A follow-on to my short story (vignette, really) Tea Time, both originally published on Ricochet.com:
They say in space nobody can hear you scream. It seems an odd thing to drop into conversation. They also say that in the boundless stars there are places that would give cosmographers and quantum physicists everywhere conniption fits simply by existing.
One of those stood below: It looked a little like a golf course, a grassy fairway in the stars, surrounded by strange trees rooted into the fabric of the cosmos where, of all things, figures that looked suspiciously like knights in armour (some of them wearing what looked suspiciously like plus-fours) were clanking around the fairway crying ‘Fore!’ You’ve got to have some sympathy for the poor academic physicists at times like this. This sort of thing wasn’t supposed to happen.
Another recent short story, originally published as ‘Tea Time’ over at Ricochet.com (I almost wish I’d thought to call this ‘Tee-Time’ to begin with (for reasons that will become apparent when you see the sequels), but que sera sera …
Things aren’t made the way they used to be. Take time: time used to have a much nicer quality than it does today. And light: when was the last time you got proper light? And something seemed to have happened to all the spaces, like they’d been … sort of shrunk down and actual space taken out of them … So it really wasn’t his fault when he stopped time.
He was trying to build time machine, okay? Never mind why. He had his reasons. He hadn’t meant to rip a hole in the fabric of causality. He just wanted to go back and make things right. Instead of just having them seem to go more and more wrong. And now there was a gaping lapis-edged void twinkling with stars and infinite blackness facing him from across the workshop, and he couldn’t get to the kettle or the sink. Never travel through time without a cup of tea – he thought he’d read that somewhere. Or else the thought had occurred to him in one of those times in the wee small hours, when the world is all your own. The other thing, of course, was that there was … like a “time ghost” blocking his way.
I lay back in the firelight and tried not to be sick. Which wasn’t easy. Nessa had conspired to get me to a “medicine woman” – which seemed to be a polite way of saying “witch doctress”. When I’d tried to point this out, Nessa had shushed me with a well-placed elbow to the stomach. It doesn’t pay to offend the only person with a knowledge of magic and potions for miles around.
The medicine woman wore a carved painted mask with red curving lips and big stylised uptilted eyes. It looked disturbingly feminine. And the way she looked at me through the slitted eyeholes was plain disconcerting. Hungry, almost … She swayed about the place like someone who was used to not hobbling around in baggy robes and stirring potions over smoky indoor fires, and I couldn’t work out why that was bothering me.
One froggy evening, there was a bit of a to-do … (Originally written for and published over at Ricochet.com):
Ripples spread out across the surface of the lagoon, sparkling in the starlight, as the girl surfaced from under the water. Trailing behind her, there bobbed up a coloured glass lantern, sealed around the edges with a grey, clayey substance. Well, this dress has probably seen its last dance, she thought as she swam for the shore. The lantern came floating along with her.
In the distance, coloured lights glowed and strange music played out across the night. The dance goes on, as they say. Carefully, she lifted the lantern out of the water and hauled herself up onto the rocks. There was a kind of dull tap on the glass. A frog peered out at her. It was a bit hard to see through the coloured glass, but something about its eyes and the way it looked at her was somehow … human. She scraped away some of the clay with her nails and twisted. ‘Alright, buddy,’ she said, her voice coming out as a hoarse whisper, ‘you want to explain what’s going on?’
Myths and legends come to life in this short story, originally written for Ricochet.com:
He woke to the sound of distant music, a gentle sea breeze washing over him from somewhere. He heard the creak of timbers around him. Where am I this time, he found himself thinking. He seemed to be in a low wooden room, decorated with carvings, but otherwise empty. The carvings were . . . strange: Mermaids singing, maps like something out of an old storybook, and smiling young ladies with . . . banjos? He shook his head, walking out onto the main deck. As his eyes got used to the bright sunlight, he saw that he wasn’t alone.
There was a man — weathered and dressed in rags, his long white beard trailing down over the deck — tied to the mast and fast asleep. The ship around him apparently wasn’t in great shape. There were areas of broken woodwork, as if some huge monster had smashed through them. Through one of these he could see the ship’s wheel, lashed into position. Off to one side, there was an island on the horizon. He was no sailor, but as best he could tell, the ship was going round in circles. ‘Well?’ said a voice as old as the sea. ‘Don’t just stand there — untie me, confound it! I want to see what that music’s all about!’
A wee vignette, originally written for Ricochet.com:
We were sitting on wooden crates. They must have been sculling around in this old cargo hold for decades. Longer. It was an elephants’ graveyard of discarded technology, goods that had long since ceased being traded (at least in this corner of the universe). We pried open the lid on one, carefully. Inside, packed among musty, but still-dry, straw and shredded newspaper was a lamp. ‘Hey, this is solid brass,’ said Maya.
There were even some smaller crates inside. I opened one up. Inside were disintegrating pasteboard boxes.
A magical cat-and-dog story (sort of) — originally written for and published at Ricochet.com:
It was raining, cats and dogs (well, a witch’s cat and a sort-of werewolf with bones for brains – she really shouldn’t say that, even in the privacy of her own thoughts, but bless him it was true) were taking cover, and she still had to finish this blasted potion. Never, never, never, the dripping young woman thought to herself, brew a potion from a recipe book that actually specifies it be made ‘on ae righte blasted heathe on ye first true dark midnight after th’ full moone, and thatte at the height of ae summer storme’.
But here she was, soaked to the skin and getting more and more drenched by the moment, frantically stirring a bubbling cauldron with a long hazel stick (‘exactlie five foote in lengthe’), as the wind blew against her trailing black cloak and threatened to take her with it. She’d already seen her hat go whistling away over the horizon. ‘I tried to tell you,’ said a voice from under a pair of wet, flattened-down ears somewhere in the undergrowth.
An ending and a beginning in this short, originally written for and published over at Ricochet.com:
The air shimmered and a young woman stumbled forward out of what a moment before had been thin air. As she got back up, dusting red dirt off her jeans, the setting sun glinted off the scythe-shaped silver pin on her lapel. She looked around, running a hand through her hair. Floating by the crossroads, looking up at a warped old signpost, was the figure of a man, glowing semi-translucent and slightly blue. She looked around again. No body. That was odd for a start.
He turned at the sound of her walking towards him. She saw the confusion and the pain – felt them flash through her, as if they were her own – saw the glistening of tears. She kept going, taking in details as she went. Young. About her age. Features? Hard to tell when people were like this. And pain. Worlds and worlds of pain. ‘Hey there, honey,’ she said, as gently as possible, extending a hand to him. ‘My name’s Clancy. You … look a little lost …’ She paused a moment. ‘I know this place down the road a ways – they do these great chocolate malts. You look like you could use one … My treat?’
An Arthurian tale this time, originally published on Ricochet.com:
They had such strange flowers here, ‘Arthur-lies-sleeping’, what sort of name was that for a flower? And ‘Cadbury bells’ and, he sneezed past his streaming eyes, something in the hedgerows that was giving him hay fever. He never got hay fever … That must have been what made him miss the rock: He stumbled, rolling down, down into the gully into a surprisingly deep, almost little valley, hitting his head on something as he landed. Hey, who turned out the lights?
By the time he woke up, it was getting dark. He was miles from anywhere; though for some reason, he couldn’t actually remember where or even who he was, which was just stupid. Ahead of him, was a rough doorway in the side of the hill. Which was even sillier, you didn’t get doorways in the sides of hills. There was a light coming from somewhere inside this one, though, and a subtle ringing note that seemed to echo inside his head. Or maybe that was just his skull. Here went nothing …
A short vignette I wrote called ‘Midnight Hours‘, originally published on Ricochet.com:
‘Nurse! … Nurse!’ Footsteps ran towards the sound of the screaming. A door was flung open, the light from the hallway falling on the man in the bed. ‘Where’s the rest of me!’
The nurse sighed and, businesslike, stepped forward, flinging the covers back. ‘Right where I left it the last four times,’ she said. ‘I told you, the anaesthetic takes a while to wear off.’