Weekend Wind Down – Bedtime Story

These caverns had been mines in the past, long before even he had arrived, but mined out to the last dregs and scavenged over since. Finds were not common now. Once the people here would have brought him all they found and he could have paid them well for the finding, but now he had so little left to offer. It was getting hard to find enough to trade for their basic needs. So this had been a truly generous gift. He blinked and tried to recall who had brought it.
A face floated out of memory. The father of the present child. Dark-haired, burly, bearded, violent. Yris could not remember ever hearing his name mentioned but assumed he had one.
“Yuh ca’ have this,” he had said and dropped the nugget onto the workbench as if it was just a pebble. Yris could not recall what happened then, he had been thinking of his sanity and the time had turned.
He hoped he had thanked the man, it would have been remiss to forget something like that for a gift so precious. He held the nugget, gleaming black-silver and tried to decide how best to use it.
Unlike the things he had to deconstruct to make them of use, this was different. This he could mould to his will, shape it to fit where he needed. He pondered creating an alloy, wondering if that might eke out the precious properties or merely dilute them. Sometimes his own ignorance was his worst enemy.
He sighed and opened a tray on the refiner. Whatever he did with it, he would need to be sure it was free from impurities. He closed the tray again, but nothing happened.
“It might help if you turned it on first.”
He looked up to see a young woman standing there, one he had not noticed before amongst the students, interns and technicians. He wondered which she was and why she thought she had any right to speak to him unasked. Bright light streamed through the windows set high in the walls and caught the blue-black shades in her hair. Yris realized he was frowning at her. He shifted his augmented vision and turned the refiner on, then looked back to the woman – no, girl. She was so young. But then they all looked so young. It was sometimes hard to credit their knowledge and intelligence when they looked like children. She stood a little awkwardly now as if whatever courage that had inspired her to speak had renounced its hold and abandoned her.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
“I think I might be your sanity,” she said, “I get the impression someone needs to do that job.”
He nodded and felt the frown lifting from his face.
“I was not aware there was a vacancy – until just now. But the job is yours and we will see how it goes.”
She smiled as the refiner whirred on.
Yris focused his attention to the data it was providing.  He was irritated that his link seemed to have gone down and he was left reading the details from the visual display on the device itself. He turned back to ask his new assistant to find him a functioning link-device. She was not there, neither was the lab, the sunlight had gone and there was only the bleak, dimly lit cavern. For a moment, he was lost and disoriented, then he remembered. The bleakness without, distilled within.

It was later, much later, when he was sitting with the child teaching it to read, that he recalled her name. The child was rapt, small head bent over the handheld hard-screen. Yris could only see the top of its head, tousled black hair- but the same shade as its father’s, not the rich shimmering blue-black of its… what? Great-great-grandmother?
The small face looked up because Yris had stopped reading.
“Stos tha’, Gran’pa.” The dark eyes glared at him in accusation.
“Stop what?”
“Stos the dreamin’. I wanna story,” the child said, frowning.
“You can read most of the story yourself.”
It was true, this one was very bright.
“Yeah, bu’ I like you readin’ it, Gran’pa.”
Yris had to smile at that and then he realized the small face smiling back had turquoise eyes, not brown, squeezed up as she giggled.
They were sitting in the park, a child had come running up chasing a creature no one else could see, playing a game in augmented vision.  She swiped at something in the air between them.
“Got it!”
Yris watched her run off already obsessed by the next intangible she needed to track down.
“She knows,” Soraya said, as the child danced away over the sunlit grass. “She called me to account for my activities this last cycle.”
The pit of his stomach tightened and he looked at the woman sitting beside him, unsmiling. Her face was haunted by shadows of sadness and fear, beneath the sweep of blue-black hair. He reached out and gripped the two slender hands resting in her lap.
“Then we will have to go. I won’t lose you.”
“But -”
“But nothing. It is time to make a stand. My sister has dictated the course of my life long enough. I will not have her destroy the one thing that makes me truly happy.”
The shadows lifted from her face for a moment, and the smile was as sweet as life itself.
“She will not let us go easily.”
“I know. I’ve known her a long time. A very long time, more than four times as long again as you have been alive. So you must trust me when I say I know how to deal with her.”
The blue-black hair swung as Soraya turned her face away, watching the child running after her private ghosts. For a moment, Yris envied that unknown child, her freedom and potential had yet to be curtailed by life.
“I don’t know,” Soraya’s voice came from behind the veil of her hair. “I’m not sure we get to live happily ever after.”
“No ‘ever after’ is happy forever.”
It got dark as he spoke. The air was no longer crisp and fresh, but brackish and still. Shadows flickered from the weak lights.
“But ‘tsa story, Gran’pa. It says so – so they did.” The small dark eyes looked up at him from a face wearing a defiant expression. “Wha’s a tree?”
Yris shook his head. It would not help the child to know.
“Just something in the story,” he said. Then trying to distract the child: “You read it all yourself, that is very good.”
For a moment, the dark eyes seemed to study him as if doubting his words, then the small face smiled.
“You need to come for sleep time.” The child’s mother stood by the entrance. It was hard to know which of them she was addressing. The child of course, but Yris was tired. Recently, he found his sleep times more often matched the child’s than its parents.
He remained there, sitting with the story open, staring at its cheerful pictures of chubby clouds and a smiling sun painted across a pink-blue sky. Of course, he had many images and even VRruns of the real thing, but somehow these designs captured more of the essence of them. Someone had thought what the essential concept was for ‘cloud’, ‘sky’, ‘sun’, what symbolic place each held in the human psyche, and had created these images to project that sense of ‘sky-ness’ or ‘cloud-ness’.

From Toungeless Caverns a Fortune’s Fools story by E.M. Swift-Hook in the anthology Tales From The Underground published by Inklings Press

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Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Eighty-Five

 Blue’s human often called him ‘old stoopid’, but Blue didn’t mind. He knew himself loved.

It was cold in the park, that day, and they were running to get home when Blue smelled a fun game happening in the woods.

He careered off, with his human swearing in his wake. 

“Blue, c’mere you eejit…”

But Blue was on the scent, and there was no stopping. When he saw the man and the girl rolling on the ground he jumped on the guy’s back barking happily. 

And that’s how big, daft Blue became the hero who caught the Central Park Rapist.

©️jj 2019

The song of the fledgling vamp

When a moon hits your eye and your teeth increase size
That’s a problem
When you burn in the sun like an over-fried bun
That’s a bitch
Skin will creep, and your eyes will weep, even in your sleep
And you’ll howl like a canine
And your nails will grow faster, than you know
While you’re still feeling fine
Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Transyll-V
That’s the undead

When you lay in the mud with a craving for blood
That’s a sure sign
When you eye up your mum have designs on your chums
That’s a blow
When you wake in a casket not breathing or dead, you will know
Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Transyll-V
That’s a vampire

©jj

Madam Pendulica’s Indispensable Guide to the Ideal Animal Companion for Each Zodiacal House

The Working Title crew bring you the exclusive opportunity to enjoy more wisdom from the mysteriously enigmatic Madam Pendulica...

Aries 

This sign is a sucker for furry and cuddly, but not too keen on walkies. Aries has an affinity with long-haired cats and King Charles Spaniels.

Note: Do not ever take an Aries to an animal shelter. They will adopt the lot

Taurus

Perhaps surprisingly, given the lumbering nature of the sign, the ideal animal companion is something small and intensely portable. Give a bull a gerbil and they will be ecstatic.

Note: Do not expect a Taurus to put itself out for a pet that requires a lot of care and/or exercise.

Gemini

This sign swings both ways petwise. A Gemini will be happy with either a tarantula or a kitten. Nothing in between.

Note: The two-faced twins will deeply confuse dogs and are inimical to horses.

Cancer

The crab enjoys canine company of the large and drooling sort. Or goldfish.

Note: Good at dressage, especially all the going sideways bits.

Leo

What could the king of the jungle require as a pet? A Siamese cat? An elegant elkhound? An Arab steed? No. None of these. Leo gravitates towards beekeeping.

Note: Should your Leo require an indoor pet, stick insects are usefully easy to care for.

Virgo

Buy a Virgo a bunny rabbit and they will be happy forever. Or if they want a walking companion, the stars suggest a yellow Labrador – for preference one with attitude.

Note: Do not expect Virgo to deal with animal sexuality. They don’t.

Libra

The balanced nature of the Libran is made complete by pets that can be kept as pairs. Lovebirds are an obvious choice.

Note: Do not buy your Libra lover a tortoise. They will forget them during hibernation.

Scorpio

The snarkily poisonous nature of this sign is uniquely suited to the keeping of snakes, or parrots with a vocabulary of obscenities.

Note: Don’t buy a Scorpio a puppy, they will encourage it to bite people.

Sagittarius

The half-horse Sagittarius really bonds with horses, ponies, or hamsters.

Note: If a dog is needed, the Irish Wolfhound is nearly as big as a small pony.

Capricorn

Surprisingly, Capricorn does not get on with goats. They are best suited to being owned by scruffy terriers that fart a lot.

Note: Capricorn and cats is a combustible combination. There has not been a Capricorn born that won’t irritate cats enough to get their face ripped off.

Aquarius

Aquarians like fish. Both to eat and to look at. Feed them battered cod and buy then an indoor aquarium wherein they can watch brightly coloured swimmers.

Note: Aquarius will not tolerate any pet that wants to sleep with them. 

Pisces

Pisceans do not get on with fish. They are, on the other hand, deeply enamoured of guineapigs and whippets.

Note: Do not buy a Piscean a bunny rabbit. They will eat it.

Madame Pendulica predicts she will return...

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Eighty-Four

She was the most mysterious woman of her generation. They called her La Belle Dame Sans Mercy, and fell at her feet like ninepins.

But nobody knew her real name and nobody guessed from whence she came. It was as if Venus had been born anew and floated into the city on an incoming tide.

For twenty years she moved from billionaire to billionaire, fulfilling their needs while quietly feathering her own nest.

Then one day she was gone. Back to the village whose houses scrambled down to the sea. And to the man who had waited all those years…

©️jj 2019

Coffee Break Read – Amal and Chin-Cha

This is the opening of Bolded Hearts, a fantasy short by Jane Jago.

The fog came down suddenly: sleek and white and thick and cold. It felt like being draped in a clammy cobweb, and it became impossible to hear one’s own footsteps on the grassy pathway. If it wasn’t for the feel of the warm fur of the great dog who paced majestically at her side Amal would perhaps have been afraid. But she had walked worse than this with Chin-Cha as companion and protector. She wove her fingers into his great ruff of grey and silver hair, leaning on his strong presence as she had been able to do for so many years. Chin-Cha, she thought, the love of my life and my biggest single regret. She knew that the great dog now pacing at her side was a shape changer trapped in his present form by a powerful bear witch, who had then ensorcelled him to the service of a six-year-old girl. That child had grown up to be Amal the healer and witch-woman. A woman who loved her protector with every fibre of her being but would rather die than burden him with the knowledge of that love.
As the fog grew even denser, a voice spoke in her ear, it was woody and breathy, and sounded like a poorly tuned wind instrument.
“People ahead. Hiding. Ill intentioned. Those who have been hunting you since harvest moon Yuri thinks.”
Yuri was a frost imp and trusted friend. Amal put up a hand as if to touch him, and he blew on her fingers. Surprising warmth.
“How many?”
“I will see” and the sense of his presence was gone.

Chin-Cha pressed himself against her leg, silently urging her off the path. She allowed herself to be guided to the rough trunk of a big tree. He pushed her thigh with his nose, indicating that she should climb. Doing as she was bid Amal soon found herself on a wide branch beside a sheltering hole in the trunk. Wrapping herself in the blanket from her pack she crept into the very heart of the tree. She could no longer see her companion, but had the reassurance of his spirit as he hunkered down in the brownish bracken. Then he was coming towards her. Fast. She felt him bunch his muscles and erupted out onto her branch. He made a prodigious leap and she grasped his harness to steady him. They both crawled into the tree cave and huddled together for warmth and comfort.

It was not long before Amal got the sense of Yuri’s presence. She was about to speak when a small icy hand was placed on her lips.
“They are here” the woody windy little voice whispered, seeming to come from right inside her head. “Be still and silent and listen.”

At first Amal heard nothing, then she made out the sound of laboured breathing. There was a noise as if a heavy boot hit flesh.
“Where is the woman, tracker?” a harsh voice demanded.
“She came this way. She can’t be far. But I can no longer feel her presence. It must be the fog.”
“You had better not be lying to me. Gopal get the hounds. They will track her dog, and the old woman said that once we kill it the witch woman will lose her magic.”

You can keep reading here…

 

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Eighty-Three

Ruffryd married Marianna for political expediency, then rode off to war and more or less forgot her. He came home occasionally, between campaigns, to find his home well run – plus a couple of unexplainable children.

But he asked no awkward questions.

In the summer of his fortieth year he was captured by the veiled ones, who put out his eyes before sending him back to his royal master.

The king sent him home with a drunkard and an idiot to smooth his passage.

But they got there, and Marianna read to him every night of the rest of his life. 

©️jj 2019

Coffee Break Read -The Night Bus

The midnight bus across town. Nobody’s idea of fun. But beggars can’t be choosers and without her job Louise would have been a literal beggar as well as a metaphorical one. Accordingly, five nights a week found her crouched in a corner of the upper deck making herself as small and inconspicuous as possible.

Fridays were the worst. At the end of the week it was all an exhausted Louise could do to endure the scent of vomit and the sting of routine abuse from drunks and tired whores.

This particular Friday, the bus was full to groaning and she was squashed in next to a huge woman with pendulous breasts and galloping halitosis. Five youths in hoodies erupted up the stairs brandishing knives. Louise’s companion screamed before throwing herself to the ground and rolling around as if in a fit. The would-be steamers stared
“Woss wrong wiv ‘er?”
One stepped in for a closer look and the jerking woman set her teeth in his calf, gnawing on him as if he were a chicken drumstick. He screamed and dropped his knife, too shocked to even kick out at her. His mates stared round-eyed.
“I’d watch that if I was you,” Louise ventured. “She probably has rabies.”
They turned and ran, falling over each other in their haste to be elsewhere.

The fat woman sat up and winked at Louise.
“Well done, love. I usually has to bite at least two…”

© jane Jago 2017

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Eighty-Two

They bound her and threw her into one of their foul-smelling skin tents from where she heard the moment when the minstrel’s glorious voice broke under their torturer’s hands. She swore to have vengeance, as tears of rage and pity, streaked her dirty cheeks.

When they dragged her to her feet she thought herself about to die, but instead she was herded into another tent where a tattooed giant ordered them to unbind her.

He was arrogant, that would-be rapist, and she sunk her teeth into his jugular, dying her own death in a pool of his blood.

©️jj 2019

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