Betwixt

bowler hats

Wiltshire 2001

YE QUAINT Olde inn was near Winchester. The first night we couldn’t sleep for the late summer heat and the back and forth blaze of sirens along the nearest stretch of road. By the time the three or four police cars had converged just below our window and the guy got slammed over the boot of his car, we were up and about, peeking from behind the bedroom curtains like naughty children who couldn’t or just wouldn’t go to sleep.

* * *

LATER, on the road out of Stonehenge, I noticed something peculiar in the rear view mirror.

“Eh … don’t want to alarm you, but why is there a black helicopter following us?”

“Well,” he replied coolly, “if you look out my rear window, there’s actually five of them.”

And true enough, there was. All unmarked and menacing, flying low in a criss-cross pattern. The farthest must have been about half a mile back. I didn’t think they looked like police or conventional military – logic dictated that they were triangulating for mapping purposes. Nonetheless they did seem to stick to our backs. And they were very very low.

“Is there a base near here or something?” I asked.

“Och,” he replied, “loads of them. The place is riddled. Could be anybody.”

Just as he finished uttering the words, two of the choppers got into line behind the vehicle. One dropped to what looked like about twenty feet off the ground. If my loved one was at all rattled, he hid it very well.

“What is this, a f***ing James Bond movie?” For the next twenty minutes or so, I would have been forgiven for thinking that it was.

After a while, it got tiresome. “This is getting stupid now. They must be bored by now.”

* * *

LATER still, we passed by Winchester Train Station. Shifty looking blokes in bowler hats tried to disguise themselves with newspapers.

“God,” I whispered, “it’s like a timewarp to the Sixties. I thought you were joking about all this New Avengers Stuff.”

“Told you,” he said. “It’s a different world down here, you know.”

Jeez, this entire trip felt as unreal as the one to Washington State two years earlier, when only hours after watching Enemy of the State inflight, my camping trip in a black pickup with a survival expert with OCD and a Ninja Rottweiler became a pastiche of practically every movie I had ever seen. Only then the police were following us, just for sticking out like a sore thumb.

Streuth, are all my holidays going to turn out like this?

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2018

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Kiss

lips

IT BEGAN with a kiss. Not a passionate embrace but a soft brush on the cheek.

The feeling of warmth and love from an old friend lingered on beyond the dream and well into the following days …

Like a little seed, the feeling grew and grew until I longed to be with my old friend. All the while, I thought to myself how sublime that Cupid should strike without even so much as the presence of one who I hadn’t heard from in years …

The phone call came three weeks later. He came round for a few beers and we shared stories. He’d sent me a distress flare of sorts three weeks earlier, he said. Yes, I definitely got the message, I said. And then the rest was history.

 

Copyright M K MacInnes 2018

The Power of Suggestion

blood drop

MANY full moons ago, in Ninety-eight or thereabouts, I stumbled on a late-night episode of Dark Skies. In those days, The X-Files was more my thing – Dark Skies was just a little too dark for my liking. I was just about to flip the channel yet again when I realised that the main female character was in the process of reliving an alien abduction – that’s the one where Kim undergoes hypnotic regression, only for this gi-normous Hive implant inside her head to cause her nose to bleed. I don’t recall whether or not I watched the rest of the episode. And I certainly haven’t the stomach to wade through an entire season online only to discover that the implant was in fact quite minescule …

Some time in the wee small hours, I had a dream. I remember nothing other than that I took some kind of road trip in which I missed chunks of time. And waking up on a riverbank full of faerie folk. Then I woke up for real.

Once I had given up trying to remember any other details, I finally managed to drag myself out of bed. I had a work meeting that day, so in order to look the part, I spent longer than usual straddled across the toilet seat applying my make up (my bathroom was tiny and the best light could only be achieved by perching the mirror on the window ledge behind the cistern).

Imagine then my horror and disbelief when just as I am putting the finishing touches to my lips, a gob of fresh crimson appears as if out of nowhere and splashes onto the groove beneath my nose then onto the cistern.

“Holy shit.” The force of the recoil from my reflection in the mirror causes me to catch my foot on the floor mat and narrowly avoid glancing my lower back off the side of the bath.

Needless to say, I have since been exceedingly picky in my night-time viewing habits. As for horror movies, never EVER again. Noo siree …


Copyright © M K MacInnes 2018

Brothers in Arms

templar

TO THE strains of Dire Straits, I am surrounded by battle in its last throes, a sea of mud everywhere. These fields of destruction, baptisms of fire, I’ve witnessed your suffering, every man has to die …

But not just yet. A trapped horseman is pulled from between his fallen mount and the mire. Am I the one being pulled or the one doing the pulling? I can’t tell which of us is which.

I do not know where I am or who I am other than that I am a man. And I know not how I know but the other man is Rab …

* * * * *

BOTH RAB and I fluttered in the same social circle. For me anyway, the sense of having met before was instantaneous.

It was while walking along a busy street only days after our introduction that I was hit with the cinematic picture of horses flopping about in the mud and an intense feeling of loyalty, brother to brother. I had never had a ‘vision’ with audio before.

Somewhere between a week and two weeks later, I meandered through Leith Links, on my way to the house of the mutual friend who had introduced us. Having never taken that particular route before, I scanned the open green and surrounding buildings. As I did so, got a strong impression of mud where there should have been grass.

The answer to my immediate question came quickly and without the asking. It was my friend who told me that here in the middle of the 16th century, the French had occupied Leith, until they were forcibly removed by the English army in 1560. Like most Scots, I had never heard of the Battle of Leith Links, or rather the Siege of Leith.

A short time later, Rab and I found ourselves blethering – as we were prone to do – like there was no tomorrow. Only this time our conversation took a more spooky turn than usual. Ghosts, dreams, you name it. The situation was ripe for bringing my battle vision into the conversation.

Thing is, Rab beat me to it …

“I’ve been having this recurring dream,” he said. “Well, actually, it’s more like a vision coz I only get it when I’m awake during the day.”

I know what he is going to say. Baited breath.

“I’m in a battle and I’m being pulled out from under a horse.”

I felt my face turn to rubber. It must have blanched, for he said “Not you as well.”

Up to that point, I had told no-one.

I choked “Was it a muddy battlefield?”

“Yes,” came the whisper.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

The Dalmatian, the Cactus and the Wormery

cactus

ALEX tells me he had a dream in which he has a dog. A Dalmatian to be precise. Only, it leaves him because he didn’t feed it properly.

“Jeez, that sucks,” I say. “If a dog leaves you, you really have to be doing something wrong.”

Nose in the air, bags packed, the Dalmatian says to Alex “I’m leaving. I’m not staying here a minute longer.” Then off he goes, nose down, tail down, into the sunset.

In theatrical fashion, I nearly cry. I say to Alex “Please, I beg you. Don’t tell me any more. This is just too sad.”

The next thing he knows, the Dalmatian is standing on a branch next to his wee suitcase.

Eyes tight shut, I wail “Nooooooooo.”

My mind darts back to the night before when we realised that we had somehow managed to murder a mere cactus through unwitting neglect? After congratulating ourselves on how lovely it looked and how much it had grown? Why hadn’t we thought to look underneath?

I say as much. “Thank God we don’t have kids.”

“And then …”

“No, don’t tell me any more.”

My existential crisis of 2012 … Only weeks after being congratulated by my gardening tutor on how considerate a mother I was to the contents of the wormery I had lovingly set up on my balcony to compost my food waste, I somehow managed to wipe them all out.

Eyes tight shut, I wail again “Nooooooooo.”

“In the end he came back.”

“Aaawww.” Relief.

“With a bunch of other dogs …”

“Aaaaaaawwwwwww.”

“And moved back in.”

“Aaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwww, that’s so sweet.”

“And gave me a big hug.”

“Really? Well, why couldn’t you have just said that in the first place?”

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

High Altar

El_Greco_13

A LONG long time ago in a far off town, some friends and I were invited to a swanky party at an abandoned Victorian monastery that had been converted into a corporate events venue. Rumour had it that back in the day the monks used to run their own moonshine.

II

ON FINDING ourselves a table, we could queue up at any of the seven feeding stations, themed according to each of the Deadly Sins. The catering staff were fitted with horns and forked tails.

After the buffet and the band, the venue became an instant nightclub, the dance floor in front of the High Altar, the music leaning towards anything with a deep base and a strong beat. Lasers and soft psychedelics blended into stained glass, dry ice oozed from the seams.

Doof. Doof.  Doof. Doof.
Doof. Doof.  Doof. Doof.

I itched to join in the revelry but couldn’t bring myself. Haunted by an image from Sunday School of a psychotic-looking Jesus wrecking the Temple because it had been put to wordly use, I declined all attempts to drag me onto the floor.

Until I raised my eyes, I hadn’t paid much attention to the dying Christ suspended from the rafters. The thorns, the twisted expression of pain and suffering, sinews taut, a cloth barely covering his dignity, the unimaginable sorrow of a man in his final moments.

And punching the air beneath the feet of the naked guy nailed to the cross was the tall man wearing a jumper and a dog collar, his sweaty face gleaming through the fog. The vicar.

Dear God, I’ve seen it all now.

A subtle movement above his head caught my eye. The painted wooden crucifix swung back and forth like a pendulum. Hardly blinking for several minutes, I could see the movements become more pronounced. One swing now for every four doofs.

I ran my eyes up and down, looking for the weakest point. The pendant hung from two long metal chains, hooked onto rings attached to a high wooden beam. Beyond that, it was hard to tell what was what.

But one thing was certain. That crucifix weighed a tonne and it had a life of its own. I could see it all now. The plummet, the loud crash, the gasps, the cloud of dust, the horror as it smashed into the minister and his immediate entourage.

Images of screaming choir boys in St Paul’s Cathedral, a mummified Richard Burton lying in a hospital bed. The bit of paper at the end of the movie scrawled with the words ‘Windscale’ … The Medusa Touch. How little it would take to bring that lot down. I should be careful not to think on it too hard. I might cause it.

And didn’t I know just how easy it was for those screws to come loose. Oh yes, I had watched episode upon episode of CSI. I had just seen the one where the house collapsed because the sonic boom of low-flying aircraft made the screws drop out of the walls …

I could see it now, JESUS SPLATS RAVING VICAR. Great headline … very messy …

Swing. Doof, doof, doof, doof. Swing …

III

I CAN only assume that everyone survived. My friends and I left before we had a chance to find out.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

When life imitates fiction II

screws

There’s nothing holding the plane together and Leslie Nielsen is in the next seat. What now?

“ … WHILE the stewardesses were dishing out the meals, I had seized the opportunity to get a sneaky peek at Mister Nielsen. However, the waft of musk emanating from the scarved bosom of the overgrown Girl Guide leaning into him must have been having an effect, for his head was mesmerised into a permanent tilt and I was unable to get as much as a profile …”

Extract from ‘The Nielsen Effect’ from Close Call: Short and Bittersweet by M K MacInnes. More info here.