Space Cadets #2

Hanson Lu on Unsplash
Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

Previously…

Lights flicker into life. We remain strapped into high-backed chairs. The Professor has vanished. The spherical console in front of us rotates, lights flashing amber and green. A countdown commences: ten, nine, eight… A screen flips up showing the surface of the barren planet outside.

An engine powers up beneath us. The countdown continues: five, four… Behind us a siren wails and a flashing red light reflects on the console. The engine judders: two, one…  We are thrown back in our seats. Lift off. The siren ceases. All lights turn green.

The screen shows the planet’s surface receding rapidly. I can just make out the shape of the Professor’s Space Machine on the ground below where we left it.

I turn to Harris on my right. “Who’s flying this thing?”

On my left, Stevens points at the screen where the picture has changed. It is not a life-form I recognise. Humanoid certainly but…

“I am the Zyborgatron,” it says. We look at each other. It continues. “This craft is powered by your minds and guided by your imaginations. Welcome to the Fantasy Tribute Space Opera.”

The signature tune to my favourite TV series from the mid-20th century starts to play…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHhePr0TKfc

 


Look out for the next episode of  Space Cadets

Advertisements

The Hatter

The Hatter by Chris Hall lunasonline
‘1920s Hat Shop Girl’ (photographer unknown)

She makes hats for a living. Every kind of hat, for every kind of occasion. Very special hats.

She’s famous in the town for her hats and what her hats can do. You see, she’s a crafter of dreams, a bringer of good fortune and her hats are enchanted.

They bring you health and wealth and happiness. But there’s a catch. You must pay her your dues.  And once she’s caught you in her net, there’s nothing you can do.

Try to speak out against her? Denounce her actions?

Better not. Not if you want a long and happy life.

Without you

Without You by Chris Hall lunasonline
Source

On the blank screen
the cursor blinks

Impatiently?
Accusingly?

Like a heartbeat?
A countdown?

Close your eyes
Listen and look

Who’s there?
What are they doing?

Write it down
Quickly! Quickly!

Be nice to them
Nurture them

Or one day they
your characters, might run away.

And then where would you be?

A Nick in Time – Chapter 29 – and a message

imat-bagja-gumilar-518288-unsplash

Wilthrop ran his fingers through his thinning hair. He’d just returned to his room after yet another summons from his cousin. He’d left Childecott storming around the Manor House, issuing threats to anyone who was unlucky enough to encounter him. It was clear that until his prisoners were re-captured he would not let up. He dipped his pen in the inkwell and prepared to write the edict which Childecott would make him read out before the villagers. His only comfort was that Mr Eyre and Mistress Martha were safely on their way back to the village.

*

Bryony felt little of the confidence she shown outwardly to John but, as Hodge always said, if there’s something difficult to do, confront it head on and don’t delay. And so Bryony let her feet take her through the wide entrance to the Court House and into a large vestibule where an attendant was sitting at a desk. Bryony took a deep breath and approached. The attendant looked down his long bony nose at her.

“What business have you here, girl?” He squinted at her with obvious contempt.

“Sir, I have a supplication to offer to the Ruling Council.” Her voice echoed around the empty room.

“Council is already in session. No disturbances are permitted. You may wait for the secretary to the Chief of Council.” He pointed at a long bench on the other side of the room.

“But please, sir,” Bryony held up her supplication. “This is urgent.”

“You will wait.” The clerk waved her towards the bench with a bony hand.

Bryony crossed the stone floor and sat alone on the hard wooden bench next to the large double doors which presumably led to the chamber where the Ruling Council was meeting. She glanced at the clerk who was busy writing in a large heavy ledger and fingered the edges of the supplication, smoothing down the creases it had suffered from the journey. She stared around the high-ceilinged room then focused on the door, willing it to open. She sighed. Her hope was ebbing away.

The clock on the front of the building struck loudly, each chime reverberating around the room. Ten o’clock. She’d been waiting an hour. As the clock finished striking, the doors to the chamber opened letting out a hub-bub of sound. Two men emerged, richly dressed in black and gold, and talking animatedly.

“…waste of time, Harrington.” Bryony heard one say.

“We’re getting close, Captain, I’m sure of it,” she heard the other reply.

They paused by where she was sitting. The first man, who was the taller and had a somehow familiar look to him, then said: “We come this far. We cannot allow Childecott’s trail to go cold.”

Bryony raised her head, suddenly alert. She looked at the two men standing before her. Clasping the supplication, she stood up. The two men turned and looked at her.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I couldn’t help but overhear you… you said the name Childecott?”

The first man took a step towards her. “Young lady, do you know of such a person?”

Bryony nodded.

“Are you, perhaps an acquaintance of his?” he continued.

“Not really,” Bryony wasn’t sure what to say. What if they were friends of his?

The second man touched his companion’s arm. “Do you think it’s likely to be the same man?”

“What do you know of Childecott, young lady?”

Bryony had considered what she’d overheard. They didn’t sound as if they were Childecott’s friends. Rather the opposite. She fidgeted with the supplication. “It’s because of him that I’m here. Lord Childecott is an evil man. He has taken some of the people from the village and imprisoned them. He said he’s going to…” Bryony struggled to speak. She held out the supplication to the first man.

He took the document from her, his face darkening as he read. He passed it to his companion. “It must be.”

The man called Harrington scanned page and nodded.

The first man touched his hat. “Forgive me, young lady. My name is Strathmore, George Strathmore, and this is Harrington, one of my lieutenants. We have been seeking the man who goes by the name of Lord Childecott for many months now. It looks as if we may have found him at last.

Bryony looked from one man to the other. “I… I don’t know how much time they have before…”

“Then we must proceed with the utmost haste,” cried Captain Strathmore. He turned to Lieutenant Harrington. “Prepare to move out.”

Bryony looked up at Captain Strathmore. “Lord Childecott has quite a few armed men, he calls them his Enforcers”

“Does he indeed? Worry not, fair Bryony, we may be only six but we have the strength of sixty. Now tell me, where is your retinue?”

Bryony frowned.

“The people accompanying you, where are they?”

“John brought me here on Rosie. They’re waiting for me at the Court House Tavern,” Bryony replied gesturing in the direction of the doorway.

“Excellent.” Captain Strathmore beamed. “My men are there too.” He held out his arm. “Shall we?”

*

Market day in the village had dawned clear and bright. All over the village people were busy preparing for the day. Dary had put tables and benches outside the tavern and stallholders were arranging their wares. Farmers had brought fresh produce which glistened in the morning sunshine and a family of tinkers were clattering about with their pots and pans and other household items.

Issell arrived pushing her handcart which was laden with her most popular potions and poultices. A rich, fragrant smell rose from the tightly packed bundles of herbs and other botanicals. Bethany accompanied her carrying a basket full of cut lavender spikes and primrose flowers. Astra trotted alongside. Issell had suggested they leave the little cat in her house for fear of her getting lost, but Astra had had other ideas and had streaked through the door as she and Bethany were about to leave.

As Issell and Bethany passed the tavern, Dary looked up and waved. He looked pale and out of sorts, thought Issell, and no wonder after the message which the stable lad had brought; but he, like the rest of them, was trying to carry on as normal. John Moore sat in a chair by the tavern door, a stout stick at his side. He tipped his hat in greeting as they made their way through the crowd to Issell’s pitch.

The usual market day bustle was subdued. Gossip was hushed and speculation rife. Issell refused to be drawn in, confining her conversations to her remedies and healing arts. She kept an eye on the tavern where Dary and the other staff were busy serving and every so often glanced towards the Manor House all the time expecting to see Lord Childecott and his men riding down to the village, intent on… on what?

“Stop it! Leave her alone!” Issell heard Bethany cry out behind her.

Issell wheeled around to see Preacher Gibson holding little Astra up by the scruff of her neck. He licked his lips, glaring the writhing kitten. “What have we here then? The witch’s apprentice and her evil black cat?

Bethany launched herself at the preacher, reaching for the kitten. “You’re hurting her. Put her down!”

Preacher Gibson dangled the struggling kitten out of Bethany’s reach, putting an arm out to keep her at bay. “See them both dance,” he said gleefully.

Golden curls tumbling from her bonnet, Bethany smashed the preacher’s arm out of her way and kicked him hard on the leg. “Let her go!” she yelled in fury.

Startled by the sharp pain in his shin, Preacher Gibson released his grip. Astra tumbled to the ground, landing squarely on all four paws. She squawked loudly before hurtling to safety underneath the handcart. Bethany turned to follow her, but Preacher Gibson grabbed her by the hair and hauled her back.

“Wicked, wicked child.” He held her roughly by the arm, bony fingers digging into her flesh.

Issell marched up to him. “That’s enough.” Hands on hips she faced the preacher. “Bullying a little girl, you despicable man,” she glared at the preacher. “Pick on someone your own size!”

Preacher Gibson shoved Bethany away from him roughly and took a step towards Issell. He licked his lips. “You know what I want from you, witchy, witch.”

There was a roar from the crowd over by the tavern. Preacher Gibson suddenly lost interest in her and strode off. Bethany had scurried over to the handcart and was sitting beside it cuddling Astra. With a quick glance back at the little girl comforting her cat, Issell hurried towards the tavern.

Childecott’s men had arrived in force, every one of them visibly armed. The Lord himself was strutting about supervising the construction of a makeshift wooden platform on the Green. Hovering behind him was a small, stooped man holding a roll of papers, accompanied by a huge brute whose open mouth revealed a complete lack of teeth.

People were gathering near the platform, turning to one another wondering what was going on. Everyone had heard by now that Lord Childecott’s prisoners had escaped, and there was much speculation as to where they could have gone and when, if ever, they might dare to return. But what was the Lord of the Manor doing now?

Childecott mounted the platform and was joined by Preacher Gibson and the man holding the papers. Childecott surveyed the crowd, an unpleasant smile playing on his lips. He put his arms up for quiet as his Enforcers took up their positions. “Now hear this,” Childecott roared. “I have God and the law on my side.

Childecott signalled to his men who were standing by the entrance to the tavern. Moments later two of them emerged with a protesting Dary between them. Two more Enforcers fell in behind them as they marched Dary up onto the platform where the Lord of the Manor was standing.

“This is the son of one of the ring-leaders. Unless those guilty of rabble-rousing and the capital crime of horse theft give themselves up, he will be punished in their place. I’m certain that some amongst you know where they are. They have until four on the church clock today. In the meantime, this young man will be confined to the stocks.” Childecott nodded to Dary’s captors. “Secure him and prepare the gallows!”

©2019 Chris Hall


Who will save Dary?  Will Bryony bring help in time? Where have Mr Eyre and Martha got to? And the other escapees? How will Bryony and Bethany return to their own time? And what role has the little cat, Astra, in all this?

Sorry to leave you in the lurch. But here’s the good news:

All these questions and more will be answered when ‘A Nick in Time’ is published. Still to do: the final polish, proof-read, cover design and all that stuff. I’m aiming for publication by September.

Many, many thanks to the following people for reading along and giving me so much encouragement. Free copies of the e-book will be yours.

Debra of Nana’s Whimsical World

Tom, the Slumdog Soldier

Jean at Jean Lee’s World

Teresa, the Haunted Wordsmith

Violet at Thru Violet’s Lentz

Sadje at Keep it alive 

Also friend and author, Paul English, who has been painstakingly reading along, will receive the first paperback out of the box when it arrives here in sunny South Africa.


Meanwhile, I’ll be coming up for air again next week.

Have a wonderful weekend, folks!

Your time’s up on Sunday!

YNWA by Chris Hall for UK on twitter

It’s been an interesting few days running the freebie promo for this new book of mine. 

Those of you on Twitter might have seen some interesting activity on my feed in the past couple of days. Unless you’re from (certain parts of) the UK it might not have meant that much to you. Suffice to say, some of us Northerners are very tribal, particularly over our football (soccer) teams.

Actually, let me elaborate a little more.

Of course, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ isn’t really about football. However, writing a book set in Liverpool (to me) requires a passing mention or two of that fine sport. The book title somehow wormed its way into my consciousness and fixed itself there. I never gave a thought to the impact it would have on my fellow Scousers* and other folk beyond the boundaries of our fair city.

You see the rivalry between our two football teams, Liverpool and Everton, is legendary. Between Liverpool and Manchester United (just 30 miles away), it is epic. Seriously so. And LFC’s anthem, shared by a number of other teams incidentally, is the Rogers and Hammerstein song, from the musical Carousel,  You’ll Never Walk Alone.

The song is pretty much synonymous with Liverpool Football Club and its supporters, of which you will have guessed I am one. Did you spot the top my husband and illustrator was wearing at the book launch a few weeks ago?

So, the result of this reckless labelling for my book? It was said I was sticking my neck out way too far, that I’d alienate 50% of Liverpool, all of Manchester… and so on. Oops!

So, maybe an ill-judged title? I don’t know. There was a bit of back-tracking on the Twitter feed, and now I’m honoured to find an Evertonian** has downloaded my book and has even tweeted that, having read the blurb, he’s actually looking forward to doing so!

I thought the whole thing was hilarious. 

asmar

And before I go, just a reminder that the free download runs until midnight on Sunday (Pacific Standard Time) which is 9am on Sunday morning here in South Africa, 8am Sunday morning in the UK, and 4pm on Saturday afternoon in Sydney, Australia etc. We are so very international aren’t we?

Thank you to everyone who’s downloaded the book. I hope you enjoy reading it and look forward to your feedback.

Have a great weekend and happy reading!

___________________________________
*a person coming from Liverpool

**a supporter of Everton FC (and possibly a resident of the Everton district of Liverpool)

shankly quote

 

 

 

Freebie this week!

You'll Never Walk Alone by Chris Hall on kindle pic

It’s holiday time! At least, I think it is in most parts of the world. Anyway, just to say that I’ll be running a little
five day giveaway of the ebook version of You’ll Never Walk Alone for you to add to your holiday reading.

So from Wed 3rd July to Sunday 7th July (midnight PST) you can download from these links:
USA  ~ UK ~ Australia ~ Canada India
Other countries, such as South Africa

Hope you enjoy!

Book Review – “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Chris Hall

I’m mega chuffed with this great review from Joe Leonardi!
Check out his work on Short Story Scribe. He’s a great teller of tales and also a Hemingway aficionado which is what originally drew me to his site.

Short Story Scribe

Kindle EditionYou’ll Never Walk Alone is a slow read, and that is a good thing, because the story should be read slowly and digested in increments. There is more than one story being told, and the details are such that at least two distinct books could have been crafted —which, in the hands of an author of lesser skill, could have been disconcerting. Not so with a scribe of Hall’s talent, in You’ll Never Walk Alonethe stories converge perfectly at the end.

In addition to the multiple story arcs, there is an array of interesting characters, none of whom exist simply to fill up space. Some stay for the entire journey, others pop in and out, but each is essential to the story.

In You’ll Never Walk Alone, Chris Hall tells a good story a story I highly recommend. 


“Who am I?”

I am an independent, self-published teller of tales, an…

View original post 64 more words