Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Old House

 It seems that I am, just as Carla and Jack are, stuck in the haunted house. Get me out!

Jack was numb. Why was the gravestone there? What did it mean? He’d only seen his Mum a few days ago; she couldn’t be…
Then Carla stopped in her tracks and fell to her knees in front of a small headstone.
“No…No….” she started crying, reaching out to touch the writing.
Jack looked.

Freddie Cat
Son of Fredrick the Furious
Forever one of us

Carla was sobbing in to her hands. Seeing her like, knowing it was his turn to help her, gave Jack a jolt of strength. He pulled her up.
“Like you said, it’s all lies,” he said. “They’re messing with our heads, ignore it.”
Slowly he managed to move Carla away, although she kept looking back at the little grave as she continued to cry. As Jack tried to focus on the mist ahead, he told himself to believe his own words.
A few steps later Jack could now see the house. The grey stone was ancient and falling apart in places, and there was loads of ivy climbing up the walls. The countless windows were tall and dark.  For a second he thought he saw an outline of a figure in the top left one, but then it vanished.
What with the swirling mist and the shadows, there was an undeniably sinister feel to the place. Without realising it, both children had come to a standstill and were looking up at the house. Carla reached for Jack’s hand.
“We don’t have to go in if you don’t want to,” said Jack, trying to sound brave.
“We have to,” replied Carla. “I don’t know what else to do.”
They moved forward then, the house now looming over them, threatening. The hair on the back of Jack’s neck stood up, getting the feeling they were being watched. He glanced back up at the top left window, but nothing was there.
On the mist was the hint of a whisper, “Come, come.”  
Carla’s grip on Jacks hand tightened.
They reached the stone steps up to the front door and paused again. The sky had darkened and suddenly there came a piercing howl from somewhere in the wood.
“I’m glad we’re out of there,” said Jack, trying to see towards the dead wood through the mist. 
They climbed the large steps, having to put both feet on one before getting to the next. One, two, three, then on the fourth one Carla slipped as the step beneath her crumbled away into a landslide.
Jack grabbed her and pulled her back up. “What happened there?”
Beneath Carla the entire half of the step had disintegrated to nothing.  
“I didn’t know I was so heavy,” said Carla, smiling slightly for the first time since they’d entered the graveyard.
The wooden front door was a least two metres high, with a gothic-faced knocker in the centre. Jack reached forward and lifted it, letting it fall back down with a boom that blasted out far and wide into the quiet around them.
Then, very slowly, the door creaked open, to reveal an empty corridor.
Not wanting Carla to know how scared he was, Jack stepped boldly over the threshold.
“Maybe we shouldn’t,” said Carla warily.
“They opened the door for us, didn’t they?” Jack replied.
Carla followed Jack in, and then the behind them the door slammed shut, making them both jump. A single standing lamp with an old, frilly lampshade, dimly lit the entrance hall. Ahead to the left was a grand staircase, which curled up and around to the right. Its banister would be perfect for sliding down, but Jack didn’t fancy it.
There were cobwebs everywhere: on the lamp, the side cabinet and even between the railings of the stairs. The whole place had the look of somewhere that hadn’t been touched for a many, many years. Along the walls were lots of paintings of people long ago. Women in big dresses, men in uniform and babies in long, white gowns. As they walked, Jack felt like each and every person in the paintings was watching them. Out of the corner of his eye he was sure he could see each pair of eyes following them, but when he looked directly at them they appeared just as normal.
There was an open door to the right which led into a massive, high ceilinged ballroom. There was a glittering chandelier in the center and the floor was a beautiful mosaic of flowers and ornate patterns. Two of the walls were lined from end to end with mirrors. Jack looked in the ones on his right and nearly jumped a mile. In the mirror he could see, behind him, a scene of men and women dressed in fine clothes, dancing a waltz around the room. He turned around quickly, but the room was empty.
“Look at this,” he said, pointing at the long mirror.

Carla gasped and moved closer to him.
“What is this?” whispered Jack.
Then he looked at the other wall of mirrors and things got worse. As if the phantom dancers weren’t enough, this time the room was filled with the ghosts of the same people still transparently dancing round and round, their faces skeletal.
Jack turned away, just as an icy wind passed through him.
They hurried through the ballroom then, neither daring to look into either of the mirrors again.
The double doors at the far end of the room led to another hallway, with more portraits peering down at them.
“Do you still want to find this guy?” said Jack, who was still holding Carla’s hand.
Carla nodded.
“Let’s try in their then,” Jack pointed to a slightly ajar door to their left. As his hand went out to push it open, somehow it blew open of its own accord, as if there was a sudden gust of wind.
The first thing Jack saw was the fireplace, whose flames roared up from the hearth. A couple of antique armchairs faced it, around a rug with a bears and paws round the edges.
No one was there.
Just like the hallway, the dark furniture was covered in cobwebs.
Then there was the sound of knocking on wood. Four times, sharp and fast. Then again. It was coming from a chest in the corner over by the window. Then again, followed by a muffled scream.
Jack and Carla didn’t wait to see who or what had screamed, but hurried out the way they had come.
Back out in the hallway Jack’s heart was beating hard.
“Maybe we should see what it is?” said Carla in a small voice.
Jack shook his head. “We came to see Mr. Old. I don’t think he’s in. Maybe we should leave.”
Carla shook her head back at him. “I want to look for a bit longer.”
Jack wanted nothing more than to get out of the weird, creepy house, but he knew Carla was right. He sighed and pointed at another door. “In there then.”
He paused before touching the door knob, wondering if the door might open on its own. When nothing happened, he turned it with a creak and pushed.
It was a kitchen with a big table in the middle, full to bursting with plates of hot food, including a whole pig, an apple in its mouth. There were potatoes and parsnips and carrots and balls of stuffing. There was a gravy boat, peas, Yorkshire puddings and sausages. There were also cakes and other deserts.
The smell was amazing and Jack became suddenly aware of how very hungry he was.
“Why’s it here?” he said. “There’s no one in the house.”
Carla had moved closer to the table and was staring longingly at a bowl of fluffy mashed potato.  
“We shouldn’t,” warned Jack, but as he said it Carla dug in with her bare hands, eating the potato with the desperation of someone who hasn’t had a meal in days.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

An air of eeriness

Carla was clearly upset by what had happened, and walked without talking. Jack didn’t know what to say to help. He wanted to ask her about this Spratsy thing but now definitely wasn’t the time.
They went out of Chimney Town, in the direction they had been pointed in, and Jack took one look back at the strange smokey place that he would be more than happy never to visit again.
“What a stupid town,” he said.
That got Carla talking. “Stupid’s one word for it. Why does everyone think that Chimney Town people know anything? They’re idiots!”
‘Hmmm,” Jack said in agreement.
They soon got to a wood-if you can really call it that-which was made of dead looking trees, none of which had any leaves on them. They stopped at the edge, weighing up if this was really the right way to go. Jack didn’t fancy it: there was something very eerie about the still, closely packed, bare branches. Just as he was about to say so, something caught his eye. A small, wooden sign was hanging from one of the lower branches, creaking as it moved slightly backwards and forwards. In white lettering were written the words,

‘This way to the Old House’

With an arrow underneath, pointing into the wood.  
“This must be it then,” he said, showing Carla the sign.
“Do you really think this Mr. Old will help us?” Carla said, with more than a hint of anger. “If he’s a friend of that imbecile Lord Puff then I’d rather not bother.”
Jack thought it over. He didn’t particularly want to go into the wood, but then what exactly were their other options?
“We may as well try,” he said. “If he’s an idiot then we’ll just leave.”
Carla paused for a while, and then nodded. “Alright.”
Inside the wood the sharp, lifeless trees seemed even more tightly packed, making it quite difficult to move through them. The children got scratched and poked continually as they went.
On the other hand, Jack was grateful that there were no leaves because at least that ruled out the possibility of having bullets rain down on them again.
The wood was extremely quiet, except for the sound of dry, brittle twigs snapping underfoot. Jack looked up and saw a huge blackbird, with bright yellow eyes, watching them. Its body was as still as the tree it was sitting in, but its eyes moved, following.
“Creepy,” said Jack with an involuntary shudder, but Carla looked up and simply shrugged, unfazed.
After about fifteen minutes they finally emerged on the other side of the wood. The air was thick and for a second Jack thought they’d somehow ended up back at Chimney Town, but there was no sickly sweet smell and neither of them had started coughing. It was more like a cold, murky fog.
It was hard to tell where exactly they were, because they couldn’t see very far in front of them. They started walking very slowly, until Jack walked straight into something rock solid, bashing his knee.
“What the-!” he cried, hopping up and down clutching his leg.
Carla knelt down next to the thing to get a closer look.
“It’s a gravestone.”
Jack rubbed his throbbing knee one last time and then knelt down too. Carla rubbed the stone, clearing away the ice.
“A-L-F- Alfred M-A-C-uls-field,” she read. “1950 to 2012, died aged 62.”
“What was that name?” Jack asked.
“Alfred Macclesfield,” Carla repeated.
A second shudder ran down Jack’s spine. “He’s not dead, I know him,” he said. “Well, he wasn’t dead when I left, anyway.”
“Could be a different person with the same name?” offered Carla, getting up.
But the age was right too…
As the mist cleared a little they were able to see more easily the huge graveyard they were in. Crosses, gravestones and tombs scattered far and wide, all made of old stone, crumbly and ancient.
“Wow,” breathed Jack.
Carla had gone to one of the nearby graves and was reading the writing on the headstone. When she came back her face looked pale.
“She was fine a few days ago. I don’t understand this.”
“Who?” asked Jack.
“A woman from my village. The baker.”
Jack suddenly felt a sense of morbid curiosity, pulling him on. He didn’t want to look at the graves but he also couldn’t help it. He needed to know. Carla must’ve felt it too, because without speaking they both began walking around, kneeling at different graves. By the time Jack had seen about a dozen, it felt like half the people he knew had been wiped from existence. Then, he saw one that made his stomach drop. He thought he was going to be sick, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the writing, let alone stand up and move away.
After a few minutes Carla came to find him. “What is it?” she asked.
Jack could hardly get his words out. “My Mum,” he whispered.
Carla touched his shoulder gently. “It’s a trick, it must be. We need to get away from this place.”
She helped him up and they walked on together, Jack’s legs wobbly and weak. He knew Carla must be right, but still he couldn’t get away from the words he’d read.

Martha Kingston, 1975-2012, aged 37. Taken too young, but never forgotten.     


Monday, 26 November 2012

Chimney Town

“That’s Chimney Town?” asked Jack. “Is it on fire?”
“Duh,” said Carla, as Freddie slapped his head with his paw, making Jack feel stupid as he realised how dumb he sounded.
“It’s the chimneys,” said Carla.
Going as fast as their sodden clothes would let them, the children walked towards the town. As they got closer, Jack started to make out vague shapes, rectangular and tall, amidst the smoke. And then, when they were close enough, the smoke engulfed them, making Jack cough as it hit the back of his throat. It reminded him of the pipe his Grandpa used to smoke. Sickly and thick smelling, but this was a hundred times worse. He could barely see Carla now, and he couldn’t see Freddie at all.
“Where’s the cat?” he said, thinking he probably knew the answer already.
Carla tried to laugh but burst into a fit of coughing. “He’s not stupid enough to come in here,” she rasped, barely able to speak.
Jack held his jumper over his mouth and nose as he wondered why they kept ignoring Freddie’s silent but extremely good advice.
It wasn’t until they actually entered the town that Jack could finally see the buildings properly. Each one was a giant brick chimney, with a door and windows and a front garden like a regular house. The chimneys, as you would expect, were billowing out thick smoke from their tops.
The street was quite busy and every single person had a long think pipe sticking out of their mouth. An old man and an old woman stopped in the street to talk to each other: the shook hands, blew smoke in each other’s faces and then coughed profusely.
“Did you see that?” said Jack, not sure if he could trust his eyesight.
“They’re saying hello,” answered Carla.
First Freddie pouncing on him, now this, thought Jack. How many more weird ways were there to greet each other in this strange land?
“Excuse me,” Carla had gone up to the old man and woman. “Could you tell me where I can find Lord Puff?”
She then got a thick waft of smoke sent in her direction, which engulfed her head completely for a moment, although Jack could still hear her coughing.
“Heavens dear,” said the old woman. “Where on earth is your pipe?”
She was looking at Carla with a mixture of confusion and disgust.
“I…” Carla spluttered.
“How do you expect us to have a conversation with you in that state?” asked the man, shaking his head.
Carla tried again, “I just want to know where…” but again her words were lost in a gasping cough.
A little boy, no older than seven or eight, rode up on a tiny six-wheeled bike that was much too small for him. He was wearing a smart jacket with shiny gold buttons and a flat cap. At the front of his bike was a basket filled with different coloured pipes, long and thin like all the others. He held out a blue and a green one to Carla and Jack, shoving them into their hands before they had time to protest.
“With compliments from Lord Puff!” he announced proudly, puffing his chest out. Then he peddled quickly away, his knees almost touching his chin as they went round and round.
“Let’s follow him!” said Jack, waving away the smoke that was coming out of the blue pipe in his hand. Not knowing exactly what to do with it, or in fact having any desire to figure it out, Jack passed the pipe to the old woman, who then looked extremely pleased.
“I’ve always wanted a pipe straight from Lord Puff!”
“Me too!” said the old man as Carla gave him the green one.
Then the two of them descended into another round of coughing.
The children took the opportunity to run off in the same direction as the little boy, off down the street, which was now even busier making it hard to follow the bike. As they rounded a bend in the road they saw a chimney house that was much bigger, and as a result much smokier than the others. The little boy was pedaling towards it with all his might.
“That’s gotta be it!” said Carla with a cough.
They didn’t see until they were close up-because of all the smoke of course-that the big chimney’s front door was wide open. This surprised Jack, as he’d expected someone as grand-sounding as Lord Puff to have guards, or a guard door, or at least a tightly locked door with a peep hole for inspecting visitors before letting them in.
There was no door bell either, so after some deliberation Jack knocked loudly.    
“Enter!” a voice boomed almost at once.
Carla and Jack looked at each other, then Carla stepped into the house (or chimney, if you’d prefer). At the end of a corridor was another open door. They tried to look in but all they could see was grey smoke.
And then from inside there was a sudden burst of wheezing, coughing and what sounded like choking. The children stood still at the doorway, waiting, with no choice but to listen to the awful noises. Jack promised himself there and then that he would never take up smoking, not even a pipe like his Grandpa. After a very long minute, the coughing stopped.
“Well don’t just loiter there,” the booming voice said, “Come in!”
They stepped slowly and carefully, with no real idea of which way to actually go. After a few seconds of being in the room, Jack’s eyes were stinging badly.
“Who are you?” came the voice.
“I’m Carla and he’s Jack,” said Carla, her voice cracking as she stifled a cough.
Either the some of the smoke lifted then, or Jack’s eyes became more tolerant, but he could now see more clearly.
Sitting in a big red comfy red chair behind a large solid wood table, was a fat bald man with four chins and four pipes sticking out his mouth to match.
He didn’t even take them out when he spoke. “How can I help you?”
“Your Grace-” said Carla, but Lord Puff held out a chubby hand to stop her.
“Lord Puff, if you don’t mind.”
Carla stared again. “Lord Puff. I’d like to know the cure for Spratsy.”
Lord Puff didn’t say anything. He took a long drag from his four pipes, exhaling masses of smoke out at the children. Jack saw wisps of blue and orange and green. Then Lord Puff started coughing again, which again went on for ages.
The children stood silently waiting, again. Jack started to wonder how people ever got anything done in this town, with all the coughing and waiting around that was going on.

Eventually the coughing died down. “I’m afraid I know nothing of these matters.”
“But….” Said Carla, but Lord Puff cut her off again.
“I’m sorry you came all the way to see me, but I can’t help you.”
“But…” Carla tried again. “I was told… I thought…”
“You thought wrong my dear,” replied Lord Puff. “And you really shouldn’t believe everything you are told.” He took a smaller drag of his pipe and blew the smoke out, the rainbow colours twirling around and forming an arrow facing towards the door (as far as Jack could tell).
“Follow the road south from Chimney Town and you’ll find the big ancient mansion. I’m sure Mr. Old can help you.”
“Who’s Mr. O-“ started Carla, but Lord Puff cut her off for a third time.
“I really must get on now,” he said. Then he reached in one of his desk drawers and pulled out two gold pipes, holding them out to the children. “These are for you.”
“No thankyou,” said Carla, turning on her heel and marching out in the direction of the arrow, as fast as she could in the smoky circumstances.
Jack looked at Lord Puff who had now opened a big book and was scribbling very quickly in it. Feeling like he should say something, he muttered a quick, “Thanks,” and “nice to meet you,” before following after Carla.
Back outside it felt like the air was fresh as a spring meadow compared to Lord Puff’s house.
“I’m sorry he was so useless,” said Jack.
“Let’s get out of here,” said Carla, marching off again. “Which way’s south?”



Monday, 12 November 2012

On to Down Pour Drive

Out of the corner of his eye Jack saw a flash of orange and then there was Freddie, sitting calmly a few metres away, serenely licking his paws.
"Did we have to go that way?" said Jack, annoyed that clearly the cat had known better.
Carla had already recovered and was on her feet. "Didn't you like the forest?" she said with a small smile. "I've never really tried to go round it."
Annoyed at how casual Carla was being, and also embarrassed that he was still on the ground, Jack struggled to his feet and turned away.
"Where now then?" he muttered.
"This way," said Carla, grabbing his hand and pulling him playfully.
Freddie trotted just ahead of them, across the grass towards a wide, flat road. Then suddenly he bolted as if he'd seen a huge angry dog and disappeared into a row of bushes.
"What's with him?" asked Jack, but at the same time he asked it, they reached the road and the air them became thick with mist. A second later the heavens opened and rain poured down on them heavy and fast.
The shock caused Jack to shriek, then quickly cover his mouth with his his hands, as Carla laughed. When he looked at her he couldn't help laughing too: she was completely bedraggled, her wild hair now stuck to her forehead and hanging flat down her back, making her look like a big piece of seaweed.
Jack looked around, although it was difficult to really see anything. They were on the road, which stretched for as far as the eye could see (which admittedly wasn't very far) in either direction. To the left he could just about make out the sea, and to the right a field.
"Just keep walking!" shouted Carla, her voice seeming distant.
Going against the sheets of rain, the children struggled slowly onwards, heads down. They couldn't have gone much slower if they were crawling.
About ten minutes later, and soaked to the bone, without warning the rain stopped completely and they emerged into the afternoon sun. Right behind them, strangely, the rain continued,  and now that they were out of it Jack could see that it was coming down in a block, right over the path but nowhere else.
"We should've walked on the grass!" he said, wringing out his t-shirt. How hadn't they noticed this before?
"But I love Down Pour Drive!" said Carla, shaking her head and spraying Jack with more water.
"Down Pour Drive?" exclaimed Jack. "You knew about this?"
Carla laughed, as always.
"You've gotta stop doing that," said Jack grumpily.
"Taking me to stupid places without telling me what they are. It's getting really annoying."
Carla's smile faded then. "Sorry, I thought it might be fun."
Then, right on cue, Freddie sauntered over dry as a bone and stood right next to Jack. "Meow meow."
"What do you want?" said Jack.
"He said you'll dry in no time," said Carla quietly.
"Easy for him to say."
The children were so busy wringing out their clothes that they hadn't yet noticed what was in front of them. Jack was the first to see it.
"Look!" he shouted.
Carla looked in the direction he was pointing and then started to jump up and down in excitement.
"That's it! That's it!" she said.
In the distance was a huge, grey cloud of fuggy smoke, rising up, up and up into the air.

 (not one of my better artistic creations, but thought I'd include it anyway)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Through the Forest

“What?” Jack shouted in disbelief.
“They fall from the trees sometimes,” Carla said. “Just like pine cones.”
“Yeah, bullets are exactly like pine cones,” retorted Jack, looking up into the forest nervously.“Why are we here exactly?”
“I told you,” said Carla. “It’s the way to Chimney Town.” Then, seeing the mixture of anger and fear on Jack’s face, added, “Don’t worry, they whistle loudly as they come down. We’ll have loads of warning.”

“Lucky us,” said Jack.
Carla sighed. “I’ve only ever heard of one person getting hit and that was my great, great uncle Rufus. He was completely deaf!”
And with that she marched off.
Jack looked up again at the perfectly still, perfectly rounded trees. Come to think of it they did look a bit like…
“Come on!” shouted Carla, making Jack jump. He quickly ran to catch up with her, in no mood to be left alone.
They walked side by side, neither one talking, the only sound the occasional snap of a twig underfoot, which echoed all around. The forest was eerily quiet: no wind in the trees, no birds.
Every five or so minutes Jack could make out a soft padding noise somewhere nearby and see a flash of ginger or a stripey tail. But that was it.
“Doesn’t he ever walk with you?” he asked Carla, after about the fifth time.
Carla shrugged. “Usually.”
Maybe Freddie was keeping away because of him, Jack thought.
“He might be catching mice,” said Carla. “The forest’s full of them. Last time he caught loads and even offered to cook one for me so I could try…”
And then they heard it. 
The unmistakable whistle of something heavy falling fast from above. The children both looked up, instinctively moving closer together. It got louder and louder until it was the kind of whistling you get when your ears are ringing after listening to a lot of loud music.
“Where is it?” said Jack, a tremble coming out in his voice.
“Over there,” nodded Carla, but as she said it another higher whistle started behind them. Then another and another.
Jacks heart started to beat really fast, and he looked at Carla, his terror mirrored in her face. Suddenly he felt stupid for still standing there he grabbed her hand and they ran.
They dodged quickly through the trees, Carla leading the way, the noise all around them deafening. And then the thudding began as the bullets hit the floor, one after another after another.
Jack fought the urge to close his eyes, instead focusing on not tripping over the huge roots sticking out of the ground, gripping Carla’s hand tight as they weaved through the trees.
There was a terrible thud as a big black raven fell onto the forest floor in front of them, its shiny black eyes frozen and mouth wide open.
Jack slowed for a second, unable to take his eyes off the dead bird, but then Carla yanked his arm, pulling him forwards. He was running faster than he ever thought he could, and just when he thought he’d have to stop he saw a glimpse of blue sky and sunlight peeking through the thick tree trunks.
As the whistles and thuds rang out around them they ran with a last surge of energy, and then they were out onto the soft grass, the sounds muted as if someone had closed a heavy door on the forest.
They both collapsed, Jack gasping for breath as he lay on the floor, so grateful to be safe at last.    

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The adventure begins to take shape, in memory of my dear Fred

“Wait for me!” he shouted, cringing at the desperate tone.
The girl was faster than him and was now scrambling up a jagged piece of rock, the sunlight behind framing her wild curly hair. Turning to look back, she grinned cheekily and beckoned him with a backwards jerk of her head, before leaping off the rock, onwards down the mountain.
Jack stopped, puffing to catch his breath. Why was he following her anyway? He was about to give up, sit down and think of another plan, when he heard a shout.
He looked up just in time to see a purple thing the size of a tennis ball hurtling towards him.
He held his hands up defensively and luckily managed to catch whatever it was, the force of it sending him faltering back a couple of steps. The purple thing was perfectly round and so smooth it was almost shiny.   
“Aren’t you gonna eat it then?” called the girl, now about five metres up in a tree, hanging casually upside down, her hair cascading below her.
Jack looked again at what he was holding. Was it a fruit? Was it poisonous? He looked back up at the tree but the girl had gone. Then she was next to him, biting into a purple thing of her own, juice running down her chin.
“They’re really good,” she mumbled through a mouthful.
Jack turned the purple thing round in his hand. It did look good. And if she was eating it…
He took a bite.
It was the best thing he had ever tasted. Sweet without being sickly, soft but not squashy, it tasted vaguely of honey mixed with something he couldn’t put his finger on.
“Mmmm,” the sound escaped his mouth before he could stop it. The girl smiled.
Jack wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “What’s your name?” he asked, taking another bite to hide the sudden embarrassment he felt.
The girl grinned, purple juice dripping from her chin. “Hurry up!” She threw the remains of the fruit and started to run again, darting fast like a rabbit.
Still unsure of what he was doing or why, Jack made a decision not to bother questioning. It’s not like he had any other options right now anyway.
Throwing the stone of the fruit as the girl had done, he hurtled after her down the slope, feeling clumsy as he tried not to trip on the uneven rock and wild grass.
Down, down they went, Jack with a stitch in his side, willing himself to try and keep up as he madly dodged the sharp boulders sticking out of the ground.
Jack turned a corner and saw the edge of a huge forest looming over him, getting taller as he got closer. Even though the girl had frequently stopped to turn round and grin at him on the way down, she arrived at the bottom long before him and disappeared into the trees. When Jack finally got to the bottom of the mountain he stopped and doubled over, clutching his side.
The trees of the forest were tall and thin, each rounded to a perfect tip at the top. Looking around for the girl, he hoped she hadn’t just abandoned him after he’d run all that way. Able to breathe a little easier now, he walked slowly towards the trees. The forest was dark, the trunks close together making it impossible to see what was inside. There were no branches that Jack could see, only the thick trunks with smooth green encasing them.
Then he saw something. Deep inside the black were two ovals, not quite lights, but glowing. They went away, then came back quick, getting closer.
Before Jack even had time to register what was happening, something jumped and landed on him, pinning him with a thud to the ground.
Jack couldn’t see, couldn’t move, so he just lay there trapped. Then the blur in his eyes faded. Expecting to see a huge man eating beast on top of him, Jack could hardly believe what he saw.
A cat. A regular sized ginger cat with a stripey tail, paws on his shoulders, face close to his.
“Oh Freddie,” came the voice of the girl, amused. “Put him down.”
Then the weight lifted as the cat moved away, allowing Jack to sit up. He rubbed the back of his head, where he had hit the ground.
The ginger cat was very pretty. It had flawless fur with a white fluffy belly and white paws. It sat purring innocently a few feet away, looking at the girl.
“He’s only messin’” said the girl, coming over to Jack. “I’m Carla and this is Freddie.”
“I know his name,” said Jack moodily.
Freddie padded over and started rubbing up against Carla’s legs, purring so loud the ground seemed to vibrate.
“And your name is?” Carla asked, holding out her hand to him.
“Jack,” he took her hand and with an effortless sweep she pulled him to his feet.
“Thanks,” said Jack awkwardly, brushing the dust of the back of his trousers and straightening his t-shirt. He looked again at the cat, suspiciously watching the stripey tail move slowly back and forward.
“He’s so small,” he said.
The cat turned to look at him, with a sharp ‘meow’ as if insulted.
Carla laughed. “He says you’re smaller.”
“I’m not,” bristled Jack, before really realising what had just happened. Either Carla was joking with him again or she could understand what the cat said. “He said that?”
There was another meow, sharper this time. Then he could’ve sworn that the cat sighed.
“You’re not giving a very good first impression,” Carla said playfully, grinning at Jack.
He pounced on me!” retorted Jack, annoyed.
Carla tutted dismissively as if what he’d said was completely stupid. “That’s how he greets people. They all do it. It’s really quite a polite greeting.”
“Oh,” said Jack, not sure whether to believe her or not.
“In cat world Freddie’s almost full size, which makes him bigger than you.”
Carla bent down to the cat, stroking him between the ears. “Won’t you try again?”
Freddie grunted, his tail wagging more ferociously.  
“For me?” she added, still stroking him.
“I…I didn’t mean to offend you,” said Jack, all too aware that this had gone beyond weird. Not only was he talking to a cat, he was actually apologising to it.
Freddie meowed than and walked to where Jack was standing.
“Meow, meow, meow,” he said, his face full of expression. Then, more bizarrely than anything else yet, he offered up a white, fluffy paw.
“He wants to shake your hand,” said Carla.
“I got that,” said Jack, giving her a look. He stooped down, trying not to be condescending and gently took the paw in his hand.
“Nice to meet you Freddie.”
Freddie nodded with a short meow, then turned and ran up the nearest tree.
“Where’s he going?” asked Jack.
“Probably heard a bird or a mouse or something. He’ll stay near though, he’s always near.”
Feeling finally like it was the right time to ask, Jack said, “So where are we going?”
“We need to go to Chimney Town,” said Carla with certainty.
“Chimney Town?”
Figuring she wasn’t going to give an explanation on her own, Jack asked “Why?”
Carla sighed then in much the same way that Freddie had done before. “I need to see Lord Puff.”
“Lord Puff!” Jack snorted, then quickly covered his mouth when he saw the look on Carla’s face.
“He’s very wise you know,” Carla said.
“What do you want from him?” asked Jack, trying to keep a straight face.
But Carla gave him another dark look. “Why are you here?”
Jack shuffled a bit at this, looking at his shoes. He wasn’t ready to talk about it.
After way longer than was comfortable, Carla broke the silence. “We’ll go that way.” She pointed towards into the thick of the forest.
“Let’s go then,” said Jack, beginning to walk.
Together they entered the forest, the air around getting considerably darker once they were surrounded by trees. It was cold too. Jack took his jacket out of his bag and did it up, pulling the hood over his head. The trees were so dense it was impossible to walk in a straight line, instead having to dodge this way and that. Each and every tree looked exactly the same: the towering trunk, the lack of branches, then the neat green that started halfway up and went straight up to the rounded top, way above.
“They’re so strange,” said Jack, looking up as he walked.
“Just watch out for the bullets,” said Carla casually.
Jack stopped dead. “What on earth are you on about?”
“Well they don’t call it Bullet Fur Forest for nothing,” Carla answered, as if she was getting a bit tired of his obvious questions.   

Unfortunately I don't have a scanner here so this picture is a bit dark, but anyway, hope you like it!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Very Beginning

My world has no name as yet and neither do the characters. The boy is from our world (England in fact) the girl is from the world that has no name. She's a bit wild, lives in the mountains and has crazy long hair with bits of twigs and leaves in it.

Here is one of their first conversations, as it came to my head sitting outside in the sunshine with a small glass of white wine.
*The poor boy must make do with __________ instead of his real name right now.
At this point in the story he doesn't know the girls name, which is lucky for me.
Any ideas?

"You're from North West?" she asked, a look of amazement in her eyes.
He shrugged, honestly not sure. "I guess."
She looked out over the vast plain of the forgotten lands, towards the tower. "I've heard stories, but I thought they were just made up, to scare kids." Then she turned to face him. "I've never met anyone from there before."
Unsure for the moment who exactly he was or where he was indeed from, _________ looked over the forgotten lands too. The tower was huge and looming, the golden clock face in the middle shining in the sun, making him squint. To the right was a golden wheel, just as big an shiny. Even from where they were standing, miles and miles away, ______________ could make out the slow grinding click, click of it turning.
Behind that was nothing but big black buildings. And smog.
____________ didn't recognise a thing. "That's not where I'm from."
The girl snorted loudly at this, clearly amsued. "OK," she said deliberately, "Where are you from then?"
But that was easily asked than answered."London, England," he said, trying to recall the details. "It's definitely over there, I'm just not sure where exactly, alright?"
____________ raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything more. Instead she sat down, leaning back in the rough coarse grass.
"I've heard people work forever," she said. "The wheel doesn't stop, so they can't stop."
Even though ___________'d never seen the big wheel or watch tower before, something about what the girl said rang true. He thought of his Dad, never home, never happy, always stressed. Then he shook his head, dismissing the idea.
"That's not where I'm from."
the girl sat up then and opened her mouth as if to say something, then closed it again. She lay back down.
"What brings you here then?"
Another question much easier to ask than answer. __________ shoved his hands in deep in his pockets and looked at the ground, searching for something to say that made sense.
Without looking at him, the girl said, "well if you've got nothing better to do you can help me if you want?"
___________ didn't know who this girl was or what she wanted, but seeing as he had no real idea where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do either, he decided to agree.
"Alright," he said quietly, suddenly shy.
 The girl jumped up, punching the air in excitement.
"Great! Let's go!"
___________ stood slowly. "Where, exactly?"
"I'm on a mission!" the girl announced. "It's extremely important. But I'm not too sure where to start..."
"What mission?" asked ____________.
But the girl didn't answer. "There, the trees!" she shouted as she started running down the mountain to the east, away from the forgotten lands and the North West.
____________ hesitated for a moment, then picked up his bag and chased after her.

And that's about all I've got so far...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Mayhem Marsh and other Map Mysteries

I'm (still) unemployed and bored and making maps is one thing that helps fill the long boring days.
I know I am a long way off being the best map maker in the land, but I enjoy it. This one I made with the idea of using it as the basis for a story.

Can you find the treasure?!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Stolen tips

Read these on The Write Practice and thought I'd put them here as a reminder to myself of things I know, but so easily forget to do. They asked me to free write and then post it in the comments of the blog. But I'm far too lazy to do that  hahaha. Not very bloggy-spirited of me I know but never mind.

Five tips for writing when you think you never have the time:

1. Whenever you have five minutes …

Whenever you have five min­utes and there is a com­puter or some paper and a pen­cil nearby, sit down and write. It doesn’t mat­ter what you write, just write.

2. Blog

If you are a writer, you prob­a­bly already have a blog. If you don’t have one, make one and blog con­sis­tently about your life, your most recent writ­ing project, your pet, any­thing. It doesn’t mat­ter what you write, just write.

3. Wake up early.

Even on week­ends. Set your alarm clock and wake up before any­one else to give your­self some time alone so you can just write.

4. Free write.

If you’re stuck in your novel and don’t know what to write next, grab a clean piece of paper and a pen­cil and write down what­ever comes to mind for ten min­utes. Most likely you’ll real­ize what you have to write next. If you still don’t know what to write next, you haven’t writ­ten for long enough. Write for another ten min­utes and keep on writ­ing until you’ve over­come your writer’s block.

5. Block out distractions

Take your lap­top to a quiet cof­fee shop and turn off your inter­net. Use a pro­gram that will turn off your email, Facebook, Twitter, and any­thing else that will be a dis­trac­tion for you. After you’ve done that, just write.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Life Pixie

That little life pixie
is naughty and trixy-
bores very easily,
making you queasily
stumble and grumble and groan.
Leave me alone!
Let me be! You wearily shout.
But pixie just giggles and wobbles about.
Messing up life
to give worry and strife
Is my joy, my one hobby, my wife!  

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Let's see if I can make it work...

Will it work, who knows?
In Alaska it often snows
The birth of the snow child
Wouldn't happen when it's mild.