‘What Hath God Wrought?’, Neil Carstairs

Illustrations by Arianna Ciula © 2007

There was no hint of warmth in the graveyard. A blanket of cold mist rested upon the land, layering ankle-length grass with dew and wreathing gravestones in a grey that resembled the misery of the departed. Captain James Milliner felt the cold seeping through his uniform and topcoat as he stood beside what had once been the last resting place of Pastor Oliver Jones. Now shreds of turf were scattered wildly around, some hanging from neighbouring gravestones like wigs. Earth from the grave lay in thick, wet clumps as if whoever had perpetrated this act had done so in a rush, with no care for neatness. A fact that came as no surprise to James, for within the hastily excavated grave was a splintered casket that had once held the Pastor, and within the casket was nothing but the cotton lining that had once comforted the body, and of the body, there was no sign.

 [ The Carriage © 2007, Arianna Ciula ] James stood in the lee of the St John the Divine's Church; the dark stone edifice silent in its disapproval of the scene. This was desecration of holy ground and had no rightful place in the world. From somewhere out of sight a crow shouted its mournful call, as if the bird understood the transgression that had taken place.

'Witchcraft,' Sir Joshua Salisbury said gruffly. He stood beside James and stared into the grave with the same mix of disbelief and horror. 'That's what this is, Captain. Witchcraft.'

James didn't respond. Salisbury wasn't from these parts; he had come from London with his florid cheeks, fat stomach and letter of authority signed by the Prime Minister. Sir Joshua was a Parliament Agent, with the powers to call to witness any man and the power, as James’ presence here testified, to raise the militia. Sir Joshua sighed and walked away from the graveside, stopping only when he reached a gravel path.

'Damnable business,' Salisbury said as James joined him. 'Pastor Jones had been in his grave only a week before this happened. It's a blessing he was a bachelor and there is no widow to grieve twice over.'

'How did he die?' James asked what he thought was a relevant question, considering the event that had taken place.

'His body was found in a field about two miles from the village. No evidence of foul play at the time. Now, however, I'm not so sure.' Sir Joshua reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded sheaf of papers bound together by a silk ribbon. He held them out for James to take. 'Lord Farley is the landowner hereabouts. He carried out the inquiry into Pastor Jones' death. This is his report.'

Salisbury began walking slowly down the path towards his carriage that waited in the lane. James followed. Across the churchyard, about thirty yards away, the eight men he commanded took on the form of ghosts in the mist, the muted red of their uniforms gave the only colour to the scene. Salisbury said,

'Find who did this. Find out, too, if the Pastor's death was murder. It's a bad business, especially so soon after All Hallow's Eve.'

'You believe it was witchcraft?' James asked.

'Witchcraft or madness, if there is a difference.' Salisbury stopped to stretch his left leg. 'Damned arthritis. It's the damp, you know. It gets into the joints and doesn't let go.'

'It must be uncomfortable at this time of year,' James said, sympathetically.

'Aye, it is, and the winters are longer and the summers are shorter than when I was your age. Something you may find out in thirty years time.' Salisbury paused to study James. 'I've heard good things about you. You are engaged, so I understand.'

'Yes, sir, to Emma Cartwright, our marriage will be next summer.'

'A nice girl, I know of her father through the Merchant's Board.'

'He's a fine man,' James said.

Salisbury laughed, a sudden burst of sound in the silent graveyard. 'And soon to be your father-in-law, which of course has no bearing on your statement, does it?'

'Perhaps a little,' James was honest in his reply.

Salisbury's face became serious again as the reached the gate. 'Do your duty, Captain. I expect an honest appraisal of the situation. I'm staying with Bishop Hurd at Hartlebury Castle for a few days, and then return to London. If you need to discuss anything before presenting your report then have no hesitation in approaching me. These events can only provoke panic in the countryside. Your presence here will at least show the locals we are properly investigating matters.'

Salisbury eased his bulk thought the gate. His driver had stepped down and now held a door open. The carriage swayed as Salisbury boarded it. The driver mounted quickly back to his place. As the driver cracked the reins Salisbury pulled back the window cover and said,

'Don't let me down, Captain.'

James watched the carriage bounce away along the rutted lane. Winter rains had brought mud down from the fields and the road surface fought a losing battle to preserve its status. When the carriage took a turn in the lane and vanished from view James went back along the path and across the grass to where his men waited.

'We will be here two or three days,' James said to Sergeant Corbett. 'Take the men into the village and find accommodation.'

'Where will you stay, sir?' the sergeant asked around the clay pipe that hung from his mouth.

'Sir Joshua gave me the key to the vicarage. I will spend the night there and look around to see if there is anything that can assist us in our duty.'

Corbett took hold of his pipe and used the stem to gesture towards the empty grave. 'Are we looking for who did that?'


'And if we find 'em?'

'We take them into custody for transport back to Worcester, to appear before the assizes.'

'And if they don't want to come with us?' the sergeant asked.

James looked at the muskets each man held before saying. 'Then best keep your powder dry.'

It was the first time James had ever stayed in a dead man's house and he hoped it would be the last. The first few hours, as winter daylight faded to night, he spent going through the Pastor's personal effects. He found nothing to suggest the man was anything other than a God-fearing Christian. Later in the afternoon James realised he was getting hungry. There was no food in the house worthy of that description so he walked down to the village and ate in a tavern called The Talbot. The meal was passable if he chewed the meat enough times and he then spent the next hour sipping at a jug of ale re-reading the report Salisbury had passed to him. Lord Farley had conducted the investigation into Pastor Jones' death and found no reason to record any ruling but death by natural causes. It was odd that Jones had been so far from the village, but the two men who discovered his body were deemed to be honest in their statements. James looked at the names. Thomas Brooke and Richard Cooper both lived in the village; he would question them in the morning. James finished his ale and returned to the vicarage. The house was dark and silent, and the lamp that James lit did little to dispel the gloom. It was as if the building was in mourning for its former occupier. James spent time in the study, looking at the bookshelf that dominated one wall. Jones had been well read; there were editions of Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer and Johnson and philosophical texts by Locke, Spinoza and Hobbes. James flicked through the pages of a King James Bible but saw no hidden pentagrams or subtle sub-texts that would point towards the Pastor being a witch or Satanist.

James slept in an armchair in the study as the thought of occupying Jones' bed left a bad taste in his mouth. He woke early, his back and neck aching from the chair and waited until first light and before returning to the village. The landlord of The Talbot let him in and fed him a side of bacon and poached eggs. Sergeant Corbett and three of his men were there as well, looking the worse for drink. When their breakfast was finished James took Corbett to one side.

'I need to speak to two men. Thomas Brooke and Richard Cooper. Divide the squad into two, find each man and bring them separately to the place where they found Pastor Jones dead. They can guide you. Don't answer any questions if they ask.'

Corbett nodded his head carefully, the pain in his eyes reflecting the hammer blows of his hangover. James left the militiamen and walked through the village. Yesterday's mist had lifted a little, giving him at least a partial view of the valley and floodplain below. James used the map in Lord Farley's report to guide him to the field where Pastor Jones had died. The neat line work showed the relationship between the village and the field. James followed the Tenbury road for two miles before turning off towards the river. Hedgerows bordered the lane he was on; birds flitted within the tangled branches and the redwings, sparrows and finches called to each other as he passed. He turned again, this time onto a bridleway, walking close to the hedgerow to stay away from the rutted mud that formed the central body of the path.

The map James was following showed the bridleway turning right to run alongside an area of woodland the cartographer had named Forty Acre Wood. It was at this turn that a gate into a pasture field gave James his first view of the place where Pastor Jones had died. James had been expecting something more than a flat area of grass. He had thought that perhaps there would be something else here, a reason to attract Jones to his death. James studied the map again, there was an X marking the approximate location where the body had been found.

Forty-Acre Wood bordered one side of the field, another side was bordered by the bridleway, and the River Teme ran along a third. James walked across grass that reached up to his ankles and felt the cold dew through the leather of his boots. He stopped where he judged that Jones' body had lain. There was nothing to give him any clue that death had visited this place. Grass grew in clumps and whatever animals had grazed here were now in winter quarters, somewhere warmer and safer from the possibility of flooding. James tucked the map away in a pocket and went to the river.

The Teme was running close to the top of its banks, water the colour of red mud swirled and eddied as it carried rain from the Welsh mountains. To James, the water mirrored his feelings. Why was he here? Sir Joshua had said he had heard good things about James. Did that mean he had been chosen for this duty? James shook his head. Was it because he was the son of a clergyman, or because he was a teacher? Did Sir Joshua believe James was better placed than any other volunteer officer in the militia because of his background? James watched as the remains of a tree, caught in the fast moving current, swept past. He turned from the river to look back at the field. A shadow on the ground caught his attention, off to his right and well away from the entrance to the field. From his point of view it just looked like a dark line on the surface of the grass, as if a lone plough furrow had cut through the sod. As much because he had little else to do, as he was intrigued, James walked to the shadow. The dark area took shape, filling out from a line to an ellipse to eventually form a circle. He stopped at the edge. The grass was flattened, as if a heavy object had lain upon the turf, and also discoloured. James squatted, plucking a few stalks and holding them up for closer inspection, it seemed to him that the grass stems had been drained of colour. He pulled a handful up, rubbing them hard between his fingers. A watery brown liquid that smelt of decay spilled out onto his skin.

James stood and examined the circle again. He didn't step into it, some nagging doubt made him careful. He paced around the circumference and counted each step. He reached ninety-three when he returned his start point, which, he calculated, made the diameter of the circle approximately thirty paces. James squatted again, the earth beneath the grass was moist, and he used his pocketknife to probe the surface but found nothing below to give a clue as to the condition of the grass.

A murmur of voices made James look up. James could see the shakos his men wore above the upper branches of the hedge, as the first group made its way along the bridleway. He went to meet them as they came through the gate. The escort stopped at the field entrance and allowed the man with them to walk on alone.

'Are you Thomas Brooke or Richard Cooper?' James asked.

'Richard Cooper, sir.' The man seemed awed by James's gold epaulettes.

James studied Cooper; he was short and squat, some sort of labourer judging by the size of his shoulders. He wore wood-soled shoes and woollen cloth trousers and shirt.

'You found Pastor Jones here?'

'I did, sir,' Cooper's eyes flicked to the areas where the body would have lain. He licked his lips nervously, not able to look James in the eye. For a moment Cooper's gaze slid past James towards the strange patch of grass.

'Tell me what happened,' James said.

'Happened, sir?' Cooper frowned, as if the question made no sense. 'We found him dead.'

James took Lord Farley's report out of his pocket; opening the pages he found Cooper's statement. James pointed to a rough X at the bottom of the page.

'Is this your mark?'

Copper stared blankly at the paper. 'Aye, it is.'

'What happened to make you come here of all places in search of the pastor?'

'I...' Cooper fell silent. James sighed.

'When did Pastor Jones go missing?'

'About a fortnight ago.'

'What happened when it was realised he was missing?'

Cooper shrugged. 'His housekeeper went to Lord Farley. His Lordship called all the men of the village together and asked us to search for the Pastor.'

'So you paired with Thomas Brooke?'


'And it states in this report that two hours after Lord Farley started the search you and Brooke reported finding the Pastor's body.'

'If it says so.'

'It does say so.' Cooper still couldn't meet James' eyes. James said. 'Follow me.'

He led Cooper across the field to the circle of grass. Cooper looked at the ground, it seemed to James that the man shrank from the sight of the discoloured grass. James was silent, letting the weight of Cooper's thoughts press down onto the labourer's shoulders. James saw the next group of his men coming down the bridleway.

'Go and stand on the far side of this grass.'

Cooper followed the order by walking around the perimeter and avoiding stepping on the strange grass. James went to meet Thomas Brooke. He didn't bother with any questions. He led the second man until they stood opposite Cooper. From somewhere in the woodland a group of crows set up a sudden cacophony of hoarse cries. Brooke shivered within his homespun clothing. James went to stand in the centre of the circle. He looked first at Cooper and then at Brooke.

'Come and stand by me,' he said. Reluctantly, the two men came forward. They trembled as if they were frightened pups. James spoke quietly. 'Tell the truth of that night.'

Neither man reacted. James gave them time. He could hear the soft murmur of his men as they talked amongst themselves, he could hear the crows calling in the trees and he could hear the rush of floodwater in the river. Finally, he heard what he wanted, as Brooke spoke.

'We saw the Pastor in the village the night before. He was full of excitement, said he had seen a wondrous event and asked us to fetch weapons and go with him.'

'You came here?' James asked.

'Aye, to this field.'

'What was here?'

Brooke glanced at his friend for support. 'There was a barrel here, where the grass is dead. '

'A barrel?' James asked.

'A barrel, not like a barrel of ale but bigger, the size of a house and it was glowing like the moon.'

'And there were men,' Cooper interrupted in a rush, as if a dam had finally been broken and his words were water pouring through the breech. 'Or what could have been men but weren't. They were the size of children, with big heads and thick bodies.'

'What happened?'

'Pastor Jones told us to remain hidden,' Brooke said, 'and went out to speak to the…men. He got close to them when he fell to the ground and didn't move.'

'We saw three of the men approach him. We thought they meant harm.' Cooper shrugged. 'We fired our muskets at them. One fell, the others fled back to their barrel and we saw it rise into the air. It had no wings and it had no sails but it rose like a bird into the sky until we couldn't see it no more.'

Now it was James' turn to shiver. Neither man had the education, intelligence or imagination to invent such a tale. He looked down at his feet, at the ground he stood upon. What had rested here? He could not tell, and in some ways did not want to.

'Did you leave then?'

'No,' Brooke said, shaking his head emphatically. 'We went to the Pastor, but he were dead.'

'And the other body?'

'The musket ball had struck it and as much as we could tell, it were dead too.'

James knew the question he had to ask. 'What happened to the other body?'

'We hid it in the hedge, just so's Lord Farley and his men didn't see it when they came to collect the pastor.'

'Is it still there?' James turned towards the hedge, as if expecting the creature to reveal itself. Brooke and Cooper remained silent, staring at the ground in discomfort. James spoke quietly. 'What did you do?'

'We had to move it. Lord Farley said he was coming back to the field and even in this cold the body might start to go rotten.'

'Where did you put it?' James asked when they fell silent again.

'By then the grave for Pastor Jones had been dug. We went one night and brought the thing back to the churchyard, scraped out some more earth and put the body in. The Pastor's coffin went in on top and hid it.'

James knew that he was out of his depth in this place, as much as he would have been if he had entered the river. He felt as if he was disconnected from the men and the field. The world around him was changing and he had no power over that change.

'You can return to the village,' he told the two men, his voice harsh. 'But I may need to speak to you again.'

He let Brooke and Cooper walk away. Sergeant Corbett came forward to meet James. 'Are you letting them go, sir?'

'For now,' James watched as the villagers disappeared from view. 'I have learnt something, though what it means I do not know.'

James led the militia back to the village. He could feel their eyes on his back, questioning his actions, and he couldn't blame them for James too had some of the same feelings. When they reached the first buildings he called Corbett to his side.

'I need to consult with Sir Joshua, so keep the men sober tonight.'

James hired a horse from the blacksmith and set out for Hartlebury. It took him the best part of four hours to reach the castle. James used the Holt ferry to cross the Severn and then went up the hill and through Ombersley. The castle had been the seat of the Bishops of Worcester for centuries. James felt a thread of apprehension as he rode into the wide quadrangle. He knew what he was going to say; he just did not know what reply he would get.

A stable lad took care of James' mount, and a liveried footman led him along corridors lined with portraits to a study where Sir Joshua Salisbury waited, a glass of port in hand. An open fire filled the room with comforting warmth. Across the room from Salisbury sat Bishop Richard Hurd, he greeted James with an inclination of his head.

'You have something to report, Captain?' Sir Joshua asked.

James felt his voice shake as he began. Now he was here the story sounded too incredible to be true, as if it were the ravings of a lunatic. When he finished Sir Joshua and the Bishop were both silent. Salisbury sipped at his port before he asked.

'So what do you believe happened in the churchyard, James?'

'I think the barrel and its crew returned to reclaim the body of their companion, and at the same time took the body of Pastor Jones as well.'

Bishop Hurd moved as if driven to a sudden decision. He stood and sighed, walking to a mantelpiece where a folded sheet of paper lay. The Bishop opened the paper read silently before turning back. A look passed between Salisbury and Hurd, just a momentary glance that spoke more than a thousand words. James frowned as he felt a sudden twist in his gut; a burst of confusion at what he didn't understand and realisation of what he did. James took a breath of air as his heart began to race. They knew. Sir Joshua Salisbury, Parliament Agent, and Richard Hurd, Bishop of Worcester, knew about the barrel and the strange creatures that rode in it.

'Pastor Jones wrote to me over two months ago with a strange tale of a vessel with no visible means of propulsion,' Bishop Hurd said. 'I found it hard to believe, but Oliver was a sober man of good disposition and I had no choice but to give credence to his report. When he sent word again that the vessel had reappeared I made contact with Sir Joshua. We were on the point of further investigation when news came of Oliver's death. That changed our view.'

'This vessel,' Sir Joshua tossed his hand in the air as if he disliked the use of the word. 'Any chance the people who crew it are French?'

'From what I was told, sir, I doubt even a Frenchman would look like this crew.'

'Damn shame, if you beg my pardon Bishop,' Salisbury grumbled. 'We could do a lot by hanging this on the French.'

'What do you make of this, James?' the Bishop asked.

'Make sir?' James frowned. 'I'm not sure.'

'Come now, a young man with your background must have made some sort of deduction from the evidence you have heard. You have heard of the principle of Lex Parsimoniae?'

'Of course, your grace,' James answered.

'Before today would you have believed in a vessel that could fly? We have two men who witnessed this and the written testimony of a third, a man of good character and education. When placed with such evidence what can we postulate now?'

Salisbury spoke from his chair. 'That this vessel comes from either a land as yet undiscovered on this earth or from the heavens.'

Hurd nodded and read from the pastor's letter. 'The barrel rose into the night sky without sound, becoming smaller and smaller until it was lost to sight amongst the stars.'

'It comes from somewhere else,' James said.

'But where?' the Bishop asked. 'From the moon or one of the planets, or from beyond even those astral bodies?'

 [ Quill © 2007, Arianna Ciula ] 'We are faced with a delicate and serious situation,' Salisbury pushed himself from his chair and approached James.

'God made man in his own image, that is what the scriptures tell us,' Bishop Hurd said. 'So does this mean that God made these visitors as well? If not, who made them? And if they were not part of creation, then did creation take place?'

James felt his skin go cold. Salisbury saw the look on James' face and took his cue from it. 'I still believe there is a link to the occult in all this business.'

Bishop Hurd nodded. 'I fear you may be right.'

The Bishop reached down to hold Pastor Jones' letter out to the fire. Smoke rose briefly as the paper charred and then a flame took hold with a tongue of orange. The letter curled and blackened. The Bishop held on for as long as possible before letting the remains of the paper fall into the body of the fire. Flakes of ash were cast up, caught in eddies of air and swept into the chimney. James felt a part of himself go with them.

'No doubt a band of travellers were involved in this,' Salisbury said. 'Most likely they will have headed north. I shall have word sent to Shrewsbury to be on the lookout for these occultists.'

'Which leaves us with the two remaining witnesses,' the Bishop said.

Salisbury fixed James with a gaze as hard as stone.'We must defend the Church and the State, James. If news of this event became widespread it would signal the beginning of the end of all we hold sacred. What price a world that loses its faith? I am sure that you are as aware of this as we are, and because of that we will fully support whatever actions you have to take when you return to the village.'

James waited for more, wanting Sir Joshua to spell out exactly what those actions might entail. The room remained still; dust motes turning in the winter sunshine that filtered through the leaded windows gave the only sign that this wasn't some strange waxwork tableau. James wanted to move but his legs refused to co-operate with his brain. As the seconds dragged by Sir Joshua tired of James' presence.

'Return to the village, captain. When we next meet I want this affair to be behind us.'

James walked from the room on legs that were stiff with fear. Whatever help he had sought when coming to the castle he had not contemplated that Sir Joshua and Bishop Hurd would have already known about the strange visitors. The same footman who had led him to the study now took him back through the panelled corridors. The stable lad was waiting patiently and James automatically dropped coins into the boy's palm. He rode away from the castle and didn't look back. James stopped in Ombersley and bought bread and cheese which he ate as he rode. He watched the sky as he traced the roads back to he village. The clouds were breaking and a cool blue showed him a new view of the heavens. At night he would see the stars in all their glory, but what else would he see if he looked closely enough?

It was after nightfall when he reached the village. He found Sergeant Corbett in The Talbot, sitting in front of a tankard of ale. 'I want all the men outside this inn before sunrise. Full uniform.'

'Are we leaving, sir?'

'Not until we have finished our work here,' James said.

'And what work might that be, sir?'

'Work that requires two lengths of stout rope,' James spoke quietly. Corbett's eyes narrowed.

'Are we not going back to the assizes?'

'Not this time, sergeant,' James said, and turned away before Corbett could see the fear in his eyes.

James returned to Pastor Jones' cottage. He slept in the same armchair, disturbed by dreams of flying barrels and strange men. James woke with a stiff neck and aching back. He shaved in a bowl of cold water and brushed the creases from his uniform before walking down to the inn. Corbett had the men out and ready for him. In the pale light of a lantern James inspected them before saying,

'We came here to investigate the death of Pastor Jones. I have interviewed two men, and consulted with Sir Joshua Salisbury and the Bishop of Worcester. We now have to carry out our duty.'

Corbett had purchased rope from the innkeeper. James had already selected a good tree, an oak that stood just outside the village on the Bromyard road. He sent three men to ahead prepare the ropes and led the others to Thomas Brooke's house. Corbett banged on the door with the stock of his musket. Brooke appeared, half dressed with his hair tangled and eyes full of sleep. James had two men grab the labourer and tie his hands. Brooke's wife came to the door.

'Where are you taking him?' Her voice was shrill with fear, striking out into the twilight. The militiamen ignored her, tracing the narrow street to the cottage of Richard Cooper. A similar scene was enacted; Cooper came with barely any protest, he had no wife or family and so the cottage was left with its door open, as if the building was in shock at the treatment of its owner. The party marched through the village as dawn paled the horizon. At the oak tree the ropes were in place, looped over strong branches and noosed in readiness. Cooper and Brooke saw the ropes and knew what they meant. The two men began to protest, proclaiming their innocence, begging to be told of the charges brought against them.

'With the authority vested in me,' James talked over their panicked voices, 'I find you guilty of acts of murder and blasphemy. You will be hung by the neck until you are dead.'

It took five men to get the first noose over Brooke's head. He was hauled upwards, feet kicking and body twisting as the branch overhead creaked. James forced his eyes to remain on the hanging man; it took fifteen minutes for him die. By the end, only James was looking, his militiamen had turned away, facing outwards in a loose circle. Cooper was dragged forward next, his resistance had gone and it was as if he had already accepted his fate. A shout brought James' head round. A man dressed in the leather apron of a smith was running towards them. Two of the militiamen barred his way, muskets raised to reinforce their action. The smith retreated without another word, but the accusation in his eyes cut at James's soul as if it were a knife. James turned back to the tree to see Cooper weeping. James gave the signal and the oak protested again at the weight of another man was hung from its branches.

James waited until the sun had fully risen and he could be sure that Brooke and Cooper were dead before ordering his men to form up and march away from the village. There was none of the usual banter between the militiamen and James was glad of the silence. He looked down from the road towards the Teme, the sun showed the river as a silver ribbon threading through the drab winter landscape. James thought he could see the field where Pastor Jones had died and the strange marking on the ground. The secret of whatever had happened in that field was with Cooper and Brooke, and with Pastor Jones, wherever his body now lay.

Frost had formed on Chapter Meadows, across the Severn from Worcester Cathedral. James could see the sun sparkling on the grass like a thousand diamonds from the window of his lodgings. A trow made its way down the river, laden with goods bound for Bristol. James looked down at the recently delivered note in his hand. Sir Joshua Salisbury was returning to London and requested James' report to take with him. With a final look out of the window James walked to the secretaire that stood in one corner of the room. He sat, slipped a sheet of paper into position and stared at the blank page. He had barely slept in the two days since returning from the village. Each time he closed his eyes he saw the bodies of Brooke and Cooper swinging in the breeze, an image that would be with him for the rest of his days.

The chimes of a church bell brought him back to the present. James sighed, lifted his pen and dipped the nib into an inkwell. He hesitated; forming the words he would write in his mind, imagining Sir Joshua Salisbury reading them as he travelled south in the post coach. The nib descended and scratched a path across the surface of the paper.

I, James Milliner, Captain of Militia in the County of Worcestershire, do give oath, in the presence of Our Lord, this 17th day of November 1792, that the report I give is a true and honest one of Witchcraft in this County.

James paused in his writing to examine the words he had written. He felt his hand begin to shake and a droplet of ink fell from nib onto paper. He looked at the stain, and saw it not as ink but as a barrel, one without wings or sails, preparing to fly to some place unknown.

 [ Quill © 2007, Arianna Ciula ]

© 2007 Neil Carstairs

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