Land of the free and the home of the brave

Her eyes flickered from the calendar on her desk to the phone quickly as the device in front of her rang out shrilly. She knew who it would be on the other end of the line, she pictured them, slumped against the phone booth while the hot July sun glared in through the tampered glass. Her arrangements were all unfolding as she had anticipated, each one of her children doing exactly what she had expected them too. All was coming together, there was just one thing left to arrange and this phone call, she hoped, would finalize that. She let the phone ring once more before lifting it from the cradle, placing it up onto her heavily powered face.

She did not speak, she waited for their voice.

“Mame?”

“Yes.” she said, curtly.

“It’s all arranged. She said she will be there for the 4th of July.”

“Good, thank you Perkins. She is aware of the situation I trust?”

“She is aware yes. She wasn’t surprised at all, but it’s strange as she…” He began, but was interrupted.

“Excellent. See to it that money is arranged also.” She said, and hung the phone back quickly into the cradle, her mind now dancing over the weekend arrangements.

In a phone booth in downtown Boston, Robert Perkins held the phone to his ear, trying to hear against the traffic which sped past him outside his glass shell. He heard Veronica Van-Black, his employer, hang up the line her end; yet he finished off his sentence that he had begun, as if trying to figure it out still himself.

“…it’s strange, she said she was already there.”


This fourth of July, come and spend the weekend with the Van-Blacks who will delight you with wit, suspense, good food, séances and murder. A good time to be had by all, except maybe one.
Keep it together – out now in paperback and eBook. More stories here.

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Kiss me like a stranger

How long had she been driving? The sky above her was threatening the night, while bullet lights of passing cars pierced her eyes. She had left that morning, surprised by so many things that were happening, but no longer surprised by being surprised.

She had packed up things so quickly. Everything swept away with such ease she felt she could be erased from life in a blink of an eye and no-one would notice, no one would care. A part of her doubted she would even go through with it. But down the highway heading out away from town she smiled to herself, a scared secret smile that she was doing the right thing. Not the best thing, this would not make her instantly happy or even make the pain stop. But it was the right thing to do.

She yawned theatrically, and pushed her hair back catching her nail in some of the strands. She opened the car window for the cool air to wake her up a little. Her phone had been switched off since she’d left, she knew there would be endless calls and texts until she was located; talked around and called back. She was happy to silence that. The radio rang out, lifting her spirits as the night closed in on that highway which was getting more isolated. The lights in the distance were getting further apart and she knew she was hitting the ‘Quietlands’, the stretch of road that coursed through a mini desert with nothing of interest on either side of her.

She was getting tired, and she was hot still, even as the day’s heat descended. She felt grubby and sweaty, her back sticking to the seat of the car as she zoomed away from her past. She knew her destination. She had had it planned and etched I her mind for years now. She knew which road to take and how long it would be until she got there, and she planned to drive through the night to make it.  Her eyes were getting heavy though. The lids dropping like a shutter to a store closing for the night.

She took a right turn down a road she knew was wrong almost instantly. The silent highway tarmac gave way to a rough dirt track which snaked around the cactus and mounds of earth. She stopped suddenly, releasing she had gone wrong and put the car in reverse when he spotted some dim lights up ahead. They weren’t moving, and she guessed they were pulled to the side of the road. What a shitty place to break down she thought and put the car into gear and drove slowly up to where the other one was parked.

She pulled alongside the car, which she noticed too was the same model as her own. At least she might be able to help fix it, her own car had given her quite a few problems over the years, and she always carried a spare of everything. The sun had disappeared over the horizon now with the slither of light hanging on to the blue black sky. Though the lights were on, she couldn’t see anyone at first.

“Hello?” She called out, though the open window of her car.

It was then she appeared.

She floated as if on a sea of crimson, her red dress puncturing the sandy track like blood slashed across flesh. She came from the bushes, her hair immaculate with a faraway look in her eye. Jessie was a little taken aback, but she called out again; assuming she had not heard her as she had not replied.

“Hello, do you need some help.”

The woman smiled and carried on over to her car where she knelt on the wound down window.

“Hey. What’s up?” She said, as if meeting on old friend.

Jessie looked at her through the dying light of the day, framed in her car’s window pain. She was everything she had wanted to be once. She looked immaculate, like she was stepping out onto the town. She wore a confidence that married her friendliness well, the two playing out for the audience of anyone.

“Do you need help, is your car broken down?” Jessie asked, smiling encouragingly.

“That piece of shit? It’s old, but it’s working.” The woman replied, giving Jessie the once over.
“Oh, I thought you might be in some sort of trouble?” Jessie asked, making it a question.

“Trouble?” the woman asked curiously, and laughed a little. And with that she turned around and walked back to her car.

Jessie watched her, momentarily unsure of what to do. She then suddenly felt the urge to get out of her own car. She unbuckled her seatbelt and climbed out of her dusty machine which whirled and deflated after the long hot day.

“What’s your name?” The woman asked her, as if beckoning her over. Jessie made her way over to the car, the same colour as her own yet caked in dirt as if it had emerged up out of the sand.

“Jessie, how about you?” She replied. The woman had jumped up onto the bonnet now, sitting upon it like a kid.

“Where you heading?” she replied, avoiding the question. Though Jessie didn’t feel any danger, she didn’t want to tell anyone where she was headed. She knew once the world knew, it would throw up things to pull her back. Back to the life she never had wanted to live from the start.

“A long way away. Listen, if you do need any help, I’m happy to assist.” Jessie said, listening to the desert around them open to the twilight.

“You running away?” She asked suddenly.

“No.” Jessie replied defiantly. She saw something then flash in front of the woman’s eyes. The same defiance that twisted and churned in her own belly. “No. I’m making some changes for the better is all.” She added.

“What’s so bad that you’re leaving behind?” She asked.

“Urm…listen, if you don’t mind. I need to get going. So if you do need any help, please say.” Jessie said, politely but firmly. She was always one to go along with what people said and wanted, but she was indeed trying to make some changes in her life and now was a good time as any.

The woman cast her eyes down to the ground, while she toyed with the sunglasses she had in hand. As if finding what she was looking for there, she looked up at Jessie.

“Is it Jack?” The woman asked suddenly. Flaring her eyes. Jessie glared at her, not sure of what was happening.

“What?” she asked, a slither of understanding falling down from the sky.

“Or is it slowly seeing the dream you dreamt back when you were only twelve, wither and die like everything out here. Cooked and charred in the sun until it blows away into time?” She said.

Jessie stared at her, sensing something familiar. She looked at the car, the licence plate covered up in dust and dirt. She looked quickly into the passenger seat, spotting a duffle bag and vanity case.

Suddenly the woman jumped off of the bonnet and came towards her, grabbing her face and kissing her quickly on the mouth. Jessie couldn’t help it, but she closed her eyes; tasting the watermelon lips and feeling the hazy intensity. She pulled her in close, cocooning her away from the world in a moment where all made sense to her. Her mind flashed back to her old house, the smell of takeaways and the cheap cologne.

They parted as suddenly as they begun, Jessie knew then what she needed to do. She dropped to the floor and grabbed the largest stone she could find. Picking it up, she launched it over and over again into the woman’s skull, battering her down into a scarlet pulp that matched the inappropriate dress she was wearing. She threw the rock off into the buses near to where the other car was parked and then returned to her own. Her hands were shaking, and blood smeared onto the steering wheel as she turned it around and sped off back towards the main road. As she glanced in her rear-view mirror, she noticed the headlights of the other car had faded, snubbed out like the life of the woman who now lay in the dirt, beaten and crumpled and gone from this world.

When Jessie got to the main road, she turned right, accelerating hard into the direction she had been heading before.

After a few miles, the blood on the steering wheel had faded away and her breathing had now returned to normal. She reached over to her own small bag she had on the front seat and took out her lipstick. She smeared the scarlet shade across her lips, puckering in the mirror as she sped off into the night. Determined more than ever to get away, and to get to the place she had planned to in her dreams for years. Not looking back once.

Nuclear shadows

I cannot unwind the clock in my skull.
The ticking over time that set all the world ablaze.
Who knew the day, when the sky darkened.
And fate eclipsed my heart.
Those running for cover.
Scattering like pebbles on a beach.
Lapped by a sea of hatred.
I cling to the groceries in my hand.
Fruit, dehumidified in my grasp.
Turning into mummies like the bodies nearby.
Burnt in an undignified splendour.
What escaped hell that day?
Let loose by righteous souls who knew better.
A holy war into the mouth of the devil.
As the fire crinkled in the sky, it burnt down upon us.
Imprinting my soul into the pavement where I stood.
Nuclear shadows, snapped like the sun shuttering.
God, turning his head away and closing his eyes.
The light of an age, swimming around those that twinkled inside.
But how soon those lights were gone.

A linguistic form that can meaningfully be spoken in isolation

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Thank you, and to those who have bought any of my works in the past; I hope you enjoyed them and I appreciate your interest. I don’t take any of this for granted. There’s more coming very soon, so watch this space.

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Oh Deer

She lived her life in seclusion.
Away from the world beyond.
Lost in a forestry delusion.
In a time that’s long since gone.
With a wounded heart and stolen child.
She fed and ran with her kind.
Hunted for her meat so mild.
Life and death so intertwined.
Despite it all, she raised her young.
On her own and with no other.
Help from a male, and though it stung.
She did her best to be a good mother.
A quiet creature, rarely seen.
Yet magical to the eye.
Fur so soft, and eyes of green.
T’was a shame she had to die.
On that snowy day, when the men with guns.
Were hunting, and being hunted.
And other beasts were forced to run.
Two worlds collide, and then were shunted.
For a wolf you see is not so aware.
Or prone to live in fear.
And this is why, she fell and died.
Trampled to death by the startled deer.

Wreckage – Adjustment 1.5

You lost her, a time and a heartache ago.
Spirited into the heavens on a cloud of confusion.
Murdering the future with the finality of death.
To see her now, to touch her face.
To slip inside the soul for a minute and see the life that could’ve been led.
A cosmic re-shuffling.
A kiss from heaven.
Leaves turning brown in an instant.
Evaporated away to leave only space and tears.
That fall from your eyes in a time she never knew.
From a person she no longer knows.
Sweet bitterness, loving and leaving the things that hurt.
Yet offer more love than an ocean of time.
Et vous tombez loin de mes épaules dans l’ombre et la poussière.

Thumbing the pages

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With the release of my new book ‘Impermanence of things’, my other novels are free this weekend on Amazon all around the globe; so feel free to download, and hopefully, enjoy.

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For more info on them, follow the birds.

 

Those who have already acquired the words of wonder, first of all thank you. If you would be so kind to leave a review to guide or warn others, it would be greatly appreciated.

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Keep it together (Extract)

Taken from the novel ‘Keep it together’. Follow the peacocks…..

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Geluk (Fortune)

Despite what you may read or be told by some, the truth is, we all expect something in life. Fundamentals such as good health, family or even a nice home; we are always searching for what we believe to be ours. Digging in the dirt for diamonds we’ve been told are there. Few of us ever really see that expectations lead to disappointments. Many more of us search for riches and rewards that are never really ours, or are even obtainable. Money, it is said, is the route to all evil and yet its influences have corrupted many a heart, strong and weak alike over the space of time. Golden paths of good intentions. It is not only openly intoxicating and hypnotic, but maintains a more insidious nature, that of which; like a frost that settles while you sleep, lays itself down within the hearts and minds of those honest souls that are so busy surviving. If money then was the sole reason for the tragedies that afflict the wealthy, if not complicated, Van-Black family on a sweltering hot weekend in July 1977, then it would be all too easy to see the reasons for the events that took place, and perhaps easier to sympathise if your moral compass is set to that degree. However, as with many stories, this is not the simple black and white of it all, and money; although forever the Devil’s dally, plays only a slight role in all this treachery. As it may just be the whisper in the ear of a malign-able heart, or the tiny drop of poison in the cocktail of life. For someone once said ‘The less we deserve good fortune, the more we hope for it’.

It was a series of events that led to that dark sweltering, yet stormy weekend. Seeds that were sown years before the Independence Day flags were stuck up in store windows welcoming the two hundred and one years of freedom. As if a twist in the fabric of fate, an independence of their own had begun, borne out of a revolution of complacency. Wheels in motion that start, not at the beginning, but in a good place nevertheless to watch it all unfold. It begins with three invitations on their way, to three different couples who live in the greater Boston area in a place called Rosemount.

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Rosemount

Rosemount Heights would never be known as anything other than a snobby neighbourhood, and some would argue it had every right to be. Of course these would be the same people who inhabited this affluent area of Boston. The apartments and houses were a little less imposing than many other grandiose dwellings that occupy money driven cities in America. Nor could they claim to be of any particular architectural interest, indeed some have suggested many of the properties should be condemned due to their crumbling facades and foundations lodged so far in the past, the slightest disturbance could bring the whole lot crashing down. However, the lawns were always manicured upon much scrutiny, the dogs walked were always cleaned up after; and the rambling nature of the older properties were accepted due to the wealth they concealed. For you see, to obtain an address in Rosemount heights was not only a status of money, but also that of social standing and in a city where that meant everything; this was coveted most ferociously. It was the week before Independence Day weekend, and all along the tree lined avenues of The Heights, as was commonly deferred by the locals; people were smartening their already immaculate properties as if Washington himself were to trundle down the leafy streets. The flags never looked crisper in the sun which burned down as one of the hottest summers of the past few years, cooking everything and everyone to a summer bronze.

Brahmin court was an oasis address to the well-travelled feet of the local mail man. At some point in recent history, planning officials were able to somehow, and illicitly no doubt, put through plans of an apartment complex situated within the realms of the wealthy estates. This led to a short lived venture of a few other apartments being built within Rosemount heights, though small in scale than to more centralised neighbourhoods. This phase quickly passed, and the apartment blocks that were built were forced to conform to the strict, somewhat militant, upkeep of their surroundings. Brahmin court served as an opportunity for each mail man to offload a greater number of letters in one go, and without the stretching driveways of the surrounding properties, was much preferred. It was true that a surge in patriotic spirit had seized many of the locals recently, and in these summer days of scorching weather; it was not unknown for a mailman to be offered refreshments such as lemonade or iced-tea by the occupants of the many houses they delivered to. There was also a chance to gossip about gasoline prices and plans for Independence festivities. However, this was not to be the case in Brahmin court, where you were more likely to be commented on your poor attire and lateness of delivery than you were about the weather.

This was true on Monday the 27th June, 1977 when Christine Mason accosted the mail man outside her apartment, who it seems was delivering her a letter in a manner most disagreeable to her.

‘’What time do you call this?’’ She exclaimed, exploding from the entrance of her building to the man clearly fatigued from the hot sun. She wore a large grey cardigan that she kept taught around her with one hand, while the other gestured hysterically.

‘’Sorry mam’?’’ he enquired.

‘’It’s eleven O’ five…’’ she informed him, not bothering to ask him again ‘’…and I’ve been waiting for my mail since at least ten this morning. Which is when you usually deliver it by.’’ She held out her hand expectantly for the large bundle of mail she saw he had ready to deliver at the apartment building. The hot sun was reflecting off the windows and the glare was getting in his eyes, yet the scornful look upon her face could not mistake her mood or impatience.

‘’I’m terribly sorry mam’, we were late getting the delivery this morning which led to a delayed start.’’ He explained, somewhat affronted by her attitude, but nevertheless holding on to his professionalism.

‘’Always a reason isn’t there, the man last week was late delivering too and he came up with some bull-shit excuse to me then; and I see you’re no different.’’ With that, she snatched the letters from his hands before he had time to hand them over or offer an expanded apology.

‘’Again, I’m sorry mammmm’.’’ He said, letting the last word drag out and hang in the air to imply that he thought her anything but. She turned on her heals and marched up back to her apartment. As he departed, he smiled to himself knowing she had grabbed the entire complex’s mail.

Back inside her air conditioned apartment Christine Mason caught a look at herself in the mirror as she entered the hallway. A thirty year woman stared back, yet she did not look her age. Sunken eyes on a small bird like face reflected back. Her dark auburn hair, her mother’s only inherited physical trait, hung loosely and lifeless down past her shoulders. She had become more and more pale recently, as if in an effort to sub-consciously fight the sunshine. She deeply welcomed a paler complexion, a sign of a more aristocratic lineage. This she needn’t have accentuated, having come from perhaps the most well to do stock in the area, and now this waning merely heightened her contempt for the outside world. She would never be a towering imposing figure like her mother, she had stopped growing by the time she was seventeen and fate had concluded she would have to suffice at just over five foot. Her best feature, as she believed it, were her high cheek bones which to some gave the impression of a small sparrow. She thought this defined her and hoped it would help distinguish herself more from the working class. That’s not to say she despised any class, least of all her own which she felt firmly planted in. Christine had a very specific outlook on life, her life, and all the little universes that spiralled freely within it. All under her jurisdiction. At least as she believed them to be.

She was a snob, she was first to admit it, however she did not hold disdain for any class like many of her ilk. Indeed her family in general had a somewhat malleable nature in regards to social environments. When she was younger, she remembered running down the great stairs that dominated her house at boarding school. She hated the creaky giant stairs which were arduous on her bones, and was always in a rush to get down or up them. This particular decent she was running a bit too fast and tripped, tumbling to the bottom like a twig from a tree. Her fall resulted in a broken ankle followed by a period in bed and a cast adorning her left foot. In her decline, she had knocked one of the cleaners with her, causing the fifty year old soul to topple to the foot of the stairs with her. She can still remember yelling to the nurse, who appeared in much haste, to treat the older lady first whose injuries matched her own. She may be rich, but she was much younger; and in her mind should wait her turn. This was the conflict ever present with Christine. What is right is how it should be. True though, some of her thought processes weren’t politically correct, she was a paradox of right and wrong that only her cat like mind could ever untangled. She was also outspoken, perhaps a result of her stunted frame, and she believed in telling people what was wrong with them. She was just as likely to yell at the mail man for being late, as to the Mayor of the city for increasing taxes for those of higher incomes.

Some people who knew her could be known to have said that with the birth of her son Anderson, Christine softened somewhat. These were few however. It was more like that of a snake shedding its skin that the transformation of Christine occurred, if at all it did. It was more believable that she channelled her efforts into her son’s future, care and wellbeing. There was an order to her world and everything had its right place. If you were a bank teller, do you job and do it right. If you’re running for election, then the best candidate, and preferably a Republican, should win. If you were a husband, better yet her husband, you should be able to support her and their son to the best of you masculine abilities. Or so help you……

Victor had been sleeping when he heard the front door go, shaking him from his convalescent slumber. For weeks he had stared blankly at the same four walls in the bedroom of their apartment. That was not to say he was bed bound, but that his cast on his foot did not offer much in the way of mobility. Victor was tall and lean, he wore thin spectacles which rubbed into his nose, and could often be seen taking them off to rub the bridge which was usually red. Though well-educated and with an extensive vocabulary, he was very down to earth and spoke very friendly and warmly most of the time. This morning his short black hair was sticking up on top of his head and he hadn’t yet shaved.   He had not heard any of yelling outside from the kitchen, and was just in the process of making some coffee, tightening his dressing gown’s belt around himself, when Christine’s post-mail man fury swept back into the apartment.

“Can you believe it, over an hour late today.” she proclaimed spotting the coffee bubbling away. “Thanks, I’d love a cup.” she said. She went over to her husband and kissed him on the cheek, dumping the letters on the table as she went.

“Well it is holiday weekend coming up, maybe they’re short staffed down at the depot? Or in the holiday mood already!” he replied. She glared at him.

“Really, I couldn’t give a fuck if they are short staffed. People expect their mail on time! And especially today, I need that letter as soon as possible Victor, it needs to be returned by the first of the month.” She sat down as he poured her some coffee and she started to sift through the mail.

“You had any breakfast yet?” he asked her, looking up at the clock which hung on the wall. It was nestled between two water colours of terrier dogs Christine had painted last year; that he had never mentioned, but didn’t care for.

“I should think so, it’s gone eleven. We can’t all lounge around in bed all day.” She saw his face fall and added quickly “…no, I’ve been up since eight going over the application. I had some cereal when I woke.” She now looked at the clock on the wall. “How’s your leg today?” She knew it would be the same as yesterday, but she asked anyway. What was affecting him more recently were the headaches that usual came on in the afternoons.

‘”It’s much better today, the cast is itching less. I think the itchy feet have become more metaphoric than literal now.” he said, sipping his coffee from the patterned bone china his wife had so carefully chosen before their wedding.

“I know it must be frustrating, but it will be off soon enough.” she replied. She knew he longed to be busy, his work kept him in his element and this self-induced seclusion, under the surface; must be driving him mad.

“But at least you’re getting to spend more time with me and Anderson.” she said. As if hearing his name, in walked their son, his mouth full of croissant of the chocolate variety, patches of it sticking to the swing door of the kitchen from his mucky hands. “Anderson honey, is that the extent of your breakfast? I thought I set out a bowl of oatmeal for you?” Christine chimed, fixing the parting of his blonde hair which always fell in front of his eyes. It wasn’t that Anderson was a bad child, he listened to what was told to him most of the time and he kept himself out of trouble like most children try to do in the back of their minds. He followed instructions well and showed definite signs of intelligence for his age. He did however possess a quality that was only apparent to an outsider. It would have to be said there was definitely something about him, and not something to shout about. His parents, some-what stricken with rose coloured glasses, would indeed state that the boy had been cast out of perfection and that he could achieve anything he wished to.

True, this was smart advice; but in this particular case somewhat misguided. It was like saying a haunted house will be interesting in that Anderson was unusual. For a child his age, Anderson was a little too quiet sometimes, not in a withdrawn self-deprecating fashion, but more of an eternal studying way. He was like the underground trains that ran through the night, ferrying the more peculiar passengers with more sinister deeds. Before he had time to answer she had spotted his empty bowl by the sink and moved towards it to wash it up. Victor stood surveying the kitchen, sipping further on his coffee. As she talked he watched his wife, and then to his son; although pained by his recent predicament he had to agree with Christine, that he had the opportunity here to spend more time with those important to him. He moved towards Anderson and ruffled his recently tidied hair while Christine lamented further on the state of the mail service and the country.

After tidying up in the breakfast things, Christine re-attacked the mail while Victor took Anderson to clear the chocolate stains from his face. She made a separate pile for the other people on her floor whose mail she had taken by mistake. She would dispense herself later, as for now she wanted that letter that was her reason for going out in the first place. It was perhaps this letter that was the reason for outburst to the mailman shortly before. Though she spoke her mind nearly all the time, Christine usually handled herself better, clearly her frustration waiting had gotten the better of her. So much rode on this particular letter. They were in the process of getting Anderson into St. Mansfield School whose elementary education was second to none. It was expensive too, and had waiting lists as long as it’s tuition bills. However, Christine had decided that it was the best, and the best was what Anderson would have. She had filled in the first part of the application they had received when they had first been to visit the school back in May. Set in extensive grounds, it was a boarding school which began as early as the elementary level. She would not be sending him to board, but the education system offered at St. Mansfield was renowned to turn out notables of many of the prestigious Bostonians; despite many of them having I high dependency on drugs; a fact Christine seemed to overlook.  She came upon an envelope addressed to her and her husband, which made her stop thinking about the school letter entirely. An ivory envelope which on the reverse bore a family seal she recognised almost immediately.

Two peacocks, whose heads intertwined were set in the centre of the seal. She knew them to be white peacocks, she had seen the symbol a thousand times before, but embossed on the ivory envelope here, they were just birds, bleached of distinction. Below them they rested upon giant jewels. Above the peacocks were the words ‘Hvem har set en påfugl dans i skoven’. It was her family crest, which she had always hated. The words meant ‘Who sees a peacock dance in the woods’. It had always been obscure and strange to her. Her family, the Van-Blacks, were descended from Dutch immigrants who had come to America around the turbulent time of the civil war. They had been involved in shipping and had investments in the Dutch-India trading company. As such, generations of her family had been influenced by the exotic offerings of the east and had been prominent in the spice and trade routes from the Netherlands to India, trading in gems, tea, opium and minerals. When they came to America, they moved into the mining industry and built up a business in what they considered to be what they already knew about. Her family owned many mining centres in the Appalachian which were once, and continued to be, very profitable for her family. Their considerable fortune lay under the ground, as she liked to think of it. Securely tucked away in places that required digging to get to.

She was reluctant at first to open the letter, seeing the family crest which had crashed into her Monday morning. Her connections with her family had become so tangled and so chaotic, and she hated anything that led to drama and messiness. What she really disliked was not being in control, and that is what her family constantly made her, impotent. She hated them for that. With fresh annoyance she slit open the letter with a letter opener that had once been her father’s. Unfolding the card within she found it was an invitation of sorts. Inside there was also hand a written note.

In honour of the birth of our great United States, we request the company of
___Christine & Victor Mason____
in celebrating Independence weekend at our home: Nova-Manor.
Please arrive on Friday the 1st July at 7pm.

We hope to see you then. Yours Sincerely
Mr & Mrs Van-Black

She read the accompanying note, done in a much less formal hand:

Darling, I do hope you and the family are well. Your father has some news which he wishes to share with you all. This is very important for him, and hopes you will attend. I know things may not be perfect with all of us, but these are the steps he is taking to hopefully resolve them. Please come, if not because of your father, but for me.

Yours, Mother

She re-read it, just to be sure. Such mixed emotions began to swirl around within her. The one thing that leapt out immediately was the absence of any invitation to include Anderson. What could the news be? She wondered just as Victor came back into the kitchen. ‘

’Clean as a whistle.’’ he said, motioning to a much cleaner version of their son she had seen moments ago. ‘’Honey, what’s wrong?’’ he asked, noticing the change in her. He looked at his wife, then at the letter in her hand. ‘’Is it from the school’’. She snapped back suddenly to where she was, having drifted away into her thoughts momentarily.

‘’Huh? No no, it’s not the school.’’ She said. The school she thought, it had been pushed out of her head. She smiled at him, she didn’t know why but she decided not to mention the invite to Victor just yet. She would soon, she actually wanted his opinion on the subject, but for now she wanted to let the information settle a bit. She sifted through the rest of the mail and came across the letter she had originally been waiting for. Victor began tidying things up in the kitchen and Anderson had gone to play in the other room. All was in order with the application and she went about filling in the form that had arrived, rounding it off with a photo of Anderson she’d had especially taken for the occasion. ‘’There!’’ she said aloud. After getting changed and kissing Victor and her son goodbye, she left her apartment announcing she was off to the post office to see the letter off securely and promptly. True to her word, she made sure the other mail for their apartment block found their rightful homes.

As she walked down the block her thoughts travelled, surprisingly not to the future she was hopefully securing for her son, but to her other family. It had been a long time since she had seen them and years since they’d all been together. That isn’t to say they had no contact. Her mother never forgot to send Anderson birthday and Christmas cards along with gifts, dutifully signed from both her parents. Yet ever since she was married, she had all but cut ties with her father. Odd really she thought in hindsight, it was always her father whom she’d gotten on with better with. She crossed the street to avoid the man walking his dog, and looked up to the sky. This weather was quite insufferable, but she couldn’t abide driving in this heat. She walked on further, stopping only once to admire the view at the top of Peabody road, which looked out over to the harbour where she could see Nahant Bay sprawling out into the ocean. She continued to think about her family. Her father was now, what; fifty seven years old, and the last conversation they had had was at Anderson’s christening.

If she’d had it her way, she never would have invited them. But, for the sake of show and society, she could not have excluded them from their own, and only, grandchild’s christening. After she’d been married to Victor, her father had warned her about their match. It’s not that he didn’t approve of her getting married, under any other circumstances he would have welcomed it. He just detested Victor, which had always struck her as odd, as being objective, she could comfortably say Victor was very agreeable. They were just too different to ever get on or see eye to eye, that was the problem. Victor came from old money as well, but he was definitely a forward thinker and felt the new wave of women’s liberation was a good thing. Her father viewed the marriage as more of an ‘offloading’, or so it seemed to her. He made it clear then his views on inheritance, and seeing as Victor was from a well to do background, he removed any financial responsibilities from himself.

To Christine, this was justly unfair. Why should she not be entitled to anything just because she now had a husband? She had concluded that she had been the model child, never causing stirs or headlines like other society girls her age had. And they had frequently, the stories she would hear at school! She had been educated in boarding school, and although excelled in her classes, never pursued a career or entry into college. Instead she set about to be married and to raise a family. Her father, Milton Van-Black, was known to be a ‘man’s man’ and upheld, what she thought, were sexist notions about the roles of men and woman. As she had found herself a husband, and despite being the first child, he had resolved that the company and vast inheritance would now fall to her brother Jacob who, at only four years her junior, was the youngest of the family.

She clenched her teeth as she thought all this over again. It had been awhile since the original issue with her family had come up, as over the years more benign issues had taken precedence. She had married Victor nonetheless, and done a pretty good job up to now she thought in regards to marriage and motherhood. So, she had decided to play him at his own game, and when she fell pregnant she practically willed herself to have a boy. Anderson was born just under a year after they had wed in 1973. If her father was so worried about the male line, then his grandchild, his grandson would have to be due some claim to the estate or company. To an outsider it may seem calculated and materialistic, but to Christine, she merely felt this was what was due to her. She had been shipped off to boarding school at a young age and did everything she could toe the family line. So, when she learned at her son’s christening that her father had no plans to make allowance for Anderson, she snapped and disassociated herself from them all. Her mother had tried to quell the situation, saying who knows what was to happen in the future, and she was sure there would be something for everyone when the sad day of her husband’s passing came.

She had privately told Christine she would see to it that the will would include her, though she would have to let go of any notions of control in the family business. It had been a tangled and gruelling situation. Anderson now only knew of his grandparents through cards and presents. They were always signed from them both, but she knew it was her mother’s way of trying to smooth things over.  Her relationship with her brother was strained anyway, due to his stance of inheriting the money. Which he naturally did not have a problem with. He did have his own reservations, though Christine was unaware of these. Her father justified this all by the same reason for her own oversight.

‘’I’ve told you, you and Victor have enough money. For god’s sake he’s due to inherit half of fucking Massachusetts when his father rolls into the grave.’’ She vividly remembers her father saying, not far out of reach of the reverend’s ear. She hadn’t told her family of Victor’s own family troubles which could lead to his own disinheritance. One storm at a time.

So, she figured she could not rely on her family to help her out and had set about making Anderson have the best of everything she could provide. When the cards and presents came pouring in at birthdays and Christmas, from his grandparents, aunt and uncle who never did forget, she did not lie to him. However, she said that they were from his family, for reasons that will become apparent as he gets older, that they no longer saw regularly. This line had been upheld now for going on nearly four years, as his fourth birthday was coming up in September. Victor it seemed shared his wife’s beliefs as he did not challenge this approach to their son. He had no particular quarrel with any other member of her family, aside her father. He did keep a quiet uncertainty for her mother however, as she seemed to him to be snide and two faced, and he knew too the reasons why he and her father would never get along. There seemed to be a mutual loathing between them.

However, he did not openly fight with any of them. Which, in her own way Christine respected him for. Of course, the same could not be said for her, who refused to have anything to do with his sister after the comments she had made about Anderson on his first birthday.

She arrived at the post office with her family’s entanglements still spinning in her brain. She waited in line, nearly fifteen minutes while the elderly talked the ear off the poor man at the desk. When the letter was finally sorted, she popped into the Dunkin Doughnuts across the street to get a coffee and some doughnuts for them all. As she walked back, her thoughts now came upon the invitation that currently sat on her kitchen table. Sipping her coffee she wondered what the announcement that was mentioned could be. Maybe she thought, the old man had decided that he was getting on a bit now, and it was time to relent and share out some of the money he had hoarded away. Her family were rich, no denying it, but how rich was dependant on who you talked to. Her mother would always clam up when it came to talking about money, saying it was “your father’s concern’’. HA! She thought to herself, I bet it wasn’t just his concern when she was getting her foot in the door. Her mother and father had one of those strange arrangements where they’d had a somewhat arranged marriage, but then fallen in love with each other.

Her mother adored her father and tried desperately to keep the peace. Though there was more too it she thought. Her mother, as much as she had wanted the peace to be kept, and to be left out of the drama, was always right in the middle of anything that occurred, either as a go-between or final-sayer. She wore two faces, one of the merry little housewife, and the other of the power behind the throne. It was a foolish person who underestimated Veronica Van-Black she thought. She would tell Victor about the invite when she got back, and ask his opinion. She stopped along the way to pick up some fallen leaves that had dried in the sun, she would use these is one of her table decorations. When she got back the doughnuts were still warm in the bag.

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Grace & Josh

It had rained all morning, and a small stream of water now ran down the slope of the playground outside. Miss Carbine stole a look out of the darkened window from the warm classroom to see the water hammering down the pane. She sighed to herself, knowing they would have to have the lunch break inside today. Her class were currently in pairs, going through the text books that she had put out that morning. It wasn’t too big a class, and she was able to manage the five and six year olds reasonably well with her wispy ways and mild manners. They hadn’t yet lost the awe of having a teacher, a special entity there to bestow wonders to them; and many seemed to want to impress still, which she liked.

Grace had been reading her book with Josh, going through the story of Finders the dog and his adventure in the supermarket. She was a good reader, and was able to point out to Josh where she felt he was wrong. Josh was slow, and he didn’t much care for the stupid dog or why it was even in a supermarket. He’d only ever seen one dog there before himself, guiding a man around who couldn’t see. The dog buying cereal seemed dumb to him, and he lost interest quickly and began to pinch Grace as she tried to read. If they had spoken more about the story, Grace would have agreed with Josh. The anthropomorphic antics of Finders seemed stupid to her also, and she did question its applicability to their development, further wondering if Miss Carbine; who was busy checking her phone, had given them the correct course book that morning. But she persevered, and tried to ignore Josh as he pinched her, pushing him away and trying to finish the story for them both.

The rest of the class didn’t seem to have any problems with the book or Finders, indeed some seemed to be enjoying it. Before long though, they had all finished and it was time for lunch. As it would be indoors today, they were allowed to sit on the carpet and have their food. An indoors picnic Miss Carbine suggested, helping them retrieve their lunchboxes from the tidy trays and bags. Grace went to the hallway where her bag was, and retrieved a cup from the side also for some water. Josh had pushed passed her, knocking her into the wall as he attempted to put something down Amanda Hartly’s back. She scowled at him as she steadied herself, a small red mark appearing on her elbow where she’d banged into the wall.

With her lunch and water, Grace sat on the carpet and began to eat. She heard the rain outside their classroom, and watched it drip down the glass like a hose had been aimed at them. Her best friend Michael was not in today, and Miss Carbine had told them he was unwell. She looked at her teacher now, who was helping Robert with his lunchbox that wouldn’t open, missing Michael.

She started to tuck into her own sandwich when she felt water pouring all over her. She momentarily thought the windows had smashed open, the storm breaching the small stronghold their tiny school offered. Then the laughter rose about her, coming strong from behind. Josh stood there, with an empty jug in his hand having poured the contents all over her. His fat face sporting a smile that reached from one chubby cheek to the other.

“Oh, Josh Devonport what do you think you’re doing!” Miss Carbine yelled, stepping the short way across the carpet to where he stood.

“That’s horrible Josh. You’re so mean.” Amy Standhall said, who was sat next to Grace but had escaped the projectile of the water. Grace sat there, the water pooling in her dress as she sat crossed leg. Her sandwich now a sodden, and a cold chill slithered over her body.

“Get over there right now!” Miss Carbine said, ordering the boy away from where the others sat. Miss Carbine, lovely as though she was, was not really prepared for the antics of children. She had the priorities of the situation confused, and though she took action with Josh; she somewhat neglected Grace as she sat there with the water in her knickers and the fat boy laughing on the other side of the room. Amy got Grace to stand up and shake off the water, and she went with her to the bathroom to help her dry off. Grace watched Josh as she left the room, being reprimanded by Miss Carbine, though she doubted he really cared.

A while later Miss Carbine appeared in the bathroom and helped Grace dry off completely, asking her if she was okay and not to worry about her dress; or her lunch for that matter. She would see to it that some food would arrive.

But Grace was no longer hungry. She was wet, and cold and angry at being humiliated.

She returned to the classroom, where everyone had carried on with their lunches. Some of the kids had finished and were playing with the building blocks near the blackboard. Josh had been ordered to get some paper towels, and was mopping up the water that spilt on the floor where Grace had quietly sat waiting to eat her lunch. He smiled at her as she came back into the room.

Teddy Evans came up to her and asked if she was okay, she nodded in reply; thankful that all boys weren’t as horrid as Josh. Miss Carbine whisked herself away to go get Grace some food, despite her protest. While the others played, Grace went to the back of the class where the storage cupboard was. She opened the door quietly and went inside. The small cupboard was stacked high with boxes and games equipment. They weren’t really allowed to go in there on their own, but everything was stored safely and there was no real danger to anyone. Unless you were locked in with the light off perhaps. Grace found what she was looking for quickly, and a few minutes later, slipped out of the cupboard and approached Josh.

“That wasn’t very nice what you did you know.” She said to him, hoping to find remorse there in those brown eyes. Josh scoffed and pushed her away.

“Buzz off. You smell like a wet dog.” He said.

“Aren’t you even sorry for doing what you did?” she asked him, given him one more opportunity to apologise.

“I said buzz off!” He said again, pushing her hard.

Grace stepped back, he eyes burning a hole through him. Then she smiled and said.

“You know, with Miss Carbine away there’s nothing stopping us getting the footballs and tennis balls out of the cupboard and playing sports. Shame we didn’t get to go outside today, huh?” She said, innocently. She knew Josh wasn’t too stupid, but even at her young age she knew how to manipulate certain people. She had said the magic world too, football.

“Why me?” Josh asked, somewhat suspicious.

“Well, they’re on the high shelves aren’t, I can’t reach them.” Grace replied, hoping the seed would manifest in Josh’s stodgy brain.

“Right, outta the way then.” He said, reaching his own conclusion that the break time indoors was dull and kicking a ball around might just be a fun idea. Grace knew Miss Carbine would be returning any minute, but she watched as Josh went over to the cupboard where the sports equipment was and watched him go in.

It seemed that fate was eager to abet Grace that rainy Wednesday while the other kids played in the classroom, and Miss Carbine chatted absently with one of the other teachers by the school kitchen. Once Josh had entered the small cupboard, the sports boxes had tumbled and the lights had gone out; plunging the whole school into darkness. No doubt the storm had downed a power line miles away, knocking the electricity off and unleashing chaos upon the small primary school. But the skipping ropes had found their way around Josh neck in the tumble of the boxes, and when the power had sprang back to life Grace quietly flicked the switched outside the small cupboard which kicked in the extractor fan which resided within, left over from recent renovations when their classroom used to be part of the old bathrooms.

The ropes worked quickly around Josh, tightening hard around his fat little neck. He lifted slightly off his feet, as the light bulb above him blinked in and out, and the ropes choked him into regret.

Grace returned to the others, pretending to be scared by the lights, and the storm. Smiling to herself.

Revenge

In the dying light, and turning time.
When all around had slept.
She covered herself in turpentine.
And out the door she crept.
She made her way to the darkened wood.
Shivering in the snow.
And found the den, which outside she stood.
Waiting for the wolf to go.
Out to hunt and catch its prey.
To rip apart another creature.
And when saw the fur of grey.
She planned to add it another feature.
To its snarling mouth and matted fur.
Her knife she slid out from her pocket.
She pounced and ran in a hasty blur.
And plunged the blade into its socket.
The wolf snarled and snapped and howled in pain.
Pouring blood onto the woodland floor.
Yet struggle and fight were all in vein.
For to kill the beast earlier she had swore.
To do it that day, upon finding her child.
Taken last night while she slept.
The poor infant so small and ever so mild.
Eaten they’d said, so she’d wept.
And then formulated a plan, to go kill the beast.
While the others did little or fight.
And now it was done and the wolf was deceased.
She prayed to god and set herself alight.

 

Conjure

T’was all hallows eve, and the office was manic.
Like most Monday mornings, full of papers and panic.
Yet Sally was calm, as she sat at her desk.
Watching the world swamped in a buzzing work mess.
Her phone rang out, but she didn’t even blink.
She just watched Katie Brown make her way to the sink.
In the corner by the kettle and the coffee machine.
The only place spotless, and kept crystal clean.
And there Katie vomited, violently and quick.
Plastering the sink and the walls a sticky brown slick.
For minutes before Sally had made her a coffee.
The cheap kind they had there, all milky and frothy.
But with it she’d placed a special little treat.
A dose of rat poison, here own little sweet.
For Katie to have on that rainy bleak day.
When goblins and devils stalk about for new prey.
It may seem extreme to bump poor Katie off.
In a manner so gruesome in that sickly bloody cough.
That had thrown her now to the floor in dying gasps.
Clutching her throat, he last lingering clasp;
onto life there in that administration cocoon.
Her light snuffed out, bitterly too soon.
But don’t feel sorry for Ms Brown, or malice for Sally.
Who had caught Katie with her husband, alone in the alley.
Behind their house as he’d crept out to see her.
And not just one time, but for nearly a whole year.
For Sally had stumbled across this only recently.
And had conjured a plan to rid them both quite decently.
She watched Katie die right there on those tiles.
That were coffee stained and worn, she burst into smiles.
And wondered if her husband would act just the same.
When she poured bleach into his beer later,instead of down the drain.

Somebody else

‘You cannot say that’, he heard him say.
Late in the evening on that autumn day.
You do not know, and cannot see.
The way she acts and thinks of me.
He sighed in the mirror and captured a glance.
At the scene around him, and as if by chance.
The phone beside him, rang out in alarm.
So he put the gun down, and out stretched him arm.
‘Hello, it’s me’; he heard them whisper.
Down the line, in words much crisper;
than the vision before his eyes.
Which was strange and blurry, and full of lies.
The body lying there belonged to the voice.
Which then quite suddenly, gave him a choice;
‘Come with me Michael and leave this place’.
It cooed and called with maximum haste.
But just then a shadow entered.
Another spectre, in his life now centered.
And beckoned him with a bony finger.
Calling him hither, and as it lingered.
The voice down the line demanded the gun,
be picked up at once, so around he spun.
To face that image glaring back.
He fired three times, until all was black.
The voices had silenced, gone away forever.
That pulling thread, cut and sever.
From poor old Michael and his mental stage.
That had plagued him from an early age.
He was now adrift and finally free.
From somebody else, someone not me

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SHORT – ‘雨降って地固まる’ (PT IV–Sinister deeds)

Part IV – ‘Sinister deeds’
(Full story here)

Although the snow that fell made the town look beautiful, it was really an added torture for many. The freezing cold and blanket of toil left many desperate in Hirani. Enko was lucky, she hard worked her way up to be a popular geisha, earning a lot of money for her Okiya which took care of her. She was outgoing and a lot of fun to those who booked her services. Though many closer to her would say she was somewhat reckless, she was known for being eager to try new things and was usually where the most spirited events were in the town.

It wasn’t that she had a particular grudge against Tomoryō. She, like many, were really in awe of her and her beauty. They had studied together growing up, and had known one another for a long time; jumped through the same hoops and mastered the arts as two sisters might. But inside of Enko, there was always fresh seeds ready to sprout, and jealousy was one that was easily watered. It wasn’t just her beauty or success, or even the reverence Tomoryō received. It was that she had something that was far more lacking within Enko. Self-respect.

People called her a witch because Tomoryō didn’t do all the things that were asked of her, especially from men. She had bucked the system and carved her own living through being a Geisha, which she clearly found some happiness within. A circumstance really more than a calling. Enko had been thrust into this life, and though she messily navigated her way through with bad decisions, she was angry that she herself could not be as strong willed as Tomoryō.

To see Tomoryō brought down to everyone else’s level, would give Enko the satisfaction that being where she was, doing what she is told to do, is how it should be.

But it was more than that.

And it was more than that that she had suggested to Unoko. Did she really mean to have Tomoryō killed? Well, it would remove her completely, destroy the beacon of individuality that she had cultivated, which really had no place in the world of Geisha. There had not been much back and forth in her mind whether it was wrong to have Tomoryō murdered. Enko, reckless as ever, had launched to that conclusion by the time she had left Unoko’s. Guilt was not something Enko dwelled too much on, and it was a lot cleaner than merely teaching her a lesson. It was this sinister side within her that had grown when she was a child. Competing with the other children to have the best toys, the most attention. It was this side of her that had tricked the little girl when she was only five years old herself to go down the well near her childhood home, and to leave her there for two days. It was always there really, ready to spring to action like a crouching mantis. Enko could be a lot of fun, but she was also very conniving.

She had dispensed with the moral debate in her mind by the time she had reached the small house. Mindful of the time, as she did not want to be late for her appointment with the businessman, so she knocked hastily on the door. She had come to one of the more shabby areas of Hirani, with the small line houses squeezed up against one another like crooked teeth. Enko, in her Kimono looked out of place in the bleakness of her surroundings, like a lotus flower on a sea of mud. She knocked again sharply, louder this time until the door slid open. A small woman stood there, her eyes narrowed on a face that snarled back at her.

“You’re far from the garden little flower.” The older woman said. She held a pipe in her hand, and puffed the smoke towards Enko.

“Oh knock it off Madoka, and let me in.” Enko said, barging her way into the small entrance room. The room smelled of fish that was likely bubbling away on a stove nearby. But she didn’t plan to stay too long, so she endured it.

“What do you want?” Madoka asked her, looking her up and down.

“I want you to do what you’re best at.” Enko said, retrieving some money from the inside of her sleeve. She handed it over to her, mindful not to touch Madoka’s hands which were stained with black and ash from her pipe.

“And who’s the lucky soul this time? Some fisherman who couldn’t keep his mouth shut?” Madoka said, enjoying the moment. She liked to antagonise her. Her own defence against being bought by some silly geisha with more style than brains. But bought she was, for very specific services.

“Oh, someone you know pretty well. That’s only half of what you’ll get you see, the rest will come when the job is complete.” Enko said, wiping the smirk off her face. Madoka looked again at the money, realising now how much she’d been given.

“Who?” she said, faintly now with unease.

“Tomoryō.” Enko said, eager to see her eyes when she understood who it was.

“Keep it.” She said, throwing the money back towards her where it landed on the floor. Enko’s smile waivered slightly, she stared at the money now on the dirty floor. She nudge some of it with her foot, looking at the ground she said.

“You’ll do it Madoka, and you’ll do it quickly and quietly. Unless you want me to lead everyone to your other misdemeanours.” She said sweetly. Most people knew how much of unsavoury character Madoka was, it was not a huge secret that she was not to be trusted. But there were many things they didn’t know, things that were a lot more serious than petty theft; and Enko knew them, she knew all of them.

And Madoka knew she knew.

She lowered her eyes as if in shame, but it was merely to look again at the money on the floor. She bent down to pick it up.

“Any requests?” She said, putting the money in her pocket and puffing again on her pipe.

“Make it look like she did it herself, and do something about that pretty face of hers.” Enko said, turning around and kicking the money that lay on the floor. She slid the door open and disappeared off into the snow, a walking plum on a sea of white rice.

Madoka watched her depart up the road, cursing having let her in today, and fearing what she had to do.
 

Short – ‘雨降って地固まる’ (pt II – Arrival)

Part II – ‘The theatre has come to town’
(Full story here)

Hirani was used to the snow, and the coldness it brought. The cool air coming off the sea whistled through the town, hardening the people who called it home. But life was good there. People were friendly and looked out for one another. With much of the town’s income coming from fishing, there was a strong sense of community and mindfulness to help each another when they could. It was this sense of community that also encouraged superstition within the small town. If someone was sick, it was because someone had put a curse on them, someone who was jealous of their success. If there was a fire in town, or an accident of some sort, it was due to a traveller who’d been spotted lurking about with evil intent. As nice as the people of Hirani were, they had a tendency to not take on their own responsibility. Scapegoats were currency for the inhabitants there.

As many cleared their doorways of the snowfall from the previous evening, the town awoke to a beautiful scene. In the town square, a travelling Kabuki theatre had arrived under the cloak of darkness. Its colourful caravan had occupied much of the square, and was busy alerting the town of its presence; putting up posters and talking to the locals. They had yet to acquire a performing space for their shows, and the owner of the theatre was busy speaking to the officials to secure a premise. There was a surprised, though pleasant, feeling all around to discover the trope in their small town that morning. It usually came around in the dying months of the year, but for some reason, had returned early. Everyone enjoyed the shows, and many came from far and wide to see the performances. It would be a good time for Hirani, and its traders.

Enko was just as excited as anyone else when she learnt of the theatre. She’d left early that day for an appointment with a businessman who had returned to Hirani for the month. He was throwing a small gathering at his home just on the outskirts of town. She’d stopped to see her friend Unoko, to whom she was borrowing a Kimono from.

“Did you see?” she said, stepping into the house and sliding the door shut behind her. Her face was fresh in the snowing morning, her eyes alive with excitement.

“See what?” Unoko asked, taking Enko’s small umbrella.

“The theatre is back, they’ve arrived in the night.” She replied, taking off her geta sandals and sliding on the slippers before her before going through to main room.

“Why have they returned so soon, and not informed us!?” Unoko replied, concern across her face. The Kimono hung by the side, the beautiful white fabric flowing down to the floor like a snowy waterfall.

“Who cares, this will be great. And good business for us.” Enko said. Unoko looked worried though. She was known for her preparation, and did not like surprises.

“Is your kimono able to be salvaged?” Unoko asked her, cautiously. Enko’s eyebrows narrowed, the smile slipping momentarily.

“I just don’t believe what happened to it. It’s cleaned the same way each time. But now, Jiji said she can’t get the colour back, it’s ruined Unoko. And without it, I’m fucked.” She said, looking away.

“Well, we can share mine until we get you a new one, I’m happy to move some events around. No need for drama, it will work itself out. You could ask Tomoryō for one of hers, she has so many and some are just lovely!” Unoko replied. Poor Unoko, so sweet and naïve. Enko spun around to her, a fresh spirit in her face.

“She was there that night you know, the last time I wore it. I remember now seeing her in the Silent Storm.” Enko said, her words hurrying off her tongue.

“Lots of people were there, it was spring festival.” Unoko said, looking bemused.

“Yes, but she bumped into me as we were leaving. Do you not remember? I nearly dropped the blossoms I had. She’s cursed me, I just know it.” Enko said, now slightly animated.

“I don’t know. She’s always so nice Enko. I don’t believe she’s a witch like they say. I remember she helped me with my…” but she was cut off.

“It’s her Unoko, I just know it. I will go to Miyata later to get an omamori now, but we need to teach her a lesson too.” Enko said, her eyes filling with mischief.

“If it is her, is it wise to be messing around with her?” Unoko suggested, but it was lost on Enko now. Her mind was busy scheming. Which in a way was harmless, until she proposed;

“We should kill her.” Enko said suddenly, her face serious. It was true that Enko was a beautiful geisha, if not a lttle immature, but in that moment she looked quite horrid. Unoko couldn’t believe what she’d said, she looked to her windows noticing some were ajar.

“What!” she said, in disbelief, hurrying over to close the shutter.

“Kill her, well not really us. We’ll let some else do the messy bit. But we’re doing the right thing, for us and everyone. No one wants that witch putting curses and the like on everyone all the time!” she said.

“Enko, you’re crazy. No. I won’t be a part of this. You can borrow my Kimono, keep it if you like. I will sort another out, but this…this is madness.” She said, clearly distressed by the suggestion. Enko studied her for a moment, and turned towards the kimono.

“Okay. I was only joking you know.” She said, not looking at her friend. Unoko let the silence hang a little.

“Good, though I didn’t find it funny.” She replied. Enko turned and smiled.

“Oh Unoko, lighten up. I was fooling around. No, she’ll get what’s coming to her before long anyway.” She joked. Unoko still looked suspicious, but let it go.

“Do you have time for some tea?” She suggested.

“Of course.” She said, smiling. “I will take your offer of the Kimono though, I’ve always liked yours. She said, stroking the material tenderly, smiling to herself.

Masao watched as some of the scenery was inspected in the morning sun. Though made to be robust for its travelling nature, it was a practice to check all the scenery at each new stop. He smoked a cigarette as the huge screens were moved one by one and checked over He had driven in the night, and was tired, though he knew it would be a long day ahead preparing. He watched as one of the men moved a huge decorative mirror from the truck. He was dressed differently from the rest of the workers, only slightly, but Masao noticed. He noticed everything this man did, because he knew he should not be trusted.

They had picked him up a few towns ago, much as they had last year in this region. He remembered him, and was unhappy about his arrival again. He was a man for hire, good at carpentry and strong. The company needed men like him to move and repair the things that were in constant need of maintenance. It had been years since anything had been bought anew. The company were paid just enough to get by on, many of them doing the job for the love of Kabuki more than the wage. Masao was different, he was stuck. His father owned the theatre group, and he’d been working in it since her was a boy. As soon as his father died, Masao planned to quit; not caring at all for taking over the travelling circus. He’d had enough of moving around and performance egos.

He watched as the man inspected the mirror, polishing the glass slightly with a rag before moving away and heading off down one of the alleyways. Slipping away unnoticed. But Masao had noticed, and decided to follow him and see where his suspicious friend was headed.

Give a little, get a little

Today and tomorrow (27th & 28th), the following are free on Amazon:

Drifting in and out of sleep51j5Baft0DL._AC_US160_
Trying to remember where it all began, when I first started to feel this way. Is this real or am I still asleep? The hypnagogic state of uncertainty. Knowing the unfamiliar through the transitional magnitude of moments. Come with me, follow the path through snow covered lands into churches of splendour that play out a life steeped in love and lonely anger. Stay a while, and leave me where you find me; lying in bed and thinking of you, as I drift in and out of sleep…

Charting the spiral and ascension into something beyond, ‘Drifting in and out of sleep’ is a mix of stories and poems which bleed into one another over space, time and mortality. Starting in the snow covered forests of unknowing-ness, it traces the steps that mirror life; through emotional dependence, God, love and coming to the ever reaching self-absorption of space.

41UVbJC7ISL._AC_US160_Keep it Together 
The summer of 1977, in the middle of a blazing heat wave, the estranged children of the wealthy and eccentric Van-Blacks all gather at the infamous Nova-Manor to discuss recent family developments over Fourth of July weekend. Their father is dying, and now wishes to build some bridges with his children before he shuffles off the mortal coil. However, things begin to take an unusual twist with the arrival of Miss T., a Jamaican fortune teller who sweeps in under an air of mystery to perform a séance.

Secrets and truths slowly begin to be uncovered, helped along by the butler Mr Perkins, who knows more about the past then perhaps he should. Ghosts, storms and mysteries in the attic all explode over the holiday weekend along with the fireworks. With a body on their hands and new truths revealed, they are all forced to question whether they can live with the knowledge someone they love is a capable of murder. Independence comes at a price, and not everything is what it seems as they try to keep it together.

 

Remember, you don’t need a fiddly kindle; just the software that you can get for free here.

Also, any money from the sale of any of my books goes straight into the hands of the Room to read organisation. Doing good for everyone. Thank you.

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