Monday, June 30, 2008
Harold switched the television off and sighed.
Jasfoup ignored him.
Harold glanced through the paper, threw it to the end of the sofa and sighed again.
Jasfoup ignored him again, concentrating on his chess game. Harold wandered over and stood at his right elbow. “Who are you playing?” he asked.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Jasfoup scowled and gestured to the other side of the board.”
“It isn’t really, no.” Harold grinned. “There’s nobody there.”
“That’s because it’s a play-by-e-mail game,” said the demon. I thought you would tell I was playing Lord Belphegor by the opening moves.”
“Not really,” said Harold. “Is that the Sparta Defence?”
“Yes.” The demon frowned. “It’s difficult to break.”
“No it’s not.” Harold moved the white bishop and demonstrated the next six moves. “See?” he said. “You can break up the defence and take three of his pieces for the price of one.”
“That’s super,” said the demon, “except it’s my defence.”
Sunday, June 29, 2008
“Um… Time to go.” Wrack fingered his little dirk nervously. It was rare for an imp to even consider defending himself – normally that would just get an imp into deeper trouble.
“Wait.” Valerie tried a kick at the homunculus but all she succeeded in doing was almost breaking her toe on the metal limbs. “There must be a way of stopping this thing.”
“There is,” said Wrack. “You kill the mage controlling it.” He watched as Valerie kicked it twice more, followed by an elbow slam which forced it back two paces. “The mage that’s patently not here,” he added.”
“Aye.” Valerie ducked under a forty pound solid metal arm and slashed at the head with her blade. Not even a scratch. “Go if you must. I’ll follow when I can.”
“You take the high road and I’ll take the low road.” Wrack opened a gate. “I’ll be at the Manor before you.”
“What are we? Scottish close harmony singers?” Valerie somersaulted backwards, giving herself valuable seconds in which to unsheathe her monofilament blade. “Scamper into your tunnels if you must, but I’m going to beat this beastie.”
“It’s your funeral,” said Wrack. “Should I come back for the bits?”
Friday, June 27, 2008
Andrew Daniels didn’t believe in ghosts until the day after his 32nd birthday. It being a quiet affair he’d taken leave of his mother and travelled up to High Wycombe for a spot of hill walking. He pitched his tent by the banks of a river and brewed tea and soup by the flame of a calor-gas stove just as dusk spread across the woods.
He was awoken just as dawn filtered through the canopy by a naked woman and a man sat at the edge of the river conversing in low tones and sharing his plastic mug. He touched his stove and let out a yelp upon the discovery that it was red hot. Sucking the edge of his finger, he struggled out of his sleeping bag.
“Lovely day,” said the man who was dressed, somewhat inappropriately, in a grey linen suit, already stained from the mud of the river bank. The woman, naked or otherwise, was nowhere to be seen.
“What happened to your friend?” Andrew asked.
“What friend?” The man stood and handed Andrew the plastic mug. “There’s just me and my hound.” He whistled. “Here, Fliss.”
The biggest dog Andrew had ever seen appeared from the woods and trotted up to the man. Andrew would swear it was laughing at him.
“I’d put a dock leaf on that burn,” said the man, “and try not to camp next to a mermaid’s cave in future.”
“A mermaid’s cave?” Andrew said, but the man was already several yards away, the dog running ahead. He looked into the water. There was no denying he’d seen a woman, though. He began brewing more tea.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The angel stretched out his mighty wings and flexed his bare toes, digging them into the gravel of the formal garden. He put a companionable arm around Harold’s shoulder and stepped forward, forcing Harold to either walk with him or have his shoulder wrenched off. He chose to walk.
“There has to be a reckoning,” he said as they passed the first of a series of carefully trimmed yew topiaries.
Harold nodded. “There can be only one,” he said.
“What?” Azrael, the angel of death, was stumped. He paused and stared at Harold. “One what?”
Harold coloured. “Never mind,” he said. “It was a film reference. What sort of reckoning?”
“You have to pay for these extra years of life,” said the angel. “What are you going to pay for them with?”
Harold thought for a moment. “Mastercard?”
Sophia smiled at the strange man. It wasn’t often that people wandered unannounced through her garden though it happened once in a while when they took the wrong path from the park to the Peg stone at the top of the waterfall. “Can I help you?” she said. “Are you lost?”
The man stared at her. He was, Sophia was disturbed to note, in a state of undress. No waistcoat, no tie and a jacket made from animal skin. At least he was clean shaven and had a spark of intelligence around the eyes. His brow furrowed. “Where’s my Murakami?” he asked.
“I beg your pardon?” Sophia stood and got the cabin chair between them. He seemed a bit mad, this visitor. Her new book – signed personally by Mrs. Christie when she was up last week, fell to the floor and closed, losing her page. She reached for the handbell, relieved that the strange man made no move toward her. “I don’t know a Murakami,” she said. “Is he a friend of yours?”
“Hardly.” The man snorted. “He charged me twice the market value of his sculpture.” He pointed to a spot just before the entrance to the hedge maze. “It should be right there. What have you done with it?”
“Can I assist, madam?”
Sophia turned at the steady tone of her valet. “Mr. Jasfoup,” she said. “I think this gentleman is lost. He seems to think he bought a piece of statuary here.”
“Jasfoup?” The man broke into a smile. “I didn’t recognize you. What are you doing in that get-up?”
“I don’t…” Jasfoup paused, staring hard at the man. “I think you’ve dropped a stitch, sir,” he said, standing protectively in front of Sophia. “If you just step backward, three steps and turn to your right?”
“I don’t see…” the man did as he was asked and vanished. Jasfoup turned to his mistress.
“I think you’ll find that was your grandson,” he said.
“My grandson?” Sophia sighed. “I’m sure the nincompoop genes don’t come from my side of the family. I see now why one isn’t meant to see the future.”
Monday, June 23, 2008
It was with some surprise that Harold received a personal visit from Albert Wainwright, his personal banker. He opened the blinds in his office and showed the man in.
“It’s about your accounts,” said Mr. Wainwright, taking a large sheaf of papers from an overstuffed briefcase. “There’s a slight problem with them.”
“Really?” Harold logged onto the bank website and pulled up his personal, savings and business accounts on separate tabs. “I don’t see why,” he said. “They all seem to be quite healthy, though the shop is barely turning a profit.”
“That’s the thing,” said Mr. Wainwright. “It’s attracting a business surplus charge and almost two hundred pounds a year. If you were to invest a further fifty thousand into the account, we could set you on the lower rate, saving you almost fifty pounds a year in charges.”
Harold did some calculations. “Since the sum would drop my personal account below the top tier threshold, I would lose several hundred in compound interest. It would save the bank money, but not me. Was there anything else you needed?”
Albert sighed and picked up his bowler hat, turning it round and round in his hands. “Would you tell me the secret of your rags-to-riches success? I’d sell my soul to be as lucky as you.”
“Funnily enough,” said Harold, “I can. Let me just get my colleague, Mr. Jasfoup.”
Sunday, June 22, 2008
“He’s coming down.” Felicia smiled at the demon and went back to reviewing slides of a prospective exhibitor of her gallery.
“What?” Jasfoup’s face fell as a thousand thoughts crowded through his brain. There was so much more he’d planned to do with his life. See the world, for one thing, not just the small amount of it that comprised Europe, Egypt, China, Japan, Nepal and the west coast of the USA. There were people he wanted to meet – everyone in every phone book and the people without phones. There were books he wanted to read and never had time for – Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ was good for a laugh. All he’d done for the last hundred years was muck about in Laverstone having a good time.
He was in such a panic about what to do first that he just stared at the werewolf. “What should I do?” he pleaded. “The Second Coming wasn’t supposed to be on a Tuesday.”
“Second coming?” said Felicia. “I didn’t know he’d come once. Harold was late this morning.”
“Harold?” Jasfoup grinned in relief. “Harold’s coming downstairs? I thought you meant…” he blushed and looked away. “Never mind.”
Friday, June 20, 2008
“Who?” Harold twisted round to see. “Oh crikey.”
The knock at the door was merely for courtesy’s sake, for the new arrival sailed straight through it, dressed rather traditionally for once in the customary black robes and scythe.
“Azrael.” Jasfoup managed a polite nod. At least the Angel of Death worked in an autonomous department and didn’t cause demons to spontaneously combust. “To what do we owe the pleas… What can we do to make your visit brief?”
“A cup of tea would be nice.” Azrael leaned his scythe point upwards against the fridge and sat. “This is just a courtesy call, really, to follow up on my conversation with young Harold here.”
“What conversation?” Harold hurried to make fresh tea. “I haven’t seen you since that business with my very late grandfather.”
“I meant the one before that,” said the angel. “The one where you died and were resuscitated. You told me you didn’t fancy being dead just yet. I thought you might have changed your mind by now.”
“Er, no.” Harold grimaced. “Thanks, though. What made you come now?”
“You saved someone’s life yesterday.” Azrael accepted his tea and added sugar, stirring slowly. “By my reckoning, if you died now you’d have a 73% chance of reaching Heaven. I hate to be blunt, but I’ve never seen your rate so high.”
“The answers still no.” Harold sat down, relieved that the choice was his to make. “I have to ask, though. Whose life did I save? I didn’t leave the house yesterday.”
“My point exactly.” Azrael hitched up his sleeves to show his bony arms. “You didn’t drive at all. I don’t suppose you have a garibaldi?”
Thursday, June 19, 2008
“It’s an amazing space.” Janet White looked up at the barrel vaulted roof. “It still has all the furnishings, too. All the pews and altar and stuff.”
“It’s still in use, actually.” The estate agent smiled and indicated she should tour the rest of the building. “It’ll be vacant possession, of course, and the building will be de-sanctified.”
“Will it?” Janet opened the door to the bell tower. “That would be a shame. I’d be willing to pay the full asking price if you can arrange to leave it sanctified.”
“Really? I’m not sure the present owner would approve, and it touches on the Blasphemy laws.” The agent looked thoughtful. “But surely, any renovations and redecorations you do will de-sanctify it anyway.”
“Not at all.” Janet turned to face him, feeling her wings involuntarily flex against the strapping under her blouse and jacket. “I love it just the way it is.”
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The manuscript was yellowed, the tiny handwriting an old rendering of a story about mariners being washed onto the shore of a land where dragons ruled and fairies performed wishes as easily as making tea if the price was right. Harold transcribed it faithfully, using several rare dictionaries in the process, cross-referencing the middle-English to ensure he had the nuances right.
It wasn’t until he was partway through that he absent-mindedly dropped a page onto his soup bowl. No damage was caused, fortunately, but the heat rendered certain words visible that hadn’t been there before.
Excited, he heated the pages, where ancient ink revealed a message faded centuries ago.
Will – Make the dragons a wizard, lose all the fairies but one and make the sea battle a tempestuous storm instead. Lovies, Jasfoup.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Felicia looked at the child estimating, by its height, finger dexterity in peeling the top layer of icing from a display cake, and ability to construct language (“Mommy, I want a wee now”) that it was four or five years old. Any older and it would be in school, surely?
Third in the queue, her ears pricked when she heard the word ‘bread’ as in, the grocer had none. “We’ve had no delivery, see,” he said. “Ted’s late.”
“He’s never late,” said Mrs. Dalloway. “I’ve known him thirty years, regular as clockwork. Gets up at four, he does, to make his bread and delivers by eight.”
Felicia turned and left the premises. There would be no delivery today. She remembered now what the scent was last night. Gillian had smelled of warm beds and home and chip butties for tea. She had smelled of fresh baked bread.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Jedith lay back in the field and closed her eyes. The hot sun was reminiscent, just for a moment or two, of the lands she once called home. Stalks of wheat above her head sent shadows dancing across her eyelids and the drone of bees among the poppies and clover sang to her of English summers long ago.
She stretched out her hands, her fingers digging into the hard clay. She could feel the life teeming in the earth – a myriad of insects and earthworms. With a sigh she released the Spike Blight bacteria into the soil and sat up, watching as the stalks withered in an ever-increasing circle. It paused at the hedgerow, as if gathering its skirts for a jump, but the field beyond remained free of the blight.
On the other side the blight was happier, jumping from field to field where the farmer, mindful of tractor paths and harvest yields, had torn up the hedges. The blight ran from field to field spreading a harvest of destruction.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Harold set the ladder against the house and climbed up. To be fair, pulling the ivy away from the tower windows was something he could have easily set Devious doing, but with all three of his daughters visiting on a Sunday afternoon he wanted an excuse to get out of the house. Julie would entertain them.
He looked down at the owner of the shill voice. It was Violent, Adantia’s youngest girl. He dropped the piece of ivy he was holding, appreciating the deft little dance Violent made to avoid being hit.
Harold paused and looked at his grand-daughter, remembering a time when he was that age. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “Your Aunt
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Harold came downstairs holding a large food quality plastic bag like a deflated balloon. Inside was a small clump of multicoloured goo.
“What’s that,” said Jasfoup as he placed it on the table. “Have you miniaturized and captured a pink spiral galaxy?” He leaned forward and tried to poke the object with a pencil.
“No,” said Harold. “That, my friend, is what happens to candy floss when you keep it for three months.”
“Candy floss? Really?” Jasfoup poked it again. “I’d never have guessed. Why did you keep it so long?”
“To be honest,” said Harold, “I ate so much that night we went to the fair I forgot about it.”
“I remember.” Jasfoup sat back. “They had to close early when that chap died of fright on top of the Ferris wheel.”
“True.” Harold sighed. “I told Gillian Ferris wheels were boring, but would she listen?”
“What will you do about this?” Jasfoup poked the lump of hardened sugar again.”
“Simple,” said Harold. “I’ll sell it on e-bay as a model of a spiral galaxy.”
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Here is the ragged assortment of teas behind the kettle. My general tea, Rington's Fine Flend, is in the pretty caddy. I really can't drink the Typhoo or the PG. The yellow packets are loose leaf specialty teas from the tea emporium down the road.
Mugs, and lots of them. I generally prefer a tall china mug for drinking black tea.
I also have a bit of a zebra fetish, though I did manage to give away 75% of my soft toy zebras last year.
Over the pantry door is another shelf full. These and the vertical shelves are visitor's mugs -- all our regular visitors bring their own mug.
This is the best way to drink speciality teas. This particular one is the "Gunpowder Blend" from Northern Tea Merchants
I shall be on the lookout for an elegantly tall (though not too wide) china mug with a picture of Jasfoup on the side.
Little happens in the town of
The opportunity for a news flash is not lost on Mrs. Purbright, however. A grab of the arm and a furtively whispered ‘Did you hear about…” is the essence of village life.
Tommy Sandling, the son of Edward Standling and Glenda, his wife of 32 years, was born on the 17th July 1983. He led an unremarkable life, achieving average grades at an average school and gaining an average degree in economics and an MBA in Business Studies. At the age of 23 he opened a small shop on the High Street, coincidentally leasing one of the units that used to form part of a second-hand emporium.
His disappearance earlier this year was remarked upon by the Times on pages two and seven. Glenda called the police who instigated a county wide search to no avail and Edward offered a modest reward for information as to his whereabouts.
Nobody listened to Mrs. Purbright.
“Have you heard? Tommy Sandling’s shop was open yesterday and there he was, right as rain, selling groceries that were fifty years out of date.”
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Gillian took a half-step to the right, indicating a medal on faded ribbon. Harold’s bedroom at his mother’s was exactly as he had left it; a shrine not so much to her son’s childhood as to his idleness in moving it. “Why should I pack it all up for you?” she said. “All the dust that’s in that room? I’d be dead of an asthma attack in minutes.”1
“It’s my bronze award for swimming,” Harold had told her. Compared to all his academic awards, it sounded as close to a confession as she’d ever hear.
1 Harold’s reply that she wasn’t asthmatic was met with stony silence.
Monday, June 09, 2008
“What are you doing?”
Jasfoup sat at the kitchen table, where Harold was playing with the pixie child. It looked even tinier in his hands, not much large than a thumbnail. Several sheets of paper were covered in Harold’s tiny handwriting.
“I’m trying to work out how it flies,” he said. “It’s wings are too small to support his body mass. I’m wondering if it produces a zero-gravity field around itself.”
“It does seem awfully agile.” The demon extended a claw and the child clambered onto it, wings blurring with the speed of flapping. “No. I can feel him. He weighs half an ounce.”
“That’s one theory down, then.” Harold put a line through several pages of his notebook. “If I can work it out I’ll make a fortune reproducing the effect.”
“I can tell you now.” Jasfoup lowered the pixie to the table. “Magic.”
Image: Zero Gravity 1 by Jacqueline Marr
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Harold would never accept a bleeding heart. No matter how much Gillian might persuade him to try one – she liked hers with a straw – he would always decline and order something else (anything but liver). Felicia liked hers the same way as Gillian, though unlike the vampire she would consume it like an apple – held in the hand and consumed bite by bite, the blood running over her hand or down her chin. Julie avoided offal altogether, preferring her meat tenderized and Jasfoup would generally eat anything that had gravy on it. Harold didn’t really mind, but preferred his lamb braised.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
When the trembling subsided, the woman fell to the grass, surprised at the sudden shift from moonless night to bright, cloudless day. But where were her sisters? And the demon they had summoned, so terrible in white majesty, its face a hole of eternal fire and a thousand eyes scattered across its body, each blinking and accusing in the light of the tallow candles?
Gone, all. They must have thought her dead or worse, and set her to rest in this stone circle. Not one she recognized, either. Six stones of varying shapes and a bare spot in the grass at the middle. She looked across the grass. Surely that was the river Lavers? Just below the fall? There was no stone circle here. This was where they had tried to perform the ritual to call an angel, wasn’t it? The
Right where that big house was.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
I saw this on Josephine Damian's site: Workspace Wednesday. So I thought I's share mine as well. Not a lot of difference to the one a year ago, with the exception of the cigarettes since I gave up 29 weeks ago (go me!)
I'm not really sure if you can make out the numbers bit but you can click on the photos for a full size version. Starting at the top left and going roughly left to right:
1. The foot of an out-of-sight witch puppet K bought me a few years ago.
2. A shelf of special things - mostly gifts from friends.
3. Stuff I can't throw away
4. Books in my 'To Be Read ASAP piles
5. A mug of tea
6. Reception desk bell to be rung when I want more tea.
7. Picture of K and an old dog, Jester.
8. Dagger (sharp)
9. 'Parts of a sai' diagram
10. Atemi points diagram
11. Mirror made from beach combings and now used as an altar.
12. Bunny ears (two pairs)
13. Nunchka (four sets of various weights)
14. Katana (sharp)
Jasfoup's nipped out for a soul. He'll be back shortly.
Harold looked at the bones the police had pulled out of his oubliette. They had been picked clean by something. He didn’t dare to venture what.
“Indeed, sir.” Inspector White knew Harold of old. Mr. Waterman was, in his opinion, one of those people who happened to things. He was never the cause of any trouble* but trouble nevertheless crashed into him like a bubble of happiness against the rusty nail of consequence. “I would be interested to know how he ended up in what can only be described as a small dungeon on your grounds.”
“It’s an ice house,” said Harold, “In the last century people--”
“I know what an ice house is, sir. My interest is in why this unknown gentleman’s remains were found there.”
Harold looked up at the roof of the ice house. It was a squat tower some twenty feet in diameter and the same to the eaves. It needed some tiles replaced. He could see where the winter storms had dislodged a section. He’d have to get Devious up there.
“Mr. Waterman?” White clicked his fingers in front of Harold’s face. “I think you faded out there.”
“Sorry.” Harold smiled at the policeman. “What was the question?”
“How do you suppose the victim died in your ice house?”
“Frostbite I expect,” said Harold. “Just look at those teeth marks.”
*As far as the Inspector knew
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Lucifer watched as Abraham led the village elders in another stoning. There was a long line of condemned – he estimated it was one in five of the villagers.
“Isn’t this a bit excessive?” he asked. “There’ll be no Israelites left in Laverstone at all at this rate.”
“It is God’s Law,” said Michael. He scooped up a handful of sand and let it run through his fingers. “Each of them owe their lives to the Lord. This is just him collecting early.”
“It just seems a bit cruel.” Michael edged along the bench and Lucifer sat. He pointed to the next in line. The man, dressed in a scuffed and torn dinner jacket, was openly weeping. “What’s he done then? Adultery? Blasphemy? Homosexuality?”
Michael glanced up. “He ate lobster,” he said. “He has eaten of abominations.”
“A Lobster?” Lucifer threw up his hands. “What happened to ‘all living creatures shall be yours to do with as you please’?”
“Genesis was revised in Leviticus,” said Michael. “11-12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.”
“Really?” Lucifer patted his stomach. “I glad I skipped the calamari then.”
“Damned right.” Michael grinned. “Have a rock. Double points if you hit his head.”
Monday, June 02, 2008
NB: This takes place prior to the events in 'An Ungodly Child'
“You were smoking in bed last night.” Harold glances across the toast rack at his mother in quiet accusation.
“I don’t smoke, dear. You know that.” An elegant hand spreads a smear of marmalade across wholegrain. Clear green eyes regard her thirty-four year old son. “How could you tell, anyway? You went to bed long before I did.”
“I was in the attic.” Harold looks away from her. He has never been able to meet that clear gaze; his mother’s stare has always made him feel guilty. He has never made the connection but the statue of the Virgin Mary at St. Just’s, where he attended service every week for seven years, was modelled on his mother.
“Playing with your trains?”
“I might have been.” Harold glances at the clock. “I have to go or I’ll be late.”
As his van coughs into life and Doppler-shifts toward town,
“Good.” Lucifer looks into those green eyes. “Today our son will meet an angel.”
Warning: ABLS Spoiler
With considerable regret, Winston stripped the plastic away from two wires and twisted them together. He replaced the cover on the fuse box, started up his motorcycle and rode out through the woods. Seventeen minutes later when the furnaces exploded for want of a thermostat, he was already in the pub enjoying his second pint.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
It was a sedentary afternoon. One could almost think it the dog-days of summer were it not for the general dampness of the ground and the casual demeanor of a shopkeeper with no major holiday on the horizon.*
“One could almost believe it to be summer, Jasfoup,” Harold said as it put down a glass of lemonade on the footstool that served as a table in
“It is summer, old chap.” Jasfoup opened his eyes and rearranged the blanket over his knees. “Look at the rain clouds coming in.”
Harold nodded. “Another five minutes and it’ll be pouring. We’ll all have to crowd into mother’s sitting room and watch the film on BBC2.”
Jasfoup yawned and closed his eyes. “Another five minutes, then.”
* Though Harold had made a killing on the upcoming ‘Father’s Day’ by repackaging all the old bibles with the premise that an offspring’s guilt might be assuaged by honouring two fathers at once.**
**Even better was the unintended result that it almost put the local Christian book shop out of business.