Echo

The horizon was tinged with wispy tendrils of the sun’s fading fire. Shadows tentatively crept out of their diurnal prisons reclaiming their domain of sepulchres filled with dusty relics. The cemetery was a sanctuary for the shadows; they could swathe themselves in melancholy, silence and solitude.

The shadows whispered to one another and the trees rustled uneasily…something was out of place. A girl was sitting on the edge of a tomb. She was wearing scuffed Doc Marten boots, ripped fishnet tights, a short black leather skirt and a black t-shirt with the image of a bleeding heart. Her sandy-coloured hair looked brittle, like it would snap if someone tried to touch it. Black lipstick and deliberately overdone black eye-shadow could not detract from her brown eyes which were overflowing with soul. What was the girl doing here? They decided to observe her.

Priscilla brushed broken twigs and desiccated leaves from the tomb until she could see a name, she read out aloud: Jacques De Villiers! Angels carried him up to the heavens on 2nd July 1886.

The persistence of memory. That was Priscilla’s affliction. What made a tomb? Masonry, marble, grandeur, inscribed words or the skeleton within? Walk through a cemetery, read the names and messages, you can feel an echo of love and loss still lingering, cheating the fickleness of Father Time. The deceased persist in our memories and when we, the torch-bearers of their lives fade, cemeteries are their enduring testament.

Priscilla knew she should not be here. How was it that her journey had started at the end? It did not make any sense. A cemetery was definitely the end of a journey. The things she had seen – wondrous horror and terrible beauty. She lit a cigarette. She could sense the shadows were watching her.

“Do not fret, my sable friends, all will be revealed!”

The shadows rippled. This girl was strange.

“I will tell you a story!”

The shadows stretched closer towards her.

‘A noble family with one heir; the son was raised in the manner of a prince. The widowed father’s design was to have his son marry into royalty and promulgate the family lineage. While Jacques was well-versed in societal protocols, he found his peers to be frivolous and shallow. The De Villiers’ estate was large and renowned for its game. Jacques hunted to avoid the presence of simpering girls tittering behind bejewelled brocaded corsets.

It was during a pilgrimage in the forest when he chanced upon her…a girl unlike any other. She moved with the natural grace of her arboreal surroundings. Her clothing was smudged, the hem of her dress was bedraggled and she had dandelion seeds caught up in her flowing hair. He remembered his botany classes and without thinking spoke aloud.

“Did you know the botanical name for the dandelion is Taraxacum officinale?”

The girl whirled around, grasping a hatchet.

“Peasants call it pissenlit!”

Jacques was taken aback. Nothing in his education had prepared him for this encounter.

“I meant no disrespect.”

“If you touch me, I will hack you to death!”

Jacques laughed. He was smitten. He would often seek her out in the forest. She would always ignore him when he spoke to her about books he had read. The girl loved his stories. She did not understand this strange man at all. One day she would consent to tell him her name. Their lives were intangibly different yet neither of them had ever been so happy.

Charles De Villiers had noticed a change in his son’s demeanour. He charged one of his servants to spy on Jacques. Bernard was a shifty fellow. He reported his findings to his master with glee. Charles was furious! This peasant was a passing fancy. His son was defying him. Charles paid Bernard to remove the problem. The De Villiers’ bloodline could not be tainted.

The girl was missing and Jacques was frantic. He spent every waking hour in the forest searching for her. Charles asked Bernard to bring the girl back. Bernard smirked.

“She was a feisty one, attacked me with a hatchet. I threw her down a well.”

“She is dead?”

“Very.”

Charles could not tell his son the truth, he was quasi-insensate without that damned girl. Time would temper his son’s current fever.

Jacques emerged from the forest one night and saw Bernard chopping kindling. He sat down on a log to watch. Bernard was uneasy. Had the old man let something slip?

“Permit me to assist you, Bernard, it would alleviate my nerves.”

Bernard was bemused but acquiesced. Jacques studied the hatchet Bernard had handed him.

“She never would have surrendered this, it belonged to her father.”

Bernard cursed himself. It had been too fine a hatchet to throw into the well. Death blazed in Jacques’s eyes as he advanced on Bernard. The servant fell backwards, scrambling in the dirt. Jacques gripped Bernard’s left wrist, pinning the hand to a log. The hatchet flashed hungrily in the moonlight. Bernard screamed in horror and grabbed his severed hand. He garbled about following orders and a well. The babbling stopped. The hatchet was lodged in Bernard’s skull.

Jacques ran amok, setting the family mansion aflame. Charles saw his son disappear into the forest and dispatched servants to retrieve him. They followed the glow of Jacques’s torch as it flitted in the darkness until it stopped moving. They were too late. Jacques had flung himself into the well to be with his love.’

The shadows sighed.

Priscilla took one final drag of her cigarette.

“It is a terrible thing to know your loved one will never know your name. It took me three days to die in that well.”

Priscilla lay on the tomb.

“I could not let death keep us apart, your Priscilla is here for you.”

The shadows watched in rapt amazement as a phantasm manifested; it embraced the prone girl and pulled her gently into the tomb. Dandelion seeds floated by in the breeze.

 

Evolution

Ughhhh…

That was the sound that introduced Barry the T-Rex to the day.

Ughhhh…

There it was again!

Ughhhh…Barry realised it was him making the noise.

He had a banging headache. Where the hell was he? What happened last night? They had gone down the local for a few jars of swamp beer and their monthly darts tournament. None of them could actually play darts. T-Rex arms just weren’t designed for throwing things. It was just an excuse to get a night out of the cave away from the missus.

Barry had married Ramona many moons ago. It had been love at first sight. She had been chasing a sabre-toothed tiger, he a Neanderthal. They had crashed into each other. They swapped their kills. That was their first date. They decided to move in together. Barry found a cave which needed a bit of work but it meant they could be together.

The first year went by so fast. They roared together by waterfalls, watched a volcano erupt and laughed when Tony the Troodon fell into the lava because of a dare. Good times.

On their first anniversary, Barry gave Ramona a necklace made out of Neanderthal bones. She loved it. Ramona had taken up art classes and did a fantastic etching on the cave wall of Barry killing a whole village of Neanderthals as her present to him. They were happy.

Then things changed. Ramona was forever asking Barry to move rocks or logs around the cave so she could find the Zen point of their home. Huh? Barry’s first thought was that Zen was another dinosaur. Turned out Ramona had subscribed to Diana the Dracorex’s monthly interior design updates. The cave was littered with stone tablets replete with Diana’s scratched sketches. Ramona adored Diana. The dino surgeon, Ludwig the Albertosaurus, had given her a facelift; her scales shone brighter than any of the others. Ramona had come home one afternoon with painted pink claws and dark eyeliner on…what was that about?

You have to work at relationships. Barry understood that but Ramona was not the T-Rex he married. It was getting to the point that no sooner had he sat down on his favourite rock to read the Saurus Sports tablet then Ramona was looking over his shoulder…nag, nag, nag. Then, Ramona had tried to block Barry’s night out with the boys. She had ordered some new rocks from another valley and surprise, surprise, the Diplodocus courier service Yodel was late. Barry snapped, screeched at her and stomped out of the cave.

Some would say what happened after that was written in stone.

Barry met up his T-Rex buddies, Ralph and Monty. They had all grown up near the same tar pit. They were all up for a mad one and egged each other on. They knocked back the swamp beer at the Primordial Lagoon. And after one too many amber shots, they finally managed to make Freddie lose it. Freddie was a permanent fixture at the Primordial, he liked to sit in the same grove and enjoy his swamp beer quietly. The T-Rexes never called Freddie by his name. They always referred to him by his dinosaur name. They knew it annoyed him. Except on this night, the T-Rexes were so MC Hammered they kept shouting it over and over again: Fukuisaurus! Fukuisaurus! Fukuisaurus!

Freddie threw a log at them and the mood turned ugly. It was going to get bloody. The Primordial’s bouncer stepped in, Spencer the Spinosaurus, and told them to go. After being barred for yelling, “Spencer’s mum was a Skankosaurus”, the T-Rexes headed further into the valley. They stopped by Steggy the Stegosaurus’s takeaway grove, he had freshly barbecued Neanderthal on his spikes. Tasty! Ramona had been telling Barry he needed to lose weight recently. There were only so many salads Barry could eat, he was a carnivore, nothing could beat the taste of freshly ripped flesh. While they were munching their Neanderthal kebabs, a shifty looking Rugops edged over to them.

“Hey guys, having a good night? It can get better. Tear off some Neanderthal for me and we can talk shop.”

Barry would have liked to have blamed the other two for leading him astray but he was intrigued. He threw the Rugops an arm.

“Nice one, cuz. Check this out while I snack.”

The Rugops pushed over a stone tablet. The detail was amazing. The T-Rexes were looking at a sexy Gigantosaurus wearing a wig and dressed in a mini skirt. They were all drooling.

Monty spoke for them all, “I haven’t felt this hot since I accidentally stepped in some lava!”

“I’ve always said T-Rexes get a bad rap because you pretty much kill everything but you seem like nice guys. Get me three large mica rocks and I can lead you her cave. It’s very discrete. Carla is a burlesque dancer and she is a whiz with a feather boa. It’s not at all pervy, it’s art.”

Barry thought to himself, Ramona is always going on about how I should be more cultured, this counts, surely? They had to mica up first though.

The mica quarry was guarded by an angry Allosaurus called Alan. The T-Rexes disguised themselves with masks made of palm leaves then pushed Alan into the river. They handed over the mica to the Rugops. Pre-drinks before the show…the boys chugged the Jagers down. After that Barry could not remember anything.

He slowly made his way back to his matrimonial cave. On the way, he saw Monty being bashed in the face with a rock by his wife, Regina. He didn’t need to see Ralph, he could hear Cindy screeching at him from two valleys away. Ramona was stood at the entrance to the cave with her arms crossed, he could see the rage in her eyes, Barry was scared. He kind of wished a meteor would hit the valley, anything to save him from his wife!

Journey

The train shuddered to a halt. It had been a long journey. The platform was packed. Jack remained seated, he was scared. Jean was the only thing that had kept him going – a beacon of hope amidst the darkness of war. He had survived so they could be together.

He grasped his duffle bag and stepped down onto the platform. Families, friends and lovers were embracing and crying because their loved ones had been returned to them.

Jack was used to tears of despair, hysteria and fear. The tumultuous noise unnerved him. He strained his neck to peer over the melee, where was she?

The train tooted and chugged away. The crowd gradually thinned until Jack was the only one left. His smile had faded. He was alone. Again. He sat down on a wooden bench.

“She will come for me.”

Saying it helped him believe it, helped keep the fear at bay. The day faded into night and a chill pervaded the air. He had managed to scrape together enough money to wear a half-decent suit and tie. He wanted to forget about being a soldier, he wanted to be Jean’s husband. His remaining money had gone towards a ring which was nestled in his pocket.

A slight noise made Jack look up. A small dog had wandered onto the platform. The dog and Jack stared at each other. The dog growled at Jack and walked off. Jack put his head in his hands. He had tried to bury the horror deep down so Jean would never see it reflected in his eyes but she was not here and he could feel it welling up inside of him. The tears for the dead, tears for those he had killed. He had not considered a scenario without Jean lighting his path.

He felt a hand run through his hair and glanced up, hardly daring to believe…it was his angel.

Brothers

The front door slammed. Gary bustled in and planted himself at the head of the kitchen table. A place has been laid for him. Peter paused from eating his breakfast and raised his left eyebrow.

“You’re late.”

Gary sneered.

“The world doesn’t revolve around your watch.”

“Pity. Otherwise you would have been on time. Shall I cook something for you?”

Gary thumped the table with his fist.

“I’m not here to eat fucking bacon and eggs!”

Peter shrugged.

“Just offering.”

“Do you have it?”

“No.”

Gary is half out of his seat in disbelief.

“Are you fucking joking?”

“It is not time yet.”

“Yes! Yes, it is!”

“You rush into things.”

“What do you mean?”

“You are reckless.”

“And you drag your heels. Peter, the patron saint of detail.”

“Miaow.”

“I’m glad you think this is funny. You’ll be laughing right up until you have a bullet in your head.”

“It will work out fine.”

Gary almost to himself.

“They’ll kill us.”

“That is not part of my plan.”

Gary raises his voice.

“The plan was to secure the package this morning.”

Peter looks at his watch.

“It is still morning.”

Gary throws his empty plate and it smashes up against a cupboard.

“The Russians don’t give a shit about semantics! They’ll blowtorch our balls off!”

Peter sips his tea.

“The Russians are not the problem.”

Gary is confused.

“Then who is?”

“You are.”

“What…what do you mean?”

“I know what you have done. The Russians do too.”

Gary is ashen-faced.

“You’re making a terrible mistake!”

“My mistake was trusting my brother.”

Breakup

Peter steps out of the lift, level one of the car park. He is smiling to himself. He stops in his tracks. Wendy, his wife, is standing by his car and her blouse seems soaked. Peter quizzically looks beyond the stone columns and sees he is correct, it is a sunny day, no rain at all. They have been married for twelve years so Peter can read Wendy’s body language easily enough, she is pissed off.

“Wendy, what are you doing here? Has something happened?”

Wendy slaps him hard in the face.

“You bastard!”

Peter staggers back. Wendy pummels and flails at him with her fists. He grabs her arms.

“Stop, just stop! What the hell is wrong with you?”

Wendy gazes into her husband’s eyes, she is crying.

“I know about her!”

Peter feels the fight drain out of his wife.

“Her who? You are making no sense.”

Wendy frees herself from his grasp.

“Your slut of a secretary!”

“Nadine? She is on holiday in the Algarve.”

“No, she isn’t! She is floating face down in our bath.”

“Have you lost your mind? You have started drinking again, you promised you would stop!”

“Typical love cheat! Blame the wife, it’s always her fault, she wasn’t paying me enough attention so your zipper had to be loosened elsewhere. Exactly how am I to blame if you stick your cock inside another woman?”

“Please tell me this is one of your episodes because you are drunk? You know the term ‘ugly drunk’? That’s you down to a tee!”

Wendy shows Peter her phone. There is a photo on it. Peter retches.

“Oh my God, what have you done?”

“Twelve years. TWELVE! I deserved better than this! How old is she? Half your age? You sad pathetic twat!”

Peter is not listening. He is dialling his phone.

“Hello?! I need an ambulance sent to 46 Forest Green Avenue. Possible drowning in a bath.”

Peter hangs up.

“Wendy, you are ill, you need help…”

“Fuck you! You’re the one that needs help!”

Wendy pulls out a kitchen knife and Peter starts to run…