Category Archives: New Writing

Designed for Chapters, Scenes, or short stories to be shared

Birthday

Somebody sends you a card and you feel happy . Somebody bakes you a cake and you feel happy . Somebody offers you a bouquet of flowers and you feel happy . Somebody throws a party for you – in actual fact or on Zoom -and you feel happy . Some people sing a song and you feel happy . You go to offer special prayers - what devotion ! – and you feel happy . People greet you on the phone by making calls or sending you messages on WhatsApp or otherwise , or on Facebook , or Messenger , or Skype , and you feel happy . Somebody takes you out for dinner and you feel happy . Somebody gives you a chocolate or a gift and you feel happy .

But do you really feel happy ? And for how many was this an unavoidable chore .

O yes , you are supposed to be happy . You may even think or persuade yourself that you are happy .

But are you ? What is there to be happy about ?

There goes one more year out of limited number of years in your life . You have one less year left to live .

But does that really matter ?

Can you stop time passing ? Can you help the fact that you were born ? What is the great fuss all about ?

On reflection , she decided to cancel her birthday .

But then she realised even that was not in her hands .

She thought : you may even delude yourself into believing that all the people who remember your birthday – nudged by Facebook or LinkedIn or some other algorithm or the Civil List or a calendar or maybe a personal reference point like their own or a child’s birthday or wedding anniversary – do not think it is a chore to have to do something about it , that they really care about you and want to show their appreciation and make you happy , but you would have to be pretty good at self -hypnotism to do so .

She wanted to hold herself close , the instinct was to hide . She cringed when she thought about all the people who were being pushed by the algorithms on social media to greet her when they were busy trying to do other things or otherwise going about their own business – how intrusive , she thought , and wished she could end this banal brashness in as much as it was practised on her behalf . She wondered if it was possible to remove her date of birth from everything . Probably not, and she did not want to wrestle with technical issues anyway .

So she just switched off her phones , and computers , and the WiFi , shut her doors , went to bed and refused to budge for the next twenty four hours . She slept much of the time and spent the rest of it thinking random thoughts . The poor Birthday came , hung around for its allotted time , and then left , as it was destined to do .

Slowly , cautiously , she emerged from under the covers . The world looked the same as before . What a relief !

She got up , lit the gas stove , made herself a cup of tea , exactly as she liked it , and sipped it at her leisure , with real enjoyment .

( Amita Sarjit Ahluwalia )

Ricebag Favour

( Flash Fiction – Mini Story )

It was an unexpected but not unpredictable offer – a twenty- five kilo bag of parboiled rice . It was hard to say no without being impolite : the offer was so spontaneously made . Last year , too , after the rice harvest , the bag had arrived . It was good rice , and useful , but far too much for a wheat – eating or basmati – savouring household of one . In the end more than half had to be thrown away , since it got worm infested. When the new bag arrived , however , and was about to be torn open , qualms of conscience at last year’s wastage struck hard . A polite phone call , a one kilo steel box sent for being filled out of a bag already being used , and a promise to collect more when needed, did the trick , though not without some pushback , which was even more politely countered .

“ Would you be able to spare fifty – thousand rupees for ten days ? Just ten days , I’ll return it on the 30th .” The second call was unexpected . Banks were closed for three days and cash in hand was limited . The ability to refuse was a relief . Nevertheless , a thought refused to go away : “ What have we done to our farmers, even the comparatively better-off ones ? “

( Amita Sarjit Singh Ahluwalia)

20 November 2020

The Guide To Being A Better Assassin

The Guide To Being A Better Assassin


The stream of red figures scrolled along the bottom of the screen, their instantaneous updates reassuring his last minute nerves.He’d certainly come a long way, a very long way in such a short span of time.And here he was barely a minute away from his greatest success, a career defining achievement even by the impossibly high standards set by the mysterious body known collquially as ” The Quorum”.This was going to be spectacular.

Anchored some 500 yards-the telemetry said 504.33- from the beach front of the secluded luxury holiday villa, this hired yacht was just one of five visible dots to the villa resident were he to casually cast his gaze out toward the Adriatic.
” Porax-3000 :Helping You Solve Tomorrow’s Problems Today”.had caught his febrile imagination the moment he’d seen it on the darkweb.Where do professional hitmen,international assassins go when they require tools to ply their trade?Well,like everyone else they go shopping online,they go Click & Collect.

Since Libertarian governments in most parts of the globe had finally enacted their legislative piece-de-resistance and de-criminalised murder,the activity,in its higher end form was regulated and made as routine a market oriented business transaction as sending christmas baubles from atheist China to Catholic Europe.
The stream of red figures had begun slowing down from their earlier frantic scrolling, final preparation time was nearly up.
The Porax-3000, a singularly handtooled instrument of vengeance and retribution; or as any user would have it, The Mother of all rifles.He finessed a couple of minor adjustments to the tripod legs on which it rested.Blew away some imaginary Adriatic sand.The main screen was now showing two red bands,top and bottom.Final Target Acquisition.
He’d tendered this job at 30 millions,submitted all the requisite bona fides,breakdown of costs etc.He figured he stood to clear north of 20.The Porax-3000 Killing machine coming in at 1.75 mill;the week long hire of the luxury yacht etc to establish a non-threatening background presence that was another 2.Anyway who’s counting?
The Quorum put out this job to tender;the prelim prospectus id’ed this media mogul philanthropist about to switch his financing to a Movement on the cusp of a predicted electoral earthquake that would shift the balance of power across the continent.Except since the tendering process ended,bids evaluated and contract awarded none of it would now eventuate.
What had sold him on this Kiling machine was the added filip of “Complimentary Micro-Drone” included in the price.Wow!And now 504.33 yards away onshore on the veranda to be precise and some 100 feet somewhere up in the atmosphere the micro-drone in geo-stationary orbit was feeding back micron exact telemetry to the gun mounted on the tripod.The bullet incorporated nano-GPS and was linked to the micro-drone system.A sudden gust of wind,squall of rain whatever would be circumvented by the nano GPS.The darkweb sales pitch boasted that a blind man could score a perfect hit with this.But he appreciated that the apparatus had a manual operation override feature which he felt was not merely aesthetic,but also recognised and validated the user- the hitman ,The Jackal as he thought of himself,as a consummate,dispassionate artist of annihilation,turning the page of history.
  Out pottered the squat obese figure of the philanthropist for his regular 45 minute post lunch deckchair nap on the veranda.The Assassin hunkered down and put his eye to the scope,like the advert said,a blind man could do this ,it was all in the feel and touch of his finger on the trigger that would initiate the release of the projectile which could never miss..And there it was,504.33 yards away,a head exploded silently in a plume of blood and brains and all captured on the screen at his side by the micro-drone.As he sat back in his deckchair,uncorked the bottle of antique champagne,supposedly from Napoleon’s own cellar and began toasting his own success, it never occurred him that if his recently deceased target had no inkling of a micro-drone relaying targetting telemetry from over his head,then how could he?

And as the 2 distant figures got back into their anonymous looking hire car,having dismantled a tripod and its rifle and re-boxed a returned micro-done.One of the figures thought he’d heard his partner say, “Welcome to The Big Leagues,Sonny”. But he could’ve been mistaken,after all they were both professionals…

Gowli Shasthram (Lizard Science)

The Lizard Science of Prediction – a short story based on TSL’s Pandorathon prompt given by Santosh Bakaya May 30th.

A light romp of a story in Indian English.

Part 1

In the Puranas we were considered to be something big. There had once been a time when we ruled the earth as dinosaurs, as you all know, but we had dwindled away to being amongst the smallest creatures on earth more or less, lucky that even a few of us had survived. We were decimated by a meteor. We were given obnoxious names like Freddy in places like the UK but in my house, the humans just called me Gowli. I always had a view from the top as I lived on the ceiling and they lived down there, as the inferior beings they were. They said it belonged to them and I would go “tmirk tmrik tmirk” and the foolish things would think I was seconding them, and go “sathyam, sathyam, sathyam” (truth, truth, truth), when I was actually laughing at them.

There were only two occupants there – a Lizzie (yes, laugh) and her husband whose name was Peter or John or some such equally funny name. Lizzie was horribly attractive, I was probably her lover in her past life or mine; but the problem was in this one she was terribly afraid of lizards. Here was I madly in love with her and peeking down her blouse every chance I got, from above, and there was she going Eek and Screech, and making other ungainly sounds, and doing strange calisthenics with her body every time she saw me, especially in the bathroom, which only made her more attractive to me.

They had a whole lot of beliefs about us which was helpful to me. They believed if I fell on her right cheek she would be widowed. So I did that one day. Apart from almost getting me killed, by A Hefty Swipe from her to free herself of me, that threw me twelve feet across the room to the floor with a thud leaving me immobilized for an hour, nothing happened to her Peter, or John. The karmic-bond husband was the one who would get killed, probably. And that was, probably: Poor Me!

Now, fortunately, due to some ill-luck in his office, Peter, wanting an upswing in FORTUNES, turned to gowli shasthram (the lizard science of prediction). Since they considered me a necessary nuisance in their dwelling, they now turned to me for ways to make it good.

“സ്ത്രീയുടെ ശിരസ്സില്‍ ഗൗളി പതിക്കുന്നത് ഐശ്വര്യമാണ്…. “
(If a lizard touches a woman’s body it is auspicious.)

“സ്ത്രീയുടെ വലത് ചെവിയിൽ സ്പർശിച്ചാൽ ദീർഘായുസ്സും ഫലം. ഇടതുചെവിയിൽ സ്വർണ്ണലാഭം, ധനലാഭം,…”
(If it touches her right ear long life for her follows and if the left ear gold profit, wealth profit…)

“രണ്ടു തോളിലും വീണാൽ ഭർത്തൃസുഖം, സുഖാനുഭവങ്ങൾ, …”
(If it falls on both shoulders pleasure from/for husband and other pleasures follow.)

“കൈയുടെ പുറത്ത് വിരലിൽ വീഴുന്നത് ആഭരണലാഭത്തെ സൂചിപ്പിക്കുന്നു.”
(If it falls on the finger it will bring ornaments.)

“കാൽവിരലിൽ ഗൗളി സ്പര്‍ശമുണ്ടായാൽ സന്താനലാഭവും ധനലാഭവും…”
(If it touches the toe of any foot you will get security for your wealth and/or your children’s.)

Excited by reading all this Peter, or John, decided the only way to become well off in life, and lucky, was to make Lizzie and I become fast friends. The only problem was that while I was eager to touch her on all parts of her body, being a white lizard with spots, the kind they considered a Brahmin lizard (!!!!!!!), such fools these mortals be, Lizzie was mortally afraid of me. There was also a matter of the right day, and time, in gowli shastram. It is all fucking complicated and crazy, let me tell you!

Peter got more and more lost in studying these matters and praying to all the gods that I would fall all over Lizzie in all the right places. He was slowly going mad, seeing me run overhead, seeing her move around underneath, and seeing no congress happening immediately, or over several days, to change his luck. Never saw a husband before so eager for infidelity.

Finally, in desperation, he got some sleeping powder and mixed it in her drink. Nowhere was it said that the lizard was meant to fall on her head voluntarily, though it was understood. His plan was to catch me while she slept and make me touch her wherever he wanted.

He called her to the dining table one night and said, “Lizzie, drink this orange juice I made just for you.”
“You? Made Orange Juice? For Me?!!!!!” Lizzie was flabbergasted.
“Tmirk Tmrik Tmirk”, I went, overhead.
“He’s just jealous”, she told Peter, offhand, with no rhyme and reason. Peter looked bemused
“You shut up, you Gowli”, said Lizzie, looking up.
She simpered at Peter and said, “Thanks, darling”. How obnoxious!
Five minutes later she was out cold. He put her on their bed and came looking for me.
Then Peter climbed up on chairs and tables trying to catch me. I gave him a merry chase. A run for his money. Just for the heck of it.

All night long.

Part II

Lizzie woke up with a sudden start. Why was Peter shouting in the morning? She had a headache and could not fathom why but she went to look in the dining room.

“How dare you !!!!” His words rolled out spasmodically, eyes riveted on a tailless lizard hanging from the ceiling. Gowli’s tail was in his hand, and Peter was at his wit’s end. Gowli looked at her, and Lizzie could have sworn it tmirked timrked at her, and winked.


References to Gowli Shasthram taken from here: https://www.manoramaonline.com/astrology/astro-news/2017/04/22/gauli-shastra-astrology-prediction-signs.html

A Story from Aithihyamala translated from Malayalam by Dr. Koshy AV

May 23rd prompt TSL’s Pandorathon: Exorcist/Exorcism – given by Santosh Bakaya

“There is a very ancient church located in Kadamattom near Kolenchery, Moovattupuzha, The church was made famous through the stories on Kadamattathu Kathanar, a priest who was believed to have possessed supernatural powers and was an exorcist. The church is well maintained and very picturesque. You can also see the well associated with the Kathanar stories.” The stories appear in Ithihyamala – which means necklace or garland of stories that are local legends.

This exorcism story is a free translation from Malayalam done by me, a humble attempt.

Once Kadamattathu Kathanar (the priest) and Shemashan (apprentice priest) were about to go the church for the evening service. Then the kapiyar ( priest’s helper, bell ringer etc.,) came running and told them: “the church is full of demons, Father (acho). They are each as tall as coconut trees and broad as the size of several plantain trees tied together and have evil scowling faces as black as thunder. I can’t go in or ring the bell. What will we do?”

“Don’t be afraid, son,” said the Shemashan. “Let us go there anyway and see what we can do.”

When they went they understood that the kapiyar was not lying or hallucinating, the church actually was full of these huge giant-like demons who looked like legendary tribals from the jungles but clearly were something more as they had supernatural powers. They were there to stop the worship of God.

The Shemashan went on calmly, unafraid, while Kathanar and Kapiyar stood rooted to the spot.

“Will you go in peace, leave here and return to where you came from or will you resist?” asked the Shemashan.

“We resist you,” said the leader of the demons.

In front of the fascinated eyes of the Kathanar and kapiyar Shemashan did a magic trick, a vidya, and all the demons fell down as if dead on the floor,

Then the kapiyar went in and rang the bell.

That evening the service was not only full of people but the church overflowed as they came in huge numbers to see the demons lying there unable to move, looking like giants, as well as the Shemashan who had conquered them.

After the service, the Kathanar asked, “what shall we do with these bodies? Are they dead or alive? If they remain here they will trouble us. But how to remove them from here?”

Shemashan replied, “they are not dead, only put in a trance to keep them from doing any harm, if you want I can kill them or wake them up.”

Kathanar said, “no, don’t kill them, they must be made to return to where they come from and promise us not to come here to trouble us again. That is all.”

Shemashan woke the demons up from the deep slumber they had fallen into and asked them ” do you want peace or more imprisonment from me? Will you go back where you came from peacefully and never come back to trouble us again or resist?”

“Ayyo, we will not resist,” the leader said. We will go back and never return.” Then they fled back to where they came from never to return to that place.

“You are a mighty exorcist, sorcerer, and magician,” Kathanar told Shemashan.

“No, no, ” said Shemashan, “it is all God’s grace, power, might, and glory. Which man can do anything by himself or in his own strength? It is all done by God in and through me. Give God the glory.”

“Yes, true, to God be the glory, great things he has done today in our presence,” said Kathanar and the kapiyar in the same breath.

“Amen,” said Poulose, the Shemashan.

Aithihyamala or Ithihyamala (Malayalam: ഐതിഹ്യമാല) (Garland of Legends) is a collection of century-old stories from Kerala that cover a vast spectrum of life, famous persons and events. It is a collection of legends numbering over a hundred, about magicians and yakshis, feudal rulers and conceited poets, kalari or Kalaripayattu experts, practitioners of Ayurveda and courtiers; elephants and their mahouts, tantric experts.

Kottarathil Sankunni (23 March 1855 – 22 July 1937), a Sanskrit-Malayalam scholar who was born in Kottayam in present-day Kerala, started documenting these stories in 1909. They were published in the Malayalam literary magazine, the Bhashaposhini, and were collected in eight volumes and published in the early 20th century.

It includes popular tales such as about the twelve children of Vararuchi and Parayi (a woman of Paraiyar caste), Kayamkulam KochunniKadamattathu Kathanar among many others. The story of 12 children is popularly known as Parayi petta panthirukulam.” (Wikipedia)

The church shown below is the famous St. George church in Kadammattom, Kerala, where these miracles took place. It is still there.

The inside of the church

The Acts of the Apostle St. Thomas in South India

Historical fiction. May 15 TSL Pandorathon Prompt given by Nikhat Mahmood

The Acts of the Apostle St. Thomas.

Around 2000 years back roughly, a man had been washed ashore on a beach in India, after a shipwreck. In Tamil Nadu, to be exact. Or he came there on a ship or in a boat or swimming. His arrival is known but not the exact method. What is important to note is that he came alone. His name was Thomas and he was a carpenter. his second name was Didymus and it meant “twin,” but it was not immediately clear who he was the twin of.

In the morning seven Brahmins came there to worship the sun, do surya namaskar as it was their usual ritual or wont or habit. The man came up to them and asked them, surprisingly making himself understood, having the gift of tongues, who they were worshipping.

“The sun,” one replied, “isn’t it obvious?”
He said, “Don’t worship the sun, but the One who made the sun.”
They laughed.
“Show him to us and we shall,” one said.
“No man has seen him at any time, but I have come to show you his power and declare him unto you,” he said. “Take these drops of water from the ocean and throw them up, and you will see they naturally fall down. But if I throw them up, as I pray to the God of the Universe and actually know him, it will stay up.”
“Show us, then,” another said, still laughing, but also astounded, at his claim.
He said, “you pray and throw up the water first.”
They did it and it fell down, the power that had once dwelt in them of knowing the true God has long since departed into mere ritualistic actions and story, though they still were priests and enjoyed all the privileges and their prayers had no effect.

Then this man, who had long brown hair and a thick beard and a thick mustache and was dressed in a simple brown robe took water in his hands and threw it up to the sun praying:

“Lord, I ask you to hear my humble prayer to prove to these my brothers that they should worship you and not the works of your hands and make these drops of water stay up in the air. Do this simple miracle for me, you for whom all things are possible. In Yeshua’s name, I pray.”

Who is this Yeshua, they wondered.

The drops of water remained in the air, glittering and sending out rainbows as they caught the sun.

The astounded men gathered around him and said: “we will follow you, teach us how to be connected once again to God whom we no longer know, but you still do.”

Seven families were converted that day by St. Thomas the Apostle, who had wandered all the way to India to preach the gospel. The others turned against them and they had to leave their home, but on going away cursed it for persecuting them and even today it is called Chavakad.

Thomas wrote a gospel.

Thomas became the friend of a king ruling in India then called Gondoriferus who saw his honesty and gave him a huge treasure as he was a carpenter to make a huge palace for the king like the ones in the land he had come from. Thomas went around giving away all the money to the poor, healing the sick etc., and the angry king coming to hear of it ordered that he be brought to him and told him that he would be killed for his treachery of using the money in the king’s treasury for something other than what he was asked to do.

Thomas laughed, it is said, and told the king: “But I have indeed made a palace for you with your money.”

The king asked, still angry: “How?”

“You foolish king,” Thomas said, ” your palace is now in the hearts of your people who love you as I have made them love you through these good deeds done to them in your name.”

Then he, it is said, tore open the sky to show Gondoriferus heaven, and there the king saw a magnificent palace made and kept for him for eternity with his name written on it.

As Thomas grew in power, name, and fame, the people grew jealous as the new faith was increasing with more believers and Thomas gained two disciples who were with him all the time.

A king, perhaps the same foolish one, angry with him for all this, and other things, like the report that Thomas had attacked a temple to show idolatry was not the way to God, like Buddha too used to preach, decided to kill him.

Knowing that he prayed in a cave he sent soldiers there, but Thomas came out and said: “don’t you know that you cannot kill me, unless God permits you.”

Twice the soldiers fell to the ground before him, as he was shielded by the power of prayer. Then he said, “now you can kill me, now that you have understood God’s power. But let my two disciples go free.”

They killed him, then. Like all the other apostles, after being conformed to the exact image of Yeshua his master, he too became a martyr for the faith. He, Thomas Judas Didymus, had indeed become the twin of none other than his master Jesus/Yeshua and not, anymore, the doubter of Yeshua. Though separated from all his other disciples and friends and isolated, he had fought the good fight, run the race, and won the crown.

His martyrdom is commemorated in St. Thomas Mount in Chennai. Many pilgrims flock there in memory of the man who came alone to India from Israel to spread the faith of his master Yeshua and it is said that prayers there are still answered miraculously.

The gospel of Thomas is different from the other gospels as it is made up of 114 sayings of Jesus and not of his life. Written away from the mainstream it also seems to take into account the philosophy of the place he had come to, to make it clearer to them. Thomas’s followers were unable to get rid of casteism. Many centuries later when the Bible came the British were surprised to find a form of Christianity already in India stretching back 2000 years as well as having meanwhile already made connections to the churches in Antioch and Syria, and having adopted much of their customs and liturgy.

Here are examples from the gospel of St. Thomas: “(1) His disciples said to him: “The kingdom — on what day will it come?”
(2) “It will not come by watching (and waiting for) it.
(3) They will not say: ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’
(4) Rather, the kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it.”

(66) Jesus says:

“Show me the stone that the builders have rejected. It is the cornerstone.”
(67) Jesus says:

“Whoever knows all, if he is lacking one thing, he is (already) lacking everything.”
(68) Jesus says:

(1) “Blessed are you when(ever) they hate you (and) persecute you.
(2) But they (themselves) will find no place there where they have persecuted you.”
(69) Jesus says:

(1) “Blessed are those who have been persecuted in their heart.
They are the ones who have truly come to know the Father.”

(70)(1) “If you bring it into being within you, (then) that which you have will save you.
(2) If you do not have it within you, (then) that which you do not have within you [will] kill you.”

Note: The early Christians may have been from Kerala or Tamil Nadu but Malayalis claim they were the seven and Chavakad is presently in Trishur in Kerala, though the place of Thomas’s martyrdom is, as I have stated, in Tamil Nadu. What is historically relevant and indisputable is that St. Thomas did indeed come to South India and Brahmins were converted first and he was martyred in the South.

Visible (by Jade Thomas)

Visible

And he said it never happened…

However, she still felt a sharp pinch in the pit of her stomach, her pupils widened. The back of her neck began to sweat.Thoughts consumed her entire body and for once, her memories of another women enlarged.

How could she forget? How could she forgive?The love of her life could not cause her any pain. She knew he was dedicated to his work as much as he was to her. He amended his past and gave her anything her heart desired.

So why did he glance more than once that summer’s day and patted the neighbour’s pretty shoulder when she came home claiming she had been fired?

How could she have been so visionless? How could she have been gullible?

Are these thoughts all a coincidence or now has she become more visible?

He made a beautiful vow, her husband caressed her into his arms, the same places she always felt protected. “She is jealous”! He justified.

She stared with her blue eyes at the sparkle in her wedding ring, she felt disconnected.Her hopes and dreams shattered into a million pieces while she felt their first kiss on her lips. Once again the magical power of feeling in love.

She could still hear his voice through the pounding of her heartbeat. His declaration of undying love would always be with her but now would never be enough.

Suddenly, her mind was screaming aloud and nothing in the entire world mattered anymore. Unforgiving images came flooding into her perfect life.

She could not handle the pressure of her soul darkening; she clenched the sharpest kitchen blade that hung down symmetrically to their family portrait.

She was no longer a person with a conscience or even a human being; she was no longer a beloved wife.

With Good Intentions

Tears welled in his eyes as his failing concentration felt respite at last. His breast filled with inexpressible relief with the knowledge of yet another young life saved; A three hours long emergency operation fraught with unimaginable risks had been successful.

He silently gave thanks that his surgical skills were again exonerated despite the excruciating cramp around his fingers and stiffness in his joints;

He reflected momentarily on the ineluctable fact that he was Master Surgeon still; after all these very long thirty years of exemplary service and adherence to duty.

He had initially greeted the move to this provincial town after his inaugural sojourn in the imperial capital-having attended the Kaiser Franz Josef himself on several occasions- as something of a demerit.

And yet, shuffling wearily down the marathon corridor, his gaunt shadow cast almost majestically by the billowing, flickering gaslight made it seem inexplicably brighter still.

Eyes wearied by concentration, he barely recognised the faces of those nurses and his fellow surgeons who congratulated him with undue but welcome muted applause as he proceeded with rising spirits to the waiting room area.

He had saved a very precious young life; one that had he not stilled his recurring and unpredictable hand tremors with a small dose of laudanum beforehand, might so easily have attained an altogether less favourable outcome.

That knowledge aired only in his internal silent monologue that accompanied his footsteps like a silent drumroll of a conscience long since unacquainted with mere frivolous compassion.

Approaching the large waiting room area out into the fading late afternoon light was a great doctor who had fretted and performed near surgical miracles and was about to impart and share welcome news with the anxious parents who had now so many long hours ago rushed their child to this hospital and into the care of this master surgeon.

Face to face with the anxious ,waiting Mother, he of the wizened countenance and pedantic professional demeanour and she a complexion masked with tiredness and etched with a maternal hope beyond hope, something he had witnessed hundreds and hundreds of times for so many years.

She broached the question in a still, small voice that he scarcely heard though he knew what they were.

“Is He..? ”

“He is fine, there are no complications”

“When we brought him in, I thought he might die”

“No worries dear Lady, I’m sure your son will enjoy a long and happy life”

Tears of inestimable gratitude welled momentarily in her kindly eyes,

“Thank you Herr Doktor”

“Good day…Frau Hitler,”

Fleeing the Scene

Heart and lungs ached beyond mortal endurance as he fled, and heard with dread the footsteps behind him,seemingly chasing after him on the dark country lane.He cursed his own folly for having given in to a panic which as a veteran practitioner of the dark arts of espionage and assassination he ought not to have experienced let alone given into so cravenly.

He’d gotten there late in any event,long after the three others had commenced partaking of the sumptuous repast.And natural inquisitiveness,especially from Marlowe, had caused him to recount as plausibly as he was able the reasons.He realised this was more to put the other two, Poley and Skeres at their ease,for they too were more than a little anxious at his, Ingram Frizer’s tardiness.With formal,gentlemanly apologies now aside,he partook of the repast with uncommon relish.

His ride from Walsingham’s residence out here to Eleanor Bull’s reputable lodging house here at Deptford was far too hastily arranged and improvised for Frizer’s own professional liking.Scant planning and the gift of one of Walsingham’s own blades that had seen action across the water in Holland were hardly compensation enough for his disquieted demeanour. What was asked of Poley, Skeres and not least himself would  under more reflective circumstances been rejected as too hasty and open to failure.

But Marlowe the scribbler. the critic nonpareil,the one who shared his outrageous opinions with all and sundry;those who would listen and many more who heard them because of the timbre of his prevailing larynx,proved alluring enough for the three of them to go ahead with the bare bones of Walsingham’s idea

.With the sumptuous repast coming to an end and their bellies and spirits satiated with Mistress Bull’s copious wines and ales;the boisterous exchange of opinions both large and small took an inevitable turn,one that Frizer was alerted to wait for as patiently as need be by Walsingham himself. The turn that came when Marlowe, ever the disputant, could not hold himself or his temper so fused by imbibing,back from the precipice he himself was allowed to carve.

 Afterward,standing in front of their Master Walsingham ,they would all remark how so like one of Marlowe’s or indeed Master Shakespeare’s stage plays with its own cunningly crafted directions for the players it all seemed to unfold at the time.Which of course was a lie,as Ingram Frizer, his heart and lungs fit to burst on this deserted country lane in the pitch black with hell hound footsteps behind him,knew perfectly well.

He had to come out of this mise-en-scene more alive than that poor sod Marlowe whose last look in this passing mortal sphere was one of sublime incomprehension.And as his loping strides brought him ineluctably to the stables at the rear of the tavern by the bridge and his silken tradecraft let him deftly unhitch and ride off on a stolen steed back to Westminster with his report of mission accomplished- his mind conjured one more illusion.

What would Christopher Marlowe write of this night in one of his plays?With the footsteps heard on a dark country lane receding far, far into the background Ingram Frizer let his imagination roam thus:-

 ” Four figures in a room darkly conclaved,hushed breaths escape from the mirrors’ taut embrace.Leaving no trace of having been expelled from any mouth nor orifice so plain that might betray the breather’s fear.
Malice aforethought alone leaving imprints in the air amid this spectral scene. A coven’d place where meaning and word
intertwine where shadow and light danced their furtive Pavane,
Swirling about,word without meaning,meaning without form,form without content into an empty shapeless void.And in the dimness of guttering candles, the trails of reason evaporated and in the morning to come a new naive horizon bearing a false dawn. “

Surveillance

He watches the lives of others through the end of a telephoto lens.

It’s 5:42 a.m. on an ordinary suburban housing estate and he’s been squatting for the past 6 hours in an unmarked delivery van when he catches a fleeting glimpse of a window-framed face. The same face that’s appeared at the same time at the same window on each day that he’s been here.

Parked in the driveway of the house opposite, he’s taken on the role (at least in his own imagination), of ethnographer studying and recording for academic posterity the esoteric habits and rituals of an hithertofore unknown indigenous society.He records in the neatest handwriting the ephemera of the lives of others.Their daily routines timetabled in line-ruled pocket notebooks of which he keeps more than sufficient under his seat.

Outside his ethereal realm as disembodied observer, in the lives of others a telephone rings.

Its receiver is lifted. It’s followed by a rush of silence.He adjusts his earphones and enters a menacing voicelessness.The spools of his tape-recorder engage.”Click , click ” as though a conductor is tapping his baton bringing an orchestra to order.

There is to his mind a haunting absence of noise. When telephones ring and their receivers are lifted, conversations follow. Except when they don’t and he catches another fleeting glimpse of the window-framed face that he saw just a few minutes ago.

Inexplicably, the receiver is replaced,” Click ” .The tape-recorder stops.

It’s 5:52 am and across the city in a sound studio on the fourth floor of an otherwise unremarkable office building the voices he’d captured less than 24 hours ago are on playback. Their rhythms and cadences mimic the lives of others.They hear him listening to them, listening to him listening.

Observed. Recorded. Collated. Analysed.

“Click”