Raymond Walker


 

It looks like what was once called "Written in the Stars" will be my next  published novel. It is nearly complete and I am really quite pleased with it. I do not yet have a title for the novel and until I do it will remain "written in the Stars" but do not expect for a second for it to be published as that. I will let you know the true title once it is finaly finished. I hope that everyone likes it.

 

Soon to come is;  "He who walks on Ancient Ground Walks with its Spirits"

This will be a compendium of the Kilmartin stories all gathered in the one place. The full trilogy complete as well as another short story and a story from me about the area. It will only be available in hardback as a collectors edition and as far as I am concerned it looks pretty good. It will be a couple of months yet until it is released but as soon as it is I will post a link here.

 There are currently three on the go, two of which are in a little disrepair; The first, Somerled, has had a few misfires and I am still unsure wither to write it as historical fantasy or fiction though at the moment I err towards the fantasy, but both proceed in two different camps until I make up my mind. The second is Moonchild, which though a novel will be in its own way a sequel to "A River of Tears"
The third which so far has been very easy to write is currently called "Written in the stars" which, though suitable is a title that is a little to twee for me even for what purports itself to be a romance.
It is going great and the fourth and fifth chapters will appear here, under "Stay with me for a while" within the next few weeks. Probably together which will make me late for the fourth instalment and early for the fifth.
Also I have a small shadow fourth project which to be honest I am spending little time on  but it is kind of the one I am working on when I go slow with one of the others but letting you into a secret here it is a biblical horror story and is really going rather well and may well become more than just what I write when I am losing with the others. Wait and see.

 The Moonchild.

The Moonchild will almost certainly be the next book that I produce and will be a follow up to "A River of Tears" although it will take a completely different style and format to the first volume which essentialy consisted of five (long) short stories and a novella. This time around it will be a novel though it will be made up of six or seven different stories that intertwine and that have a shared beginning and ending. It stays true (I think) to the first volume though is far more complex which i hope does not let it down . I do not think that it will and i think people will be happy with the combining theme. It will still be a work of romance and fantasy coupled with an ecological background peopled by strange and diverse creatures not the least of whom will be we humans.

It is obviously still some time away, "The Secert Inside" is only just out and I am hoping that people will buy it. Of course it is a very different beast of a novel and i would not like them confused. Therefore it will be a while until "Moonchild" is out.

 

A well it is not unusual for me but the blurb has changed and i think the changes suit it. If you wish you can tell me if you agree.

The new blurb is;

In The dark depths of a Scots winter, A Pale Shadow Creeps. From Its tomb of stones and broken bones; It rises into the cold and forsaken night. This shade, has a dire purpose. For it to live again its place must be taken beneath The Cairn from which it rose.

Whosoever wakened it or one of their choices shall take its place beneath the wet sod of the Argyll hills.

Rob is too busy enjoying his new home. He worries about the novel that he needs to write, the money he needs to earn and the new love that he has found. Threats from shades, shadows or wraiths are not something he takes seriously.

But he should.

Raymond walker again jumps genres with ease creating a very current ghost story with a rather Faustian feel. A romance that will leave you spellbound whilst darkness falls and shadows haunt ancient Scotland, Its standing stones cairns and sepulchres.

Rob thinks about love and life and money and never worries about the scratching at the door, the howling in the night and the very strange dreams he has been having.

But he should.

 

 The next to be published will be "A Pale Shadow creeps" The blurb is:

In the midst of a storm filled Scots winter; A Pale Shadow Creeps from Its tomb of stones and broken bones and rises into the night. Its place must be taken beneath the Cairn from which it rose to be truely free and living. Whosoever wakened it shall take its place beneath the wet sod of the Argyll hills.
Rob is too busy enjoying his new home. He worries abo...ut the novel that he needs to write, the money he needs to earn and the new love that he has found.
Threats from ghosts, shadows or wraiths are not someting he takes seriously. As all takes a turn for the worse things have not become so bad that he thinks he has some thing to fear other than himself.
But he does.
Fear is in us for a reason; to keep us safe. To make sure we run rather than fight back.
and should Rob be afraid?
Oh yes he should.

 Feathers is still in the making so to speak, though it is close to completion; barring some editing, the thing i hate the most, but not long now. Meanwhile their is a feature length version of a shiver published which i think everyone will enjoy.

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Feathers; the new novel from Raymond Walker; coming early spring 2012

Read on for an exclusive extract: Feathers

 

Rob flopped heavily down onto the couch and stared round the room surveying all the jobs he would have to do in the coming weeks. The move had gone well as these things go; there were no major disasters no unexpected costs. Yes it had went well though robs exhausted body and aching back argued otherwise.

Mae flopped into place beside him easily as tired as he was though she seemed to have slightly more stamina as she had went to the bother of making them both a cup of coffee before they sat. He could not have faced even that small task further "well that went quite well she said with a deep sigh.

His gaze took in the damaged coving of the living room ceiling the mess of the walls the mess of the floors and all the empty and still full cardboard boxes and carrier bags that lay strewn around the large living room. Oh yeah it was easy he replied his voice dripping with sarcasm then he smiled and looked round at her but in a few months time it will all be worth it.

Yes it will she says laying down her coffee and kissing him.

It will be worth it as we will be together.

He smiles in return, yes it will be worth it, and you are well worth all the bother.

When they had first reached the new house much earlier in the day both had been dismayed at the mess of it. They had only seen the inside of the house briefly and though they realised that it was a mess had not registered just how bad it had been. They had wanted it so much, not just the house, but the area, the extra room and to finally be together. After looking at quite a few this one seemed a godsend, all that they wanted.

 

The house was large and rather older than they had hoped to buy but both noticed the potential it held. The surrounding countryside was beautiful and though they had wanted a house nearer Lochgilphead the closest town for ease of shopping and for going out the odd night they wished to. This one fitted in all other ways; it was private being at the end of a short tree shrouded driveway. It was near a sea loch, which he really had hoped for wishing to own a small boat at some time in the future and was much larger than either of their previous flats.

Although there was only going to be the two of them staying there initially both had two children from previous marriages one of whom would be coming to stay with them permanently when she finished college in the summer. The others would come and go on visits and for the odd weekend. They did need the room though just in case they all decided to visit at the same time. Both were fond of their children and wished to provide a comfortable retreat both for the children and for themselves when it was needed. This house was ideal with its three large bedrooms and giant living room. Their earlier flats were comfortable and in much better repair but decidedly smaller.

That was not the main attraction though. The main attraction was to get away from their respective pasts, get away and make a fresh start. Their own home not one they had shared with anyone else not one where they had entertained previous lovers or dreamt of those gone by. Simply their own home and a home of their own.

 

When they walked in upon arrival both thought they had done the wrong thing, everything was much worse than they had remembered. They glanced at each other frequently on the drive while passing with boxes or furniture and each could see it in the others faces. It was just not as they remembered it. Both were very disappointed. The house was much dirtier, the walls and ceilings more badly marked and there was a pervading damp smell throughout the place.

NO matter what they thought or the dismayed glances the deal was done and so with no choice they got all their stuff from the van into the house, moving the odd pile of rubbish that had been left lying around the old house to make room. Rob was disgusted at the number of what he considered very big spiders that scuttled away as he did so. He hated spiders but Mae would never let him crush them as he wanted to there being some old superstition she had heard that killing spiders was bad luck. So leaving them to her she would chase after them and having no fear or revulsion of them at all would gather them up and deposit them outside.

Just to find their way back in Rob thought but said nothing, in truth he was grateful that she did this. As; though he was not in the truest sense scared of them he felt a deep loathing that had caused him to kill pretty much every spider he had come across before he met her. He did not like himself being like that for deep inside his head where he considered things without disgust or loathing he thought them just spiders that had as much right to live as any other insect or indeed animal or human.

In his own way he paid Mae back for cosseting him against the rampaging spider population by protecting her from her biggest fear that of birds and feathers. He thought it a very strange fear and rather silly but then knew she probably thought the same of his of spiders. He would watch out for dead birds and feathers lying here and there when they were walking and try to make sure she did not see them and shoo friendly pigeons ducks and gulls away when they got to close.

 

So that day they had spent moving, cleaning tidying; trying to rid the house of the horrible smell and having made a little leeway had now collapsed thoroughly exhausted.

How do you fancy just heading off to bed when we have finished this he asked motioning his head towards his half-empty coffee cup? I am completely knackered

Oh I think that’s a very good idea, he saw her leer at him and guessed what was coming, but of course she said it’s our first night in our very own house. She burst out laughing when she heard him groan theatrically. What are you too tired she asked? I thought you said you were never to tired for that?

Well my dear I think this is the exception that proves the rule.

He notices the dark circles under her eyes and the fine lines that encircle her eyes have grown deeper and realises that she has been working all day just as hard as he has, she must be exhausted as well.

Ok he thinks, two can play that game, yes you are right, I really am tired but I don’t think I will ever be tired enough to refuse. You will just have to go up before me and find your sexiest clothes, put on your make up, you are right, I am sure you will entice me. Oh and have a shower first will you dear?

 

 

 

 

 

I can just imagine you standing there, your freshly washed hair hanging around your shoulders, your stockings on oh and that new underwear set you got, the one with the black Basque, you know the one that you complain takes much longer to put on than it does to come off. Oh yes I am sure you can do it.

In fact now that I’m thinking about it, I think you’re really in for a night of high passion and I suppose it is a new house and we really should christen it. So you just go get ready and I’ll be up in about half an hour. That should give you time enough.

Humph, that’ll be chocolate she says smiling. You’ll just get to sleep and lump it.

Well to be honest darling after all I asked you to do, I would be sound sleep before you even got out of the shower. Actually I am so knackered that I think I would probably be asleep before you got in the shower Will it wait till the morning?

Oh of course it will darling, you know I was just winding you up, I do know how tired you must be, I can hardly keep my eyes open as it is and I did much less than you.

He reaches round and kisses her long and deeply, you do know that I would really like to?

I find you so sexy he said running his hand up her jumper and over her naked back. I really am just completely done in.

She smiles back at him as she pulls away, don’t worry, I know.

I love you.

Let’s go sleep he says pushing his hands down and levering himself to his feet; forcing himself to stand his back and knees aching deeply.

They make their way upstairs and he says, I’ll go to the toilet first and do my teeth, you can check the room for any more spiders while I’m away.

He tidies and washes in the bathroom returning as clean as he is likely to get that night. I really should shower he says as she walks from the room, but I really am too tired. She just says me too- we’ll shower in the morning. Did you check he asks as the bathroom door shuts behind her, all clear she shouts from inside.

She still can’t understand his silly fear of spiders, they are only silly wee insects after all, now birds she thinks and shivers.

He strips and climbs into the bed waiting for her, despite his tiredness he will not go to sleep without at least kissing her good night and telling her that he loves her.

She gets back and jumps in beside him holding him close while they kiss deeply.

I love you he says and she holds closer to him.

She feels him stirring despite himself and says, oh perhaps I am going to get lucky after all. Afraid not he says with a smile. Sure?

Sure.

They lay on their backs perhaps the strangeness of the new surrounding or just unfamiliar noises of the new house or countryside and despite their obvious tiredness do not fall asleep straight away.

Within minutes of the lights being put out they hear scratching and scrabbling noises coming from above their heads. He turns the light back on to check it is not some form of new giant clawed spider on the ceiling above them but all the time knowing what it is and that’s just mice in the attic.

Its just mice, he says switching the light off again and settling back down to sleep. You always end up with field mice in the wall spaces and in the attic out here in the country.

Well we have to get rid of them she says, can’t we scare them out or chase them away. Not really he says, as far as I remember from staying on the farm you really only have three choices, you trap them or poison them, get a cat or just put up with it.

A cats always the best idea, because once the cats smell is in the house then the mice go where the cat isn’t which is not in the house. I don’t want the house smelling of cat. Oh you won’t smell the cat, well as long as its female and you’re better with a female anyway as they are normally the best hunters. Male cats don’t smell neither if they are neutered. But I don’t really like cats. Well as far as I can remember then you either buy traps or just put up with them, they are only little field mice anyway. Well they don’t sound that little to me she says looking at the ceiling and it is true they really are quite loud but he doesn’t even want to think that they may have rats and so says oh that’s just the echo on the wood.

Do you want me to buy mousetraps the next time I’m in town?

Well I suppose you will have to then. Well not necessarily, remember its years since I stayed on the farm perhaps you get some kind of repellent these days that we can just put up there and that’ll get rid of them.

I will see what I can get. But if there is nothing like that then will I get traps

Yes I suppose so she says obviously not liking the idea of killing the mice but preferring it to the scratching that was going on above their heads.

Can you get ones that don’t kill them just trap them so we can let them go once we take them outside.

I have no idea but if you can then what use would that be for they will just come back in once you let them go.

Well I suppose so but I don’t like the idea of killing them.

I will see what I can I get once I next go to town, meanwhile lets get some sleep, mice or no mice I will sleep soundly and with a further kiss and a whispered I love you they both drift into sleep.

He wakes mid morning the next day barely recalling that they had mice but remembering all the other things he has to do around the house. He is on his own and on listening he hears the sound of the shower running in the bathroom. He is both surprised and delighted to find on the bedside cabinet beside him a warm cup of coffee, which she has obviously made for him before going into the shower.

All his thoughts of the work ahead of him in the day melt away as he thinks of how much he loves her and how good she is to him. These thoughts are still in his head as she walks through the door her hair wrapped in a bath towel but wearing nothing else. She pulls the towel free and drops it to the floor as still wet she jumps onto the bed and lying on top of him her hair soaking both his face and the covers. She kisses him and then levering herself onto her elbows says; you have a promise to keep.

He looks back at her blankly for a second before remembering what she means.

Oh I think I am still rather tired and sore. She puts on a sad and hurt face

With a smile he says but I will see what I can do despite my infirmity and with that despite the pain that still holds strong in his back he grabs her waist and turns her onto her back in one fluid movement.

Oh I might just manage it he says looking down at her lying naked beneath him.

 

 

 

Mousetraps and cats and poisons are not thought of at all that day lost in the many tasks that they have to try and make the house look decent as quickly as possible. It is dinnertime before they know it and they have a sandwich and a coffee sitting in their new dining room staring out at the overgrown tangle that may one day again be called a garden.

The early autumn evening is lovely and in the distance they can just see the flicker of the setting sun on the loch in the far distance.

Mae gets up from their sitting place and starts to close the windows against the early evening chill as rob drags himself to his feet and starts clearing the boxes and bags and furniture in what at sometime in the future they will call their living room.

 

 

He promises himself that it will be a living room before he retires to bed that night and makes good on his promise finishing at ten thirty having put some stuff away but mainly just moving it to other rooms and messing them instead.

He collapses on the same couch he did the night before equally as weary and his back paining him more than ever. Mae again despite having been just as busy again supplies him with a coffee and they retire to their bedroom she again checking for spiders as he brushes his teeth before sleep.

When they turn out the light they again hear the scrabbling and scratching from the ceiling of their room and Mae wonders why they have not heard it earlier. They go around mainly at night, nocturnal, says rob not really knowing wither they are but thinking that he might have read that once or seen it on a documentary but really just not wanting to talk about it. Anyway we were mainly working downstairs and wouldn’t have heard them on the ceiling.

Oh sorry, of course, I love you darling she says kissing him. He doesn’t know wither they are quieter that night or if he is just so tired but he falls asleep quickly and doesn’t stir until the next morning.

The sunlight wakes him streaming from the window through the thin curtains and onto his upturned face Mae lies beside him snoring softly and he smiles at the noise. She snores every night but it is quiet and quite comforting it rarely disturbs him and then only when he is sleeping so lightly that something else would have anyway. Sometimes she snorts in her sleep but even that he only finds endearing. Anyway he thinks to himself, you are probably much worse, he guesses this to be true having been told that he rarely snores but that when he has been drinking he makes up for all the quiet nights with a symphony of drunken snoring notes.

He is surprised, she is usually awake before him though she sometimes goes back to sleep without making him a coffee knowing that it would only get cold waiting for him to wake anyway. Still it surprises him as she usually then stirs immediately upon him waking. Well it’s about time she got a coffee in bed rob he thinks pushing himself from the bed and wandering naked down the stairs. When he returns to the room coffee made she stirs and says thanks darling fixing her pillow and pushing herself upright to drink her coffee.

Are you ok he asks?

Yes fine she says just tired thanks for the coffee.

No problem, did you sleep well?

Well I did when I got to sleep but the mice kept me awake for ages.

I never even heard them last night; I must’ve been really knackered.

Oh you were you did so much yesterday that’s why I didn’t wake you, just let you sleep.

Can you go and find if you get repellent today or if not get traps, any kind.

He is surprised and knows that they must have kept her awake for ages if he is that determined to get rid of them she is willing to have them killed and so smiles ruefully.

I cant I’m afraid darling, were not in the big city now, no where here is open on a Sunday. I’m afraid it’s tomorrow before I can get anything but I promise I’ll go then.

Although sunny the day is cold but they have another coffee sitting on a bench in the overgrown garden and plan the tasks they will carry out that day. The day passes in what has become their usual haze of cleaning moving boxes and trying to make the place liveable a work that is only broken by dinner and the find of a beautiful painting in a broken frame a the back of a cupboard they are tidying.

Rob wishes he had the Internet, it is so lovely he thinks it must be valuable but knowing that of course had it been then it would never have been left.

Never mind he thinks, worthless it may be but it is lovely, he will have it framed and hang it again in the house where it obviously once upon a time hung. Mae does not like it as she rarely does anything that depicts birds but it is the picture of an owl perched on a branch but seemingly in a byre or hay loft as there is wood behind it. Strange as it does not seem to be on a perch but on a natural tree branch.

It was however beautiful, every feather clearly pictured and seeming exact, its eyes, wide as owls often are with a hint of the camera and picture taker in the reflection of them.

And that was how the day went until again they retired for their third day in their new home.

Although they again heard the mice that night rob fell asleep easily, perhaps tiredness, perhaps the memory of his youth on a farm making him remember these noises were ones he feel asleep with every night and he found them comforting rather than annoying or frightening.

Mae was not reacting in the same way- rather the noises not only irritated her but started to frighten her.

From a deep sleep that night she wakened rob to a racket going on immediately above them. Once wakened he jumped almost from the bed.

 

What the fucks that?

That’s the mice Rob, is there nothing we can do, its driving me up the wall.

He realised it was mainly just the surprise of him being woken but knew the noise was far louder than it should have been.

Oh fuck this, he says getting from bed and grabbing the broom he had left in the hall earlier hit it against the ceiling hard twice.

Everything fell silent.

I think that’s cured it he said propping the broom against the wall and returning to bed. Now get to sleep he said to Mae pushing himself back into the pillows. If they disturb you again, just use the broom.

He knew he sounded irritable but was so tired he didn’t care and quickly fell back asleep despite Mae’s obvious discomfort.

She woke him again sometime later shaking his shoulder vigorously.

What he asked

Then it dawned on him, there was no noise, nothing, what is it now?

She looks hurt, sorry rob I know you are tired but you have to hear this. Hear what Mae, get to sleep, its dead quiet.

Yes it is now she said, they started again after you had fallen asleep and I did what you said.

Well duh he said it obviously worked did you have to wake me to tell me that.

Not that no.

Rob just listen.

She took the groom and hit the handle on the ceiling twice quite loudly.

What he asked.

She held a finger to her lips then as he was about to tell her to stop being stupid and get to sleep he heard it. It was quiet but quite distinct.

He heard two scratches on the ceiling and two only about the same time apart as the broom hits.

He said coincidence as she did it again, twice quickly then a space and again.

He started to lie down as he heard it; two scratches quickly then a space then another.

Oh its just mice Mae get some sleep.

What circus mice, trained mice? Counting mice?

Look Mae its coincidence just get some sleep- there’s nothing I can do about it tonight anyway.

Reluctantly Mae turns out the light and thankfully though Rob lies and listens for a while before again going to sleep there is no more noise whatsoever.

Rob rises early though he feels exhausted and makes his way downstairs to make a coffee and start on his tasks for today. The first is trying to get the TV working. He found the Ariel socket when they moved in and had noticed the highly set outside Ariel attached to the chimney breast when they had been sitting in the garden.

So armed with coffee he pulls out the bag they have stuffed with cables for everything and spends the next half an hour trying to unscramble them trying to get the scart separated from the Ariel cable, the VCR power cable from the fm Ariel. A frustrating task at the very least he thinks finding himself becoming more and more irritable with it.

He has set the TV up on the small unit from Mae’s house that it is to sit on and is lying on the floor fiddling with the cables at the back when Mae comes down the stairs. His knees are sore his back is sore and he has had so little sleep down to her plus he thinks these fucking cables, I’m sure she just stuffed them in the bag that way so they would become tangled on purpose. His ire grows and her bright "morning darling" does little to dispel it.

He sighs and returns the greeting, at least that’s the cables now in and it all connected. Time to sit around for a wee while, watch some morning TV though its crap and have another coffee.

He switches the TV on to hear a loud squealing and starts searching in the cable bag for the remote controls that have also been stuffed in there. To keep all the bits together Mae had said, to torture Rob she should have said. He eventually finds it and quickly turns the screeching static sound down to a minimum. Fuck, fuck, fuck he thinks flopping down on a chair; I don’t believe this. Then realises, you stupid twat you need to tune it in again.

After a while and a few abortive attempts he remembers exactly how it works and runs auto tune which runs and runs but finds nothing.

Fuck, its either not connected right or the bloody Ariel doesn’t work. He hopes it’s the former but knows without a shred of a doubt it will be the later. Fuck I hate heights he thinks and the roof is steep and slates are slippy. With a sigh he pulls himself up from the chair his knees protesting at the weight for a second until he sinks to them half kneeling and half crawling his way across to the TV unit.

He checks every connection. Is the scart in the right socket, the Ariel going into the VCR, the VCR to the TV. He mimes mentally checking them in his own mind when he hears Mae shouting through from the kitchen "I thought you were going to get mousetraps today, I don’t want to spend another night like last night.

Well neither the fuck do I he says partially under his breath though I would’ve got a good nights sleep if it wasn’t for you bitch.

What did you say Rob?

Nothing.

What

I never said anything now can you give me some peace till I try to get this bloody TV working. It’s one of these things he thinks to himself. You watch the adverts, spend a fortune on a high definition, flat screen, widescreen TV. One with stereo surround sound, picture in picture auto tuning, singing and dancing TV. Fuck it even tells jokes but when it all comes down to it and unlike the ads on the TV where they plug it in and up comes the sharpest picture you have ever seen in your life. It still all comes down to a piece of wire connecting it to a bit of metal stuck in the sky hopefully where the signal happens to be at the time.

Fuck fuck.

What’s wrong Rob?

He thinks to rage I’ll tell you what the fucks wrong bitch, my knees are killing me, it feels as though someone sticks a knitting needle in my back every two seconds, not just poking it, but piercing the skin and pushing about two inches into my back. My neck hurts my arms hurt, I can see I have a year’s work just to get this place in order. And my all singing and dancing TV which cost me more than a fucking yacht doesn’t work and you kept me awake all night to listen to fucking tap dancing mice. What the fuck do you think is wrong?

Instead he says, I think the Ariel is broken.

Well she says walking into the room with a smile on her face that infuriates him. You can get a new one while you’re in town getting the mousetraps and I think I saw a skylight on the roof so you can put it out when you are up there setting them.

He sighs, resigned.

Can I sit and have a coffee first he says thinking not even she can refuse him that.

No you just go and I will have one ready along with something to eat for you coming back.

Oh and get a loaf and milk while you’re there will you?

She smiles and walks from the room before he can say anything. Probably just as well he thinks to himself as he pushes himself laboriously to his feet grabs the car keys from the table in the hall and stalks outside. He checks his back pocket for his wallet as he leaves. Yes it would be just make my fucking day to get to town and realise he has to go back and get his money but its there and he gets into the car and sets out for town seething.

 

The drive calms him somewhat and he arrives in town in a better frame of mind than he left for it. He thought her voice carping though he realises that she was trying to get things done in the same way as he did. He parks in the car park that roughly runs parallel to the main street though a couple of streets behind and thinks to go and buy the traps and Ariel first, hey for sleep and a good TV picture are far more important than food. Well except for crisps and popcorn runs through his mind but he knows that is just him hallucinating, really he meant celery and carrots. And so returning to the car for the short drive up to the local co-op for the bread and milk.

He walks along past the garage and into the shop he is looking for. He loves this shop and takes his time to look around. It sells everything he thinks it should and so much more; so much more. And He thinks to himself he would like one like it, but knows there is only enough business in the area to support one such shop knowing of course that is the reason for its diversity. He looks over the fishing gear, though he has not fished in a long time it is his intention to do so again. He glances at the gardening equipment and silently thanks the god he doesn’t believe in that the garden is a task for the distant future. A far away spring that hasn’t even caught the frost of this year yet and will be warm to him one day when winter passes. After a while being unable to find them he asks the shopkeeper if he has mousetraps.

Do we have mousetraps comes the reply and rob senses it is a rhetorical question, do we have mousetraps? Yes he decides to himself not only was it rhetorical but pretty damn bloody rude (ok I guess you have so why not tell me of them and not do a vaudeville routine) Obviously Rob thinks with growing apprehension that after this the answer will be no.

Do we have mousetraps? He turns to the other old gentleman serving who is wrapping something in brown paper. Then it dawns on him, it’s a double act Morecambe and wise, abbot and costello. And I was going to say laurel and hardy but hey there was too much dialogue so I thought I would go for the two Ronnie’s instead "Oh yes sir, says the other not looking up from his wrapping, we have all kinds. The first takes over again obviously relishing the chance to show off their skills. We have big ones and small ones, boxed ones, ones that use poison and ones that use bait, ones that snap and ones that trap, poisons and potions and repellents he finishes with a small laugh and an appreciative look up from his accomplice perhaps congratulating him on the rhyme.

Me I thought it was pretty crap but hey they were shop keepers not doing a season on Blackpool pier

Well any kind will do, I say and then realise I have to say more and I just know the ridicule I will get from these two. As long as the mouse doesn’t get harmed, I weakly add my wife insisted on that

Yes the pit of hell will swallow me now- but only if I am lucky, If I am not this pair will hone their comedy technique on me.

Ah so shall you fear the worst, so shall it be.

Isn’t that a saying? NO? well it should be. For from that moment onwards I was ta8ght how bad a time you could have going into a local shop.

Ah so sir, you require mousetraps that don’t harm the rodent, well not exactly I replied but humane ones where they feel little pain, I wince even saying it, they are just bloody field mice after all.

Well you could have the poison but I’m pretty sure that would be painful, don’t you think poison would be painful he turns to ask his compadre, oh aye he says finally looking up from his wrapping to catch my eye, I imagine it would. Very painful in fact, me maself had the food poisoning once and it was bloody agony I couldne leave the toilet for days, it was like shitting nails, if you pardon my French sir.

The first takes over again, well it’ll no be the poison you’ll be wanting then. I’m pretty damn sure those spring traps will be painful too. Oh eye says the wrapper, I caught my finger in one o those a few years back thought my bloody finger was gonae fall off. So it’ll no be one o those either for you. That leaves the wee box ones that trap the mouse unharmed or the repellents but I hear they areny very good either and are very expensive.

The wrapper looks up but this time says nothing as if taunting me to spend money on something that they say is expensive and doesn’t work.

I’m no fool and say, well it’ll no be the repellent then.

I see a slight narrowing of my server’s eyes as if judging if I am taking the piss or not and quickly move to reassure him by stating that it’ll have to be the box traps then

He sells me the box traps at a ghastly price and if he thought the repellents expensive I was bloody glad to use their parlance to be not paying for it.

You kiddin? I asked

The tall one turns t6o the other and asks? The gentleman wonders if we are and glancing at me quickly and looking away, to use Glasgow parlance; taking the proverbial piss

He passes the boxes to the wrapper who immediately gets to his task. I think to suggest to him that he just puts them in a carrier bag but know this will lead to more ill looks so content myself with studying the contents of the shop while he undertakes the grisly task of wrapping.

Perhaps it is because the shop is quiet but the server addresses me again. Excuse me, he says, I’m no one to be doing myself out of a sale but neither am I the kind that likes to be unfair and I can see you’re not from here so a word to the wise for the future. They wee traps will catch your mice all right but as soon as you let them go they’ll just come back in or if they don’t others will. There’s only really three things you can do son, you can just learn to live with them, they’re just mice after all or move back to the city for you’ll always get them here or the best answer of all, get yourself a cat.

The wrapper finally unbends a little and hands me the nicely wrapped traps and says aye words of wisdom that son, just get yourself a cat.

A cat’ll take care of awe the wee blighters before you even know it.

I feel like ranting and telling them that I knew all that but being new in town and wishing to make friends and not enemies I was restraining myself pretty damn dramatically in my view. I don’t. Instead I just thank them for their sage advice and made my way from what despite the entertainment seemed to me a really cool shop.

 

When I return Mae is sitting on the couch her head in her hands my irritation passing as I see her distress. She looks as though she has been crying. Mae what’s` wrong I ask imagining that something has happened to one of the children. Those mice have been at it solidly since you went away I can’t even hear myself think. I am unsure wither to be annoyed that she has worried me so or relieved. Mae stop being silly its only mice. Anyway I have the traps, I will set them later. She starts crying, Rob they got louder and louder when you were away, I even shouted at them but that just made them louder still, they stopped just before you got home. You should have heard the noise it was awful.

Oh look Mae don’t worry, they were probably in a vent or something and that made it sound louder than it was with the echo, I’ll make sure I set a trap next to it when I’m up. That seemed to settle her a little though she still seemed scared which I considered odd, how can you be scared of mice, but I knew how she was with birds and feathers and tried my best to understand. She found them so abhorrent that she would be visibly scared at the thought of a feather pillow or touching my winter down coat.

Still everyone’s different and I wasn’t much better with spiders. I personally couldn’t understand how anyone could not be worried about spiders yet have a fear of things as harmless as birds or mice. I mean spiders are awful and they are poisonous, well not in Scotland I now but still it could have escaped from a zoo or something.

 

He knows he’s being silly so to make up for it he says look, I’ll get you a coffee and once we’ve done that, I’ll go up and set the traps, ok? He cups her chin in his hand to raise her face and looks into her eyes, they’ll be gone in a couple of days alright?

Ok, thanks rob,

Oh no problem but I still think we should get a cat.

Urg no cats I think I prefer the mice.

Strange woman he is thinking as he goes and puts the kettle on.

He is putting the milk in the cups when she storms into the kitchen her hands over ears, rob how can you stand it. Stand what he says half looking round.

The scratching.

He is really getting worried about her now, as there is no scratching.

Mae there is no scratching. No there is not in here but there is through there and its so loud.

They walk back through together but all is quiet. Mae I think you’re just imaging it, you need to get more sleep. No really rob it was really loud, they must have stopped when I left the room.

Well don’t worry Mae, I’m just going up to set the traps when we’ve finished these he says gesturing at the coffee.

OK

It takes him a while to find the way into the loft as the hatch for some reason is in the roof of the cupboard at the top of the stairs. But he eventually does and gets their old hurricane lamp, which was bought mainly for decoration, rather than use as he cannot find any batteries for the torch and those that were in it are dead.

He gets the steps and with a struggle positions them on the slightly raised floor of the cupboard. He notices that judging by the painted over indentations on the walls that once there were permanent steps here to the attic but it looks as though they were removed long ago. He wonders why for a while as he gets the hurricane lamp lit and the glass in position over it but assumes perhaps the person in the house at the time was old and couldn’t face the steps to the attic so a big cupboard was of more use to them.

He pushes on the hatch and it moves up quite easily after an initial push to break the seal of the paint that has been put on since it was lst opened. Revealing a mass of cobwebs on each side. He considers calling on Mae, as he knows this wouldn’t worry her at all but thinks he would look cowardly in her eyes.

 

 

And so steeling himself he pushes the hatch to the side and holds the lamp higher. He can see nothing but shadows further back but there doesn’t seem to be any spiders round the hatch and the attic seems to be floored with pine and not just he joists he had imagined.

He puts his hands on the sides of the opening fearing the worst but is pleasantly happy not to feel any small scurrying bodies under them and sitting the hurricane lamp near the entrance he gets to the top of the steps and hauls himself into the loft. It is very dull after the bright hallway down below. The hurricane lamp gives out little light but he knows he just has to wait until his eyes become accustomed to the darkness then it will see bright enough. In the dim light he sees a bird swoop at him and ducks nearly losing his footing and falling back through the hatch but it doesn’t touch him. Fuck he thinks we have pigeons in the loft and knows how difficult they are to clean up after, he can almost see it he thinks in the gloom and it seems to be rushing at him again. He drops to his knees to avoid falling back through the hatch. But all this is forgotten in an instant as he feels what is beneath his hand, hundreds of small tickling insects and the webs that go with them. Pigeon forgotten he surges back to his feet brushing frantically at his hand with the other to free it of the small spiders for though he cannot see them he has no doubt that is what they are.

Feeling the tickling no more he lifts the hurricane lamp to study himself more closely moving it from hand to hand and not worrying that it is interfering with his night vision. He checks his hands and clothes making sure they are free of them, shaking his legs and then running his fingers through his hair to ensure there are none caught there. He is satisfied that they have gone and sighs in relief stiffening again at a momentary vision of Harrison ford brushing tarantulas off his back with his bullwhip in Indiana Jones. He knows one might be there but cannot bring himself to put his hand round to his back and feel long furry legs underneath it and settles for holding the bottom of hi jumper at the back and shaking it as hard as he can.

Satisfied finally that he has the all clear he Holds the hurricane lamp high and again has to duck at the sight in front of him of a bird swooping at him though this time he realises exactly what it is and is amazed. Directly in front of him sits a huge stuffed raven looking very alive but held forever in its pose of swooping for prey, though I know little of ornithology I think are ravens not scavengers.

This one however has its beak wide and its wings spread its talons apart as though to rend.

 

It is huge and stunning and I am sure that wither my belief that they are scavengers is true or not that this one was certainly a predator. It is magnificent as his eyes are growing accustomed to the gloom he strokes its coat, normally he considers stuffed animals grotesque but this one he sees as majestic. As his vision improves as well as many interesting items he sees a thin film of light in the corner. He realises that it is a skylight covered with cloth. The cloth has been nailed over it to prevent the ingress of light, the only reason he has noticed it at all is a small amount of water seems to have seeped through the skylight and the cloth has decayed slightly. He rips it away and though the window is very dusty and dirty out on the outside is almost blinded by the bright afternoon sunshine entering so suddenly.

Why would anyone have covered the skylight he wonders then sees and old box camera on tripod at the side of the attic. Ah a darkroom then perhaps I shall find old pictures and looking around in the new light realises the place is wonderful and a storehouse of forgotten things. Many covered with sheets some just lying there, some seem gaudy and cheap and others expensive. There are many paintings lying around in bundles. He wonders if some might be originals, some may have been painted by masters though he knows most likely they will be cheap prints and the frames will be worth more at a car boot sale than the paintings themselves. And I doubt these stuffed birds, for he has seen many more dotted around the attic including the one from which the owl was obviously painted. Would be worth anything to anyone, in fact most people would probably be horrified by them. But he promises himself that he will come back up and look through all the stuff soon. Some of the furniture seems in good condition he thinks to himself but he knows that this time there is a task to do even as he hears Mae’s voice downstairs shouting on him.

Though he cannot see any mouse droppings nor any ventilation ducts he sets the mouse traps at random. He returns to the house shutting the hatch behind him but leaving the steps in place as he intends to return in the morning to look further and see if he finds treasure.

He tells Mae of his exciting finds in the loft but she is horrified at the thought of birds in the attic even if they are stuffed ones but becomes a little more excited at the thought of the paintings having herself a keen interest in art. Oh I doubt we’ll come across a goya or da vinci but some might be quite nice for us to hang though I could only see them dimly. I will look again tomorrow and see if I can even bring a couple of the better ones down for you to look at.

 

 

Well you would have to because there is no way I am even going up there with stuffed birds there. He watches her shudder, but you should Mae, especially the raven it was hugely impressive, it looked as though it might have been carved out of obsidian the way its feathers shone. Even you would think it cool he enthused but no- I will never enter that place while they are still there and for that matter when you dump them you had better do it while I’m out.

Dump them?

Well of course dump them, you don’t expect to keep them here with me in the house do you?

Ah but wait till you see them, you’ll not want me to dump them either

I never want to see them rob, like the mice I want them gone, vanished, disappeared, destroyed.

I thought you didn’t want the mice hurt?

That was then, they’re driving me up the wall now I don’t care if you kill them

What about get a cat?

No, I am not giving into that one, I would just find their bodies everywhere.

Well yes but dead bodies not ones with scrabbly feet scratching at the walls and ceiling.

No Cat.

Ah well it was worth a try he said with a smile.

She smiled back, you never give up do you.

Never, I think we’ll call her sable

What? Call who sable?

The cat when we get it.

We are not getting a cat, oh yes we are just you wait and see. In act if any of those paintings in the loft are worth anything perhaps we will even get a pedigree one. A Siamese, yes it will have to be a Siamese with a diamonte collar, as regal as regal could be.

Oh but you know I hate Siamese even more than moggies.

Yes but I have to get a Siamese so you have competition.

Competition?

Oh yes, its claws will be just as sharp as yours.

Claws indeed.

Oh yes and with her diamonte collar she will look equally as well adorned.

Oh and she will think she is just as sexy as you with that sashay to her hips and her long lean body but she never will be always she will play second fiddle to the sexiest thing in this house.

 

Oh tell me more.

Always just a little put out that she is not the best looking and that her sparkle is diamonte whilst yours is diamond that her legs are not as long and as shapely that her wiggle just cant be perfected in the way that yours is.

Though she has one advantage.

And what’s that pray tell she asked with an evil look on her face though he could see her laughing internally.

Oh well shes all pussy.

Rob! and she slaps him play fully on the leg.

They kiss deeply and passionately

Well there is only one that I desire, I think its time for bed, would you like it stroked?

What?

She laughs.

Oh that, I think I might be persuaded but the birds go.

She laughs uproariously and suddenly

What he asks quizzically?

Well there might be room in this house according to you, for more than one pussy but I am the only bird in this roost and so I intend it to stay.

 

As they lay in the aftermath of their lovemaking they hear quiet scratches on the ceiling, shit not again she says. But it grows quiet after a while and they turn out the lights as she begins to fall asleep rob mimic’s the spring of a trap and painful squeaking noises. He really is horrible sometimes and other times knows just how to make me happy. What do you do with a man like that? Her mind gives her two answers as she drifts into sleep and they are "love him" and despite herself "shoot him"

Neither of them sleep well that night but it is not the fault of scratching on the ceiling or the storms that seem so much worse in the country or the noise of wild dogs raking through the bins but rather their dreams.

She dreams of her and Rob making love. The passion that she feels for him, the love she has for him but it fades to his irritation and the stupid things he would do the ways he hurt her sometimes especially when drunk and he talked without thinking and then to killing him.

She sees the birds in the attic swirling around as she stabs him with the wide bladed kitchen knife, even in her dream she realises she is thinking of psycho.

She sees feathers every where and calls out in her sleep but he doesn’t hear her despite the fact he is normally a light sleeper he doesn’t hear her moans of ecstasy and pain.

Instead he dreams himself, he sees the spiders on his hand that he could not see earlier, feels them burrowing into his skin and no matter how hard he tries to brush them off he cannot seem to rid himself of them. They are small and red and yellow and ugly and he raises his head to scream. He sees the raven swooping at him talons out stretched and tries to turn his head away but he finds it difficult to move and sees it draw closer even as he struggles to move his neck.

He feels its talons bite into his eye, deep and then its beak breaking his eye, he can see it happening but cannot move to stop it.

He shudders in his sleep and the horror of the dream pushes him towards wakefulness as his only escape. As he wakens he is hit with a terrible pain in his eye which growing more alert he moves his hand to touch. He begins to realise that it was just a dream the pain fades and as his hand touches his eyelid he realises that it is fine. And of course upon opening it he knows the foolishness of his touch and thought for he can see perfectly but strangely the pain stays in the eyes for a few more moments before fading.

 

Both gratefully fall asleep again and do not awake until they have rested.

He feels better when he wakes for the second time but his hand involuntarily goes to check that his eye is fine which of course it is. Such was the intensity of the dream and the pain he had felt.

She has rested well but still feels a little tired, perhaps the many nights without sleep before last night she recalls the dream as she always does but dismisses it as she mostly does with the light of day. They have coffee in bed and enjoy the quiet and bright morning with only a little talk before they rise to shower and commence their tasks of the day. There are many that lie before them for the house is large and it is older than they had wished but both know they can make it lovely and a home for them and their occasional children. He thinks often of the things that lie in the loft above him but has shelving to erect and carpets to lay and the day passes all to quickly for him, the attic yet unexplored. Her day consists of getting the washing up to date, ironing washing the floors and cleaning the bathroom, she thinks mainly of how nice the house will look and that she has done the right thing moving in with him despite her dream of the night before. She thinks of the house in the summertime when it is all done and the garden nice and sunbathing on a balmy afternoon. And so the day passes for her and both are happy. I am glad it is so for they had so few happy days left though they did not know it at the time.

The next day was as happy as the day before.

He was able to return to the loft and look through all the things he wanted to as she did her first bit of the garden tackling some of the now knee length grass. He found many small treasures while she worked.

I looked through the paintings first and as I guessed most were prints. Mainly they were of sailing ships but some of birds and a couple of original oils of landscapes. But they seemed not skilled to my hand and I had never heard of the artist though this meant nothing from the man who would throw a picasso in the bin as a child’s ramblings. I decided to have the originals checked out just in case though doubted I would retire on their worth and looked around some more. There were many old cameras but I thought them to recent to be antiques and to old to be worth anything for their quality. Some of the furniture was old and very ornate and I guessed it would be worth a little though being made of both good and real wood they weighed a ton and would be a bugger to move. There were many small ornaments and I chose a couple of them to show to Mae who liked such things.

I was warm with cutting the grass, it was far to long and though we had a good mower it was long enough that it would have needed a week to dry out and that wasn’t going to happen at this time of year. I enjoyed the exercise though even though it was backbreaking at times and was really looking forward to seeing how good it would look. Rob had gone to the loft "to look for treasure" he said then added with his customary aplomb that I was a pirates treasure.

Oh yes he said you are a pirates treasure.

Ok tell then, I sighed.

You’ve got a sunken chest

I laughed despite myself having always been rather disapointed with my small breasts. Rob said he didn’t mind and I do think he does but I do.

I have always wished for a cleavage.

Hello.

I never heard at first with the lawn mower going but when it was shouted again and louder I looked up letting the lawn mower ease to stop. I wiped my rather sweating brow and walked towards the man who stood at the end of the garden and waved to me. He was about sixty with a rather florid face that was not unhandsome but neither was it attractive. He was wearing a short sleeved checked shit and beige trousers and looked uncomfortable at shouting to me.

Normally I would have shouted Rob, as I don’t particularly like greeting new people and worse what if he’s lost and looking for directions, I have no idea of my way around out here.

As I grow close he immediately sticks out his hand to shake mine and I respond though it feels rather uncomfortable to do so, shit I wish rob were here he would handle this so easily but I get tongue tied.

Hello cme a rather deep and pleasant voice, it sounded as he said it as though there were three o’s in hellooo.

He continued, am pleased to meet you, ah stay in the next house along the way an thought I wood come an say hellooo.

I’m Mae I said recovering myself and my husband rob is in the house. Would you like to come in for a coffee, its still a bit of a mess I’m afraid with us just moving in but its not too bad now.

But you’re cutting your grass he replied, I did not want to disturb you just thought I had neglected welcoming my neighbours for too long.

Oh its no trouble at all, truth be told, I said looking down at my grass-covered jeans and my sweating chest, I am glad to take a break. I’ll get rob for you and you can meet him too.

I settled him at the dining room table and went into the kitchen to put the kettle on before moving into the hall to shout rob

 

I really need to come up here with a duster and clean some of this stuff off don’t i. I looked at the raven as I said it but bummer he didn’t answer I did for him, ohhh yes I said in a high pitched cawing sound.

Some of the furniture at least looks as though it really might be worth something and I make a mental note to try and look it up on the internet if I ever get time. I quite like some other things as well and on checking the drawers of a huge sideboard found a horde of old books, some looked very old but I had to wait to check them as I heard Mae shouting from downstairs. I walked over to the hatch and shouted down what?

Come down rob we have a visitor.

A visitor? But no one even knows us I thought to myself but of course went down anyway. Who is it I asked Mae as I went into the kitchen to wash the dust off my hands.

Its our new next door neighbour she said, come to say hello. I made a grimace of a face to her but put on a smile and still drying my hands walked through to the dinning room. I warmly shook his hand recognising at once my server from the shop of a couple of days ago. How could I forget.

Well that obviously didn’t apply to everyone as he had no clue who I was but then especially in a busy shop are you ever going to remember every customer.

Rob, I said, throwing the towel over the back of a char, pleased to meet you, Mae said you’re our neighbour. Billy, he returned, I live just along the road a bit and the closest house to here. In fact there is a path somewhere though it might be overgrown a bit that goes between the houses, a handy thing to find just in case you come into say hello and we have a wee dram or two and ye cannae drive back.

I’ll look I said. How’re you liking it? He asked I think meaning the area rather than the house.

Oh I know the area well I said and the house is great even if it does need a bit done to it.

Doesn’t everywhere he said with a smile.

Well my houses always do I returned

He seemed to like that idea and I could sense him warming to me.

Mae however she likes a place spic and span I said, bit of a stickler for cleanliness and fashion so she works my fingers to the bone, my knees are killing me and my back is murder she is a real slave driver truth be told. I could see Billy looking down embarrassed

Ah don’t worry, she knows I’m only kidding and I knew she was standing behind me that’s why I said it.

Mae scowled at me and Billy began to chuckle as Mae put her arm on my neck and said, he loves me really.

So is there a misses Billy? Mae asked with a smile.

Oh no, just me came the reply, never been married, no one would have me, to much of a passion for the strong drink and to lazy to make a good husband.

I had already guessed in the shop but had no intention of mentioning it before he did or she did but Billy had never married for another reason.

That shop was to clean for him to be lazy and his house if it was the one I had seen from the road was twice the size of this and he clearly was not short of money.

Plus the hair was just too well groomed, the shirt too well pressed, and there was not even a sign of stubble at 5.30

 A little of  "A Pale shadow creeps" - A taster

 And the Wraith speaks;

Winters quiet consolation brings hearts ease from the ever-changing weather. The need to sow and push ourselves has gone with the last flurries of autumn. The shortening days leave us little time for worry other than living to the spring, though we know the spring provides nothing but a quickening of hope. The hope that we shall one day reach the summer and autumn we long for, when the trees grow laden with fruit the plains thick with game and we can warm ourselves in the sun instead of burning wood or coal.

Yet with spring we can see that time arriving (finally) a time of plenty, warmth and comfort after the harsh winter, we long for it or at least I do and have at this time every year for all the years I can recall.

 

 

 

A quiet pall seems to lay upon the grasslands of our youth a heavy mist laden with moisture.

The many rivers and rills that cut the plains and low hills of Southern Argyll rarely need irrigated due to the heavy rainfall.

The mist covers the land.

The same mist gathers at the standing stones and ancient burial mounds throughout Argyll. I once prayed at these stones, I think I remember though I cannot tell if it is true for that was another me completely, a human me.

And I am human no longer though I wish to be so again, with all my heart, with every fibre of my being, it is my hope and salvation in one. I yearn for the light,

And it will be mine soon.

I will be me again.

 

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