The Long Way Back

I’ve been flipping back through my notebooks, looking for pieces that might be worth sharing on this blog. Here’s a little ghost story I wrote a while back at Slaithwaite Writers. Hope you enjoy it ….

 

I didn’t sense a change at first. There was a closing, then immediately an opening of eyes. I was in the same room, surrounded by the same people. I felt, if anything, much better: fresh, free from pain, unburdened of the toils of my body.

“I think I’m on the mend,” I told them – or tried to. Their faces made no response to my voice. Their eyes did not look at mine, but downwards. I followed their gaze to a motionless body – MY body. The eyes were still closed.

“He’s gone,” the doctor said. My mother began to weep – a tortured, despairing howl that filled the room. I tried to reassure her: “I am still with you, I have not gone.” But my voice did not disturb the air. When I tried to touch her, my fingers passed through the flesh without leaving a mark.

I tried everything I could to communicate with her. If I could move some object, even create a faint breeze in the air, perhaps she would be aware of my presence. Nothing worked. I tried to occupy my old body. It still fitted me perfectly, but I had no power to move it. It was just inanimate matter now. Then I tried to occupy hers – perhaps she would hear my voice if I was speaking – literally – inside her head. I couldn’t get any reaction. All else was overwhelmed by her anguish.

I couldn’t take it any more. Her grief was infectious. I had to leave. I passed effortlessly through the closed oak door and was gone. As I glanced at the mirror in the hall, I saw no reflection.

For some years afterwards I would wander the earth aimlessly, tied to it by some strange force. Not by gravity, for I have no weight, no substance, only form. In this state I do not tire. I feel no need for food or shelter. I lack nothing because I AM nothing.

Or so, at least, I was. Three years on, curiosity took me back to the old house. And when I passed that mirror in the hall, to my amazement I could see a faint translucent image of a human being, as if sculpted in spider-web. Somehow, in my long sojourn in this ethereal half-world, I had acquired the merest shadow of a physical form.

I ascended the staircase to my mother’s room, in expectation but also trepidation. Would she be able to see me? How would she react if she did. As I passed through the door, my spirits sank. She was there, but there was a deadness in her eyes. She had gone blind.

Hoping against hope, I wrapped my insubstantial arms around her and whispered in her ear.

“I am here, mother,” I said.

“I know,” she replied.

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A Celebration of Words

Events seem to be like buses. It’s a while since I’ve done one, but next month I’ve got two in the space of two weeks1 I’ve already posted here about the launch event for the paperback edition of Revolution Day (see A Date for your Diary) on 24 April. Before that, on Monday 10 April, at 7.30 at Holmfirth Library, I’ll be participating in A Celebration of Words. This event is organised by Holmfirth Writers Group in collaboration with the Friends of Holmfirth Library and Tourist Information Centre.

There will be readings of poems and short prose pieces – members of the public are welcome to come along and read too, or just listen – and free refreshments.  I hope to see lots of my friends there, in support and celebration of this brilliant library at a time of funding cuts and uncertainty. And it’s going to be great!

Anyway, here’s a poem I’m thinking of reading at the event – it seems appropriate, in view of its local setting.  It was written for the Holmfirth Arts Festival a few years ago, about the night when Bilberry Reservoir (just above Digley, shown in the picture) burst its dam, causing a catastrophic flood in the town.

 

The Ballad of Bilberry Reservoir 

Stranger, as you walk my shore

and think my home a tranquil place,

look closer: do you see a frown

within the ripples of my face?

 

These were not always quiet waters.

When first the moor gave birth to me

this valley echoed with my laughter,

unfettered, I ran wild and free.

 

Men looked in envy and desired

to bend my labour to their wills.

They made an earthen dam to bind me,

pipes to bleed me for their mills.

 

But I was strong, and with a storm

conspired to burst my prison walls

and through the breach my righteous anger

surged in furious waterfalls.

 

That happy night! How I did dance

among the streets and houses, free

to vent my power and forge anew

my ancient pathway to the sea.

 

That time is gone: men learned to fear

and built for me a stronger cage

in which I languish, left to brood

on memories of a better age.

 

What else to do but plot revenge

with my old friends, the wind and rain.

You who think me tamed, beware:

I sleep, but I shall wake again.

 

Attention to Death

Today we have a guest post from fellow Crooked Cat author Ailsa Abraham, who’s here to talk about her latest novel, murder mystery Attention to Death, which is published today!  Take it away, Ailsa ….

 

YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE.

Thank you for inviting me to talk about my latest release today.

This is a departure from my previous series in magical realism. Here I take off on murder mystery. Why? Erm… limited attention span? Love of variety?

Attention to Death is released on 10th March and here is the info on it.

“Find Attention to Death on pre-order on Amazon: http://mybook.to/AttentionDeath

“In Attention to Death, Ailsa Abraham pulls off something I wouldn’t have thought possible – a steamy romance with a twist of murder and a splash of social conscience. A remarkable book that will have you turning pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next.”  ~ India Drummond, author of the Caledonia Fae series

Finding a murderer among a group of killers is not going to be easy for two Royal Army Military Police investigators, Captain Angus Simpson and Staff-Sergeant Rafael ‘Raff’ Landen, whose Christmas leave is cancelled for an investigation into a suspicious death on a base in Germany.  The case is further complicated by unhelpful senior officers who make pre-judgements on colour, creed, race and sexuality. Yet the insight of the investigators helps them uncover a sinister plot, although they too have something to hide: their own fledgling relationship. Will Angus and Raff be able to solve the murder without giving away their secret? The best and worst of human nature is represented in this story, which is why it is suggested for over 18s only.”

I delved into my past life as an officer in the Royal Air Force and my lifelong friendships with gay men to research this book. Coming right after LGBT History Month in February, it highlights the problems that men who have to be “in the closet” and the sort of bigotry that causes people to refuse to read a book just because there are gay characters in it, although this doesn’t stop them leaving reviews. Me? I’ve never been too sure. I’m gender-neutral which is why the first thing I wonder on meeting new people isn’t “What do they do in their bedrooms?”

Read it for yourself and decide. Is it an honest portrayal of two men doing their job who just happen to have started an affair?

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Bio and links

Ailsa Abraham is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman’s Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon. She also writes mystery romance.

She has lived in France since 1990 and is now naturalized French. She enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell’s Angel in town . Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family. She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care (pirate gear is her favourite!)

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A Date for your Diary

As I announced on this blog recently the paperback edition of my second novel, Revolution Day is now out (https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/revolution-reborn/).

I am now delighted to announce that there will be a launch event for the paperback at Holmfirth Library at 7.30 on Monday 24 April. I will be giving readings from the book, discussing some of the real-life dictators whose careers provided my inspiration, and signing copies for anyone who is interested in buying it. Refreshments will be provided, including wine. I expect the event to last about an hour. I hope to see lots of you there!  The library address is 47 Huddersfield Road Holmfirth HD9 3JH.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here’s a very short excerpt.  Juanita, the estranged wife of ageing dictator Carlos Almanzor, recalls an incident early in his rule. Carlos has been receiving some military advisers from the Soviet Union …

We walked down the steps, sharing inconsequential conversation with the ambassador and his wife, and a protocol officer beckoned us towards the first Rolls-Royce. Carlos shook his head, and turned to the ambassador.

“You are our honoured friends and guests today; it is only right that you should have pride of place.”

So the ambassador, his wife, and the Russian general who was the boss of the advisers went in the first car, and Carlos, Angel and I in the second. Of the preceding conversations my only memory is of thinking that the ambassador’s wife was badly dressed and had nothing of interest to say. But my mind has preserved every detail of what happened next. I remember slumping in the seat, relieved that I did not have to make chit chat for a while. I remember looking at the red leather seats of the car and noticing that they were slightly faded. I remember putting my head back to relax and becoming aware that there were hundreds of faces peering at me from the side of the road. I remember starting to wave at them, having realised that I still had to put on some kind of an act, and feeling at once irritated, amused and flattered. I remember thinking how ponderous the convoy’s progress was, and wondering whether I would have to keep waving all the way. I remember hearing an untidy rattle of sharp bangs, and watching the people stop waving and turn their heads. I remember turning my own head, then seeing a man pointing a long tube at the car in front of us. I remember a bright flash (oddly, I don’t recall hearing a bang), and pieces of bodywork leaping into the air like scraps of paper caught by the wind. And I remember being thrown into the seat in front and onto the floor, as our driver stamped first upon the brake and then the accelerator and threw the Rolls-Royce into a violent turn. I have no memory of screaming, though people tell me I was hysterical. Then it is all a blank, until we have arrived somehow at the palace, and I am sitting in a leather armchair and people are comforting me and offering me things to drink. I remember thinking that the leather was the same colour as in the Rolls-Royce.

You can find out more about Revolution Day, and read more excerpts and reviews, here:

http://www.tetaylor.co.uk/revday

 

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