Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Under-Age


Lucy span her polo mallet in a perfect 360 degree circle. “Super,” she said. “I’ll be at the White Art at seven-fifteen after piano practice. You can pick me up from there.”

Gatcome ‘Gloop’ Brandsford looked up, startled. He’d been staring at her wrist, wondering what it would be like to-- “Seven-fifteen?” he said. “My dad doesn’t get home till seven-thirty. Can we make it eight instead?”

“I suppose.” Lucy let the mallet slide through her fingers and back. “But I have to be back by nine. That’s when the dorms are locked for the night.” She turned to go. “You’re sure you can drive,” she said.

“Oh yes.” Gloop thought of his father’s panda car. “Anywhere you like.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Yellow Jack


Harold answered the phone and listened to the jabbering for several minutes, “I know you can see it from the town,” he said. “That’s rather the point, isn’t it? There’s nu use declaring a quarantine if no-one knows you’re in quarantine.”

He listened again and frowned. “I didn’t know it was an offence, actually. It was in my book of maritime lore.”

He nodded. “No, Sergeant Peters, I don’t wish to incur a fine of not less than seven shillings or fourteen lashes. I’ll remove the Yellow Jack from the flagpole.”

He was about to put the phone down when the sergeant asked him something else. he put it back to his ear and summoned his iciest tone. “Lucy might only have a cold now,” he said, “but it other people give her germs it will surely get worse, and that goes for your lad Goob as well.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bazaar


Lucy wandered through the bazaar, her hands trailing over knitted jumpers and scarves, hand made Christmas cards and rows of stones with painted faces. For a few scant seconds as she passed, Julie spotted the goods from the other side of the divide, the White Market. Rows of skulls, bottles of potions, pouches and vials containing cold hearts and pixie tears flickered into view and faded moments later.

The effect was strong enough to raise eyebrows among the mortal shoppers and Julie hurried to catch up with her charge. “Lucy,” she said. “Put you gloves on, dear, or you’ll catch your death.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bright Spark


Lunch time was the one bright spot in Amy White’s day. The Hour from 12:15 to 1:25* was when she would get to see her friend Lucy, and best of all, Lucy would see her. None of the other kids saw Amy, not since the fire in 1989 had burned the west wing of the school to a cinder.

Lucy talked to her, though, and promised to do so forever. Amy knew not to trust her and she was right, for when Lucy was eleven, she stopped coming to school at all.

Lucy was a Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire!

Just like Lillian Pritchard in 1989 had been.


*This was a primary school.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Head Count


Lucy examined the mysterious package. It was a foot across in all directions (Daddy had explained the difference between a Daddy foot and a Lucy Foot in terms of measurement, much to her Auntie Julie’s amusement*) and wrapped in brown paper and tied with string and sealing wax.

Brown paper was almost like birthday paper, wasn’t it? And it had arrived on her birthday, which meant it was probably for her, even though it said Daddy’s name in the address box. There was probably a gaily wrapped present inside.

Or a skull.

“Cool,” said Lucy.





*“Is that why call your lollipop ‘ten inches’?” she said.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Late Snack


Tim was crouched in the bushes and Felicia paused to study him. He was watching a family of badgers, the cubs almost as big as the adults as they increased their body fat to survive the winter. The creatures had pulled over one of the wire basket bins and were rooting through the contents, wolfing down the discarded remains of a chicken take-away. Tim was busy photographing them with a night vision lens and making notes in a field journal.

Felicia had little interest in what this man’s life had been or what had driven him to contemplate suicide. Such matters she left to others. If she was interested she would read the obituaries for the next week or two, though she was never crass enough to ring them in red ink and say ‘I ate him.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jolly Hockey Sticks


The knock on the door was brash and confidant. Mrs. brown opened it to find the sort of girl who would be the captain of a hockey team – full of gung-ho, as they used to say when she was a child – looking away from her down the street, The sound of sirens echoed faintly.

“Can I help you?”

The girl turned, displaying a black eye and a swollen lip. “Mrs. Brown?”

“Yes… What’s this about?”

“I’m Lucy Waterman, Mrs. Brown” The girl held out a hand and Mrs. Brown shook it. She couldn’t help but notice the broken nails and scabs across the knuckles.

“What can I do for you, Miss Waterman?”

“You’ve got a lovely daughter, Annabel, haven’t you?”

“Yes.” Mrs. Brown frowned. “She’s all right, isn’t she?”

“She will be. I called the ambulance for her. She had a bit of a run-in with a goblin but I sorted it out.” Lucy smiled. “Would you tell Annabel she owes me a new polo mallet? I’d be ever so.”

“Erm… of course.”

“Ta muchly.”

Mrs. Brown watched her saunter away and closed the door. “Goblin?” she repeated. Was that the street name for a drug dealer or something?

Monday, November 17, 2008

M’Lady Waddington


“Is it Pall Mall as in HAL or Pall Mall as in Ball?” said Lucy, reading the card.

“The former.” Harold looked up from counting his money.

“Then why has it two ‘l’s instead of just the one?”

“That’s and interesting question,” said Harold, always keen to show off his knowledge. “The name is derived from a seventeenth century game where a wooden ball is driven through a suspended iron hoop. Pall Mall, from the Latin pallamaglio - palla meaning ball and maglio meaning mallet.” Harold coughed. “The London street was formerly a pall-mall alley and thus became shortened to Pall Mall, as in HAL.”

“That’s fascinating, dad,” said Lucy, “especially since you’ve landed on my hotel there. That’ll be seven hundred and fifty pounds, please.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Excerpt from Halcyon Days, chapter 43


The katana spun on its tsuba, flashing as the light travelled the length of polished steel blade and back again. The brass kashira described a circle, indicating the sword was marginally tsuka-heavy.

“Which is the more pressing need?” asked Azazel form his seat at the edge of the dojo. “The desire for vengeance or the desire for justice?”

Lucy frowned.

Her sister just smiled, the sword peripheral to her desire to take Lucy’s place, to feel the heat of the sun and watch the charred black skin peel away to pink.

The katana slowed, the blade facing Lucy. Her sister reached for it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dancing Shoes


Gillian pressed her fingers together, waiting for her daughter’s reaction. While Lucy had worn high heels before, she had never worn specially made, one-of-a-kind calf high black leather 3” stiletto boots before.

“How do they feel?” she asked as the fifteen year old teetered to the end of the room and back.

“Great.” Lucy grinned. “Really comfortable. It’ll be magic once I’m used to the heels.”

“They’re specially reinforced like mine,” said Gillian. She demonstrated by doing a pirouette on one heel. “Once you’re used to them you can puncture a mans head with a high kick.”

“Cool,” said Lucy, “but I was thinking more along the lines of dancing.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One for the Accident Book


Prime Corporal Gefardl wasn’t feeling well when he landed his spaceship on the sheep pasture of Farmer Edwin Height. On most of the sheep, come to that. Although it was broad daylight his ship had an invisibility cloak, so all the farmer saw as he looked across the summer grassland was a flock of very flat, very dead sheep. He called the police.

PC Albert Henshaw, in the passenger seat of Foxtrot 3, one of Laverstone’s two squad cars (Foxtrot 2 was currently in the garage, having the suspension realigned after PC Henshaw had demonstrated his off-road driving skills to off-duty WPC Wendy Owens), described the scene as ‘A giant fly, vomiting over the corpse of Edwin Height and then sucking the resultant goo up its proboscis.’ When Sergeant Sam Pierce, driver of the car, got out to investigate more closely, the giant fly did the same to him. PC Henshaw added the detail that the sergeant screamed for several minutes before his face finally dissolved and the monster drank everything but his buttons.

The fly then burped, vomited experimentally over Foxtrot 3 (PC Henshaw would be eternally grateful for the metal’s imperviousness to the stomach acid), turned and vanished into thin air. He then described a roar which Henshaw likened to the noise of a speedway race which gradually doppler-shifted into silence, leaving two semi-decomposed bodies and thirty sheep, each four feet in diameter and one inch thick.

He marked Sergeant Pierce down in the accident book as a drunk driver.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Harnessed Fury


The harness was a recent addition to Felicia’s ensemble. Specially designed for her needs, the nylon webbing stretched and shrank to accommodate both her human form (where it could be utilized as discrete underwear) and her wolf one. A pouch in the from contained a useful (if inelegant) one-piece coverall, a mobile phone, enough money for a cab across London, a small set of lockpicks and, for the elegant semi-naked woman about town, a lipstick. It also came with a pocket and ear-beads for an i-pod (not supplied.)

Felicia ordered six: three black, two white and one in shocking pink.

The Lady of Flowers




Emily Carter always thought herself alone in her weirdness. She loved her daughter, but Jenny had died when she was only seven years old, the victim of a virus that would have left her unwell but for the complication of MRSI from having her tonsils out.

After the burial (simple with only three mourners if you discounted the hospital staff) she put fresh flowers on the grave every day no matter the weather. As autumn approached she began planting spring bulbs in the dirt and added another every day. When Jenny’s grave was perfect she began to look after the graves next to her daughter’s as well, until the whole children’s area of the cemetery was kept spotless and full of flowers.

She resented other visitor’s to the cemetery, especially if parents of ‘her charges’ interfered with her displays. If little Tommy’s mother visited with tulips and Emily had planted daffodils she would dispose of the mother’s offering. People complained but after the first few incidents the Police declined to be involved in disputes involving her

The verger grew so used to seeing Emily with her little spade and trowel and basket of greenery that he never noticed when she removed more than she put in. Once Jenny’s bones were lovingly polished and assembled Emily began to bring some of the other residents home. No-one realised that under the expanse of bulbs and flowers were fourteen empty graves.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Warmth of a Wolf

“Harold!”

Felicia stepped across the lawn, her tread so light it hardly impacted the sharp spikes of frosted grass. Harold’s, by contrast, looked like the blundering footfalls of an ogre. He looked up, mild surprise showing at the sheen of fur across her features.

“What are you doing out here? She’ll catch her death of cold.”

Harold looked down at the baby nestled against his jumper. “I was showing her the frost on the hawthorn hedge,” he said. He lifted his daughter to see. “Aren’t they pretty? The way the frost outlines every red berry? Like drops of blood preserved in ice.”

“Harold, she’s freezing.” Felicia had hold of one of Lucy’s tiny hands. “Give her to me.”

She nestled the child against her chest where wolf fur trapped layers of warm air. Lucy’s face returned from white cold to a healthy pink in moments. “There,” said Felicia. “She’s so beautiful I could just eat her up.”

Harold coughed. “Which I always thought a quaint phrase but it's a bit worrying when a werewolf says it,” he said. “Shall we go back inside? My slippers are soaking wet.”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Mail room


Lucy boxed up the seventeen shells she’d found on the beach and wrapped the whole package in brown paper and string and sealing wax, just like the boxes in the attic of Laverstone Manor. She inscribed Ada’s address (22, The Terrace, Laverstone, Hertfordshire) with a black biro (her tongue only slightly protruding from the corner of her mouth) and took it to the post office.

“First class, please,” she said, standing on tiptoes to reach the counter. “It’s for my Grandmother.”

“She’s a lucky woman,” said Mrs. Moffatt, leaning over the counter, “to have such a thoughtful little girl.”

“I’m not little,” said Lucy. “I’m 1.24 meters.”

“Fancy that!” Mrs. Moffatt held no truck with new-fangled measurements. She looked around the shop. “Is there anyone looking after you?”

“No.” Lucy smiled as she put two pound coins on the counter. “Daddy says I’m big enough and ugly enough to look after myself.”

“And how old are you?”

“Four.”

“I see.” Mrs Moffatt picked up the telephone. “Would you like an ice cream? I’ve got to ask a policeman to come and have a chat.”

Lucy’s face fell. “Didn’t I have enough money?”



From his vantage point on the ceiling, an invisible Devious frowned. In his experience, no good ever came of calling a policeman.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Footloose



Harold couldn’t understand the theft. Who would steal such rubbish from his tool shed? A tube of two part epoxy resin, a bag of plaster and a decorator’s sheet. Not exactly the crown jewels and Jasfoup managed to convince him that he’d probably left them somewhere himself. Had he checked the cellar?

Meanwhile Lucy climbed the sixty-three stairs to the bell tower at St. Marples’. Being footloose was not in the slightest bit fancy-free, not if you were a gargoyle. Tim was grateful for the glue, and the makeshift plaster bandages worked a treat.

She’d even worn her nurse’s outfit.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Follies of Youth


Harold stepped over the prone form of his daughter, stopping for a moment to check she still had a pulse. She might be sixteen years old and looked (and acted) twenty, but Lucy had not yet developed the taste for alcohol that she purported to. He glanced at the object her sleeping form was curled around: she would be having porcelain dreams tonight.

He fetched a blanket from her bed and tucked it around her. She would swear to him in the morning that she’d never touch alcohol again and mean it too. Harold would nod and smile remembering youth.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Bargain Made

Lucy’s flesh tingled where it met the edge of the circle, the hairs on her arm rising as the skin puckered. The air seemed warmer inside, warmed by the sun rather than seared by frosty twilight. She gathered her resolve and sat up. “Who’s there?” she said, her voice hubristic with authority – this was her father’s land, after all.

“‘Who’s there?’ she asks,” echoed a throaty voice, filled with the phlegm and bile of a bitter old man. “She lies in the circle ripe for the taking and asks: ‘who’s there?’”

Lucy felt calloused fingers running from wrist to shoulder, then over her breast to the hollow of her throat. Her nipples hardened.

“A bargain first,” she said, feeling the heat of desire in her voice. “Return my sister and you can take my virtue.” She gasped as an unseen hand pressed down on her groin.

“No need for bargains,” said the voice. “You’ve stepped willingly into our domain. Your virtue, what little you have left, is forfeit.”

Lucy reached across, trailing her fingers across an invisible arm, leg… She grabbed and was awarded with a shriek. “Or,” she said, “we could bargain with yours.”

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Coarse Courses


“Tempting and Damning 101. Again?” Jasfoup scowled at the letter, then screwed it up into a ball, pitching it expertly across the room into the waste bin. “I’m five hundred years old. What could a refresher course possibly teach me? I’m the one in the field, doing all the work. They’re stuck in a cozy little office in Dis devising all these rubbish courses. Why? I ask you.”

Harold retrieved the ball of paper and flattened it out. “Rubbish courses with rubbish teachers who don’t know diddly?” he said.

“That’s right,” Jasfoup nodded.

“That’ll be why they want you to teach it then,” said Harold, handing the letter back for the demon to re-read. “They couldn’t find anyone better.”

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hallow's Gallows


The last hanging in Laverstone was on November 1st 1849, at the top of what is now Gallowgate but used to be several hundred yards outside of town. The recipient of the death penalty was a man by the name of Frank Betton who, having robbed the graves of seven of the town’s recent dead, deserved the penalty.

The blacksmith, Mr. Jasfoup, was on hand to help out and although he was not the executioner he gave Frank the benefit of his experience, a long drop and a quick death.

The seven missing bodies were never found, though the blacksmith disposed of Frank’s body at his own expense.

He made a profit.