Archive for category Intriguing Development

Eight of Diamonds: The Village of Silver

Although many stories end up coming full circle, the first step is always finding a few good lines to lead into it. The steps are too steep for me to climb, I will wait and watch.

All the best pictures have canoes in them. As the boat left the wharf, they did not know that they would soon be the first victims of the biggest eruption in history. They used the clock tower to localise themselves in time and space. The people did not know that the tower would soon fall. It was big.

The butterfly said, “Some creatures are bigger than they have any right to be. The problem with rankings is that the first and second always crowd out the third. I am not going to react to that in the way you expect.”

The butterfly does not know what you have called him, he just lives.

The frog said, “I know a man who collects frogs. Hair brushed back to impress you, he has addled your brains, you no can no longer call yourselves human.

Why do you keep calling me a bull? I don’t wear armour and spikes to threaten you, but to protect myself. Standing on the stump of what was my home, I can’t help but wonder if there is any more of a future for those who destroyed it. After all their adventures, one diamond is still missing.”

A line of spikes separated the riches from the untamed sea. Many colours, reaching to the sky. Each stalk is topped with a permanent snowball. Scientists rushed to tend to the glowing backbone. The crowd rejoiced as they saw their work fall away.

Their neighbour was richer than they thought. A giant living diamond thrashed its way forward through the sea. A single female to perpetuate the genes of a thousand men.

And a gold-crazed fool said, “This is no more possible than a flower growing from another flower. I sent e-kisses over the internet before my first real kiss. I have two pillows, but there is no room for another in this bed.”

The trick in gathering treasure is to leave room for more. They got on like two flowers in a pod.

A village of silver, covered in white snow, one lasts and the other is precious.


Rearranging the components of your point does not make it any sharper.

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Four of Clubs: The Devil’s Bedpost

devilsbedpostA cellphone vibrates ineffectually against unfeeling skin. One last rivulet of blood slowly oozes down the wall as it dries. The rest of the room is still.

The floor is littered with toiletries. Slivers of soap fissured by scratches. A quarter-full bottle of shampoo, open, ending a trail of shampoo drips. A toothpaste tube sliced open, with smears of blood over an almost invisibly thin layer of blue gel. A pool of cough syrup and blood surrounds a smashed bottle. A toothbrush tipped in blood lies next to the toilet.

A man lies back awkwardly on the toilet, head wedged between the cistern and the wall. His eyes do not see the gruesome manuscript scrawled over the white wall.

The writing starts in neat ridges of blue toothpaste:

I woke up in a winning mood. My birthday… and why not celebrate it? Getting old is a victory against death. I had no deadlines to meet, no reason to stay hunched over my keyboard, pouring my blood and sweat into a new story. I went for a walk by the lake to relax.

As I let my mind wander, pieces of a dream came back to me. The devil was at my bedside. Just a much darker shadow in the dark room. I knew it was him in the way you sometimes know things in dreams, a mixture of switching perspective and intuition. He told me that he would give me all the best cards. I remember thinking of all the movies I’d seen where people make deals with the devil. Somehow I knew before I asked that I would not have to give my soul in return… just sacrifice other souls somehow. That must have been when I woke up, or went into a deeper sleep.

It was just a dream, but it was a good enough excuse to ask some friends around for poker. I called Jack and we got together a posse. “Good to see you’ve decided to celebrate your birthday, you old bugger,” he said.

The evening started off badly, but soon I was wiping the floor with them. I knew they’d never let me win just because it was my birthday. It was all luck.

“Hey, you know it’s funny, I had a dream last night that the devil would give me good cards.”

“Well, you never had much of a soul to begin with,” Jack teased. “Speaking of souls, when are you going to write the world’s greatest horror novel?”

I smirked. “You know how I feel about horror.”

At this point, the narrative is obscured by soapy smudges, with smears of faeces. It continues in blood.

I felt suddenly very tired, so I took my winnings and went to bed, leaving my friends to finish their beers and let themselves out.

A loud thump woke me in the middle of the night, kick-starting a thumping headache. I was contemplating getting up to see what it was when I heard a voice.

“I hope you enjoyed your luck tonight,” it croaked.

“Who are you?” I demanded. “Is that you, Jack?”

“You know who I am.”

A chill went through me, followed by a wave of nausea. I thought I could see shadows shifting against the darkness.

“What do you want?”

“Do you remember the deeeeal?” said the voice in a permanent death rattle.

“There was no deal. That was a dream. I was just lu…”

I jumped as the voice interrupted me loudly. “I am not in the business of making dreams! We made a deal.”

“Okay, okay, whatever you want. You want my soul? I warn you, it’s not in tip-top shape.”

“Your pitiful soul already belongs to me, and I’m growing weary of keeping it alive. It’s time to put it to use.”

I tried to respond, but my mind and body were paralysed.

“You will win more souls over to the side of evil. Enough with your inspirational human interest stories,” He drew out human as though it were an insult. “You will write a horror story that will draw your readers to me through the one thing that truly interests them. Fear.”

“But th…” I cut off my own babbling when I found my mind had not caught up with my quivering lips. Far away, the church bells started to chime.

“It’s midnight,” said the voice, “You have until next midnight to write it, or else you die.” He was gone before the last chime was silent.

I lay still for a few minutes, unable to make my hand move to the light switch. Every slight noise made my body spasm with fear.

Eventually I managed to turn on the light. The shadows dispersed, and I was briefly reassured by the normality of my bedroom. I searched for evidence of the intruder. My relief was shattered when I saw his calling card. The four of clubs: the devil’s bedpost. Bad luck was in store.

I couldn’t sleep after that. But there was no use worrying. ‘I’m a professional writer,’ I told myself. ‘I can write whatever I’m assigned to write, for the right price.’ And this price was the ultimate. So I put my clothes back on, went to my desk and turned on my computer.

Nothing. No startup chime, no fidgeting hard disk. I riffled through my drawer for a pen. Found a red pen and scratched away at a scrap of paper, embossing without writing. I found five more pens; all were out of ink. A broken pencil and no sharpener. Finally, I found a marker which worked, and sat back down to begin writing.

The only ideas that came were more horribly clichéd than horrific. I’d not read much horror, but what I’d read was mostly a thick coating of gore over a flimsy excuse for a story… like pornography, but with gore instead of sex. I idly wondered whether I could replace one character in a porn film with a zombie and make a passable horror, but decided it would probably still be porn.

A sharp pain in my stomach brought back the real horror of the day. I dashed to the toilet, slammed the door shut and got to the toilet just in time to release a horrifying eruption of shit.

I felt a lot better after that. After waiting twenty minutes or so for aftershocks, I pulled my pants up and went to the door, realising what I’d done as I reached toward it. The inside handle had come off a few days before, and until I got around to replacing it, I had been leaving the door slightly ajar. Now it was firmly closed, and would not open without a handle. I poked around at the mechanism and managed to get a razor handle stuck in there.

There isn’t much room for a run-up in this bathroom, but I ran as fast as I could into the door. At the last moment I repositioned myself to avoid being jabbed by the razor, and my head smashed into the door instead.

I regained consciousness some time later, head and shoulders throbbing. It took me a few minutes to remember where I was, and another to gather the sense to observe that the door was still firmly closed. I sat there, dazed, for I don’t know how long, until I was roused by the sound of Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. I hate that song, and that’s why I configured my cellphone to wake me up to it. There was no way I’d stay comfortably in bed with it playing.

8:30 already. I had to get out of this bathroom and start writing this damned horror story. And the solution was in my hand. I’d call Jack. He had a key to the house, so he could just come in and open the toilet door.

I dialled his number and waited for the ringback tone. Click. “Your call can not be connected, because you have insufficient prepay credit. To recharge your…” I hung up and threw the phone at the floor in frustration, then stuffed it back in my pocket with a twinge of guilt. Surely Jack or somebody else would call me eventually. I sat there trying not to think about my predicament.

I almost dozed off, and the voice of the devil came back to menace me in my semi-lucid state. I may be trapped in a bathroom, but things would be much worse if I didn’t write a horror story by midnight.

It occurred to me that I was living as bad a horror as I could come up with, so I resolved to write the story of the last few days. Easy enough. But what with? I’d left the marker outside. I pillaged the medicine cabinet, and was close to giving up when I saw the half-full toothpaste tube by the sink. I swear I heard an angel’s chorus when I saw that toothpaste. I was saved. If I applied it carefully with a toothbrush handle, I could write fairly well on the wall.

All went well for a while. I even found myself giggling at the thought of my eventual rescuer seeing a wall covered in pasty horror. But the toothpaste ran out much sooner than I’d hoped. Why couldn’t I have written a shorter story?

Again I ransacked the cupboards. I tried to write with shampoo, but it was useless, too liquid and too transparent against the wall. I only managed to clean off some of what I’d already written. I threw it at the door, half hoping that it would miraculously punch a hole in it.

Next I tried scraping into the soap with a razor. It could barely stick to the wall, and didn’t show up against the white. I needed something darker. Suddenly I wished that I hadn’t flushed all that perfectly good shit down the drain. Fighting a sudden nausea, I dipped my toothbrush into the trails on the side of the bowl and tried writing on the wall with it. This was too much. I coughed up some very un-inklike bile and flushed it all down.

After some more contemplation, I turned my attention back to the toothpaste tube. There was surely still some toothpaste in there, wedged near the top where it couldn’t quite be pushed to the opening. I tried slicing it open with a razor, but sliced open my thumb instead.

The shock of the pain was soon followed by the thrill of seeing a dark liquid. I could write with this. Ridiculously macabre, but how else does one write for the devil? It’s not as if I’d have to bleed to death. The cut was already starting to heal. I cleaned the end of my toothbrush as well as I could and dipped it into the cut. It didn’t take much blood to write a few letters. I felt a strange delight in writing those first few words in blood. I was in the mind of a killer. I could write horror like this.

My phone bleeped midday. I still had twelve hours. Surely somebody would rescue me in that time, but I had to continue just in case. The devil is not to be played with… another reason why I don’t usually write horror.

Whenever I stopped too long to think, my thumb would heal over and I’d have to tear it apart again. Eventually I had done it so much that the pain was unbearable. I was feeling a little lightheaded, but I convinced myself it was from pain and lack of sleep rather than blood loss. It didn’t seem like any more blood than I gave to the blood bank every time there was a donation drive. I bandaged the poor thumb and rested a little before making a clean cut in my forearm. I continued like this for hours, periodically bandaging a wound and opening a new one.

It’s 11:30 now, and I’m afraid that this story is not horrific enough for its audience. I’m worried that nobody has called me all day. I’m afraid that even if I succeed, I’ll stay trapped staring at this ghoulish wallpaper until I die of hunger.

I’m afraid that my latest cut won’t stop bleeding.

FUCK… I have to fix my wrist up. THE END. Happy now, Luci

“Hi, this is Ned Stokes. I’m probably writing or taking a bath. Leave a message.”

“Hey, Ned, it’s Jack. Written any horror stories lately?” Laughter. “Guess you’ve figured out it was me by now. Hope it didn’t freak you out too much. Nah, who am I kidding? You have to be freaked out to write horror. Anyway, I know you hate horror, but I reckon you’d be good at it. If you wrote something, send it to me, I promise I won’t tease.”

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Eight of Clubs: A Match Made in Heaven

Come have a char with me, my dear,
Let’s turn the night to day
Swing with me from the chandelier,
I’ll have my wicked way.

It will be quite a scandal
if the two of us attach
for I am but a candle,
and you’re the perfect match.

But if I’m panegyrical,
then all I say is true.
I can’t help waxing lyrical,
can’t hold myself to you.

You lit my life up when you came.
I’m burning with desire.
But you’re still hot for your old flame
that flickers in the fire.

You’re blinded by your hearth of stone
to pain that you inflict.
I’m ditched, to gutter all alone;
there’s no peace for the wicked.

But noone said that life was fair
the winds of fate blow free;
if love and cold are in the air
then you’ll go out with me.

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King of Hearts: Love Letters

A mental syntonicity one day
A gentle hint of what we two could be
lit just enough my life so I could see
that trust in love just might bring rhapsody,
exuberant duet of you and me,
a music fit to agonise the deaf.
By moonlight we could glimpse our apogee
Drew closer to alleviate the ache.
I saw my glow reflected in your eye,
I saw your soul like flesh through négligée,
enigma moulding treasure from okay.
I leaned a little nearer till I fell
in love, and whispered brazenly ‘je t’aime.’
L’amour, the kissing cousin of la haine
A congress fit for hedonists, but Oh!
A princess in our bed, I feel the pea
A tiny irritation right on cue
A grating indication that we are
Two spirits passing through the first caress
and driven past into infinity.
I’m looking straight ahead and not at you,
We’ll separate in steps, but c’est la vie.
Although no other man can double you,
although no lover can replace this ex,
We’re done, and if today you wonder why,
remember every A will lead to Z.

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Queen of Hearts: Why?

Why are there poodles?
Why are there cats?
Why are there Bellan wrasse?

Cross-breeding of oodles
For eating of rats
To boost ocean biomass

Why are there leatherbacks?
Why is there beer?
Why is there Notre Dame?

We’ve banned aphrodisiacs
To free us from fear
In an effort to sauver nos âmes.

Is there a god who says, “It’s ’cause I say”?
Is it for people who like it that way?
Is it ’cause particles followed some law?
Is it just random events, nothing more?

Why corythosaurus?
Why Holsteiner horse?
Why are there Cooper pairs?

To kill time before us
To show feats of force
They send thirteen thousand amperes

Why are there wood hedgehogs?
Why are there clothes?
Why are there queens of hearts?

For Lumpi to teach French dogs
To hide what God loathes
So the kings can enjoy their parts

Is there a god who says, “It’s ’cause I say”?
Is it for people who like it that way?
Is it ’cause particles followed some law?
Is it just random events, nothing more?

Why Malahide Castle?
Why’s there Lake Sils?
Why are there tundra swans?

To use a land parcel
It rains, the hole fills
Now there’s no room for mastodons

Why are there butterflies?
Why are there birds?
Why did they bridge the Arve?

It’s so we don’t shut our eyes
To free falling turds
For the sake of appearing suave

Is there a god who says, “It’s ’cause I say”?
Is it for people who like it that way?
Is it ’cause particles followed some law?
Is it just random events, nothing more?

Why Maison du Mayet?
Why are there hares?
Why cruise in Georgian Bay?

It’s a raison de payer
For chic furry wares
‘Cause it’s ever so trendy that way

Why the Venice regattas?
Why the Rhine falls?
Why are there crested grebes?

Dear historical matters
For souvenir stalls
To eat the spare dough in Thebes

Yes to the god who says, “it’s ’cause I say!”
Yes for the people who like it that way.
Yes to the particles following laws
Yes to the random, its wonderful flaws.

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Jack of Hearts: Jack


A Jack of Hearts with an X and the words 'in the world'

The following is a sequel to Ten of Hearts: Double You.

A fair-haired man enters and plays a flashlight over the room. He stops dead as the light finds the face of the oldest of us.

I fight to open my eyes against the burning light. Before it blinded me, I saw something tantalisingly familiar in the man’s gait. When my eyes finally consent to staying open, they see only a bright light against darkness.

The light falls with the sound of a collapsing body, and spreads a gloomy half-light across the floor. I rush toward the unconscious intruder. It’s Jack, or almost Jack… he seems older. I stroke his forehead until his eyes also manage to open again. He looks at me as though he is lost in a familiar place.

After a minute, he pulls away abruptly. “Cat, I killed someone. Did you see?”


The others’ reactions remind me that we are not alone in the room.

“Get away from him!” I squeal. I’m eight. I don’t want the big me to be killed. I run toward her and try to drag her away, but she doesn’t move. A six-year-old me comes to help.

“What?” This time it is the man who is surprised. I look at him defiantly.

“He tried to kill me first! I’m a good guy… I think,” he protests.

I look at the big me. “It’s okay,” she says. “I know him. He won’t hurt us. His name’s Jack.”

I relax my grip, but stay at her side.

We listen to the rest of his story.

“About a year and a half ago, I woke up to an old man trying to inject me with something. We struggled, and eventually I injected him with it. He went to sleep immediately. I watched him sleeping. He looked like my grandfather. God, it was awful, thinking I’d killed my grandfather.” His voice is beginning to quaver. “So I tried to wake him, I tried so hard…” his words clump into sobs.

We watch, trying to make sense of the new layer of strangeness. Trying to remember our lives, trying to get back to them.

“But now… I went to heaven anyway…” Jack manages to squeeze past the lump in his throat.

The youngest of us starts crying with him.

“Heaven?” I’m the oldest. The oldest in a group of time-travelling versions of myself. What does that mean? “I was there too, wasn’t I?”

“Yes… yes, of course you were there… you know, don’t you?”

I see my worst fears in his eyes.

“While I was fighting the man, he said… he said, ‘you don’t know how much you want this.'” He paused to find enough calm air to speak again. “After it was over, I realised he was right. You were already dead. I’m so sorry…” Jack buries his face in my lap and weeps.
For a while we just sit there, watching him cry. He is a stranger to most of us, but we can’t help feeling his grief, and mixing it with own for our lost lives.
“Hey, were you in virtual reality too?” I ask. I’m ten, and I’ve been thinking hard to take my mind of my sore knee. It hasn’t really worked, but I have some ideas.

This gets through his despair. “Smart kid… you know all about VR? I used to make virtual reality stuff. I made a lot of money from it. So yes, I’ve been in it.”

“No, I mean… cool, you know all about it? This thing I’m wearing, it’s a virtual reality suit, right?”

Jack looks at me for the first time. He picks up the torch and points it at each of us in turn. “Holy… how many of you are there?”

“Ten”, I say. “I think we were in virtual reality, or else we travelled in time…”

“I don’t think… I don’t think people wear things like that in heaven. Hell, I don’t even believe in heaven! I think you’re right! Let me have a look at that.” He speaks with a new-found jubilance. He gets up and walks toward me.

He sits down next to me and starts examining my suit.

“Wow, it’s… this must be… how did…”

I scream in pain as he prods at my left knee, and instinctively bend it away from him, which makes it hurt even more.

“I’m sorry, I…”
Some of us cry in sympathy, some in surprise.
“She has a broken kneecap. Do you have any painkillers?” I say. At 18, I’m the second eldest.

“I think so… let me go check.”

“Wait!” I call after him. “Check where? Where are we anyway? Can we go with you?”

“I guess so…” he replies. “You’re… I’m at a retreat, from technology.”

“Already?” I remember suggesting the idea to him; it would be a giant art project, an adventure in the past. I walk with him toward the door.

“I’ve been here for about three and a half years, but there was…”

I feel a gentle tension pulling me back inside, the tingling I used to get at the top of my head when I ran too fast and breathed too little. The cable linking me to the ceiling is fully unwound.

Jack looks up at the cables for the first time, and follows them up with his flashlight. The light is too weak to reach the top. “Wow,” he gasps.

“Please…” calls the ten-year-old. “It hurts!”

“Okay, I’m going to get some stuff. I’ll be right back,” he promises as he leaves.

Here we are again, ten hearts, one name, alone with ourselves. Twenty hazel eyes staring into the darkness. A few more facts and millions more unknowns.

To be continued

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Ten of Hearts: Double You

Here we are. Ten hearts, beating silently. Twenty legs, some abruptly collapsed onto the floor. Twenty hands, grasping at lost sensations. Ten heads, linked to flexible cables suspended from above like the strings of ten marionnettes. Twenty hazel eyes, staring into the darkness.

Twenty eyes which were just moments ago watching gummi bears leap around
on a screen, watching the world whiz by from a swing, watching the teacher form the letter W on the blackboard, tracking an approaching ball, streaming tears from the pain of a broken knee, gazing down at polished shoes on the school stage while the students clapped, closing in embarrassment for a first kiss, glazing over in front of an educational video, closing in rapture during an embrace with our soulmate, opening wide in terror.

The cries of the youngest hit our ears before our eyes have adjusted. A sound made by one, forgotten by some, not quite familiar to others. We begin to see each other, ourselves. Some recognise past selves, some gape at the slow recognition of future selves. Some are too young to know that the others have separate thoughts.

We look at each other questioningly, trying to find the right words to say, and wondering whether we need to say them once they’re found.

“Are you me?” I say. I’m twelve, nearly thirteen. I think I wished myself here, to escape the humiliation of standing in front of assembly with my art prize.

All are unsure. Those close to each other in age answer similarly. All who answer answer positively. We are Cat Diesch. We were born on October 10, 2010 to Rose and Macy Diesch. We have no siblings. We enjoy painting, fireworks, and nectarines. We are sitting in a dark room with nine other versions of ourselves, at different ages.

More questions follow. Did we travel through time? How can we travel back? Did we die? Did we all break our kneecaps at ten years old? Only the last gets an answer, so we quiz each other on our lives. We all lived the same one. We each lived it until August 10. Each in a different year, always two years apart. The younger ones are warned not to play rugby, for a broken kneecap is painful.

Very painful. I am ten, and though my world disappeared, my knee still hurts, and my eyes are still streaming with tears. “I want to go back to the hospital,” I plead. Nobody says anything; we know that we have no answer. Less than an hour ago my leg was in a splint, now it is covered with the same smooth, squishy black fabric as the rest of our bodies. As an older me comes to comfort me, I notice the cord linking her to the ceiling unwinds so that she is free to move toward me.

A recently-read novel is still fresh in my mind. “It’s like some kind of virtual reality suit. Do you have that in the future?” I ask my older selves. The one who spoke first says, “Oh yeah, like in… what’s it… World of the World Builders!”

The older ones smile at the spark of a much-enjoyed book lighting up their memory.

“Nothing like this.” I say. I’m eighteen. I tinker with the graphics for the virtual reality software my boyfriend is making for his Master project. He just uses goggles, earpieces, gloves, and some basic neural stimulation.

We ponder in silence for a while, watching the two youngest play together. Our thoughts are like ten flautists playing different tunes, each trying to make sense of the same shrouded score.

“Did I stay with Jason forever?” I ask. I’m fourteen, and I know Jason and I are meant for each other. But after exchanging puzzled looks, my older selves burst out laughing.

“Jason… oh my God, that kid? He was…” They stop when they see the look on my face.

“I remember,” says a sixteen-year-old me. “It feels important now, but believe me, it totally isn’t.”

“And you end up with someone much better,” say the two oldest in unison.

“Who?” I ask. “What’s he like? Is he cute?”

The click of a door interrupts our retrogressive reminiscence.


To be continued

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Ace of Hearts: Nitrogen

Plain ace of hearts with an N on it, and the words, \'as de cœur\' Nitrogen, we breathe and we ignore.
We do not know what we are breathing for.
A large part of the air, the human race
is there to simply breathe, and nothing more.

Hot air, without reaction or a face,
with nothing more to do than take up space
continue, as today, and as before
breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, keep up the pace.

Should lightning strike, your senses to alert
And nitrogen to nitrates to convert
you’ll breathe with force of will and not cuirass
The air, the breath, the life, no more inert.

Your heart is not a mere ignoble mass.
Take nitrates, and create some biomass.
Take hold of the inertia, and invert:
Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in this noble gas.


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