Something to stay awake for – Grace & Josh

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It had rained all morning and a small stream of water now ran down the slope of the playground outside. Miss Carbine stole a look out of the darkened window from the warm classroom she inhabited, seeing the water hammering down the pane. She sighed to herself knowing they would have to have the lunch break inside today. Her class were currently in pairs, going through the textbooks that she had put out that morning, hoping the eager minds would devour them greedily.

It wasn’t too big a class, and she found she was able to manage the five- and six-year olds reasonably well with her wispy ways and mild manners. They hadn’t yet lost the awe of having a teacher, that special entity that was there to bestow wonders upon them. Indeed, many still seemed to want to impress, which she cherished as all too soon this seemed to fade.

Grace had been reading her book with Josh, going through the story of Finders the dog and his adventure in the supermarket. She was a good reader and was able to point out to Josh where she felt he was going wrong. Josh was slow and he didn’t much care for the stupid dog or why it was even in a supermarket. He’d only ever seen one dog in a shop before himself, guiding a man around who his mum told him couldn’t see.

The dog buying cereal seemed stupid to him and he lost interest quickly and began to pinch Grace as she tried to read. If they had spoken more about the story, Grace would have agreed with Josh. The anthropomorphic antics of Finders seemed stupid to her also, and she did question its applicability to their development, further wondering if Miss Carbine; who was busy checking her phone, had given them the correct course book that morning. But she persevered and tried to ignore Josh as he pinched her, pushing him away and trying to finish the story for them both.

The rest of the class didn’t seem to have any problems with the book or Finders, indeed some seemed to be enjoying it. Before long though they had all finished and it was time for lunch. As it would be indoors today, they were allowed to sit on the carpet and have their food. An indoor picnic Miss Carbine suggested, helping them retrieve their lunchboxes from the tidy trays and bags. Grace went to the hallway where her bag was and retrieved a cup from the side also for some water. Josh had pushed passed her, knocking her into the wall as he attempted to put something down Amanda Hartly’s back. She scowled at him as she steadied herself, a small red mark appearing on her elbow where she’d banged into the wall.

With her lunch and water Grace sat on the carpet, eager to begin her food as her stomach growled. She heard the rain outside their classroom and watched it drip down the glass like a hose had been aimed at it. Her best friend Michael was not in today, and Miss Carbine had told them he was unwell. She looked at her teacher now, who was helping Robert with his lunchbox that wouldn’t open, missing Michael.

She had just started to tuck into her sandwich when she felt water pouring all over her. She momentarily thought the windows had smashed open, the storm breaching the small stronghold their tiny school offered. Then the laughter rose about her, coming strong from behind. Josh stood there, with an empty jug in his hand having poured the contents all over her. His fat face sporting a smile that reached from one chubby cheek to the other.

​“Oh, Josh Devonport what do you think you’re doing!” Miss Carbine yelled, stepping the short way across the carpet to where he stood.

“That’s horrible Josh. You’re so mean.” Amy Standhall said, who was sat next to Grace but had escaped the projectile of the water. Grace sat there, the water pooling in her dress as she sat crossed leg. Her sandwich now a sodden mess and a cold chill slithering over her body.

“Get over there right now!” Miss Carbine said, ordering the boy away from where the others sat. Miss Carbine, lovely as she was, was not really prepared for the antics of children. She had the priorities of the situation confused, and though she acted with Josh; she somewhat neglected Grace as she sat there with the water in her knickers and the fat boy laughing on at the other side of the room. Amy got Grace to stand up and shake off the water and she even went with her to the bathroom to help her dry off. Grace watched Josh as she left the room being reprimanded by Miss Carbine. She doubted he really cared.

A while later Miss Carbine appeared in the bathroom and helped Grace dry off completely, asking her if she was okay and not to worry about her dress; or her lunch for that matter. She would see to it that some food would arrive. But Grace was no longer hungry. She was wet, cold and angry at being humiliated.

She returned to the classroom where everyone had carried on with their lunches. Some of the kids had finished and were playing with the building blocks near the blackboard. Josh had been ordered to get some paper towels and was mopping up the water that he spilt on the floor where Grace had quietly sat waiting to eat her lunch. He smiled at her as she came back into the room. The taunting face of someone who would do the same thing again.

Teddy Evans came up to her and asked if she was okay, she nodded in reply; thankful that all boys weren’t as horrid as Josh. Miss Carbine suddenly whisked herself away to go get Grace some food, despite her protest. While the others played, Grace went to the back of the class where the storage cupboard was. She opened the door quietly and went inside. The small cupboard was stacked high with boxes and games equipment. They weren’t really allowed to go in there on their own, but everything was stored safely and there was no real danger. Silly rules to keep them in place she guessed. Unless you were locked in with the light off perhaps. Grace found what she was looking for quickly, and a few minutes later slipped out of the cupboard and approached Josh.

“That wasn’t very nice what you did you know.” She said to him, hoping to find remorse there in those fat brown eyes. Josh scoffed and pushed her away.

“Buzz off. You smell like a wet dog.” He said.

​“Aren’t you even sorry for doing what you did?” she asked him, giving him one more opportunity to apologise.

“I said buzz off!” He said again, pushing her hard. Grace stepped back; her eyes burning a hole through him. Then she smiled and said.

“You know with Miss Carbine away, there’s nothing stopping us getting the footballs and tennis balls out of the cupboard and playing quickly. Shame we didn’t get to go outside today, huh?” She said, innocently. She knew Josh wasn’t too stupid, but even at her young age she knew how to manipulate certain people. She had said the magic word too, football.

“Why me?” Josh asked, somewhat suspicious.

“Well, they’re on the high shelves aren’t they, I can’t reach them.” Grace replied, hoping the seed would manifest in Josh’s stodgy brain.

​“Right, outta the way then.” He said, reaching his own conclusion that the break time indoors was dull and kicking a ball around would be better. Grace knew Miss Carbine would be returning soon, but she watched as Josh went over to the cupboard where the sports equipment was and saw him go in.

It seemed that fate was eager to help Grace that rainy Wednesday while the other kids played in the classroom, and Miss Carbine chatted absently with one of the other teachers by the school kitchen.

​Once Josh had entered the small cupboard the sports boxes had tumbled onto him and the lights had gone out, plunging the whole school into darkness. No doubt the storm had downed a power line mile away, knocking the electricity off and unleashing chaos upon the small primary school. But the skipping ropes had found their way around Josh’s neck in the tumble of the boxes, their disordered storing knotting quickly and completely in the frantic blackness of the closet.

Her earlier placement up into the vent made it an inevitable trap Josh would not be able to escape from. When the power sprang back to life, Grace quietly flicked the switched outside the small cupboard which kicked the extractor fan on that resided within; left over from recent renovations when their classroom used to be part of the old bathrooms.

The ropes worked quickly around him, tightening hard around his fat little neck. He lifted slightly off his feet as the light bulb above him blinked in and out, mirroring his consciousness; the ropes choking him into regret.

Grace returned to the others, pretending to be scared by the lights and the storm. Secretly smiling to herself as his howls of help were drowned out by the chaos enveloping their class.


More fables here.

Something to stay awake for – Troll

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When a person or neighbour in your village cries out “troll”, lock your children inside the house and keep your hunting rifle by your side. I used to believe they were only children’s tales supposed to scare the kids from stepping deep into caves or under bridges. They had bright pink hair and you stuck them onto the end of your pencil. There was nothing to fear because they were nowhere to be seen.

This all changed a few years ago. I was walking Hunter through the forest on a warm Summer’s day. He was off the lead and jumping through bushes and hopping over streams and rarely waited for me. But when I stopped to tie my shoes I looked up and he was gone. There was nothing but the faint groans of pigs. I moved through the bushes closer to the noise and to stop Hunter from scaring the animals. Clearing through the bushes I saw what looked like three children all dressed in black. They were hopping around the front of a cave and throwing something between them. I stepped closer and noticed they were not children at all. Standing four-foot-tall and covered in wiry black fur.

They squatted at the entrance and squealed as they chucked something against the rocks. Stamping the ground and smashing their swollen grey hands down onto the item like they were pressing grapes for wine. Their faces were a mess of mangy hair and bulbous snout covered in warts. For a second, I caught sight of their small pebble black eyes scan the trees. I stood horrified as one flung the creature they had been stomping on to the other. Amidst all the blood I saw one of the trolls spinning Hunter’s collar between its fingers. They were throwing my German Shepherd around like he was nothing more than a wet towel. They squealed and painted their cave red with his blood. Only after some time had passed, they finally grew bored and lazily clambered back into the darkness. As I stood there paralysed in fear the last thing I heard where the echoed howls of twenty more.

When I returned to the village and told them of the trolls the older men looked at me displeased. They said they had warned us many times of the trolls, but no-one listened. It was several days later when I heard that they had built a fence around the cave and done nothing more. Looking back now I agree with how they handled it. It was too much of a risk to try and fight them as an angry troll will often follow you home and sniff out your loved ones. Best to let them lay in their caves and hope you don’t catch their eye.


Story by Harley Holland
More fables here.

Dislocated: Short Broken Tales

OUT NOW


Dislocated is a collection of 28 short stories which cover the need to escape, and the horror of remaining. Tales such as ‘Folkroot’, where something dark is lurking in the hotel pond. Or ‘Nemesis’, which takes us to another world where still a darkness dwells.

This collection shows you the road to freedom, but warns you with a cold hand, that you may not travel alone.

Out in ebook and paperback



Surviving is the best revenge

Into the bath he jumped fully clothed.
The water boiled and curled his toes.
It shed his skin, his hair, his eyes.
But acid, not water burnt away both his thighs.
A ghastly end, but one incomplete.
For his bones remained from head to feet.
So out he jumped, forgetting his pride.
Down the plug the water went, with his thoughts of suicide.
And in the mirror glaring back.
Was his bleached white skeleton, from front to back.
He saw his skull, the sockets so deep.
Out of his mouth a little whimper did creep.
But not one to dither, or dwell in his state.
He ran down the stairs and out the front gate.
And he came to the house that had made him so morose.
And he slipped through the door as quiet as a ghost.
He crept up the stair, to where he knew he would find them.
And he brought out some rope and some tape so to bind them.
Both lovers were sleeping, intertwined while they dreamt.
Their hair and their clothes, all wild and unkempt.
So he tied them together, then he set fire to the bed.
He watched as the flames roared up to their heads.
But before they departed, before their own bones were charred.
He slipped off his fibular to play a tuneful bon voyage.

Something to stay awake for

Eiko Tanaka sits on her porch sipping her tea. The wind is low and it gently ruffles the shrubs and the hanging golden ash trees that line the boundaries of her little property. So little it seems, barely much room for anyone. Yet hers is a seemingly amble garden on a street so squashed and encroached by looming tower blocks. She is proud of her garden, knowing it blooms brightly in the grey field of city.

She is waiting patiently, as she does most days. She is waiting for her granddaughter to visit after school is finished. She comes by every day. She comes to help her. Eiko doesn’t need help in the usual sense, she has gotten around perfectly fine for years. She adapted well after the incident, but people worry. They care and worry, as her Nanoko tells her. Her granddaughter, only fourteen; yet knowing the many twisted ways of the world. And she is right, there is care mixed with the worry; she can tell. As her own bones are getting more tired and her body is struggling, simple things are not always so simple. Being blind now is only half the battle. The people who visit her always note on her living by herself, always quick to offer some horrendous situation where she’ll meet her end. All because she can no longer see.

It hadn’t always been that way of course. She had lived for years alone in that little house with no problem. Just her and her dog Aio. Then it happened, and though she wished she could erase the memory of that terrible day, she had gotten through the worst of it. The insomnia came later, wreaking such havoc over her little life, disturbing her soul.

Nanoko had been a blessing. Eiko hadn’t wanted any fuss herself, but her granddaughter had done what she could to help her. Eventually she confided in her that she could no longer sleep, she spared her what she saw in her mind when she tried to calm it and be still. So Nanoko had started a blog for her, telling her story to the world, hoping to get some advice and see if anyone else was going through anything similar. She wanted to help her grandmother, she wanted her to be happy after the trauma.

What happened next surprised both of them. Along with similar stories and messages of support, people had responded to Eiko’s problematic sleeping and began to send in short stories for her; something to entertain her through the vast sea of struggle. The first had come with instructions for Nanoko to read out the story to Eiko, seeing as she had lost her sight and was there to help her. This led to Nanoko recording her stories for her grandmother to play back time and again, as she never bored of listening to tales. More people began to send them in, each one fanciful or romantic, scary or thrilling. They would both have fun as Nanoko would act out the story, and she would also post them on the blog for others to enjoy also. It brought them closer, and brought an extra bit of light into Eiko’s darkened world.


My name is Eiko Tanaka and I am 74 years old. I live with my dog Aio, who is always getting into such mischief, despite his age. We are both ageing cheekily and gracefully. I am blind, but not as a result of the shifting clock of time which is unrelenting. I was blinded in an incident which changed my life forever. My granddaughter Nanoko is the light in my darkness. She is there to steady my soul when it wobbles and falls. I love to hear stories and fables, and as such; I thought I best if you read mine, courtesy of my granddaughter.

My story is much like anyone’s….

Click to continue…..


 

Resplendent consumption

Though the dark spreads doubt and fear.
It is in the light where she creeps near.
For shadows and gloom she leaves in her wake.
With mournful tunes and deathly ache.
The light is what she needs to feed.
A pulsing urge, like a sprouting weed.
She sucks the light like marrow from bone.
And crawls inside that place called home.
She splits the joy and hope in two.
Suckles each like morning due.
Savouring each fantastic pleasure.
That shrivels for you, but to her is treasure.
This dark and heavy visiting member.
Will drain the light to a dying ember.
And leave you feeling almost dead.
While she licks these words inside your head.
That if darkness fades and you feel lighter.
If hope does spread and things feel brighter.
She will return like a rolling cloud.
To kill the light with her consuming shroud.