The Bridlington Abhorrence by Stephen Brady

Hertfordshire, 1805

Reverend Henry Stewart was at his study-table, composing the sermon for that Sunday’s service. The topic was to be “On The Desirability Of An Even-Handed Disposition, After The Example Of Our Saviour.” He was reaching for a chapter of Job to supply the requisite weight

to his ruminations, when a knock came upon the door. It was his maid, who after begging his pardon for the interruption, announced that the Reverend had a visitor.

Knotting his day-robe, he went into the lobby and down to the front door. Standing there upon the step was a man he recognized, though it cost him a moment to append a name to the face. It was Francis, the manservant of his nearest neighbour. The fellow seemed quite out of breath.

“Good day to you, Francis. Won’t you come in?”

The fellow stood there, worrying his hat between his fingers, and presented the appearance of some discomfort. When he finally replied, it was all of a rush.

“Begging your pardon, Reverend, but I cannot. Mr Henley bid me fetch you to his house with all haste. He allowed as I was not to return without Your Grace.”

Rev. Stewart was taken aback by this intelligence. He knew Charles Henley to be a steady, deliberate sort, the very model of a gentleman farmer, and these exhortations appeared quite out of character.

“Come, Francis. What does all the commotion mean?”

Francis met the vicar’s gaze, and at once looked away.

“Not at liberty to say, sir.”

“Well what does Mr Henley require of me?”

“All I know is that a stranger arrived at my master’s house this morning, in the hour after sunrise. He was… strangely attired, and his speech was… well, I never heard the like. Some class of foreigner, I shouldn’t wonder. He had a wild look about the eyes, like he was more than half a madman.”

Rev. Stewart felt a little chill.

“What did he want, this stranger?”

“Couldn’t say, sir. The Master bid me let him enter, in the spirit of charity. He brought the stranger into the drawing-room, and they passed some talk together. I couldn’t guess to what was said. Then, about the stroke of nine, my Master emerged, and he had a look upon his face… well, I hope to never see it’s like again. As if he’d just been in conference with the Devil himself. He summoned me, and bid me fetch you to his house with all speed. ‘Do not stop, Francis,’ he told me, ‘no, not even to take a drink of water.’ He said he hoped Your Grace could be with him within the hour.”

Rev Stewart was somewhat disconcerted by this talk. He fetched his coat and hat, and bid his girl delay luncheon until his return. And within three minutes, he was seated in the pillion of Henley’s trap, clutching the rail, while Francis snapped the reins beside him. They flew, raising great gouts of spray, along the byway to Bridlington, as though all the powers of Hell pursued them.

As they rode, Rev Stewart looked out across the hills, upon the broad and pleasant valley that had been his home these last fifteen years. It was a sight he knew as intimately as the whorls and creases of his palm. But today there was a strange variance in the prospect. A kind of mist had obscured the horizon, and even now, as he watched, it was descending, crawling with slow deliberation over the gentle hills. It was like no mist he had ever seen before. A wall of pearly, faintly opalescent vapour, swallowing the hills and meadows that had for so long been the limits of his Universe.

As he observed the swelling void he was visited by a formless, yet all-powerful certainty: on this day God would lay a test before him. Some choice would soon be his to make, and it would be a terrible one. But one that he must not shirk, though in the very core of his being he might abhor it.

They arrived at the house of Charles Henley, and Rev. Stewart wasted no time in dismounting the trap and entering through the front door. In the lobby he found his neighbour, loitering at the door to the study. Upon seeing the visitor he exclaimed: “Henry! O, thank Heaven! I’m half out of my mind, and simply don’t know what to do.”

“Well, Charles,” said the clergyman, “your man informs me that you received a rather singular visitor this morning, and the thing has nigh on caused an uproar.”

“He said… that is to say, he spoke of… no. No. I cannot bear to repeat it. You must speak with him yourself!”

“Come come, Charles. Calm yourself. What would your domestics think, to see their Master so discomposed?” He handed his hat and cloak to Francis, who was lingering nervously behind them. “Well. You’d better let me see the fellow.”

Henley ushered the vicar into the drawing room.

There, upon the chaise-lounge, sat the strangest fellow the clergyman had ever laid eyes upon. He was rangy, long-limbed, with dark hair cut in a square, outlandish manner. His clothing was bizarre, all of one piece and made of some slick canvas-like material. On his feet were stout rubber boots. An odour hung about him, which could only be described as metallic, and somewhat burnt. The vicar was struck dumb at the sight of the visitor, and stood frozen in the doorway.

The stranger looked at him, with dark eyes that flashed. “Who are you then?”

The Reverend cleared his throat.

“I am the Reverend Stewart, pastor at St Jerome’s. Rector of the parish of Bridlington and Shroseby. Mr Henley, in whose house you sit, is of my congregation. I am bound to tell you that your arrival has caused a deal of commotion. Is there some way we can be of service to you?”

“Service?” the stranger said, making a short noise that might have been a laugh. “That’s a good one. That’s priceless, that is. ‘Service.’ I come all the way here, the distance I’ve come, and they bring me a sodding priest!”

Rev. Stewart could follow the stranger’s speech only with difficulty. His manner of speaking, low and rapid and circular, like a waltz played staccato, was quite alien to his ear. He glanced at Henley, who only stared helplessly back.

“Well…” The vicar cleared his throat again. “You present the appearance of some distress. As a man of God, I am here to offer such aid to you as I can.”

“God?” The fellow made that short sound again. “God’s got no place in this business.”

Rev. Stewart bridled somewhat at that, but elected to pursue the exchange.

“Well, perhaps you can enlighten us, poor and confused as we are? Tell us your name, your business, and from where you are come.”

The fellow gazed at him, with wild dark eyes. “My name’s not important. My business you wouldn’t begin to understand. And I come from the future.”

At first the vicar could not be certain he had heard aright. He looked at Henley, who nodded with vigour, as if to confirm that he, too, had heard the same startling claim.

“Come, sir. Surely you do not take us for such fools. You would be better served to state your case truthfully.”

The stranger turned those storm-tossed eyes on him again.

“You people need to listen. We don’t have much time. I come from the future. I’m a scientist, and I was involved in a large-scale temporal experiment, the first of its kind. We encountered… a problem. We were sabotaged, if you get that. Anti-progress fanatics, they had somebody on the inside… never mind. The two men on my team are dead. And somehow I ended up here.”

“My dear fellow! These wild fancies do not become a gentleman.”

“It’s true!” The stranger shot to his feet, startling both men. They shrank a little from those flashing eyes. “I landed here! Wherever this is! But it’s wrong! Don’t you get it? It’s wrong! And it’s gonna destroy everything!” He took a step toward them, and they quailed. “I shouldn’t be here!”

 For the first time, Rev. Stewart found himself thinking of the strange mist he had seen upon the road.

“My friend…” he stammered. “You must not speak of such things. It is madness.”

“Go to the window,” the visitor said. His voice was calmer now, but laden with the promise of dread. “Go to the window and tell me what you see.”

Troubled by a vague apprehension, and watched closely by the others, Rev. Stewart went to the drawing room window and looked out.

“Well?” the stranger said. “What d’you see?”

The valley was half-swallowed by the marching mist. That wall of nothingness had slid across the hills and woodlands, until it encroached upon Bridlington itself. No more to be seen that pleasant and familiar horizon.

“Good lord…”

“Henry?” Charles Henley’s voice was all a-tremble. “What is out there? What do you see?”

“Nothing,” the vicar replied, and his voice seemed to come from a place far distant. “I see nothing.”

But that was not precisely true.

The mist, now that he viewed it at a closer quarter, had a quality that was subtly translucent. And when one looked into it for a time, it seemed that shapes could faintly be distinguished. Forms that were unnaturally regular, tall and straight-sided, all angle and plane, like mathematic figures that loomed above the world. They were almost like structures, but in their rigid and monotonous dimensions they were not the forms of Nature. His eye was appalled by such visions, and he was seized by a terror such as he had never known.

“Reverend? Reverend! Henry!

Startled from his awful trance, the vicar turned from the window. Charles Henley was staring at him, and his narrow face was deathly pale.

“Look… look at him!”

He was pointing toward the stranger.

That fellow had slumped back upon the chaise-lounge, and appeared to have suffered a fainting fit. His face was red, and his whole form twitched and shuddered like a landed fish. His hands clutched about his throat. Rev. Stewart, heedless now, crossed the room and

seized the man by the shoulders.

“Who are you? What calamity have you brought upon us? In the name of God, speak!”

“Henry…” his neighbour groaned, from the window. But the vicar paid no heed. He had begun to think that this might be the final hour for all of them, and before he went thus unprepared before his God, he would at all costs know the reason.

The stranger’s convulsions seemed to ease a little at his touch. He clutched the vicar’s arm, and his hand was hot as fire.

“It’s me! Don’t you get it? It’s me! I don’t belong here. And now it’s all dissolving.”

“God would not permit such a thing. You must be in error.”

“You saw it, right? It’s all coming undone.”

The vicar chewed his lip.

“If this be true..”

“It is!”

“How long, then?”

“Just a matter of time.”

“Is there nothing that can be done?”

“One thing.” The stranger put his arms around the vicar’s shoulder’s, and they huddled there, in a most unseemly embrace. “Kill me. Nothing else for it. You’re going to have to kill me.”

“For God’s sake, man…”

“It might not even work. But it’s your only chance.”

There were many things Henry Stewart might have said in that moment, but he found, when visited by the recollection of the looming void, that he could not articulate them.

Faintly he heard Charles Henley’s voice: “Henry? Henry! The world is gone! God save us!”

Rev. Stewart’s face was close now, mere inches from the stranger’s.

“What is your name?” he said. “Your name, pilgrim, if men have names from whence you come.”

“Harris. My name’s Harris.”

“Harris. May God have mercy on your soul. And mine.”

So this was the choice his God was pleased to lay before him. This the dread dilemma of which he’d had premonition. Too late for Bridlington – but was there not a world beyond, that might yet be delivered to Salvation? This was the question which tormented him, as those moments dwindled to their doom.

Bridlington lost; the remainder of Creation in the balance. And he must make the choice, however in his depths he might abhor it.

His hands, acting as though guided by a Will beyond his own, had closed around Harris’s throat. Still the prayers and weeping of Charles Henley could be faintly heard. Henry Stewart was set on committing an Act which would place him forever out of sight of his God, and he could only wonder if the forfeiture of his soul would stand payment enough for the prevention of the nearing Armageddon.

Real Politic by Stephen Brady

“It’s either an arse or an elbow,” he said, breath misting the cold night air.
He had spoken aloud, although there was no-one there to hear. Ordinarily, he was a man who loved an audience. On this occasion, however, he was prepared to make an exception.

Fintan Gall T.D. was standing in front of his Audi 600, perplexed. The car was idling on the empty road, spewing blue fumes in the winter chill. In front of the car, on the tarmac, was a jumbled heap of limbs, wheels, and handlebars. Fintan adjudged that he was looking at what had been, until recently, a cyclist. But he couldn’t be sure. He’d had six pints of stout back at the clubhouse Christmas do, each one chased by smooth yet impertinent twenty-five year old Jameson. He hadn’t even seen the interloper until the bastard upended himself over his bonnet.

“Came out of nowhere, so he did,” Fintan muttered, testing the sound and pacing of the words. “On my life. Out of nowhere.”

He was acute enough to notice the shallow indentation on the Audi’s bonnet, and felt a stab of rage towards the heap at his feet.

He whipped out his phone, fumbled it, cursed. Finally, and with some difficulty, he selected a number.

“Hello? Hello? J.D.? F.G. I know it’s late, shut up a second. Look, I’ve had a bit of a faux pas out on the highway. Could be a spot of bother. Never mind that. I’ll be at the office first thing. We’ll need to straighten this out. Yeah, yeah. Happy Christmas.”

He hung up. He was about to return to the warmth of the Audi when, from the corner of his eye, he noticed movement.

At the sound of his voice, the heap on the ground had stirred.
Fintan’s innards turned to ice. The situation had just become rather less open-and-shut than he’d supposed.

“Hello…?” he ventured.

“Aaaaaaaagh,” said the heap. “Aaaaaaaagh.”

“Hello?” Fintan spoke more stridently. “I’m speaking to you, man.”

“You bastard,” the heap said weakly. “You broke me leg. You bastard.”

“Now, now,” said Fintan, his drink-fuzzed brain stuttering into overdrive. “I categorically deny that allegation. You are engaged in speculation without full possession of the facts. I found you like this. You, my friend, have been the victim of a hit-and-run. Some lad in a van, foreigner I think he was.”

“Shuttup,” the cyclist groaned. “It was you, I know it was. I got your reg. You’re gointa jail, ya bastard!”

“You can have all my details, fella, I’ve nothing to hide. My name is Seamus O’Brien.”

He made a mental note to have his car chap change the plates in the morning. They’d done it before.

But the obstinate heap was still talking.

“I know who y’are! I know yer voice off the telly. You’re that bastard politician, closed down the hospital. And you’re pissed, I can smell it. Oh you’re goin’ down, pal!”

Fintan’s sluggish brain was groping for a tactic. Normally he was very good at talking himself out of corners. But this was proving to be a sticky wicket.

Finally, he hit upon an elegant solution.
“No speakee Engrish,” he trilled. “I don’ know what you talk about Mr. Man. I go home now. Velly solly happy Christmas!”

He started back towards the car. As he did so, the twisted shape on the ground rolled over and spoke again.

“Listen, pal. I’m in the Socialist Worker’s Party. And the Marxist Union o’ Ireland! An’ the Campaign for Universal Bike Lanes. Pricks like you have rid this country raw. I’m gonna ruin you. You’ll never see daylight again!”

Fintan slid behind the wheel and weighed his options. He was seething. His knuckles bloomed white against the steering wheel. A Socialist, a bloody Marxist no less, and worst of all, a cyclist! He was filled with righteous fury, which blew the boozy cobwebs from his brain and lent him a lethal focus. A problem had presented itself, and he was a man who solved problems. His constituents expected no less.

He threw the car into Reverse, backed up about thirty yards, and turned the high beams on.

His target was bathed in merciless light. Fintan revved the engine, exhilarated by the throaty Teutonic roar. His foot, clad in hand-stitched Italian leather, eased onto the accelerator.

He’d make it quick, he decided. It was Christmas, after all.

Anthology 2023 Book Launch

Declan Cosson

Hannah Doherty – Greene

Catriona Murphy

The Audience

The Usual Suspects

The Writers

Who are these guys?, they keep popping up

                                                                                                                                                            Excellence Award                                                                                                                                                                           

Catriona and Mary Oyerdiran

Haunted Bomber by Declan Cosson

It was a pitch black night whose tranquillity was suddenly disrupted as a vast swarm of Avro Lancaster bombers flew in a disciplined formation over the Germanic city below. Suddenly, alarms could be heard below and the pitch black skies were illuminated by flashing spotlights that would beam a ray of light up at the bomber fleet. Within minutes, the sky was suddenly glowing from the bursts of explosions went off around them. The thundering sound of the flack guns could be heard from below as they fired up at the planes. The pounding of these guns battered the planes, notably blasting one bomber’s propellor into inactivity. As this happened, a troop of enemy fighter aircraft swooped in and strafed the hull of the bomber, narrowly ducking it’s turrets who fired back at them with their own machine guns. By this stage, the bomber had two of its propellors knocked out of action.
To make things worse, the crew got progressively thinned and sliced up by repeated attacks by enemy fighter planes. As the radio operator tried to maintain his contact with base, but before he knew it, a stray shell from DCA sliced through him, leaving him bloodied and dead. Despite all of this battering, the bomber continued to just journey towards its target and maintained its position within the formation, dropping hails of bombs upon the factory complex that had been targeted, flattening the facility to little more than rubble. Once it was done, the bomber began to limp its way back to England. Then, all of a sudden, a strange mysterious fog suddenly enveloped the bomber and suddenly, the plane soon found itself diverging completely off course, cut off from the rest of the bomber fleet.

Inside the bomber’s cockpit, the two pilots were still alive. One of them was scrutinizing the controls of the plane, painfully aware of the beeping noise on the panel that alerted him to say “warning, low fuel”. As he observed this, his comrade said.
“We’ve been hit pretty bad, Fletcher! You really think we’ll make it back to England in this?”
“I don’t know, Flint, but we can’t waist time here! We got to try to make it back, at worst, I’d rather die in the Channel than be in a prison camp.”
As he heard this, Flint unbelted himself from his seat, standing up as he said to Fletcher, “Listen, I’m going back to check on the damage, to see if anyone else is still alive…”
“Yeah sure, Flint, go ahead…I’ll try to regroup with the squadron.”
Thus, Flint stood up and headed for the door of the cockpit.

However, little did either Flint or Fletcher know, the bomber was not flying towards England at all. Rather it was flying over the infamous peak of the Brocken, which according to Germanic myth was where the witches held their sabbath. Certainly, there was a very real sense that whatever was happening was not natural at all. Even as he was wrapped up in his leather jacket, scarf and gloves, Flint was chilled to the bone as he maneuvered through the corridor. It was dead silent except for the slow stuttering drone of the engines but the holes in the plane’s hull allowed for the harsh howling wind to be heard from inside. Disturbed by the deathly silence of the scene, Flint shouted. “Hello? Hello??”
As he came across the mutilated and bloodied corpses of his comrades, whose bodies were still riddled with bullets. The sight of all of his dead comrades was not easy for Flint, who honestly wanted to just wake up in his Merry England, living a quaint pastoral life as a yeoman and pretend that this experience was some sort of strange nightmare. For now, he edged closer and closer to tail of the plane and saw that its turret had been blasted open, leaving a hollow hole at the end of the plane. When Flint got to the tail of the plane, he looked down, only to see the peak of the Brocken. This disturbed him, not because he believed in witches or spooks but rather because he knew that they were not heading towards England. As he looked up, Flint could see that there seemed to be a glowing sphere that was sickly green. Baffled, Flint took out his binoculars and realized that much to his horror, the sphere was following them.
His gloved hands trembled from the shiver sent up his spine as he rushed back through the corridor and shouted. “Fletcher!! Captain Fletcher!!! Something is following us!!!”
He kept shouting that as he rushed towards the cockpit. As he heard Flint’s voice become louder and more intelligible to his ears, Fletcher turned around and asked,
“Flint, what’s up with you? Followed by what?”

As he burst into the cockpit, Flint spoke in a voice that sounded as if he had a stammer as he blurted out.
“I’m not making this up, Captain, there’s a sickly green orb on our trail and it’s…”
The moment he heard Flint talk about a sickly green orb, the scaffolding needed to construct and hold up Fletcher’s serious tone fell like a pile of bricks as he asked in a more sarcastic tone,
“Flint, how much did you drink before we left? That’s sounds like yet another one of those “Foo fighters” that have made such a sensation in the press!!”
“As I said, I’m not making this up, would you please take a look for yourself Captain.”
“Flint, with all due respects, I’ve got a plane to fly…the less time we waste up here, the sooner we get back to England, understood? We seem to be completely cut off from the bomber fleet!!”
Flint sighed in despair when he heard this. But before they could say anything, the orb got closer and closer to the bomber till suddenly, both Flint and Fletcher were forced to close their eyes as the plane briefly blazed in green, a bright sickly green before it suddenly faded out. When the green glow was gone, Flint and Fletcher looked to each other. Fletcher could only look confused as he asked, “What the bloody hell was that?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out!”
And with that, Flint slowly opened the door of the cockpit and crept back out into the corridor of the plane.
But when he did, he felt an incredibly strong sense of disbelief as he saw what seemed to be a green mist pour through the plane and as if it had a mind of its own, the mist split off into different sections, each seemingly having a mind of its own as they entered the corpses of the dead men. As someone who was not prone to superstitions, Flint was completely confused by what he saw. Before he could turn back to tell Fletcher, he heard movement and some weird noises. Though these noises sent a chill up Flint’s spine, he just thought that the noises were simply the wind pouring through the battered and torn hull of the plane which continued its slow drone.
So he turned his back on the macabre sight and headed back to the cockpit. But as he did so, little did he know, but the corpses began to animate and move themselves, slowly jerking themselves to stand up straight, their battered hands turned into claws and as if possessed by some unnatural sorcery, the corpse’s eyes opened, no longer the blue, green or brown eyes they originally were, but they were now blood red, red as crimson. Soon, one of them opened his mouth to reveal rotten teeth and let out a slow and echoing groan. It wasn’t long before Flint heard all of this groaning. Completely bewildered, Flint called back to the cockpit asking. “Fletcher?? Are you hearing all of this, Captain??”
“Flint, what in the name of Christ is going on back there??”
“I don’t know…I…”
When he heard the groan again, Flint turned around and what he saw reminded him of one of those hammer horror films he saw back in England. For now, a rotting bloodied corpse was starring right at him, extending its foul clawed and skeletal hand at him as it groaned. Chilled to the bone, Flint seemed paralyzed with fear, too terrified to scream, especially as more of them showed up. But when one of them lunged at him, Flint managed to shrug the creature off and he grabbed an axe that was attached to the plane’s wall so that when the ghoulish corpse lunged at him again, Flint swung it at the creature and split its head in two. This bought Flint time to run, but though he bolted towards the cockpit door, he quickly got exhausted halfway through the trip.
Thus, he panted heavily as he sought to recuperate his strength, but he was so tired that the axe strained on his hand.

Meanwhile, Fletcher was in the cockpit, but because he heard the groans, he grabbed his gun on instinct and went back to see what was happening to Flint. As this was happening, Flint could hear the moaning again as the ghouls closed on him. He desperately tried to raise his axe but found that he was too tired to do so. He felt completely paralyzed as if tormented by pure fear and disbelief over what was happening. “This is happening, this really is happening!”, Flint said in a panicked voice as he saw the grotesque corpses of the ghouls lunging out at him. But then, suddenly, there was the sound of a gun banging in the background as bullets whizzed past and slammed into the heads of the ghouls, killing some of them. As he turned around, Flint saw Fletcher with a smoking pistol beckoning him to come along. As this happened, Flint summoned the last of the strength and rushed back, finding some energy to shake off a clawed hand that tried to grab onto his boot. After stamping on the boot, Flint followed Fletcher to the cockpit as he asked in a panicked voice,
“By the love of Christ, Fletcher, what do we do now?”
As he sealed the door of the cockpit shut, Fletcher could hear the sound of the last propellor sputtering to a halt and the sound of a beeping noise on the control panel warning him and Flint that they were out of fuel. Hearing this, Fletcher snapped to Flint.
“Give me that axe of yours and get our parachutes, we need to abandon plane!”
Thus, Flint scrambled for the parachute packs and fitted his onto his back as Fletcher swung the axe to smash open a window of the cockpit. It was just in the nick of time as the ghouls were slicing their way through the door. However, by the time that the ghouls finally burst through the door, Flint and Fletcher had just managed to bail out of the cockpit. Flint had never felt as hopeless and as confused as he slowly floated down towards the ground, clinging onto his parachute as he saw the Lancaster bomber that he had just been in go spiralling to the ground, being ripped to shreds by the pressure as it did so.
Flint hoped that the crashing of the plane would kill off all the ghouls who had possessed the bodies of his fallen comrades. For now, Flint and Fletcher slowly floated to the ground, eventually touching down on dry earth. As they looked up, the two seemed to be near some sort of mountain range. As they looked around, Flint asked. “Where are we?”
“I don’t know Flint, but we are certainly not in England.”

Record of a Day Rendered Entirely in Clichés by Stephen Brady

At the crack of dawn
I rose and shone
Had a breakfast of champions
And blew out the stops
Grabbed the bull by the horns
And hit the street
To meet and greet
The great unwashed;
I wended my way
To join the club
Waiting for the rub
Of the green
To set the scene
Of what might have been.

I left no stone unturned
While the home fires burned
And the powers-that-be
Had an air of mystery.
But the empty vessels
Made an unholy noise
And the unstoppable force
Met the immoveable object
And the next thing I knew
It was an open-and-shut case
Of “we are where we are”
where I was.

At the eleventh hour
In my ivory tower
I circled the wagons
Got my ducks in a row;
I let sleeping dogs lay
Where every dog has his day
And all the world was a stage
When we were on the same page
I was flavour of the month
‘Til I was yesterday’s news
My talk was cheap
But I didn’t lose sleep
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks!
I’d been out of the loop
Landed right in the soup
And I was the last to know
I should have gone with the flow.


At the end of the day
It was a game of two halves
I was ahead by a nose
But got pipped at the post
By the Host with the Most
And if turnabout is fair play
You could colour-me-amazed
When the chickens I counted
Didn’t come home to roost.
For the grass it is greener
Where the rolling stones gather
No moss.
(No loss.)


Too many cooks spoiled my broth
And a soft answer turn’d away Wrath
But there were too many chiefs
And not enough indians.
Many hands made light work
Of my best-laid plans
(I’d had the whole world in my hands!)
So I beat a retreat
To a threadbare room
Where I quietly fumed
Til the sun was under the yardarm
And the day


The snob suddenly had an urgent desire to get a field shelter built for her new horse, a lovely grey Andalucian gelding called Freckles. Well, he was her friend’s really but he quickly became part of the family he was so loveable. Factor 3 was brought in to design the shelter and advise on the type of wood needed. It was duly built. “Where are you going to put it” asked the guru and his sidekick mini guru. “Wait and see” said the snob. She called up the local farmer, a gorgeous man from Barrock. He was known as Man Barrock. He was very handsome. If only she had been quite a few years younger…anyway, he subsequently married the local beautiful and elegant blonde bombshell. By far the best looking girl in the county. They made a beautiful couple and went to New York on their honeymoon. The snob digresses – again. Man Barrock came down with his tractor. They hitched the field shelter to the tractor, and Man Barrock started to tow it up the field. It had been built on skids.

The village idiot was out fishing. It was a Friday night. The snob walked in front of the tractor, guiding the gorgeous man from Barrock and showing him where to put the field shelter. The guru was in stitches of laughter when he realised what the snob was about. Man Barrock didn’t understand why she wanted the field shelter right in front of the village idiot’s window. Only about 50 yards away. The long suffering wife could be seen frantically phoning someone. Sure enough, it was the village idiot. He flew in from his fishing, moored his boat and drove like a lunatic up the drive. He was furious. We tied down the field shelter and left. The snob, Man Barrock, the guru and even the long suffering partner were in fits of laughter. The snob was heard to say that she hadn’t had as much fun since her granny died – her beloved grandmother would turn in her grave.

“The village idiot was seen racing off in his car, not to extract his boat, but down the road to see the laird. There was nothing they could do. It was Friday night. The planning office was closed. Anyway, it was a temporary structure and could be moved. Result! The snob was all for going and unhitching the boat from the pier, but the long suffering partner thought she had done enough.

A few weeks a later, the snob was on Orkney with her equestrian pals. It was really windy, so they couldn’t go out driving as planned. The snob received an urgent phone call from her long suffering partner. “The field shelter” he gulped. “What now?” asked the snob. “It’s blown over the fence and is upside down in the village idiot’s field.” “Oh no” said the snob. “I’m coming back anyway. I’ll be on the next ferry. Get Man Barrock and Man Barrock 2.” “OK” said the long suffering partner, clearly distressed about what the village idiot might do.

The fence was flat. Fortunately the horses were incarcerated in their stables. The mad colt, Biff, had been a bad boy – again – and the long suffering partner was under strict instructions not to talk to him. Nothing. Except feed him. Don’t try and muck him out. He would get kicked. Off at a tangent again. Oh dear. Mind like a flea.

By the time the snob got home Man Barrock were there. What to do. The guru came to the rescue with ropes and clips. Barrock 2 and the snob climbed over the fence. The village idiot was watching through the window… not daring to come out and face the snob. The field shelter was retrieved and put it in a resting place outside the long suffering partner’s big shed. Lovely. “

IT’S A SMALL WORLD by Emma Prunty

If you’re Irish, you’ll have more than a few stories of mad coincidences and bizarre meetings with people who are connected, somehow, to you. It takes just a few minutes to make the link.

My story tonight starts with one of those “small world moments”.

My family and I were to travel to Canada in the summer– to visit my husband’s family.  Two days before we fly, I’m running around south county Dublin doing last minute jobs. One of those jobs is to call into my local chemist to pick up all the prescriptions I need for the trip.

I get chatting to the woman behind the counter – as you do (cos if you didn’t what would be wrong with you?).

The woman in the chemist is called Carmel and when I tell her we’re off to Alberta for the summer, her face lights up.

  • Oh I love it out there, she tells me. I’ve been to Alberta and BC lots of times over the last 30 years.
  • Have you? I ask.
  • Oh yeah, my sister lives in BC, she says, in Kelowna.
  • I know it, I tell her, I’ve been through a couple of times.

Then I pause, and next thing, I hear myself saying:

  • Your sister wouldn’t be married to a fella called John would she?
  • She is! John, yeah!
  • I think I just met a friend of John’s there, I tell her. Derek. I was at his house like an hour ago. I was telling him I’m off to Canada and he telling me how much he loves Kelowna! And his best friend lives there.
  • Ah sure I’ve known Derek for years, says Carmel, a big smile on her face. You just met him now? How’s that?

And I tell her that I had gone to visit Derek to hand over to him my family’s old piano accordion so he might find a way to pass that on to a Ukrainian musician somewhere in Ireland.

So let me tell you that story, the real story.

When Ukraine was invaded and waves of refugees started to land on our shores, many of us felt an overpowering need to help them. How would we feel about being washed up in a new country, what might we miss from, what could help them feel a little more like themselves in this exile they never expected.

And something drew my eye to the old family accordion that sat on the floor in its hard case outside my bedroom. That’s all it was doing, sitting there, getting bumped into or acting as a receptacle for laundry resting between the hot press and someone’s bedroom. There was no space for the thing under our bed and it wouldn’t survive the damp in the attic.

Every day we looked at it but we didn’t see it. And sure as heck, no one was playing the poor thing.

My parents bought the accordion about 40 years ago when my brother had his “try every instrument” phase. It lasted even less time than the trumpet and the guitar, and joined them in the family’s attic for years.

Fast forward 20 years, and I was living in Toronto and had just gotten all into playing traditional music. Irish. The tin whistle wasn’t challenging enough for me so I thought I’d drag the accordion out of the Dublin attic and bring back to Toronto. It was a beautiful shiny burgundy colour, heavy, with pristine keys and all sorts of buttons and a big bellows. I bought a book of chords, learnt about 3 of them, loved the deep loud sound coming out of it… And that was about as far as I got.

Every couple of years I’d pull it out, fiddle around, knock out a few simple tunes before gently putting it back with a sigh into its velvet-lined box. I carried it from home to home as we moved and our family grew, from Toronto to eastern Canada, to Norway and Italy and eventually back to Ireland again. Back to where it started off and arriving long after my mother – who first bought it in Walton’s off Parnell Square – had passed on.

For all those years, that beautiful thing I never learned to play has been mine, but I have never really been “its”.

And here we were in 2022, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how some Ukrainian, stranded somewhere in Ireland, must be sorely missing a beloved instrument, left behind in a dash for safety. It’s an instrument found in many music traditions, but I was thinking of polkas and eastern expressive laments that might be there to come out of it.

  1. Annie Proulx’s magnificent novel, Accordion Crimes, tells a variety of immigrant experiences in the US through the tale of a single green accordion as it passes from owner to owner. I’ve carried my family’s accordion through my own immigrant life (an immigrant by choice, not through exile), and now it was time for it to move to new hands. Hands that might actually respect it and play it!

I think now, this quiet family member that travelled thousands of miles with us was just biding its time, letting us mind it until it could finally meet a proper musician.

And this is where Derek comes into the story, again – that’s the best friend of the sister in law of the woman in the chemist’s shop!

I found Derek on Facebook, where he helped set up a group called The Gift of Music for Ukrainians in Ireland. They put out a call in the spring for anyone wanting to donate any instruments that were “unused and/or unloved”. The response from the Irish public was overwhelming, and within a few months they had 600 members, people offering free music lessons, as well as vans to drive up and down the country with cellos, harps, pianos, half sized violins and lots of guitars. They have already helped 200 different Ukrainian families.

Apparently Ukrainian children start early – and very seriously – with their musical training. One 18-year-old boy decided to learn guitar from YouTube with a donated guitar, and the video he sent back showed an astonishing talent.

When I showed up at his house, Derek showed extreme concern that my offering to the group was really voluntary, didn’t the accordion have all this history for us, wouldn’t we miss it? To be fair, it did turn out to be a bit difficult to wrench it from the invisible grips of the family. I tried to sneak it out to the car, with firm words at the ready “this is my accordion, this is what I want to do with it”, but still I let my younger daughter have one more go. I watched her right-hand fingers feel the keys, working out a tune she knows on the piano, asking how to squeeze it properly, and did I have to let it go. I did.

After a long chat and assurances, I left it with Derek, and took off for Canada. He has kept me updated on its progress – it went off to Donegal, then Dundalk but neither of those worked out. But now, it might have found its place. It’s soon to make its way down to Dingle in Kerry, to an 11-year-old boy who already plays but who left his instrument back in Ukraine.

I don’t know this boy, I will probably never meet him and the most I can hope for will be a message to hear he’s playing it and is happy. And I hope to eventually get another message that he has left it behind for someone else in Kerry to use after he returns to his home in Ukraine. Back to his own accordion that is – please God – sitting waiting for him there.

I would love to hear him play, and feel no regret I never learned. Will he play be classical or Cajun, folk tunes from his part of Ukraine, or French café style. Hopefully all of those plus a whack of decent Kerry slides into the mix.

The world is a big place, but when music is there to be played, and the instrument of that music passes from one careful hand to another, the world shrinks down to what really matters. For creativity and happiness to come through from the act of performance, and joy to be let free, even – especially – in a time of war and exile.

Daughter of Xephal by Declan Cosson

The first human child born in the Alpha Centauri, Clara Weaver, had experienced a cruel and difficult life to this point. Her parents were scientists that were part of one of the earliest adventures by humanity into the Alpha Centauri. Led by none other than her great aunt, they had arrived at the small planet of Xephal. A fringe planet in the Alpha Centauri, Xephal was nonetheless a dangerous place and her parents were killed by the native Gorgonians. However, she was taken in by the other natives of Xephal, the amber coloured Alfenfolk but she never truly fit into their society. For one day, the beautiful, pale skinned and flaxen haired girl had the bad luck of being the object of desire for both the Queen’s son and one of her greatest warriors, Kuvak. They fought over her and the prince died in the duel. Out of petty rage, the Alf Queen Sheeva banished her, blaming her for the death of her son. Cruel, harsh, but the human woman who didn’t even have wings made for an easy and obvious scapegoat to the enraged queen of the Alfenfolk.
“You belong there!!”, Clara remembered the Queen declaring as her warriors drove her away from the trees and dumped onto the forest floor. Thus, there she was, stuck on an alien planet, in a dangerous forest that looked like a brambled jungle which often lit up at night. For now, all Clara could do was huddle under the imagined safety of a tree as she heard the growling and snarling of different types of creatures. She would even hear the sound of the screams of a poor beast getting murdered by a predator. Such noises were enough to remind her that as a daughter of humanity, she may have been born on Xephal but Xephal had no time for her. Gorgonian and Alfenfolk alike hated her and thus, she craved to be among humans again. She longed to be loved again and in the security of her own kind. At this moment, she could hear bangs and rattles, followed by more bombardment.

Little did she know, but her own kind did not take kindly for the massacre of their scientists and thus, a Terran military expedition under the command of Major Jethro Hoggins had been dispatched to protect what remained of the scientific settlements. His air and space divisions were already hammering the Gorgonians. Looking up, Clara could see what looked like permanent stars but they were in fact the Terran battleships, frigates and forward assault vessels that were deploying dropships and flying fortresses to the planet. Until now, she had thought very little about the political implications of what was going on, and so she fell asleep with the simple yearning to be in the company of Earthmen once more.
The following morning, it was still dark with the star Centauri B beginning to rise and illuminate the forests below. Clara opened her aqua marine green eyes when she heard strange growls and snarls around her, followed by the sound of shuffling. She opened her eyes wider in panic as she saw a whole pack of hunched, goblin shaped Gorgonians coming towards her, chuckling to themselves at what must have seemed to them like easy prey. One of them even crawled up onto her, leading Clara to panic and jab the creature with a knife, killing the Gorgonian and buying herself time to escape. She initially climbed up the trees as the Gorgonians pursued her with spears and rocks, they surrounded the tree she climbed up on and howled at her. Suddenly, the glee of the Gorgonians turned to panic and it was as if they sensed something enormous was coming. The sound of a rumble in the distance was enough to cause the Gorgonians to freak out, squeal and scatter from sight as a large shape cast its shadow over the jungle. The noise got louder and louder, turning out to be a sound that Clara had never heard before, the sound of roaring jet turbines.
Curiously, Clara looked up, unable to scream as she saw the vast shape of a metallic vessel that had twelve turbine engines, six on either side of the front and stern of the craft. This craft was bristling with ordnance all over it and a control tower was positioned as extending from above the centre of the ship.
Although she sensed that the ship was probably owned by the humanity that she longed to reconnect with, Clara felt uncomfortable in its presence and so she retreated further and further into the jungle.
In the vessel’s control tower, the hard faced and grey-haired captain was observing the holographic map at the centre of the control room. All around him, uniformed crewmen, overseen by officers with peaked caps, were operating the controls and listening to radio calls. His vessel was on a surveillance mission that was instructed to map out Xephal, as he sipped his tea, the captain heard an officer saying. “Captain, the recon dropships have been checked and geared! They are good to go!”
“Very well! Order them to launch!”
“Yes sir!”
Launching from the flying fortress, three small dropships were deployed and darted across the jungle. One of the dropships was co-piloted by a young man with short flaxen hair and blue eyes, his body was fully suited and protected by an armoured suit and flight helmet while his gloves were wet from perspiration as he held onto the controls as firmly as possible. Beside him was the pilot, a grey haired and moustached man who asked. “So Dimitri, what really brought you into this sorry life of flying recon runs for the home guard? You should have been a Legionnaire if you wanted actual action!”
“Simple, Sergei, I couldn’t truly settle down after my experience during the machine wars as a kid. But at the same time, I didn’t have the heart to become a legionnaire.”
Sergei burst into laughter as he said, “Didn’t have a heart?? Dimitri, those boys get superhuman strength and all the glory and prestige! I mean look at the one who saved you, Zach? He’s seen as the modern King Arthur!”
“That’s true, but he couldn’t marry…and from what I saw of him last, the glories of being a Legionnaire were of little comfort to that brute fact. For that reason, I didn’t want to give up the chance of getting married.”
“Are you in love, Dimitri? Did you leave sweetheart back on Earth or on Mars?”
“No, you know that I didn’t, Sergei. I’m just keeping my options open. I’m only twenty-three!”
Suddenly, the dropship shook and the lights flashed on and off. Sergei slammed the controls and swore as he heard a computer voice announce in alarm, “Warning! Warning! Turbine malfunction!”
The control panel flashed red as the voice continued in different languages so Dimitri asked in panic. “What? What just happened? Did we get hit?”
“No, we’re having what is called “technical issues”, the engineers who checked our dropship must have been drunk because they didn’t fix one of the turbines properly so now it is malfunctioning! Come on, boy, let’s land this machine as safely as possible.”
The small twin turbined craft made a bumpy journey to the forest floor. In its small cargo bay, a troop of home guardsmen were thoroughly shaken around, clinging onto their firearms as they heard the intercom announce.
“Gentlemen, your attention please!! This is the pilot speaking; we apologise for the turbulence but we have a slight malfunction with one of the turbines!! Please remain calm as we find a safe place to land!”
One of the men cynically remarked,
“By Saint Olaf!! That is the last thing that we need! To be trapped on this god forsaken planet!”
“Not excited for a little adventure, Ulf? Imagine, this will be our first time on dry land since we left Mars, I wonder what the women will be like on this planet?”
“Really Felicio, is that what comes to mind?”
Silence invaded the cargo bay as the sergeant looked at the two, speaking in a firm voice lumbered by a Northumbrian accent. “Settle down, gentlemen, a bit of fresh air might do you lot some good!”
The dropship swooped down, hoping to reach a clear spot, but the tail fin got caught in a taller tree trunk and got yanked off the high speeding dropship, causing the vessel to suddenly spiral down in a violent circle. It crashed into the forest floor and then skidded sideways, smashing the foliage in its path before finally coming to a brutal stop.
Within the cockpit, Dimitri’s armour and helmet shielded him from any serious damage but he felt incredibly dazed as he tried to sit up. He took off his helmet as if in some sort of shock. In an attempt to lighten the mood, Sergei chuckled and said sarcastically.
“Well, Dimitri, that wasn’t too bad, was it?”
Before Dimitri could say anything, a loose piece of metal suddenly fell and jabbed through Sergei’s back. Horrified, Dimitri shouted. “What?? Sergei?? Sergei, no!!”
As he shook Sergei’s body, both Felicio, the medic and Sergeant Hawkins came into the cockpit. The sergeant asked sternly,
“Is he dead too?”
“Yes, sarge. Quite dead, just as we landed, a piece of metal stabbed him in the back!”
“Christ, that’s the last thing we need. Half our squad along with our lieutenant are dead too!”
The news of this did not comfort Dimitri at all, but sergeant Hawkins simply snapped.
“Come on, help us set up the beacon! If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to signal a dropship for rescue! Chop! Chop!”
Starring at the crashed dropship, Clara looked bewildered. Despite being born to humans, her rearing among the Alf made human technology look strange and alien. She observed from the foliage as she saw the surviving men get to work and set up the beacon. Though their bodies were covered by green uniforms and shielded by brown body armour, the beardless faces of the men that were currently uncovered by their helmets was enough to remind her that they were human. Not just that, but they were the first humans that she had seen since her parents had died. Of particular interest to her was the pilot, a youth that wore a dark green jumpsuit and sleek dark brown armour. He didn’t wear a helmet so she could see his short flaxen hair that matched his young beardless face. That youth, Dimitri was currently programming the beacon with the needed messages. As he set to doing this, one of the privates, Fionnbar asked. “Hey Dimitri, is it me, or are we being watched?”
“Watched? That would make sense, after all, this forest is probably full of life so who knows?”
Noticing how uncomfortable Dimitri looked, Fionnbar asked, “You alright?”
“Yeah, now that the beacon is sending messages to the nearest vessel, I need a leak.”
Fionnbar chuckled as he Dimitri stumbled off into the trees. However, in reality Dimitri was still in a state of shock after what happened. While they were setting up a meagre defensive position, Ulf asked Fionnbar. “Hey, where did Dimitri go?”
“Went into the woods. He needed a leak and unlike on the forward assault ship, there are no toilets on Xephal!”
There was a nervous chuckle among the men.

Meanwhile, Dimitri just kept walking into the jungle, going further and further away from the crash site. As he did so, he took in the sight of the beautiful yet bizarre jungle that seemed barren and yet organic at the same time. He sat down and tried to relax, worn out by the experience and so exhausted that he didn’t notice how far he was from the crash site. He closed his eyes and his mind drifted. But the distance was enough for Sergeant Hawkins to task Ulf to lead a small search party to look for Dimitri. Around this time, Clara, overwhelmed by curiosity to see another human up close, scrambled towards Dimitri, examining his uniform and even scrutinising some of his items, commodities and tools of the like which she had never seen before. This meant that as Dimitri regained his stamina and strength, he opened his eyes to see a beautiful, young and very well-built woman who had aqua marine green eyes. At first, he recoiled in shock, sitting up against the tree trunk as he took in the sight of the woman before him.
Clara was white, but she had dark tattoos decorating parts of her body which was scantily clad. She wore sandals on her feet while a long, patterned cloth was wrapped around her upper body and reached down to her knees. Her long blonde hair fell in thick curly locks down her back and covered her shoulders. Having not used English for a long time, Clara mostly communicated in sign language to try and relay information. Still in surprise of encountering her, all he could say was. “You’re human?”
“Yes, you and me, we’re both human!”
The woman, though she understood the concept perfectly, seemed to be bewildered as this was the first conversation with a human that she had since the loss of her parents. As if in a determination to prove his humanity to her, Dimitri stood up. He unstrapped and removed his glove, extending out his bare hand. It was as if he wanted to show how much it resembled hers. Looking at her own hand, Clara reached out to hold onto Dimitri’s and the two shared eye contact. She looked sad but she was now starting to smile, as she did so, she noticed the ID badge on his jumpsuit and asked. “Dimitri?”
“Yes, I am Dimitri.” He said this as he pointed to himself. He asked “And who are you? Do you remember your name?”
A silence developed as the young woman before him finally said,
“Clara, Clara’s my name.”, One could tell by the weight in which she said that that she was making a great effort with what little English she had.
Some time had passed and by the evening, Dimitri and Clara were sitting by a fire, getting to know about each other. “So, you were cut off from your parents?” Clara asked,
“During the machine wars, yes, I mean, that happened back in 2356 but the whole experience feels as real to me now as it did then. Thankfully, I was rescued but ouch, it did hurt.”
Clara, having grown up all her adolescent life among the Alf had difficulty imagining what the machine wars must have been like.
“So, how long have you been here for, Clara?”
“Here? Since I was born…I never knew what Earth or Mars looked like, my parents were killed by Gorgonians when I was young, I was raised by the Alf.”
“I can see that, you even dress as if you were one of them, but why aren’t you among them now?” As soon as he asked that question, Dimitri wished that he hadn’t because from the reaction he got, he could see that it triggered a raw nerve in Clara. But she just said,
“I don’t really know, but I guess they just didn’t want me anymore…so they threw me out!! And now I don’t have a home!”
Dimitri was afraid to ask anymore, he couldn’t imagine why anyone would just throw a beautiful young woman out into the jungle like this. At first, he stayed quiet, but then as she started to sob, he came over and wrapped his arm around her as he said, “Hey, just because you don’t have a home now doesn’t you can never have one again. Believe me…I know what that is like, I lost mine when Thorne flattened Saint Petersburg…”
“But you did find a new home, you were rescued, were you not?”
“Actually, my family found a new home in a place called Trosmo. Maybe if we stick together, we might find you a proper home, alright?”
For now, Clara seemed to nod. Exhausted, he and Clara fell asleep for the night. The night of Xephal was pitch black, save for the bugs who emerged from sacs attached to the trees. Their bulbous backs glowed in different colours. They immediately flew away as the search party continued to make their way through the jungle. While searching, Ulf asked.
“Isn’t it getting a bit late?? Who knows what sort of horrors are here on this planet?”
Only for the sergeant to snap, saying, “No disagreement with you there, private but all the more reason not to leave Dimitri out here! So come on you lot, keep up!”
In the early hours of the morning, Dimitri and Clara were still snoozing together when suddenly, Clara heard the sound of buzzing wings and this caused to stand up and panic. But just as she stood up, there was a sudden thump on the ground as standing before her was a towering humanoid with amber golden skin patterned by black tattoos. He had amber golden eyes and curved ears. His flowing black hair was long and it went down his back, a loincloth covered his waist and large dragonfly like wings extended from his back. His wrists were decorated with bracelets as he clasped a spear. He said sternly.
“So, there you are alien! I’ve been looking for you across the whole jungle!!”
“I thought the Queen exiled me, Kuvoc? Was it not you who challenged the prince over me? It wasn’t my fault that you killed the prince, but I was the one who was banished for it!”
“Clara, be reasonable! You won’t stand a chance out here in the jungle alone! After all, was it not us who took you in? I’m sure the Queen has forgiven you for the death of her son!”
As if insulted, Clara snapped. “Forgive? I have nothing to be sorry for…I don’t think I’ll ever forgive the Alf Queen for what you did. So let me go back to my own kind.”
Kuvoc smirked as he grabbed her by the arm, snapping,
“You would really take one of those alien parasites as your mate? One of those unclean bleached, mud or black skinned foreigners who covers himself in metal and rains fire and brimstone onto our world. I know you were born to them, but they are not worthy of you, they don’t deserve your beauty!”
“That’s not for you to decide!”
A struggle ensued between Clara and Kuvoc and it woke up a sleeping Dimitri. Dimitri’s eyes widened as he saw the fair-haired maiden that he had bonded with struggling to be free from the grasp of this golden skinned warrior. As he saw the Alf warrior grab onto Clara, Dimitri knew what he had to do. Without thinking, Dimitri sprung up, brandished his knife and lunged at Kuvoc, grappling onto him. So surprised was Kuvoc that he let go of Clara and began to wrestle Dimitri. At first, Dimitri did well, successfully wrestling him and even managing to inflict a few blows on Kuvoc with his fists. Clara looked on in panic but Dimitri turned to her saying, “Run! Run Clara, get out of here!!”
But as he said this, Kuvoc kneed him in the groin, forcing him to let go and stumble to the ground in pain. As Dimitri used to the tree to help him reposition himself, Kuvoc spat with contempt as he said.
“So, you are what Clara seems to covet? You stupid, stupid alien! You travel all this way across the stars with the intention of making yourselves sovereigns of this world, only to lose in a basic fight! Pathetic, you have no right to be her mate!”
Dimitri didn’t understand what Kuvoc just said, but he refused to back down as Kuvoc picked up his spear, readying himself to plunge it into Dimitri’s chest. Clara desperately clung onto the spear as she said. “Kuvoc, please stop!! You’ve…”
But Kuvoc simply slapped her to the ground. Dimitri was able to push the spear to the side and he even reached for the pistol in his pocket.
But just as he grasped it, the rattle of gunfire was heard across the jungle. Hearing the gunshots was enough to scare Kuvoc and he flew away in panic as Ulf emerged from the foliage, clad in full body armour and holding a smoking assault rifle. The sight of Ulf and the others was enough to give Dimitri a sense of joy as he said.
“Boys, at long last! You came in the nick of time!”
“Yes, you strayed a long way from the dropship! Why were you wrestling an Alf? That could have diplomatic consequences you know!”
“It’s complicated…”
Clara, having recovered from her wallop, suddenly felt very exposed and vulnerable again with all the troopers looking at her. She clung onto Dimitri as Felició remarked.
“Well Dimitri, I see that you won first prize?”
“It’s not that simple, the Alf you just saw wanted to have his way with her. Since she clearly didn’t want that, I had to stop it.”
“Well, that’s a good start, Dimitri. You’re going in the right direction boy!”
The troopers laughed but the laughter was cut off as sergeant Hawkins snapped.
“Lads, enough! This isn’t the time for romance, a dropship has finally arrived to give us a lift home and recover the wreckage.”
Dimitri turned to Clara and said.
“Come on, Clara, we’re going home, or at least to a safe place.”
“Home? I have no home.”
“We’ll find you a home. Wherever humanity goes, that will be your home.”
Eyes shining with relief, Clara embraced Dimitri before they all headed to the dropship.
Although in a better position after she was rescued, Clara’s life was not the Disneyfied happy ever after that she probably hoped. Although she was welcomed warmly by the humans, especially her great aunt, Samantha Weaver, who had often promised rewards to any human explorers who could find her missing niece, Clara was still a feral woman by nature and she had difficulty truly fitting back into human society. She visited Earth, even exploring the upper echelons of the Terran capital of London but she never truly fit in with its rigid norms. Thus, she returned to the colonies on Xephal. But Clara was not delicate, she could swim in deep water and she was better-adapted to life on this alien planet.
Clara did find love with Dimitri, and they were married on Xephal. And even though his military duties as a dropship pilot often separated them, she did not stay idle, becoming a schoolteacher for the children of the home guardsmen on Xephal and even having a child of her own. Whatever her ordeals, Clara Weaver’s position as the first human born outside the Solar System gave her a special place in human history.
Although it would be her son, Lawrence that would ultimately be the youngest of the Founding Fathers who lead the Alpha Centaurian humans to independence from Earth, it was she who was truly seen as the foremother of the Centaurians (The term for a human born in the Alpha Centauri).

Helios Smiles by Declan Cosson

To every man upon this earth

Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods,

Thomas Babington McCauley’s Horatius

The Solar System had become a chaotic zone of death and destruction, for as a result of the long period of peace which the Solarans had enjoyed for centuries, no amount of training could have truly prepared them for the all-out war that they had to endure when the Drakkar lustfully tried to claim their territory. The Drakkar had managed to punch through the Alpha Centaurian colonies, leaving death and destruction in their wake and were now besieging all of the core planets of the Solar System such as Earth, Mars and Venus, stretching the Solaran fleet thin as they tried to defend their planets. However, while many other races would have keeled under the sheer savagery that the Drakkar intended to inflict, the Solarans, descendants of humanity, were not a race of men that would go down without a fight. Thus, every fleet in Solaris was embroiled in a battle with the Drakkar invasion force in a desperate attempt to defend their home system.

Thus, Icarus was there, for he and Kaspar, safely enclosed in their egg-shaped fighters with swept curved wings, swooped through the immense battle that extended across the Solar System. Currently, they stuck with their squadron as they darted past an enormous battleship that was firing off all its plasma gun batteries and even shooting off torpedoes as it turned the more monstrous looking Drakkar vessel into a flaming wreck that was on the verge of exploding. Both sides deployed countless such vessels as these battleships, shielding them with a screen of frigates, cruisers and swarms of fighter craft.

Having lost the element of surprise that had gained them great victories at the start of the war, the Drakkar were beginning to be overpowered and driven back by the massive Solaran battleships which when properly organised and arrayed, could form an almost impenetrable position, firing hails of plasma bursts while soaking up the enemy’s plasma rounds with their gleaming shields that hugged their metallic hulls as tightly as a cocoon. The sight of all these vast but sleek and elegant emerald and amber coloured vessels that were the Solaran ships holding their position was enough to make silvery haired Icarus smile. His icy blue eyes were nicely shielded by the visor of his helmet as he focused on the battle around him, staying close to his comrades as they flew in a disciplined formation. As he flew, he could hear Kaspar ask him via radio.

“Grim sight, isn’t it, Icarus? The whole Solar System is alight tonight!!”

“Yes, but let our patron God Helios smile this night, because for once, it is our boys that are pounding these savages…”

“Yes, we might finally get a proper victory, but let’s not get too hopeful, this is a war so anything can happen…”

Before either Icarus or Kaspar could continue their banter, they suddenly got an order from their squad leader as he announced,

“Cupid Group! This is Cupid Leader! King Akatarr’s flagship the Tiberius is being attacked and cut off from the rest of the fleet by the Drakkar! All Solaran forces are to be redirected to his location! Over?”

“Understood, over and out!”

Hearing his squadron being called “Cupid” made Icarus chuckle to himself, for he knew that earlier humanity saw Cupid as the God of love who made people fall in love by firing arrows at them. But that irony only made successful engagements all the more satisfactory. As the battle continued all around him, Icarus asked sarcastically.

“Kaspar, you enjoying the view up there above me?”

“Eh…I presume so, I mean space is beautiful when you don’t get your spacecraft shot out of the stars…you’ll make sure that this doesn’t happen, right?”

“Of course, Kaspar, you know you can count on me, as long as I can count on you! Just like in school, right?”

At first, Kaspar laughed in a reassuring tone but then he suddenly blurted out,.

“Oh, sweet Gaia, Mother of Mercy! Would you look at that…”

Looking ahead, Icarus could only gasp in a strange sense of awe as he saw the flagship Tiberius, the largest of all Solaran ships, a vessel that was half the size of a planet being swarmed and encircled by Drakkar vessels of all forms from fighters to battleships. For it seemed that the entire invasion fleet was having a go at the Tiberius. Yet for all of the pummelling that this Leviathan class flagship got, the Tiberius just continued on, determined to burst it’s way out of the Drakkar encirclement as it fired its turrets at the Drakkar vessels, shredding many of them with hails of plasma. As they looked at the macabre sight before them, Icarus heard the squad leader say.

“Don’t be afraid, gentlemen…Helios is our God, for he will guide us sons of Solaris to victory or to Paradise!”

Upon these words, Cupid squadron, joined by many other Solaran craft of all forms, swooped in to relieve their King’s flagship. In doing so, the Solarans formed an encirclement of their own around the Drakkar, hoping to blast their way through. For if their king couldn’t make it to them, the Solarans would make their way to him.

This meant that Icarus and his comrades began the dirty task of murder as they would either kill or be killed. Icarus avoided repeating the stubbornness he had displayed earlier on in the war, for dying slowly and in pain alone in the cold voids of space without anyone by his side was a fate Icarus would do everything to avoid.


Upon the Tiberius itself, the scenario had turned very bleak for the surviving men as all of the sick bays were filled to the brim with injured men whose bodies had been burnt by the plasma and their armour melted through during the attacks. Despite the degenerating situation in which even the shields of the ship were basically useless, the Solarans, knowing that the Drakkar would simply eat them or rip their hearts out continued to fight on, even as more of them got sucked out into space when torpedoes slammed into the Tiberius’s hull, puncturing the enormous flagship with holes. The corridors were dark, but their walls flashed blood red while alarms wailed throughout the ship as soldiers, marines and crewmen rushed through them.

Up at the bridge, a towering Solaran with white but tanned skin, a beardless face and smooth tidy grey hair looked ominously as he saw the Drakkar encirclement continue despite Solaran attempts to breach it. Still the Solaran attack gave the Tiberius some breathing space to recover. As the space around their vessels flashed green and blue with the shots of heated plasma and ion weapons, the captain approached and announced to him.

“Your Majesty, this ship can only take so much punishment, and if it collapses, you risk going down with it. You must get to an escape pod…”

Hearing this, Akatar stubbornly snapped,

“No! It is not in my nature to just flee to safety while the rest of my kinsmen face the chance of a violent and cold death…”

“But your majesty…you are more than the rest of us, you are our K…”

But before the captain could continue, the whole vessel shook and rattled as if something had just slammed into it, leading all those who were standing to cling onto railings in an attempt not to lose their balance. Amidst all of this chaos, a crewman announced.

“Captain! Sire! The Drakkar have breached the hull of the Tiberius with one of their largest battleships by ramming it!! As we speak, their warriors are storming into the vessel, killing all in their path and are heading towards the core of the Tiberius, what do we do?”

Hearing this was not pleasant for Akatarr, for he had already lost his two eldest sons in the defeat at the Alpha Centauri, the younger had his heart ripped out ritualistically as a sacrifice to the false Drakkar God, Bhoolakar. The youngest son, Helius was still back on Earth, but the boy was too young to rule a civilization as vast and as complex as Solaris in times of war. Yet despite the implications his death would inflict, Akatarr still announced,

“Focus our defence around the core of the ship!! Solarans, those of you who can fight!! With me!”

Thus, Akatarr himself gathered what remaining legionnaires and marines he could find and they used the ship’s monorails to travel as quickly as possible to plug in the breach that the Drakkar had made in the Tiberius.


Meanwhile down in a corridor leading towards the core of the ship, a troop of Solaran soldiers, dressed in their silvery armoured space suits, clasped their plasma rifles in their gauntleted hands as they anxiously waited in the increasingly dark corridors where the flickering lights flashed blood red. Their suits and weapons had spotlights to help illuminate the vast corridor which was becoming pitch black. A tense silence caused the men to shiver with dread but despite every instinct telling them to just run, the soldiers just stood their ground, positioning themselves behind a makeshift barricade. Then the moment finally came, the rumbling, the snarling and finally the loud brutish shout. “Bhoolakar!!!”

A horde of towering crocodilian shaped reptiles poured into the corridors, their amber eyes glowing with the glee of a confidence built up by many victories, not just against Solaris but against many races before them. The bulk of them charged at the Solaran barricade, bearing thorny jagged blades and spears while some of them took cover, positioning themselves to fire plasma guns at the Solarans. Despite the ferocity and cruel snarls of the Drakkar, the Solarans didn’t take a step back and just fired plasma rifles at the Drakkar. They lit up the room with the countless rounds of plasma which sliced through many of the advancing Drakkar, slaying them. One of the Legionnaires, Creon, who was little more than a Solaran boot on the ground, just gripped his plasma rifle and fired it for as long as he could while two of his comrades manned a tripod plasma gun that was beginning to pin the Drakkar down. As Creon fought on, he could hear his squad leader asking through radio,

“Sire! The Drakkar are overrunning our position!! What are your orders??”

“Hold your ground, sons of Solaris!! We are on our way to relieve you!! By Helios, ensure that they don’t reach the Core of the ship!”

Creon, hearing this, was not relieved at all, for he wanted to escape this nightmare. But he knew he had his orders so he slew another Drakkar. Just as his comrade next to him got a burst of plasma in the chest which slammed him back across the corridor, another soldier flung a grenade from where that plasma came from. Although Creon could see the explosion, he couldn’t see the result as he had to dodge a spear which was flung at him by a charging warrior. Positioning himself at the barricade, Creon continued to fire back at the Drakkar till his gun was drained of energy ran. Before he could recharge it, a Drakkar warrior charged at him, his attempts at blocking the creature’s blade resulted in his gun being chopped in two. The Drakkar then knocked Creon to the ground. But Creon was able to roll out of the way as the Drakkar swung his blade, getting it stuck in the floor.

Taking advantage of this, Creon restabilized his balance, and activated the glowing energy blades that were attached to his suit’s gauntlets and thus was able to say the Drakkar warrior with a blow to the beast’s stomach. His boggy green eyes readjusted themselves as Creon sought to reorientate himself, only to be bumped into by another Drakkar, knocking Creon to the ground. As Creon looked up, the Drakkar snarled with a toothy grin as he plunged his spear into his hip, trapping Creon to the floor. Creon tried to swing his energy blade at the Drakkar but the Drakkar was out of reach, while his comrades fought back desperately and most of them by now were using their energy blades to chop up the advancing Drakkar. One by one, they started to be killed off and dismembered. But then, in this chaotic darkness, more blasts of plasma suddenly came shooting from the Solaran side, forcing the Drakkar into a bitter retreat and lighting up the darkened room. Creon looked up to see that the Drakkar who was spearing him, suddenly got a glowing energy blade piercing his chest, killing the monster in the process.

Surprised as the body of the Drakkar fell upon him, Creon struggled for breath as he looked up to see none other than King Akatarr standing before him, his silvery suit now spattered with blood as he heaved the Drakkar corpse off Creon. He then knelt down and reached out his gauntleted hand asking Creon. “Can you stand, soldier?”

Nervous, Creon grasped onto his sovereign’s gauntleted hand, feeling a sense of pure pain as he stood up. Much to his surprise, the spear had not pierced his flesh as he yanked it out, it gotten stuck in the layers of armour that covered his body. As he stabilized himself, Akatarr asked sternly, “Can you still fight, soldier?”

“Eh…I think I can, sire…”

Giving Creon a plasma rifle, Akatarr announced,

“Then onwards, soldier, with your brothers, you shall make Helios smile! For at long last, a victory is in our hands!!”

Then Akatarr turned to the men behind him and ordered,

“Sons of Solaris!! The very existence of our race is at stake, fight on, for Gaia, for Helios, for Solaris!!”

At these words, the Solaran soldiers let out a cheer as they reorganized into a layered firing line, supported by another row of men that reinforced the makeshift barricades. Giving the refreshed Solaran line more firepower were heavy weapons crewmen who manned both tripod plasma guns and handheld torpedo launchers. Certainly, having these reinforcements boosted the confidence of the exhausted men like Creon, even as they heard the rumbling once more of the Drakkar.

The Drakkar roared out again, shouting, “Bhoolakar!!!”

To which the Solaran men shouted back in a cheer,


Soon, the Drakkar found themselves being slaughtered like sheep by the reorganized Solaran lines who peppered them with a hail of plasma and torpedoes. Panicked and terrified at seeing their kin been slaughtered, the Drakkar panicked and rushed back to their ship, trying to fire back at the determined Solarans who just kept firing their plasma rifles, rail guns and torpedo launchers till the Drakkar had slunk back into their ship.





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