Saturday 9 April 2016

In the Night, the Forest

I was lost in the forest at night, alone, and I called to my ghost; and at last, my ghost came to me.

I asked my ghost, “Why, when I was lost and I was calling, did you take so long to come? I have been wandering alone and blind through the dark, and I could have harmed this body beyond repair.”

And my ghost settled before me like mist on the ground, and reached out to touch me.

“I was gone far,” it said, “looking along the paths of the forest, and the things that dwell therein.”

“And what did you see?” I asked my ghost, and saw that it still hung away from me, as though reluctant to come home to my body.

“I saw pain and hunger,” the ghost said. “I felt death and the terror of many small scuttling things. And I saw on the fringes of the forest, villages; but the villages lay empty, burned by fire and disease until the living fled and the ghosts of the dead, unable to bear the loneliness, fled after them.”

“What else?” I asked, for I knew the ghost had more to tell; it was my ghost, and it had dwelt within me since the moment I was born.

“And I saw on this path, before us, five images in the shape of women; but women they were not.” The ghost paused, and I could feel it look away into the jungle with its eyeless eyes. “They had skulls for faces, and were clad in robes made of the night. And the first of them had a flame in her hand, for she was the spirit of passion and the heat of vengeance, and she would burn you to ashes if she found you; not because she would want to, but because it is her nature.”

“And the second?” asked I.

“As for the second,” my ghost said, “she carried a bowl in her hands, into which she wept ceaselessly from the empty sockets of her skull; for she is the spirit of grief and sorrow, and if she found you, she would cause you endless agony in the depths of your mind for the things that have gone, and the things that can never be.”

“What of the third?” I queried.

“The third holds in her hand a bag that is heavy with gold,” my ghost said, “and its neck is tied fast with leather thongs. You will struggle a lifetime to get those thongs open, and you will not manage it. And if you were to manage it, you would fall into the bag and be tied in with the gold and never be able to come out again, not if you lived a day longer than eternity.”

“The fourth,” I whispered, for I could see, advancing through the darkness, a flame that lit up shapes as of five women in robes made of night, advancing on naked feet along the path towards me. “What is the fourth like?”

“The fourth holds in her hand a weapon as sharp as shards of starlight, and as cold as the gulfs between the stars,” the ghost said. “You may take it in your hands, but it will cut you, and the longer you hold it the more you will be cut, until nothing remains.”

By now I could see the faces of the five women, and they gleamed bare-boned below the cowls of their night dark hoods. “The fifth!” I said. “Tell me of the fifth. Does she bear a box of forgiveness? A phial of hope?”

And the ghost laughed, for the first and the last time. “The fifth is the most terrible of all,” it said. “Rise and go forth now, for they are waiting for you, and wish you to choose the one you will.”

And I rose and walked towards them, and they stood and awaited me, silent, welcoming. And the first of them had a fire in her hands, and I passed her by. The second wept into her dreadful bowl, and I stepped past her, averting my face. The third held up her bags, jingling her coins, beckoning; and I closed my ears. The fourth held out her weapon for me to grasp, beautiful and sharp as starlight, and I took it not. And then before me stood the fifth, which my ghost had called the most terrible of all.

“So you have chosen to be my mate,” she whispered, in a voice like wind blowing over distant desert wastes. “Come, then, and see what fate I bear in my hands, for you.”

And I stepped closer to her, and she held up the thing she clutched in her hands; and then I knew what fate was to be mine.

In her hands, held up so I gazed full-faced into it, was a mirror; and in it I saw at last, the clear, unfading, utterly unforgiving, reflection of myself.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2016

Dirty Barry

Friday 8 April 2016


It is 1964, and Nazi Germany, having won the war eighteen years ago, dominates the world.

To be sure, the war isn’t quite over. Far to the east, the USSR may have been pushed back beyond the Urals, but partisans carry on a vicious guerrilla war and regularly raid and massacre German settler families. Train loads of corpses of German troops return stealthily in the dead of night, hidden from the eyes of the common citizenry. But for the average German, the war is long since won.

Berlin, reconstructed after the end of the war, is the greatest city in history. The immense domes and gates of Albert Speer’s architecture tower over the skyline, while the streets are crowded with tourists from Western Europe and Japan. All the other nations of Europe, barring neutral Switzerland, are ruled by German vassals. Germany’s post war victory seems complete.

The only competition for Germany from anywhere is the United States of America, which is covertly aiding the Soviet guerrillas and which, having nuked Japan into surrender in 1945, was forced to a reluctant peace the following year only when Hitler exploded a nuclear missile over New York City to prove that he could retaliate effectively.  But in 1964, the USA is looking for an opportunity to make peace with Germany, too.

It is April 1964, and it’s almost time for the greatest annual holiday, Adolf Hitler’s birthday on the 20th. The Führer of the Reich will be 75, and from all over the land, people are pouring in to celebrate the occasion. And as a further proof of how well things are going, an announcement is made that President Joseph Kennedy will be arriving in Berlin to meet the aging Hitler and sign an agreement solidifying the detente between the two remaining powers and an end to the Cold War between them.

By this time, the old order is passing. Though Hitler still lives, most of his cronies have disappeared from the scene. Hermann Göring, Reichsmarschall of the Luftwaffe, is long dead, and his name adorns Berlin’s main airport. Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer of the SS, the Gestapo, and the entire German security apparatus, was killed in a plane crash/explosion a couple of years before (which would have actually been a compelling story in itself). His erstwhile deputy, Reinhard Heydrich, is Reichsführer now, but all along the line the old thugs are being replaced by younger, smoother, well-educated Aryan supermen who dislike soiling their hands with blood.

German society is also changing. Though the Nazi Party’s hold is unchallenged, liberalism is sneaking in with long hair, jeans, pop music (a “group from Liverpool” has apparently held a concert recently in Hamburg); anti-Nazi graffiti tends to appear on walls, though how it does so given the overwhelming presence of the security state is an unexplained mystery. Uniforms are everywhere; every two bit organisation (even one of falconers, and another of German mothers) has its own uniform. And the educational system is geared towards making Hitler a demigod from the early school level, despite which the “Negroid” pop music and other liberal influences still have managed to take hold.

It is at this point that the corpse of a minor Nazi official is found washed up on the shore of a lake in a posh Berlin suburb, and Xavier March, investigator with the Criminal Police (Kriminalpolizei, or Kripo), is given charge of the case...

An interesting set-up, wouldn’t you think? Something that could be made into a really good examination of how things might have turned out?

So did I when I started reading Robert Harris’ Fatherland. And that’s why I am reviewing it at all – I only review books I really, really like or really, really dislike. I’ll leave you to guess which category this one falls into.

Before I go on further, let’s discuss the story in a little more detail.


Xavier March, the “hero” of the book, a former U Boat officer turned policeman, is increasingly embittered and disenchanted with his masters. His career has flatlined because he refuses to join the Nazi Party – apparently a prerequisite for promotion – contribute to Nazi fund raising drives, or even show sufficient enthusiasm for his son Pili’s activities in the junior wing of the Hitler Youth. He has even made the solecism of asking about the whereabouts of a Jewish family whose photograph he found; in the world of this book, the Jews of Europe have vanished, and nobody cares to ask where they went or what happened to them.

The mother of his son, March’s ex-wife, is seeing another man and resents her former partner’s right to spend any time with Pili at all. March lives in a cheerless flat, smokes compulsively (the book’s favourite line, endlessly repeated, seems to be “He lit another cigarette”) and is aware that he’s being watched by the Gestapo as a likely undesirable. That he holds the rank of Major (Sturmbannführer) in the SS is immaterial; all Kripo investigators are automatically given that rank as a matter of course.

When he’s called out in the early hours of the morning, by mistake – the duty officer has mixed up rosters and it’s his partner Jäger (or Jaeger) who was to have taken the call – March finds the obese, almost naked body of the dead man, who had apparently gone swimming, by the lakeside. The corpse was found by a young SS trainee called Jost who was out on his morning jog.

A clear open and shut case of drowning, one might have thought. However, if that were so, the book would have stopped right there, so of course it’s not a clear open and shut case of drowning.

March soon discovers that the dead body was of one Josef Buhler, formerly part of the Nazi government in the German colony of Poland, and that he was a recluse who lived in an opulent fortified residence on an island in the lake which is also inhabited by numerous other top Nazi officials. As soon as he’s identified the body, though, he’s ordered off the case by the Gestapo, which proclaims that it’s taking over the investigation.

Incredibly, this disaffected cop with so much on his mind does not give up the investigation, despite a clear order, and insists – knowing he is already under suspicion – on continuing the case by himself. One would have thought he was looking for a way to get himself into a concentration camp, something his son has already told him is likely to happen. He totally illegally breaks into Buhler’s residence, as illegally searches it, and discovers clues that the death was more suspicious than appeared at first sight; Buhler, a teetotaller, had apparently been drinking heavily, someone had clubbed his dog unconscious and left it confined in the kitchen, and his artificial foot – the legacy of a Russian guerrilla attack – is floating by the side of his private dock. While he’s looking at all this, the house is visited by three high ranking SS officers, one of whom is a general whom he recognises as Odilo Globocnik (“Globus”) – an Austrian SS thug who actually existed in real life, by the way.

Having managed to get away from Globus and the others, March visits Jost at the barracks, and accuses him of being a homosexual; his “evidence” is that Jost took far too long to run the three kilometres that he claimed to have run before discovering Buhler’s body, so there’s a gap of fifteen minutes which is unexplained unless the trainee had been secretly meeting a lover. It’s obvious to anyone who actually understands the metric system that this is only evidence that Robert Harris has no idea what a “kilometre” is or how long it might take to run one. In any case, Jost breaks down and admits that he actually saw Globus and his men planting Buhler’s corpse in the water. Shortly after this, Jost disappears, sent off to the Russian front by Globus to get rid of the witness.

Carrying on the investigation on his own bat, March discovers that Buhler was part of a four man group of ex-Nazi officials, all of whom retired, quite affluently, in the mid-1950s and of whom two others have recently met with sticky ends. The body of one of these, Stuckart, was discovered by an American journalist named Charlotte “Charlie” Maguire (who is, needless to say, brave, young, and beautiful; I will have something to say about this young, beautiful, brave American trope later on in this review) who was on her way to “interview” the dead man and arrived only just in time to see his killers leaving. Officially, however, Stuckart has committed suicide.

Meeting Maguire, March without any great difficulty “persuades” her to join in – again (illegally) breaking into the dead man’s flat, where they then recruit the services of a safecracker and March’s partner Jaeger to (illegally) crack the dead man’s safe, which for some reason the Gestapo investigators seem to have failed to discover. Astonishing how many things the Gestapo fails to find in the world of this book, just like how many illegal things March, who is aware that he’s already under suspicion, seems to do compulsively. They discover a key to a bank locker in Zurich, in the neutral state of Switzerland, but Jaeger and March are arrested by the Gestapo before they can escape. The Kripo chief, Arthur (or Artur) Nebe, Globus’ rival, gets them out of the SS’ clutches and gives March a 24 hour exit visa to go to Switzerland and find out what the locker contains. This locker is jointly owned by the four Nazi officials mentioned, of whom by now three are dead, one, Martin Luther, is missing and presumably on the run, and all of whom are implicated in an art theft racket dating back when they were members of the Nazi regime in Poland.

Maguire attaches herself to March for this trip to Zurich, initially strongly against his wishes, and they end up finally and very predictably sleeping together. The bank locker is empty except for a painting, but Martin Luther was there a few days earlier and presumably removed something.

To cut a long and rambling story short, it turns out that the four Nazis were part of a 14 man group which was invited to a conference in Wannsee in January 1942 – a conference which actually happened – at which the order was passed for the “Final Solution” (Endlösung) of the “Jewish Problem”. Actually, as any historian will tell you, the organised extermination of the Jews had begun directly after the invasion of the USSR in June 1941, but in the world of this book it all boiled down to this conference. Apparently, ever since the end of the war, these 14 officials are being killed one by one, in order to silence them; it seems that to Harris, killing 14 men is quite sufficient to make all the evidence of the organised mass murder of the Jews (the so-called “Holocaust”, a term I no longer use owing to its employment as a shield by the illegitimate Zionist colonial apartheid regime in Occupied Palestine) disappear. The commandants, guards and executioners at the camps, the drivers and staff of the trains carrying the Jews to the camps (Harris actually exhaustively discusses the railway timetables) don’t matter. The only thing that’s necessary is to kill these 14, and all evidence of the mass murder evaporates like the morning mist. And Globocnik, acting under the orders of Himmler’s successor Reinhard Heydrich, is determined to make that happen.

And why should the evidence be made to vanish anyway? Well, President Kennedy is coming to town, and if the news of the Jews’ fate got out, it seems that the entire detente and the end of the Cold War would be called off...

As an insurance against being made scapegoats for the massacre of the Jews, Luther and the other three had apparently got together a file of “evidence”, including such incontrovertible, unimpeachable proof as affidavits, rail timetables and a crudely drawn map of the long since destroyed camp at Auschwitz, and are planning to use this as a way to get themselves asylum in America. You know, the kind of evidence which will make or break history. March and Maguire plan to get this file to Switzerland and then to America, where it would be made public and blow the end of the Cold War apart.

I’d like to say that I won’t include spoilers, but ask yourself this: in a contest between the Evil Nazis and a young! brave!! beautiful!!! American!!!! heroine, exactly how likely is it that she will not win?


In the genre of Alternate History tales, the Nazi Germany Won WWII subtrope is probably the most dominant. I’ve read others of the genre, and the quality has varied wildly from the very, very bad, to the passable. But they all seem to have some features in common.

The first of those features seems to be a compulsory attempt to show that the regime is doomed as a direct consequence of the actions of the protagonists. Apparently, this enormously successful political movement and military machine, having destroyed all competition and assimilated most of Europe, is also so fragile that it can be brought down by the actions of a few people, among whom is a Compulsory Heroic American.

I’m serious. The inclusion of a heroic American, even in a story very much not written by an American, seems to be essential for this kind of tale. Len Deighton’s SS-GB, about a German-occupied Britain, had one; so did even the otherwise good science fiction story The Pacific Mystery by Stephen Baxter, which however played with the formula enough to make the American hero though young and brave, male and not particularly handsome, and also had the temerity to make him fail at his appointed task (though it ends up making no difference either way to the plot). But that’s a major subversion. The typical American in these Nazi-fighting books is almost always a dashing young beauty who is incredibly adept at all she does (Maguire has lightning fast reflexes, can fight off a Gestapo assassin, is an expert at disguising herself with make-up, and has dissimulation skills at the equivalent of a trained propagandist), and will let nothing come in her way.

In fact so annoying is this character type, and so prevalent, that I have pretty much made up my mind to write my own Alternate History Nazi story which will not only not exclude any such woman, but will have no room for any American citizen whatsoever.

The second is the conceit that there’s always one nation which stands against Nazi domination of the world, and that nation is always America. For instance, here in this book, as I said, it’s the remarkable idea that America will instantly rise up in anger at the idea of a detente with Nazi Germany if only it finds out what really happened to the Jews that’s at the core of the plot, the driving force.

More than anything else, it’s this which in my mind is the book’s biggest failure. If there’s anything at all we know about the United States of America – more properly called the Imperialist States of Amerikastan – it’s that it’s more than happy, nay, ecstatic, to ally with criminal genocidal regimes as long as the end results benefit Wall Street. Nothing, but nothing, comes in the way of Wall Street profit, and as for the Jews, one ought to recall that Amerikastan turned back Jewish refugees from Europe in the 1930s, and that when the Red Army actually liberated Auschwitz in January 1945 and revealed its horrors to the world, the Western part of the Allies at first treated the news as “Russian propaganda”.

Of course, in reality, nothing as unimportant as the mass murder of Jews – already finished decades ago in the world of this book – would influence an American detente with Germany where trade and profits were at stake. Since there would not be any so-called state of “Israel” (as the Zionist colonial racist settler project in Occupied Palestine is known) that would not be in the calculations at all. Even today, keeping the American people supporting “Israel” requires an enormous, and increasingly ineffective, amount of money and effort. It’s beyond laughable that they would turn away with revulsion from Nazi Germany if they knew the Jews were dead, when they hadn’t when said Nazi Germany reduced most of Europe to vassal status and was fighting an endless genocidal imperialistic war in the East.

It’s more than obvious that these Nazi Alternate History books are written for the American market, and to please America. There’s absolutely never an evil American character in these books; they’re all good people. Even here, there is an embassy staffer who turns out to be a good guy despite spending half the book under suspicion of collaboration with the Germans. In this case it’s especially glaring because the edition I read (thankfully a copy borrowed from the library, which means none of my money went to pay for it) was an American edition. Each time I read a book that was translated from English to Americanish, I want to ask why the reverse process never seems to occur. Why do British publishers, when they republish American books, never seem to want to translate them into English?

It’s not just the language; even the dates are flipped around into Americanish from the normal (and European) day/month/year configuration, and American “units” of measurement are painfully jacked in wherever the book can manage it. That’s in addition to the fact, as I said, that the author himself apparently has little understanding of the metric system.

Normally, I’d have not bothered reviewing this book, relegating it to the trash file. But what made it unforgivable was the author’s setting up this wonderful backdrop, and then screwing it up so totally.

Can you imagine what he might have done with the following plot line, for instance?

As the 75th birthday of Adolf Hitler approaches, with the Führer becoming increasingly infirm in health, it’s obvious that he isn’t much longer for this world. The struggle for succession, in abeyance for years, heats up again. Then, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, one of the top men in the regime and the presumptive heir, is killed in a mysterious plane crash. Who did it? Communist guerrillas? Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, still officially a member of the Nazi inner circle though insignificant for years? Field Marshal Rommel, the increasingly marginalised head of the Army? Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Gestapo chief and Reinhard Heydrich’s second in command (and an even more ruthless and brutal character than Heydrich himself)? Martin Bormann, Hitler’s secretary and the de facto dictator of Germany, desperate to preserve his own power by eliminating all rivals?

Xavier March, an investigator with the Kripo, is called in by the chief of police, Arthur Nebe – acting under direct orders of Hitler – and given the job of investigating. Armed with little more than his own intelligence and a letter from Hitler himself demanding that the bearer be given full assistance, he goes to work...

No American characters. No irrelevant ultra-accomplished heroines. Just a detective story, which, as it goes, explores the world of a Nazi-run Germany.

How easily this book could have been that book, and how unforgivable that it was not.

Note: There is, it seems, a film of this book, starring Rutger Hauer as Xavier March. I can wait to watch it...I can wait forever.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Fairly Useless Fact You Probably Should Know

Something you might not be aware of:

Brown Asian children just love being hunted by drones. It's like hide and seek to them, and they laugh with delight when a Hellfire missile misses them and blows up some other kid.

Then they go home to their mosques and learn to Hate You.

This means you should not feel any sorrow for brown Asian children being blown up by drones, or any anger at the person in charge of blowing up those children. Don't forget, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize!

In other words, this picture is partly a lie. They may die, but they totally enjoy dying!

Wednesday 6 April 2016


Shimar the thief crouched over the sack of gold, running his hands through it over and over. In his eyes was a look of ecstasy.

Shimar had been waiting for this moment for a long time. He’d planned and schemed, and worked hard, and at last, here was his reward.

Of course, it was only just beginning. Shimar hadn’t spent a year of his life for one miserable sack of gold. He wanted more, much more. And he would have it.

Behind him, lying against the far wall of the cavern, the wizard Kaklash lay silent. The wizard had long since given up struggling against the chains of sarabandium with which he’d been bound tight, and merely lay glaring at the thief across the cave’s cluttered expanse.

Shimar did not waste any time gloating. There was work to be done.


Shimar had first heard of the wizard a year and a half ago when he’d come to the village in the valley. He’d then not intended to stay for longer than a night, not even to steal anything. The village was so small and wretched there was obviously nothing in it worth stealing, and Shimar did not waste his time on trifles.

He’d been fleeing the capital, had been running for days, and at last had thought it safe to stop and rest for a night. He was used to fleeing when necessary, and had developed a keen sense of being able to tell when he was no longer pursued. Back in the capital they would still be hunting for him, and searching high and low in the villages and towns north of the Great River. But they would not come this far south.

Shimar had been tired, footsore, disappointed and deeply frustrated. The theft he’d planned in the capital should have gone off perfectly, what with all the planning and preparation he’d put into it. And it had been worth all the trouble and expense, if only it had come off – and it very nearly had.

He’d waited for months, hanging around the royal treasury each day selling fried snacks in the street, watching the guards come and go and little by little had got to know some of them. He’d learnt their names, something about their families, and enough to find out their guard schedules, what the inside of the treasury was like, where the keys were kept, and more. Even then he’d waited, knowing that he must not hurry, aware that the opportunity would come.

It had come during the king’s son’s marriage, when the city had been busy with festivities, and the need for security for all the venues and the guests, not to mention the newlyweds, had been so great that even the treasury guards had been withdrawn, except for a skeleton force, for duty elsewhere. This had been done in great secrecy, the guards coming to the treasury as usual before changing their uniforms and sneaking out through a hidden rear entrance so that to anyone watching it would look as though the treasury was as well guarded as ever. But Shimar had been listening as well as watching, so he knew.

That evening, while fireworks had burst over the royal palace, Shimar had pushed his cart into an alley where he had long since known it would not be disturbed. He’d then slipped into the dark overalls he’d hidden under the snacks, the ones with large pockets sewn into the folds, and gone to the rear entrance which he’d known would be unattended because the few guards remaining were all placed out front where they could be seen. The entrance had been locked, but that was nothing to a thief of Shimar’s capabilities; and with only a little fiddling, the lock had fallen open, defeated.

Though, of course, he’d never been inside the treasury before, Shimar had listened to the guards long enough over the months to have worked out a rough plan in his mind, and he unerringly slipped along the passages, and down dark stairways, until at last, deep underground, he came to the room where the keys were kept. This was, of course, guarded, but tonight there was only one sentry on duty, and he was seated comfortably sucking on a water pipe with his spear held negligently across his knees. Although he disliked violence and tried to avoid it at most times, this was an occasion when it was necessary, and Shimar had come equipped with a short dagger.

A little while later, the last of the locks of the main strongroom of the treasury had given way, and Shimar walked unhindered into the vaults where the kingdom’s gold was stored, watched over only by guttering torches set into holders on the walls.

And it was just as he’d stood, looking around with wonder at the heaped caskets filled with coins and jewels, that he heard the commotion behind him, as of a crowd advancing down the passage...

Luck had so long smiled on the thief, had eased his path so completely, that he later berated himself bitterly for not anticipating that she’d turn against him all of a sudden. Instead of stuffing his pockets with the choicest, most expensive of the riches on display and then making a leisurely getaway, he’d had to rush back down the passage, his dagger thrust out before him, thrusting and stabbing; even so, he had been certain that he was about to be cut to pieces. Luck, however, having foiled all his efforts, had decided to aid him again, and the suddenness of his assault had sufficiently cleared the way so that he’d managed to escape, though with a mob in pursuit. He’d even had to abandon his cart in his flight, and he’d been running ever since.

Months later he’d finally pieced together, from scraps of overheard conversations, what had happened to so thoroughly ruin his plans. It was absurdly simple; the prince, besotted with his new wife, had offered her the choicest of the jewels in the royal treasury, whichever her heart wanted. It wouldn’t, of course, do to wait till morning; the newly married couple, along with their friends, had at once gone to the treasury, arriving just at the right moment to foil Shimar’s plans.

At least, the thief had thought with a grimace, he’d ruined their wedding for them.

Shimar hadn’t, of course, been caught totally unprepared; an experienced thief is always ready to run at a moment’s notice. He’d had a bag of copper coins at his belt, and a different set of clothes under the black overalls, so he’d been able to escape without great trouble once he’d thrown off the mob. But he’d been running ever since, and when he reached the village the bag of coins was more than half empty.

Still, he’d been planning to move on, after a night’s rest in the village inn, a good meal, and a glass of wine. But it had been while he was sitting against the back wall of the main hall of the inn, quaffing down that wine, that a hush had suddenly fallen over the clientele.

“There he goes again,” someone had said, glancing towards the large window giving out on the street and away again, quickly.

“I saw lights and smoke coming from the cliff last night,” another man replied. “It was going on all night.”

“Each time I see him,” a third man said, “he seems to get more frightening.”

The innkeeper’s red faced daughter, who had been making the rounds with a tray of drinks, had set it down sharply on a table. “I won’t have any dangerous talk here,” she’d snapped. “If you want to talk about him, go outside and natter all you want. But I won’t let you risk his anger falling on the inn.”

Everyone had fallen silent quickly, but their eyes had kept wandering towards the door. Then it had opened and a boy whom the thief had recognised as the innkeeper’s son had come in. He’d been hanging around earlier in the evening, but had slipped out as soon as it had looked like there would be work to be done.

“Has he gone?” his sister, the red-faced young woman, had demanded, her need for the information greater than her desire to chastise the boy. At the boy’s nod, everyone had suddenly relaxed, and the murmur of conversation had started up again.

Shimar had slipped out soon afterwards and gone around the streets of the little village, keeping his ears wide open. Everywhere there seemed to be a sense of slowly dissipating tension, as though a great danger had passed. He’d heard murmurs and whispers, and among them a name repeated in various tones, but always with fear: Kaklash.

He’d seen the innkeeper’s son, out again, presumably to try and avoid the cleaning up at the day’s end. He’d caught up to him in a few long steps. “Hello there,” he’d said. “You look like you could do with a coin or two.”

The innkeeper’s son had proved to be as greedy as he was lazy, as Shimar had expected. “Yes,” he’d said. “You have coins? Give me some.”

“In a moment.” Shimar had glanced around quickly to make sure they weren’t overheard. “Who is Kaklash, and why is everyone so terrified of him?” Seeing the boy hesitate, he’d jingled the bag of coins at his waist. “Well?”

So the innkeeper’s son had told him.


Early the next morning, when the sun was still crawling up past the horizon, Shimar the thief had turned up at the foot of the cliffs and started making his way up to the wizard’s cave.

He had known where it was from quite far away; as he’d walked up the mountain path from the village, he’d seen green and yellow lights sparkle and flicker up among the cliffs, just as the boy had told him. Green and yellow meant the wizard was probably in a good mood, the boy had said, and most likely would not strike out with his magic at some innocent in frustration. If it were red and white, though, nobody ever stirred outside their houses until the lights had changed back again.

“So what was he doing in the village, your Kaklash?” Shimar had asked, holding a coin enticingly above the boy’s open palm, where two already resided.

“He comes sometimes, to buy things he needs,” the boy had said.

“He does?” Shimar had cocked his head to one side, considering the statement. “What does he pay with?”

“With gold,” the boy had whispered, his eyes glittering with cupidity. “But nobody knows where the gold comes from. The coins are strange.”

Shimar had been tempted to ask more, but the boy’s greed had plainly been giving way to fear, and he had no wish to draw suspicion towards himself, so having dropped the third of the coins on to the grubby palm, he’d sent the scoundrel on his way.

Now, pausing on the steep mountain path, he’d looked up at the cave.

It was as though a giant had struck the earth with a titanic axe, cutting a gash in the cliff so deep that it might extend to the bowels of the earth. According to the innkeeper’s son, in fact, the cave hadn’t existed before; the magician had created it himself, when he’d needed a place to stay, and no villager had ever dared approach the cliffs again.

Be that as it may, the wizard had not neglected to provide an easy enough pathway up to the cave entrance, and soon enough the thief was standing in the dawn sunlight outside the gash in the rock, calling out.

“I am Shimar,” he’d said, “and I wish to speak to Kaklash the sorcerer.”

For a long moment there had been no response, and then the darkness at the cave’s entrance had been parted exactly like as though a curtain had been drawn aside, and Kaklash had come out.

Shimar never forgot that moment. The magician was so tall that his head seemed to scrape the top of the cave entrance, and as broad as two strong men. His arms and legs were pillars of bone and muscle, his head a boulder balanced on the platform of his shoulders. His beard, flecked with gold and silver, swept down over the wall of his chest. In one huge hand he carried a gnarled, knob headed staff of grey wood. Little sparks danced around the knob, appearing and vanishing.

He advanced a slow few steps and stood glaring down at the scrawny thief. His brow was a shelf of bone, under which his eyes blazed like red stars. “Well,” he said at last. “Here I am, Kaklash the sorcerer. And what do you want with me?”

Shimar’s legs had twitched with fear, but he’d stood his ground. “I want to take service with you, and be your apprentice.”

He’d expected Kaklash to laugh. But the wizard had merely stared down at him, brow furrowed in thought. “And what makes you imagine that I want to take on an apprentice?”

“You live alone,” Shimar had pointed out. “You have to take care of your own needs, and besides, go down to the village when you want to purchase the things you require; this takes time you must take away from your spells and studies. I can do all that for you, and more, and all I ask in return is that you take me on as a pupil.”

Then Kaklash had laughed, but it was not an unkind or jeering laugh. “You have a lot to learn,” he’d said. “But at least you aren’t too terrified to come to me, and you have the courage to look me in the face. Besides, it would be convenient to be able to concentrate on my work without the distraction of trivialities like those you mentioned.”

So Shimar the thief had taken up apprenticeship with Kaklash the sorcerer, and he had been worked hard, harder even than he’d expected. The magician had had an inexhaustible list of things to do, and by the time each night he fell on to the pallet of straw that was all he’d been given for a bed, he was so tired that his limbs ached with more weariness than he’d ever felt before. But his mind was always active, and he made sure to stay awake long enough to go over what he’d been able to observe and learn during the day.

He’d long since realised that Kaklash had no intention of teaching him anything, at least not for months or even years to come. But he also knew that this was the opportunity he’d been waiting for, that the treasures he could have stolen from the treasury were as nothing to those he might be able to access now. And since he’d never have fled to this village if his theft had gone off successfully, he decided that luck had been on his side after all.

As the days and weeks turned to months, Shimar kept his eyes and ears open, watching the magician while cleaning and cooking, mending and fetching. He had long ago trained his senses to retain all scraps of information that might be useful in any way, and soon he’d built up a good idea of the spells the magician used, and how he could turn them to his purpose. But still, as before with the treasury, he bided his time, waiting.

The key to the wizard’s power, he’d realised long ago, was the great gnarled staff of wood around whose knobbed end the sparks flew. It served him the purpose of a wand, and a key to power, and a talisman to keep at bay the monstrous entities he sometimes summoned at the dead of night when he thought Shimar to be sleeping; creatures with voices such that the thief, who lay still with his eyes closed, was profoundly grateful that he never had to see. He needed to get hold of that staff. The wizard never let it out of touching range, but someday he must grow careless, if only for a moment. It would be just that moment that Shimar needed.

It was a year before the moment came. Last night, the monsters Kaklash had summoned had sounded unusually demanding, their voices even uglier than usual, and the wizard had shouted back at them, till the cave had rung with his imprecations. The magician had been irritable all morning, and he’d set a great cauldron at the cave mouth into which he’d thrown certain powders and liquids whose nature Shimar had never found out. Red and white flames had gone shooting out, blocking the cave mouth and turning the inside into flickering shades of blood and snow. Muttering angrily, the wizard, apparently forgetting his apprentice’ existence, had stumped off to sit on a bench by the far wall. He’d dropped his staff on the cave floor as he’d gone.

Shimar had pounced on it almost before it had hit the ground.

As his hands had closed on it, he’d almost cried out aloud. The staff hadn’t felt like dry wood in his hands; it was hot, and had twitched and writhed as though alive. But, as so many times before in his career, he’d kept his head, having planned out well in advance what he had to do.

He pointed the staff at the magician, and recited words he’d learnt over the months of eavesdropping, in a language without a name. “Be bound,” he’d commanded at the end.

It had worked better that he’d thought possible. The staff had crackled and spit out sparks, but chains of sarabandium had appeared out of the air, twining like snakes around the wizard’s body before he’d managed to get to his feet. As he’d fallen to the ground, more chains had appeared, until he was trussed up so tightly that he could no longer move at all, and could barely breathe.

Shimar had not wasted time on him. Raising the staff again, he’d repeated words he’d heard the wizard utter when he’d brought forth the strange, misshapen gold coins with which he paid for the things he’d bought. “Bring me gold,” he’d said at the end.

And the sack of gold had appeared, exactly as he’d known it would.

Shimar grinned, running his fingers through the coins over and over again. This was power, he thought. This was what he’d been waiting for, all his life. What use were a few baubles from the treasury? With the staff which lay by his side, still crackling and hissing, he could buy the treasury, and the crown, and the kingdom if he wanted to. Who would ever dare to refuse?

He’d stay in this cave, he thought, and make it his home. He’d use his new found power, learn to control it, and do anything with it he wanted. He could, after all, do anything at all.

But first, he thought, more gold. He’d been starved so long, for so many years, that he wanted a surfeit of gold. More gold than he’d seen piled in the royal treasury. Much, much more gold.

Picking up the staff, he stepped back and uttered the words again. More gold appeared. He looked at it, laughed exultantly, and ordered more gold. Still more came, and more after that. Entranced at the play of the red and white light on the glittering yellow metal, he summoned still more. Soon it reached nearly to the roof, and spilled over so far he had to step back even further.

Something nudged at the back of his legs. He turned and saw that he’d backed right to the trussed up magician, who was struggling hard once again.

“Want to get at me, don’t you?” Shimar laughed. “I’d almost forgotten about you. Might as well get rid of you right now, and have done with it.” Pointing the staff at the magician, he uttered words that he’d heard before, and committed to memory. “Burn to ashes,” he concluded.

Nothing happened.

Shimar frowned and shook the staff again. “Burn!” he demanded. “Burn to ashes right now!”

Still nothing happened. The staff did not writhe. The sparks didn’t whirl in and out of existence. Shimar looked down at it in puzzlement. There seemed to be something different about the cave, too. Something about the light...

He blinked in astonishment as he realised what it was. The light in the cave was merely red and white now. The golden glow had disappeared.

He turned quickly. The enormous pile of gold had dwindled to a tiny heap. Even as he watched, that, too, shrank, until only one solitary coin lay on the floor. And then that, too, winked out.

Something moved behind Shimar, slow, heavy, and determined. The thief didn’t wait to hear the click of sarabandium chains falling on stone to throw down the staff and try to run.

The red and white flames blocked the cave mouth. He never made it.


The wizard Kaklash drew the pentagrams on the floor, whistling.

He felt far, far more cheerful than he’d felt in a long time, more cheerful than he’d ever expected to feel again. He’d been working long and hard, for many years, to gain the ability to summon the demons of the Ninth Circle, and only last night had he finally reached the point of success. And then, when he had tried to summon the demons – creatures so dangerous that even his great abilities had been stretched to the limit to keep them at bay – they had refused to manifest fully unless he offered them something in return, something it was not in his power to give.

Or hadn’t been in his power to give, until only a short while before.

Humming to himself, he looked at his staff, where it lay next to the wall, recharging its powers from the spring of magic at the heart of the mountain. It had been over a year since he’d charged it last, something he’d been planning to do and been putting off constantly, until it had almost been drained of power. There had still been enough left for a week or two, but the thief had emptied it.

Well, it was almost filled with power again, and it would not be long now.

Something moved in the back of the cave, exactly as though a scrawny body wriggled fruitlessly against the ropes – thick, perfectly regular ropes – which bound it tight. The wizard didn’t even glance at it. He went over and felt the staff. Raw power hummed and throbbed inside.

It was ready.

Picking it up, he walked over to the pentagrams. Raising the staff high, he began the incantations. Sparks flowed and flickered, merging into a glow that filled the cave.

Wriggling futilely on his pallet, Shimar the thief tried to shut his eyes to the voices that began to sound in the stillness. He had squeezed his eyes so tightly shut that he felt as though they had been pressed into the backs of their sockets, but he knew that was not enough. Nothing would be enough.

All these months, he’d been happy that he’d not had to lay eyes on the creatures the wizard summoned in the night. Tonight, he knew, he no longer had that option.

Tonight, they would leave him no option but to look.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2016

[Image Source]

Tuesday 5 April 2016

The Great Big ISIS Movie Extravaganza Part XXX

Copyright B Purkayastha 2016 

United Against Terror

I would love the Hindunazis to answer the question of why their deity Modi is sucking up to the centre of Wahhabi Islamic terrorism in the world, since he's supposed to be so anti-Islamic terror.

Sunday 3 April 2016

Human, Too

I am a human too.

I killed my mother, my father says.
Lying abed, without a doctor anywhere near, she died
Two days after giving birth to me.

That kind of thing, you know, happens every day
When you live in a village in the forest
And the nearest hospital is
Far, far away.

Where was my father then?
Gathering tendu leaves for the contractor
For so much a bundle, because without them
He and his wife would not eat that night.

That sort of thing, you know, happens every day
When you live in a village in the forest
And the labour laws
Are far, far away.

I grew up without knowing how to read and write
Without shoes on my feet
And I never knew if I would have something to eat

But that, you know, is as it is
When you live in the village in the forest
And the nearest school
Is far, far away.

My father died and he left me in debt
And the money lender said
His kindness would open for me
As wide as I opened my legs.

The politician came, and he made a nice speech
Surrounded by men with guns
Things would go well, he said
Roads and power, schools and jobs

All would be ours, and more besides
If we only voted the right way.
The elections came – and we never saw him again
Not once to this day.

I had a fiancé, he was my love
And we had planned a life together
Far away from this place
Far away from disgrace
And we would be happy.

The miners came, they came dressed in suits and ties
And they said our land would be theirs
If we gave it to them, they might pay something.
If we did not, we would pay everything,
They said, and went away.

The police came, they came with their guns
And they said the men were Maoists, took them away
A trigger squeezed in a field
Blood and death in a field

And my love was gone, my dreams were done
Burned away like mists in the morning sun
By the squeeze of a finger.

But things like that, you know, happen every day
In the villages of the forest
Where the law is a weapon to fear, and rights
Are all far, far away.

The death squads came, they came in dead of night
They burned the roofs above our heads
It was a Maoist base they destroyed, they said
And they would take us to camps, far from our lands
Far from our lives, far, far away.

The Maoists came, as they said they’d come
And they did not point guns at anyone
They told us instead
That the future they offered was red

Victory would not come today
They said, victory was far away
But ever step was one step closer, they said

And they told me

I am a human too,
I am a human too.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2016

Word Of The Day No. 10



Definition: Shorthand for “someplace we know nothing about and couldn’t find on a map to save our lives, but reflexively hate because our Zionist-controlled media tells us to.”

Etymology: From the name of a large West Asian nation, endlessly repeated with attached threats and invective.

Synonyms: Evil, enemy, terrorist, Ayatollah, mullah, nuclear.

Example: “Iran is so evil that it deliberately moved its island into the path of our naval boats in order to have an excuse to capture them!”