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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Et voilà! Je reviens! No I don't speak French.

I only speak English, double Dutch, gobbledygook and pretentious twat.

It's been more than a year since my last post. Apologies for that. Explanations will arrive shortly. To give you a clue to the outcome, I'm sat on a very uncomfortable chair at a train station in Devon, typing on a netbook, wearing one full length stocking (as hilarious as it sounds), and a sleeveless vest. Fortunately I'm wearing clothes over them otherwise I'd look a tit. And be arrested for indecent exposure (I always said I was terrible at photography... *cricket*).

I just realised what year it is. I was about to start my story much further back than my last post. Much, much further back (Zounds! When a man doth love a woman verily...).

Shortly after my last post, I grazed my leg whilst carrying out a formerly wheeled bin from work to the skip (I say formerly, it was supposed to be a wheely-bin, but the wheels disintegrated), when a gust of wind blew said bin into said leg. Specifically my varicose vein-riddled leg. At first, this graze amounted to nothing. Then myself and my housemates looked after a dog whilst her owner went travelling. This dog suffered terrible separation anxiety. Over the period of two months, while we were at work, she damaged half our doors, ate 1 extension lead, 6 pairs of shoes (I'm UK14/US15... I can't just pop into a shop to get more), 1 umbrella, 1 stressball (the housemate whose brother owns the dog suddenly needed it), the rear droplinks of a Mk2 Ford Mondeo, 1 bicycle helmet and 1 pair of bicycle gloves.

When I sit down on a sofa, my long legs often means, in the presence of a coffee table, I have to slightly cross them to best utilise the space available. Dog with separation anxiety proceeded to repeatedly stand on the graze in an ill-conceived attempt to jump onto my lap-but-not jump on (she was a bit pillar-to-post). The next day the healing graze broke down, bled out (ruined a pair of trousers), and formed an ulcer the size of a two-pound coin.

In a typical manly/pseudo-northerner fashion, I looked at it, washed it, found the biggest plaster I could, and pretended to the nagging voice in my head that would heal over again. It still hasn't. The next month, in increasing pain, I went to see a doctor (the way her eyes suddenly widened suggested I should have made an appointment sooner), who looked at it, swabbed it, checked I wasn't diabetic, put a temporary dressing over it, and sent me to see the nurse for a proper dressing. The nurse recommended compression, so I was prescribed a class II compression stocking (below knee), and told to wear it pretty much all the time.

The pain certainly prevented me from feeling creative and my mind became a little addled. By February, it had still not healed, so I was signed off work for a month to keep it rested and elevated. By now I was mixing my painkillers for best results.

A few months back I was eventually seen by a specialist who recommended a different dressing (a 'short-stretch' compression bandage), and surgery to remove the varicose vein feeding the ulcer (stagnant blood. Delicious). I had an ultrasound scan which revealed a varicose vein the entire length of my leg. The vein is so big that my operation last month only closed off half of it. I have to go back for the rest in a few weeks (when they get round to giving me an appointment). As a result of the operation, however, I now wear a full-length compression stocking (colour- nude. The black one is on order. I declined the lacy band around the top), which is strapped around my belly by the wonder product that is velcro. The most uncomfortable thing I have ever worn. I've started wearing vests so that the strap doesn't scrape my skin off my belly.

Anyway, the long and short of it is, after a year of having a crater in my leg big enough to sit the largest coin England's currency has in it, I haven't been in the mood for communicating in general. Apologies for that. I have barely been writing, which is the main reason I bought a netbook.

Also, my shift pattern has changed at work. I now work such an awkward shift I leave at 18:30 and get home (20 miles away) at 23:30. I can no longer hop on the last bus direct to my home town, I now have to travel to the nearest town to work, and wait a few hours for the next train home. Winning.

So here I sit. On a metal bench at an empty station, wearing a single 'nude' coloured full-length stocking under my clothes, listening to the rain patter on the corrugated steel roof above my head. Actually that's a lie. I have a second, knee-length stocking beneath the full-length stocking.

Who decided 'nude' would be a colour people wanted to buy? It's worse than beige. At least beige suits certain things... like old chevy pickups... If I were to paint a car 'nude', it would be vandalised within the week. On my leg it looks like someone has thrown it up prior to me wearing it. Actually, 'vomit' is probably a more apt description. If I wanted to wear shorts, what the actual balls would go with it? I have black shoes and boots, and brown trainers and boots. 'Vomit' does not go with black. Black. The saviour of many a fashion disaster. Black, which goes with everything. Except 'vomit'. Brown? Vom 'n' brown. Opening the sluices at both ends. Just what I wanted to step out in on a hot Indian Summer's day.

While I'm ranting, the weather in Devon is currently- 'Perpetual Precipitation Preoccupying People Permanently. Parkas Persistently Percolating'. It rains so much here it required an alliteration (I managed to use 'percolating' without referring to coffee. As pleased as I am with myself, I suddenly want a stove-top percolator). Last year, a gigantohunormous freeze after such downpours left ice an inch thick across the pavement.

As a pseudo-northerner (North Lincolnshire), I've seen such ice before, can deal with it, and found it very amusing the reaction in the south of "What in sod is this?". Some people I work with had never seen such a harsh winter. They were skidding along, falling on their arses, and sometimes walking in the middle of the road to avoid the ice. As the self-proclaimed 'Polar Bear of the South', I shall hereby reveal my secret.

Stamp. If you use your entire foot to propel you instead of just your heel or ball, you get much more traction. If you suck at this, YakTrax. I do have a pair, but the ice turned to slush for the remainder of a very disappointing winter before I could use them.

The other option is develop a skill in delegation. Send others into peril and remain toasty warm at home.

Anyway. I'm going to try to engage myself in NaNoWriMo this year... I have already started, and I intend to utilise the time waiting for my train. It's going to a be a struggle, and I may find myself with yet another unfinished project, but not trying is the first step toward failure. Admittedly, I've found many, many other varied and lengthy paths toward the same destination, sometimes hitting concrete with a thud (as with my recent attempt to get back on a bicycle after 15 years. Rib spasms are not fun), but at least I get to take a glimpse at the success of others. And sometimes pass a bakery. I'm very easy to please ("IS THAT A SANDWICH?!" I don't watch much Friends, but that line stuck in my head).

Anywho, without further ado, or maybe a little more ado as is my wont to waffle. At least part of chapter one of The Tower. It's fantasy, yes, because real life baffles me so. "No I have no idea what it is that I'm doing that is illegal officer, but I'm sure you're about to tell me" (NEVER say that if you're ever in a similar situation, and we shall never speak of this again). "If you wanted me to do it, why didn't you say? I don't speak fluent sarcasm, I have to use a phrasebook" (not true). "Calling me up every hour for results isn't going to make the bacteria grow any quicker."

I'm no good with people. Can't understand them. I want a dog. ===============================

It was called 'The Tower', although it was not a tower according to popular preconceptions. There were no windows to shed light on the long, damp corridors, no spectacular views over all of Creation. There were no balconies, no guttering, no rooftops, slated, tarmacked or otherwise present to direct the rain elsewhere. In fact the only thing a passer-by could see was a steel hatchway, just big enough for a small lorry to sink into, in a sea of concrete. The remaining sixteen stories were below ground. The students who dwelt within referred to the Tower instead as the Pit.

Those who dwelt within where referred to as 'Tower Magi', though they were not the Magi of popular preconception. They did not, usually, conjure balls of flame, or, usually, speak with gods. They did not wear extravagant clothing or predict the birth of royalty, or wander around healing the unfortunate. They were called 'Tower Magi', because many people, even those who had met one, still felt shivers at the term 'Necromancer'. The name suited the masters perfectly. There were only ever thirteen necromancers, the students did not hold the title, and many never would. Every necromancer in the Tower had a student they would teach in preparation to replace them when the time came. Nobody knew what would happen if the number of necromancers fell too few, or grew too large. The older masters had no intention of finding out. The other magi were students of simple magic, usually other diving arts such as bibliomancy, many did not learn magic at all and were in fact privileged history students.

Of course the Tower didn't stop at its base. Beneath the Tower lay the sprawling maze of decrepit tunnels and tombs of the Catacombs, where hundreds of people, students, mentors and archaeologists alike have walked in and failed to return. The slowly rotting oak and iron doors at the entrance had since been shut and chained as a result of these disappearances. Aluna La Croix was not concerned with the lost, as she delved through the archives held with the catacombs. In her hand, as she searched, was another hand, severed at the wrist, yet still determined to shuffle the papers she was reading. The hand was found amongst the remains of the hallucinating young gentleman who had fought the last revenant plague, and had died a pitiful and horrifying death. The hand was not his own, and records suggested he had in fact won it in a game of poker, why it was bothering her now was beyond her comprehension.

Rolling up the scrolls, she put them, with a little resistance from the severed hand, into a map case and pushed it through the small hole in the wall leading to the next room. Behind her were two badly damaged skeletons. They had been sealed in this room many centuries, for reasons long forgotten. Now the only way in or out was a gap in the ancient wall which had been opened up, perhaps by time, and was barely large enough to squeeze even her own diminutive frame through. Exhaling as much as she could, Aluna pushed herself through, wriggling when she became stuck, and breathing only when she had reached the other side.

The hand had followed her since she stumbled across the Delusional One's sarcophagus, where it had remained motionless until she was close enough to leap onto. Aluna was spared embarrassment thanks to her being alone in the catacombs, though she had no idea how far her rather panicked scream had travelled. She was solving that problem by wandering for a few more hours until anybody who could have heard had forgotten. It appeared not to be malicious, just mischievous, with a sense of humour as warped as one would expect from a severed hand.

Aluna was short, barely three inches over five feet in height, and slender. She was underweight to the point of being flat-chested and gaunt in the face. Add to this her clean shaven head and the burn scarring up the left side of her face disguising her facial structure somewhat, she was often mistaken for a boy in his early teens. She didn't care. Her weight kept the Baron out of her head. Baron Samedi preferred more buxom women, though for some reason he still frequented Aluna's mind despite her shortcomings.

She struck a match against the craggy wall and lit a cigar while she pondered the nature of the hole in the wall. The wall itself was limestone, like much of the catacombs, but was considerably newer. It was obviously intended to keep the unfortunates in the room. At the other side of the sealed room had been a solid ebony door, which appeared to lead down to a lower, unexplored level of the catacombs. The door itself was hanging off its hinges, whatever it was hiding had broken through long ago. Whatever had broken the door was probably the cause of the damage to the wall also.

Aluna sighed. Her master would probably want to hear about this.

“Hear about what?” A well spoken voice pounced on her from the darkness, followed by a gloved hand wafting the smoke away from the immediate breathing space. George Sampson, former GP and Number 2 of the thirteen stepped out into the light of the torches.

“Do you really want me to say, or do you already know? Seeing as you're reading my thoughts.” Aluna took a long drag of her cigar.

“Surface thoughts only. I was rather hoping for an explanation as to why you are crawling around in an area which students are prohibited from entering. As well as how you entered without removing the chains from the door.”

“A girl's got to have some mystique, doc.”

“Then the first explanation will do.”

“Tr- sorry, Master Rowles asked me to find some manuscripts. He said they'd be in the archives.”

“Mr Rowles is aware of the restrictions. The Catacombs are off-limits to students. Have you found what you were looking for?”

She held up the scroll case as a response.

“Then kindly make your way back to your master.”

As she moved past the doctor to leave, he put his hand on her shoulder.

“One more thing. You have a bad habit there,” he pointed to her cigar, “the smoke contains hydrogen cyanide, amongst other components.”

“The Baron likes them. Either I smoke them or he smokes them for me. Not big on his manners or free will, the Baron.” She stepped past him and walked as calmly as she could until she had reached her third corner.

Checking to make sure the doctor was no longer watching, she thrust the scroll case toward the ceiling, tapping a stone, then another. With a soft rumble to confirm she had touched the correct stones, a rush of fresh air entered the room. Walking forward revealed a door had unveiled itself in a previously unbroken wall. It stuck out like a vagrant at a formal party, a modern pine folding door with chromed sliders and handle. She pulled it open and stepped into a meadow.

The meadow itself was an idealised version, perfect tall grass, with perfect red poppies and wild flowers dancing to a perfect breeze of perfect temperature. The sun was neither too dull nor too bright, and the sky was an impeccable azure with nothing but wispy cirrus clouds to break the blue. The meadow was surrounded by craggy old English oak trees which had a mossy patina and occasionally ivy growing up the trunk, without strangling the tree. In the centre lay her master staring up at the sky, smiling.

“Trevor?” She slowed her pace as she neared him.

“Mmmf?”

“Trevor?”

He giggled and rolled over to face her. “Mmmyes?”

“Are you high?”

“Definitely. Scrolls?”

“Right here.” She tossed to case over to him. ===========================

Creative Commons Licence
The Tower by Michael Barlow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at fpduck.blogspot.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://fpduck.blogspot.com/.

1 comments:

Anna Scott Graham said...

Oh Mike, how I have missed you!

So sorry about your leg, and that dog. Are you sure you want a dog?

Love the story! And yes, I do believe I was bitten by a radioactive author as a child. Or a rather pesky Dachshund masquerading as an author. Or maybe it was the dachshund who ate my sister's shoes which propelled me into tales to excuse the Dachshund's exit from the household. Any of those answers will suffice.

Please blog again soon. Soon! There's no English wit here to be had...