Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
"He won't come any quicker for you steaming up the window. Come away and have your tea." I motioned to the fishcake, mashed potatoes and peas on the table. Billy went through phases and this and chocolate pudding was all he'd eat at the moment.
"Where's my pudding?" His face creased; whether in anger or sorrow I couldn't tell but even at this age he could be a handful and I wasn't prepared to take the risk.
"After you've eaten your dinner." I pushed in the chair as he sat and tucked a napkin into his shirt collar. "I'll fetch your pudding when I see a clean plate."
"Meanie. You're a meanie. You're a meanie old hag. You're a meanie old hag and I hate you. You're a—"
"Enough." Billie could extend his insults for an interminable length of time if he wasn't stopped. "Eat your dinner and you'll get your pudding."
By the time his plate was clean he'd forgotten he hated me and looked up with his face shining as I served his pudding. "Not long now, is it?"
"When you wake up tomorrow he'll be here." I smoked a cigarette in the conservatory while he finished and went upstairs to get ready for bed. I went up a few minutes after I heard the toilet flush.
"Not long now, eh?" He smiled up at me as I tucked him into bed. Our father had died eleven years ago in the same building accident that had sent a lump of concrete as big as a fist into my brother's temporal lobe.
I kissed his forehead. "Aye Billy. Not long now."
I waited until his breathing had dropped into the long, slow rhythm of sleep before inserting the needle into the hair under his armpit where the mark would go unobserved by morticians. Who was to say Daddy wouldn't be waiting for him in whatever afterlife he imagined?
Thursday, June 24, 2010
"I'm always ready." Gillian trailed her fingers down his cheek. "For anything."
"Jolly good." Harold held out the crook of his arm. "Shall we?"
The premier of the Laverstone Player's musical 'Dawn of the Dead' opened exactly on schedule with the hero hiking through a horizontally scrolling wood. Harold and Jasfoup ate popcorn and ice-cream and, against Gillian's advice, hot dogs from a man in a van outside.
At the opening of the second act Jasfoup nudged her. "What's that funny smell?
"Putrefication," she said. "Those are real zombies on stage."
"Ah. Jasfoup relaxed. "I thought it was Harold."
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Until the night Jasfoup dispatched a zombie on Tunnock's bridge, where the head went sailing off into the river Laver. It retained a semblance of life and growled at the customers as it went round and round, caught in one on the buckets by its hair.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Alexis made it her business to visit nightly, until her presence was no longer commented on or even noticed. Her form, kneeling at the shrine of Elizabeth, Our Lady of the Fall, became as one with the decor, a shadow of the flickering foxfire candles. Such dedication to her craft paid off when one night she was witness to a meeting between the priest and a sharply dressed, horned individual.
"I'll take those." Alexis held her pistol the Father Mattock's head and gestured to a small crate of bottles.
"You don't know what you're getting yourself involved with." The priest glanced at his companion who held up a hand and stepped backwards into shadow. "This is not something to dabble in. Saving souls is a serious business."
"And selling them an illegal one." Alexis squatted and pulled a bottle from the straw-packed crate. Inside the tinted glass swirled a nebulous, smoky figure – a mortal soul.
"And you'll return them to their rightful owners, will you?" The priest spat, looking to the shadows and hoping for rescue.
"Aye." Alexis stood, hefting the small crate with her free hand. "For the right price."
'Spirifer', 'St. Dunstan's' and 'Fallen London' belong to Failbetter Games
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sam tapped some keys and studied the arrangement of an aromatic leaf frond. "There. It's ready for you to write the code now."
"How?" Dill sat on the tree stump serving as a stool. "There's no screen."
"There is." Sam ran his hand along the herb fronds. "These are knawel leaves. They respond to psychic vibrations." He plucked one and popped it in his mouth, chewing slowly. "Good for flavouring rice, too."
"Rice?" Dill nodded. "You've been eating some already, I see."
Sam shook his head. "Not me. I haven't eaten anything since that bacon at Mr. Xio's Lo-Mart."
Dill grinned. "Liar. There are grains of rice in your beard." He tapped a few keys experimentally and the cricket chirped again.
"That's a fault in a nested loop subroutine." Sam went across to the mirror. "Try a recursive poke into the registry." He craned his chin forward to inspect his beard. "These aren't grains of rice. They're little white maggots."
"Ew. You dirty bugger." Dill looked up. Come over here."
Sam bent to examine the knawels. "You've introduced some bugs."
"I've done no such thing. My programming is flawless."
"No, see? Little beetles." Sam looked at Dill. "They're in your hair."
Dill plucked a maggot from Sam's beard and ate it. "Swapsies?"
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
"Shh!" Dill put a finger to his lips as footsteps thumped past the door, stopped, returned. The latch was a simple lever into an inverted T of steel, easy to raise until he clasped both bar and socket between thumb and forefinger. He could feel the pressure increase as Mr. Xio tried the handle from the outside. The bar began, millimetre by millimetre, to move.
Sam added his own leverage and the movement stopped. Outside, they heard Mr. Xio mutter about rust and move on. Dill counted to sixty before he relaxed.
"What were we running for?" Sam ripped open a packet of raw bacon and started eating. "We could have ripped his head off."
"Sam?" Dill held his flatmate's shoulders and looked him in the eyes. "Two reasons. One, Mr. Xio is a nice man who does a difficult job at all hours for very little thanks, and two, he had a bloody great sword."
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
"What were you like in life, old chap, eh?" The Brigadier pulled a pipe from his pocket and tamped it with fresh tobacco from a pouch that never seemed to get empty. He lit it with a match from a similarly full box. His daughter and her husband had seen fit to bury him with grave goods for which he was, quite literally, eternally grateful. He'd never met Charlie Bainbridge before or after death. Not everyone became ghosts.
Puffing on his pipe he walked to his favourite bench at the centre of the cemetery. You could see the spires of three churches from here, and hear the bells from two of them. The was only one road through the graves but it wound in what most people called a figure of eight but what he knew was really an infinity loop.
One you were planted in Laverstone cemetery there was no way out.
Image: Faith's Golden Light by redwolf518
Monday, June 14, 2010
"Indeed you can." The man's smile showed a set of teeth any orthodontist would weep over and the trace of a British accent made Mandy melt. She could feel the dampness. "I have a 3:45 appointment. I'm a minute early."
"I don't think so..." Mandy popped a boiled sweet in her mouth, a present from one of the clients. "Doctor Beatty is booked solidly with Mrs. Rose for the next half-hour." She looked up again and breathed in, the sweet lodging in her oesophagus and causing her to choke to death forty seconds later, prompting a bout of hysteria from Sharon.
Jasfoup leaned over and hauled Wendy's spirit from her body. "I didn't say the appointment was with Doctor Beatty, did I?"
Saturday, June 12, 2010
"Think yourself lucky." Jasfoup bit into a scone and was dismayed to find the cream squeezing out the other side. He caught it with his other hand. "At least you're articulate. Imagine how bad you'd feel if you were stuck in your decomposing corpse and couldn't move or speak."
"Has that happened?"
"Once or twice. They scream for a silent eternity. The very strong ones manage to get free from their bodies and become wraiths."
"Oh my God. What do you do with them?"
"Dispose of them, naturally. Can't have wraiths flying about scaring the natives."
"How do you do that?" Amanda leaned forward, fascinated.
Jasfoup shrugged. "Spirit level."
Thursday, June 10, 2010
"I am?" Jasfoup shrugged. "I'm supposed to be you business partner, confidant, courier to Hell and back, fencing instructor, advisor in disparate texts and ambassador of temptation but nobody mentioned anything about mentor."
"You keep giving me advice, though."
"Only when you come crying to me like a little boy who's dropped his glass of milk, then slipped on it and buried the shards of glass in the back of his skull. What advice are you referring to?"
"You told me never to let the sun go down on an argument."
"The sun rose. I was arguing with Gillian."
"Ah." Jasfoup sucked air between his teeth. "She's going to be a bit cross. Did you collect up all her ashes?"
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Everyone considered a mouse too small and hardly worth the effort but Laurence Barnaby persevered. His breeding program took eleven years and three laboratories, crossbreeding the mice from one facility with the next to make ten separate strains of Mus musculus, each genetically pure and fertile.
"Developing the brain was the most difficult," he explained to the three generals. "Though I've found the development of the opposable thumb goes hand-in-hand with higher brain functions."
"All very well." General Parson leaned forward in the darkened room. The heat and the hum of the projector was getting to him and only a nudge from General Wagner on his left saved him from snoring through the last twenty minutes. "But how can your super mice be of use to us?"
"We can weaponise them." Barnaby showed another slide of a mouse holding a gun no bigger than a matchstick. The bullets are coated with neurotoxins. They only have to hit a target's skin and they're down, efficiently and silently."
"Weaponise rodents?" Wagner laughed. "You must thing were fools Mr. Barnaby. You have no concept of the real world, do you? Shuttered away in your little laboratories pursuing academic fame at the cost of good British soldiers. Put a mouse into action and they'll likely raid the enemies' cheese and eat themselves into a coma. No, Mr. Barnaby. Go back to your lab and invent a gun that shoots around corners or plasma rifles or monofilament blades."
General McLeay spoke up. "What my colleague is trying to say is that unless you come up with something useful we'll have to let you go."
"But my mice are useful." Barnaby leaned forward. "Imagine the covert applications for a species of loyal, intelligent rodents, capable of infiltrating the enemy under their very noses. Mice like the one on the backs of your chairs right now."
The three generals didn't have a chance. Tiny blades snicked across carotid arteries, each introducing a virulent poison into their bloodstream.
Barnaby leaned over the corpse of General Wagner. "Did I say loyal? I meant to me, of course."
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
"Filby says you've got some gear, yeah?" The art student had flecks of crimson in his hair. Blood or paint, Dill couldn't tell. He nudged Sam, who was staring at the fruit machine, counting the plays.
"Look after my drink for me, yeah?"
Sam nodded, his attention unwavering from the flashing lights.
Dill went to the toilets, the arty kid following. "Thing is, it's an investment, right? Money now, gear tomorrow. Fifty gets you an ounce."
"I've only got twenty."
Dillard shook his head. "All right. Same time tomorrow." He took the twenty.
"Got a quid?" Sam stared at him from behind dark glasses.
"Sure." Dill passed him a coin. "Why?"
Sam nodded at the fruit machine. "That'll pay out a jackpot in three spins."
Monday, June 07, 2010
"Dare I ask why you're acting like a bent spoon?" Jasfoup put down the Gospel of St. Lucian of the Rabbits he was editing for a friend in AD67. "It's either your chess game with Harry, your daughter's school making a complaint or the council changing the regulations again."
Harold grunted, extracting a letter from his pocket and tossing it on the table. "Good guess." He thumped the switch on the kettle to encourage it to boil faster. "The council wants me to jump through a few hoops to gain accreditation for the Laverstone Good Shopping Guide. Pathetic. It's like a machine, churning out new rules every month."
"And if we don;t?"
"They put us on a higher rate of business tax and blacklist us from council services. Our bins won't be emptied, the police will ignore our calls and the fire service will expect backhanders to come out to a fire."
"We're an antique bookshop. It can't be that difficult to comply." Jasfoup opened the letter. "Employ a minimum of three people? We do that."
"Technically, you're a demon and the imps are, well, imps. According to the council we only employ Julie."
"We can get around that." Jasfoup looked at the letter again. "Two. Have a turnover of at least twenty thousand pounds per annum. We do that, too. Some of our books are worth more than that on their own. We even declare some of the sales."
"It's the third condition that'll kill us." Harold hung his head and sighed.
"Three. Be open to the public." The demons face fell.
Harold's face looked like the Sunken Pit of Despair where members of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints were left until their smiles rotted off. "See what I mean."
"Indeed." Jasfoup nodded. "We're doomed."
Sunday, June 06, 2010
"Nonsense!" Harold's face appeared at one of the holes. "This is the actual clock from the set of Harry Potter and the Really Boring Trek through the Woods. It cost me a small fortune at Bellend and Grommet's. Of course it's going in."
"I just thought... what with Lucy being a toddler now it might be a bit dangerous?"
"Look." Harold spoke slowly and with great deliberation. "
Saturday, June 05, 2010
Jasfoup looked up. "Demons don't possess the dead. We find it as abominable as mortals do. The dead have no souls and should stay in the ground."
"This is no ordinary demon." Winston took a book from his bag and opened it at a page he'd bookmarked. "Look at this. This is a photograph of a village in the Sudan overrun by zombies in 1935." The photograph showed three African soldiers standing over more than thirty corpses. "Look at the corpses." Winston passed over a magnifying glass and Jasfoup studied the photograph.
He looked up. "They all have the same mark as our Ms. Brinkley."
"Exactly." Winston sat back. "The mark of Lazarus, possessed in the tomb by one of the exiled demons of Legion."
Thursday, June 03, 2010
"That's the blood settling into gravitational pooling." Jasfoup stroked the soft skin of her neck."
"And an itch I can't scratch."
"Fly eggs. They'll be multiplying."
"And my legs are shaking."
"You're losing control. You're feeling the desire for your spirit to let go of its connection to your body."
"There's another explanation."
"What's that?" He could feel her breath against the inside of his cheek, could taste the corruption that had already begun deep inside her internal organs.
"You're the one that I want. The one that I've been looking for."
"Ooh!" Jasfoup pulled away. "Sorry, love. I don't do zombies."
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
"Yes, your honour."
"Defendant six crashed into him because he'd swung at defendant five and missed. He'd taken this action because defendant five had hit him with his wife's handbag."
"Yes, your honour."
"Defendant five hit defendant six because he though he'd called his mother a "spickly flavoured ankle grinder" when in fact it was defendant four referring to defendant three's maiden aunt." The judge leaned forward. "What is a spickly flavoured ankle grinder?"
"Don't know your honour."
"Defendant three prompted the name calling by his enquiry regarding the health and-stroke-or presence of defendant four's testicles, and was provoked into doing so by defendant two making the statement that he "sounded like a little girl"."
"That's right, your honour."
"And this was all provoked by defendant one asking if defendant four had been to see a nimglimmerer."
"Apparently so, your honour."
Judge Parkinson leaned back in her chair. "Very well. Defendant one, have you anything to say in your defence?"
Harold Waterman stood up. "I have, Ma'am. I was merely enquiring after the vicar's health"
"Defendant four, Ma'am. Only my business partner's wife is the nimgimmerer and I saw him there."
"And a nimglimmerer is?"
"A doctor of genito-urinary infections."
The barrister for the crown stood. "The lady is a clap doctor, Ma'am."
"Oh!" The judge sat back. "Doctor Frober. She's very good."