Recycling Old Tips

New Year Tips For Lovers …

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The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian Hindu text written by Vātsyāyana. It is widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behaviour in Sanskrit literature. A portion of the work consists of practical advice on sexual intercourse. Wikipedia

My blogs have often been accused of lacking any true advice; the kind that ordinary people (couples) can use to enhance their life experiences. I have steered away from the mundane in order to focus on the mental. It has been an unwritten policy that I have followed to the letter.

But today that all changes. 

Tips For Lovers is my attempt at becoming a super-blogger, one whom people turn to in times of need, one who dishes out wholesome help in times of need, one who triples the ether with everlasting notes of hope.

Christmas is a time for hope. When I was child it was full of hope, but delivered very little in the way of solutions. My prayers for a Leeds United football kit were answered with a royal blue of Chelsea. I have for most of my life now been a fan of Manchester United and I think that I can trace that back to my mother’s oversight. Manchester Unitedare hated by Leeds United and currently an ex-manager of Chelsea is running Manchester United. The fickle fingers of Fate, eh? Or just the soccer swinging merry go round?  And in recent seasons the ‘noisy neighbours’ have been popping around to ‘do one’ on us in our very own home (Man City for the disinterested). Which leads me on to my present gift to you readers.

I have owned a copy of the Kama Sutra for many decades. I bought it as a young and adventurous poet as I thought it would suit my projection of myself. I have, once or twice flicked through the pages, but never really taken note of it. It used to command a rather prominent  position on my bookshelf in the days when I posted tomes for the sole purpose of displaying my worldly knowledge. Since then, I tend to read all the books I buy. But not the Kama Sutra. 

And now, after much prevarication, I am at an age of years and wisdom to feel confident enough to share what I think I know.

My wife and I have been married for almost twenty years now and we are a rare species in that we have been married to the same person throughout that span of years. Like most married couples, we have our ups and downs. We fall out. We struggle through life’s yearly toils and then we go on holiday.

Where is this possibly going?

To the TIPS!

WE love the run-up to Christmas. We actually enjoy Christmas Day, especially if we have not ruined the meal. This year, instead of turkey (a bland bird that even refuses the advances of curry spices) we opted for something new. We wanted something a little less showy, a little more sophisticated, not one that prostituted its own demise each and every advent. So we chose a goose. It ended up being perfectly cooked and satisfied us in the extreme.

TIP Number 1: Add a little novelty (but with taste).

So Christmas came and Christmas went and New Year came and New Year went (the latter is not quite true as it is still here unless something has happened that nobody has thought fit to tell me about). And then the return of the mundane. We decided to spice things up a little, but not in the innocuous fashion of turkey left-overs.

“We need to offload,” my darling wife whispered.

I nodded. I may have winked. I wholeheartedly agreed.

TIP Number 2; Don’t be afraid to offload.

We decided to use the car for this. It’s a big car with lots and lots of space in the back. Ideal for our purposes.

Before long, we were busy stuffing things in. The dried out Christmas tree was first. I took it outside, said goodbye, thanked it in a manner that a Sioux would thank that buffalo he had just killed, failed to eat its liver (as Christmas Trees are rather odd in this respect), and then set about sawing away with a certain manic fervour. The neighbours were watching through peek blinds and I inhaled the joy of another adventure still to come.

TIP Number 3: If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing publicly.

A short time later, the back of the vehicle was crammed full of unwanted Yuletide rubbish. We pushed and pushed until it could take no more and when the time arrived we set off on our post-advent adventure. When we arrived, we found that lots of other couples had had the same yearning. It was with joy that we entered the council-run recycling plant and with consummate completion that we emptied ourselves of all of that which had built up over Christmas. Our burden will now become somebody else’s problem.

I almost forgot about the football kit. 

The Chelsea football kit did not enjoy a long life. Only a few weeks had gone by when I slipped and slid into a huge pile of toxic dog-shit which caused such an odious stench that my mother refused to wash it. She threw it out. In those days, there was not such a thing as recycling.  It simply went to landfill and is probably now the proud father of a healthy growth of tomatoes.

The Karma Sutra? I believe that that still resides somewhere within my book collection, but not so obviously on view as it had been before. These days, I do not like to advertise my well-informed credentials.

TOP TIPS; Take your pick:

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TOP TIPS FOR TOP FOLK!

Happy January, 

Mike2all

A Little Gift

In Time For Christmas

The next morning arrived. Grey clouds sat stubbornly overhead. Only a few of the castle’s defenders had slept, the rest had endured an uneasy journey from the previous day. Without much talk, people breakfasted and went to their positions. It would happen on this day, they were sure. 

By mid afternoon, an uneasy hush had swept across the castle and its grounds. A faint humming rolled towards them. Those on watch, girded themselves for whatever new plague would emerge. It was growing in volume, rolling like drums from beyond the grounds.

At exactly two fifty-seven, and Chris would remember this moment for the rest of his life, the drums stopped. Seconds later, a stag stepped out of cover and nervously sniffed the air. It picked up the smell of humans coming from the stones to its left, but chose to move towards them. Taking two tentative steps onto the  melting snow, it waited again, then broke into a gallop. 

From behind it came the gathering storm of hooves, each now in full flow. Wave upon wave raced across the lawns and then down the precipice and with practiced ease, raced down paths that no human could have followed. Then they were gone, a swathe of trodden slush the only sign that they had been there at all. Nature was in full flight before the Piper’s creatures. 

At seven minutes past three, the giant showed itself.

“So that’s it then?” Lucy asked.

“Yes, that’s our man,” answered Chris. 

A small group of them had gathered in the muniment tower to watch the gathering of the Leathers.

“He doesn’t look human,” she added.

“Technically he’s not, Lucy,” Mr. Dale took the opportunity of speaking, his rational tones playing against any panic that may have surfaced. “It’s like a mummy. From the look of what he is wearing,” they could see from there that he was dressed in an old cloth draped over his torso, “he was a member of a monastic order, probably a penitent. I would say that he ceased being human a number of centuries ago.”

“Whatever it is, it is certainly scary,” murmured Judith.

“That would be The Piper’s intention. Battles can be won before they are fought. It is fear that destroys armies and makes them run. Remember that the Piper is the heir of Pan and Pan caused panic in his victims before he struck.”

The news of the giant monk spread quickly. Panic had been intended and its seeds were sown. 

Amongst the audience was one Craig Dawkins, a young man who was well aware of what the monk was. Unlike the others, he felt a surge of enthusiasm. At last, he had the means to escape and get some very valuable cargo back to Flowers. He sat on the end of his bed and wondered just what would be given to him if he were to help capture the Andrews’ clan. His first step was make his escape, a thing easier thought than done in this place of heightened tension.

Since the events in the forest, his head had cleared. Dawkins was a rationalist. Whatever happened there had died there. He could not help them and wouldn’t wish to. One for one and one for onemeant putting yourself first. He had always been a survivor. As such, he recognised no bonds of loyalty, friendship or love, he was an island that only traded with others. On his own, he had to think and act quickly. The first problem that he had to solve was how to get out of his locked room.

Now he watched the leathers from his window, their dark forms filling him with certainty. Soon, he would be free. He listened to the confusion around him, the nervous voices, hurried feet, and the unmistakable hiss of panic. His secret smile was there again, the last time he had worn it was when his marksmanship had brought down the boy who had failed him. His contentment was twofold, first there were the Leathers who had been sent to save him and then there was his own deception, a masterstroke. They had fallen for it, had carried him childlike from the car, had tucked him up and cared for him. Now they would rue their kindness and he would ensure that. Outside the room came footsteps.

In all the confusion, they had almost forgotten about Dawkins. They had kept his room locked ‘just in case’, but visited him regularly with food and water. His normal carer was Mrs. Sanderson, the woman who had done so much to care for the children when they first fled the city. Now, the present crisis had taken her off with the other children again and nobody had spared a thought for their guest apart from Lucy.

She was sweeping the corridors and rooms making sure that nobody was left behind. Many of the small children read the signs immediately and the memories of the past came back. Mr. Dale and Mrs. Sanderson had collected them together and calmed them. After moving to the muniment room, a headcount revealed that at least one child was missing. Lucy volunteered to check the rooms. 

Whilst Dawkins listened with his ear to the oak door, Lucy’s voice was entering rooms and enquiring if there was anybody there. Her progress brought her closer and Dawkins clasped the metal fork he had been fed with. As her steps moved towards him, he folded back against the stone wall just as the handle began to turn. 

Lucy was a little puzzled. This door was locked. She searched for the answer before noticing the key that rested on the top of a small cabinet. She picked it up, inserted it into the heavy mechanism and turned it. When she pushed open the door, she found an empty room awaited her. 

“Why lock it?” she asked herself.

Two steps in and she had the answer.

When Dawkins saw that it was a girl who had entered his trap, he was both surprised and delighted. She would be easy to take down. He watched her careful steps, allowing her the access that a spider would give to a fly. His instinct was to strike, to bring pain and blood, to watch with amused interest, but he knew that she would be more useful as a hostage. His silent steps, unfettered by shoes gave him the advantage he required. With her back to him, she presented an easy prey.

As the mechanisms of Lucy’s mind were falling into place, Lucy simultaneously felt the cold touch of metal upon her exposed throat and heard the chilling words,

“If you move or scream or do anything that I don’t like, I’ll ram this fork as far into your throat as I can. It will hurt like hell. Do you understand?”

Beginning to tremble slightly, Lucy nodded her understanding.

“Now you are going to show me how to get out of here without anybody seeing us. Move.” 

The Edge Of Reason

Avenging Angel

Chris knew that Michael was not the same. Physically, he was bigger. He was obviously stronger. That run along the passageway and up the stairs was not something his older brother could have done before. And he did it without breaking sweat or having to catch breath.

Lucy had not said anything as yet, but she had spent her time considering his brother. On the surface, she had been friendly, but beneath, she was unsure. In the short time he had known her, he had begun to measure her reactions to people and situations. His mother also appeared nervous around her son.

“It is a concern,” the voice coming from the stairwell said. “I noticed something from the first moment I set eyes upon you,” said Mr. Dale. “I have seen this before and have since persuaded myself that I did not.”

Chris was confused yet Michael looked on resignedly. 

“In my previous role as a man of the cloth, I worked in India. India is suffused with the spiritual and their holy men are granted a status very rarely enjoyed by other mortals.

In that country, especially away from the main towns and cities, people’s lives are governed by a profound belief in the worlds that exist alongside our own. Spirits are to be found in everything from a beetle to a bull.

One day, I had the wife of a local farmer come to me for help. They were members of my church, attended every Sunday, but were also believers in Krishna. I was never absolute in my demands upon the church’s flock. I had this belief that most roads eventually led to God or, in some cases to his nemesis. Her husband had been bitten by a snake and was struggling for his life when a strange happening befell their youngest son. The child started to speak in an old language that nobody in the village understood, we found out later that it was Sanskrit, and the child lay with his father doing battle with the demon within for three days. When I was called, the father had made a miraculous recovery but the child was dreadfully unwell. It was as if he had sucked all the poison out of his father and was now suffering the consequences.

The thing that I noticed above everything else was the vague blue light, an ethereal aura, that encased the child. I saw that with you, Michael.”

“What happened to the boy?” asked Chris.

“I’m afraid he died. I tried everything to save him. Just before he went I read him the last rites, my belief was still stout back then, and he opened his eyes, looked straight into my soul and spoke in English. That was the first time I had heard that. He said that the Piper was awake and then he passed away.”

“What’s that got to do with us?”

“You know what it has to do with us. You’ve seen your brother in that other form. You saw what I saw. 

We are living in the time of judgement. I denied it to myself for so long, but now it is inevitable. These are the revelations that are in the Bible and there will be battles. You two are as much our weapons as anything we have found in the armoury.”

Outside a blast of winter rain peppered the windows and roof. In the hills to the north, the rain was falling with more vigour, melting snow and ice and swelling the streams that fed the rivers that flowed out of them.

The following morning, a member of one of the scouting parties saw the first line of leathers on the horizon and the alarm went up.

The Sword Of Christmas

“As you can see,” Graham said with pride, “Zack and his group have been doing an awful lot of groundwork. Indeed, they discovered these,” he continued and produced three swords from the armoury. “We have quite a selection of these and after out talk earlier, I think that swords may be one of our best forms of defence. Without their appropriate limbs, the leathers will struggle to do much harm.”

For once, his gentle humour failed to reach an audience so he continued.

“The next thing that I wish to ask is difficult,” he cleared his throat slightly. “You see, we need to get an early warning of their arrival so we would be best served by deploying a scouting unit that can cover the immediate areas around the castle. It will be a dangerous task so I only want volunteers. One thing to bear in mind is that you may have to move pretty quickly to get back to HQ if and when you do spot them.”

Keith Rains shot up a hand and this was followed by several others, all men in their late twenties or early thirties, all of them having lost family members. Then, Michael stepped forward and he was holding the sword he had picked out for himself. It was a shorter version of a long sword yet had a blade that was not straight. The blade had been fashioned into a facsimile of a series of flames, each one glinting with shiny menace. Graham had told him that the sword was favoured by German soldiers protecting the most important personnel. 

“It would have been used in a sweeping movement to ensure greater coverage and to keep the unwanted attentions away from those who were being protected,” Graham touched the blade and drew a little of his own blood in doing so.

“As sharp today as it was when it was first forged. They called this a Flammanschwert, the flame sword, and these edges meant that any strike would be intensified by the additional surface area. It was meant to maim.”

Chris had noticed that his brother’s presence brought immediate attention from the rest. It was not born of the charisma of Graham, the wisdom of Mr. Dale of the admiration of Judith. No, when Michael was in the room, people just stopped doing those things that they would have been doing; chat and movement were stilled as if awaiting the arrival of some natural disaster.

If Chris had not known his brother so well, had not understood his truly sensitive nature, had not seen his head stuck, night after night, into some grand book or other, he would have felt the same as the others.

“I volunteer,” Michael announced. This was followed by his brother who was now standing shoulder to shoulder with him.

The rise in optimism was matched by a hike in temperature. The signs of a thaw were there for all to see and, whilst usually the disappearance of snow brought about a twinge of sadness, everybody welcomed its short, if powerful life span.

Within little time, the organisation for the defence of the castle was completed to a satisfactory level. The rat runs were trodden and re-trodden to familiarise all with the evasive measures that would probably be required. Graham, his knowledge of history becoming their guide to survival, set up three murder holes, confined areas were attackers could neither move backwards or forwards once they had entered and where his quickest and strongest males could strike with relative impunity.

Because of the confined spaces, only short swords and spears could be used. However, Keith Rains had equipped himself with a ‘morning star’, a brutish looking club that was studded with vicious spikes. “I used to play cricket a bit so I should still have a good swing,” was his explanation for choosing such a weapon.

Towards twilight, the first of the refugees began to emerge from the countryside. First there came two young men, all smiles and greetings not disguising their discomfort at being within such a large group of strangers. Then, very soon afterwards, came more and more. On questioning, it would seem that the empty landscape through which Graham’s band had travelled was not so empty after all. The group’s reluctance to venture into buildings meant that they had missed numbers of others who were just hiding and surviving. For all they knew, Graham may have been in charge of a mopping up exercise run by The Piper so they did not show themselves.

“So why now?” Mr. Dale wondered aloud.

The dreams. They had all experienced dreams about the leathers and these dreams had been so disquieting, so very different to the replays of the previous terrors, that many of them took them to be warnings of things to come. Then they had dreamt about the man who was yet a boy, the one with a sword of flames, the one who had the brightest light at his back but not upon him, and they headed towards the castle in which he resided believing that he could halt the flood of their hunters.

“That’s him,” a voice cried out in amazement, its owner pointing towards Michael who had just entered the room with his brother. “That’s him from my dream.”

A tide of rising whispers seeped into the library with faces turning towards the one who had been identified. In return, Michael walked quickly from the place intent on becoming as invisible as he could.

“Michael wait for me,” Chris was after him. “What is it? Why were they pointing at you?”

Michael had broken into a run by this point and his brother had to do likewise to keep up. The pace increased to a sprint as they raced along the ground floor and then the eldest darted to his left and through a large opening that took them into another tower. Taking the stairway two steps at a time, they were soon at its summit. Chris was breathing heavily, the short activity having taken a surprising amount of energy from him. His brother, who was standing by the towers widow looking out to the east, was apparently in no discomfort at all.

“What was all that about? Why did you run away?”

Michael hesitated for a long time before answering, “They think that I can save them. They believe that I have been sent here to stop the leathers.”

“That’s stupid. How do you know that?”

“Have you not seen it in their faces? Every time somebody looks at me, there’s something in their eyes. Have you not noticed how only a few of them actually talk to me. The young ones, they talk, they’re not the same, but the older ones…sometimes some of them can’t even meet my eyes. They look at their hands or their feet. Others just rush away as soon as they can.”

“Perhaps it’s just your imagination.”

Again Michael looked towards the gathering dusk.

“When I was with Mum, I had this dream, it was as if I couldn’t wake up. You were in a wood somewhere and you were with Lucy. There was a man who was pointing a gun at you. You were in danger. I saw the man. No the physical one, but the one inside him and it was The Piper. He’d coiled himself up inside this bloke. Inside him was this snakelike creature that controlled all of his actions and the creature was commanding it to kill you. Payment. That’s what it was after. Payment.”

“That happened. Just last week. We had stopped by this big private school and Will, a bloke who came in with Judith, made me go up the woods where he was going to kill me. He had a gun. Said that it was for The Piper and he talked about the debt. It’s a good job that he couldn’t shoot straight.”

“I distracted him. At the very last moment, he saw me and I saw him. You were thinking about the window you had seen in the church.”

“How do you know?”

“You thought that the figure in the window was me.”

The younger brother listened without interrupting.

“The Man in the window had something like this hadn’t he?”

Michael was holding up his sword and, in an instant, Chris noticed the flames, the real fire that danced along its edge. “Chris, I don’t know who I am any longer. I have blackouts. Look at me. Am I the same brother you had less than two months ago?”

The Last Hope

Safe and Sound

The castle was built for both attack and defence. Its commanding view of the surrounding countryside gave it a great advantage for seeing the enemy whilst providing a platform from which counterattacks could be launched.

Facing to the south and east, lay the moat and to the north and west the castle was perched upon the most imposing of rock precipices that few would dare to climb. Below the rocky outcrop, separating the fortress from the town, was a river which snaked into the grounds from the west and curved round the northern walls before swinging east and then north back towards the source of its flow. Again, nature had been thoughtful enough to provide another line of defence. In other times, the castle could be said to be a complete fortress.

It had been the curiosity of the young ones that had discovered the armoury and it was also their adventurous nature which provided the group with a working knowledge of its internal layout. The various tourist maps of the castle had given them a basic compass, but it was the energy and need to explore that made their knowledge so impressive. While the adults had been busy with the celebrations on the first night, the kids had been off, working in groups, opening doors, venturing down stairwells and hallways; even descending into the lower places that used to be the dungeons. In the space of twenty four hours, they had a complex understanding of the place. And, they had found the armoury.

Since escaping the school they had grown. They were, to all intents, twenty first century children who had had the twenty first century stripped away from them. In essence, they had been picked up by the scruff of their necks and thrown back almost three centuries to a pre-industrial age. They were not only children but integral members of a self-sufficient community and they were contented creatures of this new age.

Zack, although not the eldest, was a leader of sorts. He was tough and brave in a way that allowed him to enjoy an occasional spurt of recklessness. His foray into the deep halls of the castle was the adventure that resulted in the discovery of the golden fleece. He was also a bright lad. All in all, there were now thirty three youngsters, a number having deserted the group during the days whilst leaving the city. Nobody ever mentioned these, dreading to think about the fate that they had decided upon.

“It’s in here, Mr. Hunter,” Zack had not had sufficient contact with the old man to use his first name.

Double doors surmounted by a silver plaque proclaiming the word, ‘Armoury’ opened up to his touch. Graham, a child once more, walked into the room, struggling with the possibility that he would be allowed to handle such weapons. Moving along the glass cases and cabinets, he saw sabres, cutlasses, claymores and even a scimitar (brought back from a crusade). His eyes were wide with glee and expectation. Zack watched with an imperceptible shake of his head, adults were often as childish as children.

“Its okay, they’re open, Sir.”

Carefully placing his hand on the unlocked casing, Graham eased it open and reached inside to place his hand on the hilt of the scimitar. Fingers forming a soft glove, he lifted it from its restraints.

“A scimitar, Zack. I can’t believe that I am holding one. It’s fabulous. When I was a boy, I dreamt of owning one of these things. Don’t you think it’s beautiful?”

Zack did indeed think that it was a thing of considerable beauty.

“Yes. I think it is wonderful.”

“It was the sword of the Moors. You can still see it on the flags of Arab countries.”

“I know, Sir. We did that in History with you in Year 7.”

“Yes, Zach. I had forgotten that you were in my class back then. And here we are now.” He paused for a while to consider what had gone. “We have work to do, don’t we?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Zack, you know the castle as well as anybody.”

“Better.”

“Good, then I want you to show me all that you know. I want shortcuts, hidden passages, I want to see places where we can run to if it gets bad, I want a way out if it gets really bad. Do you understand?”

“Of course. It’s like Lord of the Rings isn’t it?”

“You’ve got it Zack, but I think that Orks have a nicer disposition.”

They were sharing the joke when Chris spoke. He and his brother had made their way to the armoury using one of the other boys, Lewis, as a guide.

“Is it alright if we join you?”

“The more the merrier,” chuckled Graham through heightened spirits.   

A Tale Before Christmas

Talk Room

“We were just driving along, the car was handling the roads easily enough, Ian was driving. I was sitting in the back with Sue. Then they came from nowhere. They were all around us, coming out of the trees.

I think Ian thought they were human because he swerved to avoid them. When he did, he lost control and that was when we hit the wall. We went straight through it and then down the slope towards the stream. We’d been travelling slowly but our momentum took us down the slope quickly. We were hitting trees and stuff, bouncing from one to the other. We were getting thrown around a bit in the back because we had not bothered putting out seat belts on. When we came to a stop, we had straddled the stream, bank to bank, and that’s when we saw them.”

Each of his sentences carried a note of dread that was transferred to congregation around him. Each word built on the one before to create a deeper realisation of what they could be facing.

“We knew we had to get out. There were  child-locks on the back doors and Ian was slumped over the steering wheel. Blood was everywhere, coming from his head, I think he was dead. Louise was panicking. I’ve never seen her like that before. She had the baby in her arms, it was a surprise that she hadn’t dropped it in the crash, but she was out of the door. Sue was screaming, she was puling at the handle, begging Louise to let her out. For a moment I thought that Louse was going to leave us there. She had that look about her, survival and all that. At the last moment, she undid the door and Sue managed to get out. I’d climbed over the front seat and was in the stream. Those things were almost onto us. I just ran.”

“What about Sue?” somebody asked.

“I thought she was alright, I thought she could run…” hesitation precipitated confession. “I left her. She was on her knees in the stream and I left her. They were there at the other side of the car and I left her.” 

Jason started to sob heavily, the recognition of his sins now standing before him. Heaving his way through the pain, the faces of some of the others showing reproach, he was lost at the lacerated point of his original decision. It was replaying itself on a loop, his hand reaching out and then puling away, Sue there in the water, the dark figures splashing madly towards him. This could be his purgatorial landscape, forever.

Laura, seeing his struggle, touched his arm. It was only the lightest of touches, one that was meant to remind another that they were not alone, a touch that suggested that others had travelled on that path. Still down there in his own depths, Jason felt the pull of the woman and started to climb towards it..

“I just ran. I ran. Louise had got to the other bank and she was starting to make her way up the hill. Those things were right behind us and we had the baby. I heard screams, screams that came from Sue but I didn’t look back. We ran.”

The room was quietly waiting for the rest of his narrative.

“We managed to get to the top of the first hill. Well, almost to the top. Louise was carrying Tom, the baby, and she was tired. No she was exhausted. She fell in the snow. I was in front of her when I heard her shouting for me to come back. The things were only about thirty yards away. I wanted to run some more but I looked in her eyes and I heard the baby cry.

I shouldn’t have left Sue there for them to get her. I turned back and tried to lift her. All she said was that I should take the baby. She pleaded me to take Tom and save him. I said I could help them both, but we knew I couldn’t. They were closing in and I got Tom. I just ran and ran thinking that my lungs would burst, that I’d have a heart attack or something. I must have been running for a while, up and down those hills with those things always behind me. Eventually, I reached the top of another hill. I fell most of the way down and then these people showed up. They saved me.”

Nobody spoke. A solid silence had been thrown across the gathering in the library, each individual having been transported to that cold landscape where only demons kept one company. Jason sat motionless with the hand of Laura still upon him. Most people were doing everything they could to avoid making eye contact with anyone else.

“There but for the grace of God go I, “ uttered Mr. Dale.

Addressing the library, Graham said, “Well, I think that this may have changed our plans somewhat. In the light of this I think we ought to open up the debate. Out there are hundreds, possibly even more, of these things. I hate to say the word Zombie, but that seems to fit.”

“We call them Leathers. We fought one and he was certainly not one of the ‘recently dead’. I don’t think  they go in for whole scale cannibalism or can infect anyone they bite, but they are dead. The one that we came in contact with was all hide and nothing else. It was as if he had been dry frozen or something. He was strong, not super strong, but strong like it would have been if it had still been alive. We burnt ours. It didn’t like that, but I have a feeling that it was not fully finished with.

The second one we ran into was a more recent one. His skin hadn’t turned to leather, but he was one of them,” Laura looked anxiously towards where Michael was standing with the mother and children but he had taken them and left the room. “Michael, my son, killed him by blowing up the house we’d been staying in. It was a massive explosion and that, most definitely, finished him off.”

“Do you think that other things could kill them?” asked Judith.

“They move around in daylight, they are not afraid of water, they have obvious strength, perhaps not superhuman but something. We haven’t tried silver bullets or crosses or holy water or garlic or wooden stakes. Just the fire so far.”

Everybody was listening intently to this modern day ghost story. 

“So they are still made of skin and bone,” asked Keith Rains, “and if they are then we have a chance. I’ve seen a fair share of horror movies and there’s always ways of killing the evil dead things. What would they do if we managed to chop off their heads or legs? If they are skin and bone, leather and bone, then we have chance.”

“And we are in a castle. There are suits of armour all around,” added another enthusiastically.

“And there’s an armoury,” Zack Borthwick, a twelve year old from St. Agnes suggested, “with loads of swords and stuff. We could use them.”

“That’s a great idea,” Graham said seizing upon it, “we need to sort out some defences, get armed, make sure we know all the castle’s strengths and weaknesses. We need places to defend and places to fall back to. At the moment, we hold the advantage, this s a castle after all and the have to try to get in. Fortunately for us, these castles were built with an eye to both attack and defence. We could hold out here indefinitely. All we have to do is get ourselves organised.”

There was a flicker of understanding in the eyes of Dawkins. He had spent his incarceration listening to all that had been said. He was not just looking for his opportunity to get away from these people, but was looking for an advantage, something that he could take back with him and a tribute that could serve him well. 

“How long have we got?” enquired Mr. Dale looking at Laura. His reply came from another place.

“I think that we have another day before they get here. Some may already be here watching us and working out our weaknesses, but the main body of them will take at least another day.” Heads turned towards Michael’s impassive delivery.

“Thank you Michael. In that case, haste shall govern our preparations,” the history teacher replied to his once pupil.

Christmas Memories

Lovely, dark and deep.

Lucy’s Diary 22ndDecember 

Will everyday be like these? I sometimes wonder if we are meant to be living through or just suffering them.

Last night would have constituted one of the best of my life. ‘David’ who still likes to be known as Chris. I can’t help calling him David and it’s becoming a bit embarrassing. Anyway, last night was one of the first normal nights that the world has possibly seen since The Purge and Graham led a celebration for our deliverance. More importantly, Chris kissed me for the first time.

I know that it has been coming, right from the start the signs were evident, but it would have been magnificent if he had not seen ‘The Giant’, as he is now commonly known, snooping around in the grounds. That put a stop to the kissing and started that look again, the look that becomes increasingly unsettled and suspicious, the look he had been wearing when we first met. There is part of me that likes ‘the look’, it’s deeply handsome and mysterious, but then there is another part of me that feels uncomfortable when its appears. There is a story behind that look and I don’t think I want to ever know about it. The result of that was that David kept awake that night, all night, believing that I was asleep. He kept a watch for the thing that he had seen. As soon as it was first light, he was ready and out, I watched him from the window as he covered the area where he thought the thing had been. He found something alright, footprints, made by bare feet, and he followed them out of the grounds before turning back. I was fully dressed at this point, about to follow him.

When he returned to our room, the one in which we made a solemn promise not to share a bed, he told me all about what he had found and we went to Graham and Judith’s room to spread the glad tidings. Graham and Judith are good people and they are also good at meetings. I think they like meetings as a way of bringing about a democracy. Even in these times, they have held onto their principles and one of these must be to be completely upfront with all of the group around them. I think ‘upfront’ should be rationed out so that people don’t get it into their heads that ‘upfront’ means that they have the right to do exactly what they want to do. Louise, the woman with the baby, who wanted to execute Will, obviously thought that ‘upfront’ meant that she had a right to scaremonger and convince some of those closest to her that leaving was their only sensible option.

Graham, Judith and Mr. Dale, managed to quieten any mutiny and we were just drawing up plans against a possible attack when a car horn was sounded. Knowing that Louise’s group had taken a four by four, we thought that it must be them returning, but, at a sprint, Chris was up and running for the main entrance. Most people were too surprised to react as quickly and it took us some time to get to where he had headed. By the time we had gotten there a woman, who I had never seen before, was standing just inside the main doorway and she was holding a child in her arms, the baby that belonged to Louise. People were confused and some became a little angry, one woman who knew Louise well snatched the baby from the other woman’s arms and another asked viciously where she taken the baby from. Fortunately, before things could get any worse, Graham came to the front of the group, looked at the woman, called her Mrs. Andrews, and hugged her.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is Chris’ mother.”

There were a few embarrassed apologies after that but I was busy seeing where Chris had gone. At that moment, Jason, a grey cloud covering him, came inside. Behind him came another woman and two children who were obviously brother and sister. The woman was being led along by the boy and she had the appearance of one of those people who have been confined to an institution for a long, long period. A little after that came Chris, helping to support a boy who was draped between him and another stranger. The stranger I had seen before, just when Will had fired that bullet at Chris’s head way back in the school woods. I remember thinking that he looked like Chris, but darker. That’s when I saw the Labrador and the cat (that had an ear missing). They just sat there on the top step watching the people who were gathering around the new arrivals. There was a strange wisdom about them that seemed more human than animal. All in all, this little group was another ingredient all together.

The questions were coming in waves and Jason started to look more and more like a man who could not face what had happened. Tears were in the backs of his eyes and the now familiar haunted look sat upon him. When he sat down to tell his story, we understood why.