Wednesday, 30 May 2012

An update on Jonathan Hatfull's activities and current thinking.

Hi there.

No story today, or for the last couple of weeks. You may have noticed. If you're saying "What short stories? What period of absence? Who is this Hatfull?", that's fine too.

I have been shockingly unproductive over the past couple of weeks. Heinously so. But, in my defence, I've had my reasons. Real life did that irritating thing of poking its grotesquely misshapen nose into my affairs and messing things around a bit. I didn't get something that I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get anyway but I did want, actually, and had been working on for several months. As you can imagine, that was a kick in the gonads. I'm also trying to sort general life things out a bit. Work, money, living situations, whether or not to shave my scraggly winter beard. All these things weigh heavy on the mind of someone who spends most of his time daydreaming and thinking how awesome it would be if there was a film in which Tilda Swinton and Isabelle Huppert played lecturers at a prestigious Swiss university who go on an icily detached, gory killing spree through the Alps. I have a tendency to get grumpy and indulge on a bit of self-pity, which is far less productive than you might think. Plus it was my birthday last week and I was busy catching up with lovely people and having fun. So, there. A combination of being kicked in the gonads and being warmed to the cockles of my heart.

So essentially I have been doing little of late. A few months ago I was putting up a short story every week. Madness, given that they were of varying quality and that I should have been spacing them out with some blog posts about writing, which is what I said I would do.

But this period of non-productivity has ended. I have decided this. This has been decided, by me.

So what am I doing? How about an update on my projects?

1. Lovely Creatures, or, The Book That Nobody Wanted: It's had about five edits now, and I'm waiting to do my final edit, I think. I've been deliberately leaving it for a bit. I have a tendency to declare things finished when they're anything but, and this needs to be definitively finished before I wade out into the murky world of self-publishing.

2. That other, earlier novel that I occasionally refer to that was originally called Lovely Creatures: I can't remember how much I've talked about this, but this was something I wrote before my writing course started. It's set in the same universe as the finished novel, but much shorter, over a single weekend, and more straightforwardly unpleasant. I have decided to give it a tentative second draft to see if its worth rescuing. I like the characters, but the writing needs a lot of work. It's interesting to see ideas that still work (I think) but expressed badly. (Sorry, younger me) If it works

3. The sequel to Lovely Creatures that I posted character prequel chapters for: Right, this is stewing in my brain, to put it simply. I'm enjoying thinking about it but I want to get editing done properly on the outstanding writing before I commit to writing this. If I'm writing something new, I want to just be thinking about that, especially when I've got:

4. The script-thing: First draft is done. Second draft has begun. Don't really want to say anything about it yet.

5. Other things: There are things that I want to get finished, bits and pieces of writing that I'd like to complete. Hopefully over the next couple of months I'll have time to get to them.

So there's quite a lot, really. This is going to require some planning and time management. These are two things which I am going to learn how to do.

I am also planning to write a bit more non-fiction on here. I have some ideas about horror and horror writing that I'd like to explore with you, as well as chatting about the writing process. I always wanted this blog to be a combination of actual fiction and talking about fiction, not a diary. I hope that you'll be interested in reading it.

And that's another thing. I'd like to know what people would like to read on this blog. Writing about films, which I do elsewhere, is great because it's specific. It's for people who want to know about that particular thing. With fiction, I'm writing it for me and I'm putting it out for anyone who cares to read it. Which is fine. And it's nice that some stories seem to have entertained people. But if there's anything specific that you'd  like to see, please let me know. There will come a time when I will actually have to decide whether to self publish or not and then that will be a whole other kettle of self-promoting fish but, for now, I just want to make this fun to read.

Anyway, if you've read all of this, I hope you'll continue to come back. Blog updates will be more frequent from now on, although there will be more non-fiction than before. Thanks for reading, everyone. I'm always surprised and grateful that you do. Here, listen to Swans by Camera Obscura.

Oh while you're here, listen to Camera Obscura's cover of Abba's Super Trouper. I love it. I saw them do it live once and it was lovely.

Monday, 14 May 2012

I'll Take You

The man who bought the vacant house on Maple Street was watched closely by his new neighbours as he signed the paperwork and took the keys from Joe Skrout, who had never had such a stroke of luck in his eleven years as the town’s only real estate agent. As Skrout drove away the neighbours watched the newcomer walk up the front path to the three stories American Foursquare and worried. The man turned in time to see three sets of curtains hurriedly close but not before they saw his tired face, his crumpled clothes, and the single suitcase he took from his car.

He turned the key in the front door and stepped inside his property. Despite Skrout’s eagerness to sell the house, he had been decent enough to explain to his client the state of the place that he was buying. Some routine maintenance work had been done two months ago but the house had not been lived in for over a year. The interior was clearly beautiful through its thick coat of dust.

Extensive work had been done on the house around fifty years ago, Skrout had told the man, making it an unusual, very special piece of real estate. The ceiling in the living room had been removed, (“and the room above it, too!” Skrout had laughed) and the room now stretched all the way to the floor of the attic. The beams that lined the ceiling were thick, stout pieces of carpentry which Skrout felt confident using as a guarantee of the structural integrity. After all, it hadn’t fallen down yet. Why would it now?

A large fireplace stood in the far wall of the living room under a frame where a similarly large mirror had obviously stood. Skrout had not explained the mirror’s absence, and the man had not asked.

A door under the stairs led to a small cellar. Skrout had explained that it was where emergency supplies (“light bulbs, fuses, water, you know the kind of thing”) could be stored but he had decided not to take the man down to see it. The kitchen, like the rest of the rooms on the ground floor, was large for one man by himself. Skrout had asked if the man had family joining him and had received a non-committal grunt by way of a reply. But as long as the money was good, what business was it of his? He took the man upstairs and showed him the three bedrooms (“one double, and two for any little ones”), the study, and finally the attic.

Skrout explained that the attic was small and that the man could use it if he wanted to, but would be just has happy if he never touched it. There was enough house that the attic shouldn’t have to be used for anything. He was relieved when the man seemed happy with this statement and accompanied him back downstairs.

Throughout the tour of the house Skrout had the distinct feeling that his client wasn’t paying attention. He seemed bored with Skrout’s patter, staring off into space and nodding at unpredictable intervals. Skrout had worried that this had all been a waste of time. The man didn’t seem like the sort who would have the necessary amount of ready cash needed for his purpose. He needn’t have worried. The man had the necessary. When he returned to the office, Skrout decided he would close early.

At four o’clock, with half an hour before her children returned home from school, Mrs Polly Ledingly took a deep breath, summoned her nerve, and crossed the street. The autumn leaves had begun to fall and crunched underneath her feet as she made her short journey from her front door to the stranger’s. Her heart beat a little quicker as she moved quickly up the front path and the three steps before knocking on the front door. Her answer came almost instantly.

The man who opened the door was slightly shorter than she was. Mrs Ledingly stood at a little over six feet in flat shoes while the man in front of her was a little under in heavy boots. His salt-and-pepper hair had been combed down at one point, though it stood at alarming angles where he had clearly pushed his hand through it. His narrow-framed glasses were pushed right to the top of his nose, and through the lenses the red rims of his eyes were visible. He raised his eyebrows and when his voice came it was cracked and hoarse.

“Hello. Can I help you?”

Polly had come here for a reason and she wasn’t going to let nerves get the better of her.

“Hello, yes. My name is Polly Ledingly, I live across the street. I saw you arrive earlier and I wanted to…this is going to sound strange, but…”

“Would you like to come in, Miss Ledingly?” he asked. He pushed the door open a little further and Polly felt a chill run through her.

“No, thank you…It’s Mrs…I’m sorry, I don’t know why I…no, I can explain just as well out here, thank you.”

The man raised his eyebrows but didn’t budge, which she was grateful for. She took a deep breath, adjusted her posture, and prepared to speak her piece.

“I know I don’t know you…” she began.

“My name is Joe Manse,” he said.

“Pleasure,” she said out of habit. “But, Mr Manse, I felt that I had to tell you about…I’m worried that you might not have been told, I don’t know if Skrout told you, and I’m not judging, times are hard and we’ve all got to make a living, but he should have told you and if he didn’t, well, then…and that’s what I’m here to do.”

Manse nodded. “I see. And what is it that you are here to tell me?” he asked.

“I need to tell you what happened here. And I’m not a gossip. I don’t believe in stirring up other people’s business and spreading stories but you need to know what happened here. You need to know why everyone was watching you when you arrived.”

“And what happened here?” he asked. He sounded more intrigued than scared, and Polly wished that she could share that with him.

“The family that lived here before you, they were….well, they were killed here, Mr Manse. Murdered. Last year, you must have read about it? The man, he killed seven families and just disappeared. The family here, they were the first.

The police said that he must have got in through the attic window, though God knows why, or how. The glass up there was smashed and there was no other sign of forced entry. Then he worked his way down, killed those poor children in their beds, killed the mother in the bathtub, and killed the father in his armchair as he watched the television. He left the adults where they were but he took the children, the boy and the girl, down to the basement and sat them up against the wall, looking up at the stairs. Nobody heard a thing. But when we hadn’t heard from them for a few days a couple of us went over to see if Deborah and Matt were OK. We saw…we could see something from the downstairs window so I ran home to call the police.

We heard about the other murders from the papers. We couldn’t believe that he just seemed to keep going, it never seemed like the police had any idea what they were doing. And then a few months ago he just stopped. But you know what they say about these people, Mr Manse. They don’t stop. They just wait, and that’s why I felt I had to come over and tell you.”

Joe had listened to all this in silence. He hadn’t made a single noise of acknowledgement or agreement. When he was sure that Polly had finished he sniffed and pushed a hand through his hair.

“Well, that is quite a story, Mrs Ledingly. And I would like to thank you for sharing it with me. Mr Skrout obviously didn’t feel it was necessary, or perhaps he didn’t feel it was wise, to tell me.”

Polly felt a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She had done the right thing.

“I think you should go and see him right now,” she said, “and you should tell him that you want your money back. It’s not right that he should sell you this house and not tell you what happened here, what we all know happened here. I’d be more than happy to come with you, I’ll tell him…”

But Joe held up his hand, and she found herself coming to a halt.

“That’s really very nice of you, but it won’t be necessary.”

“I don’t…I don’t understand. How can you stay here, knowing?”

Joe took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. Polly felt a tremendous compulsion to help him. He was exhausted, he wasn’t thinking clearly. This man needed help.

“Mrs Ledingly, it’s just that….I can’t ask you to understand. But I have to. Thank you for your concern. You have been most neighbourly, and a credit to your community.”

As Polly opened her mouth to argue he closed the door and went back inside.

Joe retreated to the living room where he watched Polly turn and walk quickly back across the street. When she was back inside her house he turned and opened his suitcase, which lay in the middle of the living room floor.

He took out a folded blue duvet. He took cushions from the sofa and laid them in a row on the floor as a makeshift mattress. He took out a thick black notebook and placed it next to where his head would rest.

He spent the next few hours moving slowly around the house. He went from room to room, lingering in the doorways. He went up to the attic and examined the new glass of the round window through which the killer had found his way in. He went to the basement, where he knelt down and picked at fresh coat of white paint at the foot of the stairs.

When night fell Joe opened a bottle of wine and sat in the living room. He moved occasionally from the armchair to the sofa, alternately watching the street through the flimsy net curtains and staring into the fireplace. He had been travelling through the country for months now. His work was tiring, stressful, and he felt utterly drained. But he had finally reached the end. Soon, he would be able to stop. When he had finished the bottle of wine he crawled under the duvet and closed his eyes.

When Joe opened his eyes the room was lighter than he had expected. The moonlight shone in through the tall windows, casting long shadows across the floor. But his eyes were drawn to the ceiling.

A young dark-haired boy in white pyjamas clung to the wooden beam a full story above his head. Directly above him. The boy’s expression was blank. A long dark line went across his neck.

Joe lay on his back. He did not move. He lay there, staring up at the boy. The boy stared down at him. Joe blinked.

The boy was barely an inch above him. The dark line was now plainly an open wound, a clean cut across the throat. The boy’s expression was unreadable. Joe felt his heart stop. He did not move. He blinked again.

The boy had gone. Joe exhaled and moved his arms and legs an inch, more to see if he could than out of any intention of getting up. He wanted to make sure everything still worked.

His left foot made contact with something. The heel of another foot. Joe stopped moving. With a great effort of will he turned his head to the left. 

A figure was next to him in his makeshift bed, which had somehow stretched to accommodate this intruder. In the moonlight Joe could make out wet, frizzy, light brown hair. A thick dark liquid ran down her neck and over her back. He blinked.

The figure was gone. Joe took a deep breath and started counting. “One.” He sat up in bed. “Two.” He got to his feet. “Three.” He turned to face the door.

A dark-haired man sat in a t-shirt and boxer shorts sat in the armchair by the door. A mug lay upended with its contents spilled on the floor by his feet. He had the same wound on his neck as the boy. Blood ran down his front, staining his white t-shirt. Joe took a breath, blinked, and walked past him. He pretended he didn’t see the man’s eyes follow him as he did.

As Joe reached the stairs he opened the door to the basement. Turning on the light, he looked down towards the bottom of the steps and saw a young girl staring back up at him. She wore light pink pyjamas and had the same light brown frizzy hair as her mother. He went upstairs.

The floor outside the bathroom was wet. He could hear the tap dripping into what sounded like a full bathtub. He did not look inside. He walked past the children’s room. The door was ajar, and he could see the illustrated shadows of a nightlight. He went back downstairs.

When he came back into the living room he saw that all four members of the family had found their way there too. They stood by the fireplace watching him. Their expressions were unreadable. It occurred to Joe that they were simply waiting to see what he was going to do.

He took the notebook and tore out six pages. He moved slowly past the watching figures and put the pages into the fireplace. Taking a deep breath, he took a lighter from his suitcase and set it to the pages.

The effect was almost instantaneous. The room was filled with a cold glow and Joe was surrounded. The living room was now host to six more families, each one standing still, waiting to see what he would do.

For a moment Joe could do nothing. He merely stood and stared at the assembled company. But one group in particular held his gaze. A woman and two small girls stood a little closer to him than the rest. She nodded, and Joe turned and left the house.

From her bedroom, Polly Ledingly heard the front door of the house across the street slam shut. She got out of bed, quietly, to avoid waking her husband, and went to the window. She saw Joe walk down the front steps to his car. He opened the boot and removed a large brown trunk with some difficulty. He dragged it back up the steps to the house, pulled it inside, and closed the door behind him. Polly watched the house for another half an hour. At one point the light in the attic went on. It was only on for less than a minute, and she thought she could make out a silhouetted figure before it went off. But she could have sworn she heard somebody scream.

When she called round the next morning she found a note pinned to the door saying simply that Joe Manse had left and would not be returning. She felt reassured, at least, that he had gone, and that she had done her neighbourly duty.

When Mr Skrout came around to examine the state in which this eccentric had left his house, he discovered something else entirely.

He explained to the police that he had never realised quite how much blood a human body can hold, or how many parts go towards making a whole person. But his examination of the house that day showed him exactly how rich, complicated, and extensive a thing the human body is. Every room of the house contained a piece of the man that DNA tests would reveal to be Archie Teak, who had been missing for some time. It would be about a further month or so before the police found evidence that Teak was the man they had been looking for in connection with the murders. As for Joe Manse, they caught up with him a lot quicker, but not quickly enough. He was found in a hotel room bathtub, with a short, simple note explaining that his work was finished and he’d gone to join his family.


Hello there,

Hope you enjoyed this week's horror short story (That was my effort at tags!). It's partly based on a nightmare that I had recently (God, that sounds pretentious, but it's true. The bit with the boy on the ceiling and the woman in the bed anyway) and I wanted the house to be the one from the poster for the original Fright Night which I will link to here because it's just perfect. And the title comes from the song below. I'm going to be working on the two novel-shaped projects and the script-flavoured things a lot for the forseeable future so blog updates will be a bit less frequent but I will tweet and whatnot when I do post things. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Necessary Evil

The heavens opened with a roll of thunder and the rain started. Sands stood by the side of the road waiting for a car to slow down and pick him up. The rain wasn’t making the heat any more tolerable. Instead it just collected at the nape of his neck before trickling down his back, mingling with the sweat. Of all the places he’d ended up, this had to be one of the most irritating. But he couldn’t look at it like that. Once you got started down that train of thought things got progressively more aggravating and that wasn’t the point.

He moved to turn the collar of his coat up before remembering he’d done so when the last bout of torrential rain had started a couple of hours ago. Right on cue, a lorry sped past, its front tires slicing directly through the puddle in front of him. The water arced upwards and covered him like a coat of paint. He would not get annoyed. That was the wrong way to go about things.

There was the car. A green Land Rover. Its headlights were on full beam, causing him to lift his hand to shield his eyes. As he did so, he unclenched his fist and extended his thumb. The car slowed, and the rear passenger door next to him was opened.  He shook as much water from his coat as he could and climbed inside.

A small blonde girl that was a good year too old for the pacifier in her mouth was staring at him. Her eyes were wider than seemed possible for her round miniature face, and she clutched an empty plastic juice cup in both hands.

“What are you doing?” asked a woman’s voice from the front seat. He knew the question wasn’t directed at him.

“What, he was out there in the pouring rain!” replied a man’s voice from the driver’s seat. “You say you’ve never seen me do something that’s not for me, here you go! An act of bloody charity!”

“I can’t believe you,” she replied, her voice hoarse. Sands knew they’d been arguing for some time before she turned in her seat to face him. He saw from the mascara trails running down her cheeks that she’d been crying too. “I’m sorry, Mr…”

“Mr Sands,” he said. The woman didn’t seem to care.

“…but I think….”

She was cut off as the car pulled away from the curb and back into the road, faster than it should have done.

“For Christ’s sake, Les. I can’t believe you, I just can’t,” she said, turning back to face the driver.

“I know you can’t believe me, you keep telling me. Every bloody day you tell me the many ways in which I’m an unbelievable disappointment to you, and you know what? I’m fed up with it. I’ve had enough, Sarah. I don’t need to hear about what a terrible fucking person I am. I’m not exactly sure how you’re capable of judging that.”

“Can you please not bring that up again?” she asked. She was crying again now. Sands turned to look at the child. She was still staring up at him. It was obvious that her nappy hadn’t been changed in some time. Sands sighed. He would not get aggravated.

“Oh, I’m sorry, so you’re allowed to reel off all the ways in which I’ve failed as a husband and a person but I’m not allowed to talk about all the times that you’ve fucked up? How you’ve failed me over the years?”

Les turned to face his wife. Sands saw the rage he’d seen a thousand times before. “Can’t I talk about that?” he shouted.

“Please, watch the road!” she screamed, and reached for the wheel. Les’ right hand shot out and struck the woman across the face. She cried out in pain, her outstretched hand flailing. The rest happened very quickly. The man could feel the car drifting across the lanes. He saw the headlights of the lorry. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

When he opened them again he was upside down. Sands didn’t turn to look at the child but he saw the pacifier and the juice cup. He undid his seatbelt and grunted as he fell against the roof of the car. He picked his way out, ignoring the unnatural angle of the wife’s neck. He stood up, testing his arms and legs gingerly. Nothing that a few minutes and a walk wouldn’t fix.

He saw Les standing in front of the car. He was staring at the shattered windshield, the spray of broken glass. The rain was creating pink puddles around his feet. The front of his throat flapped open and shook as he spoke to himself.

“I should be dead,” he muttered. Sands nodded.

“Well, you are.” He patted him on the shoulder and grimaced as he felt the broken pieces of bone in his arm find each other and start to bind. Les looked up at him.

“What are you…Why would you say that?”

Sands took a deep breath and summoned patience.

“I know it’s a lot to take in, it always is. Every time. We’ve been doing this for the last six months, Les. On and off. But every time you find it hard to believe and I...You know what happened. You killed your family, Les. And you died with them.”

He watched as the glimmer of recognition started in Les’ eyes. He watched the usual range of emotions, the predictable combination of confusion, shock, regret, despair, and finally, rage. Every time Les reached that final stage Sands knew that they would have to go through it all again.

“You bastard. You did this to us, you bastard. What are you, some kind of devil?” he asked. Les was growing faint; the car with the two corpses had already disappeared.

“No, for the thousandth time. I’m not a kind of devil. You can tell because I’m trying to help.”

But Les had already gone, and Sands was talking to himself.

The rain had stopped. There was no blood on his coat, and there were no longer any breaks or tears in his body. Physically, he was as good as new. He had an hour or so to wait before Les reached the final stage of his journey again. His brother Berith was in the area. Seeing him might do him some good. It might help to put things in perspective.

He wasn’t exactly surprised a pair of headlights appeared from around the bend and a dark blue Mercedes appeared. He might not be that close to Berith anymore but brothers are brothers. Sands smiled as the car pulled to a sudden stop inches away from him. He walked around to the passenger side and climbed in.

Berith sat, grinning at him. He looked well, dressed in a dark blue suit and tie.

“Sandalphon. You look terrible. Get in, there’s a café just up the road.” As he pulled his coat inside the car and closed the door, Berith cackled. “Course, you’d know that. How long have you been stuck on this road now?”

“Six months. Not that long.”

“It is to them.”

With that, Berith drove in silence until they reached the roadside café. He’d always liked having the last word, and evidently that had not changed.

The café was nearly empty but the waitress managed to make their presence seem like an imposition anyway. They sat at a booth in the corner. Sandalphon ordered coffee and a full English breakfast. Berith looked amused asked for a cup of tea.

“Full English? Seems a bit much for you, you lanky bastard. Aren’t you supposed to abstain from things like delicious animal fats?”

Sandalphon grinned. “I’ve been out in the rain for six months. I’m a bit peckish. You haven’t turned vegetarian have you?”

Berith shook his head and looked around for an ashtray before clicking his fingers.

“Smoking ban. Gives us longer to do our thing, eh?” Sands nodded and thanked the waitress as she brought over their drinks.

“So, Berith. What have you been up to?” he asked. “I know you don’t have the same structure that we do.”

Berith grinned and spread his hands expansively. “The usual. Chatting to people, convincing them that the way they’ve been going about things isn’t exactly right. Or maybe they’ve been doing exactly the right thing and just need to keep doing it. Same old, same old. A bit boring really.”

“Yes, I imagine it would be,” replied Sandalphon, and was met with a snort in turn.

“Oh come on, you’re going to sit there and tell me that you’re not finding your work utterly repetitive? This coming from the one who’s been stuck with the same family for the last six months?”

It was Sandalphon’s turn to shrug. “I suppose it is a bit repetitive. It would be nice if they could take the message on board a bit quicker, if they could understand what it is we’re trying to do.”

Berith slurped his tea and leaned in closer. “Right, explain it to me again. When exactly will you stop having to escort this miserable prick through the last moments of his life?”

Sandalphon kneaded his fingers and cricked his neck. “When he stops being angry at us and realises it’s his own fault. Every time, right before the end, he turns to me and asks if I’m a devil. Completely missing the point. It’s not torture; we’re trying to help him.”

Berith giggled into his mug. “As if we would come up with a torture that boring. Repetition works for a bit but it’s so dull keeping it going. Can you imagine us lot having the patience to dish out the exact same punishment over and over again?” As Sandalphon opened his mouth to interrupt Berith held his hand up “I know, I know it’s not punishment. Still, I’d have a word with the man upstairs if I were you, tell him that you’ve got some fresh ideas. I could help you out with some suggestions.”

Sandalphon smiled across the table. “Ah yes, because going to the man upstairs with fresh ideas worked so well for you and all your friends. No thank you, I’m very happy with where I am. Always have been.”

“As am I. But don’t you find it a bit galling that here we both are? With one major difference. I mean, I fell, and I’m roaming pretty much as I please. You’ve still got your wings and you’re stuck in the same loop.”

“You’ve still got wings.”

“Yes, but they’re not the same as yours. Covered in shit most of the time, and they’re on fire. No, I miss the nice, clean white feathers. What I wouldn’t give to have those back. But no, burned off in the fall, and grown back wrong. Still it’s not like we can use them here, anyway.”

It was true, but it was difficult to remember in the heat of the moment. When Sandalphon had come to earth in the 1950s he’d crossed the road into the path of an oncoming bus. In his panic, he’d attempted to spread his wings and fly away and had merely resulted in spreading his arms, creating a flat surface for the bus to hit. His body had healed quickly but the embarrassment lasted a lot longer.

“That can’t be the only thing you miss about heaven, the wings,” he said. Berith was getting under his skin. He had known that it would happen. It was how they worked together, picking away at each other until it was time to get back to work. Neither bore the other any particular grudges.

“Of course it’s not. I mean, I love being here. Any chance I can get to be away from down below, I grab it. And sometimes I’ve got to go down there for business or to check in but I’m pretty much my own man as long as I’m towing the company line.”

“I assume the company line is the same as it ever was?” asked Sandalphon. He knew the answer.

“Of course it is. If you’re asking if I would change the company line, then yes, maybe I would. There are some days where I see someone and I think, ‘Maybe I should help this person. Maybe this person needs my help. Maybe convincing him to gamble his wife’s savings away before telling him that sticking his wife’s head in the oven is the best way to not feel guilty about the gambling isn’t the right way to go about things.’ But then, that’s what you’re there for isn’t it? You lot get to do that, stop them putting each other’s heads in ovens. I mean, technically you’re helping this car crash guy, right?”

“There’s no technically about it,” he replied quickly. “Yes, I’m helping him.”

Berith sighed and leaned back, stretching his arms along the top of the booth. “It doesn’t always feel like that though, does it? I bet it doesn’t when he calls you devil.” As Sandalphon opened his mouth to reply, Berith held his hand up again. His ability to halt interruption was renowned, and deeply irritating.
“No judgment, I know how you feel about all this. The boss man called the tune, and you dance to it. Right?”

Sandalphon smiled. “Right.” Simple jibes like this were easier to take in his stride. “What tune are you dancing downstairs?”

Berith gave him a toothy grin back. “We polka.”

“You do miss it though, don’t you? Heaven, I mean.” He wanted to score at least one more point before he left, one more for the road. Then he could go back and watch Les kill Sarah, the nameless child, and himself again.

“Yes. I would rather never go back to Hell at all. It’s easy to get used to the idea that there are some things that actually can’t be set on fire when you’re up here. But wouldn’t you rather stay here and get some pudding than go back out there and wait for that idiot to come past and kill his family again?”

And there was the question that finished their chat. Sandalphon got to his feet and pulled an old twenty pound note from his wallet.

“You’re not going to wait for your fry-up?” Berith asked.

“You eat it. How much longer are you in town for?”

“Why? Fancy meeting up for another chat?” Berith replied. Sandalphon shrugged, and got another smile in return. “I’m around her for another couple of months, then they’re moving me around a bit. Maybe America. Never a challenge, but it’s always fun. When’s your next sabbatical up in Celestial Heights?”

“When I’ve finished,” said Sandalphon. Berith traced an imaginary tear down his cheek and picked up a napkin.

He walked the journey back to his spot on the side of the road. He moved to turn the collar of his coat up and remembered that he had done so countless times before. He pulled his coat tighter around him as the heavens opened and the rain started again. Like clockwork.


Hello there,

Right, this week's story is a bit of an odd one. Hope you liked it. I wanted to do something a bit different, non-horror. Plus I've been very annoyed this last week as something I was hoping for didn't pan out, so it's maudlin and depressing. Sorry about that.

Writing about angels and demons is something I've been wanting to do for ages but it's tough to find a tone. I'm not sure whether I got it right, but I liked writing them. Their names are from Wikipedia, so yes, a HUGE amount of research went into it. I chose Berith because he stirred up trouble, and Sandalphon because he hasn't been used in Supernatural (to my knowledge). Interestingly, Sandalphon is apparently the angel who assigns gender to children in the womb. Also, he may be called Sandalphon because he wears sandals. Wikipedia is a font of information that may or may not be true. Love it. 

Because I'm grumpy, have two Belle and Sebastian songs this week!