The Hell Butterfly

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“O, what’s in a name?”

The following short story is in need of your help. It’s working title is ‘Exchange’ however I am displeased with this. I therefore invite you all to read this 600 word piece and come up with a title of your own. Post it in the comments section and the best one will have the honour of, well, being the permanent title. Here goes.

Exchange

There’s a man in my neighbourhood that likes to be talked to. He’s a hobo but he listens good. I see him slumped in underpasses when I go to lectures, pick up a ten bag, buy a box of Minstrels. He has one of those hats, you know the ones. Flappy ear bits that make him look like Goofy on a windy day. I give him a bite of my Snickers sometimes, I know he likes the crunch. It’s the sound it makes, you see. I bet his soul makes the same sound, like throwing a handful of peanuts in a washing machine and spinning the drum.

I’ve grown pretty accustomed to that upturned palm. Never get to read it much but he says he’ll crack me a peek one day. He’s a hobo but he lies good. I know he pays no mind to visual affairs. He can’t read none but he likes to hear a pretty tale any day. Even painful ones have a music that quivers a man’s heart strings he says. A lot can be revealed in a Devil’s chord. I played him some Debussy once. I didn’t hear the sea until he sung it back to me. See? See lad? He cried that day into his cavity-smile.

Most folks won’t shine a watch in his eyes but he doesn’t care for them. No point wasting time on the Rolex-clad. He’s a hobo but he holds himself good. I asked him one day about the napkin he always had tied to his belt. It was the colour of rust. He tapped his nose and smiled his smile and sent me on my way. I thought he meant to learn me something so I came back again the next day. Again I asked and again he brushed me off. I never saw that pouch get bigger or smaller until one afternoon when I saw an old broad walk his way. My eyes were glued but therein lay my lesson I assumed. So I shut my eyes, sparked a J and listened.

Penny for them? Clink clink. Oh, oh alright, dear boy. Well, it’s my husband you see. We met oh so long ago, right after the war. He was wearing his beret and looked dashing, he was such a handsome man, my Bert. I was a simple girl back then but he saw more in me somehow. He always seemed to … it’ll be so hard without him. He had a weak heart, you see. He loved too fiercely and it just … gave out. Oh but I mustn’t be too sad. He lived a long life and I’ll join him on that porch in Vienna soon enough. Thank you, my boy. God bless you.

I poked my nose round the corner to see the old man bathing in his tears. He was smiling that cavity smile and savouring some private melody. Through all of this I hadn’t seen the purpose of the rust-coloured napkin. It looked the same to me as it did before. The woman crossed my path in a talcum cloud and in her hand was a dirty coin. I had to know, so I went to him and posed my question for the final time. Morning, Trash-Can Dan. What’s in the napkin? Through his salty streams he tapped his nose and smiled his smile and sent me on my way. I never knew my Dad. Fresh liquid pebbles manifested in his lashes. He’s a hobo, but he cries good. His fingers worked at the napkin package for a second then he turned and pressed a copper coin into my hand. Penny for them?

Because ‘Twisted’ is my Middle Name

Why do we feel we have to censor our writing in order to please the general public? The same old stories with their same old characters and same old plot-lines keep coming back over and over again onto our shelves. The same archetypes that have circulated the literary globe since the dawning of time. I can’t help but wonder, where are the real gruesome stories? Where is the blood, the incest, the fucked-up catastrophes that, let’s not forget, exist in real life.

Why is it socially unacceptable to write stories/poetry/lyrics about the topics that are a litle bit too ‘out there’ for a select few over-sensitive people? For some reason, there are a great number of people in the world who refuse to acknowledge that shit happens. Some people acknowledge it, but refuse to accept it. And what then for those of us that do both? I know there is some messed up stuff in the world, and I accept that. So why should it be considered ‘wrong’ or ‘taboo’ to stay quiet on the subject in literature?

I admit, I am not a great writer. I was under the impression for years I was great, but honestly I just know how to manipulate the English language in a mediocre way. But this aside, every story I come up with has some form of fucked-up shit happening either behind closed doors, or bang in the centre of a public place. For example, I just wrote a six word story for my university coursework:

Pale, cold, naked; Daddy’s Little Girl.

To many people the twisted suggestion of this will be too much to bear and in their heads they will be screaming why has something so vulgar been written? But I say to you, why not? Why shouldn’t it be written? Allow me to explain the meaning behind this story. On the face of it, it is a young girl loved by her father – maybe too much, and in the wrong way. The initial impression is perhaps some form of abuse. The point of the semi-colon is to split the physical attributes with the suggested context. But this can be read another way. Pale and cold, both applicable to the living and dead is it not? The other possible scenario here is a dead girl, treasured by her father. We don’t know why she is naked, but she is ‘pale and cold’, dead. In either case, the impact hits you like a truck on the highway.

This is why I love twisted literature.

What is the point of having one thousand books that all have similar characters, end happily and never have a single catastrophe, when you can have one book that smacks you in the chest with the iron fist of transgression? Dark writing is what I do best, and it is what I love to read. Shit goes wrong; death, disaster, sex drugs and tuck-and-rolling from speeding vehicles. Okay, so maybe the last one is a little unreaslistic, but why is it so wrong to use this unrealistic scenario to imply something much more sinister?

Basically, what I’m trying to say, is that vulgarity can make a much more moving piece of writing than a boring same-old-same-old mass produced pile of garbage mainstream literature. If you aren’t made to feel something when you read it, what is the God-damned point?

In Which the Future is the Letter ‘Y’

You learn to tie your shoes, chew with your mouth shut, be polite to your elders, respect money. You are taught that nothing comes without hard work, and you appreciate that. You are expected to grow up. You are supposed to know exactly what you want to spend the rest of your life on.

It’s so easy to get lost in the middle.

You go from where you are, to thinking about the future, and can get stuck in the great expanse between. You know you should strive to something more, always more. Always better. You must get focused, forge your path, know where it ends and never stray. But there are big bad wolves and pot-holes that try and drag you from it, and this is what they don’t tell you about.

Figuring out your future is one of the hardest thing you will ever have to do.

I am 21 years and 7 months old and I still have no idea.

At 8 I wanted to be a bartender. At 12 I wanted to be a writer. At 20 I still wanted to be a writer, only I was just beginning to learn I wasn’t very good at it. Now, part of me wants to be a firefighter. But let’s get real, I’m too lazy for that. I know myself, I’d never get off my arse long enough to get fit for the job. My only passion in life has been music and books. I’m not a good enough singer to start a band and can’t play an instrument. I know nothing about tech so I could never become a technician in the business. I can’t write creatively or even critically, so I’ll never be an author or a journalist. I guess that leaves me with one option – I must open a library and become one of these people who spends my life with my nose in a book and my torso in a knitted jumper.

Although, I do like baking. I only ever considered it as an ideal-world scenario but at this point, what else have I got? I’ve had this dream of opening a tea and cake shop. Maybe I should do a bakery course and get a qualification, move abroad and bring my British tea shop to Tenerife, or Vermont.

Knowing where you will be in 10 years time is impossible. Unless you are one of these people who know exactly what you want and have the passion, determination and skill to get there – which is not most people – then you will likely find it very hard to decide where you want to be.

I’ve spent the last 17 or so years in education, and am about to finish my degree in English. I feel like it was pointless. Honestly, I do. £21,000 of debt just for the course and more on top for what my Dad subs me in order to pay my rent and buy food. I’m out of pocket, and still I have no idea what I want to be doing with my life. At this rate I will be moving back home with my parents with no job and a next to useless degree before the Summer is out. I hate it. I don’t want to go back there, back to a place in my head where I have nothing going for me. True, I have a boyfriend now, but unless I suddenly want to dedicate myself to becoming a stay-at-home wife and mother – highly highly unlikely I assure you – then that won’t make much of a difference. It may mean I will want to live here in Plymouth instead of Basingstoke but that means I need a flat. To get a flat I need cash and to get cash I need a job. My Dad says he wants me to aim higher than minimum wage – and he says it in a way that makes it sound like I was going to aim that low – but if I need to work minimum wage for a year to save enough cash to move out then so be it.

It’s so overwhelming it hurts my head. Seriously, I have a headache right now. So far it has been easy enough. I see it as a giant Y. Up until now I have been travelling up in one sraight line: education. School, college, university. It has kept me going on one track my whole life. But, come May, that track will split off into a massive cone and I will have the entire world to jump into. It’s like I’ve been learning to swim in the shallow end with my Mum, with armbands, without armbands, putting blood sweat and tears into the task, and right when I think I’ve got the hang of it I’ve been thrown off a cliff into the ocean covered in blood to fend off thousands of sharks.

I’m terrified.

I have mere months until I must decide where I’ll work, what career to start, where I’ll live, how I’ll survive. I’m not ready. I’ve never been ready. I’ve been ignorant, letting the protective bubble of Education shut me off from the real world and it’s about to shatter to reveal that all along the walls were mirrors and all I could see was me and my little slice of ignorance. But there is a bigger world, with bigger people and bigger problems. I am so scared.

Is anyone ever prepared for the jump?

I have to wonder …

The Most Lamentable Tragedy of the Lotofus

I am not a playwright and I am not from Edwardian England. I did however take a crack at writing a play in Shakesperian English. The task was to write a piece in any form so long as it was an adaptation of an existing piece. I chose a Spike Mulligan poem. The result was a 5 Act Shakesperian play-pantomime that fit into just over 2000 words. This is one of the creative pieces I am most proud of having written and, as this was submitted for my degree module last year I feel it has been long enough to justify posting it without any plagiarism repercussions. I hope you enjoy this and, should any of you be aspiring stage actors, I am open to seeing a re-enactment of this. Nudge nudge.

The layout of this is a little all over the place. Spaces aren’t where they are meant to be and, while in part this is down to my lack of knowledge of the correct formatting, it is largely the fault of the WordPress site itself. Many lines are out of sync with each other but the content is all in the correct places. I have, for the purpose of making it stand out, made the character names bolder. I hope this helps.

So here it is, The Most Lamentable Tragedy of The Lotofus.


PROLOGUE

Chorus: In this, the story of the Lotofus

And his fear of the monster in the dark,

The tragedy of the Hippopotamus

Is told through how this fear did miss the mark.

With jaws and body, teeth so large to see,

No animal would venture forth to know

That the giant they shunned eternally

Could be a friend, but also be a foe.

The fatal fear projected on the creature

Allowed for the destruction of his friends,

And though his power was his biggest feature,

‘Twas fear of this unknown brought tragic ends.

The power he did have, and could have used,

Yet he did not, and thus he was abused.

 

ACT ONE SCENE ONE

Forest. Enter LOTOFUS and PUSSY CAT along with mice and rats.

LOTOFUS:   Hark, friend! How do you do?

PUSSY CAT:                                           I am well, friend.

LOTOFUS:   And here, I see you brought along some lunch!

PUSSY CAT: A snack or two, should the occasion rise.

LOTOFUS:   A wise decision! Pray, what hour is it?

PUSSY CAT: Eight, Lotofus. He will not rise till nine.

LOTOFUS:   An hour then. Good. Yet how I fear the hour.

It brings such dreadful things that make me weak

And tremble where I stand.

PUSSY CAT:                                        We shall be gone by then.

LOTOFUS:   And pray we are. Terrific creatures dwell

In these parts. Like the Hippopotamus.

I do not fear you Pussy Cat, oh no,

For you eat mice and rats and leave me be.

You are my friend. But he could eat me whole.

In this I fear.

PUSSY CAT:                  Don’t fret. Here is no harm

If we do not disturb the river. Peace.

LOTOFUS:   Alas, you are correct. I’ll shake no more.

PUSSY CAT: Hear, hear. Now I am hungry. Shall we dine?

LOTOFUS:   We shall. But pray that we be gone by nine.                           [Exit.

ACT TWO SCENE ONE

River. Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS on the river bank.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: To use the power in my jaw to kill,

To kill for food, to satisfy my hunger?

Whether ‘tis nobler for a one as I

To use my strength to keep myself alive

Against the hunger that my size requires;

To hurt the ones I wanted to befriend

In here, this solitary place of woe

Where I am big, they small, and me alone;

To snap my jaws and with my teeth destroy them

For a mere morsel? To destroy: perchance to lose:

Ay, there’s the rub. If I did use my power

To destroy the creatures of the forest

I would lose my chance to gain a friend at last,

For if I were to eat a one of them,

The others would all run in fear of me

And I would be mere Hippopotamus

Alone, lost on this river ever-more.

[Enter LOTOFUS and PUSSY CAT]

Yet soft: the noble Pussy Cat here comes,

And who with him? I shall enquire the name

Of the stranger at his side. Good day, good Cat!

LOTOFUS:            Ay me! He sees us! But why does he wake

When ‘tis not yet nine? What shall we do?

PUSSY CAT:                                                                         Stay here.

I’ll venture forth and ask what he desires.

Good day, old chap.

HIPPOPOTAMUS:                                 Good day. May I enquire,

Who is that creature that you bring this way?

PUSSY CAT:         A friend.

HIPPOPOTAMUS:              A friend!

PUSSY CAT:                                      A friend of mine

And one that frightens easy in this clime.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: May I meet him?

PUSSY CAT:                                    I doubt he will accept

Your invitation. Yet I will ask and if

He does deny you, please, good fellow, yield.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: [Aside.] A friend of noble Pussy Cat that I

Have yet to meet? Haply he’ll be mine too.

But he returns!

PUSSY CAT:                               He will not venture near.

He is too scared of your great size and jaws

To come closer. Yet don’t be sad, good chap,

For I will speak with him and see if I

Cannot arrange a meet another time.

For now be still.

HIPPOPOTAMUS:                            And on your word I will.

Good day.                                                           [Exit LOTOFUS and   PUSSY CAT]

So friendless and alone I stay.            [Exit.

 

ACT TWO SCENE TWO

Another part of the forest. Enter PUSSY CAT and LOTOFUS.

 

LOTOFUS:       O, dear Pussy Cat! See how close he came!

I saw it. Like a prophecy, I saw

Those teeth open up as he ran at me,

And my head, entering those savage jaws.

O, why does such a creature here dwell?

PUSSY CAT:                                                                           Peace,

Good fellow, peace. Let me explain it all.

That creature you call savage bears no harm.

He chooses not to eat the folk that live

In and amongst the trees and waters here.

A friend is all that he desires, and so

He starves himself in pursuit of a one

Who will not fear him. Lotofus, please come

And meet him. Do not be afraid, I plead,

For he is but a woeful giant. Heed.

LOTOFUS:        I cannot. He has the power to kill

Me in one blow. And what becomes of me?

I have done no wrong. I don’t deserve to die.

But he, I know, could kill me where I stand.

I shall not go.

PUSSY CAT:                                      Good Lotofus, please hear.

The Hippopotamus should not be feared.

LOTOFUS:       It can’t be so. He is too big for me.

That is my last. I shall not speak again.

PUSSY CAT:    So it shall be. Clownfish, come to my side.

[Enter CLOWNFISH]

CLOWNFISH:  I’ll come to your front as I am forced to swim.

What is it you want?

PUSSY CAT:                                    A message I have

To send up-river, yet I cannot leave my friend.

You are the swiftest in these waters.

CLOWNFISH:                                                         True.

A quick lap I could muster up for you.

And the message?

PUSSY CAT:                             Tell Hippopotamus

That he shall not meet with the Lotofus.

His fear of his great size does overpower

His will to make acquaintance with his person.

CLOWNFISH:  So it is true. Size really does matter.

I shall relay this message, but beware:

The calm of hungry, lonely men is rare.

PUSSY CAT:   Lotofus, will you not explain to him

Yourself? [Pause] I take your silence as a no.

Clownfish, tell him of this and then return.

CLOWNFISH: And while he turns yellow, I, the big man spurn.                 [Exit.

 

ACT THREE SCENE ONE

River. Enter CLOWNFISH moving up-river.

 

CLOWNFISH:        Could, would, should: the great debate. Which is right?

The Hippopotamus could eat him if he might

But would he if he could, but so he can,

So would he, will he, when it hits the fan?

And should he, as he could and would no doubt

If eating him, no good could bring about?

He could. I think he would. But should he kill?

He’s hurt again. My God, I think he will.

[Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS]

Here comes my man; the giant they all fear;

The one the yellow-bellied won’t go near.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: Good day, good clown.

CLOWNFISH:                                          As good as any round.

I bring you word, and such a word I bring

From Pussy Cat that surely has to sting.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: And what word is that, ho?

CLOWNFISH:                                               The word is ‘no’.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: “The word is ‘no’”? Whatever do you mean?

CLOWNFISH:       That in your presence the Lotofus won’t be seen.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: He will not come? Does Pussy Cat say why?

CLOWNFISH:       He says a ‘y’ but not a why you’ll like.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: How so?

CLOWNFISH:                       The ‘y’ is ‘yellow’. Cowardice.

And by this ‘y’ your friendship he’ll dismiss.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: Dismiss me, without even meeting me?

The fool! The coward! Heartless! How he mocks

My way of living in a foreign land

Without a gram of discontent at it.

He cannot understand my pain, the daily

Suffering that keeps me weak though I look

The part as I am large. I cannot bear

Another day of it. My fast is over. Done.

Let the hunt begin. The Lotofus is first.

Mock me, spurn me, now taste the strength of me.

It’s time to let my jaws do what they will.         [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS]

CLOWNFISH:       I thought they would. Now he shall foot the bill. [Exit.

 

ACT THREE SCENE TWO

Forest. Enter LOTOFUS and PUSSY CAT.

 

PUSSY CAT:     I hope the news did not upset him much.

His is a gentle soul. On this I trust.

[Enter CLOWNFISH]

                        What does he say?

CLOWNFISH:                              A lot for which he’ll pay.

PUSSY CAT:   My apprehension grows. What were his words?

CLOWNFISH: A few he spoke before he went berserk.

PUSSY CAT:   Berserk? Clownfish, tell me, is he insane?

CLOWNFISH: He is in something but it’s more like pain.

PUSSY CAT:   Where is he now? I must apologise.

CLOWNFISH: He looks for the Lotofus. Tonight he dines.

PUSSY CAT:   Good God. And so he comes for him?

CLOWNFISH:                                                           He comes.

For him; revenge; perdition; yes, he comes.             [Exit CLOWNFISH]

PUSSY CAT:   You hear what Clownfish says? He comes for you.

I doubt that now my words will have effect

Sufficient to dispel the rage he feels,

And yet I have to try. For his sake and

For yours I have to try. Stay here, my friend.

This bush will well conceal you from harm.

I will return.                                                             [Exit PUSSY CAT]

LOTOFUS:                            He left me on my own!

He means to talk him down but that won’t work.

A brute his size knows nought but savagery.

I shan’t stay here. Instead, from him I’ll flee.         [Exit.

ACT FOUR SCENE ONE

Another part of the forest. Enter PUSSY CAT front of stage.

 

PUSSY CAT:       I have to find the Hippopotamus

Before the pent up anger of his past,

Friendships unrequited, and his hunger

Break the peace in which he lived so long.

I fear I am too late, but I must try

To save both prey and hunter from demise.

[Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS behind. Crosses stage]

If only I knew where he was, I could

Stop him from bringing pain into the woods. [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS]

I shall look elsewhere. He must not be near. [Exit PUSSY CAT other way]

[Enter LOTOFUS below stage]

LOTOFUS:           O God, save me from this untaméd beast!

I am too good to end up that thing’s feast.

[Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS onstage. Approaches LOTOFUS from behind]

O, Pussy Cat, why would you leave me now

With that almighty hunter on the prowl?

[HIPPOPOTAMUS tries to grab LOTOFUS. LOTOFUS steps aside and HIPPOPOTAMUS misses. LOTOFUS does not notice him]

I dare not stay too long. He’ll find me soon,

And then I’ll end up dead, or worse, his food. [Exit LOTOFUS]

HIPPOPOTAMUS: He thinks that he can hide from me. More fool!

What impudence to say that he is good,

Better than I, when he’s the one who threw

Distempered greetings at my feet. The swine.

No matter, Lotofus. You’ll soon be mine.         [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS]

[Enter LOTOFUS]

LOTOFUS:             Perhaps I was a little overhasty

In my judgement of him. I should have stayed

A while. Haply I would have charmed the brute

And then he would not have it out for me.

I should have tried. But it’s too late. I’m done.

Can I, for my wrongs, repent? Let him come.

[Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS]

Here is the beast! I spoke too soon. I am

Not ready for him.

HIPPOPOTAMUS:                           I found you at last.

Too many times have I been put down by

The ones whose eyes did fuel their fear. Too long

Did grave starvation grip my sides in anguish

As I sought a friend in food. Now I feast

Upon the coward that called ‘beauty’ Beast!     [Chases LOTOFUS offstage and a scream is heard.

 

ACT FIVE SCENE ONE

River. Enter PUSSY CAT and HIPPOPOTAMUS in chains on river bank along with mice and rats.

 

PUSSY CAT:    Old chap, I heard of your foul crime. You ate

My friend, the Lotofus, and now the wood

Calls for a reprimand. Your heinous deed

Has brought such chaos to our midst that all

Around are petrified. I cannot hope to quell

The anger in your heart, nor gloom in mine.

The only method I have thus devised

To keep the peace among the people is

Exile. Down river on the muddy plain

You’ll spend your final days in solitary.

Neither food nor friend you’ll find around.

This is your punishment. Let it be said:

The Hippopotamus is banishéd.                                  [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS with mice and rats in escort]

And so the fear of one brought on his woe,

While the anger, uncontrolled, of his foe

Did strike him down in blows almost as low.

Take heed, the story of the Lotofus,

And, too, that of the Hippopotamus.                                     [Exeunt.

I Love My Weird Ill Dreams

Since just before Christmas my family have all, at some point or another, been quite violently ill. My Mum’s coughs were so harsh she was forced to vomit every other day. I then got a brief but brutal stomach bug that had me up vomiting all night. This same bug then got my sister two days later. But while this illness was swift and effective, we have all fallen victim to the more persistant slow burner – the chesty cough. What began as a sore throat became a mild cough. This developed into a harsh rattling cough that made me lose my voice, and I am now at the stage where my lungs physically ache. It hurts to lie down, and this has made sleep very hard. Breathing is difficult and so my brain is not entirely relaxed when I finally drop off. But I’m okay with that so long as it lets me sleep. And last night, not only did I manage to sleep, but my far-from-relaxed brain gave me some weird and wonderful dreams.

I am in a library. all the shelves are a luxurious orange-brown, polished. The books, too, are of a rich brown colour, leatherbound no doubt. From my angle the room is an ‘L’ shape. I am standing along the base and at the top of the line is a set of glass doors. I see my friends outside. Among my ‘friends’ is one recognisable face, though the others I adam_bartonquickly forget: the face I recognise is Adam Barton from Emmerdale. But I am getting ahead of myself, I have not actually noticed this yet. I am just about to figure out why I am in a library when a half-naked Native American Girl in full headdress, loin-cloth and carrying a spear appeares before me. Suddenly my chest feels as though a force is crushing my lungs. She is no ordinary human, but a Shaman type, a magical apparition if you will. I fall to my knees. My hand clutches my chest. She speaks,

“You are to be mine.” The voice is not young, nor entirely audible. It is a genderless voice, echoing off the walls, reverberating in three different eerie whispers. “You will hereby belong to me. But first you must complete the tasks. First, you must kill for me. You will be affected as appropriate by the last song you heard, and then you will begin.” Her last words are inaudible as, at that moment, Adam Barton has noticed my pain and is running through the doors to come to my aid. I do not hear what he says either. I only see him crouch beside me, lips forming words I will never know, and then I am running. I am low to the ground, across a road, through a city centre in seconds and then I slow to a walk.

It is here, crawling along the pavement that I realise what she has said: “You will be affected as appropriate by the last song you heard.” According to my Dream Knowledge, the last song I listened to was Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran. Now I understand. The Shaman girl has turned me into a werewolf. Somehow I know I still look human, people on the street opposite watch me with trepidation. I scare them. I can hear myself growl, feel it even; it rattles in my chest like a motor. I admit I feel powerful. I am the predator. I feel the teeth with my tongue, they are sharp and taste like blood. I feel it running from my lips, down my chin, hot and delectable. My arms and legs move under me. Wherever I am, I have begun the hunt. My shoulder blades roll under my skin as I lower myself to the ground and stalk forward. My muscles are strong and I feel the animalistic ecstacy of being alive and being a killer.

Then I see them. Two menFinn Barton Cover Photo looking for me. Somehow I know they were my friends. There is a recognisable feeling of happiness, that indescribable connection between two close companions. I only recognise, or at least only remember, one of the two men: Finn Barton, also Emmerdale. Apparently I have some form of connection with the family, yet I feel closer to Finn than to Adam. Something about him feels stronger than for Adam: Finn cares for my safety in a way I didn’t feel when I saw Adam. Finn and the other man have spotted me. They are below me, further down the hill. They know I must be stopped, but they won’t shoot, won’t harm me in any way. Dream Knowledge tells me they are smart but humane and will try and find a way to turn me back, break the Shaman’s curse before I kill someone. The blood on my mouth must mean I have injured somebody, but they are still alive. I can tell Finn has hope. But this does not change anything: I am a werewolf and my instinct is to kill. In this moment, the only thing I know is the hunt, and he has justtumblr_mdrbdeJkaT1re1unjo4_250 become my prey.

My limbs ripple with the sudden energy I need to sprint at him. For a moment, Finn looks scared, but then I see resolve in his eyes. I do not seem surprised by his reaction, such is the closeness of our friendship, but as I lunge for him, mouth wide to pierce his jugular with my pearly whites he changes. In a split second I see him lower his centre of gravity, raise his arms and bare his own fangs. He too is a wolf. Yet he is not a wolf like me. I am a werewolf, but he is of the Fae wolf shifters. Essentially, he is of the same species as Dyson from Lost Girl. I feel my body connect with Finn’s and then all goes black.

When I come to I am motionless on the ground. I am covered in blood, though whose blood I do not yet know. The world is the wrong way around, I am too exhausted to turn my hed and thus I see everything from the wrong angle. Across the road, on a grassy bank, Finn and the other man are digging furiously and loose soil tumbles to the pavement below. They are frantic and some of their words float down to me.

“We must find the bones … only hope … she’s looking for them … change her back.”

Once again aided by Dream Knowledge I can understand the conversation. While some part of me belived it was I who was seeking the bones, I feel perhaps it was my weak state that had me misunderstanding the pronoun ‘shtumblr_mwlzehhVZS1qafea7o3_r1_500e’. It was, in fact, the Shaman girl who was seeking the bones They were hers. Just as Sam and Deam would have done in Supernatural, Finn and the other man were digging up the Shaman girl’s bones in order to salt and burn them. This would destroy her spirit and break the curse she had placed on me. She would no longer claim my soul and I would transform back into my human form. If I had have killed anybody before they could break the connection I would potentially have remained that way forever, a werewolf whose soul was owned by the spirit of an evil Shaman. Finn had activated his wolf in order to disable me. Now I felt the throbbing in my neck. He had imitated my attack but was quicker on the draw and more masterful in his technique. He had pierced my neck deep enough to stop my attack, but not enough to kill me. He had merely made me too weak to pursue the hunt.

I did not see the flames, nor hear the Shaman’s screams as her spirit was incinerated. I did not see them re-bury the bones. After hearing the snippets of conversation I had passed out again and when I awoke once more it was to see Finn cradling me in his lap. He was holding my neck to stop the bleeding and attempting to keep me awake. I remember beginning to feel the fear of death. It was this that tipped me off first to the fact I was human again. My vision was blurry from fatigue and tears, then I think I whispered his name. As the werewolf I had recognised him by the sentimental connection only, but now I was human again I knew his name. He assured me I was safe and I felt it. A few seconds later I woke up.

Up until now there have been only two things which I know give me odd dreams: white chocolate and illness. While white chocolate tends to give me extremely vivid nightmares, illness tends to make things just a little bit wacky. Not bad, just wacky. Last night’s was a gem among dreams. In fact, I enjoyed the premise of it so much I’m tempted to turn it into a short story. Perhaps a piece of Supernatural/Lost Girl/Emmerdale crossover fan-fiction. At least I know nobody would have written anything like it. You can’t make this stuff up.

What was the last weirdly wonderful dream you had? Is there anything that triggers your strange dreams?

Banished: A Review

Last week I was sitting on my sofa, watching tv and minding my own business, when my curiosity got the better of me and I found my gaze drawn to my sister’s laptop screen. She was wearing earphones, and all I could discern on the screen was a lot of snow and some tiny dots moving rapidly across what looked like a tiny town. In theory, it seemed very boring and I almost turned away. But then she built a house, traded 200 units of iron tools for 2 chickens and accepted 11 nomads into her community. Suffice to say, I was intrigued.Banished1 The game she was playing is called Banished. At its most simple, it is essentially a medieval Sims. Only instead of controlling and looking after a particular person, you are managing an entire town. Now, I am already a fan of the Sims games, just as I am a fan of building things from scratch in such games as Zoo Tycoon and Rollercoaster Tycoon. Combine all of those elements, put it to a medieval setting and you have the foundation for Banished.

The object of the game is to help your small community survive and develop into a thriving town. You must collect raw materials like stone, iron and logs in order to build your houses, barns and cabins. You also need food. Warmth, shelter, medicine and good food are the four main things to keep your people alive. Hunting cabins, gatherer’s huts, farms and pastures will get you all the food you need along with other benefits. You may also build schools, hospitals, chapels and taverns. So long as you have the resources, you can build anything you need to help your little community expand.

Visually, Banished is stunning. The graphics Banished2are top-notch and this remains the same whether you are zoomed out to a wide overhead view, or looking close up at the brickwork and crop fields. The detail is phenomenal and, a factor I personally find very good about it, the camera movement is smooth. So far I have had no problems with jumping, freezing or bodged graphics. It has been a pleasing visual experience. The same can be said of the sound. Interestingly the music changes depending on which season you are in, meaning you don’t get bored of the same tune on repeat. Admittedly not a lot of the sound is important, and I have played it into the early hours on mute and not missed a thing, but it is good. You can hear your builders at work, hear the sheep across the field, and there is even a little ‘boop’ notification for any important messages.

There is a lot of fun to be had in this game. Chickens breed like rabbits. Or at least they breed so fast your town will certainly not be lacking in eggs or chicken wings for a while. And as a nice twist to fit the medieval theme, the characters’ names as chosen by the random name generator are rarely boring and, in some cases, truly hilarious. Yesterday I discovered a couple who had named their newborn baby girl Oral. Poor sod. But on top of being a lot of fun, it is also quite challenging. With three different difficulty settings it suits everyone’s tastes, but whether you are playing itBanished3 on Easy or Hard it is safe to say you will never truly be bored. There is always something to be done and this is something I find is where it excels. You may have more families than houses, so you must build a house, but to build the house you must have the raw materials. If it is winter you must decide whether to build a new house or save what logs you have for firewood to stay warm. You may want to buy some new seeds from the trader to expand your options for crops, but you must first find 2500 units of your own to give him. You must decide if losing all of your coats and iron tools simply for a new crop type is worth it. There is never a dull moment in the game and it is fascinating.

I bought the game in the sale as a recommendation from my sister, but I can recommend it to everyone even at its original price of £15. If I could award gold stars, Banished would get five. I am yet to find fault in it except that it is so addictive I have ruined my sleep pattern. Even as an Xbox gamer I find myself captivated by this PC game. If you like your games with quality graphics and intellectual challenge then this is for you. So what are you waiting for? Go and buy it, you won’t regret it. And if my word is not enough just click the link and take a look at the website for yourself: http://www.shiningrocksoftware.com/game/ Happy gaming!

Changing Perspectives: The Relationship

Having been single for 21 years and 3 months my brain percieved the world in a way that I had grown quite accustomed to. I saw things as a single person would, did things a single person would, but most notably I didn’t know how different those things would be were I in a relationship. That is something I am beginning to discover.

Up until four months ago I ate alone, worked alone, played alone and slept alone. I did things when it was convenient for me and didn’t go anywhere I didn’t want to. I only had to make myself happy and, when something went wrong, I only had myself to blame. There is a cerain mindset you find yourself in when you are single, even if you don’t see it at the time. It took me finding a boyfriend to notice subtle changes in the way I saw the world, from the big things to the insignificantly small. And it has also helped me begin to discover things about myself. I would like to think I know myself well. I know my weaknesses, my flaws, the things that make me cry and the things that make me angry. I know my favourite smell. I know what kind of pain I like. I know how to keep myself calm at night when the wind picks up and my phobia of tornadoes makes it hard to sleep. And yet I was not aware of the many things I had yet to discover when I found a man I wanted to be in a relationship with. The day I stopped being single was the day my world opened. And what treasures I have found.

When I watch a film with a couple in it, so really any film on the planet, before I would notice the words, the meaning, the cheesiness of the cutesy couply moments. Now, when I see those scenes it is different. When I am with my boyfriend and watch a scene in which they hold each other tightly, I reach for him and hold him tighter still, smiling. When I am away from him and see a couple holding hands I miss him, just like the Owl City lyric: “The silence isn’t so bad till I look at my hands and feel sad ‘cos the spaces between my fingers are right where yours fit perfectly”.

Tonight I watched Titanic. Up until today whenever I watched it I cried in all the places it is socially acceptable to cry at: the heartbreaking violin track; the elderly couple; Rose’s death etc. Tonight, I saw one particular scene in a different way. It was not deliberate, more of a feeling that triggered a secondary image. This scene was this: Jack convinces Rose to get on to the lifeboat. He looks her intensely in the eye as his hold breaks from hers and the boat begins to lower toward the water. Then, as she looks up, she locks his gaze and starts to cry. She doesn’t want to leave him, and he doesn’t want to lose her. It is at this exact moment, looking through the camera into Jack’s anguished stare that I see it. It was now not Jack I was looking at, but my boyfriend. It was no longer their relationship being sacrificed for her safety, but mine. And suddenly, for the first time, I got why she jumped. I would have.

Perhaps I am alone in this, but I have always found it difficut to truly imagine the emotional bond with a partner. Having never experienced the simple joy of lying by my boyfriends side as I played with his fingers and he stroked my hair, or having felt the undeniable urge to smile when he gives me the look he uses only for me, the bodily feeling of a relationship was utterly lost on me. I had learned to live alone, glean comfort from the cuddles of a stuffed animal and I had taught myself how to be happy on my own. Take these two years at university. So I didn’t have any friends, didn’t leave my room and couldn’t see my family. That was okay. I enjoyed being alone. I could watch what I wanted, be as quiet as I liked without the awkwardness of people wanting me to make conversation I simply could not, and I could cry at whatever point it felt necessary. I could draw a blade across my ankle when I was emotionally empty and I could ‘Dad dance’ at 2am to Blondie having gotten a little tipsy drinking by myself. At that point I felt I could be completely myself. Little did I know then, that was only part of the real me, and quite frankly it was often only the darker side of myself.

It took getting a boyfriend to realise that, while I enjoy my time alone, I am still human enough to crave human contact every once in a while. I have learned that I am willing to go out of my way, even if it means going outside, to socialise, even if it is only with him. I have discovered that somebody saying my name during sex is surprisingly creepy. I have learned I like marshmellows in hot chocolate. I have realised it is okay to ask for help on the bad days, but more importantly that it is okay to have bad days.

I have gained a friend, a confidant, a mentor and a great kisser, and he is my boyfriend. Our four-month-iversary is in four days and, while I am not going to be celebrating by sending flowers and chocolate, it is a significant step in both my life and his. It marks a physical achievement in our relationship, and serves to remind me of what I have gained. It is also a reminder that, while I know myself better than maybe other people know themselves, there are still plenty of things I may have left to learn.

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