The Price He Paid

An old story of mine but one offered up with fondness.

MB Blissett

Sophia ran a clean place. Eight women, all with their own rooms. They worked hard but it was the kind of work that did not turn your lungs to soup and the people who came here knew well enough not to raise a hand to any of her girls.  

Naomi peered out over the balcony, amber eyes glinted in the evening light and brassy ringlets of hair hung around her face, heavy and soft as petals from an orchid. Her bronzed bosom strained at the partially unlaced corset. Sophia looked up and sighed. She would have been her most popular girl, how she moved, hips undulating, high, firm buttocks and a heavy-lidded arrogance that made men unable to keep her gaze.

‘He’s here.’

She smiled at Sophie and clapped her hands together. The arrogance was a good act, a challenge to the men that they would never be free…

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animals, grief, poetry, Uncategorized

Good Dog


All dogs have a Buddha

Mind so you’ve

Barked your last mantra

And intellectually

As comforting as it is,

You’ve transcended

Your suffering,

It doesn’t make the

Silence when I walk into

My old house any easier

To bear, old friend,

And the paths we walked

Night and day,

Will miss us both,

But you’ve ran long enough,

And the pain is over,

And I will walk around,

Remembering how

You’d rush to greet me,

When I got home,

And now neither of us

Are there, are we?

Pieces perhaps,

But pieces are all we have




romance, short fiction, Uncategorized, women

Episode 9 – Performance


Kelly kept pace with him. He would follow his nose, have them stop before he would nod and continue walking.


He undid the lid on his canteen and took a long pull on it before he passed it to her. She took it and drank before she returned it to him.


‘Can the drone see us?’ she said.


John glanced up and squinted against the light.


‘I don’t know the range it has, or what type of surveillance equipment it can look at us with. Money gets you better toys, and we know they’ve got money to throw at this.’ he said.


Kelly sighed and dug her hands into the pockets of the coat.


‘I thought it was moving to a better class of employer.’ she said.


He took a step towards her and smiled at her.


‘I wouldn’t presume to judge anyone for anything. We’ve both found ourselves in this, Kelly, and we’ll find a way out.’ he said.


Kelly watched how he walked. With a straight back and his head held up, shoulders back as he watched the trees ahead, sniffing the air to keep them on the right path.


‘How long do you think we’ll be out here?’ she said.


He frowned and screwed the lid back onto the canteen before he tucked it back into his belt.


‘We need them to think you’re gone. Without the briefcase, there’s not a lot to gain in finding you other than -‘ he said.


Kelly did not need him to finish. She swallowed, tasted a grit at the back of the throat no amount of water could dislodge. Her future was always vague, but so little used to ride on it before. She had done her share of the work and now she was walking through to the woods, with the big bad wolf, she thought.


‘Tell me about going back?’ she said


He looked upwards before he ran his tongue over his lips and started to talk.



I could not rely on disease surveillance data to track what had happened. My money and presence at Harvard helped but most of what I needed to do, had to be done in complete secrecy.


I decided to go back to where I encountered the thing which attacked me.


Most of the information related to lycanthropy was amusing but useless.


A Persian Prince once suffered from a belief he was a cow.


King Nebuchadnezzar and Odysseus’ crew suffered from clinical versions of it, the belief they had transformed into animals.


I had high definition video of it, how my body forms a carapace of fibrin and inside it, my entire body turns into 200lbs of murder and instinct. The form is disproportionate to the closest physical cousin, canis lupus.


It looks like a wolf but it is not.


Much like the thing which infected me in the first place.


I have to hide behind information because the knowledge serves as evidence we live in a universe which is, at best, indifferent but when I woke up inside a scab made of my own skin, I wondered if it wasn’t malevolent as well.


I packed less than before. Most of what I needed was inside me, the capacity and ability to survive is innate to all of us but I had a headful of hunger suited to finding what had attacked me.


Or, as I began to think of it, who.


It made sense if I treated what happened to me as a disease. It required a vector of infection, but whether there were conditions of infection, I was a sufferer who lived with it every hour of every day.


The last time I had looked into its eyes, I had seen only hunger. I wanted to look again and see if I recognised myself there.


The most sophisticated item I took was an MP3 player. I had tracked and recorded an induction which triggered a post-hypnotic suggestion to allow me to retain my consciousness during the change. It was not pretty to go into it aware of what was happening but it was necessary.


I became a wound and something crawled out of it, with an animal’s capabilities and my thoughts in the driving seat.


Its scent was everywhere. A blistering, chemical stink which had thickened in places, where it paced the earth, pissing its authority into the soil. My nose recoiled from the stench, even as it gleaned valuable information.


Scent was a somatic language, condensed into signatures which were processed through my language centres, like upgrading your computer equipment to run an old game.


So, I processed the scent as being:


(danger) (pain) (territory)


Which broke down intellectually into different packets of information.


(danger) became (violence + sickness + biting + food)


(pain) became (biting + violence+stop)


And so on.


I cocked my leg against the trunk of a tree and sent my own message.


Howling would have been grandiose and a failure to understand the nature of conflict on this level. I had, by necessity, become a keen student in my own physiology. Fluency in this language was less of a challenge once I could apply my intelligence and cut through the gordian knot of my condition.


(here) (fuck you) (challenge)


I lowered my head and ran forwards into the trees, following the trail of scent as an act of provocation.


The scent packages came from different parts of the body. The first (danger) had been expressed from its anal gland and the (territory) came from a gland in its front left paw. Another burst of expression wafted over to me, and I turned, squared my shoulders and expressed a cloud of (challenge) against it.


I raised my muzzle and caught the scent of estrus which surprised me. My assumption was of a male aggressor and I watched it move between the trees towards me.


It snarled and I saw where the missing tooth had begun to grow in, white and soft against the yellowing array of flat heavy teeth next to it.


We charged towards one another and whipped around in a circle, snarling and barking at one another, unable to ask or give quarter.


(recognition) (difference) came out as my right paw sent up a burst of understanding.


(rejection) (dismay) as she beat her tail against the ground and emitted a bouquet of rejection.


(question) I rubbed my belly against the ground and dashed backwards.


She snarled at me and turned around. I followed her but she knew these woods better than I. When she dashed into the river, I gave up and watched her emerge on the other side. Her scentlessness, like any woman’s silence, communicated volumes.


I came back twice that summer, but the scents had fractured and faded to denote her absence.


What the encounter gave me were more questions. She had an established vocabulary and had undergone a similar process of education but chose it to reject my overtures.


The rejection stung and I retreated into a deep melancholy.


An interesting aside with clinical lycanthropy was in the seventeenth century was the belief it was caused by an excess of the humour relating to it, a black bile which left the eyes sunken and tongue dry. When I slipped back into my human form, I felt it for the first time.


Separation. My father would have understood it. It was part of his inheritance, along with his nose and the potential for intelligence. I drove back to the house, to the laboratory and wrote about what it felt to be alone.


Sometimes it takes another person to do it to you.


‘I had boyfriends like that.’ Kelly said.


He frowned but the corners of his mouth turned up.


‘Men have to deal with the burden of performance all the time. I just have a larger share than some and the consequences of failure are heavy.’ he said.


She took his hand.


‘You’ve not failed me yet. Even if this counts as kidnapping.’ she said.

He chuckled and shook his head.


‘I thought of this as a prolonged stroll through the woods.’ he said.


He squeezed her hand and looked down as they continued to walk. He patted his stomach and suggested they find ground for the night. He had cured some of the venison for jerky but he offered to hunt for something fresh. She squeezed his hand, registering the hidden tension which made his forearms a taut bundle and told him she would like that.


They found a stretch of level ground, isolated from above and fringed by thick, old trees. Kelly took the tomahawk and gathered wood whilst John walked ahead and she heard the sharp intake of breath before he disappeared from her sight.




Gregor handed the tablet over to Grant and picked out a protein bar from his jacket. His grey eyes narrowed as he peered through the trees.


‘They know this place better than us.’ he said.


Grant increased the magnification on the fibre-optic camera. The drone had another forty minutes of power left before it would need a charge and so far, it had given a general sense of their direction. There were signs of camp being made and from there, it made regular patrols and sent images back to the tablet.


‘They do, but Jasper is sending out the other team and they’ll bring more equipment.’ he said.


Gregor bit into the protein bar with a quiet distaste as he walked up the hill.


‘They burned the briefcase, after that it all feels a little too personal. One thief in the wind, what’s that to anyone?’ he said.


Grant furrowed his forehead.


‘It’s a matter of reputation. Yours and mine, Jasper’s, and who he works for.’ he said.


Gregor chewed and nodded as they carried on following the trail, such as it was.


‘Trust it she finds a fucking Grizzly Adams out here, though.’  he said


Grant sighed and nodded as he watched the drone come back to them. Gregor was unburdened by command, and he had not heard the shrill notes which emerged in Jasper’s voice. There were massive things going on underneath it all, and he had to go and enforce those commands without understanding them. The money was good and it was all Grant concerned himself with. A few days in a forest was better than chronic diarrhea in the desert. It didn’t matter how well a man knew the land around him, they had intention, money and time on their side and it would out in their favour.


Gregor stopped and looked through the set of binoculars at the remains stacked by the tree. He made his way towards it as he gripped his rifle for reassurance.


‘Who needs that much meat? He said.


Grant landed the drone and plugged it into the battery charger as he watched Gregor kick the pile of bones and organs with a strangled cry of disgust.


They had found something at last. Grant saw the tight look of concern on Gregor’s face and smiled as his phone hummed with an alert which he took out and read with a surge of triumph.




He decided to hold off telling him as he walked towards him and the scattered bones.


(The suggestions for a series title are welcome and in return I will name a future character after you, fate to be determined)



Messages In Bottles

MB Blissett

Fresh, bright chill,

Dressed for the weather,

The mandala of little

Victories and losses,

The quiet place within me,

A playground,

A blanket fort,

A library.

A palace

The light within me,

Muted but unwavering,

Illuminating the path ahead,

And I walk it,

The days lengthen

And I send messages in bottles,

Wondering what some people

Feel as they read them,

If they read them

If they feel me,

Or just drawn the curtains,

In indelible ink.

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romance, short fiction, Uncategorized, wildness, women

Burial Rites Episode 4.

Burial Rites

Previous episodes are here, here and here.


John awoke Kelly by bringing her a cup of tea and leaving it on the bedside table. The smell of awoke her with care and she smiled at the gesture. John was cooking a venison steak when she walked through to the kitchen.


John gestured towards the pan but she shook her head. She knew they were going to be going back to the wreckage. She had decided she would do it on an empty stomach. The tea was good, strong and reviving as she sat down.


He put two of them on a plate and brought it over with a small portion of spinach and some cubed sweet potatoes, dusted with cinnamon as he sat down. He ate with a quiet economy, looking up at her with a concerned look in her eyes.


‘Are you sure you want to come?’ he said.


She nodded and picked up her cup of tea, held it between her hands and looked away.


‘Yes, but I can’t eat before I go out. Not with what we’re going to do.’ she said.


John picked up his coffee and took a sip as he looked at her.


‘We’ll bury your friend and cover the plane. What do you want to do with the briefcase, if it’s there?’ he said.


Kelly’s head hurt at the thought of it. She shook her head.


‘We’ll see when we get out there. Can I have a cigarette when you’re done?’ she said.


He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his pouch and tossed it across the table before pulling his lighter from the pocket of his jeans and putting it next to the pouch.  


‘Help yourself.’ he said.


She rolled a loose, clumsy cigarette and lit it. The nicotine soothed her nerves, but the smoke tickled the back of her throat. Some part of her wanted to burn for what had happened.


John finished his food and rolled a cigarette himself. They smoked and finished their drinks before John stood up and gave a short nod.


‘Let’s go.’ he said.


He found Kelly a moss green smock which she pulled on over her head, thick gloves, waterproof trousers and a pair of boots with three pairs of socks. He smiled when she was done as he put on his jacket and zipped up. Kelly looked at him with concern but he smiled at her. He had a rucksack with a roll of tarpaulin lashed to one side. He had a black tomahawk in a stitched leather sheath on his right hip.


‘I don’t feel the cold too much.’  he said.


She nodded, in lieu of further questions, and they left the cabin together.




Despite the thaw, it was still bitter outside. Kelly was grateful for John’s brisk pace because it kept her warm. He took care to see she was keeping up, and he did not have to ask her where the largest portion of the wreckage was.


‘Can you smell them?’ she said.


He glanced at her over his shoulder.


‘Yes.’ he said.


Kelly swallowed and looked around her. The trees were close here, and branches snapped beneath her feet as she walked. The walk was longer than she remembered, and realised she had ignored her surroundings for the blind grasping towards survival. John walked with an ease she envied, smooth and questing at the same time.


He knows this place on a level you can’t imagine, Kelly thought as she watched him.


The thought chilled and excited her at the same time.


He raised his hand without looking at her.


‘We’re here.’ he said.


Kelly stopped as John slipped his backpack off, dropping to a crouch as he raised his nose and inhaled.


Kelly took a breath and it was coated with the tang of faded smoke and burnt oils. She coughed and put her hand over her mouth as she stood there. Through the trees, she saw the jagged outline of the fuselage and walked towards it. John waited so he was walking alongside her.


He was looking at the fuselage, wrinkling his nose with distaste as he untied the roll of tarpaulin from the side of the rucksack.


‘What is it?’ Kelly said.


Her heart thumped against her ribs as she watched him tilt his head to one side.


‘There’s a strange smell here.’ he said.


Jenny grimaced and reached out for John.


‘Is it the bodies? I thought the cold would have kept them from, you know -‘ she said.


She did not want to say rotting and John shook his head to spare her from having to acknowledge what had happened.


He took a deep breath and shrugged his shoulders.


‘I don’t think so, but we need to go in and look.’ he said.


They stepped over the trees felled by the plane’s descent and John passed Kelly the roll of oilcloth whilst he pulled the tomahawk off his hip to cut away where the foliage blocked their path

Kelly looked at the fuselage and fought a primordial shudder at the sight of it. John put his hand on her shoulder and asked her if she was okay. She looked up, took a deep breath and gave a quick nod.


‘Yeah, I mean no, this is completely fucked but yeah, I’m ok.’ she said.


John raised an eyebrow and moved ahead of her as he put the tomahawk back in the sheath on his hip and took the oilcloth back from her.


‘Let’s get this over with.’ he said.


They found Tony first, still in two pieces but something had gnawed at the ropes of intestines and the soil was soaked with his blood. Kelly saw his face, carved into a final expression of agonised disbelief, with his eyes staring out at nothing, dark and cold as pebbles. John sucked in a deep breath and moved over to him and squatted down to push him onto his back. He spread out a large piece of oilcloth and moved the upper half of Tony’s body onto it, before he walked over and dragged Tony’s lower half by the legs and moved it on top. He picked up the chunks of intestine on the ground and tossed them onto the oilcloth.


‘I get why you didn’t eat.’ he said.


Kelly turned away. She did not want to think about Tony as some piece of meat to be handled and John carried out his work in silence. He moved up to where Mo was strapped into his seat and undid his safety belt, catching him as he fell forwards. John grunted underneath the load as he brought Mo’s body back and placed it atop Tony’s remains. He ran lengths of cord through the small holes and lashed it together. He had an expression of grim concentration as he worked. Kelly could look at him, but she averted her gaze from Tony or Mo where they were laid.


‘What about Connor and Van Sciver?’ she said.

John looked up and frowned.


‘I’ll get them later, Kelly. I want to make sure your friend is put to rest first.’ he said.


Kelly blinked away tears and told herself it was the wind in her eyes as she nodded and thanked him.


He finished lashing the oilcloth together and dragged it away from the fuselage. Kelly watched the muscles in his arms and shoulders flexing as he pulled away, looking over his shoulder as he disappeared into the trees. Kelly glanced around her.


The briefcase was wedged under Mo’s seat and walked over, bent down and pulled it towards her. She stood up, surprised at how heavy it was and she dragged it along, straining at the weight. John came back through the trees, his face red with effort as his nostrils flared. He had put his rucksack back on his shoulders but his hands were clenched into fists.


‘Kelly, put it down.’ he said.


Kelly stopped and let go of the handle. She stepped backwards, looking at John’s face. His lips were drawn back over his teeth as he walked towards the case.


‘It smells wrong.’ he said.


His voice had lowered and grown rough. It came from the pit of his stomach as he stopped in front of the case. His eyes were dark with emotion as he knelt down in front of it. He looked up at her.


‘Kelly, we can’t leave this here. I won’t have it in the cabin, but I have somewhere we can open it safely.’ he said.


Kelly frowned and thought about the shed behind the cabin. John smiled and shook his head.


‘I’ll show you when we get back.’ he said.


He picked up his briefcase and his upper lip drew back over his teeth. He hissed through his teeth.

‘Can you describe it?’ she said.


‘Ammoniac. But there’s something else there, just on the edge of my senses, but it’s different.’ he said.


Kelly swallowed and nodded. His reaction made her nervous and she stepped back, unsure of whether she was concerned by his reaction or what was in the briefcase.


‘I’ll come back and deal with the rest later.’ he said.


Kelly looked around her, then back at John.


‘Are you sure, I mean, I haven’t helped at all, John, and this is sort of my mess, you know?’ she said.


He shook his head.


‘You didn’t crash the plane, so let’s say it’s our mess. Come on, we need to look at what’s in here.’ he said.


His gruff authority made her relax as they made their way back to the cabin. John kept a brisk pace and Kelly tried to keep up, but she turned her left ankle, crying out as she fell forwards.


He was at her side, his arm wedged under her armpit as he held her up. She caught the warm musk of his skin as she put her arm around him. He looked into her eyes with a gentle concern as he asked her if she was okay. She nodded tightly, embarrassed at having fallen over in front of him but he did not mention it. She tested her left foot, and despite the tenderness, she could walk on it.


‘Thank you, I’m okay.’ she said.


They walked along in silence before Kelly asked him where he had put Mo and Tony.


‘I’ve covered them in foliage and the oil cloth should keep anything getting to them. I’ll take care of them later but I couldn’t leave them out for anyone to come across.’ he said.


Kelly nodded her agreement as she wondered whether their failure to arrive had triggered a reaction at all.


She was torn between the blessed ignorance of the present moment versus a bleak set of circumstances, neither of which could be counted upon to guarantee her safety. The sun had come out, but Kelly shivered like a shadow had fallen upon her.


She hoped it was possible to walk out from underneath its reach.




John walked past the cabin and the shed. He stopped and dropped to his knees, reached into the soil and lifted a hatch up, sending a fine spray of dirt into the air before he turned and looked at her over his shoulder.


‘Are enclosed spaces a problem for you?’ he said.


He had a serious expression and Kelly shrugged her shoulders.


‘I was okay on a plane. Why, do you have an underground lair?’ she said.


She said it in a sing-song voice, grateful for the moment of levity between them. It was better than thinking about Tony and the debt they had incurred through a cruel act of fate. John raised an eyebrow as the corners of his mouth turned up in a small smile.


‘Something like that.’ he said.


He heaved the hatch back and walked down the small set of stairs into the ground. Kelly looked around her, took a deep breath and followed him underground.




There was no black box to lead Jasper to the plane’s last location, on account of the weight involved. The flight plan was simple enough, taking them from the airfield outside Washington straight to LAX but Jasper had paid for access to a news gathering service and found no evidence of a crashed plane at all. He sat in his room and pulled up a map of the route, overlaying it with the scheduled flight.


Something had forced the plane off course, and he scrolled back through the weather reports to see a fat, ugly belt of precipitation which had made itself known at around the same time the plane would have been in the air.


‘Maybe they took a detour, he muttered to himself.


Either way, he had men waiting to go and look, so he split the eight guys into two teams of four. One of them would fly out to Washington and follow the route from that end, whilst the second team would head from Los Angeles.


Jasper had signed for two devices from his employer. They were ovoid, cool and smooth to the touch which activated a top down view and a stream of binary numbers before it set up a location. It had been stressed to him how important the recovery of the briefcase was, and Jasper listened to the electronic voice as it authorised an additional line of credit for transport and stressed an additional caveat to the previous instructions.


No survivors.


Jasper did not even blink. He had been a good thief, because he knew how things could turn on a dime and planned contingencies along those lines for his entire career. He told the team leaders this information and told them to report back when they were on the road. One phone call and they were on the move, instruments of his will who would return with the briefcase and he would deliver it to his employer then disappear. He couriered the devices to each location and dialled the escort service whilst staring at the wall, thinking of nothing beyond the present moment.


Demons whispered to him in electronic voices as his eyelids grew heavy and he thought about the future.




A timely and terrifying story written with compassion and an unflinching grasp of motive and character.

The Scales of Ma'at

  1. The hammer falls (pt. 1)

The hammer fell and John left the courthouse a free man, but vindication was a distant prospect. The victory was a hollow one, and part of him almost wished he’d been sent down; that it would have been safer for him inside.

His accuser didn’t even have the decency to look embarrassed when the not-guilty verdict was read out, instead swept away by paroxysms of outrage punctuated by snot and hiccoughed tears.


She was escorted to the court’s dedicated safe space by female security staff murmuring soothing platitudes. Sympathetic and heartfelt, but platitudes nonetheless.

Mired in a daze of relief mingled with terror, he barely registered as his counsel pumped his hand and clapped him on the shoulder, so transfixed was he by the pointed malevolent stares – only half imagined – directed at him from the public gallery. He was reminded of high…

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love, poetry, Uncategorized

I Have A Heart Too

(A lovely bittersweet poem)

I wake up in the middle of the night With your thoughts in my head I dream with open eyes Lying in my bed It’s strange what love can make you do I never knew I had a heart too Food does not interest me anymore Your thoughts just fill my mind I stare into […]

via I Have A Heart Too — Frank Solanki