Review of Luke Romyn's "Walking with Shadows"

When I see that something is by Luke Romyn, I know it's going to be good.  This book's no exception.

Author Jonas Drake and a boy named Jeremy are the only survivors of a plane crash in the Amazon jungle.  As they try to find their way to safety, they run foul of a guerrilla warlord, Australian drug runners and the occasional giant Amazonian crocodile.

As they try follow the river to safety, Jonas tells fantasy stories to Jeremy.  The stories come from Jonas' past: his past writing, but also his personal past.

While the journey continues, and their lives are in danger over and over again, past and present, fantasy and fact intersect in increasingly disturbing ways.  Jonas cannot decide if he's going insane, or if he and Jeremy are truly not alone in their journey.

Along the way, Jonas Drake finds a part of himself he'd left behind long before.

It's an exciting adventure, an engrossing fantasy and multiple stories in one. I had trouble putting it down,

It's well worth a read.


Fighting Like A Girl

By Iris Carden

It was billed as the Fight of the Century!  The finalists for the Backyard Championship were Alice and Ann.

As both promoter and referee, Angela was very pleased with the turn-out.  All three of the littlies were there to witness the event.

Angela had thought of the idea earlier that day.

Billy Taylor said to Alice: “Girls can’t fight.”  Billy went home with a black eye, a bleeding nose, and a much improved understanding of the modern woman.

Of course, for this competition, Angela only had two of her sisters fighting, but that was OK. The only person she knew who could fight anywhere near as well as Alice, was Ann.

This would be a good match.  And Angela was pretty sure people would pay to see a good backyard boxing match.

This time round, the audience was made up of the littlies, Amy, Alexander and Amanda.  (Their Mum had a thing for the letter A.)  And of course, the littlies didn’t have money to pay for tickets, but you had to start somewhere.

In her mind, Angela could see adding more boxers to the program, and drawing bigger and bigger crowds. One day Alice and Ann could be the best and second best boxers in the world, and she, Angela, would be making truckloads of money, selling tickets to people to come and see them fight.

There was only one thing that could interfere with Angela’s grand plan.

Dad came home early.

“Just what the hell are you kids up to?” He thundered as he saw two of his daughters, hands wrapped in rags to look like boxing gloves, belting each other in the back yard.

“Get inside all of you and get cleaned up for dinner.”

With two sentences, Angela’s incredible career as a boxing promoter was brought to an abrupt end.

The Backyard Championship was never decided, and Alice and Ann both gave up fighting, except for the odd time after school when someone teased them.




Shadow

by Iris Carden


It was a moonless night, and the power was out. No lights in the street, and definitely none at my front door. 

As I fumbled with the key, a black velvet shadow slinked past, brushing my leg. I dropped the key.

“Meow,” the shadow said.

“Shadow,” I answered, “you scared the daylights out of me.”

“Meow,” Shadow answered.  He might have been saying sorry.  Or he might have been saying he didn’t care less.  It’s kind of hard to tell with Shadow.

“Well, where’s the key?”  I asked, as I squatted down in an undignified manner, and started to feel around the doorstep.

“Meow,” said Shadow, and smooched my arm. 

“Don’t think you’re being forgiven that easily,” I said, as I located the lost item, and stood up.

Shadow smooched my leg. “Purr,” he said.

“I don’t believe that, either,” I said.  “I know you too well.”

I opened the door and stepped in… something.  Something moist and semi-firm.  Something like cream cheese, but with something brittle inside that went “crunch”.

“What have you done?”  I asked.

“Purr” said Shadow.

“Did you knock something over?”

“Purr.”

What was near the doorway that he could have knocked over?  I couldn’t think of anything.

As I felt my way along the wall, toward the kitchen, I realised something squelchy and sticky was still on my shoe.  What could that cat have knocked over? 

The third drawer down beside the sink in the kitchen should have, it did have, candles and matches. 

In flickering candle light, I investigated my feet.

Was that blood?  Blood and bits of?  Of what?

I walked back towards the front door, noticing my sticky, bloody footprints.  I passed a black wing; what might have been a beak; another black wing; a pile of bloody feathers; all leading back to the main attraction right in the doorway.  Most of the carcass of a crow.

“Well, Shadow, I suppose I’m meant to be impressed that you caught something so big and tough.”

“Purr.”

“And you left it right here as a gift to me?”

“Purr.”

“And now I have to clean this up.”

“Purr.”

“In the dark.”

“Purr.”

“And I probably have to pay to have the carpets cleaned.”

“Purr.”

“I suppose you’re quite proud of yourself.”


“Purrrrrrrrooowwwwwww.”  I thought that meant he was very proud of himself.  Of course it may have meant something completely different.  Shadow was that kind of cat, he liked to be obscure.

A Drink with a Princess

by Iris Carden


She was stunning, like no woman he’d ever seen before.

When he sat down beside her at the bar, he thought he didn’t have a chance.  Punching above his weight.  Way above his weight.  But he was going to try.

“Buy you another?” he asked, trying to sound casual and indicating her glass.

“Why thank you, handsome stranger,” she said.  Her voice sounded the way cats would purr, if cats were made of liquid silk.

He paid the bartender, then turned to look directly in her face.  Her eyes made him catch his breath. They were dark, almost black. They made him think of glossy melted dark chocolate.

“My name’s Tim,” he said. “And you are?”

“You may call me Princess.” She rolled the r in “Princess” deliciously.

“Princess huh?  Love that accent.  Where are you from Princess?”

“I’m from everywhere and nowhere. I’m from exotic islands and endless deserts. I’m from places that don’t exist anymore.”

“O…K…  So, you travel around a bit. Me, I’m a local. Haven’t been anywhere much.  I’d love to go overseas sometime, though.”

He wondered if perhaps she was on something a little more than alcohol, but looking at her, at her eyes, at the grace of her every little gesture, listening to that voice, he didn’t really care.  He was hooked, and he couldn’t even tell if she was interested in him.

“So Princess,” he said, “what do you do?”

“I’m a Princess,” she purred. “I do whatever I want.”

She really was on something, but maybe he wanted some of it, too.

“I’m a mechanic,” he said. “It’s pretty boring.  Not as exciting as being a Princess, obviously.”

“Your life doesn’t have to be boring.” She purred.

“It doesn’t?”

“You could travel with me.  I’m looking for a new servant.”

“Be a servant? To a Princess?”  She really was on something, but what the heck?  “Of course, Princess, I’ll follow you around the world and serve you.”

“Take this,” she said, taking a small white pill from her purse.

She really was on something. Ecstasy? Something else?  Would he? He decided to live dangerously.  He took the pill.

It was dark when he woke.  Dark, and he was somewhere confined, lying on his back. The roof and walls seemed to be right against him.

Feeling around, he realised he was in a box.  A coffin-sized box.  Or maybe just a coffin. Was he still high?  If so, he was never taking that stuff again.

 He could hear scuffing noises above him.  The lid was lifted off his box.  Two strong, but silent men reached down to help him out of the box, the coffin, helped to lift him up out of the grave. Grave?  This must be what people meant by a “bad trip.”

On the lawn beside the grave stood Princess.

“Slave,” she said. “Bow before your Princess.” 

One of the men who’d lifted him out, pushed him to his knees. 


He tried to ask what was going on, but realised with horror that he couldn’t speak.  He no longer had a tongue.

Talisman

By Iris Carden

          There were drop cloths over the floor, and soot over the drop cloths.   Was this the lovely formal lounge room she’d fallen in love with?

            Ali was pacing, looking at her mobile phone.  She had a diagram of the room, and was placing virtual furniture, moving it from place to place.

            Two legs were standing in her fireplace, also covered in soot. “Lucky you decided to get this done before you moved in,” a muffled voice from inside the wall said.

            A small wrapped parcel, covered in soot, bounced out of the fireplace. “I’ll put that back for you if you want.”

            Ali looked from her phone to the package on the floor.

            “What is it?” she asked.

            “Talisman.” The worker replied, as if that explained it.

            “Talisman?”

            “Probably a dead cat. Mummified by now.”

            “Dead cat?”

            “It’s an old superstition.  The hearth is the heart of the house.  So people put a talisman inside it to protect the house.”

            “Why a dead cat?”

            “I just clean them.  I don’t follow the beliefs.”

            Ali opened a new window on the phone.  She searched “Talisman”.  A Wikipaedia article effectively told her that a talisman was an object someone had given special meaning to.

            That was ridiculous, she thought, as she opened another window and announced to the world on Facebook that there was a dead cat inside her fireplace, and gave her opinion on how people could think objects had any special power.

            On a whim, she used the phone’s camera, and took a picture to add to the Facebook post.

            She checked her schedule on the calendar app.  Her forehead wrinkled. “I have people coming to polish the floor in half an hour.  Will this be much longer?”

            “Almost done,” the legs in the fireplace said.  “I’ll be out of your hair in fifteen minutes.”

            Ali went to the kitchen.  She’d had the forethought to bring a coffee maker so she could drink decent coffee while the work was being done.  While pouring coffee she checked her text messages, and answered a few.  She found her notebook app and added to her list of things to do.  High on the list she added, “Get rid of mummified cat.”

            Ridiculous idea. A mummified cat in the fireplace.  This was the  21st century, not ancient Egypt.  Who would believe an object could protect them from bad things happening. 

            An email arrived, from Terry.  Ali just knew it was going to be another whining attempt to make her feel guilty for getting so much out of the divorce. She opened it.  It had one word in the body of the message: “Surprise!”

            Instantly, the phone shut down.  She turned it back on, but there was nothing there. No contact book, no calendar, no notes, no messages.  It was just a phone case with a blank screen.  Everything, even the operating system had been wiped.  There was nothing to tell her what was going to happen next, nothing to tell her what she planned to do, nothing to tell her who had anything to say to her. There was nothing.

            A soot-blackened head looked around the corner. “So did you want me to put the talisman back for you?”


            Slamming the phone on the kitchen bench, Ali yelled, “Do I look like someone dumb enough to trust an inanimate object to organise my life?”