Hatched Or Dispatched? #blogbattle #writephoto

The house was derelict. The garden was a mess. No one remembered anyone living there. If anyone had checked with the Land Registry they would have been surprised that there was no registered owner. More to the point there was no house shown on the official maps, but since no one checked, no one was shocked, no questions were asked. Indeed, until last Thursday, no one would have known there was a house and garden there at all. You walked along Carpenter Close, maybe noticed the yellow rose in the front garden of number 37, smiled and noticed a similar, albeit red rose at number 39. What you couldn’t have said, what you’d be incapable of describing was the boundary between the two, a boundary where this crumbling pile now sat.

Rene Gade took her tea to the front window and stared at her new neighbours. Well, the house anyway. She tutted – she was an expert tutter, teaching year 10s as an elective on the art of tutting and harrumphing – and glanced at her phone. Should she ring again? She answered her own question with a ‘what’s the point’ harrumph. The local authority were useless.

‘Yes, madam, I heard you. A house has appeared next to yours. When you say a house…?’

‘Four stories, Victorian…’

‘A complete house?’

‘Last Thursday.’

‘That’s impossible.’

‘Indeed. And it’s a mess. There are probably rats and all sorts.’

‘Madam, are you sure…?’

After that the call went downhill.

Rene wasn’t going to wait for some jobsworth. She put down the cup, pulled her house coat tight and marched out of the front door.

Close up, her new neighbours’ house was more decrepit than she’d thought. A sign, covered in dust sat next to the door. ‘The Hatchery’ it said. Bloody stupid, Rene thought and raised her fist to knock. As she did so, the door swung open.

Had Rene been less alert, she would have been drenched by the murky brown, frothy liquid that gushed out but her Viennese waltz had won plaudits across Lower Sydenham, enabling her nimbly to avoid the torrent.

Applying a suitable ‘disgusting’ tutt, Rene stepped inside, halloing as she did so. From somewhere towards the back a deep voice replied, not that Rene could make out the words, beyond the voice was male and clearly drunk.

Well, she’d see about that. You didn’t dump a complete house next door and ruin the neighbourhood on Rene’s watch. Tugging her all purpose house coat tighter she headed towards the incoherence.

As Rene followed the narrow corridor, she had a moment’s concern that the house was so much a ruin that it might, at any moment collapse. However Rene hadn’t been conker champion for six seasons without developing a resilience and animal cunning. She skirted the gaping hole by the stairs, held her breath as she trod through the thick sulphurous green fumes that emanated from what appeared to be the downstairs toilet and pushed open the kitchen door.

What faced Rene would have been a terrifying sight to anyone not used to the 2pm slot on a Friday with Form 9E. In front of her was a large black table, though ‘black’ was merely the nearest colour Rene could call to mind, unless Dulex did an ‘Absence Of Light’ option. At the table a figure sat. A skeletal figure wearing a black cloak, with its hood thrown back. It eyed Rene, though again ‘eyed’ merely describes the position in the face that gazed at Rene. Socketed, might be nearer the mark. In its bony fingers it held a large pewter tankard which it proceeded to drain. As it did so, the dark brown fluid gushed out from under the cloak and began flowing towards and then past Rene. Once the tankard was drained, it hit the vessel on the table top, instantly refilling it and draining it again.

Between swigs the figure said, ‘yes?’

Rene sniffed, offering a tutt that combined disappointment with distaste. ‘Why aren’t you speaking in CAPITALS?’

The figure shrugged. ‘I resigned. They took away my voice, scythe and horse. If I wasn’t an embarrassment showing off my bones, I expect they’d have kept the cloak.’

‘There’s a new Death?’

‘It’s being advertised. Pestilence is doubling up for now.’

‘No one’s dying?’

‘Nope.’ The Skeleton Formerly Known As DEATH shrugged and emptied another gallon of ale. ‘It’s a new policy. Started last week. Compassionate Transition or some such bollocks they’re calling it. The old days of a swift dispatch are over.’ Another tankard went the way of the last.

Rene pulled up a seat. ‘That’s no excuse for dumping this excrescence of a building on my doorstep.’

‘It’s been here forever. It’s a halfway house. It’s just been invisible before.’

‘You what?’

‘You’ll be seeing more of these. All about openness and transparency, though I’ve always been pretty nearly transparent. Don’t worry, they’ve plans to tart it up a bit.’

‘I never knew. I thought, you know you died and that was it.’

Ex Death laughed, not with any humour. ‘Goodness me, no. You’d not believe the admin. No, I’d do my thing and then you’d come to one of these, and be judged or repent or what not and then,’ Ex Death pointed, first above its head and then below. ‘You want to see?’


‘Why not? I’m not on the payroll any more.’

Rene followed as an unsteady Person of the Apocalypse led her to a battered door that she’d thought was the toilet but was, in fact, the basement and hefted it open. ‘Hold your breath and take a peek.’

It was ghastly: boiling pans, writhing bodies, endless TED talks on mindfulness. Rene stepped back hurriedly.

She turned but the unhorsed horseman was already climbing the stairs. By the time she’d caught up, it had pulled down a ladder and handed her a stick. ‘Just push up the hatch.’

She climbed the metal steps and pushed at the square of wood. As it hinged open she caught a flash of pink buttocks and a giggle.

Below her, the Pre Terminator sighed. ‘Sorry, I should have said to knock. They lack a little modesty. It’s all about them, you see. Total ego.’

Rene was no prude, but all that running around albeit in green Elysian Fields full of daisies and frozen yoghurt fountains seemed both energetic and a tad Disney. ‘Is this heaven?’

‘Not your sort of thing? If you pass the entrance test, there’s an app that will show you the options. Some people like rain, some sun. You get the choose. Mind you, it’s a bit tedious, all that fun.’

‘Can you change your mind?’

‘Not now but that’s on the agenda. Seen enough because I need to get seriously sloshed?’

They set off down the stairs. Rene rubbed her chin, ‘Why do you call this place the Hatchery?’

The skulled head turned back to Rene and offered her a rictus grin. ‘Oh these days we can do irony, too. It’s all part of this rebranding, making us a post-modern post-truth caring spectral transference operation. In the past we ended lives,’ it essayed a scythe-less swish and instinctively bowed its head, ‘but now we are part of the cross-over from one existence to the next. Management want us to take a more positive view on our work, be more inclusive. In the last, those who came through here knew whatever had gone before was gone, dust, dereliction. In the future it will be seen as a positive move along the path of existences. So they’ll be sofas, meditations and flowers and,’ he glanced around, ‘patchouli. They want you to think about being hatched rather than dispatched, see.’

They were back in the kitchen. The Spectral Assassin clicked his bony fingers, magicking two tankards that filled with the same brown liquid. ‘I’m meant to be clearing out my things but sod it. You fancy joining me? They still do a pretty decent nectar, although take my advice and avoid the crisps.’ He pointed at the floor. ‘They make them down there. A little fleshy, if you know what I mean.’

Rene sat and raised the tankard. ‘The Good Old Days,’ she toasted.


I thought I’d combine two prompts: this month’s #blogbattle which is ‘Hatch’ and this week’s #writephoto which is

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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29 Responses to Hatched Or Dispatched? #blogbattle #writephoto

  1. Well done, Geoff. I’m sure all the progressives everywhere will embrace the new compassionate process transition.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. willowdot21 says:

    I love this Geoff, I have a look ways had a soft spot for this guy he gets such a bad press and now they’re sacking him …. sods!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, you have excelled yourself here Geoff. I particularly liked the endless TED talks on mindfulness! I think we are well on the way towards the reinvention of dying and choosing a meaningful date with death which will, no doubt, be over an extended period of a week or more. I’m sure it will very soon become mandatory to celebrate the Day of the Dead and we will all be exhorted to Die Well, Die Often!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gracious Geoff.
    The line fragment, “… endless TED talks on mindfulness,” almost caused me to choke on some sucked-in chuck of my sinus. I could not tell you the full number of people I know of who would be scandalized to the point of soiling their underwater by that line alone. Blatant plagiarism may soon follow 😈

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Happy Panda says:

    Wow. I was totally sucked into the story.. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An entertaining combination


  7. Bridgette says:

    Brilliant, funny and a great read!


  8. Jennie says:

    A twist on death; well done, Geoff.


  9. Gary says:

    Another well crafted piece Geoff. Almost Pratchett. The one where Death took a holiday if memory serves… and the house at first had me with The Order of The Phoenix and the safe-house between two others that shuffled sideways when needed.

    Have to say your Death… as in character, not your impending demise, seems a tad disgruntled. Can’t be many job opportunities for an ex-apocalyptic horseman. Movies maybe… save a fortune on make up and such like… although getting through interview might have it’s drawbacks once out of character identifies as in character. Maybe something in a stables perhaps… I digress.

    Well done again. Definitely made me chuckle


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  11. aebranson says:

    This ranks up there with among my favorites. From the very beginning, when you used the word ‘derelict’ to describe the house, I thought of both ‘run down’ and ‘bum.’ Both seem to apply to ex-death, who has quite a challenge to overcome in his effort to get drunk. Despite her proclivity for tutting, I took a liking to Rene and appreciated her toast. My favorite part was the observation how in progressive heaven, all that fun becomes a bit tedious – quite on the nose with the utopian vision of creating their own heaven on earth. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: #BlogBattle Stories: Hatch | BlogBattle

  13. Very clever, humorous and rich in description. My favourite theme is the concept that Rene hardened by years of teach years 9 & 10 is not the least disturbed by meeting Death or various aspects of an afterlife.
    Well done

    Liked by 1 person

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