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Hello, and welcome to A Crucible of Scribes. This is a blog written by a diverse group of passionate writers who are dedicated to honing their skill while at the same time giving you, the reader, an enjoyable reading experience. Here, you will  find writing styles and genres to suit all tastes.

If you click on our About page you’ll find out all you need to know about us. You’ll also find a list of names and a short biography of each writer. You’re invited to browse through our writings, which we hope you will find as intriguing and diverse as we are.

All our writing is original and subject to copyright. Please don’t borrow or steal anything without specifically asking the author’s permission to reproduce any part of their work. Plagiarism is wrong.

“When you have wit of your own, it’s a pleasure to credit other people for theirs.”  ~    Criss Jami

Enjoy.

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All you need is love

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“Come on honey, finish that up.  I made pudding for you,” I bring a bowl out from behind my back – magician style, “ta-daaah.  It’s your favourite – raspberry jelly and custard.”

I think it’ll cheer him up but he just looks at me.  My smile isn’t returned.  Poor little tyke, he’s been through so much. He looks back at his plate.

“Must I finish all of my peas Megan?”

“You know the rules sweetheart.  You have to eat everything before you can get the good stuff.”  I waggle the bowl of Jelly to make it wobble under its viscous yellow tablecloth, “the peas are the best bit. They’ll make you big and strong.”

“But there’s so many of them.”

“You should have eaten them before the sausages.  Saved the best for last.”

I relent.  I can’t deny the boy.  I reach forward, take the knife from his hand and separate the pile of peas down the middle and push half to one side.

“There.  You can have pudding if you eat that much…you know, my angel, I have said it before.  You don’t have to call me Megan.  It seems so formal.  You can call me Mummy.”

“But you’re not my real Mummy.  I want my real Mummy.”

I feel actual pain in my heart, genuine pain.

“Oh my poor poor darling.  We have talked about it this.  Your real mother and father couldn’t look after you anymore.  Of course they loved you,” loved the drugs and alcohol more-like, “Just like Daddy and I love you.”

He set to his peas without speaking again.

The poor boy couldn’t understand.  What did he understand about the dangers of drugs at his age?  About how they become more important than looking after your own child?  About why his parents slept so much of the time?  I have spent hour after hour with my husband, Jerry, scouring the internet researching separation anxiety and other such stuff.  So many theories and so much advice but honestly I think patience and nurture will do the trick eventually.

I sit next to Rory, his attention so focused on the offensive vegetables.  My heart is still aching.  ‘All you need is love.’  I think.

“So. when you’re done with lunch would you like me to read you a story?”  I gesture to the groaning bookcase.  “Or maybe we could play with trains together?”

I stand again and walk over to the model railway that Jerry’s been building.  He’s so good with his hands is Jerry.  He works on the diorama evening after evening, weekend after weekend.  The hills are perfect with their tiny trees and shrubs.  The little houses are incredible, so intricate and detailed.  He’s an amazing father.  I know he always wanted kids of his own and feel bad that I couldn’t have them for him.  We’re so lucky to have Rory in our lives now so he can lavish so much love and affection on him.

“That reminds me darling.  Daddy says he’s bringing home a new engine after work tonight.  Isn’t that a nice surprise?”

“Yes Megan…I mean Mummy…Thank you.”

He’s never said it before.  He’s never ever called me Mummy.  My heart is going to explode.  I don’t think I have ever felt so happy.

“But…Mummy.  Instead of story or trains maybe I could play outside today?”

What’s that look in his eyes?  Is he trying to be clever?  Is he calling me Mummy just to butter me up?  I make for the stairs trying to control myself.  I don’t want him to see me angry, it’ll slow down the healing process.

“Not today darling. Soon though.”

Soon, when you’ve stopped talking about your junkie parents and they’ve fallen back off the wagon and stopped pretending they care.  Soon, when your hair has grown longer and your picture is out of the news and they’ve stopped putting all those ‘missing’ posters on all the lampposts.

I close and lock the cellar door behind me.

Dame Barbara

Down Under : Digby and Trent

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The last flames hissed into submission as the driftwood remains of the bridge swept into the current. Corporal Trent Tillage, who had laid the charges on the support struts, surveyed the devastation with glee. He looked up across the field of battle into the rheumy eyes of his opponent. Brigadier Sir Digby Grumblebottom’s shoulders sagged. Trent knew that as one of the most famed military tacticians in history he hated to lose even a single game of “Battle-axe Berserker”.  Defeat lined his face as he watched the debris of the last available route to Trent’s island citadel wash over the edge of the board and into the bucket that Trent had placed to protect the threadbare Persian carpet. Its frayed edging and faded colours reminisced long forgotten glory days. Just like its owner, Trent thought, a forgotten hero in desperate need of a good airing. Trent’s triumphant moment was marred by guilt over his certain victory over the dwarf, who had been his best friend for almost 300 years.

Sir Digby reached for the numbered dodecahedron and slowly rolled it across the area marked ‘the plains of the Iron Buffalo’. It came to rest showing the number eight. Trent leaned over the board and gave it a swift nudge.

“Oh well done Sir. A ten. You can draw a mobile-unit card. Let me read it for you Sir.” He drew a card from one of the piles which rested in the five glades of ‘the forest of the dryads’ without giving his employer a chance to speak. He scanned it swiftly. It read ‘Your Field Marshall has a bout of gippo guts, miss a turn’. He looked into Sir Digby’s face, wrinkled and gnarled as a tree trunk. The handlebar moustache drooped in disappointment. Time to lie “Oh good one Sir, it says ‘you have invented a turtle pontoon. This card may be used at any time.’ Smashing timing to get this card, Sir.”

“Capital, dear boy. Capital.”

The dwarf scratched around the unused units in the game box, lifted out the pontoon piece and moored it in the site of the erstwhile ‘bridge of Goblins’ teeth’ where his troops had already been carefully ranged, ready for the final assault.

“I’ve got you now, Corporal. Well done though, you almost had me on the ropes there.” The twinkle was back in his eyes.

“Yes Sir Digby. So close. I surrender the game to you. Perhaps I’ll have better luck next time.” Trent switched off the river pump and scooped water over some of the still burning game pieces, scattered around the board. He’d rebuild them ready for the next battle.

“So, dear boy, what’s the score now?”

“That’d be 7 to me and 2,549 to you.” Trent was blessed with an eidetic memory.

“Are you sure?” The Brigadier’s bulbous nose wrinkled and his eyebrows came to rest on the top of his spectacles, “you do remember we agreed to disallow that game in 1928 when I was coming down with a cold.”

“Yes Sir Digby. I have removed it from the tally. I have won seven excluding that one.”

A brass clang sounded from the bell in the passage.

“Good grief. Visitors? We haven’t had visitors in…in…”

“A little over six years Sir, and that was a brownie selling biscuits.”

“Oh yes, of course. Ghastly creatures, brownies. They do have an astounding knack for baking though…Well, make haste boy. Don’t make our visitor wait.”

“Of course Sir. Excuse me Sir.”

“Hold on Corporal.” Trent turned back. “How do I look?” Trent had pressed the dress uniform this morning, as he did every morning. He’d polished the brass buttons and the leather boots until they gleamed as he had, proudly, every day since he had been appointed as Sir Digby’s batman in the army. Every day for 283 years.

“You look splendid Sir.”

Bushman

Mind the gap

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(a study in boredom)

Ian Collington, Tim Bentink, Peter Lodge, Keith Wilson. They sound like members of an 80s band. ‘The Underground’ perhaps. None of the websites could agree upon the most famous voice in Britain.

Had this commute already become so tedious that he was driven to googling the man behind the “Mind the Gap” recording?

Bryan closed his browser and slipped the blackberry back into the outer pocket of his pin-striped suit jacket, scanning the passengers in the swaying underground train. He stood, facing in from the end of the carriage, one hand resting casually in his thigh pocket, disturbing the razor sharp crease of the trousers; the other hand gripped the ceiling-suspended-sprung-knob-thingummybob simian fashion as he rocked gently to the soporific rhythm. He’d only worked in the city for a few weeks. Was he destined to become one of these commuter zombies? Grey faces, grey people, grey lives. The train squealed into Queensway station. There was the voice again – “Mind the Gap”. Who are you? Brian picked one of the names at random.

“Thanks Mr Ian Collington.” Startled faces looked up from the faded patterned velour seats. Velour? Crushed velvet? Whatever.

Bryan watched a desultory procession shuffling out of the doors, as other drab commuters stood aside politely waiting to embark. Bryan had been on a trip to New York recently. The city had energy, bustle. We’re a nation of queuers.  They filed in – accountant, accountant, IT guy, banker, ugly git, Nice boobs, Bucktooth, bearded lady, big hair. The pneumatic doors hissed closed and the rattle and clack built up again. Bryan looked up at the map on the wall for the umpteenth time. He knew it off by heart. Only one more station before he could get out at Paddington thank God. Just Bayswater to go.

“The Mayor of Bayswater, he had such a pretty daughter, and the hairs on her dicky dido hung down to her knees. One black one, one white…”

His quiet song trailed off to a sea of disapproving glares. None but the closest could even have distinguished it. But he had broken the silence. For the second time.

He sighed as the faceless returned to their newspapers and crosswords.

Bushman

Fair Weather

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The old man bent almost double battling into the wind.  He was getting too old for this.  The wind bit icy.  Would he ever be able to feel warm again?  His very core felt frozen.  His long white beard whipped around his face, his eyes stung.

“I hate you.”  Words in the wind pounded his ears.  “I won’t go to bed.”  “You’re not my mum anymore.”

He wanted to cry.  So much hate.

“You’re fat.” – Jordan, age seven.  The name etched into the man’s eidetic memory.  “Fuck you.” – Harry, age six.

He shook his head, despairing.  Thick snow flurried into his face.  Every year it got worse.  The wind was stronger, colder, and more hateful words galed through.  All of the pines that used to surround the house had long since succumbed to the relentless assault, the plain was open and unprotected.  When did everything get so bad?

The man finally reached the huge wooden door of the house and safety.  He heaved it closed behind him leaning the whole of his considerable bulk against it until the latch finally clicked closed.  He collapsed, exhausted, trembling.  The wind still shrieked its venom outside.  He couldn’t stop hearing it.

“Shitface.” – Lucy. “Arsehole.” – Tyrone. “Do it yourself.” – Bella.

The sounds of bicycles being smashed because they wanted new ones.  The sound of windows being shattered, for fun.  What has become of the world?

There was only one place the man could get respite.  He dragged himself to his knees, pulled himself upright using the brass door handle.  It conducted the iciness from beyond.  Miserable he trudged through the house but his steps quickened as he reached the door to the courtyard.  He needed this.  He needed relief.  The door swung open lightly and he stepped into the sunshine.

“Can I do the washing up Mummy?” – Claire, aged eight.  The fronds of the weeping willow moved, barely perceptibly, in the warm breeze. “I love you Daddy.” – Bryan, ten.

The man’s long hair hung tangled in his face.  He pushed it back with his palm and made his way to the stuffed armchair which stood incongruously in the middle of the garden next to the koi pond. He sat heavily and leaned back into the comfort of the stuffing, eyes closed.

“Miss Draper, may I clean the blackboard for you?” “I already fed the dogs Mummy. Earlier.” “I made you breakfast Mummy.”

He soaked in the words that shifted gently in the air.

Every day he had to fight his way through the bile in the front to feed the reindeer.  He had done so for centuries but every year, every day it got harder.  The world was an evil, bitter place and that vile wind, the naughty list, was getting stronger. He was so tired but while he still had this tiny haven of fair weather where the good list blew, where the words were kind he knew there was still hope.

Bushman

Gladly the Cross I’d Bear

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Vicky peeled the sellotape.  Millimetre by careful millimetre.  It was a game she’d always played and usually it irritated Mummy and Daddy as they waited for her to get her first glimpse of her birthday present.  They weren’t excited this time though.  Daddy looked tired and Mummy’s eyes were wet.  She blinked a couple of times and smiled at her daughter.  The smile wasn’t there before and Vicky knew that the moment she looked away it would be gone again.  They didn’t smile much anymore, or laugh.  Vicky couldn’t remember when she had last heard either of them laugh.  The last piece of tape came free but Vicky still held the paper closed around the soft lumpy object in her hand.  She pulled a corner back just a tiny bit and looked again at her Mummy and Daddy wanting to keep the tease going a bit longer.  Their mouths immediately turned up into smile shapes.  Their eyes never smiled anymore.

The package wasn’t very big.  It wasn’t heavy either.  Two years ago when she turned five they’d given her the most beautiful big carved rocking horse in the whole wide world.  It had a real leather bridle and Vicky loved to ride her.  She was called Cassia and she was the bestest and fastest ever.  They rode over the hills and in the forests and past waterfalls every day. Once they had even ridden all the way to the end of the rainbow and Vicky had looked for the pot of gold while Cassia looked on through huge painted eyes.  That was two years ago when they still lived in the big house and when daddy still had his job. Now they were both gone – the house and the horse.  This house was nice too though and Vicky knew they were very lucky that the government was letting them live in it.  It was much smaller and a little bit dark but that didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter that she didn’t have many toys anymore either and like Mummy said it was silly to buy new clothes when the ones in the charity shops were always so pretty.

She pulled the paper all the way open.

“Oh you’re lovely,” she spoke to the teddy bear, “what’s your name?”

He had stitches on one leg where he had been repaired and a bare patch right on his chest where the fur had worn away.

“Maybe you can be Patchy…no, that’s not it.”  She looked up at her parents again.  “Thank you Mummy.  Thank you Daddy.”

A tear slid down Mummy’s cheek.

Daddy said “I’m sorry he’s not very much darling.  Next year things’ll be better. Next year you’ll have something much better.”

“I love him Daddy.  He’s beautiful.  He’s called…”she looked again at the old bear in her arms.  He only had one of his glass eyes.  The other must have been lost once and was replaced with a felt one.  They faced towards each other. “He’s called….Squinty? No. That’s not it either.  Thank you I love him.”

Daddy stood up slowly. “Ok sweetheart, time for church.”

In the back seat of the car she tried on names the whole way.

Bandit?…Fluffy?…Lucky?…

None of them fitted.  They were sitting in the pew.  The vicar was talking but she hardly heard him.

Bobby?…Dusty?…Socks?…

“And now if we could all turn in our hymn sheets to the first hymn and sing ‘Gladly the cross I’d bear’”

Vicky looked up.  Gladly?  She looked back to the faded bear.  He squinted back.

“So that’s your name.”

Dame Barbara

Pink Cadillac

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The clown is driving.  That’s the first problem.  He always goes too fast.  The monkey jumps onto his back, startling him.  That’s the second problem.

“Famous popstar Peggy waves to her adoring fans from her trademark pink cadillac…What’s happening…” The voice comes from the speaker overhead, “…the car seems to have a life of its own.”

I drift wildly to the left and hear Peggy squeal.  ‘I don’t have a life of my own, it’s the clown’s fault’ I want to shout, but the only sound I make comes from my tyres squeaking across the smooth surface. Peggy’s headscarf comes loose and flutters slowly, slowly to the ground behind us as I speed on.  The clown tries to straighten up but over corrects and I careen over to the right.

“She can’t seem to stop….Noooo.”

Ahead of me the castle looms but I can’t do anything. Armoured soldiers look down from the battlements on us in silent horror as we smack straight into the wooden wall.

The clown abandons the remote control and wobbles towards us on his rounded bottom.  The speaker on the shelf falls silent as Teddy drops his microphone and races across the tiled shop floor.

Peggy lies back in my driver’s seat, one side of her plastic face dented inwards and with one of her blink-able eyes stuck in the closed position.  She can’t be sold anymore.  It’ll be off to the reject bin for her.  ‘Me too’ I think sadly.  Who’d buy a remote controlled pink Cadillac with a huge crack all the way up one side?

Dame Barbara

The Capital in Chaos

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A chance turn of wind has finally brought the fire, which has raged across the capital city for the last four days, under control. The river Thames is still littered with small boats filled with people who took to the water to save themselves and their belongings from the flames.

A cloud of ash hangs over the city blocking the sun and making the streets as dark as the moods of the people who used to live there. People are crying over their lost houses and pets and a few cry for the people that were killed. Luckily it seems that only about 8 people died in the fire which destroyed about 13,000 houses and 84 churches.

The fire started in Pudding lane in the shop of Mr. Thomas Farriner, who is the king’s baker. He says.

‘It was Alice. Miss Alice Sale my maid. I went to bed at around midnight and had to get up again at 5, so I asked Alice to put out the fires in the ovens. She must have forgotten. She has sometimes in the past and I have told her off about it. It is so dangerous. I am surprised it took this long with the amount of times she has forgotten.’

Mr Farriner went on to defend the maid, who was the first to die in the fire.

‘We had both worked hard that day and we were exhausted.’

The fast spread of the fire has been blamed mostly on the wooden houses being built too close together, but some people are pointing fingers at the Lord Mayor Mr. Thomas Bloodworth. This is what he had to say.

‘I was wrong. I underestimated the fire. I told people not to tear down other houses to try and stop it but I definitely did not say that a woman could piss it out.’

When asked about the plans for the future he said.

‘We are already speaking to architects. Christopher Wren has some really good ideas about how to rebuild the city and, of course, St Paul’s cathedral.

St. Paul’s cathedral was the 4th St Paul’s on the site. It was built after a fire destroyed the 3rd one in 1087 which also destroyed much of the city.

Insurance companies are crying in their morning coffees about how much they will have to pay for the houses burned down. They are talking about starting a fire service to protect the houses insured with them in the future.

The only good thing to come from this disaster is that it seems that most of the streets associated with the Great Plague have been wiped out so we can hope for an end to this horrible disease.

Bushman

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

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“Excuse me, but can you tell me where we are?”

The man turned his head slowly and looked up at me.  He’d been busy fixing a tire on his bike, otherwise he would have been like all the others speeding along the road.

Setting his steely grey eyes on me he seemed to mull my question over before slowly saying, “I guess you’re new here.”  With that he turned back to his bike and resumed work.

Not quite sure what to make of him, I glanced around.  So many bikes speeding off in the same direction, no one talking just staring straight ahead, focusing on some unseen destination.

What the hell is this place.  Hell, maybe it’s Hell.  That could be it, I’d been ill lately.  Maybe I died….

“God you’re an idiot,” I snapped at myself, not really caring what anyone thought.  No-one would stop and listen anyway.

Carefully I moved across the street to the other side, there appeared to be a path leading down a hill in the direction from which all the bikers were coming.  It was rather dusty, but then it felt a bit like being stranded on the way to Vegas.  Not much in the way of scenery out here.

I started down and after a few minutes spotted a spark of metal in the sunlight.  My feet moved faster and soon I arrived at what appeared to be a parking lot, filled from side to side with bikes.

What on earth are these doing here?  There’s no buildings?  Where are all the people?

“‘Scuse me ma’am, can I help you?”

I nearly jumped at the sound of the voice.  It was a low grumble and I was almost too scared to turn around.

I was right, this is Hell, and the devil’s standing behind me….. Right, because the devil calls everyone ma’am.

With a slight grin now, I turned around, instantly noticing the large bearded man leaning against the fence.  How I hadn’t seen him when I walked down here was a mystery.

“Um, well, I appear to be lost.  See I woke up on the side of the road and I’m not really sure how I got here.”

I had no sooner spoken than a warm smile broke across his face.  In what seemed like only two strides he had crossed the distance between us and put an arms on either side of me.  Then he looked directly into my eyes and I heard the thunder once more.

“Listen, you ain’t gonna like what I have to say, but there’s no way to sugarcoat it so I’m just gonna spit it out.  You see, you didn’t just wake up on the side of a road.  Back in your old life, you died and now….”

“Oh my God,”  I cried, jerking myself away.  “You mean I was right, I’m dead?”  I was falling inside myself, it was one thing to joke in order to stay sane, but this?  “No, no, no, what did I do to deserve this?”  I looked up at him, realising that tears had begun to fall down my face but too lost to stop them.  “Why’d I end up in Hell?”

He looked confused for a second, and then emitted another growl of thunder.  I realised it was a laugh of sorts but everything felt so surreal that I barely comprehended it.  “Here, ma’am, let me set you up with a ride, you’re gonna need one.  See, you’re not in Hell.  That decisions not been made yet.”

He gave me one last look of compassion before turning to walk towards one of the bikes, bending down to give it a quick inspection before standing up, nodding his approval.

“This one will do nicely.  Yeah, this little lady will get you right to the end of your journey.”

I heard myself talk, as though in a dream.  Nothing made sense anymore.  “What journey?   I don’t understand where I am.”

With a final smile he handed me the key and gave my hand a squeeze.  “You’re about to begin your final journey ma’am.  It won’t be an easy one.  See, before you can be placed, you’ll have to travel down that road.”

“The road that everyone else is driving on?”  Suddenly the thought terrified me.

“That’s the one.  She ain’t no easy ride, let me tell you.  Not for nothing do they call her the boulevard of broken dreams.”

(Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Green Day)

Final Farewell

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If I could tell you something, I think I would like to whisper the words that make you smile.

That way I could bask in the sun rising on your face.

Each crease would be a ray of warmth that has been placed there just for me as if to say  “Thank you, my world is brighter with you in it.”

But then I think, perhaps it would be better if I gathered my strength and spoke the words that made you laugh.

That way I could remember the sound of your joy as it washes over my weary heart, the rhythm of it a beautiful dance that transforms your face into that of a now lost childhood.

Maybe then some of our innocence would be returned.

Sadly though, before I can decide whether to whisper or speak, my careless mind screams the words that make you cry.

I watch as they cruelly strip the light from your eyes, crashing both our worlds into a bleak darkness.

Frantically I scramble, a near blind man desperate to catch his last glimpse of sunlight, but it is too late.

The beat of your tears wash the last hope from my soul and broken, I turn to leave.

Silence follows me, there is nothing left to say.

Fireflies

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Deep inside me, in the remotest part of my soul, there is a room.

It’s not the most remarkable room, it’s rather dusty and is lined from end to end with shelves.

I first stumbled across it many years ago when The Darkness had surrounded me,

squeezing me in its fist of despair.

As I ran to escape it, I stumbled, lost, into this large, cavernous space.

 

Maybe it was the frantic worry of my mind, more likely I had grown unaccustomed to soft things,

but whatever the reason, I never noticed it at first.

My eyes failed to see the small jar, standing alone on a shelf not too far from the entrance.

Once noticed, I drew nearer to it, pulled closer by the warming light emanating from within and I realised then that it held a firefly.

 

In awe I leant towards it, feeling it’s citrine glow penetrate each cell of my being, and instantly I  recalled the firefly’s name.

Through the years I have made it my goal to find more of these incredible specimens and the shelves now creak with the beauty they hold.

You see each firefly is the essence of a friend I hold dear, a replica of their own beautiful souls.

No bottles are labeled, there simply is no need, as each firefly is unique, scarred in its own perfect way.

 

Now when The Darkness invades my life, as Darkness so often will.

I run to this place and I sit,  I am healed, by the warmth that my friends have gifted me.

And so I hope that in each of their own fragile souls, in the deepest recesses of that place.

Is a dusty old room, lined from end to end with shelves,

and a battered firefly that reminds them of me.