Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever winter (Part 26)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


BRIGHT WHITE LIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malthrop turned from the stone.

“What would have made that balance possible?”

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

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

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

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

Ezra looked around again himself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t understand.” Malthrop said.

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

“What’s happening now?” Malthrop asked.

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

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

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

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


snowflake up close

The Power

The power lives in you.

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

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

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

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

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

The power lives in you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have the power.

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

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

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

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

You are your only saviour.

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

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

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

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

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

Power of prayer.

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

Meditate, and hear the answers.

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

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

Need to come back (Story reading)


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

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

Read on


 

Forever winter (Part 25)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


The time yet to be

Chu’zin was known for its fireworks. Of course, the city was known for a great many things too, least of all the cherry blossoms that bloomed in such substantial proportions that it made the city look like a floating pink cloud from the distant regions of Marloagh. But it was their firework displays, and production that many new the place for. The usual festivals made use of the renowned colourful displays, but once a year in the winter they had a very special festival which lit up the sky like heaven was exploding. K’boah, the time yet to be. An event the whole city, and surrounding villages came together to mark the advent of the future. Not a new year, but the light of the future which they drew down into their hearts. The fireworks were used to signal up into the heavens, that the people were eager for another day, another life ahead. Firing rockets and colour up into the sky, drawing down the light for a new tomorrow.

The displays of K’boah were legendary, with each year new floating lanterns and arrangements set to outdo last year’s efforts. The whole city looked as if it were on fire, the energy positive and hopeful for change. A soaring section of fireworks were always kept constant, plunging upwards into the night sky, creating a ladder of light up, up and up. Drawing down the light from beyond, drawing in the new tomorrow.

These were the lights Malthrop had seen, on one visit to Chu’zin. The lights he and the others saw now in the clearing were just as intense and commanding, but they held a more magical aura. The Mondol stones shone upwards, their lights never breaking, and glowing in their beautiful hum. The green and the blue pierced the sky above, pointing rays to the stars above them. The blue misty light from one side of the clearing reflected off the snow, a white haze moving towards them like collected fog. On the other side, the spluttering lizard green which made it seem the trees were alive. It hissed like a static wave, pouring forth into the clearing with heat and intensity.

The lady watched the blue light bobbing out into the open, she cast her eyes towards Malthrop who remained on the ground, holding the body in his arms still. He too was drawn to the lights, which hypnotically weaved into the lives.

“What’s happening, is this his doing?” Ezra asked, his eyes alive with curiosity.

“No, I don’t think so. But look at the colours, the blue and the green. It’s like….” The lady said but was cut short by the appearance of the Dimian now in all their collectiveness, getting closer to the Mondol stone which shone with the green light.

“Look, look at that!” Ezra said, pointing towards the mass.

The Dimian were toppling over themselves, their little bodies bobbing up and down in the strange light that cast over them. Little sparks emitted from them as they jumped and swayed towards the stone, it too striking off arching lights that sprung forth from the edges.

“It looks like they are charging up or something, being fuelled by the stone.  Why is it doing that?” Ezra asked, his eyes glued to the scene. Not many people had ever seen a Dimian, and never in such numbers; least of all surviving to tell the tale.

“They are feeding off the energy, but something else is happening; it’s not their usual source of power. It’s reacting differently with them it seems.” The lady of the jars said, equally fascinated. She knew a lot about the magic of the world, and indeed of the Dimian. Seen for their destructiveness, they were also the cleaners of the world, the insects of the realm that mopped up any extra magic that was lying around.

“Look there!” Ezra said, pointing off over to the other side of the clearing where the foggy blue mist made contact with the other stone. “It’s P’erl.”

They all looked over and they could see the girl from Europa now, a cocoon of light swam around her, beating like a heartbeat. Next to her they could see the gentleman of the boxes, falling down to his knees now as the blue mist touched the other Mondol stone. Unlike the sparks from the Dimian, the light here seemed to wash them like waves, little tides of blue flowing from the stone over them, the intense white from P’erl unfazed by the ripples, like a diamond poking out of the ocean.

“What the hell is going on!” Ezra asked.

“I think we are here for the end.” The lady of the jars said, and stood forth and commandingly, as if announcing herself to the clearing, the stones and to the world at large. With a loud crack of thunder above, they saw a lightning strike of ice burst out of the sky and rocketed down to where she stood, little flakes of snow hissing all around them as they melted in an instant in the heat from the lights that encased them in the clearing.

The Dimian are necessary creatures in the world, though many would wish them to never be. They are seen as dangerous, evil and selfish. The locusts of the underworld, consuming and collecting, caring not for what they destroy or what consequence they leave behind. They are dormant for many years, consuming vast quantities of power and energy to sustain their sleep periods which can last generations. They are creatures on Europa also which follow a similar pattern. The Lankaripii are small little clouds that can fit in the palm of your hand. They move through the ice caverns, sucking up the nitrogen that bleeds out of the ice and rock, the stuff of comets. They then gather, en-masse, in giant cloudarys, a type of funnel, which hang from the roofs of the deeper caves. They pulsate a purple radiance when they hibernate, the nitrogen sustaining their sleep while they slowly oxidise and expel powder particles which line the walls and allow for the Europans to breathe at such depths. All a cycle, all part of the process.

But unlike the Lankaripii, Dimian do not discriminate in their source of fuel. They consume whatever is powerful, whatever energy source they can devour. In turn, it can have a subtle effect on their nature. Negative power can cause them to be volatile and unstable. But the opposite is true of the positive nature of light, in which once it is consumed, the Dimian will emit rebuilding molecules in their expelling processes and be more collectively beneficial; and usually seeking slumber quicker. The negative power seems to aggravate as well as stimulate.

The gentlemen of the boxes had fed them dangerous magic, an unstable and corrosive form which only sought to destroy. They were encased and rattled, unable to be their true state of being. Once his power was broken, and they were free to escape, they had exploded angrily into the clearing, hungry for more of the dangerous elements.

The Mondol stones themselves are neither good, nor bad, but a collective balance of power. Like a lightbulb, they work on both positive and negative elements to exist. Generating an energy from the world around them, feeding into a new power. They have many properties of course, and many uses, though most people revere them too much to investigate or know. That is to say, just the one stone, for the other had been hidden for centuries. The lady of the jars knew what power the stones held of course, she had read about the old magic and knew of the balance it could create in the world and beyond.

As the Dimian were frozen in their state of consumption, they all watched as P’erl moved towards the other stone, the blue light emitting from it suddenly surging towards her in an arc. In a flash the two stones connected themselves, the blinding white light exploding all around them and sending a white pulse up into the sky above them. The whole clearing was bathed in the brilliance, the white snow evaporating in an instant as the heat and light melted it all around.

“Should we do something?” Ezra asked, casting his hand over his eyes and turning to where he thought the lady was. But she was striding forth now, towards the centre of the clearing between where the two stones and pillars of action were. “Wait, is it safe?” Ezra called after her, sparks and cracks of light emitting themselves in little hissings snakes all around the stones, the girl and the Dimian.

Ezra spotted the gentleman of the boxes now, on the floor of the clearing over where P’erl was by the stone. He was cowering, holding his hands up against the light which must have been blinding so close. He watched as P’erl floated on the spot, her eyes open and transfixed on the stone before her. Swinging his glance to the other side, he saw the Dimian throbbing and shaking, slowly building themselves upwards, atop each other as if climbing up towards the stone, slowly arching over towards the light which shot through them. It was an awesome scene, the frazzled smell of heat with water lifting all around.

“Do we do something?” Malthrop asked Ezra, who kept his eye on the scene before him.

“I think we have to see what happens; she knows what she’s doing.” Ezra said, watching the lady of the jars striding into the centre of the clearing.

She strode forth, watching the light arc above her head, mindful of all the knowledge now coursing through her mind. The magic, the memories, the pain and the joy. What her mother had told her, what she had learnt from her book. What she felt in her heart. A great connection had been made before them now. This was no accident; this had been planned. P’erl was here to bring a balance, the Dimian were driving the negative side. P’erl, from the other side of space had come here to give herself to them, to correct what was wrong. But what was so wrong? That thought stopped her now, caught in her head like a bit of toast caught in a throat.

What is needing correction?

The world was difficult, painful and hard sometimes. Her own life had taught her that. The pain she had experienced, which had led to her control of the weather, to banish those sunny days. The pain she knew about deeply. But there was joy and wonder too. She saw the hope and love in the eyes of the children, in the souls of the village near to her, in books and stories that she read. She looked over and saw the gentleman of the boxes, and she felt pity. She had driven him, in part, to his deeds. She and her control of the snow. She had sought her own comfort from something outside herself, without the consideration of others.

Had the painful events in her life not have happened, could she be the person she was today? The lady of the jars, who read stories to children and baked gingerbread. Who helped those who needed it and bottled, not just weather, but things for others if required? The plants in her jars, the essences for medicine. Helping those in the village. A kind soul who had turned the dark of her life, to the light she bottles and gave away. Was life, this world really in need of such a correction? Or was it as it should be.

These thoughts coursed through her now, mindful of prophecies that dripped in her bones also. P’erl, the girl from Europa who she had come to call a friend. She was here, she’d been sent for a purpose. But it now seemed distant to her, as if she was unsure of what to do. She knew she was here to do something, and she knew that all this had been aligned. But she was suddenly unsure of what she herself needed to do. She listened to the frantic static of the light, coursing above and all around her. The pulse of blue, green and even dapples of red illuminations speckling her eyes and popping in her mind like the fireworks of Chu’zin.

As if sensing she needed a little prodding, a giant strike of light exploded from the side of both of the stones, finding the body of the lady of the jars and funneling thousands of years of knowledge, power and magic into her. As her eyes exploded in white light, she saw what the future held, and knew then that everyone was invited to join her. A light given for tomorrow.


snowflake up close

Halfway from home

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

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

Jasmine and warm sand.

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

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

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

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

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

“2.377.8”

The soft voice whispered into the room.

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

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

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

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

Only people meant something to someone else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home, they’d said is wherever they were.

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

Halfway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fuck.” He said aloud to no one.

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

What to do, what to do.

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

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

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

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

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


Forever winter (Part 24)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


Lights shine the way

He was able to subdue the water, it was slowing off anyway as he uncorked the little vial and let the rays of sunshine beams out into the tunnel. The water evaporated in an instant, the light’s rays almost making the water disappear before his eyes. Such power, he thought to himself as he then sped on through the tunnel, sploshing in the occasional puddle that remained on the muddy floor.

He passed a broken box, the remains wedged into the side where a little alcove cut into the walls. A hand buried partially into the sides of the wall which looked soft and wet from the water. The magic seemingly nearly gone from the body, he wondered why it had not lasted. Still, no matter. He rushed on through, knowing the tunnel system well, weaving and slithering down the tunnels; back to where he had left the woman and the boy.

He suddenly came to a fork in the tunnel, which was not a part of his memory. It looked as if the water had burst through from another section, a ghostly side of the tunnel system that he was unaware of. He poked his head around the side, looking deep into the darkness. The light from this vial, which he’d bottled back up, cast a glow and a line which he directed downwards, the tunnel sloping slightly. He thought he heard something. He held his breath and listened. There! That sound, what was it. Singing, someone was singing down here. The lady of the jars, what did she, or any of them have to sing about?

For some reason, this angered the gentleman of the boxes further, as if in the face of all his plans that endeavoured to betray and harm them, they had a cause to sing.

The song grew steadily, echoing now around the hollowed-out tunnel. It sounded choral, enchanting. As if little fairies were whispering delicately into his ears. He shook his head, trying to think straight. But the sound grew stronger, and he was suddenly aware of how tired he was. His eyes now becoming heavy. He looked down the tunnel and saw a little blue light weaving and bopping up towards him. It was like a blue candle as it swayed his way, lulling him along with the ethereal voice of song.

Before he knew it a blue mist was swirling all around him, little hands seemed to be stroking his head, his back and arms. Comforting, calming. The touch of another that he’d not had in so long. He closed his eyes for but a moment, allowing the soothing state to take over. But then he snapped back, his mind present in the now and assessing what was happening. But he couldn’t move, his arms were glued to his side, his eyes couldn’t even scan around him; stuck looking forward as he saw the girl explode forth from the candle like a dam breaking.

He tried to speak but found he could not. He was at the mercy of her now, the girl from Europa; the one he wished to consume and then destroy. She looked at him, her sapphire eyes gleaming in the glow from all around. His muddy eyes glowed back, an anger rising in him much more potent than he’d care to admit. For the gentleman of the boxes no longer knew where he and the magic ended and began. Indeed, the cells of his body were encased now in the darkness which had corrupted like a cancer. She sensed it, she felt it now as she hovered her hand above his heart. The oil inside, dripping and sludging through his soul. He tried to shut his eyes, but it only made them shake and puff out of his head slightly, as if he was holding his breath.

She leant forward and placed her finger on his forehead, and his world turned inside out.

They both breathed in the cold night air as they burst out of the ground. Ezra and the lady of the jars found themselves surrounded by mounds of snow many feet deep at the base of the huge trees of this part of the forest. They also found themselves at the feet of a man that they thought, for a moment, was the gentleman of the boxes.

“Are you alright?” Malthrop asked kindly, extending a hand and pulling them both to their feet.

“We are now, to be out of that damn warren.” Ezra said, dusting off his clothes of the soil that had smeared in their ascent.

“Thank you, yes.” The lady of the jars said, rightening and taking in the sight of the new soul before them. “A pair we must look like”. She added, knowing they both must look like they had been through quite an ordeal, and indeed they had.

“It’s late to be out, do you mind if I ask if you know anything about the light.” Malthrop asked, smiling with his eyes, letting them know he was of no danger.

“And who are you when it it’s at home?” Ezra said, rather curtly.

“Ezra, manners.” The lady quickly added. Malthrop shook his head apologetically.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. My name is Malthrop, I live not far from here. I noticed the strange light from the Mondol stone.” He said, pointing off over through the trees. Just as he said this, Tanker came bounding over the nearest drift of snow and tumbled down to their feet, woofing and hollering. He sneezed where he landed, the snow fluffing off into the night air and then he turned his attention to Ezra, jumping up at him and barking, a friendly bark.

“Tanker, down. Get down.” Malthrop said, starting forth to pull the dog away.

“He’s fine, as long as he’s friendly.” Ezra replied, lowering down to calm the dog, petting his cold fur.

“The Mondol stone you say, is it alive, shining?” The lady asked, excitedly.

“Indeed, it is. Well, it was when I set out. But just as we came across that bank there.” The man said, pointing behind him. “Another light burst up into the sky. Green this time.” He finished. Tanker skirted to his feet now, circling the man before going up to the woman and sniffing her clothes. She stroked his head, soothingly.

“Wonderful. Just wonderful.” The lady said, smiling to herself.

“So, you know what this is all about then? Are you a witch too?” The man asked, though no alarm rippled through his voice.

“Well, I’ve been called that before, but I assure you I’m on the good guy’s side.” She replied.

“Then there’s a bad side?” The man asked.

“There definitely is. And he’s a right old bastard I can assure you!” Ezra added indignantly.

“Ezra, language.” The lady said. “Though I admit, he’s been quite the pebble in our shoe I must say. The gentleman of the boxes.”

“He is no gentleman. What kind of gentlemen goes around trying to kill people!” Ezra cut back.

“He dangerous then?” Malthrop asked, concerned.

“You got that right bud, and he’s about in this forest doing deeds and wanting to make things pretty miserable for everyone around here.” Ezra said.

“I see.” The man said, taking in this new information. He looked up through the trees to where the lights were beaming up from the stones. “And the stones are a part of this? I usually avoid the area, but they seemed to call to me tonight.” He added.

“They are ancient and knowing, they speak to the deeper souls. Though who know love and loss, right and wrong. I sense your heart is recently heavy, I can see it in your eyes.” The lady said. The man was silent.

“Well, we best go and see what all the fuss with the stones are about then, if you think this is the answer to all of this. Would be nice to have a rest and let things be for a while.” Ezra said, rubbing Tanker’s back.

“Come, let us go through together. Safety in numbers, these woods have been pretty dangerous as late.” Malthrop said.

“Dimian.” The lady replied.

“If you say so.” The man said, smiling at her, helping her up the bank of snow that led deeper into the trees.

The boxes and the bones washed their way out of the tunnels and into the clearing, smashing over one another and the stray rocks that strew the area. The slosh of water and snow made for a freezing scene, the blue and green light emanating from the Mondol stones made it look like a giant lake, glittering in an atmospheric hue. As the water flow finally ceased, it seeped away back into the soil, staining the ground with it’s rush of recent travel.

It was down in the ground where the Dimian were still trapped, encased in the power of the gentleman of the boxes. They twitched and murmured, thronged and ached to be free. Suddenly, like a spark of light, freedom overwhelmed them. Their invisible chains were cast aside, and they exploded in movement, their minds frothing and hungry for the power they could feel all around them and could now devour.

Pearl learnt it all then, his memories and thoughts rushed inside her like icy water. She saw and felt the pain, the disconnection, the hatred. Yet deeper, longer back she saw a love, a lighter energy that had never been extinguished, but merely buried in an inner box. He felt no pain as she walked through his life in her mind. Instead, it was as if a boil in him had been lanced, gushing forth all the toxicity.

She looked into his eyes, and she saw humanity. She saw a love for another that had followed her from one planet in the solar system, to another. The eyes that looked back were no different from the eyes of her family on Europa. The light that shone there was made from the same cosmic dust that illuminated those souls on her home planet. The same light, just in a different vessel.

She moved her hand down to his chest and felt his heart beating. Spasmodically thumping in fear and uncertainty. She knew he felt remorse, but there was something else there, something hiding in the dark shadows of his soul. She searched, sending her vibrations through him like sonic waves. It was there, lurking. Something that didn’t want to be found. She pushed on, desperate to find it, her hand feeling the way over his heart. There, a flash of crimson. She nearly got it, her mind hurrying now past trauma and loneliness.

Her eyes flew open, and she gasped.

It was as if it had bit her, little teeth snapping at her soul. She let go of him and he shook his head, shaking off her aura that had swelled around him like a fine mist.

“What, what are you doing?” He coughed up, dry and hoarse. When had he even spoken last?

The girl looked at him, assessing him still.

“It’s too late, it’s all too late.” He said and hung his head.

“Then you need to put it right.” She said, turning her back to him and stepping forward into the tunnel. Like a rope pulling him, he was tugged forward and with a blink of an eye they were suddenly rushing out through the tunnel, the walls blurring as they sped past in the blue stream of light.

“Look, there.” Malthrop said, coming out of the clearing.

They had seen the lights of course, two beams pulsating upwards into the cold night’s sky. But now, coming to the clearing, they could see the Mondol stones, both of them at once. The original stone stood where it always had, cast down from the skies like the mythical peach pit discarded. The other sat across from it, on the other side of the clearing, about twenty strides apart. It’s green light too pulsed up into the sky. It had been forced up out of the ground, as they had seen, now stuck in the open as if it had been there for years.

“They look exactly the same.” Ezra said, as he flicked some snow off his shoulder which had fallen from the nearby tree.

“Perfectly the same.” The lady said, smiling.

“You know about all this then?” Malthrop asked, they all were entranced by the lights given off by the stones.

“A little, that I hope helps.” The lady said, casting her eyes around the clearing. Her smile evaporating.

“Look at all that.” Ezra said suddenly, referring to the boxes and bodies which they could now make out on the floor of the clearing.

“Are those bodies?” Malthrop asked, stepping forward.

“Yes, they are.” The lady said. She had not moved, the wind catching a tear that had crept at the side of her eye. She watched for a moment, as Ezra and Malthrop stepped forth, out of the woods and towards one of the nearest broken boxes. The sound from the Mondol stones echoed around them, like a crackling fire, the light splattering disconnectedly around the scene.

“Who are all these people, all these things?” Malthrop asked, coming across the body of a badger. The fur had been sheared off in places, and a strange little wooden frame had been placed through the skin, forcing its arms and legs outward, it’s eyes swirling with a strange dull red light.

“Don’t touch them, not yet.” The lady said, coming over to him. She knelt down, looking at the creature. “The magic is faint, but still there slightly.” She shook her head.

“People, I can’t believe he did it to people.” Ezra said, standing near to them over a mangled body face down in the grass. “Building some unnatural army!”

“We need to set all this right.” The lady said, standing now and looking towards the stones. “We need Pearl.” She said. “If we all spread out…..” The lady stopped. Malthrop had moved away from her, towards another body which stuck up awkwardly from the ground. The box it was in had crumbled around it but was still intact slightly, the body lulled half out of it like a tongue out of a mouth.

“Malthrop….” The lady said, a sudden realisation coming over her as she saw the scene. “Oh, no.” She said, her heart sinking.

Malthrop bent down and picked the body up into his arms, a sob extended out quietly where they were, but spread quickly and painfully around the clearing, like a pebble dropped into an agonising lake.

It was sudden and explosive, two lights very different from each other tracking silently in the woods suddenly flared on either side of the clearing. The blue misty glow on one side, and the greeny red bubbling on the other. As if it had been planned by some twist of fate, each burst through the trees together, showering those within the clearing with confrontation.


snowflake up close

Girl on the mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel shook her head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gladys put her cup down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Forever winter (Part 23)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


Discoveries at the edge of chaos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, he wanted that power now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


snowflake up close

Into the night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean?” He asked.

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

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

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

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

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

And suddenly it stopped, and all was quiet.

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

She picked the box up, whispering to it.

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


Forever winter (Part 22)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


Before the flood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is it?” Ezra asked her.

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, what is it?” Ezra gasped.

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

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

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

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

She stopped suddenly, he almost smashed into her.

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


snowflake up close

Nothing Lasts Forever

He spun the coin, watching it take off in its own little orbit. Whizzing and chasing itself as it spun around. It usually took a few seconds, it never happened right away. At least not yet. The blurred smudge of the coin slowly began to take shape as it slowed down. It was a pound coin, the closest thing to gold he could find. The year embossed on the metal was 1989, that was very important, though few would ever see the date.

The blurring lines of the coin began to slow, but as they did, they stretched outwards, spreading across the surface like a wave. He’d seen it a few times before of course, but each time he did it seemed to entrance him. The waves grew wider and wider as the coin began to slow. The blurred waves taking on an oily shine, catching rainbow marks as they swam outwards like the tide.

And then the coin stopped spinning, it hung there on its side static and humming slightly as the waves that had spread stopped everything. Time was his now, and he moved in towards the coin, the waves forcing him in slow motion. He felt the tightness in his lungs, but he pressed on, like trudging through water. He reached out, his fingers finding the way towards the coin. When they touched, a radiating light exploded outward in the room, blinding him in an instant.

This was the part he always had trouble with.

June 23. 2014. June 23 2014. June 23 2014.

He repeated it in his mind over and over like a mantra. He’d been told to visualise the numbers, but his mind always struggled with that part. It would make things easier if he did, but he was used to difficult.

With a rush of air and collapsing of light, he was thrown into something that he could never quite describe. He was always thankful to land the other side though, his eyes and his hands always burning for some reason. But his lungs thankful for the air on the other side. The air back in 2014. A simpler time.

It was for him at least. Which is why he usually came back to then. Back to here.

He looked around now, the familiar softly warming his heart. There were different approaches to his time jumping, it had been explained to him. He could land in a different place, anywhere in the world if he chose. He wasn’t restricted to when or where, or if he’d ever set foot on that part of the earth. But these steps always required more, and he was only really interested in this place, this time. It brought him a comfort that the present and the future no longer held.

He was in the apartment he’d just left, but it all looked very different. He felt the lighter atmosphere in an instant. Gone were the heavy furnishings or blinds to trap the light. That precious light was welcomed in, the blinds open and the door to the balcony cast wide as if calling out to the sea. He could hear the see, even though it was quite far below. The crashing sounds of the waves seeming to catch in the updraft and lift the sounds up to the 28th floor. He knew the view well, and much preferred it here in 2014, then in the present. Here he could take their hand and trace the line of the coast off in the distance. In the present it only called him to the rocks below, the sirens that dwelt there luring him to the ends of overwhelm.

He looked at the clock on the wall, and knew they’d be back any minute. He always liked to watch them coming in through the door. That paradox of frustration and relief at coming back from the end of a long day.

And there they were, coming in through the door. He went across to the entrance and breathed in their sweet smell as they walked right through him. He knew his own self would appear any minute, coming out of the shower and greeting them. It pained him not to be able to touch, but he was glad that sight and smell both worked normally. He saw himself then exit the bathroom, tying the towel around himself and coming over to kiss them. He ghostly traced his own steps, merging with himself and following through with the kiss. He closed his eyes despite himself, but quickly opened them and took them in his spirit like arms.

He missed the kisses. He missed their touch. He missed so much of what was now all around him which was why he returned here so often. He watched them both moving around. The kettle now being boiled as the coffee and tea was prepared. Bag dumped on the sofa. He breathed it all in, the preciousness in the ordinary.

He could stay forever if he liked, and indeed he had stayed for long periods of time before. But time being the linear monster that it is, he found he had to wait out the times when they would sleep. He could not sleep here, back in time. His body wouldn’t allow it. It was as if it was constantly battling some force which pushed it on. So, he spent hours watching them sleep, watching them dream. This was always a good time to come, because he loved this day. The 23rd. He knew the evening well and he never got bored of seeing their reaction.

He noticed it then, glittering on the table. And surprisingly, so did they. The coin was shimmering, the sunlight catching the dulled yellow from the pound coin. Then they both went across to the table, he watched them move as if in some strange dream. This couldn’t happen, he could not disrupt the past. But it was happening, nonetheless. Before he knew it, the coin was in their hands, tossing upwards. It landed on the palm, their hand covering it.

Heads or tails?

Try again.

Flick, up in the air.

He reached for it himself but missed and watched as they again hid it under their hand.

His old self grabbed them, both of them laughing. Then they made a dash for the balcony. The joy carrying itself out into the outside to share with the world. Grabbed again, but this time fought back, tugging at the towel to share even more with the world.

He watched this all in a stunned state, as if unable to move. He shook himself back to, but by then it was too late. Another toss into the air and this time the coin spun upwards with such a force it was as if it were being called back by God.

Over the sides it flew, watched by them both and by he himself before he launched himself over the side.

It made no sense. He’d never been told this could happen. They were never able to see the coin before. Or had they just never notice it? He thought suddenly to himself. They couldn’t interact with him, that is what he’d been told. But something was different this time.

He sped towards the coin, himself hurtling down towards the ground, the rocks below coming up fast like pointy teeth. No matter, he would just touch the coin and reset. He could not be hurt back here. He didn’t quite know what would happen if he did land, but it didn’t matter as his hand clenched around the coin.

But it did matter, for his ghostly hand went right on through the solidness of the coin. And those rocks found his body quicker than he could blink.

The pain was real, and instant. In his tumble he had twisted slightly, the jaggered rocks that his body had smashed against had greeted the blood like the ocean spray, disrupting it outward. He lay there for but a moment still alive, looking upwards as he could see the figures on the balcony looking on before disappearing back inside. Back into the lives they would live together for only a couple of more years.

As he passed, he heard the clock ticking and he could see in his mind the coin spinning.

Though he had paid attention to the date of the coin, which was indeed most important, what hadn’t been explained were the little rings of dots that circle the pound coin. A normal coin he’d assumed at first. But each time he had jumped, a little dot had disappeared. The coin, which now lay just below the surface, washed by those south pacific waves, had its last little dot slowly disappear.

Nothing, it seems, lasts forever.

Forever Winter (part 21)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


TREASURES UNDERGROUND 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is it?” Ezra asked her.

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, what is it?” Ezra gasped.

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

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

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

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

She stopped suddenly, he almost smashed into her.

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


snowflake up close

Need to come back

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

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

Turning, he caught sight of them once more, up on the sand dunes, walking across them like they were the treacherous paths of Everest. Taking giant strides as they struggled against the depts of the sand. He called them over but was waved off by a frustrated hand. Busy.

He smiled and begun to make his way towards them. The wind caught around him and nudged him on, as if the finger of God steered his way.

It was hot that day, but not unpleasant. The sea breeze found each pore, relieving them from the sun which shone down in it’s burning smile. He carried his shoes in one hand, having taken them off before heading down towards the water. He wasn’t used to the beach lifestyle, but this was what he always did. Taking his shoes off, rolling up his trousers, just in case. He reached them quickly and held out his free hand for them to take. They stumbled slightly over a large mound and almost dove toward him, reaching for him desperately like the edge of a cliff.

“Why don’t you come down to the water, the sand is more compacted there.”

“I don’t want to get my shoes wet.”

He looked down at their shoes, now covered in grains of sand. Dust and damaged, already in need of cleaning.

They kept hold of their hand and they walked on a bit. He slowly begun to steer them towards the sea, but they still kept on the deeper sand trail; his feet digging deep into the cooler parts with each step.

The beach was almost empty. It was a Wednesday, in winter. But winter here was not a winter there. It was hot, and relaxing and exactly where he wanted to be.

His hand was sweaty, and he was conscious of them letting go, but they kept hold of it. Rubbing his thumb with there’s to show affection.

They came to that spot, the spot they knew so well, and which gave them the clearest view of the bay. The beach was a half-moon shape, curving around the bay like a giant force had scooped out the land, letting the sea wash in closer. It was so clear, he could see out into the nothing, as the waves bobbed and churned in their maddening calm. What could’ve been a dolphin poked up further out, gone as quickly as it appeared in the rise and ebb of the sea.

“Why do you always come here?”

He looked at them, the instant sadness appearing there like a ghost.

He gripped their hand a little tighter.

“Don’t you like it here, you love this place.”

“Yeah, I know.”

The wind blew a little stronger, and if he were honest a little colder too.

He kissed them, closing his eyes like he always did. Feeling their lips as he felt the tiny moisture there. He took his hands and ran them up their back and into their hair, cupping them both in the moment. Breathing them in, holding them close, wiping away the tear which had begun to slide so silently down their cheek.

“It’s a place I can always come to when I cannot go on.”

He said this, as tears came to his own eyes. Blurring his image as if the sea had leaked inside of him.

The clock in his head suddenly shuddered, doubling the ticks in rapid progression.

“You know each time you add something. This time I took your hand.”

He looked away suddenly, as if he’d been discovered.

“I like it too, but it’s something I’d never have done.”

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

He watched as the waves hurried in, ignoring them there on the beach. Going about their tidal business. Commanded by the moon.

“There are more of course, but you always come to this one. I guess you’re the happiest here. I was too.”

He pulled them in tightly, scared they were already slipping away. He felt them, heavy and solid and gripping on to him also.

“I can’t unlove you. I can’t undo any of this.”

His tears flowed onto them, the wind stung slightly, catching the dampness there in his sockets.

“I love you still. You just doubt that, which saddens me.”

“I love you.”

“Then in the end, we win.”

Tick.

Tock.

And they both were gone.

Worry is like a prayer for something we don’t want. Our mind, at times, takes us to such dark places beyond that which gives us light. We can choose where our consciousness leads us, right now in the moment. We can choose what is projected on the wall of our mind. But it is our movie, our film which we have a say on how it ends. If you want to change it, change your consciousness and choose happiness over pain, light over dark.

Something to stay awake for – Erode the ruin

Something to stay awake for series

Listen to this episode.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SWIM

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


MORE FABLES HERE

Heaven is shut/open

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

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

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

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

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

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

And nothing changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer works. But not for him.

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

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

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

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

A: shut

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

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

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

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

B: open

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

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

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

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

Forever winter (Part 20)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


Dropping of veils

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

Silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ezra gave her one of his sceptical looks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lady nodded.

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

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

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

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

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


snowflake up close

21:09

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

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

Nearly there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The clock on the side clicked over to 9pm.

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

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

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

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

They held each other closer as the lights died.

21:09, the time the world ended.


Taken from Dislocated: A Short story collection – Out now

Forever winter (Part 19)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


in the blink of an eye

Darkness came, not brought on by any magical element but by the celestial dance of the sun and the moon. They had been walking for a long time now, and as the sun had slipped into its slumber, the trees around them awoke with nocturnal noises and eyes.

On they went, the girl from Europa fascinated by what she saw and what she felt. She could sense the determination, the spirit and also the slightest traces of fear in her companions. The lady of the jars was caught in-between feelings herself; she was anxious yet controlled, she also took some joy on their little expedition as it had been some time since she’d had a real adventure.

“Why did you leave Europa?” Ezra asked the girl suddenly, looking down from casting his eye to the sky above which was peppered with stars and clouds. The girl smiled at him.

“Many reasons led to my departure. I had become trapped by my life there in some ways, too big for it all.” She spoke. The lady nodded.

“Like a plant that outgrows it’s pot.” She offered. The girl looked at her, unsure.

“Don’t confuse things.” Ezra said, batting away her comment with his hand.

“We keep some plants in pots, indoors. Not like these wild ones here.” The lady said, casting her own hand around the wood.

“Oh, yes we do the same. Though they are more like creatures than plants, but we keep them in S’imboks, like crystal containers. They perfume and colour the air inside.” The girl said, almost thinking on it still.

“Like keeping a bird in a cage, sometimes the plant needs to fly.” The lady said.

“Now you’re mixing metaphors! Stop confusing things.” Ezra snapped.

“I’m just offering the notion that she outgrew her surroundings.” The lady said, curtly.

“We know that but let her finish at least.”

The girl smiled, she liked how they bickered.

“Well, yes I had outgrown a lot. But there was also a calling. A need to come here. Something was pulling me, a force that I feel stronger now I’m here.” She said, her skin suddenly shivered a dramatic red, her tealness flashing a crimson like a fish darting suddenly. “There was also another….” She began, but she stopped speaking as they had reached a break in the trees.

What struck them all was the moon, not the stone. It hovered off in the distance, bright and beaming, almost purposefully avoiding the clouds which rolled around it. It cast down a brilliant glow unto the snow which washed across the land before them. All except the stone. This was free of any snow, indeed the area surrounding it was clear and dry as if an invisible dome had been placed above it. Around them the trees lined the space in a horseshoe fashion, the stone in the centre. Towards the other side the land fell away onto a cliff’s edge, down to a valley below. It seemed to open up into the sky, but closer to the edge you would see off over the valley and the frozen rivers and lakes, the snow topped trees and the mountains beyond. By daylight you would also see the extent of the magic from her jars, as the snow faded off in the distance, blurring into a sandy threat of a desert.

The stone indeed did look much like a huge peach pit, almost oval in it’s form it dug into the ground from the narrowest tip, suspended upwards against gravity. At the right angle it could be seen as the shape of a heart. It dominated the space, at the height of the surrounding trees it caught the brilliance of the moonlight, reflecting off its mahogany colouring, more like wood than a stone.

“It’s wonderful.” The girl said, transfixed by the huge stone.

There was a silence that permeated the area before them, a quiet hush like that of a church. The girl was almost afraid to step forth, but the lady of the jars strode forth and the girl followed suit.

“This is such a sacred place, but the stone itself is a tool, a beacon even. It transmutes the energy and the magic from above and below. The good and the bad. Energy does not discriminate.” She said.

“How old is it?” The girl asked, moving towards it like a spectre, her eyes wide and her mind eager.

“About as old as she is.” Ezra said, looking around the edges of the trees, watching for movement or signs of danger.

The lady shook her head.

“Be serious and respectful you.” She said to Ezra, before continuing. “This stone is timeless, as is the magic. From time to time people come here to restore their own power, their own magical supply. It’s like a huge battery. But it can do many things.” She said as they approached the stone now.

The ground around it suddenly felt odd without the blanketing of snow they had become used to. The ground was dry and green, even in the moonlight it seemed to breathe out in its luxury of life. The girl noticed a pattern upon the stone, spiralling around and glistening, she noticed, in the light.

“Can I touch it?” the girl asked suddenly, almost surprised herself?

“Of course, yes do. No harm to be done. It belongs to everyone.” The lady said, setting her bag down on the grass and rummaging for something.

“Shouldn’t we…” Ezra began, but just as he said this the girl had reached up, her fingers drawn to the stone like a magnet.

Afterward, Ezra would say he heard what sounded like crystals smashing. The lady said she heard nothing but the whoosh of something giant above her. In the blinding light that exploded from the stone when the girl touched it, they both stumbled backwards falling to the ground. The space was enveloped in the light which seemed to splinter like a diamond, radiating shards of brilliance all around them. Though they could not see, the girl herself was cut through by this light. It did not travel within her but seemed to slice her into a thousand pieces. These pieces hung there for a moment before shooting upward, they span around the stone three times before disappearing into the top like a genie returning to its lamp.

Once the light had faded, both the lady and Ezra sat on the ground staring at the space where the girl had once been.

“What the hell was that?” Ezra said, blinking erratically to try and see through the light stains in his eyes. The lady sat, calculating what had happened.

“That, I think, was something very good or very bad for us. But it was not unexpected.” She said, quietly.

“What, you knew something like this would happen?” Ezra asked.

“Not exactly. But I cannot say there wasn’t a chance of this.” She said, now pushing herself up.

“Where is she?” He asked, a little trace of panic in his voice.

“That…I am not sure of just yet.” She replied, helping him up also.

“Wonderful.” He said sarcastically, almost used to her approach to matters.

“It is really. I’ve never seen it do that.” She said with a small curious smile.

The magical process of the disappearance of the girl from Europa was a coming together of many things. The old magic that lay in the stone and the world, the kineticness of her own energy brought to the planet across starry space. The moonlight and the zodiac position of the astral bodies. The makeup of the girl’s body, pressured in Earth’s atmosphere, and the consciousness of the girl herself who was longing to change and evolve. All these things came together that night at the Mondol stone. There was a book, kept at the back of a dusty bookshelf in the house of Jaered (The candle keeper). In this book there foretold all these happenings, from the girl’s arrival to her emersion into the stone. Prophecies are tricky things at the best of times, but all that took place was indeed there on those pages, tucked at the back. Jaered never knew of this of course, or he would have been very excited about what was taking place and would naturally know how it would all end. As it was, he didn’t and slumbered blissfully unaware many miles away from them, dreaming of cheese scones and pickle.


 

Forever Winter (Part 18)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


THE MOUTH OF THE DRAGON

The gentleman of the boxes stumbled into the clearing, tripping over a branch that had been hidden in snow. “Damn it!” he yelled, falling face first into an unspoiled drift. He got to his feet, brushing off the cold white fluff that clung to his long coat. He shook himself much like a dog, clearing the remaining patches of snow and moved on into the clearing and towards the well. The group had not long left, he could make out their tracks in the snow heading off towards the break in the trees where the path led.

He approached the well, now blocked by the magic that the lady of the jars had performed. Though he too was practised in magic arts now, he did not know of this kind and he looked on in curiosity to the strange structured elements, tiny parts of the colo twinkling ever so softly; trapped now. He took out a small box from his bag, not much bigger than a match box. He scraped some of the residue off into the box, returning it to his bag. Then he looked up, and his curiosity once again turned to anger.

“That bloody woman!” he yelled, his voice reverberating around the clearing.

Above the now blocked well, a huge plump grey cloud floated, sprinkling out heavy drifts of snow which fell like cotton wool. The lady of the jars had also set a snow cloud to cover the well quicker and deeper in snow, another way to fight back she had thought.

“Not content with the whole land covered in her blasted snow, she pots about with extra clouds to madden us all!” He said, grabbing off a chunk from the well and sending it angrily up towards the floating mass. It fell softly through, hitting one of the trees not far from him.

He heard it then, movement from the direction of the hit tree as if an animal had scuttled out of sight. He heard another movement too, this time to the side of him. The gentleman of the boxes had lived in the woods for many years now and knew a lot about the habits of nature. He ducked down, reaching into his pocket for something. He watched silently, and then he heard another sound, a rustling in the same tree where the clump had hit.

He was quick and quiet as he lurched forward and threw out some tiny amber stones which seemed to hit his target. He approached cautiously, keeping his distance slightly. It was a Dimian, as he thought it might be due to the well. He did not fear these creatures, quite the reverse. He knew that they contained much power that could be extracted if you knew how. The amber stones he had thrown clung to the little black blob, pinning it down now like tree sap. Its eyes flashed in alarm, and it oozed some sort of green foam which stained the snow around it.

It was rare for them to be on their own, and the gentleman looked around him quickly, checking to see if there were others. Satisfied there were not, he approached the little creature.

“I guess you were attracted to the same thing I hunt too.” He said, opening his bag and reaching inside. It is true that the Dimian were tracking the girl from Europa, this one had become confused by the power the lady of the jars had used on the well. It had lingered and become lost, trying to return underground. The gentleman of the boxes took out a glass jar, and scooped up the creature, quickly stuffing a stopper in the top. The stones that had pinned the thing began to hiss and melt inside the glass now, and slowly began to turn into a soft brown liquid. The Dimian flashed its eyes once more before the liquid covered it completely, freezing it as the liquid solidified.

The man took out a small cardboard wrapper and covered the jar like a wine bottle. He preferred using boxes, naturally, and even using a jar irked him as it was a practice of the lady of the jars. But this was the only way he could preserve things alive, unlike his boxes of the dead that he handled usually. He smiled to himself in his successful capture, as Dimian are notoriously hard to catch and can always be quite dangerous. With a fresh spur of energy, he chased on after the group, embolden now to succeed.

The group had trudged on through the trees, the weather remaining more open and calmer to help their path. The girl from Europa took in all that she saw, for on her planet there were no things as trees, and the animals there were quite different. She spotted an owl in one of the trees she passed and asked the lady about them.

“Usually nocturnal, but I fear my incessant snow confuses the poor dears.” The lady had said, noticing how large the owl was.

“Nocturnal?” the girl asked curiously.

“Only out at night-time, sleeps all day. The lucky devils.” Ezra said, looking behind them to see if they were being followed.

“Oh, I see. Yes, we have creatures that have similar patterns. Our days are long there, but some only come out at certain times.” She said, somewhat dreamily.

“It’s interesting how so different, yet so similar things are.” The lady said, smiling at the girl. The girl smiled too, comforted by the familiarity. Even across the vastness of space, simple things connected them.

“I think there’s trouble brewing.” Ezra said, nodding his head back in the direction they had come. They all looked that way and could see some birds taking flight just off in the distance.

“Oh my, I thought we would have been there before he came along.”  The lady said.

“It’s that man, isn’t it?” The girl asked, closing her eyes and seeing the shadowy images now of both him and the Dimian. The shapes moved like clouds in her mind, one brighter due to its proximity.

“Yes, he’s a pebble in my shoe that’s for sure. But he has maligned intent on you I am afraid, and we cannot be doing with this now here in the middle of the woods.” She added. “Ezra, we need…”

But Ezra was already moving off down the path where they had come from.

“I’m on it.” He called back to them. He held out a little vial, the Dragon’s tongue that the lady had given to them all to keep them warm, and to add some light to their journey. Rushing now, he went down the path until he was in a dense spot of trees. The ones here seemed to clump together, throwing dark shadows, and casting much murky thoughts. Ezra stopped, looking around quickly. He could hear the movements coming off further, but he thought he could make out two groups of noises.

He did not hesitate, tipping out the Dragon’s tongue flame into his hands where it flashed in the air of the world. Tipping it back and forth like a hot potato, Ezra breathed onto the little flame, and muttered the incantation that he knew only too well. He was the keeper of the flame in his little post, protecting her cottage back home. The flame roared and grew upward and out, a real magical dragon soaring up to the trees. The red beast roared and sneaked around the trunks, gobbling the light up and creating a black void in its wake. Ezra turned and ran back to re-join the group as the dragon raced through the wood, destroying the light that lay hidden between the trees and cast down from the sky above. It was as if a huge hand was brushing a blackness over the wood. Not the kind where your eyes could adjust to, but a dark void that allowed no light to remain. The red dragon danced in spectacle and haste, snatching the light, and roaring its triumph. It raced back to Ezra, sweeping an emptiness around them as it shrank down and returned back into the little vial that he held out for it.

The lady of the jars held up her own little light, casting a beam off in the direction they needed to head.

“That should do it for now.” She said, nodding in satisfaction. The girl from Europa stood and smiled at Ezra.

“That was wonderful.” She said, having been transfixed by the dragon’s dance.

“It was nothing.” Ezra said, proudly. Whispering a gratitude to the Dragon’s tongue flame now residing safely back inside his little vial.

The blackness did its job. Not only had it blocked the way for the gentleman of the boxes, but it also permeated below the ground. Now, Dimian are used to underground conditions where there is little light, but the magic from the Dragon’s tongue flame does more than paint things black. It disables senses and orientation, and for them it overwhelms them with a pocket of energy from the spell. So, while they consume in their static state, they are completely disoriented, much like the little one that unfortunately found its way into the bag of the gentleman of the boxes. The man too was bamboozled by the snatched light. Now lost in the dark in the middle of the forest. He searched the depths of his own mind for a resource to help him, for he had had enough now of the woman’s meddling charms.


 

Forever winter – Between the jars (How to bottle weather)

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How to bottle 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, a sign of her gentle trusting nature). 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 need it; and need it she most certainly did.

Jars fill her little cottage there by the stream, as the snow tumbles down incessantly outside. She is forever getting new vials, jugs and glass jars delivered. Not so much through her proficiency of usage, but lately, more to her failing eyesight which refuses to be remedied by the wearing of glasses. This leaves the broken jars tipped away in the rubbish, and many a swear word emanating from her little house. But she is at one of her happiest times when the world is chugging along outside her cottage and she is bottling her own little worlds there into jars. The colours, smells, (and at times) shocks, en-thral her still; bottling up such wonders and seeing the majesty and power there in those little jars.

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. This might be hard at first as, depending on the type of weather system, as reciting the incantation while the elements swirl before you can be demanding. Most bottlers work alone, trusting few with the magic; though and extra pair of hands here could be of benefit.
  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-yastone breaks like an egg. This seals the condition inside and prevents escape or leakage.
  7. Store in a cool place where sunlight cannot enter.
    NOTE
    : Sunny weather systems will, ironically, pale if infiltrated by the sun’s rays.

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 heat at 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.


Something to stay awake for – You hurt me like no other

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I wish I could believe you. Or at least have the courage to leave you.

Always the same, predictable. She could set her watch by it. Rolling out of bed at four in the morning. The sticky sheets peeling away like unripe fruit. The thick berry, throbbing dehydrated and disorientated in unfamiliar rooms. What was their name? It didn’t matter. She’ll never see them again. She’d never notice them recognise her in the street or walking past the office door clutching a coffee cup. Yet still she came back, time and again. The one.

Don’t look at me like that. I said don’t look at me this way.

Disappointed stares. They dug into her like a scratching animal looking for food. Tearing the skin away and seeing the blood wash underneath. Checking to see if she bled like them, if she had a soul. Sometimes the eyes would ignore her completely. Erasing her like a waft of bad air in from the street, pungent; but hastily dispersed. And despised. She hated those looks the most. They crawled over her, making her invisible. She would smash her wrists against the wall to check she was still whole, that there was something still of her that functioned; that walked and talked and hurled abuse.

And hurled it well. The neighbours had complained of course, those fuckers. The police had even visited. But she could be quite persuasive. ‘Yes officer, no officer. It must have been the TV. Of course, I’ll be more careful in the future. My number? Well, you already know where I live…’

They hated all that. The random encounters. It had been at the centre of most of their fights. She’d said it meant nothing. And of course, it did. She only did it for the attention. Attention that she was missing. Poor little victim. Here comes that pity party.

All those times, what did you think it did to me? I had to look away.

It had never been the same since moving to the city. Some would blame the bright lights, the lure of the sinful. Lust and danger lurking in the shadows of every street corner. If only they knew. The dangers lurked across her office desk. Inside her head. The polite smile in the coffee shop. Already in her mind. She hadn’t changed by coming here, just giving opportunities to pursue her dreams.

Dreams? Is that what it is? Looks like a fucking nightmare to me. You said you’d change for me!

“I know I did, and I tried…. I have. What do you want for me anyway? I’m here aren’t I?” She scratched her skin again just to check. The fading light outside had darkened the room and she had trouble seeing them, even though they were so close. She could smell them. A wash with alcohol and teeth whitener. The mattered hair and the smear of makeup. Who were they to say anything about her?! She worked fucking hard, she let off a little bit of steam at the end of the week. Big deal. ‘You’re not my fucking mother’.

What a disappointment you are to her. She always loved you, you know; despite what you put her through.

“Shut up.”

That poor woman.

“I said shut up.”

Have you seen that bruise around your eye? The halo that is shining for the devil. That’s not a result of not sleeping or walking into a doorframe. That’s the fear building up inside of you. The darkness pooling like an infection.

She knew others saw it too. When they looked into her eyes now, a chill came over them. Her non-blinking shark eyes. Swimming over the city in survival mode. That, that was what the city had changed in her. Forcing her to keep up with the rest. Go jogging at weekends and drinks after work. Where was the room for her soul to breathe as the miasma of the city choked her lungs and settled permanently in her bones?

She pulled her hair back, feeling the cool air beneath her neck. She knew they liked this.

I want you though. I’ve always wanted you.

She laughed an ugly laugh, full of blackness and mockery. “You want what’s best for us, that’s all. You don’t care about me really. I still have the scars you know, the ones you gave me.”

The itching on her wrists became incessant. Like a bug crawling its way out. Such pretty scars for a pretty girl. A mangled mess of a generation. The hot tap hissed away; she felt the burn on her hands.

It was so easy at the beginning. When you didn’t feel like running away from your feelings.

“Didn’t you hear me? Or don’t you care. Again, and again I scream my thoughts, and you don’t hear.”

What’s the matter? What is it remind you of?

She looked them dead in the eye. A tempest mix of hatred, love and desperation.

I wish I could believe you.

“I wish I could too.”

The low light of the bathroom etched around the corner of the mirror, and the tap she’d turned on began to steam over the glass. Obscuring them from view.

“I wish I had the courage to leave you.”


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Forever winter (part 17)

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SOMETHING WICKED

If you were ever to see a Dimian on its own, a rare thing indeed, you may be excused for assuming the little creature was harmless, desperate and even sweet. Though not being nocturnal, for their hunger drove them despite the hour, when they searched for the source of their sustenance they moved in the darkness and the shadows. Keeping out of sight to catch you unaware.

The danger of the Dimian were they did not discriminate. If you were in possession of some form of magic, then you were a target. Those wizened beings, or those fully empowered by the ancient world of wonder were like walking feasts to them, their soul desire in the world being to consume and retreat for their hibernation. You may think yourself safe if you were to be caught in places where they are known to be, for what magic do we truly possess unless we are in touch with the power? And for that belief, many have come a cropper. Dimian feed on ancient magic, power, and strength; and what is more powerful than hope and love? Those who have been in ecstatic state of love and belief have been befelled by these little creatures, hungrily consuming the light that dwelled within.

Dimian are small, little blobs of creatures who move en masses. They are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, with their skin slick and black like a wet seal. They have eyes, which you will only see when it is too late, the glowing turquoise orbs appearing in the moment of devouring. These little beings move in droves, under the ground like moles; tunnelling through the landscape to find their source of food. Their senses attuned to frequencies that vibrate through the world all around them, fear directing them like road signs, power beckoning them like pleasure. Both the girl from Europa, and the lady of the jars were much too tempting to pass up.

“This is new to me.” The Lady of the jars said, going across to the well before them.

She looked inside, nudging some snow into the black opening and listening to it tuffly tumble into an abyss. The well was of a usual size, nothing unordinary about it. Its sides made of large grey stones which looked to have been settled there for years. No signs of recent activity led to, or from the well, and aside it’s appearance suddenly in her mind, the well was of little importance to the world.

“Maybe you forgot it was here, you’re not as sharp as you used to be remember.’  Ezra offered, shivering a little.

The girl approached the well, touching the sides. But instead of looking down as is usual, she looked up into the sky. The clearing naturally had a ring of trees around it, but the trees all seemed to hang back into themselves, as if pulling away from the well at the centre. The clouds hung low, and you could not see above the line of the trees that circled them. The snow had eased, but little flecks still fell on them silently. Both Ezra and the lady looked up also, following the girl’s lead.

It was slight, no more than a twinkle. Little dusty patches of green hung in the air above the well like motes. These could not have been seen from further away, only by being underneath did they glimmer dully in the cloudy grey above the well.

“Is that….?” Ezra said, and the lady nodded back.

“Yep, it is. Dimian colo.” She said, matter-of-factly.

The girl turned to her, quizzically.

“What do you mean?” She asked.

The lady pointed up towards the green dust above them.

“Dimian are little creatures who dwell under the ground, great masses of them. They feed off of magic and power, charging themselves up before hibernating for eons at a time. In their process of extracting the magic that they feed on, they discharge an element known as colo, which is what we are looking at here.” She said.

“Is it dangerous?’ The girl asked her.

“To some beings yes, but to you and I it will just give us a headache and feeling of sullenness.”

“It’s basically Dimian crap. This is where they dump it out.” Ezra said, turning his nose up to the well and the green sparkles above him.

“Yes, well thank you Ezra for being so literal. Actually, in some magical practises, colo is quite useful.” The lady said, looking on it curiously.

“It’s rather beautiful, hovering there in the grey.” The girl offered, her hand resting on the side of the well.

“If you like that sort of thing.” Ezra said, unamused by it all.

“Well, yes I can see why you would say that. What is troubling is that this is here at all, they have clearly created an outlet.” The lady said, now peering into the well again.

“Perhaps it was hidden under the snow, and the water source had shifted. The well might just lead down into one of their tunnels and they have tapped into the extraction.” Ezra said, peering down also.

The lady stood back, thinking this over.

“Well, yes. Either way, it indicates Dimian activity; and that’s not good for anyone.” The lady said, popping her bag up on the well wall.

“What will they do if they got us then, how do they extract this power from beings?” The girl asked her suddenly.

The lady rustled about in her bag, but spoke plainly to the girl.

“They leach it out of you, they have a power to pull the magic from the cells. They are most deadly in their groups, but on their own or just a few of them will try to extract what they need and leave you feeling weak and even unconscious. They aren’t evil creatures, just needful creatures. Ah ha!” She said and produced a small like jar that had been nestled in the bottom of the bag.

“They remind me of many beings I’ve seen across the cosmos. They move with short sighted intensions, consume and destroy as they go.” She said, her eyes pierced by a sadness that seemed to leak outwardly.

“Yes, actually much like humans indeed. I guess they don’t have the consciousness to change or to see what they do. But there are things we can do.” And with that, the lady of the jars poured a yellow mixture deep into the well. The yellow liquid disappeared down into the blackness, and the girl looked on to see what would happen. Ezra had backed away, and the lady advised the girl to move back too. Suddenly, there was a whooshing sound emitting from the well, and a huge foaming column bubbled and sped up out of the well like a sprouting tree. It glistened like a metal; its foaming branches reached upwards to where the green colo hung.

Like a huge sponge it sucked the colo into it’s folds, taking much of the cloud covering from the clearing in with it. Very briefly, the little group could see up into the sky, the dark navy sea that was splattered with stars. The clouds joined once more, wiping away the image of night and the foaming tree before reducing itself downwards until it stood about a child’s height out of the top of the well. It hardened and dulled, the metal shine fading to a bark like texture. A few stones fell away from the side of the well, crumbling to the ground.

“There, well at least this area will be safe again for a while.” The lady said, closing her bag up.

“Won’t they just move elsewhere?” The girl asked.

“Dimian never stop until they sleep, but we can make it harder for them at least.” The lady replied.

“Dimian are a pain, and they cause a lot of havoc to this place. They’ll move elsewhere, but the harder it gets for them, the more chance there is of them hibernating earlier. They don’t like hard work.” Ezra offered, clearly glad the well had been put out of use for them.

“Don’t feel sad or upset for them dear. Besides, what we are moving towards will put an end to these unbalances of power anyway.” The lady said, offering a comforting hand on the girl’s shoulder.

“We don’t have creatures like this on Europa. Everything assists something else. We’re all connected and reliant on others there.” She said.

“Ah, well I’m sure as you’ve seen here already, a great corruption has taken place. Things aren’t balanced like they once were.” The lady said, almost with a sigh.

The girl from Europa thought about this for a moment.

“You’re right. Balance is fairness too.”

“You got that straight!” Ezra said.

“What we are doing is important for all.” The lady said, shuffling passed the well now and leading them both onwards.

The girl remained just for a moment longer, before carrying on with them. The idea in her mind about balance and fairness seemed to lie heavily. As if this was a key to the understanding she had been trying to grasp.


 

Something to stay awake for – Stain

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It had begun to rain, a light drizzle that peppered the people as they walked along Bradley Way. Not the prettiest street in the world, and today it was overcast with a churning grey cloud that dampened the mood and made things ever more ordinary. People walked up and down the road, seeking out the local small supermarket that had opened just last year. It was housed in a former pub, the Bull and horn; the cigarette stained walls and beer marked floors long since ripped out. Outside, the faux Tudor design was kept, hoping the inn-like appearance would entice more customers. But people shopped here anyway out of convenience. The newsagents across the street had closed a year ago also, the owner packed up and moved away after a red Ford escort had rammed into his shop and robbed him late on a Sunday afternoon. Unless you were willing to cross the giant playing field at the back of Ashen road to go to the giant superstore, the pub-turned-metro shop was the easiest option.

Just near to the store was number 46, and though it was starting to rain, Mrs Taylor was found scrubbing the pavement. She had swept and tidied already, and now she was striking the wet brush across the path like she was toiling the earth. She worked with determination, scraping and scrubbing the ground over and over. She never dressed for cleaning. She was made up in her Sunday best, as if she had just gotten back from church. Though the fine rain had settled on her hair, giving it a web like crown, her hair was in place as if she had spent an hour on it. She was an odd sight to those making their way down Bradley road. After a while, she packed up her cleaning materials and went back into her house, number 46, the one with the red door.

It was grey again. It had rained in the morning, and the streets glistened like slumbering snakes. It was Sunday again also, and the local football club had finished their practice over on the giant field. A few kids had wandered off on their way home, stopping in at the local store to grab a drink and some much-needed sugar.

Mrs Taylor watched them as they walked down her road. She was scrubbing again, hot water and bleach burned away at the pavement. The added soapy suds flowed down the kerb and washed up to the drain, down into the darkness. She watched them, and they stared back at her as they walked by. She did not frown; she did not glare. There was no smile on her face either. Just a determination to scrub and wash, and get the job done. By the time the kids exited the store, Mrs Taylor had finished and returned inside her house. She had gone to make herself a cup of tea, her hands stinking of bleach and had become pale. The kids thought no more of her, and carried on their way home, their hands a healthy peach and holding the chocolate bars like tiny swords.

​-

The whole street knew of course. They watched her every week. She used the same bucket, the same brush. She would start by sweeping up the dirt and leaves that had fallen from the huge oak tree that loomed over the garden from number 38. Joyce, who lived with the tree, had never cared form Mrs Taylor. Joyce was a generation away from the woman, and tutted and shook her head to her antics in private. But if she saw her on the street, she would always nod her head in quiet recognition. To which Mrs Taylor would always nod her head slightly back.

It was Sunday again. No rain today. Just thick dark clouds above threatening the worst. A nasty cold breeze blew in from the south, ripping through Bradley Way like an arctic arm reaching from the poles. She resigned herself to a coat today. She had lost more weight than she would care to acknowledge, and her frail body would shiver in the conditions now. Underneath her plum coat, she wore her Sunday best again. The pearls her mother had given her hung over her dress, little eyes gleaming out into the cold. She had also decided to use some gloves, not because of the cold, but because her hands were now so raw from the bleach. She sat at night picking at the loose bits of skin around her fingers, peeling away the hangnails that had appeared, paled underneath from all the toxins. They stung and hurt.

But she did not care. She wanted to carry on, so she used the gloves to keep the feeling in her fingers to get the job completed. To feel the work.

And she scrubbed and rubbed and washed the pavement.

Bundled up against the elements, Mrs Stokes, and her daughter Ivy were walking along the other side of the road. Mrs Stokes lived down on Humber Way, but she knew Mrs Taylor from the primary school morning mums run. She had seen her at the gates with the others, a gaggle of women with their precious little birds waiting for the gates to part.

Ivy watched her as she scrubbed on her hands and knees, the warm water cascading over the lip of the pavement. Ivy broke free of her mother’s hand and crossed the street without looking, going over to Mrs Taylor. Her mum called after her, following her onto the street.

It was quiet that day, few cars littered the road and there was a peaceful calm.

​“Hi.’ Ivy said to Mrs Taylor, who looked up from the floor. Her eyes were glassy and tired.

“Hello.” Mrs Taylor replied, friendly. Ivy’s mum came up to them, grabbing her hand.

“Ivy, don’t bother her. Come along, we have to get to the store. And don’t run off like that. I’m sorry.” Mrs Stokes said, looking down at the woman. With that, Mrs Taylor looked off slightly, as if searching the road for something.

“Why are you cleaning the path?” Ivy asked suddenly. They all shivered there in the cold. Ivy’s mum began to pull her away.

“Don’t bother her. I’m so sorry, she’s always curious. Come along Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, eager to get away.

Mrs Taylor stood then, much more agile than her demeanour would suggest. She popped up like a dog ready for a walk.

“Its fine, kids are curious. I’m just doing a spot of cleaning. The council seem to neglect this part of town, and the road is filthy.” She smiled then, a warm smile as she looked at the little girl. She turned her head slightly, as if she heard something, then turned back towards them.

Mrs stokes, eager to get going smiled back, hoping it would be the end to the conversation.

“But, no one else cleans the pavement. I’ve not seen anyone do it like you, scrubbing away.” Ivy said, determined to understand. Mrs Taylor was silent for a minute and then replied.

“Well, you see there where you are standing; I just can’t get this bit clean. It’ll take some time, but it will lift.” She said, reaching back for her scrubbing brush, having looked more at the spot where the two stood.

Ivy looked down at her feet, seeing nothing but the black road.

“But there is nothing there.” Ivy replied.

“Come along now Ivy. Leave her to her cleaning.” Mrs stokes said, vigorously pulling the girl. Mrs Taylor laughed a little. A small laugh, brittle from its long hibernation.

“You kids think everything is already clean. I bet your room at home is a mess and yet you think its fine. No no, the stain there, it spreads up and across the pavement. I think it is oil, but it’s taking ages to go.” She sighed suddenly, as if reminded of the huge task in front of her.

“There you see. Sorry to bother you. Come now Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, and this time successfully moved the girl who walked on still puzzled.

They made their way to the store and Mrs Taylor watched them for a few seconds before scrubbing a bit further and then packing up her things and heading back into her house, closing her red door behind her. She took off her coat and went upstairs. She always did this. She went into the front room of the house, the second big bedroom. Hers was at the rear and was slightly smaller, but she liked the view of the back garden. She liked the green. She went across to the window and looked down at the pavement.

“It’s still there.” The little girl said.

Mrs Taylor pulled at the sleeves of her dress.

“I know. I’ll buy the super strength bleach next week. That’ll do it.” She said to the empty room.

She looked up the street as a few people came out of the store. The old newsagents across the road had been turned into kitchenettes. She looked in through the ground floor window, a huge TV screen the size of the wall flashed away in blues and reds.

“Maybe in time, it’ll fade on its own.” The girl said.

She looked down at the spot again. A huge stain on the floor seemed to pulse before her. She closed her eyes and watched the red ford escort zoom away noisily like thunder down the road. She hoped she would never see it again, but she knew she would.


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