Sunday, July 23, 2017

Once Upon A Time - Part 2



Part 1: HERE


“ The Wizard.” The Page stood aside to let the him enter.
“At your service, Sire.” Magico bowed, his hat toppled from his head and rolled with a clatter across the floor. 
 “Have you seen the sky?” said the King, as he kicked the hat out of his way.
“The sky?”
“Yes, the sky. Look.” 
He walked to the window, Magico followed. They peered upwards at the dark motionless clouds, then at the people below who were hardly moving now. 
“What do you make of it?”
Magico considered the black drifting clumps that, little by little, were cutting out the light. He stepped away from the window. “There is something I remember which I read in the ancient record books kept in the library tower. Tell me Sire, have you noticed how things have not been working the way they should today? Even my door knocker is misbehaving. ”
“Well,yes. At breakfast this morning I cracked open my egg and the yolk flew away. Of course, I ordered the cook to be flogged. What good’s an egg without a yolk? What is it you remember? Speak man! Do you know what the dark clouds mean?”
“I think I do,Sire.”
“What?”
“Something is troubling the Creator.”
“Creator? What Creator? I’m the authority here in this land.”
“That you are Sire, but according to the records, the Creator created the land, the town and the people.”
“Including me?”
“We all exist because of the Creator.”
“Does this Creator have a name?”
“They say it is called, The Writer.”
“And the dark clouds, what do they mean?”
“I believe they’re called Writer’s Block.”
“What’s this Writer’s Block mean?” King Boroff started to pace up and down, but as he did his legs kept getting stuck in the air giving the impression of goose stepping. 
Magico stared at him, trying to fight an urge to salute. “Sire, you’re walking funny.”
Boroff stopped in mid step, leg dangling halfway between the roof and floor as if held by a string. He looked at his suspended limb, then at the Wizard. “Well don’t stand there. Help me.”
 “Sire.” Magico placed his hands on the King’s leg and pushed. The offending limb shot down, and the King shot forward head first into the cushion on his throne. The Page standing by the door, covered his mouth to stifle a laugh, for he knew if he was heard, he may never laugh again. The Wizard glanced at the boy and placed a finger to his lips then turned back towards the King.
Boroff untangled himself from the throne. His crown had fallen over his eyes and his mouth was set in a downward turn. “Somebody will lose their head for this!” He tried a few tentative steps, before marching back across the room, landing an angry kick on the Wizard’s hat as he passed it, sending it sliding across the floor to arrive at the Page’s feet. “My legs took on a life of their own. What happened? No one controls my legs but me!”
“Sire, I fear it’s the Writer.”
“The Writer?”
“It’s changing things.”
“If the Writer thinks it’s going to mess with me, it’s got another think coming,” Boroff’s cheeks became redder as his temper grew.
A loud crack echoed from outside the window. The King and Wizard attempted to rush towards it, but amble was all they were able to do. They leaned out and looked up. The clouds had grown darker, but there was a gap where a small shaft of light was shining through.
“Sire, if those clouds completely cover the sky, we will cease to be.”
“Work some magic. You’re a Wizard aren’t you.” Magico looked at Boroff. “Well, what are you waiting for?” snapped the King.
Magico leaned out the window and waved hands as he started to chant. Flashes darted from his fingers like bolts of lightening. Then a flare, a BANG! and a whole lot of smoke. Boroff and the Wizard coughed and spluttered as they waved away the cloudy vapour to reveal a fat hen pecking around their feet.
“Call yourself a Wizard, bah.” Boroff kicked the chicken, which sent it flying off in a flurry of clucks.
“Sire, nothing is working as it should.”
“Didn’t those books say anything about what to do about this Writer’s Block?”
“Em, I didn’t read the last one, but,” Magico added quickly, “ I’ll go and fetch it and take it home to study.”
“Be quick about it. I want this problem fixed.” Boroff narrowed his eyes. “Or someone will pay.”
“Yes, Sire. I’m on it.” 

The Wizard turned and walked to the door as fast as he could, but his old legs were feeling like wood. The Page reached out for Magico’s hat. He opened the door and handed it to him as he left.

To Be Continued...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Once Upon A Time - Part 1



Once upon a time, in a land that only lives in the imagination, dark clouds were gathering in the sky….

King Boroff leaned out of the castle window and gazed upwards. Never before had he seen a sky like this. He had seen one filled with sunshine, and one filled with fluffy white clouds, even a sky filled with a blood red moon, not to mention a dragon filled sky, but never in all his days, one where dark clouds gathered like a heavy curtain waiting to be drawn across the heavens. He called for his Page.
 “Sire?” 
“Fetch me Magico.”
“The Wizard?”
“Yes, boy, the Wizard. Hurry!”

He watched the Page leave, then went back to the window and cast his eye over the land below. The market had began to assemble itself. Brightly coloured stalls dotted the landscape like sugared sweets on a cake. People went about their business, slower than usual. He noticed their furtive glances upwards. King Boroff looked towards the sky again, and shivered. 
“The darkness is coming. But what does it mean?”

The Page tried to scurry across the town square, knowing the King would be watching from the window, but his legs didn’t seem to work as fast as they should. He weaved in and out of the market stalls, heading towards the far corner of town and the Wizard’s house. He was making fair headway when a hand reached out and grasped him.
“What’s your hurry boy?”
The Page turned. The broad figure of the pig farmer stood behind him. His tunic sleeves were rolled up and his hands bloody from laying out his meaty produce.
“I’m on the King’s errand. Best not stop me, you know how the King’s temper is. He beheaded three peasants last week just because they delivered a vegetable that wasn’t to his liking.”
“Where’s he sending you?”
“To fetch the Wizard.”
“The Wizard? It wouldn’t be anything to do with that sky up there, would it?” He pointed a podgy finger to the darkening canopy.
“I never asked. I know better than to ask. The sky is weird though. My mother would say it was an omen.” The Page looked up and shuddered.
“It’s a sign all right. Something bad’s a brewing. Have you noticed how everything seems to be slowing down?” Indeed the boy had, his legs for a start. The man scratched his beard as he too stared upwards. “You best be off; get that Wizard and get that sky sorted out before something nasty ‘appens to us all.” He pushed the boy forward and waved him away.

It wasn’t long before the Page was facing the wooden door of the Wizard’s house. He reached out for the brass dragon’s head knocker. The eyes on the head snapped open just as the boy’s hand touched its surface; a bolt of smoke and flame burst from its mouth.
“Ouch!” He snatched his hand away and shaking it, stuffed it under his arm. “What did you do that for?”
“How’d you like somebody banging your head against a hard surface?” The dragon stared at the boy.
“But you’re a knocker. That’s what’s supposed to happen.”
“That’s all very well for you to say. It’s not your head.” The dragon closed its eyes.
That’s ridiculous, thought the Page as he reached out again, but hesitating, held his hand in mid air before dropping it back to his side.
The dragon lazily open one eye and said, “Good choice,” before closing it again.
The Page hammered on the door with his fist, then waited a few moments before banging again. “Come on,” he whispered. The King will be livid if I don’t get back soon.

The door creaked open. “What’s all this noise?”Magico looked at the boy. “No need to hammer like that. There’s a perfectly good knocker.”
“It wouldn’t let me use it sir.” He looked at the knocker then back at the Wizard. “It burnt my hand.” He held his red palm up for him to see.
“That’s strange. It hasn’t done that before. I wonder why it’s misbehaving? A magic spell will fix it.” 

Magico waved his hands and muttered. Sparks flashed from his finger tips, only to dissolve before they touched the knocker. The dragon open its eyes, stuck out its tongue and made a rude noise, then closed them again and started to snore.
“Nothing seems to be working right today,” said the Wizard shaking his head. “What do you want boy?”
“The King commands your presence.”
“In that case I’d better come. I’ll just fetch my hat.” 
Magico disappeared and reappeared wearing a pointed black hat festooned with magical symbols. He slammed the door closed; the dragon snorted and puffed out a coil of fiery smoke. 

To be continued......

Part 2: HERE

Photo of sky by Helen 

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Book Part 3







The Book Part 3 will be returning to this Blog early in April - Look forward to seeing you all then.

Helen 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Book - Flash Fiction - Part 2 Fantasy/Horror




Part 2:
‘Welcome. Opening The Book is easy. Closing it, is another story.’

Marley frowned as she read the words printed in large lettering on the page before her.
 What’s it mean, closing it, is another story? She pondered over this sentence for a few seconds. Perhaps it means it’s a gripping tale that you can’t put down, Yes, that’s it. She held onto this thought as she continued to read. 

‘This is your story, written just for you. In its pages you will find yourself immersed. The smells, the sounds, the characters, will all have a life of their own. It will be yours to experience.’

“This is the strangest introduction I’ve ever read.” 
 Marley looked  up from the book and glanced about her, but there was no one else in the shop. She considered knocking on the old man’s door and asking him what he made of this. The door was tightly closed and the blind pulled down. She stared at it for a long time. Afraid to anger the old man more than he already was, she sighed and cast her eyes back to the page. 

‘The Book wants you to understand that the author is responsible for the outcome of the story. The only aid the author has is the Pen. With Pen in hand, ideas grow. Upon clean paper crisp and white, words then written, freely flow, but remember - keep the story tight! What is written then will be, and the story will go on. So choose the words carefully, lest they be interpreted wrong.’

Marley blew out a long breath. “Blimey!  What was that all about?” Surely the story is already written, she thought

She chewed her bottom lip while her mind tried to make sense of what she had just read. She began to feel anxious and very hot, as though a fire had lit in her feet and was racing through her body. It passed through her knees, crossed over her waist and into her chest, finally reaching her throat and cheeks. The room started to spin and for a split second she thought she was going to pass out. Marley gripped the edge of the table to steady herself, closed her eyes so she could not see the swirling of the room, and took several deep breaths. The heat in her body subsided and the sense of dizziness dispersed. She opened her eyes. The room was still.

“Whoa, was that a panic attack?” She felt the beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead and wiped them away with the back of her hand. Her mouth was dry and she ran her tongue across her lips to moisten them. Why would I panic? There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a book with a story. Yet, she did feel afraid and it made no sense to her. Pushing her chair back, she stood up. Her hands were sweating. She rubbed them on the leg of her jeans.

“Damn the stupid book. Who wants to read it anyway?” she said out loud as though to reassure herself. You do…. The voice of The Book whispered into the air and Marley knew that only she could hear it. “I don’t, I don’t,” she shouted back, even though she knew it wasn’t true. 

The attraction to The Book and all that it held within was so strong. She found it hard to fight. But fight it she did as she ran towards the shop door, grabbed hold of the handle and pulled. It didn’t open. She placed both hands around the shiny knob and tugged. Still it didn’t budge. The bell above the door started its jangling. Louder and louder it became as it swung violently from side to side. Marley covered her ears with both hands and backed away from it. 

The creak of a door opening sounded behind her and she swung around to see the old man standing there. The bell stilled and the shop was silent once more. He looked at her and moved towards the counter.
“You can’t leave. The Book will not let you.”
“That’s ridiculous. What sort of game are you playing?” As soon as the words left Marly’s lips, she knew what his answer would be. 
“This is no game, young lady. I did try to warn you. The Book entices those it chooses. Rarely do they resist. I only ever remember one who managed to. But that was many, many years ago, I daresay before you were even born. It will not let you go till the story is done. I cannot help you in any way. It will not allow me.”  His eyes took on a glassy look and Marley thought she saw the beginning of a tear.
 “It won’t let me go till the story is done?” She had known the moment she opened The Book’s cover that was so. She just hadn’t believed it, putting it down once more to her lively imagination.
“That is right. You have to read. The game is now on. How is your imagination?” 
“That’s one thing I’ve got plenty of.” Marley thought this a strange question, but then nothing had been normal since stepping inside this antiquated book shop.
“Good, good. Use it well girl. It just might save you yet.” The old man nodded to himself, turned and walked through his door, closing it with a loud click behind him.

Marley retraced her steps back to the oak table and sat down once again. Placing her hand on the opened page, she averted her eyes from it and instead looked straight ahead. I wonder what the old man meant by my imagination might save me yet? If The Book won’t let me go, I’d better get on and read it. She lowered her eyes and read the last paragraph on that page.

‘ The story must be told, it waits upon the page. Wordsmith you must be, don’t shy away, be bold! To begin the story turn the page and Enter.’
With a shaking hand, Marley slowly turned over the page….

To be continued:
Part 1 can be found  HERE

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Book - A Flash Fiction Part 1






The old book called to her. Everything about it attracted Marly, the engraved cover with its intricate carved swirls; the size, so solid, so heavy looking, the gold trimmed page edges that shimmered in the light.

Marly had come across the shop on one of her adventure walks, as she liked to call them. She took one of these every now and then, usually when she was bored. The walks involved investigating the almost-forgotten about lanes that weaved through the older part of town. Not too many people came this way now, preferring the newer shopping centre built just a few years ago.  The quietness of the streets were what drew her to this part. Some of the lanes even had original cobble stones. It was like taking a step back in history. 

She had come across some odd little shops usually full of curiosities, but this was the first time she had found a book shop. The exterior woodwork was painted black. Across the top of the bow window in gold lettering, that was now chipped and flaking, were the words, ‘Rumbles Books.’ The window pane was made of green glass squares that had that swirled look about them, the sort you saw in illustrations of old Victorian shops. Marley sucked in a short breath as her eyes widened. Her curiosity was piqued. 
Oh my goodness it’s like time has stood still, she thought. I’ve gotta go in here.

Without wasting another second she stepped up to the shop door and reached for the brass handle. A tiny bell jingle-jangled over her head, announcing her presence.  At first she found it hard to focus in what seemed a dim light, but as her eyes adjusted she could make out walls lined with shelving. In the middle of the shop stood an old oak table with a few chairs scattered around it. To the back of the shop stood a polished wood counter. On the top resting to one side was a silver cash register.
“Is this a museum or a real book shop?” she whispered to no one but herself.

From behind the counter a door opened and through it stepped a  bent old man. He had a walking stick. His hair, silver, glinted when caught by a shaft of light. Perched on his nose was a pair of half moon glasses. He wore black trousers and jacket with a stiff collared shirt and the most glorious coloured cravat. As he came nearer Marley could see the winking of a diamond stick pin nestled among the silk that adorned his neck.
“Ah, good morning Miss. It is Miss isn’t it?” His voice, soft, creaked with age.
“Yes, it is.” Marley stared at the old gent, hardly believing her eyes.
“It’s not very often we get a pretty young girl in here. How can I help you?” He leaned heavily on his stick and stared back at her with his pale blue rheumy eyes.
“I was just wanting to have a browse of the books. This is a book shop isn’t it?” 
“Indeed it is. As you can see we have lots of books.” He gestured with his free hand towards the shelves. “Take your time, I’ll be at the desk should you want me.”
“Thank you.” 
Marley smiled at him. He pressed his thin lips together into a smile that made the turned up ends of his moustache wiggle. Marley suppressed the urge to laugh and watched as he turned and made a slow retreat back to the counter.

She took her time looking through the shelves. She was searching for something, but what, she didn’t know.  Most of the volumes were dated and of no interest to her. It was when she had almost reached the last of the shelves that she caught sight of it just poking out  from under  a small pile of books.

Hullo, what’s this? Marley knew it was meant for her. She took a quick glance around before she reached out and pulled the heavy tome into the open. It sat on the floor in front of her, covered in a thick layer of dust. Reaching into her pocket she grabbed her handkerchief and flicked it across the book. Dust motes flew into the air and danced in the ray of light that was just above her. Her heart missed a beat as she saw its beautiful cover. “It looks like real leather,” she murmured as she continued to wipe away the dust. The title, stamped into the cover, now become visible. She traced each of the beautifully carved  letters with her finger as she read aloud the words, “The Book.” Somehow the title didn’t seem strange to her at all, it seemed perfect. She lifted it up, and though it was weighty she blew gently to remove more of the dust. As she held it higher to look under it, a beam of light caught the golden edged pages.They glimmered so brightly that it startled Marly and she dropped the book which landed with an almighty thump on the floor.

A tap tapping could be heard and the old man appeared, his stick beating out each of his footsteps. He looked down at the girl kneeling on the polished wooden floor and then at the book which lay in front of her.
“The Book,” he muttered. “Tut, tut, that shouldn’t be here. If you’ll be so kind to pass it up to me, I will put it somewhere safe.” His voice was soft but his face was hard.
“It’s so beautiful. Can’t I just spend a few moments looking inside it?”
“It’s best not. Now hand it up, there’s a good girl.” 
Marley felt  panic shoot through her. She didn’t want to part with it. It felt like the book was calling to her, whispering for her to open its pages. “I’m supposed to have this book,” she blurted out, louder than she meant to.
“Why do you say that?” The old man leaned against the shelving, removed his glasses, tugged the white silk handkerchief from his breast pocket and began to polish them.
“I dunno why.” A frown creased Marly’s brow. “Except that I’m drawn to it and it wants me to read it. I just feel it. I can’t explain.”
“Ah, I see.” He finished polishing his glasses and placed them back on the end of his nose. “That’s why The Book has found its way out into the shop again. It’s chosen you. But it’s never chosen a young girl before.” His old eyes met hers and Marly thought she could see something different in them. 
“Chosen me?” 
“Yes, chosen you. The Book only allows those it chooses to read it.  But I must warn you, those who do find their lives are never the same again. Listen, Miss, you don’t have to read it. Just give it to me and I’ll lock it away and then you must never come back here again.”
Marly shook her head and lifting the book she pressed it against her chest, wrapping her arms tightly about it. 
“I can’t give it to you. I just can’t.”
“Very well.” The old man sighed. “But know that The Book, it cannot leave this shop. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” 
He turned and walked away. Marley called out to him.
“Have you read it?”
He stopped and  looked over his shoulder at her. His eyes seemed to cut into her very soul. “Never,” he growled, “but then it never has chosen me. I’m just its guardian. If I could I would lock it in a steel chest and throw it into the river.” He walked away and disappeared through the door behind the counter.

Marley’s heart thumped in her chest as the old man’s words  swam around and around in her head. Daft old codger. He must be nutty trying to scare me. After all it’s just a book, isn’t it?  She got to her feet and still clasping hold of it, she made her way to the table. She went to sit but stopped and stood up again. What’s all this nonsense about it not leaving the shop, she thought.  I wonder? Marley held the book tighter and began to walk towards the door. Each step she took in that direction, the book began to tremble. At first she felt the slightest movement and by the time she reached the door the book was shaking so much she could hardly hold onto it. The bell above the door was swinging  madly from side to side. It’s noise filled her ears and the shop. 

Out of nowhere the old man appeared. “I told you The Book can’t leave this shop. Did you not understand?” His voice was no longer soft, but deep and harsh. He took hold of Marley’s arm and pulled her back to the table, where the book fell from her grasp and landed with a thud on the tabletop.
“I just wanted to see if what you said was true,” she whimpered, not daring to look him in the face.
“True! Of course it’s true. The Book is not a game. I’ve tried to protect you from it. Go now while you still have a chance.” He swung his cane in the direction of the shop door.
Marley placed a hand on the book, she could still hear it calling her - Read me Marley, you know you want to…  
“I can’t. I have to read it. It wants me to and I want to.” She raised her eyes to look at him and smiled. 
He didn’t smile back. Instead he walked away shaking his head muttering, “They never listen, they never do. I try but….” 

Marley sat down with the book in front of her.  Her hand wavered over it for what seemed like ages. All his words ran through her mind, but she could not resist. As she lifted the cover open the last of the dust drifted into the air. She raised her eyes and followed the motes as they spun and twirled in the light that trapped them. Lowering her eyes she began to read….

Helen A. Howell 2017

Part 2 can be found   HERE

Image Created by Helen A. Howell

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Honey, Honey - Haiku




Honey, Honey


Busy Bee at work / sweet honey in the making / nature’s miracles


Photograph by Helen A. Howell

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Eyes - Five Word Story

I'm kicking 2017 off with a Five Word Story.  I hope you can join me. 


The Eyes



The eyes see everything now!


Drawing by Helen.