Pennies From Heaven

The song was jingling through his head like the worst of ear-worms always do. Better than a Xmas song, of course. Better than a modern Xmas song by far, but still, a slightly annoying background refrain that cut into his thought processes at inopportune moments. Such as when he was trying to talk on the telephone to potential clients. How was he supposed to focus on ‘the script’ when the lyrics kept on interjecting. A couple of times he had stalled, as the words that drifted through his mind slid into his patter – an intrusive nonsense into a stream of words that was usually so slick and well-rehearsed. It was irritating.

In his head, the song was schmaltzy, a background of strings and horns that syruped along under the singers, providing a smooth sheen of sticky-sweetness that they skated on, or perhaps that wrapped them in its embrace. Weirdly, it seemed like the instruments were operating at full power – he could hear them quite clearly as though the cheap tin-pan alley cut-down orchestra was in the room with him – all frequencies present and correct. And yet the singers’ voices themselves were obviously muted – tinny and hollow, as though coming through a gramophone horn or a badly-tuned radio. Is that what it was like on the original recording? For a second he almost reached to Google the original recording. At which point he realised that he was silent, his head-set still on his ears and the sound of a disconnected phone. He had fluffed a call. This wouldn’t do.

Why was he thinking of the song anyway? He cast his mind back through the day as he started his patter again – pretending for the others in the room that he was sweet-talking another potential customer, all bright, cheery persuasiveness and chummy friendliness. As he got back towards breakfast time, his mouth still on auto-pilot, he couldn’t identify hearing it on the radio or otherwise getting it lodged. Frustrating. He vocal-mimed hanging up, breathed a sigh, and pressed the button that cold-called another potential mug:

“Hi there, I’m calling from Clean-Sky, the UK’s premier carbon-offsetting scheme…”


Inspired by a prompt from here

The Haunting of Harold Hemmings

He wouldn’t let it lie. He could have let it lie, but he wouldn’t let it lie.

He should have let it lie. He might have let it lie, but he didn’t let it lie.

A scab. A scab that was spread over the inflamed, red, angry, soft flesh of skin knitting to skin, the magic of invisible antibodies and plasma and reconstructing cells building walls and carrying on their pre-programmed business, beavering away. The temperature of the area of flesh was heightened, betraying the furious action going on underneath, the itch another symptom as the nerves transferred to the brain the knowledge of furious action, repairing and fixing and mending. Things were being made better, beneath the surface. But on the surface, it was a scab. An ugly scab, yellow and brown and dry blood black and even, around the edge, a hint of pustulous green. Its surface was uneven, misshapen and irregular. It sat over the healing, a mockery of the fine and natural processes going on underneath. And it was strangely stiff, unyielding like a carapace, but this was unnatural. The very fact that the scab was hard and nasty meant that it could not flex with the skin beneath, and this mismatch was what made it irresistable to the touch.

Time and again his hand went back to the scab, picking it, rubbing it, moving it from side to side and feeling the unpleasant hot itch-pain of the tug on the damage that was hidden.

He wouldn’t let it lie.


The Brink of the Link

At the Brink of The Link

He had been making his way slowly all day. Anyone watching might have thought that he was stationary, so slow was his progress. The weather was that “inside a cloud” level of general Lakeland moistness that would probably show up as ‘95% humidity’ on the Met Office website, and although it wasn’t exactly raining, or even drizzling, there was no doubt that he had become absolutely sopping, wringing wet.

His equipment was top notch, reflecting hours spent over winter evenings checking YouTube reviews of different brands, all with the same arse-clenchingly annoying music behind them, as people with the charisma of a ‘salesman of the month from a very small region of the country for a very large retail chain’ talked through the pros and cons of different items, always addressing the viewer as ‘guys’, with that weird not-really-mid-Atlantic-but-what-do-you-call-bland-tv-americanisms voice, with ubiquitous Australian Question Intonation? At the end of the sentences?

Anyway, the gear was the best he could find. He always held out some hope that the promises of at least a small branch of capitalism might hold some water. Literally, in the case of his Goretex (TM) jacket. And yet, with the effort that he had put into the morning’s ascent, sweat had poured from him and filled the jacket, condensing and running back down his sleeves to soak his technical under-layers. Wick as they might, wicketty-woo as they were, they were drenched. But now, he had another problem.

The sweat was pouring from him in torrents, and he was clinging from his fingertips at full extension, his feet similarly on a tiny ledge below him. His harness should theoretically keep him safe, as his line was clipped through a piece of safety off to the left, but he had been unable to make any further progress. And now, he could see that the rope was hanging in the gate of the carabiner, unable to take the weight of his fall.

The broom of doom

Cleaning is supposed to be positive. At least, that’s what you’d think, if you listened to radio or television, or read newspapers. There are numerous books – seen as ‘self-help’ manuals, in the pathologisation of uncleanliness via psychology – which advise one on how to remove possessions from one’s house, first using a magical spell. The spell is a question about whether the object one picks up is useful or important, but this will always be answered in the positive by a hoarder! There are programmes about hoarders, who are seen as mentally ill, and whose houses require the attention of semi-professional cleansing celebrities, who express sympathy as they help the criminal to accept the trauma of destroying their possessions. . The filth of their living spaces is clearly seen as an adjunct to their collecting – it is certainly not their conscious intention to create it, but it builds up incrementally and incessantly as more and more surfaces become inaccessible to the brush and dustpan, the feather duster, the damp cloth. As more and more space is created, and surfaces are revealed, the general philosophical impression conveyed from these programmes is that order is being created out of chaos. Of course, to the hoarder themselves, the new situation is probably one of unimaginable and existential chaos, as they are now totally out of control of the position or even existence of thousands and thousands of materials. These previously sat in known locations, according to obscure or even semi-forgotten systems of categorisation, awaiting the day when they might become useful or simply effective – for the purposes of nostalgia, reflection, or memory. These are important aspects of being human too. Is it really for the high priests of minimalism or cleanliness to consign them too to the dustbin?

Prompteed by The Broom of Doom

Curdling Cries

“Where’s the blood?!” was the first thing that Algernon said.

“What do you mean?” several people asked, in response.

“Where’s the blood? It’s missing!”

This confused the group, who if anything, would have voted to express that in the past few hours they had seen more than their fair share of blood. They were momentarily stunned into silence.

Their situation was this. They had been slowly made aware, through a serious of unfortunate incidents and spooky clues, that things were not quite right in this small New England town. Algernon, the journalist on the Arkham Investigator, had been the one to send letters to the others, informing them of his doubts and suspicions. One by one the party had been drawn in to the web of intrigue, each sworn to secrecy. They could not be sure who was involved in the spidery plot that was slowly being revealed before them. A murder here, a robbery there, a seemingly unconnected incident of criminal damage; all were noticed and drawn into the group’s deliberations from different sources: word of mouth, a story in Algernon’s own newspaper, a seemingly innocuous line or two in a parish newsletter, or even an advertisement that let on more than it intended.

And so their meetings had become more furtive and more hushed, as the clues pointed inexorably towards evil-doing. The band were now stalking through the mists of a graveyard, to which they had been led through a tunnel that began on the fog-wreathed coast, by an abandoned smuggler’s ship, its crew slaughtered and deposited through the tunnel’s length… They held their shaking electric torches and peered towards the tomb of one of the town’s founding fathers. And then…

“You hear a curdling cry!” said the Gamesmaster, behind his cardboard screen.

Dave, the literary one of the roleplaying group, couldn’t stand for this omission.

“It’s BLOOD-curdling, Anna. Get it right!”

Curdling cries

This follows the daily prompts for a ten minute write from Putting My Feet In The Dirt The idea is to use the prompt and write for ten minutes only. Curdling Cries