Story Time: Waste Not, Want Not

*What a good idea, Clicky… /pats snout…*

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dear Reader. I’ve no chocolates or flowers to give you, so please enjoy ‘Waste Not, Want Not’, one of my Halloween short stories from Underdog Anthology VI: The Gallows Stone

… And have a Song ❤

*******

Waste Not, Want Not
By Roo B. Doo

The dark October morning was filled with urgent lights – red ones, amber ones, blue ones that flashed – and urgent shouts, pounding footsteps and screams. Lance Parrish took in the chaotic scene around him in quiet disbelief, until he caught sight of the remains of his bicycle – his new Genesis Skyline bicycle – crushed beneath the filthy wheels of a gargantuan waste removal lorry.

He bunched his hands into fists and shook with rage. In all the years Lance had commuted to work by bicycle, he had witnessed plenty of traffic chaos, but none of it had ever directly involved him. Until today.

“Jesus Christ!”

He stalked round to the front of the vehicle and craned his neck up to catch sight of the driver, but the cab was empty. Desperate to see the face of the menace that had mangled his bike and nearly killed him, Lance scanned the faces of the gathering crowd, looking for an expression of guilt. “Where’s the driver?” he shouted hoarsely. “Which of you is the driver of this death trap?”

Nobody replied, the crowd’s rapt attention was firmly fixed on the activity around the front wheel of the truck. Several bystanders had their phones out, capturing the scene. Lance was torn between feeling contempt and gratitude toward the ghouls; he would need all the evidence he could get when he sued the waste company for all it was worth. “Do any of you know who the driver is?” he called out again.

And then Lance spotted him, or rather the logo of the waste company emblazoned on the back of a hi-viz jacket. The driver stood away from the crowd, yabbering into a mobile phone. He looked burly and mean – not the type to mess with – but Lance didn’t care. Filled with furious indignation, he strode over to front it out with the man. “Hey you! I want a word with you!”

“No, it’s-“  the driver spoke into his phone, rubbing his meaty hand across his furrowed brow, “-it’s not good.”

“Hey! Are you the driver of the truck?”

“Yeah. Emergency Services are here.”

Lance reached the driver. “I want to talk to you.”

The driver continued his conversation. “Of course. You’d better let the site know. I think I’m gonna be stuck here for some time.”

“You cretinous oaf. Don’t ignore me!” Lance bellowed in frustration.

“Yeah okay.” The driver smiled ruefully, “Okay, okay yeah. Will do. I’ll let you know. Bye.” He ended the call and started scrolling through the contact numbers of his phone.

“Excuse me!” Lance said pointedly but the driver continued to ignore him. “I’m the person you very nearly killed. You know, the one on the bike that you’ve utterly destroyed.”

The driver lifted the phone back up to his face. “Hello Kath? It’s me. Don’t worry, love, but I’ve been involved in an accident. Nah, nah I’m okay…”

Lance was incandescent with rage. Not only was the truck driver completely ignoring him, but he was calling people up to brag about coming through it all unscathed. Lance could scarcely believe the obtuseness of the man. Unless…“Oh my god!” Lance howled with righteous scorn. “I just bet you voted for Brexit!”

The driver turned and walked away toward the doorway of a nearby shop, continuing his telephone conversation, and leaving Lance in his wake. “A cyclist undertook me as I was turning left…”

Lance was gobsmacked to hear the lies pouring from the man’s lips. “What do you mean, I undertook you?” He followed after the driver, who was now slouched against the shop window, looking back out at the truck and the crowds. “You didn’t bloody well indicate, you moron! What’s your name? I’m going to have you for hazardous driving.”

“I didn’t see him, Kath.” The driver’s face seemed to suddenly crumple. “Believe me, there was nothing I could do.” The driver’s eyes brimmed over with tears. He sniffed back a wet sob. “Nah…”

Lance had heard quite enough and squared up to the brute. “Now look here. I insist you put the phone away and talk to me.”

“… he didn’t make it.” The driver’s chest heaved once before a stream of hot vomit landed where Lance was standing.

“Ugh! You’re disgusting!” Lance jumped back. “You’re a complete disgrace!”

“He didn’t hit you, you know,” a voice said from behind Lance. It had the timbre of a box of gravel.

“What?” Lance asked, furiously shaking his feet. “What do you mean he didn’t hit me?”

“Well yes, yes he did hit you. Earlier. But not just now, not with his breakfast. Look.”

Miraculously, Lance’s trainers were free of vomit. Not a splash of what looked like it had once been a full English fry-up, adorned either his shoes or legs.

“But that’s incredible.” Lance marvelled at the lack of spew on him. “Hey! Where are you going?” he called to the driver, who having wiped his mouth, lit a cigarette and was now walking quickly away. “Don’t run away from me now. I order you to stop!”

Lance started after the retreating driver but the voice from behind halted him in his tracks. “Lancelot Graham Parrish, let him go.”

Everything stopped. The driver, a cloud of cigarette smoke shrouding his head, froze in mid step. Traffic in the distance stood still and the noisy din of the hectic morning was suddenly replaced by cacophonous silence.

“Turn around and face me,” the gravelly voice entreated.

Lance didn’t move, standing agog at the morning’s turn of events. He didn’t know what the hell was happening but he was quite certain that he did not want to turn around.

NOW!” The voice commanded and then sighed, like a shifting sand dune. “If you would be so kind.”

With shuffling steps, Lance slowly inched around.  Everything appeared frozen in time. He could see the offensive waste removal lorry and the crowd held in suspended animation around it. There was no movement, no sound and no owner of the voice; Lance was perplexed.

“Down here.”

Lance lowered his gaze until they alighted on a black-robed figure that stood barely tall enough to make eye contact with his hips. “Who are you?”

“Who’d you think?” the robed figure said, producing a spinning scythe from thin air.

Lance jumped back, a reflexive action due to the sharp proximity of the flashing blade to his groin. “I thought you’d be taller.”

The scythe ceased spinning, the wicked blade pointed directly at Lance. “Did you just assume my height?” the robed figure asked coolly.

“No!” Lance blurted out, intensely aware of the crackle of electricity that coursed along the edge of the scythe blade. “You sound taller. Look, I’ve never been in a situation like this before. This is all very new to me…”

The robed figure watched on passively as Lance tried desperately to collect up the scattered rags of his thoughts.

“Am I dead?”

“Well, let’s see shall we?” The robed figure quickly turned and suddenly the world was animated once more. The crowd in front of the waste removal truck parted to reveal two men hauling a body out from beneath it. Lance heard the shrieks and groans of the onlookers, as the body being carried out broke in half, falling to the ground with sickening thumps. Several witnessing bystanders duly followed suit.

“So I’m dead?” Lance was slightly perturbed as his own lack of squeamishness. “I’m dead, so that makes you Death.”

“Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!” Death cackled good naturedly. “Welcome to the other side, Lance. May I call you Lance?”

“Sure,” Lance replied numbly. His attention returned to the antics of his so called ‘rescuers’, who were slipping about in his remains, even as they attempted to scoop them up from the road.

“Good, good. And your preferred personal pronouns are ‘he, him, his’?”

“I’m sorry, what?” Lance replied, tearing his gaze away from the scene of his death to look down at the small black robed figure of Death, who was unsheathing an electronic organiser from its leather case.

“Well, you look more like a ‘xe, xem, xyr’, but I don’t like to make assumptions.” Death switched on the organiser and started tapping on the keyboard. “Sorry, formalities. You are Lancelot Graham Parrish. Date of birth 29th February 1972. Date of death 31st October 2018…”

“Aren’t you meant to use an hourglass for that sort of thing?”

Death gave the electronic organiser a shake. “This is an upgrade.”

Lance bent down to get a better look at the gadget held in Death’s bony grasp. “But, but that’s a Psion!”

“So?”

“They’re so old fashioned.”

“And an hourglass isn’t?” Death paused for Lance to reply but was met by embarrassed silence. “Psionic, from Psi, 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet, pertaining to psyche. Spirit, soul, you know. You may think the portable tech of 2018 is all singing and dancing, but believe you me, it would be nothing without the introduction of these babies.”

“Psion organisers?” Lance asked incredulously.

“Psions were made specifically for use on this side.”

Lance shook his head in disbelief. “Then how come my father was able to buy one from Dixons in the High Street in 1984?”

Death visibly stiffened. “God knows. We don’t like to talk about it.” The electronic contraption disappeared back into the folds of Death’s robe. “Come on, Lance, we’ve got to move you on.”

Lance watched Death glide away in the same direction that his Brexit-voting killer had taken. He took one last look back at the scene of carnage where he’d met his grisly end, before following the tiny figure, robed in black. “So tell me, Death,” Lance asked, picking up the pace, “you said ‘God knows’. I take it then that there a god?”

Death stopped, nonchalantly spinning the scythe, waiting for Lance to catch up. “I don’t know. Why don’t we go and ask her?”

*******

*Come on, Clicky… /lights up… Let’s go and what Cade and Leggy are up to…*

 

 

Chinese Whispers

abdstreamssmoke

*Adora Belle Dearheart from the last post, Clicky… /lights up… I really did enjoy remote viewing ‘Going Postal’ with Cade this week… /drags…*

‘As is obvious from Moist’s nickname for her, “Spike”, she isn’t that adorable, nor is she a ‘dearheart’.’

abdspikes

*/winces… Okay, okay I’ll get on with it. Sheesh…*

Not sure if you’re aware, Dear Reader, but on the 4th of February, in a couple of days time, the Chinese Year of the (Earth) Dog comes to an end…

… And the Year of the (Earth) Pig begins the very next day…

*Indeed, the female, Earth pig, Clicky… /smokes… Pug to pig, nicely done. A game! My turn… /pats snout…*

‘According to the Chinese Horoscope theory, Female Earth is connected to the farmland. Pig mainly contains Male Water with Male Wood. Male Water is river and Male Wood is tall tree or wooden boat. The sign of 2019 Female Earth Pig year is a river flows over the farmland. It might cause flooding.’

fountainspeak

*/flicks ash… Aha! That’s 2-2… /sucks teeth… Well Lashy does say the Aeon Sophia has a wicked sense of humour… /final drag… *

gpunderdog

*Underdog Anthology VIII: Mo’ Biomass Strip will be out in the spring, Clicky… /stubs butt… I suppose I could write a story about a diamond pig…*

*/gulps… Yikes!*

Enjoy the Chinese New Year festivities this weekend, Dear Reader… And have a Song ❤

*You win, Clicky… /rolls eyes…*

 

 

Story Time: Caesar’s Were-Wife

Dear Reader, I thought I’d share with you my tale from Underdog Anthology VII…

uavii-cover2

*Fanks, Clicky… /pats snout… Be ready at the end with a Song…*

Enjoy!

*******

Caesar’s Were-Wife

by Roo B. Doo

Caroline Kempton-Truss closed the slim, pink folder in front of her, and placed it on the stack of coloured folders in her tray, ready for filing. Her desk was neatly spartan, like the rest of her office. She preferred to keep her surroundings like her thinking – lean, clean and tidy; everything in its right place. As the Local Authority’s newly appointed Director of Public Health, she fully intended to encourage her way of thinking throughout the workforce.

She gazed out of the picture window at the car park below. A steady stream of employees were leaving for the Christmas break already, tightly wrapped up against the bitter winds that swirled around the building regardless of the time of year. To Caroline they looked like ants – a slack army of fat ants that merely required whipping into shape. Now that the January health campaign was complete and ready to roll, she felt content to start their transformation.

There was a soft rap on the door behind her. Caroline returned to her desk and sat down, smoothing the crease in her tailored trousers as she crossed her legs. “Come in.”

Her secretary, Natalie, opened the office door and stepped inside. “Hi Caroline. I was wondering if I could possibly leave now. I have accrued sufficient overtime.”

Caroline looked at the slim, gold watch on her wrist. “It’s only two o’clock.”

“Yes, but it’s Christmas Eve,” Natalie spluttered nervously, “and the offices are closing early today at four anyway.” She hopped from foot to foot. “Plus it’s very quiet out there. It’s Christmas Eve.”

“Yes, I know it’s Christmas Eve,” Caroline snapped, immediately regretted her tone at Natalie’s flinch. Velvet glove, Caroline, she reminded herself, Velvet glove. “Of course. Yes of course you can leave early, Nat, but come and sit down first. I have a couple of things I need to talk to you about.”

Natalie closed the office door and sat down dutifully next to Caroline’s desk, hands tightly gripped in her lap. “Should I go fetch my pad and pen?”

“Good thinking, but not necessary,” Caroline replied, sliding open the bottom drawer of her desk. “This is for you. Merry Christmas,” she continued, handing over a cellophane wrapped basket filled with tubs and bottles, nestled in straw. “Smellies. They’re all natural and sustainably produced.”

Natalie sniffed the cellophane package gingerly. “Oh yes, I can tell,” she said, blushing, and placed the basket under her chair. “I’m sorry but I didn’t get you anything.”

“That’s okay.” Caroline leaned back in her desk chair and surveyed the secretary she’d inherited when she’d taken the job. Natalie was efficient, attentive and punctual; everything she could wish for in a PA. Her extensive knowledge of Local Authority protocol and procedures was a boon for Caroline’s ambitions. But Natalie was irredeemably flawed in Caroline’s eyes: she was a mess in need of fixing. “How old are you, Nat?”

Natalie raised her eyebrows at the bluntness of the question. “Oh.” She shifted in her seat, deciding to sit on her hands. “Um, well I’m going to be forty-five tomorrow.”

Now Caroline felt uncomfortable; she thought Natalie looked much older. “Tomorrow? Your birthday’s tomorrow?”

“Yes, that’s why my parents called me Natalie. Because I was born on Christmas Day.”

“Oh well, very many happy returns for tomorrow.” Caroline smiled broadly but thought, Forty-five? You look at least ten years older. Perfect. “Nat, I hope you don’t think me rude but you are exactly the type I’d like us to hit, and hit hard, with the ‘New You’ health campaign for January.”

“How do you mean?” Natalie asked, her eyes narrowing. “You want another secretary to look after you?”

“No, not at all,” Caroline exclaimed, realising her gaffe. She attempted to reign in the situation. “You’re brilliant, Nat. No, I was thinking more broadly about middle-aged women in general. You know, too busy working and maintaining families to have time to look after themselves properly. No time to cut out the vices that, they wrongly believe, help them to cope.”

“But I don’t drink or smoke,” Natalie replied cautiously, “and I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.”

“Ah but you do vape.” Caroline licked her lips. “I’ve seen you downstairs in the car park at lunchtimes. The vapour clouds those things make are hard to miss.”

Natalie cocked her head to one side and gnawed at her bottom lip. “But vaping helped me quit, Caroline. Without it, I’d still be smoking twenty a day.”

“And it’s commendable that you’ve quit smoking, it really is. Tobacco is the worst,” Caroline said emphatically. She herself had tried smoking once at college but the taste disgusted her, so she had no trouble in not taking it up. “But when you’ve gone through the pain and strife of kicking one disgusting vice, why replace it with another?”

Natalie shook her head. “I don’t think of vaping as disgusting. I find it relaxing and it’s much safer than smoking.”

“Ah but the jury is still out on its safety, Nat. When smoking first became popular, the long-term health problems it causes weren’t known. In fact smoking was promoted as a good thing. The same could be true of vaping. We just don’t know.” Caroline re-crossed her legs, again smoothing the crease of her trousers. It was a sound argument, regardless of her personal view of the practice.

Natalie continued gnawing her lip. “And it would only be for January?”

“Yes!” Caroline smacked her hand flat against the surface of her barren desk. “Exactly. For the ‘New You’ campaign. Think of it in terms of Caesar’s Wife.”

“Caesar’s wife?”

“Yes. It means to be seen to be above reproach. Look at it this way – how can we persuade the public to change their ways if we are not prepared to do it ourselves?”

Natalie’s lowered gaze flick up toward the office door. “I will think about it over Christmas.”

“Don’t think, Nat. Do!” Caroline chuckled. “‘Do for the New You’. It is the campaign’s strapline after all.”

“Okay,” Natalie murmured. “Is there anything else or can I go now?”

“Well,” Caroline mused, “You eat an awful lot of red meat. Bacon sandwiches at your desk for breakfast several times a week. I’m vegan, but fortunately I can tolerate the smell. Others though might find it too enticing – going vegetarian is one of the key planks of the ‘New You’ campaign.” Caroline could tell from the look on Natalie’s face that she was still sceptical but ploughed on regardless.  “It would really help others around you if the bacon butties could be knocked on the head for the month as well.”

Natalie stood up. “No, I mean is there anything else you need me to do before I can go home?”

“Oh sure, well just this filing, thanks.” Caroline grabbed the stack of folders from her tray and handed them over to Natalie. “And then you can go. As the Duty Officer until we close up at four,  I’ll be here for a couple of hours yet. There’s no rest for the wicked, eh?”

“No.” Natalie turned to leave. “Merry Christmas, Caroline.”

“You too. And have a very happy birthday, Nat. I look forward to seeing a ‘New You’ in the New Year.”

After Natalie had left, Caroline turned her attention back to the scene outside her window and contemplated how the conversation with Natalie had gone. True, she hadn’t got a firm commitment from her, but Caroline felt confident that it had gone pretty well, despite the shaky start. Every journey starts with a single step, she reassured herself smugly.

The sky was already starting to darken and the stream of departing employees had turned into a trickle. Soon I’ll be the only person left, Caroline thought and stifled a yawn. She decided that a brisk walk around the emptying building would liven her up. Stopping only to pick up her mobile phone, Caroline left her office.

Her stroll took her through several desolate floors of the building. She sighed and tutted at the desk clutter on display, safe in the knowledge that hardly anybody was still around to see her displeasure. Caroline passed bank after bank of desks that heaved with paperwork, tacky personal effects and garish Christmas decorations. The kitchenette areas on each of the floors told their own horror story. Sweet tins full of uneaten cakes and biscuits were piled high on counters, just waiting for staff to return after the break. The fridges were no better, packed as they were with plastic milk bottles, all at varying levels of emptiness, marked with each owner’s initials in thick, black ink. This whole place is infected, she thought disdainfully, I’ll have my work cut out for me here.

It was just past four o’clock by the time Caroline returned to the deserted Public Health department. With everybody else gone, the overhead lighting had switched off automatically, and the floor felt abandoned. Caroline shivered and wondered if the heating had also been turned off.  She walked smartly back to her office, glad that she could finally pack her things up to go home, but when she got there, it wasn’t empty.

“Nat?” Caroline stopped in the doorway and called to the shadowy figure, looking out of the window. “What are you doing standing in the dark. I thought you’d already left.”

“I had,” Natalie replied. She turned her head toward Caroline. “But I forgot to take my Christmas present, so I walked back.” She pointed at the cellophane basket still sitting under the chair next to the desk. “And I also have a gift for you.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Caroline chided with a smile. The flutter of concern Caroline had felt on spying a shadowy figure in her darkened office had dissipated to be replaced with warm glow of acceptance. She decide to push her luck. “You know, your active participation in the New Year campaign would be present enough.”

Natalie shrugged and turned her head back to view outside the window. “Look. The Moon is rising. It’s not quite full.”

Caroline joined Natalie at the window. “Oh yes.” Caroline smiled, “Thank God it’s not a full Moon. The last thing anyone needs on Christmas Eve is a werewolf on the rampage.”

“Yeah,” Natalie laughed softly. “It’s a fiction created by Hollywood, you know.”

“What is? The Moon or werewolves?”

“Oh the Moon is real, but so are werewolves. The first has no effect on the other though. Except in the movies.”

“Really? How do you know that?” Caroline checked her wristwatch; it was all very well chitchatting with staff but time was ticking on. She moved away to collect her handbag and coat.

Natalie didn’t move. “In Poland, where my grandparents came from, there is a long tradition of werewolves, and many legends. Practically the whole of eastern Europe has them. And none of them involve the cycles of the Moon as far as I can tell. Still, everyone believes it does.”

Caroline pulled on her coat and started buttoning it. “Have you made a study of it?” she asked distractedly.

“A little because of my birthday. According to Polish myth, werewolves are born on Christmas Day. It’s an affront to God or something.” Natalie turned to Caroline and grinned. “I’m not one, by the way,” she said, holding up her hands.

“That’s good to know,” Caroline said, belting up her coat and hoisting the strap of her handbag over her shoulder. “Well, I think it’s time we pushed off. Do you live very far from here? I can give you a lift.”

“Not far, but no.” Natalie retrieved the gift basket from under the chair and joined Caroline at the door. “I’m meeting my brother downstairs. Actually there’s something I wanted to ask you about.”

“Sure. Let’s walk and talk.” Caroline led the way through the darkened office to the brightly lit lift lobby. She pressed the button to call for a lift and smiled at Natalie. “What’s on your mind?”

Natalie watched the progress of the lift’s journey up from the ground floor on the electronic display above its doors. “It’s about what you said earlier and Caesar’s wife. Is that going to be in effect for all our health campaigns from now on, or just the ‘New You’ one?”

“Ideally, yes-” A whistling howl of racing wind filling the lift shaft interrupted Caroline’s reply. She grimaced at the noise. “Leading by example is so important, I think.” The lift arrived and she ushered Natalie to get in first. “At the very least I’d like us to be seen to be practicing what we preach.” She hit the button for the ground floor.

“Like a religion?” Natalie asked slowly, gnawing softly on her bottom lip.

“Well no, but in many ways, yes.” Caroline tittered at the analogy; she hadn’t thought of Public Health quite like that before, but now that she had, she rather liked it; she would use it in the future. “Our bodies are temples after all.”

They reached the ground floor and started toward the exit to the car park. Caroline’s elegant heels click-clacked on the polished stone floor as she crossed the Reception area. A lone security guard sat behind the counter, looking bored. “Merry Christmas,” she called to him as she passed.

Natalie stopped at the counter, placing the gift basket on it. “Hey Caroline!” she shouted at the retreating figure of her boss. “Caroline. Have you met my twin brother Gene?”

Caroline stopped and walked back to Natalie and the guard, who was prodding at the gift basket with his finger, nose wrinkled.

“I didn’t know your brother worked here, Nat,” she said, apprehensively. She’d barely paid the security guard any attention before, but now that she looked, she could see the resemblance between him and Natalie. He was darker and hairier than her, but they had the same eyes. “So it’s your birthday tomorrow as well? What time will you be finishing?”

“Tomorrow,” Gene replied sullenly.

“Oh well. Happy birthday for tomorrow anyway.” Caroline nodded and turned to leave. “To both of you. And have a lovely Christmas.” Pleasantries concluded, and with the exit in sight, all she wanted to do was leave.

“Caroline’s a vegan, Gene.” Natalie’s voice rung out clearly across reception. “She wants us to give up eating meat for the New Year.”

Caroline stopped in her tracks. “Now Natalie…” She turned and was enveloped in a cloud of steam.

“And vaping,” Natalie said drawing on her vape contraption and releasing another cloud of steam in Caroline’s direction. “She’s thinking of starting a religion.”

“What? Another one?” Gene sneered. “Is there a fucking seminary, churning out Public Health priests?”

Caroline held her breath and batted the vapour cloud away. She was lost for words and perplexed at the sudden change in her secretary; she’d never encountered such insubordination before. “You’re not allowed-”

“Not allowed?” Natalie roared, interrupting Caroline. “I’m not allowed to vape inside? Why not? There’s nobody else here.” She turned to her brother. “Is anybody else left in the building, Gene?”

Gene’s jaw jerked forwards several times, as if it was trying to leave his face. “No, sis. Just us,” he barked and gnashed his teeth. “They made sure they all left in good time,” he croaked.

“Now look here-” Caroline was interrupted again, this time by Gene falling off his chair, his body convulsing violently. “Oh my god! Is he okay? Natalie?!”

Natalie peered serenely over the reception counter. “Yeah, he’s fine. He’ll just be a second.” She turned her attention back to Caroline. “But you might not be,” she said coldly. “That’s up to you.”

Caroline’s mouth flapped silently. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing or hearing. The sound of tortured whines and yelps coming from behind the desk hurt her ears. The stretching, cracking and snapping noises were turning her legs to jelly. “I… I… I…”

“That’s right,” Natalie spat, “it’s all about you, isn’t it Caroline? You want to turn everybody into an replica image of you because you’re so wonderful.” She blew another cloud of vape in her boss’s direction. “Don’t think the rest of us here don’t know what you’re up to. The way you constantly judge us. We’ve seen it all before. And to be frank, we’re fucking tired of it.”

A maleficent howl reverberated around the empty reception lobby. Caroline’s bladder gave way, as did her legs, and she collapsed to the floor with a sodden thump. She sobbed in horror as the howling suddenly stopped, to be replace by a deeply sinister growl. What is happening? her mind whimpered.

Natalie crouched down next to the quaking Caroline. She put her arm around her back and held her upright. “It was funny you mentioning werewolves earlier. It must be your obsession with transformation that made you think of it. Time for your gift, I think.”

She lifted the shaking woman to her feet and walked her closer to the reception desk. Pulling up Caroline’s coat sleeve to reveal her trembling arm, Natalie gave three sharp whistles. A snarling maw appeared.

“I like you Caroline. I don’t want to have to kill you like all the rest,” Natalie cooed. “They’ll just install another knob, exactly like you, to try and change us.” She gave another whistle, low and long.

Caroline shrieked in pain and terror as Gene’s slavering jaws clamped around her arm. She felt a viscous pooling of blood and saliva on the desktop beneath her arm. She screamed again.

Natalie smacked Gene’s snout firmly and whistled again. Caroline’s arm fell limply from his jaws and he backed away, growling and licking his chops.

“That, Caroline, is your Christmas gift from me and the rest of your work colleagues,” Natalie whispered fiercely into her ear. “Transformation. You are going to be amazed at how different the ‘New You’ will be next month.”

*******

Have a Song, Dear Reader 😀

More Of US

I meant to post about this earlier, Dear Reader, but have been rather remiss due to other matters requiring my attention…

On the evening of the 20th November 2018, the Red universe of MEROVEE disappeared…

Merovee gone blue

*Poor Frank! Tremayne-dos fella… /sparks light… Oh no, Poor Us! Everything we’ve posted there over the past six years, cruelly snatched away… /lights up… I gotta say, that’s a fucking weird image for WordPress to backdrop their message with, Clicky… /drags… Cheering crowds? …/streams smoke… Arms raised…*

*/smokes… Hmm… /thinks*

Weirdly enough, four days later on Saturday 24th November 2018, Dear Reader, an army of ‘Yellow Vests’ took to the streets of Paris, Franc-e, demonstrating against a rise in Green taxes…

*If you take the yellow out of green, you’re left with blue… /flicks ash… An’ if you take the red out of purple, you’re left with blue…*

*Didn’t Brazil recently elect their own ‘Orange Man’, Clicky? …/stubs butt… Witch means if you take the red/excretion/piss out of ‘Trump’, you get yellow…*

Fortunately, Dear Reader, there is a new MEROVEE sight, although its address has changed to Meroveus…. More Of Us… Sounds scary 😉

Have a Song…

Stack The Deck…

*Tell me about it, Clicky… /lights up…*

Apols! for the lack of posting recently, Dear Reader. It’s been a busy couple of weeks writing and editing for the upcoming ‘Underdog Anthology VII: Christmas Lights… And Darks’…

*/drags… Yep, just waiting on final checks by the authors now, Clicky…*

Hopefully the book will be available to purchase before the end of the week. It’s well worth a read as it contains some absolutely cracking short stories. A perfect stocking filler…

*Not like that, Clicky… /blows…*

Perhaps it’s the general mood, but this time round I’ve had a go at writing a ‘dark’ tale for a change… as well giving a beloved Christmas carol a good kicking in the Afterword…

*Oh that’s way too upbeat, Clicky… /flicks ash…*

Currently in the UK, we’re watching the Brexit debacle unfold. The ‘DisMay’ Deal of Tessie Jackboots is being debated in Parliament, against the backdrop of ‘Project Fear’ projected throughout Mainstream Media. The upside is that it has made choosing this year’s offering for mutilation on the Dead Poets’ Page rather easy.

Musician Thomas Oliphant (born 1799, died 1873) provided the lyrics for the perennial favourite of carol singers everywhere. And as MPs prepare to vote on the future of the country, ‘Deck the Halls’ lends itself to ‘Stack the Deck’ rather neatly. Possibly too neatly… Judge for yourself.

Tweet a load of Brexit Bollocks

Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah-blah

‘Twas the fault of voting Morlocks

Aargh-argh-argh-argh-argh, argh-argh-argh-argh

Back the PM in her deal

Baa-baa-baa, baa-baa-baa, baa-baa-baa

Troll with fear ’til it seems real

Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-HA!

Apparatchiks brag of d’Accord!

Ooh-la-la-la-la, Ooh-la-la-la

Strikes a deal to keep us shackled

Ja-ja-ja-ja-ja, ja-ja-Jawohl!

Says its one thing, means another

Lie-lie-lie, lie-lie-lie, lie-lie-lie

Make the plebs embrace Big Brother

Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-HA!

Stack the deck with drones and toadies

Waah-waa-waa-waa-waa, waah-waa-waa-waa

Offer bribes of jobs and trophies

Fnah-ha-ha-ha-ha, Fnah-ha-Woo-ha!

Fingers in ears, deal together

La-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

We’ll stay EU-bound forever

Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-HA!

Who knows how our milksop politicians will vote next week, Dear Reader. In the meantime… Have a Song 😉

*******

Friday 7th December 2018 – UPDATE!

Underdog Anthology VII is now available to buy, Dear Reader, for Kindle and as paperback via Amazon, and at Smashwords. This volume of the series also includes photos of the authors… 😀

 

Story Time: A Goohuul

If you found our first Halloween offering quite tricky, Dear Reader, this next story is something of a treat. It’s by my good friend, Cade the Okie Devil from Text US, and appears in ‘Underdog Anthology VI: The Gallows Stone’…

pumpkin treat

*Faught you’d perk up for that, Clicky… /flicks ash…*

Dear Reader… Enjoy! ❤

*******

A Goohuul

by Cade F.O.N Apollyon

Yarnip County Texas is likely the strangest county in the entire state. It appears on no maps. It does not appear on nor in any registry. There is no county-seat, as there are no towns. It has no courthouses. No sheriff. No police departments. No fire departments. No hospitals nor clinics. In fact, except for the ice-skating rink in the southeast corner of the county that sometimes doubles as a roller-rink, Yarnip County Texas has no real infrastructure to speak of at all. There are plenty of roads that lead to and through Yarnip County, but not a single crossroads in it’s length and breadth. There is only one permanent resident, and yet, at certain times of the year…Yarnip County Texas has the largest population in the entire Universe.

I know, I know…you are thinking that I’m telling some tall-tale in order to spin some investment opportunity or encourage tourism. But if you take a minute to actually ponder the merits of your own skepticism, why would I even need to encourage tourism to a location that is already, at times, the most populous place in the entire Universe? Yes, I am the guy that actually lives there. But I’ve already got so much money I could never spend it, and I’ve also got so many trinkets and gifts from visitors, that were I to sell them all, I’d pretty much have all the money on the entire planet. Plus, I don’t sell any of the gifts that are given me, nor do I sell any of the trinkets that I find. And believe you me, with all the traffic we get here, there is plenty of stuff left behind.

So you are likely wondering if I am a junk collector who is trying to sell off his collection. No. I’m the owner/operator of an ice-skating rink that sometimes doubles as a roller-rink. Junk collecting is more of a hobby that doubles as my attempt at being a responsible citizen due to the amount of flotsam and jetsam that this county accumulates during the course of the year.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. If someone passes through on a weekend trip, and accidentally leaves their Blarrchuck Moopeen Grinder, or a pair of Mastelline Vipps? They are going to come looking for it/them. I once found the entire Senate Building for The Realm of Cipotci, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I took it home, put it on my dresser, and even contemplated cutting a hole in the top to use as a change bank, although I never did. Good thing that I didn’t, because the Ipo of Cipotsi herself came looking for the building, and it turns out that the entire Senate was actually still inside the building and in-session. Just a misunderstanding that quasi-cascaded into a comedy of errors because of some chance encounters. The Ipo was very gracious though in the end, and she’s now aware of both me and the fact that I lurk and roam these parts with mostly the best of intentions. That said, the particulars about how the Senate Building from The Realm of Cipotsi wound up in Yarnip County Texas is a story for another time.

You’ve likely guessed by now that I am the founder of Yarnip County Texas. Well, technically, you’d be wrong. I only gave it the name. Yarnip County Texas is actually as old as The Universe itself, and I’m just a newcomer that just so happened to be paying attention at just the wrong time, in exactly the wrong place. But those unfortunate events inspired me to eventually give my home a name, Yarnip County. I even gave it a slogan; “Always Passin’ Thru!” But I’m not really here to talk about that, nor even about myself, as much as I am to talk about one particular event that happened about ten years ago. It’s something that is on my mind daily, and I try diligently to neither suppress nor recall that and those events. For the most part, I just sorta try and let the memories be what they are, and go on about my life as best I can.

She introduced herself as Abbey Attrix. I was pretty sure from the start that this was not her “real” name, but it didn’t really matter to me one way or the other. She told me that she had some friends that were meeting her here in a few hours, and wanted to know if she could rent the rink and skate alone until they arrived. I asked her for how long, she glanced at what I assumed was her watch, and told me that she could pay me $50 and would also let me have her watch if I would let her have the rink for two hours. She held up her arm, and around her wrist was one of the most unusual watches I’d ever seen. It had only one hand, a minute hand, and two digital readouts; one for the hours, and one for the seconds. It had a deep red face that seemed to be surrounded by some kind of internal light source that was a combination of blue and red that cycled somehow…it appeared very expensive.

Let me state that it’s not unusual to have individuals show up alone and want to rent the rink for themselves, nor do I personally think that it’s particularly strange when someone wants to rent the rink alone. Afterall, I built the rink for myself so that I could be alone and skate alone, so it’s really no surprise to me that others also seek solitude on the ice. However, when I looked into her face and into her eyes, I perceived there was a distance between us that I could never plumb. I could make all of the observations and conjectures that I wanted, but time itself seemed to be slipping away before me, and I could tell by her occasional glances out toward the rink that she just wanted to get onto the ice. She’d been running from something, but that running was about to cease.

I told her that she could keep her watch, and that $40 would do for two hours as I had nothing scheduled and was unlikely to have any chance renters pop in other than herself. She agreed, retrieved two twenty dollar bills from her bag which she then handed to me, and I asked her what size skate she wore. She told me her size, I went and retrieved a pair of ice skates in her size, returned and gave them to her, then I retreated to the DJ booth to put on some music. By the time I had arrived at the DJ booth, she had already put on her skates and was headed for the ice. I grabbed the microphone and asked her if she had any preferences, but she just smiled and shook her head no, leaving the musical selections up to me. Her hair was very short, and until she smiled at me, I hadn’t noticed just how beautiful she was. I’m a professional afterall; I’m here to operate an ice-skating rink, not pick up chicks.

Abbey had already began to skate a bit, and I could already tell that she knew how to skate as I pressed play on the CD player…

“The whispers, in the moment…of lovers sleeping tight…”

No sooner had Celine Dion finished breathing the first line of The Power Of Love, that I looked out to the ice, and saw Abbey slide to a ice crystal spraying stop, put her hands on her hips and look down her nose at me in mock-contempt as she smiled. I couldn’t help but smile back and laugh a little as she stood there, smiling and tapping the toe of her ice skate the way a mother might. I immediately hit the stop button on the CD player, glanced up and noticed that she was still tapping her foot as I rummaged quickly through the CD’s to find a different song. I admit that I noticed that the Jennifer Rush version of this same song was handy, and I contemplated putting it in the CD player as an attempt at being funny, but this was Abbey’s time. She paid for it, so I decided to hit her with a musical blindside instead, put in a new CD, and pressed play.

“As loud as hell, a ringing bell

Behind my smile, it shakes my teeth

And all the while, as vampires feed

I bleed

I bleed

I bleed

Abbey had started skating again, and I could see her doing the “head-bob” in an approving manner before Black Francis and Kim Deal of The Pixies even began to sing. And that’s how our relationship went on that cold and lonely October evening. Two hours of back and forth without a word between us. She’d slouch her shoulders while rolling her head back in disgust if I played something she didn’t like, and she’d smile, bob her head, and keep skating if I played something that she did. I must admit that I was quite surprised at the varieties of music that she did and didn’t like, and a few times she even gave me a look of surprise that an old fart like myself would know that the song I was playing even existed.

“I’m bigger than that.

Can you tango, can you mango,

mix n mangle, can you flow?

Let me angle more my kangol,

Are you single, can you go?

I’m bigger than that.

Format B’s remix of Skeleton Key by Pleasurecraft & Green Velvet boomed on the speakers as Abbey continued to zoom around the rink while grinning a smile that couldn’t be purchased for any amount of money, and I’d been enjoying the time so much myself that I simply hadn’t noticed that we had already run about fifteen minutes over time…but that’s when the power to the rink went out.

I immediately reached for the small flashlight next to the DJ mixer, and yelled to Abbey to stay where she was until I could get some light, but the flashlight didn’t work. I found this extremely odd since I knew for a fact that the batteries had been changed only recently. The music had been so loud for so long, that I simply had not noticed that the wind had picked up as the sun had gone down. But as my hearing slowly returned, it became quickly attuned to the fact that the wind was indeed blowing quite viciously outside, and assumed that the wind was likely the cause for the power outage.

Probably less than a minute had transpired when my eyes adjusted enough to notice that the watch Abbey had tried to barter with was still glowing around her wrist, and as I looked around and surveyed the rest of the rink, I noticed that this was the only source of light in the rink. None of the emergency exit signs were working, which was odd considering that they were battery powered in a power outage, but even more strange was the fact that not even the luminous paint on the walls was glowing. If ever a person who loved Halloween wanted to be somewhere extra-spooky on Halloween night, Yarnip County Texas was suddenly the place to be.

I recall trying to keep my cool since I was the owner/operator of this place, and ultimately responsible for the safety and well being of my one and only paying patron, and luckily Abbey had worked her way over to the DJ booth by the time that I started getting a shade rattled. Without saying a word, she took the watch off of her wrist and laid it on the table next to me since it appeared that she had also noticed that her watch was the only source of light in the entire place. From the cycling purple-ish glow of the red and blue lights in the watch, I could barely make out the outline of her face and noticed that she was smiling. A large closed-mouth grin that made her eyes sparkle somewhat, but there was what seemed to be a hint of sadness in her eyes. To tell the truth, I don’t know if it was sadness or joy or what it was that I saw in there. After a moment of looking at each other, and just prior to me realizing that my gawping was about to become uncomfortable, she said “My friends are here.”

That’s when all hell broke loose.

The entire building and everything in it moved as if it had just had the ground removed beneath it, and I felt that sudden quasi-sickening feeling in my stomach as if someone or something that was only previously holding me up had suddenly dropped me or given way. I knew it wasn’t just and only me, as the entire building shook as it came crashing down shortly after starting to fall. Judging by the way that my knees buckled, it felt as though the entirety of the building had just dropped about one foot, and it’s unlikely that there was a single object in the entire building that didn’t make some kind of noise. My immediate concern was for Abbey who was standing on the ice in skates in front of the DJ booth. But as metal and glass found their new equilibrium amid much clanging, shattering and crashing, I noticed that I could no longer see her face and assumed that she had fallen in the chaos.

The glow of the watch provided me with my only bearings, and I quickly grabbed it and held it out over the ice from the DJ booth’s lofty position…no Abbey. My heart, weakened in its pulse somewhat from the fear, pounded a first ‘BOOM!’ of approval as my being shifted from the fear of cower to the cape of crusader. I knew it was foolhardy, but I sprang over the counter of the DJ booth onto the ice of the rink without hesitation, and luckily my somewhat aged ankles held as my feet found their footing on the ice of the rink. The soles of my shoes had hardly touched the ice when the power came back on, and it scared the living shit out of me. Deamau5 immediately began blaring on the sound system since I had just put a new song on prior to the power going out, and I quickly looked around and surveyed everywhere, but Abbey was nowhere to be seen. I yelled her name as loud as I could…no response. I reached up and around to hit stop on the CD player, but the song kept playing. In frustration, I reached for the volume sliders, but when I moved them down, no change. I admit that a flush of rage came over me as I looked around at the damage of the place, and contemplated ripping the power cables out of the wall for the whole fucking mess, but then something grabbed me…

“Feeling the past moving in

Letting a new day begin

Hold to the time that you know

You don’t have to move on to let go

Add to the memory you keep

Remember when you fall asleep

Hold to the love that you know

You don’t have to give up to let go

Remember turning on the night

And moving through the morning light

Remember how it was with you

Remember how you pulled me through

I remember

I remember

I remember

I remember

I remember

I remember

I remember

I remember

I noticed that I was still holding the watch, and still standing in the same place that I had landed on the ice, looking around in disbelief listening to a song by deadmau5 & Kaskade blaring on the PA, when it occurred to me that I was a complete moron for jumping onto the ice because I could have landed on top of Abbey had she fallen.

The ice. The ice is unbroken. I looked at my feet in disbelief, then looked around the ice itself…no fractures, no bulges, no shards…no lines? Impossible. I was wearing my Converse All-Stars, but wandered shakily out further onto the ice anyway, and as I surveyed the ice itself there was not a single line to be found. The song suddenly ended and I instinctively looked back towards the DJ booth, and on the railing to the left of the DJ booth hung a pair of ice skates with the laces tied together, and they were swaying ever so slightly as if someone had only just hung them there. I watched them for a moment to be sure that my eyes were not playing tricks on me, and sure enough, they stopped swaying after a moment. I kept watching them for a while longer just to see if they started moving again. The wind was blowing furiously outside afterall, and this building was already drafty even before some Titan decided to throw it off a cliff a few moments ago. The skates didn’t move.

I kept feeling as though I should be scared, but I never really recall being afraid after the lights came back on. I’m not sure exactly what I felt at this point. My entire life has been filled with weird and strange experiences, but I am neither witch nor wizard, alchemist nor mage. If I had to qualify my feelings at that point, it was simply “keep going”…don’t stop. And so, that’s exactly what I did. I had to know. Still clutching the watch, I proceeded off the ice, and straight to the breaker box for the power. When I got there, and without hesitation, I pulled the main breaker lever, and the entire rink was suddenly aglow via the artwork within the rink that had been painted in phosphorescent paint. I flipped the main breaker back on, the lights came back on, and headed out the front door into the parking lot.

Nothing. No cars except my own. Just prior to turning around and going back into the building, I noticed that the front-end of the car was sitting at an odd angle. I walked a little closer and craned my neck to look around the car, and sure enough, the left-front tire was flat. To be honest, it didn’t even phase me because I was already home and had luckily already stocked up on beer and food for the evening as I was planning to grill a steak out in the cold after the sun went down.

It’s likely that at this point, you have many questions. You’ve identified holes, you’ve thought about what you would have done or would have done differently, and maybe even what I should have done. You aren’t wrong in doing so, and I can assure you that I’ve questioned myself relentlessly since then. But I can only tell the story as it happened. I cannot go back and make everything right, nor can I write some instruction manual so that I’ll be better prepared next time this happens. A woman calling herself Abbey Attrix wandered in to my skating rink in Yarnip County Texas on October 31st of 2008, some pretty weird shit happened over the course of about one minute, she vanished from my rink and my life completely, I’ve no idea what happened to her, nor have I seen her since. The last thing that she said to me was “my friends are here”, but I never saw anyone other than her, and I could only just barely see her when she said that. No one has ever appeared looking for her, she has never returned, and I still have her wristwatch.

“Well I live with snakes and lizards

And other things that go bump in the night

‘Cause to me everyday is Halloween

I have given up hiding and started to fight

I have started to fight.

Well any time, any place, anywhere that I go

All the people seem to stop and stare

They say “why are you dressed like it’s Halloween?

You look so absurd, you look so obscene”

Oh, why can’t I live a life for me?

Why should I take the abuse that’s served?

Why can’t they see they’re just like me

It’s the same, it’s the same in the whole wide world.”

– Ministry, Every Day Is Halloween

So if you again are thinking that I’m telling some fantastic tale in order to drum up interest in Yarnip County Texas and/or my skating rink? Well, you are free to think what you want. Just know that my skating rink is only closed one day out of the year…Halloween. Oh, and good luck finding Yarnip County Texas or my rink the other 364/365 days of the year.

😉

*******

p king x mass

*Yeah! I love his ‘Christmas Ever’ tale …/final drag… I ‘ope he’s written some some stories in the next Anthology, Clicky… /stubs butt…*

😀 Happy Halloween, Dear Reader, and… Have a Song ❤

Story Time: Trick or Treat

Welcome, Dear Reader, to a double-bill of stories for this Halloween…

This first story appeared in ‘Underdog Anthology III: Treeskull Stories’ for Halloween last year. If you like it and want to know what happens for Halloween this year, you can find out by purchasing the latest Underdog Anthology – ‘The Gallows Stone’…

next halloween

*Yeah… /lights up… I’ll post ‘Cos Play’s The Thing’ up at the LoL for next Halloween, Clicky… /drags…*

Dear Reader… Enjoy! ❤

*******

Trick or Treat

By Roo B. Doo

Any day that starts with a Grim Reaper confrontation is probably not going to be a good one, especially if it’s your first day back at work, following an all-inclusive fortnight in the Balearics. That’s exactly what I faced, however, when the lift doors opened onto the 5th floor offices of F.A. Kontrell this morning. I smacked aside the knobbly phalanx rudely pointed in my direction, and heard rather and saw it bounce off the wall and skitter across the floor.

“Ow, ‘Arry!” the Grim Reaper cried in an accent more Thames Estuary than Afterlife. The hooded figure bent down awkwardly to retrieve the plastic skeletal hand, and dropped his plastic scythe in the process. “Jesus!”

“Oh no!” I replied, pushing open the door to the main office, “Is he here, too?”

The Bride of Frankenstein looked up from behind the reception desk. Blood red lips that appeared to still be bleeding smiled thinly in my direction. It made a change from the norm; Shazza generally avoids spending any time at her desk doing the job she’s paid to do. “Happy Halloween, Harry! WOooo!”

To think we’d nearly got shot of her back in the spring when her drunken behaviour at the County Business Awards had landed the firm on the front page of the local rag. If only the Fat Kontroller had seized the opportunity to sack the bitch then, my working life would be so much more pleasant. But he hadn’t, probably due to the good mood bestowed by winning the Green Business Award. He’d given Shazza a second chance and, today, as a result, the office is manned by a fucking freak show.

“Nice costume,” Shazza remarked slyly as I signed myself in.

“I’m not wearing one,” I replied slowly. “I’ve been on holiday.”

Shazza lowered her kohl-rimmed eyes. “Oh.”

The silence was broken by an unexpected bark of laughter from the Grim Reaper, who’d followed me in from the lift lobby and now slouched against reception desk, gazing longingly at Shazza. Far from being the Angel of Death, with the hood down, the Collector of Souls turned out to be none other than Ian, the gangly six-foot apprentice, with acme acne and unibrow. F.A Kontrell had taken him on during the summer, and Ian had taken an immediate shine to Shazza. Fuck knows why, but she was absolutely loving having a teenage acolyte hanging on her every word. They were turning out to be a match made in hell. My hell.

“Go anywhere nice?” Shazza continued, ignoring the ringing reception phone. “Bet it was really hot.”

“Ibiza and yes,” I replied curtly. I pointed to the phone. “Are you gonna get that?”

“Yes.” Shazza snapped her fingers and Ian reached across to pick up the receiver. “You’re very red, Harry. Are you sore?” she continued.

“No.” One of the curses of being fair skinned of the ginger variety is a tendency to turn into a shade of vermilion at the slightest sniff of sunshine.

“Oh, I thought you’d come as a burns victim. That’ll be a fiver.” Shazza held out her hand.

“A fiver for what?”

“The donation,” Shazza said innocently. “For not wearing a costume today. It is for charity,” she purred sweetly.

Fucking cheek! I fumed, but decided to keep my temper under control. At least for now; it was still early. “Sharon, I’ve only got Euros until I can get to the bank at lunchtime. You’ll have to wait.”

Ian, having finished dealing with the phone call decided to join in the fun again. He pulled the hood of his robe back over his head. “Later,” he intoned gravely at me. Shazza tittered.

“By the way, you two,” I pointed at each in turn. “Horrific, truly horrific. You’ve excelled yourselves. Kudos.”

I left them to their mirth and made my way to my desk. En route a zombie, a fairy and Elvis poked their heads up from the grindstone to mouth “hellos” and an “Uh-ha!” before resuming their computer screen vigils.

“Harry!” the Fat Kontroller’s voice boomed from out from his office. “Come on in here. Good holiday?”

I wandered through to see the boss, sat at an uncommonly tidy desk. He was wearing an opera cloak over his suit. “Yes thank you, Mr Kontrell. Erm, can I ask, what’s with all the fancy dress this year? We don’t normally dress up for Halloween.”

The Fat Kontroller grinned slowly, revealing sharp incisors tipped with blood. “Raising money, Harry. For the wictims,” he said rolling his R’s and finishing with a maniacal laugh.

I refrained from rolling my eyes. “Victims of what,” I asked.

“Does it matter? There are always wictims worthy of support.”

Oh fuck! What was the betting Shazza and co had waited until I was safely out of the country before springing the idea on the old man; I would have poo-pooed it. Or at the very least I could have joined in. “Was this a lastminutedotcom decision?” I continued to probe. “I don’t remember seeing anything about this before I left for holiday. I’m feeling like… well, kind of left out.”

“Oh don’t worry about it,” the Fat Kontroller said magnanimously, running his tongue over his vampire teeth but entirely missing my point, “You can still contribute with cash. It is for wictims.”

“Wictims. Right.” I turned to leave.

“Although,” the Fat Kontroller continued, “You know you are awfully red, Harry. You could get away with saying you’re a burns victim.”

Why are the first day back after holidays always the worst?

“I’ll let you get caught up with your emails and the like this morning. We’ll have a proper catch-up later on today, Harry,” the Fat Kontroller called out after me. “There’s much to do.”

“Right-O, Mr K,” I replied with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, which started at minuscule and was decreasing rapidly having caught sight of the piles of paperwork on my desk. FAK! I thought malevolently. That’s why the bastard’s desk is so clear!

I snatched up a gaily coloured flier that had been placed on top of my keyboard, where I couldn’t miss it. The day’s intended ‘Wictim Support’ activities and best costume prize were detailed,replete with an overdose of exclamation marks and crappy puns; the telltale signs of Shazza. And what was this? The best costume winner would get a bottle of Glenfarclas single malt whisky, courtesy of the Fat Kontroller!!! Other than the man himself, I knew of no other person in the office that would appreciate that prize as much as me.

I balled the flyer angrily and threw it at the paper recycling bin across the walkway from my desk. It flopped weakly onto the floor before reaching the target. Good grief, Harry! I scolded myself, you throw like a bloody girl!

***

The queue at the bank snaked back to the main entrance and was populated with a mishmash of people who looked like they longed for death. I had no intention of joining them in their endless quest to reach a cashier, and walked over to the desks at the back of the lobby. “Hi! I’m here to see Mr Williams,” I told the pretty thing, with dimples and chestnut curls, sitting pertly at one of them. She must be new, I hadn’t seen her before.

“Do you have an appointment?” she asked me brightly.

“No,” I said and glanced at the name badge fixed to her jacket. “Peta? Could you tell him that Harry Egg is here bearing holiday gifts.” I lifted up the duty free bag I was holding to an audible chink.

“Oh where have you been to?” Peta asked with a smile. “You certainly caught some colour.”

I briefly wondered if she were taking the piss before catching the smile in her eyes. “Ibiza. San Antonio. The weather was unseasonably gorgeous, thank you.”

Peta gasped and her whole face lit up. “I went there in the summer! I’d definitely go back again.”

“Yes, it’s a lovely island,” I said with a smile that also reached my eyes. “The nightlife was pretty good, too.”

“It is! Absolutely super,” she gushed. There was an awkward silence. “Your colour makes your eyes stand out. They’re really blue. Piercing.”

I’m not used to compliments – I blushed; luckily it was well camouflaged. “Thanks!” I was momentarily stunned. “Um. Lol, Mr Williams? Is he in?” I said, fixing her with a piercing blue stare.

Now Peta blushed. “Oh yes, sorry. Do you mind waiting? I’ll go tell him you’re here.” She smiled again and wiggled off in the direction of Lol’s office. And what a wiggle! Like two puppy dogs fighting under a blanket. It would seem my day was picking up at last.

I parked my arse on the edge of her desk, trying to look suave and nonchalant, awaiting Peta’s return. Piercing blue eyes, eh? I pondered and I nearly missed her frantic waving, gesturing me to join her. With a final glance at the sad saps standing in line, I sauntered off toward my best friend and his delightful new member of staff.

“Harry!” Lol ushered me into his office. “Peta, could you rustle us up a couple of cappuccinos? Thank you.”

Peta left and we slunk down onto the sofa in the corner of his office. “When did you get back?” Lol asked, loosening his tie.

“Last night.” I yawned involuntarily. “I’m absolutely knackered today.” I passed him the chinking Duty Free bag. “Here, your present. I’m afraid it’s booze.”

“No imagination whatsoever,” Lol playfully chided me before giving me a kiss and a hug. “Thank you!”

“I kept the giant Toberlone for myself.”

“Well you never know when you might need it,” Lol said with an exaggerated wink. “Now come on, tell me H, did you have a good time? I can see you’ve caught some colour…”

There was a knock at the door, heralding the return of Peta with our coffees. She set the foamy cups down on the table in front of us, smiling the whole time and showing her dimples off to their best advantage. I flashed some ‘piercing blue’ at her and wondered if she had any more dimples secreted elsewhere.

Lol waited until she left for a second time before opening up one of the bottles. “Why don’t we Irish up these coffees? So, come on, Harry, spill. Did you get any good minge?” he asked, raising a quizzical eyebrow as he poured slug of whisky into each of our cups.

I laughed at my friend’s directness. “Lol, you have no interest in minge and absolutely no idea what constitutes good or bad minge!”

I’d met LoL at university during Freshers. We’d hit it off straight away like a long lost brother and sister reunited, but with zero potential for incest. We’re a queer, old fashioned pair; neither wore our sexuality on our sleeves. Fag and Fag Hag. Both happy to keep each other company in the closet. Much like that song by the Cure.

“Alright then, did you get any minge at all?” Lol pestered. “Come on, tell me you got laid, Harry. You’ve not been on Facebook or Twitter these past two weeks. I have no idea how your holiday went.” He sipped his coffee and licked his lips. “I’ve missed you.”

“Aww, that’s so sweet,” I said slapping his knee. “I needed some time out, away from emails and social media and work.” I fairly spat out the last word. Since the Fat Kontroller had deemed it necessary for me to be issued with company mobile phone and laptop, I’d been tending to keep on top of my workload in my own time. I wanted to completely remove any temptation to do that during my holiday, and had left all electronic devices at home. Of course, I had second thoughts about that decision as soon as I discovered more than 1,500 emails awaiting my return. It had not been a fun morning.

“Minge?” Lol reminded me.

“Oh my god! You’re incorrigible!”

Lol was not deterred by my rebuke. “British? Foreign?”

“German.”

“Ah, ze Hunny cunny. Das ist gut! Wunderbar?”

“Ja! And I had an English,” I added, clearing my throat.

“Did you swing low, sweet Harriet?”

“Always,” I grinned at his exuberance and slurped from my cup. “There’s nothing like a Manc-muffin for breakfast.”

“Ooh Harry! You filthy tramp! Both at the same time?” Lol asked eagerly.

“No, sadly,” I sighed. “Hey, I was going to ask you, what’s the deal with Peta? She’s new isn’t she?”

“You are not corrupting my staff, Harry,” Lol said with a stern look. I returned it with one of innocent affront, to which he snorted derisively. “She’s straight, I think, but young. I did hear on the grapevine that she’s not adverse to a bit of Toberlone when tipsy.”

“Hmm, I’ve not had much luck with chocolate in the past,” I mused pensively.

“And how is the fair Josie?” Lol asked. He was referring to a stunning goddess masquerading as F.A. Kontrell’s HR Manager. We’d had a close encounter the Christmas before and I’d ended up with concussion courtesy of Alfie, the troll masquerading as her boyfriend. I’d pretty well much kept my distance after that but, as I said, goddess. And how often do you meet one of those in real life? I had to give it a go.

“I dunno, I haven’t seen her since I got back,” I said, which reminded me: “Ugh! You’ll never guess. Every fucker in the office is wearing fancy dress today.” I grimaced and reached for my handbag. “Even the Fat Kontroller. He’s wearing bloody fangs, for fuck’s sake. I’m the only one not in costume!”

Lol leaned back and surveyed me quietly. “Harry…”

I rummaged for my purse. “Yes.”

“Have you thought…” he continued slowly.

Call it a spot of deja vu, but I knew what was coming next; I flashed him a look. “Don’t!”

Lol grinned mischievously. “Well, you are kind of glowing. Have you thought of saying you’re…”

I cut him off. “A burns victim?”

“No!” Lol snapped. “No, I was thinking you look more like a Bloody Mary. But yeah, a burns victim works just as well.”

I watched him convulse with laughter at his own joke before holding out a wad of Euros at him. “I’m glad I amuse you so, oh bestest friend that’s also happens to be a bank manager.” I placed the money in his hand. “Now, be a dear and change this lot into Sterling for me. And I’m not paying commission.”

Lol went off in search of the cash and I finished my coffee. I was contemptuously contemplating the afternoon ahead – apple bobbing and pumpkin carving were on the agenda courtesy of Shazza – when there was a soft tap at the door. It was Peta.

“Hi, Harry.” She sounded nervous. “I just wanted to say it was very nice meeting you today.”

Interesting… I decided to play it cool; no need to shit all over Lol’s warning off straightaway, and it was entirely possible Peta was mistakenly brown nosing her boss’s ‘girlfriend’. Softly, softly catchee monkey. “You too.” I smiled brightly; teeth and eyes. “I hope to see you again soon. Maybe for Christmas drinks.”

She didn’t get a chance to answer because Lol returned with my cash. After that we said our goodbyes and made plans to meet for a proper catch up at the weekend. I left the bank with a spring in my step – possibly down to the Irish – and walked back along the High Street, back to work. And then I saw it. In the window of a shop. Of course! I mentally slapped my own forehead, even as a creeping smile split my face. I took the crisp notes Lol had given me and went inside.

***

Impatiently I ascended to the fifth floor of our building, willing the ancient, groaning lift along the way. I wanted to get to the toilets, preferably without anyone seeing me, so I could change into the costume I’d seen in the fancy dress shop. Luckily there was a dearth of people in the outer office of F.A. Kontrell when I arrived, but a noisy hullabaloo was emanating from the conference room: festivities were in full swing. I rushed to the ladies and locked myself in an empty stall.

Inside I shrugged off my clothes and stood naked, shivering, ripping at the plastic bag holding my costume with my teeth. I heard the outer door to the toilets open and somebody enter and lock themselves into the stall next to mine. I hope they’re not having a crap, I thought fleetingly as I struggled to release the silky material from the packaging.

Quickly I changed into the costume and stepped out and over to the wash basin mirror to adjust the fit. Saggy and tight in equal measure, it was a typical shop bought costume and I was both pleased and disappointed at the way I looked. I shook the few cosmetics that I own out from my handbag and set about finishing the look. The toilet flushed behind me and my heart skipped a beat as I caught the reflection of Wonder Woman emerging from the cubicle.

“Hey, Harry! How are you?” Josie said blithely. “Is this yours? It slipped under the gap.”

Yes. Yes. Oh fucking yeah! I mentally screamed as I drank in the sight of the woman I lusted after. From the soft fall of her naturally raven black curls over her shoulders, down to the skintight boots via voluptuous chest, crotch and lean, tanned thighs, Josie stood every inch the embodiment of that most Marvelous creation. Girl, you should wear that every day!

“Horns!” I blurted out and took the plastic package from her hand. “Thanks! You look amazing!” I said thickly, no doubt down to my drooling tongue.

Josie strode purposefully – how could she not in that outfit? – over to the washbasins and washed her hands, all the time smiling at me in the bathroom mirror. “Thanks. You look great too, Harry. Did you have a good holiday?”

“Yeah, it was nice to get away,” I said unable to take eyes from her hard curves and inviting crevasses reflected back at me. “Just back today actually. I didn’t know it was fancy dress.”

“Well you look suitably devilish now.” Josie finished washing her hands and pushed past me to get to the hot air drier. “Do you need a hand with that?”

I’d been gawping, holding the horns in one hand and an eye liner pencil in the other; half a mustache painted over my top lip. “Okay,” I said meekly.

Josie hit the button on the drier and warm air blasted out, rustling the hem of her cape as she dried her hands. I had an idea.

“You should try this,” I said, adjusting the air drier so that it blew upwards, lifting her hair and billowing her cape. “Now, that’s the Wonder Woman look!”

Josie giggled her delightful giggle, the one what made me feel all wet and gushy. “Harry, you and your bright ideas. Now come here and I’ll finish your mustache off for you.” She gently held my chin and with a few deft flicks of the eyeliner, completed my look. Then she took the plastic horns from my hands and adjusted them on my head. “Perfect.”

Maybe Peta was on to something because I definitely felt a frisson pass between us, as my piercing blues met Josie’s chocolate browns. She continued staring at me and it felt as if time itself had stopped. “Alfie and I have split up,” she stated calmly.

I was about to reply: “Thank fuck! The man’s a brute and totally undeserving of you”, but was rudely interrupted by the door to the toilets crashing open, quickly followed by a screeching howl of pain. Shazza rushed in, tears streaming down her contorted face, holding out her hand, blood pouring from the palm. The Grim Reaper followed, hopping anxiously from foot to foot.

“Are you alright, Shazza? I’m so sorry!” Ian cried with anguish. “Shazza. Shazza. I was only trying to help.”

“Arghhh!!! It hurts!” Shazza screamed, thrusting her hand under the basin cold tap. “You idiot, Ian!”

“What’s happened?” Josie gently shoved me aside to get to our bleeding receptionist. “Oh shit, that deep? You’re going to need stitches.”

Shazza glared at Ian in the bathroom mirror with pain and rage; he looked back with stricken despair. “I was carving my pumpkin quite nicely when he comes along and… Oww! Oh my god, that really hurts!!!”

“I’m sorry Shazza,” Ian wailed, his voice breaking with barely contained sobs. “I was… I was only trying to help you with the… with the eyes!”

“The eyes were fine! IDIOT!!!” Shazza roared back.

“Okay, okay. Let’s just calm down now shall we?” Josie said grabbing a roll of toilet tissue from the cupboard under the sink. She placed it firmly against the cut on Shazza’s hand and blood immediately started to saturate the roll; creeping up and spreading out. “Hold that there. I’ll take you to the hospital and we’ll get that seen to, okay. Harry…”

“Yes okay,” I said springing into action. “You two do that. I’ll take the lad for a cup of tea and a sit down, and then I’ll clean this blood up.”

“Thank you,” Josie said with a strained smile as she ushered Shazza out of the toilets.

Ian’s top lip was wobbling quite badly. “Come on, darling,” I said gently. “Let’s take you round the corner for a cuppa, eh? You know, you really shouldn’t be in the ladies toilets, Ian. Didn’t we mention that during Induction?”

“Na…na…no,” he sobbed.

“Oh that’s okay, sweetie.” I rubbed his shoulders and guided him out of the toilets. “We know now and can include it for the future, eh? You’ve helped us improve our induction process. Well done you. Okay? Come on, let’s get that cup of tea.”

***

The rest of the afternoon was a bit of an anticlimax after all the excitement of the ladies toilets. No one noticed I was now dressed as the devil. Except for the Fat Kontroller.

“Superb costume choice, Miss Egg,” he informed me when we finally sat down to catch up on business. “Sadly you haven’t won as you didn’t wear it all day, but I love the improvisation with Deviled Egg. Very good. Eggcellent in fact!” he chortled loudly. In fact he carried on chuckling at his cleverness throughout the meeting. Oh, how I laughed.

The Grim Reaper eventually calmed down and volunteered to help me with the mounds of paperwork on my desk. I declined but thanked him, noting the new found respect in his offer. I should have got him to mop up the blood.

Neither Josie nor Shazza made it back to the office in time for the costume prize giving, and I wondered if I’d ever get the chance to see Josie in her Wonder Woman costume again. That, I thought emphatically, now, that’s what I want for Christmas!

I still don’t know which wictims will benefit from the £22.50 raised from the day’s Halloween themed activities. No doubt they’ll be grateful when they find out. As for the Fat Kontroller’s bottle of Glenfarclas, that was won by Elvis. She received it with hip wiggle and extremely droll “Thank you very much!”

*******

sandy claws

*Yeah, I suppose Harry could have gone as Santa, Clicky… /blows smoke ring… Butt that would have spoiled the Fat Kontroller’s Devilled Egg enjoyment…*

Our second Halloween story offering will be along in a bit, Dear Reader. Have a Song whilst you wait 😉