Earthbound

windsor-castle-2
.
(850 words)
Windsor Great Park was my destination, somewhere I’d never been before. I drove my little silver Toyota through the busy streets of Windsor, noticing in the distance a red flag flying above the famous Round Tower of ‘the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world,’ signifying that the Queen was in residence.
I followed the signs and found myself on less manic roads, finally pulling up at an impressive lodge, beyond which lay green fields and trees. A manservant in an antiquated purple robe came out. “Hello, Madam, may I help you?”
“I’m Sylvia Williamson, I’ve come to look at your ghost.”
His aged face betrayed no surprise. “Ah, yes, come this way please.” He led me into the sumptuously furnished building and along corridors, where faces of unrecognisable royal personages glared at me through the cracked glaze of ancient oil paintings, mounted in enormous gilded frames.
“This is Mrs. Sad-ov-ski.” He enunciated the syllables pompously, as a middle-aged lady, dressed in an olive-green trouser suit came to greet us.
She smiled. “Good day, Mrs. Williamson. That’ll be all, Balthazar, thank you.” The purple-clad manservant disappeared and she led me out through a door and along a path to an old cottage. “Thank you for coming, Mrs. Williamson. We spoke on the phone ….”
“Call me Sylvia, please. Yes, I’m pleased to meet you.”
She led me into a surprisingly spacious lounge with comfortable, modern furniture. She gestured towards a brown leather sofa. “Please take a seat.”
“So, where’s the haunting?” I asked, getting to the point.
Mrs. Sadowski looked embarrassed, coughed, and waved an arm. “Right here is the worst, but everywhere in the cottage really.”
“OK, can you leave me alone for fifteen minutes please?”
I’d received a phone call out of the blue. A lady had heard of my reputation at getting rid of unwelcome spirits. People would be reluctant to admit, even to themselves, that their house was haunted. But after months of things being moved around, bumps in the night, footsteps in empty corridors, you name it, they usually decided to admit, albeit reluctantly, that it was the case. Then my telephone would ring.
So here I was. I closed my eyes and tuned into the ‘world beyond the veil.’ Soon I became aware of an aged woman in a long black dress with a white apron, seated opposite me. She regarded me with large brown eyes and I noticed I could see through her to the material of her armchair.
Telepathically, I received her story. She’d had a harsh mistress in a large house nearby. The only person she had loved was the mistress’s young son, Alex, who had drowned in a local pond. For years she’d served, until the mistress’s death. Since then she’d happily lived alone in her cottage, without being at the mistress’s beck and call. In her own confused way, she believed Mrs. Sadowski to be her lodger.
“Don’t you have any family?” I asked.
“No.”
“What about friends?”
“I ain’t got no one.” The vulgarism fell naturally from her lips. She continued, “This cottage’ll last me out, it’s enough for me.”
“Last you out, what about when you die?”
“Die?” The old woman snorted. “That’s the end of you, ain’t it?”
“What about Heaven … and Hell?” I asked.
“Stuff and nonsense. I don’t believe in ‘em! Having this cottage to myself is all the heaven I want!”
“But what about Mrs. Sadowski, she lives here now?”
The old woman became confused. “I don’t know, I see her about, she … she’s my lodger, ain’t she?”
I had an idea. “Yes, she is. But she’s not well. I’d like you to call her a doctor.”
“A doctor, well, I don’t know … I ain’t seen one for years. I … I don’t see folk much these days.”
“Well, I’d like you to call one for her please, I’ll come back tomorrow to make sure you’ve done so.”
I returned the following day. Again Mrs. Sadowski left me alone in the lounge. Soon I made contact with the old lady, whose name I’d discovered was Agatha.
“Did you find a doctor for Mrs. Sadowski?” I asked.
“No, no, I never. Truth be told, I … I couldn’t find the village.” She sounded confused.
“Listen, Agatha, don’t you have any friends or relations who’ve passed over?”
“No, there was just little Alex, the lad who drowned. Look, I know what you’re getting at. Don’t tell me I’m dead. Please. I love my little cottage too much.” She began to cry. “I ain’t going, I tell you.”
I suddenly felt desperately sorry for her. “Look, there is a better life.” I said and called on my spirit guide for help. He’d told me he would be ready and able to assist.
Agatha’s sobbing suddenly stopped. “Why, there’s … there’s little Alexander!”
“Follow him into the light.”
Suddenly, the apparition vanished and the oppressive atmosphere lifted. I knew Agatha had done as I’d requested.
Mrs. Sadowski appeared. “Has she gone?”
I smiled. “Yes, she’ll be with loved ones and friends now. Even though she thought she didn’t have any.”

—-

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Reflections of a Traitor

mirror maze

(1200 words)

Like something out of a James Bond film, I was to observe and photograph a Russian agent being handed secrets. The setting, Painter’s Fairground, set up for the week on a field just out of town.
It was getting dark and I wandered between the brightly lit and gaudily painted stalls, laden with brilliantly coloured boxes containing tacky plastic toys. I inhaled the smell of electricity, petrol engines and candy floss, whilst my ears were assailed by the noise and excitement of the rides. The bumper cars careening across their conductive floor, sparks flying from the connecting rods as they moved across the ceiling. Crazily driven by laughing teenagers, girls made up to look ten years older, twenty-five instead of fifteen, accompanied by lanky youths in coloured tops and tight jeans.
I passed the Ghost Train, hearing the vehicle thundering through the wooden shack, children screaming in faux fright, and always, the relentless chugging of generators everywhere. I tried in vain to imagine someone designing a Ghost Train and the ‘spooky house’ it ran through. And factories manufacturing them in some godforsaken place.
“Hey, Pal, wanna try your luck?” A barker with a time-worn face and pork-pie hat addressed me from a shooting gallery where little ducks ran on rails.
“Sure.” I put two pound coins into his brown leather hand and took a rifle. It was equipped with ten .22 calibre metal pellets and unnecessarily heavy. He showed me how to load the rifle, then walked to the other end of the stall, leaving me to it, to talk to what looked to be a grandfather with his grandson, a gangly youth with thick-lensed glasses and acne.
My first shot told me that the sight was slightly out of alignment, presumably to handicap the shooter and save on prizes. Allowing for the discrepancy, there was a satisfying ‘ting’ as a slow-moving fat duck went down. Then another. I aimed at the row behind, where the ducks were smaller and moved faster, giving correspondingly higher points for a hit. My first shot missed but ‘ting,’ ‘ting,’ ‘ting,’ three in a row! I noticed the stall-holder looking at me curiously and the youth gaping with admiration. Deciding it would be prudent not to show my hand too obviously, I aimed at the back row, where the ducks were smaller and faster still, and deliberately missed three, finding my aim for the last shot. ‘Ting.’ One went down to my satisfaction.
“Well done, buddy,” the barker forced a grin. “Looks like you’ve done it before!”
I made a non-committal sound as he gestured to a shelf of prizes appropriate to my score. I selected a large soft toy – a basset hound – and handed it to a small girl nearby. She smiled shyly and ran off to her mother, pointing me out to her.
Time to move on. I walked through the noisy throng to the merry-go-round, blasting out up-tempo fairground music from what appeared to be an authentic organ engine. Rows of brightly bedecked horses rotated, moving up and down, mostly without riders, but some with smaller children. Then, to my astonishment, mounted on a gold horse with a red saddle, my ‘target’ came into view. Known simply as Oleg, he was sixty-two and a professor of linguistics. He wore a black suit, his hair matched his suit and was Brylcreemed and parted on the right, his nose was long and beaky, and his lips were thin. He looked straight through me as he passed, smiling and giving the appearance of enjoying the ride. What on Earth was he playing at, drawing attention to himself like that?
I feigned interest in a darts stall whilst waiting for him to come around again.
There was a little girl in a green dress with blonde hair I remembered, then two boys, brothers I presumed, both with curly ginger hair, then … nothing. Oleg’s horse was now unoccupied! I ran around the carousel in case I was mistaken but, no, he was nowhere to be seen. How was that possible?
The information we’d got was that the switch was to be at quarter past eight. It wasn’t even eight yet. Had he met his contact earlier than planned? I started to feel worried. If I blew this assignment it would count against me and there was another agent, the arrogant Toby Mellors, younger and ex-Oxford University, vying for my role and the substantial salary it carried.
There were many people milling around still, parents and grandparents with their young and not-so-young offspring, and groups of teenagers, fooling around as teenagers are wont to do, good-naturedly swearing at each other.
I passed a mirror maze and there in the kaleidoscope of hundreds of reflections, right at the back, or what looked like the back, I thought I saw a black suit and parted, greased-down black hair.
I paid my entry money to a woman with an aged gypsy-like face and incongruous bright blonde hair and went in, feeling satisfaction at the reflection of my athletic appearance and what I hoped to be nondescript look. Music was blasting out from a crowded, nearby Waltzer ride – Green Onions, that perennial fairground favourite.

 

The maze confused by having plain glass panels as well as mirrors, but by finding and sticking to a likely pattern of turns – left, left, right – I made my way towards the back, catching sight of what I perceived to be Oleg’s reflection from time to time. There was someone else too, moving around, as if playing cat and mouse with either Oleg or myself or both. I reached into my jacket pocket and reassuringly caressed a small revolver, equipped with a silencer.
The mirrors here reflected solely myself – fat, thin, even inverted. Suddenly I found myself in a small open space with two men, surrounded by a crowd in the mirrors about us, and I looked from Oleg to the other man and back with total astonishment. Oleg handed me a notebook and smiled. “Low tech,” he said, with a trace of Russian accent.
I glanced inside it. Written in English, it said ‘British Spies – Moscow, Leningrad, Saint Petersburg and environs.’ The next two pages had been torn out. The rest of the book seemed to contain a kind of journal but using some sort of code I didn’t recognise. Oleg opened his jacket to show the missing pages in a pocket and laughed, handing the book back to the other man.
I took out my revolver. “You know I could kill you both, right here?” I said.
The familiar face spoke. “I don’t think so, old man, you see, I fitted your gun with blanks this afternoon. Mine on the other hand, are the real McCoy.” He pulled out a squat black revolver, quickly screwing a silencer on and hardly flinching as I pulled the trigger of mine, producing a ‘phut,’ barely noticeable above the general fairground hubbub. He laughed and pointed the gun at my forehead. “Time to start a new life, old man, looks like I’ll be moving up in the organisation after all!”

—-

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The Ministry of Truth, Revisited

chakra healing

(850 words)

Some had warned me it’d be like this, but I hadn’t believed them. Now I looked at my entry in Wikipedia once more, still feeling sick to my stomach.
Corwin Blackthorne (b.1957) a self-proclaimed ‘spiritual’ healer, established a ‘sanctuary’ in St. Olaves, Wiltshire in 2003, when the number of patients visiting his home became too great. He claims to have healed thousands from arthritis, depression, asthma, and even cancer. However, studies by the British Medical Journal showed no evidence to support this claim and were unable to verify a single cure. Subsequently, some ex-patients have accused Blackthorne of fraud ….
My wife, Jean, appeared and put an arm around me. “Darling, don’t torture yourself, think of all the people you’ve helped. They know you’re a good man. Look at Sue Jones, last week. She’s been walking around town without her sticks, singing your praises.”
I kissed her cheek, still smarting from the inaccuracy of the article. “I know. But anyone who doesn’t know me will believe this, this shit!”
I’d got a friend who knew about these things to correct the Wikipedia entry on me. To say that the BMA study was on terminal cancer patients only, where, truth to tell, most were beyond any kind of healing beyond a complete miracle. Also, only one person had accused me of fraud, the ludicrous Jaspar Simons, a local squire who was busy suing all and sundry for alleged misdemeanours relating to the renovation of his stately home. But now, ‘someone’ had gone in and altered the article back to the previous version.
It had been back in 1987, when I’d attended a spiritualist church with the encouragement of friends, that a medium had told me I had healing powers. As a child, I remembered seeing my grandparents around the house, although they’d both died years before, but had been told by my parents ‘not to be silly,’ and that it was ‘just a vivid imagination.’ Suddenly I hadn’t been so sure. Then, following a brief training, had come years of experience, and great success.
Now, we lived in a large house with an old orangery, whose glass facades, high ceiling and large stone pots, planted with fruit trees, were conducive to encouraging healing energies, which I sensed and could be directed into the subject. All paid for by donations from patients, I only charged a subsistence fee.
Two weeks after seeing my entry redacted back to the original pack of lies, Jean came to me. “Darling, there’s someone to see you. Someone official I think.”
“Who?”
“He didn’t say.”
“OK, show him in.” I decided I’d give him five minutes.
A distinguished-looking man, dressed in a smart grey suit came in. He looked to be in his early sixties. “Mr. Blackthorne?”
“Yes.”
“My name is James Spader. I’m from the Government’s Department of Perception Management, the ‘Ministry of Truth,’ as some call it!” He laughed and offered his hand.
I shook it. Dry and warm. “Take a seat. Please.” I gestured to a sumptuous green-cushioned cane chair. “What can I help you with?”
Spader adjusted silver-rimmed glasses on his aquiline nose. “Look, Mr. Blackthorne, I’m not going to beat about the bush. We want you to let your Wikipedia entry stand.”
“What?!”
“Look, we’ll make it worth your while.”
“Why?”
Spader took out a cloth and wiped his lenses. “Think of the damage it could do to the pharmaceutical industry, to the doctors’ lifestyle. We can’t have people believing they only have to pay a few quid and they’ll be cured!”
“But that IS the case,” I replied, feeling incensed.
“Yes, of course it is. I know that and you know that. But the … plebs, don’t. And we want to keep it like that.”
I was lost for words.
“That’s the way it is and, I’m afraid, er, that’s the way it’s got to stay.” His thin lips compressed into a smile.
“Are there other departments, er, like yours?” I asked, curious now.
“Well it’s all hush-hush of course, but, between you and me, yes. Ghosts, UFOs, crop circles, aliens, fake child abductions, spirit communication, etc., they all have to be … debunked, I suppose you’d say. On Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, forums, in the papers, on TV. You name it. We’ve hundreds working on all the monitoring and ‘correction’ required.”
“But why?! Why not let the people know the truth? At the end of the day, you guys are elected by us!”
“True, but well, orders from on high, that’s all I can say. You carry on with your … good work, we won’t stop that, just don’t interfere with any media … ‘interpretations,’ there’s a good chap.”
I sighed. What was the point of banging my head against a brick wall? “OK, how much is it worth then?”
Spader smiled a wry smile. “Well, maybe you’d prefer a bigger property? We could facilitate that. This house is nice, but a man of your stature … well, perhaps you’d like a more impressive healing space?”
“Well, actually, there is somewhere, somewhere nearby actually. Owned by a chap called Jaspar Simons ….”

Related:

The Downfall of British Journalism

Twenty Questions About the Putney Bridge Jogger Case That Must be Answered

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Midnight Train to Marylebone

freight train

(1200 words)

Princes Risborough, that was good news. The train slowed down as we passed through the deserted and desolate station, small oases of luminosity above the station signs the only indicators of civilisation. The town lies at the north end of a pass through the Chiltern hills and the railway links the affluent Buckinghamshire settlement with Birmingham and London, my destination.
A kiosk stood, black and shuttered, looking like a relic from World War Two. Hard to imagine people queuing, a young woman smiling as she handed over cappuccinos in cardboard beakers with plastic lids. Guaranteed to spill burning coffee over you if you tried to drink it once the train was moving.
Once through the station, we began to pick up speed and my small, dimly lit carriage began to sway, as a hubbub of rattling and clanking permeated the compartment once more. I looked at my watch. 1.30 a.m. I should be in London for 2.00 a.m. Though quite who or what would be waiting for me I was unsure.
I wound the window down and let a stream of warm summer air blast over my face. Heating was on in the carriage and despite the late hour it was growing sultry. Now we were headed around a bend and I looked along the train at the elongated chain of freight that curved down and out of sight, wagon after wagon, perhaps thirty of them. Some resembled cement mixers, others, square containers with huge letters denoting alien products and companies, a world totally unbeknown to me. Ahead was another small carriage and beyond that, thundering ever onwards, the huge metallic leviathan pulling thousands of tons. My phone beeped
‘Hi darling, I’ll be at Marylebone in ten minutes. What’s your ETA? xx’
Thank God! Fiona had got my text and was coming to pick me up.

The carriage was shaking and rattling, too noisy to make a voice call. I noticed the battery was almost flat too and rebuked myself for forgetting to charge it. I sat down on the ancient, worn seat, pale green with a barely decipherable floral design, and musty-smelling. How many thousands of people must have sat there? Briefly, I tried to imagine the lives of that inconceivable weight of humanity. I wondered if any murderers had sat here, right where I was sitting? I sent off a reply. ‘Half an hour with luck. Love you. xxx’

I thought of the incredible good fortune I’d had. Toting a small suitcase, I’d gone to Drierley station about 11 p.m., a lonely halt in South Warwickshire, hoping I could get to London. There’d been a couple of lights on the single platform but there were no timetables anywhere, just an antiquated ticket machine that simply asked for my destination and gave a corresponding price.
I’d tried to phone Fiona, my fiancé, to get her to check train times, but there was no answer. After hanging around on the ominous, lonely platform for twenty minutes, I’d mooted returning to my guest house, no doubt to a disgruntled landlady, when the rail sang with an approaching train. Hope had burned in my heart, then was dashed as I saw it was pulling freight. But as the train grew closer, it slowed, groaning and creaking, finally pulling up at the end of the platform with a momentous sigh. Its waggons stretched the whole length of the platform and far beyond. Suddenly all was completely silent.
A huge man in a black uniform and cap lowered himself gingerly onto the platform from the cab and waddled towards me. I felt embarrassed, as if I had no right to be there.
“’Ello, squire, all the trains ‘ave gone. Didn’t you realise?” He called.
“Actually no, there aren’t any timetables.”
Coming up to me, he laughed, “No, they don’t bother with ‘em anymore. People can look train times up online. Saves ‘em a packet.” He was very overweight, with a round, friendly face and small, widely spaced eyes that twinkled in the sparse light.
“Oh.”
“Look, I need to take a leak … where are you off to?”
“Well, I wanted to go to Marylebone.”
He laughed, his double chin wobbling. “Ha, it’s your lucky day, squire, that’s where I’m headed, and I’ve got a couple of carriages in tow!” He gestured to two antiquated boxes, tucked just behind the engine.
“How much?” I asked.

“Well, I shouldn’t really take passengers but I’ll write you out a ticket, don’t worry. We’ll sort it out later. That OK?”

Well, that was more than OK. Here I was, just half an hour from meeting my sweetheart, against all the odds. True, I only had myself to blame for not checking the journey times or getting ready on time, but, well, that was in the past now. Everything had worked out fine in the end.
I wondered about paying the fare. Maybe I could go and see the driver now? Perhaps he might even welcome some company? It must be lonely driving freight trains on your own at night.
I exited the carriage and went down the corridor, balancing against the movement of the train. Then, warily, into the next compartment, over the shaking, clanking join between carriages. The next one was dark, just a small yellow light in the ceiling showing all seats unoccupied. I reached a cream-painted door beyond. ‘Strictly no admittance,’ it said, in a forbidding font. I knocked on it.
No reply. I knocked louder, my knuckles smarting with the impact on the metal. “Can I come in?” I shouted. Again, no reply. I turned the handle and was surprised to find the door unlocked. It swung open to reveal the gargantuan form of the driver slumped over the controls. One look at the anguish etched on his greyish-blue face was enough to tell me he was dead. Presumably a heart attack.
OK, what to do? I tried to suppress a rising panic. These trains had a ‘dead man’s handle’ didn’t they? He would be pressing something with his hand or foot. When it was removed the train would slow and stop. Permutations rattled around in my mind. But then another train might crash into it. But then the braking would send a signal to some control centre somewhere, surely?
With difficulty I shifted his bulk enough to determine, to my horror, that there was nothing resembling one. Stay calm! I took my phone out and typed a text to Fiona. She’d be at Marylebone by now and could tell the staff. They’d know what to do. Perhaps they could even stop the train remotely? ‘Train driver is dead. SERIOUSLY. Train still running. HELP!!’
It seemed like an age as, sick with trepidation, I watched the trees hurtling past in the powerful headlights to the body-numbing throbbing of the engine. Finally, my phone beeped. Thank God! I read the message. ‘You have insufficient funds. Please top up and try again.’
I looked at the huge corpse, propped in awkward, permanent repose. Why had he chosen this time to die? I didn’t want to join him; my real life was only just beginning. I felt fear and cursed a vengeful God.

—-

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The Tale of Tobias Squire

Grave-falling-745971

(600 words)

“Princes … and paupers, all are buried here, sir.” The old man spat into the grave he was digging in the rich brown earth.
I’d chanced upon an ancient church, deep in the Norfolk countryside. A long walk down a meandering single-track lane that looked like it would fizzle out in the middle of nowhere. Instead, there was a sizeable farm, this church, ensconced in shadow amongst mature trees, and two cottages, predictably named ‘Church Cottages nos. 1 and 2,’ as indicated by an incongruously modern sign.
“Princes? Are you sure?”
“As sure as my name’s Tobias Squire!” He climbed out of the hole, coughing with the exertion. His face was wizened and he wore a heavy black overcoat, despite the warm spring day. “Do you doubt me sir?” he asked, his head askance and thin lips compressed in silent mirth. He reached into a coat pocket and pulled out a tin, containing tobacco and cigarette papers.
“No, no, of course not, it’s just … out here, I mean, um ….”
The old man sat down on a weathered wooden bench and rolled a cigarette. “Out here, sir, well, it ain’t like the cities.” He laughed a phlegm-laden laugh. “There’s things go on out here you city folks’d have nary an idea of.”
Feeling somewhat indignant, I challenged him. “Prince who, then?”
The old man looked up at the sky and spoke softly, “Prince Korrigan.”
“Prince Korrigan?” I said, wondering if the old fellow was crazy. “What kind of name is that?”
“Well, that’s what I calls him, anyhows.” He gestured towards a distant corner of the graveyard, beyond enormous square yew trees. Take a look over yonder, sir.”
I strolled over, walking between rows of ancient, haphazardly-toppled and indecipherable gravestones, to a white stone tomb. It outshone its neighbours like a supernova outshines the brightest star in the sky. A colossal rectangular box of pure white marble with sporadic carved seals – a lion wearing a crown, and a unicorn. And one simple date – 1877. No name, no motto, nothing.
I had to admit that it could conceivably be the tomb of a prince by virtue of its opulence and returned to find the old man puffing on his roll-up and staring up at the cerulean sky.
“So, who’s buried there then? It doesn’t say.”
He jolted out of his reverie, looking at me as if I were a complete stranger. Then his antiquated mind categorized me and responded. “He never had a name, he died the day after he was born … or that’s what they thought!”
“What on Earth d’you mean?”
“He was taken, taken by the fairies! They left a piece of wood in his place. An enchanted piece of wood, mind. To all appearances, the double of the newborn!”
“You daft old bugger!” I exclaimed, deciding I’d had enough of the silly old fool.
“People believe what it is they believe, sir,” he said, and turned his face away.
“Well, I wish you a good day.” Leaving the graveyard, I began to retrace my steps along the lane, presently hearing the sound of his spade upon the earth once more. So, I wondered, if this supposed prince was substituted at birth, what happened to him after he grew up, and was he perhaps alive, even now, sustained by fairie magic, and working on their agenda, maybe even in public?
As I sauntered along, feeling the warm sun on my face and listening to the birds singing, a thought came to mind. ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

—-

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Riddle-me-ree

Riddlers-Riddle5

Riddle-me, riddle-me, riddle-me-ree,
Perhaps you can tell what this riddle may be:
As deep as a house, as round as a cup,
And all the king’s horses can’t draw it up.

As a change from flash fiction stories, this time here are ten fairly mind-boggling riddles. I’ve not given any answers, they can all be found easily on the internet.

However, there are a couple below that I don’t know the answer to. There’s one which I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years, I refuse to give up on it! So don’t be in too much of a hurry to look them up!

Like good crossword clues, the answers usually seem obvious once you know them, but getting there can require some pretty extensive lateral thinking!

With thanks to author, Nancy Richy for giving me the idea and providing some really good ones!

 

•   I can only live where there is light but I will die if light shines on me. What am I?

•   In 1990 a person is 15 years old. In 1995 that same person is ten years old. How can this be?

•   Four men were fishing in a boat on a lake. The boat turned over and all four men sank to the bottom of the lake. And yet not one single man got wet. How could this be? [and they weren’t wearing wet suits!]

•   What disappears the moment you say its name?

•   It is greater than God and more evil than the Devil. The poor have it, the rich need it, and if you eat it you will die. What is it?

•   The more there is of me, the less you see. What am I?

•   I gave her one, they gave him two, you gave us three or more; they all returned from him to you, though they were mine before.

•   I turn around once. What is out will not get in. I turn around again. What is in will not get out. What am I?

•   What English word retains the same pronunciation when you take away four of its five letters?

•   If Teresa’s daughter is my daughter’s mother, what am I to Teresa?

—-

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A Flying Visit

repairing_magic_flying_carpet_by_gaudibuendia-d9vt1ip

(1300 words)

My story starts one sunny day in August. I’d spent the morning setting up bookcases, then bringing in box after heavy box of old books from an outbuilding, with the intention of getting them into some kind of order. They belonged to my uncle Josiah who had died at an unexpectedly early age after being pushed onto the live rail of a tube train at Holland Park station by a ‘random madman,’ described as a ‘fakir lookalike,’ yet to be apprehended.
The books had been left to me, Ruben Winterfield is my name, in uncle Josiah’s will, possibly as I’d worked in the antiquarian book trade for a number of years, although I’d only met him on occasion. Well, the ones I’d looked at so far were fairly weird. There were books on various forms of astrology, tarot, angels, demons, witchcraft, clairvoyance and the like. There was also a collection of old hardbacks by William Walker Atkinson, the famous occultist, also known as Yogi Ramacharaka or Theron Q. Dumont, which I suspected to be very valuable in the first and early editions, which these were.
Needing a break, I decided to take a stroll and get some fresh air. I walked along a footpath outside my house, to a track along the edge of a field, where a stream bubbled in a gully which ran alongside. I reached a huge, gnarled oak tree, where there was a short path to a small waterfall. On impulse I took it and was amazed to find that, for the first time ever, I was not alone there.
A lady in a purple cloak was situated on the far side of the stream, bending over with her hands in the water, presumably searching for something. On my side of the stream stood a young girl, perhaps six years old, holding the lead of a beautiful honey-coloured rough collie. The girl had a pretty face, bright blue eyes and mid-length blonde hair, held back in a pony tail with a blue band.
The lady seemed startled by my appearance and stood up, looking flustered. The little girl simply turned to me and smiled. “Hello, I’m Esmerelda, this is Solomon, and that’s my mummy.”
Well, it seemed that the mother, Tameka, had been performing some kind of ritual, to Neda, a goddess of waters, when in her excitement of shouting an invocation, a talisman she’d been holding went flying into the waterfall. It was eventually found, a leather pouch, stamped with strange symbols, and containing now-sodden herbs.
Esmerelda rolled her eyes at me. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time her mother’s ‘occult activities’ had gone awry.
I’d invited them back for a cup of tea, a glass of orange squash, and a bowl of water respectively, and had taken a shine to them. Tameka had wavy blonde hair and was not unattractive, but somewhat odd, rambling on about archangels and goddesses, as if they were personal friends.
Esmerelda, on the other hand, seemed bright as a button, and, mentally well in advance of her six years. Solomon seemed a gentle soul, content to sit in the corner, close his eyes and meditate on whatever dogs meditate on.
“Mummy’s got a magic carpet,” Esmeralda said.
I laughed. “Well, I’d like to fly to Iceland, they’ve got some pretty big waterfalls there!”
Tameka perked up. “Actually, I do have one. It was left to me by my great-uncle, Henri Baq. He wrote a history of the flying carpet.”
“I thought it was just fairy tale nonsense,” I said.

Tameka’s face became serious. “Fairy tales are usually based on fact.”

So, to my astonishment, I’d wound up at their place one afternoon, an old castle-like mansion, only part of which appeared to be habitable. Tameka led us into a large book-lined study and went over to an old cupboard. She extracted a rolled-up piece of fabric, approached the centre of the room and unfurled it.
I gasped in astonishment. It appeared to be woven from green silk with a gold weft, perhaps eight feet by five. We all clambered on board, Solomon too, who barked several times, whether in assurance or alarm, I couldn’t be sure. We humans sat cross-legged in time-honoured fashion for riding carpets.
Tameka took a piece of parchment from a shoulder bag. “This carpet was made under the supervision of Ben Sherira, from the Kingdom of Ghor,” she translated. “Is everybody ready?”
“Yes, mother,” sighed Esmerelda, whilst Solomon opened his eyes and gave a soft bark.
“What about you, Ruben?”
For the first time, I realised this might not be a piece of total insanity. “Well, er, if you’re sure it’s safe ….”
Tameka didn’t reply. She read some incomprehensible words from the papyrus, clapped her hands and, Wham! I found myself looking down on an amazing sunlit cloud-scape through a translucent bubble, surrounding our carpet.
We whizzed over deep blue oceans, mountains, glaciers and forests, until Esmerelda exclaimed, “Oh, look, mummy, there’s Akureyri!” whilst Solomon whined, presumably wishing to be on terra firma.
I gazed down on the picturesque fishing town, situated in the north west corner of Iceland, as we headed over the brilliantly coloured flowers and shrubs of the botanic gardens, allegedly the world’s most northernmost, and then shortly we were hovering over Godafoss, the ‘Waterfall of the Gods.’
Curtains of thundering water pounded down from multiple falls, deafening, even within our supernaturally-protected environment. Suddenly our ‘bubble’ disappeared and we were exposed, enveloped in the mist of rebounding water, our ears reverberating to the clamour of its unimaginable crashing weight, our noses assailed with the odour of liquid energy. Solomon was barking furiously.
After a few minutes our sphere of protection reappeared and our now somewhat soggy carpet soared upwards once more.
The sun dried the carpet, even through our protective bubble and I also found it was safe to move about, a welcome relief after squatting for so long. “I’d like to see the Niagara Falls,” I ventured. “I’ve never been there.”
Esmerelda pulled a face, and Tameka took the hint. “Sorry Ruben, Esme’s going to a party. It’s her friend, Rosalina’s birthday and they’re having a magician.”
I laughed at the irony. Then I noticed that the sky had turned dark and our carpet was being buffeted by high winds. It turned cold, then after a while it began to snow.
“I don’t like this, mummy,” said Esmerelda, looking tearful. Solomon rubbed his face against her cheek, as if to reassure her.
“Don’t worry, we’re safe in our bubble,” said Tameka. “Hey, d’you remember those glass globes that you shook and then they were filled with falling snow?”
“Yes, of course,” I said. “There’d be a little Christmas scene inside.”

She laughed. “Well, we’re like that, but the other way around!”

Later that day I stood on a terrace outside the Brampton Hotel’s Riverside Room, where the party was being held. From inside came the excited squeals of young children enjoying the fun. I stood with a glass of wine, gazing down on a small waterfall which cascaded alongside a glass wall of the hotel. Had I dreamt the Iceland adventure? it seemed too incredible to be true. Suddenly I felt a warm, soft hand in mine and a kiss on my cheek.
“Thank you for coming today.” It was Tameka. With a flowing red dress and wearing makeup, she was barely recognizable as the soggy female above Godafoss earlier.
“Oh, you’re welcome, it was … something different, I suppose,” I said, rather lamely.
She smiled. “I hope you’ll come with us again.”
I noticed she was still holding my hand. My heart beat a little faster. “Yes, I’d like that.” I guessed I could use her magic in my life.

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 220!

Circles and Stones

stone circle

(1400 words)

I

I was sitting on a wooden bench with my girlfriend, Daisy, in the graveyard of St. Mary’s, in the village of Blackbarrow. My fingers traced random patterns on the warm, weathered wood, as I gazed over a sea of gravestones. Many were ancient, toppled at strange angles, worn illegible by centuries of summer heat and hostile, frigid winters. Why was there no system to put them upright again, I wondered?
“It’s so peaceful here,” said Daisy, squeezing my hand. “Thank you for coming.”
I kissed her cheek, warm and soft. “That’s OK, I like graveyards.”
She sighed. “Two years. It seems like two months.”
I noticed her eyes were wet. “I know, sweetheart, but they did everything they could.” How many times had I said that?
She took a tissue from a brown leather shoulder bag and blew her nose. Then she reached back in and pulled out a thick paperback book.
“Christ, can’t you give it a rest?”
“Look, I have to study. I have to pass my exams. One of us needs to earn some proper money.”
The sky was cloudy but bright, the sun peeking through sporadically, and a pleasant warm breeze blew lightly, rippling the long grass. It looked well overdue for a cut. Pots of colourful flowers graced some gravestones, generally where the lettering was gilded and bright. Others held wilted, dry blooms, as if those who’d brought them had themselves died, unable to remove or replenish the desiccated ones.
I took some deep breaths, forcing myself to remain calm. I didn’t want another row, not here. “What are you working on?”
She didn’t look up. “As if you’re interested.”
I sighed and looked at my phone. There was too much glare on the screen to read it properly.
She turned and smiled, enthused. “Circles, as a matter of fact”
“Oh.”
“There’s so much to cover on the course.”
“A circle’s just a round thing isn’t it?”
“Don’t you believe it. There’s Chromatic Circles, Archimedean Circles, Schoch circles, Woo circles, Ford circles, on and on.”
“Sounds like some people had nothing better to do with their time.”

She ignored my jibe. Honey-brown eyes twinkled in her pretty face. “Hey, if you draw a square around a circle, did you know the circle will contain 79% of the area of the square?”

II

I’m sitting in a circle, six women, two men. The room is lemon-yellow. At one end is a table with an intricate display of fresh flowers in a vase, surrounded by a picture frame, cleverly forming a three dimensional ‘painting.’ On the wall is a wooden plaque with black numbers on it, arranged vertically. ‘Song’ numbers, the word ‘hymn’ being avoided.
A small woman with white hair, leads us in a ‘guided meditation.’ “You are walking down a country road. The sun is shining and you feel its warmth on your bare skin.“
How many times has she led one of these, I wonder, taking a quick peek at her wrinkled face. I imagine that when she started, mediumship was punishable under the witchcraft act.
“Then you spot an old pub and go inside. What do you see? What can you smell? You buy a drink. How does it taste?”
My mind quietens, and I visualize myself at the bar of my local pub. No, I don’t want that. Try to think of somewhere different! Now I’m in a pub with dark wooden panels. In the corner an old man plays dominoes on his own, a cap pulled down, shielding his weather-beaten features. I imagine a hand pump, ‘Heart of Stone Ale,’ a picture of a heart-shaped stone on the shield attached to the pump. I take a sip, trying, not very successfully, to imagine a taste.
I’m in a circle designed to improve our psychic powers and our connection to ‘spirit.’ We meet weekly. I ask myself why I go? I don’t know, I just want to.
Then we are guided onto a beach where we use a piece of driftwood to write any negative emotions we feel in the sand – bitterness, jealousy, guilt etc., knowing they’ll be washed away by the waves.
“Now, just sit awhile and see who comes in.” The circle leader turns on sound effects of waves and gulls.
To my surprise, it’s Daisy. It’s been a long time, over ten years. She’s wearing a white dress with a red sash around the waist. Her blonde hair is long, blowing in the sea breeze. I imagine the scent of the ocean. “Hello sweetheart.”
She smiles and sits down with me, on the sand at the edge of some grassy dunes.
I put an arm round her and imagine feeling the crinkled linen of her dress. I smell a perfume, sandalwood? Her soft lips touch mine.
Ten years, ten long difficult years since she went to study for a doctorate in mathematics in the USA, hooked up with her tutor, gave birth to twins, our twins, married him, and never came back.
“Now, it’s time to come back to the room. Wriggle your fingers and toes. When you are ready, open your eyes.”
III
There’s a faint luminescence in the sky and Daisy and I are approaching ominous dark shapes, widely spaced. We’d left our small hotel early, to drive out to the stones, then a fifteen-minute walk over Scottish moorland by torchlight. It’s June but it’s chilly, although there is little wind.
We reach the first stone, and in the half light, marvel at its immensity, compared to our small, frail bodies. Perhaps twelve feet high and four feet wide, it towers towards the sky, its surfaces weathered by thousands of years of wind erosion.
To either side, perhaps ten metres away, is a similar stone, and beyond those in the gloom, we can just make out others, set to form a huge circle. Daisy looks at her watch. “Ten minutes.”
“OK.” I don’t feel like talking. It’s so quiet. There’s no one else – thank God, no bird song, nor sheep even. I walk out into the circle. I can make out all the stones now. I turn around and around, in awe, gazing at the surrounding monoliths, all evenly spaced around a perfect circumference. How the hell ….?
A breeze blows on my face, gently rippling the grass at my feet. It’s getting much brighter now. I head back to Daisy, who takes my hand.
“That’s the stone we want,” she says, pointing across the circle.
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, it’s at the western point. We can watch the sun rise over the eastern stone.”
She leads me over the moorland to the designated stone, saying nothing. We stand in silence, watching, waiting. Then an orange glow appears in the sky from the opposite side of the circle, gradually expanding. There is no sound, save an empty wind blowing amongst the ancient sentinels.
Suddenly the brilliant golden-orange disc of the sun starts to rise, casting huge shadows from the eastern stones. I stand transfixed until the dazzling light of the sun appears at the top of the stone. “Wow.” I turn to look at Daisy and, to my astonishment find she has stripped naked. She doesn’t speak, just pulls me towards the stone behind us. Her flesh looks so pale against its dark surface. I feel a vibration from the earth. It’s in the air too, something magical. I feel an incredible sexual energy building in me, like nothing I’ve ever known.
Daisy is practically tearing my clothes off me and we’re up against the stone. She reaches down and inserts my painfully-throbbing member into her. Then I’m thrusting into her, violently pounding her against the stone with an animal passion.
She is groaning, her eyes are white, the irises have almost disappeared behind her eyelids. I hear her shouting out in ecstasy, then I reach a shattering climax, aware of nothing else for what seems like an age.
Afterwards we dress in silence. She pulls a flask of coffee out of her bag and a packet of cigarettes. “God, I’m soaking. Inside!” She tucks a tissue into her panties and laughs, lighting a cigarette and handing it to me. “I’ll probably have triplets now!” Then she hugs me and, before kissing my cheek, whispers in my ear, “we’ll always be together, you and me.”

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 220!

Three Quote Challenge: Day 3

people jumping for joy.jpg

(500 words)

Rhonda Byrne, creator of The Secret answered four questions as part of their ‘Secret Scrolls’ newsletter last year. Her answers are inspiring and illuminating. I’ve posted number one as my ‘quote,’ but the others are linked to below if you’d like to read further advice from her.

Question 

Pinelopi: I would like to ask Rhonda how I can ignore the negative people/situations around me and focus on love & appreciation at the same time.

Answer

The way to deal with negative people or situations in your life is not to judge them. Have no judgment about negativity versus positivity. Neither is actually good nor bad. They’re both equal, but just different choices.

If you have the freedom to be positive, then you must allow others the freedom to be negative. No one can force you to be negative, just as you cannot force another to be positive.  You are free to choose what you want for you – and you choose positivity.  And it’s great that you choose positivity because your life will be much easier and filled with great things because of that choice.

It’s not your job to change other people. Your only job is you, and that is such a relief!  Let the others be as they are, and you be the shining example of love, appreciation, and positivity, and through that you will uplift others.

In the early stages, before you’ve stabilized yourself in a more positive, feeling-good frequency, other people and their negativity can seem to take you down.  In these cases, often the easiest thing to do is remove yourself as gracefully as you can from the situation. Do it as often as you need to. Remember – your job is you.

The better you feel, the less anyone else can affect you. Ultimately – when you’re feeling really good – no one else will affect you.  The better you feel the less problems you see.  The better you feel the less you will encounter anything negative. So, the ultimate task ahead is to feel good, and remember this: feeling good is your natural state of being.  You don’t have to work yourself into a frenzy to get there – all you have to do is not pay attention to the negative stuff. Don’t give any attention to negative thoughts; they don’t belong to you.  Don’t give your attention to negative feelings; they’re just sensations, and if you let them be, they will pass through you quickly. And don’t judge anyone or anything. In other words, don’t have an opinion about others.

In The Secret 10th Anniversary edition I shared ten of the most life changing insights I’ve had over the last ten years.  Here is one of them that is relevant for you:

“THE FEWER OPINIONS YOU HAVE, THE FEWER CONCLUSIONS YOU COME TO, AND THE FEWER FIXED IDEAS YOU HOLD TO, THE MORE BLISS AND JOY WILL BE YOURS.”

I absolutely promise you that if you can follow this insight your life will transform! No matter who or what is happening around you, you will find that love and appreciation arises in you naturally, along with a bliss and happiness beyond what you’ve ever felt before.

Rhonda Byrne


Rhonda Byrne question 2

Rhonda Byrne question 3

Rhonda Byrne question 4


And my three nominations for day 3 are:

  • undertones (creative essays, literary fiction, and miscellanea)
  • Queer Tales Queer Tales (disconcerting short stories/excerpts)
  • author’s inspirations (short stories/musings and book extracts, from a remarkable young woman who is completely blind)

Well worth having a look at!

 –
Click HERE to go to Three Quote Challenge: Day 1 (Charles F. Haanel)
Click HERE to go to Three Quote Challenge: Day 2 (Neville Goddard)

—-

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 220!

 

Three Quote Challenge: Day 2

 

neville goddard

(850 words)

From Feeling is the Secret [1944] – Neville Goddard (1905-1972)

The World, and all within it, is man’s conditioned consciousness objectified. Consciousness is the cause as well as the substance of the entire world. So it is to consciousness that we must turn if we would discover the secret of creation.

Knowledge of the law of consciousness and the method of operating this law will enable you to accomplish all you desire in life. Armed with a working knowledge of this law, you can build and maintain an ideal world.

Consciousness is the one and only reality, not figuratively but actually. This reality may for the sake of clarity be likened unto a stream which is divided into two parts, the conscious and the subconscious. In order to intelligently operate the law of consciousness, it is necessary to understand the relationship between the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious is personal and selective; the subconscious is impersonal and non-selective. The conscious is the realm of effect; the subconscious is the realm of cause. These two aspects are the male and female divisions of consciousness. The conscious is male; the subconscious is female.

The conscious generates ideas and impresses these ideas on the subconscious; the subconscious receives ideas and gives form and expression to them.

By this law – first conceiving an idea and then impressing the idea conceived on the subconscious – all things evolve out of consciousness; and without this sequence, there is not anything made that is made. The conscious impresses the subconscious, while the subconscious expresses all that is impressed upon it.

The subconscious does not originate ideas, but accepts as true those which the conscious mind feels to be true and, in a way known only to itself, objectifies the accepted ideas. Therefore, through his power to imagine and feel and his freedom to choose the idea he will entertain, man has control over creation. Control of the subconscious is accomplished through control of your ideas and feelings.

The mechanism of creation is hidden in the very depth of the subconscious, the female aspect or womb of creation. The subconscious transcends reason and is independent of induction. It contemplates a feeling as a fact existing within itself and on this assumption proceeds to give expression to it. The creative process begins with an idea and its cycle runs its course as a feeling and ends in a volition to act.

Ideas are impressed on the subconscious through the medium of feeling. No idea can be impressed on the subconscious until it is felt, but once felt – be it good, bad or indifferent – it must be expressed. Feeling is the one and only medium through which ideas are conveyed to the subconscious. Therefore, the man who does not control his feeling may easily impress the subconscious with undesirable states. By control of feeling is not meant restraint or suppression of your feeling, but rather the disciplining of self to imagine and entertain only such feeling as contributes to your happiness.

Control of your feeling is all important to a full and happy life. Never entertain an undesirable feeling, nor think sympathetically about wrong in any shape or form. Do not dwell on the imperfection of yourself or others. To do so is to impress the subconscious with these limitations. What you do not want done unto you, do not feel that it is done unto you or another. This is the whole law of a full and happy life. Everything else is commentary.

Every feeling makes a subconscious impression and, unless it is counteracted by a more powerful feeling of an opposite nature, must be expressed. The dominant of two feelings is the one expressed. I am healthy is a stronger feeling than I will be healthy. To feel I will be is to confess I am not; I am is stronger than I am not.

What you feel you are always dominates what you feel you would like to be; therefore, to be realized, the wish must be felt as a state that is rather than a state that is not.


The subconscious never fails to express that which has been impressed upon it. The moment it receives an impression, it begins to work out the ways of its expression. It accepts the feeling impressed upon it, your feeling, as a fact existing within itself and immediately sets about to produce in the outer or objective world the exact likeness of that feeling. The subconscious never alters the accepted beliefs of man. It out-pictures them to the last detail whether or not they are beneficial.

To impress the subconscious with the desirable state, you must assume the feeling that would be yours had you already realised your wish. In defining your objective, you must be concerned only with the objective itself. The manner of expression or the difficulties involved are not to be considered by you. To think feelingly on any state impresses it on the subconscious. Therefore, if you dwell on difficulties, barriers or delay, the subconscious, by its very non-selective nature, accepts the feeling of difficulties and obstacles as your request and proceeds to produce them in your outer world.


books, lectures, and audio of talks by Neville Goddard


And my three nominations for day 2 are:

  • zu-zu lee  (eclectic and fascinating selection of prose, poetry, science articles, recipes etc.)
  • bloggerinabloggerworld (stories, thoughts, ideas, musings)
  • iwinta (captivating travel blog with many photos)

Well worth having a look at!

—-

Click HERE to go to Three Quote Challenge: Day 1 (Charles F. Haanel)

Click HERE to go to Three Quote Challenge: Day 3 (Rhonda Byrne)

To purchase the stories up to June 2017 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 220!