Friday, August 25, 2017

Once Upon A Time - The Final Chapter

Photo by Helen
PARTS: 1    2    3    4

Wasyl Waring-Wynd walked across the floor, his old bones creaked with every step he took. His jotting desk hung from his neck by a leather strap. The wooden panel lay flat against his chest, while its bottom edge rested on his waist. In his right hand he carried a quill and in his left a pot of ink. He hoped whatever it was the King wanted him to scribe, wouldn’t take very long. I have a cheese sandwich and a mug of cider waiting for me, he thought. No consideration. Oh no, don’t mind that it’s my lunch break.
He stopped in front of the King. “Sire, you sent for me?” 
“Master Wynd, do you know what a Writing Prompt is?”
“A Writing Prompt Sire?”
“Yes, that’s what I said. You write, don’t you? Therefore you should know.”
“Know Sire?” All Wasyl could think about was his sandwich. A nice blob of that fruit chutney cook sent up would go well, he thought as he licked his lips and stared blankly at Boroff.
“What a Writing Prompt is!”
“Just a moment, Sire. Here hold this.” Wasyl shoved the ink pot into Boroff’s hand. Boroff, somewhat surprised, scowled at the little man, as he watched him turned the wheel that sat on the side of his jotting desk. The wood panel cranked itself downwards until it was lying horizontally from his body. Wasyl looked up at the King and grabbed the ink pot. Placing it down on his board, he stuck the quill in it. His gnarled hand reached into the deep folds of his rough robe and pulled out a small book.
“What’s that?” said Boroff, growing more impatient by the minute.
“This Sire, is what is called a Word-mean-ary. Something I thought up. Quite clever don’t you think? I’ve been adding to it for years.”
“Get on with it man!” Boroff tapped his foot against the cold stone of the floor. His cheeks, growing redder by the second, made him looked like he might explode any moment.
“Psst, psst, Wiz,” said the dragon. 
The Wizard glanced towards the table, then back at the King. Boroff, preoccupied with the Scribe and his book, didn’t noticed the dragon. Magico sidled up to the table.
“What do you want?” he whispered.
“I can’t see a thing from here. Prop me up, there’s a good fellow.”
“All right, but make sure you keep quiet. The King is not in a good mood.”
“As if I would cause any trouble. You certainly know how to hurt a chap’s feelings.”
Magico narrowed his eyes. “Now look here knocker, behave or I’ll put you back in my pocket.”
“Don’t get excited. I promise. I’d cross my heart if I had one and some hands to do it with. There, believe me now?” The knocker gave him a toothy grin.
Magico closed the weighty tome that sat to the side of the knocker and propped the dragon up against it. He walked back over to Boroff. 
The Scribe, book opened, searched down the page. “There are many words in my Word-mean-ary, Sire. I’m sure I’ve seen prompt in here somewhere.” He licked his finger and held it in readiness to turn the page but as he did, his thoughts turned once more to the cheese and chutney sandwich, and his finger remained static above the book. 
Boroff glowered at him, then snapped his fingers. “Wake up. Get on with it before I part your head from your shoulders!”
Wasyl jumped back to the present with a jolt as the vision of his sandwich disappeared at the mention of the loss of his head. “Ah yes, here it is. Prompt: to stimulate, encourage, nudge, inspire.”
“Tell me what a Writing Prompt is, and hurry up about it.”
“That’s easy Sire. It’s writing something that is encouraging, or stimulating. To whom do you want me to scribe such a thing?”
“To the Writer of course.”
“Have you not noticed the dark sky? Or how everything is changing? Apparently the Writer is upset and needs a Writing Prompt to cure it, or life as we know it is finished.”
“Who is this Writer?”
“It’s who created us, so the Wizard here tells me.” Boroff jerked his head in Magico’s direction.
“Yes, Scribe. The Writer has created all that we know. But it’s suffering from something called Writer’s Block and only a Writing Prompt can cure it.”
“I see,” said the Scribe. “Perhaps you need to have me write something encouraging like, The Writer’s a jolly good fellow, or everything you do is wonderful. These are encouraging words.”
“But will that work? Is it enough?” Boroff turned to Magico.
 The Wizard shrugged but said nothing.
“I say,” said the dragon.
Boroff swung around. “What is it?”
“I told you to be quiet,” said Magico. “I’ll put him in my pocket Sire. That’ll shut him up.” The Wizard marched over to the table and grasped the knocker.
“I wouldn’t do that if I was you.” The dragon puffed out a cloud of smoke that drifted up into the Wizard’s nose. 
Magico coughed and spluttered. “And why not?” he said shaking the knocker. 
“I kno-o-ow wha-a-a t a Writi-i-i-ng Prompt really is.” 
Magico ceased jiggling the knocker up and down.
“I’ve been listening, and I know what to do. I told you dragons were clever.” 
“Let him speak.” Boroff pushed the Wizard aside and glared at the knocker. “Spit it out then.”
“The Writer,” began the dragon, “creates and a prompt is something that one does to inspire or nudge. Therefore a Writing Prompt is an idea that may inspire the Writer to continue creating. All you have to do is come up with an idea that stimulates the Writer and everything will he hunky dory again.”
“Hmm.” Boroff hated to admit it, but the knocker had found the solution. “We need an idea. Wizard have you got one?”
“Emm.” Magico racked his brains, but all he could think of was pictures of dancing girls he’d seen in a magazine he found hidden in old Maduf’s wardrobe the day he visited him. “How about a room full of dancing girls Sire.”
“Dancing girls,” repeated Boroff. As he turned this idea over in his mind, he liked it more and more. “Scribe what do you say?”
“A cheese and chutney sandwich Sire.”
“Ninkinpoop!” Boroff rubbed his chin and paced up and down. “I have it. Scribe, write this.” The Scribe took out a small square of parchment, dipped the quill and held it ready. Boroff started to dictate. “King Boroff sat upon his throne while a hoard of the prettiest girls appeared in flimsy attire before him and danced the dance of the seven veils. It was a sight to behold.”
“Some chance,” muttered the dragon.
“I’ve scribed that Sire. What shall I do with it?” He held out the parchment.
“We need to send it up to the Writer of course. Here Wizard, magic that up and make sure you do it right.”
“Sire.” Magico took hold of the parchment and folding it up, strolled over to the window. He tried to hide his shaking hands.
“I could puff it up,” said the dragon, “if Wiz there fails.”
Magico ignored the knocker, leaned out of the window and started to mumble the spell. Light sparks danced around the piece of paper until it drifted from his hand skywards. Magico kept up the incantation, his voice becoming louder with each repetition. The parchment floated up and up until it vanished behind the dark clouds that crowded the sky.
For a moment, the shaft of light shimmered. The King joined Magico at the window and stuck his head out to look.
“It’s working, it’s working.” Boroff rubbed his hands together. I wonder when the girls will appear? he thought, as he pulled his head back in and turned around. He took two steps forward. His head started to twist in one direction, his torso in another and his legs in the same direction as his head. “Arrrg,” he cried as he tottered forward, well not forwards so much as sidewards, backwards, all over the place really.
“My, that’s a crick in the neck if ever I saw one?” The knocker laughed.
Magico on hearing the Kings cries, swung around. “Sire.” He ran forwards, (well not ran, but did his best to imitate running. His legs, just didn’t seem to do anything but amble) to his aid, but Boroff was twisting and falling all over the place.
A gust of wind blew through the window and with it came the parchment, all twisted up. The dragon observed it as it glided to the floor. “It appears the Writer didn’t like that idea of yours Kingsy. I say, you look like one of those court jesters dancing around like that.”
Magico picked up the parchment and unravelled it. As he did, so the King also unravelled. 
“Who did that to me? I’ll have him flogged and quartered, then hung and, and, oh I’ll think of something.” 
“The Writer, Sire. It didn’t like your suggestion.”
“But you did look funny. Do you have a court Jester?” enquired the dragon.
“Jester?” Boroff, somewhat flustered, took a moment to consider the question. “No, I do not. Such fools.”
At that moment, the shaft of light expanded and filled the throne room to fall upon the King like a spotlight. His robes melted away, and for a split second he stood naked as the day he was created. On his head appeared a red and white striped hat with a bobble and some bells. His body become clothed in a tight fitting garment. That too was striped red and white and in his hand he held a pig’s bladder, from which bells also hung.
“Sire?” said the Wizard, staring at the King.
The light now stretched over to the the table and illuminated the dragon knocker. It grew so bright, that Magico, Boroff and the Scribe had to hide their eyes. When it faded again and they open them. They gasped.
“I say, I like this.” The knocker now had a body and around its shoulders was draped a red velvet cloak. Upon its head sat a golden crown. It glanced over its shoulder towards the throne. That too had become enlarged, well large enough to seat a dragon. The dragon smiled. 
Through the window, the twittering of birds could be heard. Magico moved towards the opening and looked up. The dark clouds had diminished and in the clear blue sky were instead, white fluffy ones. He continued to look at them twisting and swaying to a rhythm that was all their own. Magico watched as the clouds drifted together to form words. 
He glanced at the King now in jester’s clothing and the dragon dressed as a King. The Writer knows a fool when he sees one, and one that has the ability to be wise. Magico smiled as he read the words in the clouds ‘Chapter Two - The Dragon King.’ “A new chapter begins,” he whispered.

~ The End ~

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Once Upon A Time Part 4

Photo & words by Helen 
PARTS:  1     2    3  5

“The Wizard,” announced the Page.
“And drag…,” said the dragon as Magico pressed his hand tight against his pocket to muffle its voice.
King Boroff climbed down from his throne and toddled towards Magico. “Well, what have you discovered?”
“Sire.” Keeping his hand pressed hard against the door knocker concealed within his robe, he bowed. “I have ascertained some interesting facts in this book.” 
Boroff stared at the Wizard. “What happened to your beard?” He looked at the scrappy remains that hung in ragged spikes from the Wizard’s chin.
“Oh this?” said Magico, trying to sound casual and lifting his hand to stroke what was once his best accessory. “A fashion change Sire. It’s all the rage now. I think they call it punk.”
“I did that.” The dragon stuck its head out of the hole. “If you like it, I could arrange to do the same for you. It would be no trouble, no trouble at all. I could become a fashion designer for the Kingsy here.”
“Who or what is that?” said Boroff pointing at the head protruding from the Wizard’s pocket.
“I’m his door knocker. Although I feel I should be more. Very nice to meet you Kingsy.” He huffed out a cloud of smoke that formed itself into a heart then melted into the atmosphere.
“Forgive me Sire. It’s not behaving as it should and it wanted to come. So I thought, why not?”
“Hmph,” said Boroff. “You’d better keep control of it if you know what’s good for you. Now tell me what you have found.”
“I say,” said the dragon. 
 Magico shoved a finger into its mouth, causing it to cough and splutter. Steamy tendrils of smoke curled out of his pocket and reached towards the roof. The dragon formed his eyes into thin slits and clamped down its teeth on the offending digit.
“Ow owww,” yelled the Wizard, wrenching his hand away shaking it. The dragon, pulled through the hole, still clamped on, was shaken up and down until he fell with a clang to the floor.  Magico looked at his throbbing finger and glared at the knocker. 
 King Boroff looked down at the knocker lying at his feet. “Listen knocker, if you don’t keep silent I will separate your head from your…”
“Exactly,” said the dragon. “All I have is a head, more’s the pity.”
“I’ll send you to the furnace then, melt you down,” said Boroff trying not to be outdone by a door appendage. “How’d you like that?!” He crossed his arms and glowered at the dragon.
“Is that supposed to scare me? I am fire. If you don’t believe me, I’m quite happy to demonstrate.” The dragon puckered up its lips and made ready.
 The King held up a hand. “Be quiet while I talk to your master.”
“Pfft. He’s not my master.”
Boroff, not wanting to look a fool and admit that the knocker might have got the better of him, stared at Magico. 
“Sire, I do apologise.”
“Tell me what’s in the book.” Boroff ambled over to the table that was set away from the wall and to the side the window. “Bring it over it then.” He turned and walked to the oval opening, and leaned out to look once more at the threatening black clouds. 
 Magico picked up the knocker. 
“Watch your tongue, unless you want us both executed,” he hissed. 
The dragon smiled. Magico sighed as he moved towards the table and laid down the heavy tome. He placed the dragon to the side of the book and proceeded to open it at the page he had marked. He joined the King at the window.
“It tells Sire, that the Writer needs to be encouraged. It indicates that the Writer lives to create and if it’s not creating, it feels dead inside. Hence what it already has created, stagnates until it is no more.”
Boroff turned to face the Wizard. “I’ve never heard such poppy cock. Supposing I had to be encouraged, where would we be then? That’s what makes me a King. I know how to rule.”
A deep rumble rolled across the sky, and the inky clouds grew one more shade of black. Boroff glanced nervously over his shoulder.
“What is one suppose to do to encourage this Writer?”
“It likes Writing Prompts,” said the dragon.
“What’s that?” Boroff looked at the dragon then back at the Wizard.
“We’re not sure Sire, but if you look out the window, you’ll see a small shaft of light. That appeared when, ahem, my beard had its accident.”
“Oh for goodness sake. He means when I set fire to it. It seemed to like it, the Writer I mean.” The knocker tittered.
“The Writer better like something else. We can’t have you setting fire to things, just to cheer up the Writer. Whatever next!”
“Shame,” whispered the dragon. 
“Sire, the Ancients apparently cured the Writer once with a Writing Prompt, but it doesn’t say exactly what it is.”
“I have a Scribe. Perhaps he will know. His job is writing. Page, fetch me my Scribe.”
The Page bowed and left the room. 
 Boroff and Magico stood together by the window gazing up at the sky while they waited for the Page to return. The dragon, easily bored, blew smoke rings into the air and then tried to wipe them out with a burst of fire, but succeeded in only igniting the tapestry that hung against the wall. He blew short puffs of air onto the flames, poo, poo, poo, poo, in an effort to put them out, but they just became a raging inferno.
“I say.”
The King and Wizard ignored him.
“Ahem, I say, you two.”
“What is it?” barked the King, without turning his head.
“Fire. The wall’s on fire!”
Boroff and Magico swung around to see the bright orange flames licking their way through the tapestry.
“Put it out, put it out,” said Boroff, waving his hands in the air.
“With what Sire?” 
Magico’s eyes swept the room and caught sight of the King’s cloak draped across the back of his throne. He rushed, well rushed in his head, his feet and legs were more like a slow motion replay, grabbed the garment and returned. 
The King, jumping up and down, was still yelling at the top of his voice, “Put it out!”
Magico swung the cloak again and again at the wall hanging till it too was burning nicely, and so was his hat.
“Look what you’ve done to my royal ermine! Off with his head!”
The Wizard, legs moving faster than they had for the last day, danced around furiously patting his hat. 
“How about some water, that would do it.” The dragon sniggered, enjoying the floor show. 
Both Magico and Boroff stopped leaping about and looked at the dragon. Something clunked down on the floor behind them. They  turned around. There stood a huge bucket of water. The King and the Wizard looked at it, then at the dragon, then at the wall and together grabbed the pail and heaved its contents towards the tapestry. Water splashed over the fiery hanging and some splattered back onto Magico’s hat. The air filled with sizzling and fizzling as steam rose from the tattered remains on the wall and from the Wizard’s hat.
“Where did that come from?” said the King looking suspiciously at the door knocker.
“Don’t look at me. I only suggested the obvious.” The dragon felt extremely pleased with himself.
Boroff glared at the Wizard.
“I didn’t do it Sire.” Magico took off his hat to inspect the damage, but it was only singed around the edges. He placed it back on his head and hoped his head would remain on his shoulders.
From the window came a glow of bright light. 
“Look Sire,” said Magico pointing towards it. 
Together they approached the window, stuck their heads outside and looked up. The ominous clouds still hung in the sky, but the shaft of light had widened and glowed just a little brighter than before.
“What does this mean?” said Boroff pulling his head back in.
“Mean Sire?”
“Yes you dim wit, mean. What does it mean? And how did that bucket of water appear?”
“It had to be the Writer Sire. Who else could it be?”
“Is this what is called a Writing Prompt? Setting fire to my valuable wall hanging?”
“I don’t know Sire. But the Writer seemed to like it, just like when my beard caught fire.”
“I say, perhaps it’s me this Writer likes.” The dragon puffed out a cloud of smoke in the shape of a crown.
“Shut up!” said Magico and Boroff together.
The Page appeared at the door. “The Scribe Sire.”

“At last,” said Boroff. ‘Now we might just find out what this Writing Prompt is meant to be.”

To be continued....

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Once Upon A Time Part 3

 Magico made his way across the town square. In the market the people had almost come to a standstill, their movements so slow, that he had to stare at them to catch the slightest action. The sky above was growing darker by the minute, all except that one shaft of light; a ray of hope that all was not lost. He needed to be quicker, and he cursed his old legs. 
Over to one side he caught sight of a group of small boys playing. They moved at a sedated speed, but still faster than him. He called out to one of them.
“Tommy Tebbetts, come here.”
The boy looked up and hurried over. 
“I want you to go as quick as you can to the Library Tower.” Magico jerked his head in its direction. “Tell Reuben Rymer that I sent you. That I want the last ancient records book and that you are to bring it to me.”
“What’s in it for me?” Tommy stood defiant, hands on hips.
“I’m a Wizard. You want me to turn you into a toad?” Magico waved a hand and a burst of sparks leapt from his fingers.
The boy jumped back. “No Sir. I was only joking.”
“Hurry up then and bring me that book and I’ll think twice about turning you into that toad.” He kept a serious face as he observed the fear in the boy’s eyes.
Magico settled himself down on a nearby seat to wait for the boy’s return. He wondered why The Writer was behaving like this, and what cure there could be for Writer’s Block. He only hoped if there was one, he could find it before it was too late. 
It wasn’t long before the boy returned, book in hand. He held it out towards the Wizard.
“Well done. Off you go.” Magico waved him away and set off on the path home.
 He placed a key into the lock, twisted it and the door whined open.
“You’ve been gone an age.” The dragon open its eyes, yawned and puffed out a haze of sooty smoke.
“Watch out! You’ll make my robes filthy.” 
“Hah, that’s a laugh, or hadn’t you noticed that your robes are already black ?” The dragon stretched forward from its mount and sniffed Magico’s sleeve.
“That’s the colour, they’re not dirty you stupid knocker.”
“Who are you calling stupid?” A lick of flames danced around the dragon’s lips. “I’d be careful if I was you.”
“I think I preferred you when you were just a plain knocker.” Magico stepped inside the door.
“Wait a minute! I’ve never been plain. You’re not leaving me out here are you?”
“Where else would I leave you?.” Magico raised an eyebrow as he glanced back at the knocker.
“Take me with you, pleeeeeze. It’s so boring out here.”
“I have important matters to see to. I need to find a solution to those black clouds up there,” Magico pointed upwards, “before we’re all done for.”
The dragon directed its gaze towards the sky. “I could help. dragons have a long history of being clever, especially ones that can talk.”
Magico considered the knocker. It does seem on the ball, and I could do with all the help I can get. What harm can it do? “All right but you are to speak only when spoken to. Understand?”
“Oh perfectly, right ‘o.” The dragon sniggered to himself as Magico lifted him off his mounting and carried him inside.
Magico placed the dragon’s head knocker and the heavy tome on the table and went to fetch himself a drink. The dragon lying on the back of his head looked up at the roof, then tried to follow Magico’s movements with his eyes. But soon he became quite dizzy with the effort.
The Wizard returned with a pitcher and goblet which he placed beside the book. He pulled out a chair, sat down and poured himself a glass of wine. Opening the weighty volume, he started to scan the pages while supping his drink.
“I say,” said the dragon forcing his eyes in Magico’s direction, which gave him the weirdest look. “I could do with a drink too you know.”
“A drink? Don’t be daft, you have no body. Where do you think the liquid would go?” Magico stared as the brass knocker and tutted. “Anyway, I thought I told you not to speak unless spoken to.”
“Hah!” A wisp of smoke trailed from the dragon’s nostils to wind its way up towards the ceiling. “You’re speaking to me now, aren’t you? Besides where the liquid would go is my worry, not yours.” 
 Magico put down his cup with bang. “And what do you think you’d like to drink?” 
“I’ll have what you’re having.”
“Very well.” Magico grabbed the goblet and held it above the mouth of the dragon. The dragon’s eyes lit up and a smile spread across its lips. The dragon open its mouth: Magico began to pour. So excited it was at getting its first drink, it couldn’t help itself and flames danced upon its tongue as the wine splashed down. Whoosh! A jet of fire sprang out like a blow torch. The heat was so intense, it flamb├ęd Magico’s beard.
“Argggh!” Magico dropped the goblet and jumped up and down, flapping his beard with his hands, which only served to make it burn faster. He rushed to the sink, pumped out some water and stuck his head beneath it. Sizzling filled the air as he raised his head in a cloud of steamy vapour. 
“You stupid dragon! I should toss you out.” He grabbed the knocker, marched to the door and flung it open. 
“One little mistake and it’s the chop. Not very patient are you?”
“What do you expect. You set my beautiful beard on fire.” Magico grasped the frazzled remains of his whiskers and waved them at the knocker.
“I think I’ve done you a favour. It’ll be so much easier to look after now that it doesn’t come down to your knees.”
The Wizard was just about to place the knocker on its mount, when he looked up towards the sky. The dark clouds had parted a fraction and there was a sparkle in the shaft of light. The Writer sees everything, he thought. Perhaps what just happened was of interest to him? 
“Look,” said Magico holding the knocker up. “The sky has cleared a little.”
“Oh yes, it does look a bit less gloomy.”
“I wonder?…” But Magico didn’t finish the sentence. Instead, he stepped back inside with the door knocker still in hand.
“You’re not leaving me out there? Thank you, thank you.”
“Be quiet while I wade through this information.” 
The Wizard placed the knocker back on the table and sat down. He turned page after page of the records book, searching for something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. The dragon, bored, puffed smoke rings up into the air. They continued in this fashion, the Wizard reading, the dragon puffing out various smoke shapes, for a long time, until the Wizard clicked his tongue, as his finger traced the words on the page.
“By jove, I think I’ve found it!”
“Thank goodness.” The dragon sucked in a trail of wispy fumes and coughed. “I was beginning to think it was more exciting hanging on that door of yours. Pray do tell what you’ve discovered.”
Magico glanced at the knocker, then back down at the page and began to read: ’The Writer is a sensitive creature. It needs to be nurtured, encouraged and supported if it’s to continue creating.’
“Sounds like a sissy to me.”
“Shush. The Writer will hear you.” Magico continued to read.
Written on a stone somewhere in the past it was noted that the Writer can suffer from Writer’s Block. If not cured all that its created will cease to be. The Ancients were said to have cured it only once with something called A Writing Prompt.’
“A Writing Prompt? What’s that?”
“It doesn’t say. But the Writer seemed to like what happened in here with my beard. Perhaps that is something like a Writing Prompt?”
“Well, I could set fire to your hair if you’d like. It’s no problem you know.” The dragon puffed and smoke billowed out of its nose.
Magico held up a hand. “No, that will not be necessary. But I do need to tell the King what I’ve found. Perhaps he will have some ideas.”
“Oh goody, we’re off to see the King. I’ve always wanted to see one of those.” The dragon rattled and shook with delight at the thought.
Magico peered at the knocker. Is it safe to take him? he wondered. Only one way to find out I suppose. He picked up the book. Slipping the knocker into his pocket, he headed out the door and back towards the palace.
“I say,” said the dragon in a muffled voice. “It’s awfully dark in here. Could you not carry me in your hand? I’d love to do some site seeing.”
“You’re much safer in here.”Magico smiled and tapped his pocket.
“I want to see what’s going on. Hey Wizard, do you hear me?” 
Magico ignored him. 
The dragon took a deep breath, pursed his lips into the shape of an ‘O’ and blew out a stream of fire, burning a perfect sized hole through the pocket. “That’s better. Where there’s a will there’s a way.” The dragon grinned as he looked out of his new window.

“Hmm,” said Magico looking at his smouldering pocket. “What next?” He continued to march towards the palace. His legs now stiffer than ever, he forced himself onwards. Had he made a mistake bringing the knocker with him? 

To be continued....

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Once Upon A Time - Part 2

Part 1: HERE
Part 3: HERE

“ The Wizard.” The Page stood aside to let the him enter.
“At your service, Sire.” Magico bowed, his hat toppled from his head and rolled with a clatter across the floor. 
 “Have you seen the sky?” said the King, as he kicked the hat out of his way.
“The sky?”
“Yes, the sky. Look.” 
He walked to the window, Magico followed. They peered upwards at the dark motionless clouds, then at the people below who were hardly moving now. 
“What do you make of it?”
Magico considered the black drifting clumps that, little by little, were cutting out the light. He stepped away from the window. “There is something I remember which I read in the ancient record books kept in the library tower. Tell me Sire, have you noticed how things have not been working the way they should today? Even my door knocker is misbehaving. ”
“Well,yes. At breakfast this morning I cracked open my egg and the yolk flew away. Of course, I ordered the cook to be flogged. What good’s an egg without a yolk? What is it you remember? Speak man! Do you know what the dark clouds mean?”
“I think I do,Sire.”
“Something is troubling the Creator.”
“Creator? What Creator? I’m the authority here in this land.”
“That you are Sire, but according to the records, the Creator created the land, the town and the people.”
“Including me?”
“We all exist because of the Creator.”
“Does this Creator have a name?”
“They say it is called, The Writer.”
“And the dark clouds, what do they mean?”
“I believe they’re called Writer’s Block.”
“What’s this Writer’s Block mean?” King Boroff started to pace up and down, but as he did his legs kept getting stuck in the air giving the impression of goose stepping. 
Magico stared at him, trying to fight an urge to salute. “Sire, you’re walking funny.”
Boroff stopped in mid step, leg dangling halfway between the roof and floor as if held by a string. He looked at his suspended limb, then at the Wizard. “Well don’t stand there. Help me.”
 “Sire.” Magico placed his hands on the King’s leg and pushed. The offending limb shot down, and the King shot forward head first into the cushion on his throne. The Page standing by the door, covered his mouth to stifle a laugh, for he knew if he was heard, he may never laugh again. The Wizard glanced at the boy and placed a finger to his lips then turned back towards the King.
Boroff untangled himself from the throne. His crown had fallen over his eyes and his mouth was set in a downward turn. “Somebody will lose their head for this!” He tried a few tentative steps, before marching back across the room, landing an angry kick on the Wizard’s hat as he passed it, sending it sliding across the floor to arrive at the Page’s feet. “My legs took on a life of their own. What happened? No one controls my legs but me!”
“Sire, I fear it’s the Writer.”
“The Writer?”
“It’s changing things.”
“If the Writer thinks it’s going to mess with me, it’s got another think coming,” Boroff’s cheeks became redder as his temper grew.
A loud crack echoed from outside the window. The King and Wizard attempted to rush towards it, but amble was all they were able to do. They leaned out and looked up. The clouds had grown darker, but there was a gap where a small shaft of light was shining through.
“Sire, if those clouds completely cover the sky, we will cease to be.”
“Work some magic. You’re a Wizard aren’t you.” Magico looked at Boroff. “Well, what are you waiting for?” snapped the King.
Magico leaned out the window and waved hands as he started to chant. Flashes darted from his fingers like bolts of lightening. Then a flare, a BANG! and a whole lot of smoke. Boroff and the Wizard coughed and spluttered as they waved away the cloudy vapour to reveal a fat hen pecking around their feet.
“Call yourself a Wizard, bah.” Boroff kicked the chicken, which sent it flying off in a flurry of clucks.
“Sire, nothing is working as it should.”
“Didn’t those books say anything about what to do about this Writer’s Block?”
“Em, I didn’t read the last one, but,” Magico added quickly, “ I’ll go and fetch it and take it home to study.”
“Be quick about it. I want this problem fixed.” Boroff narrowed his eyes. “Or someone will pay.”
“Yes, Sire. I’m on it.” 

The Wizard turned and walked to the door as fast as he could, but his old legs were feeling like wood. The Page reached out for Magico’s hat. He opened the door and handed it to him as he left.

To Be Continued...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Once Upon A Time - Part 1

Once upon a time, in a land that only lives in the imagination, dark clouds were gathering in the sky….

King Boroff leaned out of the castle window and gazed upwards. Never before had he seen a sky like this. He had seen one filled with sunshine, and one filled with fluffy white clouds, even a sky filled with a blood red moon, not to mention a dragon filled sky, but never in all his days, one where dark clouds gathered like a heavy curtain waiting to be drawn across the heavens. He called for his Page.
“Fetch me Magico.”
“The Wizard?”
“Yes, boy, the Wizard. Hurry!”

He watched the Page leave, then went back to the window and cast his eye over the land below. The market had began to assemble itself. Brightly coloured stalls dotted the landscape like sugared sweets on a cake. People went about their business, slower than usual. He noticed their furtive glances upwards. King Boroff looked towards the sky again, and shivered. 
“The darkness is coming. But what does it mean?”

The Page tried to scurry across the town square, knowing the King would be watching from the window, but his legs didn’t seem to work as fast as they should. He weaved in and out of the market stalls, heading towards the far corner of town and the Wizard’s house. He was making fair headway when a hand reached out and grasped him.
“What’s your hurry boy?”
The Page turned. The broad figure of the pig farmer stood behind him. His tunic sleeves were rolled up and his hands bloody from laying out his meaty produce.
“I’m on the King’s errand. Best not stop me, you know how the King’s temper is. He beheaded three peasants last week just because they delivered a vegetable that wasn’t to his liking.”
“Where’s he sending you?”
“To fetch the Wizard.”
“The Wizard? It wouldn’t be anything to do with that sky up there, would it?” He pointed a podgy finger to the darkening canopy.
“I never asked. I know better than to ask. The sky is weird though. My mother would say it was an omen.” The Page looked up and shuddered.
“It’s a sign all right. Something bad’s a brewing. Have you noticed how everything seems to be slowing down?” Indeed the boy had, his legs for a start. The man scratched his beard as he too stared upwards. “You best be off; get that Wizard and get that sky sorted out before something nasty ‘appens to us all.” He pushed the boy forward and waved him away.

It wasn’t long before the Page was facing the wooden door of the Wizard’s house. He reached out for the brass dragon’s head knocker. The eyes on the head snapped open just as the boy’s hand touched its surface; a bolt of smoke and flame burst from its mouth.
“Ouch!” He snatched his hand away and shaking it, stuffed it under his arm. “What did you do that for?”
“How’d you like somebody banging your head against a hard surface?” The dragon stared at the boy.
“But you’re a knocker. That’s what’s supposed to happen.”
“That’s all very well for you to say. It’s not your head.” The dragon closed its eyes.
That’s ridiculous, thought the Page as he reached out again, but hesitating, held his hand in mid air before dropping it back to his side.
The dragon lazily open one eye and said, “Good choice,” before closing it again.
The Page hammered on the door with his fist, then waited a few moments before banging again. “Come on,” he whispered. The King will be livid if I don’t get back soon.

The door creaked open. “What’s all this noise?”Magico looked at the boy. “No need to hammer like that. There’s a perfectly good knocker.”
“It wouldn’t let me use it sir.” He looked at the knocker then back at the Wizard. “It burnt my hand.” He held his red palm up for him to see.
“That’s strange. It hasn’t done that before. I wonder why it’s misbehaving? A magic spell will fix it.” 

Magico waved his hands and muttered. Sparks flashed from his finger tips, only to dissolve before they touched the knocker. The dragon open its eyes, stuck out its tongue and made a rude noise, then closed them again and started to snore.
“Nothing seems to be working right today,” said the Wizard shaking his head. “What do you want boy?”
“The King commands your presence.”
“In that case I’d better come. I’ll just fetch my hat.” 
Magico disappeared and reappeared wearing a pointed black hat festooned with magical symbols. He slammed the door closed; the dragon snorted and puffed out a coil of fiery smoke. 

To be continued......

Part 2: HERE

Photo of sky by Helen 

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Book Part 3

The Book Part 3 will be returning to this Blog early in April - Look forward to seeing you all then.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Book - Flash Fiction - Part 2 Fantasy/Horror

Part 2:
‘Welcome. Opening The Book is easy. Closing it, is another story.’

Marley frowned as she read the words printed in large lettering on the page before her.
 What’s it mean, closing it, is another story? She pondered over this sentence for a few seconds. Perhaps it means it’s a gripping tale that you can’t put down, Yes, that’s it. She held onto this thought as she continued to read. 

‘This is your story, written just for you. In its pages you will find yourself immersed. The smells, the sounds, the characters, will all have a life of their own. It will be yours to experience.’

“This is the strangest introduction I’ve ever read.” 
 Marley looked  up from the book and glanced about her, but there was no one else in the shop. She considered knocking on the old man’s door and asking him what he made of this. The door was tightly closed and the blind pulled down. She stared at it for a long time. Afraid to anger the old man more than he already was, she sighed and cast her eyes back to the page. 

‘The Book wants you to understand that the author is responsible for the outcome of the story. The only aid the author has is the Pen. With Pen in hand, ideas grow. Upon clean paper crisp and white, words then written, freely flow, but remember - keep the story tight! What is written then will be, and the story will go on. So choose the words carefully, lest they be interpreted wrong.’

Marley blew out a long breath. “Blimey!  What was that all about?” Surely the story is already written, she thought

She chewed her bottom lip while her mind tried to make sense of what she had just read. She began to feel anxious and very hot, as though a fire had lit in her feet and was racing through her body. It passed through her knees, crossed over her waist and into her chest, finally reaching her throat and cheeks. The room started to spin and for a split second she thought she was going to pass out. Marley gripped the edge of the table to steady herself, closed her eyes so she could not see the swirling of the room, and took several deep breaths. The heat in her body subsided and the sense of dizziness dispersed. She opened her eyes. The room was still.

“Whoa, was that a panic attack?” She felt the beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead and wiped them away with the back of her hand. Her mouth was dry and she ran her tongue across her lips to moisten them. Why would I panic? There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a book with a story. Yet, she did feel afraid and it made no sense to her. Pushing her chair back, she stood up. Her hands were sweating. She rubbed them on the leg of her jeans.

“Damn the stupid book. Who wants to read it anyway?” she said out loud as though to reassure herself. You do…. The voice of The Book whispered into the air and Marley knew that only she could hear it. “I don’t, I don’t,” she shouted back, even though she knew it wasn’t true. 

The attraction to The Book and all that it held within was so strong. She found it hard to fight. But fight it she did as she ran towards the shop door, grabbed hold of the handle and pulled. It didn’t open. She placed both hands around the shiny knob and tugged. Still it didn’t budge. The bell above the door started its jangling. Louder and louder it became as it swung violently from side to side. Marley covered her ears with both hands and backed away from it. 

The creak of a door opening sounded behind her and she swung around to see the old man standing there. The bell stilled and the shop was silent once more. He looked at her and moved towards the counter.
“You can’t leave. The Book will not let you.”
“That’s ridiculous. What sort of game are you playing?” As soon as the words left Marly’s lips, she knew what his answer would be. 
“This is no game, young lady. I did try to warn you. The Book entices those it chooses. Rarely do they resist. I only ever remember one who managed to. But that was many, many years ago, I daresay before you were even born. It will not let you go till the story is done. I cannot help you in any way. It will not allow me.”  His eyes took on a glassy look and Marley thought she saw the beginning of a tear.
 “It won’t let me go till the story is done?” She had known the moment she opened The Book’s cover that was so. She just hadn’t believed it, putting it down once more to her lively imagination.
“That is right. You have to read. The game is now on. How is your imagination?” 
“That’s one thing I’ve got plenty of.” Marley thought this a strange question, but then nothing had been normal since stepping inside this antiquated book shop.
“Good, good. Use it well girl. It just might save you yet.” The old man nodded to himself, turned and walked through his door, closing it with a loud click behind him.

Marley retraced her steps back to the oak table and sat down once again. Placing her hand on the opened page, she averted her eyes from it and instead looked straight ahead. I wonder what the old man meant by my imagination might save me yet? If The Book won’t let me go, I’d better get on and read it. She lowered her eyes and read the last paragraph on that page.

‘ The story must be told, it waits upon the page. Wordsmith you must be, don’t shy away, be bold! To begin the story turn the page and Enter.’
With a shaking hand, Marley slowly turned over the page….

To be continued:
Part 1 can be found  HERE

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Book - A Flash Fiction Part 1

The old book called to her. Everything about it attracted Marly, the engraved cover with its intricate carved swirls; the size, so solid, so heavy looking, the gold trimmed page edges that shimmered in the light.

Marly had come across the shop on one of her adventure walks, as she liked to call them. She took one of these every now and then, usually when she was bored. The walks involved investigating the almost-forgotten about lanes that weaved through the older part of town. Not too many people came this way now, preferring the newer shopping centre built just a few years ago.  The quietness of the streets were what drew her to this part. Some of the lanes even had original cobble stones. It was like taking a step back in history. 

She had come across some odd little shops usually full of curiosities, but this was the first time she had found a book shop. The exterior woodwork was painted black. Across the top of the bow window in gold lettering, that was now chipped and flaking, were the words, ‘Rumbles Books.’ The window pane was made of green glass squares that had that swirled look about them, the sort you saw in illustrations of old Victorian shops. Marley sucked in a short breath as her eyes widened. Her curiosity was piqued. 
Oh my goodness it’s like time has stood still, she thought. I’ve gotta go in here.

Without wasting another second she stepped up to the shop door and reached for the brass handle. A tiny bell jingle-jangled over her head, announcing her presence.  At first she found it hard to focus in what seemed a dim light, but as her eyes adjusted she could make out walls lined with shelving. In the middle of the shop stood an old oak table with a few chairs scattered around it. To the back of the shop stood a polished wood counter. On the top resting to one side was a silver cash register.
“Is this a museum or a real book shop?” she whispered to no one but herself.

From behind the counter a door opened and through it stepped a  bent old man. He had a walking stick. His hair, silver, glinted when caught by a shaft of light. Perched on his nose was a pair of half moon glasses. He wore black trousers and jacket with a stiff collared shirt and the most glorious coloured cravat. As he came nearer Marley could see the winking of a diamond stick pin nestled among the silk that adorned his neck.
“Ah, good morning Miss. It is Miss isn’t it?” His voice, soft, creaked with age.
“Yes, it is.” Marley stared at the old gent, hardly believing her eyes.
“It’s not very often we get a pretty young girl in here. How can I help you?” He leaned heavily on his stick and stared back at her with his pale blue rheumy eyes.
“I was just wanting to have a browse of the books. This is a book shop isn’t it?” 
“Indeed it is. As you can see we have lots of books.” He gestured with his free hand towards the shelves. “Take your time, I’ll be at the desk should you want me.”
“Thank you.” 
Marley smiled at him. He pressed his thin lips together into a smile that made the turned up ends of his moustache wiggle. Marley suppressed the urge to laugh and watched as he turned and made a slow retreat back to the counter.

She took her time looking through the shelves. She was searching for something, but what, she didn’t know.  Most of the volumes were dated and of no interest to her. It was when she had almost reached the last of the shelves that she caught sight of it just poking out  from under  a small pile of books.

Hullo, what’s this? Marley knew it was meant for her. She took a quick glance around before she reached out and pulled the heavy tome into the open. It sat on the floor in front of her, covered in a thick layer of dust. Reaching into her pocket she grabbed her handkerchief and flicked it across the book. Dust motes flew into the air and danced in the ray of light that was just above her. Her heart missed a beat as she saw its beautiful cover. “It looks like real leather,” she murmured as she continued to wipe away the dust. The title, stamped into the cover, now become visible. She traced each of the beautifully carved  letters with her finger as she read aloud the words, “The Book.” Somehow the title didn’t seem strange to her at all, it seemed perfect. She lifted it up, and though it was weighty she blew gently to remove more of the dust. As she held it higher to look under it, a beam of light caught the golden edged pages.They glimmered so brightly that it startled Marly and she dropped the book which landed with an almighty thump on the floor.

A tap tapping could be heard and the old man appeared, his stick beating out each of his footsteps. He looked down at the girl kneeling on the polished wooden floor and then at the book which lay in front of her.
“The Book,” he muttered. “Tut, tut, that shouldn’t be here. If you’ll be so kind to pass it up to me, I will put it somewhere safe.” His voice was soft but his face was hard.
“It’s so beautiful. Can’t I just spend a few moments looking inside it?”
“It’s best not. Now hand it up, there’s a good girl.” 
Marley felt  panic shoot through her. She didn’t want to part with it. It felt like the book was calling to her, whispering for her to open its pages. “I’m supposed to have this book,” she blurted out, louder than she meant to.
“Why do you say that?” The old man leaned against the shelving, removed his glasses, tugged the white silk handkerchief from his breast pocket and began to polish them.
“I dunno why.” A frown creased Marly’s brow. “Except that I’m drawn to it and it wants me to read it. I just feel it. I can’t explain.”
“Ah, I see.” He finished polishing his glasses and placed them back on the end of his nose. “That’s why The Book has found its way out into the shop again. It’s chosen you. But it’s never chosen a young girl before.” His old eyes met hers and Marly thought she could see something different in them. 
“Chosen me?” 
“Yes, chosen you. The Book only allows those it chooses to read it.  But I must warn you, those who do find their lives are never the same again. Listen, Miss, you don’t have to read it. Just give it to me and I’ll lock it away and then you must never come back here again.”
Marly shook her head and lifting the book she pressed it against her chest, wrapping her arms tightly about it. 
“I can’t give it to you. I just can’t.”
“Very well.” The old man sighed. “But know that The Book, it cannot leave this shop. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” 
He turned and walked away. Marley called out to him.
“Have you read it?”
He stopped and  looked over his shoulder at her. His eyes seemed to cut into her very soul. “Never,” he growled, “but then it never has chosen me. I’m just its guardian. If I could I would lock it in a steel chest and throw it into the river.” He walked away and disappeared through the door behind the counter.

Marley’s heart thumped in her chest as the old man’s words  swam around and around in her head. Daft old codger. He must be nutty trying to scare me. After all it’s just a book, isn’t it?  She got to her feet and still clasping hold of it, she made her way to the table. She went to sit but stopped and stood up again. What’s all this nonsense about it not leaving the shop, she thought.  I wonder? Marley held the book tighter and began to walk towards the door. Each step she took in that direction, the book began to tremble. At first she felt the slightest movement and by the time she reached the door the book was shaking so much she could hardly hold onto it. The bell above the door was swinging  madly from side to side. It’s noise filled her ears and the shop. 

Out of nowhere the old man appeared. “I told you The Book can’t leave this shop. Did you not understand?” His voice was no longer soft, but deep and harsh. He took hold of Marley’s arm and pulled her back to the table, where the book fell from her grasp and landed with a thud on the tabletop.
“I just wanted to see if what you said was true,” she whimpered, not daring to look him in the face.
“True! Of course it’s true. The Book is not a game. I’ve tried to protect you from it. Go now while you still have a chance.” He swung his cane in the direction of the shop door.
Marley placed a hand on the book, she could still hear it calling her - Read me Marley, you know you want to…  
“I can’t. I have to read it. It wants me to and I want to.” She raised her eyes to look at him and smiled. 
He didn’t smile back. Instead he walked away shaking his head muttering, “They never listen, they never do. I try but….” 

Marley sat down with the book in front of her.  Her hand wavered over it for what seemed like ages. All his words ran through her mind, but she could not resist. As she lifted the cover open the last of the dust drifted into the air. She raised her eyes and followed the motes as they spun and twirled in the light that trapped them. Lowering her eyes she began to read….

Helen A. Howell 2017

Part 2 can be found   HERE

Image Created by Helen A. Howell