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Right. I have edited and changed some things from the story I posted before. 
Enjoy. And comment. Please!

“Lenny’s Graveyard Run”

(Lisa Harte. April 2015.)
The bus barrelled down the dirt road; the driver hunched over the big clockwork steering wheel as close as he could get. 

His scrawny fingers were wrapped around the cool black metal so tightly that his knuckles looked ready to split his skin. 

His name was Lenny, and his mood was foul, not that there was anyone to notice – such was his lot in life.

He was a bus driver. So he drove.

And he fumed.

– Goddamn sell-out corporate company. Work like hell, put in the hours, the days, the weeks, for years and years, but does that count? Noooo. It sure don’t. One lousy ‘mistake’ and it’s like you’re a newbie they can push around. You get the goddamn, stinking, graveyard run. –

Lenny hauled at the wheel

– And that prick of an inspector. He was just one of those grunts, and they promote HIM and every word that comes out his his ass is like pure gold. A stupid PC prick that probably wipes his ass on brown paper just to show he’s integrated. And anyway. I was right! I did NOT make a mistake. When it’s the job I am always right, they’re just too stupid to know it. –

It looked like it may rain.

– And that dumb tramp, the complainant? What a world we live in when somebody like HER is believed more than a professional. What did she expect would happen, walking around looking like that? What’s a man meant to do? Pass it up? It don’t make sense. All I did was give her a little pinch to tell her message received. Then BANG. Everyone hates me. –

It was raining for real. Unregulated, and uncontrolled rain started to pelt the panoramic windshield of his bus. Lenny could feel the blood pumping to his face, in the reflection he was red. Vermillion red. 

So red that it could have a pulse.

– Great. Just great. If this were my regular route through Durham-Proper, there’d be nice controlled weather for for city life and business needs. Out here in Rookhope, of all places! It’s chaos for God’s sake! It rains when and where it feels like it! 

Lenny could just imagine the dirt turning into mud that would splash up against the lovely chrome sheen on his bus. The mud would cover the ungrateful passengers and unregulated water, and they would then stomp and trek through his lovely pristine bus. 

– Don’t they know how hard I work to keep their stretch out? Don’t they appreciate that I clean the floors and scrape their leftovers from the bottoms of the seats! Nooooooo! –

The angrier he got the more he stomped on the accelerator.

The dashboard bleeped and a light flashed red to get his attention, the computer overload the mute he’d activated as soon as he boarded.

“Caution, Comrade,” Lenny muttered, snarling his lips up and making his voice sound high and winy, mimicking the voice that he knew was going to come.

“Caution, Comrade. Speed has now exceeded Federal Regulations. Please rectify or lose manual control as per Company regulations.”

– Naturally, the damn computer’s voice is delivered in the nonsensical drone of a woman. Of course it is. There is always a woman nagging you.- 

The bus driver continued to mumble about the injustice of women and their ‘nit-picking’, but still he complied and eased his foot off the pedal.

After the ‘incident’, Lenny was sent to the company’s counsellor to teach the man some calming techniques after he was made to sit through some ‘Behaviour in the Workplace’ seminars. At first it was all corporate bureaucratic nonsense to him, he was furious when they told him he had to sit through some Dr. Know-it-all telling him that his attitude was ‘not acceptable’. Lenny did not react well to this, and he let Dr. Know-it-all know it…. then he was made to take some anger management sessions with shrink or else he would be in danger of losing his job. The anger drained out of the Lenny with that information, he was for once afraid. He went to the appointment, he sat in the waiting room and he sweated more than he had ever before. 

It was now or never. Lenny gave it a try.

– Breathing colours, for God’s sake. What a joke. Then the shrink tells me that the colours will change as I breathed in, and then out. I was meant to imagine that the negative colours were being filtered out… Or something like that. I tell ya, I’m so glad it was a guy telling me this crap. It’s the only way that it made sense. It was a bit prissy, but whatever. –

Lenny was starting to feel calm again after imagining that he was breathing in a bright, fluorescent pink and when he exhaled the colour turned into a very calm, and soothing blue. 

Then the computer bleeped at him, a cyan blue light flashed and the computer again spoke in her honeyed voice.

‘Approaching fare stage. Boarding passenger imminent.’

Enraged again, Lenny glared through the rain flowing down his windshield. Then his eyes narrowed to slits as he scowled at the dashboard.

Then he snarled.

“Computer. Unregulated weather conditions are not optimum for passenger boarding.”

“County Durham State Incorporation Company Regulations, Section 10, Paragraph 9, clearly state that -“

“Yeah, yeah.”

Lenny muted the computer again. He knew the County Durham State Incorporation Company Regulations by heart. He knew exactly what the computer would have said to him. He has nightmares about that computer’s voice.

The bus eased to a stop.

Lenny took one more calming breath and touched the dashboard, the glass doors whooped open.

The passenger was wet.

And muddy.

The passenger was a woman.

Lenny rolled his eyes heavenward and sighed.

– Mighta known. –

“Destination and stand still for ID scan. On the mark.” 

– Oh shit. I forgot to say please.-

The woman stepped to the mark, she was holding herself in a way that made her look small. Lenny was instantly on his guard. In his mind, women only made themselves seem vulnerable and demure for a reason.

“Sir, I desire to go somewhere I can find shelter. As to my destination, I have no idea where I am.”

– Great, this is really my night. NOT. –

Lenny said nothing. He sat scowling at her doe a few uncomfortable seconds.

“How much money you got?”

“Please excuse me, Sir. But I have none.”

Lenny gave a tortured sigh.

“Then why did you wave me down?” 

His words came out in a screech, but the woman was unmoved.

Lenny glared at the dashboard. Readout said that she was registered as female, her name – Carma something that he couldn’t pronounce or even tried to. No present employment or residential status.

– Goddamn itinerants. Weird names and no money. It figures. Only somebody like this would be out here, in the sticks, at this time of night. –

While this battle was going on in Lenny’s head, the woman, Carma Something, was not phased by his instructions and alighted the bus, and out of the rain. 

Then all deference gone, she shook her wet hair, water splattered against the glass. No fear. She looked Lenny the bus driver straight in the eye.

“I can pay in other ways.”

Just in case he was unsure what she meant, the woman began to unbutton her coat.

Lenny fell back in his seat, he was flabbergasted. Then he cocked his head to get a better look at the woman, and felt that familiar pulse down below that was now pointing directly at her.   

– Might as well… –

Lenny raised an eyebrow, and said, “Alright -”

He didn’t get a chance to finish. 

He didn’t get a chance to finish because when the woman unbuttoned her coat it was to draw out a Police Pistol Mark 5 with which she shot the driver neatly between the eyes. 

She enjoyed it. Every little bit of it.

The way his eyes popped, the way his jaw sagged onto his chest and the way he flopped back when the bullet hit.

As if he had enough and leaned back, weary of it all.

Carma had lifted the pistol odd a foolishly trusting detective. She preferred it to the Mark 3 she carried before. It had much better action and a decent silencer, thus a much better, and a calmer shot.

She opened the driver’s booth and looked at the body. Neat and tidy, hair greased back, uniform immaculate.

It was likely to be all his own work. 

Mark’s like this – she scanned the ID plate – Leonard Bronsen, were getting rarer. 

Control freaks, the right guy if the right guy’s always right. A man who would beat a woman down into submission. Why not? He would think that is how things should be. 

Carma frisked the body and got nothing she could use.

House keys on a ring.

A wallet.

Correction; an empty wallet, except for an appointment card for a downtown shrink. It figured. Too little too late, Lenny, Carma thought. Yes, Mr. Leonard Bronsen who saw women as drudges, whores and bitches. You got one right.

She dragged the body out into the night. The boots clunked as rattled on the metal stairs and then Lenny’s lifeless body squelched as he hit the mud.

Back on board, Carma tapped the dashboard.

“Confirm present location please.”

A map appeared.

She let the computer auto-drive her to some more congenial spot and sat back.

It certainly felt good to be out of the rain.

La Fin.
1, 600 words.

Lenny and the Graveyard Run.

In my Reading Poetry seminar, we were given David Cameron’s speech on immigration from The 24th November 2014, and tasked to write a found poem.

This is mine:

“I”

Today
I
Want
to talk about immigration.
That is what
I
Want.
It needs to be –
Controlled.
It needs to be –
Within.
and it needs to be centred around –
What
I
Want.

(By Lisa Harte, 2015)

FFS what a day. Seriously. What a day. For the last few days my anxiety has been near a 10 so I’ve been having to do a lot of mindfulness exercises, but the intense feeling that something bad is about to happen wouldn’t shake.

None the less I did my exercises to prepare to be productive today. I managed to get the child to school. I came home, and first pot hole; I couldn’t find my library book that’s over due. So now I can’t turn it in and it’s slowly incurring more and more charges. But whee the hell could it be?!!!! I’ve looked everywhere! And now I can’t find my Roots gloves. That’s really upset me because they were a gift from my sister when she went to Canada and they’re so nice and warm. Did I leave them in the taxi?

Honestly, I was ready to cry at this point.

I get the bus, stop to pick up some packages. Got lost in Newcastle, yet managed to find Collingwood House and make it on time for my theory test which I’ve been practicing solid for. Only to find out that because I didn’t bring the bit of paper that came with my provisional I couldn’t do the damn test! But of course I’ll still have to pay the £25 fee, not that I actually have the money in the bank to do this. But, the lady said, don’t order a new one just rebook your test in January because then the DVLA won’t issue the paper with the license so I won’t need it to do my fucking test!!!!!

Holding back tears, I got some Baileys to go in my coffee and now I’m sitting here in my safe house, brain storming for my final bit of my Portfolio and reading my Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction. Sounds like an odd way to chill out but I find reading these books get the brain juices going.

On the plus side I’ve made it home in time for The Daily Politics…. And Luna is giving me lots of snoodles.

I predict a rather angry and vindictive story is about to emerge from these stiff fingers….

For my assignment for Critical and Creative Practice I had to respond “creatively” to one of the texts we have been studying. This basically means rewrite a scene of text in your own way. I was initially going to do Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre but then it ended up being a mesh between that and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. I was only meant to do it on one text, but I couldn’t help myself.

Anyway, I don’t have to submit it through Turnitin (plagiarising software), so I can post the story for you now 🙂

Enjoy!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

In The Red Chamber

My head ached. I could feel the blood dribble down my forehead from the blow I had received. I dared not wipe it away; I was still sitting on my hands as commanded by the bitter Mrs. Abbot. Beneath me the ottoman was a pristine white, matching the large armchair that made the whole ensemble look like a throne. Mrs. Reed would not think that a blood smear would go with the overwhelming redness of the Red Chamber.

I must have passed out for a while, for when I opened my eyes again daylight began to forsake the red room and the beclouded afternoon was tending to dreary twilight. I heard the rain still beating continuously on the staircase window, the wind howling in the grove behind the hall, and something I was quite sure was answering it from the chimney.

“Jane. Jaaaaaaaane….”

I looked around. Who could that be? I was very much only in my present company.

“Jane!” More urgently now.

Gingerly I approached the mahogany desk. Its wood dark and smooth, polished clean by the maid. Even though this room was never used, it was always kept perfect, in a state of memorial for the late master of Gateshead Hall.

“Jaaaaaannnne….”

I opened the drawer.

I found a variety of papers, the mistress’s jewel casket and a round locket. When I went to touch it I swear it made a hissing sound that did make me jump. I steeled myself and grabbed the locket and flipped it open. Inside was a detailed miniature of the late Mr. Reed.

“You took your time!” Mr. Reed said crossly.

I am not ashamed to say that I dropped him with fright. He landed with an audible “Ooouf!”

“Mr. Reed! You spoke!”

“Clearly. Now pick me up, girl!”

I wasted no time; I had after all dropped him on his backside. “How are you speaking to me?”
Did he just roll his eyes at me?

“Sir, you died nine years ago -”

“Do you think I’m not aware of that!” Mr. Reed shouted, cutting me off.

“Are you a ghost? Haunting this painting and room?”

Mr. Reed’s thin lips turned into a horrible smile, exposing all the deviousness in his person. It was then that I realised the secret of the red-room, the spell in which kept it so lonely in spite of its grandeur.

Here in this chamber is where Mr. Reed breathed his last. Here he lay in state. Here in this room is where his coffin was taken by the undertakers’ men, and since that day a dreary consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion for even though Death had taken him, Mr. Reed had no intention of leaving.

I grew by degrees cold as a stone, my courage sinking like a coin in the fountain.

“Mr. Reed, I had thought you would have been kinder to me if you had known me,” I managed to say to him.

“You mean if I had lived,” he snapped, “Perhaps I might have, but my spirit is harassed by the wrongs of my sister’s child. You, Jane!”

“Me! But what wrongs could I have done to interrupt you in your drawer?” I protested.

Mr. Reed laughed, and I tell you it was not a jolly laugh. There was no mirth or merriment in it, just a loud and deep cackle that made gooseflesh on my skin crawl.

“Girl, if you had done no wrong, then why are you here in this room? With me? Disturbing my resting in peace! If you are indeed, so innocent, then how is it you have come to speak to me this evening? Hmmmmmm?”

“I had a quarrel with Mr. Reed. That is John, your son.”

“And?”

“Well. I struck him. But he struck me first!”

“My son. Struck by a girl. What is that woman doing with herself?” Mr. Reed muttered, shaking his head in despair, “Is that why you are dribbling blood all over my clean room?”

I put my hand to my head, and indeed my hand came away smeared in crimson that was so bright it pulsed. I rushed to the looking glass to better inspect myself, but out of the corner of my eye I saw the wallpaper move.

“Mr. Reed!” I whispered, “I am not sure if we are alone in here!”

“Don’t be incredulous, who could possibly be in here?” Mr. Reed scoffed haughtily.

“But, Sir! I saw the wallpaper move!”

“What a wild imagination! It will do you no good, girl. Now come back here. I have something to tell you for your own good.”

I admit, that at the best of times I might not respect my superiors as I aught, but this time I did find it very difficult to sit myself down in the instant way required. The moving wallpaper had unsettled me. As I looked at it, an ugly fawn colour with a blush of pink, I felt a creeping sensation crawl all over my skin and into my soul.

“Girl!” Mr. Reed shouted, “Do pay attention!”

I quickly turned away from the wall and looked down at the miniature of Mr. Reed.

“Now, again. What I tell you is for you own good. You should try to be useful and pleasant, or else you shan’t have a home here.”

My mouth hung open. What an absurd piece of advice! Agreeable, indeed! As if one could be in such a way in the company of the vile John Reed and his vain and frivolous sisters. And Mrs. Reed! Wretched, spiteful woman! Agreeable! I was so angry that water began to leak from my eyes completely against my will. Then, my habitual mood of humiliation, self-doubt, and forlorn depression, fell damp on the embers of my ire.

I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs. He laughed at me, of course, but then he was after all, a Reed.

The moonlight slipped in through a slit in the vermillion curtains, casting a haunting light on the wallpaper. Ignoring Mr. Reed, I went up to the wallpaper to look again. The patterns now noticeable with some light. The colour really was repellent, almost revolting. It had an odour that seeped into my hair and crept all around the room. A strange smell that I had not noticed before, but now it my senses would not be rid of it.

“Jane. Jaaaaane! What is it little girl?”

“What!” I snapped. A pox on him!

“Come back here!”

“No! I assure you there is something behind the wallpaper!”

Mr. Reed sighed audibly, “I think someone is in need of a tonic.”

I refused to listen. I got right up close to the wallpaper, my nose nearly touching it. If you could imagine toadstool joints, yes, an interminable strong of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions. Yes. That is how I would describe the pattern to you, this horrid, smouldering, unclean wallpaper. There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck, and two bulbous eyes stared out at me upside down. I shivered.

“I would not linger too close if I were you,” Mr. Reed said in a deeply serious voice.

“Why ever not? After all, you said there was no one behind there.”

“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will!”

Aha! I really have discovered something at last!

Indistinguishable, that funny mark on the wallpaper was clearly a hand pushing away. The shape changed, and it looked like a woman creeping, stooped down and skulking.

“It is most certainly a woman!”

Mr. Reed shrugged in his little miniature, “It might be Bertha. But one can never tell with her.”

Just then the faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out. I could see her clearly, pressing and pushing against the horrid paper. I got up close, and the paper did move! I had to get that poor woman out of there!

I pulled at the paper, starting from the bottom. I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled. The wallpaper began to peel, slowly at first, and then as I began to work more frantically, she too pushed back with the same vigour. All the while Mr. Reed kept shouting my name, Jane! Jaaaaaaane! But I studiously ignored him.

“Leave her Jane! She’s a beast!”

“No!” I cried.

“You’ll go mad when you see her!” he warned joyfully.

I did not care. Finally, I had peeled off all the wallpaper that I could reach. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it!

The woman, revealed, fell out of the wall an on to me. We crashed to the floor with a thud that made Mr. Reed laugh with unadulterated joy.

“Bertha! Bertha! You’re out! You’re real!” I cried.

“That’s not my name!” she screeched! And carried on screaming.

Screaming. Screaming. Screaming.

***

Bessie ran down the corridor, the sound she heard send a chill right down to her soul. Mrs. Reed should not have left the girl in there for so long. Fumbling the keys at first, for the screams were the sounds of angels dyeing and made her hands shake abnormally. She finally managed to unlock the door to the Red Chamber and wrenched it open with unimagined strength.

She was not at all prepared for what she saw, and she nearly fainted.

There on the floor, was Jane. Screaming, and clawing at her face.

She sat in front of the looking glass, and rocked most violently. In between the pauses of her screams she cried;

“That’s not my name!”

The End.
1, 606 words aprox.

I got on the bus today at around 11 for uni. The driver then shut down the engine. The passengers had a momentary panic that the engine had failed, but the driver shouted out that he was observing a 2 minute silence.

The bus, for the first time ever was quiet. No one spoke. No one moved. I did not imagine that everyone was remembering, but at least everyone was silent and respectful of the occasion.

This is something distinctly British. It doesn’t matter what YOU believe as an individual. It would be rude to go against someone who is paying respect.

So I bowed my head, and I thought. Not of those that fought, but those that didn’t. In a time of ripe patriotism, how strong a persons character to have been to say “no”. And be proud of it.

It might mean little today where going into the army is now voluntary, and patriotism is lost and nationalism is a confused notion. In a world where people do not embrace and assimilate but chose to exclude and excuse.

But it meant something on the bus.

2 minutes of silence.

Silence.

Wonderful, thoughtful, complete silence.

Then the engine started up again. And instead of talking about X Factor, people talked about the news on he bus.

Remembrance Day means many different things for many different people. But it makes us silent. And thus, think.

I have no idea yet given this poem a name. Do I? Don’t i? It’s the paradoxical question.

Poem Unnamed worked though… If you get it.

You’re my best friend
I wish I could use you always
But you are double edged
Yet we need each other

I wish I could use you always
You are my dearest friend
Yet we need each other
Shiny metal edges

You are my dearest friend
But you are double edged
Shines metal edges
You are my best friend

The Misfits; A Perfect Day is a working title. This story is a calibration from my friends in my writing group, Karen and Young John over a hearty meal in a pub. It is all done with loving parodies of the other members in our group. 

 

****

Graeme steps onto the landing. Happy to be on the ground and back in bonne terre, though he had to admit that his first trip to the Grand-Old U-S-of-A was…. most adventurous. He was sure to thank Slim by paying his tab for…. well at least a week. Remembering the red haired Julia certainly put a spring in his step.

Airports are anonymous. You weren’t anywhere in an airport. Not really. So Graeme was still caught up in his holiday-rose-goggles. He spots in the duty free window an array of plushies. One looks like it could be some sort of cow. Brown, fuzzy, little horns in a comical fashion. On reading the label it says it’s “Bou” the BabyBison. A light bulb flashes in his head. He knows just who to get this for! There is no security tag on it, so he takes off the shop tag and stuffs it in his coat.

He saunters on with a well practiced swagger, despite this he still draws the attention of security and they pounce on him with their horrid sniffer dogs. The stupid mongrel sniffs him most inappropriately before wagging it’s tail and barking. The look of smugness on that canine face makes Graeme seethe. If there were no cameras he would be sorely tempted to give the beast a sound kick right where he was so fond of sniffing.

He gets off with a tax from the airport because of the unclaimed fags in his bag. Still feeling disgruntled he signals down a cab to get a ride, he was in no mood to get on the metro now. He needs a drink and pronto.

The cabbie is a woman, her license says Anne – but just as he is about to read the rest of her info she swerves to the side, her hand out the window giving the world a rude gesture followed by several obscenities.

“Student drivers! They have to learn!” She shouts at Graeme, who at this point is holding on to the dash board for his dear life.

“You look tense, have you ever tried aromatherapy?” Anne asks, the question is so sweet and charming until she honks her horn and shouts out the window again. Graeme looks in the back of the taxi, which is stacked with Avon products.

Oh Lord, what fresh Hell is this? Graeme cries to himself.

Somehow, he arrives at the Anson alive and in one piece, though perhaps in a far more anxious state than when he boarded an airplane for the first time.

He jumps out of the car, practically tucking and rolling as Anne speeds away, honking her horn at the people she has cut off.

Graeme looks up at his favourite watering hole and has to take a double. The building has been repainted bright red and the sign is now black, with fancy gold lettering that spells out “The Anson Palace.”

If you told him that he was in an episode of The Twilight Zone he would believe you, no questions asked.

Looking closer he sees a sign post that his local pub has been bought and redone while he was gone. The wording of the sign in itself is eccentric. Graeme opens the door with trepidation.

His pub has completely changed. Gone was the dark interior and the slot machines, replaced with red silk hangings, dragons and paintings of tsunamis. On the stage where the buskers used to sing were two men dressed up in sumo costumes, doing a mock show of a wrestling match. Graeme gulped, please say they still serve beer.

The only thing familiar is seeing Slim sitting at his usual table, so relieved Graeme rushes over and drops himself in the spare chair.

A man comes over caring drinks, Graeme is taken-a-back by the man. He is dressed in a pin-stripped suit, cleaned and crisply ironed. Hair slick and combed back, he sits down with a self assurance that only comes from someone who has been told from the cradle that he was special.

“Graeme, this is Tarquin! He is an up and coming writer,” Slim introduces.

“Yes, yes. But currently I work for North Tyneside Council. In downtown North Shields,” Tarquin says jovially.

“Downtown North Shields?” Graeme asks, his eye brows raised ready to jump off his face.

“That’s right,” Tarquin smiles, sipping his brew.

The night carries on and soon the familiar buskers are back, but tonight it’s a Village People tribute band. While Graeme is at the bar getting another beer, a man dressed up as the red indian keeps giving him the come hither look! When he walks past, he gives Graeme a well planned wink and a playful pat on the bum that nearly makes him snort his beer up through his nose.

The Village People wait while the tattooed lady sings her folk songs, holding a trumpet that she is not quite confident enough to play. Graeme wishes she would hurry up, he does not like the idea of that indian being idle for much longer.

The new barmaid, a tart called Margie, is dressed in an elegant oriental dress and her hair is done in a tidy bun. Somehow though the woman makes the outfit look cheap, she has managed to get the neck line lower than one would think possible and so tight Graeme is surprised those puppies haven’t jumped out yet. The rose tattoo on her breast wobbles so much that Graeme has to look away, suffering from motion sickness. Not that he was looking, of course.

She wore paten leather stilettos, a bright red that stood out against the black floor, and had an odd shadow that followed her everywhere. He was a very distinct shadow, a strange man who wore and elastic band over his balding head, and took to weird moments where for no reason he would pull his black hood up over his head, covering his face like the Grim Reaper.

Gentleman John comes in, and Graeme is happy to see at least that this has not changed. He always looks forward to John’s home made pies, the pastry is always ever so good.

Jill comes in and sits at their table, exhausted after a long shift at Subway, but is glad to see that Graeme is back. She has missed his crack. Dan is there too, and they convince him to come over from his corner. He closes up his laptop and Graeme wonders what he got from all his people watching, especially in an establishment like this. Gerry has popped out again, for one of her suspicious tabs.

Two new faces come in, Jean and Ana. They have come because the place looks different now, and they have been told to find something new to do. They look around and think; WTF?! Following them is their back to work advisor, distinctive in her flamboyant hat.

Graeme remembers that he has that toy to give her…

La Fin!

The Death of a Star is still only in its baby stages, but this is what opened.

****

The death of a star is what brought us to this place. We were chasing a cosmic reaction across a white, glittering desert when the storm overtook us. It was if the Sky Lord himself had doomed our adventure from the beginning, trapping me and my team so that we would never find his secrets.

The snow had engulfed us, my team and I had to give way to the elements and we sought shelter for the night in a cave that we somehow managed to stumble in to. At first there was nothing to commend our shelter, nothing spectacular about it. We were just so thankful to be out of the cutting wind that we did not take notice of our surroundings at first. But when we did. But when we did! Oh my, what a sight we did behold.

It was like stepping inside the most spectacular of gemstones. An array of colours dazzled our starved eyes, greens of variations I didn’t know even existed. Blues and yellows. Pinks danced into purple. Turquoise flickered white. How the crystals managed to transform such minuscule light was a complete mystery to me. But it did. And it was breathtaking to behold. It made us curious; it made us bold. We dropped out cumbersome gear and ventured further into the cave, hoping to see – what? I still to this day cannot remember. I believe that we were under a spell.

But what did we see? You probably will not believe me. And if you do you will think that we were the most lucky. We found treasure. Not glittering gold. Not an old tomb. Not even cave paintings. We found a hoard of treasure most extraordinary. Who was hoarding it or for what purpose we could not tell. It was piled high through the domes of the cave like a secret pirate hoard, and I half expected to hear the deep rumble of a dragon snoring.

All we could hear was our halted breaths.

Instead of piles of gold it was gemstones. In the rough, but so beautiful and rich in colours. I am ashamed to say that they made me drool. They made me excited.

We found what must have been weapons. Swords and shields, clear and brilliant. They could have been forged from the finest and most pure of ice, so sharp the blade cut my thumb. I was mesmerised by the contrast of the perfect ice and my dark blood running down, refusing to relent. I felt like the blade was caressing my blood, embracing it and absorbing me into itself. I had to shake myself out of my trance. There was something fantastical about this place.

“Sir! Gabriel, sir! Who will believe that we have found this?” Dav’id whispered. He too was afraid that if he looked too closely the vision in front of us would vanish like the most splendid of daydreams.

“We set out to catch the essence of a fallen star, and along the way we have found a bounty the gods would envy,” I answered back.

“Aye, but whose bounty have we found?” Symon asked, his voice bounced off the crystal walls of the cave.

We had no answer for him. What could we possibly say?

“Perhaps we have stumbled upon a thieving fae?” Dav’id pondered out lout, still looking at the ice sword I held greedily.

Symon and I exchanged a sceptical glance.

“I think it would be better to set up camp and then we can speculate over our new found treasure, eh?” I suggested.

My team were good men, practical and followed leadership. We had our heater up and running and in no time a brew of tea was warming up for us. The warmth from our heater was kept contained in our shelter and we were thawed through. Symon, the stocky lad that he was soon had something cooking on a skillet. He was very good with making dehydrated food taste edible, not to mention he always seemed to have some sort of liquor on him and plenty to share around.

Dav’id was torn between food and glittering things. Both equally his greatest weaknesses. I smiled to myself as I watched him struggle between hovering over whatever Symon was cooking and looking over to the treasure hoard. I could hear the gears in his head spin out of control as he desperately wanted to catalogue what we found.

“Dav, I swear if you don’t fuck off soon I swear I’m gonna smack you senseless!” Symon barked.

Dav’id sat down in a heap. He pouted like a petulant child, but we knew his mood would improve once he got some food in his stomach. To pass the time he pulled out a black-paper cigarette and lit it on the heater. Each exhale he puffed in Symon’s direction. His own silent retort. Symon though, just smiled with his usual good nature and took a swig from one of his many flasks and then passed it to me with a wink.

“How long before we have to send up the flares?” Symon asked me.

I took a deep swig from the flask and swirled the liquor around in my mouth, it was so lovely and strong I wanted to relish it a bit before I swallowed it down.

“We will have to wait until the storm clears,” I finally said.

Symon threw something small at Dav’id, “Get out your geometrique so we know when this storm will pass, eh!”

“We will have to let the ship know what we found here,” I added.

“Do you think we will still carry on to find our star?”

I took a final drink from the flask before handing it back to Symon, “That is our mission.”

“Aye, but this is a bit of a show stopper, eh?” Symon said looking over to the hoard.

“Nothing stops finding the essence of a dead star,” I reminded him. Though I too had to look over my shoulder at the glowing treasure trove.

Dav’id cleared his throat, he had configured his geometrque and showed us the screen; a weather projection showed us what outside the cave looked like, it was chaos, “The wind is going to make the storm harder to clear because it keeps going around in circles. However, we should have enough clarity to send a message, though the chance of success is forty percent. I am predicting at least five hours before flares can be used with success.”

Five hours to be alone with the glittering hoard of wonders…. our hearts soared…

Dav’id was the first to give in; the little troll in him just could not keep his hands off all the gems and artefacts. He seemed to be searching for something. Symon and I watched from our little camp as Dav’id would go through the piles, pick something up and then put it down. He had started to make piles, but it was clear that he had not found what he was looking. The more he searched the more frustrated he got; “It’s here, it’s here. I know, it’s here,” he would mutter and rage.

This is the start of another story idea….

******

He staggers into his chambers. Exhausted and defeated. He does not care that the fire is out and the inevitable chill has invaded his bedroom; his home.

In a rush of emotion he flew back the tapestries and pulled the windows open so hard the joints wrenched. The gust of wind blew him back and the old general landed in a chair, his armour creaked and groaned. There was no one around anymore, he would have to rely on his own self to take off the cumbersome lot. Slowly, he manages to kick off his boots. They thump as he flings them off. He groans as he leans back, too exhausted to contemplate taking off anymore. It did not matter which way he sat himself, the metal cadge that was his armour was not made for sitting. In the end, he gave up trying to be comfortable.

He did not feel that he deserved to be so…

The door to his chamber flung open, uninvited it banged against the wall. The little toad that opened it hardly seemed able to provide such a force. The old general felt his blood boil at the site of the dainty man; slightly ruffled yet still fresh in his velvet and lace.

“Sire! We have lost!”

To the general, in that moment, this courtier stooge was all that was wrong in his world. All the court intrigues and plots were down to this one man; the Vasier who came in crying when all his plotting went sour.

He could not stand it.

He could not stand his voice!

“You Fool!” the general roared and for good measure, tore off his bloodied gauntlet and hurled it at the court dandy.

He ducked in time, much to the general’s annoyance. At least the fool kept close to the ground. If he had dared to come within arm reach the seasoned soldier in him was ready to tear limb from limb.

Personal feelings aside, the old general pulled off the scarlet red cape he wore over his armour. Princes wore fur, he was a simple man and chose simple cloth, sturdy and durable. The colour was part of his arms. It made him stand out. It made him the target. It was worn, and rough around the edges, much like the man who had worn it. Yet it served, it endured, and it was recognised.

His armour creaked and groaned as the old general clanked over to the monumental chest of drawers that held his faithful wife’s treasures, and with a strength one did not see in a man as old as he, he shifted the wooden monument with an ease that would shame any man. The Vasier watched with greedy eyes as he saw finally where the hiding place was. But he had no chance while the general lived.

The man scooped up a small and simple box from his hiding place, and wrapped it in his warriors cloak.

“Who is left?” The old general barked.

The Vasier gulped; “Only the Princess, sire.”

Accepting this, the general nodded, “Take me to her.”