The illustration of Junior shown above was created by the talented Miss Laura Weller. It is currently on display in Junior’s private art gallery housed on board his pirate flagship, “the Jolly Plunderer.” For more information about Laura’s inspirational artwork please visit her blog here.
Lightning flashed for it was a dark and stormy night, the brief moment of desaturated illumination revealed a chaotic vista painted in agitated strokes of despair. Imagine if you will dear reader, the fall of Rome or the sacking of Carthage and if you have a particularly vivid imagination, you will have come some way to picturing the scene of shocking disarray that greeted me as I arrived at the Dog and Duck Inn.
Never before have I witnessed such a hive of scum and villainy. Double dealing muskrats consorted with back stabbing weasels. A gang of boisterous badgers threw terrapins at a fleeing water vole. Cat, dog and fox, lemur and shrew battled in the gutter. A piano burst from an upstairs window, striking a discordant note as it landed some seconds later on a passing beaver. The night air was alive with the sound of argumentative braying, drunken howling, rancorous laughter and odious nagging, all cheerfully punctuated by musket fire.
I was drawn to this most wretched abode, by the prospect of meeting a Lion with a history and so it was that I first spied him sat at the bar resplendent in an oversize tricorn hat, smacking his first mate about the head with a bottle.
‘Call me Ishmael!’ he cried and so I was greeted by Junior the Pirate Lion as he thrust a tankard of Wallop into my paw. My whiskers bristled as I downed the sickly liquid soon followed by two fingers of Nelsons blood and a Black Strap.
‘I’ve a tale to tell you boy!’ he growled and fell off his stool.
It was a fearsome tale the likes of which this Pumas ears have never heard. Unfortunately I passed out drunk during the telling and don’t remember any of it.
May 22, 2012 17 Comments
He had left the house a long time ago it seemed and travelled far to get to the end.
At the beginning he wasn’t sure that it was even a decision that he had made himself. But where there was once satisfaction and comfort in the old place there was now remorse and a lingering sourness that permeated the pores of his skin. It had started when he had found the letters. Promises of love and adulation to another. The replies were odes to joy and love and lust not born of falsehood but built upon the keen excitement and honesty of a soul naked to truth. It was this that had stripped him of all resolve and anger. It would have been easier if there had been devilment and derision in those notes. Angst and bitterness from her would have given him some succour, some reason to rile. But there was none of that and the realisation saw all the will slip from his body leaving him with a shell like impotence. When she returned to the house she knew straight away from his demeanour and she sat in the kitchen and cried, not tears of remorse but tears of pity for him.
He had left the house that moment, knowing that there would never be anything more to say between them for all their days.
So he walked for the longest time and when it became dark he stopped and rested by a tree stump until the full moon rose high enough to light the way again and he got up and carried on. The night air was warm that time of year and the heat of the day still radiated from the tarmac road. There was a pleasantness to feeling the night move around him, through the air, the sounds and the smell that was a different world from any that he had ever known and he followed that feeling on and on until dawn.
Those first days were a blur now and he couldn’t remember how or when he had ate or drank or where he slept and rested. Fields and lanes had become as one whole. He had lost weight and his feet blistered in his shoes, the skin on the back of his neck baked in the sun and grew hard. He had stopped at times but when the light of the moon had risen above the horizon again it had dragged him on further down the road.
One day many days later he reached the town of Portland and here he stopped and watched the town go about its business. Then eventually hungry and restless he found himself at the docks amongst the fishing boats and warehouses. Here he met a man named Cody and the next day he agreed to help the man fish. The boat trips started early and finished late, the work was hard, the conditions poor and the pay meagre, but he didn’t complain. After several days he bid goodbye to Cody who asked him to stay. He shook his head and waved goodbye and that night he saw that the slenderest crescent moon had returned. He went south.
Day followed day from one week into a new one and he carried on walking. Where he came across a town he would sometimes stop and find a little work if any was going. Just to buy food and water and when he needed it he had bought new jeans and shoes. Sometimes the work wasn’t so easy to come by and he carried on walking tired and hungry. His hair grew long, his body lean and hard. He shaved and washed when he could, knowing that people didn’t like straggly strangers asking for work. But he only stayed in one place long enough to get going again. Time past without meaning and eventually he realised that he had left Maine and sailed right through New Hampshire and into Massachusetts.
Sometimes people would stop and talk to him but never for long, in Connecticut he was mugged by a group of men in a station wagon. When they saw he had nothing to take, they spat on him, beat him to the ground and when done drove on in disgust. He bathed in a river and by the time he reached New York State all the bruises and pain had gone. It didn’t seem to matter at all. The road took care of all things.
New Jersey was hard. Winter had come and his time on the road seemed to stretch out ever onward without remorse. Finding work got harder, there were more people all looking for the same easy labour. The cold and rain and snow were constant companions through the long months and only the new moon could move him on any faster.
He spent new years eve by the Potomac in a brick barn watching the snow fall across the river and there he slept for two days straight.
The bleak winter gave way to spring and he found himself before the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. There he met Corrine. She was inquisitive and thoughtful and like him she didn’t speak much, she didn’t need to. She kept her eyes and a ball of blonde hair under a straw cowboy hat. She drove the biggest pickup truck that he had ever seen and when he looked at her she would smile at him with blush lips and he felt himself melt away. Together they drove across the high passes and through deep valley’s to where the wild things were and in the lakes they swam together naked and alive in the cooling clear waters. When they made love he could see so deeply into her eyes of the brightest blue and silver that he swore to the heavens that she was a spirit. Her body was pliant and giving and he gave everything that he could return, though he knew it wasn’t all of him. He had lost too much already to be whole of a soul again.
He drove with her to the coast at Norfolk to her home town and there he got a job working the hotels. She took him into her apartment and introduced him to her friends. In those days he had felt a new person emerging from within him, one that he had never felt could exist in all his life and for the few months of the summer that followed he was content and imbued with a new sense of being. She had an old record deck that took 45 and 78 Shellac’s and he bought vinyl albums from a specialist store. They would sit curled together fingers and toes and listen to Johnny Cash and Lou Donaldson singing from years long past as they felt the sea and sunset settle over them through the open French windows riding the salt air.
Towards the end of the summer he thought he saw the pale fingers of Autumn in tall clouds to the West. That evening he saw the moon rise again and realised that the shape of its crescent light had eluded him for many months. It stirred him and lifted the night around him once more, until he could feel all the things that he had left behind so very long ago in Maine once more. He picked up his old clothes and moved on.
Corrine caught up with him at the state line.
He couldn’t tell her why. She fought him for awhile and she knew that when she asked him why, his silence was answering a question from a different lover. Tears streaked her face. The sky above seemed so vast.
“I thought I’d found you.”
Later he couldn’t remember who had said that.
North Carolina rained on him for days. Warm sodden drops that landed like water from a faucet that didn’t cleanse him. He marched for days without rest that became weeks. When the weather broke the heat of the land was that of late summer, cloying, tenacious and humid. Canyonous walls of cloud would threaten great storms, but never break the sweating air and stifling nights. He realised that like in the north (months or was it years past?) he had travelled so very far and quickly without knowing.
South Carolina and here he felt a keening for the first time. A feeling of remorseless imperative. A sense of an ending that carried his senses into a withering apoplexy until at a crossroads somewhere deep in the land, his right foot struck out of its own accord, in a defining manner and he followed with his left to what he then knew to be the way.
The road ran out of tarmac at the end of an avenue of tall dark trees. All around were low fields of grass and trees that hid the land from the world for endless mile after mile. The trees were tired oak, old roots, thick branches dark and tall, spread wide across the road bent into a high brittle canopy that cast shadows down to dapple on cool ground. At the end was a low white painted house with slatted wooden walls under a ridged roof line of adobe tile. A house built by generations long past at the end of the only road that had ever been.
And there he found himself now.
He had left the house a long time ago it seemed and travelled far to get to the end. And this house was where he had been going all along. He didn’t need to think it. The last of the road undulated into earth beneath his feet and the house reached out to him, to carry him the last few yards.
There was a woman sat on a swing chair on the porch. She was reading and the chair rocked gently too and fro. He passed through the gate at the low picket fence knowing that he didn’t need to be invited and sat down next to her. She wore her strong dark hair tied behind her head, exposing the lean muscle and tendons of her dark neck. Her pale patterned dress started below her rounded hard ebony shoulders, cutting off the swell of her firm breasts with chiffon. She spoke without looking up from her book and the smile that played across her lips ran through the air to his.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
He broke down then and cried. Deep wracking sobs that scoured his soul of all the buried emotion, brought rushing to the surface in a voluminous flood. She caught him in her strong lithe arms and held him firm, until the pain had worked itself free.
“Why here?” he asked in shock.
Her response stifled him with knowing.
“How long were you together?”
He answered as best as he could remember, because he realised that he had never thought about it before, and in that was part of the answer for all that had happened.
“So long, for someone so young,” she said and he remembered the moment they had met at a juniors party. The image flashed across his mind a shocking pastel coloured relief from years long lost. The memory seared across his consciousness so fast and vivid that he thought he might touch her again if only he could be so swift. Would it change things if he could?
“Your pain,” she said and touched him feeling it.
“Is that why I’m here?”
She stood up and unclasped her dress letting it fall to her hips where it stayed caught below the curve of her slick stomach. His eyes raced away from her naked form and then back across her taught skin to her dark wide aureole. The heat of the day was like syrup in the air.
“I’m here for you now,” she breathed and reached out to cup his face in her supple hands.
When she kissed him it was all the secret wishes of childhood come true. Innocence and care and love and the other things that matter so very much. And he knew that all that he was, and all that he had been, had happened for this moment. He had found here with her, a purity of love beyond all knowing while the moon shone high and full above them.
“Come with me.”
She dug her hand in to his, nails biting his flesh insistent and in some distant and dead corner of his memory he saw a spinning playground roundabout and a child falling from a swing, dashing his face against the biting gravel that chewed up his skin and spat out blood. In that moment his feet stopped at the threshold but the rest of his willing body carried him over into the house.
Then he saw the blood. Every inch of her skin covered in it’s hot burnished stew, and her face turned bleak and griffin like. Deep dark crimson eyes like bottomless mine shafts burning into his soul, held a malevolence that ripped and tore every sane thought from his ruptured mind. He began a scream that would last for all eternity.
When she had finished with him, she lay his body down amongst the others. There were so many of them now and they were piled on top of each other silent markers of the passage of time. Some were as old as the house itself withered to dusty bone, crumbling beneath the weight of all those above, but the basement was large and deep and there was still room for more, so many more. She returned to the porch and waited. Knowing they would continue to come by the light of the moon. On and on, forever.
July 30, 2013 Leave a comment
They had flown the land-cat walker in at low level as the battle raged above the sky’s of the dead city. Skirting the main battalion groups of both sides they had made it most of the way to their landing target unimpeded. They had feigned engine and communication problems when a solitary air wing controller had challenged them but it had been blown from the sky during the brief conversation anyway. At the landing zone they had used the cover of the derelict buildings as they guided the walker towards their ultimate destination. The raid had been perfect, no resistance, everyone had been dead for years anyway, even the vegetation hadn’t been as big an obstruction at they had imagined it might have been. In and out, grab the license codes, still valid and intact even after all these years, due to a peculiarity of the antiquated orbital registration system. Each code that granted an Earth orbit pass out was worth trillions. It had taken their processing unit only fifteen minutes to download all sixteen million codes and there associated hash algorithms that proved there validity. Terry had sent his two companions back to the walker to warm the nano reactors up, ahead of him as the transfer was finishing up. Who else could have thought to find such a treasure in this hole he smiled to himself. Knowing your history paid dividends, literally.
When he arrives back at the walker he sees the machine is powered off and quiet. Beneath the bridge where the walker stands mute Brian is standing at the edge of the muddy river and poking at the slow running stream of water with a stick. Whilst Dave is stood on a ledge in the river lighting a cigar. ‘What the hell..’ Terry drops down from the bridge and joins the two men.
Terry: ‘Hey what the hells going on?’
Brian calls back at Terry raising a hand and waving distractedly.
Brian: ‘We’re just looking for something. It’s OK.’
Dave uncrosses his arms to draw on his cigar and then stabs an accusing finger in the direction of Brian.
Dave: ‘What he means to say is that “he’s” just looking for something.’
Terry: ‘Well what? Come on guys we’ve gotta get out of here.’
Dave: ‘Yes we do. Tell that to butter fingers over there.’
Terry looks over to Brian who has now crawled on to wooden pallet his arms over the edge of the barely buoyant structure searching back and forth in the brackish river as he attempts to pull himself further out into the flow of water. A dawning realisation creeps over Terry accompanied by disbelief and a timorous fear.
Terry: ‘You dropped the keys?!’
Brian: ‘Err. Sort off.’
Terry throws his hands in the air in frustration, in the distance the sound of a large explosion rattles the ground, the sound of battle rolls across the sky each new dull thud of explosive munitions growing nearer.
Terry: ‘Damn it Brian. That is so not green.’
Dave: ‘Oh come on Terry look around you, this place is Supergreen.’
Terry: ‘That’s not funny. You know what happens if the Fragbots find us.’
Dave: ‘Sure, big-badda-boom.’
Terry: ‘Yeah that’s right smart arse, big-badda-boom. Screw the keys, call up HAL and use a memo scan, we’re leaving.’
Dave: ‘Not until we find those keys.’
Terry: ‘For why?’
Dave: ‘Because Tom Sawyer here decided to tell the land-cat to catch some Z’s until we got back on board.’
Terry: ‘What? Why? It’s a machine!’
Dave: ‘I know that. Tom Sawyer knows that, but none the less he decided to implement a sentience program.’
Terry: ‘A sentience program? It’s not capable of sentience, it’s a krudding Mk 12 for frippery’s sake.’
Dave: ‘Yup. That’s what I said and you know what came back at me?’
Terry: ‘I can imagine.’
Both men turn to look at Brian who turns around wobbling on the pallet and raises his muddy arms in the air to protest.
Brian: ‘OK so I thought it would be sweet. Haven’t you guys ever watched the Black Hole?’
Terry: ‘The old Disney movie?’
Brian: ‘Yeah that one. Well I liked Ole Bob the robot OK. I figured while I was bored with all your esoteric Hunter S.Thompson posturing crap it would be kewl to have the land-cat act like Ole Bob.’
Terry: ‘So you told it to sleep, whilst we were on a potentially existence critical snatch and grab?’
Brian: ‘No! I told it act like Ole Bob so it decided to go to sleep. So sue me.’
Terry: ‘If I’m still alive tomorrow, I will!’
Terry turns to Dave and raises an imploring hand, his face a stoney grimace.
Terry: ‘Dave we don’t need the keys, you can hack these things, I know everyone in the academy heard about you hacking a land-cat once when no one else could do it and it wasn’t BS. We have to get out of here now!’
Dave freezes with his cigar pursed in his lips and turns slowly to face Terry his eyes wide.
Dave: ‘I can’t do that Terry, not again.’
Terry: ‘Damn it Dave just do it! Now!’
Terry looks back in desperation and sees the fear in Dave’s eyes.
Dave: ‘Ok. But I’m going to need a pocket knife, a torque wrench, two rolls of cling film, a box of tampons, a large piece of Roquefort cheese, a bottle of baby oil, a tube of tomato puree, a lamp shade and the zest of two large lemons.’
Terry blanches as the words sink in and he now understands exactly what Dave had to do to hack the land-cat at the academy. No one had ever told him that that part of it was true. That was just a horrific myth made up to scare freshmen, surely?
Terry: ‘Oh good grief!’
Dave: ‘Yes exactly.’
Terry: ‘That thing?’
Terry: ‘So you were the one that…?’
Terry: ‘And that’s why you can’t … err… ?’
Dave: ‘Oh yes!’
Terry claps a hand over his mouth his eyes wide in abject horror.
Terry: ‘Oh heavens!’
The two men stare at each other mutely for a moment, each observing the others face twisted in to a grimace of fear and despair, when the casual tone of Brian’s voice breaks the silence.
Brian: ‘You do know that Tom Sawyer wasn’t the guy on the raft? It was Huckleberry Finn right?’
Terry & Dave [In Unison]: ‘JUST FIND THE DAMN KEYS!!!’
October 2, 2012 Leave a comment
This image is taken from ZypherChef’s rather wonderful Deviant Art page. It was featured on the io9 website as a concept writing prompt. Whist many responses focused on telling a story using the imagery, I chose to focus on imagining the dialogue between the two characters pictured. And this is what I came up with.
They have marched for many hours. Now far from the shattering death of the front, their magnificent spoil has become a sullen burden, a weight that increases with every tired heave. This is the hinterland where fires still burn like long candles in the night and towers of black soot ascend into the heavens around them. No aid will come to them amongst this toxic bleached wasteland, for soon enough with the night will come the uni-bombers and scourers. This is no man’s land and they must not linger.
Vassili stops and takes a long drag on the cigarette that protrudes from between his numb fingers.
Koulikov: ‘Pull Vassili! Pull!’
Vassili: ‘You want to pull, you pull. How many ropes do you have to pull on anyway? I have all of the weight of this thing.’
Koulikov: ‘I do not have your legs Vassili.’
Vassili taps his steel knee joint with the butt of his rifle.
Vassili: ‘You think this is a good thing for me?’
Koulikov does not reply.
Vassili: ‘I am tired.’
Koulikov: ‘What do you want? Maybe to put some more coal in your furnace eh?’
Koulikov stares at Vassili indignantly.
Koulikov: ‘Or maybe you want that I go back and tell the Bratslev not to bother with killing us? That would be easy now wouldn’t it.’
Vassili spits into the snow and stamps his feet in frustration.
Vassili: ‘No I do not want any more coal in my furnace.’
Vassili sighs and turns to address his companion directly.
Vassili: ‘What I want is to see my wife and children again, what I want is to go home and tend to my horses, what I want is to take off these damn legs and this bloody furnace and swim in the Corvak shallows with the sun on my shoulders and to be free from this endless madness. That is what I want Comrade Koulikov!’
Koulikov thinks about the situation in silence for a few moments. Then mutters apologetically.
Koulikov: ‘I did not know that you were married Vassili.’
Vassil draws on a cigarette and then releases a long plume of smoke up above his head and into the cool air through pursed lips.
Vassili: ‘I am not.’
Koulikov: ‘What? You want to see your wife and children but you are not married?’
Vassili nods and kicks at the frozen ground in a matter of fact manner.
Vassili: ‘There is a girl in Korvorach, is 50 mile from our village, she is very handsome. One day soon I will marry her.’
Koulikov: ‘A girl.’
Vassili: ‘Of course.’
Koulikov: ‘And you will marry this girl?’
Vassili: ‘For sure.’
Koulikov: ‘Does she know this?’
Vassili: ‘No, but I saw her milk a horse once.’
Koulikov: ‘WHAT?! …’
Koulikov drops his ropes and raises his hands in the air in exasperation, before gripping his hat tightly.
Koulikov: ‘Vassili does she even know you?’
Vassili: ‘I don’t think so…’
Vassili: ‘Well not yet.’
Vassili turns toward his companion noting the stunned expression on his comrades face.
Vassili: ‘Do you think this will be a problem?’
Koulikov stares back at Vassili in mute astonishment, before stating the obvious.
Koulikov: ‘With your legs? … Yes!’
September 18, 2012 Leave a comment
It was about half past two on a Sunday afternoon when the Aliens invaded. The shiny ovoid space ship decelerated through the Earths upper atmosphere with barely a sound as it gracefully descended towards the unsuspecting blue green world that lay beneath it.
Captain Fribble-Widget, commanding hexapod of the Star Destroyer Snafupop and noted ambassador of the Gribblesnarf species, flexed his six tentacles across the controls of his magnificent warship, the scales on his many ears vibrated with anticipation and a quiet satisfaction. Soon the Earth planet would belong to the Gribblesnarf Imperial Empire and Fribble-Widget would be proclaimed throughout the home shells as a conquering hero. continue reading »
April 10, 2012 Leave a comment
These words so painfully earned will serve in inadequacy to describe the veracity of the storm that possesses our camp. It is a pagan force whose barbed breath tears at the fissured and frozen tundra that abounds, an unearthly landscape so barren and uncaring of the needs of men. As my ears hear the rasping wail calling out across the horizons, my heart feels it’s eternal torpor. The sound of tempest and squall, a barbaric tone that reaches inside the cowed aspect of our expedition tent. Our timorous structure a squat resident in isolation, encompassed and bore upon by the unrelenting vigour of that white fury. Ever encroaching and unwaning this noise of barberry reaches into the souls of us dour men and constricts us each in our own personal misery. continue reading »
April 10, 2012 Leave a comment