Day 271: You’re having lunch with a friend. Your friend gets a call in the middle of the meal. Write just your friend’s part of the conversation.

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Mexican Monday’s are the best. Joan and I head out, get burritos and a couple of pints and just chill out for a few hours, setting the world to rights. Can’t beat it.

“So, Phillip, Phillondo, Phill… Anderer. Who’s the newest conquest?” She asks me this around a mouthful of burrito, barbecue sauce running down her left cheek. “Everybody knows you’ve been getting some. So, who’s the lucky chick?”

“Nobody you know. It’ll stay that way until I’m sure this one’s going to be a thing. That she can handle you.”

“I’m not that bad!”

“Remember Carly?” I certainly did. We’d seen each other a couple of times, hit it off, then Jerry Budeski had a party. I figured it would be safe to invite Carly to come with me, she could meet my friends and then we could get away. Well, that’s not how it happened at all.

We got through the front door and Joan had come bounding over. She’d sunk a few by this point, but even so. She shook Carly’s hand like a mad thing, then grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to play beer pong. I didn’t see Carly for the rest of the night, then by the time I found her again she’d decided we were done.

“Which is why I should meet her! She clearly won’t be any good for you if she can’t handle me. Oh, crap.” She plucked her phone off the table, where it had just started buzzing insistently. “I’ve got to take this.”

“Fine, but you know the rules. Rest of the drinks are on you.”

“Fineeee.” She stuck her tongue out at me, then went to stand outside the window. It was open, letting her words flow back in on the cool breeze. “Hello?”

I paused, wondering if I should make myself scarce. I mean, she’d gone outside so that I wouldn’t listen in. I figured I could just nip to the toilet, wait there for a couple of minutes then come back out. That was the plan, at least, until I heard my name amongst the murmurs. “Claude doesn’t know anything.”

I almost fell of my chair to be perfectly honest. “What the…”

“No, he should stay out of it. I don’t even know why you want me to bring him in. He’s just a normal guy.”

Rude. I’m something special, I’d like to point that out.

“I’m serious. I’m not going to do this. If you want him that bad, send somebody else. But no amateurs like Carly this time.” She hung up the phone then marched back inside. I could tell she was worked up, but she was wearing her brave face.

If Joan’s got her brave face on, sit the fuck down and strap in. Once you’ve done that, pray that you’re not the reason.

“Right, I’ve got to head. Work emergency. Is it my turn to pay or…?” She fluttered her eyelashes at me, so I just nodded. I figured I’d process whatever had just happened when I got to the flat.

A shame really, that I didn’t make it back to my flat for a long time.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 269: Write a story from the point of view of a homeless man or woman who falls asleep on the bus and accidentally ends up “on the other side of the tracks”, in a quiet neighborhood late at night.

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Daniel Harker is coming to the end of his shift. It’s late at night and his back’s playing up again. He hates the late shift and only took it so that Jerry could go to his daughter’s play. He shifts in his seat, clicking and cracking his bones.

He pulls into the depot, out in Deerport. He’s supposed to do proper checks at the end of every evening, checking for litter and drunks passed out on the seats. But after the mess with all of the traffic lights in town getting stuck on red, he just wants to get back. He checks his mirror and all of the seats seem empty. He checks his watch, the hands waving at him as he sees the wrong side of two in the morning. “Fuck this.” He says, then gets off the bus, leaving the doors open as is company policy. It allows the buses to air, or some nonsense. That’s where his part in this story ends.

An hour later, Frankie wakes with a start. “I’ll goddamn kill you!” He shouts into the empty air, wild eyes raging as he swings a fist. Frankie, whose last name has been lost for years in a sea of booze, eventually stops his swearing and fighting with nobody. He stops for a second, eyes squinting and his head lolling from side to side. “Where in fuck am I? It’s so bloody dark.”

He makes his way down the aisle of the bus, feeling his way through the cracked leather and discarded cans. He finds his way to the open door and promptly falls through. He doesn’t even make a pretense of walking, he simply makes the move from vertical to horizontal solely with gravity’s assistance. He manages to spit out the first part of an expletive before he starts eating tarmac.

He starts crawling, making his way towards a light source across the way that he can see. It’s got the familiar sodium glow of a street light, but Frankie’s head is buzzing. There’s something missing but he just can’t place it at the moment.

He stumbles through an opening, wide enough for a couple of buses to enter the depot at the same time. He holds up a hand against the light and looks up and down the quaint, idyllic street. Picket fences, check. The occasional doghouse, check. The pieces come together in a horrifying rush.

“Oh shit,” he says, “I’m in Suburbia.”

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 267: Your most transcendent ice cream experience.

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From the moment that cold dessert hit my lips, I knew that my life would never be the same. Have you ever had that? The one moment that you just know is going to change your life forever? For me, it was the day in The Iceman Cometh, the greatest ice cream shop in town.

Mr Dowling always smiled at me as I pressed my face against the glass, watching my breath fog it up before handing me a cone with the most perfect swirl of raspberry ripple ice cream that you had ever seen perched atop it. Then he’d take that squeezy bottle of strawberry sauce and go to town with it, I’m talking practically drowning the thing in strawberry sauce. You needed a napkin when he served you one of these bad boys.

Anyway, that was what it took. I looked around one day and saw how happy that ice cream made people. How all it took was a personally made dessert to bring a smile to people’s lives.

“So that’s why I’m an ice cream man. Sure, it doesn’t pay great and you don’t get many job opportunities in the winter, but it’s all good fun.”

“That’s all well and good, Mister Woodrow, but we want to know why you attacked the ladies in Cooper’s park on Thursday. ”

“Oooohhh, right… Sorry, must have got sidetracked. Where was I?”

“You’d parked your truck…”

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 265: Alfred Hitchcock said mystery is not knowing what will happen to a bunch of guys playing poker; suspense is when only you know there’s a bomb underneath the poker table. Write about a banal event, but start by introducing something that will change everything and only the reader knows is coming.

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The sleeper moves beneath the surface, slowly but surely limbering up its joints and focusing its lidless eyes on the place it knows its target to be. The source of all of its troubles. It can feel the rush as the other sleeping spirits stir, the pilot fish to its presence, spinning in freedom. With a thought, it sends them onwards to its destination. 

“Bedlam, Ms Harker.” Mr Waits, a fat man in a pinstripe suit held his bowler hat awkwardly, turning it and flipping it as if it had to keep moving or it would explode. “Welcome to Bedlam. Now, if you’ll follow me, I’ll give you the tour.”

Janet Harker took a step forward to follow, then paused. This was the first turning point. Did she cling to a remnant of her old life, or did she make the break completely? The choice was finally up to her, not an order sent from higher up the chain of command. “Sorry, Mr Waits, but it’s Captain. Captain Harker.”

“Of course, Captain. I apologise for my momentary slip. Shall we proceed?” Waits placed the bowler hat atop his balding head, then began a march down the hallway. They emerged, after the customary small talk, into a cavernous chamber housing an eighteen foot statue of Knoxwood, “Now, this is the main atrium or as we like to call it, the Heart. Now, from the Heart you can access any of our main facilities. Either through the Eyes and Ears, our telecommunications centre in the east corner over there,” he said, gesturing towards one of the largest banks of screens Harker had ever seen. It was decked out like a mission control centre, with people swarming between desks like ants across the ground, shouting into headsets. “From there, we can access all of our facilities remotely. For actual travel, we have the Arteries. You have a question, Miss… Sorry, Captain?”

“You really take this body metaphor all the way, don’t you?” Harker asked, still boggling at the gleaming statue. Knoxwood cut an imposing figure, holding aloft the Sword of Mercy and the Staff of Vengeance. She couldn’t help but feel that it shouldn’t be here.

“But of course. Why would you not? There’s the Legs, our transport division, the Brain, for research and development, Mouth for broadcasting.” As Waits went through the list, he pointed towards the gateways for each one. “Arteries, as I mentioned, is our internal travel. Then of course,” he said with a smile, “We come to the Arms. Private contracting for military operations throughout the world.”

The sleeper howls silently, thrashing against the chains that keep it in place. It can sense a weakness in the links, the smallest fracture that will be its jailer’s undoing. It strains and pulls and eventually, the sleeper shifts. A grin passes across its mouth, impossibly full of teeth as a soundless howl races through the earth. The pilot fish howl in return, transferring just one thought. One goal. 

“Bedlam, as you can imagine, can be quite confusing to the newcomer.” Waits had removed his bowler as they stepped into his office, hanging it up on a hatstand by the door. “After the events of HESSIAN, I would understand if you were to take a step back from the military world.”

Harker’s eyes narrowed. “HESSIAN was supposed to be above Top Secret. How do you…?”

Waits just chuckled. “Captain, what we don’t know about anything would be barely enough to fill the first page of that notebook in your pocket. But that’s what we offer here. Knowledge. Plus the capabilities to use that knowledge. We have everything you could want.”

“I want Castor.”

“I thought you might say that. He’s currently waiting in Bloodstream. That’s our…”

“I’m assuming that’s your medical division.”

“You’re as quick as they say, Captain. Yes, the Sergeant has been with us for a few weeks undergoing retrofit prostheses. The border campaign certainly took its toll on him.”

“That’s enough now, Mr Waits.” Harker leaned against the polished mahogany, very deliberately not sitting in the offered chair. “When would I start?”

Waits took a calendar from the wall and flicked through a few pages. “Well, we don’t appear to have any disasters scheduled for at least six months, so if you’d like to join us… Today?”

“What about all my things?”

“They’re already here. We set you up with a room in Epithelium.”

“Living in the skin. Wonderful. How did you know I’d take the job?”

“Miss Harker, if we didn’t believe with 99.999… I could go on for a while there. But if I were more than a shade from certain that you’d accept the position, you’d never have received the offer. Now, would you care to meet your strike team?”

The sleeper was no more. In its place was a creature that remembered once being a man. It, no longer able to believe in itself as a he, breathed deep and focused on its vengeance. It remember one thing for certain. The cause of all of its troubles. The Brain. But not just that. It was going to tear down the whole thing.  

Bedlam would fall. 

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 263: Find a world map or globe, close your eyes, pick a spot. Write about a person arriving there for the first time.

The awkward moment when you’ve been writing posts between two computers… Then accidentally restore an older draft without having backups. Still, take two. 

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I told Francesca that searching for the Fountain of Youth was a fool’s errand, but she insisted on following the stories. Alexander crossed the Land of Darkness in his search for the Waters of Life. All those capitalisations and yet nothing concrete about its location. Just vague ideas and stories.

We followed the Alexander story as far as we could. His of course, had he found it prior to his death in 323 BC, well, he wouldn’t have died. So that ruled out most of Asia. But the legend states that he crossed the Land of Darkness to find it. What Francesca and I took this to mean is that it wasn’t a physical crossing.

The Land of Darkness refers to his death. The Waters lie in the lands he was working to conquer and explore, Arabia and Africa.

“So that’s where we go. Should we start with circumnavigating Africa or exploring Arabia?” She’d asked me. We’d had an argument about it. I figured that the reference to the Land of Darkness had a double meaning, that it was also talking about Africa. The Dark Continent.

Of course, Francesca being Francesca decided I was wrong. That it was too obvious to be referring to Africa. So we started by searching old Arabia.

You want to know what that came up with? Diddly squat, that’s what. We blew most of our savings on that disastrous trip that had us run out of Baghdad, shot at in Sana’a and nearly drowned on Failaka island. All without the slightest hint of the Fountain.

So we turned our eyes to Africa. With our limited funds, we managed to get passage into Egypt, but that’s where we ran out of cash. That’s when we needed to make things work.

That’s where this story really gets going. Cairo, in the summer of 2025.

The one and only thing that got to me as we got off the plane was how goddamn hot it was. Mercy was meeting us inside the airport, but I had no idea how I was going to be able to see through the sweat in my eyes.

Still, Mercy said she’d found something. An old scroll with a reference to Living Waters. So at least we had a start.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 261: Watch three spectators at a ball game and describe each one as a different animal.

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A bear, a wolf and a serpent were in the crowd the day the Mad Dragons lost to the Spartans.

The bear, a man who towered above the other two, held their drinks and scoffed down food as if it were going out of fashion. A hot dog, a burger, crisps, all disappearing in due cause into the churning maw of his mouth. Watching him fight his way through to seat 15-H in the South Stand was like watching toothpaste leaving the tube, a very large mass squeezing through a very small space.

I watched one man spill his drink as the bulk passed him, something that man immediately wanted to have rectified. I watched him turn, see what had actually caused him to spill his drink, then swiftly face forward again in the hope that the walking mountain clad in a band t-shirt wouldn’t notice him. He sipped gently at the dregs of his drink, a look of abject sadness crossing his face, before sitting back down.

The wolf came next, a grizzled man wearing a black eye-patch over his left eye. His armour of choice was a black leather jacket, though I doubted he had ever even sat on a motorcycle. I actually passed him on the way to get a drink of my own and raised my hand to say hello. He growled, baring pointed canines and stained incisors in a grimace of anger.

I swiftly put my hand back down.

As he moved through the crowds towards his seat, the bear nodded to say hello then passed him a pint of lager. The pint was snatched from the bear’s hand, sunk in one large gulp, then thrown at a man a few rows ahead.

Even so, these men weren’t actually scary until the serpent came along. A small man in a shiny suit, thin as a rake and almost as sharp, he slithered through the crowd, leaving a trail of people behind him that all felt as if they suddenly needed to cleanse themselves. When I saw him, he was in furtive conversation with the wolf and the bear, the wolf getting angry and shouting and the bear simply sitting behind them, piling food into his face and nodding occasionally.

These three men were out to cause trouble.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 258: Polite dinner conversation isn’t supposed to include religion, politics or money. Write a scene at the dinner table where one or more of these topics is discussed.

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The shark’s dead black eyes stared out at the assembled guests, deep and accusing from its prominent position as a centerpiece. Mina looked across the table at the grotesque man before her and shuddered. Why Calvin had insisted on inviting this fool, she’d never know, but for now she’d have to keep her spirits up and try to stop imagining his grisly murder.

Her current favourite was the idea of removing his eyes with a salad fork, with feeding him slowly to sharks as a close second. She plastered a false smile onto her face, then tuned back in.

“And sho,” the fat man said, food falling from the sides of his mouth and quickly being scooped up in his podgy fingers for a second attempt at eating, “the war ish coming to Karlin. All because the Merkian King rejected Jarl Halvard’s girl Eila. I can’t shee why.” He gronfed his food, a term Mina made up to describe the noise as she was fairly certain existing words couldn’t cover the horror, and finally swallowed. “She’s a fine piece of work. Shame she’s a goddamn Sisterine.”

“Harold!” The fat man’s wife, who almost as grotesque in the completely opposite way, stick thin with translucent skin stretched over aged bones. “You shouldn’t say such things in front of our hosts.” She turned to Mina, saying, “I do apologise for my husband. He does get carried away, especially after a few glasses of wine.” It was as if she thought it would make it all better.

It didn’t. Mina glanced at her husband who was sipping his brandy quietly, the lines around his eyes drawn taut by the smile he was barely suppressing. “Now, Harold, you mustn’t feel that we are trying to keep you quiet. The Jarl’s daughter has joined with the Sisters?” Mina asked, probing for more information. She’d been looking for an entrance to meet with the Sisters for a while and this could be her chance. She’d known Eila for years, corresponded with her about the foreign king.

“Aye, girl. Eila Halvard is one of the newest members of the Sisters of Mercy. Sworn off men completely, I’m told. Go around helping the poor, claiming to be touched by the gods. They’re definitely touched. I tell you, if I get much more capital I’ll start my own religion to get back at them. Just need a couple more major contracts then you’ll see it!” He slammed a hand onto the table, causing his wife to jump. “Haroldism! The one true path.”

His wife slapped him painfully across the arm. “You shouldn’t go saying things like that. There’s one true god and he will lead as he always has. His name,” she prodded him viciously with a bony finger with each word. “Is not Harold Montague.”

“Say, Harold,” Calvin said, a rich low tone that was like chocolate running into your ears, “how do you fancy coming with me into the den? You know what they say about discussing business at the dinner table. Shouldn’t do it. Along with some other stuff…” He raised a hand and pushed his glasses back up his nose. “Still, nothing important, I’m sure. Mina, darling,” he looked towards his young wife with her fake smile and eyes that screamed for help, “You’re happy to entertain Clarissa?”

Mina nodded, screaming internally. She was definitely not happy to entertain this walking skeleton, but by the time she’d found an argument she could say, the men had retired. “So, Clarissa,” she said, her mind casting long and hard for something to talk about, “how are your boys?”

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