The Cobweb

Oh dear, it’s been a while since I posted. I’ll try to get back into it now. I have to do something with all my ideas!

 

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The Cobweb

Coe stood on the veranda and gazed along the strand. The next town down the line glittered and others shimmered beyond it. The strands radiating from the hub behind Coe all had strings of towns shining with their own light and life. Some were tall and silvery, others were sprawls of multicolour. All different, all beautiful.

Coe loved the web but could take no joy in it this evening. No muses had landed near this side of the hub for some time and Coe needed one. There was no spark, no rush of warmth and inspiration. Coe was flat and empty. There had to be a muse soon.

Moving onto the garden Coe rubbed hands together and stared up and out of the web. There! It was a small speck but it was getting bigger. Coe peered at it. There was a faint but growing buzz. It was coming straight at Coe.

The lights had blinded the muse and it plunged straight into the web. It landed on the strand at Coe’s feet. Caught and struggling to move. Coe’s fangs popped out, and plunging at the figure, they sunk into it. Coe fed.

Others soon came to the muse but Coe was now full. Straightening up Coe fizzed as the ripples of the muse’s power flowed. Coe had it now. Inspiration. How to make the house, the garden, more beautiful. What to write, paint and sculpt. Coe stretched, staring at the hub, watching the flurry of activity as everyone rushed off full of creativity. Coe savoured the feeling, not hurrying. The muses entrapment powered the cities and towns. Sparked the glow of the cobweb.

Behind Coe the muse staggered to its feet. Blearily it moved towards the centre of the hub. It had dull eyes and heavy limbs but it somehow knew where to go. Coe knew that the other muses would take the shell in, give it work. Muses had no spark left but could do simple tasks; cleaning, digging, cooking.

Coe turned to the house, needing to use the powers. But another buzz came from above. It rumbled louder than the muse. Coe turned back to see a massive shadow followed by a flock of others. Coe saw the bird’s long beak. It headed for the hub. It dived and hit the hub, the web. Strands shook, some broke and flew up taking the towns with them. The cobweb began to splinter, towns flying off.

Coe saw the hummingbirds all hit the cobweb. They ripped it apart. Shredded the strands. Destroyed the pattern. Shining towns plunged, screaming down. Spinning like falling stars in the night.

Coe clung to the doorway, unable to do anything. Towns and cities came to rest on the ground, sprinkled over the land any old way. The hub with them. Coe lay quivering. What would they do with no web. No muses.

The hummingbirds hovered overhead.

‘Find your own inspiration web-dwellers. You may not steal from others ever more,’ the largest bird hummed. Coe felt the words vibrate. The birds turned together and flew away leaving the web-dwellers bereft.

Coe couldn’t think, could hardly breathe. What could they do without that spark of life? Coe stared into the night. Dark and unknown.

Then Coe saw. The dark was full of lights. Stars sparkled. The air smelt sweet and tasted cold. Coe felt the earth. Coe felt the familiar ripple of joy. Coe was alive. Coe’s joy spread. Creativity was in the earth, the air. It was in Coe.

The Numbers

The Numbers

Maya stood by a vast brick wall watching the numbers fly round her head, scattering like insects when she put a hand out towards them. How was she going to get one? Which one? She ran along the rough floorboards into the middle of the warehouse-like room and sprang into the cloud of numbers. They shot away from her hand and she was left with an empty fist. She whirled along with them snatching as she went. They flew so fast she was almost dancing in the dusty beams of sunshine that lit the numbers. She decided to go with that and simply danced with them, not trying to catch any for a time. She laughed with joy at the dance, and the tickle of them as they brushed her fingers. They came closer, then flew away as she darted round the room.

In the end she sat puffing on the floor with her legs and arms crossed. She watched the flying numbers dart up to her, then zoom away again making no noise. She sat silent and still. They came closer. She breathed slowly, nearly motionless. They spun above her head then spiralled down from the high ceiling towards her. They drifted down over her eyes and mouth, past her chest and started to circle her arms. With a snap she flung her hand out and pulled a number from the air.

‘Yes!’ she said and jumped up. The other numbers flittered away; their flock broken. The number Maya had felt smooth and cool. It was an odd dully metallic bronze colour and its surface was unmarked. She clutched it to her chest and walked out of the room with a bounce, making for the control room.

‘Hey! You did it,’ Bran said, a wide smile spreading over his thin white face when he saw her enter the little room. Trey got up from the big wooden table and hugged Maya quietly to her red checked shirt. Maya kissed her brown cheek and looked round the others. They sat at the table, each with a number in front of them.

‘Right. Now we have them all,’ Silver said. She had 4; the captain’s number. Bran had the comm’s number; 2. Trey was number 6, the second in charge. Sarra, had number 3 for defence. Geo was maintenance and supplies; number 1.

‘Number 5,’ Maya said. ‘What’s that?’ she asked.

‘Come on. You know what’s left; navigator,’ said Geo with a sigh, pushing back a black curl.

‘Oh yes! Right. Time to try them out?’

The other crew all agreed and took their numbers to the machine.

The brass ball stood outside in the courtyard, almost filling it. They stood in a ring around it. Geo took their number. It was silver and shining. They fitted it into the niche in front of them with a click. Bran’s wooden gleaming number 2 slotted into the ball with a clunk. Sarra’s 3 was a soft red plastic and fitted with a thump. Silver’s number 4 was rough and golden, it clanged as she pushed it into the ball. Maya lifted her number 5 and put it into its place with a tap. Trey put her white stone number 6 into the ball, and they all stood back, waiting.

For a moment nothing happened. Then the ball whirred. It lifted slightly, a thin black line of a crack showing in the smooth sides. The crew gathered by the line and saw it split round and open up. A door fell open at their feet leading up a ramp to a shadowy inside. A slight smell of musk and orange puffed out.

‘Time to go,’ said Silver looking round the small group.

‘Aye, the voyage to The Tree starts here,’ Maya said, and stepped up the metal walkway.

Night Walk

This week’s story is a bit gruesome. Not suitable for any but the hardest hearted children!

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Night Walk

Some folks may be scared of the dark but I like it. As I say to the grandkids I’ve got big enough eyes to see better than anyone else.

‘What big eyes you’ve got Grandma!’ they shout at me.

‘All the better for seeing naughty little children in the night.’ I reply. That always gets them collapsing into giggling heaps. I tell them there’s no need to worry about the dark, no one can see you in the night. I don’t tell them my night sight is so good because me Mam forced me to eat so many carrots. There’s some things best not talked about. Anyhow, it did me some good at least.

Once I stood at the bottom of the dene watching the stars above the treetops. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of movement, I turned to see this man come towards me down the path. I stayed still. I thought he’d walk past but he mustn’t’ve seen me. He ran right into me! I said nothing, best not to let them know you’re a woman. He bumped past me, yelped, then ran up that hill like his arse was on fire. That gave me a right laugh.

I always gave Bonnie her second walk late at night. Through the quiet streets, peering in through any un-curtained windows on my way. The telly was always shining blue into their living rooms, they never saw anything outside. Never even knew I was there watching everything they did, safe in my darkness. Just like I sat in the hall when I was a kid. Watching the telly through the glass of the door, from the darkness. Mam and Dad never knew I was there. The dark was safety to me even then. Folk these days hardly see further than their noses. You could get away with murder, they’d never look up from their screens.

I only had Bonnie in the house with me now. The others had all left, died or got families of their own, living their own lives. Then my Bonnie became ill. Her glossy golden fur was dull and her skin red underneath. I couldn’t look into her sad brown eyes staring up at me. It was a simple allergy, the vet told me when I’d scraped the pennies together to take her to see him. The food she needed wasn’t so simple. More like scarily expensive.

One morning I got talking to another dog walker I knew, we’re a chatty lot. Steve his name was, he had a big brown labrador called Amber at his feet. He told me all about raw feeding, he reckoned it was good for them eating great hunks of meat. You didn’t even need to cook it. Well, it would be a bit cheaper than the vet’s special stuff but it wasn’t exactly in my budget. I had to get her well again somehow. I’d do anything for her. Anything.

Maybe that’s what gave me the idea; the man bumping into me in the dark, never seeing me until it was too late. Not knowing who I was in the blackness. I’d never done anything wrong in my life. The odd lie, that was it. Mam and Dad made sure I was good. I never dared go against them. But they’d long gone. So had Freddie now. The worst I’d done to him was to tell the odd lie, and that was only to keep me and the kids safe. I’d never dared say anything against him, never dared leave.

That night Amber came trotting up to Bonnie, having a good sniff. Steve walked behind her slowly with a torch to light the path in front of him. It shone in a narrow glaring pool. I scorned torches. They ruin your night vision, I always say it’s best to rely on your own eyes. I skirted the path, it was wide here with a soft grassy edge and I could keep out of the light easily. I had my soft pumps on, they are quiet and Steve never knew I was there. Until it was too late.

I’d prepared well and I had Dad’s old cleaver in my bag. He’d taught me all he knew when I was a kid of eight or nine. He would slip off down the pub and leave me in the shop cutting meat for the customers. I’d done it for years. It was a long time ago now, but you never forget do you? Not when it’s been beaten into you so hard.

I got Steve from behind, it took one well aimed cut and he was down. He fell as quiet as I’d crept up to him. Easy as chopping up a bit of lamb.

I had a carrier to take a bit back home for Bonnie. The rest I cut up and took off the path to the old badger sett. I knew the dene like the back of my hand, maybe better. I’m down there twice a day regular as clockwork after all. I know where the old holes the badgers had dug in the bank are. Easy to fill a couple, shove the loose earth back over the holes and scoop a few old leaves over the top. The dogs cleaned up any mess on the path. They are tidy animals when it comes to meat are dogs. Of course I had two dogs to feed now but there was plenty to go round. Amber was good company for Bonnie and we made a lovely little family.

I gradually took all the stored meat home to the freezer and the dogs thrived. The grandkids loved Amber, and we were all as fit as fleas. But of course the meat ran out eventually. So what could I do? Luckily the nights were still dark, it would be harder in the middle of summer. I managed the same as before and the badger setts were soon full. I made sure to fill my freezer before the hot weather made it turn. Folks would likely think the smell was a dead fox or something but it would mean less food for the dogs if I let it go bad. I’d got another dog to add to the family now too. I couldn’t let the poor thing run free could I?

My son made sure to come to talk to me after the third man went missing, warning me not to walk the dogs at night.

‘Who knows what could happen Mam,’ he said. Of course I smiled and nodded and carried on the same old way. As long as I could see them in the dark before they saw me I was fine.

By the middle of Winter I’d got a small pack of dogs and it got harder and harder to feed them. Even the men were wary of walking out at night now so many had gone missing. They’d not turned up any remains, I’d made sure of that, but the whole town was nervous. They couldn’t all have run away, could they? The daytime dog walkers gathered in little groups along the path down the dene chatting nervously. We all knew some of the missing ones and everyone was talking about them.

Then I made my mistake. It wasn’t the next man that was the trouble. They never saw me before I’d seen them. The dark wrapped round me keeping me safe. The dogs were all thin and hungry this time. We’d not seen anyone out after dark for weeks and I was getting desperate. I couldn’t lose my family now after all the trouble I’d taken over them. I hoped we’d find someone soon.

I took the whole lot of dogs out this time. I’d been taking three at a time so they didn’t give me away to my victims. But their whining might make the neighbours worry while I was out. I couldn’t risk some busybody calling the RSPCA. To be honest I wasn’t very hopeful of finding anyone, and my knees ached with the cold. I wasn’t getting any younger.

I stopped to watch a young man right at the bottom of the dene in the dark with his phone. He’d got a can of beer he was slurping, and he was shouting into his phone asking his friends where they were. They’d played a trick on the poor sod and left him alone down there. Only the trees, his beer and the river for company. And me.

He swore down the phone and shoved it back in his pocket, turning to go. He turned into my cleaver. But I slipped on the ice of the path as I swung my arm and the blade glanced over his shoulder. He shoved me and ran away shouting his silly head off. My knees twisted and I landed on the glassy path. There was a crack from a puddle and a wrenching pull in my leg. I’d cut my knees and hands, and sprained my muscles. I crouched there panting like one of the dogs.

Then I realised the dogs were all around me. They could see so much better than me in the night. They had much better tools.

‘Oh Bonnie, what big teeth you’ve got.’

Super Zebra

I wrote this for a call for submissions for a picture book for the Ehlers-Danlos organisation. This wasn’t chosen but I thought someone might like reading it. Thanks to Angela and Adele for their help in getting it as accurate as possible too- though if there are any mistakes obviously they are mine!

Super Zebra

Sarry sat on the field watching the rest of the class practice their running. She wasn’t upset, she wasn’t angry. She’d been both of those when she had first found out she had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and couldn’t do everything her friends could. But she was used to being achey and alone on bad days now. She sighed.

‘Hey Sarry! I wish I had your bendy superpowers.’ Ollie, her best friend, called as he lined up to race.

‘I wish I had your running superpowers.’ she answered.

‘Oh loads of people can run but hardly any can bend like you.’ Ollie told her.

Sarry sat up, moved her legs from beside her and spread them in a straight line for once. Oh yes, that was it! She had her idea for the school cartoon competition now. She hardly noticed the runners or her painful legs as she planned her story.

Super Zebra came to life in her mind. She trotted to the rescue, her mane tossing and her stripey cape flowing. Super Zebra could get out of any villain’s bonds by twisting her hands and arms until she could wriggle out of the ropes. Super Zebra could rescue people from where the arch-villain had put them. Super Zebra could stumble into…what could his name be?…Oh yes, Achey Arnie (her arch-nemesis) and knock him to the ground with her super fidget attacks.

Super Zebra would have laser eyes. OK so EDS zebras didn’t really have laser eyes, in fact hers were often blurry or got fuzzy and made her head hurt, but if she was a super hero she’d have to have them. Her sidekick would be Horse Boy with his super running powers Sarry thought, looking at Ollie. Then she had a better idea, Jamil from year 3 was a zebra too and he often used crutches. How good would that be, he could bash the baddies with them! Yeah, Bendy Boy. Not only that, he was much better at drawing than she was; they could write the cartoon together.

Back in the classroom Sarry was still thinking of Super Zebra and lapsed into a daydreamy kind of brain fog forgetting what she was supposed to be doing..

‘Sarry, Sarry, stop dreaming and get on with your work.’ her teacher said.

‘Sorry Miss Stevens.’ Sarry said. Sarry hated writing, it hurt and the letters danced around so much they turned out all wonky, but she had to write Super Zebra. It was going to be so great.

It was time for the cartoon competition. Three children had been chosen to tell their stories in assembly before the final winner was chosen. Sarry and Jamil were the last to tell theirs. Jamil sat at the computer ready to show his drawings and Sarry began to tell the story:

‘Achey Arnie had robbed the school and tied up everyone and hidden them in a cave under the school. He wouldn’t let them go until he was given a hundred million pounds and a helicopter. Achey Arnie had thought the cave he’d put his captives in was safe. The trap door had to be the only way out. Surely no one could escape through the narrow tunnels?

But Super Zebra and Bendy Boy could! ‘ Sarry looked up to see the whole school listening to her. She took a deep breath, twitched into a more comfortable position, and carried on. ‘Super Zebra soon got out of her ropes by twisting her arms.’ Sarry demonstrated and the children went ‘Ooooh!’

Sarry continued her story, the pictures Jamil had drawn were playing on the white board behind her.

‘Super Zebra freed her sidekick Bendy Boy and he used his turbo crutches to zoom through the tunnels. They squeezed through the narrow openings with all their twists and turns. Their arms and legs bent into the most unlikely shapes and soon they were out in the open air.

Super Zebra trotted to the secret lair of her arch nemesis. It was locked but Super Zebra could bend through the tiny open window. Bendy Boy was hot on her heels.

Prepare to die, Zebra!” Arnie shouted, waving a gun. Super Zebra jumped and wiggled. Arnie let his gun shake as he watched the super fidgeting. He stared open mouthed as she came closer as fast as could be. Her laser eyes burnt his hands making him drop the gun. Super Zebra bumped into him and tripped him up. He sprawled on the ground quivering as Super Zebra stood over him.

Super Zebra told her sidekick Bendy Boy to tie up Achey Arnie while she lowered the ladder down to the rest of the school.

Super Zebra and Bendy Boy had saved the day again!’ Sarry could hardly believe all the applause. The children loved the cartoon and it was soon clear that she and Jamil had won the contest.

OK, so Super Zebra wasn’t actually real. Sarry knew that of course, but it helped her to think she was Super Zebra. When she had the physio she’d so hated for making her tired and hurt she could think of it as superhero training. She was Super Zebra and all the exercises would help her bendy superpowers get the better of Achey Arnie. The medicine was her laser eye fuel helping her beat her arch nemesis.

At play time she ran in the middle of a big group of children, Jamil clunked with his crutches loyally by her side. She painted imaginary stripes on her jumper and tied it round her neck and they chased the villains round the playground.

Even on bad days when all she could do was rest because she was in pain, or tired, or sick, she was not so alone now she had Super Zebra. Her friends would stop running around the playground and sit to listen to the next exciting instalment of Super Zebra that she had thought up.

Super Zebra and Bendy Boy would always save the day.

Leaf Monster

I’ve been a bit busy with NaNoWriMo ( National Novel Writing Month- where you sign up to write at least 50, 000 words in November) this month, but here’s a story I wrote tonight.

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Leaf Monster

I shuffled my way down the lane with leaves swirling round me. I scrunched through the piles of the crunchy leaves gathered at the edges of the path. I felt them crinkling under my feet. The wind made my hair and coat fly around with some of the leaves.

Then I heard a bigger scrunch, a more scary noise behind me. Those noises are always behind you aren’t they? I turned, swirling with the wind and saw lots of leaves fly up. They twisted in the wind, into a column, then round and round like a mini tornado. Now that was strange. It was windy though. I watched more, expecting the leaves to break apart and fly away. But they didn’t. They became tighter and more leaves joined them. The mass of leaves changed shape. Round and round, tighter and tighter becoming figure shaped, like a person. No, a monster!

I ran, and ran. I could hear the leaves coming after me. There was a roar as they blew round and a crunch as they moved towards me. I ignored the leaf-clagged edges of the path now and swooped, as fast as I could, down the middle.

I broke onto the main road and turned hard right towards our house. I risked a quick glance and saw the monster follow. It turned slowly, its leaves flying apart at the edges of its figure, but then packing back closer. It was bigger and I saw more leaves flying to join it as it moved. The path it left behind was clear of leaves and it came nearer to me, closer and bigger.

I ran on, but how much longer could I keep it up? I was running past the park and saw men there raking up leaves, then one with a leaf blower. Then another on the other side. I raced through the gate with the monster close behind me. It reached the neatly piled leaves and sucked them up, growing bigger than the gate, bigger even than the building in front of me. I raced to the first man with a leaf blower.

‘Here, let me have that!’ I shouted, trying to grab the blower.

‘What do you think you’re doing?’ he said, hanging onto the blower.

‘Look!’ I said, pointing at the monster right behind me.

‘You what?’ he said stopping still, staring at the leaf figure. I moved back quickly but the man stayed still. I watched the monster come.

‘Turn it on, get rid of it!’ I shouted but the man stood motionless in horror. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The monster sucked the man right up. He was soon covered in leaves, part of the creature. I couldn’t make him out among the twirling leaves. The leafblower dropped to the floor. I snatched it up and ran to the man with the other blower.

‘Oh my goodness! Bert’s been et by a monster!’ he was shouting.

‘Get your blower ready, Jim,’ the man with the rake said. He held it high and I stood with them both and switched the leaf blower on.

When the monster came we were ready. We blasted the creature apart and the man with the rake spread the leaves as far and wide as he could. Bert fell to the floor and sat groaning and holding his head. I was too busy to be scared. I waved the blower from side to side, getting all the leaves away from each other.

In the end we beat it. All that was left was a few stray swirls of leaves.

‘Ah man, look at all these we’ve got to clear up!’ Bert said. The other two men stared at him.

‘I’m leaving them well alone after that creature,’ said Jim and the other man nodded.

‘I don’t blame you,’ I said shuddering. There was no way I was jumping in another leaf pile, even going near one, as long as I lived.

Super Pup

This weeks story is inspired by a friends new puppy! Hopefully she’ll use her powers for the good soon.

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Super Pup

Mum told me I had to choose how to use my super powers; for good or for bad. So I tried them both. You might be wondering how I got the powers, after all I look like a fairly normal puppy. You know, fur and paws and stuff.

It was down to the glowing green stuff that got my mum. She’d broken into this big building to have us pups. She’d been kicked out of her home and had nowhere to go. So she crept in the door and ended up right in this massive concrete room. The glowing stuff reached out and got her. She gave birth to us pups. Then of course her milk had the green power too. All of us had super strength, speed and chewing powers.

To cut a long story short we’d been taken from the nuclear power station to a dog shelter. None of the humans knew about the powers, of course. A lovely family had taken me home. They named me Nick. And now I was ready to try out my powers.

The first day I’d been perfect. Been out to do my business. Looked cute. Been quiet. Slept nicely, and only chewed my food. I sat quietly cuddling the humans. Oh boy, it was dull. Perfect was definitely no good.

Then I tried the bad powers. Now they were gooood!

…Woah, woah, woof, woof woof, woof woah…

‘Shut up Nick!’

Woof, woof, woof, woof woof, woof, woof

‘Oh my head! Will he ever be quiet?’

I raced out the door before they could stop me and found something to chase. It was big. It was fast. It ran, saying ‘Neigh, neigh neigh.’

I ran faster. Super fast! I swung on its tail and flew alongside the animal. Then I had a big old chew of the tail.

Urgh, woof, woof, woof. Disgusting! I spat it out, landed on the ground, and ran on after the animal. It was so scared!

Mwah, ha, ha, woof!

Even my super speed ran out in the end and I went back inside and weed on the rug. Ahhhh, that was better.

I curled up on the sofa, snapping at the cat to get rid of it first. I slept, snoring, dreaming and sleep-woofing.

Woof, woof, woof, woof woof, woof, woof

When I woke the humans had left me alone. Now was my chance! I gnawed and chewed, bit and scratched. When the humans came back, the sofa was in bits in a big pile, which I’d pooed on.

Mwa ha ha woof!

No cuddles today; I ripped and chewed all the people I could get my teeth into, until they left me alone to woof and poo in peace. I was as bad as I could be. And thanks to my powers I really could be bad.

I carried on being a super villain pup for a week. It was great! But then I met my nemesis…the humans had someone with special powers too. She put me on a strong lead and found the Kryptonite to neutralise my powers. Dog treats! Yummy, yummy dog treats. Have to eat them…She tugged me around and gave me orders until I had to do her bidding to get the treats.

Curses! Foiled by the Trainer.

The humans put an end to my chewing and chasing and pooing with the use of a fiendishly good crate that they put me in. It had super soporific powers and whenever I was in it my powers turned to sleepiness.

They had turned my villainous powers back to the good side. I’d just have to stick to cuddles and cuteness. It was worth it for the treats…and maybe I could get away with the occasional villainy when they let their guard down.

Mwa ha ha woof!

It’s Alive!

My son thought of the idea for this story on the way to school this morning. Though I think he hoped for a more gory ending!

It’s Alive!

I suppose it was a mistake buying a house that had been built on the site of one of the greatest magical battles of the century, even if all the wars were over long ago and magic had been lost to the world. Or so it was thought. Because there was definitely something odd about our house.

You’d never know to look at it. It was a boring looking brick house with the usual kind of windows, door and chimney. It was just as dull on the inside too. Beige rooms, muted carpets, standard furniture. It was the noises that gave the oddness away at first, I think. It almost sounded like gulping and gurgling. Like something big swallowing a burger.

I was in the garden one day playing on the climbing frame with Maya when I noticed the pigeons. One moment they were there prancing about on the roof and the next they weren’t. I stopped being Lord High Ruler of the Climbing Frame and watched.

‘What are you doing, Bailey?’ Maya asked. I waved my hand and hushed her. I saw a big grey pigeon strut over the roof then flutter onto the chimney pot. There was a sucking kind of sound and the bird fell backwards down the chimney. I jumped down and ran into the house. I raced to the fireplace expecting to see a frantic flapping bird there. But there was nothing.

‘What’s going on?’ Maya had followed me.

‘Shh, listen,’

We stood there, listening. Nothing. I ran upstairs to the chimney breast in our Mums room. There was no fireplace but you could tell where the chimney went between the roof and living room. I put my ear to it and listened again. There was an odd burbling noise but no bird sounds.

I explained to Maya but she thought the pigeon had fallen down a way, then flown back out when we had gone indoors. I wasn’t so sure and decided to keep an eye on the pigeons. Over the next few days I saw more and more birds fall into the chimney. Well, I say fall, it looked like they were being sucked in. There were never any signs of them in the fireplace. Soon all the birds seemed to stop perching on the house altogether. I hadn’t seen one for days.

Then I had the strangest dream. I felt as though I was awake but there were trees outside my window. There were no trees in our garden. I got out of bed and peered out of the window to see we were moving through a forest. Trees streamed past as the house walked down a grassy track. I would have just put it down to my imagination but in the morning I noticed twigs caught on the roof. Leaves were stuck in my open window.

Then there was the local news. Trees had been flattened in Cottingdown woods. A few days later there was a report that all the birds seemed to have disappeared from the woods.

The house seemed to groan now. No more gurglings, it sounded almost pained. This was so odd even my mums noticed.

‘What is that noise?’ asked Mum Jay.

‘We’ll have to get a builder,’ said Mum Sue. They both rang loads of people to try and get someone to come and look at the house. But just as they’d booked a couple of builders to come, the house went even weirder.

It was Monday morning and Maya and me had run around, playing, getting dressed, watching TV, not brushing our teeth and being shouted at by our mums until it was time to go to school. Mum Sue went to open the door.

‘Uff, it’s stuck,’ she said.

‘Here, let me try,’ my other mum said and pushed at it. It wouldn’t open. Nor would the back door. Maya even tried the window but that stuck solid too. We stood in the hall and looked at each other.

Then we heard it. A slobbery, sucking kind of noise from the living room. We ran into the room to see a giant tongue coming out of the fireplace. It went back up the chimney and we felt a sucking feeling. We were being sucked into the open fireplace!

‘Aargh!’ Maya screamed.

‘No!’ said one mum.

Help!’ said the other. I held the wall and thought quickly.

‘Hey, are you hungry?’ I shouted. The sucking stopped for a second. ‘Did you eat all the birds in the whole town?’

‘UHHHH HUHHHH,’ a vast shaking sound came from the fireplace.

‘You eat things?’ squeaked Maya, backing toward the door.

‘UHHHHH HUHHHH,’ the house said. My mums hugged together and held out hands for me and Maya, but I went to the fireplace.

‘Well you can’t eat us,’ I told the house. ‘Let us find something for you to eat instead, then you’ll always be fed,’ I added. The house shuddered and moaned but in the end it seemed to agree. It let us go.

We spent three days trying to find something the house would eat. We shoved all kinds of things in the fireplace. Food, plants, wood, metal, bricks, even clothes. It spat them all out onto the floor. In the end we lit a fire. A big one with lots of logs. I had a bucket of water ready in case the house didn’t like it but to our relief it did. A big, rumbling sigh came from it and it sucked the smoke and flames greedily.

So we had fires much more often and the house was happy. We took much greater care of the house now we knew it was alive. It was so big we had to be nice to it, or who knew what it would do to us.

You Have Reached Your Destination

I wrote this story for a competition in One Throne Magazine. Everyone was given the sentences to start and end the story written by Tendai Huchu:

They laid the train tracks back to front and this caused a great deal of confusion – you’d think you were on the train to New York and arrived in Kinshasa, or to Shanghai and found yourself lost in Istanbul.

Rain dripping from the rusty gutters made a curtain between the platform and the tracks.

You then had 24 hours to write the story in between in 1000 words. I didn’t win (see here for the winners-  http://www.onethrone.com/#!joust/c19mu ) But it was fun to write. I hope you like it.

You Have Reached Your Destination

They laid the train tracks back to front and this caused a great deal of confusion – you’d think you were on the train to New York and arrived in Kinshasa, or to Shanghai and found yourself lost in Istanbul. Of course it wasn’t them who had to sort out the mess. They were long gone; contractors on the move to another town, another country. Who knew where?

Not me, I hadn’t time to even think about them. It was down to me to sort out the chaos they had left behind. I was at the hub of the rail network worldwide. Normally I had only to tweak a thread and the trains sped on their way to their proper destination at the proper time. But this was something I couldn’t control.

First there were the phone calls, then the emails. People were shouting, cursing, crying, bewildered and frustrated. I soothed, explained, apologised and refunded but still more and more calls came, more emails pinged. A train that had gone over a bridge in New Jersey had its next stop in Tokyo but the train following it found itself in Kuwait. A tunnel through the Swiss alps ended in Peru, Ireland and Ghana. There was no logic or control over the rails at all.

‘Dear Sir,

I am missing an important business conference in New York. How am I expected to return from Kinshasa? I shall be seeking advice from my attorney with regard to this unforgivable error.’

‘No I won’t calm down! I was meeting my husband in Shanghai. I don’t even know where I am.’

‘I have missed my mother’s funeral in London and do not know how to return to Buenos Aires from Gothenburg. I expect considerable recompense.’

I worked overtime, I missed breaks, I even slept in my office. My managers rang to tell me they could not help; they were meant to be solving the problems in a meeting in Toronto but the train had taken them to a small highland town in Scotland. Everyone else expected at the meeting had ended up in Melbourne.

I sighed, what could I do about this? All I could do was absorb my customers anger and sorrow, empathise with their frustrations, and suggest people seek help where they had ended up. I logged all the complaints and filled out the forms but that didn’t help solve the problems. I looked at the passengers waiting on the platform outside my window. I wondered if any of them would reach their destinations.

After two days I was ready to leave by the next train myself; wherever I ended up as long as it was away from the complaints. The backlog of calls and email was impossible to deal with. I couldn’t help, the tracks didn’t obey any of the usual rules; so why stay? Then I glanced at the most recent email.

‘Dear Sir,

I wrote complaining about being in Kinshasa when my train was destined for New York for an economic conference. I’d like to say sorry for my complaint. I don’t know how you did it but I have found my life’s work here.

Thank you.’

There was a call from the man lost in Instanbul when his husband was waiting for him in Shanghai.

‘Hey, scratch my complaint. It turns out Istanbul is the right place after all. I’ve found the real love of my life here.’

A call from the man stuck in Gothenburg missing his mother’s funeral.

‘Don’t worry about compensation. I have found my uncle here after years of him being missing. No money could be better than this.’

To my amazement scrolling through the calls and mail I found hundreds of cancelled complaints. Passengers had ended up where they were meant to be, somehow. They had found lovers, family, vocations or adventure. The tracks had found their desires and taken them there.

In a week there were no complaints left at all. I sat at my desk reading the thanks, the stories, of people connected with the right places and lives. I read of men who changed religions, or found new religions, or lost them. City women now lived in remote countryside, country women lived in the middle of the busiest cities. Boys being girls on the other side of the world now. Girls were boys in new towns. Managers had become workers. Workers owned multinational companies. Ill children found health in a different land. People found new cultures, new friends. They had gone to the station thinking they knew where they wanted to go, where they had to go; but they had been wrong. They had been taken to the places they needed to go, not the places they thought they had to go to.

In a month hardly anyone wanted to travel. One train a day departed, sometimes not even one. The passengers had found their places. No one needed to go anywhere. Even the staff had left; drivers had stepped off their trains into new places, different and better lives. The calls and emails had dried to a trickle. Some people still wanted to tell their stories to someone, to me. I heard fantastic tales, I heard their loves, hopes and contentment. I was left alone in my office with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

Where should I go? I’d only seen other people’s dreams, other people’s destinations. Now I was waiting for a train to take me. Take me where I needed to be, was meant to be. Out of this office, this station. The world was out there waiting for me, I must have a place somewhere.

I sat on the empty platform. The silence rushed through instead of the trains. Maybe my train would come soon. I sat looking at the tracks waiting to be taken away, watching as the rain dripping from the rusty gutters made a curtain between the platform and the tracks.

Revenge of the Blood Sucking Tree

The story this week involves characters from a new novel I’m writing for children. I hope you like them.

mono oak

Revenge of the Blood Sucking Tree

So far this week Fuzz, the red squirrel, had organised six creature’s rescues from the clutches of the blood sucking trees, freed Brian the red deer stag from four bushes, scared off a harpy, stopped a goblin from burning down the whole wood, as well as the usual minor scrapes the squirrel kits got into. Fuzz was so tired he could hardly think. No-one realised how hard it was running a scurry of red squirrels, let alone the other animals and the trees. If only he could have a holiday, but the wood wouldn’t run itself, someone had to be in charge, and for now it was Fuzz.

‘Hey Fuzz, come with me!’ Barney the biggest red deer stag in the woods came running up to the big oak Fuzz was resting in. He looked worried. Barney never looked worried. Fuzz scampered up to him.

‘What’s up Barney?’

‘The squirrel kits are stuck in a blood-sucking tree in the woods,’

‘What do you mean stuck? Squirrels never get stuck in trees.’

‘I don’t know. Their paws can’t move,’ Barney told him. Fuzz told all the squirrels round about to follow him and they set off for the tree. Normal trees never sucked blood, of course, but Fuzz’s wood had a rare strain of trees with sharp syringe-like roots that would drain an animal of blood given half a chance. They rarely got that chance. The squirrels would tickle the trees, and gnaw at their bark until they released the unfortunate creature that had been captured.

Barney galloped through the tangled trees until he reached the tree. Fuzz and the other squirrels followed through the trees, racing and jumping from branch to branch.

‘Huh, might’ve known it would be this one,’ Fuzz said. He took a good look and saw a load of the squirrel kits on the trees branches whimpering.

‘Come down, you lot. What are you doing?’

‘We can’t! We’re stuck,’ wailed a little kit.

‘Squirrels do not get stuck Marielle. Come here at once,’ Fuzz said sternly. He really needed a nap and couldn’t be bothered with these naughty little kits.

‘We really are stuck, Fuzz. There’s something sticky on the branches,’ another kit said quietly. Fuzz groaned and went to take a closer look. The tree flung down a branch with one of the kits on and a spiky root shot out of the ground towards the poor little thing. Fuzz and some of the others ran up and scraped at the tree until it let the branch sail back into the air. The kit flew off with a snap when the branch was at its highest, he flailed through the air until he could reach out for a branch. He whirled round the branch and scrambled down to the ground where his mother hugged him tight.

‘I felt the sticky stuff Fuzz,’ said one of the squirrels. She held up a paw and sniffed cautiously at it. ‘Hey, it’s pine sap!’

Fuzz frowned at the pine towering behind the blood-sucker. It was one of the squirrels favourite trees and had bare patches of bark and hardly any cones left. The pine rasped and swayed, telling Fuzz what had happened.

‘Well, what’s it say?’ asked Barney. No one could speak tree except Fuzz.

‘Hmm, it’s fed up with us eating all its cones and nibbling its bark so when the blood-sucker asked for its help it ran a load of sap down the blood-sucker’s branches. You know how sticky pine sap is. Now the kits are trapped.’ Fuzz said. They seemed to be at a stand off. The tree couldn’t kill the squirrels because the adults would stop it, but the kits were stuck.

The squirrels and Barney had a good chat and eventually worked out a plan. Barney raised his head and grunted long and loud. Soon a herd of big antlered stags were gathered.

‘Now!’ shouted Fuzz. The deer charged the tree’s trunk with their heads down. The antlers hit the tree with a bang, the tree shook and groaned. The squirrels raced to the kits and were soon chewing as hard as they could. They nibbled all the sap until the kits were free. Then they joined the deer by the trunk, still chewing the sticky sap. They tickled the tree between the charges of the deer, until it flung up its branches and groaned in defeat.

Fuzz had won again. The squirrels settled down in their hollow oak tree that night and Fuzz fell asleep before his head hit the moss. He slept for two days straight. He woke to the news that Brian had his antlers stuck in yet another bush. He stretched and set off with a sigh. Life as leader of Red Squirrel Wood was not an easy one.

Post Catster General

I’m not sure where the idea for this story came from- Reginald just dropped into my head on the school run this morning!IMG_6829

Post Catster General

Reginald sighed, he was never going to finish work at this rate. All he really wanted was a nap and a bacon butty. Instead he was still sorting letters to the elves. The magic mice were all out on delivery, and there were tonnes of letters left to deliver.

It was the fault of that TV show, thought Reginald. He’d heard the humans talking about it, ‘Help Your Elf’. All the kids loved it and this was the result. The game show always ended with the words ‘How will you help your elf?’ (Dave, the head postman, loved mimicking the phrase). The letters from all the viewers telling the elves their answers had snowed into the post office sorting centre ever since the show had started.

Reginald sighed again, he’d only got himself to blame. He had thought it was a good solution to the problem at first. He’d been employed to get rid of the mice from the office. The humans were cross with them eating the letters. Reginald had been horrified when they had told him his duties. Chase mice, OK. But, eat them? Yuck! Some cats ate mice he knew but the very idea made him shudder. Give him a bacon sandwich and he was purring like a chainsaw but the thought of eating mice made him feel ill.

So Reginald had a great idea. Well it had seemed a great idea at the time. He would keep the mice busy and away from the human letters by sorting the magical letters and getting the mice to deliver them. They would be paid by the fairies, elves and Father Christmas with peanut butter and the occasional envelope to chew. Reginald himself would be fed bacon butties in the canteen by the grateful posties and all would be well.

It was all well until this blasted TV show, thought Reginald. But now he had to work so many hours he had hardly any time for naps. If only his Grandma hadn’t got a job training kittens to unwind balls of wool, she’d been helping him at the busiest times of the year. Goodness knows what he’d do at Christmas, but for now he was worried he’d run out of time for bacon butties. He sighed for the third time.

‘I say, could you stop doing that, old thing? You’re giving me chills,’ said a voice. Reginald looked round to see a scruffy looking terrier under the shelf. He started and leapt to the top of his conveyor belt, his fur porcupining all over. He hissed and spat at the dog.

‘Good lord my dear cat, there’s no need for that!’ said the dog wiggling out to stare at Reginald.

‘B…b…but you’ll eat me!’ stuttered the cat.

‘Eat you, old thing? I should say not!’ the dog said in horror.

‘But you’re a dog, that’s what they do.’

‘Oh yes, in the same way that you eat mice I suppose?’ The dog looked hard at Reginald.

‘Hmm, OK, you’ve got me there.’ Reginald said and jumped down, still keeping a fair distance from the little dog.

After a good chat it turned out that the dog, Jemima Killer III, had been made homeless when her owner died and had taken shelter in the sorting office. She loved cats and would only eat sausages and eggs. ‘Preferably with brown sauce,’ she’d told Reginald.

‘You’ll like it here then, most of the non-bacon-buttie-eating posties eat their sausage and eggs with brown sauce,’ Reginald told her.

‘Mmmm, but I’m not sure they’ll let me in the canteen. What have you been sighing about anyhow my dear cat?’

‘All this post,’ Reginald groaned waving a paw at all the magic-related post. He explained his position as mice employer and magical letters Post Catster General.

‘What you need is an assistant. I would be delighted to fill the post,’ the dog said, ‘maybe I could be an official ratter as far as the humans are concerned?’

Now that was a good idea thought Reginald. Not that they had any rats, but that wasn’t a problem, the humans didn’t need to know that. He made his way into the Postmaster’s office and turned the computer on with a paw. Jemima watched with interest as he hacked into the Postmaster General’s account and typed a letter on the proper headed paper.

‘The mice are excellent at using computers, they taught me everything I know,’ he explained as the letter printed.

The Postmaster opened the letter on her desk with a groan the next morning. What did the Postmaster General want now? She bent to stroke Reginald at her feet then read the letter out to her chief postman.

‘Mrs Bertrand has appointed a terrier as ratter, she’s had complaints that we’re overrun with rats,’ she told him.

‘Really? I’ve never seen one,’ Dave the posty said.

‘Well that’s what she says, and we’re to pay the dog with sausage and eggs,’ read the Postmaster.

‘Ah with that and the bacon butties for Reginald we’ll be left with hardly any brekkie,’ Dave said sadly.

‘Come on, man, there’s plenty for you all!’ the Postmaster said, and looked up to see Jemima walking through the door. ‘Ah here she is now, let’s hope she gets on with the cat.’

‘Yes, the last thing we need is cat and dog fights, and mice and rats running all over,’ the posty said. But to their relief the animals seemed quite happy together. Reginald winked at Jemima, things were looking good once more and he was dying for a bacon butty.

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