Extremes

Digression first – I think I have a title for the Christmas anthology. ‘The Silence of the Night’.

Although maybe ‘The Silence of the Reindeer’…or is that too brutal, even for me? I have some fava beans and a nice Chianti here if anyone wants to come round and argue about it.

Anyway. It has 16 stories from ten authors, three of whom are new entrants to the Underdog Anthologies. Stories range from traditional, whimsical, romantic, dark, to… mine. Editing is complete (unless another one comes in, it’s not closed yet) and this weekend will be occupied with sending out author contracts and payments (it’s also quarterly payments time for the novel authors) and putting it all together.

So, a quick one before going quiet again.

I hear Ohio are now demanding that doctors transplant ectopic pregnancies into the woman’s womb, or they’ll be prosecuted for ‘abortion murder’. This takes the ‘no abortion’ extreme beyond the pale. Even the Grauniad think this is a stupid idea. It’s that bad.

Ectopic pregnancy is where the placenta tries to implant in a Fallopian tube instead of in the uterus. Untreated, it is fatal. Both mother and baby will die.

The only treatment is to operate to remove the wrongly implanted foetus and that has to be done very early on, well before any sane country’s abortion limit. Yes, the baby will die but that was inevitable anyway. The mother can survive.

So, the Ohio idiots-in-charge have decreed that doctors cannot simply remove that wrongly implanted pregnancy, they must transplant it into the mother’s uterus. This is a medical procedure that, in layman’s terms, does not exist. It has never been done. It has never been attempted. Nobody has the slightest idea how to do it and it’s unlikely to work anyway.

You would have to extricate the placenta from the Fallopian tube and then reconnect it to the wall of the uterus in the exact same pattern of blood vessels. I really don’t think modern science can do this and I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the first doctor to try it. The experiment, for that is what it would be, is likely to fail and kill both the mother and the baby.

So, you are a doctor in Ohio and you have a patient with an ectopic pregnancy. Your choices are –

  1. Do nothing, let the patient die, be sued for malpractice.
  2. Attempt a never-before-tried experimental transplant and most likely kill the patient and be sued for malpractice.
  3. Perform the correct surgery, remove the wrongly-implanted foetus, save the mother’s life and… go to jail as an ‘abortion murderer’.

If I was a medical doctor in Ohio you know what I’d do? I’d relocate, fast! Before any patient shows up that is going to wipe me out one way or another. It’s probably best to avoid Ohio because if you get sick there, they soon won’t have any doctors at all. It’s not a safe place to be saving lives.

All of this is, of course, in retaliation for those states who have decreed abortion is legal right up to the moment of birth. Incidentally, Jerry Cordite’s Labour party want that here too. Pull out a fully formed infant and kill it. Premature births survive, a full term baby has no problem surviving, but if a mother in labour decides ‘nah, I don’t like it’, then baby dies.

In America now, you can cross a state line and move between a world where doctors are prosecuted for removing a wongly-implanted and inevitably fatal cell mass to a world where full term healthy babies are legally slaughtered. How the hell did it come to this?

What happened to a sensible medium course? That’s gone now, in so many areas. Humanity has polarised into extremes in every aspect of life. The centre ground is barren, the armies face each other on the peaks of extremity.

‘If you are not with us you are against us’ has always been a silly saying. Take the matter of gay marriage. I do not ‘support’ gay marriage, I do not ‘oppose’ it. Since I have no religion and I’m not gay, I don’t care about it at all. It’s none of my business. That, however, is not allowed. I must choose whether I celebrate it or condemn it. I refuse to choose. I don’t give a damn.

The Church of Climatology declare that if you do not accept the coming Fiery Armageddon of One Degree Temperature Rise then you are a ‘climate denier’. Personally I’d rather they were more honest about it and use the term ‘climate heretic’. At least they can’t burn us at the stake, not once we explain how much CO2 that would release.

A climate denier. Someone who denies the existence of climate? Well, they mean someone who denies that the climate changes. You know, someone utterly blinkered in their view of the world. They will never see the irony.

Of course the climate changes. The land masses move around. The atmosphere changes. There was a time when the atmosphere had a lot more oxygen than it has now. Sounds great? Well, you should see the size insects and spiders grew to when their oxygen intake was far less limited. Trust me, you don’t want those days back 😉 There was also a time when there was a lot more CO2 in the atmosphere. You won’t remember that time. Humans hadn’t yet appeared. Damn those dinosaur SUV’s eh?

The climate is changing as we speak. The sun has now entered a grand solar minimum and the coming years are going to be different. The thing is, they aren’t going to be warmer. Those solar panels are going to be covered in snow and the windmills will freeze up. It’s too late to build more traditional power stations, this isn’t ‘ten years away’, it’s now. If your house doesn’t have a chimney well you’d better get a generator to run some heating. Ideally something wood-fired because fossil fuels will still be taxed to the hilt to prevent the warming that isn’t happening. You could use some of Jerry’s billion imaginary trees.

Saying that puts me at an extreme. It’s no longer a reasonable ‘look at the actual science instead of obsessing over 0.04% of the atmosphere, most of which comes from mud flats and tundra anyway’. I’m a ‘climate denier’ for trying to warn of impending climate change. Well sod it. Let the buggers freeze. At least I can say I tried.

In America, you are either 100% for Trump or 100% against him. In the UK you are either 100% for Bozza or 100% for Jerry. There is no middle ground. The Lib Dims used to be a sort-of middle ground but Jo Swindles has taken them to the extreme too. Which extreme? Well they are on a little peak of their own that nobody is really looking at.

There have been many things I used to sneer at as conspiracy theories. Common Purpose. Well that’s real. You can see their little drones doing their teacher’s semaphore-signal exaggerated ‘body language’ in their speeches. It probably works if you don’t know about it. Now their graduates are fucking things up all over the planet. And it has become clear that that is exactly what they were meant to do. Take some dopes, teach them some tricks, set them loose and they will wreck everything while they honestly believe they are doing the right thing. Useful idiots, an age-old game.

The Georgia Guidestones, a modern day mini-Stonehenge with the New Commandments etched into them. Most likely the work of a rich lunatic but taken as Gospel by the idiots-in-charge. Massive population reduction is the delight of the cuddly Attenborough who you all love even though he wants you and your family dead. Reduce the global population to an easily controlled worker colony – it’s not a conspiracy theory when it’s in the open.

Old man Soros, with the face as benign as a smiling sloth. How could one old man be behind all this crap, I used to wonder. Now, I wonder how he’s still alive, he’s had a face like a retired army marching boot for many years. Then there is the conspiracy theory on adrenochrome, and now I have to wonder… all those very old white men, all those late term abortions… is it connected? Well anyway, it’s good story fodder.

This is the thing with writing. You research things. You make links that are credible, doesn’t matter if they are true, they just have to be believable within the context of the story. Those photos of ‘chemtrails’ might just be photos of busy airspace covered with vapour trails, but if I write something about chemtrails it’ll be credible because of those photos. We don’t see many of those trails here but then we are north of Aberdeen airport. Not much comes this way apart from helicopters heading for the oil rigs. They don’t leave trails.

I’ve written things that have later been true. ‘Telephone Pest’ happened six months after I wrote it. ‘The Sweet Man’ took about a year. I have stalled so many times on ‘Panoptica’ because the things I imagined turned up in the Daily Mail days later. I have wondered if maybe I should stop.

I’ve researched things for my writing, used ‘conspiracy theories’ to make them credible, and then watched it happen. A recent one. ‘All the Strangers’, had a kid with embedded electronics he never had to remove because it was wirelessly charged while he slept. I took the idea from the primitive wireless phone chargers that had started to appear at the time and combined it with the Borg and the alcoves they recharge in.

Now there are wireless chargers built into cars, and credit cards you just have to wave next to a reader. People have embedded chips to open doors at work. They will not balk at embedded credit card chips so they just have to wave their hand at a machine to pay for their shopping. They will fight to be first.

In this one, I will not be in the desolate middle ground. I will be right at the top of the ‘NO’ peak. As I am with things like Alexa, and TV with a camera in it. I do not want listening and watching devices in my home and I am sure as hell not paying to have them there.

So many other things. The human race is polarising. Us and them. With us or against us. The middle ground is a wasteland now. Make a choice. Choose one life or the other. You cannot choose your own.

If this continues it can only lead to one outcome.

They used to say, if you’re in the middle of the road you’ll get run over. Nowadays it might be the only safe place to be.

Because nobody else is there.

Abort!

I have an intermittent computer problem. I think it’s the video card driver but just to be sure I have spent tonight mostly backing up everything to do with Leg Iron Books. Just in case. I can sort this out in December after Underdog Anthology 10 is out and also Gastradamus’s short story collection.

Oh I’m also about due to pay for another year of hosting for Leg Iron Books, I have to check the dates on that!

I’m tied up with editing and writing at the moment which is why I’ve been quiet and haven’t said anything about the antivaping hysteria currently sweeping America. Well, they are an excitable bunch, those rebel colonists. That’s why we sent their ancestors there, so we could remain stoically British while all the shrieking loonies could go and live somewhere else. It might be time to try that again. Another clearout of loonies. We’re running out of places to send them.

Speaking of loonies, every political party in the UK, major and minor, is now promising shit they cannot possibly deliver in order to get us plebs to vote for them.

One thing stood out for me. Labour now want to follow the American Democrat dream of allowing abortion up to the moment of birth.

This is buried under their other impossible promises but it stood out for me because I’ve been writing a horror story based on this. Those near-term babies are a rich source of stem cells. The regeneration cells. The real elixir of youth if you can extract and use them correctly. Forget about the ‘adrenochrome’ crap, that’s just a drug, it has no use in biology.

Now this idea has come to the UK, touted by old men, isn’t that strange?

Can I get a story out of this? Oh hell yes, and you won’t believe it just like you chuckled over ‘All the Strangers’ and ‘For Whom the Bells Jingle’ and all the rest that are coming to fruition before your eyes.

Implanted chips and wireless charging, sounds harmless, doesn’t it? Even sounds like a great idea. Ever wondered why the Borg have to rest in those alcoves? Well, that’s you, that is. Recharging your implants.

You people buy listening devices for your homes. You buy televisions with cameras in them, they watch you more than you watch them. You delight in contactless credit cards and will fight to be first to have the chip implanted so you can’t lose it. You are becoming Borg and you are loving it. Assimilation will be easy. Resistance isn’t futile. There isn’t any.

I have a new Christmas story, well, two, one is just for fun. They will be in Underdog Anthology Ten for Christmas and one of them will be free on here.

Expect tales of gloom and despair.

It’s what I do 🙂

Hunger strikes and internet

The final round of visitors for the year have left. Nobody else is likely to want to visit now – it’s cold and wet and it’s dark by 4 pm. We’ve had our first icy patches, a taste of the coming winter, and the days have not yet finished shortening. Peace at last. Just to be sure, I will be circulating rumours about demons prowling the grounds in winter.

My mother has suggested we turn this place into a bed and breakfast. We’ve had a taste of what that would be like this year and it’s an absolute ‘no’ from both of us. See, neither of us actually like people very much and we don’t like getting up early. We don’t like the extra laundry generated by rapid changes of bedding and possibly most important of all, we only have one bathroom.

Add to that the absence of heating in the upstairs rooms and it would take some serious building work to make this place habitable for more than just a few people.

Anyway, the visits are over until at least late March, when the weather usually starts to become a bit less horrible, and that means lots of writing and publishing. I have a short story collection by the somewhat eccentric Gastradamus and editing is under way on the submissions so far received for the Christmas anthology. It’s going to be a big one and submissions are still open.

I have been trying to catch up with the news. Apparently Donnie Trumpton is now to be impeached because of something to do with Ukraine, but I can’t pay too much attention to other countries’ politics. Ours is in such a shambles it’s all anyone can do to keep up with it all.

Boris the Spider has promised to restore 5000 miles of railway and all the stations associated with it for 500 million shiny British pounds. We’ve all had a laugh at Diane Abbot’s flimsy grasp of real life costs, but Boris seems to be no better. 500 million would lay about a mile of track after they’ve paid for and demolished all the buildings that now exist on the old track beds. Most of the old bridges are gone, the ones left won’t be safe after half a century of neglect, and many of the tunnels have been filled in. 500 million? Hahaha.

The Keith and Dufftown Railway is a privately owned preserved line. It runs from the old Keith Town station, through a couple of wayside halts, to the old Dufftown station. It’s a favourite trip for me because it runs the old diesel multiple units I loved travelling on in the Welsh Valleys – the ones where you can sit right behind the driver and get a view through the front window.

Also because Keith is the home of Chivas Regal’s distillery and Dufftown has the Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries. It’s where the exceptionally smooth Singleton of Dufftown comes from. If you like ancient buildings, the ruin of Balvenie castle is also worth a visit. It’s very close to Glenfiddich’s distillery.

Now, just for once, there is a point to this digression. The old Keith Town station, now privately owned, is not too far from the main Keith station that is still operated as part of the national network. There is no longer any track between them, but the track bed is intact. The private railway would dearly love to reconnect to the main line but it costs far too much. If they could do it they would be able to provide the distilleries in Dufftown with a rail link to the main line. Yeah, there would be considerable profit, allowing the private line to actually pay the volunteers who run it now, and it would also reduce the numbers of huge trucks leaving those really big distilleries to transport whisky along the terrible roads in the area.

Boris, that might be a good place to start.

Jerry Cordite has promised free broadband for all. Yeah, right. We are still on copper-wire phone lines on posts out here. I don’t think he’s costed the more remote areas, you know. I actually get faster internet using the phone on 4G as a hotspot – but that only works in the right parts of this place because mobile reception is shit too.

Besides, as several commenters on Twitter have pointed out, if you’re going to make something free, why not water? Or electricity or gas? You know, stuff everyone needs. Not everyone uses the internet, even now, yet everyone will have to pay outrageous taxes so Jerry can give out his freebies. The taxes wouldn’t seem quite so bad if they were covering something as basic as a reliable water supply.

Ah, but it’s not really about free broadband. You’ll never see that. The first stage in making the internet ‘free’ is, of course, for government to take total control of it. Then they won’t make it ‘free’ in any sense. The government once owned British Telecom, the railways and the postal service. Was any of that ever free? Once they own something, they profit from it. You pay the costs, they take the profit. That’s socialism.

The internet under government control will be censored, monitored, and, as has just happened in Iran, switched off when the population cause the government problems.

Don’t imagine the Tories are any different. Tessie Maybe salivated at the prospect of internet control for many years, and tried to get it more than once. Government control of the internet is a terrible idea, no matter who is in charge.

I see Extinction Rebellion have rebranded as Election Rebellion, which is no surprise. They were always obviously communists using any pretext to force their ridiculous and deadly world view on us all.

They are now going on hunger strike for a week for some reason or other, I don’t know what they hope to achieve and don’t care. A week? They’ll be in Pret as soon as the sun goes down on day one. They cannot go 24 hours without their avocado toast and gingerbread lattes.

A week. I am singularly unimpressed. Muslims do this every year and they do it for a month. So the feeble watermelon warriors are going to try it for a week, once, and I bet not a single one of them makes it to Wednesday.

I once co-supervised an Indonesian student through his M.Sc. Brilliant guy, we ended up with a very good paper on ruminant microbiology from his eight weeks with us. Needless to say, he passed easily.

He was Muslim. This was back in the 1990s when we weren’t assailed with Islam this and Islam that from all sides. We thought nothing of it. He was a devout Muslim but he never mentioned it. Never tried to convert anyone. Never threatened anyone. Never demanded a prayer room or any kind of special treatment. His religion was personal to him, as it should be. And he was a very nice guy in general.

It was Ramadan, in June, in Scotland. The sun was up before 5 am and still there at 10 pm. He wasn’t eating or drinking anything during daylight hours. The poor bugger nearly passed out before we figured this out. And yet he produced work of a quality good enough to publish. While slowly starving to death.

The Watermelon Warriors, the ones who haven’t given up by Tuesday, will, on Wednesday, be on Twatter and Farcebok telling the world how they are suffering for their cause. I’ll tweet them pictures of plates piled high with food to help them cope.

Still, I suppose they’ll be well practiced for their dreamed-of Socialist future under Corbyn.

Then they’ll finally find out what ‘hunger’ really means.

Free Energy

First of all – the new Leg Iron Books publication. It actually came out on Sunday but as tradition dictates, this blog is silent for Remembrance Day. Both the Sunday and the actual 11th. So announcing the release had to wait.

***

Free energy. Turn the heating up to ‘equatorial’, leave the lights on all the time and have the oven eternally ready to bung in a roast. Pay nothing at all, or maybe pennies, for all that.

A pipe dream. Of course. If you did that now you’d probably bankrupt yourself in a month.

And yet…

Tesla had designed a free energy system based on the pyramids that dot the world. The pyramids were not burial mounds, not even the ones in Egypt, and it is becoming more and more clear that the ancient Egyptians didn’t build theirs. They found them already there. Already in the first stages of decline.

Gobekli Tepe is touted as the ‘beginning of civilisation’ but it clearly isn’t. It’s pretty advanced and ‘suddenly appeared’ from the nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in the region. They took one step from animal-skin tents to advanced stonework. Really? It was deliberately buried. Were they embarrassed by their non-tent-based endeavours because other tent-dwellers laughed at them? Or did they not even know it was already there? Was it a beginning or an end?

Did Tesla’s system work? We might never know. Free energy is the ultimate horror to any energy company. Of course they are going to shut it down – and energy companies are very, very powerful. Imagine every oil, gas and electricity company saying ‘Yeah, okay, it’s all free now, we’re closing down’. Then try to imagine it again. If you managed to do it the first time you’re living in cloud cuckoo land. If you managed the second time you probably vote Green.

Those companies, just like any other companies in any other line of business, will not go quietly into that good night. If anyone comes up with a free energy system based on Tesla’s ideas or zero point vacuum energy or anything else, they will be made an offer they can’t refuse and be silenced.

It’s not ‘conspiracy theory’, it’s perfectly logical business theory. If someone is going to shut down your multinational business at a stroke and you can afford to offer them enough cash to shut up about it, of course you’ll do it.

Then you get them to sign a draconian ‘shut the fuck up’ contract in exchange for enough cash to drink themselves into a coma. It works in every field. The penalties for breaking the shut-up contract are beyond anyone’s ability to pay.

Renewables, eh? Why didn’t the energy companies shut down the bird chopping windmills and the solar panels?

Simple. Those things are bollocks. Fads. Inherent failures. Incredibly polluting and anti-environmental horrors that the Greens think are wonderful, because they believe every word of the Green God of Utter Destruction of Everything the Greens Pretend to Stand For.

They are not competition for coal and oil and nuclear. They are a joke not even worthy of being included in a Christmas cracker. All the energy companies have to do is wait, watch and snigger. Let then screw up all they claim to want to preserve. They’ll be back.

If anyone comes up with a real free energy system, the big boys will fight it. They have not bothered to fight the wind and solar nonsense at all, and nobody seems to wonder why. Some have even got in on the subsidy act. Free energy? The hell with that- here’s free money.

‘The love of money is the root of all evil’ is an old saying, but the truth of it is imminent. The sun is now entering grand solar minimum – not ‘in ten years’, right now. Yet all the money is in warming while the planet cools.

Soon we’ll see climate protestors carried along by the glacier in the high street, shouting ‘global warming’ through their snorkel Parkas. The Green God’s acolytes will still believe.

Energy is not going to be free in the coming years. It’s going to be very expensive indeed. The windmills and solar panels will be of no use at all. There is nowhere near enough infrastructure to cope with extended cold. It’s all fallen for the warming crap.

It is not a surprise. Science has warned about this for a long time but you haven’t heard about it because it’s not ‘warming’. You can’t legitimately tax cold. Oh, some scientists have been warning for a long time. Chinese and Russian scientists aren’t silenced by the scam and their governments have been building reliable energy supplies to cope with it. Meanwhile our Western governments still think it’s getting warmer. Idiots.

You’ll pay more for heating and they will charge more for global warning.

This year, the winter death toll will take far more than the pensioners. And yet, the same idiots will be voted into government once again.

This is why I have a large stock of firewood, a petrol stash, and will be getting a generator in the coming weeks. The time for preparations is nearly over.

Winter is here.

Entertainment time – Troubled Water

Well, Halloween has passed so just for fun, here’s one of my stories from Underdog Anthology 9 – ‘Well Haunted‘.

I’m busy with a novel for publication at the moment, it’ll be done this week, but the rage is building at our political lunacy and I’ll be back.

In the meantime, a bit of fun…

Troubled Water

Murmurs in my dreams. Voices, insistent, persistent, nagging. It’s been so long. Why won’t they just let me sleep? Why won’t they let me fade into death in peace? I was so close. Nearly there. Nearly gone. They ignored me for so very long. Why now? I must answer. I am compelled.

He (or she or it, nobody was ever sure, not even itself any more) stretched and groaned from its slumber, then headed upwards. Slowly, reluctantly, it approached the tiny patch of daylight above it, reviving memories of so many years ago, of things it once enjoyed. No more.

***

“Take it easy. This isn’t a goddamn off-road wheelchair.” Brandon gripped the armrests as his chair lurched in another rut in the uneven ground. “And this field is full of cows. I hate cows.”

“You are wearing a leather jacket and we just had burgers for lunch. How can you say you hate cows?” Sally sighed and pushed the wheelchair forward a little more. “You’re heavy and it’s not my fault there’s no path from the road to the well.”

“I bought my jacket in a shop. We get burgers from a drive-through. What has that to do with cows?” Brandon coughed and spat. “There’s shit everywhere, don’t you dare let me fall in it.”

You might contaminate it. Sally closed her eyes for a moment. He’s my brother. He might be an insufferable arsehole but it’s not his fault, not really. He was born this way. I have to be more tolerant.

“I think I see it.” Brandon pointed ahead and a little to the left. “That pile of rocks. It’s like that photo on the Internet, not much of it left after nearly twelve hundred years but if it still has water, it should still be active.” He shifted in his seat to turn to look at Sally, a move that nearly tipped him over. “Well, come on, we’re almost there.”

Sally tightened her grip on the wheelchair handles, only just managing to keep Brandon upright. “Okay. Let’s take it slow and easy.” She moved the chair forward, watching for ruts in the cow-stomped wet ground. If this didn’t work, and she really didn’t think it would, she’d have to push him all the way back again.

“This is it.” Brandon leaned forward in his chair. “There’s a trickle of water. Not much, but the spring is still active.” He pulled a small metal cup from the recesses of his chair and handed it to Sally.

“You’re not seriously planning to drink that?” Sally turned the cup in her hands. The trickle of spring water flowed over grubby stones, into mud, and had cut a channel through several piles of cow manure. “Brandon, it’s disgusting. Give it up. Let’s go home.”

Brandon snorted. “This is my last hope. All you need do is get some of that water. Come on, Sally. I know you don’t believe it’ll work but we’ve come this far. I’m not giving up now.” He pointed to where the water emerged from the rocks. “If you get it from there, before it hits any of the crap, it’ll be clean.”

Sally blew a long breath. All those homeopathy sessions, all the faith healers, all the acupuncture, all the stuff Brandon had tried when he found modern medicine couldn’t help him. None of them worked, This won’t work either. Why can’t he just accept it? His spine is ruined. Nothing can fix that. There’s no magic cure. He has to learn to adapt.

“Come on.” Brandon rocked in his chair. “Just a sip of water. That’s all.”

Oh what the hell. Sally moved towards the trickle of water emerging from the algae-covered rocks, avoiding the worst of the mud and faeces, and resigned herself to the chore of pushing her brother all the way back to the car while trying to console him once again. He’ll never walk. The doctors said so, and no matter how deep he goes into this silly magic, none of it is real. She put the cup into the trickle of water.

You need no healing.

The voice reverberated in her head. Sally jumped back. The cup spilled its contents over the rocks and ground. Her fingers clenched so hard they threatened to crush it.

“What are you doing?” Brandon’s voice seemed to come from far away. “You just have to fill a cup, for God’s sake.”

Somewhere behind her, the moo of a cow sounded full of mirth and mockery.

Sally shook her head. “Did you hear that?”

Brandon came back into her reality. “Hear what? I just hear cows. Come on, sis. Just get some water in that cup.”

Sally stared at the cup in her hands. “It was a voice, but in my head. Everything went… far away… for a moment.”

“This is no time for you to have some kind of mental episode. Pull yourself together.” Brandon’s face filled with rage and expectation. “Come on. Get me some of that water.”

I actually hope this works. It’s the only way I’ll be free of him. Sally took several deep breaths. Since the death of their parents she was Brandon’s sole caretaker and he had been a remarkably unappreciative patient. She moved the cup towards the water again but this time she formed a thought in her head and pushed it forward. It’s not for me, it’s for my brother.

I see your thoughts. I understand. Take the water.

This time, the voice in her head was softer, almost gentle. Sally half-filled the cup and returned to Brandon’s side.

“Are you sure about this?” Sally held the cup in both hands. “We don’t know if this is safe. Anything could happen.” The experience of the voice still jangled her nerves. Something was going to happen, she felt sure, but what?

“Look at me.” Brandon spread his arms wide. “This is it. This is my life. How can it get worse?’

Sally stared into the cup. Mine too. It’s not going to get better as long as he’s stuck in that chair. Please, against all the odds, against all the logic and common sense in the world, let this work. She handed him the cup.

Brandon took a tentative sip, stared into the water for a moment then took the whole lot in one swallow. He closed his eyes, took a few deep breaths, then opened them. His hands explored his legs, he slapped them, he moved them side to side, he roared at them. Nothing happened. Finally, he threw the cup at the pile of rocks and screamed his anguish at the sky while the cup clattered until it came to rest in a pile of cow manure.

“It didn’t work.” Brandon leaned forward in his chair, his hands over his face. “I’m stuck in this bloody chair forever. There’s nothing left to try.”

“Maybe it takes time.” Sally reached out to him, but hesitated. Of course it didn’t work. It’s nonsense. But that voice…

“You don’t get it. You never have.” Brandon’s voice came muffled through his fingers. “You can walk. I never have. I’ll never know what it’s like. I keep hearing that song, ‘Oh I would walk five hundred miles’ and you cannot understand what that does to me. I wish I could walk five hundred miles. It’s never going to happen.”

“Brandon—” A shifting in the rocks stopped Sally. Not so much a shifting of the rocks themselves, they didn’t actually move, it was more a distortion in the air that blurred their positions.

I have waited for you to articulate your wish.

The voice came from the air this time, not from inside her head. Sally glanced at Brandon and his lowered hands, the look on his face, told her he had heard it too.

Brandon blinked at the pile of stones. Sally understood, the rocks seemed indistinct, as though seen through a haze. A haze that thickened as she watched.

You drank my water but you did not say what you wanted from me. Now you have claimed your deliverance and I must comply.

“What the Hell?” Brandon gripped the arms of his chair. Sally moved to stand behind him. The haze formed into a skeletal creature, its fingers elongated and ending in talons, its smile coming from a strange place between benevolent and demonic. It stared at Brandon.

I am required to ask you. Are you sure?

“Sure of what?” Brandon trembled so hard, the handles of the chair vibrated under Sally’s hand. “Are you a demon from Hell?”

The creature’s laugh was deep and hollow, an entire cemetery of mirth, a sound from the places where happiness goes to die.

I was born there, long ago. Oh it wasn’t the most gentle of places but it was a lot warmer than my current prison.

“Prison?” Sally gripped both handles of the wheelchair. “You’re in prison?”

What, you think I lie around in shit-strewn fields, in a wreck of what was once a finely constructed well, and put up with being ignored for centuries as some sort of fun pastime? The creature’s eyes blazed. I have been here over a thousand years. Trapped by a man you people call a saint. I have other names for him. It was okay at first. People came, made offerings, I healed them. Then they stopped.

The rage in the creature’s eyes dimmed a little. They stopped coming. I could not leave. I am bound here but I had no purpose. Nothing. For many centuries I lay in the well. I watched it fall apart. I saw the farmers come and take stones to build their walls. I was here the day the last of it fell into rubble. I saw my holy field become a stomping ground and a latrine for cattle.

Sally took a step back as the creature’s eyes bored into hers. You think Hell is bad? This is far, far worse. Here I am entirely alone. Fading, dying, and I welcomed it, then you came along. One last wish, one last healing. Then I will fall back into the well and fade to oblivion.

Brandon found his voice. “But you can still heal me, right? You can fix me so I can walk?”

Of course. I can grant your wish. It is the only power your so-called saint left me with.

“Brilliant.” Brandon grinned, then frowned. “It’s not going to cost my soul, is it?”

The creature laughed its cemetery laugh again. I have no use for souls. The people brought me offerings. They gave me things that were important to them. It turned its gaze to Sally, who blanched and took a step back.

Brandon looked down at himself. “Well, this chair has been important to me all my life. Although if you heal me, I guess it won’t be important any more. Does it still count?”

It will do. I am beyond caring about the offerings anyway.

“Sounds like a deal to me. I get to walk and you can keep the chair.” Brandon clenched his fists in excitement.

I still have to ask the question. Are you sure?

Brandon’s earlier words came back into Sally’s mind. She leaned over him. “Brandon, don’t rush into this. Think for a moment. You’ve had nearly thirty years in that chair. Just think.”

“What’s to think about?” Brandon twisted to face her. “I want to walk. Yes, I am sure.”

The creature nodded and uttered a few incomprehensible words.

Sally held her breath.

Brandon pulled his arms around his chest. He coughed. Then groaned.

Then screamed, his arms flung wide.

Sally’s hand flew to her mouth. “What are you doing to him?”

The creature sighed. His spine is badly deformed. I have to re-route most of his nervous system. Of course it’s going to hurt.

“Can’t you use some kind of anaesthetic?” Sally grabbed one of Brandon’s hands and held tight.

What’s that?

Oh, crap. Sally tried to still Brandon’s flailing arm. This thing comes from a time when you got a shot of rum before getting your infected leg sawed off with five people holding you down. It doesn’t even know about aspirin.

I could have stopped the pain but he didn’t wish for that. I am constrained by the spells that bind me. I have to take the wish literally.

Sally was sure there was a hint of malicious glee in those words. This thing had a trick in store, she was sure of it. Was it evil? Or just bored and looking for one last strike back at the humans who left it to rot? What would it do to her brother?

Finally, Brandon passed out. He slumped in his wheelchair, breathing heavily.

“Is it over?” Sally faced the creature, who nodded.

Well, the pain is over for now. The wish begins when he wakes. He will walk.

Sally closed her eyes and pursed her lips. “Part of me wants to thank you, but another part thinks this is a trick.” She looked into the creature’s eyes. “Did you really take his wish literally?”

The creature raised some fleshy parts above its eyes that might have passed for eyebrows. I have no choice in this matter. It glanced away for a moment. I am not evil. I have a little leeway, but I must grant the wish as spoken.

Brandon groaned. Sally turned to face him. Brandon groaned again and his left leg twitched. Then his right leg. Sally’s eyes widened. There had been no movement in Brandon’s legs throughout his entire life.

“Can he walk?” Sally faced the creature. “I mean, his legs have never moved. He has almost no muscle in them. And it takes babies about a year to learn to walk. Won’t he have to go through all that?”

Oh I fixed that. I thought, since the process was causing so much pain anyway, I might as well boost his muscle strength and instil walking patterns in his brain. Those things hurt too, best get it all over with in one, eh? The creature tilted its head. Besides, I couldn’t fulfil his wish immediately if I hadn’t done those things.

Sally closed her eyes. His wish. Literally. What exactly did he say?

“Ah!” Brandon’s gasp made her turn to face him. He stood in front of his chair, legs twitching. He seemed unsure what to do next.

“Brandon. You’re standing! It worked.” Sally clenched her fists over her chest. Her brother was free of his chair at last And I am free of him.

Your wish is granted. You may begin at any time. Just move one leg in front of the other and it will all come naturally.

Brandon swayed a little, then put his right foot forward. He swayed a little more, arms out for balance, then shifted his weight to swing his left leg in front of the right one.

“Sally, look! I’m doing it! I’m walking!” He took another step, then another, and was soon striding confidently across the field. He turned, the first time with some difficulty, but soon mastered that too and marched back towards Sally.

“This is great.” Brandon flashed a smile as he passed, walked a little way more, turned and came back again. “I’m new to this. How do I stop?” He kept walking out into the field.

And I would walk five hundred miles and I would walk five hundred more, just to be the man who walked a thousand miles… The song came unbidden to Sally’s mind. She remembered Brandon’s exact words when he made the wish. I wish I could walk five hundred miles.

The creature caught her gaze and sniffed. I did tell you I had to take the wish literally, and I asked him – twice – if he was sure.

“So he won’t stop until he’s done five hundred miles?” Sally put her hands over her face and breathed into her hands to stop herself hyperventilating. She lowered her hands. “What about when he’s done the miles? What then? He wished to walk five hundred miles but when he’s done that, is he crippled once more?”

The creature smiled. I also told you I have a little leeway, even though I must take the wish literally. No, when he’s done what he wished to do he’ll still be able to walk. Although he might not feel much like it for a while.

Brandon passed them again. “Sis. I don’t know how to stop.”

Sally faced the creature. “Can’t you do something? What if he drank another cup of water and wished again?” Her gaze flicked to the cup, now dented and slowly sinking into a pile of cow manure. She decided she might need a different cup.

The creature shrugged. He’s not in need of healing now. That’s all I can do— healing. All my other powers were stripped from me when your ‘saint’ conjured me and then trapped me here. He’s not sick so there is nothing I can do.

“How do I get him home? How can I get him in the car if he can’t stop walking?”

What’s a car? The creature furrowed its brow.

“Oh—” Sally threw up her hands and turned away, just in time to see Brandon heading back towards them. “Never mind.” Her shoulders slumped. “It’s only five hundred miles. I’ll cope. I always have.”

Brandon passed with a pained look on his face. “Sis, I need the toilet.”

Sally could have sworn she heard a giggle, but when she turned, the creature had vanished.

November

What are we supposed to give up this month? Smoking? Drinking? Driving? Meat? Dwarf Hustling? Otter Prodding? Breathing? I can never remember. It doesn’t matter anyway, I’ll just ignore it. I have to, there are unprodded otters in the river. Well someone has to do it. Those otters won’t prod themselves. Prodding poles at the ready…

Apparently we have once again failed to leave the EU. I don’t actually think that matters either. It’s already starting to fall apart, it’s just the BBC pretending it isn’t happening. Soon there’ll be nothing to leave.

November used to be, and probably still is, NaNoWriMo. National novel writing month. You are supposed to get the first draft of a novel completed in a month. No editing, no going back and changing anything, just blast it out.

I did it once. I wrote ‘Norman’s House‘ that way. Oh I completed the story within the month but it took years to get back to it and edit it. In the meantime I wrote the prequel, ‘Jessica’s Trap‘ and that was published first. Then ‘Samuel’s Girl‘. So the whole story came out in the right order in the end.

It’s not over. Demdike comes back in the next book, and there’s another one part-planned-out after that. There is mileage in the grumpy bastard Romulus Crowe yet.

The first of November marks the official opening of submissions for the Christmas Underdog Anthology. Number ten. And to think, when I started this, there were those who told me it was going nowhere. Every anthology has introduced at least one new author and the Christmas one already has its new voice. I won’t give a name yet in case he wants to use a pen name.

Still, Christmas 2019 has three stories locked in, two more likely, and it’s only just opened for submissions.

I have two other books to publish. One by Marsha Webb which only needs a cover. I decided to get arty and do it myself, but as always I have overreached. The cover is composed in acrylic paint, ink with a brush, ink with a glass pen, coloured pencil… and more. It’s taking ages. So there will be a first edition with a simpler cover in under a week and we’ll put out a second edition when the real cover is ready.

The other is by the new author in Well Haunted. Gastradamus is the name he goes by and he has a collection of pretty mad short stories to share. I need to get that done fast too. I’d like to engage a real artist for the cover but there might not be time if it’s coming out for Christmas. So it could be a first edition with a photoshopped picture cover and a second edition later too.

I also want to do this with some of the early books. Mark Ellott’s first novel, ‘Ransom‘, would benefit from a better cover and so would Lee Bidgood’s ‘You’ll be fine‘. Covers are important, it’s the first thing anyone sees. My cover image preparation has improved with practice, the early ones could do with a revamp.

Margo Jackson’s ‘The Mark‘ has a decent cover for an early attempt. It has a weirdo lurking in the woods (it’s actually me) which is integral to the story.

Some authors provided their own cover images – Dirk Vleugels and Justin Sanebridge, and later Mark Ellott – but since those first two tend to write in Dutch and French there wasn’t really much editing involved at all.

I’m probably digressing but I’m not sure I had a point to start with. Perhaps it was about building up and collapsing.

I never intended to build up Leg Iron Books. I genuinely did not expect it to get as far as it has. It was meant as a hobby business for retirement. It’s taken off far faster and bigger than I expected but I’m not forcing it. I set it up to get authors into print so they can go to an agent and say ‘Look, I’ve already published these’. It matters. Literary agents do not want one trick ponies. They get about 15% of the royalties and if you’re selling ten copies of your only book per year, that’s no good to them. They get pennies. They want to see you put out more books.

The big publishers do not accept direct submissions from authors. They will only work with agents. If you don’t have an agent you are never getting into the big publishers and if you are not published you will have a hard time getting an agent.

This is what Leg Iron Books is for. I want to lose authors to agents and big publishers. I’d like to think those authors will remember where they came from and maybe send some new ones this way but this is never going to make me rich. Leg Iron Books is small fry and staying that way.

Will Leg Iron Books collapse? Probably not unless I pack it in or die. It’s not being ramped up, it’s not leveraged, it has no debt and is not looking to be anything other than a backwater way in to the world of publication.

The EU is ramped and leveraged to the eyes. Riddled with corruption, bad debt and vanishing cash. It’s doomed. The Church of Climatology depends on its believers and on free grants from taxpayers. The believers don’t seem keen to chip in and the taxpayers are starting to wonder why their heating bills are going up rather than down. The scam is collapsing, hence the sudden panic-driven push to get as much as they can before the glaciers roll over Birmingham.

The new anti-vaping crap is falling apart too. What a pity so many vapers have joined the antismokers. They’d have had a lot more allies otherwise. But then…

First they came for the smokers. I was a smoker, and nobody spoke out for me.

The rest of you can suck it up.

The UK parliament is wringing its hands over what the public thinks of them. The truth is, the real aims of those bloody parasites are now clear and we’re thinking what we should have been thinking all along. That’s falling apart too.

The next election is going to be worth staying up to watch. Results finalised on Friday the Thirteenth and I hope it’s unlucky for all of them.

There has been no writing tonight. I took the day off. It’s Halloween so we watched a film called ‘The Nun’. Lovely. I laughed often. Tomorrow is back to work for me, I have those two books to get ready, then I have visitors to deal with for a week, then the Christmas anthology.

December to February, we are closed to visitors. We need some sleep!

It never ends…

I don’t just mean Brexit, although that is verging on the immortal. No matter what Boris does, Jerry Cordite and Jo Swindles will vote it down. There is a way to make use of that attitude, if he’s smart enough to see it and use it. Maybe his pal, Demonic Cummings, can do it.

I know, I didn’t invent that name, but if I was called Dominic and people called me Demonic, I’d absolutely revel in it. I spend my days wishing my surname was De’ath. I’d never use the apostrophe, particularly not on my doctorate. I mean, I have a scythe, black hooded robe, the lot. I’d just need to lose a lot of weight. Almost all of it, in fact.

This place has been silent because I had to go to Wales for my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. I couldn’t miss this, it’s a big one. It’s a diamond anniversary but CStM and I can’t really run to diamonds just yet so we went for practical. They wanted a soup making machine so that’s what we bought. I’m glad my mother mentioned it, I had never heard of such a device so it would not have occurred to me.

It now takes 12 hours to drive to Wales because we no longer have to get through the mess of roads that is Aberdeen. There is a very nice road that goes right around it. It took 13 hours on the way back, I was driving slowly as it got dark and late because we’re in the potential frost and ice part of the year. A bit early this time but it’s not the first time. In the event, we made it alive, which is always good.

Before we left I was engaged in a last minute panic finishing off ‘Well Haunted‘, the ninth Underdog Anthology. It’s done, the cover is professional this time, and if that helps sales I’ll be back to ask the artist for more. It has to help sales to be worthwhile – cover artists don’t work for free (well I do but there’s no point paying myself).

Next I have two more books to get ready before Christmas and there’s a Christmas anthology with a closing date of November 30th. November is going to be a busy month – and there will be visitors in it too.

You know, CStM and I moved to the middle of nowhere because neither of us are particularly sociable and no matter how nice the neighbours are, we aren’t likely to get along with them. We are the kind of people who assemble shelving units at 3 am and cut the grass at 10 pm in summer. So we thought it best if we just live well out of everyone’s way.

Unfortunately this place is a visitor magnet. Except for Halloween trick or treaters, it seems. None of them have so far made it up the driveway after dark. I wonder if it’s the tiny red glowsticks attached in pairs to the gnarled old trees? Nah, can’t be. Those are normal Halloween decorations. This year I might try green ones.

Still, we have had relatives on both sides visiting all through this year, to the point where we plan to seal the place for December and sit around scowling out of the windows. We have garden ornaments that scowl back.

While in Wales, we had to visit That London. The posh part where the embassies are. CStM had to renew her passport and that can only be done at the Danish embassy in London because they now want fingerprints. She had offered to cut off a finger and send it to them but they wanted all of them. Besides, she would then have to carry the mummified cut-off finger like a lucky rabbit’s foot because that’s the only one that matches the fingerprint. In the end, we decided to just go there and get it over with.

While there, we met Martyn K. Jones, one of the authors in recent Underdog Anthologies, for a quick drink. Also Tom Paine of The Last Ditch blog. I have met very few online people in real life, so few that I have wondered if the entire internet is just me, and everyone else is the creation of a supremely talented impressionist who lives in a bedsit in Truro.

We didn’t go shopping. We were in a part of London where we couldn’t even afford to look in the shop windows. The sort of shops where if you have to ask the price, you really shouldn’t be in there.

Anyway, all the visitors this year have slowed down work. And it’s not over yet. I would blame my granddaughter for attracting them but she is turning out to be as antisocial as me, so I can’t fault her.

At least the Halloween book is done, and the authors should now have their payments or copies. I posted all but one from Wales, since Amazon seem happy to deliver to just about anywhere. I was missing one address but it’s on the desktop computer so I can finalise this job tomorrow. Then it’s on to the next.

I have two authors waiting for their books to be finished and by the end of November I’ll be locked into Underdog Anthology Ten. All of this must be finished in time for me to take a Christmas break. After spending September in a state of knackeredness exacerbated by infected insect bites, I have a lot of catching up to do by the end of November.

After that, I’ll probably sleep a lot.