Please tell your friends!
‘I’m not like other men,’ said Dan. ‘I’m not even like other werewolves.’
‘I don’t understand Mr Shaffer,’ the psychiatrist shuffled his papers and coughed. ‘…like other werewolves. There is no such thing as a werewolf or lycanthrope as it’s really called. It exists only in myths and legends. Please explain further.’
‘I can do better than that,’ Dan was slowly sipping a blended cappuccino laced with sugary hazelnut syrup. ‘I can show you.’
He licked some syrup off his designer stubble and bared his teeth. They seemed to be growing as he spoke. His voice was distinctly becoming lower, more like a growl. ‘It’s the sugar in the drinks.’ He was twitching as he spoke. Long black hairs began sprouting from his face and the backs of his hands. ‘No-one believes me you see. And that has a tendency to make me angry.’ He slipped off the couch and squatted on his haunches, still holding on to his coffee with his claws. He took another sip through his elongated fangs. ‘I wouldn’t mind so much if it was triggered by the full moon like in the stories. That at least would be predictable. Once a month and all that. But I have to be so careful. Checking the labels of everything I buy. Looking at the sugar content. Sucrose, fructose, it doesn’t matter. It all has the same effect.’
With which he leapt at the hapless psychiatrist, his teeth bared and jaws slavering.
‘I guess you believe me now,’ he said, leaping through the open window.
For Jan it was a night like any other. A nice dinner of roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, peas and gravy. Followed by sticky toffee pudding and custard. All washed down with a large glass of cola. That was Dan’s version. For Jan it was a low fat sugar free yoghurt instead of the pudding and sparkling water instead of cola. She allowed herself only two tiny roast potatoes and passed on the cauliflower cheese even though it was her favourite. She had to stay in good shape for her job. She worked as a rep selling diet shakes and nutritional supplements and though she didn’t actually use the products, she needed to look as though she did.
Dan had popped out for a walk as he did every night after dinner. He was usually out for a good hour but she didn’t mind as it gave her time to do the washing up, watch EastEnders and get in some practice in front of her Pilates Weight Loss Workout DVD. She would have preferred to exercise on an empty stomach but Dan’s nightly absence gave her some privacy. And the opportunity to create a new menu that would subtly knock a few pounds off her portly partner. She set to work. It was time to start making a few changes. First of all, she would secretly replace the cola with a sugar free version. He wouldn’t notice so long as she poured it into a glass and threw away the can. Then she would start preparing low calorie desserts like fresh fruit with a single cream alternative or a sugar-free lemon sorbet. Just these two changes would make such a difference. Little did she know just what a difference it would really make.
There are three ways to become a werewolf. Be born a werewolf because your parents were both werewolves. Be bitten by one, or be ‘cursed’. So legend would have us believe. Dan on the other hand knew different. He was the exception to the rule. He never really believed that he was the only one but even though he had been told he would instantly recognise another ‘sugar-induced-werewolf’ as he jokingly called himself, he hadn’t so far. At least not in Bromley.
This new ‘shape-shifting’ syndrome he assumed, was the result of decades of sugar rush and over-indulgence in sweet foods and drinks from coffee chains. He was addicted. Cappuccino, latte macchiato, mocha and luxurious hot chocolate, all served with extra syrup and those cute little marshmallows on the top. For most people it resulted in being overweight (he knew he was too) but for him it had an added ‘curse’. Except he found it rather fun. He could induce it at will with little more than a large chocolate bar, but he could also be easily tricked. Hidden sugars in so many things. He had to take a packed lunch to work at Altered States Tailors in Bluewater. He didn’t dare to pop into his local peri peri chicken in case the BBQ sauce made him start howling at the moon-shaped overhead lights in the Build-a-Bear shop. That would frighten the little buggers! How hilarious that would be but he would instantly get the sack. There would be no verbal or written warning for spontaneous lycanthropy. It would be out on your furry butt sunshine or should I say moonshine.
So Dan waited till he got home. He was starving. Maybe it would be sausage and mash tonight or spag bol followed by chocolate pudding and raspberry ripple ice cream (his favourite). Then it was a pint of full-fat cola and out for a walk. The transformation wouldn’t take long if he had enough sweet stuff. He hadn’t decided yet where he would go. Somewhere he could freely howl and chase a few squirrels in the churchyard maybe, or perhaps he would aim a bit higher tonight. A night club was always fun. Most of them too pissed to acknowledge his existence.
Horror of horrors! Tonight’s dinner was a tuna salad (yuk!), light on the mayo and even worse there was no pudding. Only fruit and 0% fat free yoghurt and Jan had already replaced the cola with the sugar-free variety. That’s it, he thought, I’ll take a walk through the churchyard to the One Stop Shop and get myself a bar of chocolate or two. Because I’m hungry. The cola will trigger the ‘other thing’.
He’d been walking for a good 15 minutes before he begun to realise something was wrong. No hair on the back of his hands or all over his face. No elongated fangs. No growing fingernails. Something was up. This couldn’t be happening or not happening in this case. He was standing in the middle of the churchyard shivering. He hadn’t worn a coat because once he was covered in fur he wouldn’t need one. And that’s when he saw him. Another werewolf. Drinking a chocolate mocha cappuccino in a paper cup. He recognised it instantly. He could even see the marshmallows. Dan tried to howl but his throat dried up. He tried to growl and snarl but it came out like a whimper. Then he tried to run but wolves can outrun a human without even trying.
‘But I’m the only one in Bromley,’ he cried as he went down in a mass of teeth and hair and saliva.
When they found him the next day he was lying face down in the churchyard with his neck torn open. In his hand he was clutching an empty cup of chocolate mocha cappuccino. He had tried to grab it and take a swig but he never stood a chance. Jan had thought she was doing him a favour. Little did she know.
Do you believe we have all been here before? The Bottom of the Well takes Emily back to a past life that will change her future forever. http://www.amazon.co.uk/…/B01…/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_eos_detail …
Emily was happily ploughing her way through a new anthology of sonnets one damp afternoon in September when everything changed. She vaguely heard the bell over the door chime to introduce the arrival of an elderly man in need of a haircut and a new coat. He wore fingerless gloves and sported a grey-white goatee. He headed in Emily’s direction, greeting her as if she were an old friend. Then he handed her a crinkled manuscript. It was yellowed and bedraggled and was called simply A Ghost Story by Serena Sparks.
He said, ‘I believe you’ll enjoy this Emily my dear,’ and walked out, leaving the door to close slowly behind him. Emily watched him leave, wondering how he knew her name, looked briefly at the faded document, went into the kitchen, sat down and began to read.
“The girl awoke with a start. There was no-one in the room yet she knew she was not alone. Her teeth chattered with the cold and her breath could be seen like a white mist as it left her mouth. She hugged her arms around herself and wished she was at home in her own bed.
“It’s just a dream, she thought. If I lie down and go back to sleep it will all go away. But it didn’t. She got up to close the window where the cold must be coming through, but it wasn’t open. The curtains were moving, but there was no draught. The door was ajar but it wouldn’t let her pass….”
Serena’s past is buried so deep in her subconscious – in a place like a bottomless well – so deep that if you dropped a stone you couldn’t hear it when it hit the water beneath. Dominic Sparks must find the only woman who can help him to uncover it. But Serena is dead and Emily doesn’t yet have the power. After all she’s just a thirty-something mother of two who works in a bookshop in Totnes.
“You have great awareness and sensitivity and a talent for writing, just like my late wife, you just haven’t discovered it yet,” Mr Sparks had told her.
Now Emily must go on a journey to learn what her part is to be in all this, so that together she and Dominic can solve a mystery that has remained buried for almost 40 years.
The Bottom of the Well is my first novella.
The other day I was thinking about our basic human rights (as you do) and I thought it would be interesting to see how many things we take for granted in the UK. So I compiled my list – you may have your own personal things to add to it. I have not included anything that I do not consider to be a basic human right ie a TV or a car.
Number one must always be your health – without it everything else is unimportant. When you are young you can’t conceive of being ill or that one day your life may be limited by illness or injury. During all my years of yoga, aerobics, Zumba and swimming I never imagined that arthritis would stop me doing downward facing dog as I can’t put any weight on my wrists. But I am lucky. My husband never imagined he would have a pituitary brain tumour in 2012 but compared to some he is also lucky. He takes bucket loads of pills and injects once a day but he is still here. Period.
Food – many people all over the world don’t have enough to eat yet we buy food and chuck it away on a daily basis. Supermarkets throw out anything that doesn’t look pretty even though it’s still edible. There are countries where people are so poor they eat food off rubbish tips and out of dustbins.
A place to live – do you ever see people living on the streets and look away thinking that will never be me. Do you think any of them imagined it would be them one day? Life plays many tricks on us and things can change in a heartbeat. Drugs, alcohol, mental illness – there but for the grace of God and all that.
That you’ll always have a job – the days are long gone when people took an apprenticeship at 15 and stayed with the same company till they got their gold watch at 65. That’s another reason why we should never judge those living rough.
Your children – they are gift not a right. Many people can’t have any and would love to. So if you are lucky enough to be blessed with the gift of children make sure you let them know how much you love them.
Your family – I lost my mother four days before my 40th birthday and my father 15 years ago. I only ever knew one of my grandparents and she died in 1972 on Christmas Day. Make the most of the ones you have and love and like your children make sure you let them know how much you love them. They may be taken away before you know it.
Finally your freedom – ‘I don’t mind what they know about me as I have nothing to hide.’ How many times have you heard that said? It may be true but that’s not the point is it. The constant threat of terrorism is chipping away at our basic freedoms. I for one do mind what they know about me because they are not necessarily using it to protect me. They are using it to sell me things they now know I want. Playing on my needs as well as my fears. We have worked so hard over the years to be free that we underestimate what that truly means. My father was a prisoner-of-war during the Second World War and survived on bread and water in Siberia for two years. That is the extreme loss of freedom – these days it’s far more subtle. We take our freedom of speech for granted like the freedom to practice our beliefs or freedom to practice our sexuality without risk of prosecution or indeed persecution. The list is endless. Suffragettes threw themselves under horses and tied themselves to railings so they could have the vote so don’t knock it. There are countries where women can’t go out alone let alone vote or even drive. Our prison bars are not necessarily physical and we mustn’t allow our freedoms to be eroded.
With mathematical precision I count every beat
From beginning to end of each line
They must be concise and perfect and true
And every so often must rhyme
No freedom of verse or lyrical waxing
No skipping a meter or two
Iambic, trochaic or even dactylic
I just can’t get away from this view
So give me the sound of a heroic couplet
At the end of a sonnet’s quatrain
And leave out the free in the dreaded ‘free verse’
From such abandon I choose to abstain
This looseness, this freedom, this modern approach
Would make Shakespeare quite turn in his grave
Sestinas and pantoums or even a haiku
Is the poetic challenge I crave
But sometimes I wish I could open the window
And let all the verses run free
Oh, the burden of being so precise all the time
Is boring the hell out of me!
In a world where for some people reality is too painful to bear and dreams are as fragile as eggshells, Mia was happy to float between the two. Her world was one of waking dreams.
‘I dream with my eyes open’, she said to the doctor, who was rapidly making notes and tutting a great deal. ‘I walk with fairy folk and elves and creatures from beyond the stars.’
‘I’m sure you do Mia, I’m sure you do.’ The doctor was putting away his notebook and closing his brown leather bag. ‘I’ll give some more sleeping tablets, but only for a few days. They are addictive you know.’
Back at the surgery, Doctor Williams shook his head and spoke to his secretary in a quiet voice so as not be overheard by the usual plethora of sulky kids with buttons up their noses, pensioners who faked illness just so they could have someone to talk to and pregnant women having their blood checked for anaemia.
‘She really believes everything she says, that poor girl. I’d love to get to the bottom of what it is that is keeping her in this floating reality…something traumatic that she won’t face,’ he said.
‘Drugs I expect,’ Julia Fisher replied, ‘She’s on something. Has to be.’
‘Definitely not, I’ve examined her, talked to her, there are no track marks down her arms, I’m sure she doesn’t smoke marijuana, she’s not suicidal. No there’s something else. Something I need to get to the bottom of. Maybe I should regress her….’
‘Then she’ll tell you she was Joan of Arc or Cleopatra in a previous life or some such nonsense.’ Julia was always dismissive of anything slightly spiritual or scientifically doubtful.
‘Not that kind of regression. Not to a ‘previous life’ as you call it. Just to her childhood so we can find out what is hidden there.’
‘A couple of bodies, I expect. She probably murdered her parents and hid them in the cellar.’
‘Now who’s the fantasist?’ Dr Williams laughed.
Mia’s eyes are lightly shut but she is not asleep. ‘They don’t believe in you anymore,’ she says aloud. ‘But it’s no matter. I see you. Like little stars you shine for me and only for me. You sparkle in the night sky and fall to the ground one by one in tiny gossamer droplets of light.’
‘Help us,’ I hear you say. ‘If they stop believing in us, we’ll vanish forever.’
‘I love you,’ she replies. ‘I love you as if you were my own children.’ And the world is shining around her and there are tears in her eyes.
‘I’ll help you, I promise. Trust me.’
‘Everything that has ever happened in your life, Mia, is stored deep in your unconscious mind. Your conscious mind, however, may block these memories because they are too painful. This can give rise to mental illness and emotional disturbances. But I’m here to help you.
‘I am going to take you back to your early childhood.
‘Your eyes are closed and your eyelids are starting to relax. In a few moments, I will count rapidly from ten to one and with each number, your relaxation will increase. 10… 9… 8… Stored deeply in your unconscious mind are memories of other times and other places. 7… 6… 5… Soon you will be able to retrieve those memories and recount them…4… 3… 2… 1.
Then a strange thing happened. He realised that Mia was floating about two feet above the couch. She was surrounded by twinkling lights of silver and gold. They circled her body and then began to circle his head. Round and round they went. They played games like an aerial hide and seek, up and down they flew, now left, now right. They were making him dizzy.
‘Free us,’ they said. ‘Help us….believe…’
He remembered his conversation with Mia only the other day. ‘I walk with fairy folk and elves and creatures from beyond the stars,’ she had told him.
He hadn’t believed her. ‘It’s just a dream, a nightmare or even a hallucination,’ he had told her. But here they were all around him. And he was talking to them.
‘How can I help you?’ he asked them.
‘By believing in Mia,’ they replied.
‘I believe,’ he said and in an instant another believer had been converted and he knew that his life would never be the same.
What will happen when
Christmas ends. Will the New Year
Be any better?