Would you make a pact with the devil!

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One of my short stories in my book Flight of Destiny is called “The pact” it is about a desperate man, whose wife is dying, who is forced into making a pact with the devil.

History is littered with people who have taken this dramatic step.

There is even a Pope, namely Pope Sylvester II, who seemingly was way ahead of his time, and of high intellect. This French pope is credited with inventing the hydraulic organ, pendulum clock, and introducing Arabic numerals to Western Europe, on top of this he also wrote books on mathematics, natural science, music, theology and philosophy. Due to his incredible intelligence, highly tuned scientific mind,  and ingenuity  people suspected he had made a pact with the devil. He is not the only senior church figure to turn to the devil. Saint Theophilus the Penitent turned to the devil to make a deal, in order to gain a high ecclesiastical position. The contract signed in his own blood proved to be a heavy burden for Theophilus. German alchemist Faust also  is supposed to have made a pact with the devil, in order to pursue his “boundless desire for knowledge” for the next 24 years.

It seems a recurrent theme that if you are highly talented, it seems there is the possibility you have formed a pact with devil, this was the case of virtuoso violin musician Nicolo Paganini. His great virtuoso performances led people to believe he had formed a pact with the devil, and that it was the devil who was aiding him during the course of his performances. He was  refused the last rites,  and it took a while before he was finally laid to rest.  Paganini was not the only violinist to come under the microscope. It seems to be an Italian thing, Giuseppe Tartini, claimed that he dreamed that The Devil appeared to him and asked to be his servant, not only this, the devil composed piece for him, which Tartini transcribed when he awoke.  The devil is also accredited for turning Robert Johnson  a noted American blues artist into a genius. Rather than quash rumors he encouraged them.  There are quite a lot of modern day musicans who it is claimed have a made a pact with the prince of darkness, Bob Dylan, Jay-Z? Led Zeppelin, to name but a few.

Below is an exert from Flight of Destiny as Jarret encounters a man who says he can save his sick wife and unborn baby and Jarret is forced into making a pact with the devil.

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Suddenly, he became aware his was not alone. A well dressed

man with shiny patent leather shoes was walking purposefully

towards him, as if he had something important to say.

“Jarret Lamb?” the dapper man asked in a sweetly scintillating

voice, pausing before the distraught Jarret.

Jarret froze, astonishment momentarily replacing pain.

“I can see you’ve a lot on your mind just now,” the man said

calmly, examining Jarret minutely in profile.

Jarret eyed him suspiciously, not knowing what to say.

“It’s your wife and child, isn’t it? They’re in mortal danger,”

declared the man.

“And how could you possibly know that?” demanded Jarret,

stunned.

“I just know,” the man replied matter-of-factly. “And, what’s

more, I can help.” The man’s eyes had a chillingly hypnotic draw, as

did the mesmeric tone of his voice. The man’s clothes, posture and

demeanor echoed confidence. He also emitted an enchanting aroma,

rather like an orchard of ripe fruit trees.

“How?” faltered Jarret.

“Your wife and child will survive,” avowed the man, resting a

hand gently on Jarret’s shoulder, like a father might when consoling a

son. Then his voice dropped and took on a more cautionary tone. “But

only if you do something for me in return.”

“And what exactly might that be?” asked Jarret confused, but

desperate for any shred of hope.

“You need only shake my hand, and everything will be righted. In

a few days you will receive a letter with instructions. In exchange for

your wife and child’s lives, you must carry out the instructions exactly

as written.” The man’s voice lowered to a rasping whisper. “You have

no alternative, really.”

“I see,” replied Jarret. Though trembling, his heart racing, he

couldn’t help but think, What do I have to lose? This man is probably

just a lunatic, but regardless, he’s seems more purposeful and sincere

than the doctors, who’ve thus far offered no concrete solutions or hope.

Crazy or not, he’s all I have at the moment. Jarret shrugged his

shoulders and slowly offered the man his hand. The man’s hand felt

strangely cool, and Jarret felt an icy-cold electric spark jump from the

man to him as they shook.

“There. Done and agreed,” said the man with a sense of agreeable

formality, like some of the businessmen Jarret dealt with at work.

“Now finish your walk, and return to your wife and child.”

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Born with special powers

 

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Some people will have you believe babies born between midnight and 1 A. M. have the power to see ghosts. So does the seventh child of the seventh child. Further superstitions include  A baby that is born feet first will have healing abilities. Firstborn children are protected from witchcraft.

What if you were born with special powers, that you could see things others couldn’t. Imagine if you could see the dead.

Take for example Sally Cudmore, a trainee nurse who claims when she working in a special care unit, she was able to predict when someone would die. With nature of her job she was accustomed to death, but what made her job unattainable was the fact that those who died came back. Sally traces her special talent to when she was eight years old, when she began to see the spirit of a young girl. Her gift lay dormant until she began her career as a nurse and she was able interact with those from the spirit world.

She had her own warning signs when somebody was about to die, as she puts it “I knew someone was going to die when I saw red and black surrounding them and it became really upsetting.”

She claims that she was able to pass on messages to grieving relatives from their love ones.

After a point she decided to make a change of career from nurse to medium.

Ever heard of Bulgaria-born Prophetess Baba Vanga,  I came across her earlier in the year, her story is both fascinating as well as unnerving. She has been dubbed the “Nostradamus from the Balkans” and has an 85 per cent accuracy with her predictions. Some of her predictions include 9/11, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, the Fukushima nuclear spill and the birth of ISIS.  Scarily for me, (living in Europe) she predicts Europe as we know it will “cease to exist” by the end of 2016 following the systematic elimination of entire populations, leaving the continent “almost empty”, a “wasteland almost entirely devoid of any form of life”.

Up until the age of twelve she had led an ordinary life but following  a massive storm she mysteriously lost her eyesight.  She was missing for several days before being discovered, her eyes being covered with dirt and dust. It was during this time her great talent surfaced, that she could not only heal people but predict the future.

She even predicted Barack Obama’s election as president, saying the 44th president of the United States would be African American. Intriguingly she also stated that he would be the “last US president”. This does not look out of the question with Hillary and Donald, offering the world little hope as they spar for the presidency.

Her predictions go as far as 3797 when the world will finally die. However, human civilization will be advanced enough to move to a new star system. As to this prediction I feel she is being quite optimistic, the way things are going at the moment.

Part of a Halloween holiday  blog hop, read other articles by writers and bloggers.

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M is for Maggot

Serpent and Apple

Maggot is one of my short stories, it is about a circus owner, who has run into debt and is forced to sell his daughter in order to be debt free.  He is a buffoon, an oaf, with no evidence of any real likable traits. The story starts with him bargaining with Excellency, the cruel tyrant who he hopes will give him a good price for his daughter. His daughter is brought in, like some kind of merchandise.

The young girl beneath the veil might have been Cleopatra, except that but for a fine gold thong, she was entirely naked. Gold coins strung on golden chains hung from all four sides of the palanquin, making chinking sounds with each of her carriers’ steps

She has been coerced into being sell-able  goods, having been cruelly beaten by her father.

She couldn’t be more than sixteen. Her long black hair flowed  over her shoulders down to her waist, barely covering her adolescent breasts. Every male in the room stared greedily at her, none noting the smudged makeup highlighting her deep brown eyes, the result of a copious flow of tears at having been coerced.

After the young girl Apollonia is presented, some crude bartering takes place.

“Is she…pure?” demanded her would-be purchaser, shooting a quick glance in Maggot’s direction, as if this would have direct bearing on the “price” of the goods he was considering purchasing.

“Of course, Excellency,” said Maggot boldly. “She’s never been touched.”

 Finally the two men come to an agreement and Maggot’s greed is seen through the way takes the money.

 Maggot grasped the money in his gnarled fingers, trying his best to give the impression he really wasn’t interested, though, in fact, he undeniably was. His beady eyes drifted from the coins in his hand to the remaining ones flashing and glinting inside the treasury box.

 The unwilling merchandise makes one final plea to stop the sale…which will inevitable end up with the slimy tyrant violating her.

The girl’s fate decided, the four strong men shouldered the palanquin while Apollonia searched her father’s eyes a final time, beseeching him to change his mind. It was a useless gesture, as Maggot was busy counting and ogling the gold coins. To her dismay,he never gave her a second glance, and she was carried, wailing inconsolably, through the massive banquet hall doors and down a short hallway.

Maggot is a despicable man without scruples, what kind of man would sell his own daughter?

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

http://theflightofdestiny.yolasite.com/

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K is for killing animals

Serpent and Apple

Why is it that man despite years of evolution has this strong desire to kill often beautiful animals. Where is the pleasure? What is the thrill people get when doing “trophy killing”? Could you kill a lion? If you did would it make you feel more powerful, perhaps more manly? Apart from vanity why would any person on this planet want to kill something so beautiful? What is this desire to kill? You often hear the slogan “Man is a hunter”.  Since the beginning of time man has had this huge desire to kill animals, as if it is something genetic.

A major story in 2015 was when  a dentist killed a lion and the world went mental.

The dentist a man from Minnesota was vilified, verbally crucified, his name banded around the social media with the utmost contempt. His dentist career seems destined to come to a dramatic halt (I’ve always thought going to the dentist a paradox…basically it is one of the few activities you routinely pay to be tortured)…This dentist must have made mint, to be able to slaughter big game animals.  On the day he made his kill thousands of animals would have been dispatched in abattoirs, thousands of birds (pheasants)  happily flying in the sky, shot for  hunter’s pleasure, as well as other animals for the sake of “sport”. On reading the reports on this killing, it turns out this vilified dentist not only killed this beautiful lion, he also inflicted a long and painful death, the lion finally died exhausted and maimed…having being been chased for two days by his pursuers, having been lured from a safe reserve.  It has to be said with trophy killing big bucks can be made. I was brought up in a family in which it was almost a rite of passage that the males took to shooting pheasants. I have never killed a bird…I have caught fish… it’s true, but during my childhood. By the time I had reached eighteen, my ideals concerning animals had been formed.  The number of animals Prince Philip (the man who is found a few steps behind Queen Elizabeth  on ceremonial occasions) apparently amounts to 30,000…we are talking deers, rabbits, all types of wild fowl.  In two decades his guns have seen to the deaths of 150,000 pheasants. He has been tiger hunting in India and has shot a crocodile.  Killing animals is a big part of the British Royals lives…but at the same time they are the figureheads for various wildlife charities…killing yet preserving…

Not everybody seems hell-bent on  attacking this “infamous” dentist. You can usually rely on somebody defending the indefensible (apart from the PR company the dentist is paying to put his side of the story across).  Ted Nugent (I never really liked his music much anyway) who also happens to be a hunter and gun activist, claims people upset by this lion’s death are in his plain simple words “stupid”. It is the old “hunter’s refrain” of such animals need to be controlled.

If rich people or members of the aristocracy  want to pay vast sums of money to go on “space tourist” trips into space… or spend money on yachts the size of football pitches, this is fine… but to go on trophy hunting trips to kill beautiful animals, that is another thing.  Killing an animal for your own “pleasure” or gratification is something I really can’t fathom…Sitting next to a lifeless creature, you have managed to place a bullet in…what does it do for the killer…You have to imagine the likes of Prince Philip must be psychologically imbalanced…there must be something psychopathic in his nature…to want to kill such a number of animals.

Next time you visit your dentist…I hope this dentist is not a psychotic animal killer…Sorry if you are a dentist reading this, maybe this man from Minnesota, is far from representative of your profession.

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

http://theflightofdestiny.yolasite.com/

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Irish legends, including the Black Nun

LEGENDS

Ireland is a country that resonates with legends. Leprechauns, little green men who will give you gold at the end of their rainbow, or even as the keeper of Lucky Charms, immediately come to mind. Leprechauns are thought to be fairies who take on the form of old men, stand at about three feet high, wearing green or red suits, and notoriously have a substantial beard. They are typically mischievous creatures, preying on the unsuspecting. If you feel that you have had a string of bad luck, you may have a leprechaun to blame. Where might you come across such a creature? You need to make your way to Carlingford, in County Down, a place regularly cited as a spot where these little troublesome little men frequent.

Have you ever heard of a “changling” This is quite an obscure idea. If you believe the legend surrounding these creatures, they are the children of fairies who have been deformed. Given fairies seem to be shallow and won’t love these children no matter what, they would often sneak into town and swap out their changelings for human babies, who were more aesthetically pleasing. Changelings are generally miserable creatures who only experience joy when there is grief, pain, or destruction occurring.

If you fear you might in the company of a changling, what about the legend of the banshee? The banshee is basically a fairy messenger of death and of the underworld. When someone is at the point of death, she lets out a piercing wail rattling the souls of anyone hearing it. The banshee can take the form of an old haggard woman or by contrast a beautiful young woman. Regardless of her form if you see and hear her screams, you or someone in your family will die soon.

Anyone familiar with the town of Ballycastle will relate the legend of Julia McQuillan, also known as “The Black Nun”, who lived in the Bonamargy Friary in the 1600’s. The Friary still stands today in ruins. MacQuillen wished to be buried at the entrance of the chapel so that she might be trodden under the feet of those who entered. Legend has it if you walk around the black nun’s grave 7 times clockwise and 7 times counterclockwise and then place a hand through the hole you can summon the ghost of the black nun. A worn Celtic cross (rounded with a hole in the centre) marks her grave at the west end of the main church. This woman was a gifted prophet who predicted that a red haired priest would come from far away to say mass in the church at Murlock and would drown the following day at a place called the Devils churn (Pan’s rock) near Ballycastle. The prediction came to pass, as red haired Father James McCann, drowned whilst swimming off Pan’s rock after saying mass at Murlock. Other revelations about the future included “The time would come when we wouldn’t know the difference between winter and summer except for the leaves on the trees. The infamous Black Nun also made similar prophesies to the Nostradamus ‘Yellow race” prophesies.

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Births and Dispatches on Christmas Day…

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We have no choice (normally) the day we die….William Shakespeare died on his 52nd birthday…There are certain days you wouldn’t wish to die on…one such being Christmas day.

Did you know the great Charlie Chaplain passed away on Christmas Day?
Joan Miro, the Spanish surrealist painter, died at his home in Majorca after a substantial life, aged 90.

Go back many years and you will find Adrian I, Italian Pope (772-95), who also enjoyed longevity dying aged 95.

In more recent times you find in 2004 – Gennady Strekalov, Russian cosmonaut left earth for the afterlife.

In 1995, Rat Pack member Dean Martin died on Christmas Day, at the age of 78.

In 2006 – the legendary James Brown, rhythm & blues, gospel, jazz, soul and funk singer dubbed The Godfather of Soul passed away following a heart attack.

Eartha Kitt, American actress and singer, (she has that instantly recognizable voice) died in 2008.

There are those equally unlucky in a way who are born on Christmas day. Christmas birthdays are so rare: according to a 2006 Harvard University study, December 25 is least common day for births (after February 29)
One such person is Shane MacGowan, lead singer of The Pogues, also a man who must lick his lips around Christmas, as he must look forward to royalties for a well-known Christmas hit, The Fairytale of New York.

One of Hollywood’s leading men during the 20th Century, Humphrey Bogart also celebrated his birthday day on December 25th every year until his demise in 1957

Annie Lennox, that singer with the fantastic voice, one time lead singer of the Eurythmics was also born on Christmas day.

A brilliant influential musician Cab Calloway, celebrated as one of the undisputed giants of jazz, scat pioneer Cabell “Cab” Calloway came to define the Harlem sound, is another born on Christmas day. Cab Calloway is noted for his barnstorming performance of Minnie the Moocher, which received a lot of attention as it was included in the much celebrated “Blue Brothers” film.

Sir Isaac Newton One of the most influential scientists of all time who formulated the laws of Gravity. Sir Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day in 1642.  The  legend goes he was sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell and hit him on the head, thus giving him the idea for gravity…maybe the reality was different.

I happened to see Quentin Crisp give a talk in Vienna many years ago. Quentin is another born on Christmas day. His life was subject to a film, “The Naked Civil Servant” which starred John Hurt. Quentin Crisp was a kind of 60s version of Oscar Wilde.

Have you ever seen Stephen King’s Carrie, then you would know the actress Sissy Spacek. She spent her late teenage years hanging out at Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory

 

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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.

Why do we tell ghost stories at Christmas?

Christmas story reading

 

Christmas has a binding association with ghosts, going back in time just before Christmas 1642, for instance, shepherds were said to have seen ghostly civil war soldiers battling in the skies. Ghosts have long been in people’s minds. In The Egyptian Book of the Dead, departed people are shown to return, not merely looking as they did in life, but dressed in similar garments.

Christmas has different memories for different people. One memory I hold is there was always a “ghost story” on TV as well the fact that Charles Dickens also often featured. It seems a strange combination, “ghost stories” and” Christmas” so where does this union come from?
The answer is commonly assumed would probably be Victorian times. This period which is usually seen as being rather staid, prim and proper, but also was characterized by those who wanted their share of thrills.
Charles Dickens is heralded as perpetuating this desire to be captivated by chilling tales at Christmas. There is little evidence prior to Dickens that authors wrote ghost stories for Christmas in mind, but some have their own points of view.

The writer Peter Haining, in the introduction to his collection of festive chillers Christmas Spirits says about Dickens. “Yet despite the seeming timelessness of this tradition, it has to be admitted that the idea of creating ghosts stories especially for telling at Christmas goes back no further… than the time of Charles Dickens.”

Dig further back into the past quite a while before Dickens and you have a famous bard who might also lay claim to originating this fascination with spine chilling stories. One of William Shakespeare’s most famous works Hamlet can be considered as being a ghost story. He also includes many traits of Ghost Stories with his Winter’s Tale.
The tale which begins ‘There was a man dwelt by a churchyard…which leads us to believe it is going to be a ghost story. Winter tales were similar, if not identical to Christmas ghost stories.

Dickens writes in Telling Winter Stories, from The Christmas Tree in 1859, “There is probably a smell of roasted chesnuts and other good comfortable things all the time, for we are telling Winter Stories – Ghost Stories, or more shame for us – round the Christmas fire.” Shakespeare used the phrase in A Winter’s Tale, “A sad tale’s best for winter: I have one. Of sprites and goblins.” And a hundred years before that in 1589, in the Jew of Malta, Christopher Marlowe writes:
“Now I remember those old women’s words,
Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales,
And speak of spirits and ghosts that glide by night”

Shakespearian scholar Catherine Belsey writes of Shakespeare.
Among the terms in circulation in the period for far-fetched narratives and improbable fables, one favorite was “a winter’s tale.” In the long, cold evenings, when the soil had been tilled to the extent that climatic conditions permitted, the still predominantly agricultural community of early modern England would sit and while away the hours of darkness with fireside pastimes, among them old wives’ tales designed to enthrall young and old alike.

We can trace the telling of ghost stories as a popular winter craze to the 16th century and that it was an integral part of the Elizabethan Christmas festivities. A ‘winter’s tale’ has become synonymous with weird stories of the fantastic and phantasmagoric, however the tradition most likely goes back at least a century further…

While I used to cower behind the sofa watching a riveting ghost story on TV, prior to television, my ancestors would be gathered around a roaring fire, some might say much more atmospheric.
Inherent in Christmas are many ancient supernatural aspects. I remember while living Austria, being told of the ritual of Krampus, which is still followed in modern times in rural areas. While Saint Nicholas may bestow gifts to good boys and girls, ancient folklore in Europe’s Alpine region also tells of Krampus, a frightening beast-like creature who emerges during the Yule season, looking for naughty children to punish in horrible ways — or possibly to drag back to his lair in a sack. I heard stories of people dressed as Krampus running amok in Austrian villages.

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The work of Henry James often features as a TV adaptation. James’s work helped bring back the tradition from obscurity, as the formed the basis of the BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas, which was a yearly Christmas offering dating back to 1971.
M R James is recognized as the undisputed master of the Christmas Ghost story. His stories, were written to be read around Christmas to a select group of friends. His work encompassed the dual nature of the season – the cosiness of sitting round the fire, but at the same time the need to banish the dark.
Can you pass through Christmas without watching Scrooge, the antithesis of the Christmas spirit? Or curling up in front of a roaring fire, with a good ghost story in hand?

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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.