Tag: short story

Lord LEM.

Lord LEM.

I followed him, Mr Ijon Tichy, after his eight voyage, on the orders of The Rhohch.

I discovered Ijon and his kind were no longer in existence. A new and only life form had evolved. They scurried the planet like scarabs.

They had hard, stone-like shell bodies and wriggly metal appendages and huddled together at the sight of me, in fear it seemed.

Their resonances, when translated, indicated they were praying to an imaginary higher being, a god, their creator, Lord LEM.

Arpeggio.

Arpeggio.

There was a knock on the door.

‘Ah’ Julie! Come in.’

Quick peck on the cheek.

The trail led to the kitchen, strong coffee.

Into the yard, smoking roll ups, small talk.

The lounge, she sat on the piano stool.

‘I quit my job, life’s a mess.’ She said. Turned and finger thrashed the keys.

I cringed, the life story, the piano sound.

We talked it through, her life.

I showed her middle C.

We talked patterns, the work life balance.

She played on.

Arpeggio.

The China Suite.

She’s the Baron’s daughter, Kathryn, standing there by the window, scratching a name into a glass pane with a diamond. From her spot she looks down to see the gardener’s son planting a beautiful plant in the middle of a flower bed.

She remembered how they played as infants, her only friend on the great estate. He’d shown her how to sow seed later, ploughing a furrow, scattering the seed and gently covering them up. Her father had stopped all that, she was to be the lady of the house and must keep her place.

He had been away inspecting his interests in China, from where he had sent back magical gifts and an artist to assemble them. From there he had gone to the West Indies, to oversee new work on his plantations. Now he was returning to the castle built from sugar, an urgent matter had been the word and home he sailed.

Kathryn was confined to the China Suite, the upper floor of the tower, the rooms her mother had died in. They had been redecorated by the Chinese artist who lived somewhere about the grounds. The young Miss had gotten into trouble, the house keeper found out, locked her away and waited the return of the master.

The faces looked at her from the walls, eye’s followed from the fields, rice planters in paddies, from tea houses and from palaces. All of them watching, from the peasants all the way up to the emperor himself. Fish jumped out of water to see her, animals wandered closer and birds flew by, wings flapping. They all wondered,

‘what was going to happen now?’

The life in the hand painted, papered wall covering continued, the sun came up, the days work continued, all the industries of life and death, wealth and poverty carried on and all watched Kathryn and talked in whispers about her. Eventually they started answering questions she posed, with secret signs, left in secret places, on the sunrise seas and in the deep tree lined valleys and on the tables tops at banquets. She only had to listen and a whisper would move her eyes to a spot, un-code a message.

The China Suite was a Godsend, keeping her sane over the months she waited for her father to return. One day a whisper from the wall alerted her to the sound of hooves and the rattle of a carriage coming up the main through fare toward the gate of the sugar castle. The creaking doors were opened to the sound of hurry inside. The stairway thundered under the baron’s force and the China Suite door was thrown open.

He just stood there and looked at her standing, back to the window, blocking out the light. The walls now became coloured wallpaper, her eyes looked in dread at the new reality. He stormed across the room, she cowered and he took her in his arms and gently held her, cradled her. He looked out of the windows and said,

‘It will be made good.’ He paused, stood up releasing her. ‘You are my flesh and blood, my only child, I love you. Rest now child, I’ll see you in the morning.’

The walls were now dead to her, she could not see them anymore, had she gone mad too, like her mother, and now her father has come to rescue her. She slept comfortably, no conversations and secret signs, no cows pulling ploughs and no peacocks standing proud.

A commotion woke her up, it came from the garden, all the way down below the tower window. She struggled to get up and as she walked to see what was happening outside, the door burst open and the baron stood there with a covered tray. He bellowed,

‘Sit girl sit, I bring breakfast.’

He smiled, she smiled back and sat waiting. He placed the tray before her, looked into her eyes and lifted the lid.

‘Isn’t it pretty?’ He laughed

A plate of meat was surrounded by decapitated heads, flowers, from the plants below her window.

The sun rose out of the China Sea as the artist walked in, carrying a long hooked needle.

 

 

Where the Ghost Grass Grows.

Where the Ghost Grass Grows.

Charlie Wildfire had inherited land and went to the valley to find it. He drove along the road and parked by an old church, now a modern house. He double checked the directions on the map and headed off around the bend to the other side. The entrance to a track appeared and he followed it through thorn bushes that seemed to open and lead the way.

The thickets ended at a hillside and the moorland on the other side stretched far to the distant black mountain peaks. The sun shone in a clear blue sky but a shadow hung over the place, clinging grey, hiding the colour there. An old house stood where the old map said it would. Half the roof was missing and Charlie peered though the broken rotting windows that framed a time gone by. The upper floors had collapsed onto the furniture below and time mulched it down into a smell of damp fungus. Where the kitchen once was, only a cooker stood complete, leaning awkwardly against a door, a pair of footprints were clearly imprinted standing in front of it. There was a creaking sound and a beam fell, knocked the cooker over and squashed the footprints flat.

There were no other signs of life, not a single soul had been here for a long time. The sun still shone in the clear sky and the shadow still cast grey on the land. He walked towards the acreage, the inheritance and felt it growing inside him, until the breath was taken out of his body and made his head spin. He fought for air and his eyes saw the change and enveloped the scene in front of him, like a fairy tale in a paperweight. A great hand must have shaken it up, a new land appeared, the shadow was gone and clouds filled the sky and cast a new shadow over the surrounding world.

A harrier hung over the moorland grass now a luminous white that glowed. The were sounds that came from a place he struggled to see and the grass moved violently in waves but not a breath of wind blew. He reread the letter that hadn’t made sense when the lawyer gave it to him but now he read the words out loud and the land shimmered as he read.

“Now you must go and watch for flow in the place where the ghost grass grow and watch for sights, your inheritance rights.”

Then he read the last line to himself. ‘Take it with the love from your mama Hazel Wildfire. Till we meet again.’

He had no memory of his mother, they said she was insane after the killing of her husband in a churchyard. They sent her to prison and one night she disappeared from a sealed cell.

Then a breeze did stroke his face and he looked out across that glowing sea and there through it, a line grew , the grass pushing side-wards as if by single steps one after the other and it was heading towards him. A flickering apparition came in and out of sight and he saw a young woman, hair like fire, wearing a long skirt, waving a flat hand, stroking the heads of grass, a piebald horse followed on a long halter and she looked up and stared and smiled at Charlie Wildfire.

 

The Battle of Arbour.

The Battle of Arbour.

I walked up there today, to the site of the great Battle of Arbour. I looked across the land and saw the stumps all overgrown like tombstones. They’d sent them there when young, to grow, acclimatise and fill the land with life and habitat.

Then one day the invaders came in trucks, shouting and buzzing the machinery of war. The defenders stood their ground all dressed in green and were cut down in swathes, cut down in their prime, stripped of their green and piled high up to the sky.

Here now at the end of today, at the setting of the sun, I look across the cold snow covered land and remember them. I shivered and remembered them again and rushed home to light the wood burner.