and the grazing cattle occasionally gave voice to a murmur, perhaps of appreciation. The mist was thick and insidious. It had softly and quietly followed him, and preceded him, and surrounded him and now he was lost. Sheridan couldn’t even tell which direction he had come from.
It wouldn’t matter if he was late. Nobody noticed if he was at home or not these days. He felt quite at ease in the mist. No-one could see him. Even though sounds carried, it was impossible to tell where they came from. Totally private and completely alone. Nobody watching him, waiting for his next move.
Too damp to sit down though. He had to keep moving. And if he were lucky enough not to simply move in circles, he would arrive at either the village or the Hall, his home. The steep sides of the narrow valley made it difficulty to climb on a dry, clear, day. In the dense mist and with the tough clumps of grass slippery underfoot it would be a fool indeed who attempted it.
As he moved cautiously (no use to fall and risk injury) he realized that he was indeed moving toward home. His footsteps slowed almost to a standstill but there was no denying it, the stunted trees gathered in three small corpses were too familiar. Too soon the great iron gates of the Hall would be visible despite the mist. He would have to surrender himself. Would he get a back in the house unnoticed?
Cook had her back to him as he entered the kitchen. His footsteps sounded loud in the flagged floor but the hissing of kettles and crackling of the fire were louder. She didn’t turn. Didn’t see him. The butler came into the room from the cellar but Sheridan had just closed the door to the back stairs behind himself. The butler didn’t see him. He ran lightly the full length of the stair and reached his room. His hand stretched toward the door handle.
“There you are Sheridan. You returned just in time!” The voice from behind him was stern and harsh.
but still no sign of our ace reporter, Nick... where the hell is he now?
I’m Nick’s editor and sometimes the job doesn’t seem worth the ulcers. But then Nick gets me a story that puts all the other sheets on the fish and chip shop pile. So I forgive him all the life shortening, gut wrenching, worry I go through every time he’s out on the streets. Worrying isn’t the only thing I do for the boy.
Babysitting – but you should see the babies! They turn up here every night to wait for Nick. All shapes and sizes.
Sometimes he shows. Then it’s a polite ‘night’ to me over her shoulder as she follows him out. But sometimes he doesn’t. And then I get the full treatment. The tears and the agony. Carrying on like Nick’s the only guy in the world. I can’t get rid of them.
He must have a strong line in goodbyes though. I’ve never seen the same one twice.
Tonight, well, tonight is something else. This one was here yesterday. He didn’t show up. She just left quietly and now she’s back again tonight. She’s different. It’s not just her looks. And she hasn’t said much either. Calm and in control but with a smile that melts your shoe leather. Dark red-brown hair and pale skin. Green eyes and long black eyelashes. She’s got the touch of broken vampire doll that others all try for but don’t quite make. She’s graceful and tall and when she moves around my tiny office I get the distinct and disturbing feeling that the air is filled with parrots and vultures. And her clothes. Like a summer rainbow and a midnight storm.
I can’t tell any more. We’re just sitting here waiting for Nick. When he shows I think maybe the tide’s gonna flow against him. He’s gonna be the one to do the waiting from now on...
a muffled cry as several objects fell from the hastily unwrapped parcel. He stooped to pick up a sheet of paper which had fallen with the contents of the parcel and read thus:
Allow me to introduce you to this month’s offer. A delightful and entertaining game which, when shown to your friends at parties and other gatherings, will secure your position as a host or hostess of indubitable talent. This amazing and fantastic item will astound and please all manner of persons and you can be assured of its uniqueness.
For a small sum you can purchase matching sets to go with the FREE set we have sent you. Rules are simple and easy to learn.
I very much hope that you will enjoy this gift and be interested in further wonders I import from time to time.
Assuring you of my best interest, I remain,
He wiped his sweating brow with the back of his hand, his confused and frightened eyes feverishly scanning the name at the bottom of the hideous missive. Would they never leave him alone? Would he never find peace?
as the harsh echo of the door knocker sounded through the house.
Anastasia ran to answer the summons and dragged the door open to reveal the postman. He handed her a package and turned away without a word.
She stammered her thanks to his retreating back and took the small parcel back into the dim and dingy hallway. Her nervous fingers made laborious work of ripping off the brown paper wrapping.
Arthur had also heard the noise and had come to see what was going on. He looked up at her with anxious eyes.
“Arthur,” she whispered, “I think this is it.”
“I hope so too, darling,” He replied.
Other people were so unkind about Arthur but she loved every hair on his head, though there weren’t very many of them. And he loved her too.
“I’m sure this is the answer, dear,” she breathed.
As the last strips of paper fell to the floor, she lifted out the small tape cassette.
“It is, oh, it is!” She breathed a sigh of relief. “Finally it’s here, the answer to all our problems…”
In her hand she held the key to happiness itself. Now, at last, with the help of the people who knew everything (including how to make a man fall in love with a woman) she could find out how to re-write Arthur so that he’d be tall and dark and handsome!
And probably not called Arthur any more either.
sometimes, more rarely, the motivation to search for a truth. Jackson fixed breakfast on autopilot. Only one to feed now the cat had gone too. He filled a bowl with cereal. He though about the missing cat. Cats had it easy. No job. No cooking. No women.
He looked down at this bowl – pondering the next move. He remembered it used to be milk. The niggle squirmed back. It interfered with thinking about breakfast. He forgot food and stared out of the window, scanning the opposite roof tops as if the inescapable but invisible thought sat out there. Acknowledged but not yet understood. It flowed into his mind with the warmth of a memory of a sunny day. Like an old friend who lives far away. You might think they’d call and with a sixth sense you’re right and they phone.
‘I deal in clichés.’ That was Jackson’s favourite line. It was an admission he made frequently in public. He got it in before his colleagues could. His friends required explanations a little more demanding, but it was easy to dress it up for them. To stretch it to a vitriolic passage of spiteful self-analysis and liven it with disparaging descriptions of exactly how he made the clichés pay. Journalism to others. To him, just a job and an excuse for not being honest.
‘I dress the part.’ That was a little deeper. Harder to admit to self that self was just an image. Every garment he chose to wear was vetted by his desperate need to be recognised. But only recognised as the character he wished to portray. He wanted to think he simply responded to cut and colour and fabric but he knew not one item of clothing would speak against his chosen persona.
He turned back to thoughts of breakfast. He hadn’t even got as far as coffee yet. The niggling thought came back. Jackson smiled to himself. I will try to communicate. ‘Who are you?’ he thought hard. Desperately hard. Eyes squeezed shut. And the niggling thought, hovering on the other side of his awareness suddenly got stronger. He could ‘hear’ the other. It said to him