Monday, 21 December 2015

Christmas ghost story - free



To practice what I preach, I'm offering my modern experimental ghost story, The Owl Flies at Night free to anyone who would like it. It's free for kindles from Amazon between 22nd December and 26th December.

Christmas is traditionally a time for ghost stories and so I'm also including this short story in the blog here...

It is a short, gentle, parody which includes irony, humour and an unreliable narrator. There is also an experimental story within a story (within a further story) which is supposed to draw you further in (in the tradition of 1001 Nights). The introduction is supposed to act as a hook and this is my favourite part of this particular story. It is a little like a puzzle which needs to be put together to get the whole plot and so I have framed the story with the ebook download segments and the fictional reviews (this is the experimental part). The narrative voice of Dr Swell is deliberately archaic and patronising in tone (it required a lot of research). It is not my own voice and I was not channeling when I wrote this.

Have a good Christmas and think happy thoughts...



The Owl Flies at Night

A short story by


Nick White


Copyright 2014



Introduction


Thank you for downloading the ebook sample: ‘The Owl Flies at Night: Mounting your magic carpet’ by Dr Eric Swell to your device.



The Owl Flies at Night: Mounting your magic carpet

A how-to OBE guide

by Dr Eric Swell




You were meant to buy this book. Take a look behind you right now, can you not almost see your spirit guide nodding in approval as you read these very words? Can you not almost feel his warm, tender hands caressing you? Welcome to my world.

I shall go into the precise methods of astral projection in the next chapter, but for now dear reader, rest assured that you have made the first step towards astral proficiency in purchasing this book. The Universe wanted you to buy this book. It was your destiny.

Having an out of body experience (referred to henceforth as an OBE), is a little like riding a magic carpet. When you first discover your gift, you may be surprised. Carpets don’t fly after all (at least – not unless you enter an alternate reality). You are going to fall off sometimes. And at first, learning how to get this carpet to soar can seem tantamount to scaling Everest! You may ponder whether you will ever succeed in finding the magic to get your carpet airborne. Yet succeed you inevitably will with this book as your guide, instruction manual and astral map.

When an explorer first realizes that he (or she!) has the gift of astral projection he may feel somewhat out of his depth. I intend to help and instruct the reader into the mechanics of having OBE’s. I myself, yes I, have been having them almost continually for over 30 years and I have networked with many other eminent astral ‘carpet-flyers’. Together we have discovered the magic words which will take us into the very heart of the Universe.


Chapter 1: Common methods of astral projection


I will begin by outlining the usual ways in which an OBE may be induced. I will go into more detail in later chapters, but for now I will briefly summarise the main ways of 'mounting your carpet' to begin your exploration.

1.    Meditation. The reader may, through concentration and meditative exercises, be presented with a clear image of being out of his body during meditative exercises. The reader may be able to use visualization techniques to vault into an out and out astral projection. Usually great discipline and proficiency are required before this method can be employed successfully. It is the method of seasoned astral carpet explorers. I favour this method, myself.

2.    Drugs. Certain drugs are well known and well documented to have the capacity to open up the mind to new perceptions of reality (further reading. Burrows (see appendix)). They open up the mind to alternative realities and act as a kind of magic dust with which to sprinkle a carpet. LSD and magic mushrooms are well known to be a catalyst for astral projection and numerous studies have revealed the success of this method. However, as a reservation, I must add that many accounts of OBE’s gained through the use of drugs are limited to the lower astral planes. Your carpet will not fly as high as it could do. When you soar through the sky on your carpet you will find the experience far more fulfilling if you keep your experience as natural as possible. Yes, drugs can be a kind of magic dust, but my advice, especially for beginners, is to steer clear of them until you have mastered the basic art of astral travel. Only then will you be able to use the magic dust with skill and expertise.

3.    A near death experience (NDE). Many astral explorers encounter their first OBE following a traumatic event. Numerous people have told stories of leaving their bodies in intensive care rooms. They have subsequently been able to describe the precise details of the room from a perspective directly above their body (much to the astonishment of the dogmatic scientific fraternity). Certain aspects of their experiences are common and have been well documented in the past. The ‘tunnel’ with a light at the end of it is a common component of such stories and it is part of the astral realm leading to the highest astral plane. Looking down at the body from a position above is a classic OBE experience. Similarly, the life review and the experience of a being of light is all part of astral discovery. Most importantly, those who have learned to soar on their carpet through this method have often lost all fear of death. Can you imagine this dear reader? Can you? Can you?

4.    Lucid dreaming. Take note fellow explorer! Indeed feel free to write this information down in your personal reflective time. This is by far the most common platform from which an OBE may be experienced. The reader may have vivid flying dreams. Lucid dreaming is a state in which the dreamer becomes aware that he (or she!) is asleep. Dreams of this nature are always much more vivid and colourful than ordinary dreaming. They can often be a precursor to a full-blown OBE. For the beginner, I would suggest this method as a way to induce your OBE. This shall be your platform from which to launch for now.




Chapter 2: Malicious entities and the lower planes


There are very few accounts of negative experiences while having an OBE. Occasionally there are reports of ‘demons’ and places soaked in negative emotions. But take note! The ‘demons’ don’t exist! There are only benevolent genies, intent only on the betterment of their masters (and mistresses!). And you shall be their master. For there are no demons. There are only spirit guides and the value judgements of the Judeo-Christian culture from which we dwell are not necessarily so.

Negative experiences are similar to the ‘bad trips’ LSD users will sometimes relate. As the astral plane is a place of goodness and light, I can only suggest that these malicious entities are other astral travellers who are acting like airborne bullies. Such un-enlightened behaviour will stunt the growth of any astral voyager and can be likened to someone riding an illegitimate carpet! Threadbare in the extreme. There are rules to the astral plane just as there are rules in the physical realm and the expression ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ holds true in both. Usually though, it is fear which is the primary enemy to the astral experience. Fear and ignorance and the mocking folly of the masses! Let me re-assure you that the astral plane is populated by persons who are interested in your growth and well being. There are no demons! There are no monsters! There are only genies and spirit guides and a magical astral plane with places you have never dreamed possible! Ignorance produces fear and it is this fear which is a barrier to our growth. It is a fear, which has been indoctrinated, for many, from a young age through dogmatic religious instruction. There is only a heaven in the afterlife. They have misled us all! Keep calm dear reader, comfort, comfort, comfort to you! The astral plane is a magical place. Through each stage we must learn lessons, and as we do so, we progress from the lower levels, from places of suffering and negativity to higher levels. In the Bible, St Paul wrote of a third heaven. The astral plane is part of that scenario. It was this that the scriptures refer to.



Chapter 3: Inducing an OBE – Getting your carpet into the air


No serious carpeteer will ride his carpet in dangerous conditions or without taking the right precautions. When you make your first tentative astral trips I would advise very dim lighting in your room, silence and solitude. Night-time is the best time for a voyage. Remember dear reader, the owl flies at night… and so does the magic carpet rider! Destiny dear reader, remember this is all destiny – we have got this far and we shall go much further, Universe willing!

Wear clothing, which you feel comfortable in and lie down on your bed. Never lie on your front, as this will retard your OBE. Never eat meat before an OBE. And make sure you have had no caffeine or alcohol for five hours. Remember fear is the primary enemy of the astral traveller. One well-established technique is to place a crystal beneath your pillow before you sleep. Any of the crystals below will help you to have an OBE.

Quartz… a rock crystal that is reported to boost extra sensory perception. Believe it reader. Believe!

Amethyst… a violet crystal which can clear the state of your aura. This crystal can focus and clarify the mind. Something which I think you will admit, we all need at times…

Moonstone… this stone can induce a lucid dream state and also has the power to unmask any pernicious astral entities Remember these are only the unenlightened. There are no demons. There are only genies.

Malachite… a dark green stone that has the power to prevent fear on the astral plane (most important!).

Very few people have regular lucid dreams. Similarly you can consider yourself part of an ‘elite’ club because you are able to have OBEs (you are one of the very, very, very special astral carpeteers). Most people are pedestrians, earthbound, unenlightened to their spiritual side and even the existence of the astral plane. One day this will not be the case, but you can safely consider yourself to be one of the more evolved among a largely regressed population. It is a special club – it is the realm of the enlightened. Enlightenment is a separate issue, which I will go into in the later chapters of this book, but for now it is your spiritual journey, which is important. The average person only has one or two lucid dreams in a lifetime. Fools! The lucid dream state has been scientifically analysed as different from ordinary REM sleeping (further reading Jenkins (see appendix)).

Subjectively you know you are having a lucid dream when you realize that you are dreaming. You may even announce to the characters within your dream that “This is a dream”. Do not be surprised if these characters fail to react as you would like to this news. The prats! To induce a lucid dream simply follow the following techniques:

1.    Prepare yourself by making yourself as comfortable as possible. Make sure you are alone and that the lighting is dim. Lie on your back and breathe deeply until you are suitably relaxed.
2.    Repeat this mantra 10 times: “When I dream tonight I shall realise that I am dreaming and have a lucid dream. From here I shall fly my carpet like Dr Swell says.”
3.    Sleep as normal.
4.    When you dream you will likely realize that you are asleep. This is the danger point. You may fall off your carpet and simply awake. To vault into a full-blown OBE you must start to fly. So picture yourself soaring high above your dream scenario.
5.    At this point, focus your mind on finding your sleeping physical body. You may experience some strange sensations but do not be afraid, this is normal. There is a silver cord which attaches between the astral body and the physical body. This cord will never break. This cord is the thread of the carpet which will never unravel. The magic carpet!
6.    The next step, once you have successfully directed your dream self back to your physical body is to separate from this body into your astral being. Return momentarily to your physical body. Now imagine yourself rising, floating, and levitating above your motionless, physical body. You have now successfully got your carpet moving and a proper OBE can begin. Universe bless you!

Note: At any time during this process you may experience a false awakening. This is where you think that you wake up in your room from your dream but you are in fact still asleep. Some people report that such awakenings can take on a nightmarish quality. Remember though, fear is the enemy (and remember there are no demons). False awakenings can be a catalyst to an OBE. Simply follow the above technique from step 5.



Chapter 4: Spirit guides (the genies of the lamp)


Since time immemorial man (and woman!) has sensed in the core of his being an eternal truth: The truth that ‘we are not alone’. Thousands of years ago shamans spoke with the spirits of their ancestors using special rituals. Every civilisation and culture has had an inkling that there is more to this world than merely what we can see and feel. Do you have that inkling dear reader? Do you? Do you?

Some call them angels. Others call them astral entities, ascended masters or spirit guides. They are persons who have ascended to higher astral planes but have chosen to remain behind to help other souls who are seeking ascension themselves. This is self-actualisation to the nth degree. They seek our good and will teach us what we must do both on the astral plane and on the earthly one. Perhaps they will guide us to meet a certain person. It is likely that they guided you to buy this book. How many couples have met their soul-mates through a string of ‘accidents’? Accidents, my bottom! The Universe is rarely so careless (as has been said by men better than I). So many seemingly accidental meetings have been orchestrated by genies. Every person has their own personal angel, genie or spirit guide from birth. By training yourself to tune in to yours, you will find purpose, direction and assistance in life.

On the astral plane your spirit guide will be visible. They may take almost any form. One of my friends has a spirit guide in the form of an Ethiopian princess. I will now share with you how I first met my own spirit guide, a warrior named 'Narcissus’.

During my first astral journeys I was, as you are now, a beginner. I was a novice, a naïve, untutored, newbie. I discovered my own gift at the age of 16 when I was on holiday with a group of friends. I shall now tell you the story.

We had gone camping and I was sleeping alone in my tent. Quite unexpectedly I found that I was having an OBE as I slept. It was different from my usual dreams. Before I knew it I found myself outside the tent in the night sky looking down at two tents belonging to myself and my friends. At the time I was confused and wondered what was happening to me… had I died? It was at that moment that my spirit guide appeared to me. I had rubbed the magic lamp in my tent (as it were) and my genie had appeared to do my bidding. Subsequently I have discovered that most astral carpeteers will not meet their guides until later in their progression (indeed I know of some who have never met their guide). But I sensed his presence before I saw him. It was comforting, I wasn’t scared. I felt as if I was with one of my closest and most intimate friends. Immediately I realized that this person had been with me all my life and would hold the key to my destiny. I turned and for the first time saw Narcissus hovering next to me in the air. Narcissus’ first words to me were: “Dr Eric Swell, you shall be a great astral traveller. Do you not know I am your spirit guide? Do not be afraid. Now your journey can really begin – go through this open door….”
That night Narcissus became my mentor and my servant. During the OBE he told me the story of how had been with me all my life…

“You are not the first I have been a guardian to,” he said, “There have been many throughout the years. One man became famous and fearless – his name was Alexander. Was I not with him when he was a child? I watched over him. But he wouldn't turn away from violence. He became great and famous and yet he didn't progress because he wouldn't turn aside form negativity. Alexander even used to speak to me - and he told me this story…

'Narcissus my friend, I have had a dream in which I am to be a great man and am to conquer and subdue. I shall be remembered after my death by millions and my deeds shall be famous. In that way I shall live forever. Now I shall tell you the story of this dream… '

But Eric, let me tell you, that one dream wrecked his life. Even though, to all observers it seemed to be true. Even though he seemed to be on fire, he failed to fulfil his destiny. He lived a life of materialism and when the Akashic records were opened to him he refused to read. He was a plaything of forces greater than he knew.”

Narcissus would tell me many such stories and we became firm friends. I will tell you all about the Akashic records in Chapter Ten. I only had to think about Narcissus and he was there. I saw him in my mind's eye during the day and at night I saw him with my spiritual eyelet (‘which is the bliss of solitude’).

From there I have had countless adventures and have learned much from Narcissus. I know that he is here with me even as I write these words. Even now he is nodding with a happy benevolence. Even now his hand reaches down and caresses my neck as only a true friend can do.

I cannot say precisely how you may meet your own guide or genie. As I say, my own revealed himself to me at the beginning. So I say to you what I say to all those who ask me about this subject... when the time is right your genie will reveal himself (or herself!) to you dear reader. Oh, how the Universe is aflame with love for you!



Chapter 5: Near Death Experiences (NDE’s)


The near death experience has been documented for thousands of years. The artist Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) painted a picture called Ascent into the Empyrean, which portrays souls being helped through a dark tunnel by angels towards a bright light. Other artists such as William Blake have shown the experience and many Jewish and Christian writings refer to NDE’s. Today there have been many testimonies of people who have experienced NDE’s and have returned to tell the tale, as it were. Psychiatrist Dr Raymond Moody came up with the expression after he published his studies on the phenomenon in his book Life after Life in 1975. He interviewed over 150 patients over 11 years. Many of his patients were able to describe how they had floated above their body, as with an ordinary OBE and had seen a dark tunnel with a white light at the end. Others have referred to seeing dead relatives in the light who have already passed into the spirit.

I contend that anyone who has had an NDE is almost always benefited by the experience. Not only have they had a glimpse of the astral plane, but many of them also lose their fear of death! Imagine living a life without this fear, how wonderful it would be! Imagine also, that many of the people who you told your story to, simply would not believe you and thought you were making it up. Oh, what ignorance we live in at this time. Such information could cause a paradigm shift and herald in a new age for this world if only it was taken seriously. How amazing and how profoundly tragic for mankind. Not so for you dear reader, as I am sure you are beginning to discover… even now I feel the fingers of Narcissus around my hand, even now he is entering me, filling me with his burning love!”


Your ebook sample ends here. Click ‘buy now’ to purchase for £19.99.



Reviews


One out of five stars

The flying made me feel sick
by Perpetua Thorogood

I don’t know what to make of this mealy tome. ‘Dr’ Eric Swell continually goes off the subject and talks about how NDE’s are questioned by scientists on neurological grounds and how scientists are wrong because some people had been able to describe objects in hospitals, which they could never have seen unless they had been floating above their bodies. Eric Swell then goes into a long rant about how the reality of astral projection is often challenged by scientists and religious people, who he says are ignorant of these things and should know better. He continues to assure readers that there were no demons, only genies – it is as if he wants to persuade himself rather than anyone else. And the whole ‘magic carpet’ metaphor is lame.

After going into the specific mechanics of having an OBE and ‘flying his astral carpet’, the author begins to allow his ‘genie’ to write the final chapters through automatic writing. The spirit guide, tells readers that they have been horribly misled by dogma and indoctrination. The spirit guide goes on to assure everyone that they too have a personal genie who only has their very best interests at heart and who is hovering behind them as they read. The ‘genie’ talks about the intense love he has for Eric Swell and how he believes that the author is on fire as a writer and that they will be together on the very highest astral plane very soon. The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned. At this point it is hard to tell who is acting as the author because the writer suggests that all readers enroll on his online course and buy annual membership to a club called ‘Dr Swell’s astral carpeteers’ (for £50 a year).

On his author website is a picture of a slightly overweight man with glasses, a greying moustache and a sparkling, perfect white grin. I can only speculate on what his doctorate was gained in. Avoid.




Five out of five stars

Flying now with the angels
by Marcus Swell

It seems the last reviewer was unaware of the author’s unfortunate death recently. For any other would-be critic, who doubts the sincerity of Eric Swell, I can only imagine you have been reading the hurtful coverage in the Fortean Times and similar publications. Spontaneous combustion is no laughing matter and is a great affliction to those who loved the person who has died. I am thinking of starting a support group for those so affected.

Eric was a personal blessing to me and seeing his charred foot and ankle next to a pile of ashes on his living room carpet was like a sword piercing my heart. For those moralistic mockers who will judge the author for the manner of his demise, I suggest you think again and remember that the ways of the Universe can be mysterious and are not to be interpreted by such as you. The world is full of wonders, but sadly it is also full of closed-minded people who will only mock and jeer at the mysteries it contains. They laugh at everything they do not understand. You will be sadly missed, DR Eric Swell.



Two out of five stars

Burn this book in a pyre
by Anonymous

Do we not all lose our toys in the end?


Sunday, 22 November 2015

New church ad 'banned' in cinemas





Today’s news that the Church of England has had its latest ad campaign banned by the cinema advertising authority has an irony to it.

Anyone who has seen the advert will realise that it’s harmless. In fact, it’s so anodyne that it even got a ‘U’ rating from the British Board of Film Classification before it was stopped. Compared to a lot of the horrific and gory images which flood Facebook these days it’s like banning the Countryfile calendar.

Ban the Facebook post which is titled ‘Terrorists playing football with the heads of Christians’ (which I was shockingly naive in believing was going to be a nice interfaith football match between religious leaders). Forgive the black humour as we forgive those who write black humour against us.

Of course, I’m being disingenuous – it isn’t discrimination because no faith (or political party) at all is allowed to advertise in the cinema. You can aggressively recruit young people into the army in cinema adverts. But some things are not allowed and so they are not truly ‘banned’ or ‘censored’ so much as subject to a kind of strange cinematic tradition. Like so many of the arbitrary rules which fill our lives.

You know, sometimes I feel alienated from my own culture. It shouldn’t be that way. But when a harmless advert gets stopped it simply makes you question why these rules and traditions are there.

Come to think of it – isn’t the C of E supposed to be broke? Where did it get this advertising money from? How much does it cost to advertise before the new Star Wars film? What would Han Solo do?


It all makes me want to turn to the dark side.

Think happy thoughts.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Short story - The Shade of Hades




The Shade of Hades


“Then I said, ‘Sir, may I ask you, please, to explain to me what happens when we die, when we must each give back our soul? Will we be kept at rest until the time when you begin to make your new creation, or will our torment begin immediately?’”

Apocrypha - 2 Esdras 7:75



It is said that when a person dies they do not enter heaven or hell immediately. It is said that during the time between death and the final judgment there is an interim period. They say that people are separated into two camps like the removal of goats from sheep. One group rests in paradise, as if in a walled garden, protected. The others are confined within caves in Hades or left to wander. And when this happens the soul of a person waits.

But it isn’t necessarily so. Nobody knows for sure as the way across the final river rarely has a return. 


The irony was not lost on the dead man’s soul. She certainly had no body left (souls are always female). There was a moment of joy. She had survived death – she had half-hoped, half-believed it to be possible. That was when the words came in a deep, low, fatherly voice, which held more sadness than malice.

“You only get to keep what you have given away.”

A particular judgement. A ‘chicken soup for the soul’ judgement as kitsch and trite as it was moralistic. For a moment the soul wondered if she had heard the voice once before. It seemed to her that the voice had haunted her dreams and the deep places in her life, a half-forgotten memory of a life before birth. But everyone knows there is no such thing.

And the joy was pushed aside by the tone of the voice. The man had been afraid of something like this, some kind of moralistic nightmare in the afterlife. What he hadn’t expected was the confinement. Or the thirst. Such a great thirst, as if her throat, what was left of her throat, was a dry sepulcher, blocked by a stone.

It had simply been a deep, matter-of-fact voice. If nostalgia were personified then it would have been that voice.

The cave was completely dark. Truth be told, the cave was completely dark except for some glow-in-the-dark stickers. But even though these stickers which lined the rough walls had an inner glow, the light was not enough to illuminate anything beyond the boundary of the soul’s confinement. The stickers seemed mischievous, as if they were winking somehow.The soul of the dead man knew that it was a cavern because her invisible hands fumbled and scratched at a dusty, cold, rocky floor. She could see nothing except the stickers. But she could feel.

At first there were simply tears. Feelings of regret and despair, of a life lived badly. ‘There is more shame than glory,’ thought the soul as she cried. The tears were a small mercy at the time.

Eventually her invisible hands grasped further into the darkness, reaching one of the stickers – all of the stickers had been part of a childhood gift made to another child as a birthday present (because the man had stopped giving presents when he grew up). The sticker was shaped as a cartoon ghost, part of a set of scary Halloween stickers that had once been highly sought-after in some playgrounds by a certain kind of child.

“Remember,” the sticker seemed to whisper, as if suddenly serious.

The soul of the man tried to find her body but could see nothing, even when she brought a finger close to the dim glow of the sticker. She was invisible, of that she felt sure – she thought she must simply be the memory of the man she once was. Perhaps she was a hovering orb or a butterfly. They always said that butterflies represented the soul. Except there was no flying to be done. And there was no free blue sky to soar into. There was darkness and there was confinement and there was fear.

She fell to the floor in despair. And that was when her invisible hands met something on the ground.

Coins. Handfuls of coins in a pile. The clinking of the coins echoed around the cave. The ghost of hands the ghosts of coins, the ghost of an echo.

A shifting. A movement and the soul pressed herself against a wall, still cool and rough to the touch but offering no comfort. Falling back to the ground she resumed her crawling. The soul thought back to her lifetime and fumbled around in the darkness sobbing. And then her hands touched something else on the floor. The shape was familiar. It was a packet of cigarettes and around the packet there were tens of loose cigarettes on the dusty ground. How the soul longed for one of the cigarettes - but there was no source of fire. Was there even breathing, or simply the memory of the breathing?

Still it was dark. Did time have meaning here? Did a sequence of events take place which could be formed into any kind of story? Perhaps that was what hell was – a place devoid of story. Certainly it seemed that it was a hell and it seemed as if time crouched motionless like a thief. All things had been stolen from the man. His health, his life, his friends and family. His possessions. His many, many possessions.

The soul stayed like this for perhaps a day, holding her soul-shape with crossed arms and rocking backwards and forwards. The weeping continued and the soul considered that this was her fate for a life lived badly, with regrets, with roads full of twists and never straight. That was when there were roads. Most of the time it had been climbing over all kinds of fences that should never have been climbed, ignoring warning signs and zig-zagging through places that were not straight and narrow. Or walking the wide open highways.

In life he had not been a kind or particularly generous man. He had been rich. But he had not been evil, he had never gone out of his way to harm others (although that may have happened on occasion). He had been born into a wealthy family. There had been big mistakes. He had held little faith in a God of any kind. He hadn’t even believed in an afterlife. But the past meant very little. Except that, in the perpetual present of the soul’s situation, the past now meant everything.

What kind of moralistic punishment was this? But there was no room for anger, only regret. And the thirst. And the waiting. 

Waiting.

There was no sun to mark the passage of time but there were noises in the cave. Somewhere on the other side there was a ticking. It had tormented the soul for the first day (had it been a day?) when she simply rocked and sobbed. The ticking had been like a voice saying - 'no-hope', 'no-hope', 'no-hope'. In the end the soul of the man gave up the crying and forced herself to explore the cave again. Her shadowy hands caressed the dusty floor and she hoped to find some kind of light.

There.

There, a bottle.

A bottle. In an instant the bottle was unscrewed and lifted and the liquid gulped down. The taste was of vodka and within a few moments the soul had swallowed half of the bottle. Perhaps it was only the memory of vodka. Perhaps it was only the memory of the pleasure in getting drunk, but the soul remembered and the vodka gave comfort. It was in that moment that she decided that she would try to hope in hope, if such a thing were possible.

Still there was the darkness. And the soul of the man began to ask questions. What else was in this cave with her?

Her invisible hands frantically felt further into the darkness, fumbling against furniture. There was some kind of chair. Why was there a chair? Was she to sit on it? The strange thing was that the chair felt familiar. It was then that she remembered it. It was a broken chair with a missing leg that had been taken to a charity shop when the man was upsizing. It was useless. 

And then the soul began to understand. She was in a dark cavern surrounded by the things which she had given away in her lifetime as a man. How slow she felt in this dark epiphany. That was why there were so few things.

Perhaps she slept. Time seemed to pass. Strange visions seemed to mock her in the darkness. Above all there was a sense of despair and hopelessness. That she was condemned to remain in this state forever. The didactic intensity of it all had a sting to it. The walls of the cave seemed to bulge. Perhaps it was imagination, but it was all that she had. Imagination and the ghosts of the things she had once given away.

So she stretched out her hands once more and found a notebook and pen, a gift to a business partner. To survive, even to survive as she was, she opened the blank book and ripped out some of the pages. She scrabbled around on the floor with pieces of paper. The papers blurred in and out of her consciousness like a dream – like her mind was a mobile phone screen about to fade to darkness. A timed-out mind. She felt her thoughts slipping away, falling slightly to the right as a bone may shift in a socket and she fought to retain her sense of self. What could she write? What kind of plans could be made in this state? What kind of things could she read to help her? And still nothing could be seen. Perhaps she could do something. She drew a picture of the cave as she imagined it. She listed the things that were in the cave, exploring them piece by piece. She could see nothing that was written or drawn.

There were not many things in the cave, the cigarettes, a few bottles of alcohol – given as bribes usually. The glow in the dark stickers which winked and whispered. A second hand TV and a broken lawnmower which had never worked. A few other garden implements – kitchen utensils, the stump of a tree (a gift the man regretted when tree-stumps became fashionable in gardens). But at least it was another place to sit. He had tended to only give things away when he was compelled to do so or when it had been necessary to look good. Charities had never been in the man’s thoughts. He had chosen not to make a will – perhaps if he had he would still be surrounded by all his possessions. Despite this, the man had never considered himself a miser – he merely considered himself prudent – a man of shrewd business sense.

How the soul regretted her stingy prudence now. So few things in her cave. The thought cut her – that she had been surrounded by the best in cars, houses and technology – the lair in which she had lived her life as a rich man. And now this. Now there was not enough. She had thought nothing eternal. As she thought of all this she felt that the ghosts of her hands were clenched tight as if still trying to grasp, as if still holding on to what remained. Life had been so dear and so intangible.

The soul rebelled once more against the forced morality of it all and she swore out loud. The echoes of her curse filled the almost empty cave and she began to cry once again. Biting against a God that had abandoned her in her greatest need. Kicking against the remains of a light now gone.

It was inevitable. The man had rarely prayed in his lifetime. It had been a conviction of his not to. It had always felt too much like a surrender. The man had been strong, the need to pray had rarely been there. Help had not been needed. But now the need was there. And it was now that the soul of the man prayed. She begged and pleaded for an escape. She asked to be alive again. She asked for help – anything. But there was no answer. She felt separated from God, as if he could not or would not hear her prayers. In the end she began to cry again. The tears were a small mercy.


There are those who say that tears are like a telescope or magnifying glass. Like a glass that can bring heaven closer somehow. Teardrops fell onto the ground, mixing with the dust.

And the teardrops seemed to speak in another whisper, a whisper which contained mercy, like a bottle containing water for a thirsty man.

'Deeper, dig deeper.'

The idea formed – it fell into her head with the voice of the teardrops. As if an angel had let a droplet of water fall from a fingertip into the mouth of a parched, thirsty throat.

The kitchen utensils included spoons and knives. She could dig.

Scrabbling over the dusty floor she felt for a spoon. And suddenly one was in her hand. And so the hope of hope of hope returned. Like moonlight from behind a cloud.

The digging took a long time. A very long time. She got through a lot of spoons and knives. The bottles ran out. It became a temptation to despair and fall into madness and the soul devised new, imaginative ways of keeping herself sane. She didn’t entirely succeed in this. Especially after the first hundred years.

Of course she went mad. But the tunnel which she dug away at, clump by clump gave her some small comfort, some sense of purpose. There was, at least, no physical pain. There were none of the usual needs of life. Did life continue in the world she had once known? Were people born and did they die and did they share the same fate? Could others see them, as if they were gazing into a magic pool from some paradise which she was denied?

And there were times of despair, but in that sense it did not differ to the before-time. Had the memories ever been given away? There seemed so few of them as time passed. The upward slope was easy enough to navigate. It became a metre long, then two metres and so on. The clumps of earth began to fill the cave, burying the ghosts of the things given away. The soul didn’t sleep. Or if she slept she had no memory of the sleeping.


Who knows how long it took? Who knows how full the cave was of soil from the tunnel? Time and space began to hold no meaning. The only meaning was the hope in the hope of hope.

And it took a long time before the soul broke through.

When she knew she had broken through she began to tug away clumps of earth with the echoes of her fingers. And these fingers touched other ghostly fingers. There was another soul. There was someone else. The invisible hands grasped each other thirstily. The comfort from the touch was indescribable after such a long time. Like drinking after intense thirst. And then there was a hole large enough to see something. The other soul had a light which lit up the cavern and the silhouette of the shadows which they had become. But the other soul was as ghostly as the soul of the man. 

Another shadow. Another shade. Waiting.




“One day the Venerable Macarius of Egypt was walking about the desert and found a dried-out human skull lying on the ground. Turning it over with his staff, the saint heard a sound, as though from a distance. Then Macarius asked the skull: "What manner of man wast thou?"

"I was the chief of the pagan priests that dwelt in this place," it replied. "When thou, O Abba Macarius, who art full of the Spirit of God, pray for us, taking pity on them that are in the torments of hell, we then receive a certain relief."

"And what manner of relief do ye receive?" asked Macarius. "And tell me, what torments are ye subjected to?"

"As far as heaven is above the earth," replied the skull with a groan, "so great is the fire in the midst of which we find ourselves, wrapped in flame from head to toe. At this time we cannot see each others' faces, but when thou prayest for us, we can see each other a little, and this affords us some consolation."

Eastern Orthodox



Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Blog Entry 100

This is my 100th blog entry.

I'm working on a few new writing projects including a couple of book-length projects. I will also be publishing a halloween story here on October 31st (as it has become a bit of a tradition to do so).


But for now I'm going to publish a poem here (as poetry has eluded me for a while). It is dedicated to my lovely wife, Jen.



Gardens

Your love to me is like the summer rain,
like beautiful rain pouring down,
like an applause of the rain pelting my leaves,
like the mercy of rain saturating the soil of my soul.

Your love to me is nourishment,
each droplet is unique, like a snowflake,
and each droplet is a diamond, inscribed with kindness,
but neither hard nor cold.

And my heart is your secret garden,
which contains seeds of love which are too often hidden,
containing small beginnings,
which flourish because of your gentle rain.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Where do we go from here?


This is the 99th blog entry on Stories Make the World Go 'Round.

A single question presses to the front of the queue, like a pushy shopper - 'Where do we go from here?'

Providing we survive the blood moon prophecy and Jonathan Cahn's apocalyptic predictions for this September, I suggest we attempt to heal, learn and grow - even if everything else in the world conspires to prevent this.

Think happy thoughts.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

If Your Life Were a News Site...



If your life were a news website, what stories would it contain each day?

Perhaps the main story would change for each day. Perhaps: ‘Lack of sleep causes our hero to feel lousy’ would be today's headline.

There would also be other stories which recurred in the same way that the world news has recurring themes. ‘Still looking for work’, ‘Still grieving', 'Still sick'.

Then there would be the days that some disaster strikes. ‘Best friend dies’. Or ‘Car crash’ or ‘Serious illness strikes’. Stories which would rumble on for weeks and years and wounds re-opened and griefs which never heal. In the news of our days each and every day.

And you, the hero or heroine. A whole world of stories from small filler articles about headaches through to the quirky and strange incidents which can fill life.

Other characters recurring in the stories. And the persistent tyranny of bad headlines which will not go away. ‘Still looking for a miracle’. Stories so continual that we would bore of them and fail to read them and instead turn towards the better stories, or take an interest in someone else's personal news website.

There would be bad news and good news and mixtures of the two. Each day a whole new set of stories, with the regular columns, mixing fact and opinion. Comment and hard news. All kinds of stories for one reader. An audience of one it may seem.

And perhaps pictures too. And video. Things we play over in our minds again and again, things which make us cringe and things which make us happy. Working under the weight of guilt. Bad scenes, scenes of which we are not proud.

Maybe even there would be adverts in this news site. Maybe the adverts would be just right: ‘Would you like a holiday in Nova Scotia?’ ‘You need kitchen roll, stick to your usual brand’. Things we buy and sell, things we want to buy but can’t afford.

An intrusive pop-up reminding us that our lives are limited and mortal. A copyright disclaimer, ‘All rights reserved’ and thoughts about the rights and needs which we are denied. Or the rights which we assert. Or the right to be unique when there are so many of us.

When every person may have a similar website with similar sounding stories - even if they are in a different language and there is no Google translate available.

And when those other people shared their own websites there would be feature articles which they would be happy for you to read and there would be articles which they would never want you to read. And there would be hidden stories on pages which are unpublishable, archived pages, draft pages. Like the dark side of the moon.

Still the insistence of the rumbling recurring stories which cannot be ignored, which run and run and run with little editorial control. We could simply hope that one day such websites would be full of good news and that the stories of our problems would be settled and concluded, never to be read again.

And we would think back to our childhoods and how the stories were different and sometimes seemed better or worse in those archives, those forgotten editions.

But we get to do the writing and we get to set the agenda. Maybe some stories can’t be resolved, but we can include the gentler stories, we can include the stories we care for, which don’t bore us senseless with their brutality. We get to be the editors.

We may even be able to change the template and the wallpaper.

If every day your life were a news website – would there be continuity?


All rights reserved.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

One Riddle




It seems to me that few people are doing riddles these days so I thought I would give it a try. So welcome to my first (and possibly only) attempt to write a riddle. Well done if you figure it out...



There are four places to hide in a desert,
From the heat of the sun. Safe. Secure. Surrounded.
But you can’t hide in hills.
There are many hiding places in a wood or a forest.

Even numbers can offer a sanctuary…
You can hide twice in one.

So why can’t you hide in 1?

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Changed ebook cover

I have changed a couple of my ebook covers to maintain a theme.

I also wanted to make 'The Owl Flies at Night' look a little more like the short modern ghost story it is.

So here is its new cover...












Saturday, 6 June 2015

Bees



It seems as if the bees read my previous blog entry and have gathered at my command in an outside log store (perhaps I should call them minions).

A few days ago I began to repair the old log store door (as it is falling apart). A small gang of outraged bumblebees suddenly surrounded me.

‘Leave... uzz... bee’ the bees seemed to say.

I realised that there had to be a nest somewhere in the dry logs and retreated (getting stung by a queen bumblebee as a child does not give you special bee privileges). After a bit of research I found out that the queen bee must have chosen the log store as a nesting site and I read up on the falling bee population in this country.

It was soon decided that the best thing to do would be to let the bees be. Smoking them out or having them destroyed would not be very bee-nevolent. Lousy puns aside – the research also brought up some interesting folklore and superstitions regarding bees. I was delighted to learn that the ancient Greeks thought that a bee which landed on a baby meant that the child would become a great poet. Unfortunately, they didn’t say what happened when the bee stung the child (maybe that child just thought he was a great poet).

There are many other superstitions regarding bees and most of them are positive. You know how it is with folklore and superstitions – almost everything that happens or everything you do means you are going to die imminently. If you accept some positive superstition do you have to accept all of the negative ones?

Borrowing from Greek mythology there is also a legend that a swarm of bees settled on St Ambrose soon after he was born, leaving behind a drop of honey. His parents considered this to be an omen of a honey-tongued future. And so it was.

No sting for Ambrose either. There are a plethora of other superstitions about bees, but few people bee-lieve them nowadays. (Sorry.)


So the bees are guests here for the summer. Later in the year they will have gone. The newly born bees will have flown away and the only existing survivor will be the queen bee who will fly away and hibernate in the soil somewhere. Queens have a habit of outliving the rest of us.



The Bumblebee Conservation Trust are a honeypot of information about bumblebees and I recommend them.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Shade of Hades




I designed this cover for my latest short story (which is titled 'The Shade of Hades'). Not quite sure what to do with it yet. 

Monday, 27 April 2015

Bee-Man – Superheroes and Story

a bee



My parents told me a story about when I was a tiny baby. They said a huge bee, a bee bigger and fatter than they had ever seen before had somehow flown into my little bedroom and headed straight for me. The bee proceeded to sting me repeatedly. My parents found me bawling with a huge, dead bumblebee lying next to me, like some strange friend. They added (in that detailed way which gives stories a truth) that the bee was infested with mites. The bee had been so tormented that it must have flown into my room, stung me and died.

Ever since then I have had extraordinary powers. I grew up to become Bee-Man, able to fly, the ability to be impressed by flowers, able to bug people and sting my enemies (although only at the price of my life).

Obviously a costume was needed at some point. And every superhero (and supervillain) needs a lair of some kind to fight the forces of darkness (or light). And so the honeycomb was built.


Some of the above story is true but I do have a tenuous link with reality and so I have to admit that the superpowers have proved disappointing. They are as evasive as miracles.

The psychology of superheroes is a clever one.  From the Avengers through to Strontium Dog and Beowolf there is a draw to this kind of character. Partly this is because we instinctively realise that we can be better than we are. And that our stories are not over. Although there may be more shame than glory in this world there is still the potential of doing great deeds.

Superhero powers hint at a new level of existence beyond the humdrum. Every time a superhero is knocked down they get back up. (And every time they are silenced they are able to speak again.) Nothing can stop them.

That is why it is so healthy (and not childish at all) to read and watch superhero stories – they draw us that little bit closer to wanting to do great deeds (unless, obviously, you identify with the supervillain).

The hints and patterns which are found in the superhero stories are not necessarily the wild goose chases or delusions which fade like mobile phone screens after a story has been told. They are not necessarily the red herrings of butterfly minds which would like so much for them to be so. There is a kernel of truth in them. These stories are so engrained within cultures and time periods. They are a mirror and a remembering of the stories and myths of heroes. They are what we could be.


And how can such superhuman powers be attained? There are patterns to our lives, there are threads of gold which link the love within our life stories. There are still mysteries and there are still supernatural elements to this world. Not all things are as they seem.

But sadly one of the side-effects of becoming Bee-Man is that I cannot reveal the true source of my power.

Think happy thoughts.


Saturday, 21 March 2015

Prayers in Councils




Some time ago I wrote an article about the prayers which took place in the Houses of Parliament. You can see it here. Because of my Pentecostal background I believe in the power of prayer and so I’ve taken an esoteric interest in an obscure bill which will now be made law.

So here’s the background in a nutshell – A bill was given royal assent on 26th March concerning whether local councils should be free to say prayers (any kind of prayer to any kind of god) before they make the decisions which make our lives hell. It also grants authorities to be present at any 'religious event'.

Over to Jake Berry MP (Cons) to explain the whole shebang: “I want to talk briefly about the purpose of the Bill, which will give local authorities the freedom to include prayers, other religious observances, or observances connected with a religious or philosophical belief as part of the business of that authority. The Bill will provide that local authorities in England may support, facilitate and make arrangements to be represented at religious events or an event with a religious element. I proposed the Bill because of a recent ruling made by the High Court. A councillor in Bideford town council attempted, through the courts, to put an end to the practice of the town council having prayers on its agenda, despite the practice dating back to the reign of Elizabeth I. As part of the High Court case, on 10 February 2012 Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that the council’s prayers as part of official business were not, in fact, lawful. In short, on a narrow issue of whether section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 gave councils the power to continue with prayers, the High Court ruled that it did not; councils therefore had no such statutory power to permit the practice to continue. At a stroke of the judge’s pen, the High Court ended centuries of tradition in our country and put in doubt in the long-held practice of town hall prayers in local authorities.” 

You may be surprised to hear that prayer has largely been a choice of councils up until now (despite some recent controversy) and you may also be surprised to hear that the House of Commons (and Lords) also hold brief formal prayers (these meetings seem to be largely attended to gain seats in important debates rather than to petition God).

There was a campaign by the National Secular Society to petition MPs to prevent the prayers. They also covering this story. I’m like the obscure football player on the edge of a pitch, far, far away from the ball, perhaps supposedly marking an opponent. But enough of the football metaphor and back to the blog entry…


Who cares? For those of us who take an interest in this, it was interesting to note that the House of Commons was almost empty at report stage. Few MPs seem to care about prayer even when they claim to hold those involved in the latest disaster in their prayers. It is largely seen as an archaic tradition which is irrelevant to Government. Even the Christian community has mixed feelings on the issue. And perhaps it is the sheer effectiveness of councillors prayers which are in question. Many simply do not feel that prayers are effective or necessary when it comes to the life and death decisions which Government makes. Perhaps MPs are not the only ones who feel this way. It would be crass to suggest otherwise.

The new law gives Councillors the choice on whether to pray or not before a meeting. It allows Councillors of all faiths to pray according to their faiths and since there is no economic cost there was relatively little opposition. Prayers can be made in any faith (which is a slight change from the status quo). After the second reading one MP brought forward an amendment that the prayers should only take place with a local referendum for people. But this was rejected largely because it was seen to be costly.

The few MPs who were interested remarked that the bill was good because it is cheap. So worship (of a kind) does take place after all. Prayer is cheap according to MPs and although they consistently claim that their prayers and thoughts are with those who have suffered some injustice, in practice, based on the evidence of this debate and the lack of MPs attending formal prayers it would seem to be lip service only.

But it could be true that the issues on which the world swings start with small things like prayer. There are many people who believe that prayer changes things and that it is an incredibly powerful and spiritual force. MPs and Councillors seem to be reserving the right to pray, but not actively choosing to do so.

In fact you could say that they say they pray (when they say, for example, ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with…’) and yet they do not do so. I believe there may be a word for such claims.