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The Collector of Tales

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Available in ebook (£1.99) or in paperback (£10.99). 211 Pages.



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1. Do you ever have dreams?
(A fourteen-minute read)


Do you ever have dreams? I don’t mean the usual ones about everyday things like problems at home or at school or at work. The dreams I am talking about are those ones that come at you night after night, leaving you awake in the dark and wondering if they were real even though you know they can’t be. The ones that, when eventually you fall asleep, carry on like you’d never left it. Do you get those?

I get them. In fact, I get a lot of them. The tiger one doesn’t really count though. My dad says its just a worry dream and he gets something like it. He says it just hangs about in the sub-conscious picking at loose thoughts that are driven by whatever the worry is. He says that his tiger dreams are about money, or the lack of it. He reckons that he is trying to work out a strategy for dealing with it and he is going to shoot the tiger one day and be free of it. Yeah right! Like we have any say.

Then there is this other dream. It’s seems almost too weird to explain but I know that the whole thing is taking place inside some kind of huge sack or bag. Hey, perhaps it’s a womb or something! In these dreams, I’m kind of floating or flying over a roiling surface. I’m not sure if it’s a liquid or some kind of gas. A bit like the liquid nitrogen you see on those cooking programmes these days, but there is a lot of mist or vapour around anyway.

The surface rolls and billows below but I never touch it and I have never fallen into it, at least not yet. The place is warm, like body warm. There is a noise too, but that isn’t always there. It’s a thumping and grinding like machinery of some kind but I have never seen what makes it. I am always heading somewhere in this dream. I don’t really know where I am going but I just seem to know that I am looking for something.

Usually this one comes on me when I am hot or when I am ill or have a fever. It takes different forms. Once, when I was lying on my bed learning something for exams I could feel my eyes starting to get weary and the pages of the notebook that I was reading and re-reading for I yet another time were starting to move around in front of me. I could kind of feel the front part of my brain growing until it filled the whole room and there I was flying over the rolling sea of thick white mist once again.

Like I said, it’s a weird dream but it’s not the one that this story is all about. Besides, I know I am not alone in this one because one of my older sisters gets it. Only when she gets it she has the habit of wandering about the house muttering to herself and having strange conversations with anyone who speaks to her. My parents usually get a damp cloth and hold it on her forehead for a while until she comes back to us and starts shivering.

Like I said before, it’s weird but it’s not the real one. It’s not the one that has me waking up with aches and hurts like I’ve never known before and with strange marks on my skin that refuse to go away and that no one else seems to notice.

Before you hear about it, perhaps you should know a little bit about me. I don’t think that it will make you wonder if I am any stranger than other kids of my age. At least you’ll know something about me here in this place before you find out some more about me there, in the other one.

My name is Thomas. I don’t do second names. This is a dangerous world and I don’t need the warnings about the internet and chat rooms to tell me that my name is a powerful thing: something to be treasured and kept close. It is not the kind of thing to be given to another person without thought or care of the consequences.

I live in a small market town in the south west of England and go to school in the next town, just over the county border, by the proverbial school bus.

My dad works, although I don’t really know what he does. He spends a lot of time at home where he is either writing or coding on his laptop. When he’s not doing this he does a bit of gardening in our overgrown garden that seems to be as full of weeds as it is of flowers. He grows some vegetables as well and he is fiercely proud of those. Not that he would win anything in one of those vegetable competitions. It is just that he seems to be pretty excited about the way that the plants grow up out of the ground – I thought that was just what they did. Come to think of it though, he gets pretty enthusiastic over some of the huge weeds that sprout up in the garden as well.

When he’s not doing all this he spends time on the phone talking to clients, as he puts it, pacing up and down and gesticulating oddly as he talks in excited tones.

Sometimes he actually goes out, usually for two or three days in a row. When he does, he often puts up overnight in ‘some cheap hotel’ as he explains whenever I ask him where he is going to be staying. He never says which one and he never says where the hotel is. This is when he is visiting clients although, again, I couldn’t tell you why he was visiting them.

He must have done something though because although he was always grumbling about being short of money, we usually had enough. Well, mum cooked some great meals (most of the time) and we had presents at birthdays and Christmas. Ok so we didn’t do holidays very often and my hair tended to be permanently too long and in need of a cut. For that matter, my coat always seemed a couple of sizes too small for me. The same went for Sam too, for that matter. Sam’s my kid brother.

My shoes also seemed to be able to tell me a lot about the pavement underfoot. This was because they always seemed to be wearing thin or because they actually had holes in them. Dad usually got cross when I told him about my shoes. He’d yell and say something about the fact that if I walked on them properly like other kids, they wouldn’t wear out so quickly. Of course, I wasn’t like other kids and that was the point.

I could suggest that my shoes wore out because we did so much walking. We didn’t have a car so, unlike almost everyone else I knew, we walked everywhere. Sam does dance and to get to it we have to walk about two miles each way twice a week. That’s a lot of walking. I don’t dance – I have a thing about that and I don’t really want to go there - but we go to the dance classes together. We have always found it safer to hunt in pairs, especially in winter when it is dark.

I know that at one time we had three cars but then just before one Christmas he sold one for almost nothing. Mum was furious with him and yelled at him a lot. Then a couple of months later someone drove into the back of him as he was turning into our drive. It was just before we had to leave for school and I remember that he was livid. I knew when he was really angry because his right eye twitched. It was only a slight twitch but when it went, you just knew that it was time to get out quick.

That just left us with his sports car, a really neat BMW roadster that sat on our drive gathering mud and leaves and dog hairs around the dull looking tyres that were wrapped around the peeling chrome wheels. It was a great car when it was working. Both Sam and I only ever went in it a few times. Now and then dad would take both of us out, strapped in the passenger seat together, but he stopped that after mum went loopy with him one day for being reckless and ‘putting the boys lives at risk not to mention risking a fine and even more points off his licence!’

He sold the Beamer about a year and a bit later. I think that he must have been a bit upset when the local garage came to drive it away. He listened to them messing about getting it started after almost two years on the drive and then when it finally fired up he went into the back garden with his axe and started chopping at some fallen apple trees until the car and the mechanics had gone away. Then he came back round to the front of the house and started sweeping the four patches of mud and leaves and other rubbish that had formed around where the tyres had been. No, he didn’t look happy and as I watched him I could see that eye twitching.

Of course, my mum works really hard looking after us all. I’m the eighth of nine children. I guess that’s why my middle name is Henry – you know, Henry the Eighth – the King of England way back with the six wives and all that stuff. I hate the name myself and I don’t much like Harry. I do like Hal though but no one in this place ever calls me that.

Come to think of it I don’t often get called Henry, unless I’ve done something wrong and then I’ll hear mum yelling something like ‘Thomas

Henry you come upstairs to your bedroom right now!’

Of course, I’d go up there (usually) and my mum would be standing there pointing at something really bad (really?). Like my school uniform on the floor or a pair of old jeans hanging out of the window. I would dutifully move the clothes in question and make a few gestures towards tidying up under her watchful eye. When she was more or less satisfied, or rather, when she had stopped scowling at me, I’d head off back to whatever I was doing before.

A quick “bye mum!” flung out as a peace offering.

“Thank you, Thomas,” she’d say and then get back to whatever she was doing before she had decided to pick on me. I like my mum, don’t get me wrong, but I do wonder now and then what she’d actually say if I did something really bad. But I never do. It’s not just that she scares me a bit when she gets cross, it’s simply that being bad just isn’t what I do.

Still, it must be hard work looking after all of us. Mum usually looks really tired and her eyes are well, sort of sad looking. That is except when she is watching us. Like Sam dancing or me or one of the girls playing music. Then she has a bright light in her eyes and all the little lines in her face seem to disappear. I swear that her hair even looks redder then but I’m sure that is just me imagining it.

I am in the first year of my new school and it is hard going by any standard. It’s not just that teachers seem to think that a kid’s life is no better than to spend hours a night trying to help them reach their target grades whilst failing at our own personal targets and objectives (those are their words by the way, not mine). It’s not just that I am a quiet kind of kid really. I don’t like to speak up in class, despite the comments to my parents each report that try to encourage me to do so. It’s not just the dyslexia or the dyspraxia that I have although that doesn’t really help a lot. No, it has a lot to do with me and with how I tick inside.

Let me try to explain. It’s not going to be easy and I’ll keep it brief because you’re going to think that I’m weird anyway. I simply don’t like sitting around for too long. At home it’s less of a problem because I’ll just get up and walk about a bit and then go and sit down once more.

Mum doesn’t seem to mind, even when it’s a meal times and dad usually doesn’t notice. When he does he says something like, “Thomas sit down and stop that fidgeting” but he doesn’t do anything else and once he’s said it that is more or less it. It’s a bit of a ritual for him really. I’d like to say that the whole walking around thing is a bit of a ritual for me too but it’s not. I can’t explain it. It’s just that sometimes I have to get up and do it.

Anyway, as I said, at home it’s not a problem. School is different. For one thing I can’t get up and wander up and down the class during a lesson. Believe me, I’ve tried it. After a couple of times on my first day at the senior school I was threatened with detention if I didn’t sit down and get on with filling out my Pupil Planner. I mean, that alone is enough to make you want to climb the walls never mind just walk about.

For some reason it wasn’t a problem at first school but I think that the only reason I didn’t get a detention the first time I tried it at secondary school was that it was my first day there. As it was Mr Wall called me to one side as everyone else headed off to the next lesson and told me that I couldn’t just go walking about the classroom as I chose during his lesson or anyone else’s. No amount of “But, sir...” had any use and besides I was horrified at being told off on my first day. I was red in the face and almost in tears as I made my way to the gym, stopping briefly at the toilets to splash some water on my face to cool myself down and to hide the tears.

No, school was a problem in this respect. I was left to sort out my own strategies for dealing with the matter. Those are not my words either, by the way. They’re the kind of words speech therapists use when they are discussing you with your parents whilst you sit there looking at them and hating them for being so smug and self-assured. Like they don’t sometimes say ‘Free’ instead of ‘Three’ and that they’ve never had any problems getting people to understand exactly what they are saying because the words don’t come out of their mouths with the same sounds that their brains had sent them there.

I tried a number of things to deal with it before I finally found something. Tapping my fingers on the desk didn’t work and drew unhealthy attention from teachers in ordinary classes and from everyone else in exams. Twitching various parts of my anatomy failed also and some of these drew further unwelcome attention. Jiggling my legs simply annoyed people sitting near me and carving marks in the melamine desks with graphite pencils was a lost cause. Eventually, it was the dreams that did it but before I can get to that I have got to tell you one more thing about me: my brother.

My brother, Sam – well Samuel to be precise – was my parents’ last child and their third son. We have an older brother, Michael but he’s 30 and left home a few years ago. It must have been really weird to have had two boys after a run of five girls. When I said this to my dad once, he seemed surprised.

“No, not really,” he said, “it was what I wanted: two boys, Tom and Sam.”

That sounded really strange. After all, whilst, I am not fully up to speed on all this reproduction stuff, I didn’t really think you had a choice in it. Heads or tails: random chance and all that.

“But you can’t have known that you’d have two boys, can you?” I asked.

I kind of expected him to give me one of his smiles and say something like ‘no, not really’ but he didn’t.

“Why not?” He countered.

He looked really serious about it.

“After all, I already had your names. All I needed was for you guys to turn up and I have to say that you took your time!”

He made it sound as though he had somehow made a claim on the names in a list somewhere, like a domain name for a web site or something. I was pretty glad that I hadn’t turned out to be a girl because I think that I might have been walking around called Thomas regardless of my gender, or Thomasina (which has to be worse).

“But, you can’t really have known, dad.” I said.

“Ah, but I did,” he replied. This time he smiled. “I was waiting for you.”

He winked at me and it was just as well that he did because if he hadn’t it would have sounded a bit too spooky.

“What, Sam as well?”

I threw this in to see what came back.

“Yes, Sam too, I was waiting for you both.”

Ok, I expected that. Dad was usually pretty fair about things between us and he wouldn’t deliberately make any comment that appeared to put one of us in better favour than the other. What came next though was something else.

“You won’t believe how long I had been waiting for you both.”

It could have meant anything. I had the impression of a huge passage of time but though he was getting on a bit, he wasn’t that old. Ok so fifty-three is getting on a bit for a father, or at least so most of the kids at school said.

“But you’re not that old dad.” I said in my best comforting voice.

He didn’t reply. He simply looked at me with those eyes of his. I just looked back at them. Actually, just for a second I felt that I was looking through something really ancient; like a window on another world.

“Really?” he said.

Now I can’t be explaining this too well because I know he really isn’t that old and if I said anything else to him I’m pretty sure that he’d get a bit irritated. Still, I found myself wondering just exactly how far back he really went. I guess fifty-three is a long time. At least he wasn’t twitching.

That was a weird session, to be sure, but it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that Sam and I are close. People say we look alike but from where I stand that is rubbish. He’s eighteen months younger than me and a fair bit shorter. Given that I am not a great height either that probably makes him quite short but for all that he seems more muscular than me. That could be all the dance stuff but I don’t think so, it’s just the way he is.

Although we get on quite well most of the time, we do have the odd scrap now and then. It’s not often and my mum says that it’s usually when we are hungry and that it lets her know when to feed us. I think that this is one of her jokes but I’m not quite sure. My mum’s jokes are difficult to understand. (That is my polite way of saying that my mum is the worst teller of jokes that ever walked the earth.)

New York

The Dreamweavers

Available in ebook (£1.99) or in paperback (£10.99). 211 Pages.

If you want to know more about Tom's dreams and the strange world where they send him, you can buy the book on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle.
211 pages of action-packed weirdness.



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The Collector of Tales
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Frome,Somerset, UK


The Dreamweavers

This a story about a boy and his brother and the complexities of growing up when language and learning don't come naturally. Tom has strange dreams that creep up on him when he doesn't expect them. And these dreams don't just happen when he goes to sleep: they can happen any time. Sometimes he uses them to help him deal with problems but other times he has no control at all.

When he finds himself in a different world inhabited by creatures of legend he is forced to take stock. In this world the dead row longships; demons can be seen walking in the daylight; there are sorcerers, part human part reptile; and here there be dragons.


A tale of two boys, two worlds and learning differences

When Tom finds himself in a different world inhabited by creatures of legend he is forced to take stock. In this world the dead row longships; demons can be seen walking in the daylight; there are sorcerers, part human part reptile; and here there be dragons.

Tom's dreams are not just experienced by him. His brother Sam has them too and so do his parents. They are also watched by the Titan, Prometheus, as he searches for a way to escape the punishment that the Gods have unleashed on him.

Bound to a rock, he seeks relief from his daily torment in dreams and it is in those dreams that he sees the young boy as he moves between his own world and that of myth.

Whilst Prometheus in his own world is handsome and majestic, in Tom's world of dreams he is The Watcher, a hideous and monstrous creature, blackened and scarred by fire.

There he is a thing of horror and so to Tom it is a serious concern that this creature seems to be trying to break through into his real life.

But Tom is not alone. His younger brother Sam also moves in and out of this mythical world and his powers as a Sibilant (part wizard and part reptile) provide Tom with help at need.

An even greater surprise is that his parents can see into this world and his father appears in dragon form whilst his mother is a sorceress.

Is that enough to overcome the power of one of the ancient gods?

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