Digital Ischemia


Vanishing Mythnight 1/3 Shadows

A short farce where an anachronistic entitled young hero unravels his inheritance and unleashes mythical world salvation

Something wakes in my head around 3AM. There’s no hint of daylight yet, just the summer midnight blue. I wander about the crenellations, imagining myself a hero in an as yet unexposited drama. Always I am poised on the verge of glory; world salvation calls but my dozy brain has yet to figure out which way. Still, the masonry remains comfortingly warm from yesterday’s sun. After an hour my legs tire and I return to bed to complete my slumber.

But not tonight. Tonight the murk gives up an ethereal wisp. At the far end of this opulently long and wide corridor there sways a pale figure. As I see it, it seems to see me; we both halt and hold our breaths. I watch its suspended stillness. Involuntarily I move toward it; simultaneously it sways toward me.

What a dolt. My reflection. My white nightshirt. I wave. Within a moment, the apparition responds. I laugh sardonically. I turn about, thinking of it setting off similarly in its mirror world, as I tread another hall toward another rampart.

I should introduce myself. I am Hrabě Nula – Count Zero. Following the Roman tradition, my father planned to number his children, but my mother took one look at me and decided to stop before she started. I’ve lived here all my life; it is the only place I have known, yet all I know is that I don’t know all… That’s quite good, actually; I should write that down.

I relish glancing over the semi-familiar shapes in the grounds below: efflorescences of darker dark; geometrical puzzles that tantalise and surprise as I—
I suck my teeth.
“Venk!” My voice quavers.
“Yes, sir.”
I gasp at his ubiquitous proximity. Venk has been my family’s retainer for about seven hundred years. He has the physique of a leather kite.
I whimper. “The masonry is protruding again.”
“I have the file.”
“It was that second column after the—”
“Yes, sir. I see your usual marker on the balustrade. May I blot your shin?”
“Don’t fuss.”
“Right, sir. I’ll follow with the mop.”
“Leave it; it makes the battlements look authentic.”
“Yes, sir.”

I take this opportunity to be gracious.
“You really needn’t address me as ‘sir’, Venk; you wiped my bum as a baby!”
“I most certainly did not, sir! I am a butler; I don’t do crevices.”
“Well, perhaps it was a turn of phrase of my fath—”
“I did not under any circumstances perform any such or related services for your father, RIP.”
“Not even when he was floating drunk?”
As I hobble on, the rasp of Venk’s metal file recedes.

I don’t ask Venk to do anything. I pay him what I believe is a decent pension, and more besides, as reparation for his centuries of torment. However, he still likes my perfunctory opinion on certain matters of estate and domestic management, so I try not to be too imbecilic.

Recently Venk has had me studying a ‘news’ circular from the city after meals. It’s frightening stuff. I don’t think it can all be genuine; some must be a literary in-joke. He says it will ‘broaden my horizons’, the blighter.

My cogitations are interrupted by a dainty scuffling among the gargoyles. Not an ethereal wisp. Not Venk. I call back to him, trying to sound authoritative.
“Scuffling, Venk; animal, vegetable or mineral?”
“As yet, sir, not fully determined.” He has no idea.
“We’ll attribute it to Od, pro tem.”
“Have you been at the pig Latin again, sir?”
“I beg your pardon?!”
“Ixnay, ogday, and suchlike, sir.”
“I was twelve, Venk! It was a fad during my pseudo-intelligentsia epoch.”
“I see. So it’s not odgay?”
“Absolutely not. It’s a placeholder for unexplained natural causes and scientific phenomena, coined in the 19th century.”
“That’s an entirely different and wholly appropriate matter, sir. I apologise.”
“I don’t know where you get to these preposterous notions, Venk.”

Feeling still entirely untired, I limp toward one of the flights of stairs, which is wide enough to serve as an amphitheatre. My father was a considerable narcissist. Emphasis on ‘arse’. To be precise: short-arse. Each step is barely a heel’s depth and as polished as the day, or the day after, it was installed. Just to add excitement, some of the steps are not horizontal. That skittering is the sound of my inappropriate footwear losing traction and further polishing said non-horizontal steps.

Fear not: as I said, the steps are shallow, so the descent is little more than the feeling of a back massage with a washboard. The problem is that my father liked to survey his estate, while my mother disliked the Baltic breeze whistling up the stairwell. Plus my inability to maintain a feet-first position as I cross the floor below. You can imagine the sound as my forehead connects with the glass partition door.

I push myself up to sit but I’m too dizzy to move further. The pain radiates sparks through my vision. Yet I can make out a small boy standing beyond the glass. He seems about five years old and remarkably composed with his hands clasped neatly before his belly. I recognise him: he’s the one rumoured to have been recruited by some clandestine organisation because he has super-mental powers.

He steps toward the glass, our faces level. He raises one arm, his forefinger outstretched, to precisely touch my forehead as it appears in the glass on his side. I lift my finger to meet it on my side. He recognises my forehead energy ring as a sign of similar super-mental powers. I gaze at his face as his forehead lights up with a small red ring. I feel the strangest, wondrous, intense sensation in my own forehead.

Initially we test each other with tricks. The boy wanders to the village and waves to me from the church. I focus my special forehead vision and proceed to pan and zoom as if viewing from a bird’s eye. I’m confident that the church is north from here so I move in that direction by intention. However, this is hard work as I’m too close range so it’s difficult to make out features. Eventually I hit indistinguishable grey blobs and conclude I’ve found the church roof.

About this point Venk ruins my connection to this extraordinary skill by throwing a glass of cold water over me and expressing his untender concern for my welfare.
“That’s an angry red ring on your forehead, sir. Shall I prepare a poultice?”
I swat him away. Something is not right in my head. Apart from the throbbing bruise and frayed blood vessels. The glass… There isn’t any glass on the parapet.

I grab the glass from Venk’s hand and down the remaining measure. He seems momentarily appalled but regroups admirably. Clawing my way up his shiny buttons, I haul myself up to a swaying stand.

I retrace my steps: straightforward as there is a convenient red dotted line. Intrepidly I step Beyond the Red Line. I yelp. The ever-solicitous Venk leaps out from an alcove, a threadbare dressing draped over his shoulder, a crucible of noxious excreta in his hand.
“Please let me attend to your wound, sir.”
In my excitement I flap him away from my shin.
“There was a girl— There was someone here.”
“I put her in the misererium, sir.”
I stumble away with horrible visions of this exquisite ethereal wisp manacled to a slimy wall.

The misererium is an often overlooked feature of Roman architecture, and thus of mock-Roman, faux-ancient, ego-indulgent edifices.
“I put her in the misererium, sir.”
Venk’s words echo through my frantic mind. They also echo through the stone corridors; as well as Baltic wind funnels, my father was unintentionally successful in creating the most bone-powdering auditory effects.
“I put her in the misererium, sir.”
“What do you mean ‘put’?!”
“She is awaiting your convenience, sir.”
“To restore her to health? To one piece? I’m not a sorcerer!”
Venk glances critically at my bare legs, and their cross-hatched archaeology of injuries. “Indeed, sir.”
“Why? Why there?”
“She seemed melancholy, sir.”

The misererium of my acquaintance is situated on the far side of the lagoon – a stagnant, algae-glazed, joy-sapping puddle. It is dangerously close to the wood. My mother forbade me from exploring—”If I catch you in that wood, I’ll remove your testicles with this fork.”—that feature with her characteristic firmness. I feel shivers developing into shudders at the mere glimpse of it.

But first I must divert Venk.
“What’s that infernal scritchy scratchy scuffling?”
“Mice, sir.” He’s guessing.
“Mice?! Poison them!”
“I am effecting every method of dissuasion, sir.”
“What sort of cowardly—?!”
“Unfortunately they’re in the gubbins, sir.”
“They would die horribly in your water supply.”
“Whereas now they’re just shitting in it?”
“I’m training Beetles to penetrate—”
“The cat, sir. You named her.”
“I was four! Is she still going?!”
“With a sniff of mouse at one end and a sharp stick at the other.”
“So there’s ancient cat piss in the waterworks as well.”
“We are well supplied with… alternative beverages, sir.”
“Father’s fifth circle of cellar?” This is desperate. “Please sort it forthwith.”
“Yes, sir.”

In repairing to the forbidding misererium, I must negotiate other characters. My father littered the grounds with marble and stone and bronze statues; he never could decide which was the most ostentatious. Yet oddly none of them were intended to resemble himself. They are creatures of mythology: human-beast chimeras. On second thoughts, perhaps they were very good likenesses. I make a mental note to research the distinction between centaurs and satyrs, more for a false feeling of mental control than any genuine practical application.

The midnight blue gives the statues an eerie luminescence, a looming essence from behind trees. Involuntarily I gasp. Despite knowing exactly where each one is, my primitive brain sparks to make me start anyway. This is annoying. Yet without an overhead light this first one seems to wear a smirk.

I glance across the water—or whatever is beneath that fetid crust—to steady my nerves. In this deceptive non-light its coating looks like an oil slick. I get a further jolt: the ethereal wisp drifts over the far side of the toxic swamp. It could not be one of the marble statues: they are not that well polished and reflective. Nor could they balance upon that noxious veneer. There would be a chthonic crack and plunge.

I vacillate between relief that Venk has failed to constrain her and further anxiety that she is still abroad. The first statue sneers at my discomfiture.

…continues at part 2


Overdue part 2/2

Continuing from part 1

Actually here. Twenty-five years later. My face becomes fizzy with the thrill. I turn slowly in my seat. There is a resonant squeak. Definitely the seat; not me. There is also a loose edge of veneer on the table leg before me. My anxiety seems to work itself out by quietly rasping my toe against it.

He is instantly recognisable. I should say something. Preferably not flippant or smartarse. Never mind.
“Since my original stupid idea went so well, here’s another one: shall we speak as if this is 2005? What would you have told me then? How were you?”
He grins. “I just got married. You?”

Are you disappointed? Are you expecting me to be disappointed? It’s not like we were even friends.
He’s being succinct, so I babble. “I’m on number two boyfriend – number two serious – serious but not serious enough to get married. There were others, not serious.”
“I heard about that.” Always an alarming ambiguity.
“Heard what?”
“There was some… traffic to the upper floors in that house.”
I chuckle. “That was my year of being extrovert.”
“I was a bit envious.”
“I would have said you were discreet.”
His turn to chuckle.
“Do you still enjoy your curries?”
He smirks sheepishly. “In 2005 and now.”
I seem to be better at smalltalk, twenty-five years later.

What if? What if I had had this ability in 1995 – to converse by asking interested questions? It’s really so easy.
“I imagined you would have written a book… a rather celebrated and well-cited academic sort of book.”
“I am keen on books. Can I say that? It sounds bizarre. Anyway, I like ones that are already written.”
“Ah, you’re here for the… talk thing.” I riffle through my collection of flyers.
He is tickled with his own ingenuity. “Two birds; one sofa.” That was clever. A way out, should he need it.
“Why is this library promoting preposterous fiction?” Here it is: the flyer for today’s unpromising event.
“It’s supposed to be good.”
“You haven’t read it?” Slightly accusatory. Put him on the defensive. Toe still rasping. Making notes.
“I read the first two chapters then I realised I wasn’t paying attention; I was missing things—there are layers—so I’ve started again.”
“Sounds like hard work.”
“I think it’s more rewarding that way.”
An ideal opening.

“Does that apply to other creative art forms?” Will he accept the rather wide-angle, undergraduate premise? Casually I place the flyer between us, a little closer to him. Unconsciously he starts fiddling with it during a momentary ponder. Gratifyingly he launches what sounds like the defence of a thesis on motif and metaphor in classical sculpture. I am fascinated by such things: if you can decipher the code, you find so much more meaning. I absorb this considered discourse for later digestion. I have plenty more questions, and am not yet replete with cryptic ancient whores, but I have limited time. Having wasted fifteen years. Questions shelved.

As he concludes his executive summary, my discordant segué from sublime to ridiculous is to reach into my bag. One at a time, I pull out those Police tapes. He seems politely amazed. I lightly stack them on the table. My way of saying I didn’t forget about him.
“You had stopped listening to The Police, you said; in favour of?”
“Middle-aged, middle-of-the-road classical stuff mostly.”
“Anything in your mind just now?”
“I think it’s Mendelssohn. I’m not nerdy enough to know exactly which piece. Yours?”
“You won’t be surprised that, although that boyfriend didn’t last the decade, his musical influence did.”
“A bit heavier than The Police?”
I’m still absently making notes. Mostly about classical sculpture. I’ll come back to that.

While we’ve been talking, someone has shifted a couple of gigantic posters advertising the book event into an informal conclave. The seats nearer the prospective pulpit have a sprinkling of gatherers. We seem to be on the back fringe; undecided whether we are partaking or not. I like this non-pushiness of library people. Not presuming and setting up around us.

I stand. He’s surprised, even disappointed.
“You’re not staying for the talk?”
“Unfortunately I just can’t sit through that.”
“Can I give you— get your email?” Points for bravery. “I’d rather not make another appointment.” Points for justified jibe, humour, forgiveness. Not disappointed.
“I think you already have.” An alarming ambiguity?
The poor guy looks a little crestfallen. I indicate the flyer by his grasp and add, “you’re gratifyingly suggestible.”
I smile sweetly at his bewilderment, turn about and stalk over to the gap between posters. Not even a token podium.

Of course it isn’t a mean brush-off: on the flyer I passed him earlier I had written my email – my personal one, underneath the pseudonym and obligatory bio. Always scribbling notes. I’ll be lucky if he doesn’t bin it; it could be blowing around Edinburgh in a couple of hours.

One of the other leaflets I have appropriated: ‘Library Services’. What I’ve scratched on this one is a heavy 1960s style square around ‘Senior Acquisiter’ of something arcane. Nobody expects the Senior Acquisiter. So, not a massive detour from his usual environs. Also the reason he was here twenty-five years ago. He knew exactly where he was going. Professionally, certainly; in the way that I had absolutely no idea. So, it was a long shot in time; not so much in space.

I attempt a welcoming smile to greet the gathering. I can’t stop myself glancing to that furthest seat, to his expression of suspended horror. Can he think I’m some sort of literary protester who hijacks book events? Possibly. But only for a moment. The penny dreadful drops. I mouth, with the appropriate number of fingers aloft.
“Two birds; one sofa.”

If you were paying attention to the layers, you would have noticed gaps in the reported conversation. Not socially awkward. Omissions for ambiguity and even misdirection.
“What would you usually be doing at 2:30?”
“On a good day, I’d be in the archives with the white gloves on.”
“And yourself?”
“On a good day, I’d be transcribing my scintillating ideas from the previous evening.”

Underneath my email address I also wrote ‘Mendelssohn Symphony No.1 movement 3’. My pseudo-anxious seat-squeaking and veneer-rasping repeated a passable minuet phrase, if I do say so myself. Rasp, rasp; squeaky-squeak. Always making notes.

The Police Cassette Tapes – first three albums


Overdue part 1/2

In an utterly self-indulgent parallel universe…

Impossibly for several reasons, I’m sitting in the library on the 27th of July, 2020. I’m fifteen years late. At least. Fine? Are you trying to be funny? I’m not even sure of the date. I think it was July. Why was I in a university library in July? It was definitely the main, non-specific library; but why not my familiar science libraries? Because nothing ever happened in those.

Twenty-five years ago, 1995, I was sitting in a 1960s, very square, uncomfortable chair, in the library foyer, in its 1960s, very square building, in George Square, Edinburgh. Inside concrete geometry inside a summer day. I was hunched over a crumpled utilities bill, scratching notes for myself, probably organising tasks, because I was between shifts and needed to get the most out of my free daytime. Then I heard a familiar voice.

When I try to remember exactly when it was—knowing it’s pointless, but also knowing it’s a loose end which needs to be snipped off, because it can’t be tied up—when I try, I don’t remember anything. Later, when I’m not trying, my memory offers tantalising glimpses that it was late July, about 2:30 pm. I try to be sensible: assume it was after graduation in mid-July 1995, and it was a weekday, the last week was the 24th to the 28th. This year we have Friday the 24th and Monday the 27th. So?

This isn’t my first day here. This is day four. I’ve done the 20th, 21st and 24th already. Obviously, if I’m going to do this past-tense what-if neurosis, I’m not going to hang it all on a half-baked timestamp memory. I like to get the feel of a place. The resonance. Admittedly I don’t usually take days. And libraries are not so much resonant as muffled. Plus I have notes to make for an upcoming promotional event. Don’t really want to take days over that either.

But here I am, just as I was, hunched over my scribbling, only now I use an assortment of library flyers. Libraries are one of the last few places where paper is not a dirty word, where printers are not infernal devices.

On Friday a rather solicitous librarian approached me with the top half of her body at a pronounced angle of enquiry. Her quiet voice was wonderfully soothing and confidential.

“Are you OK? I’ve just, well, we’ve noticed you sitting here…”

These days you can’t assume students are all under 25, but still some people look blatantly out of place. Could I get away with ‘it’s a research project to test whether victims also return to the scene of the crime’?

I try to respond with quiet deference. “Oh dear, am I a security concern?” I had got around needing the usual security papers by remaining in the free access area immediately inside the door. Plus I wanted to remain incognito.

The librarian was more accommodating than the furniture. I tried to give her a short version but it still required explanation. A lot of explanation.

“How romantic.”

“Oh, no, we weren’t even friends, like I said. I just feel bad now for half-suggesting the rendezvous then half-forgetting and half-not being able to anyway.” Flimsy.

What would I say if he actually appeared? An apology would be a good start. “I’m sorry I’m late.” Very late. An explanation then. “I was in (A) prison, (B) a Swiss sanatorium, or (C) the bath.” Flippant doesn’t seem right. Flippant smartarse was where I left it.

We had shared the same flat, student house, for two years, then our accommodations had naturally diverged. We weren’t friends, but now I think I would appreciate him more. Because, of course, I’ve changed but he remains exactly the same. After a couple more years at uni I was still awkward, socially inept, but at least I’d learned some smartarse retorts since he’d last seen me. So as my limited smalltalk rapidly expired, I tried to end with a wacky flourish.

“We should do this again.”

He smiled, half genuine, half going along with the daftness. “We should meet back here in… ten years? The same date, 2005.” He seemed to enjoy the joke.

Was I serious? Did I really intend to honour that appointment? Just even for the hell of it? Ten years is a long time at any age. Thirty years is a very long time, especially to still have three music tapes. Museum pieces. Curatable cassettes. No longer played; I still have a tape player but no longer attached to speakers.

That’s what started this off: music. Always music. My emotional therapy and consolidation of lessons learned. Something on the radio reminded me of these tapes, long untouched but kept, treasured. He was thoughtful enough to give them, no longer his taste, but he had noticed mine.

It’s easy now, twenty-five years later, to cyber-stalk someone. But that’s not what I want to do. I want to actually stalk him. No, not that either. Just cauterise that loose end. Apologise to the place, the space for not thinking through the consequences and move on.

Having decided three days is not quite enough effort, on day four my washing machine protests an accumulation of fluff in some convoluted piece of piping by leaking water all across the kitchen floor. Something similar delayed me attending an appointment thirty years ago, or perhaps I invented that excuse… Mopping up this time means I miss my usual train, so I turn up, once again, late. Perhaps the universal judiciary will appreciate the effort.

I have barely dropped my bag beside my usual cuboid banquette when the attentive librarian scuttles up with her hushed tones. She seems jittery. I can tell because the two mugs of vaporising mud in her hands are mesmerisingly close to spilling. Perhaps my time is up.

“I’m so glad you’re here. I thought you might not come today.”

“Laundry debacle. Are you joining me?” Immediately I feel ashamed because obviously neither drink is for me; she has probably just interrupted her own break out of concern for my clearly unhinged welfare.

“No! No.” Yet she puts the mugs on the bench between seats. “Don’t go anywhere!” Now I think she has called somebody professional to mop me up. She adds, “I mean: you should stay for the talk! About a book…” that seems to be all she has; not enticing. She dashes away to a desk and taps a few computer keys. Probably re-orienting the CCTV cameras at me.

She returns at full tilt and alights opposite me, but remains twitchily alert. She indicates some book promotion posters.

“I’m keeping an eye out for our Host.” I’m keeping an eye out for a GHost.

She confidentially murmurs about someone else she or a colleague remembers waiting, or at least sitting patiently, a few summers ago. I nod politely, after all I am patiently waiting. The least I deserve while playing out this feeble non-drama is to listen to somebody else’s. I try to pay attention; I really do. There’s just her soporific murmuring and the soft bump of books.

In a moment, the background rustle of respectful readers resolves into the scuff of slippers, worn down on the inner sides of the heels, crossing ancient kitchen vinyl floor. Instantly recognisable, as is the voice approaching behind me. And what does he say?

“Sorry I’m late.”

Concludes at part 2


Magic Circles

A short fairy-tale about fellow creatures and freedom

Once upon a sill, a crone placed a crock containing a thin layer of compost and a sprinkling of cress seeds. She passed her fingers under her metal waterfall and flicked drops over the terra nova. The gesture seemed more used to issuing fingertip icicle hexes.

An internal program unfurled and ascertained the presence of substrate, nutrients and water. Then darkness sneaked upon the tiny world and was greeted with a quiet curse. The seeds indignantly passed the night by drawing in water and swelling into frogspawn.

My pursed eyes welcomed darkness, as the daylight was far too bright. Plus it seemed to trigger the crone to croon horribly and torture a wooden box in the other room, making ghastly tinkling noises.

During the night it was safe to explore. The hag also kept a jar of alfalfa sprouts. These required nothing more than twice-daily rinsing under her waterfall. However, to keep the sprouts in as the rinse-water poured out, she had fixed a piece of some ancient, revolting undergarment across the top. I could reach this by rolling off the windowsill. I tried to penetrate – I’m sure I was the first to attempt to penetrate that fabric – but it was a sturdy barrier and the effect was like a trampoline. Nevertheless, the fresh, sprouting smell that emanated was intoxicating, even as I bounced up, away and down to the sill again.

After five nights of this tantalising exercise, I was thrilled to see a shimmer of green at the rim of the crock. I imagined wading in that beautiful field of cress. Perhaps I could use my trampoline practice. A couple of clacks and a light whump; bounces building higher and higher; a carefully calculated turn at the point of touching the fabric. I arced like the best of bridges and landed perfect centre.

cress sprouts close-up of tightly packed stalks

Being in among cress stalks was far better than smelling distant alfalfa through hag’s hosiery. I rolled and rolled with sheer delight. I burrowed into the soil. That didn’t take long. But to feel even just a few grains was bliss. When I finally sat up I had a shock. What a mess I had made. Each cress sprout had been barely clinging on to that thin film of earth. My antics had entirely uprooted many of them. The shame! After all that waiting, when I finally reached my heart’s desire, I trashed it.

As best I could I made reparations: I righted each stalk, dusted off any soil, and re-arranged its roots. Still, some could no longer support themselves, so I ingeniously oriented each one to rest on the next in a circle of support. Cunningly I had left a thin gap to the edge of the crock which allowed me to depart without further destruction.

The next morning I was rudely awoken by the hag. Not the staccato bleatings of dismay I had feared, nor the usual piercing clangs from the other room, but a sharp intake of breath into those lungs of hers that made the air pressure drop. She kept drifting her quivering hand toward the crock, but not touching it, as if afraid of something, or trying to sense something without disturbing it. She kept murmuring, “a crop circle!” Daft biddy.

However, the fact that she noticed the results of my leisure gave me an idea. The next night I found the cress had recovered well and was very obliging. By a careful pattern of rolling, I arranged the fronds into an arrow pointing at where I lay on the windowsill. Simple.

Unfortunately, the next item along the windowsill beyond me was hinged scythes. The hag’s quivering hands moved reverently right past me to snip a great sheaf of cress. She sprinkled it over some revolting layered morsel, popped the thing in her mouth, and beamed as she chewed her supernatural snack.

That night I wept to see the severed swathe. I had no appetite for frolics among those amputated stumps. Lying supine on the sill, a movement caught my attention. I found it soothing to watch a large spider roaming at great pace along the cornice, then settling in a corner and lacing round and round: coppe circles. That gave me another idea.

The spider was most obliging and co-opted several other inhabitants to help. They knew the source of the unpleasant daytime plonking and saw an opportunity. A team of woodlice dug in and prised a book’s pages, making it creak like rhubarb growing. A weevil held a page in place with the antennae on his nose – curious but surprisingly powerful. The spider then wove a hem stitch along the page edges, binding them together and keeping the score open at the right place at the piano.

The next day the hag sat down and scrabbled but she could not shift those pages. She cursed the “coppe-infested old box” and viciously stabbed a lever at the left end. It produced a lovely vibration I felt all through me. The spider was poised ready on her shock-absorbing legs but the woodlice went blurry and two fell out. Thankfully, eventually the hag got the message: she played the tune, badly, but the pebble dropped. It was Edvard Grieg’s Småtroll, if you like that sort of thing.

I got a free ride on those pudgy appendages of hers. She muttered much regret. She had mistaken me for a beautiful nobbly pebble. An ornament! Myopic old mammal. She repatriated me to my beloved banking. I swished between abundant verdure; I burrowed in depths of soil; I lay, free, on a pillow of moss. The joy of that long-awaited dip in the burn!

So now I need a new name – the only troll ever to go inside brickhill, vanquish the hag, and come out again – because small guys are canny.

Merry Cressmas… to crone and troll.


If you fancy a Scandinavian accompaniment: Ture Rangström’s Symphony 1 mv 3 ‘Trollruna’ or Edvard Grieg’s Lyric Piece Op.71.3 Småtroll. Reclaim the troll!

Inspired by Alan Coren’s comic essay ‘And Did Those Feet?’


The Missed Visitor

Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 11:00

A maudlin metaphor for an unexpected, unknown arrival

Outside, our familiar environment is obscured in shades of dark blue and dark grey. Snow has been falling heavily since dusk and is expected to continue through the night. The power will likely go off but we are prepared; we’ve done this before. We are all together, warm and safe. After tea we play a candlelit board game then head to bed early as the cosiest place.

In the morning we each go straight to our nearest window to see the white world: huge pillows of snow draped over everything, again disguising our familiar world. Some of us rush to wrap up and run out to feel it viscerally. Some of us watch from other windows revelling in the dazzling pristine purity. We gather for breakfast and share sights and crystals. We are interrupted by hammering at the door. A neighbour has come for our help. There seems to be someone lying in the snow along the road.

The shock mutes us. We tramp along what seems to be the footpath, all the joy of white discovery now frozen. There is indeed somebody lying in the snow, dead. A small figure, thin and pale. We can’t tell if it’s male or female, child or adult.

If only we’d known. If we’d known someone was out there we would have left a light on. A torch. Something. We would have welcomed them into our home, given them warmth and food, dry clothes. We all think of the people we do know who we can offer warmth and food.


Oddly, this came about as a analogy for the miscarriage of an unknown pregnancy: someone who would have been welcomed had their potential arrival been known.


The Case of the Missing Duvet

A macabre, unexplained and slightly true mystery.
The Case of the Missing Pillow would of course be a witty title, but for reasons that will become obvious, like the tablecloth trick, that didn’t happen.

I wake in the night. After a few moments mentally orienting myself, I realise I feel chilly; I don’t feel my duvet. I spread-eagle and swish my limbs to reach the extents of the mattress, but nothing. I lean over each side of the bed, expecting to glimpse a patch of lighter dark on the floor, but nothing. I haul myself up to sitting and peer over the foot of the bed: nothing.

Bewildered, with no further strategy, I get up and head for the toilet. The corridor zigzags from a skylight outside my bedroom past a loft cupboard, the shower room, along beside the stairwell and under another skylight, to my sister’s bedroom door, at the head of the stairs.

As I approach the sliding door of the shower room, and reach my hand to the light switch, my eyes are still looking ahead, to where the corridor makes its next zig, or zag, beyond the end of the wall. I see that longed for patch of lighter dark protruding around the corner.

My duvet lies in a dragged, crumpled heap at the midpoint of the corridor. What dramatic and cool irony had it been my map of the world duvet cover, but no. Floral number. Pink. With frills.

With no street lights, at night that corridor is lit only by the moon or suspicious cloud glow. Such wispy whiteness is enough to find your way with sleepy eyes and feeling fingers and stubbable toes. But who is the figure wandering abroad, carrying the weight of a duvet?

Perhaps the child frets in her sleep, wrestling with the emotional challenges of yesterday and tomorrow, as translated into virulently coloured and textured blobs which loom and recede uncomfortably in her imagination. The awful weight of unflattering parental authority becomes manifest and externalised. Gratifyingly, it can now be physically discarded.

Perhaps the other child fancies revenge for any of a multitude of mean tricks: “the teeny grapes are the sweetest” and suchlike. That sibling awakes, tormented by the relentless cruelties. She contemplates screwing a Fisher-Price figure into an eye-socket. Kneading Play-Doh into hair. Spooning green poster paint down a manipulative gullet. Fisting nettles up the bum.

Perhaps upon the first sleeping child’s forehead an eldritch circle lights up, like a very small gas hob. Aurora strands dance out through the translucent skin and over the duvet. The fabric quivers then slowly lifts and drifts across the room. At the door it is abruptly arrested by snagging on a doorframe splinter then petulantly yanked onward.

A long time I have waited to resolve this conundrum. I shall know. There must be a perpetrator. There must be retribution. I shall have my glorious rewengay.

One hundred and sixty patient years later I shall approach the bed of my irascible irasibling, stepping carefully around the snoring chicken, wheeling silently my well-greased, domestic-sized crane. I shall arrange the rigging, lock its feet, and attach each of the four grabs to a corner of her moth-eaten, dribble-sodden duvet. I shall resist the exquisite temptation to toss every heavy object in reach upon it, including my dainty self, and said mini crane. I shall not press and press all the guilty air out of her malign lungs.

No. In a trice I shall reel up and float that equivalent quilted smotherance out, out and away. But only so far. I shall carefully, carelessly position it halfway down the corridor, ideally swiping it through some unspeakable filth. I shall melt back into the night. I may shudder considerably with stifled cackling.

Then I shall nip back to retrieve my incriminating hoist. One of the wheels will jam between floorboards or paving stones, and while I skilfully, silently wrestle it back into motion, I shall realise I still haven’t elicited a confession. Drat.

But then, I shall say nothing for millennia.


Rhett Riding-Hood and the Wolf

Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 11:00

Once upon a town, which was in Northern Ireland, and thus pronounced ‘tine’, Rhett set out to visit her grandmother, carrying the obligatory basket of poisoned apples. Her bright red cape billowed in the wind, whipping and snapping like a flag. Or a rag. And someone was watching. And snapping.

Rhett followed the footpaths, and, when these ran out, the winding tracks through the woods. She was completely unafraid, as she had walked these paths twice already. Several times she deviated, and even wandered right off the path, because she saw some pretty little flower and had an urge to crush it. Or heard a delightful chirruping bird and simply had to swat it with the brim of her enormous detachable hood. She would carefully lift whichever bruised, tattered remnants and stuff them into her basket.

Just at the point when she was finding the whole thing tedious, she approached her grandmother’s cottage. However, having visited twice before, she noticed something had changed. On one side of the cottage, where her grandmother’s vegetable garden had rewilded itself into a dense tangle of strangulating bushes and vines, the ground was now completely bare.

Not completely bare. There were Power Tools. Also a lot of loud noise. Three Power Tool Operators were shouting abuse at each other over the din of their assorted water-jet, hedge trimmer, drill, hammer, paint sprayer, chainsaw, strimmer, of which they were each wielding at least two, to demonstrate their personal Power.

In mid gasp, Rhett became aware of a tremendous force bearing down on her from one side. A toy bulldozer crashed out of the woods, fountaining splintered twigs, and dunted into her ankle. A boy climbed out and launched a stream of age-appropriate unpleasantries, such as “you dirty pants, you bogey nose, you smelly brain.” Rhett frowned at him in puzzlement and eventually he got bored and started kicking his toy bulldozer.

Meanwhile the noise of the Power Tools had increased, due to them getting nearer. Rhett found the volume unbearable and so stuck her fingers in her ears as she squinted at the unpleasant encroachment. Accompanied by the muffled cacophony, she watched the three operators mouthing obscenities and gesticulating aggressively. She tried to insert her questions between their shouts, but it made no difference to their behaviour, and in her head her voice sounded ridiculous.

Still the three operators loomed closer and closer, and the wielding of the Power Tools became ever more threatening, and the stupid boy with the toy bulldozer kept ramming Rhett’s ankle. In sticking her fingers in her ears, she had dropped her basket, and notwithstanding some of the contents already being the worse for wear, the whole lot was unceremoniously bulldozed into a mess of twiglets. Rhett snapped likewise. She shrieked as loud and long as she could, birled about, and charged off in a direction roughly away from the cottage.

As the droning and whining in her ears faded, she unplugged her fingers. Around this time she also thought to open her eyes properly and see where she was going, according to the diverting lashings of brambles and buffetings of tree roots. This was just in time as the end of the world suddenly rushed up.

Rhett stopped running and teetered above a crevasse of rocks, shaped like an uneven stack of pencils, descending into the ocean. In her frazzled state she was quickly mesmerised by the hexagonal pattern, the way you can hypnotise a chicken with a straight line, and her brain activity mostly suspended.

All this drama was observed by a mini drone that looked like a Snitch from a Potter-esque game of Quidditch, i.e. a tiny but unfeasibly heavy brass ball, but with non-enchanted mechanical wings, wheeling and hovering overhead.

Back beside the cottage there was an executive sort of disturbance in the undergrowth. Russell? No, ’twas the Ginger Avenger with his sturdy helmet bobbing about, glinting in the—
“Unacceptable name! I require something considerably more—”
Do not deviate from the narrative. Do not address the narrator directly.
“To whom should I address my complaint?”
There will be ample opportunity to discuss any issues of casting, character authenticity, plot flaws et cetera once the draft is circulated.
“Corrections will be retrospective?”
Find and replace. Move along now.

The GA (pending) rippled with… brine, ebbing from his recent constitutional dunking. As a consequence of which, any fish thereby attached to his person were entirely coincidental and claimed as legal salvage. He swished decisively, removing any debris from his path ahead. For this purpose he had judiciously acquired a crooked cane, which was also expedient for the removal of unfunny entertainers, inept service providers, and unwanted companions.
“And inappropriate appellations. And truculent narrators.”
Never mind.

As the GA (TBC) strode into the throng, the noisy Operators cowered and grovelled. Assorted motors ground to halts.
One of the now quieter Operators bleated, “are you the police?”
The GA pointed out wearily, “observe helmet. Larger than polis ones, yes? Thus I smite them.”
The erstwhile noisy Operators glanced among themselves, wondering and fearing the exact definition of the word ‘smite’ and its possible application to themselves. And how much damage that helmet might do, especially around the edges.

As if this weren’t enough, another lesser and less prepossessing character emerged surreptitiously from the undergrowth, having first ascertained that his predecessor has established superiority. The GA gestured an introduction for this newcomer.
“Flat-head Peter is my sidekick; he—”
“I do feel I have been mis-cast. I should have a more prominent role.”
I refer the unprepossessing gentleman to my earlier response. Carry on.
The GA continued, “Peter assists me in the poaching of fish.”
Peter jolted. “Just to clarify: ‘poaching’ relates to cooking.”
The GA was supremely nonchalant. “Secure these pests. I shall retrieve the heroine.”
“Of course. You help yourself to the fun bits.”
The GA raised an eyebrow. Peter unhitched shears from his pack and grudgingly set to work.
“Apply the polyethylene fibres and record everything they say.”
The suddenly silent Operators squirmed incontinently, as they were suddenly filled with hellish visions of fibreglass and asbestos type tortures.

They were quite wrong, of course. The GA was merely suggesting to Peter a convenient use for the non-biodegradable twine that he was supposed to have been weaving. This was the most expedient way to get rid of the billions of plastic microfibres his flat-cap had attracted by static electricity during the recent fishing, ahem, swimming expedition.

The GA fished in a pocket and dextrously thumbed knob and rolled ball. He extracted a remote control device and pointed it skyward. The mini drone whined obediently into view, screeched a U-turn and appeared to beckon with a wing. The GA accordingly switched his way seaward, along the path indicated by the heroine’s spoor of bloody brambles and twigs waving tiny flags of torn fabric. He was of course well practised in bushcraft.

Shortly thereafter the swaying Rhett was deftly yanked from the jaws of danger and squish by a crooked stick. Her brain resumed something approaching normal function and her eyes took in this Ginger Avenger.
“My mother told me to beware of a wolf in striped clothing.”
“Wolf? No, I’m Wilf!”
“No, just Wilf. And I’m sure it was about sheep…”
“Perhaps; she wouldn’t wear less than cashmere.”

Rhett’s writhing hood flapped unhelpfully across her face. Once again the crooked stick was employed to efficient effect.
“Thank you. Who were those horrid creatures?”
“Those mendacious mercenaries have planning permission to raze the area. They plan to build a, ugh, tourist facility to exploit the Dwarf’s Causeway, or Causewee as they’ll probably nauseatingly label it.”
“What about Grandmother’s cottage?!”
“Technically your grandmother is squatting.”
“She suffers from nodules.”
“Has she tried fish?”
“Oh, yes, that’s why she lives by the sea; she loves watching their acrobatics.”
The GA glanced at the dry-curing danglements from his fishbelt. “Ah. Leeks?”
“Only if she squats too quickly. But I’m fond of seafood.”
“Can I interest you in a Three-fish Mess Marinara?”
“Only three?” Rhett eyed his scaly accoutrements.

On returning to the cottage and its desertified grounds, Rhett and the GA found a collection of neatly bound annoyances. The appearance was of a giant spider’s lair, but that would be a whole other story. Peter the sidekick was, however, absent.
The GA demanded, “where’s Peter?” Silence. Stillness. “I’ve always wanted to do this.” He flexed his fingers then snatched some gaffer tape off one intruder’s mouth. Wails ensued.
The intruder admitted only that Peter was “gaun.” No mention of his obsessive muttering about being destined to vanquish a wolf.

Rhett twinkled with an rash idea. “I shall be your sidekick. I have… skills in… macabre things.”
The GA widened his eyes in alarm. “He’ll be back. Thinks he can set up a rival avenging business. Fool.”
“He doesn’t even have a proper helmet.”
“You don’t have a proper cloak!”
“What’s wrong with it? It billows! It hides all sorts.”
“It’s irretrievably fankled! My cloak is far more… cloaky. Properly cloaky. Like a cloaking device.”
Insofar as the intruders’ eyeballs were able to move below their encasing mesh of twine and tape, there was rolling.

Grandmother emerged from the bottom drawer where she had been lately hiding and was thoroughly enthralled by Rhett’s withered, trampled, pulverised offering. The intruders were roasted on an open fire, made of the suddenly abundant kindling, then released by skilful prodding with the crooked cane when they became insufficiently entertaining, as the GA was not in the mood for sausages. Rhett found their dripping marinated the fish marvellously. The GA commented, “I always find fire works.”


Inspired by Supporting a good Cause, along with a diverse list of bizarre narrative milestones, most of which the above manages to clonk into.


Neohaguich 11/11

Neohaguich series starts at part 1/11

Cautiously, but, as it turns out, unnecessarily, they negotiate the room and emerge alongside a subterranean rivulet, a sub-springs creek, a path beneath.  The Stranger pauses.  His face contorts around an ancient conundrum.

“Why are you—?”

Calluna needs no thinking time.  She doesn’t even need the end of the question.  She has been rehearsing this for just as long.

“You promised you’d always be there but you weren’t; you vanished; never came back.”

“I did.  I just took longer than I expected.  You didn’t wait.”

“I waited for eons!  Patiently!”

“You didn’t recognise me.”

“Your features are carved into the inside of my forehead…  Like that rock actually!”

“My features changed.  I got old.”

Calluna shrugs, suddenly fully aware of her own ancient, sagging, changed features.  The Stranger still worries at something.

“Why the elaborate obfuscation to ensorcel an old man when he finally returns?”

“Hard work keeping up an image.  Way beyond the promised time.”

“Finding my way home took millennia.”

“Meaning you mucked something up.”

“And this isn’t home, is it?  It’s not quite right.”

“I had to set out to find you, and I’m not quite omnipotent.  It’s a compromise: somewhere you could get to; somewhere I could make look a bit like…”

The Stranger suddenly groans.  “I’ve been walking for so long.  Look at my feet.”

Calluna drags her reluctant eyes to his feet.  She is petrified of seeing mutilation, gore and putrefaction.  The anticipation is worse than the reality: his feet look as if he’s been treading red grapes, but nothing significant is missing, not even that phalanx, although it is attached only by habit and chance and not the proper complement of gristles.  Red, sticky, like cherry treacle.  Thea-treacle.  Not real.  She lurches into brisk war effort.

“How very theatrical.  Easily mended: the hechlers will make you a paper cast.  Sturdy and breathable, but don’t get it wet.”

The stranger petulantly slaps the injured foot into a menacing puddle.

The slap reaches Calluna.  “How long have you been squelching about down here?”


“And yet your foot…”

“The water hasn’t miracle-cured it, but maybe that’s a big ask.”

“I think the miracle is that your foot hasn’t turned green and dribbly.  I think nature has found a way to extract the pure water from Udderfiddle’s ordure for everyone to benefit.”

As the words fade, the walking resumes.  Calluna, having again forgotten entirely about Jardine, finds herself unable to resist sharing a useless relic.  “I have decided to call you Magnus Opium.”

The Stranger splutters a laugh, thereby acknowledging how much work he inherently is, and that he is hers.  Comforting.

The walking and the thinking and the sloshing of water seem to achieve some intermediate level of mutual forgiveness, or at least relaxation of hostilities.  Finally, no longer required, the water disappears into a rock crevice, destination unknown.  The tunnel shrinks to a crawl space with encouraging dappled light at the end.

Calluna and the Stranger, Magnus, emerge from the rock with very necessary caution through a bramble thicket, an effective deterrent to any pilgrims seeking an easy way in.  Calluna geo-locates herself.

“Is this–?”

Mr Opium smiles by way of completing her question and answering it.  The very site of the fateful picnic.  One bramble lucky to be abandoned.

They survey the landscape with different eyes.  Magnus points out how the arse-shaped indentation in the rock by the cave entrance is actually caused by the tenacious sapling splitting the linn so it hits the rock in two curling streams.  Calluna recognises the similarity to a certain farmer’s seat, and pronounces this Udderfiddle’s Cleft.  Once formally notified, Farmer Udderfiddle senses this is not a great accolade.

Finally, to acknowledge the equality of all geographical features, Calluna rebrands the village ‘Bubbling Bridge over Lochsplit Linn under Springs Creek’.  If you tilt your head and squint this is not far off an amusing acronym.  Something about it attracts visitors anyway.



Neohaguich 10/11

Neohaguich series starts at part 1/11

Jardine flaps and slaps until gravity and lack of friction further disgorge him into the gorge, a welcome salvation—and ablution—but a worrying connection to the oblong loch.  However, always better that such things are out in the open.  Spat out in the open.  Calluna wonders if this connection is the cause of some of the spring’s bubbling, and thereby a cause of Alf’s peculiarities.

Perhaps Alf himself, the embodied warning flag of unsafe levels, on so many levels, may be persuaded to team up with Jardine in the environmental sampling business, as he has no reluctance to dunk himself, while Jardine is understandably less and less inclined to approach sucking sediments.  Encouragingly the rock face seems to concur.  Mirrors are helpful that way.

As Jardine bobs to the cauldron surface, spreadeagled and beaming beatifically, Calluna hollers an apology for further delay in coming to his aid.

“I’ll come down the long way.”  There must be one.  A safe one.  How else could whatshisname flit back and forth?  Where is he now?!

An exquisitely gentle press on her upper arm answers her second question.  To answer the first, the Stranger points up to a faintly lit, tortuously twisted chimney through the rock ceiling.  Calluna demurs.

“Not in this lifetime.  Not in this body.”

The Stranger smiles at the expected response.

Calluna urges matters onward.  “You have a key.”

“You do.”

She stubbornly and futilely resists this asserted superiority, while her mind scuttles about all its dusty corners seeking evidence.

The Stranger continues: “your bottleneck.”

And so the pebble with the hole resurfaces.  Calluna prises the stone from her bladder and offers it to the Stranger.  Irritatingly, despite her eyes having adjusted to cave darkness, she still barely sees him move, let alone where he puts the pebble.  Yet there is movement.  On the wrong side.  The rockface ahead of them remains; that at ninety degrees to their left has vanished.

“Well done.  How about this one?”


Calluna is reminded of joinery and ingenuity.  “Did Alf—?”

“Oh yes.  Very willing, but the attention span of a fruit fly.”

“He won’t be making this sort of—?”  Calluna has lost the ability to finish her sentences.  She raises the neckless gourd.

The Stranger smiles patronisingly.  Alf is about as close to enchantment as he is to the moon.

The pair step tentatively into the new space.  The Stranger sidles along a wall.  Calluna stops a couple of paces in, to survey: the murk resolves into dark floorboards and curiously paler stone walls.  Within this small room, faint streaks of light suggest wires.  Booby-trap.  Tedious.

Calluna feels a sharp pressure in her right thigh.  The tip of a very slow-moving spear is persistently digging in.  She steps out of its path and watches it lurch and judder across the room to persistently but futilely press into a stone wall.  Another vertical spear wobbles diagonally towards the roof and dislodges a few grains of sand.  She smirks.

“Is this an incredibly rusty ambush?”

The Stranger retorts in similar feigned masterfulness, “or are we thinking faster than time?”

concludes at part 11


Neohaguich 9/11

Neohaguich series starts at part 1/11

Having recited several tediously inconsequential misdemeanours with palpable penitence, the gaunt woman continues.

“Where is it you still feel I’m going wrong?”

“Is this only about you?”

“Seriously?  You want me to take responsibility for every other human life too?  No, that’s your job.”

“Let us review: who did you want to be in relationship with?”

“Doesn’t exist apparently.”

“Hardly matters now.”

“True.  So where was my ideal soulmate, then?  The one who’d make me whole, complement all my shortcomings, etc.?”

The air coruscates.  Calluna eagerly anticipates a stab of lightning—a stab, not a bolt: a lightning bolt is what you secure lightning conductor rods with—to sizzle the old husk to a welcome crisp, but there is to be none.  The gaunt woman anticipates with more accuracy, if less eagerness, the purpose of the atmospheric effervescence.

“Oh, seriously?  I’m getting the ghost of guys past?”

“In the name of pity…”

Calluna ponders.  A pitiable version of herself is having a conversation with an amorphous creature who believes it’s a god and pronounces aphorisms, maxims and wisdoms interspersed with hysterical attempts at smiting any who would obstruct its progress.  Well, if dying is going to be so tortuously convoluted, she may as well ‘get on with it’ –  ‘it’ being tackling the problems of this curious in-between world.  Apparently those of the next apparently have such immense bureaucratic proportions that they serve as a powerful deterrent.

How to resume normal—usual—accustomed—whatever existence this is?  A tremendous, belated, but much needed smack on the arse propels Calluna gracelessly on to a sludge-covered platform.  She splutters out a few litres of water.  Her lungs refill with air, less than fresh.  Her eyes adjust to near darkness.  Her ears continue reporting white noise.  For a few moments she fears this is the putrid wasteland scene repeating, only with her experiencing the gaunt woman’s perspective.  Her arse smarts.  This comes of being racqueted by a rock worn into two smooth indentations.  As you will keenly recall.

Calluna slowly flails her arms to swivel on the slimy hard surface, to assess her surroundings, preparatory to attempting verticalitude.  The water wall, presumably the way she entered, drowns out any sounds of movement.

“You’re supposed to grab the sapling and swing yourself across the rock, monkey-fashion.”  The Stranger’s voice is the most comforting thing she can imagine right now.  But any moistness about her eyes or heaving of chest is merely residue of her recent trip along the rebirth canal.

Meanwhile, those comforting tones have allowed her thoughts to reach a much more important and long overdue conclusion.

“You didn’t die in the—”  She flaps a hand in the presumed direction of the churning water, scrabbling for any label that doesn’t imply witch, and gives up.  “—cauldron!”

“No, far too much bother.  Did you notice that?  Off-putting.  I found something much more interesting.”

“A hermit’s lair?”

Suddenly Calluna is lifted under the armpits and reorientated.  As usual the Stranger moves imperceptibly.

“That’s one word for them.”

Calluna peers intently at the smooth cave wall before her.  Her intensity causes it to wrinkle, which her eyes resolve into facial features.  Yet more resolving.

“I don’t know how it can see me with its face all like that, but it’s very effective at menacing.”

“Keep watching.”

“That looks… That looks remarkably like Aunty Gail.”

“And what does she need?”

“Retirement.”  The rock face crumples in hurt.  Calluna adjusts her delivery.  “A well-deserved rest.”

The rock face calms and relaxes.  Calluna continues, “the box of letters remains hers, and her attachment to Damon and the hechlers may be a comfort.  They all seem quite content in the shed.”

“Meaning you don’t want any of them in the house.”

Calluna raises an eyebrow, the rock face mirrors, and the Stranger draws his own conclusions.

The rock face adopts a petulant frown.  The Stranger settles down for a long session.  Calluna recalls the frowning girl in the mirror washroom at Aunty Gail’s now destroyed abode; another mirror, another version of herself.  No special need for that connection now, although nice to know it’s available, should she have the urge to converse with her younger self.   In this instance, the intellectual reach-around to refute any accusation of altruism wouldn’t be too tricky: she would be, literally, helping herself.

On reflection, or so it seems when a rock face is modelling the facial features of characters you know well, Señora’s irrepressible jangle would work a treat in putting the wind up the Ladies of Plumptitude.  

Redirecting their idle interference toward…hospitality for village visitors?

Calluna’s self-satisfying reverie is interrupted.  A delicious sucking squelch deposits an undelicious Jardine in a slime slick on a narrow rock shelf beside them, spattered by the waterfall.  Calluna leans as close as she dares and gulps.

“I forgot about you.”

continues at part 10

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