Monday, November 30, 2009

Moot Point

Moot Point, designated as 'an area of outstanding beauty' on the very tip of the Chilterns and accessible from the A4130 just north of Laverstone, has two legends surrounding it. It is a promontory overlooking the Nettle Valley; a natural circle of rock and scrub where no trees grow to mar the view. One legend states it was a congregation point, or moot, for all the witches of Buckinghamshire in the seventeenth century where so many feet tramped the circle that it stayed. The second declares it the point of impact of a Fallen Angel, where the fiery spirit burned all to ash in a thirty yard radius and then cursed the spot before moving on.

Belief in either legend is a moot point – extensive studies in the sixties declare the area to have an unusually high alkaline content to the meagre soil, preventing anything other than grass from growing.

Jasfoup, on the other hand, knows which of the Fallen had a pissing contest there.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Skeleton Crew


"What's this?" Jasfoup looked aghast at the four animated skeletons dusting and polishing the shop. "You know I loathe the undead."

"You said we needed a night cleaner for the shop since the imps were so rubbish at it, " said Harold. "This is my skeleton crew. Besides, they're not truly undead, just animated skeletons. They have no will of their out; no free thought. They're little more than puppets, really, if you think about."

"Puppets made out of what used to people," said Jasfoup. "It's disgusting. Where did you learn such an abhorrent spell?"

"It's a funny thing," said Harold. "The police are inspecting a house where the owner killed his family and they asked me to take a look at some of the weird writings on the walls. I found a book of spells in the attic."

"This house wouldn't be in Offley Street, would it?"

"It would, actually." Harold seemed surprised. "Do you know it?"

Jasfoup shook his head. "It was in the paper."

Harold's Nemesis

"Yes please," said Harold to Jasfoup's offer of tea as he slit open the envelope and unfolded a letter stamped with the official seal of the Laverstone Chamber of Commerce. "I say! The rotten beggars!"

"Problem?" Jasfoup put a mug of steaming Breakfast Blend in front of his client.

"I'll say. It's from that darned Barry Sanderson at the C of C. He says that due to the upmarket nature of my business, he's putting our commercial property rates up to the top tier, retroactive to the day we opened the shop three years ago. That's hardly fair! It means we'll be paying the same rates at the big name shops in the precinct."

"I see." Jasfoup read through the missive. "Perhaps a strongly worded letter might be in order?"

"More than that." Harold logged onto his computer. "A little industrial level hacking is required."

"Oh? I didn't know you were that talented."

"It's not difficult, old bean," said Harold. "I just have to open a chat window with Backdoor Harry."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Silent Auction

It was a silent auction.

The auctioneer flashed numbers on a giant screen while pointing at the bidders holding placards to declare they were still 'in'. Gradually the placards fell away until only Harold and Jasfoup were left holding placards.

Harold glared at the oblivious Jasfoup as the numbers clocked higher. Finally he gave up and left Jasfoup with the winning bid.

"What were you thinking off?" he asked afterward. "You were bidding against me. We could have got that fifth century Septuagint for half the price."

"Not at all, Harold," said the demon. "You're not my only client, you know."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pure Schmaltz

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Harold frowned at Jedith. "What do you mean, I should be grateful? You infected me with a disease there was no cure for, forcing me to enter into a pact with a demon who takes every opportunity to belittle me. Why would I have reason to be grateful?"

"You have your health."

"At the cost of my soul."

"You've got a lovely house."

"Which I inherited when my favourite uncle died. I'd rather have the uncle."

"You have a lovely wife."

"I would if she'd marry me. As it is she'd rather drain the blood from every man, woman and child in London."

"You have a beautiful daughter."

"Only because Azazel needed her genes to jump start the goblin species." Harold paused, looking at Lucy in her cot. "Yes, you're right. I love Lucy. Thank you."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Belated Greetings

Harold scowled. "I've had enough," he said. "Julie's been acting oddly round me for days. I'm going to find her and clear the air."

"Good for you Harold." Jasfoup was watering the indoor herbs. "Go and apologise. It's the right thing to do."

"I will." Harold paused. "Wait! Apologise? Apologise for what?"

"Whatever you've done, Harold. Whatever you've said. What you might do. What you can't remember doing. What somebody else did and if all fails, for existing."

"Perhaps she should apologise to me."

"I doubt it, old chap. She remembered your birthday."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

and I'm Cutting Me' Own Throat...


"It's a verified original?" Harold opened the box and looked at the tablet. Donning a pair of white cotton gloves, he put the certificate of authenticity to one side and picked up the stone tablet, tracing the cuneiform script and mouthing the words as he traced along the line, left to right.

Vos vadum loco haud alius deus pro mihi.*

"Fascinating," he said, "And this is the original stone tablet of Moses?"

"According to my source and--" the gentleman tapped the certificate of authenticity "—the chairman on the Musee de Cairo."

"And your price?"

"Seven hundred and fifty thousand euro."

"If it's real, it's priceless."

"It is real."

"Then I'll take it for nothing." Harold slipped it behind the counter. "And I'd love to hear you explain why a supposedly Jewish artefact three thousand years older than the Roman Empire is written in Latin."


*Ye shall put no other god before me

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Explorer Returns

"You're back!" Jasfoup smiled in delight as Harold walked through the door. "Are all the strange worlds and new frontiers conquered for another day?"

"I am," said Harold, "though it was a near thing. I was almost eaten by a hag. She tried to gut me and smoke my bones over a barbeque pit."

"I'm glad," said Jasfoup. "It would snerrate me so, to hear of you being dismembered in some far off land."

"Snerrate?" Harold frowned. "Is that good or bad."

"Oh, bad, definitely." Jasfoup picked up Harold's new hat and tried it on. "It has the roots 'serrate' -- to cut up – and 'sneer' – a facial expression implying contempt. I'd be dismissively cut-up about your demise."

"That's encouraging to know." Harold patted his shoulder. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," said Jasfoup. "I'm so pleased you're back to look after the baby."



Thanks to spacedlaw for the word 'snerrate'

Sunday, November 22, 2009

No Trace of Narcissus

Lucy made a den in the old mushroom house. Harold, once the nine year old had convinced him she needed somewhere that was hers and hers alone – and not part of the manor where he could enter at any time – was content to let her use it once he'd made sure it was safe. Devious cut and glazed some windows into the semicircular roof while she was at school and fitted a proper lock on the door. Harold presented her with the key on the Saturday morning, and gave her a figure he'd spend on decoration and furnishings.

Lucy was happy there. All she really wanted was a deckchair and her music player. The echo in there was superb.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Road Trip

Harold checked his bag one last time. "Towel, salted peanuts, two bottles of water, a flask of tea and a canister of salt," he said. "Should I take anything else?"

"Spell book?"

Harold patted his left breast.* "In my pocket."

"Splendid." Jasfoup looked over to packing. "Swap the salt into a waxed-paper package," he said. "We're going on a road-trip to 6 BC. A plastic container might raise eyebrows in an archaeology dig."

"Good point," said Harold. "What about sandwiches?"

"What about them?"

"I asked Delirious to pick up some from the garage. The plastic triangles are so useful to pick up vampire dust."




*i.e. his chest, in the top left quadrant. He hadn't started taking hormones or anything.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eating Out

Harold studied the map. "Very interesting," he said to the market vendor in a louder-than-usual voice, "but we want to get to Rath Shamra. Can you show us where it is on the map?"

"Excuse me sir?" Devious tugged at his trousers with the hand that wasn't in a sling. "I think you'll find that's not a map of the area he's given you but a menu for the food he's selling off the cart."

"Really?" Harold looked at it again. "What language is it in?"

"Sanskrit, sir."

"Oh. Any recommendations on what to eat then?"

Stinky pointed with his walking stick. "The meatballs," he said.

"Why? Are they particularly good?"

"The flies certainly think so."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not for You, such Despair.

"I bought something today." Jasfoup handed Harold a tiny, faux-leather box and stood back, his hands up with just the pads of his fingers touching, tapping.

Harold opened it, suspicious of the demon's motives. It would more than likely explode in his face. "Beauty is skin-deep," Jasfoup had once said. "I peeled off enough faces to know that."

It wasn't a bomb but a diamond ring; elegant and very expensive. "Oh, Jasfoup," said Harold. "You shouldn't have." He went to try it on.

"It's not for you, halfwit," said Jasfoup. "It's for Julie. Do you think she'll like it?"

"You're going to propose to her?"

Jasfoup frowned. "Of course not. I want her to enchant it."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Seventies Style

When they were halfway home Harold declared a rest stop. King's Cross to Laverstone was only 43 miles (although the traffic queues around the great old station were horrendous they were made more easily navigable when one had a demon riding shotgun and causing other drivers to stall, traffic lights to change and police camera to enjoy a prolonged close-up of pigeon excrement.

"We're only twenty minutes from home," said Jasfoup, staring out of the van window at the squat, seventies-style church of Batford All Saint's. "Why are we stopping here?"

"Because the chippy here hasn't changed in forty years," said Harold. "It's a piece of history."

"Oh. So?"

"So they still sell deep fried fish fingers."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Special Reminder

Emily Pierce always gave her husband a special reminder of their wedding day. It got to the point – after the first two or three – where Edward dreaded their anniversary. It had been the name she'd taken that had given her the idea and a brief internet search had put it into her head that it would spice up their sex life.

Edward always bought her the same thing – a bunch of roses, a box of her favourite Belgian Truffles and a soppy card. Her gift – on the nearest Saturday to the date – was always another piercing on the underside of his penis, each an inch from the last.

He wouldn't have minded so much, but even he could see the marriage wouldn't last past seven years.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Love Enough

Bennington's granddad gave him one piece of advice before he died. 'Love enough,' he said, before the darkness took him. Ben often wondered what he meant and wished that perhaps he'd waited another minute or two before pushing him off a cliff in the middle of the night. (His mother blamed Ben for the death anyway. 'Who takes their granddad camping at the top of a cliff when he's incontinent?') but the Police ruled it 'accidental'.

When he met Janice, the future recipient of his used condoms she asked, while they were cuddling on his mum's sofa watching the 24 hour M*A*S*H marathon on Sky 37. "Do you love me?" he remembered his granddad and replied 'Love Enough'.

She was thankful she found out sooner rather than later.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don't Step on Them

Harrington Smythe-Coldbury, the Mayor of Laverstone*, was put out by Harold's apparently ostentatious display of wealth when he was asked to give a lecture on the re-opening of Laverstone's Guild of Merchants and Artisans. "The damned** man is wearing white-suede shoes," he said sotto-voce to his wife. "What a disgusting display of his wealth. You can only wear them once before they're ruined."

"Don't be such a prick," his wife whispered back. "He's got a baby, hasn't he?"

"So?"

"That's not white suede, it's milk vomit."


*a title Harold coveted but couldn't yet justify attempting to achieve. His six hours a week of voluntary work with the council was already getting on his nerves.

**if only he knew how literally correct he was.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tangled up in Blue

Once she'd left the company of her friends, the depression hit Ellen Slinn like a familiar blanket, draining colour away from the world and giving it the washed-out effect of the super-8 films her history teacher used to show in class.

Leaving the train at 11:17 and walking back to her parents house was just a matter of plodding; one foot in front of the other until she arrived. Not that she was drunk – far from it; she'd limited herself to one alcoholic drink in every three, interspersing them with water and fruit juice and the slim chance of seeing Laurence at one of the clubs.

She hadn't.

She was almost surprised when the figure asked her for a light, her hand closing on the keys in her pocket the way she'd been taught in self-defence class but the stranger was only a girl. Ellie relaxed and shook her head. "Sorry," she said. "I don't smoke." She was already reaching for her purse to give the young vagrant a pound when the knife entered her stomach.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Concessions


"So how will you get these fairies to fly, Mr. Marl— er, Shakespeare?" The playwright's editor and confidant, Vittore Jasfoup, tapped his cane against the ladder.

"On ropes!" Shakespeare looked up at the roofing beams. We'll build a golden arch at the front of the stage, then the fairies can swing out over the audience."

"I should be careful about using a golden arch," said the editor. "Not only is there the safety aspect but you could find some clown selling fried meat products underneath it."

"Pish and posh to you," said Shakespeare, slapping his trousers. "I've already arranged to take cuts from and food vendors. We'll make a fortune."

Monday, November 09, 2009

Jennifer Fremen's Silk Flower

Halloween would always remind Jennifer of the twin scents of cinnamon and latex.

She transferred to Laverstone High in the autumn of her sixteenth birthday, when the leaves on the apple trees in the orchard had become mottled and littered the grass with their yellow-red carpet and the horse chestnuts rained fruits into the sweaty fists of eager boys.

The Halloween Ball brought a flux of excitement into the lives of the students. Fancy dress and, thanks to the idea of one of the older girls, a faux new year's party in honour of the few pagans under-represented on the school council. Jennifer had become friends with one and was considering abandoning Christianity in favour of the more exciting Wicca – they were excused assembly and choir practice!

When the ball came – on Friday the 30th since the caretaker refused to open the building on a Saturday – she dressed as a gothic witch (black lace and pewter crosses) and pushed her way through the throng at the punch bowl to find herself pressed against an Upper Sixth girl dressed in a latex catsuit and carrying a multi-tailed whip.

"Sorry," she said, gluing her eyes to the floor instead of the very short shirt and trying to back away, but Lucy Waterman smiled and placed the tip of the whip under Jennifer's chin, raising her face until their eyes met. "Don't be," she replied, drawing closer, her ruby lips opening. She tasted of cinnamon.

Mr 'History' Parkes gave them both detention.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Salvage

Winston counted out the pile of banknotes, pleasantly surprised Jasfoup had given him a bonus and rounded up the day's pay to £1000 without so much as a quibble. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon.

He wrote a receipt for £120 and ran it through the ancient time stamp clock, a relic of the sixties he'd salvaged when the renovated the steelworks he and Sam used to work at. Sometimes he envied the simple, repetitive production of lathe work and the £180 pay packet at the end of a forty hour week.

Winston looked at the pile of notes Jasfoup had given him. Most of the time he didn't.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Warm enought for you?


Harold stepped into the portal and looked around. Although on a mountain, the path was wide enough for a cart and didn't set off his vertigo. Off to the side Julie climbed trough as well. "Blimey," she said. "I thought Faerie was supposed to be warm? This wind is as cold as... well... my tit."

"You should have put your cardi on," said Harold. "I told you it was mountainous."

"Actually, Harold, you said Faerie was always warm and comfortable."

Harold shrugged. "Well it was last time I was here. Anyway, I'm not cold."

"That's because you're wearing your semi-sentient leathers," said Julie. "I bet you haven't even brought a blanket."

"I have, actually," he said. "It's keeping the thermos of tea hot."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Target

What we need," said Jasfoup, "is someone to lure our hermit necromancer out of hiding. Someone able to take care of themselves with spells and whatnot but still present an irresistible target."

"Oh yes?"

"Someone in the full flush of manhood, strong and virile, yet sensitive enough to lure the purest heart into temptation."

Harold raised an eyebrow. "Someone like me, you mean?"

Jasfoup coughed. "I hadn't thought of it like that," he said. "What a marvellous idea, Harold. Sometimes your keen insights astound me."

"Don't butter it too hard, old bean." Harold put his pen down and stared right into the demon's eyes. "I know you too well. You had me down as 'target' the minute you thought of the plan."


Image: Target Jasper Johns 1978

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

And then a Wooden Overcoat

"Now talk," said Harold, stabbing the immobilised pixy with the rubber end of a pencil. "Where is the damned necromancer?"

"I can't say," said the pixie. "You know you're going to get into trouble for this, don't you? The Queen doesn't take kindly to kidnappers."

"Look," said Julie, her false eye hovering inches away from the pixie's face. "Tell us what we need to you or we're going to fit you for wooden shoes."

"Isn't it supposed to be concrete shoes?" said Harold. "You'd still float in wooden shoes, surely?"

"If you want to drown him, sure," said Julie, "but I was going to make him clog dance."

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Brown Bananas


"What on earth have you got there?" Julie looked askance at the crate Harold was dragging through the door. "Please don't tell me you were lured by a bargain."

"As you wish." Harold hefted the box onto the table. "Forty pounds of brown bananas," he said. "It was a b—irresistible opportunity."

"For what?" Julie poked at the produce. "It looks like a box of slugs."

"I could make banana bread, banana cake, banana wine, banana milk shakes..."

"But you won't, Harold. You'll put them in a corner of the kitchen and there they'll stay until I throw them out. I've known you four years and not once have I seen you cook, let alone bake."

"Perhaps you could—"

"No, Harold, I could not. Now go and put your bananas on the compost heap where they'll at least do some good."

Monday, November 02, 2009

Family Gathering

"You wouldn't think there was so much blood, would you?"

Harold looked at the bathtub full of the viscous red liquid and patted Lucy's arm. "I suppose not," he said. "How many people did it take?"

She shook her head. "I lost count," she said. "A lot. I almost wish we could give it back."

"Did you use an anti-coagulant? I'd hate for it all to sour and turn into cheese."

"Make-your own black pudding?"

"I'd rather not."

"Still, it feels criminal to raid a blood bank and take all this."

"It's all out of date. They couldn't use it in surgeries anyway. Trust me, you're doing them a favour by taking it. It'd just get thrown away and what's the use of that?"

"None at all." Lucy grinned and stood up, picking at a spot on her paramedic's uniform. "You know I could lose my job for this, out of date or not."

"It's not like you need a job, love. Besides, I thought you wanted to be an archaeologist? You wanted to be the next Indiana Jones when you were little."

Lucy grinned, looking at her father from the corner of her eye. "I just wanted the whip and the hat."

Harold looked at his watch. "All right. Time to put on your party frock. Your mother's relatives will be here shortly."

"What relatives are they again? Mummy's a vampire and outlived all her family decades ago."

"What sort of relatives would you expect? They're blood relatives."