chronicles of conception- March 11th 2017

Language 

Has anyone ever looked at the intricacies of creating a new language?  congregating verbs, pluralizing nouns, how did Tolkien do it?  My new trilogy has the language of the angels which is mixed with Hebrew but to create an entire system of language is impressive.  Still trying to locate my copy of The Lord of the Rings trilogy so I can look at the language appendices.  I want to create a rich fantasy with real depth, full of politics, science and religion, I don’t think that’s too much to ask hey? love to hear from anyone with the same desires.

Chronicles of Conception-March 7th 2017

I want to use this section of the site to share the creative process with people.  i want to chart the development of ideas and get some opinions on subjects that i plan to cover in later novels.  this blog will hopefully be updated on a daily basis and will give people a chance to discuss the creative process as well as matters pertaining to the genre of horror, dystopic fiction and the world of steam punk…

first three chapters of the pentagram bride

The pentagram bride.

Chapter 1

They say they’re all behind the dry wall’

What are?’

The children’

Gary Taylor smiled a goofy gap toothed smile as he recounted the horrors of the old mansion in the

cornfield.

You’re full of shit’ Andy answered looking through the stalks of corn towards the haunting edifice

now a mere silhouette against dusk’s dark sky.

Oh yeah, then where they all go, the kids that come up here hey? I’ll tell you where.  It’s the old

woman’s son.  He nail guns em to a table, splays em and sticks em in the wall cavities.’

Andy laughed, at the same time looking towards the upper left window of the house. The curtains

were drawn but there was a light, someone was in and then the horrible thought that he might

Be being watched entered his mind.

So why would he do that? Andy asked, trying to keep the frayed nerves from his voice. 

They upholster the furniture init, skin on the sofa, the lamp shades, the curtains.’

Andy squinted towards the window focusing on the drawn curtains, they looked normal to

him,velvet, maybe cotton, certainly not skin.

Lets knock the door’ Gary proffered, his eyes gleaming in the wane light.

Andy paused a moment, absorbing the challenge, assessing the implications before agreeing with a

nod.

The corn stalks rose at least a meter high.  Crickets chirped within the mottled shadow. A crow

raced across the sky, alighting on the mansion’s clay chimney pot.  Shuffling its talons, it watched

the two children as they stole forward.  The house was made of old masonry, lattice windows

peering into pitch darkness.  The door was hewn of oak studded with a border of metallic bolts.  A

stone gargoyle stood sentry, its granite eyes peering out at the corn, its decorative wings folded back

like a grey cape to fight off the biting cold.  

 Gary had reached the house first and decided to peer through one of the ground floor windows.
He was met with dust smeared panes and pixilated pitch.  As his eyes adjusted he could just
make out the old white dust covers that dressed the parlour room furniture.
Here check it out’  he called.
Andy made his way to the window and peered through.  As the darkness softened, he made out
the various furnishings.   The crystal chandelier, the ornamental bookcase even a small winerack
built into far wall.
She doesn’t do too bad for an old witch, must be good money in the skinning business’  Andy
remarked, regretting the joke immediately.  
Well you gonna knock or just chat shit all day?’
Andy looked towards the foreboding door with its fortress like facade and frost streaked panelling.
Doubt their hear me if I just knock with my hand he thought, checking to make sure Gary was
witnessing this brave feat.  
Knock, knock,  knock. 
The sound was amplified in the moment.  It thundered percussively.
Gary had already turned heal and darted through the corn stalks. Andy turned to an ominous
creak and screamed.
 The old woman’s eyes were milky white.  Her face was a wicker basket of wrinkles, her neck

folds like crumpled parchment.  Two salted slug like lips twitched as she moved her mouth to

talk.

Andy your father has been asking up about you?’

What?’

He’s waiting for you to return to him Andy, go to him and tell him Enid sent you, I want him to

know my name.’

As Enid blinked Andy could have sworn that her eyelids closed horizontally, meeting in the middle

before once again opening to reveal the catarax white irises.  

Andy laid the yellowed Polaroid on the table and looked up. The memory of that night was still

vivid. He noticed his skin had marbled as he’d been recounting the origins of the photo.  He took a

last look at the solitary mansion ringed by vast cornfields before looking up.  A man, beard speckled

white, bifocals inched down to magnify the pupils to comic proportions, sat bolt upright on an

ornately upholstered armchair.  He appeared focused on a pad of illegible notes, moving the pencil

like the piston motion of a sewing machine needle, only stopping when Andy placed a second

Polaroid next to the first.

Before you show me this Andy, do you understand the point of this exercise, I mean do you get

why we are doing this?’

Cos you wont write me out a bloody prescription for meds Andy thought.

Its a memory exercise, you’re trying to unlock something from my subconscious, trying to figure

out the root cause of my insomnia.’ Andy said, feeling like a student who had just answered a

complex maths problem.

Then we shall continue, tell me, this second picture, was it taken around the same time?’

Andy traced his finger over the gloss finish.  As he did the memories came flooding back, like an

old movie reel animating the story of his childhood.  The picture was of the old mansion, only

now it was merely charred timbre struts, a black skeletal husk like a beached whale, its carcass

picked  to pieces by ravenous birds.

There’s a window round the back, I saw it the other night’ Gary said

The old crone doesn’t shut it properly, come on, we’ll get inside.’

Andy shuddered partly from the cool night air but mostly at the thought of seeing her again, seeing

that wrinkled face and those ghostly eyes.

Gary had already made his way round the back, the crunch of his footsteps adding to the melody of

the night.   Andy followed, his eyes darting across the house’s many windows, just in case she

happened to be standing, somewhere on the upper floor, peering between net curtains.  There were

no lights on, in fact the place was ominously quiet.  A pile of crates had been conveniently stacked

beneath an unlatched window, a meter or so off the ground.  Gary was peering inside.

You see anything?’ Andy asked still checking the many windows, still unable to shake the feeling

they were being watched.

Its pitch black, come on give me a leg up, I’ll open the window proper from the inside.’

I don’t know about this, something doesn’t feel right, you said she had a son, what if he’s

there,what if he’s waiting for us in there?’

Fuck me, I was shitting ya, that old bat’s on her own, always  has been, that’s why she’s batshit

crazy.  Look she’s a hoarder, she’s got tons of valuables in there ripe for the picking.  We go in,

canvas the place and leave, come on.’

Andy realised the futility of arguing and watched with a kind of silent detachment as if he were

back at home, viewing this through the screen of his television and not out here in the brisk cold

among the towering stalks of corn.  

 The window creaked open  and Gary’s silhouetted figure beckoned him in.  Outside the clouds

scudded across the sky revealing a waxen moon, its wan illumination slicing through the opened

pane.  The room smelt of damp.  Eddies of dust were whisked into life as the window was closed

behind.  Andy waited for his eyes to adjust. When the heavy gloom dissipated he could make out

a study.  The rear wall housed a fireplace, its front sealed by an iron grate like the portcullis at

the entrance to a castle.  Above the mantle piece, a gold framed painting adorned the wall either

side of which were bracketed candles veiled in webs.  In the centre of the room stood a pine wood

desk, an old lamp and stacks upon stacks of dog eared magazines, their pages yellowed and

tattered.

 Gary was already searching for a door, his hands wading through the shifting darkness, as if the

black were an oozing quagmire pulling them in.

 A shadow crossed the window outside, perhaps a cloud, perhaps a person, either way Andy was

in no hurry to find out.  He ran to the left wall and searched frantically for a door built into the

wood panelling.  He couldn’t find one, Gary was having little luck as well.

Who the hell is that?’ Gary suddenly harped pointing to a figure at the window.

Andy could feel his knees buckling beneath him.  Suddenly a torch light shone through the

glass, its conical beam moving slowly and methodically from left to right. Someone had seen

them enter, was it the woman? Had she followed them round the back?  Andy crouched down,

hoping to be concealed by the enveloping shadow.  He waited with bated breath, listening as

Gary to crouched down and huddled tight like a frightened animal.  The torchlight receded and for a

moment they were both plunged into comparative blindness, as if all the rooms details were

instantly erased.  The sounds too suddenly disappeared till only the clamour of their heartbeats

could be heard.

 ‘Gary  you there?’ Andy asked his voice feeling way too loud.  He cupped his mouth as if to trap

the sound, all the time looking towards the site of the torch beam.

There’s a way out here, but its stuck, come here give me a hand.’  

Andy shuffled forward stealthily.  When he reached the wood panelling, he pressed his shoulder

up against it, his heels planted firmly on the floor.  The door gave way and both parties tumbled

forward.

 It wasn’t immediately clear where they were, just that the space was vast.  A vaulted cross

beamed ceiling rose above them and in front, an armchair faced the far wall.  It wasn’t until he

looked again that Andy noticed someone was sat upon the chair.  A thatch of white hair

surmounting the back rest.  

Its her, its the fucking witch’ Gary whispered, his feet already making a hasty retreat.

Come here Andy, Enid wants to see you.’  Her tone was flat, possessing a gravely quality.

Come close boy, don’t be afraid now.’

Andy felt himself compelled forward as if his legs were taking on a life of their own.  He couldn’t

have stopped the momentum even if he had wanted to.  Gary had already backed into the doorway,

his figure a mere outline against the darkness of the surrounding environ.  

Andy could see the woman’s slippered feet, the tip of her gown as it flayed out over her gnarled

shins.  A liver spotted hand, fingers curled by arthritis tapped the arm rest.

As she came into full view, he could make out the deep set wrinkles further shadowed by the

shifting gloom.  She opened her mouth, those slug like lips trailing with strings of translucent

spittle.  

The jelly in her eyes suddenly appeared to bubble, the mucilage seeping down the cheeks.  The

contours of her face softened as the flesh drooped, all elasticity lost.  Slender tongues of flame

rose from the sub-dermal regions, out from behind the melting cartilage and charred skull.  Soon

the flames appeared lower down, consuming her lap.  An acrid stench filled the air as her

nightgown was turned to cinders and flakes of soft tissue plumed upwards like the glowing embers

of a freshly stoked fire.  Within seconds, she was barely recognisable.  Her screams choked by the

loud crackling and the popping as bodily fluid came to a boil and erupted from within.  As quickly

as the flames had appeared, they retreated, leaving a half cremated skeleton, bones and ash piled on

the upholstery.  

So what do you suppose happened?’ came the doctor’s voice, intruding on Andy’s recollections.

My dad told me, the whole place later went up in flames but that Enid had spontaneously

combusted.  She had been drinking gin that night, they say it sped up the whole combustion

process, made her highly flammable.  I still see her face, the way she stared wide eyed at me as if

I were meant to help, as if I could do something. Gary says he didn’t see it, said he’d fled outside

before all of this happened.  I’ve tried speaking to him about it but…’

Andy found himself choking on his words and cut himself short, pushing the Polaroid aside.

I think we’ll finish up for today, next week will look at ways you can deal with recurring, intrusive

thoughts that may be disturbing your sleep.’

Andy just nodded, all too glad to get out of the stuffy psychiatrists office and back home to a cold

drink of Dissarano and Coke, no ice.

Chapter 2

There was something very demoralizing about a white screen, a blank word document.  The

taunting emptiness, the teasing, malevolent smile of the Paper clip in the bottom right hand

corner.

 The pint glass of Dissarano and Coke or Amaretto as he’d heard it called was half empty.  The

anesthetizing effect of the liquor was beginning to set in.  A kind of liquorish sweetness followed

by a wholly desirable numbing of the senses.  Perhaps that was why the words were not coming

out.  It was his third glass after all and the bell jar was three quarters empty serving only now to

prop up a carton of menthol cigarettes-a monument to two demons, two equally enticing demons.

 It had been three hours since Andy had taken the call from his agent.  The lovely red haired fireball

of a woman. 

When can we expect the manuscript, they’re getting impatient Andy.  You know

they’ve sent you money up front and they expect results.’

 The said money had been squandered in bars and off licenses, Sky vodka, white rum, gin and

Baileys.  Four days of blessed blurriness had passed.  Time transitioning in the bliss of

unaccountability and inebriation.

 The mornings always commenced with a headache but a few mixes sorted that  and then life

continued.  

 The pent house apartment Andy had acquired three months previous had already lost its

simplistic, modernistic charm.  The fusion of economic furnishings with the vast white walls had

been usurped by tacky grind house movie posters, empty foster cans and clothes slung on every

available floor space.

 He surveyed the beautiful carnage.  He had surely made a house a home.  Everything had its

own personal touch from the unwashed dishes to the unlaundered jeans.  There was a unique

smell as well.  Not to everybody’s taste but easily dispersed by opening the patio doors to the

balcony garden.  It had originally come with hanging baskets of tulips and geraniums .  Small all

weather palms lined a meandering patio path winding under a wooden trellis and other enmities

that gave the garden a magazine cover feel.

 Andy’s attention turned once again to the screen but this time he began to see double.  Two floating

Paper clips, duplicate cursors, desk top icons that appeared animated, alive even.  He should

probably lie down, take a nap, let some ideas, some concepts percolate a while.

Just then the phone rang, momentarily sobering him up. If it were his publisher he had readied

a creative excuse.  If it was PPI he was not interested, if it was his ex, well…

He reluctantly picked up the receiver and uttered an unintelligible sound.  There was silence on

the other end.

Hello?’ he said

Andy its Karen.  I know your probably working but Milly really wants to see you, can she come

and stay over?’

Andy paused just long enough to think that perhaps this was merely his ex trying to pawn off his

daughter before the ‘court designated’ visiting times.  Typical deferral of responsibility.

Its Tuesday’ he replied, a little more testily than he had planned.

You know she’s just started back school, she wants to tell you about it, she doesn’t want to have to

wait all the way to the weekend. Surely you can make some time in your busy schedule.’

The final part of that sentence would have come out sarcastic however it had been said.  Karen

never appreciated that being a writer was a job.  That in those moments where he appeared to be

doing nothing, he was in fact contemplating his creative mind, musing on the abstract concepts of

the universe and meditating on the philosophical implications of life itself.  No Karen saw it as

idleness and nothing more.

I’ve got a deadline to meet with this latest book, I’m…’  even as he spoke he could picture her

sullen expression as the words hit her auditory canal at the wrong angle bouncing off ineffectually

into the stratosphere. 

Take some time to see your damn daughter for god sake, she’s more important than any book you

are or aren’t writing.’

He inhaled deeply, this deliberate dig was not about to phase him.

Bring her in about an hour, I need to have a shower and freshen up.’

Have you been drinking?’

What’s with all the questions, I’ve agreed to take her haven’t I, come in an hour and I’ll buzz you

in.’  with that he placed the phone down  and sat back, for a moment just staring into middle

distance.  The very notion of a plot surfacing now seemed near impossible. The writer’s block had

transformed into a full blown migraine that nothing but Tramadole or Morphine could touch.

He had just slipped back on his old jeans and a wrinkled Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt when the buzzer

shrieked out from the little box on the side of his door.  He took a cursory glance at the apartment,

suddenly realising how bad it looked, suddenly aware of the lingering odour that must be a hundred

times more noticeable to new noses.  He quickly cleared evidence of his latest drinking session,

glasses in the sink, decanters hidden behind the biscuit tin, bottles emptied of their last drop and

disposed of in the recyclables.  Only then did he buzz her in, waiting with the same nervous

anticipation as one would await a blind date.

Milly had come up the stairs herself, a small ‘My Little Pony’ back pack swung single strapped

over her shoulder.  Blonde, school girl pony tails and petit pink spectacles with misted lenses.

Where’s mum?’

She parked the car downstairs, said she had to get to the shops.’

Andy found himself sucking his teeth in hearty derision but stopped when he clocked his daughter’s

concerned, magnified stare.

She said you could ring her.’

No, its fine, come in, come in.’

Andy stood aside letting her pass.  Too much time had elapsed to initiate a hug, at least with out

it looking awkward and forced.  Milly headed towards the sofa, offloading her bag and positioning

herself immediately in front of the TV.  As Andy closed the door he sighed.  What on earth was he

meant to talk about, when was Karen picking her up? Why had she bought a bag with her, was it her

school bag, did she have homework she would need help with? 

Fancy a drink?’

No thanks’

Something to eat?’

What you got?

That was a good question.  He didn’t have much of an appetite when he drank, he wasn’t even sure

when his last food shop had been.

Let me have a look.’  Opening the fridge, he peered from empty shelf to empty shelf.

How about I order in, pizza sound nice?’

Milly had a quizzical look on her face, a look that could go either way.

Yeah alright, sausage and mushroom.’

Mushroom, since when you likes mushroom’

Pete got them for me.’

Andy nodded.  He felt somehow obliged to ask how Karen’s new man was doing, but the truth was,

he didn’t care much, certainly not enough to waste any breath asking.

I got a takeaway menu with the number on somewhere.’

Your place is a mess daddy’

An organised mess, he thought.  ‘What you watching on TV these days?’

Milly looked at her watch then up at the screen.   ‘Cartoons are on now’

Had she just told the time, was that possible at age six?  It was improbable but possible, she had

always been an early learner, speaking fluently at two, writing her name at three.

Mummy says you started back at school.’  The statement was met with a blank expression.

How is it?’  

Ok’

Just ok?’

I don’t like Mrs potter, she’s old and she smells funny.’

Andy stifled a laugh.

I hope you haven’t said anything.’

Milly shook her head.  ‘Are you coming to school, mummy is next week.’

Um’

Its a parent meeting, you gotta come.’

Um, lets see what cartoons are on hey’

As Milly sat watching the screen, Andy scrambled about searching for the takeaway menu, sneakily

tidying up as he went.  He eventually found it under her bag.

What you got in here, Potter already given you maths homework.’

Silly daddy, its my jim jams, mum says I can stay the night, she says she’ll pick me up in the

morning.’

Andy nearly choked as the words to a suitable response formed in his throat.

oh dearie, I don’t know, did mummy tell you, I got tons to do, my publishers have been calling

me and…’  he suddenly realised who he was explaining this to and stopped himself short.

Let me ring mummy and see exactly what she said.’

 Three hours passed.  The pizza had arrived, the cartoons had lost their allure and Karen had won

out the reasons why Milly could stay the night.  Andy had returned to his computer and was just

finishing the third paragraph of a half decent page when Milly tapped him on the shoulder.

Can I go out in the garden?’

Andy was startled by the interruption and swore involuntarily. Milly was taken aback, her

bespectacled eyes tearing up.

Sorry dear, it was just dad was beginning to make a break through. What did you ask?’

Can we go in the garden, I’m bored.’

Sure’

The metropolitan skyline spread out to a shimmering sea-scape horizon.  A million buildings rose

in concrete clusters.  Mirrored office windows glinted in the pre dusk light.  A Pac-man like maze of

traffic wound between the architectural clamour, an endless urban sprawl punctuated by car horns

and muffled shouts.  

I don’t like the city’  Milly said suddenly.

Why, look at all the beautiful sky scrapers, what’s not too like?’

I like the country, its quiet there.’  As she said this she turned to the hanging baskets and

stroked the petals of the overarching flowers.

The country’s prettier, the city its so…so grey.’

Andy shuddered as he heard Karen’s objections projected through the mouth of his daughter.

Well you should see it on a summers day, too many clouds in the sky to properly appreciate it at the

moment, but you’re see.’

Milly seemed unconvinced and continued to study the menagerie of plant life that populated the

garden.

Andy managed to fit in another hour and a half of writing but none of the additional paragraphs

seemed to match the majesty of his opening lines.  Milly had got into her pyjamas and had pulled

the blanket over her.  The news was playing but it appeared she was asleep.

Andy clicked save and stole over, picking Milly up and placing her on the bed.  He’d take the sofa

tonight, probably have a glass or two and then fall asleep.  It struck him how this small action of

surrendering his bed almost made up for any past neglect, anyone who witnessed this selfless act

would have to reach the inevitable conclusion that he was in fact a dutiful father, a good dad and a

considerate human being.  

The sofa was surprisingly comfortable, though that didn’t detract in any way from the good deed

of sacrificing the comfort of his own, pocket sprung mattress.  Dawn’s pink syrupy hue issued

through the French windows.  A tessellation of soft ribbed clouds clustered above a rising sun.  it

was almost a poetic sight and yet all Andy could think of right now was the stale gammy taste in

his mouth and the way his right arm was unpleasantly stiff from the elbow to the shoulder.

 Milly came to the kitchen at the sound of cereal bowls being retrieved from the sink.

I’ve only got rice krispies I’m afraid but we chuck some sugar on them and they’ll be fine.’

Pete says I have to cut down on my sugar.’

Andy breathed in deeply, refusing to exhibit his indignation.  Bloody Pete, who cares what bloody

Pete had to say.  Yes he was a doctor but that didn’t make him a god.  Andy could easily acquire

equal knowledge from a few weeks surfing the medical blogs on the internet, frequenting the

health forums, the Q and A’s and self proclaimed drug gurus.  

We just wont tell Pete will we?’  He found himself spitting out the name, as if the syllables burnt

his tongue.

What are we doing today daddy?’   This disarming question had him pause for thought.  He

looked outside once more.  Unfortunately it looked like the weather was going to be nice so he

couldn’t use rain as an excuse for not going out.  He’d already used the excuse of his work and that

seemed to be falling on deaf ears.  Struggling for an answer, he searched the room, finally settling

his gaze on the phone. 

We should probably stay in, in case your mother wants to pick you up?’

Oh’ Milly replied dejectedly.

But until then, we’ll do something fun hey.’

Like what?’

He hadn’t thought that far ahead, the sentiment should have been enough. As he was thinking of

what to suggest the phone rang.  It was Karen.

Andy, Andy is that you?’

Who else it going to be, you rang my number didn’t you?’

I’m at my mothers, she had a fall.’

Andy pictured Karen’s pompous mother and found himself grinning at such a prospect.

I’m sorry, i hope it wasn’t anything serious.’

She broke her hip, she’s bed ridden, I need to stay until I can sort out some home care for her.’

Oh.  Well of course.  It’s your mum after all.  So what time shall I drop off Milly with you then?’

You’re joking right, your seriously taking the mick right now, tell me your taking the mick.’

yeah of course, I mean…

She’ll need to stay with you for the week, at least till after the weekend anyway.’

what about clothes?’ he found himself saying.

Pete will bring them round, later today, I told him your address, hope you don’t mind?’

Pete, so why cant Pete look after her hey?’

You know he works?’

and I don’t?  I don’t go around healing the sick like Christ Pete but I work, I got dead lines to meet,

people expect to read my stuff.’

I think the adventures of Detective Biggins or Higgins or whatever you call him nowadays can

wait don’t you, some things are more important.’

It’s Detective Inspector Higgins and I’m writing something different if you must know.’

Who gives a shit Andy, take some responsibility for once in your useless life, this is your daughter

we’re talking about.  Switch off the computer, put down the whiskey and take bloody care of her.’

Andy was certain, Milly could hear her mothers raised voice through the receiver.

Ok, ok just please, try and sort some help out as quick as possible.’

The line went dead.  That was it, the conversation was over, he had lost. Milly had nearly finished

her cereal and was already looking for the next form of entertainment.

Andy looked longingly at the computer.  He wasn’t sure how long it would be until he would be

back creating, correction, drinking and creating.

 By midday Andy had exhausted all ideas and Milly was looking less than impressed at his efforts. 

He had resigned to the computer, trying desperately to recover some of the brilliance of

his opening paragraph.  The ideas were coming together a little more cohesively.  He was in no

mood to construct an initial synopsis so instead hastily typed the words hoping his creative mind

would mould them into something marketable.  He was surprised that his publisher hadn’t called

and was almost tempted to ring her up and tell her how well it was all going, like an excited child,

like Milly.  He looked round.  She had propped herself once again in front of the TV.  It wasn’t

exactly clear what she was watching now, some kind of panel show but it was keeping her

somewhat amused, quiet at least.   As he turned back to the screen, he glimpsed the paper clip, a

speech bubble rising from its smug smile. 

Do you want help raising your daughter.’

Andy shook his head

Do you want help with your toolbar?’ 

that was weird.  He looked at his glass.  First one of the day, a mere smidgen of vodka midst

lashings of coke and even a bit of ice that further watered down the mix.  

 When he had finished spell checking his work so far, the sky outside had noticeably darkened. 

Milly was silently watching some nature documentary. Two leopards racing across the Serengeti.

The phone rang.

Andy, its Karen, Pete cant drop the clothes till the morning, I hope you hadn’t planned on going

out anywhere with her today.  Sorry if you had.’

It’s fine, I found enough indoor activities.’

Mum’s doing a lot better.  Doctors got her tucked up in bed on a Morphine drip, I’ll be able to

leave soon.  Most of the time she’s so out of it with the meds she doesn’t know I’m even there.’

Andy wasn’t sure if he was meant to laugh or just agree at this point, he said nothing.  

How’s Milly doing?’

She’s fine, she’s fine’ he said, his eagerness to get off the phone becoming blatant.

Two two hundred ml bottles of Smirnoff vodka later and Andy had well and truly abandoned any

attempt at writing.  Milly had once again fallen asleep.  He’d wait a bit longer, then transfer her

through again.  Tomorrow he’d make more of an effort, they’d go out somewhere, no where too far,

a local cafe or something.  

It was ten past midnight when Andy finally transferred Milly to the bedroom and made a half

hearted attempt at cleaning away the evidence of his evening drinking session.

He must have only just drifted off into proper REM sleep when he heard a scream.  A girl’s

scream, it was Milly.  He threw the couch blanket to the floor and raced into the bedroom.  

 Milly was sat at the foot of her bed. She’d been crying that much was clear but there was

something else. He flicked on the light.  She squinted with the abrupt illumination.  She was

cradling her right arm, messaging the skin.  Several deep red welts, burns crossed the forearm.

What the hell happened?’ Andy asked, his panic not helping the situation.

Milly stretched out the burn streaked arm.  ‘She tried to grab me’

Who did, who tried?’

The woman standing by the closet.  She was there the other night to, she just stands there,

watching me.’

Andy turned and looked.

There’s no one there honey, I think you were having a bad dream.’

No I saw her. Her skin was all wrinkled and she had white hair.’

There’s no one there honey.  You need to tell me how you got those burns?’

Milly began to whimper before weeping inconsolably.

I told you daddy she tried to grab me.  She walked up to my bed, she said her name was, oh

daddy I cant remember, it started with E.’

Andy took Milly into his arms and hugged her. 

‘Let’s get that arm under some water and see if it doesn’t need some more treatment after that.’ 

As he said this he cautiously gazed around the room, at the gathered shadows by the cabinets and

the closet.  Could Milly really have seen her, could Milly really have met Enid?

Chapter 3

Pete came round at about eight o’clock in the morning.  He seemed in a rush to drop off Milly’s

clothes. He gave her a quick hug, gave Andy a quick nod and left.  Andy tried phoning Karen but

was only getting the answering machine.  Milly was still stroking her arm.  The redness had

gone down slightly but some of the skin was blistered.  The more he looked at it, the more it

looked like the print left behind when someone grabs you and holds tightly as if giving an Indian

burn or reprimanding a wondering child.

 Milly didn’t seem much like playing.  In fact she receded into her self the entire morning, not

once asking if they were going to go any where or do anything.  The sky outside was a steely grey

and a wind whistled between the high rises.  Andy had tried sitting himself by the computer only

to find writers block had returned with avengence.  All he could think of was what he’d tell his

psychiatrist when they met up again.  How the memories of what happened on that fateful day in

that house in the cornfields was all real, Milly had seen her, Enid existed and for some unknown

reason she was coming after him.

To Andy’s relief Karen came upstairs to pick up Milly.  Milly was more than glad to leave, her

eyes forever darting towards the bedroom doorway.  Did she see Enid now, was Enid stood

watching her?  

Karen appeared to have brightened up.  Her usual flustered countenance was replaced with a

somewhat calm demeanour if only a facade.

How is your mum doing, is she recovering well?’

Yeah’ she nodded ‘but I’m just glad to be back I hate it up there.’

The conversation continued, all the time Andy weighing up the advantages of telling Karen about

the burns, she’d surely see them eventually and then what?  He couldn’t find it in himself to

mention anything yet and breathed a deep sigh of relief when the front door was finally closed

and he was alone once again, then again he didn’t feel that alone.

Once again in the increasingly familiar smell of the psychiatrist’s office.  Andy watched as the

doctor combed his fingers through his beard, flattening out the white wisps.  

Have you bought me some more photos that you wish to discuss.’

Andy shook his head and watched as the doctor analysed that response and all its inherent

implications.

My daughter saw her?’

And who is that you are refereeing to?’

My daughter, she saw Enid, the woman from the house in the cornfields, she was in my room.’

The doctor nodded, penned something down and looked back through his ultra magnified

bifocals. 

I thought she had just dreamed it but she showed me these marks, like finger prints, only they were

burns and they were on her arm, she said Enid tried to grab her.’

The doctor continued to nod but it felt as if it were an insincere almost ridiculing gesture.

I’m telling the truth, it happened.  Look if it was just me that had seen it I’d think I’d just drunk a

little too much you know, but Milly she’s smart, she knows what she saw.  She says the woman

spoke to her, that she told her that her name was Enid. Do you think it was a vengeful spirit some

kind of apparition from the dead?’

What do you think?’

I saw the woman burst into flames, that image will never leave my mind, she died right in front

of me and I was hapless to do a thing about it.’

Have you ever considered this experience to be merely a physical manifestation of your guilt?’

Andy sighed.

That’s what I’m trying to tell you, if I had been the one to see her I could buy into all that

psychobabble but it wasn’t me, it was my logical, rational thinking daughter who had the marks

to prove it.’

Lets come back to this’ the doctor exclaimed, ‘I feel at the moment it may take us down an

unhelpful path.  What is your current situation vis a vis your alcohol consumption, are things

beginning to get under control?’ Andy nodded.  Why isn’t he discussing the important things, the

life threatening things like the ghost in his apartment?  

The rest of the session blurred into insignificance next to the seething thoughts populating

Andy’s mind.  

Maybe he needed to collect physical evidence. This doctor seem to like photos. Perhaps with the

right image, these reported sightings could be taken seriously but as it stood they appeared only as

the mad ramblings of a jobless alcoholic.

Andy’s morning was disturbed by the piercing ring of the phone like a pneumatic drill in his

head.  

How did Milly get those marks Andy? She wont tell me’

Taking a moment for the sleep to dissipate from his mind, he said.

You wouldn’t believe me if I told ya, but I think it best she doesn’t come over for a bit.’

You’d like that wouldn’t ya Andy, shirk your responsibilities like usual. Regular father of the

year you are.  I might have to be visiting my mum again, and Pete’s got a real job so I can’t see

much choice in the matter.’

Andy slammed down the receiver.  He could feel his body shaking.

Why was she always making things so difficult, like her prime objective in life was to make his life

a misery, even though they weren’t even still together.  Unable to get back to sleep, Andy hobbled

over to the couch.  The remnant of a bad dream still clinging to his mind.  He turned on the TV

and flicked idly through the channels. Nothing but news and exercise promotions.  There was a

time, many years ago that he exercised, that his physical image mattered.  Now his fuzz mottled

gut cascaded over his belt line following all his features south, until one day he’d be a mere sagging

bag of flesh and hair.  He turned off the TV and crossed over to the kitchen. The thought of washing

any of the dishes in the sink failed to appeal to him, perhaps he’d make some toast, use his lap for a

tray and not wash the cutlery after.  The minimal effort level suited him perfectly.  Then he should

probably shower or maybe just sink wash and dress, same clothes as yesterday, boxers turned inside

out.  He wasn’t planning on going any where, at least no where important.  The sudden urge for a

stiff drink trumped any semblance to plans he had made and he began scouring the bombsite of an

apartment for a bottle, even a can just to start the day off right. 

As he sat back on the couch, trying once again to find something on the TV that would keep his

attention he was sure he could smell something strange in the air.  The smell of burning.  He’d

turned the toaster off, perhaps some crumbs or a bit of crust was still smouldering in the

mechanism.  Maybe a cigarette hadn’t been completely stubbed out and what he was smelling

now was the wisps of tobacco slowly and subtly filling the air.  No it wasn’t that.  He hadn’t

smoked since the night before and he only smoked menthols, this smell was stronger, almost like

sulphur.

 He put it out of his mind as he remembered the work he should probably be doing on his

manuscript.  One more drink and then, no excuses, he’d get up and start doing something

productive.

 Midday came and he’d achieved, four A4 pages albeit double spaced, size 12 font but it was

quality writing and that’s what mattered.  He could sit back down, just for a while and justifiably

have a break. They were the best kind of breaks, those that could be justified.  His sleep was soon

interrupted by a loud knocking at the door.  It took a moment to register that, that in itself was odd

seen as he hadn’t buzzed anyone up.  It would either have to be a neighbour or the building

manager both he had little contact with.  He sat up, his joints clicking arthritically.  His head was

spinning but he was certain it wasn’t drink induced, it was more of a groggy, detached feeling, lack

of sleep or stress maybe.  The knocking continued.

Yeah, Yeah, I’m coming’

Andy undid the latch and opened the door.  The sight made him leap back abruptly. The figure was

at least seven feet tall.  He wore a postman’s outfit, dark blue shorts and top but it was his face, the

milky white eyes, the pallid skin and the mouth that appeared to be stitched together.

 Andy sat up, knocking the can from the side table.  An exercise program was still looping on the

TV, three months free, then £21.50 each month after.  He looked across the room.  The door was

closed, the latch pulled across.  Had he just dreamt this, it felt way too real to just be a dream.

 He ran to the door, unsecured the latch and stepped out into the hallway.  He half expected to

see that towering figure, the tall postman but the landing was empty.  There was still the distinct

smell of  burning.  Had Andy looked round he would have seen the tall postman crossing the

threshold to his bedroom, leering towards him with that stitched smile and those milky irises.

 The strange thought that it would be comforting for Milly to be round at this point entered his

mind, at least then he wouldn’t feel so alone but in all honesty he didn’t really feel alone.  He

had that eerie sense that someone was watching him.  That same sense he had described to his

psychiatrist when him and Greg were exploring the old house in the cornfields.  The spine tingling

feeling of a lone figure, standing in some undisclosed location watching and waiting, watching and

waiting.

No more writing was achieved that day just plenty of drinking. Tomorrow he would have to do a

supply run to procure the essentials, spirits, rums, liquors, wine and beer the five liquid groups.

He’d ring his publisher and demand an extension, they worked for him now and not the other way

around.  Then over the next few weeks he would amble on with his writing whenever he felt like it.

He’d leave editing off until he’d done a sizable amount and dared read back how any of it sounded.

It felt an achievement in and of itself to devise this plan of action, and with that he slunked off to

bed, his mind closed for the day.

Milly was running down the forest path laughing and giggling.  She seemed to know the way as

she darted through the coniferous trees.  Pin pricks of sun shone through the canopy, dappled

shadows freckled the gravel.  It would have been a perfect day, if only he had the energy to keep

up.

Milly’  he called, ‘slow down, your old man cant keep up, slow down will ya.’

If anything she sped up, still laughing.  It sounded more like a taunt now, possessing a

pantomime villain quality.  Why was she laughing, why had it turned from joyous to maniacal? 

And where were they?  There were no forests round where he lived and he hadn’t driven for

years, not since the hefty speeding fine he received and the classes hed ‘been forced to take.

Milly, for god sake slow down.’

As he ran to keep up, he couldn’t help looking from side to side at the pillared pines and the

encroaching shadow.  That’s when he noticed right of the path, the slender outline of a person. 

A tall person, very tall, standing perfectly still.  He had to stop to distinguish if this had just been

a trick of the light but no, silhouetted fifty feet or so away was a man, almost as narrowly built as

the trunks that surrounded him.  Arms and legs as scraggly as branches.

Andy turned his gaze back to the path but by now Milly was too far ahead.  As he took another

look, the figure had gone leaving no trace of it ever being there.  He could feel something on his

face, fingers, hot sticky fingers stroking his cheeks, trailing from his forehead to his chin.  He

opened his eyes to find the comforting surroundings of his bedroom.  The cabinets and closets, the

bedside table and the trashy movie posters.  The only thing was that now the smell of burning was

back, it was a sulphuric smell as if from a volcano.  He sat up, rubbing his eyes.  The face, the

White skin, the stitched mouth right in front of him, then nothing.  Nothing but the mundaity of the

bedroom, the contrasting silence hitting the ear like a piercing scream.  The eerie quietude that

proceeds a nightmare, shattered once again by the ringing of the phone and a return to his senses.

 As Andy stood up, he realised he was soaked in sweat.  His cotton vest clinging to him like a

second skin.  The image of the pale face was still clearly imprinted in his mind.  Branded into

his consciences with horrific vividness.  It was only when he heard the phone still ringing that he

ran over to the worktable and grabbed the receiver.  Out of breath he said, ‘hello?’

Andy its Rachel, how are you?’

Rachel hi, sorry I’ve literally just woken up.’

Wow the life of a writer.  One in the afternoon and your only now rising.  God how I envy the

creative.’

What’s up Rachel?’

we need to meet to discuss the progress with your manuscript.  The publishers wanna better idea

of its completion. ‘

Completion?’

Well yes.  Come to my office.  Lets see what you’ve got.  Give me a brief outline of what’s left to

happen and then at least I can keep them off your back a little longer.  They just feel you need to

justify the monthly royalties.  They need to see returns on their investments, you know what I’m

saying?’

Andy’s head was pounding.  He needed a drink.  He needed to stop this pointless call and finish

off the Premium.

You still there Andy? Andy?’

Yes yes of course. Give me time to get ready and I’ll be over.’

Alright I’ll see you soon.’

The line went dead.  Andy turned on the computer, hoping the sight of his last endeavours would

respark his creativity.  Perhaps ignite his enthusiasm so that when he met up with Rachel he’d be

promoting his ideas rather than clutching at them from the hazy recesses of his mind.

He guessed he should shower but he’d leave off shaving.  The facial hair trend was making a

return and although presently, his goatee was tangled and unkempt, he felt it gave him a worldly

air like a man whose seen things, done things beyond the comprehension of the average person.

After the shower, he let his hair dry in the air.  The water darkening the individual strands and

styling them naturalistically, giving the illusion of the application of product.  He felt a little more

awake and if one ignored the dark rings around his eyes, it was almost possible to say he looked

on form.

It was bitterly cold outside. A  grey pall lay heavy on the city.  Rivulets from last nights deluge

flowed sluggishly across the blocked drainage systems.  Water had amassed against the kerb so

as to waver the demarcation between the pavement and the road.

 A few of the street lights were still on despite the time of day.  Their halogen white bulbs spilling

out over the chrome shine of the parked cars.  Up ahead was a bus stop.  Three people already

gathered under the Perspex shelter.  Two girls had their ear phones in and were lost to the

incandescent glow of their phones.  The third was an elderly manBurburry flat cap shadowing

his features.  A farmers gillet and corduroys blackened by the rain.  He seemed reluctant to sit

despite the availability of seats and decided instead to lean slightly on his cane.  It wasn’t clear

whether it was the oak walking stick or the man’s aged bones that were making the dull creaking.

 A flash of lightening followed quickly by a growl of thunder.  Andy jumped, making sure to

compose himself after in case anyone had noticed.  Seconds after the grumbling thunder came

the mechanical roaring of the bus engine and the hissing of the dump valves.

 Andy gestured the others to go ahead whilst he fumbled for his bus pass.  The driver nodded him

on without looking at the photo.  Most of the seats were occupied.  Teen mums in the disabled

bay, prams sticking out into the aisle.  The strange man that always talked to himself and smelt

of piss sat on the elevated seats above the wheel arch.  Truant school girls giggled on the back

bench as if sitting on the bleachers of an assembly hall.  Each of them traced vulgar patterns in

the condensate of the emergency glass.

 Eventually Andy settled for a seat next to a man his own age, maybe older.  He had his laptop

out and seemed to be typing away, oblivious to the world around him.

 Andy looked down at his phone.  He had a missed call and two texts.  One was from the

banksaying that he had exceeded his overdraft limit but that wasn’t really news.  The other

Was Karen.  Milly had gone to A and E when one of the burns had got infected.  Pete was up there

with her so everything was under control.  This text was purely for informational purposes and

not, she repeated not an obligation for him to drop what he was doing and see his daughter.

 The bus took the scenic route, winding through the detached houses of the suburbs before

edging into the business district.  Towering monolithic structures rose like the pillars of

enterprise.  Banks and building societies, insurance brokers and lawyers offices all equally bland

and lifeless.  Rachel’s office was two stops from here.

 ‘My God Andy, you look terrible.’

Well thanks but what do you mean?’

Rachel shuffled around her Radley handbag eventually retrieving a small make-up mirror.

Look at your eyes, have you even slept at all and your skin its so pale.  Have you been drinking

again?’

To say again would be to assume that I’d stopped.’

Andy I’m worried about you.’

More worried about your commission Andy thought.

don’t be, I’m fine.  Anyway lets talk my book. I’ve gone for something a little different.  I’m bored

of the mysteries.  I’m going for a horror which seems an appropriate subject at the moment.’

What do you mean?’

Nothing, nothing, I shouldn’t have said anything.  Anyway I’ve emailed you the first few pages

and I thought we could just discuss the rest here.  Nothings solid yet.  Its still going through the

developmental stages and I guess the research stage to.’

Oh’ Rachel said looking slightly crest fallen.’

Only I thought you’d be further along by now.  I’m getting calls everyday, people are waiting.’

You cant rush creativity.’  Andy blurted, feeling his cheeks redden.  He could also feel

Himself shaking.  He could really do with a stiff drink, some brandy or maybe some white rum.

So tell me what you’ve got so far Rachel said leaning forward in a kind of mock anticipation

that came across patronising and almost condescending.

Well I wanted to write from personal experience.  They always say its best to write about what

you know.’

Rachel nodded.  This same slow and methodical nod the psychiatrist had given just the other day.

yes well anyway.  I’ve been looking over some things from my childhood.  Things I think have

potential to be moulded into a best seller.’  He was almost believing his own hype.

There are certain memories I have that I want to work into a plot.’

You’ll have to give me more than that.’ Rachel urged her eyes slitted into a  scrutinizing and

expectant stare.

There was a house you see.’  Andy began picturing the Polaroid’s, then the real house.  The feel of

the corn stalks as they brushed against his arms and Enid, Enid stood in the above bedroom window

looking out, as still and lifeless as a scarecrow.

Me and a friend of mine, we used to visit it out in the cornfields. Its burned down now, Anyway…’

as Andy was recounting, the images continued to cross his mind like a movie reel or the

photographs on an old view finder.  The house, the flame, Enid’s melted face.

Andy, Andy, I thought we’d lost you there for a moment, you alright?’

What?  Yeah I’m fine look can I email you a synopsis it would be easier.  I got a lot on my mind

at the moment.  My daughters in hospital at the moment and, and…’

okay, okay just send me an outline.  I’m sorry to hear about your daughter, is she okay?’

Andy pictured Milly’s arms.  A veiny liver spotted hand was clasping the wrist, digging talon like

nails into the flesh.

I gotta go.’

  The apartment felt disconcertingly quiet when he returned.  He poured a Jack and Coke and sat

on the rumpled cushions of his sofa, staring bleakly towards the TV screen.  In the reflection,

He could clearly make out his balcony garden and how the high winds had done a number on

The hanging baskets and trellis.  The plants had the unkempt look of his beard or…Enid’s hair.

Where the hell did that come from?  He shook his head trying to dispel the thought.  Moving

across to his work desk, he turned on the computer and thought for a moment of putting a few

words to page.  Then a second thought surfaced, a more appealing thought.  

He loaded up the browser and entered in a search.  There had to be sites, forums or something

that discussed the origins of the strange things that had been going on.  The sightings, the smells… 

what was it all about? where did he start?  Were they demons or ghosts, were they the same thing? 

Why was it happening in his apartment.  Was it just the figments of an overtaxed imagination or

was it something else, something darker.

Quantifying Horror

Quantifying Horror.

As an aspiring writer I understand that anything I say on the craft of writing fiction will be deemed presumptuous at best, redundant at worst. I have however spent a long time outside of graduating with a degree in English and Creative Writing looking at what makes Horror fiction scary. What is it, that leaves a lasting effect on the readers, entering their dreams and disturbing their peace? Can books achieve the same goosebump inducing scares as movies especially when the visual medium, films, television etc have superceded the days of curling up with a good read? People have, dare I say it, become lazy and want the ‘scares’ provided with little or no effort of the imagination. I posit that it is this unused, catatonic muscle which as kids we once utilised to dream and play, that is the most powerful tool in a Writer’s arsenal. It is out duty as Writer’s of Fiction in any genre to rekindle the imagination of those who have forgotten what its like to squint at lampposts and imagine the emanating streaks of light as laser beams shooting from the eyes of a giant, sentient being. Horror is broad because it’s subjective. We all, whether we are willing to admit it or not, suffer from some rational or irrational fears or phobias. They can range from the common fear of spiders to the lesser known fear of orange peels. Our backgrounds play a fundamental part in deciding what scares us. A negative experience with bees will make a person cringe whenever they hear the loud buzzing of their wings or a vivid memory of drowning might make someone adverse to water be it rain falling from the skies or the soapy contents of a bathtub. How then can we insure we reach the broadest possible demographic with our horror? As probably the best known writer in the genre, I wish to site from the master of the macabre Stephen King. I have noticed an identifiable formula in his writing. This is not to say, that his works are predictable rather, it is possible to see when analysing the plots and themes, how he might have been inspired to write such books. I shall use some examples to illustrate my point. Stephen kings ‘IT’, is a huge novel that allows the author to explore multiple avenues of fear, the most obvious being the fear of clowns. The general uneasiness we feel not really knowing what the person looks like under the paint. The trepidation we experience when we ask ourselves why the clowns are always smiling despite being hurt and ridiculed for a living. It is agreed that there is something sinister about those white-painted individuals. It hasn’t helped matter that cases like John Wayne-Gacey (the child killing clown) have left an indelible mark on our collective conscious. King has masterfully taken this shared uneasiness regarding clowns and built on it, with supernatural elements and terrifying encounters with evil. King admits to have never, at least at the time of writing IT, visited a Freak Show but he has still tapped into a deep well of dread. Then we have ‘The girl who loved Tom Gordon’ that takes the fear of isolation, of being lost, of losing your mind. ‘The stand’ that plays on our worries about the future of this planet, ‘Pet Semetry’ that looks at the horrible repercussions of losing a child and then playing with forces beyond our understanding. The list goes on. King has incrementally touched on all our deepest fears in at least one of his works and he’s done that by asking the question, why do such concepts scare him? We, as writers cannot be using the cheap tricks of the screen like the jump scare or the building musical crescendo and therefore must focus on reaching our consumers at a psychological level. Gore must be shown through the page rather than splattered in our faces. Creatures must come alive through descriptions or the lack thereof rather than appearing in front of us. Whereas a movie is watched in a single sitting, a novel is likely to be read over days even weeks, so the fear level must be maintained. The reader must be drawn to the text whilst dreading to read on. We already know, that in some twisted, sadomasochistic way, we enjoy being scared out of our wits, we relish the stomach knotting sensation as our minds revert to an almost infantile state and suddenly the idea of climbing under the covers is super appealing. That means horror fiction has the potential if done right to rival the blockbuster horror flicks still attracting so many people.

So if the market is there, the need is there, we must do it right. I would love to say that ‘fear’ could be quantified but as a subjective term, it can only be tapped into and explored. Having said this I truly believe some forms of horror work better than others. Take the term ‘monster’ it has childish connotations on par with the boogy man. It might scare pre-teens but the majority of us know that monsters don’t exist and therefore the element of fear is greatly diminished. We are not about to worry about something make-believe but what if the horror is based on things we encounter everyday. Take Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The birds’ as a prime example. Although it’s arguably a little outdated now, what Hitchcock did so cleverly, is to take an everyday, mundane situation like an encounter with birds and turn it into a terrifying ordeal. Viewers left the cinema eyeing the pegions suspiciously, questioning the motives of the gulls flying by. This is an example of creating a real and lasting fear. If we transfer this to the page, we can tap into fears people weren’t even aware they had, fears that will stay with them long after the book is closed, the lights are out and they’ve gone to bed.

What are the modern-day worries? What concerns us, as a nation? Terrorism, global nuclear war, the end of days? Or on a less epic scale maybe even the tiny rat that carries on it a modified version of the bubonic plague and who ushers in a second black death, anything’s possible…

Ken Robinson (aspiring author of horror and fantasy)

First three chapters of The Pentagram Bride.

The pentagram bride.

Chapter 1

They say they’re all behind the dry wall’

What are?’

The children’

Gary Taylor smiled a goofy gap toothed smile as he recounted the horrors of the old mansion in the

cornfield.

You’re full of it’ Andy answered looking through the stalks of corn towards the haunting edifice

now a mere silhouette against dusk’s dark sky.

Oh yeah, then where they all go, the kids that come up here hey? I’ll tell you where.  It’s the old

woman’s son.  He nail guns em to a table, splays em and sticks em in the wall cavities.’

Andy laughed whilst looking towards the upper left window of the house. The curtains

were drawn but there was light, someone was in, the horrible thought that he might

be being watched entered his mind.

So why would he do that? Andy asked, trying to keep the frayed nerves from his voice. 

They upholster the furniture init, skin on the sofa, the lamp shades, the curtains.’

Andy squinted towards the window focusing on the drawn curtains, they looked normal to

Him, velvet, maybe cotton, certainly not skin…

Lets knock the door’ Gary proffered, his eyes gleaming devilishly in the wane light.

Andy paused a moment, absorbing the challenge, assessing the implications before agreeing with a

curt nod.

The corn stalks rose at least a meter high.  Crickets chirped within the mottled shadow. A crow

raced across the sky, alighting on the mansion’s clay chimney pot.  Shuffling its talons, it watched

the two children as they stole forward.  The house was constructed from aging masonry, lattice

windows peering into pitch darkness.  The door hewn of oak was studded with a border of metallic

bolts.  A stone gargoyle stood sentry, its granite eyes peering out at the corn, its decorative wings

folded back like a grey cape to fight off the abrasive chill.  

  Gary had reached the house first and decided to peer through one of the ground floor
Windows. He was met with a pixilated pitch.  As his eyes adjusted he could just make out the old
white dust covers that dressed the parlour room furniture.
Here check it out’  he called.
Andy made his way to the window and peered through.  As the darkness softened, he made out
the various furnishings.   The crystal chandelier, the ornamental bookcase even a small winerack
built into the far wall.
She doesn’t do too bad for an old witch, must be good money in the skinning business’  Andy
remarked, regretting the joke immediately.  
Well you gonna knock or just chat rubbish all day?’
Andy looked towards the foreboding door with its fortress like facade and frost streaked panelling.
He checked to make sure Gary was witnessing this brave feat.  
Knock, knock,  knock. 
The sound was amplified in the moment, thundering percussively.
Gary had already turned heal darting through the corn stalks. Andy turned to an ominous
creak and screamed.
 The old woman’s eyes were milky white.  Her face was a wicker basket of wrinkles, her neck

Folds were like crumpled parchment.  Two salted slug like lips twitched as she moved her mouth to

talk.

Andy your father has been asking after you?’

What?’

He’s waiting for you to return to him Andy, go to him and tell him Enid sent you.

As Enid blinked Andy could have sworn that her eyelids closed horizontally, meeting in the middle

before once again opening to reveal the catarax white irises.  

***

Andy laid the yellowed Polaroid on the table and looked up. The memory of that night was still

vivid. He noticed his skin had marbled as he’d been recounting the origins of the photo.  He took a

last look at the solitary mansion ringed by vast cornfields before looking up.  

A man, beard speckled white, bifocals inched down to magnify the pupils to comic

proportions, sat bolt upright on an ornately upholstered armchair.  He appeared focused on a pad of

illegible notes, moving the pencil with relentlless like piston motion of a sewing machine needle,

only stopping when Andy placed a second

Polaroid next to the first.

Before you show me this Andy, do you understand the point of this exercise, I mean do you get

why we’re doing this?’

Cos you wont write me out a bloody prescription for meds Andy thought.

Its a memory exercise, you’re trying to unlock something from my subconscious, trying to figure

out the root cause of my insomnia.’ Andy said, feeling like a student who had just answered a

complex maths problem.

Then we shall continue, tell me, this second picture, was it taken around the same time?’

Andy traced his finger over the gloss finish.  As he did the memories came flooding back, like an

old movie reel animating the story of his childhood.  The picture was of the old mansion, only

now it was merely charred timbre struts, a black skeletal husk like a beached whale, its carcass

picked  to pieces by ravenous birds.

 

***

There’s a window round the back, I saw it the other night’ Gary said

The old crone doesn’t shut it properly, come on, we’ll get inside.’ Andy shuddered partly from the

cool night air but mostly at the thought of seeing her again, seeing that wrinkled face and those

ghostly eyes with their ectoplasmic glow.

Gary had already made his way round the back, the crunch of his footsteps adding to the

melody of the night.   Andy followed, his eyes darting across the house’s many windows, just in

case she happened to be standing, somewhere on the upper floor, peering between the net curtains.

There were no lights on, in fact the place was creepily quiet.  A pile of crates had been conveniently

stacked beneath an unlatched window, a meter or so off the ground.  Gary was peering inside.

You see anything?’ Andy asked still checking the many windows, still unable to shake the feeling

they were being watched.

It’s pitch black, come on give me a leg up, I’ll open the window proper from the inside.’

I don’t know about this, something don’t feel right, you said she had a son, what if he’s there,what

if he’s waiting for us in there?’

My God, I was kidding ya, that old bat’s on her own, always  has been, that’s why she’s crazy. 

Look she’s a hoarder, she’s got tons of valuables in there ripe for the picking.  We go in, canvas the

place and leave, come on.’

Andy realised the futility of arguing and watched with a silent detachment as if he were back at

home, viewing this through the television screen and not out here in the brisk cold among the

towering, monolithic stalks of corn.  

  The window creaked open  and Gary’s silhouetted figure beckoned him in.  Outside the

Clouds scudded across the sky revealing a waxen moon, its wan illumination slicing through the

opened Pane in stilleto beams.  The room smelt of damp.  Eddies of dust were whisked into life as

The window was closed behind.  Andy waited for his eyes to adjust. When the heavy gloom

dissipated he discern a study.  The rear wall housed a fireplace, its front sealed by an iron grate like

the portcullis at the entrance to a castle.  Above the mantle piece, a gold framed painting adorned

the wall either side of which were candles veiled in webs.  In the centre of the room stood a

pine wood desk, an old lamp leaked light on stacks upon stacks of dog eared magazines, their

pages yellowed

and tattered. Gary was already searching for a door, his hands wading through the shifting darkness,

as if the black were an oozing quagmire pulling them in.

  A shadow crossed the window outside, perhaps a cloud, perhaps a person, either way Andy

Was in no hurry to find out.  He ran to the left wall and searched frantically for a door built into the

wood panelling.  He couldn’t find one, Gary was having little luck as well.

Who the hell is that?’ Gary suddenly harped pointing to a figure at the window.

Andy could feel his knees buckling beneath him.  Suddenly a torch light shone through the glass, its

conical beam moving slowly and systematically from left to right. Someone had seen them enter,

was it the woman? Had she followed them round the back?  Andy crouched down, hoping to be

concealed by the enveloping shadow.  He waited with bated breath, listening as Gary to crouched

down and huddled in tight like a frightened animal.  The torchlight receded and for a moment they

were both plunged into comparative blindness, as if all the rooms details were instantly erased.  The

sounds too suddenly disappeared until only the clamour of their heartbeats could be heard.

 ‘Gary you there?’ Andy asked his voice feeling way too loud.  He cupped his mouth as if to trap

the sound, all the time looking towards the site of the torch beam.

There’s a way out here, but its stuck, come here give me a hand.’  

Andy shuffled forward stealthily.  When he reached the wood panelling, he pressed his shoulder up

against it, his heels planted firmly on the floor.  The door gave way and both parties tumbled

forward.

  It wasn’t immediately clear where they were, just that the space was vast.  A vaulted cross-

beamed ceiling rose above them and in front, a wing backed armchair faced the far wall.  It wasn’t

until he looked again that Andy noticed someone was sat upon the chair.  A thatch of white hair

surmounting the back rest. 

Its her, its the witch’ Gary whispered, his feet already making a hasty retreat.

Come here Andy, Enid wants to see you.’  Her tone was flat and gravely.

Come close boy, don’t be afraid now.’

Andy felt himself compelled forward as if his legs were taking on a life of their own. 

He couldn’t have stopped the momentum even if he had wanted to.  Gary had already backed into

the doorway,his figure a mere outline against the darkness of the surroundings.

Andy could see the woman’s slippered feet and the tip of her gown as it flayed out over her

gnarled shins.  A liver spotted hand, fingers curled by arthritis tapped the arm rest. As she

came into full view, he could make out the deep set wrinkles further shadowed by the shifting

gloom.  She opened her mouth, those slug like lips trailing with strings of translucent spittle…

The jelly in her eyes suddenly appeared to bubble, the mucilage seeping down the cheeks. 

The contours of her face softened as the flesh drooped, all elasticity lost.  Slender tongues of

flame rose from the sub-dermal regions, out from behind the melting cartilage and charred skull.

Soon the flames appeared lower down, consuming her lap.  An acrid stench filled the air as her

nightgown was turned to cinders and flakes of soft tissue plumed upwards like the glowing embers

of a freshly stoked fire.  Within seconds, she was barely recognisable.  Her screams choked by the

loud crackling and the popping as bodily fluid came to a boil and erupted from within.  As quickly

as the flames had appeared, they retreated, leaving a half cremated skeleton, bones and ash piled on

the upholstery.  

***

So what do you suppose happened?’ came the doctor’s voice, intruding on Andy’s recollections.

My dad told me, the whole place later went up in flames but that Enid had spontaneously

combusted.  She had been drinking gin that night, they say it sped up the whole combustion

process, made her highly flammable.  I still see her face, the way she stared wide eyed at me as if

I were meant to help, as if I could do something. Gary says he didn’t see it, said he’d fled outside

before all of this happened.  I’ve tried speaking to him about it but…’

Andy found himself choking on his words and cut himself short, pushing the Polaroid aside.

I think we’ll finish up for today, next week will look at ways you can deal with recurring and

intrusive thoughts that may be disturbing your sleep.’

Andy just nodded, all too glad to get out of the stuffy psychiatrists office and back home to a cold

drink of Dissarano and Coke, no ice.

Chapter 2

There was something very demoralizing about a blank screen.  The taunting emptiness,

the teasing, malevolent smile of the Paper clip in the bottom right hand corner.

 The pint glass of Dissarano and Coke or Amaretto as he’d heard it called was half empty.  The

anesthetizing effect of the liquor was beginning to set in.  A kind of liquorish sweetness followed

by a wholly desirable numbing of the senses.  Perhaps that was why the words were not coming

out.  It was his third glass after all and the bell jar was three quarters empty serving only now to

prop up a carton of menthol cigarettes-a monument to two demons-( two equally enticing demons.)

  It had been three hours since Andy had taken the call from his agent.  The lovely red haired

Fireball of a woman. 

When can we expect the manuscript? They’re getting impatient Andy.  You know they’ve sent you

money up front and they expect results.’

 The said money had been squandered in bars and off licenses, Sky vodka, white rum, gin and

Baileys.  Four days of blessed blurriness had passed.  Time transitioning transcendentally in the

bliss of unaccountability and inebriation.

 The mornings always commenced with a headache but a few mixes sorted that and life

continued.  

 The pent house apartment Andy had acquired three months previous had already lost its

simplistic, modernistic charm.  The fusion of economic furnishings with the vast white walls had

been usurped by tacky grind house movie posters, empty foster cans and clothes slung on every

available floor space.

 He surveyed the beautiful carnage.  He had surely made a house a home.  Everything had its

own personal touch from the unwashed dishes to the unlaundered jeans.  There was a unique

smell as well.  Not to everybody’s taste but easily dispersed by opening the patio doors to

the balcony garden.  It had originally come with hanging baskets of tulips and geraniums . 

Small all weather palms lined a meandering patio path winding under a wooden trellis and other

Enmities that gave the garden a magazine cover feel.

  Andy’s attention turned once again to the screen but this time he began to see double. 

Two floating paper clips, duplicate cursors and desk top icons that appeared animated, alive even.

He should probably lie down, take a nap, let some ideas, some concepts percolate a while.

Just then the phone rang, momentarily sobering him up. If it were his publisher he had readied

a creative excuse.  If it was PPI he was not interested, if it was his ex, well…

He reluctantly picked up the receiver and uttered an unintelligible sound.  There was silence on
the other end.
Hello?’ he said
Andy its Karen.  I know your probably working but Milly really wants to see you, can she come
and stay over?’
Andy paused just long enough to think that perhaps this was merely his ex trying to pawn off his
daughter before the ‘court designated’ visiting times.  Typical deferral of responsibility.
Its Tuesday’ he replied, a little more testily than planned.
You know she’s just started back school, she wants to tell you about it, she doesn’t wanta have to
wait all the way to the weekend. Surely you can make some time in your busy schedule.’
The final part of that sentence was intoned with sarcasm.  Karen never appreciated that being a
Writer was a job, a predigious occupation.  That in those moments where he appeared to be doing
nothing, he was in fact contemplating his creative mind, musing on the abstract concepts of

the universe and meditating on the philosophical implications of life itself.  No Karen saw it as

idleness and nothing more.

I’ve got a deadline to meet with this latest book, I’m…’  even as he spoke he could picture her

sullen expression as the words hit her auditory canal at the wrong angle bouncing off ineffectually

into the epher. 

Take some time to see your damn daughter for god sake, she’s more important than any book you

are or aren’t writing.’

He inhaled deeply, this deliberate dig was not about to phase him.

Bring her in about an hour, I need to have a shower and freshen up.’

Have you been drinking?’

What’s with all the questions, I’ve agreed to take her haven’t I, come in an hour and I’ll buzz you

in.’  with that he placed the phone down and sat back, for a moment just staring into middle

distance.  The very notion of a plot surfacing now seemed near impossible. The writer’s block had

transformed into a full blown migraine that nothing but Tramadole or Morphine could touch.

He had just slipped back into his old jeans and a wrinkled Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt when the buzzer

shrieked out from the conspicous box on the side of his door.  He took a cursory glance at the

apartment, suddenly realising how bad it looked, suddenly aware of the lingering odour that

must be a hundred times more apparent to new noses.  He quickly cleared evidence of his latest

drinking session, removing glasses in the sink, hiding the decanters behind the biscuit tin, emptying

bottles of their last drop and disposing in the recyclables.  Only then did he buzz her in, waiting

with the same nervous anticipation as one would a blind date.

Milly had come up the stairs alone, a small ‘My Little Pony’ back pack swung single strapped

over her shoulder.  Blonde, school girl pony tails and petit pink spectacles with misted

lenses.‘Where’s mum?’

She parked the car downstairs, said she had to get to the shops.’

Andy found himself sucking his teeth in derision but stopped when he clocked his daughter’s

concerned, magnified stare.

She said you could ring her.’

No, its fine, come in, come in.’

Andy stood aside letting her pass.  Too much time had elapsed to initiate a hug, at least with out

it looking awkward and forced.  Milly headed towards the sofa, offloading her bag and positioning

herself immediately in front of the TV.  As Andy closed the door he sighed.  What on earth was he

meant to talk about, when was Karen picking her up? Why had she bought a bag with her? Was it

Her school bag? Did she have homework she would need help with? 

Fancy a drink?’

No thanks’

Something to eat?’

What you got?’

That was a good question.  He didn’t have much of an appetite when he drank, he wasn’t even sure

when his last food shop had been.

Let me have a look.’  Opening the fridge, he peered from empty shelf to empty shelf.

How about I order in, pizza sound nice?’

Milly had a quizzical look, a look that could go either way.

Yeah alright, sausage and mushroom.’

Mushroom, since when you like mushroom?’

Pete got them for me.’

Andy nodded.  He felt somehow obliged to ask how Karen’s new man was doing, but the truth

Was, he didn’t much care, certainly not enough to waste any breath asking.

I got a takeaway menu with the number on somewhere.’

Your place is a mess daddy’

An organised mess, he thought.  ‘What you watching on TV these days?’

Milly looked at her watch then up at the screen.   ‘Cartoons are on now’

Had she just told the time? Was that possible at age six?  It was improbable but possible, she

had always been an early learner, speaking fluently at two, writing her name at three.

Mummy says you started back at school.’ 

The statement was met with a blank expression.

How is it?’ 

Ok’

Just ok?’

I don’t like Mrs Potter, she’s old and she smells funny.’

Andy stifled a laugh.

I hope you haven’t said anything.’

Milly shook her head.  ‘Are you coming to school? Mummy is next week.’

Um’

It’s a parents meeting, you gotta come.’

Um, lets see what cartoons are on hey’

As Milly sat watching the screen, Andy scrambled about searching for the takeaway menu,

Sneakily tidying up as he went.  He eventually found it under her bag.

What you got in here, Potter already given you maths homework?’

Silly daddy, it’s my jim jams, mum says I can stay the night, she says she’ll pick me up in the

morning.’

Andy nearly choked as a suitable response materialised in his throat.

Oh dearie, I don’t know, did mummy tell you, I got tons to do, my publishers have been calling

me and…’  he suddenly realised who he was explaining this to and stopped himself short.

Let me ring mummy and see exactly what she said.’

 Three hours passed.  The pizza had arrived, the cartoons had lost their allure and Karen had

won out the reasons why Milly could stay the night.  Andy had returned to his computer and

was just finishing the third paragraph of a half decent page when Milly tapped him on the shoulder.

Can I go out in the garden?’

Andy was startled.

Sorry dear, it was just dad was beginning to make a break through. What did you ask?’

Can we go in the garden, I’m bored.’

Sure’

The metropolitan skyline spread out to a shimmering sea-scape horizon.  A million buildings rose

in concrete clusters.  Mirrored office windows glinted in the pre dusk light.  A Pac-man like maze

of traffic wound between the architectural clamour, an endless urban sprawl punctuated by car

horns and muffled shouts.  

I don’t like the city’  Milly said suddenly.

Why, look at all the beautiful sky scrapers, what’s not too like?’

I like the country, its quiet there.’ 

As she said this she turned to the hanging baskets and stroked the petals of the overarching

flowers.‘The country’s prettier, the city its so…so grey.’

Andy shuddered as he heard Karen’s objections projected through the mouth of his daughter.

Well you should see it on a summers day, too many clouds in the sky to properly appreciate it at

The moment, but you’ll see.’

Milly seemed unconvinced and continued to study the menagerie of plant life populating the

garden.

Andy managed to fit in another hour and a half of writing but none of the additional

paragraphs seemed to match the majesty of his opening lines.  Milly had got into her pyjamas and

had pulled the blanket over her.  The news was playing but it appeared she was asleep.

Andy clicked save and stole over, picking Milly up and placing her on the bed.  He’d take the sofa

tonight, probably have a glass or two and then fall asleep.  It struck him how this small action of

surrendering his bed almost made up for any past neglect, anyone who witnessed this selfless act

would have to reach the inevitable conclusion that he was in fact a dutiful father, a good dad and a

considerate human being.  

The sofa was surprisingly comfortable, though that didn’t detract in any way from the
good deed of sacrificing the comfort of his own, pocket sprung mattress.  Dawn’s pink syrupy hue
Issued through the French windows.  A tessellation of soft ribbed clouds clustered above a rising
sun.  It was almost a poetic sight and yet all Andy could think of right now was the stale gammy
taste in his mouth and the way his right arm was stiff from the elbow to the shoulder.
 Milly came to the kitchen at the sound of cereal bowls being retrieved from the sink.
I’ve only got rice krispies I’m afraid but we chuck some sugar on them and they’ll be fine.’
Pete says I have to cut down on my sugar.’

Andy breathed in deeply, refusing to exhibit his indignation.  Bloody Pete, who cares what bloody

Pete had to say?  Yes he was a doctor but that didn’t make him a god.  Andy could easily acquire

equal knowledge from a few weeks surfing the medical blogs on the internet, frequenting the

health forums, the Q and A’s and self proclaimed drug gurus.  

We just wont tell Pete will we?’  He found himself spitting out the name, as if the syllables burnt

his tongue.

What are we doing today daddy?’   This disarming question had him pause for thought.  He

looked outside once more.  Unfortunately it looked like the weather was going to be nice so he

couldn’t use rain as an excuse for not going out.  He’d already used the excuse of his work and

that seemed to be falling on deaf ears.  Struggling for an answer, he searched the room, finally

settling his gaze on the phone. 

We should probably stay in, in case your mother wants to pick you up?’

Oh’ Milly replied dejectedly.

But until then, we’ll do something fun hey.’

Like what?’

He hadn’t thought that far ahead, the sentiment should have been enough. As he was thinking of

what to suggest the phone rang.  It was Karen.

Andy, Andy is that you?’

Who else it going to be, you rang my number didn’t you?’

I’m at my mothers, she had a fall.’

Andy pictured Karen’s pompous mother and found himself grinning at such a prospect.

I’m sorry, i hope it wasn’t anything serious.’

She broke her hip, she’s bed ridden, I need to stay until I can sort out some home care for her.’

Oh.  Well of course.  It’s your mum after all.  So what time shall I drop off Milly with you then?’

You’re joking right, you’re seriously taking the mick right now, tell me your taking the mick.’

Yeah of course, I mean…’

She’ll need to stay with you for the week, at least till after the weekend anyway.’

What about clothes?’ he found himself saying.

Pete will bring them round, later today, I told him your address, hope you don’t mind?’

Pete, so why cant Pete look after her hey?’

You know he works’

And I don’t?  I don’t go around healing the sick like Saint Pete but I work, I got dead lines to

meet, people expect to read my stuff.’

I think the adventures of Detective Biggins or Higgins or whatever you call him nowadays can

wait don’t you, some things are more important.’

It’s Detective Inspector Higgins and I’m writing something different if you must know.’

Who gives a crap Andy, take some responsibility for once in your useless life, this is your

daughter we’re talking about.  Switch off the computer, put down the whiskey and take bloody

care of her.’

Andy was certain, Milly could hear her mothers raised voice through the receiver.

Ok, ok just please, try and sort some help out as quick as possible.’

The line went dead.  That was it, the conversation was over, he had lost. Milly had nearly finished

her cereal and was already looking for the next form of entertainment.

Andy looked longingly at the computer.  He wasn’t sure how long it would be until he would be

back creating, correction, drinking and creating.

 By midday Andy had exhausted all ideas and Milly was looking less than impressed at his efforts. 

He had resigned to the computer, trying desperately to recover some of the brilliance of his

opening paragraph.  The ideas were coming together a little more cohesively.  He was in no

mood to construct an initial synopsis so instead hastily typed the words hoping his creative mind

would mould them into something marketable.  He was surprised that his publisher hadn’t called

and was almost tempted to ring her up and tell her how well it was all going, like an excited

child, like Milly.  He looked round.  She had propped herself once again in front of the TV.  It

wasn’t exactly clear what she was watching now, some kind of panel show but it was keeping her

amused, quiet at least.   As he turned back to the screen, he glimpsed the paper clip, a speech

bubble rising from its smug smile. 

Do you want help raising your daughter.’

Andy shook his head

Do you want help with your toolbar?’

That was weird.  He looked at his glass.  First one of the day, a mere smidgen of vodka midst

lashings of coke and even a bit of ice that further watered down the mix.  When he had finished

spell checking his work, the sky outside had noticeably darkened.

Milly was silently watching some nature documentary. Two leopards racing across the

Serengeti.The phone rang. ‘Andy, its Karen, Pete cant drop the clothes till the morning, I hope you

hadn’t planned on going out anywhere with her today.  Sorry if you had.’

It’s fine, I found enough indoor activities.’

Mum’s doing a lot better.  Doctors got her tucked up in bed on a Morphine drip, I’ll be able to

leave soon.  Most of the time she’s so out of it with the meds she doesn’t know I’m even there.’

Andy wasn’t sure if he was meant to laugh or just agree at this point, he said nothing.  

How’s Milly doing?’

She’s fine, she’s fine’ he said, his eagerness to get off the phone becoming blatant.

A pair of two hundred ml bottles of Smirnoff vodka later and Andy had well and truly abandoned

any attempt at writing.  Milly had once again fallen asleep.  He’d wait a bit longer, then transfer her

through again.  Tomorrow he’d make more of an effort, they’d go out somewhere, no where too far,

a local cafe or something. 

It was ten past midnight when Andy finally transferred Milly to the bedroom and made a

half hearted attempt at cleaning away the evidence of his evening drinking session.He must have

only just drifted off into proper REM sleep when he heard a scream.  A girl’s scream. He threw the

couch blanket to the floor and raced into the bedroom.  

 Milly was sat at the foot of her bed. She’d been crying that much was clear but there was

something else. He flicked on the light.  She squinted with the abrupt illumination.  She was

cradling her right arm, messaging the skin.  Several deep red welts, burns crossed the forearm.

What the hell happened?’ Andy asked, his panic not helping the situation.

Milly stretched out the burn streaked arm. 

She tried to grab me’

Who did, who tried?’

The woman standing by the closet.  She was there the other night to, she just stands there,

watching me.’

Andy turned and looked.

There’s no one there honey, I think you were having a bad dream.’

No I saw her. Her skin was all wrinkled and she had white hair.’

There’s no one there honey.  You need to tell me how you got those burns?’

Milly began to whimper before weeping inconsolably.

I told you daddy she tried to grab me.  She walked up to my bed, she said her name was, oh

daddy I cant remember, it started with E.’

Andy took Milly into his arms and hugged her.

‘Let’s get that arm under some water and see if it doesn’t need some more treatment after that.’

As he said this he cautiously gazed around the room, at the coagulating shadows by the cabinets

and the closet.  Could Milly really have seen her, could Milly really have met Enid?

First three chapters of Maslows Island

Maslow’s Island

Prologue.

When Jake awoke he was wearing a kilt of kelp and nothing else. He knew only one thing, that his

left leg was slashed up pretty bad. He had a vague memory of being turned over in a sort of never-

ending spin cycle before completely blacking out. He figured from his fully developed limbs and

the coarse stubbled cheeks that he was an adult, a male adult but how he came to be lying on a

sandy beach in nothing but a seaweed dress was unknown.

His head hurt, a nauseating migraine that refused to shift. He clamboured onto the shore,

momentarily embarrassed that the kelp covering had loosed itself, falling away like a second skin to

reveal a bare pink bottom and shrivelled manhood.

He made a thwarted attempt to stand, his left leg callopsing underneath him dragging the

rest of his body onto the sand. The second attempt was a little more successful, maintaining

vertacaility a few seconds before again tumbling to the floor. He paused before trying a third time,

aware from some still cognitively-active section of his brain that the definition of insanity was

repeating the same thing over and over and expecting the results to be different.

He smiled as more thoughts surfaced like the square root of 9 is 3 and 1 is a prime number and

cows had three stomachs. Slowly the random conceptual assortment began to develop into a

rational explanation of his situation. A kind of realisation that went someway to defining his

circustances. He was on a beach, he was naked, he was alone. So far this lucid mental trajectory

was serving him well.

In front of him were palm trees, to the east and west, more sand, and a few rocks. Behind him a

giant expanse of water, the sea, possibly the meditteranium juding by the muggy climate.

His name began with J and he’d been on his way to… the train of thought haulted as his mind

was filled with static or the absence of understanding. His brain was rather like a TV set he mused.

His thoughts were channels and the intermittant interference was his mind tuning into those

thoughts. This felt abstract, almost deep like it should be recorded for future scholars to study.

Chapter 1

After wrapping some of the kelp around his leg wound in what constituted a crude, semi permable

bandaging, he sat back in a small divot created where the high tide had eroded the sand. The

receding water had a hypnotic effect, pulsing rhythmically like the life force of the ocean. A gull

screeched from some unseen section of sky answered only by the white noise of the waves.

Otherwise there was an inexplicable stillness to the air almost as if existence had a pause button or

a selective muting feature.

Jake’s mind had made the herculean jump from an entanglement of disjointed facts to a state

of full realisation. Fully comprehending that this situation was, was A-not good and B-pratically

impossible to escape. He didn’t need to know much more than that, at least for now. Some

auxiallary part of his brain had established his full name was Jake Reddings but that was presently

inconsequential like remembering the football score from a game three seasons ago. Of course as

his mindset evolved beyond merely being a sieve for incoming sensory information, he began to

recall a well known paradigm relevant to human survival, a prymid of requirements-Maslow’s

Hierarchy of Needs.

It was this school of thought that stated in black and white that he needed food and water if he was

going to live. This although admittedly an insubstantial revelation was enough for him to make a

third attempt at standing up.

This one was met with more success. He found his view across the beach had also improved.

From this elevation he could see a slight curvature of the shore. Perhaps this was a small island,

one of the many thousand, possibly uncharted islands that populated the meditterarniun sea.

He could do two things with that conclusion. The first would be to further his theory by checking

for any inhabitants, perhaps an indigenious population living in the brush, the second would be to

slump back down dejectedly and dwell on the futitlity of his circumstances. It was afterall very

unlikely that any vessel might pass here if indeed the island remained uncharted and as for air

traffic, the sky was a blank canvas not even a cloud populating its uninterrupted blue.

He decided on the former of the two options. Perhaps in discovering life he would also

discover help or food and water. Then again, came the childlike area of his brain, what if there were

monsters in the brush, canibals in the briar, undiscovered beasts lurking in the dappled shadows of

the jungle canopy. He admonished himself for such infantile conclusions, such unfounded

reasoning and yet some part of him must have believed it, for his stomach muscles had clenched in

nervous anticipation.

At first it was hard to traverse the sand. He could bear little weight on his left side lest he was

struck by sharp lacerations of pain, fleeting jolts of debitating agony. As he reached the treeline and

its consquent shade, he came across a stick which he fashioned into a walking pole. This ingenuity,

if it continued, would serve him well. He was uncertain if he possessed any innate or learned

survival skills. If he could remember his prior occupation or even from which area of the world he

hailed then maybe he could recall if he was versed in the ways of nature. As it stood everything

was going to be improvised and he was going to test each of his improtu theories on the go in this

sick little game show.

As he touched the bough of the nearest tree he suddenly realised they were not palms. To

start with they didnt have overlapping flappage on the bark. There were no coconuts hanging from

between the broad leaves, but then he knew that palm trees didnt necessarily have to hold coconuts,

he wasnt even sure they all had to pertain to the same texturised bark. Damn this void in his

knowledge. He felt as if he’d been reborn, wittled down to a primordial state to rediscover for

himself every fascinating secret upon the earth. This could have potentially been an intresting slant

on things had his survival not been predicated on knowing these things in advance.

There was no discernable path through the undergrowth just sizable gaps between the boughs

and shrubs. The ground sloped downwards slightly as it dipped towards a dried river bed. He knew

it was river or at least an inlet from the sediment on the bed. He knew the term sediment because of

his GCSE science class.

Suddenly a breif retrospective glimpse surfaced in his mind and he could see an exam hall, a

ticking clock and a strict ajudicator threading their way between the desks, looking for anyone who

dared pass notes. The memory seemed to stop after that, only going so far as to explain he had once

gone to school. He assumed he already knew that from such facts as one being a prime number,

that seemed like a fact gleaned from a background in education.

He wished he recalled more facts, ones not grounded in numeracy, ones perhaps a little more

relevant to his current predicament. Did he have any botanical or horticultural knowledge for

instance and if he didnt how did he know those words unless they were merely the result of his

rapidly blossoming vocabulary?

He surveyed his surroundings picking a route based on the easiest gradiant. His leg was

pulsing and the thought of acending any steep hill was out of the question. He found himself

wondering about the island’s wild life. It seemed apparently obvious to him that he was in a tropical

environ and usually contained within such climates, there were insects and bugs that could prove

less than friendly. He figured his ability to identify venomous species might come under an innate

defence system. He wasnt completely sure about that, but it was a comforting theory none the less.

He eventually reached a glade where he sat on a felled log and massaged the welt in his leg

and the undulating pain in his head. He had made the consquential link that his head ache was

caused by dehydration, dehydration from a lack of fluid, the best fluid was water or as science class

had taught him H2o. This felt like a significant revelation on par with identifying insectoid

predators or identifying geographical features like a dried river bed. He could use this information.

Perhaps he could fashion a device to catch raindrops but then again there were no clouds. Maybe

he could double back to the shore and take a big scoop of sea water to quench his thirst. Something

didnt feel right about that, didnt the consumption of sea water send you bat shit crazy, wasnt that the

way most lost explorers ended up meeting their maker?

So he’d have to find a suitable water source inland, a spring or something. He then began grappling

with the theoretical dimensions of the island. Was this going to be a place he was traversing for

days maybe even weeks or had he already reached the centre of a diminitive land mass? What was

its acerage and how was that even calcable from ground level? Perhaps if he found someone else on

the island he might be able to establish some answers but as it stood he knew one thing for certain,

he was alone…

He was unsure whether it was the result of hunger pangs, dehydration or just the intense

psychologically damaging effects of being essentally maroooned but he was walking a lot slower.

The pain in his leg was becoming unbearable and he was certain though he couldnt say why, that his

sores had the potential of turning gangiourous like a soldier’s open wound out on the battle field.

This felt like a historical reference or perhaps he had served time in the military and this was just a

retained piece of knowledge, a remnant of his basic training. No, there would be more than that,

he’d remember what battalion he served in, afterall didnt they always press details like that into the

new recruits like its was a badge of honour?

He could technically define himself as being anything he wanted. He could create a new

identity, who’d check, it wasnt like his previous occupation and social standing was tatood onto his

body somewhere. He could have been an astranaught or a stuntman or any number of positions

fantasized by kids when their French lessons were dragging on.

He must have been a doctor. That would explain his quick and decisve bandaging of his

wound. It would also go someway to explaining how he knew he needed to drink water and that

only fresh would do. Then again, those items of knowledge were pretty generic, like answeres to a

pub quiz.

His head hurt again, pulsing with the onslaught of revalatory information colliding with the inside

of his cranium. He calculated he had walked for about three hours. This was a rough calculation

based on the deepening hue of the sky, the incremental drop in temperature and the distance

covered. It was therefore a little disheartening to see that it appeared he had already reached the

otherside of the island. The south or the north shore depending on what compass direction he had

started in. It was the same featureless bay save for the rock pools and wait… what was that

embedded in the sand?

He hobbled over, momentarily forgetting the pain, excitement working like a transient

anesthetic. He picked up the foreign object. It looked out of place amid the natural surroundings, it

was too manufactured for a start. It was a tin with a ring pull and a label which read pineapple

chunks in syrup.

He somehow knew this would taste sweet maybe even refreshing depending on the temperature of

the can. he pulled the ring and emptied the viscous, chunk filled liquid into his awaiting mouth. It

matched his expectations, satisfing both hunger and thirst. It was an immediate satisfaction like a

cooling balm on a burning wound, it felt good so good. Then came a stream of questions, questions

formed by his inherently inquizitive nature. Where had this come from? Was it connected in some

way to why he was on this island? Was it the key to getting off?

A gull screeched but this time he could see it like an aerial paper airplane flying acrobatically just

above the ocean waves. That bird knew there were fish below the surface, fish could be a form of

sustience, that information could prove useful if for any reason he was stuck here for a prolonged

time.

That’s when a pang of fear tightened his insides, coiling his innards with a new and terryfying

thought. What if he was stuck here, for days, weeks even months? What if there was no hope of

ever leaving this place, ever returning to…to what? That was just it, he didnt know. How could one

aim for a target they didnt know, for an indiscernable and potentially unattainable goal? It was

merely an exercise in futility…

He shivered as a cold wind blew off the sea bringing with it veils of salty spray. This evoked

a memory, not a particularly vivid one just a collection of mental images of a family vacation on a

beach in France. He thought it was France but then it could really be anywhere. The faces of his

family were obscured, the way a TV channel edits out the profile of those not wishing to be

identified.

He tried desperately to look passed the pixallated covering, maybe catch enough of their facial

features to ignite another memory but to no avail.

Up ahead, the rocks formed a small cove. Shelter for the night perhaps, but then again it

could be cold. He’d need to start a fire. How was it the Neandathals created fire in the brush? The

friction induced static from rubbing two dried twigs together and ofcourse he’d need to find

kindling, dried grass or shrubs that would keep the fire burning.

He’d check out the cove first, establish it was empty and make sure it didn’t flood when the tide was

in. How would he know that? There would be watermarks on the walls, discernable signs on the

stone, he’d be able to tell, he was sure of it…

Chapter 2

The inside was almost pitch black. The kind of papable darkness that hangs heavy in the air

essentially concealing any number of predators. He felt his way blindly along the passage walls,

surprised at how deep the cove extended. It wasnt merely a shallow ledge dug out of a cliff face but

a fully evolved tunnel complete with turns. Stalactalite formations scraped his head whilst jagged

rock protrusions tore at his arms and legs.

He must have been at least ten meters in, no longer able to see the light from the outside. There was

an incessant dripping like a leaky faucet, it echoed in the interoir acoustics. He was tempted to call

out, make some verbal enquires but that seemed a little foolish. He’d be announcing his location for

a start and right now he was unarmed and injured, a combination that made him very vulnerable.

The passage opened up into a sizable chasm. The source of the dripping water was identified as

tiny rivulets plopping down into a shallow pool. The passage ceased here and to his very great

relief, he had not come across anything that could prove a threat. The environment itself had taken

a fair bit out of him but if he escaped this with mere superficial grazing he would consider himself

very fortunate.

He began to backtrack his only real plan to gather wood and kindling and prepare for a night

in the cove. Would it not serve a much more useful purpose to ignite a signal fire in sight of any

passing ships or planes? Maybe craft an SOS on the sand out of rocks and twigs, fifty feet high and

a hundred feet wide. Even as he considered this, it seemed a much more viable option to prepare for

the night.

He was tired. It was a fatigue that had snuck up on him but it was undeniable, unshakable. A good

nights rest would go far in alliviating it but that wasnt the complete solution. No the complete

solution would be finding someone to vent all these thoughts and emotions onto. An ear to bend as

the exprssion went. It would be such an unburdening just to be able to release this evolving stream

of conciosness in one long verbal tyraid like a prolonged exhalation of the lungs. The subsequent

relief would be unparalleled like morphine for the pain of existence.

It then occurred to him as he searched about the brush for suitable kindling that he didnt need

another person to listen to his non-sensical ramblings. In fact he was born with a perfectly scultped

set of ears and as the thoughts were coming, they were surprisng himself. Every new revelation

was a surprise.

‘Thank God’ he said, ‘Thank you for giving me the means to speak’

‘That’s quite alright’ he found himself answering and then he stopped. No, he wasnt about to divide

his personalities into characters through which to have a dialogue, he wasnt bipolar, he wasnt

insane, he could still distinguish fantasy from reality.

I will talk to myself he decided and respond as myself that is the only logical and acceptable way of

doing this. Otherwise I’m keeping my mouth shut and letting this insane train of thought pass

unverbalised. That way no one can label me mad although of course to be labelled mad by

someone, someone other than myself would have to exist. I mean I could label myself, but then

there was nothing to compare it to and it was merely a matter of subjective opionion. For example

am I mad now? Is the very process of self anaylsing a sign of mental deterioration?

‘No’ he answered

‘You’re not mad, in fact you have gained a higher level of conciousness. A kind of understanding

above understanding. A lot of people want to atttain this but they cant because its divine, you are

divine.’

‘I am divine’

‘Yes’

‘Then perhaps tracing my origin to establish ‘understanding’ is futile. If I’m divine I must also be

begotton, accountable to no form but my own. There can only be one God so it is written and I am

that God. It then goes without saying that I am invincible, I was not created therefore I cannot be

destroyed, I am merely a product of me.

‘Yes’

‘Then why am I still hungry? I shouldn’t be feeling a base sensation like hunger, if indeed I am a

deity, that’s absurd and then again did God not visit earth in human form as his son Jesus Christ, am

I Jesus? Is this my second coming?

Jake moved back into the cove with some natural materials to start a fire. It didnt occur to him at

that precise moment to question why he could not just start a fire by the mere thought of it, as God

everything was possible and he was God incarnate.

He rubbed the sticks together but was unable to avail himself of a fire. It was a sobering moment,

like when as a child you realise you can’t fly and you come tumbling down from your elevated

perch like some uncordinated rock. Perhaps he was a fledgling god if such a concept existed.

Perhaps his abilities much like his evolving conciosness was required to develop over time. A child

couldn’t master a magician’s skill set on the first try in the same way, his new powers, his new

abiilties would take time to manifest wholly.

‘Patience brother.’

‘I know, I know its just blooming frustrating.’

His voice echoed back to him, reverberating off the stone walls in tones an octave lower than his

original voice. It was an obscure distortion but it made him think, if only for a moment. Was it

really okay to be talking aloud? Should his narration not be internalised lest human ears should

pick up on it and begin documenting it in some kind of second Bible. No it was his reponsbility to

spread wisdom and he who listened was wise. He was like the book of Proverbs, gold left his

tongue and if it hit the ear of a recipient history was made. Was that not how knowledge was

accumulated and later studied? Would scholars decipher his rants one day and unlock new and

insightful facts about the universe around them?

‘Patience’ he said once again, ‘let’s first master this fire.’

He was unfortunalty never able to produce heat and instead lay curled up in the foetal positon

for most of the night, shivering. When he awoke his joints were stiff, he had a cough developing in

his chest and his leg wound was beginning to smell, though that was perphaps psychological.

He might call himself a ship to be taken from this island now in the same way the gods descended

Mount Olympus. His time here was complete, he must visit his people.

The rain hit him hard when he left the cove. It stung his head and cheeks. It appeared to be

churning the sea into some kind of frenzy, sending froth like white fire works into the air. The

leaves on the trees were blowing widely and Jake found himself once again fearing his predicament.

‘It’s just a test.’

‘Yes I know, a season for everything and all that..’

‘Indeed. Head back to the other shores, I have something for you.’

Jake began tracking back through the jungle area this time his decisive movements cutting the

journey in half. When he reached the other shore, the rain had abated, the storm clouds had

dispersed and slender slivers of sunlight were poking through.

There on the beach was a container, a wooden container. It was sealed but he knew he could open

it with a rock or something. He hobbled over, wincing as the pain in his leg threatened to topple

him. He found a jagged rock and began pressing it into the corners of the box until with a

triamphant splintering of the wood, the container fell apart unfolding like a wooden venus flytrap.

Within were more tinned goods, fortunaly of the ring pull variety. There were also bottles of Avoin

and what was that? Scotch. He had hit the mother load, his loyal subjects had provided for him.

‘Thank you.’

‘You’re welcome, tuck in you deserve it.’

He needed no more of an invitation. The food was morish and it didnt even enter his mind to ration

the supplies, he would be given more, the way the Isralites were given manna from heaven.

There was another crate further down the beach. This one lay toppled and half opened, A number of

cone bound folders were spilling out the bottom. Their laminated fronts had kept them from any

substantial water damage and allowed the text inside to remain legiable. He hurried over.

Crouching down he picked one up.

‘What is this?’ he asked but ofcourse he didnt have the answer, not yet, some mysteries were not

revealed right away.

He leafed through the document, mouthting the words he was reading. They were case files. There

were passport size photos attached to many of the files. He recognised some of these people, he

was sure of it.

The young mother of four, the Mexican Cartel boss, the Sales clerk, yes he had encountered all

these people before.

‘But what signficance are they to you?’

‘I’m not sure, perhaps they are my deciples, perhaps I am tasked with bringing them back together.’

He continued to read. The details of the cases began to jog vague memories, ring distant bells in his

mind. Why would he know these people and their cases. Were they televised or maybe..? He saw a

photo of a young black haired man in an Armani suit. His name was Jake Redding he was a San

Franscico lawyer of ten years, he was in fact quite established.

‘It’s a trick.’

‘No I dont think it is, it certainly explains why I seem to remember all these things about these

people.

‘You remember them because you created them, remember you’re God, God the creator and author

of all things.’

‘Hold on a moment, if that’s true, then why am I here alone?’

‘You’re not alone you got me, turn around look.’

Jake swivelled round and noticed a tiny black animal no bigger than a rat but stood on its hind legs.

It had a pair of cresent eyes and the horns of ram.

‘You’re never alone Jake’ it said and then dissappeared.

Jake shuddered suddenly feeling the effects of the damp on his skin. Perhaps he’d fashion a leafy

garmont he could wear. This was afterall post Adam and Eve, shame was a very real thing. He

cradled the remaining tins and some of the folders he had left to read and headed to the treeline. He

remained near enough to the shore that he could see if vessels passed him by. Right now he wasn’t

too worried about signalling them down, he was more concerned about this identity crises and the

nature of that small black horned creature he had seen on the beach.

As he sat there pondering these many anomolies, he began wondering if he could construct a

kind of crude raft. One that would allow him to travel beyond the sand bar and out to sea. Did it

increase his chances of being rescued if he left this island or were his efforts better utalised creating

that giant SOS sign he had pictured earlier?

He waited to see if a voice his own or someone else’s would answer the question for him. No such

luck, in fact dead silence, no wind, no waves, no gulls just a pause in time itself.

‘Work it out, some things you have to work out for yourself, it’s how you grow.’

‘It’s how you grow’ he replied mockingly.

‘Bah humbug thats what I say, I want off this infernal island and out of my infernal head, I’m going

stir crazy here.’

He was answered by silence once again which prompted him to start looking for the materials to

consruct a raft. It would be hewn from bouyant wood but then wasnt all wood bouyant, he wasnt

completely sure. Balsalm, pine, mahogany, oak, beech, they all had different qualities, there was

hard and soft woods but then where did the wood of a palm tree fit in?

He didnt have the tools to be felling any logs so instead he looked about the ground, hoping that

maybe there would be some wide enough branches or already felled logs that he could sculpt into

some kind of platform big enough to carry him, him and his food supplies and his folders. Of

course it was paramount he carried these folders, the information contained within was of the

utmost importance. He wished he knew why they were important though.

By what he calculated as being midday he had gathered enough wood to begin stringing the

invidual pieces together with vine or other types of long rope like plants. He was sure he had seen it

done before and nothing was impossible. Well starting a fire had but this wasn’t going to be.

It turned out vegetation snapped, not right away but when forced to hold the weight of the wood. It

also turned out that transporting any form of the finished product was incredibly difficult. Not only

did it break apart but it weighed a ton, and Jake felt physcially drained.

So escape was not an option and so far the only inhabitance of the island he had come across was

the persisant gull and the black thing on the shore, and to the latter he questioned the nature of its

existence. Merages were not only created in the desert nor did they have to represent water but in

this case maybe he had moved onto a lower level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maybe he was

now entering the need for Companionship. This black form was a materialisation of that need and

nothing else.

He had been certain that he was fufilled by his own conversation. His once interior monologue had

now evolved into a budding vocal dialgoue, but no. He was now having to face facts, Lonliness was

a cruel mistress. It occurred to him that the only way he could be aware of the crushing effects of

lonliness were if he had in one time or another experienced companionsip, in the real sense of the

term. Was that possible? It certainly seemed possible, he was adament he had had a life before this

island. This was his current sphere of existence but it was merely a chapter in what he believed had

been a very rich and fufilling life.

He thought back to the documents and began reading over some of the cases. As he did, he could

picture himself in a court, representing them. Infact he was rather good, his defence was infallable.

He was so good, he had made a lot of money from his cases, representing the rich and famous.

This was how he could afford his plane. His plane, his plane, he mulled over that thought for a

moment. The word played about on the tongue. Plane, plane, plane. He made a lot of trips abroad,

of course he could afford to, no one was going to deny a high flying lawyer. Plane, plane, plane.

Had he been on a plane recently. Was he now on an island because his plane had come down?

He hadn’t seen any debris only the crates with the tinned foods and the folders. But then again he

could have crashed in the ocean and the current could have washed him onto the shore, that was

plausable. It would explain why he had lost his clothing and why his leg was so battered up. If

there was a wreckage there would likely be surviving tracking equipment, maybe some rescue

service was triangulating his position as he spoke, honing in on his whereabouts.

It was a comforting thought but he wasnt about to rely on fabricated hope. Hope was a

concept that killed too many people. It made them lazy, idle and complacent. Complacency was

dangerous, it led to death.

No he wasn’t going to be complacent. He was going to work out a way off this island himself.

Maybe more things would wash up that he might use, or was that hope again, that teasingly abstract

concept. No don’t give in, you’re better than that. God creates hope, he doesnt submit to it. Hope is

like admitting to not knowing the future. Hope is blind and I am God and God is not blind. This

circular reasoning would suffice, for now at least, whilst he located that cove again for the

upcoming night.

He hadnt banked on the jungle area being so disorientating. The green on green, the lack of

paths. He was sure he had never possessed skills in orientering and even if he had, no man alive

could direct themselves with out a compass or at least the stars to navigate by.

He tried to use some trecking skills, perhaps he could figure out where he had been by any

disturbed ground, or scuffed footprints but like everything previous, this was proving impossible. If

he did find any markings they were always coupled with animal droppings as if to say,

‘Nope look again, this aint your trail.’

Nearly all the light from the sky had been extinguished when he reached the opposite

coastline and located the entrance to the cove. It was short lived relief when he saw deep

impressions on the sand leading to the entrance. Paw prints, he thought at first. Something had

found his shelter, something had stolen his home and judging by the dimensions of the prints, this

something was of the larger variety.

‘At least it’s not raining.’

‘It’s still cold and dark, I dont like the cold and I dont like the dark, never have.’

‘How do you know?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘How do you know you don’t like the dark, that seems like an unfounded assumption if ever I heard

one.’

‘Shut up that’s how’

‘Shut me up. I am afterall nothing but your own voice, you are my creator, you are creator of all things.’

‘Yes I am, so shut up, do you hear me?’

He was anwered by silence.

‘Good, I’m glad we have reached some understanding, I thought we might have a problem here.’

From out of the corner of his eyes, more through his perphirary than anything, he swore he saw the

little black thing with the ram horns scuttling into the brush. The little devil he was going to call it,

for it looked devilish. He began to follow this little devil through the undergrowth every so often

catching a glimpse of it once again before it would dissapear from sight.

‘What are you doing?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You know nothing about this creature, suppose you do catch up with it and it turns out to be

dangerous, what then?’

‘Well then, then… he didn’t have an answer for that, it was sound reasoning, very sound reasoning in

fact. This little black nympth could have claws or fangs or telekenetic powers, anything seemed

possible at this moment in time, anything.

He stopped and caught his breath. A painful stitch was superceding the pain in his leg as if they

were vying for who could cause the most agony. Sometimes the leg wound won out other times the

stich. Right now he was feeling both in equal measure. The pain was watering his eyes, so when

the little devil reappared he was unable to distunguish if it was really there, or just shadowes caused

by the underside of his eyelids.

‘Jake Redding is a Lawyer from Sanfransico’ came a strangly high voice

He’d already established this much, why was it telling him this, why wasnt it reavealing something

different unless of course it was nothing but an embodiement of his memories. Something created

and now passed, simply giving him a glimpse of that , which had already occurred.

That was some philosphical bull right there, it had no use in this present situation. It was perhaps

anger from the increasing pain or just frustration in general that was causing this pessimism but

what ever it was it caused the little devil to fade away like a cheap Star Trek teleporting effect.

‘Come back’ Jake yelled, ‘we haven’t finished talking.’

Suddenly the darkness of the night, before just part of the backdrop, felt like an encroaching

presence. It felt as if it could consume him if he stayed still.

He knelt down and put his hands to his face. He was so confused, Law school had never taught him

what to do in this situation, he wasnt sure any of life’s lessons served him well now. Could he cry

out to God if in fact he clung to the notion he was God? Could this be a Trinity type of thing, where

as Jesus he could call out to his father but at the same time they were one and the same.

He wanted to formulate a prayer but somewhere deep inside he believed it would return unanswered

like childrens letters to Santa.

He could vaguely remember as a child, reciting the Lords prayer, speaking about daily bread

and tresspasses but they were just hollow words he recited to evoke a smile from his meek

mannered mum. Certainly he was not a religious man, never had been. He wasnt an atheiest either,

he thought, for that took the same strength of conviction in attempting to dissprove the existence of

God.

He could be agnosic, assuming there was a higher power but not conforming to any pre concieved

notions of its identity. The only problem was that meant he did not know who or what he was

meant to pray to. What force was he appealing to? The little black devil?

Having not named the thing beyond a crude desciption of its appearenace, he gave it the name

Maslow. With a real solid name, he now had a life line to call upon in his ever present time of need.

‘Maslow, he called, ‘Maslow, are you there?’

There was no answer.

‘Maslow, Maslow, are you there, can you hear me?

But little Maslow did not reappear that night nor the morning after. Jake had returned to the beach

where he had found the crates and was dismayed to see nothing else had drifted to the shore.

As he sat there, looking out over the water, scratching his developing beard with his unmanicured

nails he noticed little Maslow crawl up on his lap and sit there huddled like a tiny pup. He didn’t

weigh anything, in fact he was like cushion of air nestled on Jake’s leaf covered manhood.

Let him sleep he thought, poor little fellow, he seems lost to, he’s in the same situation as you.

Maslow twitched slightly as if reading Jake’s thoughts.

Jake slowly found himself falling asleep and with Maslow still resting on his lap, he settled

into a deep slumber. It was the best sleep he had awoke he rose with a new strength. Maslow had gone leaving no trail.

Had the sleep rewired him to change his outlook from bleak to, to, what was this? Not hopeful, he’d

already dismissed that concept, this was just genrally positive, like a final acceptance.

‘You’re being complacent’

‘No I’m not I’m just accepting my predicament’

‘Complacent people are the first to die, you know that, you told me.’

‘I know I said that but I can change my mind, can’t I? Afterall its my mind to change no one elses.’

This all came as an overwhelming sense of relief like a great burden had at last been lifted from his

shoulders giving him freedom to breath. He gathered some of his remainng food sources and

created a circle of the folders he had still not completed, fanning them out in front of him like a well

of knowledge.

Doing his best to blot out the distractions which comprised mostly of the nagging pains and the gull

which had returned over the ocean, he began to read the first document on his left. His plan was to

work his way around the semi circle like the upper half of a clock face, slowly but steadily

absorbing all the information contained within. It was the hope that with the material he read, he

would slowly piece together the components of his shattered past. Afterll hadn’t all this been an

entire exercise in trying to break the bonds of amnesia and recall his true identity?

The first folder concerned the case of the Mexican Cartel boss who had been convicted of

smuggling in fifty 3 kilo bags of cocain. He was looking at a life sentence due to a number of

previous convictions of GBH and a count of first degree murder that fell through due to a lack of

evidence.

No wait, that wasnt the only reason that case had fallen through, he remembered now. He had been

his defence lawyer and he had seen that in the end, through a twisted legal loophole the family of

the deceased paid the cartel boss significant compensation for defamation and emotional stress.

That was right. He didnt know how he felt about that now.

He read the notes under the new conviction and noticed he had personally quoted from previous

cases all in the hope of granting the boss full immunity. But look at this rap sheet, he was surely

guilty there was no question about it. So then, how could he, Jake Reddings, in all good concious

represent such a man? Was money really that important to him to overlook moral values? This line

of thinking seemed foregin, somehow new to him but he went with it, assessing it from all angles.

As he read on he was more and more disgusted by the things he sited and the techniques he

had been planning to use in the upcoming court case. Some of the other folders were victim

profiles, young mothers, youth used simply as courriers for this man’s ever expanding drugs

Empire.

‘Why are you feeling bad? You were doing your job and you were good at it.’

Maslow had appeared, standing to the right of the arc of folders

‘Did you say that?’

‘Say what?’

‘Never mind. I’m just trying to make sense of what I’m reading here, how is it possible that I was

siding with pure evil. I’m good arent I? I feel like I was good.’

Maslow titled his horned head, his red cresent eyes glowling brightly.

Jake looked back at the files. Next he read the beginnings of an autobiography he had been writing.

His own story put to paper. His eyes scanned the text stopping at key words that gave meaning to

the dense paragraphs.

‘Oh my God, I’m full of it’ Jake said looking over at Maslow for confirmation.

He was no longer there. In fact nor were most of the files. A strong wind had gusted them towards

the ocean and now they lay like a battalion of tiny paper rafts floating on the undulating waves.

‘Damn it, damn it’

He stood up, forgetting about his left leg. The pain was intense, a white muzzle flash of agony.

‘Damn it’ he repeated,

‘What the hell is all this, some kind of Dicken’s ‘Christmas Carol’ revelation? Am I meant to

suddenly change my ways, acknowledge I was wrong, is that the key to escaping this island?

Jake began to play with the concept that this island was not physical as such but a metaphor for

something he was only now beginning to understand.

‘You’ve truelly lost your grip on reality Jakey boy.’

‘No, I’m beginning to get things now, comprehend things.’

‘Is that what you call it? I’d say you’ve gone completely coocoo la roo, but then again what do I

know, I’m only you and you dont even know.’

Jake shook his head and headed back to the treeline. He had no clear plan of action beyond

escaping the nagging voices, the multplying facets of his own being. This was surely how people

went stark raving mad and ended up sectioned for life in a lunatic’s asylum. No wait that wasnt

politically correct, he meant a psychiatric ward, but then again who cares what he meant, no one

was there to hear him.

Maslow was there, Maslow could hear him, Maslow even knew his thoughts and the strange way

his mind had progressed over the last few days. Maslow either knew his thoughts or he was of his

thoughts, real or make believe, the merrage of a dying man or a real life Nymph revealing to him

great truths.

There was only one truth that mattered right now and that was the truth that he was stuck on

this island and that he had worked his way through his entire rations. He no longer had any real

reading material to occupy his mind and he was beginning to feel the very real and very

disconcerting sensation of maggots occupying his leg wound.

‘If I’m gonna die let it just be now, let it be done and over with. Prolonging the inevitable was just

cruel, damn right sadistic. Why are you doing it God?’

‘You dont believe in God, just in an indefinable force, a transcendetal being, isnt that right?’

‘Yes but’

‘But what?’

‘For goodness sakes even the unbelievers cry out to God when in the grips of death, I dont care how

adamaently theyve clung to their concepts of pure intellectualism, scientific reasoning or humanistic

ways of thinking, they all cry out to god, every one of them’

‘And do you suppose he hears them?’

‘That question sounds as if its predicaated on the notion that ‘he’ I.e God, the subject of the question

exists enough to hear them.’

‘I’m confused’

‘Yes you are, arent you?’

Jake sat back, utterly exhausted like he’d butted heads with Stephen Hawking or played mind games

with Leonardo Davinchi. It hurt to think any more. If the brain was indeed a muscle, it was pumped

to its fullest, it could not be pumped further and it was futile to try.

‘Suppose for a moment’ he began ‘Just humour me for a second’

‘I’m listening’

‘Supposing for a moment, I was to say, and this is purely hyparthetical,there is a God and that I’ve

just cried out for him, will I get an audible answer?’

‘Why don’t you try.’

‘I’ll look stupid, thats why?’

‘Go on, go ahead, the only thing listening on this island is Maslow and I havent seen him for while’

‘I thought you were Maslow.’

‘No I’m you, so go on do it, call out.’

‘God?’

‘Yes’

‘That’s just me, I mean you, I mean Maslow, I wanna hear from God.’

‘You’re God remember.’

‘No I don’t think I am, I think at one time I thought I was but I dont think I am any more.’

‘Call out again.’

‘Fine, God are you there? I Jake Redding need your help’

‘It feels weird to ask, no?’

‘I never asked for help all through Law School so yes, it feels weird to ask.’

‘look’

‘Where?’

‘Out at the water, can you see it.’

‘No, there’s…yes wait, I see it now, a ship but how do I get it over here?’

‘I’ve provided the ship what else do you want, use some of that lawyers intution of yours.’

‘Yes, yes you’re absolutely right, lawyers intution right.’

Jake began looking for something to draw the ships attention. Fire, no. Too late to build the giant

SOS sign. What about standing on the shore and waving palm leaves? That might work.

‘It’s going’

‘I know, I know, give me a sec will ya, I’m thinking.’

‘Dont think too long, it’s going, doubt another ships gonna pass by here any time soon.’

 

The ship was now a pale dot on the horizon, so deminutive it could easily be mistaken for a trapped

eyelash or a fleck of dislodged sleep dust. Its once definable features, its funnel, the reems of port

holes, its monsterous bow that ploughed the ocean troughs were gone leaving only the imagination

depicting what it saw, slowly disappearing from view.

It felt easier and somehow more comforting to dimiss this sighting as a mirrage conjured up by

desperation, a need to see more than an endless expanse of blue.

Maslow stood at his feet, the inherent glow markedly absent from his eyes. A sort of

consoling smile of human teeth lodged in horribly engorged gums had formed on his otherwise non-

descript face. His talon tippd hands clenched the bottle of Scotch from the washed up crate. He

offered it up ceremoniously, the way one would kneel and propose and Jake took it.

He stared for a moment at the unblemished label, the bold print and strange face that bore the

mantra ‘worlds number one’ with the alcohol volume below. He removed the cap but not before

looking once again at Maslow.

His cresent eyes were squinted to horizontal slits of red, there were wrinkles, perhaps frown lines in

his black skin that looked like material creases in a garmont. His incisors vyed for prominence as

he asjusted his meek grin into a broad smile before hedging his options and settling on on dulled

enthusiam which looked like two flattened lips sandwiched toghter, no teeth, slight gum.

The drink burned his throat. It was hard not to cough and accidentally bring it all back up.

Jake winced, feeling his cheeks redden and sweat beading above his brow. There was an

oxymornishly nausaeting but pleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach. It was like being burned just

enough to seer the nerve endings and send an inexplicable jolt of pleasure up through the fiberous

tissues of the body to the awaiting brain. This feeling persisted, in fact increased with each

successive swig. The warmth spread out over his appendages until no longer did he feel bare

skinned but instead imagined he was wearing a heavy fur coat, the bristles of which were tickling

the nape of his neck and underside of his groin.

Maslow was beginning to retreat.

‘Where you going?’

‘A storm’s coming, you need to find shelter.’

Jake pondered this statement with drunken detachment. This meterological forecast came not from

his own mind, for he saw no signs of an immenent storm but from the mind of this creature, this

strange horned creature. Its reasoning seemed at last to bring it into indisbutable existence.

Descartes, ‘I think therefore I am’ quote reared its head to substantiate the argument in some way

before dissapearing below a field of new thoughts. If Maslow was real, then what was he? Had he

discovered a new species, was Maslow an alien? If he was to search the jungle would he find

Maslow’s crashed saucer embedded into the earth like a giant metal frisbee.

Extra terrestrial life suddenly felt very plausable then again Maslow could have orignated not from

outerspace but from some alternate dimsension, some alternate existential plain. Maslow could be a

spirit or a demon, a herolder of the Apocalypse. He was getting ahead of himself, so much so that

his own questions were giving birth to questions and the whole quizzical conflaguration was doing

nothing but give him a pulsing head ache.

Chapter 3

As Maslow had so righlty predicted, a battalion of subcanteous storm clouds marched in over

a deminishing sun. The beach was cast in a tapestry of shadow, interlacing threads of black and

grey. A cool air gusted over the white froth wall that marked the ocean’s edge.

The gull came into view, flying expertly on sporadic air currents. Its screeching was carried far

across the coast accompanying a shrill whistling as the wind stirred the water in the rock pools and

blasted the stone eaves of the cove. The footprints earlier marking the entrance were nearly gone.

Jake swigged the last drops of Scotch and threw the bottle in the direction of the hovering gull.

There was a protesting screech followed by an audible plop as the bottle hit the crest of an inbound

wave. The drink had given him what he wanted to call dutch courage although, at this juncture, he

wasn’t sure that was right. He doubted the validity of most of his thoughts, idioms especially.

When or if, no when, he got off this island he’d have someone review what he’d said. He was too

close to his own thoughts and like a stubborn conductor he was continuing to produce sounds that

he felt enriched the overall experience but may to an objective ear hinder it. He could be babbling

away in some disasscoiative state, unware that his ramblings made as much sense as Klingon in the

Oxford dictionary, the references were coming thick and fast. It was as if he were witnessing his

brain absorbing thought waves from the ether, concepts from the atmosphere. A living

embodiement of accelerated Darwinian Evolution, primate to man, base instincts to cognitve

reasoning.

The entrance to the cove was cast in deep shadow. He stalked forward, hands instinctivly

clenched into fists, eyes so focused they were like torch beams slicing through the darkness. If

anything was still here he’d kill it. A swift rock to the head, a gauging of the thorax, a blinding of

the eyes. It was a vague plan made even more vague by the fact that he had yet to identify the

nature of the threat.

He crept onwards, head slighly bowed arms squeezed at his side to avoid the rocky protrusions.

There would be no room to turn if in fact there was anything waiting for him. His very

surroundings were forcing him to stand and fight. He could feel his palms turn clammy and his

knees tremble. Where once there had been a satisfing warmth thrilling his insides now there was

merely a fluttering as butterfly wings churned the air inside his gut and tickled the underside of his

abdominals.

He eventually reached the chasm where he saw the verticle white strips of talon marks on the

stone floor like a crudely drawn chalk tally grouped into lines of three. He looked around

scrutinizing every crag and crevice only to eventually concede he was alone.

He posiitoned himself cross-legged on the floor, his back against the jagged face of the rear wall,

head bowed in an effort to relax his body and lull himself to sleep. He used the dripping as white

noise. At first calculating the time between the drips then distinguihing the tonal difference as

one drop fell on flat ground whilst another bounced off the small mounded formations that riddled

the chasm floor. This exercise served him well and soon his eyelids were drawing over his sight

adding another thick film of darkness, a second covering of pitch that ushered him into sleep.

***

‘Can’t we use my deck? We’re always using yours,’ said a ginger kid, his skin so peppered in

freckles it was like watching the grainy footage of an old VHS.

‘We use mine, that the deal, now fork over the dough.’

The kid looked questioningly at the two palmed five pound notes. A fortnight’s pocket money on

the outcome of this next hand. Two weeks of chores possibly lost if the next card didnt reveal a

value higher than six lower than a Jack. It was one of those strange rules Jake up had whenever he

was hustling his pals like the next card will be an even or red. There was always some new found

way he was gleaning money from someone.

If it wasnt cards it was coins, simple heads or tails, fifty fifty probability. A practiced technique or

weighted penny altering the odds in his favour. But of course one day he would have to lose. No

one maintained an unblemished winning streak and it was this optimism that eventually persuaded

Greg to part with the two creased bank notes. It felt like giving his babies up for adoption, he felt

somehow sordid for sending them into the hands of such a coniving, manipulating individual and

yet there was always the chance…

Jake sat with his back against the clubhouse wall. From here he could see his bedroom

window on the second floor and the neighbors garden, a tacky army of gnomes congregating around

the carp pond waiting to use their ceramic fishing rods when they were certain no one was looking.

The club house was perfectly nestled or maybe wedged was the right term, between two wide

branches and below a parasol of leaves. It was here that Jake conducted most of his business.

Yesterday he had won three pounds off Mary-Anne, the pastors daughter and the day before that, a

food coupon off Jeremy the foreign exchange from Poland. Now Greg with his sweat moistened

palms still stretched out as if not ready to acknowldge the departure of the bank notes, sat in eager

anticipation. Blinking was not an option lest Jake knew sleight of hand. Absolute focus was

required as Jake slowly and rather teasingly flipped over the card. The Joker leered up from its

white canvas silently mocking the latest victim.

Jake made a show of folding the notes, creasing the edges so they slid perfectly into his jean

pocket.

‘Maybe next time hey’ he said a cheshire cat smile exentuating his cheek bones,

‘Maybe next time’

 

 

***

A splattering of dawn light spliced through the cave darkness, spilling on the floor like rapidly

spreading milk. Jake stood up and headed to the entrance. The sea stretched out ahead in a

mountaneous region of white capped peaks and valleys of darkest blue. Crabs scuttled over the

assortment of rockpools patterning the shoreline.

He suddenly felt very hungry and the Scotch had produced a horrible coppery taste on his tongue

like he was gurgling with two penny pieces. His teeth or maybe it was his gums throbbed

relentlessly competing with a consistant pulsing of his head.

He trudged relucatantly through the area of rockpools, feet slipping slightly on the wet

pebbles and tangles of beached kelp. Part of him yearned to see Maslow if only to observe his

perculiar mannerisms, his toothy smile or the squinting of his cresent eyes like twin boomerangs

glowing in the dark.

Eventually he came to the area where he had first discovered the crates. The planked sides were still

embedded in the sand spreading out like wooden petals. Between the opened boxes there was

something else, something obscured under a heavy shawl of sea weed. At first it looked like a

beached seal maybe even a small whale but as he came closer, he noticed a distinctly human hand

further confirmed by the glint of a wedding ring.

He crouched down and began removing the leaf gilly suit, the ravernous gulls had not clocked the

human beneath.

The weeds had become entangled within the individual’s crow black hair creating green and

brown extensions. The face was chalk white, eyes prised open pretenaturally. Its lips were blue

and shrivelled like salted slugs. It was impossible to ascertain the mans age as the water had

smoothed his face the way a river erodes the rough edges of a pebble or blunts the sharpened points

of glass. Several years had been detracted from the man’s real age so in some inoccuous way he

was ageless, possessing a supernatural quality bought about by the sea.

Jake had a tiny, insubstantial thought surface, the word Posioden, but it went little further than the

name, a vague, originless title that flittered away as quickly as it had come into existence. These

unconnected fleeting thoughts were becoming more and more common like glimpses of the wider

picture. He imagined it was how a blindman felt when the scales dropped from his eyes and what

were once mere phantasimagorical images, surreal, scarey took on a solid, palpable quality, sharp

corners, and definable edges.

He continued to remove the kelp aware now of a strong stench above the salty sea water.

He uncovered the man’s torso clothed with a blazer and tie. The fabric was torn and faded

clinging at the arms like a second skin. The tie once perhaps worn as a joke to an office party had

turned from its garish pink to a faded salmon streaked with what Jake assumed was blood. A

beltless pair of trousers had been inadventantly hitched up the legs revealing two pale shins, the

bone of the right piercing the skin and protruding skywards.

Just like the man’s face, the bone had been smoothed somewhat by the eroding effects of the wave.

Its once jagged end looked more like the tip of a drum stick almost perfectly rounded and washed of

any flecks of blood.

He had lost one of his shoes and the other was hanging off at an irregular angle as if a second foot

was growing out of his heel. His socks had a membrous quality, the cotton thinned to near

transparaceny and the skin beneath reddened by coagulated blood and sediment from the ocean’s

floor.

‘Why don’t you search the pockets?’ Came a tiny, shrill voice.

Maslow appeared just right of the body smiling that toothy smile.

‘Why?’

‘Why not, hes dead aint he, you might find something you can use or you might at least find out

who he was although I think you recognise him.’

‘I’ve never seen him in my life’ Jake replied defensively.

‘You sure?’

He took another look at the rounded facial features, the tattered suit and the pale hand with its

swollen sausage like fingers. He felt inside the pocket of the mans trousers, his fingers accidentally

grazing the side of what he thought should be the mans member, stiff not from excitement but from

the onset of rictamortus slowly solidfying the man into his final pose before decomposition

rendered him unidentifiable.

There was nothing in the pocket but the dampened lining. He tried the otherside and retrieved a

leather wallet suprisingly in relatively good condition. The bank notes had distingrated into

monetry confetti but what use was currency to a man marooned? A library card, a video store

membership expired, an old bus pass with a photo that looked nothing like the man lying on the

sand. Three credit cards, two gold one platiunium, a debit card an exclusive membership card, to

what he was unsure and finally a national insurance card with the name Jamie Taylor printed in

raised lettering. Jamie taylor? Jamie taylor? Jake recited the name aloud doing his best to ignore

the feel of pennys on his tongue.

No, it was still not a name he recognised. He checked the man’s inside jacket pocket and

discovered a small plastic pouch containing several grams of white powder.

‘Ah surely you remember the white stuff?’ Maslow smiled

‘No, I dont…’

Then a transitory thought told him to ingest the powder through his nasal passage. There was

nothing else on the man nor any real way of seeing how he’d arrived on the beach. It was as if the

sea had spat him out like some unwanted bile. Jake stepped away suddenly feeling the inexplicable

urge to try some of the powder but not here, somewhere where he sure he wasn’t being watched.

Maslow trailed behind in its obedient puppy sort of way, cute until it wasn’t. When they reached the

entrance of the cove, Jake ducked inside, quickly retracing his steps to the open chasm where he

had slept the night previous. There amid the security of the shadows, he opened the bag and spelt a

small amount onto his awaiting fingertip before inhaling the minature mound and waiting to see

what happened next.

Maslow stood and stared, its oddly spaced incisors appearing as the lips thinned and curled into a

maleovolent smile.

There was a flash of white, much harsher than any light he had encountered before. It was more

like an explosion of illumination that left floating eye dots in his field of vision.

 

***

He was crouched in front of a liquor cabinet. Greg was stood a few feet behind neck arched up like

a vigilant meerkat.

‘Hurry up before your dad sees us.’

Jake traced his fingers across the grooves of the decorative glass and the ornamented pine border.

Inside he noticed the set of crystal decanters and Whiskey shot glasses as well as champagne flutes

and a squared bottle of unopened Jack Daniels.

‘What’s the hold up?’

‘There’s a lock, I thought I could prize it open but…’

‘Shit man, they’re expecting you to deliver, you can’t let them down, not after you promised…’

‘Hey, hey I never said anything about letting anyone down now did I, I mean I’m just gonna have to

use more forceful methods.’

Jake took a look first to his left then to his right. He tapped the thin pane of glass with his finger tip

before turning his hand and using the knuckle above his index finger like the rounded end of a ball

point hammer. There was a shockingly loud crack as the glass first starred then shattered. Greg had

covered his ears as if he’d been expecting some large explosion. As he took his hands away he

began checking that no one had heard the disturbance.

‘Shit dude, how ya gonna explain that one?’

‘I’ll worry about that when the time comes, here come down from your post for a minute and help

me with the booze.’

Jake passed Greg the bottle of Jack as well as a bell jar of Sherry and a small taster bottle of good

vintage red wine from the french foot hills. When he was confident that he had alleviated the best

of the booze, he stood up brushing the small fragments of display glass from his lap.

‘Find a bag, they wont let you take all this on the bus you know.’

‘Way ahead of ya.’

Jake pulled out a rucksack large enough to fit a small tent and packed the jars and bottles within.

They clanked together as he shouldered the bag and headed outside.

A yellow school bus had pulled up by the sign of two children’s sillouhettes hand in hand. It

was aleady packed to bursting, the aisle filling with standing passangers and the driver focusing

contemptously on the road ahead. The dump valves released a shrill hiss of air as the doors opened

and Greg and Jake entered.

‘Where you gonna leave the bag? There wont be time before lessons.’ Greg said his freckled face all aflush.

‘Dont worry about it, I know someone.’

Greg looked around as if to make sure no one else was party to this confidentual conversation.

‘You dont mean who I think you do, do you?’

‘He’s sound dont worry about it, I promised him a cut, its all good.’ Jake shot greg a dimpled smile

similar to the expression of victory after his latest scam.

‘Fine but don’t let any of this get back to me, some how it always does.’

The bus passed several suburban streets. Detached houses with unneccessarily long winding drives

and palatial, pillared fronts. Intrically carved wrought iron gates barricaded the majority of the

opulant properties securing the owners wealth within meters of solid fortification.

Jake took in the view with the usual envious eye. An envy that more often than not turned to utter

disdain and soured his mood for the day, not this day. He had in his bag a great liquor haul, the

means to a substantial profit from some very rich students.

They pulled up at the school. A number of previous break-ins had forced the school

committee to install concertina barbs along the perimeter walls. That combined with the anti- climb

paint now served to give the whole place a pennitentary feel.

A Victorian building stood back from a vast playground of chalk scribbled concrete. Jake had often

thought the school looked like a mental asylum with its tinted black windows and CCTV cameras

that buzzed from atop their nests on the slated roof.

As they all piled off the bus and into the school house Jake took a detour and headed down into the

boiler room, a place restricted to the likes of him. It was here, shrouded in crimson, photographers

dark room-shadow that he saw Albert hunched over the furnace, arthtiric hands struggling with the

many release valves.

‘Albert’ Jake called over the loud venting of steam from the overhead pipes.

‘Albert.’

Albert turned with a start, his face so sweat covered it shone in the wan light.

‘My god boy you gave me start, didnt your parents teach you not to sneak up on an old fella, I

could’ve had a heart attack I could my my.’

Jake stared at him, waiting for his geriatric ramblings to cease before he produced the contents of

his bag.

‘Remember our deal’ Jake began ‘ I need you to stash this lot just until the buzzer at three, there’s a

small bottle of red in it for you if you keep your mouth shut.’

‘And my percentage of the takings?’

‘Yes, yes ten percent, that’s what we agreed, look I’m gonna be late for maths, I’ll see you at three.’

And with that Jake bounded back into the corridors joining the salmon line as it fought up stream to

its respective lessons.

 

It was obvious when Jake returned to the boiler room at three aclock that aftrnoon that the janitor

had partook in more than a tipple. The small bottle of red wine had been completly finished and the

bell jar of sherry was looking supiciously low. His face was red and blothcy, easily a result of the

engine room like heat but that did not explain the apparent dilation of the pupils or the unsteady gait

and strange mannerisms that accompaied a series of non sensical ramblings.

Jake snatched the bag and made a breif check of his inventory. He still had enough to sell but that

wasn’t the point, he’d trusted this man to guard his mechandise and now he was finding him half cut,

semi concious blabbering about some new french employment law he’d come across in the school

library Journals.

‘They should be allowed not to be contacted at home, if you ask me employer harrassament is

tantamount to bullying, it’s the worse kind of harrasssment if you ask me, yes sirry.’

He had used a heavily foiled verticle heating pipe to support his weight as he dictated what he

obviously, at least in the moment, felt very passionate about. You could almost mistake him for an

educated man if you didn’t know that his life was split into two parts. An induced coma from when

he was mowed down at the age of six and a thirty three year sentence for double murder, reduced

only due to ailing health.

He had got the job purely through a case of nepatism from the head master who must have felt a

sense of guilt for his older, less successful brother. Can’t do any harm down in the boiler room was

most likely the reasoning behind his employment.

Jake made his way up to the stairs, checking his watch as he went. The Randall kids, a group of

spoilt offspring from entrapeneurial parents who had struck it lucky at some point during their lives

would be gaathered by the south cornfields waiting on their delivery.

Jake had often wondered why such privalleged kids had ended up going to such a crummy school

but it was no stretch of the imagination to believe that one of the many reasons their parents were

rich was because of the tight tabs they put on their expenditures. How was it Greg had put it,

fiscally-tight, which sounded sexual but it wasnt.

He reached the edge of the cornfields, red faced and out of breath. The left shouder strap had

snapped on his ruck sack so he was now cradling it like a refugee mother and her small emaciated

child. Bert Randall was the first to come forward from the conspiratorial huddle that had formed

amid the corn stalks.

He was a large built boy but in that irritating way where it was unclear if he’d execised to gain the

extra muscular poundage or if he was innately broad. He was inately rich so maybe he had lucked

out and was genetically superior as well. The one thing he wasnt was smart. That had been

instantly apparent everytime he had tried to articulate his threats in the play ground. Stuttering and

stammering like a struggling actor whose lines were way to hard to recite. You could almost see the

cogs turning in his head, creaking and shuddering as cognitive dust formed between the wooden

teeth and bats perched in the cranial space above the cerebrial activity.

Jake had amused himself with this anaylsis and must have been wearing a broad smile when he

approached Bert.

‘What the hell are you smirking about boy?’ Bert asked peacoking his barrel chest and clenching his

fists.

‘Nothing, nothing at all. Look I’ve got the booze you’re after but I’m afraid due to unforseen

circumstances…’ he knew Bert would be taking that word and searching frantically for its

definition.

‘I have had to increase the cost. I need thirty five.’

Bert smiled. Jake was talking his language now, the language of money.

‘Thirty five, s’pose that’s fair.’ He looked back at his gaggle of consorts and smirked.

‘Chip in an extra ten boys the man’s raised his price.’

Jake felt a little unnerved by the inherent lack of relucatance. Was he missing something? He was

afterall giving them less merchandise for more money, simple maths wouild tell anyone he was

clearly rippiing them off. Normally this thought would be immenesly satisfying like pulling of a

scam back at his clubhouse but this time it felt as if he were the one being played. That perhaps the

Randalls had combined their limited mental faculties and summised a plan so cunning, so ruthless

that it could be carried out complelelty undetected.

No he thought, You’re being stupid now, you know who you’re dealing with, the blooming Randalls

for god’s sake, these fools wouldn’t be able to scam someone if their life depended on it certainly

not the king of scams, certainly not Jake himself.

The exchange was made and Jake breathed an audible sigh of relief as he let go of the bag and thus

any chance of being caught as a minor with a large stash of alcohol. He counted the money,

pocketed the notes and looked for Greg who was meant to meet him during this transaction.

Greg came running out of breath. He stopped, bent forward and for a moment looked like he was

going to hurl. He raised one hand to signal he needed a moment to regain his composure.

‘Fuck me, I need to stop smoking. We good is everything all sorted?’

‘Yeah but why were you late?’

‘Mrs Appleby wanted to keep me behind after class if you know what I’m talking about, hey, hey,

you know what I’m talking about hey?’

Mrs Appleby was the young new maths teacher who had the kind of body that would send a

teenager’s hormones into overdrive. It should have been illegal for her to assume a position at the

school.

Jake couldnt quite picture the meeting where a bunch of snuff nosed professors deemed it suitable

for this young buxon to join the teaching staff. Perhaps they to were feelnig a little underwhelmed

by the Hancocks and Tribets of the world with their grey hair and shoulder pads.

The bus back was a little less crowded. Most people headed to the local arcade a few streets from

the school or chose rather to walk back having sat in class all day. The driver still wore that same

contemptous look as if to say, I cant believe shuttling these brats around from point A to point B is

my life, what the hell have I done to deserve this?

‘How much did you get?’

‘Thirty five.’

‘Ha, brilliant but I was thinking what happens when your folks see the broken glass, they’ll go ape

shit right? I mean how you gonna explain that?’

Jake hadn’t really thought that far. His carelessness surprised even him. He blooming well lived at

the crime scene and he hadnt thought of making more of an effort to cover his tracks. There was

of couse his three year old sister, she was always throwing things in the house, she could have

easily smashed the cabinet by accident but that wouldnt explain the missing booze.

A nauseating feeling, the feeling one gets when impending doom is mere minutes away came

tearing through his insides. Greg obviously noticed it for he had gone all stoic as if in some kind of

transcendental, medititave state.

Jake’s dad was waiting at the entrance to the house. He wore his work uniform, the bleached

dungarees of a binman and dangling from his right hand like a severed donkey’s tail was a long

leather belt the gold buckle glinting in the light.

Jake’s legs felt as if they no longer worked properly, as if steel rods and lead weights had replaced

the bone and connective tissue. The journey from the bus stop to the house was like the walk up

death row. He could feel the neighbors scrutineous eyes following his every movement, perhaps

even relishing the inievitable pay off.

‘Jake’ came dad’s thunderous voice akin to Zeus calling out the name of his brother Haides.

‘Yesss’ Jake stammered eyes not leaving the patio that meadeandered through the yard.

There was a long stretch of silence where the court deliberated. Who would be brave enough to

speak? Brave enough or foolish enough that is.

‘I’m sorry dad.’ Jake didn’t raise his head, he couldnt if he’d wanted to. His neck was feeling that

same fear induced inertia as his legs and if this continued much longer he was certain he’d transform

into some inanimate entity like a garden gnome destined to serve the remainder of his life adorning

the front yard.

Dad tapped the leather belt across his palms so the buckle made disconcerting clicking sounds and

the leather wooshed as it sliced through the air.