Bridgette (3 parts)

5,002 words/ 3 Parts  (just putting this back after having to remove it last year) 

Part One

Bridgette walked through the narrow, vapid alleyways of forever and fucking always, and spied him under the meagre appeal emanating from the street light’s lousy lumen; rain water dripped incongruously from its helmet – the monotone, monotonous rhythm made her want to thread her eyebrows with copper wire.

Instead, she scraped one heel over the cigarette she’d devoured. Its tawdry red lipstick had momentarily beautified her nicotine yellow stained fingertips. The sudden tiny blackboard screech made her teeth scream with the reminder that she still needed her heels repaired – another on the long fucking list of to dos and problematic questions of how? These were all noises that accompanied her grumbling stomach. Who would take care of those? Maybe another week without credit for her gas meter?

Maybe.

Bridgette decided to sit in contemplation on the damp, artsy bench dedicated to someone time forgot. It probably cost enough to feed the homeless around here, her included – pretentious pricks.

Still with money on her mind, she was subconsciously eyeing his bulge when she folded her arms across the cheap blouse that screamed on deaf ears for cover. As he leant over to pick something up from the grimy, wet floor, he obtruded even more until finally something flipped over the edge of his pants and onto the pavement. He seemed stuck in an unforgiving position due to the obvious hazards of an unhealthy BMI currently showing him a thing or two. Fucking BMI was not something Bridgette ever had to worry much about; food to her was like a long lost pen pal. Cigarettes were her new friend, and on good days, or bad, a little of the other.

Her lethargic and resentful scrape across a few of the disjointed paving stones echoed badly at the opening of the hollow tunnel she’d come from. The archaic ballast in this dingy part of the city ground on her and her teeth, again. Shit hole.

The city was always in a confused state with its backdrop to anarchy displayed in the garish bad taste of graffiti alongside the pert, metal alloy, meaningless artwhatever style benches – too Banksy to sit on with their antagonistic curled lip pushing through the concrete – Yeah right. Like we all fucking do that, she often thought. Sometimes the statement was a fair one, but the bench was way too hard to sit on, and totally impractical, always draining her of body heat – acceptable for those who liked to mull their ideas on a busy Saturday afternoon eating their McDonalds or fish and chips. Lucky bastards. Selfish, modern imperialism.

In the normal scheme of things, Bridgette could care less about isms and artists, or if she got them right. She cared that she was starving and cold and smelt like an ashtray. Ciggies or food? Ciggies or food? Or maybe some nice person could get her what she really needed? In my fucking dreams. She often thought that, too.

They knocked heads as they both reached for his brash, leather, embossed wallet.

He pulled back slightly as her cigarette breath nearly killed the hard wired circuitry in his brain, temporarily throbbing beneath the electrified buzzing grey steel of a retro lamppost adorned with the claw carved etchings, ‘Banjo loves death’. The sentiment made Bridgette’s eyes roll. Arseholes.

His body, which was lagging way behind his sweaty, bulging eyes, caught up and rose stiffly as she handed him the wallet. He mindlessly flipped its clasp, then tapped it a few times, rocking back and forth in his shiny shoes. Bet they have a sole on them…fecking idiot.

Bridgette’s mind wandered to the possibilities of battered cod and whether they would still have any at this time of night at Munro’s, and whether the sodding bus would be late again.

She heard an awkward “thank you” as she shivered in her ill considered
clothing.  The rain, waiting in the seething clouds, would get her for sure, for her choices later.

Bridgette thought a lot in those terms and was wondering again about the warmth of the chip shop.  She remembered the man.

No problem, you clumsy bastard, she thought, no problem.

Physically, she simply nodded, while mentally she was attuned to a finer, more important facet of her existence: if she didn’t get any curry sauce or even fish, and stuck with the crappy chips that always had eyes as big as the spores of black mould in her dingy bedsit, she might be able to take the number 43 from Kings Cross.

Avoid the drunks.

She’d been felt up too many times before, and the smell of stale alcohol always left her colder than she was now as she attempted to move past the weird looking bloke still visible, still expecting something – what that was, Bridgette wasn’t at all sure about.

She shifted from foot to foot, twisting slightly as she peered into the distance – a small experiment to see if indifference and the lighting up of another cigarette would be any sort of clue or turn off. She blew smoke right where it might catch him downwind.

Normally, Bridgette was a chimney and would toss her head back as if she might be protecting one and all from the innocuous but delicious chemicals that she spewed on a regular basis – at the same time feeling like a film star of old. But if she was honest and brutal with it, she only felt old with each cigarette; wet cigarettes only served to increase the morbidity that clung to the analyses of her situation these days.

He hung on in there making Bridgette feel uncomfortable, and Bridgette was feeling enough of a lot of things today. She didn’t need it. Arsehole.

Her reflexes and hunger had got the better of her, and all too late she noticed that she had been standing quite near to the taxi rank while deliberating over starvation or survival, and she was now getting wet. Had it only been 15 minutes since she had parted company with her “friend”? Christ! And, ‘the wallet’ was, after all, well justified in standing there.

Her arm began to itch and throb. Fuck! She’d forgotten the healing wounds of ice picked veins under the miserable excuse for camouflage. Bridgette bit her lip and coughed a damp cough; its warmth turning to steam in the dismal air.

“Excuse me.”

Her shoulder flinched at the tap from a chubby finger that led all the way to the bulging eyes. Oh, fuck. “Yes?” Bridgette stepped away to make clear that her space was her space.

“I couldn’t help but notice some distress.” He gestured to the entirety of the scruffy, flimsy clothing, the black spidery mascara and her shivering wreck of a life. An unfamiliar accent came across the bitter night air.

I have plenty of that, just that, and nothing much else to give… so move along. “Er, thank you. I’m fine. A wee bit cold, but otherwise, fine. I’m waiting for my bloke. He should be here soon.”

His reply of ‘Oh‘ was as rounded as his eyes and belly, and Bridgette tried to shrink into her clothing a bit more.

He came at her again.

Oh, go away, or give me your fucking jacket, or your shoes, or your life! “Look,” said Bridgette, her tightly knitted brows aching. “I don’t mean to be rude, but can I help you?” And whatever it is you want, I haven’t got. I am cold that’s all, and tired and hungry. I don’t have a fella, and I need something, it’s starting to fucking hurt…

“I am sorry, Miss, it’s just that, I er… I am lost here – on a flying visit and I got lost.”

Yeah right, and you have all this money and a spare half an hour… He was still fumbling with the wallet.

“I was about to call dinner. It has been a strange day, and a long one. Since you were kind enough to help me earlier, I wondered if I might repay that kindness with some hospitality.”

Are you fucking joking me? Bridgette was stunned. Trust was a torturous issue. Like religion, she didn’t have any and, again like religion, she deemed it unsafe and insane, especially today.

He continued, keeping his distance, “I have a daughter your age.”

And what age would that be, weirdo?

He lifted the flap of his jacket and tried to wedge the wallet back in. “She came here years ago on a whim and in a temper. She never contacted us again. That’s why I am here, I need to find her. I need to see if my little girl is okay. I guess your family worry about you too, Miss? So I hope you can understand my intrusion a little bit.”

He stepped back a few paces more as if to acknowledge Bridgette’s notable concerns.

And, I look like the Embassy’s advisor? What do you fucking want?

The exhaled frosty air streaming out of her was reminiscent of smoke, any smoke at this point. Fuck! She remembered that she’d smoked her last cigarette trying to thwart this no good letch off.

Bridgette grappled with her faux leather pouch bag to hide her discomfort, and what else, she wasn’t sure. She felt heavy, tired, hungry and weak; dragging around baggage like her life behind her on a rope was tiring, and the rope never seemed to wear any or become frayed enough to set her free.

Oh dear God!

Rumbles from Bridgette’s stomach turned her small, face red, and she gritted her teeth. Her jaw clenched with embarrassment and resignation. Maybe a bite to eat in full view would put an end to this. Maybe I’ll die either way. Maybe the earth will swallow me up and this perv will take a hint and leave me be. A wave of genuine maybes hit her like a tsunami. She didn’t actually want to be let be; left inside where it hurt and where the pain echoed in her extremities, numb from the cold.

She could feel her knees buckling and head swim before the whole dizzy, dank street went black.

Part 2

Bridgette came to. Her bulging eyelids flickered, opening and closing to the steady rhythm of heavy rain dancing on a mass of uncollected, black plastic bin bags. She recognised them as a by-product of underfunded local councils. People’s lives were like leftovers, left to rot inside insipid cartons of bacteria, the discarded minutia of rubbish or traysh.

Bridgette liked to quibble, to annoy as many people as she could. Right now, she was too removed to really care.

Death oozed from the black plastic; its pungent aroma soon arrived at her swollen and crusted nostrils. Bridgette could hardly breathe and gagged slightly until she spluttered blood. It fell in a globular stream into small puddles between the cobbles. She knew where she was. In the low morning light, she watched her blood be cradled for a short time before she began to cough. She was forced to spit.

Oh my god! No, no, no! Fuck, no! Bridgette was in pain, half-numb, but was remembering.

The pain was unreal. She suspected, at the very least, that her ribs were broken due to a bad experience one night when she was so broke, she went down on a stranger. He became very reluctant to give her the much promised and much needed money for food… or something else. She spat at him, and he kicked her ribs in.

She spent the night in A&E, but she consoled herself with the hope she might at least  be fed. It was long overdue; the subject of her habit paled for roughly three hours before she was back out there with that neon sign on her forehead, which said,

*Kick me. No, really, I deserve it.*

Bridgette was soaked to the skin in the alley. A thick rat’s tail of hair partially covered her eyes; she couldn’t move a muscle to remove it.

Fuck!

Pain shot through her body bringing her to full consciousness. She stared at her cold hand. Its pallid colour was the background to black and blue splotches and deep grazes full of blood. An elegant butterfly tattoo was practically indistinguishable. It was her last tattoo, and very symbolic to Bridgette. She hoped one day it would inspire her to fly far away from her battered hope and dreams, and make the life she craved for herself.

Please fly. You won’t ever fly again.

Bridgette was delirious and still staring at her hand, which lay beside her face. It felt to her like every bone had been shattered. Soon, the horrible memory of it being trodden on hit her.

His sweat had dripped as he looked down on her. His lips twisted and his eyes were filled with rage. He had just come.

What the fuck do you want? Bridgette screamed. Inside, she cried for her life.

Meanwhile, he had stood to belt his pants, stopping once as he yanked the leather strap tight, before he spat at her. His shoulders bounced, accompanying his perverted laughter. Without a second thought, he brought his foot down hard on her pleading hand, smashing it back to the ground where he thought she deserved to stay, forever.

I could be your daughter. You’re a fucking monster. I hate you. I hate you… I still hate you.

Bridgette’s memories were becoming confused and black again.

With peripheral vision, Bridgette could see her torn pants strewn on top of one bulbous, bin bag. And a shoe, which had been her only weapon, she remembered, had also been cast adrift. It was the only chance she had had in the violent struggle.

Her flesh, especially on her heels, felt raw from being dragged and scraped from where she had dropped, perhaps a few hours ago. The rain continued to fall. Its unkind prickles left Bridgette ready and willing to die.

Breaking the monotonous sound of rain came a gentle crawl and crackle of tyre on the gritty, dank lane. Music emanated from a car, cruising for an early score. It was barely daylight.

Please see me, please, look down here. You waste of skin. Please do something good… Please!

Bridgette coughed up more blood. She soon found that was all she could do – she could move nothing. Her pitiful cough was not going to help her. Using her bruised eyes behind the heavy, rain and blood soaked hair, she tried to follow the car as it passed. But in the end, all she could do was listen. No! Christ!

The car left a trail of a familiar song, slowly dissipating as Bridgette lost consciousness again…

* * * * *

Bridgette had run home from school with a rejuvenated conviction, having been thrown out for the last time for sleeping in class and causing trouble. Expelled for fucking defending myself.

In her bedroom, her radio defiantly blared out, ‘Leave this Shithole’ by The Wranglers – very apt, she thought, as she grabbed at clothes and shoved items into a rucksack, not really thinking, only wanting to run, to once and for all leave hell.

Just get out of this shithole. Don’t worry. Get a job, see life and meet people. Good people. All that jazz.

As Bridgette grabbed and stuffed, hard footsteps pounded up the stairs; even on carpet her mother could make a fuss. Fucking drama queen. She pushed open the door, flinging it so hard that it hit the bedside drawers. She stomped to the radio and switched it off.

Bridgette didn’t bat an eyelid and continued to grab things while her mother paced, wringing her hands when she finally began to speak; not harshly as her demeanour might have implied, but she was stammering and clumsily spitting words.

You’re pathetic! You’re wasting your time anyway.

All Bridgette ever saw was the same old bleary head of viper tongues hissing and stabbing at her – another horrible person backing her into another dark corner until she feared her ears would bleed or head implode.

At the age of 14, Bridgette tried so hard to believe in God. She did for a short while, but only so that, if there was a god, it might see her life and strike her mother down and evacuate her father to the bowels of hell. Sorted! she thought.

Bridgette was well used to these tirades and didn’t give a rat’s arse anymore. Her mother was still bemoaning to Bridgette that her skirts were like belts holding up her legs with ‘…more leg then skirt’ and ‘what is with those stupid, tarty, black raccoon eyes?’ There were no questions about school, her rucksack or why she was leaving.

I don’t give a rat’s arse anymore, Gloria.

She continued to prattle on and on… about how Bridgette was ‘a big girl now’ but pranced about half dressed, half of the time, ‘and in my house…’ And then, ‘no wonder he…’ The snarling mother bit her lip, hard.

Bridgette stood rigid, like a red-hot poker. The over-gorged rucksack fell to the floor, and useless items fell from every available nook and cranny.

Yes, bitch, bite the fucker off, and bleed to death. Bite that lip like you have always done. Bite it hard!

Bridgette always suspected, deep down in her aching heart, that her pathetic excuse for a mother knew, and that her mother knew she knew about the abuse Bridgette suffered.

Even more perverse, when Bridgette grew older, she’d more or less gathered that her mother didn’t see Bridgette as a vulnerable child who needed her mother to fight for her – to slay the sleazy, twisted dragon, or, rip his fucking head off and take her the hell away. No. She saw Bridgette as a threat.

Bridgette repacked the rucksack. She coldly looked at her mother and hoisted it onto her shoulders before turning to stand inches away from her – the pathetic woman was now visibly trembling; her cheeks twitched and the dark circles were damp.

‘When I leave, I won’t be that fuck’s ‘sweet little girl’ anymore. This shithole will be a bad dream. Maisie down the street will have him all to herself. Did you know about that Gloria?’

No? Well, you know it now, ‘mummy’.

Bridgette leant over and picked up a tatty bathroom towel from her bed and rammed it into Gloria’s hands, after prizing them apart.

From the age of nine, Bridgette had tried various ways to booby trap her door, in case, god forbid, she might have fallen asleep before the boozy fire-breathing dragon came. The rub of the wet towel wedged up in a roll on carpet at the foot of her door, together with the soft shoulder force against her door from her father would almost certainly wake her, or so she hoped.

She hardly ever slept from that age. She couldn’t stay awake at school. Teachers and kids bullied her for being quiet, tired, or for falling asleep… She couldn’t tell anyone why, ever.

Is it my fault? It’s all my fault. I love my daddy, but…sometimes… I hate him.

Wet knuckles gripped tear stained sheets. Her sheets were useless armour. She would sob and cry, ‘mummy, mummy’, only to find out years later, that clearly the wicked, heartless bitch of a monster mother could actually hear her, but chose not to hear.

You’re going to hell, lady, if I have to drive you myself!

For as long as Bridgette could remember, she’d called her mother ‘Gloria’ since it was hard for Bridgette to see the woman as a ‘mother’. She wondered if Gloria had always been that way or if the torment in their lives had changed them both irrevocably. She doubted she could remember good times now, even if there had been any.

* * * * *

Time had inched enough that it had stopped raining. The sudden brightness of light hurt Bridgette’s eyes, as she slowly tried to open them. It was well into morning. She was so much colder now, and she saw that her hand was now completely black.

There was the intermittent beeping of heavy lorries backing up… they were not far away.

Please collect the bin bags. Clean up this shithole. Help me. Somebody see me, please! Mummy…

Part Three

Soft groans escaped Bridgette’s battered and blood-caked mouth. The immense pain had become more than she could bear. Colder and a lot weaker, Bridgette still could not move. Her mind inevitably stirred as she came out of the blackness: roaming, looking over her shoulder, fighting, cowering, desperately wanting to run and hide, wanting to bury herself under her sheets again.

The world’s full of fucking monsters.

She could hear distant words in her head: ‘I have a daughter your age…’

‘And what age would that be, weirdo…’

I hope not. Christ! You useless freak. You couldn’t even kill me properly. Why didn’t you kill me? Somebody, please kill me.

It wasn’t my fault! Help me. Please, help me… Anybody!

Bridgette couldn’t physically cry as she stared out into the bleak lane through gaps in the bin bags. Sometimes cars cruised by. Her eyes were on alert, even though they stung like red-hot pokers. More random people passed on occasion, but they were too busy with their phones or briskly walking into their daily fucking lives.

Go on, eyes down, sucked into your mindless plates of processors. Please, look over here! Oh, god…

Bridgette could never afford a phone… or decent food. She sold her soul twice a week for cigarettes, amphetamines (or whatever was going to help her ‘escape’) along with her chips. The sordid ritual was easy since her dad constantly took from her, from the age of 7.  It left Bridgette with little regard for herself, her body or people. She had apologised her way through life, taking beatings for it. She’d always be fucked, she reckoned, in life and in death.

Bridgette was more alone and vulnerable than she had ever been. In her delirium, she fought with fleeting feelings of forgiveness.

No! No way! NO! Not you, and not my dad. If I ever find you again, I will kill you… Both.

Yet again, she found herself fighting to stay awake in piles of filth, like when she was younger… and for over half of her life. Piles of filth had become her life. The filth had now consumed her.

Stay awake, Bridgette! Don’t you fucking fall asleep. Stay with me. Stay here!

Bridgette’s cheek was pressed hard onto bleak, quilt-like cobbles – the indentations on her flesh were swollen and blackened. She was beginning to die.

* * * * *

Streetwise Bridgette was like a cowering rescue dog that would typically bite before anything. Loneliness stuck out of her, just as much as her ribs these days.

On cold, desperate, hungry days, or just days with daylight in them, she would try to remember things – I just love to punish myself. I must be that stupid.

She often sighed for the halcyon days of homemade, roast dinners with green vegetables, potatoes and gravy coming with warm, kitchen smells and mock slaps on the ear for her pierced nose and tattoos, both obtained once she’d finally snapped.

She had become fed up with restraints, constraints, and conditional rice puddings. Fluffy smiles turned to frowns as soon as she entered a room on Sunday afternoons, especially if she had nothing to report of her life as she trod the hamster wheel of limitations she had set herself on, all just to appease them.

Was it ever like that though? Fuck knows.

Even here, cold, bloody and alone, the black tar of memories struck like the bully it was. It was all a lie. Fluffiness only happened when relatives visited. Only then would those delicious smells permeate the air. Hiding behind all of that was the thick black squelch of her putrid life.

Don’t go to sleep in the dark – there be dragons.

Sure enough, monsters came in that darkness. They helped shape Bridgette into the ‘lost and found’ person she had become.

Some of her more tired and faded tattoos would ache from needle marks; they were the same unfriendly and often crude figures that used to give her the feeling of freedom. Only one tattoo said it all. It was the main drive of her existence, but bruises and blood now blotted out the majestic butterfly. She had starved a good while to have it done, passed out while having it done and, from then on, began to believe she could someday fly above her fucking mess. Sadly, deep down, Bridgette knew she could never really fly… or for very far.

You will get me out of here. I know you will. Even though it will be a fucking long way to go, to go nowhere, Bridgette often thought.

* * * * *

In the dingy, bleak alleyway, Bridgette’s sore eyes twitched rapidly. She kept wondering what had set him off when she fainted. Her head reeled in agony and confusion. She automatically began to blame herself; despite her pious beliefs, she knew she was often unable to resist any chance of hope.

Why didn’t he scoop me up into his arms and carry me to Munro’s? Why didn’t he help me?

No big shock there. Another one thinking with his trousers, scraping me along the grim glassed path to the fucking alleyway – scum! He didn’t know me, but hated me enough to…

Just then, through the clump of frizzy hair partially covering her eyes, Bridgette caught sight of the shop window opposite to where she lay, and vividly recalled the vast mountain of black shadow thrusting into her relentlessly in the rain. All during her ordeal, when she could no longer fight, she went further than the shop window and pretended she was inside and warm, trying on fur hats and sumptuous coats because she was so very cold, while the monster…

There is no god – I made him up. Add another sick overture to my life.

Bridgette’s synapses were on overdrive, though her will was drowning in blood. She could feel her bra, which was halfway down her body, laden with the papier mache rain-soaked notes, which, she remembered, he’d shoved down her blouse after he had tried to brutally shove her shoe down her throat, raped her and then beaten her half to death.

What are you? What made you hate so much? I know I can beat you. You’re not my dad. I beat him… I got away. Fuck! Please, stop hurting me! You sick bastard!

She also recalled frantically smacking her hand on the wet ground searching for her shoe before managing to grab it. She lifted her arm, and when she smiled at him (he seemed to like that), she hit him full force in his eye with its stiletto heel. Her meagre force against his unhealthy BMI was no match. Soon after that, he crushed her hand and much, much more. Bridgette spat at him before his brute fists arrived at her beautiful face.

Stop hurting me! You sick fuck!

Lying half-naked and brutalised, Bridgette moaned. Blood pooled at a faster rate than before in front of her weary eyes. She drifted in and out of consciousness…

I would gladly kill you if I could, but you might have a daughter. I want to kill you because you might have a daughter. You freak!

A short time later, a small cat with ribs like Bridgette, hopped down off the toxic bin bags and wandered over to where she lay. It nestled cosily between Bridgette’s blackened, dead hand and her battered face. Bridgette’s eyes opened slightly. She felt heavenly warmth from the patchwork, black and tan coloured creature.

Inside, Bridgette’s heart was breaking about many things. It broke as it had done daily on the bare, cold, lonely streets of hunger and rain. It also broke for her father’s sick mind and her mother’s weakness. It broke for her sordid childhood, and the irony of all of this, for all the books she couldn’t read and those she did, and only in broad daylight, behind walls – out of school and away from the house.

A thin, bloodied stream ran down Bridgette’s cheek, stinging everything there. A sharp intake of breath made her jerk horribly. The pain was too much. She stared into the small cat’s eyes. It hurt to try and smile.

Don’t count on me to take care of you, little bugger. You’re on your own, like me. I always thought I might die alone too, just like in the books. Well, maybe not now, ay?

I’ll call you Midget. And just maybe, I can get some food for you, soon… I promise…

Bridgette couldn’t keep her eyes open, and more blood began to spill as her chest heaved.

As flashes of her life snatched precious breaths from her, Bridgette recalled a book she’d stolen from school one day.

I actually like poetry. Bridgette’s eyelids flickered.

Stopping the clock of gods,
speaking or praying,
this coldness is chilling –
with a hint of a lone heart
I think, I will die here.

As the cracking pain on the floor spread – and with the coldness slipping, Bridgette’s last breath stuck to her lips.

* * * * *

Twelve hours had passed, and while in the midst of another row, Bridgette’s parents were interrupted by the teatime news.

“A body was found in a quiet part of the city centre. Police believe it to be that of a homeless woman in her late teens. Local youths discovered the body. Police are treating the death as suspicious.”

A brief description of Bridgette and her various, distinctive tattoos was read out by the newsreader who called on the public for information about the crime.

Down in the street, a couple walking underneath the window of the family house was stopped in their tracks by a loud scream.

‘No! Not Bridgette! No…’

Charlie’s Black Christmas

Enough of snow foxes and cute birds… and after a rich thick slice of a Christmas cake disaster, it’s time for a rich thick slice from the other side with this old chestnut.  A very happy holiday celebration/Merry Christmas to all of you lovely, WordPress people and readers everywhere.

gruesome santa

Charlie touched his brown-rimmed glasses knowingly, and his freckles crinkled as he marched down to the garden’s borders.  He loved how delicate and austere it all looked at this time of year but remembered from school how birds and other small creatures found it difficult to find food – he contemplated eking out worms and other treasures just for them.  His smiling eyes were soon agape when he reached the hole in the deep, green hedge his father took pride in.  Charlie decided to follow a walk of unusual footprints leading off to the street, which was paved with gold – Christmas gold.

The huge, blacklead, street lamp shined golden yellow onto a neighbour’s decorative efforts.  They had gone to town with sled, reindeer, Santas and lots of glittering sights and sounds.  His mind was still on the tracks though and the puzzle they presented.  Charlie’s jaw dropped at the magnificence of next door’s sled where he noticed similar sized prints and more right beside their giant Santa with a glowing red and white smile, and which had a pneumatic wave for everyone.

Charlie knelt down and checked under the sled and then inside of it whilst holding onto his specs, moving them up and down in inspection mode, whilst murmuring the occasional ‘aha’, but he could see noting really.  He scratched his head with stiff cold fingers and rubbed his cold red nose, wiping the drips on his new scarf,  saying an apology to Aunt Mildred for the mess.  He clapped his padded hands together before they clasped behind his back and a shudder took him into high-speed detective work.

He decided to sit on its large leather seat to shelter from the snow falling once again.  The sled began to move slightly, making Charlie feel a bit uneasy, but that soon went as he soon became enamoured of the blue-black sky and the twinkling stars above the white dotted sky.  The gentle snowdrops became a whirr.  From out of nowhere, a booming laugh and bells shrilly rang out behind him before sounding all around.  Charlie’s short-lived, nervous excitement was tinged with longings of the warmth of home, his mum, the Christmas tree and just about any familiar things.   But, on the other hand, maybe that was Santa.  Was it Santa?

Charlie’s eyes were drawn to the sled floor and the tiny prints, which had reappeared.  He pushed his glasses onto his nose, pulling back fast when he noticed a small creature on the seat beside him. Charlie smiled at its furry paws though they were dirty and wet with very ragged nails – he was anything but cute.  Charlie’s smile was met with a scraggy, dark face and crooked, menacing teeth that dripped saliva, and which had turned the sled floor, a greenish yellow.  Charlie’s heart sank, together with thoughts that his companion might be a Christmas elf, and so he held onto his red scarf from aunt Mildred and smelled his mum’s mince pies on his glove, which also bore some squished crumbs.

He was pulled out of regret, near tears, with the roar of ‘Santa’s’ instructions to the hideous 6 beasts pulling the sled.  It jolted him. The horrible goblin like creature that now terrified Charlie, turned to ‘Santa’, and with a hyena’s laugh, and to Charlie’s disbelief, it shrieked the words, ‘One more, and we will be done for this evening!’

Charlie, the grotesque elf and ‘Santa’ were carried into the freezing night’s blizzard – bells ringing, gruesome laughter abound.  And Charlie, at least, was never seen again.

So, be good! Lol.

Ketley #A short story.

Torrey's_narrative;_or,_The_life_and_adventures_of_William_Torrey,_who_was_held_a_captive_by_the_cannibals_of_the_Marquesas_(1848)_(14596858440).jpg

Ketley was a burly man, and because of our differences over the years, he and I stood at the end of that aching pole; his muscled arms were bent on pulling in that monster.  He often snarled mid heave.  I was sure, at times, he would have loved the head on that line to have been mine.  I may have been wrong, but I had chills that morning on the river; strong notions, dare I say it, that I couldn’t cast aside.

He froze my core with his backward glances as he caught me reminiscing.  I knew how wrong, but at the same time, how tantalising my dalliances had been with his shapely fair-haired, sassy woman, whom I did love with all my heart.

Had I been altogether spoiled for choices, I could have kept her, instead of being plainly faced with death’s place underground.  So, I kissed her farewell and braced myself for the wrath of Ketley, but why we had to meet here of all places was, and was not, a curiosity to me.

His sights were held firmly on that there bleak as hell’s charmed water and god knows what he thought was underneath it all.

“Give me that small hook, will you?” He growled at me with a threatened animal growl, with that low noise in its throat – usually, it meant it was angry.  He looked at me hard, and that always made me go cold.

What he called a small hook could have suspended a small calf.  The cold steel was sharp and grey,  and it looked like it could pierce three men at a time – and I was just one.  Still, I had trusted him all of my life, and I didn’t necessarily want to stop now.  Also, I had an escape planned.

I handed the hook to him as I recoiled involuntarily, and at the same time, I watched my sweat be flung into the Four Corners of a god-awful night’s sea swell.  He swung the steely crook over the boat’s edge and it soon took hold of the hellish, glistening creature he had managed to draw alongside us.  It was magnificent. It was huge. It could have been the devil.  I’d never seen a catch that size.  Heh, in my mind, he should have rode off majestically then and there on that critter!

But instead, he started talking, and not in the angry voice I’d anticipated for most of the night; he was too watchful of the water, and seemingly, any possible onlookers.  I sat back away from him just in case.  He seemed calm and collected as he (just like that) asked me if I felt confident enough to run his livery, and that he ‘knew for damn sure’ I could take care of his wife.  But what about his three kids?

I stammered for quite a while, both inside and out – the words just would not come.  My mouth?  Well, that giant fish from hell was looking mighty interested in its large space as my jaw got wider and wider.   Despite the abundance of torrid sea water, my mouth just plain dried.

“Just as I thought.”  His creased to bust eyebrows all of a sudden burst.  He savagely continued with,  “Thinkin’ with yer groin, but with actions of a jellyfish.  So, yeah, meet yer maker, squirt!|

Plunging into the freezing dark perdition of my predicament, I felt a hitherto calming warmth, as if hell froze for me all that was bad.  Ketley saw wrongdoing and acted… and  I, at the time, only saw curvaceous smiles, fear, her desperation and a hallelujah heaven awaitin’, and so, I indeed acted.  But who was right?

By now that great creature of a fish was as damn inconsequential as one might get.  And me?  I was a goner, but also didn’t altogether mightily care two hoots.  Ketley went home, she froze as she always did and turned for warmth to another, who soon joined me in purgatory for cosy chats and fishing and good times.  I knew just by commons sense, she would soon be joining me.

 

 

 

Trick the Treats

witch-by-scottepentzer1

Blood spilled over onto the cruel hand that had just squeezed life out of her latest victim. Such a strong little girl, she mused before laughing. The same dry cackle exuded from the ravenous bellows deep within her mottled soul. She stopped and looked around; her long nails scratched uncouthly at her long, flowing, ragged garb. What she saw was completely different. No tatters or drab, grey bloodied stain. She only saw ‘true’ beauty, which she was not. Her large feet clunked around the dusty grit as she sniffed the air before running a tawdry sleeve across her nose, blistered and generous.

“Ye gods, another day, another year. It gets monotonous,” she said sighing. “Little upstarts trying to outdo me. Will they ever learn?”

A few miles away Jane, Sarah and Sasha giggled in a bedroom littered with costumes and lipsticks and high hopes and plans for a Halloween to be remembered. This was to be Sasha’s initiation. Thomas, her major crush, was to be there at the party in the woods. Sarah looked at the clock and wondered where Susan and Bobby had got to.

“They were due here at 6 after practise. We don’t have her costume and we haven’t much time.”

The others were not so concerned.

“She probably can’t leave go of Bobby. That’s nothing new. They’ll be here.”

******

Susan lay all alone. Her hair, once a golden shrill of curls, lay dank and muddied on the floor near an old oak tree. Bizhar kicked at dead autumn leaves and kicked in the bag of fancy dress Susan had with her. With hands astride her hips, she grunted to herself.

“Takes more than costumes and weird hair to make a witch. I should know.” She laughed mercilessly again and pointed gnarled, bony fingers at her pile of wanton savagery and watched the fire consume both the mound of dead leaves and its contents. The wind had carried an item of clothing without Bizhar noticing, and it was swept away until caught on branches near the road.

******

“Where the heck?” said Bobby as he lifted the cuff of his sweater for the tenth time and paced. He wondered whether he should now start to head Susan’s way and meet her coming but once again changed his mind. He reached for his phone and hovered over the keypad then flipped it shut. Agitated, he tried once more.

The ring tone startled Bizhar as she knelt still beside the pyre. Quizzically she looked around before standing upright and soon aimed her lifeless green eyes at the flames. Inside them, it seemed, was the source of her irritation. She rolled back a sleeve and held it whilst plunging her arm through the leaves and flames. She reached about blindly then lowered further onto her knees, cursing and spitting smoke and embers.

Finally she pulled out and held aloft one of Susan’s arms before flinging it. Then, thinking again, she rescued it and threw it back into the fire. She eventually found the offending article still sounding and just about intact. She turned it every which way, then with much fumbling and by simple accident she heard a voice.

Ah, I know. Yes!” Bihzar thought, stroking the greying hairs under her long chin. She postured vainly and with a hideous mocking that belied her contempt for the mortals she saw as the bane of her life with their toys and fancy, vacant ways. She was stopped by the sudden frantic yell.

“Susan, are you there?” Bobby’s panicked voice asked. “Where have you been? Where are you?”

Bihzar ran ragged nails through her long, unruly, wizened hair and lifted a shoulder slightly, at the same time casting a glance to her trophy set ablaze, recalling the piteous screams and pleas for mercy. ‘Susan’s’ voice emanated and ran through the phone.

“I am here in the woods. I had a little trouble, but I’m OK. If you could come meet me though – about half way – we can go from here and it would save me walking.” A ragged fingertip traced dried lips holding a grey, green smirk.

“OK, no problem,” Bobby replied with relief. “Say, if I go pick up Thomas and the others, we could just meet at Ted’s old farm since time’s getting short. How does that sound? I’ll call them…or you can.”

“No, no, you call. I… am… er…” the old croc said, scanning the interface for clues. “I’m low on something… battery?”

“Ha! OK you weirdo. I’ll call. Talk to you soon.”

Bizhar began to smell things, good things, amid the charcoals and debris that were Susan’s remains. Plans, visions, more young blood and meat: treats for a deserving soul this Halloween Eve. The passing of time was irksome, she thought to herself, with fragility and aging the years dragged on into centuries. But today was a day for celebration nonetheless as birthdays always were. She cackled at her own devilish humour. “I am still as beautiful and as strong and powerful as ever.”

She then picked from her teeth a bit of flesh that had been trapped. She wiped her fingers down her front and began to walk, waving her arms at her side anticipating the evening ahead.

Perched on the old timbers in one of Ted’s old barns, which had stood derelict for years but which still housed the cobwebbed tools, machinery parts and old hay, Bizhar swung her legs like a school kid. No one had ever bought the property due to rumours and it being the local Bermuda triangle as far as missing people and unsolved cases went. This was half the lure and appeal of kids today around these parts, especially at Halloween.

******

Jane and Sarah came downstairs first and gave a twirl for Jane’s folks.

“You look gruesome enough, though it’s kinda hard to tell,” said her half pumpkin, half victim-oozing-blood kid brother all geared up for his night of mayhem. Sasha soon followed, equally decked out except for a change in theme, as this was her night, one she’d dreamed of.

Jane’s parents cooed and walked around her. “What’s the occasion? I thought this was Halloween, not a fairy tale.”

Sasha wanted to be stunning, just right for Thomas, and answered, “I, er well, let’s say we get enough of the same old, same old. I wanted to be different, a beauty among the beasts.”

“Well it hasn’t worked. You are still a witch, ha, ha.” The kid then hastily scarpered through the front door. “See you guys later.”

The girls, on the other hand, waited for the sound of the horn from Bobby’s car and their ride to fun.

Sure enough, the horn sounded, and there, hanging out the windows, were the three friends ready to give their dates a night to remember. Sasha only had eyes for the suave vampire as he jumped out of the car and swooned at her feet. Luke, the hunchback, greeted Jane and picked her up, screaming ‘Esmerelda, the bells’ before she had a chance to compliment him on his hump. Sarah’s favourite idiot, in the bloodied bed sheet and holes, was Brian, who escorted her to the car.

Bobby yelled for them all to get in. “Susan will be waiting! Hurry it up!”

The music blasted as they drove towards Old Ted’s farm, and laughter trailed through the lanes as they went. A heavy fog had begun to appear as they wound down the tracks and turned into the farm. Bobby slowed and peered deliberately for Susan through his windscreen.

“Maybe she’s further in. It is cold…a barn maybe?” said Jane, trying to thwart a rubber eye from nestling near her wench-like bustier.

Bobby nodded and carried on. Suddenly, he screeched to a halt, throwing the others slightly. It was a rabbit then a flurry of them, followed by critters of all kinds, running as if for their lives.

“What? That’s crazy. It’s a stampede,” said Bobby, who couldn’t believe his eyes. They all watched from the back window as the animals trailed off into the dark.

******

Smoke billowed steadily as Bizhar added the last of the slaughtered pests to her makeshift stove that rested on bricks and sticks atop an old tractor’s engine. Impatient and peckish, she stirred at her broth, rich and thick with the blood of her captured guests. She sat, legs agape, and stirred on, twitching and murmuring now and then at the thought of the treats for later, now steadily approaching. The burgundy sauce bubbled, and then Bizhar saw a glimpse of something through the murky stew…

******

The ‘wedding’ ceremony began. Sasha’s big day. She stood smiling next to Thomas, his fangs gleaming. Jane and Sarah held their bouquets, which seemed incongruous amid the costumes and setting, but before their Halloween festivities could begin, the wedding had to take place. It was Sasha and Thomas’ initiation into their group. Luke and Jane, Sarah and Brian and Bobby and Susan were ‘old married men and women.’ Sasha was doubly keen: besides it being unusual, she had only had eyes for Thomas since starting college, and if this was a way of getting him, then who was she to argue.

Bobby, a bit amiss without Susan but resigned to the possibility that she might have given up and gone home, pronounced Sasha and Thomas ‘man and wife,’ and they all ran out into the slightly chilled farmyard where the others jibed and threw loose straw and any old things found about them. Stale manure as a confetti substitute was one that did not go down too well.

Bobby’s head jerked around when he thought he heard Susan shouting. “Hey, listen up. Quiet! Did you hear that?”

They all fell silent and listened. “No, you’re imagining things,” came a reply.

“It was Susan. I’m sure of it. I mean, how many kids would come here – sane kids? I am going to take a look around.” Before Bobby could take a step, they all heard a scream and a cry for help coming from one of the barns.

“Susan! You’re right,” Jane spat out. “Shit!”

They ran towards the barn.

Hampered somewhat by his over-sized cloth slippers, Luke soon discarded them, slipping his sweaty mask into his pocket. He issued instructions to Thomas and Bobby. “You two search this one. Girls, stay here!” He ran off toward another barn.

“No way,” Jane piped up. “We’re coming.”

They heard sobbing high in the rafter. “I’m up here. I can’t get back down,” she screamed. “I’m hurt. Please get me down!”

“How in the hell did you get up there?” asked Bobby, running his hands through his hair frantically. “OK, girls, go get help. The damn phones are in the car. Go! Call for help and tell Luke we are over here will you?”

Luke studied the smells emanating from inside the other barn as he edged in. It seemed to explain the animals somewhat, but it stank grotesquely. He’d killed a few rabbits in his time and eaten them, but this was something else.

From nowhere, a hand was on his collar, the jagged nails piercing his skin to the bone as Bizhar lifted him up effortlessly and dangled her dessert, licking her lips. She nonchalantly placed his body, twitching and dripping warm juice, on a nearby hook. “Sweet,” she thought. “Very sweet.” She cackled, grazing the air with putrid breath, and put on the mask she’d taken from Luke’s pocket.

She stripped off and donned the rest of his garb including his slippers, which she’d collected from where he had dropped them. Bizhar made her way to the barn where she could hear the others desperately trying to rescue ‘Susan’. She laughed and shook her head coolly and swayed across the yard, pleased with how good she was at ‘throwing’ her voice as well as impersonations; she had forgotten – it had been a while since festivities had been so full.

Bizhar poked her head through the frame of a window, and they turned.

“Luke, she’s here. Give us a hand.” The masked figure didn’t respond, instead beckoning with a finger before leaving the window.

“What the fuck?” Bobby said in disbelief. “We don’t need games.”

Just then they heard a muffled voice saying something about ladders, so they followed. Susan had gone quiet. They reassured her and said they’d be back.

Outside, the three young men stood perplexed, as they saw no sight of Luke.

“Great!” Brian said as he swung around. “What’s he up to?”

They saw a ladder sliding out from between broken boards nailed across a window and ran towards it, hands out to receive it. They tugged but met resistance.

“OK,” said Brian. “Thomas, you and Bobby go around and help Luke. I will pull from here.” The two disappeared through a splintered slot. After waiting and tugging some more, he yelled, “Where the heck are you guys. It can’t be that hard. Luke?”

“OK, I’m here.” Luke’s voice seemed strange. “Give it a pull now. Reach in a bit first. I need your arm through the window.” The unfamiliar voice did not deter Brian, who was thinking of Susan and wondering how the girls had done about getting help. He reached in with his arm and felt a sharp tug and soon he was wedged between the frame and the ladder.

“Whoa, strong man. Be careful!”

Bizhar removed the mask, and Brian saw behind her the full hideousness of his fate. He was brought in slowly, piece by piece. His arm, neck and head were severed with little effort, the torso dropping to the ground outside the window. Bihzar decided she’d treat herself with some of the delicacies and gorge tomorrow; she would have all day tomorrow. She hung the pieces on the hooks available. All had been filled with what was left of Jane, Sarah and Sasha along with the boys…

******

Her grumbling stomach roared, bringing Bizhar back from her vision, and she stirred the pot of animal slime once more. Laughing, she shook her head and kicked it over and started again. She proceeded to add small, carefully selected pieces of sweetmeats to her new broth of blood now simmering before her.

Not So Shining Armour (part I)

Raphael_-_Saint_George_Fighting_the_Dragon

Long, long ago in days of old
When dragons roamed and knights were bold
Damsels a plenty hung loftily from towers
As shining heroes wrestled for hours
With green scaly demons, that is, until
A knight came along to challenge their will
The kingdom cheered and they honoured him
He rode off to battle, our knight, not so dim…

 Dragon_vs_knight_2_by_DragonLady.jpg

Sydney, our shining knight of the realm, casually waved aside a nervous fellow called Gravel and the armour presented to him.

“But, Sire… you really ought to wear this.”

“Worry not Gravel.” Sydney continued to throw his spiked iron ball up in the air, catching it repeatedly only just managing to miss Gravel, his long suffering aid, by inches.

He flexed his upper body and neck, and with precision in his eyes, directed the ball at a makeshift target of stacked wine urns. He took a full length of his tent and made a run using an overarm tactic that an impressed Gravel had never before seen. The ferocious article travelled, obliterating the urns and piercing the tent and an unsuspecting guard on the outside.

“Aargh! God almighty!”

“Oops,” offered the knight, “sorry out there. Gravel, go and see to, err – whoever that is.”

“That is Googly*…your watchman, Sire.”

“Ah, well see to him and return here, I have a plan to conquer these dumb beasts and it will not, I may add, require your tin can mechanics over there.”

Gravel duly returned to report bad news.

“Googly is being attended to Sire. He sustained a rather nasty injury, but begged me to thank you for not killing him and murmured something about his family being too large to feed as it was.”

“Good man – that’s the spirit – and Gravel, what is more; in honour of that faithful chap, I will call my new manoeuvre the Googly. Let it hereby be known throughout our small domain and on our sports fields…” Our good knight prattled on pompously for several more seconds before Gravel interrupted him in good flow.

“Mmm…it could catch on, Sire. But Sire? What of your plan and these scaled green demons from hell, who are at this very moment waging war with fire causing devastating destruction in our valleys, and who in fact loom ever closer?”

“Pfft.”

“Sire?”

“Think about it Gravel,” The creatures are the size of a castle and have a brain the size of a gnat…hence their imminent extinction I shouldn’t wonder. How many carcasses do we discover in a year, hmm? And burnt out carcasses at that? They are so dim-witted they can’t even turn around and greet each other without one of them setting his neighbour alight. But, that is to our favour, and we must act upon it.

We will send out into the valleys some fairly useless persons from our hamlet. Offer them riches and the hand of the King’s daughter if you have to, but assemble a likely crew to post notices on as many trees as they can before they’re erm… well before the idiots are flambéed and eaten, basically. We will send an invitation of sorts to these dragons.”

“What kind of invitation, and Sire, I know I am but a lowly, humble servant and farmer, with no schooling and it irks me to question you, but I don’t think dragons can read – can they?”

“You’re quite correct Gravel, you are a lowly servant and peasant farmer – of course they can’t read! What kind of idiot do you take me for? Quite simply, or simp- le- er, ” the knight peered at Gravel down his nose. “the men will act as a decoy – the poster hangers are a ruse, an entrée, if you like – since they have exhausted their platter in the neighbouring towns; half digested, rancid flesh has been reported for miles in and around villages, and they are so stupid they will plod on and on till they have burnt our forests down and ruined our harvests before unwittingly making a clearway to more delectables, namely us, here.”

“OO,” cried Gravel, “A cruel but a worthy sacrifice, if I may say so Sire.”

“Indeed. “Now…oh, before I forget, what news of our attacking enemies who, last I heard, lay behind the Green Gorge?”

“None,” replied Gravel.

“None?  Have they moved at all since last we spoke?

“No, Sire.”

“They are still there, aren’t they, Gravel?

“Oh, definitely, Sire. In fact, before our soldiers pulled out….”

Our knight spluttered and removed the dribbles of the finest wine from his chin. “Pulled out? Pulled out? By whose orders?

“The King.”

“Oh him. Fair enough. But what reasoning is behind this.. this order?”

“Dragons, Sire… lots of them.”

Our knight stared at Gravel…his answer clearly didn’t satisfy him at all but Gravel promptly continued.

“Erm…the two unfortunates posted to stay and keep watch have reported no advance or anything much that poses as a possible threat – unless we count the unruly debauched festivities in their camp. On the whole Sire, we are safe as long as they don’t sober up too quickly. After all, we will be somewhat pre occupied with our current more pressing problem. I think Sire, that was the King’s reasoning…the dragons.”

“Thank you, Gravel I think we have established our situation viz a viz the dragons!”

“If I may, Sire, I will leave you and round up the men as you asked, and we can implement stage one of our plan.”

Our knight stood in front of Gravel and rocked back and forth on his toes. There was a sour upturned lilt in his voice.

“Stage one? Our plan?”

“Pardon me, Sire. Your plan. “The knight tapped Gravel rather harshly on the forehead with his goblet causing a delicious trickle of wine to travel down onto Gravel’s covetous lips and proceeded to wax lyrical about better days.

“Camp fires? Escapades, debaucher…. merriment! Whatever happened to the thirst for war, blood lust? Parties?…I ask you. Ee Gads.”

Our knight’s ramblings stirred something in Gravel.

“Invitations, Sire!… Parties!”

“Oh, not again, Gravel – there will be no invitations – not in a literal sense…”

“No Sire, I have an idea.”

“Out with it man, what is it?”

Gravel cleared his throat and wiped his hands down his shirt front at the same time shifting himself on his feet, feeling rather important. Our knight looked on with an unimpressed eye and quite impressive amount of loathing .

“We should begin luring the dragons after we secure the attention of our enemy, to whom we send a real invitation offering a truce. If they accept, a fantastic banquet will be held in their honour, and their soldiers be given every hospitality outside of our walls whilst their leader and our King hammer out the finer points.  Whilst we have their key leaders in our grasp, the army will be enough of a distraction and feast for the dragons – thereby providing us ample opportunity to destroy them…both…Sire.”

“Gravel! What a truly expected, simple idea.”

A few days later, on the outskirts of a woodland forest and after the ‘truce’ was declared…

“Oi! Mind your tail! That was too close. When you’re not setting fire to me rear, you’re trampling me half to death!”

“Sorry mate!” Tarragon struggled to release a balloon of air to which Arnold promptly set fire too – as he was apt to do – partly because he could and partly because he would never give up finding it funny, and partly because Tarragon had a way far better name – a name befitting of a dragon of old, and Arnold resented him immensely for it.

“Hey, Arnold, have you seen this scrawny lot? Not a juicy tit bit amongst them.”

“Yeah. What on earth are they doing – apart from looking like last year’s leftovers? They don’t look very happy to be here.” Arnold surmised that they were either very brave or very stupid, and either way they would do as an appetiser. His laughter brought on another shot of wind. Arnold was always fond of his own musings. He laughed primarily because, as he often told it, and more alarming to anyone with a brain larger than Arnold’s – ‘I’ve heard it before.’

The petrified, but faithful men hammered away at the trees and old fence posts and whatever they could find to display the ‘official notices’ and, as ordered, clattered and banged as loudly as they could to draw attention to themselves. As the dragons’ curiosity piqued and appetites grew, they moved closer to the men who immediately began to run for the thickest parts of the trees in order to carry out more of their work.

“Mmm, this poses quite a challenge, and is it worth it?” Arnold pondered..

“I do feel peckish, but what about the bloomin’ trees, and they’re such small bites, is it indeed worth the effort; they could get away before we begin to plough through such a lush, ripe green….god – I am hungry.” The dragon flared its nostrils, and wafts of putrid green smoke emanated, souring the air around them both.

Staring down the barrel of both nostrils and the billowing puffs gave Arnold the idea to attack from above with fire. Both dragons would make a clearing of the treetops then his chum could block any nearby exits.

Arnold sucked in his fat belly and regretted his idle days of obesity before engaging his tail – the very ragged and sharp end of which caught Tarragon across the head. His somewhat singed wings spread and engulfed the air in a pathetic but almost poetic slow motion until he gained momentum enough to hover, being careful not to breath so ferociously as to alert the tasty bites unaware of their imminent danger.

“Are you ready yet?” Fumed Tarragon waiting down below.

“Will you stop bellowing and breathing so much dam fire…they will see it!” Arnold rallied from above before he swooped – as well as an unfit, old demon from hell could swoop – onto and into the dry, green vegetation.

Very soon a portion of forest near the swamp was ablaze but the dragons could see nothing of the men who had heard the commotion of the unkempt and rather poor excuses for dragons before their plan and them had even got off the ground, and so they had ran as fast as they could over the swamplands which, since the dragons occupied most of the time, they thought was their best chance for escape, and they were right. The men had abandoned their tools and satchels containing old tax notices, which now lay all around, littering the parts of the forest.

Back on terra firma, Arnold was soon joined by Tarragon, done with hovering over the scorched forest.

“Dam! I was rather looking forward to exercising and using my talons to pluck them like wild strawberries.

“Never mind,” panted Arnold, “we have made a start on the clearing and a path to that juicy kingdom over there….Crap!  I’ve got a stitch!”

The other dragon seemed pre occupied. With one clawed foot he held down large scraps of paper and turned them, surprisingly deftly….

“What on earth are you doing?” Enquired Arnold.

“Oh, these just look like a bunch of those TAXDEM thingys…. and some numbers. Kingdom business. Must have been what they were doing, all that banging.”

Arnold took a closer look. “Tax Demands you idiot. No wonder we get a bad press!

Arnold read on, “Hmmm, they are being screwed. 3,000 shelics to rummage around in squalor – I ask you. We’ll probably be doing them all a favour by eating them, save them from more misery. Apparently the King and his lot are twerps, so it shouldn’t be that hard either.”

At this point, Arnold swung suddenly, not giving Tarragon enough time to dodge the huge ball of fire ricocheting off Arnold’s behind and a nearby broad English oak.

“You really are an inconsiderate bastard, aren’t you Arnold?”

To be continued…

* Googly – In cricket a googly is a type of delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler…or so I am informed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Apprenctice

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The familiar but intimidating cobalt tip shone aloft as Gustav approached through the heavily shadowed arch of the cold, granite message tunnel. Snaking through the shuffling and twitching as we stood as apprehensive as ever, an unusual aroma struck us and soon made us still. Something was different this eve; doom was in the air amidst the ghastly stench now roaming closer as it threatened our nostrils and sent shivers through our very souls.

Gustav waved a free hand to the granite floor, and soon his body descended flawlessly. Nothing less was expected of Gustav, and so all appeared normal – at least for now.

As he floated between the two stone-pillared receptacles, which held the fire of the lost spirits, Gustav looked among us eagerly searching. Quizzical, but soulless black eyes held each of the boys standing nervously awaiting, and then one by one he let them go; as he did they would drop to the floor once the grip of his abusive power loosened.

A small face that held the most impish of grin’s despite the theatrics of this demonic spectacle belonged to Hythro who grabbed at my robe sleeve and tugged.

“What day is it tomorrow?”

I gave him a puzzled scowl.

“Ssh, young friend. Wait until this is over, then we can talk till the moon is exhausted.”

Not to be swathed, Hythro came back, “It’s my birthing day. I will be chosen tonight, you’ll see!”

I brought a thick, heavy grey sleeve to my mouth to muffle laughter that might escape. As I turned to look at his exuberant face, a vision of death appeared in its place. The cruel and ghastly mask that had overtaken the young boy’s pale and gentle face shook my very core.

“What is it Jansus?” He pleaded with creased brows and a quizzical stare; I was clearly frightening him.

I could not hear him, his voice became tame and separate in its own muted bubble. All I heard were dense voices reverberating inside my head and a swirl of mist had gathered where my thoughts once were. I watched my dear friend, who had become more of a duty to me since our inception and as near to a real brother as one could have, be lifted and held whilst the followers chanted and naked flames from torches licked at his tortured body.

One by one, arms of sweat and muscle released their grasp, and Hyrtho levitated before the dark and sinister black of the tunnel. I was abruptly brought to my senses by the bustle of the fellows preparing for prayers to be held before the mighty Gustav – our Teacher and Chooser.

Gustav prodded me through the air with his sceptre to force me to worship along with the others, as I knelt I was forced to look away and to the floor by the familiar pressure of obedience emanating from his staff. I could not pray, instead I thought of Hyrtho and his exuberance, and knew only too well what fate awaited him this night.

Was I the only one among us who was cursed with these visions? With every service I saw the face of the ‘next’. Do I send them to their doom? Are my eyes the only eyes he finds whilst he searches? I had come to fear every service because all of my visions had been honoured thus far.

Whilst the others prayed, I tried to thwart the sensation and images in my mind. Desperation forced me to summon my own demons to rewrite the premonition. Serpents of time snaked between my wrists and pried open each palm, mocking prayer. I watched as they weaved and writhed and listened as they spoke to me.

“Look to what looks inside you, look at him and see.”

I lifted my head and peered through the half-light of my hood at Gustav’s burning eyes; eyes that were already awaiting mine. The beads of sweat on his naked crown glimmered with the ricochet of flame either side of him. He paced heavily, his eyes not leaving the inside of my head for one second. I felt I was being buried deeper and deeper into the uneven stone floor we had adorned for years and years, and into the black light that was our lives. The humbled gathering smothered the hall in murmurs and prayer, which gave Gustav the opportunity for ceaseless battle with my mind.

Hell’s door opened wide and the same foul smell grew stronger, nearly suffocating me before I was all but swallowed whole, and before my demons had time to gather their wits and surge upon his soldiers awaiting us. Flickering fires tormented me by engulfing my fellow prisoners. I gasped with an urgency to give in, but my warriors placated me and fought the fire with conviction and showed me how false and cold the wall of fire that surrounded them was – that it was just an illusion created by Gustav’s trickery and deception.

Whilst the vision of a black robe and the cobalt eye of Gustav’s sceptre remained ahead to deceive the praying boys, Gustav loomed above me and choked me with a cold, black stare until I was sent to my knees – my hands no equal combat against his sheer force. The emerald and ochre serpents released to me a power, which raised me bodily, high and level with my oppressor’s angry stare.

“You dare to challenge me now?” Gustav snarled. “Tell me what has brought about such insubordination; all of this for such an insignificant, small and weak chink in our display – a link that will endanger all we have built, all we are – surely not?”

“Don’t mock me Gustav, don’t underestimate me either. I am done being your instrument. I am done with this black putrid space we call our home. I have grown and maybe I have outgrown you!”

I watched an onslaught of black images grow in number before me before I was snatched back into darkness and my tomblike existence; the only existence I had ever known. I was used by each successive in the Order and chosen for my power; a power they quickly ceased on and were loath to let go – hence my survival. I was their tool. A tool that delivered to them what it is they sought, without blood stains touching their hands – all of their sacrificial gifts to the Source. Should Gustav fail then his soul would be torn from him and fed to the depths of depravity in Hell. The latter did not worry Gustav, the idea of not being The Chooser of five hundred years this eve, and cajoling with his demons and his master, Satan, did.

I had never in all my ‘existence’, until Hythro, experienced the inner peacefulness of human bonding, kinsmanship and duty…or love – brotherly love. It had touched upon something in my lost being, from a time taken from me but that would never be snuffed out. This past echo ignited further powers in my possession, hitherto hidden and suppressed.

“Hythro is the chosen one and will die tonight, whether you like it or not. You chose him. It is your black blood that sends him to his death and to our Saviour! Be honoured that he chose you to channel his thoughts and hears what you have to say.”

“I am ashamed and insulted,” I conceded. I could feel the hatred as my face creased when I spat out the words, “Our Saviour, the loathsome spiral on which we all slid ignorantly and you the weak subservient who drove us, are nothing but a fallacy, a want, a fairytale made in ‘hell’, and you are so weak as to believe in it. I will not allow this anymore!”

“Ha! Oh you won’t? Then die!”

My screams wrung out and seeped into those gathered below me. Gustav’s blue sceptre of torment pierced my brain and summoned black putrid showers of molten liquid upon the boys.

“Look! Shouted Gustave, “See what your brother is doing, how he thinks for all of you. You should despise his whims and feelings…we must punish him… he must die. Now!” The army of serpents rose again to shield them and the voices breathed life into the boys.

“Fight! Fight! Use all you see, look into each others eyes and see. Look deeply.”

Hythro broke from the trance first and removed the hood of the boy next to him and ushered the next to do the same until all watched the air above them. As the smothering putrefaction dripped onto their robes a few cries were let out before a realisation that they were unharmed. The liquid turned to water and Gustav dropped to the floor and his weak and broken body lay crumpled before them.

The valiant Serpents tore through his tunic and gorged on Gustav; the cobalt blue flickered until its breath was finally extinguished. The warrior Serpents and their effervescent trail  paved a pathway through the cold tunnel, and the boys followed it until a luminous end greeted them; its warmth and radiance took their breath away.

Spirits that were released from the ruptured fires; kept burning for centuries in the vessels that guarded the tunnel’s doorway – pranced and spread laughter ahead of the children who turned and called to their new leader, still away in the distance in the sour darkness. Jansus walked towards them and they engulfed him with the power of the love that had assured their deliverance once and for all.

Jansus felt a familiar tug at his arm.

It must be my birthing day by now, mustn’t it?” A small imp like nose turned skyward only to be met by a sturdy cuff at the back of his neck.

“Don’t you ever give up?” Jansus picked up his small brother and ran into the new family awaiting them.

W G Casterbridge Retires

FootprintsInTheSand

Blue veins run the course of my extended arm. At the end of its reach, my hand clamours to quell irritating sounds and my face recoils at the sun as she spreads her wake up charm right across me and onto the polished virgin floors. Pristine wood is laid bare and unencumbered, until that is, I am ready to face the day and my feet pace upon it – the creaking, alas, will emanate only from me.

A melancholy sigh is accompaniment enough to herald the last day of crease-pressed, long trousers, for tomorrow I will bare my greying, pale limbs and shroud them with shouting, loud shorts – those with a deliciously garish display of pineapples held firm amid blue daubs – all unleashed by a designer who waxed lyrical for a while taking pity on some cold and dying cloth – I pray someone takes pity on me: a cast off, a remnant of society, unwanted, unfashionable and frayed at the edges, longing for some colour and the sunshine.

I will follow her form, treading a fine line of delicate, shoeless prints between sea and shore and disobeying her instructions so as to lose myself completely. I will burn red and become like the free roaming crustaceans, yet I will linger and enjoy her torment as never before since what else is there at the twilight of my days? While she continues to shine and delight and tantalise, so I will bask for as long as I can, and freely, since my legs are now bare; bare to the day and all who care to look upon them.

I will tilt my head and swear she winces at me as my nose turns cherry red. The pelting sound of the nearby ocean makes me take notice of my elongated shadow; exaggerated, flattering and emanating from my upturned toes. Raw sea salt rubs at my trophy cabinet, relics of which sing out in unison; blisters, bunions, corns, old plaster edges peeled away like a lifetime itself leaving a footnote as jaded as my soles.

I will be just another weary traveller whose journey has all but ended. On my march of freedom, I will bring with me white hair and gaunt features, worn sandals and plump feet bearing tales of cities past and people old and forgotten, except in my mind. I will scratch my blazing head – and think ‘how liberated I feel, and brave’, but skulk like a scolded child as she scorches my brow no doubt. I will dig deep, but will find nothing in my bloused, mango shirt and shorts of liberation as I will no doubt forget to pack a handkerchief. There is something to be said about the routine of a nine to five grey jacket and grey flannels.

I will hold up my brown spotted hand as protection from a hot lingering scour. If I stand long enough and enjoy the cool caress of the sea lapping like a faithful pet around my heels, will droplets of sweat run down my face? Will those tears of my soul cleanse me before falling off into the azure? Water – always in a hurry, always coming and going. Always leaving us behind. Except for tomorrow. Tomorrow I will travel, and further than I ever have before…

Trick the Treats

witch 1

Blood spilled over onto the cruel hand that had just squeezed life out of her latest victim. Such a strong little girl, she mused before laughing. The same dry cackle exuded from the ravenous bellows deep within her mottled soul. She stopped and looked around; her long nails scratched uncouthly at her long, flowing, ragged garb. What she saw was completely different. No tatters or drab, grey bloodied stain. She only saw ‘true’ beauty, which she was not. Her large feet clunked around the dusty grit as she sniffed the air before running a tawdry sleeve across her nose, blistered and generous.

“Ye gods, another day, another year. It gets monotonous,” she said sighing. “Little upstarts trying to outdo me. Will they ever learn?”

A few miles away Jane, Sarah and Sasha giggled in a bedroom littered with costumes and lipsticks and high hopes and plans for a Halloween to be remembered. This was to be Sasha’s initiation. Thomas, her major crush, was to be there at the party in the woods. Sarah looked at the clock and wondered where Susan and Bobby had got to.

“They were due here at 6 after practise. We don’t have her costume and we haven’t much time.”

The others were not so concerned.

“She probably can’t leave go of Bobby. That’s nothing new. They’ll be here.”

******

Susan lay all alone. Her hair, once a golden shrill of curls, lay dank and muddied on the floor near an old oak tree. Bizhar kicked at dead autumn leaves and kicked in the bag of fancy dress Susan had with her. With hands astride her hips, she grunted to herself.

“Takes more than costumes and weird hair to make a witch. I should know.” She laughed mercilessly again and pointed gnarled, bony fingers at her pile of wanton savagery and watched the fire consume both the mound of dead leaves and its contents. The wind had carried an item of clothing without Bizhar noticing, and it was swept away until caught on branches near the road.

******

“Where the heck?” said Bobby as he lifted the cuff of his sweater for the tenth time and paced. He wondered whether he should now start to head Susan’s way and meet her coming but once again changed his mind. He reached for his phone and hovered over the keypad then flipped it shut. Agitated, he tried once more.

The ring tone startled Bizhar as she knelt still beside the pyre. Quizzically she looked around before standing upright and soon aimed her lifeless green eyes at the flames. Inside them, it seemed, was the source of her irritation. She rolled back a sleeve and held it whilst plunging her arm through the leaves and flames. She reached about blindly then lowered further onto her knees, cursing and spitting smoke and embers.

Finally she pulled out and held aloft one of Susan’s arms before flinging it. Then, thinking again, she rescued it and threw it back into the fire. She eventually found the offending article still sounding and just about intact. She turned it every which way, then with much fumbling and by simple accident she heard a voice.

Ah, I know. Yes!” Bihzar thought, stroking the greying hairs under her long chin. She postured vainly and with a hideous mocking that belied her contempt for the mortals she saw as the bane of her life with their toys and fancy, vacant ways. She was stopped by the sudden frantic yell.

“Susan, are you there?” Bobby’s panicked voice asked. “Where have you been? Where are you?”

Bihzar ran ragged nails through her long, unruly, wizened hair and lifted a shoulder slightly, at the same time casting a glance to her trophy set ablaze, recalling the piteous screams and pleas for mercy. ‘Susan’s’ voice emanated and ran through the phone.

“I am here in the woods. I had a little trouble, but I’m OK. If you could come meet me though – about half way – we can go from here and it would save me walking.” A ragged fingertip traced dried lips holding a grey, green smirk.

“OK, no problem,” Bobby replied with relief. “Say, if I go pick up Thomas and the others, we could just meet at Ted’s old farm since time’s getting short. How does that sound? I’ll call them…or you can.”

“No, no, you call. I… am… er…” the old croc said, scanning the interface for clues. “I’m low on something… battery?”

“Ha! OK you weirdo. I’ll call. Talk to you soon.”

Bizhar began to smell things, good things, amid the charcoals and debris that were Susan’s remains. Plans, visions, more young blood and meat: treats for a deserving soul this Halloween Eve. The passing of time was irksome, she thought to herself, with fragility and aging as the years dragged on into centuries. But today was a day for celebration nonetheless as birthdays always were. She cackled at her own devilish humour. “I am still as beautiful and as strong and powerful as ever.”

She then picked from her teeth a bit of flesh that had been trapped. She wiped her fingers down her front and began to walk, waving her arms at her side anticipating the evening ahead.

Perched on the old timbers in one of Ted’s old barns, which had stood derelict for years but which still housed the cobwebbed tools, machinery parts and old hay, Bizhar swung her legs like a school kid. No one had ever bought the property due to rumours and it being the local Bermuda triangle as far as missing people and unsolved cases went. This was half the lure and appeal of kids today around these parts, especially at Halloween.

******

Jane and Sarah came downstairs first and gave a twirl for Jane’s folks.

“You look gruesome enough, though it’s kinda hard to tell,” said her half pumpkin, half victim-oozing-blood kid brother all geared up for his night of mayhem. Sasha soon followed, equally decked out except for a change in theme, as this was her night, one she’d dreamed of.

Jane’s parents cooed and walked around her. “What’s the occasion? I thought this was Halloween, not a fairy tale.”

Sasha wanted to be stunning, just right for Thomas, and answered, “I, er well, let’s say we get enough of the same old, same old. I wanted to be different, a beauty among the beasts.”

“Well it hasn’t worked. You are still a witch, ha, ha.” The kid then hastily scarpered through the front door. “See you guys later.”

The girls, on the other hand, waited for the sound of the horn from Bobby’s car and their ride to fun.

Sure enough, the horn sounded, and there, hanging out the windows, were the three friends ready to give their dates a night to remember. Sasha only had eyes for the suave vampire as he jumped out of the car and swooned at her feet. Luke, the hunchback, greeted Jane and picked her up, screaming ‘Esmerelda, the bells’ before she had a chance to compliment him on his hump. Sarah’s favourite idiot, in the bloodied bed sheet and holes, was Brian, who escorted her to the car.

Bobby yelled for them all to get in. “Susan will be waiting! Hurry it up!”

The music blasted as they drove towards Old Ted’s farm, and laughter trailed through the lanes as they went. A heavy fog had begun to appear as they wound down the tracks and turned into the farm. Bobby slowed and peered deliberately for Susan through his windscreen.

“Maybe she’s further in. It is cold…a barn maybe?” said Jane, trying to thwart a rubber eye from nestling near her wench-like bustier.

Bobby nodded and carried on. Suddenly, he screeched to a halt, throwing the others slightly. It was a rabbit then a flurry of them, followed by critters of all kinds, running as if for their lives.

“What? That’s crazy. It’s a stampede,” said Bobby, who couldn’t believe his eyes. They all watched from the back window as the animals trailed off into the dark.

******

Smoke billowed steadily as Bizhar added the last of the slaughtered pests to her makeshift stove that rested on bricks and sticks atop an old tractor’s engine. Impatient and peckish, she stirred at her broth, rich and thick with the blood of her captured guests. She sat, legs agape, and stirred on, twitching and murmuring now and then at the thought of the treats for later, now steadily approaching. The burgundy sauce bubbled, and then Bizhar saw a glimpse of something through the murky stew…

******

The ‘wedding’ ceremony began. Sasha’s big day. She stood smiling next to Thomas, his fangs gleaming. Jane and Sarah held their bouquets, which seemed incongruous amid the costumes and setting, but before their Halloween festivities could begin, the wedding had to take place. It was Sasha and Thomas’ initiation into their group. Luke and Jane, Sarah and Brian and Bobby and Susan were ‘old married men and women.’ Sasha was doubly keen: besides it being unusual, she had only had eyes for Thomas since starting college, and if this was a way of getting him, then who was she to argue.

Bobby, a bit amiss without Susan but resigned to the possibility that she might have given up and gone home, pronounced Sasha and Thomas ‘man and wife,’ and they all ran out into the slightly chilled farmyard where the others jibed and threw loose straw and any old things found about them. Stale manure as a confetti substitute was one that did not go down too well.

Bobby’s head jerked around when he thought he heard Susan shouting. “Hey, listen up. Quiet! Did you hear that?”

They all fell silent and listened. “No, you’re imagining things,” came a reply.

“It was Susan. I’m sure of it. I mean, how many kids would come here – sane kids? I am going to take a look around.” Before Bobby could take a step, they all heard a scream and a cry for help coming from one of the barns.

“Susan! You’re right,” Jane spat out. “Shit!”

They ran towards the barn.

Hampered somewhat by his over-sized cloth slippers, Luke soon discarded them, slipping his sweaty mask into his pocket. He issued instructions to Thomas and Bobby. “You two search this one. Girls, stay here!” He ran off toward another barn.

“No way,” Jane piped up. “We’re coming.”

They heard sobbing high in the rafter. “I’m up here. I can’t get back down,” she screamed. “I’m hurt. Please get me down!”

“How in the hell did you get up there?” asked Bobby, running his hands through his hair frantically. “OK, girls, go get help. The damn phones are in the car. Go! Call for help and tell Luke we are over here will you?”

Luke studied the smells emanating from inside the other barn as he edged in. It seemed to explain the animals somewhat, but it stank grotesquely. He’d killed a few rabbits in his time and eaten them, but this was something else.

From nowhere, a hand was on his collar, the jagged nails piercing his skin to the bone as Bizhar lifted him up effortlessly and dangled her dessert, licking her lips. She nonchalantly placed his body, twitching and dripping warm juice, on a nearby hook. “Sweet,” she thought. “Very sweet.” She cackled, grazing the air with putrid breath, and put on the mask she’d taken from Luke’s pocket.

She stripped off and donned the rest of his garb including his slippers, which she’d collected from where he had dropped them. Bizhar made her way to the barn where she could hear the others desperately trying to rescue ‘Susan’. She laughed and shook her head coolly and swayed across the yard, pleased with how good she was at ‘throwing’ her voice as well as impersonations; she had forgotten – it had been a while since festivities had been so full.

Bizhar poked her head through the frame of a window, and they turned.

“Luke, she’s here. Give us a hand.” The masked figure didn’t respond, instead beckoning with a finger before leaving the window.

“What the fuck?” Bobby said in disbelief. “We don’t need games.”

Just then they heard a muffled voice saying something about ladders, so they followed. Susan had gone quiet. They reassured her and said they’d be back.

Outside, the three young men stood perplexed, as they saw no sight of Luke.

“Great!” Brian said as he swung around. “What’s he up to?”

They saw a ladder sliding out from between broken boards nailed across a window and ran towards it, hands out to receive it. They tugged but met resistance.

“OK,” said Brian. “Thomas, you and Bobby go around and help Luke. I will pull from here.” The two disappeared through a splintered slot. After waiting and tugging some more, he yelled, “Where the heck are you guys. It can’t be that hard. Luke?”

“OK, I’m here.” Luke’s voice seemed strange. “Give it a pull now. Reach in a bit first. I need your arm through the window.” The unfamiliar voice did not deter Brian, who was thinking of Susan and wondering how the girls had done about getting help. He reached in with his arm and felt a sharp tug and soon he was wedged between the frame and the ladder.

“Whoa, strong man. Be careful!”

Bizhar removed the mask, and Brian saw behind her the full hideousness of his fate. He was brought in slowly, piece by piece. His arm, neck and head were severed with little effort, the torso dropping to the ground outside the window. Bihzar decided she’d treat herself with some of the delicacies and gorge tomorrow; she would have all day tomorrow. She hung the pieces on the hooks available. All had been filled with what was left of Jane, Sarah and Sasha along with the boys…

******

Her grumbling stomach roared, bringing Bizhar back from her vision, and she stirred the pot of animal slime once more. Laughing, she shook her head and kicked it over and started again. She proceeded to add small, carefully selected pieces of sweetmeats to her new broth of blood now simmering before her.