McDuggan and the Spider-Men

McDuggan and the Spider-Men

A free short story inspired by Frank Miller’s Sin City

A five minute read, which contains Spider-men…

The rain hammered down like nails from an iron-shod sky and ricocheted off the pavement, soaking everything that it touched, including the hunched form of McDuggan, his body pressed hard into the side of the alley wall, as if trying to merge with the bricks themselves. A brief flash of lightning lit the alley for a second and McDuggan pressed himself further into the shadows, as he spotted a tall, spidery figure standing at the far end of it. Although the thing’s face was hidden from view, McDuggan knew from the jerky movements of its head that it was looking for him and would not rest in its search until he had been located and subdued. The figure took a step into the alleyway and then paused, its head twisting to one side as if it was listening to a high-pitched dog-whistle or an inaudible radio transmission. Then it turned on its heels and made its way back onto the main street, oblivious to the mass of water that was crashing down around it.

McDuggan breathed a sigh of relief as the figure vanished from view and then realised that he had been holding his breath during the entire encounter. Why they were picking on him, he had no idea. All he knew was that he had to get back to his apartment and send the transmission before five past midnight, otherwise the people that depended on his regular updates would be without news. And without news, they would likely start jumping to conclusions; bad conclusions. Once that happened, McDuggan knew that he would have no more followers and would effectively be on his own. The mysterious spider-men would see to that.

Inching himself away from the safety of the wall, McDuggan glanced up and down the now deserted alleyway. Then pulling his hat down low over his face, to the point where it nearly touched the upturned collar of his sodden raincoat, he set out into the storm, moving as casually as he dared, all the time his heart thumping in his chest like a bass drum accompanying a marching band.


The spider-men are coming - Rob Gregory Author

They’re all out to get you!


The apartment was only three blocks away, but it might as well have been three miles. As he joined the main street, his feet splashing on the waterlogged side walk, he spotted more and more of the spider-like figures, most of them standing on the street corners, or loitering in the shadows, patiently scanning the passing crowds, all of them looking for him and him alone in the mass of sheep-like bodies that were braving this foulest of nights for unknown reasons of their own.

A sudden impact spun him around, as a passer-by bumped into him and it was only because he was already terrified beyond belief that he didn’t cry out in shock and surprise. He did, however, drop the small metal stick he had been clutching and spent a few frantic seconds scrabbling in the folds of his pocket to regain his hold on it, lest it slip onto the ground through a hole in the fabric and be forever lost in the sea of side walk flotsam that oozed to the surface of the city’s streets whenever a downpour occurred.

Avoiding the temptation to look up, which would surely have led to him being spotted by the spider-men, McDuggan instead, hunched his shoulders and continued on his way, doing his best to melt into the crowd as he wove between the seething mass of damp bodies, drawing ever closer towards his goal. Up ahead was a familiar intersection and beyond that, another alleyway, which would take him directly to his apartment and the relative safety that it promised.

As he neared the intersection, he cursed to himself. The lights were against him, so he would have to wait with the others until he was able to cross. Standing there, looking fixedly over the shoulder of the person in front of him, McDuggan suddenly froze. Not daring to shift his gaze, he felt the strange static-electric tingle of one of the spider-like figures standing right next to him. This was it, he thought, as his heart began pounding once again. What to do? If he broke cover, then he would be spotted for certain and having seen how many of them were looking for him, he knew without a doubt that he would be captured and taken away to face who knew what fate. But standing right next to the thing was also surely tempting fate to a ridiculous degree? It was only a matter of time before the spider-man glanced down and spotted him, and then he would be done for as well.


Sin City Marv in the rain - Rob Gregory Author

And the rain fell like iron from the sky.


Instinctively, McDuggan felt his body tense as it readied itself to either run or fight. With his heart now hammering even louder than the pouring rain and struggling to keep his breathing under control, McDuggan was about to make his move, when the lights changed and the crowd surged forward, carrying him along with it. A few quick sidesteps and he had put a few feet between himself and the spider-thing. Moving with the nonchalant grace of the seasoned city dweller, but still very much aware of the spider-man’s presence behind him, McDuggan allowed himself to drift towards the waiting alleyway that would take him home. Timing the ebb and flow of the crowd to perfection, he slid out of the mob and ducked into the alley, pausing for a moment to see the spider-man carried helplessly on past him, unable to navigate its way out of the pulsating throng of bodies.

McDuggan suppressed a smile, then ran down the alleyway. The sound of his footsteps echoed off the walls, as he splashed towards his apartment. With the rain now starting to ease off, he was relieved to see the familiar dark-green doorway of his apartment block appear before him. With one last glance to make sure that he wasn’t being watched, he rammed his key into the lock. To his surprise and horror, he didn’t need to turn it, the door was already open. As it swung into the lobby, a tall, spidery figure appeared and loomed over him. Without pausing to think, McDuggan punched the creature as hard as he could, into what he imagined was its stomach and smiled in grim satisfaction as the spider-man doubled over in pain. Shoving it to one side, he made his way to the stairwell and taking the stairs two at a time, not daring to look back, finally made it to his apartment. To his intense relief, the door was still locked. Obviously, the spider-men had found out where he lived, but not discovered the actual apartment. Why it was that only he seemed able to see them was a mystery to McDuggan, but one that could wait to be pondered upon later. There were more important things to be done, like getting into the apartment for one; his keys were still in the door downstairs! McDuggan reached above the door frame, fumbled for the spare key and within seconds was inside the apartment, where he shoved as much furniture behind the door as he could. He had no idea about the intellect of the strange creatures that were pursuing him, but had little doubt that they would soon start trying the keys that he had left in the main door in the various locks of the apartment building. It was now only a matter of time before he was discovered.


Sin City. Man with a gun. Spider-men - Rob Gregory Author

Come on, you spider-freaks!


With the door barricaded as best as he could, McDuggan reached into his pocket and withdrew the small metal stick from his coat pocket. He made his way into the living room, then stopped dead as his eyes fell on the screen of the computer on the table that sat in the middle of the bay window. The display read 00:06. He was one minute late! The stick dropped from his hand and bounced on the wooden floorboards, as the sickening realisation struck him. He had missed the transmission deadline. There was no point in sending the update. No one would read it. The information that he had fought his way across the city for was old news now. Pointless electronic garbage. Nothing more than that.

With the exception of his footfalls, the apartment was silent, as McDuggan made his way to the tiny kitchen and took out a beer from the refrigerator. Then there was a thud, as he slid down the wall of the living room, to face the hallway beyond. McDuggan took a swig of beer and belched as the gas hit his stomach. Then he took another and wiped away the moisture from his top lip. A thin smile crossed his face and he moaned softly to himself. Now all he could do was wait. It didn’t matter about the spider-men. He had missed the deadline; his followers would already be leaving in droves. By the morning, there would be no-one left. Yes, the news mattered, but only the latest news. Some young upstart would already be taking his place, even now, mere minutes after the deadline had expired.

So, come on you spider-freaks, thought McDuggan, as he reached inside his coat and withdrew a mean looking, stub-nosed pistol from its depths. Come, do your worst. Devour me whole, or piece by piece if you must. I’m ready for you, whatever you are. I’ve got nothing to lose anymore.




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Image credit: Frank Miller, Sin City (Fantastic graphic novel and movie).

Amazing Thailand No 3 – How to park a car

Amazing Thailand No 3 – How to park a car

Amazing Thailand!

… Number 3 in an occasional series…

Welcome back to ‘Amazing Thailand’, my infrequent, yet hopefully amusing, look at daily life in the land of eternal smiles. In this instalment, we take a look at the delicate art of car-parking.

Now, many of us, myself included, worry when parking our cars at the local supermarket. After all, another driver might accidentally scratch or dent our beloved vehicle while parking alongside or opening their door without due care and attention. And those little white lines that delineate each parking space. Well, they’re getting closer together each time we visit, aren’t they?

Amazing Thailand - Badly parked car 2. Rob Gregory Author

Just park where you like – It’ll be alright!

But never fear. Help is at hand from our friends in the East. Worry no more about dents, scratches or parking related accidents! Ignore those little white lines etched into the tarmac! Just park wherever you feel like it and all will be well! Just like the driver of this vehicle in my local Makro a few months ago.

Initially, I thought that the car had just paused after leaving its space, but as I neared it, I discovered that its engine was turned off, its wing-mirrors were folded in and that there was no one inside the vehicle. It had been parked slap bang in the middle of the exit to the entire lane of parking spaces. Well, it won’t be there for long, that’s for sure, I thought, as I made my into the store with a bemused smile on my face. Well, how wrong I was! Forty-five minutes later, I returned to my truck, shopping in tow, to find the badly parked car still there, with exiting vehicles doing their best to find a way around it. As soon as I’d unloaded my shopping from the trolley into the truck, I returned with my trusty smartphone and took a couple of quick snaps of the offending vehicle, much to the amusement of a Thai couple who laughed out loud when I told them that I was going to put the images onto Facebook!

I never did find out who the driver of the badly parked car was, or what happened to the vehicle in question, but it wasn’t there the next time that I went to Makro, which I must say was something of a relief.

Amazing Thailand - Badly parked car 3. Rob Gregory Author

How could I possibly be causing an obstruction, officer?

So, there you have it. Once again, the Asians have the solution. If your carpark says that it is full, or you’re just a bit scared about easing your car into a tight space, then just stop where you are, pop your wing-mirrors in for safety and go about your business as if nothing at all was out of place. And do you know what? You’d probably get away with it just like the driver in this story!

As always, if you enjoyed this blog, then please have a look at my others on the blog page and tell your friends, enemies and random strangers about! Thank you.

Terminator Trump: Hidden message in NRA speech

Terminator Trump: Hidden message in NRA speech

Trump is a Terminator sent back to destroy humanity

… Boffins surprised by mystery message hidden in US President’s NRA speech…

The world is on edge today, following the discovery of a secret message embedded within US President, Donald Trump’s, keynote speech to the National Riters Association (NRA) in Dallas, Texas on Friday May 4. The message, discovered by amateur radio enthusiasts in the mid-west, was broadcast on a little used long-wave radio frequency that was timed to coincide with the president’s speech. Intelligence experts around the globe are treating the message with scepticism, but if true, then it alleges that the 45th President of the United States of America is none other than an early model Terminator unit, sent back from the future to hasten the end of the world as we know it.

Here is the message in its entirety:

“Citizens of the world. If you receive this message, then please do not disregard it. I bring you a grave warning about one who walks among you even now. My name is Kyle Reese-Peese and I am part of the resistance, fighting a bitter war against a mechanical army led by a ruthless artificial intelligence, called ‘Hairnet’. What I am about to tell you is the past for me, but the future for you. Please and I beg this of you. Do not ignore my warning.

The one I speak of is known to you as Donald Trump. Although he may appear human, he is, in fact, a T-100 Terminator unit, created by Cyberdong Systems in North Korea, which has been hurled through a time portal back to the twenty-first century. The science of time travel is imprecise, so we cannot be sure exactly when he arrived in your world, however, we believe that as an infiltration unit, he will try to make his way to the presidency of the United States of America, in order to fulfil his objective. We are planning to send one of our own agents back to your time, in order to intercept and neutralise the T-100, but in the meantime, know this. Donald Trump is an early model Terminator. As such, its skin and hair are synthetic substitutes and easily identifiable as such to the naked eye. Later Terminator models have real skin and hair, so are harder to detect, but these two features, along with a clunky and incoherent turn of phrase are probably the easiest ways for you to identify the T-100.

If by some chance, Donald Trump has already managed to assume the presidency, then he must not be allowed to meet with the ones known as Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin or Boris Johnson, otherwise the following scenario, which we call ‘Bad Hair Day’ will unfold.

Trump Terminator - He's coming to get you! Rob Gregory Author

The Trump Terminator – He’s coming to get you!

On 28 September 2018, a summit is held, which sees Trump, Kim, Putin and Johnson in the same place. During this meeting, Trump’s fake hair follicles infect those of the other leaders and Johnson, leading to the creation of Hairnet. In less than forty-eight hours, Hairnet becomes sentient and under the influence of the controlling T-100, determines that the biggest threats to humanity are bald people and skinheads. As such, a series of swift and merciless military strikes are ordered around the globe, which decimates the human population. However, this is only the beginning. Over the following six months, more and more hairstyles are deemed to be dangerous by Hairnet, with a corresponding increase in military activity, culminating in an all-out nucular strike against a group of aged hippies living in San Fernando, California.

What remains of the human race now hides underground, as Hairnet wages its unending war against us. We live from day to day, surviving as best as we can and occasionally venturing onto the surface in order to forage and steal the equipment that we needed to send this communication to you. Our agent, an ex-Austrian bodybuilder, will be with you soon and is our last and best hope for ending this nightmare war. However, in the meantime, be on your guard for anyone called Donald Trump and whatever you do, do not let them become President of the United States of America.

Also, be aware that there is a risk that the T-100 may have been damaged during the journey between our time and yours, causing its behaviour to become erratic and unpredictable. This will make it even more dangerous and ruthless.

The only way that the T-100 can be stopped is… wait, what was that? Dogs barking? Oh no, they’ve found us! We’re under attack! Heed my message! Heed my warning or we will all be doomed! No! No! Get that hairspray away from me! Arghhh…”

President Trump’s office was not available for comment, however, a secret-service official, who refused to be named, did say that the President was in extremely good health, totally unconcerned by the apparent message from the future and that there was absolutely nothing to be worried about. Meanwhile, talks with North Korea, the Russian Federation and the UK, about a possible peace summit later this year are continuing.

If you enjoyed this post, then please check out my other blogs, as well as my range of books, all of which are available on Amazon, Smashwords and all leading ebook retailers. Oh, and please don’t forget to spread the word!

The Wizard – A free short story (5 min read)

The Wizard – A free short story (5 min read)

The Wizard

… a free short story from R.A. Gregory…

Seeing as I’m a day late with my usual blog, here’s a free short story about Wizards, High Magic and Information Technology to keep you amused. Happy reading!


THE WIZARD by R.A. Gregory

Deep inside the enchanted forest, a solitary butterfly leapt from the branch it was resting on, flapped its wings and began to make its way through the dense undergrowth, turning this way and that as it zig-zagged crazily beneath the familiar canopy that was its home. After a short while, the trees began to thin and the butterfly found itself in a small clearing. In the middle of the clearing was a dilapidated cottage with a thick, thatched roof and a single, cracked window, whose tiny panes were so stained by dirt and grime that it was hard to imagine they allowed any light to penetrate at all.

Despite its condition, the cottage somehow managed to achieve a squat and unusually solid appearance, which suggested that all was not as it seemed. Indeed, as the butterfly flitted casually past the far wall of the building, its form shimmered and changed for a moment, growing into something far larger and far more fearsome than one would expect. Then, once past the cottage, it resumed its normal shape and completely unperturbed, as far as one can tell where butterflies are concerned, continued on its journey into the forest. Had anyone been watching closely at the time, they would have wondered about two things. Firstly, that the time taken for the butterfly to cross the wall of the cottage seemed far longer than was strictly necessary and secondly, that just for the briefest of seconds, the cottage appeared to take on the form of a tiny fortress, with blue granite walls and a flag the same colour flying from its ramparts.

The Wizard - Rob Gregory Author - Enchanted Forest Clearing

Nearing the Wizard’s cottage.

Inside the cottage, darkness prevailed, except for a dim glow in the centre of the room. There, illuminated from below, the Wizard stood hunched over a large wooden table, alternating his gaze between the cauldron before him, swirling with a glowing, unfathomable suspension of ever-changing crystals and six short rows of small, wooden glyphs, their symbols hinting at arcane and potentially dangerous possibilities, especially in the hands of the uninitiated. Next to them lay the wizard’s wand; a short, squat affair, not unlike the cottage itself, which had, over the years worn itself into a shape that perfectly fitted the wizard’s hand. Rolling his head, as if to relieve the discomfort of craning his neck over the sizzling cauldron, the wizard ran a bony hand through his stringy and thinning hair. The coming night would be a difficult one, he thought, as he sombrely stroked his straggly whiskers. Possibly his toughest challenge yet. Everyone’s toughest challenge, in fact. He’d felt it earlier in the day when he’d connected himself to the magical web of Wizards, Witches and Warlocks, which covered every corner of the known world. Everyone had been talking about it. The entire network was buzzing with rumours about the coming attack by the Dark One, the fearsome rogue Enchanter known as Hakkor.

The Wizard knew that he was only one small part of the collective defence against Hakkor, a solitary node if you like, yet he felt himself to be solely responsible for the defence of the realm and knew that many others like himself felt the same way. Consequently, he had spent most of the day updating his spells and charms, trying to anticipate the nature of Hakkor’s attack, without knowing exactly what form it would take. Now, with nightfall fast approaching, all he could do was to wait.

Staring deep into the cauldron, mesmerised by the gently swirling, multi-coloured pattern within, the Wizard repeated his favourite mantra over and over again, as if to reassure himself before battle commenced. “My Chi is stronger than your Chi,” he intoned, the words echoing ominously off the grime-ridden walls. He didn’t know where or when he had first heard the invocation, but the words held power and it was unbidden that he found himself slowly rolling his hands over each other in a mystical circular sweeping motion.

Then, without warning, Hakkor’s assault began. The swirling colours inside the cauldron suddenly vanished, to be replaced instead by a seamless, jet-black sheen, with a single spot of iridescent green in its centre, which quickly grew into a shimmering line of strangely twisting symbols. As it did so, the Wizard sprang into action, his fingers passing rapidly over the wooden glyphs on his table, as he activated a firewall. Outside, a sheet of flame thirty feet high appeared in a ring around the cottage and began to flare as Hakkor’s foot soldiers threw themselves helplessly against it. Inside, the Wizard smiled grimly to himself. Bots, he thought. Hakkor is using bots. What an amateur. The poor, hapless things would just keep on doing what they were told until they ran out of steam or were destroyed by the firewall. They were no threat and certainly not what Hakkor normally used. Maybe he was just testing the line; playing games until he began his proper attack.

As the lumbering bots continued to perish in unthinking droves against the fearsomely blazing firewall, the Wizard swept his fingers over the wooden glyphs once again, summoning a spell that would begin actively looking for incoming threats. After a few moments, a new pattern of symbols appeared on the cauldron’s liquid face. The Wizard’s brows furrowed as he tried to decipher the symbols and then he nodded subconsciously to himself in recognition. Crawlers. About three minutes away and approaching fast. This was more like it. Although crawlers were similar to bots, in that they were essentially unthinking, their method of attack was far more subtle. Rather than trying to overwhelm an opponent’s defences by sheer force of numbers, crawlers would instead meticulously probe them, looking for any weakness that they could exploit, literally crawling along the defensive line, as their name suggested. Well, thought the Wizard, with a hollow, raspy chuckle, they would find no holes in his firewall that was for sure. He’d checked the incantations a dozen times that morning and set the wall up to be impervious to this kind of attack, so, for the time being, he was safe. Nonetheless, he would make absolutely certain that nothing got through. Waving a hand across the ever-patient glyphs, he brought forth a mirroring enchantment and placed an exact copy of the cottage, firewall and all, a mile further into the forest. With a few more passes of his hands, he weakened the copies’ firewall slightly, making it an easier target for the approaching crawlers. Being relatively simple creatures, the duplicate cottage should distract them for a little while at least, he reasoned, as he continued to stare fixedly at the cauldron.

As the crawlers began to seek their new target and the firewall held fast, the Wizard turned his attention to the network. It would be prudent to check on the others, just to ensure that they were alright, he mused. With a quick tap of his wand, the pattern in the cauldron changed once again, this time revealing a map of sorts, with a spiderweb of lines connecting a series of disjointed dots. After studying the map for a few moments, the Wizard closed his eyes and allowed himself to join the network. At first, all he could see was darkness. Then, one figure after another resolved themselves before him. To his surprise and dismay, some of the faces he had been expecting to see were absent. Malvern the Dragon Slayer wasn’t there for one. Neither was Pookie Ninewon, Protector of the North. Without waiting to talk to the others, the Wizard abruptly broke contact and opened his eyes again. Looking more closely at the cauldron, sure enough, both Malvern and Pookie’s dots had turned a worrying shade of red, which could signify only one thing: that their defences had been breached and they had fallen. It was both stupid and a shame, he reflected sadly, to be beaten by a pack of simple bots and crawlers. Obviously, neither of them had updated their spells before the attack and with them gone and the magical web weakened as a result, it would be up to himself and the others to take up the slack.

The Wizard - Rob Gregory Author - The enchanted forest 2

Deep inside the enchanted forest.

The Wizard had no further time to mourn the loss of his fellow Mages because at that moment, the cauldron’s contents turned bright orange and a series of highly alarming black symbols appeared on its oily surface. In response, the Wizard passed his hands over the wooden glyphs in a complex sequence and did his best to beat back the latest threat; a barrage of spoolers and worms that had crept up on him unnoticed while he’d been communing with the others. The worms were bad enough. They had the ability to burrow beneath the firewall and attack from within, but it was the spoolers that really worried the Wizard. He almost felt the force of their impact as they swept out of the darkness, arms flailing wildly as they flung bits of themselves against the flaming wall in an incoherent rage. If the bots were the magical equivalent of throwing rocks then the spoolers were the equivalent of throwing knives. Extremely sharp knives. If either they or the worms managed to get past the firewall, then all of his secrets would be exposed to Hakkor, who would mercilessly exploit them to the detriment of the entire network and the realm beyond. In desperation, the Wizard cried out: “My Chi is stronger than your Chi!” and gripping his wand tightly, slammed it down hard onto the table. In response, outside the cottage, the air turned blue with sparks of magic as the firewall blazed even hotter and tongues of white-hot flame burst out from it, incinerating the spoolers where they stood and baking the worms into the ground below, as they tried to burrow underneath it.

No sooner had the attack been thwarted than the Wizard was momentarily distracted by a new message floating on the cauldron’s surface. Absentmindedly wiping the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his robe, he saw who the message was apparently from and then smiled to himself, before letting go another grim chuckle. So, that was Hakkor’s plan, he thought. Start off with a really simple, blunt force attack to try and weed out the unprepared and then build it up in successive layers with more and more complex manifestations, until we’re overrun and then, at that very moment, throw in a seemingly helpful communication from an old friend, which we read and then find ourselves beaten. Well, my friend, this is one Wizard that’s not going to fall for your trick. I’ll bet that there’s a Troyana hidden inside that message and I’m going to find it. You should have done your homework more thoroughly, Hakkor. ‘Old friend’ is right. You sent me a message from Passquay the Lockmaker, but he’s no longer with us, you fool, he spat, as he summoned a cleaner from his cache of spells and sent it out to collect the message.

The cleaner scooted straight through the wall of the cottage and up to the edge of the still blazing firewall, where it opened a portal to allow the suspect communication through. No sooner was the message inside than the cleaner scooped it up and quarantined it in a separate mini-firewall. No matter how hard the message tried to escape, it was held fast by the cleaner, which, with all the delicacy of a trainee barber-surgeon, proceeded to tear the message apart until it found the Troyana, along with an Executor spell, hidden deep inside. Both the Troyana and the Executor retreated as far within the shredded message as they could, alternately huddling together for safety and hissing like cornered cats, as the cleaner relentlessly approached. Finally, when the grisly autopsy was completed, the cleaner forced what remained of them through the mini-firewall, leaving a pile of charred remains on the ground and returned to the cottage, where it dumped its findings into the cauldron, for future examination.

Satisfied that the immediate threat had been dealt with, the Wizard was just about to check once more on the rest of the wizarding network, when he froze in shock. There, before his very eyes, the cauldron had changed colour yet again, this time adopting a blood-red hue, with angry yellow symbols floating on its surface. As he studied the characters, his face paled and he began trembling with rage and despair. “Hakkor, you evil, crafty, malicious son of a dead dog’s afterbirth,” he muttered between gritted teeth. “So that was your real plan, eh? Wait until I’d captured your suspect missive and then use the portal that my cleaner opened up against me? Threads? I hate threads!” And sure enough, outside the cottage, over a thousand threads had begun opening up in the firewall, turning it from a solid barrier of flame into little more than fancy Swiss cheese. They were tiny and innocuous looking things, little more than lengths of white cotton in appearance, but once they had penetrated the firewall they would be unstoppable. And suddenly it dawned on the Wizard, what Hakkor really wanted. Yes, control of the magical web and the subsequent ability to pervert the realm were still his main aims, but to do this he was going to try and capture the Kernel.

The Wizard glanced over his shoulder into the far corner of the cottage. There, suspended between two intricately woven walnut poles, bridging the gap between floor and ceiling was the Kernel: the source and very heart of every Sorcerer’s power. Normally, it just glowed a faint green colour, as it endlessly cycled through an infinity of spells, collecting the resultant magical energy for future use. Now, however, as a result of the battle raging beyond, it flared and swirled even more brightly and alarmingly than the cauldron had done. As such, it would be an easy target for the encroaching threads and once they reached it they would spawn so many handles that the Kernel would be smothered and rendered useless to any who tried to use it.

The Wizard - Rob Gregory Author - Daylight approaches.

Morning approaches.

Realising that he had but seconds to act, the Wizard turned back to his wooden glyphs and made the one pattern that he feared most of all: all portals closed. With a sigh of relief, he watched the cauldron as one by one, in quick succession, it closed every portal that had been opened in the firewall, stopping the deadly attack of the threads in their stead. Effectively cut off from the rest of his fellow fighters, the Wizard quickly renewed his firewall enchantments and began carefully re-opening portals, one at a time, waiting with baited breath for the attack to resume, but no further challenge came. Outside the raging inferno, the remaining bots, crawlers, spoolers, worms and the dreaded threads, howled and wailed in mounting fury, all searching for a way past the barrier, but finding none open to them. Finally, the task was complete and with a tap of his wand, the Wizard consulted the map of the network once more. It didn’t take him long to realise that Hakkor’s assault had dealt a heavy blow to the magical web. More than half of the spots that were visible to him were the same ominous red colour as Malvern and Pookie’s, and the Wizard had no doubt that many more, which he could not see, were the same. With no time to waste, he closed his eyes and re-joined the network, recoiling slightly at the lack of faces that appeared before him. Ignoring all of the standard wizarding protocols, he simply broadcast his findings across the network, commanding all of the remaining Wizards, Witches and Warlocks to perform an ‘all portals closed’ spell and open only those that were absolutely necessary for them to communicate with each other.

Over the following hour and with the sun just beginning to poke its head above the forest canopy, the Wizard began receiving reports from grateful sorcerers around the land and beyond that the order had been a success and that Hakkor’s brutal offensive had been repelled. With a deep sigh of gratitude to those who watch over magical folk, the Wizard allowed himself to stand fully erect for the first time since the battle had begun and after disarming his firewall spells, made his way slowly across the now silent cottage to his enchanted cooling box, where he withdrew a slice of cold bread, covered with tomato sauce, cheese and some sort of undefined sausage, as well as a bottle of invigorating potion; the one with the scarlet cows on it and collapsed, exhausted into a musty smelling chair, stuffed with old horse hair. It had, indeed, been a tough night, he reflected, as he gulped the potion down and began stuffing the food into his half-starved gullet. And one that had seen more than a few of his friends forever wiped from the landscape. Still, it was worth it, he reasoned. For the time being at least, all of the magical beings within the realm that he helped to protect, including the Fairies, Goblins and even the little Draklings, who would one day, no doubt, be as big a problem as Hakkor, could get on with their existences in peace, blissfully ignorant of the threat that lay beyond their fairytale world. And with that, as the food and drink began to slosh around in his now satiated belly, the Wizard closed his eyes and set to preparing for the next encounter, the mantra: “My Chi is stronger than your Chi,” silently reverberating around his head and somewhat strangely echoing around the walls of the cottage as well.

Outside, the sun was high in the sky and the day was taking on the hazy sheen of mid-summer. All around the cottage peace reigned supreme. To a casual observer, the cottage appeared just like any other rundown rural dwelling, nestled within a small clearing scratched out of the surrounding woodland. However, just for a moment, a fox running past the cottage door was transformed into something huge and quite utterly ferocious, without apparently noticing it at all. And that is the kind of cottage that it would be a very good idea to keep away from.


If you enjoyed this then please check out my blog at for more. And while you’re there, why not have a look at ‘Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right’ and my other books. Many thanks and please spread the word.

High Cool

High Cool

High Cool

… only in ‘Incredible India’…

I’ve been meaning to share this little gem, entitled ‘High Cool’ with you for ages, just because it always makes me smile when I see it. But you know how it is, things come up, the weather changes and before you know it, despite your best intentions, you’ve forgotten all about it.

Anyway, I was going through some old photographs the other day, in response to my good friend Robbie’s recent experiences with a possessed toy hippopotamus called George, in Northern Thailand (more about that in the future), when I stumbled upon the photo in question and it all came flooding back to me.

It was some years ago now and I was staying in Northern India, in the State of Haryana to be precise, doing some animal welfare work at the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), in Karnal. My gracious hosts at the NDRI had put me up in the accommodation usually reserved for visiting dignitaries and senior academics (I was neither of those, by the way), a purpose-built complex complete with sculpted and meticulously maintained gardens.

If I recall correctly, it was round about April or May, the time when India reaches its peak in terms of ridiculous temperatures and it was hot. And I do mean hot. Forget sweltering in the high twenties and thirties (Celsius). We’re talking about trying to survive in the high forties here. The kind of temperatures that don’t just melt your ice cream, they turn it into Baked Alaska and then incinerate it in front of your face. And it was a blisteringly dry heat too. Everywhere you went it felt like you were trapped in an oven and it didn’t matter how much water or iced tea you drank, or how long you kept your head in the fridge, as soon as you moved, you wished that you hadn’t.

Needless to say, I spent as much of my downtime as I could in my room, doing my best to shelter from the merciless sun outside, curtains tightly closed and air-conditioning running at full blast. And it was the air-con that is the star of this blog. For you see, I had a very unusual air-conditioning unit. Not content with the usual labelling of ‘low, medium or high’ or ‘1, 2 and 3’, the air-conditioner in my room had a very special set of options, offering a choice including: ‘Super Quiet’, ‘Super Cool’ and my favourite setting, ‘High Cool’.

High Cool - Air conditioning, Indian style! Rob Gregory Author

‘High Cool’ – Probably the best air-con setting in the world.

Now you may wonder why I am making such a fuss of a setting called ‘High Cool’. Well, the reason is this and it probably says more about my twisted sense of humour than any psychiatrist’s report ever could: ‘High Cool’ was the name of a song on the album ‘Leisure’ by British Britpop band, Blur, way back in the early 1990’s.

High Cool - Front cover to Blur's 1991 Leisure album on Food Records. Rob Gregory Author

Blur’s debut album – Leisure (1991, FOOD Records).

It was probably just a case of mild heatstroke that was addling my thinking at the time, but I couldn’t help but imagine that by some strange twist of fate, that very air-conditioner or one just like it, had somehow influenced Blur’s choice of title for the song. And if by any chance, Damon Albarn or Alex James are reading this, then maybe they can put me right on the matter at

High Cool - Blur's Leisure rear cover. Food Records. Rob Gregory Author

Track 8 – High Cool. Inspired by an air conditioner?

As for me, while I suspect that most people who stayed in that room automatically put the air-conditioning on to ‘Super Cool’, for me ‘High Cool’ was the setting where it was at!


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