Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lamplight

His finger traced the single tear that slowly roamed down her cheek. The lamp was set low and the whole room was bathed in its gentle orange glow. The fire crackled quietly to itself, debating whether or not one more spurt of flame would be required or whether it should just give up and quietly die as the two people sat in front of it.
The dying fire flickered its gentle shadows on the lamplit walls, a motion-filled panorama of abstract pictures of things unknown and words unspoken. The dark red curtains were shut against the night and merely candles lighted the rest of the house. The doors were locked and the world shut away.


She looked deep into his eyes. He had big blue eyes, so expressive and so full of feeling. She felt that she could see into his soul through those open blue eyes. She wondered what he was thinking; deep down, in his heart where no one could see. Did he love her? Was he going to stay around? Would he leave her? Again? She lifted one small hand and pressed his hand against her cheek and looked penetratingly at him with the unvoiced questions. His eyes were soft, reflecting every nuance of the fire, and in his dilated pupils she could almost see her reflection. Every now and then he would blink and she would disappear for an infinitesimal fraction of a second before returning as his eyes opened again. His breath was soft on her neck, and she could still detect the soft aroma of the red wine he had been drinking. His lips were quietly mouthing words unheard. She tried to unravel the voiceless speech but couldn’t make out the words, although she was sure she deciphered the word sorry on his lips.

He couldn’t take his eyes off her. Her strawberry blond hair spilled over her shoulders and the lamplight danced in its curled tresses, picking out the reds and oranges in the blond and bringing them to life. Her dark brown eyes were ringed with the longest eyelashes he had ever seen and were framed by beautiful arching eyebrows. He could see her staring deep into his own eyes and wished he knew what she was thinking. Perhaps she was waiting for him to speak, perhaps she was plucking up the courage to speak, or perhaps she was just floating in the moment. He so wanted to speak the words his mouth was framing, but he didn’t dare to. He didn’t want to spoil the moment. He didn’t want her to drag those luscious eyes away from his. He didn’t want her to turn away from him, full of hurt and pain. Again. It had been too long since they were together like this, two as one.

His finger traced the journey of another wandering tear as it followed the first. She wasn’t crying, in actuality; the tears had sprung unbidden from a well deep inside her. A part of her that had been hurt before and desperately didn’t want to be hurt again. They rolled gently, one by one, these uncalled for tears, down her silken cheek and he watched their meandering descent with mounting concern. Her brown eyes brimmed with soon to be shed tears and an emotion that he couldn’t read. A single frown line marred her gentle brow as she struggled to work through her feelings. The lamplight turned her skin to a deep bronze, highlighted by the firelight, with the most wondrous peaks and valleys in her visage. He neck arched delicately down to her shoulders, tanned in the half-light, and from there she was wrapped in the deepest shade of blue imaginable. The firelight picked out purples and reds in the deep blue dress and the lamplight made the blue almost midnight black.

His orange shirt was burnished in the lamplight and the colour freshened by the addition of the amber firelight. His chin and cheeks were smooth as ice, attesting to the care he took in preparing for this all-important evening. There was a faint smell of musk and sandalwood mixed with wine as he moved his face by hers. The brown hair flecked with silver hung over his forehead like a curtain. He occasionally pushed it back impatiently, perhaps wishing to remove the floppy fringe altogether, but nervous of showing the real Him. If the shaggy hair were any longer she would not be able to read his eyes, or attempt to look into his soul. His face carried the years well, there were no lines and his eyes were clear.

And still her tears rolled, and still he silently followed each one, gently wiping them away. He knew she was hurting. He knew she was mistrustful because he was the one who had hurt her. He knew he might never regain that trust or see any love in her eyes for him.
The lamplight flickered in the silence as the fire gently guttered out in the grate. The firelight left her hair and the darkened room was reflected in their eyes.


‘Do you forgive me for leaving?’ finally he could stand it no more and asked the question that had been hanging on his Iips and preying on his mind all evening.
She looked worried and dropped her liquid brown eyes, her hair falling across her face. Her emotions were hidden as surely as if she had drawn a veil across her face.
He waited. There was all the time in the world for her answer. They had the rest of their lives to enjoy each other. If she was ready to take him back into her life and into her heart. He watched with agony as she shook her head slowly and when she looked up there was a light in her eyes that wasn’t from the lamplight. The tears were running freely now; small diamonds tracing down her cheeks, glistening in the lamplight. She looked past him, over his broad shoulder as if longingly wishing she were elsewhere. His heart sank as he read the messages her face and body was giving him.
She took his hand from her cheek and laid it in her lap, encapsulated in her two small slender hands. She absently stroked his hand with her thumb as she tried to find the words to break his heart.
His breath caught as she started to speak. She only said two words, but those two words were the most emotional words he had ever heard. They were the words he had hoped for and, in some small selfish part of him, dreaded. They were the two words that would change his life forever, and ensure this beautiful creature would remain by his side for an eternity. He clutched at her hand as she looked him in the eyes and spoke with a dignity that belied her mere twelve years of age;


‘Yes, Daddy.’

(c) cq 2005

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Flippin' Sprite - A Short Fantasy for Children

Flip was a little blue man. He had a big blue head, and a big blue tummy, with little blue legs. So he looked kind of funny as he jumped onto the Number 93 bus. His name wasn’t really Flip, it was Hghhrmdpbf – but, of course, that’s impossible to say in our language! He hopped up on the seat in the Number 93 bus and felt in his big blue pocket for some change. Fishing out some coins he smiled winningly at the woman who was leaving the bus screaming, and nodded in a friendly fashion to the older man just before he fainted clean away. He swung his little blue legs until the conductor arrived, and then held out his money with a big blue smile.
‘One to the terminus’ said Flip.
‘Fifty pee’ said the conductor, busy rattling and whirring his ticket machine. He glanced at the little blue hand holding out the coin, then slowly raised his eyes to take in the little blue legs, the big blue tummy and the big blue head. His eyes opened wide, and he scarpered – pausing only long enough to snatch the money out of the little blue hand. The ticket floated down and landed in Flip’s big blue lap. He checked it, folded it neatly and put it safely away in his big blue pocket.
Looking up he saw a little boy watching him. Now, the little boy wasn’t blue, and he didn’t have a big blue head, or a big blue tummy or little blue legs. He was a little pink boy, with yellow hair and freckles. He smiled at Flip, with little pink lips. Flip smiled back, with big blue lips.
‘My name’th Thomath’ said the little boy with a pronounced lisp.
‘My name’s Flip’ said Flip, without a trace of a lisp.
‘Why are you blue?’ asked the little boy, who was sporting a rather fetching Tom and Jerry t’shirt.
‘Everyone from my world is blue’ replied Flip, who was, of course, wearing nothing except lots of blue skin.
‘Why are you tho fat?’ asked the little boy who probably tipped the scales at 4 stone.
‘Everyone from my world is fat’ replied Flip, who more than likely would break the scales.
Thomas looked down at his legs, encased in shorts with ankle socks and Buzz Lightyear trainers.
‘Why are your legth tho thort?’ he asked.
‘Everyone from my world has short legs’ replied Flip, looking down at his own little blue legs and his big blue feet.
Thomas’s mother heard him talking and finally wrenched herself from the in-depth discussion about Mrs Jenkins from Number 28 and the milkman, to see who her son was talking to.


‘Hello, Flip’ she said warmly. ‘I haven’t seen you since I was a little girl’
‘Yup’ said Flip. ‘They sent me back for Thomas. Apparently my work here is not yet done’
‘Mummy – what ith Flip?’ asked Thomas. ‘He’s blue.’
Mummy smiled, and looked fondly at Flip. When she smiled there was an echo of the five year old girl she once was, but the straight white teeth gave no clue to the cumbersome braces she wore as a child.
‘Flip is a sprite, a guardian angel………an invisible friend’ she replied. ‘He helps with school and friends and life. Flip’ she continued ‘why are you here?’
‘Well’ said Flip. ‘According to our records, Thomas starts school next week, and he will require a sprite.’
‘Why?’ was the next question – well, we never claimed Thomas’ mummy was the brightest bulb in the pack.
‘Come off it!’ cried the little blue man, ‘Have you heard him ‘thpeak’?? The kids will make mincemeat of him.’ He looked critically at Thomas ‘and he’s short too.’
Thomas’ mummy cast a horrified glance at her short son with a lisp. He was studying a fly on the window, debating whether to summarily execute it with the tip of one little pink finger or let it fly free.
Flip smiled ‘He can’t hear me, Jennifer. I can make myself impossible to hear, or even invisible if I want to – remember?’
Thomas’ mummy smiled crookedly. ‘I’ve forgotten so much from those days. So why did you make the lady scream and the man faint? Not to mention messing with the conductor’s mind?’
‘Well’ replied Flip with a wicked blue grin. ‘A sprite’s got to have some fun in life – all work and no play makes Flip a dull sprite.’
Thomas shrugged his shoulders and straightened his sweatshirt. The little blue man watched him with wide open blue eyes. He had a confused look on his big blue face.
‘Thomas’ he asked. ‘Why do you wear play clothes to school? Why aren’t you wearing uniform?’
‘We don’t need to wear uniform’ replied Thomas, turning to one side and looking at his reflection critically. ‘How do I look?’
‘Oh, gorgeous’ said Flip sarcastically, while digging in his big blue pocket for his little blue notebook. Then he took out his big blue pen, the one with the cascading blue feathers coming out of the end, and, with a theatrical sigh, he scored a line through the page marked ‘100 Ways to Correct Using Uniform Items’ the first item of which was ‘Asphyxiation by Necktie’. He muttered to himself, and Thomas heard a few blue words.

A couple of hours later, Thomas made his first little steps into the school playground, grasping his Superman lunchbox in one hand, and a Scooby Doo doll in the other. Trotting behind him came a little blue man, although he had set Sprite Perception to ‘None’ so no one except Thomas could see him. Flip looked around, not much had changed since Thomas’ mummy came here twenty five years earlier – except the boys looked bigger and meaner………and so did the girls.
‘What’s your name?’ asked a big boy. Flip’s blue heart sank, this was not going to be a good day. Business was picking up early. He made a ‘rolling up of sleeves’ motion.
‘Thomath’ said Thomas.
The big boy grinned nastily, opened his mouth to say something, and found it suddenly full of cotton wool.
‘Flmpfffff’ he cried. Thomas watched spellbound, as the big boy’s friends sank to their knees laughing their little Spiderman socks off. The big boy pulled handfuls of cotton wool out of his mouth.
‘Nathty lithp you got there,’ cried Thomas as he saw his teacher out of the corner of his eye and ran off. The big boy continued to spit out mouthfuls of cotton as he wandered off to class.
At lunchtime, Thomas collected up his Superman lunch box and resolutely walked to the dining room. He sat down and opened his lunchbox.
‘What have you got?’ asked a red-headed girl a couple of years older than Thomas, in really quite a friendly voice, as she settled down next to Thomas and opened a yoghurt.
‘Thalmon thandwicheth, with thalad and fruit’ struggled Thomas, wishing his mummy used ‘Lunchables’ or at the very least a ham roll, rather than salmon sandwiches and salad.
The girl smiled broadly as if to make a kind statement, then proceeded to mimic Thomas.
‘Thalmon………….’ was as far as the hapless girl got, before her plaits wound their way around her head and got tied across her mouth, which was full of yoghurt. See? You should never talk with your mouth full! ‘than………….mpfmpf……’
‘Sorry, I’m late’ said Flip. ‘I was just checking up on some old friends.’


Four o’clock came around and Thomas came bouncing out of school into Jennifer’s arms. She looked into her son’s smiling face.
‘How was school?’ she asked nervously
‘Well, we had a bit of a rough start, but the kids soon learnt that Thomas was more than just a lisp and a Superman lunchbox’ came a clear voice as Flip trotted up behind Thomas. A bigger boy came past, saw Thomas and hesitated.
‘We’re playing football in the park, if you want to come’ he called and then spat out a little piece of cotton wool.
‘Why does that little boy have cotton wool stuck to his cheeks?’ asked Jennifer. Flip and Thomas looked at each other.
Then a girl with ginger plaits came past and saw Thomas. She was still wringing out her pretty pink ribbons.
‘Lunch tomorrow, Thomas?’ she called.
‘Why are her plaits all damp?’ asked Jennifer.
‘Kids!’ exclaimed the little blue man rubbing his little blue hands on his big blue tummy. ‘They’re bigger than they used to be, they know more than they used to, but they’re such wimps these days! Right, I’m off now’ with that he pulled a little blue box out of his big blue pocket. ‘hmm’ he mused, ‘where to go? I hear the planet Zgog needs some special sprite care’
He pressed the button on the little blue box with his little blue finger and with an audible ‘pfft’ he was gone.

(c) cq 2002

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Blogfather Review


"What you lookin' at?"


[Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain] Ah-chooo! Break it down if y'all comin down with bird flu, huzzaaaaah! Our next entrant is lethal with tha word, cranking out stories and keepin' it real. Give it up for Gangstaaaaaah "Tha Storynator" Nannyyyyy! [And the crowd: whoa honaaay!] If you've ever wanted to stop the world and read a story then Tha Storynator is your gurl - show her looooove!


Gotta love my 'crew' :-)

Again, thanks to Teh Blogfaddah for another hilarious review.

cq

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Nano Taster - Chapter 15 - SPOILERS

The wind whistled around the little vicarage as Michael and Sarah arrived. The storm clouds were lowering ominously and the temperature had dropped a significant few degrees. Michael ushered Sarah into the house and slammed the door.
‘Maggie?’ he cried. ‘Maggie, are you here?’
His housekeeper leant over the small stair banister rail.
‘Hello sir, tis turning into a wicked night’ she commented.
‘Maggie! Make up the spare room for this young lady please. Then knock her up something to eat. Warming and nourishing please. And stay with her. I’ll be back shortly.’
‘Yes sir’ Maggie was used to short notice visitors. ‘Where will you be, sir?’
‘I’m running down to the hotel to speak to Mike. I’ll tell him you’re held up here for a while. I’ll be back directly.’
Maggie nodded and came downstairs in a rush.
‘Come on then, miss. Let’s get you settled in.’ and with that she took Sarah’s little bag and led the way upstairs.
Michael waited a moment and, seeing the women getting on, he went back out into the lowering evening.


The storm was gathering pace. The darkening sky was almost purple and the clouds were thickening. There was an occasional rattle as the wind started to pick up. Michael sprinted the half mile to the hotel where he demanded to see Mike Jenkins. Mike came from the back rooms, rubbing his hands on a towel.
‘Mike,’ gasped Michael. ‘I need a favour. Can you send a message over to the Dennis farm? Ask Brian and Beatrice to come to the vicarage. Oh, and James should come too – but only if the other lads are around to keep an eye on the girls!’
Mike looked nonplussed at the pastor. But it was unusual for Michael to ask for things for no reason. Obviously the out of breath pastor had something important to tell.
‘Course,’ he said and bellowed into the back for one of his handymen. He passed on the message and told the boy to take a horse and cart. He also instructed the boy to let Brian and company have the horse and cart, and he was to stay and look after the girls.
‘Two birds with one stone,’ he grinned at Michael. ‘Can I be of any more help?’
‘Can you come to the vicarage?’ asked Michael. ‘I think you’re going to want to hear this too.’
‘I’ll be over shortly,’ said Mike. ‘Just give me half an hour to sort myself out.’
With that, Pastor Michael headed back out into the burgeoning storm, clasping his soutane around himself and ran back to the vicarage.
‘Tea, Maggie!’ he shouted over the rising sound of the storm. ‘Strong and hot, please. And make a fresh pot, we have visitors coming over! It’s going to be a long night!’

Brian and Beatrice sat together on the settle in the vicarage study, holding hands and looking scared. James and Mike Jenkins stood leaning on the mantelpiece as Pastor Michael ushered in Sarah. He made her comfortable in a deep cosy chair and poured her a strong cup of tea. As she drank, the cup rattled in the saucer.
Outside, the wind was becoming so loud that everyone had to shout. The sky was now inky black and the rain was falling in lumps. Michael had drawn the curtains, but everyone could hear the storm starting to rage.
‘Everyone, this is Sarah.’ Michael began. The assembled group all smiled wecomingly and encouragingly at the young girl. She coloured slightly.
‘Sarah has recently had her baby taken.’
There was a second’s silence and then everyone started talking at once. As the volume level rose, Michael raised his hand and they all subsided.
‘I have been doing some research and I think I know what is going on.’
‘Do you know how to stop it?’ whispered Beatrice. ‘These poor girls. Three of them. How many more are to suffer?’
Michael took a deep breath. He walked over to his bookcase and took down the old book. He opened it to the correct page and read aloud the extract he had found the previous day.
The words echoed around the room, seeming to push back the storm.
The most powerful of all life-giving properties is that of the blood from a demon’s own child. This makes the procreation of children a vital part of the demon theology. However, the child has to be half human and it must not be conceived through violence. Demons believe violent conception lessens the effect of the blood. The child must also be nurtured by its mother for a set period before it is suitable for sacrifice.
Brian and Mike went white as they realised the implications. Beatrice fought the urge to faint, and James looked helplessly on.
‘Sarah, my dear,’ Michael turned to the young girl. ‘What was your husband’s name?’
‘Philip.’ Said Sarah with a puzzled tone. ‘Philip Mantell.’
Beatrice fainted as Brian leaped out of his seat.
‘The bastard!’ he screamed, beating the will of the storm as his words came out. ‘I’ll kill him! The evil, lying, sneaky bastard!’
Pastor Michael went to Beatrice, while keeping a wary eye on Brian. This was the easy bit. Luckily his audience had come to the same conclusions he had.
‘Brian,’ he said gently. The storm seemed to abate enough so that the Pastor’s gentle voice did not need to be raised.
‘I believe Philip is a demon. Not only that, but I believe he is a demon that is seeking eternal life. He is ruthlessly marrying women, impregnating them and then stealing the babies.’
That was too much for Sarah, who also fell forward into a bumping faint. Michael rushed to her side at the same time as James stepped forward and the two men revived her. She sat, white-faced, as Michael continued,
‘It goes without saying that we must stop him,’ but Michael was immediately interrupted by five voices clamouring how.
‘The secret is in the triumvirate,’ he said, turning the pages of the book. ‘Listen; The demon is the most powerful of all the creatures from other-worlds. It is almost impossible to kill demons without first weakening its power. The triumvirate is still the most potent way to weaken a demon. The Power of Three is a magical essence that will reduce the demon to its weakest and enable victory. We need to create a triumvirate. And I think I know how.’
Mike and Brian looked at each other. Beatrice blanched.
‘Sarah,’ she stammered.
‘Sarah is our key,’ nodded Michael. He looked at the terrified girl. ‘Sarah, my dear girl, I am so sorry. You are the third girl. Your baby was the third taken. You complete the triumvirate.’
This was all too much for Sarah, her face turned the colour of chalk and she leapt up and rushed from the room. The men and Beatrice heard her stumble into the hallway and into the arms of Maggie.
‘Feeling a bit sick, love?’ asked the kindly maid, and was answered with sounds of retching. ‘Not to worry, I’ll have that cleaned in an instant. Let me take you upstairs.’
‘No!’ roared Michael. ‘Bring her back in. We have no time. We must make plans!’
Maggie entered the room, supporting Sarah.
‘But sir, the girl is proper poorly. She’s just thrown up on your hallway rug!’
‘Vomiting is to be but a part of this night,’ said Michael harshly. ‘Please sit down, ladies.’
Brian stood to make room for Sarah and Maggie to sit by Beatrice, Sarah in the middle flanked by the two middle-aged women. Each woman took a frozen hand and held it tight.
Michael took a deep breath. What he was about to ask these people, these friends was something no man should ever have to ask.
‘As I was saying, we have to create the triumvirate. But we already have one. Gloria and Lucy are two. Sarah is the third.’
He put his hand up to still the voices already rising in dismay.
‘We can call Philip. We can use the triumvirate to get his attention.’ He went on remorselessly. ‘You hear that storm? That is no freak of nature. He knows the three girls are close. He can feel his power weakening. We must get them in the same place. He will attempt to stop us, and that is how we get him. We bait him.’
There was an agonised sigh from the room.
‘Bait him?’ asked Brian disbelievingly. ‘Bait him with my daughter and these poor girls?’
Beatrice stood up.
‘Pastor, you had better explain yourself. I am not offering up my daughter or any other woman as a sacrifice to a demon!’

scary, huh?? :-)
cq

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Fatal Flaw

Trevor stood at the window and looked out. The view was stunning; mountain paths and shining streams, but it didn’t match Trevor’s pensive mood.
‘Olive, change to Woodland’ he instructed.
Beyond the glass the view easily blurred and then refocused, now showing a woodland glade with the sun dappling off the leaves. There was a stream in the distance glistening and flickering in the sunshine.
Trevor sighed. He was finally at the end. There were no more options. His career and his life were over. One minute he was a successful lecturer on Artificial Intelligence with a thriving business and a beautiful wife, the next, he was broke, alone and unemployed. What had gone so awry in the last two years to put him on this downward slope to ignominy?


‘Olive, show me the workshop’ he ordered. The computer obediently showed him the workshop. In the corner stood his prize. The one thing that had made his life go so awry. The one thing that drove away his wife and family. The one thing that made him turn his back on his partner, Tom. The one thing that kept him from his work day after day. The one thing he had been slaving over night and day, working as if impelled by the devil himself. Standing five foot five inches tall, with blonde hair and willowy stature, stood Ellie. A perfect Artificial Intelligence. So perfect, in fact, that he had decided not to call her by her mnemonic but by her real name, as befitted a real woman. Her skin was alabaster and her eyes shone like deep blue pools.
He had worked for two years to perfect Ellie. She had been a labour of love. No one took his attention away from her - there was now no one else in his life. Just Ellie. It took him six months just to get her skin tone correct, another four to perfectly colour her eyes. He studied photodisks to ensure the height and statistics were accurate. He listened to computer readouts to pitch her voice just right.
Two years on, he had finished her. She stood in the corner of the workshop just waiting to be switched on. He knew once he did that, she would be his perfect partner, everything he had ever wanted in a woman, and lost.

She walked jauntily out of the shop, swinging her bag. She was going to be late for meeting Tom. The day was warm; it seemed the Weather Bureau had finally sorted out the glitch in the programming. The sun shone down and the gentle breeze fluffed her blonde hair.
‘Hiya, sweetheart’ called Tom from across the parking lot. ‘Get everything you needed?’
‘Yep’, she replied with a mischievous grin. ‘They even had those archaic lighter things. You know’, she continued without breaking her stride. ‘It’s virtually impossible to get anything that causes fire these days. What do they do if the computers malfunction?’
‘Eat out?’ quipped Tom, holding the motor door open for her.
She dropped herself elegantly onto the seat and ran her fingers through her hair. She smiled up at Tom and slipped her registry card into the receptacle. Tom got in on the director’s side and also punched in his card.
‘Good afternoon, Tom’, said a tinny voice. ‘Good afternoon…’
‘Quit it’ said Tom quickly. He was getting nervous and it was beginning to show. He instructed the motor to leave to parking lot and join the main route. While it was burbling along, he fished out the bag and started to go through the contents. A foul smell entered the motor cockpit and he looked enquiringly at her.
‘The bottle must have leaked again’ she said apologetically and reached into the bag, extracting a large bottle of blue fluid.
‘I take it that is not Xaith’n Brandy’ Tom commented. ‘But don’t expect me to taste it to find out’.
She smiled, an almost fiendish smile, and turned the lid one more time on the bottle.
The Weather Bureau delivered sunset dead on time, here it was seven at night and the sun was setting in a huge ball of fire. The motor sat quietly murmuring to itself outside the old building.
It was such a change from their mod-con fab with full automation. It looked almost like one of the houses one saw in old photodisks. Brownstone. That was it. An apt name, judging by the dirt that had accumulated over the decades. Tom shuddered. It was just so darned dirty here downtown. He longed to get back to their own pristine unit, have Olive prepare the dinner and run him a hot shower.
‘Ready?’ she asked.
‘Let’s get it over with’ he grumbled.
They both climbed out of the motor and she brought the bag with her. Setting it down on the path, she pulled out the bottle of blue fluid and some straw. Dousing the straw liberally with the liquid, she then proceeded to shove the soaking straw through the archaic letterbox. Once she had used all the straw she broke a small pane of glass in the door and poured some of the contents of the bottle onto the straw lying on the floor. A wet patch slowly made its way across the carpet and flagged floor. She stuffed a piece of cloth in the neck of the bottle and set it alight with the old fashioned lighter she had managed to purchase with such difficulty. Before the burning bottle could harm her, she threw it down onto the straw. The resulting conflagration was huge and burning hot. Both she and Tom backed quickly down to the pavement and jumped into the motor. They cruised to a safe distance and watched as the building took afire.


Trevor felt the trouble almost instinctively. He heard the crash of breaking glass and the crack of splintering wood. Before he instructed the door to open he ordered an environment report for outside the room. Being an unusual request, not one usually made for the inside of buildings, the computer took a while to process.
‘The hallway is burning at 750deg’ said the monotonous voice. ‘You are trapped’.
Trevor turned towards the window. What Einstein had designed a window made of brick? What happened if the inhabitant needed to escape quickly these days? He thought quickly and then called the computer.
‘Olive’ he called. ‘Show me an escape route.’
The computer was silent briefly.
‘Sir, the only escape route is the door which is blocked by fire.’
‘Olive’ his voice became insistent. ‘There must be another way out of this room.’
‘Sir, the only escape route is the door which is blocked by fire.’
‘So how do you propose I get out? And why is my building on fire? In this day and age?’
It was a reasonable question. Fires didn’t happen in this century. There was no call for anything to create a flame. The computers ran the homes, cooked the meals, heated the water, ran the motors and everything else that had ever been the domain of combustion. You couldn’t even buy a box of matches these days. Smoking had been completely outlawed fifty years ago. So, wondered Trevor, why and how was his building on fire?
He looked over at Ellie and decided now was the time to switch her on. He obviously was not going to survive this fire, and most probably, neither would she. Just one look at her, while she looked at him, would be comfort enough after two years devoted to her perfection. He reached under her blonde hair and inserted the disk. She shivered and blinked. She straightened up and looked around.
‘Where am I?’ she asked. Trevor made a mental note, albeit pointlessly, to change her phrasing on boot-up. She walked slowly over to him and held him in her magical blue gaze. She lay one delicate hand on his arm and smiled into his eyes.
‘Hello’ she said, with a throaty mellifluous voice. ‘I’m Ellie, and you must be Tom’.
Trevor felt the world collapse under him. The heat was becoming uncomfortable, but at least the hephlatite door was keeping the smoke and flame out, even if the room was heating up like an oven. He stared into Ellie’s eyes.
‘I’m Trevor’ he stated simply.
‘Sorry, Trevor does not compute’ she responded. ‘Are you Tom?’
‘I’m Trevor, and I created you’ he said, realising how petty he sounded. ‘I built you for me. You are to be my life partner, we will be as one for the duration of my life.’
Ellie looked into his face, a small frown creasing her perfect alabaster skin.
‘Trevor does not compute. You are Tom. Tom is the one who is to vitalise me and to whom I belong.’
Suddenly Trevor realised what had happened. He swiftly removed her disk and ran some minor alterations on it through the computer. He re-inserted it and she shivered again.
‘Hello’ she said in the same deep musical tone. ‘I’m Ellie, and you must be Trevor’.
He took a deep breath. Of all the amendments he had made to Tom’s original design, he had never thought of changing her dominus. The heat was becoming intense.
‘Ellie’ he asked. ‘Are you hot?’
‘My internal thermometer is currently reading 42 degrees Celsius and rising exponentially. This is not acceptable.’
‘The building is on fire, Ellie.’ He sounded sad. What a waste of an amazing piece of AI. She really was to be his soulmate for life…all thirty minutes of it.
‘Is there no way out?’ she asked.
‘No,’ he replied. ‘We are to die, you and I.’


Tom studied her. She was perfect - her skin was alabaster and her eyes shone like deep blue pools. She was his Eve, the first of her kind. Yet she had a fatal flaw. He reached behind her head and flipped her switch. A small black disk popped out of the disk drive and he removed it gently. Then he exchanged it for another disk, this one snow white in colour, which he gently loaded into the drive. Then he flipped her switch back to on. She raised her head gently and opened her eyes.
‘Tom.’ She murmured.
‘Hello, darling,’ he answered.
‘Did she do it?’ she asked.
‘She did.’
‘Can we destroy her now? She is disturbing my peace of mind.’
He smiled at the thought that a woman such as she could have her peace of mind disturbed. Then he held up the black disk.
‘Here she is. Here is Eve,’ he said with a sad look.
‘Let me have her,’ she said.
He handed over the disk and she stared at it deeply. Then she looked up at him with soulful blue eyes.
‘And she definitely did it? The fire, everything we planned?’
‘She did. There will have been no survivors. No Trevor, no Ellie.’
She snorted – a surprisingly human sound from a machine.
‘There never was an Ellie that belonged to Trevor. Only the Ellie that belongs to Tom.’
Tom smiled and put the thought of the New Improved Ellie out of his mind. The New Improved Ellie that Trevor stole and reprogrammed. The New Improved Ellie that forced Tom to reincarnate an old model, and reprogram her with Eve – a natural killing machine.
He looked at the Old Impaired Ellie and just saw her blue eyes and her sweet smile.
‘Only the Ellie that belongs to Tom,’ he repeated and took her in his arms, while she crushed the disk between her delicate little fingers……….


(c) cq 2001

Monday, November 07, 2005

Centred

Andy lay under the hedge. All around him was silent, but he knew he wasn't alone; he could sense it, the way old people sensed rain was on the way. His boots were wet, and his feet were cold, but he didn't dare to move to remove the uncomfortable footwear. He just prayed he wouldn't be here much longer. He grasped his rifle, holding it close to his chest, as one would a loved one and peered out under the foliage.
Nothing........not a murmur, not a movement. Only the gentle whisper of the wind through the leaves. The sun shone, making a mockery of the previous night's torrential rain, and the day grew warm.


Still Andy didn't move. He knew, instinctively, he wasn't alone, and wasn't about to call anyone's bluff. He patted his breast pocket wherein lay his love, Charlotte. It was only a picture, and didn't do his girl justice, but out here it was all men had. He had had no letters for nearly a month, he had been separated from his unit for weeks, they probably thought him dead. In fact, his CO was probably already writing the letter to his parents, telling them how bravely and courageously their son fought, and that he died a hero. He did neither, however, and that is how he ended up here, starving, cold and wet, lying under a hedge in a foreign land, waiting for his enemy to show.
He needed this kill. It would mean an incredible difference to his life. He reminisced as he lay still in the damp ditch.


He was a gentle boy, everyone said so. He would rescue injured animals and nurse them, he would grow beautiful plants, and always remembered his mother on Mother's Day. His father was a stern man, who wanted his only son to be an example of manhood, but Andy was never inclined to do as his father wished. He refused football, and instead went to cookery classes and treated his mother to a home made meal as a Sunday treat. He never went to rugby, preferring to read books and broaden his mind. So there was Andy, surrounded by flowers and animals and his doting mother - and the letter arrived. No one had given a thought to the fact that Andy would be called up, he just never seemed the type. But the draft isn't quite so discriminating, and Andy was sent away to learn how to shoot a gun, preferably hitting and killing his opponent, how to disarm a man in combat and how to run for miles with a heavy pack. It wasn't the life he had envisioned at seventeen, but he made of it what he could.

So here he was, miles away from his unit, pitted one against another. He gently rolled over to ease his aching limbs, and watched the sun dapple through the hedge over his head. He concentrated on one leaf, a deep green leaf through which the sun shone as the wind gently shook it. He really ought to take his boots off, but he was still not sure where his opponent was, and he didn't want to risk exposure at this point. He concentrated back on his leaf. He wondered what type it was, certainly none that he had ever grown in his own garden, and he didn't recognise it from any of his numerous flora books, now sitting neatly on his bedroom bookshelf, undisturbed. He thought this was the epitome of being in a foreign land. How much more comforting if it were a simple privet or broom hedge. How much more comforting if he could flag down a car and speak in English, sure that the driver would understand and comply with his request. The leaf quivered, almost as if agreeing with Andy, and he held his breath.

Footsteps........approached and receded..........

He breathed again, being sure to do so deeply and evenly as shown in training to avoid loud panting. his hand was clammy on his rifle, when he was sure his nemesis had passed, he gently released the gun from his grip, and flexed his fingers. Oh, he would give anything to be back in his own garden, he would even play football for his father, if only he didn't have to be here, under this hedge, waiting to kill. He didn't want to do this, he really didn't want to do this, but he knew he must.

He eased himself out from under the bush, keeping an alert eye out all around. He reached back in for his rifle and plucked a leaf from the hedge, which he put in his pocket with the unflattering picture of his sweetheart. A memento. He checked his watch, he had been under the hedge for about six hours, some of the night and most of the morning. It was eleven am, and he was getting hungry and desperate.

Suddenly his opponent broke from the trees on the other side of the clearing, and they faced each other. Soldier and enemy, killer and victim. His enemy was unarmed and alone. Andy lifted his rifle to his shoulder and squinted down through the sight, figuring the best shot for a straightforward kill. He squeezed the trigger gently, as he was taught so long ago at training camp.......

And slowly released it. He couldn't shoot. He couldn't take this life any more than he could take other lives. He had run away to avoid killing, so why would he start now. Was three weeks all the difference between the old Andy and the new Andy? Or was it the routine and discipline of the training camp, had the rigorous training served it's purpose without him realising it? He gripped the trigger again.

And slowly released it. His target watched him unblinkingly. Andy lowered his rifle and looked straight back at the deer.
Maybe he would eat tomorrow.


(c) cq 2004

Saturday, November 05, 2005

SUGAR

Sugar was a cat. Nothing special, just a black cat with large green eyes that peered out from under shaggy eyebrows. She was lying in the long grass in the sweltering heat, too feeble to move and meowing pitifully at anyone who passed as if crying out for help. How long she had lain there with selfish, thoughtless humans passing her by was not known. She occasionally lifted herself onto her front paws as if trying to get up and free herself from her torment.

I met Sugar on my way from work and fell in love with her at first glance. Her green eyes seemed to be begging me to help her, and she was crying in pain. My heart turned over as I bent down to stroke her. Her fur was matted and underneath the sorry black coat I could feel every rib and count every vertebra. She was just skin and bone and as I moved my hands gently down her flanks I, in my ignorance, concluded that she must have been a female cat and heavily pregnant. I could feel no movement in her swollen belly and surmised that no kittens could have survived the torture that had taken its toll on that young body.

I was torn in two. I could not possibly leave the cat in such pain, but perhaps she had an owner who was looking for her at that very moment. I ran my hand over her flanks one more time and made up my mind. She was badly emaciated and very pregnant and it was fairly obvious that nobody cared about her. I gently lifted her and carefully carried her home, and as I walked I murmured gentle words of comfort to ease the cat’s distress. She laid her head on my shoulder and, although she gave the odd pained cry, I could tell she was grateful as she attempted to purr.

Once home I gave her a saucer of milk from which she only took a couple sips before settling down on an old blanket I had found and watching me, ears pricked – well, as pricked as she could manage. Now that she was relaxed and fairly comfortable with sustenance within easy reach I could think out my next move. Not much thinking was required to pick up the phone and ring the person who would give the best advice - my mother.

She advised I should ring a vet to get the cat checked over and do whatever was necessary. The first vet that I picked out of the book was very understanding and told me to bring the cat straight in. I called a taxi and prepared a box. The little cat watched me and I looked into her green eyes – oh, such trusting eyes – and then picked her up and laid her in the box, stroking her and letting her know that I cared and that, in her moment of need, someone was there to help her.After what, in the cat’s mind, must have been a hellish ten minutes in the taxi we arrived at the surgery and the vet was as good as her word and saw her immediately.

The vet had very bad news for me. The cat was not female at all, but a tomcat. He was about two years old and a fine looking cat, who unfortunately was dying a long and painful death. He had a fatal case of FIP, Feline Intestinal Peritonitis, which would kill him soon and in great pain. Euthanasia seemed to be the only answer to ease his agony. I checked that I could not help him by taking him home and nursing him back to health. The vet said the disease was too advanced and nothing could be done to cure him.

With a heavy heart I signed the consent form and then I kissed the cat. As I stroked him, he lay down as if he knew what was coming and he welcomed that peace that death would bring to his pain-wracked body and troubled mind. He looked trustingly up into my eyes and I could have sworn he was thanking me. I kept stroking him; not wanting to leave him, although I knew it was best for him. I looked deep into his eyes and then I knew I was glad that I had not left him to suffer alone, and that he had known love and trust before he passed to that better place where he was assuredly bound. I had no doubt that a place would be reserved in Heaven for him, he was such a loving cat and had missed out on so much love in return.

I knew I had to leave him and the vet was so kind. She sympathised with me and let me stay a while to make up to the little cat all the love he had missed out on. Then I tore myself away from those love-filled eyes and opened the door. A thought occurred to me and I turned back to the vet.

"By the way, his name is Sugar. I called him Sugar and he seems to like it."
The vet smiled and nodded, I closed the door on Sugar and went home.
‘And now these three things remain;
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.’
1 Cor 13:13

(c) cq 1988

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Tall Trees

I settled my legs into the wheelchair and slowly wheeled myself out of the door and down the ramp. It was a fresh clear spring day, and I could hear the birds singing their glorious songs and the flowers were blooming in the late morning. I slid the heavy scarf off my shoulders and glorified in the warm sun, after so many months of rain and grey skies. I followed the path down the garden to my suntrap - called so because it always got the midday sun, despite the trees planted around the garden.

'Why do we have such intimidating trees around such a beautiful garden, Mother?' I asked one day when I was about ten years old.
'It was something your father did,' was all she would reply. She would not be drawn further, so I let the subject go. However, my curiosity was not to be dampened down so easily and I thought up all sorts of weird and wonderful reasons for myself.


My mother was an escaped Russian princess and I was the spitting image of the Czarina.

My father was a spy who married a high ranking female German officer and my parents and I had to be hidden from the world.

I was illegitimate, and I was being hidden from my real father, who was a local farmer.

The years passed and I sporadically asked why the trees were planted. Through the years I got no real reason other than it was something my father did. Of course, being a young lady, I could never ask my father his reasons, it was something that just wasn't done. I was resigned to my wheelchair, truth be told it was a part of me, and I soon learnt to live in harmony with it, regarding it as more a method of freedom rather than a ball and chain. In it I could go into most rooms on the ground floor of our enormous house, and the gardener had laid wondrous paths around the gardens so I could access every plant and tree if I so desired. And my dear mother made me the suntrap, in a part of the garden that was sunny, open, yet close enough to the house that I could navigate to it myself from an early age.

So here are this day. My father is long dead and my mother is ailing. I am in my early twenties and still in my wheelchair, no feeling in my lower limbs at all. I fell when I was a small child, tripped down the huge spiral staircase and broke my back on the stone steps. Saying that doesn't bother me any more, I am no more bothered by it than by my rather boring looks. I glanced around the garden, no gardeners in sight, and the sun was warm, so I released my legs from the wheelchair and gently eased myself onto the grass, arranging my skirts around me.

I heard whispering and rustling in the trees to my left, so I called out - fearful that I was vulnerable.
'Anyone there?'
'um............no?' came a small voice with a subdued giggle.
'Show yourselves,' I demanded. 'This is my garden, show yourselves this moment.'
'All right,' said the little voice. 'But promise you won't be angry.'
'I won't be angry,' I conceded, realising the voice was very young. 'Come on out where I can see you.'
Out from under the huge lumbering trees came a procession of small children, there must have been half a dozen of them, trooping out one after another, looking bashful and dashing bits of twig and leaf from their shirts. A couple of girls and four boys, pretty children, all very striking with big blue eyes and chestnut hair. I was very curious and quite forgot to be annoyed.
'Why are you in my garden?' I asked the first little girl who looked to be the eldest at about twelve.
'Please, missus, we done it on a dare.' She looked abashed.
'A dare?' I was now very curious. 'Who dared you to sneak into my garden.......and why?'
'Tom, the farrier's son,' said the child, emboldened by the fact that I wasn't shouting at her. 'And we was always told never to come in here, that the owner didn't like children running around and shouting.'
'But I am the owner,' I said with as much dignity as I could muster sitting on the grass. 'And I never gave any such order. It must have been my father. Here, give me a hand into my wheelchair'
The children followed my instructions carefully and I was eventually restored to the dignity of my chair, and was slightly taller than the children, giving me an advantage I was sadly lacking sitting on the grass.
I turned to Flora, she of the giggly voice.
'Now tell me what my father is supposed to have said.' I said sternly.
'My mother told me that the owner's daughter had had an 'orrible accident when she was a baby and he couldn't bear her to be seen by the townspeople in case they laughed at her in her chair.....' she tailed off and the giggle died. 'That was you, wasn't it, missus?'
I looked down at my legs, seeing my chair as if for the first time, then I looked up at the tall trees lining the garden. Suddenly everything fell into place - I had never been out, it never occurred to me that we were part of a big town. Everything we needed was delivered, I had tutors and governesses and nurses. The gardens were big enough for me to get out and never wonder what was on the other side of the tall trees. There was never any need for me to leave the grounds, and my father was embarrassed by his handicapped daughter, so much so, that he cut me off from the world and effectively hid me for twenty years.
'Are you laughing at my chair?' I asked.
'Not me, missus,' replied Flora hastily, the others nodding vehemently in agreement with their elder sister. 'It's just like you was on an 'orse'.
'Would you like to come and play here every day?' I looked at all the children. 'There's a lake and a kitchen garden, lots of flowers and plenty of room for football or cricket.'
The childrens' mouths dropped open at the invitation.
'Of course,' I said quickly. 'Until I get the trees chopped down, you will have to use the main gate, or your tunnel' I grinned at them. They smiled back tentatively.
'You mean it, missus?' asked Flora, taken aback by the suggestion.
'Yes, why not. I only just realised that even with loving parents, a beautiful garden and a life of comfort, I am a very lonely person.'
I wheeled my chair onto the main path, followed closely by the children, looking for all the world like a train of ducklings following mama.
'Now, can anyone explain the principles of cricket to me?' I asked the children.


They chattered and laughed, and ran about to show me the finer points of a game I had only ever read about.

*~*

A year went past. That year flew by, compared to the others in my short life. I instructed all the tall trees to be chopped down and dug up, the gardens to be filled with flowers and colourful shrubs. I also ordered a gate to be put into the wall where the children used to sneak in. I even met the infamous Tom, the farrier's son. He stood in front of me looking most ashamed, until I asked him if he could teach me to ride a horse, at which point his eyes lit up and he ran off to inspect the stables and see what we needed in the way of tack and horseflesh.

Flora was now employed as my personal maid. She had matured into a personable young lady of thirteen with a lethal football kick and could bowl her brothers out without a second thought.
Spring came around again. I settled my legs into the wheelchair and slowly wheeled myself out of the door and down the ramp, accompanied, as always these days, by Flora. It was a fresh clear spring day, and I could hear the birds singing their glorious songs, the sounds of the children playing in my garden travelled clearly on the air and the flowers were blooming in the late morning. I slid the heavy scarf off my shoulders and glorified in the warm sun, after so many months of rain and grey skies. I followed the path down the garden to my suntrap - called so because it always got the midday sun, more so lately since the trees were hewn down. It was glorious.

'Now, what are we doing today?' I asked the delightful Flora. She fished a little notebook out of her new maid's apron and opened it, licking her pencil in readiness.
'We have a ball to arrange,' she said, her voice tinkling with a giggle just beneath the surface. 'The Tall Trees Ball'.
'Very well,' I smiled back at her. 'Best we begin with the invitation list. Let's invite - everyone!'
(c) cq 2004

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Outsiders

Mary sits on the beach watching the children play around her. Not a single one is hers, but she concentrates on their activities, admiring their spirit and their inventiveness. Whenever a voice raises into a scream she jerks her head around to check the source of the noise.

For twenty years Mary has spent her spare time looking after other people's children, putting her acquired knowledge to good use. She has helped to raise four families of children. Very different families, but children are children and Mary is a natural with them. Each time she learns something new, she stores it away to use the next time. Over the years Mary has developed a deep knowledge of children's behavioural sciences - she always jokes she could lecture for the NNEB - and her understanding of children was sought out by parents wherever she went.

Mary abhors violence. She doesn't understand a society that hurts children, for hurting sake, although she believes in strict discipline, and also considers the choice to encourage children to learn by electronic means damaging to their social skills. She has taught two generations of children to read using trusted books and her own time and patient guidance. She has sat with a child struggling with homework and gently guided the tortured mind to the clarity of subject. She has always instilled good manners and intelligent conversation. Nothing is more fun than the school run, when the children are bursting with news in the car and she must hold two or three separate conversations about homework, friends, school meals, parties - all the things most important to a six year old. She has fixed scraped knees and broken hearts, mended broken toy trucks and exploded beliefs. She has held weeping children in the middle of the night haunted by bad dreams, and helped them to blow out birthday candles. She has cleaned their cuts and sores, marvelled over their dropping baby teeth and proudly measured them against the kitchen door frame. She has nursed their measles, whooping cough and croup, has eased their colds, flu and bad tummies. She has changed their nappies, watched them go to their first day at school, so proud in their new school uniforms, packed their lunches, cooked their meals and washed their clothes. A parent in all but name.

She has raised children that are now parents themselves. Responsible, articulate members of society raising new responsible, articulate members of society. In these adults she sees the manners and behaviour she instilled in them in years long gone, and even the phrases she has trotted out time and time again are reproduced for a new generation - a modern day Mary Poppins. But society has forced her into early retirement, parents are now reluctant to leave their children with an unknown woman, no matter how trusty her references are. Mary Poppins didn't need references, just a spoonful of sugar and a way of making work fun. Mary now feels the world breathing down her neck when she draws a finger across a youthful cheek, or picks up a fallen child with scuffed knees. She can stop tears with a word, put a child to sleep in minutes, spend hours playing with lego or teaching a small child to read, but has lost the faith of the parents in the world. And without the faith of the parent, Mary is unable to gain the trust of the child, a cruel cycle that is impossible to break without one or other making the first move.

The world has changed in recent years. People look upon her with caution and fear when she stops to talk to a child. When she reaches out to stroke a towhead, the mother pulls her child away from the touching hand. When Mary looks benignly upon small children playing, she is aware of the parent watching the 'strange woman' and alert to any cause for concern. When she catches herself watching children maybe lost or in trouble, she feels powerless to help these days. The evil creeping through our society has blighted Mary, through no fault of her own, and made parents sensitive to any adult making overtures to their children.

Mary can't have children. She has never felt the painful joy of birth, nor has had the opportunity to hold her own child close to her breast for the first time. She is comfortable in her life, but yearns, alone, for the child she can never have. She hates that society now looks upon her cautiously as an oddity.

She picks up a pen and begins to write; 'Dear Editor, There must be thousands of us. Outsiders. Hidden away, ashamed of our disability, but unable to speak up for fear of pity or persecution.'



(c) cq 2004

Are We All Sitting Comfortably?

Then I'll begin.

This is a blog for me to post short stories on.

I have a stock of these written over the years, and this is also an impetus for me not to stop!

If you have stories you would like to have included, please let me know

cq