Three Line Tales: By the pricking of my thumbs

a cathedral ruin

The battle was over. Mab didn’t know which side was the victor, which the loser and she cared even less. Static fizzed through her wrists, conducted along the nerve endings to settle beneath her thumbnails – the familiar signal evil was approaching.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ said Moll, dusting ash from her sleeve. ‘I was watching the firestorm. Beautiful, the way it cleanses a city.’ She looked round her, at the fallen masonry, the ivy snaking over graffitied walls. ‘Nice. Oh, by the way, Cass won’t be joining us.’

Mab sighed. The two witches just didn’t have the same ring.


Written for Three Line Tales.

Despite loving the photo, I wasn’t going to take part in this challenge after reading Jane Dougherty’s TLT – Jane had done such a good job, there could be no better interpretation.

Then for some reason, the Macbeth witches sprung to mind. I thought the derelict cloister would be an appropriate meeting place for their modern counterparts – slightly more sheltered than a ‘blasted heath’.

There’s an interesting analysis of the witches here.

The title is, of course a quote, from the play.


What Pegman Saw: A million watching eyes

Image: Sukhbaatar Google Street View

Khunbish stared through the grubby window, out across the spine of the steppe. She smelt the clouds gathering, sensed the droplets of water shiver as they pinged together, eager to fall. Soon the brown grass would shimmer like a million watching eyes.

She’d played her role well. Allowed her father and brothers to bind her, bundle her in the little shed among the unwanted things. Grew still as they padlocked the door. It calmed the men to believe they retained control.

But she couldn’t rest forever.

As the first bullet of rain hit the tin roof she twitched her wrists, shook off the nylon twine. She reached out with her mind until it pinged against steel, felt for the gaps between the molecules in the padlock and encouraged them to grow. Metal fell to the ground with a bony thunk.

The time had come.


Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that takes you all across the world via Google Street View. This week we visit Mongolia. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

When researching Mongolian names, I found Khunbish, a gender neutral name which, according to Mom Junction means ‘not a human being’.

I suspect that describes my character pretty accurately.

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #47. Red/blue/fire/ice


Flames shine through the stained glass – red, blue – the colours falling on my cowering children, faces lit with fire and ice.

Our attackers have stopped beating at the door. The night is hushed, aside for the whimpering of the children. Jack’s eyes are wide, cheek crusted with blood. His sister wriggles in his arms, reaching for me. The men would have killed them – will still kill them.

The stink of burning grows sharp, smoke billowing soft under the door. A pyre for me. Those men – mule eyed, calf faced – how solid have they grown imagining flames licking my neck, devouring my hair? They will share grim smiles – the ones who brought the proud witch down.

I close my eyes against the blinding smoke. Red and blue vibrate inside me, pulling together, hard as ice, unforgiving as flame.

They forged a weapon tonight. That weapon is me.


Written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #47 – thanks Crispina! See here to join in.

What Pegman Saw : An end to Evil


Freya’s cottage was easy to find – black and squat as a toad with a beetling turf roof and runes painted in spidery white around the door.

As we drew near, the clean smells of lake water and freshly caught herring were swallowed by others – burnt bone; rotten meat; urine strong enough to make me squint.

Fell dropped back a step, clamping a hand to his nose. He was too young to remember that same stench in our own village, but still fear clouded his eyes.

His brother Kari – older by five years, taller by a foot – twitched but kept pace with me. He remembered.

At the door Kari nodded – as the eldest to bear a loss this was my privilege, my burden. The wood shuddered under my fist.

‘Come out, witch,’ I called. ‘It’s time.’

Soon there would be chains and rising lake water and an end to the Evil.


Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its source. This week we are in the Faroe Islands.

On a little wander I found this cottage and couldn’t help but be reminded of a fairy tale – a witch’s cottage, perhaps . A quick internet search and I discovered Norse witches – the vǫlur – who might travel from village to village wherever they were called upon and could control a man’s movements in battle. The vǫlur were not always beneficial and after Christianisation, practitioners could be executed.

Books in the Blood # 6 The Changeover by Margaret Mahy


Is it me, or has the world gone Superhero crazy? 

They’ve been around a long time, of course. Marvel and D.C Comics – the two publications most famous for their superheroic activities – have both been publishing since the thirties. In fact, pretty much all of the Superheroes you can think of – Batman, Superman, the X Men, all of the Avengers – have been around for fifty, sixty, seventy years plus.

I’m going to meander now, but bear with me and I’ll wander back to my point in a mo.

Do you think it might just be possible those early illustrators had deals with DuPont, the manufacturers of elastane, the rubbery stuff known as Lycra. Think of all of those all-in-one, figure-hugging, yes-the-caped-crusader-is-definitely-a-boy body suits ‒ all of the tights.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but this sort of thing was NOT every day wear for the dapper gent around town in the thirties, was it? Was Bogart wearing a pair of budgy smugglers under his Zoot suit? Did Cagney exclaim ‘Top of the world, Ma,’ clad in a rubbery onesy? If they did, I’ve – thankfully ‒ erased it from my memory.

There was clearly something about a chap wearing his underwear outside his brightly-coloured leotard in the thirties that spoke of manliness, mystery identities and a can-do attitude to an emergency situation that it perhaps wouldn’t if the characters were invented today.

Anyhow, I digress (and lord knows any regular followers out there will know that my posts are pretty much all digression).

The point I was trying to make before I was so rudely distracted by Spandex, is that although Superheroes have been popular all of our lives, they seem to have grown and grown, until you can’t go near a multiplex  cinema during the summer months without being bombarded by crashy, bashy, smashy big-men-and-busty-women-hitting-each-other movies.

It used to be that boys wanted to be train drivers or pilots or rock stars. My son wants to be Tony Stark (Iron Man to the uninitiated).

I guess I don’t blame the film companies. If the budget for one film is big enough to fund a small war, then to stay afloat they need to make a profit big enough to end the same war by buying off the enemy with Ferraris and holiday homes in the Hamptons.

It was different when I was a girl.

Yes, we had the animated Spider-Man (who can forget that theme tune? Even my son knows it and he’s never seen the programme!) and we had Adam West and Burt Ward as the deliciously camp crusader and his feathery sidekick in Batman and Robin (now those boys really knew how to wear Lycra). But none of them made it huge at the cinema.

And even though they had a delightful array of gorgeous girls playing Catwoman, I had no aspiration to be her. The reasons for this were threefold. One, I got out of breath trying to high kick. Two, I could never have been that flirty and seductive – I would’ve turned beetroot red and hidden in the Batcave if asked to be alluring. And three, PVC is unforgiving over dubious curves, a pot belly and knock knees.

What I wanted when I was a girl was to be Laura Chant from The Changeover by Margaret Mahy.

Laura starts the book as a normal girl whose younger brother Jacko is possessed by the brilliantly named Carmody Braque, an ancient, parasitical being who preys on humans, sucking out their life force until they die and he moves on to his next victim.

Now, Laura is, of course not normal at all. She’s a witch-in-waiting, a fact recognised by a boy at her school, the gorgeously dreamy, and if I remember slightly brooding, Sorenson ‘Sorry’ Carlisle – also a witch.

There follow trials, danger, lots of sinister witchy behaviour and a race to save Jacko. In the end, Laura has to sacrifice her normal life and ‘changeover’ to being that of a fully-fledged, pointy-hat wearing, dancing-naked-in-the-moonlight-for-Satan witch to save the wee one (except not the last bit).

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book. I wanted to be Laura so much it was physically painful.

There’s a scene near the end where she creates a miniature zoo on her rug – elephants, giraffes, the lot – just with the wave of her hand.

I wanted to be a witch – I wanted ‘Sorry’ Carlisle – I wanted a miniature elephant.

Hmm. Replace incantations with superpowers, pointy hats and cloaks with Lycra, killer boots and capes…

Maybe I can see why my son is so besotted with Tony after all.