Change of Plans

I’ve woken up this morning with, in the words of Mre B, no spoons. 

This is a reference to the imagery of one’s mental reserves being a drawer full of spoons, and as you interact with people or perform tasks you hand those spoons out. When you are out of spoons, you need to rest and recharge.

A geekier version of that theory, now doing the rounds, is based on the magic system in Dungeons and Dragons, and talks of spell slots instead. The idea can be thought of as a straight substitution, or expanded, because in Dungeons & Dragons spell slots can be different levels denoting different complexities.

All this sounds lovely, and does appeal to the geek in me, but it’s far too much effort for daily life – and especially when in a position of having low energy or lacking the capacity to deal with people and situations.

So I’m sticking with spoons, and the lack of them, in my drawer.

Today, this has manifested in our choosing not to drive an eight hour round trip to discuss something relating to our plans for a renewal of vows in five year’s time. 

Instead we’ve slept in and stayed under the covers with the intention of doing very little this morning. The people we were going to meet will call us back about midday and so we can meet that plan with less spoon expenditure, and possibly even some fresh ones back in the drawer 

It’s also why this morning’s story was not a continuation of the steampunk extravaganza. More bits of that will come, but I needed a break for a moment. 

The whole thing will get edited and compiled into a longer piece once the fragments are on the table – and hopefully will help demonstrate some of my writing process for longer pieces.
Right, back to my cuppa and book – currently reading The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, and enjoying it immensely.

Short Story: Libation

Fifteen steps led down to the bar, poured from the same concrete that had been used to form the foundations and the bulk of the building’s superstructure. Coarse and grey, they were already slightly worn from the passage of patrons even though the building had only been opened five years ago.

Some of those same feet had obviously paused from time to time in their journeys, judging by the grafitti that snaked along the walls in a tumble of images, names, entreaties and threats. Evan assumed it had started life as a mural designed to brighten the entrance and soften the brutal lines of the prefabricated building. Idle petty vandalism had not been kind since then.

The door to the bar was closed, as was the venue for now. A darker stain seemed to have puddled at the bottom of the stairwell; all that remained of the bartender whose body had been taken away this morning. Evan frowned and moved down the steps.
The skin on his arms prickled, and the back of his neck tingled.

He stepped over the scene of what the police were calling an accident and Looked. There it was, the faint shiver in the air in the form of an outline just next to the door. With a confidence he wasn’t really feeling, he called out:

“Come on, I can see you, no use hiding.” He reached for his cigarettes before remembered he’d given up and had a clear nicotine patch on his arm. He sighed and converted the motion of his arm into a general armpit scratch to save face.

“Look,” he said, “this is the third one this week, and it’s pure luck the poor sod is still breathing. What do you want?”

Evan waited and saw the shimmer grow stronger before resolving into the shadows and planes of a face, and then the body, of an old man. It looked like a sketch in the air, composed of streetlight and grimy concrete shadows.

“I just wanted a drink…”

The voice was thin and reedy, barely there like a dusty breeze. The shadows of the eyes were deep, dark, and empty; voids with all the warmth of a skull’s sockets. Evan peered at the apparition to see if he recognised the face.

“Clive? From the underpass? It’s you isn’t it?”

“Who? Clive? I just… I just wanted a drink…” The ghost shimmered and lost focus a moment before resolidifying. It looked around, caught in confusion and despair. Evan sighed and drew out his hip flask.

“You can’t keep asking the living for drinks. They have a hard enough time coping with spirits in shot glasses let along spirits that keep knocking at the door.” Evan unstoppered his flask. “Besides which, you can’t go in, you’re not only dead, you’re barred!”

He took pity on the ghost and poured out a small libation for Clive before starting the exorcism. The wayward ghost departed without complaint; probably assisted as much by the single malt as the prayer

Short Story: Arrival

Harp’s fingers gripped the rail on the observation deck. Below them, dock hands were moving purposefully as the airship made its final approach to the elevated berth, and the crew were preparing to throw mooring ropes down.

Heliograph signals had already been exchanged while they were some way out, confirming their identity, last mooring and intentions. Harp had fed answers to Robert the signalman as fast as he’d translated the flashes of light. They were The Nightingale, registered out of London, stopping overnight to refuel and possibly take on a private passenger. Their next port of call was expected to be Tintagel.

(The truth of that last statement was probably stretching things a little, but not so much that anyone checking logs later would notice or much care. They would end up at Tintagel sooner or later.)

The rapid responses and general good condition of The Nightingale had made a suitable impression on the berthmaster, and they had been directed to this favourably orientated part of the spire.

The air at this height was biting, even through the thick fleece-lined coats that Abernathy had issued to everyone venturing outside the main cabins. Harp was grateful that no one else from the team had come to watch their arrival; the last thing anyone needed was a member of the group coming down with a chill just as organic material began to hit rotating objects.

Harp sent a deck hand to inform Abernathy of the Nightingale’s imminent docking and the location of the nearest coal supply. Then as the airship began to descend they went back inside into the warm. The warmth in the stateroom was welcome, and Harp gratefully permitted Barnes to take their coat and add it to the others hanging nearby on pegs. Harp waited for the butler before continuing down towards the room that Lord Farnsworth kept set aside for briefings.

Barnes had never made any secret of his discomfort around Harp, but the two of them had come to a working arrangement when it came to Lord Farnsworth’s enterprise. His prosthetics made occasional small hissing noises as the pair made their way down the shallow staircase. Harp’s own progress along the corridor was notably silent. They could hear a quiet rumble of voices through the partially ajar door, but no sounds of breaking crockery or glass so far; all of which boded well, Harp thought.

Four sets of eyes turned to face them as they entered. Harp took the seat Barnes pulled out for them and murmured a word of thank you. Barnes took up station by the door and Harp began to speak.

“Well then, it’s getting to about that time where we need to get serious, but we do at least have one more evening before our benefactor arrives. Talefirth is large enough to have several hostelries and we will be able to restock most of our requirements, so if anyone needs anything or just fancies a bit of shopping and a promenade, then this is your opportunity.”

Harp smiled, and then adopted a more serious tone. “That said, the crews of three other airships appear to be docked at present, so do please be aware of waggling ears and of course try not to get caught up in any unpleasantness.” Harp made no bones about looking straight at the usual suspects for her next sentence: “Perhaps if we could agree to a moratorium on physical debate during our stop-over gentlemen?”

To their credit, both Orson and Herr Machen nodded without hesitation.