On a pale horse

Tonight you kill someone. Not a faraway kind of killing like a bullet or a button. Or a word. Misheard. Just the tearing of skin, and sin spliced out on the lathe

A sigh. A lie. Perhaps? Incoherence and poetry tangle in the mumbled softness of his drunken debut. Curled feline on his chest the creature drools a silk in translucent symphony. Slip sliding war and whisper into his veins. His heart. His kiss. Click. Turn. Click Turn. Another sigh. Deeper this time. Harder to bring back. And inside his dreams he sees time fused nuclear in endless ticking. Dust and bone on the evening air as the song of the last bird becomes a howl.

The creature leans closer. Breath to breathe. It rolls, silent in victory as the sweet of his flesh fades with all the colours that aren’t red.

And he fights. Yes. True enough an angel in his strength. But daggers and diamonds cut the same in names and games of beasts. The creature twists on him. Inking ruin in triple joints, scarring his chest in maggot and worm. Click. Turn. Click. Turn. A care for a dare. A knife for a life.

And in dreams of Blake he is searching. Searching. For the choice in the never choices. Scream. Beg. Beg. Burn. Click. Turn. Click. Turn. Until there is no difference between them. Conquest and surrender bound to the same incongruent beat. Too fast. Run down. Walk down. Drag down. Too slow. To slow. To stop. And when the knife is offered, they cut. No hesitation. All the way down to soul.

‘Tonight you kill someone. Not a faraway kind of killing like a bullet or a button. Or a word. Misheard. Just the tearing of skin, and sin spliced out on the lathe.The creature curls crimson in its smile, tasting sweetness of blood on the night air, ‘Told you so.’

 

 



 

©2017 Jac Forsyth*

*Image courtesy of Pinterest  The Wood of the Self-Murderers: The Harpies and the Suicides by William Blake. The painting illustrates a passage from the Inferno canticle of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

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A plague on both your houses (3/3)

Having grown up with 12 sisters, Spontaneous Bucket was no stranger to unexpected phenomena. Still, the sheer magnitude of the beast took even him by surprise, ‘Wow. I mean. Wow.’

The dragon sighed, ‘I see that human is still synonymous with dung beetle.’

It was always difficult to seem sensible once someone had established that you were an idiot. Spontaneous gathered up all the pieces of his face into something that resembled an apology, ‘Forgive me, oh glorious one, I was just a little surprised, given the size of the mound and the size of… Surprised. Yep.’

The dragon rolled its eyes and burped out a flame, ‘Let’s just get it over with shall we? Fortune, women, turnips.’

‘I beg your pardon, oh mighty lord of confusables?’

‘It’s always the same. Fortune, women, turnips.’

Now you didn’t have to be a knight on a quest to get that it didn’t pay to be sarcastic with giant, mythical beasts, ‘I am but a stupid human, I beg your indulgence.’

‘Three wishes.’

‘What?’

‘Would you like me to stamp out how many is three on your fetid companion?’

‘Three? Wishes?’

‘Look,’ the dragon sat back and picked at a nostril roughly the size and texture of the bonfire they had built the last time a Witch Finder had come to town, ‘This whole process is about natural selection. Whoever cuts open a dragon egg and releases a dragon before the expulsion, also releases three wishes as a reward. Is that clear enough for you?’

‘A reward?’

A rumbling, furnacy sort of noise emendated from the creature’s throat suggesting a whole different kind of expulsion wasn’t off the cards, ‘If you ask me one more stupid question I shall have no choice but to raise this whole continent to the ground.’

Spontaneous Bucket may have been a medieval man, but it paid to know about continents. Soup was a pretty bland thing when cabbage was the main ingredient, ‘And if we don’t take these three wishes?’

‘WHAT!?’ Lucian scrabbled from behind the tree.

Spontaneous smiled apologetically at the dragon and backed away, dragging a drooling Lucian with him, ‘I know it sounds great, but you can’t trust dragons, even the village idiot of Nosoothsayershere town knows that and he’s only had half a head since the great, balance a scythe on any body part, fayre.’

‘But three wishes!’ Lucian’s eyes glittered, ‘Fortune, women AND turnips!’

‘So it is agreed?’ The dragon wound itself around the tree and obliterated the sun.

‘Wait!’ Spontaneous grabbed at his friend’s arm, ‘We want to hear all the details first.’

‘The details are, that you say Yes or you say No.’

‘Then I say n…’

‘Hey nonny nonny!’ Lucian squealed, pushing Spontaneous aside, ‘Yes. He says yes. Yes. Absolutely, yes. Not a No to be seen. Just yesses. We all love yesses here.’

‘Good choice pungent human.’

‘Right, okay then, well probably best to start with the fortune,’ he nudged Spontaneous chummily, ‘because those turnips ain’t gonna care for themselves, eh?’ Then he laughed nervously because the dragon was grinning at him like he’d just ticked the terms and conditions of a cess pit cleaners contract without reading them first.

‘Just one small question,’ the dragon tapped out a thoughtful tune, ‘Did I at any point stipulate exactly who was getting the wishes?’

‘Um….’

The might beast scrolled open its wings and yawned, ‘I shall take my fortune in gold if you please, the turnips, feel free use your imagination, for I and not a monster.’ It grinned again because it actually was, ‘Oh, and you have until nightfall to bring me my first woman.’

Lucian was breathing through the top of his head, he bowed and scraped and curtseyed his way back around the other side of his companion, ‘By all that’s holy, we’ve been tricked by a dragon, what are we going to do?’

Spontaneous was deep in thought, ‘Does that sun look purple to you?’

‘What?’

‘And it is a Sunday.’

Lucian was horrified, ‘You can’t seriously be thinking about deploying Collateral Colin? He’s only had the witch part of his training. He’s not learning how to be a virgin until next year.’

‘I think being a virgin is pretty straightforward, he can wing it.’

‘You’re crazy.’

‘Me crazy? No,’ Spontaneous looked over at the row of pus mound, he was already calculating their number and dividing by the amount of nearby villages, ‘but mad has a nice ring to it.’

‘No, no, no, no, not again,’ Lucian backed away from his companion, ‘not after last time, you promised.’

‘Come on, promises aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.’ Spontaneous Bucket reached down for the knife stick, ‘Besides, we’re talking about mutual assured destruction here, those ground to air marrows we sold to everyone are gonna be so last century.’

 

THE END

Should you have inexplicably missed them, you can read parts one and two here.

©2017 Jac Forsyth

 

A plague on both your houses (2/3)

In times of plague it was always best to err on the side of caution where pustules were concerned. Even without the secret soothsayer’s custard based predictions, cutting one of the strange mounds open suggested an up close, all round, surround sound, pus experience. Spontaneous Bucket took a deep breath, whatever happened this would be a shot to remember. He glanced over at Lucian, ‘Here goes nothing.’

Which actually was what happened. Nothing.

Sure there was a small amount of seepage and what might be described as a modest, brimstony kind of smoke. But that was it. There were certainly no pitchforks, frogs or indeed custard skins to be seen.

‘Pass me the stick with a spoon on it,’ Spontaneous whispered.

Lucian groaned, experience had taught him that it was unwise to poke your spoon stick into anything that smelled worse than you did.

‘Hurry up, I think I can see something.’

‘Fine,’ Lucian threw the implement at his companion, ‘but don’t blame me when your pottage tastes of rhubarb.’

Spontaneous lay down on his side and gently slipped the edge of the spoon into the cut, the flesh wobbled threateningly, but so far so good. ‘There IS something in here,’ he called over to Lucian, ‘I can almost touch it.’

‘Poke it with a stick.’

More than anything Spontaneous wanted to poke it with a stick. But he was shrewder than his name suggested and instead he twisted the spoon inside the gap and opened up a small, gore dripping oval which looked alarmingly like the empty eye socket his uncle had once showed him for a laugh.

‘Is it a frog?’

‘No!’ Spontaneous sounded more confident than he was. Truth be told frogs came in many shapes and sizes and this could quite possibly be the hopping vanguard of a large I-told-you-so army. He swallowed back a mouthful of bile and hooked his finger into the hole. The pus mound squealed.

Spontaneous had never moved so fast in all his life. His heart was still somewhere in the clearing and both of his legs thought they were arms, but at least his mouth was still working, ‘What’s it doing now?’

‘Why do I have to look?’

‘Because It think my eyes have looked at more than enough already.’

Lucian wriggled and squirmed his way around the countless answers he could have given, ‘Fine, but you owe me two free goes on the ducking stool.’ He peered around the sturdy trunk like he was trying to sneak a look at the exam answers over the headteacher’s shoulder. After a while he pulled back, chewing at his lip, ‘Do you remember that summer when Toothless Fortitude baked a communal casserole?’

Spontaneous shuddered, ‘I still can’t look at a pair of shoes without crying.’

‘Bear that in mind.’

‘Damn, is it that bad?’

‘No,’ Lucian inhaled from his feet up, ‘I just wanted to give you a base for comparison.’

There is a silence that is more terrifying than any amount of noise can ever be. Spontaneous gathered up a small bundle of sticks and crept forward. The clearing was more or less how he’d left it.

Except for the dragon.

 

to be concluded tomorrow….

Should you have inexplicably missed it, you can read part 1 here

©2017 Jac Forsyth

 

A plague on both your houses (1/3)

Several of the peculiarities had already a quarter-mile radius in a stinking, slithering gloop that couldn’t be removed even by praying really, really hard. Spontaneous Bucket poked at the pus filled mound with a stick, ‘It’s amazing, they look exactly like a scaled up version of the ones that grow on people.’

‘Personally, I underestimated the level of grossness,’ his companion called from behind a tree.

Sensible people had been avoiding the footpaths since the first of the Great Inundations, but Spontaneous was a man of opportunity. He had taken to charging for a quick blessing rinse on the ducking stool and according to the waiting list, the price of holy head covering rags was just about to hit an all-time high. If he could only work out how to provoke a splattering, then he was pretty much made for life.

He poked at the disgusting mound again. It teased him with an alluring quiver but the probability of explosion remained undetermined.

‘Any ideas?’ he threw the question over his shoulder, not wanting to miss a tell-tale sign that something was about to go down. And up. And obviously sideways.

‘Poke it with a stick?’

‘Any more ideas?’

‘A bigger stick?’ Lucian Scabby was a great believer in poking at things with a stick, ‘Two sticks joined together?’

‘I don’t think that even three sticks would work here.’ Spontaneous crouched down and put his ear as close to the mound as his nose could bear, ‘Besides, I think there’s something moving around inside.’

Lucian wasn’t going to risk a glance, ‘Sounds like witchcraft. We should call a Witch Finder.’

‘They’re a bit of a one trick pony,’ Spontaneous tilted his head and tried to ignore the rising nausea that was threatening to turn up the volume on the repugnant party, ‘plus we ran out of women on Tuesday.’

‘What about Collateral Colin?’

Spontaneous leaned in closer, it was certain now, the abomination was definitely concealing more than an unexpected showering of pus, ‘You should never use your emergency back-up woman, not unless the chickens lay double yolks and the sun turns four times purple on a Sunday.’ He said the words mechanically, all his focus was on the mound.

‘We could always burn the priest?’

‘Father Constantinople died six weeks ago, we’ve just been propping him up by the cess pit until his replacement arrives. He’s getting pretty runny; several people have actually used him to put fires out.’

Lucian frowned, ‘Can I poke him with a stick?’

‘Sure…’ Spontaneous clicked a thought out over his tongue, ‘I wonder what would happen if I cut it open?’

‘According to the secret soothsayer of Nosoothsayershere town: 10,000 frogs with pitchforks will burst forth from the open wound, all cows will walk backwards and birds will instantaneously grow beards.’ Lucian shook his head sadly, ‘Then Lucifer himself will dance naked in every market square for 35 days without any garments on. And then, as the moon splits open, all of hell will join together to form one huge, hairy and assumedly squawking, questing beast. The beast will then vomit up a gargantuan, yellow custard skin and proceed to cover the whole earth in it. And then it will eat our hands and feet and put our eyes round back to front so we have to look at our own brains. For all eternity.’

‘So pretty bad things then?’

‘Did I mention the custard skin?’

Spontaneous cricked his neck, ‘Pass me the stick with a knife on it.’

 

to be continued……

Yu can read part 2 here

©2017 Jac Forsyth