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

Apocalyptica

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights Reserved

The new one was different, he could tell. She already had more than the fingers of his hand, lying in a pile on the rock floor, howling, always hungry, but still they’d find something to push out of their bodies. He’d eaten the first one, it was the way. Swung it into the wall, thrown it on the fire to crisp. It was the way, eat the first one, or wait for it to eat you. That too was the way.
It had been one of the best meals he’d ever had, but the Gods were still harsh. The snow and ice was still as deep as his hips, too soft to walk on, a misery to walk through. He’d die out there sometime, that was obvious. A mist would come or something, he wouldn’t be able to find his way back to the hole. It wouldn’t take long, he was usually halfway dead when he got back with the bucket of snow and ice to be melted on the fire for drinking water.

He looked at the new one again, looked closely. It didn’t have a name. No-one had names now. The wind had blown through the world and taken all the names away with it. There was just him, and her, and the pile of wrigglers. He remembered where he’d started, picked up the new one and started examining it. Her made a noise of protest, grabbed at it, her eyes wild. He twisted it away from her, grunting deep. It started howling, which started off a couple on the floor. She‘d had half of the other one. What did she think?

The thing was different. The blue bits of its eyes covered the whole eye, lid to lid. Its hands were different too; Its fingers were pointed, had no nails and wriggled like the insides of an open body. It writhes around in his hands, an unsegmented worm, reached up to grasp the hard amulet that hung around his neck, the colour of the night sun, the shape of the night sun. He’d found it in the other hole where the others were. He liked it. He killed the them her and took it. It was his.

The wriggler’s fingers wrapped themselves around the amulet. tightly. Its head fell back into his palm and its mouth sagged open limply. The wrigglers pointed teeth were the same colour that the amulet had been before it started running out between its fingers as a jewelled, oily liquid. The thing mewled with pleasure

The Thing in The Kitchen

The Thing in The Kitchen.

He knew something was wrong almost before he’d closed the front door and moved past the glass- fronted knick- knack cupboards the stairs. The house was silent, but that was to be expected. She was not given to undue noise. He’d peeked into the sitting room. The sofa seemed empty in the dim light from the mostly closed curtains. The Screen, always on, was off. The room smelt slightly of dust
“Grandma?”
Something definitely was wrong. She was tiny, but his voice would have reflected from her if had she been in the house. She wasn’t in the breakfast room. She wasn’t in either of the two bedrooms upstairs, the one she shared with Grandpa or the guest bedroom. For that matter she wasn’t in the dining room or the small cupboard under the stairs either. His sense of disquiet increased that he’d even looked there, still wasn’t it possible? Then again, she wasn’t. She wasn’t in the big linen cupboard, almost a room in its own right, or in the Laundry, so he took a few seconds to stare at the back yard, *so green* to calm his nerves by perhaps divining some message in the pattern of the scattered coloured clothes-pegs on the green grass and the disconsolate drips of rain on the wires of the Hills hoist.

He turned away from the window with a small inarticulate noise and entered the kitchen by the back door. The kitchen as it was, was effectively a small dog-leg corridor between the breakfast room at one end and the laundry and backdoor into the yard at the other, with the kitchen-related apparatus, stoves, ovens, the fridge and so on pressed almost haphazardly against the walls where they were less in the way if the area was a corridor and inconvenient to use. If it was a kitchen.

Gran had never been much interested in housekeeping. The ancient gas cooker appeared to have been built entirely from hardened brown stains built up over the decades into an increasingly limply mottled brown surface in places as thick as the skin of a dinosaur and so hard that millions of cockroaches had broken their teeth trying to chew it. The floor was so thick in places you could lift the shit in sheets with a paint scraper. He knew, he’d done a small area near the front right hand leg of the stove once and the back of his throat rippled with at the memory. She watched, for his exposure of almost half a square metre of dark slimy concrete. Almost embarrassingly grateful; but the contrition and shame were harder for him to bear. He’d tried to hug her quiet, she was shorter than he but she kept talking into the hollow of his armpit, rapidly, half English, the other half her almost impenetrable native Gaelic, he shushed her repeatedly. It was alright, it didn’t matter. He’d been glad to help. When she told him that she was a sloven and he could feel the hot damp of her tears soaking his shirt. He told her the truth in the best approximation of Gaelic that he could manage after all the lessons. He truly didn’t give a shit. She started laughing almost instantly but he couldn’t tell whether the laughter was at the sentiment or at his pronunciation of the words. He’d carried her into the breakfast room, planted her on a chair and gave her a choice between tea and instant coffee; She chose cigarettes, and back then, he’d been able to join her. Her filthy filterless “Navy Cut” king size would take the taste of anything out of your mouth. Soon, through the head-spin and clouds of smoke, he could barely see her.

It had taken her a matter of months to return the patch of floor to what appeared to be its natural ghastly state, but neither of them had really noticed since the accretion of shit was too gradual to be followed on a normal clock speed. The shit built up. He looked at it now and nothing gave any hint that it had ever been any different; in fact, it looked archeological. The graves of Inca kings might be beneath it.

That was when he saw the notice stuck to the door of the fridge. It was a A4-size piece of official colour printed flexible shiny plastic. Across the top, in large red letters in a red oblong box it said “ATTENTION”. He pulled it off the fridge and brought to smaller print close enough to read.

“To whom it may concern; be it known that Mrs Marianne Stapldon, having reached the age of seventy years and not presented herself to an office of the bureau of ageing, has been detained under the terms of the ageing act and sentence to twenty years in an official facility, in this case room twenty six tier four Wormwood Scrubs Aged Hospice. Relatives and friends are welcome to visit between the hours of twelve noon and four PM, but will of course be subject to standard age protocols. Check the bureau website for more details.(signed)
KKL6577aXX subset II (Supervisor)
Bureau of Ageing (Swindon HQ)

His arm dropped limply to his side, the plastic page protested at what it apparently considered rough treatment.

It had finally happened. He’d been expecting it, one way and another, almost all his life. He’d been twelve or thirteen when they’d passed the law and they’d heard about it together, as a matter of co-incidence, in this very kitchen, back then it seemed to him the floor had been immaculate and the sun had streamed in the window like a bath of warm life that gilded everything it touched. The BBC newsreaders voice had been firm, unarguable, each word as solid as a brick in a wall. The act would become active in ten years, to allow those affected to adjust to its implications and to allow GovCorp time to renovate the newly repurposed prisons. Almost as an afterthought the same bulletin announced that the definition of offences subject to the death penalty would be greatly broadened, and the change would be applied retrospectively in keeping with pre-existing judicial rulings. The change to the act now meant that any prisoner presently serving a sentence of longer than five years for any offence, civil, criminal, political or religious would be put to death as a matter of urgency; in the prison they were incarcerated in’s pre-existing death chamber, or in the cell by travelling squads of religious police.

The news bulletin had rather sapped the joy out of the afternoon sun, until Grandma had laughed and said “Well! I won’t have to worry about that for years! Decades!” At the time she had seemed quite happy

The Thing in the Kitchen

The Thing in The Kitchen.

He knew something was wrong almost before he’d closed the front door and moved past the glass- fronted knick- knack cupboards the stairs. The house was silent, but that was to be expected. She was not given to undue noise. He’d peeked into the sitting room. The sofa seemed empty in the dim light from the mostly closed curtains. The Screen, always on, was off. The room smelt slightly of dust
“Grandma?”
Something definitely was wrong. She was tiny, but his voice would have reflected from her if had she been in the house. She wasn’t in the breakfast room. She wasn’t in either of the two bedrooms upstairs, the one she shared with Grandpa or the guest bedroom. For that matter she wasn’t in the dining room or the small cupboard under the stairs either. His sense of disquiet increased that he’d even looked there, still wasn’t it possible? Then again, she wasn’t. She wasn’t in the big linen cupboard, almost a room in its own right, or in the Laundry, so he took a few seconds to stare at the back yard, *so green* to calm his nerves by perhaps divining some message in the pattern of the scattered coloured clothes-pegs on the green grass and the disconsolate drips of rain on the wires of the Hills hoist.

He turned away from the window with a small inarticulate noise and entered the kitchen by the back door. The kitchen as it was, was effectively a small dog-leg corridor between the breakfast room at one end and the laundry and backdoor into the yard at the other, with the kitchen-related apparatus, stoves, ovens, the fridge and so on pressed almost haphazardly against the walls where they were less in the way if the area was a corridor and inconvenient to use. If it was a kitchen.

Gran had never been much interested in housekeeping. The ancient gas cooker appeared to have been built entirely from hardened brown stains built up over the decades into an increasingly limply mottled brown surface in places as thick as the skin of a dinosaur and so hard that millions of cockroaches had broken their teeth trying to chew it. The floor was so thick in places you could lift the shit in sheets with a paint scraper. He knew, he’d done a small area near the front right hand leg of the stove once and the back of his throat rippled with at the memory. She watched, for his exposure of almost half a square metre of dark slimy concrete. Almost embarrassingly grateful; but the contrition and shame were harder for him to bear. He’d tried to hug her quiet, she was shorter than he but she kept talking into the hollow of his armpit, rapidly, half English, the other half her almost impenetrable native Gaelic, he shushed her repeatedly. It was alright, it didn’t matter. He’d been glad to help. When she told him that she was a sloven and he could feel the hot damp of her tears soaking his shirt. He told her the truth in the best approximation of Gaelic that he could manage after all the lessons. He truly didn’t give a shit. She started laughing almost instantly but he couldn’t tell whether the laughter was at the sentiment or at his pronunciation of the words. He’d carried her into the breakfast room, planted her on a chair and gave her a choice between tea and instant coffee; She chose cigarettes, and back then, he’d been able to join her. Her filthy filterless “Navy Cut” king size would take the taste of anything out of your mouth. Soon, through the head-spin and clouds of smoke, he could barely see her.

It had taken her a matter of months to return the patch of floor to what appeared to be its natural ghastly state, but neither of them had really noticed since the accretion of shit was too gradual to be followed on a normal clock speed. The shit built up. He looked at it now and nothing gave any hint that it had ever been any different; in fact, it looked archeological. The graves of Inca kings might be beneath it.

That was when he saw the notice stuck to the door of the fridge. It was a A4-size piece of official colour printed flexible shiny plastic. Across the top, in large red letters in a red oblong box it said “ATTENTION”. He pulled it off the fridge and brought to smaller print close enough to read.

“To whom it may concern; be it known that Mrs Marianne Stapldon, having reached the age of seventy years and not presented herself to an office of the bureau of ageing, has been detained under the terms of the ageing act and sentence to twenty years in an official facility, in this case room twenty six tier four Wormwood Scrubs Aged Hospice. Relatives and friends are welcome to visit between the hours of twelve noon and four PM, but will of course be subject to standard age protocols. Check the bureau website for more details.(signed)
KKL6577aXX subset II (Supervisor)
Bureau of Ageing (Swindon HQ)

His arm dropped limply to his side, the plastic page protested at what it apparently considered rough treatment.

It had finally happened. He’d been expecting it, one way and another, almost all his life. He’d been twelve or thirteen when they’d passed the law and they’d heard about it together, as a matter of co-incidence, in this very kitchen, back then it seemed to him the floor had been immaculate and the sun had streamed in the window like a bath of warm life that gilded everything it touched. The BBC newsreaders voice had been firm, unarguable, each word as solid as a brick in a wall. The act would become active in ten years, to allow those affected to adjust to its implications and to allow GovCorp time to renovate the newly repurposed prisons. Almost as an afterthought the same bulletin announced that the definition of offences subject to the death penalty would be greatly broadened, and the change would be applied retrospectively in keeping with pre-existing judicial rulings. The change to the act now meant that any prisoner presently serving a sentence of longer than five years for any offence, civil, criminal, political or religious would be put to death as a matter of urgency; in the prison they were incarcerated in’s pre-existing death chamber, or in the cell by travelling squads of religious police.

The news bulletin had rather sapped the joy out of the afternoon sun, until Grandma had laughed and said “Well! I won’t have to worry about that for years! Decades!” At the time she had seemed quite happy

Praxis

It was a simple operation, great potential syndication rights from the education industry and probably more from documentary feeds. As he read the outline Lomax found himself wondering why this one hadn’t been done years ago. After months of using the Locus as an adjunct to the the legal system – separating the guilty from the innocent and searching out evidence for the courts; this one sounded ginteresting!

It had started simply enough. A young man, Mr Terry Sheinberg, had been moving boxes in his parent’s attic, prior to the house having a “Cape Cod” extension undertaken when, in an old trunk, he had found an old hard-cover notebook that had been written by his great grandfather while he was stationed at a French-Swiss border post during World War Two, some tone- hundred-and fifty years earlier. Mr Sheinberg was entranced. He was a history buff, with an especial interest in that period and genuine first-hand information on the subject, especially by a member of his own family was, for him, beyond price. If the simple existence of the document was not enough, what he could decipher of the faded meandering copperplate drove him to distraction. Not a rich man by any means he turned to his relatives for help and a week later was delivered to a remote landing pad in the South Australian desert and made his way into the client liaison office, in blockhouse #1 of Tr00 . It seemed a long way to travel to take part in a three way video link. But Sheinberg was wallowing in the adventure. Lomax understood the sense of keeping the communications as insular as possible, and  Houng just wanted to go back to her office for inscrutable reasons of her own.

“It started in 1922 – my great grandfather, who was working as a draughtsman in Berlin after honourable service in France during the war. He was still suffering from what they called ‘shell-shock’ back then, and we know as ‘combat fatigue’ now. In any event he wrote that the mathematical quiet of a draughtsman’s office suited him well. However one day in May 1920 he was leaving a delicatessen with his lunch when he was accosted by a gang of right-wing thugs. They beat him senseless, spat on him and destroyed the shop, a respectable business that had been there for almost one hundred years. When he awoke it was to discover that they had pissed all over him”

Apparently Mr Sheinberg’s great grandfather wasn’t one to hold a grudge; instead he cuddled it to his breast and nursed it on a diet of pure vitriol. Before long in a flash of clarity the answer came to him. The thugs who had beaten and humiliated him were nothings. Rudderless pus-sacs directed by an evil man to his own profit. The solution was obvious! Take his revenge to the puppet-master. He resolved to kill Adolf Hitler!

Lomax’s team had a twelve hour window to devote to this project. To this end. Tr00 had allocated twenty gigawatts from the Braid fusion facility at Bilga. Higher than usual shift allowances; Staff medical team to provide and administer stimulants for rush job and longer than usual shift. The geo-beacon would be in place in fifty minutes, it was being flown in fro Berlin Templehoff. Cadogan would be down directly to finalise matters with Mr.Sheinberg. Click. 

Lomax knew that Tim would be sitting up at his disgusting kitchen table drinking instant coffee and getting his grumbling up to speed. He’d already have one of his horrible rollie cigarettes going. Apparently he’d learnt to smoke in his sleep.

The control room was silent, quiet enough to hear the piped air arriving from the climate conditioners, to keep the electronics cool. Lomax, at his console beside Tim, found the smell of the other man to be oddly comforting by its very familiarity. Sweaty beard saturated with strong tobacco and marijuana smoke, dank woollen jumper, grubby jeans, Shalimar perfume, and huge warm armpit.

“Good lock, straight off; nice.” The rollie waggled sending tiny cylinders of ash down to scorch holes in the woollen jumper. “We can expect interference from the occasional passing asteroid and a… bigger blip when Mars interrupts us in about  nine hours.” 

That didn’t sound too bad, they’d have to be mostly finished by then anyway, probably. Lomax felt the tension settle in his neck and shoulders. He knew that his blood pressure had just increased markedly and cursed quietly to himself. Not that it would do any good, but once it all got underway. He’d be in his element and he’d forget about all that stuff.

The bierkeller was just about full when the Nazis arrived. A big bastard Lomax couldn’t identify by sight burst in the double doors in a good imitation of a towering rage, heading a rabble of assorted thugs and stooges who barged through the place before making a great show of setting up a heavy machine gun on one of the back tables where it could cover the crowd.

”The diary didn’t mention any of this” said Sheinberg over the Link from the client centre, on the surface and five kilometres off with great 360 degree views of tracklessdesert.

“spoze the history books would.” Tim mumbled flattening tobacco and marijuana into a cylinder between his palms. A cigarette paper flapped from his bottom lip as he spoke. 

“Might be a good idea to get an interpreter here;”  Lomax voiced the thought more to be social than in need of approval. ”I’ll see if Lisa is free.” 

He liked her, She was an adult who could accept the occasional “adult concept” as a joke rather than as an unforgivable affront to her long-vanished virginity. Spoke about ten languages too, at last count. Who cared if she had bad breath? In fact, Lomax found it oddly erotic.

“She’s on her way down now” Tim squinted through his smoke.

For the most part the crowd in the bierkellar simply ignored the way the Group at the back of the hall were behaving. Lomax decided that, by this stage in the evening everyone present had already consumed at least one of the milk-bucket sized mugs of beer and was already so drunk that all they could do was either fall face forwards onto a table and pass out, or argue vehemently about politics. At the front of the room a man in lederhosen pounded the table in front of him so hard that his plate bounced and his cutlery danced. He howled the same thing repeatedly in German.

“He is saying Hindenberg is a cunt.” Lisas laconic voice came from behind them. She stood in the doorway of Lomax’s office, leaning on the doorframe sipping tea from her office cup. It was an antique china collectors piece, oddly shaped and well over a hundred years old. She’d tried explaining its provenance to him once but it had meant nothing to him. Something about a twentieth century viddy show, apparently. “He seems awfully emotional about it.” 

In contrast Tim seemed quite disinterested.

“Due to crazy hyperinflation a loaf of bread now costs about one billion marks, and Germany has had to default on paying the fine imposed by the treaty of Versailles for supposedly starting World War One. In return the French and Belgian armies have seized the Ruhr – without a shot being fired. The Ruhr is the core of Germany’s industrial might – It’s all a big slap in the face for Germans who believe that they actually won the war – and didn’t start it either.” Lisa actually sounded rather emotional about it all. Outraged for something that had happened so long ago. Lomax looked over at her; she did seem to be clutching her tea mug handle rather tightly. 

“Well fuck me.” That was Tim’s input.

“I’d rather not Tim, but thank you for asking – I’ll keep you in mind.”

Lomax looked over. Tim was blushing; shifts in his beard indicated that his Adam’s apple was bobbing. He was scrabbling in his smokables pouch. Lomax resolved to talk to Lisa later, and in the meantime to create his own refreshing cup of whatever-the-hell-it- was they put in the little bags.

When he got back to his station Hitler was arriving on the big screen surrounded by a squad of thugs with pale set faces who looked like they had the collective intelligence of a garden snail. There was no question who it was, the same prissy moustache, the same beady rat eyes; Lomax could not understand the attraction. He had puzzled over the bare bones of the story and had watched document viddies long ago but while he could accept the story, he had never understood it, now here was the creature himself in six K true colour seeming to follow the locus into the packed room down a trench in the crowd that had opened around him and his bully boys. Tim’s hand moved gently in the reader-zone, moving the locus by sub-metre increments at a range of one hundred million kilometres and two hundred years. Hitler’s lips were squeezed into a bloodless line. “He’s nervous – he’s scared shitless.” Lomax thought. The Locus backed over the long wooden table, passing through a lamp as if it wasn’t there, and, by some strange glitch in quantum physics, the Locus wasn’t. In one big step, without breaking stride Hitler was standing on the long bench. In another step he was standing in a puddle of slopped beer and disordered meals on the table. He shrieked, a long, high ululating howl of pure wordless venom and hatred. The noise in the big hall muted, then showed signs of restarting. Hitler produced a Walther PPK from his trench coat and fired it five times rapidly into the ceiling. He was immediately wreathed in gunsmoke and clouds of dust, a layer of plaster-dust covered his shoulders and oily hair like atrocious dandruff. No-one laughed. Conversation stopped in the room. Tim stopped his rotation around the subject. The Locus was now directly in front of Hitler and approximately at his knee level where he stood on the table. Hitler’s crazy eyes blazed down into the Locus, almost as if he could see it looking at him, which was impossible of course, but Lomax found himself suppressing a shiver at the thought, anyway. Hitler, now that he had everyone’s close attention started to shout. Within seconds he was the source of an unstoppable tsunami of German vitriol.

“The jewish communist Cunt Bankers who started the war to kill off the flower of German manhood and bleed our country as dry as a Kosher lamb! These vampires have not slaked their hunger for Aryan life-blood yet! Now they have stolen the Ruhr for their knob jockey glove-puppets the French and stolen it without a shot being fired! Why must the blameless victors pay reparations to the beaten anyway? Our ‘republic’ is a puppet of the Jewish-Marxist conspiracy of big banking who started the war for no other reason than to gain control of the vast agricultural wealth of Russia, and now the entire industrial might of our beloved fatherland!” 

Lomax found himself marvelling that the man’s lung-capacity; he’d apparently said all that without breathing in.Tim split the Locus so that it was facing upwards towards Hitler as before but now had a secondary “eye” facing one-hundred-and-eighty degrees from the main. This wide -angle on the crowd showed Hitler’s words falling in fertile ears, there were smiles, snarls, shouts and shaken fists. In the front row the young great grandfather Sheinberg in his innocuous greatcoat, swastika armband and false name, and appeared to cheer with the rest of the room. 

“He’s either totally mad, or the bravest man I’ve ever seen” Tim grumbled, “and he definitely isn’t mad.”

“No *he* isn’t, but Hitler is barking crazy, I mean I seen him yammering away before but he must feel safe here and he must tone it down if there’s press and newsreel cameras about, his language is much worse here! Obscene! He just said the Jews were an alien syphillis that had polluted the body of humanity since the beginning of time by the way and before that, that the Jewish cunt priests sold Jesus to the Romans in revenge for Jesus fucking up their moneylending business in the temple – I wish this guy would get on with it and shoot the crazy fucker.”

Lomax looked at the big screen which showed Hitler, purple in the face, throwing such a tantrum that Lomax found himself wondering whether the man wore nappies under his trousers for his big speeches. 

“yo! Look at my great grandfather!” Sheinberg’s voice came over the link from the surface and Lomax’s eyes shifted to the reverse-angle screen. Sheinberg the elder was evidently a man under great stress, his face was pale, as sallow as piss-soaked paper, and was soaked in sweat. He held his pistol out of his pocket, at the end of his arm, parallel with his leg. His arm was so rigid with stress that it vibrated as fast as a plucked guitar string. 

“Fuck.” 

That was Tim. The locus looking up at Hitler showed his tantrum continuing. He was standing rigid, lit in the crazy dancing light of the room’s huge log fire and the light of the electric lamp on the table he was bouncing around on. His voice continued, the enraged squealing of a pig denied its swill. The shadows danced crazily across the wall and pillar behind him, across the dark beamed ceiling. As Lomax watched the shadows flexed, altered, became a pillar of dark that seemed so palpable that it appeared to occupy the space between Hitler and the rear wall, and as Lomax watched, the shadow flexed to form arms and the arms  wrapped themselves around Hitler at the same time that two reflections, surely they were reflections, blinked into existence like red eyes that glowed with the baleful glare of the log fire.

Sheinberg the elder screamed, dropped the gun, which he had been aiming, arm extended, and collapsed in a limp heap. Blood glistened  from his ears and nose.

Short Story

Dinner Delivery

“Maxwell.”
“Max!”
Maax was curled up in the tiny corner in the hallway where the bottoms of the French doors almost met the thin carpet. It was an artfully chosen spot and, it must be said one of his many afternoon favourites. The curtains were Burgundy red and covered the whole length of the glass panelled doors, except for a height of perhaps an inch-and-d-half at the bottom. In this space Max could only be seen, or perhaps guessed at as a darker patch of shadow, but only then by those who looked closely, and those who looked closely might be rewarded with the realisation that the small dimple in the bottom-edge of the curtain and the small grey shape that caused it, was in fact the grey furry ear of Max the cat protruding into the North hallway to give warning of the approach of those who might cause disturbance to the delicate territorial boundaries of a meditative cat. In this case the warning system seemed to have failed due either to encroaching deafness on the ear of an adult tabby cat in the prime of his life or some other unquantified at failing that, had it been put into words would perhaps have reflected poorly on the character of the cat in question.
“Max!!”
“Yes, lady Burbage?” One frontpaw projected from under the curtain when it reached full stretch, it gave a politely short quiver of pleasure and then retracted far enough that the personage who owned it might consider putting weight on it. Unlike the paws of many(perhaps the majority) of cats called “tabby” this paw featured no white at all. In fact none of Max’s feet had white “socks”; where “God had run out of paint”. Instead, all his feet were brown grey tabby- the same colouration, as it happened, of a standard issue mouse,But with black stripes though this similarity of colouration had benefitted no member of the rodent species since Max, Though well fed by his human acolytes took pleasure in keeping the larder, the kitchen, the wine cellar and the library free of those he termed “little scuttlers.” a mission in life that earned him a position in Lady Burbage’s retinue somewhere between highly- valued retainer and the kind of long-term houseguest who had their regular place at table for meals. After a long moment, three further paws, each of similar colouration protruded from under the curtain, stretched taut, toes and claws splayed, quivered and relaxed. After a further small disturbance behind the curtain max’ sleek feline head appeared, eyes slitted as the lower edge of the curtain passed across them, and as his upper whisker array bent down and popped back up. His spine made a small dimple in the curtain as he passed under it and a larger one as his mostly vertical tail popped through. Max waled several steps into the hallway, looked up at his human and slitted his eyes slightly in pleasure and greeting. Lady burbage flitted her eyes slightly in return. Max almost quivered in joy. Lady Burbage’s understanding of the protocol s of the dance of life-apparently innate set her aside from the vast ruck of humans, who could only try.

“Good Afternoon Maxwell, I trust the day is treating you pleasantly?”
“ It is Mam, that it is, as a matter of fact that is a very pleasant spot, just enough sun through the glass to keep the topside warm, while the gentle cool breeze from the gap underneath the door provides both pleasantbfresh air from the garden an a cool waft up the furry offset the warmth of the sun, also, at this time of year the sun is at the correct angle to refract through the bevelling of the window pane and cast the most delightful rainbows on the white inner lining of the curtains. Quite wonderfully thought provoking!”
“Oh. I had rather thought you were asleep!”
“Lady Jane if there is one thing I hope you have learnt from me. It is that all sentient beings do most of their thinking while they are asleep- the most important stuff anyway.
“Surely that means that there is then at least half the time, being the waking hours left to think?”
“In my experience ma’m the waking hours are devoted to thought all too rarely indeed.”
“Judging by the quality of the conversation tendered by my last few luncheon guests, I can but agree.”
Max stretched his front paws forward, sunk his claws into the Axminster, and pulled hard against the resistance of the rest of his body, the effort made his tail arch upwards and the fur on his rump stand on end. When he spoke, it was with difficulty. “Precisely. I’ve been thinking you ought to draw the catchment area for your guest list rather wider than available local churchmen.”

“Be fair Maxwell.” They’re the only people in the area who can be relied on to be even slightly educate . For the most part the county is very rural and reading is regarded as a suspicious new invention.”
“Yes and in the village the comparing of phlegmy noises is regarded as conversation.”
‘I know what you mean.”
“ It’s doubly disturbing when you travel as close to the ground as I do.”
“An in an odd kind of way Max, that brings the subject of conversation around to my reason for seeking you out and awakening you.” Lady burbage sank herself onto the green velvet upholstered red cedar occasional chair that stood in the hall, mainly for riders who needed help removing their boots and looked down expectantly at Max. Max took two steps and sprung into the hammock of her lap
Lady Jane had fat warm thighs and favoured long skirts and Max loved her for it. He arched his neck and daintily touched the tip of her nose with his. His nose was cool and polite.
“Yes, your Ladyship?”
“Max there’s not really polite way to broach this rather delicate subject-“
“But Max did you-ah-mess in Mr Wymss’ shoes?” Lady Burbage very gently stroked the to of Max’s head, all the way down his spine to his so delicately that his fur was scarcely compressed to his body.
Max arched slightly with approval, Lady Jane was about the only human permitted such liberties.
“Yes Ma’m I must confess that I did..”
“ Why on Earth would you commit such a barbarous and uncouth act Max? And on Mr Wymss, too, our esteemed under butler!”
“WellLady Jane, not to tell tales out of school, I must say that my revolutionary activities were undertaken by way of revenge.”
“Revenge on Mr. Wymss? For what?”
Well, the night before last, Monday I think people call it, I’d decided to hunting the wine cellar. There’d been a delivery of a couple of barrels and changes in the environment usually put the scuttlers off centre; So I sneaked in as the cellar men took the cart away and I started hunting. Within an hour or two I’d caught eight. I only ate the heads; I like the crunch and because if I’m too full I can’t hunt and pounce properly.” Lady Juan queasily considered how close Max’s mouth had just been to hers.
“Anyway I was starting to think that eight was enough or perhaps even more than enoughwhen I realised that What I wanted more than dead squeakers was a nice chair somewhere upstairs and a bit of a think. So in the crack under the cellar door I see a light moving. Its a hand-held lamp and keys are jingling. Its Wymss doing his lock up round. So I wait till he’s right outside the door and I shout “Hey Wymss! I’m stuck in here! Let me out!”
“And he didn’t hear you?”
“ Oh no he heard me alright- he replied, and I quote; “ Fuck you cat! always sneaking around where you aren’t supposed to be, you want to be in there? You can spend the night!” And he walks off. The mice areAll jumping up and down and taunting me and laughing while I tried to think .”His voice became a fair imitation of a mouse squeak; “ cat! Cat! You keel my mother! Cat!Cat! You keel my seester! Cat! We poisons your foods!Cat! Hey Cat!Cat! !we poisons your meelky-weelky! All night. Sometimes they even ran over my tail and.. interrupted my thoughts. Ned opened the outside door about four AM with a small cask of Malmsey; I was out of there like a rocket, and straight to Wymss room- Did you know he leaves his shoes outside his room for the maid he’s seeing to clean? Charlotte?No? Anyway it was too easy, I had a bowel full of mostly digested mouse-heads and I’d been dreaming of my target all night. So: I confess and throw myself of the mercy of the court.”

(C)Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights Reserved.

Poetry

12-bore ReIncarnation

Nembutal is slower 

And you can vomit it up.

Smack’ll do the trick if the NarCan man is slow that day. But there’s no cure for painting the wall

With your mind and putting your everything into it, a blossoming rose of forget-me-not that has forgotten everything 

It ever

knew

© Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights Reserved.

Ladies Who Lunch

Ladies Who Lunch

“‘I’m sure you know the film I mean;” Lady Burbage gestured imperiously with her fork- ” The 1950’s classic science fiction film, with Richard Carlson and Julie Adams; I told the man at the video store.” Lady Burbage was a confirmed Luddite whose idea of Home Entertainment had never passed beyond DVD, though her vocabulary and outlooknremained mired in the days of VHS. “You know the one – the fish Man film – The Creature from The Blue Lagoon.”

“I think the lagoon in question was brown, and had attracted a great many flies.” Max spoke up from the chair he was almost invisibly sitting on, only his grey ears visible over the edge of the table, and conversation faltered for a moment. Everyone knew that Max’s knowledge of films was unparalleled, a fact rendered even more surprising when it was realised that Max was a small Tabby cat. It was true that Max had sat on Mrs Riverlet’s lap during a great many films but he had, (for the most part) only pretended to be asleep.

“Well said, dear boy,” said Mr Riverbend the curate, who was still visiting from the village, having discovered that Lady Burbage’s hospitality was far more sumptuous and to his liking than the paltry comforts of the vicarage. “Dreadful film. Dreadful!”

“at least on a standard with “Spotlight” I should think.” replied Max who was evidently in no mood to bandy words with someone who, in his opinion, was rather less entitled to the pleasures of Lady Burbage’s table than he, who after all, had simply followed Mrs Riverlet in through the front door before ingratiating himself to his hostess by means of his impressive charm and redoubtable purr.

“Maxwell,” Pronounced Lady Burbage; “I do not allow rancour or ill-feeling at meals. “Mr Riverbend is a guest at my table, and is not to be subjected to disrespect, no matter your personal feelings as to his work or chosen vocation.”

“My dear Lady Burbage!” Twittered Mr Riverbend, ” I assure you, I took no offence! The film in question is a trenchant indictment of Catholicism, not the refined form of Protestant worship that I, myself hold as my spiritual foundation – and indeed in my limited time in the Church I have not seen the slightest hint of the disease that rots the core of the holy Roman church. Indeed,  I have heard it said that the Holy Roman Church is much too concerned with holeys. A weakness that we in the C of E are not plagued by.” He finished primly, the faintest tint of  blush colouring his sallow cheeks. 

But Max was having none of it. He stood and, all four feet close together, stretched until he quivered. He then walked in a circle on the spot, his tail erect and curled into a hook on top, thereby displaying his rear gun position to any who might be interested, although none were. This performance concluded he fixed Mr Riverbend with a level stare and pronounced 

“Is that so? Well perhaps  you might communicate to Reverend Blenkinsop that the Sacristy garden is not quite so private as he, I fear, seems to imagine?”

Mr Riverbend sat back in his chair and crossed his legs, suddenly. He accomplished both movements simultaneously but with a certain lack of grace. Spode rattled and Mrs Wheatsheaf from the village, who sat next to him, jumped.

“Sir!” Mr Riverbend ejaculated with some heat. “I’ll thank you not to bandy unfounded insinuendos about respected clergymen, especially at table!”

“I quite agree Mr Riverbend! Max, you are behaving in a quite insufferable manner! As if accusing him of being Catholic wasn’t bad enough, now you imply some kind of probably illegal sexual failing on the part of our beloved village vicar! An honourable man who, I am sure is quite above reproach!”

“I assure you, Lady Burbage,” Max replied warmly, “I am not repeating scurrilous gossip at some second or third hand remove but simply and honestly reporting the evidence of my own eyes gathered some two weeks ago during a Thursday morning choir practice.”

“Your own eyes?” snorted Mr Riverbend.

“Exactly sir. While I had originally attended the activities of the choir because I find some of their harmonising not unlike the songs of my own people, after some time I was called away by some business that would not wait and which I decided to attend to in the Sacristy garden, rather than, as is my wont, in the dark area behind the organ.”

There was a sharp intake of breath from Mr Riverbend.

“Pray continue, Maxwell” Lady Burbage’s voice was a mixture of interest and menace.

“Delighted, mam. In any event, I walked through the choir during their attempt on a half – baked  Jesus Pie,”  

“Pardon Me?”

“Pardon, mam,  an attempt at a small bon mot- I meant of course ‘Pie Jesu'”

“Not to your normal standard, cat.”

“I have to agree mam- in any event during my passage through the choir I could not help but notice that several members of the choir were wearing high heel ankle boots, and, when I looked up, these same choristers were wearing only female undergarments under their vestments. Frilly ones.”

“Quite normal attire for any choir in the land Madam. It is unfair to draw any ufair inferences based on this allegation!”

“I’m quite sure we’re capable of making our own minds up on this subject, but thank you for your opinion Mr Riverbend.” Lady Burbage’s tone carried more meaning than her choice of words.

“Sir – I can trace my lineage back to the seven matriarchs – I occupy several important positions in the feline culture in this territory- my word is above r’approach and I will not have my escutcheon called into question by a common clergyman’s assistant! Do I make myself clear?”

“My dearest sir! I meant no disrespect! Indeed in my emotional state I stumbled over my own words. I merely meant that in my two years at Saint Cuthbert’s parish I have seen no evidence whatever of such anomalous activities or deportments as you describe!”

“And how, pray tell, do you arrange your fact- finding examinations up the chorister’s cassocks?”

Mr Riverbend sat back, abashed. Mrs Wheatsheaf tittered. Mr Riverbend darted a poisonous look at her.

“Really Madam” he snapped, “If you must pick sides I rather think that you should at least ally yourself with the superior species!”

Mrs Wheatsheaf ‘s smile was quite impenetrable when she spoke. “I rather think I have, sir.”  

Mrs Riverlet looked up, and smiled. 

“Mr Riverbend,” Lady Burbage’s question was intended to restore the company to a state of polite equilibrium: “given you close association with the Parish of Saint Cuthbert, are you able to state whether this year’s church finances will permit  the church fete cake stall to stock the same jam donuts and chocolate eclairs as last year?” One thing was undoubted, Lady Burbage had a very sweet tooth and the intervening months had dimmed memory of the unpleasant aftermath of last year’s church fete. But the question performed it’s intended function, providing Mr Riverbend with a much needed respite to collect his flustered wits. 

“I-I’m really not sure Lady Burbage, my relatively low position in the structure of Saint Cuthbert’s has not seen me granted access to the minutiae of the organisation of the church fete.”

“Minutiae? Minutiae?” Lady Burbage examined Mr Riverbend’s blush closely through her pince-nez. 

“The Cake stall is the very backbone of the Church Fete!” it was impossible to ignore the reverenceand menace in her voice.

“My dear lady!” Mr Riverbend tried hard not to squeak, “I simply mis-spoke! There are a very broad variety of issues in the organisation of a church fete and these issues are addressed by aa small army of dedicated volunteers and this year my responsibilities do not encompass the organisation of the Cake Stall. Instead, this year, for the first time ever, Saint Cuthbert’s Parish fete is to boast an inflatable   Krazy Kastle!(c), the organisation of which is my sole responsibility;” he flexed his shoulders. His deep crimson blush showed no signs of abating. “You know, it’s for the children. To jump up and down on.”

“Quite.” Lady Burbage evidently  considered that castles, crazy or not, ranked far less weightily on the scales of importance in fetes than cake stalls. Especially, it must be said, cake stalls that purveyed the chocolate eclairs of Miss Deborah Clatchitt, from the Cake Creation Emporium all the way over in in Ramsbottom  Her mouth had been watering at the memory for the last eleven- and- a- half- months.

“While I am sure you anticipate giving the choir, in their vestments free tickets to your Crazy construction and then keeping a close eye on their activities; I myself am far too busy, and physically frail to make the long trip by rail to Ramsbottom and stay overnight in a town that is, without doubt either too wet or too cold, in some hostelry where the beds would be either to hard or too soft  and the vittles overpriced and not to the standard of the produce of the erstwhile Mrs. Noakes.”

“Indeed madam that would be unlikely!” interjected Mr Riverbend who had a particular weakness for the sausage Lady Burbage’s cook called “bloaters.”

“thank you sir” said Lady Burbage who considered any praise of the cook to be general praise that reflected on the quality of her house  and inferentially herself.  And Lady Burbage  too. was far from being above appreciating a good sausage. While she glowed in the praise of her cook, Riverbend took joy in the acceptance of his dedicated kow-towing.

“High praise indeed since Mr Riverbend is indeed well known as a connoisseur of sausage.” Interjected Max, sweetly.

Mr Riverbend bristled; “What do you mean by that sir? Is it another one of your limp attempts at humour?”

“Heaven forbid my good sir! merely that the contents of the garbage bins at the rear of your humble abode and intelligence gained from  the village butcher, who happens to be a close personal friend of mine, point clearly at the peculiarities of your diet.”

“Ah.”

“not to mention that a peek under the toilet cubicle walls in the vestry on Wednesday afternoons will teach any student of anthropology all they need to know about sausage appreciation.”

Mr Riverbend achieved the colour of a London bus. Lady Burbage wondered as to the strength of his heart in relation to what was clearly stratospheric blood pressure.

“sir!” Cat!” Mr Riverbend spluttered scarcely capable of intelligible speech;”You avow violating the sanctity of the vestry and the privacy of the toilet without a hint of remorse and the segue in wild allegations I avow I am too innocent and callow to understand the ramifications of-Explain yourself sir, lest I propell your furry body into the fountain with a swift kick of my right foot- I was in the first elevens at F-footer in my year at Oxford sir!”

Riverbend sat back, the worst of his rage seemingly dissipated by his outburst. He panted and if his deep flush showed no signs of abating it at least did not worsen

“So sir,” Max was unabashed; “Aside from being caught ilflagrante eldickto you have broadened the scope of yourshameful activities to tooping to threatening a innocent housecat with physical violence might I remind you that the guiding principle of the rules laid down by the Marquis of Queensbury is to only pick on people of your own size?”

“Innocent cat?I hardly think so sir unless innocence encompasses sneaking, spying and the deployment of uncorroborated allegations in a manner designed to maximise harm and embarrassment.”He  breathed noisily through his nose and swallowed.

“A shameful performance.”

“And one you appear unmotivated to contradict” Max was unabashed and if he was blushing, no sign of it showed through the tabby fur on his cheeks. “So am I to take it that it was not you I found in a toilet cubicle gulping away at a German internees prize bratwurst with every evidence of bursting into the ‘sprung rhythm of religious ecstasy?”(C) Alex Rieneck 2018