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Zero Degrees

by Cornelia 

Posted: 09 February 2011
Word Count: 249
Summary: An entry for the 'opening' challenge

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‘'S true enough.' The landlord straightened glasses above his head. ‘Things were a bit slow in the run-up to the Millennium. Another one in there for you, John?’

‘Go on; make it a round number before closing. Seems busy now.’

‘ Can’t complain. I put it down to an old bloke that used to sit at the end of the bar. Margaret said not to encourage him; he didn’t fit in after the refurb. Something about him I liked, though. Real character.’ The landlord smiled, leaning back to pull the pint. 'Called himself a magus; reckoned he was some kind of wizard.’

Placing the glass on the bar, the landlord leaned closer.‘Always rambling on about leylines and portals; said Greenwich is a centre for spiritual power. That really tickled the New Agers we get in on folk nights.’

He turn to swing the cord of a brass bell. As the noise died away, he continued: ‘Energy concentration, according to him, accounts for all the ghosts hereabouts: hooded monk at the Queen’s House; Christopher Marlowe down in Deptford. ‘

‘Funny you should say that. He mentioned them to me as well.’


‘Earlier, while I was reading the paper - geezer at the end of the bar. He’s gone now. That the one you mean?’

‘Sorry, mate, he dropped off the perch last year – dead before he hit the ground, according to the paramedics.’

The bell clamoured more loudly.

'Come on now, ladies and gents. Let’s be having you’

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Comments by other Members

tractor at 14:13 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
Hi Sheila,

great scene setting and the story has a good twist which I didn't guess. I wonder if the Magus has to pay for his drinks on these visits?



Cornelia at 14:15 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
Thank you for reading and comments, Mark. Good point. Also, should he have a capital M when first intoduced? I'll look it up.


tusker at 15:03 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
I've always enjoyed ghost stories, Sheila.

This was good and a great twist at the end.


Cornelia at 15:08 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
Thanks, Jennifer. I was a bit doubtful about this one but thought it was worth dusting off for the challenge.


Prospero at 16:11 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
It is interesting that you invoke Christopher Marlowe in this piece Sheila. I believe he died in a knife fight outside a Tavern and there was talk of him being a Government spy who was deliberately killed. Like my namesake he was also reputed to have dabbled in the Occult.



Desormais at 17:12 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
Nice spooky tale Sheila! Convincing voice as well. Enjoyed it.

Cornelia at 17:46 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
Glad you liked it, Sandra.

Prospero, Marlowe was one of the characters I knew about from literary studies - I thought he was stabbed by a rival playwright, but it's all very mysterious. I used to be involved in Greenwich tourism. That's how I heard about the leylines and the other ghosts. They were the subject of a special walk conducted by a friend, always very popular.I wrote a couple of stories about this subject so I hope I can bring in another one when suitable.


Bunbry at 20:17 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
Hi Sheila, you have told an enjoyable tale and kept the twist hidden - nicely done!


Cornelia at 21:14 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
Nick, thanks for reading and for your comment. I had my doubts about this one, so I'm glad it was a surprise.


Manusha at 21:17 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
Hi Sheila,

I liked the story and the setting, after all, it is in a pub! I must admit I had to read it a couple of times to really get who was speaking when. Perhaps you didn't need so many line breaks, as in between:
Real character.’

And -
The landlord smiled,

He placed the glass on the bar, then leaned forward.

And -
‘He was always rambling on

Lastly -
the dangling cord of a brass bell.

And -
‘Energy concentration,

Sorry for the 'Ands'! I just thought it might tie the speach and speaker closer together in an otherwise enjoyable tale. A classic ghost story, Sheila, there one moment, gone the next!

Regards, Andy

Cornelia at 21:30 on 09 February 2011  Report this post
Thank you, Andy, for pointing this out. I will take another look at the breaks. I like dialogue but always worry about getting the breaks right, especially when the styles of speech are so similar. In this I put in the line breaks after writing the dialogue to add a bit more character to the landlord and to mark time passing towards closing, but I can see it may be the reader forgets who was speaking.It might work better if the speech and the speaker reference are in the same paragraph.


V`yonne at 23:59 on 11 February 2011  Report this post
Nice twist in the tale.

Cornelia at 10:16 on 12 February 2011  Report this post
Thanks, V'Yonne.

Andy, doh! I was just tweaking to get the word count right and realised that's what you meant all along about the breaks. I hope it reads better now.


Manusha at 11:39 on 12 February 2011  Report this post
It looks fine and dandy to me, Sheila. ;

crowspark at 11:19 on 13 February 2011  Report this post
A ghostly visitation all the more spooky when linked to Greenwich and Deptford. I'm sure there would have been an actual pub you could have named early on for early engagement.
I remember something about a devil, like a black monkey that was supposed to have dropped out of a tree in the park at Greenwich but I'm sure there were plenty more goings on!
Brings back fond memories of Greenwich, Piper John who played sea shanties on a variety of instruments, of being a member of Greenwich Young Peoples Theatre and appearing at Greenwich Theatre on the stage. The place where my poems were first read in public!
Thanks for a spooky read.


Cornelia at 11:36 on 13 February 2011  Report this post
Thanks, Bill. I'm glad it brought back pleasant memories. The pub was the one next door to the Richard 1st on Royal Hill. I haven't been in but it had a refurb and changed to a fancy chrome and pine bar, around the time of the Millennium, with a brief change of name. It's called the Union Tavern now and I think it's more like a pub again. 'Zero Degrees' is the name of a pizza place with its own brewery in Blackheath Village.

Haven't heard the one about the black monkey, but there was a French spy who blew himself up on the slope near the observatory. He was in Conrad's 'A Secret Agent', I believe.


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