Saturday, May 31, 2008

And felt such a heel...


“What have you got there?” Jasfoup was suspicious of anything Harold hid from him, remembering the time that his employer brought home a vial of holy water ‘for experimental purposes’ and made tea with it.*

“Nothing.” Harold smiled, his hands out of sight.

“You’re lying.” Jasfoup’s eyes narrowed. “Your hands are fiddling with something behind your back. Tell me what it is or I’ll…” He glanced around the room. “Or I’ll break your Harry Potter mug.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“I would!”

“Very well.” Harold sighed and drew out a large cardboard box. “I got you a birthday present.”

“It’s not my birthday. I don’t even know when I was born. Not the day, anyway.”

“I know,” said Harold. “But it’s my birthday next week. I thought you could share it.”





Note to readers: Not Chronological - Harold's birthday is actually in December of course.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cleavage


Pennie barely had time to look up before the glass came crashing down in a transparent guillotine. It bisected her perfectly – a neat cleaving that sliced through skull and spine and all the flesh in-between with a sucking sound reminiscent of a window cleaner’s squeegee. Chase watched it happen in slow motion and would afterwards be able to recall the effect in grisly clarity.

It was almost bloodless. The death was so quick that the glass acted like a seal to the flesh. Pennie was able to blink and raise her hand for just a moment as she died, the bisection of the two halves of her brain cutting off her nerve endings. At least it was painless.

The sense of slow motion ended as the glass touched the floor and shattered. Pennie’s two halves peeled away as her loose organs, blood and intestines fell to the floor and spattered ten feet in every direction. Chase turned away, too slow to avoid the spray of blood that ruined his clothes and mussed his hair. A glance upward saw the shocked face of Mr. Dog on the balcony.

Chase turned away from the scene, wondering if dry-cleaning would deal with the bloodstains.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Sketch


There’s a sketch of Jasfoup in the museum. He’s in human form, and sporting a moustache and stiff-collared shirt and looks more like a servant to the two ladies on the balcony that a rather powerful demon but it’s him all right.

It’s something about the eyes. Even though the figure is not the form Harold recognizes – he’s Caucasian in the sketch, for a start, rather than the ink-black, soft-as-buttered-chocolate skin of his present form – Harold knows the figure has been caught by a master painter’s quick hand.

“Who are the ladies?” he asks and Jasfoup appears almost embarrassed that Harold has unearthed the yellowed parchment. He takes it and a slow smile softens his features.

“That’s Lady Waters, your great grandma,” he said. “We stopped in Paris on the way home from the orient. The other lady is Kunimasu Souki, who accompanied her and translated. We saw the gentleman in the opposite window but paid him no mind. It was a pleasant surprise for her to find the sketch left with the hotel concierge the following week.”

“He changed the faces in the painting, though.” Harold took it back and placed it carefully back between tissue paper pages. “Why was that?”

“A hundred francs and a blind eye to his mistress.” Jasfoup grinned. He’d never have sold the painting anyway. It was better that he painted in nobility instead.”

“Manet should have kept is as Lady Waters,” said Harold. “She’d have given him more than your hundred for the painting.”

“Perhaps,” said Jasfoup, “but he was flattering Berthe Morisot.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Skanky People


Loathing never slept.

At night it would climb out of the skylight in the loft and sit on the roof. If it was feeling playful, and the weather wasn’t too dreadful, it would climb down the drainpipe to gather a pouch of stones then sit on the chimney and use a catapult to knock the neighbour’s satellite dishes out of alignment.

If it was in a melancholy mood, or if it had run out of stones and the ground was too nauseating to contemplate, it would pull out an ocarina made from the pelvic bone of a fairy child and send mournful songs into the velvet darkness.

They invariably induced bad dreams among the local sleepers.

Loathing didn’t care. All their neighbours were offensive with their little company cars and flowery curtains and greenhouses and garden sheds and detached garages.

It looked down and spat. Detached Garages? That didn’t sound like Harry Street. It had climbed the wrong drainpipe. This was Cherry Tree Avenue

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Without Fear


James Worthing fostered a loathing. It was not something he declared openly, though his sister knew of it (and thus reused to visit the suburban semi he called home) and his mother, God rest her soul, had begged him to be rid of it.

The loathing, for all its bad press, knew no better than its nature. It kept to the shadows mostly and had a bad habit of unscrewing the light bulbs to increase them but it and James had reached an agreement that it would allow forty watt bulbs over the stairs and in the bathroom and kitchen. During daylight hours, grimy windows and the yellowed nets his mother had put up kept out most of the light.

James spent most of his free time at home with the creature. When he wasn’t at work or his Monday evening roleplayer’s guild, he and the loathing would watch films they’d downloaded from illegal sources on the internet and the loathing, spitting words though ill-fitting teeth and half-toasted popcorn kernels, would give a running commentary on the reasons why a film was implausible, absurd, undeniably abhorrent or dreadfully acted.

James believed every word.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Passing the Gatekeeper


Janus squinted at the figures, his pen flicking across the columns. “You started with Avarice at three years old,” he said. “That gives you a thousand years of torment right there.”

“What can I say?” Harold shrugged. “We had a television and I wanted every toy advertised. What child doesn’t?”

“Hmm.” Janus’ pen moved again. “Lust,” he said. “From twelve years old.”

“Teenage boys. You know how they are.”

“Gluttony from seventeen.”

“I went up to University.” Harold smiled. “Beer. Cake.”

“A spike of anger at nineteen.”

“Someone,” Harold flicked his head toward Jasfoup, “stole my bicycle.”

“I gave it back!”

“The wheel was buckled.”

“Anyway.” Janus glared at them. “With interest that comes to…” He totted up the figures. “Eternity.” He closed his book and smiled.

Harold smiled as well. “I couldn’t help my nature,” he said, “considering who my father is.” He gave an obvious wink and Jasfoup leaned forward to whisper in the Inquisitor’s ear.

Janus blushed. “Ah,” he said. “I should have had a memo about that.” Do carry on.”

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Shinken


She stares at the blade unflinching, the kissaki less than an inch from her eyeball as far as she can judge – well past the minimum distance she can focus down to. All she can see of it is a bloom of light where it reflects the nearest streetlamp.

“You don’t scare me,” she says, shifting her focus to the man holding the blade with such stillness he could be a statue. “You don’t know enough to take me on.”

His mouth creases into the bare minimum of a smile. “I have studied the sword for thirty years,” he says. “Honed my body to the peak of fitness and killed one hundred and eleven vampires in search of you.”

“All very commendable.” Gillian’s gaze flicks from the hunter to the sword and back again. “Isn’t that the sword of Hissaki Takuto?”

“My father.” There is a trace of emotion in his voice. “You slaughtered him in 1987”

“He’d eaten boiled seaweed and rice,” she says. “It was raining and you were asleep with your mother. He tasted of cherry blossom in moonlight.”

“You have a good memory.” He is impressed.

“He died with honour.” Slowly, Gillian lifts her sleeve and selects one scar from the four that mark her skin. “This was his.”

“I will do better.”

“Will you?” Gillian steps back a single pace to execute a formal bow, the tip of the katana brushing the curve of her forehead, so perfect is his control.

When he bows in return she runs her hand along the mune, forcing the blade down and the handle up so she can take it from his fingers. She cuts upward into the tendons of his right shoulder to disable his whole arm.

“Dishonourable, I know,” she says as she places the tsuka in his left hand. “But I had no reason to kill Hissaki Takahiro.” She smiles and brushes his ear with her lips. “Not yet, anyway.”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Showdown


“That was your best shot?” Isaacs laughed as he dusted the ash from his jacket. The bullet had pieced his flesh just above his heart and exited through a lung. He coughed a little blood into his hand and displayed it palm outward. “Good enough for a mortal, perhaps, but you know me better than that, young lady.”

“Young lady?” Gillian smiled and reloaded the gun. “It’s been a long time since anyone called me that.”

“I knew you when you were mortal.” Isaacs unscrewed his cane to reveal the sharp blade of a sword. “Now, enough of this prattling. Prepare to meet your final death.”

“I wouldn’t be so certain of that.” The new voice belonged to Felicia, who stepped from the shadows already changing into her partial wolf form. “You’ll have to get past me.”

“And me.” Vixen dropped from the roof, her monofilament blade in her hand.

“And me.” Julie stepped from the Dead Lands. She looked across at the ancient vampire. “You deserve to die just for the use of such clichéd material.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spiked


Winston blinked hard to focus on his mother. The voice was hers but she looked younger than her remembered. He shook his head, trying to clear some of the fuzz away. “Ma?”

“I’m not your mother. I wish I was. Maybe I’d be banging some sense into that thick skull of yours if I was. I can’t believe you’re drinking again.” She thumped her hand down on the table.

He winced at the crash “Lattie,” he said. “I haven’t. I don’t know how this happened.”

“There’s another explanation to why you’re crawling through the back door in your underwear at two-thirty in the morning?” Lattie folded her arms across her ample bosom, exactly like their mother did when she was alive. “You’re drunk as a lord,” she said. “You’ve drunk yourself shiftless.”

“Shitless?” Winston concentrated. “I hope so else I need the bathroom quick.”

“No. Shiftless. Sam phoned me. You’ve lost your job at Twilight. He tried to defend you but it was Personnel’s decision.”

“But…” Winston heaved himself into a chair as his sister retreated upstairs. “Sam’s head of personnel.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

After Fleming, After Bond


“Isaacs!”

Gillian leaped backwards, her surprise causing her to miss her somersault and land badly. The resultant crack of her ankle bone was like the retort of a pistol against the walls of the alley. She scooted backwards, dragging her injured leg; desperate for enough distance to set it before it healed.

The old vampire walked slowly toward her, allowing her the time to twist the bone into place and hold it taut while it set. Her grimace was plain. Vampires may heal damage quickly but they could still feel pain. Excruciating, in this case.

Isaacs paused in font of her, leaning on his silver-tipped cane as he watched the bones knit. “Is there no welcome for your old master?”

“I thought you were dead,” Gillian said, “seeing as I killed you.”

Isaacs smiled. “This is my second life.”

“You only live twice, Mr. Bond.” Gillian stood, gingerly placing her weight on her newly healed ankle. A sweep of her arms centered her ki and made her ready to fight.

“Once when you are born, and once when you stare death in the face.” Isaacs nodded. “A senryu by Fleming after Basho, I believe.” He bowed. “Of course, you’ve already lived a second life after I turned you. Welcome to your third.”

Monday, May 19, 2008

Guest Accomodation


Guests that choose the ‘Dungeon Suite’ at Laverstone Manor might think they’re choosing a theme room. Perhaps they expect nouveau-gothic décor and black-painted manacles attached to the walls. They may even expect something a little risqué: a suspension sling, St. Andrew’s Cross and selection of crops and paddles. What they actually get is a pallet of straw (clean straw extra), dirt floor, damp walls and a bucket (emptied weekly). Terms and conditions are clearly stated in plastic-coated signs with the reassurance that fires have never reaches this far underground. Alternatively, if you’re very lucky indeed, you might get exactly the same accommodation for free.

No. Wait. People staying there at the expense of the Manor rarely think themselves lucky. Fortunately, they don’t survive long enough to complain.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Discounted Rates


Entering Alexandrian Gold and asking for a discounted rate on your purchases will bring you some interesting reactions. Julie, on the shop front, will raise a quizzical eye* and, half amused, will buzz through to the main office for Harold to see this curiosity. Harold, for his part, will arrive full of studious appreciation for a customer who presumes they will be purchasing enough to afford them a discount. Harold has his own vies on that: One book per customer. Knowledge is power, after all, and he finds it tedious to overthrow and destroy** those who believe they have the power to inconvenience him. Jasfoup, with his eye for a bargain, will offer a discount of his own so long as a contract is signed and Felicia, who runs the Basement Gallery (downstairs, naturally) will smile politely, showing all 54 teeth.

If you haven’t seen your error yet and run screaming into Waterstones instead (were you get a similar reaction) They’ll nod and smile and bring you a cup of tea while you wait for the nice men from the sanitarium.***



* Only the one. Julie lifts it up to get a better view. The other eye is real and stays firmly in its socket.

**Though the confiscation of their personal libraries has never bothered him.

***(Rachel’s note: Jasfoup claims I misheard when I wrote ‘crematorium’ first. He edited it, but I don’t think I misheard at all.)


Image from random google search. Would you really buy a book from them? I thought not.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Short


Harold wasn’t unduly worried when the lights went off at Alexandrian Gold. He sent Devious to check the fusebox, assuming that most faults caused an electrical surge. That’s what fuses were for, after all. Better a fuse blown than a slow painful death, his mother always said.*

He was a little more worried when the lights came on again and went off less than a second later. Fuses cost thruppence each and it was a waster of money. He sent Delirious to find the fault.

Five minutes later the lights came back on and stayed on. Delirious returned with a tiny humanoid corpse in his hand. “here’s your problem,” he said. “You had a gremlin in your alarm system.”

“Oh dear,” said Harold. “How did he die?”

“He shorted the system,” said the imp. “He wasn’t tall enough to reach the off switch.”





“…than a slow, painful death” was something she was happy to append to most such statements. It must be pointed out that Ada didn’t always say this. Perhaps once or twice a week at best, the remainder being normal conversation and asking Harold when he was going to give her grandchildren.**

**He’d given her one, once, but since it belonged to her neighbour, Mrs. Lawrence, she’d made him give it back.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Three Dishes


Ebul grimaced as he was forced out of his shell for the second time in a decade. “Der duck’s sake,” he said to the small boy who stood with a mouth so wide he was in danger of woodpeckers nesting. “Can’t a de- djinn get any sleep at all?”

“You talk funny,” said the boy. “What’s a djinn?”

“A Genie,” said Ebul. “And don’t make fun of my accent. I s’pose you dant door three dishes?”

“Three wishes? Cor. Yes please.”

“Sign here then.” Ebul coalesced fully and pulled a thirty page contract from his pocket. Your soul den you die for three dishes now.”

“Cool.” The boy took the proffered pen and signed. “I want a million pounds.”

“Excellent,” said Ebul, shedding his accent faster than the boy could blink. “So do I. Your contract, however, was for three dishes. May I suggest a chicken madras?”

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sermon Slumbers


“Well.” Ada came through the great carved doors of the church of St. Just’s still putting her gloves on. “That was a lovely sermon. Very spirit lifting.”

“It was?” Harold, though technically half-demon, had a social respectability that propelled him to attend services at least once a month. “I thought it repetitive and tedious--”

“Lovely sermon Reverend.” Ada interrupted him to shake hands with the vicar. “I was just saying how uplifting it was.”

“Lifted your thoughts right to a different plane, I hope.” Reverend Mackenzie smiled, showing a flash of gold at the back. Harold raised an eyebrow at the vanity.

“Something like that, yes,” he said. “It made me think I was in Hell.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Big Trouble. Little Bundles



Felicia wasn’t amused by Jasfoup’s plans to sell her children for profit. “They’re my babies,” she said. “How would you feel if your mother sold you?”

The demon shrugged. “She did,” he said. “She sold me to the highest bidder when I was three. I consider myself lucky, though. I was bought and apprenticed to a soul taker for the sum of three green beans and a peerage. I couldn’t have asked for a better start in life.”

Felicia narrowed her eyes. “I don’t care if it worked out all right for you,” she said. “I want to keep my children, thank you very much.”

“You’re welcome.” Jasfoup stroked his chin. “I can understand you keeping one,” he said. “Even two. But five? Have you any idea how difficult a were cub is to bring up?”

“Not yet,” said Felicia with a smile.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Whispers


Jasfoup was present when they burned her alive. That’s not the end he would have chosen for her – he’d envisioned her entering a convent at thirty, the insanity that had begun when she was twelve finally gnawing through her brain and sending her to abbess by the time she was fifty. Still, Joan d’Arc had been a delight to tempt, feeding her national hatred of the English and giving her just enough inside information for onlookers to doubt the cries of insanity. When the end came he consoled her in her cell, promising her eternal life (but neglecting to mention where) and a place in history for as long as Hollywood saw fit. He even stood with her in the flames, slicing the nerve endings in her spine so that she didn’t have to endure the pain, and devising the recipe for French Toast.

Monday, May 12, 2008

To Free a Soul



It was an odd door, set in a larch clearing and held vertical by ropes attached to the jamb. Red. Nobody trusted a red door, especially one in the middle of a forest that you could walk around as easily as step through. Harold was in an agony of indecision. He knew it would be a mistake to step through the open, inviting door but like a ladder against a brick wall it was something that had to be done, consequences or no. He stepped through, screwing his eyes against the demons, fairies of elves that might be waiting for him on the other side of who-knows-where.

“Are you happy now?”

Harold opened his eyes. He was exactly where he was a moment ago, except with a laughing companion. He blushed and stamped onward, ignoring his grinning friend. “Look!” he said, pointing ahead. “I can see the Manor at last.”

Jasfoup watched him go before closing the door and folding it up so small that it fitted into a pocket. Harold would have lost his mind traveling through Hell for the last four days. What was a minor illusion of a forest compared to his friend’s mental health?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Seasons


Julie answered the knock on the bedroom door by opening it a tiny fraction, just enough to see through. Her foot preventing it from opening further, she peered out. “What?” she said.

Jasfoup fidgeted in his playbunny sleeping shorts (tight fit, extra large gusset) and matching silk dressing gown. “Is Felicia in with you?” he asked. “I went to wake her up for her morning walk but she’s not in her room.”

Julie looked over her shoulder and back. “She’s not feeling well,” she said. “Best you give it a miss today.”

“Not feeling well?” Jasfoup flickered and was suddenly wearing his customary Armani. “She’s a werewolf. Weres don’t get ill.”

“She’s not ill.” Julie lowered her voice. She’s in the flow.”

The demon narrowed his eyebrows. “What does that mean, exactly?”

“It’s her time of the year.”

“What?” Jasfoup scratched his head. “Time of the month, you mean? That doesn’t usually bother her.”

“She’s in wolf form.”

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Empty Frames


If you took a stop-action series of photographs of Gillian du Point’s acrobatic stunts – in the manner of Eadweard Muybridge’s nineteenth century experiments – she would not appear for many of the shots. The problem is not with the technique – though it would be easier with the high-speed movie cameras used to photograph explosions – but with the subject. Vampires are notoriously difficult to film. The very best equipment is based upon optical science so advanced that, like ghosts, it doesn’t believe in vampires and refuses to register their presence. The operator, looking through the lens, sees nothing until a tap on the shoulder alerts him to the presence of the most exquisite woman he’s ever seen. Only then does she tear his throat out.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Excerpt from 'Another Bloody Love Story'


Sam’s face was a twisted mass of rage. “You’ll suffer dearly for this,” he hissed, the partially burned tome in one hand.

“How dearly, exactly?” asked Harold. “I don’t have the least bit of love for you, so the chances of suffering dearly are a bit limited.”

“Er…” Jasfoup plucked at Harold’s sleeve. “Let it go. I wouldn’t antagonize him just yet.”

Sam’s eyes narrowed. “Suffer dearly as in ‘Dearly Departed’,” he said. “As in ‘Nearest and Dearest’ and ‘Dearly Beloved’.”

“I don’t follow,” said Harold. “You’re going to attack the church?”

“No! Ask your vampire girlfriend to put the barbeque on, Mr. Waterman. I’ll bring the STAKE. Are you always this dense?”

Jasfoup nodded. “I’m afraid he is.”





Excerpt from 'Another Bloody Love Story'

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Scorpion


“One… more… thrust…” said Gillian, her rapier darting at Harold, flitting past his guard but failing to find a mark thanks to his deft footwork and retreat. “There!” The point lanced toward Harold’s right shoulder, forcing him to pull back, swiveling on his left foot so that the blade snicked by harmlessly. The manoeuver left him in a dangerous position, his sword arm at the furthest point from his beautiful, if deadly, opponent.

His hand arched over his head, the blade of his saber sweeping down and piercing her left shoulder. Blood sprayed from the wound and she gasped, pulling back from the engagement and laughing.

“Where did you learn that one?” she asked.

“The scorpion?” Harold smiled. “Some writer chappie I met online.”*





*Actally, a well respected swordsman

Monday, May 05, 2008

Not Funny


“Did you see that black bird in the shop this morning?” Devious sat on one of the high stools in the scriptorium and began to unwrap his lunch. “Looked tasty.”

“Yeah.” John put down his quill pen, picked up a salt shaker and sprinkled white sand over the ink on the page. He held the paper up to the light, the sand sliding off into the gutter attached to the desk. “It was a raven. They taste foul, actually.”

Devious bit into his sandwich. “What was a raven doing in a bookshop?”

“Looking for a writing desk.”



For those maddened, try HERE

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Psychotic Episode


“Uncle Frederick! I’m so glad to see you!” Julie stared straight up from the bed. There was little else she could do thanks to the contraption that prevented it from moving. “Get me out of here, please.”

“He can’t dear.” This from a nurse in a starched white uniform. It looked as though she had starched her lips as well they were pursed so tight. “You’re on a 24-hour restriction order after attacking the Lord Mayor of London.”

“I wasn’t attacking him,” Julie said. “He has an elemental rooted to his shoulder. It’s growing right into his brain and making him say the most insane things.”

“They can’t be that insane,” said the nurse. “Everybody voted for him.”

“34% voted for him,” Julies said. “And that’s not by proportional representation--”

“—Which is a myth anyway. Admit it, love. You’re delusional. There’s no such thing as elementals and your Uncle Frederick isn’t even here.”

“Sorry love.” Frederick shrugged. “She can’t see me. I’ll get Harold, shall I?”

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Mystic Lake


It was lucky that Felicia found Abigail Harrison first. The girl, barely old enough to take her GCSEs, was sat on the edge of the lake to the south of the house, staring across the water just as the sun crept over the horizon. She cast off her wolf form and stood erect, naked but for her scars and the i-pod around her neck. Silent, unseen through the morning mist, she slipped off the consumer electronics and slipped into the water, swimming below the surface to rise head and shoulders through the ripples to greet the girl.

“Why have you come?” she asked.

“To seek the lady of the lake.”

Felicia paused. Harold had only dug the lake the previous year. It hadn’t had time to build up a viable ecology, let alone a myth of several centuries. “Um, she’s not here.” Felicia could have kicked herself. For all her education that’s the best she could come up with?” “She keeps to the waters of Avalon, until the prophesy comes to pass.”

“What prophesy?” said Abigail, jumping to her feet, but Felicia had already slid back beneath the water. “Wait?”

Felicia climbed out at the other side and looked back to see the girl searching the shore for another visitation. There was no prophesy she was aware of. Prophesies were tools for lazy writers but she was sure the girl would find one to match her experience.

Perhaps she’d become a writer one day.

Or a priest.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Literal


“And then…” Harold rolled the skull along the carpet, “I got a double on the jack,” he nodded at the apple at the far end of the room, “at the fifth end and took the match.”

“Hurrah!” Devious clapped. “May I eat the jack now?”

“Sure.” Harold grinned and looked at the trophy for the nth time.

“That was delightful,” said Jasfoup, clapping a hand to his back. “The way you casually beat the pants off your old team-mates… I bet they walked off with fleas in their ears.”

“Isn’t that a mixed metaphor?” said Harold. “Did you mean ‘bees in their bonnets?”

“I don’t think so.” Jasfoup scratched his head. “I think I aimed the fleas well enough.”