Well, first off, I'd just like to apologise for these crummy words this week. In my defence, they were thought up at the end of an all-night 12-hour shift in a darkened office with only the security guy for company. Most hated word this week: feelers.
As usual, go to Raven's Nest for the rules of the game and some excellent advice.
The dragons (and others) have indicated that they find my posts too long so, rather than displease them and risk having marble blocks dropped on my house or worse, I have tried to keep it brief.
Anyway, here we go...
The Mini (carbon, feelers, outright, ballet, fizzing)
Sunday morning, five a.am. Steve and Ed are fishing, just as they have every Sunday morning for the last twenty-five years, come rain, come shine.
Steve sits on his custom-made tackle box, complete with climate-controlled bait compartments as well as a cooler for food and drink for himself. His rod is the latest carbon-fibre model, light, strong and so sensitive that he has often boasted (out of Ed's hearing) that he could feel a minnow cough a hundred yards away.
Ed sits on an old wicker hamper that his wife won in a raffle or something years since. His rod is old-fashioned and heavy, but it does the job. Ed's bait box is an old tupperware with holes Ed drilled in the lid with a hot needle. He tried once to keep it in the fridge, but the missus was so repelled by the whole wriggling mass of maggots when she accidentally opened it one day that she had words with Ed and since then it has been banished to the garage.
The morning is pleasantly warm. The sun came up earlier and is now dancing a sparkling ballet across the water's surface. A few late flies are hovering just above, and some are skating about upon, the meniscus, their feelers twitching in search of a meal or a mate – or both together, possibly.
All of a sudden, the biggest fish either man has ever seen erupts out of the water, gobbling up several of the flies outright, before sinking beneath the surface once more.
Steve and Ed turn to one another and nod. Steve opens one of his bait compartments and Ed reaches for his tupperware.
Both men's minds are fizzing with excitement now.
To be the one to catch that fish!
Neither man utters a word, however. In twenty-five years, neither man has heard the other's voice, and that is not about to change now.
The 10-word Challenge (dangerous, engine, sullenly, bespoke, evergreen, bauble, medicine, freight, destined, tinsel)
"I can't believe that the Christmas stuff is in the stores already!" shouted Agent Mercury above the racket of the van's engine. There was a grumble of agreement from the other members of Joshua squad in the back.
Agent India couldn't believe they were being so matter-of-fact. Here they all were, about to encounter a demon, for goodness sake and all they could talk about was bauble sales!
"Yeah," added a diminutive blonde agent, whose passion for fashion had earned her the nickname Agent Prada, "Where does it say in the Bible we should celebrate Christ's birth by buying a fake plastic evergreen and smothering it in tinsel, anyway!"
The others laughed, but India was too nervous to do more than smile wanly. This was her first time out as an active member of a squad rather than just an observer. Sure, she had participated in mock missions in training, but this was real and potentially dangerous: demons were not fans of the words of Binding and Dismissal and tended to make their objections known quite forcibly. Still, the squad was well-prepared. In addition to the centuries-old formula of the words, it had a few bespoke twenty-first century tricks up its sleeves too.
"OK," announced Agent Mercury as he turned the van onto a quiet side-street, "we'll stop here and approach on foot. Is everyone clear about what we're doing tonight?"
There was a chorus of yeses and the squad began to disembark. Agent Prada was detailed to remain with the van to bring it up when signalled, something to which she had agreed rather sullenly in India's opinion: the woman obviously wanted a more active role. There was a big part of India that wanted to trade places with her, but this was her "shout" – her first solo Spot, and she had earned her place on the team going in. Radio checks were quickly conducted and watches synchronised, and then it was time to go.
Harold was resting on the bed in his motel room. He and Teatime had been given a room on the second floor today and the sampler on the wall of this one was a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. Harold had been pleased that there had been a different proverb in the room but had been disappointed to discover, on closer inspection, that the sampler wasn't actually embroidered at all, but was just a print. What a swizz! Like many things in this confusing world, the thing had not been what it seemed.
Teatime was curled up on the pillow beside Harold's head. It had been a frustrating day. None of the apartments they had seen had been any good. Harold would need to start job-hunting tomorrow or the two of them would be destined for a life on the streets.
Suddenly, Teatime sat bolt upright, startling Harold.
"Did you hear that?" he asked urgently.
"Hear what?" said Harold. A freight train had rattled past a few moments before, but somehow he didn't think the little monkey was referring to that.
"Shh!" hissed Teatime, "Listen!"
Sure enough, now that he was actively listening, Harold's ears picked up the sound of stealthy footsteps on the stairs leading up to the wide balcony which fronted all of the rooms on this level. He got to his feet and padded over to the window. Teatime was quickly there beside him.
"Here," he whispered, "Let me look." He stuck his tiny head up under the absurdly flowery curtain without disturbing it, and cautiously peeped over the windowsill.
"Listen, old biscuit," he said drawing his head quickly back out into the room, "I need you to do the very next thing I tell you without question, alright?"
"Er, OK," Harold replied doubtfully. Teatime was a very strange little fellow sometimes.
"Jump out of the bathroom window and run as far from here as you can." said Teatime.
"NOW!" screeched Teatime, as the motel room door crashed open.
The Mega (dangerous, engine, sullenly, bespoke, evergreen, bauble, medicine, freight, destined, tinsel, carbon, feelers, outright, ballet, fizzing)
Dr Evergreen's Efficacious Elixir said the label on the bottle of vivid green, slightly viscous liquid.
I was nineteen and was travelling illegally aboard one of those old-fashioned freight trains in the manner of a hobo. Quite the knight of the iron road I fancied myself back then, idiot that I was
"It is dangerous?" I asked.
"It's good medicine, is what it is," the man sprawled opposite me replied sullenly. He'd been travelling around this way for years, or so he said. He certainly looked the part, long straggly grey hair and beard, holey jeans, fingerless gloves and all. I had mentioned that my back was killing me from sleeping on hard floors and he had offered me this bottle.
I unscrewed the cap and took a sniff: aniseed with a hint of engine oil, not too promising, plus it seemed to be fizzing slightly.
He gestured me to take a drink. I prepared myself for the worst and slugged away.
After a few moments, there was an explosion of colour behind my eyes and I started to see all kinds of strange things, starting with a troupe of giant ballet-dancing beetles, their feelers waving gracefully in time to the music. This scene was replaced a few moments later by a huge revolving 3D representation of the carbon atom from Chem. class. This was then swallowed outright by a flying Christmas tree bauble which suddenly opened a shockingly red mouth and shot out a long tinsel tongue. A flock of paper birds obscured the view then and these were in turn shredded to snowflakes by a sudden wind. There was plenty more like this and the thing was, it all seemed so significant, so pregnant with meaning that I wanted to get a pen and paper and record it all for posterity.
I was not destined to change the world with my own little bespoke vision, however. Whatever was in that bottle wore off about then and I came to, freezing, sick and alone in the boxcar which was now stationary at the end of its journey.
The bastard had taken everything: my money, my camera, my watch, even my clothes for pity's sake!
I keep the empty bottle on the mantelpiece as a reminder not to be so stupid.