Tesla Powerwall2 – One Month On

Having the Powerwall installed has made two things very obvious. First, just how much solar energy is available even on a short sunny winter day. And second, how much of that goes to waste with just a solar PV array.

Chart 1 – Friday

The days are slowly, slowly getting longer, and just four weeks after solstice there is a noticeable difference in generation. Last Friday was a day of clear blue skies from dawn to dusk, my 3.8kW solar PV peaked at 2.5kW generation, and by the end of the day the Powerwall had reached 50% charge starting from empty.

Chart 1 Shows PV generation (yellow) starting about 8am. Soon after grid draw (white) drops to zero and stays there for the rest of the day. (How excellent is that?) While the sun shines the PV runs the house and also charges the Powerwall (green). When the sun sets the Powerwall runs the house for the rest of the day.

Chart 2

 

That’s not the end of it because a 50% charge is enough to (almost) run the house through the night until the morning. I say almost because you can see four little blips between about 2am and 6am where there is a very small draw from the grid. The Powerwall will be at a very low charge state by then and I’ve seen before how discharge appears to gracefully decline rather than just stop.

I’m still not sure what those 1kW spikes are at night. I suspect the chest freezer but am not sure how to prove it.

That 50% charge very nearly carried the house through a full 24 hours. Had the next day been a sunny one that would have carried on and we’d have as near as dammit been off-grid in January. This being winter in England there’s been nothing but grey skies, sleet and rain since then, with very little PV generation.

Even so, I’m impressed. 50% is not quite enough, but 60% should do it. Give it another few weeks and cold clear February skies, maybe a 60% charge, and we should be there. It’s going to happen and I now believe it will be much sooner in the year than I first expected. A 100% charge is some way off yet, but when that happens I am excited to see how the other gadget I had installed along with the Powerwall behaves.

Watch this space.

~

 

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 17 – A Spell Against Bez

Chapter 17 – A Spell Against BezCopyright David Bezzina, 2017

Asklepios was a fast learner. Fascinated by the shower and the toilet, even the glass in the windows, he clapped his hands with delight as Tim demonstrated the light switch, the kettle and the toaster. Then he begged to be allowed to make himself some more toast and marmalade.

It wasn’t long before he started to become a pest.

Asklepios leaned on the wall flicking the light switch on and off and on again.

‘Please stop doing that.’ Tim was trying to concentrate, trying to order his thoughts, prioritise tasks in what increasingly felt like a life that, while filled with wonders, was rapidly slipping out of control.

Asklepios bashfully strolled into the office, his hands clasped behind him. He wore a pair of Tim’s jeans and trainers, an old sweatshirt hung loose on his thin frame.

He walked behind the desk where Tim sat and peered through the window, cooing like a dove at every car and bus that drove past. Then he gave a choking cry, grabbed Tim and pulled him round. ‘How does he do that? Why does he not fall off?’

Tim watched the cyclist pedal down the street. ‘It just takes practice. Look, if you want to help, why don’t you feed my chickens?’

‘Of course, my pleasure. Where is your farm?’

‘On the roof.’

‘I– really?’

Tim showed the way and returned to his office.

#

Asklepios looked out over the roofscape and breathed the unfamiliar air filled with exotic fumes and strange sounds. The city was truly enormous. Despite his elevation he could see no end to it in any direction. To the south (he had always been good with directions, it felt like the south) the buildings rose in great, blocky towers of ten or even an astonishing fifteen stories.

Despite its size the city was remarkably free of the stenches and reeks of his homeland. Under the human aromas of food, garbage, smoke, and the acrid reek of their marvellous machines was a sharper, more natural tang. Overhead birds cried. Asklepios looked up at the circling white gulls and knew he must be near to the sea.

With a sudden, intense pang he ached for his simple, mud brick home, his dark eyed mischievous grandchildren, the comfortable complexity of family life. The sun held little warmth here, the air was cool and damp, very different from the dry, fresh heat he was used to. Yet despite these differences in the world and the marvels he had seen both inside and outside Tim’s home it was the cleanliness, the lack of familiar odours, that made him feel furthest from home.

Where am I, and when? Asklepios wondered with some anxiety. Will I ever see my family again?

The chickens were kept in a large cage of metal wire woven with marvellous regularity. They had plenty of grain and Asklepios realised this was simply make-work, Tim had wanted him out of the way. Very well, he accepted he was an unwanted nuisance causing his host considerable difficulty. Nevertheless, there were rules of hospitality and as a guest he would obey them.

He opened the cage, refreshed the water from a covered bucket and searched for eggs, finding only one. That wasn’t surprising, he thought, with only three hens and no cock. Tim might be keeping them for food but mostly likely they were for divination. It was a reassuring thought, his host was not so different after all and neither, perhaps, were the powers he controlled.

Tim had had explained how the lights, the jug that heated water, and the slotted box that toasted the bread worked. When Asklepios saw the plugs and sockets formed three connections he became excited. Tim opened up one of the plugs and showed him the three coloured wires.

Although there was much Asklepios had failed to grasp, it was clear the power was some form of life-energy. Red symbolising blood was balanced between the brown earth and the blue sky. Here once again was the indivisible three – simple yet powerful. Though why they considered the blue of the sky to be the neutral or passive phase was beyond him. Unlike the earth, where the dead were laid to rest, the sky was never still.

With the simple task he had been sent to do complete, Asklepios decided to stay on the roof a while longer. A good guest should always do more than he had been asked. This was an opportunity to contemplate the problem of the cats.

Animal banishments were simple things, used to protect the granaries from rats and mice and keep birds from new-sown fields. Asklepios had performed them many times. In the main cats were summoned rather than banished. For example the farmer’s protection against birds invoked Bez, the feline spirit, to drive off avian Masgatha.

A simple reversal of the ritual should be effective. Asklepios looked at the chickens and a smile broke out on his face. Everything he needed was here, he could perform the ritual right now.

Wind-blown dirt had collected in the lee of the low parapet. Asklepios scrapped up a handful, dampened it with water from the bucket and fashioned a pellet with a crude muzzle and ears at one end. He placed it to one side and went back into the chicken run.

Two of the birds backed away into the corner but the third, intent on its dust bath, had not noticed him. ‘Bird, lend me your spirit,’ Asklepios said and snatched the chicken up by the neck.

The startled bird frantically beat its wings. Asklepios pulled a handful of speckled feathers from its breast. ‘Bird, I hold your spirit.’

He released the chicken and it dropped to the ground and lay there with its wings spread.

Carefully keeping his fist bunched, Asklepios worked five feathers free of his grasp and pushed them into the mud pellet, four for legs and one for a tail.

‘You are Bez,’ he told the feather-legged effigy. ‘I made you and hold you here.’

The wind gusted. One of the unused feathers danced and waved half-free of his grip. Asklepios dexterously pushed it back into his fist with his thumb. The wind-flurries proved he had powerful Masgatha’s attention but she tested him. Letting her take a feather now would ruin the spell.

Asklepios cracked open his fist and worked the effigy of Bez down onto the feathers in his hand. All was prepared. He thrust his arm into the air.

‘Masgatha of the upper sky. Hear me and listen, I am speaking to you. Look down, see me in this high place of sacrifice. See what I have for you. See, it is your enemy, Bez, trapped here in my hand. Take him, I give him to you. If this pleases you grant be this boon: where his kind gather, throw them down in confusion.’

Asklepios drew back his arm and flung the cat effigy as hard as he could. With great satisfaction he saw it arc high through the air and impact on a chimney pot three houses down the street. Loose feathers swirled up and away. Higher and higher.

This was all excellent. The effigy of Bez was marooned high off the ground, carried by the bird’s spirit. Wherever the plague of cats was it would be defeated by something from the air. It would not be permanent for nothing ever was allowed to be. A few days, perhaps as much as a week, thus Masgatha would reward him for this small victory in her eternal war with Bez.

Almost as a reflex Asklepios analysed his actions, an act of self-criticism he had long ago learned was an essential part of his magic. That he now stood on the roof of a house in an unknown city told him he still had much to learn.

The simple ritual had worked well, his casting had clarity and purpose, a desire for something outside of himself. This was all good but it was also a mirror on his own past ambitions. He saw now how his earlier summonings had been selfish things to increase his prestige, a short-cut to knowledge he lacked the patience or resources to study for. The indivisible three he understood, and the five. Far more powerful and varied, seven was still not fully in his grasp. He had been a fool to attempt the eleventh way.

Yet the disaster of his attempt to bind ‘Eritstim’ was both blessing and curse. He laughed with embarrassment at his own ignorance and folly, thank the powers he had never succeeded in summoning a real djinn. He should be grateful to be alive, let alone find himself in a place where the opportunity to learn seemed boundless.

For despite all his mistakes, and although those summonings had not worked as he intended, they had still worked. In the last case it had worked magnificently and triumphantly for he had in effect summoned himself to another era of time. The thought made him weak at the knees. A small ember of pride flickered – he had created a new spell.

Or was he simply the latest foolish over-ambitious sorcerer to hurl himself across creation and vanish forever?

His old summoning ritual had worked each time, it was now just a question of refinement, of accuracy and focus. He could eliminate several factors: herb lore was common knowledge, the spoken words were from a universal compendium, goat’s blood was goat’s blood. What remained was the structure, the binding circle itself, the placement of the various items more than the items themselves. In many respects they were simply place-holders. His circles had not been perfect, the angles not aligned with precision. He felt it in his gut with absolute certainty – this was where he needed to improve. He had no idea how.

#

Down in the office Tim tried to prioritise. Life, the missing car, Foxy – it was impossible, Asklepios occupied his thoughts completely. Until Asklepios’ situation was resolved he wouldn’t be able to deal with anything else. They had to talk, they needed to plan. Tim headed to the roof. When he opened the door to the stairs Asklepios was right there. He held out and egg. ‘I found this.’

Tim took the egg. It was warm. ‘Where?’

Asklepios hesitated. Was this another test? His new friend was such a curious mixture of knowledge and innocence it was hard to tell. ‘Under a chicken.’

Tim left the egg in the kitchen and they returned to the office. ‘Asklepios, I have to get on with my life and so do you. What are we going to do?’

Asklepios’ face fell. ‘You want to send me away.’

‘Yes.’ Tim paced left and right. ‘No. Look, you’re a real person and so am I, but I belong here and you don’t. You summoned me while I slept and because you got my name wrong the circle was broken and you came back with me when I woke up.’

‘That is also how I see it.’

‘So, can’t you just do it again?’

Asklepios hung his head. ‘My friend, I cannot summon you because you are already here. I would summon someone else, and–’

‘That would just make things worse.’ Tim imagined the arrival of a second surprise guest. Keep that up and Brighton would be filled with an eclectic mix of time travellers. They’d fit right in.

‘I don’t know how to get you home, Asklepios.’

‘I know. And neither do I.’

Nothing had changed but things felt better for having admitted it. Dressed in modern clothes, Asklepios seemed no more unusual than any other visitor.

Asklepios smiled hopefully. ‘May I make some more toast?’

‘Go for it.’ Tim waved him away, anxious to get on with the things that needing doing. The problem of Asklepios’ future would have to wait. First thing, the broken door. Tim recalled an advert for a local handyman on the free street maps that came through his letterbox.

The smell of toast drifted in from the kitchen. Just as he found the map he remembered Mrs Woosencraft. Tim sat stunned. Guilt consumed him. How could he have been so thoughtless? Yesterday she had been in terrible pain with angina, today he hadn’t given her a thought. All the cakes she’d made him, the marmalade in which Asklepios took such delight, all her visits and small kindnesses over the past months. She had given him his first case and paid for it out of her pension. He had to visit her straight away.

Asklepios was in the kitchen with a half-eaten piece of toast in one hand. Two slices of bread sat ready in the toaster.

‘I’m going out,’ Tim told him. ‘Stay here. Don’t touch anything.’

Asklepios gave the toaster a disconsolate look.

‘All right, you can touch that.’

‘Thank you.’

Tim was already halfway towards the office door. ‘I won’t be long.’

He clattered down the stairs. The bottom door slammed. Asklepios stood alone in the silence. Whatever the matter was, Tim would no doubt explain on his return. Meanwhile he had little to do but wait.

Munching toast he wandered into the office. His eyes roved over the books on Tim’s desk. The diagrams and pictures were fascinating, clearly these were esoteric volumes but the words were incomprehensible. He touched his pendant half-decided to use the final charge to gain understanding of the written words. He would be patient and ask Tim to explain the books when he returned.

The smell of burning toast came from the kitchen. Asklepios dashed down the hallway and flipped up the lever. Two blackened slices emerged, smoking gently. Asklepios scrapped the charred surface and spread the toast thickly with marmalade. The jar was half empty, but there two more pots on the shelf. Unfortunately the bread was almost all gone.

Toast was nice enough, but as far as Asklepios was concerned it was simply an edible surface upon which to put marmalade. He reached a decision: as a guest it would be rude to consume all his host’s bread. Therefore he must sacrifice enjoyment of toast and restrict himself to marmalade. Impressed with the power of his own logic, Asklepios scooped a large spoonful of marmalade from the pot and lifted it to his mouth.

To be continued…

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 16 – Just an Accident

Chapter 16 – Just an Accident

There were two types of people – those who belonged in pet shops, and those who didn’t. Gabby looked at the pair of beautiful women walking towards her past the dog leads and bird feeders and instinctively knew these girls were not on the list.

In other circumstances she’d be quite interested in the spikey-haired brunette in the red leather dress, white boots and fishnets. Especially considering how she looked bending down beside the tank of Golden Orfe. But customers weren’t supposed to dabble their fingers in the water. She had a sign.

That wasn’t really the problem. The problem was the other woman because she freaked Gabby out. Her high-collared, sleeveless blue silk dress should not have gone with her sub-arctic complexion and platinum locks, yet it did. Her clothes, like her poise, had a below-zero, glacial self-possession. Like her complexion, her clothes were perfect. She was the one who did not belong in the shop, she should be in a palace, a temple. She was a goddess.

Gabby didn’t realise her mouth was hanging open until the woman put a finger under her jaw and lifted. Gabby’s teeth clicked together.

‘Hello. My name is Electra. She’s Imelda. We like your fishy little shop.’

Straightening up from the tank the brunette bared her teeth. ‘Love it.’

‘We’re looking for a man,’ Electra said, her eyes drawn towards two angelfish hovering face to face in the centre of their tank.

Freaked or not, Gabby still had a tongue in her head. ‘Me too.’

Electra stood very still. ‘Is that so?’

Gabby knew she’d a mistake but didn’t know what it was. ‘Or a woman.’

‘We’re looking for a woman as too.’

Imelda flipped the sign on the door to ‘Closed’ and slipped the bolt.

‘Hang on, you can’t do that.’ Gabby moved out from behind the counter.

Electra stepped into her way, her sudden smile filled with teeth as iridescent as mother-of-pearl. ‘She just did. Tell me about the man.’

‘What man?’

‘The one you’re looking for.’

‘There isn’t any man. I haven’t found him yet.’

Electra shook her head. ‘Don’t lie. We know he was here. And the woman. Tell us her name.’

The hell with personal space, Gabby wanted these two gone. ‘You’re right, we’re closed. Leave the shop please, right now.’

Imelda leaned back on the door. ‘We don’t do “please”.’

Gabby was scared now. They could have the shop as long as she could leave. She tried to push Electra out of the way but somehow her hands slid away and she stumbled into the hutches. Hamsters, guinea-pigs and rabbits scrambled in a whirl of thumping feet, scrabbling claws and leaping fur.

Somebody gripped her elbow: Imelda, the brunette. That close Gabby could smell the leather of her dress and something else, something sweet, yet old and rotten.

‘Mind your pretty, fluffy hair,’ Imelda said. ‘It might get torn out.’ The grip tightened. ‘Come over here, I’ve got something to show you.’

It was the tank of Golden Orfe, and it was empty.

‘What have you done? Where are they?’

Imelda let Gabby go, her grin even wider than Electra’s. Her tongue flicked over her teeth, worrying at something. Her fingers pinched it free, held it out to show Gabby.

A tail fin.

Outrage broke through Gabby’s fear. ‘You sick fuck.’

‘There’s no need for that.’ Electra was right behind her, body pressed against hers, hands on Gabby’s hips, mouth breathing in her ear. ‘We’ll pay.’

Gabby turned fast, broke free of Electra’s grip ‘Damned right you will. And I want her out of my shop right now.’ She kept the tremor in her body from her voice, she was proud of that.

Electra and Imelda exchanged a look, then Imelda unbolted the door and stood outside. Electra peeled notes off a roll, ‘Tell me, how much do I owe you?’

Good grief, Gabby thought, it’s not the money. Those poor fish, some people were just too weird to be real. What’s wrong with them? What makes someone come into a pet shop and eat the animals? Then Gabby saw the thickness of the roll of notes Electra was holding and the business-woman inside her elbowed her morals aside.

‘Two fifty.’ The poor little things were only a couple of quid each, but this was compensation.

Electra kept putting notes down on the counter. ‘Let’s make it three. I really am sorry about my friend. She’s going through a life-altering experience.’

Gabby considered the heap of notes and sighed. ‘You’re supposed to forgive other people’s sins.’

‘Are you?’ Electra held out her hand and smiled her wide and dazzling smile. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Gabby,’ Gabby said. She took Electra’s hand and was surprised at the strength of her grip.

‘Well, Gabby, I don’t think you’ve told me everything you know about that woman.’ And Electra began to squeeze.

#

Eventually the roaring red darkness lifted from Gabby’s mind. Whimpering with pain she cradled her hand and dragged herself along the floor until she reached the counter. Cold sweat bathed her scalp, her corona of lilac hair hung in rat’s tails. Her hand hurt so much, a ball of pure pain. She didn’t want to look but she had to see. She forced herself.

Dislocated knuckles jutted at grotesque angles, the back of her hand was a swollen purple bruise, the skin stretched tight it glistened.

An accident, she told herself, I can tell the hospital it was an accident. One of the hutches slipped, I tried to grab it and the whole stack fell. Just an accident.

It turned out that Electra already knew quite a lot about the man. She wasn’t really interested in him, she wanted to hear about the woman with the long golden-blonde hair. The more Gabby described her the more excited Electra became. Her questioning intensified. Gabby tried hard to remember but it took a long time before Electra was convinced she hadn’t seen which direction the woman turned when she ran off.

‘Next time it might be me, or it might be Imelda.’ Electra kissed Gabby’s tears. ‘She’s a proper little maiden of pain, that one. Shall I ask her to come in and you can ask her yourself? You can say, “Imelda, next time I want you to be the one to hurt me.” She’d like that.’

By then Gabby was beyond words. Curled up against the wall, all she could do was wail and shake her head.

Then Imelda did come back into the shop. She showed Gabby just what she would do, as the sad little red-streaked heaps of fur she left in the rabbit hutches made very clear.

To be continued…

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 15 – The First Time

Chapter 15 – the First TimeCopyright David Bezzina, 2017

‘There’s a man from Finland who owns at least eighteen cars,’ Persistent Smith informed his mother between mouthfuls of dry cereal.

‘Then he must be very rich, dear.’

Smith had little interest in money, no burning desire to have lots of it. Even so, when you worked, you got paid. It was the rule. When he did get paid he gave it all to his mother. He had little idea how much he actually had, more than a hundred, less than a million. A little bit was useful but he knew from past experience a pocket full of money was like having a voice whispering in your ear, endless, driving. ‘Spend me, spend me. I’m not doing any good down here in the dark.’

Violet Smith understood this very well. She took good care of her son’s money in the hope that eventually he would want to manage it for himself. There was no reason why he couldn’t, he liked numbers, enjoyed columns of figures, it was just that where money was concerned he didn’t see the point. She put it aside so that one day, if her son ever wanted to set up on his own he would have something, a start. One day.

Her plan worked partly because she never told him exactly how much he had. Violet was not a deceptive person, lying did not come easy and made her feel deeply uncomfortable. She had, however, learned to dissemble.

‘I think I’d like a car.’

Violet said nothing, although she had a clear idea about what was coming next.

‘Mummy?’ The word came drawn out.

‘Yes, dear?’

‘How much money do I have?’

‘Not enough to buy a car.’

‘How much more would I need?’

‘Oh, I don’t know. Anyway, you don’t know how to drive.’

That was a good point. Smith folded his arms and sat back. ‘Daddy could teach me.’

‘He’s too busy, dear.’

Smith frowned. ‘Where is he now?’

‘You know where he is. He’s working.’

‘When is he coming back?’

Violet kept her smile going. ‘Later, after supper time.’

‘I hardly ever see him.’

‘Finish your breakfast.’

Smith munched away at his dry cereal and washed it down with mouthfuls of orange juice. He would not see his father tonight but this time it would not be for the usual reason that daddy was too tired and just wanted to watch his stupid goggle box. This time it would be because he, Persistent Smith, wouldn’t be there. Smith thought about what he would need for the next part of his adventure, and as he did his eyes grew hooded and he smiled his secret smile. He pushed back the chair. ‘Finished.’

Violet heard him clump upstairs, go into the bathroom, wander round between the bedrooms, then thunder back down the stairs.

‘Going out,’ Smith announced to the empty hall and zipped up his fleece.

His mother hurried from the kitchen. ‘Where are you going?’

Smith looked up at the ceiling. ‘On a big adventure.’

‘Be careful, dear. Come back for tea.’

Smith opened the door, hesitated, turned back. ‘Mummy?’

‘Yes, dear?’ Reaching out, Violet tucked a curl of hair behind her son’s ear. For once he didn’t pull back.

‘Mummy,’ he said slowly. ‘I know I’m not like other people.’

Violet closed the zip on his fleece the final inch. ‘Oh, I don’t know. Normal people aren’t that normal half the time.’

After he’d gone, shutting the door too hard like he always did, Violet cleared away breakfast, made herself a cup of tea and took it into the front room.

The old, familiar worry rose up inside her – what would happen when she and Albert were gone? She resisted the urge to look through the window and down the street.

She knew he had to learn, knew his adventures were just little things, trips to the railway station and the museum, but there were so many things he didn’t notice, so many he did not understand.

This time, for this adventure, there was something Violet Smith herself would not notice for quite some time. As her son marched, skipped and occasionally hopped down the street with his water bottle in his hand, a notepad, pencil and sharpener in his right-hand fleece pocket and house keys in his left-hand trouser pocket, his other trouser pocket jingled with the loose change he had emptied out of his mother’s purse. And zipped snugly into his inside left breast pocket were clean socks, fresh underpants, and his toothbrush.

To be continued…

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 14 – Children

Chapter 14 – ChildrenThe Girl from a Thousand Fathoms. Cover art by David Bezzina (c) 2017

At the edge of a field in southern England two men of similar height and build stood chest-deep in a crop of white-flowered oil-seed rape. One was the slender fair-haired Finn called Markus Koponen.

Koponen wore his signature white Stetson and an open collar. Accompanying him was Palmer, his chief financial officer. As always Palmer was perfectly turned out in a dark pinstripe three-piece, a white Oxford-weave shirt and black brogues. Today he wore a saffron-yellow tie.

Koponen spoke excellent English with a soft Scandinavian lilt: ‘I appreciate we’re spending more than we earn and faster than we planned. The question is, how long can we keep going?’

Palmer quoted a date from his report.

Koponen did straightforward sums in his head. ‘That’s long enough.’

‘It could bankrupt you, Markus.’

‘Nearly, or actually?’

For Palmer numbers had texture, colour, and shape. It made him brilliant. ‘Nearly.’

Sisu,’ Koponen said quietly. ‘Whatever it takes.’

His phone rang. He looked down at the screen. ‘Dolores, my sweet.’

Koponen waited until Palmer had moved to a discrete distance away then said, ‘Tell me, how is everything going with the car?’ He listened attentively then said, ‘Speed things up please. Bring it to resolution– How? Use your own judgement.’ He listened again, when he replied his tone was gentle. ‘Yes, of course I will see you tonight.’

The sun shone from a cool blue sky, a warm southerly breeze blew, warmer than usual for this time of year. Warmer, at least, than had been usual when he was a child. Koponen was fifty-eight years old and knew there was still an enormous amount to do. Problems came from nowhere, there was never enough money and always, always delay. Some days he felt time slipping through his fingers like a fistful of sand. Days like today.

And yet there was hope, and there was always the plan.

‘I don’t have a family.’ Koponen spread his arms above the field of white flowers. ‘These are my children.’

To be continued…

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 13 – Toast

Chapter 13 – ToastCopyright David Bezzina, 2017

At first Tim did not want to touch Asklepios. For one thing, it wasn’t every day that you woke up and found someone from your dreams unconscious on the floor. For another it was pretty obvious where the smell of unwashed humanity came from. He opened the windows, he tried to think about what had happened but couldn’t get a grip on where to start.

To be pragmatic, Asklepios was in the way. Tim gingerly pushed his shoulder then shook him more and more vigorously until it was obvious the strange and smelly man was not simply asleep.

Finally he put his hands under Asklepios’ rancid armpits and dragged him onto the settee. Asklepios still did not wake.

Tim went into the bathroom and washed his hands. As he soaped and rinsed he thought what a shock it must for an imaginary person to be yanked out of a dream into reality.

He thought about that a bit more.

To be blunt, how the hell did that work? People in dreams were from the imagination, they weren’t real and they never, ever ended up on the office carpet. So, either Tim himself was still asleep or somehow he had gone mad.

Or – it hadn’t been a dream.

Tim went through the options. If he was still asleep then this was a particularly messed-up dream, but he would eventually wake up and everything would be OK.

If he was mad then Asklepios would turn out to be a sack of potatoes or the postman.

He hesitated over the third alternative. If it wasn’t a dream and he hadn’t suffered some sort of a breakdown then this was real. It was actually happening and he had to deal with it.

Deep inside he knew that this was the truth. A dream would have felt more convincing but less logical. Also, he didn’t feel mad (although some people said that was in fact the first sign). He turned that idea around – did the world make about as much sense as it ever did apart from the recent arrival of a golden turbaned, toga wearing stranger with chronic body-odour and crumbs in his beard?

Yes, it did. All he could do was to accept the facts and worry about the reasons later.

Tim’s head drooped. He jerked awake with a start, he really did not want to fall asleep on these books again. Somehow it had become very late, he was cold. He fetched a blanket and draped it over Asklepios, still deeply asleep on the old settee.

Dead on his feet. Tim went to his bedroom, wedged a chair under the door handle, dropped onto bed and fell asleep immediately. He woke in the middle of the night and crept back to his office in the dark, hoping Asklepios would be gone. The scrawny old man lay curled up on his side hugging his oversized gold turban like a teddy bear. He was snoring.

Tim went back to bed. An hour later he checked again. Asklepios was still there, still snoring, still smelly. He was there an hour after that too. When light from the rising sun began to brighten his bedroom he checked again. This time Asklepios was awake. He sat with his knees drawn up at one end of the settee, the blanket pulled up to his chin. He stared at Tim with round, fearful eyes. Then he hastily put on his turban, knelt on the carpet and bowed, touching his forehead to the floor. ‘Master,’ Asklepios croaked. ‘Master.’

‘Please don’t do that,’ Tim said. ‘I’m not your master.’

‘I am your servant.’ Asklepios rose to his feet and bowed. ‘Master.’

‘I’d be much happier if you called me Tim.’

Asklepios raised his eyes. ‘Tim is not your true name.’

‘Not my full name.’ Timothy Alan Wassiter, he couldn’t help thinking it. His parent’s lives had been conventional and unadventurous. They had worked, raised a son born late into their own lives, and now they had retired. For them excitement consisted of a weekend flutter at the local races and growing blue hydrangeas. Life was a kind of permanent late Sunday afternoon, whatever the day, time, or season.

They had been so pleased when Tim joined the police service after university, so very quietly disappointed when he had left. He knew there was nothing wrong with a life like theirs, it was what they had wanted and they had chosen it. He’d had to leave or he’d have stayed there forever. The police had been a mistake, a failure. At the time he thought that was what he’d wanted, he had been wrong.

‘And now I realise neither was Eritstim.’ Asklepios spoke with humble self-effacement.

‘No.’ Tim tried not to laugh, grateful for the interruption to his thoughts.

Asklepios gave a rueful smile. ‘You are right to mock me, I should have known better. You teach me much wisdom with few words. I now realise why my other summonings failed.’

Of course. The realisation thrilled through Tim. This was neither dream nor delusion. Asklepios was a true sorcerer and what had happened was real magic. It was exactly what he had wanted from life – mysterious wonderful adventure. He just hadn’t imagined it would be so – unwashed.

Tim grasped Asklepios’ hands. ‘And you, Asklepios. You are teaching me more than you can ever know.’

Once again Asklepios bowed. ‘You humble me, Master.’

‘I am praising you.’

Asklepios bowed lower.

Somehow it had all become very formal. Despite Asklepios’ absurdly large turban, filthy toga and dirty bare feet, his manner and speech contained a self-conscious dignity.

Tim released Asklepios’ hands. ‘I’m sorry you ended up here. I don’t know how it happened and I don’t know how to get you home. I’m as amazed as you are and I’ve a hundred questions’

‘Please, ask me.’

‘Where are you from?’

‘Marib, in Saba.’ It was a place Tim had never heard of and Asklepios was not surprised. ‘This is because I am from your future. I used my magic to contact great ones from the golden age.’ He gave a grimace half-way between smile and apology. ‘It worked.’

The future. Tim did his best to absorb the information. ‘What happened to – to everything? To civilisation, to science?’

‘The Golden Age ended in catastrophe. I do not know what this science is.’

‘Then how can we understand each other?’

‘I have a lesser Mare of Illumination bound to this bauble,’ Asklepios indicated his blue diamond pendant. ‘It brings me understanding.’

‘May I see it?’

Asklepios shook his head. ‘If I remove it, it will lose force. A single use remains.’

Tim saw the filigree mesh of the pendant was designed to hold seven diamonds in a half-moon curve but just one gem hung in the setting.

‘How does it work?’

‘You simply ask it for understanding. When I found it, it still held three gems. As I held it in my hand I wondered aloud – What do you do? A gem crumbled to dust, and I knew.’

‘Can you teach me how to make one?’

‘I am ashamed to say I do not know how. I found it in the tomb of a priest of an unknown God.’

Or a scientist, Tim thought. The last of her kind doing her best to preserve the knowledge of her doomed civilisation.

‘You must stay here, as my guest. As long as you like.’

‘You are most generous, but I would not wish to outstay my welcome. In truth, I would hope to return to my own land one day. My home, my family.’

Tim’s heart went out to the strange, polite old man. ‘That is all I meant. Stay just as long as it takes for us to work out how to send you home.’

‘Oh, Master, then I am happy to accept,’ Asklepios beamed, exposing a mouth of snaggled but healthy looking teeth. ‘And I shall remove your plague of cats, though I do not see much evidence of them today.’

‘It’s for a friend, she lives elsewhere.’

‘A woman, I understand.’ Asklepios tapped the side of his nose. ‘A lady friend of the female kind. I shall be extremely discreet.’

Asklepios looked so incongruous, so conspiratorial, so decidedly dodgy that Tim burst out laughing. After a moment Asklepios laughed too, a hesitant shoulder-shaking giggle that made his turban wobble.

‘Would you like some breakfast?’ Tim said.

‘I am famished.’

‘While I get it ready perhaps you would like to bathe.’

‘Oh no, that is–’ Asklepios caught the tension in Tim’s shoulders, ‘–an act of generosity I could not easily refuse.’

‘Master?’ Asklepios called over the sound of the shower a few minutes later. ‘EritsVeronica is not a true name either, is it?’

‘No, it isn’t,’ Tim called back from the kitchen.

The shower stopped. A minute later Asklepios stood in the kitchen doorway with a towel wrapped round his waist and another across his shoulders. His grey hair was clean, his beard combed, he smelled of lavender.

‘Master?’

Tim sighed patiently. ‘Yes, Asklepios?’

‘Neither is UmJohn.’

‘No, Asklepios. One more thing, I am not your master. We’re in this together, equal partners, so let’s do our best to understand each other and be friends.’

‘Thank you. I will not make these errors again.’ Asklepios clasped his hands together. ‘I would very much like us to become good friends.’

‘I am sure we shall.’ Tim handed him a slice of toast and marmalade. ‘Have some breakfast.’

Asklepios looked at the toast, sniffed, bit, then looked again in amazement. ‘What is this nectar of the Gods, this ambrosia?’

‘Mrs Woosencraft’s marmalade.’

From the look on Asklepios’ face Tim knew the older man would be his slave forever.

To be continued…

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 12 – Interesting

Chapter 12 – InterestingThe Girl from a Thousand Fathoms. Cover art by David Bezzina (c) 2017

Persistent Smith stood across the road from the home of Clive Barnett, treasurer and founder member of the Brighton and Hove branch of the Chrysler Owners Club. He had an appointment, he was three and a half minutes early.

As he stood waiting, Barnett’s front door opened and a small group of middle-aged men, their hands stuffed into the pockets of their khaki and camel-coloured coats, silently ambled away down the street. Pressure grew inside him, he forced himself to wait one more minute then crossed the road. His hand on the garden gate, Smith faltered, struggling with the need to solve the mystery of the car and the imminence of facing a stranger.

‘This is Good Adventure,’ he said out loud. ‘And adventures include Tough Stuff.’

‘We can do this,’ The Hand said.

Encouraged, Smith took a deep breath and pushed open the gate.

The front door had no bell, no knocker. Smith raised his fist ready to pound on the wood. Before he could, the door was opened by a short man with floppy black hair, a Roman nose, and thick glasses. An outsize brown-buttoned cardigan hung from his shoulders, tartan slippers were on his feet. Clive Barnett gazed frankly up at Smith through bottle-bottom lenses and spoke in a nasal twang. ‘Was that you shouting?’

Smith looked away. ‘Maybe.’

‘You’d better come in,’ Barnett said quietly.

Smith stepped into the hall. ‘I’m on a mystery car adventure.’

Barnett eased the door shut. ‘There’s not much happens round here and that’s how I like it.’

Smith looked round the living room with admiration. From the TV aligned in the corner to the perfectly positioned settee and the alphabetically arranged collection of videos and DVDs, it was superbly neat.

‘Sorry it’s a mess, we’ve just had our AGM. My wife is on a late shift.’

‘Your head looks like a number eight,’ Smith said.

‘My glasses make it look that way.’ Barnett spoke in quiet and even tones. ’I have an important eye defect. Less than 1% of the Caucasian European population who require optical correction has the same prescription as I.’

‘My eyes are perfect. And I’m quite tall.’

Barnett’s hands trembled half way to his ears. ‘Please don’t shout.’

Smith didn’t realise that he had. ‘Sorry,’ he whispered. ‘Sorry.’

‘It’s all right. Come upstairs.’

Barnett used the front bedroom as a study. Pictures of Chryslers in identical thin gold frames lined the magnolia walls at shoulder height. A row of mirror-bright hubcaps hung above them. An enormous chrome fender spanned the chimney breast.

Barnett touched one of the pictures. ‘This is mine. A 1959 New Yorker Deluxe Newport two-door convertible. I also have a 1964 300K hardtop, but it’s in storage. This summer I intend to start renovating it. As you can imagine I shall have plenty to keep me out of mischief.’ He looked away into the future and smiled to himself. ‘I estimate I will be seventy-one years old when I finish.’

Smith was barely listening, for on the table was a small stack of exercise books and a card index. One of the books was open. Between the neatly hand-ruled columns spanning the double page were row upon row of data: numbers, dates, countries and names.

‘This is interesting,’ Barnett said. ‘For the past three years and five months I’ve been cataloguing the ownership history of vintage Chryslers.’

Smith turned the pages, fascinated by the hand-written columns.

Clive Barnett gazed down at his work. ‘Once you start it’s hard to stop. I don’t like leaving things half finished. When it’s complete I might put it onto a computer but I don’t like them much because it’s annoying when they go wrong. Books don’t break down or catch colds.’

‘They can catch fire,’ Smith said.

‘451 degrees Fahrenheit,’ they said at the same time.

‘Do you have every single car?’

‘No.’ Barnett pushed his glasses up his nose. ‘So far I’ve completed Britain, Northern Europe and Scandinavia. The Mediterranean countries don’t have such good records, but ultimately I shall triumph. After that I’ll do Japan. I’m saving North America to last.’

Excitement coiled inside Smith. ‘Finland is in Scandinavia.’

‘Correct.’

‘What I want–’ Smith hesitated. Sometimes he found it very hard to say exactly what it was he wanted. Sometimes he said he wanted something he didn’t want at all, like an apple, and then he was stuck with it. ‘What I want is in Finland.’ Then he kicked himself, because it wasn’t in Finland, it was from Finland.

‘Model?’

‘Airflow Imperial Eight.’

Barnett extracted one of the exercise books from the stack and flipped it open. ‘Year?’

‘1934.’

‘Interesting choice.’ Barnett turned the pages of the book and ran his finger down the columns. ‘2,450 were built in 1934. According to my records at least thirty two are currently registered in Scandinavia. Six in Norway, eight in Sweden, over eighteen in Finland. Registration number?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Chassis number?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Engine number?’

Smith’s mouth sagged. ‘I don’t know.’

Barnett looked at Smith and blinked. ‘Interesting.’

Smith didn’t like not knowing, it made him feel useless. He already knew he was different, that was enough. ‘Ask me a question I know the answer to, or I’ll bash you flatter than a pancake.’

‘You couldn’t do that, it’s not possible. You’d need a road-roller or a giant duck-press.’

‘A– A what?’

‘A duck-press.’

‘And it’s for–?’ Smith couldn’t say it. Instead, he locked his thumbs together and flapped his fingers like wings.

‘Pressing ducks.’

‘That’s horrid.’

‘Horrid and interesting.’ Barnett blinked again. ‘Colour?’

‘The duck?’

‘The car.’

‘Black.’

‘As you recall, there are at least eighteen of this make and model in Finland. All are black.’

Smith’s face fell. ‘Eighteen.’

‘More than eighteen. There are definitely others.’

‘How many?’

‘That datum is not available.’

‘No!’ Smith cried in disappointment. And then the Hand was back, burrowing deep into his pocket wanting to help.

Barnett winced at Smith’s outburst. ‘Don’t give up too soon. Examine the facts as we know them.’ He put down the book and lay a ruler on the page alongside the column of current owners.

At first Smith was absorbed by Barnett’s near-perfect handwriting, the symmetry of his ‘O’s, the parallel uprights of his ‘H’s and perfectly horizontal cross-bars on his ‘T’s and ‘E’s. Then he read down the columns where the ruler lay and laughed.

‘You see what I mean,’ Barnett said.

The Hand leaped from Smith’s pocket. ‘Oh yes we do,’ it chirped. ‘We see what you mean.’

Barnett looked from Smith’s hand to the man himself and gave a curious little jerk of his head. Hair from his swept-over fringe flopped across his eye and he carefully patted it back in place. ‘I’m thirsty. Would you like some juice?’

The Hand dove back into its pocket and emerged with half a pack of chocolate cookies. ‘Swap?’

‘Let’s go downstairs.’

Down in the kitchen Barnett filled two tumblers with orange juice. Smith nodded in approval to see him leave a clear inch at the top.

Barnett drew Smith’s attention to a pair of photographs on the wall. One was a round-faced man prematurely bald, the other a young woman in college robes. ‘These are my children.’ Barnett appeared to glow. ‘My daughter has just graduated and my son is a mechanical engineer. He’s married and I’m going to become a grandfather.’

To Smith’s profound surprise he felt jealous. ‘Er, well done.’

‘Thank you. It is a source of great personal joy.’

The two men stood in silence and munched their cookies and drank juice. Barnett smacked his lips and placed the tumbler exactly in the centre of a coaster sporting a black and silver version of the Chrysler logo. Smith stacked his tumbler inside Barnett’s.

For a moment both men stared at their feet.

‘I think the set of all things not in a set excludes itself,’ Barnett said.

‘The 14:19 to Waterloo takes 1 hour 6 minutes. So does the 14:49. The 14:34 and the 15:04 take 1 hour 16 minutes,’ Smith replied.

‘Interesting.’

Barnett smiled at Smith, who found he didn’t mind the pressure of his gaze. ‘All the Chrysler Imperials in Finland are owned by one man.’

‘Interesting.’

‘Interesting.’

To be continued…

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 11 – The Djinn Eritstim

Chapter 11 – The Djinn EritstimCopyright David Bezzina, 2017

Tim raked the sand in the chicken run and gathered old grain, husks, droppings, feathers, straw and other detritus into a pile beside the door. Clustered in the opposite corner his three chickens huddled in consternation, unhappy with the interruption to their routine. Heads bobbing, each bird tried to hide behind the other two, resulting in a continual and futile gyration.

In short order he scooped the sweepings into a waste sack, changed the water, topped up the grain, and scattered a few lettuce leaves around. Lastly, he made an inspection of the whole structure, checking for broken wire, holes, and loose joints.

As he moved round the roof so did the chickens, keeping as far away from him as possible.

I know exactly how you feel, he thought watching the birds alternately huddle together and dash around in small circles. You just want to know what’s going on, and whether it was something you did that made everything change.

He had upset Foxy when all he had been trying to do was help. Right now there was nothing he could do except hope she would realise that, and give him a call. Even if she didn’t, he could still help her with her plague of cats. Yes, there were obstacles: he didn’t know where she lived and she wasn’t a client, but this was an opportunity to put theory into practice. He should be able to do something right here, inside his own office.

Over the years Tim had accumulated a sizeable collection of books on alternative beliefs, divination, magic and meditation. Brighton, with its strong new-age culture, was a perfect place for this with several specialist shops and a good second-hand market from disillusioned or impoverished past practitioners. He had restricted himself to the traditional and academic texts, unable to see the point in learning about fairies, mermaids and dragons, and other creatures that did not exist.

Carrying a selection of books to the desk, he leafed through them, looking for something to break a connection, make a sending, or cause a diversion. The first thing he found was a prayer from Haitian voodoo, an appeal to the Loa, the Mavoungou Mystères, asking them to find something better for an enemy to do. The prayer was subtle, sinister, and daunting. To use it he would need one of the chickens. Faced with that immediate prospect he realised he was not ready to take that step. The knife of his soul, to paraphrase one commentator on ancient rites, was not yet sharp. Neither, for that matter, were the ones in his kitchen. There had to be another way.

Soon books on Wicca, Futhark rune divination, lost secrets of Ogham and Wyrd, and the hermetic lore of the Kabala covered Tim’s desk. He set to work, browsing indexes, tagging pages. After a while he got up and fetched more books.

The number of tagged pages grew along with the notes he was making. Wearily Tim rubbed his eyes and stretched his back. This was not as easy as he had hoped. When he’d bought these books he’d been thinking about how to discover things, not about how to change them. The tomes on Mo and Sho Mo, I Ching, the Nordic runes and Tarot were about divination, not alteration. Some were lavishly illustrated with photographs, paintings and reproductions of medieval woodcuts, while others like the Haitian voodoo and Goidelic Wyrd were dense, archaic and poorly printed, and in the case of the Haitian book, contained large sections in nineteenth century colloquial French.

He went back for more books.

The shadows had moved across the room before Tim finally pushed the weighty tomes aside. His eyes swam, his head felt clogged. The more he read the more overwhelmed he felt by alternatives. In his mind the information had all started to blend together: The Pharaonic Book of the Dead with the Mayan winged serpents and Toltec jaguars; numerology with the Ptolemaic elements; modern Wicca with Ahura Mazda, Mithras, Confucianism and Tao.

He knew he was a dabbler, a dilettante and parvenu. Each one of these ways was worthy of a lifetime of study, not simply sets of instructions to cherry-pick favourite recipes from. They weren’t cookbooks, they were systems of belief and ways of life.

Slumped forwards in his chair Tim rested his arms on top of the books, his head on his arms. What did you think you were doing? You’ve got nowhere, you haven’t helped Foxy, you haven’t found out how to banish the cats.

He settled his head more comfortably and closed his eyes.

Outside a motorbike droned past. Tim slipped into a light doze. The sounds of traffic and pedestrians faded away along with the feel of the books beneath him, his sense of location, the very aura of the room.

I’m asleep, Tim realised. This is odd. I know I’m asleep, and I know that I know.

Still able to sense his own body, he could feel how it lay and that it was content, but he felt no connection to it. He was drifting.

I’ve become detached from my soma, my physical self, Tim thought. I can wake up if I want, or go to sleep properly. Or, because it feels nice and peaceful, stay like this.

Slowly he became aware of change, a difference in the quality of the light permeating his eyelids, the texture and taste of the air he breathed. A low, gentle murmur came to his ears, a shuffling, rustling noise like cloth moving, or people breathing. It was in no way disconcerting. Tim concentrated on the sounds, trying to work out exactly what they were. Calmly he realised it must be because there was someone else in the room. As if to confirm it, there came a scuffing noise of a heel or a bare foot on stone.

On stone?

Tim opened his eyes.

While he had slept someone had redecorated his room, removing all the furniture, replacing the walls and windows with featureless bare stone and lighting the room with smoky oil lamps and tapers that filled the air with a miasma of animal grease. The decorator was still there, a thin man of middling height with a crooked nose and a beard like a tangle of grey wires. Barefoot and wearing a dirty toga with an unravelling red hem and a comically outsize golden turban, he stood in front of Tim with arms upraised. A pendant of woven gold wire hung by a thong round his neck. Suspended in the gold sparkled a single blue diamond the size of a wren’s egg.

Behind him a dozen men and women occupied the rear half of the room. They must have been working hard because they were all asleep, lying on the packed dirt floor with their hands folded across their breasts, their feet towards Tim. The men wore simple breechclouts or sarongs, the women plain black ankle-length shifts that left their arms bare. Behind them stood a crude wooden door.

Belatedly, Tim realised that he was he was upright. Off balance, he staggered forwards.

‘Aieee!’ the turbaned man screeched. He raised his arms higher. ‘Hold! You are compelled. Not one step further.’

‘Ooh.’ The apparently sleeping crowd behind him, shifted uneasily.

‘I am Asklepios,’ the man declaimed in a surprisingly deep voice. ‘Opener of the dark doorway, seeker of truth, master of the indivisible three, five, and seven.’ He took a breath, ‘And also of the eleven.’

Slowly Tim became aware of the rancid odour of Asklepios and his cohorts. ‘What are you doing in my room?’

Confusion briefly clouded Asklepios’ brow. Glancing surreptitiously at a fragment of parchment concealed in his palm, he raised his arms again. ‘I am Asklepios, philosopher of the crystal spheres, adept of the Eleventh Circle of Light. Discarnate soul, I command thee pronounce your true name.’

‘Er… It’s Tim.’

‘Then know this, Eritstim, I have bound you to this place and to my will. You are my servant until your task is complete. Only then shall I grant you leave to depart.’

Looking down, Tim saw he was standing inside a circle gouged in the mud, the groove filled with an unpleasantly glistening dark stain he sincerely hoped was red wine. Small piles of wilting herbs lay outside the circle, interspersed with smouldering cones of incense.

‘This is a really odd dream,’ Tim said.

‘Aaah.’ The people lying on the floor were not as deeply asleep as Tim had thought. ‘We are the dreamers.’

Tim shook his head. ‘This is my dream.’

The room fell silent.

‘Asklepios,’ a worried voice hissed among the prone crowd. ‘Are you sure this is the right one?’

Tim reached across the circle and picked up some of the herbs, eliciting a soft wail of dismay from Asklepios.

‘Bay leaves and lavender. What are these for?’

Sweat broke out on Asklepios’ brow. ‘For protection and health, binding and summoning. Eritstim, I have passed your test of my knowledge. Now, heed the words of Asklepios, your master. I am Asklepios, traveller of the lands above and below. I have bound you once, bound you twice, bound you eleven times on pain of Hell’s freezing fire and the eternal darkness that lies between the spheres.’

That was pretty good, Tim thought. Despite his unprepossessing clothes and silly turban, Asklepios delivered his lines with verve and power. ‘I liked the way you said that. It was very convincing.’

‘Thank you,’ Asklepios’ chest swelled, a trickle of sweat gleamed on his temple. ‘You therefore acknowledge me as your master and I now bind you to utter only truths.’

‘Sure, why not. It doesn’t really matter, you’re all going to vanish when I wake up.’

‘Aiee.’ A distressing keening came from the women in the group.

‘Liar,’ Asklepios cried, waving his small piece of parchment. ‘Deceiver. I have followed the precepts. You are bound.’

‘Not at all. This is my dream and I’m imagining you all.’

‘Aieeee!’ Now the men joined in the wailing.

The parchment dropping from Asklepios’ trembling hand. ‘Liar.’

‘No. You see, I was reading about people like you and trying to see if there was anything useful you could do.’

‘And was there?’ Asklepios quavered.

‘Not really, no.’

A skinny man naked except for a breechclout scuttled forwards on all fours and prostrated himself in front of Tim. ‘Don’t unmake us, mighty one. Don’t undream us. Oh Lord, oh Master.’

It was the start of a rush. Moments later Asklepios was surrounded by men and women abasing themselves at Tim’s feet.

‘Save us from the unmaking.’

‘Don’t undream us, we implore thee.’

‘We are your servants.’

‘Mighty one, how may we serve you?’

Tim held up his hand. An expectant silence fell. ‘Well, there is one thing.’

‘Tell us, oh Master!’ the throng cried.

‘I have a plague of cats.’

Expectant faces looked up at Asklepios. A dozen trembling hands pushed him forwards.

‘He can do it. He really can.’

Asklepios clutched his beard. ‘Ah… I think I can do that.’ He thought for a moment. ‘Yes, I am sure I can.’

‘I’d really appreciate it.’

‘Aieee!’

Emboldened, Asklepios managed a sickly smile and patted a few heads. He raised his hands. ‘Now, go from this place, Eritstim. I dismiss thee. Begone and return, Eritstim. Get ye hence to whence ye came–’

‘That’s not really my name, you know,’ Tim said, and stepped out of the circle.

Asklepios stared at Tim’s foot and bleated in terror. He broke and ran but crowd the behind him broke first. Men and women surged screaming for the door. Behind them Asklepios clawed and fought to get past the skinny man. The man twisted free with extraordinary agility, picked up Asklepios and flung him bodily at Tim. ‘Take him,’ the man cried. ‘Take Asklepios.’

Asklepios crashed into Tim and the both fell back into the circle.

All the lamps went out.

Whatever it was that had been, it wasn’t there any more.

#

Tim woke at his desk, straightened up and looked around. The sun had set, the room was filled with cool evening light. The world appeared two-dimensional, nothing looked quite as real as it should. Gradually the impression faded.

Tim rubbed his face, cotton-headed from the intensity of the dream. The dream had felt so real. Asklepios’ screams still rang in his ears, the acrid reek of unwashed bodies filled his nostrils. The groggy feeling persisted, Tim gulped water from a glass. It was cold and refreshing but somehow didn’t dispel the smell of body odour. Tim turned on the desk light.

Tim started forwards with an involuntary cry of astonishment. A pair of dirty, bare feet protruded on the carpet beyond the desk. Still wearing his huge golden turban, Asklepios lay unconscious on the carpet.

To be continued…

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 10 – The Hand

Chapter 10 – The HandThe Girl from a Thousand Fathoms. Cover art by David Bezzina (c) 2017

Still wearing his blue fleece, Persistent Smith sprawled across the apple-green candlewick cover of his bed with a copy of the new railway timetable. It had been a long detour from the Bat and Ball to collect it from the London Road terminus but it had been worth it. He had also wanted to walk around in the fresh air and let the smells of beer and other people’s food get out of his clothes. He wrinkled his nose at the memory, glad that people could no longer smoke in pubs, then sniffed his sleeve. He could still smell beery cooking smells. The fleece would have to be washed.

The station concourse had been a challenge. The huge, enclosed space felt bigger than the outside, the air tinged with oil and electricity. The soft squeak of his trainers drew unwelcome glances from passengers, policemen and staff. Looming over it all, pulling at his eyes like a magnet on steel ball bearings, stood the departures and arrivals boards.

In situations like these the Hand was useless. Smith was on his own.

Chin on his chest and eyes averted from the boards, he hurried across the open concourse to the timetable racks. He knew if he looked up he’d be there all day. That would not be Good Looking. He had things to do.

Smith snatched a timetable and scurried away. Heels snapped staccato on the paving. There was laughter behind him. Someone must have told a joke.

He heard a soft knock and his bedroom door swung open. Short, thin and slightly stooped, Persistent Smith’s mother, Violet, stood there with a glass and plate.

‘Go away.’ Smith rolled over to face the wall and studied his timetable.

‘I’ve brought you some milk and biscuits, Derek,’ Violet put them down on his bedside table.

Smith rolled over and sat up. ‘Mummy,’ he said. ‘My clothes smell.’

‘Put them in the basket and I’ll wash them.’

‘I want to wear my fleece for breakfast.’

Violet Smith looked at her son with tired eyes. ‘Well then,’ she smiled brightly, ‘I’ll just have to wash it tonight, won’t I?’

‘Good.’ Smith returned to his timetable.

‘Say thank you, Derek.’ Violet said firmly.

Smith turned the pages faster and faster.

Violet’s tone grew harder. ‘Derek, I want you to say thank you. It’s Good Manners.’

‘Where’s Daddy?’

‘He’s not back from work yet.’

‘Will he read me a story?’

Violet’s shoulders drooped a fraction. ‘I expect he’ll be tired and will just want to watch telly.’

‘He used to read me stories.’

‘Well, you’re older now and can read yourself.’

‘He did all the voices better. I want you to tell him to come up.’

‘And I want you to say thank you for my milk and biscuits.’

Smith turned another page. ‘Thankyouverymuch.’

‘I’m going into garden. The nasturtiums have got black fly.’

Eyes fixed on the timetable charts, Smith waited until he heard his mother walk from the room. Then he put in his bookmark, got up and firmly shut the door.

Smith inspected his drink. The glass was the right one but as usual it was unsafe. Not daring to pick it up he slurped a mouthful of milk, lowering surface to a less dangerous level. He ate the biscuits quickly, one after the other, then drained the milk. Suddenly he felt bad, he had not been kind, he had been ungrateful. His mother had been kind and now she felt hurt. He wanted to say sorry but he didn’t want to go into the garden. He returned to the timetable.

There was something peaceful about the rows and columns of figures, diagrams, and network graphics, a calm pleasure in discerning the ebb and flow of arrivals and departures. The residual tension of the trip to the station, of knowing people were looking at you, faded. The Hand lapsed into nothing more than fingers, palm, and thumb.

There would be plenty of time to work the adventure of the missing car later. For now Smith took down the previous edition of the timetable from the shelf over his bed and opened both copies at page one.

Last year’s times were as they were, this years were thus and so. The reason they were different would become apparent. What was of equal importance was that the times in the book were the same as those on the announcement boards at the station. Even more satisfying was when the trains arrived at the same time too. Not all of them did that, but almost all. For those that did not there was a reason. On the days he spent on the platforms Smith corrected the times in his book. It was satisfying and it was excellent. A triumph of numbers, predictability and order. People in a sense were not involved and their absence was welcome.

To be continued…

 

Tesla Powerwall2 – The first few days

I’ve had a Solar PV array on the roof since around 2010. Earlier this month I had a Tesla Powerwall2 battery fitted. This is a 14kW battery that saves excess solar generation to run the house later in the day.

The first few days have been interesting.  Even this time of year it’s clear a sunny day is enough to charge it to about 30% (About 4.5 kW). You can see this from yesterday’s graph.

– White is mains power usage

– Yellow is Solar PV generation

– Green is Powerwall charge/discharge

The mains draw drops to zero as the Solar PV starts to generate and takes over powering the house. Excess solar generation now charges the Powerwall (the green under the line. Generation maxes at about 2.5 kW (on a 3.8 kW array).  I was surprised a December sun can do this.

Around 15:30 the sun goes and the Powerwall  then discharges to run the house until between 20:00 and 21:00 when it begins what looks like a graceful decline in output.
You can also see when we get home about 4pm and put the kettle on! Other spike are, I think, a mix of kettle, washing machine, and the fridge & freezer.

The result is that even in December the battery can lift self-powering from about 10% Solar only to 43% solar/battery combined. Sunny days only, however. Today with rain/cloud, and sun it will be less, but still something. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in the summer months and hoping we will go off-grid for long periods.

In other news, the installers did struggle with configuring the control unit – a separate unit to the battery that manages the power flow etc. This need a firmware upgrade to get it working, provided remotely by Tesla, and it then was clear that the WiFi module is faulty. At the moment it is directly connect via UTP to a Wifi network extender I happened to have spare. So it IS all working but I am waiting a replacement unit.

None of this is the fault of the installers, who have worked above and beyond, and I’m putting this down to being a very early adopter in the UK. So far I’m very happy and slightly obsessed with the whole thing.

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