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Free write and The Nightmare Magician.

Free write: A shopping list.

Bisodol. He jumped into action scribbling on the rubbished evelope. Just seconds before he had been dozing. Strange, that he knew it was for the shopping list. Bisodol – an alien voice in the duvet of dreams. How did he know it wasn’t a dream? It doesn’t matter now. Maybe that ball of wind will be dispersed, like a deflating ballon. Hissing, as if a snake was trapped inside. What would happen if it was a venomous snake? Would it be poisoned gas that escaped? That’d be some evil warfare. Just imagine prayer balloons filled with poisonous gas. Not so much for answering prayers there. If it were laughing gas it would be a different matter. If laughter is the best medicine, then would everyone in the world be healed? One things for sure, there’d be no war. Everyone would be too busy laughing their socks off and getting cold feet. Doesn’t bode well for marriages then, but doctors would still be in business, the number of people with frost bite, chilblains and cold feet would be on the increase. Wouldn’t matter though, they’d all have a good laugh. Wow, what silliness. Do I really think like that? Seems so surreal. But then I suppose you could make a living from surreal. Salvador Dali did. Swans and elephants and alien dreamscapes. Melting clocks. Weird giraffes with drawers in their necks. Sounds like a surreal shopping list.

The Nightmare Magician.

‘Come to me Rachel. Sleep.’

His voice was like mental chocolate. It melted seductively into her mind as he appeared from the darkness; his eyes as black as midnight, his dark hair flowing into infinite shadows. He was almost close enough to touch her.

Rachel’s elbow slipped from the kitchen table. Her forehead thumped onto the tabletop, shocking her into wakefulness. The dreams pulled at the perimeter of her consciousness, caressing frayed nerves into restful submission. She had not slept in three days. He called, enticing her into sweet oblivion. No, no sleep. She had to stay awake. She was not sure that she could escape his allure again.

She tentatively pressed her already bruised right eye. The pain jabbed her into momentary alertness. The aroma of Peruvian blend coffee filled the air. Resting her cheek on the ridges of interlaced fingers, she watched the coffee bubbling in the percolator. Her tired reflection stared out from the glass jug.

‘When did I start looking so old?’

Grasping the chunky handle of the coffee jug, she twisted it free from the hot plate and poured hot, brown liquid into a caffeine-stained mug. As She placed the jug on the table her hand fell tiredly from the handle onto a rectangular card.


She tried to pick it up, but her fingernails skittered ineffectually over the card’s edge.

‘For crying out loud,’ she said through gritted teeth. She slapped the palm of her hand onto the flat of the card, sliding it to the table lip. Lifting it up to her bleary eyes, she turned it over to examine the picture side.


The card was from a Tarot set. The old fortune-teller in Eldritch’s had ‘gifted’ it to her. The scent of patchouli oil and cinnamon scented smoke still clung to it. Those alternative places, if you didn’t go in stoned off your face, you certainly came out feeling hazy, she thought. She stared at the card. The Magician. Major Arcana. That much she remembered. And something about a vision of the thing she desired most.

‘So I’ll find my Mr Perfect then?’ she had asked, barely hidden sarcasm in her voice.

‘Your dreams will show you what you are looking for,’ the fortune-teller had said, her accent East European. Her face resembled a cracked oil painting framed by long, wiry grey hair.

Rachel had wondered why she was addicted to these places. She did not believe in mysticism, but spiritualism held some attraction. Still, it was an entertaining half-hour for a fiver. As she retrieved her purse from her bag, her hairbrush fell onto the purple silk-covered table. The old woman had picked it up. Rachel could have sworn the woman took some hair from the bristles. She had glanced suspiciously at the fortune-teller as the hairbrush was exchanged for a five pound note.

‘Thanks,’ Rachel had said, apprehensively.

‘I tell you what. Take this card. It will bring you good luck and sweet dreams. Maybe this gift will bring me youth.’

‘I suppose I’ll have bad luck if I don’t accept your gift?’

‘Child, you know this world better than you think.’ The old woman had winked and whispered something in Czech before eagerly pressing the card into Rachel’s hand.


A shadow moved in Rachel’s peripheral vision. Paranoid, she glanced around. There’s nobody here but us chickens, she thought, shaking her head. She returned her focus to the card.

The infinity symbol moved continuously, an oscillating, fallen figure eight. The Magician’s tools looked embossed, as if they were real and could be removed from the card. She stared at the Magician. He had dark, unyielding eyes and flowing dark hair. His lips moved as his hand reached towards her.

‘Rachel.’ Aural confectionary.

‘This can’t be real!’ Rachel stared, horror struck. ‘This is some crazy trick of my sleep deprived mind!’

‘You will be me, Rachel. This time, forever.’ An East European lilt shaped the Magician’s words. His hand punched from the card. His fingers stabbed into her chest, squeezing her heart.

‘I don’t believe this!’ Rachel felt breathless. She tried to release the card. Her fingers were paralysed. Panicked, she tore at the card. A high-pitched scream echoed around the room. The Magician’s smooth, white hand receded into the card.

Rachel tumbled into a dreamless sleep as a dead weight lifted from her shoulders.  The fortune-teller’s head lolled backwards as she dropped uselessly from Rachel’s back onto the tiled floor. A knotted lock of blonde hair fell from her taloned fingers.


1. John Hughes - August 9, 2009

So what mark did Lizzy give you for this?

I read it ages ago, when you first put it up, but I couldn’t remember it.

It’s good though. I like it. Very sinister, with some nice descriptions. I agree with Jane about the ‘mental chocolate’, delicious similie :D.

I think it’s definitely worth having a look through and sending this off somewhere, once you’ve finished your other stories and poems, of course.

phoenixaeon - August 11, 2009

Mid 60s, John, a mark I thought quite harsh. But nowt I can do about it now. She didn’t understand the ‘aural confectionery’ line later on in the story – a reflection of the mental chocolate. She also thought the freewrite was too perfect and edited. It wasn’t. That is how I freewrite. Ho hum.

John Hughes - August 11, 2009

Very harsh mark, I’d say. I got what you were saying with the ‘aural confectionary’ line, but I suppose it could be confusing the way it’s done. Not easy to explain everything in 750 words though, is it?

No word count pressure now though, so you could definitely have another crack at this and get it published somewhere. That’d show Lizzy 🙂

Oh and as for the freewrite, mine was also marked down for being ‘too structured’. It took me about 2 mins to write 230 words, if that’s not a freewrite I don’t know what is.

Ah well, them were the days eh? Nice reminiscing with you 😀

2. Jane Arris - November 18, 2008

I liked your story very much. The ‘mental chocolate’ simile was very effective. It was a very good read.

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