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Oil Paintings for Sale  

Posted by Scott Wilson

If you are after some fantastic and original oil paintings, check out Susie Wilson's Web Site http://susiewilsonsartwork.blogspot.com/

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Rod Rees  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Scott: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine. I’ve recently finished reading your latest novel The Demi Monde: Winter and thoroughly enjoyed it. How did the deal for the four book deal with Quercus come about?


Rod: It’s a long story. I was prompted to begin writing SF after watching the travesty of a re-imagining of the Jekyll and Hyde story that was the BBC’s ‘Jekyll’. Now although I love and revere Stevenson’s tale I nevertheless accept that like many things approaching their one hundred and twenty-fifth birthday (me, for example) it could certainly handle a wash and brush up. Unfortunately as wash and brush ups go the BBC’s effort was more akin to a really good sand blasting in that it stripped all the good things away and left...well, not much actually. And like many before me, as I sat there aghast watching this twaddle, the thought crossed my mind, ‘I could do better than that’.

So I sat down and wrote a book called ‘Dark Charismatic’ ... and wrote and wrote and wrote. Two hundred and twenty thousand words to be exact, each word carefully, lovingly and laboriously crafted. And the final two were ‘The End’. Having written the bloody thing I was troubled by a rather belated thought: what do I do with it now? And the answer was, of course, get an agent. So I googled ‘agents + science fiction + fantasy’, chose the three I though potentially most receptive – that is, they had kind faces – and sent off the first three chapters of my magnum opus. And, to cut a long story short, on the strength of ‘Dark Charismatic’ I was taken on as a client by John Jarrold.

Unfortunately, even John couldn’t place ‘Dark Charismatic’ with a publisher (fools!) but undeterred (or stupid) I decided I’d write a second book and thus was born ‘The Demi-Monde’ in which I tried to remedy the faults (of which there were many) of ‘Dark Charismatic’.

John sent out ‘The Demi-Monde’ and 48 hours later it (and the three others in the putative series) had been taken in a pre-emptive deal by Quercus. I got pissed that night!



Scott: Do you feel under much pressure having to write another 3 books in this series now that you’ve secured a deal, or have you pretty much mapped out the books already?

Rod: I did a LOT of preparatory work for ‘The Demi-Monde: Winter’ especially regarding my ersatz religions and the rationale for the Demi-Monde itself (most of this is on the website www.demi-monde.com) but I was totally unprepared for how quickly the book was taken by a publisher. The next three books in the series – ‘Spring’, ‘Summer’ and ‘Fall’ – I had only the vaguest idea about.

But now, eighteen months on from being signed, I’ve delivered both ‘Spring’ and ‘Summer’ to Quercus and am well into ‘Fall’ so a lot of the mechanical pressure is off. What I worry about now is whether ‘Spring’ is good enough (I worry a lot). In fact I’ve just completed a huge, self-imposed re-edit of ‘Spring’ in order to inject more pace into the book. I really want it to be a show stopper.

Scott: The concept of the virtual training of the troops in a setting close to Hell is pretty full on, did you have to do much research into the armed services and virtual reality to make this a believable story?

Rod: Lots and lots. I’ve always been interested in military history so I had a grounding in what I needed to do, but I wanted to make sure the jargon and concepts relating to Asymmetrical Warfare were correct. I also wanted the technical aspects of creating a virtual world to be at least credible: I’m no expert in cybernetics but …

All this research I synthesized into a ‘The Demi-Monde: Product Description Manual’ (it’s also up on the website) supposedly written by ParaDigm CyberResearch, the builders of the Demi-Monde virtual world. This was my reference point all the way thru the writing of the DM stories.

I’ve written about this whole world-building process on my blog, in an article entitled ‘Building a Bespoke World’.



Scott: A lot of new writers often ask about the amount of pages or words that a published author produces each day. How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?

Rod: The simple answer is that I have a target when I’m writing of 3,000 – 3,500 words per day and I keep going until I’ve reached this per diem. So, given no distractions, I can produce 200,000 words of rubbish in four months.



As I say, this is the simple answer: it becomes more complicated when editing is taken into account.



Much of what I write is rubbish. I tend to over-write, read it, become disgusted and go back and cull. And it is this editing process which is the time killer. The second book in the DM series - ‘Spring’ - took one month to research (compared to ‘Winter’s’ three months), four months to write and four months to edit: nine months in total.



I attend a writers’ group in the UK called Renegade Writers and I was asked how many times I edited/revised my books before I submitted them to my agent. It wasn't something I'd ever thought about before so my answer - twenty or thirty times - was a little off-the-cuff. Unfortunately it was a pretty accurate estimate.



A couple of years ago a guy called Macolm Gladwell suggested that 10,000 hours of practice is necessary to become proficient in anything. The Beatles needed 10,000 hours hammering out their music in the clubs of Hamburg, Beckham needed 10,000 hours to perfect his free-kicks and I'm guessing that every other expert in their field has invested a similar amount of practice time in honing their skills. Now I'm not suggesting that I'm of a similar proficiency to these experts but I think that this sort of practice mileage is necessary if any natural talent you have is to be given a chance to shine. Golfer Ben Hogan is reputed to have coined the maxim 'the more I practice the luckier I get'.



This 10,000 hour idea coincides with the proposition - Ray Bradbury made it, I believe - that an author needs to have written one million words before he or she can have any claim to have mastered their craft.



That's why I get so annoyed when I see established authors advise would-be authors that the route to success is to read the masters. This is bollocks: the way to success is to write...and write, and write and write. And then to edit the shit out of the crap (sorry for the tautology) you've written.



Unfortunately shows like the X-Factor have inculcated the impression that there's a short-cut to success but in the vast majority of cases there ain't. We still (just) live in a meritocracy which is defined as:



SUCCESS = (TALENT x HARDWORK) + LUCK



and the greatest element here is HARDWORK...10,000 hours of it!



Scott: How do you approach your writing? Do you tend to develop a story in your mind and then proceed to conduct some research or is more of an organic method where you write the story first and research any technical aspects later?

Rod: Difficult to be precise as it depends on the mood I’m in. Obviously I have a general idea of where I’m heading and I always like to have the denouement of the story clear in my head before I begin (this is especially important with short stories). Unless I do this I simply drift.

With the Demi-Monde, because many of the characters are historical figures I have to research them in order to make them believable. For example Percy Bysshe Shelley makes an appearance in ‘Fall’ and so I’ve been reading biographies about the man and anthologies of his poetry. Once I have all this in place I can write knowing that my fiction is based on fact.

But then characters do have a habit of evolving and leading you in new directions so you’ve got to allow them some elbow-room.

I guess I did three months of research on the DM before I felt confident enough to start writing the story.



Scott: As a writer it is interesting to hear what other writers read in their spare time. It is often surprising to hear the genres and variety of books other authors read. Can you tell us what are you reading at the moment and what you five favorite books are?

Rod: I read very little fiction these days, I simply don’t have the time. Most of what I read is background research on my characters, on the milieu and on religions/philosophy. Currently I’m trying to get thru ‘The Net Delusion’ by Evgeny Morozov and ‘Why the West Rules – For Now’ by Ian Morris.

These works of fiction are my favourites:

‘1984’ by Orwell: A brilliant, brilliant book. A work of genius. The ideas Orwell conjures are breathtaking and disturbing. One minor criticism: I think if it was being edited today the first line would simply read ‘The clock struck thirteen’.

‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Burgess: A stunningly amoral book and perhaps the greatest treatise on free-will ever written. Kubrick’s film adaptation was terrific too.

‘The Outsider’ by Camus: The most passionate passionless book I’ve ever read.

‘The Dice Man’ by Reinhart: Wonderful. Simultaneously convincing and surreal.

‘Man in a High Castle’ by Dick: The book which got me interested in alternative history.

‘The Throwback’ by Sharpe: The funniest book I’ve ever read.



Scott: I’ve read some articles about The Demi Monde online already and the story has been likened to movies such as The Matrix? Do you think this has come about due to the style of the Demi Monde website and promotional material released to date?

Rod: I hope so, because that was one of my objectives when I created the Demi-Monde website.

Thanks to the internet, factual reality (sorry, more tautology, folks) and fictional reality (a wonderful contradiction in terms) are merging. BI (Before Internet) the imaginary was distinct and readily distinguishable from the real. AI (After Internet) this separation is blurring. More, as the Internet is becoming increasingly all-pervasive, fantasy has begun to merge with reality. On the Internet reality and surreality, and fact and fiction have to co-exist. There was a nice phrase in a recent article in the Sunday Times by Camille Paglia about Lady Gaga (‘What’s Sex Got to do with It?’) which said ‘In the sprawling anarchy of the web, the borderline between fact and fiction has melted away’.

My suspicion is that today’s reader is - and increasingly will be - looking for an altogether more immersive (dare I say, a more visceral) experience than one which can be found within the covers of a printed book. They want to explore the backgrounds of their favourite characters, be able (especially with the SF and fantasy genres) to make a deeper, almost forensic examination of the world the writer has created, they want to interact with the characters and with each other, they want to see the writer’s visualisation of his or her book and, most importantly, they want to become involved. This nuReader wants all his or her senses engaged and, like it or not, it will become incumbent on writers to create worlds and characters which transcend the printed word. This will be the only way they will be able to persuade a cyber-savvy generation to suspend disbelief.

My vision is to give readers of the Demi-Monde the opportunity of immersing themselves more fully in my virtual world and to better understand the nuances and detail that can only (because of considerations of pace and length) be alluded to in the book.

Of course, there’s a cost to all this and I’ve not been able to go as far as I want. I work with a pal of mine – Nigel Robinson – a designer who makes all my crazed imaginings real and we’ve got some ideas for the future which are really out there. Which leads me on to your next question …



Scott: From the promotional material I’ve seen and after reading the first book, I can see this series as a movie, video game and role-play game. Have you been approached about any of these mediums yet?

Rod: All this would be great. It’s every writer’s dream to see his characters break free of the page but as yet …

Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to the next book in the series.

POETRY: The Beach by Danny P. Barbare  

Posted by Scott Wilson


 
So many questions in the salty

Mist, whether love was love or

Just a wish, I sat under the

Umbrella, you strolled the beach

Oh how the sun did shine that

Day, somewhere in time we did

Not agree, as the tide came and

Went, I imagined too you

Did dream, but way led to

Way, if we were meant to be

That arcade window would

Not have lit your face, and I

Would have stumbled into you

Where castles are made and

Glimmers of light make rings.

POETRY: Poinsettia by Danny P. Barbare  

Posted by Scott Wilson


Poinsettia



When the flowers fade to black

Like the poinsettia

Leaves, crumpled and

Withered and brittle, like all

They will be swept away, as like

The inevitable old age, from

Flaming youth to blackened

Ash, only you and I and

That seed, heart of love will last.





FICTION: Jenevieve by Lynn Kennison  

Posted by Scott Wilson

As I hear a man’s voice, a relentless burst of light burns through my eyelids. The magnitude of the brightness is so unbearable, his words ramble into indistinct babble. To make sense of things, I try to focus my hearing on the surrounding bedlam. I can make out the sounds of metal clanking, unfamiliar chatter, and a really annoying high-pitched beeping. Finally, the over afflicting light is eclipsed, and I immediately try to blink my aching eyes in an effort to focus. “He’s awake, Dr. Benson,” I hear someone say. I look around and realize I’m in a hospital. Suddenly, my last memory comes rushing forward; I see my car swerving off the wet highway, persevering through a dark wooden fence, and then heading steadfast into a large, unforgivable tree. There’s another menacing light as a man shoves the shiny end of a flash light into my face.

“I’m Dr. Benson, son, can you tell me your name?”

I find the soreness of my throat is somewhat restricting, and I struggle to answer him. “Adam St Claire,” I manage to say—my voice cracking just a bit.

“Good Adam. Do you know where you are?” Dr. Benson asks.

“The hospital,” I answer.

“That’s right. And do you know why you’re here?”

He is a doctor, right? “I was in a car accident,” I force out.

“Good. It seems your memory is fine, Mr. St Claire. Nurse Becky, here, is going to get you all settled into a room. I will be in to check on you in a few hours. Try and get some rest, okay?”

I nod and find that my head and neck have had better days as well.



One by one, I count the fluorescent lights passing over me as the nurse wheels me slowly down a corridor—so far I’m up to twenty-two. After two elevator rides and one hundred and eight fluorescent lights, we arrive in an unoccupied room. It’s an ordinary hospital room with stark white walls, a single visitor’s chair, a wall mounted television, and a small window—probably overlooking a brick wall. Nurse Becky positions me at the center of the room, and seemingly on autopilot, she begins plugging in several cords, pushing buttons, flipping switches, and then quickly scribbles something onto a clipboard pressing down so hard with her pen I’m not sure how the paper is withstanding.

She then places the clipboard at the foot of my bed and addresses me, “Can I get you anything?” Her tone matches her robust, linebacker figure and hardened expression.

“Can I have some water?” I ask while rubbing my throat in discomfort.

“No. I know your throat is scratchy, but you can’t have any liquids yet. You just came out of surgery. I’ll get you some ice chips you can suck on.”

I can tell she’s the firm- handed, straight-laced type of nurse—sounds a little bitter too. “Thanks,” I manage to say.



It feels like an eternity, but she finally returns with a small cup of ice. Nurse Becky wheels a bedside tray table over and places the cup down. “Now don’t eat them too fast, okay?” Unfortunately, time hasn’t changed her mood. She watches me with a stern look and awaits my acknowledgment. I nod as I pick the cup up. Curiously, she takes out a pad of paper and clicks her pen preparing to write something down.

“Do you have any next of kin that you would like us to contact?” she asks.

I shake my head as I put a piece of ice in my mouth.

“Any friends….a girlfriend perhaps?” She adds.

Sadly, I don’t think my ex-girlfriend would care! I shake my head again, but she’s not leaving.

“No one?”

Rub it in why don’t you! “No,” I tell her.

“Employer?”

Geez Lady! “No! If you must know, I had a beautiful girlfriend who I loved very much, but she tore out my heart when she left me for my best friend. I got fired from my job two weeks ago, and my parents think I’m a big disappointment; so, there’s no girlfriend, no friends, no job, and no parents for you to bother. And before you ask, I don’t have a fucking dog, cat, or goldfish either. Nobody cares if I live or die, so thank you very little, Nurse Becky, for reminding me just how much my pathetic life really fucking sucks!”

She clicks her pen again and stares through me as she contemplates my outburst. I regret my tone (and maybe my use of the F word) almost immediately; she is somewhat intimidating. Her demeanor changes completely to that of a sympathetic manner as she walks closer and places her hand on mine. I do feel like a jackass now; maybe she’s not a callous as I first thought.

In a sweet tone she speaks to me, “How could your life be pathetic sweetheart? You’re such a bundle of fucking sunshine.”

I force a smile as I realize I’m in for a wonderful time.

“Just press that button if you need anything. I’ve got nothing better to do,” she adds before heading out of my room leaving me in the dark.

How long am I going to be in this hellhole?

***



I wake as I hear Dr. Benson’s voice again and wonder how long I’ve been out. I’m in pain, but I don’t think I’ve ever slept so soundly. Maybe Nurse Becky over did it on my sleeping meds (perhaps trying to kill me, or at least to keep in a more compliant nature).

“So, Mr. St Claire, how are you feeling?” the doctor asks.

“Like shit,” I complain.

“Well that’s to be expected. Your list of injuries is quite extensive.” He flips through my chart before continuing.

Having a better view of Dr. Benson now, I can tell he must be a vain man. He’s probably pushing fifty, and he has so much hair gel shellacked into his unnatural highlights, he looks like he’s wearing a tiger print helmet. No doubt he has veneers too, because his teeth are too perfect, and next to his fake tanned skin, they are freakishly glowing.

“Both of your knees are broken, also your left ankle, three broken ribs on your left side, and you have….let’s see….thirty-five stitches on your forehead there. You’re very lucky; there were no internal injuries.”

Yeah, I feel lucky.

“So we have you scheduled for another surgery to set that ankle with pins on Thursday morning, and seeing how that goes, we’ll schedule one surgery to take care of both knees in probably a week’s time.”

“Sounds great,” I sigh.

He looks to my favorite nurse, “When is he due for his next dose of pain medication?”

She checks her watch, “not for another ten minutes.”

He flashes a cavalier smile. “Well I think we can go ahead and let him have it now.”

“I’ll get right on that,” she says as she exits the room. I think I heard a hint of sarcasm (fifty bucks says she doesn’t come back one minute sooner).

“Okay, so I will see you in less than forty-eight hours then. Just have the nurse page me if anything, of note, comes up.” He says before leaving me to the mercy of Nurse Becky.

Shockingly, Nurse Becky only takes eight minutes to return with my pain medication. “Miss me, Sunshine?” she taunts as she enters the room.

“Oh, how I count the ways, Nurse Becky.” I may be wrong, but I think she might have just cracked a little smile as I watch her putting something into my IV.

“You should feel a little relief in ten minutes or so. I’ll come back with your dinner tray.” She leaves my room and almost runs over a little boy that looks to be no more than three or four years old. “No playing in the hallways!” She snaps.

Poor thing looks terrified of her. She’s probably what he imagines to be hiding in his closet at night waiting to jump out and eat him. Hold on, who is this? A young, pretty blonde woman comes to his rescue. She’s wearing a lavender sleeveless blouse with ruffles flowing down the front, figure-flattering black pants, and black strappy shoes that have maybe a three to four inch heel on them. And I’ve just realized that I’ve actually paid attention to a woman’s foot attire. Witnessing her lean down to give a few words of encouragement, I wonder what she is saying to him as a bright smile flourishes on the little boy’s face. She soon stands erect and lovingly takes him by the hand. As she turns, I become instantly enraptured by her angelic face and watch as her long golden waves stream to one side, cascading beautifully down and around her bare shoulder. Entranced by her sweet smile, time briefly stands still, allowing me to be caught off guard when her eyes unexpectedly shift in my direction. Our eyes meet momentarily, and for a brief second I can hear my own heartbeat before, suddenly, I realize it’s not polite to stare, and quickly, I avert my gaze. I carefully look back as she is leading him away—lucky boy.

Bringing me directly out of my daydreaming state, my favorite nurse soon returns with a tray of food. Using her inside manners, she plops it down in front of me and tells me its meatloaf before abruptly leaving the room. I ask for salt, but I’m not holding my breath. I peek under the lid; it doesn’t look like any meatloaf I’ve ever had, but I’m hungry enough to eat it. I take a couple of bites; seems I’ll live. As a clinking noise peaks my interest, I stop chewing. Curiously, it sounds like it’s coming from under my bed. Yep, I’m pretty sure something is under me! Panicking—just a little—I quickly grab my remote and press the button to summon the nurse. This seems like an emergency to me. For all I know they may have huge fucking rats in this hospital! To my surprise, in walks the lovely blonde from the hallway.

“Charlie!” She says as she bends down to look under my bed.

“Hey,” I greet her, but she ignores me. I do have a mouth full of meatloaf; maybe she didn’t hear me properly.

“Charlie you come out from under there right now before your mom notices you’re missing!” What do you know? She must not be his mother.

Suddenly, Nurse Scary arrives on scene. “What is it…..hey, what are you doing under there?! Why aren’t you being supervised, little boy?”

The little boy, Charlie, squeals as he climbs out from under my bed and runs away.

“Save yourself little man!” I call out and then look at the blonde woman. “Don’t feel bad….she doesn’t treat me like I’m an adult either.” I attempt to make a joke out of the situation, but she just looks at me with confusion in her eyes. I guess it’s safe to say she doesn’t find me funny, and I’m starting to feel a little uncomfortable in her silence. Did I say something insulting? I don’t think I said anything out of line, but without a single word, she leaves.

“I’ll take that,” Nurse Becky barks as she swipes my tray.

“I wasn’t….” She’s already leaving with my mediocre meatloaf, “finished.”



I’m curious as I hear voices in the hallway again. This time, I see the little boy being carried out by a woman with brown hair (who is walking hand in hand with a man). They must be his parents. The blonde woman is following closely behind them, but she stops and lingers outside of my doorway. I lift my hand and wave. I’m not sure what to make of the expression on her face. Am I that scary to look at? But she acknowledges me and smiles back. Nurse Becky rudely walks past her on her way into my room shutting the door in her face.

“Perfect timing as always My Lady,” I say as she’s putting some oblivion inducing agent into my IV again.

“Well this should keep you quiet,” she says as she pulls the syringe out.

“I knew you were drugging me,” I tell her.

“Better to keep on good terms with those who watch over while you sleep, don’t you think?” She says and then winks at me.

She is scary. “Is that a threat, Nurse Becky?” I ask halfheartedly.

“Sleep-tight, Sunshine,” she tells me as she pats the end of my bed and then exits.

My eyelids are already heavy signaling the impending blackout.

***



I hear a soft spoken voice coaxing me to life, and the subtle aroma of bacon wonderfully pokes at my senses. I rub my eyes and blink to focus them.

“Good morning,” a small, fragile voice says to me.

I look over and see a tiny elderly lady graciously waiting beside my bed with a tray of food. “Good morning,” I reply.

She sets the tray down for me, “I’m Dot, and I’ll be your nurse today.”

She’s my nurse! She must be a hundred and two years old! “What, no Nurse Becky to torture me today?” I remark.

She laughs. At least she gets my sense of humor. Then again, she probably knows the lovely Becky.

“She has the day off,” she politely explains.

She isn’t going to complain about Becky at all? No dirt?

“Did you put her back in her cage?” I instigate a little.

She laughs again. “She may be a little rough around the edges, but she’s a good gal.”

“You’re way too nice Miss Dot. She beats me when nobody’s looking. You see the stitches on my forehead?”

“Oh, she did that, did she?”

“I don’t know, because she also drugs me, and then I don’t remember anything. She’s starving me too.”

“I thought you said you don’t remember anything?”

“I know I’m famished.”

“Well go ahead and enjoy your food while you can. She’ll be back to tonight.”

“Thanks for the warning,” I say as she’s leaving me to my breakfast.



After the sweet Misses Dot removes my breakfast tray, I notice the little boy Charlie playing in the hallway again. “Pssst,” I try to get his attention. When he looks at me, I motion for him to come in. He marches in bravely and walks right up to my bed. That was easy.

“Hi, your name is Charlie, right?”

He grins as he nods.

“Well it’s nice to meet you Charlie….my name’s Adam.”

His dark-brown eyes look inquisitive. But I guess he isn’t going to speak.

“Well, Charlie, I was wondering….what’s the name of the pretty lady that was with you last night?”

I think he says Angie, but suddenly there she is—standing in my doorway—as striking as the night before, except her long blonde tresses hang straight today, over an ivory sweater that adorns a large ebony bow across the front.

“Hello,” I greet her again.

She smiles as she walks in and politely says hello back this time. Captivated by her and completely stupefied, I’m not sure what else to say.

“He’s not bothering you, is he?” she asks.

I suddenly snap out of my comatose state, “Who? Charlie here? No way. We’re pals….right Charlie?” I laugh nervously, and Charlie’s of no help, because he stands there and shakes his head. She laughs though, and I realize that I finally get what people are talking about when they say, ‘love at first sight’. I mean, I’m not saying I’m in love—I don’t even know her—but I definitely get the meaning of that cliché term now.

She looks down at Charlie, “You shouldn’t run into a stranger’s room, Charlie.”

“But he told me to,” his high-pitched voice squeals.

I smile as she turns her gaze to me. Her striking cornflower eyes stare inquisitively, and I instantly become a bumbling idiot. “I just thought I should introduce myself since….you know, well, seeing you last night….and then again this morning.” I try to justify myself for luring a little boy into a ‘stranger’s’ room.

She comes closer and extends her hand, “I’m Jenevieve.”

My pulse monitor gives me away as the little jagged lines skyrocket followed by a high frequency beeping. Hoping she didn’t notice, I snatch the attachment off of my finger and take her hand, “I’m Adam.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Adam.”

“Likewise.”

“So what are you in for?” She asks.

“Oh, just a few broken bones…..nothing serious….car accident. I’m going to live, they tell me.” She looks kind of emotional for a second, and I realize that may have been an insensitive thing to say. She’s obviously visiting someone here in the hospital and their prognosis may not be of a positive nature. “I’m sorry, you’re here visiting someone….”

“No worries. We’re visiting a family member just down the hall, but thankfully, they’re going to live too.” She looks over at Charlie, “come on, Charlie. We should let Adam rest.”

“There’s no need to rush off,” I blurt out.

“We really should go,” she says as she’s already steering Charlie towards the door.

“Hey Jenevieve,” I call out.

Thankfully, she turns back around, “yeah?”

“You didn’t give me a fake name or anything did you? Because, I thought I heard Charlie call you Angie.”

She laughs. “He’s my nephew; you probably heard him say, ‘Aunt Jen’. He’s only three. Jenevieve is kind of difficult for him for him to say.”

“Oh….good; I thought, maybe you thought, I was a creep or something.” If I keep blabbing on, she may think so.

She smiles, “No. My creep radar didn’t go off.”

I laugh—probably overdoing it just a little. “Well, if your relative needs a rest, you’re more than welcome to come back by. I’m going to have surgery in the morning, maybe you could pop in and wish me luck….you know….if you’re already on the same floor, I mean. Charlie’s welcome too of course.” She’ll never step foot in my room again.

“Alright….maybe I will,” she says kindly. She smiles as she leaves—dragging Charlie along with her.

The smile is still spread across my face as Nurse Dot comes in for my scheduled pain medication. “That little boy wasn’t bothering you, was he?”

“Charlie? No way. And neither was his aunt.”

“Huh? I figured she was his mother.” She says as she’s filling my IV.

“So did I, but she’s his aunt. Next time maybe I’ll find out if there’s an uncle.”

“You’re supposed to be taking it easy and resting young man.” Dot scolds playfully.

“Is that a hint of jealousy I sense, Dorothy?”

“Oh….you, I’m old enough to be your grandmother.”

More like great-grandmother. “Are you kidding? What are you, like, forty-five?”

She snickers as she leaves me to my resting.

***



I anxiously await her arrival the rest of the afternoon, but to my dismay, Jenevieve never makes it back. I haven’t heard Charlie running the halls in quite a while, so I think they’ve left the hospital all together now. Visiting hours are now over, but that’s the least of my worries. Nurse Becky is back, and she drops quite the bombshell on me.

“It’s time for you bath,” she taunts.

No! Fucking! Way! “You’re kidding me, right?”

“You can’t stay filthy forever.”

“I’m not filthy!” I protest most defiantly.

“Oh yeah….when’s the last time you’ve showered then?”

I’m thinking, but I can’t recall. She doesn’t give me a chance to answer either.

“That’s what I thought.” She says as she starts snatching my covers away.

I desperately start tugging them back and retort, “Hold on a minute, Nurse Grabby! Aren’t hospitals supposed to have young, hot nurses that are in charge of this sort of thing?”

Her eyes narrow. “I was going to be gentle.” She reveals just before overpowering me.

***



At least, Nurse Broomhilda has left me alone for now, and I will admit—though not to her—I do feel mildly better. She must have snuck into my room, because I didn’t hear her come in, but I’m pleasantly surprised, as my head snaps up from my pillow in response to Jenevieve’s voice.

“Hey,” I reply as I struggle to sit back up.

She walks over to kindly assist me. “I hope I didn’t startle you. Since visiting hours are over, I had to sneak in.”

“Oh. No. It’s cool.” I reply.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able stay long though.”

“I’m surprised you came at all. I just want to say, if I sounded like a complete idiot earlier, I was under heavy medication.” Good, she’s smiling.

“You sounded perfectly normal to me.” She sits down in the blue chair beside my bed. Before, that chair was a constant reminder that no one would be visiting my room (that wasn’t on hospital payroll)—not so much anymore. “So what kind of surgery are you having in the morning?” she asks.

“It’s on my ankle. I think they have to put some pins in it or something. I have another one in a week, or so, to fix my knees too.”

“Wow, I guess you probably wish you had picked a smaller tree.”

That’s funny. “How did you know I hit a tree?”

“I read the newspaper article earlier. I saw the headline, Near-fatal crash, 28-year-old lucky to be alive. It was a hunch that the ‘Adam’ in the article was you.”

“I didn’t realize it was in the paper,” I remark. That means there’s a good chance that certain other people know about my accident, and still no one has come to check in. Proves my point—nobody cares.

“It says you crashed through a fence first; you must have been scared.”

“I really don’t remember too much about it. So who’s your relative you’ve been coming to visit?” I make an effort to change the subject.

“My mother….she needed to have a simple procedure done. Everything’s good, and she’s being sent home on Monday.”

“That’s good,” I comment.

“Has your family been in to visit?” she asks.

Ugh! Not family questions! “They live out of state…it’s no big deal. I’ll be out before they could ever make it here anyway. It would just be a wasted trip for them.” Hopefully she buys that.

“How long will you be here?” she asks.

“I’m not exactly sure. My other surgery is supposed to be in a week, so after that, I’m not sure how long they will let me recover before kicking me out. But I can tell you it won’t be soon enough.”

“So you don’t like being waited on with service just a button’s press away?”

“Have you seen the night nurse? She tried to drown me earlier.”

She laughs. I really like her laugh; I really like her smile. So far, there’s not much about her I don’t like.

“Well, I should get going,” she says as she stands up.

Wow, she really couldn’t stay long. “I guess you have somebody to get back to.” This is my subtle attempt to find out if she has a boyfriend. Since I don’t see a wedding ring, I don’t think she’s married.

“Yeah, Charlie,” she answers.

Cool. “So you’re his aunt and his babysitter?”

“What can I say? I’m good at multitasking.”

“There’s….nobody else?” My hope fades as she takes a moment.

“Not anymore,” she finally answers.

I can handle that. “Do you think you’ll be coming to visit your mother tomorrow?”

“Most likely….will you be able to have visitors after your surgery?”

“Definitely,” I say.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” she smiles.

“It’s a date. I mean not a real date….just that I’ll be here, and if you’re here, then great.” I’m sure my face is probably flushed now.

She smiles again, “sweet dreams, Adam.” She’s out the door before I can return the sentiment.



The door hasn’t been closed behind her more than thirty seconds, or so, before the torture queen comes in to ruin my good mood. Thank God, Nurse Becky didn’t catch her in here! Jenevieve would surely never visit me again after a late night encounter with her.

“You’re supposed to be resting, not watching TV!”

I look at the TV, and it’s not even on. I suddenly realize she must have heard us talking and assumed I was watching it.

“And that’s why I just turned it off.” I smile (maybe a little sarcastically). She gives me the evil eye before turning off my light and leaving me in the dark. Oh my goodness! I just realized who Nurse Dicky reminds of…..that chick from Misery!

***



I’m a little groggy coming out of the anesthesia. I don’t even know if I’ve talked to Dr. Pumpkin Head yet, but I assume I have, because I’m already resting back in my room. Again, I’m denied water and given ice chips instead. At least Nurse Dot is back for the time being. In a few hours, I’ll be allowed to have some sort of broth, I suppose. I’m not really hungry though; I actually feel kind of nauseous. Dot gives me some kind of medication and tells me to rest.

***



I wake and realize Jenevieve is sitting in the chair next to my bed. Her hair is pulled back gracefully into a loose ponytail unveiling her lovely facial features. Her light-blue ruffled sleeved blouse complements her creamy complexion and striking blue eyes. She smiles softly, and my pulse monitor betrays me again. I really must have a little warning before she comes into my room next time.

“How are you feeling?” She asks quietly.

“Okay I guess…..How long have you been sitting there?”

“Not that long. Hold on a minute. Somebody has something for you.” She says as she gets up and immediately leaves my room.

A short moment later, Charlie comes in. He is carrying a shiny blue vase containing a small flower arrangement of purple violets and yellow daisies. “Get beddor, Adam!” Charlie says excitedly as he reaches up and hands me the flowers.

“Thank you, Charlie.”

“And Angie too,” he adds as he looks up at Jenevieve.

“Yes. Thank you too, Aunt Jen,” I say.

She smiles, “you’re welcome. We wanted you to have them for your surgery.”

She’s being polite and not mentioning the depressing lack of cards or flowers leaving a void in my room.

“I like the lello ones,” I hear Charlie say.

I think he means yellow. “Really? Those are my favorite too,” I tell him.

Suddenly, a woman in a dark blue dress enters the doorway of my room. “Charlie, what are you doing in here?” she asks in a scolding tone. It’s the same dark haired woman I saw carrying him out the other night. She must be Jenevieve’s sister. They look a lot alike except for their hair color and maybe the eyes. She’s too far away to tell, but I think hers might be brown.

“I’m sorry; is he bothering you? He gets bored sitting in my mother’s room, and he holds a Masters in sneaking.”

“No, he’s not bothering me at all,” I tell her.

“Mommy, Angie said I could.”

“I’m sure she did, but we should go, Charlie. Papa’s here now.” She holds her hand out and waits for Charlie. For some reason, I think she’s eyeing my flowers, but she soon turns to leave with Charlie in hand.

“I’ll be there in a minute.” Jenevieve says, as they leave.

“Okay!” I hear Charlie’s small voice call out.

“That was my sister Joanna…Charlie’s mom. I guess I should have introduced you. That was rude of me.”

“I can see the resemblance.”

“That’s what everybody says.”

“You seem really close in age. You’re not twins, are you?”

“No. She’s twenty-seven. I’m actually three years older.”

“Wow, you don’t look thirty.”

“Well, that’s probably because I’m only twenty-nine.”

I think I can do simple math. She did say she was three years older, right?

“I’m sorry, I meant two years. We’re two years apart. Duh, that was a blonde moment. My brother’s the one that’s three years younger than me.”

“Wow, how many of you are there?”

“Just three….two girls and a boy,” she answers.

“Does your brother have a name that starts with a J too?”

“How did you guess?” She smiles, “his name is Jonathan, but we call him Johnny.

I laugh. I am really enjoying her company, but as previously, she’s beginning to make excuses to leave too soon.

“I’ll come back later after you’ve had a chance to rest,” she says.

“But I’ve already rested,” I protest.

“Well I think you’re about to rest some more. I’ve gotten pretty used to the nurse’s schedules around here, and I bet you any minute one is coming in to give you some sort of a narcotic that will render you helpless and unconscious in no time.”

“I’ll refuse it if you stay.” I hope I don’t sound too desperate, but I really don’t want her to leave.

“Adam the rebel….I’ll come back later. I promise.”

I finally give up, and she leaves. Just like she predicted, Nurse Dot comes in and administers a medication into my IV. I don’t even remember falling asleep.

***



It must be night again, because Nurse Becky is back. She probably takes the nightshift, because she has to return to her cave before the sun rises. Though, I suppose they must have to keep her locked out of the children’s wing. That way she won’t be tempted to eat any of them. She plops my tray down in the barbarous manner I’ve become accustomed to.

“It’s your lucky night. You get fried chicken,” she barks.

I open the lid and look at my plate. It smells great, but the portions are pretty small.

“Did you eat their heads?” I can’t help goading her whenever possible. Besides my new crush, it’s what keeps me going.

“Sorry, they weren’t on the menu.”

“They wouldn’t happen to have a cold one on the menu would they?”

“You want your chicken cold?”

“No, I meant….never-mind it was a joke. You don’t get it.”

“Oh I get it. I just didn’t think it was funny.”

“I’m starting to think you need to get out more, Nurse Becky. Don’t you have any friends?”

“Yeah, I’m going to get out right now and take a break with my old pal Jack Daniels. Then I’ll be back in to give you your sleeping meds and tuck you in Sugar-pie.” She says as she’s leaving.

“Who’s not being funny now?” I call out.



I prepare to take a bite when I hear a delightful sound. “So what’s for dinner?” Jenevieve asks. Charlie patters in beside her.

“Fried chicken,” I answer.

“Ooh did you hear that Charlie? Adam’s eating fried chicken.”

“Bak Bak Bak Bak.” Charlie squawks as Jenevieve laughs.

“Are are you guys vegetarians?”

“I am; he’s still in training.”

“Adam eading Bak Bak, Angie.” Charlie giggles as he pretends his arms are chicken wings.

“I can take or leave it. I really don’t eat that much meat anyway. I could easily be a vegetarian.” I say wanting to impress her, but I don’t think she believes me.

She laughs as she looks at my plate. “So are yummy looking carrots, savory green peas, and a dollop of chocolate pudding going to satisfy your masculine physic?”

Is that a compliment or the use of satire? I’m unsure; I’ve always been the tall skinny kid who got picked last when playing football. “I don’t need to eat that much. I just lay in bed all day anyway,” I answer.

“Well, go ahead and eat your murdered fowl. I need to take Charlie to my mom’s room before visiting hours are up.”

“You just got here,” I complain.

“I’ll come back. I’ll sneak in if I have to.”

“Nooo. You have no idea how Nurse Becky can be. You’re lucky she didn’t catch you last night. I think she could literally relieve you of your appendages.”

I notice Charlie’s eyes widen.

“Your Nurse Becky doesn’t frighten me,” she bravely proclaims, and to my dismay, she and Charlie leave.

“Do you think he will eat his chocwet pudding Angie?” I hear Charlie ask as they are heading down the hall.

***



I refused to have any sleep aids administered, but I’m starting to regret that decision now, because my head and legs are throbbing, and I don’t think Jenevieve is coming back. Visiting hours have been over for quite some time now. I have flipped through every channel twice, but I can’t find anything on TV to keep my mind preoccupied. I finally turn it off and ready myself for a big fat ‘I told you so’ from Nurse Becky. As I reach for the call button, I see Jenevieve! She slips in and quietly shuts the door behind her.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to take so long,” she whispers. The chair makes a slight noise as she drags it closer. “Fudge,” I hear her remark. (I take a mental note that she must not use many curse words.)

I laugh. “You don’t have to worry now that you made it inside. Nurse Hun won’t be coming in to check on me until I’ve had the chance to get comfortable and fall asleep. She usually waits until around Three AM to wake me up just so she can tell me to go back to sleep.”

“You shouldn’t be so hard on her.”

“She tortures me for pleasure. Yes I do.”

“You’re tired, aren’t you?”

“You are not leaving. Sit,” I demand as I point to the chair.

She smiles pleasantly and sits down. “I just don’t want to keep you up if you’re tired,” she explains.

“I’m not tired. I’ve got nowhere to be in the morning, and since you’re already here, I rather talk than sleep.”

“Okay, but it’s my turn to ask some questions now.”

I don’t know if I like this idea, but she proceeds.

“Why hasn’t your family visited you?”

And that is why. “Do we have to talk about family? We’re not close. Let’s just leave it at that.”

“Why aren’t you close?”

“That’s not really leaving it.” It’s hard to look at her and not cave, but I really don’t want to talk about how fucked up my relationship is with my family. I would rather spend it talking about more pleasant things. She gets a big smile on her face, and I watch curiously as she picks up my wallet from the table next to my bed.

“Do you mind?” She asks, and then bites down on her bottom lip as she awaits my answer.

I shrug for her to proceed if she likes, “I think I have like five bucks….” I stop as I see her take out my driver’s license.

“Just learning a little bit about you….” She tilts her head as she examines my license. “So, Mr. St Claire, is it? And your middle name is….Francis?” Her big blue eyes peer up at me.

“It was my grandfather’s name.”

“Now I know two things I didn’t know a second ago.” She smiles and looks back down at my license, “….brown hair, blue eyes.” She switches her gaze back to me and observes my face, “I would say, rich chocolate waves with hues of golden chestnut, and I think your eyes are more….blue hazel; I can see little specks of yellow in them.” Suddenly, I’m feeling a little flushed. “So are you really 5’11?” She asks.

“Yes.”

“Just asking….sometimes a driver’s license doesn’t have the most accurate details. Mine says I’m 5’6, but I’m really 5’5,” she smiles. “So who’s this?” she asks as she pulls out a rather worn picture of my ex. “Pretty girl,” she comments.

Fuck!

FICTION: Spun Aluminum by Rebecca Anne Renner  

Posted by Scott Wilson

The village tailor’s half-timber hovel brimmed with bolts of the brightest cloth. Even from the outside, where straw and stone stretched just short of meeting, passersby caught glimpses of the gloss. So when Ansel, the tailor, slammed the door, golden threads trailed from his shoulders down the street and caught up cart wheels and wayward chickens in their sweep, and to the castle steps he marched, up to the hearth of the king, invoice in hard to joust his final complaint.

“I know,” the king said, raising his hands in defeat, “That’s a lot of work for any average man. But you? The best tailor in the land? I thought better.”

Ansel picked gold threads from his vest. “I’m raising the price. There’s more work than before.”

“Can you complete it in time for the wedding?”

Ansel wasn’t sure. The thread, no machine would take it, and sewing by hand left his fingers so red. But that’s why he had an apprentice. So he said, “I’ll make it,” and returned to the shop, chewing his nails in dread, only to find the chimney split at the mortar.

#

Ansel’s apprentice, Bernard, snoozed on a voluptuous heap of golden cloth within a breeze from the open window. It blew a few threads around his head, and as he tossed, the strings bound his cheek to snuggle closer. So when a sharp caw startled him, he had nowhere to go but deeper into the heap, until finding himself in a whirl of claws and feathers.

The massive magpies from over the mountain over the years garnered a reputation for garnering. They plucked silver from set tables and pearls from drooped ear lobes, but ever the clever magpies, they much preferred gossip and gold. The night before, they overheard talk of the miller’s daughter: She spins straw to gold, don’t you know?—Too bad she isn’t hotter.

These massive miscreants followed the buzz into the valley, plucking baubles from bosoms all the way. They found the tailor’s hovel with the miserly tailor away, and they swooped in to scoop great mouthfuls of cloth until only threads remained. Then the massive magpies fled to Bernard’s muffled screaming—out the chimney and through the sky and reached mountains by the light of day.

#

Ansel darted into his hovel and was caught up in sharp webs of the spun gold with several man-sized feathers. Massive magpies, he thought, they’d be the death of the valley commodities trade.

A caw and tussle sounded in the maples, followed by a regurgitated glop. Ansel struggled from his snare and rose to the window. Bernard, covered in goo and gold threads, clung to the leg of an earthbound magpie.

“Where is the cloth?” Ansel shouted. “How could you let them steal it?”

“I wasn’t sleeping!” Bernard unwound a thread from his arm, and the magpie lifted only to flop back again into the goo. “They got it all the way to Mount Grem. Made a big old nest!”

Ansel hurdled the windowsill. “Hold that thing for me,” and when he jumped he drew his pinking shears and let Bernard go. He then latched onto a spindly claw and flew up into the trees.

#

On every beat of its deep blue wings, the massive magpie dipped. Ansel’s weight cumbered the bird from being able to fly straight. So when he landed the two rolled over the steppe until hit on the great round rocks that kept the nests up from the grit.

A nest so plush and gold rose over Ansel’s head. No way he’d roll it down the mountain. It didn’t budge when he pushed. Unraveling? Forget it. He’d end up snared in his own thread. He pulled the sheers from his vest pocket. He’d cut it up instead.

Ansel measured and sliced and sewed, and of the many bolts of itchy cloth the brightest gold, he constructed twenty sweaters and pulled them over his head. One by one—he grew warmer by the minute—layers swelled his bulk.

Of the rest, he made a couple socks, a scarf, hat, and some mittens. Then he waddled to the ledge and rolled down from the nests. A waking bird cooed at his back, but he kept walking all the way to the forest where he found his thread-strewn hovel devoid of help.

#

The next few days, preparing for the union of the king and miller’s daughter, found Ansel’s hovel in a growing state of disrepair. The floors went upswept and thatch went unmended. Bernard had quit to become a baker, since, so he said, bakeries tend to be badgered by marginally smaller blackbirds that can thereafter be baked into pies. So he left Ansel to stitch the bride’s bright gold dress by himself.

By Wednesday, Ansel gave up in despair. By Thursday, the chimney fell off completely. By Friday, with fingertips so red he could hardly touch a ladle to feed himself, Ansel managed to complete the last hem. Saturday became a frenzy of basting embellishments onto the dress. Finally, on Sunday, the dress gleamed on the dummy, ready to wear.

Ansel walked the dress to the castle in an escort of special anti-avian guards. The court welcomed him with fanfare and flourish, and into the soon-queen’s chamber, he went along with plates of sampled wedding cake.

In those few days, to put it lightly, the miller’s daughter grew quite “puffed.” So when the dress came down to fitting, there wasn’t quite enough.

“The dress won’t draw closed,” the chambermaid said. She tightened the bodice as much as she could, but her lady’s cherubic excess spilled out for all to see.

The miller’s daughter, flush-faced and out of breath, demanded that he make another.

Which Ansel protested: “There is no more gold thread.”

“That won’t do,” said the queen-to-be. “You’ll make it from spun aluminum instead.”

FICTION: Moments from the Fringe By George Wilhite  

Posted by Scott Wilson

BEGIN TRANSMISSION



2618.12.24

Probe Hercules

Captain Ronald Harmon



This may well be my last transmission, my love. I will not waste it on official business since that is now irrelevant.

Sad to say, I am indeed adrift with no chance of return.

Vinnie, the voice of the obviously failed computer that was supposed to be the triumph of this tin can, informed me in his cold metallic way in a single message that amounted to a machine’s equivalent of “oops!”

Can’t blame him—it I should say—I think of my digital Man Friday as a him. His creators likely had just as cold of a response to their blunder.

I am so far away that it is easy not to consider me a person, only an instrument in another SNAFU mission. Maybe now they’ll stop trying.

Though time loses its meaning out here, I believe you will receive this message on Christmas Eve. I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. Kiss Erin and Richie for me and try to decide what story you will tell them about their long lost father. Erin may remember my face but I am forever a ghost to our beautiful baby boy.

Don’t make me into some invincible hero, remember my faults as well. I can only hope the good outweighs the bad. Please don’t hate me for volunteering and putting too much gung ho faith in this program.

The probe rotates in a ceaseless dance through the expanse of space and time. I only know two kinds of illumination now—pitch black or blinding white, depending on the particular cosmos which surrounds me.

I will live a very long time unless I take action to end my life, and Vinnie will likely be quite aggressive in his efforts to thwart such attempts.

I must stop typing and transmit this soon for I am moments away from The Fringe. I will attempt another transmission but I assume the Com Disk will suffer the same rapid deterioration as that of the Achilles before me.

Maryanne, I love you and will see you again someday, when we behold the truth that lies beyond this short frail existence we now know.

The Fringe is right before me. It is beautiful beyond our wildest dreams, more stunning than even . . .



END TRANSMISSION

FICTION: Déjà Viewed By Emma Eden Ramos  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Sierra Kneiling has been seven for three months now. She is the youngest of Will and Sandra’s three children, but no one would dare call her the “baby” of the family. She is tall for her age, has freckles, straight dirty blond hair, big blue (almost grey) eyes and a wonderfully mischievous laugh. Sierra is a sharp young girl who, unlike most children her age, has no tolerance for being coddled or infantilized. “Sierra is the boss,” Will sometimes said of his youngest daughter, “she could crush an army.”

This afternoon, Sandra watches from the top step of the Kneiling family’s front porch as her daughter plays. The small house stands respectably on Winthrop Street in Brooklyn, New York, directly across from Kings County Hospital’s Psychiatric Emergency Center.

On this day in July, Sierra has decided to create a barricade out of graham crackers with an equal number of toy soldiers on each side. “If the cracker-wall breaks,” she explained, “the soldiers will shoot each other.” It was like Hansel and Gretel meets World War II, Sandra mused, watching her daughter play. Even funnier than the game itself was watching Sierra lose her patience with Bandit, the family Jack Russell Terrier, each time he ate her fortification. Sierra would erect a new edible blockade and Bandit would devour it. The two make an incredibly unproductive team, Sandra thought.

It was 3:08 PM and Sandra’s two older children, Asher, 12 and Stephanie, 9 were inside watching tv. Will, as usual, wouldn’t be home from work until after 5:30.

Then, out of left field; “Bandit,” Sierra shouts, surprising her mother, “you are a menace! Go inside! Mom, can you put Bandit inside? He’s ruining the game.”

“Alright missy,” the entertainment was over, Sandra thought. Sierra was becoming quite peeved.

“Bandit, Come! Come on boy.”

Sandra ushers the reluctant terrier into the house. Then, to quicken the process, she picks him up and walks through the front room, towards the kitchen. Bandit, a typically naughty terrier, spent most of his time in the kitchen; a child proof gate separating him from the rest of the house. He was, Sandra thought, like one the soldiers in Sierra’s game. Without the gate, there would be a constant battle between Bandit and his five masters.

The gate is easy to assemble and, though unhappy about being exiled from the front porch, Bandit doesn’t protest.

Sandra walks briskly into the living room. She needs to check on her two older children, but can’t leave Sierra unaccompanied outside for very long.

“Mom?” Stephanie is sprawled out on one end of the living room sofa, Asher on the other. The two watched What About Bob?, a movie their father always enjoyed.

“Mom, Im hungry.”

“Steph, you’re sisters alone outside. You can get your own snack.”

“No. Bandit will run out of the kitchen and I won’t be able to get him back in. He never listens to me.”

“Okay, what do you want Steph? Come on, something quick.”

“Can I have one of those Honey Nut Cheerios cereal bars?”

Sandra walks back into the kitchen, over to the cereal cabinet. Of course, the box is empty.

“Steph, Stephanie! The cereal bars are all gone. What else do you want?” No answer. With the television on, the children can’t hear me, Sandra realizes, annoyed.

Repositioning the kitchen gate, Sandra walks back to the living room.

“Asher, turn the volume down. I was shouting in the kitchen and neither of you heard me. Stephanie, the cereal bars are all gone. What else do you want?”

“Can I have… umm… a banana with peanut butter then?”

“Fine, Ill bring you the jar and the knife. You and cut it up your self.”

“Can you just do it?”

Arguing will only take up more time. Sandra hurries back into the kitchen, this time using her foot to keep the dog from running out.

Grabbing a plate, a knife, a banana and the jar of Jiff peanut butter, Sandra makes her daughter’s snack as quickly as she can.

Back in the living room, Stephanie and Asher are glued to the tv. Neither one has bothered to turn down the volume. Sandra places the plate of food on the living room table and rushes outside to check on her youngest child. She can’t have been gone for more that seven minutes.

Opening the front door, Sandra first notices the pile of toy soldiers. They are scattered on the steps, the graham cracker box nowhere in sight. Sierra?

“Sierra?” Sandra calls, she must be on the other side of the house.

“Sierra, sweety? Where are you?”

No answer.

Sandra checks both sides of the house. The sun hit the front porch at full blast. Maybe Sierra moved to keep cool.

The little girl wasn’t on either side. She wasn’t at the back of the house either. Could she have gone inside while I was in the kitchen? Sandra wondered, her heart beating wildly.

“Sierra!” Sandra screams, reentering the house.

Startled by the shrill sound of his mother’s voice, Asher switches the tv off.

“Hey! Turn it back on!” Stephanie yells at her older brother.

“Shut up.”

“Mom?” Asher hears the sound of racing footsteps.

“Asher, have you seen your sister? She’s not outside where I left her!”

Both Sandra and Asher know that there is no way Sierra would have come inside without at least checking to see what her older siblings were watching.

“No, mom.”

Sandra cups her hand over her mouth. Asher watches as his mother races back outside, through the front door. He can hear her running up the street, calling his youngest sister’s name, each call becoming more and more panicked.



Dr. William Kneiling, MD, works on the thirteenth floor of the new Brooklyn Supreme Court building. For seven years he has worked as a Forensic Psychiatrist in Brooklyn, conducting competency evaluations and testifying as an expert witness in Mental Health Court.

At 3:35 in the afternoon, Will dictates the findings of his latest psychiatric evaluation to the office secretary. He is getting ready to testify at his last trial for the day.

“I have found Mr. Hicks unfit to proceed to trial.” Will begins, “He lacks even the most fundamental understanding of the workings of the court system and believes that, though there is overwhelming evidence that he did, indeed try and sell crack cocaine to two undercover cops, he will be found not guilty and released. During the interview Mr. Hicks was unable to coherently explain the job of his lawyer, the prosecuting lawyer and jury. When asked what the judge would do, Mr. Hicks claimed, ‘Hear the voice of god and set me free.’ It is my opinion that…”

“Will,” one of Dr. Kneiling’s office mates and long time friend, Sharon Rothberg, interrupts, “your cell has been ringing nonstop.”

The police have been at the Kneiling house for only 20 minutes when Will’s grey Nissan Altima pulls up in the driveway. Sandra is inside going over the incident. The two officers seem genuinely concerned, but Sandra finds some of their questions insulting:

“Are you sure she isn’t playing a game? Could she have gone off for a walk and gotten lost?”

Sierra is seven, she doesn’t take walks by herself. And she is incredibly conscientious. She would never scare her parents on purpose. This wasn’t a case of an inconsiderate child taking a game of Hide and Seek too far. And lastly, Will, having worked with criminals in the justice system, hearing, first hand, the dangers of everyday life had instilled a healthy fear of strangers in his three children. If Sierra had gone off with someone, Sandra knew it wasn’t willingly.

Will dashes up the front steps his missing daughter played on that very afternoon. Asher and Stephanie are on the living room couch, both looking scared and confused, the television is off.

Will heads into the kitchen. Sandra’s voice is a couple octaves higher than usual, and Will can tell immediately that she is annoyed with the officers. He knows they have to rule out all options before sending out an Amber Alert, but shares his wife’s impatience.



“Hello, Dr. Kneiling?”

“Yes.”

“I’m officer Melendez, this is officer Jameson.”

“Hello.” Will stands directly behind his wife, placing a hand on each shoulder.

“We’ve just been going over everything that happened this afternoon,” continues officer Melendez. “It seems that your wife took your daughter outside to play at around 3:00. She went into the house at about 3:15 to get your middle child a snack, came back outside seven minutes later. This would mean that Sierra went missing sometime between 3:15 and 3:22.”

“Yes.”

“Although, considering we only have a window of seven minutes, it is safe to suspect that she went missing closer to the exact time your wife came into the house. If she walked off,”

Will can feel his wife’s shoulders tense at these words, he too knows Sierra wouldn’t just walk off.

“She would,” Officer Melendez continues, “need at least five minutes to get all the way down the street and completely out of sight. And,” the officer continues speaking slowly and with as much tact as he can muster, “if she’s been taken, the abductor would need at least five minutes to fully disappear, leaving no trace of him or herself by the time your wife came back outside.”

“She didn’t walk off,” Sandra responds.

“We need to take all the possibilities in to account, ma’am.”

Tom Rourke, 55, had gotten out of the force as fast as he could. With two sons in private universities and a wife who was constantly in and out of the hospital, a state police detective’s wage didn’t come close to satisfying his expenses. Still, Tom was a good, hard working American. He would have been happy to devote his life to public service had it not been for his personal situation. His days of chasing down criminals for petty cash were over. Now Tom fought crime privately and for a more sizeable salary. He took all kinds of cases, but specialized in kidnappings. The kidnapping cases Rourke typically handled involved domestic disputes. One parent ran away with their child and the other hired Tom to find them. Open and shut, and, more importantly, rarely any casualties. However, when he received a phone call from a Dr. William Kneiling who believed his seven year old had been snatched right in front of his family home, Tom felt obliged to take the case. Kneiling’s close friend, Dr. Elaine Schulman, was the doctor who diagnosed Tom’s wife’s brain tumor. Apparently Elaine’s son Max was good friends with the missing girl. Tom felt he couldn’t refuse a friend of the person who saved his wife’s life, but didn’t see much hope for the little girl. Sierra Kneiling had been gone a week now and it seemed the police had absolutely nothing. It was common knowledge that the longer a child went missing, the less likely he or she was to be found alive. So far, the prognosis looked tragically grim.

Will sat on the living room couch, a bottle of Bushmill Original Irish Whiskey and a shot glass in front of him. Ill set ‘em up, he thought, and then Ill nock ‘em back. It was 11:45 PM. Sandra had taken a Valume and was trying to sleep. Asher and Stephanie had gone to bed at 10:00, and since then, Will had checked on them at least five times. Tomorrow afternoon Will was schedueled to meet with a private detective he’d been reffered to by a good friend. Hopefully Thomas Rourke could be of further assistance.

The man from the car with the puppy was not a nice man. He’d said, “Are you Will Kneiling’s daughter? Im a good friend of his. I hear you love dogs, look at this puppy Im giving my daughter for her birthday tomorrow. Do you think she’ll like him? What do you think his name should be?” Sierra knew she wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, but the man said he knew her dad. He said he had a daughter and the puppy was so cute. She’d only wanted to take a quick look, maybe just pet the dog once. Now she was in a dark room somewhere. Sometimes she heard young voices, could they be the mans kids? Sierra wondered…

It was 5:15 AM when Will heard the house phone ring. He knew it must be important.

“Hello,” Will said in an excited tone, grabbing the phone directly after the second ring. Sandra watched her husband, reading each facial expression as he spoke. Was there any news? Was it bad? Exhaustion was the only feeling Will’s face seemed able to portray.



“Will? Its Sharon, from work.”

“Oh, yes, hi.”

“Do you remember Martin Wilson, we evaluated him in 2004.”

“I think so, why?”

“He jumped his parole?”

“Alright, what am I supposed to do about it?”

“He got out on parole three weeks ago and disappeared last week.”

“Uh huh,” Will rubbed his temples as Sharon spoke. He was too tired to make the connection, it had to be fed to him.

“Will, do you remember what he said at his trial?”

“He said he’d come after me, yes I remember. He was a terrible actor”

“He knew if his case went to trial he’d be convicted, the evidence against him was overwhelming. He was afraid of going to prison, thought a psych ward would be more fun. And, it looks like something might have happened to him at Rykers, if you know what I mean.”

“I remember, he blamed us, well me especially for the verdict. When they called me to testify at his trial I made it quite clear that I thought he was malingering. I believe I called him insolent and manipulative. After hearing his sentence he said he’d come after me once he got out.”

“You ought to tell the police. Let them know. Maybe he was serious in his threat.”

It was possible, Will thought. It would be beyond stupid for a man to hold such a grudge and then kidnap a child when he was about to be released, given the chance at a new life. It was far-fetched, but possible.

Will sits in his living room with Tom. This is the first time the two have met and Will likes the detective immediately.

“I doubt that’s the man we’re looking for,” Tom Rourke says, after hearing Will’s news about Martin Wilson.

“Well, so far, there are no leads. Nothing.”

“But,” Tom continues, “this could be good for the case. If Wilson is the only suspect, the police will go after him with all they’ve got. Either they will find him and he will turn out to be the person we’re looking for or news of his believed involvement will reach the actual perpetrator and make him relax and get sloppy. If I were you, and I know this may sound dishonest, I’d lead the police to believe that you seriously think Wilson might be the kidnapper. If he isn’t, then his only worry will be jumping parole, which he should be punished for anyways.”

“Alright.”

“Now, I know an Amber Alert has been released. Give people some time to get used to looking at Sierra’s photo. If our guy is stupid enough to take her out in public, hopefully someone will notice. I’m going to do some research, see if there are any other missing children from the area.”

“Thank you for your help, Mr. Rourke.”

“Look, I understand. I, too am a father.”

Sierra huddles quietly in her dark prison, back against the wall, legs clutched tightly against her chest. The man from the car came in about twice a day with food and water. He also brought a clean bucket, meant to be used as a toilet. He moved quickly and never said anything. Within the last day, though, Sierra has become certain of one thing: the voices she kept hearing were not those of the man’s own kids. Sierra has heard screaming and crying and knows that she is not the only prisoner in the man from the car with the puppy’s house.

Sierra Kneiling was missing for two weeks when Martin Wilson finally popped up on the Cops’ radar. He had been living in a vacant car-lot close to Newark Airport. He planned to take a plane to Miami and was helping a friend with drug deals in order to get enough money to pay half the air-fare, his brother in Miami had promised to take care of the rest.

“You’re going to need that money for a good lawyer once we find out what you’ve done with that little girl.” Detective James Morris knew that Sierra Kneiling’s parents had hired a private detective after only one week into the investigation. He was insulted by their lack of faith in the NYPD and felt determined to find the child before Tom Rourke did. He knew Rourke, by reputation, and knew how beneficial it would be for the State to find the child (dead or alive) before a private investigator. And, Detective Morris felt confident that Wilson was the man they were looking for.

The spirit in the Kneiling house had lifted since the news of Martin Wilson’s capture. Sandra was hopeful. Detective Morris told her he was about 75% sure he’d caught Sierra’s abductor. “Interrogations are not taped in New York State”, Morris explained, “We will bleed this bastard, if we have to, to get him to talk. This man has no record of violence, which means, Mrs. Kneiling, that there is a good chance Sierra is okay.”

“I don’t like it,” Tom Rourke responded, after hearing the news from Will. “It still doesn’t make sense to me. Have they found any evidence?”

“No, but obviously they can hold him for jumping parole. They are searching the car-lot he was found in.”

The police probably believe Wilson sold the child for money, Rourke thinks to himself. But Wilson was a drug pusher. He’d never, so far as anyone could tell, been involved in human trafficking. It didn’t make sense. Also, Wilson clearly was not especially bright. He’d jumped parole (something he’d be severely punished for) to sell drugs in order to buy a ticket to Florida. Anyone with even half a brain would have just waited it out, moved to the sunny coast after finishing their parole. Whoever had taken Sierra was slick. He’d figured out a way to trick a clever and weary seven year old into trusting him and then disappeared, after seven minutes at most, with the child in tow. This abduction was not the work of a drug dealer with a second-class mind.

It was 11:00 PM and while his wife was resting (she’d had another one of her terrible headaches), Tom Rourke sat on his living room couch. A bottle of Coors and a Newport Cigarette kept Tom’s right hand busy (he took turns smoking and sipping), while the other controlled of the tv clicker. Rourke settled on a news station. Sitting on the sofa, his nine-year-old Rotweiler Dirk by his side, Tom thought over the Kneiling case. In the past eleven years, in New York State alone, the number of child abductions had dropped from 28,000 to 20,400. These statistics were substantial and Tom knew they were highly valued by the NYPD. Still, Rourke felt the police weren’t using all their resources in the Kneiling case. Will and Sandra both sounded so relieved on the phone, it just didn’t seem right. Tom had gone through the other missing children files within the Brooklyn area and was stumped. It seemed as though…

“Felecia Daniels, 8, went missing in front of her family’s home in Flushing Queens last month. The young girl was taken when her older brother left her alone on the front porch of their home for what he claimed could have been no longer than five minutes. If anyone has any information, please call…”

The sound of the broadcasting together with the photo of young Felecia Knowlton Daniels sent off sirens in Rourke’s mind. The circumstances were virtually identical, the only difference was that Sierra lived in Brooklyn and the Daniels’ resided in Queens. Tom wrote down the number from the Amber Alert. Tomorrow, he decided, he would pay the Daniels’ a visit.

9:00 AM, and Detective Rourke makes his way up the steps of the Daniels family’s house. A woman, somewhere in her mid-40’s, opens the door and introduces herself as Monica Daniels.

“Hello, my name is Detective Thomas Rourke. I am from Brooklyn. May I speak with you for a moment.”

Mrs. Daniels invites Tom in, offering him a cup of coffee.

“Have you heard about the young girl who went missing in Brooklyn two weeks ago, Sierra Kneiling?”

“Yes, I believe I have.”

“Well, the circumstances of Sierra’s kidnapping are very similar to those of your daughters disapearence. Sierra was taken from her family’s home on Winthrop Street between Brooklyn Avenue and New York Avenue when…”

“Winthrop between… That’s right by Kings County Hospital.”

“You are familiar with the area?”

“Yes, I worked there from 1998 to 2003 in the Psychiatric Emergency Center. I was a Psychiatric Nurse.”

Upon taking the Kneiling case, Tom did a background check on both Will and Sandra. Will’s job wasn’t directly in the “Line of fire”, but it could be potentially dangerous if one wasn’t careful. The Kneilings were not listed in the phone book, nor was their address public information. However, if someone had access to the internet and was willing to pay thirty dollars, they could acquire all the information they needed. Now Tom leaves the Daniels’ home in a hurry. There was, after all, a connection between the Kneilings and the Daniels families. Will worked as a psychiatrist at Kings County Hospital before moving to The Brooklyn Supreme Court. The Court was, in fact, affiliated with the hospital. Mrs. Daniels said she’d been a psychiatric nurse at the Psychiatric Emergency Center between 1998 and 2003. Will’s employment at the hospital coincided with Mrs. Daniels’. This was a connection that, in Tom’s mind, could not be ignored.



“Will?” Tom calls the Kneiling home from his car. “Will I have some new information. Its…”

“Jonah Wright. I know. I was his Psychiatrist at Kings County in 2001. His wife and daughter were brutally murdered while he was under my care at the hospital. Two of the nurses who were also on call the evening of the murder, Christian Baxter and Monica Daniels’ daughters are missing. I just got the call from Detective Morris. Im going with them to his place right now.”

Relieved, Tom drives back to his home. Sierra would be found after all. Christian Baxter, Rourke hadn’t even heard the name. He’d missed it.

Arriving home, Tom checks on his wife. The reoccurring headaches were bad news. They’d have to pay another visit to Dr. Schulman.

At his computer, Rourke runs a check over the Baxter family. Two sons and five year old girl, Hadley. The Daniels also had one son and a daughter. Sitting at his computer, Tom goes over the kidnapping scenario. Wright lost his wife and daughter while under the care of Dr. Kneiling on a night when the two nurses were on call. Something must have happened, Wright must have lost it when he received the news. Kneiling and the two nurses probably had to restrain him. Sierra, Hadley and Felecia were abducted out of revenge. However, Tom realized jumping up from his desk, there was one major difference between the three families. The Kneilings had one other daughter.

Wright’s house is in Bayside Queens. Will insisted on riding with the police to the home of his daughter’s abductor. He has been warned of all the grisly possibilities. But, if Sierra is alive and well, Will felt he needed to be there for her the moment she is found. Sandra stayed home with Asher and Stephanie. All was safe…

Tom Rourke jumps into his car and speeds out of the driveway. The cops would show up at Wright’s place just in time for Wright to enter the Kneiling house. Will had said he was accompanying the police to the home of his daughter’s abductor. That meant Sandra was alone with the other kids.

“Mom,” Asher interrupts Sandra while she sits in the kitchen by the phone waiting for the news from her husband.

“Mom, there is a strange man outside our house.”

Then, both mother and son are startled by the loud knocking at the front door. Bandit appears, growling from under the kitchen table.

“Bandit, shhh. Asher, sweety, we don’t have to worry anymore. The police have found the man.”

Sandra pushes the child proof gait aside and walks towards the front door.

Sandra Kneiling freezes. The man is about 6’4, with dark brown hair and a menacing look in his eyes. He wears a white shirt and black jeans. Stephanie stands directly in front of him, a hunting knife held three inches below her chin.

“Daddy!” It takes a moment for Sierra’s eyes to adjust to the daylight, but the image of her father standing in front of the police car makes everything else seem trivial. Will grabs his daughter. As he holds her, thinking that his arms may be incapable of loosening their grip, Will watches as the police bring the other two children from the house. Hadley and Felecia have been held captive longer than Sierra and seem more bewildered and traumatized, though Will knows Sierra will be working through the incident on a therapists couch for years to come.

“Oh my god. Please, I won’t move. Let her go.” Sandra’s knees are weak, but she uses all her will power to keep them from collapsing.

Focusing on Stephanie and the knife pressed against her neck, Sandra doesn’t notice the sound of racing foot steps followed by the opening of the front door.

The pop is so loud, Sandra, Stephanie and Asher all scream. Sandra, her legs unable to hold the weight of both her body and her terror, falls to the ground. She can’t open her eyes. Stephanie has been shot, she thinks, the man has shot my child.

“Sandra, Sandra!” Tom’s voice is soothing. Sandra looks up. The front of her home is splattered with blood, but right in front of her is detective Rourke.

“Sandra, she’s alright. Stephanie is alright, she’s just fainted from the shock. Wright is dead, I shot him. Everything is alright now, I…”

Before Detective Rourke can finish his sentence, the house phone rings. Will is on the line. Sierra is okay. The Kneiling family is now safe from harm.

FICTION: Janet and John Get Out of their Heads by Patrick Whittaker  

Posted by Scott Wilson

From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)

To : Janet Evans (janet.evans@lombix.co.uk)

Sent : 13 Sep. 13:21

hi babes!

how's it hanging? i promised i'd email ya as soon as i got to berlin. just checked in & the hotel is as fab as it looks on the web.

u'll be pleased to know that magic charm u gave me got me here safely. no gremlins, no plane crashes, no getting arrested by the gestapo. (i took yr advise & refrained from giving the customs man a hitler salute.)

the flight was unbelievable. my 1st time in business class and non-stop booze all the way.

i read a couple of chapters of that book u lent me. 2 be honest tho, i can't see me getting into it. not saying it's mumbo jumbo or nothing. just not my cup of tea, is all.

anyways, i'm gonna try out the shower, chuck coffee down my throat and catch a couple hrs kip. then me and franky are off to paint the town red.

~o~

From : Janet Evans (janet.evans@lombix.co.uk)

To : John Heywood (john.heywood@lombix.co.uk)

Sent : 14 Sep. 09:42

Hello John.

I'm fine. Thank you very much for asking.

I hope you didn't get too silly last night. You never could handle your alcohol and I don't think you'd find a German police cell quite as nice as your hotel room.

By the time you read this, you'll have had a grand tour of the Berlin office so let's hope some of the German efficiency you're always deriding rubs off on you! (Only kidding.)

Take care of my grimoire, won't you? It's been in my family for generations. I won't force you to read it if you don't want to, but I do wish you would. It will help you understand where I'm coming from and maybe convince you Wicca really is a proper religion.

Oh heck. You've only been gone a day and I'm already missing you.

Love you lots!

Your big fluffy bunny,

Janet. XXXXXXXXXXX!

o~





From : John Heywood (john.heywood@lombix.co.uk)



To : Janet Evans (janet.evans@lombix.co.uk)



Sent : 14 Sep. 15:02





yo! wot a day! wot a company canteen! it's got a drinks machine & guess what? it has beer!. u should have seen franky's face when he saw it. the boozie old sod had 3 bottles of kraut lager with his schnitzel (or wotever it woz we woz eating). me? i had water.





still recovering from last nite. u woz rite, i shouldn't try to keep up with franky. mind u, he's a bit hungover too but not as much as me. I'm definitely going 2 bed early 2nite.





i think of u all the time. can't wait to get back to blighty. maybe u can send me a broomstick so i can fly home during my lunch breaks! LOL!





gotta go. herr flick (my pet name for one of the managers here) is cracking the whip. u vill audit zese books or u vill be shot!





big sloppy kiss!





-john





~o~





From : Janet Evans (janet.evans@lombix.co.uk)



To : John Heywood (john.heywood@lombix.co.uk)



Sent : 14 Sep. 15:57





Yeah, nice crack about the broomstick, dickhead. You know I don't like it when you mock my religion. Thank your lucky stars I don't turn you into a frog!





Tell you what. Keep your eyes peeled round about midnight. If you're where you say you'll be - i.e. in bed - then you're in for a surprise.





Janet.





~o~





From : John Heywood (john.heywood@lombix.co.uk)



To : Janet Evans (janet.evans@lombix.co.uk)



Sent : 14 Sep. 16:09





jannypops! yr not mad at me, r u? i woz only kidding. i'll make it up 2 u when i get back. name any restaurant & leave the rest to me.





(& 4 wot it's worth, i've read a bit more of yr grimoire. it's starting to make a weird sort of sense.)





-john





~o~





From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



To : Janet Evans (janet.evans@lombix.co.uk)



Sent : 15 Sep. 03:22





hi janet.





i know u ain't gonna read this till much later but never mind. it's about zilch o'clock here & i couldn't sleep thinking i may have pissed u off. i wasn't having a dig when i said about yr broomstick & if it upset u then i'm sorry, sorry, a thousand times sorry.





being away from u - even for this short a time - has really brought it home how much u mean 2 me. i'm missing u big time & am always thinking about u.





i even had a dream about u. i dreamt I woz lying in bed when u suddenly appeared from out of nowhere. u was standing by the dressing table, waving at me. scared the crap out of me that did. then u said something i couldn't hear, blew me a kiss and vanished.





weirdest thing that's happened 2 me in a long time.





look, do us a favour girl & put me out of my agony. email asap & tell me i'm forgiven. then maybe i can get some sleep.





-john





~o~





From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



Sent : 15 Sep. 03:24





Ha ha! I was wondering when I'd hear from you. I've been waiting at my PC since just after midnight.





So you've convinced yourself it was a dream, have you? I suppose I should have expected that. After all, the truth is pretty mind-blowing - especially for a non-believer like you.





What you saw was my spirit. I was having a self-induced out of the body experience. And what I said before I disappeared from your room was: 'I love you and forgive you'.





And in case you think I'm yanking your chain, I was wearing a T shirt with a picture of a cat holding an umbrella on it. I've only just bought it so you won't have seen it before.





Sweet dreams, my precious. (Hee! Hee!)





Janet.





~o~





From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



Sent : 15 Sep. 18:03





hi babes.





sorry i couldn't chat on the phone longer. had herr flick breathing down my neck.





been thinking things thru. u can hardly blame me for being sceptical, can u? but i can't deny the evidence of my own eyes. so yeah - i totally believe u astrally projected into my hotel room here in berlin.





man, I am so freaked! but in a good way. it is totally the coolest thing ever.





u have just so gotta show me how it's done.





-john





~o~





From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



Sent : 15 Sep. 18:07





Hi John.





Hate to disappoint you, babes, but astral projection isn't that easy. Even if I gave you the spell, it would take years to master.





If you like, when you come home I'll teach you about Wicca. But remember it's a proper religion and not - as you seem to think - an excuse for grown adults to get naked together.





Janet.





~o~





From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



Sent : 15 Sep. 18:09





u r on as far as learning about Wicca is concerned. as you keep telling me, i could do with a bit of spirituality in my life.





maybe u underestimate me when u say it will take me years to learn astral projection. i've always been a fast learner & isn't it u wot keeps telling me i'm a suppressed psychic?





gimme the spell, babes. and let's c wot happens.







-john





~o~





From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



Sent : 15 Sep. 18:09





Honestly, hon. There'd be no point.





J.





~o~





From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



Sent : 15 Sep. 18:10





oh please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please (times 1 zillion).





-j





~o~





From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



Sent : 15 Sep. 18:11





I'll tell you what I'll do. Be in your bathroom with pen and paper at exactly midnight. That's midnight my time. If you see the spell, write it down. If you don't see it - and I'm sure you won't - you're not ready to use it.





Final offer.





J.





~o~





From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



Sent : 15 Sep. 18:12





brill! i'll settle for that. midnight it is.





gotta go now. the krauts are taking me & franky for a meal & then drinkies. mustn't keep herr flick waiting.





luv u lots, u gorgeous thing u.





-john (kiss kiss)





~o~





From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



Sent : 16 Sep. 03:13





janet! that was the most brilliant thing ever!





it worked. it bloody well worked!





i did wot u said. the krauts wanted me to go clubbing but i told em i needed my beddy-bys.





anyway - there I was, standing in the bathroom like u told me & all of a sudden there was this mist & the mirror fogged up. then this writing appeared on the mirror like someone was using their finger. i just had time to scribble down the spell before it disappeared.





dunno wot language it's written in. looks a bit like latin but i don't think it's that.





u didn't tell me how to use the spell (coz u didn't think i'd get it, did you? o ye of little faith) so i improvised.





i stood in the middle of the room, in my jim-jams and dressing gown, & read the spell out loud. nothing happened.





so i read it again and again until it stuck in my memory and i chucked the pad away. nothing seemed to be happening and i thought about jacking it in but somehow i couldn't stop. the words kept coming out of my mouth. it's like when you get a tune stuck in your head & it goes round & round & round.





eventually I thought - right, that's it, john. yr just making an arse of yourself. call it quits and hit the sack.





then i realised i was no longer in my hotel room! in fact I was no longer in the hotel.





i looked down and there was berlin. i could see the brandenberg gate and the ruined church in the kufurstandamm and even stalag 13 (or head office as it's officially called).





For a moment, i was bleeding gob-smacked. & then, when i realised what had happened, i was bloody terrified. & straight away I was back in my body feeling like u do when u have a dream & something bad in it makes u wake up.





i got a bottle of schanpps i was gonna bring back. drank about half of it before i could get over the shock. & then - mad bastard that i am - i had another go with the spell but nothing happened. maybe it was the booze. but i'm definitely gonna try it again & this time i'm flying all the way to blighty so you'd better watch out for me!





hugs & kisses





-j.





~o~





From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



To : John Heywood (john.heywood@lombix.co.uk)



Sent : 16 Sep. 08:22





Dear John.





I've just seen your email and feel somewhat alarmed. Although it's great that you managed to leave your body, you need to be very, very careful. You probably didn't have time to see it, but if you looked at your navel, you would have seen a cord of light linking your spirit to your body. If that cord gets broken, your spirit might not be able to return.





You obviously have great powers but you need to learn how to use them wisely and safely. I can teach you but you must be patient.





Please, please, please, for your own sake, don't use the spell again while you're in Berlin. Once you're back in England, we can astrally project together. Won't that be great?





I'm missing you more than ever and can't wait to fall into your manly arms ;-).





See ya soon.





-Janet.





~o~





From : John Heywood (john.heywood@lombix.co.uk)



To : Janet Evans (janet.evans@lombix.co.uk)



Sent : 16 Sep. 09:22





babes!



don't worry. now i've had a chance to think about it, i'm in no rush to leave this here body of mine. but I am looking forward to us doing it together.





can spirits have sex? wouldn't it be fun to join the mile high club without even being in an airplane? perhaps over the houses of parliament or buckingham palace? Or how about *IN* buckingham palace? right in front of the queen! (LMAOROFL!)





btw: been snowing here. I mean proper snowing with it coming right up 2 my knees. maybe me & franky should challenge the sausage noshers to a snowball re-enactment of the battle of el alamein. but then - maybe not.





only 3 days till i see ya again! seems like an eternity!





luv ya lots





-j.





ps: manly arms? moi? LOL!!!





~o~





From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



Sent : 17 Sep. 01:47





YOU BITCH!! YOU SLUT!!! YOU WHORE!!!!!!





i am so gonna mess you up, you cheating slag!!!





you are dumped. DUMPED!!! FRIGGING DUMPED!!!





i hope you get the clap & end up sterile.





by the time i get back, i want you and all traces of your existence out of my flat & as far as possible, i'm going to pretend you don't exist - even at work.





GOODBYE YOU WITCH!!





-J.





PS: they oughta burn u at the stake. whore!!!





~o~





From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



Sent : 17 Sep. 08:22





John.





What on Earth's going on? Is this some kind of joke? Because if it is it's in very poor taste and not the least bit funny.





Ever since I got your vile email, I haven't stopped crying.





I've racked my brains and have no idea what I could have done to upset you or make you say such hurtful things.





If you've had enough of me, fine! Just say so. You don't have to be cruel about it.





-Janet.





~o~





From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



Sent : 17 Sep. 19:36





wot's wrong with u, u stupid bitch? get it thru yr thick head: i want nothing more to do wiv u. so stop calling me at work and stop emailing me. that little miss innocent shit ain't gonna wash. not after wot i saw last night.





oh yeah. thought i wouldn't find out, didn't ya? thought while the cat was away you might as well play & poor dumb john would be none the wiser. wrong! i was right there in the bedroom - *MY* bedroom - while u & gavin rutted like animals.





why in god's name gavin of all people? i thought u hated the slimey creep? and how come u let him do that thing u never let me do?





-j.





~o~







From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



Sent : 17 Sep. 19:52





John.





I think this will be the hardest email I've ever typed in my life. Let me start by saying that despite everything I still love you and want you to remain an important part of my life. I truly believe we can get over our present difficulties and rebuild our relationship.





I won't chide you for breaking your promise not to use the spell again. I'm just relieved no harm came to you. Berlin to London is a long way for a novice to astral project. It's a wonder you managed to get back.





As to me and Gavin, I owe you an explanation and a deep, heart-felt apology. I swear to God I've never been unfaithful to you before and I intend to have nothing further to do with Gavin.





The fact is - and I know this is no excuse - I was (and am) lonely without you. A few of us at work went out for drinks and I guess I had too much and I was suddenly in tears at the thought of going home to an empty flat.





I thought Gavin was being sympathetic. When he put his arm around me I had no idea he was making a move. Naïve? Yes, I was. Foolish too.





Actually, I think he may have used rohypnol. What happened back at the flat is all a blur.





I hate to bring it up - and it's no mitigation - but you have strayed a couple of times yourself and each time I've forgiven you. I ask now that you do the same for me.





I love you, John, and I don't want to lose you. Please find it in your heart to forgive me.





Yours (in desperation),



Janet.





~o~





From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



Sent : 17 Sep. 19:48





rohypnol my arse! wot kind of a dumb knobhead do u take me 4?





u remember that website we had a gud laugh at? the one where blokes get their own back on ex-girlfriends by uploading naked photographs of the slags for all the world to see? suggest u take a look.





yrs vengefully,





-j.





~o~





From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



Sent : 17 Sep. 20:11





You bastard! You hateful, vicious loathesome little creep! You promised you'd deleted those photos. And all this time you've kept them on your laptop!





I give you fair warning, John. Take them down NOW! You know I have certain powers but you've no idea what I can do with them.





Remove the photographs or SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES!!!





-Janet.





~o~





From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



Sent : 18 Sep. 07:17





oh yes! i am one mighty & powerful wizard. nothing can stop me. NOTHING!





so how did it feel, having me in your dreams? knowing I was yr lord and master? knowing every time u sleep i can slip into your mind and conjure up nightmares.





u think having the ground swallow you up was bad? u think sending you into the fires of hell is the worst i can do? u think being covered in spiders is where it stops?





think again, bitch.





i have yr grimoire, remember? there's some v. interesting spells in it. some of which u would not like to be on the receiving end of.





now get out of my flat! if i find u still there 2nite, u r going to be in hell the second u fall asleep.





-j.





~o~





From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)



To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)



cc : John Heywood (john.heywood@lombix.co.uk)



Sent : 18 Sep. 07:38





Now you've done it. Now you have really done it.





You think you can mess with a witch, do you?





Time you learnt different.





Enjoy your day at work, shithead.

-Janet.

~o~

From : Frank Beatie (francis.beatie@lombix.co.uk)

To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)

Sent : 18 Sep. 15:07

Hi Janet.

Frank from work here.

Hope you don't mind me emailing you on your private email. Apparently you're not in work today and I didn't want you to be the last to know about what's happened to John.

From what I can gather, you and him have had some sort of lover's tiff and maybe that's what's pushed him over the edge.

He'd been acting funny all morning - telling people he was a wizard and stuff like that. Then, right in the middle of a meeting with some very senior managers, he started goose-stepping around the boardroom singing “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball”.

Needless to say, the krauts didn't see the joke (they never do, do they?) and told John to get his arse on the first plane back to England.

It's touch and go as to whether he can hang on to his job. He's obviously having some sort of nervous breakdown and maybe they'll take that into account.

If you want to meet him at the airport - and I think it would be a very good thing if you did - he should be arriving at a quarter to nine (your time) tomorrow morning.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings but I thought it best you should know.

Take care.

-franky.

~o~

From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)

To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)

Sent : 18 Sep. 21:58

ok. u win. let's call a truce before this goes 2 far.

i won't invade yr dreams if u promise never to possess me like that again. & i've removed the photos from the internet & wiped them from my hard disk.

u can stay in the flat 4 now. who knows? maybe we can still rescue our relationship - if that's what u want.

i dunno if i've still got a job but i won't hold that against u. there r plenty of openings 4 someone with my skills so we needn't worry there.

basically - u win. i surrender.

afraid I won't be back in blighty 2morrow. everything's snowbound here. so it's back to my hotel room where i will definitely not be doing anything wizardy.

-j.

~o~

From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)

To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)

Sent : 18 Sep. 22:16

OK, John. I'm glad you've come to your senses and I'm sorry things got so out of hand. Hopefully we've both learnt some important lessons from all this.

I still love you, despite everything, and am confident we can rebuild what we had and make it stronger than ever.

And don't worry about your job. I didn't tell you because I knew you'd laugh, but I used my magic to get you your latest promotion. I can use a similar spell to bag you a new - and even better - job.

Now you've shown you have the power, I can teach you the Craft - but only if you promise to use it wisely.

Let me know when you manage to get a flight and I'll pick you up at the airport. In the meantime, don't fret. I'm sure everything's going to be all right.

Big hugs and kisses,

-Janet. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

~o~

From : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)

To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)

Sent : 19 Sep. 03:48

You idiot, John! You lying, treacherous little bastard.

All that guff about calling a truce and being sorry and getting back together. Lies, lies, lies!

So you think you're a high mighty wizard, do you? Let me tell you, an uncontrollable thirst spell is kid's stuff and easy to break.

So I drank several gallons of water? Big deal.

I'm sorry, John. But I can't let you go round casting spells willy-nilly. Especially when you're using my own grimoire against me.

Last warning. Stop it - or else!

-Janet.

~o~

From : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)

To : Janet Evans (moongoddess@biffomail.com)

Sent : 19 Sep. 04:12

u make me laugh, woman. who the hell do you think yr trying to scare?

oh no help help! the wicked witch is going 2 turn me into a frog! boo hoo! i'm so scared.

time 2 teach u a lesson, my sweet. how d'ya fancy a plague of cockroaches?

brace yourself, bitch.

-j.

~o~

From : Frank Beatie (francis.beatie@lombix.co.uk)

To : John Heywood (bigjohn57@biffomail.com)

Sent : 19 Sep. 10:27

John! Frank from work here.

I don't know if you'll get this email any time soon but if you do please let me know you're OK. I've tried ringing, but your mobile phone is switched off.

You've probably got other things on your mind right now, but I thought you should know your landlady's been trying to get hold of you. Something about your flat being infested with cockroaches.

I got a chamber maid to let me in to your room this morning so I could see if you were there. You weren't, but your luggage and laptop were so you must have come back from the airport.

Mind you, I'd stay out of your room for now. At least until they've cleaned up the mess caused by the chamber maid. Built like a tractor, she is. Probably eats iron bars for breakfast.

Anyway, she lets me into your room and watches me while I look around. Then all of a sudden she starts yelling in German and I'm thinking “this is it! I'm going to do die!”

But then I see what she's yelling at - a bloody great frog sitting right in the middle of the room. Next thing I know - splat! - she's gone and stamped on it with her size ten trainer!

Bloody horrible it was, watching the poor thing squirming about with its legs sticking out from under the frau's shoe. She stamped on it 4 times before it finally stopped kicking.

I've never felt so sorry for an amphibian in all my life.

Anyway, now for the good news. I've convinced the krauts you're suffering from nervous exhaustion and not a bad lad after all. So not only have you been forgiven, you're getting 2 weeks off to recuperate.

Everything's going to be fine, John. But where the hell are you?

-Franky.