and not a pestilence.  Twenty years since then, a world of light and television and blessed dullness, and I'd boo the pantomime villains that hinted at a childhood I no longer believed in.

I pushed past a stall where tiny wooden figures with tissue wings made a mockery of the truth, turned faerie into frippery, and my daughter was gone.

Her hand took mine then, soft woolly pressure.  Relief flooded me and I looked into a serious unsmiling face.

"She's ours now," she said, eyes ancient, "and missing you.  Come back to Avalon and dry her tears."

Her hand gripped mine, an unbreakable bond.

(333 words)

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


A writing prompt from Studio30Plus - "Hurt"

We fell to earth, who once had soared so high
So fast and far through endless stellar night
From that sweet single point of bursting light
And shining side by side till we drew nigh
This world, this world, and its embrace was cold
And made us fall, at first so close we fell
Through screaming skies, and side by side we fell,
Foul gravity, the turning earth took hold
And parted us, made distance and I wept
To be alone in so so cold a place
Ignored the pain of impact, but to face
A moment where your shining light was kept
Away from me, away from me who’d burned
With stellar flaming fire like your own
That moment was a horror.  Cold, alone
And buried in dark earth I cooled and yearned
For soaring moments and that fragile flame
That I’d once thought eternal and was gone.
I cooled and darkened, dark where once I’d shone,
A stone and not a star; small, cold and tame.
Yet even on this distant barren shore
I sense you drawing close and blaze once more

Thursday, 19 September 2013


A writing prompt from Write on Edge and Trifecta inspired by the quotation and definition below:

August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time. (Sylvia Plath)
Rainbow :  an illusory goal or hope

My grandfather once told me that he’d spent his whole life in summer.   I was a child then and I didn’t understand, but I believed him.  There was sunshine in him, always warmth, and he took delight in everything.  Being around him was like an easy purposeless walk on an August evening through the wooded lanes around his house.   I’d walked those lanes and knew each turn, each fence, each sunbeam.    Those lanes had seen a thousand thousand of me -- the cowboy, the knight, the pirate, the explorer, latterly the thwarted romantic hero.   We’d walked those lanes for years and countless summer stories had been told in the dappled light.

My summer was coming to an end.   As September slouched over the threshold I’d leave for university and take up a course that was practical and appropriate, which would be the gateway into growth and progression and forward planning and productivity and purpose and perhaps, someday, a comfortable retirement in which I could take long and easy walks to nowhere and everywhere and then, ultimately, to nowhere again.

Standing in my grandfather’s garden, between the two apple trees exactly the same age as me, I heard absent echoes of running feet and excited voices overlaying the silence.   What did they have to be excited about?  Hadn’t they seen the autumn clouds over the nearby woodland?   Hadn’t they known about the rain that would turn the green grass to mud and ruin?

No.  They hadn’t.  It had always been summer here, even when the snow piled up so deep and white and crisp that it remade the world.  Always summer, and no clouds and no rain could drive away an old man’s smile.

But September was coming. Summer would be a memory, as glorious, unreal and intangible as a rainbow.

I stepped away from the two apple trees, exactly the same age as me, and back toward the slowly emptying house, and the expressionless faces and low tones of my well dressed relatives.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Deleted Scenes

I've not been posting as often as usual for the last few weeks - work has been ridiculously busy and has been sapping my enthusiasm a little.   When I have been in the mood to write I've been focusing on my work-in-progress novel which has actually started to make progress enough to warrant the description!

As part of that though I've tinkered with the narrative voice and viewpoint and made some tough decisions as to which parts of the existing work to keep and which to (probably) excise.

What follows are some brief scenes which I'd introduced to set up one particular character and situation.   The character will still be in the final story (probably) and so will the situation (probably) but these scenes no longer fit.

Rather than have them vanish into the ether I'm posting them here - hopefully they'll make enjoyable reading and I'd appreciate any feedback on these scenes that never were...

Friday, 2 August 2013


(a writing prompt from Trifecta)

Slumping, empty, day by day
A life lived bleak in shadow play

The light burns bright but far away
And all is shown in shadow play

When cold night comes shall shadows stay?

Thursday, 18 July 2013


It was a hot day, and the office seemed hotter than the world outside.  Despite the air conditioning she was perspiring, feeling lazy and sticky and just a little bit horny.

Looking around herself, seeing that none of her co-workers were looking at her she slipped her cellphone from her purse and used her thumb to deftly caress words into a new text message for her lover

Text me something NSFW

She smiled a private smile as she sent it, and imagined how he’d react.    Seconds later her phone whispered to her that a new message had arrived.  Reaching down and holding the phone below desk level, flat against the so-proper dark blue skirt, she opened the message.

What’s NSFW?

She tsked in frustration.   Sometimes she half believed that he was a refugee from the Victorian era as he often joked.    Her thumb moved again on the slick screen, teasing out a new message letter by letter.

Not Safe For Work.   You know… something provocative.

She sent the message.   The word provocative pleased her… it was long and complex, a pleasantly rounded couple of syllables followed by a sharp ending, like a caress that became a demanding kiss.    She looked at the screen waiting for his response, imagining his mind working and his passions rising.  She wondered if it was as hot where he was as it was here.

An email arrived from a client and she put the phone down on her desk and started typing a reply to that mundane enquiry about warranty violations.  Halfway through the email, her phone sighed once more and she saw his name appear on a new message notification.  She held her breath and finished the email quickly, sending it as quickly as she could.

Then she picked up the phone and opened the message.

Not Safe for Work?  Okay, here we go:   The capitalist system is inherently stifling of the human spirit – you are paid far less than you are worth and are wasting your endless creativity in the service of dullards, performing repetitive and menial tasks that consume your time and your potential.   Your boss is a manipulative shrew, and her boss lusts for money and power at the expense of everyone around him.  Walk out of there today, and take as many of your co-workers with you.   An end to wage slavery!  

How’s that?

She read it through twice, sighed, then sent her reply.

Perfect.  Not what I was hoping for, but perfect.

Before she could send it she heard a tapping on the glass wall that incarcerated her and her co-workers.  She looked up, as did others, and she saw him, phone in hand and ridiculously elegant in a dark three piece suit.  He had his habitual wicked half-smile on his face.

She smiled back, stood, put on her shoes, picked up her purse and walked across the room to the door, ignoring everybody else in the room.  Forever.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


A writing prompt from Write on the Edge with the picture above, 
and from Trifecta with the word: CRACK  3a : a narrow break : fissure    
and from Studio30+ with the words Portal and Coalesce

The crack in Context hung before my eyes like a twisted thread of blue lightning, frozen immobile.  It was hair-thin but it shone, and as I walked around it the crack always showed me its same shape as though it was superimposed over the scene and how I viewed the scene was irrelevant.

The door opened and my boss stalked into the chapel.  Hendry was ex military and bad tempered so I got my defence in early.

“Secured the scene, boss,” I told him, “Class Aleph anomaly.  Hasn’t become a full portal yet.”

He paced around the crack glaring.   I opened my mouth to apologise for entering the scene alone but he cut me off with a bark.


The third member of our team ran into the room and I smiled just to see her.  Most psionics are a pain in the backside, talking in abstract airy platitudes and vague rambling about auras and feelings.  Maryam was about as airy and vague as a Glock sidearm.


“Scan close Context.  Make sure nothing’s come through.”

She nodded,  eyes unfocussed and she looked right through me as she turned her head this way and that.   Hendry stooped and picked up some objects from the floor arranging them in front of him.    He was looking thoughtful.

“Nothing’s coalesced boss,” said Maryam walking over to him.  “What are those?”

“Personal effects,” he said quietly.  “Nothing’s come through but it’s taken someone.   I suspected that might be possible.  Reached through and wiped them from existence.”

I stepped up beside her and looked down at the things.  A wallet, some glasses, some tacky mirrored shades, other items.

My wallet.  My glasses.  I recognised all of them.

“But no one was here,” Maryam said.  She picked up the wallet and closed her eyes.  “No psychometric traces.  Nothing.   Nobody ever even held it before.”

Hendry nodded.

“I did,” I said, “Please. I did.”

“Secure the scene,” Hendry told Maryam, “I’ll call for backup.  We need more people.”

Friday, 5 July 2013

Disturbed Night

(A writing prompt from Trifecta:  33 words on any subject)

The noises in the too silent house didn't ever stop.
The sound of his footsteps on paths he never took.
The sound of words he should have said.
No wonder he couldn’t sleep.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


(Fairground - a prompt from Studio30+)

You look a little tense.  I think I know why.   It’s because this is a fairground, and fairgrounds are a little…  disturbing aren’t they?

I don’t take it personally any more, but do try to relax a little while we chat.    A lot of people find fairgrounds spooky, don’t they.     Have you seen how many horror novels and films have them as settings?   Theme parks or circuses too, I suppose.  All part of the same set of tropes.

There’s a lot of reasons for that.

Firstly I suppose there’s an element of the Outside about fairgrounds.  They come and they go, and the people who run them are not settled like most people.  They travel.   They arrive, they set up, they take your money in exchange for some rare entertainment and then off they go again leaving only muddy grass behind.   Maybe that triggers the deep deep fear of the outsider, the stranger.   The sense that these people are not like us and maybe they’re not playing by the same rules.    Could be a touch of racism in there too, eh?  Ever hear Cher singing Gypsies tramps and thieves.   Love that song by the way.  Papa would have shot him if he knew what he'd done.   Makes the hairs on my arms stand up that line, wondering what had gone on.

Then there’s the experience of the fairground itself.  It’s out of the normal isn’t it?  Not a habit.  It’s a place that’s only there at certain times, so it’s always a little bit different, and not part of everyday life.  Like a dream, all show and no substance, with bright coloured facades over grimy old cabins.   Fun and flashy entertainment that, like fairy gold, is not all it seems.    In the morning... it’s all faded away and a little bit tawdry.

Perhaps that’s why people find fairgrounds disturbing.

Or perhaps it’s the nature of the attractions.  A maze of mirrors, all dark and distorted, and the lingering suspicion that the contorted dwarf or gangly giant in the mirror may be slightly more… real… than the you that is doing the looking, the soul of you, not so pretty as you'd like to think.   And then there are the laughing clowns in their booths who are probably, almost certainly, most likely mechanical.  But you don’t want to look too close at their hungry eyes just in case.

Relax.  Relax.

I’ve been running fairgrounds for most of my life now, travelling all over with them.   Nobody knows more about them than I do, and really they’re very prosaic.  Just another type of workplace that’s all.  I’ve seen, oh, tens of thousands of visitors?  Hundreds of thousands?  Possibly more, who can say.  And they come and they go; some of them wide eyed and wondering, some of them grumpy and bitter, some of them… like you… with a little bit of that old fear growing and spreading just behind their eyes and wondering just why you’ve always found fairgrounds to be so very unsettling.

Perhaps it’s a cultural thing.  All those things I mentioned combining together and growing like a venomous pearl around a tiny piece of grit, some old truth, some real nastiness that once happened in such a place, at such a time long ago.  More than once maybe.   And the pearl swells and grows and glistens nastily and before you know it… Fairgrounds are spooky.   So unfair really, stops you enjoying yourself.

Fairgrounds are places where you should be able to enjoy yourself.  I do.  I enjoy my life in my fairgrounds immensely.   Every new stop brings new joys.

Like you.  You’re a joy just to look at, lying there all relaxed and… well not exactly calm, perhaps, but certainly… limp.

I know you can’t close your eyes, but try to focus on the music, such pretty music, while I change.  

Do you want to know the  real reason people find fairgrounds scary?  Spooky?  Disturbing?   All the way back to the first travelling oddities that roamed in the shadows when the pyramids were new.   Do you know why, even then, the fairground people were looked at sideways and rushed out of the bazaars, and why people dreamed a little bit darker when the show was in town?

It’s because of me.  Always me.

There.  All changed.  The mirror-me, you could say.

Let’s begin.

Monday, 1 July 2013


CRUDE : marked by the primitive, gross, or elemental or by uncultivated simplicity or vulgarity 
(A writing prompt from Trifecta, continuing from here)

The Clockmaster of Oldenrot was not built for speed.  A crude tyrant, years of self indulgence had taken their toll.  Panting and red faced  he stumbled down the winding spiral stair that led into the vaults deep beneath the Spire of Freedom.

He was running for his life.

The chaos had begun that morning as each clock tower in Oldenrot began to chime and had still not stopped.      Reports flooded in, not encouraging.   Every system was failing.   Every camera and microphone, every clockwork sentinel.  Everything.   

An hour after the chimes began,  the citizens rose and began to destroy every chain, physical or virtual,  that held them in place.  

The Clockmaster had planned for this.    Deep beneath his palatial spire was a route to freedom.   Panting and perspiring he reached the deepest level and staggered to the burnished iron door and turned the handle.  It did not move, and he sobbed.

“My husband was a good man,”

The voice startled him and he felt his heart pound so very fast.   He recognised the speaker, there in the shadow.

“Lady Graves… yes… a good man.   A loyal servant to my court.”

“I meant before,” she said, her face entirely calm.  “Before you.  Before all this.  He was a good man, but he died a bad one. ”

“Died… oh my…   we must flee, Lady Graves, this door…”

“Is locked.”  Something in her voice gave him pause.  She went on.   “The key is inside the clock on your desk.  In your office.”   She raised her eyes upward.  “Up there.”

He made a move toward her, and only then saw the six barrelled pistol in her hand.

“But the people… they’re storming the Spire”

“Fetch it,”

He clutched his chest and fought to catch his breath.

Lady Graves smiled warmly.

“Go on,” she said, “You’ve got time.”

She watched him stagger up the first turn of the spiral and once he was out of sight she removed the key from her pocket and left without another word.

A Failure to Repent

(A writing prompt from Write on Edge)

The tattlesheets of the city of Oldenrot no longer mentioned the crimes of the Whisper.   The Clockmaster who ruled Oldenrot was no fool (or he would have been a dead fool, for he was feared but not much loved by his people) and had soon realised that far from being outraged by the accounts of each audacious theft or act of mischievous vandalism the citizens of the twelve wards of the city were amused and perhaps a little impressed by the antics of the damnable rebel.

The Clockmaster knew the importance of order and commanded his grim senior lawkeeper  Commissar Graves to leave no bone unbroken in their pursuit of the Whisper.   The Ratchets, Grave’s clockwork Peace Automata,  prowled the streets and alleys tirelessly in search of any clue, ticking and clanking and keeping the city (or the city’s rulers) safe from the rule breaking devil.  

One unwritten and unspoken rule that the Whisper had decided  to break was Thou shalt not seduce the Clockmaster’s daughter.  

Lady Clef hadn’t needed much seducing.    The Whisper had simply smiled, murmured  a couple of words in Clef’s ear and been rewarded with a hoarse “hell, yes,”.  Other rewards followed in short order, and as often as the Whisper could risk the ascent through the Clockmaster’s tower.   The risk was considerable but worth taking for not only did Clef prove to be an eager wriggler, breather, moaner and clutcher between the silk sheets (or upon the luxurious deep carpets, or clinging to the gilded brass fittings of the shower cubicle) she was also happy to hand over to the Whisper the thin wafers of hole-punched gold that were the override codes for the city’s Peace Engine – the great clockwork brain that made sure every pendulum swung just as it should.

“Break everything,” Clef had urged as she pressed them into the Whisper’s hands.

The Whisper kissed her passionately, eagerly, gratefully but that was not  enough for Clef, not then, and it was an exhausting couple of hours later that the Whisper blew Clef a last kiss from the windowsill, and then slipped down a dream-thin rope and into the night.   Thankfully the Ratchets were all busy in the Slumberynth that night and the Whisper was able to return home in relative safety, still clutching the precious codes.

The golden wafers whose carefully punched holes would be the downfall of the Clockmaster, and of Oldenrot, and of every rule and regulation and restriction were slipped into a well concealed hiding place behind the face of an impressive mahogany grandfather clock.   Tomorrow the Whisper would retrieve them and take them and bring things to an end.

But first, sleep.    The Whisper undressed in the dark, stretched the aches out of every muscle and slipped into bed quietly beside her slumbering husband.  Commissar Graves murmured once, but did not wake.   The Whisper snuggled up beside him, loving his warmth, and slept.

(and continued Here)

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Little Rosie - Extract from Chapter One

Previous Installment

I had been fortunate enough, in the two years after my father was murdered, to avoid the attentions of White Kenneth and his runners.   Many of the denizens of St Giles did not.   He preyed upon the isolated, the lonely and the helpless.  And the young.  Especially the young.   Do not think, sir, that one such as White Kenneth would have been stirred to sympathy with the plight of an eight year old orphan girl who found herself without protectors.   He would not.   He would have licked those pale lips of his and given the order for a couple of bag-men to go a-hunting.  And he would have mentally estimated his profits, and imagined spending them even before those bag-men returned with their quarry.

But I was sharp witted and sly, and well aware of the dangers.   I kept well clear of White Kenneth and his dreadful crew and although my path and his did cross, rather dramatically, that was not until much much later and ended rather... messily I'm afraid to say.   I pride myself of always having been a neat worker, but alas it is not always possible to do ones best work at all times.

Do pour me another spot of sherry would you?   All this talking is dry work.    Most kind of you.   So.   After my father was taken from me I fell into the company of dear Jack Merryweather.    He was fifteen or sixteen at the time and quite the elder brother to me, having been one of my father's companions on various little jobs.    Jack was quite a card, always with a smile and a quip, and with what my father called a fool's face... he could always look entirely innocent.   Jack Merryweather was the sort of scamp that if you entered a room and saw him with his hand in your strongbox, he could tell you that he was adding a few coins of his own as a Michaelmas gift and you'd find yourself thanking him for his kindness and sending him on his way with a handshake.  After which if you were wise you'd count the rings on your fingers.   Dear Jack, he was such a kind young man too.    He took me in and gave me a safe place to sleep and we worked together on... our business... very well.  I must have been about eight years old at the time but already quite adept at the basics of the trade; shinnying up drainpipes and through tiny windows for instance; or turning a tear streaked face of abject misery to some well appointed old fellow and telling him about my broken dolly while Jack emptied the contents of his pockets all unobserved.   Oh but you know this sort of thing I'm sure, quite commonplace.   We made enough to live on, and just a little over for occasional comforts.   It was a good life I suppose, though it never could have lasted as it was.    We were good apprentices but would never have progressed much past that.

Poor Jack.  He never got the chance.

I suppose I was ten years old when it happened.  I remember the day as though it was yesterday, a dreadfully cold day in October 1850 and I was sitting inside Charlie's Chops just off Cowper Alley.   Oh I'm quite sure it isn't there anymore.   Most of the old places have gone now, and good riddance to them I suppose.   It was a little hole in the wall sort of place, more like the front rooms of a house than any real business, but old Charlie Renton made his money by selling bad food and bad gin to bad people.   Both the food and the gin were cheap as hope though so nobody minded the badness.   And it was always warm.   I got on well with Charlie because my father had got on well with Charlie so he always saved me a place by the chimney where it was warm and he'd always sell me a bowl of whatever was cooking over the fire at his cheapest rate.

What did you say?  Give me it for nothing?  Oh goodness, what an innocent you are, sir.   This was the Rookery of St Giles and Cripplegate.   For nothing indeed!   Offer any of the inhabitants of that hellhole something for nothing and they would run for the nearest bolthole in fear of their lives.   Charlie Renton sold me his dreadful stew cheap, and that was as kind as kind got in those days.

I recall I was prodding at that day's bowl of vaguely brown, vaguely lumpy stew with a wooden spoon, and sitting perched in the brick lined alcove next to the chimney.

"Bean stew," Charlie said, seeing my curiousity.

"I don't care what it's been, Charlie," I said, "What is it now?"

He raised a fist to me then, and we grinned at each other.  It was an old joke even then I suppose, and I'd copied it from my father.  Charlie always played along with the old banter and it was one of the reasons people liked the man so much.    They said that he'd once been a sailor in the Royal Navy but he'd given that all up after he'd lost an eye and an ear and a great slice of his face to an exploding cannon shell, so he wasn't comfortable to look at but he always had a joke and a friendly welcome.  And cheap food and drink of course.

When the door opened it let in the cold air, and colder than you'd expect.   I looked up from my food to see who had entered and quickly looked away again.    If you think I sound fanciful, young man, then I assure you this is God's honest truth.   In that quick glance I knew, I just somehow knew, that the man who had entered Charlie's Chops was evil through and through.  Through and through sir.    Oh there were bad men aplenty in St Giles in those days, aye and further afield, but I had never seen one before that struck me so instantly as foul and dangerous and utterly utterly... well, forgive the repetition... evil as this man did.    He was not tall, but he was broad shouldered and as solid looking as a stone wall, with ugly flat features and skin that was pale but mottled with broken veins and discolored dark patches on his neck and forehead.   But it was his eyes, young man, his eyes that had made me look away from him so quickly.    They were cold and dry and completely without humanity.   They reminded me at once of the eyes of a dead man, sir, and I do not revise that opinion even to this day.

The other patrons obviously felt much the same as I did about this newcomer.   All conversations stopped at the instant that he stepped through the door, and all eyes were kept steadfastly away from him.   I looked at him sly-wise, my head down but peering through my lashes and wishing I'd already eaten my stew, which I had paid a farthing for, so I would not regret running out the back way if I had to.    The monstrous intruder smiled a knife-wound of a smile and said in a rough dry voice.

"Jack Merryweather.   Any friends of his here?"

Jack!   My stomach turned over at the thought that this ogre even knew Jack's name, for in our trade and in our little world, to be known of was a sign of danger and upset, and no mistake at all about that.  And by someone of this type?  Well it was plain he was not looking for Jack to award him a wooden medal for good service to the parish.   I held my breath and did not dare move.   Those dreadful dead eyes of his looked over us all slowly.

"No friends of his anywhere it seems," he said, and then he laughed such a laugh as I hoped never to hear again.   "Well if any of his friends pass this way, tell them Mister Honeyman passes on his condolences.  Such a sad end."

He raised his finger to the brim of the battered hat he wore, looked slowly over us all again and then his smile just stopped and his face went slack and empty and then he turned around and walked out of the door, not even troubling to shut it.

"Sounds like Merryweather's copped it," said old Ikey Cleaver, "or's about to.    I'll go round his gaff and see that all's well, or how bad it's bad."   He rose on creaky legs from the table.

"That's a green trick," said I, still sick to my stomach at the thought of such a monster on dear Jack's trail, "It's a pound to a penny that..."  I couldn't think of a word to suit the man who had just been and gone, but everyone knew who I meant by the look I gave toward the door, "is watching to see who runs to find Jackie and will lead him right to him."

I saw the crafty look that passed between the Monk brothers at those words.   A right pair of snakes those boys were, crafty and cruel but with no real skill to turn their ambitions into action.   I could read that look, sir, better than a parson could read a prayerbook.    They were wondering if Honeyman would pay on the nail for news of Jack Merryweather.

"Here," said Charlie Renton taking my arm and whispering confidential like, "that's sense you're talking.   Get you out the kitchen window and go warn Jackie boy.   Fast and unseen, that's the way."

"That's the way," said I, sounding braver than I felt.   If I  could get to Jack's and my little hideout before that foul Honeyman found out where he was, whether from  the Monk brothers or some other Captain Comegrass who'd sell a man's life for a handful of coins, then all might yet be well.

"I've paid for that stew!" I reminded Charlie Renton as I slipped through the kitchen door.

"Business is business," said old Charlie scraping the bowl's contents back into the big pan.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Little Rosie - Prologue

Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring,
Rosie filches everything
Sneaking, snatching, this and that
Crafty as a creeping cat
Bolt the doors, the shutters bar,
Rosie reaches near and far,
All in rags, not dainty frocks
Little Rosie laughs at locks

I may be an old woman, young man, but there is nothing wrong with my memory I assure you.  Of course I remember that silly little ditty.   I suppose I was a little bit flattered by it. after all how many little girls are immortalised in playground chants and songs?

Oh don't look so surprised, goodness but you're a dreadful hand as a liar.    No don't act all innocent sir, for it won't wash.  You knew full well that I was the Little Rosie referred to in that piece of doggerel and don't dare deny it.   That's why you're here, and why you've spent the last few weeks ingratiating yourself with all the right people.  Or the wrong people, as most would say, eh?   Oh yes I was fully aware of your little investigation, and of all your little questions.   And the amount of money that you've been spreading around to ensure that word of your nosing didn't reach the wrong ears.   I hope you got receipts for that sir, for it was money ill spent.

Sit down, sir, sit down, don't take offense.  Allow an old lady her mischief won't you?   Of course you will.   Sit down and take your ease.   Yes I knew you were nosing around after me, but I still agreed to meet you didn't I?   I did.     So don't stand on your dignity.   You've been sniffing out the trail of the infamous Little Rosie Lochlan, and you've found her.   So clap yourself on the back, sir, and if you've learned that you're not as cunning or as devious as you'd flattered yourself that you were well that's a lesson learned, and cheaply too.   There are many lessons that are taught a lot less kindly I assure you.

Do you know, I'm not entirely sure why I agreed to meet with you.  After all I've spent the best part of... oh many more years than I'm happy to recount... avoiding attention, and certainly avoiding enquiries about those days in the old Rookery of St Giles.    The worst place on Earth, sir, and beyond.    What?  An unusual turn of phrase?   Perhaps it is, but I must be allowed my little ways, at my time of life, eh?   I must.

It has been a long journey from the squalor and the slums of that hellish warren to the life of a lady of wealth and influence, indeed it has been.   Look around you sir, and allow me to confirm your base speculation ... don't deny it... that barely a pennyworth of this luxurious home and its fittings has been honestly obtained.    Perhaps the occasional small ornament was fairly and legally purchased, but even good Homer nods occasionally.


Don't flaunt your erudition, sir, it is beneath you.  I do not speak the wretched language.   As you will know if you know anything of the infamous Little Rosie, you will know that I did not receive a formal education.  Greek and Latin, sir, were no use in the shadows and the cellars, and profoundly pointless when scampering along the slippery rooftops of London's foulest haunt of the poor and worthless.    No formal education indeed, but many lessons to learn.   And many taught in very hard ways.

I began my education as a child so young I cannot recall the early days of it.   I was set to steal, sir, or to offer distractions while others stole.  I neither excuse it or apologise for it.   And I proved to have an aptitude that may have been bred in the bone, for my father was equally adept at the arts of the cracksman, the prigger and the fine-wirer.   Hmm?  Pickpocket, sir.  Fine-wirer is a pickpocket, but a very good one.   The everyday pickpocket was a dip or a... oh you know the term 'dip'?   How very well informed you are, sir.   Goodness, yes.

Oh don't pout so, sir.  A little gentle mockery, that's all.   Not enough to drown a flea.    Now where was I?  Ah yes, my father.   I do not recall a mother, though I presume I must have had one at some point.   He never spoke of her, and I don't recall it ever occurring to me that I should ask.       He was a good man, though many would disagree, and a good father so far as I can judge.   He put food in my mouth and clothes on my back, yes and he taught me how to do the same for myself.  He began my education, sir, and taught me the tricks of that disreputable trade when I was still too young to know right from wrong, thank heavens. What a burdensome complication that would have been, eh?

Yes, my father began my education, sir.   But he did not complete it, alas no.  He was taken from me when I was most in need of him, when the darkness and the danger were closing in on every side and when there was literally nowhere in this world I could turn to find a safe refuge.

Oh now that is a knowing look, sir, indeed it is.   When I said 'nowhere in this world' you practically smirked.  A most unpleasant expression to find on the features of a gentleman of quality.    You know something don't you, sir?   No don't deny it, I can smell deception a mile away upwind, my life has depended on that skill for me to be easily gulled.     Well not another word will pass my lips until you prove your honesty.   You know where I found my refuge don't you?   No evasions, sir!   You tell me what you've heard, and if you're right then I'll carry on with my tale, otherwise the rest is silence.  I'll not be played for a fool.   If you've heard something of my tale, then tell me and I'll go on.    Where did I find my refuge, sir, where did I complete my training as the finest thief in her Majesty's empire?  Well?

Goodness.  You are well informed.   I must confess I am surprised, and more surprised still that you say the word without a hint of mockery or condescension.  And that, sir, suggests there is more to you than meets the eye.   Excellent.  It has been a long time since I was surprised and it is quite a pleasant sensation.   Yes, sir, Fairyland indeed.   But not as most people would understand it.

Reach for the rope and ring for my maid.   This is a story that may be long in the telling and we'd both appreciate a little refreshment as we discuss it.

Make yourself comfortable.   Then we'll begin.

Next Part

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Sister, Waiting

(A writing prompt from Write on Edge using the picture below, from Trifecta using the word "Rusty" and from Studio30+ using the word "Shower" - no more than 333 words)

I start and end here on the timeless rocks, and the sea is endless.   Here is the place where I rest, and feast, and rejoice, and mourn and where I wait, where I always wait.

Here on the rocks where once I saw long low ships with bright sails, distant things with black winged birds above them seeking out land.    Those ships knew me, though not by name, and sometimes I reached out with my need and I took them.

Sunrises and sunsets turned the sea to fire and blood more times than could be counted, and the distant ships grew larger, and stranger, sailed and sped faster and more often.   And sometimes, from time to time, when it pleased me, I took them.

I watched as brief men came to the rocks and flickered anxious lives, and stern eyes raked the land.   A tower rose , iron girders obscene here in my presence, and stone and glass.   They set a light, a shining eye to turn ancient mother night into their harlot to dance at their command.   And sullen I sat on the rocks and watched the ships with longing but now I could not take them.

Sunrises and sunsets seem further apart now, the iron girders an anchor binding me to dreadful day-by-day.   I wait.  I always wait.    The sea showers the rocks and the hard upright tower, and time showers it too.   Soon, not soon as flickering men measure things but soon, the tower of stone and glass will wear away and iron girders will fail and wash the rocks rusty, pass blood-red into the sea and be gone.

For now though I wait.  I hunger but I do not starve.   I watch the ships pass by and though I cannot take these ships in this place I am still nourished.  All seas are one sea and I close my eyes and listen.

Listen now to the waves between the rocks.  The salt sweet sigh of shipwrecked souls.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Third Time

Third Time's The Charm
(33 Words - A writing prompt from Trifecta)

Three young heroes, came one by one to slay her.  Wicked witch.   Perhaps she was, yet she wept as they died.   In the blood of the last bonny boy the talisman shivered, alive.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Beautiful Stranger

(A writing prompt from Trifecta)

(A writing prompt from Studio30Plus)

When I first became immortal I assumed it would be like being part of an exclusive club of wise and mysterious beings, roaming the earth like gods and angels.  It really isn’t.   There aren’t many of us but we keep bumping into each other.   The world becomes a dull party.  You know their jokes, stories, habits and hang ups.   One minute you’re sitting on a beach watching the sun set and the next some bastard’s bitching about some merchant from Thebes who stiffed him over an amphora of bad wine.    Most of us become solitary.  All of us become bad company.

Not you

Hah.  Maybe.    I’ve been alone too long and sometimes I need to make contact.   Not with another immortal though.    Tedious bunch, like I said.  And the ones that aren’t tedious are too damned dangerous.   I warned you about those didn’t I?

Scared me silly.   I’ve been looking out for Them ever since.

They’re too good at hiding.  I’m putting you at risk by talking to you, I should go.

Please don’t.  I want to learn more about you.  Not just the immortality thing, but you.  You as a person.

Too dangerous.   They are always watching, and they hate the idea of one of us opening up too much to a mortal, exposing our secrets.   But I have to.   The solitude crushes me sometimes.   I just want to watch the sun rise with someone by my side who understands.  Just once.    Idiotic really.  Sentimental.   And dangerous for you.  I can’t believe I’ve been so reckless, I’m sorry.  I’ll go now.

Please!  I want you to stay.  I want to watch the sun rise with you.   Want to know you better.  You don’t have to be lonely.

Alright.  If you want.  There’s a high hill above the bay, glorious view to the east.  Know it?

I do!

Meet me there in two hours.    Be careful They don’t follow you.

I’ll be careful.  I love you.

I love you.   Delete your chat logs.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Felix Ascendant

(A writing prompt from Trifecta: to write a story in three sentences)

“He served five years for petty treason after stealing her highness’ soul gem from her garter of office,” grumbled the Hierophant-in-Virtua.

“And another five years after that for filching the imperial omniclave from under the nose of the Grand Justicar,” added the Coin Shriver.

“Then a new face and a new job with us,” said the young prince, grinning, “will be his third and final sentence.”

Thursday, 6 June 2013


It was boredom that drove me.   The drugs were simply for something to do.   Acid, peyote, salvia, shrooms, they were all just things to do. I’d read Castaneda, and Huxley, and the others.   The mysticism of it passed me by, the experiences all I wanted.

I was introduced to Petrie by the friend of a friend.   I loathed him.  Petrie was too thin and smiled too much, like Death with a dirty joke he was waiting to shock you with.

“You really want this,” he said and handed me a single blue crystal.  It looked like a teardrop and felt like gel.   I didn’t ask him what it was, wasn’t interested.   He called it “HPL” and laughed.

That night it melted on my tongue, bitter and lingering.    I sat and watched static on my television and waited for the effects to kick in.

Time slowed and I could no longer move.  Not breathe nor blink nor twitch.   Each heartbeat rolled like a peal of thunder taking an hour from start to finish.    Even that stopped.  The television static was truly still now, a collage of visual gibberish.

I could not stop my thoughts.  All else had stopped but not my thoughts.   Time had ceased and only thought persisted.    There was me, and there was an eternal moment that I would never be free of.

In my mind I screamed for centuries.

And my screams were heard.

The things that live in the gaps between moments came to stare.  I cannot describe them, but they felt like the presence of the bereaved.   And they came to stare at me like a freak in a sideshow.   For milennia they came and soon I knew them all.

“Weep,” said Petrie after ten thousand years, and he pressed a glass tube to my cheek.  I blinked then, only once, and a half dozen tears fell and became blue crystal in his keeping.

He smiled and crept away, and left me timeless.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


(A writing prompt from Write on Edge:  Bubblegum)




The noise was disgustingly organic and impossible to ignore especially in the tome-silent atmosphere of the university library.   This was time I’d set aside for studying organic chemistry.   Naturally I was reading a text on psychological aberrations instead (all work and no play etcetera) but even so I didn’t want distraction.

The girl was too young to be here anyway.   She looked about ten years old, pudgy with straw coloured hair in pigtails.  She had a band aid on her knee on which she’d drawn a piratical skull and crossbones in blue ink.  And she chewed bubblegum.  I watched her as she blew a hideous pink bladder of gum from her mouth, let it pop with a loud crack and then chewed it liquidly back into her mouth and masticated it into readiness again.

Ignore her, I decided.   I tried to lose myself in the labyrinth of sociopathy.


I looked again, she was grinning as she chewed.  And blew.  And chewed.

Nobody else seemed bothered by her.  I knew why.

“Alright,” I said, “If I promise to find out who killed you, will you leave me in peace?”

“Maybe,” she said.



Tuesday, 28 May 2013


3: to have an outward aspect : seem <appears happy enough>
(a writing prompt from Trifecta)


(a writing prompt from Studio30Plus)

“How did you think it would appear?” Lucas said, “Castle?  Dark tower?  Mc-Bloody-Donalds?”
 His companion, a tanned athletic man shrugged.

“Worse,” he said, “You said the Enemy is a corruptor, destroyer.   This is... business.”   They were facing a large building with a gabled roof.   Modern paintwork gleamed with the corporate smile of welcome.  Trust me, it said.

“Business,” Lucas said, as someone may have said ‘tumour’.  “Anyway, the incursion’s only starting here.   Some time until the enemy takes control.   Hundred years, maybe more.”

They crossed the car park and walked up some stone steps toward the glazed reception area, a modern growth on old stone.

“The girl, Xam, is here?” the warrior said.  He sounded eager. 

“You liked her, eh?” Lucas said, “Well, yes and no.  One of her is here, but not her.  Xam doesn’t travel, she just... is.”

The two men stepped into the lobby.  Old photographs showed the building as it had once been, monochrome, grim, braced to spring, glowering windows dark and watchful.    The receptionist was a slim woman in her forties with neat blonde hair and a fetching pressed-blouse efficiency.

“Samantha Kettlewell,” said Lucas looking at her badge, “No appointment I’m afraid, we’re here to wreak havoc.”

“When did you ever do anything else?” she said, then she looked at the other man and grinned.  “Hello again.   Sleep well?”   Her voice was innocent, her eyes more truthful.

 He frowned.  “Yes, but... Xam?”

“Slept very well,” Kettlewell said.   The warrior swallowed.  Yesterday she’d been younger, stranger, and far different in Context.

“Aye well, enough,” said Lucas, “How long till the Enemy’s real enough to face?”

“A century and a half,” Kettlewell said, “I’m picking up echoes.  It’s going to be grim.”

“Which way?”

“Downline,” said Kettlewell, “the place is a workhouse then.   I think I’m an inmate.  It’s obscured I’m afraid. The Enemy is wary.”

“It should be,” Lucas said, “Come on big fella, let’s go cause mayhem.”

The two men departed silently.  Samantha answered a ringing phone.  Routine.


The image above, which is copyright Peter Higginbotham, is of a property in Whitby, North Yorkshire in the United Kingdom which is now a shared premises for a number of small businesses.   Prior to that it was a fever hospital.   Prior to that it was a workhouse for the lodging of the destitute and hopeless.  Local stories suggest the place is haunted, but there are stranger things than ghosts lingering in the shadows and hauntings aren't always one way things.  

Monday, 20 May 2013

First Draft

(a writing prompt from Trifecta)
No more than 333 words inspired by:

At seventeen years old Jackson Stryker was the youngest Warp Agent in the Paradox Police.   He strode from his office clutching the silver edged telegram that had been delivered mere moments ago

“The game is afoot,” he said, brandishing the telegram, “My nemesis has returned.   This telegram is from Baron Von Stark himself gloating about his latest mischief.   He and his Nihilinuns have simultaneously abducted our President’s daughter at five separate points in her life and he’s threatened to kill them all in order, youngest to oldest unless we accede to his demands,”

“That son of a bitch,” growled Sergeant Bull, “What does he want this time?”

“Money, Pete,” said Stryker, “and lots of it.   But I’ve no intention of paying a penny.   Here’s the plan...”

“What are you writing?” asked Edgar looking at the laptop.

Irritated at being broken off my tone was sharper than it had to be.  “It’s a prompt for Trifecta,” I said, “Thought I’d try a science fiction piece this time.  Light touch instead of all that dark gothic stuff, you know a bit Harry Harrison maybe.”

Edgar did not look impressed and made a disapproving noise as he read down the screen.
“Seventeen years old?  And he’s already got a nemesis?  Really?”

“Why not?” I replied, “All heroes need a nemesis.”

“Yeah.. but come on.  When did he start being a cop?  Kindergarten?   And Von Stark?   Forget it.”


Edgar sniffed.  “Hero called Stryker, villain called Stark.  Too similar.  You’ll confuse people.”

“Alright I’ll change the name,”  I started to edit. “How about Von Wrath?”

“The Pit Bull joke is too obscure,” Edgar said, “And if your villain kills the hostages youngest to oldest, the older ones will all disappear before they can be killed.”

“For a talking cat you’re damned pedantic,” I said, “that’s the whole point.  Paradox Police.  Time travel.”

“Makes no sense.  And you’re one word over the three hundred and thirty three word limit.”

I glanced down at my word count.

“No I’m

The Hanged Man

(a writing prompt from Write on Edge involving the picture above,
and from Studio30Plus about the word Redemption)

Skene could feel the ancient cold of his cell as he squirmed downward into dream, forcing sleep as his heart hammered faster with the exertion.   This once came easy to him but that was a long time away from here (in which direction he did not know) and now every moment the effort of his attempt strained his nerves, tried to draw him back to meatspace and the frigid stone confinement.  If he gave up now though he would give up forever.  He could not live with that.   He had to find his way back, to let them know that he knew he’d been wrong.   Just that.

A moment like a painful birth and the dream opened for him.  Skene lay on dry ground, the breath knocked out of him and his body jarred from the impact.  He took a second before standing.

The Cornerhouse waited alone, surrounded by nothing but flat plains.   It looked like part of a larger edifice, and so it was of course.   This was a glimpse of the whole, a single gate house and two vestigial wings that intersected with this part of his dream.   He wondered who would be playing Cerberus today and groaned as he saw.    

Skene walked toward the doorway of the hexagonal building, toward the guardian, a man in a funeral suit and tall hat.   His skin was greying, his eyes twin blue stars of cold contempt.

“You’re not welcome,”

“Malachi,” said Skene, “I need to speak to someone.  Anyone.”

Malachi’s voice was tomb-dry.  “No fatted calves for you, prodigal.   Turncoat.”

Anger flashed through Skene’s long-practised despair.  “I walked away, and that was wrong.  I know that.  But I never betrayed-”

Malachi cut him off with a snarl revealing a mouthful of discoloured and splintered teeth.  “Not welcome... but expected.”  He stepped aside and the door behind him opened slowly.   “Counter-Clockwise.”

Skene climbed the stairs, entered the house and held his breath.   He turned left and walked the corridor, much longer inside than it seemed from outside, wondering which of the ten thousand rehearsed words he should use.    Each window showed a new outside – a burnt ochre desert, an ocean of shining gold beneath watchful stars, a city of rainbow neon where spiders passed from hand to hand in secret trades.  He knew them all but passed by each view uninterested.

“We can’t get you out of there,”  The speaker was an old woman waiting in the chambered vault of the next Cornerhouse.   “They have you too deep for us to reach.” 

“I just wanted to explain-”

She held up her hand.  “No time.   We cannot keep you here.   You will have to return there.”

“I know,” Skene said desperately, “But I wanted to say I was sorry, wanted another chance, to do something-”

She nodded.  And then she smiled and he recognised the girl he had known in a far Context.   He knew how her laughter would sound, remembered that they had been lovers (or would be).   “Oh you’ll do something, Skene.   You have to return there.  But you’re taking something back with you.”

Her fingers touched his chest.

He opened his eyes then in cold and painful darkness, stone around him.   He felt the change that she had made and he grinned like a rogue in a convent.   Freedom waited just beyond the walls, and walls were nothing to him now.

(a continuation of Strength, High Priestess and Magus & Hermit)