An Gallerie of Doodles: Part II

The slacking off from doing actual work continues, and continued a long time ago when these doodles were drawn, back in good old University. Part I here: https://racheliliffe.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/an-gallerie-of-doodles-part-i/

Trigger warning for stick-figure violence and gore, u gaiz.

Muse of a Friar

There it is. The Demon of Doodles. The Muse of Procrastination. From this creature everything that litters my pages of notes was spawned. Except for, you know… the notes. Some of them have actual facts ‘n’ stuff in them.

Pope Eats Lemons

Pope: Yum yum, Lemons, yum. Kill the Albigensians. Lemons, yum.

Of course, like in part one some of these doodles served to illustrate and clarify the factual notes. Here we see a Pope (I think it was Innocent III?) who ordered the Albigensian Crusade in the 13th century. I may not remember his name exactly, but I do remember that he was known for eating lemons–and in the end, isn’t that the most important thing?

I have no idea what the fuck that abomination on wheels is at the top of the page though. Demonic possession?

Explosion of Cute

To whit, the doodles that were nothing more than pictorial gibberish continued too (and do so to this day). Rabbits, rabbits with wings, earthworms, earthworms with wings, stars, hearts, flowers–they’re all there.

Most interestingly, to illustrate the word ‘EXPLOSION’ there is a character I made up at about the age of ten: Ponyloon, the turquoise horse with an eyepatch who loved blowing stuff up. He’s stuck with me all these years; one of my favourite characters from my own deranged mind. In fact…

Three Freaks Play Chess

CAPTION: “3 crazed freaks playing chess”. Note the thoughtful expression on Zeiban’s usually blank face, as he tries 2 figure out how to kill Diddilydum the Fly before Ponyloon’s bomb goes off.

The characters from my youth could also be combined with cartoon clarification, to make a pointless in-joke that any student could be proud of.

… not showing to anyone. Ever. This one, for example, was a direct parody of this image here:

https://i2.wp.com/usercontent1.hubimg.com/8521066_f520.jpg

The resemblance is uncanny!

The Batshit Insane Griselda

But the ones that related to the notes themselves were funnier to a wider audience. Here my doodle of Chaucer’s Clerk’s ‘Patient Griselda’ is drawn with an arrow next to ‘The ‘patient’ Griselda. and by patient we mean batshit insane‘.

Seriously. Look up the story of Patient Griselda if you don’t believe me on that one. Above her, stick figures of Chaucer’s Friar and Summoner declare their manliness with a masculine fist-bump. Because they are Men. And if you’re wondering why the words are green, this was an organisational tool that worked fairly well for me; different coloured inks for different classes. Genius.

A Bell-Ringing Accident

Stick Figure Bystander: Oh no! There’s been a terrible BELL-RINGING accident!

There’s an even mix of relevant and irrelevant though; hence the rabbit and cat fighting over a cupcake above the stick-figures describing one medieval scholar’s commentary on the 5th commandment. Funnily enough I remember that context exactly–in the commentary the writer was saying who accidentally killing someone should not be considered breaking the 5th commandment (Thou Shalt Not Kill), and the example he used for this was if someone rung a bell, and in doing so knocked the bell off it’s hook where it fell on someone’s head and killed them.

And my seminar group was like: “How often did that happen in the Middle Ages!?”

Bunnies Martyr Early Saint

CAPTION: An early saint. Died of fatal bunny wounds.

Still, the cute little drawings could help being relevant too, as I here reminded myself that early saints often had messy and violent martyrdoms by having one torn apart by rabid bunnies. What can I say? It was a harsh time to live in.

Tune in tomorrow for the final installment; doodles I doodle at work; with a special surprise of specialness for your enjoyment!

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An Gallerie of Doodles: Part I

Okay, so I’m running out of ideas. That’s pretty much always the case with me though, and when I run out of ideas, I doodle. What follows over the next three days will be a showcasing of some of the… doodliest of my doodles, culminating in a special surprise on the final day.

(it’s not that special)

We begin with a selection from my A Level History notebook; chosen because that’s what I went on to do at Uni. I was going to put them all together in a big MS Paint collage, but then I figured, ‘hey, I can’t be bothered to do that!’ and so the hilarious doodles below are presented individually so you can appreciate the full wit or lack thereof of each one.

Enjoy the cartoons of Henry VII being haunted by the mutilated ghost of Richard III, there were many more than I’m showing here!

The Diet of Worms

Geddit? Cos ‘diet’ is what people eat… but it’s also a kind of parliament-type-thingy? And Worms is a place… but also a creepy-crawly thing? Ya geddit?

The Haunting of Haz 7

Richard III: Oooooh! Ooooooh! Nobody likes yoooou!

Henry VII: Go away, Richard.

Onlookers: Who’s he talking to?

I left in enough of the next page for you to see a flower–that’s what most of the doodles you’d come across in my notebook are of; flowers, stars, suns, hearts… just things that are easy to draw when you have nothing to write even when you really want to.

The League of tORgO

A German Prince(?): I said League of Torgau, not Torgo!

It’s another pun, but this one’s only funny if you’re familiar with both the German Reformation and Mystery Science Theater 3000, which I’m guessing amount to about three people in the universe.

No Witty Title Available

Also, butterflies. And some weird fucking face on a dome on wheels.

Inheritence Tax

The illustrations of my youth also served to remind me what happened in history… even though it would have been far more efficient to just read the text, like this little cartoon about Henry VII’s inheritance taxes.

Henry VII: That’ll teach you to inherit land!

A Noble: Oh yeah, I’m really not going to rebel now!

Richard III: It’s their own fault for betraying me.

Sacking Rome

Notes: Charlie [Emperor Charles of the Holy Roman Empire] sacks Rome.

Charles: Rome, you’re fired!

Because puns are the highest form of humour.

Dissolving the Monasteries

… and of course we moved on from Henry VII to Henry VIII eventually…

Henry VIII: We shall dissolve the monasteries… With HYDROCHLORIC ACID! HA HA HA HA HA!

Richard III: I miss Henry VII…

Tune in tomorrow, where the story of doodles continues… to not really be a story or anything. Just doodles. And post your own while you’re at it, they’re the modern day manuscript illuminations!

(In the same way Twilight is the modern day A Tale of Two Cities, that is)

A MISTYREE Excerpt!

Let it not be said I renege on my promises (or at least let it not be said that I did so today) what follows in an excerpt of my first serious attempt at a serious novel. Seriously.

Yesterday’s post, where I introduced the Victorian murder-mystery ‘Mistyree’, via all the (terrible) illustrations I did for it, and forewarned of the overwritten navel-gazing contained therein, can be found here: https://racheliliffe.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/some-mystyree-illustrations/

Well, I say all–as you can see there was one left, the illustration for the scene that follows. (don’t ask why the bookcase juts out so far from the wall, nor why Nicky has a picture of some origami on his wall: suffice it to say my deficiencies as an artist are innumerable). Nothing apart from a few paragraph breaks where it got really bad has been changed since it was written in 2007…

The Biggest Bookcase Ever

*~*~*

Excerpt from ‘Mistyree’

CONTEXT: Following the wedding of the MC (Nicky)’s younger brother, (minor gentlemen, both), a series of gruesome and bizarre murders take place in the local village. After being stabbed by a random thief and rescued (though unconscious at the time) by a man whom it is deduced by the detective on the case (who I called ‘Holmes’ as a joke) was probably the murderer, Nicky awakens weeks later to find a mutilated corpse has been placed in his bed in the night…

*~*~*

I looked at her again, and this time tried to see her as a whole. I didn’t recognise her at all, I couldn’t think that she had once been an entity I had shared time with at some point, that some part of my life had been killed with her. I felt more alive when I looked at her. Was that why he did it?

But her, her on the bed—she who had once moved and no longer did—what was she? How could she fit in my perception of the world? Her presence did not seem to change anything in me, I was frightened yes, but still me. What did this body mean? She looked so… so odd, being a body which did not live, a type of human being which I had never seen before and never could have imagined even with my unusual mind.

The right words did not exist to tell my thoughts, to make an argument of any coherency to process properly this incident. I calmed down further and realised I was sitting on the floor again. I couldn’t see her body properly, but saw her blood—even when I closed my eyes that red imprint remained.

At that point a maid came in to open the curtains. Unfortunately it was not Li, she was with Inspector Holmes at the time, but it seemed Mother had seen fit to send some poor servant up to inquire as to why I was not at breakfast. I was not sure myself, and wondered whether I had overslept, or had simply been transfixed by my lifeless companion too much to move for hours.

She screamed at what she saw—the bed, the girl, me, and backed out of the room still screaming. I watched her as I reminded myself that I was fine and could wait until later to exhibit the proper reaction to this happening. She hit the opposite wall of the corridor with an audible thump and never stopped screaming. She sounded hysterical, but even so, somewhat false, as though acting a part in a play. Perhaps such a reaction would always seem false to me, having no other genuine reaction to compare with.

I heard voices outside the room. “What’s happening!? What’s happening!?” A man’s voice cried out—George, I realised in a few moments. This unexpected situation had made my thoughts slower than usual. More than one man was hurrying up the stairs however, and it was Inspector Holmes who ran into my room first, followed closely by my brother.

“Dear God.” Said Holmes, his face turning pale before my very eyes. George turned away almost immediately and covered his mouth with his hand, retching. The maid’s screams continued but sounded raspier as she lost her voice from too much screaming. Eventually her screams turned to sobs and I watched her huddling outside my room. None of them seemed to have noticed me yet.

“George,” Said Holmes forcefully, grabbing my brother’s shoulders and staring at him. I could see that Holmes was just as thrown by the new development, but he held it together well. “George, listen to me.”

“No, no, this is not supposed to happen,” Said George, shaking his head like a small child, “This does not happen to me, not to me, not to my family,” He said.

“George, listen!” Snapped Holmes.

“No, no, not these things, these things do not happen,”

“George!” Holmes roared, shaking him firmly.

George was silent for a moment, “It’s like a nightmare…” He whimpered.

I was confused at my brother’s reaction. George never seemed the type to go to pieces in a crisis. Hadn’t he taken charge the first time? Perhaps it was actually seeing the body that alarmed him so. Although I realised that everyone had the potential to slip into the persona that he was now adopting, I still felt at odds by it. The reactions that entity on the bed provoked, it seemed, were just as disorienting as the body itself.

“I know, George,” Said Holmes, not unkindly, “But listen to me. You take that poor girl downstairs,” He meant the maid, “and do not let anyone else enter the room apart from Doctor Dudley, do you understand!?”

George whimpered a bit but Holmes merely shook him again, “Do you understand?” He asked. George hesitated, then nodded and staggered to the door of my bedroom. I turned my head to watch him leave, he and the sobbing girl grasping at each other for support. I thought of Homer, at least, I think it was Homer, and Odysseus grasping at his wife like a drowning swimmer. Funny that such a thing should have come to my mind at that moment.

When I couldn’t hear him anymore, I turned my head again to look at Holmes. His back was facing me and having caught his bearings he was examining the entity. I wondered if he’d even seen me. I suddenly wanted him to notice me more than anything, and tried to make some sound to grab his attention. No sound would come. It seems silly that I wanted to take his attention away from her, but that was how it was.

Holmes sighed and shook his head. He moved very little and I felt my mind start to wonder to other things. George would have been telling the others, I wondered what their faces would look like when he did. Shocked? Devastated? Exasperated? Well father might be, this was the fifth body and still no leads.

The slight shaking of the floor that one only feels when one is not thinking of anything warned me of the next approaching figures. Two of them—who had accompanied Dudley? I guessed who, and lo and behold accompanying the good doctor was my dear Xanatos, pale and worried. He relaxed somewhat upon seeing me in safety, then changed his mood to horrified when he saw the stains covering me.

“Nicky!” He breathed and dropped to my side. Dudley coughed heavily as he came in.

“Blast! Another one, eh?” He complained, “When you catch this diseased demon I swear I’ll kill him myself!”

Five times over? I wondered.

“Look at the pattern of blood.” Holmes said, ignoring Dudley’s comment, “He’s killed her here. Slit her throat right on this bed, he’s never done that before.”

“Getting braver?” Asked Dudley.

“No,” Holmes replied, his face screwed up in concentration, “No, this one never had any fear.”

Xanatos interrupted them as he rubbed my uninjured shoulder gently, “Doctor, could you please see to Nicky?” His hand on my shoulder was not particularly comforting, but I knew he had meant it to be and that was comforting. “I do not believe he’s injured, but he’s certainly—”

“My God!” Cried Dudley, “You were here? What did you see?”

I tried to answer him and found I could not move.

“Mr. Attfield?” Asked Holmes.

“I…” I managed ‘I’ but couldn’t get anything else out.

“See to him, John.” Said Holmes.

Dudley didn’t move. “Well what’s he doing here anyway? How did he get covered in blood—it’s obviously not his!”

“This is his room!” Hissed Xanatos. He saw what they were implying before I did, and he didn’t like it. Rather sweet of him, I thought.

Dudley stared, mystified. Holmes wore much the same expression but managed to voice what by this point we were all wondering. “This man,” He meant the murderer, “Took the poor girl into this room and slit her throat over the bed,” He paused, “While Mr. Attfield was sleeping on it? And then he just put her on the bed and left and you didn’t hear or see anything?”

Dudley started to walk towards me as I tried to remember how to talk. “Uh… I… w-was… I was a-asleep,” I began shaking. Dudley knelt down next to me, bones cracking with old age. He then sniffed at my face, which I thought rather odd.

“More than asleep.” He said with a humourless laugh, “Chloroform.” But the suspicion in his eyes didn’t waver. “Then again, Wat and I have seen killings staged more elaborately than this.”

“What!?” Xanatos spat out, moving so that he was diverting Dudley’s attention from me, “I suppose you don’t know how utterly ridiculous you sound?” He said.

Dudley sneered, “This is his room.” He said. “What other place to start but—”

“John!” Holmes interrupted. “I’ll admit the situation could be argued either way. Just get Mr. Attfield to another room and clean him up, I’ll ask him questions later.” He paused, then added as an afterthought, “Make sure he doesn’t go anywhere. This one has far more to do with our murderer than I’d like.”

“What on earth do you think you’re talking about, sir!?” Xanatos growled. “If you knew for one second—”

“Xanatos?” I said, lifting my arm up to grab his sleeve, “I think my legs aren’t working properly.” I wasn’t lying, they were twitching without my control, but not moving when I wanted them to. Xan looked concerned and reached for me, lifting me up, miraculously without jarring my shoulder.

“Arthur’s room is closest,” He said bitterly. “I’m sure he won’t mind.”

I nodded and wished that everyone would leave immediately. I caught another glimpse of the body as Xan carried me out. How cold she looked. I wanted to give her a blanket or something. Then I saw something else I immediately reminded myself to remember for later—it may have interested Holmes, after all. Kuka and Imily were sitting on my desk on the other side of the room, free of bloodstains and definitely not where I had left them. I could only catch a glimpse of them however, before we stumbled further down the corridor to Art’s room.

Art was elsewhere, probably riding a horse or something, and I was disappointed, because I’d have loved to see the expression on his face if he had to deal with me covered in blood again. Xanatos put me down on the bed and went into the adjoining chamber. I lay down and thought of nothing in particular for a few moments, before I suddenly remembered that I was covered in the blood of a dead girl.

Then it struck me—why had the killer left her in my bed? This was the second time he’d shown a strange sort of interest in me and I couldn’t understand it. I found myself very interesting, but everyone else either pretended I didn’t exist or pretended I was someone else (except on certain occasions of course). Had he just picked me at random?

Or was he genuinely paying me attention?

I was somewhat excited at the prospect. I didn’t like a lot of attention from other people, which was fortunate because I didn’t get much, but sometimes I did feel momentarily…left out. I would much rather be left alone, and could see myself living perfectly well without any sort of human company (provided someone left me some food once and a while) and yet this prospective interest our killer had in me of all people was in turn of interest to me.

It was flattering, of all things, and not in a sycophantic way like the people I saw or imagined I saw in Hell, but something far more subtle than that. But I felt I’d probably got it completely wrong and he wasn’t interested in me at all—after all I didn’t conform to his preferred type of victim and I wasn’t part of the force assembled to catch him. One would think he was far more interested in Holmes, his arch-nemesis or whatever he saw the detective as. I knew that Holmes was certainly focussed on him.

And me? Well, this whole time I’d mostly been thinking about myself and my own idiosyncrasies. Even now I was self-analysing, wondering what it was in me that he could possibly find interesting rather than what it was in him that could be interested in me.

I hadn’t really given him the thought he was due, just compared him with myself, used him as a way to try and further understand myself, never tried to understand him because I had never been able to understand anyone. Perhaps he was trying to attract my attention. So who was he? He didn’t think or act like normal people, that was clear enough, and neither did he think or act like me.

Category One: Normal People. Category Two: Me. Category Three: Murderers. No, some normal people could be murderers as well. Evil? Well, for lack of a better word I supposed, even if it did not exactly describe this person. But evil was supposed to be hated, if one was ‘good’ or mostly good, and loved if one was ‘evil’, and vice versa. I couldn’t seem to feel either about either, as I had explained to the vision of Lucifer, though I could usually tell the difference—the difference according to society as a whole, I realised.

Seeing as how I didn’t seem to feel either of them, they probably didn’t exist for me. But the murderer had to be termed something, and as Holmes insisted he was not insane, I had no other recourse but to call him evil. Evil was simply not necessarily a negative element to me, merely a different one. Had I contradicted myself? Did I say earlier I preferred good, or something to that effect? Hmm…I suppose I could still prefer good and not have an all-out hatred of evil.

An evil person, the first I’d ever come across. How to quantify him, was the question. Perhaps I was the first un-normal person he’d ever come across too, and that was why he was interested in me?

Some MISTYREE Illustrations…

Don’t let the obvious fact that the art is terrible dissuade you from reading my recollections of this ‘old shame’; these were drawn when I was seventeen to accompany my first ever attempt at a serious novel, and tomorrow you lucky readers will be able to view an excerpt!

(I know, I know–Dante forgot to add that circle when he wrote the Inferno. Although, it’s funny you (and by ‘you’ I mean ‘I’) should mention dear old Dante…)

The novel was ‘Mistyree‘ a Victorian murder-mystery, with a side-helping of pseudo-philosophical gibberish and the best that teen navel-gazing had to offer; overwritten to the point of being incomprehensible in many places–far too many, in fact, given how little I actually wrote of it. In order to prepare you, let’s take a look at some of those quality images that were meant to bring the [ridiculous] words to life…

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One of the ‘best’ things about ‘Mistyree‘ was how halfway through the story took a break so that the main character, Nicholas, could have a multiple-chapter dream-vision about going to Hell, just like Dante did in the Inferno. (presumably so I could let readers know I’d read the Inferno). His guide was Odysseus instead of Virgil, who in this picture shows him the forest of suicides–people who committed suicide and were forced to spend eternity as trees in Hell. I never really understood that, but oh well.

Hell has, of course, updated itself to fit with the times, and so now has a train running through it. George Gordon Lord Byron was the conductor, you can see him standing in the doorway of the train I was too lazy to draw in its entirety and just kind of vanishes off into the distance.

(30/11 is the date on which Nicky had his vision of Hell; unlike those of us who are doing NaNo, who by that point just feel like we are)

IMG_20151015_0002

(The laziness continues with my lack of effort to colour shit in. Some things never change).

A couple of months later, on the 8th of January, Nicky is thrown across a hallway by his Uncle for forgetting to wear black in mourning for a second cousin of his who had been murdered–at this point in the story he was recovering from a stab wound which is why his arm hurts. For SOME REASON, unreasonable adult-characters who didn’t understand the MC’s uniqueness were all over the place in this novel. I wonder how that happened…

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Much earlier in the story (these arts are posted in the order I drew them, rather than corresponding to the timeline of events) Nicky goes to visit his illegitimate niece (by his younger brother Michael) Alice. Alice’s mother is happy to see him, but her sister is being judgemental.

She pays for her judgemental-ness later by being murdered. That’ll show her!

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This one doesn’t have a date, so I don’t know when-abouts it was supposed to be. I do remember there was supposed to be something important about that clock (I think a body was hidden in it at some point–you know, one of those clocks with extra space behind the gears for stashing corpses), but I’m just not entirely sure.

One of the themes of ‘Mistyree’ were annoyingly perfect and judgemental little brats who were gruesomely murdered, and the boy in brown was the final murder victim–the second cousin mentioned before. Also, there’s a cat.

IMG_20151015_0005

On the morning after the night spent journeying through Hell for no reason, Nicky is carried by the demon Cynefrith (in the novel a creation of the thoughts of people who had heard the incredibly apocryphal tale of Cynefrith, who murdered her younger brother and then had her eyes burned out by God when she started reading a Bible-verse backwards) to the ‘safety’ of a tree.

Well, in his dream-vision he is. In actuality he’s carried there by the person who was murdering everyone, who had fallen in love with his totally unique quirkiness! Nobody else really understood him! *sobs*

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And when the murderer was caught and executed (actually it turned out they botched that and he came back in the sequel /spoilers) everyone sits down to a friendly game of poker. Here we see both of Nicky’s brothers, their wives, one of their cousins, one of their wives’ cousins (an American; you can tell because he’s wearing a badly-drawn cowboy hat, and all Americans wear cowboy hats… IN AMERICA!), and their brother-in-law around the table, while Nicky stands in the doorway.

Actually I remember this scene was to end with Nicky, who had been bemused and quirky throughout the whole novel before this, breaking down into tears and being herded away by the brother-in-law, who was also his best friend. They had an interesting relationship…

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Yeah. This one’s actually my favourite of the ‘Mistyree‘ illustrations because I think it’s better than the others, though I don’t know why Xanatos (that was the brother-in-law’s name; Xanatos Murder–it was a joke, because his name was ‘Murder’, and there were a bunch of murders happening! Geddit?) has a picture of space on his wall, but never mind.

Anyway, the idea was that Xanatos was (also) in love with Nicky although married to Nicky’s evil sister Catherine, and Nicky kind of knew it but brazenly ignored his feeling since he didn’t want to have to deal with anything serious in his life. In this scene, Catherine’s gone off to cheat on Xanatos with some guy and Xanatos is feeling suicidal, so Nicky tries comforting him.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why Nicky’s hair is green in some of these images; apparently the black felt tip pen I was using turns green after a few years. Though I kind of like to think Nicky just got some green highlights to treat himself after being stabbed. If, you know, those had been a thing in the Victorian era.

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Seriously. ‘PLAN OF THE HOUSE… for fun, I guess…‘. Because there’s no other reason to have a house plan, amirite, fellow writers?

Actually, come to think of it I haven’t done a story tied enough to a single location to have to do house plans like that again; not one that I still consider a viable project, at any rate.

Tune in tomorrow, for an example of the writing that spawned these nightmarish visions, and a seventeen-year-old’s attempts at being ‘deep’, ‘edgy’, and ‘Victorian’.

(It’s actually not as jarring as the time I attempted WWII era–What ho, old boy!)

Short Story, Working Title: ‘The Loony Bin’

I’m working on something right now and have no time to come up with original material for the likes of you, so here’s a short story (<3000 words) that I wrote about five years ago, and never bothered to give a proper title–‘The Loony Bin‘ is just what it appears as in my file of sorry attempts at short stories so I’d know which story it was.

It’s the story I’ve just now edited so much in order that it should be fit for publication, that I might as well have written something original. Derp. XP

*~*~*

The atmosphere was tense as a silence on a battlefield as the seven of us sat in our straightjackets, waiting for Dr Reynolds to begin the session.

For the most part we had never liked each other, and I doubted this reluctant gathering would do much to change that, but Dr Reynolds had another goal in mind for this endeavour. He was silent for a long time before he began, rocking back and forth ever so slightly as he sat facing the back of his chair, and us. When the phone rang, he let it ring, and when one of his assistants made a motion as though to pick it up, he stopped her. His gaze scraped over us with bitter anticipation.

We were a rather sorry bunch. Daisy had enough anxiety issues for ten people. Mark was depressed often to the point of lifelessness. Leland’s lack of empathy bordered on sociopathic behaviour. Jenna was a barely functioning alcoholic. Marianne was almost incapable of controlling her rage. Edward had delusions of grandeur and seemed to think we were living in the nineteenth century.

As for me, well, I was hardly going to deliver an accurate analysis of myself.

But what made me really sorry about all this was that Dr Reynolds’ doctorate was in Art History, because it made me more than a little nervous about the gun he was tapping against the side of his chair after having used it to take us all hostage.

To my knowledge, he didn’t actually know how to use the thing. But then, he wasn’t one of my patients.

“Adrian Reynolds,” said the answering machine, once the phone stopped ringing. “This is Detective Inspector de Worde of the London Met. Listen to me, sir, we really don’t want anyone to get hurt—so if you could pick up the phone and tell us what you want we might be able to resolve this peacefully.”

With a heaving sigh and an enormous eye-roll, Reynolds leaned over and stabbed down at a button on the landline. “There can be no peace when the dead lie uneasy in their graves,” he said, loud and exasperated. It sounded like a quote, but I didn’t recognise it. “No one’s going anywhere until I find out which one of them killed Dr Andrews!”

Amateur sleuthing. Never as glamorous in real life as it was in the movies, I supposed; but then, what was? After a long silence on the other end of the line, the detective asked, “What makes you think it was one of those seven, Dr Reynolds?”

Reynolds laughed. “Because this place is run by incompetent gossips, and they let slip yesterday that these are the seven who have no alibi.”

Impressive, that he’d organised all this in a day—and good for him that he was engaging in constructive activities so soon after his last suicide attempt. He’d come a long way. No doubt Dr Andrews would have been proud, and touched by this show of righteous indignation displayed on his behalf. If only I’d had a corroborating witness to my alibi of watching stupid videos on YouTube.

The detective replied, “But Dr Reynolds, it’s my job to find out who was responsible, not yours. I promise you, you do not need to do this.”

“Yes, I do,” said Reynolds bluntly. “This is the last chance I have to make the decisions in life that make a man who he is meant to be. For John Andrews’ sake, I intend to be a reckoning for one person in this room.”

“Dr Reynolds… Adrian—”

With a nod from Reynolds to one of the other patients he’d roped into his reckoning, the telephone cord was yanked from the wall.

And with the whole place in lockdown due to the lunatic with the gun, it would take them hours to break the system and send people in after us. Daisy burst into a fresh and noisy wave of tears, and when I considered our situation I almost joined her. Leland gave her a look of utter derision. Then he gave me one when he realised I was looking at him.

So much for relying on my closest colleague for moral support, though I don’t know why I would have expected anything different.

“Now,” said Reynolds, ignoring Daisy. “We’re going to start a new ‘session’, doctors.” He mimicked quotation marks with his fingers when he said the word ‘session’. “I hope we all make a lot of ‘progress’, during this ‘heart to heart’, and that we’re all ‘honest’ and ‘open’ about our ‘feelings’.”

“Was that your ‘threatening speech’?” asked Leland, unable to make the quotation marks while in a straightjacket, but still able to mock Reynolds’ tone of voice. “Because I don’t get it. Was that tone supposed to indicate you don’t want us to be honest and open?”

“Shut up, Dr Langslow,” said Reynolds, echoing the sentiments of probably everyone in the room, “or I’ll have you gagged like Dr Nelson.” He gestured with the gun towards Marianne, who growled and struggled against her bonds, stamping her feet against the floor wildly, like a two year old having a tantrum. Reynolds ignored her too. “We’ll start with the motive,” he said.

Well, we all had means and opportunity. The police hadn’t found the murder-weapon, but I think it was safe to say we all owned a kitchen-knife.

“Dr Nelson,” Reynolds began, and she glared at him. “Dr Andrews has been trying to get you fired for years now, and six months ago he succeeded in having you suspended. You punched a seventeen-year-old schizophrenic in the face, I definitely wouldn’t put murder past you.” He took a moment to mull it over in his mind. “But I don’t know if this was impulsive enough to be your kind of crime.”

Marianne growled again, louder, and continued to struggled while he moved on to Mark.

“Dr Richardson,” he said.

Mark didn’t say anything, he barely even looked afraid, just slid his eyes over to the man addressing him.

“Difficult to think up of a motive for you. And you don’t seem the type to take another’s life, but then I don’t have much difficulty imagining your neighbours telling people you were ‘always such a quiet man’. We might come back to you.”

Mark didn’t change his expression in the slightest. Sitting next to him was an almost hysterical Daisy, who tried to stop sobbing when Reynolds turned to her.

“Dr Boleyn,” he acknowledged with a nod. “I think you could murder, if you were pushed. And I’ve always thought you might snap at any moment, maybe you were worried about your job too?”

As soon as he turned from her, Daisy wept even harder. Next was Leland.

“Dr Langslow. I know Dr Andrews was one of the many victims of your malicious pranks, and your patients inform me you are a complete prick, but I don’t know you’d go as far as murder. Unless he had something on you I don’t know about. And you’re meticulous. If anyone could do it and get away with it, it would be you.”

I already knew Leland was innocent. He’d been out on a date with someone he’d met at a conference, but there were reasons he didn’t want Eddie finding out who that was, which was why he’d had me cover for him, at the time and after. This was a private establishment, after all, and Eddie’s word was as good as law.

But if I brought it up, my job would be on the line too, and I might have been in trouble with the police for not mentioning it sooner. Last resort, I decided.

“Dr Sinclair,” Reynolds went on, now looking at Jenna.

“Dr Reynolds,” Jenna answered gently, startling me with her decision to reply. “I know you’re upset about John, we all are—”

“Except the person who gutted him, you mean?”

Jenna took a deep breath. “Maybe even them. Don’t you yourself still regret what happened six years ago?”

Reynolds snorted. “Oh yes,” he said. “That’s how I know what happens here will frankly be a favour to whoever it turns out to be. Still, never mind that now, let’s talk about you. Everyone knows you were all over Dr Andrews when you were drunk, which, let’s face it, was most of the time, wasn’t it? And he wanted nothing to do with you, because he was married and you were… well, a pathetic lonely drunk. Did he reject you one too many times?”

You could see the shame in Jenna’s eyes before she closed them. I had seen her only half an hour before the murder, passed out in her office, and I didn’t think she’d have been able to come out of it in such a short amount of time. But I don’t think Eddie would have been very forgiving about that either.

And speaking of Eddie…

“Dr Hardgrave,” said Reynolds, derisive and at the same time blatantly amused. “Where to start?”

“You can start,” said Eddie, with the usual bluster, “by untying me and going back to your cell before the police come in here and shoot you down like a dog!”

Thanks Eddie, I thought. Really defusing the situation there; cheers.

“Dr Andrews was looking to get this place shut down,” said Reynolds, which should have surprised me, if I’d never met any of my colleagues before that evening. “He said there was a mile long list of malpractices lurking in its exalted history.”

“An upstart!” barked Eddie. “Listen here, young man—my family has been in charge of this institution for almost three hundred years.”

“Mm, well far be it from me to give advice, but I think you might have tried updating your policies since then,” said Reynolds.

From the fury in Eddie’s eyes, I think he noticed me suppress a little chuckle there. He paused before he went back to harrumphing at Reynolds. “My father handed this institution to me,” he announced, as if it had any relevance, “just as his father handed it to him. The practice of this facility has a grand tradition!”

“The practice of this facility,” said Reynolds, “is your choice, and speaks of the man you were meant to be. As it does for all of you, who chose to do what was needed for evil to triumph.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” groaned Leland. “No wonder that twathead Andrews wanted you on anti-psychotics.”

Reynolds turned to him in a flash, actually standing up and moving away from the chair, which skidded across the floor with an awful groan. “What did you say?” he asked icily.

“Shall I repeat it for you?” Leland retuned, voice laced with sarcasm as it always was. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were deaf as well as insane. I’d sign for you if I had my arms free.”

His words got him a gun pressed right against his forehead, and not for the first time I wondered why on earth he’d ever gone into psychiatry.

Meanwhile Daisy’s tears became a scream and Jenna cried out “For goodness’ sake!” while even Mark was beginning to look worried, and Leland himself obviously regretted opening his mouth.

But this was Leland, and despite himself the next words out of his mouth were, “What, was that a rhetorical question? I thought we were supposed to be sharing our ‘feelings’. And I ‘felt’ that Andrews was a stuck up, sanctimonious little shit.”

“Don’t kill him!” cried Jenna, but we could all see that that was just what Reynolds was about to do, when suddenly I did something even stupider than what Leland had.

“I did it!”

Reynolds stopped immediately and whirled around, wide-eyed. Leland’s own went as big as they could go, and everyone in the room stared at me, disbelieving.

“Chess!” Jenna exclaimed—my nickname, since apparently we were on such familiar terms.

Something to think about, when you have a gun pointed at your head, wondering why on earth you’d just said the stupid thing you’d said. Seriously, since when was I familiar with any of these wankers? Even Leland, though we’d slept together a few times. It hardly warranted the ultimate sacrifice.

“Dr Leigh,” Reynolds started. I don’t think he knew what tone to use anymore. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d come down from the clouds long enough to push a knife into a man’s brachial aorta and bleed him dry. Are you being serious, or do you just have Bonny and Clyde syndrome for Langslow?”

He made a disgusted face; and who could blame him? It was unfortunate that disgust slipped into anger as the seconds passed and I failed to string together enough coherent thoughts for a reply. The room suddenly seemed to be growing very large, and I was becoming very small.

And Leland, he had a look on his face I’d never seen before; something almost resembling actual concern for another human being.

“Well, Dr Leigh?”

The gun was cocked. Well, that’s it, I thought. I’m dead.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Leland hissed, his line of sight escaping as far as it could from me or Reynolds. “Leigh can’t cut a cake properly with a kitchen-knife, let alone a grown man.”

One had to admire his ability to keep that particular grudge alive under the current circumstances. I’d tried to make the pieces equal; truly, but we couldn’t all have the hand-to-eye coordination of the great Leland Langslow.

“Besides,” he continued. “We were… together when Andrews croaked.”

I hoped my face gave nothing away there, though it was a typically sly thing for Leland to say. Reynolds frowned, but Eddie started yelling before he could say anything.

“Together!? What do you mean ‘together’, Dr Langslow!?”

Leland swung all the contempt he had back around to face Eddie. “Why, we were organising my stamp collection, Dr Hardgrave,” he said, with venomous cheer. A second later: “We were fucking, you idiot—what the hell did you think I meant?”

“No…” said Reynolds—the exchange with Eddie had been brief, but long enough for a man of Reynolds’ intelligence to analyse it, and he was shaking his head in a way that made me quite nervous. “No, if that had been your alibi you would have used it—tried to keep it secret from that despotic bigot,” (Eddie harrumphed again here), “but not from the police. Not when in all likelihood this place is going to be shut down anyway.”

Suddenly it occurred to me that that was true; and what I’d thought I’d been sure Leland had been doing that night may not have actually been reflective of reality. But that didn’t mean he’d killed Andrews, only…

“One of you is covering for the other,” Reynolds declared; authoritative for a brief moment and then in the next confused again “But that doesn’t make any sense. You two don’t care what happens to other people. You never have.”

“What do you know about us?” Leland asked him, but Reynolds ignored him and kept looking at me. His eyes seemed to make the walls travel out further.

And he was right, you know. I didn’t care about other people. I just thought that I might miss Leland if anything happened to him.

“Maybe,” said Mark, and startled us all because I’d have thought even he’d forget he was in the room by that point—he was and always was such a non-presence, “these are the choices they’re making to determine who they are. And not what they’re meant to be. Nothing is ever meant to be. It only is.”

I think Daisy stopped crying at that point. At the same time, I think I started, silently. Why was this happening? It didn’t feel like I’d made the choice even as the words had been leaving my mouth, and now every path that might have been before me was completely dark; obscured in a shroud of witless panic.

“But we do make choices,” said Reynolds. He hadn’t taken his eyes off me. Even though a second ago it was between me and Leland, for some reason he was fixed on me. “Choices that call down good, or evil. And I don’t believe that evil is inevitable. Those who choose it for whatever reason must be brought to their reckoning. Are you covering for Langslow, for yourself, or are you trying to choose good, Dr Leigh? Or maybe it’s that you want that ‘favour’ I spoke of earlier.”

My voice said, “I don’t know.”

“Idiot,” sighed Leland. “Though, as if you know any better, Reynolds. Fuck it, I know who did it. End the lockdown and I’ll tell you, we’ll see if we can stall you from shooting long enough for Plod to come to the rescue, with our outstanding therapy skills.”

“I don’t believe a word you say, Langslow,” said Reynolds. “I want an answer from Leigh.”

“Dr Reynolds,” Jenna tried again. She sounded like she needed a drink. “Please. The guilty must only be punished if the protection of the innocent can be assured.”

“None of you are innocent enough for that,” said Reynolds. He didn’t even blink. “I’m waiting, Dr Leigh.”

Eddie cried out, “Reynolds, this has gone far enough!”, and Marianne had gone still and pale as a mist. I couldn’t see Mark, Reynolds and the gun were blocking him from view.

“Chess—!” snapped Leland, but he couldn’t think of anything else to say after that.

Reynolds waited.

“I don’t know,” I said again.

It was the truth, for what that’s worth. It felt like a clock striking at the hour.

First there was a skip; a space just long enough for a man to fall in.

And then Dr Reynolds made the choice that made him the man he was meant to be.

Appalling Appellations

Here’s another book I’ve bought to use as research for this year’s NaNoWriMo, and to pique the curiosity of all two of my readers by revealing only the image for some research I’m doing for the book, not a discussion of what the book itself will be about. This kind of limits my options when it comes to future posts about this book, but you can’t win ’em all now, can you? Especially if you were fighting for the French at Crecy…

However, my affection for meaningless mystery has, as it turned out, fallen on my own head as I returned to view the files I kept from my days at university–where I studied Medieval History–to see what I had left over on my computer that might help me with this painstaking research.

Behold–two screen-caps showing said files (in the two folders that were relevant to this period):

Friar Files Literature Files

I don’t know if the file names will be legible when this is posted–maybe if you click on them they will be, but you’re probably not that interested in my medieval files so I’ll give you a list of my favourites with some commentary. Be warned, some of these are more intuitive than others…:

  • Amazing Friar’s Essay!’, which makes me wonder why the ‘FINAL VERSION’ was merely titled ‘Friar Essay‘. Was it no longer amazing? No wonder I only got a 2:2…
  • Article on Thingamybob‘. Ah yes, ‘thingamybob’; essential reading when conducting a study of the early mendicant orders. (incidentally, religious orders from 1200-1370 turned out to be what the article was actually about).
  • ‘Humbert 1 and 6’
  • ‘Humbert 7’
  • ‘More Humbert’. Who is Humbert? Why do I have so many PDFs about him? What happened to Humberts 2 though 5? Out of all the files that were just titled with names of guys I no longer remember, this wins the dubious honour of being probably the most vague. (incidentally, these turned out to be original sources from Humbert of Romans writing about the Dominican order)
  • Moar Dominicanz’. Check out my Mad Skillz at naming files, homies! St. Dominic would definitely approve! (No. No, he wouldn’t).
  • Rubruck’s Mystical Journey of Joy!‘. I actually immediately remembered what this one was about just by reading the file name even though I’d completely forgotten the name of William of Rubruck. The irony is, his journey wasn’t at all mystical because he didn’t run into any of the monsters all the other friars did when they journeyed east! They must have told them he was coming and gotten them to hide as a joke. Poor old Bill…
  • Some Whiny Guy’. As you can imagine, it turned out the only way this title could have been more accurate would have been if I’d titled it ‘William of St. Amours’ Short Treatise on the Dangers of the Last Times’. Actually, I take that back–my title is still more accurate, because the PDF definitely contained some whiny guy, but his treatise was anything but short.
  • 25095923‘. Pretty self-explanatory, I’m sure you’ll agree. Actually, it turned out to be a semi-incomprehensible essay on Chaucer’s ‘The Reeve’s Tale’, one of my least favourite Canterbury tales. Just goes to show the mystery is far more exciting than the truth…
  • ‘Apparently useful for Anti-Semitism’. Er, yes. This was another one I knew the contents of immediately, but it wasn’t immediate enough for me not to have a sudden ‘I have a guide to being anti-semitic?’ moment when I saw it. Just so everyone knows; what it means is that it’s useful for studying medieval anti-semitism.
  • ‘Haz B and the Monarchy’. It also took me a while to remember that the Host of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales was called Harry Bailey and that this title probably referred to him. Of course, I was 100% right.
  • Jones and Sprunger or Whatever’. I imagine I was tired when I named this file and not up to my usual standards of wit. (First commenter: You mean a halfwit? Hahahahaha…)
  • ‘Something About Bodies’–either an essay about substance in medieval Jewish-Christian debate, or an unpublished Agatha Christie novel I absconded with in my TARDIS. You be the judge!

And those are all the good ones. We may never know what their contents truly were. Mostly because half of the PDF files had been scanned in sideways so I had to tilt my head to read them, and that was really annoying. Likes, comments, follows; give me everything you’ve got–I have a cold and I demand your sympathy, otherwise my next post will be on William of St. Amours!

Missing Word Stories: Procrastinations

Well, what else are you going to do when you’re stuck in AS English Lit but write up a one-page synopsis of the text you’re studying, leave some words out and ask your friend to fill them in with only the type of the word you’re looking for for her to go on? I obviously couldn’t think of anything, and that’s why the aptly named ‘Procrastinations‘ was created, like Eve from Adam, out of the bones of Brian Friel’s ‘Translations‘.

https://i0.wp.com/d.gr-assets.com/books/1417605514l/859500.jpg

(which you’ve probably never heard of, but hey–I only have a limited number of these things to work with, and for obvious reasons this one was on my mind at the time; however much I wished it wasn’t. This version is at least a lot less miserable than the original.)

Procrastinations’ was almost certainly done in 2007, so a couple of years later than my previous stories, and with a different friend filling in the words, which you can probably guess from the early use of the word ‘penis’.

Also different is the illustration; which I did just now since I clearly couldn’t be bothered to do one eight years ago, and is therefore a vast improvement on those of my fifteen-year-old self…

Oh my god. I’ve just realised it’s been ten years since I was fifteen. NOOOOOOOOOOOO–I’m so OLD!

Procrastinations

In the brand new illustration spoken of before, we see the Irish witch doctor Hugh gazing with disapproval at his son Grayson Peg and his friend Yolland of the evil land of Rotherham (a name-replacement that you can either cringe or laugh at these days depending on how morbid your sense of humour is) as they rename the ancient Irish cities of ‘Glasgow’, ‘Mars’ and ‘Suffolk’ with more ‘Rotherham-ic’ appellations, on a masterfully drawn outline of the island. It’s vaguely recognisable as Ireland and everything.

Procrastinations Illustrated

There you have it. I sure did write a blog post just now, didn’t I? Productivity FTW, as they say.