Queen of Wands

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The Clouds, They Change – a children’s story

Clouds ascended and descended over the hilltops, whirling into the shapes of big fat creatures. Kites. Balloons. Old friends, their shapes were represented in the sky. Slowly, slowly, breaking apart – reforming into new shapes. New friends. New fat animals.

Turp had laid on his back – on his blanket – all day, watching these worlds form and depart in front of his eyes. He never got bored of it – in fact, it only seemed more interesting as the day went on. Think about it – you go into looking at clouds with a specific shape in mind. For instance, a hippo in a felt hat. For a while as you look at it, you become more and more convinced that it is, for definite, a hippo in a felt hat. Then – slowly, slowly – the parts of the hippo start to drift away from what you’re used to and it looks nothing like a hippo in a felt hat – then what could it possibly be besides a hippo in a felt hat? You’re so used to it being a hippo in a felt hat that it can’t be anything otherwise. But all it takes is a stretch of thinking and to depart from the idea that clouds can only be in the shape of a hippo in a felt hat, or a giant standing on a bicycle, until you can accept that it is something new. Something you’ve never seen before. Could it be a chimp at an accounting job, or even a bottle filled with marbles?

For Turp, that was part of the fun. Clouds were ever changing into new things, as was the world around him. And for Turp, it was all okay. It was about creativity, and learning.

 

But one cloud that he DEFINITELY recognised, coming dark and bloated over the craggy horizon, was a monster of a thundering hail cloud. Clumps of ice, the size of small but-not-too-small boulders, were pelted from its fluffy underbelly onto the little village it hovered over. And, between each volley of icey boulders, it cast a huge CRACK of lightning at the thatch-roofed buildings.

“Youch!” Turp heard a villager scream as a bolt of sharp electricity zapped him directly in the backside.

Well, Turp definitely wasn’t lazy (arguable, since he’d spent the day lying on the hillside). He LEAPT to his feet and ran as fast as he could to the top of the surprising smooth hilltop. From there, he saw the village – the dark cloud hung so low over the buildings, spitefully filling the surrounding walls with cold hate until the village looked like the chilliest and least fun ballpit in the world. Not only that, but the cloud’s lightning had set the tops of the buildings on fire! The cloud was so hateful that its hate was beginning to contradict itself. Soon, the fire would melt the ice, or the ice would put out the fire. Either way, nothing would be achieved – only to make people miserable.

Well, Turp couldn’t just stand there and do nothing about it. He ran down the hill and climbed the walls, where he was high up enough to be close to the cloud. Face to face with it – literally, in fact. When he was that high, he saw that the cloud had a tiny little face that was crumpled up and sour. It was physically straining itself to pour the hail out onto the little village!

And, at the top of his lungs, Turp shouted

“HEY!”

And the cloud looked at him.

“Wot?” it boomed, opening only one of its little eyes to look at Turp.

“Why are you raining such awful things on that poor village?” Turp said. “They haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Oh, they ‘ave!” the dark cloud said. “I mean, I can’t stand the sight of ‘em, and I don’t like ‘em bein’ ‘ere!”

Turp thought for a moment. “But you’re a cloud! You’re free to float around and change shapes, why spend your time doing this?”

“You mind your own business! Its wot I do, and I have lots of fun doing it. Clear off!”

Turp thought for a bit more. This was utterly baffling to him – he couldn’t convince the dark cloud to leave them alone, but what else could he do?

He thought.

And he thought.

And he had an idea.

Turp ran off back over the hill, back up the hill, and back down to the other side ‘til he got to where he had been lying down and looking at the clouds. When he was so far away, he heard the cloud say “Ha! I’ve scared ‘im off, so I ‘ave!”

But that wasn’t the case at all – Turp realised he had what the villagers didn’t; a big, big blanket. It was a little muddy and smeared with grass stains from being on the floor all day – but it was better than nothing. He rolled it up, put it under his shoulder and ran to the bottom of the hill, back up the hill, and back down the other side ‘til he got back to the village. He climbed back up the walls ‘til he was high above the village and next to the big dark cloud. This time, he got a corner of the blanket, tied it to one of the turrets, and moved on to the next one.

“Wot on Earf are you doing?” grunted the cloud, almost distracted from his hailing duties. Turp ignored him, and soon he had all corners of the blanket tied and now the huge sheet covered the village like a big roof. No, like a big umbrella! The hail and the lightning kept coming, but just bounced off and fell onto the surrounding ground. Sure, the blanket was a little soggy, but the village was troubled no more by the foul weather.

“Bah! Whatever, you’re not worf me time.” Grumbled the cloud, and soon floated further and further into the distance until it was just a tiny little speck of spite in the fading distance.

The clouds, they change into new shapes. But some, the ones that bring foul weather – they might not be able to change. Sometimes, the only thing we can do is lend an umbrella to the ones without protection from the rain.

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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