Alfred had never run so fast in his life. Well, that wasn't quite true. He'd been a respectable enough middle distance runner in high school, so long ago. But he certainly hadn't run so fast recently. When had been the last time he'd run more than a few steps at all. A school carnival, probably? Decades ago. Back in the days when he found it hard to find time for his daughters, before they reached the age when they found it hard to make time for him.
But this particular piece of self-pity was far in the back of his mind. Most of his misery was reserved for bodily discomfort as he pushed his chubby aging, body past its limits to keep up with the others – Christian jogging with all the careless energy of youth; Gwen short and stout and yet hammering along like nobody's business. And Delia…
It was almost a relief when Delia stumbled. In helping her, Alfred could slow to a stop without feeling bad about it. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 25: Mayhem"
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"
In the darkening car park in front of the Handy Pavilion, Laura listened patiently to Buck Dusty's long expository story of magic, conspiracy and the eternal peril approaching all dimensions. She listened in silence as he explained the origins of the Grey Barn and how the fate of all dimensions is intertwined, all along the vast wheel of fate.
Once he had finished, she turned to Bruce. "You buying this?"
"Yeah, yeah, secret war, fate of civilisation," Bruce said. "Think I read this story I was a kid. Reckon it had the Silver Surfer in it. Hey, you're a super hero. Do you know the Silver Surfer? What's he like?" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 58 Tall Tales Part 2"
It was Laura Cho's first day at the Handy Pavillion, and her trainee badge was pinned to a neatly ironed apron over her polo shirt. Her excitement on starting her new job was rapidly dwindling, since Adam had parked her close to the entrance and told her to wait for her supervisor.
That had been half an hour ago. Not only was she bored, customers kept coming up to her and asking questions that she couldn't possibly answer, then getting annoyed when she didn't know.
She wished she could go hide in the break-room, but she didn't know where it was.
"Excuse me?" came a voice.
"Yeah, no, I'm new here, so…" she turned and nearly jumped to see a little man in a Handy Pavilion uniform. He had slate grey hair and a deeply lined face, and stank of tobacco. "Oh, sorry, I thought you were a customer."
...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 19 Origin Story"
Gwen saw Ms Shan dropped a pencil near the information counter, and Norman rush to pick it up. He smiled winningly as he handed it to her. She acknowledged his action with a gesture and moved on, leaving Norman staring, sighing at her back. Gwen bit her hand. What a fool. What a fool she had been!
All around her were the Handy Pavilion staff, going about their business as if it were just another day. It was a quiet day. Fiona lugged a box of taps. Adam laughed uncomfortably at one of Belinda's jokes. Axel Platzoff, rubbing his eyes, was being lectured by Sadie MacGregor. Marlon and Wellsey were deep in conversation. Customers were few, but present. An elderly man in a tweed jacket staggered under too many cans of paint. A carpenter's apprentice eyed expensive hammers with a wistful sigh. A short woman and her tall husband pushed a trolley full of plants.
No one looked at Gwen. If the world ends with aliens or fire and brimstone or zombies, then everyone is in on the fight. When the world ends in heartbreak, there you are, alone. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 17: A Bad Deal All Round"