Jack-In-The-Box

Jack in the Box

There was no question of it, Mr Blenkinsop was irritated. He was still out of breath from the effort it had taken him to get to the park and in his overcoat on a warm morning too; and now disappointment had taken its toll on his usual enthusiasm in spite of the fine weather.

He’d taken a number 47 bus from the city to the small group of shops near the park entrance, intending to fortify himself with a mug of sweet tea and a raisin bun, but the Cafe had been closed for some sort of work involving cement dust and a lot of loud noise, so he’d gone next door to the only place that was open, a horrible American franchise convenience store where he’d purchased a “fruit bun” in an airtight plastic bag and a cup of scalding watery tea in a styrofoam receptacle from a machine operated by a thin-lipped, very dark Indian man who seemed to be hairy in unexpected places.

It was a comparatively short distance from the shops to the entrance of the park, but it was uphill and the sun was hot. By the time he passed the sandstone columns that marked the gate he was hot, out of breath and slimy with sweat inside his clothes. Still he almost jog-trotted along in the sun painfully aware that the afternoon was passing and that he would miss the sweet spot of “rush hour” in the park, and, of course the all-important main event. As a last gasp, the path curved and climbed up and past the Men’s toilets near the fence next to the main road. He hoped they were empty, Mr Blenkinsop tromped past the bed of flowering yellow (Tulips) without glancing at them. His eyes remained fixed on the toilet block ahead. So far it seemed deserted. This was good. Sometimes homosexual men met there and huddled conspiratorially at the urinals, darting suspicious looks at him that made him uncomfortable, worse than that sometimes one (or more) of them would have taken possession of one of the toilet cubicles in which case they would probably be producing noises too unappetising to be easily ignored. The toilets appeared to be empty, except for one young man at the urinal busily engaged in shaking off any remaining droplets of urine that might adhere his penis. Judging by the energy that appeared to be required, it seemed that the young man pissed glue.

The young man looked over his shoulder at Mr Blenkinsop, and instantly recoiled at the look that was returned to him; put his penis away, pulled the chain to flush the urinal and took care not to brush against Mr. Blenkinsop on his way out of the toilets. For his part Mr Blenkinsop recoiled slightly and pressed against the door post to allow more space for his passage. The young man padded down the sunny concrete steps and away down the bitumen path towards the thick shrubbery so popular with those of his kind.

The toilets were empty! Almost running, Blenkinsop crossed the floor and pirhouhretted into the first cubicle, easing the door shut behind him to avoid the sound of a slam that might announce his presence to representatives of oppressive authority who might be lurking outside, avidly listening at the ventilation holes in the pale brick walls. It was typical, the sequence of movements, so swiftly rehearsed in his mind as he crossed the floor, resulted in the knuckle of his left forefinger being caught sharply between the door and the jamb. He hissed in pain, rescued his finger and sucked at the injured knuckle only stopping when the pain had abated enough for him to gather his wits and reflect on the Freudian symbology of his activity. Wincing at the pain in his finger, he started adjusting his clothes. First he removed his belt allowing his loose poly cotton trousers to drop into a pool around his ankles. Then, fingers quivering, he hooked the black suspender belt around his waist, feeling a flash of self satisfaction that, despite his odd diet and lack of exercise, he still had a slim and girlish figure, unlike Kate, who had seemed to balloon in size almostby the day since their marriage. How like mother Kate was becoming! Even her voice was developing an all-too-familiar rasp; perhaps the snoring had damaged her in some way. He pushed the thought from his mind, gave his naked cock and balls an affectionate squeeze and sat on the toilet suppressing a flush of disgust at the feeling of his trench coat forming a layer between his naked arse and the toilet. Hereached down for his trousers draped them across his knees, took the dressmakers scissors that Kate would never miss because she never used them, and surprisingly swiftly cut both legs off the trousers at mid-thigh level. This action left him with a pair of frayed cuff shorts that any young freak would be happy to wear while skateboarding down the High Street, and two fabric tubes each of which had once been a trouser-leg. He pulled the right tube up his right leg and then fastened it in place with the clips of the suspender belt. It was quite easy, the fabric was quite thin and accomodating and he only had to cut one “buttonhole” with the scissors. When he had done both legs, he stood and was gratified to see that the cuffs of both “legs” draped convincingly over the tops of his beige loafers.

He was already starting to become erect in anticipation.

His original plan – the one he had lain in bed and thought up night after night as Kate practised her sleep apnoea in her sunken into a hammock bed in the next room, keeping him awake through two doors – had been that he’d stake out a spot in the “homosexual shrubbery” since it had seemed safe enough when viewed at a distance through the lens of his imagination, but now that it lay the in stark focus in front of him, definitely containing at least one amorous homosexual, the idea filled him with trepidation that seemed to be insurmountable. How like Mother Kate was becoming! Even her voice was developing the same rasp! The familiar thought made him huddle in its headlights

He looked around, ravening for another diversion before the main event. There. Ten metres from where he stood, on the edge of the grass beside the path to the side of the path, stood a group of four bright plastic litter bins prominently labelled with the kind of trash that was supposed to be deposited in them. As usual throughout the park the bins were full to overflowing despite the fact that the “bin-Chicken” birds had done their best to empty them onto the ground, eating that which appealed to them and shitting on the rest preparatory to emitting large numbers of foul smelling lice-infested, yellow-grey feathers as they flew off to repeat their activities at the next overflowing bin.

Mr Blenkinsop to scuttled to the bins at a nonchalant trot that was almost an all out sprint, feeling the silky lining of his trench coat rub on his naked loins. The sensation drove him mad with an emotion that was far beyond simple arousal. He squatted behind the bins so that they formed a wall between him and the path. The spilled rubbish stank. It seemed as if a barbecue chicken was rotting under the piles of rancid sugary drink cans, bird shit and feathers. Away to his left, in the park, he heard approaching footsteps and low voices. He rose slightly and peeked down the path through a triangular chink between a twisted can that had contained orange drink and a Pizza box. A fly politely moved to allow him to see a young mother, a bundle of joy and a little princess in a fairy dress heading along the path toward him. The princess carried a pinwheel which she swiped through the air to make the propellors twinkle. Her mother beamed maternally at her princess.

It was all Mr.Blenkinsop could do to restrain himself from springing his trap just then, but his predatory instinct restrained him -let the tension mount! To pass the fateful last seconds of this phase of his evolution, he masturbated. It was all he could do not to orgasm, to slow himself down, he thought of the gangrenous spree on his mother’s feet. Rubbing the ointment in after school hadn’t helped, the diabetes had killed her anyway.

Closer. Another fly flew into his peeking hole and busied itself with the syrupy dregs of orange drink. Its activities in the can were surprisingly loud. The sun beat down, almost hot today after three days of drizzle. In a moment of silence from the can he caught the little girls voice, ”Are you sure we’ll see them Mum?”
“I think so sweetie, they aren’t due for 30 minutes and the crowds don’t seem too thick.”
The Princess nodded, she seemed satisfied with this answer.
Wait for it, wait for it..
“*AVENGER!!” * “
Mr Blenkinsop burst from behind the bins as the little family passed, less than three metres away, his trench coat was held wide open and his turgid manhood bobbed like an arrow that had just found its mark.
The woman levitated approximately half a metre in the air and screamed. When she landed the high heel of her white sandal turned underneath her and she fell in a tangle of legs to the bitumen path. Mr Blenkinsop wallowed in his unimpeded view of the crotch of her white cotton knickers.
“What the Fucking fuck do you think you’re fucking doing you Fuckwit?” The young mother screamed at the Avenger – who was prepared to make allowances – the woman was obviously hysterical.
The tiny princess took over she had a voice like a bandsaw cutting clock springs
“Yeah! Ya fucking pervert. Fuck off or I’ll call the cops!- There’s a car just there!” She pointed up the rise to the steel bar fence that separated the park from the road.

The Avenger saw the crowds had thickened and some incurious faces were indeed turned their way In the jumble of bodies. He could make out the shape of a police motorbike, leaning against the fence. His resolve wilted. Return to Plan A. He stood up, squared his shoulders and stepped back, turned and mustering as much dignity as he could manage, walked up the path towards the Park Gate and the crowds gathered at the road. The crowds were thinner at the back and it was still early.

It was easy to sidle through the crowd until it thickened up and became more truculent about two metres from the kerb, but he managed to insert himself through the throng, suppressing shivers of disgust at bodily contact until he had completey crossed the broad nature strip and balanced on the concrete kerb between a thin woman with remarkable halitosis and dry, brittle, red hair tied back in a simple ponytail and on his left, a man in his thirties, who gave the impression of having taken the afternoon off work on the pretext of an appointment with his cardiologist and who fumbled with a large camera that seemed very new. From where he stood Mr Blenkinsop was elevated perhaps twenty centimetres higher than the crowd in front of him which completely filled the left hand of four lanes of road, up to the barriers that kept the cordoned off the lanes that the motorcade would use.

Mr Blenkinsop was infuriated. While the view he was furnished with was very fine for a normal parade participant he was anything but that, and the fact that he was functionally invisible from the front from the chest down was a problem that required immediate remediation. Time passed. To confirm this, many people in the crowd consulted their portable timepieces, of whatever type. As the magic time approached, the level of excitement increased palpably. Children cried and were duly shushed, old people complained and sheltered under souvenir copies of the newspaper. Here and there they collapsed out of the hot sun into the shade and comparative cool between the crowds legs. One older man collapsed midway between Mr Blenkinsop and the crowd barrier. The surface of heads adjusted themselves like a lake accepting the arrival of a thrown rock. After several minutes a paramedic arrived and removed the owner of a sunburnt bald head who should have worn a hat. The lake adjusted itself to this too, and by some amazing chance Mr Blenkinsop found himself pushed and swirled by the current until he stood in the very front row of the crowd only slightly flustered, waiting for nothing to stand between him and his moment of transfiguration.

Away to his right, the crowd was roaring. The volume was growing as the wave rolled down the street toward him, as fast as a horse could trot. Around him the crowd became animate, making spasmodic movements that accomplished nothing. People put bags down to rest their hands, other people picked up bags to protect the bags from the blind feet of the crows. Phones were held aloft like periscopes and then lowered and re-pocketed when it was agreed that, despite the noise, there was nothing to see yet aside from a forest of arms holding mobile phones. Mr Blenkinsop swayed slightly on his perch on the kerb, fixated on a highway patrolman who seemed to consider the niceness of the day and the festival atmosphere as some kind of personal insult, his gimlet eyes mowed down the front row of the crowd. The cold blue-grey eyes stopped. Mr Blenkinsop quailed inwardly but the Avenger stood firm.

A young child, a boy of at most four or five forced himself through the narrow space between Mr Blenkinsop’s right leg and the scrawny buck-toothed woman next to him. The child ducked under the crowd barrier and out into the parade route where he stopped in the middle of the deserted asphalt and looked up the street in the direction of the approaching parade. After a second he used the flat of his right hand to shade his eyes, a second after that his hand magically transformed itself into a telescope into which he squinted. A further second passed, he shouted “Mum! I think I can see them!” At the same moment that his mother shouted “Joshua come back here, where its safe!” A bare split second before the patrolman started walking towards little Joshua and saying, “Get back with your mother, kid, you aren’t allowed on the road.” His eyes flicked off Joshua and back onto Mr. Blenkinsop but the momentary distraction seemed to have sapped them of suspicion and rendered them bland. “Go-on kid, your mother’s waiting” his voice had become kinder, placatory, to still the tears and probable hysterics that seemed likely.

The wave of crowd-roar topped the hill to the right Mr.Blenkinsop and grew suddenly louder. In sympathy, the crowd around him grew more excited, more animated – the periscope phones and a man within metres of Blenkinsop wearing a black baseball cap embroidered with the word “Ford” told his very pale and very sunburnt wife, “ I can see them, they just topped the rise!”
She replied; ”plenty of time left then.”
Laying the workings of their relationship open to anyone who could be bothered observing.

The excitement in the crowd increased, manifesting itself in a large number of isolated movements that resulted in a general pressing forward of the herd. Mr Blenkinsop was spared most of the forward motion and managed to precariously maintain his perch on the kerb, but many didn’t, stepping down into the gutter but keeping their position there, heeding the warning shouts of the police. It was a dangerous moment. Had anyone actually fallen they would most likely have been trampled by the crush of people, a possibility everyone, especially the Police, seemed aware of.

Mr. Blenkinsop could see them now, less than fifty metres away, six huge white horses, each arrayed with a white feather plume, pulling an ornate white, four-wheel open-top carriage of pearlescent wood and gold rococo trim. The coachman in a white satin tailcoat and shining white top-hat; all elements together combining into a vision of profound opulence and unattainable fairytale splendour, and reclining inside the vision, in each other’s arms, the bride and groom. The only way that the crowd could deal with the excitement the vision caused in them was to cheer, ecstatically. The red head mother of Joshua rather lacking in inspiration shouted repeatedly “Best wishes to the bride and groom”, repeatedly and each time she did it, she threw a single white long-stemmed rose at the objects of her affection, like a dart. The man in the “Ford” cap shouted “Huzzah” repeatedly until his face was doubly red from sunburn and exertion. His wife stayed mostly silent except for a thin reedy squeal not unlike an over-filled kettle reaching the boil.

The Avenger revealed himself at the moment the carriage was parallel. His rampant power throbbed, ready to explode of its own accord. Joshua looked up then looked away. The young bride was gently kissing her new husband who, as luck would have it, was facing away from the Avenger. The bride’s bright blue right eye singled The Avenger out of the crowd, gazed like a cornered deer into his blazing eyes, and glanced down at his full glory, gave a single great guttural guffaw directly into her husband’s face; and pointed.
As long as the crowd remained ignorant of his true identity, he was safe enough.

(C) Alex Rieneck, 2019

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Featured

Short Fiction

Night flight from Lincolnshire to Nuremberg

It was black, really black. He couldn’t see his hand six inches in front of his face. The dials of the control panel were such a dim red that they would only render up information if squinted at. Years ago and on the other side of the world Mullins had learned photography while in school. The profound blackness of the cockpit reminded him of the darkroom; the barely visible red dials of the safe light.

They hadn’t taught incredible, horrible teeth aching cold at school though and if they had Mullins would have left; they simply didn’t do cold in Molong N.S.W, not cold like this. Back home cold was sitting around a fire, probably in shorts and a singlet. Here, a tray of photo chemicals (if you were crazy enough to have such a thing) would freeze solid, into a poisonous ice block probably in under minute.

Mullins pushed the control yoke ten degrees forward into a shallow dive, stomped the port rudder pedal. The Lancaster went into a shallow dive and veered left. In a moment he would reverse the sequence, and in this way the huge bomber would maintain a gentle corkscrew motion as it followed a straight course across Belgium towards Nuremberg. The corkscrew was a manoeuvre that he had been assured would confuse the enemy night fighters that stalked the night, their pilots apparently gifted with the ability to see in the dark. Mullins doubted that the manoeuvre accomplished anything other than giving him something to do with his hands that would keep him awake, other than the ongoing terror of night-fighters of course. At any instant, completely without warning, his whole comparatively peaceful world of the plane and the night, could dissolve without warning into blood and fire. In a worst case scenario an attack might detonate the bomb load without warning and, in an instant, he and his crew would simply cease to exist.

Or, and it was not the first time the thought had occurred to him, that eventuality might actually be quite far from the worst, travelling along at eighteen thousand feet above the earth in a fragile tube of aluminium, magnesium, perspex and several thousand gallons of aviation fuel and explosives left the door wide open to many possibilities far worse than instantaneous death. One could crash into the ground have most of your bones broken so you couldn’t run, and be cooked alive by burning fuel. One could be very damaged in some sort of nasty encounter, but not die, and live for months under the care of the Nazi Army doctors – who had no love of terrorfliegers. Possibly worse even than that, one could parachute into a burning city during a raid and probably be pushed into the flames alive by the angry citizenry.

The plane droned on forcing its blunt nose ever deeper into the freezing black air. Mullins kept corkscrewing even though he knew in his heart that if a night fighter was sleazing up behind them, they were almost undoubtedly quite fucked, and indeed they had probably entered that state when their wheels had left the tarmac at Warley Fen back behind them in the relative quiet of England. In point of fact, there was no exact point when “not too bad” had degenerated into “fucked” but if he tried hard enough, fighting his way through the clinging spiderweb layers of memory, it had probably been during a lunch discussion on world events at school.

It was brutally hot in the playground; too hot to move, certainly too hot to run, so they’ taken to congregating in the stairwell of the brick building and talking, and back then, there’d been nothing else to talk of. War was coming! There was no exact point where he’d decided to sign up, it was more of a foregone conclusion. He was moved inexorably in the current which he could not fight away from the life he had been sure of, out to sea, far from the sunny beach, out into the cold open embrace of the ocean, to drown.

LOUD! over the intercom, a scream. Wordless, conveying no information except utter terror and pain. The big plane lurched as Mullins’ body spasmed at the controls. In shock and instant sympathy.

The was a procedure for even this, especially this. He pushed the throttles hard forward and simultaneously forced the nose down into a dive, while stomping hard on the starboard rudder pedal; but all the time thinking that he should have seen the flash of tracer, either from the fighter or from the return fire from whichever of the crew had screamed a warning, and from the sound – either died or been mortally wounded. And, as for everything, there was a procedure for this too. He had to shout to make himself heard over the pandemonium caused by recent events. He tried to sound calm but even as he heard his own words he knew that he didn’t do a very good job of it.

”All right you lot, shut the fuck up! Sound off one at a time if you’re O.K.”
The thing was that the person who’d made that noise was definitely not O.K., in fact the person who had made that noise was probably already dead.
“Bomb-Aimer, O.K Skipper” Mitchy sounded quite startled by definitely alive.
“Mid-Upper Gunner Ok” “Radio-operator alright sur.” Both spoke at the same time, their voices garbling over the circuit, but both somehow remaining recognisable.
“Navigator – it wasn’t me Skipper, I’m alright” Pruett sounded aggrieved, probably shocked into making a mistake in his sums. Silence; well aside from the all – encompassing roar of the engines.
“Co-pilot, I’m fine too.” It’d have been funny if it wasn’t strict procedure. Staples was sitting next to him , their opposing biceps inches apart. Surely if Staples had been the source of that scream he would have known? Would have heard it above the engines? On the other hand, perhaps not. He twisted his head as far as it would go to the right without dragging his oxygen mask off his face. Staples had turned toward him too, his masked and goggled face was practically invisible in the gloom, misshapen, insectoid, faint red reflections from the instrument panel adding to an aura of evil. Mullins knew was reflected in his own shape.

The crew was not complete, ”Cookie?”
“Rear Gunner? Did anyone hear Cookie sound off?”
”No Skip; No.” A series of denials and “Mid upper skip. I’ll check on him if you like.”
“Thanks, Les- I know your arse hurts but I’d be happier knowing you were keeping a look-out. Pruett, you’re closest – go and check on Cookie.”
“OK Skip” he didn’t sound happy about it, but he’d be less likely to have an attack of the vapours than Les. Silence, if the roaring and rattling could be called silence.
“Les? Did you see any thing outside that might’ve done it?” That was Staples, pulling rank to chat on the intercom; Mullins said nothing.
J-Jane quivered as she passed through a small patch of turbulence and Mullins felt the airframe flex slightly under his feet.
“Fuck! Shit!”
It was Pruett’s voice and the lack of solid information contained in it was irritating. Given the situation, doubly so.
Mullins, “Fucking What?” Blended with input from everyone else that sound like the arrival of a fox at a duck farm.
“Sorry skipper, I’m up the back, just at the turret, I’m plugged into the port here. I wish I had a fucking light, It’s horrible!”
Mullins was terrified, and judging by the noise, so was everyone else.
“Sal! No lights! Are you fucking mad? You want to attract every Night fighter in Belgium?”
“No Skip – but it’s Cookie. The doors to the turret were open, and he was half out and I think the back of his neck is missing.”
“It’s been shot out?”
“No, the turret looks fine. It’s just; I put my hand – his head…” Pruett made a wet noise in the back of his throat.
Mullins jumped slightly as he remembered that he was not weaving the plane in the sky, felt the plane quiver in sympathy, resettled himself on his profoundly uncomfortable seat, and stomped the port rudder pedal into a comparatively brisk left turn and pulled the control column back into something of a climb. In the excitement it seemed they’d lost nearly five hundred feet of altitude and that was dangerous. The bomber stream they’re part of had an assigned altitude of eighteen thousand feet and altering height and course massively increased the chance of colliding with one of the seven – hundred and-fifty other planes on the same mission. Mullins squinted furtively out the panels of the cockpit bubble and saw nothing except a few faint stars; it seemed that the high grey haze of cloud was clearing. That was good, it meant that they could not be silhouetted on it by searchlights. His mind went back to the minute of the mission with something like relief:
“Navigator, time to target!”
Nothing. “He hasn’t come back yet Skipper, people usually bump into me on the way past.”
That was Les.
“You poor thing. I’ll tell you what, if you’d like to stretch your legs, you can pop back there and tell him to get back to work” Mullins said this with the air of bestowing a great favour.

”Right away mate.” Les didn’t sound thrilled about his new mission and his Australian twang reflected it.
“Don’t call me mate.”
Silence. Apparently “right away” had meant just that.

“He’s not here Skipper.” There was no preamble; it was Les’ voice.
“Whattaya mean? Pruett isn’t there? Could he have fallen out?”

Les was breathing quite hard. ”No; the turret is rotated and the doors are closed, but there’s blood everywhere, so much blood. My feet are sticking to the floor, its trying to pull my flying boots off!” Les was breathing rapidly, starting to come ugly gulps.

“Get a fucking grip Les,” cut in Mitchell’s voice. “Its just fucking blood mate. It can’t hurt you.”

Les breathed in, a big gasping whoop of air and Mullins reflected that people like Mitchy were beyond any price.

“Alright for you, fucker, right up the other end, lying on an escape hatch; there’s something back here that kills people! It killed Cookie, then it killed Pruett and now I think it’s after me!”

“Something? What do you mean Something; you daft cunt?”

Les’ scream stopped suddenly, mid-scream. It sounded as if his intercom wire had been pulled out of its socket.
“Fuck. That didn’t sound good.” Mitch’s normal optimism seemed to have been worn thin.
“Fucking Fuck you’re fucking right! I’m fucking closer to it than you you colonial bastard!” As radio operator, Symthe, a welshman was closest to the rear of the plane his station being just forward of the main spar.
“Smythe! Stop stalling and come up to the cockpit, but before you do have a squid at The Nav stuff and see if you can work out where we are; it’s important.”
“I can tell you that Skipper.” It was Mitch. He was very sure of himself.
“Care to enlighten me?” They were functioning less as a crew and more as a collection of disparate individuals.
“We’re more or less on course for the target about ten miles out.”
“You can see it?”
“Hell yes! Massive fire, one set of marker flares still going down. They’re really catching shit! “ It wasn’t really a giggle, not really.
“Correct course to target.” It was an order.

“Fifteen degrees starboard. We’re a bit low too.” Mullins pressed the right rudder pedal, watched the compass rotate. “O.K. I’ve got her.” Mullins watched a one degree course change further starboard, and a river back to Port.
“There’s a dark patch in the middle of the fires- I’ll try to hit that.”
He’d have his work cut out for him; the thermals from the fires beneath were already making “Jane” jump like a crazy horse, the control column was wild in his hands.
“Wait for it, wait for it,” ‘Jane’ rocked so hard that his head banged hardback on his headrest.

The cockpit was flooded with the light of the orange fires of hell beneath them. Something burst into the cockpit, grabbed at him, faintly, over the noise of the engines. The roar of the fire beneath and the incessant concussion of the bombs, he could hear that it was screaming. It was Smythe; he was evidently crazy, he was waving his large service revolver, pointing it down the narrow companionway towards the rear of the plane, firing twice. Through the thick baffle plates of his headphones the shots were muted, subsumed into the generalised roar of the engines, the bombs and the flak barrage that surrounded them. For a single horrible second the cockpit was incandescently bright as a searchlight passed over them.

Smythe fired again and something black, the size of a dog, that looked like a spider, pounced on him, grabbed his hand and bit all his fingers off. The gun fell to the floor, the port wing fuel tank exploded, and the wing folded in onto itself near the root. The fuselage rotated port longitudinally with terrifying rapidity and Mullins was thrown hard against the canopy.

He awoke several thousand feet lower in freefall to discover that his parachute had been irreparably torn on his progress through the canopy. He landed, long seconds later in the burning ruin of an apartment building, and died instantly on impact.Mitchell’s parachute did open but the immense column of heated air from the fires carried him to the border of the main conflagration where he broke an ankle on landing in a back kitchen garden where he was captured by a detachment of middle- agedVolksturm anti aircraft gunners who took it upon themselves to douse him in diesel fuel and ignite him where he lay. He died when one of them took pity on him and cracked his head with a hoe.

Smythe was still inside the ‘Jane’ when she landed in what had once been a municipal park, travelling at some four hundred miles an hour, at the moment of impact he was struggling to access the bomb-aimer’s escape hatch while fighting with the thing, whatever it was, that had eaten his fingers.

(C) Copyright Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights reserved.

Seaside Rendezvous

Copyright (C) Alex Rieneck 2019

“Don’t we have a policy of not taking money from fucking perverts?” Tim was not faking being quite angry and it showed in his voice. He was talking across the boardroom table to Attard, who, as usual was fiddling with one of his gourmet Columbian blended cigars and seemed happy and calm at the prospect of smoking it. Tim, who had cut down on his intake quite recently, found the sight rather irritating.

Young cut in; she was Board Secretary and made sure no-one ever forgot it. “No Tim, there was discussion after the Nazi Holocaust investigation the year before last, but the board deadlocked and in the absence of a clear directive from the shareholders, the matter was effectively shelved.” Atttard swooped in for the kill; “The ratings figures on the feeds are clear Tim, our end users are pretty pervy themselves. They aren’t watching the various main release feeds for historical education, but for pure titillation and the bio-monitors are confirming that as time passes, the end uses are getting Pervier. We are middle men we take projects from the feeds and deliver product. They take their subscriptions at their end – the more sex and violence the better, for everybody; and anyway, it all actually happened, we aren’t making any of it up.”

It was one of the central columns of Tr00 publicity – patently true and difficult to argue against.
“But in concentrating on the negative we’re polluting the present, violent attacks are at an all time high – the streets are a war zone.”
“The news media needs to make a profit too, Tim,” Attard pounced.
“Both my nieces have been mugged in the last month!” Tim felt weak, falling back on the truth. The projects always seem alright, like the Nazi Holocaust job – final, total proof that the Holocaust didtake place and the final eradication of the arguments of the so call “Holocaust deniers” – until it went on release and it turned out that the deniersliked being proved wrong and were watching parts of it over and over – and masturbating.
“The thing is Tim, it happened.”
“The thing is, Attard;” Tim didn’t use his first name, on purpose, “I think we’re making the world a worse place by concentrating on the negative aspects of life.”
“And when we try something that’s supposed to be positive, everybody turns off, remember that feature we did on Jesus? Practically nobody watched it except the ones who were waiting to watch Jesus to fuck Mary Magdelene so they could masturbate – good work there by the way.”
“Thanks.” After all the worthy philosophy, some lusty bonking had turned Tim on too, and he was sure his reactions had transmitted through his Locus work.

“But this, there’s no question about this. This isn’t an unexpected interlude between the Messiah and his girlfriend. This one is just straight-out perversion. On purpose.”
“Oh come on Tim, how could you possibly know that?”
“Owen, I’ve been there. In my university days I spent a year living in Italy, moving cities, in the months I lived in Naples I visited Pompeii at least once a week.”
Attard hadn’t known that about Tim but he had no difficulty believing it.
“The Project briefing says the place is called “The Villa Of the Mysteries” and its purpose has defied explanation by archeologists for hundreds of years”
“are you saying you know something generations of archeologists don’t?” Attard spoke with the air of a rat-trap slamming shut on an unwary mouse.
“Yes.”
“Well seeing that all theories are shortly to be proven or disproven, one way or the other by the Locus; I think now is the time to put up or shut up Tim – and to make it all even more interesting, what do you say we put a little wager on your theory, say 1,000 McPhees?” Attard was all buttery charm and easily earned at least double Tim’s annual pay but one thousand McPhees wasn’t extravagant to Tim either, who wasn’t a betting man.
“Sure thing Patrick.”
“Tim? You haven’t already checked your theory out?”
“No, Mr Attard, I haven’t.”
“No offence; it just occurred to me.”
“None taken, it’s a good idea it’s just this sort of situation doesn’t present itself often.”
The way that Attard was looking at him made Tim uncomfortable.
“So,” said Attard, “this large house or villa is set, perhaps terminates, the walk from the city gates. It is renowned for its fabulous frescos which, it is believed show the initiation, in sequential images of a maiden into the cult of Bacchus, the wine God. The God of parties and carousel. There are various rooms in the place that have identifiable purposes; The room with two ovens was obviously a state-if-the-art gourmet kitchen; there was a steamboat, a hot room and facilities for making wine,”
“Later.” ‘ Tim broke in.
Momentarily nudged off- stride Attard looked over.
“Later than the period of use I’m talking about – or earlier, it doesn’t matter.”
“That sounds a bit slapdash Tim-what do you mean?”
“Look, we’re talking about a large expensive house in the suburban/rural fringe of a holiday resort town, over the period from when it was built to when it was buried by the volcano; during the time it was standing, what with the way the world works, it was undoubtedly re-purposed a few times. My theory is that it started life as a clubhouse for the cult of Bacchus and then went through multiple incarnations before finishing up as the “Villa of the Mysteries” at the time of the eruption. It’s the final incarnation that I’m interested in.”
“ And what was it then?”
“That’s what nobody can work out.”
“Except you, of course.”
“As it happens. I do think so.”
“Well if you wouldn’t mind putting your mouth where your money is, do you think you could bring yourself to fucking tell me?”
“The thing is, I grew up in a small seaside town; so I have an advantage the average archeologist doesn’t – I understand how the places work. People think they go to such places to get away from it all, but really they don’t. What they want is more of the same – but slower paced and with fresh air.”
“Go on.” 
“I grew up in a town called Laurieton, on the East coast of what used to be called Australia. Have you ever noticed how small towns all have a building that used to be a cinema? Back then remote towns were out of Tv transmission range and”
“Get on with it!”
“Um, the most important thing they had to do was, entertain the tourists. You see, you don’t go on holiday to do nothing – you go on holiday to have fun and people are creatures of habit with their fun, they develop tastes, then they want more of the same. They like cinema in the city, they want it on holiday too, but without the knife-fights in the popcorn queue – They want it the same, but preferably better.”
“Get to the point.”
“Right, the thing is, I went to Pompeii and I felt right at home. They had all the normal shit you do in the sun with the kids – boat rides fish’n’chips, swimming, fishing, a heated baths complex – and the ancient Roman equivalent of a Imax cinema.”
“A what?”
“A cinema with a very big, very high resolution screen – a late twentieth century attempt to produce the effects of an input helmet; on multiple people at the same time.”
“Will you get to the fucking point?”
“Fuck you; You asked – the dominant entertainment in Rome was not cinema;”
“Really?”
“It was the arena; or as the Romans called it, ‘the Circus’ – the setting of gladiatorial conflicts – the place where prisoners were fed alive to wild animals. Where sometimes prisoners were tortured to death for the amusement of the crowd.”
“I’ll torture you to detain a fucking minute”
“The blood, gore, and pathos were incredibly popular with the crowd – a roman showed his or her true mettle by not showing empathy with the suffering at the circus – while obviously gaining pleasure at the spectacle and, of course, betting on the fights. The thing was the circus in Pompeii, had on advantage over the big arenas in Rome. Oh sure, they got the big purse gladiator fights, massive set pieces and the prisoner holocausts but they had one disadvantage – They’d gotten too big. You couldn’t really see if a gladiator match was fixed unless you were right up the front, and those seats were far too expensive, so only the rich got the full effect, a good view of the wounds, being able to hear the bones break, being able to smell the blood, everyone else was watching something like cavorting ants on a saucer.
Ok! Ok! The thing is, the arena at Pompeii was much smaller, everybody was closer to the action – It was a perfect example of smaller being better – if you like your murder in high detail.”
“You know, none of this is about The Villa of the Mysteries. None! It’s *All *off the point!”*

“It fucking isn’t! The thing is Pompeii was a typical holiday town, the same as you’d find anywhere, even, well, not now, not anymore. Town Its not different, its similar in its differences! The town where I grew up, had a very nice cinema, never crowded. After I’d left, they built an Imax theatre, people came from miles around.”

“The. Villa. Of. The. Fucking. Mysteries.”

“Big building. Expensive two stories surrounding a small central courtyard. Courtyard fenced by solid brick wall about two metres high. Now Romans were small in comparison to us, the size of children, roughly. I was a young man, not fat like I am now,” he patted his large girth. “And I could barely get over it, before security told me to fuck off.”
“The place was a priceless archeological site, not a jungle gym.”
“I was young. And it turned out not to be priceless after all, didn’t it? Just very expensive, I’m sure the new town they build there will be very pleasant.”
“It’s always unpleasant to be an idealist when politicians are involved.” The statement was rather more philosophical than was normal for Attard who had been known to advocate political assassination for elected officials shown to be guilty of lying or corruption but it did nothing to calm Tim who was firmly in favour of exactly the same penalty for officials who took bribes to sell archeological sites for modern development. He attempted to console himself with the certain knowledge that the Villa of the Mysteries and indeed Pompeii itself would always be present for the Locus, even if the site was covered by a twenty-storey concrete parking garage.
“So your theory Tim?”

“The main Pompeian amphitheatre was good entertainment at a good price for the common holidaymakers who can down from Rome on the big Triremes. The Villa of the Mysteries was top class entertainment for rich connoisseurs who wanted something special; probably something to order, and were prepared to pay for it.”
“Finally! Do you know what time it is Tim?”
“Always Patrick.”
As it happened they had less than fifty minutes before the fusion station came on line and delivered the power they need.

The villa actually looked slightly more bedraggled and decrepit in the Locus than it did in the images that had come with the contract file. The back of the structure was partially covered in scaffolding and men worked on the walls as men have for the last thousand years, neither too fast, or too slow but rather just fast enough to convince middle management that they were neither dead or incompetent.

“They’ll be repairing damage from the earthquake of 5 February 62 AD…” His eye caught the bug in the lower right corner.
“Still? Fuck! that was nearly ten years ago! Either this lot are on some sort of maintenance contract or the place was rubble after the earthquake.”
“Let’s see inside.” Attard had no real interest in the plight of the workers, after all, he was upper management.
Tim ghosted the Locus through the locked front gate and through the big wooden red-painted doors. Light glowed in iron braziers each side of the entrance and the glossy paint glimmered. The inside of the interior courtyard was exactly as Tim had described , except that the two metre barrier walls had been covered with a coat of whitewash and bright braziers lit the space from their positions in all four corners. The space between the top of the barrier wall and the awning above was filled with a heavy, taut rope net. Evening was over and the night was well settled in when things started to happen. The sky above the little courtyard was a deep blue and the stars stared down as cold and as hard as diamonds. They delivered the two men first, a big black unpleasant looking man and s small one with a face like a ferret and more white in his eyes than was comfortable. The sedan chairs arrived an hour later, shown into place by a flunkey who managed to walk backwards while bowing. The sedan chairs were placed on portable wooden trestles that had the riders lying at the same height as the top of the wall, with a perfect view of activities beyond it, well within arms’s reach.

Attard was surprised and gladdened when the big black man actually killed the small high speed ferret man. It was almost a fair fight. The Ferret man had a knife which he slashed his opponent with, often, spraying the white walls with livid splashes of bright red. Then he stabbed the black man directly in the penis and was almost instantly rewarded with a high kick to the chest that sent him flying into the wall hard enough to break multiple ribs. The black man then leapt into the air and landed both feet on his opponents body.
The fat bald man in the right hand chair clapped ironically. They delivered the girl ten minutes after the victor was removed from the premises. She couldn’t have been more than twelve and she cried piteously and begged for mercy. The fat man spat in her face so she sat in a corner and cried there. Tim set the Locus to wide-angle, handed control to Jensen and went to the tearoom for a cup of tea and a bowl of noodles. He had no desire to watch more. He had seen them deliver the lion already, it was downstairs, waiting, and besides- it had all already happened

Through Dark Glass

“That’s odd.” 111a’s voice sounded metallic and flat over Rygard’s helmet speakers but there was nothing odd in that, everyone’s voice sounded metallic and flat over the voice circuit. It was a feature of the equipment. Then there was the fact that 111a’s voice always sounded rather metallic and flatanyway, owing to his origin in a robotics factory in Kourou, in what used to be French Guyana. The same penny-pinching that gave them cheap suit communicators teamed them with a survey bot from the lowest bidder at tender time.

Rygard wasn’t happy. It was something to do with the fucking scenery. The horizon was about ten kilometres away and dead flat in all 360 degrees of view except for the highly detailed silver shape of their ship about a kilometre behind them. The sky was as white and featureless as a sheet of untouched writing paper. The ground was a uniform rust red everywhere. And everywhere rust brown rocks, approximately round, from boulder size to the general dimensions of a clenched fist. Shit, if you had the right people you could have one fucker of a rock-fight. Of course it’d be one where if a participant’s suit was breached by a thrown rock they would die in very short order by explosive decompression, “But hell! its all in good fun, right?” Rygard had vaped a gram of the good hash he’d brought with him before he came out on this walk, but it didn’t seem to have helped his mood much.

“That isodd!” 111a repeated. “It’s square.”
That wasn’t odd, it was downright strange – Rygard had no idea what 111a was talking about.

“What’s square?” His voice was rather sharper than he cared for so maybe the Hash was having an effect after all.

“The ground. It’s square.”

Rygard gave up. He turned around. The shuffling of his boots on the coarse red sand carried up to his ears through the air on the inside of the suit, muffled, attenuated but still clear enough to remind him of the utter lethality and almost nonexistence of the atmosphere that surrounded him – 95 percent Carbon Dioxide, 0.8 percent Carbon Monoxide, small amounts of other poisonous shit, a bit of Chlorine, fuck all percent other shit, all poisonous and the whole horrible mixture at a pressure so low it could almost be called vacuum anyway, so anyone exposed to the surface without a suit wouldn’t have time to be killed by the shitty atmosphere because they’d be too busy having their lungs collapsed and probably sucked all the way out through their throat to float away in the low gravity like a nasty, squishy translucent balloon.

The vision was oddly clear and made him think suddenly of the shop he’d bought the hash in; One Shop in the “Eternity” Mall – the logo the word in lurid pink cursive script/purple neon balancing a cartoon flamingo in yellow. The service droid had assured him that the hashish was genuine, imported from the area once known as Afghanistan and was not synthetic or sourced from hydroponically grown plants and, at the time Rygard had chosen to believe it, but now he was not so sure, his imaginings had a tendency towards iridescence that seemed almost chemical. It wasn’t that they were unpleasant, just rather more vivid than comfortable.

“So, what’s square you rubbishy robot?”

111a had launched the drone he kept in his head like a hat thing. At present it hovered, a barely visible black smudge, about fifty metres above them.

“The ground. Look. I’ll feed it through my chest.”

Definitely communications were too shitty to transmit direct to Rygard’s helmet screen. He walked over to the robot, stopped.

“The ground, look down.” Directly under the toes of Rygard’s boots the ground suddenly changed from red oxide sand to black, what looked like tiny melted balls of volcanic glass. In a perfectly straight line.

“It’s a square exactly thirty-five metres on a side.” 111a turned to face Rygard, its chest screen showed two tiny silver figures at the edge of a perfect black square on a field of red-brown.

“So you can do it?” Ambros3 hadn’t been CEO long and he was still finding his feet, one in a bucket of oily threat, the other in a puddle of back-alley knife-fight .

Tim didn’t give two fucks, he didn’t get brought to the boardroom often but it didn’t faze him. Attard, the CFO was smoking so it was obviously alright if he did, too, and if Attard was smoking a cigarillo of Columbian Gold at two-hundred-and-seventy dollars a stick, from his Platinum case and Tim was burning holes in his swollen Jumper with filthy Indian Bidis – was there a shit to go with the fucks? Tim blew smoke.

“Well I don’t really see any reason why not, we’ve sent the Locus further back than that heaps of times and further than that, quite often. Its just a big job, and it’ll take a lot of power, which is of course, budgetary, if there’s no problem there.”

“The project has a diamond rating.” Attard loved other people’s money.

“Then there’s no problem, we’ll liase to bring the fusions on board.”

“By the end of the week.”

Shit. Today was Tuesday. Tim was indispensable, he could get away with the look on his face. Not that he gave much of a fuck about that, either, but he got busy anyway.

“So its roughly 131million kilometres and increasing at 11 thousand a day?”
“Yep, that’s about right.” Yazhen sounded bored. Tim knew she had been on shift eight hours already and wanted her lunch but he was miffed. This was interesting- about as interesting as it could get.

The Mars team were up to the challenge. They assembled a Tr00 locator beacon out of the remnants of a rover microwave radar system and placed it dead centre in the target. It took power from the rover’s remaining fuel cell, and a small battery of Solar panels. The Mars team worked very long hours to get the system running in time, but since the only other alternative was to send a Tr00-specific beacon from Earth, a hundred and eight day trip on what would have to be a special trip with a price tag that would easily run into billions, the team who were already on Mars got little but some rather insincere compassion for their short, frenetic work-overload. But, as Attard pointed out, they were scientists and largely motivated by curiosity – and in this instance curiosity would be a powerful motivator; so he was sure with his inexorable logic, that no bonuses need be forthcoming.

As it happened. He was completely correct. As Rygard groused to Monica Kahn, “There’s nothing to spend it on out here anyway.” Monica, who could get blood out of a stone and ten percent interest out of a billiard ball, stayed diplomatically silent.

“It’s a much more complicated hookup than normal.” Tim told Attard while snipping the end off a pre-rolled filtered “ThaiBomber” which, while it cost far less than Attard’s “Columbian Gold”, would have much the same effect. Tim was in his element. The only thing he loved more than the hardware was telling people about it.

“The Locus is quite powerful enough in its own right to examine the surface of Mars as it was five thousand years ago. Here, the chronological element is comparatively minor when seen against the dinosaur and mega-fauna work we were doing last year. And the tricentennial special investigation into “Abel” the first Aboriginal to land in Australia was twelve times further back. This isn’t even as far back as Atlantis – that was two terra-watt days, from memory and my memory is good.” He dragged deeply on his ThaiBomber. His exhaust smoke glittered like a rainbow. It was a publicity gimmick until the end of the month.

Attard continued to lounge in the doorway of the office. but his exhaust smoke was plain boring grey. “You’re right, two T Days, all five fusion stations linked, we even called in Braid on that.”

Tim had a bit of a coughing fit, which they both politely ignored, and responded through gasps for air. “This’ll be the same, for about half our window the target site is on the far side of Mars, there’s talk of bouncing the beam off their comms satellite. Can’t see why myself just shoot straight through, even at this range, it worked often enough before.” He coughed once more, wetly.

“Anything that keeps costs within reason is Athena for me.” Attard had recently converted to classic.

Tim, who’d been brought up conventional Norse, blew more rainbow smoke, but it didn’t mean anything. “We’re scheduled to start in five when Phobos has passed.”

Together they made their way to the central hub.

“Ok, Clear.”

“Hey Ho, Lets go.” Tim rammed his ThaiBomber butt into the bowling ashtray from Sydney Australia. An explosion on butts leapt forth, some pattering into the crumpled paper in the wire mesh bin next to the desk.

“O.K. sixty metres directly above the mathematical centre of the square minus five thousand, two hundred years. Right on the sweet spot – good targeting people.”

Text versions of the acknowledgements appeared on the screen at his elbow, the words themselves faint chirps in his headset, just the way he liked it.

The screens all showed the same thing. Pure, featureless rust red with a black square dead centre. The black square had been enhanced by a bright, almost too bright equilateral triangle on the right side, the triangle’s point, exactly dead-centre of the square. Tim gaped and the image changed in his head. He was looking straight down on an obliquely lit pyramid.

“Mars team; that light possible for the sun?”

Rygard’s response was reasonably quick, but tonally neutral. “It’s not really my department, but it looks right enough. Don’t you have people for that sort of thing?”

Tim swore. They did; and it was their department and he didn’t need this arsehole pointing it out.
”Cara, get me investigations; what’s his name? Owen something?”

“Can’t Chief.”

“Why the fuck not?”

“He isn’t rostered on. Its a long weekend topside.”

“Fuck.” Tim lowered the Locus to ground level on the bright side of the pyramid, rotated it 360 degrees at a distance of some two metres from the smooth glass wall. Over the flat horizon the distant sun peeped the brightest star among millions in an inky black sky.

“Ok.” Breathed Tim, “I think its Time to go
inside.” His hand shifted inside, the reader field and the Locus rotated one-hundred and eighty degrees, moved forward and passed into the pyramid like a ghost.

“What?” His first thought was that he’d finally managed to break the Locus, somehow, without meaning to and without having done anything anyway and the sudden rush of guilt, false accusations of oneself and righteous denials that took over his internal dialogue made his hand twitch, which made everything worse.

“Hey! Fuck!” Tim didn’t recognise the voice, but he understood the sentiment. Trillions of reflections in every direction. It appeared that the pyramid, wasn’t, but was rather a pyramid equally above and below the surface at the same time, each facet of the shape was not a solid wall but an infinitely long corridor extending outwards to who knew where. The corridors did things to the vision field of the Locus that had unpleasant effects on the human eye.

“Fuck! Fuck! Turn it off!” Tim thought he recognised Sandra’s voice from out in the main control, but the horrible migraine he was suddenly suffering from made it difficult to tell and far more difficult to care. Without warning, in perfect silence and with a reassuring lack of sparks, the image vanished from all streams.

Tim, who found his cluster migraine dissipating almost instantly, was both relieved and terrified. The ultra-speed strobing had obviously neither been good for the system, or for the millions who had been watching the live feed; and now the Locus appeared to be broken, who knew how badly.

“What the fuck was that all about Tim?”
There was a distinct edge to Attard’s voice and Tim looked up at the man standing next to the myriad of lights that were the power input unit. The lights bounced off Attard’s bald head and glinted on the golden rims of his round laser holographed spectacles. Each lens looked to be a gold penny. Attard’s eyes were invisible and his lips gave no clue as to his mood

“Y’know Torlg, I don’t really have the faintest fucking idea, but if I had to guess…”

“And quickly,”

“I’d say that the pyramid tetrahedron, and whatever the fuck it is, it is something very like the Locus itself – Transdimensional and existing in time and space only intermittently. When the Locus encountered the tetrahedron field the two failed to mesh perfectly and there were side effects, “

“I noticed.”

“Now if I had to guess, I’d say probably the tetrahedron field occupied a different point in chronology than the Loc was set for – that the tetrahedron was interfering with the Locus location controls.”

“Why did it cut out? Did we blow a fuse or something?” Attard’s pointed teeth really were an odd fashion, one that Tim didn’t especially care for.

“You know, I don’t think it was us, I think it was them.”

“Who is Them, exactly?” Tim pointed, Attard turned and looked. From a dark area on the grey main screen tall figures approached. Attard gaped and slowly realised that the screen was tracking to follow the figures’ procession. They approached in a group of six, three and three surrounding the blue stone. Tim’s voice spoke behind Attard, “Whatever it is, its one-point four metres long and has a mass of forty tonnes. It tests as transparent.”

“What is it?”

“Fuck knows, looks important.”

The procession stopped. The six figures withdrew from their burden which remained motionless. They were perhaps not tall so much as thin. Tim and billions across the system found the faces arresting, the high smooth foreheads the angular golden skin and brilliant tortoise eyes; somehow they looked familiar and Tim found himself weeping slightly. He blamed the rainbow smoke.

On the surface, Rygard watched the feed on 111a’s chest screen. It was disturbing to think that they were so close to the most watched point in the Solar System-but five thousand years late.

“Any number of registered ocean going cruisers, over one hundred and twelve thousand so far.”
111a’s metallic drone of a voice was rendered more worrying by the completely unfathomable information it was presenting without prompting

“What are you on about?” It was unnerving being looked at by 111a’s blank plastic face while standing on an alien planet, 400 million kilometres from Earth, when the blank face in question started spouting, frankly, weird shit.

“18 minutes ago you vocalised the question ‘why is it 35 metres?-seems an odd size.’ So I ran a cohesive search for everything with a recorded length of thirty-five metres most of the results were small-to-medium-ocean going-cruisers.”

“Well I doubt that this alien super-race looked into Earth’s future and based the size of their time-travelling tetrahedron on some rich bastards marlin killing boat.”

“I agree entirely Officer Rygard. In any event I found what I believe to be and interesting correspondence almost immediately.”

At first I was expecting one of the pyramids on the Gizeh plateau to match but all are larger. The pyramid of Kufu, in fact, is over twice as big, at seventy-five metres on a side.”

“Don’t waste time.”

“I’m sorry sir. In the city that was Paris back one hundred years ago; there was a big art gallery, before the moon worshippers exploded a hydrogen bomb.” Rygard nodded, his head moved freely inside his helmet and he felt slightly silly even as he did it; 111a had a program for body language but he wasn’t human. Then again Rygard had seen a vid once about the death of that city and it had affected him.

“So what is your point?”

“In the courtyard of the art gallery there was a pyramid, it was exactly thirty five metres on a side.” 111a’s round, flat, white plastic face was round, flat and plastic. It’s recessed round eyes didn’t convey any emotion, either. “The Pyramid was glass.”

Rygard looked at the melted looking globules under his feet, and back at the horizon.

(c) Alex Rieneck 2019

The High-Flyers

A Short Story (C) Alex rieneck 2019

Steinmetz was happy. It was quite pathetic really. The M.O had just made his scheduled visit, and as well as determining the cause of Baumer’s earache, had lined everyone up in the room that had once been the first-class restaurant, for a crabs and pox inspection. During this activity it transpired that Steinmetz had acquired a packet of toothpicks from the doctor’s open bag. They were the “good sort” he burbled; “The bamboo ones from China, that don’t get waterlogged and break!” Lo and behold, Steinmetz had a new hobby! Picking his teeth and staring at the world as it passed beneath them. It made a change from the implements he usually seemed to pick his teeth with – which had, to a large degree, been the reason for the three cases of crabs and pox that the M.O had discovered.

It was crazy Andressen thought, not for the first time, the straits that the war had brought them all to. Even the “Grey Goose” restaurant itself, had suffered a case of pure army vandalism. For no sensible reason, the carpets had been torn out and the complicated plaster ceiling crenellations, which had once glittered with gold leaf, had been slathered with a thick coat of the same battleship grey that covered the outside skin of the ship. The join between the room’s wall and the ceiling looked like the lumpy skin of a cancerous elephant.

Steinmetz stood looking down through the almost horizontal waist high windows at the passing green lowlands of Southern Switzerland. He was picking his teeth and Andressen could not help but admire the gentle curvature of the man’s rump rump inside his uniform trousers. Again the thought returned unbidden of the straits in which the war had placed them. Andressen swore silently as a way of spicing up his internal dialogue. War nothing, a fine arse was a fine arse, no matter who it belonged to, and Steinmetz’s blonde hair, he was sure, would be quite luscious if allowed to grow longer than the regulation crew cut.
Andressen crushed his cigarette out in the Horse-meat tin they were using as an ashtray a crossed the room to Steimetz. He’d see if it was possible to give the Pox back to its original donor. As far as that went Steinmetz could have the crabs back too. He didn’t want them either.

The frog Princess

a short Story

Once Upon a time in a semi- feudal age in a somewhat rural backwater where nothing much ever happened, there lived a girl. At this stage of the story it doesn’t matter what the girl’s name was but what does matter was that the girl felt hard done by – by life, even though she was only fourteen and hadn’t experienced much of it yet and the bits that she had experienced well, they didn’t make much sense to her except that her future seemed to be carved in something like stone, and to be as unappealing as if it had been written on a wall in baby’s business.
Now at the time the girl was living at home with her parents and her two sisters in a kind of ramshackle bungalow that stood on slightly hilly land between the area’s many dairy farms and the lovely unlogged old forest that covered the range of low hills the fields had been made from by countless generations of woodcutters, who no doubt insisted on their wives doing their wifely duty after dinner – and beat them if they didn’t, she would add in a grumpy mutter… And her future seemed to be restricted to getting married to one of the pimply boys of the area and keeping the house clean while he tilled as much in the way of fields as he had access to, and making sure food was ready when he came home from the fields smelling of cow poo and sweat, and then, unless the evidence of her eyes deceived her, either submitting herself to her wifely duty or a beating, depending entirely on the direction of his inclinations; though as she thought about it, the marriage option seemed to consist purely of being an unpaid housekeeper, who would be suspect to beatings at the whim of her employer. And his Love, of course. At this thought she would find her face growing warm and her mouth growing dry. Or there was one alternative although still rare in the area. She could, with the permission of her father, put herself out for work as a maid, for pay, hoping in time to work her way up by promotion through chambermaid to either housekeeper or cook, depending on her abilities. As alternatives went, it wasn’t perfect, since a life of meaningless drudgery looking after other peoples belongings was lacking in appeal.

Yllyne, (for that was her name), had developed a rather cynical attitude to the question after years of fretting about marriage, “wifely duties” and other such weighty matters. In all the time that Yllyne had been fretting about her plight she had never considered that life was just as hard – if not harder for the menfolk of the land. Hard physical labour in the fields every day from before dawn until it was almost too dark to see, every day of the year from when they were quite young boys until they’d become raddled old men. And they were so rude. Father hardly had a civil word to say for himself in the hour or so he managed to stay awake after he returned from the fields. In fact mother had confessed to her once, the whole idea of “wifely duties” made her sick nowadays and if he was too tired to try, and too tired to beat her in the event that his attempt was rejected, or insufficiently dutiful well, that was all to the good, wasn’t it?”

So it seemed that at least one person in the Porton house was happy besides, of course, for Woofie who kept himself mostly to the back yard because he wasn’t allowed in the house and liked to eat everything, from old mattresses to the prized produce of his privately-owned-bone-mine near the workshop. And Miaow seemed to be happy too, even though she did seem to be asleep most of the time, but she usually seemed to be smiling in her sleep, so Yllyne decided that it was the humans of the house on Porton Down that were unhappy and not the animals, and the animals for the most part seemed to be happy because they were free to do what they wanted to do. If Woofie wanted to chase pigeons or rats, he just did. If Miaow was woken from a nice nap, she’d give a loud theatrical sigh, that was almost a snort and stalk off. Pretty soon thereafter she’d be found somewhere else, blissfully asleep again, probably dreaming of summer butterflies. So if the animals were happy, because they simply did what they wanted to to, that was all very well, but how did they work out what they wanted to do? At a guess Yllyne decided Miaow’s plan wasn’t much more complicated than finding the love of her life, giving birth to a goodly number of kittens, and washing them, the way that mother cats had been doing since the beginning of time – but somewhere secret to keep them safe. Yllyne hoped that when Miaow’s time came, Miaow would trust her enough to let her see the kittens, she’d only seen kittens once in her life and the meeting had made her very happy. She thought she probably knew why Miaow smiled in her sleep.
So, she frowned to herself, how could she emulate the animals and grasp at some happiness for herself? She had no desire to eat rats or pigeons with Woofie and no intention of having kittens either – it was very annoying.

As it happened, Yllyne’s time spent fretting was wasted and life took the decision out of her hands. While she was out one day, gathering acorns and nuts at the edge of the old forest, a neighbour came past to visit. Mr Peabody was an acquaintance of her Mother and Father from church. He was a bachelor man of some forty years, whose companion, due to increasing ill-health and disability could no longer care for him. Mr Peabody, who made a decent living as a potter, since he had his own wheel and kiln, was looking for a housekeeper and cook, someone who was young and might learn the craft of creating pottery. Yllyne’s father, instantly thought of Yllyne for reasons that should be quite obvious and Yllyne’s mother immediately started advocating hard on the plan. Seemingly overnight Mr Peabody was convinced, the plan became a reality and Yllyne was bundled up and off to MrPeabody’s small house further down the valley.

Mr Peabody’s house was quite small and very neat indeed, he seemed to be coping well enough on his own Yllyne thought, but as he explained over dinner, she was there for company as much as anything else, and he said; “Before you jump to the wrong conclusions, we have separate bedrooms.” His, she found was on the ground floor, overlooking the garden, and was entirely his responsibility, hers was also on the ground floor, but much smaller and on the far side of the house looking out east over the kitchen garden. She preferred hers even though it was not much bigger than a good-sized cupboard. His bigger, more ostentatious room looked out over the flowers, but she preferred her view, the plants were more stolid working plants more in tune with the new, more adult outlook on life she was trying to inculcate in herself largely due to her mothers’s parting advice, as the horse, loaded with her few belongings, had started to amble off following Mr Peabody along the downhill track into the forest.

Yllyne and Peeder settled into a companionable rut remarkably quickly, Peeder was secluded in the potting shed or around the kiln most of most days, except for the perhaps one-day a fortnight, when he would venture to the swamp to dig enough of the rich, red, smooth clay as he needed for whatever project he had in mind. Peeder took Yllyne on several of these trips, mostly to help deal with the horse who did not appreciate the load. But Yllyne soon found herself almost looking forward to them, not just because they got her out of the house and away from the jobs that Peeder didn’t like doing. But because she found she liked watching Peeder, stripped to the waist working hard with a shovel, he was lean, but impressively muscled and Yllyne would sometimes feel almost uncomfortably warm while she watched him.

So life continued, as it does whether you’re watching it or not, Peeder dug clay, made it into pottery and sold it at markets. Pottery itself is pretty easy and Yllyne picked most of it up for herself but Peeder taught her the rest, the tricks and trickier bits, like how to fine-tune her glazes. In no time at all it seemed their stuff was selling at markets side-by-side across the county. At first, Yllyne’s enjoyed a burst of popularity, due mainly to the novelty of the pottery being made by a woman, but her popularity didn’t last long enough for Peeder’s pout to become a scowl, and he certainly didn’t beat her, so she saw the fickleness of the pottery-buying public as a reward in its own right. Yet at same time, on a level so deeply suppressed she could only express it as occasional flashes of bad temper of bouts of tears, she felt, unfulfilled.

From what she had be told by those who should certainly know, “wifely duties” only occasionally required an actual marriage and Yllyne stayed alert to the slightest hint in that direction and any visit to her parent’s house quickly turned into an interrogation on the subject, conducted by Yllyne’s mother whose technique had all the finesse of a crosscut saw on a piece of fine bone china. But nothing, neither Yllyne, nor, perhaps just as importantly, her mother, could believe it.

When matters changed, it was quite unexpected, in fact, it was almost silly. One afternoon she swept the side hallway in the afternoon, instead of as was her wont, getting all the sweeping done in the morning. This day was different, it was hot, it had been raining and she had stayed in bed longer than usual, hoping the headache would pass by the time she had to prepare lunch. As it happened, the headache stayed with her through the preparation and eating of lunch and only abated about the time Peeder went back to the potting shed. She immediately started the cleaning she should have gotten done earlier. With that peculiar clarity that comes sometimes after a bad headache, she remembered thinking that she wished someone would invent a broom that actually swept dust rather than simply raising clouds of it to attract witches. She devoted great attention to the side hallway and by the time she was finished the floor was spotless. Early the next morning, there were muddy marks on the floor, and it was Peeder who rose late feeling unwell. Yllyne ate breakfast on her own and chewed her porridge slowly. She had lots to think about. Hypotheses whipped through her mind like book pages in a whirlpool. Obviously, loyalty had to be cast aside in the pursuit of clear thought – since they were both still alive and nothing had been stolen, it was very unlikely that the nocturnal visitor had been some kind of thief. In fact, since both of them were alive, she hadn’t been raped, and nothing seemed to have been disturbed. More to the point visitors were rare at their house and she was sure she’d sense if a stranger had been there in the night, still, there was no denying the reality of the muddy marks on the floor, they’d got there somehow, and she was determined to find out how.
Peeder pooh-poohed her concern “Who knew?” He giggled and “Why was she so worried?” Both questions irritated her but it was hard to tell which irritated her more. He really could be the most exasperating man sometimes. It was perhaps her irritation with Peeder’s attitude, perhaps just general truculence but for no clearly defined reason she began to wonder if Peeder himself might not have been responsible for the mud, and his oddly fey attitude be a response to having had them discovered and being questioned about them. Either way, that night found Yllyne wrapped in her blankets lying on the floor of her bedroom with her eye pressed to the jamb of her door, which was open the tiniest crack. From her position she had a just about plausible view of the door to Peeder’s room and she was sure, could not be easily seen in return since the room behind her was dark, as she had taken the precaution of closing both the shutters and curtains because there was a bright half moon on the rise over the hill, and the night before her room had been lit so bright she had half-woken from a fitful sleep.

She didn’t have long to wait. By her estimate it was scarcely three hours since they had both ostensibly gone to bed, and the fire in the front room was still almost glowing when she sensed rather than saw, movement in Peeder’s room. The vibration caused by bare feet on the floorboards across the house travelled into her ears from the place where her jaw rested on the floor. After a moment a drawer opened so softly that she almost doubted the evidence of her ears yet some seconds later the sound returned, apparently as the drawer closed. Peeder’s door opened from being partially lit, it became half-shadow, then a tall black oblong as it half-opened. A figure exited silently, in the jagged monochromatic Yllyne was only mostly sure that the figure was Peeder. The figure was naked, strangely hunched and seemed very pale in the slanting beams of moonlight.
As the figure turned, Yllyne glimpsed an erect penis bobbing in the figure’s loins. Since it was the first penis she had ever seen she paid very close attention, until her breath grew foul in her lungs and her head swam. The figure shuffled out of sight into the side hall and a moment later she heard the tiny faint sound of the door bolt being drawn back stealthily. A moment after that, due to an almost imperceptible change in the density of the air in the house she knew that the side door had been opened. She was terrified, her breath rasped in her throat and, this close to the floor, dust from between the planks set her eyes and nose running. She was desperate to sneeze! She pinched nose and mouth closed with her right hand, so tight that she was tempted to squeal in pain. Sneezed once into the seal of her hand, wanted to scream from the pain in her ears. Sat up. Silence. Waited. More silence. She stood and walked naked across the room on tiptoe to the window. Her skin crinkled into goose pimples as she went. She pressed her eye to the narrow slit in the curtains, squinting at the almost painfully bright light of the moon. Through one of the slats in the shutter outside she saw the figure move furtively through the kitchen garden, so quickly that it seemed impossible. The figure bent and whipped something from the ground stuffed it into a large dark patch in what must have been its head, and froze. Yllyne was sure the thing could see her through the tiny crack in the curtains and called on all her reserves of bravery to freeze motionless where she stood. The thing, Yllyne saw, had only three long thin fingers on each hand, terminating in a broad round flat nail, too stood motionless. She heard a faint rhythmic crunching and guessed the thing was chewing whatever it was that it had stolen from her garden. It sounded like a carrot. She dared to breathe again, but not to relinquish her position at the window. The thing that she couldn’t make sense of was that while the thing stood there in the moonlight silhouetted in the light of the moon behind it, it appeared to be naked yet at the same time somehow it seemed to be wearing a hood. It didn’t appear to have a neck. Also, when it came to it its legs and arms – they were somehow quite wrong. The legs were simply too thin and the arms seemed too short and not attached to the torso correctly. In fact, the longer she stood looking at it the wronger it looked, and the sicker it made her feel.
She desperately wanted to leave her position at the window. Her legs were growing weak and starting to shiver in the freezing cold. Worse still she needed to pee and the chamber-pot was on the other side of the room. She was quite sure that if she left the window and used the pot, the thing outside would know and she’d still be squatting over the pot and peeing when the door of her room would slowly open, and the thing would sidle in. That scenario was too horrible to contemplate. The other possibility which was growing ever more likely as time passed was that she’d just pee, right there, where she stood, down her shivering legs. That was so nasty that she was sure that the thing would just know -perhaps by smell, and she’d be standing there in a puddle, probably crying, and the thing would come up behind her – and god knew what would happen. She blinked, or perhaps her attention was too taken up in her inner thoughts, but before she’d almost realised that anything had happened, the thing had turned and run with horrible, blurred, unnatural swiftness, vaulted a fence higher than her head in a single bound and vanished into the shadows between the trees. After it was all over she found time to gasp.

Peeder’s bed was empty. She cried, then she went looking for him.

The latch gate in the fence squeaked a horrible loud rusty squeak but Yllyne didn’t really notice or care, her mind was still whirling with the happenings of the night – the fact that all Peeder’s clothes had still been in his room; except of course his big heavy greatcoat, which she was now wearing and his low soft riding boots which were even now crushing the freezing dew-sodden long grass under her feet. She looked about her the grass everywhere was black and silver in the light of the moon. She walked along parallel the fence to the point where the thing had left over it. The thing’s precise landing spot took some time to locate because it had seen fit not to just leap over it, but also to land twice the height of the fence on the far side of it.
There was no doubt of it – the small rosebush was completely crushed, blooms exploded across the dark patch of tilled bed at the base of the plant. It chilled her to the bone. She looked around, the thing had made a standing leap to a distance to some twenty paces, at well over her height. It had then, apparently, stood up, dusted itself off and walked off towards the outskirts of the forest and the swamp. She stood up, ignoring the momentary rush of dizziness, and set off after it. At the edge of the forest where the trees were sparse and far apart, the moonlight was bright silver on the patches between however, under each tree there would be a patch of deep black. It was hard to walk past those for fear that something was hiding there in the shadow, watching and waiting for the moment to leap out at her. The forest grew out in two arms along the upper edge of the dell that had the swamp at its base. She walked on trying to ignore the glowering black spaces between the closely packed trees on each side of her, it was mostly clear and well lit where she walked but she could not shake the feeling that things in the dark were watching her, even though she did her best to ignore it. She continued on, downhill along the narrow path towards the swamp. It was very bright here as she walked directly toward the half moon which shone above the treeless swamp, that and her eyes had had had time to adjust to the light. Before long the grasses around the path grew longer in patches around reflective pools of water or mud. With the first grey hints of dawn in the sky the frogs had grown very loud and occasionally, a bird would twerp sleepily. She walked on with no certain knowledge of where she was going or if indeed she was still following the thing. Simple surmise led her on, and if she thought about it at all, decided that boldness would protect her.
The path lead along an narrow ridge between two lily-filled ponds both ringed with sparse growths of bullrush. As Yllyne squinted at the path, reassuring herself that it indeed, wasthe path and not some will’o’the wisp track into danger, she became aware somehow on some level far beneath that of her normal senses, that on their side of the right hand pond was a small boulder. This, of course, her thinking mind assured her, was totally impossible. Boulders, if they exist in swamps at all do not perch on the row between ponds. If they exist at all they are deep down having sunk through the soft sodden earth over years. Her subconscious mind didn’t bother with such niceties; It just gibbered to itself the way a rabbit does when it freezes before an on-coming fox.

The boulder stood up.

Yllyne squeaked. It was an ugly noise and quite painful to produce. Somehow she managed to exhale and inhale at the same time, and the alternate directions of air had some kind of s nasty collision in her vocal chords. Dealing with the blast of adrenaline that hit her like a speeding bull, and the pain in her ears and throat caused by her strange vocalisations she swayed on the uneven ground.
In the strange light of the moon and the growing billows of ground mist her vision started to clarify.
“Peeder? Peeder? is that you?” She breathed explosively and her head swum. Her mind was at war with itself. It was Peeder and the hairs on the back of her neck demanded their right to vote on the subject.

Peeder bounced across the pond, quicker than her eyes could follow, a distance of some fifteen paces. One second he was a full body half silhouette on the other side of the pond, before she could blink her eyes closed his face filled her entire field of vision, then he hit her a full body impact that sent them both flying back onto the marshy ground behind her. In the squelching mud, his tongue slithered deep down her throat as his body pressed itself on hers through her gaping greatcoat. His body was cold and clammy. Sticking to hers like porridge on a breakfast dish. She tried to scream, and his tongue vibrated sluggishly, deep in her throat. 
When she woke dawn had passed, becoming the morning of what promised to be a fine day.

Peeder was late for breakfast shambling in after the smell of fried eggs had cooled and fallen to the floor.
“Sorry.”
“Slugabed.”
For awhile they ate in companionable silence. As Yllyne ate and fussed with the clammy sticky patch of skin on her forearm, she stared at the texture of Peeder’s skin where it met the neck of his shirt, it was very pale and rubbery. At the end of breakfast Yllyne went out into the garden, through the gate and down the track towards the swamp. She understood that Peeter would follow her. The frogs sang their welcome very loud.

Copyright (C) 2019Alex Rieneck All Rights Reserved

The Ring

A Short Story

Maggi had a feeling that Pamela’s party was going to be one she couldn’t miss, so she’d made special efforts to prepare. She’d cleaned the apartment and done the washing up, spent the first sunny Saturday morning in weeks vacuuming the carpets instead of lolling around on the grass next to the Serpentine and perhaps even feeding the ducks.

Instead she started getting herself ready at two in the afternoon, even though she had worked out exactly what she was going to wear days earlier so that it was easy to fish it out of her wardrobe when the time came. After her long and rather pleasant shower, where she’d taken the time needed to relax herself with the hand-held shower-head so she wouldn’t be too tongue-tied if a man spoke to her. She had to be careful. She’d taken care to buy a new soap without scent, so that Thierry Mugler’s “Angel” would not have to compete with the aroma of cheap Strawberry from the Gel. She was quite sure about her underwear too, having long ago written “Bridget Jones’ Diary” off as simplistic rubbish. She slid into her lacy Pierre Cardin cami-knickers, and felt a rush of raw sexuality shiver through her that exposed the concept of “lucky” unattractive panties as simple-minded idiocy. Her apricot beige trousers, that looked like silk but actually weren’t, covered the Cami-knickers that looked like silk and actually were, wafted around her legs in a luxurious dream that made her feel somewhere between naked, and armoured. The trousers didn’t especially flatter her bum, but they made her tummy far less lumpy. Smoother. It was almost sinful, but she knew she needed to look her best tonight. The vintage white ruffled silk blouse that had cost such an astronomical amount that she was still almost scared of it. Her favourite war surplus puffy quilted jacket with the furry hood that she’d had dyed Burgundy red and her spring-loaded six inch knife, because well, it made her feel safer than the crucifix she no longer wore. Funny that. She was finishing her hair when the taxi rang the downstairs bell.

The feeling of Deja vu washed over her when she saw the letterbox in Pamela’s front door. She’d seen it before but somehow tonight it was different, somehow the light was oddly familiar and tonight a group of three young men in dinner suits were standing at the door at the other end of the hall, talking. Maggi’s head felt light and wobbly as if it was a balloon tied to her shoulders. A green balloon, an overinflated one. She put out her hand to steady herself against the wall, and faced up to the party. It turned out to be easier than she expected. True, when the young men stood aside and ushered her through the door into the front sitting room, the room was mostly full, all the armchairs pressed up against the Burgundy and gold embossed wallpaper were taken and every eye in the room did zero in on her when she walked in – especially the sociopath Jennifer who was something-or-other in publishing on what had once been called Fleet Street, but Katherine was there and Louise and Monica, so at least she had some like souls to talk to. She acquired a Moet and found a vacant patch of wall to take root on.

She felt absurdly grateful when Monica got up from the spot where she’d been crouching next to Pamela’s chair. It made her feel valuable and interesting – until the doubt set in, as it usually did. Had Monica just taken pity on her and come over to talk because she’d looked alone in the increasingly crowded room? She mumbled something that sounded like English and scuttled to the bathroom to fix her makeup. Her palm was sweaty on the doorknob and her spot on the wall was almost the same size when she returned. Monica had waited for her. Mostly Monica talked, it seemed that Monica’s mother was increasingly old and after some problems had reached some kind of rapprochement with the pixies, and Monica actually wanted to talk. Maggi wallowed in the attention, and in being at a party and in actually having quite a good time; all things considered. Monica listened hard when Maggi talked about her own mother too; first they laughed, then they cried. That bit wasn’t much fun but they both knew it was good for them. Monica talked about a man she’d been seeing who she thought had the kind of issues that made continuing to see him a mistake, and after she’d heard only a few pennies worth of back issues, Maggi agreed completely and told her to stop seeing the man, and quickly. After all, it was easy for her, she’d never had a relationship herself; “Not a proper one”, she amended.

She was staring blankly at the open kitchen door when he walked through it. An easy stride, no sidling or scuttling. Tall enough to be seen over Magda Brownloe’s hat. Light sandy hair, good skin. What looked like a good suit, straight back and nice square shoulders – but on a man those three things in conjunction could be as deceiving as the right bra on a woman. He must have felt her looking at him, he looked up; she felt as if she was suddenly, unexpectedly made of lightbulb glass and he could see right into her.

They spent two hours talking in the kitchen while the party in the rest of the house became increasingly raucous. His name was Crispin and he was something in the foreign office – a job that sounded like an article of luggage and was obviously available to the “right” people, and Maggi could tell that Crispin was definitely that, with ancestors who’d probably owned the ship William the Conquerer came over on; and who’d done well for themselves ever since – and not by as vulgar an activity as trade; no, by simple dint of doing as little as possible but doing it with the aplomb to impress the powers that be. Maggi gathered that Crispin’s family was “ Quite well off” but not from anything that Crispin said – the subject was far too gauche for him. No; Maggi found out when she met Pamela in the bathroom, when Maggi was repairing her lipstick and Pamela was peeing as only a profoundly classy woman can when she finds herself sharing the bathroom with someone she knows.
“He Maggi, is Crispin Montague the third, equerry to her majesty herself and almost surely within grovelling range of a knighthood in the next year or so – a knighthood at least” she amended. “Ask him about his time in the army, he’s been a very busy boy.”
Pamelas’s lipstick could do with some fixing too, Maggi thought. All-in-all Pamela looked rather dishevelled. It was very unusual for her. In fact Pamela looked rather scatty, distracted. Maggi wondered what was going on. Pamela finished, wiped herself, washed her hands, but didn’t leave. Maggi was outside in the rear sitting room when a man she didn’t know knocked on the bathroom door and Pamela let him in. Maggi shrugged and went back into the kitchen. Crispin was talking to an attractive woman called Susan who was somewhat the worse for Champagne, but he seemed very gratifyingly pleased that she’d returned.

They pushed their way through the solid mass of people and the wall of music in the main room and fucked on the thick rug in the narrow space between Pamela’s bed and the French doors. Maggi orgasmed multiple times which was unusual for her. It was probably the urgent gusto with which Crispin ravished her and the wanton harlotry of the whole experience, being fucked doggy style directly in front of the windows to the courtyard that did the trick. She was rather surprised at herself. She’d found some core in herself where she was quite free of her mother, her school and her Catholic guilt. Who knew how long it would last? Who cared?

Maggi and Crispin were married nine weeks later at the delightful village church in Whittlesford near Cambridge where Crispin’s family came from. The wedding reception was quite small, only eighty guests at the Red Lion Inn near the church. After the usual activities that occur at such events, the Newlyweds retired upstairs to discover whether the Maritial vows made any difference in the performance of their favourite activity.
Maggi was ecstatically happy and entranced by the village church, the village itself and the pub they were in, which had hand-worked roof beams which, it was thought, dated back to the eleventh century. Maggi barely had time to wonder how many bonking couples they’d supported in the nine-hundred years they’d held up the first floor. It was a sobering thought.

The upstairs corridor made her head spin. Built up over the hundreds of years, the building reminded her of the crazy house in a carnival she’d been to once when she was growing up, in Swindon. The floor was completely uneven, angling up and down while never being level either. The ceiling was so low in places that she actually managed to bang her head on a beam and she was only five foot five. Crispin walked bent double, sometimes using his hands for support. It was hard for him, he’ drunk more than her. It got stranger still though, the loopy corridor ended in a blank wall with a hatch in it, the bottom of which was roughly at the height of her shoulders. Their guide, the Publican’s wife, did her best to calm Maggi’s qualms, opened the door and let them make their own way in. The room was tiny and delightful. So tiny that the double bed almost filled the room and swallowed all the available floorspace. They teetered over the bed on the bed, laughing. Lying down would the room seem bigger.
“Woman!” Crispin acted his favourite character from “The Muppets”, he pushed her backwards onto the bed. The mattress caught her behind the knees and she bounced weightlessly on the thick foam, and Crispin threw himself on top of her. Maggi loved her Muppet. He made her blonde and young.

The straw crackled scratchily under them. It was crazily, brutally cold in the suddenly huge room. Across from her someone was crying, habitually keeping the sobs fuelled with frequent snotty nasal inhales. Maggi was utterly familiar with the snivelling and wished the bitch would die. Crispin’s eyes were a cold hard blue and his cock rasped in her dry clenched vagina. She wanted to scream but she knew what happened to girls who screamed. Up the chimney. She clenched her teeth and grunted at each impalement hoping that her noises would be taken for passion and hopefully, please god spur him to come soon, and stop. It took an eternity. At long last, after a final frenzy where he held her spreadeagled against the wooden shelf that the straw mattress laid on, he screamed like some kind of carnivorous bird and ejaculated deep into her. The next few thrust were far less unpleasant, being lubricated by his ejaculate, but simultaneously accompanied by liver-lipped kisses that seemed to cover the entire bottom of her face like the application of a large affectionate snail.
Somehow it stopped. Crispin’s face changed into the Crispin she’d married, not this monster who’d loosed over her, lit intermittently by the searchlights from the guard towers, soundtrack furnished by the brutalised bitch in the corner near the door, the twisted waterlogged voices from the public address system and the multitude still rheumatically breathing of this room of the dead.

She rolled across the soft mattress and dishevelled bedclothes till she sat, her bare toes brushing the thick carpet and the reapproachment began. “Maggi! Darling, what’s wrong?- Why are you crying?” Of course questions like that are infuriatingly obtuse and only serve to show the lack of understanding of the male sex, within a realisation that requires the production of more tears which in turn can only result in more obtuse questions and fumbling attempts at stilling existential terror with body contact. As far as Maggi’s heightened senses could tell Crispin’s attempts were honest and they fell asleep in the warmth.

In the deep still of the night Maggi eased out from under her husband’s arm, slipped out through the French doors, dropped the short distance to the garden and sneaked across the road to watch the guards unload a new load of prisoners from a transport train. She was found by a station worker huddled on a bench, shivering in her nightdress. Crispin was woken and brought her back to the room at dawn. The station was empty of all but ghosts. Her eyes flicked around, examining details, filled with terror. Crispin told the Stationmaster and the Publican that his wife was prone to sleepwalking. He hugged her close when he said it. Their honeymoon proper was in the far north. Way back in their relationship, when they been talking in Pamela’s kitchen, they’d discovered that they both had a life ambition to see the Northern Lights. When Crispin’s mother had heard this, she told her brother, who was something important in the foreign Office. He’d pulled strings and mother had bought them a week in a glass igloo in Kakslauttanen Hotel in Finland. Better even than that, the week was in the “high” season for seeing the lights which minimised the risk of them freezing their tits off for nothing, which was what had happened to Antonia – a girl who they both knew. Antonia had been disappointed; But on the other hand her boyfriend had proposed marriage under a sky filled with nothing but stars.

Maggi discovered that smoking marijuana kept her “waking nightmares” as she had learned to call them, at bay; either stopping them completely if she was so stoned she made no sense to anyone who wasn’t in the same condition as her, or greatly reducing their severity if she was merely “enhanced”. Needless to say, she held very high hopes for the honeymoon trip to the Northern Lights. She told Crispin that what she wanted was to get very stoned and lie naked in a big warm bed under the Northern Lights, while went down on her. Crispin’s reply was chivalrous and sensible in the extreme. He said that while was doing her he would not be able to see the lights himself and that that would “suck”- but that he would be overjoyed to do the work required provided his good lady wife would be so kind as to return the favour.

It was not for nothing that he came from a family of diplomats.
The flight to Finland was highly unpleasant for Maggi. Due to a highly developed fear of drug-sniffer dogs inculcated in her by the media, she took care not to use Marijuana on the day of their departure, and definitely not to carry any with her. She slept fitfully on the night flight convinced that she’d been packed into a train that rattled through a snowy black night, packed with the living dead. She awoke during a patch of turbulence, in Crispin’s arms, screaming and crying, sure that the train had reached its destination. The hotel was everything they’d been led to expect and hope for. But the Northern lights weren’t. They spent the first three nights in their warm bed, under the bright stars. They were happy. Then as such things happen, Maggi rolled across the bed laughing wildly and her left arm flailed out limply over the edge of the bed. Her knuckles stopped suddenly on the glass top of the bedside table. The part of the sound which hurt and stopped her laughing was the dull undramatic “thunk” of bone, insufficiently cushioned by flesh, hitting glass. The other part of the sound was a sharp peremptory “clack,” that sounded like it would have broken the glass if it had been allowed to. Her wedding Ring. Maggi rolled slightly back toward the centre of the bed and pushed ineffectually at Crispin’s loins so she could see her hand up close. Crispin responded by selflessly trying to reinsert his penis in her mouth. Maggi did not try to stop him instead she tried to say “Its inscribed!” With her mouth so full the words did nothing more than penetrate Crispin’s dedication to the task in hand and cause him to enquire rather grumpily. ”what?” 
“It’s Inscribed! The words fit funny in her mouth and her jaw hurt.
“What is?”
“My wedding ring! You had it engraved!” Maggi rolled around on the bed, held the ring to the flame of the candle, and squinted.
“No I didn’t!” It must have been from before. I told you, that ring was my mother’s. My father brought it back from the war and married her with it. She wore it until my father died. What do the words say?”
Maggi was squinting hard in the dim light through a haze of the Afghani has they’d got by asking the right person, in the right bar.
“ I can’t read it, it doesn’t seem to be in English.”
“Really?” “Give it here!
“Don’t snatch, its rude!”
“Sorry. You’re right. It isn’t English. I think its Yiddish.Hebrew.” Oh”
The letters danced with strange fire, far above them the Norther lights had started.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019