CONNECTIONS

The human experience is one that seems to be defined by so very many different ideals. Money, beliefs, family and community to name a few. But when you review these things and try to come to a conclusion of the worth of a single life, they all land squarely on the shoulders of others.

We can chose what we do with our lives, we can decide to turn left or to turn right, to have the extra scoop of ice cream or not but when all of those things are collected together, it falls to others to make the overall assessment of a life’s worth.

I was told a story from the bible years ago which the person talking used to highlight a question. The story was longer than this but this was the bit that got the questioning running.

‘Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.…’

Lived for two hundred and five years (!) and all that’s worth noting is that he died in Haran.

Now I understand that there’s more to the story than just that and Terah did do more than that but it does seem a little dismissive that there was nothing more of note to point out. From the time of moving to a location to the time of death is lost. It’s been said before that life is the line between the dates on a headstone but shouldn’t we all be looking to live a life that won’t fit into that tiny space?

I don’t want my life to be scorching through the history books for all of humanity to see but I also don’t want to just be lost to the mists of obscurity.

So how do we go about being remembered?

Now I think I need to point out that I’m not talking about fame or indeed infamy at this point. As a writer, I’d love for my books to stand the test of time and to be read long after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil but I imagine the individuals reading my work rather than faceless swathes of people on sales sheets. Granted I’d love the money that JK Rowling has but I’m not fussed on being the internationally recognisable figure she is. I really enjoy that connection I have with those people who’ve read my stuff and have had a chat with me about it. Of course, I’d love to be successful as an author and I’d love to be able to continue to tell all the stories that possibly go running through my head but my overall legacy, as it were, is going to come down to how others see me.

All in all, I think we all have the same need to be thought well of and then remembered. Maybe all we really need to do is just make sure that the world is a better place for having had us in it. I think when we drill all the way down to the real core of the point, we just want to know that our little entry into the wildly varied writings of human history will be enough to mean that people will consider us worthy of at least a little comment.

DO CLOTHES MAKETH THE MAN?

This weekend just gone saw us head off to the Sci-Fi Weekender in North Wales. Jo won the tickets and after having last year off, we headed to the convention looking forward to all things sci-fi.

We didn’t go last year after the event shared the space with a prog. rock gathering and the amount of things going on that we were interested in became watered down a bit but this year was back to the full compliment so it was easy to make the choice to return. The addition this year though, I had a table in the trader zone.

All in all, this was the best convention I’ve been to in a while.

I didn’t get the chance to see as much as I would normally have done at this event, being at my table all day, but I did get the chance to speak with a huge number of people. All in all, I was able to chew the fat about all kinds of things and spread the word of my books with loads of people who had a shared enjoyment of the same kinds of things I enjoy. The mood of the event was wonderfully inclusive and the traders around me all said that they had a blast.

Now the crux of what I want to talk about this week is connected to the event but more about the trading side of things.

When I attend these events as a trader, I dress in a very specific way. If you happen to drop by my table at an event you’ll most likely find me wearing a tweed waistcoat and jacket, adorned by my pocket watch with my dragon headed cane at my side. I have a specific pair of jeans that I wear and I’ve recently purchased a new pair of boots to go with the rest of the ensemble.

When I ready myself for an event, I’m all about the visualisation of actually being in the thick of things and speaking with everyone about anything and everything, and I find that donning the ‘uniform’ of my author persona helps me overcome any nerves I may be feeling and surround myself with the mindset and attitude I need to be able to go out and do the business.

Clothes can play a vital part in how we perceive ourselves and others. We make decisions based on what people present to the world. How someone is dressed can affect the way they walk, the way they stand and therefore, the way that they are seen by everyone else. When I dress as ‘The Author’ I do find myself feeling very different. I become more able to channel all the energies in the correct way and, you know what?, dressing well in smart clothing makes me feel more confident. I stand a little taller (I’m already over six feet tall) and almost become someone else.

We all wear different clothes depending on the situation we’re going to be dealing with.

We go to work in specific clothes that fit the role we’re going to be paying that day. On a daily basis I live in jeans and a polo shirt, safety work boots and a hi-viz jacket. These things have an effect on me as well. I take on a different set of qualities when I go to work wearing the ‘uniform’ of my usual day to day. I feel the difference on my face although whether that difference is clear for all to see is still yet to be seen.

If we play a sport. If we don’t. If we work in office. If we don’t. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, we all know that dressing in a certain way comes as standard for all of the various things we do and that we can feel the power that comes with the addition of certain clothing as an almost tangible force running along our skin.

Could this be why cosplaying is such a popular activity?

We have the chance to become someone else – totally. By dressing as a character from a show, film or game, we suddenly find ourselves able to take on characteristics of said character and a once timid person can become the super confident Wolverine, any fear of wearing just a vest over a potentially less than Wolverine physique banished, because they’ve got the claws to do some damage.

Fans of sports teams don the shirts of their beloved sides and the closeness of that group bond is there for all to see. Businesses of all kinds have their staff wearing a set uniform to show that they all belong to the same group, all working for the shared goal. These things have an effect on everyone on both sides of the equation, changing how people behave in the clothes but also how people behave towards the clothes. I try to make sure that I include the garb of the characters as a vital part of who they are. Different people wear different things and these uniforms can be a touchstone for a reader when deciding what they should be feeling about people in any given situation.

Just another example of how the way we think is potentially twisted or nudged depending on certain details. It’s all extra flavouring for any story we tell so we have to be sure to always get those details right.

Yet another thing to keep in mind.

 

EXTRAS

I suspect that I’m not the first person to experience this but when I started writing, there was never even the slightest thought about the reality of what would have to happen after.

You know what happens when you try to spread the word about a book?

Loads is what.

I was never that up on the delights of social media before I started working on the book. My wife is much more adept with all things of that kind. She’d been active on Facebook and Twitter for years and add to that her amazing ability to talk to anyone and everyone and she is very much at home in the world of social media.

I am not quite so comfortable.

I love to see what my friends and family are up to and connecting with like minded individuals is something which can never be underestimated but maintaining the push of advertising of my work is a huge chunk of what needs to go into this being an author malarkey.

I had a few goes before the blog settled into some kind of routine, my writing schedule can best be described as up and down and the need to go to events and spread the word is always eating into the time available to be creative. Add to this Instagram, Goodreads, trying to create a website and everything else that you need to keep on the boil, and pretty soon, there’s seemingly no time left for anything else at all.

Maybe I would have gone about things differently if I’d actually thought about the realities of what was going to be required but I just wanted to write the book and get it out there. The thought that I’d be out hawking the book didn’t enter my mind because it was always about just the story. The only thing I can kind of cling to is that that shows I wasn’t solely motivated by being published, rather it was the story which was the focus with the wider thoughts not coming until later.

This weekend coming we’ll be in North Wales at this years Sci-Fi Weekender and I can’t wait. I love this convention and the chance to meet up with friends and have a blast is one that just can’t be overlooked. We’ve been attending the convention since it started in 2010 but this will be the first time I will have attended as more than just another member of the public. I have a table and I’ll be doing my very best to entice people to explore the land of Dragons I’m creating. This will be the first time I will have attended a residential event as a vendor where I’ve previously been a member of the public. I can remember going to talks on writing at the first event and thought it would be amazing to one day find myself at an event as more than just a ‘punter’ but again, what that would actually entail didn’t even cross my mind.

So everyone out there reading these words. Remember that there is always so very much more going on than we first give credit. To get to the best results always seems to mean spreading that net of experience just that little bit wider than first thought.

By the way.

Have you bought my books yet?

The Circle of Fire

The Circle of Duty

Tall Tales for Dark Nights

ART +

Last week I wrote about the importance of the many forms art can take and how one form can never be held higher than another in terms of being a medium to convey meaning between artist and the rest of us.

This week though, I fancied discussing the way different art forms can collide.

‘You can’t judge a book by it’s cover’.

We know the comment and it’s something we have to be aware of in life. We have to be able to maintain a mindset to look beyond the surface and see what may be beneath.Stopping at the top as being all there is is a path to greater disappointment. That’s an important point when actually considering books. An amazing flashy cover won’t be the be all and end all of a book. It’ll certainly help but when the reader then scratches away at that surface, you have to make sure they find more than just more surface.

But.

Now way back when, books just had a blank cover or maybe just the title. There wasn’t the availability of cover design and the need for marketing in the same way as we see today. But times change and today we see more and more choice flooding over us as the number of authors grows and their work is fighting for the attention of all of the readers out there.

And now we see a new step. Now we see the books go from merely having an interesting cover design to that design being more a piece of artwork to be marvelled at. Gone are the days where a bland, featureless cover was sufficient. Today we’re moving from the cover design being there to be the lure to attract readers and towards the book transcending its own art form.

As well as being the domain of the written word, now there are books where they’ve become pieces of art to be looked upon and enjoyed. Not only do they draw people in but now they demand pride of place on so much more than any old bookshelf.  These mighty artworks are recognising the delight that they can bring even without the pages being turned.

Bolder artwork on more than just the front or back cover can be further advanced by daring sculpture where contours and texture add to what is being presented as the receptacle of the word.

The evolution of how we enjoy books has meant that we don’t have to be satisfied with the words and nothing more. Who knows where we’re likely to move forward onto as the way we enjoy books grows? Sound effects?

BITS AND PIECES

What’s your favourite book? Which story has the best characters that you’ve ever seen?

Making sure that all of the people involved are at least believable as active members of the world they inhabit is a big must for any writer and should you fail at that task, the compelling storyline you have in mind is very quickly ruined.

I’ve been watching some TV recently and there’s been a specific example of characterisation that I’ve really enjoyed as it’s made me think. Whereas yesterday is today’s back story, so is today the back story of tomorrow.

How many times have you read or watched as a character you know and love does something that, although relevant to the story of now, goes totally at odds with every choice they may have been making in their previous history?

A character in an ensemble show which has been going for years will build up all manner of life that they will be required to carry around with them as each new series arrives but it’s just too easy to forget that these things took place if the latest storyline is just begging to have something else take place.

All of the characters in my ‘Circle’ books have been in that world all of their lives so every time I deal with any of them, I have to always remember that they have personalities that I have to remain honest to. As I write this piece, I can happily report that I’ve been doing a block of prep work on a major character ready for book three in the series, ensuring that all of the foundations I need for them are clearly defined and accurate. I did the same for all the characters in the other books and I’ll no doubt continue to do the same with all the future work I do but the toughest to complete was that of The Elder.

The Elder is immortal. One of the major points that everyone has in the real world is that we’re not going to build up centuries of life experience to form and mould who we are but in fantasy literature, that block is removed. When I was writing The Elder it was always a struggle to create a link through her vast life that I could somehow plan the route she would have taken to bring her to where we find her. Someone who had that many lifetimes of experience would have grown in so many directions that it almost becomes too big a map to draw but within the framework of The Circle I was able to create some interesting character points to help build her personality.

Something that I always struggle with when tales turn to the behaviour and character of immortals is the way they interact with people around them. How can this single ancient being interact with their modern and mortal counterparts? Do you think you’d be able to have a conversation with someone who was over a thousand years old and find that you were readily able to hit it off? Throw in a love interest between say a sixteen year old schoolgirl and an immortal over a century old and quite quickly the water you’re sailing through has become rather murky to say the least.

In the real world, we’re all characters in our own stories.

Each and every day we add a fresh layer to the melting pot that is us and our story rolls on, that fresh layer nudging us ever so slightly as our character evolves. The person we are today may not be the person we are tomorrow as we become the sum of our experiences and each new day brings the chance for a crushing or blossoming of who we are. We just have to remember that the choices we make on any given day will always reflect the experiences so nothing can ever be overlooked when the pieces of us are assembled.

I

LIFEBOAT

We had a week away from the rat race last week and attended a convention in France and then had some time in Germany. A wonderful time was had and we saw some amazing sights with such global importance in Berlin, I can only urge everyone to take a trip there to witness them face to face. The worldwide effects which spread from Berlin are mighty but that’s not what I want to draw attention to in this post.

Today I want to look at the feeling of safety we derive from our own language.

My wife is better at languages than me. She was the one who got stuck in to the learning Italian when we went on holiday there. She studied German at A-level and has a pretty strong grasp of at least being able to work out the gist of what’s being said in French. I studied Spanish to GCSE level and I limped over the line. I enjoy the sound of other languages and they charge my mind to hear all of the many ways that humans communicate but being able to actually take in the details is something I find really tough.

When we were in Italy and France, it was remarkable though, just how much of the little odds and bods we all shared in our languages. That level of familiarity bred a comfort that helped bridge the gaps of being in a foreign land. There were more areas of familiarity in German but the addition of the occasional new letter suddenly made the ice I was stood on seem that much thinner. In Germany, I felt on very thin ice for so much of the time we were there.

We can take our language and the ability to communicate almost for granted. Every day we work, play and everything in between based around the powers of communication and that communication let’s us do almost anything. Can you imagine what any ‘normal’ day would become if you were unable to converse with anyone? Isolation can be a very dangerous place. If you were the only person who didn’t understand the language that was being used, you’d be stuck on the outside looking in but totally adrift in the sea of sounds that everyone else was using and doing their best to almost plead with you to understand. Frustration builds because you’re cut off.

The best you can hope for is hand signals and as much guess work as you can muster to try and get your point across while digging for the meanings to what others are saying.

Language is a thing that we all make use of. In all manner of ways we have our own set of terms that we can converse in with set groups. Special terms from work can sound like nonsense to family. Fandom terminology at work is the same. But remove understanding of a language and you lose so much more than just the ability to order a beer.

SHORT STORIES

Just a quick post this week but as we close in on the anthology of short stories, I remind you all of one of the previous efforts to give you an idea of what to expect in the new book.

It’s been said that being a parent of a child who is going through the ‘terrible two’s’ is akin to attempting to placate and cajole a hurricane. Parents the world over have been swept aside by the battering they receive of constant howling screams, prized possessions being hurled around with absolute abandon and the constant knowledge that at any time, it could get even worse. But why are the two’s so terrible?

Walking backwards, very slowly and deliberately, from her son’s bedroom, Sam could practically feel the rain water from the latest appearance of ‘Hurricane George’ dripping from her hair. Step by step, inch by inch, she made her way away from the now dormant form of her son and towards the relative safety of the world beyond those four walls. She managed to avoid all of the scattered toys which had threatened to impede her path and even steered clear of the now infamous, ‘squeaky floorboard by the door’. Both Sam and her husband Jeff had been caught out by the floorboard in the past. Just when they had started to feel they were in the clear, they hit the board by the door and George was awake and looking for trouble, his angelic looking golden curls mussed in such a way as to cover completely the devil horns he must have sprouted by now.

Step by gingerly placed step, she eased out of the room and slowly pulled the door closed, running through the same deliberate movements to make absolutely sure there was no way George could be disturbed. Finally, with the barest hint of a click, the door was closed and she could breathe a silent sigh of relief.

Letting her shoulders sag at the sudden release of tension she had been holding in every muscle and sinew of her body, she padded slowly down the hallway and headed back down stairs to curl back up with Jeff. As Sam walked hurriedly back into the living room, keen to settle back down to gentle relaxation, Jeff looked up from scrolling through the TV guide.

“I don’t know how you keep so calm?” he shook his head slowly and patted the sofa next to him, raising his arm in a gesture of beckoning. Sam settled back into the nook of his arm and felt great swathes of tension wash away.

“I had to get out before I started screaming myself.” Jeff continued and kissed the top of her head.

“Don’t panic Jeff. Just save your energy, you’re going in on your own next time.” Sam looked up at her husband and could feel the almost primal dread shoot through him. She giggled and nudged him in the side. She knew she could never do that to him. She’d definitely leave him in there on his own but they would always start out as a team.

Turning the TV back on, at a very low volume of course, she took one look at the baby monitor which was stood on the coffee table, the modern day equivalent of the master ringing a bell to attract the attention of a servant. Crossing her fingers that George would sleep for at least ten hours, she could make out the gentle rhythmic breathing sounds her son was making. Everything was settling down again, and Sam closed her eyes and allowed herself to drift with the sounds of her sleeping son.

The noise from the baby monitor made her frown.

It wasn’t enough to really draw her full attention but, it was there none the less. Then it happened again, but this time, just a little louder.

“Did you hear that Jeff?” she asked, opening her eyes to look at the monitor.

“Hear what?” replied Jeff, not taking his eyes from the TV.

The sound came again and this time Sam sat up and lent forwards towards the small device. George could still be heard, snoring a little now, but she was certain there was more than just his slumber being transmitted to the unit. Sam tugged Jeff forwards with her and muted the TV.

“On the monitor. It sounded like a giggle.” She was straining to strip away every other sound which was adding to what was taking place above her in her son’s bedroom, piece by piece ruling out noise after noise.

“He’s probably having a funny dream,” added Jeff in way of explanation, quickly adding, “He’s probably laughing at us. Thinking about how much trouble he seems to be causing and having a good laugh at our expense.” Sam elbowed Jeff but smiled to herself. George always did find the frazzled expressions on his parent’s faces to be the funniest thing in the world, like he was being egged on by them feeling worse.

Sam started to relax back into the sofa; wrapping one leg over Jeff’s to get comfortable for the night. The calm didn’t last.

The monitor crackled and popped gently and the sound of rushing air could be heard spitting from the speaker. Then the giggle came again, but this time much louder and accompanied by a hissing, breathing call of “Georgie”.

Sam and Jeff were out of the sofa and surging up the stairs in seconds. Gone was any pretence of not waking the baby as they rushed towards the baby’s room and the source of the strange sounds.

Throwing the door open they turned the light on and were stopped still in the centre of the room by the sight that greeted them.

George was stood in his cot with a broad smile on his face, clapping his hands as he jumped up and down and shrieked with laughter. On the floor of his bedroom, less than two feet from the triumphant toddler, was the broken casing of the baby monitor, its innards spilling out like a macabre electronic murder scene amongst the other scattered toys.

Sam rushed forwards and scooped up their son while Jeff checked that the window was still closed and there wasn’t anyone under, behind, on top of or in any of the furniture. As Sam watched him track through the room and find nothing at all out of the ordinary, she felt more at ease. George continued to howl with laughter the whole time this search took place.

When Jeff started to look inside the drawers of the table and chairs play set they’d bought George last Christmas, Sam couldn’t help herself and she started to smile. Jeff noticed and realised what he was doing was probably a little excessive. He straightened himself up and looked at Sam, to report his findings.

“All clear in here. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

That almost felt worse. Looking at their son who was now calming down but who still had a huge, open-mouthed grin, the couple began to run through the facts as they could see them.

George was still in his cot when they entered the room. As far as they were aware, there was no way he was able to climb out of the bed let alone return to it after having made his way out. The smashed baby monitor was not only on the other side of the room from the cot, it was also on top of a five foot high chest of drawers, well out of the reach of their sons tiny grasping hands. The unit was battery operated so there was no trailing wire to be reached for and there was no object that could have been pushed into place and used as a boost for their son to reach up from.

Sam looked at Jeff but there was no answer coming from either of them. George hadn’t smashed the monitor because he couldn’t get to it. There was no-one else in the room who could have done the deed, they would have been seen, yet they had both heard that voice saying their sons name, George giggling away to himself about something and then the wrecked monitor.

“What about the voice on the monitor?” Sam wanted to know where that odd voice had come from.

“Probably picking up something from a TV or radio around here. God knows what the range of that thing really is.” Jeff was very matter of fact about the whole situation.

“But it said Georgie, Jeff.”

“It sounded like Georgie. It could have been any number of things. We haven’t got to worry about an evil ghost coming to play with our son; your mother’s still alive.”

Sam snorted a laugh of her own but her unease remained.

“He’s coming back downstairs with us and he’s sleeping with us tonight.” Sam’s tone told Jeff not to argue, this was a statement of fact. Decision made, they both turned and headed out of the door, Sam with George bundled up in her arms with his head rested on her shoulder, Jeff picking up a few stuffed toys for George to play with.

Just as Jeff switched off the light, George let out a short laugh and waved back into the room, “Bye bye Mimp”.

The two adults looked each other, wondering what he was on about but thought he must be talking about a toy that he had seen but hadn’t made it through the selection process for the journey downstairs. The walked on and George continued to wave over his mothers shoulder, repeating over and over again, “Mimp, Mimp, Mimp, Mimp”.

Back downstairs, Sam and Jeff struggled to get their son to settle down and go back to sleep. They each took turns waiving different toys at him but he wasn’t even remotely interested in anything that was presented. They tried different DVD’s. Time after time, the colourful cartoons or dancing men in silly animal suits failed to draw his attention. Time and again, he turned away from the options presented to him and all he could be heard saying was, again, “Mimp, Mimp, Mimp.”

“I’ll go and find this bloody ‘Mimp’ toy of his. He may not be getting tired but I’m knackered,” said a haggard Jeff.

“Do you even know which one is Mimp?” asked an equally exhausted Sam, dropping her head back to stretch her neck as George wriggled in her lap. They both looked down at George and tried to think. Which toy did George call Mimp?

It didn’t sound like a real name of a toy they had bought him so it must be one he had given himself. They both mulled over the multitude of options, trying to work out who Mimp was.

“MIMP!” shouted George with a delighted smile on his face. He cranked up his wriggling and started to moan.

Sam had had enough by now so let him go. They both watched as he toddled his way towards the doorway and happily sat down in front of it. The door opened into the room, next to the sofa they were both sat on. Looking down on their son he finally seemed happy to stare into the hallway beyond and gurgle and giggle to himself.

“Finally!” said Jeff and relaxed back into the sofa.

“George, you OK?” Sam wanted to make sure before she even dared relax. George nodded back at her, grinning all of the time.

“Finally!” Sam agreed.

George spent the next twenty minutes staring out into the hallway, jabbering to himself. He would occasionally wander towards his toys and take one back with him but other than that he was content to amuse himself. The DVD’s of all the kids programmes were put away and Sam and Jeff started to watch a film which was more to their taste. Gradually, the mood of the evening started to calm down as everyone in the house could relax and enjoy what was going on. Sam was always keeping one eye on George but he seemed content so all was fine.

Then it moved at the edge of her vision.

Snapping her head to focus fully at he son, Sam watched in shocked disbelief as a small, jet black, leathery hand reached out and touched her sons face. Her blood froze and all the sound of horror and fear were jammed solid in her throat. What was sat on the other side of the door?

She tried to move but before the impulse had passed to her muscles, the hand gripped Georgies romper suit and dragged him forward, behind the open door and into the darkened hallway beyond.

George screamed.

That sound was enough to shatter the spell of fear which had been gripping Sam. She burst to her feet and steamed out of the room, Jeff not far behind.

Flicking the switch, the hallway was bathed in the diffuse light from the overhead fittings. George stood still in the centre of the hallway, holding hands with, something. Their once angelic son was different. On his face was an expression which he had never had before. It could only be described as being malevolent. His brow was furrowed and his eyes were full of anger. All this on top of his wide smile created a vision to be truly unnerved by.

And both he and the something were holding very large kitchen knives.

Sam skidded to a stop and tried to take in the detail of what she was seeing. It was only now that she really looked at who was holding her sons hand. It was small; roughly the same height as George, but it was black skinned. It wasn’t wearing any clothes and had no hair anywhere on its body. It stood with a hunched back and its spindly limbs jutted out, almost painfully, from an emaciated body.

As Sam took in more and more of the detail, it slowly tightened its grip on Georges hand with its own taloned appendage and a wide, serrated toothed grin spread across its face under its sparkling blood red eyes.

Jeff leaned over Sam’s shoulder, also piecing the details together. He gripped tightly to her arms as the situation settled on him.

Sam spoke first.

“Who’s your friend George?” She tried her best to keep the fear out of her voice and raised her hands in a gesture of non-aggression.

George didn’t move, but hissed, “Mimp.”

Mimp shook his head and turned his head to face George. Its voice was like broken glass.

“Mummy. Daddy. Just like all little children, Georgie included, I want to play. Do you want to play with us?”

The final ‘s’ was elongated into the sound a snake might make if it had been granted the power of speech.

“Georgie. Are you OK honey?” was all Sam could think to ask. She tried to put the little thing holding his hand out of her mind as being something she was making up but she still had to get the knife out of his grasp. George nodded at her and his smile seemed to grow wider as he started to chant the name Mimp over and over again, his head bobbing around excitedly as he did.

Mimp spoke again. “We should play a game. Let’s play doctors and nurses.” Again, the final syllable was stretched out as the thing spoke and caused the wave of icy fear to roll over Sam.

Mimp slowly turned towards Georgie and started to raise the almost comically over-sized kitchen knife in a gesture of slow attack. Jeff was fast to move.

Sam was only able to utter a sound rather than a word as her husband took two quick, reaching strides across the space between the two pairs and made a sweeping grab at the knife being wielded by the ‘it’.

Without there seeming to have been any movement at all from the two smaller bodies, light glinted from the whirling blades of the pair and Jeff let out a startled yelp of pain and slid past his intended target, collapsing into a pile on the floor behind them, breathing hard. Blood was starting to spread out across the fabric he wore around the now multiple slash marks where the knives had casually, and far too swiftly, sliced through both material and flesh.

Jeff scrambled himself round so he was facing the two but just lay, still grimacing through the pain.

“Doctor. Daddy is hurt. How do we make the pain stop?” Mimp’s voice held a small giggle under all of the shards of speech it was capable of. Georgie kept grinning as he looked round at his father and slowly lifted the knife.

“That’s right Georgie. Let’s make all of daddy’s pain go away.”

“Wait,” was all Sam could think to shout. She had to stop her son doing something to her husband, while stopping the thing doing anything to either of them, all the while trying to protect herself as well.

Georgie kept his eyes intently on his father as Mimp turned back to face Sam.

“Does Mummy want her pain taken away first? Does Mummy hurt?” The red eyes narrowed in its inky face and it tilted its head to regard her in a way that paralysed Sam to the spot. That fear was so primal that it had managed to rush straight past the rational parts of her mind and hit her in the unguarded sections of her psyche, rooting her to the spot.

She had to move fast or this little horror was going to be more than able to hurt them all, or worse.

“I want to play a new game. Don’t you?” she stammered.

Mimp considered that for a brief second and then its own smile started to widen in pleasure.

“Yes, yes, yes. What game?” It started to bob around much like Georgie did when he got excited, obviously eager to start a new playtime. Georgie even turned back to his mother and started to smile. He looked more like himself now, humour replacing threat.

“What games do you like?” Sam asked with a quivering voice. “How do I know what games you like the most to make it the most fun it can be?”

“All games are fun. All games are fun. I do love musical statues,” it spoke excitedly and in a blur, streaked back towards Jeff. Jeff screamed out in hot pain as Mimp plunged the kitchen knife deeply into his flank. He dropped the heavy ornamental dragon he had been easing towards the monster with and slumped back down on the floor, now with much more blood seeping from him. Before Sam could do or say anything, Mimp was back across the gap to Georgie and was taking his hand again.

“I love it when people are still in games. Moving is cheating.” Mimps eyes bored into Sam.

“What games don’t you like to play?” She had to keep her composure. Looking up briefly at Jeff she could see that he was placing as much pressure on the latest wound as possible.

“I love all games. All games are fun.” Mimp was jumping up and down at this point clapping his hands at the sheer delight of new play mates. Georgie, though, wasn’t. Instead her son was now standing looking a little confused. The smile was still there but he looked a little lost. The knife had also dropped from a ready position to now having the tip on the floor.

Then it dropped from his hand and Georgie started to toddle towards his mother, arms outstretched and the smile slowly receding.

Mimp was quick to notice and swiftly grabbed Georgies hand again. The action immediately stopped the childs forward motion and in the passing of a handful of heartbeats, the wicked smile had returned to Georgies face and he had started to reach back for the knife he had dropped.

Sam was quick to register the significance of the action. All she needed to do to break the spell of the creature was break its physical contact with Georgie and he would likely return to being the little boy she knew and loved.

Just, how to do that.

Sam settled herself as much as possible and tried to regain what little composure she had worked together.

“Who are you Mimp? What do you want? To play?” She had to keep it focussed on her and try to engineer the release of its grip on her son.

Both Mimp and Georgie adjusted their respective grips on their weapons as Mimp spoke.

“I am an Imp. We all like to play games, make jokes, have fun. Georgie likes to have fun too that’s why I’m here.” That made Sam think.

“How did you know that Georgie likes to play games?” The more focus the Imp had on her the better and she was starting to get more information about the creature.

“I watched him. I spoke with him and we played together. He likes to play tricks doesn’t he?” With the last word of the sentence the imp tilted its head and hardened its gaze, almost challenging Sam to disagree with it. She was running out of time and she knew the creature was aware of it.

“How did you speak to him? Why didn’t you speak to me? I like to play games.” Sam continued without giving the imp the chance to move from the conversation.

“Mummies and Daddies don’t listen to us. We have to speak to kiddies. They’re the only ones who really want to play so we come in to rooms through mirrors and talk to them. Georgie and I are going back so we can keep playing.” Sam could feel the immediate rise of an overwhelming panic at the last comment.

“Why would you want to take my son?” asked Sam and she knew that her terror had come leaking through as she had spoken.

The imp smiled back and narrowed his eyes even further. “He’s mine now.”

The attack that followed was swifter than anything Sam could have thought possible and hit with the strength of a car crash. Jeff had continued his slow, shuffling progress towards the imp and had brought the ornate piece of sculpted stone down on the head of the imp.

The shock and undoubted pain of the attack slammed through the imp and it dropped the knife it had been brandishing and relinquished the grip it had had on Georgie. It had been given no opportunity to respond in any way and was hammered to the floor.

Jeff continued to swing and bash at the little monster, mashing more and more of it across the floor of the hallway in a gore filled paste. Thick grey blood and chunks of black flesh were split and spilt everywhere as Jeff yelled his own defiance.

Thunderous blow after thunderous blow landed and pulverised the target. What little movement had come from the imp soon stopped and there was soon very little to show that it had ever been anything other than a revolting pile of parts in an awful puddle.

Sam rushed forwards and scooped Georgie up into her arms, knocking the knife away as far as she could. Running quickly away from what Jeff was doing, she could see that Georgie’s face was turning back from the mask of anger to a startled, fearful expression of someone who wasn’t sure what was going on around him. He started to grizzle and Sam bathed in the relief that brought.

“It’s dead,” called Jeff from the hallway. Sam rocked Georgie, attempting to calm him. She shushed him as gently as she could and slowly edged back towards the hall, making sure to keep her son facing away.

The hallway had now been coated in the entrails of the imp. Jeff was slumped back on the floor clutching tightly to his side where he had been stabbed by the imp. The blood was free flowing again and by the almost empty pallor on his face he needed medical attention and he needed it quickly.

Looking at the mess Jeff had made of the imp, Sam let out the tension of the ordeal and set about bundling her family into the car before heading off to the hospital at break neck speed.

Jeff was quickly seen to by the nurses who rushed him through for surgery. Sam was asked on more than one occasion how he had been injured but each time she trotted out the story she had concocted. He had fallen down stairs in the garden at home while they had been moving a collection of old tools they were going to throw away. Every person she told the story to had the same expression on their face when they left but there was no further argument.

Eventually she was left alone in a small waiting room with Georgie bundled up in a blanket sleeping on the sofa next to her. He was breathing smoothly and snored just a little bit. Sam looked down on her son and felt that she could relax. Closing her eyes she let herself drift slowly and slip into a warm sleep, one hand resting gently on her sons back.

Here mind was filled with flashback images of the encounter they had all had. Dreams of flashing knives, scarlet glowing eyes, black leathery skin and that inhuman voice rebounded around her mental landscape, until,

“We liked the game, playing dead. That was fun, oh yessssssssss.”

She snapped awake with a renewed sense of terror churning in her stomach. Her hand was still resting on the blanket but now Georgie was no longer in it.

“Georgie,” she called into the small room, pleading that he had just climbed down to toddle around but there was no answer. She frantically searched the few spaces in the room that her son could have hidden behind and again found nothing. She was just about to leave the room and scream for the nurses, porters, doctors, anyone who could have seen Georgie when her eyes fell across the mirror which was looking back at her. The mirror and the two shapes which were staring back at her from behind her in the room.

The imps red eyes beamed back at her and she could see that it was holding hands with Georgie again.

Sam turned to reach for the boy from his position on the back of the sofa but was greeted by nothing as she turned. They weren’t there. Looking back to the mirror, they hadn’t moved so she checked again but there was nothing.

Then she looked into the mirror and saw the truth.

“We come in through mirrors,” screamed in her head in the same broken glass voice the imp had used at the house and a terrible realisation hit her. They were in the mirror.

“We’re going to play now. Bye bye mummy,” creaked the imp and beckoned to Georgie.

Sam thrust her hands out to the mirror but they slapped uselessly against the cold surface. She stared deeply at her sons face which was again contorted into a rictus grin but the eyes looking back at her were now a deep red.

“Bye bye mummy,” slithered out of Georgie’s mouth and Sam started screaming, beating her hands against the mirror until it fell to the floor and smashed into hundreds of irregular shards. Lifting each piece in turn Sam checked for the reflection image of her son and the imp but in each there was nothing but the room around her.

The imp was gone now but it had taken a new friend.

Remember, parents, when you think that your child is becoming more mischievous and is turning into a little monster, there may be something whispering into their ear that they should really be playing a game.

Always check under the beds and behind the cupboards. Never underestimate what could be lurking in the shadows and, always, always watch out for the mirrors.