Thursday, April 30, 2009

Unintended Consequences


“I found a key!” Lucy held up the object. It was as big as her hand and a quarter-inch thick, flakes of rust peeling away to reveal smooth, work-hardened steel. “I wonder what it opens.”

“Who can say?” said Jasfoup, though he knew well enough. “One of the attic rooms, perhaps. You could check.” He cleared his throat. “Where did you find it?”

“In an old teapot,” said Lucy. “In the cupboard at the back of the kitchen inside an old sweetie tin.” She sucked her lip inward. “What ‘ad no sweeties in.”

“I see,” said Jasfoup. “How about I make you a packed lunch and you can spend the day exploring the house to find the right door?” he said. “It’ll be an expedition.”

“Can I ‘ave Marmaduke sammies?”

“Marmalade.” Jasfoup smiled. “Yes, I’ll make you marmalade sandwiches.”

“I can’t bear marmalade,” said Lucy, screwing up her face. “Carn’ I ‘ave cheese and strawberry jam instead.”

“The demon forced a smile this time. “Of course. Two separate sandwiches or together?”

“Together but two of them.” Lucy grinned. “Except I’ll be expeditioning outside. I think this must be the key to the mushroom shed.”

“Must it?” Jasfoup knew very well that it must. “Why are you dropping your aitches?”

“Am I?” Lucy shrugged. “I dunno.”

Jasfoup knew all too well. One of the unintended consequences of having a gifted child was that Lucy could hear Molly even if it wasn’t conscious. He’d have to have a word with the ghost about her chatter. Careless talk costs sanity, as they said in the psychic trade.

“Why don’t you get your Expedition supplies while I make you up some provisions, and then we’ll see?”

He watched her run upstairs. How was it that small children had a knack for finding that which was hidden? It had taken Harold an hour to think of that hiding place. Now he’d have to move her birthday present again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fences

They perform the dance once more. The peacock show of desire and frustrated need and want weighed against a barrage of social mores and “but my father…” He watches her fingers as they button her boots. One, two, three… until the leather encases her calves and she ties the tops with a lace criss-crossed through three holes and stands, looking at him through lashes elongated with mascara. She pulls on a velvet coat with bustle and cinched waist and he is desperate to take her in his arms. “Go,” she says, and means it well enough but is still disappointed when he obeys, turning with one last glance over the fence she has built around her desire. But is he fenced out or is she fenced in?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Proxy War

There was no need for the war.

God, ever mindful of the rebellion that lost him a third of his children in the fall, declared a series of proxy battles. Chlamidiel, the leader of the current dispute (who was going to Fall no matter what the result, just for the audacity of Questioning God) elected to take the French while God took the English.

Chlamidiel was forced to admit defeat when God took control of the Prussian forces and added them to his own, forcing Chlamidiel’s proxy to abdicate at Fontainebleau.

“But You cheated,” said the angel in despair as they tore off his wings and forced him to the edge of Heaven.

Gabriel laughed. “God never cheats,” he said. “He is ineffable, and the rules alter themselves to his benefit.” He prodded the ex-angel with his sword. “Any one else want to deny putting a mortal’s sex organs right next the their excretion orifices was a good idea? No?”

Monday, April 27, 2009

Innovation


“You’re late home.”

Despite the innocuous statement, within the words were embedded both question and accusation – Why are you late? and “What have you been doing?” Jasfoup flinched at the tone and mentally backpedalled.

“I had some bubblewrap,” he said, as if that explained everything. “I was sat in the park popping it. I couldn’t stop.”

Julie continued polishing the kitchen table. In her high chair, Lucy made spit bubbles and drawings in mashed peas. Jasfoup looked away. There were some things even a demon couldn’t stomach. Julie glanced up. “Tch,” she said.

Such a simple sound, but one which managed to convey both derision and disappointment. Jasfoup visibly wilted and hardly had the strength to click his fingers for Devious to make tea.

“They didn’t put that in the exorcist’s handbooks,” Julie said. “Imagine hoe well the Catholics would have managed if they had bubble wrap.”

“It wasn’t about in those days.” Jasfoup sat in the easy chair and pulled out a small package. “If they’d had these, though…”

“What are they?”

“Computer chips. I borrowed them off Harry for the night. There’s something about them that’s creepy but I can’t decide what.”

Julie took one fom him and stared at it with her supernatural eye. “They’re spirit cages,” she said. “Inside each chip is a sliver of bone with a spirit imprisoned inside.”

“Really?” said Jasfoup. “Why didn’t Hell think of this?”

“Because there is nothing so terrible as human innovation.”

“That’s horrible.” Jasfoup paused. “Anyone we know?”

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Door of Birch and Ivy Buds


The door was old and battered but I wouldn’t sell it to him. “A hundred pounds,” he said. “My wife’ll love it.”

I shook my head. “I can’t,” I said. “Not for a hundred pounds and not for a thousand.”

“A thousand?” He hesitated, chewing on a cigar. Before I realised what he was doing he took a picture and sent is spinning over the Atlantic to his wife in Florida. “She loves it,” he said. “Will you take a cheque? Bankers draft?”

I shook my head. “Not for a thousand,” I said.

“Why? What’s so special about it?”

“It’s a fairy door,” I said. “They live behind it.”

He laughed. “Can I see one?”

I shook my head. “It only opens on a blue moon,” I said.

He laughed again, his thumb flying over the keypad of the phone. “Even better,” he said. “Two thousand.”

I sighed. “No,” I said. “It’s not for sale. Not now. Not ever. Good day to you.” I stormed into the house, slamming the door behind me and watched him leave, still tapping away on his phone. The door was gone when I got up the next day.

I whistled for the first time in seventeen years. The curse was lifted.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Barbed Wishes

Felicia lay sobbing on the steps of the ball room. Harold, in an uncharacteristic moment of kindness, sat on the step next to her shoulder and gave her three pats on her arm.

“The important thing,” he began, his face a oasis of calm though it was plain to see there was a flood of emotion held back by the dam of British Reserve. “The important thing is to forgive oneself. It wasn’t your fault that Lucy died. She had a destiny none of us were aware of.”

“You don’t understand.” Felicia raised her mascara-streaked face. “I wished Lucy could have her angel wings back..”

“You wished…” Harold stared. “Wishes are always barbed, you stupid dog. She has her wings, all right. She died and became an angel.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Interview with Rachel Green (blog tour )

Ooh! I'm here today!

Bit Player Reflects: Inside the head of Rachel Green

Stolen Kiss


Lucy offered her cheek. “Just a birthday kiss,” Malcolm had said, but had ducked his head to steal a smacker on the lips.

“You cad,” said Lucy, disguising her pleasure. “That was out of bounds and you know it.”

“Want me to take it back?” Malcolm grinned.

“No. I forgive you.” She hesitated. “I won’t get pregnant now, will I?”

“Of course not silly. That involves a much different process.”

She frowned. “It does? You’ll have to explain it to me one of these days.”

“Really?” Malcolm spluttered. “Er, sure. I’d be happy to.”

Lucy walked off, confidant that had had royally blown his mind.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The City of Destruction



Dis was a city of destruction. From the grinders in the northern quarter to the mechanical knives in the south it was designed to take people apart an inch at a time, preserving the life in them to the bitter end the better to appreciate the screams and agonies of the damned.

Housing and offices sprang up in the spaces between torture chambers. The central hub of Dis became the administrative offices for Hell, transplanted with some delight from the previous council buildings in Pandemonium, where the paraillegals couldn’t hear themselves think for the cacophony of demons and the chattering of succubae.

The south eastern sector became a palace of art – the twisted flesh and bone sculptures of those demons still enamoured of the mortal world and making art for the masses of mortals that would shudder and avert their eyes. The opposite sector of the new city housed apartment buildings and restaurants for the better class of demon – when the damned arrived here they were already deprived of voices, lending a quiet air to the place where the demons could digest their food in peace.

There was just one problem, one that had miraculously escaped the attention of the planners, designers and architects of the city. It mattered little how majestic were the grinders, how bright the skinning knives and how reflective the flesh scoops. What mattered more than anything was something that would leave the machinery silent for a thousand years.

The damned didn’t have flesh to rend.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tears for Fears


“Da? Da?”

It was a surprise Lucy didn’t fall down the stairs and break her neck, the speed she ran down them. She burst into the kitchen to find Harold half-risen from the table, his cereal spoon still in hand. “What’s the matter, love?”

Lucy was out of breath and teary-eyed. “I can’t find ‘Licia!”

Harold’s face clouded and he picked up the four year old and sat her on his knee. “Felicia had to go away very suddenly,” he said. “She made Daddy very cross.”

“So you sent her away?” A couple of tears escaped. “I won’t ever make you cross, Daddy.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

Packets of Time


It was with some surprise that Harold received a postcard of Ulster from his Aunt Lydia. “I haven’t heard from her in donkey’s,” he said. He turned it over.

“Having a lovely time,” he read aloud. “See you at your Astronaut Party. I’ve bought you some rock.” He frowned. That’s odd,” he said. “I don’t like rock.”

“When was your astronaut party?” asked Jasfoup.

“When I was seven,” said Harold. “This postcard has been travelling a long time. Look there’s a postmark on the thruppenny stamp. “16th November 1972.”

“It’s been lost for almost forty years?” said Jasfoup.

“Yes, and yet they still managed to charge me £1.39 excess postage,” said Harold.

Jasfoup smiled. “God bless the Royal Mail.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

But I thought it was Magic


“Can’t you revive her?” Julie, still squatting, looked up at Jasfoup. “You once told me you’d do anything I wanted.”

Jasfoup coughed. “In the bedroom, I meant. This,” he waved a hand at the poor thing, “is truly dead. Perhaps God could revive it, but if I had his power I’d be selling square feet of Heaven on e-bay. This girl, I’m afraid, is truly dead.”

“Is there another power I can appeal to?” Julie asked. “A nature goddess? I’ve nurtured her for fourteen years.”

Jasfoup shrugged. “You can try,” he said. “But who really cares about an apple tree?”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

At least he didn't faint


“What have you called him?”

Harold watched the pygmy goat gambol across the lawn, leaving small divots in the grass. Fortunately, he knew just the imp to repair the damage.

“Pablo the Leprechaun,” said Lucy.

“Leprechaun?” Harold frowned. “But he’s a--”

“I know, dad.” Lucy turned to him, twelve years old and full of seriousness. “But that would be condescending to Pablo and insulting to any human society whose members were under two feet tall.”

“I see.” Harold nodded. “But not insulting to gold-hoarding guardians of Rainbows?”

“Now who’s being ridiculous?” Lucy punched him. “I’ve already asked their permission.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Birthday Gifts


Lucy tore the paper wrapper, declining to comment on her father’s choice of bunnies. He’d used the same theme for years, reasoning that if bunnies had made her laugh at her first birthday he would continue to use them. She suspected he’s bought the entire 2008 stock of the paper and was trying to use it up. It was likely her children, if she ever had any, would get presents wrapped just the same.

She guessed what it was before she even tore the last piece (tearing prevented her father from re-using the paper). “Oh dad,” she said. “Thank you.”

“It’s from Jasfoup too,” Harold said. “He knows the tailor.”

She pulled the garments free and held them up. A gi and a hakama, both made of a material butter-soft and light as silk. They shimmered under her touch.

“It’s the very latest in nano-technology,” said the demon. “The surface is covered in diodes and cameras. Everything the cameras see on one side of the cloth is displayed on the other.

Lucy frowned as she grasped his meaning. “An invisibility suit?”

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Resistance of Memory




“Can you remember what happened in 1976?” asked Jasfoup, a jeweller’s glass screwed into one eye socket. “Specifically, I mean. Down to what people said on a particular day.”

“That’s more than thirty years ago,” said Harold, placing a finger over the point he’d reached in ‘Easter Bunny and the Missing Egg’ before he looked up. “Anyone in particular? I could look it up.”

“Someone important,” said Jasfoup. “Your mum, say. What did your mum say?”

Harold shrugged. “Something along the lines of ‘Get your nose out of that book and fetch some coal in’, or ‘If you keep picking it it’ll never heal’. Thinks of that ilk.”

“How about a specific event?” Jasfoup frowned. “What about the day you went to Alton Towers and you were sick in your underpants?”

“I don’t remember that,” said Harold. “Are you making this up?”

“Not at all. Ask your mum.”

“I will.” Harold put Lucy’s new book down. “Why are you asking about wahat was said thirty years ago, anyway?”

“It’s this version of the Bible,” said Jasfoup, displaying a leather-bound copy of the Four Gospels. “The earliest gospel was written in AD64, thirty years after the crucifixion, and yet they are purported to be wholly accurate, word-for-word accounts of the first and last few years of Jesus’ life.”

Harold nodded. “As dictated by God, presumably,” he said. “Why the interest?”

Jasfoup smiled. “I’m just questioning the Inerrancy of the Scriptures,” he said. “ I think it’s inaccurate but it’s a Fundamental problem.”

“Perhaps the authors held séances to get the scoop from the spirits of those who were there.”

“If they even admitted that such things exist,” said Jasfoup. “You see ‘unclean spirits’ depicted but never ‘freshly laundered’ ones.”

“Clean living,” I suppose,” said Harold. “At least the Romans had baths.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

Werewolves in Gucci


Alison was legally blind, and was always amused when asked to produce papers to prove it. For all she knew, they could be statements of the weather in Katmandu, though the brail across the top was useful. It had been a shock to go blind the day she moved to Laverstone. Such a stupid wish it had been, her clear thinking occluded by her need to see her daughter’s spirit.

It came in handy at the shop, mind. There was noting quite so impressive as a blind fortune teller that could tell you exactly what you were wearing and what card you’d just picked from a 78 card tarot deck. Only once had she been called a charlatan, and even that had ended in a firm friendship. How was she to know that her upstairs neighbour could see and hear Terry the imp as well as she?

“Felicia,” the woman had said, almost giving Alison a heart attack when her second sight was filled with the image of a werewolf in Gucci and Prada.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sour Grapes


Harold filled a crispy potato skin with sour cream and added a sliced gherkin on the top. “Almost perfect,” he said. “It just needed a dash of something to counteract the sour pickle.”

“How about grated chocolate,” said Jasfoup, offering him the bowl he’d ‘borrowed’ from the dessert table. A glance in that direction showed a child pointing at him and an irate parent heading purposefully over. “Harold,” he hissed. “Time to go.”

“But I’ve only just found the perfect aperitif.” Harold held out the snack he’d constructed. In addition to the chocolate, he’d encountered the trifle.

Jasfoup glanced back again. The man was almost upon them. He grabbed Harold’s arm. “If you don’t move right now,” he said, “you’re going to need a pair of teeth, too.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Implant

Valerie stared at her wrist and the raised lump between her radius and ulna.

“Dear God!” said Purvis, remembering to cross himself as an apology for the outburst. “What on heaven’s name is that?”

“One of my implants,” said Valerie. She opened a drawer in the kitchen cupboard and took out a small first aid kit. Ripping open an antiseptic swab, she wiped her wrist before opening a sterile scalpel. “They put them in when I lived at the Twilight Monastery,” she explained. It releases a flood of endorphins into my bloodstream, meaning I can continue to function even when severely injured.”

Purvis turned away as Valerie made the cut, a small fountain of blood spattering the table. “Purvis?” she said. “I need you. Put your finger here to slow the blood loss.”

“Here?” Purvis pressed on the artery.

“Yes, excellent.” Valerie winced as she one-handedly extracted the tiny pump and intravenous needle. “Pass me that tube of super glue, please.”

Taking it from him, she applied the adhesive to the artery and the area in between, waited a few seconds, then nodded at her husband to release the pressure. The join held, and she closed up, using the glue again to knit the sides of the cut together. She finished off with three medical staples and a sticky plaster.

Purvis regarded the tiny unit she’d extracted. “I never knew you had that inside you,” he said. “It’s as if I’ve been living with something from Star Trek.”

Valerie frowned, not understanding the reference. “It’s no worse than a pacemaker or a plastic hip,” she said. “We all want to live a bit longer.”

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Misprint


Gilbert Miller, secure in the cellar of his mother’s house in Ripley Street, smiled. His mother was in Ramsgate on the annual Darby and Joan Club holiday leaving the house empty but for the cat, which Gilbert had fed an hour ago and was now fast asleep in the airing cupboard. Necromantic rituals were so much better in the cellar of an empty house than a second floor bedsit, even if he could hear next-door’s telly through the adjoining wall.

The circle had been drawn, the symbols inscribed and the black candles lit. He’d had the devil of a job finding black candles and the lady at Morrison’s had looked at him funny when he asked if they had any. He’d got them from IKEA in the end.

Gilbert began to read out the ritual, painstakingly pieced together from several sources, including the intended spirits very own ‘The Devil Rides Out.” At the culmination of the ritual, he made the sacrifice, though being squeamish he’d elected to use a goldfish in place of the unbaptised child.

Shadows formed under a ruddy light and Gilbert smelled the stench of brimstone and rotting flesh. A figure formed in the centre of the circle and Gilbert beamed that his spell had worked so well. The shadows fell back to reveal the form of the arrogant, depraved but brilliant writer of the Satanic, holding a fork with a carrot on the end.

“Where am I?” said the figure. “I was in the middle of Emmerdale.”

“Who the blazes are you?” said Gilbert, his smile replaced by incredulity. “You’re not who I was summoning?”

“I don’t know anything about a summoning,” said the figure. “I was eating my tea.” He held out a hand. “Dennis Whately’s the name. You?”

Monday, April 06, 2009

After the Party


It had been a long night.

Gillian, exhausted beyond the realms of death, had collapsed into her grave even before dawn and Felicia, heedless of the blood that matted her hair, had fallen asleep on the sofa, a pink, triple scar from a reaver blade curving from thigh to armpit.

“You don’t look well, Harold,” said Jasfoup, picking up the remote for the television and switching it on. The morning news, with its impersonal accounts of foreclosures and distant wars, was oddly comforting in its familiarity.

Harold lifted his broken arm and tried without success to close his fist. “You should see yourself, matey,” he said. “I’ve never seen you too tired to spruce up your appearance before.”

Jasfoup looked down at his ripped and bloodied suit, then across the room to the mirror. His face was so badly burned on the left that bone showed, and his eye shone from a crushed and lidless socket. He concentrated. The flesh regrew and the suit flickered and was replaced with a new one. “Better?”

Harold nodded. “Much.” He looked at his pocket watch, dented but still working. “I’ll have to phone the school,” he said, “to tell them Lucy won’t be there.”

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Cakes and Wail


Julie narrowed her eyes at the demon. Fifteen years she’d been with him and she still hadn’t trained him out of stealing the baked goods. “Those are for Lucy’s birthday,” she said, eyeing the remaining three butterfly cakes. “Or they were, anyway.”

“You can make a second batch, can’t you?” said Jasfoup. He nudged her with his elbow. “You know you want to.”

“What I want to do,” she said slowly, extracting the steel ladle from the pot next to the hob, “is brain you with this.”

Jasfoup nodded. “Anger is good,” he said. “I can work with any of the big seven, though lust is my favourite.”

“I thought that was gluttony?”

The demon winked and backed away, one hand reaching for the remaining cakes.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Sad

The smell of burning plastic permeated the Hobbs estate as Jasfoup wandered through at seven in the morning. The Grangers and the Ladbrooks had been itching to fight all winter and erupted when Peter Gregory referred to Paula ladbrook as ‘mutton dressed as lamb.”

It had taken the combined efforts of two police shifts and a fire crew to send the combatants to their homes. Three were in hospital, four in cells and one, Patti Gregory, left standing by her father’s burned-out Rover 2000LS where she’d been sleeping the journey home from a day out in Ramsgate, her body unfound.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Things To Do Today


Jasfoup spotted the flashing icon and thumbed the button on his Bloodberry to see his appointments schedule. “Things to do today” appeared on the screen in bright, cheery letters. The first entry was indeed something to be cheerful about: “Lucy Waterman” with a picture of a birthday cake but the second was anything but. Jasfoup’s heart stopped, or at least it would have done if he’d had one of his own. Under the birthday reminder were the words: “Lucy Waterman. 19:54. H”.

‘H’ was the shorthand for ‘Hellbound’. Lucy Waterman was scheduled to die, shortly after cutting her birthday cake.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Viral Atack


Harold was still in his dressing gown at 8:23, startling Jasfoup as he came in from what he called his “morning constitutional” where he tramped through the woods as far as the tea shop in the park. “What ho, Pinkers,” said the demon. “Still in your jim-jams?”

“I’ve got a virus,” said Harold. “I’m not going in until I’ve got rid of it. You and Julie can hold the fort, can’t you?”

“Of course. Nothing easier than your job, Harold. A peanut could do it.” Jasfoup smiled. “What sort of virus?”

“A new strain of Virtuamonde,” Harold said. “Thanks, Dad.”