Rain

Tears from god. He always thought of that in the heavy downpours. The type where you can feel the stinging weight of the raindrops on your body, the cold water pelting your face. His mother used to call it that, heavenly tears. What was god crying about all the time?

He’d set off into the night just as the first drops had begun to fall. He’d smelt the rain coming, rushing to put on his boots and set out into the village to catch it. He’d grabbed his jacket but didn’t bother with an umbrella. He wanted to feel the water tonight. He wanted to feel something.

The sun had set hours ago and the hazy glow of the streetlights above him blossomed down the road he was taking. Each a branch up out of the dead black road beneath his feet, offering beautiful orbs of light to the angels above him, and who were threatening to leave. He saw how the sheets of the rain splintered across the face of the lights, little streaks through the glow like tiny missiles before disappearing into the void of the nothing.

That nothing welcomed him tonight as he walked. It spoke to him of a new solitude which he was happy to lay his bones within. The night and the rain were pure and wild, base elements that ravaged the world. He’d stepped into them before, drowning once and becoming lost in the darkened forest of his mind.

Tonight he just needed to walk. To smell the fresh air and feel the waters smother his face. The coldness came with the rain tonight also, and he watched his breath escape out into the air like his soul leaking away. He licked his lips, tasting the rain water; feeling the flecks of the divine in those tears shed from above.

The village began to open up into fields at this end, sweeping pastures plunging down the valley where the water would rush and flow like a tide on land, going out in a grassy sea. He heard nothing but the falling rain, but he watched as lonely cars moved slowly off in the distance. Little specs of light, haunting eyes that hovered across the fields where the main road was. What lives did those little tin cars carry? What stories and sadness did the souls within survive. Somewhere tonight he thought, one of those cars will fall victim to strong salty tears. Skidding and colliding somewhere and snuffing out the contents within. Plunging an unfolding tragedy into the lives of those who knew, loved and would now miss those dying embers. Collecting rain water in the crumpled remains of the squashed tin can.

His mind had become saddened as late. His body had struggled to move in the mornings when the alarm would ring in a new day like a gospel chorus. He muscles and bones a defying demon to the angelic blessing of the new dawn. He would lurk in the shadows of life, disconnect from the buzzing beast of the people he knew.

He only stepped out when it rained.

It would wash something away, something out of him. He felt it down on his clothes, the gravity of the water that was pulling down into the DNA as he walked. And he walked through the village, out towards the fields. Watching the clouds and the little lights that blinked in and out like struggling stars.

Then there was his own tired tears, that he could no longer censor. He would cry his own monsoon when he was truly alone. Weeping out to add to the rain until his forehead ached and his throat was sore. He let the ghosts in, and they would pillage his mind. Playing films in his head that he felt were on repeat. Never able to rewind or go back. Never flooded out by the rising waters that surged over everything, all but the things he most wanted most to drown.

He came to the end of the track he’d be walking. The huge brambles and blackberry bushes converged to block the way. Forcing a path would tear at the skin, ripping open the sore and cold meat that had begun to sting in the frigid air and water. So he turned on the spot, pirouetting like a shadowy ballerina in this hidden dark ballet. Watched only by the audience of nature which cowered in the bushes and the trees, watching for him to retreat.

He walked back the way he came, the roads now washing the rain water down the streets and into the gullies and drains. Leaves and litter sped on those miniature streams, washing away the dirt and despair. He wanted to open a vein and let the vermillion river meet these streams. Wash out the leaves and the junk of his heart and wring his organs dry.

Crossing the street he saw into the windows of the Fountain, the village pub which cast cosy a warmth in the sea of blackness. The huge fire was roaring and people stood and chatted around it with drinks in their hands. The windowpanes ran with the raindrops, tiny tears streaking down giving the people within a false sadness. He could not enter there, he could not be like that. The fire and warmth called to him, but he’d been burnt before. Touched by a heat and love that all too soon had smothered and gone out. He could still smell the dying of that hearth, still remembered the splutter and the death until there was nothing but ash.

He hurried on by, the rain not relenting. It still felt good, it still felt like something. Returning to his house, he stood in the driveway, looking up to the bedroom light which had been left on in his haste to depart. The little light behind the glass cast a shaft out into the night, like a lighthouse warning of danger. He took a step forward, and hesitated. Had he turned the light on at all?

He stayed on the spot and let the rain fall around him, off in the distance he heard the slow rumblings thunder. A struggling beast waiting to get up from underneath a mountain. The light in his bedroom switched off as he blinked the water out of his eyes. He dropped the keys he’d been clutching and turned around, heading off back into the night.

Heading off again into the tears from god.

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Reinvented, reflected & revived

Just a quick note about a change of scenery and new content.
My portfolio site has had an overhaul, and I hope you like the changes. Be sure to subscribe for future book promotions, news, events and general funities.
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Book – Little Black Horn

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“He’s a wounded animal. A dying breed who I keep here with me. I never intended him to stay after the first night.”

A woman struggles to hide the truth from a creature she believes to be her lover; a man journeys to Southern Italy in search of a witch; a child makes a pact with a voice he hears at the bottom of his garden. From adult fairy-tales to suburban horror; dark intentions seep through this collection of tales from the imagination of Harley Holland.

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‘Little Black Horn’ is a collection of twisted short tales from a talented writer and wonderful human being who I’m happy to call a very good friend. Bias aside, this book is really good and is sure to offer something for everyone. This is the second edition with a new design and format. Check it out, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

·        Buy it here

·        Review it here

White/Blue – Between the jars (I)

(Between the jars – Sidebar to fable)

How to bottle the weather:

The lady of the jars has many of nature’s wonders stacked and stored in her secret room, away from prying eyes (though she keeps the door unlocked). This magical art was not taught to her by anyone in particular. Which perhaps is a shame, as she does like company. Instead, she learnt how to do this from the Guāng-shu, her own little magic bible that was passed down through her family. Pages have been ripped out, new pages added. A suspicious crystalline stain permeates one of the sections towards the back which refuses to be cleaned. Though passed down through her family, the book was never intended to end up in her hands. This may have been to save her from her fate, or because of the doubt in her abilities. But through a series of events that still surprise her to this day, the book was hers when she was old enough to read. And read she did.

Jars fill her little cottage there by the stream. She is forever getting new vials, and jugs and glass jars delivered. Not so much through her proficiency of usage; but lately, more to her failing eyesight which refuses to be remedy by the wearing of glasses. Which leaves the broken jars tipped away in the rubbish, and many a swear word emanating from her little house.

To bottle the weather….

1.    Pick a day that the weather you wish for is at its most potent. The intensity leads to longer shelf life.

2.    Set your jar in a pool of water (this conducts the elements required for storage).

3.    Place a ‘Tan-ya’ stone in the bottom of the jar (imitation stones will not work).

4.    Recite the incantation located in the Guāng-shu.

5.    Channel the power down into the bottle, sealing it quickly. This may take some time depending on the nature of it. NOTE: Hurricanes are decidedly tricky.

6.    Once bottled, swirl the jar until the Tan-ya stone breaks like an egg. This seals the condition inside and prevents escape or leakage.

7.    Store in a cool place where sunlight cannot enter.

As impressive as bottling the weather is, her favourite bit of magic has to be the ‘Dragon’s tongue’. A single little red flame that ignites and burns within one of her little jars with the ability to burn the strength of the smouldering centre of the earth. This she keeps tucked under the blanket in her bed.
Her own little wizardry water bottle.

Read – White/Blue

White/Blue – Part II

(part I here)

Ice on the edge of space

She slept of course, that’s how she’d gotten there. Trapped in a dream that travelled across sky and time. It wasn’t far really, not within her scheme of things. Europa was really the backyard to Earth’s green and blue house; compared to the places she’d been and seen. The trip was quick, a blink of the inner eye for her. Sleeping, forming, and settling into something new in which to emerge from. No-one knew she had left, she made it that way. It wasn’t sneaking out the backdoor or running away, merely moving to the place she knew she would blossom. Unfold in the weighted gravity and expand like the sea coral in her mind.

Getting there was the easy part. She would not miss her home moon, she was not one for looking back. Too many shards of ice poking her into a position she knew she’d outgrown. She had breathed her last and stepped into her waiting transport, bidding a silent farewell to her gods, before becoming one herself. She had shaken her teeth out, burying them deep into the subterranean ice, like planting a seed without the expectation of growth. A silly ritual, one from her childhood. Sealing overt the past and welcoming a new dawn. She’d marked the spot with taldium stones. Smooth onyx rocks that looked like fillings from a gigantic beast. This was all she left behind. New teeth grew inside her as she’d slept in the transport, hurtling across the cosmos as the milk teeth grew and fused together in the depths of space.

Her heart had guided it. The comet that buckled and flayed in the pressures of the vast unknown. Steaming up in the re-entry to a land she’d never entered before. It had lit up the sky across a remote part of china, heralding change and ill omens to the many onlookers who captured it in their eyes as they gathered around their small communal fires. Her heart beat, her skin stretched. Her mind collapsed a million times only to be reborn and steer the transport to that spot. A spot chosen, not for its ease or any strategic opportunity. It was chosen for its sole reason alone, the reason she had left Europa in the first place. It was where the one was, the one who could change her and perhaps, even save her.


Detach and connect

Steam began to gather around them now, the snow and air evaporated temporarily while the remains of the comet and the contents hissed and spewed in the hole in the ground. The lady of the jars didn’t hesitate, she hoped into the hole and began pulling away at the stray tendrils that had not joined the body. She pulled and heaved, working it free and pulling it away like a tooth from a root. Her hands were raw from the cold, but the blue liquid quickly covered them and the pain subsided. She was resourceful, years of chopping wood for her fire and toiling her own yard had given her strength and determination. She lifted the body like a doll off the floor, heaving it over her should; the doll now a sack of flour to be carried into her cottage. Snow began to cover the hole, the marked earth smeared black and blue began to be covered once more in the blanket of white the lady of the jars had always cherished. Soon there would be little evidence of any visitor. It was a secret she was eager to keep to herself, and with that thought she hurried quickly inside.

Closing the door, she took the body over to the fire in her living room. Her house was sturdy, and she could only just hear the howling blizzard outside, the fire crackling over the sound of the perpetual winter. She placed the body carefully, then stoked the fire before taking off her cardigan which was now wet with melted snow and ice. The blue liquid began to slacken, but it did not pool off onto the floor; instead it collected into droplets which lifted up into the air, disappearing like tiny ghosts.  She stood back and watched the transformation, the cocooned being separating into the body of a girl. The hair and skin humming to life with a florescent radiance which faded to healthy glow. The girl’s eyes suddenly blinked open and she sat up. Her eyes, those azure wells that pierced the room flashed and opened up a doorway to another space. A land beyond the stars. The lady of the jars handed her a throw which she kept draped across her good chair, and wordlessly the girl surrounded herself in it. Embracing the warmth and kindness the protection it offered. They sat there in the quiet for some time, having a conversation with no words but levelling out their worlds.

“Tea, that always helps a situation.” The lady said, standing up slowly as not to frighten the girl. The ageless entity that sat on her rug in front of the warming heat. “You stay by the fire, I’ll bring it in.” she said, bustling out into the kitchen. She boiled the kettle and took down the jar of green chai, tipping the leaves merrily into the giant teapot she always had on the side. Though she lived alone, she always devoured copious amounts of tea, and the giant teapot was a testament to it. She filled it up with the bubbling water, and added some crushed almonds, swirling them around inside. She grabbed some small glasses and returned to the living room with the refreshments; popping them down on the side. Though it had been snowing hard and the day was dark, it was now growing darker she noticed, finding the light from the lamp post at the end of her path gaining more strength in the encroaching shadow.

“You must have travelled far, here drink this; it’ll help.” She said, handing the girl a small glass of the tea. The girl reached out with her swan like hand and the lady noticed it then, the etching on her arm. It was a pattern, words even, in some sort of languages; she was sure her book could tell her. These weren’t just dead prints like tattooed skin. The pattern and words swam with life, like a moving aquarium dance of blue hue and light, rippling across the skin, growing strong then faint like a conflicting idea.

“Thank you.” The girl said, reaching for the glass. Her teeth split apart for her to speak, having fused together on her journey. The words were understandable to the lady’s ears, but anyone else from anywhere else would have understood, the language fitting the ear of the listening, wrapping around the mind and settling in the soul. A sweet whisper of a voice, like a feather landing on a petal. Delicate, but hiding a secret strength of flight.

“Are you…” the lady began, but was interrupted by an abrupt and determined knock at her blue door. It wasn’t the pheasants this time, that she knew.


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A Close call

He watched as his train pulled out of the station, the rain filming over his window, forcing his world underwater. He felt he was leaving, but also that his was going nowhere. How much strength had it taken to board the train? How little they knew of what was yet to come.
The thoughts of all of them stuck to the top of his mouth, fizzing and irritating like a caught painkiller. The chalky taste of unfinished tales and lives he had altered.

The train spend on, the film over the window fleeing faster, washing everything clean but his mind. They left the dirty city and burst into the wide expanse of the countryside. He could see the misty mountains off in the distance. The tops hidden by the clouds and the design of the gods who dwelt there. He remembered his grandmother telling stories of the creatures who dwelt around the base of the Everestian beast, little folk who came to snatch bright shining things and souls. She was always one for stories, but never able to tell the truth. How much of all of this had she kept from him, how much did she pack into that large suitcase and carry off into the grave with her?

The motion of the near empty carriage soothed him, rocking his thoughts back and forth between despair and departure. He didn’t know where he was heading. The train was snaking north, up into the mountainous region, but his body remained deep underground. He was still mining through the hurt to find freedom, despite of where he was being taken.

The memory of the day before found him like a stone is his shoe, irritating him suddenly. He pictured them there, gathered around the small fire with cups of coffee and confused faces. They hadn’t wanted to hear what he was saying. They had hung those flags of favour for too long, and they would not let him tear them down so easily. How could he be sure? They had asked. Was that really what had happened so long ago? Had he done something to give them the wrong idea? All this now swelled inside him like a sickly bile. The actions of a twelve year of raked across a family court. Of course, it was so long ago now, why did it matter to anyone? He heard his mother say this over and over again in his mind. His family leaping like deer to avoid any consequence.

He looked out of the window, trying to focus his thoughts on something else, but for a moment; a nasty jarring moment he had felt it. Doubt. Stabbing him in his chest and needling into his brain. A weaker person would water this seed, allowing the doubt to blossom into tragedy. But he had boarded this train. Packed only what was needed and headed off to somewhere else. These actions warmed his heart, as he knew these were the actions of the strong. He knew then, in the creeping cold of the 10.20 outta state that he would not be reduced by his circumstance. Easy was to stay, and he knew it was always easy to die, but much harder to live.

Gospel of no-one

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Your own personal bible, offering a glimpse into worlds you will never normally see. Words struck down, not by God, but by those souls who visited St. Sebastian’s church and who dissected their own sacred hearts for you.

Hidden under the base of a statue of Mother Mary, the current pastor of St. Sebastian’s church discovers a small tightly bound book, the contents of which explain the demise of the previous Father, Father Nikolas and the confessions of those who frequented the church throughout his time there. A journey through pain, doubt and forgiveness; the book opens the eyes and hearts and asks everyone for their own confessions.

‘The Gospel of no one’ is a hybrid novel mixing fiction and poetry, orbiting religious imagery and spirituality. Hope, mixed with the horror of being only human.

Just a reminder that The Gospel of no-one is out now in eBook and Paperback. If you’ve purchased it already, thank you; but don’t forget to review and tell a disciple. Comments or questions; please sound off below. Enjoy. For more books, check out the books section

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Graffitied heart

“If Graffiti changed anything it would be illegal”

A Little side project; a small little book of Rhymes and poems. Graffitied heart is out now in ebook and Paperback. Though it may seem pricey, the Paperback is fully illustrated and is in glorious colour. I hope you enjoy it.

‘A well-travelled heart sees it all, from street to street and wall to wall. 
Soaking in life’s wonderment, from euphoric highs to the deep laments.
This heart is stained, bruised and scarred. Still beating, just graffitied; and bursting to show you what it’s seen.
Graffitied Heart is a little book of rhymes and poems, going through the alphabet of existence. And as with all lives, they can be humorous, horrifying and heartening. A compendium of complexities for your enjoyment.’ 

For more info on other titles, click here.

OUT NOWGH

Little Black horn

 

Horn

LITTLE BLACK HORN

He’s a wounded animal. A dying breed who I keep here with me. I never intended him to stay after the first night. There is no selfishness with Little Black Horn. This is what I’ve named him. He’s a dying breed. I was draped over him, trailing my fingers down the prominent blue veins on his arms.

‘What are you thinking about?’ He asks me. I’m not thinking about the accident. That is what he is implying. I’m not thinking about how frail you have become.

‘That we really should be eating something. You know I want to, but we can’t be laying on top of the bed all day.’

‘Then how about we lay in it?’ He begins kicking the duvet down around our ankles.

‘I really need to eat. Let me cook us something special.’….


(Highly recommended and free this weekend. Click the images for link. For more information on Harley Holland, visit his blog here.)

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‘The Last Man’ – Book

Fantasy Novel suggestion:

Farris Mathalion did not believe in the old stories, not until her own brother was kidnapped by monsters to send her on a fantastical journey. She travels both within the mind and without, taking a path of harrowing adventure and personal enlightenment as she strives to rescue him.

THE FIRST MAN is the first volume in a two-part young adult/fantasy series that can be read on many different levels; whether the reader appreciates the excitement of the many fast-paced action scenes, the surreal beauty and mystery of new worlds, the philosophical musings of the guides along the way, or the spiritual path of overcoming reality that Farris finds before her.

She will travel through the seven kingdoms of the earth, each woven into the deep mythology of the land she passes, and each representative of one aspect of spiritual enlightenment.

In the first volume she passes through the surface world as well as the lands of fear, pleasure and illusion below the earth. She is accompanied in her journeys by a variety of strange creatures, including her faithful pet goat Bumble, Gloria the magical fish, and a romantic interest that makes uncertain love and looming betrayal pervasive themes throughout

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Tobias Wade writes fantasy and horror stories (both of which styles are excellent). For more information, visit him on Goodreads or his own website.

Thumbing the pages

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With the release of my new book ‘Impermanence of things’, my other novels are free this weekend on Amazon all around the globe; so feel free to download, and hopefully, enjoy.

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For more info on them, follow the birds.

 

Those who have already acquired the words of wonder, first of all thank you. If you would be so kind to leave a review to guide or warn others, it would be greatly appreciated.

As always, a mention that I support Room to read, which does wonders for children all over this green and blue planet of ours. For more information, please take your eyes over to see what they do.
Most of the profits from my work go towards Room to read, so rest assured any purchase is doing some good for someone else. Thank you.

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Grace & Josh

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 to see 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 text books that she had put out that morning. It wasn’t too big a class, and 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, a special entity there to bestow wonders to them; and many seemed to want to impress still, which she liked.

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 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 there before himself, guiding a man around who couldn’t see. The dog buying cereal seemed dumb 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 indoors 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 and began to eat. She heard the rain outside their classroom, and watched it drip down the glass like a hose had been aimed at them. 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 started to tuck into her own 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, and a cold chill slithered over her body.

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

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 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 to anyone. 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 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, given him one more opportunity to apologise.

“I said buzz off!” He said again, pushing her hard.

Grace stepped back, he 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 sports. 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 world too, football.

“Why me?” Josh asked, somewhat suspicious.

“Well, they’re on the high shelves aren’t, 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 might just be a fun idea. Grace knew Miss Carbine would be returning any minute, but she watched as Josh went over to the cupboard where the sports equipment was and watched him go in.

It seemed that fate was eager to abet 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 and the lights had gone out; plunging the whole school into darkness. No doubt the storm had downed a power line miles away, knocking the electricity off and unleashing chaos upon the small primary school. But the skipping ropes had found their way around Josh neck in the tumble of the boxes, and when the power had sprang back to life Grace quietly flicked the switched outside the small cupboard which kicked in the extractor fan which resided within, left over from recent renovations when their classroom used to be part of the old bathrooms.

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

Grace returned to the others, pretending to be scared by the lights, and the storm. Smiling to herself.

Somewhere in this memory

The snow had begun to fall early that evening. Though the sun had long since slumbered down, it was around six o’clock when the few flutters of snow started to whip past his window. Daniel had left the curtain s open like he did most evenings, watching the wild sky drip away beyond the horizon. It had rained lightly that day, and it took a while for the snow flurries to leave any impression on the ground. But as he watched from his small window, his face illuminated by the Christmas lights, he watched as some people came out of their houses to investigate the snow. A few kids ran about under the street lights, already bunching up snow into cold balls to throw at one another. It was shame, Daniel thought to himself, that Christmas had passed already and the snow had waited until after. Another bleak grey day that offered only the magic of the season than from the endless possibilities of the weather.

He went to the kitchen and made himself a spiced tea. The smell of cinnamon and spices hung in the air, warm and inviting. He then went into the main room to where the Christmas tree was, sipping the tea which burnt his lip. He’d put it up alone this year, the first time the ceremony had ever been performed that way. He looked at the huge golden bell that sat a top of the tree; sparkling, like everything else did, in the strung Christmas lights that dotted the place. He couldn’t remember ever buying that bell, yet it appeared every year to tip the tree they always had. He sighed and placed his tea down, pulling one of the boxes towards him. He hated taking the tree down, or the Christmas decorations. As a child he’d always pleaded to his parents to keep them up longer. But they were bound by the laws of the season and the far away court, and all the decorations had to be down by the twelfth night. Why? No one could ever tell him, that was just how it was. Yet this was how things were now, every year it seems. Him, alone taking down the very things that were put up to enliven his life if only for a few weeks.

He started to take off some of the ornaments, some of which he remembered putting on the tree even as a child. These must be so old he thought suddenly; vaguely aware of his own decent now into adulthood. His phone began to hum into life nearby, but he ignored it. He wasn’t in the mood to argue again, and that’s the only thing that phone was offering to him this evening. He placed some of the baubles carefully into their homes, snug in a box that would keep them safe for another year. He turned up the music he had playing, his new tradition; Christmas songs to ring out in the stripping of the tree. In a way, such a violating act. The trauma of the season. He hummed along to some of the carols, there religious message washed away now he thought in the progression of the years. He felt old, and tired. Like his youth had slipped away without him even noticing it. He might as well be boxing up his memories instead of these decorations, freezing all he ever wanted and all he dreamed off in these magical days of Christmas. Spun up like candied sugar and placed away safely, to be removed once a year along with his heart.

He sat down on the rug, patches of glitter peppered the tufts still from the wrapping paper that had been destroyed last week. He closed his eyes as the choir music filled the room, taking him to a place in his memory. He watched as his younger self ran down the stairs, eager to see if Father Christmas had been. His parents, holding hands and smiling as they watched their children tear at the presents that had been carefully placed hours before beneath the silver Christmas tree. Though the tree was fake, over time it had faded and fallen apart, much like the marriage and the moments he now saw in his mind. The presents, along with this love within the family had been torn apart and forgotten about. Thrust up each year like some special spectacle. Packed away when all were done.

His phone rang again, bringing him back. He opened his eyes and looked at his phone on the table, lighting up and convulsing in an epileptic dance. He ignored it again and went back to the tree to finish off. The lights were always the trickiest. It was easier with someone helping, and fun too he thought as he remembered how they had joked around putting the lights over one another, pretending they were trees. The time when one of the fuses had gone and the whole house had been plunged into darkness, not before the sparks had succeeded in frightening them both. Lights were always a pain to put away, but he resigned himself that it would be another year before he had to worry about them, and balled them into the old shoebox he kept; sealing the lid and the doom of the lights till next year. The rest of the decorations found their way into boxes relatively quickly, only a few things were placed around his small house as it was. He nearly forgot about the wreath on the door, only remembering it when he glanced outside to see how the snow was. It had come down pretty heavy now and he thought about going for a walk later when he was finished to enjoy the winter landscape.

He finished his tea and snatched up his phone, looking at the missed calls. He sent a message quickly and then stood back looking at the barren tree, back now to its natural coat. They usually had a fake tree, but this year they had gone for the real thing. It stood now, just a hair smaller than him, shedding pine needles below itself like some defecating potted creature.  He closed his eyes and could smell the aroma of the tree, the fading pine of a dying spirit. He wondered where it had grown, what bird or beast had called it home in the time it grew to its seasonal perfection. To be adorned and beheld for a few weeks only to then be thrust out with the other junk of the season, left to decompose in the street awaiting to be whisked away to somewhere out of sight. In that moment he saw the death and cruelty of Christmas. How things were cherished, only for the moment, then forgotten about and placed away. His phone nearby rung a reply, and he glanced at the preview from where he stood. A small tear appeared, and rolled down his cheek, the air leaving his lungs before a gasping inhale.

Daniel went to the french doors and cast them both ajar dramatically. The cold winter wind swept into the room, and some snowflakes fell onto his carpet. He snatched up the tree by the middle trunk and took it out into his garden. His bare feet sank deeply into snow that had settled already, but Daniel did not care. He went back inside and picked up matches that rested by the Christmas candles. He returned back to the garden and struck three matches at one time, letting the oxygen breathe life into the flame. He threw them onto the tree and lit some more. The snow whipped around both him and the tree, but eventually the flames took and it began to burn. Flames licking the innards of the branches as he stood in the snow that numbed his feet. Drifting from his living room, ‘O Holy Night’ lifted into the air and encased them in that moment. Frozen for that blink in the eye of god.

 

THE FIREFLIES

‘The fireflies will take you there.’

She heard the voice, strong and determined through the muddling noise of her day. It had travelled with her since she’d left her house that morning, echoes on the wind and fingers on the back of her neck.

“Stop that now please.” She said, startling an old lady passing her by. She turned away and hurried up the street, mindful of the ice on the path. The first big winter frost had settled in the night, and the overcast clouds threatened a grey and cold day ahead.

‘Come listen….’

That voice again, buzzing around her head like real fireflies. She stopped in the middle of the path outside a small coffee shop. Her warm breath exhaling in mist around in her in the coldness of the morning.

“I mean it.” she said, though there was no malice in her voice. She turned abruptly, and entered the small shop which was partially filled with people eager for their coffees on their way to work. She stood looking up at the board, her mind in two places. She looked at her watch and realised she was late for her interview. Time for a coffee at least, I’m only human she thought. She approached the counter, smiling at the man behind it; all smiles and eager to take her order. There was suddenly a huge creaking sound as if something were breaking. She looked up to find the entire roof being pulled back, opening like a can of beans.

She gasped as the seams of the room dripped in a starry gold dust, exposing the sky above them. But it was not the bleak winter clouds that she had seen outside, but a glorious sun baked blue haze smiling at her through the opening above. She staggered back from the counter, knocking into the person behind.

“Hey, watch it.” He said, unimpressed with her foot landing on his shoe, and clearly apathetic to the sight of the roof now missing above their heads. She glanced around her, the whole shop casting their confused eyes on her and not the sight above her heads.

“What? Oh Sorry!” she mumbled before flying out of the shop, letting the door smash behind her.

Out into the cold and muddling crowd, she tried to catch her breath. That was a new one she thought as she glanced back inside, watching as the people careful sipped their coffees as their own little world’s continued to turn. She felt their eyes on her still, so she moved off down the road in the same direction she had come.

“The fireflies are waiting.” She heard once more in her ears. Quietly this time, like whispers of a ghost. She shook this off and hurried quicker, making her way as fast as she could back to her apartment.

Inside she locked the door forcefully, though she knew nothing from outside was the problem. She turned around and with a flash of light the floor beneath was transformed into sand. The apartment dripped away, with a sea lapping the shore where her sofa used to be. The sky above exploded in a million sparks as if the stars were coming down from the sky. Fireflies buzzed around her, tingling her skin and whispering in her ear.

“Heena booraa, conallou.” They sung.

She smiled, she couldn’t help herself. The beach at night beneath her feet, the smell of the sea on the breeze that flowed so softly and silently down into her lungs. She walked forward and dipped her toe into the sea, her black work shoes finding a bit of sea foam on the end like a tuft of snow. She dropped her bag on the sand and walked along the beach until she walked into something hard with a loud thump.

“Ow!” she said aloud to the empty apartment which had now appeared in its headache haze around her. She rubbed her head where it had bumped, and sighed. A long deep-felt sigh that weighted with realisation and defeat. She steadied herself by putting her hand against the wall, thankful momentarily it hadn’t turned into a palm tree.

“Come back to us Stacey. We are waiting.” She heard quietly, whispered around her empty apartment.

Her mobile phone broke the silence, echoing from her bag that she had dumped on the floor. She wondered for a second whether to answer it, then quickly found her way to the bag; brushing off the sand on the bottom and retrieved the irritating device from within.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Miss Adams? I’m calling from Stacks Global.” The shrill voice called out from down the line.

“Oh, yes this is she.”

“Well Miss. Adams. We were expecting you promptly for an interview this morning.” The voice stated, hovering in an expectational way.

“Ah, yes. I’m sorry I’ve had a few problems getting in this morning.” Stacey said, noticing now the curtains beginning to shimmer with the gold dust she’d seen before. The woman on the line made a disgruntled snort as if she’d heard nothing so preposterous in her life.

“Miss. Adams, I needn’t tell you what a reputable company we have here. We don’t give interviews her needlessly to fill our time. You are making a very bad first impression and I must stress…” But Stacey cut her off.

“Okay, thanks then. Have a good day”. She said and hung up the phone, placing it on the sideboard. She stood there, no longer in a daze but with a twinkle of determination in her eyes.

“Okay. Okay. I’m coming. I’m sorry it took so long. Hana lowlalei.” And she made a circle with her hands in the air. The ground shock for a second and room burst with a flash of light, raining sparks all around her. She smiled once more and walked across the room to find her laptop. Still with her coat on she logged in, finding the cheap website for flights she had used before. Using her credit card she booked herself a ticket, first class none stop. And only one way.

 

I know what I am chasing….. (PT I)

Alex stared out of the dirty window in his third floor apartment. The noise from the streets below floated in on the wind, sounds of traffic and everyday bustle. The water had finished boiling about five minutes ago, but Alex continued to stare outside; transfixed on a moment in time far removed from anything in the here and now. Something was missing, or perhaps a miss he thought. He’d watched it play out a hundred times before, the movie in his head rolled forward; staging the moment time and again when his heart had collapsed. Bodies all around, pavement; yellow in motion, blurring around a corner. Lost…

The phone on his desk rang, splintering the images, sending them cascading down out of the window and out of view.  He looked over and saw his phone next to the piece of paper he’d been avoiding for the past few days. Alex ignored the phone and made a cup of tea. Light was coming in from the window to his left and felt good on his face. He sighed and sat back down at his desk. The blank paper loomed in front of him. One missed call, nothing important. Nothing that will change his day and not the person he wanted. Suddenly the smell of flowers and formaldehyde washed over him. On warm days, the funeral parlour below him would open their back doors; today the sun was dripping down like butter on the city. Alex shook his head trying to shake away the smell, the masking of death and decay with flowers; the beauty of a funeral against the ugliness of death. He’d been looking for interruptions all day, but enough was enough.

Sipping his tea he picked up his pen to begin. Where to start though? he thought to himself. He had everything before him, the paper, the envelope, the stamp with the inaccurate face of the queen poised in time at twenty six. He had everything but the words. Words usually betrayed him, like cheap sentiments they were always conjured so freely. Tongue tied and twisted when the face appears, loosing his breath.

‘’Well, they’re not here now!’’ he spoke aloud to the empty room, only the pigeons on the window sill seemed to hear him, ruffling their feathers in supposed agreement. Here was the opportunity to say everything, overkill if need be, but time to get this out; it had been like a cancer corroding the heart. Suddenly a shadow passed over his window, darkening the small room. Alex looked over, spilling his tea slightly. Entering the frame and coming into to his room was a heart the size of a football, it throbbed as it descended inside. Alex watched as it came in, making only the rhythmic sounds of a heartbeat. It wasn’t the medical kind like that of a human heart sliced up by tiny lasers in hospitals, more of the ones that appear above people’s heads in cartoons.

Despite its crude appearance however, the insides were swirling around like of a washing machine with torrents of blood, motioning backwards and forwards in their swell. It stopped a few feet away from him and started to get darker and darker. For some reason images started flashing through his mind; silhouettes of faces, a date in a diary, tears over his own face as he watched from above like a spectre. The images pulsated through him like a radiation wave from the heart. His head ached.

Blinking back to the moment, Alex watched the heart; mesmerised. It was changing from a bright red, blurring down into a deep rich maroon colour. It remained in the air in front of him for a few minutes and then began to shake slightly, vibrating statically like the buzz from a telephone line. Alex held out his hand to touch it when a blinding flash of light crashed outward and cracked the room around him. Suddenly the heart started to move. Alex exhaled, paused only for a moment and began to follow it.

Opening the door and down the stairs Alex rushed, the heart floating through objects without a care like in a video game. Out in the mid day sun people around him seemed not to notice the Hannah-Barbara world into which he had descended. The heart it seemed was his apparition alone, his illusion, his spiral into madness. Down the street, past the newsagents that sold tatty imported porno magazines stuck next to cheap greeting cards for ‘A special niece’ and ‘ A Birthday boy’. He caught up to it for just a minute, he reached out to touch it before being pushed back by a force that felt like the heat from an oven, smothering his pores and taking his breath away for split second. Like many things it seemed, he could see, witness and be in the presence of the heart; but never touch. At least not without pain.

A spark was beginning to glow from within it now, at the bottom tip it began to throb and sway with the motion of its movements. Alex couldn’t take his eyes off of it, much to the annoyance of the few pedestrians currently making their way on that particularly warm March day. He rushed on, not giving a care to those he banged aside. A mum with a pushchair dropped the middle class façade her tailored clothes offered and shouted enough fucks to turn the most desensitised passer-by’s head. Alex was oblivious to it all, the spark had triggered something within him, and a memory was coming into focus like a body out of the fog.

If only the people around him could take a picture Alex thought to himself, as his life un-paused and free-fell into the future. If they could take a souvenir to remember this moment. Alex breathed out as the tears crawled down his face. The memory he’d only allowed himself to remember in a picture book, and very rarely, had exploded before him. Vibrant colours illuminated a world distant and familiar. An array of images blended into one another, his face with theirs. The words ‘I love you’ spattered the floor like an emotional downpour.  The moment when he knew he loved them, told them and was pattered on his head for his efforts. For a few seconds it seemed the words would be returned, the lips pursued and suspended in a opera of tension, translucent trails to happiness; the quiet suggestion of infinity. He had to walk it back from the edge, the help of an invisible force pulled him down. What he’d witnessed had happened to him, not too long ago; but it had all seemed so foreign to him them.

Suddenly, he was back in the street, the heart hazy now in the sun. The blue sky seemed to overwhelm him and press down on his body. Why was this so important now, on this day?  Hearts break everyday, his had been shattered for a while; the pilot light flickering just to keep him alive. Everything happens for a reason, he shook off his dizziness and continued to follow; the heart responded by increasing its speed.

The noise and clattering increased as he reached Baker street station. The familiar sight of London maps in stranger’s hands as the vacant eyes swept the surrounding buildings. Alex sped on, past the lines snaking outside Madame Tussauds. Clicks and whistles of foreign tongues culminated into the passing traffic. The heart it seemed was starting to fade….

TBC….

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SHORT – ‘雨降って地固まる’ (PT III)

Part III – ‘Omens & Origami’
(Full story here)

Despite sleeping late, Tomoryō woke just after midday, her stomach lurching to the lack of food the day before. She dressed quickly and went to the kitchen to make herself and Aitarō something to eat. Aitarō followed her, jumping up onto the small stool she had by the back door. She’d had such strange and cursed dreams, and she knew what they meant to her. Change was coming, something ominous that would challenge her and require all her strength.

She knew the theatre had come to town, she’d known before anyone else. Travelling back from a small function the previous night, the caravan and her own transport had crossed paths. She’d sensed something before about the day in the early morning, when she’s noticed the wind had suddenly changed direction. She was mindful of such omens. Though shocked, she was not surprised. And she slipped away without anyone noticing her.

Tomoryō operated alone, and though this was not how she liked it, it was how it was. She was kind and helpful to whomever she came in contact with though, and looked for the best in people. Hoping others would do the same. She’d been forced to leave her Okiya a few years ago under a shadow of scandal and mystery. The death of her older ‘sister’ had been hushed up as best as it could be, as best as money could hush things up, but word had gotten out that Tomoryō was involved. Though this wasn’t really the whole truth. The Okiya’s mother had been a cruel and tyrannical woman, and though many of the Geisha in the town had boarded there, few believed that she herself had not been involved in some way. Knowing the close calls in the past that many had had with her. Yet, with smoke there is always fire, which was why there was a suspicion towards Tomoryō, but not complete belief that she was a witch. Many had turned against her, those who were jealous of her beauty and talent, and those who were superstitious thought it was bad luck not to think she was a witch. Err on the side of caution.

Tomoryō was forced back to her family home, which she turned into a small compound, shutting herself away as much as she needed to, to protect herself. Before long, she had re-emerged and began her geisha duties once more. She was truly the most beautiful woman in the region, and though many kept their distance, many men could not resist. She worked well with those travelling through the town, or those who came back for business. Outsiders who did not know or care to know her history in the small time they spent with the forbidden flower. Her isolation gave her too her independence, and she was able to charge the most for her services, ones of which she had more choice over. She never burned bridges with the other geisha in Hirani, or their Okiya, but there was always a wall there, one sometimes hard to scale.

She made some tea and went upstairs to the small reading room she had at the top of her house. Aitarō followed, licking the drips of tea that fell from the cup which had a small crack in the bottom. She should throw it away, but couldn’t bring herself to. It had been mother’s favourite. She opened the shutters and looked out over the town. From her view she could see the rising mountains off in the distance. The sleeping ojiisan (grandfather), which loomed over the region like an old man in a chair. The day was bright and harsh, the light reflecting off the snowfall. She could see smoke rising from the square, fires from the market and the theatre group no doubt. She placed the tea next to her and took a sheet of paper. Her mother had taught origami when she was a child, and though she enjoyed it, she now used it for more practical purposes. She closed her eyes and muttered some words under her breath as she slid the thick red paper between her fingers, going back and forth a few times. She opened her eyes and began to make the small figure.

She had made a miniature version of the town out of paper. The small houses and shrine, the market place and people of interest we all represented. It had taken her ages, but it was a task that had cleansed her mind and spirit. She finished the red figure and placed it down in the centre of the town square. None of the other figures were done in the red paper, and the figure glared out from the earthy tones of the others and from the small buildings. She stood back and looked at the model, knowing all too well whole the figure was. She had been reluctant to make any quick decisive decision, lest it hurt her reputation, but she had formulated a plan in her mind that would now need some action. She finished her tea, and began to get ready, choosing the bright red kimono she saved for her best performances.

 

 

Short – ‘雨降って地固まる’ (pt II – Arrival)

Part II – ‘The theatre has come to town’
(Full story here)

Hirani was used to the snow, and the coldness it brought. The cool air coming off the sea whistled through the town, hardening the people who called it home. But life was good there. People were friendly and looked out for one another. With much of the town’s income coming from fishing, there was a strong sense of community and mindfulness to help each another when they could. It was this sense of community that also encouraged superstition within the small town. If someone was sick, it was because someone had put a curse on them, someone who was jealous of their success. If there was a fire in town, or an accident of some sort, it was due to a traveller who’d been spotted lurking about with evil intent. As nice as the people of Hirani were, they had a tendency to not take on their own responsibility. Scapegoats were currency for the inhabitants there.

As many cleared their doorways of the snowfall from the previous evening, the town awoke to a beautiful scene. In the town square, a travelling Kabuki theatre had arrived under the cloak of darkness. Its colourful caravan had occupied much of the square, and was busy alerting the town of its presence; putting up posters and talking to the locals. They had yet to acquire a performing space for their shows, and the owner of the theatre was busy speaking to the officials to secure a premise. There was a surprised, though pleasant, feeling all around to discover the trope in their small town that morning. It usually came around in the dying months of the year, but for some reason, had returned early. Everyone enjoyed the shows, and many came from far and wide to see the performances. It would be a good time for Hirani, and its traders.

Enko was just as excited as anyone else when she learnt of the theatre. She’d left early that day for an appointment with a businessman who had returned to Hirani for the month. He was throwing a small gathering at his home just on the outskirts of town. She’d stopped to see her friend Unoko, to whom she was borrowing a Kimono from.

“Did you see?” she said, stepping into the house and sliding the door shut behind her. Her face was fresh in the snowing morning, her eyes alive with excitement.

“See what?” Unoko asked, taking Enko’s small umbrella.

“The theatre is back, they’ve arrived in the night.” She replied, taking off her geta sandals and sliding on the slippers before her before going through to main room.

“Why have they returned so soon, and not informed us!?” Unoko replied, concern across her face. The Kimono hung by the side, the beautiful white fabric flowing down to the floor like a snowy waterfall.

“Who cares, this will be great. And good business for us.” Enko said. Unoko looked worried though. She was known for her preparation, and did not like surprises.

“Is your kimono able to be salvaged?” Unoko asked her, cautiously. Enko’s eyebrows narrowed, the smile slipping momentarily.

“I just don’t believe what happened to it. It’s cleaned the same way each time. But now, Jiji said she can’t get the colour back, it’s ruined Unoko. And without it, I’m fucked.” She said, looking away.

“Well, we can share mine until we get you a new one, I’m happy to move some events around. No need for drama, it will work itself out. You could ask Tomoryō for one of hers, she has so many and some are just lovely!” Unoko replied. Poor Unoko, so sweet and naïve. Enko spun around to her, a fresh spirit in her face.

“She was there that night you know, the last time I wore it. I remember now seeing her in the Silent Storm.” Enko said, her words hurrying off her tongue.

“Lots of people were there, it was spring festival.” Unoko said, looking bemused.

“Yes, but she bumped into me as we were leaving. Do you not remember? I nearly dropped the blossoms I had. She’s cursed me, I just know it.” Enko said, now slightly animated.

“I don’t know. She’s always so nice Enko. I don’t believe she’s a witch like they say. I remember she helped me with my…” but she was cut off.

“It’s her Unoko, I just know it. I will go to Miyata later to get an omamori now, but we need to teach her a lesson too.” Enko said, her eyes filling with mischief.

“If it is her, is it wise to be messing around with her?” Unoko suggested, but it was lost on Enko now. Her mind was busy scheming. Which in a way was harmless, until she proposed;

“We should kill her.” Enko said suddenly, her face serious. It was true that Enko was a beautiful geisha, if not a lttle immature, but in that moment she looked quite horrid. Unoko couldn’t believe what she’d said, she looked to her windows noticing some were ajar.

“What!” she said, in disbelief, hurrying over to close the shutter.

“Kill her, well not really us. We’ll let some else do the messy bit. But we’re doing the right thing, for us and everyone. No one wants that witch putting curses and the like on everyone all the time!” she said.

“Enko, you’re crazy. No. I won’t be a part of this. You can borrow my Kimono, keep it if you like. I will sort another out, but this…this is madness.” She said, clearly distressed by the suggestion. Enko studied her for a moment, and turned towards the kimono.

“Okay. I was only joking you know.” She said, not looking at her friend. Unoko let the silence hang a little.

“Good, though I didn’t find it funny.” She replied. Enko turned and smiled.

“Oh Unoko, lighten up. I was fooling around. No, she’ll get what’s coming to her before long anyway.” She joked. Unoko still looked suspicious, but let it go.

“Do you have time for some tea?” She suggested.

“Of course.” She said, smiling. “I will take your offer of the Kimono though, I’ve always liked yours. She said, stroking the material tenderly, smiling to herself.

Masao watched as some of the scenery was inspected in the morning sun. Though made to be robust for its travelling nature, it was a practice to check all the scenery at each new stop. He smoked a cigarette as the huge screens were moved one by one and checked over He had driven in the night, and was tired, though he knew it would be a long day ahead preparing. He watched as one of the men moved a huge decorative mirror from the truck. He was dressed differently from the rest of the workers, only slightly, but Masao noticed. He noticed everything this man did, because he knew he should not be trusted.

They had picked him up a few towns ago, much as they had last year in this region. He remembered him, and was unhappy about his arrival again. He was a man for hire, good at carpentry and strong. The company needed men like him to move and repair the things that were in constant need of maintenance. It had been years since anything had been bought anew. The company were paid just enough to get by on, many of them doing the job for the love of Kabuki more than the wage. Masao was different, he was stuck. His father owned the theatre group, and he’d been working in it since her was a boy. As soon as his father died, Masao planned to quit; not caring at all for taking over the travelling circus. He’d had enough of moving around and performance egos.

He watched as the man inspected the mirror, polishing the glass slightly with a rag before moving away and heading off down one of the alleyways. Slipping away unnoticed. But Masao had noticed, and decided to follow him and see where his suspicious friend was headed.

雨降って地固まる (The rain falls, the ground hardens)

The rain fell softly, thickening and blurring between snow and sleet. Flakes that found their way onto roof tops or eyes lids, disappeared in an instance into a watery grave. The small town of Hirani was perched high atop the steep cliffs that stuck out into the North Pacific Ocean like teeth. The wind would swell and batter the cliffs, but the town was usually protected from Mother Nature’s fury. And protecting, Hirani was in need of. At least the inhabitants. Steeped in history, Hirani was an old and superstitious place. The incense burned on everyone’s doorstep, warding off the spectres who would roam in the night, as many believed they did.

The tea house was the focal point for many. A noisy, bustling place where the locals and travellers each would go to relax and to be entertained. Geishas were in high demand here, and many could earn a lot of money from the Silent Storm Tea house, and those who frequented it.

On the other side of town, a line of row-houses led up a small hill. It was dark and gloomy, with many of the lanterns in the area never lit. The residents kept to themselves, many of them fisherman families who would sail out early in the morning and return home very late. One of these fisherman was returning home in the late hour, having stopped for refreshment in town. He was jovial; having had a good catch that day, and had drunk to his own congratulations. He moved up the hill with ease, despite the weather. He came to a fork in road where the houses all grouped themselves together, almost buckling. In his disorientation, he turned left instead of right, moving up a smaller hill that hovered over the town. He hadn’t realised he’d gone the wrong way until he found himself at the red door.

He quickly glanced around, noticing the huge figures to his left and right. Two Nio stone guardians guarded the entrance, proclaiming sacred ground. Hastening back, his eyes darting from the door which had a crude double triangle and diamond painted upon it, up to the small house beyond the gates. He let out a small yelp, and hurried off down the path back to the safety of the road and towards his own home.

Inside the house, Tomoryō watched the man as she sipped her tea. She smiled, knowing his story. She watched him depart and noticed the snow was getting thicker now in the lamp light. It was indeed late, but she could not sleep. She was on edge since seeing someone earlier that day, someone she thought she would never see again, and had hoped never to. Her mind ticked over as she took down a large book off the shelf and began to flick through the pages. At her feet, the small fox prowled, slipping in and out of the desk legs and those of Tomoryō. Finally falling asleep next to her.

To the world Tomoryō was a geisha, one of the best in the province. Her beauty was flawless, and her talent legendary. As was her reputation. For Tomoryō was also known as the witch of Hirani to those in the town and was feared by them also. The two triangles on her gate, which she had refused to remove, were the fox ears which labelled her so. Not everyone in the town of course believed she was a witch, but those who did not still erred on the side of caution. She lived alone, aside her fox Aitarō, in her old family residence; having adapted it over the years thanks to her improved income. As Tomoryō was very good at being a geisha.

She read deep into the early hours, eventually going to bed when the sun began to rise off on the horizon. The snow had stopped, and had blanketed the entire town in thick layer of white magic. While she slept, events in town began to unfold that would lead to Tomoryō to be known, not just in her small town, but in the whole of Japan.

II

Hirani was used to the snow, and the coldness it brought. The cool air coming off the sea whistled through the town, hardening the people who called it home. But life was good there. People were friendly and looked out for one another. With much of the town’s income coming from fishing, there was a strong sense of community and mindfulness to help each another when they could. It was this sense of community that also encouraged superstition within the small town. If someone was sick, it was because someone had put a curse on them, someone who was jealous of their success. If there was a fire in town, or an accident of some sort, it was due to a traveller who’d been spotted lurking about with evil intent. As nice as the people of Hirani were, they had a tendency to not take on their own responsibility. Scapegoats were currency for the inhabitants there.

As many cleared their doorways of the snowfall from the previous evening, the town awoke to a beautiful scene. In the town square, a travelling Kabuki theatre had arrived under the cloak of darkness. Its colourful caravan had occupied much of the square, and was busy alerting the town of its presence; putting up posters and talking to the locals. They had yet to acquire a performing space for their shows, and the owner of the theatre was busy speaking to the officials to secure a premise. There was a surprised, though pleasant, feeling all around to discover the trope in their small town that morning. It usually came around in the dying months of the year, but for some reason, had returned early. Everyone enjoyed the shows, and many came from far and wide to see the performances. It would be a good time for Hirani, and its traders.

Enko was just as excited as anyone else when she learnt of the theatre. She’d left early that day for an appointment with a businessman who had returned to Hirani for the month. He was throwing a small gathering at his home just on the outskirts of town. She’d stopped to see her friend Unoko, to whom she was borrowing a Kimono from.

“Did you see?” she said, stepping into the house and sliding the door shut behind her. Her face was fresh in the snowing morning, her eyes alive with excitement.

“See what?” Unoko asked, taking Enko’s small umbrella.

“The theatre is back, they’ve arrived in the night.” She replied, taking off her geta sandals and sliding on the slippers before her before going through to main room.

“Why have they returned so soon, and not informed us!?” Unoko replied, concern across her face. The Kimono hung by the side, the beautiful white fabric flowing down to the floor like a snowy waterfall.

“Who cares, this will be great. And good business for us.” Enko said. Unoko looked worried though. She was known for her preparation, and did not like surprises.

“Is your kimono able to be salvaged?” Unoko asked her, cautiously. Enko’s eyebrows narrowed, the smile slipping momentarily.

“I just don’t believe what happened to it. It’s cleaned the same way each time. But now, Jiji said she can’t get the colour back, it’s ruined Unoko. And without it, I’m fucked.” She said, looking away.

“Well, we can share mine until we get you a new one, I’m happy to move some events around. No need for drama, it will work itself out. You could ask Tomoryō for one of hers, she has so many and some are just lovely!” Unoko replied. Poor Unoko, so sweet and naïve. Enko spun around to her, a fresh spirit in her face.

“She was there that night you know, the last time I wore it. I remember now seeing her in the Silent Storm.” Enko said, her words hurrying off her tongue.

“Lots of people were there, it was spring festival.” Unoko said, looking bemused.

“Yes, but she bumped into me as we were leaving. Do you not remember? I nearly dropped the blossoms I had. She’s cursed me, I just know it.” Enko said, now slightly animated.

“I don’t know. She’s always so nice Enko. I don’t believe she’s a witch like they say. I remember she helped me with my…” but she was cut off.

“It’s her Unoko, I just know it. I will go to Miyata later to get an omamori now, but we need to teach her a lesson too.” Enko said, her eyes filling with mischief.

“If it is her, is it wise to be messing around with her?” Unoko suggested, but it was lost on Enko now. Her mind was busy scheming. Which in a way was harmless, until she proposed;

“We should kill her.” Enko said suddenly, her face serious. It was true that Enko was a beautiful geisha, if not a little immature, but in that moment she looked quite horrid. Unoko couldn’t believe what she’d said, she looked to her windows noticing some were ajar.

“What!” she said, in disbelief, hurrying over to close the shutter.

“Kill her, well not really us. We’ll let some else do the messy bit. But we’re doing the right thing, for us and everyone. No one wants that witch putting curses and the like on everyone all the time!” she said.

“Enko, you’re crazy. No. I won’t be a part of this. You can borrow my Kimono, keep it if you like. I will sort another out, but this…this is madness.” She said, clearly distressed by the suggestion. Enko studied her for a moment, and turned towards the kimono.

“Okay. I was only joking you know.” She said, not looking at her friend. Unoko let the silence hang a little.

“Good, though I didn’t find it funny.” She replied. Enko turned and smiled.

“Oh Unoko, lighten up. I was fooling around. No, she’ll get what’s coming to her before long anyway.” She joked. Unoko still looked suspicious, but let it go.

“Do you have time for some tea?” She suggested.

“Of course.” She said, smiling. “I will take your offer of the Kimono though, I’ve always liked yours. She said, stroking the material tenderly, smiling to herself.

Masao watched as some of the scenery was inspected in the morning sun. Though made to be robust for its travelling nature, it was a practice to check all the scenery at each new stop. He smoked a cigarette as the huge screens were moved one by one and checked over He had driven in the night, and was tired, though he knew it would be a long day ahead preparing. He watched as one of the men moved a huge decorative mirror from the truck. He was dressed differently from the rest of the workers, only slightly, but Masao noticed. He noticed everything this man did, because he knew he should not be trusted.

They had picked him up a few towns ago, much as they had last year in this region. He remembered him, and was unhappy about his arrival again. He was a man for hire, good at carpentry and strong. The company needed men like him to move and repair the things that were in constant need of maintenance. It had been years since anything had been bought anew. The company were paid just enough to get by on, many of them doing the job for the love of Kabuki more than the wage. Masao was different, he was stuck. His father owned the theatre group, and he’d been working in it since her was a boy. As soon as his father died, Masao planned to quit; not caring at all for taking over the travelling circus. He’d had enough of moving around and performance egos.

He watched as the man inspected the mirror, polishing the glass slightly with a rag before moving away and heading off down one of the alleyways. Slipping away unnoticed. But Masao had noticed, and decided to follow him and see where his suspicious friend was headed.

III

Despite sleeping late, Tomoryō woke just after midday, her stomach lurching to the lack of food the day before. She dressed quickly and went to the kitchen to make herself and Aitarō something to eat. Aitarō followed her, jumping up onto the small stool she had by the back door. She’d had such strange and cursed dreams, and she knew what they meant to her. Change was coming, something ominous that would challenge her and require all her strength.

She knew the theatre had come to town, she’d known before anyone else. Travelling back from a small function the previous night, the caravan and her own transport had crossed paths. She’d sensed something before about the day in the early morning, when she’s noticed the wind had suddenly changed direction. She was mindful of such omens. Though shocked, she was not surprised. And she slipped away without anyone noticing her.

Tomoryō operated alone, and though this was not how she liked it, it was how it was. She was kind and helpful to whomever she came in contact with though, and looked for the best in people. Hoping others would do the same. She’d been forced to leave her Okiya a few years ago under a shadow of scandal and mystery. The death of her older ‘sister’ had been hushed up as best as it could be, as best as money could hush things up, but word had gotten out that Tomoryō was involved. Though this wasn’t really the whole truth. The Okiya’s mother had been a cruel and tyrannical woman, and though many of the Geisha in the town had boarded there, few believed that she herself had not been involved in some way. Knowing the close calls in the past that many had had with her. Yet, with smoke there is always fire, which was why there was a suspicion towards Tomoryō, but not complete belief that she was a witch. Many had turned against her, those who were jealous of her beauty and talent, and those who were superstitious thought it was bad luck not to think she was a witch. Err on the side of caution.

Tomoryō was forced back to her family home, which she turned into a small compound, shutting herself away as much as she needed to, to protect herself. Before long, she had re-emerged and began her geisha duties once more. She was truly the most beautiful woman in the region, and though many kept their distance, many men could not resist. She worked well with those travelling through the town, or those who came back for business. Outsiders who did not know or care to know her history in the small time they spent with the forbidden flower. Her isolation gave her too her independence, and she was able to charge the most for her services, ones of which she had more choice over. She never burned bridges with the other geisha in Hirani, or their Okiya, but there was always a wall there, one sometimes hard to scale.

She made some tea and went upstairs to the small reading room she had at the top of her house. Aitarō followed, licking the drips of tea that fell from the cup which had a small crack in the bottom. She should throw it away, but couldn’t bring herself to. It had been mother’s favourite. She opened the shutters and looked out over the town. From her view she could see the rising mountains off in the distance. The sleeping ojiisan (grandfather), which loomed over the region like an old man in a chair. The day was bright and harsh, the light reflecting off the snowfall. She could see smoke rising from the square, fires from the market and the theatre group no doubt. She placed the tea next to her and took a sheet of paper. Her mother had taught origami when she was a child, and though she enjoyed it, she now used it for more practical purposes. She closed her eyes and muttered some words under her breath as she slid the thick red paper between her fingers, going back and forth a few times. She opened her eyes and began to make the small figure.

She had made a miniature version of the town out of paper. The small houses and shrine, the market place and people of interest we all represented. It had taken her ages, but it was a task that had cleansed her mind and spirit. She finished the red figure and placed it down in the centre of the town square. None of the other figures were done in the red paper, and the figure glared out from the earthy tones of the others and from the small buildings. She stood back and looked at the model, knowing all too well whole the figure was. She had been reluctant to make any quick decisive decision, lest it hurt her reputation, but she had formulated a plan in her mind that would now need some action. She finished her tea, and began to get ready, choosing the bright red kimono she saved for her best performances.

Masao knew the streets of Hirani pretty well. He remembered most of the towns he travelled through, and unlike the rest of the trope who would say all the places looked the same after a while, he usual found one distinction with each new place to make it unique and memorable. His remembrance of Hirani was down to one thing, and that was the Silent Storm Tea House. The Silent Storm was similar to many other tea houses in japan, save for one unique feature. It was built around a small waterfall which cascaded down from the small river and rocks, right through the teahouse. Transparent screens had been built around it so the view from within captured the elegance and power of the flow of water. The area surrounding the teahouse had been built into a lush, if not tiny formal garden, which was far removed from the humble shacks and fisherman houses that made up most of the town. It was located not far from the main square, and was in the much more affluent area of the town with the main passing road through to the north and south nearby.

Masao had a feeling it was the Silent storm that the man was headed to. He was surprised however, the wages he know the man to be on were not those to afford such luxuries as a visit to a Teahouse. Yet as he followed him down the small passageways, it was the Teahouse that he came to, and he watched him as he went over the small bridge leading to the main entrance. He paused momentarily, removing his hat and slicking back his dark hair with his hand before disappearing inside. Masao hesitated himself, then followed him in.

IV

Although the snow that fell made the town look beautiful, it was really an added torture for many. The freezing cold and blanket of toil left many desperate in Hirani. Enko was lucky, she hard worked her way up to be a popular geisha, earning a lot of money for her Okiya which took care of her. She was outgoing and a lot of fun to those who booked her services. Though many closer to her would say she was somewhat reckless, she was known for being eager to try new things and was usually where the most spirited events were in the town.

It wasn’t that she had a particular grudge against Tomoryō. She, like many, were really in awe of her and her beauty. They had studied together growing up, and had known one another for a long time; jumped through the same hoops and mastered the arts as two sisters might. But inside of Enko, there was always fresh seeds ready to sprout, and jealousy was one that was easily watered. It wasn’t just her beauty or success, or even the reverence Tomoryō received. It was that she had something that was far more lacking within Enko. Self-respect.

People called her a witch because Tomoryō didn’t do all the things that were asked of her, especially from men. She had bucked the system and carved her own living through being a Geisha, which she clearly found some happiness within. A circumstance really more than a calling. Enko had been thrust into this life, and though she messily navigated her way through with bad decisions, she was angry that she herself could not be as strong willed as Tomoryō.

To see Tomoryō brought down to everyone else’s level, would give Enko the satisfaction that being where she was, doing what she is told to do, is how it should be.

But it was more than that.

And it was more than that that she had suggested to Unoko. Did she really mean to have Tomoryō killed? Well, it would remove her completely, destroy the beacon of individuality that she had cultivated, which really had no place in the world of Geisha. There had not been much back and forth in her mind whether it was wrong to have Tomoryō murdered. Enko, reckless as ever, had launched to that conclusion by the time she had left Unoko’s. Guilt was not something Enko dwelled too much on, and it was a lot cleaner than merely teaching her a lesson. It was this sinister side within her that had grown when she was a child. Competing with the other children to have the best toys, the most attention. It was this side of her that had tricked the little girl when she was only five years old herself to go down the well near her childhood home, and to leave her there for two days. It was always there really, ready to spring to action like a crouching mantis. Enko could be a lot of fun, but she was also very conniving.

She had dispensed with the moral debate in her mind by the time she had reached the small house. Mindful of the time, as she did not want to be late for her appointment with the businessman, so she knocked hastily on the door. She had come to one of the more shabby areas of Hirani, with the small line houses squeezed up against one another like crooked teeth. Enko, in her Kimono looked out of place in the bleakness of her surroundings, like a lotus flower on a sea of mud. She knocked again sharply, louder this time until the door slid open. A small woman stood there, her eyes narrowed on a face that snarled back at her.

“You’re far from the garden little flower.” The older woman said. She held a pipe in her hand, and puffed the smoke towards Enko.

“Oh knock it off Madoka, and let me in.” Enko said, barging her way into the small entrance room. The room smelled of fish that was likely bubbling away on a stove nearby. But she didn’t plan to stay too long, so she endured it.

“What do you want?” Madoka asked her, looking her up and down.

“I want you to do what you’re best at.” Enko said, retrieving some money from the inside of her sleeve. She handed it over to her, mindful not to touch Madoka’s hands which were stained with black and ash from her pipe.

“And who’s the lucky soul this time? Some fisherman who couldn’t keep his mouth shut?” Madoka said, enjoying the moment. She liked to antagonise her. Her own defence against being bought by some silly geisha with more style than brains. But bought she was, for very specific services.

“Oh, someone you know pretty well. That’s only half of what you’ll get you see, the rest will come when the job is complete.” Enko said, wiping the smirk off her face. Madoka looked again at the money, realising now how much she’d been given.

“Who?” she said, faintly now with unease.

“Tomoryō.” Enko said, eager to see her eyes when she understood who it was.

“Keep it.” She said, throwing the money back towards her where it landed on the floor. Enko’s smile waivered slightly, she stared at the money now on the dirty floor. She nudge some of it with her foot, looking at the ground she said.

“You’ll do it Madoka, and you’ll do it quickly and quietly. Unless you want me to lead everyone to your other misdemeanours.” She said sweetly. Most people knew how much of unsavoury character Madoka was, it was not a huge secret that she was not to be trusted. But there were many things they didn’t know, things that were a lot more serious than petty theft; and Enko knew them, she knew all of them.

And Madoka knew she knew.

She lowered her eyes as if in shame, but it was merely to look again at the money on the floor. She bent down to pick it up.

“Any requests?” She said, putting the money in her pocket and puffing again on her pipe.

“Make it look like she did it herself, and do something about that pretty face of hers.” Enko said, turning around and kicking the money that lay on the floor. She slid the door open and disappeared off into the snow, a walking plum on a sea of white rice.

Madoka watched her depart up the road, cursing having let her in today, and fearing what she had to do.

Words words words

For short stories and wonderful writing, please take at look at Harley Holland Adams
Amazing writer, and brilliant ideas. More info here.

Just a sample:

THE PALE MOTH

They say that there was once a moth so pale

That her family were scared she was too frail.

Never too far in the darkness or close to the light

Her family huddled around her every night.

And every morning pale moth would cry

That if she ever fulfilled her dream she would die.

To dance and fly in the snow

Would be the greatest way to go.

Fearing this the old ones planned

To give the pale moth something sweet and Grande.

And on that very night pale moth saw a flash and fizzle

A series of flakes began to drizzle.

This snow was not what she had known to expect

But she span and danced without detect

That her family began to disappear

Replaced by snow she had always held dear.

And so pale moth delighted in the snow storm

Never wondered why the flakes were ashen and warm.

I kill the darkness

Are you still thinking, brain turning, losing love? Of course you are.
Has the line you drew been crossed by my clumsy shoe; of course it has.
Leaving, emptying the room in thirty seconds flat, a record.
I’m peeling the hatred away that is covered in your discontent.
No sunny skies, no sunny ray of light. All is dark as the void suffocates.
I’ve grown tired of the claustrophobia; I’ve always had one hand on the door.
I’ve always had good intentions, and ears closed to opposites to ignore.
I’m on my knees that you left here, I’m crying deep into my hands.
The tears do nothing but burn me, and make it even so hard to stand.
Behind me the devils are mounting, the spectre of death is my friend.
The god I thought has abandoned me, left a note that read ‘your own end’.
So I turn from this place where you left me, and I acknowledge the reasons you fly.
Then you come back despite it all, despite the horror I’ve caused.
And you give me the strength to both stand up, and accept everything is really my fault.
The crack of light is suddenly blinding, the darkness is melting away.
And I tell you it will be different, if you have faith in me and stay.
So I kill the black and darkness, I kill all the fear and all the dread.
And I put to sleep all the bullshit, and smash my love inside your head.
10 months of investment, and 7 days of unrest.
I want to take back all the anger, and all the things I detest.
And do you still think of ending it all? Of course you will.
And you’ll still think of things as all wrong? Of course you will.
And I know your heart is aching, bleeding. Of course I do.
But let me be the bandage that heals, let me bleed for you.

Class: Fiction

He skipped the to the last pages of the book that he held like a bible in his hands. Words danced on the page before him, the ending made no sense as usual. He searched his thoughts as to why he’d begun it in the first place. Ahh, that’s right…the cover looked so intriguing.

He placed the book back, nestled it in-between an old copy of Harry Potter and his well-presented and orderly kept cd collection. There it was to remain, unopened and unexplored for an age as the dust that collected hung to the tops of the pages like a glossy film. Over time the spine faded and the adventure was lost.

From the shelf, as if the characters had crawled from the pages to investigate, it was noticed how a new book was begun and captivated his time. Other volumes cried tears of time as they were passed over again and again in favour of this new and intriguing yarn.

Until one day it was no longer present. Unbeknownst to those who viewed from the shelf; the book was lost on a rainy Tuesday in the month of November, whilst travelling on the underground. As is the case of public transport, too many souls shoved together in a tin can made for distractions and wandering of minds. Making sure his jacket was straight and his phone was buzzing like always, he had left the book on the seat next to him. A careless gesture one might say, like the throwing of a used cup out of the car window; as the residue drips from the inside. But secretly, he did not mind too much as the new book didn’t interest him as much as he had let on. Maybe someone else is reading that story now, on the Hammersmith and city line.