Dream #7: White Dove Trapped in a Glass Egg

It was a sunny day. I was sitting in the living room. My mum was sitting in the garden by the pond. I could hear the trickling of the waterfall my dad built.

I looked behind me to the old antique sideboard where all the ornaments watched me.

The two bronze statuettes of strange semi naked women. One one of them was severely dented at the base. I always imagined someone’s head had been smashed in with it, but my dad assured me it had just been dropped.

The old carved cigar box my mum said was haunted.

The antique carving knife on its wooden stand that we weren’t allowed to touch.

The massive clock on the wall behind, it’s shiny brass pendulums hanging on long chains.

The silver trays full of matches and biros.

Right in the centre of the antique sideboard there used to be a little glass ship in a bottle. Now the bottle was egg shaped. Crammed inside the glass egg was a white dove. It had no room and was squashed up against the glass. It gazed at me pitifully.

“Mum,” I called, “why is there a dove in the bottle?”

“It has always been there,” she replied.

“It’s suffering,” I said, “can’t we let it out?”

“You’ll have to break the glass,” she said.

So I slid the antique carving knife from its varnished wooden sheath and took the glass egg carefully in my other hand. I began tapping the glass with the blade, trying to crack it without hurting the dove. The little bird just gazed at me through the glass.

Eventually the glass egg cracked and fell in two in my hands and the dove was free. But it had spent its life stuck inside the egg, so it couldn’t fly. Assuming the dove was hungry as it had never eaten, I took it outside to the garden where it could eat worms or insects.

Next to the pond, I discovered a mass of fat slugs writhing in the mud. I put the dove down gently and it began to devour them ravenously. Eventually it had eaten them all and doubled in size. It ran around the garden flapping its stunted wings in vain.

Then my dad turned up with two small white dogs, and they played in the garden with the fat, white flightless dove.


Dream #6: MC Battle

I can't play the piano...

I can’t play the piano…

This dream starts with me queueing in a hardware store. At the front of the queue there’s a bloke handing out new era caps with numbers on them. Across the road there’s a venue, and I can see the stage through the doorway. Their are two MC’s on stage freestyling, taking turns to tear each other apart verbally.

The people in the queue are taking their caps and going over to the venue and queueing again to get on stage. While we queue they are talking to me. I remember some of their faces from the London hip hop scene years ago, and I’ve rapped with some of them before, one guy I remember rapping with on a night bus. I can’t remember any of their names though.

So this bloke says to me, “Are you going to freestyle?”

“Yes,” I reply, “but I’m not great at freestyling.”

“Why don’t you just spit some written rhymes then?”

“That’s cheating, really,” I say, “I have to try to freestyle like everyone else or I’ll never get any better.”

So he starts rhyming, then I start rhyming. I rhyme these words. These did not come to me for the first time in the dream, it is a track I wrote years ago and never ended up recording, it’s called Masterpiece:

They say that you can count your true friends one hand,

Well I counted more than five liars.

That’s why I’m a live wire.

Till they strike a match to my pire,

I’m spitting smashed bottle raps,

That would flatten a tractor tyre.

Dark nights I practice setting fires,

So I can leave a legacy for every seed every sired.

If I was reincarnated, I wouldn’t be a child,

I’d be a freak of nature with the senses of the wild.

A throwback to the essence of man and reconciled with the firmament.

Hunting perpetrators of hate and burning, murdering.

I’ll hurt them in the name of my rage and make it permanent pain,

This is shit you couldn’t learn from a page,

My verses surging when I’m purging my brain,

Of my dirty, profane words, the words that are keeping me sane.

And I don’t give a fuck what the people will say,

I’m just a speaker, a sage, I’m ever seeking the day,

I find my peace releasing hatred on a beat and a bass line.

I waste time fighting but my life is fraught.

My microphone’s a portal to the nights I stalk,

Consuming mortals like they’re morsels on my knife and fork.

My thoughts span the ether, though my sight is short.

I’m still trying to find the truth but it’s the liars who talk.

I’ve been practising for ever and a day,

Painting pictures in your brain, like my name was John Everett Millais

And it ain’t a revelation that I’m never getting paid,

But my colours, opaque, will never fade, ’cause I’m hung in the shade.

I stay sub terrain, never feening for fame,

My canvas is plain, I’ll never trade it for a platinum frame,

The rap in my veins, stains the pallor of my palette

With my rapture and pain.

There is a second verse but I only do the first one. Then I get to the front of the queue and I’m handed a navy blue cap with a three digit number on it. There are lots of people in the road and the crowd is getting bigger. I can’t even get to the door of the venue so I stand in the crowd watching.

The MC’s battling on stage get more and more heated until they just drop the microphones and start fighting. The fighting spills into the crowd and the whole place kicks off. I often dream about fighting, I am usually beating someone who won’t bleed or die no matter how hard I try. I just beat them and beat them and they don’t respond, and I get increasingly angry until I wake up sweating and shaking with rage.

But this dream is different. I just look at the fighting with a sad resignation and say “I don’t want to fight any more.” Then I throw my cap down and go home.

I woke up then. My girlfriend was at Glastonbury so I was in bed on my own. I missed her a lot at that moment. I normally have violent dreams and wake up to her and she makes me feel calm again, even though she’s asleep. This time I just felt sad.

The Reavers’ Knell – a 900 Club Short Story

This was my short story for The 900 Club’s May batch, it has taken me a while to get around to posting it. I hope you like it. Do check out The 900 Club for monthly short stories from myself and four other writers, each with our own take on facial hair fashions and literary styles. May’s theme was Dystopian and the two word phrase was “get down”.

This story, like many I have written, came to me in a dream. Hopefully I’ve captured the feeling.

The Reavers’ Knell

by Martin Bolton

Heron skipped aside from his father’s down-swinging blade, but no sooner had he done so the bright steel whistled from his left. He ducked and danced back the way he had come, spinning on the balls of his feet. The blade came again, relentless, this time upwards and from his right. He brought his own blade up and the razor sharp edges rang together. The sound of the blades’ kiss sang in his ears. The Reavers’ Knell, the warriors had named that sound.

Egret advanced swiftly, glistening brow furrowed with concentration, but Heron found his father too predictable. He slid around the sword thrust and let the bigger man’s momentum do the rest.

Egret Steelflight stumbled over his son’s outstretched foot and toppled over, landing heavily on his face.

“Good,” said Egret, wiping blood from his lips, “but you must be more ruthless. You fight well, with grace, but you must learn to kill.”

“How can I learn to kill when I fight my own father? Would you have me slay you for the sake of a lesson?”

“You will have to kill without hesitation when the Reavers return. The fate of mankind rests upon you. The prophecy…”

“Fuck the prophecy!” Heron roared, his temper flaring. “Who shall I kill then, Father? You? Raptor? Ibis? I am eleven years old…”

Egret cuffed his son back-handed across the face.

“…and already the finest blade in Talonreach!” Egret barked, then his voice took on a softer tone. “You are the only hope. When The Reavers return, you will stand against them, and you must… you will prevail!”

Heron looked sullenly down at his sword, turning it back and forth in his right hand, wiping blood from his lip with his left. “I am not the finest sword in Talonreach. Redkite is.”

“Then you have answered your own question,” replied Egret.

Heron gaped. “What are you saying?”

Egret looked away. “It is the only way we can be sure you are the one. You will kill Redkite or die trying.”

* * * *

“Get down from there you fool, you’ll break your neck!” Heron called out, frowning.

Raptor capered on the rock with a stick. “I am Heron Steelflight,” he cried, waving the pretend weapon in the air, “I am born of the prophecy! I am indestructible!”

Ibis’ smile faded when she saw Heron’s face, and she reached out to touch it. “What happened to your lip?”

“Nothing,” he replied, not meeting her gaze.

“He only wants you to fulfil your destiny,” she said.

Heron turned away, irritated that she always knew what he was thinking. He took a few steps and stopped, sighing heavily. He glanced up at Raptor, still dancing atop the rock, fighting off imaginary Reavers, though the boy could not know what they looked like.

Even Heron’s father was not old enough to have witnessed the near total destruction of his kind, but even so he believed in the prophecy. He had told Heron stories of the distant past. Stories of how mankind had spread across the entire planet. They had once built machines that required no beast to pull them, yet moved at amazing speeds, and weapons of fire that could destroy entire towns from miles away across sand and sea. All this was lost long before the Reavers came, or humanity might have defeated them, but mankind had all but destroyed itself by then. All the Reavers did was help to finish them off, or nearly. A few survived and founded Talonreach, many generations before Heron’s birth.

The Reavers would return, the prophecy said, and Heron Steelflight would lead the army that wiped them out once and for all.

Ibis took his hand and they walked away, leaving Raptor to his game.

“What am I?” he asked, picturing the bloodied corpse of Redkite in his head. Something deep within him made him sure he would kill Redkite, but what if the prophecy turned out to be false? He would have killed his friend for nothing.

Ibis stopped and took both his hands in hers, fixing him with those intense, green eyes. “You are Heron Steelflight,” she said.

“And who is he?” He felt tears in his eyes.

“The prophecy…”

“…says I am invincible.” He finished her sentence for her. “I cannot be injured by another mortal. I am the saviour of humanity. Where does it say I must kill Redkite?”

Ibis pursed her lips, the way she did when she was in deep thought. He wanted to take her and run away, but he knew she would not allow it.

“My father says I must kill,” he continued, “to be sure I will not falter when the Reavers come.” He produced a knife from one sleeve and pushed the handle into her palm. “I must be sure. If you believe I am the one, press the blade into my heart.”

For a moment he thought she would refuse, and if she did he would know her belief had wavered. Ibis took the knife and swiftly pushed him down onto his back, placing the blade against his heart. She placed one hand over the hilt and, as she pressed her lips against his, put all her weight on the slither of steel.

Heron Steelflight closed his eyes as the blade broke against his skin. In his mind he heard The Reavers’ Knell, and knew who he was.

The Lights of Ember Vale – a 900 Club Short Story

The 900 Club has posted its latest short stories. The chosen genre was Magical Realism and the two word phrase was “never forget”. If you haven’t already, please do check it out, you’ll find a diverse and original collection of short stories and there are brand new stories posted on the last day of every month. Below is my latest effort.

The Lights of Ember Vale

by Martin Bolton

Samuel gazed across a moonlit sea of leaves. The view from the observatory, high in that lonely house, took in all of Ember Vale. Since he’d been alone he had spent every night there, waiting intently for the vision he saw so often in his dreams. The lights.

Rumours about what happened to his father, Professor George Bukowski, had circulated in the nearby town of Ember. Since his father’s disappearance, Samuel had ventured away from Ember Vale less and less, until eventually he became a complete recluse. Now the place was shunned altogether by the townsfolk, and he was left alone, waiting for his time. He knew it would come soon, his dreams grew more intense, and yet his memories of them remained frustratingly vague. He remembered the feeling well enough. It was a feeling of home, of peace, of completeness. A feeling of belonging. Something he had never experienced in his waking hours.

It was the vision that eluded him when he woke, as though what he saw in his unconscious did not translate into the sights and sounds of this world. As though he saw them with different eyes. The only things he could remember were the lights, out there in the woods, beckoning.

His father was a Professor of Astronomy, and this had been his observatory before the night when he walked silently from the house and vanished. He had been well respected in the community. Educated at Ember University, he had lectured there before buying the house in the middle of Ember Vale to set up his observatory. It was the perfect spot, away from the bright lights of the town, to watch the stars. It was also the dream location for Professor Bukowski to start a family, or so he thought.

Samuel was fifteen when his mother disappeared without a trace. The search of the surrounding countryside found nothing. She had been at home, Samuel was in his room and his father was in the observatory. There were no signs of a break in, she had apparently left the house without even her shoes and wandered into the forest never to be seen again. It was a night he would never forget, not because it was the last time he saw his mother, but because it was the night Professor George Bukowski stopped watching the sky and started watching the woods. And the first night Samuel dreamed of the lights.

Samuel had always been a misfit, and was only interested in reading alone in his room or wandering the woods, deep in his own thoughts. After his mother’s disappearance his father had confined himself to his observatory, that was five years previously. A year ago his father had left the house one night and walked into the woods. He too had left no trace, not even a footprint. It was then Samuel went to the observatory and found his father’s journal.

The journal began on the night his mother had disappeared. It was the first night Professor George Bukowski, whilst searching for lights in the sky, instead saw them in the woods. The professor’s journal began with various scientific theories as to what he might have seen, gradually he began to connect these theories with the disappearance of his wife. After a few pages the journal descended into incoherent ramblings about parallel dimensions and an overwhelming sense of longing for something he couldn’t describe.

Samuel’s father had become increasingly distant since his mother vanished. He had locked himself in the observatory and rarely emerged. When he did he was gaunt, his eyes sunken hollows, his skin a pale grey, as though he had died but his soul somehow still inhabited his body, waiting for its time to leave. Samuel felt the same way, as though he belonged elsewhere. He had seen the lights again in his dreams the night his father disappeared, and the next day he took the professor’s place in the observatory.

This time there was no search, no news stories, no rumours, he told no one of the professor’s disappearance. The man had been locked away from the outside world for so long it had moved on and forgotten him. Samuel knew the knowledge of what happened to his parents was buried deep within his subconscious, a distant memory that would not reveal itself until he was ready. And there he waited, day after day, for the vision to return in his conscious state. For the tantalising calling that remained just beyond his grasp, in the fleeting glimpses that so far confined themselves to the misty plains of his unconscious mind.

As he watched the distant trees, Samuel’s sleep deprived mind conjured indescribable shapes and colours, a kaleidoscope of swirling patterns danced before his eyes. He wondered if he slept, or if he was in some other, hitherto unknown state of consciousness. He tried to blink, to clear his vision, to be ready for his calling, but everything was foggy and indistinct. Soon the shimmering patterns shrank, until they were painfully bright lights in the blackness. He could no longer see the moonlight on the leaves, or the stars in the sky, just the lights in the woods.

Samuel rose from where he sat, exultant. Slowly he left the observatory for the last time, and walked bare-foot into the woods, to join the lights.

Dream #4 – Gangster’s Menagerie

I had this dream last night. I kept waking up sweating and every time I went back to sleep I was back in the same dream. It seemed to carry on all night.

It started with my and my two brothers going to see my cousin. In the dream, he was some sort of gangster who lived in a massive house on the coast. He had a huge swimming pool with an elephant swimming round and round. The elephant swam like a killer whale at a Sea World. It kept leaping up in the air and doing somersaults and splashing back into the pool. Every time it leapt in the air it would hang there for a moment and look over at us with suspicious eyes before diving back down again. A tiger lounged by the pool watching idly while the four of us had a drink in the son.

Beyond the pool was a forest which held my cousin’s menagerie. Countless strange and exotic animals wandered around in there. His huge, luxurious house was behind us.

After a while my cousin said he had to go out. He went off and left me and my two brothers there. A fence separated us from the elephant and tiger. As soon as he was gone the elephant got out of the pool and came up to the fence and was staring at us. The tiger joined him and snarled at us. They were trying to get at us.

Then suddenly a load of armed men burst in out of nowhere and started shouting and saying they’ll feed us to the tiger and the elephant was threatening to kick my head in! The men were my cousin’s gangster rivals and the elephant and tiger were obviously turncoats. Then they started killing all the animals in his menagerie. That really pissed me off so me and my brothers made a break for it and ran into the house’s garage.

When we got inside the garage it turned out to be a massive boxing gym. There were three boxers in there, all sparring at the same time, which is an odd thing to see, even in a dream. We told them what was happening and the six of us set fire to the building. It went up in flames pretty quickly and there was black smoke everywhere. Me, my brothers and the three boxers ran out of the burning house to kick off with the armed men and the tiger and that fucking elephant. There was chaos.

All the animals broke out the menagerie and fled. Monkeys, giraffes, tapirs, you name it, all over the place. Eventually our enemies fled and we ended up running up the road to the town hall. We ran in and shut the door. There were vets in there and I was saying we ought to try and catch my cousin’s animals and treat them for smoke inhalation or whatever. Then I looked out of a high window and saw a hippo running up the road carrying her baby in her mouth. That’s when I though, “shit, what are we doing? What about the hippos?”

I started shouting, “get the hippo in! Get the hippo in!” Then as it came closer it suddenly looked like a six foot kangaroo rat and I said, “hang on, that’s not a hippo.”

Then my alarm went off. Bastard, I was enjoying that.

Dream #3 – Slobbered on by Tigers

This is an odd one. But then all dreams are odd, aren’t they? I don’t know why I keep saying that.

I was on a coach. It was the wrong coach. I don’t know where I was going or where I wanted to go, but I know it was the wrong coach. It was night time and the coach drove all night. When the sun came up we were driving along a country road and it was really sunny. On each side their were fields with people in them and in each field, there were different extinct megafauna. There was a Mammoth, a Paraceratherium, an Arsinoitherium and an Elasmotherium. Then the coach stopped next a field with huge tigers in it.

The tigers were mingling with tall Indian mystics in purple robes. We all got off the coach and went into the field and the mystics all started looking at me. They came over to me and kept saying the same word over and over – “khani”. As they said it the letters went through my head – “k-h-a-n-i”. Then two of the tigers came over and started slobbering all over my head, and the mystics continued to chant “khani, khani, khani…”

The act of slobbering on me seemed to be some sort of ritual. Eventually they stopped and just wandered off and left me there covered in thick, gloopy, tiger spit. Nice.

Dream #2: Spiders on the Storm

Sick Mouse

Sick Mouse

Nearly all of my dreams have spiders in them. They rarely take a prominent role, they’re usually just hanging around in the background, whatever the main theme of the dream. The funny thing is spiders make me jump, I’m not comfortable touching them, especially big ones. But in my dreams they don’t bother me at all. They seem to be just a harmless part of the scenery.

Now, what this is all about, I have no idea. The dream begins with me walking into the house where I grew up. My younger broker is sitting in an armchair with a massive spider curled up in his lap like a cat, and he’s stroking it. It is a huge, black tarantula the size of a medium-sized dog and it has a red pattern on its back. The thing has massive fangs and he cuts his finger on one of them as he strokes it, so I go into the kitchen to get him a plaster.

When I get into the kitchen there is a bowl of cat food on the floor and a cat standing there yawning at me. There is also a bloated, green mouse stumbling around. It is distended, bald and shiny, it looks either drunk or really ill, or both. The first thing I think is that the cat will eat the cat food and the spider will eat the mouse, but then the spider wanders in and eats the cat food. The cat looks a bit bemused but then happily devours the mouse.

Then I woke up with Riders on the Storm by The Doors going round in my head but, instead of singing “Riders on the Storm” Jim Morrison is singing “Spiders on the Storm”.