High Altar

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

THE LOST SECRET (first two chapters)

Featured

For reasons that I won’t go into here, I have decided to scrap any attempt to sell my ‘mini-book’ on Amazon. Why it’s only two chapters and only on Kindle needs too much explanation. Instead, it is available here via the link below. This may be temporary, it may be permanent, I don’t know. We’ll see where this goes.

You can read the first two chapters here.

Although this offering is free, donations are gratefully accepted.

Kiss

kiss

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

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

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

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

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

Natividad

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the flag, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER ONE

IT WAS Nineteen Hundred and Sixty-one in the year of our Lord. In those days the leaders of America were most incensed that Communism had taken the land of Cuba. So too the new government of Cuba was greatly displeased that America had secretly taken its children on the pretext that they were saving them.

And living in the city of New York was an actress exiled from the land of Cuba called Eva. Her betrothed was an English advertising consultant by the name of Percy.

And it came to pass that two months before the day of their legal union, Eva declared that she was three months with child. By the time she realised that her physician must have made a mistake, it was too late. Percy did not believe that the child could be his, for he was on business far away at the time of its conception. Eva was aggrieved that she could do nothing to persuade him otherwise.

And so Percy made it known to Eva’s father, who happened to be a high-ranking official in the court of Fidel Castro, the King of Cuba, his displeasure, in the hope that he would come and take her away. Until then, he would renounce their betrothal but not put her to shame, instead continuing to keep her, but in a separate dwelling.

One night Percy became so intoxicated that he fell into a deep but fitful sleep on a park bench.

A well-spoken man wearing a fedora and a belted overcoat appeared to him, saying “Behold. Marry your beloved and go to England. She speaks the truth. Verily I say until you, the child is of your seed and you are all in grave danger.”

When he awoke, his head was as if cloven in two.

CHAPTER TWO

FIVE months passed. During this time, Percy forgot about the dream and was too preoccupied with the demands of his profession and the infidelity of his once beloved to pay much heed to the host of vehicles regularly parked outside.

When it was made known to Percy that Federal agents were about to apprehend him for being a Communist spy, he knew that he had no choice but to flee to England.

He found a listening instrument in his apartment but left it in its place.

Meanwhile, Eva’s father had bade his time before he sent an agent of his own to persuade his daughter to return to the land of Cuba and bear her child there. But she refused.

The agent said to her “Verily, if you come with me now, and bear this child in the land of your forefathers, I shall guarantee you safe return to New York.”

Realising that her father had interest only in the child, she kicked her abductor in such a manner and with such force that he might beget no offspring of his own and ran for her life.

Then she pleaded with Percy to take her out of the country. He agreed to this but only on condition that she spoke quietly so that no-one might hear them and promised to have the child given away.

CHAPTER THREE

THE day before Christmas Eve, word came to the FBI of Percy and Eva’s intended departure, and this so enraged them that they ploughed every possible furrow to discover their destination. London they were told. So a Federal agent was sent to the airport to prevent their escape.

Percy and Eva arrived there only to find that they were followed by not one, not two but three men. One looked like an FBI agent, another was the man who had assailed Eva; the third man Percy recognised as the stranger in his dream. They seemed none too pleased that the others were there.

It was for this reason alone that Percy and Eva reached their flight without incident. ‘Twas the last flight before Christmas.

During their journey, Eva protested her innocence anew. But still Percy’s heart was cold.

Once in the land of Percy’s forefathers, they got through the airport as fast as they could to confound the Federal agent. Then when they hailed a taxi to take them into the city of London, where they had booked a hotel for the night, they saw the Cuban agent.

Followed by two taxis, Percy and Eva finally arrived at the Waldorf Hotel, exhausted and sore afraid. But their reservation was not to be found and there were no more rooms.

Percy flew into such a rage that he struck fear into the receptionist, so he was informed by the manager that if they did not leave, they would call the police. Meanwhile, Eva’s pains had begun and snow was nigh.

Their fear made greater by the sight of the third man lying in wait outside the door, Percy instructed the next driver to take them to the mansion house of an old friend in a place called Bethnal Green.

CHAPTER FOUR

WHEN they arrived there, not a soul was to be found, the doors and windows were locked up and twilight was nearly upon them. So Percy, knowing the place from his boyhood, found them refuge in the mews behind his friend’s dwelling house. He looked about him but there was no sign yet of their pursuers.

And once Percy had found a lamplight, he went up into the loft with it, knowing that even though it would guide their pursuers, they had no choice.

And he made for Eva a bed of mattresses and blankets that were packed away in a chest. And once he had made her comfortable, he gathered all manner of implements so that he might defend them.

CHAPTER FIVE

AND it came to pass that the light did shine through the window and betray them.

A voice from beneath them cried up “I know you are there. I am come to help you.”

And when Percy asked why he should be believed, the voice said “I say unto you I am coming up now.”

And when he had ascended, Percy saw that it was the man in his dream. But before Percy could smite him, the stranger put down his weapon and held forth his badge so that Percy could see under whose authority he had come. He was a special agent of the CIA by the name of Armstrong.

And when Percy asked why he was here, Agent Armstrong said “It is classified”.

At that moment the birthing began in earnest.

Then it came to pass that the Cuban and the Federal agent were below them and gunshots could be heard.

And Percy heard the Cuban say to the American that he only wanted the child; the American to the Cuban that he wanted only the Englishman.

But when they heard Eva’s screams, they took pity on her and conspired to cease hostilities.

So the American cried up into the loft to offer their assistance. And once they were ascended into the loft, they put down their weapons and introduced themselves as Comrade Rodriguez and Federal Agent Young.

CHAPTER SIX

MIDNIGHT came and the babe left its mother’s womb to utter its first cry and to the sound of much rejoicing.

From her belongings, Eva took a headscarf bearing the single star on red of her motherland, and in it she swaddled her newborn.

Then she laid her in a drawer filled with hay and blankets, saying “For unto us a daughter is born. And her name shall be called Emanuelle, for she entered this world on the same day as our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And Agent Young pulled a gold coin from his inside coat pocket and pressed it into the infant’s hand.

And Rodriguez drew from his pocket a cigar but pressed it instead into Percy’s hand.

Then Special Agent Armstrong took from his coat pocket a small flagon of whiskey and pressed it into Eva’s hand, saying “Verily, that is the best I can do.”

Percy and Eva thanked them for their gifts. Then Percy whispered to Eva that he would raise the babe as if she were his own.

And Agent Young said “But she is your own.”

And Rodriguez said “It is true. Behold her eyes. And behold her nose.”

Then Agent Armstrong said “While you were away, our eyes were on your house. If she had deceived you, we would have known it.”

Young and Rodriguez voiced their accord, for all he had said was true.

Knowing for certain now that he had falsely accused his beloved, Percy wept.

Then the three agents conspired amongst themselves in order that they might tell their masters the same story.

Before the three men bid Percy and Eva farewell, Armstrong said to Percy “You do know that this is not over”.

And Percy said to him “Indeed.”

And within the hour an ambulance came to take mother and child to the safety of a fine, warm hospital bed.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

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

Le Piroquet

parrot

THE SEARING Marseilles heat was a welcome change from the clinging smell of autumnal mildew that permeated Paris of an evening. It was morning, dawn but a distant memory for the flora and the fauna encircling my bedroom window. The sun already seemed high and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. I had just opened the wooden shutter, invigorated by a subtle awareness of the cool air hugging the ground and the soft caress of sun on my face. Better than I had ever imagined life in the South of France to be, the moment could not be more perfect. I felt connected, at one with the whole of Creation.

Sitting on the branch of an orange tree about five feet from me was a beautiful winged creature, a glorious technicolour parrot straight from the pages of Treasure Island.

“Wow, you’re gorgeous!”, I exclaimed.

He blinked at me, as if to say “Yes, I know.”

I blinked too, in disbelief that such an audience had presented itself.

The parrot studied me. I studied back. Who was the more curious, me or him? I looked about to see if there was another soul around. Nope. Just me and the bird.

It flicked its head as if it had a nervous twitch. Just as it occurred to me that he wanted to scratch, he lifted his right claw and did the deed. He squawked in a self-satisfied manner and tilted his head the other way.

I tilted mine and squawked back.

It occurred to me that I should try to teach it to say something funny. How did one say “Who’s a pretty boy, then” or “Don’t get your knickers in a twist” in French? No, that would be beneath me and insult the parrot.

As if he knew what I was thinking, he cocked his head, strutted on the spot as if walking on hot coals, then began to whistle. He articulated three crisp clear notes.

I said nothing. I couldn’t whistle to save myself. All attempts by my father to teach me had failed.

He whistled the same three notes yet again. Still I uttered not a sound.

It was only when he whistled the third time that the penny dropped and I attempted to follow suit. My first efforts were in vain, for I blew like a flat tyre.

He repeated the same notes. I tried again. And again. And again. He persisted until I had mastered whistling all the notes in exactly the manner that he had done.
I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. At long bloody last, I could whistle …

After a short pause, in which he almost seemed to make a little bow of approval, the maestro whistled again. Only this time, there were four notes. The first two were the same as before, but the third was different and the fourth was entirely new.

In the midst of my euphoria, it was not lost on me that the parrot knew exactly what it was doing. Everything about this strange and wonderful experience made me want to pinch myself. I half expected Richard Dreyfuss to come out of nowhere and a massive flying disk to appear above my head. Close Encounters of the Bird Kind … ha ha. I kept my imaginings simple and settled instead on Simon Says.

But Mister Feathered Smarty Pants was not satisfied that I had got the hang of four notes. Oh no, he piled it on and took it up to five. By the time he racked the level of difficulty up to six, my attention span was shot to pieces and I couldn’t handle all the notes.

He paced about like a disgruntled drill sergeant, then looked at me as if to say “Pfft, is that it?”

Mmm, I could smell breakfast. I shrugged my shoulders as if to say “Mais oui.”

In the blink of an eye my Teacher fluttered off into the big blue sky.

FIN

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015-2017