The Ninth Wave

The things they do tell you.

Drink deep the poppy, to count the sheep and only sheep. Take the wool that is given, and knit your wedding dress, then your shroud.

The storm will pass. Hold up your hand to blot out your fears and count slowly, under your breath for fear of murdering the calm that is sure to settle.

You do not bleed, you will never burn.


But you do, in leaping gouts.


And that wave you were told to hold back, the one that threatened and seethed all those years ago, it grows so high as to blot out the sun and steals the wings of that poor little blackbird.


The things they never tell you.

First, the witch lies. She will sit across from you, trace her line in your hand and tell you of children. But they are not yours, not when it should count.

Second, no matter how hard and deeply you love, eventually they stop seeing you. They will wonder out loud at how their world can turn so smoothly. And you will stand before them, your hands calloused from the crank, and you will turn away. They will not see you leave.

And third, blood is like sludge. At first, when you tear into flesh, it slips through your fingers, trailing thick, glistening lines. But as it cools, the copper in the air turns to rot and that red pool begins to clot.


There was no love waiting for you.


Your little lights are dark.


When they find you, sure as the coming dawn, you will fall like a stone.


Indiana Jones and the King’s Sword

Shrewsbury, England, 1941 

Indiana Jones drove the army Jeep he’d been provided with into the middle of the town, over the Severn river to the marketplace where he’d been sent to meet George McHale. Captain Ross of US Army Intelligence had warned Indy that if was late to the meeting, he’d find the Brit in the nearest bar, or being kicked out of it. Indy checked his watch – right on time. As he pulled to a stop and killed the grumbling engine, he heard shouts and turned to see two men in army uniforms fall through the door of the White Lion pub. A third man appeared at the door and scolded the two men. 

“If you two fought the Germans as well as you fight each other, we’d be in Berlin by now!” 

The first man jumped to his feet, flipped the bird at the man Indy assumed to be the landlord, and ran off. The other man, overweight and with a slim moustache, lay groaning as the landlord returned inside. Indy cocked a half-smile, put on his fedora and messenger bag, and jumped out of the car. He walked over to the man and extended a hand. 

“So much for British hospitality, I guess…” he offered. 

“Ah, these Northerners can’t take a bloody joke.” The man replied in a cockney accent. “George McHale.” 

“Indiana Jones. What was that all about?“ Indy replied as he helped McHale to his feet.

“Oh, I thought his sister was his wife.” 

“And he hit you?” 

“Not for that, he hit me for what she called me!” McHale winked and slapped Indy’s arm. Indy’s smile faded. He hoped McHale wouldn’t be this insufferable all trip. 

“I was sent to meet you.” 

“Oh yeah, you’re the Yank that’s going to find the Holy Grail!” 

“Excalibur, actually…” 

“What difference does it make, they’re both fairy stories. We’ve got the best job in the whole bloody war.” 

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that…” Indy replied. 

“Well Jonesy, you can call me Mac. This your car?” McHale jumped into the driver’s seat and started the engine as Indy nodded an affirmative and climbed in beside him. “The place we’re going is a series of caves about half an hour from here, on the Welsh border. The Army was doing a live ammo test in one of the caves and blew their way into a cavern that has some writing and drawings on the wall, showing Arthur and the round table.” 

Indy scoffed “There’s no evidence to suggest that anyone who might have inspired the Arthur legend ever had a round table of his closest confidants.” 

“Yeah, total bollocks, that’s what I said. But old Winston’s got a soft spot hasn’t he. You ask me, it’s not Arthur he thinks he is, but Jesus Christ Himself.” 

Indy smiled as he thought of his father’s voice saying “Blasphemy!” in his head, but said nothing. 

They travelled mostly in silence, the usual pleasantries and personal histories exchanged. McHale seemed to be expecting to die at any moment, an attitude Indy thought would probably see him either survive the whole war out of irony, or get them both killed in the next day or two. “Mac” didn’t give much away when they turned to the topic of why he was given this mission, but the way that he deflected any serious inquiry with a joke, suggested to Indy that this was someone’s way of keeping McHale out of the way for a while, but he suspected McHale was aware of that. 

They reached the cave in the mid afternoon, and ventured inside, the network of caverns and tunnels twisting and turning, quickly making any natural light useless. They proceeded with the aid of their torches, saying barely a word to each other.

After about ten minutes of walking, the men heard a sound similar to machine gun fire, but more consistent and sustained from deep within the cave.  

“What is that?” McHale mused.

The sound grew in volume, the source still unseen by either man.  

“Whatever it is, it ain’t good.” Indy grumbled. 

Suddenly a flock of bats was upon them, surrounding them with shrieks and the beating of wings. McHale screamed and flailed his arms. Indy dropped to the ground. 

“Quit screaming Mac, you’re only gonna confuse them.” Indy shouted at him, to no avail. 

Finally the bats passed and McHale stopped screaming. He shook his body as if to make sure no bats had attached themselves to him. 

“Dirty flying rodents.” McHale offered by way of explanation. 

“It’s their home, not ours.” Indy replied, lacking sympathy. McHale grumbled something incomprehensible, and they continued to walk deeper into the cavern. 

Their torches scanned over the walls of the passageway, which dripped water as they passed. Enough to make the ground slippery, but not sufficient to form a stream to avoid. Finally they reached an opening which led them to the larger cavern McHale had talked about, with images of the Arthur legend around the walls. 

“Here we are then…” McHale offered. “Time for you to work your magic.” 

“Archeology isn’t magic, it’s the discovery of facts. All I see here are stories.” Indy replied as he examined the walls. “And stories can be pretty liberal with facts…” 

McHale followed Indy, inspecting the drawings as if he were searching for the same meaning as Indy. He hoped Indy wouldn’t notice that he had no idea what he was looking for at all. 

“These drawings are most likely from the 10th century…” Indy explained. “You can tell from the rudimentary tools and limited colours they’re drawn from.” 

“Right, I thought the same.” 

“Then how do you explain this?” Indy asked, shining his torch onto a figure instantly recognisable as Arthur, pulling a sword from a lake. His clothes shimmered in the torchlight, gold leaf reflecting the light back at the two men. 

“I thought he pulled the sword from a stone?” said McHale. 

“Stories differ on the point…” Indy said, a glimmer in his eye and a grin appearing on his face. “But why would this drawing be so ornate?” 

“I don’t know.” 

Indy reached into his bag and pulled a pick axe from it. He tapped the walls either side of the drawing, a solid thud echoing in the chamber each time. Finally he tapped the image of the lake and a thinner tick rang out. Indy looked at McHale and smiled. 

“Hidden chamber.” The two men said in unison.  

“I have some dynamite, we can blow a hole in the wall.” McHale offered. 

“We don’t know how far it goes behind, it might do more harm than good. We can use this.” Indy held up the pick axe. “Sorry, Art.” Indy swung and hammered the image of the king.  

The wall was thicker than he anticipated and digging through took the best part of half an hour between them. Finally McHale had made the hole big enough to look through. They shined the light of their torches inside and illuminated the hilt of a sword. The blade was flawless, and the hilt a simple white with writing engraved along it. 

“You do the honours…” Indy offered.

“Don’t mind if I do, Jonesy.” McHale’s eyes were wide as he reached, grasping the sword with his right hand and pulling, but not dislodging the sword.

Indy laughed, “Very funny Mac, now let’s go.”

“I can’t move it Jonesy… It won’t budge.” McHale didn’t sound like he was joking. “You try it…”

Indy reached in to the gap and pulled the sword with all his strength. It came away from the wall instantly and Indy fell to the floor. McHale didn’t laugh. “Thanks” Indy shot at him.

“I’m not joking mate, it wouldn’t move for me… It was lodged in there. Maybe the sword in the stone myth is true.”

“It’s been sitting there hundreds of years, it probably just got caught, wrapped up in moss and weeds.”

“Either way, we got what we came for, let’s get back to town. I know someone who can tell us if we’ve got the real thing.”

They walked back along the passages they recognised before, following the smell of clean air. As they came to see natural light again, three figures stood silhouetted at the cave entrance. One spoke as they approached, Indy’s eyes not yet adjusted to the sunlight.

The man’s accent was instantly recognisable as German.

“We have to thank you Doctor Jones. You’ve saved the Führer a great deal of effort.”

The other two men cocked their machine guns

“Put your hands above your heads… We will take the sword now.”

“Nazis…” Indy muttered. “I hate these guys.”

Before the Dragon

So. For long years the tale has been told
of the brave warrior from Geatland,
mightiest of a mighty race,
who set out across the unforgiving sea
to the terrorised land of the Danes
to pit his strength against that of a terrible foe.

Two great combats did he undertake
‘gainst a monster and it’s monstrous dam
and emerged at last, bloody but victorious,
to eternal praise and great reward
for himself and his surviving men.
Then the warrior turned his face to home,
crossing again the unforgiving sea,
to the land of the mighty Geats
where he knelt once more before his King.

And another tale is often told;
that the mightiest of warriors
himself became a king
and ruled his people well
until the day came for his final battle,
against a great and terrible wyrm
that had set all of Geatland aflame.
But between them both lie other tales
further legends of Beowulf,
the warrior who became king,
and this, then, is one of those…

So. The young King wandered
walking the roads of his kingdom,
sure enough of his might
but not yet certain of his right to rule;
the Geats were a strong people,
and their new king the strongest of them,
but even those who have great strength
can be weakened by uncertainty.

He did not dress as a king
to a stranger’s eyes he would be only a man
though one of great power,
scarred by past battles
and looking ahead with watchful eyes.
He had been travelling for weeks,
no clear destination in mind,
only a desire to walk
to see the land that was his to rule,
his to protect.

The air was cold and crisp
and white snow lay on the ground
as he approached a farmstead,
but his brow furrowed
as he saw the door thrown down
monstrous tracks leading away
toward the trees beyond.

As he looked on he saw a young maiden
running through the snow,
a bundle clutched in her arms.
Seeing the mighty warrior
she cried out for aid,
and the King strode forward to meet her.
The bundle she held so tightly
was a boy-child, face pale in the winter air,
and as Beowulf listened she told a tale of woe;
a monster that had torn through their home,
snatching up her only brother
to carry off and feast upon.
Her parents, warriors both,
had followed the demon,
harrying it with their blades
so that it had dropped its prize
and turned to faced them.

“Even now they fight the beast,
though I fear they cannot prevail.”
The King said not a word,
but drew his blade and strode for the trees,
following the tracks of warriors and beast
the young maiden running before him.
Soon enough a familiar sound rang out in the cold air,
ragged breaths, the clang of metal;
the sounds of battle.
They reached a clearing in the trees
and the maiden halted with a cry,
snatching out a dagger with a dark blade.
Maiden and warrior king stood still
frozen at the edge of the clearing
staring at three figures moving within.

Bodies shifting and dancing,
caught in bloody battle;
two warriors, a man and a woman
fighting side by side,
facing a beast out of nightmare.
It was a monstrous shape,
a hulking demon
breath misting in the winter air,
claws slashing and spattering the snow
with the warrior’s blood.
As he watched,
the king remembered another monster,
long years and an ocean away…
This creature was no Grendel,
but it was monster enough, even so.

The two warriors fought as one,
woman and man against a dread beast,
a dance of death in the winter light.
The young maiden looked on,
clutching the babe in one arm,
her own small dagger gripped tightly in a pale fist,
but she could not step into battle.
Truly, there was naught she might do,
no way she could aid them;
they fought with the monster,
fluid and graceful,
until the beast’s tearing claw
caught the man in the chest,
ripping him asunder
painting the snow crimson.

He made no sound,
but the woman cried out
as though she had been slain herself.
Her blade flashed like lightning
as she attacked the beast
the monster that had slain her husband,
slicing great wounds in its flesh,
and the shield maiden’s fury
drove the creature back.

But only for a moment.
The demon lunged once more,
slathering jaws opening wide
as a bloody claw knocked the blade aside.
Those foul jaws snapped closed
and the valiant shieldmaiden screamed in agony
fangs tearing her shoulder
with a deep, bloody wound.
Her daughter screamed too,
raising her dagger high
but before she could throw herself upon the beast
Beowulf, mightiest of the Geats,
leapt forward to meet it.

His blade whistled in the crisp morning air,
the monster screeched in anguish
boiling black blood staining the snowy ground.
Now the King danced with the monster
grace and terror combined,
sword singing a bloody song
that the demon could not match.
The young maiden crouched with her mother,
tending her as best she could
as the combatants whirled about them.
The creature gave a final screech of rage
as the King’s shining sword
cleaved the monstrous heart
and the creature fell to the blood-slicked snow,
shattered and broken.

The mighty warrior turned from his foe
kneeling before the shieldmaiden
whose eyes looked on him with gratitude
despite her own pain.
“Thanks to you,” she whispered.
“Rest now, warrior,” the King said.
“The beast is slain, it’s murder
of husband and father avenged. Rest.”
The King took the babe from the young maiden
who supported her mother
as they trudged through the snow,
back to the farmstead.
Then the king returned to the clearing
to the body of the warrior who had fallen,
struck down by the demon
that had tried to shatter his family.
Beowulf carried his body home
with reverence and honour,
and with the young maiden
built a pyre for him.

Her mother, valiant shieldmaiden,
wounds bound and tended,
drifted in healing slumber
as her husband journeyed onward
to the lands beyond the world.

The King and the young maiden
stood in the light of the flames,
the boy-child cradled in the maiden’s arms.
“She called you a king,” the maiden said,
her eyes on the noble warrior
who did not turn from the flames.
“And so I am,” he murmured
“With a duty to my people.”
The maiden looked on the King with gratitude
though her eyes were also sad.
“A duty served, and we thank you.”
The boy child had woken,
and gazed up at the King with dark eyes.
“What are your names?” the warrior asked,
“I am Hygga, my king,” came the reply,
“and my brother is Wiglaf.
One day we shall repay you. I swear it.”
The warrior king took up the child
cradling him in his scarred arms.
“You have valiant kin, Wiglaf.
Heed them well, and glory shall be yours,
I am sure of it.”

As the morning sun lit the snow
the funeral pyre had burned low
as Hygga stood holding her brother,
boy-child and maiden watching
as the mighty warrior
who had fought for them
continued on his wandering.

So. For long years the tales have been told
of the brave warrior from Geatland,
mightiest of a mighty race,
the warrior who became a king.
Beowulf strode out into the cold morning
walking the roads of his kingdom
a hero out of legend
walking into the rest of his story…

A Song For Val (Not Ray)

she lifts the pushchair
up the step
years ago it was her kids
in this very pushchair
wrapped in hand crocheted blankets
being bounced around like fat in a pan
now it’s her granddaughter


Two floors down
she can still smell the vodka, still smell the ashtray
Those smells didn’t stop, even after his body was carried out in Spring.


A taste, like the copper coins in her purse, lines her tongue

The rooms still echo no matter how much cloth she drapes on the walls.

This isn’t the happy ending she thought it would be

it’s just a coda.

so her knees can lock and her hips can ache and her ankles can burn and her heels can bleed


but she doesn’t want these steps to end.


NB: Nil By Mouth was a 1997 semi-autobiographical film by writer / director Gary Oldman. It told the tale of a family headed by “Val” (Kathy Burke) suffering from paternal abuse at the hands of “Ray” (Ray Winstone).

From Country, to Town.

The Old Oak
Far Field
Crofter’s Farm
The Country

½ Waning Spring Moon

4 Mens
Converse House
The Town
36.5 EUR

Dear Friend,

Forgive the delay in my response, as I barely received your last letter.

Much has changed. Changed fast. Changed beyond all recognition, all possible dreams and nightmares. Nothing is as you would remember, from your brief visit, many moons ago.

Your letter arrived some weeks ago, in the late post. Things had already become so disturbed. I spoke of the lack of crops being sown in my last to you? They were expecting me to be in the fields, but I had remained in the hedgerows. The Postbirds have been looking more and more shaken in recent times. I should’ve sensed the ill wind, made a move sooner…

Yellow Dragons came before sunrise, each carrying their own unnatural dawn. Rumbling, shuddering, screeching. They came at us from both sides. I grabbed what little we could in my sleep haze and ran. Some went downfield, and I almost did, too. But I remembered your letter, and…

Your letter saved me.

Downfield, the old track was gone. And The Black had come. The Black I so despised in the town has reached us in the country, and it had brought Dragons that crushed friends and strangers alike.

Those of us who remain are in the Old Oak in the Far Field. Even with so few of us, there’s little room, and the threat of rot-weakened floors and walls giving way at any moment. And the men who tame the dragons, in coats that shine in the darkness, have been lurking. I fear they have intentions for even this last refuge.

The field has been transformed. The very earth shifted and heaved, great mountains born and dying in days. They’ve sown unnatural seeds, fertilised with grey slurry that have sprouted angular tree trunks. I think they are the bones of the houses, like the ones in the Town.

Forgive the darkness and sorrow in this letter. In the coming days I intend to move again, through the Woods to the Oilseed fields. Though part of me wonders if you were right to show me the ways of the Town. Everything I have known seems to be vanishing, as the reach of the Town spreads. I so want to believe we can keep going as we once did, but the new crop cannot be sown until the old harvest has died. Maybe the Country’s time is done?

All I know is that you are in my thoughts, and I hope to see you again… Should I not make i

I have enclosed a seperate address, where I hope will find your next letter.

With all my l
Warmest Regards,


Taxidermy; Do it Yourself!

Amelia stood in the middle of her Grandma’s bedroom, her worn leather boots soaking in the blood that had splattered onto the floorboards. She’d been avoiding looking at the damn lumberjack in the doorway, but she finally turned to him, trying to soften her hard expression
“Take my Grandma to the village immediately. She needs help.”
With a soft kiss to her Grandma’s grey curled locks, matted thick with blood, Amelia helped her to her feet and the man rushed to take her side.  
“I can’t leave you here, you must accompany us.” he spoke with deep confidence, and Amelia smirked as she realised he was trying to sound stern. She crossed the room wordlessly, opening the door for them both.
“Go now, take her straight to the doctor”.
With a sigh, the man nodded and Amelia offered her Nan one last warm, comforting smile, “I’ll clean up here Gran, you’ll be back in your own bed before the day is out”.
Finally alone as the lumberjack helped her Grandma down the front porch, Amelia heaved a huge, shaking sigh, disbelief running her thoughts astray and sending them rushing wildly through the events of the last twenty minutes.

Miss Amelia Hood was lightheartedly named ‘Red Riding Hood’ for the crimson riding coat she wore while hunting. It was often commented that no sane hunter would ever consider wearing something so vibrant, but those comments were quickly shot down with the reminder that Red was the best any of them had ever met, and she always came back successful regardless of the bold colour of her overcoat.
That day Amelia was not hunting, but bringing food to her Grandma. She did so every Thursday to ensure her only living Grandparent stayed well fed and with some company in her old age.

However, earlier that day, upon getting close to the snug little cottage on the outskirts of the forest, she had heard a blood curdling scream, and panic flooded her body when she saw the quaint wooden door of the little home torn open, hanging loosely off its hinges. The grocery bags fell from Red’s arms, forgotten about immediately, and she raced forward, pulling her hunting bow off her back and pushing an arrow into place. The wolf had left a trail of destruction through the small kitchen and Red followed it quickly, leading her to the bedroom where her frail Grandma was crying out, the wolf prowling the length of the space, both of them bloody as the poor, frail old woman had fought the beast off with bare arms.
“Oi!” Red shouted, anger refining her senses, the aim of her arrow precisely pointing to a fatal spot on the huge animal’s neck. It turned at the sound, a monster with coarse black fur and wide, rabid eyes. Prepared, Red pulled back the bow and – suddenly – a large object whooshed past her ear. She faltered, losing her balance for just a moment and sending the arrow shooting off into the ceiling as she fell hard on her ass. The object, a large axe with an aged wooden handle, lodged itself into the wolf’s skull and after a hysterical howl of pain it collapsed, its head falling heavily into the shocked hunter’s lap. Red scrambled to her feet and through the doorway, straight into the muscular chest of a breathless stranger. She screamed out, her heart beating desperately fast and her usual calm composure abandoned.
“You nearly killed me with that axe!”. 
The man, adjusting his plaid shirt with broad arms, examined the dying wolf on the carpet, “I’d actually say I saved your life. I heard screaming and came as quickly as I could.”
“Oh goodness me, how could I ever repay you!?” Red fawned dramatically, hands pressed over her heart. She shot him a hard glare and rushed to her Grandma’s side, “I had it under control. I hunt, and I don’t go throwing axes at people’s heads.”
“It wasn’t thrown at your head, it was thrown at his!” he sighed, gesturing with exasperation at the wolf.
And that was when Red stopped listening to the lumberjack, and started worrying about how to clean the place up and get him out of the way, taking us back to where we found her, stood blood stained in her Grandmother’s bedroom.

Red looked down at the wolf then, long dead, and her panic towards the situation quickly faded, being replaced with a dull irritation. First things first, she whipped the already blood stained sheets from her Grandma’s lonely single bed and threw them under the wolf’s head to prevent any more blood getting onto the carpet, and then set about looking for cleaning equipment. She was rummaging around in the cupboards under the sink looking for some kind of carpet cleaner when her eyes fell upon a dusty, colourful cardboard box. She laughed in disbelief at a rather distant memory of her Grandma showing her a handmade, oddly proportioned stuffed mouse. Brushing the fine layer of grime from the lid, her suspicions were confirmed; she had in her hands a Taxidermy; Do it Yourself! Kit that her Grandma’s late friend had gotten her a few birthdays back. Red wondered where on Earth her Grandma had found that poor dead mouse, and then it hit her – the most brilliant, sick and twisted idea she’d ever had.

It took ages, considering it was her very first time and the instructions were entirely in Swedish. Red was determined to make it utterly perfect. She cleaned the cottage and got to work immediately, and was labouring through the night. The finishing touch was taking one of her Grandma’s white linen night caps and pulling it over the wolf’s head, down past the face forever fashioned into a hilarious yet equally unsettling smile and tied in a neat little bow under the chin. Red really had a knack for taxidermy, it turned out, and the wolf sold for a very considerable amount within hours of its completion, advertised as “a fashionable one off piece for an eccentric with a flair for the dramatic”. Despite the Lumberjack, Paul, trying to take credit for taming the wild beast, no one really cared, for it was Red who had forever humiliated and emasculated the creature, making it nothing more than fancy furniture for the rest of time. Being such a successful hunter, she now had a brand new hobby that meant none of her catch would ever have to go to waste.

Now her business card proudly reads “Miss Amelia Hood, Hunter and Taxidermist”. If there’s one piece of advice I could give you, it would be never to cross her.  

Probably the oddest thing in the Universe…

The yellow, brick-like ships hummed slowly away, into the blackness. The constructor fleet had finally completed their task; the Earth was gone. All the Earths. Every Earth in every alternative dimension had been boiled away into the ether, each leaving behind just the faintest whiff of ozone and nitrogen. If there had been any people around to see the explosion they would have called it ‘beautiful’. But there weren’t, so they couldn’t.

It was silent.

Deafeningly silent.

A few seconds passed.

Then a few more.

And then, with a tiny squeak and small flash, She popped back into existence. She was small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe.

The babel fish’s natural shifting abilities made them incredibly hard to kill; they just phase from one dimension to another until finding somewhere less hostile, or with a Jacuzzi. Dimensional jumping tires Babel Fish and leaves them rather peckish, but it keeps them alive so they very rarely complain. What this means in practices is that the delicate Babelfish is one of the most difficult life-forms to kill. They are more cunning than the fox-race of Babbage VIII, who only spoke in clever riddles whenever strangers were around, more evolutionary advanced than amoeba aren’t, and more evasive than a free slot with Eccentrica Gallumbits, triple-breasted whore of Eroticon Six.

This particular Babel Fish was special. She had travelled across the universe, through time, and even through Yeovil, all in the ear of one very extraordinary, ape-descended Earth creature called Arthur Dent, who, despite all the odds, had somehow become one of the most important beings in the universe. He was also dead. For the first time in decades, this small Babel Fish was alone. And She was mourning.

She had never felt this way before. An empty chasm had yawned open in her heart, whilst boiling rage percolated her mind. Her time had always been spent quietly translating for Arthur, feeding off his brainwave energies and transmitting them out to the galaxy, She’d never had time to experience such depth of emotion before. She had helped him for so long; helping him understand Altarian, Viltvodle, French, and even Vogon.

Vogon, She thought. The word kept running around her massively complicated brain. Vogon. There it was again. She looked up and saw the silent yellow ships in the distance, and remembered it all. The energiser beam, the sudden heat as the planet burned beneath Her, the desperate act of preservation, and leaving Arthur behind.

Vogon. Every time the 5 letters ran through her mind she winced in pain. She’d been translating for Arthur for long enough to know the word and know that it wasn’t pleasant. She scanned her memories, trying to piece together everything she could recall about Vogons. Vogshpere, Constructor Fleets, terrible hygiene, obsessive bureaucrats, anger issues, airlocks, and iron mallets.

She started to swim away through the emptiness of space, her small tail gently flicking left and right, following in the wake of the vast Vogon Constructor fleet. She had a plan.

Revenge, She thought, Revenge.


Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz smiled at a job well done. He caught his smile in the reflection on the vidiscreen and stopped. It just didn’t look right when a Vogon smiled, more like someone had hit an over-ripe watermelon with an axe, so they tried their hardest not to. He looked around the bridge to make sure that no one had caught him in the act, and went back to being smug. Decades of work and frustration, a disciplinary hearing, a court case even, were all put behind him. Jeltz had finally completed the clearing work for the greatest civil works project this arm of the galaxy had ever seen, and the hyperspace bypass could now be constructed.

It’s just a shame, Jeltz thought, that no one will use it. But orders are orders, and they can’t be countermanded.

Jeltz leaned back, went to put his bloated feet up on the dark green control panel that looked more like it was congealed than manufactured in front of him. He struggled to lift his legs high enough and after a few moments grunting slammed them back down to the floor. He sighed heavily, and closed his eyes to take a well deserved rest. As much as the universe wanted this Vogon to have a bad day he would simply be too stubborn to allow it. Just when his eyes closed, a small red light began to flicker on the console, unseen.

Being but a few centimetres long, it wasn’t hard for the Babel fish to swim onto the Vogon ship. Auxiliary exhaust ports rarely run hot and had a very good knack of leading directly into the most delicate workings of any spacecraft. She happily bobbed through air vents and maintenance ducts, setting off unanswered proximity alarms and intruder sirens as She went. The crew were relaxing and celebrating in traditional Vogon manner, beating beautiful, scuttling jewelled crabs with iron mallets, and were too busy to answer the calls.

She pushed on, until She found herself at a steel grate. Through the slats, she saw the squalid interior of the Vogon bridge, gleaming with all the pearlescence of a damp toad, and the rising and heaving bulk of the sleeping Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz. She forced her head through the gaps in the vent and slid her little yellow form through, stopping once in the middle to catch her tiny breath. It was a tight squeeze, but for a creature that finds it’s natural home in ear canals, it was nothing She’d not done before.

Like a bullet from a very odd rifle, She flew across the room at speed before colliding with a vidiscreen with a gentle thud. She waggled her head, trying to shake the daze out of her mind, and quickly relocated her bearings. Jeltz’ massive, snoring shape loomed in the low green lighting, rising and falling with every breath. The little Babel Fish darted out of sight, fearing that she’d been spotted and would soon be on the receiving end of a fatal smack from a half dazed Vogon. But no such thing came. And as She snuck back out of the shadows, Jeltz slept ever deeper.

For any other creature it would just have been easy enough to force their way into the computer banks, sweet talk the AI into being your friend simply by talking to it in a soft voice and announcing yourself as anything but Vogon, ask it nicely to set the self-destruct circuits going, and get the hell out of there before you’re blown to pieces or forced to listen to some Vogon Poetry. But She had a distinct disadvantage, notably her lack of fingers, inability to talk, and desire to be extremely cruel.

Instead, the little Babel Fish, the Universe’s greatest organism and most advanced translator ever conceived, slipped her way deep inside Jeltz’ ear canal.

‘Foul,’ she muttered in her mind, ‘but this is for Arthur.’ If her mouth could smile, it would have. Wide, toothy, and smug. ‘I wonder how much fun I can have with it?’ And she nestled down for a long ride.


“Captain?” A voice sheepishly broke the silence. “Caaaaptain?” Jeltz laboured with the opening of his eyes. There stood in front of him a very young Vogon, barely grown into his green battle armour, stood firmly to attention. “Captain,” he repeated for a third time, “the Vice Admiral for you Sir, to congratulate you on the job well done…” He trailed off, perturbed. The captain had paid extremely close attention to every word the young private had said with a growing level of hatred, because what the young Vogon has said wasn’t quite what Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz heard;

“Captain, the vice admiral for you sir, to punch you in the throat for being a arcturan mega-slug with breath like dead wildebeest…”

Jeltz roared out of his seat, startling the ever shrinking private and making him back away at pace. “Tell that snivelling toad of an Admiral that when he comes in here I’ll punch him so hard on his massive nose you could use the impression as a birthing pool!” He reared up to full height, arms failing in anger, snot and bile flung from his nose.

The private was now all but cowering in a corner, “Y-yes Sir,” he whimpered, “of course right away”. He scuttled out, worried how the Vice Admiral would take the news, but very sure he wouldn’t get a word of it wrong.

“If that poxy desk-handle thinks he could best me in a fight then so be it! Take my rank away, lock me in a Dentrassi Prison prism, I don’t care! No one speaks to Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz like that!”

And as the vast Vogon roared and ranted, in his ear sat a very smug, contented Babel Fish, happy in the knowledge She was about to have the most fun of Her life.

Frodo Baggins: Boy Detective.

Yes, I misspelt Detective when I was drawing this and couldn’t be arsed to redraw it because I was happy with the Frodo don’t @ me.

For as long as anyone could remember the children of the Shire had been warned about a most singular and elusive thief. Generations of Baggins and Burrows, Puddifoot and Gamwich and even those rambunctious Tooks all learned to fear this most pernicious and mysterious sneak. Tales were told from hobbit to hobbit, parent to child and those tales grew with every telling.

‘He is a thousand years old and lives in a camp, deep in the woods where even the Trolls fear to tread.’

‘No, no! It’s not a man or even a woman; it is a group. A band of criminals trained and financed by some distant wizard who is intolerant to gluten.’

‘Are you mad? It is the ghost of a  poor orphaned hobbit who used to live with an evil pie maker who starved her to death! Now she goes from house to house stealing pies with hunger that can never be sated.’

Every hobbit had a story, each as unique as a snowflake. The one thing everyone could agree on was that this was no ordinary thief. They were in fact, the lowest, most disgusting and reprehensible pilferer of all a pie thief known as the Pastry Bandit.

As the hobbits grew up and few sightings occurred, they worried less and less about the Pastry Bandit their minds turning to more mundane problems. He was just a myth. A story to scare young children with. That was until the day that he wasn’t a myth anymore.

That day came on the 20th of Thrimidge 2991. The day that Lobelia Sackville-Baggins put a perfect apple pie on her window ledge to cool only to return half an hour later to find it missing. Accusations had flown, and everyone was a suspect. Baggins Tooks and Brandywines all were accused, investigated and exonerated. The following week and the Pastry Bandit struck again, not once, not twice but thrice. First May Gamgee lost one of her rhubarb and blackberry specials, and then both Daisy Boffin and Peony Burrows suffered similar tragedies with their own delicious baked goods. The local authorities were called in, but a thorough investigation turned up no clues, no suspects and worst of all no pies.

By the 14th of Forelithe, the thefts were so common that people were resorting to extreme measures. Fences sprung up like shining silver weeds, every able man was pressed into service patrolling the town, and some even began to empty their safes of gold and gems to make room for their precious pies.

“The Pastry Bandit was on the loose, and there was only one hobbit who could stop him… Frodo Baggins: Boy Detective,” said Frodo as he scribbled into his journal.

“One hobbit Master Frodo?” said Samwise Gamgee with a frown. “What about me?”

“Don’t worry Sam! This is just a working draft. I’ll make sure you get proper credit in the final edit. What do we know?”

“Not much I’m afraid,” replied Sam.

“Pies have been pilfered from all over the Shire and there doesn’t seem to be anything that links the crimes at all. They happen at different times of day and night and there isn’t even a link with the pies, sweet, savoury he will take anything.”

“So what you’re saying is we have no clues?”

“Pretty much Master Frodo, yes. There’s a reason he hasn’t been caught in all these years.”

“Well, you know what the greats do when they don’t have any clues?”

“Go back to the beginning, go over every crime-scene, interview every witness work the case until something comes up?”

“Gods no, Sam. Do you know how much work that would be? They make their own evidence!” With that, he turned away and started back towards Bag End his mind already grappling with the problem.

“What do you mean Master Frodo?” asked Sam. “Master Frodo? We’re not going to frame someone, are we? Are we?!?”




Crouching in the darkness, hidden from the road by a thick row of gorse bushes Frodo surveyed the scene. From his position on the edge of the wood, he had a perfect view of both the road running by the house and more critically pie which sat cooling on the window ledge. The lantern high on the lamppost was lit and cast a warm glow over the scene but fell short of where the two boys lay in wait. They were shrouded in a cloak of darkness while anyone approaching would be lit up like one of Gandalf’s skyrockets.  There was no way that the Pastry Bandit could get to the tasty, blueberry-filled delicacy without being seen.

“Are you ready Sam?”

“Ready Master Frodo.”

“Okay keep your eyes peeled he could show up at any time.”

As if on queue their first suspect came into view. He was a short, fat hobbit wearing a wide straw hat that was pulled low to cover his face. It looked as though he was going to walk on but then he stopped dead and tilted his head. He looked from left to right then his eyes locked onto the pie and a smile flashed across his face. He glanced left then right to make sure no one was looking then stepped darted towards the pie. Frodo felt Sam tense and held out an arm to restrain him.

“Not yet Sam,” he whispered. “Let him take the bait…”

As he reached the pie, the man looked around again and finding the coast clear, leaned down and took a long sniff. Frodo’s heart raced, and his hands shook with anticipation. They had him, the Pastry Bandit! Where countless others had failed Frodo Baggins: Boy Detective had succeeded. Images of parades held in his honour and the mayor draping a medal over his head flashed through his mind.

“That’s a lovely looking pie Mrs Gamgee,” called the hobbit. “You better take it in, or the Pastry Bandit will have it away…”

The images vanished with the retreating back of the innocent hobbit.

“Perhaps this isn’t going to be as easy as I thought,” moaned Frodo slumping back onto a tree stump.

Several more hobbits came into view, and each time the boys readied themselves for action only to be disappointed as the suspects passed without incident. The night wore on past midnight and into the early hours with less and less people going by and no sign of the Pastry Bandit. Sam had fallen asleep some time ago, and Frodo himself was starting to nod when something startled him awake. Somewhat dazed Frodo looked up at the house, and his heart stopped in his chest. His eyes were fixed straight ahead as he reached out and shook Sam.

“Wha… Who… When…” muttered Sam. Frodo just pointed to the house where the pie was floating in mid-air. He watched in horror as a slice of pie floated out of the tin all by itself then vanished in three swift bites.

“Ghost!” screamed Sam. “The Pastry Bandit is a ghost!”

A second slice froze in mid-air then fell to the floor followed quickly by the pie itself but the boys hadn’t waited long enough to see it, they had already bolted for the hills in panic. They ran until their legs gave out and had reached the very outskirts of Hobbiton before they finally collapsed.

“Miss Posey was right!” said Sam between breaths. “The Pastry Bandit is a ghost, and we’ve gone and proved it.”

“I don’t think we proved anything,” sighed Frodo.

“What do you mean we saw with our own eyes!”

“But who will believe us?”

Sam started to speak then let out his own sigh. “Perhaps you’re right. At least we cracked the case.”

“Right!” said Frodo brightening. “Frodo Baggins: Boy Detective triumphs again!”

“Don’t forget about his old pal Sam…” started Sam but Frodo wasn’t listening he was already heading for home.



Bilbo looked up from his book as Frodo pushed his way into Bag End.

“Good night Frodo?”

“Sorry Bilbo,” said Frodo as he crossed the room. “I’ve no time to chat I’ve got to get this down while it’s fresh in my head.”

“Oh, what’s that?”

“I caught the Pastry Bandit tonight!”

“Caught him eh? Who was it?”

“Well, maybe not caught exactly but we saw him, well no we didn’t see him but only because he is a ghost!”

“A ghost you say? isn’t that something!”

“Right and now I need to write it all down before I forget. Goodnight Bilbo.”

“Goodnight Frodo.”

As Frodo headed to bed, Bilbo surreptitiously slipped the ring from his pocket and twirled it in his hands. “I guess I should put this whole pie stealing thing to bed before he catches me. Besides, it’s not good for the old physique,” said Bilbo rubbing his large belly. “He’s a sharp boy that one I see big things in his future.”

And so it begins…

Welcome to Novel Dreamers 2: Electric Bookaloo!

So what’s going on? Let’s just remind ourselves. The writers that have signed up to this year’s season (thank you Shaun!) will be getting the stimulus of this month from this very post. They will then have 4 weeks to go and write up to 1500 words with that stimulus and then upload the work onto this blog. We’ll read them, we’ll vote who we like, and then we rinse and repeat. Simples, right?

So what’s the stimulus for this month? Well I’m borrowing the first month of last season’s Novel Dreamers to challenge our writers and to give you, dear reader, a feel of what the writers are about. The writing stimulus for this month: Character Continuation. The writers may take a favourite character(s) of their choosing, and continue their story. It can be a fictional, real life, book, film, game, music, or anything else character. All they have to do is pick up the story where the writer left off. And it doesn’t have to be the complete endgame of that character. Really want to take Frodo on a wild goose chase elsewhere in Mordor? Pick up from somewhere in The Fellowship of the Ring rather than at the end of Return of the King.

The reason I’ve picked this one again is the choice of a character can tell a lot about a writer sometimes. Will the comic writer break routine and shock us? Will we be pleasantly surprised by the dark turn that befalls a sweet and innocent field mouse? Who knows? I guess we’ll have to see in a month’s time…

So before you go and scream to the world how excited you are about this being back, I offer you my example piece for this month.

Enjoy 🙂

Momento Mori

The hammer slid back into the uncocked position with a silent proficiency that came from compulsively detailed cleaning. The bullet that should have been produced with the action never left the chamber, as the chamber was purposely empty. The barrel of the .357 Smith and Wesson Magnum sat in the mouth of the man; his body language read that of a man completely in control and at peace. There was no nervous trembling, there were no brief tears caused by fear of death or anger; there was just a serene calm. He took the gun from his mouth, cocked it once more, and turned it on the man sat on the other side of the table.

The room was bare. A single light fitting hanging above the solitary table at which the duo were sat; no light shade. There were a few Polaroid’s pinned to the wall, along side newspaper clippings. The two men were almost bipolar in their appearances. The first of the two looked to be in his late 50s, though he had an air of a man who had lived more than one lifetime and they hadn’t been kind to him. His physique was that of a man who had worked in physical labour all his life; broad shouldered, barrel chest, and arms like tree trunks. The latter of the two was tied to the chair he sat in and looked like he had gone through several lifetimes in the last hour or so. He was scrawny, a five o’clock shadow glistening with sweat that permeated his black hair and white shirt.

“I’ve already told you, man, I know fuck all. You’re wasting your time, man!” The sweaty one pleaded. His voice thick with both Irish accent and fear. The other man showed no sign of listening. He brought the barrel up to the Mick’s forehead, the muscles and bones of his arm creaking with the effort, and held it there for a moment.

“Then there is no more use to your existence.” The voice was gravelled and deep, like a driveway soaked in whiskey and cigar abuse. The trigger snap was accented by the click of a knuckle that had been broken too many times, a loud cracking noise as the bullet ricocheted off the Irishman’s skull then the wall, and the bloodstain pattern analyst that visited this site in the future had a small pang of acknowledgement. His head lolled back with the force and his pupils followed shortly after.

Another dead end… creeped the voice in the back of the old man’s mind.

“I am not in the mood for your chiding.”

The man stood and walked over to the paper clippings and photos on the wall; every part of his body ached with age and abuse. The headlines of the paper clippings were all similar in their message, calling out for someone to stop the renegade that had been raining blood down over the city for three decades, but the one that hit right to the heart of the matter was the New York Bulletin that simply read:


Frank grimaced as he looked over the mess of slander and libel. He had spent the best part of his life waging a one man war against the corrupt and broken parts of Hell’s Kitchen and doing things the police could not and still he was the bad guy.

That’s not entirely true, old friend… came the voice in the back of his head, once more.

Frank pulled one of the pages of the wall – a page from a comic depicting him as some daring do good – and stared at it in disgust.

“I am either a bad guy or an anti-hero. This is all because of you” he growled out to the room at large; there was no one else there.

You invited me in, old man. YOU DID THIS… the voice came through like a cold burn in his skull.

He had been a young man in Vietnam, just trying to survive. The voice promised his survival and he let it take over, but never really gained control back after that point. Since then, Frank Castle had lost his family, killed up to 2500 men, all corrupt, and been labelled by the press as The Punisher. He had had shows created about him, comics making him some psychotic man in black and with the trademark momento mori emblazoned across shirts, mugs, pencil cases, and all kinds of memorabilia. In actual fact, he was just a man. Several teeth missing, more scar tissue than actual flesh, he was not the dark and indestructible figure the public imagined.

He looked down to the gun in his hand once more. He knew he had loaded two bullets at random into the six chambered cylinder and for a brief moment he had hoped for the bullet to have been in the previous chamber. Without pause or second thought he brought the gun up to his temple, cocked it, and released the trigger.


He stood there for a moment, not really knowing how to respond to the event. He had never attempted suicide; he’d always been too busy with the next target. Now The Punisher was the next target. He wasn’t sure how that worked anymore. In some of the media created around him, The Punisher was Frank Castle’s pseudonym; they were one and the same. In other works, the silky voice in the back of his head was The Punisher; some unknown entity that somehow found Frank in Valley Forge and had noticed a pitch blackness in his soul that had been sustaining it ever since.

How upsetting that they’ll never know you’re just a schizophrenic who puts too much faith in the voice in his head… This time the voice sounded genuinely pleased and full of mirth.

“Either way I must stop this. The damage has outweighed the good I have done every time. Explosions, destruction of buildings, bloodbaths in public areas. I am a tyrant, not a role model.”

Some people need a bad person for a good role model…

“I am not letting you control this,” Frank growled through gritted teeth. He cocked the gun once more and pulled the trigger.


He noticed a gentle rustle in the back of his mind.

Now now, let’s not be too hasty. There’s still Fisk. Or Tombstone. Oh, we should definitely finish Tombstone before you bite the bullet… The voice sounded like it was trying everything to not sound pleading.

Frank threw the page of the comic to one side and pulled a picture from the top of the cluster of a woman holding a baby, her gingham dress being used as a hiding place for the little girl that seemed to be the spit of the woman she stood next to.

“I’m still sorry, Maria. For all the pain I caused you. For all the bullshit and the lies. Maybe now your name can be remembered for more than just a bloodlust.”

He cocked the gun again.

50/50 now, chap. Really want to go out like this?…