Halfway from home (story reading)


Jasmine, and if he closed his eyes, the sound of the ocean. The smell though was always the strongest, it was what always clung to him. The ghost that gently haunted, touching his heart. It came and went, sometimes intense, taking him to that place where he always felt safe. Always felt them there.

He looked out of the window at the planet below, the strange orb spinning silently in its indifference to him. The purple hues lifted off the surface as if into a dream, blurring and smudging with the swallowing blackness of space.

Jasmine and warm sand….

Read on


The Near and the dear

“You shouldn’t be here.” The voice said, slinking off the icy walls.

She stopped then; her feet dug into the powdery snowfall beneath her. The cavern was cold and church like, hanging with an air similarly divine. She shivered, something dislodging itself in her mind with it, and she went across to the glassy wall. A light was twinkling, dully beneath the sheets of ice.

“I’m not there, I’m here.” The voice said, and the light flittered away, through the ice and across the roof of the cavern. She watched it dance, moving with ease and speed, growing in intensity. It started to move away from her then, and she began to follow it; her boots sinking into the snow which seemed to be getting deeper and deeper the further she went.

“You shouldn’t be here, not again.” The voice called out, echoing all around her.

She hurried on, the light sprinkling across the cavern like stardust. She could see a distant light, growing brighter and brighter now and she raced towards it. Her palms were sweaty and itchy in the gloves that kept the cold out. Her breath was laboured. When was the last time she’d even had to run? In that dream, that one where she was chasing that train that was leaving the station. She’d been late, and they’d been early. She had been sad and they had been happy. She never caught it, and watched it snake away into the distance, travelling over watery rails.

“Ow!” She yelled, catching her feet on a rock in her path. She stumbled forward, falling into the wall which smashed all around her like fragile spun sugar. The light burst in and she had to steady herself and her soul to the sight before her.

“Don’t look!” the voice from before came, this time pressing with more urgency.

But look she did, how could she not. The colour and the noise swept her in. A wave of nostalgia and happiness washed inside her mind. A Christmas tree stood in the room, decorated in all the splendour of her youth. The tacky tinsel and lopsided angel atop the tree seemed to glisten, hazed in a gauzy sheen that told her this must be a dream. But her foot ached and her breath was heavy, and she knew it was real. That unlocked something in her, something she didn’t allow to grow for fear it would consume.

A family Christmas, the presents under the tree. 1988, she knew that one well. She knew that was the Ghostbuster’s proton pack there, wrapped up in the green and gold paper. She’d begged all year for that. Christmas songs began to drift into the space, the room filling now with ghostly images of people, bleeding out of the air. Her mother, her father sitting on the sofa, the one with the frayed pink covers that only her mother loved. Her sister and brother, sat on the floor. Scoffing chocolates as they moved the presents chaotically into piles. She smiled, an inner warmth glowing as the memories came back to her now, not just of that Christmas, but all the ones of her youth.

“Stop, please. Do not go on. You shouldn’t be here Jessie.” The voice startled her.

The scene hung there then for a moment, a glitch in the space as if someone had paused and the nun-paused a tape.

“Why?” She yelled back, surprised by her own strength.

The starlight she had followed along the cave now dusted itself from above her, floating down in a form that shifted before her eyes.

“You know why, you know why you cannot go back.” The voice said. Jessie thought the shape was moulding into a hand, reaching out to her, but as she blinked it suddenly scattered, floating all around her like divine motes. Her itchy gloves began to feel very tight suddenly, and she looked at her hands to discover that they were shrinking, and turning pink. Little cat eyes were appearing at the tips. Her feet then began to feel trapped and pushed, and as she looked there too, she noticed her boots had shrunk into trainers; the ones she’d had as a kid. She lifted her left foot, and there underneath the base, a secret key that her favourite trainers had; hidden and fun.

“Jessie, please. Before it’s too late.” The voice implored.

Smack!

Jessie plummeted to the floor, the force dazing her. A smack again, this time on her bum. She’d been turned over, and the force smacked and whacked her. She screamed out, but nothing came. Only the sound of the Christmas music echoed around, jingling in the festive fever. She knew then what was coming. It was as if a box had been opened inside her, and out flew the dark shadowy ghosts of the past. She felt the floor to the side of her fall away, and the stairs appear. She turned away from it, she knew what it was. But a force smacked her again and she turned back to see the stairs, her old house. Down at the bottom the glow of the Christmas lights they’d had around the front door.

“Jessie, I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t have come back here.” The voice pitilessly came, but by then she knew what was coming.

Her hair was yanked, her face stung from a slap which seemed to tickle her teeth. The tears had washed down her face already, though no sound came; she could hear the cries and the pain that they brought back.

A glance quickly, her sister peering at her door frame. Younger, scared; her hand biting her thumb as she prayed for it all to be over. And then it came, the freefall and the momentary freedom.

It was the Christmas lights, the ones tacked up around the front door. Not many, only around twenty. She had been with her mother when she’d bought them, a bargain really, in the Woolworth’s new year sale. They hadn’t had new decorations for years, having sentimental ones passed on by the family mostly. These multicoloured ones reflected in their eyes as they stared at her, wondering if they had gone too far this time. She had closed her own, the lights staining the black space behind with seasonal joy as her body burst with fresh pain and sadness.

Through the gaps in her memory and shuddering aches, the sound of panic and concern made way for the Christmas music to gently take her away.

And so this is Christmas (war is over), and what have we done (if you want it)….

Into the night (story reading)


It was cold, the floor was always cold. Bare foot or with socks. The coldness seemed to spread with each step, like walking on ice. But it didn’t matter so much tonight.

He flung the duvet back and they woke with a start, their eyes suddenly ablaze.

“Is it time?” they asked, sitting up and pushing back into the deep plush pillows.

“It is, let’s go.” He spoke, calmly but with an urgency…..

 

Read on

Forever winter (Part 30 – The End)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


The Lady of Europa

The snow was falling, coming down in huge puffs that peppered the trees that surrounded the cottage, adding another layer to the white blanket that silently covered all. Sleigh bells jingled, turning on the bend that took the path over a small bridge and brought the cottage into sight. The river had frozen over in parts, but little trickles of running water struggled through, flowing under the small bridge that the sleigh now crossed. The children were running alongside the great wooden beast, hopping on the back, and riding along with it. Along with the snow clouds, came the diminished light and the great silver lanterns of the sleigh twinkled at the front and back, catching the white expanse like pockets of tiny diamonds.

The gentlemen of the boxes pulled the sleigh, his huge bulk doing the work of any animal and with seemingly little strain. He watched as one of the children threw a snowball, ducking at the last minute as it sailed by and caught one of the other’s smack in the mouth.

“Close one Benjamin.” He said, laughing heartily, gripping the rope tighter that pulled the sleigh, turning it around the bend.

”You’re so big, it’s amazing he missed you!” Chu said, giggling as she jumped up onto the sleigh which was somewhat empty. They had travelled with the gentleman as he passed through the village and the neighbouring cottages and houses, delivering much needed items such as food and firewood to those stuck by the snow. The children were cold, but happy, eager to get to the cottage now and warm by the fire.

The cottage stuck up like a yellow tooth in a mouthful of white teeth, topped by the snow with its layer of icing. The gentlemen pulled the sleigh to a stop by the gate, breathing out a warm breath into the cold air.

“You’re coming in, right?” Samuel asked, already taking off his mittens. The others stood silent, waiting for his reply. The Gentleman looked into the sleigh, noting the remaining items, and deciding he had some time still and could stop for a little while.

“Sure, as long as there is cake.” He said, smiling and rubbing his hands together for warmth.

Stacey rolled her eyes and sighed.

“You know there’s always cake!” She said, matter of factly. And they pushed through the gate and made their way towards the small cottage door. The lamp that stood illuminating the path glowed with a blue light, casting a magical glow across the garden, now hidden by the snow.

“Can I do it this time?” Victor queried, running towards the door.

“You did it last time, it’s Rachel’s turn.” Gina pointed out, flicking off some snow from her shoulder which had fallen from the alcove above their heads.

“Ohhh, fine!” Victor said and stood back a little, allowing Rachel to shuffle to the front. The gentlemen joined them by the door, his mind taken only briefly to times gone by when this place had meant something most different to him. He watched as Rachel reached up to a glass jar. Its contents were red, almost like a curling smoke which moved around the sphere. She tipped it upside down on its bracket, and the contents began to bubble and swirl, emitting glorious little golden sparks. The smoky substance seemed to slide and move downwards in the jar, turning to a vibrant aquamarine.

“I love this bit.” Victor said, watching the sparks now as they trickled out of the jar and washed over the doorframe. Around the bracket of the door, a stone archway began to glow, the sparks of light drawn to it and creating a magical entryway.

The lady of the jars sat by a small swing in the back of her cottage as the sun shone down and basked them in tangerine light. P’erl was going higher and higher on the swing, smiling, and closing her eyes as the wind washed over her. The lady of the jars smiled as she watched P’erl, who more than once rode the swing around a full rotation, then returned to the book she was reading, or at least trying to read. She had been learning Europan, but she still struggled with many of the symbols of the alphabet.

“A half flower type one?” She called to P’erl who whizzed on by her.

“Sacred or sanctify.” P’erl called out, closing her eyes once again and allowing the strange gravity to pull her up and around.

“Ah, yes; that works. Thank you.” The lady said, popping the remains of a sandwich into her mouth as she continued to read. The book was huge, but weighed next to nothing, the paper thin and almost translucent. She loved the books on Europa, they had a magical element to them. She had spent hours already in the huge libraries there, filling her mind with the wonders of the universe.

“You have guests!” Came a voice from the window of the cottage. Ezra shook out a duster as he called down to them both.

“Oh, is that the time already. Wonderful!” The lady said, and she shut her book, carefully placing it down next to the now empty plates, the remains of a light lunch she had just enjoyed with P’erl.

The swing slowed, and P’erl hopped off, joining the lady of the jars as they made their way to the back door which stood ajar, letting the warm air inside. A grasshopper fled from the mat as they reached the door, hopping off into the grass.

“Any room for biscuits?” The lady asked P’erl as they stepped inside and entered the kitchen, going across to the counter where an array of cakes and tins of biscuits stood, ready for the guests.

“Always, especially homemade ones.” P’erl said, helping her get some plates and cups from the shelf.

Ezra appeared at the doorway, looking dusty and sweaty. He’d tied a bandana around his head to keep his hair out of the way to clean. and was wearing a cleaning apron that sported bluebells on it. The sight of him in full view made them both chuckle.

“Laugh all you want, but a bit of elbow grease is always needed around this place. It’s falling down you know! Why it’s only me who seems to do the hard work I do not know.” He said, despondently.

“Thank you, Ezra, for doing the cleaning, you don’t have to you know.” The lady said, plonking some gingerbread on a tray.

“Down to me as always.” Ezra replied. Coming across to help with the plates and trays.

They made their way through to the front room, the light pouring in through the windows. Ezra had tied the curtains up during the cleaning, little motes of escaped dust now speckling the room.

“Please could you start the fire P’erl, I hear it’s pretty brutal there at the moment.” The lady said, putting on a huge jumper and making her way towards the door. A jar next to her front door was bubbling with a blue substance, the insides jumping and glowing like a spluttering firework.

“Of course.” P’erl replied, and she knelt next to the huge open fire and conjured a brilliant blue and green flame which roared the area to life and cast a brilliant heat.

“Ready?” The lady asked, and she tapped a little script of words by her door frame. With it came a flash of white brilliance, the transformation happened.

For many one house is enough, one thing to take care of, one thing to clean and keep tidy. She loved her cottage by the river, she loved the children who came to hear her stories and listen to her amazing tales. The lady of the jars also loved Europa. She had fallen for the beauty of the planet, the kindness of the Europans, and the pull of something within her which told her that is where she needed to be. P’erl had been a missing piece in her life. Her arrival and her changing nature over the lady of the jars; and indeed, those around her, had given her exactly what she needed to grow and to be of use. To pass on her knowledge and to help make the change that was needed on earth. The world was better for what had taken place, and as the dust had settled; P’erl had explained to her the need for that process and how it was also required on other worlds, on other planets.

The Lady of the jars had stayed. As the gentleman of the boxes had returned, back to a world with regular seasons and weather patterns, he had shifted in his own soul, but she had also. She remained on the moon and with the help of P’erl she had replicated her cottage there on Europa, with the help of some magic. She lived in both places, learning, and growing, planning to help others in the great cleansing and returning that had so benefitted where she lived on earth. Using the power of the stones, she was able to build them into her little cottage, transforming it into a portal back and forth between Europa and Earth. Captured in a huge bubble on Europa under the ice, almost like a giant jar, her cottage in its own wizardry sat like a pocket of air. Many Europan’s fascinated by the types of weather that could be displayed in that little sphere. She was happy to share ranges of weather that could be displayed, no longer stuck with only winter and no longer fearing the sunshine.

As the sparks and the dust fluttered off into the snowy wind, they all bundled quickly into the cottage to get out of the cold. A few took off their shoes by the door, but many of the children rushed to a spot by the fire, closest to the heat and the treats which had been placed with care and attention by P’erl and Ezra. The lady of the jars hugged the gentleman of the boxes as he entered, a friendship now strong there and respect engrained. He couldn’t stay too long he’d explained, the tasks for the day not completed yet. Malthrop was on his list of deliveries, and Ezra said he would join him when he left to go see him also. They all settled cosily into the front room, thankful of the heat and eager for the wonder.

“Hello all, and merry Christmas!” The lady of the jars said as the children, their mouths already full of cake and gingerbread, listened quietly.

“Not just yet, besides you’ve not got any decorations.”   Benjamin said.

P’erl laughed.

“Well, yes but it is very nearly Christmas and the wintery weather I imagine is making you all festive.” The lady said.

“Can we help with the decorations?” Stacey asked, she sat properly on the mat by the fire, not helping herself to any cake just yet.

“Of course, how about this weekend? You know, I know some Europan children who would love to learn about the season too.” The lady said, and the eyes of those there in the room bulged in delight.

“Oh, and do please tell us a story about Europa.” Chu said, eagerly. The others chorused in in agreement.

The gentleman of the boxes had sat down in a huge chair opposite the lady, Ezra handing him a mug of hot chocolate. He passed around mugs for the children too, and as the fire spluttered and shone, P’erl looked at the lady and nodded her head.

“With the help of P’erl then I will tale you the story of K’lmatoi, the great ice creature which is a bit like a dragon, and who came to Europa in the tail of a comet.” The lady said, and above the children a small cloud appeared, hovering there in space. P’erl lifted her hand and out shot brilliant light which projected images and movements that helped tell the tale. As the images played out, and the children’s eyes danced in wonder, the lady of the jars popped some coconut ice into her mouth between sentences, following it with the hot chocolate that everyone seemed to be enjoying; letting the delicious drink warm her insides much like the good feeling that was burning brightly there in her little cottage. And was something that continued for many years ahead.

The snow, which had once fallen in it’s forever perpetualness before had now slowed, and the warm glow from inside flowed out of the windows, casting a bright hugging light to all around as the last few snowflakes tumbled. Winter no longer prevailed, but a forever feeling of love and joy certainly did.

The End


snowflake up close

Tea?

“Take milk in your tea Janine?” the old lady called, her purple hands gripping the milk jug tightly. She stood by the fridge, the yellow light illuminating her aged face. The small creature in the chair shook her head.

“Odd. Couldn’t have a tea without a nice bit of milk, me!” She said, and as if to prove the point; she slopped the milk in her own cup on the table, bringing the contents up to the brim. She returned the milk jug back to the fridge and sat down opposite the girl.

“Digestive?” She asked, nudging the plate full of biscuits towards the young creature.

She shook her head again, her coloured red hair falling down in front of her face.

“You kids these days, never eat anything. All skin and bone. When I was a child, my mother used to feed us dripping on bread. That would put meat on you!”

She pulled the plate of biscuits back towards her and stole one up off the china. She took a bite. The girl watched as the crumbs fell onto her flowery blouse carelessly, some falling on the dark wooden table beneath.

“Me’ husband used to love digestive biscuits, his favourite they were. Always dunking them in his tea. He used to get so mad if they fell in.” She laughed at the memory and took another bite from her own biscuit which had escaped the perilous dunk intact. The clock on the wall behind them ticked away merrily, filling the silence with its pendulous rhythm.

Her kitchen was small but clean. It was dated, like most kitchens of the elderly; but was cosy in an old cottage way. The two of them sat at the table while the afternoon sun shone through the windows. The girl shifted in her seat. The old lady looked up.

“Are you uncomfortable?” She asked sweetly.

The girl didn’t say anything but continued to stare at her across the table.

“Would you like me to call your parents to come and pick you up? It’s getting late.” She said. She drank some of her tea casually.

At this the girl raised her head slightly.

The old lady nodded. She put down her cup and slid her chair back. She walked around the table slowly, holding her side where her hip usually acted up this time of the day. She stood behind the girl and pulled the tape off her mouth. It was wet slightly as the girls’ tears had trickled down upon it.

“Please, let me go. I’m so sorry. Please, I just want to get out of here. I won’t tell anyone….” The girl sobbed. Her eyes were as red as her coloured hair. Her hands were tied to the back of the chair with a belt, which had belonged to the husband who had so enjoyed digestive biscuits.

“I’d be happy to. But what’s to stop you coming back, eh? Or breaking into Ethel’s house next door?” the old woman said. And with this she reached to the counter and picked up the large bread knife she had on her chopping board. She placed it down next to the girl, whose eyes flared at the sight of it.

“We won’t. We won’t I swear, please just let me and the others go.” The girl, no older than fifteen, wailed. The old lady chuckled.

“Oh, I’m afraid Jack has been having some fun with your friends down in the cellar. I doubt there’s much left of them now. He’s such a good dog. Very loyal.” The old woman said. She picked up the knife and slipped it through the belt buckle, freeing the girl’s hands.

The girl sat there, the weight of the situation falling upon her in that heavy moment. She glanced at the back door, not far really. If she pushed the old lady and made a run for it, she could probably make it. But what if it was locked? The old lady walked back around the table, the knife in her hand, the other holding her dodgy hip. She heaved heavily; years of smoking had finally caught up with her.

“Well. I’m not going to hurt you; not like you’d do to me I’d say. I think a fright is bad enough for a girl your age.”

“Then what do you want?” The girl asked, fresh confusion in her skull.

The old lady looked at her with her milky eyes, as if surprised by the question.

“Why, to have some tea of course.” She said, lifting her cup; indicating she should do the same. The girl stared for a moment longer before conceding and picked up the tea that sat on the table in front of her. Her hands shook and were sore from being bound to the chair. She was unsure of playing along, but now her hands were free, she sensed a bit more of a chance of escape.

Lifting it to her lips she sipped from the cup, the scorching water burning her mouth in her haste to drink it. She flashed her eyes to the old lady, as if to say ‘okay, now let me go’.

“There. That wasn’t too bad, was it?” She said, sipping her own mug which had a picture of Charles and Diana on the china. She closed her eyes, savouring the brewy goodness of a warm cup of tea, deeply satisfied.

It had been about a month ago that she’d had rats in her garden, and a nice chap from the council had brought some traps and some rat poison to do away with the horrid beasts.


Taken from Impermanence of things – out now

Impermanence of things of things book cover

Conjured darkness III

PART IPART II


The small wooden cross Mary had on her wall had slipped, tumbling free from the crooked nail which was driven into her dark small cottage. She noticed it now in the candlelight, her attention brought to that empty space on the wall by a reason she could not place. She went across and picked it up, holding it in her hands, remembering her mother who had fashioned it from the wood that surrounded them there in the village. Her mother, so capable. Cooking creating, tilling, mending. She did it all, for it were her and her children only. Mary, now half her mother’s age when she died, looked at the small cross, her thoughts snatching a prayer somewhere in her mind.

It was then she heard it.

Going to her small window, she looked up into the sky at first, the screeching wails sounding like birds fighting. In the night it was odd, maybe owls she thought. It came again, this time lower and more awful, drifting over the trees which lay all around. A candle flickered to life in her neighbour’s house, the village being awoken by a noise that seem to come from another world. Mary saw it then, a dark stain in the sky looming over Pollux Hall. It was like a smudge in the sky, a dark oil seeming to leak and spread from the tip of the tower, the only part visible from where she was in the village. She clutched the cross tighter, the evils of the world now loose in the land it seemed.

A thump on the door startled her, and she called out in alarm.

“Who is there?”

No answer returned, but the sturdy wooden door suddenly swung forth revealing Jacob, out of breath and eyes wide, hovering on the threshold.

“Mary, it is time.” He heaved as he tried to catch his breath. He had run from the church, the wolves following him. His eyes were darting all around, but he did not enter her house.

“Jacob, come inside. There is death in the air tonight.” Mary said, coming towards him. Jacob ducked inside and slammed the door, the sound of a wolf howling nearby followed him inside.

“Wolves?!” Mary asked, surprised. Jacob nodded.

“Did you hear the sound before?” He asked her, his eyes fixing on the cross then back to her eyes.

“Yes, and look, Pollux Hall.” She said, drawing him over to the window where the darkness swirled above the tower.

“It is time Mary, it is tonight. I’ve seen them all, I watched them gather. They go to free Agatha from the hall.” He said, almost gleefully.

“All of them?” Mary asked, a gasp in her words.

“All of them, tonight is the night. We must hurry though. They must be there already and who knows what is happening with those men in the mix up there.” He added. She stood for a moment, as if unsure of what to do next. The darkness spluttering over her candle and her mind taken to many places all at once. She then put the cross on the side and went across to the small cupboard in the corner.

“It is ready, though?” Jacob asked her.

“Yes, it is ready.” Mary replied and took out a black sack from the cupboard.

“We must be quick; the wolves are thirsty for more than just our blood.” He said. She nodded, taking a cloak from a peg.

“I know what will help.” And she took down from above her door some sprigs of flowers and herbs, intertwined with twigs and string. She handed them to him, and he smiled.

“I hope so.” He said, and they both left quickly, their path hastened as they made their way towards the hall through the village. The wolves, watching, but kept at bay.

He rubbed his eyes, the glass that had showered down had covered them all. He felt a sharp pain, a piece of glass caught at the corner of his eye, his vision on one side flooded with a crimson lens.

The room suddenly froze, the temperature dropping like snowfall. A sound and wind flurried inside, scratching at their minds and souls.

Agatha stood, her bonds now gone, and her stare fixed upon those men before her.

A blackness began to pour inside through the broken windows, a thick oozing smog as dark as charcoal flooded all around them. Some of the men tried for the door, but it would not yield, and in the trapped panic thye left-out yells of fear and weakness.

Jonathan watched through the only eye that could now see, his mouth mumbling prayers and sacred words which he hoped would protect him and the others there. God was not listening it seemed as a demon like figure began to mass there in the tower, the smoke filling into a being that sucked the light from the room. Outside they heard yells and calls, the others being attacked and laid upon by the other witches who had travelled there that night. Their identities still hidden, even in those dying moments of breath to those guards.

Inside the tower a voice began to utter the foulest words to those righteous men. It seemed to creep out of the walls and all over their skin, echoing in the chambers of their mind. It spoke to them of a reckoning, of a day which had come to pass when all would see for what truth was abound in the land.

Margellwood hunched over Agatha, a towering figure now behind her, seeming to fill the space they shared. Jonathan slumped against the wall, the others in their panic and fear huddled on the other side, clutching tightly to their crosses. The voice rang out still, the rain now pouring in from the window and splattering the wooden floor with rainy tears.

“And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words.” Jonathan said, an anger rising in him.

Margellwood stopped suddenly, flicking her head towards him.

“He speaks now does he, he acts now against his own demise.” She coughed, the words sticky and heavy.

“You have no power here, and you will not banish us into the dark. You mistake your actions here for power.” He bravely retorted. Margellwood laughed, her cackle fading to a hiss.

“You are not important, and you will not succeed. I can wither your heart Jonathan Prose, splinter your bones and send you mad with voices. But now, you will watch as what you hope for the most to disappear, and for you to lose.” The Witch said, placing her hand upon Agatha.

“You are the mistaken and forsaken one.” He said, and he pulled out his book and began to recite lines from it. The air swirled and hummed, a greyness suddenly buckling the light in the room. With a snarl Margellwood vomited out a sludge, hissing words bubbling and exploding out of it. It oozed and rose up off the floor, floating towards the men and coating the walls. The words seemed to battle one another, caught in a fight to overrun and devour.

Agatha turned, she looked up to the creature that Margellwood had risen into. She found her eyes and searched there, for only a moment. She turned and looked at the room, seeking something that seemed to be missing.

“Come, we must go.” She suddenly said to the witch, and she clapped three times and the room burst into flames, the darkness slithering out of the high window above like steam leaving a dead body in the cold.

Jacob and Mary could see the tower now, fire licking out of the high windows, illuminating the dead night’s sky. They ran on further up the hill, the trees clustering around them like lost souls coming together. They stopped suddenly seeing the dark shapes appear from the air in front of them.

They hadn’t been seen, and they ducked down low, a thicket at the side of the path covering them. They heard the voices now; it was Agatha and Margellwood. Mary took Jacob’s hand, not out of fear, but to steady his heart.

“You came.” Agatha said, her voice sweet and low, almost a whisper.

“They are done taking. Tonight, it all ends.” Margellwood said, running her hand through the woman’s hair gently.

Around them, coming out of the trees and with pops of black smoke the other witches appeared. Hooting and wailing, clicking their fingers in rhythmic unison.

“Tonight, we shall dominate and lay a waste to this rotten land!” Margellwood called, seeing the others appearing around them.

Mary and Jacob felt a kick behind them, and they both fell forward out of the thicket and back onto the road. They both stumbled to their feet, and the witches encircled them, leeringly.

Agatha came towards them, her eyes wide with an unusual light dancing in them. Off into the tree the howl of wolves was heard, and as the tower behind them burnt, the screams of men rattled through the sky.

“Over. It is over.” Agatha said. The other witches began to chant, a horrible, gurgled incantation that they rumbled and shouted. Some of them leaping into the air, the space now alive with movement and sound.

Jacob clutched Mary’s hand and they stood forth defiantly.

“You are not lost to us cousin.” Mary said, her free hand outstretched.

“Death shall take you master Jacob, Mary death will spirit you off tonight.” Margellwood hissed, coming up behind Agatha. “To see your sister, down in the ground.”

“Keep your vile mouth shut you witch.” Jacob roared.

The all laughed around him, bar Agatha. She looked at the small sack that Mary had at her waist. Her eyes flashing there in a moment of realisation.

“It won’t work, it would be folly to try.” Agatha said suddenly, stepping backwards in alarm.

Mary caught her stare and realised she had understood. She snatched at the sack, and Jacob reached quickly into his pocket.

“Tricks and toys is it?” Margellwood snarled, mockingly.

Agatha turned and ran, back up the path towards the hall. Margellwood turned, watching her, a confusion now spreading across her face like a setting sun.

“What’s thou….”  But in that moment an engulfing light had sprung from the black sack and the words that followed from Jacob seized all of those present in a captured state. The skin on the witches became taught, and they rigidly creaked and cracked as if water were being squeezed from dead wood. Their faces contorted, spasms of anger and horror flashed across them until they all collapsed to the floor. All except Margellwood who seemed to be trying to resist the most. Jacob pressed on., reading aloud from a small book he held in his hand. The light and the sound now coming from the sack danced and glided around them, bathing them in an ethereal glow. The sound, at trumpeting call of another world, seemed to kiss upon the skin.

Margellwood snarled, her eyes leaking a blackness now. Oily tears staining her face. She fell to her knees finally and dove her hands into the earth and seemed to be pleading, begging for something. In a final move she had bitten off part of her tongue which flopped from her mouth now as the rest of her body crumpled to the ground. The witches all now lay about the road and by the trees, still but not dead, a change overtaking them as their souls silently came back. Mary looked at Jacob and smiled, they had succeeded.

Agatha ran, her heart pulsing now in her chest. She could hear the blood in her head, the river of red rushing around her mind. She ran up to the hall, the tower now completely engulfed in the flames which reached up towards heaven. She could see shapes moving in the courtyard below, dark images seeming to smoulder in the cold air. She ran onwards, past the hall and down through the garden to the stream which flowed at the back. She stopped by the banks, looking all around, hoping not to find what she was looking for.

It was there though, across the stream. It’s hunched shape dark and threatening. She fell to her knees and closed her eyes. Little spots of white floating in the space before her as she heard the flames, the voices of the men and the sound of a trumpet away from where she rested. She bit her lip, to feel something, to see where she was still and if it were really true. Opening her eyes she felt a warm feeling across her cheek, like sunshine catching her skin. The creature beyond stood, a rotting smell seeming to float across the water towards her from it.

“I take it back.” She threw the line out to the figure. Her words quiet and having much less weight than she’d hoped.

The figure looked at her, saying nothing.

“I can do that, I can choose!” She said again, desperately.

The figure took a step towards her, a groan emitting from it’s very centre. Agatha clutched her chest, frightened now and loosing hope. She closed her eyes again, despite the figure moving towards her, a ghostly groaning heaving out of it. Her hand still on her chest, she sighed. Light tears coming to her eyes.

“I am sorry.” She said, meaning those words more then any she had meant in her life. Repeating them unknowingly, waiting for the fade.

The village was bright as the sun speckled the thatched roofs withs it’s afternoon rays. A light rain had just fallen, and the sunshine shimmered off like beautiful diamonds. Though the market town nearby was the great hub of activity for selling wares, the village now bustled with the same energy with many people passing through and stopping to gather by the church and small the circled area in the centre of the village. Colourful ribbons were hung about, and the place had a May festival feel to it with laughter easily heard above the chatter from those who lingered. The church’s doors were wide open, and music flowed out of the huge wooden box, luring people towards it with the promise of food, entertainment and joy.

Mary and Jacob stood by the door, bundling little sprigs of heather together and handing them out to those who wanted them. Inside the church, the pews had gone, leaving the space open, where people came and went. In the far corner Agatha sat on a stool next to an old man, the sleaves on his arm rolled up. She was shaking something in a small vile, watching the amber liquid separate from the water within. He grimaced as he looked at the bench next to them, all manner of instruments and potions set forth. She caught his stare, and patted his hand reassuringly, he smiled back at her as she popped the lid from the vile and got to work.

Outside in the cemetery, fresh graves had been dug and recently occupied. Those who had not survived the events had been buried with rites and a service not before seen in the village. With their passing though, came a peace it seemed. One of the graves, not far from that of Jacob’s sister which sported fresh heather and flowers, was large and it too bore fresh flowers. Milada Margellwood, now at peace. A swirling triquetra symbol proudly, and almost defiantly, pride of place on her grave marker. Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

END


 

The Hawthorne Project (out now)

The neighborhood of west Hawthorne Drive in quiet Greenfield Wisconsin is filled with dark stories and darker rumors. There’s the haunting by a faceless creature. They’ve all seen it. They’ve all experienced its presence. On the one hand, it seems to desire the life of mortals, on the other, it befriends a small boy. It both mocks and assists. Runs away and stands face-to-faceless face.

And not to mention the mysterious death of the street’s namesake, Jim Hawthorne. His strange and reclusive widow peers from behind her drawn curtains, rarely leaving her home, but to walk her little dog or tend her manicured gardens… yet she’s not one for giving up any of the cul-de-sac’s secrets.

But in the days leading up to Halloween, events take a more sinister turn, including strange visitations, an eerie violet haze in the sky, attempting murder, breaking-and-entering, and multiple police check-ins… until not one of the residents can deny: something or someone is here to stay.

Featured authors:

  • River Dixon
  • Chisto Healy
  • Tristan Drue Rogers & Sarah Anne Rogers
  • Lou Rasmus
  • Mark Ryan
  • Mark Towse
  • Joshua Marsella
  • Darren Diarmuid
  • Robert Birkhofer
  • Jeremiah Fox

OUT NOW


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Forever winter (Part 29)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


PARTLY SUNNY

They could hear the music flowing down the huge vents that seemed to puncture each room. A crystal symphony fluttered over them as they sat in a small glassy space, the ice on the floor moving in dark solid colours. It was comfortable and warm, the air hanging with a lovely woody scent which seemed to drift by along with the music. P’erl was talking to someone as the lady and gentleman sat together on a large chair in the centre of the room.

P’erl’s voice sounded strange and intriguing, slipping it seemed to them both, between Europan and earthen dialects. They didn’t understand much of what she said, but they seemed to feel the conversation, as if the sense of it all crawled under their skin. The gentleman was quiet, his head hung slightly low but not in shame, more of respect for his circumstance. The lady of the jars touched him gently on the arm.

“Are you alright?” She asked. The gentleman nodded. He had been scanned by a strange object upon entering the room, P’erl had arranged for him to be checked over both for health reasons, and to peek into the soul that lay inside him. Europans were able to view the soul elements of the body as clearly as those who practised medicine on earth. They could see where the bonds were weak, where the darkness had ravaged the light filled nature that they knew all beings had. “Things will be better from now on, please know that to be the truth.” She added, patting his arm to punctuate her intent.

“I am….” The gentleman began quietly, but at that moment P’erl came over to them.

“You are both invited it seems to the great festival.” She said, smiling warmly. The lady of the jars beamed back at her.

“Oh, how wonderful. I do love a good knees up, and there is much to celebrate. Urm, what is it all about then?” She said, curiously. P’erl put her hand to her heart.

“I thought you might have sensed. The emanations are pretty strong, and you are highly tunned I feel.” P’erl said. The lady smiled, casting her eyes all around the room and sighed.

“My dear, I think all my energy has been exploited, stolen, and fluttered away. I can just about keep my eyes open.” She said, and there was but for a moment a wink of loss in her eyes.

“I can help with that.” P’erl said, and she went across the room to where a small set of box like objects sat in the wall. They looked like mother of pearl shells, the light catching the colours which twinkled out of the many things in the room. She spoke over them, quietly and breathlessly making the boxes open like an oyster. P’erl took out two items and returned to where they sat.

“Please wear these.” She said and offered two crystals to the lady and the gentleman.

The crystals were small and blue, out of which a small gossamer thread looped around like a necklace. “These are Ranoang stones, they will heal and revitalise you.” She added, watching as they took them and placed them over their heads. The threads tightened lightly, and the crystals seemed to glow as they touched their skin.

“I can see how you all remain beautiful.” The gentleman said, not looking at her. The lady of the jars smacked his arm playfully.

“You old cad.” She said, smiling. The crystals seemed to instantly work, with a renewed energy flowing now in their hearts. “I’m assuming they do more than heal.” The lady noted, touching hers. P’erl gave a twinkle in her eye.

“They…rebalance.” P’erl finally said, the silence hanging a moment too long. The lady understood. “Come, Othrox is the celebration of our time lived and gone. A remembering of who we were, and who we are yet to be. It is the most festive of events.”

The lady and the gentleman stood; the gentleman looked back towards the inlaid boxes in the wall.

“The people we were… I’m not sure that is merry in my case.” He said, his head hanging slightly. P’erl came over to him and touched the crystal now around his neck. A beautiful sound escaped it, one only he could hear. It whispered words to him in delicate song, words from his own heart.

“We all look back in the remembering, knowing where we have been and who we are now because of it. No matter what we have been through, it has gotten us here to this place now. Tomorrow is yet to be after all.” She said with a smile and turned, leading them out of the room and towards the Koddoah.

Ezra and Malthrop had made their way back to Malthrop’s little house. Patches of snow lay about the forest, and much of the roof to his cottage was weighted down still by a white blanket. The sun was bursting through the trees, speckling the watery drips of melting ice and snow, and refracting little rainbows all around. The sun shone in through the windows, and despite the rays, Malthrop had put his little stove on and started a fire also.

Ezra sat by the fire, rubbing his hands which were still raw and cold together to warm them up. Malthrop sat down by him, two steaming cups of spiced chai tea filling the space with the smell of comfort.

“From Chu’zin, they have the best sellers there.” Malthrop said, clonking them down on the little table which also held a book bound in a beautiful green cover, a pattern of lotus flowers decorating it.

“Thank you.” Ezra said, reaching for his mug.

“Quite the adventure I’d say. I do think this needs to be written down, a story to tell.” Malthrop said, looking at the fire. Ezra had explained it all to him, how they’d all come to be there, the challenges and the treasures which had unfolded since the arrival of the girl from Europa.

“My guess is you might just be the man to do it.” Ezra said, smiling.

“They loved stories, you know; they used to say I was a conjurer of the fantastic.”” He said, chuckling a little. He patted the book next to him. Ezra smiled too but could see the sadness.

“It must have been hard for you, and awful in the clearing. Seeing them like that.” He said. Malthrop shook his head.

“That wasn’t them, that was just the body. Their soul passed on, too much to see and do beyond I imagine. No, what had become of them was not who I love and remember.” Malthrop said, confidently.

“You know, the old boot loves to tell stories. She has the children from the village come to hear her go on and on about her fanciful tales. I’m guessing you two could make quite the team in your storytelling.” Ezra said, slurping the chai now eagerly.

“Truth telling!” Malthrop said, with a smile.

“But who’d believe you, eh? “Ezra added.

“Ah, well that is the key isn’t it. I think you’re on to something though, I may indeed apply my so-called talents to where they might find appreciation.” He said.

“I’m pleased to hear that.” Ezra said, sitting back in his seat. The light was shining in through the window now, a beautiful yellowy shine as the ice dripped off the roof. Spring it seemed, was making itself known.

It was the music that caught them by surprise. They had expected such sights, due to the nature of Europa. The beautiful ice and glassy casings in everything, pops of colours shooting around like blood through a vein. But the music, they had heard nothing like it before. It seemed to breathe out of the surfaces, swirling around their heads where you stood before moving onwards to dazzle someone else.

The great hall was awash with activity and movement. The stones shimmered above, jettisoning colourful puffs of smoke while light twinkled everywhere, like the sun catching a jewel box. Europan’s danced and swayed, stood, and sat all around the room. Hundreds of them, dressed in silvery clothes which made them look like giant salmon fish to the lady of the jars. But the beauty of the place was undeniable, and the feelings of kindness, joy and light flooded everything and everyone.

P’erl led them forward into the room, acceptance of their presence notable in their welcoming smiles and feelings of ease all around. She navigated them to the centre of the room where a sunken section tiered downwards like and inverted tiered cake. Here there were great flumes of blue water which shot upwards, freezing into ice and melting downwards in the next moment, particles of dusty light erupting outwards and off into the room.

They made their way down into the centre point where many Europans were gathered. P’erl seeming to float before them, leading the way. She stopped at a small group and presented the lady and the gentleman to them.

“Father.” P’erl said, and she reached forth touching his arm delicately. She had been with him earlier and was delighted she had returned. He knew how important it had all been to her, but he’d known also that it would have gone this way. Though he was in possession of future sight, it was not in his nature to inform those of their own destiny.

“Here are those souls from Earth.” She said, smiling at the lady and the gentleman.

The gentleman was rapidly growing accustomed to new and amazing things. Being bunkered down in the ground for so long, captivated by the darker magic and trapped in his own thoughts, now this mind and heart had been prised open, the rush inside was like oxygen to his brain. He stepped forth and shook the hand of P’erl’s father, who seemed the find it an odd way to greet. The lady bobbed her head, saying hello and thanking them for everything.

“So, all is safe, and all is changed then on Earth.” P’erl’s father inquired. “These stones and this place are, I’m afraid, one part in the great order of things.” The lady nodded in understanding.

“Our little planet is safe, and the great change has happened. Because of P’erl, and because of this magic we have made things better in our own way.” She said. “This magic, as you know, is not ours or yours. We are but the caretakers of the great ancient power, it’s an honour to handle it and to care for it.”

He nodded himself, the words burrowing deep into his soul. This is exactly how he felt. With all they did across the universe, with everything that the room they were in represented, it was all part of something they knew only a tiny bit about really.

“This is universal. Though strangers, we are all intertwined. P’erl was fortunate to have made her journey at this time, so that you are the souls she met. As it was written.” He said.

“Written yes, but it could always be changed.” P’erl added, her mind turning over a hundred things now, potential seeming to slither inside of her once more.

“Of course. And look what you achieved.” He said.

“She saved me, she saved all of us from something most terrible.” The gentleman said suddenly.

“No, you saved yourself. I merely shone the light.” P’erl said, placing a hand on his shoulder tenderly. A great understanding and comfort surrounding them all.

The celebrations of Othrox rolled on, and the room lifted and fell with energy, light and appreciation. They all looked to their former selves, giving thanks for the challenges which had changed them, and brought them all there to that spot in that moment. The Mondol Stones had begun to fade as the day had gone on. The images within disappearing and darkening as the energy was required elsewhere it seemed. Much would be remembered by the gentleman of the boxes and the lady of the jars, but that moment and that time with P’erl celebrating their lives in a most strange and wonderful place was something that stayed with them all forever. Knowing how far they’d come and what was left to be.

As the day slipped away, one day on Europa equating to three days on earth, time did its funny dance in fixing and healing, mending, and forgetting. Soon it came to talk of taking the next steps, of goodbyes and plans on returning. The lady of the jars however had some very specific thoughts on this.


snowflake up close

Forever winter (Part 28)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


CHOICES AND CHANGE

Rushing inside, the gentleman of the boxes had to catch his breath momentarily. This was not due to this strange new world in which he’d found himself in, but instead due to a physical reaction he had when entering the illumination station. His heart had double thumped, the air seemingly pulled out of him in a quick rush which left him struck for a moment. He looked inside the huge space, blue spikes of ice jutting up from the ground, a static electricity pulsing from one to the next. The spikes glowed, little lightning strikes coursing up and down each one as the room hung with an energy and weight.

No one was around, he quickly flashed his eyes across the space, checking his solitude and registering his fear. He was shaken, disturbed to be on a different world, far away from the underground soil and clutches of earth he had come to know well. This displacement had rattled him, his plan of consuming the power of the girl, and finally overcoming the lady of the jars had been taken from him. He felt little anger with these thoughts, a flash of opportunity perhaps settling in his bones. This place, this cold world was alien, but he knew and felt a source of power and control here, in this room and in this time.

Going across to one of the spikes, he automatically put out his hand to touch the icy surface. The energy within junction-ing at the spot where his skin touched. His mind flashed to his book, the incantations seeming to scroll through his mind as if he had memorised them. He pulled his hand back, his eyes wide.

“No. Not now, not after.” He said aloud, surprised at his voice echoing around him.

The energy seemed to pull his hand back towards the iced spike, the white light coursing up and down beginning to bleed a red hue, like blood poured into water. Suddenly he gripped with both hands, and his eyes crashed shut.

In his mind boxes thrust upwards all around him. He could hear the splintering sound of broken wood, crashing about and smashing together. Boxes made, assembled all around. He spun in his mind, the boxes being filled over and over with these stranger creatures, ones from this planet, ones that looked like the girl. The eyes shut, their faces contorted in a pain and despair. The boxes packed up on themselves, stacking higher and higher until they touched the roof, bursting forth as the sky seemed to open. Down flooded the Dimian like rain, their green phosphorus glow consuming the boxes, the ice and everything they touched. Finding their way to him, they started to devour his feet, quickly bubbling up to cover his legs, their rabid hunger devouring him and his soul as he silently screamed.

His eyes flew open, his hands still on the spikes. The energy inside seemed to have gathered, flashes of red and white streaks eager to break out and go somewhere. All on his direction, he knew. He could feel the power beneath the cold ice in his hands. A little fleck of ice fluttered down and landed gently on his nose, it looked like a snowflake. He pictured the forest back home, swathed in a blanket of white. The perpetual winter. He shook off the ice, and the feeling which was rushing through him suddenly and uncontrollably. He pulled his hands away just as he heard a shout from behind, calling his name. His real name, one he’d not heard for many years.

Back on earth, back in the clearing the mist had swelled and seeped steadily, covering everything. The Stones shone like giant eyes in the foggy conditions and Ezra could only just see Malthrop, though he stood close. It had happened in a blink of an eye, all around was covered with the unusual mist and very faintly they could hear something out in the otherness.

“What is happening now, this is getting a bit too much for an old man to take.” Malthrop said, quite unused to these courses of magical happenings. Ezra stood, looking and thinking, piecing it all together in his skull, his mind that of the lady of the jars, turning over the magic like a mixture in a bowl. What was this?

“The correction!” He said suddenly and enthusiastically.

“Tell me, is that a good or bad thing?” Malthrop asked, unsure.

“It’s good, trust me. This is what she needed; this is what P’erl was here to do. It’s the correction that the world needs.” Ezra replied. Malthrop looked on, seeing only the dark and fog, shadows moving about beyond.

“If you say so, I hope you’re right. To me it looks ominous.” He said, pulling his cloak in a bit tighter to him.

“It’s all an illusion. Have you gone through a day ever feeling a bit off? Like something was missing, or kept you from enjoying a moment? Have you felt the coldness in someone’s voice, or seen an emptiness in their eyes? It’s how the world has slipped over time, with everyone putting their needs first, their actions of comfort being the central theme to their life. No one said life should ever been easy or comfortable. Everyone pushes against the difficult, burying it when it will only sprout in other areas. This world has amassed a great underground burial of darkness, it’s what keeps everything never quite right.” Ezra said, rather impassioned.

“And this correction will fix all that, for good?” Malthrop asked.

Ezra shook his head.

“Not forever no, but it resets everything and gives us all another chance to start over. This mist is sweeping through and absorbing all the darkness, all the negativity and pain. It’s quite an amazing event. It needed the girl; it needed the power of the magic and the energy that came from Europa.” He added.

“But what will happen to the darkness, surely it can’t just disappear.” Malthrop said, taking it all in. Ezra turned to him; his eyes alive with excitement.

“The brightest light of course comes from the darkest places, it will transform it, and I think we’re about to see that happen.” Ezra said, and just as he did, they heard a sound off in the distance but close too as if it tickled their own ears. An ethereal sound began to grow, like water washing inside a shell, it spread outward and inward at the same time, a beautiful sound like prayers caught in the ceiling of a temple. On the horizon a small light burned into existence and grew outwardly, it was one of only two times in Malthrop’s life where his breath had been taken away in wonder.

“Quickly.” The lady of the jars said, rushing forth towards the illumination station. They could see a sparking light emit from the place through the icy shell. P’erl had left herself for a moment, hurrying off in her mind to a place she had known from birth. A Library is a rough description of where she went to in that moment, but it best fits what the place on Europa was. A place of knowledge, or guidance, of help. The power in those frozen words, collected and stored for eons, etched in water which flowed and froze in memories recorded in time. She left, only for a moment, to find in that place all that was needed.

The lady called his name, it sounded odd to them both there in that moment, a million miles later. Few knew him, few could remember who he once had been. Back at the start, where it needed to end and begin once more. He turned to her, his hands pulling away from the ice in that moment, the energy stuttering, not knowing where to go.

“Come back, back from the brink.” She called again, her voice traveling with speed to surround him, on the wings of tiny invisible creatures to pop by his ears. He looked at them, a desperate calling in his eyes, a darkness and sadness which leaked outwards in the bright atmosphere of Europa.

“I hate you.” He said, the darkness spilling from his mouth. The lady laughed, knowing there suddenly they had finally won.

“You hate the snow, that is all. The darkness hates light, but it needs it to be. You may have chosen this route, but you can always choose a different course. Come, it is the end.” She said, stepping forward and holding her hand outward. He reached for her, the darkness dispersing like smoke in the wind. He broke away from the connection with the ice and turned to her, he reached out also, a smile and warmthless appearing there on his face. Behind him a great surge in energy fired through the icy spikes, all of them erupting now with giant flashes of sparkling white light.

The lady turned to P’erl, uncertainty there only for a moment. P’erl held her own hands out towards the gentleman and the lady.

“There is no danger, this is as it should be. Your earthly energies are strange but not unknown here. Choices and change are more powerful than many see.” And with that, they all grasped each other’s hands, the ancient magic of the lady of the jars, the transformed darkness of the gentleman of the boxes and the cosmic swell of the girl from Europa joined there in that moment, sparkling the ice all around them like huge shattering diamonds of light.

The clearing was still and quiet. Ezra and Malthrop found themselves on the floor of the clearing, the snow beneath spreading a chill. Malthrop opened his eyes, lifting his body upwards to sit and look at the view before him. The mist and fog were gone, and he could hear some early bird song off in the distant trees.

Next to him, Ezra stirred, rubbing his head as he too sat up.

“I’m getting pretty tired of all these surprises you know.” He said, looking around also to see what had happened.

“It has been something that calls for a good write up I think, a story to pass along to others lest they don’t believe.” Malthrop replied, smiling.

Behind them the Mondol stones continued their connection with Europa, the transportive image showing the moon on the other side of space.

“So, all has righted itself then?” Malthrop asked, shaking off the snow from his hair.

“I believe so, this world needed a great correcting.” Ezra said, looking out into the clearing.

“Changes to come then, for the better still I hope.” Malthrop said. Ezra nodded his head.

“Much will change and has changed. We all need to be mindful that what we do affects others more than we usually realise.” Ezra added.

In the space between the two, a clump of snow fell away and up through the white covering a sprout was pushing its way upwards searching for the light. Before them the green, struggling against the pull of gravity, burst forth into a yokey brilliance. A daffodil smiled back to them; its yellow petals dusted with the snow it had needed to escape through to be.


snowflake up close

Conjured darkness I

The night loomed like a blanket of opportunity, the dying sun snuffed out hours ago to make way for the moon and mischief. They had all been called, they had all answered in their own ways. Creatures carrying messages, slithering in the dark spaces so the people of the village would not see. The answers quick and decisive. It had been long enough; they had waited too long. Now was the time.

They came like puffs of brown smoke, the dirt and the earth puffing out in a cough. Misshapen things with rough hands and suspicious eyes. Dark features with tongues that clicked, the idling hands of late, eager to begin. Twenty of them in this seemingly small space, yet they seemed to suck the world in further in their placement around the barn. The horses were outside, braying and huffing to the activity which now disturbed their night-time.

Witches gathered.

They had come with one intent, one thing only brought them together. Their coven strong, but usually displaced. This power concentrated for too long brought about strange energies which alerted many to their location. They had been hunted of course, many of them escaping the iron wrath of the witchfinder general which pummelled the land. It had taken a lot of their power to evade him, and they were cautious to gather in such a mass, their own limitations to the power they craved ever evident; for Lucifer gave only what he wanted and never too much to be disadvantaged. His kisses were tinged with a poison which held the knowing and forgetting of all. Which is what many sought. To forget.

The candle hissed and three loud knocks on the ground quietened them all. They were gathered in a circle, as was customary, the croaks and silent screams of their souls hushed as the caller of the event moved into the centre.

“We know why we are here. And we know what we must do.” She breathed, a coldness hanging down now from the rafters where two little eyes watched.

“About time!” A voice came from the group, flicked out from a forked tongue.

“Time is no consequence. But it is indeed the hour in which they must fall. He has said to me not to be afraid.” She said, to which the group reacted loudly.

“Afraid!”

“Fear?”

“Cowardly.”

A disgruntled ripple came from these words. The two eyes in the rafters watched on, belonging to a little boy no older than eleven.

“You are fools to not be afraid. We have given the souls of our being, but there are dangers which lie in an empty vessel. Do not let it flood you now, do not waver from the road into the woods. They will pick you out, they will trap you with their words of heaven. He has warned me that some of you are weak in this regard. Be afraid of this and be guarded.” She said, her eye scanning the barn as if knowing the weaker links. This seemed to settle them though, some nodding in agreement.

As he watched, Jacob ran his finger around and around the red string on his wrist. His eyes alive, but his hand fidgeting in fright. He had known they would come here, being close enough to the village but hidden by the clump of woods which curled around the north side where the church was. He tried not to breathe as he watched those below, swaying and naying like the horses which usually stood in the same spot. He had come, because he had known. Watching one of the witches for some time, her best efforts on protection falling to his superior senses and cleaner soul. He’d trapped her familiar, a horrible grey cat with one eye which prowled the village, extracting what he needed and releasing it, none the wiser, to carry on its deceitful deeds.

Now he was here, and despite his good intent; he was but afraid.

“We must bind ourselves first, it has been too long since we have all been present.” One of the witches offered, her crippled hand reaching out into the space in front of her. The witch in the centre nodded.

“So be it, come.” And she knelt down on the spot, and reached her hands out, the others quickly following suit. As the words tumbled out of her mouth, the candles around them seemed to grow low, a horrible sense of death and despair creeping inside the barn, swirling around like the breath of a corpse. A vine, thorned and rotten, sprung forth from the outstretched arms in the centre, quickly ensnaring the witch directly in front. It coiled around her arms and leapt to the one next to her, doing the same and proceeding quickly around the circle. The words came in their awfulness and the binding of the witches seemed complete as it plunged into the ground, making the spot where it entered dark like soot, and evaporating from around their wrists.

“This commitment to the coven binds us all, so tread warily. Our deeds are pure in their deceit, but do not stray from the black blood which now binds us. If one falls, we all shall. But as we rise and grow more powerful, so too will all of you. It is done.” The centre witch said, concluding the spell and standing once more. She clicked her neck awkwardly, the sound of broken twigs cracking around the barn, and she began to stretch upwards, growing slightly larger than she had been previously. The bones in her hand cracked and she pulled at her fingers, breaking them and stretching them forth abnormally. The sound was horrible to Jacob, it reminded him of his grandmother cracking nuts by the fire. That awful woman.

“They come and go with their sheep like minds. They breed and die, bringing others to our land. They swill the poetry from the trough of that church, washing it down into the land. It tries to bleed into our bones. The othering that we chose, the distancing of self is always besieged by their self-concluded righteousness. Sisters we have seen hang and burn. Stripped naked for them, poked and violated. Our ways are dark and dangerous, but they are our own. Yes, he has his plan, but it is all written, even in their own books.” The voice seemed more human this time to Jacob, despite the abnormal appearance of the witch now in the middle of the group. He noted their names of course, all but her; she still alluded him. She was someone he did not know…. yet.

“Agatha. You know whom I speak of.” A large exhale seemed to come from them all. The reason they knew they were there.

“Agatha. They took her, as you know. They did not burn or hang her. The fools who think that destroys us inside. They took her, and she was strong, she told them nothing of us. They tried of course to trick, to tease the information out of her. Beauty in their eyes is betwixting. Agatha’s bones do not lie in some place, scorched and dismissed. They took from me….” Here her voice cracked. “…us, a sister who they keep to themselves. In the house beyond the rise of Drample hill.” At the name, many of those present spat on the floor.

“She will return to us; we will bring her back. We have the means.” Said a witch who stood close to one of the candles, the silhouetted figure seemed to dance in the candle flame. They all hissed with agreement.

“Yes, she will. And yes, we do. But we must go beyond retrieving our sister this time. We must come out of the shadows, into their awful light of delusion. We must teach them this time that we will not be plucked, fucked or destroyed. This time, this land will all be ours to come and go freely. This is the time for our great aftermath.” She said, her hands rising upwards much like the preacher would in the church not far from where the barn stood.

They all cheered in their own witchy ways, some thumping the floor with their feet bringing up dust and disorder. The noise startled one of the magpies which had sat quietly on a beam next to his master, the familiar took flight suddenly up into the rafters, coming to rest on a beam just by Jacob. It’s eyes finding the boy, it’s call yet to cry out.

Heaven is shut/open (Story reading)


The plane took off, soaring into the sky as the sun died on the horizon. All was safe, all parts working. Wheels stored safely as the streaming sound of pressure encased them. He looked out of the window and watched the ground give way. He sighed. He’d hoped for a failure. Maybe later when they were out over the ocean, no chance of rescue there. No one ever survived a plane crashing into the sea….

Read on


Island

He could see the rain off in the distance, across the sea. A huge sheet of it moving slowly across the bay. The grey clouds draped like a curtain, pulled back to reveal the essence of nature. The storms here were intense, but short lived. Like the most intense arguments, they usually ended before they’d even begun. Not that the weather really bothered him today, his mind was set on something deeper than the weather.

The hotel was nestled in Hibiscus Bay, on the south side of the small island. Sadly, the name was a historic element as the hibiscus, and most of the natural fauna had long since disappeared. Replaced by cultivated palm trees and stretching lawns of the hotel which dominated most of the bay. That is not to say it was not beautiful, but it was not authentic. Nature with lipstick. Ironically, the main reception’s flower arrangements did include them in the display, their flowers all flown in from the mainland.

He crossed the cool reception, busy now with guests departing and others eager for the organised tours which the small minibuses outside promised. Sweet lime and jasmine floated from the candles flickering away around the reception desk, tickling his nose, mixed with the sun cream from the bodies before him and the smell of the air-conditioning. He swept through the lobby quickly, making his way to his rental car parked under a huge palm tree. As he stepped outside into the humidity, the rain was just coming to a stop, the clouds above him already being blown into a stretched gauze of grey, the blue threatening to bleed through.

His Jeep took the corner of the hotel resort harshly, clipping the ferns and the greens which peppered the entrance way. He knew where he was going, and he knew it would not take too long; but he had an urgency within him now, now he was here. Here, he’d been here a few days already but now was the moment. He’d tossed and turned in his mind what to do. Back at home he’d roamed his house like a lonely ghost. Now in the tropical surroundings, the issues hadn’t gone away, indeed the equatorial sun had shown them up further, almost blinding him. But he’d got an idea, one which may or may not work; but was something. And something was more than he’d had in a long time.

The road he needed took him off the main one, the dirt underneath now spraying up in dust as the car sped down a deserted track. The palm oil plants bloomed beside him, slowly replacing the sugarcane that dominated the greenery and island. The road began to slope slightly, as if his world was tumbling forward into the ocean which he knew awaited him outside of the green lushness of the plants all around him. A small butterfly, beautifully coloured as they tend to be, fluttered inside the opened cageness of his car. It bobbed before him, threatening to rest on the steering wheel before seeming to change its mind, flying off through the open window on the other side of the car. He watched it for a few moments, before turning the Jeep a sharp left and zooming out of the trees.

It was like a jewel now, the bright twinkling ocean, freshly watered further and now being kissed by the sunshine which streamed down through the clouds. Shadows moved out at sea, the clouds above in their own dance. He’d been here only once before, but he knew this was where he needed to come. He pulled his car up to a stop, the tires rolling slightly onto the damp white sand. He sat, his hands clutched to the steering wheel, supporting him and his thoughts. It was very humid, and despite the drive in which the air stirred him, little beads of sweat trickled by his ears, matting his hair slightly.

“Time”. He said aloud to no one and thumped the steering wheel twice before unbuckling his seat belt and sliding out of the Jeep.

Very few people came here, he did not know it, but he was glad of it. He needed the seclusion. What kept them away, he put if down to the weather, but the small area was known to many islanders as a place of sorrow. The fishing was terrible in this spot, the currents mixing frenziedly just out beyond the rocks, fighting with one another beneath the waves. Though the beach was beautiful, it was inaccessible unless you drove down through the plantations. Most of the other beaches on the island were walkable, and you could roam and enjoy the sandy smiles easily before strolling into a village or back to a resort. Here it was cut off, a huge rocky crescent scraping itself outward into the ocean.

He walked a little on the sand, avoiding the lure of the waters which promised release to many things. He mounted one of the rocks and looked across to see what he wanted. There before him was the tiny island, no bigger than his back garden at home. It sported a few trees, and a giant bird took off from one of them as he watched. This was what he remembered, and what he needed now.

Walking towards it, he listened to the sound of the ocean slapping at the beach and some of the rocks around him. The air was hot still, but there was a slight breeze finding the sweat on his skin. The aftermath of the storm. He reached the edge of the water, the sand rising before him like the body of a sea monster, popping up in patches towards the small island. It was a little causeway of sorts, but some of the sections were quite deep in the water, and as he made his way across, the water of the world made it up to his waist. He carried his shoes above his head, his clothes he knew would dry quickly. His bare feet found a few stray rocks along the way, and he winced once or twice, hoping the skin hadn’t broken. Finally, he came to the other side, and he placed his shoes on a rock and squeezed out the water from his clothes, shaking some of it off like a dog would coming out of the sea.

He looked up at the trees there on the island, the palms seemed to rise up gigantically, bending out and stretching over the ocean. There were more here than he’d thought, the illusion of the far away made it seem less complicated. Now he could see the vibrant plants and life this tiny island held. He turned to face the beach, for some reason checking that he indeed was alone. He was, and he stepped forth into the shade the palms and plants offered him.

For a small space, the air was much cooler, and he could feel a dankness, the water dripping in the leaves from the earlier rain. He heard a bird fluttering somewhere, and the clicks and ticks of the insects housed inside the cool space. Going further, he quickly found the very centre of the tiny island and stood there looking both at the trees, then down to the ground. The floor was sandy and soiliy, hard roots tangled everywhere. It reminded him of orchids in plant pots, their strange alien cords in the dusty soil. So many people treating them like roses, over watering.

He dropped to his knees, and feeling like a pirate, began digging with his hands, scooping up sand and soil with his cupped palms. He moved a great heap of earth quickly, pulling up the roots and the rocks which too lay beneath the surface. Not gold, but many grey teeth of the world, each rock precious in their own way, housing millions of moments in time. But he cast them all aside until the hole was big enough for what he needed.

Standing, he brushed the sand from his knees and clapped the excess dirt from his hands. All around him was quiet, the birds that had been their previously displaced and flown from his noisy digging. Just the bugs and shade, the sound of the ocean waves all around, swirling him in a sandy snow globe. He took a moment to gather himself, closing his eyes and speaking in his mind to what he needed.

With his eyes closed he bent forward, retching profusely. Dry and vacant at first, only bits of phlegm finding the ground before him. Then it came, quick and oozing. A black oily treacle poured out from his mouth, globbing down into the sandy hole. A little grey smoke escaped too, lifting off into the nothing as he heaved and coughed, some sticking in his throat. He punched his stomach, smacked his chest and stamped his feet. His heart he squeezed with ghostly hands, evacuating the rotten from within. All of it. He knew how much dwelt inside, and he knew too where it hid.

With a few final retches and coughs he was done. The black oily tar had moulded like molasses in the dug-out hole, balling up like a horrible black marble. The sun caught the ball in a splinter of light, and he thought for a moment he could see a huge eye gleaming at him. He quickly went across and began to kick sand and soil back into the hole, finally back on his knees pushing mounds of it with his hands until it was all covered. He patted it with his feet, careful not to stand too long over it, as if fearing an oily hand might charge up and pull him down. He said something only he and the trees would ever hear, and left the centre of the island quickly, finding his shoes from the rock and charging out into the sea back towards the beach.

He never returned to the small island, or even the larger one which boasted a number of pleasant resorts and attractions. He never saw the Coconut cave or the Belline Waterfall that the island boasts to all the tourists who flood its small little jewel of land in the tropical seas. He would’ve liked to of course, but he knew he could not come back. He could not be so near to something he wanted rid of.

Despite never returning himself, a few people have ventured out to the tiny little island where he dug and buried what he needed to. They came and went with little to report aside the remoteness of the little island, strung out like a pearl at the end of a silver chain. They assumed the purpled plant that grew where he’d buried was a native species to the island, the huge purple flowers crude but intricate, as they stretch upwards for the light. But the truth was no one had ever seen a plant like this before, though many are waiting to grow still; out of the darkness.

Forever winter (Part 26)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


BRIGHT WHITE LIGHT

Snow, all around her. Light white brilliant snow. She could smell it, sense it. Hear the silence that always came with it. Little flecks of moisture in the air now suspended in perpetual intricate beauty. Those snowflakes had carved themselves of her heart, and she would never undo their grooves.

The whiteness dazzled. It sung in its blinding opulence, covering everything before her, around her and inside her. Fresh snow has a distinct crisp glow, untouched and virginal it lays there awaiting the drops of dirt or imprint of a foot to begin the entropic change. A great white blanket thrown over her landscape.

She saw this now, feeling the cold tiptoe up her skin as a light cold breeze completed the scene. She shivered in happiness, gone was the brilliance of the sun and the heat. That humidness which made her sweat and attracted the flies to everything. The forest and plants heaved under the weight of the fallen snow, yet sprouts and tufts of ferns poked through, not covered completely. Already adapting to their encasement, the flowers turned towards the sun, though hidden behind a grey cloth of cloud. Breathing it all in, she was amazed not only by what she had done, but the power of nature itself.

It was her first great display, her first control of weather that she had earlier bottled in a jar. She had climbed the great green dragon, the mountain at the edge of their little world. Many younger and stronger souls would not brave such a climb, but the lady of the jars had done just this. Reaching the summit to bottle the snow and cold, now twinkling in a jar left casually on her kitchen table by the orange bowl. She had succeeded, her frozen landscape stretched as far as her eyes could muster in the blinding white. She knew herself, for a first attempt, there was a limit to its reach. But with more attempts, the winter she so longed for creeped further and further from her, casting its cold hand across the land.

It was the white, the blinding iridescent collide in her eyes and mind that took her back to that first great unravelling of her power. It, like that first snow, surrounded her now. Coursing through her body and electrifying all around. The power of the stones had struck the lady of the jars like lightning strikes the sand, and inside her thoughts and her being were burnt to a crystalline liquid, where she could see through to her soul. It took only a moment, but in that flash, she saw all of time. She breathed in the life of those around in the clearing. From birth to their coming deaths, she watched as all their lives fell slowly like snowflakes. She saw P’erl’s home planet, the surroundings of her childhood and growing up with the hole her mother left. The gentleman of the boxes slid out on the ice of her eyes, his fragile boyhood, smacked and damaged by life. Malthrop’s recent pain shimmered like diamonds with drops of blood within. And even the Dimian’s all-consuming drive was spun out on god’s fingertips, showing her the balance of the universe and the need for all life’s happy accidents. She saw her own death, and she smiled seeing how she would finally leave this material realm, and who waited for her in the next.

It was these lives that were important, that was clear to her. Not the power or the control; or even the great cosmic shifts that were happening there in that small clearing. That was what came with the voice in the light, the tinkering chime of bells like sleigh bells announcing an arrival. It was strong and determined, the essence of life and its importance. How precious people and things really are, and how easily damaged and corrupt they can become without love. In the white light, she slowly began to make out the shapes, like the opposite of the dark when you can see things out of the corner of your eyes. It all came back in slow motion, materialising out of the force around her, her heart skipping not once, but twice over as the energy passed through her. She knew what must be done, and she knew that she had been given a glance at this moment before in her life. In dreams and feelings, in moments where she had felt the future but failed to grasp it, like trying to cup breath on a cold day.

She closed her eyes and allowed the force to take her. Willing her body across to where the Dimian were huddled, offering them the most divine and fused banquet for their small little mouths.

Ezra and Malthrop stood, shielding their eyes from the burst of light emitted from the stones. They had watched the lady of the jars stride forth towards the centre. The Girl from Europa had hung by the other Mondol stone, she and the gentleman of the boxes seemingly caught in the static pull of the stone nearest to them. The scene was electrifying as the white light smashed down into the clearing, out of the stones, and blistering around them. Ezra smelt the hum of static electricity and could taste the change in the air. Like glimpses at the sun, they waited for their vision to return and the white smear across their eyes to dissipate.

A soft snow had begun to fall once more, and Ezra searched the place with his eyes to where the lady of the jars stood moments before, but nothing was there. Malthrop in similar confoundedness looked to where P’erl had been with the gentleman of the boxes, but that space too yawned an emptiness that was only repeated by the disappearance of the Dimian. The clearing was empty of souls but those two, the giant stones quiet and silent now as the snow began to settle on their crests.

“What happened, where did they all go?” Malthrop asked, unfamiliar with this extent of magic and calamity.

“I…I don’t know.” Ezra mumbled back, unsure of everything himself.

He walked forward slowly, his eyes scanning the clearing as if maybe they were all hiding behind a tree. The silence about them felt heavy, the static in the air now gone and only the little flakes of snow drifting through like white embers.

“What was most likely to have happened, logically what would have taken place?” Malthrop asked, coming next to Ezra. They both stood between the two stones now, the giant rocks ached in their stillness. Ezra turned to the ground, thinking desperately. His own mind was flashing between what he had seen before, and the thoughts and memories of the lady of the jars. A parade of her life intersecting with the white flash he’d just witnessed.

“The Kahall.” He said, quietly. And though he hadn’t seen, a little spark popped out of the centre of both of the stones. He went on. “The Kahall, they were the ancients who transformed the natural magic. They siphoned the great light through everything you see, hear, touch. This life hinges on the motes of energy within. They used the stones, like a great well, plunging the depths of the world to control the magic. It’s here written on the rock.” Ezra said, pointing to the one closest to them.

Malthrop stepped closer to the stone, looking at the base and following upward the spiralling pattern which bore the knowledge.

“It’s for everyone, it does not recognise good or bad. It is power, energy; and it’s how we use it that results in what we manifest. The lady, she was…is the kindest soul. She would want to restore the balance, to roll things to a time when no one was pushing forth a need of their own. Too much of a good thing can be just as bad as too much of the wrong. P’erl was the essence of good, innocence. But her strength is otherworldly and quite powerful. Balance, she would have looked for the balance.” Ezra said, his head low, thinking still.

Malthrop turned from the stone.

“What would have made that balance possible?”

“To receive anything, you must give. She would’ve given herself to stabilise all the energy. A filament for the moment. She knew the magic; she knew the balance. She had become, herself, too needful of her control of the weather. It came from a good place, but it tipped the scales as much as the gentleman of the boxes had. She would’ve recognised this and did what she had to. She knew it was coming.” Ezra said, sadly.

“So, they’re all gone then, is that what you mean?”

“The consequence to balance, some things disappear.” Ezra said, the realisation hitting him suddenly and pulling at his heart.

“What a terrible waste, there is too much loss already in the world. Are things safe now then?” Malthrop asked, suddenly noticing that all the bodies had disappeared from the clearing.

Ezra looked around again himself.

“Yes, safe and better I’m assuming. The wrongs have been corrected, there is peace and order again in the land.”

“Then come, let us go from here if it is all complete.” Malthrop said, coming across to Ezra and putting his hand on his shoulder.

“I might stay for a while, just to see….” He trailed off.

“Come my friend, if I go, you go too. No point in remaining here alone, come back to my house and I’ll get us some much-needed food.” Malthrop said smiling, comfortingly.

It was the spark from the stones and the thought in his mind, suddenly illuminating at the same time. A Little light emitted from the centre of the stones again, and with Ezra’s realisation, there might be hope.

“If I go, you go…” He said aloud. He looked between the stones now, the sparks spluttering with a bit more urgency.

“I only meant…” Malthrop began, but Ezra cut in.

“No, it’s good. It’s good. If I go, you go. She said it. The crazy old fool must have been right. She can’t be gone yet, for I’m still here.” He said, smiling now.

“I don’t understand.” Malthrop said.

“I know, and it’s a long story. But believe me, there is a chance that it’s not as bad as we think. She’s alive, somewhere. And that probably means the others are too. I don’t know what is happening, but the stones are trying to tell us something now, look.” Ezra said, and Malthrop turned to see the stones himself, each one leaking a string of white light from the centre.

“What’s happening now?” Malthrop asked.

“Let’s watch and find out…maybe we’d better step back a little.” Ezra said, urging them both backward, away from the strings of light which were snaking towards each other across the floor of the clearing.

The strings began to whirl a pulsing sound, like two desperate hands reaching for one another. The light began to intensify the closer they got and the little sparks at the end fizzed and hissed, chasing away the dark. Malthrop couldn’t help it, but he held his breath just as the two ends met, a shower of light, sparks and white heat once again exploded around them.

With the two points fused together, a rotating blue pulse emitted from the centre, plunging backwards into the stones. As the throb quickened, the middle of the stones began to cave away, revealing a cloudy opening like an eye. The white and the blue swirled and swirled, and the centres opened up further offering the two souls who stood before them a glimpse at another world.

It is not unusual to find rock on Europa, though the types that are there are very different from those on earth. Though they indeed exist, they are not used in building or any structural elements, the Europans preferring the icy caves and hollows to fashion their world out of. Most stones and rocks hold a different set of use and practices for them, many used as the centre of some ceremony or ritual.  Lying in the navel of the great Koddoah, a huge building shaped similarly to a flower, lay five giant stones. The Koddoah is an ancient place where the energy and power of all around is recognised, but not worshipped. It is venerated through ceremonies and events that remind all Europans of the great essence of the universe. These stones are marked with the same carvings as those in the clearing on earth, and on the frozen white moon two of these stones had just begun to come alive with light.


snowflake up close

The Power

The power lives in you.

He heard it again, that voice. What was it, the third time? Not menacing, or threatening, more like the gentle voice of a child; a fine mist leaking out of a corner.

He’d come into the kitchen to wash his cup out, the tea long since drained, the dark dregs like the mistakes of his life had dried in the depths. His kitchen overlooked his back garden, the huge oak tree which cast a shadow over half the house blanketed the room now. Half in, half out of light.

Two o’clock in the afternoon, whispers in the air.

He hadn’t felt alarmed hearing the words, indeed they were comforting in they casuistic way. The voice itself was ethereal, calm and soothing, like milk running down his soul. He’d left the cup in the sink and looked on out the windows, the words fluttering in his mind like the leaves outside fluttering in the breeze. The season was on the change, and he could picture now the lawn covered in frost while the trees disappeared into themselves with their winter reclusiveness.

The year, where had it gone? Disappeared into nothing while he’d roamed the house like a Victorian ghost; forlorn and melancholic. But then, what did they expect, he’d just been trying to keep It together. If the good lord wanted miracles, then it was indeed one that he was still even alive. Those dark days of spring when the end seemed so apparent. On his fingertips like the edge of tomorrow. He was still finding his way on this new terrain, still stuffing the darkness back into the holes that bled it out in copious amounts.

The power lives in you.

That voice, those words. He knew what it meant of course; he’d felt that divine pull for the past few weeks. His own lungs coughing up golden dust when he woke. Hard to breathe, hard to be here in this world the way he was. It was uncomfortable, he just knew he had to change. These voices, these little nudges were to make him see, to move him along. Sometimes we are so blind to what is before our eyes. It took him some time, but slowly he began to see.

Washing his cup, leaving it on the draining board to dry, he went back into his study. He called it a study, though it was really just the spare room with all manner of things piled high. He didn’t study anything, aside the figures and words that flashed across his screen; the requirement of modern life. He’d longed to give it all up of course, but his dreams had slowly died over the years and now necessity proved too strong a spell.

He sat down at his new desk, the wood still smelling of the sick like scent of the cardboard box it arrived in and pulled toward him a notebook. Past the pages of word commitments, the left to do lists and random spirals, coming to land on a blank page towards the back. Words had never really come easy to him, the right one always on the tip of his brain, peeking out like a child playing hide and seek. But he commanded himself, spurred on by the gentle voice that now echoed in his mind. He made a list of things he needed to change, things in his life and things about himself he could no longer tolerate.

His mind flashed, like skimming through tv channels, and it came upon a documentary he’d watched once. The image was fuzzy and dated; the haze of anything from our past which we give a comforting glow. Drugs, the documentary was about drug abuse and interventions by family members. He felt their pain in a flash, registering barely but a blip as he skipped through their plight. The counsellor, the authority in the room. What was she saying?

“People will only change when they are so far gone, that the thought of staying the same disgusts them. If Richard feels revulsion when he uses, that’s when he will decide to quit. You can’t make him, you never will. All this is just dressing to his world, your pain inconsequential. Only he can change, and he only will when it is worse not to.”

He remembered it, his mind the magician remembering every word. He barely remembered conversations he’d had last week, but here it was, locked in the annuals of his mind.

We have the power.

It came in a flash, like lightning this time. Cracking his skull and finding his soul. Louder too, and different. ‘WE’, joined together. Not alone. We have the power. He noticed his hands were shaking, the pencil he was using vibrating slightly. His mind, the magician and time traveller taking him away in a second to his school days, shaking pencils quickly to watch them blur.

Back in his study, the list before him. The words in his mind.

He looked at the list and saw his work ahead. Elements of change, poisoned elements of freedom. Within the poison lies the cure. These things were not terrible, many born from laziness.  But they did disconnect him, and they kept him from manifesting anything but what he had around him now. Is this the life you wanted?

He ripped the page out of the notebook, little curls of paper scattering on the desk like hair in a barbers. Knocking his chair back as he went, he sped quickly into his front room where the photos were. Shiny lined frames containing his life, friends and family smiling back at him. He stopped and looked at those faces, of the ones he loved. Some gone, some remaining. He ached for one in particular, their smile overshone by the light that beamed from their eyes. Drawing him. He’d asked of course, he’d asked for help from them, and God. Asking for assistance and the chance of change.

You are your only saviour.

The voice came swift and curt, this time more of an admonishment. It was joined by a chorus of others, repeating it so it echoed into nothing.

He’d been here before, cursing them, cursing God for letting him down. Throwing his fists and tears up towards heaven. Heaven which never seemed to answer him.  God, who never seemed to give a damn. But now, these voices, these calls to arms in a way, pushing him onwards; empowering him.

He stood there, before the photos; the light shining off the silver frames and catching his eyes. He forgave and apologised. He took onboard all the pain and blame that he’d dispatched, the responsibility felt delicious and bitter in his mind. But he could not blame them, not anymore. His list showed him where he’d gone wrong, absolving himself over the years of the fuckups that he was the master of. His choices, his movements. His words said to them and others over the years.

It took him some time, and the voices left him to do it quietly as they swirled around protectively. They had been with him all along of course. Watched him along the road of good intentions, wincing when he fell. He’d never known the danger they kept from him, times when he could’ve been forever lost. But it took something within for them to now speak. Something had broken inside of him; something had burnt away all he had framed in his life. And in his ruins, they found the crack for the light to burst through.

Leaving his front room his eyes wet and weary, he walked back into his kitchen, passing the cup; now clean and dry. He slipped out the back door, putting on the wellington boots which lived just inside. They were tight yet reassuring, offering the freedom to clomp around any surface or pitfall. Spiriting himself down the path, over the little bridge where he’d begun his Japanese inspired retreat some time ago; he came to rest in the small pagoda. He remembered putting this up himself, it had taking him hours. It was second hand of course; the new ones were much too expensive and he could see the damage around the base now from the weathering and years of endurance.

Power of prayer.

These words rested in his mind like little clouds settling on a mountain. He closed his eyes and washed them through him. Prayer, power. His faith was not what many would consider appropriate to them, but he knew the strength of his spiritual side. It had saved his life, many times. The power of prayer was to keep a conversation with God. Talking, always talking. But he’d demanded a lot in his life. Cursing, bargaining and threating the creator. The problem with prayer is that it was always one way. A conversation with one voice.

Meditate, and hear the answers.

The voice, so close now. Like a kind hand on his shoulder.

He remained there for some time, his mind peaceful and his words coming quickly. He prayed more, asking and forgiving. Conversing with God until the words were used up. He then sat still, quiet like a bonsai tree and meditated, listening to what God now had to say in reply.

Need to come back (Story reading)


The water rippled towards him, a small wave plunging forth in its final effort onto the beach. It coated his feet in a warm embrace. He watched as the water receded hastily, as if it had disturbed him yet eager to do it once more. The ocean inhaled, drawing back again as the great expanse seemed caught between the beach and the horizon.

Somewhere in his mind a clock ticked, indifferent to the relaxing flow and rhythm of the tide…..

Read on


 

Halfway from home

Jasmine, and if he closed his eyes, the sound of the ocean. The smell though was always the strongest, it was what always clung to him. The ghost that gently haunted, touching his heart. It came and went, sometimes intense, taking him to that place where he always felt safe. Always felt them there.

He looked out of the window at the planet below, the strange orb spinning silently in its indifference to him. The purple hues lifted off the surface as if into a dream, blurring and smudging with the swallowing blackness of space.

Jasmine and warm sand.

He stole himself a moment to close his eyes, feeling the history shiver through him. An irritant beeping began in his ear, and his eyes opened to see the planet once more, slipping slowly from view as a stream of white slithered across the windows. He stepped back, releasing the metal banister from his grasp and turned to the yawning corridor behind him. There were a few people making their way along it, eyes glowing from the screens that ensnared them. Detached from the beauty that space could offer them.

Why should they be so dazzled by its brilliance? Space was taking something away from them. Distance and time.

He had come to terms with his own arrangement, but for the others, he guessed it was difficult still. He walked away from the huge windows, away from the calling of the beyond and made his way back to where he would spend most of his time. Alone, which is what he knew.

In his own little pod, his room of sorts on this floating chrysalis. Many of the travellers would enter one way and leave another. Changed by either their own trauma, or the perils of interstellar travel. He would not of course, he had already changed enough. If anything, he would retrograde, like Saturn returning, back into the pupa of his early days where things were so different.

Alone in his room, he turned off the lights, casting the space in the neon blue phosphorus glow. It was known to aid sleep in these conditions, but he would not be sleeping. How could he? His insomnia was welcomed back the moment he stepped aboard. Nights and days meant nothing up here anyway, so his patterns of rest blended and ebbed away. The blue now though comforted him, like an incubator heat lamp hung over an egg. The yoke of his mind turned, tumbling over the memories of a world he knew was forever lost.

“2.377.8”

The soft voice whispered into the room.

He turned over, the blue phosphorus blinking slightly like a heartbeat.

“Keter.” He replied to the nothing, and the room hung there in silence for a moment.

“Understood.” The soft voice replied, disappearing away like a ghost.

He had become used to these intrusions. They were passengers of course, guests even. Many had exchanged their savings just for their souls to be classed as passengers on this voyage through the stars. These numbers, all the time, numbers. Tracking, and recalibrating. Confirming and informing. Many that he spoke to set their times around these indications of location, celestial longitude. As if the mapping meant something to someone.

Only people meant something to someone else.

The number usually meant the distance, or the time left to arrival. For him, they meant something different. Like the length of rope thrown for safety, slowly falling away. The further he got, the closer he was. The journey beginning at the end, like the thoughts in his head. Chasing his own tail. The room scanned his body, noticing some change in the space. He’d found his was extra sensitive, monitoring his pulse and liquid extraction to the smallest degree. He’d stopped crying long ago, setting off too many checks and queries, the systems unsure of what purpose the leaking ever did.

He wasn’t travelling alone, but everyone thought he was. He sometimes forgot he wasn’t here by himself, but then he was washed in guilt. They were here in both places. In his heart, and in the cargo bay that was probably above his head now, the rotating section of the ship which spun around like a carousel. Their body was secure, he’d been assured. Packed next to boxes of memories and other people’s goods. Machines and provisions for a new life for the others. Well taken care of. He’s welcome to come by any time to check, though he is yet to do so and not likely to ever.

What was in the body really? The soul had left long ago. Even on Damara, the soul had slipped out through the atmosphere, heading back to earth. Back to their real home, where their bones would want to lie. He’d have buried them there if he could, but their family wanted them back. It was the least he could give them, having taken so much from them in their departure.

They would want to say goodbye, not through a video call or hologram burial across the stars.

Earth is where they would come to rest, put into the family tomb and forgotten about in a few years. But he would not forget, for their ghost drowned them now. Breathing into him along with the blue. Always blue, blue, blue.

He closed his eyes, hating himself. Remembering what they had said before they had left, those years ago. That death would snatch them there, on that cold side of space. Yet they would go non the less, for he seemed to want it so badly. And in truth, he did. He’d wanted to get away, try something different. Get as far away from Earth as humanly possible. To build them a new home on a new planet, a place where they would live longer, be healthier and stay together.

Home, they’d said is wherever they were.

“2.5, R HH” The soft voice spoke again, harder this time.

Halfway.

Halfway on their journey, from where they’d left, to where they were going.

He closed his eyes, and though no sleep came, fantasies and dreams washed through his head like a pageant. Illuminating visions that meant nothing and everything to him, silencing him for some time.

He saw a shell, a purple scallop shell before him on its side. All around a mist floated, he could see the water inside, sloshing back and forth as if the little shell were a boat out on rough waves. It began to lift slowly, coming towards him. The water began to ooze and leak away from the middle. Draining out and away into nothing. The shell continued to rise until its profile faced his eyeline. And with a deafening thunderclap, the shell cracked down the middle and he opened his eyes.

Making his way along the corridor, he touched the sides to feel the glass. Just beyond lay space, hidden from him by the greyed colours of the walls. But he knew it was there of course. Many didn’t, they forgot where they were, either by their screen diving or the long bouts of hibernation. It was easy he supposed, to forget you were where you were. Flight, travel. It disrupts violently the ordinariness of life, but in a surreal detached way, it can also be forgotten. Like you were in a waking dream, and things were going on without you.

He turned at the end of the corridor and climbed upwards, through a stairwell which led to the cargo bay area. He didn’t bother to ask anyone or sign in as he was told to do. Instead, he snuck through the huge doors as quiet as he could and was successfully undetected by anyone. He’d been tracked of course, eyes always on them, but nothing had come of it he’d noticed.

Moving steadily, he made his way to section 5t, the ‘living containments’ section. Ironic he’d thought, seeing as everything here was frozen, sleeping, or dead. He could see a red light blinking on the box some distance away, and he hurried forward at the sight of it. Error messages flashed across the box, symbols and numbers which meant nothing to him. He saw the number 16 flash by, and his mind was reminded by their birthday, cakes and smiles, images of kissing and the scent memory of blown out candles attacked him at once. He saw it then, a little pool of water just beneath the box.

“Fuck.” He said aloud to no one.

He scanned his wrist across the glass by the numbers, and the red light stopped flashing, but remained red. He pressed a button at the side and with an artificial exhale, little jets of air hissed the lid open. Whatever the error, or malfunction, the body inside had thawed. The crystal struts that kept the body in position glistened as the liquid inside sloshed around them. The head faced him, but the eyes were closed. He was thankful of that. He didn’t want to see their brown eyes. He would always remember them speckled with golden light, and he knew now the light would be gone.

What to do, what to do.

He stood there, not knowing for some time. The pool of water had spread a little towards his feet, but since the box had been opened, it seemed to have stopped leaking. The display on the side slowly climbing little bars up to a 100% destination. Aiming for perfection.

They looked peaceful at least, they looked like they were unaware of anything around them, even him. And of course, they were. Dead, gone, already back on earth. This body, these bones cared not for the journey they were on now. He reached out then, touching their hair which was wet and trailed slightly in the pooled water around them, floating like leaves in a pond.

The water was warm, and as his feet plunged into the box it rose above his socks and kissed his skin. He plunged down on top, his arms reaching around, through the crystal struts and finding the fleshy body and bones behind at the bottom. He hugged, and squeezed them, his eyes filling both with the water and the tears. He knew they were gone, but he had to hold them. He had to be here now with them, encased in a water filled box shooting through space.

“2.51.” The voice overhead announced, this time echoing in the vast space of the cargo bay.

He closed his eyes, jasmine filling his mind. He was no longer halfway. He wasn’t even before. He was only lost and alone. This he knew was how it would remain. So, he stayed and cried until sleep finally snatched him away, his body drained of energy from all the weeping. The voice overhead continued to call out many more marker points, little dots that now tracked his fall into nothingness.


Girl on the mountain

“Hang on, we’ll get there soon.”  She said, changing gear as the car struggled up the road.

The incline was harsh, and the trees that surrounded them hid the true dominance of the hills in this area. They had been travelling for nearly three hours and they were all tired, having gotten up so early for the journey. This part of the country was new to them all, and as the car snaked its way up through the trees, they were eager to see the open hills and valleys that they’d been told to expect.

Jessica rolled down the window in the backseat, letting the cool air and murky smell of the woods flood the car. She’d told nearly everyone at school she was going away for a few days, off to Wales and to hopefully see a dragon. They’d laughed and joked with her, taking the real reason for the trip away from her mind where it had only rested gently and fleetingly. She promised to bring them back something Welsh, though she didn’t know what that could be.

“Don’t get too cold back there.” Rachel said, shivering herself, changing gear once more. Their little car struggled against the demands of the road, but it had not failed them yet. Rachel had only been here once, back when she was a very small child, and she remembered nothing of it. Her grandmother had always visited them. It seemed selfish of her now, in all those years she’d never visited her in return here. Now, with her body about to be placed into the ground, she’d set forth to the soil that Amelia called home.

They suddenly burst through the trees as the car rounded a bend, a huge drop on one side bedded a stream nestled at the bottom, all grey and motionless. The brightness dazed her momentarily, and she blinked repeatedly as she drove on, the white and grey sky sprawling out over the huge expanse before them.

Richard tucked the map back into the glove compartment. He’d dug it out from an old box they’d kept in the spare room, the room where most things got dumped in their house. They’d found it useful, but they were nearly there now, and a signpost showed that in 14 miles they would make it to their destination. He’d also found the map made him feel useful, reading it as they had travelled, pointing out the sites along the way to Jessica. Not being able to drive made him feel a bit useless from time to time, even though Rachel enjoyed it. He reached down the side and retrieved the bag of sherbet lemons and offered the bag back to Jessica, who took one out and popped it into her mouth. He took one too, offering it to Rachel who said no thanks, so he ate it himself and ruffled the white bag closed and placed it back down the side, licking off the powder from his fingers.

“No dragons yet.” He said, aiming the words back at Jessica. She kicked his chair playfully.

“Nanna Amy once told us about one which slept in the mine near the village. She said the workmen had to send a sheep into the cave to distract it while they worked.” Rachel said, catching Jessica in her rear-view mirror.

“What happened to the sheep?” She asked, somewhat alarmed.

“Well, it usually came ambling out at the end of the day, I think it just used to get chased around the caves.” Rachel said, grinning.

“Must be a playful dragon, or not interested in eating sheep!” She said, looking out the window now as they began to head down into the valley.

Jessica watched as the green and grey flashed before her, she could see huge hills off in the distance. The trees seemed sparce, but little fluffs of them peppered the area, much like green sheep caught up high.

“What time is the service again?” Richard asked, turning to look at Rachel just as a light rain began to splatter the window.

“Oh no, not rain.” She said, turning on the wipers.

“It’s Wales, what did you expect?” He said, and she smiled.

“I was hoping to get there before we got caught in any rain, these roads might be tricky in wet weather. Urm, 3 o’clock is the service but they want us there at 2.30. I know aunty Glad wants to get us settled, and to show us off no doubt before.” She said, the wipers increasing now as the light rain had turned suddenly heavy.

Jessica watched as a huge bank of dark clouds rolled in above them. A car passed them on the other side, the first one they’d seen in a while, it’s headlights on now in the rain. She looked out across the valley once more, following the line of the hills with her finger on the windowpane, breathing on it to mark her way.

“Hey, what’s that?” She said, tapping the glass.

They all looked to the left, though Rachel only for a moment before returning her eyes back to the road.

“I’m not sure, why would….” Richard began, and Jessica added.

“There’s someone at the top of the hill, they have a fire.” She said, squinting to make them out in the rain and the distance.

“Why would someone be out in this weather on the top of a hill?” Rachel asked, noting the sign whizz by. Nearly there.

“Well, they are it seems. The flame is struggling in the wind though.” Richard said, and as he did the little flame seemed to burst a bit brighter for a moment, a beacon atop the hill.

“That’s really weird.” Jessica said, her window now rolled up as the rain had come in too heavy.

They carried on, leaving the hill behind them until Rachel made a left, turning off towards the village. Richard could still see the hill with the person on it as the car trundled down a rough road, skimming over the stream they had followed along. Soon enough they had arrived, the stone cottages and buildings littered their way as if giant rocks had been dropped from the sky, and the people below had carved houses out of them.

They all sat inside Pen-y-Waun, Aunt Gladys’s little cottage which looked out to the moor. Jessica munched on the custard creams that Gladys had placed on a very delicate little plate, while her mum sipped her tea.

“You call that heavy, nothing but a little spit of rain.” Gladys said, dunking a biscuit herself into her bone China cup. Jessica noticed the pattern, a little brown dragon curving around the side with trees and flowers decorating the edges.

“Well, it was hard to drive the last few miles. It was fine most of the way.” Rachel said, nestling her cup on her knee.

“Weather for a funeral, tears from God. Amy would’ve hated a clear day. Still, at least you made it safe. Remember any of it?” She said, asking Rachel.

Rachel shook her head.

“You were young, surprised if you could remember, though not much to remember really. But you were happy, always a smiling child. And your brother, good kids.” She said, but at the mention of her brother Rachel slunk down in her seat a little. “So, you’re here until next week then?”

“Oh, no just a couple of days. Don’t want to impose.” Richard said.

“You’re family, there’s no imposing. Stay as long as you like, be nice to have a few more faces around here to be honest. They all seem to be dropping off. God rest ‘em.” Gladys said, reaching for another biscuit.

“Are there many in the village then?” Richard asked.

Gladys pushed her horn-rimmed glasses up her nose, licking the crumbs of the biscuit away before speaking.

“When the mines were working, loads of us here. Now, most of the cottages are empty half the time. They rent them out for holidayers now, getting them all up from Bristol and the like. Come here for the quietness. Hmph!” she said.

“Is it not so quiet then?” Jessica asked, and Gladys cast her a curious smile.

“Jessica has heard about the Welsh dragons.” Rachel said, smiling.

“Dragons eh, I could tell you some tales. But that’s not what makes this place what it is.”

“Is it the person on the hill, with the flame? Is it for the dragons?” Jessica said, sitting forward in her chair.

Gladys put her cup down.

“It’s nearly quarter too, we best be getting a move on.” She said, hauling her large frame up out of her chair. Jessica knew when grown ups didn’t want to talk about something, but she felt suddenly invisible there in that little cottage.

The wind had picked up as they walked across to the small church. Most were already inside, but a few were making their way down the road towards the little building which stuck up on a ridge at the top of the village. Richard and Rachel walked slowly up towards the building, following Gladys who waved solemnly to the others as they came.

She suddenly put her arm around Jessica and pulled her in close, almost swaddling her in her black jacket.

“You saw the girl then?” She asked her, almost in a whisper. Jessica’s eyes lit up.

“A girl was it, a girl then?” She asked.

“Yes, she’s a girl alright. The girl of the mountain.  You are lucky to see her.” She said, slowing her pace as they got closer to the church.

“What’s she doing, who is she?” Jessica asked.

“That is a hard thing to answer. No one knows who she is, but we know why she is there. Not many outsiders see her, course she usually isn’t there in the day. You must be more connected to this land then you realise.” She touched the girl’s chin kindly, flicking it with her crinkled thumb.

“Why is she there with a fire, is it to do with dragons?” She asked. Gladys shook her head.

“No, nothing to do with dragons. She is there to light the way; she is a beacon when there is sorrow in the village. Amy, your great grandmother was much loved here, she was a spark of joy and happiness in this little corner of the world, this grey world which can feel quite foreboding. The girl of the mountain is there to remind us that everything will be okay, that there is light even in the darkness.” She said, profoundly.

“But who is she, is she a ghost? Jessica asked, curious.

“She is something that perhaps doesn’t need explaining, she is there to remind us to spark our own light in the rain and fog of life.” She replied.

“So, everything will be good again, after the loss and the pain?” Jessica asked. Gladys looked down at her.

“You are beyond your years aren’t you. You’ll have to visit more often; I like company that has its head screwed on right. But yes, things will be good again, this will pass.” She said, and they made their way into the small church with Rachel and Richard following up behind.

“It’s cold isn’t it, shame about the rain.” Rachel said, stepping up the steps.

“It is, but the organ music is somewhat cheerful considering. Nothing sombre which is nice.” He took her hand, and for some reason they stopped and looked around them. Through the rain and the clouds, they could see a little smudge of yellow, dancing off in the distance. They did not know it, but the girl on the mountain was singing as her flame burned on through the weather. Sweet words of redemption and hope.

Wind is strong, but don’t you sway.
The pain is heavy but will give way.
This light I bare will warm your heart.
All’ll be right, begin from the start.


 

Forever winter (Part 23)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


Discoveries at the edge of chaos

She sensed it; she could feel the power of the water charging beyond in the tunnels. The flow and the power, the energy coursing, and of course her friends. She knew they were safe, so to speak, currently riding along beneath her feet somewhere. P’erl stood before the coffin box that blocked the tunnel in front of her. She could see the gaps between the box and the walls, a little light dancing beyond in the tunnel somewhere. There was movement beyond. There was movement too in the eyes that watched her now, flicking back and forth.

P’erl was tall, and she stood with a stoop in the tunnel, her head bent just below the roof. The coffin was wedged into the space, but the thing inside was smaller than she. She knew what it was, she knew what he’d done. The man of the boxes. He’d taken a body; she did not think he’d killed them himself; perhaps removed it from a grave or found a corpse somewhere in the forest. A traveller caught in the white storm. She knew it had passed, the energy of life that she could sense in other beings was deadened here. But she felt the other force, the other magic. The reanimated spell he had put over the thing. She stepped towards the box just as the lid slid open, falling towards her like a gang plank.

The yellow eyes were swift, but the body was slow. Unaccustomed to its new lease of life perhaps. The old man, his clothes ragged and covered in soil; lurched towards her with outstretched arms. She watched as if in slow motion as it stumbled over the lid, the limbs moving at odds to the intended direction it seemed. The eyes though, they were rabid. Frantic and angry they dug into her, and it was then she felt it. It pinned her in place, the eyes streaming a force over her like a dreadful ray of sunlight. The sickly yellow glow seemed to glue her arms to the side, covering her in an invisible wax that seemed to hold on to her. She felt the hatred from those sockets, the one and only intent was to hurt and conquer.

The smell of the body engulfed her then as it approached, like a spider attacking a caught fly. The waft of death circled her, and she closed her eyes just as the man drew up. There were few threats on Europa, but she knew how to protect herself. Traveling to different worlds had made her aware of the imbalance in the universe, where some things took a dominance over others; painfully and completely. She knew death of course, and she knew that this thing before her no longer contained a soul. There was an essence left in the body, like tea leaves left in the bottom of a cup. And she felt now the glimmer of that being who once resided within.

But the darkness and despair of this new creature was commanding, and she felt the energy powerfully in her mind. It was thick and hate filled, and she knew that within that, it would never win. Around her the glow began, luminous like a lamp slowly coming to life. The blue aura lifted off from her skin, phosphorus and almost sticky. The thing crashed into it, plunging forth in its hatred. It screamed in horror as the blue clung all around it, spreading like a river across the deadened skin. It wailed and shrieked in place, like it was being burnt; yet the soft blue glowy light slowly progressed, encasing the creature.

P’erl did not move, she did not open her eyes until it was over. Once she did, the thing before her had dissolved away, leaving nothing but a small white ball the size of a marble on the floor of the tunnel. She bent down and picked up the ball, looking at the detail on the surface. She could see marbled streaks of gold, the essence left from the man and the deeds of his life. Golden and permanent there in the ball. She smiled at the many small veins that coursed all around the tiny sphere. The hope she wanted to find on this planet, the goodness that shone out in gold before her. She placed the ball in her pocket, and she once again made her way down the tunnel, smashing through the coffin with such ease the splinters exploded in an instant as she passed through, still glowing her blue aura.

“Ezra are you okay!” the lady spat, swallowing a huge wave of water as they rushed through the tunnel. She tried to steady herself, but the force of the surge bobbed her back and forth like a dry leaf caught in the rain. She caught sight of Ezra’s head behind her, poking out of the torrent, followed by clutching hands.

“Of course…I’m bloody not!” Ezra called back, he too swallowing copious amounts of water in trying to talk.

They sped on, the dirt from the walls mixing with the crystal-clear water, creating a muddy flow. They jostled and spun, slamming into the sides, the roof and the forks in the tunnel until finally they came to a large open section where the roof soared upwards.

They slowed slightly as the water filled up the huge space, and in that time, Ezra was quick to lunge forth and grab a giant root that dangled from the ceiling. Quickly, the lady saw what he was doing and turned herself, pushing against the wall and leapt forth, grabbing a hold of his legs.

“You can do it!” She yelled at him, his trousers already starting to slide down.

“You need to keep out of that damn biscuit tin!” He wheezed, trying hard to lift himself and her upwards away from the flowing water below.  She rolled her eyes and pulled her feet up clear from the water as a huge row of boxes suddenly washed into the room and below them.

“He’s been busy!” Ezra said as he pulled onto another root and heaved them up higher. The lady looked at the boxes, all different shapes, all painted red and black.

“He’s been planning this a long time it seems.” She said, pulling herself up onto one of the roots, relieving Ezra. “Look, there.” She said, indicating a small hole which seemed to lead upwards.

“I’m on it.” Ezra said, and with a swing on the root he was holding on to, he spun his body upwards and dove feet first into the hole. It was relatively secure, an old fox warren which was compacted around the sides, and he lent out backwards into the chamber, reaching down for her to come up. Surprising him with her agility, she too was able to spring across the dangling roots, as thick as her arm, and spun upwards for him to catch then heave her up out of the chamber.

Moving up a little further, away from the hole they both stopped to catch their breath and fling out some of the water which weighted their clothes.

“He’s not just after you, or the girl. He’s been doing things to others and packing them away in his damn boxes!” Ezra said, shaking his head.

“Yes, I didn’t think it was as bad as this. He must have slipped further over to the darkness.” She said, shaking her head, dislodging a large dew drop of water which had begun to dangle from her nose.

“Crazy. He’s got to be stopped now. Before I thought I just thought he was annoyed by all the snow and had it in for you. But he’s lost it, he’s killing people.” Ezra said, alarmed. The lady shook her head still.

“No, I don’t think he’s killing. Or at least, not yet. Something tells me this isn’t as it seems.” She said.

“Oh, come on, you’re defending him? Why do you always give people the benefit of the doubt?” He replied, annoyed.

“Everyone deserves that, we never truly can see the whole picture. But something in me tells me this isn’t as it seems.” She said, wringing out her sleaves which were soaked.

“Well, you can if you like. But when I see him, I won’t be taking any chances that’s for sure.” Ezra said, almost petulantly.

“You may get that wish sooner than you think, I know he’ll be after the other stone.” She said.

“Good!” He replied, clapping his hands together. In a flash of light that exploded in the tunnel, they were both suddenly dry and a few embers sizzled and faded away as they began their ascent once more, this time only a few feet from fresh air. A few feet from fate.

He stood at the opening, peering into the dark. He imagined the comfort from the underground, the silence and the heaving warmth from the soil around him. Though the snow had stopped, the cold wind blew about him there in the woods, and despite himself, he shivered. The moon shone down on him, speckled through the few tree branches that hung over the entrance to the tunnel.

It hadn’t been too long, and he wondered now how long it would be still. How long would it take for the creatures to bring the girl to him. He knew she was powerful, but he anticipated her passiveness and surprise. The creatures below, for there were many he had placed, would follow his orders and bring her up and out. He worried little over the woman and the boy now, they were secure down beneath and the girl would not find them. The Dimian were secure too, ready and waiting for when he had her.

Now, he wanted that power now.

He swung forth a bag and reached inside, extracting the book that had changed his life so many years ago. He crouched down and leaned the book on his knees as he scanned in the light of the moon. His creatures in the boxes, that was a good step. It had taken him a while to master it, but he knew they would come in handy. They were immune to the hungriness of the Dimian, their power dead in their hungry little eyes. He could trap and keep them where he wanted. He had planned this all of course, but he needed…

He heard it then, a rumbling coming from the hole. He wondered why the creatures would be making such a noise, but as the sound grew louder, he began to back away, unsure of what was about to charge out of the tunnel.

In a flash he was covered in cold water which had burst forth from the hole and smashed him to the floor. The ice and snow all around swamped him, sending freezing chills over his body as he struggled to push himself up. What had happened he wondered. He rolled over to the side, away from the plume of water which continued to surge from the ground.

“That old woman!” He cursed up into the sky. Her and her meddling weather. She must have created some sort of flood, some manipulation to the natural scheme again. Cold and wet, he was enraged with an anger which raced through him. Every step she took, she controlled the things around her, affecting everyone else. He stamped his feet and threw his bag which sploshed against the trunk of the tree. He remembered it then suddenly, and quickly went across to his bag, tearing it open. Inside he pulled out the bag within the bag, the one that belonged to her. He had glanced in it before of course but he had not taken much notice. Now he plunged inside, rummaging frantically for something, anything……ah ha.

His hand drew out of the bag, clutching little vials that raged and hummed. Her weather. Little bits of it contained in the glass. He peered in, looking at thunder and hailstorms, blinding sunshine and cyclonic winds.

“Time to fight fire with fire.” He said aloud to only the woods as he moved towards the entrance of the tunnel which still spewed forth the ocean of water.

Malthrop had been sleeping, it was late after all. His little house in the woods was surrounded by the creak and winds of the trees for which he’d been accustomed to after so long. He hadn’t lived alone, his partner had died only a month ago, and the grave and the pain were still both fresh in his mind. Death had taken them, probably for the better as the disease within had brought about ungodly pain already. Blessings in disguise, veiled relief as his friends would say.

Now it was only he and Tanker, his trusty but very lazy dog. Black as the nights sky, Tanker woofed and barked noisily, his nose at the door of the cottage. Malthrop had seen the blue light, off just over the trees. Reaching forth like the fireworks he’d seen once in Chu’zin. That had been a glorious day, the fireworks had mirrored the feelings in his heart.

This light seemed pure and magical, and though he’d not had much involvement with the mystics and the witches that roamed the wood, he knew their deeds were usually good. And this light, this almost Luna spectacle seemed to penetrate deep within his soul. Calling him.

He donned his jacket, and though surprised by Tanker’s eagerness; was glad that his dog wished to join him as he set out towards the Mondol stone, a place he usually avoided but was always respectful of; knowing the power that surged in this spot.


snowflake up close

Into the night

It was cold, the floor was always cold. Bare foot or with socks. The coldness seemed to spread with each step, like walking on ice. But it didn’t matter so much tonight.

He flung the duvet back and they woke with a start, their eyes suddenly ablaze.

“Is it time?” they asked, sitting up and pushing back into the deep plush pillows.

“It is, let’s go.” He spoke, calmly but with an urgency.

They swivelled in the bed, pushing their legs out and jumping into the situation. He watched them, agile and prepared, they’d practised this of course. How many times, twenty, thirty? Not enough, he knew that. Time was the essence here.

The darkness leaked inside the room like a can of oil, the little light he carried seemed to dismal in the overwhelm, but it did its job, and he shone the light now in their direction as they pulled on their shoes.

No time to change, just the shoes; they would be running of course.

“Ready, let’s go. Do you have…?” But they had spotted the box on the side near to him.

“Got it.” He said, and he picked the box up now and they both raced out of the bedroom.

He noticed the clock on the landing as they ran down the stairs, in the gloom he could still make out the hands of the grandfather clock ticking regimentally around and around. The clock had survived so much, seen so much. Been restored after many years hidden away from the Nazis, the greedy family members and the corrosion of time itself. Now it stood in full glory on the landing in their house, signalling the time for all who dwelt inside. Now it confessed the time to be two thirty in the morning. Time to move.

They raced down the stairs and towards the back of the house, crashing through the door quickly, not minding it was unlocked. They never did lock the doors; the danger did not lie there. They knew where horror lived.

In their bed clothes they raced, out into the air which was cold on their skin. No moon tonight, or if there were it was hidden behind the huge puffs of clouds that blanketed the sky. It made the night heavy, and they could feel it press upon them as they found themselves into the trees that began the woods at the rear of their house. No neighbours, they were too far away from them. The nearest house was three miles towards Grankvort, and that was in good weather. They made it this way, they needed the space and the separation from others.

The pine trees were close together, and sharp. They felt the needles as they sped through, though thankful for the running shoes which kept the rocks and fallen needles at bay. The little light he carried clung on to life in the face of the breath of the world which threatened to extinguish it.

“Wait!” they said, holding up their hand and pulling him to a stop.

He heard it then too, the sound of music off in the distance.

“There shouldn’t be anyone around, I don’t think it will work with others near.” They said.

He looked around himself, trying to locate the source of the sound in the claustrophobic woods.  He saw it then, a tiny glow moving through the trees, like a little firefly.

“There!” he said, and they turned to look also.

“Damn.” They replied, hurrying off without warning towards the light. He moved on quickly too, following them.

“What can we do?” He asked, catching himself on the trees.

“They will have to join us, there’s no time.” They said, seeming to glide through the thicket effortlessly.

As they got closer, they could hear the sound clearer now, the sound of orchestral music drifting outwards, hauntingly. Then he spotted the woman. She was tall, almost as tall as he, with a hood covering her head. He could see her hair tumbling out of the dark hood, like spilt gold leaking from a black lake. She was moving slowly, as if unsure of which way to go herself when they both suddenly burst out into her path, and she turned with surprise.

“Oh!” She exclaimed, but not out of fear. Almost as if she expected someone, but not so suddenly.

“What are you doing?” They asked her suddenly, he held the light up to her face and she drew back her hood in politeness.

“I’m sorry, is this your land?” She returned back.

“What are you doing here?” they asked again, ignoring her own question. The woman paused before answering which agitated them.

“Well!?” They asked, turning to him. “There’s no time for this.”

“I’m just passing through, please I don’t mean any harm.” The woman replied with a smile.

“It doesn’t matter, come along; you’re involved now.” And with that, they took her hand and pulled her off into the trees, running once more.

“Wait, what is going on….” The woman cried but was pulled on through, with the branches smacking her as they sped.

He followed on, trying to keep up. He should be leading he knew, having the light in hand; but they sped on at such a speed he had to double his efforts to stay with them.

They burst forth suddenly out of the trees, and he knew they had made it, and quickly too despite the stop with the woman. She now was hunched over, trying to catch her breath.

They stood by the edge of a ravine; the darkness below threatened an unknown demise, but he knew it was not that deep. He had climbed it of course, they had checked out all the areas near to them, and he knew the floor of the ravine was spongy and mossy. The rocks around them jutted upwards, like grey teeth, and he went across to one now and placed the box on top.

“How long?” they asked him, he looked at his watch. They had two minutes left.

“Two.” He said, and they smiled back. He could see the light above them now, streaming down like a dull torch from the sky.

“Wonderful, even though we’ve got a passenger.” They both looked at the woman now who stared back. She was neither scared nor angry at them, she merely stood there like a statue waiting for something to happen.

“Do you know what this is?” they asked the woman, pointing to the box on the rock.

She peered over, looking at the box which now began to hiss and glow with a dull light, its own reaching upwards.

“I’m not sure this is the right thing to do you know.” She said, almost with a knowing.

He stared at her, confused. The box had begun to come to life now, opening outwards and emitting a smoke. The dull lights danced and intermittingly blinked.

“What do you mean?” He asked.

They came over to him, putting their hand on his.

“Ignore her, we’ve prepared for this. If they have to come, it is better than being killed. We’re not going to murder anyone for this. We decided that.” They said, almost whispering.

“It won’t work how you expect it to.” The woman suddenly said, pulling up her hood as the smoke spread out around them, reaching upwards like little hands.

“Wait, wait….” He began but with a sudden flash of light his words were cut out. The box inverted on itself, pulling them in like a black hole. He watched as the woman remained standing, anchored to the spot as the two of them disappeared into the space created now in the place where the box was.

He felt it then, the pinching and the scraping. Slashes on his back and head became more and more apparent. He saw them and he held out his hand to them, they took them, and he could see the same red marks appearing. He tried to speak but the words were taken away by an invisible hand.

And suddenly it stopped, and all was quiet.

The woman coughed, dispersing the smoke in front of her with her hands. She pulled her hood back and stepped forward towards the box. It shuddered slightly on the rock, the lights inside finally dying to nothing and the beam above disappearing up into the dark clouds.

She picked the box up, whispering to it.

“I will keep you safe, but I told you it wouldn’t work.” She said, and she turned from the rocks and began her way back into the woods. Before long, the orchestral music softly began to lift up and out into the trees, as her little light flickered into life. A tiny glow through the dark wood which floated along with the music, like a small eye in a black sea of space.


Forever Winter (part 21)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


TREASURES UNDERGROUND 

She knew they were underground. She didn’t need to open her eyes to feel the oppressive nature of the soil all around them. It was hot, stuffy and smelt terrible. Though her snow gave a chill in the bones, there was something very different to being surrounded by earth than the feathery white flakes from the sky.

She was tied up, and the knot was tight around her hands, she could barely wriggle them behind her. Both she and Ezra were bound, separately but just as securely down in an underground vault not far from the Mondol stone. A candle was spluttering around the corner to the area they were being kept in, no bigger than her larder back at the cottage. The candle’s little light danced shadows around the place, but she could see Ezra bound on the other side. He was still unconscious, his head lulled forward like a drunk outside a tavern.

Her heart was racing, a mix of the confinement and the toxin the gentlemen of the boxes had used on them both. She could see nor hear him now, and aside from the little candle spluttering she heard nothing, as is the case underground. Quiet as a tomb.

Her legs were bound also, but not as tightly as her hands, and she was able to thump them a little in Ezra’s direction. After a few tries, she managed to knock his feet, but he didn’t stir at all. She kept on, quietly calling to him to wake, which he eventually did.

“That old bastard!” Ezra boomed into their small space.

“Shhhh, I don’t think he knows we’ve come around yet. I’m not sure where he is.” The lady of the jars hushed, her eyes desperate to peer around the side.

“Come around? I’ll make him come around and back and down and all over the place. That nasty old….” But she cut him off.

“Ezra, shush. We have to think to get out of here. They’ll be time for retribution later.” She hissed. At this Ezra smiled and nodded to her.

“How tightly are you bound there?” He asked her. He wriggled his own hands behind him.

“It’s very taut, he’s a whizz at knot tying it seems.” She said.

“Well, what else is there for the old fart to do all day sat underground! Right, let’s sort this out quickly.” He said, and with that he banged his feet up and down on the ground three times.

A crackling sound came from around the corner, and she saw the candlelight dim suddenly before the small sound of insects began to buzz. A throbbing light came pulsating into their little space, strobing a yellow light around them. The point of the light then broke off into two dots, one going over to Ezra while the other found the lady. They were little fireflies, born in the candle flame and now finding their way to the rope that bound their hands. They rested only for a moment before the ropes burnt away, the singeing smell filling the air momentarily. With a little snap the fireflies disappeared, extinguished now of their little magic flowers.

“Wonderful!” The lady said, rubbing her wrist involuntary and getting to her feet. Ezra stood too, ducking his head slightly in their confines.

“So, what do we do now?” he asked her. The lady looked around, but the place was bare of anything of use for them. She knew the gentleman of the boxes had taken everything off them.

“Well, we need to find out the extent of this underground place. We know that he wants the girl, but what he plans to do with us I no longer know.” She said.

“Well, he hates your weather, we know that. Sorry, but he’s had it in for you for ages now.” Ezra said.

“Well, it’s not my fault he can’t appreciate the beauty of winter.” She added.

“You’ve had it coming for a while, it’s all I’m saying. I know you’d be my downfall.” He said. She frowned at him.

“When I go, you go. You know that!” She huffed.

“We’ll see.” He said and made his way towards the corner of the room, poking his head around.

“There’s a long tunnel, that candle is almost out. How long do you think we’ve been down here?” He asked her.

The lady put her hand to her head, laying it flat on the top. She twisted it twice in place.

“I would say three hours.” And she joined him by the corner.

“Then who knows what’s become of the girl already.” Ezra said.

“Yes. It’s not looking good. Come on, let’s try and find a way out of this infernal warren.“ And with that she set off down the corridor, grabbing the candle as she went, Ezra marching behind her.

He’d watched her descend, seeing her come down through the clouds. She glowed like a blue ice crystal, the magic from the stone sparking upwards. He thought he’d heard the space exhale as she landed, but it must have been the wind.

The gentleman of the boxes lurked at the edge of the clearing, hidden by the thicket of bushes that clung to the larger trees at the edge. He’d been mindful of the Dimian, which he knew were clustered over by the other side of the clearing. He’d set up a little magical blockade, keeping them contained in the area by the cavern where he was keeping the lady and Ezra. His own magic had evolved significantly in the past few years, and what had seemed so foreign to him at first now came as second nature. What he failed to realise was that he’d slipped further and further into the darker realms of the power. Not fully registering what he had to give away of himself, in return of something only he desired.

He wanted the girl; he knew what she was. He didn’t really see her as a girl at all, his eyes now blinded by the power source that emanated from her. At first, he’d only wanted to end the tormented weather that had blanketed everything, that was his driving force. Then he wanted to teach the lady of the jars a lesson, nothing too bad, but something she would remember. But his thoughts had descended quickly, the little friend now forever by his ear telling him he could have more and more. Why not other things in boxes? Why not bigger and bigger boxes to store things that he didn’t want to see, or that he could keep forever contained. Why does the world tick to a tock that he must follow? Cannot things bend to his whim just for once, after years of being so uncontrolled. When was it his time to succeed?

These short-sighted thoughts had pushed him on, pushed him to do things that many years before he knew were rotten and would not have conceived. He took the lives of the animals before but knew there was a balance in nature. Now he took the lives, because he could, and not just of animals. Now he did the rotten things because he did not see the other side of it any longer. The darkness had spread over his eyes. Perhaps from being too long underground.

The stone sparkled and ran with a magic electricity. Sparking at the points where the girl touched it. She looked around the clearing, searching for the others. He watched as the doubt began to spread across her face. Quickly replaced with pain. He had to wait of course; he could not do anything with the stone. His study had taught him that.

The girl now sat down on the stone, crossing her legs and allowing the flow of energy to course through her. Where she made contact with the stone, it blurred with her own skin, rippling like mercury in a shimmering dance of magic. She placed her hands together and closed her eyes, replaying what had happened there. She saw as the gentleman of the boxes had captured her friends, taking them away to a place not far from where she sat. She watched too how he had ensnared the Dimian, and where they were now caught in a maddening cycle that he had placed over them. She opened one of her eyes and saw him now, crouched and trying to hide at the edge of the clearing. She could see it all, and she could see the darkness that now swelled within him. How his anger had let such negativity inside. The stone had changed him too, powering the thoughts he had, the will he wanted. Energising the darker aspects of himself.

She knew what he wanted, but she also knew that he was not powerless himself. She needed to get her friends back first, then they would deal with him. And she knew exactly what the best lesson would be to teach. She opened her eyes and looked up towards the sky, and with a simple thought she shot up like a rocket, so fast the gentleman barely saw it. Yet she had not gone skyward, but simply burst some energy up into the night while her body had slipped off the stone and made its way towards the Dimian.

It is sometimes forgotten how vast the underground world can be. You can dig for years and still only scratch the surface of the world. The gentleman of the boxes had become a master of underground life. He liked it there, with no weather and no change. He could control his environment, and he knew what came and went. He knew this land and all the cave systems that rooted and veined underneath the feet of those above.

Down deep is where he had put them. Many levels down, in a confusing maze of dead ends and vast rooms. He knew the area of course, and he knew that unless you knew the way out; it was all but hopeless. But the gentleman was no fool, and he also knew that magic was on their side. So, although he’d been quick, he’d placed his own precautions down there underground to keep them contained while he took the girl.

“We’re lost!” Ezra said, exhaustively.

“What, how can we be lost.  We didn’t know where we were to start with.” The lady said, looking down two separate tunnels, gauging which was the better route.

“Well, I know you don’t know where we are or which direction to go.” He said, looking back from where they’d come.

The candle they’d taken was down to a nub, the little light struggling in the overpowering darkness.

“Look, you’re meant to be a help to me. Now, do something with this candle.” She said, thrusting the little wax towards him.

He took the stump and cupped it in his hands, plunging them into darkness. She could smell the extinguished candle, reminding her suddenly of a birthday party. She heard Ezra breathing in loudly, and she watched as tiny sparkling bits of dust began to lift from the side of the tunnel. He breathed them all into the cupped hand, a little light collectively coming together to burn on the ends of the wick.

“Not much down at this level, we must be quite deep.” He said to her, handing the back.

“Please, keep hold of it.” She said, and she began to place her hands on the side of the tunnel. Bits of the earth tumbled away, and she brushed the dirt gently.

“What is it?” Ezra asked her.

“Something. Something is here.” She said, her hands now flat against the wall of the tunnel. “It can’t be……”

“Urm, I think we might have some company.” Ezra said, looking off down the tunnel. He could see a greenish glow, very distantly.

“Dimian!” the lady said. “Come, we must go the other way.” She darted quickly; Ezra was suddenly surprised by her speed as she raced down the other tunnel which led away from the Dimian. With the candle bobbing in his hand like a mushroom glow, he doubled his pace to keep up.

“What was back there, what did you think you felt?” He asked her, he was getting out of breath as she raced like a mole through the tunnels.

“I’ve read about it of course, and it would make sense for it to be here if anywhere. But I’m sure I felt the vibrations; it was so clear to me. It came into my head like a picture.” She said, not the least bit out of breath herself.

“Well, what is it?” Ezra gasped.

“The other Mondol stone.” She said, glancing back at him.

“You’re kidding me. Now there’s two?” He said, tripping slightly over a big rock on the floor.

“There were actually three to start, at least that was what is written. But it’s always been assumed from the current texts we only have the one. The others lost or destroyed. But it’s here Ezra, I felt it and saw it!” She said, an excitement in her voice.

“So, what does that mean?” He asked her.

She stopped suddenly, he almost smashed into her.

“It means we have a bit of leverage on our side, and I might be able to live through all this after all”. She said with a smile.


snowflake up close

Something to stay awake for – Erode the ruin

Something to stay awake for series

Listen to this episode.

The sea was lapping at her feet now, the cold-water slithering underneath her toes as the sand pulled away beneath her as the water receded. The waves were small and calm, placid like the mood she was in. It always calmed her coming here, walking down the perilous path that led from the rocky outcrop at the top of the cliff. To her, they were cliffs at least. Vast walls of rock keeping the sea and the world at bay. White cliffs that crumbled and creaked like the teeth of a slumbering giant.

She watched the little boat off in the distance, floating over the horizon, bobbing on the waves. Wondering what it would be like to be on that tiny vessel. Off to an unknown destination, casting her troubles and life overboard and setting off to the ends of the earth.

Her dress flickered as the breeze blew in from the south, a small bit of spray spat at the bottom of the dress, marking her as an object of the ocean. Marking its territory. But she would not be owned, at least never again. She pulled at the flowers in her hand, twisting out the mauve petals from the peony bunch she loosely clutched. She squeezed one of them, bruising the skin and releasing a tiny bit of moisture which escaped into the salty air.

She came here for the silence and the solitude, but today she was haunted by the voices. The ghosts of those she knew that had followed her down the tumbling cliffs. They squawked and chattered, soliciting opinions and throwing comments like pebbles into the sea. She closed her eyes, but the sounds increased, twittering’s of things she never asked to hear. She would never truly be alone, though it was the paradox of her desire. A wondrous dream that she chased, yet frightful of ever attaining it. Like chasing rainbows, she always came up empty, yet surrounded with the multitude of others. Life dripping over her.

Dropping the flowers into the water, she watched as they descended in slow motion. The little helpers she took earlier were beginning to swim their own synchronised dance in her head now. The flowers separated like divorcing couples, sticking to each other while parts seemed to drift away with the tide. From the shore, she would have received respectful stares from passers-by. Considerate looks for a soul caught up in a difficult moment, perhaps saying goodbye to a loved one, or remembering a time or a moment in life that had gone; corroded away into space like the rocks on the cliff. But she wasn’t saying goodbye or thinking about anyone she loved. She was thinking only about herself, and how to unfix herself from the web she felt caught in.

She lifted her feet out of the sand, kicking off some seaweed which had begun to coil around her leg like a snake from the shallows. She looked back towards the shore; the virgin sand glistened back at her. Mainly untouched today by those who sought out places to oil and tan themselves in the blazing sun. She loved this place for that reason, that it was a quiet slither of the world that was her own.

Pulling the plaster off her arm, she folded it twice and popped it into her pocket. She pushed the hair back out of her eyes, securing it behind her ears while she squinted off into the distance. The boat she had seen was much further away now, battling the stronger currents she knew lay towards that area of sea. She looked at her watch but realised she had taken it off earlier. She had left it on her bedside table. A tiny rebellious act, not to be controlled by time, or space, or matter. She had kept the ring on though, she twisted it now on her finger feeling the cool metal slide back and forth.

Some of the petals licked at her legs, the approaching tide giving them free movement. One sloshed up her leg, sticking to it like a barnacle on a ship.

She folded her arms gracefully and began to walk, slowly but determinedly into the sea.

SWIM

Easy to go with the tide than fight it.
To smile in a world of knowing grins.
Everyone looks to the sea for beauty.
But she always looked underneath.
Down into the depths where the coral grew.
Where no one was there to force her to smile.
To fit into a circle, forgetting she was a star.
Down deep was where she wished to go.
Out of the pain, she had come to know.
Forever she would be known as the crazy.
Once they dragged her body back up to the shore.
But she would linger within the seaweed.
Exploring the cool deep forever more


MORE FABLES HERE

Heaven is shut/open

The plane took off, soaring into the sky as the sun died on the horizon. All was safe, all parts working. Wheels stored safely as the streaming sound of pressure encased them. He looked out of the window and watched the ground give way. He sighed. He’d hoped for a failure. Maybe later when they were out over the ocean, no chance of rescue there. No one ever survived a plane crashing into the sea.

Closing his eyes, he saw their face. Lost and troubled as the chaos of the street bustled by. The taxi had hurried them, throwing his bags into the boot hastily before cars honked behind. They’d said their goodbyes already upstairs. Held on to each other as the tears threatened. At least he’d held on. He was unsure now how hard they had pulled into them. Deep inside his brain a voice had whispered ‘they want you to leave’.

Opening his eyes, he saw the seatbelt sign switch off, the little ‘bing’ sounding all around him but nowhere particular. The plane levelled off and he saw the land corrode into the ocean. The lights from the city behind already blurring into a distant memory. People got up, walking up the gangway as if their restrictiveness demanded a rebellion in movement.

He turned again to face the window, the little tears of condensation streaking backward like the ones in his eyes.

The flight was uneventful, and despite his longing, did not crash into a blazing wreck into the sea. He was somewhat thankful, no need for others to descend into nothingness because of his own wants and needs. The country had changed now of course, and he felt like a stranger in his own land. He felt as if he’d outgrown that little island, when in truth, it had all shrunken into ambivalence.

The next few weeks were a haze to him. He slept longer than his body needed. He ate less than what was required. The maddening howls of loneliness engulfed, playing out a wicked pageant each night. Pagan dances of despair trooped through his mind as he imagined the worst. And the weeks fell away into months. The sun rose and died each day, giving way to the moon which seemed more allusive and tauntful. Appearing and disappearing with differing brilliances.

And nothing changed.

No word came. No celestial movement of fate. He prayed of course, every day. Wishing, hoping, threatening…apologising. Words tumbled from his mouth like a waterfall, lost in the roar of tears that welcomed the rising pool of pain. He was confused and sad. These descriptions falling short of the abject horror that they encompassed.

He got up late one Wednesday. His bed had become a grave, and he pushed away the covers like soil from his skin. The weather was grey, and he saw little movement outside his window. He could hear the birds whistling their busy tunes and saw a couple of collared doves pecking away at the grassy bank at the side of his house. The birds circled, one seeming to protect the other as it scoured the grasses for something.

This was his life he thought there in that moment. The tragedy of nothingness. The on repeatness of filling hours that stretched like days.

Sitting down on his bed, he joined his hands together. They had marks on now of course, bloodied scabs that were struggling to heal. Punches to the ground and walls in frustration. His hands stung when he washed them always, bits of skin pealing off and disappearing down the drain to their own hellish adventures. Mostly he would pray in his head, but this morning the words came forth strong, if not shaky. He prayed for others, for those he loved. He asked why his circumstance refused to alter. He prayed to be sent the needs to change his situation. If god was refusing to give him what he needed, then at least give him the chance to change it for himself. He saw the light, felt the feel of god’s hands upon him and trickle into his heart.

This prayer lasted a long time. The doves had flown away by the time he had opened his eyes again, and a light rain had begun to pepper his window. The house groaned around in its ordinariness. Things were quiet. Things were the same.

He went about the day, holding onto something which he would never tell anyone. Like something stolen and now hidden in his pocket, he buried this secret in his heart which struggled to beat in a comfortable rhythm. The day came and went. The tasks and encounters rose and fell with the usual absurdity.

It wasn’t until the following night when what he had tucked away bloomed again. A flower of thought that had grown from the thick mud of despair. He had played the game of this life, by the rules he never agreed to. He was of service each day, giving and giving; yet never receiving. It never used to bother him for he had much to give. But when you lose everything, you become stricter on what you give away.

Now he felt like the coconut husks in his garden, pecked at each day by the birds of life. Strips of him torn away, revealing nothing underneath. His prayers had gone unanswered. But he stopped that thought then. No, this was not true. His prayers had been answered, when he prayed for others. When he gave and prayed and wanted the best for other people. They got what they needed. Even the rotten ones he was obliged to love. As if blood bound them in an unspoken covenant.

Prayer works. But not for him.

When he wanted…no, needed something. It never came to him. It was as if the gates of heaven had closed to him in a display of much unfairness. Why was he so beyond getting what he needed to make it through the day?

This thought stuck in his head, like food stuck in a throat. Uncomfortable and unpleasant. He was angry at God. But who wasn’t at times? But he felt more than anger, a betrayal almost. He fell asleep that night, not pooled in his own tears like always, but shaking into a fevered dream of reckoning.

He woke early, the rhythm of his heart thundering him awake. His phone was silent, barren. Nothing in the night had sprung forth despite the difference in hours. What were they, seven hours behind? They lived their day while he slept dreaming of them. They dreamt of something else while he navigated through the day thinking of nothing but them.

Rolling out of bed he went to the bathroom to wash his hands. Purifying his body, washing away the dreams and nightmares. He looked in the mirror…..

A: shut

What stared back at him made him weep. A man stood there, but a wasted vision of a human. Sunken eyes, gaunt expression. As if the sadness had spoiled from the inside, wasting away the flesh. He noticed one of his eyes was a milky colour, his once hazel views into his soul fading away into a grey of nothingness.

What to do now, he thought to himself. Brush his teeth, fix his hair. Get changed and through another day for what purpose? The same as yesterday, the same as tomorrow would be. A parade of nothing and inconsequence.

He knew he had fallen into a depression. He had hoped to shake it off or fall out of it again. Why was it so easy to get pulled in, and not the other way around? But something extra covered him today, that final magic element of hope seemed to have disappeared as he slept. A rousing song, or prayer usually helped. Taking stock and being appreciative. But no, something was different today. The same grey clouds outside, but something was different there in his bathroom. He could not even hear the birds that usually chattered and warbled beyond the walls.

He took a razor and made two clean cuts, long and deep. It was the kindest thing he could give himself, and the biggest apology.

B: open

What reflected was a surprise to him. A little light glistened in his eyes and more haloed above him. He turned suddenly, hoping to catch a trail of it around his skull. But it seemed to follow him, quick as a flash. He felt it then, a sudden strength lift within his bones like they were being pumped with magical force. He made to pray but remembered suddenly and abstractly that God should not be called upon in a bathroom. Negative spaces.

Running from the room he collapsed onto the landing, the banister casting a ray of light over him like prison bars. He watched as they seem to lift upwards, the sun disappearing behind a cloud. The bars faded, and he closed his eyes.

He pictured the world above in his mind, the ascent of this man who had become so troubled and desperate. Hands guided him; little voices pushed him further until he was at the gates of heaven. With one push, the gates parted. He opened his eyes there and bowed to give thanks. He let the words tumble out, washing appreciation over his life.

How long he remained, he’d not known. The bars of light did not return, but when he stood, he noticed the sun was hovering off in the distance now beyond his window. He wiped the tears away and stood in his new world, just as his phone in the other room began to ring.

Forever winter (Part 20)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


Dropping of veils

There is a sound that can scare you and at the same time, wash you with peace.

Silence.

The blissful, fearful sound of nothingness. Not even the blood coursing through your own body can be heard in your ears. Though, for the girl from Europa, she did not really have blood as it appears on earth (hers was more like powdered crystals).

In the void of the nothing, she opened her eyes. She felt a piercing sting as something flooded her vision, like cold air on wet skin. She could see below her a vast blue jewel, throbbing in rotation. She knew it was the earth, this planet she had come to. It rotated slowly, yet assuredly beneath her, her feet almost skimming the topmost atmosphere. Her skin prickled, the scales of shapes fluttered an array of colours, but no one saw them. She was alone here, watching it all from space.

It began then, a tiny flickering. With it came little static crackles of sound. She saw it emanating from a point on the earth, a point she knew where she had just left. The flickering built more intensely, a tiny thread of white and blue light snaking its way up towards her. She felt safe here and knew no harm would come here. Inside this was what she had longed for, and now it was occurring she felt nothing but a kind of joy in her heart.

The thread of light found its way up to her, it touched her gently, little sparks spluttering off into the darkness around her. Then, quick as a flash it sped around her entirely, encasing her in a brilliance that felt magical to her touch. Slowly it began to pull her downwards, back towards the earth. Images began to be projected in her mind; her home, her mother, the creatures she had encountered on earth, her journey from Europa, and the lady of the jars. They mangled themselves into one another, a mixed dream of colour and movement. Her eyes closed and she felt herself falling, deeper and faster; descending again towards a planet she had not yet called home.

Ezra was walking around the stone, looking for something, though he did not know what. All looked the same to him, yet something felt different.

“So, what do we do now?” He called to the lady, inspecting the stone a bit closer. She stood with her bag open, digging inside for something.

“Well, to be honest I’m not sure. But perhaps, something will come to us.” She said, casually. Ezra shook his head in frustration.

“We can’t just sit around and have tea you know. Something needs to be…” He started but had noticed a tiny crack at the base of the stone. He stepped closer, almost fearful to touch the giant mass before him. As his fingers met the cold stone, a little electric pulse jumped from him and slithered into the crack, illuminating it in a blue light.

“I think this is something…” He called off to her. The lady peered around the stone to see him; her bag still clutched in her hand.

“See, I told you something would come along.” She smiled.

“Yes, only because…. oh never mind. Come and look.” He said to her.

She walked around the stone, coming up next to him. Out of her bag she pulled a little glass vial. Inside it a crackling lightning bolt hummed.

“Excellent Ezra, you might have cracked this.” She said, knowing he would love the pun.

“Just get on with what you’re doing.” He said, tautly.

She pulled the stopper out of the top, and the crack in the stone seemed to illuminate. The little lightning bolt zipped quickly out of the vial and into the crack, crackling and spreading through the stone like blue veins. It travelled up to the top, pulsing and humming. From a distance the blue veins made the stone look like a giant eye, the neon light glowing from the surrounding snow.

“So, what is this doing?” Ezra asked, watching the light dance and ripple through the stone.

“Well, years ago there was….” But Ezra cut in.

“We don’t have time for any of that. What is it doing and how can we get the girl back?” He asked. Ezra was very loyal and protective, an aspect of the Lady of the jars which seemed to shine strongly within him. He was the course of agency manifested from her, and he hated dithering or waiting around for things to happen.

The lady of the jars looked up at the stone, which shone with the blue light veins.

“Well, this Reppaehi; it’s a bit complicated, hence the explanation, but basically it is remembering the before, and repairing where possible and restoring.” She said, proudly.

“But how is that going to help when she is gone? The stone isn’t broken is it?” Ezra asked, uncertain.

“No, the stone cannot be broken, but the connection with the girl seems to have given it a power charge that has moved things to another plane. The light will repair the realms, allowing her to return back to the form she chooses.” The lady said.

“Wait, so the stone didn’t destroy her?” He asked.

The lady of the jars shook her head. “No, it didn’t destroy. The stone only ever wants to give, it cannot take. The girl I fear, was holding on to something much bigger than we knew. Her power, her need to change was stored inside her, like a huge well of energy. The connection with the old magic intensified and took her away, off this plane to a place where the worlds can find a balance. That is what I’m guessing anyway.” She said, touching the stone herself now, caressing the blue light that streaked through it.

Ezra gave her one of his sceptical looks.

“But how is this going to help us, how is this going to make things better?” He asked her. He hated not knowing. The lady then turned to him; her eyes looked suddenly sad.

“There is much darkness here, this world that I try to blanket in white lighted snow, there is still much pain and imbalance. It gnaws at me; I feel and see it still in my mind. I may have escaped my own pain, but that suffering, and sorrow still goes on elsewhere, hidden behind doors and buried under ground. Self-serving creatures, those people who have turned away from the light, those only caring for themselves. This darkness can be transformed. It was once light; it can again be restored.” She said, tears coming suddenly to her eyes.

Ezra stared at her, her heart and his were the same, and he knew what she meant and how her own pain had its own little reservoir. She wanted balance and equality; this world was still very much out of balance.

“So, she will change this?” He asked her.

“She is here to shed a veil of herself. And by doing that, will bring about a power that will be the balm to this world’s pain.” She replied.

“We are lucky she came to us then, I guess it’s been written that she would?” Ezra asked.

The lady nodded.

“For some time. This cycle is not new. But I hope this is the last time we need for it to happen. But yes, we are lucky she came to us.” She said.

“Came to me at least!” Said a voice from behind them.

They both turned quickly, to see the gentleman of the boxes standing tall before them, his arms outstretched, two little boxes in his hand. In a flash he flicked the boxes open with his thumbs and out poured a black smoke which covered them both in an instant. They hit the ground before they even knew what was happening.

The girl descended back towards the earth, the thread pulling her back towards the Mondol stone which glowed like the giant eye on the land. Her mind was racing, the images and thoughts blurring and fuzzing into one another still. Time was suspended and she had conversations there with her mother. Beautiful flowery words of hope and direction. She felt a veil begin to be pulled away, revealing another world that lay beyond space and time. She could feel and touch the wonder and was charged in the knowing that she would bring about a change of such importance. Her decline down towards the stone filled her up more and more with the knowledge she needed, whilst jettisoning what she no longer did.

She suddenly came down through the thick clouds that still hung with snow, despite early efforts to dismiss this weather, and touched her bare feet onto the summit of the stone. It felt warm and welcoming, like the Olpie rock pools they had back on Europa. Her feet even gripped to the stone like a suction, binding her to the material as the energy coursed through her. The steam which had welcomed her return dispersed, and she long fully looked for her friends. But she found the clearing empty of anyone. At the brim of the woods however, she saw a mass of green light and energy. She knew the Dimian were there now, gathered and hungry. But where were Ezra and the lady of the jars?


snowflake up close

21:09

Staring down the dark street, he watched as the lampposts flickered in and out of light. Luminous reflection seeming to be running off an invisible heartbeat. Stuttering. Struggling.

He felt the same. He was tired. He’d run the last two miles and his calf muscles now ached. He’d stopped momentarily to ease the stitch that was spreading in his side. Stabbing needles from Satan’s fingertips.

Nearly there.

He saw the traffic had built up on Bower Street, he’d actually heard the car horns and the angry shouts before he saw the rows of taillights snaking away. A great stationary monster of red eyes going nowhere.

Turning left he hurried away from the angry voices and quickly checked the time. 20.45. It had taken longer than he’d expected. The transport had imploded on itself and the city was heaving in unpreparedness that night. He felt the sweat on his forehead, the stingy sizzle of desperation and determination. A light rain now flecked onto his skin as he passed by houses. The glow of life inside reminded him what he was doing this for. The eyes of the buildings glowed with little tears from the rain, happy that people were inside. All together for the first time in years.

He sprinted, tripped and surged on. Finally getting to the door five minutes later. Too little, too late?

Better late than never he supposed, rapping frantically on the door.

The door swung open hastily. The smell of candles and coffee greeted him along with the flood of a welcoming light and a relieved smile.

“Thank god.” They said to him, as he collapsed into their arms.

Tears, sweat and rain ran unabashed down his cheeks. His heart, which had threated to give up on him, pulsed to a different beat. The feeling he got whenever he saw them. The tingly skin sensation that tickled around his ears and neck. He smelled them, hugged them. Taking these new feelings deep within himself.

“I can’t believe it.” They said as they broke apart and he stepped inside.

The small house threw its arms around him, beckoning a safety.

“It’s pandemonium out there”. He replied, stepping further in and following them up the stairs. He glanced quickly at the front room; the warming sweet-smelling candles flickered within while the television screamed out silently with the volume down. The news informing no-one to things that everyone already knew.

“I’m glad you made it; I was getting worried it would be too late.” They said, settling down onto the bed. He took in the vision, the moment and tried to keep himself together.

He followed, not bothering to take off his shoes but throwing off the jacket which the light rain had clung to.

The clock on the side clicked over to 9pm.

They drew into one another, kissing tenderly. Touching each other’s hands and diving deep into one another’s eyes. Tears swelled, wiped away by fingers that trembled with tenderness in the glowing room.

“I had to be here. I had to come.” He said. Knowing that they already knew.

“I didn’t expect it to be like this. I’m just glad you’re by my side.” Their voice stuttered. “I love you.” they said, as they closed their eyes. Not out of shame, but to a sad realisation it would be the last time.

“I love you.” He replied. “And I will find you again.”

They held each other closer as the lights died.

21:09, the time the world ended.


Taken from Dislocated: A Short story collection – Out now