OPEN THE GATES

Ready for a shock?

Up until last night, I’d never seen the Disney film Aladdin.

Don’t panic, I have now but as I was watching it, I realised how often in stories, the power that’s out there which could be wielded by the protagonists so often has to be asked for.

Aladdin is encouraged to take on the quest for the Cave or Wonders with the chance of great reward and then has to rub the lamp to receive the three wishes and then stick to the rules that the genie imposes. Such enormous potential power but it as to be asked for and when the villain grasps for the ultimate power of the genie, it’s then that the major drawback is unleashed.

My favourite horror film, Hellraiser, has the same set up. The Cenobites are only interested in the one who opened the puzzle box. If you don’t go looking for the power, you don’t have the risk.

There is a massive risk/reward balance when it comes to magical artefacts and ancient powers in all kinds of story telling and that is so true for all of us in the real world as well. The risk, not the magic. When placing bets on the horses, putting money on the 1000 to 1 outsider is an enormous risk as the odds are given on the ability that the horse has to win but the reward should it work out in your favour is equally massive.

Risk is a thing that we all have to face up to in all kinds of ways. Choosing to cross the road away from a designated crossing and any and all other ways we put our life on the line on a daily basis quickly leap to mind but we risk when we tell someone a secret, when we go for a wildly different hairstyle, when we choose a film to watch we haven’t heard of before.

For all of us, risk is a very normal part of our lives and it’s something that has a mighty role to play in both who we are and in who we become. We can’t remove all risk, nor should we try to. The risks of things going wrong following every single choice we make are there to act as a guide. We learn from our mistakes to amend our actions in future to not make them again, therefore improving.

So I say to everyone, throw open the gates to risks. Don’t be afraid to take the chances because something MIGHT go wrong. Recognise that risks are there and you need to be aware of what they are but factor them into your planning so your choices are informed. If we all attempt to remove all risks from life, don’t we run the risk of not having the understanding of what real risk is?

I present this video from YouTube from a channel called Royal Jordanian. It shows a collection of clips recorded from a helmet mounted camera as the rider travels around the streets of London.

We’re all familiar with the facts that there are hundreds of signs everywhere to help control and manage traffic, that there are specific areas where we are meant to cross the roads and, certainly my generation thanks to Darth Vader himself, Dave Prowse playing the Green Cross Code Man, that there are rules in play when trying to cross a road, we see many examples of people being utterly oblivious to the risks. We all hear in almost every advert for cars and so often in news reports, that cars come with all manner of safety features that can prevent injury to anyone who comes near it, that they have special brakes and even smart on-board computers to help stop the car if it looks as if the driver isn’t fast enough.

Have they become blasé about risk, thinking that nothing could possibly go wrong? Do they think that they can walk wherever they want whenever they want or are they just numb to the thought of being hit by a car as being truly dangerous.

Risk is good. You have to understand that we are making choices and that not every outcome is going to be positive but without the risks, we end up either thinking everything is a deadly risk so we do nothing or we don’t see risk anywhere, and are likely to walk in front of a passing car.

Think things through but don’t be over cautious.

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JUST DO IT

Do you watch Friends?

It’s a program that’s taken on almost mythical status by now and it seems to be on at any time of any day but the specifics of the show don’t really matter for this post.

In one of the episodes, The One with Joey’s Big Break, the characters use an interesting method of making a decision. Rather than working through the details of the issue at hand, weighing up all of the pros and cons to get them to a considered and reasoned outcome, they instead throw up two choices and have to make a snap decision immediately without putting even the slightest thought into it.

Now for the purpose of the episode it made for some amusing situations but should we ever try something like this in the real world?

Every one of us makes all kind of choices on any given day and we all make sure that we put in the requisite amount of consideration but should we always?

How many of us have considered, at times of great mental turmoil, that we could be over thinking any given situation? A choice which should be straightforward can become amazingly complex as we over analyse every possible scenario or outcome until we’ve wrapped ourselves up in all manner of knots. Wouldn’t it be better to just dive at it and go with your gut?

As I work on the different stories in my collections, I find it so simple to get myself tangled up in  possible narrative threads and what could, and indeed should, have been a pretty simple choice can suddenly have me well and truly snookered. I move the pieces about in my head, and although I do have some success in my actions, far too often, I end up back to the original thought and the time and effort have been for nought.

What do you think?

Should there always be a deep and philosophical consideration for any and all choices we face or can we just throw caution to the wind and take the leap of faith that we don’t need to torture ourselves with more options?

I like both ideas but couldn’t just make snap choices, I need to make sure that I’m not falling on the wrong side of what I should be doing.

Or maybe I should?

 

FATES

We see in stories, a great deal of versions of the idea of things taking place according to an already written plan. That somewhere, at some time, some kind of all powerful being or beings started to pull stings and move pieces to guide or control all of us measly humans.

It’s an interesting idea, that all of the lives we all lead, all of the choices that we could take, have already been laid down for us by someone or something above and beyond us. From there comes two schools of thought.

It’s either good or bad.

Imagine that all of those tough decisions you’ve ever had to struggle with, the awful times you’ve spent forced to crack your head against an impossible choice. Now imagine that those choices and all of the pain and suffering that came with them, were decided by someone else and there was nothing that you could have done to do anything other than what you did? You were always going to do what you did and all of the uncertainty surrounding the choice was nothing but a waste of both time and energy. In short, you have no power. You’re nothing but a mechanism following a prescribed path and no manner of trying on your behalf will allow you to stray from the path.

On the other hand you truly get to say ‘what will be will be’. You can happily forego all of the stressed thought and go with the first thought that crosses your mind in any situation. It doesn’t matter what choices you think you’re making, they’ve already been made for you so you can just plonk along happy in the knowledge that someone else is doing all of the thinking for you and you can just smile and wave from the passenger seat.

But, if all of the events that take place are already known, that means that someone planned out all of the horrors that crash into you and how they’ll turn out. Someone decided that pain was what your life needed at exactly the worst moment. The illness and injuries. The deaths in the family and every possible nastiness has been put there deliberately because someone just fancied the idea of seeing you suffer.

As a story idea, the powers of fate offer a fantastic way to twist the narrative in any way you fancy but the thought that we’re all nothing but pawns is awful. You were always going to watch your parents suffer a drawn out illness. You were always going suffer the injuries and dark times which battered you down and you know what, maybe I won’t lean on the power of the fates in my storytelling. Giving my characters the knowledge that their lives are simply controlled from above seems almost like making them a step closer to a level of self awareness and I don’t think I could do that to them.

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.

COMPETITION WINNER

And the winner is ………………..

 

Following on from last week’s competition to win the chance to name my up coming anthology of short stories I’ve been able to whittle all the entries down to the best overall.

A huge thank you has to go to everyone who added something to the list of possibilities helping me find the correct title. An honourable mention has to go to one particular idea which just made me smile. Although not the winning entry, ‘The Good, The Bad and The Elgie’ surely should be a book title.

 

So finally, I give you the winning suggestion and the title of my up coming collection of short stores.

“Tall Tales for Dark Nights.”

A late entry but overall I think it fits the bill perfectly. I’ve also now got a perfect title for another book thanks to the pool of suggestions.

Thank you all for the help. There have been some amazing ideas which are so much more interesting than what I’d been kicking about.

Watch this space for more information on the release.

 

 

PERSONA

Who are you?

Who are any of us?

I’ve spoken before on here about the masks that we wear out there in the world but now I’m going to have a little look at the mask from the other side.

Why do you portray the image of yourself that you do? You know that you subtly alter the face you show the world depending on which part of that world is before you but how do you define yourself?

The reason I ask came from a thought which in turn came from a few details of experiences I had recently. How was I looking at myself and why was I looking at myself?

When I was at Em-Con recently, I set the table up and readied myself for the crowds to begin passing by. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and didn’t think anything more of it. But. My wife, in an act of the most amazing understanding, had bought me a new tweed jacket, and that was hung over the back of my chair. When the temperature in the centre dropped slightly (we were in front of a window and the full glare of the sun first thing in the morning so throwing on a jacket was the last thing on anyone’s mind), I slipped into the jacket and all of a sudden, changed.

Without even being aware of what I’d been doing over time, I’d had in mind an image of what I wanted my author self to look like. I’d bought a dragon headed cane last year and Jo had bought me a pocket watch for Christmas but adding the jacket to the mix was the key stone piece.

My posture changed. My ‘style’ changed. I became a subtly different person and I felt tremendous doing it, like I was becoming the correct interpretation of who I should be.

Last week saw something similar.

I bought a new car. Well, new to me anyway.

We all know that feeling when we just recognise that an object is ‘right’ and that car was just ‘right’. I’d done the research of the model etc. but this was beyond the facts. In the same way that the jacket became the catalyst to a change in me, the car added to that change as well. The feeling of growth in me was facilitated by an object as a part of my self. Not that I was drawing validation from the car I drove or clothes I wore, rather that I was enhancing myself by taking on the garb of who I feel I am. I am me regardless of what I wear or drive but these things have just been the perfect pieces to the puzzle of being me.

From the outside, those people I spoke with at Em-Con saw a certain version of me but I think they saw the image of me with the most clarity, the version that I wish to project as being as clearly ‘me’ as I can.

I realised that by putting on that jacket I took off all the other masks I’ve shown the world. And it felt great.

FINISHED?

A while ago I posted about the importance of deadlines and the effect they have on us as we go about our lives but there’s another thought that grew from the deadline I’ve been working against recently.

With or without a deadline, how do you know when you’re finished?

As a writer, my style could be described as ‘Blitzkrieg’. I tend to write off in a direction aiming for a specific point and I end up getting there pretty quickly. I then have to go back and flesh out what I’ve just done to create the wider detail, the true heart of what I was saying. I blast off and try to go as far as I can then hang the pretty colours on the skeleton. If I was to finish the book using just the first half of that process it’s likely that it would be nothing more than ‘he did this’ then ‘he did that’. But at what point do you recognise that the story is done? Where is the point before which, it’s still in need of tinkering yet after, you’re over thinking and making things worse?

I’ve heard the phrase that ‘films aren’t released, they escape’ and it applies exactly to other media as well. I spent years fiddling with the first book before it was actually released. Every so often I’d have another read through and find another word or phrase, or indeed, scene, which I felt needed work. Ultimately these weren’t major structural changes, more like choosing the right type of polish, but it dragged me back from actually doing the business.

I suspect that this has come from my fears surrounding the release. I’ll continuously be thinking about the possible permutations in the book but it’s going to have to run free eventually. I suspect if I hadn’t just decided to bite the bullet and go for it, I’d still be fiddling with it now.

At least that isn’t happening this time.

And on a totally unrelated matter, the poor guys from the electricity company are back out in our street. They’re not working near us this time so we’ve had no issues with interrupted power but this will be the third time that unlucky team have had to deal with issues in our street. There can’t be much old wiring left!