The Secret Code of the Dead Basaclanca Annato Mars, George & the Cat



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      I write under the pen name of Charlie Purple and was born in Woolwich England on the 6th of September 1959. When the wind blows in a certain direction, and if you are in possession of impeccable hearing, you can hear the sound of Bow Bells from my birthplace. I entered the world on a Sunday and all the nurses preyed for my soul. My father said that I looked like a spring roll all wrapped in swaddling and was always screaming the place down. 
      My mother was Scottish, so we spent our summers there. I endeavoured to read just about every classic book written by the time I was twelve in Glasgow. I loved science fiction so I waded my way through H.G.Wells and sir Arthur Conan Doyle but I also read works by lesser well known writers such as Harry Harrison's "The Technicolor Time Machine" and fell in love with the genre. I love the possibilities that science fiction offers and when I grew up I progressed to fully appreciate the works of  Kurt Vonnegut Jnr, Philip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke and realized that good science fiction can actually shape our future. Arthur C. Clarke famously predicted the geostationary orbit for satellites for example and we all know about George Orwell's visionary 1984.
      I have always enjoyed writing and I embarked on my first 'novel' when I was fourteen years of age. It was a blatant rip off of 'Lord of the Rings', the main character was named, for some inexplicable reason, after trill - a type of bird food. I am 'trilled' to inform you that it doesn't exist now. I was fortunate for a working class boy, I received a good education and was encouraged to learn at a young age. The English language was always my Achilles heel however, at a secondary school I was within the top five performers in most subjects, but last in English.
      My English teacher was an austere Irishman named Paddy Wedlock, he detested the cockney word 'aint' more than he detested other people smiling. He vowed that my grades would suffer if i ever dared use it. In response, I produced a series of stories which featured cockneys as the main characters and dotted the dreaded 'a' word liberally throughout. He had no choice other than to mark me as low as he had vowed and it kept me firmly firmly at the bottom of the class, but I wasn't going to give in. I discovered a dictionary with the unmentionable word contained within its formidable bindings - when I presented a copy as a gift it invoked a purple reddish hue to Paddy's complexion. He continued to handicap my work in the same fierce and unforgiving manner.

      Years later I wrote a series of comedy sketches and sent them to Channel 4. They caught the attention of British writer, producer and script editor Paul Mayhew Archer, but it all went to my head as things tend to do at a young age and I decided to 'stitch' them all together 'Monty Python' style. Calculations concluded that the series would cost half the year's entire comedy budget for the channel, so I messed that up royally. I was then asked to write a half hour comedy, but that escalated into to a two hour long production even after drastic editing. My chosen profession was commanding long hours and I had bills to pay so I stopped writing, promising a place in my older age for such capriciousness. My work is designed for an adult audience so please note.

      Shakespeare once wrote that ‘all the world’s a stage’, but if it included active volcanoes then boy, was he dumb. The inhabitants of our present day Earth are blissfully tolerant of other peoples religions, inequalities, sexisms, racisms, sizes; even active volcanoes. We are indubitably-super-duper- to one another and live in a blissful haze, thank god. Alternative universes however are devoid of such loveliness and are brimming with isms - shocking I grant you. There are just too few politically correct people and no telling what’s going to happen next; the odd swear word here, the occasional wolf whistle there... it’s mad I tell you!

      Well, over there became over here for inventors of an alternative universe crossing machine. They wanted to produce a live movie, saving money on film production by incorporating backdrops and characters from alternative worlds with calamitous results. They based their storyline upon seven heroes battling to save a princess from a nasty witch (the witch is real and unaware of her starring role).
      The actors in this movie have serious issues of their own. If their combined intelligence were to equate to the brightness of a lightbulb in a dark room, you wouldn’t see the bulb unless you were viewing it through the Hubble telescope (the right way around and in the same room of course, any other way would be plain daft).
      So why is this book called Basaclanca I hear you ask? That would be telling now wouldn’t it? Don’t read this if you have ever been offended. ‘Oh taste and see’ is my mantra, to quote someone much cleverer than I; and ‘if your eye doth offend ye, spit it out’, to quote someone less so from our story.

      This book is full of contradictions, clichés and random humour. It is bursting with artificial intelligence gadgetry too, nudging you politely whenever you miss superior humour. Not laughing at all delivers approximately 40000 volts to your rectum (untried on humans as yet but for a fully grown white Rhino it’s 38904 volts*). We can still use the word rectum can’t we? I do hope so. If that isn’t proof of artificial intelligence then I don’t know what is.

Basaclanca, where the expression ‘political correctness’ hasn’t squirted out of anybody yet – but they are trying.
*N.A.S.A. confirmed, probably.
Please read the review at Book Viral.

 

Chapter 1

      Danny Rainbow tossed a fifty pence piece up into the air, some of his biggest decisions resorted to chance.
      “Heads it’s a Chinese meal, tails it’s a curry.”
      Remarkably it was neither so he stared at the coin standing on its edge vertically in awe. He smiled wryly and tucked the fifty pence coin delicately into a partition in his leather wallet. “That’s my lucky coin from now on, what are the odds of that? I’ll have a burger instead.” He grabbed his coat and headed towards the nearest burger bar.

      “A couple of quarter pounders please,” he said, smiling warmly, the girl behind the counter returned his smile.
      “When you said a couple, did you mean two?” she replied cynically exaggerating a vacant stare. Danny thought an ungracious thought about the girl and sighed, nodding reluctantly. “I will need some ID.,” she added, deadpan.
      Danny’s head turned abruptly searching her eyes suspiciously. “Chef accidently spilt booze into the patty mix so you’ll have to be over eighteen.” She smiled warmly.
      “I heard that!” the chef protested his innocence.
      “You don’t remember me do you? We went to different schools together.” He studied her face.
      “The same school and I do remember you, hello Mary.” He breathed a huge sigh of relief.
      “He’s a bit tipsy but he didn’t spill the alcohol, that was me,” she said quietly.

      The queue accumulating behind him were unappreciative of their banter. “We can’t talk now, but you want something from me don’t you?” Danny’s mind flashed back to a time when he had seen more of Mary May’s anatomy during a P.E. lesson than her modesty would normally allow.
      “My phone number.” She scribbled it down hurriedly.
      “I’ll…” he walked backwards towards the exit nodding, waving the slip of paper aloft with her number on it then slipping it into his pocket.
      “You better,” she warned.

      A few weeks later, they were inseparable until Mary’s wicked sense of humour ruined everything.

      Danny Rainbow loved his surname, but occasionally somebody referenced it to a U.K. children’s television program and that enraged him.
      “You are impersonating someone aren’t you?” Danny pulled a face as if he was gurning.
      “That’s right, from the show.”
      “Oh yes it’s, hold on a second.”
      Walking away never to return in an effort to exacerbate the impersonator as much as its recipient.

      Reflecting on a portrait of Einstein illuminated the extraordinary intelligence of the man but exploring Danny’s face yielded no clues as to the sharp and expansive mind that lurked within. His mind bombarded him with one exciting original thought after another, like gigantic imagination waves crashing onto a cerebral shoreline.
      “Too many fingers in too many pies. The trouble with you son, is that you have no direction in life,” Danny's father declared, reversing his hatchback down his driveway returning moments later for his sat-nav.
      “Must have got that from you,” he replied sarcastically. “I’ll show you Dad, I am going to build a time machine.”
      “Like a watch for instance?” his father replied.
      “An actual time machine, and when I do, I am going back in time to swap you for a nice dad.” Danny bared his teeth with an equally sarcastic smile.
     “I hope you do son, not make me nice that is but invent a time machine, I bet you can as well.” Receiving rare praise left him breathless but it was all the impetus required to begin his deliberate meddling with the fabric of space and time.

      The four years that followed left him twenty-five years old and with more than his fair share of curly grey hairs. Dying them would make him feel artificial however and he enjoyed looking more mature. Reading ‘The Time Machine’ by H.G.Wells as a boy fuelled his furtive imagination. If anyone could construct a working time machine privately, without military or governmental funding, Danny was that man, assisted in part by an eccentric Englishman called Joseph Wilkinson.

      A particular moment in space and time introduced Joseph to a premiership football star with a bloodstream packed with illegal substances. They collided at unimaginable speeds bringing them both to a standstill. It took four hours to cut him from his crumpled vehicle whilst the football star walked away from his phallic symbol with a bloody nose screaming that he had scored a goal.
Joseph was oblivious to the passing of a fortnight as he lay comatose in a hospital bed. A nurse studied his face intensely during her late evening round and released the warmest smile.
      “Mister Wilkinson, welcome to the land of the living. I know a certain doctor who will be very pleased to meet you.” She disappeared returning with the doctor moments later. He shone a torch into his eyes.
      “How do you feel Mister Wilkinson?” he enquired excitedly.
      “Ma bonce dunnuf throbery!” Joseph’s eyelids shot open, slamming his hand over his mouth in amazement. “What’s dis stuffa escaping outta of me gob bole?”
      “Sorry?”
      “Jew know whad I'm sedding.” Joseph thought that the doctor was playing a game with him.
      “Jew, are you of a Jewish extraction?”
      “Yeah, dats it, someboderies circumciserised me talk-box.” The doctor braved a sideways glance at the nurse supressing his laughter.
      “Brain scans reveal trauma to... a small region connected with your…dialect.” The doctor spurted out the words pausing occasionally to stop himself from giggling.
      “Can henny-buddy 'elp it?” Joseph enquired in the most contrived and comical Italian sounding voice.
      “I've just got to...” The nurse pointed her thumb at the door leaving mid-sentence failing to keep a straight face, she disappeared down the corridor crying with laughter.
      “This part of the brain seldom recovers but speech therapy should retrain your brain to rediscover new connectivity. Try saying this for me, ‘Around the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran,’” the doctor prompted, recording the conversation on his mobile phone.
      “Round de ruggered rockle, de rabid rucksack runded.”
      “Ragged.”
      “Dass whaddi sed, rabid! What’s de madder whit jew?”
      “Gotta no respect-.” The doctor added almost singing the next few words to a Joe Dolce song, improvising.
      “Donna take de pissery or I’ll tump yer on de chemoreceptor.” Joseph made a fist, “Whatta amma gonna do-ish? I'm a professor in quanticle mechanicals, who’s gonna lister to me lecture whenna I speaky likea some jokey Italian impregnator?” Once in a while Joseph choose the right word, surviving the thinking process only to be lost on the general public like using the word 'chemoreceptor' instead of nose.
      “It’s not so bad-” the doctor said continuing dangerously to add lines from the same song.
      “Jew are inna de wrong gyme.”
      “Gyme?”
      “Jes, pukkin gyme!” Joseph clenched his fists in anger. “Jew shud be a comediac.”

      For ten months Joseph visited his speech therapist daily, regaining his true natural accent was his paramount desire. Every day he worked on the pronunciation until he had mastered those eight little words.
      “Around the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.” Joseph rattled off perfectly.
      “Excellent Joseph.”
      “Bloodery crapage more likes, hin ten munts aller I say perfectory is ‘Around the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.’” Joseph threw his arms into the air shaking them with despair.
      “I agree, speech therapy is not your solution.” The therapist sighed.
      “I cod spitter hime dat lipid.” Joseph’s face displayed a mixture of hopelessness and frustration.
      “Livid,” the therapist corrected.
      “Datta too.”

      Joseph abandoned any explanation as to how a pure blooded Englishman's dialect had transformed into gibberish and when he mentioned which particular famous footballer he had collided with, all interest diverted to whether he got his autograph or not. He changed his name to Joseppi Varque which he pronounced ‘fucker’ and pretended to hail from a small Italian village situated on the outskirts of Turin, Shiddetti pronounced ‘shit head’ with an 'I' on the end.

      Danny disliked the way that Joseppi twisted his beautiful native tongue into something that made him feel murderous. They first met at a party at university but Danny’s understandling became more complete when he sat coincidently next to him during a special film society showing of 'Casablanca' with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
      “Dat wassa brillyipt,” Joseppi declared, “dey donner make flims like dis anymore, jew got a hanker-snot?” Danny looked into his eyes, which were streaming with tears.
      “No.”
      “Rememy sweetbreads, we wilt alleyways have Basaclanca. I means Parrist, where did dat cum frum? A rare slip off de tongue.” Joseppi openly laughed at the faux pas then blubbered even more.
They ended up on in the same physics course, whilst their classmates stuck religiously to the curriculum, Danny and Joseppi built exploding things and a rocket that flew high enough to penetrate lower Earth’s orbit, initiating a knock on the door from concerned security services.

      Danny's university days flew by quickly, producing a first class honours degree and a Ph.D. He converted his basement into a laboratory and for two years endured unexpected explosions; complaints from neighbours, digested Joseppi’s life threatening cooking and faced his own mortality monthly. He wiped his blackened face clean and emerged triumphant into his kitchen.
      “Behold, my very own time machine!” he announced to an empty room. “Every component part manufactured in China but assembled here in good old blighty!” he declared swigging on a can of fizzy drink. “Let’s choose a random day from the past.”
      He grabbed a torch, noting the original settings on his device as reference for Joseppi’s ongoing experiments. He put his half-eaten cheese sandwich down and twisted the dials on its small dashboard. Its design deliberately resembled the interface used in the film ‘The time machine’ as a tribute. He removed his lucky fifty pence piece and kissed it before replacing it reverently back into his wallet.
      “The fourteenth of February, nineteen sixty-four. Dad’s birthdate,” he declared then tugged on a lever. Knowing that there would be no music accompanying this journey he closed his eyes and imagined it all; the dramatic orchestral music; the sun rising and falling in the blinking of an eye, the seasons changing, the world reverting to a much less technological way of life.

      On this non-portable version of his device, a rail of equally distanced yellow fissure like fireworks dripped down from above as he passed through. In reality, the machine made a few barely audible blips and splutters, followed by one last slightly louder noise heralding the beginning of time travel on planet Earth.
      “To think that two hundred million generations ago we were all just fish, surely this is the single most significant discovery ever! History lessons are going to rock from now on, who’s going to need history teachers when you can see what happened for yourself?” he declared.
      The lights had fused in the basement so Danny made his way carefully upstairs to the kitchen, his suspicions were aroused however, when almost everything looked the same back in nineteen sixty-four. The fuse box was mounted on a different wall. He flicked the switch.
      “How odd?”
      There were subtle differences; the shed in his back garden was a different colour; the post-it notes on the fridge door were about things he had no recollection. Danny grabbed his newspaper, its headlines had altered too. ‘Our president Mr. Clint Eastwood retires to star in another Linguine Western.’ More curiously, his half-eaten cheese sandwich had miraculously transformed into a more interesting and healthier tuna and cucumber wrap.
      He had travelled back in time but unfortunately for Danny an 80,000,000th of a second was not going to impress anybody. Some other phenomena had taken place as the present had altered, and Danny would have to sift through the data to discover why.
      “How can time travel transform my lunch?” he mused.

      The world had changed. Even the maddening dog that always barked two houses down was not barking anymore.
A state of panic ensued, he ran downstairs again pressing the button returning him to his own ‘time.’ A few sad blips later and the sandwich was entirely ‘cheese and bread’ again. He sat on his long settee, turning on the TV and gazed at the screen mulling over this paradox. He munched on his sandwich without realising that the program he was staring at was also a massive clue.

      “‘Sliders’, that’s about alternative universes, isn’t it?” He thought for a moment. “That’s bonkers! Where the hell is Joseppi?” he said, accessing the friends list on his mobile. The call went straight through to voicemail.
      “Greeticks follicks, can-eye ‘elp it?” A pause followed.
      “Where the...”
      “No, dis is voicemail, so hi mighta be out summary where created a time machinery or shopperin' or sumfit.”
      “Joseppi?”
      “Donna leave a messerage cos I never listerol to it anyways. Speaky hafter de pips iffy jew wanna me to ignore ya.”
      “What are you like?”
      Beep-
      “Jo…”
      “Na notta dat beepa... dissa beepa.”
      “You prick! It’s not a time machine, it does something better. Don’t use it until you have spoken to me first,” he warned, ending the call. “As if your speaking voice isn’t maddening enough man!”

      Collaborating with an Englishmen that sounded as though he was perpetually mocking Italians accents all of the time was a risky matter. They were often confronted in a pub together by Italians or individuals concerned about Joseppi’s apparent rudeness.
      “If you are Italian, where do you come from?”
      “Shiddetti.”
      “No such place, you think that you are being clever but I know that you are insulting me!” Fists flew and Danny always carried proof of the resulting brawl with the occasional broken nose or loose tooth. Joseppi, being a boxing champion for his county survived unscathed.
      Joseppi’s genius, particularly pertaining to the portable version of his device was visionary but them ever becoming friends was as unlikely as the England football team winning anything. The very first words exchanged were as follows during a campus party.
      “Rainibow? A televisially program? I nunno whoer dis Bungly guy heven is. I lovely jaw name Dunly, rainibow is my favriterist colour!” Joseppi declared as his eyes rolled back, crashing to the floor, his brain succumbing to the effects of too much alcohol. Joseppi did not remember a moment of that night and Danny wondered if he had experienced some waking nightmare.

      Joseppi, worked through the nights, giving Danny a break from his 'vocabulary' and it was on one of those nights he completed a working version of the portable device first.
      Without knowledge that some part of the prototype had to remain with the user to maintain connection to the original world, he passed through the portal as it closed permanently behind him. The instant that happened, Joseppi and his ridiculous rendition of the English language was exiled to that place. He expected dinosaurs so he had grabbed a large wooden kitchen spoon, as his chosen weapon of defence.
      “Tyrannosaurus rexius, Joseppi iza comin’ to unfossilise jew, no funny busina-rossanessesness or I’ll poker yer eyepits outer wit’ dis.” He entered the portal waving his hand in one swift movement above him as though he was unzipping a tent.
      Joseppi, being Joseppi, had nicknamed it the ‘amber shower’ during its development and the name had sickeningly stuck.

      Strictly speaking, Joseppi was this world's first alternative world traveller, but his part in history might only ever be known to himself and the mysterious alternative universe he had just ingressed.
      Unlike Danny, he instantly realised that it was a different reality. As he strolled into the nearest town, a bunch of curious people followed from a safe distance as though connected to him by an unwound ball of rubbery string.
      The wooden bungalows lining the street were all painted white and were reminiscent of a fifties American town with post boxes lining the newly made roads. Joseppi walked up to a sign and read it out aloud.
      “If jew iz new ina towna, press dis shiny buttock,” he said, meaning button.
      Joseppi’s superior intelligence evaporated however, especially when buttons were concerned, he pressed it and immediately the crowd surrounded him with a dramatic fanfare. Someone waived a banner declaring that he was the millionth visitor and that his prize was anything that he wanted. Even the naughty stuff.

      Sartorius the policemen read the suicide note with astonishment. Unfolding events in the village of Pelosci are enough to make even the most grounded of souls question reality, let alone the diverse collection who have congregated there following the Second World War. How can anybody maintain their sanity, when visiting nomad Annato Mars roams the dusty streets? Where even the scent of a flower is stolen from our senses. This is an eerie place where questions go unanswered – how did the bakery mysteriously burn to the ground, and how did a man survive beneath the lake water for three days when he could not swim? It is a tale of miracles, wonder and of course love. Love spins the world, steals your heart and in this case resurrects crumbling teeth.

 
 
 
 
Chapter 1

    Weather wise, nineteen fifty was a most unsettled year, none of the seasons had yet established themselves despite entering their third quarter. It was as though four children fought over the same globe and now winter had its hands upon the toy. The wind reared up as swirling rain set in, scattering wildlife to their respective shelters.

    One man laboured through the storm at great speed; his body tossed around like a buoy in a turbulent sea followed by a number of irate pursuers.
“Come back here you stupid hat!” Annato grabbed at the airborne fedora, infuriatingly glancing the rim as it ascended into the pale purple sky. Its trajectory ensured that only a miracle could reunite them.

    A stone that had lain undisturbed since a Roman soldier had thrown it half-heartedly at a peasant two millennium previous found itself within a clenched hand then striking the skull of the pursuant.

    “Ouch, I loved that hat!” Annato protested foremost at his loss, three cheers followed as the blow felled him, but moments later, he resumed his flight away from the masses. Most sensible folk had battened down all that required such preparation and tucked themselves away somewhere safe, but Annato sought refuge from the shadowing throng. Suddenly all manner of other undisturbed objects transformed into improvised armaments. However weakly the projectile was tossed towards their prey it somehow gained sufficient momentum as to thump him painfully somewhere on his body such was the nature of a curse that pervaded him.

    Minutes turned into hours; only his speed protected him from an angry mob that diminished in number as the miles travelled from the comfort of their home increased.

    “I’ll get you one day,” the sole surviving pack member yelled, resting his hands on his knees panting.

    “When you are much fitter perhaps?” Annato replied unaware of the slight. His pursuer noticed a palm-sized stone in the dust and hurled it towards him; it glanced his cranium persuading consciousness to elude him. His body collapsed mimicking the shape of an ‘X’ as he lay there, oblivious to the skillset that had floored him. His pursuer weighed up the dangers of more exposure to the storm then concluded this final shot was ample justice, so he reversed direction.

    “Let that be a lesson to you!”

    Annato regained consciousness, yanking his beige woollen cape around him. He tugged instinctively on his now departed hat then followed a path leading up the mountainside at a more leisurely speed. As he entered a protective rock formation, curiously the wind ceased.

    Silver gossamer-like candy floss strands hovered stationary in the air then followed him in his wake as though they were dolphins alongside a boat. He wondered if this was like biblical 'manna' from heaven, that miraculously fed the Israelites whilst lost in the dessert but soon spat it out.

    Small cow bells, unprotected by this magical enclave rang softly, giving the place a feeling of sanctuary and enchantment. Annato sat down where some gifted craftsman had carefully chiselled a chair from the rock face in a seemingly futile gesture, offering no grand vista to delight the mind, just a column of sedimentary blandness to stare at. Annato wondered if a fine picture had once hung there. He produced chalk from a pocket and drew himself on it as though he was made of matchsticks sitting on the chair staring at the blank space.

    The mountains stretched up vertically towards the heavens then stopped suddenly like someone had taken a giant scythe to them. Overhead, the storm raged, and the clouds raced across the skyline.

    “I like this place, no wind,” he smiled weakly. His spine tingled as some of the warmth stolen by the weather returned to his body. He reminisced on the day’s events; the shaking fists, the anger and revulsion of the previous town’s inhabitants, the desperation deflecting their violence - all manifestations of his cruel curse. The seat was hard and cold; his posterior soon froze so he sat down crossed legged on the sandy ground instead, examining the cuts on his face so gently with his calloused fingers, releasing such sweetly melodic protestations.

    Removing a concertina from his aged rucksack, he played a tune befitting his mood. As he did so, precipitation fell gently around him, so slowly that it was barely noticeable in a small cylinder of which he was its epicentre.

    “How can a man be lonely, with you as his travelling companion?” Annato mused. Upon playing the last note the precipitation crashed to the floor, and shortly afterwards, the storm subsided too.

    After resting here for a while, he prepared to resume his journey.

    Annato Mars was aptly named. Mars is a planet and planet means wanderer. Annato had been wandering far longer than his tarnished leather boots ever could. Everything he possessed had been passed down to him in some unintentional act of charity, to a vagabond possessing teeth that looked like a row of crumbling buildings.

    His belongings were invariably shabby and frayed, except for a pocket watch found whilst appeasing his thirst from a well dedicated to Saint Christopher. Annato often stared into its dignified face despite the positioning of its hands being beyond his understanding. It ticked so perfectly, and its periodicity aided sleep. Finding it was a miracle, small things were to a man who knew little kindness. He replaced the accordion adjusting his rucksack where it tore into his flesh if it wasn’t placed just so. He stood; reluctantly continuing his journey then cupped his hands as the next village appeared over the ridge. 

    “Dear God I'm starving,” he said staring at the heavens, “please feed me and let these villagers be more tolerant towards me than in the last town.”

    Palosci was the kind of village that was discovered rather than intentionally visited. It was similar to many villages in the province but built on the side of three steep hills that converged where a lake had formed. The mountains poked up around it like gaolers’ walls, preventing easy access from the outside world because of this and the lack of enthusiasm of locals visiting the run down place, a road leading to it was never cleared of continually falling landslides, it consumed too much of the villagers time.

    The mayor of the town was a haughty man, likely to disappear up his own self-importance any day soon. He insisted on a vehicle befitting his own vision of superiority, so they bought an open backed car that Mussolini had cherished cheaply. The village boasted one stretch of road robust enough for such a grand vehicle. It would be driven ceremoniously over that sacred patch of navigable road and reversed accordingly at the other end. He had the car disassembled into smaller parts that could be manhandled through the cutting Annato had just discovered, and then reconstructed in the village centre.
Houses surrounded a large church on the only side of the village that wasn't steeply inclined. A half-finished dusty road crept towards the village square, where a clump of neglected war damaged shops plied for business. The village had survived earthquakes and war, only a handful of buildings had been restored in the certainty that some other disaster would befall them. Homes transformed to less robust structures higher up the mountain. From the sky, the village must have looked like a giant horseshoe. It seemed at peace with itself and ready to jump into the lake in the event of a calamity.

    He did so like the feel of the place. Mars may well be a wanderer, but more significantly, Mars too was the bringer of war.
 
 

Chapter 2

    George gazed out of the window of his ramshackle building and was relieved to discover that the wind had finally died down, so he braved a journey into the village.

    He had the kind of forty-five-year-old body that only the poor-sighted could admire. He had exiled himself to moral turpitude longer than he'd cared to mention and, as if proving the point, sought the village whore.

    After descending into the village he climbed upwards again, struggling up the limestone steps, meandering around the hillside like someone had tied his shoelaces together; even the most placid of movements recently had exhausted him. Chantel, the whore, watched him through her window, concealed behind a curtain laughing hysterically at his comical groans and expressions stifled by the thought that he might hear her. He summoned up all of his energy and knocked on the faded varnished wooden door.

    “Oh it’s you, come in George. There was a time when you used to leap up those stairs like they were hardly there,” she said quite rudely.
“Like there was a time when that red basque of yours fitted you.” he retorted, struggling for breath. It was two sizes too small for her now, but there was a time when it was a size too large.

    Over the years, her stiletto heels had punched holes in the varnished softwood flooring giving it the appearance of a surrealist painting. Chantel’s hairpiece was red and too short for George’s tastes, but it would be any colour that her customers expressed a preference to. Her freckly gaunt skin pinched in places and rounded up like a stoat in a sack. There were signs of bruising that she never spoke about with George, despite his concerns and no amount of deftly applied makeup could disguise the fact that she was getting old. She sat in a chair, hurriedly restoring the makeup that her previous customer had unintentionally soiled.

    “Bloody hell Chantel, you look like s*** today,” George said undiplomatically.

    She barely flinched, overloading her cheeks with more blusher. “Better now?

    “A little,” he replied with no conviction.

    She sighed and lay back on the bed, encouraging him to join her, but George resisted.

    “What's the matter?”

    “You don’t have to do this you know.” His eyes pleaded with hers.

    “Oh really, what else does the village whore do, George?”

    George grasped her hands, forcing eye contact. “Come live with me in my old mountain shack; I'll take care of you there. You're getting old, soon even the least discerning amongst us will look for someone new, younger perhaps. Younger flesh for farmers and judges alike, or for a virgin male to get his first taste of a woman like Francine.”
“Not content with satisfying men, women, and other things too so I’ve heard...” She pointed off angrily, but nowhere in particular. “Horses heads turn as she cavorts down the street.”

    “Of course they turn, for anyone who regularly feeds them, besides they may have an eye for beauty too.”

    “Maybe they can smell their stable companions…”

    “Nonsense girl, absolute nonsense! She is younger Chantel, that’s all, and youthfulness is something older men pine for. Just because we look old, we still feel young inside, and Francine will reignite those fading memories. Don’t be harsh with her.” George pleaded unaware of how indelicate he was being. She too pined for her youth, a time when George could have saved her from this lifestyle. “I want to talk to you about something. I was talking to Shulman the other day; he gave me a kitten and a bottle of red wine for replacing some tiles on his rickety old roof. I wanted cash, but he said, 'Zer kitten will make you feel less lonely in your twilight years, and zer vine will varm your heart'.” George impersonated Shulman poorly because in truth his accent was barely noticeable.

    "Well, did it?”

    “The wine made me drunk like it always makes me drunk, and the kitten s**ts everywhere and eats my dinner when I'm not looking,” he complained. She laughed heartily. “He is a peculiar fellow.”

    Plucky though, moving here so quickly after the war, kind too, donating all that money to restore the village school.”

    “The same property his fellow countrymen demolished in the first place.”

    “You cannot tar all people with the very same brush. I do not think of him as a German soldier; I think of him as one of us now. That is the exceptional wonder of this place; there are so many people from other countries living here in peace, it was as though all the broken people that don’t fit in were destined to live out their lives here.”.......
 

Here is my first published story, thanks to Kellan Publishing.

    Assuming the existence of an afterlife I have never understood why the dead do not explore new ways to communicate with us as the world adapts and technology advances. This is a possible modern way for them to achieve this, it is my first published work..

      It's about four childhood friends. One of them (Hadrian) claims to be psychic and drops the bombshell that the dead have invented a new way to communicate with the living. The others dismiss his ramblings until one of them (David) is forced to confront Hadrian's bizarre ethereal connection to the afterlife. On assignment in war ravaged Iraq, he witnesses an inexplicable event and has no choice other than to accept Hadrian's absurd hypothesis. The four friends are launched on a voyage of discovery, opening doors to hidden realms existing in parallel to our own. Unquestioningly they follow the unfolding events to their natural conclusion as a group of powerful and evil people gain knowledge of Hadrian's new gift and want to own him.

      Drawing on recent scientific research that suggests we have some knowledge of being observed even when we don't make eye contact, (have you ever been in a restaurant and felt that someone is watching you and when you turn around, they are?) I constructed a basic language around this observed phenomenon. It's a story about the paranormal, pitted with comedy and a hint of horror too.

This is my author's page at Kellan Publishing and a link to buying my novella.

Here's a sample.
 
 
 

    David looked at the old beach house and the sand that on particularly blustery days had swept itself around the foundations of it. Memories both good and bad flooded back. As a child, David spent most of his summer holidays here, cocooned from the outside world and the controversy which followed his mother around like a Damocles sword.


    She came here to think, but she came here to drink also, as the two events were intertwined. It was here that she was at her most creative and here where she wrote her bestseller. 'It could do with a lick of paint,' he said to himself, observing just how old and unloved it looked now.

      The sun shone and a deceptively powerful wind occasionally reared up causing sand to fly through the air along the beach. His hat flew off so he chased it over the dunes with his small suitcase still in hand.
    "Come back here you wretched thing!" Upon hearing David talking to his hat, a figure appeared at one of the windows. She wore dark glasses and held a vermouth glass in her left hand.

    "F***ing hell, if you don't come back right now I shall leave you here amidst the dunes to perish," he said as if it would somehow be the catalyst to reunite them.

    She giggled loudly like a schoolgirl, when she knew she should not have laughed at all. Realising that there was no time to change clothing, she wrapped an off white shawl around her and walked out onto the veranda. David suddenly realised that he had an audience and decided that was his cue to abandon his hat.

    "'If you love something, let it free, if it comes back it yours, if it doesn't it never was,'" she offered, quoting Johnathan Livingstone's Seagull as he climbed the three stairs leading to the veranda. David wondered whether it was the hat she was referring to, or himself.

    "Hello Mother"; Wind chimes tossed in the breeze.

    "Give me a hug my darling!" She embraced him warmly, which was not like her, perhaps watching her son failing brought out the mothering instinct in her. It surprised him and deep down, despite finding her intimacy suspicious, he liked the gesture anyway and reciprocated. 'Perhaps she has run out of booze,' he thought.

    "Not a good day to go fishing for hats,” she said and wrapped her arm around his. They withdraw to her writing room and she nestled down onto a gigantic white rattan chair. The whole room had a seaside feel to it with fisherman’s nets and coloured glass balls, sea shells and bare floorboards painted white. She had an old wooden ships steering wheel which flanked one entire whitewashed wall. The sun shone through the thin venetian blinds, lighting up both the airborne particles in the room and its clutter.
        David sat on a couch made by the same manufacturer as the chair, but it had more modest proportions. The cushions were frayed and threadbare where a long departed cat had sharpened its claws. She had been listening to an old gramophone and the needle still span around the old 78 long after the music had ended.

    "It's been a while darling," she said, topping her glass up from a near full cocktail shaker.

    "No gentlemen to accompany you here mum?"

    "No, I've literally had my fill of men right now. She smiled at the irony of her words and David knew exactly what she meant. She was being crude again, with the sole aim of shocking her son.

    "I've got an assignment."

    "I know! I mean I knew there was something different about my hatless prodigy," she replied.

    "You knew, didn't you?"

    "I may have been instrumental in the offer being made, but nothing more than 'a word in your shell like.'" A cockney expression for a word whispered in the ear.

        Annabella had travelled the world and every little town or place had somehow enhanced her accent, transforming it into a hybrid of them all. Some people collect mementos, she collected accents. Accurately predicting her country of origin because of this was impossible. Her accent would acclimate to the person she was in communication with, so if it was an American, her words took on an American drawl. 
People always thought that she came from somewhere else no matter what country she found herself in and therein laid the truth, she never felt truly at home anywhere, even in Canada, where she was born, or England, where she had sent her son to boarding school and lived for the past twelve years.

    "But mother, I told you that I wanted a real challenge, without your help."

    "And that's why I chose Iraq. You can visit your sweet two timing step papa whilst over there dodging the bullets."


 

Coming next...

    My latest book involves a twist on evolution. Brian Cox, the British physicist suggested in one of his informative television programmes that if intelligent life existed anywhere other than on this planet, that it would make self-replicating machines, colonise planets and populate the universe. As this hasn't happened, the chances of intelligent life existing are slim. 

If a civilisation was capable of such technology, there would be rules just as there will be rules for artificial intelligence when it arrives. A smarter way to populate the universe would be with devices that would seek out pre-biotics on a planet and possess the knowledge to bring them together in a way that would encourage intelligent life to take hold, no matter the timescale. 

My story is called 'The Penultimate Ghost' and it will take advantage of science to explain itself and evolution. My stories are just possibilities, they are not designed to upset or provoke religious groups. I just look at things from a different perspective and try to offer another way of understanding our universe..

Please feel free to contact me on Facebook; Twitter or email.