Category Archives: Writing Whimsy

Writing Whimsy: The Forest

When I see her, my breath catches and for a few seconds I forget to breathe. When I do, it condenses from my lungs like a steam train, blocking my view of her for a second.

She winds her way through the ethereal naked trees towards me, seemingly unaware of the intense winter cold that bites my nose with every breath.

I didn’t realise she was a ghost at first. She seemed so…solid. As real as I am, as real as the forest we share in space if not time. She wasn’t spectral and wearing floaty drapes don’t follow her. I can’t see through her or anything, you know?

It wasn’t until I’d worked up enough courage to talk that I noticed the odd thing about her. At first, I didn’t see her every day, but when I figured out her route and the times she walked down the forest path that intersects with mine, I made a point of being there.

God, I sound like some sort of stalker, don’t I? It wasn’t like that, honestly it wasn’t. She was…well, okay, I’m going to be honest with you.

Oh, boy. Right. Let me start again.

She was simply the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. Long blonde hair down to her waist, easy and relaxed walk, long legs and arms, wonderful body. And yes, I looked at her body, all right? Shoot me for having hormones and being a teenager.

I caught a glimpse of her eyes once, tilted in an Oriental upsweep, and I was lost. Beautiful olive green eyes I wanted to dive into and drown. Eyes I wanted to grow old staring into every night.

I know, I know. I hadn’t even talked to her, and I was head over heels. Don’t roll your eyes, were you never seventeen and in love for the first time?

Anyway, I worked up enough courage one day to walk down her path and made sure we passed. I saw her gliding towards me, a hundred metres, fifty, twenty, ten, oh god FIVE, and everything I’d thought I’d say to her over the weeks vanished somewhere above my head and wouldn’t come back. My head buzzed and my eyes swam, but that was it. Big nothing between the ears.

I knew she saw me walking towards her. I saw her eyes flick towards me from fifty metres away, and she stopped for a second, hesitated, one elegant foot coming forward and down slower than before, that was all. Then she continued at her normal pace, head down, eyes and face covered by that golden corona. I saw her eyes dart towards me a few times, then away again. Her perfect mouth was set in a line of…determination? That was how it seemed to me then.

Five metres away from me, and I managed to squeeze air back into my lungs and one word through my larynx. “Mmmmmorning.”

God, I’m a klutz with girls!

She stiffened, but, of course, she didn’t reply. Well, beautiful girls never pay any attention to me. Ugly ones don’t either, for that matter. Somehow, I’d hoped she’d be different.

My heart breaking, we passed without saying another word, my head down now, studying the snow covered footpath, lost to my own dying dreams.

That’s when I saw it. The odd thing about her.

She didn’t leave footprints.

***

I stopped in my tracks and looked at the narrow footpath, blinking a few times to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. The ground stayed footstep free.

But…I had watched her coming towards me, watched her walking here a dozen times. I turned to follow her, hurrying to catch up.

I saw her head come up and turn half towards me, aware of my approach. Her pace increased, and I did not attempt to keep up. I must have looked like some psycho stalker or something.

But I caught up with her enough to see it: The way her feet floated four inches above the ground. If that wasn’t enough, when she walked off the path and through a tree without slowing, there was really no doubt…a tree that wasn’t there when she was alive.

Astonished more than afraid, I turned for home, taking glances back over my shoulder all the way, expecting her to re-appear.

***

“I saw the ghost again mum.”

“Again? In the same place?”

I nod and bite my lip, unwilling to say what happened.

Mum frowns. “Something wrong, sweetie?”

I push the blonde hair back from my face. “Kind of. I think he fancies me.”

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Writing Whimsy: Branches

It was three days before they found the body.

For those three days, a trauma-specialist police woman sat in my home and drank my tea and ate the food I offered her without comment or breaking a smile. For those three days, I jumped every time the phone rang or the wind blew the old tree against the bedroom windows upstairs.

For a while after we moved in, I asked Alan to trim back those branches. I’d lie awake while he snored beside me, and I listen to them tickle and scratch at the glass. I sat through endless nights of storms when their fingers and nails beat relentlessly against the window, threatening to come in. I’d always be just on the verge of waking him when the wind would stop and the branches would cease their endless chatter and drop back to a monotone. But after a week or two I grew to like the sound of the tree…to listen for it, wait for it every night to carry me into sleep. Sleep…and then other things.

For three days, I sat and prowled the house, moving from room to room like a living spirit. Waiting for them the find the body.

The police suspected me, of course. Even though it was me who told them he’d vanished and didn’t come back after the first night, even though I made no attempt to make our marriage look wonderful.

Yes, I told them, we’d argued. We argued a lot. No, it didn’t mean I killed him and dumped him somewhere. Things had been difficult, yes, but we were working on them. After all, lots of couples argued and very few of them killed their spouse.

The only respite I had from the hard and indifferent stares of the policewoman who sat on my couch was outside in the garden. Circling the tree that breathed against my upstairs windows was a bench and a just-glimpse of the sea from the right spot. I sat there and waited, listening to the creaks and whispers of the branches above me.

Sometimes, more often now Alan was gone, the whispers would form voices and words, and I’d smile at their private jokes. I had to be careful now, they told me. Don’t let them see any relief when they come to you. They’re very close to finding him, but don’t worry. Lean back into me and we’ll be together.

And when I did lean back, I felt a sensuous tingle down my spine and a lover’s breath along the inside of my thighs, a flutter across my stomach. Hard nodules of bark pushed into my spine and kidneys and I squirmed against them in delight. I bit my lip to stop myself calling out, feeling my body starting to react, my breath quicken. I pulled myself forward a second or two before the policewoman came out looking for me, telling me what I’d already been told by something two hundred years older than her and infinitely more devious.

They’d found Alan’s body. Not on the edge of the forest where I’d left it, but deep in its heart, miles from any path. I found out later – but not from the police – that there was no blood left in his body at all. They must have taken all of it, just as they said they would. There were no injuries and no evidence of how he got there. But I know how he travelled, carried from branch to branch and stem to stem, each leaf taking a sip of his life before passing him along.

The policewoman left me on the bench, listening to the tree above me, whisper and whisper.

And when it asked me to go upstairs to my…to our bedroom…and leave the windows open, I laughed.

Writing Whimsy: The Watchmaker

I pull out my pocket watch and check the time while they wait for me to reach a decision. The forest was gone outside of the narrow gold circle of the fire, only the faintest suggestion of the looming canopy around us, hemming us in. A branch snaps behind me, and some of them jump and turn towards the sound, their sleepy eyes suddenly alert and wide-awake.

I sigh for effect, as though doing this against my will. “All right then. One more before midnight, and then off to the tents. Get some sleep…if you can sleep after this story, of course. I’m sure some of you have heard this one before and will roll your eyes at me. In fact, I can practically guarantee you will. What you don’t know

***

is that this is the place where the story started. Urban myths have to start somewhere you know, just like everything else. And your first question is going to be: How do I know this is where it started?

(I hold up the pocket watch, letting it spin in the firelight and shoot splinters of light into their eyes)

This watch…they found it on my friend’s body. What was left of him, that is. It was the only thing he could grasp at as he…ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself, I think.

Let’s go back a step. That parking lot where I left the van. Anyone notice the gate and the padlock? We’re locked in right now…all night. If you want to leave this forest before dawn, you’re going to have to walk out.

It didn’t used to be there, that gate and padlock. The parking lot has a beautiful view of the lake when the moon is right and the sky is clear. Used to be a great spot for a midnight road trip with the…well, shall I say, the partner of your choice.

(There’s laughter from the circle around me, glances shared and held-hands squeezed. I look around at the darkness, coming closer now the fire is shrinking)

Yes, sir, it was a beautiful spot…until he came to the forest that night.

Just a young couple they were, not much older than most of you. They parked up and started to…get better acquainted with each other, if you know what I mean.

(There’s laughter again, more subdued this time. Some of them are starting to roll their eyes at me; they know where this is going. Or they think they do)

So…let’s call them Jack and Jill. Jill is starting to get acquainted with Jack, and Jack is letting her. The radio is playing in the car, some cool jazz they both like. Doesn’t matter, neither of them is listening, anyway, right?

But Jill goes a little too fast for Jack, and he sits back, suddenly a little timid. Jill is cool with it; she knows they’ll get there in the end and doesn’t press him. They sit there for a few minutes, listening to the radio, enjoying the night.

That’s when the newsflash breaks in. The Watchmaker has escaped.

(There’s a murmur from the far side of the fire of oh, God, not this hoary old story. If only my young friend over there knew what happened next)

They’d never had a prisoner like The Watchmaker at the Hellman Institute for the criminally insane. Fifteen people he’d murdered before they caught him.

(I point over the nearest ridge)

By the way, it’s only three miles that way if anyone fancies a late night stroll.

(There’s laughter at that)

Fifteen people…and those were the ones he didn’t eat. All of them impaled from the back with the boat hook he wore on his left hand. The Watchmaker. A pocket watch left at every scene. Fifteen of them. All hand made by a craftsman, all unique.

(I pull out my pocket watch again. This time every eye is riveted to it. I flick it open and snap it closed again like the teeth of a hungry man. No one is laughing now)

They finally caught him with victim number sixteen. Just sitting there, pocket watch in one hand, licking the blood from the hook where his other hand should be. When the cops caught him, he was smiling, just as happy as he could be.

For ten years he sat in the isolation ward at Hellman’s, never saying a word. I heard that nurses called him the cat. He’d sit there, licking the back of his hand or his arm for hours. And when he did move, he was utterly silent. He’d stare at the interns who brought him his food without blinking. And then he would pounce on the food and tear it apart with his teeth.

And this was the creature who was free in the woods that night. Suddenly, the trees seemed closer and Jack begged Jill to get the hell out of there. She didn’t hesitate; she gunned the car out of the parking lot and back to civilisation in record time.

(I sit back. There’s some eye rolling going on again. These punk kids think they know it all. If they only knew what I have coming for them)

It wasn’t until Jack got out of the car at home that he saw something glinting on the backseat. A pocket watch, of course,

(I pull it out and snap it shut again, making everyone jump)

much like this one.

But that’s not where the story ends, you know. The cops sent a unit out to check the parking lot that night, after Jack and Jill called it in. They never found all of the cops body. Just the one hand, clenching a pocket watch. This pocket watch.

I took it from his hand the next morning. That cop was my friend. They put up the gate and padlock not long after. It’s too dangerous to be in these woods after dark, they say.

The biggest manhunt in the state never found The Watchmaker. Some say he moved on. Some say he’s out here still. If he is, he might come here tonight, looking for his pocket watch.

(The circle shifts uneasily. There are groans at the old story, none of them daring to believe it for a minute)

So sleep well, my young

young…

my.

something is not

right. Something sharp against my spine, but no real sensation of pain. Not yet. Something is not right. There’s a curve of metal sticking out from my chest where something not right shouldn’t be, a

(pocketwatch)

curve looking like a boat hook and covered in flickering firelight red

(watchmaker)

and then I start to screamchoke as my throat fills with blood and with my final fading sight I see a gnarled and filthy hand come around from behind me and as the kids scream and start to scatter, the hand plucks something from my failing failing grip, a disk that glints with dying embers of the fire.

Writing Whimsy: Little Red Riding and the Hoods

Wary, not expecting trouble, but ready for it anyway, Red eases herself silently along the rough path through the woods, staring hard through the shifting trees for any sign of danger. So far, she has seen nothing moving but shadows and dancing patterns of sunlight, but she knows she must be close. She can almost smell him, some uncanny feeling that sharpens her senses to a stiletto.

Something snaps behind her, a twig or a branch, and she spins instantly, twisting the movement to include drawing her knife from its hidden sheath. She crouches, looking back down the path, but there is nothing there but the slumbering forest, silent but for the soft breathing of the trees around her and the low whisper of the thick canopy far above her head.

For a few minutes longer, she stands motionless, watching the path and looking back through the forest, the colour high in her cheeks and her mouth parted in a snarl.

Eventually satisfied no one is following, Red sheathes the knife again, burying it deep in a pocket of her cloak, its touch reassuring. She clenches the handle until she can feel the warmth of her touch burning along the cold blade.

She comes to a tree and a branching of paths, one she has been instructed will take her to where she needs to go. Not marked in any way she would have noticed if she hadn’t been looking for it; but when the instructions were clear enough, so were the signs and the directions.

She smiles grimly to herself at the path she must take, the danger that will creep round her now at every step past this point. She grips the knife anew and thinks to herself, Let them come.

All that matters is getting to Wolf, and she knows she’s getting closer with every second and pace she takes. Now she can really smell him, a ripe and primal smell of unwashed fur and animal heat that permeates the forest.

Still, despite her caution, they still catch her unawares. A hundred paces along the path, a man steps out of the foliage ahead, completely hidden until he appears.

He raises his head, and with a gasp, Red recognises him and her nerve breaks despite her resolve. She turns to flee, her mission, her determination, forgotten in that terrible long instant of seeing his face.

But it’s already too late. Another figure – a woman this time – steps out of the forest behind Red, blocking her retreat as effectively as the man ahead.

Beaten before she has come close, Red closes her eyes and releases a sigh. She licks her lips and addresses the figure ahead, half-turning to keep them both in sight as they drift towards her.

“I heard you were working for him, but I never believed it…not until now, that is. How long have you been doing grunt work, Hansel? I can’t believe you came down to this after you managed to beat The Witch.”

The man sneers and pushes back his cap, exposing a long white scar along his cheek that terminates in the sightless white egg of his left eye. “Times is tough, Red. Me and Gretel gotta do what we can. And da Witch wus a long time ago.”

Hansel comes up behind Red and pushes her roughly forward. “Move it, bitch.”

Red turns towards Gretel, her eyes going wide when she sees the chewed remains of her face. Gretel sneers at her reaction. “See anythin green, Red?” She laughs at her own joke, an unpleasant rough sound that sends sandpaper chills down Red’s spine.

“Did Wolf do that?”

“Yeah. He ain’t so easy to sneak past as da Witch.” Hansel prods Red again. “Move it, I ain’t gettin any younger here.”

Red stands firm, resisting the pushing. “I’m here to see your boss.”

Hansel turns away from her, confident enough in his abilities that he doesn’t care about showing his back. “Yeah, we knows.”

Red stumbles, shocked. “You…you knew I was coming?”

“What da boss don’t know ain’t worth knowing, capice?”

Red turns back to Gretel. “How did you know I was coming?”

“Giant killer Jack told us.”

Red snarls. “That little…I’ll murder him.”

Gretel laughs again, throwing her head back. “That’s the spirit, girlie.”

They turn off the path and through undergrowth, travelling a route that Red gives up trying to remember after a few minutes, all the time with a single thought repeating in her head: I still have the knife.

***

They come at last to a tree with a hollow at its base and stop. Hansel turns to Red and regards her with the cold albumen of his left eye, Gretel moving beside him. “Boss is in dere. You got five minutes, he says, then we comes and drags you out. Geddit?”

“Got it.”

“Good.”

Reassured by the solid feel of the knife against her side, Red tenses every muscle in her body, ready to sacrifice everything for the next few minutes alone with Wolf. She ducks into the hollow of the tree, descending a few steps. She takes a sharp turn and her eyes widen.

A plush apartment with low black leather sofas awaits her, soft uplighters at each corner casting an ambient gold glow on the low ceiling. In the centre of the room, smoking a cigarette through a holder and wearing a smoking jacket, Wolf awaits her, his legs folded casually at the knee.

He sees her enter and immediately folds away the magazine on his lap and drops it onto the thick oak table between the sofas. “Ah my dear, Red, how pleasant to see you.”

He removes the cigarette holder from his lips and purses his lips, pushing a hazy cloud of fragrant smoke around his head.

“My, what a nice apartment you have, Wolf.”

He smiles and tilts his head graciously. “All the better to welcome you, my dear. May I get you a drink?”

Red moves towards the sofa as Wolf rises to the bar. “Martini with olive, my dear?” he asks.

“How did you know that?”

“I know a lot of things, my dear Red.” He expertly mixes and pours a smooth martini from a cocktail shaker and delivers the glass to the table in front of Red. He folds himself on the opposite sofa, crossing his legs and waiting for her to speak.

Red tenses, her whole body tightening in anticipation. She reaches into her pocket, feeling the cold steel between her fingers.

Wolf examines his claws, apparently unconcerned at her silence. “I suggest you bring out the knife before you stab yourself with it, Red. We can at least be civilised and finish our drinks before you attempt to impale me.”

Red frowns, but brings the knife out, slowly, placing it on the table, still within easy reach of her fingers. She stretches and takes a sip of the drink. “That’s a good martini.” She sits back on the sofa, considering her next move.

“All the better to relax you with, my dear.” Wolf slaps his thighs. “Now, to business.”

“Yes.” Red leaps forward and snatches up the knife. “You seem to be working under the wrong assumption. This isn’t for you.”

Wolf raises an eyebrow. “Really? Then I have been misinformed.”

“Indeed. You see my grandmother is old, but the miserable cow refuses to die. She’s extremely rich, but until she’s gone, I’m stuck with my wasted drunk of a mother.”

Wolf looks at the sharp knife, throws back his head and howls with laughter. “Oh, my dear Red. You needn’t have bothered with the blade.” He flicks a long tooth with a claw. “Not while I have these.”

“Oh, goodness. What big teeth you have, Mr Wolf.”

Wolf smiles only the way a wolf can, with a face full of teeth. “All the better to help you with, my dear. Another martini and we can discuss my terms?”

Writing Whimsy: Missing Person

Missing person Incident report

PC 945, Brown S.

Claimant: Talbot, Tony

Missing Person details

Identified only as “Muse”

Sex: Female

Identifying marks: None

Age: Approximately 16

DOB: Not known

 

Additional details

Claimant appeared at Inklesham branch at 01:45, 14th April 2016. Desk officer PC 186, James, D. informed me of arrival and escorted claimant to back office for interview (See attached transcript, audio recording FN-2187).

Claimant seemed easily distracted and took time to settle. Very distressed over loss of female teenager “Muse”. However, Claimant was unable to provide physical details beyond gender and general age. When I inquired as to why this was so, Claimant said he had never known much about her except in general details. Claimant said he was a “writer” and as such, Muse was often flighty and absent for long periods.

Claimant became worried when Muse was gone since he began what he termed “Book Six”, a period some two years ago. Muse had been out of contact through what the Claimant called “Numerous Drafts” and made repeated and distracted comments about “Trunking it and starting over three times.”

Claimant had tried to contact Muse over several periods over the two years, but Muse had remained out of contact.

I reassured Claimant that a general search for Muse would begin in the morning, but unless he produced specific details of appearance, such a search would be limited. Claimant stated that all Muses were different and he would know his when he saw it.

I informed Claimant that we would update him as the investigation progressed.

Claimant left the station at 03:04, 14th April 2016.

Writing Whimsy: Mother’s Day

He fetches the photograph from a drawer he keeps locked and passes it you without looking at it. His hands shake while he does it.

It’s a picture of woman, young, brunette, short hair. Her mouth is frozen open and she’s looking down at the child holding her hand, caught in the moment of talking to her daughter, her daughter looking up, long hair only a six-year-old could love, the same shade as her mothers. It’s dusk, the end of a beautiful day of walking and being with your child, a picnic in the woods perhaps. They’re standing in the courtyard in the folly on The Scar, the mother’s green coat flipped back on one side by the immobile wind, her left leg rising to take a step, the daughter echoing her movement.

All this, you see in an instant, then forget it. It’s the woman behind them you who pulls your focus, the woman standing there in the blood red coat, white hair streaming over her right shoulder. Your eyes are pulled to her face, the eyes that are nothing but black holes, the mouth a feral snarl, the hint of shark teeth. You follow her eye line to the back of the head of the woman in green and fear for her; nothing good is coming her way.

Worse, you know the story of this picture. The old man who refuses to look at it, the one who took it, has told again and again how the woman in the red coat wasn’t there. He saw nothing but the woman and child and the courtyard of the folly.

Then it gets worse. He will tell you, if you push him hard enough, what happened next. How the woman in green encountered the woman in red. How lucky she was just to lose a finger as her daughter was snatched from her hand by a bloody shape who vanished. Others have been less lucky, their hands and arms torn away.

The man in front of you will tell you he took the photo, then looked away. In that instant, the girl was gone and the mother screamed her name. The man looked back up, and saw only the mother standing there.

The girl screamed a second later, from somewhere in the woods behind the folly, an impossible distance away. That scream was loud enough to be heard five miles down the valley, a scream cut off in the middle, the crashing silence awful in its finality. The people living below The Scar knew that scream too well: The woman in blood had come again and took another daughter.

It was always girls, you see. Never boys – the woman only craved girlmeat.

She had struck before over the years, five times, but never again after this. This is the only photograph of anything resembling what went on up there. There are no copies remaining; and this is the last man alive who remembers the woman in blood. The other copies, the ones in newspapers and the darker corners of the internet, have been destroyed by fires or lost.

There’s been nothing for a generation…until the folly was destroyed last year and houses strung along The Scar. New houses with new people who know nothing about the woman in blood. New people with new families.

One of their daughters went missing last night. No screams this time. She was in the back garden of a new house, playing with her new toys, when something very old reached for her.

You stare at the picture in your hand much more closely. It’s been magnified, analysed, interrogated and reproduced a hundred times. It’s taken years to track them all down and patiently destroy them or remove them. You rise towards the old man, smiling, thanking him for his gift.

For no one has ever noticed you, hiding in the woods, watching the man take the photograph, watching your beautiful mother in her red coat take what she needed.

And as your hands close around his wrinkled throat, you tell him how much you appreciate the gift of the last photograph. As his eyes widen then glaze over, you tell him how she will adore it when you give it to her on Mother’s Day.

Writing Whimsy: AfW’s Sunday Write Up

sunday-write-up-header

Aside From Writing’s Sunday Write up!

http://asidefromwriting.com/2015/06/28/sunday-write-up-june-2015/

Using the words: alone     growing     slowly     life    beautiful

There’s no sense, at first, of where I am. Nothing to cause me any alarm. Just static in my left ear. Either my eyes are closed, or I’m blind; there is darkness absolute.

I inhale, feel something constrict my chest. I move my hand towards my body – I have a hand, it seems, and an arm and a body still connected together. The hand is gloved, a thick binding. Somehow I know I will be unable to remove it, that it would be dangerous to try.

Something similarly thick covers my chest. I’m aware of a hissing now, in time with my breathing; some pump below my head. I know this is oxygen, bringing me life and taking the carbon dioxide away.

A panic there. Why did a cold spike run through me then? Oxygen. Growing panic at the word. Why?

Nothing. I try and grab at the memory, but there’s only the darkness and my breathing.

My hand tries to touch my face and comes across a barrier. Smooth and hard, curved.

I’m wearing a helmet. How do I know this is a good thing?

I try to blink, to feel the sensation of my eyes closing, the muscles moving. Barely there. Not much to tell between open and closed. The same darkness. Am I blind?

My body next, anyway. I contract my stomach muscles, bracing myself on my arms. Sit up. A sense of myself now, the life inside me still strong. Hands flow down my legs. Two. That’s good, I think. A good number.

There’s something on my arm, buttons by the feel. Muscle memory pushes one, and the universe opens for me from the bottom up, a slowly opening eye. Grey rocks, intense black shadows are the only colours. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.

Until I raise my head, and see a marble of purest cerulean and green sitting in a velvet bed of black. So near I could touch it, but so far away it might as well be the other side of the galaxy.

I remember now. The emergency visor slamming shut when the errant sunlight hit it. The darkness that descended instantly, the stumble, the fall, the skidding slope.

Another muscle memory moves my hand across the buttons on my arm. The static clears, but there are no welcoming voices, no emergency beacon. They must have searched for hours until they gave up, until they were forced to leave without me.

I am alone.

Writing Whimsy: Fearsome Fred and the House of Red

Over the furthest mountains to the west, past the highest cloud and over the deepest ocean, just past the Post Office and up the hill, there once stood the house of the most terrible of ogres, the King of Ogres, the Lord of Ogres.

His name was Fearsome Fred.

Fearsome Fred was so terrible, so ogre-ish, that when mummy and daddy ogres put their little ogre children to bed (Ogres generally don’t like people to know they have a nicer side, or their reputation would go right out the window and down the street screaming), they would tell them to misbehave or Fearsome Fred would come and sort them out. It was every ogres dream to be half the ogre Fearsome Fred was. He really was that bad.

Fearsome Fred lived in the most terribly red house you could imagine. Everything was red, bright red, traffic light on a clear night red. Windows painted red, walls, floors, ceilings, gardens full of red roses, those little fiddly bits where the underside of the roof sticks out that people are always coming round and asking to fix. All of it: red. Fearsome Fred didn’t really set out to make his house so red, but he got a job lot of red paint from a ghost down the street who did some scaring work a few years before, and red was all that was left.

When he saw the paint, Fearsome Fred shrugged his Scary Shoulders (He held the patent on Scary Shoulders and had done very well out of them selling them to wimpy Ogres), and got on with it.

One day, a man from the council came to Fearsome Fred’s door. “You can’t possibly paint it so red!” he said.

Fearsome Fred growled, and the man from the council fled.

Then a handsome knight came to his door, his silver and gold starred chainmail flashing. “I come to slay you for having such a vile house!” he said.

Fearsome Fred growled, and did something with the knight that doesn’t bear repeating. He was, after all, the most terrible of terrible ogres.

By now, the tale of his house had got out, and people from all around came to see. They gumpled through his garden and over his red grass, trumpled over his red roses and generally made a fuss and bother of themselves.

Fearsome Fred was furious, but when he roared at them, they raised their cameras and took pictures. When he showed them what he did to the knight with the flashing armour, they ooohed and ahhhed and took even more pictures. Fearsome Fred, the most terrible, the most awful ogre, hid and sulked inside his red house and fumed.

Then the beautiful Princess Pringle showed up, a fiery maiden of red hair and a redder dress. Prince Pringle was going to come, but he had an invite to the wedding of someone called Kate and Will, and before that had the Dramatic Dragon of Dartmoor to dispatch, so he was pretty tied up.

Fearsome Fred thought Princess Pringle was like the others at first. She knocked on his door like all the others, so he ignored her and made himself some red tea from his red teapot, and poured it into a red cup. Then she knocked on his kitchen window. This was really too much for Fearsome Fred, who stormed outside and gnashed his teeth at her.

The Princess stood her ground. “Like what is your problem, chick? What’s with the gnashing?”

Fearsome Fred was taken aback. This was new. Most people just fell to their knees and waited for death. Or took pictures.

He tried snorgling. Snorgling is a noise most people never hear, since it’s the sound of an ogre swallowing. Usually, you’d be the one being swallowed, which is why most people never hear it.

“Snorgle? Hang on, let me Google that.” The Princess pulled out a red phone and her fingers danced over it. Fearsome Fred was rapidly turning into Puzzled Fred, which didn’t sound right to him. Puzzled Pete already had the exclusive rights, you see.

The Princess had finished doing whatever she was doing with her phone. “So what’s the prob babe?”

Fearsome Fred waved a hand at the crowd, and the wind from the gesture knocked several of them over. “These…these…people.” He lowered his voice to a mere Greek God volume. “They keep bothering me. I wouldn’t really mind, but they trumple on my roses. I love those roses. Took me years to get them the same colour as the house.”

“Oh…that’s terrible. I do like a nice red as well. Such a pretty colour house.”

Fearsome Fred was astounded. “The man from the council didn’t think so.”

The Princess waved a hand. “Feh. Men, what do they know? Let me see what I can do.”

She turned to the crowd. She tried yelling, but they ignored her. She climbed on Fearsome Fred’s Scary Shoulders™ and tried shouting up there, but they still ignored her.

She climbed down and scratched a beautiful cheek with a beautiful finger, the nail a beautiful scarlet. Finally she turned to Fearsome Fred and said: “Right, here’s the plan…”

***

The next morning, the crowds gathered at the bottom of Fearsome Fred’s hill. They gasped in amazement. A huge wall had gone up around his house overnight, bright red. At the single gate, the Princess stood, dressed in red, charging admission, while Fearsome Fred sold red T-Shirts and red mugs from a red concession stand. The Princess was so charming and beautiful, the people paid without a thought, and they were so terrified of Fearsome Fred, they paid for the red T-Shirts and red mugs without a complaint.

It was such a roaring success, The Princess and Fearsome Fred started giving tours of the red house, so they moved into the Post Office down the hill and painted that red as well.

And you know what? The roses outside matched it perfectly.

sunday-write-up-header

Writing Whimsy: Aside from Writing’s Sunday Write up.

Aside from Writing’s blog (http://asidefromwriting.com/2015/05/31/sunday-write-up-may-2015/) is having a little Sunday Scribble…Just for fun.

The prompt for this week are the five words:

follow     missed     bird     delivery     eye

My hand shook as I extended it towards the door, rattling the handle. I snatched it back, trying to still my nerves, spreading the fingers wide to steady them.

From the corner of my eye I saw Lisa lean towards me and she hissed a warning. “Quiet. They’re roosting at the minute, but if you keep making that much noise –”

“I know, I know. God, you think I don’t know what’s at stake here?” Taking in a breath and holding it, I tried the door again, rotating the handle as slowly as I could. The hinges groaned with a horror movie scream as I eased the door slowly open.

I took a step down, but as I was staring at the closest bird – perched and sat on the railing beside me – I missed the step and stumbled. I gave out an involuntary cry and lurched forward, my balance gone. The bird beside me squawked and flapped away, ascending in a flurry of dusty wings. The rest of the birds follow, so we’re instantly surrounded by a thousand beaks.

Lisa screamed and covered her eyes. I reached back and grabbed her hand, dragging her down the steps and further into the avian mass that flapped and flurried around us. Squinting against the brush of wings and feathers, I made it to our destination, almost crawling by the time I finally reached it.

“Are they there?” Lisa screamed. I yelled back an affirmation and reached into the nests, pulling out the freshly laid eggs, still warm. I stuffed them into a box and we hauled ourselves back to the steps and out of the coop, back into the real world. I slammed the door closed and panted for a second or two, the eggs clutched to my chest.

Lisa, however, was not amused. “Jeez, I thought being the delivery driver for this job was hard…next time, you get the eggs from the chickens on your own.”

Writing Whimsy: Dust

It’s been said that no good phone call ever comes after nine at night and before seven in the morning. And when my mobile rings at exactly 6:36 this morning and the caller ID pic is my mum, I know what’s happening before she speaks.

He hasn’t been well for over a year, after all. Hadn’t. Everything about him is past tense now. Something new to get used to.

“He’s gone?” I ask her. I’m calm enough when I say it, but a twisting motion spirals from inside my stomach and my hands start shaking. So this is what cold terror feels like, this feeling of having swallowed a lump of liquid nitrogen.

My mum is crying and finds it hard to answer, and the nitrogen coldness slices me open from inside. My mum doesn’t cry often. The last time was when she was telling me about the people she saw fall from the towers when she was in New York on September 11th.

I tell her I’m coming home and I can almost feel her nod at the other end of the line even though she doesn’t answer. After another few seconds of dead air, another voice takes over the line, one of my mum’s neighbours.

I tell her again that I’m coming home and she agrees it would be for the best. My dad is already on his way, as is my sister, all of us heading for the same point on the map. I tell the neighbour to do what she can, but my lips and throat move without any conscious effort.

I hang up and roll back in bed, looking at the ceiling. Like a car crash in slow motion, the physicality of it hits me then. Dead. My grandfather is dead.

No more stories of how he saw The Beatles at the Cavern Club before they were famous. No more time to hear how he helped Pete Best get his coat back from the guy who stole it. It’s dust now. All that history locked up in his head is no more.

I swear at the empty room, and the world swims to blurriness and dissolves.

 ***

My lecturers know I’ve been waiting for the call, and it’s only a matter of a few text messages and I’m free from university for a week. I roll out of bed and something takes over, driving me forward. I sit at the back of my head and watch my hands and body move as they feed me breakfast, then run my hands over myself when I shower and clean my teeth. At some level, I know I’m crying, but autopilot keeps me moving.

There’s part of me, the part I pushed away at seven this morning, that’s screaming in the back of my head. If I turn to comfort her – and I so want to comfort her – then I’ll be back there, sobbing as she is. There will be time to let my tears out. But that time is not now.

 ***

Autopilot takes me from my flat and down into the tentacled mass of the London Underground. It uses my Oyster card in all the right places and picks out a seat in a tube train without me even having to think. Every endless second moves me forward, but I don’t feel like I’m moving. A forty-minute journey to King’s Cross station takes me a thousand years, but it doesn’t matter; all that matters is the destination, the things that wait at the end of this long days travel.

 ***

At King’s Cross, I walk past a brick wall with a half-buried luggage trolley in it. Above are the words Platform 9¾. There’s magic here…or at least, supposed to be. A wonderful world right through there that we Muggles can’t see.

I wonder if it’s like that where Granddad is now.

 ***

There are benches near the departures board and I take one while I wait for the train that will take me back to him.

Even at this hour, the people coming and going are a constant stream. This place never really stops or sleeps. Libraries aren’t where the stories are; it’s here where humanity finds its tales. This train station, that airport. A missed connection that leads to a chance conversation. Paths taken and not taken, decisions made and changed. Five hundred stories an hour come through here, travelling towards life and death. This is one of the knots where our strings entwine, one of the places where we come together or part.

I close my eyes to bite back my tears. Now I’ve stopped moving, autopilot is off and I’m back in charge again. Only I don’t know how to work the controls anymore. None of the buttons and levers are where they’re supposed to be.

I open my eyes again and my Granddad is sitting beside me. I smile at him, or at the illusion of him. At this point, I don’t really care. He doesn’t look the same as the last time I saw him – eaten alive by cancer so slowly you could almost miss it – but the way I want to remember him, hale and well, light sparkling in his eyes from some private joke.

He greets me the same way he always has and a fresh wave of tears nearly overwhelms me. “Ayup, girl.”

“I’m sorry, Granddad. Sorry I wasn’t there.” I manage around the sobs.

He shrugs and waves off my concern. “Got your own life to live, pet. I’ve had mine.”

“I wish I’d been there.”

“Don’t fret, chip.”

A woman wearing a blue wig walks to the turnstiles, beyond which a thunderously humming and vibrating train sits waiting. She’s wearing astonishingly high heels and a very short skirt. She’s also about forty kilos overweight and doesn’t so much walk as lurch, trying desperately to stay upright.

“Bloody hell. Women never dressed like that in my day,” Granddad says.

“You had mini-skirts in the Sixties, Granddad. Don’t tell me you didn’t.”

“Forgot you were the history buff. University! Never knew anyone went to university. Miner’s granddaughter, ay? Who’da thought that?”

“You made a lot of sacrifices for me and mum, Granddad. I know that.”

“It’s worth it to see you both getting on in the world, gal. Well worth it.”

“Just…I wanted to thank you and gran for it.”

He looks around again and leans back against the bench, looking up at the vaulted ceiling fifty metres above us and the clouds visible through the long skylights, this Victorian cathedral to progress and the railways.

“Done this place up right nice now. Bin a long time since I come here.”

“The train to Paris goes from right under our feet.”

He leans forwards and looks between his shoes as though he can see it. “Aye.”

There’s a long silence before I can really ask him what I’m thinking.

“What’s it like, Granddad. Dying?”

“Din’t hurt, if that’s what’s botherin ya.”

“I’ve never been to a funeral before, you know.”

“I know. It ain’t so bad though. Chance to say goodbye and get on. That’s what really matters. Gettin on. Grieve and get on, gal. You got that?”

“I got it, Granddad.”

He turns to me and holds my gaze. “I’m dust now, pet.”

A sob rises to the back of my throat and I stifle it with a fist on my lips. “Oh, Granddad.”

“It’s true. But that ain’t so bad. Everyone came from dust and back to it we go. I just borrowed the dust for a while, just like you and everyone else. The dust is always there, so I’ll always be there. You get me gal? This is important.”

“I get you.”

“You be sure to tell your mam that when you see her. Now, you better get movin. Your train’s here.”

I glance up to the departures board, and when I turn back, he’s gone. In his place is a small pile of grey dust. But in the space of a blink, that vanishes too.

I stare at the empty bench for a long minute. Then I stand and head towards the train that will take me home, back to the place where he no longer lives.