'However great a man's natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once.'
-Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The Lost Diplomat

The days are long and hot here. Even the night crawls onto the land like a shunned dog, creeping forwards with its tail between its legs; finding no rebuke from the sun it settles, until the bright rays beat it back once more.

Day after day I was driven through the crowded streets to work, and because I didn't have to concentrate on the roads I looked out of the window and saw the rubbish on the side of the roads, the beggars' faces composed to invoke guilt and pity, and the people in their bright colours who all seemed dressed the same, with the same faces, selling souvenirs that look the same – all so uniform they could have been made in one vast factory. On the streets was the organised chaos of ant farms and bee hives, it made my eyes ache.

The embassy building was cool, with polished floors and great spinning fans that put me in mind of helicopters. When I walked beneath them they seemed to slow and the world rotated around me. I felt still at the centre of it, still and detached. I could be the sanest person in this country, or the most mad.

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Closed Hands, Blind Eyes

"He was older than the days he had seen and the breaths he had drawn. He linked the past with the present, and the eternity behind him throbbed through him in a mighty rhythm to which he swayed as the tides and seasons swayed."

He reads these lines several times before putting the book down. He places it on a flimsy, fold-down table nestled tightly into his fat gut. He opens another packet of complimentary peanuts as the head of the big metal bird dips towards the red ground below. A gentle arcing descent begins; a 22 degree left side banking manoeuvre that sweeps aside the biggest peaks of the landscape. They were mountain landscapes that grew tall enough to whisper in the ear of God until someone took a plane up and found the sky empty.

A dull thud of rubber on tarmac signals his defeat of 'the Dark Continent,' His heart strains against the inside of his rib cage and he mistakes it for the throbbing in the quote from his book, and doesn't recognise it as the early onset heart disease that it is.

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Vault

"Jeez, it's hot in here", said Joe 'Breaker' Madsen to nobody in particular, as he continued working with the laser cutter to bore the white-hot lock-bouncing hole in the bank vault door. Sweat was running freely now, down into his eyes and down his back. Normally he wouldn't notice, but for some reason today it was an especially humid day at the office. This was, he'd decided before coming out tonight, to be his last job. Too many close calls lately and there were some new guys joining the crew who he didn't feel right about. The game had changed a lot down the years, getting harder and tougher on an old lag like Breaker. And he wanted out with his hard-earned reputation intact, and to finally put his feet in the sand of retirement for good, free and clear.

The job had gone smoothly so far, exactly to plan, just the way he liked it. Following the usual several months of scoping, casing the joint and using his best guys to work the computer hacks, they had bust their way into the bank vault, like taking candy from a baby as the saying goes. Not much in the way of security, this was - after all - a hick bank in lil' biddy hick-town, but Breaker and his crew never left anything to chance.

They'd come in the front as always, posing as cops investigating the alarm which never went off, then knocked over the single guard on the way in with a horse tranquiliser. No killing on Breaker's watch, not ever. No sense in taking life when you don't need to, only when things get desperate or outta hand. So a nice five hour headache for our boy would do the trick, and everyone goes home happy.

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The Tree of Return

Snow squeaked as it compressed under foot, and the glare of it was brighter than usual to my raw eyes. My sister clutched my upper arm in a firm grip as we walked, taking half my weight and still crying. At times I couldn't tell if it was the snow that gave way, or my knees.

I had never been into the Wise Man's tent before, there were some who never would, and they were the lucky ones. We got to the tent flap and my sister gently released me, steadying me as she took away her support. Older than me and with crow's feet spreading from the edges of her eyes, I always saw myself in her face; and her grief was a reflection of my own.

Straightening my back I gathered my thoughts and emotions, and forced myself to recollect that I was here for a purpose. I could still fix this.

Entering Amagaq's tent alone, as all who seek the Wise Man must, I breathed in air thick with cloying smoke.

From the darkness a deep voice that creaked like the trees invited me to sit, and I obeyed.

News travels fast in the villages, but not as fast as I had when I'd received word of what had happened. But the Wise Man did not need to listen to the rumours on the wind to know why I had come.

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- Belief Beyond Hope, A Script in Verse

 Editor's Note: - Verse-drama doesn't get a great deal of attention these days, and that seems a pity. As former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has said on the subject:

'Far from poetry and theatre being opposed, when combined they can result in some of the most arresting work ever created for the stage.'



Belief Beyond Hope

 

            A small space. We are told a story.

           This story begins in, of all places, a Comic Book store.

            A Comic Book store with only two patrons. 

            George is reading Maus. Jeremy's looking at the rack.

            George, a young lady, with a tremendous appetite for pop-literature.

            And Jeremy, a man-child, with a tremendous appetite for women.

            Jeremy looks at George. George gives him a smile and goes back to her comic.

             Jeremy maybe mistook her comic as a sign of quirkiness.

            George maybe mistook his look for a threat...

            Jeremy looks at George. George looks back.

            And Jeremy's heart began to race

            And George's did the same.

            Both tried to look 'cool'.

            [Jeremy looks at George. George punches him in the face and exits.]

             [Jeremy lifts himself up.]

            Jeremy            Let the games begin.

            Not the best start.

            Some would say, it was enough.

            But not Jeremy White.

            Who was driven by the delusion he could (and would) overcome

            Anything. Everything.

             It's hard to say where this began.

            Probably, without a father, his only guidance came from movies,

            Specifically, his childish obsession with: It's A Wonderful Life.

            Which convinced him he could, of course, catch the moon.

            He, of course, missed the point.

            But then, of course, he was a man-child.      

            He soon returned to his dilapidated flat,

            And awoke his flatmate with his troubles.

 

            Jeremy           I think I'm in love, Greg.

             Greg                Well, get back to me when you're sure.

             Jeremy            How can you ever be sure?

             Greg                I don't know. Did you do the dishes, Jeremy?

             Jeremy           No, listen to me. I think she could be- … The One.

             Greg                How many ones does one man get? Because my

                                      understanding of Maths suggests it's only one.

             Jeremy          Don't bring reason into this, you heartless bastard!

                                     This is different/        

            Greg             /They always are. Go to bed, or do the dishes. Your

                                    choice.

             [ George rolls over.]

             George hadn't thought about Jeremy at all.

            She gave him the same thought she'd given a bumblebee.

            Before she'd swatted it.

            When it crossed her path.

            Earlier that day.

 

            Jeremy           Listen to me. She's 'The One'... she's 'The One'.

             Greg                Did you just quote Robbie Williams at me?

            Jeremy           I didn't even talk to her, and she decked me.

            Greg                And you're taking that to mean...?

            Jeremy           That shows she feels that- connection. Otherwise, she would've just walked away, wouldn't she? Man, her skin was so soft. Even on her knuckles. It was like being caressed by a silk handkerchief.

            Greg                I think. Maybe. You've thought about this too much.

            Jeremy            No. You can't stop me. I will overcome any obstacle.

            Greg                I don't really care, mate. I just want you to do the dishes.

            Jeremy           Nothing can stop our love!

            Greg                Okay. But have you done the dishes?

            Jeremy           … No.

            Greg                Could you?

            Jeremy            But nothing can stop our/

            Greg                /Jeremy.

            Jeremy             Okay- wait. Why didn't you do them?

            Greg                Well, I'm stoned. Like really- really stoned.

 

                                   [ Jeremy shakes his fist a bit and exits.]

Read more: - Belief Beyond Hope, A Script in Verse

Fearless - Chapter 6

Evening

   Within half an hour of The Falcon leaving the Airdock at Whitby Eva had finished unpacking and arranged the few belongings she had brought with her in the cabin when a knock came at the door.

'Enter.' She said sharply. The door was slowly pushed open to reveal the small, shaking form of Josiah, the Cabin Boy.

'The Captain wants to see you miss' he said in a shaky voice. Clearly something about talking to her or acting on the orders of The Captain worried him. Eva presumed it was the latter, given the way she had seen The Captain deal with the boy in Hull.

'Very well, then. Lead the way'. The boy simply nodded and turned on his heel before walking swiftly up the companionway to the uppermost deck.

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Fearless - Chapter 5

Rendezvous

Two days after their first meeting Eva Wood was once more stood waiting, at the direction of the mysterious Captain, and once again she cursed his poor timekeeping. The day after their meeting, as she had walked through the Hotel's lobby she had been stopped by one of the desk clerks. He had strode up to her and said;

'Miss Dixon?' Recognising the false name she was staying under she answered him and took the envelope he was holding. When she opened it she found it contained a note, written in the same spidery hand as her previous summons. It said simply:

"We Accept. You and I shall travel together."

The only other thing the envelope contained was a ticket for the next morning's mail coach to Whitby.

Read more: Fearless - Chapter 5

Fearless - Chapter 4

The Falcon

As The Captain left the Tavern he drew his coat collar up around his exposed neck attempting to fight off the chill wind that blew through the Town's streets, despite the warmth of the day which still longingly lingered in the streets. He stopped and slowly looked up and down the narrow cobbled street before slowly making his way through the gathering fog, trailing smoke behind him from his smouldering pipe.

As he turned a corner he stopped, and lifting up one of his hob nailed boots tapped the bowl of his pipe against his heel, emptying it of ash and sending several sparks drifting through the still air. He paused, watching them dance; small lights of warmth in this otherwise cold world, they slowly spun, then dropped to the cobblestones and he walked on.

Read more: Fearless - Chapter 4

Fearless - Chapter 3

The Mission

A ripple of fear travelled along Eva's spine as she sat there in the presence of these people. The thin man sat across the table from her, smiling, his face hadn't shifted an inch since she had entered. He was sat with his elbows on the table top, arching his fingers, calmly contemplating the revolver she still held inches from his contented face, as though he did not fear his possibly imminent death.

She had seen a large man standing beside the door, and with him a strange, stooping companion who had been fumbling with the lock; one of whom was now stood behind her, pressing the barrel of a gun against the back of her head. It was a man who had spoken with an icy chill in his voice as he threatened her, as if he could kill her and then sleep without a worry.

Read more: Fearless - Chapter 3

Fearless - Chapter 2

Chapter 2: First Meetings


Military Intelligence Service Headquarters, Whitehall, London

2nd September 1887

'Ah, Agent wood, come in, come in. Please sit down.' Eva found herself being ushered into a lavishly decorated office. The sole occupant of which was a small, bookish looking man sat behind a large mahogany desk, which seemingly served only to increase the impression of his smallness and to distance himself from his visitors. As she lowered herself into one of the two high backed chairs placed before the desk the strange man lifted his head and stared at her through a pince-nez which greatly magnified his eyes. He placed a manila coloured folder on the top of his cavernous desk as he began to speak.

'I'm not sure how much you've been told already but permit me to introduce myself: I am N. Just N. I shall be your immediate superior, you shall report to me and only to me after each and every mission. Do you understand' N asked her.

'I do, I was told about every aspect of my role as an intelligence agent during my training' Eva quickly replied.

'Very well' he continued 'in this file' tapping the folder on his desk 'you will find details on every aspect of the mission you are about to undertake, but I'm going to have to give you some background. As you know, six months ago General Leonairde seized power in a Coup D'état, declaring himself emperor Leonairde.'

Read more: Fearless - Chapter 2