A Land of Darkness drowns in despair.
It’s called My Office.
When I’m not typing manifests, I churn out fantasy books no-one reads.
Less Young Adult, more MAD: Middle Aged Disappointment.
So, when I’m gifted a magic book for Secret Santa, I can’t believe my luck.
One miserable ‘Once Upon a Time’ later and I’m marooned on a frozen mountain,
heaving with weirdos, biting each other’s throats.
The Snake’s oily,
The Eagle’s bald,
The Bear’s accident prone,
My ‘Handsome Prince’ is more cheesed off Wolf, busy scratching,
I’ve no idea who the Villain is (unless it’s me).
Worst of all…
I’ve no way home and the Mangy Wolf’s got the hots for me.
Growing old is no fairytale.
Our heroine, the middle-aged and terminally disappointed Edi(th), heads into her local park armed with a mysterious map…
So here I am on Christmas afternoon, wrapped in thermal leggings, two jumpers and a purple anorak, striding through the pouring rain on my way to said park, carrying the book in a plastic bag and straining not to take flight under my umbrella.
The park would be deserted in this weather at the best of times but, as most are busy opening their presents, eating a gigantic meal or nursing a hangover, there’s not a soul to be seen. Wait, there’s one man on the far side, walking a teeny dog.
I stride through the skeleton branched trees and head down the path towards the mud patch that will house spring wildflowers. According to the map, the X for standing upon should be somewhere in the vicinity of that eyesore portaloo. We got that last summer after a local councilman complained his IBS wasn’t able to wait until he got home. I can see his point and sympathise with his gastric distress, but did it need to get dropped in the middle of the park to take pride of place in all the family photos?
Juggling the bag and the listing umbrella, I ease the map out of a cavernous pocket and check the location. Great, the portaloo isn’t near the spot, it’s bang over the top of it. Fabulous. Hmmm. So, do I…
a) Head home, eat readymade turkey dinner and watch Die Hard again.
b) Stand here like a wally, until someone drops money in my hand, or
c) Move the poxy portaloo?
Now, we’ve already established in the sad introduction to this journal that I’m a disillusioned former fantasy believer, with delusions of writing epic novels, who ends up playing it safe in a rubbish job without a husband, children or a decent pension. It transpires that most would assume option a) would be the clear winner. Surprisingly, I’m now heaving on the side of a giant lump of plastic, after having checked no-one was inside, of course. That would just make it even heavier.
A visceral sucking of plastic through mud accompanies the sudden sideways movement of the portaloo, leaving me on my hands and knees in the dirt, whilst my brolly makes its desperate bid for freedom, blowing in the wind. It ends up stuck in the upper bare branches of a nearby tree, thus neatly providing a metaphor for my life.
Enduring the crunch of middle-aged patellas, I find my feet and stare at the newly liberated spot. It’s just a miserable patch of mud, much like any old patch of mud. Not that I was expecting a large red X to be painted there. Not really.
Anyway, the map says,
Stand on this spot and speak Your Story.
Thinking, in for a penny, in for a pound, I swiftly glance around me and shuffle onto the spot. The man with the unidentifiable dog is getting closer, but still well out of earshot, so I clear my throat with a gelatinous cough and whisper, “I was born in Lesser Grouchingfold in 1964 to Harold and Freda; their only daughter…”
I get as far as Upper Grouchingfold Junior School when the dog arrives on the scene and proceeds to pee up my ankle, being as it’s a dachshund. When I leap sideways and let rip with a string of words, all of them four letters, the sausage horror yelps and races back to his converging owner in a flurry of short legs.
“What you done to my Fluffy?” the man hollers, clasping his little urine sprayer to his flabby chest and rushing off down the path, trailing a diamante lead.
It’s about now I give up regaling an empty universe with my thrilling backstory and snatch the plastic bag off the floor as a prelude to marching off in a huff. The umbrella chooses this moment to dislodge from its woody prison and drop on my head, hooking the handle around my nose. That’s it; I want to be someone else, doing something else, living anywhere else. Someone please tell me why I couldn’t have had one dream. Just one.
Leaning on the portaloo, I wipe my foul smelling damp ankle with that blasted idiotic map and curse the Great Beyond’s idea of a cruel joke. I mean, seriously, what am I doing out here? What did I expect would happen? A flash of light and suddenly I’m in a New World with the handsome prince? Knowing my luck, I’d be Gollum’s ugly sister.
My head’s clearly spending too much time escaping the miserable real world in favour of concocting yet another unsuccessful fantasy book. I might just as well stand on the spot and announce, “Once upon a time there was a land, riven by snow and conflict…”
A flash of light.
The plastic bag and an umbrella drop in the mud and a pee stained map floats away on the breeze.
Or I assume they do, because I’m not there…
About the Author
London-based Caroline Noe has always veered towards the eclectic side of the castle, especially when it comes to making ends meet. Boasting actor, singer, tour guide and dog walker amongst her many talents, she swiftly learned the difference between dreaming and hard graft, but it was in her lifelong love of science fiction and fantasy that she found her true home. A fascination with identity and destiny found its natural expression in the art of storytelling. Her first book, the time travel fantasy Firestone Key, plunged a scarred scientist and her noble farting dog into a medieval world drenched in dark magic and terrified by a fire-breathing T-Rex. (You read that right.) The science fiction trilogy, Canellian Eye, soon followed, exploring the savage nature of unfolding Prophecy across the opening novel and its sequels, Rebellion and Chosen, with the shocking twist fast becoming the hallmark of Caroline's work.
Sci fi thriller The Ezekiel Factor explored memory and humanity via Artificial Intelligence soldiers, introducing yet another memorable dog, the feisty miniature pinscher, Ernie.
Whilst all her books carry a rich vein of humour, A Wolf So Grim And Mangy is her first outright comedy, riffing off those beloved YA fantasies with a middle-aged, menopausal viewpoint. It's caroline’s firm belief that true life can be just as epic as her books, if you're brave enough to carry the ring or delve inside the wardrobe. Rain or shine, she's still to be found hurtling around the city, camera in hand, exercising her
other great love: photography.
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