The Dress

10 September, 2011 at 14:01 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

She kept tugging on her sleeve, hours after they had passed the shop-window.

“Please Mummy, please Mummy.”

Ella could feel the exasperation rising. Debbie had learned the word please only recently and seemed to think it was the magic word that unlocked everydoor. This wasn’t helped by Phil asking her everytime a ‘please’ was wanted – ‘What’s the magic word?’ Ella had grown more frustrated with that phrase as Debbie had grown more convinced of it’s literal truth.

“Please Mummy, please Mummy.”

Part of her wanted to turn around and shout at the pleading face. She wanted to shout ‘No! No Debbie, you can’t have it. It’s a dumb dress that you’re going to grow out of in months and it’s far too expensive what what it is. You can’t have it because I don’t want you to have it. You’re a horrible, whining little girl who doesn’t deserve a pretty sparkly dress. Now shut the fuck up and let Mummy pretend she doesn’t have a horrible whining child to satisfy all the fucking time.’
Part of her wanted to slap the child across the face. As she held Debbie’s hand waiting to cross the road she imagined accidentally-on-purpose tripping, sending the tiny girl sprawling across the path of the oncoming traffic. She imagined the tears she’d have to force to her eyes by digging her nails into her thighs and the sobbing way she would say ‘My baby’. She dragged Debbie hard across the road and looked, guiltily, into the eyes of a policewoman coming the other way.

***

“Isn’t it a bit expensive?” asked Phil, later on that evening.

Debbie spun around and around in front of him, delighted with her new dress.

Ella pasted a smile across her face.
“Anything for my little girl,” she said.

“I love you Mummy,” said Debbie, her joy evident in her eyes.

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Vilcanota River

7 September, 2011 at 22:38 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

I look out from the hillside. My stone gaze falls on the grasses, the condor flying above and the Vilcanota rushing below.

My eyes have gazed from this rock even as it has eroded and I have slid, slowly, gradually, closer to the valley floor. They painted me, thos people who ran across the mountain-tops. They who sought to tie me to the roof of their world. They shored my mountains, propped up the landslides and tried to turn back time in that way people have. Still the condors spread their wings and fly above me. They did not succeed, those mountain-runners and I have not seen them for years upon years now.

The ground of the Urubamba Valley calls me on, the grasses grow up around me and my rock face erodes. The passers-by still see me, and my heart calls to theirs as they pass. It is only a few who feel it, most simply stop, stare and pass on by empty of all that gives such short lives meaning.

I call to those who can hear, I call to those who stop, who turn at the passing of the snake and who seem to hear the puma, nestled in the craggy top of my stones. They feel my heart beat with theirs and wonder what it is, they see the passage of the condor and a part of them runs the mountain tops again. A part of them leaps into the air, high above the Vilcanota whilst I, in my silence of the thousand years, observe and continue to erode with the rest of the sliding mountain.

(Three Word Wednesday: Erode, Heart, Observe)

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Tomorrow

4 September, 2011 at 10:20 (Short) (, , , , , , , , , , )

“Blessed day.” he intoned. “Sacred night. Come forth what may, I charge this rite.”

She found the words terrifying, she wished that they were more sonorous, more grim, perhaps just less tritely rhyming.

He moved towards her.

She reflected as she saw the blade of the knife, that it was odd she was still so much of a snob when…

…the thought died as his knife plunged into her heart.

“I have it!” he crowed. “The power of tomorrow is mine!”

He began to laugh when something shifted at the edge of his vision, the knife blade seemed to shatter…no not to shatter, for each shard seemed still to be attached, it moved out as if it had become the edges of reality’s kaleidescope and each particle of the scene before him, each segment of her blood and skin and hair was reflected back at him with the urgency of the blade.

“Blessed day.” he intoned. “Sacred night. Come forth what may, I charge this rite.”

She found the words terrifying, she wished that they were more sonorous, more grim, perhaps just less tritely rhyming.

He moved towards her.

She reflected as she saw the blade of the knife, that it was odd she was still so much of a snob when…

…the thought died as his knife plunged into her heart.

“…Wait…the power of tomorrow?…Wait” he stuttered uncertainly into laughter when something shifted at the edge of his vision, the knife blade seemed to kaleidescrope out and yet he thought he had seen each particle of the scene before him, each segment of her blood and skin and hair reflected back at him before, somehow, as if the blade’s movement was familiar.

“Blessed day.” he intoned. “Sacred night. Come forth what may, I charge this rite.”

She found the words terrifying, she wished that they were more sonorous, more grim, perhaps just less tritely rhyming.

He moved towards her.
“Wait…” He said, again?

She rolled her eyes at his brief reprieve, she found it odd that she was still so much of a snob as to care about the quality of ritual that killed her when…

…the thought died as his knife tore across her throat.

“Don’t mock me bitch.” he said, then saw the blood, “No, I didn’t…I…The power of tomorrow is mine?”

The world mocked his uncertainty just as she had done and the blade shifted from his grasp, kaleidescoping over each segment of her dripping blood, torn skin and hair until it’s blade turned in opposition across his throat and joined their blood forever…never…forever…

“Blessed day. Sacred night. Come forth what may, I charge this rite.”

She laughed as the trite words came from nowhere, into her mind. Perhaps she could use them for a short story, then again, perhaps not. Even so, Tomorrow blew the words into a writer’s ears, perhaps they would form something after all.

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Necklace

25 August, 2011 at 22:57 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , , )

“Shhh” he said gently, to the crying baby. “If they come, they’ll stop you crying and then how will I harvest these?”

He held up a glistening dew-drop, suddenly solid and firm.

“Can you imagine how much I’ll get for a necklace of baby-tears?” he asked.

The infant stared, wide-eyed and the gangly blue man and, if you were of sufficient imagination, you might have thought it shook it’s head.

“A lot.” said the thin man. “And now for your part of the bargain. Sure about it?”

That imaginative onlooker would have sworn blind the baby nodded.

“It’s going to hurt.” he said.

The baby scowled.

“I can see you’re determined. Very well.”

Skeletally thin fingers were placed over the baby’s mouth and cheeks where they pressed for a moment.

“Right, pleasure doing business with you,” said the man. “And I promise they’ll start happening soon, but I’d rather take my leave first – never was very good with pain.”

So saying, he opened the window and clambered out onto the ledge leaving icy patterns in feather formation across the glass.

A few minutes later the baby set up with a lusty, roaring cry and it’s parents came racing.

Within moments the baby was out of it’s crib and being rocked by it’s mother whilst it’s father looked on anxiously, “What is it? What’s making it cry this time?”

The baby’s mother hushed and hummed and cooed nonsensically to the child whilst she tugged and prodded and pulled.
“Aha!” she said at last.

“Is he well?” asked her husband.

“Very,” she replied.

“No need to worry then?”

“None at all.” she laughed.

“Show him the window,” he said to her then. “Jack Frost’s been.”

“He’s not the only one.” she said, turning so the baby could admire the frost patterns on the window. “I think the tooth fairy’s started to call as well.”

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Travelling Salesman

24 August, 2011 at 15:36 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

“You have to admit it is adaptable and that the glide function is incredibly smooth.” he said smarmily.

My lips pressed together. “Yes, but you did lie somewhat on the advert.”

“Madam,” the salesman assured me. “I most certainly did not. This is a vehicle with one careful owner which functions beautifully for all your travel needs.”

“You didn’t state that the careful owner was yourself.” I stated from my seated position.

“This is true, but Madam, I sell many such second-hand objects, I’m not required to make any disclosures as to the persons who have sold or otherwise given me their items.” He smoothed down his jacked with impecably manicured hands.

“If you had the idea that it came with… obligations may have been more obvious.”

“Madam, I am here to negotiate a sale. You signed the contract and now you have a top of the range magic carpet.”

“I was expecting a flying car!”

“Madam did not make that clear.”

“I was not expecting to become a genie!”

“I do fully understand Madam’s predicament and can only hope that Madam will find, as I did, a buyer for the carpet and it’s genie curse.”


(Three Word Wednesday: Words – Adapt, Glide and Lie)

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Sebastian of Portugal

23 August, 2011 at 21:12 (Lace and Steel, Short) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

It was a cold January when the king of Portugal was born and almost immediately he had entered the world the serving maid Belle, noblewoman of Aragon and satyr to boot, had him off in her arms to present to Maldonado. Of Queen Joan’s actions on that day nothing more is said but Maldonado, the half-horse astrologer made the prophesy that he is famous for and that did indeed come to pass.

Desired shall be the King and many mistresses will he take,
Though he human be he’ll fight for satyrs sake.
At Alcazar he will be turned, and flee within a rout,
By the eternal gates, his life and all of Portugal be turned about.

Brought up as he was by the two Mithraic priests his grandmother commanded never to leave his side Sebastian through himself into the fleshy pursuits at a young age. His conquests before the age of eighteen are legendary throughout Europe, such was his legend (fit to equal that of Casanova) bastards born still in Portugal are called ‘Sebastian’s Children’.
But as his proposals of marriage were turned down by the House of Valois and even the Hapsburgs, that curious intermarried political alliance of satyr and harpy, legends of Sebastian’s promiscuity lessened and that of his misogyny grew.

When he ascended to the throne women were no longer seen at court, soon throughout Portugal it was unheard of for a woman of decent social standing to walk along a street without a male escort. Though women were not seen at court Sebastian’s mistress, Rosinne Menezes would invite the ladies of the gentlemen of court to the upper rooms to which women were consigned without gentlemen escorts. These ladies would play whist and various other games until Sebastian’s law that forbade women to take part in card games. After that they danced, but he forbade that as well.

It was on the eve of his fateful war in Morocco that he declared women should wear no other colour than black, and, in a rare public appearance, Rosinne appeared by his side dressed as it’s now customary for Poruguese women to appear. That is to say, in the high combed cap with it’s trail of velvet and lace, not a hair in sight and with an unheard of high-necked collar, the golden symbol of Mithras at her throat, her figure swamped by the gathered sleeves and skirt.

Sebastian fought with mercanaries of every stripe and hew but the size of the satyr force within his army was unheard of, most were of the Germanic states and the Hanse lands. On the field of Alcazar, where he suffered his most epic defeat at the hands of the Moroccan King, Abd Al-Malik, his legend was made for his defense of the satyr general, Le Camoëns.

He stood, alone upon the field, this noble satyr,
Sebastian turned to face his general and his friend,
Across the field of war they stood, and the Moors held back,
Then with one shout that Royal Traitor Abd Al-Malik,
Commanded his trolls onwards where Le Camoëns stood.

It is said that Sebastian single-handedly fought off the thousand trolls Al-Malik sent against him as he retreated with the injured general. What is known is that Sebastian was in the last boat to leave the Morrocan shore and that the soldier and poet, Le Camoëns was with him. It is also known that when Sebastien and his general reached Lisbon they had already partaken of that curious water which has granted Portugal it’s strange magic. For Sebastian reigns in Portugal still, Rosinne Menezes his Queen and the shadowy satyr, Le Camoëns his advisor. Fashions and laws in Portugal have not changed for a hundred years and it is known as death to innovation and invention for all that it jealously guards it’s fountain of youth.

Sebastian, they say, was struck from behind with a spear by one of the Morrocan trolls. They say that both he and his satyr general should have died before they made Lisbon but that Sebastian’s Mithraic advisors ordered the boat make landfall at some secret cove. Portugal guards it’s borders assiduously these days and ware any, pirates or persons of nobility who make landfall on Portugal’s coastline.

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The Shipwreck

21 August, 2011 at 19:09 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The storm cracked it’s lightning whips from overhead and still the rig continued it’s journey, tossed by the waves. For a moment it was outlined against the black clouded sky by a crack that echoed around the sky. It strained over the racing waves, beneath the clouds. Not even those aboard could hear the creaks of it’s timbers as the wind tore a line free of the mizzenmast. The roar of the ocean was too great and the thunder too loud. Then the ship seemed to catch itself in the trough of two waves, the fore tossed by one and the aft by another, there was a moment when the sea seemed to pause, hover above the decks, and then it crashed. The figurehead plunged into the trough of the wave and the jigger tore from it’s hold and the foam and salt of several tonnes of water plunged upon the ship.

There was no time for anything to be done, as the sailors aboard the ship tried to race up from below decks the sea pushed them back. The sea wrapped itself around the full-rig like a serpent and squeezed with all it’s might. The foremast joined the jigger as the sea squeezed. Lines from the mainmast span free from the rigging and spiraled up in the water like tentacles from a drowning sea urchin.

The next morning the sea was calm. The yellowed sky glowed free of clouds and the only evidence of the previous nights events was the driftwood that came ashore as flotsam. The beachcombers ran for such, but the gentlemen on the beach ignored the spars of the ship and it’s intricately carved figurehead to favour the barrels floating merrily as jetsam upon the tide.

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The Merfolk

20 August, 2011 at 11:14 (Lace and Steel, Short) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Off the Aquitainian coast are the waters which, a thousand years ago or more, one could cross to the gleaming citadels of Atlantis. Now, though, Atlantis is long gone, carried away by it’s overweaning arrogance and confidence in it’s polished, whirring technology and it’s fairy-bloodline of Kings. Now the ocean of the Atlantic is a deep blue-green and peaceful save for the song of whales and the ripples of the deep sea kraken.

It is, mostly peaceful, though if one were to dive below it’s surface, a little way from the coast one might hear the calm blue punctuated by the high-pitched tones of the merfolk, speaking and singing, each to each. If one were very lucky then one might catch a glimpse of brightly coloured scales, someway off in the distance, for these merfolk of the Aquitainian coast are not as friendly as those of the Breton coast, nor as warlike as those who claim the North Sea (with whom the half-horses have some sort of treaty). These merfolk are secretive, sometimes shy and sometimes not by turns.

There are tales that fifty or sixty years ago there was a merman, so captivated by the beauty of the Aquitainian Queen, that he wished to impress her in the way of Aquitainian men. So he had peasants construct a glass case, which he filled entirely with sea-water and then they carried him through the countryside singing. No-one had ever heard such beautiful songs, he sang both the ballads of the Aquitainian bards and also the traditional songs of his people. When he came to Toulouse the Queen leaned from he tower window to hear him and, upon catching sight of his purple scales and manly upper body she fell in love with him.

At that time the Queen had a husband, but it is the tradition of Aquitainian Queens to take lovers, so she took this merman as her lover in secret and kept him close at the court in Toulouse. There she had her dalliance and the merman bard frequently sang at the court and composed many ballads in honour of his queen.
The secrets of the Queens of Aquitaine have no power when it comes to the magic of the children of the sea and so soon the Aquitainian Queen was pregnant and bore a child as no Queen of Aquitaine does when they have a lover. But bear a child she did and this child could walk upon legs despite it’s fish-tailed father.

The rumours around court at the time were that the Queen and her consort argued day and night but that she had persuaded him to accept the child as her heir. However, on the day before the Queen presented her child to court, a party of horsemen rode to the castle and presented themselves to the Queen in her private chambers. All in black they were dressed and carried swords, hanging by their sides, larger than any had ever seen and of a burnished metal the like of which the finest swordsmith in Aquitaine had never seen. It is said that they were Frenchmen, and none know what passed between them and the Queen but they rode from Toulouse in the night, back to Paris or wherever it was they had ridden from. They carried with them a small bundle, one that they had claimed by an ancient right from the Queen and on the next day no heir was presented to the Aquitainian court and the merman bard was seen no more.

It is said he returned in sorrow to the great Atlantic Ocean and that this is the reason why the merfolk of the Aquitainian coast are rarely seen. So, if you are lucky you may hear the tones of their song as you dip your head beneath the waters. When you pull your head up it is likely that the salt water running down your face will be comprised of tears as well as the ocean. For the songs of the merfolk off the coast of Aquitaine are always sad ones since the bard left his Queen in Toulouse.

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Voice Mail

17 August, 2011 at 14:13 (Flash) (, , , , , , , )

“I just need you to action this item.”

Again Paul wished that there was a mute button on real life, especially when it came to the heartless verbing of nouns.

“Sir?”

He blinked a little and brought himself back to the reality of his secretary and her paperwork standing in front of him.

“If you could sign…”

He shook his head. “Not now, just…out please!”

He looked at the phone, no message light flashed at him from the desk. He had become used to the messages, from the first sobbing, pained one he listened to on returning from a meeting.

‘They say the fetus isn’t viable. Please…please call back.’

He had left work at the usual time that night, unable to face her crying.

There had been angry ones, ones full of sobbing, then hopeful ones. ‘Jade made it through another night, I’m still at the hospital. Come visit us.’

He had, and he had peered at her baby through layers and layers of clear plastic and tubing. Machines beeped and tubes gasped around her. She had never seemed to be anything to do with him but had always seemed a life removed by a dozen layers of plastic.

The hopeful ones had been when the messages became more and more infrequent, rather than dozens all day there would be one or two.

‘Jade’s allowed to come home. Pick us up after work.’

Each one, getting more and more terse, to the point. He had thought that this meant she was feeling better, and in a way, he supposed, it had.

The final message had been very terse and straight to the point.

‘I’m leaving. I’m taking Jade. We’ll be gone by the time you get home.’

He had left work early that day, as soon as he recieved the message, but some cruel trick of fate had a tanker crash on the motorway ahead of him and he was trapped there for hours. By the time he reached home they had long gone and no helpful note or handy clue left to tell him where.

He had returned to work, uncertain of what else to do. He took refuge in the routine and now he sat in his office looking out across the other city-blocks and down from his window at the cars, looking like models, whizzing below. He could barely make out the people, only those sporting clothes of particularly vibrant colours were obvious to him, sat up here, being asked to action documents. He was looking at life again, through a dozen layers of plastic.

A loud knocking at his door startled him from his reverie.

“Paul? There’s a meeting in half an hour, will you be attending?” the head and shoulders of one of the younger managers poked through the door.

“No.” he said, standing. “No I won’t.”

Then he marched down to the switchboard, determined to cash in some old favours. He walked out some time later and made his way to a cafe where he ordered a coffee, nothing fancy, with milk and sugar. He sat at a table positioned on the pavement where he could watch all the colours move around him, then he took out his mobile and dialled.

“Hello?”

“Hello darling. It’s Dad, and I’d really like to see my Grand-daughter.” he said.

“She’d really like to see you too.”

(The words this week were: Gasp, Mute and Viable)

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Proving Ground

13 August, 2011 at 18:31 (Lace and Steel, Short) (, , , , , , , , , )

Racing across the Steppes, my soul caught in the moment of speed beneath the stars that is forever. It is cold out on the Steppes. It is cold and wild and where my soul was formed.

My name is Batu and I am a long way from the Steppes and my people. I had reached the age of Tolui, I had reached the age of proving. When Burilgi and Temur said that they would prove themselves greater than any since Temüjin united the tribes I wanted to go with them. Arigh said he would come as well but that was only when he discovered that Burilgi and Uma, the shaman had hatched the plan together.

The wind out on the Steppes, blows loud and long. Those who are not familiar with it find it noisy and worrisome, to me it is the song of home and of racing beneath the sky so fast and so long that you can taste it as the wind whips across your mouth.

We came together, Burilgi, Temur, Arigh and I, following the words of Uma. She had had a vision on the night that she and Burilgi spent together, she saw the icon being raised from the sea to the west, above the sacred heart of the Umay-khukh. She told us where it was and how it called to her and Burilgi vowed that at his proving he would bring back this icon from the civilised western mountains.

The wind is the song of the Horses who have gone before, they dance out of sight of all save the shamans and Tanri the sky-god. The wind carries the news of blue Umay to us, and the scent of her salt as she welcomes the loyal into her heart. The song of the Horses carries Erli and his honour to us in the sound of battle and death and we race towards it, hooves pounding across the Steppe.

We plunged into the civilised countries, fuelled by passion for the icon of Umay-khukh, we cut down all who stood in our way and our passage was a sea of bood. We were proving, we were as all Tolui in our passion and strength. All fell away from us and deeper still we penetrated until we stood before the forests that had not seen our kind since the Horde took them four hundred years before.

Erli is the God of death and to him the shaman sing. If you are lucky then one day you may mount a shaman beneath the sky; she may sing beneath you and you will see Erli as you and she reach mortal heights beneath a naked sky. I see him now and the wind-horses of my ancestors sing to me.

We reached the darkened forests of Ruritania, a country of the shamed Horses who announce their shame to the world in their name for themselves. They who call themselves Half-Horses and who live side-by-side with the two-legged filth that we can cut down as easily as breathing. In those darkened forests where we looked up and could not easily see Tanri’s sky, we knew that we were close. Burilgi led us and he sent Arigh ahead to the house, tucked between the trees, beneath the mountains. When Arigh told us the house was empty save for one, sleeping half-horse we shouted aloud our victory in wild shrieks and charged for the house with our weapons. We attacked the civilised windows, we kicked in the wooden doors and we set fires to the polished woods.
The sleeping butler was no match for us, we kicked him to the ground and covered his face with bruises and his chest with blood.
Temur discovered the golden icon in the chapel and held it aloft as we left in the firey dark. It was only later that we realised that this theft was no true victory, we had taken nothing from a nobody. Burilgi seemed angry, this was not the proving we wanted, we had plunged hundreds of miles into the country of our enemies and we had taken Uma’s icon with no resistance whatsoever.

We needed more for our proving.

Tanri’s sky, the sky that lasts from horizon to horizon and presses with eternal light upon the earth, it is not here. Here is a small sky, cut into by toothed mountains. But I can hear the wind-horse’s song and I see Erli as I never did over the back of any shaman. The scent of salt is in my nostrils, it has been growing stronger with every mile we came west, it comes to me that I may be granted a vision of Umay-khukh of whom we are told tales but who the Children of the Steppes never encounter in our distance from her.

We heard the women the next day as they sat upon the grass in the forest, we heard them chatter and laugh and Temur said we should take them. Captives to work off our anger, two-legged women to take back to the tribes, this mitigated some of our resentment to the words of Uma and Burilgi allowed it. But we had strayed from the words of Uma and when we caged the women we discovered that we had dropped the icon of Umay-khukh.

Shall I who have failed her be granted sight of her? Shall the wind-horse bring her to me to scold? To praise? Or shall I see only Erli and beyond him a sky which is far from Tanri’s own?

I was sent from the glade we had made our base, I was sent to find the golden icon. I did not see the men, the two-legs approach. I did not hear Burilgi’s cry as he urged my fellows on, did not see them cut down Arigh. I did not see Temur surrounded and beset upon all sides. I did not see Burilgi finally succumb to the darting swordsman. But I know it happened that way, the wind-Horse sings it so.

Erli stands before me, on the soft civilised grass of this Ruritanian forest. The wind-horse urges me on. I do not see her. I smell the salt but I do not see her.

I walked in the meadow surrounded by forest looking for the icon of Umay-khukh, the Luis power trapped within it awaiting only a shaman to release it. I did not see the hiding two-legs but I turned at the shout of his master and prepared to face him in single combat. He was dishonourable and ran from me. That was when the hiding two-legs hit me from behind, I whirled and sank a blow and his master came back. I cut him, I downed him and the hiding, lurking sneak-thief whirled his blades until I lay in the soft, civilised grasses, staring at the sky through a film of blood. I saw him pick his master up and carry him, running through the forest shouting for his friends.

I hear the wind-horse singing. Erli stands before me and I have failed the shaman Uma and her lover Burilgi. I have lost the Luis, the icon of Umay-khukh. The sky is closed to me and all I smell is salt.
The wind-horse brings her to me, she whose servant I have failed. She is beckoning…I of all the Children of the Steppes I see her and I shall go to her.

My name is Batu and I am a long way from the Steppes which forged my soul. I reached the age of Tolui and Umay-khukh welcomes me into her arms.

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