Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Pipe and slippers

Pipe and Slippers: With Karen J Carlisle

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

I am the ghost known as Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a drooling octopus and its  dis-quietening gentleman friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by the promise of strange fruit. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of vintage port eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

something seasonally macabre, like this perhaps…

 

WAKING

 

© 2013/2017 By Karen J Carlisle

 

 

The first thing Irena noticed was the silence. She could sense it even before she opened her eyes. Her house had always been a flurry of movement and sound before she had fallen ill – a riot of voices all vying for mother’s attention. There had never been much time to appreciate the little things. Now it was still. Quiet.

Peace.

She opened her eyes – just a crack – and allowed her eyes to adjust to the light before she scanned the ceiling, then the walls. Not her room. The mattress was hard and cold. Glorious perfumes emanated from flowers surrounding her, covering almost every horizontal surface in the room. She drew a deep breath, enjoying the heady fragrances. Still nothing but silence.

Heaven.

Irena’s muscles cramped; it felt like she had slept for days. She tried to move but her body refused, weak from being bed-ridden. It was to be expected; the fever had taken her without warning and she had lain near death for much of her illness. She remembered the sound of crying. A lot of crying. She closed her eyes – drained, depleted but also refreshed and…

Excitement.

Finally, her body obeyed. She swung her legs awkwardly off the bed; her feet touched the tiled floor. It was unexpectedly warm. Irena regarded her pale feet. She must look dreadful.

Her gaze searched the room for a mirror, to confirm her suspicions. No mirror, just wall-to-wall flowers. She loved roses.

Beauty.

As she moved across the room, the lightness of her silk gown distracted her: the sensual feel as it softly caressed her body. She ran her fingers along the smooth material, enjoying the experience.

When she moved slowly, the pleasure was renewed. Irena wiggled her body under her clothing, enjoying the feeling it produced.

Pleasure.

Something tugged in the pit of her stomach. A slow gnawing grew until it almost consumed her. She had not eaten since she had become ill. She glanced around the room. Nothing to eat here.

Hunger.

Her hunger tugged at her thoughts, reminding her of the rich aroma of her favourite chocolate. She could almost taste it, almost feel its smooth texture as it melted on her tongue. She remembered the calm that followed such an indulgence. She embraced the feeling as it washed over her.

Bliss.

That tore it! She needed to find food; she couldn’t concentrate with her stomach distracting her. The drive for hunger compelled her. She felt as if she had forgotten how it felt to be satisfied; it was as if she had always been hungry. Irena opened the door, looked back at her sickbed and smiled. A light breeze brushed over her skin. She turned to feel the breeze on her face, temporarily forgetting her hunger.

“I’m alive!” She laughed.

Alive!

Her life had been but a dream until now. Finally, she had woken. New experiences lay before her and , with them, lay the delight of each discovery. The small details fascinated her, details she had never had time to notice. Fresh air heralded a new autumn day. The world was alive. She was alive. Everything was new.

Delight!

Peace. Heaven. Excitement. Beauty. Pleasure. Bliss.  She was now free to explore all of these. Even the hunger. Her bare feet padded along the bitumen road, and gained momentum, until she ran so fast that the wind blew the hair from her face. She squealed with delight as she reached a tree-lined park and succumbed to the urge to spin around in circles as her toes sank into the fresh grass. She fell onto the soft ground. Never before had she felt such freedom.

Free!

Above, the sky was littered with shining jewels, each one twinkling as they stared back at her. How could she not have enjoyed all of this before? Slowly, the stars’ brilliance faded. Their canvas blurred through a range of colours: from purples to oranges to pinks. The clouds showed themselves, edged with shining copper. The sun was rising.

Curiosity.

Irena’s stomach reminded her she had missed several breakfasts. She longed to feed the hunger, but there would be time for that soon. First, she wanted to enjoy her first new sunrise. She chided herself for too many sleep-ins and now wondered why she had never woken early to see a sunrise before. From now on, her life would be filled with new experiences. Whatever the cost.

Desire.

Irena rolled over to face the east and the oncoming sunrise. The grass was cool, and the smell of the fresh earth was comforting. She felt the warmth on her skin growing. She shivered with excitement. The sky lightened; a myriad of colours coalesced into a pale golden sky as the sun crested over the horizon. Irena’s skin tingled, alive with pinpoints of itching heat. The warmth became a raging fire. Was her fever returning?

Fear.

She sat up in panic. Her hands glowed; wisps of smoke drifted upwards, followed by flames.  She trembled. There was no time for breakfast, no time for fear.  She decided to embrace the dawn, as she had intended to embrace her new life.

Acceptance.

Small eddies of dust played in the air before her eyes. Each followed the other, circling as they drifted away on the breeze.

Death.

THE END

 

Ah what a splendid offering from one of our favourite steampunk authors,  Karen J Carlisle. Karen is of course responsible for the fantastic Adventures Of Viola Stewart mystery series, the latest instalment of which is to be released later this month…

AVS 3 Illusioneer_800

 

Now then I really must insist you go, I have important work to be getting on with, not least, putting pay to these dreadful rumours that I am a woman… or at least the ghost of a woman…. I may from time to time possess the bodies of young women, wear dresses and call myself Pearl, but that is purely for professional reasons , as anyone who has read my memoirs will tell you…. oh you have read them have you? …. well how very dare you! Good Night!  Oh, er…leave the bottle though…


Pipe and Slippers: With E. A. Hennessey

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

I am the ghost known as Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a drag-dressed octopus and its dribbling Tea Fiend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by the promise of strange fruit. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of The Green Fairy eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps…

Excerpt from Grigory’s Gadget – Book 1 of the Gaslight Frontier Series by E. A. Hennessy:

Nikolai stared at the ceiling of the cabin, listening to Demyan and the elderly man snore. This is my luck, he thought unhappily. He rolled onto his side and picked at the golden wallpaper. Above, he heard the sound of rushed footsteps. At least I’m not the only one awake.

A few seconds later, a loud boom echoed through the ship. Nikolai felt the bed and walls shake.

“Nikolai, what are you doing?” Demyan asked sleepily. Nikolai heard a second boom, and Demyan jerked awake. “What was that?”

“I have no idea,” Nikolai said, jumping down to the floor. The girls appeared in the doorway.

“Is the ship being attacked?” Anya asked.

“Are you all alright?” Zoya added.

The elderly man stirred from his sleep.

“Sir, the ship is being attacked,” Nikolai told him, offering a hand to help him out of bed.

“Go back to sleep,” the man said grumpily. “The guards will take care of it. Silly kids.” He pulled his blanket back over his head and rolled over. Another boom sounded, and the ship shook especially hard.

“What do we do?” Lilia asked her friends. “Should we just stay in our cabins?”

“I’d say that’s a good idea,” a strange voice said behind her. The girls jumped and turned around. A lean young man with dirty blond hair and blue eyes grinned at them while drawing his pistol. A multitude of necklaces hung about his neck, and his ears were dotted with golden earrings. “I suggest you go back to your cabins and hand over any valuables.”

“We don’t have any valuables,” Zoya lied. The young man seemed surprised by her and stepped back eying her quizzically. It took less than a few seconds for him to compose himself. He stepped toward Zoya with his pistol aimed at her head.

“You look pretty valuable to me.” A second man with black hair and almond eyes appeared next to the first, similarly covered in gold jewelry with pistol drawn. “We’re in need of more crew, right Alexi?”

“That’s right, Fyodr,” Alexi, replied. “You and your friends have two minutes to grab anything you can carry. Then you’re coming with us.”

“We’re not going anywhere with you!” Nikolai said defiantly. Alexi stepped toward Nikolai, now pointing his pistol at Nikolai’s head. Anya stepped forward, placing herself between Alexi and Nikolai.

“Two minutes,” she said, staring the pirate in the eye. He smirked, nodded, and lowered his pistol.

“Anya!” Nikolai said, glaring. Anya returned his look then turned and walked into her cabin.

“What did I tell you kids?” the elderly man growled from within Nikolai and Demyan’s cabin. Nikolai glanced back at him and stepped to block the doorway. When the man saw Alexi and Fyodr, he furrowed his brow in annoyance.

“What are you, now? Pirates?” He spat in Alexi’s direction. “Bunch of lazy crooks. The guards will put you down in a second.”

“We’ve disposed of the guards already,” Alexi said. “We can dispose of you, too, old man, unless you give us whatever valuables you have.”

“Do I look like the sort who owns any valuables?” He gestured to his raggedy clothes. He wore a dingy, ill-fitting vest and a button-down shirt that may have once been white. His trousers were covered in salt stains and worn through in one knee.

“Well, if you have nothing of value, maybe we should just put you down,” Alexi said, raising his pistol and aiming at the old man.

“Don’t you dare!” Nikolai shouted, rushing toward Alexi. Fyodr turned his pistol on Nikolai and drew a sword. Alexi drew his sword as well. Zoya and Demyan moved to Nikolai’s side, guarding his body with their own.

“Your two minutes are almost up,” Alexi told the group. “I’d get moving if I were you.”

“You can’t just kill an innocent man!” Lilia protested. “He hasn’t done anything wrong!” Fyodr sheathed his sword and grabbed Lilia by the arm, shoving her toward the girls’ cabin.

“Get packing, miss!” he ordered. “This doesn’t concern you!”

Zoya took the opportunity to grab for Fyodr’s gun. He twisted around and slammed her into the wall, his forearm pressed against her neck. Zoya gasped and clawed at his arm. Demyan yelled and charged toward him, knocking his arm away from Zoya’s throat. Alexi shot his pistol into the air.

“Enough!” he shouted.

“That’s right, enough!” A third pirate appeared. This pirate was older, with scarred tan skin and black hair that was turning gray. The pinky and ring finger of his left hand were missing, as was half of the middle finger on his right. His eyes were large, and Nikolai thought he saw a kindness in them.

“Pavel,” Alexi said. His face flushed red and he lowered his pistol.

“Stop acting tough, Alexi,” Pavel said. “This old man hasn’t done anything wrong, let him be. The captain is almost ready to leave.” Pavel then regarded the group of friends. “Recruiting, are we?”

“Pavel, this bunch says they have no valuables,” Fyodr said. “They look pretty valuable to me.”

“So, try not to damage them.” Pavel smirked. “Let’s go. The captain is waiting.”

Pavel’s presence seemed to pacify Alexi and Fyodr, who watched silently as the friends gathered their things. Nikolai and Demyan packed quickly then joined the girls in their cabin to help them. Anya, having already packed her bags, stood in the doorway and glowered at the pirates.

“Zoya, what do we do?” Lilia whispered as she fastened her suitcase.

“I don’t know,” Zoya admitted. “They have guns and swords. I’ve got wrenches and screwdrivers. I don’t think we stand a chance.”

Nikolai watched as Zoya dug out her gloves. Her shaking hands knocked her gadget out of the bag. It rolled halfway to the door before she caught it. Fyodr and Pavel weren’t looking, but Alexi saw it and looked at Zoya coolly.

“It’s nothing,” Zoya muttered quickly, fumbling to hide the object.

“Put that away and hurry up,” Alexi replied. “We don’t have all night.” Zoya exchanged a concerned look with Nikolai as they finished packing and stood.

“Alright!” Pavel announced with a smile. “Let’s go introduce you to your captain!”

 

 

 

What’s that? More? No no I’m sorry I haven’t got time for that, I’m a busy man, albeit a dead one, if you want to know what happens to Zoya and her friends I suggest you pick up a copy of Grigory’s Gadget yourself…

gregorys

Or connect with the author  online….

 

Website: www.eahennessy.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01AXD0UI0/
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/grigorys-gadget-e-a-hennessy/1123314615?ean=2940152591446

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/610196

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/grigory-s-gadget-1
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/grigorys-gadget/id1078386807

 

Now then I really must insist you go, I have important work to be getting on with, not least, putting pay to these dreadful rumours that I am a woman… or at least the ghost of a woman…. I may from time to time possess the bodies of young women, wear dresses and call myself Pearl, but that is purely for professional reasons …. well how very dare you! Good Night!  Oh, er…leave the bottle though…


Pipe and Slippers: With Ichabod Temperance

 

I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

old-library-1571043

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a drag-dressed octopus and its dribbling Tea Fiend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by the promise of strange fruit. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? Finest Stout? And some of Mrs Baker’s left over steak and ale pies? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps… it is an excerpt from the tenth book in the Ichabod Temperance series, ‘The Two Faces of Temperance’. Hm, there is a note here tucked inside in the cover…

 

A fiendish monster is on the loose in London but as the machinations of intreague threaten to crush poor Miss Plumtart and Ichabod in their merciless gears, could this adventure become known as ‘the strange case of Dr. Icky and Mr. Temperance … ?

 A Request by the Author:
Dear Reader, if, perchance, you should come across some drunken rogues in song whilst reading this book, you are strongly encouraged to sing these passages aloud.
Your cooperation in this matter is sincerely appreciated.
~Icky.

THE TWO FACES OF TEMPERANCE

By Ichabod Temperance 

 

“Take a deep whiff, Mr. Temperance.”
“I’d rather not, Ma’am.”
“Fleet Street has an aroma all her own.”
“I’ll give you that, Ma’am.”
“I smell meat pies. Wait here, Mr. Temperance, I shall go and fetch us a pair myself.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Gee, there goes Miss Plumtartt. I don’t like being by myself around all these people. Oh golly, there is so much bustling traffic around here, I hope I don’t get caught up and washed away.”
“Hello, young man.”
“Hien! Oops, I mean, howdy, mister. Gee, I guess you kind of startled me. I did not notice you looming up behind me.”
“Forgive me, my boy. I could see by your clothes that you were a visitor to our shores. Now that I hear your boorish American tongue I am justified in my assumption. The moment I clapped eyes on you, my befuddled little friend, I said to myself, Todd Squweeny, you need to take that lost little lamb under your protective wing, lest some unscrupulous villain sweep in to do this innocent guest an injustice. No, I decided on the spot to make it my mission to prevent you, my sweet naïve doe, from coming to injury.”
“Golly, that sure is swell, Mr. Squweeny, sir.”
“You have the advantage, of me, Mr.? …”
“Temperance, sir.”
“You have family here in our fair city, Mr. Temperance?”
“Nossir.”
“Tee, hee! No family in the city, says you! Well, tell me, do you have family here in England, Mr. Temperance?”
“Nossir, Mr. Squweeny.”
“Ho, ho! You have friends here, then?”
“Not so much…”
“There is a Mrs. Temperance?”
“Nossir.”
“I see, I see, I see. Then you are here on business?”
“Yessir.”
“You look newly arrived. Have you checked into a hotel?”
“Yessir.”
“Blast! Oh well, this may still work. Have you made contact with your employer, yet?”
“Nossir.”
“Good! Oops! I mean, eh, pardon me for saying so, but you look a terrible sight, my lad.”
“Hunh? I do?”
“Yes, dear boy, but you are in luck!”
“I am?”
“Yes, for you see, I am a barber! I am a most skilled barber, I assure you, my bosom mate. I am the most famous barber Fleet Street has ever known.”
“Gee, my whiskers ain’t no more than a little peach fuzz. A kitten’s tongue would do the trick to their removal. Why, I just shaved this morning…”
“You SHAVED, yourSELF!?!? No sir! This is not done, sir. No sir, a gentleman does not shave himself if he wishes to make a good impression on his new employers and that’s a fact, sir! Come with me this instant. I will brook no protest. Come along to my shop and I shall see if I can remedy the damage done.”
~ding-a-ling-a-ling-ding!~
“Gee, this is a nice little barber shop you got here, sir.”
“Thank you, my boy.”
~click.~
“Did you just lock the door? Don’t you want no more customers?”
“I wish to devote all my attention to you, my boy, without any interruptions.”
“Then why do you have two chairs?”
“One chair is for commoners, but you dear child, are no commoner. I want you to sit in my special chair.”
“Your special chair? Gee, I’m about as common as common can get. Maybe I oughtter sit in this other chair…”
“I said to sit in this one, you little fool! Oops, I mean, my especially, special friend.”
“Yessir.”
“Ah, that’s better. Now then, just lie back and be comfortable as I apply a few last strops to this razor.”
“Yessir.”
~strip / strop / strip / strop~
“Hmm, hmm, hm, hmm/hmm. Strumm, strumm, strumm, dee-strumm:”
Razor, razor, lovely sight.
Piercing reflector of any light.
Scraping necks with pressures slight,
Trajectory’s change reveals your might.
“That’s a cute little ditty, Mr. Squweeny, sir, is there any more to it?”
“There would be if you would quit interrupting me you stupid little… er, I mean, let’s have a listen, eh?”
Crimson geyser to ceiling gush,
Death’s cheeks do quickly blush,
Just as quickly the face will flush,
And from the body life will rush.
“I don’t think I got the reference that time, sir.”
“Just a bit of the colloquial dialect, changing a meaning here or there. This final stanza will reveal our song’s true face.”
Scarlet rivers, they do flood.
Maroon is the colour of the sewer mud.
No-one will miss this faceless dud,
As I release this torrent of steaming bl..
“Hey, does this chair have a draft? Why looky there, there is a faint line, indicating a seam in the floor, all the way around this chair. It reminds me of a theatrical stage’s trap-door.”
“Get back in that chair!”
“Hang on a second, and lemme borrow that razor.”
“How dare you, you filthy Colonial! Return me my razor at once!”
“I just want to poke it down in this crack. There looks like there might be a latch… woah, watch out! It is a trap-door! This here barber chair is all set to tilt its unlucky inhabitant to a dreadful fall!”
“Get away from my chair! Give me back my razor!”
“Gee, it sure is a good thing I found that. I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt. I bet that little hidden cellar connects with the old Fleet Street canal, whatcha bet, hunh?”
“Perhaps.”
“I wonder if there ain’t an underground connecting cellar between this place and the meat-pie bake-shop, next door?”
“Enough! Get out of my barber shop!”
“Okay, okay, I’m going.”
“Wait, come back. Give me back my razor.”
“Oops, oh yeah, right. Here you go, mister.”
“Mr. Temperance, I have been looking for you.”
“Oh, howdy Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am.”
“I instructed you to not move, sir.”
“Well, you see, what happened was…”
“Never mind. As it happens, I find you exiting this Fleet Street barber shop at the same time that I am exiting Langela Annebury’s Meat Pie Bakery directly next door.”
~nom, nom, nom.~ “This sure is a good meat pie, Ma’am! What kind of pie is it?”
“I am given to understand that the best policy is not to inquire too deeply into a meat pie’s mysterious origins.”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“Take a care, Mr. Temperance, for you are dribbling your juices. I am assured that Miss Annebury is ‘slitting her own throat’, by selling her ‘pastries of mystery’ so inexpensively.”

 

 

Hm? You want to know what happens next? Well you’ll just have to visit Icky yourself won’t you and ask him for a copy …

2facetemperance.jpg

 

No, no I really don’t have time to… wait a minute… are you sure these pies are steak and ale? They taste rather suspicious to me…


Pipe and slippers: With Nimue Brown

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of The New World.

But this is not a ‘lending library’; if you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a ludicrous Tea Fiend and their rampant octopus, let me assure you that you will find no frivolous fancies or biscuit-based buffoonery here. Here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you say? Late Bottled Vintage Port? Ten years eh?…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something to fight off the chill. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this splendid piece of flash fiction, by steampunk author and druid, Nimue Brown …

 

TAKING IT EASY 

by Nimue Brown

 

After the divorce and the late onset midlife crisis, Dave married a much younger woman. He just wanted life to be fun. And easy.

The much younger woman wanted a child. This had not been mentioned pre-marriage, which he wasn’t best pleased about. There were rows, and Dave soon felt that a second divorce would be more unpleasant than humouring her. After all, if she wanted a child so much, she would look after it.

Aged five, Dave’s high maintenance son set his spoiled little heart on a puppy. After a week of tantrums, Dave decided that a puppy might be less trouble than the endless howling. And anyway, if the lad wanted it, the lad could look after it.

Sometimes, while walking the dog in the rain at six in the morning so as to be back in good time for the school run…. Dave wonders if he should have gone for the motorbike instead.

 

And if you would like to read more of Nimue’s marvellous work you can find her on the aether-web here:

https://druidlife.wordpress.com/

https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/

https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=6661355

 

There now, marvellous piece isn’t it? One of my favourites in fact… But as I said, this is not some nursery bedtime story hour I am running here! You can tell that miscreant octopus, when you see him, to stop sending people down here to bother me with their reading requests I have serious work to be getting on with. Now go on, out with you, shoo, no I don’t care if there is a curfew and you are worried about getting eaten by Carnivorous Liver Birds, you should have thought of that earlier. Good night.

Oh, er, leave the bottle though….

 


Pipe and Slippers:Perilous Journeys#2

 

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

old-library-1571043

I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But I do not have time for entertaining tonight, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have papers everywhere and notes to set in print and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe the notes from my journals into volumes so that they can be preserved for generations to come? You’ve brought along some late bottled vintage port to keep out the chills as we work?
Oh.
Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…

Here, then, is the next instalment of the account of my first expedition…..(if you missed the first instalment you can find it here)

 

“Pearl White is it?”

I gave the boatman my most imperious glare. The effect was not the desired one and I instantly feared that my mastery of these new, delicate feminine features was going to take some time to achieve. What I needed was a mirror, and time to spend in perfecting the manipulation of this woman’s eyes, nose and mouth into the expressions I required.  But neither luxury was afford me and so I was forced to try again.

“You quite alright Miss?” the boatman looked deeply concerned as he watched me wipe the canvass clean and start over with an new attempt at ‘menacing frown’.

“The name is PERIL” I corrected, ignoring the soft and almost squeaky intonation of my new inferior vocal chords.

The boatman wiped his nose with an oily rag. “Right. You sure you gonna be alright with this skiff Miss? The Thames might be fine for a couple of chaps on a hay day but a birdie on her own, that seems asking for trouble to me…”

I tell you I very nearly popped the fellow with my dainty lace gloved fist for his sheer impertinence.

He must have sensed the menace in my aura because at length he shrugged, muttered something about Abney Park and handed me the oars.

There was some little difficulty in boarding the craft and arranging my belongings but after a little negotiation and a quick dip in the river to gain perspective I  managed to get going and soon fell into a steady rowing rhythm, putting the raucous laughter of the dock workers behind me as I headed up stream towards Bermondsey.

It is there that the Toshers have a legend which I was certain must be evidence of some magical presence – The Rat Queen.

Toshers, in case you are unaware, Gentleman Scavengers who frequent the city sewers at nught in search of all the coins, pocket watches, rings, swans…you know how easy it is to drop these things when one is preoccupied.

The Tosher makes his living from trading in the treasures he finds in the subterranean darkness in much the same way as a Treacle Miner and so it is no surprising to find that the two professions share a belief in protective spirits who have the power to grant good fortune and personal safety, as long as they remain appeased.

For the miner, this sprite is a type of brownie known as A Knocker, for the Tosher, it is The Rat Queen.

The Rat Queen is a supernatural being said to be able to shift form between that of an enormous sewer rat and that of a beautiful woman. In her human form she will approach a Tosher when he is alone in the tunnels and offer him a deal – if he can satisfy her passions and pay her a worthy tribute of treasure from his haul, he will be blessed beyond his wildest dreams -his business will prosper and his family will grow large and healthy. But if he fails or refuses to part with his loot he will find nothing more i  the sewers but a watery grave.

I moored the skiff beneath an overhanging elder tree and, after a minor war with the potable stove, made myself a depressing supper of cold tinned ‘standard issue’ soup and hunkered down to wait for midnight.

Under the cloak of darkness, I lit my dark lantern and made my way into the sewers in search of The Rat Queen …

“Pardon me, ladies, but would one of you happen to be The Rat Queen?”

The little coven of brightly painted damsels whom I had stumbled headlong into in the dark regarded me with unrestrained disgust; hands on hips, red lips twisted into smirks and sneers. “Oh, we’re all rat queens down here, deary..” the eldest bird squawked, flicking her head plumes, “question is, who the Hull are you, eh? You can’t just wander in here trying to join the game, thinking you can get in on a good earner…” her eyes narrowed, “anyway, who was it who ratted out on us?” She held up her own lantern and shone it into the faces of the assembled women, “who’s not here? Sharon! That little chatter box tart…”

Teeth began to gnash, painted talons flexed, I felt the time had come to set the record straight…

“Fear not, Madame,” I said, attempting to inject an air of authority into my voice which was ricocheting off the brick dome in sopranino staccato  most vexing. Cursing my new feminine vocal chords, I floundered on.. “I have no intention of encroaching upon your little entrepreneurial endeavour I…”

my confident smile fled the scene

“I…”

my manly resolve snatched up his hat and followed suit

“I…”

my legs finally cottoned on and joined the exodus, propelling me back through the watery tunnels with the rabble of raucous rat queens in rabid pursuit. Rocks and lemonade bottles exploded off the pith helmet as I made good my escape and at last, breathing hard, I made it back to the skiff and applied myself to the oars as if my life depended on it.

Of course this was quite ridiculous as my life expired many years ago but I did feel a certain obligation to return this body in proper working order….

 

Aaaand I think that is quite enough for one evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and…what’s that you say? Stay the night? Certainly not, what sort of a wraith do you think I am? Now go on, out with you, not another word, GOOD NIGHT!

 

 

all images used with kind permission from http://www.freeimages.com


Pipe and Slippers: Perilous Journeys

 

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

old-library-1571043
I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But I do not have time for entertaining tonight, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have papers everywhere and notes to set in print and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe the notes from my journals into volumes so that they can be preserved for generations to come? You’ve brought along some cherry brandy to keep out the chills as we work?
Oh.
Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…
Many may not know this but I have not always been a bad tempered ghost in charge of an underground library. Once upon a time I was a bad tempered gentleman who had devoted his life to the collection of evidence which indicated that the power of The All Mother was not entirely gone from The New World. I travelled the scattered isles in search of such evidence – witches, fairies, folk lore, wild magic that was not controlled or perhaps even known about by Wiz and his ridiculous Wizards.
Not to be put off by death, I have struggled to find a way to continue my studies and I have indeed found a method by which I can sporadically leave this library, to which I am otherwise bound, and travel abroad.
This method is known as The Opprobrious Pith Helmet.
By securing the services of a less than reputable Wizard I have had my soul partially bound to an ancient piece of explorational headwear and am therefore able to possess the wearer for short periods of time, with their consent.
For my part, I am bound to being summoned by the wearer at their whim to provide protection, guidance, words of wisdom and advice, that sort of thing. It is a tiresome trade off but it could, I suppose, be worse.
Here, then, is the account of my first expedition.
I had decided to begin my studies with a journey down the Thames, past the Pirate City of Londinium, stopping at various Inns along the route and gathering from the locals any tales of interest which might hint at the existence of magic. But as I sat at my dressing table, pith helmet in place, waiting for the arrival of the Hippo’ton drawn coach which would take me to Barley Bow I began to have my doubts.
I pulled the magical contract I had signed with that wretched gutter-magician from my purse for the hundredth time and examined it again. No. Nowhere in the small print could I find mention of the fact the body I would be possessing might be a woman.
I stared into the mirror with grave concern at the ringlets and the lashes and the tinted cheeks. Could this work? As a strict adherent to the old religion I have the greatest respect for women, of course, but I have never actually been inside one.
The clatter of metal hooves upon the cobbles outside brought my dilemma to a close. This was my one chance to continue my work and I must put away any infantile embarrassment and get on with it.
With this new found resolve I leapt from my chair, tripped over my crinolines, flew out of the chamber door and tumbled head over bustle down the short narrow staircase, landing in a heap of fabric and whale carcass in the tap room.
I will not sport with your intelligence by repeating the comments this little accident incited from the patrons of the little tavern but will move swiftly on to my arrival in Bow.

The Hippo’ton dropped me at The Widow’s Son , a fascinating Inn with an equally fascinating history which I was keen to investigate. An old folk legend tells that the first owner was an old Widow whose son joined the navy. Upon his leaving day he told his mother to bake him a bun on Good Friday and he would be sure to be back in time to eat it. The bun was baked but the son never came home but the widow hung the baked bread from the ceiling in a net and added a new bun to the collection every year. After she died her friends and patrons kept up the tradition and it is now even written into the leasehold of the property that the custom must be kept by every owner.
Of course the story is hogwash. It is likely that there never was a widow at all but that the tradition is in fact born of a much older practise – that of leaving bread and milk out for household fairies, boggarts and helpful magical creatures as thanks for their kind assistance in bringing luck, health and happiness to the household through the year.
I had brought my case of instruments for detecting and catching fairies and other magical beings with me but as I eagerly began to lay them out upon the bar the Landlady approached and asked what I thought I was doing. When I asked to see her buns so that I could perform my arts upon them she screamed the most unrepeatable names at me and threw me out into the street.
It was a long walk down to the docks, where I had arranged a hired craft to take me up the river. Long but by no means lonely. I can only say that I now have a new found sympathy for the fairer sex and completely understand why they are reluctant to venture out alone at night without those splendid flame-throwing parasols. Skirts, bustles, high heeled boots…none of these make for expeditious retreats from darkened alley ways or indeed high speed chases over cobblestones away from amorous drunks.
I did manage to make it to the docks eventually and spent the night huddled under a tarpaulin that smelled of fish and cats, still I was optimistic that my next stop would prove more fruitful. My journey had, afterall only just begun and it was no good losing heart along with everything else at the first hurdle. So I sat in the dark, counting my losses and hoped that my young host would not think to do the same, or at the very least not be too miffed, when her body was returned to her…..

 

 

And I think we had better leave it there for this evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and… hm? Well yes of course it is dark you’re not afraid of the dark are you? Flesh eating Liver Birds you say? Well yes there are those to consider but you should have thought of that before you set off on this midnight mission shouldn’t you? I can’t be responsible for your safety! Now go on, off with you, just because I am dead does not mean I don’t have things to do…go on…out!


Pipe and slippers: The gospel of Agnes Day

Good evening my dears and welcome to Perilous Wight’s Lovely Library (which we are keeping safe for him until he returns from his ‘business trip.’) I am Mrs Baker (otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle) and Peril has kindly allowed me and my little street urchins to shelter down here from the flesh eating Liver Birds until he returns.

Tonight I will be reading to the orphans, once again, from The Child Gospels, (this time from the gospel of Agnes Day) which we discovered on our expedition to Siberia. The chronicles were chiselled onto ice tablets and had been preserved inside a lead lined soupophagus for centuries before we smashed it apart and salvaged them for all humanity to enjoy.

Sadly, our return journey took us through the heat of the Jentacular Jungle and so, as the ice tablets began to melt (and even though it was three o’ clock in the morning and nobody had any tea)  our quick thinking octopus, Collin, speedily copied their contents down onto banana leaves with his own ink, using only his tentacles for a pen.

This desperate act of heroism, he claims, should excuse the rampant spelling mistakes, technical inaccuracies and absence of all  artistic merit which glare out from the manuscript like the foul raisins  in that cookie you thought was chocolate chip.

Peril has of course preserved the banana leaves as only a pedantic book-fetishy ghost can, but Collin asks  that we all bear in mind the manner of their construction and the great suffering he endured and risks to his life and mental well being and so forth and send him extra packs of medicinal biscuits whenever he indulges in…I mean suffers from, a bout of psd over the whole affair. Poor Collin…

So, are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I shall begin…

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Pipe And Slippers:The Gospel Of Betty Martin

Good evening my dears and welcome to Perilous Wight’s Lovely Library (which we are keeping safe for him until he returns from his ‘business trip.’) I am Mrs Baker (otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle) and Peril has kindly allowed me and my little street urchins to shelter down here from the flesh eating Liver Birds and Wizmas Witch Hunters until he returns.

Tonight I will be reading to the orphans from The Child Gospels, which we discovered on our expedition to Siberia. The chronicles were chiselled onto ice tablets and had been preserved inside a lead lined soupophagus for centuries before we smashed it apart and salvaged them for all humanity to enjoy.

Sadly, our return journey took us through the heat of the Jentacular Jungle and so, as the ice tablets began to melt (and even though it was three o’ clock in the morning and nobody had any tea)  our quick thinking octopus, Collin, speedily copied their contents down onto banana leaves with his own ink, using only his tentacles for a pen.

This desperate act of heroism, he claims, should excuse the rampant spelling mistakes, technical inaccuracies and absence of all  artistic merit which glare out from the manuscript like the foul raisins  in that cookie you thought was chocolate chip.

Peril has of course preserved the banana leaves as only a pedantic book-fetishy ghost can, but Collin asks  that we all bear in mind the manner of their construction and the great suffering he endured and risks to his life and mental well being and so forth and send him extra packs of medicinal biscuits whenever he indulges in…I mean suffers from, a bout of psd over the whole affair. Poor Collin.

So, are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I shall begin…

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Pipe and Slippers: The Painters’ Daughter

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

old-library-1571043

I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a drag-dressed octopus and its dribbling Tea Fiend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by the promise of strange fruit. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? Amontillado? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps…

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The painters’ daughter

 

Once upon a time, when you and I were naught but pips in the core of the great cosmic apple, there lived a painter. You might chance to meet him still, wandering the shore line as the sun rises over the blushing surf, counting the grains of sand or shuffling the streets at dusk, studying the cracks in the paving stones, calling down and listening for a voice.

Back in his studio, his tumbledown beach hut, he paints each grain, each echo. He paints the light and the shadow, the rising and the setting, the dance and sparkle and the soaking up and the deep. His eyes are full of dreams and his dreams are full of shades and glamour.

One day, the painter’s daughter bare-foot tip-toed into that secret space.

And gazed at all the many muchness of towers of tins of tangy turpscented rainbows.

And wondered what it would be – to touch, to taste, to take in and become such wonders.

One drip.

One lick.

In goes a flinger, smooth and slick.

Gloopy and gorgeful.

Smick  smuck  smack.

Blue, yellow, indigo,

Purple,

black.

She tasted blue – A taste of salt sea and pillow cases, stained glass and new slippers, skinned knees and berryjams and Monday mornings and shaggy hillsides damp in November fog.

She tasted yellow – A taste of custard of course. And a taste of bathrooms and tiled floors and a caravan holiday in 1975, old stiff newspapers and curled up cats, the dust that gathers on lampshades and dims the whole room and a taste of skin and bone and the streets of Rome in July.

She tasted green – A taste of coal and iron, old sandals and ploughed up earth, toadstools and pine woods and rain low down in the valley of the Dove.

Every colour in the universe she drank it down. She gorged on glamour and shade, on dances and sparkles, on things soaked up and deep. She swallowed down the soul of every colour until her limbs felt clogged and cloyed with the weight of them.

One small pot of black she saved for last, – a taste of burning and drowning, of being squeezed out and sucked up and exploded into stars, a taste of being held for eternity and the aching emptiness of an eggshell cracked too soon.

 

This black, she smuggled it away in her pocket, off to her little box bed beside the woodstove. There, when she was feeling dizzy with the reel of the rainbows spinning through her veins, she would sip

Sip

Sip

At the comforting black.

From that day on, every time the painter’s daughter opened her mouth, out spilled thick , oily paint in puddles and spewks that stained the folks and the things all around her in violent assaults of crimson,  viridian, amaranth and egg yolk.

She stopped opening her mouth.

Her limbs dragged heavy as a rag doll and every breath, every step, every heart beat was a drudge and a drain. So much colour inside. So much sparkle and depth. So much echo and shade.

Walking, talking, even breathing seemed mountains too steep to climb with all this weight inside.

She sat on her bed, day in day out, and sip

Sip

Sipped

At the comforting black

Until it spilled out of her eyes in puddles that pooled upon the patchwork quilt and cast back mocking rainbows.

That is how the little bird found her one day. He hopped upon her window sill and cocked his shining eye – the way the bird folk do – and then he fluttered down onto the eiderdown and whistled.

“Go away,” the painter’s daughter hissed, “do you think I care to see your coloured plumes? Do you think I am impressed? What if I told you that I am so full with the light and dark of every colour in the universe that I ache with it and to look at you does not fill me with joy or wonder, only regret and fatigue until I am sick of it.”

The little bird cocked his eye again – infuriating it is when they do that, y’know? – and he reached his yellow bill in deep amongst his tail feathers and plucked out a needle sharp quill the colour of every blue-green under the sea.

The painter’s daughter shrugged in scorn of him and made to turn away when

Ouvchsh!

The little demon jabbed the quill spike hard into the soft, pale flesh of her arm.

Out leapt a tiny spurt of paint.

Then slowly, and with the girl in thrawl,

He dragged the rainbow colours out

In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into traces of beauty and scope.

Here was a dream in flesh.

Here was pointillised pain.

Here was inside out for all to see and staining no one but herself; surely, no words would be needed now . The world would smile and nod its head at her, as they knocked shoulders in the street, and whisper

‘ah, so, that is how it is with her, mm, we understand now why she walks so slow and dares not speak. How could a child do otherwise, with so much colour inside?’

So she stepped out.

Stained.

With the bird quill tucked behind one ear

And bold, without fear,

Into a forest of fingers who pointed and blamed and waggled and shamed and prodded and poked and jostled and joked and fat cold palms that pushed her far away.

The painter’s daughter ran.

She ran on and on.

She began to feel very proud of her running.

One dark night, she came to a cave, above a river, above a pool, beside a village and into that cave she crept and lay down to sleep.

When she woke up the smell of sweet meat cooking down in the green valley filled her with hunger and the longing for all the things that human company ought to bring but seldom does.

So she spent the morning gathering leaves,  the afternoon stitching them together and by evening she had made for herself a fine long cloak that hid the patterns on her arms, and a hat with a broad brim to cover her face.

Under the stars, she took out the bird quill from behind her ear and dug it deep into her skin until it was slathed in colour, then she found a broad, flat stone and she began to paint

In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into illuminated forms both wild and wonderful.

Here was a dream on stone.

Here was pain projected, disembodied, disowned.

Here was inside out for all to see and staining nothing but this unfeeling earth. And the world would smile and nod and never know where all the colours came from.

As the sun rose over the valley, the painter’s daughter stepped down from her cave, down and down and into the village and by that afternoon the tongues were wagging like wild fire flames; who was the stranger in the cloak of leaves who traded her marvellous paintings for table scraps? Some had seen her return to the cave – a hermit then? An anchorite? A holy one, certainly, a wise healer, a cleric, a teacher, a goddess in the flesh… ?

Every day, more and more villagers made the trek up to the painter’s cave. They wondered at her work – colours and patterns that seemed to describe the deepest parts of themselves. The parts they never let show. How? They asked, with tears in their eyes, how can she know?

They bought canvases. They paid in gold.

Inside her cave, hidden from sight, the painter took her feather quill and emptied herself out for them.

Day after day.

Night after night.

Slowly, as time went by, she began to grow old and paper thin. She had to coax out the paint in crusted oozes from her gummed up veins. Sometimes finding the strength and the will would take hours. Often there was not enough. Not enough colour, not enough energy and too much pain of the flesh and the bone to finish the work. ‘One day,’ thought the painter, ‘one day I will dry up. There will be no way of getting these crusted up colours out of my dried up body any longer. And what will happen then? Will the world understand when I can no longer paint their pain for them?’

The painter smiled and shook her head. She stuck the feather quill behind her ear and pulled off her cloak and hat of leaves. Clotheless under the silver moon, she walked down to the lake pool and stepped right into the comforting black.

The next morning, when the people came up to the cave the painter was gone, but the waters of the lake below, as they looked down into the valley, were snaked with rainbows.

 

Hmph well, yes, at least we may thank our stars that this pathetic Poevember pranking is at end and speaking of stars they are all out and I must get back to my work and you must get back to whatever it was you were doing before you decided to pester me… GOOD NIGHT!

 

 


Pipe and Slippers:The Tell Tale Carp

Good evening and welcome to my pulchritudinous plethora of accumulated antiquities…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

old-library-1571043

I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of The New World.

But this is not a ‘lending library’; if you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a ludicrous Tea Fiend and their rampant octopus, let me assure you that you will find no frivolous fancies or biscuit-based buffoonery here. Here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you say? Late Bottled Vintage Port? Ten years eh?…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something to fight off the chill. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps…

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THE TELL TALE CARP

 

I do not wish you to think that there was any aspect of my wife’s character or disposition which lead me to hate her. In fact, I wish to make it perfectly clear to everyone reading this testimony that I did not, at any point either in her life or death, hate my wife. I loved her. In fact I still do. What I hated, what I came eventually to abhor to the point of distraction, was the way she ate pie.

Not just any pie.

After dinner, every blasted evening since we were wed, my wife would instruct our housekeeper, Mrs. Friggart, to serve us, in a white and blue pie dish rimmed with dancing sugarplums, a damson and bilberry pie.

I cannot begin to tell you the horror with which I came to anticipate the intrusion of that monstrous thing upon my tablecloth, for no sooner had it manifested then the dreadful ritual would begin.

First, off would come the crust, plucked apart by those delicate white fingers. Fingers which I had only ever imagined stroking ivory or lingering over the last fading petals of a lotus bloom were now to be unceremoniously plunged into the moist, fruity innards of Mrs Friggart’s pie.

I could barely bring myself to watch as she licked and slurped and savoured every last, sticky drop of syrup from beneath that brown and flaky crust. I shuddered as her tongue traced each drop’s passage down the slender digits, and sometimes, oh god, down the length of her forearm to the elbow.

Such shameless abandon to  the enjoyment of baked confection was not to be borne and so, one evening, after I had endured this torment for longer than any man of lesser mettle would have managed, I determined to put an end to the dreadful pie eater once and for all.

It was always customary on Fridays for us to have fish. Fish is such a beautiful food, filled with the potential for accidental death – an unseen bone lodged in the gullet…allergies…food poisoning…I had the Friggart  throw in some potted shrimp in the hopes of adding the happy chance of ptomaine into the bag and then (more as an after thought really) I filled up the salt sellar with warfrin, just to be on the safe side.

I was determined, you see, that she should never in that meal, reach the wretched pie. The thought of its vast, oval presence bored into my mind like some giant and ominous eye, watching my every move.

The morning found me agitated, the afternoon more anxious still, by evening I was fairly skipping about the place in anticipation; polishing the silver ware, tripping over the cat… at last the blessed hour of dinner arrived and my darling seated herself across from me at our neatly clothed table and began to eat.

You can imagine how I eagerly I watched her brow for traces of impending fever, how closely I pressed upon her the benefits of sodium, how keenly I strained my ears to hear the slightest hint of a choke or splutter…

At last I could stand the thought of the impending pie no longer and, in some wild frenzy, I leapt upon the table, seized the carp by the tail and shoved the entire fish down, with all my might, into my wife’s throat. It was not quite the way I had planned it but the results were satisfactory and I simply informed the coroner that the poor woman had been prone to these food-gorging outbursts at ‘a certain time of the month,’ to which he nodded sympathetically.

The funeral I laid on for my beloved was magnificent, the flowers were faultless, the choir sublime, the eulogy brought tears to  my eyes and not a soul suspected that she had not tragically gorged herself to death in a fit of feminine hormone-induced madness.

That, I thought, was an end of it.

Imagine my horror the following evening when, upon returning home from the office, I found my wife (still in her burial shroud and looking, I must confess, a little worse for wear) seated in her usual place and upon the table in front of her, a plate of freshly cooked carp.

I did not know what to do. The Friggart noticed nothing when she brought in my steak and potatoes (or f she did she was too polite to mention it) and so I was forced to sit and stoically ignore this apparition as it noisily slurped and sucked and crunched at the dreadful plate of carp.

I was terrified, of course, that my wife, having finished her meal, would now think it proper to ascend the stairs to bed with me but, once the plates and cloth were cleared away, and since no pie was forthcoming, she vanished.

The following night however, she appeared again and this grim pantomime of a last fish supper was re-enacted on my behalf again and again until after about a week of it I could very well see the work the worms had done on her. By the time a month was up her eyes were utterly devoured and the housemaids were beginning to raise their eyebrows at me and remark, behind their hands, about the smell.

But she did no harm other than give off a little funk and I was very nearly getting used to her nightly appearances when a dreadful – and I mean truly dreadful – thing happened.

It was my own fault entirely. I had been too bold, too jovial in my expressions, to light in my step. Aunts had raised their disproving eyebrows at my zealous chorusing in church – and one aunt in particular (a bitter old battleaxe who had been the utter scourge of my childhood and was evidently not going to rest in peace until she had blighted my manhood in some or other fashion) decided she would Pay Me A Visit.

The date I reluctantly arranged for the 3rd at 7pm and, in order that this examination of my mind and morals might seem merely an innocuous dinner party, my Aunt insisted on bringing with her a few, select, guests – her trusted physician Dr Jacobs,  our vicar Dr Hall and Professor Gilbertson the noted psychiatrist.

When I rose on the morning of fateful third I was ask easy and carefree as ever –for what had I to fear? My confidence in my own ability to set my guests at their ease was absolute; all day I practiced my wan smile, committed to memory several touching monologues describing my strenuous efforts to keep my British ‘chin up’ despite the inner pain I was harbouring secretly within my broken heart. That, I was certain, would make them ashamed that they had ever questioned my devotion as a husband and throw them off my back forever.

So assured was I in my own abilities, I had even set my wife’s shade a place at the table and bade the house keeper prepare us the same meal of carp that had been my wife’s last meal on earth – two touching tributes which I felt sure my aunt would appreciate.

When my guests arrived I bid them welcome with that same smile, touched with melancholy, that I had been perfecting. Throughout the dinner I was the perfect host, reciting my rehearsed responses to their probing questions with a natural ease. Even when my wife made her customary appearance and began to crunch her way through her own spectral plate of carp, I did not bat an eyelid.

But at length, as the meal wore on, I began to grow weary and pale, the weight of all this acting weighed heavily on my soul and I fervently wished the dinner to be over and my guests all gone home.

When the last mouthful was vanished and the last fork clattered to its plate I fairly sprang from my seat, ready to protest my fatigue and the lateness of the hour, my fears for the safety of travellers after dark and, oh, anything which might expedite their departure. But all my carefully planned excuses were cut short by the sudden appearance of the treacherous Mrs Friggart and her damnable damson pie! I stared in abject horror as she placed it in the centre of the table and laid before me the silver serving knife.

My eyes narrowed. So. The old bird knew all and she was now trying to torment me into a confession. Well, I would show her that I was made of stronger stuff!

Carefully I dished out the pie to my guests (and if my hand trembled a little I am sure nobody could have noted it) and when the grizzly ghost of my wife plunged her own spectral spoon into the pot I forced down my fears, willed the sweat from my brow and talked animatedly about the weather in an effort to block the dreadful sound of her gorging and slurping from my ears.

No doubt I had at this point turned very pale indeed. I talked ever more fluently and loudly, yet the sound of her savoury sucking increased – and what could I do? I gasped for breath, I clattered the crocks, I rose and paced the floor,  I  gesticulated wildly, I ranted, I swore!  – and yet my guests still seemed not to notice anything awry.

My wife, on the other hand, seemed to relish my agitation and her animated enjoyment of the housekeeper’s fruit pie only increased. She grew more and more absorbed, plunging her fist into the pie bowl, sending the purple juices flying so that they rained down over the table and the guests in a demonic storm.

And yet still my guests smiled and talked and got on with their meal – could it truly be they were witnessing none of this fiasco? … Or was it that they saw all and were simply mocking me, smirking inwardly at my torture? This, I became certain, must be the case!

Well, anything was better than this agony!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit, I confess the deed –I have murdered the hideous pie eater with a carp!”

 

 

Oh dear Goddess! It appears that, once again, we are dealing with an ape! I shall have to call in my good friend Dupin to fathom this mystery and catch the fiend who keeps entering my library, butchering my treasured tomes, and replacing them with this irreverent drivel!

Now, enough of this nonsense I have pie to eat…I…I mean work to do…

GOOD NIGHT!

 

 

 

 

all images from http://www.freeimages.com 

 

 

 

 

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