Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Halloween Tale 2019: Ansha's Revenge

In which I bring to you, in lieu of a specific Halloween story, another bit of my current Work In Progress. I picked this chapter because it fits as a short story too, and hopefully one that intrigues you to demand the rest. This isn't the first time that Ansha has been murdered, which she doesn't remember but she does seem to be getting the hang of it, and a chance of pay back too. Chapter 34 Scarcely aware of the chair to which she is tied Ansha is lost, lost in a cold fright that is elemental, that consumes like fire.
She has tried to hold on, to listen, perhaps for a bird call.
Sometimes she has heard birds singing, a soft wind pushing through branches.
But then the door shuts.
It smells in here, like butcher's slops.
She has also heard a hum, a refrigerator.
And a voice.

‘Tell me how that feels,’ the perpetrator asks, though they must know she cannot. ‘Isn’t this the most pain you’ve ever felt?’

A phrase swells through her, a sudden heat: I do not belong to you!
And a feeling like a hand on her brow, like flowers growing.
And a calm, as though things are as they should be.
Here I am, Ansha thinks: wherever this is - I belong to me. My life belongs to me even if you steal it, you will not own it. You are talking to yourself, voice, I am not involved.
This is a game, she thinks, not my game; I don’t know how I got here but here I am.
Why me?
What did I do? I was driving, I remember. Did I crash? I don't remember.

‘There’s nothing you can do about it,’ the voice says, before agony cuts out thought.
Ansha hears the drone of the voice less and less, is aware of fading.
Her heart stops, almost with a click. It flips to numb, allows a gentle emptiness. She knows her body will not recover. She knows this is not defeat. She knows because life is so wonderful she has been clinging to it even here, because the birds have been singing, because she has claimed ownership of herself, because her assailant is trying so hard to be in control.
She can feel the hand on her forehead, the steadiness, the loving calm. There is something good here with her.
She can hear a chorus whisper: ‘You can choose to live, this won’t be the end. This is a battle and not the war; this is as much your birthing as your dying, if you wish it, if you stay true.’
She asks, silently: what happened?
‘Too much to explain to you here, Ansha; who came to be by dreams and magic, who was forged from death.’
I remember I was in my car, did I die then too - was that real?
‘It was real in that world which is a story for later; for now you must make your choice, you must fight this battle.’
‘I will win.’ Ansha smiles. ‘I win. Thank you.’ ‘Won what? And thank you? You're dead because I made it so! You - you are not in charge of this!’
The lone voice rises, walks away.
Ansha stands up, out of her body. She looks at the woman who has murdered her, and the woman stares back.
‘I didn’t say you could leave!’
Her face has a blankness to it, even in rage.
Ansha laughs and steps through the wall into a copse of trees where startled birds whir up, their singing turned to clatter. Ansha calls and the rest of the dead gather to her.

She feels their presence at first as a thickening of air, a mouldering that joins the scents of leaf mulch and pine and fresh dug earth. They are wispy as weblines, trembling into visibility. She is heartened by their shimmering, by their coming back to being.
‘What now?’ Asks a ghost boy. He is looking over his shoulder at the lock-up.
‘We do as we please.’ Ansha says. ‘What can happen to us now?’
The silence lasts for barely a beat.

In through the walls the spectres stream, spilling everything out of the refrigerator; opaque bags of flesh and bone, phials of blood. They tear up tarpaulins and let the floor soak while their murderer shrieks.
‘We do as we please,’ they taunt, and one of them whittles a mermaid into a thigh bone.
‘My femur,’ that ghost declares, ‘and now it’s art!’
Even the ceiling is slippery red; the walls flecked in bone. Skulls are being danced, scalpels brandished.
‘I did this,’ the bland faced woman shouts from the centre; ‘this is my work, my art, not yours!’

Something lands on the roof, shaking the lock-up, halting the festivities. Something with claws, with a body that drags. Flowers grow from each corner, covering the walls. The door shakes and falls to ash. One by one the dead turn into butterflies and flit through the doorway.

‘You cannot pass,’ Ansha tells the woman. ‘This door is open only to ghosts.’
The woman takes a gun from her pocket.
‘It’s nothing to me to take a new body. I have my own magic.’
Ansha steps through the door. She hears the gunshot as the door disappears, though she has no idea how she knew to tell the lie.

She leaves a half-headed ghost alone and trapped in the lock up; she leaves light and easy as a butterfly should.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Autumn Trundles On

Wednesday evening, October 16, 2019 Back at home and the light says stay outside, there are berries to gather, you can wrestle the stray branches splaying from the willow arch, the birds will call, the air will be fresh cut grass and sour strimmed hedge stems. There will be thorns in your fingers, brambles will tangle your hair. You will be happy: doing, but doing nothing except that which occurs to you. I am happy. A pot of berries on the windowsill waiting to be fetched in; I will make winter medicine from them. I am balanced on a child’s chair reaching through the bendable willow as the night tide rises and all around is deepened into blue, into black. Indoors there are jobs waiting, some of which are attended to, drifted through. No more work: what says that? Heart? Soul? Something central. Every part of me except habit agrees. Habit is pulled like the arch, pliant and alive, rooted and reaching. Later I am drinking ginger tea, I am wrapped in a blanket, blithely tired from dancing. Here I am! Laughing. I remember to stop and I remember to love moments that make up this my wild and precious life but I still need reminding to let it all go. How to do nothing except that which occurs to me. How the moments can be whole evenings. How I am working to make a dream and this is commendable but consuming.
Sunday 20 October 2019 Another busy Sunday - this time to Bristol, supporting four students on their journey to black belt. After the soothing and settling in, I take myself off to St George’s park for my usual perambulation. A tree had fallen into the lake, the ducks seem unperturbed. The pavements  of Redfield had their usual spill of life, mostly human. A current of cold air, enough warmth in sheltered spots to cast off a coat. My usual huddle and chatter in the Bristol Academy, although breathable air is scarce in there when it's busy. Monday 21 October 2019 Care shift. Clear day of variable temperature causing coats to be on and off. Pockets filled with acorns. Satisfying yomp around Pinetum Gardens which is likely to become a regular haunt. There is a clear lake which I want to swim in. Really want to swim in. For now I will have to be bathed by the changing air.
Wednesday 23 October 2019 Yesterday stretched out, dawn to long after dusk. (But we find out all of our students passed their black belt gradings, a grand relief and swoosh of joy!) Grandchild 2 stirred to cry in the night when her ear was aching; settled after medicine, slept fastly through my alarm’s apologetic jangle. Me and Dog shuffled out into the dark blur of this morning. We are heavy-tired. Dog sneaks a nap while I get Granma Grace to the warmth of a shower and back to clothed, and bring her breakfast after all the pills are popped in and we say that was like a snake swallowing a large egg as the big two finally are gulped. Dog gets her breakfast which smells like a fish swam up her bum and died there. As I am washing up, Dog and Granma sprawl into sleep. I pray Dog will not fart.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Crossing Bridges, Half Asleep

Bridge over the Severn River

Saturday, October 12, 2019
At work and snoozy and dreaming of days off but still got time to sit and write plot notes for the mysterious WIP. Other days are walking walking walking viewing land but not finding our piece yet. Dreaming about how we would live if we did choose that bit or this but not finding the right fit, but it is fun to be dreaming, a privilege. Our entertaining limbo. And also like going on blind dates trying to pick a spouse. Sunday October 13, 2019 Awake too early because there are no days off this week, but there is coffee. Mr does the driving to avoid me grabbing a nap at the wheel. I am completing requirements for eligibility to apply for my fourth degree black belt next year. We are in Cardiff, so he goes to explore the castle. I am teasy like a toddler before finding myself in good company and one step closer to getting that fourth stripe. We drive by Exmouth on the return journey and grab some grandson time - Grandchild 4 flings at an unexpected Grandad, clings and beams, a monkey of joy; Grandchild 1 puts aside the iPad to rise for hugs, gets himself flung about too: happiness spills everywhere. Chickpea Korma on the menu. The garage is being converted to a cake kitchen for Mrs MacBakes, the literally rising business of my clever and tired eldest stepdaughter, which we talk about while the boys climb into the laundry bin and attempt to sack-jump around the living room. Fat Beagle climbs onto the sofa for safety. Monday October 14, 2019 Back at work and snoozy and mooching around a field picking up pumpkins till we find one not too big not too small, pleasantly bulbous. We tried to befriend a Mama pig. £1.40 bought me a bargain of crumbly cheese. Parked by the sea to listen to the waves, to the rain. Drank coffee. I have fallen in love with a cottage and 32 acres and a two story barn that is beyond my means. Ouch. Hoping to have a good woodland viewing tomorrow (12.8 acres, broadleaf, with stream) that will divert this longing. More plot notes, drop by drop. More hopes. On the way home the beauty of the full moon led to some erratic driving. It was over the mist that hid the moors, shimmering, circled in gold.
Tuesday 15th October, 2019 We viewed the woods although the gate was chained shut and the padlock broken: slid ourselves between the gate bars, wary of barbed wire. We loved the trees, of course, and the brackish leat, and the stories of what was self seeded and what planted, and the portholes of woodpeckers and the lone sheep skull… but for the price we needed a grand longing to live there forever and that did not happen. Wednesday October 16, 2019 Last night’s cloud disperses to reveal a morning moon. Dog and I are in Exeter, come to care for Granma Grace, our usual Wednesday. We take a walk by the water, dodging swans, then Dog sleeps at Granma’s feet. Granma listens to an audio story, with her eyes closed and chair reclined. Sun streams in. Cloud loiters. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Plots And Protagonists

As well as hunting for land, as well as finding amusement in the circumstances of care work, as well as the half-wild garden and foraging almost hunter-gatherer existence, I write stories. Little ones that I share here (Halloween and Yule, usually) and big ones that go off into books that sometimes people read.
I was busy getting part two of my 'ordinary life' trilogy into order when another story barged in and demanded to be written.
This story, which won't even give me a clear working title, was butting at me like a cheeky goat.
At first I thought it was a return of an old theme - regrets of the dying, who then construct an afterlife that completes their life learning - and it almost is. There were no clear stakes in the story, only a learning curve, until this last week when suddenly the plot burst out, and I found that my main protagonist was not the character I thought at all, and the stakes were everything.
(Part of my childhood was spent wrestling a goat, not sure if that's relevant.)
I forgave the prangs that had jolted me from sleep, I was scribbling notes that pulled together events like the death of a maybe imaginary mermaid, three goddesses on a drinking spree, a naughty chicken, and some excellent cake in many dietary variables.
This year's Halloween story may have to be an excerpt but that's enough spoilers.
This post is me breathing - is the relieved exhale.
Now all I have to do is write the book...
There may be further blog posts with titles about plot holes and tired brains and what is the name of my book please, interspersing the land hunt updates, the amusing/poignant points of care work, the observations of natural phenomena - if there is no contact from me at all assume no news is good news and, if you wouldn't mind, smile with confidence, slowly nodding your head.