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Monday, 5 May 2008
(published 'Stuff' 1993)

It’s darker towards the middle of the room. There’s no fear greater than that of a greater fear. Surprisingly, fear of death is not the greatest fear. John is never surprised. John’s thoughts spark off each other, take fire from fire. John dreads the eventual outcome of John’s thoughts: insanity, complete and utter. John awakes on the parlour window-couch having, the previous night, fallen asleep, John thinks, in John’s usual bed upstairs. The couch is under the inset bay: a wooden surface with narrow mattress. For most of the daylight hours, John has been snoozing between supposed dreams. Now, with the onset of dusk, John infers that the outskirts of the room, including even the windowless walls, are shimmering with light, leaving the central rug between the fireplace and the bay in shadow. Or is the shadow a sooty mist rising towards the ceiling? With growing horror, John realises that the supposed dreams were not dreams at all, but merely what John fears most: the onset of insanity, complete and utter. Then comes an even bigger doubt. The one flaw in John’s line of argument. John’s mind floods with mental flame, as John grows less confident regarding the nature and/or demarcation of dream and insanity. There is, of course, a rogue force called reality which feeds equally from both dream and insanity, but then calls itself sanity for convenience (or just for the laugh). John feels confused, without realising that such confusion is affecting more than just John’s thoughts. All senses sense each other wrongly. John smells awful. John tastes John’s own dead body. John sees nothing but John’s own eyeballs slowly revolving in their sockets, as the scratching at the bay’s window tries to get in. John touches the top of John’s head and feels a gluey substance instead, and this action itself seems to cause John’s other senses to be even worse affected. The darkness in the middle of the room disappears from sight. John wakes up in John’s usual bed upstairs, having slipped peacefully through a dreamlessness more akin to death than anything else: a beauty sleep to end all such beauty sleep. But, surprisingly, outside, there’s still a darkness, complete and

Posted by wordonymous at 6:49 AM EDT
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Friday, 2 May 2008
A While Of Means


 (published 'Zine Zone' 1998 )


All land was south of us.

The sun was low in the sky. We had more than enough wind to fill the raft’s makeshift sail. And we would soon chop more wood for extending our raft to cope with the increasing crew.

So, basically, things were looking up.

My wife was expecting our seventeenth baby. Our first one, Dorothy, was expecting a baby of her own very shortly. My brother and his girlfriend were not Swiss nor a real family nor even called Robinson, but they had ideas above their station. But, despite this, we rubbed along reasonably well, especially in view of the decided lack of privacy.

And, yes, of course, there was a man calling himself Cruciform, Dorothy’s eventual husband, who had not joined us at the beginning of the shipwreck. He arrived out of nowhere, as it were, waking up to find us around him.

He told us we would make land sooner or later, not north as we originally expected, but south of us. There was no need to change direction as, apparently, we had done so already. He built rudder-tiller contraptions at the four corners of the raft which gave the children much joy, vying with each other to steer.

If it had not been for the storm, I believe we would have made land eventually. Instead, we made wood for what seemed (at least to me) like the rest of eternity. Cruciform left us as suddenly as he had arrived, eyes blinking as he woke to nothing but endless sky overhead, instead of our beaming faces.

Meanwhile, Will decided to give Lizbie a bell and see if she were also at a loose end. After all was said and done, Will and Lizbie both possessed a memory of each other’s erstwhile love - and if the past were worth anything at all, the present had certainly missed out on the bargain.

Listening to the evenly mechanical cat’s purr, Will pressed his finger into the correct numbered holes in the dial, but did not actually move the circular metal overlay in the variously measured arcs towards the fixed indented finger-home. Having been raised back home on push buttons, his mind was adrift because he couldn’t hear the minimalist music of the ringing tone. He blamed the fog for dampening down the lines.

He had recently peered from between the curtains and witnessed what a sopping wet blanket the night had become, reminding him of the endless nights on the raft, when he was called Cruciform.

If he succeeded in contacting Lizbie, he would have to use the shooting-wagon and, with its headlamps carving bisected beams into the billowing darkness, negotiate the unfamiliar back-doubles of a town which, at the best of times, was a bewildermaze of T-junctions. Worse than being lost at sea in overlapping fog banks.

Gently recradling the handset, he simply stared at it. Perhaps it, would ring of its own accord.

Meanwhile, Lizbie (a reincarnation of the raft’s Dorothy) sat in her finery by the bedroom window. Despite the uncertain curdling of the fog, she could discern the floating young shaver of a moonrib’s yellow bonelight. The red trill phone was beside her, connected to a wall-slot by a coil of sprung flex: a small device, compared to the walkie-talkie her naval officer father used to tote round when on board ship.

She had long since surrendered any hope of Will ringing her. Despite his inscrutable charm having been barely one notch away from a miscegenate breeding-trap, a tangible love had nevertheless shone through. And because he hailed from the open oceans themselves, he was more of a real man than most. Of course, being a woman, she couldn’t take the initiative - other than the simple osmosis she employed in actually willing him to ring.

Eventually, however, the pair of ex-lovers felt a leap together. Simultaneously, too, they made an easily forgotten encounter in the selfsame seadrift dream -just as the fog began to lift and twin moons shafted through the irrespective portholes.

On waking in the morning, both laughed for no obvious reason, yet instinctively knowing that ringing, from their respective rafts of erstwhile love, had always been beyond any reach of reincarnation - with or without coastal fog banks. Or telephone poles. Mobile phones were only in the future...

Meanwhile, there are handicap races where the participants are intended to arrive more or less together at the finishing tape. Yet, because of unpredictable human factors, such as illness, supreme effort, pacing, targetting, under-confidence, over-confidence, accidents, luck, inspiration, sheer sweat, laziness and so forth, the results of life’s steeplechase can never be certain.

Hattie’s husband Reginald simply adored horse-racing. It stemmed, no doubt, from Reginald and his boyhood chums organising competitive games for creepy-crawlies. He now spent five bob a week with the bookmaker, but never won anything. He followed his fortunes on the telly, whooping and whistling for the unfavoured nag he’d happened to back to forge through against the odds and make his day. Hattie humoured him. Reginald never laughed. And he died not laughing. A cross he had to bear was Hattie.

And today Hattie sits alone in her parlour. The carriage clock ticks ponderously from the mantlepiece. The telly has been dead since Reginald’s day. She never wants to switch on its screen. In any event, Reginald was the only one who could work the controls.

Old age is an ocean-ringed raft, just waiting for capsizing - or is it merely a bare-boned sofa on which even feebler bones are crucified? Physical handicaps, too, include any that affect the chemical substance of the brain inside the head. Senility’s only half of it, however. And even a tumour is, if nothing else, company.

Hattie’s indeed pleased she doesn’t have the nous to turn on the telly. She’s afraid Reginald will turn up on the screen, peering out at her, then whooping and whistling, in his typical fashion, to speed up her slow-motion squirm towards the finish...

Whilst, beyond her body’s hearing, the user-friendly video plugs on. And the tinnitus, from which she has suffered for many years, resumes its ringing in her ears with a renewed vigour -hissing and roaring from an empty conch shell once gathered on a diminishing shore. She doesn’t answer. She cannot even remember her real name. One of seventeen brothers and sisters. Too many names, too few whiles to live.

All land was north of us, give or take an odd pole.

Posted by wordonymous at 5:06 PM EDT
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Pyramid Selling

a collaboration with Jeff Holland

(published ‘Odyssey’ 1997)

A STOCKY man came to sell me a pyramid. And I tried to sell him my teeth.

Neither the stocky man nor myself were successful in selling these things to each other so we both decided to purchase each other’s product (me his pyramid, he my teeth) in exchange for purchasing each other’s product.

After the stocky man left with my teeth, leaving me the proud owner of the pyramid, I was visited by a lucky lady. I could tell she was a lucky lady straight away since she was desperate to purchase a pyramid to suit her new religion.

“That’s a coincidence,” I said with a beam, “Because, lucky lady, I have a pyramid for sale right here.”

“Is it a praying pyramid?” she asked.

“It certainly is your lucky day, Madam, because this very pyramid has the most prayers of any pyramid in the western world.”

“In that case I have a personally signed holo of the president of all five galaxies. Are you interested?”

I examined the holo and could see no sign of tampering but, what the hell, you can’t these days anyway. We bickered and dickered for a while and in the end she bought the pyramid for 17 creds and the holo. What a mug! I knew I could get at least 320 creds for the holo. People like her should stay out of the commodities market. Unless, of course, her new religion did work. I’d probably shot my bolt anyway, regardless of any religion.

I decided that was enough for one morning. No use using a week’s worth of luck in one go and I only had two more hours to fill my week’s quota.

Perhaps now was the time to get out of commodities and try something else. I looked up at the screen to see what was on offer.

It was on ‘5’ and ‘soldier’ seemed like a good thing so I applied. The officer on the screen took my number and asked how many hours I had left.

I told him “Two,” and he explained I needed at least 168.

“I don’t mind waiting.”

“Report to section three on the third day of the third month. After your duty you will have another three month’s holiday.”

I spent three illegal and profitable months in commodities and reported to section three.

I knew I’d done the wrong thing straight away.

The stocky man was a loud mouthed sergeant and he wanted to get his own back. He set the lance corporal on me, snapping his teeth like he was real and not a holo at all.

JOANNA SAT back from her creation and said.

“Well, how was it? Did it gel?”

Thomas nodded. After all, he was the man in the centre of things. He was the “I”, quickly now becoming a “he”, as soon as Joanna stopped pulling images from the air.

“The stocky man? He was full of shit, wasn’t he?”

“He may have been. Like with all commodity broking, promises of goods are worth more than the goods themselves. You can sell on a promise, then build upon everybody honouring their promise - except you of course.”

“Joanna, so his pyramid was merely a promise, like if you put a razor blade inside the pyramid, it sharpens overnight?”

“Sort of.”

“As if...”

“Yes, I was the lucky lady, didn’t you recognise me?”

Thomas now allowed it to dawn on him exactly what had been going on. He had actually been gulled into believing...

But what about the creds and, yes, what about the years and years he had been a foot-soldier? That’s where the promises had become threats. He had been imprisoned within a vicious circle of false ambitions, ever eager for the next bend in the square-bashing until like itself became a triangle, then a...

Suddenly he had a vision of a three-cornered hat, towering like some film star’s obsession with a UFO landing-place. It was glorious. The sun glinted off like gold, spreading divinities into every nook. There was even heat.

Tommy desperately tried to escape the reality but even the thought eluded him until Joanna turned down the power. Even then the thought was impotent.

“Let me out!” he screamed but only the roar of the UFO emerging from cloud laden sky was heard.

Joanna switched off the reality and truth came flooding back.

“That was brilliant! How long was I under?”

Three days. But I did bet you sleep for four hours each night.”

“It felt as if I was away for years. What would have happened if I’d ‘died’?”

“I don’t know. I only programmed the computer, I don’t really know what it’s capable of.”

“Well, I’ve perfected the chip receiver. I’m sure I can come up with some way of injecting it into people from a distance. Perhaps it might work in food. Hey, that’s an idea. If I can get it in the food you can make them go and get a proper injection then. They’re ours forever. How many can one control?”

“As many as you like, as long as you don’t mind them having the same reality.”

“Joanna, I think we’ve just invented the ultimate pacifist’s weapon.”

JOANNA SAT back from her creation and said.

“Well, how was it? Did it gel?”

This time Tommy didn’t nod, afraid of some perpetual motion of realities within realities.

“Yes, Joanna, the ultimate pacifist’s weapon,” he continued, risking the possibility of unknown repetitions, “but also, potentially, the ultimate warmonger’s weapon.”

“Don’t forget the visitation,” said Joanna, “that encounter of the near-infinite kind. All that cream and doughnut mixture and so forth all coned up just waiting for peaceful comings...”

Tommy shrugged as her words drifted off. He realised he had just argued against himself, yes, against his own self from a previous reality who had only been too happy to assume the best of all possible worlds, a pacifist’s world where pyramids were perfect protection from any sky’s dangers. It was as if the carefully plotted angles allowed time to slip off on all sides without touching those within. But his skull felt as if it were sharpened into a bone spike.

He and Joanna were two of the prisoners inside a circle of straw and pig-shit walls. Soldiers marched round, with their helmets pointing at the sky, soldiers who guarded the entrance (or exit) to the next reality. There was to be no escape from this straw stockade, a stockade with broken teeth embedded in it.

Soon, Johnno Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, would goose-step towards them - but Thomas smiled. Although religious holos like Joanna and Tommy were credulous enough to be hurt by name calling, they could hardly have their bones broken to make brittle wigwams for holos of Red Indians to sleep in. Something more solid was required to attain reality. The first bit had worked, worked only too well, but now both time and reality were slipping away together into a cream-and-doughnut mixture that surrounded the spiked dome of now.

“You’ve lost it, Joanna,” said Thomas, “You’re back to what you had before. It doesn’t make sense and because of that I questioned it and…”

“Dreams are not meant to make sense, idiot!”

“I didn’t know I was \ he was dreaming. If he didn’t know that, then he questioned reality and because I knew that reality could be unreal he could see through it. Oh flick! That means that you can only use it once.”

“So? How many times do you want to win the same war? Once they’re in the programme we can do anything we like with them.”

“Like you mean we can make them forget what they were doing in reality? Give them false memories?”

Joanna looked at Thomas. “Were you celibate when you were a soldier?”

“No, of course not. Not for...oh, I see, you mean we programme the enemy to think they’ve fought the war for our ideals and have actually won. It’s not what you’ve made us do but what we think they think they’ve done. There are no false memories only memories of the prog, that are indistinguishable from reality if you don’t know reality has been altered. In other words, don’t tell them.”

“At last,” Joanna said, the exasperation clear in her voice. “You just hadn’t thought about it had you? How the hell do you think all your sexual feelings were right? Not from me, I can assure you. I haven’t the faintest idea what it’s like for you to have sex. I’ve downloaded the entire Encyclopedia Galactica into the programme. It’s as perfect as I can make it except that, as you say, it’s a ‘once only’ weapon if anyone knows about it.”

“Oh, my God, listen to you. Do you know what you said? What it means is that this weapon, if that’s what you want to call it, will not work on anyone who even knows it exists.”

“As I said, how many times do you want to win the same war?”

“No. Joanna, you’re missing the point. The weapon won’t work on us.”

‘‘But we’re not the enemy.

“We are now. We only have to tell Frank next door about it and it won’t work on him either. Do you get my drift?”

The blood drained from her face as realisation dawned. They had not only the ultimate weapon but they themselves were the ultimate defence against the ultimate weapon.

That night Thomas and Joanna crept quietly, along with their knowledge, into obscurity.

Posted by wordonymous at 5:03 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 29 April 2008


 (published 'Space & Time' 1993)

The boy was browning off at the close of a long day in the hot sun.

His companion, a svelte girl without a stitch, turned her head as if to speak, but was stopped in her tracks, since the sun had abruptly disappeared behind the distant mountain and cast a long monster’s tail of a cold shadow over them both.

They squinted at each other,
since the backs of their eyes retained the imprint of the scorching orb.

“We’d better dress.”


Their words were in a foreign language.

They fumbled for their clothes since, having been taken unawares, their fear was mixed with confusion. They were no older than it took to be alone together in barely less than innocent nudity.

As the darkness gained further purchase, all they could see were the whites of the eyes; their pulse rate doubled in intensity; and, through the gloom, their hands found comfort in each other’s.

Towards the girl and boy, a shaft of sun hurtled, like lightning - from the side of the mountain, through a cut-away in the uniform rock but only for a second. It was sufficient to establish that their clothes had evidently been snatched whilst they were dozing in the torrid afternoon. The darkness, once renewed, engendered goose-pimples the length of their limbs and violent shudders along their spines. The cold was doubly cold fromt he contrast...

They had grown up together, since their respective sets of parents had been more than just good friends. During the endless nights of Winter, the grinding of their parallelograms of sex had disturbed the youngsters’ sleep and mingled with the snorts that the beasts made when they tested the peripheral defences of the camp¬site.

And the snorts were approaching now and the camp-site was more than a mile away. They never thought it would happen to them. Love childer, blessed with complementary grand trines in their natal maps, could never meet a nasty ending ... together.

But they soon discovered that nasty ends come to us all; the art of life is merely in the timing ... and death comes deadlier than expected.

Another sun-shaft beamed through a more substantial cut-away further down the mountain’s flank and lit the feral plain…picking out the still twitching shambles of rare to medium flesh. It glinted upon the scuttling carapaces of star-born winterer beasts, having eaten to their fill and no more. The sun finally slid behind the bulky foundations of the mountain, only to be gathered into the bosom of the earth for the closed sesame of night.

The parents were preoccupied, as they turned together in the hinged beds. They did not bother to pray that their children might discover erotic pleasure in the mutual perpetuation of interwoven ectoplasm.

“Burnt to cinders amid the shyfryngs” was only one line of a forgotten song, hardly decipherable amid the lowing of wandering winterers.

Posted by wordonymous at 4:15 AM EDT
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Martin and Me


 (published 'Trash City' 1991)

The mask was identical to the face Martin wore beneath.

They’re meant to be uglier than your own mug. Martin. No point otherwise -especially at a Hallowe’en party. I said this with a tongue in my cheek, as he knew I knew his face was nothing to write home about. And it would probably scare strangers shitless. particularly those of the gatecrasher variety...

‘0K. OK, joke’s over. You’ll be laughing the other side of you face before the evening’s over.’

If I didn’t know Martin better. I would have suspected something sinister in that loosely veiled threat. I could even have believed he wasn’t joking.

We were not exactly gatecrashers ourselves, but it was a bit like a friend of a friend of a friend thrice removed who was holding the party in King’s Langley. if you know what I mean. We’d heard at least the rumour that all and sundry were invited. So, here we were, climbing off the M25 in Martin’s 2CV. Neither of us had been North of Watford before and we were eager to discover whether there was life up there...as the saying goes. We knew there would be. but that didn’t stop us chortling on the joke as the rubber band inside Martin’s jalopy finally unwound, bringing us to a halt in the car park of the Rose and Crown, where many of the guests would be tanking up in readiness for the long night ahead.

I turned to Martin and kidded him about all the badges he was wearing on his Albanian Flapjacket. I think he must have belonged to every club and society going

including both the Foxhunters and the Anti-Blood Sports Associations. Whether it was just another of his silly jokes or he genuinely didn’t know his own mind, even now, after all the events have finally finished unfolding. I remain unsure.

It’s the story of my life, I know, but to cut a long story short, we’ll go straight to the party which turned out to be a pretty drab affair. Even the strobe lighting in the room dedicated to disco dancing was about as limp wristed as my next door neighbour’s dead mother. Martin and I carried out a few desultory jigs together, but the hotel foyer muzak was not exactly conducive to a real shake-out. On top of this, there were next to no birds. Even Alfred Hitchcock’s film had Tippi Hedren going for it. Unless there was a room upstairs where they had all congregated: packed like kids in a Sardines game to escape Martin’s ugly mask. Every guest at that shindig wore trousers and hugely dated floral ties. Not one badge between them, to gauge the fellow feeling, if any. Furthermore, not even one backslapping howdyado from a hale and hearty host, eager to make his guests feel at home. But thinking about it, I could have felt at home anywhere, given an amorous nature.

Eventually. Martin gave me the nod. Back down the M25, to see if we could catch up on a bit of real nightlife in more familiar territoiy. We felt like fish out of water, or at least I did. Martin, well, he was just Martin, as inscrutable as ever.We walked off the dance floor and thus out of the limelight of the torch that the DJ was flashing upon us from his plinth.

Suddenly we were accosted by a bright young spark who called himself Aretha Franklin.

‘That’s a funny name for someone who looks as if he’s just walked out of one of Hitler’s gas chambers.’

‘Hark who’s talking. With a face like that...’ - Aretha pointed at Martin’s mask - ‘I bet your face wouldn’t win a beauty competition against my bum.’

I looked quizzically at Aretha’s backside, but could find no clue as to why he had made such an outrageous statement.

Martin evidently decided this was it. He was standing no nonsense from the likes of this Northern upstart and he immediately made a hefty kick at Aretha’s backside.

‘That’ll change the odds somewhat - I hear judges don’t like bruises on the merchandise.’

Or that’s what Martin’d probably have said, given half the chance. For, in the event, his leg was left stuck up at right angles, the foot sunk to its ankle in Aretha’s buttocks. The trouser seat had disappeared with the merest ripping noise, leaving the weltering cheeks literally to munch up Martin’s calf. I tried to steady my friend, as he hopped precariously on his free leg, as the others watched this amazing fandango in which the three of us were participating. I noticed the arrival of the Bad Crowd. Every shindig’s got them, even down South. But this lot were the worst I’d ever seen. Plug Uglies to the bone. Undergrunts to the letter. Martin’s face was not even in the same league. The fact that made them seem particularly horrendous was the female gender they wielded. Fresh from girl talk, no doubt, in that Ladies Room I’d imagined earlier, they were-waving red-stained panties as if this were some preliminary to a mating dance. If I’d ever fancied a bird, now was the time to stamp homosexual authority on my proclivities...

To come clean, it was a good job that Martin’s really only my alter ego and his leg, if I can put it this way, my metaphor for manly pride. Aretha (whose real name turned out to be Digory Smalls) wasn’t all that bad looking, despite my earlier misgivings...and the Bad Crowd eventually skulked off churlishly, presumably crestfallen, hopefully back to the Ladies Room where they belonged together.

Posted by wordonymous at 4:10 AM EDT
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Sunday, 27 April 2008
The Black Drought

(Published 'The Bloody Quill' 1999)


In these hard, awkward days in your distant future when a Vampyre cannot even get a decent drink, my plight brings tears of a pink cast to my eyes and faint quiver of the upper lip upon my toothsome fangs.

It's the Black Drought that did it. I cannot bring myself to syphon up just any blood unless I know where my subjects have been. Creatures from the ancient past, such as yourselves, are no use to the likes of me. Too much of the bad blood, if you see what I mean.

My suffering is becoming so piquant, I'm having to find other means of sustaining my undead soul ... this soul which is the Way Station of the mutated veinwork of my carnal body. Only in Vampyres can the logic of Nature really be seen for what it is; only on being born an Undead, can one truly follow the uncharted mazes of God's work.

Anyway, enough of philosophy?back to my urgent theme, the plight of my kind in your unreachable future.

You may well ask: why is the wasting away of a Vampyre deprived of its external blood sources not as bad as that of you unfortunate victims of the Black Drought?

Well, we vampyres (note the spelling) know full well why.

Ours is an infinite wasting-away whilst yours is finite.

Let me lay it on the line: in periods of Cosmic Menopause, we can, at least, like a parthenogenetic camel, as it were, survive upon recycled blood. Perhaps I should give you a lesson in the biology of the Undead. Blood in, blood out. That's our catchphrase. Most food that you used to consume turned dark brown on exit. On the other hand, blood that we imbibe stays bright red, as pure as the day it was pumped by the young supple hearts whence it came. But, until these post-Drought days, it has always been deemed crudely cheating and almost unchristian amongst we Nosferatu Fraternity to recycle blood. But when needs must...


I'm in terrible trouble. Aeons have now gone by, since I last wrote to you. And still no supply of fresh blood. What I have left is growing pinker and pinker like paraffin the more I use it.

As even the tiniest moments of time pass, I am sure my bowels are growing their own teeth between the various byways of the intestines. Even the most unlikely inner and outer orifices of my body seem to be cutting a molar or two. It may be in my mind, but my innards are so desperate they are moving about like creatures within me, searching for the nooks and crannies where real blood - my original birthright as a mortal - is secretly hoarded.

Am I to experience a real death for the first time? I feel my own bifurcating bones suckling gently upon the slowly emptying sump within my innermost reaches, the last refuge and sanctuary for my own blood from the thirsting jaws of you ancient creatures within me.

Posted by wordonymous at 7:30 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 27 April 2008 7:32 AM EDT
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Sunday, 20 April 2008
The Optimum Pose
A collaboration with my father, Gordon Lewis (1922-2007)

The painter erected the easel whilst the subject of his inspiration wandered in the background seeking the optimum pose.

“Stand there Isabel... near the lamp.”

“But isn’t the light all wrong? I thought you wanted a subtle silhouette rather than a full frontal!”

The painter — a paunchy man with a goatee — laughed out loud.

“I’m not a photographer. I’m an artist. Things will shape up from my mind as much as from what I actually see.”

Isabel — a rather tall woman in a dressing gown — took an ungainly stance, leaning on the arm of a sofa.

“Is this OK?”

“I’m not sure… perhaps you “

The man pointed at the tassel of the dressing-gown, hinting at what her next move should be.

Abruptly, there there was a banging from above. The ceiling shook and the light fitment twirled. This was an earthquake region, after all, but there had not been anything quite as formidable as this particular tremor within his years living at the foot of Attic Slope — a meandering forest that reared into the sky on one side of the valley.

Mrs Arkson — the cook and general domestic help — rushed into the room without knocking.

“Mrs Arkson, I’ve told you never NEVER come into my studio like that!”

“I’m sorry Mr Williams, but... I was scared… the saucepans fell, didn’t you hear them.”

Jonathan Williams shrugged — still furious at the interruption.

The model, meanwhile, was standing by the window, staring into the distance

“There are two people on horses coming,” she said, as if nothing had happened. “One’s got a big tall hat.”

“Isabel you had better change back into your outdoor clothes,” said Jonathan Williams, as he simultaneously hustled Mrs Arkson towards the kitchen. He absentmindedly picked up an ornament that had fallen off the mantelpiece. Luckily it was of a bronze statuette and not one of the porcelain figurines dotted about the room, some of which had been dislodged from the positions they had been in before the earthquake tremor. Just as he was in the process of straightening them there came the sound of loud knocking at the front door followed by the insistant clamour of the front door bell.

Jonathan hurried in response knowing that Mrs Arkson was hard of hearing (or pretended to be deaf when it suited her purpose). Opening the door he was confronted by a man and woman in riding habit; the woman near to swooning was being supported by the top-hatted man who was the first to speak.

“May we rest here a while, perhaps you’ll be good enough to let me use your telephone. My wife and I have become disorientated after our horses bolted during that blasted earth tremor. They had been skittish before it happened, seeming to know there was one coming. I am Sir Malcolm Youngman and this is my wife the Lady Sarah. She is still in shock I think after our experience and I would deem it a great favour if she may rest here a while.”

Accepting that they were who he said they were, Jonathan invited them into the drawing room.

“Would you like a drink, perhaps a brandy would help settle her Ladyship’s nerves?”

“You are too kind” said Sir Malcolm but I do agree it would be a great help, especially for my wife.”

“You may use the phone whilst I see to the drinks if you care to.”

With that Isabel entered the room clad now in a smart tweed suit. She was introduced to the unexpected callers and made aware of why they were resting in the drawing room.

“We are the guests at Lord Arthur’s place, some miles from here,” said Sir Malcolm. “I thought it wise to let him know we are safe and comparatively well, and that we will return to The Grange when we have regained our composure.”

He then picked up the phone and proceeded to do just that and was already seated when Jonathan entered with a tray of drinks.

“I think brandies all round are called for, that tremor upset us too, just as I was preparing to paint a portrait of Isabel...”

“I thought I recognised you,” interjected Sir Malcolm, “aren’t you Jonathan Williams the artist?”

“I have been addressed as such among other things, and I like to think I do paint portraits passably well.”

“This is extraordinary,” replied Sir Malcolm. “My wife and I were thinking of having our portrait painted in Hunting Pink riding habit. Could we see some of your work whilst we are here? Perhaps we can make arrangements to commission you to paint us sometime in the near future.”

“In the near future? Why not sooner, Sir Malcolm? Why not now? Mrs Arkson can soon clear up the minor collateral damage...” The Painter swung his arm in a semi-circle as if to demonstrate how minor. “And then you can sit for me. Both of you can sit, indeed. I am always ready to oblige. And, of course, your dear wife...” — the Painter turned with a smile towards the blonde bombshell who had been introduced as Lady Sarah—

“would look exceedingly well in Hunting Pink, set off by a rosette... ah yes.”

“Have you then, such costume at your beck and call, Mr Williams?” boomed Sir Malcolm. “This natural glitch, shall we call it, in earth’s tectonic plates must mean we have time to spare on what was otherwise a pressing matter for my wife and I. We have to be sure there is no looting, no loose morals... waiting for such behaviour to be quashed by the authorities might allow time to stay and sit...”

Meanwhile, Isabel, the erstwhile sitter, was busy attending to household duties alongside a now calmer Mrs Arkson — who, no doubt, had quickly righted the saucepans before returning to the domestic fray in the sitting-room (or drawing-room, as the painter called it). Isabel was no slouch as far as the main chance was concerned — and she had spotted the glinting gems at Lady Sarah’s throat. But she took care, also, to balance Sir Malcolm’s chimney-hat upon the mahogany claw-stand… as if this very act issued a stamp of approval to Sir Malcolm and Lady Sarah sojourning, albeit temporarily, at the foot of Attic Slope.

The phone suddenly sounded out an old-fashioned ring. This proved, at least, that the lines had not been damaged during the earth tremor. The painter waved it aside, but, in defiance, Mrs Arkson hobbled over to answer it.

“Yes?” she croaked, holding the mouthpiece as far from her mouth as viably possible. She listened for a while — then, putting her hand over it, she turned to the assembled company and made a simple annoucement. “I cannot hear exactly what they’re saying — but the gist of it is that the army have surrounded us!”

“The Army?” the painter asked dumbfounded.

Mrs Arkson returned her attention to the phone and again took up a listening pose. Isabel had simultaneously scooted over towards the nearest window and reported spirals of smoke rising up beyond the ridge of Attic Slope. Sir Malcolm and Lady Sarah appeared bewildered — either by the antics set in motion by the telephone call or by the decided lack of attention they were receiving, evidently, eager, as they were, to sport the clothes in which they were to sit. The painter, however pulled himself together and hustled his guests towards the nearest wardrobe, where a whole selection of garb in Hunting Pink did hang.

There was obvious disappointment at what Sir Malcolm and Lady Sarah saw in the wardrobe.

“They will not do at all,” they said, almost in unison, “They’re a bit old fashioned don’t you think?” said Lady Sarah pointedly. “We have our own tailored outfits at home, I think we ought to wait until we can get them before you start painting us,” she concluded.

“It really was not our intention to pose for you at this time, we have not discussed terms, and we really ought to find out if we can return to Lord Arthur’s place; they’ll be worried at our prolonged absence... Perhaps your servant got it all wrong about us being surrounded by troops.”

With that there came a knocking at the front door. Jonathan hurried to see who was there knowing that Mrs Arkson would only respond to the ring of the bell in the kitchen. He was surprised to see a group of soldiers standing on the forecourt. The officer in charge touched his steel helmet in salute as he spoke.

“I hope the noise of our manoeuvres hasn’t upset your household, Sir. They will soon be over, but I would advise you to remain within the confines of your property for the next hour or so as the exercise passes this way to the final phase.”

“Thank you officer,” said Jonathan, “we wondered what all the kerfuffle was all about, especially coming so soon after the earth tremor we experienced, I hope it didn’t affect your exercise...”

There was relief all round when Jonathan took the news back to the drawing room, and as Mrs Arkson came into the room he spoke irritably to her.

“You must have had one of your deaf moments when you answered the phone; you got the message all wrong; the army is mainly on a training exercise. Be off with you and prepare a light meal for our guests.” Then turning to the two visitors he invited them to bide a while until everything settled down.

“You’ll have to stay a while now, perhaps we can discuss terms about the portrait you want me to paint. We could fix a date for later in the year. Would you consider adopting a pose for me now; I could draw a preliminary sketch while we wait for tea to be served. It would give an idea of what attitude you would like to adopt.”

The temporary pose was thus swiftly conducted by both Sir Malcolm and Lady Sarah. Despite the need to remain frozen, Sir Malcolm was continuously fidgeting, evidently concerned that he was showing his ‘best side’ or he wasn’t being sketched to the full effect of what he considered to be his winsomeness. Lady Sarah, in turn, nervously fingered the studs at her throat, darting glances to either side. A watching Isabel decided Lady Sarah was acting like a frightened rabbit, sufficiently attractive, however, once to have been a bunny girl in the suspiciously salacious establishments that were said to exist beyond the sedate realms of Attic Slope.

The ground, though, was hardly sedate, continuing, as it did, to suffer a series of after-shocks. The Army fellows seemed to be patrolling outside, taking part in mock salutes and practice parades. The punctuating shouts of one of their number was decidedly irritating to those currently billeted — in strange tableau — within the painter’s house. The painter himself continued to scribble vigorously with his pencil, making overt shading manoeuvres with the well-handled lead-point as well as more suspicious streaks and strokes apparently trailing across the whole expanse of his pad-top, skidding against the grain and against the splintery knots in the recycled paper. He hardly seemed to look up at the fidgetting poseurs... to check whether what was emerging on the coarse drawing-surface bore any resemblance to the actual reality it purported to imitate.

There followed some fitful discussion on the Philosophy of Aesthetics before the guests eventually left, staggering as they did, against the onset of further after-shocks — acting as if they were on a wind-tossed ship. A groundswell of applause filtered from the army fellows as the guests departed on fresh horses (steeds supplied, indeed, by the army authorities, as a token of good will).

Isabel waved to the couple from the front door.

“Don’t worry — I think the worst is over,” she called, as she fiddled with the shiny splinter in the palm of her hand which she had picked up off the carpet near where the couple had been posing. She had spotted it glinting within the pile, just as the couple made their farewells. She did not think they had spotted her prising it from between the tufts.

Isabel returned to where Jonathan was meticulously tidying up his pencil-box. She then took one glance at his preliminary efforts regarding the anticipated full-blooded portrait of the just departed couple.

“You’ve left out the jewels,” she observed.

“Of course,” Jonathan said. “I saw you staring at them and I thought they would look much better on you.”

And he quickly snatched off the pad’s top sheet revealing a second — more accomplished — sketch which he had surreptitiously drawn, no doubt, under the cover of seismic confusions which had earlier ensued. This second drawing depicted a scantily clad Isabel, sporting Lady Sarah’s sparkling paraphernalia — all evidently, executed from imagination alone. At which point, Isabel opened her hand, to reveal nothing... nothing except a fatal fleshy pinkness.

The ground shuddered.

Mrs Arkson was the first (and last) to realise that pride always came before a fall or, in this case, the worst after-shock of all. At least, the war had been fought — not won, not lost, but finished. She smiled. The optimum pose. The ultimate one, too.

The claw-stand toppled over, squashing the forgotten chimney-hat. Then the drawing in of night, hunting tremors through the body of the earth.

Posted by wordonymous at 5:26 AM EDT
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Monday, 7 April 2008
Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Llanelli R'lyeh

Published 'Crypt of Cthulhu' 1995



He felt as sane as ever, whilst recognising the fact that he was feeling quite the opposite.


Bryn was a family man. Nobody could argue against that. He lived in a semi-detached with a reasonably typical wife and children. They loved him, despite his faults. They trusted him, hanging on his every word. Ordinary people, all of them, including the most extraordinary one—Bryn.


Until today.


His wife was so ordinary, he had even begun to take her for granted.


But not today.


He desperately needed her help. Not that it wasn’t an ordinary day to begin with. Yet, he had woken up with an awful headache, one that seemed to affect not only him but everybody else he met during the day—by suggestion, as it were. Or so it seemed. Nobody had really complained of a headache. It had probably been wishful thinking on Bryn’s part that they may have had the courtesy to share his pain.


It had also turned out to be an awkward day at work. The phone hadn’t stopped ringing. When his colleagues in the office, including that giggly pair of junior filing-clerks, answered the damned trill­ing beast, the callers seemed to be relatively sensible people, judging by the words spoken at Bryn’s end. Or as sensible as it was pos­sible to be in the commercial world. However, when Bryn randomly picked up calls himself, there were complete madmen at the other end, talking in a strange language which was quite a few more notches to­wards nonsense than even Welsh was.


Now, at home, he found himself flailing his arms about and scream­ing blue murder, which, although not completely out of character, rather startled his wife by the un­usual ferocity. She had scuttled the children upstairs whilst she rang for help. 666 she had dialed, instead of 999, all her fingers being thumbs. Whilst Bryn was quite un­aware of such a detail, he did know that he was the same as ever inside. Yet he desperately needed his wife to recognise his desperation.


His mind was besotted beyond even obsession.


Amid his farts and flings, jab­bing limbs and croaking burps, the tongue curving back like a swallow—amid all such reflex traumas of mind and body—Bryn simply knew he was sane: the sanest man in the whole world, even if it were a san­ity insufficient to plumb his plight.


Indeed, he would’ve required a hefty dose of crude insanity even to reach the correct angle of ap­proach so that he could diagnose his dire predicament. And then, of course, such insanity would need neatly to revert to its sister sanity, for the benefits of such an angle to be reaped.


He watched his wife return to the living-room, a look of panic on her face, only for her to shoot out again as she remembered that the children were cowering upstairs in a state of confusion. Their erst­while rock of a Dad frothing with the tossing rapids of his own mind was not exactly conducive to a bal­anced upbringing, was it? Bryn shuddered with a shame he almost felt. Once upon a time he remem­bered acting quite normally—arms moving in methodical tune to the actions his brain dictated, his mouth master of its own lips, eyes seeing the things they were actually see­ing.


Unlike now.


With everything stalling, except the mind itself.


Suddenly, Bryn found himself single-mindedly seeking out those he loved. He needed to squeeze their bodies in one final paroxysm of love. Humans were separated by the mere walls of the skull: a pitiful, if sometimes pitiless, plight.


He stormed up the stairs of the semi-detached he and his wife had bought together soon after their honeymoon. The tears in his eyes were simply his mind crying, not the eyes. The tears were wrung out via vessels of the body that normally carried blood or marrow or, even, waste. Such vestiges of sorrow did not prevent his hands wringing similar fluids from his loved ones—just like his old mother used to do to the washing on her now legendary wash-day. (She had insisted on even the last tinge of dampness to be painstakingly expunged, before hanging them out.)


Eventually, Bryn surveyed the strained fruits of his work. But, being at the wrong angle of juris­diction, all he could see with his bloodshot eyes were dead bodies, as opposed to murdered loved ones.


Hanging on his every word.


Welsh sounding words.


Posted by wordonymous at 12:09 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 7 April 2008 12:13 PM EDT
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Monday, 24 March 2008
Off Beat



 Published 'Premonitions' 1995


Like a suicide pilot, he had climbed to the top of a tall smokstack and wondered if he was meant to jump.


Robin knew he had to keep quiet, maybe tell a few old drinking chums at the Black Fen pub—because, the sooner uttered, the sooner forgotten.  The evening had been blowy since about six, but when the storm actually hit home at ten, everybody knew they were in for a rough ride.  Robin had just tucked his kids in, telling them that wind in England, even on the East coast, could not hurt anybody.  Tracy looked up with her large innocent eyes and swallowed his words, along with the dregs of the orange juice. 


            "Night, night, Daddy," she squeaked, snuggling under the covers, as if nothing could harm her now.


            "Night night, dear."


            Tom in the last room along the corridor made a teenage grunt as Robin knocked to say goodnight to him.  Tanya in the middle room was already asleep, so Robin only lingered a few seconds after tucking in the thick bobbly sheet around her neck.  It was no ordinary wind.  By midnight, as he lay in his own bed, he could feel the house vibrating around him.  The windows shook as if they were desperate creatures thrashing to escape their frames.  In the distance there was a crash which on an ordinary evening would have sounded like an aeroplane nose-diving into the suburban streets.  The chimney roared like a giant hoover.  There was something churning around inside the blocked off chimney breast.  It groaned like a prisoner in the condemned cell, wailed pitifully and, in evident panic, leapt up and down the inside of the disused flue, a crazed monkey-rat.


            "Daddy, Daddy," he heard from within his head: a plaintive call that had no direction.  He blocked his ears, but still heard the call that had no direction.  He blocked his ears, but still heard the call, sharper now, almost rabid.  It seemed to be a creature that could not escape the walls of his skull, the sound bouncing from left to right and back again in horrific stunted stereophony, like a young woman having a mastectomy at the hands of a clumsy surgeon.


            The storm in fact left no sign of its damage.  Robin wouldn't have believed it anyway if he'd seen trees down, with their roots shamelessly exposed.  No, there was indeed no wind in England sufficient to harm anyone or anything.  But that idea about having three children was really something.  Weird.  But like all ideas, as soon as remembered forgotten—and he went off to have a chat about chimney breasts.  He wanted one of his do-it-yourself chums to come round and remove one for him.


            The wet pavements ran yellow with the city night.  He idled at the corner of Bay Crescent, waiting, waiting, never ceasing to wait for an excuse to wait ... until he was moved along by a dark faced policeman. 


            "Move along, move along, that's all I get!  I'm waiting for ... yes, for a girl friend, and how will she find me?"


            "Where's she coming from?"


            Robin thought hard and eventually muttered: "Frinton-on-Sea."  He moved along, away from the policeman, speaking to the slanting shadows of the lamp-posts, not waiting for their replies.  He thought they were more policemen stalking him out of their precinct.  Abruptly, he reached an unlit area, indicating the outskirts of the city, but there was just sufficient residue of illumination at the back of his eyes to see a narrow slick guttering down the back wall of some factory.  He relaxed and listened to its slurps, knowing that the policemen would not venture this far after minor prey such as Robin.  Neither would the girl friend.


The sky lit up with a thunderflash, frightening Robin with a vision of his own face reflected in the puddles.  It was not raining, but it seemd that recently it must have torrented from the biggest darkest black cloud that some called night.  His thoughts were items he could not himself quite fathom.  He took after his mother who had also been a thinker and had taught him the correct way to cross a thought, looking both ways, then marching straight across without fear of the monsters encroaching from the wings.  Smiling, he wished he had been older and his mother younger, then they could have courted each other.  She would not have kept him waiting. She may even have borne him three lovely children of his own to cherish.  She'd always wanted grandchildren.


            He went towards the wall to sniff the redolence of the slurry scumming down it.  No smell, but that, Robin decided, proved nothing, for his nose was bunged up to the nostrils with its own characteristic stench.  He placed his little finger in the flow and tentatively placed its tip to his tongue.  Quite sickly sweet, with an under flavour reminiscent of seaside rock mixed with his late father's home-made wine, and a consistency of curdled milk.


            The storm had evidently passed over without even one gust.  The highly coloured lemon wedge of the moon was dodging between the scuttling patchwork of night's covering.  Standing on tiptoes, he stretched up his hands, ignoring the lancing pain set in motion along his arms by the jagged glass embedded in the top of the wall, and levered himself into a position whereby he could see over it.  The place looked more like an asylum than a factory, with one tall chimneystack limned coldly against the whitening and spreading of the misty moon.


            He was grasped by the scruff of the neck as he toppled over inside the grounds.  He heard a screech in his ear and a face of running boils peered closely into his.  "When you crossed the road near St Paul's, you didn't look both ways, did you?"  The words hissed out, as the creature proceeded to squat on Robin's open mouth.  A policeman, far off his proper beat, whistled as he passed along on the other side of the wall...


            The skylights blazed.  The best-boy waved.  The lens-shifter dropped the tea tray.  The assistant gaffer lurched into the wardrobe ... and Robin's Show began.  Millions of TV sets were switched on all round our green and pleasant land to watch the nightly trip into good conversation and famous faces.  Someone, looking like Robin, sat opposite, with a wide open plate of a face.  The frothing tankards of special brew seemed to breathe and pulse in time to the underground steam train rattling away beneath them ... en route between stations that had closed their entrances for fear of too many war evacuees herding along the platforms and brimming over on the tracks.  There were not enough outlets for the smoke.


            Robin's companion indicated he was dying to relieve himself and, whilst crossing, uncrossing and re-crossing his legs, he propounded the theory that if cows are left unmilked for too long, they explode and thus do away with the butcher's art.  Robin, his eyes pure white and sightless, announced: "Good evening, Ladies and those in the Gents..."  A light chortle took itself one by one across the studio audience.  "My guests tonight you may not be too familiar with, but, after tonight, who knows?"  And as his guests tugged and pulled each other in the guise of actually shaking hands, the audience suddenly realised that the pair of them were joined at the waist, like Siamese twins.


            "Now, Mr Fenn, what can you tell me about boils?  Sorry, I didn't mean to say that—can you tell me about what you actually saw?"  (Could it be that the famous TV chat show host and his guests were speaking in perfect unison?  On a live, unrehearsed show?)  "This is a historic moment, dreamfolk, when host and guests are one—tune in, blow on the screen to brighten it up and turnstile your private parts 'gainst unseasonable interruption.  The great dome of St Paul's Cathedral had bigger got, 'cause of the war.  They needed it like that to deflect the bombs on to the houses.  But I was the one who thought of putting up high-rise office blocks a-straddle it by Ludgate Circus—to stiffen it further, for not only did the alien monsters plan to float in like giant hang-gliders and use it as the basin for their further entrenchments into our green and pleasant land—but they were to lead in wider, more shadowy storm critters with long skinny legs which would eventually brood on our roofs to hatch out those that cringed within—that's you and me, folks.  We needed protection, but the high-rise blocks took on a life of their own, bred other high-rise blocks, nurtured nasty natty men who paraded themselves in mock of us, dealing in shares, stocks, trusts and junk bonds.  Those towering office monoliths sprouted arms with mighty hammers that pounded at our poor St Paul's dome until they cracked its big end like a skull..."


            The audience silent grew, for what they had feared would now surely happen—and their favourite host waved a fond farewell.  The pupils of Robin's eyes began to prick out as he heard thousands upon millions of clicks that indicated the switching off of millions of TV sets across the land.  Bedtime drew on apace and the nation could unravel its private parts for a while in needed exercise, prior to making tourniquet knots of them 'gainst night piss.  Getting purchase by means of the chimneys, the thin winding monster-legs tightened around houses and homes, as the last tube train hissed to a halt below the foundations of the city.  The creatures brooded long and hard, since nights doubled-up on themselves then, and days were just selling themselves short, peddling Futures in the black markets of despair.  Meanwhile amid the Essex marshes...


"Get thee gone to Jaywick Sands!" they'd said.  And so, Robin became the TV reporter commissioned to employ the forces of the media to stimulate action against the increasing use of seaside resorts as sewage outlets.  Swimming was like being force-fed, they'd said.  The Weirdmonger, Black Fenn, Lavatory Todger, Dosserman Weggs, Feemy Cat's-Meat and Jack O'Lantern were there to meet Robin, where creek and land merged ... to ask for TV publicity to formulate the election campaign of their new pressure group, temporarily called the Condom Party.


            But to whose votes did they aspire?  And was there to be an election anyway?  And, if so, on what platform would they stand?  The Weirdmonger was all in favour of hiking through South America from hustings post to hustings post.  But that, some argued, would be pretty useless in garnering support round Clacton way.  Perhaps he thought Southend was in Argentina or, more likely, Tierra Del Fuego.  Black Fenn vigorously suggested that Walton-On-The-Naze should be their jumping-off point, till someone who, if Robin reported correctly, was himself, mentioned the small problem of the Nazemen, sworn enemies of throwbacks such as human beings.  The Nazemen could indeed do more than a mischief to the campaign by spreading scandals relating to the pressure group's peccadilloes.  Black Fenn, who was at this very moment wrapped up inside a blow-up rubber doll with makeshift chimney-breasts, wondered what Robin was getting at.  Lavatory Todger, who had in fact had some dealings with conglomerate advertising agencies (i.e. when marketing his sewage toting services in the unplumbed parts of the East coast) suggested a high profile campaign.  Black Fenn grunted agreement, but the Weirdmonger said he would have nothing to do with nancy-boys nor the self-confessed wankers of the City near St Paul's.  Dosserman prepared to put in his two halfpence worth: but with odd socks on, his views were not taken too seriously.  So, the debate turned again to South America and whether there were likely to be any joy-rides from off Walton pier and, if so, would they sail into the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro (a port city currently twinned with Leigh-on-Sea)?  Jack O'Lantern, fresh from throwing light on affairs in the oldest part of Colchester, waved about a used flag.  It was soon furled however to prevent it becoming easy meat for any foe currently eye-wigging.  Robin offered his tongue instead but that was too long and stringy, no good for getting round words.  Feemy Cat's-Meat burst forth with a tour de force.  He proffered a view that the marsh folk, the Punch and Judy attendants, the side-show tattooists, the deck-chair imitators, the promenade slickers, the bent solicitors, the shanty town drifters et al, all those seed merchants, seaview purveyors, marshy back-enders and the whole gamut of Low Essex life from creek to beach, from Roman Wall to the South's bottom end, were only likely to vote for the campaign if policies could be created for which they wanted to vote.  No good setting up images, quite beyond the common men of coast and parlour, an image like one of alien monsters from outer space taking over this blind corner of the world called Essex in some half-cocked attempt to further the arch-monetarism of some devil which lurked in the pipes underground.   Why not keep it simple and teach them how to read fortunes in those new-fangled water closet bowls after its skimpy flush failed for the umpteenth time? 


            The others stared, each lost in his own thoughts, with no obvious way out.  Padgett Weggs had the last word, but not even Robin was sufficiently compos mentis to appreciate the true importance of what he said, which was this: "I think we should hitch to Frinton-on-Sea and lay a few chicks, before it's too late.  We'll be past it, otherwise, and everybody else'll've got their own personal bit of skirt, bar us." 


            And they all got up en masse and frantically sought a paddle-train to catch as it churned away from the endless dripping marshes.  But not quite en masse, for Black Fenn didn't want to come.  He preferred to meditate and gently suck the involuted teats on the inside of his costume, gently puffing smoke from out the nipples of the breasts.  The Weirdmonger said he would have preferred Buenos Aires, but Frinton, he had to agree, was, on the face of it, next best.  So off they traipsed, most of them, alongside Dosserman in his quest for love and beauty.  Jack O'Lantern lit the way with his fireflies, Feemy Cat's Meat not far behind as he masticated contemplatively upon his own chewed-off boils.  Robin felt that none of it really had the quality of a proper memory, but that didn't mean it wasn't one.  Then, they heard in the distance the lonely drone of an aeroplane...


            Robin found himself thankfully, if peculiarly, alone.  He saw the aeroplane crash at approximately four o'clock.  It banked steeply over the marshes, then just seemed to splutter to a halt, smoke billowing from the cockpit.  No sooner seen, it sliced into some far-off trees with a splintering roar.  He couldn't believe it.  He must be the only person around these parts to see it happen.  It was literally hours since he had viewed a Colchester with its uncharacteristic domed cathedral nesting in a distant valley.  He felt responsible somehow, as if merely looking at the aeroplane had caused the accident.  Worse than that, it would be up to him to scramble across the squishy terrain to see if there were any belated survivors.  Would it not be preferable to forge straight back to where he recalled Colchester being and raise the alarm there.  That would get the experts on the job.  Better than him making amateurish, mock-heroic attempts at rescue himself.  Caught upon the prongs of a dilemma, he decided to do neither; he merely sat on a tussocky weed, pulled out his pipe which always seemed to help and puffed away, assuming that the world and all its troubles would wait for him to catch up. 


            The smoke continued to spout from amid the shattered trees.  Robin was horrified when he arrived there.  The flaming trough which the nosecone of the plane had divotted was at least a highrise-block deep.  There were a number of passengers still trying to clamber out, despite the ferocity of the sporadic fire around them.  But it just couldn't be!  The whole scene was beyond comprehension.  The survivors appeared to be flickering shadows actually part and parcel of the living flames.  Not even TV pictures alongside his report would make anyone believe this news story.  He had indeed tried to reach Colchester but, by getting lost, found the crash-site instead, deceived into thinking that the smoke was emanating from the town's central factory chimney.  The plane itself seemed to have disappeared altogether.  Surely it could not have taken off again, after allowing the maimed and half-dead to disembark?  Robin squinted into the sky where he could just discern the wrecked aeroplane gliding with the large black birds. 


            He pulled out his pipe again and proceeded to fry a new-laid egg upon the scorching earth.  Embedded in the semi-hemisphere of the yellow yolk bulb was the translucent body-shape of a miniature human still twitching.  Thank goodness things couldn't get any stranger.  In due course, he slowly rose to his feet.  The fire-pit created by the crash had gradually relinquished its imitation of a long vertical volcano, but dark perforations and fragile black sculptures of ash still floated upwards intermittently from the erstwhile core.  Robin wondered how, why and if he had seen a plane crashing in the first place.  No doubt they would tell him at Colchester if there were any flights missing.  But would he ever reach Colchester at the leisurely pace he now assumed?  He deposited the bony carapaces of some insects into the stained bowl of his pipe.  All was silent as he teetered upon the brink of his own thoughts ... except for the gentle nuzzling voices inside his head calling "Daddy!"


            He felt the balance of a hand upon his shoulder and, turning, he found it was that damn policeman, off his beat again.

Posted by wordonymous at 7:26 AM EDT
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Sunday, 9 March 2008



Published 'Sepia' 1994 



You know what it’s like. As soon as the family gets home, I’ve got no time even for the natural bodily processes, or almost! Alan always arrives first (he comes on the overnight coach), clutching a potted plant - sometimes I think he must be shy, hiding behind the biggest bloom he can buy. I soon packed him up to his old room to get ready for dinner while, with nose duly pegged, I drop a whole term of his dirty washing into the twin tub. I don’t resent doing it really - I know how hard students have to study.



Harry and Peter are late. Christina’s come, of course, bringing me a bumper box of Black Magic, I can’t tell her, can I, that I’ve been off chocolates these last two years, because I suspected a link-up between them and migraines. You can understand, can’t you, Eunice, you of all people, You have to steer clear of so much with all your allergies, I must break off now, as 1 can hear the sound of Harry’s Citroen coming up the drive, I expect Peter’s with him.



Alan’s potted plant looks so pretty in the middle of the dining-table. I’ve cooked a hearty breakfast - I know how Harry likes mounds of fried bread when he’s here at home. Alan will be a bit annoyed when he discovers I’ve no mushrooms.  Went clean out of my head yesterday. Christina still avoids cooked stuff for breakfast, but there’s plenty of fruit juice and cereal for her, It’s a pity, though, her feeling a bit off colour this Morning. I’m a bit worried that Peter’s a day late, Harry says he wasn’t waiting outside Clapham South tube station at the appointed time to be picked up in the Citroen. I must say Harry could have waited around a bit - something about the parking being bad in that area though. Alan came down late for breakfast of course, if you’d had a son of your own, Eunice, you’d understand. Despite the lack of mushrooms, it was good to see him tuck into a plateful of eggs just done to the turn.



Christina’s in the garden, sun-bathing, she says, Easter’s a bit early this year, I told her, she’ll only catch a chill, I must say, though, I love her wide-brimmed hat, her Basil bought it for her in Toledo. But Basil’s persona non grata these days. Pity, I liked him - ever a good card at whist. He was fond of me, too, always untwirling my apron strings when I’m in the middle of something dangerous in the kitchen. Laugh? I nearly died! Harry and Alan (who, I may have told you, never got on together as little boys) have gone off in the Citroen. Peter’s still not arrived! He could have tried to give me a ring. All the boxes must have been vandalised by those lager louts, I shouldn’t wonder, I don’t like using phones.



Raining pretty hard now. Christina stayed out in the garden till the very last moment. She hasn’t told me yet how her little florist business is going these days, I expect she’ll get round to it. The Citroen’s not back yet - they said they might be late for dinner, Something about finishing up visiting you, of all people, They’re probably with you now, I hope they’re not too much of a nuisance, They always called you Auntie, I know, but they shouldn’t have visited you unannounced like that.



I’m not tired at all. Though it is time I made the Horlicks. Nice of you to ring, Eunice, with the news that Harry and Alan are staying over with you. I know you said it’s no trouble, but I can’t help thinking that they’re imposing on you. Christina’s here, sat by the television, I hope she won’t be left on the shelf. Good Friday often seems the right time to take stock. I wish Bob was still alive. My bed’s been more lonely the last two years. I know you had a soft spot for him too, being a real gentleman as he surely was. Peter’s not rung.



It’s taking me a long time to finish this letter. Peter’s absence is now really beginning to worry me. Christina’s gone off to meet the next train, she says. How she knows he’ll be on it, I don’t know. Perhaps she has some other errand in town while she’s there. You rung up again, told me the boys were OK, The potted plant looks a bit worse for wear. I think it was dying on its legs when Alan first bought it. He’s got no common sense between his ears. A bit like his father. But there’s no good trying to change people. It’s a nice blowy day - I think I’ll hang out the washing. It’s hard to make plans for meals, when everybody’s out and about and doing their own thing. Must go now, phone’s ringing. I’m a bit slow these days, Ooh, I hope it’s Peter.


Two days later

Sorry - I’ve been very busy cooking. But I promise I’ll get this letter off in the post today. Christina’s in the garden - it is certainly warm for the time of year. But I do wish she wouldn’t go topless - I don’t know what the neighbours must think. Peter rang at last. Apparently not coming. Something cropped up. Youngsters have a lot of commitments. I’m glad you kept me informed about the Citroen. Broken down in your drive, apparently. They’ll go back to college straight from yours. Well, it’s on the way, any rate. When I next see you, I’ll give you the Black Magic for looking after them. But what about Alan’s washing? He’s probably forgotten, He’ll live in those jeansful of holes for the whole of next term. You say I shouldn’t carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I wish Bob had never smoked. I think I’ve got a migraine coming on, I shouldn’t have got so much food in, Christina eats like a bird. Well, Eunice, I hope the boys weren’t pests and that your rash is under control again. I’ll write you a proper letter tomorrow, when I’ve found your address and Christina’s gone,

All my love,

Mrs Tidy






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