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

The Sarah Connor Complex

AsteroidMILLENNIUM Fever was in full swing and it seemed that every man and his dog expected a cataclysm of one description or another by the time the year was out. And just to make sure that even the most logical-minded got sucked in, there was Y2K. Although steering clear of prophecies or New World Order bullshit, I had got wind of a great almighty asteroid heading straight for us. On the 29th of August 1999 to be precise.

I was quite frankly at that point where I had had the world up to my chin. I didn’t want to be in it. Not as it was. All around me what had the cheek to call itself a civilisation was ready to implode, just like all the others before it. If not now, then at some point in the not too distant future. And I almost wished it would. Get it over and done with and all that so that whoever was left could start over.

Being the over-thinker that I was, I prepared myself mentally. Assuming, of course, that I even survived it. And being the self-analyst that I was, I called this my Sarah Connor complex. Syndrome would have been more accurate but complex sounded so much better.

29 August 1999

INSPIRED ages ago by my utter lack of preparedness for life in the wilderness, I had bought Lofty Wiseman’s SAS Survival Guide and built up my ready-for-anything tobacco tin and small ready-for-anything rucksack. I had the tools, Armageddon or no Armageddon. And at least if nothing happened, I wouldn’t make a complete tit of myself.

It was a clear starry evening when a friend and I enjoyed a warm goblet of wine in front of a hot fire. With no intention of bracing myself, I had accepted her invitation to stay over and chat into the wee small hours. She had no idea of the impending asteroid strike and I didn’t discuss it. After all, without proof I didn’t want to scare the shit out of anyone. I felt no anxiety as such, just a sense that whatever was thrown at me, I would deal with it. Bring it on.

In the meantime, maybe I could anaesthetise myself a little … just not too much …

Night came and went. The next time I opened my eyes, I felt a mixture of relief and disappointment.

Bollocks, we’re still here.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

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

Bait

salamander

(Mobile phone rings)

WOMAN: Hello.

VOICE: Hello, how are you?

WOMAN: Who is this?

VOICE: It’s Rich. How ya doing?

WOMAN: Oh, it’s you.

(WOMAN pulls face)

How did you get my mobile number?

VOICE: Steve gave it to me.

WOMAN: Oh, did he now? Well, he had no business doing that. What can I do for you?

VOICE: I was wondering if you could do me a favour?

WOMAN: What’s that?

VOICE: Well, you know how you’re presenting the miniature to the Duke of Blah on Friday?

(look of horror on WOMAN’s face)

WOMAN: What? How did you get that information?

VOICE: It’s common knowledge. I heard them talking about it in the pub.

WOMAN: Yeah, but the itinerary isn’t public knowledge. You do know, don’t you, I can’t discuss this with anybody, let alone you?

VOICE: I’m not asking you to divulge any information. I just want you to do something for me. As a friend.

WOMAN: Friend?

(WOMAN’s voice is high pitched).

You’re not my friend. We know some of the same people, that’s it.

VOICE: There’s no need to be like that. Please, can you at least hear me out?

WOMAN: Oh God, I don’t like the sound of this. Get this over with.

VOICE: Well, you know how the Duke is really a high ranking member of the Illuminati? And you know how behind their human façade, they’re really shape-shifting lizards?

WOMAN: Well, I don’t see it myself, but yes, I know what you’re referring to.

VOICE: Well, as you know, they love human blood. And they need to drink a lot of it in order to maintain their human form.

(WOMAN rolls eyes)

WOMAN: Whatever you say. So how exactly can I help?

VOICE: Well, I’d like you to do something for me during the presentation. I need you to entice him into exposing himself on camera.

WOMAN: What do you mean expose himself?

VOICE: Well, most of them are very picky. This guy particularly likes small Pictish women.

WOMAN: Ah now, that rules me out. I’m definitely not Pictish. They were quite dark, weren’t they? I’m as pasty as they come. Have you thought about ask-?

VOICE: Close enough, though. You’re small and dark-haired. Two out of three ain’t bad. Anyway, he just won’t be able to help himself and he’ll go into a feeding frenzy. He’ll break into a sweat and start foaming at the mouth.

(WOMAN scratches leg)

WOMAN: Really? And you’ll be there to catch it on camera.

VOICE: Exactly. You got it.

WOMAN: And what would I have to do to get his attention?

VOICE: You just have to stand directly in front of him.

WOMAN: But I’ll probably be doing that anyway. Why the phone call?

VOICE: I have to make sure you know the plan. And there’s one more thing. There’s a word you have to say to him, that’ll set him off. Guaranteed.

WOMAN: A word? What’s that then?

(WOMAN rolls eyes again)

VOICE: I can’t say it over the phone. It’s very powerful. I will have to write it down for you. It has to be said in a certain way.

WOMAN: So, let me get this straight. You want to sacrifice me to the bloodsucking king of the lizard people?

VOICE: Yes.

WOMAN: Do you not think I might have a problem with that?

VOICE: I don’t see why. I think it’s a great idea.

WOMAN: Even so, do you really expect me to feel flattered? Do you think so little of me that you would be prepared to have me eaten in front of a live audience? I find what you’re proposing quite offensive to be honest.

VOICE: But you would be performing a great service to humanity. Besides, there would be too many people there. You’ll be in no real danger.

WOMAN: And what if he follows me home? I won’t be able to rely on the security services then, that’s assuming that they aren’t lizards as well.

VOICE: He won’t.

WOMAN: How do you know?

VOICE: I just do. That’s not their M.O.

WOMAN: Listen, I’d love to help you, Rich, but if you want to take this any further, you’ll have to do a risk assessment first.

VOICE: Risk assessment?

WOMAN: Yes, risk assessment. You have twenty-four hours.

VOICE: What do you mean, risk assessment?

WOMAN: You know, you’ll need to go on site and scope the place out.

VOICE: What, I’ll never manage that. It’s crawling with sniffer dogs. You know I’m allergic.

WOMAN: Hey, that’s your problem. If you want me to do this, I have to know I’m part of a professional operation. I’ll need to know where all the exits are, where the extinguishers are, how many officers I can rely on, if there are any trained medical personnel on site, where the first aid kit is located, stuff like that.

VOICE: Hang on, I’ll need to write this down.

(sound of shuffling)

WOMAN: And I’ll need a bodyguard. My own bodyguard, fully trained in kung-fu and every martial art known to man. Must have all his certificates. I need somebody who’ll take HIM down not ME if things get out of hand.

VOICE: Bodyguard? Where the hell am I going to get a bodyguard?

(clicking sound)

WOMAN: You’re the professional, you work it out. Oh my God, did you just hear that click? They’re on to us. Hey, I can’t stay on the line. Listen, I want it on my desk first thing tomorrow morning. Then my peeps will talk to your peeps. Gotta go. Goodbye.

 

Copyright © M K MacInnes 2016
Image courtesy of cliparts.co
The above transcript is based on actual events.
The names have been, um, changed to protect the, erm, innocent.

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