Day 287: Five ideas for a novel that you’ll never write.

 

The day that the demons came, I was making pasta bake for Suzie Macmillan and Edwin Hall. Our lectures had finished at three on Tuesdays, so it was only right and proper that one of us made food before we all headed to the bar. This particular Tuesday, the wheel had turned once more to point to me and my sub-par culinary skills.

“Do I have to cook?” I asked as we walked away from Professor Edward’s talk on Demons in Fiction and Fact. We figured it would be an easy way to make up some credits, thus allowing us to spend more time in the pub. It turned out to be very dull and uninteresting, just Edwards droning on about representations of demons in the Catholic Church.

“Yes, Darwin.” Suzie replied, tossing her hair over her shoulder. She had a habit of doing that, as if she were using it to flick away a fly or something. Either way, her tone made it clear that I would be cooking.

I hate cooking.

Edwin had moved off to one side, squinting through his thick glasses as if he were staring at the tip of his nose. “I’ll see you guys in a bit. Meet you at Darwin’s, yeah?” Then he just ran across the green, clutching his books to his chest.

Suzie stared after him, then shook her head. “I’ll never understand that boy. Right, I’m off. I’ll be round at six, yeah?”

“Yeah. It’ll be ready.” I said, knowing two facts perfectly well. Dinner would not be ready and Suzie wouldn’t be at my place for six. She preferred to arrive… Fashionably late.

It was one of the reasons I knew something was wrong, actually. Five to six and Suzie was banging on my door and swearing at me to open the door. She’s never been on time for the past three years.

Something was definitely wrong.

The ideas here are: 

  • The demon invasion
  • The odd love triangle
  • The strangely specific story telling
  • The mentor Professor Edwards
  • The character called Darwin

I’ve had a few of these ideas floating around for a while, so I thought I’d throw them all in together and see what came out.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 283: Why your boss should give you a raise.

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“Marisa, please send in Mr Carmichael.” The voice that came through the small speaker was tinny and distant, but still drove fear into Geoffrey’s heart like a spike. He rose slowly from the small plastic chair that seemed to belong in a child’s classroom than the waiting room of his boss, then headed through the door with a gulp.

Inside, there was a second small plastic chair in front of a large mahogany desk. Behind the desk sat his boss, Mr Zebub. Geoffrey couldn’t see his face as he was shrouded in darkness, but upon the desk lay mounds and mounds of food. It ranged from fantastical creations of spun sugar and delicate chocolate all the way through to a sad, lonely McDonald’s cheeseburger, deflated in its wrapper. “Mr Carmichael,” he said, slurping his way around the words, “I understand you’re here to discuss your pay?”

“That’s right, Sir.” Geoffrey moved forward to the small chair, briefcase held in his white-knuckled hand. “I’d like to petition for a raise.”

“This should be interesting. Go on.” A hand appeared from the darkness, folds of fat bulging around a ruby ring on every finger. It snatched up the cheeseburger then disappeared back into the dark. The sound of a cheeseburger being swallowed whole echoed around the large office.

“Well, Sir, I’m the best employee here. I’m a good worker.”

“Pah, none of you are good enough.”

“I’ve been effectively running my department following the budget cuts. I seamlessly integrated O’Leary’s role with my own following his termination.” Carmichael hesitated on the word termination, feeling his Adam’s apple move in his throat like a target for a hungry wolf.”

“Well, that’s in the job description.”

“Was the Uprising in the description, Sir? Seeing as I led the seventh floor in the charge that “won the day”, including the retaking of the prints and supplies cupboard, along with the break room.”

“True, I’m not sure how we’d have coped without the coffee. Jenkins barely survives without the stuff.” Zebub slurped and snorted, the hand once again emerging to snatch a precariously balanced muffin. “Then there’s Donna and her staples. She’s a madwoman with that bloody stapler.”

Carmichael gave a small cough, raising his slender fingers to his mouth. “Indeed. I also redirected the attentions of Miss Kimberley Watts, age seven and a quarter, away from the more secretive aspects of the building. Even after she was most insistent.”

“I did tell the higher-ups that “Bring Your Child To Work Day” was a bad plan. Even so, it’s definitely all there in the description. Take a look.” A piece of paper unfurled from the desk, rolling down to stop at Geoffrey’s feet. At the bottom were four lines of writing, detailing everything he’d just said. He pressed his finger against it and found that the ink was still wet. “See, right there in the description. Now, if that’s all, I’ve heard rumours about the Ninth having a party after work and I want to see if there’s a buffet.”

Carmichael stood up and turned to leave. He looked around the dark office, the portraits hanging on the walls, then wheeled back round. “Actually, Sir, that’s not all. You see, I also have a number of photos to show you.”

Zebub’s chair creaked as he leaned forward. “Photos? I’ve never really been one for art.”

“I think you’ll like these.” The briefcase popped open and the first photo was removed. It showed a shadowy bedroom, with Zebub’s secretary lying naked on a bed and a fat hand with a distinctive ruby ring on each finger working its way up her thigh. “How would your wife feel about this photo, Mr Zebub?”

Zebub’s laugh shook the windows. “She knows! You think you can come in here and blackmail me with some pictures of me screwing the secretary? My wife sometimes joins in! Come one, Geoff, either try harder or get the fuck out of my office.”

Carmichael smiled to himself. His next photo was a surefire raise winner. He passed it to Zebub, who snatched it from his trembling hand.

Fifteen minutes later, Carmichael walked out of the office holding a signed agreement for an increase in his salary. He looked down at the photo of an extremely fat man holding an oversized cheque for £1,000,000. The recipient, in this case, had been the British Heart Foundation. The photo below showed another cheque going to UNICEF. Then one for Make A Wish. Fifteen photos in all. He looked back at the glass-fronted door and the words etched in gold on its frosted surface.

B. L. Zebub
Prince Of Hell (Gluttony)

It wasn’t always a fun job, but Geoff got by. There were certainly worse places to work than Hell.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 274: A man jumps from the fortieth story of a building. As he’s passing the twenty-eighth floor, he hears the phone ring and regrets that he jumped. Why?

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Deep breaths.

Take deep breaths and let the energy you know is there flow through you. How hard has it been? You thought it would be wonderful, that the power would make you happy. You’d go sailing through the skies, saving people. Put on the spandex and the mask and nobody knows who you are, right?

You thought you had it all sewn up. You’d be a hero.

But you’re not. You’re nothing. You’re nobody.

You could have been so much more. You could have done something with your life, but instead we find you here on the rooftop thinking about jumping. Why the roof? So that you’ve got time to fly away if you change your mind?

Most people only have to focus for a moment. They just have to find the courage to step off the ledge. But you? You have to concentrate the whole way down. You have to do nothing, you have to fight to do nothing. You’ll have to ignore that buzzer, connected to the police scanner. You’ll have to ignore the screams of anguish from those people below. You’ll have to do nothing at all, and focus on hitting the floor.

Can you do that? Can you focus? Does it count as victory if you go through with it?

What about the people you’ve hurt by doing it? Are you a hero or not? This is your last ditch attempt to get away. You’d turn yourself into a villain to do it. Most villains can only hurt someone physically, perhaps mentally. It takes a special kind of evil to rip emotions to shreds. You’ll hurt everyone you love far more than any of your villains could.

But that’s fine. You’re selfish. You claimed the powers, you deal with the consequence. It’s all you. So, do it.

Wait, what are you doing? You’re not actually going through with it, are you? Step away. Now. Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t be serious about this.

Well, now you’ve gone and done it. I hope you can focus, all the way down to the ground. It’ll be tricky. You’ll have to keep in mind everything. The thought of those people on the pavement as you hit. All of it.

That’s floor thirty. Twenty-nine. Twenty-eight. Oh dear, there goes the Batphone. Somebody needs saving. Go on, pull up. Change your mind. Go and save them.

 

 

 

 

I knew you’d do it. Just so full of regret. Go and save everybody else and hate yourself.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 268: You can keep only one memory from your entire life. What will it be?

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I knelt before the Splendour and awaited my judgement.

“You know that those who come before me must pay a price, do you not?” It asked me, a voice like church bells ringing next to my ear.

“Aye, that I do.” I replied, my eyes firmly focused on the floor. I could feel the heat radiating from this being, this raw power that if I looked would strip me away and leave nothing behind but an husk, an empty shell that once was me. “I’ll pay it, but you must keep them safe.”

“Upon whom would you confer the honour of my protection? Nina, perhaps?” Nina’s face, red hair framing a multitude of freckles on her alabaster skin, appeared before my screwed shut eyes. She stared into me, through me, past me with that piercing stare of hers, a feeble pretense at the Splendour’s power, her lips moving to repeat the moment I had seen in my dreams so many times over, her admission and her promised departure. “Or perhaps your father?”

This time, it was my father’s hands that swam through the darkness. Strong hands, with wide knuckles. Hands made for working, as he had every day until his mind had escaped him and left him confused. They reached out towards me, old scars peppering the surface of the veined skin, before turning the palms upwards to reveal the deep crevasses, so ingrained with dirt, begging for my help, before vanishing into the darkness.

“Yes. But there’s more.”

“Really? You would do such a thing? For your mother?”

Long red painted nails flashed through the darkness and caught a memory on the cheek, leaving three blood red lines raised on the skin. “Your sister?”

A hand lets go of mine and a shadowy figure walks into a distant sunset. “Is there anybody I’ve missed?”

I say nothing, feeling my emotions surge within me like a tidal wave, my fear, my anger, my hatred all fighting for control of my weary body. My lips were trying to move, trying to force out words saying that I’d changed my mind, that I wouldn’t go through with it. Then a calm rang out, like a bell echoing through a still night. I found my control again.

“So tell me. Who would you have me save?” I heard a whisper as the Splendour knelt beside me. “I who am known by many names. What would you ask of me who has been at the forefront of civilisation since mankind realised that fire burns and water is wet, that the sun brings light and predators are bad? Me, who has received all of their prayers and wishes? Ra, Zeus, Odin, God… It doesn’t matter what name I had. Sometimes I was a multitude, sometimes I was alone.” His breath brushed past my ear, an intimacy I had been unprepared for. “They always ask and they always refuse when they find out the cost. So, what is it, Henry Miles? Son of a blacksmith, general waste of space? What would you have me do?”

“Leave.” I replied. “Leave and never return. Spare them all.” I was struggling with the words again, thick like treacle as they oozed from my brain. “Let us make our own mistakes.”

The Splendour sighed and stood up, its robes rustling. I eased an eye open, taking care to keep my stare on the cold, hard ground. “The cost is high. I will take everything that is you. All of your memories, every experience. Your highest points, your lowest points, I will leave nothing behind. You will never have existed. There will be no songs, no stories about Henry Miles, the Saviour. There will be naught of you that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist. You will…” It paused, as if struggling for words. “Poof. There will be nothing.”

“I know,” I said beneath my breath, “But it’s a price worth paying.”

“For everyone? What about the evil people? The truly evil, those that would hurt another, squander wealth and opportunity while others died in a slum?”

“Everyone deserves their chance.” I took a deep breath, steeling myself for what was about to happen. “I will do it. I will sacrifice to save.”

I felt a hand on my shoulder, then beneath my chin. My eyes followed the flow of the robes to the burning pits of gold that were set into the Splendour’s face. “Child, you are the bravest who has ever found me. You will be remembered by none but me, but I will leave you with one thing. One memory to accompany you through oblivion. Choose quickly, for you don’t have much time.”

I didn’t need any time. I talked for a few moments and the Splendour stroked its chin thoughtfully, before it agreed. My eyes remained locked on the burning gold and I felt my soul, my spirit diminishing in the light. I was being reduced to nothing.

 

I was awoken by a knocking at my door. My eyes took their time to adjust to the harsh sunlight streaming through the windows. My father has just walked in and pulled me from my bed, placing me over his shoulder as I yell in delight, before he carries me downstairs to where my mother and my sister are waiting. “Happy birthday, Henry!” They say, smiling wide as they gesture towards the table. Before me is a spread fit for a king that must have taken months to save for. I pull my family into a hug, but before we can begin to eat a bell sounds. I throw the front door open wide to find Nina looking at me, shy but piercing eyes peering out of a freckled face. I take her hand and pull her inside.

 

I was awoken by a knocking at my door…

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 264: A storm destroys your uncle’s shed and kills his six-year-old son. Describe the color of the sky right before the storm hits.

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Nathan,

This is the note found in the lodgings of Mr Harold Harvey. It seems perfectly normal and yet… Have a read.

Clear skies are simply a canvas awaiting dark clouds. That’s what Uncle Aloysius always said to us. He never was the same after Frederick died.

I was thirteen years old, the day the storm came. Freddie and I had been playing out on the beach, playing catch with a tennis ball. Freddie was a good kid, always scrambling to explore and to learn and living by the beach gave him everything he wanted. Every time we went to visit, he’d rush back from the beach, blue eyes glittering with a smile and whatever new treasure he’d found clasped in his hands.

His smile gleamed in the sunlight. The world got a little bit darker after the storm.

We came back in, Freddie covered in mud and scrapes from the rock pools we’d had a look at and me in my strange combination of shorts and wellingtons. We must have looked a right pair.

By this point, I was about twice the size of Freddie, all arms and legs and the beginnings of teenage angst. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be at Aloysius’ beach house, but Freddie could still pull me into being a child again. He could make anybody feel that way, like his energy was a virus that infected you and made you think like him. I loved that kid.

His mum, Auntie Suzanne, sent him out to the shed to put his clothes in the washer. I always wondered why they kept it out there, but hadn’t bothered asking before. Of course, there was never really a right time for it afterwards.

He did his best to wheedle out of it, but you can only argue with Auntie Suzanne’s stern face for about three minutes, then he stuck out his bottom lip and said “Fine.” He rushed out to the shed.

That’s when I heard the argument. Aloysius and Dad, just raised voices to start with, but it quickly devolved into shouting. I snuck through the house towards the lounge, where they had a few empty bottles kicking around.

“Your son needs an education! He needs a strategy! You can’t just abandon him to the wilds because you don’t know how to deal with him!” That’s Dad. A man who looks as though a brisk wind would send him flying away, but if you got him riled, you had to be on the lookout. He’d use words like a lumberjack used an axe; swift, effective and you’d be the one falling over at the end.

“He’s my son and I’ll do what I damn well please. You get that? Just because your boy is a waste of space.”

“Say another word about my son, you piece of shit.”

The blue sky outside was descending into a grey haze and a wind began to swirl around the house. The beams of the old cabin rattled as their argument raged on. My heart was beating as if it were trying to shatter my ribs, something I firmly believed it would accomplish if I didn’t do something. I pushed the door to the lounge open, only to have it pushed right back by a gust of wind, screeching through the house like the breath of a vengeful god. People hurled themselves from the walls to the relative safety of the floor as the grey haze outside faded into black, ominous clouds.

I looked up, directly out of the back door towards the shed. I saw Freddie curled inside, eyes wide with terror. I knew that once again, I had to do something. My heart was striving to escape now, hammering away as my breath came faster and faster. I crawled towards the door and his eyes met mine.

He nodded at me, then bolted from the door towards the house. There was a wet thud, then where Freddie had been, there was nothing but a long scrape in the ground. I closed my eyes, tears rolling uncontrollably down my face as I curled into a ball on the hardwood floor.

I don’t know how long I lay there crying, but by the time I stopped the skies had cleared again. Uncle Aloysius had found his son, down by the rock pools he’d been searching earlier that day. Or at least, he’d found what was left of him. A sign, proclaiming Freddie’s favourite beach to be the most beautiful spot on Marie Le Noon had been torn from its foundations and flown through the air like a kite.

Freddie would have gone instantly.That, and the fact that the shed had come completely apart as well, were the only small comforts I had. That freak storm, as the media called it, tore our family apart. My grades hit the floor, Aloysius and Suzanne broke up, Mum and Dad even moved to Russia. It wasn’t far enough though.

That freak storm wasn’t the only one I came across in my lifetime. They followed me, everywhere I went. Every time I got scared, or angry, or upset, the skies would darken and the storm would rise. Which always put me into a downwards spiral as I would remember what happened to Freddie and the vicious cycle would continue.

So today, I close the circle. I’m sorry, everyone. But I can’t hurt anybody else. By the time you find this, I’ll be dead. There are no storms in Heaven.

I’ll see you soon, kid.

Harold Harvey, 12th December 1990

Beside it was located a diver’s knife, a bottle of prescription painkillers and a noose, very neatly laid out on a small stool. The confusing matter is the fact that the knife was clean, the bottle still full and the noose untouched and of course the fact that there was no bloody body at the scene either. The story of Harold Harvey requires some digging. Are you up to the challenge, brother? 

Meet me at the Docker’s cafe, three o’clock on Monday. I’m sure we can come to some arrangement. 

Victor

In my head, I have this as a mystery story. A puzzle to be solved by my protagonist, Nathan. Of course, this also means I can bring in either a supernatural element by saying that Harvey’s has weather controlling abilities, or I could make him the victim of an attack by somebody else who can. It could be science, it could be magic. Either way, this is one I intend to check in on again. 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 260: Suddenly, you can hear everyone’s thoughts, and you are shocked by what they think about you. Write their thoughts.

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God, I wish that guy would stop staring at me. Fucking creep. 

I blinked and brought myself back into the room. I’ve been suffering from a tendency to zone out for a while now, staring off into space like it’s sucking me in. Somebody’s sat at the table across from me now. I’m sure they weren’t there when I started my daydream… Ah well. I smiled awkwardly and went back to my flat white.

Urgh, what was I thinking coming here? Full of weirdos. 

I looked up again, but the girl across from me was staring intently at her hot chocolate, watching the marshmallows swirl as she stirred it.

I should have just waited at the station. 

“You’re waiting for a train?” I asked. She glanced up, glared at me with fierce brown eyes, then went back to her hot chocolate. I was confused as anything. I swear that she’d been talking to me.

Why is it that every time I go to a coffee shop, somebody has to talk to me when I just want to read my book? 

“Sorry.”

“Excuse me, can I help you?” The barista has come across, a smile plastered across her face but not quite reaching her eyes. “All done with these?” She stretched a hand toward my cup and I nodded, afraid of speaking to anybody else.

He’d be kind of cute if he talked. Oh well, just another hour. 

“You think I’m cute?” I blurted out. Her face went a deep crimson and she scuttled away with her new prizes.

“What the hell is going on?” I said to myself, looking out the window into the dreary, crowded street. That’s when the hubbub rose like a tsunami.

Bloody rain. 

Should I get a coffee, I will get a coffee. No, I said I wouldn’t. 

WHY IS WORK SO FAR?

I’m going to kill her. 

That one caught my eye. Well, ear. I tried to work out who’d said it but the fragments were coming thick and fast. It was almost painful, the overwhelming nature of the sentences, the emotions behind them building and building until everything went black. I hear myself say the words “Someone’s going to die.” Then I don’t remember much.

He’s a lot less cute when he’s unconscious. 

 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 255: What can happen in a second?

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Don’t blink.

You’ll miss it.

You think that you’re safe, where you are? You’re sat at your desk staring at your computer screen, or perhaps you’re looking at your phone on a crowded train.

It doesn’t matter. You’re in your space and you feel safe. But even then.

Don’t blink. You’ll miss it.

You can feel yourself getting uncomfortable as you read these words, as if there’s something just on the edge of your vision trying to edge its way in. You turn to your left and right, but see nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps you think you hear a faint swishing, like a curtain being drawn, but when you go to check there’s nothing there.

Feel free to check again. I’ll wait.

Are you done? You’ve found nothing waiting for you, so you’ve returned to your screen to read my words. Have you figured out what they mean yet? It’s fine if you haven’t but don’t blink.

You’ll miss it.

There it is again, the swishing sound. Perhaps it’s your imagination, being fuelled by the words you read on the screen. That is the purpose of writing after all, to create an image in another’s head, to let it breed and multiply until that image is all that they can see, keeping them turning the page or scrolling down the screen.

But what if it’s not? What if it’s something that you just can’t see? It’s trying to evade you, moving so fast that it’s barely a blur. It zips past you like a bullet, so small that you barely feel that rush of air. Now you’re sure there’s something there, something watching. But what does it want?

You can’t blink.

You’ll miss it.

It’s getting closer now, but does it come as friend or foe? Is it even alive? Is it controlled by something else? Your heart begins to beat quicker as your mind runs through all the possibilities, everything ranging from the supernatural to the mundane. Your breath speeds up to match, striving not to be outdone by your heart. your eyes flick from screen to side to screen to other side, constantly cycling through as you beg for more information. What is it, what does it want? Your eyes are watering as you fight the urge to blink because you know you’ve been told that you must not blink.

You’ll miss it.

You think you’ll be okay. Even as you realise that you’re coming to the end, you notice one final piece of advice and you can’t decide whether to worry or be relieved. It’s fine though. I’m still going. Just remember though…

Don’t blink.

You’ll miss it.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 253: A four-year-old child is afraid of the dark. Write about the child’s fears and what you might say or do to help the child overcome the fears?

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Richard screamed for his father, drawing the duvet covers up to his chin in a bid to protect himself. His father burst into the room, brandishing the poker from the fireplace. “I’ll get you!” He yelled, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “I swear to God above!” The father paused for a moment, realising he was shouting at an empty room save for his son. “Ricky? What’s wrong?”

Richard snaked out of his bed, sprinting towards his father and grabbing onto his leg. “It was the dark, Daddy! It was coming to get me!” His voice was muffled, seeing as he was trying to talk into his father’s leg.

“Okay, Ricky.” His father said, lifting him easily with one hand. “It’s okay now. No darkness. See? The light’s here. I’m here.” He held his son tightly as he made the few steps across to the bed, rocking his son gently in his arms.

“But you’re gonna go away again. Then it’ll come back.” Richard looked up at his father with bright blue eyes on the verge of tears, his bottom lip quaking as if it belonged in San Francisco. “The dark’ll come back again. I’m scared, Daddy!” He looked poised to leap from his bed again, but his father perched at his side, bedsprings creaking under his weight.

“What are you afraid of, Ricky?” His father asked, reaching out to stroke his son’s blonde curls. “Is it the dark itself? Or do you think there’s something in the dark?”

“Both!”

“Well, the dark itself can’t hurt you. The dark is nothing. Humanity conquered the darkness years ago when we discovered fire. Your Da always told me that the cavemen had the right idea. They had a problem and they found a solution.” He took his hand away from his son’s forehead and moved long fingers across a stubbled chin. “Then again, he always told me that Babybel and Ritz Crackers were an evil plot, so can’t be too sure on that one.”

“Daddy…” His son yawned, the gap in his teeth obvious in the big movement, causing his father to smile. He’d seen the thing fly out when Ricky had run into the lamppost.

“Right. So, the dark isn’t to be afraid of. It’s for us to beat. You get me?”

“What about the monsters?”

“I’ll show you what we do to monsters. Say, where do yours come from?” His father took hold of the poker, grasping it firmly in his strong hand. “They’re all beatable. Especially with the poker.”

“They’re under the bed, Daddy.” His father got to his knees, pointing for his son to look over the other side. He counted under his breath, counting down on his fingers for his son. He got to one, then dropped to the floor, shouting at the space beneath the bed.

Looking back at him was the terrified face of his son, gap in his teeth showing bright in the darkness. The boy said, “It isn’t me, Daddy! It isn’t me!”

That’s when the screaming began anew.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 251: A strange girl who hides herself under layers and layers of clothing

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Lisa Matthews walks along Kedleston Road every day at half past six. She is always, come rain or shine, bundled in no less than seven layers, a coat, a jacket, a jumper. Even her legs do not escape this constricting embrace of clothing, with layers of tights and leggings. People who pass her will whisper to one another as though sharing a secret. “How on earth can she be wearing all of that clothing in this heat? Surely she must be boiling!” Yet Lisa never seems to sweat. She will have a thick woollen scarf wrapped around her neck with a matching bobble hat perched atop her head, covering a blonde bob, cut as short as she could manage.

You see, there is a reason that Lisa wears all of these clothes. It isn’t one that any who pass her have come up with yet. She is not mentally ill, she is not medically ill. She has no scars or injuries to hide. Her reason is that she seeks the warmth, wherever it is. In this case, if she has to travel anywhere, she must do so within this warm cocoon, smothering her skin as if forcing it to keep her secret. The answer is really quite simple.

Lisa Matthews is dead.

You see, the dark places are certainly not the inferno of legend. No, the dark places are very cold indeed and yet so very few come back…

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 249: Toto, if we’re not in Kansas anymore, where are we?

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“Welcome, welcome, to the Fallen Sky. Home to the scum of society, rogues, thieves, lost royalty, lone wanderers, peasants, odd-jobs, maggots and even the occasional myth.” A roar went up from the assorted patrons as I pushed through the heavy door, a clamouring of tankards against tables and armour. “As you know, we’re a diverse bunch. For those less learned, we’re all different. Davey, that means urghhhh.” The big man standing on table gestured towards another patron, who responded with a grunt of his own. This, of course, drew much amusement from the assembly.

I picked my way across the various obstacles, corpses that hadn’t yet been disposed of, empty barrels, a passed out monkey; forging my way through to the bar. The barman, a weasel-faced gentleman with a single beady eye, stared at me as if I’d been recently passed through a dog’s digestive system and had ended up on his boot. “What do you want?” He asked, or at least that’s what I think he asked. It sounded much more along the lines of “Whadjewain”, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

“I’m looking for someone.” I replied, my voice shaking and cracking to betray my fear. “His name is…”

“Never heard of him.” Again, I might be wrong. Either way, he swiftly turned on his heel and oozed his way to the other end of the bar, shouting at the man on the table as he did so.

“We must remember,” the big man yelled, “that we are only able to gather here due to the kindest gestures of our host, Bravo. A toast to Bravo!” He took a swig of ale from his tankard then spat it out across the crowd. “Long may he piss in his beer!” A thunder rolled through the small room, clattering and clunking accompanied with fresh peals of laughter. “Now, to business…”

I stopped paying attention as a hand grabbed my shoulder and pulled me into a corner. “Who are you? What are you doing here?” My questioner was incredibly… Average. Average height, medium build, brown hair and blue eyes. He glared at me. “You do not belong here. You must leave. Now, quickly.” His mouth was firing the words like arrows from a trained archer’s bow, swift and deadly.

“Woah now. I need to find…”

“I know the man of whom you speak. You will not find him here. This is not your cosy little hometown. You must get out.”

“Look, I’m not from around here.” I told him, biting my lip as I considered how best to tell him my story.

“I know. You are from the Outworld. You smell wrong. Like I said, you don’t belong here. Go home. AT least go away. Before, well, you die.” He grimaced and drew a finger across his throat. “There is a back door from the cellar. Head west. Go quickly. I have already obtained the key from Bravo.” His eyes blinked, sideways, as he pushed the big brass key into my hands. “Now, go. I have work to do. Why are you still standing there? Go!” He shoved me towards the cellar door before I could ask any more questions.

I stood for a moment in the dark of the cellar, wondering what the hell was going on. At least my strange new friend had told the truth about the back door. I fumbled the key into the lock, straining my eyes against the darkness. The lock, clearly mistreated and unloved, took a lot of work before the key slowly turned. I stepped out into harsh winter sunlight, and took a deep breath, convincing myself that if I didn’t breath I would be safe.

Before me, scales glinting in rippling hues of bronze and aged copper; looking regal and majestic against the backdrop of freshly fallen snow, was the head of a dragon. The dragon’s eye, larger than my hand with my fingers spread wide, flashed open as I took a step away. It shook its head to clear the remnants of its dream, then his mouth opened, exposing me to a vast array of teeth and heat as though from a furnace. Words followed and my own jaw fell open in a much less awe-inspiring way.

I certainly wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

The Idiot in Tin Foil