I Know a Guy with a Golden Touch

This story was inspired by…

Deep in the heart of Phrygia on the Sangarios River sat the mighty city of Gordion. Gordion was the greatest city the world had ever known (according to the the great Bard Yelpio) and was known to be home to the most beautiful women, the most exquisite crafts and more importantly the largest pile of gold ever assembled. All of which was probably why it was currently encircled by ten thousand angry Cimmerian’s waving pointy things and demanding to be let in… again.

While outside the walls the massed forces of the Cimmerian’s formed up for another assault, breaching ladders and battering rams in hand,  inside men wearing grim faces and studded leather looked on with sinking hearts. They might have had the finest blades, the tallest walls and the stoutest hearts but they were outnumbered ten to one and everyone knew if you threw enough shit some of it would eventually stick.

While the two opposing forces eyed each other like strange cats, hissing in the night, in the highest tower of Gordion the council tried to come up with a plan.

“Gordion has never been taken and it never will,” blustered the red-faced General Jaffir as he stalked up and down the room.

“They out number us ten to one,” replied High Steward Demir with a wave of a manicured hand. “In the end numbers will tell.”

“Nonsense! These walls have seen a hundred battles, they are too tall and too thick to breach.”

“Apparently, they aren’t the only ones to thick to breach. We must sue for peace.”

“Sue for peace? Sue for peace!?” bellowed the irate General sending spittle flying. “We are Phrygians! We have the largest empire in the world. We do not sue for peace, we find out enemies and crush them.”

“They’re charging again,” said Sanem from over by the window. The low buzz of voices rose and in the distance drums could be heard. Sanem watched in silence as the wave of men threw themselves against the wall. Ladders were raised and thrown down, arrows flew on both sides and everywhere she looked men fell. After several minutes of intense fighting a horn sounded and the wave of men retreated leaving the plain dotted with the dead and dying.

A ragged shout went up from the defenders but it felt hollow, more for show than any genuine joy. They had inflicted a heavy price on the attackers killing twenty men for every man they lost but the each man lost on their side felt like a mortal blow, the line stretching thinner and thinner while outside the walls the mass seemed undiminished.

“They are winning,” she said at length. “Slowly and with a huge cost but they are winning.”

“How can they be winning? We the best equipment, the best training, the best mercenaries.”

“We had the best mercenaries…”

“Those bastards! When I get my hands on that slimy…”

“They knew which way the wind was blowing as soon as they saw the Cimmerian army. They were out beyond the wall turning coat before they had even set up camp.”

“Well what would you suggest we do about it?” asked Demir looking down his nose at the Princess.

“The same thing I’ve been saying for the last hour…”

“You can’t honestly believe he would make a difference.”

“He is the King,” she replied spinning and fixing his with a glare. “Of course he will make a difference.”

“He never was much of a fighter and that was before the… incident. What good would he do now?” asked General Jaffir, dropping heavily into a wooden chair which groaned in protest.

“You know his powers, simply seeing him would be a lift to the people.”

“A lift?” scoffed  Demir. “The man is a murderer.”

“It was an accident.”

“He singly-handedly ruined the economy.”

“He was trying to do the right thing.”

“It’s his fault we’re in this mess. He made the whole of Phrygia a target.”

“He’s a menace.”

“He’s our only hope!”

“Fine but when this back fires I expect you to do the right thing and end this madness before all we have left is castle full of bodies.”


The sun rose on Gordion the next morning to find the whole of the Phrygian army, minus a few sharp-eyed men who remained on the wall to warn of attack, arrayed in the main square facing the steps to the inner keep. They had been roused from their beds with no explanation and now huddled together shifting nervously and eyeing the heavy wooden doors with trepidation. There was a rumour that surrender was imminent and it was widely known that the Cimmerian’s did not treat their captives respectfully.

After several minutes of anxious waiting a bell tolled and the doors swung open. The chattering of the crowd vanished and silence hung over the gathered men. As the members of the Council stepped forward followed by a man with long brown hair, flowing golden robes and his hands held behind his back.

“Men of Phrygia,” said Princess Sanem stepping forwards. “We have suffered at the hands of the Cimmerian dogs and their traitorous allies for too long. Each and every one of us has seen a friend, a brother or a father fall in battle. Well no more! Now we strike back and end the war once and for all and to lead you in battle I present to you our fearless leader. The King of Phrygia the greatest city that ever was or will be. King Midas!”

The King stepped forward and waved.

“Hi everyone.”

The silence evaporated as everyone started talking at once.

“Just get him a horse and a sword before they all turn on us,” hissed Demir.

The general signalled and two grooms ran up one leading a stout white charger and the other holding an immaculately wrought broadsword. The King stepped forward and took the sword from the groom. As soon as he touched it bright yellow sprang from his hand and raced up the blade until, after only a few seconds, the shining steel had been transformed into solid gold. King Midas thumbed the edge with a frown.

“It’s a it dull Jaffir,” he said with a frown.

“Don’t worry sire it’s only ceremonial anyway your loyal subjects will protect you.”

King Midas pondered for a moment then shrugged and stepped towards the groom holding the horse. The man shied away backing up a step before the General halted him with a stern look.

“Keep your hands in the air sire, there’s a good King let the groom get you settled.” He waved to the groom and after a long pause his eyes darting left and right the groom eventually grabbed the King around the waist and, using a box for height, heaved the king into the saddle.

“Now try not to touch the horse father,” said Sanem stepping up to the King and resting a hand on his leg. “You know what happened last time.”

The King let out a long breath. “Are you sure this is a good idea darling? I mean I’ve not been in battle for thirty years and that as before all this.” he waved the useless golden sword.

“Don’t worry father just lead the men out, they will do the rest. Just steer with your legs and try not to touch anything that you like, including me. Are you ready?”

“As I’ll ever be…”

“Good luck father. I love you,” as she said those words she slapped the horses flank and it leapt forwards towards the gate.

“After me meeeeeeeeeen!” shouted the king and the soldiers in the square looked at each other for a moment before charging after the departing noble battle cries on their lips.


King Midas was on the first man before his army had made it halfway across the battle field. The Cimmerian was a brute of a man in thick plate mail wielding a giant war hammer. His first blow knocked the golden sword right out of the king’s hand and sent it skittering off across the battlefield followed by a handful of kicking a biting warriors. King Midas tried to turn his horse but before he could the great war hammer rose and fell. The king closed his eyes threw his hands in front of his face an waited for the end. After a few seconds when the end didn’t come he opened his eyes to see a golden statue of the Cimmerian in front of him.

As he stared in disbelief a second Cimmerian swung a sword at him. King Midas batted it aside and that man too turned to gold. A third stepped forward and King Midas grabbed him by the collar before he could attack and again the man was replaced by a gold statue. Seeing his power in person the remaining Cimmerians turned and ran. By the time the King’s army finally reached him the whole army was running for their lives.


Music be the Fruit of Writing

And it’s March.

This year is flying by. Please stop.

Right now, the gang are all exhausted from their Faith pieces, which will be available for voting shortly on the Voting Page. I hope you enjoyed reading them because we’re now going into the void of weird stuff.

The theme is a very simple one this month, so I shan’t keep you all. This month I want the writers to GO TO YOUR MUSIC PLAYER OF CHOICE, PRESS SHUFFLE, AND USE THE FIRST SONG AS YOUR STIMULUS.

If you could share the song with the piece, that’d be most appreciated 😉


Have fun, treacles!

Dreaming Again

Inspired by I’m Dreaming Again by Thunder

The two of them sat in the recording room with paper everywhere. There was a palpable atmosphere to the room, and it was not just the humid, lack of air-con heat that seemed to be settling in for the long haul. Each piece of paper had scrawling of lyrics, chords, scribbling over said writing, corrections, vetoes, and back tracking.

“It’s useless,” the woman said, her voice slightly hoarse from lack of hydration. “They’re written the way they were for a reason. You don’t fix something if it isn’t broken.”

The man sighed and rubbed the palm of his fretting hand, starting to ache from the amount of complex chordings the songs required. The two of them looked battered. She was a slim thing, with short brownish blonde hair, green eyes, and a smile that made you worry what she was concocting. He stood about a foot taller, and probably nearly a foot wider, with messy greying brown hair, and bags under his eyes that looked like the cause of his slight stoop.

“Great input as always.” She huffed and started tidying the papers into more organised mounds of mess.

“I don’t know why you want to change the way we play them anyway?” He offered as he stretched out in the chair. “The songs were good enough how they were, surely? I mean the record company seemed to like them.”

“Yeah, but it’s write a new album’s worth of songs or rework the old stuff in new ways and keep people waiting for that previously mentioned album. Which would you prefer?” She placed the pile on the piano and sat at it. Clicking her knuckles, she started to hammer out the beginning riff to Empty City. It was a crowd pleaser from the moment it hit the shelves, but that’s the problem with writing a great song; people want it every show. It had started to lose it’s feel, and although he did his best to make it different – changing up the way his playing or his solos – it always felt like flogging a dead horse by the end of the tour. That had been the reason she had suggested reworking some of the songs in the first place.

If we redo some of the ones that are losing their flame, and throw in some lesser played tracks, people will lap it up, she had said to the Label Rep at the monthly update meeting.

“I’m happy to write some new songs!” He chimed in, knocking her from her day dream and also the held chord ringing out through the room. “I’ve been trying to suggest new stuff since you mentioned a new album. The term ‘new’ really resonated with me, yunno?” The sarcastic quip on the end blended with the B Diminished chord to cause a need to pace. Up she got and walked over to the whiteboard on the wall, grabbed the marker and started making notes.

Miracle Man is bang on, as is Bigger Than Both of Us

“And I think Girl’s Going Out of Her Head will be well received. It’s completely off the wall compared to the other two.”

“So that’s three, we were looking at the acoustic version of Blown Away…” she trailed off mid sentence as a thought struck her. “We could always do Dreaming?”

His face dropped and he looked like she had just told him that he’d been fired.

“We both agreed we’d not play that again…” he said with a stern voice; juxtaposed against his usual carefree and sarky norm.

“People are going to be expecting the big numbers!” She shouted, tired of the pussyfooting.

“Then we’ll do a version of Low Life and She’s So Fine! What about Loser?”

“Oh, if we’re not doing Dreaming, we’re definitely not doing fucking Loser!”

The two of them stood staring daggers at one another, the heat of the room seemed to have gone up a degree or two. As per usual, he broke first.

“You left me, remember?”

She threw her hands up in desperation. “How could I forget?! Mr Never Forget’s A Fucking Thing! Shall we go completely on the nose and do Love Walked In but change it to Love Walked Out?!”

“Fuck me,” he retorted. “I’m glad you saved that one for now, because the five star reviews wouldn’t be enough. Step aside, Shakespeare!” He put the guitar down and waltzed over to the piano, starting to play the the opening of Love Walked In and started to wail in a strangled cat fashion:

“So tired of waiting, I walked an empty land,

I was looking for something to help me understand,

Cos bad luck kept turning my dreams into sand.

I didn’t want pity, I’d had my share, my friends,

I wanted somebody more special than the rest,

I was aching inside, like I was approaching the end.

Just about that moment, the timing was so right,

She appeared like a vision, sent down to my life,

I thought I was dreaming when I saw you that night

But then Love Walked Out of my door,

That familiar feeling, I’d had once before.

Love Walked Out of my door, and it felt so beige.

Like a long lost love freed from a cage,

Making you whole again.”

She stood with her arms crossed, watching him mock her words so easily. The marker pen dropped to the floor, pulling him from the clowning around and, opening his eyes, saw she was gone. He sighed, and the breath deflated him on several levels. She had left before. Always when he needed her the most.

“I’m not ready to play it again,” he called out to the room at large. The heat of the room started to drop and he looked around, hoping she’d appear once again. “You know that song goes both ways now.”

Waiting for some sort of response, he got nothing but silence in return. Taking another deep breath, he stepped over to the guitar, dropped it down to a Drop D tuning and started to busk those opening chords; his eyes started to water just at the thought. Not knowing how to get the verse to work, he jumped to a simply strummed version of the chorus:

“When I feel the touch of your hand, but there’s no one around,

I know that I’m dreaming

When I wake up to find it’s only me and the night,

I know that I’m dreaming again.”

He let the last chord ring out and his voice trail out. A knock at the door woke him from his own day dream. A slick haired man with headset poked his head around the door.

“Erm, sorry to interrupt, Sir. Warm up act is done, we’re ready to go when you are.” The disembodied head said before disappearing back out.

The guitarist cleared his throat and stood, guitar in hand. Stepping out into the corridor the green room and wandering towards the stage door, the magazine blew off the piano in the green room onto the floor. The front page a simple copy of the poster that hung on the walls outside the theatre, but covered with the headline: ACOUSTIC DUO RETURN AS SOLO ACT ON THE 10th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF LEAD SINGER.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Darrell Tate prophet, founder and Leader of the Holy Church of the Fragile Earth lay still, enjoying the warmth of the two naked bodies pressed up against him. While his time may be short he could honestly say he’d never been happier. ‘God if you’re listening let this moment last forever,’ he thought. As if in answer there came the muffled thump of an explosion somewhere across the compound.

“Dick,” croaked Darrell stretching an arm out to his bedside table in search of something to drink. His hand roamed over glass bottles, ceramic mugs and a myriad of items of discarded clothing before closing on something soft. He gave it an experimental shake and was rewarded with the satisfying slosh of liquid in plastic. Without opening his eyes he unscrewed the cap and took a long drink. It was warm and stale but to Darrell’s parched throat it tasted like the finest champagne. “And all is well with the world again,” said Darrell crushing the bottle and tossing it away. As is hit the floor somewhere across the room an alarm began to wail deep in the heart of the compound.

Darrell opened one eye and looked up at the giant clock on the wall above his bed. One hour forty three minutes and fifty five seconds until the end of the world. He let out a sigh and, not for the first time, cursed himself for not picking a date another five years further out. Hell, one year further out. Even a month would have sufficed, but it was too late now. There was another thump closer this time and dust started to rain down from the ceiling obscuring the clock for a moment. He heard the boots of men running and somewhere in the distance but coming closer the wail of sirens.

The problem with death cults totally legitimate religions that just so happen predict the end of the world is that they tend to attract a certain crowd…

“Father, you in there?” called Bo as he pounded on the thick, metal door.

“Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” muttered Darrell squeezing out from under the two naked girls who continued to snore softly still sleeping off the previous nights excesses.

“Father Tate! Are you in there?”

“Yes I’m hear Bo God damnit,” cursed Darrel as he rummaged through the mess searching for a clean pair of pants. “I told you I wasn’t to be disturbed.”

“But Father, it’s those bastards from the government. They’re hear to shut us down!”

“They can try but by the time they have the proper permits it will be too late I’ll be miles away from… I mean… It won’t matter.”

“Don’t worry they won’t get passed us,” said Bo followed by a metallic noise that sounded ominously like the cocking of a shotgun.

“Bo, I hope you’re not going to do anything stupid,” said Darrell finally finding an old t-shirt and a battered pair of jean shorts that while scandalously short would cover his unmentionables long enough for him to get hell out of dodge. “We talked about this, God told me no fighting with the unbelievers remember.”

“Well, Bubba and Randy said…”

“I don’t care what Bubba and Randy said,” snapped Darrell as flipped back a painting of himself to show the safe hidden behind it. “Now, you just go down to the main hall with everyone else…”

“Aww, but Father I don’t want to kill myself.”

“No but’s Bo I…” Darrell paused the last digit of the code unentered. “Wait. What do you mean kill yourself? Who said anything about killing yourself?”

“Well, when I came up Maggie-Mae was passing out the emergency Kool-Aid.”

“What emergency Kool-Aid?! Does nobody tell me anything? I’m supposed to be the bloody prophet!”

There was another rumble of an explosion followed by the rat-a-tat tat of automatic gunfire.

“Christ what’s going on out there?” said Darrell heading over to the window, the safe momentarily forgotten. “We’re a peaceful cul… I mean religion. No suicide pacts, no bombs, no gun fights with the feds. Just nice normal tax sca… ah… I mean religious stuff.”

There was no answer.


Darrell crossed the room and flung open the door in time to see Bo’s back as he ran off down the stairs, the barrel an Ithaca 37 poking out from over his shoulder.

“Bo get back here God Damnit!”

“I’m a comin’ Randy,” yelled Bo as he reached the bottom of the stairs and hurried in the direction of the front gate.

There was a moments silence and then a huge whump and somehow Darrell was on his back his head swimming. The world spun around him andd Darrell could see the sky where the ceiling used to be through a haze of smoke and dust. His ears were ringing and he tasted blood as he dragged himself to his feet and threw himself down the stairs. He needed to see what the hell was going on for himself.

Darrell crossed the main hall keeping his eyes averted from the kitchen where Maggie-Mae had last been seen and crouched in the doorway to the outside. The compound was in uproar, it looked like someone had kicked open an anthill full of ants in flapping white robes. Initiates ran in all directions through the haze of smoke, some carrying weapons other helping injured brothers and sisters. All of them with wide eyes and wild looks on their faces. At the entrance to the compound Bo, Randy and Bubba crouched behind a makeshift barricade exchanging fire with black clad feds in full tactical gear. One was initiate wielding an AR-15 and firing feverishly into the ranks of the fed like something from the end of Scarface. Darrell tried to call out to stop him but before he could the man was peppered with bullets, blood staining his once pristine white robe. Darrell couldn’t even remember the poor saps name.

“Bastards!” shouted Bo as the initiate fell poking his shougun over the barricade and firing blindly in the direction of the feds. As he did Bubba tossed something into the crowd of black clad figures who dived out of the way and it detonated with a deafening roar.

‘Grenades?! Where the hell did they get grenades?’ thought Darrell. They were supposed to be a peaceful cul… religion. Yes, definitely a religion, not a cult. The intensity of the feds firing on the barricade increased, bullets pinging off the thick steel in every direction. One clipped the door frame by Darrell’s head and it was then he decided to get the hell out of there.

Taking a deep breath he dashed towards the rear of the compound keeping low to avoid the gunfire, and his ex-followers. Not that he thought anyone would recognise him out of his robes but he didn’t want anything that would draw attention to him right now. Covered by the smoke and milling bodies he managed to make it to the back of the compound undetected and unshot. Once there he found the small storeroom near the back that had a big sign on the door saying Private: No Entry by Order of Founder Tate.” He pulled on the handle but the door didn’t budge.

“Crap, padlock,” he said looking down at the large chunk of metal barring his escape. He patted his pockets but they were empty his keys must have still been in his robes. There was another explosion behind him and when he looked over his shoulder he saw a swarm of feds bursting through the smoke and tackling white robbed initiates. The barricade and its defenders was gone. In desperation Darrell scanned the floor looking for anything he could use to force the door and eventually came up with a large rock. Using both hand the brought the rock down, once, twice, thrice before the padlock shattered and the door swung open.

He leapt through the door swinging it shut behind him then ducked through a small gap between a large stack of boxes. At the back of the darkened room in one corner was a small door. Darrell pulled it open and crawled through into a narrow tunnel. He crawled for what felt like hours through the dark with the screams of the wounded and the rattle of gunfire hot on his heels. At length the tunnel started to widen and after a few hundred feet Darrell stood in front of a large wooden door. He pushed it open fingers and toes crossed. The alleyway was empty.

“Man that was a close one,” said Darrell as he emerged into the sunlight and walked calmly off down the street away from the smoke and the fire that made up all that was left of his fledgling religion. “I’ve got to get out of this game. Well, the end of the world stuff anyway. Maybe next time I’ll come up with a nice friendly cul… religion. Something wholesome and quiet. With no grenades. Yes definitely no, grenades.”


If you enjoyed this comedy tale of cults and forgotten gods keep your eyes peeled for my second novel ‘God but Not Forgotten’ coming to a store near you hopefully sometime in 2020… Assuming the small human chills out and lets me do some writing…

The Maze of a Thousand Locks

The castle stood at the top of a mountain, balanced impossibly upon the very peak. It curved upward and outward on all sides, intricate and beautiful with towering spires, twisting walkways all shaped out of pale green stone. It was the kind of structure an architect could only dream of, which was precisely how the castle had come into being; seeking a new shape for his home, the King of Dreams had plucked this one from the mind of a man who slumbered at his workdesk in Venice in February of 1592.

There was a small balcony halfway up the tallest of the castle’s towers, and Dream stood with one hand resting lightly on the balustrade looking out over the Dreaming. A light breeze tugged at his white hair as he stared at a strange shimmering and twinkling just visible on the horizon. It was the Maze of a Thousand Locks, a part of the Dreaming since the beginning of everything… But for the last few days something had changed. Something new had occurred. Now, the maze was moving.

He gazed thoughtfully at the strange lightplay for moment longer and then took a step forward. It was a single step, but this was his own domain; Dream now stood upon nothing, high above the Maze of a Thousand Locks. It was vast, laid out in a pattern of rings and circles, like the inner workings of a pocket watch. Different sections of the maze were connected by thick metal doors, and on each door was a complicated lock. As he looked down he saw a small figure moving through the maze, pausing a moment at each doorway but always moving forward. Her movements were swift, urgent… She ran through the maze, clearly seeking something. The different sections shifted and moved, turning and twisting even as the figure made her way forward.

Another step, and Dream stood in a corridor of the maze just before a grey metal door. He heard the faintest whisper of footsteps, and the figure he had seen from above turned the corner and moved swiftly and almost silently toward the door. She wore dark clothes, browns and blacks, with a hood pulled forward so that her face was mainly shadow. A lock of white hair had escaped, however, and even as Dream watched the figure tucked it back beneath her hood. Seeing her, Dream knew her; this was, after all, his own domain.

She paused before the door and bent quickly to the lock. Her movements were economic, controlled, but he saw the tension in her frame. In moments the lock clicked, and the woman pulled the door open and leapt through. She ran swiftly but silently down the corridor and came to a fork. She paused, looking each way for a moment, before setting off down the right hand corridor. Dream followed her unnoticed through another door and down another blank corridor. This too ended in a fork, but a short way down each new hall was a door. Both were shining copper, and appeared to be identical. The woman stopped at the fork, and sighed.
“So which one do I go through?” Her voice was barely a murmur, the question for herself alone. But Dream felt an impulse to give her an answer of sorts. He stepped forward and spoke quietly.
“That depends upon what it is you are seeking, Spire.”

The woman moved quickly, spinning to face him and at the same time leaping back to give herself room. Her eyes were wide with shock, her hands clenched. The right one glinted with bronze and copper, and Dream looked with curiosity at her strange mechanical arm. Then his gaze travelled to her equally strange eye which, along with its more normal counterpart, was regarding him with suspicion and confusion. She shook her head and blinked, staring intently at him again, as though trying to understand what she was looking at.
“Where did you come from?” Dream gestured with his hand at the corridor they had both walked down. “I didn’t hear you.” Dream shrugged slightly and said nothing. The strange woman frowned at him for a moment longer, and then relaxed slightly, her hands unclenching. She straightened, rolling her right shoulder as though it ached. “You know me, it seems. Who are you?”

“I have many names, some of which might be familiar… But simplicity can often be the best path. I am Dream.”
“Dream? Like in the story, ‘Kelis and the Dreaming King’? I heard that once, long ago…” Her voice trailed off, a cloud passing across her face. Dream spoke again.
“I am Dream.”
The woman, Spire, frowned then, and after a moment nodded to herself.
“And is that what this place is, then? Just a dream?”
“‘Just’? That is a dangerous enough word in the waking world, Spire. It is even more so, here.” Dream paused, but Spire did not speak. He smiled slightly before continuing. “But you are right enough. This place is the Maze of a Thousand Locks, and it is part of The Dreaming, which is my realm.”
“And what is in this maze?”
“What are you seeking?”
Spire frowned. “I don’t know,” she said. “I knew it was a dream. I’ve been having it for a few nights. I’m looking for something, or someone… I don’t know what, but I know I can’t find it, and I have to… If I don’t, everything will fall apart. But every time I think I have moved forward, everything shifts and changes.”

Dream said nothing, and she turned to stare at the copper doors, one after the other.
“But I’ve not reached this place before. Do you know which door I should take? Where each door goes?”
“I can answer the second question, Spire, but only you can answer the first.”
“You sound like old Hedran,” Spire said with a grimace. “He likes to speak in riddles too…”
A faint shadow that might have been a smile passed over Dream’s lips.
“One door will lead you home, to dreamless sleep and then waking. The other door will lead you to the thing you seek.”

Spire met Dream’s gaze and held it, though it was clearly a struggle to do so.
“And you can’t, or won’t tell me which door to take?”
Dream said nothing, and Spire grinned ruefully.
“Just like Hedran,” she muttered, and sighed. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. As she opened them she let the breath out, nodding to Dream.
“What does Kelis say to the Dreaming King…? ‘Thank you, my lord, for the answers you have given.’”
Dream nodded in return, and Spire moved toward the door on the left. She drew a set of picks from her belt and bent to the lock. In a few moments it clicked, and she reached for the handle. It was brown in colour, smoothed and polished by years, and seemed to be carved from horn. As her hand touched it, Spire turned to Dream.
“Wish me luck,” she said, and Dream murmured the words softly.
“Good luck.”

Spire nodded, and pushed the copper door with the horn handle open. All that Dream could make out beyond the door was a soft orange glow. As she stepped through Spire began to fade, and in moments she had disappeared. The door swung shut and the lock clicked into place. Dream stood staring at the door, listening to the sounds of the maze slowly coming once again to stillness. He nodded once, and stepped forward. It was a small step once again, but he was the King of Dreams; as his foot came down he was no longer in the maze.


He stood in a dark loftspace, rafters sloping up to a point above his head, a rough boarded floor beneath his feet. Boxes and chest were piled high and covered with dustsheets, but they were curved about an open, circular space. In the centre of the space a small wooden chest sat beside a copper plate that held the stubs of three candles, faint trickles of smoke rising from their wicks. Next to the chest was a nest of blankets rumpled from use, and on top of these crouched Spire, her face confused. Her eyes were wide, and her strange mechanical eye glinted blue in the darkness.

“You…?” Dream nodded. “But this is no longer a dream?”
“This is the world you know. Is this your home?”
Spire shook her head and a lock of white hair fell across her eyes.
“This is just a place I know… A bolt hole, somewhere for emergencies. Things are… I wanted to be somewhere different, where I could think.”
Dream nodded, and Spire straightened, relaxing once more. She looked up at Dream and again he saw the confusion in her eyes, as though she were trying to process two images at once. Again the shadow of a smile crossed his lips, and Dream held his pale, thin hand out to her. She looked at it and then back at him, questioningly.
“I have not visited Clockwork City before, Spire. Will you show it to me?”
After a moment she nodded. “The roof will give the best view.” She began to move past him, almost reluctantly taking his hand in hers. As she did so the King of Dreams gestured, and Spire cried out in shock. They now stood seemingly on thin air, with the whole of Clockwork City laid out far below them.

Dream was impressed by this strange young woman; there was shock and surprise in her face, confusion even, but little fear. She looked down at the city below her, and then raised her eyes to his.
“This is still the dream,” she said accusingly, and Dream shrugged.
“I did not say it wasn’t.”
“You conniving… Why are you showing me this?”
“You chose wisely. Now, look down.”
She did so, and he felt her tensing as she saw the truth.

Below them Clockwork City lay, huge and sprawling; the canals and walls that separated the different quarters and districts giving it the appearance of a giant cog, with an inner and outer wheel divided by spokes into five sections… But at the same time, impossible though it was, it was also the Maze of a Thousand Locks. Even as they watched it began to move again, shifting and changing, each section rearranging within itself and within the whole.

As he watched the brave young woman staring intently down at the city-maze, Dream spoke quietly.
“Your world is shifting and changing, Spire, even as you are trying to find your way through it. The way is difficult; other people are seeking their own way, and their paths, like yours, cause events to happen… There is never an easy path. But there is always a right one.”
“But how am I supposed to find it? In all of that, how do I find the right way?”
Spire looked at Dream, and for the first time fear truly showed in her eyes. Slowly he took her other hand. His pale white fingers closed about the strange, beautiful mechanism, and he look at her intently.

“Trust yourself, Spire. Follow your heart, do what you know you must. The right way is the one we truly believe in.”
Even as he spoke, she began to fade again, and in moments she was gone. Truly gone this time, out of the Dreaming and into the waking world. Dream stood in the darkness above the Maze of a Thousand Locks for a long moment, and then took a single step back to his balcony at the top of the impossible castle. He looked out over his domain, wondering why he had been so compelled to speak to the woman, and wondering also if he had helped her at all…


A short time later Dream left the balcony and walked slowly through his new home, familiarising himself with its shape, seeking out the library. There was a book on its shelves he was most curious to read…

The character of Dream and the location The Dreaming are created by Neil Gaiman and owned by DC Comics. They’re not mine, I just hope I’ve done them justice.
The character of Spire and her home Clockwork City are my own creations and therefore © Matt Beames.

Joe Dredd: Off Duty Judge

In the third millennium, the world… changed. Climate. Nations. Borders. All were in upheaval. Humanity itself turned as violent as the planet. Civilization threatened to collapse. And then… a solution was found. The crumbling, teetering legal system was merged with the overburdened police, creating a powerful and efficient hybrid. Trained equally in jurisprudence and combat, these new guardians of Society could dispense both justice and punishment. They were police, jury and executioner, all in one. They were… The Judges.

Judge Joseph Dredd, the most infamous of all the Judges in Mega-City One kicked his Lawmaster into gear and rolled it slowly down the street away from the pile of rapidly cooling corpses. He’d call it in but in this neighborhood the bodies would be gone by the time the clean-up crew arrived. That was why the Slo-mo drug cartel had been able to survive for as long as it did; in a city made up of bad neighborhoods this was the one that parents warned their children about. Not that Dredd worried himself with such trivialities, he was the law and the law had no borders, no fear and no remorse.

As he cruised down the street his dark mood deepened; the city was dying, and everyone knew it. The humane thing would be to put it down, move on and start again but there was little humanity left in the world nowadays. Mega-City One once the shining beacon of progress and culture was now a crumbling edifice of a forgotten age. Ancient sky scrapers leaned drunkenly, spewing black smoke from their shattered windows, trash was piled up in the broken streets and everywhere he looked bright gang tags covered the crumbling walls.  He rounded a corner and filth covered beggars, brightly tattooed gang-bangers and even a few honest looking citizens scattered for cover. As always he drove in a bubble of calm in a city of chaos.

It had a been a long week but even Judges were allowed time off now and then and for the next 48 hours Dredd was free and clear. He kicked his Lawmaster into high gear and sped down the freeway heading for home, a shower and a change of clothes.


Dressed in his civies Joe felt like a completely different person. On the street people hawked their counterfeit holo-discs, offered him small packets of white powder or flashed him a leg and the promise of an unforgettable night. He felt his hand reaching to where his gun should be and clenched his fist with a grimace. ‘That way madness lies Joe,’ he muttered under his breath. ‘Remember Judge Sterling.’ He could still see the madness in his eyes as he’d rampaged in the streets blasting men woman and children; and the relief that replaced it when Dredd had put him down. If you tried to be a judge 24/7 you ended up answering to one. Dredd ground his teeth lowered his head and pushed through the crowd, he was only a block away then he could finally relax.

The door opened with a soft click and Joe was instantly assaulted by a miasma of sweat, fear and desperation. Eyes darted nervously in his direction then away again before he could make eye contact; a couple of the more skittish patrons darted behind the high wooden bookcases at the back. Joe kept his face neutral and tried to blend in with limited success; there’s only so submissive a six-four, 240 pound off-duty Judge could look. He wandered down an aisle fingering the thin plastic sleeves, eyes roving the merchandise for something to take his mind off the terrible scenes of the day, but nothing caught his eye until he rounded the corner and saw her.

She was maybe five-seven, slim but strong like a gymnast with fiery red hair and piercing eyes. She ran her delicate fingers over one of the cellophane wrapped packages and smiled to herself; Joe felt his mouth flop open, she was perfect. She looked up and Joe darted his eyes away, grabbed the nearest package and pretended to study it closely. He waited for his heart o climb back down into his chest then after two long calming breaths peeked around the edge of the package and came face to face with the beautiful girl who was stood only inches away from him her head cocked and that smile on her face.

“Jezz!” cursed Joe jumping his face turning bright pink; the girl giggled and Joe felt his face flush a deeper red. She reached out and took the package from his unresisting grasp.

“2000 AD Prog 2009, The Cannibal Run. I remember this issue, it was a good one.” She turned the comic over in her hands then froze. “Wait a minute, you’re..” She held it up to his face. “You’re THE Judge Dredd.”

Joe turned a deeper shade of red; he felt faint as every ounce of his blood was pumped to his face. “Umm…”

“It IS you!”

“Ah, Umm… Well…”

“What are you doing reading your own comics you’re not…” she looked around then leaned in conspiratorially. “one of them are you?”

“One of them?” asked Joe finally remembering that he spoke English.

“You know, like him…”


As if on queue the door burst open and in stepped… “Batman?”

“I’m Batman,” growled Batman striding into the store in full bat-getup his cape swirling in the gust from the closing door. “Where’s my latest issue? I need to see what the caped crusader has been up to.”

The girl leaned in close to Joe as Batman strutted around the  foyer of the shop like he owned the place. “He comes in this time every week, he only buys his own comic he is super vain.”

“Ha Ha there it is,” said Batman as a nervous fanboy tentatively offered him the comic he was holding. “Oh I remember this, it was a good day a good day.” He tucked the comic in what appeared to be a specifically designed comic book holder in his utility belt. “Right now who wants autographs? Only 10 bucks a pop.”

“Ugh he’s such a shill,” moaned the girl. “I mean you don’t see us, I mean them, offering autographs.”

“Them?” asked Joe trying to regain some composure.

The girl threw her thumb over her shoulder. “That crowd trying to be inconspicuous at the back there.”

Joe squinted. “Wait isn’t that?”

“Wolverine, Hellboy, Morpheus, Dark Pheonix and yep I think that’s Spire, all in disguise of course they’re not dicks…”

“Spire from those Novel Dreamers short stories?” said Joe.

“Yeah, I didn’t think a big shot like that would hang out with them either but he seems like he’s a pretty cool dude.”

“Wait, how do you know all these guys?” asked Joe.

“What do you mean?”

“Well they’re all famous, but they’re in disguise who are you?”

“I’m nobody,” she said backing off slightly. “Just a comic nerd, anyone worth their salt would recognize you lot.”

Joe squinted at the girl. She took another step back and he swore her eyes flashed yellow for a second. “You sure?” he replied. “You seem awfully familiar…”

Joe leaned in closer, ‘I swear I know her from somewhere,’ he thought to himself. He felt her name dancing on the tip of his tongue. “You look just like, like…”

He was cut off as the door burst open and “Wild” Bill Carmody and the rest of the Badlands Gang burst in.

“Everyone put your hands in the air and nobody gets hurt,” said the criminal mastermind. “I’m just here for the Amiibo figures, once I have those we can all get on with our lives; but if any of you try to be a hero…” he pointed his gun at the crowd and pretended to shoot. “Bang! I’ll blow you’re head clean off your shoulders. We don’t have any hero’s here now do we?” To Joe’s amazement the crowd, including a now quite bashful Batman held their arms straight up in the air and shook their heads.

“Seriously,” whispered Joe. “Batman is just going to bend over and take it?”

“Shhh!” hissed the girl. “You want him to notice us? You heard him once he has those Amiibo’s we can all go.”

“You can’t be serious,” said Joe incredulously.”I mean…”

“Ho, Ho, Ho what do we have here?” said Bill approaching the pair. “A hero in the making eh?” He tapped his pistol against Joe’s face.

“More of an anti-hero actually,” replied Joe.

“I don’t think you understand the dynamic here pal,” said Bill. “You see I have this gun, which means you do exactly as I say or I’ll stick it where the sun don’t shine and pull the trigger ’til it goes click.”

Joe sighed. “The next thing you touch me with you won’t be taking home with you.”

Bill spat, pulled off his leather glove, licked his finger and wiped it down Joe’s cheek.

“Not. Smart,” said Joe. Before Bill could react he snapped out a hand grabbed Bill by the finger and snapped sending the villain to his knees.

“Get this fuck,”roared Bill in agony.

The gang burst into action automatic rifles coming up sending brass flying and everyone skittering for cover; everyone that is aside fro Joe Dredd who simply spun Bill around pulled his pistol from his ruined hand and returned fire.

“Attempted Murder,”said Joe aiming and firing in one smooth movement; the two closest gang-bangers went down, double tapped to the head.

“The punishment is death.” Joe ducked behind a shelf of vinyl figurines that shattered into a thousand pieces in hail of hot lead pushing Bill to the floor. “Associating with a forbidden criminal enterprise,” said Joe popping up and taking bead again. “Death.” He pulled the trigger and two more hapless henchman were down.

The remaining members of the Badlands Gang shrank back eyes darting from side to side.

“Anyone who leaves now gets a stay of execution,” called Joe. The crew looked at each other and as one sprinted for the exit.

Joe got to his feet and wiped bits of figurine from his hair. “Now where was I?”

“You were about to die law man,” spat Bill pointing his backup pistol right between Joe’s eyes.

“You know I’m off duty,” said Joe keeping his gun pointed away from Bill. “If you leave now, I promise I won’t follow you.”

“Good try Dredd,” spat Bill. “But this is where your story ends.” Joe’s mind raced as Bill gave him an apologetic shrug then tightened his finger on the trigger. Joe closed his eyes and waited for the end to come. After a couple of seconds he opened his eye a crack to see Bill sprawled on the floor a beautiful blue woman stood on his back twisting his arm at an alarming angle.

“No dying until you’ve taken me for a drink, agreed?” said Mystique.

“Fine but you’re buying,” replied Joe.

“You want me to let him go?”

Joe looked down and put two bullets between Bill’s narrow eyes. “Do what you want now, I don’t think he’ll be causing trouble any more.”

Mystique let go of the dead man’s arm and blurred back into the beautiful girl he’s been speaking to before Bill had burst on the scene. “Well shall we?” she asked holding out an arm.

“Let’s,” replied Joe taking her by the arm and leading her through the rubble out of the shop.

The shop sat in a stunned silence as they left then Batman poked his head over the counter. “You can come out now people,” he called standing tall. “it’s safe all of the bad guys have been subdued, you can thank me later; now who wants an autograph?”

Novel Dreamers, ASSEMBLE!

Puns, guns and caffeine overdoses. This is what I promise from this month’s assignments!

Welcome back to Novel Dreamers and the March Challenge. For those of you who are waiting patiently, STOP WAITING AND GO VOTE! For those of you who have voted already, allow me to steal your attention for a further moment.

March’s challenge involves Superheroes. Each of the writers were asked who they would cast themselves as if they were a graphic novel protagonist/antagonist and we got a list of beauties for you.

Leanne Pearce as Dark Phoenix
Hannah Torrance as Spire (See From the Rooftops and A Quiet Drink by Matt Beames)
Picto as Judge Dredd
Paul Rogers as Wolverine
Kirsty Mealing as Mystique
Richard Leverton as Batman
Matt Beames as Morpheus/Dream (yanno the one, Gaiman did it!)

Not only do they now have to write a piece for their chosen heroes BUT they also have to involve another hero in the piece as well. It can be as the villain, the sidekick, it could merely be the two meeting for tea! This has led to me looking at the list and awarding Hannah Torrance 3 bonus points for a sheer ballsy move! Bad enough to write fan fiction for a hero but there’s more info on all the characters chosen but hers…

With this being said, I had to offer my own hero and I already have a fan fiction piece I want to write because of this challenge now but that shall have to wait! I took on Hellboy and decided to take a leaf from Mrs Torrance’s book to challenge Spire. This example piece is brief and open ended as to not affect anything that should come from the Spire works later!

Finally – before we step into the example piece – I want to talk about word count. The last few months have offered the writers 1500 words max to write on the given subject. From this point on, the writers have no defined word count and must choose what they personally feel fits the piece. They are more than welcome to continue the writing challenge of 1500 words but this is a further movement of what I wanted to do with ND and as such, you have picked up your tool kit over the past 4 months, it’s time to start playing with it. HOWEVER! This does not mean you are allowed to go wild, this is a questioning of the editing of your work now; not an excuse to just hand in whatever!

And now, the example piece….

A Brief Waltz

The wind blew back his trench coat, revealing the long tail that protruded from the base of his spine. He stood at seven-foot-tall, dwarfing any of the Fourth Watch that had approached him that same day. It had felt like millennia had passed since the fight with Dr Carp’s experiment – a chimpanzee that had been injected with his blood – and the painful throwing back in time to 1902. Somehow, the story had not followed the path it was intended to and now he found himself walking down a dark cobbled street in a city he knew nothing about.

He had awoken face down in a pool of his own blood, causing lilies to sprout around his unconscious body. It still baffled him that this happened but had been privy to this knowledge since a long mission in which he was tasked to slay the Saint Leonard worm. Had it been the first time this had happened since his fight with Dr Carp, he would be as dazed and confused as he was in the first realm. After each fight he had been flung backwards into yet another time vortex and found himself horns first in the dirt a few hours later in a new place.

The first fight had been somewhat boring to him. He found himself in what he thought was a part of New York with the lights out but turned out to be a place called Gotham. He had been hounded by a grizzled man in a latex suit and was only until finally throwing him into a vat at Ace Chemicals that he was pulled once more into the vortex. He fought a police officer accused of going rogue, a lady who could change form in the blink of an eye, a man who grew claws of metal from his knuckles – a bloody hard fight, even snapped Excalibur – and most recently a red haired vixen with telekinetic and bloodthirsty powers.

During the fights he had started to realise that each of these coincided with the Christian belief of Seven Sins. He had thought Dredd and his sense of pride, Logan had been all but wrath and if Ms Grey was to be seen in a more approachable light…

He coughed and afforded himself what could be called a blush if it were not for his red skin. Hellboy may have been ridiculously old, but his mind was still 15 and a fiery redhead is a fiery redhead. Bringing his mind back to the task at hand, he had two entities left; Gluttony and Sloth.

“Obviously sloth will be last,” he said to himself through a mouth holding the end of a cigar. He had already worked out that Gluttony was the theme of this target. He had spent time lurking around the backstreets of the Lowgrime Quarter, where he happened to stumble upon a tavern housing a rather slant old man. He reminded Red of a reincarnated cadaver he had once had to transport on his back during a mission to take down Rasputin reborn. The man had given the name Cagey and told Red that if he wanted to know about the gluttony of this city, he should find himself a perch on the rooftops of the Merchants Guild that very night.

The autumn wind bit with winter’s teeth as it blew across the rooftops of Clockwork City, underneath a bright, full moon. The wind curled about the chimney stacks and blew across the skyline helping him to pinpoint his target in between the shadows below him. She dexterously broke into and back out of an office and appeared to be muttering about a forced food shortage in the Artist Quarter. Heading off in an eastern direction, Hellboy followed her from above until eventually he had lost sight of her altogether and stopped to gather his thoughts. He was musing to himself that this was the second time a clockwork city had caused his cultural demise when he was blindsided by what felt like a sledgehammer to the side of his face; however, as the weapon passed his face, he noticed it was actually a slight, thin arm attached to a small leather gloved fist.

“Why are you following me?” The voice was calm but commanding, low but feminine. He spun to catch a blur of motion as a boot flew up to follow the fist, though he had a few tricks up his sleeve himself. His tale swooped up and caught the ankle, lifting the girl into the air. Several trinkets fell from her belt and locks of pale white hair fell from underneath the hood.

“Rats, girl! What’s in that glove of yours?”

“Trade secret. Want to put me down you great beast?”

“After you take a swing for me? Oh no, we got to chat about why you slug a guy in the head before taking him to dinner. Now what’s your name?”

“Put. Me. Down.”

“What a charming name. I love old money names! Let’s try again…”

He jolted her with his tail, which she took as her moment to kick out and cartwheel to one side before throwing another punch. The noise of metal on stone rung out across the square, which Hellboy hated because to the reader this would have been a great moment for film when the camera zooms out to show that he had just caught the girls fist with his right hand; The Right Hand of Doom. He squeezed and she shrank before him, sinking to her knees.

“Name?!” He growled.


“Good! Where are we?”

“Clockwork City. It’s an industrial hub just north of the Kingdom’s border. Well I say Kingdom…”

“Enough with the smarts girl! My head is spinning from the first punch.”

“It’s hardly a kingdom without a king now, is it?”

He had let down his guard, thinking she had finally started to play ball and that was his down fall. She winked at him and swept his legs from under him. As she did so the sleeve on her coat slipped to reveal the arm that had caused such mischief. It was metallic, steampunk and – to Hellboy – frickin’ awesome! He landed onto his back and followed the momentum into a backwards roll, grasping the Samaritan from its holster and took aim. She was just as quick; within seconds she had pirouetted and released a clip on her right arm causing a small hand pistol to fling out mechanically into her palm.

“Now here’s the question, monkey man. Is your hand faster than my mechanical arm?”

They had no time to find out. A vortex opened, sucking them both in and they landed on their backs on the same street they had just been fighting on. It felt like their backs, but it also felt like they were standing; it felt like they were on the street but also were just a representation of themselves and they couldn’t move. They didn’t know they were now trapped in a volume of Hellboy that never existed. Sloth was the lord of all that did not exist.

Morpheus closed the thought off in his mind. Hellboy couldn’t win a fight against one of the Endless. There was no trusting a demon, regardless of how pure…