This is a selection taken from the stories I wrote between 2003 and 2011. Nearly all of them have been previously published, many in publications no longer extant. Where they are still available in existing books or magazines, sufficient time has elapsed to permit their re-publication without fear of ethical impropriety or breach of contractual terms. Check the Blog Archive at the bottom of the page for individual titles.

Please be aware that each story was written by the person I was at the time. In a sense, therefore, each one was written by somebody different. None of them was written by the person I am now.

Anybody wanting to view my novel Odyssey can do so here. I’ve set the price very low because I’m more interested in the story being read than in making money out of it. It’s about a goddess and her rabbit companion taking a mortal man on a journey to teach him a few lessons about the nature of reality and higher consciousness, and it's probably more entertaining than I make it sound. I never was any good at selling myself. The Gift Horse, a story of reincarnation and karmic balancing, is also now available at the same place.

August 04, 2013

An Episode in Three Lives.

This is the only story I ever wrote that was consciously written as an allegory. I know exactly what it alludes to, but it would be wrong to explain it; it is surely in the nature of allegories to permit infinite, subjective interpretation. I might just say, however, that the three queens are real people.

It has never been offered for publication, and I doubt it ever will be.

Approximate reading time: 10-15 minutes.

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Little Billy Jones was five and a half years old. He knew as much because he vaguely remembered having had a birthday not long ago, on which occasion there had been birthday cards with big number 5s on them. It must have been autumn at the time because it was dark outside when he went to bed at 7.30, and he remembered liking the sound of the wind blowing dry leaves around, somewhere out there beyond his lighted bedroom. The flowers he could now see growing in the garden outside his window told him that autumn and winter must have passed, and that spring must have come along to replace them.

So he knew he was five and a half years old. What he didn’t know was why he spent every day alone in a room with no friends and no toys to play with. All, that is, except a rubber ball which he bounced against a wall and caught over and over again.

He had other vague memories, too. He vaguely remembered playing in the street and the woods and his house with other children. He vaguely remembered there having been a cupboard with toys of many kinds, toys that had once been surprises wrapped in coloured paper and handed to him at Christmas and on other birthdays. Or so he assumed; the other birthdays were the vaguest memory of all. And he vaguely remembered taking meals with people of various ages, whom he further assumed must have been his family.

Where had they all gone? He didn’t remember them leaving, and he didn’t remember being shut up in this room with a door that was always locked. He picked up the ball and began bouncing and catching, bouncing and catching, bouncing and catching.

The door opened and his one occasional visitor walked in – an elderly crone with a leathery face and tight, implacable mouth. She walked in frequently, without ever knocking, and always did the same thing: she caught the ball and threw it to the far side of the room where it trickled lamely to a stop by the skirting board, and then she stooped and stared at Billy with an ugly, leering face.

‘What do you want?’ asked Billy.

‘Nothing.’

‘Why are you here, then?’

‘Why shouldn’t I be here?’

‘Because it’s my room, not yours.’

‘Who says it’s your room? And so what, anyway? I don’t beat you, do I? Or scald you with boiling water, or pull your hair out by the roots, or pinch your stupid little face. Do I?’

‘No, but I don’t like you. I don’t like you being here.’

‘I don’t like you either, and I don’t much like coming here.’

‘So why do you come here?’

‘Because it suits my purpose, and I can go wherever I want to go and do whatever I want to do. Get used to it.’

And then the crone walked out, as she always did. This malicious little scenario, pregnant with an air of unexplained nastiness, was becoming a tediously repetitive event. Billy felt confused and desperate, which was how he always felt. When he tried the door, it was locked. It was always locked.

He didn’t walk to the far side of the room to pick up the ball. Bouncing and catching a ball held little appeal at that moment, and so he went and sat in a chair instead. He felt achingly tired, and fell asleep.

*  *  *

When he woke up, the room had changed. The windows were black, which meant it must be dark outside. And that meant it must be late, although he didn’t know how late because there was no clock in the room.

He looked around at the walls, sparsely lit by a single dim bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling. Every inch of wall was covered with red satin drapes, and when he searched for the windows again to be sure that he’d been right about the lateness of the hour, even they had disappeared. There was only an eternity of red, shining folds; some dull, and some duller. He looked at the floor, and that was red, too. This sudden projection into a world of subdued redness sent his mind lurching to a further level of enervating confusion. He asked himself the question: ‘Is all this real?’ Even the enquiry confused him, because the very concept of whether reality was open to question was something he had never considered before. He was, after all, only five and a half years old. And then he heard a knock at the door.

It startled him. Nobody ever knocked at the door, and how was he to open it since it was always locked? He stared at it for a second, and then rose slowly to his feet. The rising took longer than he expected, and when he looked down he felt unbalanced, both physically and mentally. The floor was much further away than he was used to. To his amazement, he saw that his legs and body were too big to be a child’s legs and body. He looked at his hands and arms, and saw that they were the hands and arms of a man in his prime: firm and strongly muscled. He walked over to the small mirror which stood on a chest of drawers and looked in it. He recognised his own face, but it was twenty or thirty years older. Another knock at the door re-focussed his addled mind. He walked to it feeling a thrill of nervous anticipation, and slowly turned the knob. The door opened.

He looked out on nothing but darkness and a heavy mist. There was no sky and no ground. And then he saw a pinpoint of light appear, high up where he assumed the sky must be. It looked like a star, but it was a lone star.

‘Hello,’ he called. ‘Who’s there?’ His own voice sounded strong and strangely deep, but the woman’s voice which answered came in a whisper. It sounded young.

‘May I come in, Billy?’

‘Who are you?’

‘Life.’

‘Life?’

‘Yes, life.’ The whisper was emphatic. ‘May I come in?’

Billy’s skin prickled, his nerve ends tingled, and his head swam. Only one woman ever came in here, and she was old and never asked permission. But then, the walls had never been red before. A hint of fear coursed through him, but it was tinged with excitement.

‘Yes, you may,’ he replied.

He stood away from the door and waited, but nothing appeared. He walked back to the entrance and looked for the star. It wasn’t there. And then he heard the whisper again, from behind his back this time.

‘Billy.’

He turned to see a young woman, maybe twenty or so, wearing a long black dress with an open back. She was standing sideways to him with her head turned in his direction. She was tall, slim and elegant, and her long, auburn hair hung in ordered waves a little way below her shoulder. Her eyes fixed his in a determined stare that was not unfriendly. They were large, luminous, Jewish eyes, full of warmth and promise. They matched the passion of her mouth, and they betrayed a level of experience beyond her apparent age.

‘Sit down Billy,’ she whispered again. Billy sat down.

The whispering girl took up a position facing him, legs together, eyes closed, and her hands cupped gently in front of her stomach. She appeared to be composing herself for some endeavour, while Billy sat transfixed and waited. She took a long, deep breath, then raised her right arm and clicked her fingers.

The music that filled the room came from no visible source, and yet the sudden transition from silence to the sound of a deep, incessant rhythm and hypnotic, compelling melody did not surprise him. He had gone beyond being surprised. He watched with a sense of awe that seemed merely inevitable as the girl began to dance.

The long black dress did nothing to hide the poetry that moved within it. Every inch of her, from the bare feet that lifted her ethereal form, to the legs that carried her effortlessly through sweeps and circles, to the arms that traced misty echoes of themselves through the air, to the shoulders that dipped and the hair that swung and the eyes that switched from fire to ice to water and back again. It was a seamless, sublime and scintillating performance. Billy watched spellbound, and the only thing that surprised him was the indisputable fact that the child of five and a half was now a grown man who understood and reciprocated this very embodiment of pure passion.

The girl moved towards him and took both his hands, lifting him to a standing position. Their eyes met on a level, and she whispered again:

‘Follow me.’

Billy followed her movements as the music continued to play. He lacked the grace of the girl, but that didn’t matter. He took the meaning and matched the style, at least. And so it went on, and on, and Billy’s mind fell into a state of euphoria that allowed no concept of reality or meaning to pollute the moment of connection.

And then the music stopped. The girl reached for his hands, leant forward to kiss him briefly on the lips, and then stepped back. Her nose wrinkled and her shoulders lifted in a giggle of girlish delight.

‘I’m going now, Billy, but you’ll see me again. My sisters will be with me and there will be no goodbyes next time. Close your eyes.’

Billy declined to obey, but his eyes closed of their own volition; and when he opened them again, she was gone. He sank to his knees and looked at the floor. What else was worth looking at in this cell without a gaoler? He lay down on it, turned onto his back, and felt a cold spray sting his face.

*  *  *

The view above was no longer the ceiling of a room, but a sky of scudding grey clouds with pink fringes on their trailing edge. They told him that the wind was in the west, and that it was sunset. Another cold splash of spray stung his eyes, and he lifted his hands to wipe them. His hands felt unusually heavy, and when he flexed the fingers to push the water away, they felt stiff and a little painful. He looked at them when the job was done, and saw that they were old now, with pale leather skin stretched tightly over swollen joints, and broken veins making splashes of faded purple among the creamy whiteness. His arms had faded, too: no longer tight and strong, but withered and soft.

He felt the ground beneath him moving rhythmically up and down, lifting first his head, and then his feet, and then his head again. He looked to one side and saw the weather-worn gunwale of a wooden boat. The word ‘barge’ entered his mind, although he had no idea where it came from.

And then he heard the first sounds: the splashing of water against wood, and the repetitive clatter of iron things moving in wooden holes. That strange sense of something vaguely familiar but long forgotten drifted into his mind again. This was the sound of oars moving back and forth in iron rowlocks.

His supine position seemed suddenly helpless and inadequate to further enquiry, and so he lifted himself to rest on his elbows. The effort it took was more than he expected, and he winced as his eyes closed against the ache in his midriff. He made the effort a second time, and brought himself to a sitting position. A tired sigh escaped his lips as he opened his eyes to view his situation.

A quick glance around showed that he was in a boat moving on a body of choppy grey water. The sound of rowing was behind him, but what arrested his gaze was the vision in the stern which he now faced. Three women in all-encompassing gowns stood erect and side by side, apparently at ease with the pitching of the vessel. They were all tall, slim and elegant, and each one had her hands pressed palm to palm in front of her stomach, with the fingers pointing downwards. Another vague memory presented itself. He was sure he’d seen this image before somewhere, and he was also sure that the women’s fingers had been pointing upwards, as though in prayer or supplication. He guessed that these three were not supplicants, and neither were they praying. The one on the left lifted her hands to point the fingers at Billy, and then spoke to him.

‘Greetings, Billy,’ she began. ‘Look at me and know me.’

Billy looked. Her gown was pale blue, the colour of a summer morning’s sky. Her hair was straight and shoulder length, dark but not quite black, and her eyes were clear, sharp and kind. Her smile radiated openness and warmth as she continued:

‘I am Princess. My will is that I receive your pain and bring you comfort. It is a devoted sister’s will, and has its place.’

She lowered her hands, but her eyes remained fixed on Billy’s, projecting a wave of peace and kindness that was almost palpable and did not go unheeded. And then he saw another movement.

He looked to the woman on the right of the group who was now raising her hands in the same way. There was a haze about her, but only briefly. It cleared quickly to reveal the dancer he had met in the red room.

‘Greetings again, Billy,’ she said. ‘Look at me and know me.’

It seemed fitting that her gown should be of the richest crimson. Her hair was still auburn, and arranged as before in ordered waves which fell a little way down her back. Her eyes were hot, languid and playful.

‘I am Life. My will is that I awaken and nurture your masculine spirit. It is a lover’s will, and has its place.’

Her smile was mischievous, but not wanton. The sensation that flowed from her eyes to his was one of volatile emotion, and he felt a stab of allegiance come with it. He remembered the dance and smiled back.

And then it was the turn of the woman in the centre.

‘Greetings, Billy. Look at me and know me again.’

Her gown was purple. Her hair was jet black and short, curving close around her face to sweep up under the sides of her chin. Billy felt a ripple of recognition when he looked into her eyes, which were of the Orient: studiously still and implacably inscrutable.

‘I am Priestess,’ she said. ‘It is my will that I remind you of illusion. It is the will of your twin soul, and has its place.’

From her eyes flowed the strength of timelessness and ancient knowledge. Here was wisdom and an absence of any need to judge. Billy felt briefly inclined to bow, but knew it was unnecessary.

The women fell silent, but continued to stand shoulder to shoulder while their eyes never deviated from Billy’s. It was time to ask a question.

‘Where are you taking me?’

The women spoke together, but it was the voice of Priestess he heard.

‘To the island, a little way ahead.’

‘To die?’

‘To end an illusion and start a new one.’

‘And what of you? Will you leave me then?’

‘Have we ever? Time and the universe have not the means to separate us, Billy. You and I are one.’

Billy’s strength faltered, and he lay back on the deck to watch the clouds give way to stars. All was silent save the slapping of water on boards, and the incessant knocking of oars in rowlocks. He awoke to a fresh morning sky and felt a jolt as the vessel ran up onto the shore. He was still tired and only half awake, but felt himself being lifted and carried until his consciousness gave out altogether.

When it returned and he opened his eyes, he saw a canopy of tree branches above him, replete with leaf buds about to burst into fresh new growth. A warm breeze blew across his body, bringing with it the scent of fresh water. He looked up into the smiling eyes of Princess, and realised that his head was resting on her lap. He lowered them to see Life massaging his feet, and with each press of her fingers, he felt his very essence throb and flow through the length and breadth of his body. He looked to his left where Priestess was kneeling close to his chest and holding an open book.

‘Time and the tide will not be restrained, Billy,’ she said. ‘Are you ready?’

‘Yes.’

Priestess closed the book.

*  *  *

It was a morning early in October, and Billy Jones was preparing for another stint of clearance work in his garden. He decided that today he would trim one of his long boundary hedges. It was tough work with a domestic hedge trimmer, and Billy remarked to himself that he wasn’t as young he used to be. He smirked at the pointlessness of the tired old platitude, and then went out to collect the necessary tools from the shed.

There had been a dense fog the previous night, and the residual mist was still heavy. A patch of brightness told him where the sun was, and he hoped it would soon burn off the mist and the day might develop into one of those golden ones typical of the season. As he walked along his path, he thought he heard a voice whisper somewhere above him. He thought it said ‘I’m still here,’ but the acoustics were deceptive where he lived, and such odd imaginings were not uncommon.

When he reached the end of the path, he saw a group of people walking towards him along the road. There was a little boy wearing a frown, a man, probably in his early thirties, who looked so like the boy that he must have been his father, and an old man who was walking with the aid of a stick. They looked familiar, although the recollection was as hazy as the mist out of which they had appeared. He greeted them anyway with a crisp ‘good morning.’

The little boy and the young man glanced briefly in his direction, but said nothing. The old man looked back at Billy a little longer, his tired eyes gleaming with dampness that seemed to match the day. His lips turned upward briefly in a wry smile, and he nodded. Billy watched them walk on as they became ever more indistinct, until they disappeared altogether into the obscurity of an autumn morning.

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I've never had money because I've never been driven by money. I received little formal education beyond the age of sixteen, which isn't such a bad thing since you get a different angle on life that way. Learning what you want and need to learn often reveals things that the system's road keeps hidden.
JJ Beazley asserts his ownership of copyright in all works of fiction and non-fiction contained herein unless otherwise stated. Feel free to quote anything if you want to, but please don't nick a story and claim it for your own. That would compromise my chances of getting an anthology published and I'd be a bit miffed.



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