Strange tales of the utterly Wonderful
Home Page


Alone in an Empty Universe

Out there among the Stars

And now for something entirely different

Short tales of Other worlds

Meanwhile on my way to the Age of Wonder

Magic and consequences

More Science Fiction

Philosophical Ramblings

A slightly romantic side

More wonder


Dangerous Assignment - a short trip

The two magic workers relax in easy chairs and stare out of the window on to the sea and the rocks. Away to the right on the far horizon the sun begins to creep over the edge of the world. The younger man looks at his friend and mentor sitting opposite and she smiles back, smoothing down the long gown and placing her tall hat on the floor beside her. The gentle brew of tea steams in her hand as she sips from the china cup.

“I’m glad you came,” the man whispers, “It has so unnerved me. I never expected it.”

She looks kindly on him and nods. “Tell me what happened,” she encourages him, cupping her tea in both hands.

“You recall the assignment you put to us a long time ago? Back when we were in the Magic Learning Circle. Before things became ..... complex. You asked the students to create a new kind of magic and do something practical with it. I thought to myself I would do something totally different. I sat and thought about it for a long time - years really - and finally knew that I could, with the proper ritual and thought processes produce a spell to take me back in time. Don’t laugh! It actually worked! It took weeks of patient plodding and many mistakes. I won’t go through the agony of failure after failure and the time I burnt my hair. Burning my hair? Oh, that came the first time I actually succeeded.

The first time I managed time displacement I found myself flying through the air so fast I felt the friction and lost a few hairs to the heat and it took me all of my efforts to fall back safely into the water some several hundred metres from my tower. I went back in time a moment or two but, of course, the earth moves, relative to the sun and the galaxy. I had remained in the same space but the earth had spun slightly. I checked the time on my watch against the clock in my study to prove my movement in time. I took that into account and tried again.

The second time I succeeded I threw myself back about fifty years. You have to watch out for the displacement of the air when you reappear but I had, fortunately, thought of that or I would have tried to co-exist with an equal volume of oxygen and nitrogen atoms. Not a pretty thought. Perhaps, now that I think of it, that has been the cause of so many strange explosions over the years. The Tunguska Siberian explosion might have been caused by an unwary time traveler trying to co-exist with ancient air! Utterly amazing!

Well, I managed the trip. It took me a boat trip to the nearest town to prove I was back in the early 1950s. I tried to buy an old fashioned coca cola but realised I had no fifties money. I felt like a refugee from Back to the Future.

I came back here and decided that I would go for the big one. Determine once and for all in my own mind the truth of all the religions. What? No, I wasn’t exactly scared. Not then. Just excited and so in love with my own genius. I decided to look them all up. Starting with the one I knew best and which was dominant in my part of the world.

I prepared the potion, made the incantations. Did the maths on the earth’s movement (Thank goodness for laptop computers - they have a magic of their own)

And reappeared in ancient Judea/Palestine about 2000 years ago.

You are startled? I’m not surprised. So was I, really. I had changed into what I thought were appropriate robes. One has to be careful about appearing in public as a magician in an age where they stone you for such things. I looked like something out of the Life of Brian. Sorry - just trying to cope with this and the humour helps a little.

I knew roughly where I was. Near the Sea of Galilee. I was very nervous by now. Who wouldn’t be? I knew, too, that the spell would wear off in a very short while so I made my way to the edge of the water and looked up into the hills behind me. There was a huge crowd. Is this what I am looking for?

I stepped up behind the people. I couldn’t make out the face of the man they were listening to - he was too far away. So I passed between the people till I came near the front. Oddly enough I still couldn’t see his face well because he stood under a tree which was very shady, had a hood over his head and people kept getting in the way of my view. But he wasn’t that tall. I have no idea what he was talking about.  I don’t speak Aramaic or whatever language they spoke back then. But the people were enraptured, whatever it was he was saying. It was deathly quiet except for his voice, rumbling and rolling across the hillside. A voice with a power and authority that, in someone else, would have been overbearing and dictatorial. Here, in this setting, it was as natural as the grass and as necessary as the rain. A voice to enchant and persuade. A voice to fall in love with.

I may be a Wizard or a Sorcerer or some sort of magician but I knew I was in the Presence of Someone far more powerful than I could ever hope to be. Some sort of enlightened being? A powerful orator? A teacher of revolutionary ideas such as loving our neighbours? All that - perhaps more.

I could feel the enchantment of my time spell beginning to weaken and I had accomplished nothing more than to actually see the Man Himself, although I had not learned anything or determined anything. I wasn’t sure even what it was I wanted to learn or determine. I would have to visit the other greats: Buddha, Mohammed, and Confucius. I needed to learn a few other languages, too. Perhaps there is a spell to help me do that.

I turned to go but I felt a shadow behind me and a man’s voice. His voice. He spoke in Aramaic but I understood every word.

“You should not be here,” He Said, “Go home to your own place and time,”

So I did: more than a little shaken I can tell you.

He looks at his friend and mentor.

“Thanks for coming,” he says, “I won’t be trying that again.”

Holding on for the Wild Ride

“As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, and as I slept I dreamed a dream” John Bunyan ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’



I find myself shrinking, losing my human form, falling down on all fours and looking up into infinite space which before was only my room.


What odd hands I have! Long, slender with wide tips and a kind of sucker, almost. I can grip anything. And my legs push out to the side: Now, that’s odd - it makes me walk almost with a waddle. But I can go anywhere. Up: Down: across the ceiling. Upside down. Amazing.


What the heck is that? I do not like the way that spider is looking at me. I could step on it when I am human but here it’s nearly as big as me and it hisses and grins and slobbers as it eyes me up and down.


Time to scoot.


I run, headfirst, down the smooth walls of my room, hitting the floor running and racing across the cold tiles, under the door, up the passageway and under the door. The bright, blinding sun hits me and I feel my blood boiling in me. I turn to go back but here comes the spider, eight legs pumping, venom dripping. I see the gigantic shape of my car. I run like the wind and find myself clinging to the underside of my own car with the dirty metal running away in all directions and the smell of oil overwhelming my senses.


It’s cool and dark and feels safe. The spider has not come out of the house into the bright sunlight. My breathing starts to slow and I relax and let out a long breath.


“Never relax,” says a voice and I spin around. Another Gecko is looking at me with a wry grin. (How do I know it’s a grin? A human could not have said but I know)


“Who are you?” I ask. The other lizard is larger than I, but I do not feel afraid. If anything, I feel safer for his company. He has the usual green colouring but there is a roughness to his skin that speaks of adventures and age and perhaps wisdom gained by survival.


“Just another traveler through this strange land,” The other says, “You can call me Ferd.”


“Don’t you mean, Fred?”


“No: Ferd - short for Ferdinand. A name I was once known by. What were you running from?”


“A very large spider.”


“Yes, they can be very dangerous. Almost as bad as the birds. What is your name?”


“Call me Wes. Short for Wessex - a place I used to live in.”


Ferd laughs and nods in an almost human way. “Very good, Wes it is. I was going to find some food. Want to come?”


My stomach is rumbling so I nod back and we climb down the wheels to the concrete below. Out of the shade of the car, the sun is beating the ground into a boiling desert. In the distance I can make out my front lawn. It needs cutting or is it just that I am now so small? Ferd dashes in front of me and across the concrete to the grass.


 “Come on: quickly! Before a bird sees us!” he yells back over his shoulder. I chase after him.


In among the sharp stalks of my lawn Ferd and I rush onward. The blades tower over my head and then I hear the sound of many feet. Ahead. “What is that?” I call out but Ferd says nothing.


Stopping dead in his tracks I nearly barrel into him and he clicks his tongue at me to be silent.


“Sorry,” I whisper. He points ahead.


Just a little way ahead is an awesome sight. Hundreds, no, thousands of black ants running to and fro, waving their antennae in the air, clicking their forelegs, carrying small pieces of fruit, or dismembered grubs up a small hill and down into the darkness. A smell of decay and heat and a bitter taste of acid finds its way to my tongue as I continually lick the air.


Ferd points to one side with his head and I see a group of ants in a semicircle around a cricket or locust or something like that. I decide it is a locust. It seems to be hurt and the ants are trying to shepherd it towards the main body of the nest. The locust is trying to jump away but its leg seems damaged.


“Can we help it?” I ask Ferd, suddenly sorry for the stricken creature. It is many times the size of the ants but the enormous numbers must surely overwhelm it. Ferd shakes his head.


“Not possible. If they see us, we will be dinner, too. Let’s get out of here.” He turns around but there is a sudden noise like a thousand small clicks and we are seen by the main body of the ants. They run towards us and we take to our heels.


“Back to the car,” Ferd cries as we dash for our very lives through the cutting grass, onto the concrete and I cry out in fear for the car is slowing backing down the drive towards the road.


“Jump!” Ferd screams as he takes a mighty leap and grabs hold of the bumper and begins to scramble up. Behind me the ants are too, too close. I can feel their greed, their energy, their unstoppable, relentless power. But I feel my speed. I jump.


The wind sings across my outstretched body and I flail madly at the car and one leg connects as I begin to slide back to the ground.


Ferd snatches at me and pulls. We climb up and then are holding on to the grill at the front of the car as it pulls right out into the street and changes gear. The wind becomes a gust, a storm, a cyclone a screaming madness that tears at every limb and sinew in my body and threatens to throw me to the road rushing below me.


The pads of my feet grip the metal. Should I fall I will die under the wheels of the car my wife is driving completely unaware of my presence or my present state.


“Hold on!” Ferd yells above the maelstrom, “That’s what Geckos do -  we hold on better than anyone in the universe.”


And I hold the smooth metal. My legs molded to the grill, my face flattened against the painted surface. The car pulls around corners, it slows and then speeds up. It jerks as gears change and I despair of life but all the time Ferd is there calling out to me, “Hold on! Hold on tight. Geckos hold on.”


And I hold on.


Finally the car pulls into the supermarket carpark and stops. Ferd and I drop to the hot ground and bound away to the edge, where the small bushes shade the soil and the grubs are plentiful. There is a pool of water from a late rain last night and we drink our fill and wash the wind and dust away.


Ferd looks at me with wise eyes. “You did well, Wes. For a beginner.” I laugh and a fit of the giggles hits me as the adrenaline falls away.


“Thanks to you,” I say at last, “You knew I didn’t know what to do, didn’t you?” Ferd says nothing but smiles that secret grin of his. Then he nods.


“It’s all about holding on tight,” He says, “Whatever the situation if you can hold on tight the wild ride will eventually end and all will be well.”


He looks around. “This bush seems secure,” he mutters almost to himself, “Come on up,” he calls over his shoulder as he quickly climbs the short trunk and finds a purchase in the crook of a branch.


“It’s all about holding on tight,” He repeats, “Find yourself a nice, solid branch, surrounded by leaves to hide you and thorns to protect you and Hold On Tight until morning.”


By the time I climb up past him into another branch the sun is leaving the sky and the night sounds are starting. I lodge myself as securely as I can.


“Who are you, Ferd?” I ask after a moment. He turns his head upward so I can see his eye glinting red in the light of the nearby street lamp.


“Just another lizard, junior. Same as you.” He laughs softly and then turns away again and falls silent. After a while I hear his gentle, rhythmic breathing as he sleeps. I push myself further back into the crook of the branch and clamp tight to the rough bark. I am so tired after the escape from the spider and the ants and from the car.


I drift away, knowing that morning will find me human and in my own bed.


But as I pass over into dream (or was it a dream?) I can hear Ferd telling me to "Hold On Tight". To persevere till I find the safe place after the wild ride.





The dangerous people:

I didn't know just who they were
I'm not even sure if they were there,
but I saw them from the corner of my eye
A wisp and sigh as they glanced by.

Wings and sparkles, brightly clad
a tinkling laughter almost mad
not by the straight road nor the bent
singing and whistling as they went.

A cold wind followed from behind
That blew the shackles from my mind
But I dare not follow where they go
Whether up above or down below

Over hill, under sod
Leading to devil or to god
Or by the winding, weathered track
That leads away - but never back.

So cold and tired I wander home
weighed by the fear that dwells in my bone
and sighing crave for ancient lands
and long-forgotten wondrous strands.

Am I dreaming? Or is this some sort of dark Reality?

Am I dreaming?  Or is this some sort of dark Reality?  I am not sure.  I have searched this room with its garish table - perhaps an ornate altar of some kind.  With the nearly empty bookshelf and the door that hums with magic and which keeps me from the outside with its smell of sea and storm.


Where am I?  What is going on? Who is responsible for this?

Let me look again at the room.  Hmmm .. a pentacle.  I hold the dragon candle higher.  The drawing is smudged, probably from where I was laying.  What is this to one side?  An object of some kind: moved, no doubt, when I appeared.


In my dream-like state I cannot seem to get my mind around it.  


I look closer at the table.  It is ornately carved like a stylized dragon.  There seems to be nothing in the hinged mouth but I find a small keyhole concealed under a scale on what appears to be a drawer.  I am not sure what this olive green gooey-looking substance is that has spilled below the dragon’s head. I am not sure I want to know.  But there, near the table leg glints -. A key.  A small key: dragon-shaped. 


It fits the lock on the table and I open the drawer and fumble inside.  Almost by accident I find, beneath the sweet smelling dust,  a photograph. 


More than just a photograph.  A photo of me, but, as with the object on the floor, I cannot get my head around it.  Something tells me it is of me: of that very special time in my life, but I do not remember it and I have never seen it before, nor do I know who took the picture.


Puzzled, I shake my head, walking to the bookcase.   It is empty but it is obvious from the patterns in the dust that it held many books of different sizes. It is a very strong bookshelf and easily supports my weight as I step up on to the first shelf.  But I see nothing.


I look behind, in the gap between the shelf and the wall and see, to my surprise, the edge of a book on the very top, poking behind.  Slipping around to the front and placing the candle down I climb carefully up to the top and slide the book forward.  Once down I realise this is  a book I know. In fact, if the distinctive mark on one of its pages is to be believed, it is my own copy of the book.


What is going on?


There is a sudden creaking and fear leaps for my throat. I spin around and look but the door has not moved.  There is only that slight, maddening fresh breeze that makes the candle shudder and tells me of the sea, outside.


I sit down and begin to reason.


What is the Book? What is special about the Book? How does it relate to my finding it here?


What is the photograph? Where and when was it taken? What is significant about that moment that relates to why I found it here?


What is the object? What significance is this object to me? What will I do with the object?  And


Why was I brought here and how do I get out of here and what do I do next?


One thing at a time.


The Book is mine. I know it from the distinctive mark and my own distinctive mark is my sigil- the Wessex cup. Which is known to me, Professor Silvia and perhaps a few fellow students. And I found it left behind, as it were, forgotten in a sudden move. Left behind by me when I left this place.


So the book tells me where I am: and when.  It is my uncle’s tower sometime after I left it.


I am not sure what has happened but perhaps that goo on the table is not Ogre blood but one of the various chemicals my uncle had stored here that was spilled at the time of my departure.


The photo seems to confirm this because it is of me at that very special time of my life and unknown to me. This means one of two things. Either at or near my birth which is unlikely because how would I know it was me? Or, of me looking out of my uncle’s tower on that very special day when he took me there and I saw myself through his mystical mirror.  In either case I was unaware of the photo being taken.


Which reminds me that my uncle’s tower was also by the sea, as this one also is, from the taste of the air through the keyhole.  Another confirmation of my suspicions.


The object is something I lost when I left here.  Something treasured and loved. Something that relates to my being here. So, if this is, indeed , my uncle’s tower sometime in the future it is most probable that this object is something my uncle gave me.  The gift of deed to the tower which was his final gift to me.


A book filled with wonder and powerful words: A picture taken at a magical moment: the gift of magic.  A snapshot of my growth as a wizard. These are what I believe the items mean. A key to my nature.  A Key, I ask myself? Ah ha!


I still don’t understand completely why I am here but I am now convinced that this is not the work of an enemy but a quest and test of my abilities and my reason.


So what I think I should do is pick up the chalk that is lying on the ground and redraw the Pentacle. Take the five candles and set them at the points lighting them from the candle I carry.


Place the three items - which give a clue or key to my nature and the nature of the quest I am undertaking to become a wizard - in the centre of the Pentacle.


And sit with them as the magic in them and myself  works towards opening the door.


I hope.



A portion of the 'Quest for Myself' dedicated with love to Professor Silvia