Though the battle around her was bloody and cruel, Sadie MacGregor fought fair. That went without saying, perhaps -- that even in the middle of a bloody battle she fought Marquis of Queensbury style. It made no difference to her. She wasn't supposed to be involved at all. Not this way.

A Barnling ran shrieking at her with a weapon made from a broom handle and two garden forks, and she simply felled him with a well-placed sock to the chin. That was how your do it. The Barnling was unconscious, but would recover. Sadie checked the sleeping man's conscience and noted that he'd been padding his hours for weeks. That was morally wrong, and yet Sadie felt a brief flicker of sympathetic triumph on the man's behalf for ripping off the DIY Barn.

This mission. It had… It had weakened her. Watered down her resolve. Done something to her, anyway. The only consolation was that it had done the same thing to her sister. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 67: Gaslight"

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Christian sat in the staff room, a blanket around his shoulders and the nicest meal he'd had in weeks in front of him. The Phantasm was toasted him sandwich after sandwich and plying him with sugary tea. Most of his workmates were marshaling outside, but a few stood and listened as he spoke breathlessly of his ordeal:

"…And there was nothing to eat but luncheon meat and cabbage, and we had to watch Barn employees confess to their crimes on black and white TVs, then we had to spend five minutes hating Emanuel Goldstein – I think he's Jeff Goldblum's brother or something – and there was nothing to read but Jackboot Enthusiast Quarterly and they tried to torture me with a slowly descending pendulum, but it squeaked and the torturer got annoyed but anyway, I know where the weak spot is on the Barn." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 62: The Breakroom of War"

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Marlon was the first to be called. He was alone at home. He should have been in bed, he knew, but the empty bed was cold and uninviting. He sat on the couch watching old war movies. He'd bought a bottle each of rum and Coke to drink while he watched, but he'd grown bored of drinking before finishing the first glass.

His heart leapt when he heard his phone ring, then fell when he saw the caller ID. Not a friend or a lover calling to chat. It was Ms Shan. He answered, knowing what the message would be.

"Marlon here."

"The battle's on," Ms Shan said. "Tomorrow. Dawn." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 59: The Call"

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Donna cast an eye over the morning deliveries of lightbulbs and sighed. She had never realised just how much work Sadie had accomplished until Sadie hadn't been there. Now, even though business was poor and customers were thin on the ground, Donna could barely keep up with doing the work of her supervisor as well as her own. Marlon had given her extra hours to try to deal with the workload, and Donna's studies were suffering. Still she endured.

She endured because that was what Sadie would have wanted. Sadie never quit or gave in. Sadie's job had been shedding light on her customers, and that is what she had done. She had never wavered, never faltered. Not until the end. Not until she had fallen into darkness. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 54 — Deliver Us Not"

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Sadie McGregor stood by a shower head display and watched Fiona from a distance. The young woman was talking to a customer, an elegant woman in her middle thirties who seemed confused about the differences between sink plungers. Sadie's assistant Donna had been talking to Fiona, talking to her about important things. Matters of guilt and honesty. Crime and punishment.

Light and dark.

"Timing, Sadie."

The voice belonged to her sister, the severely misnamed Angela.

"What about timing?" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 48 – Timing"

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Norman was late to arrive at the party in Garden Furniture. Adam had spread drop-sheets over all of his beloved display tables and chairs and though he seemed happy, there was a sub-strata of worry every time someone put a drink down.

Only a month earlier, Norman thought, Ms Shan would have balked at the idea of using the Handy Pavilion as the base for Zorbar's buck's night. Now, she not only gave her blessing, but invited herself. Wellsey – who, like many old rebels was a traditionalist at heart – objected to a woman attending a buck's night. But Fiona and Belinda also ended up on the invitation list, and then Zorbar's fiancee Carol announced she was coming. With that, any chance that the evening would involve strippers vanished in a puff of smoke, so Wellsey had had to grin and bear it. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 44 — The Party"

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An important order was late to arrive, so Ms Shan spent her morning the Trade section, assuring a local builder that his framing pine would be arriving soon. When it did turn up, the builder kept complaining about how long he'd been kept waiting, effectively adding another hour to his departure time after the half hour that the late delivery had cost him.

"It's a bloody outrage," he said at last, grabbing his bored apprentice by the shirtsleeve and pulling him away. "I'm on a deadline, you know. Come on, Gavin, let's get some lunch."

Ms Shan rubbed her weary eyes. At least it was normal. At least an idiot complaining was a normal, mundane thing. Nothing weird, nothing spooky. Just an everyday jackass was almost a treat.

She turned, and her almost-happiness dissolved. There, lounging awkwardly against a pile of cement sacks was Mr Smith from the DIY Barn. "Hello, Ms Shan," he said.

"Mr Smith," she said. She thought of asking what she could do for him, and decided that she didn't even have the energy to pretend to care. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 38 – Between Two Doors"

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Fiona sat in the Handy Pavilion break room, using her powers to make whirlpools in her orange juice. Whirlpools were easy and she soon tired of them. Water spouts were a little more fun, but only a little. She sighed deeply let the juice fall back into the cup. She concentrated for a minute, and then the tiny orange figure of a man rose out of the cup, a sculpture in orange.

She concentrated a little longer, and the details of the figure became more focused, more precise. From a rough outline of a human form it transformed into the figure of a man. Wellsey, with his bald head and apron. Fiona made the figure as perfect as she could, willing the molecules of water into polymer chains, willing the chains into solid forms. The shape of Wellsey gave way to a figure of Norman. Then Ms Shan, Norman, Zorbar, Nalda, Donna, dear old Adam, Sadie and Angela.

The last one broke her concentration. She hadn't meant her figure to be either of the MacGregor twins specifically, but somehow she found her little water sculpture breaking into two. Annoyed, she stopped and let the juice resume to the shape of the cup.

She needed more sleep. That much was certain. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 31: Crossed Words"

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There were two coffee shops at the South Hertling Super Centre. One, in Captain Stellar's opinion, was quite a nice one. It was located just in between the Barbecue Imperium and Arthur C. Clock's Timepiece World. The barista there was a slightly annoying but basically quite nice hipster woman named Carol, who sold organic coffee and gluten free wraps.

The other was in a dingy little corner of the Handy Pavilion, just by outdoor furniture. It sold second-rate coffee at first-rate coffee prices to those too tired or lazy to walk all the way across the vast car park to Carol's.

Captain Stellar would have liked to go to Carol's, but without his coffee he didn't have the energy. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 15: Light and Dark"

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"Will this take an LED bulb?"

Sadie McGregor looked up from the manifest she had been checking, to see a huge fat man. At first she took him for a glutton, but a closer look told her he was not. Perhaps he had a glandular condition? It didn’t matter. What mattered was the box he was thrusting a standard lamp at her.

"It will take any bulb with a standard Edison screw," she said.

"You sure? I don’t want to have to bring it back."

Sadie looked up from her manifest and gave the man her full attention. His eyes widened, startled and he swallowed hard. This often happened to people on the receiving end of Sadie’s full attention. She stared further into his eyes. His soul was in relatively good shape, other than some mild office pilfering and... ah. A short, doomed affair that he’d never told his wife about. He really should tell her.

"Here,’ she said. "I will show you." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 6: Luminiferous"

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