Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lord of the Manor


The title deeds to Laverstone Manor date back to 1470, when Edward IV decreed that “the land betwixt the Laver and the Wytches Stone be given to Thomas Aqueous the Smythe for service to the King’s Men.” They were contested briefly when Harold inherited the manor because the town clerk, a particularly odious man who hadn’t forgiven Harold for beating him on the History test in 1976, declared them as ‘suspicious documents.’ His grounds were that Edward IV was deposed in 1470 and a genuine document would read Henry VI. It was pointed out, in an anonymous letter to the Laverstone Times, that Edward was not deposed until May, leaving the clerk somewhat embarrassed. “This,” Harold told the reporter afterwards, “is why I won the history prize and not him.” It was some relief then, that no-one noticed it was written in biro.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Business Expansion




Harold was reluctant to endorse Jasfoup’s plan of world domination. The demon had insisted that by publicly condemning Pope Pious IV as a heretic the eyes of the world would turn to Harold, thereby boosting knowledge of his shop not only in the mortal world but in the other planes as well. “Think of the deals you could make,” he said. “You could have demons bargaining with you for the esoteric tomes and angels desperate for the secrets of demonic physiology.” He grew excited. “Wait,” he said, “even better, you could become an inter-planar arms dealer and make a killing.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tears of Heaven


Lucifer had never considered rain from the point of view of a mortal. From Heaven it had seemed refreshing: a sweep of life like standing under the waterfall where the Euphrates fell into the Tiber; something to help the crops flourish and the livestock fat. From the earth, under the weather formations, it was terrifying. The rain brought flash floods and washed away seeds and animals, homes and supplies. A stream could become a raging torrent in moments and he witnessed Marla, the daughter of Jesus’ friend Peter, washed away and drowned in a sudden storm. Looking skywards to his former home, he wondered again why God was so cruel.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Morning Insults




Harold scratched at the scabby patch on his cheek. “What was that again?” he asked

“A minor hex,” said Julie, her hair still waving in the ethereal breeze from the Dead Lands. “It’ll wear off in an hour or so.”

“An hour?” Harold looked in the mirror. “I’ve got to meet a client before then. Haven’t you got a counter?”

“Be grateful it’s just a practice spell,” said Julie, her eyes still closed. “If I was really trying to disable you you’d be just a big bag of pus now.”

Jasfoup snorted. “That’d be an improvement if you asked me.”

Friday, January 25, 2008

Grave-Dirt Fingernails


Music was loud and the air stank with an overdose of cheap deodorant and testosterone. “Dark Sinners” at the Kaleidoscope Ballrooms was always good for a laugh if you felt so inclined: the combination of Goth dancers and vampire wannabes outnumbered the living by almost seven to one. Gillian didn’t feature in the equation -- she already had her pretty girlfriend on a dog lead; an invisible one where the ‘come here’ command was no more than a slow flick of her accented eyelids and the hint of a smile. The dancers shunned her. She was old, man, in her thirties at least. If only they had known she was the root of all their fantasies they would not have had Gillian’s grave-dirt fingernails ripping out their necks in the soft light of dawn as the birds began a tentative chorus from the rooftops.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Guilt Unproven




I relax against the soft leather of the chaise-longue, cross my legs at the ankles and lace my fingers together just blow my breasts. Doctor Reuben opens the thin file he’s compiled from a brief internet search on my name and pseudonym -- I can see the corner of a printout with the distinctive blue edge of the first Harold and Jasfoup painting. My GP has referred me to this man with wire rim glasses and hair bristling out of his nostrils because I have ‘a tenuous grip on reality.’ I know this because on my first visit I looked at my file when Doctor Reuben was called to reception. He won’t find anything wrong with me; at least, nothing he can quantify, for my responses are always as pitch-perfect as if they were served on a plate. I know exactly what he wants to hear because my two favourite demons are reading his mind.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Elevenses




Jedith alights upon the edge of a tomb in Hyde Park and settles, one leg tucked underneath the other in a half-lotus, her wings shimmering as they fold. She rests her coffee – a skinny latte in a cardboard cup from the Costa on Regent Street – on the weather-dark granite while she unwraps a tuna salad baguette, dropping the cling film to be snatched by the breeze and sail into the blue. Russet hair catches the winter sunshine and she chews slowly, regarding the occasional walker on the path below. To call her diseased would be to call the arctic winter chilly; for Jedith is the Angel of Pestilence, one of the four horse(wo)men of the Apocalypse. She is constantly astonished at the progress of mankind, for when she exhausted her arsenal of viruses they invented their own, adapting and mutating her most virulent strains. Still she keeps some in reserve, those that man thought long ago extinct, for she has seen the need of them before long, when her brothers walk the world once more.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Good Shrew


“What’s that noise?” Julie peered toward the bedroom wall with her good eye. The false one sat in a pool on vegetable oil on the dresser; she always found it easier to control when it was lubricated. That was probably why she though of it as male.

“How should I know?” He sister glanced up from the nail varnish brush. “I can’t see anything. Do you think this colour suits me?”

“Julie inspected her fingers. “As you are now,” she said, “but you should stick to clear or natural colours. There are some women who just shouldn’t wear nail varnish and you’re one of them.”

“Why? Because I’m too classy?”

“Because you’re a werewolf. You might look good with slutty red nails but your wolf form will look stupid.”

Felicia laughed. “I suppose.”

“There it is again. Can’t you hear it?”

“A sort of scurrying?”

“Yes. Where’s it coming from.”

“Over there, by the jeans you left on the floor. It’s probably just a mouse.”

“Probably? Can’t you tell?” Julie rounded on her. “I thought you could smell a butterfly at a hundred yards?”

“Not when my snozzer’s full of acetone.” Felicia closed the bottle and inhaled a few times. “It’s just a shrew,” she said. “Probably came in to escape the weather.”

Jasfoup, proud of his ability to metamorphose grinned until he heard Julie’s next words.

“I’ll go and fetch one of Gillian’s cats.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Pink Teapot Rooms


There’s a new policy at the Pink Teapot Rooms. You can only gain admittance by membership of an affiliated society. Jasfoup takes his afternoon tea there daily. He has a membership in every party from the American Liberation Front to Zebra Pattern Recognition Guild and is aware that some of his associations are contradictory, such as the Laverstone Ladies’ Knitting and Satanist Society and the St Pity’s Prayers for Pulpits Fund. It doesn’t matter to him, for there are sinners in each of them, even Gay Pride, the pass her uses for the tea room. There’s a member in the Laverstone branch that isn’t gay at all but uses the affiliation to get discounts at Gap. There’s a sin, if ever there was one.

Shopping at Gap.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Colour of Rain


People, random people off the street* who recognized him, would describe Harold Waterman as ‘a man for whom the world is off kilter by just a scoatch.’ If pressed, Harold might laugh and agree that if not for the scent of green he might lose his tenuous grip on reality altogether. You’d be left puzzled by this, wondering what the scent of green might be but he’d stare at you with those mesmerizing grey eyes and you’d chuckle, pretending you were in on the joke. You might spend your whole life in pilgrimage to the ancient founts of wisdom searching for the meaning of the odd phrase, knowing your fingertips as the elusive philosophy escapes you. Then one day, when your feet are blistered and your eyes almost blinded by the light of the arid wastes at the top of the world, you find an old monk who nods and points the way to a door set at the top of an impossibly steep stairway. When you push it open and fall through, you find yourself in the tower room of a London landmark, where a dark-skinned gentleman in an Armani suit drinks tea. “The scent of green?” he’ll say. “Why, it’s merely the sound of sunlight striking a flower.”







*Assuming the street to be The Parkway or Dark Passage, where passers-by have a reasonable chance of being either neighbours or customers of his bookshop.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Amazon Novel Competition


I've made it through the first round and got to the Semis - along with 835 others. The semis will be judged by readers. If you have half an hour spare, please log in and download the first 5000 words of Dead Line and review it. You'll need a (free) amazon.com account.

The other entries are located HERE

The three customers who provide the most high quality reviews will be qualified to win one of three customer prizes, including an Amazon kindle reader, $2000 in Amazon gift card value, and an HP photo printer. Learn more HERE

Cleaning out the Cellar




Seventy years of dry air can desiccate a corpse until it resembles an Egyptian mummy. What made it easy to date the one Harold uncovered in his cellar was the Japanese sword, the German Luger and the invitation to the Laverstone Manor Grand Ball, 31st October 1945, in his top pocket. He lifted off the jacket, stiff with age and dried body fluids, and withdrew a wallet. It cracked as he opened it but revealed the identity of the uniformed man as Captain Frank Johnston, a name Harold recognized from his late grandmother’s diaries. The Captain had forced himself upon Sophia Waters many times during the occupancy of the manor by the RAF it was almost a foregone conclusion he had died because of it. From the cuts of a thousand tiny fairy knives, Harold was interested to note.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sales Bargain




“I bought this coat in the sales,” said Harold on one of his rare morning walks with Jasfoup and Felicia. “It’s a bit odd, though, there’s an extra pocket on the inside.”

“It’s a poacher’s pocket,” said Jasfoup, opening his coat to display the one sewn inside the lining. “Poachers would drop their game into them so that if they were caught, the gamekeeper wouldn’t catch them with the goods.”

“Because it would never occur to a gamekeeper to check anywhere other than the two outside pockets?” Harold sounded skeptical.

“That’s right.” Jasfoup pulled out a torch. “I’m not a poacher so I keep my torch in there. It’s the only pocket long enough. What did you think that pocket was for?”

Harold coughed. “Let’s just say that I thought it made exclusively for well-endowed men,” he said.

“Ah!” Jasfoup smiled. “You bought it as a gift for me?”

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Inmate #436 (Halcyon Days)


Alison Hewitt stared up at Meinwen, one eye socket scarred and empty from where she’d dug out the orb with a knitting needle. Meinwen stepped back.

“You’re sure she can’t see me?”

“It’s a closed circuit camera,” said the guard, amused at her alarm. “She can’t see anybody.”

“But she looked right at me.”

“She knows the camera’s there, that’s all. She looks into it all the time.”

“How do you know?”

“She just does. Whenever any of us look in on her she turns her head to the camera.”

Meinwen took out her notebook and pressed the tip of her biro. “How do you know she isn’t just sensing someone watching her then?”

“She can’t. She’s not psychic.”

“How do you know?”

The guard narrowed his eyes. “Are you being funny? She killed her children with a meat skewer because she thought they were goblins.”

Meinwen fixed him with a level gaze. “Are you sure she was wrong?”

Friday, January 11, 2008

Private Investigations


Felicia drives her sports car with the top down whatever the weather, preferring the scent of the open air, the wind, the rain and the salutations of the hedgerow to the claustrophobia of the interior. Gillian likes to drive with the top down, too, except that the top she likes down is Felicia’s blouse bunched around her waist, her breasts free and nipples hard from the cold and Gillian’s ministrations. In over a year of their nocturnal drives there hasn’t been a single accident, more due to their superb reactions than to any extra care on their part. Gillian rarely wears a seatbelt as it interferes with her ability to lean over to the driver and glide her tongue over those hard nubs. Felicia doesn’t wear one because it restricts movement of hands --Gillian’s or her own when she switches on the overdrive -- past the waistband of her slacks. Harold doesn’t wear one because they’re not fitted in the boot, from where he spies on his partner and her lover.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Halcyon Days


Laverstone, 1938

Sophia refused to ask for aid from the Fae and this pertinacious attitude caused her confidant to despair. Mr. Jasfoup had watched the shifting patterns of European alliances long enough to recognize that war was inevitable. The shadow of the dread Queen looming over Germany was obvious to anyone with the Sight who could see her agents. Sophia, descended from the line of the antediluvian Cain, had the very quality the Axis sought to eradicate and were she not in England he would fear for her safety. Even so he was aware of the dangers from aerial attack and invasion and beseeched her to swallow her pride. He was powerless: demons could not be seen to assist the Allies no matter how many angels flocked to the banners of the Third Reich.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Song of Loss and Love




He sits on the edge of a lake as dusk approaches, the last rays of the dying sun giving his face the ruddy glow of a denizen of hell. Appropriate, then, for that is exactly his nature, though he shows neither horn nor hoof nor arrow-barbed tail. Instead he mourns the loss of Heaven and coaxes a melody from an ancient violin, its rich tone coming not from its construction, though Stradivarius would have wept to see it, but from the centuries of care it has enjoyed under its master’s fingers. The baby at his feet gurgles and waves its arms as if the catch the mournful notes before they are carried away and Lucifer looks down and smiles. “Hold not the sadness,” he tells his mortal son, “I’ll play the pity fiddle no more.” With a sweep of the bow the dirge glides into a jig, and young Harold giggles, opening and closing his fists in delight.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Stolen Dreams




Pennie lay back against the grass, oblivious of the damp and mud, and looked up at Winston. “It’s just so unfair,” she said. “I’d only just got my life back together after that horrendous divorce and this happens. I’m sure Mr. Spencer would have fallen for my charms eventually.”

“Yeah. You had some great charms.” Winston grinned in recollection. He inspected the dampness of a tree stump and sat down. “Hang on,” he said. “You mean you were trying to pull this Spenser bloke while you were going out with me?”

“Just keeping my options open.” Pennie fingered her Y-incision scar, running her fingers over the stitches. “It’s not like we were destined to get married or anything. You dated that Valerie woman, after all.”

“Not until after you’d died,” Winston pointed out. “I hadn’t a clue that you were treating us as casual.”

“Well it’s too late now.” Pennie sat up and stared out over the lake. “That cow stole all my dreams.

“Don’t call her that,” said Winston. “I’ve known her for more than a year. She even helped me out once. She’s nice.”

“She killed me. She’s an assassin.”

“Yes, but she’s nice when she’s not working.”

Monday, January 07, 2008

Lakeside


Winston picked up a flattish stone, turning it in his hand until it slipped between his curved index finger and palm, then spun away as he threw to go skipping over the water. He watched it bounce four, five, six times until it sank and only then turned to his companion. “I’ve met someone,” he said. “Someone I think would make a better fit for me than you.”

“It’s that bloody nun, isn’t it?” Pennie stared out across the ripples left by her boyfriend’s stone and scratched the scar across her stomach. “What’s she got that I haven’t?”

“She’s still alive.”

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Quitter


Winston took a long drag of his herbal cigarette holding the smoke in his lungs while it leached stress from his blood, then letting it all out in one long, controlled exhalation toward the night sky. He looked down again at the glowing tip, rolling the joint in his fingers and feeling where one of the skins was peeling away and shook his head. He passed it to Sam, a younger man with the folly of youth tattooed on his arms and knuckles and its stupidity marked by the beanie hat rammed onto greasy blond spikes. Sam took it and inhaled quickly; staccato drags that implied he wasn’t taking it in and was just smoking to be sociable with his friend. He’d quit when he got a decent job, by sheer happenstance, in a company the produced cutting-edge technology. Sam didn’t know shit about technology, just that they did random drug tests.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Waste Management


Jasfoup looked away.

There are some things that even a demon cannot bear to witness, and the product of the three angels Suriel, Sansuriel and Semangelof was one of them. It wasn’t what they did – carry out God’s punishment on a woman who dared to accept what was freely given – but the relish and enthusiasm with which they did it.

Lilith bore a hundred children every day, a hundred children which the three angels took delight in butchering, raining the corpses into the abyss where the first inhabitant of Sheol used the bones for his sculptures.

After six thousand years, Abel was a very good sculptor.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Pine Shavings



Jasfoup the demon tucked the child into the cot and kissed it on the forehead before backing out of the room, a second, similar bundle cradled against his chest. As the door closed it vanished, replaced by the portal he’d used to travel between the Hells and he turned to see the familiar fires of home.

“Did you succeed?” The woman in front of him looked from the bundle in his arms to his face and he nodded.

Jasfoup strode to the chair and slumped, dropping the silent bundle onto the oak table and reaching for the pitcher of water. He poured himself a glassful and drank it down, his eyes closed in silent appreciation. Finally he looked up.

“Do not ask such a task of me again,” he said. “Traveling to the mortal plane is difficult enough. Traveling to one of their making is nigh on impossible.”

“But you managed it?” The woman came closer and pulled at the linen-wrapped bundle. “Our master will be pleased.” An arm fell out, clattering against the wood of the table.

“Don’t ask me to reverse the change when the child is grown, either,” Jasfoup said. He stood and looked down on the immobile child. “It’s not easy to affect the laws of nature in such a fashion.”

“Don’t worry, you’ve done enough.” The woman picked up the discarded toy and stared at its painted face. “Guiseppe will be damned now for his unholy wish of a talking puppet.”

Outsider Trading



Harold raises his hand and the woman on the other side of the block of masonry pauses, grimacing as she holds the weight steady. “Can I just have a breather?” he asks, balancing one corner of the statue on the balustrade and wiping his sleeve across his brow, “we’ve humped it up three flights so far.” She glares at him and nods, locking her joints to take the extra strain. He winks as he takes the weight again and shuffles backwards up the next flight. “St Just’s won’t miss a gargoyle,” he says, “the whole church is being pulled down to make room for a shopping precinct.” He chuckles at the silent question made by her lifted eyebrows: “When I authorize the plans.”

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Contrition


Harold was unsure what to offer Gillian as recompense for his behavior at New Year’s Eve. Most women appreciated flowers or the offering of chocolate to the altar of their vanity, but Gillian accepted neither, preferring her own counsel to that of her suddenly estranged lover. Flowers wilted and died on the stoop of her crypt and the Truffle Assortment was enjoyed by badgers and foxes instead of their intended recipient.

It was a week before he hit on the perfect gift for the vampire who needed nothing: an electric agitator, to prevent the congealing of extracted blood.

She smiled.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Starting Over


Harold wanted to start over. Gillian didn’t. Just how are you supposed to go into the New Year with a feel-good frame of mind when in the first minute of it you witness your boyfriend – assuming you still wanted to call him that – kissing – and we’re not talking a peck on the lips here but a full-blown knock-your-panties-off pash – an elf? The stammered “I thought it was you in a costume” just doesn’t cut it when you arrived together, he in a spiderman outfit and you dressed to kill, literally, as Countess Dracul. Is it really better to accept that you can’t change the past and carry on regardless as if everything were rosy? Or is it better to bury the little sod alive under the foundations for the new extension and claim he ran away with an elf?