Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Employment Wrongs



Accusing Emily Packet of deliberately setting fire to the St. Pity’s Infant’s School was nothing more than vicious slander. It wasn’t her fault that the science lab had just done ‘Helium’ as an afternoon project with the year ten children, nor that the fire door had been locked for the night. Nor was it her fault that the school hamster had been cremated along with the east wing before the fire brigade had arrived. On the good side, all her books had gone up in smoke, she’d been warm for the first time in three years and she’d managed to smoke a whole packet of cigarettes with the headmaster none the wiser. It served him right for summoning demons as teachers instead of employing real ones.




photo J T Unger's Fire Pits

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

...And I Feel Fine


“Stop, Harold.”

Jasfoup plucked the aerosol can from unresisting fingers, inspected it briefly, then threw it into the recycling box.

Harold watched it all with a single raised eyebrow.* “What did I do?” he asked. “Why can’t I use air freshener? It’s a CFC-free can.”

“That’s not the point, old chap.” Jasfoup steepled his fingers. “The point is that you were using a chemically manufactured scent which has a deleterious effect on the well-being of the household.”

“I beg to differ.” Harold walked back to the kitchen with the demon following. “I think it more likely that people will object to the smell of the curry I ate last night.”

“You should use pot pourri instead,” said the demon. “Or incense sticks.”

“I suppose.” Harold picked up his tea. “Why do you care, anyway? I’ve never met an ecology party demon before.”

“I care about the world, Harold,” said his friend. “The longer the world survives, the more souls go to Hell.”

“That’s the official line,” said Harold. “What’s the real reason?”

Jasfoup winked. “The faster the earth dies, the sooner the apocalypse. After that we all go to Heaven, and Heaven is dull.”




*It took him three months of almost constant practice after the first time he saw Leonard Nimoy do it on television.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fur


The site where the main building of Twilight stands (and I mean the one on Forest Road rather than the museum in the Royal Park) used to be a farm. Jasfoup remembers it well, in fact, for the land was granted in 1654 to Stephen Weaks in recognition of his part in the civil war (on Cromwell’s side).

In the 1930s, chasing the dream of easy money Matthew Weeks, his descendant, began to farm mink and ermine. Public opinion had turned by the late seventies and animal activists freed the mink from the breeding sheds. Although many were caught, this devastated the local population of weasels and foxes for three decades until the local ecology absorbed the influx.

Gillian still has a penchant for her mink cloak. Harold thinks it tickles.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Concept of a Demon in Orange Flared Jeans



Harold crushed the diamond under his boot heel and shrieked, hopping on one foot while he pulled off the boot to rub the heel of the injured one.

They all looked away to conceal their grins. Only Jasfoup dared to laugh openly. “Did you really expect to crush a diamond with the rubber of your Cuban heels?” he asked. “Do you know anything about the relative density of materials?”

“Diamonds are hard,” said Harold, sullenly rubbing his foot. “Especially one that size.”

“Even more so when they’re the secondary focus of a Shadow Mage.” Jasfoup held the 132 carat diamond to the light, marveling at its clarity. “It seems such a pity,” he said, breathing on it. The jewel darkened and became pitch black, expanding in size until it filled his whole hand. “There,” said the demon, crushing it until black dust fell like water from beneath his fingers. “Let dear Mr. Paige try to cast shadows trough that.”

“What did you do to it?” asked Harold, staring at the dust.

“Diamonds are pure carbon,” said Julie, taking a pinch and sniffing it. “He retro-engineered it.”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hidden Desires




There was only so much porn Harold could watch before he had a ‘code purple’. Jasfoup would take bets from the imps about how long it would be for any given film and he usually creamed the pot with his low estimates of eleven minutes. Devious took to undercutting his estimated times in the hope of winning, but Jasfoup was rarely wrong. The notable exception was due to the unexpected. Harold managed quite nicely during ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ until minute 53, correctly predicted by the imp, where the heroine sprouts tentacles from every orifice. Devious kept quiet about how he knew about his master’s predilections, but Jasfoup blamed it on the succubae.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Do Not Notice This Notice


It is a sad thing to report, but English towns like Laverstone in small boroughs* are, while not actively xenophobic, not conducive to foreign languages. As a postman of long standing, William Burroughs watched the Indian family move in to the bungalow on Maypole Road and knew there was something to be wary about when the mother carried in three suitcases, two carrier bags and a bird cage at once, one item to each hand. Sidney Coulter, fresh out of art college and making his first delivery, had no such prior knowledge of number twelve and should have paid attention to the sign screwed to the front gate. It was only after she found the body, bloated with poison from the dozens of imported snakes roaming the garden, that the goddess Kali realised her mistake. People generally didn’t read important notices, even bi-lingual ones, when the sign was in an English village but carefully lettered in Urdu and Guajarati.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fresh?




“Smell that.” Harold took a deep breath, held it for several seconds and exhaled. “There’s nothing quite like filling your lungs with clean mountain air.”

“It depends on the mountain,” said Jasfoup. “I’ve known some mountains that reek. You wouldn’t want to get a lungful of the air from them. I’ve also been up mountains so high that you need breathing apparatus to get up them. Take a lungful of mountain air there and you’ll suffocate from the rarefied atmosphere.”

“All right clever clogs. This mountain then. There’s nothing quite like the air from this mount—Struth! What the hell is that?”

“Sorry.” Devious fanned the air with his hand. “It must be the curry I had last night.”

Monday, April 21, 2008

Long Drop


It was a long drop from the bell tower of St. Just’s in Laverstone but Billy Parkes didn’t care about the 220 feet. He leaned out as far as he dared and hawked up a goblet of spittle to send it flying out and downward. He lost track of it when it was caught by the wind and had a momentary attack of the wibbles when he lost his balance but windmilling his arms allowed him to regain his balance. He measured out the rope, tying one end securely to the parapet and gave it a tug to be certain of a secure fastening. A complex knot tied to the other end of the rope followed by a final look out and down and Billy was ready. His banner unfurled, failed to catch the wind and hung limply at the side of the tower.

Perhaps there was something to this religion lark after all, he thought. His ‘Satan Lives’ banner had flown just fine from the roof of the scout hut.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Twilight Raid


Jasfoup fired another volley of shots at the guards before ducking back down behind the relative safety of the hydrangeas.

“I thought demons couldn’t physically cause the death of a mortal,” said Julie, crouched beside him with a handful of the smoky pellets she stored spells in.

“I can’t,” said the demon, pulling a ring of plastic from his pocket. “These are all caps.”

“What?”

“I SAID THEY’RE ALL CAPS,” he repeated. “They just make the bang noise.”

“What good are they, then?” she asked.

He shrugged. “The security guards don’t know it’s a toy gun. They’re just as pinned down as if it were real.” He glanced around the bush. “I’m just waiting until they realise that theirs aren’t real either.”

Friday, April 18, 2008

Neglected Soul


Julie sat in the arm chair and closed her eyes. When she’d first begun to open the gates to the Other Side she’d prepared herself as the books said she ought; cross-legged on the floor (it had taken almost two years before she managed full lotus) with her hands resting lightly on her thighs. Five years it had taken her to realise that the people who advocated that didn’t know squat. The number of times she’d been thrown out of a trance by a spasm of cramp in her toes or an itchy thigh had encouraged her to try sitting a little more comfortable. Lying down was best, but people took exception to that in shops and modern café’s with soft furnishings were all the rage. She slid into a trance and found herself on the gravel path between the worlds.

“You took your bleedin’ time,” said her aunt Gladys. “I’ve been waiting here for hours.” She rummaged in her handbag, one remarkably similar to that she’d had in life, only with more pockets. “Here,” she said, thrusting a folded piece of paper at Julie. “This is from that demon friend of yours. Not that I hold truck with consorting with the likes of him. You can dismiss me now. Not that you ever think of me ever. When was the last time you put flowers on my grave? It shocking, what young people do these days--”

Julie dismissed the spirit with a wave of her hand and looked at the note. Lettering in sworls and jagged edges crawled across the lilac paper and she frowned to decipher the tongue of the abyss.”

“I’ll get a take-away for tea,” it said. “Love you, J XxX.”

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vampire Euphemisms




Harold unlocked the door and shoved it open. The stairs led down into darkness and he fumbled for the light switch on his right. Fluorescent light flooded the expanse of the floor below, easily the size of the building and the two next to it.

“It’s the area of all four buildings,” said Harold, helpfully. “I have the lease of them all but never had a use for the communal cellar. If you want to lease it we’ll have to board up the other access doors.”

“Want it?” Felicia went down the steps and held out her arms, twirling on the spot. “It’s an amazing space. Of course I want it.”

“That’s good then.” Harold smiled and came down to join her. “There are some windows over here, boarded up, of course.”

“I’ll need a picture window and a set of sliding doors big enough to get sculpture through,” Felicia said. “Will you arrange that?”

“I suppose so. I have people to do that sort of thing.”

“Imps?”

“Naturally.” Harold smiled again. “This is the biggest area and could be your main gallery. There’s a smaller room there you could use as an office and a couple of medium spaces as well.”

“Harold?” Felicia stared at the would-be office. “There’s a coffin in here.”

“Ah.” Harold appeared at her shoulder and looked inside. “That belonged to Isaacs, a friend of mine. Let’s just say he moved to sunnier climes.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

ABLS Excerpt


Julie accepted the coffee with a smile. “Thanks,” she said. “it isn’t often a demon brings you a coffee with the promise of something in return.”

Jasfoup swept up her hand and brushed his lips across her knuckles. “Who says I have no promises from you?” he asked. “I recall you making plenty to me last night.”

“In the throes of or-- of passion?” Julie said. “They’re not admissible in court.”

“Not a mortal one, certainly.” He glanced over at the office door, upon which hung a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. “What’s up with Mr. Sociable?” he asked.

“Stock check day,” said Julie. “I warned him this morning that we weren’t home to Mr. Grumpy but it seems there’s a book missing from the stacks.”

“Oh dear. Which one?”

“Samuel Roberts’ Treatise on Animated Figures.”

“Oh dear,” Jasfoup said again. “Copy or original?”

“Copy, I think.”

“Oh dear.”

“Isn’t that better than the original?”

“Not really.” Jasfoup perched on the corner of her desk, almost spilling her coffee. “The original is in two parts. Volume one: How to make the Homunculus and Volume two: How to animate it. In his infinite wisdom, Harold copied them both into one volume to preserve the set. If the copy’s been stolen we could have a big problem.”

“What’s a homunculus?”

“A little man, animated by magic.”

“Haven’t we always had a problem with Harold’s little man?”


From: Another Bloody Love Story in a chapter a week

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blood Keys


Sam Hunt has power of veto over everything done at Twilight Operations. Ostensibly the company produces military-grade applications and cutting-edge technology and funds itself by the granting of licenses from its dozens of patents like the blood lock; similar in concept to the retinal scanner but keyed to the DNA of the security conscious professional. The reality is much darker. The technologies the company produces are the engineered applications to a process the Witchfinder General would have recognized all too well: demonology. The blood lock, for example, had been used for generations and celebrated in fairy tales – ‘only a true heir can open the chest/door/portal’. Sam uses the company to further his ambition of being the world’s richest man despite already having everything he wants but the title, but he still vetoes human reproduction without the use of semen.


Sam Hunt is the protagonist of Another Bloody Love Story

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Tweedle Brothers


Mr. Dumb founded the School for the Linguistically Challenged in Laverstone, a modest evening class in two rooms above the bakers on Thornsby Street. His brother, Mr. Dee, taught the Tuesday class and he taught the Thursday one, reasoning that few people were willing to attend evening classes on Mondays and Fridays. Mr. Dee read his students through a variety of classics and encouraged them to write short stories, picking out a word or phrase that seemed particularly troublesome as a speck of grit at the centre of a pearl. Mr. Dumb encouraged them to read their stories aloud, to declaim poetry, to sing sonnets and to revel in their extended octaves. Those students graduating with honours at the end of the year suffered misfortune of one form or another but Inspector White pieced the trail together despite the silent victims. When arrested, Mr. Dumb sang.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Stone Cellar


The cellars of Laverstone Manor are extensive. Far from the mundane expectation of the well-stocked wine cellar are three levels of basement which dig deeply into the Wiltshire soil. The Faery door is in the deepest, a bricked-up portico which seems to go nowhere except on the night of the blue moon where it opens into the distant country. Other cellars contain laboratories and magician’s workshops, the accumulated junk of four centuries, one or two bricked-up skeletons and the stone cellar, where lumps of marble and granite are stored. They pass the years here, accumulating the spectral whispers and vibrations of the house until such time as a sculptor-mage selects one for carving when they are transformed, according to the skill of the artist, into gargoyles and other sentient statues. Harold likes the lions on the front drive, but only after they’ve eaten.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Matter of Grave-ity


George Blesset ate the flesh of his fellow man long before, in an act of almost divine retribution, he became a zombie. Just a morsel of liver here, a scraping of thigh there, a piece of sautéed heart with pickled walnuts for supper. After his death and summery return to unlife he continued his work as the town’s second favourite undertaker (he never did forgive the Co-op) with his son fronting the business. Now their specialty was Egyptian mummification. It was the easiest way to disguise the missing brains he needed to maintain higher IQ levels. It also added weight to their slogan: “Sustaining After-Life.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Craven


The vampire’s eyes flickered from red to black, a trick she’s seen in films that had taken her almost a week of practice to master. Harold stepped back, recognizing it as a sign she was craving to feed and not wishing to be dinner.

“Help me, Harold,” she said, “I have a craving… an unhealthy craving…”

“Oh dogs,” he said. “Not Mexican again? We had to go all the way to Basingstoke to find you a Mexican immigrant last time.”

“Nothing like that.” Gillian clutched the dining chair for support, her fingers leaving indentations in the pine. “Worse… I want… drive-through burgers and street corner hot dogs.”

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

To Fill a Page




Stare.

Tap a few sentences. Read. Edit. Block delete.

Stare again.

This is my time to write but I’m not writing. There is no breaking of the dam; no word flood gushing from my brain to my fingers to the document, to the internet, to the world, to the – let’s face it -- two or three people who will actually read it.

Jasfoup uncoils. I can feel his scales slip-slidin’ over the ridges of my brain. Did you see Torchwood? The backstory episode? The bit where Owen is recruited and his fiancée is on the operating table with her skull open and a squamous alien burrowing tentacles in her brain. That was no alien; that was a muse. That’s exactly how I picture Jasfoup when he’s curled up inside me. Outside of me he’s tall and black and wears a grey Armani suit and sunglasses to cover his red pupils.

He’s here now, one heavy hand on my shoulder and his sulphurous breath filling my lungs. “What have you got?” he asks and I look at a screen filled with love and lust and longing.

I look at him before I reply. His smile reveals pointed teeth and the tip of the long, flexible tongue he teases the ladies with. I can see my distorted reflection in his shades: a huge nose preceding wide, blue eyes. “You,” I say.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Outrageous Decadence


The collapse of the Chartrean Empire brought an end to an era of outrageous decadadence. No longer would the Romanian Court dictate the conduct of vampires worldwide and the sudden but bloody struggle for power that followed thinned the ranks of cabals everywhere. The dust of the Empress was not yet scattered before the self-styled Countess Lisbon attempted a coup. She died instantly, the wakizashi she habitually wore carving out a ‘V’ in her throat. The London Court all changed ranks, making way for a woman that was almost a fledgling to ascend to the coveted second position. Gillian was almost disappointed at the ease of it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Mix Club



“What’s that you’ve got there?” Harold asked, picking up the CD Jasfoup was toying with. He glanced up at the road and then back down to the shiny, home-burned disc. “A compilation of sounds from your favourite buddy, Asphodel.” He looked across at the demon. “That sounds good.”

“You wouldn’t like it,” said Jasfoup, his legs involuntarily bracing against the dashboard as the van drifted into the next lane of traffic. “You know,” he said with a nod toward the windscreen. “You may be all but immortal but a car crash is going to hurt like… like…”

“Like Hell?” Harold swerved out of the path of an oncoming post office van and back into his own lane slipping the disc into the CD player as he went.

“No.” Jasfoup sat back with a smile as screams came through the speakers. Harold’s knuckles went white as his fingers tightened on the steering wheel. “Nothing is as bad as Hell for a mortal.”

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hot Air


Jonathan Peabody was full of hot air. He had spent his life as a highly successful negotiator of private liability – ergo, a lawyer. Lies had slipped as easily as spittle from his tongue and when he had died, at the hands of a man for whom he had sued the LAPD for wrongful arrest, he descended naturally to the Malebolge. In place of the normal punishment for such sins which involved the application of debilitating diseases, Jasfoup had won a prize for innovation. Jonathan was instead filled inflated like a balloon and floated up to the vault of Hell. The jagged stalactites would then piece his tormented soul, returning him to the lava pits to renew the cycle.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Coffee Cup Courtroom


“How ridiculous.” Harold threw the letter onto the table and bit angrily into his toast-and-marmite soldiers. “It’s a good job I engaged the services of an advisor.”

“Mrs. Cruet still suing you for breach of contract?” Jasfoup popped the last of his Eggs Florentine into his mouth and dabbed his lips with a napkin.

“She is. I offered her the money back but she refused.”

“I can’t say that I blame her. You are in the wrong.”

“How do you work that out? I sold her a self-help book. It wasn’t my fault if it didn’t help her.”

“I remember the incident, Harold. You distinctly said: ‘There you go, Mrs. Cruet. You’ll have a gigolo at your feet in no time’.”

“It was an expression, that’s all. Humour. Mrs. Cruet is in her eighties. I thought she was buying ‘How to Get a Boyfriend’ for her daughter.”

“She wasn’t, though. It’s all your fault.” Jasfoup finished his tea and put the mug down.

“I can see you’d be a hostile witness,” said Harold. “I’ll make sure my barista doesn’t call you to the stand.”

“Your barista?” Jasfoup smiled. “Make sure he doesn’t. I’ll have a latté at my table.”

Thursday, April 03, 2008

excerpt from 'Another Bloody Love Story'


“A what?” Harold stared at his friend, perplexed.

“Homunculus.” Jasfoup’s finger trailed over the page of the bestiary. “It’s the only thing I can think of. ‘A creature born of magic’.”

“It seems unlikely.” Harold flipped the book around so that he could read it from his side of the table. “It says here they’re a few inches high and made of clay. It may have escaped your notice but the thing that attacked the shop was seven feet high and made of metal. It looked like a terminator to me.”

“Tch. You and your movies. I’m telling you it was alive. Not a robot or--” he held up a finger to forestall Harold’s interjection – “an android. Nor indeed a golem.”

“A golem?” Harold flipped backwards a few pages. “‘An animated being created entirely from inanimate matter, usually clay.’ That seems reasonable. Why couldn’t it be a golem?”

“Because golems can only work through the instructions written in their heads,” said Jasfoup. “Golems aren’t self aware; they just respond to a series of instructions.”

“Like a robot, you mean.” Harold smiled to himself. “So what makes you think it was self aware?”

“The way it reacted to its own reflection. It seemed genuinely distressed.”

“I see.” Harold rubbed his chin. “You think it was a beauty consultant.”

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Cheesy




Harold stood at the sink, washing the small mountain of crockery left over from the extensive breakfast his great aunt Lydia had ordered. “Where are the imps?” he asked. “I haven’t seen them since lunchtime yesterday.”

“I’ve no idea.” Jasfoup folded the paper and clicked his fingers in a minor summoning. A gate opened scant seconds later, ejecting the three imps who clattered over the pine table top. “Where have you been?” he asked. “Your master has been calling you.”

“Well I didn’t hear him.” Devious narrowed his eyes at Harold. “Did you use the new code, Master?”

“What new code?” Harold came over to the table, wiping the suds from his hands with a tea towel. “I haven’t heard about a new code.”

“Section 3 of the Care of Demonic Servants Charter, sir,” said Devious. “You have to choose a new summons every five years. It hinders poaching, see.”

“I’ve never heard of that,” said Harold. “Have we got a copy, Jasfoup?”

“I expect so, Harold, somewhere.” Jasfoup stared at the three imps who at least had the foresight to brazen out the lie. “Perhaps Devious can dig it out for you.”

“Yes, please, Devious. I’d like to see it.” Harold smiled. “Now, what have you been doing since yesterday?”

“We made cheese, sir.” John pulled a wheel of cheese almost as big as himself from a portable gate.

“Up yer’ bum,” Delirious added, helpfully.

“Please accept this one as a gift, sir, for the inconvenience.” Devious nodded to his two sons and they presented Harold with the wheel.

“Thank you.” Harold broke a piece off and tasted it. “That’s delicious,” he said. “Let me put it in the larder. What’s it called?”

“Laverstone Noodle, Master.” Devious winked at Jasfoup.

“Noodles is that dog that went missing,” said the demon, “Do you mean to say that you made cheese from a dog?”

“We did.” Devious grinned proudly at his sons. “It’s good, too.”

“I’ll take your word for that.” Jasfoup steepled his fingers. “Now, forgive me for my ignorance. I can just about imagine making cheese from a bitch’s milk, but wasn’t Noodles a dog? A boy dog?”

Devious nodded. “So?”

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Seething Quietly



“How’s Her Majesty this morning?” Jasfoup lifted the lid of the teapot and frowned. He turned to the kettle, found that was empty too and began filling it at the sink.

“Queen Butterhead?” Harold attacked the piece of toast he was holding with the butter knife. “Just fine, I think, if her breakfast request is anything to go by.” He nodded to a list inscribed with exquisite copperplate handwriting. “Two slices of toast, buttered with English Salted Butter – not margarine – to the edges. Two plain buttered croissants. Two plain croissants filled with freshly cooked, un-smoked bacon and drizzled with maple syrup, a glass of freshly squeezed orange and a pot of English Breakfast tea.”

“Sounds delicious. Your Aunt Lydia has exquisite taste.” Jasfoup sat at the kitchen table and opened up the morning edition of the Laverstone Times. “I’ll have the same.”