Monday 31 December 2012

Magic Falls - Part One

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The crowd counts down to the end of 2012. My dead wife holds me and whispers that she loves me.

Fireworks explode all around London as it slips into 2013. We stand high above with the crowds at Alexandra Palace looking down from the north of the city. Before us, the entire city is laid.

The view is amazing, with rolling waves of colour as the city celebrates the new year. It’s actually difficult to look anywhere that fireworks aren’t going off. The city of London has become a rolling wave of colour, like the rain has created a kaleidoscope waterfall spreading ripples of light.

But I am distracted, as I am focused on holding my wife and telling her how much I love her. I do not want this moment to ever end. I can see her, hear her, touch her, and smell her. It has been so long. I kiss her, and taste sparkling white wine and cigarettes.  It is the first time I have kissed her in months.

“I love you too,” I say.

I kiss her again. It has been only months? Has it really been so short a time? It felt longer, but when I kiss her for the second time in months, it feels like she never left. Never died.

I don’t cry. I haven’t cried since she died, and I thought I would cry seeing her again. But it feels like part of me died with her. Or maybe it died later, when we cast the spell that nobody thought could be cast. Maybe that was the cost of it.

I move the umbrella to the side, allowing the rain to pour down on us both. For now, it feels enough like crying to feel appropriate.

“Oi!” she shouts at me, laughing. “You’re going to get us both soaked!”

“I don’t care,” I say, laughing back. “I want to feel every moment of this!”

“Happy new year, Darren.” She says, kissing me again. The rain trickles down our faces against our mouths. I hold her close to me as we kiss. Her body feels familiar against mine.

“Happy new year, Nina”, I say.

“Give me the umbrella,” she says. “I need to call Dad.”

I pass it to her, as she tries to call.

“Damn,” she says. “The network’s down.”

“Call him in a bit, then. Look,” I point upwards. Chinese lanterns float above us, even against the rain.

“They’re beautiful,” she says.

“They’re supposed to carry away your worries and fears,” I tell her.

“They were originally designed for war,” she says. “They were for sending messages. Or signalling. Something like that, anyway.”

“And there I was trying to be spiritual,” I say, and she laughs.

War. There was a word I didn’t want mentioned tonight. Not yet. No matter. There’s time yet.

“I think 2013 is going to be a good year,” she said. “2012 was okay, but I’ve got a good feeling about this one. This is going to be our year.”

“I think so too,” I lie. “It’s going to be a good one.”

We walk back to our house, and I savour every moment that I can. I try not to think about what I know is coming. Her hand feels cold in mine, and that bothers me. It feels dead.

But before long, there is shelter and warmth, and there are hot drinks and talking and sitting together, and then there is more kissing and then there is the bed and we make love.

I have earned this, I remind myself. This time with her. For what I have done and what is to come.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to pretend everything is normal and go to work, and pretend I don’t know everything that I know. Soon, I will have to contact Jack, Maria and the others. But for now, there is just Nina and there is me.

We finish and she lies in my arms.

And then there is sleep.

And then there are the nightmares. Of course there are. I was a fool to think that I could have escaped them. I dream of them all. Of stories and myths and legends.

I wake up before Nina, and I go into the living room and switch the television on. The newsreaders recount the celebrations of the previous night before they explain a much odder and more disturbing news story.

At the Tower of London, one of the Beefeaters was found dead in the early hours of the morning. He poisoned the Ravens and then killed himself.

I did not know this would happen.

And now the tears come, because I am afraid.

I am afraid of what is to come. Of the pain and death and suffering that is in store for so many in 2013.

It is the year my wife dies.

It is the year of the final war.

It is the year that magic falls.

It is the year that the world ends.

Part Two

Magic Falls - an introduction

What is Magic Falls?

Magic Falls is a story I'm publishing on my blog in instalments in 2013. For now, I'm going to keep details light, but they will be added as the story builds. Each instalment will have links to the previous ones for new readers.

Magic Falls is something of an experiment for me, but I'm hoping for good things. Here are the rules I'm setting myself:

1 - Each instalment will be an absolute minimum of 500 words. Most will be longer, and some will be substantially longer, but this is the absolute minimum.

2 - A new instalment will be posted weekly.

3 - No editing previous instalments, except for typos and the like.

4 - I cannot move onto the next instalment until the previous one is completed.

Why 500 words?

I'm hoping it'll be more. It's just the absolute minimum each week. This way, even if my computer breaks down, this is an amount that I can write on my phone if I have to.

Have you plotted it out yet?

Not really. At the moment, it's an idea. I have some thoughts about where it will go, and I do have the end in mind, but nothing is set in stone yet.

Why are you doing this?

To push some good habits, primarily. I tend to write in fits and starts, so I want to make sure that at least once a week, I'm forced to sit down and write something. Also, I'm very curious to see if I can write a story in instalments and build an audience. I think I can, but we'll find out.

Do you welcome feedback?

Definitely. I'd prefer it to be constructive, obviously, but if you have questions - ask. If there's a loose end somewhere you think I've forgotten, remind me. If you have ideas on what is going to happen, talk about it in the comments, on twitter - wherever you want. I want your input and thoughts on this one.

Is it going to be any good?

I hope so. I think I've come up with a strong idea, and there's definitely the potential for a compelling story in it.

Sunday 16 December 2012

The Christmas Plan

The young man carried the newest selection boxes to the display stand, and set them up next to the sun-cream.

The shop sound-system looped back to the beginning of the CD and Noddy Holder shouted out maniacally once again. The young man removed his santa hat and wiped the sweat off his forehead before replacing it.

“Brian?” His supervisor shouted over.

“Yeah?” He shouted back.

“We’re going to need a refill on the mulled wine after this. It’s next to the Pimms.”

Brian wished that there were windows in the Supermarket. He looked at his watch. Nine-thirty at night. He wished he could be in the pub garden with his friends. He wished he could see the sun instead of just feeling the heat.

Slade gave way to Wizzard, who sang that they wished it could be Christmas every day.

Finally, it was too much for Brian. He sank to his knees in front of the selection boxes and burst into tears.

It was an announcement that nobody expected. It came during the budget statement, and the Prime Minister stood up to support the Chancellor while he made it. The financial situation in the country had become untenable, and something had to happen. Every measure they’d tried had failed. It was time for something drastic.

The Chancellor explained that the build-up to Christmas was always a strong one for the economy. And so, for the next calendar year, Christmas would not be held just once a year as it had always been, but would instead be held every Sunday. Fifty-two weeks in a row.

The live twenty-four hour news coverage ground to a halt due to none of the presenters or producers quite knowing how to react. There was silence across the channels for a full two minutes before the voice of the producer on BBC Live 24 was unintentionally broadcast, screaming to get the fucking Archbishop on the phone.

When they actually managed to get the fucking Archbishop on air, he gave a very hesitant endorsement of the idea, since worshipping the birth of Our Lord was obviously a good thing, wasn’t it? And since more people going to Church each Sunday would be good for the Church, wouldn’t it? It sounded like he was actually thinking it through while answering, since he ended up far more confident about the idea than he did when he started.

Richard Dawkins refused to take part in any interviews.


The first week it happened went smoothly. Presents were bought, roasts were cooked and churches were attended. TV channels had been given enough notice that a completely new schedule of Christmas specials filled the TV screen throughout the day.

Even the Queen’s speech had a lighter touch than normal, as she giggled twice during it. Of course, for her, this had been the biggest change in her routine that her life had ever seen. A Queen’s Speech during the first week of January was possibly the most mind-blowing thing she had ever been asked to contemplate, but there she was anyway.

The second week wasn’t quite as good.

The Queen forgot her words and froze. Shops ran out of Brussell sprouts, wrapping paper and cranberry sauce, having not had time to order in advance. There was a new status quo and they just weren’t prepared.
The protests outside Downing Street started on the fourth week, although they ended by the seventh week, when it was deemed illegal not to celebrate Christmas, using an extremely old law dating back to the early celebrations of the fifth of November.

At first, it seemed that the law was on shaky ground, however the Government made clear that they would not extend this law to other protests, and it was, after all, only for one year. When the arrests started, the population began to realise that they were tied into it after all.

The TV specials had notably declined in quality, as the lead-time ran out. By June, the Christmas Special of Doctor Who involved Matt Smith in a sixty minute story featuring him fighting no enemies at all, and just having a Christmas dinner with former companions. Although, to be fair, this was actually the most critically acclaimed episode of the entire year, and was seen as a triumph for Stephen Moffatt. The September episode where Matt Smith was ill and spent most of the hour trying not to vomit was less well received.

Suicides reached their peak in May, which surprised statisticians. They’d expected them to keep rising throughout the summer, but they gradually fell off throughout the year. “Maybe it’s the thought that we’ve got less to go than is already done,” one theorist said. Less optimistic statisticians pointed to the overall fall in the poverty rate, suggesting that those least able to afford Christmas had been the main ones to go, but other than the Guardian, nobody bothered reporting that. It just seemed a bit too grim.

The rich had their own problems. Sundays had just become doubly expensive to pay anybody to work, so employment cost a bit more over the year than it had done before.

However, by August, it had to be admitted that, on a basic financial level, these measures were working. Spending had definitely gone up. Savings were being depleted, but profits were up.

The response was taken well by some, but others were devastated. A large part of the population was hoping that it would be judged to be a complete disaster, and the plans would be abandoned. Royalists were also up in arms, as the Queen was visibly more and more distressed as the weeks went by (although by September, she stopped giving a shit and just stared angrily at the camera for the length of the speech each time it was on). There was a small and continually growing group of people who seemed to completely love it, though. The whole thing. Not just Cliff Richard fans and people who owned novelty ‘Keep Calm, It’s Only Xmas’ mugs either. Some people seemed to carry Christmas around with them all year in a way that suited them.

In October (the same month that the murder levels reached their peak), Mary Berry was fired by the BBC, for her diatribe on a live episode of the Great British Christmas Bake-Off, in which she declared she “couldn’t take any more fucking cake. I’m done. I’m done with fucking cake.  I’m done with fucking Christmas Puddings. I’m done with fucking crackers and their shitty gifts inside. I’m done with fucking Mass every Sunday, and I’m seriously tempted to kill the next fucker that sings ‘Silent Night’. No, don’t try and stop me, Sue, I’m going to have my say. There is no God, this is just a sham, and fuck you all.” Paul Hollywood tried gamely to keep the show going with her replacement, Vanessa Feltz, but the magic was generally agreed to have gone. Mary Berry, meanwhile, was offered a job on Channel 4, where she seemed to massively enjoy her new role in charge of the hit show “Mary Berry’s Merry Bally Christmas”, where she was encouraged to rant. Sales of ‘Mary Berry Was Right’ t-shirts suggested they were an increasingly popular Christmas gift.

The strangest thing happened in the third week of November. TV ratings dropped almost entirely, and everyone appeared to spend time with their families and actually enjoy themselves. The crime rates dropped to almost zero, and the overall mood of the nation grew rapidly.

It appeared that the usual point where the serious run-up to Christmas started was actually the point where people started actively anticipating the end of the year. The blitz spirit had taken hold of the country, but it could only have endured as long as people had an end in sight.

The 25th of December itself was an enormous party, although the nation as a whole seemed to suffer from a metaphorical hangover for the final week.

The 31st of December was a sedate affair. People nodded at each other when they passed in the street, the weathered and aged faces reflecting what they had been through. Nobody spoke about it. Nobody needed to.

The country had endured and come through stronger. The economy was undeniably doing better, and the boost had definitely helped.

But six months later, it was down again.


The Chancellor stood up in parliament. His eyes were sunken, like someone who had spent the entire previous night crying.

“I have an announcement…” he began, knowing he was throwing away the next election.