Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract: Necromancer’s Cage

Johnathan left the building and strode to the end of the street, trying to stay as casual as though he was just out for a midday stroll. Unfortunately, he’d forgotten it was still winter and the snow had now turned to ice. His feet skidded out from under him, causing him to walk with his arms splayed out for balance. When he reached the corner where the Bandits and Winkit were indeed waiting, he found Jasmine and Samuel in fits of giggles.

‘What happened to you?’ Jasmine asked, making Johnathan feel terribly self-conscious. ‘You look as though you were attacked by a violent dishcloth while attempting to dress yourself in the dark.’ She took out a small compact from the pockets of her thick coat and opened it up so he could see his reflection in its small mirror.

His face, where he’d scrubbed it quickly, was covered in red blotches and the buttons on his shirt were all done up wrong. He saw his face redden even more with embarrassment before she finally shut the compact again.

Poetry

Tillandsia and Cyanea

Today I saw the purple fairy

caress the garden’s pink tongue.

She summoned her sister

and together they danced

among the long waterfall of grass

sweeping across the lands.

 

And then they vanished,

leaving only the fallen dust

of their violet wings.

 

I waited, my wonder

still clouding my eyes,

and I saw the ground

around the dust erupt,

sprouting forth twin pups.

Poetry

The Stasis of Soft-scaled Wings

Hanging around beneath the canopy,

your long, green dreadlocks

dangle in the air,

sucking the moisture away from the world.

As you drink, I see the life

return to your slender body,

the colour of your skin

ripens once more

and you rise up,

reaching for humid skies.

Your soft fingers remind me

of silver-white moths

floating on the breeze towards

the light splashing down

from the stars.

Poetry

The Feasting of the Pitcher

Dive into my belly,

you quick-footed buzzing fool.

Let me trap you

among my garden of dead.

No more flitting from

place to place, never

content to rest for more than a day.

Leaving only trails of disease

behind, why would they ever appreciate you?

Let me drown you,

so that your dull hum is finally

silenced.

No-one will mourn you,

but I promise to stand forever

as your monument.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract: The Door Between Worlds

They turned a corner and found themselves in a street full of stalls of every kind and colour, stretching as far as they could see. There was a black stall with yellow stripes to their right, selling honey and beeswax candles, and to their left was one which was deep purple, selling various creams and powders. One of them was called ‘Anti-Wart Cream’ and was advertised as being perfect for witches who wanted to avoid looking evil.

As he read the label, a woman with a greenish tinge to her skin and six extremely large warts on her chin came up to the stall and looked at the powders and creams with interest. The vendor, a tall, stout woman, smiled at her.

‘Ah, Baltinda! It’s good to see you again. How’s the anti-evil cream coming along?’ she asked.

‘Well, as you can see, my skin is gradually fading back to its natural colour now. I can’t believe I was involved with that coven for so long that my skin turned green! I only went there for a laugh, I never thought I’d start becoming a wicked witch like the rest of them,’ the green-tinged woman replied.

‘Ah, you can’t help things like that. Wicked witches are very clever at deceiving good witches. I think Wilhelmina is the only good witch I’ve ever known not to be lured by their charms.’

‘Oh, don’t talk to me about Wilhelmina. She’s so full of good spirits that it makes me sick,’ the woman spat in disgust. Ramble noticed that her green skin darkened slightly as she spoke.

‘Now there’s no need to upset yourself, Baltinda. Here, have some more anti-evil cream,’ the vendor said, handing her a large jar of it.

‘Thank you,’ the witch said, taking it quickly and spreading some on her cheeks. The green diluted within seconds. ‘I know I shouldn’t carry on, but have you heard that she’s made friends with Ramble now that he’s come back?’

‘No, I haven’t. What’s she up to then, I wonder? I knew that she’d met him several times before, but they were never very—’

The vendor stopped as she caught sight of Ramble looking over the witch’s shoulder. Seeing her stare, the witch turned around. She let out a small cry and stepped back, knocking several packets off the stall. Ramble bent down and picked them up, handing her one of them.

‘Here,’ he said. ‘I believe you need this one.’

The witch looked down at the packet he’d given her. It was the Anti-Wart cream. ‘I—’ she began, but before she could say anymore, he gave a curt wave and turned away to merge with the crowd.

Poetry

The Dragon Tree

On a rock

far out in the ocean, sits

a tree.

Its trunk is

sturdy, like the

very rock itself.

And for good reason.

Instead of lush, flowing leaves adorning delicate branches that drift

to and fro

in the wind,

there are dragons.

Small, scaled balls of energy

with wings.

Their span is but a foot,

but the underside of those mighty beaters

shimmers like a plate of

mother-of-pearl.

Gripping the branches with

wrinkled, long-clawed toes,

the dragons feast on

tangy sap, ready to

take to the evening sky

for their task of catching the smokey, iridescent tears

of the moon

to fertilize the tree’s hungry roots.

 

Short Stories

Turn Around

The sound of footsteps rouses me from my sleep, heeled shoes running along the hall. My clock reads three in the morning. Obviously, she’s just got back from one of her parties.

It’s unusual for her to go straight to Rich’s room, though. Usually she needs to vomit or sober herself up first. I can’t complain, my room is right next to the bathroom, and if she’s missing out that particular ritual tonight, that’s fine with me.
I hear his bedroom door open with a bang. There’s a startled cry, followed by raised voices. I can’t help it, I have to go and look. I slip the covers off my legs and slide out of bed, making no noise as I tread on the soft carpet. My door creaks as I open it but I doubt they can hear anything above the racket they’re making.

I carry on along the hall, reaching the door to the master room and resting my ear against it. The tapestry on the wall flutters. I start, but realise it’s just a breeze. I turn my attention back to the door.

‘Don’t give me that rubbish, Richard, I know you’ve been sleeping with her!’ Michelle slurs. I bend down to look through the keyhole and see her standing just in front of his bed. Her make-up is smudged and her short green dress has a dark stain on it, probably red wine.

‘Sleeping with her?  Don’t be ridiculous, she’s my brother’s widow!’ he says from somewhere beyond my limited view. By the mini bar, I’d guess.

‘That never stopped you before. I know you had a thing for one of your cousins.’

‘Michelle, please, we were children, and she was a very distant cousin anyway.  Believe me, there’s no other woman in my life more important to me than you. Haven’t I proved that several times over?’

‘Oh yes, you buy me jewellery and clothes and ship me off on expensive spa weekends, but that’s not love, is it?’

‘What more do you want? You know I work all week, and on weekends I see you as much as I can.’

There’s silence while Michelle ponders his words. I can almost see the thoughts trying to swim through her befuddled mind and come to a sensible conclusion, but then she screws up her face and lets out a nausea inducing wail. Again, the tapestry next to me quivers. I examine it, wondering if her astounding vocal talents are causing some kind of tremor effect, but then the tapestry is still.

‘You liar! You don’t need to work at all, you own two companies! They bring in all your money,’ Michelle says, at last stopping her awful noise.

Now I know it’s wrong to judge someone’s intelligence on a single sentence, especially when they’re so plastered it’s a wonder they can even talk at all, but good god, woman, have you no concept of running a business at all?

‘Companies need to be maintained, my dear. I can’t just hire someone else to oversee how they’re run, that’s how things go wrong.  Indeed, that’s how I managed to buy them out in the first place.’

‘Well, you could at least cut down your hours, instead of spending all your spare time with her.’

Mentioning me, again? Where had she got that idea?  As Rich said earlier, I’m his brother’s widow. Now that Jon’s gone, I have no other family apart from my brother Markus, who’s employed here as Rich’s butler anyway, and since I was already familiar with the house and grounds, Rich asked if I’d like to live here too. It’s true I like him, but not in any sort of romantic way.  I see him as another brother, nothing more.

‘Listen to me, Michelle. What makes you think I’m having an affair – with Jody, too?’

‘I’ve seen the way you look at her, the secret smiles, the twinkle in your eyes. Oh yes, I’ve noticed. I also found one of your shirts smelling of that sickly sweet perfume she wears.’

‘I can explain that. The shirt had a hole in it, and you were busy, so I asked her if she could mend it for me. As for those so called secret smiles, you know perfectly well that Jody and I are good friends and we share lots of jokes about how similar I am to Jon.’

I can hear the sorrow in his voice as he mentions his brother. Jon’s death was so sudden it cut both our hearts to pieces. It’s scarcely a year since his funeral, and Rich is the only one who I can share my pain with. How does Michelle expect us to act, when we each need to be consoled by the other?

‘You really expect me to believe that this is all because of Jon? Get over it, Rich, he’s dead. I’m not, so pay attention to me!’

Something made of glass shatters on the floor, I see shards of it skitter towards Michelle’s feet. Her jaw is hanging slack in shock. Rich must have smashed a bottle. How he stopped himself from throwing it at her after that remark, I’m not sure. I certainly wouldn’t have held back. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that I know barging in would only make things worse, I’d have punched her already.

‘Get out.’

With those two words, Rich projects enough authority to make even Michelle obey. She scuttles towards the door quicker than I can move out the way, but as it opens a pair of slender arms grab me and pull me behind the tapestry. Michelle stampedes past without any idea I was ever there.

I turn in the darkness, sensing that I’m in some kind of narrow corridor. Someone’s standing close to me. I catch a whiff of spiced aftershave. ‘Markus?’

‘Who else would it be, little sis?’ he replies, lighting a candle so that I can see his clean-shaven face. He nods to the surrounding area. ‘Being a butler does have its privileges. You get to know about all the secret passages in an old manor house like this.’

‘What are you doing here this late? Or early, I should say,’ I ask, remembering the time.

‘Same as you. I was curious about what was going on with those two. I never expected her to go that far, though,’ he says. ‘Breakfast tomorrow should prove to be interesting.’
Breakfast is indeed proving to be interesting. We’re all seated together in the dining room while Markus, dutiful as ever and with no indication that he has any idea of what went on last night, brings our food.

Michelle looks ill, but that isn’t enough to stop her giving me filthy looks. Rich, in his seat at the head of the table, catches her in the act and dryly announces how fine the weather is today. I cast my gaze out the window; it’s grey and stormy.

Abruptly, Michelle stands up and takes out a cigarette from the silver case she always keeps on her person. She lights it, and taking a deep drag, walks around the table to stand beside me and exhales the lot in my face. I cough and waft it away with the newspaper.

‘Is there something you want to say to me?’ I ask, getting up too. I hold my hand up to silence Rich as he starts to say something. I know I shouldn’t react to her childish behaviour, but frankly, after what she said last night, I’m ready to have my say.

‘You could put it that way, yes. I know what you’ve been up to with my husband.’

‘Really? Then perhaps you should tell me so that I can know too.’

She sneers. ‘He’s having an affair with you.’

I snort. ‘An affair? How original. When did this supposed affair take place?’

‘Don’t play innocent with me, Jody. Your perfume is all over his shirt, and ever since you got here he’s been distant from me.’

‘Michelle, when I came here Jon had just died. Rich was in pain just like me. Of course he’s been distant. As for his shirt, it’s just like he told you last night, I mended it for him.’ Okay, that last part wasn’t wise.

‘You were listening? How dare you eavesdrop on us! I bet you had your ear to the door listening to every word we said. You must have been hoping that I’d split up with him so you could move in like the snake you are and have him all to yourself!’

‘Michelle,’ I say in a pained voice, ‘for the last time, there is nothing going on between myself and Rich. Believe me.’

‘Believe you? Why should I? You think I’m an idiot, nothing more than white trash. You’re so bad at hiding it that I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone knows how you feel about me.’

‘Alright, it’s true that you’re not the type of person I can like easily, but I’ve never thought of you as trash.’ Though I do think she’s and idiot. I try my best to get on with you, but you certainly make it difficult when you go around accusing me of everything. Last week it was spilling paint on your new carpet, and now this.’
‘Jody, you are one patronising b—‘

‘Michelle, will you keep your mouth shut and listen for a change? Jody-and-I-are-not-having-an-affair-!’ Rich interjects, speaking through clenched teeth.

‘You’re wasting your breath, Rich,’ I say.

‘You’re both lying,’ Michelle hisses, proving my point.

‘Why would we lie to you?’ I say.

‘Why? Why? Because you think I’m just some silly tart and Richard just thinks I want his money, so stop insisting that there’s nothing going on between you two and own up. I’ve seen you walking around the grounds together, arm in arm—’

‘They’re not lying, Michelle. You’re just so paranoid that you’re seeing things that aren’t there.
She whips round to see Markus standing by the door with a tray of tea. His knuckles are white; he’s gripping the tray hard. I frown. He’s angry. Markus never gets angry.

‘What would you know?’ Michelle spits at him.

‘Jody would never do such a thing. She’s still in love with Jon, even if he is dead. However, seeing as you’re so bent at wanting to accuse someone, perhaps you should accuse me.’

I notice the colour drain from Rich’s face. What’s going on here?

‘Markus, perhaps you should just serve the tea and let me handle this,’ Rich says quietly.

‘Oh, no,’ Michelle says. ‘I want to know what he means by that.’

‘I mean what I said. Maybe you should accuse me of having an affair with Rich. After all, it’s true. He’s just too shy to admit it,’ Markus says bluntly.

Well, that’s a surprise. I also feel like a lousy sister. Markus knows so much about me, and I thought I knew everything about him. Yet I had no idea he was gay. How could something as important as this have slipped by me?

I do know this, though: Markus has always had great timing. The horror on Michelle’s face at her sudden revelation will stick with us for years, and I think even Rich was glad when she left the manor barely ten minutes later with her suitcase fully packed.

Honestly, how he ever ended up with her in the first place I’ll never know. At least now he and Markus can actually be happy. And, for the first time since Jon died, I think I can be too.

Uncategorized

Green things

I’ve always liked plants, not just pretty flowers but trees and shrubs too. I find them very peaceful to be around – probably because they never talk back or complain. They just take their little piece of earth and sun and combine them to grow into curious shapes and sizes, sipping here and there at the rain and shying away from frost and snow. They inspire me a lot in my work, but I never really realised how much until someone pointed out that I have a forest or wood in nearly all of my books. After thinking about it for a while, I then discovered that the woods, forest and even singular plants  featured in my books have a direct impact on the story – they’re used as a meeting place for characters, or they have special powers of healing and communication, they’re home to a whole race of people…I think you get the point.

Anyway, the point I think I’m trying to make is that our interests, however small, always seem to take root in our work, and that, in turn, can re-spark our interests when they dull over time. So, for me, it’s important to look over old works when I’m feeling uninspired, so that the things that inspired me then can inspire me again.