Saturday 11 October 2014


by Lyra Reyes

I've been here for two weeks  and I've felt so much better than I have the past few years. It's odd how quickly I've been accepted into the fold, so to speak. Maybe the people are just friendlier here. Or maybe this is how people really are and I'm just jaded by growing up in a large city.

Right now, I'm sitting at the village pub at 7:00 in the morning, being served a monster-sized breakfast plate by the most beautiful waitress I've ever met. If I wait until lunchtime, Maggie - the waitress and also part owner of the pub - might sing while serving food. It's fun, cozy, and so comforting.

I don't know what made me choose this place. I don't know why I'm staying. Hell, I don't even know why I left. But, right now, for some inexplicable reason, I feel like I'm where I should be.

Just last night -


Raina looked up from her laptop, blinked, then smiled at the ancient gentleman hobbling toward her.

"Good morning, Mr. Callaghan! I see you're ready for your tea."

"That, I am, fair Raina." Settling on the seat across from Raina, Callaghan smiled up as Maggie set down a huge half-filled mug of steaming tea in front of him. "Ah, thank you, Maggie, my love."

Amused, Raina watched as Callaghan took out a flask from his pocket, opened it, and poured its contents into the mug. Raina knew full well what the flask contained; on her first morning, Callaghan offered her a sip of his tea and her eyes watered at swallowing a mouthful of whiskey along with it.

After finishing taking his first sip, Callaghan looked at Raina, his bright green eyes twinkling. "How was your first ceili, darling?"

"It was wonderful! I haven't eaten or drank or danced so much ever!" Raina closed her laptop and reached for her coffee. Mornings talking with Mr. Callaghan never failed to perk her up. At eighty-three, Callaghan had a sharp mind, a happy disposition, and a harmless love for gossip. Raina thought he was perfect.

"Is that what you were writing about today?"

"Yes, of course. I feel like I've met everyone last night. And they all seem to already know who I was." Raina chuckled. "It was the first time I talked about who knocked up who and who stole whose cows with people I just met."

"Ah, well, those people like you."

"And I like them too, which is surprising because I'm usually alone in Chicago. It's amazing, really, how I feel much more at home here than I did ever -" Raina paused, blushed at how easy the thought can come out. She felt guilty, and a bit disloyal, to her hometown and her family there. In the two weeks she's left, she has never once called Chicago her home. It's a thought that she has been battling with, careful not to write down believing that doing so would make it much more real, and knowing that if she lingered over it she might not want to come back.

"Now, don't go feeling bad for saying the truth, girl." Callaghan said kindly. "We all have our place in this world. Could be that yours is here."

Sighing, Raina leaned back. "But I don't even know what I'm doing with my life, Mr. Callaghan. I don't know why I'm here or why I left. I don't even know why I chose this place."

"Could be you left because you're not supposed to do there what you're really meant to do." Callaghan took a sip from his mug. "You did say you wanted to write a book."

"Well, that's more like a pipe dream."

"Dream away. Dream with all your heart. Then do it. You young people need to stop thinking so much and just do. You may be young, but time is passing quickly. One day you're thirty-two and in a snap you're close to a hundred. What you do in between, and where you do it, is what matters."

Callaghan lifted his mug and gestured at Raina. "The world needs more storytellers. How else is she to pass on the knowledge of the ages without someone telling it? Your feet and your heart took you here, and rightly so, I believe. Haven't you been able to think more clearly, to write more, and to feel like you are yourself when you arrived here?"

Raina looked down at her plate. She agreed with everything Callaghan said. She just didn't want to admit it.

"And as to why you chose this place," Callaghan barreled on. "Maggie might have an answer to that."

Maggie? Raina looked up at Maggie standing by their table, holding the coffeepot. With a smile, Maggie said, "maybe this place chose you."

Smiling, Raina shook her head. "How can a place choose me?"

Maggie set down the coffeepot on the table and settled on the seat beside Callaghan. Leaning forward, she reached her hand out across the table. "Do you trust me, Raina?"

No, not really, Raina wanted to say. I've been here just two weeks, I don't really know any of you. But as she looked at the mischievous green eyes of Maggie, at the kind smile of Callaghan, she realized that she did. She trusted this woman and her great-grandfather with all her heart.

Raina nodded, then lifted her hands to grasp both of Maggie's hands.

Rolling green fields. A quaint cottage on top of a cliff. A garden full of colorful flowers. A woman and her lover strolling under the stars. A small child running among the flowers. Light shooting out of the woman's fingertips as she stood skyclad under the blood moon. A boar not quite a boar lurking at the edge of the forest, the light keeping it at bay. Then darkness and fear and despair as the boar struck the woman's lover with a powerful lightning.

Raina shook her head, wanting to clear it, but Maggie gripped her hand tighter.

The woman running through the forest with the child in her arms, the boar inches away. A light through the trees. A beautiful girl with sparkling green eyes and wildly curling red hair standing at the edge of a clearing, shooting light out towards them. The relief as the boar was driven away. Then the woman's tear-stained face as she stepped on a boat, clutching the child's hand in hers.

Always the woman. The woman with Raina's face.

Pulling away, Raina reached for her coffee, then gripped it with shaking hands. "What was that?"

"A memory," Callaghan said. "A remembering of an unfortunate circumstance that drove you away."

"Me?" Raina wondered. "How can that be?"

"You don't really think we come this way only once do you, girl?" Callaghan chuckled. "We all have a long past. Yours come from here."

"What does that mean?" Raina asked, her head spinning. Half-disbelieving, half-hoping.

Maggie smiled, stood up, then lifted a hand to run along her wildly curling red hair. "Welcome home, cousin."

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Trial and Retribution

© Denis Fitzpatrick. 2014

For Elizabeth Bell, my One True Love.

     ‘Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning. . . . But the hands of one of the gentlemen were laid on K.’s throat, while the other pushed the blade deep into his heart and twisted it there, twice.’ Franz Kafka, The Trial.

Someone must have deeply loved and fervently prayed for Joseph K. for he suddenly found himself in Paradise one fine morning. He quickly checked himself: no hole in his shirt, clothes generally unruffled. Yes, thank God, he appeared to be whole.
     He checked his surroundings.
     A nicely appointed bedroom with what looked like an ensuite. He was lying atop a white quilt, woollen by feel, and without a cover but still pristine white.
     There was a knock on a distant front door. On the way to answering it K. noted that the rest of the apartment was as well appointed as the bedroom.
     ‘Hello?’ said K., opening the door.
     ‘Joseph, K.! Welcome, welcome, and welcome again to Paradise!’ This was said by an Old Man, with a long, grey Goatee and long, grey Hair, in blue Jeans, an orange Shirt, and Barefoot.
     ‘Excuse me?’
     ‘Welcome to Paradise! You remember dying?’
     ‘Well, you’ve made it to Paradise. Heaven.’
     ‘Yes. You’re life’s aim has been achieved.’ K. considered this. It explained a lot.
     ‘Why me?’
     ‘It was only fair. There were Very Eldritch and Arcane Forces involved in your death. Or slaughter as some would say.’
     ‘Who are you?’
     ‘God.’ K. looked at the Old Man and his open, generous Smile convinced him that the Old Man couldn’t be gainsaid. The Old Man most certainly appeared to Believe himself to be God. ‘Don’t worry, everyone’s disoriented when they first arrive Here. But you’ve been chosen for Paradise because the preternaturally Dark Forces involved in your demise can’t be allowed victory. We have to get Our own back! Paradise is all supreme for a reason. I’m sure your natural tenacity will see you through the next day or two. Just have a cup of tea and a biscuit, a bit of a think, and you’ll be as right as rain. Any questions, just call over to My Place, anyone Here will guide you.’
      K. thought for a moment, then replying, ‘Thanks. I’ll have a tea and a think.’
      And over the tea it was quite easy for K. to reconcile his apparent death with his apparent rebirth, hale, whole and hearty. He had successfully pinched himself, and he was obviously alive to all of the benefits of Paradise.
     But who had lied about him, who had taken away all of his future earthly pleasures and the greater earthly goals he could have conceived? Who had killed him, howsoever directly? Retribution was dearly due.
     Whoever it was was a confirmed murderer and bound to either Purgatory or Hell, or so K. considered over another tea and a biscuit. Doubtlessly too whoever the culprit was would want immunity for revealing his/her crime. K. would have no trouble in finding the villain, after all he had endless time in front of him, but to enact his retribution would mean he had to visit Purgatory or Hell. Once entered There though could he leave? Those darker, nether regions don’t after all encourage visitors, simply able to leave once one’s job there had been done.
     Well, just ask God who is malefactor was, the person who had so blatantly lied to the law about him. Didn’t He say, ‘Any questions, just call over to My Place . . .’? Well, Joseph K. had questions.
     Joseph K. eventually decided seeking a straight answer from God was best sought tomorrow morning, after he had better adjusted to Paradise.


After helping himself to the porridge from his full pantry, Joseph K., the next morning, earlyish, knocked upon God’s door. And like God had said K. was easily directed there. The Old Man Answered the Door.
     ‘Joseph!’ He exclaimed. ‘I hope you’ve had a good breakfast.’
     ‘Yes, thank you, God. Porridge.’
     ‘And a fantastic breaking of one’s fast in these cold months.’
     ‘Do you have a spare five or ten minutes to answer some questions?’
     ‘Certainly, certainly, most certainly. Come in.’ God Stepped aside to let K. into His Abode. ‘Nothing serious I hope?’
     ‘No, no,’ replied K. walking down the Hallway to what must lead to The Sitting Room. ‘Just a small matter of justice. An eye for an eye sort of thing.’
     ‘I’ve always Resolved matters of Justice for those Here in Paradise.’ God extended His Right Arm to Invite K. into His Sitting Room. ‘Just let Me Put on a cuppa for the both of us to have a good talk.’
     ‘Thank you,’ replied K.
     God had the teas brewed up quickly and brought them in.
     ‘So, Joseph, what is your question? Or questions?’ Asked God, Seating Himself.
     K. took a sip of his tea. Nice and lukewarm. Then he asked,
     ‘Who was my slayer? And why was I singled out from amongst my fellows for my horrible end?’
     God Took a Sip of His Own tea, and cheerfully Replied,
     ‘Lucifer Morningstar.’
     ‘You mean, Satan?’
     ‘The Devil?’
     ‘Yes. My Rival.’
     ‘But why me? I’m just a humble citizen, rarely been in trouble, always avoided debauchery, intoxication, slovenliness, and similar sins.’
     ‘It was nothing personal Joseph, Morningstar simply chooses a life at random to ruin, and his dire eye unfortunately fell upon you.’
     K. took another sip of the cooling tea.
     ‘So I was just a number, a barely thought out outlet for his Dark Fancy?’
     ‘Precisely,’ replied God.
     K. took another sip of his tea.
     ‘Is that why I was allowed into Paradise? Because I was a victim of Satan’s indiscriminate Dark Urges?’
     ‘Again, precisely,’ replied God. ‘There are many such Here and they will always be welcome. My Rival must not learn to indiscriminately ruin any of My Creations.’
     K. took another sip of the tea.
     ‘Well, Thank you, God, my unjust slayer is known. May I seek vengeance as I may?’
     ‘Most certainly. And all of My Resources are available to you for such.’
     ‘Thank You,’ replied K. He finished off his tea and made his goodbyes.
     ‘Thank You again for Your Honesty,’ he said upon God’s threshold.
     ‘You’re welcome. I’m always Here.’
     Joseph K. headed home to consider God’s words.


After a dreamless and restful sleep Joseph K. awoke the next morn to realise that he could not reasonably enact vengeance upon Satan, The Dark Lord, the Master of all Wiles. If God could not keep The Dark Lord from wreaking his ill fancies upon randomly chosen people, could not further chastise more That Dark Rebel than he had already been punished for his original Rebellion, then what chance did the humble Joseph K. have? None.
     Well surely, thought K. over the morning’s porridge, we can meet wiles with wiles? Surely Joseph K. could simply spread a false rumour about Morningstar?
     Why not, conjectured K., simple mudslinging; no costs and potentially all benefit.
     But what rumour?
     K. realised the answer immediately, laughing to himself over a spoonful of breakfast,
     K. could spread the rumour, to eventually reach Morningstar’s ears, that his Rebellion will be Forgiven should he perpetually hand over his soul to Christ’s proper Keeping. God Had Come to this Considered Conclusion after eons of Pondering the matter. It certainly sounded reasonable and plausible to K.
     But Christ was bound to deny the rumour the instant He Heard of it. Such an upright and noble Figure could not in the least be expected to howsoever slightly Participate in any chicanery.
     K. washed out his bowl and spoon, completely feeling Christ was the only thing stopping him in his retribution.
     Is Christ open to negotiation? Trading? Bargaining? Could K. offer Christ something to overcome His reticence to deceive?
     ‘It’s worth the try,’ he said to himself.


     ‘Hello, I’m Joseph K. God Told me that Christ Lived Here?’
     ‘Yes, that’s Me.’
     ‘I need help, my Lord. May I come in?’
     ‘Certainly,’ genially Replied Christ. The wood shavings of a current job were apparent about His dark, leather Boots. His blue Shorts and red check Shirt were fairly clean though.
     They were promptly seated.
     ‘As Thou art integral to The Trinity,’ began K., ‘Thou must Know how I arrived here in Paradise?’
     ‘Well, I have conceived vengeance upon Morningstar.’
     ‘Howso? Our Rival still wreaks his destruction apace in Banishment.’
     ‘A simple lie, my Lord. Morningstar will not expect your deceitfulness. I offer you Morningstar’s willing soul if Thou Whilst Accede to my falsely broadcasting his return to Paradise, unconditionally pardoned, in return for his soul being abdicated to Your Divine Self.’
     Christ laughed.
     ‘Morningstar is not unwise. How think you he will fall for this ruse?’
     ‘It has never been tried before, at least that is my assumption. Am I right?’
     ‘Yes,’ replied Christ, now Looking genuinely piqued. ‘All of Paradise has Dealt openly with Morningstar, despite his continued abominations.’
     ‘So let’s change tack, fight his lies with lies: the reward is so much greater than the risk, my Lord.’
     Christ ran His Hands through His Hair for several seconds, Gazing into possibilities up and off to His left.
     ‘Verily!’ He exclaimed. ‘We will Outwit The Dark Lord at his own game of simple deceit.’
     ‘Thank you, my Lord.’


Joseph K. celebrated his first year in Paradise by springing from bed, despite the cold, in utter jubilation. A champagne breakfast had been prepared the night before and after warming the roast chicken and popping the cork on Paradise’s most expensive bottle of champagne (a gift from God for his, Joseph K.’s, sterling contribution to Paradise) Joseph K. sat down to breakfast in front of Morningstar’s soul, securely encased in a small, generic jar. It was a pinkish-orange and its colour grew brighter and then receded rhythmically, slowly.
     ‘A year at my place,’ he said to it, and bit into the juicy thigh.
     ‘A year at Christ’s Place.’ The leg was extra succulent.
     ‘A year at God’s Place.’ And that fine champagne was a nice, invigorating counterpoint.
     ‘And so on throughout the rest of time.’ Hallelujah!


If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here you may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me. It tells the story of Tonia Esqurit Ailbe, a mathematics professor, and her unusual manner of making her home a social hub, her life's fundamental aim: sitting at her dressing table mirror and imagining socialising with friends and family. It seems the only way, for one reason or another, that she can achieve her deepest aim. It is available on Kindle at for US $4.14, and via Smashwords, whom cover most of the other ereaders, at for US $3.99. If you don't have a Kindle or other ereader you can download one for free onto your smartphone or tablet.