The Piper 7


Liam could not remember when he had last slept.

Maybe it had been years. Who cared?

What he did know was that when others chose to close their eyes, he wandered.

Everything had taken place as he had been told. He had a sanctuary of his own that had been provided with a computer. The had a chance to catch up wit homework and the present world. He was a boy who should have been give the chance to do well. Now he would seize the opportunity.

Liam attended school on a drip-feed basis.; whenever he needed to feed, he dripped. If all went well, he would become a bricklayer or something else that would require him to work with his hands rather than his head. Good physical labour would be his saviour, either that or a stint in the army. The boy who sat in front of the computer knew that the army would be his destination, but it would be an army that answered to him and not one that fought wars on foreign soil for the betterment of all.

This Liam was a very different the Liam that had been recorded in the records that the  school and social serves had.

At first, it had been the television with its late shows stretching off into the morning. He would then sit through the endless nonsense of chat shows and re-runs. Sometimes he would watch The Learning Channel and that was more rewarding. He found himself drawn to programmes about history, physics and especially religion. He loved religion and would pity those who now chose to ignore it.

If there was one key to the secrets of everything, then the Internet would provide it.

Since its beginnings, men had worked tirelessly to give their knowledge for free. At school, the teachers placed restrictions on access to this, believing that the boys would try to find sites for sexual yearnings. Many of them appeared obsessed with the female form, naked and defiled and Liam thought this was good, but he didn’t waste his time on such matters. Liam was a learner. He had always been one yet showed nothing of this to those who called themselves teachers or adults. Liam learnt in secret, scouring the world for everything that could be of use to him.

Since he had moved in with The Leatherman, Liam had grown in understanding. The body in the armchair had fascinated him. Its controlled preservation was nothing short of a miracle that awaited his own coming. During darkness, when only the light from his monitor fell across the room, he felt the eyes, long since turned to dust, watching him, pleading for release. Time would come.

Somewhere along the way, he had mastered many skills that enabled him to quietly contact others who had been waiting for him. He established websites that reached out insidiously across space, drawing in those who too didn’t sleep. Many were young like himself, but a significant number were older and some were very old. They had been waiting for him and word was spreading of his arrival like echoes in a sewer.

Soon, his nerves tingled,soon.

Liam had recently taken to wandering the streets. Moving like a shadow along the unwanted hours that people threw away. He loved the illicit mutterings of this time, of the groans of sleepers, the scuttle of feet belonging to creatures that ventured out beneath sight, the plotting of acts whose names could only be whispered. Liam was a nefarious tourist, glimpsing a kingdom that could soon be his. The Piper had been right. Everything was turning towards his promise. Everything was moving along the lines that had been drawn so very long ago. Everything, that was, until the two new boys turned up.

He knew of them before they had arrived. He had been warned many years before but had forgotten.

There are those who will not follow you. They are afraid of you, but they will stand against you. If you let them live, they will attract others from both sides of the void. You must find them before they find themselves. I have tried. There is something protecting them, something stronger than I have encountered before. You must break them.

Now those words flooded back, filtered through his plans and forced him to act. The night was his and he moved with the assurance of a nocturnal. He developed his other senses for detection. Sound and smell became his allies as he moved about the streets. He had checked the obvious routes, but someone had been at the school files and had ensured that there was no address for the boys. He had decided to have them followed, yet they seemed to pre-guess his plans and always managed to avoid their pursuers. It had never occurred to Liam that they would come with their own assistance. If you want something doing well, do it yourself.

Anyone who may have been on the same street as Flowers at this time would probably not have seen him. They would have heard the rush of movement as the floor became alive with sleek, dark bodies, but they would not have sensed their death. The city was alive with the whisper of vermin and a flood of expectation. Where he walked, there was a vague tune which entranced them to the core. A shared memory was being revealed and their gatherings were moments to rejoice.

This was what had been foretold, the bringer of The Piper, and now he wanted something from them. He wanted those who would stop what would happen, he wanted to end the line of those who had inherited the hesitancy of the lame boy so long ago. He wanted the Resistors.


Before long, he would have them.















Mind Games


The cure was discovered at 3.05 am whilst wandering during an interval of sleep.

His episodes follow similar patterns. He wakes, he walks, he leaks, he checks his blog. On the way back to bed, he has an idea. He tells himself not to forget the idea before falling into a shallow sleep.

In the morning, the idea has flown.

Not tonight, he told himself. Tonight he would conquer the forgetfulness of sleep. Tonight he would remember. He should have put some writing paper at the side of the bed. He could have sent an email to himself that he would wake up to in the morning. He could even have carved the idea into the skin of his arm. At this point the reader must be reminded that the subject has only just come off Prozac.

No, he thought. No.

‘I will write the idea on the wall opposite the bed.” Again this was a lack of Prozac. “I will imagine that I will write it on the wall. Then, when I get up in the morning, I can look at the wall and read the large print that was made with black paint. Simple.”

Some time later he slept. Some time after that he woke. The morning chorus was doing its rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.

“Is this the real life,” he thought before something dragged him out of the moment. “The wall,” he thought, “The wall has writing on it.”

He looked at the wall and it had no writing on it which was a good thing as huge letters in black paint would be very difficult to erase. Indeed, his snoozing wife would have probably killed him as an act of mercy. Still, he gazed at the wall, but there was nothing to read.

Frustration began to fill him. His mind had been playing tricks. Whatever he had thought about during the night had now flown off with the Queen-tweeting-chorus of birds. Yet something in his mind told him that his nocturnal self had placed another trigger for him to use.

“Touch the letters, one by one, trace their contours.”

He wasn’t about to climb out of bed and start stroking the wall opposite his snoozing wife for fear that she may wake. He could imagine, all too well, the expression projecting from her face. “Perhaps a home for him,” he could hear her thinking. So he merely sat there, next to his still snoozing wife and imagined stroking the wall.

In a matter of seconds, the idea reappeared.


Mind Games. 


Hull And High Water

“the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

“events as yet unseen”

He had been shaken from sleep by a hand belonging to some thing that he could not comprehend. The hand had come at the end of a particularly tempestuous week with the warmth of new hope being chased by the storms rising up from the ground. Now he wandered on the keyboard of his life, choosing words that might describe the things that he may have seen.

The pre-deluvian world was coming to a close. He had not considered this as he started out upon his journey at the start of the week. For him, the clouds had parted and a languid ray of acceptance had thrown down his path. Some inner voice had whispered that his struggle was done, that it was time for him to put down the sword, or the pen, and just live.

And, in that moment, he was content.

He had carried the bundle of content to the place of learning. The content was wrapped up into a tight roll on the back of his bike as the sun arose. He cycled surely yet found time to appreciate the little things that nature had thrown into the fields along the way that he went. “Enjoy the little things,” the voice had whispered and he was even more content. It was only when the great road arrived with the faces of those inside that he took another moment to consider. Yet he, and his roll of content, found shared warmth.

In this manner, he navigated the first of the week’s days. The day of the moon was the day of the sun. For others, Monday was not so fair; tragedy had been visiting in its randomised reasoning and its victims bore the marks of its unwanted gifts. He tried to keep his roll of content to himself as to show it around could have been to invite envy or worse.

“Chairo,” the voice had whispered, “chairo.”

It was all Greek and his tongue did not stretch to it. Yet upon tasting the word, he rejoiced. He had reached the place of contentment and it had been with him all along.

“Chairo,” he sang as his peddles turned for his homeward journey. There was some sunshine within him, some cloud too, some warmth, and some cold.


When he reached home, he stabled the bike and set about creating a feast for the family. He searched and searched the kitchen, the pantry and the cupboards until he realised that all the food had been eaten. He searched the house for signs of any of the three bears that may have wandered in, but none were to be found. The only thing left for the ‘feast’ were eggs. He counted them and was content that a meal could ensue.


That night, he slept with contentment. All the house slept. And the following morning rose with another sun. His wife and he were exhausted from deep repose and they questioned the reason over morning tea.

When time came for his daily journey to begin, he again brought the bike from the stables. He set off with a hummed tune that was to slowly disappear before he reached the gates of learning. During the day, he did not need to do battle with his wards who appeared to have tired of the struggle. Once again, he was content. But it was at that moment, that he realised with cold concern that he had left his tight roll on the bed that he had risen from.

“Chairo,” I said with more than a little caution.

Then the afternoon arrived and with it came a message. In those days they were called emails rather than the voice of God. The email promised much but was blackened when it reached his heart. He was to be tested for his ability to perform the tasks that he had performed so well for so long.

Chairo was the furthest thing from my mind.

The night, his displeasure oozed from him like liquid from a wound. He did not sleep well having used poor words to speak to his wife. She also shared his cobbled rest.

The next morning he left the bike in the stables and used the car. He took a cloud into the staffroom to share with the people there. He had fallen from a false state and was being punished for his carelessness.

Still with anger at his previous night’s work, his wife accepted apologies and gifted him with another email. It was the words that he had been waiting for, but thought that he would now never receive.

Chairo! Another place of learning in another kingdom wished to speak to him. All was well.

It was later in the afternoon that he discovered a plot by one member of my school to unsettle him. False words, wrong insinuations, damning connotations about his teaching.

He had little time to build an ark, but build it he would.  




The Piper 5


Nightmares happen.

The young man had woken with a start. He was in that instant that sleepers recognise, that moment when they wake surprised by the strangeness of their surroundings. The boy was waking up on a bus that was a long way past the place he was meant to get off. Nightmare!

He must have gone way past where he had intended to be because he didn’t recognise anything. Before he climbed off the vehicle, he asked the driver where he was and received a reply that he had been dreading. He was near St Agnes, in the West Lake Park estate, and this was not an area for an outsider to be in at this time of night.

With the bus heading off into the wet splash of the darkness, he pulled his hood up around him and crossed to the other side of the road. From there, he would walk until he found another bus stop that would take him back. The driver had told him that one would be along within another fifteen minutes or so. Fifteen minutes felt like a century.

The road he was walking along looked like any other council estate road in the city. He knew from experience that some places were decent and safe whilst others were best avoided. This one fell into the category of ‘AVOID AT ALL COSTS’. Another thing he knew about was the evidence of gang markings in the form of graffiti.

The gangs used this method as a form of marking their territory; it meant KEEP OUT. Of course, they were happy if someone wanted to cross into their turf as this meant that they could lay down another marker that usually meant a severe beating that would be filmed on mobile phone cameras. These shots would then be uploaded to an Internet site where the prowess of their gang could reach a wider audience. The boy was not a gang member, but he was not from around these parts. If he was lucky, he would be on the bus back to where he was supposed to be. The streets were empty of people and he hurried along looking as inconspicuous as he possibly could.

To his relief, he spotted a bus stop that had a shelter where he would be able to wait until he gained his escape. He did not see the things that were watching him from the darkness and was not able to hear their alerts and communications.

He looked at his watch. There was no timetable to read as it had been the subject of a sustained campaign of vandalism. Marker pen and spray paint had been used with limited effect whereas the latest strike had resulted in something entirely more permanent; it has been torched. Somebody had doused the thick plastic casing in some inflammable liquid or other and had set light to it causing the plastic to give way to the intensity of the heat and run in unrelenting rivulets along its surface.

Now, as the boy stared at the charred results, the timetable not even a distant memory, he wondered how long he would have to wait. At least the rain had provided him with cover.

A long shiver ran down his spine and he pulled his coat around him. He tried not to think of the things he had heard about. The gangs here were legendary. The stories that surrounded them were stuff of dark mythology and their quoted exploits were too much to even contemplate. He tried not to think about this, but they came back to him, seeping through his consciousness and quietly drowning any optimism that still remained. He looked at his watch again and the hand did not appear to have moved. In the corner of his vision something did move and caused his head to swivel quickly towards its perceived location.

There was nothing.

He looked once more, but found the darkness had become impenetrable. Just the dark, he thought without finding comfort. If he could not see into the darkness, then the darkness could not see him or into him. Odd that last thought.As he sat, his mind imagining the arrival of the bus, last rescue, a dark circle was forming around him. Slowly, imperceptibly so, it began to draw itself towards its focus.

He looked at his watch and tried to pull the minute hand along by squinting his eyes. This way, the whole thing went blurry and he could make the time anything he wished. He was doing this, adopting a Chinese face, when he felt something brush against his leg. He jumped.

With his eyes open now, he took moments to adjust to whatever was left of the light… The rain was still pelting down, cutting away his long view of the street. He suddenly felt really alone and shivered from something that was now more than cold. Something else brushed past his leg, something bolder, something without fear. He looked down towards the floor and thought he saw a rising tide of black water. Must be from the drains. Drains must be flooded.He didn’t have chance to recoil before some other thing barged into his calf followed by another and another. Must be stuff washed up from the sewers.His legs were now deeply rooted in a living stream of blackness. The whole area around him was moving, swirling in angry eddies of intent and he felt fear, a fear that he could never have imagined, and it gripped him in its ancient hands.

He was drowning in the torrent, being carried or dragged along by its relentless progress, when he reached out and saw the approach of someone who would save him.

“Help,” he almost screamed before a black form ran into his mouth and bit completely away, with razor sharp teeth, his tongue.

“What’s wrong? Rat got your tongue?”

Before he disappeared beneath the deluge, he saw that the person before him, the one who he had hoped would be his rescuer, was not really a person at all.

Only a shape; or a shadow.


The darkness grinned as his motionless body was pulled down through the more than welcoming opening of the drain.



The Piper 4


Tony Blackledge read the case history and almost cried.

All his years in the field of social work had never fully salted the wounds he felt at the injustice that was regularly visited upon many of society’s most vulnerable citizens. He particularly felt the pain of the young who were caught up in cycles of abuse and indifference and rarely had the chance to escape. He liked the words of Elliot Ness from the film The Untouchables, ‘Let’s go do some good’ and kept it as a slightly ironic motto.

Now, as he saw the boy, he could not help thinking that he ought to have felt more than sorry for him. There had been lots of cases where the child had suffered as a result of a bad parent or just plain bad luck. Liam had had both. So Tony should have been able to understand his plight and to show empathy. What Tony did not expect to feel was fear.

From the first moment the social worker had been given the file, he had been aware of a particularly bad headache.

“You need a holiday,” his manager laughed.

Tony had laughed back but that did not assuage the pounding that had begun to vibrate around the lining of his skull. That night, he tossed and turned the hours away and by morning he was feverish and feeling decidedly under whatever weather was waiting outside. He called in sick and meant to get an appointment at the doctor’s. He fell back to sleep before doing so.

What Tony fell into was like nothing he had experienced before. Even sleep, with all its inversions of reality had never come anywhere close to producing something so profoundly unnatural and disturbing as this. For what seemed a decade, Tony literally fell and fell. The helpless sensation pervaded his soul and he gave into the desperation of the powerless. He fell until finally he hit the lake.

He now thought that he would drown in this darkness of a sleep that was not sleep. As he lay powerless in the depths, he sensed the movement of many things around him. Disembodied hands were pulling at him. Some were pushing and some were pulling him towards the surface and he was hopeful that this was the precursor to him regaining consciousness, but that day never came.

Instead, he was deposited on a shore with turgid waters nibbling at his feet. He was sure that he was in Hell. Tony spent time on that black ash carpet and woke to the sound of a serpent-like tune sliding across the lake towards him. The more he listened, the more it seemed that the notes in the tune were in fact separate entities that were raised from the depths to conjure yet more discordance. With each whip of the tune, Tony’s body and mind flinched. Something was being summoned.

“So he found you?”

Tony knew this was Flowers although he had never met him previously. In the semi-darkness, Flowers stood assuredly. He was neither boy nor man, but a being caught in the exaggerated gaze of prime. Dressed in a cloak of dark material, Flowers looked every inch an Old Testament prophet.

“He said that he would bring you before me and, you see, he has.”

“Who is he?”

Flowers fought to suppress a snort of derision.

“He is the darkness itself. He is the plague that blights your dreams. He is vermin and hatred. He is the taker of souls and the giver of dreams. He is The Piper. If you’re lucky, you may get to meet him.”

The boy was waiting for him at reception. Tony almost fell out of his own skin when he saw him. It was the boy of his dream, but here he was different. Here he was still a boy, unkempt and not yet grown into his older stature. He had the look of knowledge about his eyes, eyes that the social worker found almost impossible to avoid.

“Liam? Liam Flowers?”

The young face stared back at him mockingly. Its gaze pierced the thin veneer of the We have never ever metroutine that was being played out.

Yes, we do know each other,Tony thought, but you were something altogether different then. You were not this mere boy.

“Right then Liam, let’s see if we can get you set up with something.”

As the social worker was saying this, he was aware of a tape playing in the back of his mind. The tape was giving him details of the ideal house that Liam could go to. The family at the house was a good family who would help Liam to develop ways that would help him for the rest of his life. He found himself moving to his workstation and typing in the name Harrison. In a few weeks the boy would be in the care of a responsible foster family and on his way back to being a fully active member of society.


The need to find sleep overtook him with a nausea he had experienced before and it was all he could do to complete the paperwork before running to the bathroom and being violently sick.




Hades And Hull…


A little After-Lesson Feedback. 

Not for some time have I had a day such as this.

Indeed, if such days became common currency then I will never set foot in such a circus that I have been setting foot in for these last twenty five years. 

When students decide to bully teachers by undermining their every word, not following instructions that have to be repeated time after time after time, and other teachers purposely seek to destroy one’s professional reputation by taking it upon themselves to purposely conduct clandestine interviews with students and support staff alike (as to the effectiveness of one’s teaching), hey it’s one Orwellian scenario too far.

Big Sister has been watching me. 

The problem with teaching these days is that it has strayed too far from any creative or instinctive approaches; well that’s the case in many to the schools I have recently worked in. One would have thought that the essence of excellent instruction lay in one’s ability to photocopy resources accessed from the TES or to stand by and activate a powerpoint (purchased from the TES) whilst reading out what it says, point by point with a little emotion.

I truly thought that powerpoint-teaching had had its day.

I am a good teacher. Some students and fellow staff think that I am an excellent and inspirational teacher. I am just happy with good. I am not searching for outstanding, neither do I wish to be adequate as my ego could not handle that. The Big Brothers and Sisters of this new world order are seeking to create all teaching in their mould; a plastic one that will serve to reproduce infinite teachers and ‘Learning Episodes’ in the Model T manner. Every one exactly alike.

I stand my ground with all who wish to drive me into the realms of the robotic instructional drones. I do not rebel against them, but I do not conform. It has been, and will be, my downfall. Bring it on!

My cry for something better than the monocrap that is being served to a whole generation of students and my attempts to give them good and wholesome fair, will most likely fall on deaf ears. I will be a crank and a cynic and they will attempt to place me in the school stocks for liberal ‘rotten-vegging”. But I will never drink from the well that these buggers have to constantly dip into. I will never allow bullies big and small to make my world a worse place.


I shall have my plenary in this life or the next.

Profoundly Lacking…


Same story each morning: nothing is going through my head apart from the memory of the morning chorus kicking off at 4am. 

What wisdom can I impart to the readers of the world on this particularly sunny morning?

And now my idea from sleep has returned.

It comes mooching across the street, tail tucked in tight behind it, nose sniffing the air, ears alert. It looks at me, not straight in the eyes as if in challenge but from the pretence of downcast pupils. Its steps are measured and tantalisingly cautious. I have a titbit held out on the palm of my right hand as encouragement, but the idea continues to sniff the air for possible threats.

My voice has become barely audible, just me and the idea. If I raise my words, others may here and the thing that I am so interested in will just turn and flee back into the shadows.

It’s okay, I won’t hurt you. This is for you, a treat. You must have been so cold out there all through that dark night.

Little by little, step by wary step, it comes within reach.

I hold out my offering and it sniffs before finally snatching from my fingers and racing to the other side of the street where it will stand in readiness to retreat whilst sampling that which it most desires. 


Good boy/girl…