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Quantum Musings

by
Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
Piñatas From Space!: Crazy Games With Cards And Dice

by
Jeromy Henry
Time Wars & other SciFi Tales

by
Gordon Rowlinson
DONKEY FROGS & PANTRY GOBLINS

by
Richard Tornello

Enlightened Psychosis

by

Benjamin Harris



It was around twelve minutes past eight according to Pete’s weathered Timex and the fishermen were starting to evacuate the local cafés to go about their business.

The dock on which he sat was starting to make his backside go numb and his mother’s ancient warning of piles ricocheted through the years with deafening resonance. He decided to take a walk down the beach to clear his head and bring life back to his posterior.

Morning Pete” came a gruff voice to his right.

Morning Colin how’s business?”

Conversations with Colin always had an air of the cliché.

Oh not bad really, for the time of year that is”

Pete had no interest in fishing or fish in any capacity but seemed to have endless talks of this ilk, probably due to him living in one of the busiest fishing villages of the Yorkshire coast.

Well good luck out there today Col, it looks like the sea fret is coming in, maybe even a storm”.

Nah it’ll blow over, it mostly always does”

See you in the pub later?” Pete asked this having no intention of actually being there.

Always, unless Mary drags me out by my snake!” Colin emphasized this idea by grasping his groin and making a thrusting gesture.

What am I doing here? Thought Pete as he made mock wave of resignation and walked on down the beach.

The sound of the waves hitting the beach and being pulled back to the drink always calmed him and soothed his troubled mind. Pete had many troubles, a huge overdraft, a crappy job and no prospect of anything better. His mother had also been institutionalised a year ago after losing her mind. Was insanity hereditary? Would he too end up like his mother loosing all his money on cheap ‘Prize Draw’ scams and lottery scratch cards?

Then there was a glimmer of sunlight reflecting off something by his feet. Kneeling down he could see something half buried in the sand. He picked it up what he thought was a coin, but no coin he recognised. It was big almost like one of those novelty chocolate coins you get at Christmas. Scraping off the excess sand he could see what looked like a fish head design on one side and on the other an octopus maybe but… no quite. Pete put it in his pocket pleased with his find. Later he would take it to that small Jeweller's in the town and see what they say. It might even be worth something, hopefully.

 

The old jeweller had been staring intensely at the coin through his magnifier for what seemed ages, not saying a word. Pete made a polite cough to remind the jeweller he was there. The old jeweller pulled his gaze away from the coin and looked at Pete with mixture of confusion and wonder.

And you said you found this on the beach?”

Yeah right by where the fishing boats dock” Pete was starting to get excited. What had he found? Could it pay off his debts?

Well I don’t know if this is some kind of hoax or clever fake but this ‘coin’ is very unusual” A wry smile had formed on the jeweller’s lips.

What do you mean? Is it rare?” Pete could feel his hopes of riches fleeing like so many rats from a sinking ship.

I don’t know exactly but I’m almost certain it’s not a coin”

What do you mean? It looks like one to me” Why was he getting so defensive about his find?

No, you see at the top hear there is a small hole, which I think is were they would have put a pendant chain”

Who’s ‘they’?” asked Pete his hope returning.

So many questions sir but there is actually little to tell. Do you see the Kraken design on this side?”

Yeah I thought it was a strange octopus”

No, a slightly different creature” Pete ignored the obvious sarcasm.

The Kraken is a popular mythic sea creature that devours unsuspecting ships after first sinking them with its ‘octopus like’ tentacles. In all probability it was a giant squid those ancient mariners saw and rest was made up fuelled by hard liquor and fireside story telling”

Right, so what is it worth?” He didn’t care about the history, never had since the boring hours spent in Primary School history class where he spent all his time looking at the topless tribal woman in the African section of his text book.

I have no idea I’m afraid, it goes well beyond my area of expertise. You will have to go to London or somewhere specialised in these things”

But I mean is it worth my while doing that if it’s worth a couple of quid?” Pete’s exasperation was obvious.

Well I would certainly give this man a ring” A slightly battered business card appeared in the Jewellers hand. “He’s based in Covent Garden and knows or appears to know a lot about this kind of stuff. Just say you got his name from Boris Turner, that’s me”

Pete took the card and eyed it suspiciously “Thanks Boris, I’ll let you know if anything comes of it”

Right you are son. I’m just glad I could help” Pete could not tell if he was being sarcastic or not. He left the shop with a sense of hope and reluctance to get embroiled in an appointment with… he looked at the business card ‘Tony Simpkin – Art Dealer’, but he knew he would ring as soon as he got home.

Going straight home Pete tried to curb his expectations of the coin/pendant by convincing himself that it was probably worth nothing and maybe even a fake, although a fake what he had no idea.

His flat reflected the dank and miserable feel of the afternoon, greeting him with the fettered odour of unwashed clothes and stale cigarettes. He shoved some magazines and dirty laundry of the solitary armchair and grabbed the phone.

Hello I’m after Tony Simpkin”

That’s me darling. How can I help?” Tony’s voice had the tone of an ageing Thespian rather than a dour art dealer.

Umm you were recommended to me by my local Jeweller Boris Turner?”

Boris... my God, I haven’t heard from that old stuffed-up-shirt for an age! How is the old Trout?”

Fine, I think, but I don’t really know him that well, but he looks fine” Pete was feeling a bit intimidated by this man’s energy.

Okay then Mr…?

Peter Hunt, but please just call me Pete”

Okay Pete what can I do for you?” Some of the energy that Pete suspected was reserved for paying clients left his voice.

I found this coin or maybe it’s a pendant I don’t know, but Boris says it might be worth something and…”

You want me to look at it presumably” Tony’s tone was bordering on the pompous.

Yes if that’s alright? It has a…”

Please don’t bother describing it as it is a waste of your effort and my time. Are you able to scan it and send it to my email address?”

Pete agreed and took his email address – which he later realised was on the business card anyway- despite his growing annoyance and the man's interruptions and arrogance.

Remember to put your mobile number in the email so I can contact you if your little daubing is of interest.” Pete said he would and found himself beginning to hate this man.

Ciao!” Tony cooed in the rehearsed manner of a seasoned ‘kiss Ass’.

It was certain he Pete hated Tony, but he would put up with his ‘lovey’ nature if he could help sell his ‘little daubing’.

The sense of flying was not what Pete would have expected. There was no sound of wind in his ears and his hair seemed to stay placid and unmoving. There was a fleeting idea that he must look like the boy out of ‘The Snowman’ but without the choir boy soundtrack.

He had no control of where he was going or of his body at all. It would not obey his simplest commands. He was definitely a passenger in this little sojourn.

Below him was a vast sea which glistened in the light of a new day, beautiful but featureless. The sun was rising on the horizon and was of movie proportions. Never had he witnessed such a scene, such astonishing beauty and he found himself sobbing in gratitude. The warmth of the sun engulfed him making his body tingle with delight and then without warning he was plummeting towards the sea.

Fish, corals and seaweed flew past him at unfathomable speed as he journeyed through the maze of sea life and marine architecture. Deeper still and always aiming for the darker depths. Yet he felt nothing, no cold, no liquid and he had no problem breathing because he simply didn’t need to.

Then he could see nothing just the undeniable black of deep sea, but then he could see something in the distance. What looked liked a series of islands there on the sea bed, barnacled bastions of a lost civilisation maybe or just natural formation created by the inexhaustible shifting of the sea? All Pete knew was that they were coming in fast and his destination seemed to be the largest central island.

Closer now he noticed that the island had it an eerie visage which gave it the appearance of some subterranean god engulfed in some kind of internal sleep. Then it opened its impossibly gigantic eye and Pete resumed his screaming but this time muffled and pointless. Then with no warning his kamikaze course shifted and he was going with blinding speed straight up towards the surface. He could see the sunlight get brighter and then was spat out of the deep with the velocity that would surley kill a man.

He then awoke bathed is sweat, reeling from sensory overload and pure horror. Leaning over the side of his bed he vomited and swore he could taste the acrid sting of sea water amongst the regurgitations of last night’s pizza.

What day was it? He couldn’t remember for a minute. Sunday, thank God!

He collapsed back into bed and cocooned himself in the duvet.

The dream had been so vivid and detailed. He normally couldn’t remember anything of his dreams but this one…? A shower was what he needed, to clear his head.

The steam from the shower billowed around the cubical shower room as Pete commenced his ritual washing procedure. One bar of PH balanced soap, Head & Shoulders shampoo and a volcanic scrub to ex-foliate his skin, although he would deny this little surrender to vanity if asked.

A pair of freshly laundered jeans and an only ‘slightly’ smelly shirt later and he was heading down the stairs and heading towards the local internet café.

Café Nano was the village’s only exception to the otherwise authentic Yorkshire village, which was populated by the obligatory Tea Shop, Pub with the cliché name of ‘The Smugglers Inn’ and a tired Woolworths at the corner of Main Street. The Café was owned by one of Pete’s old school friends Toby Maguire who took an unusual pride in sharing his name with the Spiderman actor.

Yo, yo, yo my man Petey! How’s it hanging down there bro?”

Toby you’re not American you are just a twat” Pete had just remembered that Toby was now going through an ‘American Ghetto Gangster’ phase at the moment, despite being almost forty, fifteen stone white man who bore more resemblance to an obese hobbit than he did Snoop Dog.

Don’t blow a brother down man!”

Toby believe me, I’m never going to ‘blow’ anything of yours. Now can I use one of these piles of crap you call computers, or not?”

Take your pick bro; no one comes in here anyway. I swear sometimes the locals cross the bloody street because they don’t trust technology, and once I saw old lady Hatton give the shop the sign of the Evil Eye!”

Well it’s like witchcraft to the old timers mate and you’re like the fuckin ‘High Wicker’ or something”

Yeah well I’m going to be the Bankrupt Wicker If I don’t do something soon”

Good luck with that mate” Pete sat down at the only terminal that also had a scanner attached.

Placing the pendant on the scanner he adjusted pressed the scan button and opened his email. Two hundred and thirty seven messages, all of them spam no doubt. He didn’t even check them anymore.

The scanned picture came out alright, quite clear really. It should be good enough for a valuation anyway, which was all he was interested in. He continued to write the email.

Dear Tony,

Thanks once again for talking to me about my ‘little daubing’. I have attached the scan as requested which I hope you can open. However if you have problems seeing the image I can probably send a fax maybe. Would that work, I don’t know?

My mobile number is 077646573787. I can be contacted at anytime.

Cheers

Peter Hunt AKA’Pete’

He read back the email. Not too desperate and not too cheeky. Pete sent the email and retrieved the pendant from the scanner.

See you Toby” He waved as he left not wanting to get into another banal conversation.

Don’t make it so long before visiting your ‘Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderma…”

Toby you're not bloody Spiderman either okay!? And lay off the Jaffa Cakes for a bit eh?

Pete left the Café before hearing Toby’s bellowed retort. He new he could be a vicious bastard at times, but he didn’t really care.

It was at that moment that the world took on a sort of an ethereal quality and Pete realised he’s lost all sense of his legs and was falling. Everything was sped down in the same way old film tape did before it snapped. The street was sideways on and he could feel a deep burning sensation in his jeans pocket. Then his head hit the pavement and then the void of unconsciousness took him.

Ripples gently touched the surface if the lake creating a shiver on the perfect reflection. Peter could see his features with clarity and definition that he had never before witnessed. Everything seemed ultra real and even the sounds of the of the surrounding forest were incredibly acute.

Then movement on the lake, what was it? Peter stood up trying to prepare himself for whatever it may be. He could hear the metallic sounds of metal upon metal as an archaic rowing boat emerged from a phantom like mist. The tendrils of weeds parted and retracted in the boats wake as the ferrymen worked his way towards the shore. Throughout this Peter couldn’t say a word. It was as if he had been struck dumb. The ferryman rested his oars and turned his wizened features towards Peter.

Who they hell are you then, eh?” Pete was not expecting the Yorkshire accent

Err I’m Peter” Was all he could say, but at least he could say something.

Speak up boy I can’t hear that well any more!” The ferryman cupped his ear as if to illustrate the point.

Sensing that the old man was harmless he moved towards to ferry. “My name is Peter, sir. Who are you?” He tried spoke slowly and clearly.

I’m a little hard of hearing you little worm not stupid or senile… well at least I don’t think I am. It’s hard to tell when you’re on your own for millenniums on end.”

I can imagine” he said humouring him.

Yes well do you want to get in or not?”

Sorry…?”

The boat you idiot! Do you want to go and see her?” The old man was getting agitated which seemed to manifest itself into a nervous tick.

Sorry I don’t know who you mean?” Peter found himself being incredibly patient and polite with the old man, which was very unlike him.

Yes you do her! The lady, who else forgodsake?. Just get in boy, I haven’t got the time to talk crap with you” He motioned to the boat and Peter felt compelled to do just that.

The old man hopped out of the boat and started to push the boat out into the lake. His scrawny legs bracing again Peters added weight.

Can I help?”

No you can just sit there and shut up! If it pleases you” The old man seemed to be slipping between old school social etiquette and cantankerous ramblings. Hopped back into the boat and retrieved his oars and his motions shifted into a time entrusted regime which had been honed over the ‘millenniums’ he had mentioned.

So what’s you business with ‘Her Majesty’?” He made a mocking bow with one hand swept out in a grandiose gesture. He then realised he was loosing his oar and caught it with impressive speed.

It’s about a thing I found on the beach… well at least I think so anyway” Peter knew instinctively that he was right.

Well I hope she likes your ‘Thing’ as it always seems to be a one way trip for my passengers” A shiver ran down Peter’s spine and ended in his bowels.

What do you mean one way trip?”

What do you think I mean? I mean you idiotic fools turn up on my beach one in a while and go to her ‘Royal Fishiness’ and never come back.”

Oh well that’s great you little runt! Why didn’t you tell me this little ‘tit bit’ of information before I got in your bloody boat!?”

You didn’t ask” The ferryman lowered his head looking like a scolded child.

What the fu..?! Right turn this boat around and take be back to the shore right NOW!”

No can do sir I’m sorry. Once this ferry leaves the beach it has to reach its destination. That my job you see.”

Fuck your job you poison dwarf! Turn this boat around!” Peter went to grab the oars, but it was then that the old mans left eye popped out of its socket and peter recoiled in horror.

See what you’ve done now you fatherless bastard!” The man seemed simultaneously trying to retrieve his eye and keep his skin in place, which seemed to be shedding his body and loosing all elasticity.

What the fuck are you man!?” said Peter edging towards to end of the boat.

That doesn’t matter! Just help me find my bloody eye!”

Peter looked at the water and almost dived in but saw what must have been millions of eyes staring back at him from the surface of the water, but more importantly an equal amount of serrated teeth to accompany them.

Oh my God what’s in the water?” Suddenly the one eyed, baggy skinned man didn’t seem as scary.

That you don’t want to know my friend, trust me” He had retrieved his eye and was trying to reinsert it to its rightful place. His skin had seemed to cooperate as well and was no longer hanging like melted wax.

Fine just please get me to land quickly!”

Right you are young man” The ferryman pointed behind him.

An island jutted up from the lake encrusted in callous like limpets and urchins of all descriptions. At the pinnacle however there stood a small wooded copse that seemingly protected what Peter could only think of as a shrine.

The ferry came to an abrupt stop when it reached the shore.

Right off you go then and thanks for the company.” The old man was smiling with genuine affection.

Well thanks sir…”

Grimwalde is the name not ‘Sir and you’re welcome. Just be careful with her” He eyed the shrine suspiciously “I’ve never met her but I don’t trust her kind”

Peter turned to look at the shrine. “What do you mean ‘her kind’? But when he looked back the old man had already launched the ferry back into the muddy water and obviously ignored the question.

Wait what do I do now?!” Peter shouted as the ferryman disappeared into the gloom. A faint voice echoed across the lake. “The only thing you can. Go and see her”


Peter knew that actually that was his only choice, other than being eaten alive by god knows what in the lake. He then had a moment of sobriety which you sometimes get in dreams where you realise that actually, everything that is happening is quite insane but that you must run with it.

The limpet encrusted surface actually helped with Peter’s ascent as he made his way towards the shrine.

The trees towered over him and surrounded the shrine like protective sentinels. Maelstroms of figures were exquisite carved into the marble shrine but seemed to be constantly shifting like a models that can’t decide a pose.

So you are the one” The voice had a delicately feminine touch but with an underlying air of conviction. Peter couldn’t work out where the voice was coming from but was now close enough to see that the shifting figures where not human but had tails of fish and some of snakes. Then in unison all of the figures stopped shifting and looked directly at him. He stumbled back in shock just as a hand touched his shoulder. He twirled with his hands up in a defensive gesture.

The woman was features were delicate and fair and she looked almost fragile if it was not for the iron grip of her hand on Peters shoulder. He winced in pain and she released her grip.

I apologise, sometimes I forgot my strength. I did not mean to hurt you”

No problem…” Peter once again had little control of his speech.

Her features took on a stern appearance. She placed her had on Peter’s chest and he flinched away from her touch.

There is no need for worry young one. I will not hurt you, just be still” Peter was still and couldn’t have moved if he wanted too. Her words were beyond defiance it seemed.

She closed her eyes and he could feel a warm vibration flood through him. Then her eyes snapped open and had an intense clarity to them. These eyes could see far beyond Peter and his troubled life.

You do have it then” She said with certainty

What… that pendant thing? Yes why? What is it?” Peter wanted answers now and despite the alien situation was getting annoyed by not knowing anything. He felt helpless.

It is a piece of him. He has bestowed upon it matter a piece of his presence and influence. Even with him sleeping he is incredibly powerful and his minions work tirelessly to achieve his second rising”

What? Who is this guy and what on earth are you talking about? You are just a figment of my concussed mind and so are a concoction of all the weird movies that figure a ‘mysterious stranger’ and a ‘strange artefact’ Peter made phantom punctuation marks in the air.

Don’t be a fool boy! Return the pendant to the sea! Deep enough not to be found.” She moved her hand with impossible speed from his chest to his throat. She started to squeeze and he could feel his breath abandon him and the realm of unconsciousness return with its comforting oblivion. Echoes of her voice were left ringing in his ears as he once more fell to the ground.

Peter awoke once again bathed in a reservoir of sweat and panic. It took several moments for him to clear the fog and recognise the interior of Toby’s café.

Whoa man you gave me one hell of a fright there! Are you alright mate?” Toby had lost all of his false persona's in light of Peter’s apparent collapse.

Yes mate I’m not sure what happened. Last I knew I was leaving your place and I felt dizzy”

Yeah you hit the pavement outside here like a sack of bloody potatoes”

Pete touched a golf ball sized bump on his head and winced in pain.

I called an ambulance which should be here any moment but you know they’re really shit and slow around here”

Don’t worry Toby I feel fine, really” And he did, actually he felt great. The same feeling you get when you’ve had a really good sleep. Full of energy.

Yeah well still you should have your head looked at all the same. You may still be concussed or something”

No mate I ‘m fine. Call the ambulance off” It was only then that he realised a small audience were looking at him with concerned expressions. He pushed him self off the chair. “Folks I’m fine really please don’t worry. I will now go to bed don’t you worry”

You should go to see a doctor Pete”

Yes thank Mrs Talbot I will, don’t you worry”

As the crowd dispersed he turned to Toby and patted him affectionately on the back.

I’m sorry man for taking the piss before. You can be anyone you want to be, Spiderman, Superman, Christ fucking Wonder Woman if you like!”

Forget about that Pete, just make sure you’re alright okay?”

Yes mate I will” He walked out of the café and sneered angrily at the guilty pavement.

He felt in his jeans pocket for the infamous pendant and found it there nestled between his thigh and mobile phone, which resulted in a mixture of relief and regret. He knew what he had to do and he headed for the beach.

Colin have you finished for the day or are you going for a second round?”

Finished for today Pete I’m afraid. A welcome pint is waiting for me in here yonder public house” He gestured towards the run down husk of ‘The Smugglers Inn’

Okay that’s fine. Do you know of anyone who is going out today, maybe for Ted or Simon maybe?”

Where you been Pete Simon moved to Scarborough and Ted is in hospital with suspected cancer”

Shit really I didn’t know that, how is he?” Pete didn’t really care he just needed to get to sea.

Well he’s got a fighting chance says the doc”

Great, well is there anybody else on their way out”

No but if ya desperate you can go on that tourist fishing monstrosity that launched off the pier” Of course why didn’t he think of that!

Why you so desperate anyways?”

Peter didn’t know what to say so he settled with “I just feel the sea calling me, that’s all”. Colin nodded in understanding.

Peter waited until the sizeable fishing boat was out as far as it dared with the storm obvious on the horizon. He retrieved the pendant from his pocket and looked at the embossed Kraken’s head with a mixture of awe and still lingering curiosity. Was this the right thing to do? Could he be throwing away a fortune? Well at least it might get rid of those bloody creepy dreams.

He turned to check that the driver wasn’t looking his way, arched his arm back and threw the pendant as far as possible into the darkening sea.

The polyphonic sound of ‘mission Impossible’ interrupted his thoughts as Pete realised his phone was ringing.

Hello?”

Hi is that Peter?” Came the instantly recognisable voice.

Yeah hi Tony, how’s it going?”

Fine, fine thanks. I have good news!” Some of the ‘Lovey Darlingness’ had left his voice and the usual act felt forced.

What’s that?” Pete knew it was not good news

I have a buyer for your wonderful trinket”

That’s great Tony but it’s gone, I no longer have it I’m afraid”

Oh how dreadful! What happened? Did it go to another buyer? I’m the best you know whatever you got I could have got more!” He sounded aghast and more that a little wounded.

No nothing like that I’m afraid. I just lost the bloody thing. I can’t find it anywhere. I think I may have lost it whilst fishing at sea.”

Well that is terrible news darling! Positively awful”

Yeah but what can you do?”

Well at least I won’t have to deal with him again” Tony had said this to himself but the relief in his voice was obvious

Who’s that?”

What? Oh nothing just the buyer was a very strange gentleman. Gave me the willies to be honest”

Why what was wrong with him?”

Oh nothing, I mean he dressed very smartly and had the right credentials but there was something wrong about his eyes. I always felt like he was looking at me and seeing a family size bucket of KFC”

Pete laughed “More like a basket of fruits Tony eh?

Yes well he was a jolly frightening sort”

Well I must go Tony sorry about wasting your time”

No problem Peter but if you do find ring me straight away okay?”

Of course. Oh and Tony what was he preparing to pay for it?”

Not sure exactly as he wanted to see it first, but somewhere in the six figure region” Peter felt the pit of his stomach groan.

Oh okay then, that’s fine then. Bye Tony, take care of yourself.”

Ta ta!” Peter put the phone back in his pocket and lent on the side of the boat for support.

The storm was coming in and the foreboding sky foretold tales of shipwrecks and sea monsters.

Bollocks to it all!!” He shouted as if in defiance to his unrelenting bad luck.

He turned to see the driver looking at him oddly.

Come on Terry, let’s get back before we get soaked.”


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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
CHRONON--Time Travel

by
Harris Tobias
The Tooth Fairy War and Other Tales

by
Jeromy Henry
Time Wars & other SciFi Tales

by
Gordon Rowlinson
DONKEY FROGS & PANTRY GOBLINS

by
Richard Tornello


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