Where the Moon is God – Chapter 1

You can read the first part of Where the Moon is God via the link below:

Where the Moon is God – Prologue

I hope you enjoy reading!


Theodore considered himself to be a generally very calm and collected individual. He was reverent and deeply religious, a monk who worshipped God as truly and faithfully as any man could. His mind was free of wicked thoughts, his body of sinful deeds. He had escaped from the evils of the world many years ago, delivered himself to a better place – a purer place – and forgiven those who had done him wrong.

It was rare for him, with all his composure, to be haunted by nightmares. Bad dreams were the only dreams he tended to have, when he had them, and they disturbed him deeply. There was no word he could think of to describe what simply terrifying things his unconscious mind was able to invent.

He lived in a large monastery in the country, isolated enough for the monks there to enjoy the world around them without getting too involved in its affairs. If nature could not calm his thunderous heart, then there was nothing that could. Nature, it seemed, was all out of ideas this time.

He settled himself down quietly in the middle of a small room in the monastery. It was a part of the building largely reserved for meditation. Theodore was cross-legged on the floor, his eyes closed and his bottom lip quivering with effort, but his hopes of reaching the tranquillity that meditation usually granted him proved fruitless. It had been many months, perhaps even a year, since Theodore had woken in the middle of the night in a cold sweat; the previous night had been a cruel reminder that he would never wholly defeat his demons.

It had been unlike any other night he could remember. He had tossed and turned in his tiny bed for hours, too hot one minute and shivering with cold the next. Once he had gotten to sleep, he had seen images of demons and inhuman monsters flashing through his mind. They had been hungry creatures, searching for their prey – searching for Theodore. He had thrown himself violently from side to side, as though kicking at the thin bedcovers might get them off his scent and end the dream. In the early hours of the morning, he had woken with a throbbing headache, after three mere hours of rest.

He had climbed out of his bed and walked over to the tiny window, bent his neck to see out of it, and looked up at the sky. The full moon had stared back at him and he had put the nightmare down to a superstitious mind that should have known better. After a few minutes walking back and forth in his room waiting for his pulse to return to normal, he had climbed back into his bed and attempted to return to sleep, but it had eluded him. Eventually, there had been movement from outside of his room, and giving upon sleep he prepared himself for the day, with a head that was still throbbing.

Seated on the floor of the cool room, the sun shining down upon him from a high window, he could tell him foolish he had been to be frightening of made-up monsters. It was never easy to see that in the darkness, when all kinds of people could imagine all kinds of things with little persuasion. Demons were real, of course, but then it was not the demons that caused him to cower like a child. Wild dogs could have been a danger, if he slept out in the open, but what he had dreamt of had been able to turn from a man into a wolf and back again, apparently at will.

Most enlightened scholars had rejected the concept of werewolves. Theodore had read a lot on the topic – certainly more than he was supposed to have read – but he had never seen any plausible argument to suggest that they were, or had ever been, real. There were strange creatures out there, far away in eastern countries, but England was not brimming with monsters. There was no reason for him to be afraid.

As much as demons could taunt him by inventing these nightmares, he would be able to overcome them. He had his faith. He had painstakingly trained himself over many years not to want or lust for anything, and so demons posed no threat to him. All that Theodore had to do was chuckle to himself until he remembered that werewolves were not real; anyone else in the monastery would have told him the same.

He would not talk to just anyone, of course. If he wanted to share what he had seen behind his closed eyes, then he would choose to speak with someone who was not going to judge him. There were few in the monastery who he felt would react in the right way: he did not want sage advice or some foul-tasting drink that was supposed to prevent him from having further nightmares. He wanted someone who would listen and nod, and then tell him he was an idiot once he had finished speaking.

First, however, he needed to calm his mind. Theodore knew that he was too distracted to concentrate. The fear that had gripped him when he had first woken had faded away slowly, until it had become little more than a silly memory. Something remaining behind, something he was unable to name. Something that puzzled him.

He could only vaguely remember the last time that a nightmare had woken him and shook him to his core. The rarity of bad dreams only served to make them feel more intense. He remembered how cold he had been when he had shot out of bed, exactly like this time, shaking as though from a fever, freezing despite the heat of the night. Questions had filled his mind that time, too.

How was his unconscious mind able to generate so many grizzly images, when he had done everything within his power to live a life of charity and simplicity? He had never seen a man beaten, stabbed, or ripped to pieces, so how was he able to imagine those tortures so vividly? He had an idea of them from descriptions and the odd image in texts, and although he could appreciate both he knew that there was a clear distinction between those and real life.

Apparently, his lack of witnessing anything gruesome could not stop his brain from filling in the gaps of his knowledge: the guts that he had seen spilling out onto the ground had seemed all too real, not just some sketch on a sheet of parchment by a skilled hand but something that was there, right in front of his eyes. He had dreamt of people taking their last breaths, choked gasps still echoing around in his ears.

Theodore shook his head as though this might dislodge the thoughts from his brain, breathing slowly and deeply to clear his mind. It was unsuccessful.

With such vivid images still swirling around in his head, meditation proved useless. For the first time in a long while, he abandoned his morning routine, resigning himself to some breakfast so that he could try again on a full stomach. This was not the way that he was supposed to do things, but he was shaken up, and that was a good enough excuse to adapt his behaviour.

The bread and the water that he had every morning were bland and tasteless. They did nothing to improve his mood. A silent prayer at the table helped to appease him slightly, and his worries faded somewhat as he felt the comforting feeling of the holy watching over him. Not long after he had finished his prayer, he was joined on the wooden bench by another monk.

The newcomer placed his bowl down on the table with a clunk and looked at Theodore with a grin that was far too cheery.

‘Good morning, Theo!’ the new arrival said, the grin turning into an even wider beam that split his face in two. It was a look that Theodore had seen opposite him every morning for many long years, something that would always manage to cheer him up, as though the other man’s happiness was somehow infectious. It did not seem to work on that morning. It was not a good morning, and no amount of saying that it was a good morning was going to make it one. Theodore mustered up the happiest voice he could.

‘Good morning, Thomas.’ He sighed, then ran a hand over his eyes, trying to shake the strange feeling that he was still in the dream. ‘You sound as though you might burst into song at any moment.’ Theodore paused, cocking his head to one side as he studied Thomas. ‘Please refrain.’

‘The sun is bright. It’s a beautiful day!’ Thomas ignored Theodore’s comment and continued to smile. He picked up his bread, tore some off, and examined it playfully before putting it in his mouth. Theodore watched, unable to hide his amusement.

‘Do we thank the Lord for this glorious sunshine?’ he asked Thomas, holding a piece of bread up himself and moving it between his fingers; it was a little too hard and a little too dry. They both knew the question was not serious.

‘Theo, we are Englishmen,’ Thomas replied. ‘When we get sunshine, we definitely thank the Lord.’

They chuckled quietly, mindful that some of the other monks had made vows of silence and that their whimsical conversation would not be encouraging to those devoted men. The pair shared a meaningful glance before returning to their meals, a look that said they were both glad to be in the other’s company. Theodore wondered whether anything had bothered Thomas in the night but did not ask. Thomas would want Theodore to discuss his own dream in fair exchange.

It was not long before Thomas spoke again. He had always enjoyed talking a little too much and Theodore had drawn attention to this more than once, but this was hardly enough to stop the man. Thomas pushed his half-empty bowl into the middle of the table, rested his elbows on the table, and leant on his hands, looking across at Theodore. Theodore put down his water, waiting for whatever the other wanted to say.

‘Have you heard the news from Lincoln?’

Theodore simultaneously grinned and sighed in exasperation. He shook his head slowly, chuckling to himself. Thomas seemed to know every scrap of information brought to the monastery before any other man, and his wide, excited eyes could not hide the fact that he considered this information to be something special.

‘You should stop your gossiping, brother Thomas,’ Theodore warned with a waggle of his finger. ‘It is not so good for the soul.’ He knew that the other monk was not going to finish speaking until he had shared everything he knew with Theodore, but then Thomas knew that Theodore wanted to hear it. Theodore liked to think that this was because Thomas knew how to tell a good story, but not even a monk could tire of good gossip.

‘Nonsense! I am not gossiping! It is news!’

‘Very well,’ Theodore said, still laughing quietly. The playful glance that Thomas shot him encouraged him to give in, a sly look that the other man had been able to pull off since well before they had arrived at the monastery. ‘Come, come then, brother Thomas, and tell me what news comes from Lincoln today.’

Thomas shuffled about in his seat as though the wait between announcing that he had news and Theodore asking to hear it had been too much for him, then moved his elbows off the table, his eyes fixed on Theodore’s. There was a moment of hesitation, a stillness that hung between them during which there was nothing else in the universe but them, before Thomas spoke. It was a pleasant moment: they had known one another before they had become monks and had always treated one another as brothers, although they were not related either by blood or marriage. Each man could read the other purely at a glance. Thomas was excited but also uncomfortable about what he had to say.

‘There were some horrible animal attacks inside the city walls last night,’ he finally said, unable to pass his voice off as casual. ‘I heard the news from my brother. He says he’s been keeping an eye on them.’

‘This news has come quick,’ Theodore commented.

‘You know Henry. He sent a messenger out here before the sun had even come up – he must have suspected something was going to happen and sent his messenger as soon as it did. He likes to keep me informed about goings-on in the city.’

Theodore nodded; Thomas’ brother often fuelled his gossip. ‘Wait – what do you mean? Is he looking out for attacks?’ he asked. He was shocked at the topic: animal attacks were rare in cities, especially in those with a wall. ‘Have there been others?’

‘Henry says there were some killings last month, too,’ Thomas explained. He picked up another piece of bread from his bowl and chewed on it for a few moments before continuing. Theodore had given up on his own bread. ‘He says the bodies were all of sinners – well, you know the sort of people who wander around cities at night – and they seem to have been attacked by some wild beast, something with huge claws and gigantic teeth. He thinks it’s probably a wild dog. Three were killed last night: one woman of the night, one gambler, one adulterer.’  Thomas counted them off on his fingers, the slender digits unfurling slowly. ‘Three also last month, and three the month before that.’ He reached nine and held his hands in front of Theodore’s face, as though this reiterated some point Theodore was missing. ‘He doesn’t think it will stop.’

‘It sounds as though he might be right.’

‘Yes. The constable got involved last month.’

‘They don’t appear to have done much.’

‘According to Henry, they killed a lot of dogs in the city, not that it’s done any good. There were a few suspects, too.’

‘People?’ Theodore raised his eyebrows, watching Thomas carefully. ‘Human suspects?’

‘Yes, well … Henry says all nine victims were morally corrupt.’ Thomas frowned. ‘It sounds strange … he did say they look like animal attacks, but you wouldn’t think an animal would be able to get past the wall or the guards month after month. Animals would go after anyone, maybe the guards themselves, not nine sinners … it sounds as though the constable will be baffled. Henry is baffled. He thinks our opinions on the matter might be useful.’

Theodore stared across the table at Thomas, his face blank, as he thought to himself. He watched the other man finish his bread and water and saw Thomas eyeing what was left in Theodore’s bowl.

‘Take it,’ he said, not wishing to be distracted from his thoughts. Thomas thanked him and snatched the bowl away, scooping up the last piece of bread and finishing it off. ‘Let me think for a while.’

‘Of course, brother,’ Thomas replied. He too fell into a thoughtful silence. Theodore watched the other man for a while, wondering what advice he would be able to offer that might help or comfort Thomas’ brother. Murders were not the forte of a monk.

This was not the first time Henry had asked for their advice, but it had only ever been matters of religion before. He had been a great support to them when they had been young, when they had played together despite the insistence of both sets of parents that they were from separate worlds and should stay that way. When the time had come, he had helped them to set off on the long path to become monks, and so they tried to assist him whenever he requested it.

If the truth was to be told, Thomas had always had an interest in things that should not have concerned him, which was how he had become friends with Theodore – a poor child with almost no education at the time – in the first place. This might have been another example of Thomas trying to get involved in something he should not, but that kind of thinking would not help Henry. It would be wrong to ignore these deaths based on Thomas’ over interest.

Theodore emerged from his thoughts to notice that Thomas had not come to a useful conclusion either. He tried to go back into his own mind, but found distracting questions floating to the front of his mind and slammed his fist down onto the wooden table in frustration.

Thomas jumped. The other monks, seated at the surrounding tables, jumped. The whole room stared at Theodore, who muttered a feeble apology about needing to meditate more and waited for the rest of the room to go back to their breakfasts before he spoke to Thomas.

‘Does Henry really think we can come to any kind of conclusion about what could have done this?’ he asked. ‘Man, woman, demon, wild dog … I doubt we can give your brother anything more than he already has. We will be no more helpful than the constable. Yes, there are wild dogs in the forests around this monastery and yes, they could get to the city and back in a night with ease. As far as I know, they live in packs, and they do not go beyond the treeline, otherwise we ourselves would be unsafe.’

‘Someone would surely spot a wild pack,’ Thomas agreed. ‘I think Henry just wants any help he can get.’

‘That, I understand. I’m not saying that I’m not convinced it isn’t an animal. I’m just saying … I … don’t know what I’m saying. Even if it is an animal, there seems to be no way to find it unless it is caught in the act. There are so many, but … no, no, I don’t believe it was an animal.’

‘Neither do I,’ said Thomas. ‘Which begs the question: what is it? You think a person can tear people apart, cut deeper than bone, and that they would eat …’ he stalled, one hand over his mouth, as though trying not to be sick. ‘Because I don’t think a human would.’

Theodore scratched his chin thoughtfully and noticed that he needed to shave. ‘I don’t think so, either. Do you know what I could do? I could message my friend Matthew, the monk from St. Albans. He likes to document strange things that happen, so he might have come across something like this before. You remember him, don’t you?’

‘Yeah, I remember him. Good man. Likes to talk.’

‘It might take some time for him to reply, and he might not have anything to say, but …’

‘But it’s worth a shot,’ Thomas finished for Theodore. ‘I’ll tell Henry you’ll write to Matthew, but we should also think of some suggestions of our own. He’s evidently very concerned about his parishioners being targeted like this.’

‘Wait – his parishioners were targeted?’ Theodore asked. This was beginning to sound less like a wild dog and more like the work of someone or something evil and sinister that was targeting specific people.

‘Yes … all nine of them were his.’ Thomas picked at a few crumbs that remained in the bottom of his bowl and scowled. ‘Do you think this food is getting worse? Anyway, the constable had guards stationed around the area last night, like they knew it was going to be there. No idea whether they saw anything, though. Apparently, there have only been a handful of sightings of this thing. Henry say’s he’s spoken to people who have seen it but not got much from them. Stories of vague shapes and monsters lurking in the shadows. Well, you know how people make things up sometimes.’

He paused, still playing with the crumbs. Theodore waited for Thomas to continue. ‘That’s not even the weirdest thing about it,’ Thomas said eventually. ‘You see, all nine of them had confessed their sins to Henry shortly before they had died … within the month of their deaths, as far as Henry can remember. He wrote that none had been ready for forgiveness, and had not taken their penances seriously.’

Theodore could not hide his surprise. ‘How very strange. They are sinners,’ he pointed out, a shake of his head accompanying the final word, ‘and it is the cities that breed them. They’re everywhere in populated areas; whenever you look, wherever you turn, there they are. Maybe it’s a coincidence … but it would be an impressive coincidence indeed. Your brother does take a lot of confessions, and not all of those people are able to drag themselves out of the corruption of the city as easily as we did.’

Thomas nodded in agreement. He glanced around himself and kept his voice low to avoid being overheard. ‘I suppose there’s always the possibility that it’s someone close to Henry. My brother seems to be contemplating divine involvement, or even retribution. All things happen for a reason.’

‘I don’t want to think it could be someone Henry knows,’ Theodore replied, ‘and divine intervention, even in the case of the worst sinners, is extremely rare. Could all nine really have done enough to warrant it? God would have been willing to forgive them, when they were ready.’

Theodore was stumped. It was Thomas who brought up the final possibility.

‘It might be a demon,’ he said, his voice barely more than a whisper. ‘That sounds like the most realistic option to me. A demon is roaming the city, punishing souls that do not see the light.’

‘It could be a demon,’ Theodore agreed, his own voice only a breath. ‘It could be.’

He left the statement there and fell silence once more. Theodore did not like to put words in God’s mouth and always liked to ensure he had clear evidence before crying out his support for something. He had been that way ever since his father had first encouraged him to embrace Christianity fully and join the church, then only a boy. That was how he had first met Thomas, and their relationship had developed from there. Theodore wanted to know that there was no chance that these attacks were being caused by an animal before advising Henry to protect himself and his flock from something far more sinister.

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YouTube Tuesday: The Dragon Slayer

Okay, I’m going to say it right at the beginning: I am not a performer. There was a time when I was in primary school and one of the other kid’s mothers said that I was going to grow up to be an actress. Well, I may have been a bit of a drama princess (I’ve certainly never been a queen) at times, but I’m no actress. So proceed with some caution and a good sense of pessimism (it’s good for you!).

I’ve started to put a few of my poems on YouTube, as spoken pieces. So far, there’s been next to no interaction, which I’m not exactly unhappy about (YouTube comments are notoriously unhelpful). As time goes on, I’m sure my performance skills will improve, but I’m going to share all of the poems here on Let it Come from the Heart anyway. The first one is “The Dragon Slayer”, which I wrote in February 2015.

Here is the original poem, with the spoken version at the bottom.

The Dragon Slayer

Across the fields and hills
Where hungry cattle graze
Moves a true and noble rider
T’wards a city set ablaze
By a creature filled with hatred
Of the gentle people’s ways
Which in a foul and wicked temper
That great city set ablaze

On his trusty, strong companion
On his brave and loyal steed
He rides up to the flaming homes
To end the dragon’s greed
In answer to the call of
The people’s desperate pleas
His sword and shield ready to
Destroy the dragon’s greed

Scaly armour on the beast;
No one has pierced its hide
Not fearing this, he swears
To avenge those who died;
His steed he leaves in safety
Thankful for this gentle guide
And goes to face the beast that
Extinguished those who died

The creature rounds him fiercely
As the warrior draws near;
He approaches the great monster
So bold; no hint of fear
It roars with mighty dominance
It bellows with a sneer
Yet he holds his head up high
Showing no hint of fear

A tail that brings down buildings
Collides roughly with his shield
Though the beast is far stronger
The warrior will not yield
They circle; they attack with force
One of their fates is sealed
Though until that fateful moment
The monster will not yield

A weakness in its armour
Beneath its giant head
Gives the warrior the chance
To strike the beast down dead
To destroy the wretched creature
That the city folk have fled;
When their fierce battle is over
He pins the beast down dead

The Troll

The troll stooped down low enough to fit under the arch of the humpback bridge. One giant hand reached up to grasp at the bricks above its head, anchoring the troll, the dark grey skin blending well with the faded red. It was not difficult to believe that this was where it belonged, hidden amongst the overgrown plants and forgotten junk of yesteryear that had been dumped and abandoned off the road.

His face was rough, with deep grooves and scars, and it might have been carved out of stone. When he spoke, his voice was gravel grinding underfoot. His slow movements were far from a sign of limited intelligence; instead, caution was evident in his every motion. He hid in the shade beneath the bridge, his hand and his long nose sticking out into the sunlight.

‘It has been a long time since I was last approached by humans,’ he said. He did not add that it was a bad idea to approach him, but the implication was there within the grumbling sound of his voice.

Mia swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat at the sight of the great hulking beast. It had seemed like an innocent joke at first, to walk under the so-called Troll Bride in the dilapidated part of town. A dare that had only been dangerous in the imagination. She wanted to say something, but she had no idea what the correct thing to say to a troll whose territory one had just invaded was.

Radek said, ‘It’s a good joke.’ Mia knew that he meant a good prank. She was not so convinced.

The troll swung its head around to face Radek, two beady eyes squinting at him. If Mia had not been in shock, then she might have thought the troll was being deliberately dramatic in an attempt to scare them. Hardly necessary, when the mere presence of the troll was enough to make Mia question whether that nice old lady who they met on the way might have slipped something into those cookies …

‘I make no attempt to jest,’ the troll replied. A long silence followed. It weighed down on Mia’s shoulders like the weight of the old brick bridge.

‘And neither do we,’ she said quickly, one arm sweeping around to smack Radek in the middle of his chest to stop him from saying whatever he had been about to say – probably something along the lines of well, you can’t be real. Mia did not want to have to save Radek from a troll he had insulted by insisting it wasn’t real.

She pushed as hard as she dared to push on Radek’s chest, and he looked at her in bewilderment, far less subtly than she would have liked. She jerked her head backwards, up the hill from where they had come.

Move. Back. Now. Flee.

Radek was at least smart enough to recognise what that jerk meant. He took another look at the troll, then nodded.

‘Little humans should watch where they put their feet and leave my home alone,’ the troll grumbled.

‘Well, what a coincidence!’ Mia exclaimed, taking a half-step back. ‘Because leaving your home alone is exactly what these two little humans were just about to do!’

‘Yes,’ agreed Radek, nodding his head vigorously. Perhaps the stare of the troll had started to get to him, too. ‘We’re just going to go and put our feet somewhere else, far away from your home, where they’re wanted.’

‘Yes, yes we are!’

The troll’s frown told Mia that he did not believe their flustered excuses – she couldn’t blame it, she wouldn’t have believed herself either – but when he poked his head out further from under the bridge and saw the wide open space around him, the troll seemed to become discouraged. He sunk back into the darkness, until only his eyes – two beady yellow dots in the undergrowth – could be seen.

‘Little humans who return make good soup for hungry trolls,’ he warned.

Soup for hungry trolls was not something that Mia intended to become in her life. She looked at Radek, who was looking back at her, and said, ‘No more dares.’

They spun around at the same time and broke into a run.

‘No more dares,’ Radek agreed.

[Flash Fiction] Fire & Air

A great piece of flash fiction that has all the signs of an exciting longer length story.

Jade M.Wong

He trudged through the courtyard, as his fellow students scurried out of his way. He was stupid for thinking this school would be different than the others.

Plopping down on a bench near one of the courtyard’s stone lanterns, he jumped when a girl fell out of a tree next to him.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”

“You didn’t scare me. You just…caught me off guard.”

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The Cybernetic Pope

What a strange and fantastic story! Brilliantly written.

The Book of Hangman

Jean_Paul_Laurens_Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII _1870“Le Pape Formose et Etienne VII” by Jean-Paul Laurens (1870)

Here is a short story about, well, a cybernetic pope.  You know what they say: strange and bizarre tales are good for the soul.  They don’t say that?  Well they should.  Written on the 4th September 2016.


The Cybernetic Pope

Pope Formosus, the Cybernetic Pope, raised his arm and commanded the swarm of mechanical wasps. They descended upon the sacrificial children and within minutes had converted them into pulp. Their screams recharged Formosus’ cerebral batteries, and their juice flowed through the channels into his abdominal cannisters, enabling him to continue his papacy for another month.

Smiling, the reanimated head of the Catholic church activated his hypersonic heel boosters and blasted across the tiles of St. Peter’s Basilica. He was due out on the balcony in a few minutes to let his loving followers know that the cycle had…

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Three Wishes

The genie appeared from out of the spout of the lamp in a wisp of smoke, his upper body large and muscular, but his lower half little more than a tail of blue and purple vapour. He had a circle of black hair on his head, the centre bald and revealing the top of his shiny head.

Miles took a long drag on his cigarette and put it out in the ashtray before he spoke. He wanted to act as casual as he possibly could, considering there was a magical being in the middle of his kitchen.

‘As I said last time,’ the genie said, ‘I can grant you three wishes – no more. Have you selected your first wish?’

Miles nodded. ‘I have,’ he replied. In fact, his first wish had been the only thing that he had thought about for days, ever since he had pulled that dirty lamp out of the trash. After several long nights spent debating the ethics of wishing for something to improve his own life versus something to improve the rest of the world, he had made his decision.

‘I wish for world peace,’ he said.

The genie grinned, showing a full set of yellowing teeth. ‘I can do this,’ he told Miles, ‘though only as much as is possible without affecting the will of humans. Though I have great power, I can do nothing that impedes upon their freedom.’

Then he snapped his fingers, and disappeared back into the lamp.

*

The world’s weapons were destroyed overnight. Wealth was shared out equally, to the extent that it could be, to reduce and limit jealousy. Health came became available to all free of charge. For a while, it seemed as though there would be nothing left for people to argue or fight about.

The genie had done well, so Miles summoned him for his second wish.

‘I wish I had one hundred million pounds,’ he said. It seemed like a reasonable enough amount to ask for.

The genie grinned his yellow grin, snapped his fingers, and returned to the lamp.

*

Miles would not have known what to do with two hundred million dollars, so one hundred million dollars blew his mind. He bought himself everything that he had ever wanted, and realised that it had barely even made a dent in the amount of cash he had.

As the rest of the world’s money had been dished out between the entire human race after Miles’ first wish, his second officially made him the richest man on the planet. It got him plenty of attention.

His neighbour approached him one day wearing a dark expression, and attacked him, then stole his wallet. In comparison to Miles’ bank accounts, there was not much in it, but when he looked around he saw that there were many angry people who were all out to get him.

Upon this realisation, he returned to the genie.

‘I don’t understand why this is happening,’ he said, nursing his bruises with a bag of frozen peas. ‘Whatever happened to world peace?’

‘You made your second wish,’ the genie replied.

‘So, if I wished that nobody could dislike me …’

‘I cannot do anything that would affect free will. It would have no effect.’

Miles scratched his chin in thought. He did his best to shape his sentence in a way that would have no adverse side effects for himself, though he knew that he would not have been able to guess every possibility.

‘I wish that I could influence people’s free will,’ he said.

‘Now that,’ said the genie, ‘I can do.’

He grinned, and he snapped his fingers, and he returned to the lamp, all for the final time. Then the lamp vanished in front of Miles’ eyes, probably to reappear in somebody else’s unsuspecting bin.

*

Miles cursed the genie. He cursed it when he woke, and he cursed it before he went to sleep. World peace, as a concept, was great – but it had done nothing to eradicate people’s greed or their thoughts of self-importance.

His own greed and sense of self-importance had only ruined the flimsy, temporary peace that the first wish had created.

As for his third wish, Miles discovered the genie had been true to his word. He was a powerful influence over other people. His every sentence, his every gesture, his every expression encouraged people to speak, to move, or to behave differently. Everybody wanted to look like him, and to live as he lived.

His power of persuasion was unending, and it bored him to death. Miles came to realise that everybody who loved him, whether family, friends or fans, only did so because he had persuaded them to love him.

Fairies

I’m telling you, my friend,
I saw them.
It was a warm summer night
And the moon was full:
A huge, glimmering orb suspended
In the patient sky.
The world waited for them,
Anticipating
Their joyful songs, that promised
To fill the air with magic.

I’m telling you, my friend,
To believe me.
They danced and twirled, making patterns
With their bright clothes
And delicate wings
That stole my attention.
Their voices were so beautiful
Tears formed
In my eyes,
As they would have in yours.

Yes, my friend, the fairies come
To those of us
Who still believe.

Prompt: Spell

Prompt: A spell that let you complete all your errands at once works, but now, you can’t remember doing anything.


I ran my hand over the photographs in the tired album, my eyes flickering over the pictures in desperate attempts to find something I recognised.

There are many things that must be done!

The words spin in my head. I remember those and little else.

A photograph of a pleasant looking family; another of a happy couple holding a newborn baby; a third of an expensive wedding ceremony. None of them mean anything to me, but I know they should.

I raise my hands to examine them. The fingers are long, slender and feminine; the skin young and firm. They tremble as I place them back down on the album to touch the photographs once more.

There are many things that must be done!

The things were done. I know that. As time has gone on, that has been the only thing I have been able to cling to, the only thing that I can remember. For everything else, I have my photographs, but who I am in the pictures and where the other people are is beyond my comprehension.

They could feasibly be images of a family I have never met.

There are many things that must be done!

I recall thinking those words over and over again. There were too many things to do and there was too little time to do them in. I remember I found a way to make them all disappear – to complete them in the blink of an eye.

Nothing more.

I ran my hand over the photographs in the tired album, my eyes flickering over the pictures in desperate attempts to find something I recognised. My fingers are long, bony and stiff; my skin pale and wrinkled.

Still I stay there, because there are no more things to do.

Revenge

This was originally a prompt on Tumblr. Prompt: With this spell, the more he drinks, the thirstier he will be. Finally, you have your revenge.

Revenge

It happened a long time ago. The world was a brighter place back then and I had been happily ignorant of some of the things people could do. Magic was something that belonged in fairy tales and fantasy; witches and wizards had been poor, unfortunate souls who had been unpopular in an age of misunderstanding.

He had introduced me to something more. At first, it had been exciting. In fact, it had been romantic. We spent decades together, doing nothing more than what we considered right, helping those who needed and deserved good health, money or whatever else we could provide via magical means. Our children received the greatest gift we had to offer: abnormally long lives. They, too, became like us.

I have no idea what changed within him, or exactly when he changed, but I do know one thing: it is tiresome to live for hundreds of years. We had to look after ourselves very well. Neither of us were immortal and we were both fully aware of that. I have to watch my back all the time now, because he’s no longer the man he once was.

I’m thankful that he taught me a lot, but I’ve been suspicious for a while now that he didn’t teach me everything. It may have happened a long time ago, but the death of our eldest son is still clear in my mind. His father had been trying to kill me, but I’d taken to wearing powerful symbols of protection and so he went after someone close to me in the hope that it would draw me out into the open. Our son never wanted us to fight; he had always believed his father would change. He had been wrong.

I’ve lost count of how many years I’ve spent looking for some weakness in his protective symbols and enchantments. We’ve both had those moments when we thought we were victorious – and when we thought we’d been defeated. Now I think, at last, that I’ve found a way to end our feud.

The spell I’m using isn’t a difficult one but it is rather old. I’ve been searching for a way to get my revenge for so long that I know weapons and poison are useless; I know that if I truly want to make him pay for what he’s done, I have to be patient. I’ve been over everything I know. I’ve sought help and advice from those I know I can trust. Using magic in this way is frowned upon, so I’ve had to tread carefully. At last, I’ve found something I believe will work. He won’t know he’s dying until it’s too late.

His protection was the hardest thing to overcome. Perhaps, after all the time I spent with him, loving him, I didn’t want to find a way to harm him; sometimes I wonder if he feels the same. Nonetheless, I know it must be done.

Without first breaking down the strong defences he’s established, any spell would be useless. I searched for many years to find a way to weaken him, but I think I’ve always known what it would cost. I have to sacrifice something dear to me to get my revenge. I’m tired, though. I’m ready.

Which brings me to where I am today. I’ve lost the greatest gift I ever had to offer; I’m dying. It gives me great pleasure to know that none of this is in vain: he, too, is dying now. I’m not sure whether he recognises this yet, but my spell is going to kill him. Every time he drinks, he will become thirstier and thirstier – and by the time that he realises what I’ve done, there will be nothing he can do about it.

Revenge is sweet. The cost is more than worth it.

May 4 – Heroes

Here is the first story that I have written for Story a Day’s May challenge (I was busy this weekend so I did not get to do the weekend prompts – I may use them in the future). Today, the prompt is to write a story with a hero protagonist. You can read the full prompt here.

I have decided to write this based on a ballad I wrote about a hero for Writing 201. You can read that poem here.


Fire and smoke. The noxious air filled the lungs of those who were there, trapped in the city as it burned around them. They could taste the flames on their tongues and felt a sting as the smoke passed through their throats. Homes and possessions were obliterated together by the fierce fire, which spread faster than anything the city folk could have accidentally – or otherwise – set themselves.

It was dragon fire.

Nothing could be heard over the sounds of people screaming and the roaring flames. Those who had managed to escape from the city were crying for those still left inside, few of them brave enough to enter again to save their friends and families. It was rare to see the dragon these days, although when their grandparents and great grandparents had been young it had been a common sight. Though the people had feared it for an age, it had been known to brood and isolate itself from the rest of the world. Unless provoked, it had not been violent.

Something had changed this time. Perhaps it was the years of loneliness, building up within the creature until there had been nothing left but hatred. Until it had seen how the city people lived, how happy and peaceful they were, and had decided to destroy them for their pleasant ways.

They had seen it exit its mountain cave early in the morning, circling in the sky for an hour or so before it moved closer to the city. Some had decided to leave the city as soon as they had seen it; though others had chuckled at their fears, they had been the smart ones. They had food and water and their families were intact. Just because the creature was not known to be violent did not mean that these people could sit and wait to see whether it would snap.

‘There aren’t many dragons left in the world,’ some of those who had stayed had argued, ‘they don’t risk their lives like they used to. They don’t attack us and we don’t attack them. That’s the way it is.’

Nothing could be heard but screams and roar of flames, but further from the city was another, distinct sound. A horse, covered in dirty armour, and rider, dressed to match his horse, raced with desperate haste towards that city.

As they hurry across the fields, the dragon circles and lands, crushing houses beneath its gigantic feet. Yet more screams; yet more death; yet more anguish. It screeched at the sky, its tail smashing more buildings as it thrashed around in the centre of the city.

The rider drew his sword, holding his shield closer to him to protect himself as he entered the city. The dragon did not see him at first, busy continuing its destruction of the city, but as he drew closer it spotted him, its beady eyes glaring down at him with a look of madness in them.

All around the rider and his horse, people plead for assistance. Many of them beg him, as the only one dressed to face the thing, to destroy it. He saw the devastation around him as his horse slowed and walked up to it, as bold as the rider and unafraid of the monstrous beast. The city crumbled under the dragon’s gaze, flames lapping at the horse and rider without deterring them from their path.

When it had stayed hidden in the mountain, it could have been dead. There would have been no need for him to seek it out and destroy it, as that would have put him and his steed at great risk. Now that it had come out of that fortress to wreak havoc on the city folk below, it was asking for the destruction that this knight could provide.

He climbed down from the horse, despite how bold it had been, and sent it back to safety. It looked back once, though it continued on towards the edge of the city; as brave as the hero, trained to follow his every command. Once certain that his steed was safe, he advanced towards the dragon, his sword and shield drawn.

Its armour was strong and scaly, too powerful to pierce. He searched with eager eyes for a weakness in that armour, a point for him to strike and take this creature down. He was only too aware of his own weaknesses in the face of the fire breather, and even more so that time was not on his side.

The dragon stepped sideways. Timber creaked then snapped under its weight, the shrieks of those inside silenced within seconds. The hero made noises to draw its attention back to him, and upon spotting him it threw its head up in the air, roaring as loud as it was able. The sound carried across the derelict city and further than the gathered crowd of fearful onlookers, into the fields beyond; the hero stood his ground nonetheless. When it noticed that this had failed to frighten the man who dared to stand up to it, the dragon spun on the spot and threw its mighty tail at the knight.

His shield took the blow, sending tremors through him that brought him to the ground. He was up on his feet again before the dragon could hit him again; they began to circle slowly, though the warrior tried to prevent the dragon from causing further damage to the city. One after the other, they struck at their foe, though neither man nor dragon risked a full out attack in case it would leave them vulnerable. Though the dragon was far larger and stronger, it was not foolish: it knew that others who had been in its position before had been killed by humans.

As it raised its head again, fed up of the game, he spotted a weakness in that solid armour. The dragon went to burn him as it had burned the city down, but the warrior was swifter; he jumped upon the debris of a nearby home, where still the faintest sounds of injured victims could be heard below, and swung his sword to slay the creature. They fought and tumbled to the ground together, crashing down as one and sending shakes through the ground.

The warrior’s steed, obedient as always, trotted over to the unmoving bodies. It stood proud and noble, waiting for a sign of movement from either the man or the dragon; the knight emerged victorious to screams and applause from the crowd of onlookers.

He climbed upon his horse to speed off, away from the sound of their cheers. Their recognition was not his prize for slaying this monster.