Believing in Fairies

In a world where for some people reality is too painful to bear and dreams are as fragile as eggshells, Mia was happy to float between the two. Her world was one of waking dreams.

‘I dream with my eyes open’, she said to the doctor, who was rapidly making notes and tutting a great deal. ‘I walk with fairy folk and elves and creatures from beyond the stars.’

‘I’m sure you do Mia, I’m sure you do.’ The doctor was putting away his notebook and closing his brown leather bag. ‘I’ll give some more sleeping tablets, but only for a few days. They are addictive you know.’
…..

Back at the surgery, Doctor Williams shook his head and spoke to his secretary in a quiet voice so as not be overheard by the usual plethora of sulky kids with buttons up their noses, pensioners who faked illness just so they could have someone to talk to and pregnant women having their blood checked for anaemia.

‘She really believes everything she says, that poor girl. I’d love to get to the bottom of what it is that is keeping her in this floating reality…something traumatic that she won’t face,’ he said.

‘Drugs I expect,’ Julia Fisher replied, ‘She’s on something. Has to be.’

‘Definitely not, I’ve examined her, talked to her, there are no track marks down her arms, I’m sure she doesn’t smoke marijuana, she’s not suicidal. No there’s something else. Something I need to get to the bottom of. Maybe I should regress her….’

‘Then she’ll tell you she was Joan of Arc or Cleopatra in a previous life or some such nonsense.’ Julia was always dismissive of anything slightly spiritual or scientifically doubtful.

‘Not that kind of regression. Not to a ‘previous life’ as you call it. Just to her childhood so we can find out what is hidden there.’

‘A couple of bodies, I expect. She probably murdered her parents and hid them in the cellar.’

‘Now who’s the fantasist?’ Dr Williams laughed.
…..
Mia’s eyes are lightly shut but she is not asleep. ‘They don’t believe in you anymore,’ she says aloud. ‘But it’s no matter. I see you. Like little stars you shine for me and only for me. You sparkle in the night sky and fall to the ground one by one in tiny gossamer droplets of light.’

‘Help us,’ I hear you say. ‘If they stop believing in us, we’ll vanish forever.’

‘I love you,’ she replies. ‘I love you as if you were my own children.’ And the world is shining around her and there are tears in her eyes.

‘I’ll help you, I promise. Trust me.’
…..

‘Everything that has ever happened in your life, Mia, is stored deep in your unconscious mind. Your conscious mind, however, may block these memories because they are too painful. This can give rise to mental illness and emotional disturbances. But I’m here to help you.

‘I am going to take you back to your early childhood.

‘Your eyes are closed and your eyelids are starting to relax. In a few moments, I will count rapidly from ten to one and with each number, your relaxation will increase. 10… 9… 8… Stored deeply in your unconscious mind are memories of other times and other places. 7… 6… 5… Soon you will be able to retrieve those memories and recount them…4… 3… 2… 1.

Then a strange thing happened. He realised that Mia was floating about two feet above the couch. She was surrounded by twinkling lights of silver and gold. They circled her body and then began to circle his head. Round and round they went. They played games like an aerial hide and seek, up and down they flew, now left, now right. They were making him dizzy.

‘Free us,’ they said. ‘Help us….believe…’

He remembered his conversation with Mia only the other day. ‘I walk with fairy folk and elves and creatures from beyond the stars,’ she had told him.

He hadn’t believed her. ‘It’s just a dream, a nightmare or even a hallucination,’ he had told her. But here they were all around him. And he was talking to them.

‘How can I help you?’ he asked them.

‘By believing in Mia,’ they replied.

‘I believe,’ he said and in an instant another believer had been converted and he knew that his life would never be the same.

Saving the roses – a sestina for the environment

If the world ends life will hang in the balance
Ended by ignorance, famine and greed,
To return to love is like climbing a mountain
Pricking ones fingers and hands on roses
In the dark, your path lit only by a lantern,
I can help you, I am music, listen.

I woke up this morning and began to listen
To the music of the birds singing in balance
With nature, the sun rising like a lantern,
So pretty, yet clouded by systems of greed,
Birds’ feathers like the petals of pale roses
Flutter down the side of the mountain.

I will climb to the top of the mountain
And stand at the peak in the stillness and listen,
I am music and I can hear the petals of the roses
Flutter down and the birds create the balance
Between the love and the hate and the greed
And in the darkness shines the lantern.

Out of the darkness shines a lantern
And the people are climbing the mountain,
Leaving behind the famine and greed
And asking for mercy, they want to listen.
They know they upset the perfect balance
I am music, I’ll play out with the roses.

Stripped to the skin and pricked by roses
They walk up the mountain lit by a lantern.
The path is narrow and it’s hard to balance
The love and the hate on the side of the mountain,
The music once played but no-one would listen
And now there is only the loss and the greed.

It’s not too late if we punish the greed
And follow the music which saves the roses,
The birds and the trees ask you to listen,
They light up the dark with their pale lantern
And reach for the skies from the top of the mountain.
I am music, I am silence, I am balance.

The balance is fine between love and greed,
From the top of the mountain I can see the roses
Still lit by the lantern and hoping you’ll listen.

Extract from The Sweet Smell of Lilies

The following is an extract from a short story called The Sweet Smell of Lilies. Phoebe is fanciful teenage with a very over-active imagination. She sees murder and intrigue wherever she goes, even in the most innocent situations. But nothing is as strange as the eventual outcome of the story. The story is written from the POV of Phoebe herself, using her voice.

But before I carry on, I had better tell you a bit about me. My name is Phoebe and I am going to be a renowned crime writer, like Agatha Christie or Dorothy L Sayers. I am working on my first novel right now.

I was born in the Cotswolds, eighteen years and eleven months ago, the only daughter of Marion and James Partridge. We were an ordinary family, just like any other with a cat, two dogs and a goldfish. Then suddenly, when I was almost five, my father vanished. I barely remember him now. He was also a spy like my uncle. One day he went on a secret trip to the city, but he never came back. No-one ever saw him again, not even my mother. He was kidnapped by the Russians. They tortured him for days on end, using thumbscrews and other instruments of medieval torture. They shone bright lights in his eyes and stuck matchsticks under his fingernails. He never talked of course. He was such a brave man….

‘Phoebe,’ my mother would say, ‘Don’t tell such stories. You know it’s not true. Your father was not a spy. He’s just another missing person now.’

Extract from A Ghost Story

This is a short passage from my work in progress. It’s a ghost story which is split into the present and extracts from a part written novel. The writer died at the same time as the main protagonist, Emily, was born. This is taken from the novel which Emily is reading from an old manuscript given to her earlier. The child also called Emily is the heroine of the novel and is trapped and frightened. She is remembering something that happened when she was very young. I have had to take a few bits out to fall within the word count.

…A faint wailing was coming from the well and was carried on the wind as if the fairies were taking its breath and sucking it away. Her mother ran to the well and called, ‘Is there anyone there?’

It was four hours before the fire brigade pulled him out, a small boy, wet, bedraggled, lifeless. He had fallen halfway and clung to a branch for as long as he could. The well was only about 15 foot deep they said.

‘But if you dropped a stone you couldn’t hear it when it hit the water, it was so deep?’ her mother asked.

‘Just an old wives tale,’ they muttered, ‘just an old wives tale.’

Emily cried for the boy for the first time in ten years. She remembered when they brought him out. She remembered the wet hair and the dirty face and his little battered and bruised arms hanging by his sides.

The fireman was crying. ‘I’m so sorry,’ was all he could say.

Emily sobbed. She sobbed for the boy and his parents and for her own mother, who she couldn’t find.

‘Where are you mummy?’ and she sobbed for herself, alone and afraid of the dark.

The Indulgence

This is for the next Storycraft flash fiction challenge. Tell a story in 300-500 words of dialogue. Tags and action description are okay, but no exposition!

The Indulgence

‘How long have you been dead?’ asked the angel, not even looking up once at the pretty young woman sitting across the desk in front of him.
‘About 30 years,’ she replied. ‘I am not sure. Time moves slowly when you have nothing to do.’
‘Do you miss your children? Your family?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘I can’t remember. Did I have any? Children that is, I must have had a family of some sort. Is this a job interview?’
‘Some might call it that. Personally I would call it an “indulgence”.’ The angel dipped his pen in a bottle of Quink and continued scratching shapes on the page.
‘Have I been good? Is that why you are “indulging” me?’
‘It’s not about good or bad,’ he replied, ‘it’s just your time.’
‘30 years? Is that my time?’ She fidgeted nervously.
‘Yes,’ said the angel, never even glancing at this small, slight woman who was twitching and rubbing her hands together. Anyone with a modicum of compassion would have appreciated how she felt. But not him…
‘Am I still pretty?’ She asked.
‘I wouldn’t know,’ he replied. ‘That’s not my department. You need to ask someone from the Department of Girlfriends, Models and Attention Seekers, or DoGMAS for short.’
‘Why? Do they keep all our pictures in the attic? Do they age and we don’t, like Dorian Gray?’
‘Gray? Dorian? Oh yes, accidental death by poisoning? No, no, he was the one in the boat, when the engine caught….’
‘Forget it,’ she said, ‘It’s a book, by Oscar Wilde.’
‘Ah, so you remember that.’
‘A little, from school….Did my children die with me?’ She asked.
‘Who’s conducting the interview?’ The angel swore under his breath as his nib split and ink splattered across the page.
‘Sorry, I need to know.’
‘You don’t have any.’
‘But you said….’
‘I was just testing. But you had a cat called Tabitha. She’s dead too, of course, natural causes. Old age, but then she’d be 42 if she was still alive.’ He chuckled, as if he had cracked a really good joke.
It wasn’t that funny, she thought. Poor Tabitha, not that she remembered her. The angel stood up, picked up his pen, wiping it methodically with a piece of cloth, followed by his ink and his paper, placed them neatly in a small leather bag and began to walk away.
‘My indulgence, you haven’t told me what it is.’
‘Tomorrow,’ he replied, ‘we’ll have another session and I will tell you then. In the meantime, try and remember what your father did for a living, who your friends were or what school you went to, or anything useful. Goodbye.’ And he was gone.

Paint me

This is for the flash fiction challenge set by Storycraft fiction writing chat. Subject is POV of an inanimate object – in this case an angry garden gnome:

Paint me

Please paint me! My lovely red hat is all faded and chipped from the harsh winter frost and even my fishing rod is broken on the end. All through December the pond was frozen and now my feet are like brass monkeys. Were my boots blue or black? I can’t remember and they are so muddy, look at them!

I wanted to go to that poncy flower show at Kew Gardens this summer, but they said gnomes aren’t allowed in. Not posh enough? Not posh enough for toffs like that new prime minister or Judith Chalmers.

Oh yes! We keep up with politics and such. Just because we sit out here all day watching the world go by and scratching our arses doesn’t mean we ain’t educated. I can name all the capital cities of South America. Brasilia – that’s the capital of Brazil – thought you’d catch me out didn’t you. Peru – that’s Lima, Venezuela – that’s….er…I’m BORED NOW!!

Where is everyone? Paint me you lazy gits! I want to go to the flower show and have a good laugh when the punters turn their noses up. Hee hee. I want to fly round the world and see the Great Wall of China. I could sit on it like frigging Humpty Dumpty. You could steal me and send me off and I could end up in the newspapers: ‘Garden gnome disappears and returns with photo album from exotic places’. Might even make the One Show. Corrr…I love that Christine thingy. Don’t like the other one though. Miserable so and so.

What’s that noise? Sounds like a car. No it’s the lawn mower. Hooray! Means my lot are coming out here at last. Look out lads! Look sharp! Time for a new coat. Might even get a slurp of Carlsberg after the barbeque. Roll on summer – it’s party time.

Outlandish Tales of Folklore

Apologies for having posted the first three before, albeit ages ago, but I wanted to keep them altogether somewhere.

A sonnet is a 14 line lyrical poem traditionally written about beauty, unrequited love, romance, faith, death etc. Contemporary sonnets use modern language but the subject matter is often the same or similar. These attempt to break the mould, hopefully.

As they are a sequence, I thought it would be fun and challenging to link them. I used something similar to the film technique of ‘leitmotifs’ which are described as ‘poetic images that repeat like refrains in each strand’. This linkage can be seen in the 3rd line of each poem which is always ‘captures (kidnaps, snatches etc) babies in the night’.

Outlandish Tales of Folklore

A sequence of sonnets

Cooking with Elves

Around the campfire they sit and
Squabble, the Dark Elves, the Svartálfar,
Who capture babies in the night,
While slumbering peacefully in their beds
Tangling their hair in elflocks
They squeal with horrid delight,
Throw them in… Throw them in…
No beauty here, just the sharp pain of fright.

So before you sprinkle Buckthorn in a circle
And dance wildly under the full moon,
Think wisely if you cry before he flees
Dark Elf! Halt and grant my boon!
And wish not for help or harm
Or harm will harm you soon.

The Curse of Baba Jaga

Where are the servants? Don’t ask or
She’ll kill you, Baba Jaga, of the forest
Who kidnaps babies in the night.
The cat… The dog… The tree… The gate…
Her invisible servants, silent like the riders,
I am Day, says one, all dressed in white,
Who comes in red? I am the Sun,
Then dressed in black, I am the Night.

She’s coming now, look out, look out,
Sweeping their hoof-tracks with her broom.
The wailing wind begins to blow
While trees around her moan and groan
And shrieking spirits follow in her wake,
Leading you flailing to your doom

Hansel and Gretel

Deep in the forest, two children cry alone,
Finding a friend; a witch, a fiendish hag
Who snatches babies in the night,
Fattens them… Cooks them… Eats them…
Oh Hansel, Gretel, be afraid and run,
Hide in the bushes, stay out of sight.
Too thin, too thin, I like them fat,
The witch-hag cries with sheer delight.

Gretel, now her servant, fetches sweets
To force feed Hansel, trapped alone.
She’s coming now, the witch, she squeals
Be he fat or lean , I’ll eat him soon
But it’s too late, in the oven she goes
The children flee and the tale is done.

The Faerie Queen

Made from children’s laughs and squeals
She skips and flutters high above
While stealing babies in the night
And changelings substitute in their place
The faerie queen with faerie dust
Will disappear when it gets light
Shape-shifting now as if a ghost
Taking the dead with her in fright

Oh faerie queen with angel wings
And charms which magic potions soon
From sage and rowan, herbs and spice
Will stir her magic ‘neath the moon.
So if you think this faerie kind, just
Think again, she’ll cast your doom.

The Hag of the Mist

With filthy hair and stark black eyes
She stalks her victim through the fog
And snatches spirits in the night
And death to he who hears her cries
Calling his name she laughs and wails
He hears her call and dies of fright
And not a jot cares who you be
The banshee screams with sheer delight

So if you hear your name out loud
You cannot hide from what comes soon
The ugly hag has found you out
She calls your name, what’s done is done
You catch a glimpse, a second split
She’ll drag you down and down alone

A Christmas Haiku

What will happen when
Christmas ends. Will the New Year
Be any better?

The Man Behind the Masquerade

In 1979, the artist Kit Williams published a book called Masquerade in which Britain became a giant treasure map and the book was actually a riddle which readers had to solve in order to find and win the treasure. The first person to do so won a ‘golden hare’, which was buried in the earth somewhere. Masquerade proved so popular that the hysteria which followed drove Williams underground, where he has continued to create complex and beautiful art, but refuses to publicly exhibit. In his first interview in two decades, Kit tells his story before and after Masquerade.

However, here in Cheltenham, in the heart of the Costwolds, we have a piece of Kit Williams. It’s a clock in the centre of the Regent Arcade, which he designed. Poeple have come for miles over the years to see the famous Wishing Fish Clock. Over 45 feet tall, the clock features a duck that lays a never-ending stream of golden eggs and includes a family of mice that are continually trying to evade a snake sitting on top of the clock. Hanging from the base of the clock is a large wooden fish that blows bubbles every half hour while playing the song I’m for ever blowing bubbles. Catching one of these bubbles entitles you to make a wish, hence the name of the clock. Originally it was on the hour only – if anyone thinks this is wrong please let me know.

The Man Behind the Masquerade was shown on BBC Four tonight but you can catch it on iPlayer.

Mad about celebrity?

Are you interested in celebrities and their lives? Probably not if you are reading this blog.

However, I have another blog about celebrities and fashion. Very different from this one. Hope you enjoy it!
Go to www.madaboutcelebrity.co.uk

Running out of Haikus

I’ve been posting my Haikus on www.TwiHaiku.com.
Trouble is I’ve posted them all so I’ve run out.
What to do next?
I guess I’ll have to write some more.
Maybe I’ll write a Haiku about running out of Haikus.

No more haikus

Whatever happened to all the Haikus
They watched their time burn
No more Haikus any more

With thanks to The Stranglers

Finally a decision

I’ve been sitting on my story Miss Havisham’s Ghost for over two (or even three) months, unable to go anywhere with it, so I decided the best thing to do was to give up. Not give up on writing the story but on trying to combine the two stories into one.

I have done this – bring in something autobiographical – before in a story and one of my friends thought the real person I was talking about was the grown up version of the child in the story. It hadn’t occurred to me that anyone would, but I thought if that story was confusing then this one would be even more so! So this morning I split them up.

And now I have two stories – each one almost 4,000 words. One is a traditional (so far) ghost story without a title, while the other is mainly autobiographical. All I need to do is progress the ghost story without the added complication of weaving in the other. The challenges of course, remain the same as ever!