The North Star

North Star stared at the blue and green planet but no one on it stared back. 

It had been nearly two hundred years since anyone had beseeched North for guidance. Sailors no longer charted their course by his shinning rays. Children didn't perch in windows, wishes on their lips, waiting for him to appear at sunset.

The only people who looked at him anymore were couples on first dates. North watched a man in London walk a curly haired woman to her flat. "There's the North Star," he whispered when they got to the door. 

"I love astrology," she cooed idiotically.

For the briefest moment North was reflected in her eyes, then the man caught her lips in a kiss and she closed them. 

When they finished kissing they would go inside and who knew when someone would look up at him again. 

The star sighed. He supposed he should be happy. He'd had a good run giving directions to lost sailors. He was the second most famous star after Sun. 

Now being the sun, that was a good job. People worshiped Sun and all he did was hang around and make things hot. North could do that. As far as stars went he was fairly confident he was a hottie. All he needed was a group of planets to follow him around. North decided to drift toward the asteroid belt to see if could attract some attention.

The engine sputtered and died. Bill the pilot told everyone to remain calm, but no one listened. The air was split by screams which were silenced when the plane crashed into the southern peak of Mont Blanc. Bill and a four year old girl named Maggie were the only survivors.

"Thank god, it's a clear night," he said once they had finally cleared themselves of the wreckage. The girl was crying and wanted to go home. "Don't worry, sweet," said Bill. "If we can find the North Star it will guide us home." But North was already chatting up gaseous bodies on the cold side of Jupiter.


X Marks The Spot

What's this?
Someone has marked a spot on the map with an X
Why did they do that?
What were they up to?
And who would do such a thing?
Certainly not me
I would not wish to draw attention to the spot
It looks ugly
A blemish on the otherwise pristine grids and contours of the map
Now it's an ugly spot with an even uglier X running through it
If it wasn't for the X you might miss the spot completely
Instead your eyes are drawn straight to it
You can't help but look at it
Can't help but wonder how the spot came to be there in the first place
To what purpose was it left there?
Did it arrive by random accident?
Or was it placed there by deliberate design?
And what exactly is the spot?
Is it a drop of wax?
Is a gob of grease?
The salty stain of a tear?
Might it be a substance of a more sinister origin?
You wonder what could be hidden beneath the spot
Is something being concealed?
Or is it the intention that something is revealed?
Is it hidden in the paper - or is it at the place?
Geography overwhelms you with notions of expedition
Must you physically visit the co-ordinates to uncover the truth?
Does the X genuinely mark the spot?
Is it the spot that marks the X?


The Last Will and Testament of Captain Harrow

Always contentious, Captain Harrow buried the treasure chest of his pirate legacy precisely where the territories met of his two greatest enemies, Sir Morgan and the widow Lady McNamara.

On his death at the hands of an escaped orang-utan (an unfortunate incident unconnected to either of his enemies), his last will and testament revealing the location of his bounty was unleashed. 

The executor of the will had called together Harrow's beneficiaries, Sir Morgan and Lady McNamara. In no way was the enemy of their enemy their friend. Their distaste of each other was such that a screen was held between them by the clerks so they would not have to set eyes on each other. They entered and departed by separate doors and as neither would give quarter to the other, the order in which they entered and left the office was determined by the drawing of lots.

The executor gave the clear co-ordinates of the treasure chest and the pernicious condition the late Captain had decreed for Sir Morgan and Lady McNamara to inherit the promised riches. They had been bequeathed the treasure, wealth beyond even their avaricious dreams, but only after they did the unthinkable and married. Their dislike for each other was exceeded only by their greed, so they married.

On the morning after their wedding they were found, united in death, hands around each others' throats. When their housekeepers found them, the disinterred treasure chest was open. It lay empty, there was but a faint whiff of brimstone and rum.


The Map Makes the World

The Cartographers will be here again tomorrow. They are not happy with our village. This will be our last chance, they say. After their hard work last time they were here, they don't understand why someone broke into their rooms overnight and wiped the village off the map - painted a grey splodge over their careful drawings. We told them it must have been vandals from over the hill but everyone in the village knew better.

The quarrel started on the village green, the day we knew the Cartographers were coming.

"Let's have a statue to show off on market day," old Toddy said. "The old king was a real hero for a change."

"Never did nowt for us," Mistress Springle told him. "What about a tree to put some shade over the well? Then we can sit and rest when we go to draw water."

Of course the Cartographers don't like to use their powers for wish fulfilment. Repairing an old barn or bringing back a lost herd: that's supposed to be fine and once they are there on the map, they'll appear in real life. But everyone cheats a little and adds in things they never had before. Why go to the bother of making a statue or planting a sapling, when the map makers can conjure them up so easily?

The others have promised not to spoil things this time but I have other plans. Not to join in the quarrel: just to have some fun. I know how to sneak in past the guard. And I'll be careful to add just a little mark to the map, micrographic script that will look like an extra cottage by the pond. Nobody will notice until it's too late. "Here Be Dragons," I'll write. Then we'll see what happens.



Never Eat Shredded Wheat
Norwich Expects Submission from Walsingham
Noodles Egg Sausage White bread
Nintendo Email SEGA WhatsApp
Necromancy Evil-doing Supernatural Weirdness
Narnia Eden Sargasso the Wold
Nostradamus Einstein Shakespeare Watt
Night Evening Sunrise When?
Not quite Early Sometimes Worried
Nocturnal Endeavours Support Wakefulness
Nookie Ecstasy Sensational Wankery
Neat Exact Sorted Wicked
Never Ever Support West ham


Making My Own Map

I'm making my own map! I'm making my own map. You should too. Because we're all forgetting aren't we? The whole town. I walk back from the doctor's and see the graffiti I'd sprayed on the side of the houses on Draybourne Court. My name. And opposite the pillar box where I'd fallen off and broken my arm. I can remember it now but it'll soon be gone. I could write it all down like a diary but a map is so much easier to take everything in at a glance. When I get home I'll post it up on the internet. It's such a good idea.


I'm making my own map! Apparently I started the other day because some of it is already done. I'm walking around the town reading things I wrote when I could remember better. A pillar box and a broken arm, some kid's graffiti. Perhaps I told him off, anti-social little git.


I'm following my map. Up past the cemetery where my wife is buried. Although I can't remember her, it says it all here. I've been following it all day since I bumped into that fellow. He had a piece of paper with his own map on it. We must have both been so intent that we weren't looking where we were going and smack. Both on the floor. We'd dropped our maps. I started to pick one up.

"How do I know it's mine?" I asked. I can't recognise my handwriting anymore.

"Perhaps if I just write something to see if it matches."

But he just snatched one of the maps.

"Does it matter?" he said.


I'm following my map. I swapped it this morning when I walked past a fellow in the High Street. We all do it now. Walk around, swapping maps. I don't know why we do it. But it's better than doing nothing I suppose.

Another New Map of Hell

The map showed only a house, a wood and a bare stretch of desert. Joseph was uncertain whether it really charted the terrain of the valley in front of him. But it was all he had to lead him through it and out the other side.

As Joseph reached the valley floor and strode towards the house, a shadow stole across the sun, and the wind dropped to an eerie stillness. He approached the house and gingerly tried the front door. He stopped short on the threshold. Inside, caught the in the act, two lovers floated unsupported in the dim air. "We were reading the tale of Lancelot," said one, "but our union has become a torment." Joseph shuddered and slammed the door.

He consulted the map again. Further along the valley, a wood barred the way onwards. He stomped on through the growing gloom. At length he came to the first outlying oak and beech trees. It was even darker under the trees. Joseph walked for some time, until he decided to make a fire and brew a hot drink. He snapped off a few twigs from a branch that looked dry and half-dead. He stopped aghast. The tree was bleeding! He almost fancied he could hear a moan coming out of the ground, faint on the heavy air.

Joseph scrambled in his pack for the map again. He stared at it for a while in silence. Was the map enchanted? Did it create what it depicted? Or was it innocent - a simple representation of the dark reality of the accursed valley? He shook his head in bewilderment.

It was late in the day when Joseph reached the sandy ground of the desert. He stepped on to it, and flinched as the heat burned through his shoes. He began to run to escape it. Then flakes of fire started to fall like snow in the mountains. His pain doubled as they hit his bare arms. He ran on. If he could escape the weird valley, he would never set foot in it again. And he would cast the map away.



A Guide to Modern-Day Londinium by Travellus Maximus

Londinium - with its thriving markets, its flowing river and its docile (if nasally offensive) population - affords many cultural, culinary and commercial opportunities for the discerning Roman about town.

Here, I take you through the "do's" and "do nots", the beauty spots, the "wheres" and the "whats", the plans and the plots of this fascinating settlement. Come, let us perambulate together through its streets…

Avoid the Angel (self-righteous drips).
Blackfriars do a mean fish 'n' chips.
Get Charing Cross at your peril.
Isle of Dogs?  Vicious, feral.
Embankment's where the cash is at.
At Full-ham, smell the bacon fat.
Green Park abounds with flower beds.
In Hatton Garden - no bare heads.
Ill-ford?  Inoculation's prudent.
St John's Wood.  Or St John's woodn't.
Form a Kew around the trees.
In Lambeth, walk like Cockerneys.
Mile End - as far as one can travel.
Knotting Hill will not unravel.
Oxford Circus?  No clowns there.
Meet Paddington - a famous bear.
Queensway gets a royal boost.
Ravenscourt?  Birds rule the roost.
Take care at Snaresbrook - there lie traps.
And Theydon Bois is just for chaps.
Upminster Bridge, then down once more.
Victoria?  Sponge cake galore.
Try Waterloo for comfort breaks.
X-it Through Gift-Shop - buy keepsakes.
And whY not, if you hadn't seen 'em,
visit the animals at Zoologicus Gardeenum?


(Clockhouse London Writers appeared in this order: Robin Lupton, David Turnbull, Mark Lewis, Sandra Unerman, Allen Ashley, Gary Budgen, Rima Devereaux, and Sarah Doyle)