Ten of Wands

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Ever since I was twenty five, I’d become the host of a strange little creature. When I say “host”, I don’t mean he had taken up residence in my home – helping himself to my custard creams and getting his muddy feet on my sofa, outstaying his welcome for ages and ages. Nor do I mean he had burrowed under my skin as a parasite would – burrowing into the pond-softened patches of my skin, through my bone marrow and finding its way into my cerebellum. No, I don’t mean either of these.

The little creature had wrapped its arms around my shoulders with its stubby fingers clasping together around my collarbone, and its fat little legs gripped around the base of my ribcage. Of course, when I say “little”, I don’t mean little like a small beetle is little. No, what I mean by “little” is more in the way that a mini beverage fridge is little compared to your average refrigerator. Compact, but still heavy. Heavy enough to make a *click* in my vertebrae every so often, as it was basically a fleshy backpack that sang in my ear;

 

Walk and walk and walk all day!

                No, I don’t mean to cause you such dismay

                           But you intruded, and so there’s hell to pay

                                       No, it’s your fault that I’ll never go away!

 

I used to live in a town, a place where there were actually shops. That was ages ago, though – after a confrontation with my family meant I couldn’t bare to show my face around there anymore, I packed two bags (one of them was just a canvas shopping bag) and took the first bus out to the country. A small village, if you could call it that, on a one-way road (which, in that area, was too much – no cars ever used it) waited in ivy-vine walls and mossy cliff faces following a two hour trip (which is to say a bargain for £3 at that distance). From where I stood by a mottled red phonebooth that hadn’t seen use in years, I reckoned I could have seen literally every building in the minuscule hamlet, and that was speaking of a completely flat land.

  • A pub, I think
  • A post office – closed
  • What looked like a florist, but the plants had no petals
  • Four, or maybe even four and a half, residential cottages.

At that time (6ish) I felt the only place that would welcome me at all would be the pub. I could see if they had a room for rent and in the morning I could scour the area to see if one of the cottages might have been a bed and breakfast.

It was a situation where I’d have expected a pianist to completely stop what he was doing and all the locals to turn and glare at me – but there was nobody in there. None at all. A barman, perhaps, but none at all.

“G’murnin!” he said in one single syllable (it was past 6pm).

I asked if he had any rooms to rent.

“Well, we’re a pub, y’know. Not an inn.” He scratched his face. “But we’ve a guest room free. My eldest lad used to use it. But he left. He left a while ago.”

I asked if there was anyone else here.

“Just me, always. And my young lass, always. And my wife, sometimes. But she died.”

“Oh.”

A small face emerged from behind the bannister of a balcony-come-hallway that overlooked the bar – a tiny child, must’ve been about six or seven, who had come to investigate the fact there was now more than one voice in her world, contained by rotting fences in a far out pasture. As if he could smell her, her father looked up at her from below.

“Well ‘ello!” he almost sang, and she flinched. “Well, say hello to our new guest! He’s going to be taking you brother’s room.”

“H-h-h…”. I could tell she was trying so hard on that first word, but it wasn’t going to happen. She ran off into the only other room in the building. It was one of the last times I’d see her, and I grabbed a swift drink and brought myself up the staircase flanking the bar and up into the guest room. There wasn’t any point in unpacking, I thought – chances are I’d move on in the morning (I was right) and it would just be easier to sift through them to find what I needed that night and leave them contained in their bags. However, I unpacked myself from my clothes and threw myself onto the bed.

And

Drifted

Into

A

Shallow

Slee-

 

***

 

A creaking woke me up. A creaking woke me up at about four in the morning, and caused my lids to snap open like broken shutters with an audible dry ripping of the sleep sand piled in the corners. A monstrous presence made itself known in every particle of dusty air in the guest room and drew me shakily to my feet. My shins sobbed as the felt my weight, throbbing from under my pale dry skin – but my sleepy waking semi-dreams could only spell out the letters;

S O M E T H I N G S W R O N G

And I left into the hallway to escape the choking thickness of the evil air. But turning the doorknob only let more pour in, and soon I began to drown in it. This air, like torrents of monsoon water, knocked me from my feet and lifted me three-feet from the ground without my control – and the path down the hallway was thick with the clouds of hovering microbes. The door, the door on the other side of the corridor, what was behind it – what was flashing that red and fleshy pink? What could have howled that foulness of a drunkard’s skin? I swam, I swam to the creaking on the other side of the corridor. I swam breast-stroking my way through wood and dust, high above the creaky floorboards that could have otherwise given way under my heavy feet. Wherever this air, this damp presence of sickness, was coming from – it was in the far room. I turned the handle. Flashes of pink and red. Skin, skin, skin and unearthly yowling.

 

***

 

Walk and walk and walk all day!

                No, I don’t mean to cause you such dismay

                           But you intruded, and so there’s hell to pay

                                       No, it’s your fault that I’ll never go away!

 

It whispers in my ear, all that time later. It clings on tight to the sides of my chest until my lungs want to scream. I’ve been walking for what seems like years now, ever since I’d seen what I shouldn’t – ever since a fat little gremlin manifested itself onto my back and rolled its awful tongue deep into my ear til it popped. I want to tear my hair out since I can’t possibly touch this thing with my own hands – and I’ve started to without even noticing. I look down sometimes and find clump after clump of greying hair caught between my fingertips and beneath my nails. I can feel the skin around my cheeks tightening.

So I walked and walked and walked away

It was what I’d seen that caused dismay.

When I intruded on that fateful day

It was all my fault, because I didn’t stay.

Thogdan

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Apologies for a lack of updates and a lack of Tarot stories! University work will be over soon, and that will leave me to do as I please (meaning go on week-long benders). But when THAT’S over, there’ll be more weekly tales, I promise. In the meantime, here’s a half a biscuit to tide you over til dinner.


Thogdan impaled the earth, and leant on his sword. From the mountaintops, he watched the purple clouds of Narc’loda drift over the Northern horizon, caressing the Great City’s spires, and recollected the time he had single handedly thrown the tyrant-wizard to the ground below. Inside, he smiled slightly, but his face remained in its usual stony grimace.

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Knight of Pentacles

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Knight of Pentacles

1. Wake up.
2. Fold covers once, then again.
3. Get out of bed.
4. Walk one circle, then two semi-circles, in the centre of the room.
5. Open blind.
6. Look at landscape outside; if the fountain and the tree aren’t beside each other, and the old lady in the lion pelt is screaming in tongues, you’re dreaming. Repeat steps 1 through 5.
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The Hermit

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The Hermit

The sun arced around itself as I drifted away; I was now far enough that I could watch its orbit in full. Mine had broken, and the planetoid that I lived on was now adrift amongst the stars.
The growing field of ink was beautiful, and the gemstones that glowed against the horizon were far enough for me to not worry about floating into them, but close enough that I could still see them twinkle. I tried to grab a handful in giddy delusion.

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The Magician

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The Magician

Staggered through an alleyway; passed out in the trash. Not a problem – it formed around my body like a black plastic throne. That was when my subjects came to pay me tribute.
“O, wise and noble bum,” said a plague of rats that emerged from the smelly heap. “We only ask that we may dwell in the spacious courtroom of your head.”
“Sure,” I replied. Why not? “Climb in my ear.”

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Self post: Tarot Stories: Deck I is out!

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HI!
Despite my last post only two hours ago, I’ve wrangled the formatting and managed to get the interactive contents page working. The anthology is now out as a free eBook! Oh, I’m so happy. You can download it from Smashwords here;

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/529779

Thanks!

Ben

Selfpost: Twitter and formatting snags

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Hello to the 40 most beautiful people on WordPress (as voted by Heat magazine),
I’ve just started a Twitter page that I hope that I won’t forget to use. The page in question is here; https://twitter.com/TheFarPastures
In other news, formatting an eBook has turned out harder than I thought. All the content is there, it’s just that it comes up on Kindle looking like the last board on Pac-Man if the arcade machine had been hit with like 10 hammers (in succession). I hope I can fix it soon, it’ll take some reading. In the meantime, literally all the content (minus the introduction) is on this very WordPress.

How have your days been?

Ben