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 ❤

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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…*

 

 

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!

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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 😀

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… 😀

 

Missive From ‘Merica: Editor!

Dear Reader, WordPress have changed the editing function here so that posts are now constructed more like…

*Yes, very blocky, Clicky. Not sure if I like it yet…*

… I asked Cade if he would send a missive for me to have a play with, and he has obliged…

*I know! How he managed to knock one out just like that… Amazing!*

*******

Just when I thought it impossible get any fatter, older and uglier, I get my new driver’s license in the mail.

Old? CHECK!

Fat? ABSOLUT!

Ugly? AL MÁXIMO!

I really don’t mind being ugly on the outside tho. I know, that what is on the inside, is much, MUCH, worse.

^Drumsound & Bassline Smith vs. Teddy Killerz – Metal & Blood^

So Limeys…how’s your week been? Anything going on? I’m not going to “pick up” where I left off on a blog post on my own blog last night, but I admit that I kinda danced around a few things as I tried to express some thoughts that I’ve had for a while about both BREXIT and The EU.

Almost everything about The EU revolves around commerce. Engaging in commerce, expanding commerce, protecting commerce…commerce, commerce, commerce. 

Almost sounds communistic.

Digress. Um, let’s go ahead and jump…

Q: In business, who can you trust?

A: No one.

K, so, with The UK in mind, I don’t give a shit who you are, they are always and forever going to protect themselves. Dunno about anyone else, but I find this a commendable trait to possess. And what I am thinking here, is that I don’t really see what The UK is doing as some kind of rebellious bandwagon for others to hop on board with, simply to oppose The EU. If anything, that would play right into The EU’s hand(s). Create the enemy they desire to have, and suddenly, you need an army to protect against this new threat. And I’m not directly accusing The UK of playing both sides of the fence because I personally am not one to sell The UK that short. Historically, if there is a side to play, GB is likely in the game. But at the same time, there are some other interests to consider.

European Space Agency
Bank of England
British Aerospace
BAE Systems
Airbus
BP
CERN
Nord Stream
SEAFISH
Maritime Affairs & Fisheries
EU Aquaculture
Aquaculture

Those are just a few of the bubbles that have been, and continue to be created.

no pun intended

^Friction – Commotion (ft. Jem Cooke)^

Imma go ahead and look up some shit on the developments of this week, which I’ve previously avoided, and let’s us see what all this business is about resignations.

Britain’s May vows to see Brexit through despite wave of resignations

OK…so…if I’m reading this right, there is a mutiny going down right in front of us, and the captain is refusing to step down/relinquish her command of the ship. Without making too many references to Captain Bligh or Captain Ahab, there is something commendable about May standing her ground. If there is indeed both internal and external shenanigans transpiring to settle some scores/achieve some gains, and there almost certainly is, May refusing to resign possibly could wind up being the one shining light in this whole mess.

I’m not suggesting that her methods are sound, but neither is jumping ship to save your own skin when there is still plenty of time and there are plenty of buckets available for bailing water. Just because you and your lover are going your separate ways, prolly doesn’t give you carte blanche to treat yourself and/or them like shit.

Ya’ll take care of yourselves and each other over there…k?

^Dan Caplen – Trouble (Calyx & TeeBee Remix)^

Someone mentioned this in conversation this week…

Unconformities

What’s that “gaia” shit in the URL? I know that I see “gaia” pop up quite a bit with respect to ascension and spiritual awakening and all that nonsense, but I never really associated it directly with geology. Let’s do some digging around and see if there is any kind of direct and/or implied connection between Gaia and geology.

X: Hold up there pal.

Cade: You are already well aware that I don’t want to do this here and now.

0: That’s likely why you should do it…here, and now.

Cade: I’ve never had someone specifically request a convo. Not sure how this is gonna turn out.

Z: Probably like the rest of them…a confusing bunch of nonsense that no one understands, up to and including the actual participants.

Cade: Speak for yourself. I understand them just fine.

T: You promised to qualify/quantify me in the last discussion.

Cade: I dunno about any promise being made, but I do recall it being mentioned.

T: You “recall it being mentioned” do you?

Cade: Maybe.

T: 🙂

Cade: I’ve never tried to put you in a box.

X: Trying to maybe make it easier for a reader to understand Thoth’s role?

Cade: Well, not just and only the reader. I myself have been quite lost in these things from the start.

Z: And that first “convo” was a doozie as I recall.

Cade: Indeed it was…lots of back and forth with very little actual dialogue.

T: Thought.

Cade: Eventually, it just kinda worked out that way. The thought of you sitting there alone for a long period of time, and nothing to do but sit and think? That’s a disturbing image to carry around with me.

T: You can relate?

Cade: In some ways, but not to your own personal experience.

T: All alone, with nothing but time to think about it.

Cade: Been there, done that.

T: Not out in space you haven’t.

Cade: Oh, you want to talk about that do you.

0: Let me step in here and save your bacon for you. You think that “T” is trying to get you to talk about some of your iterations?

Cade: That’s the feeling I got, but I’m still not sure how to do it.

X: How to talk about the iterations, you mean.

Cade: Correct.

Z: It made sense at the time, but not now, is that what you are trying to say?

Cade: Six singularities, seven reapers, two deaths, 4,948 iterations.

T: Wait, 4,948 iterations in the here and now?

Cade: Kinda, but no. Not active.

Z: All the way through?

Cade: That was the feeling I got.

0: That wasn’t the first feeling you got tho, right?

Cade: Correct. The first interpretation was 4,948 that kinda, “cascaded”, in the here and now based on need.

0: And it got ugly from there?

Cade: VERY ugly. One from every second of every day, all reliving that same second of that same day over and over again.

X: Millions.

Cade: Millions…indeed.

X: And where are you now?

Cade: 4,948 times, all the way through.

X: From the beginning to the end?

Cade: I still think it’s just an example to help me better relate to what it’s like to ride creation all the way from the start to the end.

A: Lots to see in there.

Cade: Indeed there is.

Z: Especially if you’ve ridden that ride 4,948 times. That’s a long time.

Cade: A very long time.

Z: It’s always the same?

Cade: The best that I can gather is that it’s never the same.

0: Are you sure that you aren’t just being hopeful there?

Cade: That’s a fair assessment, and I’ve certainly thought about it, so perhaps it’s best to say that it’s not always the same. I’m a single observer who is observing from a single perspective.

X: Lots to remember.

Cade: Whew…it’s mind-boggling sometimes.

X: Relief?

Cade: Methinks we all need some of that sometimes.

X: And you were “activated” because?

Cade: No clue /me shrugs

CX: …

Lemme go ahead and do some of that Gaia/geology digging now.

^Fox Stevenson – Bruises^

Oh...

Gaia

…there’s my answer right goddamn there. Which, why in the FUCK is Scorpio a water sign?

X: Probably because you piss me off.

T: You make me cry.

0: Water you want from me?

Z: I can’t follow that.

A: I can 😉

Cade: Oh, can, like, watering can?

B: You might wanna bail while you’ve still the option to do so.

C: Come sea me when you are ready.

Cade: Oy vey.

K, so Gaia is land/earth and/or mother earth. I guess I need to know shit like that.

Terra (Mythology)

I’m learning all kinds of neato stuff today.

X: You most likely should know things like that too since you tend refer to “Earth” as “Terra”.

Cade: Good call.

X: Work on it.

Cade: Acknowledged and understood.

X: /rolls eyes

I saw something today about something called…

Vantablack

That got me to thinking about light particles/photons being absorbed at higher rates, and that got me to really pondering some of the more finite ways of directing energy. Not to mention that the name itself kinda weirded me out because I’ve been to Vantaa, Finland before. Anyway, I got to thinking about at what point does the absorption of light, actually become the attraction of light and perhaps other particles as well. This got me to thinking about vortices, vacuums, and high/low pressure systems. Seeing as how I’ve been kicking around how some angular vectors of the curved variety maintain their curvature, let’s us do a quick peek and see if anyone else is doing some digging around self-sustaining types of forces.

Self-sustaining processes at all scalesin wall-bounded turbulent shear flows

I guess I’m not the only nutter on the block thinking about wacky and fucked-up shit like this.

^Dirtyphonics – Scorpion^

Speaking of conversation(s), I spent about 2.5 hours on Wednesday having lunch with my mother, and we covered some serious ground. I’m still not sure exactly what was said, but the conversation was stimulating on a lot of levels. Got the feeling that she was concerned for my soul, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I sometimes get the feeling that others sometimes just poke me with a spiritual stick for no other reason that to see what I’ll do.

What I'll say. How I'll react. How my disposition is affected.

I love talking history and religion and politics and other pretty much meaningless crap, but when you start to shove spirituality into those things, yeah, I get a shade…dodgy…skittish…squeamish…I close down.

You aren’t telling me about your own spirituality, you’re trying to define mine. If you wanna know what I think or how I feel? Ask. Otherwise, I’m likely to just think you are telling me what you’ve found for yourself and how happy that has made you. It makes me happy too. I love it when people get all spiritually charged because they’ve had a breakthrough of some kind, and I really am happy for you.

Me? I think I’ll keep looking. She did appear kinda shocked that I was keeping up with the things I keep up with, and was equally surprised that I’m reading and studying about a lot of the things that I read and study about. Granted, we’re different people in that I personally am equally as comfortable operating in the fringes as I am the mainstream, and she is not.

^Muzzy & Koven & Feint – Worth The Lie [Monstercat Release]^

This is where this one is going to stop. RooBeeDoo informed me earlier today that WordPress appears to have made yet more changes to their editor. I asked if she wanted me to bang out a whatever, and she said that would be good, so here you go. Hope you enjoyed the ride. Love you all bunches.

Ya Rly...I do.

^Maduk & Dennis Pedersen – Miles Apart (ft. Ella Noël & Rino)^

cYa | cFa

^Polar Youth ft. Georgie Allen – All Night (Metrik Remix)^

*******

*It is a bit frustrating, Clicky, butt I’m sure we’ll get used to it…*

We hope you enjoyed this impromptu missive, Dear Reader, and for my take on Brexit, see hear… Have a Song 😉

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 😉

Story Time: Sometimes A Door

😀 Hello there, Dear Reader. Welcome back for the third installment of Cade F.O.N. Apollyon’s short stories from the Underdog Anthology V. This little gem is called ‘Sometimes A Door’…

*True, the LoL is a shade of grey, Clicky, but Cade’s story is ‘Sometimes A Door’, not ‘Sometimes Dor A’…*

*Exactly! But, blimey, wot a shock…*

*/nods…*

*******

She had no idea where she was. Everything was missing. Her memory was not a blur, not fuzzy…gone. But how can it be gone? If she knew that something was previously there, and now is no longer there, how could it be gone? So weird, so strange. There was a succinct and immediate knowing of herself and all that she was, so why is everything so distant and vague? So strange that everything was so crisp and sharp. Everything was right there for the taking, yet she could not seem to grasp anything.

She surveyed her immediate surroundings. There was hardly any light or color. In fact, there was almost no color at all. Or at least, no colors that she could make out or discern as individual colors. And yet everything in these unfamiliar surroundings was as vivid as she had ever experienced. So much light.

As she continued to try and understand where she was and how she came to be there, she became aware of a process enveloping her that could only be described as a darkness that she could actually see.

She pondered the darkness as another odd thought suddenly crept into her head. Something clear that she could finally almost latch onto. Yet for some reason, once this thought had manifested itself clearly in her mind, she found herself unconsciously ducking her head; almost as if the process of manifesting clarity was forbidden here, and her doing so had somehow awoken some dormant response of self-preservation, both inwardly and outwardly within the very being of this unusual place. That in thinking of something specific, there was some need for her to dodge an as of yet unseen slap of retribution from some outside force, in response to the specificity of her thought.

Silence. A silence accompanied by a simultaneous and ironic call for her not to further disturb the existing silence of this place, and yet…

“Maybe it’s me?” she whispered aloud to herself. Upon hearing her own voice, she immediately thought, that was most likely the loudest, most discernible whisper ever uttered. “Maybe it was a good idea that I ducked,” she again whispered aloud, chuckling slightly. She was using the quietest voice she could think to muster under the circumstances of this unknown and unfamiliar place, but there was a resonance to her whispers that seemed anything but quiet.

She suddenly had the urge to giggle at the absurdity of it all and found herself smiling. “I can, and have thought thoughts like this before, but never quite in this detail. Never felt quite so safe in thinking about such preposterous things,” she pontificated aloud and bluntly. Gaining some courage, she continued, A loud and clear whisper, she thought to herself. Does that still qualify as a whisper? And, is it possible to scream a whisper? Her smile broadened as she continued to contemplate the mechanics of the concept of whispering, but did so in the certainty that any conclusions she might reach would likely not be applicable in this place. Wherever and whatever this place is. Yes, definitely not applicable here.

The growing urge to actually laugh aloud at these thoughts passed quickly as she began to wonder if she had actually said her thoughts aloud. The thought of “insanity” crept into her mind as this unfamiliar place, and the unknown reasons for her being within it, again took center stage in her thinking.

“I can’t talk to myself…and certainly not aloud.”

“Why not?” she immediately heard a voice from behind her say. “I’m betting you can do both, and perhaps even do both of those quite well,” the voice continued. “Both individually, separately, and sometimes even individually together, and maybe even both at the same time. Yep. I’d feel safe in betting you can indeed do both, and maybe even any and all of those things.”

The cold chill that should be creeping up her spine was mysteriously absent. But her natural instincts that she should be feeling, something, was not. It made her question her earlier unconscious instinct to duck.

Is there something…wrong with me? she thought to herself.

“People think that all the time,” the voice said.

“Did I say that aloud? Am I speaking aloud again?” Her heart sank. It occurred to her that she should be terrified at the thought of saying something aloud that she knew others could hear, and especially if she did not want to say it nor someone else to hear it.

“Talking aloud, to yourself, when you are alone, is something only the insane do. So say the sane,” asserted the voice. The timbre of the unseen voice trailed at the end thought as if they somehow both agreed and disagreed with all potentialities under all circumstances. And yet, the best that she could muster in response to the unseen voice’s assertion was something very contrary sounding to her previous more balanced lines of thinking on the subject.

“The sane…are they wrong?” she said without thinking further.

“The insane sure seem to think so,” replied the voice with a knowing that seemed to affirm her previous thought as to who knows what and when. But her contrary thinking was quickly countermanded by her needing side. Her needing side needed to know, and it quickly demanded an answer. “But which is right?” she asked.

“First you want to know which is ‘wrong’. And then, if ‘wrong’ don’t work, you trundle straight for ‘right’ to see if you can figure that one out. Then you’ll somehow use that understanding of ‘right’ to further apply to ‘wrong’ in order to see if you can figure ‘wrong’ out from ‘right’. It can, and does, get messy at times.” The voice spoke as if they were playing a game of intellectual Ping Pong with themselves, with her as more of a player suddenly turned spectator. “Some things never change,” the voice added but trailed; almost as if the last part of the thought were something of a more a contemplative footnote of a thought for the voice to get back to at a later time, and not necessarily anything directed at her. However, there was a marked feeling nested within this strange dialogue, that somehow, every word and every thought was meant for her. She was back in the game.

“You seem a bit out of sorts,” the voice continued. “Anything else I might be able to help you with outside of the merits of right and wrong as it, perhaps, under certain circumstances, occasionally may pertain to the concept of sanity from the viewpoint and/or viewpoints of, and between, complete strangers?”

The voice had somehow managed the menagerie of mangled words without any sign of an audible breath, and ended with a markedly high note that under any other circumstances would likely be interpreted as contempt. But she did not interpret the thought nor it’s inflections and inferences that way, and yet, she could only imagine the blank look that must now occupy her face. She felt like someone had just read an entire book to her, in a single sentence, on a single breath. But the urge to explode into laughter was overwhelming. This is nuts. Completely insane!

Her thoughts turned to the implied absurdity of suddenly discussing these abstract and somewhat mired intermingling concepts with someone she did not know, nor could she even see. I wouldn’t even consider opening up like this to someone I know intimately. So why am I? Why now? Why here? It was almost impossible to fathom. She had no idea how to respond, or even if she should respond, and continued to wrestle with her desire to laugh. The urge to say something, anything, to stifle her desire to laugh was becoming almost unbearable.

The voice interrupted her thoughts, “By the way…I don’t work here. I mean…I used to work here, but no longer. I remember my way around quite well though, and I just so happened to be passing through. So perhaps, if you would like, I may be able to assist you in some way,” said the voice in a rather unusual tone.

He knows something. Knows this place. Hell, he may know everything about this place, and it’s almost as if he knows me. But how can that be? I’ve never been here before, and am not even sure where here is. Where the hell am I? His voice is familiar, but I’m quite sure that I don’t know his voice, so I cannot possibly know him. Perhaps that is our connection. This is new to me, but not him. But that would make it new for both of us…wouldn’t it?

She garnered a bit of courage nestled within her growing frustration at the absurdity of this chaotic calm, and managed to manifest a single, independent thought. But the first thought was quickly muddied by a second, surely to be followed in short order by a third. As she felt her mind hopelessly slipping away from the steadfastness of her original premise, she found herself angrily blurting the first thought as best she could before it was lost. “WHERE AM I?!?!?”

She waited for the echo that was sure to follow a scream like that within a place as cavernous as this, but her returning voice never came. Instead, she felt a pause in her strange surroundings, along with an accompanying pause and a sense of hesitation in the voice’s purpose and direction. At the same time, it was almost as if the entirety of the makeup of these unknown surroundings had completely stopped, and then, instantaneously changed directions in response to her frustrated outburst. Almost as if all of existence was now suddenly running in reverse while somehow still maintaining it’s original course.

“You know where you’ve been, but not where you are. And you also know who and what you are, but nothing…um…’specific’, currently comes to mind under all of those pretexts. Am I close on my estimations?”

“Yes,” she responded almost obediently without the slightest air of hesitation.

“So, that means that the real questions are?” the voice paused with a patient and encouraging, but expectant rhythm.

“What am I doing here?” she blurted while trying to mask her frustration in vain.

“That’s one of two, which usually appear in no particular order, and you are free to continue at your leisure under no pressure whatsoever,” replied the voice with a sarcastic but gentle and leading tone.

“Where am I going?” she said anxiously, and suddenly finding herself hoping that her second question was the correct one.

“Correct,” said the voice.

“How did you know those would be the two questions I asked?” She immediately caught herself thinking of how she had just asked yet a third question before even getting an answer to the first two. This gave her pause to wonder about the answer that was actually given, but the voice again interrupted her thoughts.

“Like I said, I used to work here,” the voice said almost singing the words. “Those two questions were fairly common. Sometimes almost like clockwork.”

She suddenly became angry, but attempted to maintain her composure while a barrage of questions sprung in defense of her mind. Did you ever answer them? Like…did you actually give direct, comprehensible, understandable and satisfactory answers? Do you even know these answers?!?!? Or do you only have an intimate knowledge of the specific questions themselves? The mock-screaming in her head suddenly ceased. She wondered if she could keep track of all the questions she had just been inspired to ask. As the internal recollection and enumeration of her ‘questions to ask’ began, she thought to herself, now all that remains is garnering the courage to actually ask them while maintaining some semblance of decorum.

“I might just know someone who has some answers,” the voice interrupted. “Fair enough?”

No sooner had the voice said these words, that a figure began to appear out of the nothingness in front of her. Smaller, as if distant, and growing larger as he approached, without actually covering any measurable or definable distance. Almost like the summoning of an apparition by a terrible side-show conjurer one would find at a traveling carnival. But as she attempted to adjust her focus and maintain her bearings it became obvious that this was no illusion. As she continued her study of what was happening and how, it also became apparent that this man’s presence was simultaneously creating the light and darkness that was surrounding both him and the entirety of this place. She felt her anger begin to melt away, and she tried in almost desperation to forget about the barrage of questions she had only just contemplated firing in this man’s direction.

He was stocky with no particular distinctions as to his being either muscular nor fat, neither short nor tall – just stocky. Distinctly indistinct was the best description that she could quickly muster upon his sudden and yet ever increasing appearance. He had short-ish red hair that was extremely curly, but not necessarily fuzzy or frayed. Almost like that of a well-kept wig that a circus clown might wear, except the hair was quite long for a clown wig; almost to his shoulders. Does shoulder-length hair still qualify as…short-ish? She suddenly felt a bit of guilt and shame for making the “clown-hair wig” distinction in her observations, but her thoughts quickly changed direction when she noticed his attire.

A long white-ish grey robe with both black and white sashes around the waist. The actual lengths and proportions of the robe and sashes were hidden in, and accentuated by the fact that he was carrying his hands behind his back, and he was therefore leaning slightly forward as he walked. She caught the sudden glint of a third sash tied in and almost braided through the other two sashes around his waist. Is that yellow? Or gold? She straightened her posture as he came ever closer.

Walking with a slight shuffling in his manner, he continued his somewhat determined but slow approach in her direction – steady and non-threatening. This left little doubt that his destination was certain, but that only he knew what and where his ultimate destination lay. His head was bowed, yet there was still a raised nature to his head. Almost as if he were contemplating something heavy or dark….and also like his head was simultaneously submitting to, and fighting against both its own and some other unseen weights. She found this detail odd considering the smile in this man’s voice; there was nothing even remotely strained about it. It was unusual and evasive perhaps, but she didn’t recollect any sign of stress nor strain in their brief exchanges. She noted that this made his physical appearance seem even more odd when mixed in and among the overwhelming brightness of this dark place.

Odd that she hadn’t really noticed the same smile on his face. Have I even seen his face? She made a mental note to seek out his face, but noted to do so without appearing to stare or evaluate.

As she wondered to herself as to the particulars of his face and how best to look at it, and almost as if on cue, he looked up at her briefly via the unusual positioning of his bowed head, and there it was. The smile reflected in his voice was clearly visible and unmistakable via his eyes. She could detect the smile in his mouth and facial expression as well. But unlike the smile of the voice and eyes, there was something else hidden behind it and the other contours of his face. If it were strain that she was detecting, it certainly was not reflected elsewhere in the man’s being. Although not particularly muscular nor brawny, his appearance were as though there were no weight he could not lift. She caught herself suddenly wanting to smile, noticed that she was staring, and quickly looked away in shame.

After what seemed like an extremely long walk for both of them, and an even longer and certainly more elaborate observation period of her watching him walk, he finally came to a stop only slightly in front of her, as she continued her almost vain attempts to look anywhere but directly at him. She could almost feel the pulse of his breathing as he stood otherwise motionless in front of her, but she kept her head turned so as to see him only indirectly. He had seemed so massive and ever larger-looming previously as the distance closed between them.

Yet she now noticed that he was considerably shorter than she, and she now dreaded looking directly at him for fear of giving the appearance of looking down her nose at him.

As she continued to wonder what to do at this point, she could feel his eyes upon her. Waiting. But she could also sense that he was not visually evaluating her in the same way that she had evaluated him as he approached her location. Where is my location, current or otherwise? she wondered to herself.

She surmised there was no internal knowing to be had in her query, and turned her head in his direction as if to seek the answer elsewhere. As soon as their eyes met, the man said, “I dreamed of you.”

Her head sagged suddenly in defeat, and she immediately burst into tears as the weight of his words somehow sunk in. But almost as soon as the tears started, she quickly began to question her own motivation in the sudden outpouring. I know this, she thought to herself as she continued to sob. I don’t know this at all, she countermanded her own previous thought.

No more answers to seek boomed in her mind via some unknown voice emanating from some unknown source in her being. The chill that was absent earlier made it’s presence and intentions known. But its desire to creep through her being was quickly quashed by the manifesting of a single thought that resonated distinctly with and in her own voice. Am I…

“Aw now, let’s not have too much of that,” the man said with a fatherly concern that seemed to lift the weight of the questions manifested in her mind by his previous cryptic yet weighty statement.

“I’m sorry. I’ve no idea what you mean by that, but somehow I also do know for some reason. I don’t know,” she said, also beginning again to wipe fresh tears from her own eyes. “I’m so lost.”

“Well…let’s see if we can remedy that, and maybe even get some of those tears dried up in the process. Maybe even both at the same time. Nudge nudge, wink wink.”

She saw him neither move his arms to nudge her, nor move his eyes from their fixed gaze even slightly, but she knew that he had somehow done both and all. As it occurred to her to actually ask the man if he had done either, she looked up to see him looking into her eyes and smiling. She suddenly recalled his opening words as to her own abilities to do certain things at the same time. She let out a slight chuckle and smiled at the thought. “Maybe…but no promises.” She continued to dab at her tears as she attempted to straighten her posture and regain her composure.

“No…promises,” he purposefully chopped his words, simultaneously asking and answering before continuing, “No promises sounds fair enough.” He smiled at her again, then continued, almost interrupting himself, “Listen…I was just heading down this way if you care to tag along. But if you’ve another destination in mind, I’d be happy to accompany you wherever you prefer to trod,” he said with a jovial spring in his voice.

“Trod?” she chuckled slightly as she said it aloud. “I’m sorry…but that’s a word you simply don’t hear everyday.” She continued to chuckle and attempted to further collect herself, but felt the need to say it again, “Trod,” she chuckled again. “That’s funny.”

“Well, whenever it is that we get to wherever it is that we are going, hopefully, it’ll still be both pertinent and applicable in it’s humor. Maybe it’ll be at least as amusing to both of us then as it is now.” As he finished speaking, he shot her a wink.

“Let’s hope so,” she said while beaming a smile that she could not restrain in response to the wink. She couldn’t help it. She wanted to laugh again, as she pondered the merits of suddenly having a dictionary handy so that she could look up the word ‘trod’ and all it’s tenses and applications. But the thought of stumbling through a dictionary in this man’s presence, simply to have a better understanding of his odd vernacular made the situation just that much more comical. She wanted to know more. She had to know more. Such as, where would I even begin to look for a dictionary at this point, she wondered to herself as she stifled the urge to again chuckle.

“Let’s us trod down this way,” he said.

She let out a giggle. “OK…” she paused, “let’s us trod. After you.”

“After you, she says. I guess I’m leading the way,” he mumbled aloud in a faux-vibrato that was obviously meant to be humorous. At least, that’s what it sounded like and what she was familiar with. A sarcastic yet comforting tone, nested within a certain kind of knowing.

I guess he’s trying to keep the conversation light, she rationalized to herself.

The unusual man again started walking in the same short, shuffling steps as before. As he passed her, she caught herself looking at him and studying his movements more than the man himself. She caught herself staring and again began to feel a tad shameful for doing so. She decided it was best to follow as politely as she could, and began imagining what the proper way to follow someone ‘politely’ would actually be.

As she began walking, she noticed something odd about his hands and arms, and the way that they were placed behind his back. Are his hands tied? Or is he carrying something on his back? Or…both? It was too dark to tell, but the thoughts of either or any of those made her shudder, and she felt herself shake a bit almost with a chill within her own being.

Odd it being so dark surrounding this man. He himself was almost…glowing.

They continued to walk, but she quickened her pace to catch up so that she could walk beside him instead of behind. Once caught up, she slowed and turned her head to look at his feet to better match his pace. She couldn’t actually see his feet, but she was able to quickly match his pace and cadence.

“OK if I walk with, instead of behind?” she asked, smiling confidently as she tried to match his steps.

“Wouldn’t have it any other way.”

His face, from the side, appeared to her to be relaxing a bit as he answered her question.

“Say. Do you like movies?” he suddenly asked; almost as if to interrupt an unspoken conversation between them.

“Yes. Very much,” she replied.

“Have you ever seen that movie that came out a few years back, that was a kind of spoof of the Frankenstein book and movies?”

“Young Frankenstein?” she suggested brightly.

“That’s the one. I love that movie, but never can recall its name for some reason.”

“Oh I love that movie too,” she agreed. “One of my favorites.”

“There’s a part in that movie…” His voice trailed in the vast expanse of nothingness as they disappeared together into the darkness.

*******

We hope you enjoyed that, Dear Reader, as well as ‘Hee Haw Hockey‘ and ‘Pour, Know… Poor, No‘. Fingers crossed the Okie Devil of Text US will pen some new tales for Underdog Anthology VI, the Halloween edition

*Now THAT is a door, Clicky…*

Until next time, have fun and… Have a Song ❤