Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Do Atheists Believe in Tuesdays?

The description of atheists as not believing in gods or any supernatural entities is simplistic and wrong. You would have great difficulty finding an atheist who denied the existence of religious churches. Those churches are built by people who believe in one or more gods. Therefore the concept of gods exists and has been used to justify building great cathedrals and in fighting bloody wars. To deny the very existence of deities as being not real is as preposterous as claiming that concepts such as happiness aren't real.

Once this has been established, discussions of the nature of religion therefore must focus on the supernatural forces involved or the intentions of the gods. The former being tricky to discuss due to supernatural forces with irrefutable evidence being called natural forces. The latter is equally problematic as intentions and conscious experience bring together all the uncertainty of experience and free will that we have as individuals, let alone beings and persons external to ourself.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Quality vs. Quantity

Sometimes you have to choose quality over quantity.
Every so often you'll need to choose doing over thinking.
Occasionally you just need to get something done.

This place needs perfect posts, not regular updates.

This will now be erratic.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Recipe for Life

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 sperm
  • 5 years of upbringing by parent or carer
  • 1 education, level to taste
  • 3 to 5 significant teenage experiences
  • 1 job, skilled or unskilled
  • a pinch of understanding
  • a dash of luck

Method:

  1. Preheat the womb to 37 degrees.
  2. Combine the egg and sperm and gestate in the womb for 9 months.
  3. Once ready, remove the baby and allow to develop for 5 years.
  4. When the 5 years is up, send the child off to be educated.
  5. While the child is being educated, keep a close eye on it to be sure it's doing what you want.
  6. After the child reaches it's thirteenth birthday it will start to become more independent. This is normal and nothing to panic about.
  7. Over the next few years the young adult will experience several things that will, in hindsight, be seen as key points in their development. However at the time they'll likely seem to be just another bad day.
  8. Eventually the adult is likely to leave education and hopefully get a job. One thing to be careful of here is to not assume that learning stops with education. Not many recipes mention this explicitly, but perhaps the most important learning for a life happens outside education.
  9. After seasoning with some understanding and luck, let the new life out into the world.
  10. Life tends to go best with other life, so try to ensure that there is other life around.
Serves one species.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Summoning

I drew the poker over the fire, exposing the warm orange glow of the burning wood and causing sparks to rise up into the air. I consulted the start of the scroll for the incantation which I was planning on performing. The embers of the fire were exactly as instructed by the scroll, so I stood up and went to the cupboard containing the components necessary for this preparation.

Removing the tuber of Solanum from the cupboard along with a root of Brassica rapa. I carefully grated to the size described in the scroll and then carefully pressed them into the steel pan and placed it over the heat. I consulted the scroll on my next course of action and realised that the instructions were very explicit, a steel pan wouldn't produce the correct flow of energy, I should have used a cast iron one. I dug around in my equipment cupboard and discovered a suitable dish and transfered the mixture to it.

Returning to the scroll, I read the next steps which demanded blood of pig mixed with grain of the fields and intestines filled with ground flesh mixed with the correct herbs. I went to my larder and returned with the prescribed items. Slicing them thickly I then placed them in the steel pan which I had almost foolishly used previously.

I looked over at my cauldron and saw that the water was bubbling furiously in it, just as the spell dictated. I carefully placed the ovulation of poultry into the cauldron and started to count slowly to sixty, not once, not twice, but thrice.

Once the counting was done I removed the eggs from the cauldron and then consulted the scroll for the incantation one last time to check that I hadn't missed anything. All seemed to be in order and all that remained was the final step of combining my previous preparations onto a plate and to consume them; which I planned to do with much gusto.

As I cut into the stuffed intestines with my knife, my thoughts moved to what to prepare for the noon time ritual later today. The spirit of the world guided my will and I knew immediately that I should prepare thinly sliced pig aired over smouldering pine resin within fermented and baked crushed grains. With the plans for the rest of the day settled I bit down on the reward of my labours.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tick-tock

Deadlines loom ahead,
Causing me a panicked rush
Missing perfection.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dracula vs. The Wobbly Giant Jellyfish

"So," said Dracula in his thick Transylvanian accent, "you're the one responsible for all the attacks on the seaside villages?"

The giant jellyfish shuddered a bit and started to ooze a thick clear liquid. Dracula had almost decided that no response was forth coming but then the jellyfish spoke, "Wobble wibble wobbly!"

"I thought so; there aren't many multi-tentacled, 2 meter round, semi-transparent amorphous blobs brave enough to feast on human flesh. While I admire your work, it has to end tonight, on this beach. You're not going to walk- erm, bounce," said Dracula, raising his voice in a questioning manner at the end. When the jellyfish didn't seem to object to the term bounce he continued, "You're not going to bounce away from this one."

"Wibbly wobble? Wobble wobble wobbly wobble flib!" was the oozing response from the giant ball of slime.

Dracula sucked in air through his mouth and rocked on his heals while he considered his reply. Finally he shook his head before saying "I don't. You can do whatever you like with the humans, I couldn't careless if you built a throne out of their living mangled bodies or a fine chandelier from their bones, it's what you're doing with the fear that I have to stop.

"From Spain to Russia I'm feared through Europe. I still am, but now no-one talks about me now, at least not in the towns and villages anywhere near the water. It's all-" Dracula noticed some movement at the end of one of the tentacle and raised his sword towards it, "No, don't do anything while I'm explaining myself to you or I'll just have to cut our little discussion short."

"Wubble," replied the jellyfish in a low and dejected voice.

Happy that the tentacle movement had stopped, Dracula continued his speech, "It's all just talk of you. When villagers hear a noise out in the dark it's not me they worry about now, it's you. Children now wake screaming from nightmares of tentacles pulling them down to the deep, not to razor sharp teeth draining them of their delicious blood. I had a reputation and now I want it back."

"Wobble, wibble wobble wobble wab. Wibbly wobble wob wib wobble," the blob paused as if considered it's next words before continuing, "Wobble wobbly wobble."

Dracula let out a short laugh before replying, "That's irrelevant and, by the by, quite frankly a little ridicules. So now you should-" but Dracula never finished that sentence. He had already launched himself straight at the jellyfish, driving his sword into the oozing mass right up to it's hilt.

"Ah," screamed Dracula as the secretions of the jellyfish started to seer his long dead flesh like fire. As he struggled to pull the sword out free of the body of his foe, a sting flashed across his face as one of the tentacles lashed across his face.

Dracula staggered back from the force of the blow and tried to find some steady footing on the sand. He looked back at the jellyfish just in time to see the handle of his sword be sucked fully into the jellyfish with a small slurping sound.

"Wo-Wo-Wobble," mocked the jellyfish, the fast tarnishing sword jiggling inside it in time with it's laughter.

Dracula's hand flew to his side and drew his dagger. He barely had time to bring his dagger up in front of him before a couple of tentacles thrashed at him. The dagger in his arm slashed in a wide arc, cutting straight through the first tentacle. The giant jellyfish had enough time to react to avoid a similar fate for the second tentacle. The the poisonous appendix adjusted course away from the path it had been making towards Dracula's face.

Still a little shaken from losing his sword, Dracula hadn't expected the reactions of the jellyfish to be so quick. The side of his chest was entirely exposed and the tentacle struck him hard on the side, blood quickly welling up in the gash in his cloak.

Dracula crouched down on the sand and caught his breath. A plan formed in his mind and he dropped his dagger. He launched himself up from his crouch directly towards the jellyfish. Tentacles thrashed in the air around him, but the pain from them was a minor inconvenience and wouldn't steer him from his target.

When his body was inches from the quivering sticky surface of the jellyfish's body he punched his fist into it with all his strength. The skin of the jellyfish bent but then gave way, plunging Dracula's arm deep into the acidic gel insides of the fish.

"Ahhhh!" screamed Dracula as he pressed his arm deeper into the body of this fish. He grasped forwards through the insides of his adversary, trying desperately to grasp the handle of his sword. With his body pressed against the outside skin of the jellyfish the fingers of his blistering arm felt around for the solid handle of his sword.

With one final push of effort against the body of the jellyfish he managed to get his hand gripped around his sword. This time though, instead of trying to pull it out, he tried to swing it sideways. At first there was very little movement, but with a bit of jiggling he managed to make it a bit looser.

"Waaaaaaaaabibbly," exclaimed the jellyfish as a thinner fluid started to fill the space around Dracula's arm and sword. It has hard to tell through the prickle of pain all along his arm, but Dracula was sure that this liquid didn't have the same corrosive properties as the sticky goo.

"Aha!" shouted Dracula as he manage to swing the sword by about a foot inside the jellyfish.

"Waaaa," cried the jellyfish in response.

With two more larger strokes Dracula finally pulled away from the jellyfish, sword in hand and thickly covered in the secretions of the sea creature. As his arm drew out of the hole he had punched it was followed by a steady flow of a water like liquid.

"Wobble wibble wobbly," said the jellyfish faintly, liquid squirting out of the hole faster on each syllable.

"And to you, adieu. In another life we could have been something other than enemies," replied Dracula as nobly as someone covered from head to toe in gelatinous slime can do.

Dracula stood by the corpse of his foe for a few minutes until the silence of the sea was broken by the sound of foot prints in the sand behind him. He looked over his shoulder to see a elderly man with a gold chain around his neck coming over the crest of the sand dune.

"Who are you old man?" asked Dracula as he turned to face the man, sword still raised in his hand.

"I'm the mayor or Kelafot-Upon-Sea and I want to extend the thanks of the whole village for killing the giant wobbly jellyfish. One of the village boys watched your fight from the tall grasses of the sand dunes and has told us all of your brave and righteous fight."

Dracula threw his sword onto the sand before replying, "I am only glad to have been of service to your village."

"You must return to our village to attend a feast in your honour. Even though it be dark and late we will celebrate your achievement long into the night. Will you join us and regale us with your stories of battles?" asked the mayor.

"Yes," replied Dracula, realising quite how much energy he had spent in the fight, "there will be a feast in your village tonight."

He turned back to face the jellyfish corpse one last time, a grin spreading over his face. "We'll see who is most feared now," he whispered to the dead body.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Ester Blessing

Ester opened her back door and drew in a breath of fresh morning air. The cold tingled in her nostrels with the freshness of spring. The sun hung low in the crystal clear sky, an orb of light surrounded by a canvas of pure blue.

"I do like late March mornings," she said to no one in particular. "They remind me of the new start everything gets in the coming year."

She slipped her feet into her Wellington boots and stomped off across the frosty lawn. She enjoyed every step and the faint crunch it made under her feet. This wasn't a heavy winter frost which would hang around for hours; this was a thin sprinkling of ice which would be gone in under and hour, dripping away quickly even under the feeble power of the low sun. With each step a few crystals would cling to her boots, hoping to escape their fate in the sun. The warmth of her feet was, however, a furnace compared to the gentle rays of the sun and the crystals didn't last more than a couple of steps before being transformed into tiny specs of dew.

Ester strode across the lawn with no particular purpose, she had nowhere she needed to be and nothing she needed to do. She was just happy to enjoy being out of the house and bathing in the refreshing morning light. She had decided that she'd probably wander for an hour at mot before returning to the house. Perhaps by that time some of the rest of the house would have woken up, but for now this was her time and she was determined to enjoy it as fully as possible.

As she approached the bed of green spikes on the other side of the lawn to the house she paused for a moment to bend down and look at the plants. She could see that the thick green shoots were well formed and guess that any day now the first snow drops, crocuses and other bulbs would soon errupt splashes of colour across the earth. Ester thought of the thousands of little white heads bobbing around in the cold winds, fcreating ripples of white, blue and yellow flowers at the edge of the lawn and realised that she thought that the day couldn't come soon enough. She'd had enough of winter and was fed up of the plain and earthy colours

It wasn't that she didn't enjoy winter, the long cold nights with skies darker than the blackest ink were as beautiful as a fresh spring morning, a warm summer's day or a leafy autumn evening; she just liked things to be always moving on. After enough time, anything got stale and dull, regardless of how wonderful it was to start with. At the moment it was he lack of sun, the bitterly cold winds and the sheets of ice which she wished to be rid of and she reveled in all the signs she saw that showed the coming revolution of the season.

She stood up straight from her examination of the plants in the bed and decided on a whim to walk through the orchard. All the trees would still be bear branches and the beech hedge that surrounded it would still be just tangled twigs and buds, but Ester wanted to feel the potential there; to see all the greed buds ready to burst open with fresh growth when given the right signal. She turned and walked along the edge of the bed of bulbs towards the gap in the hedge which lead to the orchard, still enjoying the crunch and give in each of the steps she took.

As she stepped into the orchard she found herself on the stage with three other players. Sat high in the branches of the furthest tree sat a female blackbird, singing her heart out as loudly and sharply as possible. The cause of the blackbird's distress was clearly evident to Ester as it lay on the ground at the feet of the tree. There, beside the roots and butresses, sat the big tom cat from the neighbours house with a struggling male blackbird caught under the cat's strong paw.

"Now here's a bit of a pickle," said Ester to herself once again. "Here's old Palmer, the cat from the Jones' house, trapping a young blackbird for sport."

She looked at the scene and weighed up the situation before deciding what to do. On one hand the blackbird should have been weary of the cat, especially as Palmer was over six years old now, so hardly in her prime hunting shape. Yet on the other hand, Palmer didn't need to hunt for food so was purely hunting for the pleasure of it. She would have already have got quite a rush from catching and pinning the blackbird, so to let him die would be a needless waste. She mulled over the options for only a split second before deciding on a course of action through not much other than a random choice.

"Scram," she shouted as she charged towards the cat, "Go on scram!"

Palmer glanced at the raging form of Ester which was flying towards her and let go of the blackbird. Palmer then ran off into the hedge at full speed. Satisfied that she had scared Palmer off, Ester slowed her run down to a slow walk and examined the blackbird carefully from a distance of a few feet.

Looking it over she could see that it was still alive and, apart from some ruffled feathers, seemed to be in good health. She hoped that the blackbird was still lying on the ground due to shock instead of a more serious injury from the cat. After a long and worrying pause, Ester noticed the wings twitch and she let out an audible sigh of relief.

Ester's release of breath seemed to be enough to finally rouse the bird from it's stunned stupor. It hopped to it's feet and in a couple of bounds took off and flew to a tree at the far end of the orchard. The female blackbird stop it's shrill cries which had been continuing throughout. It looked at Ester with a look which she would have sworn was a carefully examination and then flew off to join the other blackbird at the end of the orchard.

"I hope you have a wonderful family together with many chicks and years of happiness," Ester called after it. She stood and watched the blackbirds sing to each other in the tree for a few more minutes before turning around and walking slowly back to the house.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chaos Descends

Charlotte tapped her knife gently against the side of her glass a couple of times. The noise of hundreds of overlapping conversations gradually petered out until all that was left were the faint echos reverberating off the solid stone walls of the dining hall. She looked around the room at the expectant faces all looking up to where she sat at the head of the high table.

"Good evening everyone," she said in her loudest voice, "as you might have heard from various rumours going around, I have some good news to tell you all. However, before I get to confirming what you might have heard in the corridors and bedrooms of this castle, I want to reflect on how we've got to be where we are today.

"I can say with absolute confidence that if it wasn't for the hard work, skill and sheer determination of each and every person in this room. There is not a single individual here who hasn't earned their place in this commune ten-times over in the past four months. I never lead such an amazing collection of people and I can confidently say that I don't think I ever will once the crisis is over.

"I didn't call all of you for dinner in the great hall to hear me exalt your virtues, we have reached a turning point in our fight against the infected. This day, August 20th, will be known as the day that marks the start of the restoration of society. I received a report this morning from Officer G. Ramesh regarding the activities of the infected outside the ramparts of this castle. In his report he described that the infected had started to attack each other.

"Since the infection first consumed the world in April it has mutated several times. All the previous mutations we've seen have made our survival more difficult, from the emergence of the infected travelling in packs to the more passive form of infection which made it seem like they had developed the ability to hide. However this latest mutation is one which we can exploit to propel us from the cusps of recovery to re-establishing our towns and cities.

"The change in behaviour from the infect is a classic example that has been seen with many diseases, although never on quite this much scale. As it becomes too virulent a disease can be so deadly that it harms it's own ability to spread. Nature has stepped in to lend us a hand we overcoming it. We are still a few months away from being able to move back to our homes, but from the numbers of the infected remaining it's a very real possibility that we will be able to migrate back to a city before Christmas.

"And so it's with that news that I announce that tonight will be a night of celebration. We will have three courses," Charlotte interrupted her planned speech to address the gasps from various tables at that suggestion, "yes, that does includes a chocolate pudding." She paused and took a sip of water as a cheer spread through the hall, "There will even be reasonable quantities of wine and beer, but please try to stay reasonably sober; it's still a dangerous place outside. Those on guard duty and those on duty later tonight will be given a chance to celebrate fully another night."

Charlotte nodded at the people at the head of each table and they pulled the covers off the crates of beer and wine that had been placed at the head of each table. People started to pass the bottles down the tables and a wave of lively conversation went with them. Charlotte tapped her glass again to hush everyone once again. Despite the lively atmosphere the room grew silent quickly and she could soon continue, "So I'd like us all to raise our glasses to the ongoing health of everyone across the country and to our future."

"Our future!" chorused back the whole room.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Castle

The radio in the middle of the kitchen table crackled into life. I looked up from staring at my hands and exchanged a brief look of hope with Gopal who sat across from me. I dropped my eyes to the watch on his wrist and saw that the clock read 10am exactly: at least the government were still organised enough to broadcast on time.

"Citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland," spoke the calm voice on the radio, "it is with great sadness that I must report that the crisis is still on-going. The ferocity and frequency of the attacks of the infected have increased and that only heightens the importance of following the public health guidelines.

"Firstly it is essential to have a safe and secure place of residence. If you have a cellar, move all your supplies there and sleep there. If you don't have a cellar then choose a room with as few windows as possible and cover the windows. Metal shutters are best but wood is sufficient if firmly attached. The infected are more active at night, so ensure that you are home well before dusk and never open your door, regardless of who or what you hear outside.

"Secondly all contact with the infected should be avoided. The disease can only be spread by blood or saliva, but as the infected can behave erratically it is best to avoid them entirely. Should you be bitten or otherwise wounded then apply vinegar to the wound immediately to sterilise it. This simple step can help prevent the spread of infection.

"Finally, if you or someone you are with does get bitten or have other contact with the blood of one of the infected then you must quarantine the injured person. Your quarantine room should be entirely separate from your safe room, preferably in a separate building. You should leave the injured there with sufficient food and water and then avoid all contact for a week. This includes any form of communication as that can increase the risk of others getting infected. If after a week they are recovered then it is safe to remove them from quarantine."

The announcer took a deep breath before continuing, "That is all until the next broadcast in twenty four hours time. We wish you all the best of luck and are confident in the reserve of the British people to not only preserver through times of such tragedy and hardship, but also in the ability of all of you to aid in the quick containment of this crisis. By maintaining civil order and strictly following the department of health's guidelines we will be free of this plague within a year. Britain will once again be great and we all have a vital part to play in the ending of our most trying times."

The radio made a popping sound and then just made a quiet white noise sound. Gopal reached over and flicked the power switch to the off position.

Gopal looked at me and with a sigh said, "Nothing new. They've said the same thing for the past week."

"And they'll probably say the same thing tomorrow," I interrupted, "and the day after, and the day after that. We've just got to sit tight and we'll be fine." I reached over and put my hand over the back of his hand before continuing, "We've got enough food and drink for at least a week. We've boarded up the windows and doors so well that we can't even see any daylight on the sunniest days. This home is our castle and we're both kings of it."

"I never did think much of royalty," muttered Gopal under his breath, "but you are right. We'll be ok. I just can't wait for the army to sort it out."

We both slept badly that night. The radio announcer was right when they said the attacks of the infected had increased. That was the first night that I remember hearing the banging on the doors and windows of our home accompanied by the unintelligible shouts. Before then it had just been distant shouts and screams. It could have just been the sounds of a rowdy party a few streets over had it not been for the build up, with people getting attacked and all the talk on the news of the infected.

This really was the zombie apocalypse and we were living it. Or rather hiding, boarded up in our two bedroom terraced house; an inch of wood keeping us safe from the outside world. The thing I found most unnerving at night wasn't the shouting and the banging, we were both confident that you'd need to use power tools to get through our defences, it was the spells of silence which followed the noises. My mind would always try to work out what could be happening, thoughts of why the mouths of the infected were no longer shouting sent shivers along my spine.

---

It was just five days after that night that the announcements started to show that things were far worse than they'd been saying originally. All we could tell from the noises from outside was that there were more infected, many many more of them. We could even here the sound of shuffling feet outside during the day now. Both Gopal and myself didn't know what this meant, apart from it confirming our mutual desire to not leave the house. However day by day our supplies were diminishing and so the bottom dropped out of our world when we heard those four words over the radio: "No support is coming".

It only spoke the ideas that we both knew but had avoided mentioning to each other, but still it hit hard. It made everything we did so much more delicate and precious. It put the edge on the most mundane of day to day tasks, from the noise of the tin opener cutting into one of our diminishing supply of a tin to the cold water of the morning shave. It pushed our thoughts one step further, onto thoughts of what we should do when the tins and bottles ran out.

Which bring me to today. It's ten past ten in the morning and the words from the radio broadcast of today are still ringing in my ears. 'Feed yourselves' is the first, followed by 'move by day' and 'don't take risks'. Since then Gopal and I have been rushing about the house, stuffing backpacks with clothes, bandages, snack bars and anything else which comes to mind. Now we stand in the hall, Gopal with a crowbar in hand.

"So," I look over to Gopal, but can't finish the sentence myself.

"So," he replies, "this is it?"

I shrug before saying, "I guess it is."

"Shall I do the honors?"

"If you'd like," I reply.

"Ok then," says Gopal as he steps forward and uses the crow bar to pry off the planks nailed to the door frame. The eight planks come off with relative ease but with a bone retching splintering of the wood of the frame. As the second to last board is levered off I realise that my hands have started to shake uncontrollably so I stuff them into my arm pits to try to hide my fear.

With the planks piled in the hall Gopal turns to me and offers me is free hand, "Shall we do this?"

I take his hand and squeeze it tight before replying weakly, "Yes."

I reach my free hand up to the door and pull it open towards me. Bright sunlight floods off the street into our house. I glance back, partly to get a last look at the house, but mainly to check that Gopal is ok. He smiles grimly back at me. I smile back, realising I wouldn't want anyone else as an apocalypse buddy. I then turn towards the doorway, letting my hand fall out of his as I do and then step over the threshold.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beats of the Soul

The church bell rung out, the time was one o'clock, I rolled over onto my back and opened my eyes; the ceiling was still there, the walls still stood, the curtains flapped lightly in the small breeze creeping in through the window. The eerie dappled yellow glow from a street light danced as a tree in front of the street light moved in the breeze. The room was the same as it was last night, the same as it had been for the past 17 years, the same as it will always be. My hand slowly slid off of the bed and came to rest on the wooden side of the bed. I just stared up at the celling and let my mind drift, this was my time; I, different from being awake, different from dreaming, was in control of myself now.

As I sunk further and further into my mind I suddenly was aware of a tapping sound outside my mind.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Hunter

I glanced left and right and then, happy that the coast was clear, lay down on the paving. The stone trapped warmth caressed the parts of my body which lay upon the ground causing a comfortable smile to spread through my body. Passage of time slipped away and I wished that I could stay sandwiched between the rays of the sun and the heat of the earth for beyond forever.

Slowly my mind sank beneath the depths of sleep and when I next awoke I was barely aware of the passing of any time at all. The only element which hinted to me at the passage of time was the slight chill upon the air now. I lifted up one eye lid and surveyed the sky; the sun had travelled a fair distance and would soon start to disappear to the night.

I stretched out my sun baked limbs while simultaneously showing a wide yawn from my mouth. The tips of my digits brushed the cool green of the edge of the grass beside the paving, sending a prickle of cool sensation up to my shoulders. The feeling of the grass flicked an irresistible switch in my head and before I knew what I was doing I'd stood up and bounded into the middle of the lawn. The blades of grass tickled the bottom of my feet as I moved over them and helped to sharpen my senses after my afternoon nap.

I stopped in the middle of the lawn and a movement to my right caught my attention. It was a small black cat from a few doors over which had just lept onto the top of the fence. I slowly turned to face it and looked at it, both of us staring at each other's intrusion. After a couple of seconds of this I felt I should probably do something other than stand here staring at the neighbour's cat.

I opened my mouth and tried to give it my friendliest meow. I didn't mind if he was in my garden and it's always best to be kind to others than to try to scare them off.

'Meeeow,' he responded and then turned and walked upon the length of the fence and then jumped down into the runnel at the end. I wasn't sure if I'd managed to get my positive attentions across, but he didn't seem to have run in fear, which was something at least.

Once I was fairly confident that the little cat wasn't coming back I decided what to do next. There were still a good few hours of light left so I didn't want to go inside the house just yet, but wasn't sure exactly what to do instead. In my state of aimlessness I wandered over to the base of the cherry tree at the end of the garden. Having reached the tree I looked around the garden trying to work out what I could do next and realised that my mind was just as barren of ideas as when I was stood in the middle of the lawn.

Suddenly a noise in the bushes in front of me caused my muscles to tense. I pricked up my ears as my body instinctively lowered to the ground. I heard the noise again and twitched my ears in an attempt to better localise the source of the sound. My memory ticked over, trying to find a matching sound from the past. It was certainly a familiar sound, with the repeated moist crunch of damp plant matter being splintered and ripped apart.

The realisation that it was the sounds of something chewing a dead plant stem finally cemented what it was I was listening to; it must be a mouse chewing a rotten log. The thought of the small rodent started my blood pumping and I felt the moist soil and the roots of the cherry tree press against the fur of my stomach as I tried to make myself even lower.

My whiskers twitched as I thought about my distance to my prey. I was only about half a body length further away than I would have liked to be to pounce so I decided to close the distance between me and the mouse. Carefully and slowly I moved one paw after another, creeping forward ever so slightly. With my body now positioned optimally I dug my claws into the ground to ensure that I had suitable purchase for my killing leap.

Happy that I was fully prepared and feeling the muscles of my legs coiled and ready to release their energy in one powerful leap I paused, waiting for the right moment. When hunting rodents you can have the best position in the world, the strongest legs and the sharpest claws, yet if your timing is off the prey will notice your attack and, most likely, escape.

So I paused and waited until the right time. I didn't know when that would be, or what would signal it, but when it happened I would know and that was good enough for me. The quiet chomping of teeth through wood fibre continued it's steady and repetitive tat-tat-tat sound. Somewhere in the distance a thrush sang a summer tune.

I pounced. My body flew through the air and my front paws landed exactly on target. The mouse let out a small squeak as it struggled under the pressure of my right paw. I glanced left and right to check that I was alone with my trophy and, secure in my solitude, raised my left paw to deliver the killing blow.

Monday, March 01, 2010

To Us All

He moves through his life
gaining happy success, yet
feels darkness draw close.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Under Those Branches

As under the arms of the old oak I lay,
I let my thoughts drift out over that grass.
While the canopy held the harsh sky at bay,
daisies and buttercups rapt my elation.

With not yet one score of age to my name,
bestowing to old arms respect and awe.
Beauty now past that I hoped to reclaim,
wisdom of ages wrapping around me.

Though living my life to some degree,
I felt I never had what I sought.
Ignoring all that I thought sultry,
Looking for elusive harmony.

My view from upon this high-land,
did put my running mind to rest.
My folly over the land blazoned,
Searching for that which I held close.

Rolling green to me present,
a mirror to ones own self.
The end of my sad lament,
chiming a soft crisp answer.

My wounds disappearing,
my eyes opening wide.
The mist began clearing,
rain washing that day down.

Sky stout with thunder,
heart starting lifting.
Cast doubt asunder,
Jubilant climax.

Lonely hilltops
bring company.
In hard raindrops,
held rays of sun.

Mind now free,
through insight.
Wise old tree,
standing straight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Protanomaly Love

Roses are green,
violets are purple.
Honey is sweet;
nothing rhymes with purple.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Not Quite a Hero

I woke up that day in the sleepy weekend lie-in haze. The warm summer sun was streaming onto my face through the thin white curtains so I rolled over with a groan and drifted back off to sleep. Soon thought I was rising back out of the folds of sleep back into a waking state.

I half opened one of my eyes and tilted my head towards the table by my bed. I squinted against the sun, trying to read the digital red display of my alarm clock. After a while struggling and not being able to read the time I sighed, gave up any attempt not to wake full and then lifted my head.

As I blinked my eyes I noticed that the reason I couldn't work out the time was that the display on my alarm clock was blank. I reached over and tried the switch on the bedside light and clicked it uselessly on and off. I rolled back onto the pillow and stared up at the ceiling while thinking about the power cut.

Without looking I groped across the bedside table with my hand for my watch. When I felt it's cold metal circle I grabbed it and raised it in-front of my face and read the time. It was already half eight and I should have already left the house and be on the road halfway to work.

I threw myself out of bed and stumbled towards the bathroom. Once I was in the bathroom I started to frantically brush my teeth. As I brushed with one hand I reached into the shower cubical with the other and turned on the shower. After finishing with my teeth I stepped into the shower, expecting it to be pre-warmed and was shocked to discover it was ice cold.

Leaping quickly out of the stream I quickly dried myself, the cold having washed any remaining sluggishness from sleep away. I put on my shirt and tie with previously unseen rapidity in an attempt to warm up a bit quicker. Now dress, I ran down to the kitchen and poured myself a bowl of cornflakes and milk and started to wolf down my breakfast.

As I chewed on the crunchy cereal I looked at the boiler to try to discover the reason for the lack of hot water. Noticing that I couldn't see the small blue flicker of the pilot light inside the boiler I prodded the reset button in an attempt to relight it. However after a dull thud and click there was still no sign of that warming ghostly glow. Chalking this up to the lack of electricity I finished my bowl of breakfast while staring out across the lawn of my back garden.

I rinsed my bowl under the cold tap and then grabbed my keys from the stand by the door before opening the front door and leaving my house. As I stepped onto the gravel driveway the silentness of the outside hit me. I paused in my hurried rush to the car as I strained my ears to try to hear any sound, but I could hear nothing; not even a tweet of a song bird.

"That's strange," I thought as I looked around in the branches of the tree, "I'd not noticed the singing of the birds." I chuckled to myself as I realised that the could be only answered with a terse, "Exactly."

Somehow I justified the silence to myself based on the power cut, although looking back at it now I realise it was just a not-so-subtle self deception. Pushing these worrying thoughts to the back of my mind I continued my charge towards the garage. I fumbled with the keys in my hand and slid the garage door up over my head after unlocking it.

With a click of my keys the lights on my black Mondeo blinked at me and I was caught by a wave of relief. Some technology was still working and I'd managed to get back to a common and well known part of my morning routine. I walked towards the drivers door and paused as I rested my hand on the black plastic door handle.

I heard the gravel shift on my driveway but had no time to turn to see what it was. When I got my bearings again I found I was pinned to the floor by an intruder. I could smell blood in the air and could hear rabid chattering from my attacker's mouth as it sank towards my neck. I must have blacked out as the last thing I can remember is the pain from his teeth sinking into my neck and the force of his arms and body pinning me to the cold concrete floor.

"So yeah," I said, finishing my tale, "that's my story of how I got here. Now you know that, can you let me in Peter?"

The man who I was addressing paused and looked me up and down as he sucked air in through his teeth, "I don't know, it's going to be tricky. You see, we're very busy today, far more people than usual want to come in." He gave me an apologetic smile as he continued, "You seem a good guy and I'm sure if it was a normal day I'd let you in without a second thought, but... well... today is different."

Monday, February 01, 2010

Sweet Things Never Last

I scribe an incantation,
while you lie miles away.
Your radiant smile a ray,
my understanding dissolved.
Lost within each other
whenever we finally meet.
Do you think the public stare;
or is this emotion only ours?
Separation is bitter,
condensing our moments,
sticking to our mind.

Today you mentioned it,
the future from which we've run.
Talk of that other place
brings only neutral thought.
Have I accepted the fate,
or do I turn a blind eye?
Through all our strong emotions;
sweet things never last.

Will it happen slowly?
Will we both agree?
Parting with fake smiles,
both wishing for a lie.
Will you come surprise me,
or will I hold the axe?
The how of the end the mystery,
as everything someday ends.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Delayed in Arrivals

I looked up from my newspaper and looked over at the arrivals board. I scanned down the list and found the line for flight BA2134. The red lettering on the right made my heart sink: DELAYED.

An involuntary sigh escaped my lungs as I glanced around the arrivals lounge. I don't know what I was looking for, just for something to do. I'd already flicked through the Guardian paper on my lap in the last half hour of waiting. I'd managed to select all the interesting stories and articles on my first look through it and now all I was left with were dull editorial pieces about finance, business and council funding in the South West.

It's not that I dislike the South West of England, or even that I don't care about them; it's just that my semi-detached house in Dorking is a few hundred miles from Penzance and so it's hardly relevant to me. I racked my brain to think of something to do other than read editorials with weren't interesting nor important to me. I decided that a wander around might help alleviate my boredom. If nothing else, the walk would help get some blood circulating around my legs again.

So I folded my newspaper, stood up and started to wander aimlessly. After drifting past the shops and through the car rental company stands, I ended up standing by the metal barrier where passengers emerged from customs. I leaned on the barrier and watched the people streaming out of the no-entry doors. As they went past I caught snippets of their conversations and realised that I'd found a great new way of passing the time.

First it was two men in suits walking past, oblivious to the world around them. "Just got an email from head office," said green tie and white shirt as he looked at his mobile phone, "you're not going to like this."

"What do they want us to do now?" asked dark blue tie and cornflower blue shirt.

"They don't want to go ahead with Project Thor."

"Urrgg," sighed dark blue tie, "we've just spent two weeks getting approval from the ministry, don't they realise how hard that was?"

Green tie shook his head. "Yeah I know," he said, "Officially it's because of funding reasons, unofficially it's..."

Their conversation faded into the crowd as they headed towards the taxi rank on the other side of the lounge.

I looked back to the stream of people to see a blond and a brunette woman embracing.

"It's so good to see you Kate, but I thought I was going to meet you at the flat?" said the blond while still in mid-hug with Kate.

"I just had to see you soon, I couldn't wait another couple of hours to tell you the good news," replied Kate.

They ended their hug and looked into each other's eyes, "What good news?" asked the blond.

"Well you know how I applied for that job at the bank a few months ago but didn't get?"

"Yes," the two of them started walking as they continued their conversation.

Kate started to grin from ear to ear as she told the rest of her story, "I was out in the pub on Friday night when I bumped into Steve; he was one of the people who interviewed me. He said that he had just started working at that new place on the high street."

My attention on their conversation was broken by a shout of "David, come back here right now. Don't go running off like that." A small child who had been running through the crowd of legs and suitcases stopped and looked back at the middle aged woman who had shouted the command.

"But mum," whined David, "we're almost home."

The woman looked over at the man loaded down with suitcases at her side, "You'd never guess that he'd never wanted to leave the beach villa this morning would you?"

The man chuckled before replying, "Yeah, but it's nice to be heading home after two weeks away."

"It's just a shame that we've still got that little matter to sort out though," said the woman, slightly disheartened.

"Oh, it'll be fine," he said with a forced smile on his face, "I'll just explain what happened and why we weren't around. I'm sure they'll understand."

As they turned the corner and left my sight, I decided that I'd had enough mystery and intrigue for now and walked off to find a coffee.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stormy Hills

Cloud and water beaten grass,
rock and rain soaked sky,
split by horizon.
A long spark brings the world to life.
Trees silhouetted,
puddles reflecting.
A deep thunder slowly rises,
suffocating the patter of rain.
Faster and faster the drums are beaten,
then, the sky satisfied, recession.
leaving only clouds and rain,
rivers and hills.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Consuming Soul

"I want a burger and some chips," slurred the drunk voice in front of Steve.
"One burger and chips, that'll be three ninety," chirped the man behind the till as he punched the numbers up on it.
"No," shouted back the drunk man, "I want a burger and some chips."
Steve raised his eyes to heaven in exasperation at the inebriate's behaviour. The man in the kebab van, however, replied in a patient voice that had clearly done this many times before, "You want a burger and some chips separately then?"
The drunkard nodded and enthusiastically agreed, "Yes. Yes."
"That'll be three ninety then."
Steve cast his eyes around the street as the drunk man dug around in his pockets for the correct change. The pavements were full of the typical small groups of post-pub patrons on their way home. It was an unusually warm evening for a Friday in April and so it was a bit busier than when Steve has been out the previous evening. As Steve thought about the groups moving in their various directions he wondered about where he should go after his hunger had been satisfied.
"Yes mate?"
The question from the man in the kebab van drew Steve's attention back to the present. He glanced at the menu on the board to remind him of what he wanted and then replied, "Just falafel in pita please." Being a vegetarian, there wasn't generally much choice at kebab vans for Steve and this particular van was a favourite of his as it had more to offer than the usual vegetarian options of chips and, if lucky, a vegetable burger.
"Right you are, that'll be two fifty."
Steve handed over the five pound note he had in his hand over to the man and uttered a quiet thanks as he pocketed the change in his khaki trousers.
As the man put falafel into an open pita with tongs he went through the questions which he must have asked many hundreds of times before, "Any salad or sauces?"
"Erm," Steve paused as he considered his options, "Yes to salad, but no sauces please."
"There you go," said the man as he leaned forward and handed the pita covered in shredded lettuce over to Steve.
"Thanks, have a good evening," replied Steve.
"You too mate."
With dinner in hand, Steve then proceeded to turn away from the kebab van. He paused for a moment as he considered which way to go; he first looked left down the High Street and then right up the High Street. Something clicked in his head and he decided to go right.
He walked slowly up the High Street as he nibbled on his kebab. Groups of people ranging from sober to heavily under the influence moved past him in both directions. Taxis streamed past him, whisking people home up the hill and over the cobbles of the one-way high-street .
Through his slow meandering pace Steve had only just reached the top of the High Street when he carefully placed the scrunched up waxed paper wrapper of his devoured kebab into a bin. He looked down at his blue and white checkered shirt and casually brush off the few crumbs of bread and chickpea that had ended up on it. Satisfied that he had managed to tidy his shirt up sufficiently, he looked up and examined the situation.
For the second time this evening he paused in his journey and considered the T-junction in front of him. The High Street met the Upper High Street and North Street here, with North Street descending down the hill to the left and the Upper High Street snaking into the distance to the right.
Steve sniffed the air in a vain attempt to get some guidance on which way he should go. While he considered his situation he realised that he was really quite thirsty. He knew that this shouldn't have come as a surprise to him, he always got thirsty after eating, but he'd managed to avoid thinking about it entirely until now. However his thoughts of how he might fulfil his thirst were interrupted by the clip-clopping sound of someone in high heels walking past him.
He glanced over to see a blond woman in a black pleated skirt and dark blue patterned strap top turning to walk along the Upper High Street. Without a moments further hesitation, Steve decided that he would go in the same direction. He didn't start moving immediately though, he didn't want to look like he was following the woman. After a slow count to ten he glanced over his shoulder and started walking along the Upper High Street.
After walking about two hundred meters along the road, the blond lady suddenly turned right into a pedestrian side alley. The sound of her shoes quickly faded. Steve didn't change his pace and just carried on walking slowly along the street and towards the alley. Just before reaching the entrance to the alley Steve had one last look up and down to street for other people. There was a man walking away from him about fifty meters up the road and a young couple walking towards him. Steve decided that the young couple seemed engaged enough in each other and far enough away that they wouldn't have noticed him and so he turned into the alleyway.
As soon as he had turned, he realised that he'd made it mistake. The alleyway was well lit with sodium lights placed high along the walls of the buildings all along it. The largest shadows were cast by a couple of wheelie bins and were barely large enough to hide a black tomcat in. However it wasn't the lack of shadows that drew Steve's attention the most, it was that the blond haired woman was about halfway down the alley and standing directly facing him.
The passive expression on her face didn't betray any fear and Steve felt an uneasy feeling in the depths of his stomach. It was only when the woman wobbled a bit on her heels that he realised the reason for his uneasy feeling. Her movement had caused the yellow light which bathed the alleyway to glimmer on the silver cross that hung from her neck. Steve weighed up his options for a moment before quickly deciding that a crucifix bearing Christian, no matter how lax a Christian they were, was too much potential trouble to be worth it.
Steve spun on the spot and walked straight out of the alley. He continued his journey along the Upper High Street and with each foot fall that took him further away from the entrance he grew calmer. His ears couldn't detect the sound of her heels, so the chances were that she'd done the sensible thing and carried on along the alleyway. He was already slightly shaken and really did not want a confrontation in the middle of a main road, regardless of how empty it was at the moment. A handful of people paying attention to him was always too many.
Steve's pace quickened as he moved along the street. His pounding heart was fuelling his thirst and he'd already decided on his next target: the man in the distance. As he moved closer and closer to the man he realised that the shops of the Upper High Street had gone and were now replaced with tall houses with grand hedges lining their front gardens and big gates across their driveways. Steve thought to himself that the road must have changed name somewhere along here, but couldn't quite remember where or what to.
As he moved closer he examined his prey with more precision this time. He was a reasonably tall man, although Steve wouldn't have liked to guess on an exact height though as the thick but neat dreadlocks that fell from his head made judging where flesh ended and hair started difficult. The most important factor was that the man was distracted; a blue glow on the right side of his head came from a mobile phone that his right hand held there. The man was wearing well tailored dark trousers and a moleskin jacket that screamed 'rich professional' to Steve's mind. The contents of the phone conversation confirmed this as he got closer.
"So yeah, is it ok if we move squash to tomorrow? I've got to fly to China on Sunday afternoon for the meeting next week."
In the quiet that followed, while the person on the other end replied, Steve considered the path up-ahead and decided on the best spot to make his move. He sped up a little to ensure that he'd reach there just as the man he was stalking would. He felt the thrill of the hunter course through his veins and his skin tingled in anticipation.
The prey carried on his conversation, "Ok. Do you want to let me know when you've talked to Cathy and, assuming she's ok with it, I'll pick you up at noon?"
Steve stepped to his left as he moved into the road to overtake the man. As they drew level, Steve's legs powered him towards the man with almost super-human strength. At the same time, Steve brought his hands up to grab at the mans head and shoulder. His pounce was perfectly timed and totally unexpected and the two of them barrelled into the hedge that Steve had picked out earlier.
The two of them landed on the ground with a thud with Steve pinning the other man firmly to the ground with his right arm and body. His left hand was held over the mouth of his victim. He glanced back to ensure that the hedge really did afford him the privacy that he wanted and then tilted the victim's head to the side as his teeth descended towards the neck.
The man struggled a bit as the teeth sunk into his neck, but he was well pinned down so could accomplish little. The skin broke and with it the warmth of the salty blood flowed over Steve's tongue. He started to lap it up in thick slurps. Suddenly he thought he heard the sound of someone talking. He paused his consumption while he strained his ears.
"Hello? Ishmael, are you still there?" the tinny voice called out, "Stop messing around Ishmael. Hello?"
Glances towards the source of the sound, Steve saw the illuminated phone lying on the ground next to them. He slowly reached up with his right hand and carefully pressed the hang up button.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Dues to be paid

"See ya' tomorrow Roberts," was the call that followed me as I left the back door of the bar.

I glanced at the grey cloud covered sky, illuminated by the pale first light of dawn and replied, "Tonight Pete, Tonight."

There was still a cold nip in the air from the previous night, but the rum and beer inside me would keep me warm on my short stagger home. I stood still for a moment, straining my ear to try to hear anything of interest. After holding my breath to stop the sound of my breathing I could hear nothing but the distant sound of the fishermen unloading their cargo down at the wharf.

I reached into my jacket and removed my pistol. Holding my pistol in my left hand I patted my pockets with my right hand, looking for my shot and powder pouches. My powder pouch was in my right pocket, but I couldn't find my shot pouch anywhere on my person. As I thought about where I could have put it, I started to pour some powder into the end of my pistol.

In my drunken and slightly distracted state I managed to spill about half the powder over my hand and the floor of the alleyway, but I thought I'd managed to get about the right amount of powder into the pistol so I returned the pouch to my pocket and packed the powder down with the ram rod which attached to the underside of my pistol.

I tried to struggle through the rum haze to remember where I might have put my shot pouch while I patted my pockets with my right hand once again. My mind drew a blank but I did manage to feel the small hard sphere of a piece of shot in the bottom of my left pocket. I reached in, felt around with my fingers until I found it again and pinched the small piece of cold metal between my thumb and forefinger. I removed it with a great sense of accomplishment and inspected it in front of my eyes.

It wasn't the best piece of shot in the world, but it was good enough for me. I started to consider what I could use as wadding to hold it in the pistol. I did think about giving up on loading my pistol. It was almost day and soon the streets would start to fill with early market goers and other lawful citizens. Most of the ruffians and criminals would have gone home or at least to some bed somewhere by now; that is apart from some of the ones like myself who felt most at home in a bar with a sawdust covered floor.

I soon checked that thought though, even if it was a less risky time of the day, it was still dangerous; or at least it could be if I met the wrong person on the streets. So my mind returned to the thought of wadding for my last piece of shot. I then remember the handkerchief that, being a gentleman as I was, I had in my jacket's top pocket. I returned the shot to the pocket it had come from and removed my handkerchief from my jacket.

After attacking the small square of cloth with my teeth and remaining free hand I eventually managed to tear a small enough piece off it and wrapped it around the bit of shot. With a bit of fiddling I managed to push the pellet of shot into the end of the gun and pushed it down into the end of the barrel with the ramrod. The only thing left to do now was to half-cock the flint so that I could put a bit of gunpowder in the pan to prime it.

With this done I decided I was suitable prepared to wander home. I started talking towards the street from the alleyway. I'd not taken three or four steps before I wobbled on my unsteady feet and ended up clutching for something to steady me with my free hand. Luckily my grasp found the edge of a barrel which rocked with emptiness as I pulled myself straight on it.

I took a deep breath and waited while I composed myself and my legs. Just as I was about to set off towards the street again I heard a noise from behind me. I spun a little too quickly on my heels, swayed a bit and then looked into the darkness of the shadows of the crate and barrel lined alley.

"Pete, is that you?" I called out. After a pause of silence I continued in an uncertain tone, "Hello? Is there anyone there?"

Again I waited for a response, this time with pistol held high and plain to see. After a handful of seconds with nothing but stillness and silence I muttered to myself that it must have been a cat. No sooner had I started to turn back towards the street than something started to move in the shadows.

Quick as a spark I turned my pistol back to the shifting shadows and squeezed the trigger. The trigger resisted my squeeze as the hammer raised further back until it reached the zenith of it's arc and with a click it swung towards the powder tray. The flint sparked and in a flash and a cloud of acrid smoke fire leapt from the muzzle of my pistol.

The smoke and noise brought back memories of my old life, only a few months ago but feeling like a lifetime away. Thoughts of the day-to-day running of the farm filled my mind with feelings of lost security and safety. It had all been so very different, so much easier; even if working the fields in the toiling sun hadn't felt quite so easy at the time.

My mind wouldn't let me linger in the thoughts of a past paradise long and it soon brought me visions of the reason why I was standing in an alley fighting for my life at the moment with a figure in the shadows. It had all started with an argument over the ground rent for the land I was farming. My grandfather had purchased the lease from the lord of the land at the time and it had been worked by my family ever since.

The lord at the present time had been hit by hard times and was trying to squeeze as much gold as possible from his land. He had tried to bargain with me, and then moved to intimidation when I continued to stand my ground. First the intimidation had been verbal but then I started to notice crops and animals going missing at night. Of course I couldn't attribute it to him, it could have just been foxes, but I knew, deep down, that it could only have been him.

Eventually one night I awoke in my bed to hear some noise outside my cottage. I had loaded my pistol quickly that night and had burst quickly out the door, determined to catch the thieves in the act. However it was immediately obvious to me that the couple of cloaked figures I saw had not been thieving. Instead they were carrying flaming torches which they were trying to use to set the hay in my barn alight. In my anger and fury I raised my pistol at them and fired.

My shot struck true and had hit one of them square in the chest. He had fallen to the ground with a gurgling sound as his accomplice ran off into the dark. I walked over to the fallen man and lend down to pull his hood off, determined to confirm my suspicions of the hand of the lord being involved in this crime. However when I pulled the hood off all thoughts of achievement left my heart; I was greeted by the pale face of the lord's only son.

My mind was a blur with what to do. If I waited until morning I would be surely caught and taken to prison. There would be a trial and I'd surely not be believed as it would be my word against whoever the lord paid off to tell his version of the story. I realised that I really only had two choices, stay and face the noose or leave and have a chance to survive.

I quickly packed all I could carry, said silent goodbyes to my family as they sleft and left within an hour. It was a cloudless sky and the faint light of the waxing moon made my journey easier that it would have been in pitch blackness. I reached the nearest port in a couple of days of tiring travel and quickly signed up on the first navy boat leaving harbour.

After months at sea I'd ended up alone at a remote port with just a couple of bottles of rum to my name. A sailor had persuaded me to join his privateer vessel, I'd not been too picky as they offering food and money. It was only when we'd been at sea a few days that I realised that I'd managed to end up on a pirate ship.

I was hesitant at first, especially as the whole reason I was there was to escape the hangman; but if you leave a man with nothing he'll end up taking anything offered to him. I soon accepted the stealing and fighting. I even started to enjoy all the excitement and danger. The exciting way in which a four day long chase of a boat ended with a boarding, sword fights and the grabbing of gold.

I didn't get any of that rush tonight though. I'd left the ship when it'd arrived in this port. I had more than enough coin to keep me comfortable for a while so I'd decided to relax and enjoy some land-life. Standing alone in the cold shooting wildly into the dark is a far cry from leaping aboard another ship with twenty other blood thirsty pirates joining you.

The smell of cordite filling the air brought my mind fully back to the present. Smoke plumes curled all around me and the crack of the pistol had left my ears ringing. Over the ringing I could just about hear a shuffle of feet from the direction which I'd shot the pistol. The shadows stopped moving and a body fell forwards out of the darkness.

The body lay on it's back with it's dark robes hiding the identity. I faltered a bit while I tried to work out what I should do next. I stood staring at the body for a few moments until the maroon seeping over the stones awoke me from my trance. I realised that I needed to know who I'd just killed and why they were stalking me in an alley. I tentatively walked over and knelt down in front of the body.

As I pulled back the hood of the robe I saw a face sweetly familiar to me. In my horror all I could stutter out was, "Lauren, I... I didn't know."

She starred into my eyes without a hint of anger or fear on her face. "James, oh my Jim. Watch... I know. I know you didn't... watch out..." her voice fading into nothing but a slight wheezing at the end.

I leant closer over her as the despair of what I'd done welled up into tears. I tried to hear what she was saying and brought my ear closer to her mouth. My ear was so close that I could feel her hot breath flowing over my skin. Yet I heard nothing but her strained breathing, no more words passed her lips.

I pulled back and looked down into her face. I felt her hand grip and then tug at my waistcoat as a panicked and desperate look spread across her face. I looked down at her hands and as I did she stopped pulling and pointed with her hand. My eyes followed the direction of her finger across the cobbles of the floor and into the darkness of the shadows of where she had been standing.