The Authors Bookshelf; Post A Story You Have Written

Discussion in 'Reading & Writing' started by Jeff Tracy, Sep 4, 2017.

  1. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    I have written six short stories, here is one of them about the life of a biscuit (US cookie).




    THE TIN STORIES

    It may surprise you to know that Biscuits have a life of their own. Perhaps you already knew that ? Or perhaps you don't believe me. It really doesn't matter either way for it is good to sometimes see things from a different viewpoint, whether that viewpoint is real or not.
    This is the story of Gary, a young Biscuit who is still in his packet, in his prime and looking forward to getting off the shelf and starting life's journey. It is also about Mrs. Amy Stout who loves biscuits and is on her way to the shops to buy some more. Every morning she sets the kitchen table the same way she has for the last fifty years. First the table is cleaned and polished then a clean white cloth is laid out. On this is placed a small crystal vase with a few wild flowers from her garden. Amy only sets the table for one person. It used to be for two when her husband was alive. Once it was five when the triplets were growing up. Now the triplets have homes of their own so it is for one. Sometimes a friend may pop in for a cup of tea so Amy always puts out a big plate of Biscuits next to the vase. On the other side of the vase goes the tea tray with its small tea pot, milk jug and sugar bowl. This would be whisked into the kitchen if a visitor should call. Then out would come the best china including some small side plates for the Biscuits. Gary didn't know it yet but this was to be his new home. Biscuits are very sociable creatures and love to chat with other Biscuits. As you probably know Biscuits are naturally short sighted and normally could only see from one side of a plate to the other. As if to make up for this they have very good hearing and a keen sense of smell. They don't speak like we do; it’s a kind of telepathy. On the shelf in the supermarket Gary was chatting away to the Biscuit next to him in his packet about how hot it was in the bakery and wasn't this just the best adventure ever. Gary was at the top of the packet and very nervous. All Biscuits know that the top or bottom of a packet is more dangerous than being in the middle. Many Biscuits are broken before their packet is even opened.
    'Hold on' Gary whispered 'I can hear a trolley coming'.
    Sure enough Amy Stout was coming down the aisle. Gary listened carefully as the trolley stopped. Then came the sharp crackling sound of packets being taken from the shelf. Gary was so excited he thought he might 'crumb' himself. Gary felt his packet suddenly lift then settle again.
    Then he felt the vibrations of the trolley moving away to the checkout. Amy Stout did her own packing of the shopping into her wheeled basket and was very careful with the Biscuits. Gary was used to the sounds and smells of the bakery so the noise of the traffic and the bus journey on the way to Amy's house was a bit confusing. It was a relief when Amy’s front door opened and closed and everything went quiet. Then Gary and the other Biscuits heard a strange new sound. It was Amy singing as she put away the shopping. It went like this;

    Polly put the kettle on, Polly put the kettle on, Polly put the kettle on, We'll all have tea.

    Sukey take it off again, Sukey take it off again, Sukey take it off again, they’ve all gone away.

    'There's just so much to learn in this strange new world’ said Gary to no one in particular.
    'I wish you'd stop being so cheerful' said the Biscuit next to Gary.
    Before Gary could answer he felt the packet lift again and heard a loud crackle as the top of the packet was carefully opened. This was a great relief as he had silently feared that the other end of the packet might be opened first which would make him the last one out. The next few moments were a blur as Gary was taken from the packet and gently placed on a plate with a whole selection of other different Biscuits. He was the only Garibaldi on the plate and no more appeared.
    'They must be still in the packet' thought Gary as he looked around at his new home. He had been placed between a Bourbon and a Ginger Biscuit.
    'Don't talk to me' said the Ginger Biscuit whose name was Snappy.
    'Hi there, my names Choc.' Said the Bourbon Biscuit 'Don't worry about Snappy, he's always a bit grumpy in the mornings. He'll relax after tea time this evening. He worries so much about 'The Five' that he never enjoys anything.
    'How sad' said Gary ' I mean, how sad not to enjoy anything. I have never heard of 'The Five'. Is it five hungry mice ? We had some fearful mice at the bakery. Always out to nibble at you.'
    'No' said Choc 'It's nothing to do with mice. We never talk about 'The Five' when we are plate-side. Wait until this evening when we go to the tin.'
    'This is great' said Gary 'Thanks for talking to me. Especially as I'm just a plate-side newbie with a lot to learn.'
    'You'll be fine' said Choc. ' You see those three show offs in the middle. All covered in chocolate and looking so smug ?'
    Gary looked and saw three chocolate digestives in the middle of the plate.
    'Yes, I see them' said Gary. 'They look very proud of themselves'
    'Proud indeed but underneath they are just ordinary digestives.' replied Choc.' They are so proud of how they look that they don't realise they will be the first to go. It pays not to get noticed around here. I keep my chocolate on the inside.'
    'Who are all the others ?' asked Gary.
    'Over there, right on the other side' said Choc 'You see that big rough looking oatmeal.' ?
    'Yes' said Gary 'he's very loud isn't he. He seems to be making fun of the Biscuit next to him.'
    ‘That’s the one' said Choc ' His name is Bran and he thinks he's a real tough cookie. He's making fun of Fluff, that's the Lemon puff next to him. When this evening comes and we are all back in the tin he won't be so brave. Biscuits like him are always the first to 'crumb' themselves when it all go's pitch black and one of the Elders start telling a scary story. All Biscuits are equal in the tin once the lid is on.'
    'Are there stories every night.’? Said Gary.
    ‘Oh yes' said Choc ' That is how we pass on everything we have learned to newbies like yourself. One day you may be Elder telling stories to other newbies. At the moment the senior Elder is Lefty. We call him that because half of him is missing; he is all that's left. You'll meet him tonight. Now let's finish showing you the others. You see that pink wafer next to Fluff, that's Rose. She's a lovely biscuit, very kind. Then in-between Rose and myself is Shorty, he's an old fashioned shortbread and doesn't like show offs. Now look back at Bran, on the other side of him from Fluff is Cuthbert, he's a custard cream. Then there's Dodger, he's the one with jam in. Then in-between Dodger and Snappy is Richard, he's a rich tea biscuit. That just leaves the three in the middle; they haven't spoken to any of us other biscuits so I don't know their names.'
    ‘Thanks Choc ' said Gary ' that's a lot to remember. Do you know where my friends in the packet have gone ? '
    ‘Packets usually go on the shelf next to the tin, in the wall box, ' said Choc 'once you're out of the packet you don't go back. Once you've been plate-side the tin is where you go every night.'
    As Gary was pondering all that he had learned his reverie was shattered by a loud bell playing a musical tune.
    'What was that ?' he asked Choc.
    'That' said Choc ' means you might get to find out about 'The Five' sooner than I would have liked. Now stay quiet and whatever happens don't scream.'
    For the first time in his life Gary was afraid. With good reason though he didn't know why. The loud bell was Amy's front door bell which usually meant there would be a visitor. Visitors meant tea and tea meant biscuits. Choc knew when he heard the chink-chink noise that 'The Five' would be here soon. The chink-chink noise was Amy picking up the tray with the tea set on.
    Choc whispered to Gary 'You might want to go dark for a while. I'll let you know when it's alright to brighten again.'
    When a biscuit 'go's dark' they stop themselves seeing things and when they 'brighten' they bring their sight back.
    'That's alright.' said Gary who wouldn't have missed this for the Bakery.
    Now there was no chatter on the plate. Even Bran had gone quiet; he somehow looked smaller and less full of himself. There was another chink-chink noise as the tea tray came back. Then more noises much nearer as two side plates and two cups and saucers were placed on the table. Gary sensed a curious warm smell as tea was poured into the cups and in the distance he heard low rumbling sounds as Amy spoke with her friend. Then all went very quiet and on hearing a slight gasp from the other biscuits Gary looked up and saw 'The Five' . They were hovering above the plate and moving round in a circle as if deciding who to take. They were round and ugly looking with funny polished bits on the ends and they all seemed to join up in the dark somewhere at the back. Suddenly they dived down and grabbed a chocolate digestive. It was the most terrible thing Gary had ever seen. Then it was gone. The other two chocolate digestives were whimpering now. Gary heard a far off crunching sound that was very unpleasant though he couldn't quite say why. The horrible crunching sounds eventually faded away. That is when the disgusting slurping and gulping sounds began. Amy and her friend were noisy tea drinkers. When it went quiet for the second time Gary looked up just in time to see 'The Five' gliding slowly in from out of the darkness. Once again the pink monsters circled slowly. They pounced again taking another chocolate digestive. Gary hoped that it had 'gone dark' before being grabbed. The horrible crunching began again and then the disgusting slurping and gulping sounds. The low rumbling sounds came back and this time went on for hours before stopping. They eventually heard the front door open then close and peace returned. The Biscuits started chatting quietly and tried to comfort the last chocolate digestive who was in a terrible state.
    Choc spoke gently to Gary ' I think it's all for the best that you saw 'The Five' for yourself this way. If you had heard about them in the tin you would have worried all night.'
    Amy Stout was in the kitchen washing up the tea things. When she had finished Amy went to a kitchen draw and took out a pair of plastic 'cake tongs’. Amy didn't like to handle food that she wasn't about to eat so she used the tongs to pick up the Biscuits from the plate and put them in the tin at the end of every day. Amy put the tongs in a large pocket on the front of the paisley coloured pinafore she always wore when working in the kitchen. That done she crossed the room and opened the food cupboard where the Biscuit tin was kept. It was a fine old large tin decorated with a Union Jack flag and a picture of young Queen Elizabeth. Across the lid was the word 'Coronation' and the date '1953'. Amy placed the tin on the worktop under the cupboard and removed the lid placing it upside down next to the tin. Amy then reached for her tongs and used them to take out all the Biscuits from the tin and place them in the lid. Amy didn't like to waste anything so she didn't throw away any broken Biscuits. The crumbs in the tin were tipped into a glass jar and sealed. Amy used the crumbs when she did her favourite cheesecake recipe. When the glass jar was back in the cupboard Amy replaced the Biscuits from the tin lid then went to the front room to fetch the Biscuit plate. Amy liked to put the Biscuits away before setting the table for supper. That way she wasn't tempted to nibble away in the evenings. Her pinafore had been getting a bit tight lately so she only used the Biscuits for her visitors.
    Gary had noticed that now all the excitement was over Snappy had started to cheer up.
    'Well I'll be double-baked' said Snappy ' I was sure I was a gonner that time.'
    Richard sighed and said 'We tell you every day not to waste your life worrying. Biscuits don't last forever so make the most of everything.'
    'I know' said Snappy ' I can't help it. Ever since Lefty told us about the 'Cave of the White Biscuits' I can't stop worrying.'
    Even the mention of the 'Cave of the White Biscuits' seemed to put Snappy back in a sulk.
    Before Gary could ask about the 'Cave of the White Biscuits' Choc said ' I suppose now is as good a time as any to explain. When Lefty was last plate-side long long ago he was taken by 'The Five' . The way he tells it is he was carried to a place where there were five caves. The two caves at the top were slightly apart and had things moving in them. Big round shiny wet things and when one of them moved the other one copied it. Well if that had been me I would have 'gone dark' right then but Lefty didn't. As Lefty looked down he saw two very small caves that didn't seem to be doing anything, they were right in the middle of the soft wall and close together. The worst was yet to come. At the bottom of the soft wall was a giant cave that opened and closed and made terrible noises. Even worse, there was a giant fat pink worm in the cave that was squirming about in some goo. Still Lefty had kept looking, all around the cave were small white Biscuits jumping up and down and bashing together. What happened next was terrible. Lefty was forced into the big cave and the White Biscuits smashed down on him. As they broke him in two half of him fell on to a sea of white cloth. He lay there for hours listening to the horrible crunching and disgusting slurping and gulping sounds. Later on as he was dozing he felt himself lifted and put back on the plate. That is the story of the 'Cave of the White Biscuits'. Lefty is the only one to come back from there and I believe every word he said.'
    Choc was silent for a while to let this all sink in and Gary was too shocked to say a single word.
    The silence was broken when Amy arrived and carried the Biscuit plate back to the kitchen.
    'Don't worry when you get picked up by the grabbers' said Choc ' they only put you in the tin and they are very gentle.'
    Amy used the tongs to put the Biscuits in the tin, she left the delicate ones till last so they wouldn't be crushed by the others. When they were all safely in the tin the lid was put on. Then she opened the cupboard and put the tin back on the shelf.
    Inside the tin the only sound was Lefty welcoming the newbies and trying to comfort the surviving chocolate digestive. It turned out that her name was Cocoa.
    'It is a sad day for us all when we lose one of our number Cocoa' said Lefty 'but worse for you who were their friend.'
    This was when Gary realised that he was listening to a conversation that was outside of his personal space. Before the lid had gone on Gary had seen that he was still between Snappy and Choc. Cocoa was in the middle of the tin and Lefty must have been underneath somewhere. This was all very peculiar. When Biscuits spoke to each other they could only speak to the one or two they were next to. This is so for a good reason, it is because of their telepathy. If they were able to hear conversations from a wider area then it would be all jumbled up. Like trying to listen to a dozen radios all tuned to different stations. So how come he was listening to Lefty talking to Cocoa. When Lefty was quiet Gary put the question to Choc.
    'I wondered how long it would take you to notice' replied Choc ' some newbies don't notice at all. I can see that you will go far. It is a gift that Lefty has. He says that it's because of his missing half. He calls that his 'gone' half. According to Lefty he can still feel his missing half. Lefty reckons he can do more things with his 'gone' half than he ever thought possible. He can choose whether to speak to just one individual Biscuit or a whole tin at the same time. He also says he can see for great distances and even look through things to what lies beyond. Some times when he is in the tin and we are all plate-side he uses his gift to travel to places we couldn't even begin to imagine. One day when we all returned to the tin he told us everything that happened that day plate-side. It was the day we lost Digger. Digger was a digestive Biscuit. Lefty described how 'The Five' had taken Digger and how Digger had returned to the tin shortly afterwards. Only Lefty could see Digger by using his 'gone' half. Digger was all 'gone' but Lefty had seen him floating near the 'Five Caves' just after the 'White Biscuits' had taken him. Lefty couldn't leave the tin because of his 'solid' half so he called to him. At first Digger couldn't hear Lefty and he seemed to be fading away. Lefty tried really hard to make himself heard and eventually Digger started drifting towards the tin. Lefty says that Digger looked transparent, as if he was made from water. When Digger got to the tin he just drifted in, right through the wall box and the tin. The two of them had a long talk and then Digger left. Lefty won't say what they talked about. He says that it's private, just between Digger and him.
    'That’s the most unusual story I've ever heard.' said Gary.
    More was to come. The evening was taken up with Lefty telling the story of how he had lost his 'gone' half that Gary had heard from Choc and then another story about a Chocolate chip cookie called Charlie The Explorer. Charlie had been taken by 'The Five' but they had dropped him. He had landed on his side and rolled across the sea of white cloth coming to rest next to another plate much like our own. As he lay there feeling a bit dizzy he heard a strange deep voice say;
    'What have we here? A strange squashed up flat thing by the look of it.'
    'I am no such thing' said Charlie 'I'm a Biscuit and my name is Charlie.'
    'Well I am a cake and my name is Madeira.' the deep voice answered.
    After that the two of them chatted on for ages, Charlie learned all about cakes and Madeira was told all about Biscuits. When the table was cleared Charlie was returned to the tin. Life for the Biscuits continued in this way for many a day. Every day was a perilous ordeal plate-side followed by the joy of returning to the tin for more stories before falling asleep. Eventually Lefty got broken into so many pieces that he was poured into the jar of crumbs. Choc took over as senior Elder after he had seen Lefty's watery 'gone self’ leave the tin for the last time. As Lefty drifted up and away he called back to Choc ; 'I guess you could say I'm Totally Gone now.'
    Gary lived in the tin long enough to learn all that it had to teach him. On the day that 'The Five' took him he was very calm. When detached from his Biscuit body he found it easy to drift his 'gone' body back to the tin to say goodbye to Choc. Because Choc didn't have a 'gone' half he couldn't see Gary but he could hear him speak. As Gary left Choc, his old friend said 'I always knew you were special, if you see Lefty tell him I'll find you both again one day. Then we can share some more 'Tin Stories' and won't 'they' be something.'
    Gary went on to have many more adventures and he learnt many new things. He discovered that 'The Five' was really a hand and the five caves were a face. The 'Cave of the White Biscuits' was a mouth and the white Biscuits were teeth. Things just never turned out the way you thought they would and perhaps that's just as well.

    THE END
     
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  2. Chrissy Cross

    Chrissy Cross Veteran Member
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    Poor cookies...but there is an exit from the cave. :rolleyes::cool:

    Maybe it's the light at the end of the tunnel? ;)
     
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    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
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  3. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    Wonderful story! Sad ending for Gary but, as one author said about "The Gingerbread Man", don't be sad, gingerbread men are made to be eaten.
     
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  4. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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  5. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    Gary cries when people say 'Bite Me' ...
     
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  6. Patsy Faye

    Patsy Faye Veteran Member
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    Awah ! (sob sob) awah !
     
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  7. Chrissy Cross

    Chrissy Cross Veteran Member
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    At least they're not going to a book burning.....hopefully! :)
     
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  8. Patsy Faye

    Patsy Faye Veteran Member
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  9. Chrissy Cross

    Chrissy Cross Veteran Member
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    Hahahaha. That face cracked me up.
     
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  10. Chrissy Cross

    Chrissy Cross Veteran Member
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    @Jeff Tracy ...you said you wrote 6 short stories...where are the rest?

    Or are you going to give us one a day? Month?
     
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  11. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    [​IMG]
     
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  12. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    If just three Seno's request the same book then I will post it here ...
     
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  13. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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  14. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    Some members including myself have been discussing 'Out of Body Experiences' recently in this book of mine it is part of the story line. The story is about an evil Egyptian magician who self-reincarnates via an ancient and terrible ritual. This short story is split into chapters in separate postings here , ENJOY ;
    .

    [​IMG]


    OPENING GAME

    Nathan moved to London the only way he could afford to. After leaving school he had helped his mother with her small hotel on the south coast. His mother had been struggling to cope since his father had checked out with one of the guests. When it became obvious that mother had set her marital sights on 'mistake number two' Nat had rung his uncle in London begging for a barman’s job. Nat’s uncle Bob was known to all as 'Biffy' due to his skill in ending arguments. Biffy told Nat that he would have to do the unpopular Thursday to Sunday shifts. If he didn't mind the anti-social hours he could have free food and accommodation with Monday Tuesday and Wednesday off and a bit of pocket money. Nat jumped at the opportunity and soon became friends with all the locals. One of the lads that came in on a Friday night told Nat about a job going at the local supermarket working on the checkout. This turned out very well as the supermarket manager was happy to take him on part time for two days a week. This meant Nat could save a bit of money and still had every Monday to do as he pleased. Biffy and his wife Susan were more than happy. Since Nat had started Biffy had noticed that he was having to do a lot more age checks. The word had got round that a handsome young unattached barman was working in the local pub and the young ladies were flooding in. Of course that meant that the local lads were not far behind. The weekend takings had doubled since Nat’s arrival. Biffy knew that Nat’s striking features were from his mother Raneem’s classic Egyptian good looks. Tan skin with brown eyes and jet black hair. Add to that the fact that Nat’s father had bestowed upon his son the physique of a natural athlete. Biffy himself had taken more after his father Alf who had worked the London docks all his life. Biffy’s mother Amina had been a descendant of genuine Egyptian Royalty. That is where his sister Raneem had inherited her beauty from. Biffy smiled as he watched young Nat work at the bar while he had a pint with some of the older customers he was keen not to lose. Youngsters might boost the weekend trade but Biffy knew the value of keeping his everyday regulars happy. A game of cards and a round of drinks once or twice a week were all it took. Biffy’s wife Susan ran the kitchen and made sure that any of her homemade pies that weren't sold were put into a bag and discreetly passed on to the neediest. The pub was unspoiled Victorian style with an archway connecting the old 'public bar' to the main bar. All panelled throughout in light oak. Biffy had removed all the carpeting years ago and was overjoyed when he had found the floors were made from stout ships planking. These were wider than the normal floor planks found in most buildings of that period. When they had been waxed and polished they glowed a rich honey colour. Biffy loathed even to put the tables and chairs back on his precious floor and woe betide any customer who came in with dirty boots on. As for the ones that were foolish enough to drop a cigarette. This thankfully happens no more. Biffy would roll up his shirt sleeves muttering 'Another one that's tired of drinking' The sight of Biffy removing a man’s drink from their hand then grabbing the back of their collar and marching them to the door always got a round of applause from the regular customers. Behind the main bar was another arch that led to the toilets and three other doors. One led upstairs to the private living area. Another led to the conservatory which was built recently to serve as a small restaurant. The right hand side of the conservatory was the pubs outer wall so that the old kitchen window was now a serving hatch. The third door was a fire escape and also granted access to the garden area which contained a three sided chalet style outbuilding with a wood burning stove. This served as a refuge for those who believed they were immune to the ravages of smoking. The end of the conservatory also opened onto the garden which for the most part was covered in rose arbours which were so overgrown they formed a scented canopy over the scattered picnic tables in the summer. Nat's room was at the very top of the house. It was the only room on the top floor and had double glass pained doors that led out onto a cast iron fire escape. There was a large floor area surrounding the cast iron stairs. This was fenced in by stout iron railings and a hand rail. The iron stairs led down to the flat roof above the kitchen extension where lay an ordinary ladder that could lowered to the garden in case of a fire. The top platform of the fire escape served as a kind of balcony where Nat liked to breakfast. Sitting here at a small table and chair he had found in the cellars Nat could look out over the Thames as the city came to life. On Tuesday mornings after breakfast Nat would ring his mother for a chat. He sat there now watching the mist on the Thames dance in slow motion as it warmed in the sunrise of an autumn dawn. Nat made his call and assured his mother 'Raneem' that all was well in the big bad city and 'yes' he was eating properly. Nat never asked about 'Tristram' because his mother always had plenty to say about him without any encouragement on Nat’s part. This usually meant a ten minute monologue on how hard it was for an actor like Tristram to find work. After the first thirty seconds Nat would switch to his 'detached' mode which only required the occasional polite grunts in the right places. When Nat could take no more he said;
    'That’s great Mum but listen, I have to get ready for work now. I'll ring you next week. Love you loads, bye now.'
    After these calls Nat always felt virtuous that he had rung but at the same time guilty about the relief he felt at having a whole week before the next chapter in the 'Tristram' saga. Nat sat there for a while picking at the crumbs of toast on his plate and sipping tea. Far below he could hear the clink of bottles as Biffy stacked some crates of 'empties' beside the arched door in the rear garden wall. The thick oak door led onto a back street which the brewery used for deliveries. Nat had a key to this door so he could come and go without having to go through the bar area to the main doors at the front. Nat had a toaster and kettle in his room but no sink so on his way to work at the supermarket he stopped in the pubs kitchen to wash his things up and left them on a tray to await his return. Nat liked to get to work early at the supermarket so he could have a chat with his fellow workers before the doors opened at eight o'clock. Tuesdays were a quiet day on the checkout so Nat was lucky that he was positioned at the front of the store. Sitting there he was parallel to the stores front window with a clear view of the street and the stores entrance. During the week a lot of the stores customers were regulars and Nat was getting to know them quite well. Today was quieter than usual so Nat was quick to notice the tall thin gentleman with a slightly humped back standing near the stores entrance. He wore a full length black Crombie coat topped off with a black Trilby hat. On his hands were black kid gloves. What could be seen of his trousers appeared to be black mohair and his leather shoes looked like handmade Italian, again in black. Nat immediately sensed something was very wrong but for the moment could not think what it was. The man who Nat had now nicknamed as 'Mr. Creepy' was facing towards Nat as if staring at him. Nat tried to see the man’s face but try as he might the man’s features were blurred. Perhaps it was condensation on the window. Nat stood up on the pretence of putting out some more carrier bags but wherever he moved to get a better look at Mr. Creepy the man’s features remained blurred. Just then a regular customer who Nat knew as ‘Amy’ approached him with her usual selection of biscuits. When Nat had served Amy he looked up and was strangely relieved to see Mr. Creepy walking away down the street. As Nat stared after him he saw Amy leaving the store with her wheeled basket. The automatic doors opened and closed with a swish and a clunk. That was when an icy chill caressed Nat’s shoulder blades. That was it. That's what was so wrong. When Mr. Creepy had been standing outside the stores entrance the automatic doors should have opened to let him in but they hadn't. The doors were not faulty. They sensed body heat and opened when it came near. Nat kept a watchful eye on the doors all day long and they worked just fine. By the end of the day Nat had forgotten the incident and was whistling a jolly tune as he walked back to the pub along the darkening streets. Just before turning off the main street to take the short cut Nat looked at the window of the corner shop ahead of him. Caught in the reflection of the windows glass was the thin dark shape of Mr. Creepy not far behind him. Nat’s heart missed a beat and then began to pound. ‘Why am I so afraid of a skinny old man? He asked himself.
    Nonetheless he forced himself to remain calm and kept to the main street. He felt safer with a lot of people around and the street lights were far better here than in the back roads. It would take a little longer to get back to the pub but that didn’t matter. The other thought that crossed Nat’s mind was that by using the front entrance to the pub whoever was following him would think Nat had popped in for a drink on his way home. For some reason Nat was very keen that this dark stranger did not discover where he lived. Biffy was serving behind the bar and looked surprised to see Nat use the front entrance.
    ‘Did you lose your key? He asked Nat.
    Nat told him that he had fancied a bit of a stroll and ordered a pint of Guinness as he sat on a bar stool that gave him a clear view of the entrance.
    ‘Have this one on me.’ Biffy said and then added ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Is everything alright?
    The bar was nearly empty so Nat proceeded to tell Biffy the whole story. When Nat had finished Biffy poured him a second pint and leaned over the bar whispering ‘You’re a good looking young man Nat. Perhaps he’s taken a shine to you.’
    Nat blushed and Biffy laughed in a kindly way then added ‘ Don’t worry, you go on up and have an early night. If anyone like that comes in asking after you I’ll get rid of them sharpish.’
    Nat smiled then thanked Biffy and lifted the bar flap to go through to the back. Nat popped in the kitchen to collect his tray. Susan had left him a plate of ham salad and two buttered rolls. Nat poured a jug of water then took a glass and added them to the tray. On the first landing he used the bathroom and had a hot shower, then continued on up to his room. He opened his door one handed while balancing the tray so he could turn off the landing light. Once in his room he didn’t put the overhead light on as there was plenty of moonlight streaming in the closed double doors to the fire escape platform. Half way across the room Nat froze as he saw movement out on the platform. Hardly able to breathe he just stood there as the tray began to tremble in his hands. The water jug was chinking away at the glass next to it and the cutlery was providing an accompaniment. Nat closed his eyes and counted to twenty. The thought slowly came to him that it could be his own refection in the moonlight caught by the window panes of the doors. As the tray stopped rattling Nat started breathing again and his pulse began to slow. Little by little Nat opened his eyes and turned his head. There he was staring back at himself with his mouth hanging open and his chest heaving to draw in air. Nat berated himself for being such a fool and placed the tray on the small table next to the wardrobe as he chuckled nervously. The fright had given him quite an appetite so he took his food out on to the platform to sit and eat. Sitting in the moonlight later with a full stomach he noticed how much cooler the evenings were getting and how it was getting dark much earlier. The back street behind the rear gate only had one working lamp post and when it came on it could only cast a sickly yellow glow for some time while it warmed up. Nat could see almost the whole street from where he was sitting. Just then a figure came around the corner at the far end of the street. The street was a cul-de-sac which ended at the pubs back wall so Nat expected this late home-comer would stop at one of the terraced houses, produce a key and go indoors. Halfway down the street the figure stopped under the fetid light.

    ‘This must be where he lives’ thought Nat whose mind was refusing to accept that this disquieting character was wearing what could be a ‘Trilby’ and was definitely wearing a long dark coat. Nat stared in quiet disbelief as the figure turned towards him, removed his Trilby and bent from the waist sweeping the hat in an arc before him in the manner of bowing in greeting. Nat gasped with shock as the figure straightened and replaced the hat on its bony bald pate. Even at this distance the figures upturned face revealed a feral grin that a skull would be proud of. The replacing of the hat thankfully returned the features to darkness. What happened next caused Nat to doubt his own senses. The sinister revenant levitated slightly upwards then rotated fully three times before gliding up the street and away without ever touching the ground. Nat hurried inside and bolted the doors. Moving swiftly he hurried down to the bar just as Biffy was sliding the bolts into place behind the last customer. Not quite the last customer as Nat noticed an old man in the corner wearing a tattered cheese-cutter cap and an old Harris Tweed jacket. Biffy called out
    ‘Couldn’t sleep then … never mind go and sit with Father Willard over there. I’ll be with you in a minute.’


    continued
     
    #14
  15. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    CHAPTER TWO

    MIDDLE GAME

    Nat glanced at the old man who smiled and beckoned him over. As Nat approached the corner table Father Willard stood up and grabbed Nat’s right hand shaking it vigorously. Beaming with good humour Father Willard introduced himself in a broad Irish brogue.
    ‘So pleased to meet you young master Nat. Dillon Willard at your service, of the church but no longer with the church. Come, come sit down. Biffy has told me much about yourself.’
    Nat slumped into a chair and tried to smile but it just didn’t work. Biffy came over clutching a bottle of Laphroaig, three glasses and a bottle of Uisge spring water. Biffy sat down and explained the after-hours drinking.
    ‘Dillon here is teaching me to play chess in a most expensive way; every time I lose he gets another shot of my best whiskey. One day when I am poor and better at playing chess Dillon here might go home sober for once.’
    Dillon smiled and accepted the generous glass of Laphroaig that Biffy gave him. Nat tried without success to refuse the equally generous glass that Biffy put in front of him. Dillon waited till Biffy’s glass was ready then lifted the bottle of Uisge and topped up each glass with an amount of water equal to the whiskey. Nat was eager to tell Biffy what he had seen behind the pub but before he could speak Dillon placed a friendly hand on his forearm and spoke first
    ‘Biffy here has told me about your unwelcome follower. Please feel free to speak about it if you so wish. I can see that you are troubled and I can assure you that nothing you say will either shock or surprise me.’
    Nat mumbled a thank you and proceeded to report on all that had just transpired. When Nat had finished speaking Biffy got up and fetched his coat. Returning to the table he asked Dillon for the loan of his knobkerrie walking stick. Biffy stood gently smacking the bulbous end of the stick into his left palm. He then told Nat to remain with Dillon, adding;
    ‘I’m just going to take a quick look round the back streets starting with Hobs Lane and work my way back towards the supermarket. If this stalker is human then I can put a stop to his little game. If he is something else then Father Willard here may be able to help.’
    With that Biffy took the Key to the back gate that led into Hobs Lane and set off with a determined stride. As soon as Biffy was gone Dillon refilled their glasses and explained Biffy’s parting remark.
    ’ I’m afraid Biffy thinks me an expert on all things supernatural on account of my once performing exorcisms. In fact I performed one too many exorcisms and that’s what got me thrown out of the church. That last one couldn’t wait until I had approval so I went ahead and got myself into trouble by doing it anyway. It was foolish of me but I don’t regret it. It probably saved the young man’s life. Only about one in a hundred cases that the church looks at are genuine victims of possession. The rest are either emotional or mental disorders that are equally distressing but requiring more orthodox treatment’
    Nat tried to ask more on the subject but Dillon refused to be drawn. He did however add;
    ‘Let me ask you a question Nat. Why does the barrel of a gun work ?
    Nat replied hesitantly; ’It points the bullet in the right direction ?
    ‘No’ Dillon answered ‘that is how it works, I asked why it works.’
    After several wrong answers Dillon explained;
    ‘The barrel works because it is empty. When you perform an exorcism you have to be as empty as a clean gun barrel. The force comes through you and onto the target. Any pride or ego on your own part acts like an obstruction in the barrel. The whole thing can misfire and damage yourself and the one you are trying to help. If you think a successful exorcism is in any way due to anything more than being an empty conduit then you are bound to fail.’
    To his credit Nat found this easy to understand so he continued his questioning in a more general direction;
    ‘So you believe in ghosts, demons and devils and the whole supernatural bit do you ?
    Dillon smiled and took a sip before answering;
    ‘Have you ever been to a football match or a pop concert ? That feeling of elation and detachment from everyday reality is caused by being part of a larger whole. The same happens in churches. You dip into what Carl Jung would call the collective subconscious. It is a common soul of humanity that links us all. It can affect our thoughts and our feelings, even our dreams. It stretches back to the dawn of mankind. People enter it when they are born and leave it when they die but the collective subconscious remains. Many of our fears are atavistic. Things that frightened or harmed our ancestors are known to us by what we call instinct. That instinct is really a warning from the collective subconscious. Certain images such as skulls or horned beasts trigger fears buried deep within us. When we cannot understand those fears we blame it on the supernatural. The supernatural is actually very natural. So called witches and magicians simply know how to manipulate people’s fears in order to control them. As for ghosts, they are our astral bodies that for some reason haven’t moved on. Sometimes when we sleep we drift onto the astral plane but remain connected to our bodies by what the Bible calls the silver cord. As mentioned in Ecclesiastes 12:6 ; Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken.
    The golden bowl clearly refers to a skull. Listen Nat I don’t mean to preach or force scripture on you. I can only explain these things as I see them. It is up to you how you interpret my words’
    Nat urged Dillon to continue, and then added;
    ‘I can accept everything you have said to a point but how does this sinister stalker fit into it all, what is he after ?
    Dillon explained that this was probably still the first stage. The first objective was to create fear. After that it would be a matter of using that fear to dominate and control. Only then would this dark one's demands be made. Just then Biffy returned and double checked all the locks and bolts before sitting back down. After draining his glass in one go he looked at them both very sombrely and said;
    ‘This is one sick bastard. I never saw him once but everywhere I looked there were dead cats. Not visibly injured just dead. As if they had just died from shock. There was a young policeman in one street that didn’t like the look of this walking stick so I put on a bit of a limp and hurried back.’
    Nat thanked Biffy for trying to catch the stranger and bade both men goodnight. Nat explained to Dillon that he had work in the morning but would speak to him again soon. Biffy told Nat to text him if the stranger turned up at the supermarket again. Nat went upstairs and fell asleep as soon as he lay down. The next day was uneventful as was the day after but on Friday morning a parcel arrived for Nat which Susan had to sign for. There was an old range in the kitchen that was no longer in use but the cast iron stove made an ideal safe for the pubs takings. Biffy had replaced the oven door handle with one that locked and Susan put Nat’s parcel in the stove to give to him later. Friday night in the pub was busier than ever with Nat, Biffy and Susan all working together to keep up. Just before last orders were called Dillon came in and took his favourite corner seat. When all the customers had gone Dillon went around the tables collecting glasses which he took to the end of the bar where Susan and Nat were loading and unloading the two glass-washing machines. Biffy set about locking up and checking the floor for any spillage. When all the work was done Biffy fetched his chess set and the drinks and glasses. Susan still had some things to do in the kitchen before going upstairs so she wished the men goodnight and disappeared. Ten minutes later Susan returned with Nat’s parcel. Nat thanked Susan and assured her there was no need to apologise for not giving it to him earlier. As Dillon and Biffy had started their chess game Nat moved to the next table to open the parcel. Nat noted with surprise the ‘Margate’ post mark. His mother had said nothing on the phone about sending him a parcel. The second surprise was how weighty it was. It was only the size of a cigar box but was very heavy. Once unwrapped Nat found an envelope with his name on it and a heavy flat box covered in camel hide leather that was embossed all over with hieroglyphics. Dillon and Biffy looked over and Nat beckoned them to come take a look. Dillon took a pair of glasses from his jacket pocket and studied the curious box. Biffy went off to the kitchen to make some sandwiches and let Nat read his letter;

    Dearest Nathan,
    please ask Biffy and Susan to hide this box for me. They will know where to put it. We will be away for a little while and need a safe place to keep it. It has been in our family for many generations and is probably quite valuable. One day it will be yours. I shall leave it to you as my mother left it to me and her mother did before that. We had a visitor the other day. A most unpleasant character who wanted to rent a room. It was Tristram who answered the door and turned the man away saying that we were full up. Something about the stranger really upset Tristram. Afterwards Tristram suggested that we both take a little holiday abroad. I do not want to leave this jewellery in the house while we are away so please keep it in its box in a safe place. If anyone asks after us don’t tell them anything and don’t mention the necklace in the box. Take care my love. Will ring you soon. Love Mum.

    Nat handed the letter to Biffy who had returned from the kitchen. Dillon asked Biffy to fetch him a magnifying glass. Biffy read the letter then hurried off to fetch the magnifying glass. Half an hour later Nat and Biffy were still sat there watching Dillon examine the hieroglyphics that covered the box.
    ‘Can you actually read what it says ? Asked Nat.
    Dillon was too engrossed to even hear Nat speaking to him but Biffy grunted and spoke up;
    ‘What did I tell you, if it’s beyond the grasp of normal folk then Dillon here will know all about it. When it comes to religion or the supernatural I’m a basic meat and two veg type of guy but Dillon here is a walking encyclopaedia of the weird and peculiar. ‘
    Nat chuckled but knew that Biffy spoke out of respect for his friend the chess teacher. At last Dillon looked up and took out an old ivory handled pocket knife. Using it gently Dillon began to run the knife around the groove in the edge of the box.
    ‘This has been sealed with Gum Arabic’ Dillon informed his audience of two ‘ but don’t worry, we can reseal it with candle wax once we’ve seen what’s inside.’
    Nat and Biffy remained where they were. Both were reluctant to get too close to the mysterious box. Dillon eased the lid gently away from its base. There were no hinges so Dillon gently placed the lid to one side. He sat there for a while mumbling to himself ;
    ‘Oh me oh my, this is incredible. Holy Moley ………. Come, take a look.’
    Nat and Biffy obliged but their untrained eyes could see only a tarnished old necklace made from many strands. The camel leather outer skin of the box had been glued onto a cast iron inner box with a close fitting lid of the same materials. The necklace was pinned to a piece of cork in the base of the box. Dillon was smiling from ear to ear. He waved his hands towards the necklace and almost shouted with excitement;
    ‘What you are looking at is probably five thousand years old. This is the Usekh, an ancient Egyptian necklace said to possess magical properties. Look at the colours of these beads. See those green ones. The ancient Egyptians believed in the cycle of life and death, so green is associated life but also with death and resurrection. Osiris was a god of the dead whose wife Isis conceived a son Horus and the ancient Egyptians believed that he could help them make their way to an eternal paradise. The red beads represent chaos and are closely associated with Seth who represented everything that threatened Egypt. The worship of Seth originally started on the western bank of the Nile. Seth is the ‘false one’ who killed his own brother Osiris. Osiris's wife Isis resurrected him long enough to conceive a son and heir Horus. Horus sought revenge upon Seth. But let us speak no more of this at the moment. Look here; at these blue beads. Dark blue colours symbolise fertility and good luck. The yellow beads represent that which is eternal and indestructible, and are closely associated with gold and the sun. Gold was thought to be the substance which formed the skin of the gods. White was particularly associated with symbolic religious objects and tools such as those used in mummification rituals.’
    Biffy stifled a yawn but Nat urged Dillon to continue. Dillon looked at his old friend Biffy who looked embarrassed then said;
    ‘Go on, just get on with it. I’m off to make us all some coffee. It’s going to be a long night.’
    Dillon thanked him and then continued;
    ‘The black beads represent death and the afterlife. Queen Ahmose-Nefertari was often depicted with black skin. It was symbolic of the fact that she was the patroness of the Necropolis. This Usekh was used by an important priest, maybe even a sorcerer. This gold amulet in the centre is a miniature sarcophagus that has been circled with three gold wires. That suggests that the wearer had some power over the dead. I studied Egyptology when I was at university in Ireland and there is only one reference to this particular amulet. It is found in the ‘Papyri Graecae Magicae’ which is a collection of papyri containing occult spell books and scrolls of arcane knowledge. These are thought to come from Necropolis which is also known as Thebes or modern day Luxor. Most ancient Egyptians were concerned with preparing for the afterlife and accepted death as part of the correct order of things. There was one group though that sought to cheat death by taking the body of another person. This involved drugging their victim who was always young and healthy, and performing a dangerous operation in which one of the victims ribs were removed. If the victim survived they would be nursed back to full health and the stolen rib would then be carved into a crude knife. It was believed that such a knife could be used to sever the victims’ astral body from their sleeping form. Only a skilled sorcerer could perform such an abomination. Objects on the astral plane have to be visualised into existence. That includes clothing. This is why so many people think they have dreamt of walking about naked. An experienced astral traveller can clothe themselves and even alter their appearance. A high priest could no doubt summon such a knife as the bone itself would not be dead. Bone itself does not die until it dehydrates and the victims rib would be kept in a specially shaped ritualistic bowl that contained the victims’ blood and some fatty tissue. The blood would be replenished every day until the final ritual was performed. The followers of the priesthood would be experts in such skills. The victim would finally be drugged again but only into a deep sleep. The priest would then strip naked and adorn themselves with this Usekh, ‘The Usekh of Souls’. They would then go into a trance and leave their own body. The next stage involved tricking the sleeping victim into leaving their physical body. The priest would then grasp the two silver cords. That is the two astral umbilical cords. One would be the victims and one would be his own. With supreme effort the priest would sever the two cords with the rib knife while beseeching Seth to bless his efforts. The victims’ astral cord would be cast aside as would the priests’ physical cord. The two remaining ends would then be joined and the high priest would enter the body of the young victim. The last part of the ritual would entail the priest awakening in his new body, taking the knife of rib bone and plunging it into the heart of what had once been his own body. By performing this ritual every thirty to forty years the priest could continue to cheat death.’
    Dillon sighed and leaned back in his chair as Biffy returned with the coffee. When Biffy was sure Dillon was enjoying his coffee and had stopped speaking for a while he added his own part to the tale;
    ‘I can remember finding that box on the top of your grandmothers’ wardrobe when I was a young child’ he said to Nat ‘it was near Christmas and your mother Raneem and I were searching for any hidden presents. When we found the box I wanted to open it but Raneem started to cry and begged me not to. I gave the box to her and left the room in disgust. When our mother Amina came home Raneem was still sitting there hugging the box to her chest and rocking back and forth. Raneem was in a kind of trance. Amina gently took the box from her and laid Raneem on the bed. I was terrified that Raneem was hurt and it was my fault. Amina assured me that Raneem would be fine after a little rest. I was made to promise never to touch the box again. Amina told me it was poisonous and very dangerous. When Amina died the box was left to Raneem who must have kept it hidden until now.’
    Biffy shrugged and picked up his coffee. This was Dillon’s cue to resume his explanations. Before doing so he closed the box and fetched a candle from behind the bar. With the candle lit he gently dripped hot wax into the groove where the lid met the base. When he had finished he went on to explain;
    ‘The hieroglyphics on the camel leather are in superb condition. The skin has been oiled regularly and kept in a cool place. The writing warns that this Usekh belongs to the ancient one known as Khonsu. It also explains that the Usekh should be kept in the iron box and sealed to prevent Khonsu from ever finding it. The writings are said to be authored by ‘The Daughters of Horus’. Those priestesses devoted their lives to opposing the works of Seth and the cult of ‘The Usekh of Souls’ who stole the bodies of living young men. I believe that ‘The Daughters of Horus’ are still active and that Raneem is one of them as was her mother Amina. The iron such as the box is made of is said to shield ‘The Usekh of Souls’ from Khonsu. Without the box this Usekh would shine forth on the astral plane like a homing beacon. Khonsu must have been searching for ‘The Usekh of Souls’ for many generations. His earthly body will be way past the point at which it needed replacing. The ‘Papyri Graecae Magicae’ were discovered in the early nineteenth century in a hidden underground library. They are thought to have belonged to a Theban sorcerer. If that sorcerer were Khonsu then ‘The Usekh of Souls’ would no doubt have been found around the same time and sold to a private collector. It can’t have been bought by a museum or I would have read about it. I believe ‘The Daughters of Horus’ used their vast resources to purchase ‘The Usekh of Souls’ and then hid it from Khonsu in this box. If Khonsu had just taken a fresh body before losing ‘The Usekh of Souls’ then by now he would be a very old man. By now his body would be little more than a corpse kept alive by sorcery. He probably spends most of his time on the astral plane searching the whole planet year after year for his precious Usekh of Souls. He would know of the ‘The Daughters of Horus’ and would seek them out. They are of a royal blood line and he would know if one was near. No doubt ‘The Daughters of Horus’ would know this and would use various spells and amulets to conceal their presence. Unfortunately for you Nat, he found you by chance. He would have been confused at first to find a young man in London with the aura of ‘The Daughters of Horus’ about him. No doubt he has worked out who you are and traced your mother Raneem to Margate. That is who Tristram must have turned away at the door. After that she has wisely decided to disappear. She would have known that Biffy’s kitchen range was cast iron and the perfect place to hide the box. She would have guessed that it was Khonsu or one of his servants that Tristram had turned away but I don’t think she realised that Khonsu had found you first or she would never have sent the box here. She would have taken the box with her. Khonsu will not believe that she has sent the box here but he will be watching this place in-between searching for Raneem. I do not believe we are in any physical danger but you Nat are almost certainly going to be attacked spiritually. I want you to learn this ancient prayer that I have written down for you. It is called ‘St Patrick's Breastplate’ it is a strong defence against sorcery.
    You should memorise it and when using it try to visualise a protective shell shaped like an egg is surrounding you. A golden shell that wards off all evil..’
    Nat took the offered prayer and read it;
    Christus mecum,
    Christus ante me,
    Christus me pone,
    Christus in me,
    Christus infra me,
    Christus supra me,
    Christus ad dextram meam,
    Christus ad laevam meam,
    Christus hine,
    Christus illine,
    Christus a tergo.
    Nat protested that he didn’t understand Latin but Dillon assured him that he didn’t need to. To keep Nat happy he quickly jotted down another copy in English;

    Christ with me,
    Christ before me,
    Christ behind me,
    Christ in me,
    Christ beneath me,
    Christ above me,
    Christ on my right,
    Christ on my left,
    Christ when I lie down,
    Christ when I sit down,
    Christ when I arise.

    Nat folded the prayers and watched as Biffy took the box and wrapped it in the paper from the parcel and carried it to the kitchen. Dillon and Nat watched as Biffy slid the parcel to the back of the opened oven door then replaced the cash box and account books in front of it. The three men returned to the bar for a nightcap. Any plans to play chess tonight were long forgotten. It would soon be daylight. Nat could sleep in till ten o’clock this morning but Biffy had to restock the shelves and do some cellar-work. Dillon said he would stay and help Biffy if it would earn him a free lunch. He was a great fan of Susan’s homemade pies. Nat went up and slept soundly until his turn at the bar later that morning. The rest of the day was uneventful and that evening Dillon and Biffy got back to playing chess. Nat decided on an early night and left the two of them with a jolly ‘May the best man win.’
    After Nat had gone upstairs Biffy asked Dillon if Nat was going to be up to facing what lay ahead. Dillon laid a reassuring hand on his friends shoulder and answered;
    ‘Perhaps the worst is over. Khonsu may exhaust himself searching for Raneem. His earthly body may crumble into dust and leave him powerless and stranded upon the astral plane doomed to an eternity of self-loathing.’
    Biffy cheered up at this thought and replied; ’Sounds too good for him if you ask me.’


    continued
     
    #15
  16. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    CHAPTER THREE the final chapter
    END GAME

    Nat awoke suddenly, too suddenly. He knew straightaway that this was no dream. The room around him was ill defined. Like an oil painting done in shades of blue and black. Rotating slowly as if on a roasting spit he looked down upon his own sleeping body. A thin silvery cord that seemed to be made of smoking silk connected his two selves. Simply by wanting to move he rotated again and adopted a sitting position. His naked astral form glowed slightly and seemed far more real than the sleeping body of heavy flesh that lay below him. He chose to clothe himself in jeans and a tea shirt, with a new pair of high-top trainers. Slowly at first he began to move about the room whilst still sitting cross legged and quite at ease. Upon reaching the windows he drifted through them and outside. With no sense of fear or vertigo he drifted out beyond the fire escape until he was in mid-air. It all seemed so right and natural. This was how we were meant to travel. His body felt full of light and energy, no wonder he was glowing. All around him above the rooftops were the forms of drifting sleepers like so many people shaped balloons. Here and there were those that were aware of their surroundings and were on their way to or from a destination of choice. This peace and sense of well-being were disturbed by a deep vibration. The sleeping forms of all those around him retracted to their own bodies. A primal warning had been heeded. Nat remained suspended a hundred feet above the murky rose arbours below him. The vibration increased like the slow swelling of a bass pedal on a giant pipe organ. It was slightly discordant like the soundtrack to a cheap horror film. As the vibration grew in strength an obnoxious odour assailed his senses. It smelt like burning hair and rotten fish. Almost instinctively Nat began to recite the prayer that Dillon had given him. Parts of it came out in Latin and some in English but it didn’t seem to matter. Around him the shape of a transparent golden eggshell was forming. The jarring vibration was muted to a comfortable low hum and the pestiferous odours disappeared. A dull orange glow began to form in the centre of Hobs Lane in front of him. The glow swelled and rose in the air before him as it changed to a vivid red that offended his vision. The red fog coalesced into a man like shape a short distance in front of him. It was the tall slightly humped figure that had followed him home. Gone were the coat and hat. They would have been preferable to the abomination that revealed itself to him. This man-thing was completely naked apart from an ornate head mask that resembled a cross between a giraffe, a camel and an ant eater all as black as obsidian. The body looked like a skeleton wrapped in flesh coloured cling-film. Its genitals were deformed and comprised of two swollen phalli one above the other that were bald at the base but had a corona of pubic hair around each foreskin. When Khonsu spoke the voice came from inside Nat’s head in a most unpleasant way. It was a feminine voice, like that of a young girl that had a sore throat;
    ‘I see the interfering priest has been offering you protection. No matter, I am not here to harm you. Indeed I am very interested in preserving your fine young body. You could say I have a vested interest in it. It is important that you follow me now. No harm will befall you this night. As for the future, that will be up to you.’
    Khonsu turned and moved slowly away. Nat would not leave his protection behind but as he tentatively edged forwards the egg like shield moved with him. Safe in the knowledge that his protection would be with him Nat followed into the unknown. Soon the landscape below him was a steady blur. Stopping was instant and without any sense of inertia. Nat found himself in a hospital ward. Judging by the signs around him he guessed it was in Spain. Lying in the bed before him was his mother Raneem. Slumped in a chair next to her was the sleeping body of Tristram. Khonsu’s shrill voice cut into Nat’s mind once again;
    ‘She is in a coma. Her valiant champion of a boyfriend does not know why. But then neither do the doctors. Come and I will show you the reason.’
    Nat was pleased to leave his mother’s unconscious form as he had noticed Khonsu’s two vile appendages begin to engorge. No way did he want this abomination anywhere near his mother. Nat was aware that they were now moving away from planet earth. They stopped beside a cliff face with a small cave in its centre. There was a membrane of sorts stretched over the entrance and seated within in a hunched position sat his mother’s ethereal form. As she looked up Nat let out a cry of despair. In the blink of an eye Nat then found himself back beside Hobs Lane one hundred feet up above the rose arbours. With tears in his eyes he watched as Khonsu entered the pub and then returned. This time there was a hint of malevolent glee in Khonsu’s squeaky voice;
    ‘She will remain in a coma until it pleases me to release her soul from its prison. That will be up to you. Do as I say and I will release her. The interfering priest has gone home and your Neanderthal uncle is fast asleep in bed. I want you to return to your body and dress and pack. Remove my parcel from the stove and write a note to your uncle saying you have heard from your mother and will be joining her abroad, with the parcel as she has requested. Go to Hobs lane one hour from now and a taxi will be waiting for you. I was watching the pub when your stupid priest opened the iron box. Thanks to him my search is over. That is all. Now go.’
    Nat did exactly as he had been told. One hour later he was in a taxi speeding towards the Sussex countryside. Nat was in no mood to talk and the driver was happy with the radio damaging his ear drums. They arrived at an impressive converted chapel in the middle of the countryside half a mile from the last village they had passed through. The taxi had been paid for by debit card over the phone so Nat only had to give the driver an ironic thank you and approach the building. The door was closed but not locked. Anger was beginning to replace fear so he entered and called out ;
    ‘Right … I’m here. Now let her go !
    From a side door to the large hallway emerged an old man. He was tall and hunched and wore a filthy full length dressing gown cinched in the middle by a dirty green tasselled rope. His hair was long and yellowed and clumps were missing from his bony scalp where they had been replaced by festering sores. His face looked like a white prune with dark eye sockets and yellow flicks of light seemed to dance where his eyes should be. His feet were thankfully hidden in carpet slippers so filthy they were a shiny black. His mouth was a lip-less slit stretched over brown teeth. He stank with a combination of urine, faeces and vomit. Only the voice was the same as his ethereal other self. A nasty high pitched whine.
    ‘Not so fast young man, show me the Usekh.’
    Nat unzipped the sports bag lying at his feet. With incredible speed a bony claw of a hand shot out and plunged a hypodermic needle into the back of Nat’s hand. The syringe contained less than half a milligram of Tetrodotoxin in a carrier solution. That was all that was needed to render Nat totally incapable of any movement yet leave him fully conscious.
    With painful awareness Nat watched as Khonsu fetched a wheel chair and lifted him into it. Stout leather belts held him in place while he was wheeled through to a large room at the back. He knew straight away that this was once the centre rear of the chapel. The crucifix had been replaced by a hideous statue of the Egyptian God Seth. The altar had been converted into a modern operating table. A trolley containing surgical instruments was close at hand complete with scalpels and bone saws. In front of the statue of Seth was a marble plinth with a small curved ivory bowl. Nat knew why there was no anaesthetic equipment in the room. Above the sacrilegious altar was a ceiling hoist. Nat had to endure witnessing the whole hideous proceedings but fortunately passed out as the selected rib was removed. He awoke in a hospital bed that had been set up in another room. The straight jacket was fastened to the frame of the bed and allowed little or no movement. The stitches across his lower chest were itching terribly.
    Khonsu sat in an arm chair by the door as he expertly carved a crude knife from the stolen rib. The girlish voice sounded genuinely happy;
    ‘Tomorrow will be the big day. You are so privileged to be serving the ancient one with your sacrifice. When I am reborn I shall keep my word and release your mother, Raneem. I shall bring her here and keep her for my pleasure. Now now, don’t strain like that or you’ll ruin my stitches.’
    Nat was beyond despair. In a way it would be a merciful release when the sharpened rib was plunged into his heart. Exhaustion granted Nat a merciful night of sleep. He must have been drugged again while he slept for he awoke to find himself back on the altar. Apart from some stout leather straps the medical equipment had been removed. The walls were now covered in tapestries and ancient oil lamps had been lit. The air was heavy with a pungent sweet aroma that Nat suspected to be opium. Khonsu stood before the statue as if praying. The old man was totally naked apart from The Usekh of Souls about his bony neck. In his right hand he held the sharpened rib. He turned and spoke to Nat for the last time;
    ‘I went to look in on the pub last night. Your friends think you have been very foolish running off like that to find your mother but they wish you well. I shall visit them soon in a body they will recognise as yours. It will be amusing to kill them slowly as I explain to them what has really happened to you. Plenty of time for fun later, now I must journey to the other side. There are some loose ends to be tidied up.’
    Khonsu lowered himself into a throne like chair next to a brazier where the opiated incense was burning. He laid his bony head back and breathed deeply as he entered into his final trance. Nat could not move but his field of vision saw the door handle explode in a shower of splinters and shotgun pellets. Tristram kicked in the door and levelled his second shot gun at Khonsu. Both barrels erupted at once and Khonsu’s head flew apart like a grenade going off in a water melon. Tristram kicked the headless cadaver to the floor and tipped the brazier of hot coals on to it. In a stride he crossed the room and cut Nat free with a commando knife taken from his boot sheath. He then grabbed Nat in a gentle fireman’s lift and hurried from the building. The fire was taking swift hold as the timbered roof supports welcomed the cleansing fire. No more would this once holy building bear witness to evil blasphemies. Tristram had a hire car waiting at the entrance to the drive and after securing Nat safely in the back seat with two seat belts Tristram drove off before they were seen.
    On the way back to London Tristram stopped and using his mobile rang the hospital in Spain. Sure enough with Khonsu dead at last Raneem had woken up and she sent them both her love.
    Tristram briefly explained to Nat that in the early twentieth century The Daughters of Horus had started to recruit male members from among the women’s families. This was done to confuse the servants and followers of ‘The Usekh of Souls’ cult. Tristram had come to England to help Raneem guard the necklace. Fate took a hand and they had fallen in love. Tristram went on ; ‘When Khonsu took you to the hospital in Spain I was not merely asleep. It is often the vanity of evil that leads to its downfall. If Khonsu had not underestimated me he would have been aware that I was also on the astral plane and watching from a safe distance. I followed to the lunar cave and then on to the pub. While you were packing your things I returned to Raneem but could not release her. She assured me that she would be released as soon as Khonsu was defeated. So I returned and followed the taxi. One look in the old chapel and I knew I had to hurry. I returned to my sleeping body and hurried back to England. The Daughters of Horus had a car waiting for me at Gatwick airport with a brace of double barrelled Purdeys locked in the back. I knew roughly where you were and it looks like I was just in time.’
    The bouncing of the car and the open rear windows had begun to revive Nat so that by the time they reached Biffy’s pub he was able to hobble in and sit by a roaring log fire. Closing time had been half an hour ago but there would be no chess game tonight. Biffy, Susan and Dillon had been waiting to greet the heroes since Tristram had rung earlier. They all huddled around the fire with glasses in hand as Dillon proposed the first of many toasts;
    ‘ To the victors of the end game.’ The reply was echoed back ‘ The end game.’

    THE END
     
    #16

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