The Earth Emperor’s Eye – Preview

Earth’s Answer:

‘Earth raised up her head. From the darkness dread and drear. Her light fled: Stony dread! And her locks cover’d with grey despair.’ William Blake 1794

A Die is Cast

Seen from outer space our world is just a fragile pale blue dot in a sea of black. From such a vantage point, a magician and his glamorous assistant have their powerful I-Spy eyes glass fixed upon it. Yet the magician has no interest in conquest, discovery or exploration. This man is the Earth Emperor.

The Earth Emperor observes everything we are doing to the world and the creatures that call it home. It’s a Red Alert. He can endure no longer. The Emperor has many questions and demands answers. Now is the time for action! The Emperor invites you to witness his game of ‘Live or Let Die!’

Hertfordshire, England – Autumn Equinox 1812

I-Spy with the Earth Emperor’s Eye something beginning with J. 

It’s J for Jackdaws, silky black birds similar to crows, but smarter and, some say, more sinister. A small flock were perched on a moss-tiled roof and on the tops of three crooked chimneys of a white-rendered cottage. The birds were restless, noisy, and wet from a persistent drizzle. Their beady dark eyes appeared orange as the rays of a setting sun reflected in them.

The jackdaws looked down upon a condemned man, kneeling with his hands tied tightly behind his back. His bald head was leaning forward. Blood dripped from a gouge in his cheek on to wet grass. The fugitive’s ankles were bound. His feet bare and muddied. The man was weary, sodden and dressed in a canvass smock that disguised his huge muscular body. When he spoke, there was anger and defiance in his gravelly voice, “Arrgh. You and all your questions. They sicken me!”

A round-shouldered, silver-haired, vicar in ceremonious religious dress was standing over him. Restless, the vicar toyed with something in his palm.  For support, his eyes met, in turn, with other members of a small band of people, stood in a horseshoe about the captive. There were a dozen men and a solitary woman, each with stoical and revengeful faces. The vicar took courage from the shared fortitude,  “Very well. Keep your silence!” he said to the prisoner.

“Silence, ha! I’ll take the truth to my grave!” replied the accused.

The vicar persisted, “So be it Clibborn, but the truth will out. That aside, there is no doubt on the charges against you and our consensus opinion on the rightful punishment.” He held forth a large crucifix, thrusting it towards the man’s chilling stare. “Do you repent before the eyes of the Lord? He is our witness!” And then, boldly and in jest, “He and the birds!”

Clibborn sneered back, “Ha. What do you know of truth? Hypocrite!” He glanced up at the chattering birds on the crooked chimneys. “And damn be those crows!”

Yet, it was Clibborn who was damned – for a masked executioner awaited him, busily examining a pitchfork with blood smeared on the tips. The executioner snipped, “They’re jackdaws, ploughboy! Ha, ha, ha. Listen! Hear how they mock you. Know this sly fox. They’ll come to pick at your bones when we’re done. Filthy animal! Murderer. A cruel Grim Dread.”

“Calm now, restraint please,” urged the vicar, holding the cross firmly aloft. “Guide me,” he whispered, in the hope of divine assistance, but Clibborn was unperturbed, “Ha, ha, ha! Sly fox! Grim Dread. Hear me Plummer! Hear me North! I’m betrayed by my own blood”. He sneered at the woman. She shuddered, then looked away.

Clibborn continued, “Live or let die? Do what you will. Send me to my grave, but sleep shall escape you for I shall not rest. You know of the curse. I will rise again from the deep… from out of the dewy grass. Revenge shall be mine. I will claim all you cherish… your art… your love… and your nature. I will turn the whole world grey with despair.”

As Clibborn spoke, the pupils of his troubled eyes revealed an inner turmoil, for they burned an eerie menacing crimson. His soul was seemingly aflame. Was it due solely to the glare of the setting sun or were the gates of Hell already opening to welcome another? Perhaps it was the curse unfolding? Monsieur De Blake had warned them of it and the shadow cast by Clibborn’s yielding body appeared to vindicate those fears, for it flickered though he was perfectly still.

The vicar saw it move and assumed it was the demon within. He was eager to begin. “It’s time! Do you see Clibborn how the sun sets before us… now at this time, when the day and night are equal length. See here,” he said, pointing at a long crude tapered wooden post, “This stake has your name on it. We’ll drive it through your heart to keep you from rising. Then sink your body to the depths of Hell.”

Clibborn, though, was defiant and fearless. “A sun sets but a Harvest moon rises. Fools. Let the mourners come to weep over my corpse. Tell Kate she shall yet be mine.”  These were to be his last words and would prove prophetic too, in every sense. The full moon had risen, perhaps as a reminder to all about the vanity of earthly wishes, and the constant threat that malice and cruelty can surface in any of us given the right conditions. We are all capable of harm, and so it was with the figures that approached Clibborn. They consoled themselves that their actions were in the name of justice and the greater good.

The jackdaws knew Clibborn’s fate was sealed. Chattering and restless, they fidgeted, stretched their wings, then took to flight. Deserting the roof and the crooked chimney tops the instant a pistol fired.  Clibborn slumped forward with a curious, ‘thump, clump, thump’, face down in the mud.

“Oh God, it is all over,” cried the exhausted vicar.

Alas, he was mistaken for a curse had befallen the world, prompting the beginning of the Earth Emperor’s game of ‘Live of Let Die’. The questions though would be 200 years in the making and the answering.

Hertfordshire, England – 200 Years Later

Q1: Does your life have a purpose?

I-Spy with the Earth Emperor’s Eye something beginning with C.

A car is one of the most iconic images of the modern age.  The vehicle in question was third hand, and cobalt blue with shades of grey from chips to the bodywork. It was drove along a bumpy dirt track towards an isolated former game-keepers cottage in the heart of the English countryside. The car possessed a mother, father and only child. As the cottage emerged in to view the driver span a radio dial, raising the volume so the harmonica from a 1960’s song ‘Love Me Do’ by the Beatles filled the car.  It was one of Ben Whittenbury’s favourites. Grinning, he looked at his wife and raved, “Hey! It’s The Beatles? That’s got to be a sign… eh. C’mon Julia, what were the odds, just as the cottage came into view? Trust me… this has to be the best thing we’ve done in a long time.”

Julia carried an empty expression. She noticed how a burst of late spring sunlight highlighted the creeping grey in Ben’s short hair. Struggling to be heard over the music, she said, “Okay Ben, we’ve been over this. You don’t need to keep pushing it. I’m doing this for you, not because of your list. We just need to get this out of your system.” She glanced out at the cottage, and whispered, “The mid-life crisis!” 

The family reached their destination and admired their new home. The Keeper’s Cottage had an imposing dark wood and red brick frontage with a grand oak door and a pair of gabled windows, that could easily be eyes, looked out at them from the attic. The cottage was one of three in a hidden-away hamlet on a retired farm. It shared the land with an impressive, but aging, former farmhouse and another little cottage. The houses were engulfed by a sprawling tree-lined bridleway that hid them from the world.

In the curious and imaginative mind of the Whittenbury’s teenage daughter, the hamlet was an enchanted, magical kingdom where adventure and mystery awaited. Sarah was kitted-out for the occasion. She wore her favourite unicorn top, held her beloved Panda Bag and her pet hamster was beside her in a small carry case. Her long braided was tied in a ponytail. She swished it fervently, before pressing her face against the car’s window to greet the cottage.  Here, she hoped she was a place where she could learn to use her gift wisely.

Sarah was learning French, believing the romantic language would help in her quest, “Excuse moi.  What is a mid-life crisis?” she asked, in response to her mother’s whispered comment.    

 Julia glanced back and replied, “It’s when your father has a head full of questions about the purpose of life and a crazy idea that moving to the country will keep him from growing old.”  She reached for the volume, only for Ben to plead, “Hey, let it play. I want this memory.” 

So Julia obliged him until Ben talked over the dying embers of the song, “Thank you! Let’s do this. Wow! I mean look at this place… a Keeper’s Cottage. It’s magic, isn’t it. We’re right in the heart of Mother Nature.” As he spoke, he nodded with the last notes whilst parking, adding, “Oh, and I’m not worried about getting old! I just want to live a bit. You know, have an adventure. Find my purpose.  And the timing couldn’t be better, could it? May Day!” He switched off the engine and with it the last note of the Love Me Do song. “And Julia, we’re also here because of what you sensed when we viewed the cottage, remember?”

Ben stared knowingly at his wife. He was reminded of her subtle beauty. Julia broke his gaze to check her appearance in the car’s sun-flap mirror. She frowned at the sight of wrinkles about her eyes and was thankful she recently re-coloured her hair. Give me colour over grey! She spoke, “Oh yes, the curiosity… but sometimes I’m wrong.”

Sarah reacted, “Are the fairies the curiosity mum? Are we going to search for them in this garden too?”

“Yes sweetie. It’s what your nana would have wanted.” She sighed – would she ever stop missing her mother?

Fairies? And you say I’m the dreamer,” said Ben, as he exited the car. Julia ignored him, catching sight in the wing mirror of an approaching vehicle, “The removals van’s behind us,” she said, but her words went unheard for Sarah had already left the car clutching her hamster to join her father at the porch door.

Surprisingly, an early Painted Lady butterfly welcomed them. It settled for just a few seconds on a stately lion headed knocker beneath a small viewing window on the grand oak door. Ben already had the key in the lock. “It’s stuck! The door won’t open. Do we have the right key?” he called, admiring the reflection of his fading, ‘Earth from Space’ t-shirt.

“It doesn’t open easily, remember,” called Julia, smugly. “Use the side entrance… I’ll be there in a jiffy,” she mumbled, as she spotted Ben’s scribbled list on the car dashboard. It read,

Julia read the last line aloud, “Only a magician can save us now!” She picked up the list. “Intense and terrifying. But we must try,” she said as the Painted Lady crossed her path, before flickering away in the welcoming spring air.

End of FREE Sample

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