Circle

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Hers was the religion of flower and tree, beetle, bird and dew. In every raindrop she saw the smile of the Goddess, in the curve of every branch, the arms of the Mother.

Barefoot, she wandered through the forest, rejoicing in the feel of moss and twig underfoot. Hers were the old ways, lessons learned when the world was young and still learning itself.

The earth sang and thrummed beneath her feet, the wet and the glory filled with a buzzing life, an energy that could be found in the curl of every leaf, a wholeness in every pebble, every rock; the sometimes wildness and cruelty tempered by the knowledge of a never-ending cycle of life and renewal.

She saw the birds hatch their young and the wild cats nurse their kits, hidden away in dens. She witnessed death, brought by swift fang and slashing claw and accepted it as part of the Mother’s ever-turning wheel; watching as remains turned to bones and scraps, carried away by worms, to be returned to the warm wet earth.

She lived in harmony, balance, showing them how to take no more than they needed, always giving thanks and gratitude and love to the Mother.

Then others came.

From far away, they came with crushing foot and rending hand, ripping and tearing the very heart from the land she loved, the trees she cared for. They came, bringing strange bright gods from hot dusty lands, gods that conquered and devoured.

She watched and wept as they cut down the trees, chained her land in stone and iron. People fled, animals died, and there was no renewal, no honour.

Exhausted, depleted, afraid and angry, she fled, deeper into the wild places where the savage side still dwelt. Finally she found what she was looking for, a rent, a natural cleft in the wet red earth.

She crawled inside, deeper and deeper, till the blood pounded in her ears, her head sang and the arms of the Mother enfolded her in the warm red earth. She closed her eyes and waited.

Waited to be reborn.

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REVIEW: “The Curse Of Time : Book One – Bloodstone” By M.J.Mallon

Something a little different today… regular readers might remember a few months ago (Mookaite And Model Cats) Lily did some picture work for the book above, as written by my good friend Marje. I am very pleased to welcome her here to CrystalCats and I was extremely excited to be able to read her book, give it a review and share it with everybody here. ( I must state that I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for a fair review, and all opinions within are my own.)

Cue best china and the special biscuits, as after my review there is a wonderful interview with the author herself, including social media links and an excerpt from the book, featuring Shadow the cat. I hope you enjoy it!

So… where shall I begin? The author has a talent for description, delicate bubbles of imagery that burst in the mind and help create the multi-layered mystery. She deals deftly with some very current issues such as family dysfunction and self-harming that her main character, Amelina, must deal with in addition to struggling with her own feelings and impulses as she approaches her 16th birthday.

The story is compelling and we meet some very interesting characters along the way. Amelina is helped by crystals (of course) and sometimes by her cat Shadow (there we go!) A new entry to YA fiction, this book is a charming blend of teenage angst, family, magic and crystal lore.

And here’s Marje herself!


I am a debut author who has been blogging for three years at my lovely blog home Kyrosmagica: My interests include writing, photography, poetry, and alternative therapies. I write Fantasy YA, middle grade fiction and micro poetry – haiku and Tanka. I love to read and have written over 100 reviews: https://mjmallon.com/2015/09/28/a-z-of-my-book-reviews/

My alter ego is MJ – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheroes! I was born on the 17th of November in Lion City: Singapore, (a passionate Scorpio, with the Chinese Zodiac sign a lucky rabbit,) second child and only daughter to my proud parents Paula and Ronald. I grew up in a mountainous court in the Peak District in Hong Kong with my elder brother Donald. My parents dragged me away from my exotic childhood and my much loved dog Topsy to the frozen wastelands of Scotland. In bonnie Edinburgh I mastered Scottish country dancing, and a whole new Och Aye lingo.

As a teenager I travelled to many far-flung destinations to visit my abacus wielding wayfarer dad. It’s rumoured that I now live in the Venice of Cambridge, with my six foot hunk of a EsmeRock God husband, and my two enchanted daughters. After such an upbringing my author’s mind has taken total leave of its senses! When I’m not writing, I eat exotic delicacies while belly dancing, or surf to the far reaches of the moon. To chill out, I practise Tai Chi. If the mood takes me I snorkel with mermaids, or sign up for idyllic holidays with the Chinese Unicorn, whose magnificent voice sings like a thousand wind chimes.

Books by M J Mallon:
The Curse of Time – Book 1 – Bloodstone

Blurb:
Fifteen-year-old Amelina Scott lives in Cambridge with her dysfunctional family, a mysterious black cat, and an unusual girl who’s imprisoned within the mirrors located in her house. When an unexpected message arrives inviting her to visit the Crystal Cottage, she sets off on a forbidden pathway where she encounters Ryder, a charismatic, but perplexing stranger.

With the help of a magical paint set, and some crystal wizard stones she discovers the truth about a shocking curse that has destroyed her family’s happiness.

Title: The Curse of Time Book 1 – Bloodstone

Kindle Publication date: 27th August 2017

Genre: YA/Paranormal Fantasy

Pages: 237

ASIN: B074CDJPY9

Buy Book: myBook.toTheCurseofTime

Intended Paperback Release date – April 2018

Genre: YA/Paranormal Fantasy

Pages: 240

ISBN: 9781999822439

Book Design: https://wendyannedarling.wordpress.com/

Photography Credit: Dr John C Taylor, OBE: http://www.johnctaylor.com/
Paperback includes additional material – two black and white illustrations by Artist – Carolina Russo. https://yesterdayafter.com/

Edited by: https://colleenchesebro.com

Buy Paperback Book link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Curse-Time-Book-Bloodstone/dp/1999822439/
Unique Selling Point: Unique, Imaginative, ‘Charming, enchanting and richly layered this is purely delightful.’

Excerpt:

Feeling lost and alone, a prisoner in my own tortured thoughts, I noticed the company of Shadow. He slipped next to me, and the only sound I heard, was the continuous soft padding of his feet walking towards me. He rubbed against my legs almost as if he knew I needed a hug. With his blue-black silky fur and white patch on his neck, the cat’s vibrant green eyes held my attention. This cat exuded handsomeness, and he knew it. I smiled, glad for his presence.
As I walked back towards home, my thoughts returned to Ryder, and how he’d promised he’d take me out on Saturday. It felt like such a long time had passed since I’d last seen him, but it had only been a few days. I had this impression that time had stretched to its utmost point, and it now waited to return to some semblance of normality. I gulped, unsure, and unsettled.
Nothing stirred at all in the garden, apart from Shadow’s panther-like movements which I watched with a mixture of amusement, and trepidation. The cat sat poised at the bottom of the garden fence, and I sensed he lingered waiting for something to happen. My eyes never left him. Yet, in the blink of an eye, he had vanished from my sight. Confused, I rubbed my eyes and looked again, but no sight of him remained. Shadow had vanished. I paused and glanced over my shoulder. Perhaps my eyes were playing tricks on me? It had all happened so quickly that I couldn’t quite believe what I’d just witnessed.
In a flash, Shadow reappeared out of thin air. I drew back and blinked my eyes in amazement. I remembered that he’d done this before. The cat’s personality never ceased to amaze me. There was something quite startling about that feline, which added another piece to the mystery of my everyday life. At that moment, I wished Shadow could talk and tell me why he did such strange things.
I bent down and rewarded his reappearance with a pat of his silky fur. ‘Hey, there you are, you peculiar, disappearing, crazy cat.’ Shadow meowed and sauntered off, his tail raised in the air in the shape of a question mark. I laughed at his composure. I could swear that the cheeky fellow winked at me as he left.
My heart swelled with the love I felt for Shadow. ‘Thank goodness, I have you. You don’t let me down. Sometimes you disappear, but you always come back. My faithful Shadow.’ The cat stopped, turned, and retraced his steps towards me. He arched his back in a graceful curve as he twisted around my legs once more. This time he answered me with a purr in a richer, deeper, note that escaped from his whiskered face like a melody. It wasn’t hard to figure out that Shadow had understood what I had said.

The pre-release blog tour begins in April with my #ABRSC club pals, followed by a release tour with Neverland Blog Tours. (Jenny Marston is also a #ABRSC member!) http://neverlandblogtours.weebly.com/

Social Media:

Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com

Collaborative blog: https://sistersofthefey.wordpress.com

Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time

My Facebook: Authors/Bloggers Support Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1829166787333493/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17064826.M_J_Mallon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mjmallonauthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/

Tumblr: http://mjmallonauthor.tumblr.com/

Collaborations:
Carolina Russo has created two wonderful portraits of my characters which feature in my paperback which is due for release in April. Below you can see the full colour version of the images, please note the paperback images are in black and white.

Esme and The Creature

The above images are Copyright ©Carolina Russo: https://yesterdayafter.com

Fun facts about Marje:

  1. I wish I could be wonder woman or MJ from Spiderman.
  2. I adore crystals, alternative therapies, the unusual and the strange. I’m a qualified Aromatherapist, Reflexologist, (I no longer work as a therapist instead I devote my spare time to reading, writing, blogging and reviewing.)
  3. Some say that I am a white witch…my blogging friends confer and have included me in the Sisters of The Fey, a writerly collaboration.
  4. My husband can’t remember asking me to marry him and neither can I. He suspects I cast a spell on him!
  5. I have travelled to many foreign destinations, including: Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Rome, Venice, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Portugal. I would love the funds to travel some more!
  6. I currently work as a receptionist in a massive building, home to twenty companies. In quiet moments I observe peoples’ mannerisms, listen to snippets of gossip and dream up new story ideas.
  7. I love food! Asian food and anything spicy, yum…My mother is Malaysian and my father is Scottish so I grew up with a very varied diet.
  8. My motto is to do what you love! Stay true to your heart’s desires, remain young at heart, and inspire others to do so, even if the odds are stacked against you like black-hearted shadows.
  9. I studied Communication Studies at University, (marketing, media studies, public relations, etc.) My degree is coming in mighty handy now.
  10. I love cats but don’t own one (my husband and daughter are allergic,) so I adopted a virtual black cat called Lily who looks like my black cat character Shadow in my book: https://mjmallon.com/2017/05/17/shadow-welcomes-lily-the-cat-to-kyrosmagica/
  11. I have so many writing projects and so little time! I am a writing butterfly so this pains me greatly!
  12. I am an original! I have been to every single Bloggers Bash until now. http://sachablack.co.uk/annual-bloggers-bash/
  13. I have met the inventor of The Corpus Christi Chronopage clock – Dr John C Taylor, OBE who kindly gave me permission to use his images in my book. http://www.johnctaylor.com/the-chronophage/
  14. I interview my fictional characters on my blog. Currently you can meet: Shadow: https://mjmallon.com/2017/05/11/my-interview-with-shadow-a-black-cat-character-with-a-past/: https://mjmallon.com/2017/08/20/mj-interviews-amelina-the-curse-of-time-bloodstone-sundayblogshare/Ryder: https://mjmallon.com/2017/07/02/mj-interviews-ryder-the-curse-of-time-bloodstone/ The Creature: https://mjmallon.com/2018/02/20/mj-interviews-the-creature/ Esme The Mirror Girl: https://mjmallon.com/2018/02/23/mj-interviews-esme-the-mirror-girl/

Finalist in Authorsdb Book Cover Contest

Winner of Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge no. 7 with my murderous flash – Mr Blamey: https://carrotranch.com/2017/12/19/winner-of-flash-fiction-contest-7/

Wardrobe

mde

She hated that wardrobe. It stood, hulking and ugly, in their small bedroom, occupying nearly all the wall it lay against.

It was fatly encased in ugly faux-pine veneer and had a mirrored double front – he’d insisted on that – and he would often stand before it, with his shirt off, pulling what he considered handsome faces and sucking in his enormous gut.

She hated it. She remembered the day it had been delivered. He had summoned her to help construct it and in his wisdom, he never bothered to read something as basic as instructions, preferring instead to get her to read them out so he could then shout at her for her stupidity and slowness in not passing him what he wanted before he even knew himself.

He made her cry about it, so she hated the wardrobe with a passion, its smirking ugly veneer and harsh mirrored surface intruding on her sleep at night times. It loomed threateningly over her while she tried to sleep and made ominous creaking noises. The mirrors showed the smallest blemish and were often covered in strange smears that she had to polish away.

He loved to open the wardrobe’s sliding doors, like great jaws, and admire his collection of clothes, running his hands lovingly along the carefully ironed shirts on their padded hangers, relics of a youth when he was thinner.

Yer can ‘ave all these when I die,” he’d say to his son, caressing one particularly vile embroidered shirt that was still in its wrapper, twenty years after its original purchase.

His son nodded politely, a bemused expression on his face as his father started pulling out heaps of musty woollen jumpers, never worn, shirts that were so out of fashion they wouldn’t even qualify as vintage and trousers that were a record of the old man’s ballooning waist.

She watched, and burned, hating the way he ran his hands tenderly across the piles of decaying clothes, the jeans and expensive trousers, when he was so fat now he could only just manage to pull on tracksuit bottoms. With a curt order to her to put everything away, he left the room.

The wardrobe squatted malevolently in the corner. She hated it. The clothes inside were musty, the shoes decaying, the trousers dusty. There were sweaters in there older than their son, that had never seen the light of day, much less been worn. Her own humble collection had been pushed into drawers, shared a small space of her son’s wardrobe, while his wardrobe spread and dominated.

She yearned for something small and elegant, an antique, bow-fronted graceful piece of furniture, perhaps, with a kind mirror, one that complimented, rather than sneered, that co-existed pleasantly, rather than dominated.

Then one day he died.

After the funeral, she and her son came home, and there was a lightness in the house, a lessening. She turned to her son, and with a smile, she said:

Fetch me some large plastic bags and the screwdrivers…”

She kicked off her shoes and cast off her coat and set to: the musty jumpers, the faded shirts, the rotting trousers and frayed t-shirts were all ruthlessly pulled from their hiding places, the guts of the wardrobe stripped out, and stuffed into bags.

Carefully and skilfully, she dismantled the wardrobe, and her son helped her to carry the pieces downstairs and into the garden. It didn’t go easily – oh no, it put up a fight and she had several bruises and a broken fingernail to show for it, but she was determined.

The far wall of her bedroom – for it was hers now – stood naked and honest. She would need to re-decorate.

She returned downstairs to her son and together, they fetched the petrol from the shed. Carefully, they piled all the old clothes on top of the wardrobe pieces and baptised them with petrol. The son struck a match, and dropped it on to the pile, stepping back to put an arm around his mother’s shoulders.

Fat billows of greasy black smoke rose into the sky, chased by red-gold flame; and much badness and ill-feeling was cleansed away that night.

sdr

The Colouring Book

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Thank you very much, Aunt Patricia, it’s lovely,” the little girl repeated dutifully.

She stared down at the book that lay on her knee, the pretty flowered wrapping paper slipping to the floor. The book was called “Magical Animals” and the little girl ran her fingers across the plain white cover.

It had a pleasing gloss to it and the words “Magical Animals” were imprinted in gold. Her aunt – well, her mother’s friend from University, actually – winked slyly at her.

Wait till you’re by yourself and then try it.”

The little girl smiled politely, never quite sure what to make of this large lady, with her flowing scarves and velvet dresses, rather dashing high heels and striking makeup.

The party took over and it wasn’t until several days later that the little girl remembered the book. She retreated to her bedroom and shut the door, reaching for her better quality colouring pencils… somehow she felt that this mysterious book would be contemptuous of her supermarket pencils.

She opened the book to select a picture and was at once swept away by the possibilities as the wonderfully detailed line drawings flooded her vision, just waiting for her to bring life and warmth with her pencils…

A unicorn! That would just have to be silver and pink – a little frog, she had several shades of green that would work for him… The animals got larger and more menacing as she turned the pages – a tiger, ready to spring from the book alive in orange and pitch black … an alligator, swamp green and brown; and then a creature she didn’t recognise, with deceptively soft drawn fur and claws like knives…

There was a little paragraph of writing underneath the drawing:

All animals, no matter how soft or tame they seem, have hidden wildness. Your pet cat can be a tiger, your dog, a wolf. This drawing is to show this wildness in every beast, to remind us to treat our animals, Mother Earth’s children with respect or -”

The little girl slammed the book shut, unnerved by the way the crouching, snarling monster had seemed to loom out of the pages towards her.

She opened the book again, careful to stay in the foremost pages and selected a picture of a rabbit. She worked hard on her colouring, wanting to bring warmth and a sense of life, of “fluffiness” to the picture – she’d had a pet rabbit when she was a very little girl and remembered with pleasure the soft warm fur.

She used a russet and a chestnut brown, colouring carefully the curved back, shading gently over the delicate ears and choosing a lighter brown for the large, round eyes. She sat back, and looked, pleased with her colouring, vivid and detailed, the little rabbit really seemed –

She laughed delightedly as he shook himself awake from the paper and leapt from her desk to the floor. He shook coloured pencil dust from his fur and sat back on his haunches as if to greet the little girl.

Shocked yet thoroughly pleased, she reached out a hand and gently touched the rabbit on the head, feeling soft warm fur and a living warmth. The rabbit hopped carefully around her bedroom, pausing every so often to examine a book, a discarded shoe.

Darling? Are you busy? Dinner’s ready!”

Her mother’s voice startled both her and the rabbit and quick as a flash he bounded from the floor to her chair to the desk and straight back into the pages of the colouring book.

Coming, Mummy!” the little girl called back, stopping momentarily to check the pages of her book. Yes, the rabbit was there again, captured in paper, the colouring exactly as she remembered doing … She touched the book wonderingly and smiled, a secret smile to herself, as she left her bedroom.

That night, before she went to sleep, she slipped the magical book under her pillow.

Tomorrow,” she thought, “tomorrow, I could try the unicorn!”

With images of wonderful silver horses dancing in her imagination, the little girl fell asleep, smiling to herself …

Only to awaken, later, heart thudding in fright and panic.

She could hear footsteps. They didn’t belong. These weren’t the careful, light steps of her mother, or the firm tread of her father … these were… creeping. She felt a wriggle from under her pillow and remembered her book. She pulled it out and dropped it frightened, to the floor, as the creeping footsteps crept and paused. Outside her door.

The pages of her colouring book stirred … and her coloured rabbit sprang from the pages of the book, followed by something much wilder and darker that slipped through the edges between reality and dreamtime … and between the hinges of her bedroom door and onto the landing.

A startled gasp – and then a scream of pain, followed by pounding footsteps that fled downstairs with her father’s voice roaring in anger…

Later, much later, after her mother had comforted her, and explained that a bad man had got into the house, but it wouldn’t happen again because he – well, it just wouldn’t happen again … the little girl looked for her colouring book.

She turned, cautiously to the page where she knew the rabbit lived. Yes! He was still there! But what was that trace of red on his whiskers and about his claws? The slight dark shadow behind…

Thoughtfully, she closed the book and laid it carefully back on her desk.

She hasn’t used it again – yet.

EPSON MFP image

The Alternate Path

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Oh, he’s here now, I’ll get the door!” the man called back to his wife.

She looked up at him over the top of her glasses and smiled, lovingly.

Thank you, you’re so good to me.”

He smiled back and went to answer the door. Her son stood on the doorstep:

Ah, good to see you, young man! Come in!” The older man gave him a quick hug and took his bag from him.

Your mother’s just through there, she had one of her heads yesterday. She still gets a little… unhappy.” The man laid his hand on the younger man’s arm.

I know, I know, don’t worry, I won’t upset her,” the son reassured the older man.

Darling, it’s wonderful to see you!”

He entered the warm, bright sun room as his mother rose to greet him. Small and gently blonde, she radiated happiness as she accepted her son’s embrace.

It’s good to see you looking so well, Mum,” he said.

Oh, it’s all down to him, you know, he thinks I don’t notice, but he’s so kind, always there; I – I’m not afraid any more.”

The older man re-entered the room and glanced sharply at the woman, both assessing and reassuring as he gently touched her arm.

Come through, my love, I’m making tea, and then we can sort something out for dinner while we catch up…”

The younger man followed his mother and her husband into the kitchen, another warm and inviting room and took a place at the table.

He watched his mother move about the kitchen confidently, putting dinner together, her husband passing her things as she reached for them and always tender, aware.

The younger man told funny stories about his friends and their escapades at university, scandalous enough to elicit gasps of delighted shock from his mother and humorous, reproving glances from her husband.

After dinner, a comfortable silence prevailed and the son was quietly pleased with his mother’s progress, as she leaned against her husband, watching some television programme.

He closed his eyes briefly and was instantly taken back to a small, dark, smelly room, his mother sobbing in the corner as the small fat man shouted angrily at her, berating her for yet another imagined slight. She shrank in fear as the small fat man, his father, raised his hand and –

Darling, whatever’s the matter? You’ve gone as white as a sheet!” His mother looked at him anxiously.

Nothing, nothing – I thought-for a moment, we were –”

No. No. That’s over.” Her husband leant forward and patted him comfortingly on the knee. “Look. Go to bed. You’ve had a long journey and you’re obviously tired.”

The son said goodnight and left, and as he did, he glanced back and was inexplicably moved by the tender way the older man lifted gentle hands to his wife’s face. He smoothed her hair and kissed her softly. For a tall man, he was quiet and controlled in his movements, calm and gentle to be around and as his mother leaned into her husband’s embrace the son watched and had a sense of truly coming home.

* * *

That night, he slept badly. Disturbed by dreams of past, loud voices and banging footsteps, screaming televisions, slamming doors and womens’ tears.

As he woke, he woke in a blur, cold sweat beading his face and sticking his armpits. It was early, but he could hear voices, so headachy and cross he went downstairs.

He opened the kitchen door, the door to his past and was taken straight back to the nightmare. His mother, tears rolling silently down her bruised cheeks, thin shoulders trembling as she stood in the corner, facing the small fat man who was his father, brandishing fists and words…

OR

His mother and her husband looked up from the Sunday papers they were reading, startled by his abrupt entrance into the quiet warmth of their kitchen.

Darling, would you like some tablets – perhaps the wine at dinner last night didn’t agree…” She looked concerned and put her hand on top of her husband’s. “Would you –”

I’ll get them. Don’t worry.” He rose to his feet and as he passed the younger man, briefly rested an arm across his shoulders.

Don’t worry.” He said again, and smiled, kindly.

Alice Updated

img_7008-3

“Don’t worry, you’ll make friends once you’ve settled in.”

“Don’t forget to work hard, we know what you students are like, out all night.”

These words fell on frightened ears as her parents left her. They left her, in the hall of residence in a nameless, faceless block in a city she didn’t know and she was afraid.

It was bleak, it was dark, it was autumn and she longed for the golden days of when she was at school. The city was brutal, it was dark and it rained. She didn’t know where she was or she felt to be so tenderly abandoned. She was not equipped for this!

The gentle county of her youth, her kind teachers and thoughtful friends, the lessons, the plans, the routine, these were things she understood.

Scornful tutors mouthed incomprehensible words in echoing lecture theatres and people laughed. She couldn’t eat, she didn’t know how. And yet, and yet, she was touched with kindness as others saw her and were drawn to this sad, lonely girl, “Alice of the Otherworld” as the darkness called her.

“Here, come out with us, have a drink, you’ll feel better!”

The tall, dark, boy laughed like a maniac with knives in his eyes and pushed the glass towards her.

She drank; and was transported. Down and down she fell, tumbling down a smooth golden tunnel that smelled enticingly of childhood and weepingly of home.

When she opened her eyes, she was lying in a field. The day was golden, and dusted with sunshine, the old oak tree she reclined against felt warm and comfortable, as comforting as her bed at home.

She sat up, and her hands touched grass, grass that slithered through her fingers as soft as silk and warm as blood. A winged rabbit fluttered by, its delicate wings etched in green, flushing pink as it startled at her presence and shied away.

And as she looked, and looked again, what at first she took for flowers, beat their wings and flew away in a chattering flock and she heard the swallows singing at home as they prepared to fly to Africa.

She sighed and laid down again. This was not home, but it would do, the echoes were familiar and some of it was comforting. She drew this atmosphere around her, like her duvet at home, and shut her eyes.

***

“Ally! Ally! No! Ally, wake up! You bastard, what did you give her?”

The dark youth smiled uneasily and slid away, as her head lolled and a trickle of thin, yellow vomit escaped her smiling mouth, while the one who would have loved her grabbed his phone and cried.

The Thought Mouse

Mousie (3).jpegWhere’s a real mouse when you need one? Still… you get the idea…

The old lady sat in her chair and looked out of her window, over her back garden. The front garden was little more than a token, a slip of green and a stone step, enough on which to set a pot of cheerful seasonal bulbs. But her back garden brought her pleasure: crammed with old fashioned roses that lounged against the walls or reached joyously upwards, spilling silky petals and heavy scent.

The potted jasmine threw lacy designs against the trunk of the old lilac tree, growing delicate white flowers, the shape of an elegant lady’s shoe that overflowed with perfume. As the old lady’s sight had failed, she had come to value her other senses more dearly and had taken care to grow plants that spoke to her with their smell and touch. She reached absent-mindedly down to the side of her chair, reached for the soft warm ears and rounded head of her dog, then sighed as she remembered. He had passed from this world and into the next a couple of months earlier, lying in her arms while the nice young lady vet spoke soothingly.

The old lady felt a shove of grief, as vicious as a mugger but pushed it aside and resolutely peered into her garden, seeking distraction at the bird table. Bold starlings chattered and bustled, while little brown sparrows darted in to seize a beakful of seed and deliver it to their half-fledged babies, chirping sweetly and fluttering their wings imploringly

But what was that? A sudden scurry, a swift rush, sharp enough to catch her old eyes. A little mouse! He looked cautiously from behind the geraniums and darted a little closer to the food. The old lady smiled to see him select a sunflower seed, holding it in his tiny pink paws and nibbling at it delicately. She watched as he wiped his whiskers fastidiously and left, following an obviously familiar route along the old brick wall. Weeks passed, and it grew to be a regular event.

“Come on then, cheeky,” she would call and a small brown head would pop out of a crevice in the wall, black beady eyes alight with interest, The old lady waited for his visits and he brightened her hours, for as summer progressed, she knew she hadn’t long left.

One day, she left a little piece of chocolate by the bird table, a particular treat for herself and something mice preferred above all else, she recalled hearing somewhere. She waited for the little mouse. He arrived, following his usual route, but instead of seizing his chocolate and retreating, he sat up on his haunches and regarded her steadily.

“What is it then? You’ve got a look in your eye like my old Rex when he wanted a stroke!” Gently the old lady reached out and touched the tiny head. Smooth warm fur, soft as silk met her fingertips and the old lady smiled.

A sudden flurry of wings startled the mouse and he left rapidly, with a whisk of his tail. The old lady got to her feet – for all her age she had remained fit and limber, thanks in part to careful eating and regular walking. Suddenly tired, she returned indoors to sit in her chair, and enjoy the evening sun as it set over her garden.

“I’ll just close my eyes a minute, then I’d better see to dinner,” she thought. As her eyes closed, she felt again the warmth and fragility of the little mouse head under her fingertips and smiled, as the last of the evening sun fell upon her tired old face.

***

The house was empty and clean. Airy and welcoming. The young couple marvelled at the price and high ceilings, loved the mortgage and picture rails.

“All untouched, so perhaps if you fancy a good make-over project, rip out the garden and extend the kitchen into this area…” The man and woman looked at each other. It was peaceful, happy and welcoming. No one had lived there for months and it would be a lovely house to raise a family, pleasant and untouched.

And yet, if anyone had cared to look, as the smart young estate agent swept the hopeful young couple out of the room, they would have seen a trail of tiny pawprints, along the old skirting board and disappearing outside.

Words and drawing Copyright © 2016 Samantha Murdoch

The House

The little girl was enjoying her holiday with her parents, unaware of the tensions simmering between the two adults. They had been to the New Forest and seen the ponies, small brown story book creatures with their foals, creatures of Disney delicacy and sweetness. Now they were on their way to an old country manor house, not part of the usual tourist trail but with spectacular gardens her father had expressed an interest in seeing.

The twisty feeling in her lungs had started as soon as she saw the house from the car window. It was a simple enough house, red brick and half-timbered. She heard her mother explaining this, but her gaze was drawn to the top floor windows that seemed to glare at her with the same squinty eyed look of meanness as her Maths teacher at school.

She trailed uneasily behind her parents, as they wandered amicably, for once, chatting about the aged oaks, genuine Elizabethan knot garden that had survived the Civil War and twisted rosemary bushes that lined the little gravel paths. Every so often she would stop and look up at the house, butterflies beating in her chest and a cold tingling pricking at her fingertips, despite the warmth of the summer sun. Her mother took her hand and pulled her briskly along to look at the historic carp pond. The little girl was momentarily distracted by the languorous swimming fish, dull gold and orange; delighted when one rose to the surface to take a fly, hinged jaws opening silently to reveal a mouth lined with palest cream. Then it sank back into the weedy depths, safe amongst the lily roots. Always she was aware of the house’s brooding presence at her back.

The moment came: she set foot uncertainly over the threshold; safe between her parents she looked around. They joined a guide who took them through the rooms, smiling indulgently as the parents exclaimed at the history intact within the red brick walls, like an egg in its shell.

The little girl heard noises, metal clanging against metal, heavy – footsteps? As the group inspected the second floor, the butterflies beat frantically in her chest and then it happened. Tucked away in a corner of the third bedroom was a battered wooden door, the surface stained and greasy with the patina of wandering fingers, black iron hinges clenching it shut. The guide swung the door open silently and gestured the little girl and her parents upstairs, up the twisting wooden stairs that dipped and creaked with every step. The little girl brushed her fingers against the whitewashed walls and felt the echo of time in her bones.

They reached the top of the stairs and the butterflies burst free. Screams of pain and fear, brutal laughter echoing, clanging and metal striking flesh, the awful sucking sound as blades pull free. The little girl started crying, the screams terrifying her beyond endurance as she saw a young man caught, held and killed. His eyes met hers and the depth of pain she witnessed cut her to her soul, as she fell to the floor, her pretty dress and neat shoes smudged with dust as she kicked and wept.

Her parents were astounded. Normally the quietest and best-behaved of children, this tantrum was completely out of character. Her father scooped her up from the floor and she clung to him as he left the room to take her back to the car. She gazed over his shoulder, at the odd-shaped little room with its white walls and wooden floorboards. Completely empty. Except for an old metal bedframe.

“She felt it then!” the guide said.

“What?” the mother exclaimed indignantly.

“Oh, apparently, during the Civil War, this house was a Royalist stronghold. The Roundheads captured it though, and chased one of the Cavaliers up into that little room. Hacked him into pieces, they did.” The guide delivered this last with relish.

The mother thanked him and left, anxious to check on her little girl.

As they drove away, the little girl turned to look one last time at the house and opened her little fist. Within, lay a crumpled sprig of fragrant herb.

Rosemary-for remembrance.

Rosemary

  Copyright © 2016 Samantha Murdoch

All photographs Copyright © 2016 Alex Marlowe

Bank Holiday Story…

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This is a little story that I wrote that was initially accepted by Copper Staple. I thought I would post it for something to do… (typical Bank Holiday weather)

Crystal spheres have a mysterious reputation throughout history, being used for scrying, telling fortunes and predicting the future. I don’t do any of these. But the featured picture is a Clear Calcite sphere, a crystal for strongly amplifying your energy, as well as being very strongly linked to the mind and helping us access memories…

The Look

The woman was happy enough with her life. Every day she got up at 6am, prepared her simple breakfast of yoghurt and fruit, then left for work.

Her job was undemanding, yet fulfilling, in that she had a steady wage that was sufficient for all her bills. She did what was asked of her at work, and just that. She offered no suggestions and made no attempt to work on her own initiative. Why should she? She did as she was told and what was expected of her – no more, no less.

Every Sunday she ate a dutiful dinner with her parents, usually an over baked chicken, greasy roast potatoes and cabbage boiled until the fight had gone out of it.

Her mother, grey and worn, always seemed pleased to see her, but she never said a word. Her father accepted her presence as part of her daughterly homage and treated her to lengthy lectures on politics and how the world would be a better place if there were more people like him in it.

And so it continued.

One day, she ventured into the city centre, somewhere she usually avoided as she found the noise and busyness intimidating. She enjoyed half an hour in a discount bookshop where she bought a simple recipe book and a philosophy for beginners manual.

Holding her purchases carefully, she made her way outside, where people were just starting to gather and throng. Couples with linked hands, herds of teenagers, giggling and screaming. The sad and the lost, cans of beer and carrier bags gripped with fury at the world.

And then… and then… a sudden upswelling in her heart. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up in awareness, her blood pounded in her ears. She turned and her eyes were seized by those of a man, barely her own height, but with stature, poise, magnetism.

They drew her in, those dark eyes and spoke to her of a centuries-old love between them that had been found and lost so many times in the telling it was older than time itself. A link, a connection, so strong that the very air between them seemed to sparkle with it. His dark eyes called to her with relief and love, calling to her to leave and come now, straight away with him. A yearning, a love, a beckoning.

Big Issue please?”

The moment was broken and lost. She turned desperately, seeking the eyes of the one who knew her, but he had gone.

She returned home, and cried, a little.

She never saw him again, but she never forgot him. In time, she married and produced the children that were expected of her.

And so it continued.

Yet always, in her heart, she nursed a secret hope that her soulmate, her kindred spirit would find her again. Perhaps not in this lifetime though.

She never forgot him.

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My personal favourite crystal, Rose Quartz, renowned for being the stone of unconditional love, opening the heart to receive and emit compassion…

Copyright © 2016 Samantha Murdoch 

Promise

Promise

Cherry Blossom, traditional symbol of love and joy, promoting love and spiritual awareness.

The girl passed the jeweller’s shop every day on her way to work; a humble job in a little office, her duties mainly involved filing, typing up notes and running out for coffee and sandwiches. She earned enough to pay the rent on her tiny flat, be up to date with all her bills and maintain some semblance of independence. She was always glad when the end of the month came, but with careful budgeting she had enough for a few small luxuries, the occasional trip to the cinema with one of her friends, a nice skirt or pretty blouse.

The jeweller’s shop called to her: every day she passed she allowed herself a few moments to wonder at the treasures on display. Pearls, soft and sheened with moonlight reposing upon purple velvet. Diamond bracelets hanging nonchalantly from padded racks. Emeralds, as green as the grass she could see in the park from her flat, set in sumptuous gold rings.

The window display changed from week to week, sometimes as she was actually passing. Her eyes would meet the ice blue gaze of the immaculately coiffed blonde assistant, trickling gold chains across cream damask, some as thin as spider silk, others thick enough to dent the skin of her tender throat. The blonde assistant would pause pityingly as if to say: “Move on dear, nothing in your price range here.” The girl would turn and hurry away, the blush of the only just solvent staining her cheeks.

One summer’s day, as she walked carefully up the cobbled street, her eye was caught by a new item, not centre stage, but off set, as if wondering at the splendour of the ruby necklace that glowed like lava. This item was a little ring, a pale gold circlet that held an old fashioned cushion cut sapphire. These gems did not usually draw her, compelled as she was by the glitter and glamour of sensuous rubies, a showy sparkle of diamonds; yet this sapphire was different.

She approached the window and dared to lean in closer. The sapphire’s glow warmed her, and spoke to her of azure seas and soft blue sky. She noticed, with a little heart leap of joy that its discreet price tag bore a figure that to her, was manageable. She hurried back to the office resolving that very day to ask for some overtime, even though the clerk from the neighbouring office had just asked her out for dinner.

The months passed: every pay day she put a little more in her special tin and knew she was a little closer to owning the ring that called so eloquently to her. She had started a tentative relationship with the young clerk, and she felt a certain fondness as he clutched her hand in the dark at the cinema, or brushed her cheek chastely with his dry lips at the end of a pleasant evening together.

She had managed to slip into the jeweller’s as she saw the intimidating sales assistant leave for her lunch break, and ask the kindly manager to tuck her ring into a little seen case of odds and ends, vintage pieces of topaz and strange remnants of suffragette jewellery, shoulder to shoulder with mourning brooches and tarnished gold lockets.

She checked her tin at the end of the next month, she realised joyfully she had enough to purchase her ring – outright, no credit plans for her! The very next day she hurried to the shop, her neat black shoes tapping rapidly on the cobbles. With the assurance of a full purse, she pushed the door open and strode confidently to the corner where her ring lay. Heartbreak! Where was it? Where it should be, sat an ugly Victorian Jet brooch, squat and toad like.

“May I offer you any assistance?” the smooth, accentless voice of the assistant rang, bell-like from behind her.

“No– no, that is– no.” The girl’s ears burned and her eyes stung with disappointment. She returned to her flat and spent a miserable afternoon tidying and preparing a meal for the clerk.

That evening, he seemed strangely excited, the significant looks and lingering touches unnerved her. She began to feel a little claustrophobic in her flat, as he left his shoes carelessly near the door, cumbersome and brown. She frowned, slightly, as he slung his jacket across the bannister. His maleness seemed oppressive, and although generally sweet-tempered, she began to feel positively irritated.

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Viola flowers, meaning you’re worthy of affection and praise, with Blue Lace Agate, a nurturing stone that soothes, calms and promotes communication.

As she cleared away the dishes from their meal, he took her by the shoulders, his palms hot and sticky against the thin cotton of her blouse and turned her around.

She felt a cold dismay: he had fallen to one knee and held outstretched, almost pleadingly, a little velvet box of dusty pink, shaped like a pirate’s treasure chest. Within it, cushioned between two plump buttocks of white satin, was her ring – her ring!

The clerk knelt before her, supplicating, yet the next words from his mouth fell upon her ears like clods of earth on a coffin.

“Will you marry me?”

She glanced at her ring. It flashed, promising blue encircled by heavenly gold, then the scales fell from her eyes. It was as if a thundercloud had passed across a summer sky. The rich blue turned to tarnished grey, the gold to tawdry tin.

All that promise, to a dull badge of servitude.

All photos were taken by my son!

Copyright © 2016 Samantha Murdoch