Tor Redrock

Tor Redrock wasn’t the mountain’s highest peak or its most beautiful crag, though it soared above the barren valley below and shone crimson in the sun’s fading light. Still, something had drawn her to it.

Climbing the broken face, struggling over scattered stones and along forgotten paths, she felt alone. She was alone. That steep spire of red granite was no company, no comfort. But it drew her on towards the dwindling summit like a moth to an ember.

At the very tip of its tapering point the world of solid safety was swallowed by an expanding void of weightless air. She was afraid, trembling with every step. If she touched the needle’s point, she would be borne away by even the gentlest breeze.

But she wasn’t alone. Another had been pulled there, two flies snared on a spider’s thread. He was crouching just below the summit, looking down into the deep scar below. Did he understand? She reached out to touch his arm and knew that he did.

Tor Redrock held no secrets from them. They had known it was a lonely place, coming together by different paths.
He would never move, that forgotten adventurer. For an eternity, he would sit and watch the valley, understanding how alone he was without ever knowing.

She left him there and let careful footsteps lead her down the mountain. She had reached the summit and learnt the mountain’s secret. Something had drawn her there and now she knew what. She had been a moth drawn to a dying ember, but the light had burnt out. New, brighter fires blazed below.

Chained Voice

Harsh, white lightbulbs in crossed iron cages running in a line bound by straggling copper wire.

A cracked stone wall of stable doors in dark, stained timber with black steel banding. Heavy locks and bolts weighing against each other.

A breath of sound in the midst. Calling out, but unheard. A chained voice.

Philosophy and Mathematics

Philosophy and Mathematics

“Mathematics undoubtedly gives the best understanding of the world around us.” the mathematician said, leaning forward in his chair and waiting in eager anticipation for the debate to begin.
“Is that so?” the philosopher asked, flicking through an exercise book with apparent disinterest. “Are these the problems you give your students?”
“Yes, they are. But what about my question?”
The mathematician spread his palms out, inviting the first volley of the argument that would surely follow. Frustration began to creep into his mind and he furrowed his brow.
“You didn’t ask one. Can I test you?” the philosopher asked, waving the exercise book in an idle hand.
“Of course.”
“If I have nine sacks of flour and I pour them into three buckets, how much flour is in each bucket?”
Why was he asking such a simple question? But then, the mathematician thought, it might not seem so easy to a professor of a soft science.
“Three.”
“And if I pour those three buckets into a large container, how many sacks’ worth in the container?”
“Nine.”
The philosopher hummed, steepling his fingers over his chest and leaning back. He cocked his head and seemed to be studying his colleague.
“I have taken away your sacks and buckets, and have given you a shovel. Can you remove three sacks’ worth from the container?”
“Of course, I take a third of what’s there/!” the mathematician said, trying to remember which part of the syllabus that question had come from.
“Are you confident that mathematics has provided you with the correct answer to each of those questions?”
“Yes, absolutely.”
“Alright.” the philosopher said, frowning. “Then I’ll ask you something. How much flour was already in the buckets? Were the buckets large enough to take a full sack of flour? How much flour was in the container? Were there holes in the buckets? Did some flour leak? How many carrots were in each sack? Did rats get into the container and eat the flour?”
The mathematician blinked and stared at his colleague, who had asked every question without taking a breath. Calculations ran through his mind, none quite fitting with the facts he was given. The solution hit him with unexpected force. He glanced at the clock.
“It’s half-past three. You’re late for your lecture.”

Proofread by Nobody

Proofread by Nobody

Frustration

A selection of short stories with dubious proofreading.

Maggi Leafs

Ben walked out into the woods. The ground was burning with a hundred shades of red and gold, a carpet of autumn leaves. He saw his friend and opened his mouth to call a greeting, but stopped himself at the last moment.

As he stood in fascinated surprise, Maggi rose to her full height and spread a pair of tawny brown wings. He watched her leaf, fluttering away to spin and turn among the thick white clouds.

She Sails Sea Shells

The sea shell sailor tipped her hat, showed her mussels a last time and walked into the fish ship.

Eats, Grasses and Shoots

The cow sat across the bar and took a slow sip of his bourbon. It would be a long night waiting for his handler and he didn’t plan on spending it sober. He leaned over and grabbed the barman’s apron in a tight hoof.

“Oi, bring me some chips.” He growled, glaring through soft brown eyes.

“Sure thing, buddy.” The barman squeaked.

He came back a moment later with a small plastic bowl filled with the delicious chips. The cow lowered his face to the counter and guzzled them with feral greed. Sitting back, he took another swig of his drink just as the undercover detective took his seat beside him. A brown paper envelope slid across the bar.

“It’s all there, what’ve you got?” The detective asked over a pair of dark sunglasses.

The guy couldn’t have been able to see much, the cow thought, wearing sunglasses at night in a dark bar. Either way, he was getting paid.

“The deal is going down tonight.” He paused as a cute Aberdeen Angus walked past and checked out his spots. “They’re real, baby!” He called. “Anyway, it’s going down tonight at the docks.”

A sudden crash made them both look round. The barman had dropped a glass to smash on the floor and was staring at them, pointing a long finger.

“Hey!” He shouted. “He’s a grass!”

The cow spun around on his bar stool, drawing a revolver from his pocket and firing it with his right hoof. Black smoke filled the crowded bar and he felt his vision swim. He’d eaten his fill, done some grassing and shot at the bad guys. It wasn’t a bad life for a cow.

“Eat, grass and shoot” his mother had said on her deathbed. Or was it “Eat grass and shoots”?

The Salah’s Fury

The Salah’s Fury

IMG_0358

Excerpt from John’s Life and TravelsAn Imposter’s Failure:

Sakhr, his thawb identical to Karim’s own, stumbled closer. The man walked with an absurdly wide gait. He could not be their Salah. Such an undignified soul as this…

“Your brothers would have his ears removed,” Sakhr chortled as he came to stand beside Karim. He watched Abdul’s frothing mouth and manic, bulging eyes with a faint half sympathetic smile. “To deny a soul the whisper of the dune…” He shook his head and turned from the failure’s humiliation. “Such cruelty!”

“This heretic does not listen to the Watcher’s whispers, Holy One,” Karim said automatically, puzzled. He did not like this. It was rare for this charlatan to move about alone. What did he want from Karim that he did not want the others to hear?

“He does not listen.” Sakhr muttered, seeming to draw in on himself. His eyes looked down at something far below the rough dirt at their feet, something that Karim could not see. “But he still hears the Watcher’s words. Does he not?”

The question caught Karim by surprise and slipped like a subtle blade past his guarded senses. He had expected to be made to watch Abdul’s suffering, add to it or even to cut his acolyte’s throat. He had anticipated harsh words or accusations.

But nothing had prepared him to bandy philosophical musings with the arch-heretic while a man thrashed in agony before them. His tongue hung limp, his mouth dry.

“This beast hasn’t the sense to hear the loudest shouts of the Watcher.” Karim replied, knowing that he must say something.

He immediately regretted his words. One ragged line of sparse grey hairs lifted to form an arch on Sakhr’s brow. The flowing cloth of his pure white thawb rustled as he took two steps closer. Karim was surprised to see that even a sorcerous sack of filth such as Sakhr could have thin red veins in his eyes, dark rings beneath them. The heretic was tired. Who knew they even slept?

When he spoke, Sakhr’s voice was crisp and brittle. His breath felt as cold as a desert winter on Karim’s face. Their noses were hardly a hair’s breadth apart and, as the false Salah of the Aswan bit out his words, Karim imagined those straight yellow teeth snapping closed on his tongue, chewing it out from his mouth.

“What? You say he cannot hear the Watcher’s loudest shouts?” Sakhr asked, the chill in his voice shattering each syllable. Karim winced. “What? What?! When the Watcher’s voice is heard throughout? When his mouth speaks through every trickling stream, rustling bush and shifting grain of sand?

What? Answer me! No, but I have been unkind.” He laid a paternal, wizened hand on Karim’s arm. “You are emotional. This has been a trying day. You did not think. The Watcher sees all faults and forgives the righteous.”

 

Letter To A Tobacco Giant

Letter To A Tobacco Giant

Dear Messrs Benson and Hedges,

I am writing to inform you of a most unsettling event that has taken place this morn. It is an occurrence of such gravity that I feel you must be made aware.

It concerns one of your tobacco products, a pack of Benson and Hedges, of which I have been a loyal consumer since the ripe and boisterous age of three and ten years.

I’m certain you have heard the old joke of the French waiter and the hair in the gentleman’s soup. Never in my most feverish imaginings did I think that such an event could transpire in this medium.

But what else should I find trailing lewdly from my cigarette end as it approached the five centimetre mark, but a hair (or fibre of some other sort).

I thought that you should be made aware of this grave error in your manufacturing process, lest some other harm come of it. As for myself, I was sufficiently appalled by it that I have taken to smoking a pipe, an act which has provoked an unfavourable cough.

Yours Sincerely,

A Disgruntled Admirer