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des
Posted on Monday, July 12, 2004 - 08:58 am:   

Anyone with a website interested in helping with the re-publication of Weirdmonger's 1500 stories here:
http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/
as I anticipate the various blogs becoming overloaded?

Here below is appropriate extract from my own site at:
http://www.nemonymous.com


ALL ON PLAIN WHITE - WITH NOTHING ADDED
Pleased to announce electronically republished stories and collaborations by Weirdmonger HERE and elsewhere - plus an overall CONTENTS list HERE

All these free sites will eventually culminate in a massive electronic collection. The stories will be selected from Weirdmonger's 1500 stories published in print between 1986-99. No stories from the 'Weirdmonger' book will be selected.

Anyone got any freespace for showing Weirdmonger work - so as to take the strain off these clogged blogs and thus be linked into the contents list: and forming the list's first section entitled Weirdmonger Wheel?

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Weirdmonger
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 11:08 am:   

Linked to and from the massive project at:
http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/
here on this thread will infrequently appear some of the shorter previously print-published work of Weirdmonger.

Today:

DARK OASIS by Weirdmonger

The garden possessed a single tree. Whilst not exactly a secret garden, its position off a beaten track ensured seclusion. Hamsita - a young receptionist - regularly took her lunch-break there, together with a few other in-the-knows such as Harry the office doorman and his heart-throb of the moment from Office Stores called Trudy. There were a few complete strangers now and again, but each of them only came once. Today was a particularly hot day in early May, with unbroken blue skies which the weatherman had promised to last as long as he could continue forecasting. Did the weatherman live in the clouds? So what did he do on cloudless days like this one? Hamsita was evidently in a frivolous mood today.

But her favorite seat in the garden was already occupied. She suddenly cringed at the possible nature of a stranger on her bench. Done up in heavier clothes than the temperature required, a man-shape at that. Very few women came here. Except Harry's sweethearts. She sat down upon the other bench, the one which Harry often used for his courting. No sign of him today. Trudy was off sick, Hamsita recalled. A lot of colds going round. A bit of a sniffle herself, in fact.

The sun was extremely bright, the tree's shadow like a giant ink-blotted spider soaking into the bottle-green turf. If it were not for the stranger, this lunch-break would be perfect. She placed the packed lunch on her lap, the pleated red skirt riding just above her knees. Women's legs were often prettier without nylons, but sometimes uglier like a furless animal's. Her legs were more pretty than ugly, she was certain. No sign yet of middle-aged ruckles - or proud violet veins. In any event, she was confident that her beauty was more than just skin deep. Her heart was in the right place, too.

The stranger was looking across the garden at Hamsita. Or his face was turned in her direction, but from this distance his eyes looked folded over. He was just someone enjoying the fabulous sunshine, having stumbled upon this garden whilst doodling a walk. It was peculiar, Hamsita thought, that her thoughts were so peculiar. She'll be thinking he's one of the weathermen, next.

This was not really a garden. There were hardly any flowers. Merely an expanse of greenery tucked away at the back of the town. Not a play area - just emptiness for its own sake and, of course, the single tree which a breeze was making wriggle. Ah, there's Harry. Today the sight of Harry was almost a relief. On his own, for once.

"Hello, Hammy. OK?"

"Yes, thanks, Harry. Trudy's off colour, I hear."

"Is she? Is she? I didn't know."

"Just a cold, I believe."

"Gets up your nose, don't it?" He laughed at his own joke as he sat next to Hamsita, seeing that her usual bench was occupied by the stranger. She opened her container: full of Marmite sandwiches and a Golden Delicious.

"Want one?" she asked.

"I wouldn't say no." But he couldn't say yes, either. His large hand took a sandwich which he munched loudly, whilst the stranger gesticulated to one of them. Harry blushed a brighter shade of sunburn, made a few garbled noises of excuse and departed the way he had come.

It would look like a storm if the sky were simply a darker blue all over. A perfect wall-to-wall ruler-edged deep blue cloud. She was relieved to see the stranger following Harry. Deep down somewhere, she never expected to see Harry again. Doormen were usually ex-servicemen, who needed some occupation to keep complete retirement at bay. Harry's time had come. He may as well have been killed in the war. She blew her nose and crunched the apple. The sun's angle had changed the tree's reflection in the grass, a blotch now like a disease of darkness, instead of a spider-stain. Hamsita saw, too, that her legs were mapped with black rivers as the sappy blood seeped too near the skin. Trudy was probably in bed with a tall dark shape at the moment. Then Hamsita's heart suddenly started throbbing at the onset of even stranger thoughts, just as the rain started splattering through the leaves of the tree.

Published 'Literatia Macabre' 1996






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Weirdmonger
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 05:31 am:   

Second short-short story below linked to the massive project here:
http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/

I do not intend to post these here too often, but I thought I would start with two (one yesterday, one today). Please feel free to interpolate your own comments - but I don't expect anyone necessarily to read this huge overall exercise in story posting or pay it any attention at all. It's more a 'happening' from the Sixties (during which era of time my artistic leanings were formed)!
;-)


TUGGING THE HEARTSTRINGS by Weirdmonger

Published 'Thingamajig' 1997


Being a court jester of the old school was not necessarily the happiest lot at the best of times. So, when the King - who had recently lost his dearest sweetheart to a Space Captain - wanted the jester to create laughter, well, faced with such absurdity the jester cried instead. But not easily defeated, he daubed his face with the brightest joy-paint his cosmetic palette could boast and - after a few finishing touches applied with the fine dyerís brush of a marmosetís tail to the upturns of his mouth - he careered into the throne room. Indeed, he pursued the foreplay of his own jingling body-ends, nose to feet, in yodelling cartwheels of self-imposed delight.

The jester stood stock still with shock.

The vast echoing chamber was up-ended, the throne itself tipped into the corner like so much disused baggage. The King sat astride a roasted haunch of meat, one that had been dislodged from the dining-table. The courtiers similarly squatted upon the tureens and platters, scrunching the food with their behinds, making the jester think of fools-on-broken-horses. The giant chandelier was hanging by a thread of flex and, gently turning with the planet's own imperceptible swing, it spread the misplaced scintilla of reflected starworlds upon the shimmering palace walls. A miniature rocket travelled the spice-routes of outer space, although it actually crept along the ceiling with a slug's glistening trail in its wake with toy people inside who thought themselves real.

The King's panoply of a play-pen was rent and riven. Dolls lolled along the skirting boards, tongues hanging out, with real tears on their china cheeks instead of make believe ones. Ranks of tin soldiers were in disarray, frozen in self-defeat. A quick-change artist of a jack-in-a-box had burst up its spinal spring in tatters of flesh, evidently too soon released from its trap. Abruptly, the chandelier crashed to the floor, thus putting the finishing touch to Disorder's reign. Jagged shards of glass homed in upon every toy rocket that threaded the cat's cradle of puppet-strings. And with no attempt at unnecessary complication, the jester abandoned the throne room to its own self-perpetuation of sorrow. There was to be no laughter in there today. Not even the jester's. Or especially not his.

In the palace garden, the coolness of the night air spared any blushes. The jester could barely hear the distant breakers, as a faint salt tang stirred his nostril hairs. He felt sad for probably the first time. He didn't even know if the King were dead - or whether the courtiers were dead too: a form of mass suicide in sympathy with the King's misadventures in love. And, if so, how had the jester alone survived the terrible tantrums of such a dreadful night. Perhaps, indeed, being a jester, he was immune. Sadness, it seemed, was to be his only punishment.

But, sadness, without him having experienced it before, was more than simple sadness. It flowed along the veins towards the heart upon freezing rapids, its leading edge sharpening into a bright red icicle. Yet was he really sad? Never having been sad, how was he to know he was indeed sad? The tears could be tears of laughter, as he began to woof like a stray dog.

He then called the word out loud: "Sadness!" And called it out several times - Sadness, Sadness, Sadness, Sadness, Sadness - until it sounded like a seaside resort with a private cove where he would one day find a sweetheart of his own.

Eventually, he picked up his long stilts from a secret corner of the palace garden and strutted among the black flower-beds. He was now so tall, he could even see realler rockets slip through space, shipping spice for trade, plumes of rosy flame playing at their rears, darting across the pitchy canvas of the night sky - burning the strings behind them that once held them up. He laughed at his own metaphysics. Yes, he was now so tall, he could even witness the marionette mechanics of the universe.

On one rocket must be the King's sweetheart. The jester wondered if she could see the jesterís own double-jointed contortions in the garden, from those Light Years away, teetering on his trusty stilts as he was. She would split her sides with laughter at his antics. He hoped, also, that she would be able to enjoy a romance with the Space Captain amid the stars - and that her own feelings of sadness at having abandoned the King would be eased by this sight of the King's own jester. A jester could make anyone laugh, even the love-lorn and the preoccupied. But his own puppet-strings soon snapped, crumpling him to the ground: a mess of flexing limbs, a victim of delight.


And the lovely star-cruise jilter knew that the unstilted jester loved her more than anyone could love her: but sadly to bear sadness for endless sands of time - Rachel Mildeyes (from THE ART OF ALTERNATIVE ENDINGS)


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Weirdmonger
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 07:22 am:   

A third short fiction linked to and from this massive project HERE.



SKIN-DEEP by Weirdmonger


Published ĎAtsatrohní 1993


Lisa tried ever so hard to keep the flat clean. She'd recently moved there, vowing to top and tail its residues every morning, but the road to Hell was surely paved with such intentions of Godliness. So, as the days ensued, small chores were gradually left undone, the devil's motes accumulated in the guise of common dust and grime grew unsightly as entropy encroached. Everything became a mildewy mountain that Lisa convinced herself was unscaleable.

Having barely quit the nest twig-twined by her mother, Lisa was hit hard: crockery with organic stains; bedroom ceiling crazing over with more and more cracks, whilst their patterns seemed unchanged from one day to the next; varieties of mould spanning the mineral, vegetable and animal surfaces of daily life - well, she even believed that her inability to cope would, sooner or later, cause the walls to collapse like a house of cards.

Daytime was easier, since she could escape into the streets, where she began relaxing, convinced that she wouldn't be held responsible for the city's deep-skinned fuckweed.

"Hey, lady, stick yer nose in that!" One of the food vendors shouted to her from a stall which he was clearing after a day's business. This was evidently his normal sales-cry for cut price bananas. He prodded his finger into a brown mushy pile on his trestle, and laughed his tongue out.

Lisa cold-shouldered him and continued towards the theatrical quarter, where she hoped to feel less like the interface between flesh and stone or between blood and gutter-swill. Everything was on show for what it was worth, whether good or ill, where personal responsibility and humanity's common savagery could walk hand in hand. Lisa laughed for the first time that day, as the ludicrous words which her thoughts employed came to mind. Yet her thoughts had false bottoms. She didn't even know she had such quake-lines in her mind.

Eventually, she'd've to leave the shimmering arcade and return 'home'. Night brought new ills to the city streets, from which even the flat seemed haven. She scrutinised the flashing lights, each coloured bulb being a constituent of a saying or a title or a message or dancing sequinned lady beckoning man to her embrace. Lisa shivered off a sob. She felt need of her mother's enfolding arms and bruised breasts upon which to rest a worried head.

A man accosted her. He had crept up to her ear like a stealthy cat and whispered sweet nothings in a foreign language. She did not appear to care, since here she was as anonymous as everybody else. Were a knife to be surreptitiously eased between rib-bones to carve an arc from her heart, she'd die in peace with a self she no longer recognised.

But she returned, she knew not how, to the street where her flat was to be found. She sensed her own personality slipping back into position between the ears, as she recalled with a shudder the unfinished washing-up, the dust-clogged hangings, the undarned trappings of her lost youth. Mother had died too soon, before Lisa had fully emerged from the eggshell that had been moulded around her by hen Aunts who could never countenance the way human beings tended to give birth. They'd thought Lisa too pure for those honking party-games in a brown butcher's shop...

Lisa's thoughts tailed off again, before she could grasp their meaning. The flat was opened with a key that grated in the lock. Not bothering to switch on the lights, she fumbled her way to the bedroom where, if she were lucky, she could collapse under the quilt without even seeing any of the dark rubble around her.

The bed sucked Lisa in even before she realised she'd reached its unmade mouth. The innards were in tatters: shredded by long toe-nails. Only Lisa's head remained outside, a sweetly pitiful expression fleeting across its features under cover of darkness.

The lower ends of her body were the first to become as one with the bed's thick-cut soup of animal, vegetable and mineral. Then, she heard street-callers, costermongers and a solitary cat's-meat man distantly selling their wares to those of us who only come out after dark.

Tomorrow, Lisa vowed to top and bottom the whole world.


END

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des
Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 09:15 am:   

I note last posting above was dated 7/22 at 7.22 a.m.
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Weirdmonger
Posted on Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 08:07 am:   

Fourth story linked to and from the massive project here:
http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/


BEYOND THE PARK by Weirdmonger


Published 'Dreams & Visions' 1991

That morning, they had been a nuclear family looking forward to Christmas, ordinary folk on the unpainted side of the canvas, unlikely ever to know that there are wonders beyond the grey realities which can alter all preconceptions and desires.

By dusk, the husband was off his spindle with the scarcely containable victory of delight.

By backing into the house, he found it easier to carry the huge Christmas present without it being seen by tiny prying eyes up on the dark landing of the stairs. He was literally beyond joy, since it was a dollís house to beat all dollís houses. His wife looked askance for she thought he must have spent a fortune on such a big present. However, when he had eventually lugged it into the dining room and carefully lowered it upon the table, using one bottom edge as a pivot, all her inhibitions were released. Gurgling at the back of her throat, she watched room after room revealed within the intricacies of the mighty mansion.

True, he had spent a fortune and a half, but whatís life, Molly, be said, if you cannot, once in a while, buy something special for someone even more special.

ďLook, Jimmy!Ē His wife pointed in childish excitement. ďIt has even got a tiny toilet complete with chain and hissing cistern!Ē She collapsed into a pile of giggles, pawing vigorously at her husbandís shoulder as if she wanted him to come to her rescue before she succumbed to complete breathlessness.

The rooms were perfect in every detail, with hot and cold running taps in every bedroom, lights with dimmer switches and TVs that actually seemed to broadcast something. Also, there appeared to be a cellar literally under the house, into which they could not see, but Jimmy managed to get his finger in and wiggled it about ... incredibly somewhere beyond the surface of the dining table upon which the house rested.

Molly felt her spine tingle, as she wondered if it could be anything to do with a conjurorís equipment. Her father had been killed in his Houdini act...

Slowly, with a flourish, Jimmy closed the front of the house which acted as a lid and just stared at his wife with merry sparkling eyes.

ďHow much did it cost?Ē

That was his cue line. ďI got it cheap, for what it is. You know the lady Iíve told you about who usually sits on the steps at the underground...she seemed to sense that I still had to get the one Christmas present which mattered. She took me to a shop I didnít know existed on the other side of the park. You remember, Molly, where we went for a walk once, that year you said the trees were slow to shed their leaves. Well, thereís a little square behind those alleys which you said seemed to lead in haywire directions. I thought that was a funny expression at the time. But not now. The squareís full of secondhand bookshops, antique dealers, curiosity shops, market crafts, a community of youthful-looking old people in granny glasses. It had been a grey day, but now it was sunny and unseasonably humid. Funny, felt as if it had always been Christmas in the square, for everyone was in a perpetual state of being highly strung, poised upon a pinnacle of emotions, eager for Christmas morning, ever tomorrow...Ē

His speech was reeled off like spinning cotton: an automatic process learned over centuries.

For his part, he did not realize that he had actually thought all those things; the description just seemed to come naturally, each word fitting into an old-fashioned jigsaw that would take several lifetimes to solve.

If it were not for the unarguable existence of the fantastic dollís house, his wife would have assumed he had fallen off his rocking horse. She grew quieter, more serious, as she herself tentatively opened the front lid with the merest squeak of the hinge. Nothing jumped out on a spring, as she feared.

All of the light fittings (except those on the landing) were now brightly sparkling with electricity. This, to the husbandís mind, was only right, as the darkness outside was already settling into the late afternoon.

It abruptly dawned on him that there were no doll figures inside the house to represent the inhabitants...unless they were all in the cellar! The dining table, notwithstanding this, was laden with all manner of soft-colored cakes, oozing at the edges with fruit jams and wild honey and coffee or chocolate cream; oval plates of sandwiches, evidently precisely cut to the demands of a set square, in which the fillings were so thinly spread it must be anchovy paste or marmite, though a few revealed the edges of manicured cucumber; a steaming tea urn (and he imagined he could scent its heady infusions in every corner of the room); bowls of tame strawberries and green ice, giving the whole array a splash of color that the rest lacked; and, finally, lace rice-paper crimped into flowered napkins arranged neatly by each place setting.

His wife was numbstruck as she was drawn with him into quite another world.

His voice was now lower than whispering. ďThe shops in that square had glowing windows chock-full of handmade toys. Strange, that made me think that Christmas was perhaps months away yet and theyíd just stocked up ready for the eventual rush of business. Competing feelings...I wondered why there were no shadows in the square, with the sun so low in the sky.Ē

Hardly without the husband and wife noticing, the handle on the dining-room door turned. At first, he was perturbed to see that the destined recipient of the dollís house had slipped from her cot and descended those long wooden hills far away over which sheíd been sent to spend the frightening hours...

Her pretty face was a white sheet, just like the giant tablecloth from which the man and woman fed their mouths with High Tea. The Magic Time of Twilight, when even conjurors are tricked.

ďMummy, mummy, I can feel something moving about in our cellar.Ē
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des
Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 10:11 am:   

For Small Press historians! Just posted my first 'TENTACLES ACROSS THE ATLANTIC' article from the now legendary DEATHREALM here:

http://guestbooks.pathfinder.gr/read/Weirdmonger

Is this a glimpse of the UK Small Press in those far-off days?
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Weirdmonger
Posted on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 05:47 am:   

Fifth story on this thread to be linked to and from the massive project here:
http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/


THE DEMON FALTERING by Weirdmonger

First Published 'Lost' 1991


The nursery curtains toyed with the cool draught.

"How do you cope?" asked one who was on the floor.

"The demon has to cope, not me," answered the other who rocked in her chair.

"The demon?"

"Yes, the demon. He takes the children under his wing and tells them that if they misbehave, he'll conjure himself up to make them behave."

The girl on the floor, the girl with the trip-switch questions made hardened cheeks with her tongue. The other replaced the smelling-salts phial inside her sloping blouse pocket.

Gradually falling quiet, one upright, the other slumped, they abandoned any further opportunities for conversation - not that there was much to say to each other in the first place. From outside, in the recently wettened street, the pointed echoes of high-heels enhanced loneliness with their clipping and return clopping.

One enjoyed the luxury of hesitation and began to dream without sleeping at all. The other yawned in her floor-bound slumber and saw a whip snaking like a fault on celluloid. It stung like ice fire. Breath was too deep to allow crying out. Even in pain, anguish could not be mimicked.

Only yesterday, the visit had again been enacted as if there was somebody actually there in the rocking-chair.

"Hello, Aunt. How are you today?"

"I'm fair to middling, fair to middling."

"How many children have you got to look after these days?"

"Seven, dear. Fourteen darling little eyes darting about the nursery like firefly wishes."

"How do you cope, Aunt?"

"Well, I've told them of a demon who'd come as soon as he hears mischief afoot. A demon with a long long tail..."

"Does that scare them?"

"I don't know, dear, but it really scares me."

"The children sound quiet tonight, Aunt. Almost too quiet to be true."

"Well, the demon's here now, organising games."

"What games? Can I join in and help?"

"You'll never find any of them when they're playing Hiding-Seek. Wait until you hear their voices again. It's as if they return from somewhere that's not real."

"Does the demon find them, Aunt?"

"No, the demon's the one that hides them."

"So, who finds them?"

"I'm the one supposed to seek. But I know all the time I'll never succeed. It's so much a waste of time, I fancy. Still, they do enjoy it. And it keeps them so very quiet."

"I remember when I was young enough to play such games, Aunt. But Hide-and-Seek always made us more noisy than when we weren't playing it."

"The demon was very shy about coming those days. You children had to be very bad before it plucked up enough anger to come."

"Wasn't I ever very bad?"

"Yes, I think you were, dear ... once."

"What did I do, Aunt?"

"You pretended to be a grown-up person, inviting your niece for tea, and sharing grown-up talk. It lasted all day and most of the night, till the demon came ... but are you comfy down there?"

The listening-shape on the floor wrapped itself round into a black pussy-cat flower, and did not answer, leaving the one called Aunt to continue: "Sometimes, one has to be cruel to be kind ... or kind to be cruel."

A long wiry arm was withdrawn from the Aunt's empty sleeve, having hesitated only a single moment.

#

Across night's fault-line, the clicking of heels eventually faded. The walker of the night - one who was a mere faltering stranger - naturally continued to be unaware of the pangs with which the nursery's concealing curtains coped.




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des
Posted on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 06:18 am:   

Sixth story on this thread to be linked to and from the massive project here:
http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/



DISQUIET by Weirdmonger

Published 'Dreams & Nightmares' 1994



"Be it with a careless whisper or a deliberate shout, I want you to tell me a secret. The sooner and the secreter the better."

Arthur had spoken and Gwenda replied: "If it's a secret, I ought not to shout it - nor whisper it, for that matter, in case you don't hear it properly."

They had done their utmost to ensure not being overheard by third parties - sitting, as they did, on a park bench, in the guise of a couple of conspiring spies, with a combined all-round vision of anybody approaching them. The nearest sign of human life was a trio of children some distance away playing a seemingly crazy game of hide-and-seek out in the open park, with not one hiding-place in easy reach. A little girl had her two palms tightly pressed against her eyes which, thought Arthur with uncharacteristic obliquity, gave the impression that she prayed to a flat God from an even flatter Earth. He laughed at the childish antics. The girl was counting numbers, no doubt - whilst the two older boys flattened themselves into the ground nearby, in the presumably bizarre hope that the grass-blades would conceal them.

Gwenda regained Arthur's attention: "Didn't you hear me?"

"Yes, yes, I heard you allright." He laughed at the paradox. "Say it how you like, it's all the same to me."

"I'm blind and I really only cared for one of those boys," said Gwenda, amid a tinge of tears, with only a slight nod towards audibility and the now empty park.

Two secrets for the price of one, thought Arthur, as he and Gwenda rose from the bench and separated - confused as to codes as well as requitals, but knowing that only the past had spies.






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des
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:30 am:   

Another free story by Weirdonymous - linked to and from:
Numinous Megazanthus



SPOOKING OUT

First published ĎThe Fractalí 1994

Father wandered through the gardens, bobbing his head under low-flung branches and sucking the heady scents of succulent blooms on crisp stalks. He could barely hear boomers on a distant beach. Having assumed the luxuriant feasts of floration through which he already threaded were mere back allotments of far greater feats of Mother Nature, he questioned how soon it would be before Fate took a hand and delivered him to golden dunes where sea and land merged.

Mother intended the family to spend most of the afternoon blackberrying. The sun felt like two suns with the power in it, and Tom was his brother's brother all right, the same map of wrinkles stitching their likenesses into cousins of dream-large prunes. Her husband, their father, had his own map on his knee as he drove. "Not far now, kids, only just around the next bend." Mother sniffed, handing back the thermos to her two sons who had always come on these jaunts, despite now looking older than her. Never having fathered their own babies, her two boys were fast returning to the shrivelled death-masks of birth.

Father entered an arcade of trunked hedges, where the blossoms were of every pastel shade imaginable without even the hint of a primary colour. It was a flurry of petals, cotton-wool, candy-floss and fluffs. Here he would linger to savour the experience that awaited him around the next bend, the next trellis-elbow of the gardens' inner mantra. Without knowing what was in store but, basing it on past experience, he felt confident that the next vista would be more welcome, more magnetic to the tides of his bodily sap, more enticing to the ecstasy in the man, than the previous vista. And, lo, it was a Summer pagoda: the first real sign of human existence, other than ancient memories of tended tombyards, shaved lawns, manicured hedges and the pruned-back feelers of rare fruit-trees. The pagoda must be the gardener's place of abode.

Mother winced, as the car came to a slow re-winding halt, the tyres searing the caked dust with herring-bone scars. Father mopped his brows, as he pointed to the scrawny hedgerows that bore the signs of plucked berries: crimson tassels glued to tiny embittered moon-rocks that were once pips. Whom-so-over they grew would be turning in their graves, for the sluggish blood-juice dripped glutenous jewels above divotted mounds. And indeed this was a burying-ground, but only for those who had died of thirst or drowned. The drooling tomb-fruit was merely the last sun-baked straw which even in death they were not to be spared.

In Father's dream, the swell of the sea was now so close, to such an extent that a faintly preceptible spray was hanging in the air like a spider's frail cobweb of dewdrops, with a salty aftertaste. He knocked upon the pagoda's bark door, only to hear the dry rattle of his knuckles echoing down a corridor far too long and resonant for the exterior to support. He sat on the front step, wondering how the tender shoots of the flowering vegetables were so triffidly long, entwining between the balusters of the porch-cum-landing. He put his tongue to the tip of one to sample the tiny bubbles of froth that it slowly oozed. It too was faintly tinged with salt, like delicately seasoned cuckoo-spit.

Mother's two sons scampered to the bushes, eyes wettening with disappointment - until she showed them where the blackest clusters of berries hung. She weighed them in the palm of her hand, recalling the Victoria plums Father had once boasted. Smiling, she plucked a couple and squashed them into her mouth, making saliva the colour of matured wine-blood. Her body was fond of such a substance, ever since her teens. The fruit she munched were the eggs of giant insects, she mused, the over-sized pips being fossils of their young.

Father noticed his nose was bleeding, a red haze at the bottom of his eyes. As it seeped between his clenched teeth, this too savoured of salt. He wept bitterly, for no obvious reason since, as far as his dreamself knew, he had been born in these gardens. Birthyards, instead of grave ones. And, now, he could even smell the salt, which was nothing like its taste. Stumbling from the pagoda's step, he felt that the compass needle built into his very bones spun wildly out of kilter with his own tidal forces. He staggered eventually upon the beach, or what he took to be such, with a sense of being followed. The gardener was evidently seeing him off personally. The first sight of the sea was a rediscovery of a forgotten experience. And skimming along the horizon were the various soft white pastels of triangular sails - and upon his non-salt sensitive membranes, there was the high tang of trade spices which those riggers sought.

Mother watched Tom turn to his brother and, between the shafting beams of the sky (now too yellow to be real light, more the diseased Urine of God), he stretched to finger the other's bulb of nostrils. This came off in his hand, dangling skeins of green mucus, rather than the ripened fruit he had oddly expected. The other screamed, but only after a long pause, whilst he ripped off Tom's left ear, screwing it round and round until it parted company with the side of the deadpan face like a choice lump of pizza from its base. Much later, Tom screamed. Mother called to Father who was still slumped in the car, pretending to examine the map for the return journey. Startled, he waved back, as if to say boys will be boys. You can't expect them to be angels all their life. Give them some rope. Learn by their own mistakes, they will. Mother tipped up the thermos. Nothing left.

The sand was delightfully warm as Father delved his fingers and toes into its granular welcome - so soft, too, he almost sunk with imperceptible slowness towards the Earth's core that he knew, from legends granted to him as a birthright, yearned to suck upon human meat. Rather than submit to such babyish fears, he crawled down towards the sea's erratic margin. He knew he would be able to flee the land's grasping subsidence, if only he could take a leaning to the waves.

It was Mother who decided when it was time to go home. A vestige of Father remained, but only finger-bones clasped the steering-wheel, like nude designer sea-crabs. The rest of him was like sculptured ribs of white stone, pile-driven into the car-seat with long splinters and skewers which, even now, rattled down inside the knuckler's cage - the rump fluted like a shark's fin beside the pedal-feet. Spooking out on fast-forward death, she thought. Need to bury him here. No point dragging a sack of bleached bones all the way to the Cemetery of Natural Deaths, the other side of the country. His remains would never rest in peace there, of all places.
*
The edge of coldness with which the sea accosted Father's body-rind was soon shrugged off in his child-like attempts at breast-stroke. He was so comfortable, as if all potential ills to which his body was heir had been nipped in the bud. He took opportunity to float on his front and gazed down at the weedy fronds of fucus lazily shimmering from between pink coral sculptures - which were once white cities into which blood had unaccountably seeped. Whether it was a drown or a dream, he saw the pagoda again, this time sprouting over with lemony tendrils which intermingled and tipped out in primary green. The gardener was still inside, screeching unseen from the end of some endless hall of pulsing plant-flesh walls. It sounded like a woman in labour, with a deep relentless pain threatening to suck her inside out in slow stages.

Mother frowned as Father moved in the car with a series of bone clicks. He gouged between his own legs with fingernails, desperate for some extra seepage for his now tongueless shell of a mouth. But only an animal horn of the purest ivory rose up to pierce the tatterdemalion of his hand. Mother wondered why Sunday afternoon jaunts were not like they used to be. Even in madness, she recognised that she would never have the integrity of her husband. She would never be able to think it all through and eventually reach the person she really was. Self had vanished along with all the hysterectomies.

The masted riggers would reach the mythy spice-fields - only to find them salt marshes, Father feared, as he half waded, half dog-paddled towards them. The craft did seem to be tacking in patience. However, night saw him boned out: a barrel-cage of huge fish-bones upon the beach, where blackberries would one day grow, come the sea's subsidence.


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des
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:48 am:   

Any comments good or bad re stories on this thread should go here:
http://www.nightshadebooks.com/discus/messages/201/3046.html?1093362371
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des
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 12:54 pm:   

Eighth story to appear on this thread as part of the increasingly massive project linked to and from http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/
The hits, pleasingly, increase in a geometrical progression day by day:


C∆SURA by Wordonymous

First published 'Oasis' 1999


Though I never lived during that kingdom of war - the one that rained in London - I could easily imagine the colourlessness (or, rather, variegated brown) in every wet afternoon, prefiguring the contrast of night's man-made lightning. Sťances were being held amid the chintz of every blitz-free sitting-room; tears being shed in every outhouse; tender hands held, over and over again, in every beach hut and every park.

Well, for every every, amen. I shook my shoulders - not a shrug as such; more of a shudder. I tramped the back-end streets, wondering if I had been transported in time to those very afternoons when shapes in fragile freedom from the night's shelters (the Underground included) became the slowly nudging together of lightly-fleshed ghosts in the hope that something worthwhile or tangible would emerge by this serendipity of touch. Ghosts, I guessed, were to be everybody, even you and me.

This was to have been a poem. But it felt like a story, with all the trappings of a plot, albeit missing a beginning, a middle or an end, if not all three. I could have gutted this story of its protagonists, but then nobody would have been there to report its waywardness.

I met Nadia in a park where courting couples were more colourless than most, if less tearful. She was someone with whom I assumed an immediate mutuality. She smiled, wiping away her tears with a burnt hankie. Collateral damage, she said, from last night's bombs. I didn't take umbrage at her false modernity. I knew she joked; this was then, not now.

A fleeting image of an evening when Nadia and I did walk under a fleet of doodlebugs - and suddenly a thing like a plum-pudding bursting with a fiery sauce came down and a lot of glass fell out of the windows on to us.

"Good job we were not there": my first ever set of words to Nadia upon meeting in the park. My second: "Ghosts were simply the future."

"Ghosts will forever be the past," were my sweet Nadia's last.

But truth told no rhymes.






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des
Posted on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 12:15 am:   

Ninth story to appear on this thread as part of the increasingly massive project linked to and from http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/
The hits, pleasingly, increase in a geometrical progression day by day:



AT THE MOOSEY MUD-FLAT

first published 'Euronymous' 1994


Ever since I got a bit better from my illness, Iíve wondered who the hell all the people are in my house. Once upon a time, seems like yesterday, I could look at the faces that occupied the place and recognise them for what they were. Matched them up with the photos in the family album. Theyíre now overgrown versions of my children - toddlers made adult. And more ancient people still, ensconced in the parlour, who give me the creeps, true, but they were once relations of mine, at least one representative for each generation. As I say, every damn room is crawling with strangers. Except one who is the spitting image of my wife who pretends to care for me - fetches me my medicine, scoops off the incontinence and even curls up beside me when the window floods the room with darkness. She smiles as if she knows no wickedness. Calls herself by the name my dear wife once bore. Yet this woman is older, wrinklier and far more evil.

Soon, Iíll be well enough again - perhaps to leave the house for a basinful of fresh air, as my mother once put it. Long since gone, my mother. Along with the other people I knew and trusted. No doubt under the ground here at the Moosey Mud-Flat, embraced each with each, slithery, slippery, brown-smeary limbs entwined. Thatís where theyíll put me if I donít look out. Just a few minutes ago a surrogate of my daughter, high as the doortop, came in masquerading her ability to play a game of charades without it being Christmas. They canít fool me any longer. Iím getting much better. I can see people for what they are. And what are they? Chancers. Accidents of mind and matter. Creatures with which my delirium once peopled the place. Sloughed from dreams. No more, no less.

A sweet knock at my bedroom door. Can this be my daughter proper? In school uniform and a virgin still. It sounds to be her knock, other than the fact it continues to rat-tat, relentlessly, like a mouse in the wall. Why does she not come in? Surely, she must realise that Iíve not found my voice from where I lost it at the onset of my illness. I thump up and down on the mattress, in the hope that the springs will speak out. Itíd do me a power of good to see my daughter again, instead of her grown-up version, instead of that thing who wifes it about as if she owns my body and slops me out wherever she damn well chooses with those awful awful tepid suds. Not listening to me. Not heeding my requests for an outing or, at least, a foray into the downstairs parlour. Says Iím not well enough. But who are those strangers down there, my dear? I can pretend with the best of them. I humour her. Make her believe that I believe her pantomime. Yet none of this explains the gentle rat-tat-tat. Like a fairyís machine-gun. Or Elfin farts.

Finally, the door swings wide on throaty hinges. I canít see well enough beyond the end of my chin, but I gauge its shape smaller than the normal visitor. As if one of my family has not grown up at all. Stunted. Dwarfed. A midget-sized thing that scutters under the bed. Sweep, sweep, I hear the dusting. A skittering beast hired simply to swab the floors? Surely not. Must be something, though. Canít be the delirium again, now Iím so much better. Or maybe an echo of delirium. Yes, thatís it. A slight relapse. Nothing more. Got to expect it at my age.

How old am I? Not so old as some of my visitors, for sure. I can still recall first coming to the Moosey Mud-flat, with all the excitement of youth in my eyes and a sweetheart on my arm. The neighbours, bless their hearts, were so kind. Took in the washing when we didnít see the rain. Or hear its rat-tat-tat-tat on the kitchen roof. Dug up the spuds for us, when we forgot. Sponged off the mirrors when they got smeared with hot breath. Even sluiced us down when we stank. You see, love was our all. We had eyes for nothing else. Domestic details were, after all, simply not for us. My wife then was so beautiful. When it was her bathtime, most of the old codgers came to watch. Cooed and whistled with delight. But only the women were hands-on. With me, too. Tut-tut-tutting at my bodily predicament as they coaxed me into the suds. The men jeered and pointed. So, perhaps, thinking about it, they were not so good as neighbours. Just chancers, themselves. Fingers and thumbs of fate.

The thing under the bed has gone. Whither, I donít know. Indeed, the low mumbling hubbub downstairs where the others gathered has abated. For all I know, Iím alone in the whole house. Iíll have to get up, soon, since nobodyís going to bring me a hard-boiled egg and bread soldiers. The gutter leaks, splitter-splatter into the water butt. Tit-for-tat. I gave them all life. Now they pay me back with death. A fair exchange?

The sounds of Moosey Mud-Flat are distinctive. Slosh-slop. Caw-caw, as brown-smeared birds squawk and missoar. Crack, crack ... croak. God be thanked. Iíve found my voice. Dollop, twang, I delve into the mattress - to spread the tepid fetid spawn. Symbiosis. Parthenogenesis. Words with no meaning, words I cannot even spell. Like delirium. Brekekex coax coax.

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des
Posted on Monday, September 20, 2004 - 02:04 pm:   

Context here: Numinous Megazanthus.


Trial and Terror by Wordonymous


First published 'The Black Lily' 1996.

Everything suddenly went awfully quiet or - as some may have had it, given back their hearing - awfully loud. I was the only one in the room with a working ear, on the left side of the head. The clumsy rosette on the right was already without sound as well as numb to the touch. But now even my good one had finished gristling over, hence the abrupt - yet paradoxically gradual - arrival of quiet. The onset of deafness, if accompanied by a crescendo of noise, can seem gradual whilst, in actual fact, it is due to a fibrous pad completing its growth over the lugís orifice: a split second for the tiny homunculus to come to its eventual fruition as a sentient ear-plug. But can this gradualness happen within such a short space of time? If so, there is no such phenomenon as true suddenness, but merely slow-motion shock. The stuck piston of the hardened tongue, the welding of the bowels, even these, will not prevent the final trial of strength to warn others about Terrorís increasingly strident stare, the final clamming of the last eye-lid, the pen silently clattering to the desk from the abruptly webbed fingers.


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des
Posted on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 01:56 am:   

Last item on this particular thread linked to and from the gigantic
Numinous Megazanthus project.


The War Wake

First published 'Cthulhu Cultus' 1997


Upon evacuation from London to Wales, Beatie Bilborough expected everything to be wine and roses - with songs in the mountains, country cottages and a strange lilting language which she had only heard in childhood dreams.

The war had pounded long and hard upon the city, hitting nearly everything and only missing St Paul's Cathedral by the skin of its teeth. She had lain awake at night listening to the bombs coming nearer. Despite having to bid farewell to her best chum Alice Dennis, Beatie was delighted when she was bustled off on a steam train to far Wales.

She eventually arrived at a Boarding House which she had been told in London was run by a family called Ribber. It stood tall and gloomy, like a sore thumb sticking up from the never-ending terraced houses. It faced the railings of a factory that was evidently concerned with some undercover war work involving smoke belching day and night from its tall chimneys.

Surprisingly, Beatie had to sign the guest book, which was an enormous ledger on the receptionist's counter and, as the man Jack, who drove the taxi, wished her good luck on swinging out through the revolving doors, she absent-mindedly browsed through the names of the other guests. This seemed a stake-out for single gentlemen - or so their outlandish signatures indicated.

One or two of those names gave her spine a running shiver, most of them, although mere names on the face of it, conveying a gamut of insidious fears. Being the only female guest, that would no doubt bring problems in itself. To cap it all, she heard an air raid siren suddenly hiccupping into life which, unless it was a false alarm, made a mockery of the whole journey to this godforsaken place.

It was indeed a false alarm. The morning, after a thankfully dreamless sleep, brought an entirely new aspect. The railings opposite were sparkling. The tall chimneys only puffed desultorily. And workers with red spotted kerchiefs and bright blue dungarees trooped from the factory gates, with an odd wolf whistle and guffaw breaking their otherwise silent departure.

Until then, Beatie had seen nobody except the bell-boy of the Boarding House. He was indeed an overgrown boy, with just the beginnings of a bum-fluff beard and a voice croaking on stiffening vocal cords. Quite abruptly, her attention was drawn to a gaggle of guests leaving through the swing-doors below her. She could just see the revolving wings flicking in and out of the entrance, since her bedroom bay window protruded over the pavement. Their voices were in undertones. They all wore flat caps and she was quite sure one of them muttered "Jack's in the salt-cellar, Gammy ga ga." A more outlandish statement it would be hard to invent, but it struck an uncanny chord.

If she had followed them, she would have discovered that they were heading towards the pub down the road, which opened early, in view of it being war time. She looked across to the factory and was startled to see a huge bird-like creature settling on its tall chimney ... a monstrous vision with flowing dewlaps and wattles of wrinkled skin. Upon its bony, knobby legs, it poked its saw-like beak into the top end of the chimney, evidently inhaling the now more fulsome fumes blasting from the furnaces below. The sun glinted off the creature's carapace and ... yes, off the metal wings of Spitfire planes that were now heading towards it, having emerged from the clear sky without warning. One crashed into the creature's under-hide, another skimmed through its blood-red coxcomb and careered off only to explode in a thousand bright splinters of fire somewhere amid the factory complex. Yet another dived suicidally between the yawning beak-halves and was snapped into two like toffee crunch ... just like that. Beatie looked away in horror ... and when she eventually returned her tentative pricking gaze there was nothing extraordinary to see, just the factory chimney releasing little pathetic puffs like messages from a bemused Red Indian.

Beatie put the vision down to a migraine. Her only option, however, was believe her gut-feeling that she had been truly evacuated mind and body ... so that she could carry out some far more dangerous (and infinitely more important) war work than being a land-girl or having flirting campaigns with boys in the company of Alice Dennis or simply sitting it all out in the shadow of St Paul's which was now at least another world away.

The Whateley Arms was full even at eight o'clock in the morning, for this was the time when shifts changed. Fred Tyrell had not bothered to look in this morning, as he had been tipped the wink that the incubators in the processing-plant were on the turn and, being nightwatchman on the day shift, they needed his immediate attention. But all the others whom Beatie had seen recorded by signature in the ledger were there boozing away and smoking fit to outdo the chimneys. One sat in his favourite position by the piano, dreaming of the days he once fell in love with the tub-thumper who used to play medleys on that very joanna. The others chatted incessantly about the new girl evacuee at the Dagonwy Boarding House. They sniggered as they grew drunker and the pub talk took a ludicrous turn; and, finally, they stumbled off to work at the factory.

Outside, they glanced back and saw her face still at the bow window of her bedroom, now smiling beneath her tears. There were deeper myths hanging over South Wales in those days than was ever contemplated by the history books - of Great Old Ones in Llanelly who shuttled between the stars and of their roof roosts here and there, on worlds old and new. The pub-type talk continued as they slaved at stoking up the incubators.

And as they slaved, they chanted "Jack's in the salt-cellar, Gammy ga ga." Soon, they would open up the hatches at the front of the autoclaves. Fred Tyrell had hinted that their contents would soon be ready for the big fling and, thus, the decoy and subterfuge of the other World War could be abandoned.

Beatie Bilborough was still at the window like a poster stuck to the glass. Her face smiled broadly, for the big bird had evidently escaped to the inside of her head, where it was growing more complex, even more unbelieveable - and, as her face smiled, it was clear that she, more than anybody, knew exactly what was going on.

At dusk, she left the window and joined her fellow guests in the dining-room for a stew of lights, grits and melts, everybody no doubt stirred into attendance by the bell-boy's vigorous thumping of the dinner gong. She told the others with a straight face that she had been sent from London, a spy ... but for which War? She explained that War fought War in the battle for the right to exist in history, but the one where a man called Hitler cooked his least favourite races in pressure incubators and fought on all fronts at once for the right to do so had no chance at all - too far fetched by half. But the battle of battles had only just been joined and Beatie herself only knew half of it.

The air raid sirens stuttered again that night. And as Beatie lay awake listening to them, she began to recall her playchild friend Alice Dennis - but then accidentally lost her way in a fitful sleep full of dreams and songs in the mountain, country cottages, bardic rounds ... and the misshapen six million people pulp that pulsed and palpitated in the factory stews, across the road from the Dagonwy Boarding House.

#

The Fair was in full swing, as the Easter evening drew in. At some central control console, an unknown hand tilted a rocker-switch and all the twirling coloured lights were tripped from one end of the site to the other. Beatie stood back in awe and then began to wander between the side-shows. One stall-holder was particularly vociferous in attracting custom. Dressed like a playing-card Jack, he yelled:

"Roll Up, Roll Up, throw rings
Over invisible things -
The art is to guess where,
The prize is to dress fair."

Beatie knew that whatever crazy game she chose, her money would be ripped off and the Evacuation Authorities had not given her much in the first place. But, still, what was life if one could not enjoy it in one's own silly way? As well as the pretty dolls' clothes spreadeagled like anorexic angels across the tent-frame of the stall, she rather fancied as a prize the tall silver salt-cellar she could take back to the Dagonwy Boarding-House. She could just see the other guests' faces.

In many ways, it would be perfect if Alice Dennis were here to see Beatie have a go, rather than still holed up in London Docklands. She glanced over her shoulder and looked at the fair's Big Wheel, revolving slowly, like a vertical version of the Dagonwy swing-doors, lit up like a flying saucer. Incredibly, it seemed to roll across the site as if it were really a wheel. Best pay no attention to her faculties: common sense is much more reliable, if a rare commodity. She approached the Jack of Diamonds and proffered her tanner coin for a go.

"How many go's will that give me?"

"There's no set number, Miss, but you'll know when the go is ended."

"Will I indeed?"

She took the wooden rings - and stared into the darkness beyond the back of the stall. She remembered the Jack's sales pitch. How could she throw rings at invisible things? This was more than just an ordinary fraud. Who was to verify? It did not even have pretensions to fairness - like most wars. Ah well, in for a tanner, in for a ten bob note. She floated the rings upon glide-paths that seemed likely to pay dividends, assuming there were indeed tall, tapering, translucent cut-glass vases standing behind the shadows as targets. With her tongue lolling out in concentration, Beatie continued to launch ring after ring and, as she did so, she listened to the distant hair-brain screams from the dodgems and the ghost-house and the rollercoaster and the Big Wheel and the thudding of Heavy Metal.

When the rings eventually ran out, Beatie found herself automatically bowling invisible discs into the air. She convinced herself she could actually feel them. Her mind was so entranced, she could hardly hear the Jack egging her on. But she had felt depressed when first coming on to the site. The bell-boy had scolded her only that morning for not leaving her bed unmade for him to make it. Then there was that silly argument about the cockerel in the back garden runs. Still, relationships were started and maintained on the thinnest of grounds. Bodies, though, had started to have a personality which could get in the way.

The afternoon had dragged, sitting alone with the fag-end of a love affair that had never been lit. She had unpacked her T-chest full of squashed tracing-paper, which always gave her a good feeling: the clean curves of the bone china her mother had entrusted to her safeguarding, almost translucent in their fineness: the flower patternings picked out in pastel shades, almost abstract, intangible: memories flooding back, memories of endless summers and infinite futures that were the past.

Now, back on a high, with the roar of the fair in her ears, she felt her own body launched like a wooden ring upon the laminae of the air towards the emptiness. Abruptly, without any noticeable shift, she felt herself completely enveloped in blackness; not a real surprise, however, more as if she had been blind since birth and would remain blind after death. As time faltered, she gradually discerned spinning saucers, at first hazy white, slowly gaining definition as they neared her. But before she could reconcile the phenomena with any rationalisation, she began to realise that her skull itself was the fraillest, finest porcelain target. And the first silver halo to arrive would have more substance than sense.

The fairground lights were immediately doused by the man on the rocker-switch at the first suspicion of an air raid siren.

Weeks later, the war almost forgotten, Beatie vaguely wanted to live in the countryside beyond the Welsh town, far from the Dagonwy and the tall factory chimney. Her mother - and Alice Dennis, too - had long since been swallowed up by the Hunnish occupation of London Town, so now the only option was for Beatie to find her own life, even if that entailed risking it. The day was sticky - brown clouds hanging like sweaty duffles - as she walked the long drive to the front entrance. The windows winked in turn as each took shine from the hidebound sun, bringing her to believe that the place had a being all of its own. The "Room to Let" sign was askew. She fondled the money she had lately earned from working as a bar maid in the Whateley Arms. The gutters hung from below the roofs like spectacle frames crippled by recent air raids, even here deep in the country. The porch came out to meet her even before she had time to realise that she had reached the front door, her fist raised to crash down upon its split paint boards and set the fan-lights revolving in their sockets, like miniature swing-doors.

Her eyes were swollen above the cheek-bones, perhaps in readiness, because, she felt, whoever came to answer the door would be determined to outstare her like the blind security-officer at the factory opposite the Dagonwy. The door opened even before she had a chance to adjust her blouse. She had assumed that the owner lived there merely to protect his property, rather than to use it as quarters in which to pursue existence. When she first caught sight of the upper floors, from a distance, rearing above the surrounding woodland environs, she was amazed, because the roofs leaned against each other, as if generations of childhood tree dens had been built on top of one another, growing from the slab walls like inflammable chimney stacks, each with wire sculpture jewellery that (she presumed) would bring in the programmes as soon as television was invented.

"Yes?" The man who had swung the door wide, stood with legs apart, his face naggingly familiar, but his nose out of joint to any accommodation with the rest of his face. His spectacles were crooked, one ear being higher than the other.

"Good afternoon, I gather there is a room to let and I bring a letter of introduction from the Evacuation Authorities..." She held out the sealed envelope. She felt as if she had another migraine coming on, and she could hardly see since the sweat had dripped into her bulging eyes.

"Why are you crying, Miss?"

"I am not crying, Sir, merely hot." She pointed to the sky where the sun was on yet another sprint towards a new hidey-hole. She could hear the underchatter from within the house which she took to be the Home Service on the wireless.

"Call me Jack, if you like." The man took the envelope and tore it open with his red teeth, shredding parts of the actual letter in the process. "Tell me, before I read this letter, why are you interested in this room?" Beatie stopped short. She was about to say that she needed a refuge from a refuge. "I know, I know, you want to live here - for the character of the walls, the depth of the rooms, the ghosts in the attics, the landscape of roofs..."

She shook her head as if to free it from some encumbrance and politely returned down the long winding drive. She had indeed spotted a wheel of flashing coloured lights in the dusk slowly revolving nearer from above the distant Welsh town - and she heard the vague screams of joy and terror.

The one who asked others to call him Jack followed her for several miles even to the ragged coast, wagging his tongue and jabbing it at various distances to snag her clothes. But like the big chimney bird, he was thankfully an intangible chunk of dot-matrix pre-echoed from the televisions that had not yet been invented. Beatie Bilborough was somewhat relieved, as he had scared her out of her wits.

Nevertheless, she still felt the tweak of a beak inside her head tentatively poking the back of her eyeballs. She hiked deeper into the less well-known parts of Wales - but now it did not seem to matter since she found herself hand in hand with the bell-boy. He was still panting from catching her up, his voice strangely lilting and quaintly regressed to a more youthful or effeminate tone ... and, what was more, Alice Dennis, in a frock of polkadots, skipped happily across the green hills in their wake. Fred Tyrell in Alice's wake. Gammy ga ga.






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