The Uncanny Vacancy

Archibald Nemesis, fourth son of the Duke of Dimmerage, awoke to the pleasant sound of servants performing their duties, to the merry tune of sizzling bacon and curtains opening wide.

Aided by his valet, Rudolphus, who was always magically there when needed, Archibald tumbled out of bed and into a dressing-gown. Having bedecked his toes with pink slippers, he was escorted to the dining-room, where the Duke had already begun to peruse an immaculately ironed copy of The Times.

‘Hmphff,’ the Duke mumbled as Archibald seated himself on the opposite end of the extremely long dining-table.

For some time there was no sound but that of Archibald quietly munching toast.

Then, disaster struck.

‘Archibald!’

Archibald almost choked on some bacon, and was saved only by a passing scullery-maid, who fortunately knew the intricate details of the Heimlich maneuver.

‘Archibald!’

This time Archibald had wisely abstained from putting any food in his mouth, and thus a second application of the afore-mentioned Heimlich maneuver was not needed. He was driven to speak out somewhat forcefully (for the Duke was somewhat deaf):

‘Father! Yes! What is it?’

‘You’re a disgrace!’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I see here that you were hanged for embezzlement and forgery earlier this morning!’ the Duke shouted back, shaking his newspaper vigorously. ‘Here it is: ARCHIE N. E. MESIS HANGED FOR EMBEZZLEMENT AND FORGERY EARLIER THIS MORNING!’

‘But — ‘

‘If that were but all, I could perhaps forgive you, my son!’ the Duke went on. ‘But behold this obscenity! ARCHIBALD N. EMESIS ARRESTED FOR HIGH TREASON AND PIRACY!’

‘Father, look, I am clearly not either of these men, the names aren’t even the same — ‘

But the Duke was now red with fury. ‘How dare you deny these awful crimes? And that is not even all! BALD ARCHBISHOP FOUND NAKED AND INTOXICATED IN CANTERBURY BROTHEL!’

‘This is frankly beginning to be quite ridiculous, Father — ‘

‘And look! Here, in black and white, as plain as day: ARCHIBALD NEMESIS, FOURTH SON OF THE DUKE OF DIMMERAGE, FINED 5 SHILLINGS FOR BOARDING AN OMNIBUS WITHOUT A TICKET.’

‘Well,’ Archibald said somewhat awkwardly, ‘my chauffeur was ill that day. But how was I to know that you needed to buy a ticket for — ‘

‘Fiend! You then confess! You are no son of mine! I’ll disinherit you on the spot! Lawyer!’

The family lawyer, looking somewhat dusty, carefully crawled out from a closet, and put on his spectacles. ‘Yes, my Lordship?’

‘I want this slimy mollusk of a bastard son disinherited at once.’

‘Very well. Sign here.’

And in spite of Archibald’s protests, the deed was done. And before an hour had sped, poor Archibald was cast out into the cruel, unforgiving world with not a penny to his name.

His first act, upon becoming a tragically misunderstood victim of Fate’s slings and arrows, was to attempt suicide by throwing himself in the lake. The local constable, however, fished him out and fined him 5 shillings.

His second act was to run away from an irate constable who wanted him to cough up five shillings, in spite of Archibald’s explanation that at present he was sadly out of luck and could not pay the fine any more than he could make gold magically appear from the constable’s rear end.

His third act was to jump onto a moving train which was heading towards London, leaving the local constable far behind.

A few days later, Archibald emerged from the dank underbelly of society and decided to find his way to the nearest employment agency.

‘So,’ said the squinty-eyed manager of this agency, ‘I see you are in search of a job.’

‘Indeed!’

‘Any qualifications?’

‘Well, I possess an intimate knowledge of Greek and Latin. I have thoroughly misunderstood most of philosophy. I have oft been a student of chemistry, and possess enough knowlegde to blow up a gardening shed.’

‘I see. Was the gardener inside the shed?’

‘Yes, it was truly appalling.’

‘I should imagine so. Was that why you were hanged earlier this morning?’

‘For the last time, that was not me!’ Archibald expostulated.

‘Very well. Let me see, would you be willing to work as a secretary?’

‘Is there a position open?’

‘Many,’ the manager said, pulling up a drawer filled with papers. ‘How about this: “Lord Huffington requires competent secretary. Must be acquainted with Bible. Ability to speak Latin backwards a plus. Salary: 10,000 gallons of blood per annum.” Sounds like an excellent position, if you ask me.’

‘Blood? Oh, God, no. Isn’t there anything more suitable?’

‘Let me see… “Sir John Puffington has lost his secretary to bubonic plague, requires a replacement at once”– Oh, not for you, is it? Very well, how about this, instead: “Lord Skellington in dire need of capable secretary. Previous incumbent has unfortunately died of hunger. Salary: 10 £ per annum.”‘

‘These all sound awful.’

‘Have it your way. Oh, there’s a good one: “Lady Slutttington-Toplessy requires male gigolo capable of speaking Greek.” The salary’s quite promising.’

‘I said I knew Greek, not that I could speak it.’

The manager grew tired and glanced at the clock on the wall. Clearly lunch weighed heavily on his mind. ‘One last chance, take it or leave it: “Lord Parsley needs a new secretary. Minimal wages. Bed and board included. No qualifications needed. If applicant possesses qualifications, however, they will not prove in any way detrimental. This vacancy recently opened up due to perfectly natural demise of previous secretary, who was nowhere near the Lord’s manor when he died, and his death was entirely a consequence of the many diseases that he, the secretary, had suffered since early childhood. The manor itself is not, I repeat, not subject to rumors involving eldritch monstrosities from another world, nor is it haunted, nor is there any ghastly conspiracy surrounding it with an air of mystery. Lord Parsley is perfectly sane and of the most genial disposition. The local peasants are not demented, nor do they worship some abominable incarnation of the Devil…”‘

‘Stop! I’ll take it,’ Archibald cried out.

Here, the gentle reader must forgive the narrator for not wishing to dwell too long on how Archibald Nemesis made his way to Parsley Hall. Such trivial details would lower the tone of this tale. Let us therefore skip ahead in time to the moment when Archibald met the butler at the gate:

‘Hello! Is this Parsley Hall?’

‘Yes, it is, sir. You must be his Lordship’s new — ‘

Upon second thought, that part of the narrative is not as interesting as one would have hoped for. Let us therefore skip this and move on to the moment when Archibald met Lord Parsley.

‘Hello! Are you Lord Parsley?’

Lord Parsley, who had been facing the fireplace while tugging frantically at his mustache, now turned a malevolent monocle upon poor Archie. ‘It is I, Lord Parsley!’ he said in a low whisper.

‘I’m not Lord Parsley, I’m Archibald Nemesis,’ Archie said nervously. He had not expected to be greeted in such a peculiar manner.

‘Fool! It is I, Lord Parsley!’

‘Please stop calling me that!’

‘Fool?’

‘No, Lord Parsley.’

‘At last, we are on the same page!’

‘Are we? I suppose we are,’ Archibald said, perspiring anxiously. ‘Anyway, what I wished to know is, what are the duties I must perform? This is the first time I have ever been employed in any capacity.’

‘And it shall be the last!’

‘Oh, jolly good,’ Archibald said, ‘job-seeking is so tiring and awkward, you know. If I can just hold on to this position for the rest of my life, I’ll be very glad indeed.’

‘Your wish shall come true! Heheheheh.’

Archibald felt it was part of his duties to laugh at the Lord’s jokes, and so he did.

The next few days at Parsley Hall were somewhat odd. Archibald began to sense that all the servants looked upon him with mingled pity and sadness. It was almost as if they felt sorry for him. Which was uncanny, come to think of it, because his job so far had been rather pleasant. Sorting letters, making paper biplanes (Archibald had a knack for those), dilly-dallying in the rose-gardens with the parlour-maid — it was almost as though he were back at home.

But all good things must come to an end, and on Monday disaster struck. He had gotten up in the morning and gone to have breakfast with the servants, and he noticed that for some reason his plate of eggs and bacon were covered in fried mushrooms.

‘How I detest mushrooms,’ he said aloud. ‘The beastly little things with their floppy hats…’

‘Swap with you?’ Bertie the dim-witted footman said, jogging him in the elbow.

‘Jolly good idea.’ Archie brightened up at this act of kindness.

They swapped plates. No sooner had Bertie taken a mouthful of mushroom than he was suddenly seized with a sudden desire to dance around like a lunatic, screaming like a lunatic.

‘You must regain your composure, Albert! This is most improper!’ the butler said sternly. Bertie stabbed him with a fork and then proceeded to hurl himself out the window and into the rose-bushes. That was where they found his corpse, arms splayed out in a most grisly but oddly hilarious fashion.

Lord Parsley seemed oddly annoyed when he heard the news of the footman’s demise, and locked himself in his office for the rest of the day.

On Tuesday, Archibald was descending the spiral staircase carrying some office equipment in his arms — these consisting of some extremely heavy dictionaries and a bronze paperweight — when all of a sudden he glanced down and saw a masked figure carefully layering the steps below with banana peelings.

‘What do you think you’re doing?’ he shouted at the masked figure.

The masked figure looked up, saw Archibald, and then proceeded to flee the premises by throwing a smoke bomb and vanishing through a secret passage. Startled and angered, Archibald began to run down the steps towards where the stranger had disappeared, and slipped on the banana peelings.

Only by dropping everything he was carrying was he able to catch on to the railing and prevent himself from a certain demise (there were several flights of stairs below him). He watched in horror as the dictionaries and the paperweight fell straight down onto the butler’s head (the butler had heard Archibald shouting and was looking up to see what was going on, being the sort of butler who strongly disapproved of inappropriately improper behavior).

It took a good deal of time to scrape the butler’s remains off the priceless carpet that adorned the main hall, and everyone looked somewhat warily at Archibald from then on. Archibald thought this was extremely unfair. How could he be blamed if some silly prankster in a hood and mask kept startling him at inopportune moments?

On Wednesday, nothing happened. Well, except for that one moment when Archibald was admiring an old painting in the main hall and all of a sudden a knife flew past his ear and embedded itself into the afore-mentioned priceless work of art.

On Thursday, ominous thunder rumbled in the distance. Lord Parsley made Archibald run a few errands, such as ordering a large quantity of dynamite. The dynamite, the Lord explained, would be helpful if a large fire broke out in the local village. Archibald nodded, finding this somewhat eccentric.

On Friday, Archibald took a stroll around the manor’s gardens with a rather pretty parlour-maid in tow, chatting idly about nothing at all, when tragedy struck. More precisely, tragedy struck two o’clock as it fell from a window on the second floor and onto the poor parlour-maid’s head, in the shape of a grandfather clock. Archibald was deeply upset by this turn of events, and began to consider the possibility of resigning in order to become a nun.

However, he remembered in time that one of the prerequisites for becoming a nun was being a member of the gentle sex, and so he was able to dismiss this absurd idea from his mind.

On Saturday, Archibald awoke to find that someone had littered his bedroom with bear traps. ‘Not another one of those silly pranks!’ he said aloud with a deep sigh. He called for the servants, forgetting that he was technically one of them himself, and they all came to his rescue — well, they tried, at least.

After the last bear trap had snapped shut, Archibald stood atop his bed, aghast at the sight of all those gruesomely mangled servants. Being pragmatic, however, he used their dead selves as stepping stones to escape the confines of his bedroom, and after informing what remained of Parsley Hall’s resident staff of the unfortunate situation, he went straight to work , typing up all the letters that Lord Parsley wished him to type.

The Lord seemed to display a manly sadness at the news that Archibald was still alive. ‘Have you thought,’ he mused out loud as Archibald banged away at a rusty old Olivetti, ‘of writing a will?’

‘A will? What for? I have been disinherited, alas,’ Archibald said sadly. ‘And I have no heirs, no fortune, no property.’

‘What would you like to have written on your tombstone?’

‘Something not too gloomy, I hope,’ Archibald replied innocently, ‘like “Here lies Archibald Nemesis, who was nobody’s archnemesis”‘

‘Ah! Are you sure?’

‘Well, not really.’

And on Sunday, Archibald awoke in the winecellar, tied to a barrel. Looming over him like a postern of fate, Lord Parsley grinned maniacally.

‘Your final hour has come, my Arch-Nemesis!’ he chuckled evilly.

‘But I haven’t even had breakfast!’

‘See this!’ the Lord continued, pulling a stick of dynamite with a very long fuse from the inside of his abominable pink dressing-gown. ‘The barrel is filled with its brothers and sisters!’

‘Which barrel?’

‘The one to which I have ignominously bound you hand and foot, fool!’

‘Oh, that one,’ Archibald said, glancing around. ‘There are plenty of barrels here. You couldn’t possibly blame a fellow for being a tad confused.’

‘You must wonder,’ the Lord went on, ‘why you have been singled out for a horrible demise at my hands. You may not know me, but I know you. All shall be revealed!’

‘Before or after you blow me to bits?’

‘Before, of course, you impertinent knave! And now for the devastating truth: you are the third son of the Duke of Dimmerage!’

‘Actually — ‘ Archibald began.

‘Do not interrupt me! You seduced my daughter and then ran off with my mother! You fiend! Long have I awaited this moment –‘

‘Actually, I’m the fourth son of the Duke of Dimmerage,’ Archibald said, suddenly seeing clear for the first time since the beginning of this sordid affair, ‘and you must be talking about the third son of the Duke of Dimoorage.’

‘Sorry?’

‘Oh, it’s a mistake everyone makes. Dimmerage, Dimoorage, they sound almost the same. With all due respect, Lord Parsley, you have made a huge blunder.’

‘I never make blunders!’ Lord Parsley fumed.

‘There’s a first time for everything, you know.’

‘Perish the thought! Perish, vile Don Juan!’

‘I’m not even Spanish –‘

But the Lord had already grabbed the end of an extremely long fuse and lit it. And he left the cellar, closing the door behind him and plunging our innocent hero into darkness.

Darkness? Archibald, seized with a sudden thought, looked around to see if the light from the fuse was there.

And then he realized what had happened. ‘Oh, dear — ‘

The Lord, striding out into the garden with the firm intention to perform a victory dance, all the while giving the rising sun the glad eye, never even saw this unexpected twist coming. With a tremendous boom, he was blown sky-high as the dynamite in the inner pocket of his dressing gown suddenly exploded.

In his haste the Lord had lit the wrong fuse, much in the same way he had been attempting to kill the wrong man from the very start. And thus the awful events of Parsley Hall drew to an explosive close.

Some time later, with a barrel of dynamite still tied to his back, Archibald was walking across the countryside, with the full intention of throwing himself upon the mercy of his father, the Duke.

He made it up a hill that stood at the limits of the Duke’s lands, and from its heights he saw home in the distance. For a few moments, he looked at the beautiful mansion, in whose bosom he had been wont to frolic in younger days.

Melancholy and fatalism struck him there and then. ‘Alas, I cannot be forgiven for my sins,’ he cried out, altogether forgetting that he hadn’t done anything wrong at all. And so he turned his back on the scene.

This was the exact moment that the ropes binding him to the barrel finally gave way, and the barrel (still filled with dynamite) began to roll down the hill at great speed. And it so happened that the Duke had chosen this particular day to go riding, along with his second and third sons.

‘I think that’s a fox!’ the Duke said, excitedly (for, in addition to his afore-mentioned deafness, the Duke was somewhat blind)

‘Indeed!’ said the second son.

‘I don’t believe it,’ said the third.

Then the barrel rolled straight into the Duke’s horse and exploded, sending all three of them to Heaven without a return ticket.

Some time later, at the funeral, the gloomy Archibald and his somewhat jubilant brother Jeremy (who was, of course, the first son and thus was naturally the heir apparent) approached by the family lawyer, who shook his hand and said:

‘I have most distressing news to impart to the two of you.’

‘Oh, no!’ said Archibald.

‘You remember that Archibald here was disinherited, not long before the late Duke’s death?’

‘How could I forget?’ Archibald exclaimed. ‘It was the darkest hour of my life! Excluding this one, of course,’ he added hastily, for the sake of propriety.

Jeremy merely frowned, unsure what the lawyer was driving at.

‘Well, on that fateful day, I made a most awful mistake,’ the lawyer went on, wheezing asthmatically. ‘I gave the late Duke the wrong forms to sign!’

‘What?’

‘In an unprecedented blunder — well, of course, there was that other mistake I made when writing up your aunt Agatha’s will, which lead to her entire fortune being used for the creation of a chain of brothels across the East End of London — ‘

‘Get to the point, you blathering idiot,’ Jeremy said menacingly. Archibald thought this rather rude of him.

‘Well, in layman’s terms, instead of disinheriting Archibald, the late Duke had in fact disinherited you. By mistake, of course.’

‘WHAT?!’ Jeremy exploded. (Not literally, although one would be forgiven for thinking that this sort of thing ran in the family.)

‘And another thing: the Duke’s death was not an accident,’ said the private detective as he  suddenly emerged from underneath the table. ‘In the light of the evidence, the only one who had a motive was you, Jeremy Nemesis! You have heavy gambling debts and are being blackmailed by Russians who know of your many sexual misdeeds and your involvement in plots to blow up Parliament!’

‘The jig’s up, murderer,’ the police constable said, emerging from behind another conveniently-shaped piece of furniture. ‘You’ll swing for this!’

‘I’ll never surrender! All hail Satan!’ Jeremy said, and then he proceeded to slip and fall as he stepped on Archibald’s untied shoelaces. This allowed for a swift and efficient capture.

And, some time later, Archibald Nemesis, newly anointed Duke of Dimmerage, was eating his bacon and eggs while reading the Times. He raised an eyebrow at the headline: ‘JEREMY NIMESES HANGED FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY’.

‘Poor fellow,’ he sighed, ‘they couldn’t even get his name right. Ah, well, flesh is as grass and whatnot.’

The sun was shining through the bay windows, and Archibald was grateful. All his misfortunes had been but stepping stones to greater things. And who knew what further adventures the future held in store for him?

 

 

 

 

 

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Poem #2

Its tail lapping at the sea
The dragon mountain stands
Testament to eternity
Older than ever mortal man
Dreamt of; a memory of a savage age
When legends were reality
And the wilderness filled with rage.
Gone are the gods and monsters, so they say
But the dragon merely sleeps
Hidden in plain sights, she keeps
A watchful eye upon you and I
As we like mountains goats saunter
Taking yet another picture
To remind ourselves when we were back home
how far we had gone; to pride ourselves
On having survived; an easy ride
back to the airport, laden with memories
faces reddened by the cold Northern wind
still wondering what happened to the trees
that mades them seem blackened and thin
shrivelled up like parchment in a fire —
Poachers, perhaps, desecrating this wild place
A sure sign of humanity’s inhumanity to the earth
that gave it birth — But out the window of the plane
You see something go wrong, but nobody knows
What it could possible be — a flash of flame
The buildings below suddenly swept away
into the silent sea — The mountain itself
Suddenly rising from its resting place
shaking boulders to and fro — and as you go
As the plane rises into the beckoning clouds
You scramble for something — a camera, a phone
Anything to capture that moment — you tell yourself
It can only be a volcano — but then you know
As you see her rise from the avalanche, that this is no
Volcano now; it’s the impossible made flesh, a forgotten
Creature with a mind of its own — and you hear the moan
From those titanic jaws, the hurricane of flame
Tear through the air and strike the plane in its wing
We screamed together, as up became down and down became up
Tossed around and around like a storm in a teacup
For an end beyond imagining has awakened from the depths
We thought we were masterminds of our fate; but too late
We remembered the tales we had long forgotten
And as we crawled out of the wreckage, bleeding and torn:
We saw on the horizon

a mountain take flight.

Poem #1

So it has come to this —

the days stretched long and thin with bated breath

the misty clouds a harbinger of times to come

when all things are done and said

and the gentle rain settles down

upon the living and the dead

 

Should we have borne these things in mind

when the autumn evenings lay ahead

and summer’s parting lay behind

or should we have let them rest unsaid

 

So it has come to this — the winter’s kiss

Now rests heavily upon our trembling lips

We should have seen the signs — but we were blind

and the cruel curtain halts its fall for none

 

Should we have prepared for these long nights

These sunless days, whose darkness

echoes the darkness in our troubled minds

prematurely shaped by uncertain times

 

So it has come to this. We will endure

for the cold season has no cure

other than to love and laugh and sleep and sing

until the sun returns again

Till then — I shall remain.

 

 

 

 

A Preposterous Plot

The Baron hurled the dog out the window, where it ended up being smashed to smithereens on the pavement below. ‘You fiend!’ the heroine shrieked as the villain then proceeded to eat all the dog biscuits, his eyes wild with ecstasy.

‘Have no fear!’ George ejaculated, bursting into the room with all the tact of a bull in a china shop. He sliced off the Baron’s head with his mighty spork, and then fainted at the sight of blood. ‘Oh, George!’ the heroine sighed as she tried to revive him.

‘Halt!’ the King expostulated. ‘Treason! Treason of the highest order! String ‘em up, my merry men!’

‘Not while I still breathe!’ said a masked figure, suddenly popping out from beneath the floorboards. (These were very spacious floorboards.) He drew his rapier and plunged it into the King’s throat.

‘What ho?’ George said, finally coming to his senses, his head (still attached to his body, of course, unlike the late Baron’s, which had rolled under the sofa) resting in the care of the heroine’s loving arms. ‘I say, gosh, what a dreadful business! Charlotte, will you still marry me now that I am a vicious murderer?’

‘Silence, idiot!’ the masked figure bellowed, his blade dripping with royal blood. ‘This is no time for romantic subplots! Dramatic revelations are about to be made!’

Charlotte, losing her patience with the author’s nonsense, abandoned her paramour to a humiliating demise at the hand of rats, which had now started to crawl out from beneath the floorboards. (These were, as mentioned before, very spacious floorboards.) With a sudden and perfectly superfluous yell, she unmasked the masked figure.

‘The Baron!’ she gasped.

‘Aye, ‘tis I,’ the Baron leered, contemplating victory. ‘No one could have seen this coming!’

‘I certainly did not,’ Charlotte replied. Then she pulled off her own face, which had in fact been a mask all along. ‘For, you seen, I am the Baron! Begone, foul imposter!’

‘In that case,’ the Baron replied, pulling off his face, which had also been a mask all along, ‘my disguise is revealed! I am Charlotte! Begone, foul imposter!’

‘How did you know I was an imposter? By Gawd, you’ve got me,’ the real Baron said, pulling off his face a second time, revealing herself to be none other than that supremely manly hero and apple of the public eye, George Pumpkinton-Dawdley-MacDuffly-Squeezlebuttons, Esquire.

‘These plot twists are so clichéd,’ the King declared as he picked himself off the floor. (The floorboards being, as already mentioned twice before, so spacious that they now gave way to an entire army of nuns wearing plated armor and wielding chainsaws to the tune of ‘Galway Girl’)

‘I’ll be damned!’ George exploded. (Quite literally, in fact, since one of the nuns happened to throw a grenade in his direction. Since he was talking, it went right in his mouth and he swallowed it quite involuntarily, thus resulting in his almost instantaneous demise.)

‘No! Not George Pumpkinton-Dawdley-MacDuffly-Squeezlebuttons, Esquire!’ the nuns wailed. ‘Had we but known that it was George Pumpkinton-Dawdley-MacDuffly-Squeezlebuttons, Esquire, we would have never dared throw a grenade at George Pumpkinton-Dawdley-MacDuffly-Squeezlebuttons, Esquire, and now that George Pumpkinton-Dawdley-MacDuffly-Squeezlebuttons, Esquire, is dead, and that it was us who committed this foul deed, the bloody murder of George Pumpkinton-Dawdley-MacDuffly-Squeezlebuttons, Esquire, the only option left to us is death, for only death can atone for the sin which is the murder of George Pumpkinton-Dawdley-MacDuffly-Squeezle– ‘

‘If anyone says that name one more time,’ the King growled, ‘I will chew on the sofa!’

Charlotte looked at him oddly. ‘Oh, my God, can it be?’

‘Alas, you have seen through my flimsy disguise,’ the King said, and his head exploded into shredded latex as the dog emerged from inside its flimsy disguise.

‘Such a flimsy disguise!’ Charlotte swooned. ‘But! Oh! That means the King is dead! And the Baron threw him out of the window!’

‘I think it was actually you, technically speaking, who committed regicide,’ the dog replied. ‘Also, that implies that you were trying to kill me and eat my dog biscuits.’ He drew a gun and pointed it at Charlotte’s head.

‘Bad dog! Heel!’

‘Good idea,’ the dog said, and shot Charlotte in the ankle. Charlotte went crashing down through the floorboards. (Which, as you doubtless already know, were exceedingly spacious in their design.)

‘Good riddance,’ said the Baron’s head. ‘But, you know, I was actually the one who threw you out the window.’

‘Was it? I must have lost track of the plot at some point,’ the dog mused.

‘I think calling it a ‘plot’ would be overly generous,’ the Baron’s head shrugged. ‘Also, how am I even shrugging right now?’

‘Poetic licence,’ the dog replied. And that, as the Vicar said the next day, contemplating the carnage, was that.

The Wizard of Words

Snarlzog, the Great Evil Overlord, sat upon his throne of bones, contemplating victory. He had read TVTropes’ article on the subject of being a genre-savvy villain, and had deftly avoided every trap imaginable to man.

He wielded the MacGuffin of Infinite Power. He had succeeded where so many had failed. All his enemies were either ___ or pacified, all his allies richly rewarded.

But as he pondered the absolute nature of his success, a small gnome (wielding merely a pencil) materialized out of thin air. Snarlzog immediately pointed the MacGuffin of Infinite Power at the stranger, and willed destruction upon this sudden apparition.

‘Why are you pointing at me?’ the stranger asked.

‘I have the – Wait. No!’ Snarlzog suddenly realized that there ___ nothing in his hand.

‘Oh, I crossed that out,’ the gnome said cheerfully. ‘Seemed like an awful lot of power. Not terribly safe, so I figured I might as well dispose of it. Say, you seem awfully upset. Do you want a cookie?’

_____, true to his tradition of leaving nothing to chance, summoned his army with a snap of his fingers. They surrounded the gnome, weapons gleaming and ready to kill him.

‘Put down that pencil! Now!’

The gnome dropped his magic weapon. Then he winked at you. ‘Good day to you, reader. As you no doubt have guessed by now, I am a master of metatextual magic. Observe! I shall take a word from the second paragraph, another word from the second piece of dialogue, and then a third one from the seventh paragraph. Now to put them all together, in the right order, of course….’

Snarlzog was dead.

The army gasped and gaped at the corpse of their Evil Overlord, allowing the gnome to make a quiet and unobstrusive escape. And as the gnome hopped onto his faithful Shetland poney and rode off at a quiet pace into the sunset, he thought aloud: ‘Verily, the word is mightier than the sword. Who’d have thought that removing a single letter could make such a difference? Ah, well, my job here is done.’

And so the Wizard of Words continued upon his endless journey, everlastingly optimistic, forever undefeated. And so our story — for now — draws to a close.

Preorders open for ‘Outfox’

After years in the works, I finally got my first novel, Outfox, into Smashword’s Premium Catalogue! It’s now available for pre-orders at most ebook retailers (OverDrive, Kobo, Apple Books,  Barnes & Noble, and of course Smashwords)

Release date: October 29th, 2018

You can read my author interview at https://www.smashwords.com/interview/PHWade 

Outfox_cover_final

London, 2047. Hoping to eradicate crime altogether, Edna Stuart inaugurates an experimental police squad equipped with performance-enhancing technology. One of them, Howard Palmer, saves the life of Ruth Mackenzie, a small child with superhuman abilities. This is an act which will have greater ramifications than anyone could have expected, but meanwhile turns Palmer into a national hero and helps usher in the future of British law enforcement.

Twenty years later, Ruth is all grown up and has joined the London branch of the Enhanced Police Brigade, following in Palmer’s footsteps. But on Halloween, things are about to take a strange turn as a group of mercenaries attempt a full-scale assault upon a corporation controlled by the world’s smartest man.

As London turns into a battlefield, Ruth will have to finally come to terms with her true parentage if she hopes to survive. And Howard Palmer will finally come face to face with his greatest enemy yet : pure, unbridled anarchy…

Becoming an indie author!

Well, I’ve been working on a British scifi action thriller for quite some time — several years and two drastic rewrites! — and now I’m finally at the editing/publishing stage.  (At one point I was seriously considering making a short film based on my early draft, but the cost would have been prohibitive.)

After weighing the pros and cons, I’ve decided I’ll be publishing Outfox as an ebook on Smashwords.com — but hold your horses, I’m not ready yet! There’s still plenty to be done (pruning out the last typos, marketing, becoming more visible on social networks, writing my own author bio, tweaking my cover art…) before I can unleash it upon an unsuspecting world.

That’s all for now. I’ll be keeping you posted on how it goes. Cheers.

water droplet digital wallpaper
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