Slightly Broken: Initial Assessment with ISAS

I went for my initial assessment with ISAS (Incest and Sexual Abuse Survivors) this afternoon. Naturally I’ve caused myself quite a lot of stress and anxiety in the run up to it and developed a fine tension headache which I’m now self-medicating with codeine and alcohol. The lady was lovely and supportive and I enjoyed (kinda) our conversation. I’m starting to realise that I really do want to get into all this stuff – I’ve lived with the pain for too long and I just don’t want to anymore. So I’m oddly impatient with the (necessary) delays in getting to the point. I believe that though I fear it I am ready for therapy, and I’m ready to be challenged.

I didn’t enjoy the stupid questions which the government makes them ask in order to secure their funding. They start out okay, with questions about seeking support, previous pyschiatric care, self harm and suicide: the usual stuff. Then they hit the qualitative and it all goes to shit. Being asked to assess your own confidence and trust in others on a scale that goes ‘all the time’, ‘most days’, ‘less than most days’, ‘sometimes’, ‘never’ quickly becomes ridiculous. The questions degenerate into self-esteem, social network and addiction with a scale including the mind-numbing ‘others’ ‘self-reliant’ and ‘professional support’. Does knowing a drug dealer count as networking? Am I self-reliant because I can use the internet to find like-minded individuals?

Just dumb.

It highlighted for me once again the horror of involving government in anything about people (especially a Conservative government). These aren’t just the wrong questions and answers but the output data will be utterly worthless. I work with stats and such dumbass questionnaires every day and they are rarely insightful. That ISAS have to depend on getting stupid answers to stupid questions is dreadful. There are people out there in genuine need and our government makes them jump through these hoops. In fairness it proved an excellent icebreaker and  I was at least amused/appalled by the mind-bending difficulty of simultaneously answering ‘do I like alcohol’ and ‘do I drink too much’. Um… yes?

Anyway, I’ve successfully distracted myself from the more important matter of how it was. I’m optimistic, I think. We always have to identify goals for therapy, and I said I want mental peace and freedom from thoughts and ideas which are so frequently present in my mind. I also want to resolve the confusion I have about truth and reality  – separating or understanding the good things that I associate with the friendship I had with my abuser and the abuse itself. Understanding I guess, whether the good things were real, or remain real for me now. It’s problematic philosophically and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to a better understanding than “he’s a monstrous psychopathic bastard and you’ll never be able to see it from his side”. Maybe I don’t want to. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t understand why you’d set up such an elaborate network of lies just to get close to a young boy. Also, how can I love improv so much when it’s intimately tied to a man I would gladly set on fire and watch die? Tricky.

It also made me think again about the nature of improvisation – how it is bound up in consent and trust between the improvisers. I find it interesting that I’m so committed to the practice and theory embedded there. I guess it’s important to me, having been denied consent in the past, that we do choose to play together and make choices which are supportive rather than destructive. I have some stuff to think about.

Sometime next week I should get another call to arrange who my counsellor will be and when our sessions will take place. I’m fearful of what I’ll need to go through to make myself well, but I know I have the strength and capacity to do it and that I have the love and support of those closest to me to make sure I do it.

I’ll keep ya posted.

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My Grandfather’s Watch

After the sudden death of my grandfather I had discovered that I was his sole heir. It came as some surprise to me as I had spent many years estranged from my family and had only recently returned to town. It came as an even greater surprise to my kin. During a tense reading with daggerous looks between his remaining relatives, his house and properties were willed to me alone. I was uneasy with the estate for my prior experience of home ownership extended little beyond possession of a sleeping bag and a talent for cadging a sofa by night. Failing even those luxuries I had camped out beneath the stars in a series of tents and rough spots. Drifting, always drifting. Yet I had returned home at long last and thanks to the quixotic will of my grandfather I had a reason to stay.

I had a house of intriguing and oddly shaped rooms to do with what I wished, and the considerable enmity of my cousins. So it was that I came to be alone for much of my time browsing aimlessly through my grandfather’s vast collection of intriguing trinkets and the countless leather-bound tomes of strange subjects and suggestive titles which littered every room of the house and surface within it. There is something tiring to the eye of such incessant jumble and I sought out quieter vistas.

Amongst the seeming endless ring of keys that had been pressed into my hands by the sweating fingers of my grandfather’s executor was one labelled ‘attic’. I had not yet ventured within. Indeed I had not yet gone above the second storey of the tall Victorian house.

As I fingered the key and ascended the stair to the third storey I felt a speeding quiver in my heart – is there not always a thrill to exploring an attic or cellar? Somehow they bind a house with mystery and potential. I left behind the halls of open doorways and found myself in a hallway in which were five doors – two to my left and right and a fifth facing the stairs.

All locked and unmarked, save for one which must have been at the back of the house (I had gotten somewhat turned around in my ascent and there were no windows in the hall – a room must have been built to enclose the sources of natural light). That door was also closed, but held an ostentatious lock on its outside with a bolt that plainly ran deep into the wall. Its frame was deeply scratched around the lock and lacerations ran its full height from ceiling to floor as if something had deeply desired entrance, yet lacked the key. I felt little desire to test it myself.

At the end of the hall a hatch was set into the ceiling, directly above the fifth door. The attic key was the only one so marked and it fit smoothly into the heavy padlock which lidded the attic shut from beneath. A twist and a tug removed the chain and the hatch swung open eagerly. I was almost struck by the shape which thrust at me with sudden violence from within the darkness above and fell back in alarm. My shock gave way to laughing relief as I realised it was just the folding ladder leaping to greet a visitor.

Heart still pounding and resolute I climbed the ladder and pulled at the cord which hung from the ceiling. Dim lights flickered into life along the length of the attic, blocked and channelled by the hundred trunks and crates which populated the space. A weave of dust hung in the lamplight and tickled at my nose and eyes. With no particular aim I wandered about the huge room, which plainly stretched over the entire plan of the house. I marvelled again at my grandfather’s fascination with collecting and wondered how I would ever manage to dispose of his assets.

I opened a few trunks and examined the disturbing contents: a series of child-sized death masks, a quartet of verse on The Nature of Unions in Undeath, candles and statuettes depicting crude physical acts, a necklace made of teeth and a straw doll with the face of some amphibious creature. I felt dizzy with confusion and the dust eating at my lungs and restacked the oddments where I had found them. I prepared to leave, taking a last look around this warehouse of intriguement. Perhaps I would be able to find a specialist evaluator to examine the house’s contents.

My attention was captivated by the light rebounding in a dazzling arc from an object which hung above the trunks and parcelled books. The arc was almost a rainbow in shape, though it offered none of the rainbow’s jolly hues. The singular item which cast the achromal arch swung by a lightbulb from a leather thong binding it to the rafter above. It was a slender tube of around a foot in length made of some supple and slick artifice that my fingers could barely grip. My eyes slid off the patterns embossed on its curious surface. The shapes hinted at hidden meanings and glamorous twists in perspective.

I gazed at it, entranced by the mandalas and I was scarcely aware of removing it from its resting place and sitting cross-legged upon the floor with the unusual cylinder in my lap. The glyphs and script upon it seemed as if they might be the cousins of a text I’d perused in my grandfather’s study. There they had been described as the words of an ancient people who claimed to perceive time in reverse and whose rites prescribed mutilation and promise of fearsome revelation.

Idly I traced a spiderweb of ancient wisdom with my finger. The tube hummed, grew warm and separated with neat clicks… like the teeth of a skull. Within lay an object which seemed familiar to me and yet had not the familiarity of such items as I had handled before. It was, perhaps, a time piece, for its shape resembled that of an ordinary wristwatch. Yet the chronometry which ringed its face meant nothing to me, telling only the time belonging to an occult and ancient calendar.

The hours were too many, or at least those things I assumed to be the prime divisions of an inhuman day were too great to match our revolutions. The hands were numerous and sprouted in interlocking shapes across the face. Worst of all, it appeared to be made of a glistening gristle; it lay swaddled in the velveteen packaging like a stillborn bone child.

A tremor of fear thrummed in my heart and yet my fingers reached out of their own accord and plucked it from its bed. It was wet and cold in my hand, like a bleeding fish. The lights in the attic dimmed until I was left in blackness. A grisly ticking commenced immediately and with its beat a rush of blood filled my head as if my heart were powered by the engine of a monstrously vigorous furnace. I felt hot, heavy. And then nothing.

I awoke in the dark, though not the dark of the attic but that of night. I lay on my bed, in the guest bedroom (my grandfather’s chamber is too rich with his interests to permit a peaceful slumber). I faced the open window and the starry night sky beyond. Often have I gazed in wonderment at the vastness of the universe with hope that there must be beauty in its vastness and a future for mankind out there. I felt also a calm contentment with our tiny slice of it. For all the petty annoyances of man’s life (and mine had had its share) there are fresh air and butterflies to balance it.

Yet tonight I felt different. My heart ached still from its earlier pounding and there was a dry nausea in my mouth. Frowningly I regarded the starscape anew. It was… wrong. A perverse irreality of the night intruded upon my senses. Where were my astrological friends whom I nightly greeted and goodbyed before I slept?

The Hunter no longer hunted. Instead he cowered, shrinking back from his spectral quarry. New constellations, or rather – ancient skies? I saw the hints of stars I knew, but paled in comparison with the devilish reds and putrescent yellows that dominated the night, threatening my astral familiars. The wrongness of the air threw my head into a spinning dread.

I drew the curtains to evade the portentous sky. It was then I noted the grotesque time piece which lay like a streak of eviscerated organ upon the bedside table. It seemed to me that it throbbed hungrily for the witch lights I had curtained. I resolved to ignore the foul thing and so I swept it into a drawer and resumed my slumber, for even these brief minutes of wakefulness had wearied me.

I fell into bleak dreams pierced by strange threads of symbolism which drew me into a tapestry of sweating horror. Great staring eyes tormented me and penumbrally monolithic structures haunted me vertiginously. At the end I was repeatedly horrified by a trilobite crawling in and out of my slipper as I lay alone on a cold wet floor. I felt unable to draw them forth from beneath the bed when I awoke, slick with fear. I stepped barefoot and fearful to the window and steeled myself to draw the curtains asunder.

The world was as it normally was in the afternoon. I had slept late and the sun was beginning to diminish. Red tinged shadows stretched across the roads outside, their talons reaching through the gardens and scratching at the window, keen to be let in. I looked up to where the dark moon was rising, jaws spread wide to consume our native satellite. I thought nothing of it and turned away from the outside. My hand was drawn to stroke at the cartiliginous thing that wrapped about my wrist, its hands whirling and its pulse beating blackly in counterpoint to my own.

This week, Monday 6th August 2012

I am free – for a week

Woohoo. It’s my birthday (yesterday), so I have toys to play with, many books to read, oddments to oddinate and a week of peace and laziness ahead of me. In celebration I shall have some extra time to scribble and improvise. Happy bags. I’m afraid part 5 of The Peninsula Creature has ended up slightly longer than the preceding parts but hopefully you’ll forgive me.

I’ve got a wonderfully diverse range of things to read: Jeffrey Deaver’s Carte Blanche (007), some classic Jack Vance (The Blue World), Elizabeth Bear’s Chill (which, godammit I’ve just discovered is book two – I cannot tell you how upset I now am), Anna Kendall’s Crossing Over, Reckless by Cornelia Funke, Rupert Thomson’s Air & Fire, Gavin Smith’s Veteran, White Cat by Holly Black (co-author of the amazing Spiderwick Chronicles), The Secrets of the TARDIS (with a UV sonic screwdriver to read hidden things) and Charlie Higson’s The Dead. There are more, but they are underneath those written above. What should I read first?! It’s all very exciting.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday:  the final part of the mini-serial The Peninsula Creature. How will our investigative heroes possibly escape the terrifying beast?

Thursday: End of Line. A short piece of morning fiction about being a clone. The character names are odd and I belatedly realised they were all from things in our medicine cabinet. Well, that’s morning pages for you.

Round Up of Last Week

31st July: The Peninsula Creature – Part 4 – a cryptozoological expedition gets into even more serious trouble

2nd August: My Grandfather’s Watch – eldritch mysteries in a house of strange things

The Peninsula Creature: part 5 of 5

This is the fifth part of a story – read Part 1 , Part 2Part 3  and Part 4 first.

Part 5

We were only minutes away from certain death (a mantra Maxwell had become overly fond of and purred stressfully under his breath). We had splashed and struggled across half the island chain, a bloody and broken trail of destruction behind us. I could hardly believe that we had made it as far as Petit Dansons; sanctuary, or at least the chance of it was less than a mile away – the mainland glittered with promise, seeming far nicer than when we left it only half a day ago.

On the other side of the island was a pool and beach resort which would distract the Colossal Death Newt for a while. The terrifying beast had taken a malicious delight in chasing us across the archipelago. Never assume that nature is merely predatory; we are not the only creatures capable of spite.

Harvey crashed to the sand, exhausted from carrying us while Maxwell took to a tense pacing of the sands. I tore the radio out of the pack and tried not to shout into it. In the loudest of whispers I called up our pilot and breathlessly explained that we had reached the rendezvous, barely. Wonderfully true to his word, we saw Bob’s plane rise from the mainland only moments later. My elation at the sight of his aquaplane competed with the raw fear swelling in my gut.

The next few minutes were an incomprehensible blur of nightmare. First came a familiar crashing behind us, and then Harvey vanished – ripped backwards into the tree line – all fifteen feet of tough chitin and mandibles disappeared scarcely leaving a groove in the sand. Maxwell and I backed into the surf, (he in my arms, his claws dug firmly into my shoulder after climbing up me) as the sound of Bob’s plane grew louder. We twisted and turned in the shallows, trying to keep both our saviour and nemesis in view.

The plane slowed, making ready to glide onto the sea before us. We were ready to dive into the water but he reared up and away. I feared Bob had lost his nerve, catching sight of the fearsome monster lurking in the trees with our dear friend Harvey. We could even see the expression of alarm on his face and then the whole plane was whipped out of the sky by a monstrous tentacle that jerked suddenly out of the sea.

We stepped wetly back onto the beach as the plane cart-wheeled over our heads and into the trees. A deep roar of pain and outrage shook the ground beneath our feet from which we inferred that it had struck our pursuer. I fell to my knees wondering what arrangement of organs enabled such an outburst, doubtless a consideration for another time. The Colossal Death Newt showed itself. That vast flat head rose up above the foliage, the jaws gaping to reveal the rows of devil teeth and the tongue tasting at the evening air. It lunged forwards and we saw the yellow aeroplane wing embedded in its neck. It looked furious.

I fully anticipated our deaths but a foaming and crashing of water tore our attention seawards once more. An even more appalling creature of tentacles and snapping beak was thrashing its way to land. It resembled a purpling heap of paella grown insane and to titanic proportions. Our attacker snarled from deep inside, and bunching its sinuous length, uncoiled in a sprint directly for the marine assailant. The creature’s feet slammed straight past us, so close that I could have reached out to touch it (had I felt any such desire to do so). The leviathans embraced in a deadly whirl of teeth and tentacles.

Maxwell and I were shocked, to say the least, by this turn of events. So much so that we felt compelled to watch as they smashed into each other. We were even more shocked when the trees rustled again and we quivered in anticipation of some new threat. Our relief was profound when we realised it was Harvey. That relief faded immediately that we saw it was only a part of him. Just his head and first three segments staggered between the trunks and drunkenly weaved towards us. He took a few paces and fell to the sand, ichor gushing horribly from his abdomen. He died in my arms, his mandibles clacking feebly.

The two monsters thrashed away behind us, foaming the water and tearing great chunks from each other that arced over sea and spattered onto the beach like a rain of gore. This was a fantastic opportunity for zoologists such as ourselves to witness a miracle of nature, a contest of kings. Reluctantly I also acknowledged that this might be our best opportunity to cross the sea. I had little doubt that whichever giant survived the battle, its next meal would be us.

With this in mind I cracked open Harvey’s helmet-like head by jamming my knife into the crease by his left eye socket. The armour split smoothly and I parted sacs of insectile fluids until I found what I was looking for. The soul-grub whimpered faintly as I cut it out of the gristly nest it lodged within. I patted it gently and folded it into a wax paper envelope. I bundled Maxwell (who did not entirely agree with my plan) into his case and tucked Harvey’s next incarnation in beside him. I unlaced my boots and placed them on the beach facing the sea. With a last fearful look at the raging titans I dove into the warm waters. Pushing my friends before me, I swam into the coming night.

The end.

Pulp Pirate 11

Flash Cast 67 – Candy Shanks

Gaargh! Well how can I not approve of that episode title? Shanking for GB right now… And I’m at least a week behind with this, but then I’m more than a week behind listening to the pulpish marvels put forth by @SkinnerCo in their weekly FlashCast (never mind the endless stream of high quality pulp fiction shenanigans, cartoons and wonder). This FlashCast includes The Bloodsoaked Adventure (a dark tale of being hunted by an armada and beasts in the fog) and another remarkably dark Bothersome Thing from Jeff Lynch.

Listen to it now: 

http://flashpulp.com/
http://skinner.libsyn.com/rss
http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/flash-pulp/id367726315

End of Line

Benzoate was the eight clone of an eighth clone. That is to say he had a proud and fine genetic heritage but those fabulous chromosomes were creaking quite badly by the time they took yet another piece and tossed it in his birthing dish. DNA is a tough little devil. It can take a lot, but it likes to mix and match. It doesn’t like being stamped out with a cookie cutter. The edges get worn and what should be a hand looks more like an ear. The natural copying and pasting process that takes place during sexual reproduction, for all of its faults and messiness does do the job. Sometimes though, that’s not an option.

Benzoate was the lucky recipient of those eighth hand genes. He couldn’t really complain though – it was either these genes or nothing. There wasn’t much diversity to go around these days. He stumbled up the road. His left foot dragged reluctantly, twisted in as it was, and sent a wake across the puddles. The streets would have been busier had the local industry not crashed and burned ten years ago. The decade-long depression that followed had chased anyone of real worth off-world and only the losers and defects were left.

The streets were filled with dust and disappointment. His footsteps stirred them only a little. Benzoate hadn’t worked for more than a week for two years and survived on the same repro-handout as everyone else. Food was bland but free, housing was free – no one could sell it so no one got kicked out. He coughed up a little more blood and spat it into the dust.

With little to do but hope for work Benzoate chose the only alternative. He ambled into The Pig of Nine Tails and was greeted by a boisterous chorus of “Benzie!” Benzoate nodded to the barman (a big Six named Mack, like all barmen) and walked the length of the room to the gang’s booth in the ill-lit murk. He slumped into a rickety chair. The booth was already tightly filled so he sat with his back to the bar.

“Benzie!” the bellower was penned in by the other eleven men and women who clutched their drinks and raised them in mocking salute. Mamalex, the bellower continued, ”Benzie. Bad news dude – I hear they’ve retired your stock.” Benzoate wasn’t sure how he felt about this, so he poured a glass from the pitcher of deathly-looking ale in the middle of the table.

“Probably just as well Mam, they don’t make us like they used to.”

The ancient gag cracked up the gang and Benzoate received a flurry of slaps on the back which did nothing for his loosening cough. Mamalex continued to shout at his default volume, even though they were the bar’s only customers:

“End of the line Mack – another pitcher for end of the line.”

“And who’s paying for this one?” came the even response.

“I’ll pay,” volunteered Benzoate, “man should pay for his own funeral right?”

“Aw, don’t take it so hard Benzie,” squealed Saratogen, her huge eyes almost lighting up the back of the alcove, “they never worked no line like yours.”

“Yeah, who ever heard of an Eight? Even Caromex only went to Seven.”

“And that twice!” chipped in Hyparomine.

“I heard the repro docs got drunk and forgot which tube went in which centrifuge.” Loradatune broke down in a fit of giggles and snorts.

“No, no. I heard of one other eight,” said Mamalex, “long time ago.”

“Ah, hush your nonsense,” laughed Hyparomine. Mamalex ignored him and with expansive arms reached out and drew in his audience.

“Way back when, in the early years – back when folks forgot how to breed and started cloning their kids, there was another man: end of line. They’d pushed his genes, copied ‘em, spliced ‘em for as long as they could. Them genes didn’t want to live no more; couldn’t take it. But they did it again. One last time. They needed him you see – there was something special about him, in his blood was magic.”

“Magic? Geez Mamalex, pull the other one.”

“Not magic-wizard-magic. Magic. Whose blood you think you got?”

“What?”

“This guy’s blood – this Eight. They’d bred him for the secret of his blood. He had the type to beat all the other bloods. The ultimate neutral, taken by anyone. So they pushed the line till they got what they needed – got what we all needed. Because sometimes, when you get to the end of the strands… something special happens.”

“And that’s why they’ve pushed Benzie?” asked Saratogen, her eyes lighting on Benzoate as he twitched gently.

“Sure – along with the intensified genetic illnesses, predisposition to muscular weakness, joint pain and early death. They get through us faster these days,“ continued Mamalex, “there’s miracles in the genome waiting to be seen – super-powers, if you like.”

The table was crowded round, intent on the possibilities in Mamalex’s tale.

“Psychic powers”

“Flying”

“The secrets of immortality,” breathed Mamalex.

There was a thud as Benzoate’s head hit the table, and he slid off his stool.

“Well, maybe not for Benzie. End of line Mack! Another pitcher!”

This week, Monday 13th August 2012

Curses, back to work

I’ve had a lovely week of peace and quiet, but contrary to my expectations I’ve done almost nothing. No really, I have almost literally achieved nothing, other than relaxing and getting some sleep. That’s really quite good for me. Unfortunately part of the ‘done absolutely nothing’ is the old writing… I guess I’d better start catching up!

Other than the general failure/success of a birthday week I put up the last segment of The Peninsula Creature. I’m quite happy with it; it was a story that spun cheerfully out of a dream which I had a couple of nights after seeing Jaws at the cinema. The influence is probably noticeable… I also enjoy the nonsense of cryptozoology (check out the MonsterTalk podcast) and found it fun to incorporate some aspects of it. Importantly (to me), did you enjoy it? Please let me know if you did. The same goes for the admittedly rather odd End of Line. I don’t know if I like it so I’d be interested in your thoughts.

This week’s scribbles

TuesdayShankanalia – the shank in the coffin. Violent, intolerant poetry very much inspired by having to go to work and deal with many people I can only regard as subhuman.

Wednesday: a cheat – the whole of The Peninsula Creature in one handy post for those who can’t be bothered to click back and forth between episodes. It’s ok – I am one of those people too.

Thursday: Eric the Bewildered Weaselthe first chapter (or readable slice) from a story I wrote ages ago but have recently felt like continuing. It’s about a forest which suffers an alien invasion… might take a few chapters to start making sense mind.

Round Up of Last Week

7th August: The Peninsula Creature – Part 5 – a cryptozoological expedition gets into even more serious trouble

8th August: Pulp Pirate 11 – another story contribution to the magnificent Flash Pulp podcast

9th August: End of Line – short story about cloning and hope

Slightly Broken: Early Morning Tension

This world is only as real as we feel it to be. Sometimes I feel terribly disconnected and then, even worse, I’m dragged back into it with that awful grinding sensation in my stomach as I recall yet another thing I should have done, someone else I’ve managed to let down or disappoint. Is it only late at night that relatively trivial problems seem to loom so large? I suppose it’s such a quiet time without the usual plethora of distractions and so things take on undue importance. It’s enough to keep a fellow from sleep.

It’s irritating too – I need to organise a couple of things this week and do some more promotion to ensure that a show on Friday isn’t a total audience washout. Thing is, the latter certainly isn’t something within my power to fix. Folk will come or they won’t. Nonetheless I worry about it. I feel a great responsibility for such things, which I really shouldn’t. But I don’t really know how to stop them from bothering me. The other tasks that have startled me awake are also very much “it’ll be ok, or it won’t but there’s little I can do to fix it” and yet… Here I am typing about them as if they matter.

I reckon they’re just surface distractions which my brain has selected to shield me from the horror of going back to work tomorrow (I say tomorrow… I need to get up in 5 hours!) and that tomorrow evening I’ve got my first counselling session with ISAS. Neither of these things truly fill me with dread, but perhaps I’m just pretending that they’re aren’t happening. So hard to second-guess your own mind. I have been figuring out my goals for counselling though, or at least putting more thought into what I want to talk about in them.

I think I want to have the support to go back through my old diaries and letters from the time (of doom) and see if I do remember it as it happened. I know that I need to come to terms with my past, whatever that means, and these are my pieces of evidence and accounts of myself from back then. Some of it’s not that old, I can dig out whatever I managed to tell my Dad about ten years ago which was fairly traumatic too.

See I’m relaxing already, although that might just be my cocktail of amytriptyline, cocodamol and whiskey… not a long-term solution. And that’s what I’ve painfully slowly come to realise I need.

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Shankanalia – the shank in your coffin

Back to work – seems an apt time to post up some bloody verse. These happy little Twitter snippets largely cover my experiences dealing with, or rather putting up with / suffering / cleaning up after management consultants.

I’d compare them with homeopaths, but generally drinking water doesn’t do you any harm. Unless you do that instead of taking your cancer meds. Ah yeah – they’re exactly like those snake oil selling bastards: dangerous, irresponsible, well paid frauds.

Do enjoy them with friends or family. You can follow @shankanalia on Twitter too. There’s a bunch of stuff I read for you at: Reverbnation.com/CaptainPigheart

The Shank in Your Coffin

Favours
“Shank me?”
You’ll thank me
When I split your ribs
Pour out your organs
Make a moron smoothie
Feed it to your kids
Bleeeeeeeeeed
Out.

You Hired Who
Worthless pageant of lies.
To be so gullible?
No child is so blind.
Consultant expense
Talking cock with fellatriste’s mouth
Consultant lies.

Shushie
Indoor voices, mother-fuckers!
Keep your words to yourself
Nobody cares.
Indoor voices, mother-fuckers!
Don’t make me scream in my outdoor voice.

Missing Statements
Dignity.
The face of adversity
Is blank and empty of thought.
Respect for naught.
Abase yourself
In speech of confusion;
False words.
Ignorance.

Appointment
We’re ready for you
Oh, someone’s looking for you
We’ve moved
Try over there
Yeah we can’t talk to you now
Wait five
Come back later
Who are you?

Raw Love
Oh Pepperami-faced man!
Face of scrubbed corned beef.
Gristle-cheeked,
Bloodshot skin.
You have a mate:
I’m surprised.
She must like the texture.

Slightly Broken: Counselled

I had my first counselling session yesterday, which was a getting to know you sort of session. No agenda, I was basically given time to babble away for an hour. Which I did. I’ve been trying to be direct – I hate the kind of talking around issues that I tend to do and was determined to cut through at least some of that. I think I was successful. We talked about a lot of the things that I feel I need to resolve: trying to understand my abuser and the truth or reality of the good and the bad stuff that happened; the cycle of abuse; coming to an understanding of what did happen; feeling comfortable with other people knowing what happened to me.

The last two parts are ones I do want to think about – I have a genuine Pandora’s Box, a lovely wooden chest with an envelope that has diaries, letters and photographs in it. I want/need/think I should revisit how I actually felt. So I’m going to open that box in the safe place that is counselling and go through some of the things in it. Eek. Well, that’s the plan anyway. I want to challenge myself. It’s been a long time and I’m sick of my life being affected by events that weren’t my fault and as far as I’m concerned should be relegated to the same rememberings as geography classes in Year 8. That is to say – never. Or rarely; I’ll take that.

My next appointment is next Monday (‘cos it’s weekly…) and so far it’s trashed my sleep this week. I feel pretty wrecked physically already and I’m worried about how this is all going to go. The thing is, there’s never going to be a good, convenient time to rip my psyche open and weep in it. It seems that I’ve chosen now to do so. I’m just going to have to suck it up and deal with it. That’s good; I hate bitching and whining (which is what it feels like I’ve doing.)

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The Peninsula Creature

This is the whole story.

Part 1

Tales of the Ultrashark had drawn us to the tiny port town of Mongolith which lies on the tip of the Northern continent where it projects into the steamy waters of the Aberrian sea. The town was the link to the popular Holiday Archipelago which sprouted in a chain of beautiful tiny islands dotted with hotels, chalets and beach camps. Fear of the Ultrashark had kept us on the mainland for days, like the holiday-makers not already in their bathing suits on the islands. No one wanted to take us across the water with a genuine sea monster on the loose, indeed there was much grumbling from those whose vacations were being spoiled. Instead we absorbed the local gossip, examined the remnants of boats and the terrifying images captured of the creature.

That it was real we had absolutely no doubt. Dozens of small fishing craft had disappeared, as had the larger fish. Until the town finally prohibited swimming there was a steady stream of fatalities. The clearest picture of it, taken by a man on a fleeing vessel, showed a huge maw chomping through the hull and cabin of a fishing boat. We were eager to get closer to it, but still no amount of money (what little we could afford in bribes) would take us to sea. Of course, if we’d still had the university’s research ship we would have been out there already. But the Spirit of Inquiry lay in pieces at the bottom of the Invex Gulf. The creature was disappointingly elusive and we suspected it was prowling the (belatedly) safety conscious waters between the islands.

After six days of frustrated pacing of the beach and half-glimpsed fins our search was ended. A fisherman was found suffering from an hysterical fit. The constables followed his footsteps back down the beach and discovered the decapitated head of a gigantic shark specimen. They assumed it had been washed up with the morning tide. I mused that the enormous head – with a mouth wide enough to drive an omnibus through without scraping the roof on the cleaver-like teeth – had been tossed up the beach, since it lay some fifty feet beyond the tide’s reach. The fierce predator’s head had been severed by something even larger. The brief relief that its death brought was overshadowed by a very real fear of whatever had pushed it down the food chain. There was little doubt that this would be quite bad for the tourist industry, but for us this was gold. We took our measurements and records before the locals whisked the evidence away and transformed it into a gruesome tourist attraction.

We determined to charter a flight instead which could put us in the heart of the fragmented peninsula. Finding a suitable pilot and plane was difficult: you see, I travel always with my two companions, they are friends and colleagues from the university. The first, Harvey is a giant sentient millipede from the Southern Continent (professor of Diverse Biology) and the second is Maxwell, my black and white cat. Cramming the three of us in is often a challenge, though I admit that Maxwell is not the one who presents the problems. Our former aircraft (its lifespan was sadly too short to achieve a christening) had been destroyed while we escaped from the Bitter Forest. As with the Spirit, our employers had been lax in its replacement. Maxwell successfully found us an alternative, a somewhat reluctant gentleman predictably named Bob, whose aquaplane had sufficient space for Harvey to coil within.

Part 2

The sea sparkled bright and clear from our high vantage and we were perkily alert for more anomalous monsters. However, the only shadows that marred the water were those of ordinary fauna: shoals of Goading Fish and the huge but harmless Rooted Jellyfish which are common in the Aberrian shallows. As we flew over the picturesque reefs and atolls our pilot grunted (more than he had so far uttered) and said he couldn’t get through to island control. This was unusual enough to set him grumbling about the safety of his “bird”. Our intention had been to set down on the farthest island and work our way back using the endless string of hotels and rustic ferries for transport and comfort. But the crackling radio and Bob’s rising anxiety about the silence from the islands prompted a reluctant change of plans.

Harvey, Maxwell and I held a brief conference. We agreed that we ought to proceed, but with perhaps a mite more caution than usual. Accordingly we requested that Bob set us down near the middle of the archipelago. That was when we caught our first glimpse of the thing that had casually snapped the head off the Ultrashark and spat it onto the sands.

We were passing over one of the larger islands with an apparently jungle-themed hotel dominating the shoreline, when fire erupted out of the complex. Billows of thick black smoke rose upwards as Bob banked the plane sharply to avoid being blinded. The smoke obscured our view but between the clouds we could see movement – a huge shadow within the murk darting back and forth across the island. We circled it, trying to get a clear view of the animal but it plunged back into the sea as the smoke began to blow away. Its length was swallowed by the deeper water.

The fire was short-lived, burning itself into a blackened smear. We could see no one on the beach, not even people running from or to the hotel. It seemed that our investigation might not be as merry or straightforward as we had hoped. But we are scientists (with the exception of Maxwell; he is an enthusiastic amateur) and mere discomfort would not impede us.

We chose the beleaguered island for our beginning (which Bob informed us was named after a local saint – St Balm’s). Although this appeared wildly foolish to our pilot we had our reasons. We knew the beast had been there so physical evidence ought to be widely available. There was also a good chance that it would not be returning if it had already denuded the island of life, and we would be able to pick up its trail. Clearly the creaure was dangerous and carnivorous and we preferred to be behind it than in its path.

I referred to my holiday guide. St Balm’s was the second largest island and sported two hotels: the beach front jungle-hotel and another set into the lightly forested centre of the island. There were also cabins dotted about and a range of recreational activities. It sounded lovely although none of it gave the impression that it would withstand anything with more teeth than the rain.

Bob touched down lightly on the sea and we splashed awkwardly onto the shore. We prepared for our expedition by piling Harvey high with the bags and packs Bob hurled from the plane. Bob declined the opportunity to wait for us and was in the air again almost before our feet left prints in the sand. He had promised to stay near the radio though and would keep an ear open for our inevitable cries for aid. We gave him an optimistic wave as he vanished into the distance.

Part 3

We spiralled inwards from the shoreline, keeping an eye out for the creature while scouting for tracks and survivors. Every human structure, from kayaks to chalets had been destroyed and scattered violently. The beach resort had been pounded into the sand. Fragments of furniture and roof sloshed gently in the surf. We were somewhat shaken by the degree of devastation and flinchingly sifted through the wreckage, fearing what state the casualties might be in.

Following the trail that had been beaten into the forest we came to the flaming beacon which had lured us in. The fire appeared to have come from the hotel’s power generator which lay behind the main complex. It looked as if it had been stamped upon, rupturing the boilers. An avenue of smashed trees and flattened cabins led away on both sides of the smoking ruin.

Either fear of the Ultrashark had dissuaded the holiday makers from their annual vacations or the creaure we’d seen skulking into the sea had been disturbingly thorough. We found no survivors or even any bodily remains, beside a long red smear within a footprint. The beast’s tracks were plentiful and had provided most of our footpaths; Harvey and Maxwell measured them while I took photographs.

The creature, we surmised, had the gait and rough anatomy of a large aquatic reptile but was far larger than anything found even in the Southern Continent. Some of the clearer markings where the animal had paused before changing direction showed a length between forelegs and tail tip of fifty feet. We had no idea of its head shape as yet, though there were grooves in the sand where it might have ducked to graze upon its prey. Harvey expostulated that it was naturally at home on the bottom of the ocean where it would feed on anything that came within reach until the stimulation of the Ultrashark brought it to the surface. Maxwell considered it an interloper from distant waters. It was an exciting discovery and a number of papers were likely to emerge from its study.

Our intent had been to island hop with the ferries or local boat men, but there were no longer such facilities available. The detritus of boats and the buoyant stern of a ferry were visible from the beach. Some of the islands were only a few hundreds of feet apart (even less at low tide) so Harvey proposed that we travel on his back instead, as we had often done in the lakes of the Eastern Mood jungles. This was not the most appealing prospect but past attempts at raft building had met unfortunate ends. It was only a little water after all. I tucked Maxwell into his perspex box; he hates the water, but not as much as being unable to see.

That first passage between the islands was tense, but brief. Harvey’s light step skimmed through the shallow waters and up the next beach before we’d had time to truly unsettle ourselves. Harvey shook his articulated length dry and I released Maxwell onto the sound. Perhaps we’d find a whole boat on this island. Without an aerial view we had to trust that the creature was still ahead of us. On reflection it would have been the ideal time to unhook the radio from Harvey’s pannier and check whether Bob was still airborne.

Even now I find it hard to believe that a creature so large could move with such stealth. Indeed, the noise we heard, which alerted us to the imminent danger, was only the sound of water cascading onto wet sand. We turned; Harvey instinctively circled around us like a wagon train. We three watched the enormous head of the creature rise out of the water. It had a long broad snout with the appearance of a salamander or newt save the powerful jawline and rows of wicked teeth which gave it an alligator’s grin. Instead of eyes set into its head, it boasted a pair of mobile eye palps resembling horns. They rotated smoothly towards us with alien grace and its cave-like nostrils flared. Maxwell named it for us, in a low mewl of disquiet: “it’s a… a… a Colossal Death Newt!”

Part 4

In pursuing and investigating unusual creatures we have found that there are three choices when confronted by what is supposed to be our quarry: make a great deal of noise to either scare it off or establish our dominance, remain terribly still and hope to be ignored, or flee. The decision is usually made instinctively, and quickly. This was no exception. As the rest of the Collossal Death Newt’s blue black bulk slid smoothly out of the sea and its mouth gaped at us, we ran. For fear of separation I scooped up Maxwell even though his nimble cats feet are quicker than mine, and tried to keep up with Harvey’s fluid scuttle.

Before we knew it we had reached the other side of this isle and pressed on across the narrow sandy spit to the next, on which we saw lights and smelled cooking meat. The resort was fully occupied and families ate, played and slept in a broad clearing ringed with chalets. We had no choice but to lead the beast into their midst as we bellowed at them to run.

The creature flattened trees and cabins under the weight of its low-slung body. Its locomotion appeared to confirm Maxwell’s newt thesis, although unfortunately we had little time to examine it in detail. Our fears about the former inhabitants of the first island were confirmed as it made a point of snapping up screaming holiday makers, or knocked them down with its long tongue and sucked them in over its teeth. From our selfish perspective the holiday camp gave us good cover and we were in the lead as we continued our escape, dashing from that island to the next.

The Death Newt’s progress was quite evident behind us – not only was it huge enough to be readily visible but the collapsing trees, buildings and panicked people scattering outwards pinpointed it perfectly. It seemed intent on eating every person in its path. While it was busy we hopped across to yet another island and fell to the ground for a moment’s respite. Harvey still bore most of our equipment in the saddlebags strapped across his shell. Several of the bags were torn and others had been left behind in our scramble, but we still had the bulk of the photographic kit, specimen jars, and food. Our rather feeble store of weapons – a rifle, a pistol and some caving explosives were also intact. How I rued the butchering of our armaments budget.

Most importantly the radio was still present, and dry. With some haste I hailed Bob. His voice was a tonic. He had returned to the mainland and reported what little he could to the authorities. They were now in the important governmental stage of dithering. Meanwhile, yet more smoke was visible rising from the Holiday Islands and its population was rapidly diminishing. I explained that we were now ahead of the monster – a wholly undesirable outcome and were in urgent need of assistance. Bob was quite clear that he wouldn’t land anywhere near the creature, but he would come and fetch us – if we made it alive to the Petits Dansons island, the closest to Mongolith.

There was only forward (or South as the maps will have it) left to us and even as we set off we could hear the monstrous newt’s earth shaking tread behind us. Our expedition had degenerated into a blind race across islands and splashing through waist-deep water. It was constantly on our heels, except for whenever we passed through a holiday village or hotel resort. Then the behemoth would ignore us for a few minutes while it hunted down the luckless vacationers with its terrible flickering tongue. I soon gave up stopping to photograph the carnage. As Maxwell pointed out with the grip of his claws, those brief distractions were all that kept us ahead.

By the sixth hour of our flight Maxwell and I were beyond exhaustion and had taken to clinging onto Harvey’s panniers as he deftly wove through the foliage. Evening was preparing to condemn us to night when we burst through a final stand of shrubs. Before us there was only open water, and perhaps only a mile away – the mainland.

Quite why its prospect seemed any more secure than the ravaged islands I do not know. The amphibious terror would be equally at home mangling the thriving shore of Mongolith – but the port-town positively hummed with safety. I would of course wish to be a very long way inland, but nonetheless… to be away from the sea outweighed even my desire for a cup of tea.

Part 5

We were only minutes away from certain death (a mantra Maxwell had become overly fond of and purred stressfully under his breath). We had splashed and struggled across half the island chain, a bloody and broken trail of destruction behind us. I could hardly believe that we had made it as far as Petit Dansons; sanctuary, or at least the chance of it was less than a mile away – the mainland glittered with promise, seeming far nicer than when we left it only half a day ago.

On the other side of the island was a pool and beach resort which would distract the Colossal Death Newt for a while. The terrifying beast had taken a malicious delight in chasing us across the archipelago. Never assume that nature is merely predatory; we are not the only creatures capable of spite.

Harvey crashed to the sand, exhausted from carrying us while Maxwell took to a tense pacing of the sands. I tore the radio out of the pack and tried not to shout into it. In the loudest of whispers I called up our pilot and breathlessly explained that we had reached the rendezvous, barely. Wonderfully true to his word, we saw Bob’s plane rise from the mainland only moments later. My elation at the sight of his aquaplane competed with the raw fear swelling in my gut.

The next few minutes were an incomprehensible blur of nightmare. First came a familiar crashing behind us, and then Harvey vanished – ripped backwards into the tree line – all fifteen feet of tough chitin and mandibles disappeared scarcely leaving a groove in the sand. Maxwell and I backed into the surf, (he in my arms, his claws dug firmly into my shoulder after climbing up me) as the sound of Bob’s plane grew louder. We twisted and turned in the shallows, trying to keep both our saviour and nemesis in view.

The plane slowed, making ready to glide onto the sea before us. We were ready to dive into the water but he reared up and away. I feared Bob had lost his nerve, catching sight of the fearsome monster lurking in the trees with our dear friend Harvey. We could even see the expression of alarm on his face and then the whole plane was whipped out of the sky by a monstrous tentacle that jerked suddenly out of the sea.

We stepped wetly back onto the beach as the plane cart-wheeled over our heads and into the trees. A deep roar of pain and outrage shook the ground beneath our feet from which we inferred that it had struck our pursuer. I fell to my knees wondering what arrangement of organs enabled such an outburst, doubtless a consideration for another time. The Colossal Death Newt showed itself. That vast flat head rose up above the foliage, the jaws gaping to reveal the rows of devil teeth and the tongue tasting at the evening air. It lunged forwards and we saw the yellow aeroplane wing embedded in its neck. It looked furious.

I fully anticipated our deaths but a foaming and crashing of water tore our attention seawards once more. An even more appalling creature of tentacles and snapping beak was thrashing its way to land. It resembled a purpling heap of paella grown insane and to titanic proportions. Our attacker snarled from deep inside, and bunching its sinuous length, uncoiled in a sprint directly for the marine assailant. The creature’s feet slammed straight past us, so close that I could have reached out to touch it (had I felt any such desire to do so). The leviathans embraced in a deadly whirl of teeth and tentacles.

Maxwell and I were shocked, to say the least, by this turn of events. So much so that we felt compelled to watch as they smashed into each other. We were even more shocked when the trees rustled again and we quivered in anticipation of some new threat. Our relief was profound when we realised it was Harvey. That relief faded immediately that we saw it was only a part of him. Just his head and first three segments staggered between the trunks and drunkenly weaved towards us. He took a few paces and fell to the sand, ichor gushing horribly from his abdomen. He died in my arms, his mandibles clacking feebly.

The two monsters thrashed away behind us, foaming the water and tearing great chunks from each other that arced over sea and spattered onto the beach like a rain of gore. This was a fantastic opportunity for zoologists such as ourselves to witness a miracle of nature, a contest of kings. Reluctantly I also acknowledged that this might be our best opportunity to cross the sea. I had little doubt that whichever giant survived the battle, its next meal would be us.

With this in mind I cracked open Harvey’s helmet-like head by jamming my knife into the crease by his left eye socket. The armour split smoothly and I parted sacs of insectile fluids until I found what I was looking for. The soul-grub whimpered faintly as I cut it out of the gristly nest it lodged within. I patted it gently and folded it into a wax paper envelope. I bundled Maxwell (who did not entirely agree with my plan) into his case and tucked Harvey’s next incarnation in beside him. I unlaced my boots and placed them on the beach facing the sea. With a last fearful look at the raging titans I dove into the warm waters. Pushing my friends before me, I swam into the coming night.

The end.

Eric The Bewildered Weasel 1

Eric is a story that I started writing in 2001 when I got a temp job which was ludicrously easy. Rather than seek out further work which would have ruined my day I used the rudimentary word processor and started saving this story on a 3.5 inch floppy. Ah… memories.

The idea was a kids’ story combining The Animals of Farthing Wood with The War of the Worlds. It got to a fair old length before life conspired against me and it fell into a dusty folder. I’ve been thinking about it of late and wonder if I ought to revisit the tale. This is the prologue, as it was 7 years ago. I’ll post the next bit next Thursday too. I’m looking for motivation folks! Any comments will be most welcome.

Eric furled his furry sinuous body about the young tree’s trunk, looking nervously left, other left, and round the back. It seemed clear. His long, sleek body stumbled into the clearing, tail lashing. He almost managed to tuck in all of himself as he dived through another mass of ferns. All was quiet, nice and still. His heart pounded loudly as he caught his breath. Eric flared his nostrils to relieve the strain of hours of nervous smelling and just in case he’d missed something. He sank down on to the cool, green-littered earth and sighed- very softly and very slowly.

It had been an appallingly busy day, Eric had been on the run for most of it but was still not sure why. He grudgingly admitted to himself that this was one of those instinctive things; he couldn’t think of a single weasel hero who had stood his ground (and lived). And he was lost, deep in the forest. Normally Eric stuck to the fringes, which provided a plethora of escape routes. Here he was surrounded by huge trees and heaps of undergrowth: great cover, but as Eric didn’t know which direction he was facing, he had no idea where to hide.

So, lost and tired, Eric tried to assess his situation. ‘Endangered’ sprang eagerly to mind, closely followed by ‘hungry’. This only reminded him of when he’d last eaten, a sadly abbreviated affair that morning. He had risen as usual and performed his daily ablutions and was settling down to a warming breakfast of neighbours’ eggs and toast. Not exactly bright-eyed and bushy tailed, perhaps a little bleary about the eyes and dry of nose from the Homecoming party, but ready for a day of slinking and lurking. Halfway through breakfast, Eric’s ear had pricked slightly at a distant whistle. The decorated walls and plush flooring of his rather fine home were an effective insulator from the woodland racket. Eric snapped awake seconds later as the roof crumpled around him. He tumbled backwards through the forced-open door, whisking his tail out as he righted himself. Eric looked at his house, now a thin veneer of wood pulp under a colossal cone of greyness. Eric simply stood there, horrified by the blatant destruction of all his possessions; only a thin squeak escaped his lips. Eric had no time to consider how lucky he was to have such good reactions, he just employed them directly. The vast bulk shifted on its haunches and lurched towards Eric. That was enough: centuries of weasel lore held that ‘if in doubt, run away’, and Eric was a traditional creature.

Eric had run a long way, far further than he’d even considered running before. He was naturally a frantically lazy creature. He preferred to stroll, perhaps scamper, but for now walking was the best he could manage. As his pulse slowed he started to think. Thinking has the unfortunate tendency to raise far more worrying questions than the minor query you start with. Eric hadn’t glimpsed The Thing since he left the smash, which begged the question- was he being followed or not? And then, what was ‘it’? It had clearly destroyed his home, but it wasn’t at all clear what business something that large had in falling. Rocks and trees just don’t get lobbed or dropped, and who could throw that? But that Thing (whatever or however it was) had definitely threatened him. Maybe not much, but it had lunged for him. That counted as a chase on top of threatening behaviour; Eric was feeling intimidated and not a little bewildered.

By lunchtime, Eric was leaning heavily towards going home, especially now his stomach had started to sound like a grievously ill hedgehog. The air was still, cooling a bit, but Eric could sense the mounting tension. He stood up, quickly scanned in front of him, to the left, other left, round back… And- GO! He ran again, possibly faster from a point several feet in the air, facing the other way. As he ran, and ran, he wondered how it had gotten so close to him, and so quietly. Leaping and capering around obstacles, he took frantic over and under the shoulder glances, just to assure himself that running was indeed the best plan. As is so often the case in stressful situations, one of those quick checks wasn’t quite quick enough and as Eric’s head swung back to the path it also swung into an inconsiderately placed branch… then everything hurt and went dark.

This week, Monday 20th August 2012

Distractions, distractions

So the week of peace and quiet has been followed by a week of bad sleep and stress. Splendid. I suppose that’s the nature of going back to work. I’ve also been doing a lot of improvised comedy recently which has been marvellous but involves (for no intrinsic reason) late nights and in many respects scratches the old creative itch. It lead to a particularly enjoyable show last Friday. We called it Consenting Partners as it was all done in pairs (and trios in the second half). The pair I was in we called Bitchcock Kerfuffle, which probably gives some idea of the energy David and I aimed for. Without intending to we ended up with a lovely narrative about the horrors of Leprechauns which ended in a speed-dating chess match. Eventually there should be some video of that, and the other teams’ marvellous work.

This week itself is likely to be wiped out by my brother’s wedding (yay) on Saturday, but more pertinently he’s asked me to give a speech at the wedding meal… as Captain Pigheart! So now I need to write a specific story about him in a week which is both embarassing, filthy and funny. Bastard. The Blundering Buccaneer I think…

The indolent heat

Oh yeah, as an Englishman I also wish to complain bitterly about the frightful heat and humidity we’ve been suffering with since the UK re-discovered summer. I dislike it.

This week’s scribbles

TuesdayTwinned With Evil – part 1. This is another dream-based story, and I think will be three parts (still fixing the rest!) It’s set in a city which is slowly destroying itself.

Wednesday: Pulp Pirate 12. Aye, back on the Flash Pulp gravy train again. This time with something that ain’t a pirate story…

Thursday: Eric the Bewildered Weasel part 2. Just posting bits of this is reigniting my interest in the tale – I hope it does for you too. In this part we introduce another of the main characters. I think we’re still in prologueish territory.

Round Up of Last Week

14th August: Shankanalia – the shank in the coffin – some more mean-spirited poems to get you in the summery mood

15th August: The Peninsula Creature – all five parts in one (like a pentagonal deity, but a more fun story)

16th August: Eric the Bewildered Weasel 1– the prologuey section from a longer story about animals and aliens

Events and Excitement

Exciting stuff coming up in Nottingham:

Story Club – Monday 27th August at The City Gallery 8pm FREE

MissImp in Action – Friday 31st August at The Glee Club 8.30pm (not free, but cheap!)

Pub Poetry – Monday 24th September at The Canalhouse 8pm FREE

The Pirate Coves – Thursday 27th September at The Golden Fleece 8pm FREE

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Slightly Broken: Delving into the past

This is what I’m getting into in counselling today. My old diaries and letters and stuff. Can’t say I’m thrilled by the prospect, but I’m distracting myself by um, writing about it and taking a photograph of the books. See you on the other side.
image

The other side – totally mindfucked. I’ll have to catch up with you later. For now, only poetry will suffice.

Slightly Broken: Counselling Poems

After my counselling session I felt, well – I’m not sure. Tense, numb, devastated, hopeful, frustrated. I went to the pub. A pint, desperate attempts to relax. Poetry seemed the only course of action: @shankanalia.

No titles I’m afraid but I’m sure they’ll emerge in due course.

 

Tension crawls up my spine
A tremor in the tendons
A twist in the muscle
Bunched
Writhing
Inside out
Contorted remembrance
Scorned bones.

I’d blind you
Take your eyes
And hands
Make an homunculus
To dwell in darkness
And torment
To make you real
Gift you suffering
Bless with pain.

How can I see the edge of a shadow
When it ends in darkness?
Where does the lie feed into The lost?
If I don’t remember I shouldn’t feel.

Your shadow
Fear filled emptiness
Void of hope
A shell of humanity Ghast
penumbral parasite
Drains
Darkens
Bleakly
Steals my soul
My truth.

Chaos of recollection
Flood of blame
The rippled doubt
Taints all things
With dubious stain
Belief is not the same
As knowing
Or hoping.

Can I trust the me that lies behind
Lost in the misted memory?
Had the answers
But couldn’t believe.
Agony of discovering
You were right before.

Mirrored grey
Flecked with truth
Concealing fictions
Cracked schismatic
Grinding tesselation of self.
Revelatory glass
Windows of true lies.

Twinned With Evil – part 1

Brambles and branches try to hit me in the face and water soaks into the hem of my dress from the filthy puddles I trudge through. I am returning from overseas. This narrow, overgrown ditch is the last entrance into the City that I know of. It is not welcoming, but then I would not wish for one anyway. I do not wish to be here and, if the people here knew I was returning, would not want me here either. The silence is absolute. No animals dwell in this abandoned corner. Even the brambles are dead and brittle; their thorns fall in a shower behind me.

I have been summoned. It has been a long time since I was here last. I had hoped that I would not be needed. I drag my satchel free of the thorns in a soft explosion of brick dust. Despite my reluctance I am curious about how the City might have changed without me. The last turn necessitates hopping over a thick root which has some slight sense of life left in it. I can feel it pulse, deep in its heart as I clear it. My dress slaps wetly against my boots.

When I land on the other side of the barrier everything feels different. No longer dead, but dying. This place is afflicted with a terrible blight, one we were unable to heal when last I was here. It can be tasted in the air, cold and damp. If I couldn’t feel the sparks and shards of life scattered through the City like slivers of glass I would think it a graveyard. As it is, those slivers are all too few. Once the City had a population of hundreds of thousands. Now it is in the tens of thousands. All that change in a generation. It still looks the same.

The tall fantastically arched buildings rising from the grey flagstones on either side of the road. The alleys loom dark and threatening between them. I stick to the middle of the road. I’m impressed that the streets are clean, if empty. This side of town is quiet but not too bad. Despite that I walk quickly, hooded and with my satchel drawn in close. Shadows move behind windows. I know that I’m being watched but I don’t feel threatened.

The people here are right to be wary – there are no strangers here. The City has been locked down – sealed on one side and consumed on the other. Ways in and out such as those I used are known to very, very few. Of course most of the survivors don’t realise this; they know it, deep down but how can you live in fear all of the time? They continue to live, for as long as they can and forget those who disappear and the streets where they used to play and work. The empty houses pass me by and I see a few souls making their way home from work, most likely in the power stations to judge by their clothing.

It’s a long way to the flat I keep here. I assume it is still there though my summons made no mention of it. My boss – I still call him that, though our relationship has not been one of employer and employee since we first met. But I don’t have any other useful way to refer to him. His name has all the wrong connotations for how I feel about him. Cedric is not a name to inspire respect, or fear. Both are deserved for my boss. His summons was short, terse even in its single word “Come”.

That I should be needed here again can only be bad news. Since my self-imposed exile I have dreamed of the City, feared it, made it into a monster. At first glance it doesn’t appear to merit that – it’s just another fading city, depopulated as so many are now. We came to fear the intimacy of society and spread out, back into the countryside and the compact communities which our species can cope with. Put us together for too long and we turn… bad. I know I did. This place is where it all started where it began to go wrong twenty years ago.

I am thinking too much about our history and am not paying attention to my route. My feet know where to go. I pause briefly to look up at the moon which has risen while I crossed the City. It hangs, a ghostly impression on the slowly darkening sky. I’m sure that’s a sneer across its face. The sight makes me nervous, I should be inside before full dark.

Gazing at the moon I am startled by a sudden racket in the hedge that thrusts between the railings behind me. A volley of thrushes launches out of the greenery and wheels up into the sky – scant millimetres separate them and they fly impossibly fast, twisting and turning in tight loops before rocketing back into the hedge. I watch their aerial curlicues and count the runes they inscribe in the sky. A man nearby is staring at them too, alternating his attention between the birds me. I keep going.

Part 2 coming soon…

Pulp Pirate 12

Flash Cast 68 – Dog Days

I’m running out of ways to say how much I enjoy Flash Pulp and their many times a week outpourings of fresh pulp fiction. So… Gaargh! This week I had no pirate tale to spin into the microphone so I indulged myself and hopefully others by sharing a spot of Franklyn de Gashe – timetraveller, Victorian gentleman, poet and serial killer. The podcast is great and Franklyn’s The Kings Cross Entertainment fits in surprisingly well with some of the other peculiar contributions and dicsussions. Viva la Flash Pulp!

Listen to it now: 

http://flashpulp.com/
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http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/flash-pulp/id367726315

Eric The Bewildered Weasel 2

This is the second part of a story – read Part 1.

The hedgehog winced as he saw Eric’s head bounce off the branch and onto the ground. He gave the woodlice a nudge and they crawled back into their bag and went to sleep. Then he had a good scratch to placate his own host of parasites. After that, he knocked back a few drams of the honey ale that the moles had left for him. He yawned, somewhat tired from his oracular activities.

It had taken several hours to persuade the woodlice to drink enough sloe gin for the hedgehog to mesmerise them. Once he’d done that they were excellent instruments of divination, though they needed some encouragement before they started to roll meaningfully. Some fortune-tellers favoured the old liquorice tea bits, or staring into a puddle, but the hedgehog was no mere paw-reader. He had always found those methods not so much unreliable, but lacking some essential quality. He liked to work with life when it came down to it, and you didn’t get much more lively than woodlice, always crawling around and finding new ways to get into your bed or kitchen drawers. Their kind of aimless curiosity was ideal to harness when you wanted to take a peek into the future.

It was certainly one of the clearest visions he’d ever had, although it would take some interpretation. It’s all very good and well watching an obviously bewildered animal haring around the forest (just wait for next Spring), but the vision hadn’t quite revealed what he was running away from. Certainly the weasel was a stranger to the hedgehog, though he had a familiar sparkle about the eyes… Perhaps he was more important than the events he had aimed for. However, it proved that the moles’ calculations had been as precise as usual – which certainly accounted for the intensity of his vision. If only it had been a sight of something more specific… but the sense of threat that the weasel felt was an indication of something going awry.

So what to tell the moles? For a start, find that weasel – he certainly didn’t live in the forest yet (he could be sure of that without checking), but he seemed like one of theirs. Second, work out where the weasel had been- or was going to be – in the vision, when it happened (this was always difficult to explain); there was no point in arguing with the future, but it often paid to be around when the predictions unfolded – how else could one be sure their sight was sound? Other than that, they were clearly on the right path, so they could direct their partners to do more of the same good work. This was always much easier in hindsight, because then you could just compare what actually happened with what you thought was going to happen. Mind you, far too much was done through hindsight, and there was not enough foresight being used elsewhere in the forest. Add second-sight to the equation and it all became a lot more complicated.

Right-o. The Mystic Hedgehog left his private chambers and ambled onto the Tiled Floor with its intricate mosaic of woodland life. The tiles were cold under his aging paws and made his ankles ache; he looked forwards to crawling back into his nest later on. He rang a small bell and three black-robed acolytes appeared, their pink noses sniffing habitually. He could just about see their little, weak eyes in the depths of their hoods.

One stepped forwards with a handful of manuscript and a tiny quill. To them he dictated his prophecy and instructions. He added a few more of his standard prophecies to bulk it out. ‘Watch the skies’ was always a good, and pertinent one for rodents. He also suggested they arrange another meeting with the Order and kept an eye on the Parliament. He always referred politely to the owls even if others didn’t. There was no harm in being civil, and sometimes it paid off richly.

The moles seemed satisfied, and while making copies of the Mystic Hedgehog’s revelations they went off to archive them appropriately. He would make his formal announcement to all the moles the next night, at the full moon as was traditional. Then it was time for another head splitting yawn, a larger scratch and back to bed for their revered prophet.

 

This week, Tuesday 28th August 2012

Wedded to the Wise

Okay, so I’m a couple of days behind this week. I’m placing the blame squarely on my little brother. It was a beautiful and unconventional wedding on Saturday – very nicely sited in a field on top of a hill. The weather was incredibly generous and we only had the downpour much later in the evening. Brilliant. That’s been the main wipe-out of the weekend, since Sunday was then filled with mind-grinding hangover (which is my own fault for alternating bourbon with my Dad’s exquisite homebrewed clone of Brew Dog’s 5AM Saint) and climbing up trees to unwind miles of fairy lights.

I then slept for eleven hours on Monday and “wasted” the day at the cinema with The Expendables 2 (terrible and hilarious – Stallone looks like he’s about to have a heart attack). In the evening I popped out to the Story Club at The City Gallery and read The Peninsula Creature.

Oh yeah, and I forgot that I also spent the whole week (when not further wasting time at work) frantically nailing together a special wedding speech for Tim. He got The Blundering Buccaneer which I’ll share with you tomorrow. It followed my Dad’s speech in the lovely Indian restaurant (Jee Jar Jee’s) in Burton on Trent where we had the wedding breakfast/curry. It went down really well! Very surprising for lots of folk and many of them said very lovely things about the story later. It’s great to be able to lyrically mock your brother to everyone’s approval.

This week’s scribbles

WednesdayThe Blundering Buccaneer. The romantic-ish tale of me brother, Timothy Seasbuttock and Susie Saltheart.

Friday: Eric the Bewildered Weasel part 3. More of chapter one – time to introduce some more of the woodland characters and mix in some danger.

Round Up of Last Week

21st August: Twinned With Evil Part 1 – the first part of a tale of a city consumed by evil.

22nd August: Pulp Pirate 12 – I’m back on Flash Pulp’s weekly Flash Cast, this time with The King’s Cross Entertainment with Franklyn de Gashe.

23rd August: Eric the Bewildered Weasel 2 – continuing the ‘introduce the main characters’ bit – this time The Mystic Hedgehog.

Events and Excitement

Exciting stuff coming up in Nottingham:

MissImp in Action – Friday 31st August at The Glee Club 8.30pm (not free, but cheap!)

Pub Poetry – Monday 24th September at The Canalhouse 8pm FREE

The Pirate Coves – Thursday 27th September at The Golden Fleece 8pm FREE

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The Blundering Buccaneer

Twas sprung upon me with but a moment’s notice, that me fair brother young Timothy Seasbuttock would wring a tale from me filled with adventure on this, the day he’ll finally consummate his manhood.
Allow me to sketch ye a crude portrait o’ the lad noting first that his noggin is free of the flowing locks which grace his elder brother. So too, the handsome features, wisdom and judgement which were splashed upon the brother and sister he followed. Tis true, and sad – all that was left to the youngest of three siblings are baldness and mighty facial caterpillars determined to mate upon his brow.
This is the tale of how we met…
In the port town of Gunt-on-Trent, the locals spoke of a madman – Terrible Tim, a hermit-hobo who lurked in an abandoned circus tent. Twas rumoured that he’d been shat out by the stars, for as a child he seemed an angel, with his shock o’ blond hair and winning grin.  He spoiled it by stripping naked incessantly and waving his pixie-stick at ladies till the menfolk grew testy and beat him off with sticks.
When we blasted his home into smoke and splinters he burst forth, his formerly adorable fur matted into vile dreadlocks like a clown had died on his scalp. He looked amusing, but was alarmingly scented. We treated the malodorous hum by towing him behind the ship. A school o’ porpoises had their wicked way with him, and doused Timothy in their salty stud suds – it’s a kind of cleansing scrub. To deter his obsessive nudity we stapled a fat man’s clothes to his furry frame.
Tis necessary that all hands perform some task o’ value aboard a ship; twas not his way. In even the simplest matter he displayed a baffling defiance, risking his own life for the mere sake of being free to do so. Gaargh, the vital and base task of scrapin’ barnacles from the hull (a task, I should add, which was previously undertaken by a brain damaged monkey) lead to him knocking a hole in the ship and drowning three cabin lads. Aye, even when directed to merely “stay here, touch nothing” he left sails aflame and a village o’ fresh widows. At best, his works ended in disaster.
Clearly young Tim was a special fellow, in the sense of quietly leaving him on the beach at low tide, but he had a charm that belied his outright idiocy. He was the sort to headbutt a shark, or plug a dolphin’s blowhole with a cheeky grin and wink o’ the eye. He’d break ye most valued possessions and turn them big brown eyes upon ye – the wenches were suckers for it. Save that one lass with the fetish for knives… but the boy looked fine in his eye patch. It added to the wooden fingers, peg leg and gashes that came from his unique combination o’ carelessness, bad luck and stupidity.
In time he became one o’ the crew, in disfigurement if not competence. So we took him ashore for larks and giggles. Once we’d swum to land (for he had contrived to sink the jolly boat with no more than an innocent whistle) he simply vanished. I swear to ye that I turned me back for less than a heartbeat and all that remained was a jumper hanging from a fence post. Eventually we found him in the cut-price brothel down Skanking Lane where he’d nested in the questionable bosom of old ab-gendered Sally (or the Pound Stretcher as they called her). While swaddled in her dubious dugs he’d had a revelation, or so he claimed before he was dragged away by the watchmen for public bare-buttockry.
Gaargh, breaking him out tested me patience. So fierce was Tim’s rejection of all possible aid that he screamed and wailed that we were trying to ruin his life. I wanted to strangle the little monster. So I did. Once he awoke he demanded that we travel to the Lowing Grounds. Tis a magical place where the beasts of the ocean meet to breed and eat each other. He’d convinced himself that mermaids danced between the humping brutes and he’d got a flutter in his heart for a fishy lass.
The journey was fraught with danger – nearly all of it from Tim’s terrifying blend of laziness and manic activity. One night I found him and the simpler mates discharging their pistols at the moon. I confiscated their weapons and bade ’em button their flies. On another, he spent an hour bellowing about mushrooms before collapsing in a sweating heap. Strange lad.
At last we reached the fabled lands of humpery. Young Tim, drunk on rum he’d filched from me cabin reeled vomiting from starboard to larboard till I grew weary of his whining and pitched him overboard. His curious expulsions, thrashing and the octupine dreads that infested his skull drifted like a submarine temptress beneath the waves. Naturally, he was besieged with horny beasts, from felch-fish to giant shagging squid. We fired cannon and flintlock into their ranks, for though this was a hammock of his own hanging sometimes a man needs to be tipped out of it. However our loads were no match for the marine man-maulers. The boy was surely lost to the frothing waters of lust, so we began to divvy up what little of worth Timmy had.
A shimmer of rainbow scales and undersea bosom raced through the waves, striking the salacious sharks back into the depths with fierce scowls and flourishes of her ebon locks. A ravishing mermaid erupted from the ocean in a fountain of spray and fishy gore. In her arms lay the bleeding idiot child, battered and newly bald, grinning like a man with his brains removed. Her prize clasped to her breasts and her lady-gills a-quiver she too grinned triumphantly and plunged once more into the deeps.
We resumed our selection of his private tat: Billy No Mates had his tobacco tin, Hamish McMuffin took his debts and I was saddled with a painting he’d made with glue and a sock. Ye see, though the mermaid was a creature of great mystery and beauty – this one especially (she’d no deformity or gruesome appendages as Tim’s luck would normally dictate), having saved him she’d take him down to her undersea boudoir to ravish him in her piscean way…and then drown him, that he might be hers for evermore.
Twas both an ending, and a new beginning for our mad mate Timothy Seasbuttock. He found love (to our enormous surprise) in the arms of a fearsome warrior merwench, Susie Saltheart. Kindly raise ye glasses and toast me black hearted pirate brother whose black heart turned pink and fluffy for his beautiful marine miss.

Slightly Broken: Ghastly Dreams

What a horrible night’s sleep. I’d felt the rising tension before going to bed and was on a bit of a downer but went to sleep easily enough (if a bit later than I’d wanted), but the dreams were just horrible. All about self-harm – thinking about it and doing it. At least that’s what I’ve remembered; I’m sure there was a lovely narrative to accompany them too.
It’s been strange since my last counselling session (Monday before last because of the bank holiday this week). I wasn’t able to think about it at the time, but I guess it’s been haunting me instead. I’d made the decision to get into some of my old diaries, knowing that there are accounts in there of what happened, and how I felt at the time. Remembering how I actually felt, not how I feel now or think I ought to have felt are very important to me. I’m not certain why. Well, it didn’t take much reading through before I found just a couple of paragraphs which expanded to fill the session.
Previously I’ve talked about how Ric was a predator, and my Dad had reminded me that there had been some confusion/discussion about his shortish relationship with a woman. The queries arose because the relationship never really went beyond a few kisses, despite giving the appearance of something stronger. That’s unusual in adults; we don’t really mess about and tend to get into the sexual side way before the 6-9 months stage. It had been mentioned that maybe he was more interested in her kids (who, by the way were my ex-step-cousins – yeah, figure that one out!) So I’ve always felt a sense of guilt that I’ve never been to the police or made an attempt to protect other people who might be at risk. So the reminder that he’d been near people I actually knew rather than the more distant strangers was rather shocking.
I was even more shocked, and literally numbed in my hands and feet when almost the first thing I blundered across in my own diaries from when I was 17 was a reference to a conversation with my eldest ex-step-sister (get used to it, I’ve had to…). I’d said that we’d “fallen out pretty badly” and she’d come back with typical directness asking if he’d been “interested” in me. At a guess I deflected that with good quality fear skills, but she went on to describe the reasoning about him with her cousins. She also said that her mum had talked to my Dad about them at the time; before I went to Amsterdam (I realise that I’m using “Amsterdam” in a way synonymous with hell and the worst of all things. It’s a lovely city and I’ve had some wonderful times there. I’ve just had some really bad ones too.)
So I left the session totally fucked in the head, went and got some codeine – took some, had a pint in a quiet corner of a pub while writing poetry. Then I tried to cycle home, taking the most arduous hilly routes home ostensibly to enjoy the hard work and the downhill glide. Unfortunately I suspect it had kicked in my self-destructive potential, as I found myself closing my eyes while free-wheeling down roads for as long as possible. Either that or I was just wasted. Which in itself is fairly self-destructive. Not good. Since then I must admit self-harm has been back in my mind. Frankly it’s just easier to cut yourself than deal with stuff. I have resisted, though I’ve given more thought to the shapes I’d cut than is healthy.
I’d concluded that I needed to talk to my ex-step-sisters’ mum, partly for some context as Ric was first a lodger with her before we all got to know him, so that’s some critical timeline stuff, but also because of knowing what he is. And I feel some responsibility to her niece and nephew. Maybe nothing happened to them, but maybe they’re like me. I don’t really know how to approach it. Clearly I hadn’t thought this all through in time because I saw three of my ex-step-sisters and their mother at my brother’s wedding last weekend. That was weird mix of pleased to see them and awful gushing whatthefuck fear. Sigh. I guess I need to just get on with it and ruin someone else’s day.

The Pirate Coves

Gaaargh – show time is almost upon us (well, tis weeks away at present, but when the wind’s in ye sails and ye’re not looking where ye be going…) – I’m teaming up with musical marvels DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show, a group for whom no praise is too great, no adjective misplaced, no hyperbole too hyper. Together we’re performing in the Nottingham Comedy Festival 2012!

The Pirate Coves

The DH Lawrence Vaudeville Skiffle Show & Captain Ignatius Pigheart bring you pirate stories and songs of the sea.  Expect twisted sea shanties, tales of the oceans and good old-fashioned comedic music! The hillbillies and pirates with mobile phones are coming to town! 

The show’s on at 8pm on Thursday 27th September at The Golden Fleece pub. It will be full o’ seamen. Gaargh, we’re also lettin’ ye in free o’ charge, though feel free to toss us a dubloon.

Preview The Fun

Just to give ye a notion of how splendid these fellows are:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QK8luXZb91g&w=560&h=315]

And ye know where I lie:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFFK3JlJdfk&w=420&h=315]

Full Line Up:

Warm yourself up with songs and stories on Reverbnation

http://www.reverbnation.com/dhlawrenceandthevaudevilleskiffleshow

http://www.reverbnation.com/captainpigheart

Show Details

8pm FREE ENTRY
Thursday 27th September 2012
The Golden Fleece
105 Mansfield Road
NG1 3FN Nottingham, United Kingdom

Eric The Bewildered Weasel 3

This is the second part of a story – read Part 1 and Part 2.

Everyone just called it home or maybe the Home Forest if they wanted to make it sound a bit grander. Names are applied only if you need to distinguish one place from another. So the birds, bugs and beasts who lived there rarely thought to name it, it was simply ‘home’ for them. Other terms were bandied about by the owls who liked grand names, but they could never agree on a favourite. The slightly more sophisticated jet set of migrating birds called it something else, either ‘Roundtrees’ or more often just ‘The Forest for the Irretrievably Weird’.

There’s something unnerving about flying over a neatly circular wood with its own micro-climate. The weather was only one of many good reasons for a detour. It’s one thing to meet up and stick together when flying thousands of miles, another thing entirely to have regular ‘Lunar General Meetings’ (LGMs) with agenda and minutes. No, the forest was too strange to get involved with. Problem was, if you  got too close you ended up flying around and around it and it took a kind of collective ‘let’s get the hell out of here’ to fly past it. For that reason the forest was well known, and had the geese had maps there would have been a circle marked ‘Here be strange – go around’.

Some birds do have more interesting points of view than others. Some birds scan the countryside for their prey, detecting tiny movements in the grasses. Others are a bit more ground-focussed and spend their time tramping heavily to tempt up the worms. Such lives are dull by comparison with that of the bold magpie.

Damien soared high into the air above the forest and settled onto a supportive thermal updraft.

“Ah, joy. The sheer peace of the open sky,” Damien closed his eyes are glided dreamily, “nothing like it for cleaning out the feathers and the head.” Having spent the last couple of weeks frantically building an extension to his nest for an increasingly irritable mate, Damien felt unbelievably free.

“Mmm, no twigs in the beak for me… Aha!”

Damien was just coming up to the forest’s edge when he spotted something glinting at him. Normally he’d have been a little reluctant to cross the border, but a shiny thing was shiny thing was a thing he could take home and have it be his shiny thing. Most members of the crow family spend their time waiting for old or ill animals to die, but magpies are far more interested in shiny things than in their cousins’ taste for carrion.

As Damien left the forest he so distracted by the sparkle that he was taken completely by surprise by the fleet of enraged blackbirds which surrounded him almost immediately.

“Whoah there little fellers!” cried Damien, “what’s got you so riled?” The flock wheeled around him and began to harry him with their tiny beaks.

“We’ll not ‘ave you stealing our chicks!”

“Go back to the weird woods!”

“We don’t want your bumfuzzling kind here!”

“What? What did you just call me?” Damien paused in the air and used his vastly superior wing span to tap the nearest blackbird and send it ground-wards. The rest of the flock continued to spew insults and small insects at him as he eluded them.

“Look, not only are you Outsiders slower and smaller than me, you’re not so bright either. So just pack it in before I have to give you all a good pecking.”

It only took a few more well placed taps to get some airspace, but by then Damien had lost sight of the pretty twinkling thing he’d been after. With a heavy sigh Damien gave up on it and decided to drop in on a new friend again.

 

The magpie alighted on the tin roof of Eric’s house and gave it a sharp rap. Here were pretty things in plentiful abandon – the weasel was at least as discerning as him in his choices.

The door popped open and a tall, scruffy weasel hopped out and stretched luxuriantly.

“How’s it going Damien?”

“Alright, apart from being harassed by some of your idiot neighbours,”

“Which ones this time? The rabbits, or have your lot irritated the shrews again?” Eric hopped onto the roof and sat down next to Damien, who shuffled over to make room.

“You’ve got to get out of here, they’re all crazy.” Damien said flatly.

“You know they’re just annoyed because of all the squirrels and their mates coming out of the forest on their recruiting runs or whatever it’s called.”

“Homecoming – we’ve talked about that. They’re just trying to get everyone back to where they belong, not out here with all these nutters,”

“The shrews are claiming it’s a shrike conspiracy. The squirrels are in collusion with them to provide an infinite food supply.”

“That’s crazy. We’ve got owls and they’re bad enough. I can’t imagine them even tolerating butcher birds in the same forest. “

Eric sighed and even from where he sat he could see the grass swaying which preceded another deposition of locals on their way to challenge one of the intruders.

“They’re just not used to this. We don’t come into the forest, you don’t come out here. Nice and simple. Apart from the foxes and owls of course.”

Damien smirked, “Yeah, it’s always different when it comes to the big boys – not much you can do about them. On the other hand the badgers have been going nuts about the new arrivals.” Anti-forest chanting was now audible form the field. “Look, I’d better be off before that lot arrive. Got anything pretty for a new nest?”

Eric smiled and climbed back inside to return a moment later with a square of blue foil. “It’s folded up, so be careful not to put any holes in it when you chuck it back up– I thought this might be nice when your chicks hatch.”

“Don’t remind me. Thanks though – and I’ll see you soon.” that last was rather garbled as Damien gulped the foil down.

“Yeah, thanks for leaving me with this lot to sort out,” Eric waved politely to the amazingly angry-looking rabbit leading the locals. That’s when Damien decided to play his only card:

“Hey – your grandparents lived in the forest you know – think about it.” Before Eric could respond, he was up and away to divebomb the shrews with a defiant, “so long dullards!” Eric watched him fly off back to the forest, shook his head and went back inside and firmly closed the door.