What Do You Want To Read?

Posted in Uncategorized

COVID-19: The Wrong Time to Open a Business?

Front of the Retreat– Believe it or not, this picture was taking in Winter.

It was March 14th. A lot of milestones were happening, a lot were yet to happen. I turned 25, I went out to eat at one of my favourite chain restaurants in France, I went to the zoo (another favourite pastimes of mine, harkening back to my ‘Animal Studies’ days), I planned to go home and buy some kitchen equipment to use in the future, and most importantly all of the adverts I’d painstakingly paid for, written and worked on were coming out or were already out. Finally, the future looked bright; finally, I felt proud about something I’d done, something I’d created to help myself and to help other writers.

            And then, the Virus came. Yes, I realise that this all sounds like a rough draft of an apocalypse or dystopian story. I realise that even my backstory would add to a character in that world, but unfortunately it was a reality. Its name was Coronavirus, Covid-19 was its street name, and on the 14th March (although earlier in some countries) it shut down France. My birthday meal was the last time, to this day(it’s been a week at time of writing), that the restaurants in France were open. I was either extremely lucky or extremely bad luck for somebody else.

            I’d planned a blog post about my business, about how excited I was to show writers what I’d created for them, following up to the blog post I’d written for the Good Life France. Eventually, I’ll hopefully be able to put that up for real but it seems stupid to put it up now. The borders are closed, there’s quarantines throughout the world and everyone is worrying over the economic future of their country. Not exactly a time to be presenting a new business to the world.

            Honestly, of all the things I thought could put a stop to my dream: the Mairie denying us, Google not seeing our website, people not wanting to come, I never even once considered an illness preventing people from leaving their homes. It sounds so storybook, right? Like somewhere there’s a writer realising that their pen is enchanted and trying desperately to burn the pages? But, no, it’s real. It’s really here. It’s killing people around the globe and people are scared. Suddenly, there’s anxiety everywhere, and I’m sure most other usually-anxious people would agree, it’s really freaking weird.

What can I do about it?

            The short answer, nothing. I have to hope that after all this over, after we’ve finished our self-isolation and helped to continue people’s lives, people will still want to come. We’re in a beautiful, peaceful spot with plenty of fresh air and lovely views. I’ve managed to get more writing done here than I have in the last few years. I’m inspired and have helped to inspire ideas from my non-writer of a mother and even my no-imagination of a father (he’s great with numbers and has been a big help with other jobs though, so we’ll forgive him).

            It works. My place works and I’m really hoping one day writers will feel safe to come across and see if it works for them. I’m working on new recipes, made all the more difficult by the lack of ingredients in the supermarkets (the only place we’re allowed to venture to, basically). I’m getting some of the garden ready so it can look really nice by the time we actually do manage to open. All three of us inmates at the Retreat have delved into the library of books and are working our way through the different genres. If nothing else, we won’t run out of books to read.

What’s the point of me telling you all of this?

            I know, I know. Other people are having it hard to. As I said, people are dying of Covid and I’m not going to lessen that tragedy. Even the tutor I’ve booked in for teaching my summer courses is currently stuck in self-isolation (although an extreme form where she isn’t leaving a bedroom with en-suite) because she’s high risk. I worry for her and anybody else who could really suffer from the disease every day but my own worries about the future are still there, and I can’t simply make them go away.

            I’ve always believed in being honest. I’ve had a horrible habit of keeping things to myself and increasing my anxiety in the past. Okay, yes, I still do that a little bit now. But not on this. This is too serious. So, I’m telling you, whoever’s reading this, how I’m feeling. I’m trying to show you the mind of an anxious person who has opened a business at the same time as a pandemic strikes. I’m proving that your random story ideas are as likely to happen as anything else. Because anything can happen… to anyone.

            I know it’s hard to stay calm right now. The world’s pretty much telling us we should panic. But don’t give up on your writing. If you don’t feel like writing, that’s fine, but don’t lose it forever. Your story is just as valid and realistic as everything that’s going on in the world right now. And maybe, if anything happens similar to this in the future, by reading your book future generations may be able to figure out quicker and better solutions to prevent any more deaths.

            Because, as proved by the media in this wild situation, words are even more powerful than a small, invisible virus. Make your words be powerful in the right way. Make the world better one word at a time.

            Sorry for the unintentional sappiness there and, if you have any downtime, would you please consider checking out our website: www.lestylonoirretreat.com . Be safe and let’s get through this.

A Bientot, les ecrivians

Signed,

Amy Rose, The Literary Onion

Posted in Poetry

Unmoved By This War

It was a decision that we made,

Not completely but many the same.

A voice came together and shouted

That our kingdom should be held accounted,

Should stand alone and rule alone,

Should keep our pride tied to the throne.

That we should give our love and guidance

To only one, and we picked a side and

Civilly war against our families

And in the middle we collapse entirely.

—————————————–

It was a decision that we made,

That we should all have our say,

That each of us had something to give

And that allegiance made us somewhat captive

To a decision made by a forced group mind

Turning us against our kingdom, ‘our kind’.

We fall apart, on buses, on channels,

Creating our own television and radio panels

On exactly why each other is less than us

And in the middle we regretfully remain nonplussed.

—————————————

It was a decision that we made I suppose

That all these fights that we have proposed

Have left us miserable, scared, waiting and wanting to sink,

For now we are cowards for not knowing what to think.

We are cowards for thinking of each other,

For reminding ourselves of sisters and brothers.

The things you taught us of loyalty and love

Are not important to anyone else above

For these do not matter to the other side

And in the middle, it’s clear you have no pride.

—————————————–

But I do have pride, a pride for each person.

I have hope that we will come back to care soon

For each other as we fought to pretend,

A hope that these schemes will soon end

And a knowledge of this forgotten future

Were we sow the seeds into this rotten manure

Of the history books that will simply read

‘Humans died because that’s what humans need’.

And so, yes, I choose to watch, I choose to fear

Because in the middle I am making sure I remain

And I see…

People Clear.

Author’s Notes: My father is heavily into politics. Growing up he would take me with him to his party meetings, I would help stick flyers in envelopes and deliver them around in our area before and after school. Somehow, despite this, my sister and I grew up to feel uncomfortable with politics and explaining to my dad why was and still is hard. After an argument between us, in which I failed to explain my side and he believed I had no opinion on politics at all, I went upstairs and wrote this poem. Finally. I felt my dad understood my side. I’m a writer and I want to remain somewhat open-minded but it doesn’t mean I don’t care. If you’re into politics, like my dad, then great– you do you. But don’t assume other, quieter people, aren’t thinking about it too. We’re just less vocal, that’s all.

Posted in How to Write

The Impossibility of ‘How To Write’

Writing blogs or articles on writing, teaching classes on the subject, even attending said classes is one of the hardest things you can/will ever do. I can stand and tell you the basics of my experiences, or of my fellow writer-friends’ experiences and I can do my best to encourage and support you – but I’ll never be right. If I wrote a book to show you ‘how to write’ and it was read by 100 people I’d be very lucky if I was 25 percent correct.

            There are basics every writer should learn. We should all know our grammar, our spelling, how stories form and how characters are created (most of which I’ve been taught and could teach) but after the basics are ingrained in your mind you’re let loose. You can do whatever you want. If you want to break these early rules, do it. Experimental literature exists for a reason.

            It’s the great thing about any form of art, be it words or painting or even food. It’s all an imperfect jumble of subjective passion. It can be whatever you want it to be; whatever you need it to be at that moment. It grows with us, constantly sliding back and forth through all the stages of life—from first conception to rebellious teen to self-critical adult and then back round again (and not entirely in a linear fashion).

            I do believe in learning the fundamentals/the basics of writing, just as I took professional cookery training so I could have the abilities and knowledge needed for experimentation. ‘Go on a course, get a degree, join a writer’s group’ – as a person who’s done all of these and more I can attest to how helpful they can be. They can be a helpful hand or a step towards confidence (and a great place to meet new like-minded people or inspirations for future stories).

            But don’t forget that you’ll continue learning throughout your writing career. As your writing flops back and forth through the stages of life so will you. You’ll be confident, miserable, shy, brave and the rules will change as every person in the creative industry changes around you. Everybody needs help with the basics, over and over again, but your words will always be yours.

            As I said, previously, I can tell you my experience and I can teach you the basics (the FUN-dementals, excusing the pun) but I can’t control your mind, your imagination. You will always pick out the bits of the self-help book that you want to hear, that you may already partly believe in. Just look at the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, each writer as different as the other but able to communicate and celebrate those differences.

            Continue to do this, continue to write. This isn’t something I’ve found easy recently but it is something that I believe in. Books change all the time. So do you. Accept that and you’ll hopefully find the words to say how your experience can help someone else.

            And don’t assume there’s a fix-all for writer’s block. I’m learning the hard way that there isn’t.

            The simple answer for ‘how to write’, beyond all the guff and ‘experience of others’ is to keep writing, keep reading and keep caring. With this as your mantra and as your guide to writing then you should be just fine, degree or no degree.

Small Note: I know. This is a short post. I’ve been struggling with finding words recently, due to being close to the opening of my own writer’s retreat and stress increasing because of it (a great discourager from writing). Soon, it’ll be open and I’ll hopefully get to meet some of you amazing writers in person.

And a quick announcement: due to lack of money I will be merging all past and future posts on literaryonions.com into literaryscribbles.com. Nothing will change for you on this site, other than some amazing food creations and book reviews coming your way.

Posted in Poetry

South to North: The Life of Little Miss. Hale

A poem inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘North and South’

South to North

Edith buttoned up her dress,

And sat upon her silly mess,

Calling out to ‘Dear Ma Mere’;

The fanciful call of a love-not-shared.

And my dear Aunt did answer the call.

My cousin following in her lovely shawl.

Plain at sight was dear Miss Hale,

But how prettily, yet averagely, she came.

She was not like them, oh, not at all.

She was herself, and she answered the call

Not from sympathy, as did her Aunt,

But from worry, fear and slight contempt.

Some day she would leave, this dear cousin of mine,

Leave the South: the Lord’s great shine.

She’d go to the North, where Milton men

Shall go to her, this open cousin.

And I shall remain down South with Edith and Aunt,

Waiting in boredom: attending the plants,

And cleaning the dress that Edith has worn,

And mending the rug which Edith has torn.

Miss Hale shall be free, my dear hearted friend,

And I shall be here to mend and to mend.

To sort out the growing family from Lennox line,

Waiting for the day my freedom shall be mine.

And then I shall stand in the steam and the smog,

Knowing that once it was her that had turned all the cogs

Of the new life they led here, in peace and in kind.

And on that day, I know, I shall have dear Margaret on mind.

South-West to North-West

One day I shall leave and partake in some games,

Of a Northern kind, and all of their ways

Will seem strange at the start, but oh so much fun.

Strangeness in identity is identity in some.

And there I shall meet someone dear to my heart,

Who, once I had met, my eyes could not tear apart.

And on her arm would be the most strapping of men.

A man of bliss, this Master Thornton.

Next to him would stand his sister and mother,

Ready to meet Miss Hale’s long departed cousin.

They will happily greet me, and exclaim and shall praise

All of my newly sought little northern ways.

My accent shall sing into all of their astounded ears.

T’life’s not so hard here once hoo’ve learned t’phrase.

And how proud she will be to announce that I have known her long.

How proud she will be to discover that I have learned Northern songs.

These songs might be peculiar to my little Southern mouth,

But if I’m in the North, I’m not to be down South.

South-East to North-East

Aye, by gum, I shall sit ‘pon Yorkshire dales

Watching and squandering in my happiest days.

I shall watch all of the sun; I shall watch all of the rain.

And she will be sat with me, my dear cousin, Miss Hale.

We will stare at the skylarks, and all of the little swallows

Will dive in-between our little cultural hollow.

We shall sip tea, and sup on the nicest of dishes.

We shall hold one another’s hand and make all of our wishes.

We’d wish to be reunited, and then, with a laugh,

We’d remember that that wish had been for the past.

Together we’d sit, away from our little northern houses,

And watch as the sheep did heckle the cows, and

We’d sit until the moon did pass over the sun,

And then we’d sup and tea some more. It wasn’t yet done.

A few handsome men would pass by our way,

And bow their heads at us, as they did during the day.

But we wouldn’t care, not whilst our family was near,

Because family was what mattered to I and my cousin, dear.

It is then that he’d come, that dear Mr. Nicholas,

And wish us merry tidings on our family adventures.

He’d ask us to arise now, and come with him to Milton:

Our home town was awaiting us. It was we who they’d depend on.

Miss Hale would smile at him, and she’d look to me instead

To decide on our actions, and I’d nod my head.

It would only be with my opinion, the one for which she cared,

Would we follow Higgins back from Yorkshire to the great city, Manchester.

North to South

One day he would come, the greatest of Southern men;

He’d come up to Milton to see Miss Hale again.

In the background I’d be stood, whilst they talked over papers,

Before Miss Hale turned to me to ask what I made of

All of the declorations that Mr. Lennox was proposing;

And I’d smile and sagely nod, whilst holding back my blushing.

He’d see my dainty glances, my poise and Northern grace.

He’d wonder and he’d wonder why he’d recognized that face.

Two days would go by and then he’d run up to the door,

Asking Miss Hale if he was entirely sure who he’d saw.

And my dear cousin would nod profusely and say quite clearly,

That indeed it was her little cousin, the little baby Hilary.

She’d announce I had grown, and was now wise beyond my years.

No longer was I working for my Aunt and Edith’s little cares.

Instead, I was now a Northern lass, a bonny-eyed eighteen.

No, I was not looking for a groom. How silly would that seem?

He’d beg and plead that he could come cross and glance at my face,

But my cousin would not let him, if he was to know his place.

It is with a kind heart I’d beseech to him to come with us and dine,

In the tall broad house, which, of course, was partly mine.

Thornton, my dear cousin’s groom, would cheerfully announce

That Henry Lennox had arrived. I’d beg him not to shout.

But Mr. Lennox would not care for the rudeness of his call.

He’d be stuck trying to understand how I, little Hilary, had grown so tall.

I’d smile and jovially tell him, ‘Of course, why wouldn’t I have done?

It’s not like I haven’t twice been allowed to play out in the sun.’

We’d laugh and he’d come closer, to stare onto the beauty that was mine.

Miss Hale would watch with those frosty, cold and piercing eyes.

But he’d continue to be a gentleman; he’d bend down on one knee.

Inside of his pocket he would pull out the greatest diamond on a ring.

My mouth would fall down all ‘cross my jaw. I would be amiss.

Miss Hale would stay far away from her little cousin, dearest.

I’d gratefully tell the man that, though he had been most kind,

Marrying wasn’t for me yet. I had more things on mind.

He’d sigh and he’d smoulder; two proposals to Miss Hale and I,

And it seemed both to be failures. The failure that was mine.

For years I would stay annoyed at my own decision’s choice.

Master Thornton would go first and then I would lose my lovely cousin’s voice.

She’d tell me, in her old ripe age, that all was to go to me.

I’d weep into her dressing gown, and on her dressing sleeve.

And Mr. Henry Lennox? He never would arrive.

The funeral would be quite empty, my small company aside.

I should move down to the South, but they would hate my Northern ways.

They’d hate my Northern songs, Northern accents and my phrase.

I’d lose everything that once was, until a rose in bloom,

Would fall onto my cheeks. I’d live from then on in Helstone.

Author’s Note: I had to complete an essay exam on ‘North and South’ and a method of memory I used back at University was to create a story or poem based on the text or theory. This was the conclusion of my memorising and is one of the poems I am proudest of (though many ‘North and South’ references are made, so apologies for that).

Posted in How to Write

Writing and Why Mistakes Can Be A Good Thing

I know. It seems like a weird choice for a topic. How could a mistake be a good thing? We spend hours, days, months (years, in my case) editing or writing. We fix the spelling, wording, syntax. We re-write whole sections of work to show our writing at its very best.

            But, hear me out. Imagine if we didn’t do that. Imagine, if you could just write a piece and it was perfect. Imagine how stale it would be and how complacent we would become. We’d have nothing to strive for, no reason to write anything or read anybody else’s work. As it is, whilst editing we’re learning. We’re growing into a good writer (emphasis on not stretching to greatness or perfection, which is impossible to reach in such a subjective artform).

            So that’s one reason right there to love mistakes. Now, after all your editing is done and you’ve published your story or poem, surely any mistakes left in by this point are a bad thing? Well, actually, for the most part, I would argue otherwise. I’m not saying put in a mistake on purpose. I’m not saying you should have thousands of grammar or spelling mistakes. I’m talking about a rare, simple mistake (specifically focusing on wording).

            I started reading Chris Colfer’s ‘Land of Stories: An Author’s Odyssey’ the other day. It’s an extremely engaging story with extremely realistic and lovable characters. So far in my read I have found three mistakes and only one of these I would count as being a negative one (just a personal negative writing choice which I see often in children’s book and disagree with).

            The positive ones however were just a matter of wording and it had to do with names. Alex and Bree are two separate characters with clearly defined characteristics but all of a sudden, during a scene with Bree and her cousins, Bree’s name is accidentally written as Alex. It was jarring. It stopped me reading, made me question myself. And then I started laughing. It was clear that Colfer had been so used by this point to writing ‘Alex and Conner’ that as soon as he was supposed to write ‘Bree and Cornelia’ his hand wrote for his brain. ‘Co… nner… Co…rnelia’, the beginnings were the same, so Bree became Alex.

            I’m sure Colfer must know about this mistake by now, and it may be fixed in future publishing, but I loved it. It showed me how absorbed in the book I was and just how much I cared for the characters. It made me think about the work with logic and it made me realise just how much I actually cared.

            The same thing happened when I was younger when reading ‘Candyfloss’ by Jacqueline Wilson. After they finished baking a cake (Floss and her father) they ‘cooked’ it. Of course, it was supposed to be ‘cooled’ and child me thought it was hilarious and somewhat gratifying. Jacqueline Wilson made mistakes. Maybe it was okay for me to make them too. I haven’t read ‘Candyfloss’ in years but the small mistake is something ingrained in my memory and I love the book all the more for it.

            Not even a book series can escape making mistakes. In Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ series, the first book states that the Fisherman’s son who looked after Timmy was ‘James’ and by book five or six he’d become ‘Alf’. She’d forgotten his name but I hadn’t and I never held that against her because it was a testament to how great a writer she was that I had noticed. I cared about the most minor of characters and that takes true skill.

            I’m not saying you should try to make mistakes and I’m not saying you shouldn’t edit your work (editors need to make a living too, you know?) but I’m just trying to show you a new perspective. If you make and publish a small mistake, well oopsy daisy, but it’s not the end of the world. If you’ve done your job right and your work sucks your readers in, and they care for your characters deeply then maybe a small mistake will give them the same reaction I had. Maybe you’ve given them a good laugh. Maybe you’ve given them the courage to know that they don’t have to be perfect.

            And, regardless, before editing focus all your energy on your story and characters (or poem, for all you poets out there). If those parts are great then being merely a ‘good’ editor could be enough.

            Thank you for reading and (gosh, it’s been a while since I said this)… A Bientot, les ecrivians.

Posted in How to Write

Mental Health and Writing (An Anxiety Meltdown)

It’s New Year again, everybody. Give yourself a round of applause. We made it. We can tell our descendants that we saw a repeated-number year; we got to see all the silly ‘seeing 2020’ jokes that were/are going around. We did it.

            With New Year comes the old adage, the resolution inspired phrase ‘New Year, New Me’ – I’m going to lose so-and-so amount of weight; I’m going to write more/start a new hobby; I’m going to get more exercise/any exercise. These are great goals and, if you actually go through with them, well done. But there’s one resolution I think, for me, is the most important for myself and my writer friends: to be more positive.

            And that ladies and gentlemen et al is how you do a not so clever segue into todays topic: mental health and writing. Apologies straight away to those with schizophrenia or any other psychosis etc. as I’m actually going to focus on something a bit closer to home for me personally: anxiety and depression (heavily focused on the former).

            Imagination is a double-edged sword. Myself and my friends, most of them also writers, have it in excess and it helps us create the most marvellous stories, poetry, characters and worlds—but it also makes us worry and panic about situations out of our control. It, on many occasions, breaks us.

            This is the situation I was stuck in, entering the New Year. I was constantly tired, depressed and stressed about everything I should be doing and had no motivation to get done. Anger consumed me when I caught brief glimpses of myself in doors and windows. I avoided mirrors altogether. I felt worthless. Nobody was interested in who I was or what I had to say.

            And then, the worst thing possible happened. I was blocked. I couldn’t draw or write. I’d lost interest in food—I didn’t have the capacity to care or bother about looking after myself.

            Now, I’ve been having problems like this since I was seventeen—it’s even been worse before this (cut to university me terrified to leave her flat)—I know what I can do to help myself. If you’ve experienced all this yourself, maybe you know how to help yourself too. If not, a quick glimpse online at a reputable source or (if really serious) a visit to a doctor or trained therapist can help a lot (find the right therapist for you though. It takes time but the right one is out there).

            I’ve got many ‘Works in Progress’ (I believe the cool kids on Twitter call it a ‘WIP’), all started happily and paused when I’ve become overwhelmed. Everytime I log on to my computer I see folders of unfinished stories or unfinished series’ of stories. I want to finish them but the words are stuck.

I wish this was more of a joke than it is.

            They’re there. I can feel them. I know the stories and the characters better than I even know myself but the words are wedged between my long-term and my short-term memory. My head is buzzing as it tries to force them out. So, what do I do?

            I move onto something new, a brand new WIP. It’s not a perfect solution but it relaxes my brain; takes away the stress of trying to force something that’s clinging to the back of my mind. It gives the story time. It gives me time. Separation only makes the heart grow stronger.

            So what do you do if you’re facing the same problems? My only advice, purely from my own stressy, overthinking perspective, is to be a bit selfish. Focus on yourself, not on what you ‘should’ be doing. Learn to enjoy again by doing something different. Do your exercise, lose some weight, write a poem, draw some pictures, learn to make cheese—whatever it is, do it for you. Make yourself happy.

            Hopefully the story will find you again and if it doesn’t, there’s plenty of others waiting for you. It’s a bigger world than you’re led to believe. And if you really, truly can’t find one here in this big, wide, beautiful, mad world we live in—congratulations, your imagination that’s caused you so much pain can finally come in useful.

            Our 2020 mantra – the mantra of the 2020 #writingcommunity should be ‘I am a writer. I chose to be a writer and I choose to be happy too.’

Posted in The Street Crawlers

The Street Crawlers: The Soldiers of Hell

Daisy was running down the corridors. They were practically empty, though before they’d been full of screaming, panicking agents. She was panting hard as she ran. She wasn’t the most athletic of the soldiers and ever since she had joined the artillery division she hadn’t needed to train as much. Right now she regretted avoiding the gym as much as she had.

            There was a shadow behind her, following her every step. It was because of this that she was running. It was because of this that all of her colleagues had disappeared. The shadow was a prisoner, a prisoner that had escaped from their jail cells. In fact, no, Daisy thought, it was worse than a prisoner—it was a Street Crawler.

            It was because of the Street Crawlers that Daisy had joined the Soldiers’ Academy in the first place. She thought back to it now, still running. She could remember the smell of the office where her interview had taken place. The interviewer, who Daisy now knew as Danny, was a very young man, barely any older than herself, but he’d been raised in the soldiers’ base so there was nothing he didn’t know about it. He’d asked Daisy why she’d wanted to be a soldier. What did she think she could do for the world?

            The Street Crawlers had been her answer. She’d wanted to save the ordinaries from the beasts that were the Crawlers. And as to what she could do for the world, well, she was hoping that they could teach her; mould her into somebody who could do something. That’s why she wanted to come to the Academy in the first place, and she felt it was a silly question to ask. Who would come to learn what they already knew?

            At that point she thought she’d failed miserably. She’d always been far too honest for her own good. But obviously Danny saw something in her that could be of use because she was accepted almost immediately. Daisy still couldn’t believe her luck.

            But was it lucky now? She was being chased by the very thing that she wanted to save others from. She could hear its footsteps all around her, on the floor below her, on the walls surrounding, on the ceiling. How could it have got onto the ceiling?

            She hadn’t meant to be put into this situation. When she’d walked out of her flat with her friends and flatmates, Ant and Sammy, this morning she’d been just as surprised as them to see the panic spreading through the station. Instantly they’d stopped their silly shenanigans and run to their sectors, though Daisy thought she’d seen Sammy run to the main hub which wasn’t where she was supposed to go. Sammy worked with the team that sorted out travel for the agents (so that the operatives could get to all of the people around the world that needed help). It wasn’t a very helpful sector to be in at this time though so Daisy could understand it if Sammy didn’t go there.

            Daisy had reached the artillery sector and greeted her four co-workers. They were checking through the weaponry, making a note of anything missing and locking up the vaults as quickly as they possibly could. If the escapee managed to get their claws on any of these weapons nobody would be safe. Daisy had joined in and began pulling crates of guns and stun-blasters out from glass cases and into the piles ready to be taken to the vaults. The lights had been tampered with and security cameras were switching off one by one. Everybody in the division looked terrified. They could only do their job.

            That’s when Daisy had noticed that there was a crate missing. She’d remembered that Danny had borrowed the electric-rods for testing the day before and shouted to her commander to inform her that she was going to go and get them back. Cr. Berkeley had nodded in agreement and Daisy had run out of the room. She’d run to the hub and realised that the hallways had become scarily quiet. She didn’t think of it at the time. She’d assumed that everybody had managed to get their sectors and had stayed there. She hadn’t thought for one minute that they might not have had a choice.

            She reached the hub, where she assumed Danny would be helping his father (who was the commander of the entire station) but the door was locked. She tried swiping her hand over the lock. It should have recognized her hand print but it looked like the hub was on lockdown. She’d shrugged it off. The hub needed more protection than anywhere else. If it fell, the entire station would fall.

            She went to the computer labs next, Danny’s actual sector. If he’d been testing the rods anywhere it would be in there, but that too was locked. She’d shrugged it off again. She’d figured that if any place had to be protected after the hub it would be here. All of their records were on files in the computer lab.

            Slightly ashamed that she had failed in her task she’d ran back to her sector, hoping that Cr. Berkeley would understand why the rods weren’t with her. At least, she’d thought, they were safe in the locked rooms. Nobody would be able to get to them in there.

            She’d made it back to the artillery division only to find it locked as well. If her hand print hadn’t worked at the hub it should definitely have worked here. This was her sector. But the door wouldn’t budge. The alarms were silent and the back-up generator could only provide a dim light. Daisy had suddenly begun to feel nervous. Beforehand she’d been too focused on her task to realise the danger that was facing her, but now she knew.

            She knew even more now, as she was being followed by the shadow. She could feel her heart racing in her chest, her breath becoming shallow, and her legs were aching all over. There was an unbelievably painful stitch in her left side. But she couldn’t give up yet. The shadow hadn’t given up on trying to catch up with her.

            She ran into the only open door she could find. It was a blessing to discover that there was one. She’d thought she’d be running forever. She swiped her hand over the pad and the doors shut behind her with a crash. They weren’t the quietest doors in the world and she jumped, though she’d known it was coming. She collapsed onto the floor, out of breath.

            “Hey, do you mind, this is our hiding place,” said a high-pitched voice in the middle of the room. Daisy sat up, shakily. There were trucks parked in rows everywhere. It had been the garage door that had been left open.

            “Who’s there?” she asked, slowly crawling back to her feet. She could still feel her thighs and side burning.

            “It doesn’t matter who’s there, just get out.” The voice seemed annoyed. It wasn’t the only voice here with Daisy.

            “Be nice, Bobby,” a second, even higher-pitched voice said.

Daisy looked on in surprise as a girl’s head peeped over the top of one of the trucks. She’d never seen her before. In fact, she’d never seen anybody that looked so much like a Barbie doll. “Who’re you?” Daisy said.

            The girl didn’t smile but beckoned her over to the truck, disappearing again as soon as she had. Daisy went and looked down into the front seat. The blonde girl was sitting in the driver’s seat, looking cheerily at a miserable looking boy sitting in the passenger’s seat. The boy had brown hair, a square jaw and the brightest blue eyes Daisy had ever seen.

            She slid open the door of the truck and slipped into a seat behind theirs, closing the door after her. They’d had the right idea, she thought, there was nowhere safer to hide than an armoured vehicle in a quiet, heavily fortified garage.

            “Hi there,” the girl said, finally smiling. “It’s Daisy, right? Daisy Kennington?”

            Daisy nodded, shocked. She didn’t even want to question how she’d known that. Knowing Daisy’s luck they’d already met before and Daisy, with her absent-mindedness, had completely forgotten. She knew that, if anything, the Academy hadn’t accepted her for her memory. Her memory was strictly reserved for things that seemed important at the time.

            “I’m Gwen.” The girl pointed to herself. “And that bowl of joy over there is Bobby.”

            Bobby mock-waved and grimaced.

            “I keep telling him he should be happy. We could’ve been locked in a safe-room, but we’re free to run around in here instead.” Gwen was leaning on the wheel. Daisy was watching in fear. If Gwen leaned just a little bit further into the middle then the alarm would go off. She wasn’t entirely sure if the Crawler had figured out she was in here yet. For all they knew she might have ran into another corridor.

            “Yeah, but it’s not right is it,” Bobby grumbled. “Here we are waiting for Gray to show up, and she takes his place instead.” He pointed at her and Daisy pulled a face. What right had this boy to think she didn’t deserve to be here? She had as much right as him.

            “Gray’s not coming, Bobby, just get over it. They’ve probably got him locked up in the safe room by now.”

            Bobby sighed and leaned on the dashboard. “It just doesn’t feel right without him. We’re always in a three—buds forever, mates together, remember?”

            Gwen nodded and sighed too.

Daisy looked at them both. “I’m guessing this Gray’s a friend of yours?” she said.

            Bobby rolled his eyes and grinned. He had a really nice grin. “How’d you guess? The fact I said we were buds?”

            Daisy grinned back. “Something like that.” She took a proper look at the two children (or where they teenagers? She couldn’t tell) and realised they reminded her of someone. “I think I know how you feel,” she said. “I miss Ant and Sammy, too. They’re my best friends.”

            “The best one’s come in threes,” Bobby said, with a laugh. Gwen had started to grin as well.

            “It’s weird to think, but it was only about an hour ago that we were dancing around our flat together,” Daisy said. “I’d love it if they were with me now. I don’t even know if they’re okay.”

            “They probably will be.” Gwen was now leaning on the door instead of the wheel. “As far as we know nobody’s been hurt. And Sammy will probably be in one of the safe-rooms. All under twenties are in them.”

            “Nearly all,” Bobby objected. “We never got that far.” He turned to face Daisy and looked at her proudly. “A couple of agents were taking us when they got called back to the cells to help, so we ran off and hid in here instead.”

            “You ignored orders?” Daisy was appalled. She’d never have had the nerve to do that.

            “What orders? We don’t work for the soldiers, we just live here.” Bobby laughed. “They actually thought we’d go, too. You’d think they’d know better by now.”

            Gwen giggled and Daisy laughed too. There was something about these two children, she thought. Their happiness was contagious and so was their laughter. Ant had the same effect on her.

            “So what are you planning on doing? Just camping out in here until it’s over?” Daisy asked, her laughing finished.

            “Why, was that your plan?” Bobby looked at her, seriously.

Daisy shook her head, nodded and then shrugged. She didn’t know what her plan had been. “I just knew I needed to run,” she said. She looked down at her feet, ashamed, and sighed. “I should’ve stayed and done something.”

            “Why?” Gwen asked.

            “Because that’s what agents do—what soldiers do.”

            “Yes, and they die doing so.”

Bobby agreed with Gwen on this. “My mum always said that the best agents protected people, but how can you protect people if you’re already dead? It’s better to watch your enemy, learn from them and then act when it’s the right time.”

“And when is it the right time?” Daisy was quite enjoying their strange wisdoms.

“That’s up to you really, isn’t it?” Bobby stretched his arms out and yawned. “Me, personally? I’m not sure it’ll ever be time.”

“That’s just because you stayed up all last night watching stuff on the internet,” Gwen said, poking him. He jumped and poked her back. Soon a large poking war was going on and both of them were giggling hysterically.

There was a crash and the hood of the car flew open and then shut again. All three of its occupants flew into the air and down onto the floor.

Bobby rubbed his head and groaned. “I knew we should have put on seatbelts,” he grumbled.

Daisy got up onto the seat first and leaned closer to the window, trying to see outside. There was a large dint in the front right-hand side of the truck. Daisy looked up at the vent system on the roof. There was a hole in one of the pipes—about small person size.

Her eyes grew wider and she quickly pressed the button that activated the truck’s locks and shield. “Guys,” she said, “I think it might be time.”

Bobby and Gwen scrambled to their feet and looked out at the front of the truck. There was a body slowly climbing up off the floor. She was wearing a black prison uniform and rubbing her body all over as she stood up. It had been quite a big height to fall from and it had hurt.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Bobby panicked. He looked at Gwen and then at Daisy but neither of them seemed to be moving. They were barely breathing.

The Crawler turned around and saw them. Their blood ran cold. Her eyes were as silver as a fog. Nothing could be seen in them: not happiness, not pain, not anything. She was blank.

She moved closer to the window and, instinctively Bobby (who was the closet to her) shuffled over onto Gwen’s seat, almost crushing her in the process. Gwen was too scared to notice.

“Soldiers!” The Copper Fox stared at them through the glass and hit the window with her fist. Daisy jumped and moved over to Gwen as well.

“No, no. There’s no soldiers here,” Bobby mumbled. “We’re—erm—we’re clowns. I don’t suppose you’ve seen the circus around here, have you?”

The Copper Fox sneered and it sent a shiver down Bobby’s spine. “Clowns? What, that’s the best you can come up with?”

“Well, it was either that or plumbers and I didn’t think that’d be very believable.” Bobby shrugged awkwardly. Gwen came back to her senses and poked him in his side. Her leg was starting to fall asleep.

The Copper Fox laughed. To Daisy’s surprise it wasn’t a horrible laugh, it sounded just the same as a normal little girl’s would. It sounded like an even sweeter version of Gwen’s laugh in fact, but Daisy wasn’t going to let this fool her. She knew that Crawler’s were killers, no matter what their laugh was like.

The Fox moved even closer to the window and Bobby clambered further onto Gwen’s lap, much to her dismay. She punched him but no amount of punching would make him move. Daisy looked down at the panic on their faces and remembered what she had said at her interview for the Academy. Though the interview had been a couple of years ago now (she’d left the Academy last year, after all) she still believed what she’d said. She had to protect people from Crawlers like this one. She prepared her nerve and was just about to step forward and open the door when the Copper Fox stepped back.

“Where’s the way out?” she asked.

Bobby and Gwen both pointed left, where a large garage door was waiting to be opened. The Fox nodded and ran away. The three occupants of the truck let out a sigh of relief as the sound of grating metal came through the room. The Fox had managed to open the door and had run off back to the streets.

Daisy slid open the door of the truck and looked out. The two kids looked out after her. They all clambered out into the garage as the lights of the station came back on. All around them, rooms that had been locked were slowly opening. The crowds had begun to fill the corridors again.

Daisy looked at Bobby and Gwen and they looked at her.

“How about we agree not to say anything about this?” Daisy said. She couldn’t bear to admit anymore failures on her part today.

“So, just an ordinary day then? Cool.” Bobby nudged Gwen in the side. “Come on, let’s go find Gray.”

Gwen nodded with a smile and they both ran out of the garage. Daisy watched them for a moment and then thought about the Copper Fox again. A Street Crawler had let them go? That couldn’t be right, could it?

Daisy was running down the corridors. They were practically empty, though before they’d been full of screaming, panicking agents. She was panting hard as she ran. She wasn’t the most athletic of the soldiers and ever since she had joined the artillery division she hadn’t needed to train as much. Right now she regretted avoiding the gym as much as she had.

            There was a shadow behind her, following her every step. It was because of this that she was running. It was because of this that all of her colleagues had disappeared. The shadow was a prisoner, a prisoner that had escaped from their jail cells. In fact, no, Daisy thought, it was worse than a prisoner—it was a Street Crawler.

            It was because of the Street Crawlers that Daisy had joined the Soldiers’ Academy in the first place. She thought back to it now, still running. She could remember the smell of the office where her interview had taken place. The interviewer, who Daisy now knew as Danny, was a very young man, barely any older than herself, but he’d been raised in the soldiers’ base so there was nothing he didn’t know about it. He’d asked Daisy why she’d wanted to be a soldier. What did she think she could do for the world?

            The Street Crawlers had been her answer. She’d wanted to save the ordinaries from the beasts that were the Crawlers. And as to what she could do for the world, well, she was hoping that they could teach her; mould her into somebody who could do something. That’s why she wanted to come to the Academy in the first place, and she felt it was a silly question to ask. Who would come to learn what they already knew?

            At that point she thought she’d failed miserably. She’d always been far too honest for her own good. But obviously Danny saw something in her that could be of use because she was accepted almost immediately. Daisy still couldn’t believe her luck.

            But was it lucky now? She was being chased by the very thing that she wanted to save others from. She could hear its footsteps all around her, on the floor below her, on the walls surrounding, on the ceiling. How could it have got onto the ceiling?

            She hadn’t meant to be put into this situation. When she’d walked out of her flat with her friends and flatmates, Ant and Sammy, this morning she’d been just as surprised as them to see the panic spreading through the station. Instantly they’d stopped their silly shenanigans and run to their sectors, though Daisy thought she’d seen Sammy run to the main hub which wasn’t where she was supposed to go. Sammy worked with the team that sorted out travel for the agents (so that the operatives could get to all of the people around the world that needed help). It wasn’t a very helpful sector to be in at this time though so Daisy could understand it if Sammy didn’t go there.

            Daisy had reached the artillery sector and greeted her four co-workers. They were checking through the weaponry, making a note of anything missing and locking up the vaults as quickly as they possibly could. If the escapee managed to get their claws on any of these weapons nobody would be safe. Daisy had joined in and began pulling crates of guns and stun-blasters out from glass cases and into the piles ready to be taken to the vaults. The lights had been tampered with and security cameras were switching off one by one. Everybody in the division looked terrified. They could only do their job.

            That’s when Daisy had noticed that there was a crate missing. She’d remembered that Danny had borrowed the electric-rods for testing the day before and shouted to her commander to inform her that she was going to go and get them back. Cr. Berkeley had nodded in agreement and Daisy had run out of the room. She’d run to the hub and realised that the hallways had become scarily quiet. She didn’t think of it at the time. She’d assumed that everybody had managed to get their sectors and had stayed there. She hadn’t thought for one minute that they might not have had a choice.

            She reached the hub, where she assumed Danny would be helping his father (who was the commander of the entire station) but the door was locked. She tried swiping her hand over the lock. It should have recognized her hand print but it looked like the hub was on lockdown. She’d shrugged it off. The hub needed more protection than anywhere else. If it fell, the entire station would fall.

            She went to the computer labs next, Danny’s actual sector. If he’d been testing the rods anywhere it would be in there, but that too was locked. She’d shrugged it off again. She’d figured that if any place had to be protected after the hub it would be here. All of their records were on files in the computer lab.

            Slightly ashamed that she had failed in her task she’d ran back to her sector, hoping that Cr. Berkeley would understand why the rods weren’t with her. At least, she’d thought, they were safe in the locked rooms. Nobody would be able to get to them in there.

            She’d made it back to the artillery division only to find it locked as well. If her hand print hadn’t worked at the hub it should definitely have worked here. This was her sector. But the door wouldn’t budge. The alarms were silent and the back-up generator could only provide a dim light. Daisy had suddenly begun to feel nervous. Beforehand she’d been too focused on her task to realise the danger that was facing her, but now she knew.

            She knew even more now, as she was being followed by the shadow. She could feel her heart racing in her chest, her breath becoming shallow, and her legs were aching all over. There was an unbelievably painful stitch in her left side. But she couldn’t give up yet. The shadow hadn’t given up on trying to catch up with her.

            She ran into the only open door she could find. It was a blessing to discover that there was one. She’d thought she’d be running forever. She swiped her hand over the pad and the doors shut behind her with a crash. They weren’t the quietest doors in the world and she jumped, though she’d known it was coming. She collapsed onto the floor, out of breath.

            “Hey, do you mind, this is our hiding place,” said a high-pitched voice in the middle of the room. Daisy sat up, shakily. There were trucks parked in rows everywhere. It had been the garage door that had been left open.

            “Who’s there?” she asked, slowly crawling back to her feet. She could still feel her thighs and side burning.

            “It doesn’t matter who’s there, just get out.” The voice seemed annoyed. It wasn’t the only voice here with Daisy.

            “Be nice, Bobby,” a second, even higher-pitched voice said.

Daisy looked on in surprise as a girl’s head peeped over the top of one of the trucks. She’d never seen her before. In fact, she’d never seen anybody that looked so much like a Barbie doll. “Who’re you?” Daisy said.

            The girl didn’t smile but beckoned her over to the truck, disappearing again as soon as she had. Daisy went and looked down into the front seat. The blonde girl was sitting in the driver’s seat, looking cheerily at a miserable looking boy sitting in the passenger’s seat. The boy had brown hair, a square jaw and the brightest blue eyes Daisy had ever seen.

            She slid open the door of the truck and slipped into a seat behind theirs, closing the door after her. They’d had the right idea, she thought, there was nowhere safer to hide than an armoured vehicle in a quiet, heavily fortified garage.

            “Hi there,” the girl said, finally smiling. “It’s Daisy, right? Daisy Kennington?”

            Daisy nodded, shocked. She didn’t even want to question how she’d known that. Knowing Daisy’s luck they’d already met before and Daisy, with her absent-mindedness, had completely forgotten. She knew that, if anything, the Academy hadn’t accepted her for her memory. Her memory was strictly reserved for things that seemed important at the time.

            “I’m Gwen.” The girl pointed to herself. “And that bowl of joy over there is Bobby.”

            Bobby mock-waved and grimaced.

            “I keep telling him he should be happy. We could’ve been locked in a safe-room, but we’re free to run around in here instead.” Gwen was leaning on the wheel. Daisy was watching in fear. If Gwen leaned just a little bit further into the middle then the alarm would go off. She wasn’t entirely sure if the Crawler had figured out she was in here yet. For all they knew she might have ran into another corridor.

            “Yeah, but it’s not right is it,” Bobby grumbled. “Here we are waiting for Gray to show up, and she takes his place instead.” He pointed at her and Daisy pulled a face. What right had this boy to think she didn’t deserve to be here? She had as much right as him.

            “Gray’s not coming, Bobby, just get over it. They’ve probably got him locked up in the safe room by now.”

            Bobby sighed and leaned on the dashboard. “It just doesn’t feel right without him. We’re always in a three—buds forever, mates together, remember?”

            Gwen nodded and sighed too.

Daisy looked at them both. “I’m guessing this Gray’s a friend of yours?” she said.

            Bobby rolled his eyes and grinned. He had a really nice grin. “How’d you guess? The fact I said we were buds?”

            Daisy grinned back. “Something like that.” She took a proper look at the two children (or where they teenagers? She couldn’t tell) and realised they reminded her of someone. “I think I know how you feel,” she said. “I miss Ant and Sammy, too. They’re my best friends.”

            “The best one’s come in threes,” Bobby said, with a laugh. Gwen had started to grin as well.

            “It’s weird to think, but it was only about an hour ago that we were dancing around our flat together,” Daisy said. “I’d love it if they were with me now. I don’t even know if they’re okay.”

            “They probably will be.” Gwen was now leaning on the door instead of the wheel. “As far as we know nobody’s been hurt. And Sammy will probably be in one of the safe-rooms. All under twenties are in them.”

            “Nearly all,” Bobby objected. “We never got that far.” He turned to face Daisy and looked at her proudly. “A couple of agents were taking us when they got called back to the cells to help, so we ran off and hid in here instead.”

            “You ignored orders?” Daisy was appalled. She’d never have had the nerve to do that.

            “What orders? We don’t work for the soldiers, we just live here.” Bobby laughed. “They actually thought we’d go, too. You’d think they’d know better by now.”

            Gwen giggled and Daisy laughed too. There was something about these two children, she thought. Their happiness was contagious and so was their laughter. Ant had the same effect on her.

            “So what are you planning on doing? Just camping out in here until it’s over?” Daisy asked, her laughing finished.

            “Why, was that your plan?” Bobby looked at her, seriously.

Daisy shook her head, nodded and then shrugged. She didn’t know what her plan had been. “I just knew I needed to run,” she said. She looked down at her feet, ashamed, and sighed. “I should’ve stayed and done something.”

            “Why?” Gwen asked.

            “Because that’s what agents do—what soldiers do.”

            “Yes, and they die doing so.”

Bobby agreed with Gwen on this. “My mum always said that the best agents protected people, but how can you protect people if you’re already dead? It’s better to watch your enemy, learn from them and then act when it’s the right time.”

“And when is it the right time?” Daisy was quite enjoying their strange wisdoms.

“That’s up to you really, isn’t it?” Bobby stretched his arms out and yawned. “Me, personally? I’m not sure it’ll ever be time.”

“That’s just because you stayed up all last night watching stuff on the internet,” Gwen said, poking him. He jumped and poked her back. Soon a large poking war was going on and both of them were giggling hysterically.

There was a crash and the hood of the car flew open and then shut again. All three of its occupants flew into the air and down onto the floor.

Bobby rubbed his head and groaned. “I knew we should have put on seatbelts,” he grumbled.

Daisy got up onto the seat first and leaned closer to the window, trying to see outside. There was a large dint in the front right-hand side of the truck. Daisy looked up at the vent system on the roof. There was a hole in one of the pipes—about small person size.

Her eyes grew wider and she quickly pressed the button that activated the truck’s locks and shield. “Guys,” she said, “I think it might be time.”

Bobby and Gwen scrambled to their feet and looked out at the front of the truck. There was a body slowly climbing up off the floor. She was wearing a black prison uniform and rubbing her body all over as she stood up. It had been quite a big height to fall from and it had hurt.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Bobby panicked. He looked at Gwen and then at Daisy but neither of them seemed to be moving. They were barely breathing.

The Crawler turned around and saw them. Their blood ran cold. Her eyes were as silver as a fog. Nothing could be seen in them: not happiness, not pain, not anything. She was blank.

She moved closer to the window and, instinctively Bobby (who was the closet to her) shuffled over onto Gwen’s seat, almost crushing her in the process. Gwen was too scared to notice.

“Soldiers!” The Copper Fox stared at them through the glass and hit the window with her fist. Daisy jumped and moved over to Gwen as well.

“No, no. There’s no soldiers here,” Bobby mumbled. “We’re—erm—we’re clowns. I don’t suppose you’ve seen the circus around here, have you?”

The Copper Fox sneered and it sent a shiver down Bobby’s spine. “Clowns? What, that’s the best you can come up with?”

“Well, it was either that or plumbers and I didn’t think that’d be very believable.” Bobby shrugged awkwardly. Gwen came back to her senses and poked him in his side. Her leg was starting to fall asleep.

The Copper Fox laughed. To Daisy’s surprise it wasn’t a horrible laugh, it sounded just the same as a normal little girl’s would. It sounded like an even sweeter version of Gwen’s laugh in fact, but Daisy wasn’t going to let this fool her. She knew that Crawler’s were killers, no matter what their laugh was like.

The Fox moved even closer to the window and Bobby clambered further onto Gwen’s lap, much to her dismay. She punched him but no amount of punching would make him move. Daisy looked down at the panic on their faces and remembered what she had said at her interview for the Academy. Though the interview had been a couple of years ago now (she’d left the Academy last year, after all) she still believed what she’d said. She had to protect people from Crawlers like this one. She prepared her nerve and was just about to step forward and open the door when the Copper Fox stepped back.

“Where’s the way out?” she asked.

Bobby and Gwen both pointed left, where a large garage door was waiting to be opened. The Fox nodded and ran away. The three occupants of the truck let out a sigh of relief as the sound of grating metal came through the room. The Fox had managed to open the door and had run off back to the streets.

Daisy slid open the door of the truck and looked out. The two kids looked out after her. They all clambered out into the garage as the lights of the station came back on. All around them, rooms that had been locked were slowly opening. The crowds had begun to fill the corridors again.

Daisy looked at Bobby and Gwen and they looked at her.

“How about we agree not to say anything about this?” Daisy said. She couldn’t bear to admit anymore failures on her part today.

“So, just an ordinary day then? Cool.” Bobby nudged Gwen in the side. “Come on, let’s go find Gray.”

Gwen nodded with a smile and they both ran out of the garage. Daisy watched them for a moment and then thought about the Copper Fox again. A Street Crawler had let them go? That couldn’t be right, could it?

She shrugged it off, as was her way. No, of course she hadn’t. No doubt the Crawler just had other motives for not hurting them. But, no matter what she did, from this moment on Daisy would never be able to look at Crawlers the same way—especially the girl she soon knew as The Copper Fox. But that’s another story now, isn’t it? 

And the Beast Doth Howl

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Do you hear its painful howl?

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Do you hear its horrid growl?

Did you see its gnashing teeth

As it dragged you into hell?

Did you see the fumes escaping

As you were locked inside its cell?

Did the soldiers grab you fiercely,

Tear you limb from limb?

Did they leave you for the beast

So that it could have the kill?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Hunting for its kill.

It howls inside the boxes.

It hollers on the steps.

It groans and groans and squeals,

The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Did you hear its cheerful crunch?

Did you see the jagged teeth

As it ate you up for lunch?

Did the soldiers come in armour

And drag you to its doors?

Did you smell the fumes escaping

As it crunched you in its jaws?

Did it crash and crack and burn you

As you settled in its belly?

Did it play with you and tug on you,

Its own personal, delicious deli?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Hunting for its kill.

It howls inside the boxes.

It hollers on the steps.

It groans and groans and squeals,

The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Do you fear it? Do you fear it?

Did you fear its satisfaction?

Did you realise the suffering brought

On every interaction?

Do you remember? Do you remember

The sounds of screams, of desperation

As it tore away your family

Who had no means for segregation?

Did you run or try to hide

Whilst they suffered in its shell?

Did you do what the bravest have tried

And the fools have yet to tell?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Looking for its kill.

Its master sits behind him,

Soldiers swarming over steps.

He pulls the siren as a warning,The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Posted in The Street Crawlers

The Street Crawlers: The Children of Hell

Sammy whistled cheerfully as she walked around her room, grabbing a mug from her bedside table and dancing around her bed to the drawers on the other side. She pulled out her phone and smiled at her reflection, moving her lips this way and that and looking at her teeth closely. She groaned and rubbed her middle finger over the top row, rubbing away the piece of toothpaste stuck to it. She blew a kiss to herself and slipped her phone into her pocket.

            A slow knock came on her bedroom door. She danced over to it and pulled it open. Her friends, Daisy and Ant, waved to her and she waved back, coming out into their shared living room as she did. They both joined in the whistle and all three of them danced into the kitchen where Sammy put her mug into the sink. Ant came from behind and slipped her coat onto her shoulders. She pulled her arms into the sleeves.

            Daisy was doing a foxtrot around the kitchen table and grinning to herself like a Cheshire cat. Sammy laughed and joined her. Ant danced over to the front door of the flat and tugged on the handle, smiling and tilting his head to the left. The girls followed him out of the door, still dancing.

            A large bustle was happening outside. People were running to-and-fro, shouting loudly into walkie-talkies and screaming at anyone they passed, ‘emergency, emergency’. Sammy looked around and frowned. She’d stopped whistling.

            “Emergency, emergency,” she said as she ran down the corridor in front of her. Ant and Daisy had run off down separate corridors. She headed down the metallic stairwell in front of her and down to the main control room. The closer she got to the hub of the station the more people she saw flying around in a wild panic. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know what to do.

            Sammy pushed herself through the crowd and headed to a large raised area in the middle. A balding, middle-aged man stood on top barking orders at the frantic hordes around him.

            “Move them to Sector A,” he yelled. “Get them out of Sector GI now! That’s an order, get them out now! We can’t afford to lose any more people.”

            “How’s it looking, Dad?” she asked. Her father turned around and saw her. He was red in the face and sweat was dripping down his cheeks.

            “Ah, good, you’re okay,” he said, giving her a hug. “I thought you’d gone to the dogs or something.”

            “I’m fine.” She looked up at the large computer screens hanging on the walls. “What’s happened?” There was live film footage showing the hubbub she’d just seen in the corridors. She could see Daisy who’d now joined up with her co-workers in the Artillery division.

            “An escapee,” her father said. “From Sector 6F. They’re causing all kinds of trouble for our systems, turning off lights, computers and cameras everywhere.”  

            She nodded. More and more screens and cameras were going dead by the second.

            “Is there anything I can do?” she asked whilst her father barked out more orders to the men below.

            “If you really want to help you’ll go to your sector,” he told her.

She frowned and tugged on his jacket sleeve. “Can’t I help you with something? Surely you need someone to check on things down in 6F?”

            “No! Nobody’s to go in there, let alone my girl.” He looked down at her stubborn little face. She reminded him of his little sister, her Aunt, when she was in a mood. “Just go to your sector, Sammy.”

            She grumbled and watched as he walked away from her and down to the floor below. He hardly ever trusted her to do anything. Her brother Danny ran up the stairs to the podium and took her by the arm.

            “Come on, let’s go,” he said, pulling her along with him. They ran down the corridor and pushed through the swarms of workers buzzing through the halls. They ran and ran and ran. Amber lights flashed, sirens sounded, red lights flashed, the sirens were switched off. It was all just one big game of Operation.

            They came to a large metal door and Danny pressed on a panel by the side.

Sammy looked around, confused. “Wait, where are we?”

Danny didn’t say anything.

She tugged on his sleeve. “Danny, this isn’t my sector,” she said, worriedly. The door slid open. She’d never heard a door open so quietly before.

            She looked inside and saw an empty space with a bed and a few tins of food laid next to a bucket. 

            “Danny, this isn’t my sector.” She was getting annoyed by his silence.  He wouldn’t even look at her. “Danny, this is ridiculous. We don’t have time.” She turned to leave and Danny grabbed her wrist. She wiggled, trying to get out of his grip. Her brother wasn’t usually so fierce, she couldn’t understand it. With one quick move he flung her inside. She toppled backwards and fell onto the floor.

            “Da…” she said, in surprise but she didn’t get enough time to finish. He shut the door on her, turning the locks and shutting her inside. Sammy began to panic and ran forward, slamming her full weight against the door. It wouldn’t budge. She yelled out but nobody could hear her. Danny had run off down the corridor, giving the express command not to go anywhere near where he’d put his sister to anyone he passed. They all obediently followed his orders.

            The alarms were still going but Sammy couldn’t hear them anymore. Just as nobody outside could hear her from inside the room, she couldn’t hear anything from the outside either. She was all alone. She was all alone and she was annoyed. Her father had done this to her. Her father had locked her up like she was a child that needed to be protected. But she wasn’t a child anymore. She could look after herself.

            “I have to get to my sector,” she screamed. “I need to get to my sector. Danny, let me out!” When nobody came after fifteen minutes of screaming, and her voice hoarse, she gave up. She groaned and slid onto the ground. It wasn’t like she couldn’t have helped. She’d practically been raised on the company’s rules and procedures. When other children had been learning how to walk she’d been running drills in the gym. By the age of six she was better with a weapon than most experienced soldiers. It was stupid that she should be locked up.

            She looked over at the tins of food. There was barely enough to suit Ant’s appetite, let alone Sammy’s. She figured, by her trained reasoning, that it would last perhaps two days, three at most. And if they did expect her to stay any longer then they could rethink their plans. There was no way she was staying in here, starving herself to death.

            “This is ridiculous,” she croaked, her throat still sore from her yelling. She stretched and rolled into a ball, stuffing herself in a corner and burying her face in her legs. “I should be out there, not in here.”

            “You and me both,” said a voice not far off.

Sammy sat up straight, startled. She put her hands down on the floor to hold herself steady. “Who said that?” she asked, looking around the room. No, it was definitely empty.

            “Oh, sorry,” the voice said. “I forgot about this thing.” A light was switched on and the far wall suddenly showed another room just like hers. There was a young boy stood inside and he waved at her cheerfully.

            “Hi,” he said. “I’m Graham.”

            Sammy stood up and brushed the wrinkles off her trousers. She touched the wall Graham was looking through and swept her hands across the glass. The strange thing was—it didn’t feel like glass.

            “It’s a new material,” Graham said, smiling at her. He had glasses perched on the end of his nose. He pushed them up to sit on the bridge, near his amber eyes. “They’ve been working on it in the labs for a while now. It’s a good thing they finished it, isn’t it? Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”

            “Good for you, maybe. I should be out there,” she grumbled, still wiping her hand over the mysterious material.

            “So should I,” Graham admitted. “I’m supposed to be working on a new software with my friends, but here I am.” He shrugged and pulled a face. “Sometimes things happen.”

            “Yes, well, they shouldn’t.” Sammy hadn’t liked the face he’d pulled. She didn’t know whether she liked this boy or not. “At least they shouldn’t for people my age. I’m old enough to be looking after myself.”

            “Apparently not, otherwise you wouldn’t feel so bad about having to take care of yourself in here.”

She glared at the younger boy but he didn’t mind. His smile stayed on his face, looking like it couldn’t be removed no matter what anyone did. “You could consider this an opportunity to prove yourself right. Prove you can look after yourself then next time they might believe you.”

            “And why should I listen to a little boy?” she asked.

            “I’m not a little boy,” he said, indignantly. “I’m already into my teens, same as you. I’m just short for my age, that’s all.” He seemed embarrassed by his height and tugged on his shirt, trying to pull it lower.

            “Incredibly short,” she said, but she stopped herself before she said any of the crueller thoughts she was having. “Anyway, how’d you know I was a teenager?”

            Graham grinned and pushed his glasses back up. They’d fallen down again. “My mum’s in charge of the computer labs, with all the records and data stored on them.” He paused and looked her up and down. “You look a bit different from your I.D. Photo. I thought you were taller.”

            “Hey,” she said, “I’m plenty tall, believe you and me, shortie.” She laughed and he joined in with her.

            “I’m sorry,” he said. “I just don’t know much about anybody off the computer. Other than my friends I barely see anyone.”

            Sammy looked into his sad eyes and pitied him. She knew how it felt to live like that. Even when she’d been training as a child the gym had always been empty. “You have friends then?” she asked.

Graham nodded. “Bobby and Gwen, yes. They’re parents work here too.” He took a crumpled photo from his pocket and pushed it against the see-through wall. A cheeky brown-haired boy and blonde-Barbie girl stared back at her. 

            “They look nice,” she said.

            “They are.” He tucked the photo back into his pocket again. “I suppose they’ll be locked up in one of the other safe-rooms right now. They’re probably playing all sorts of games.” He sighed and blushed when he saw Sammy staring. “I don’t have a very big imagination,” he said, and he pushed his glasses again. They hadn’t fallen down but he sometimes did this when he felt embarrassed.

            “Well, you’re lucky, at least,” Sammy said. She moved over to the bed and sat down. “I didn’t have friends when I was your age—and I didn’t have an imagination either.”

            “Really?” Graham had sat down on his bed too. They couldn’t see each other anymore but they could still hear each other.

            “Yeah,” Sammy said. Graham could hear the sadness in her voice as it shook. She zoned off for a few seconds, thinking back to her childhood. “I suppose that’s why I’m so happy when I’m around Ant and Daisy. They keep me interested. I never was when I was a kid.”

            “I’d be the same,” Graham said. Silence fell for a few minutes. Neither knew what to say to each other and both had disappeared into their minds to consider their pairs of friends.

            “I’m sorry for not speaking, by the way,” Graham said through the silence. “I didn’t know what to say.”

            “It’s okay,” Sammy said, with a yawn. “I needed time to rant to myself anyway. I’m just sorry you had to listen to it.” She looked at the ceiling with a puzzled expression. “Hey,” she said, attracting Graham’s attention, “what do you think’s happening out there right now?”

            “I don’t know,” he said. “Something exciting.”

            “Yes.” She turned over and rested her head on her hands. “Something exciting.”

A Short Song About The Children

If the children succeed us

Why can’t we let them succeed?

And if the children need us

Why don’t we just let them need?

And when the time comes

When they need us no more

Why don’t we let them succeed us

Whether they’re rich or they’re poor?

Posted in Book/TV/Film Themed Dishes

The Wizard of Oz: Pork and Corn and Fruit ‘oh my’

One word… Mmmmmm…

Anybody who’s actually stumbled across my Twitter account (probably by accident I’d imagine as I don’t believe I’m that interesting to catch your attention purposely) will know that a few months ago I was reading ‘The Wizard of Oz’. I’ve got to be honest, the page I showed on there was just about as far as I got. Okay, okay, I got slightly further but I certainly never made it to the actual Emerald City scenes or their meeting of the Witch. I think, perhaps, I met the Cowardly Lion.

            Why didn’t I keep going, you might ask? Did time get away from me? Did I have so much going on in my life I couldn’t take some time to read a children’s story? Well, I wish I could say yes (which I may have been able to do back then, but certainly not presently), but the truth is I stopped because I just wasn’t enjoying it. It’s a classic. It’s a story that should be respected for what it’s added to the world, the authors it’s inspired, but I just could not get invested in any of these characters lives.

            Why? For a normal person you may say it’s just because it was written for children and I’m an adult. But, you see, I’m not a normal person—I regularly enjoy reading children’s fiction and always have done. I used to leave the library as a teenager with a pile of ‘Magical Ballerina’, Jacqueline Wilson’s, Enid Blyton’s—and, probably a rather disturbing sight for the librarians, a pile of Murder Mystery and Crime novels too. I have always told people, rather than saying I’m ‘a writer’, that I’m a ‘children’s writer’. I enjoy the freedom, the focus on characters and the sheer joy of the area. But I don’t like books that write down to children. I don’t enjoy when it tries to tell me how to think and feel, just because it’s aimed at children—and, whether it’s the case or not, that’s how ‘The Wizard of Oz’ felt to me.

            I love the idea behind the story, the characters that have been shown and parodied thousands of times by other writers—even the themes of family and home are inspired enough. At the very least I can say that I respect this book and I believe it’s earned it’s place in history. And that’s why I decided to create a dish for it, despite the fact that it—or it’s film counterpart—simply aren’t for me. Whatever I may feel about it, other people have connected to it and that’s all an author can hope for. Good for you for loving something like ‘The Wizard of Oz’—every piece of work, every piece that someone has poured their heart into, deserves just a bit of love from others for the mere time and effort and heart that’s been poured into it.

            Okay, rant over. Sorry, I had to get this off my chest and explain myself (again, apologies, opinions are hard things to have). I created this dish based on the love its readers give it, the place it holds in our history and the characters that even I can love without caring for the words behind them (it tasted delicious, by the way—my Mum’s favourite dish so far).

Tip to making puree: Put in a bit of cooked potato for a smooth consistency.

            We have a silky, smooth corn puree representing our Yellow Brick Road; crispy straw potatoes representing our friendly, smartly-dressed scarecrow (pun intended); a piece of the finest cut of pork: fillet (for our meat-eating but timid lion), stuffed with fruity breadcrumbs (for our down-to-earth, sweet Dorothy); raspberry and blackcurrant coulis’ put on the plate for our sleepy, obstacles that block the path to Oz—the proud poppy (and some poppy seeds for good measure); and all covered in a tinny flavoured broccoli and gorgonzola sauce, both for our heart-lost Tin-Man and the colour of their desired location.

            It was certainly one of my easiest to cook, each part simply made but lovely to eat, and I think/hope represents this work well. Because the book is simple, especially from a modern prospective, but can still be creative and tasty. I think, now, that works like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ are considered the greats because of what they can inspire, rather than what they originally were. The ideas are there and at their very basic form—perfect for the freedom of a new writer/artist/song-writers imagination. I created a dish—other people create films, songs and paintings. So although you weren’t for me ‘Wizard of Oz’, thank you for everything you’ve done to inspire your following generations. As said previously, you’ve earned your place in history and I thank your creator L. Frank Baum for putting his heart on the page and sharing it with the public. Your bravery is something I struggle to reach still and can only aspire too. Thank you for all you’ve done and thank you, to every writer or artist out there for spreading your own hearts out to the public to be heard. You all truly amaze me—thank you.

Sappy message over. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed eating that corn puree.

A tasty combination. Sweet, salty and sour are always a perfect match.

Posted in How to Write

Editing an Old Piece

Looking for the smallest mistake in a sea of sentences.

It’s arguably the worst part about writing. It sucks all life out of the piece, makes you feel less confident in your words minute by minute and overall is something you would rather somebody else did for you (and yet something you also wouldn’t entrust to another person, in case they completely tear it apart). I, of course, am talking about that dreaded word—editing.

            There’s no other way to say it: editing is the worst. In fact, that’s wrong—editing your own work is the worst (I actually enjoy editing other people’s work, hence why I used to do it for Fanfiction writers). So, to help you learn how to edit your own piece (and exactly why I don’t enjoy it) I’m going to take an old piece of mine and edit it for a blog post. Yay. Okay, let’s get this started, shall we?

            So, the piece I’m going to use is one I believe I wrote when I was seventeen. It was a short story but extremely amateurish because of my age when it was written. To give some context: I was much more a poet back then than a fiction writer, meaning there were metaphors abound; I knew the character fairly well as she had been created when I was around ten or eleven; lastly, I have to say that I’m fully aware this is not me at my best, so apologies in advance.

            For this post, let’s focus on the first paragraph:

‘I am Rebecca and I am a recovering Photoholic.

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a long lasting infatuation with cameras. I never did much with the being on screen myself, but behind it was like a playground my imagination could explore. Everything seemed so much more toned and exciting from the little box on the back of the digital screen than in the reality of it all. I would spend hours on a night editing the footage of the day onto small compact discs or tapes and catalogue them into my ever-expanding filing system.’

The first thing I noticed is that the second paragraph needs to be indented. This, along with many other layout problems, is something that I automatically set before I start writing these days but didn’t know back then.

‘I am Rebecca and I am a recovering Photoholic.

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a long lasting infatuation with cameras. I never did much with the being on screen myself, but behind it was like a playground my imagination could explore. Everything seemed so much more toned and exciting from the little box on the back of the digital screen than in the reality of it all. I would spend hours on a night editing the footage of the day onto small compact discs or tapes and catalogue them into my ever-expanding filing system.’

As you can see from above, I’ve added the indent and actually changed the font and spacing to make it easier to read. Now that I’m happy with the layout, let’s take a look at the words. Okay, so despite the word ‘photoholic’ not being a real one I’m going to count it as a neologism. Knowing this character well enough I would say that she is likely to make up words, as she wouldn’t know the actual word for what she wants to say. However, in the second line, I think it loses something by saying ‘long-lasting infatuation’. She’s only a thirteen year old girl and implies future tense or a longer period than it actually has been. Also, infatuation implies a short-amount of time, whereas she has a continuing obsession with a camera.

            Let’s change the line to: ‘Ever since I can remember I’ve had a passionate obsession with cameras’—this then keeps the oxymoron (passion being good and obsession being bad, showing her conflicting feelings) but changes it to what it actually is.

            The next line goes back to what I originally said about my being more of a poet than a fiction writer, back when I was seventeen. I have a tendency in old works to use badly worded, almost cringy metaphors to describe things that could be described more simply. So, let’s say it simply, shall we?: ‘I’ve never enjoyed being on camera myself but capturing others’ lives on film inspired my imagination.’

            Now that we’ve had three shorter lines in a row, we desperately need a longer line to keep the flow. This means we’ll have to merge the two continuing subjects or add another relevant one in between them.

            Reading through it, I’ve actually decided on a third option: I’m going to delete the fourth line completely, which is redundant and doesn’t add anything new to the piece, and move straight onto the longer fifth line. This paragraph now reads:

‘I am Rebecca and I am a recovering Photoholic.

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a passionate obsession with cameras. I never enjoyed being on camera myself but capturing others’ lives on film inspired my imagination. I would spend hours on a night editing the footage of the day onto small compact discs or tapes and catalogue them into my ever-expanding filing system.’

Now, you see why it takes so long? And why it’s so heart-breaking, especially when the piece is more recent than this one? You end up deleting words/lines/paragraphs/even entire chapters, changing words, researching new words or meanings of some words—it takes a lot of effort and a lot of it you have to be harsh with and ask yourself: Is this important? Do I need this?

            I used to simply delete them completely but discovered this was counterproductive. I highly recommend to you to have a document ready to cut and paste all of these ‘deleted’ lines etc. into. Whilst they don’t work in the piece you’re editing they may work somewhere else, or they may even inspire a new piece.

            In fact, as a fun exercise (and to cheer yourself up after all of your hard ripping apart) take one of these sentences and write an entirely new piece around it. What do you end up with?

            Thank you for reading and I hope you make it through your own editing.