Dragon’s Cave

On the westerly side of Ballycrone there is a secluded cove. The land separating the beach from the road is owned by Mother Eekerton, who owns a gun and uses it without caution. One must trek through her fields without being shot and climb down a steep grey cliff to reach the stony Scaly Beach, a journey that few undertake. Having reached Scaly Beach (so called because of the shipwrecked boat of Harold Foot and Sons, which sank off the coast of Ballycrone over 200 years ago and whose cargo, weighing scales, have washed up on Scaly Beach in their hundreds since), walk South-West along the shore for 500m until you reach Dragon’s Cave.

Felix McDermott moved to Dragon’s Cave, formerly Mutt Cave, in the late 1980s when he was 36 year’s old. Felix had been a dragonphile for much of his life and as he grew older he began to fully commit to life as a fire-breathing flying reptile. From cardboard boxes left behind by his ex wife, he fashioned a simple dragon costume. He waited until Sunday night, when he knew Mother Eekerton went to play darts, crept silently through her fields and scrambled down the cliff to the beach.

For years, the adventurous children of Ballycrone who made it to Scaly Beach returned with tales of an invisible fire breathing dragon who lived in Mutt’s Cave. Upon investigation, Sergeant Fiona Brook found the dragon to be no more than McDermott with a Lynx can and a small Bic Lighter. She and her officers decided that he was causing no harm but told him that he must erect a sign to notify passersby. It still stands at the entrance to Dragon’s Cave, and reads – Beware All Ye Who Enter This Cave. A Dragon Dwells Within. Fuck Off and Leave Him Alone.

The reason I tell you this is because Felix recently called Sergeant Brook and asked her to come to his cave to show her something disturbing that he had found washed up on the beach outside. The village is alive with the buzz of what it could have been, information that the Sergeant and the dragon have kept confidential for now.

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Receipt – dog food

Mr Teller, who lives under the North Bridge in a hovel and eats cold beans straight from the tin, brought me an interesting receipt he found washed up on his doorstep today. It was from a trader the next village over.

Milk – 63 shingles

8 carrots – 24 shingles

3 tins of Chummy Chum Dog Food – 137 shingles

Napkins – 19 shingles.

Dog food has been banned in Ballycrone, both sale and possession, since the war ended. I thought those days had gone. Is this the beginning of a new chapter of canine-human violence? I must know more.

Mr Barnaby.

Teach a Man to Fish

A story overheard by me, Mr Bradbury, at Finlicky’s Fish and Tackle Shop and related back to Sir Richard that evening while he sipped scotch and shot his crossbow at stuffed dogs.
Mr Johnny Snr Bailey of Fudgers Close had been learning to fish for two weeks. He had learned all the basics: choosing the correct rod and bait, attaching the spool and line and tying the weights and hook. The one thing Dr Sean ‘One-eyed’ Cronin had not taught him was how to actually cast off his line. Every time it would come to this part of the lesson, Sean would grab the rod out of Johnny’s hands and quickly cast off before handing the rod back without saying a word.
One day, Johnny had plucked up enough courage to ask Sean why he was not allowed to cast off.

“You’re not ready!” Sean roared, staring straight ahead at the still lake.

“But I’ve watched you do it a hund-” Johnny started.

“I said you’re not fucking ready!” He picked up Johnny’s rod, broke it across his knee and stormed through the bushes at the edge of the lake. “And you can walk home!” he shouted back at Johnny.

Two days went by without any contact from Sean. Johnny sat and wondered what he had said that could provoke such a reaction. Finally he decided enough was enough. He went out to the village, bought a new rod and set out across the patchwork of fields towards Swallow’s Lake.

Johnny trudged through the low bushes and pointy tufts of grass at the water’s edge until he found the perfect spot. He laid his fishing bag, his small cooler box and his flask on a nearby rock and stared across the lake. I’ll show him, he thought to himself.

It was the perfect spot, the trees behind Johnny provided excellent shelter from the wind and were far enough back not to compromise his maiden cast. He could see the village below him and beyond, the sea and the lighthouse on Pigger’s Rock. He lay all of his equipment out on the grass and prepared his rod meticulously, as Sean had taught him. As he looked out on the lake, Johnny could see each ripple clearly glistening in the morning light. The silence engulfed him completely and he felt at ease with himself.

He picked up his rod, unclasped the reel, let the line hang out a bit and then began the slow arc of his cast as he had seen Sean do many times before.

‘One Eye’ Cronin found him later that afternoon, his neck broken in five different places. He sunk to his knees and sobbed into Johnny’s lifeless body.

“I told you you weren’t ready,” he whispered in disbelief.

Choices

Mr Barnaby! Where are you, you old fool? There you are. I saw the most unusual thing today. Two young men in in a field, one of which had no bloody hand. The handless fellow had the other lad on the ground and was beating him senseless.

Oh yes, my lord. That would be Masters Derek and Tom. I heard about this the other day. Shall I tell it as I heard it.

Go on Barnaby, I don’t have all bloody day!

“Pick one!” she roared at the man strapped in the wooden chair. She stood over him, her gun pointing at the man’s temple as he sobbed uncontrollably.

“I can’t, please let me go.” She stared at the ground and shook her head in disgust. Weak, she thought.

“Why are you doing this to us?!” screamed the man’s friend sitting opposite. He strained at the straps that were holding his legs and arms in place.

She adjusted her tie and stared at the ceiling. “Just choose,” she whispered menacingly.

“Okay, okay, I’ll choose, I’ll goddamn choose… No-n-n-no hands.” Suddenly the man’s hands vanished and he pulled the rounded stumps free from the restraints.

“Was that so bad?” she smirked at him and turned her gun to the second man. “Now choose, would you rather have no hands or no eyes!”

“It’s actually not that bad, there’s no pain at all,” said the first man looking at his new stumps. “Go with no hands, it’s a talking point. Like there’s loads of blind people about.”

His friend began to sob.

“Neither, please. N-n-neither…”

His friend snorted and rolled his eyes.”You can’t choose neither Derek-”

“Neither?” asked the woman, raising her eyebrows. “Cool.” She strode casually to the man’s chair, unbuckled him and walked out of the room.

“Ha Ha! Tom, can you believe-”

“What the fuck! She never said ‘neither’ was one of the fucking choices!”

“Tom, relax. You’re going to be fine. Drama queen,” it was Derek’s turn to roll his eyes. He unstrapped Tom’s legs and walked out of the room.

“You can’t be fucking serious…” Tom muttered to himself.

 

 

Lighthouse – Thwart

What happened at the lighthouse, Mr Keeper? That is your name, is it not? Mr Keeper?

Eh, aye, sir. T-t-terrible things Sir Dick. Terrible things.

In the lighthouse kitchen there are two chairs, but I’ve only ever needed to use one of them. I sit there most days and listen to the waves crash against the rocks outside, the smell of the sea in my nostrils from dawn until the sky turns orange and red and finally black and it is just me, the light and the waves once again. I stare in wonder and hate at the thunderous sea, wine bottle green and veined in white with foam, clinging and smashing to the sheer sides of my lighthouse island.

There had been a storm last night smashing and breaking itself against the steadfast rock. I had heard far off cries and stood at the window, uselessly looking out at the rain and the waves.

The gull’s calls had brought me to the back of the lighthouse early this morning. I climbed down the steps facing the mainland, a distant strip of brown and dark green, which today, disappeared constantly behind the heave and swell of the ocean. When I saw the human body, a tangled mess of seaweed and ragged clothes, I scrambled down the sharp rocks to the edge of the water. Grabbing a branch that had been washed up by last nights storm, I somehow hooked her and gradually dragged her through the flotsam and jetsam.

I negotiated the sharp, slippery steps slowly and with great caution. The woman was heavy and my back and shoulders burned with each step. I focused on the splash and crash of the waves until finally I reached the gate at the entrance of the lighthouse. A metre long tunnel of slate rock led from the gate to the door of the lighthouse. I lay her down and rested her back against the wall as I swung the gate open against the increasingly violent wind. Crouching next to her I could hear a faint wheezing breath. My heart quickened.

All of a sudden, an ominous shadow rose and rippled up the steep sides of the island. My eyes followed it up, up until it smothered the tip of the lighthouse and met the grey sky. A wave. Not just a wave. Gargantuan. The kind of wave that would have terrified Moby Dick and turned Jason home. I scrambled about me, pulling and dragging at the soaking pile of rags and limp limbs. Her head lolled from side to side as I became more desperate and the wave closed in. Her torso was inside the metre long tunnel that led from the gate to the door of the lighthouse and I clutched at her dress, white knuckled.

Everything went dark as the sea wrapped itself round the lighthouse in a tight embrace. I was knocked against the side of the tunnel. My eyes closed, the sea fell away and I slipped from consciousness.

When I awoke, I was surrounded by darkness and the taste of blood filled my mouth. I looked at my hands. Although the material of the woman’s dress had not been pried from them, she was gone. I sat alone in the tunnel, where I sit now, and cried.

via Daily Prompt: Thwart

Rubbish

You know Scrouch the Scrounger. The ruffian-homeless that lives in Scrap Alley? You’ll never believe what he told me yesterday while we were swimming in the sea. Barnaby, are you listening you bloody fool?

Yes, my lord.

The sun beamed into the alley and cast angular shadows which the three boys used to hide in for shade as they played with their marbles. Michael squatted down and rolled his marble gently on the uneven tarmac.

“Better luck next time,” sniggered Johnny. Michael and Denis both rolled their eyes. Then they stopped and looked towards the cloudless blue sky. They could hear a low whistling sound that was getting louder by the second. A loud crash shattered the silence of the alley way. Metal rubbish bins clattered against the walls and rolled to a stop after a few seconds. All three boys found themselves on their feet, staring at the mound of bin bags and other discarded items. Silence again. Then a low groan.

Nervously, Michael inched from the shadow into the sunlight towards the pile.

“Don’t-” pleaded Johnny through gritted teeth, grabbing at his arm and pulling him back but Michael shrugged him away, never taking his eyes from the where he had heard the groan.

Michael stopped halfway between his friends and the rubbish bags. Was that blood? A slow trickle of crimson rolled from beneath the bins towards the drain in the centre of the alley. As quiet as a mouse, Michael crept forward again, knees shaking uncontrollably. He was beginning to think that this was not his greatest idea ever.

Reaching the bin bags, Michael stood on his tiptoes and craned his neck to identify the origin of all the commotion. His heart was in his throat as he stared open eyed at the source of the boys terror. Michael stumbled backwards and suddenly his friends were at his side.

“What is it?!” whispered Denis in a concerned voice, taring straight into Michael’s vacant gaze.

“C-c-c-cowboy…” muttered Michael nonsensically.

“Nice try,” said Johnny, his eyes still fixated on the pile of rubbish.

Another groan broke the silence again and the boys scrambled backwards. Out of the pile of rubbish, old furniture and empty glass bottles rolled the body of a man, until he was lay with his back on the baking tarmac in the heat of the midday summer sun. He was dressed head to toe in a sheriff’s outfit as if he had walked straight out of a spaghetti western that the boys used to sneak in to see in the old cinema last summer. He lay in front of them, groaned his last groan and lay still and dead. Blood oozed from numerous parts of his chest and belly.

“We should get someone,” said Johnny frantically.

“Where did he come from?” asked Denis. Michael squatted over him.

“I don’t know? How do you think he died?” he asked, peering at his damp red shirt.

“Indians! I think he’s a sheriff, don’t see any badge though.”

“Bar fight, must be!”

“Maybe it was a duel? Remember those, from the movies?”

“I bet he was a real hard man. Look how many bullets it took to kill this guy!”

“Either way, we need to get someone quick,” said Dennis as he looked up and down the alley for any passersby. But they were on their own.

Suddenly, from high above them came the same high pitched whistle that preceded the sheriff. The boys looked up and took a few steps back.

CRASH. More bins, bags and bottles went flying from the pile. The boys covered their eyes and noses from the dust and the rotting stench. They stepped over the sheriff to investigate. In the pile of rubbish lay a large spiky green cactus covered in blood.

“He fell into a fucking cactus?!” Johnny guffawed loudly. “Fucking rubbish.”

The boys picked up their marbles and left the alley.

 

Technology

Sir, Master David has told me quite an interesting story about what he found in your sister’s attic last week.

Well, spit it out Barnaby. 

David looked around for the final piece of the jigsaw. Where was it? He was sure he had counted all of the pieces before beginning and was sure he had them all. The old dusty puzzle had been shoved in the back of a rickety cupboard in his grandmother’s attic. She had asked him to grab some photos that she wanted to bring with her to the new nursing home two days earlier. Poking around inside the cupboard, he found the puzzle, it’s box frayed and faded. He could just about make out what appeared to be a king surrounded by clouds and angels on the cover as well as the title – The Nine Realms of Wingovia. In the top right hand corner, there was a peeling sticker – Complete Puzzle to Win Special Prize! – it read. Not having time to open and look at it properly, he left it on the floor and promised himself that he would come back when he had the chance.

Two days later, early in the morning he had returned to the now empty house, entered the attic and had been piecing together the jigsaw for nearly three hours now. Hunger was setting in and David was ready to curse the last missing piece and go for lunch when he realised that he had been holding it in the palm of his hand all along. Strange, he thought to himself, I don’t think I was holding this a moment ago. He shrugged and carefully placed the last piece into the empty slot.

Bang! All of a sudden, the attic was illuminated in sparkling light. David covered his eyes and tried desperately to see what had been the cause of the loud noise and blinding light. As David’s eyes began to refocus, he could make out a shape standing where the puzzle had been. Looming over David stood a tall wiry ancient man. He had a long beard, white as snow and long enough to touch the floor. Peering inquisitively down at the boy through furrowed eyebrows, he coughed and raised a long crooked pointing finger. David could begin to see the long navy blue robes that hung from his shoulders and arms. The man coughed again and then began.

“Congratulations! I, messenger Telenox of the Nine Realms, have been chosen to summon you, your royal highness, to your rightful throne. Take my hand and come with me to your new kingdom,” he announced with a raspy voice while waving his arms in the air.

“You will have whatever your heart desires. Food, women and wine by the casket. Simply take my hand.” He reached out his hand towards David’s. Slowly, David stood up, flabbergasted. Then, without a single word he grabbed Telenox’s hand determinedly. The same loud flash illuminated the attic once again and a swirling portal appeared behind the wizened old man. He turned and they each took a step silently in it’s direction.

BEEP BOOP BOOP BOOP BEEP BOOP.

“Shite, sorry. It’s my dad. Give me two secs,” muttered David angrily. Telenox stared at David quizzically as he pulled his mobile from his pocket.

“Ya, I’ll be back for supper. Go on, good luck. Fucking dope,” he said hanging up.

“What is this… machine??”

“This? It’s a piece of shit is what it is. Things gone to crap to be honest. Gonna trade it in for the new one next week. Sure fuck it, I’m a king now as you said. I’ll surely have about a million of them! Ha! This is going to be class.”

Telenox took the phone from David’s hand carefully and rotated it in the light of the window. He looked sideways at David again.

“Who were you talking to just now? Were you using this machine? Tell me, how does it work?” he asked, confused. David grabbed his phone back.

“You’ve never seen a fucking phone? Sit down here a minute and I’ll show you what it does.” David pulled two old milk bottle crates from the pile of rubbish in the attic and they both sat side by side.

Three hours later, he had finished giving Telenox a brief run down on the Internet, , Google Maps, Whatsapp and the Kardashians. The messenger sat amazed. He turned to David.

“And everyone has one of these machines?”

“Yup, pretty much.” Telenox nodded slowly to himself and then shrugged.

“Okay, my king. I will be on my way. Good fortune in the years ahead.”

“Wait, where are you going?”

“Your technology far surpasses that which we possess in the Nine Realms. I fear the kingdom would not be to your liking.”

“No, stop. I’m sure it’ll be class!” pleaded David. Telenox laughed and shook his head.

“You can find a girl to have intimate relations with through a touch of a button and the most beautiful women in the world are naked and readily available to see on the internet! I am sorry, but the Nine Realms is, to coin one of your terms, a ‘shithole’ compared to Earth.” Telenox stood and clicked his fingers. The portal opened once again behind him and he swiftly stepped through it. As his long robes disappeared, the portal grew smaller and smaller until it vanished altogether. David stood up and looked around him.

“Fucking paedo,” he grumbled. He kicked the jigsaw puzzle into hundreds of pieces and left the room.

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