ScifiShort fiction

Mary Contrary: a Psi-Kicks story by: GF Willmetts.

‘Hello, Mary.’

‘Hello, Jane.’

‘How do I look?’

‘You’ve grown a little.’

‘I haven’t seen you a few years. Do you remember a friend of mine, Polly Kettle?’

‘Polly Kettle?’

<<She taught me a mental trick. Can you still hear me?>>


It had taken three days to get that far. The opening lesson had been Mary Travers explaining the true story of Cinderella. A late supper and bed. Neither Polly or Ludomere Shear did anything but obey her until they were left alone.

‘Can we…’

<<Spake. We don’t know who’s listening in.>>

<<Is she that powerful? I haven’t been able to do much but be a pupil.>>

<<That’s why we normally leave her with Blanks. She sees them as children but they do have free will. She’s a lot less crazy than Flamin’ Scobie.>>

<<Those three children that kept popping in and out. Were they hers as well?>

<<That I don’t know. It looks like we’ve been cast into the trap Max put her in. At a guess, she’s been placed here as a governess and we’ve been added to the mix.>>

<<Probably better than the situation Max left us in.>>

<<It has all the feelings of another player.>>

<<Better here than being executed as witches.>>

<<Can we break Mary out of it? I presume this is her pro-mode?>>

<<We need to find out what’s going on before we try anything. We need to see how much of this mansion is her manifestation. For all we know, this could be the oasis in the void we felt from that prison cell. It could be something Max set up for her or Mary’s reaction to keep her…them…us safe.>>

<<Does she relate to reality at all or just make us part of it?>>

<<It depends on how needed she is. Mary has a habit of going on rescue missions.>>

<<Which means very needed at the moment.>>

<<She’s the perfect nanny.>>

<<Don’t you feel like she’s a bit insane?>>

<<It is something to understand if you want to understand Max. Many people live in their own worlds. With them, it’s just got the means to build the reality backing it up.>>

<<Is she ever normal?>>

<<Sometimes but we need her powers.>>

<<Sounds like a weird choice.>>

<<Play along. Try not to scan in your sleep.>>

It took three days for Polly to get Mary alone and focused enough to take a stab at getting into her mind after slowly seeping into it during that time. The stress of breaking free from the pupil control was immense.

‘How long have you been here, Mary?’

‘I’m not sure, Polly.’

‘What were you employed to do?’

‘To look after and teach the children.’

‘Except that they aren’t always here.’

‘Do you know why?’

Mary shook her head. ‘It is enough that they attend lessons.’

‘Listen, Mary. I don’t think you’re in total control of your head at the moment. Too much nanny state. Probably because of the isolation. Let’s try again. How long have you been here?’

Mary instantly paled. ‘I can’t remember. One day feels like the next. There is always food there. No sense of weeks passing.’

‘There’s always that need to be perfect in every way?’


‘I didn’t need to hear that answer.’

<<This reality isn’t supposed to live up to that. Your objectives need to change. Keeping those children safe.>>

<<But they won’t let me.>>

<<I think that’s why we arrived here.>>

<<You and Michael?>>

<<Ludomere. Not Michael.>>


<<Ask him…her…Ludomere to do mathematics. She’s supposed to be good with numbers although I don’t think that’s her true psionic ability. She also sucks up energy so don’t be afraid to let loose.>>

<<Let loose?>>

<<I’m trying to work out what the problem is and it has to centre on rescuing those kids…children.>>

<<I tried but they don’t stay around for long.>>

<<Which I think is causing your problem. You can’t do your job properly if they fade in and out. Do you know where they go?>>

Mary shook her head. ‘They flit and go. I don’t think they know what or why or how. They just enjoy it.’

‘They do like you?’

Mary nodded, drawing a handkerchief from her bag and dabbed her eyes. ‘Little darlings.’

<<We need a plan. Can you focus on them and see if you can go to them instead of trying to keep them here?>>

<<I’ll try.>>

Polly got up, gently hugged Mary and as she got to the door.

‘Lessons in half an hour, Jane.’

‘Of course, Mary.’

Polly reached out and located where Ludomere was. It took five minutes to get to her and join her on the wall outside the mansion.

‘We’d better not be late for lessons.’

‘You spoke to her? I feel like I’m on parole at the moment but at least I don’t feel so controlled.’

Polly nodded. ‘Sheena placed a subliminal in Mary’s head a few years ago. I got close enough to use it.’

‘She still thinks I’m Michael.’

<<Maybe. Do some maths in front of her and see how she reacts.>>

<<A subliminal?>>

<<I’m a convincer. I get people to believe what I say but it’s not spiking minds just co-operation. We have a different problem. Mary needs to go to the children if we can’t get them to stay here.>>

<<Which is contrary to her behaviour?>>

‘Is it still white out there?’ Polly murmured.

‘See for yourself.’

Polly closed her eyes and reached out. The whiteness beyond the nearby grass fields over-whelmed her briefly before she pulled back.

<<I don’t think we’re in Max’s steampunk world. I don’t think he wants Mary there.>>

<<This is limbo?>>

<<Somewhere between.>>

<<I thought I said that.>>

<<Think Twilight Zone and the story “It’s A Good Life”.>>

<<The Fremont kid? But Mary…>>

<<Isn’t Fremont material but to break out she needs to think contrary to her normal nature to get out of this loop.>>

<<There’s a but isn’t there?>>

<<Mary is perfect in every way.>>

<<How did we end up here?>>

Polly shrugged.

<<We might have needed help…which we did.>>

<<Maybe she was searching for a way out and just reached out.>>

<<You might be right about Max. Maybe she shared except she doesn’t share normally.>>

<<This isn’t “normally”, is it?>>

<<All regular conditions are off. I’ll note that we should keep reality shifters apart…really apart.>>

<<We need something she can call on.>>

‘You children should be in class,’ Mary said looking up at them.

‘It’s a nice day, Mary, why don’t you join us on the wall?’

Mary gave a tut, tut but then levitated up and sat between them.

‘Hello, Mary.’

‘Hello, Jane’

‘Do you remember a friend of mine, Polly Kettle?’


‘Hello, Mary.’

‘Hello, Michael. I hear you’re very good at maths. Would you like to do a sum for me?’

‘Mary, this is my friend Ludomere Shear. I told you about her.’

<<Hello, Ludomere.>>

<<Hello Mary. What sum would you like me to do?>>

Mary paused in contemplation. ‘Maths class is later.’

<<It was as easy as that, Polly? I haven’t even given her an answer yet.>>

<<I laid the groundwork, Ludomere. She’ll ask a maths question sooner or later.>>

‘Mary, we want you to rescue the three children. We don’t think they are really here but somewhere else. Do you think you can follow them?’

‘Become a ghost?’

‘They might not be ghosts, Mary,’ Ludomere paused. ‘Just kids penetrating where we are now but can do so only briefly.’

Polly continued, ‘They might be calling for you to go to them.’

‘I…I have no way to get to them.’

‘Who pointed them out to you in the first place?’

‘Sara did but I have no way of reaching her neither.’

This time, it was Polly who paused. ‘Sara. Sara told you to protect the children.’

‘So it’s Sara Seeker’, Ludomere said surprised. ‘What of it?’

‘We haven’t been able to locate her.’

<<A trap?>>

<<A message.>>

<<It could be a con. Aren’t you supposed to spot cons?>>

<<Or spot the truth. I can see why we were pulled here.>>

‘We should start school, children.’

‘Let’s do the lesson here, Mary. Maybe we can have afternoon tea out here instead of by the ceiling today.’

‘Tell us about Medea’s dragon, Mary.’

‘Does she have a name, Mary?’

‘She’s called Amorilla.’

‘What a nice name, Mary.’

‘She can’t get us…home and I am not Dorothy Gale.’

<<That would make life easier, Polly.>>

<<Do you really fancy being the scarecrow, tin man or…>>

<<the cowardly lion. I see what you mean. One of us could end up being Toto.>>

<<Or one of the witches. Shame the Wizard was a fraud.>>

‘Mary, do you remember when you rescued two children before freeing their father from a bank vault?’

‘Of course, Polly, children should have a father.’

‘You found the children then.’

‘They were in trouble.’

‘How did you find them?’

Mary starred into the distance. ‘They needed rescuing. These children aren’t in trouble.’


<<Do you have to shout.>>

<<Sorry. Thing is, she’s probably right. We would have to wait for something to happen so she would go to the rescue.>>

<<Isn’t there anything else she would rather be?>>

<<Be grateful she wasn’t a fan of Darkstar or we’d have a nuclear accident.>>

<<You’re joking, Polly.>>

<<I’m joking. We’d all end up looking like the dysfunctional crew to her.’

<<What would happen if I really drained her energy? Would she become normal enough to convince to do what we want?>>

<<We could also lose where we are at the moment.>>

<<We can hardly put the children in danger.>>

A floating tray rattling near them. Glasses of milk and biscuits.

‘Thank you, Mary,’ they both chimed.

‘We’d love to laugh, Mary, but just because the children don’t think they’re in trouble, doesn’t mean they won’t be. The Pattern could be getting close to them without them realising it. They could even pose as you and that wouldn’t be perfect.’

‘That would never do, Jane…Polly.’

‘No it wouldn’t, Mary Travers.’

‘They would believe it’s you if you appeared with your friend, the dragon Amorilla.’

‘Yes, they would.’ Mary paused. Her bag, coat and umbrella appeared by her side.

‘Thank you for reminding me of my duty, Polly…Ludomere.’

<<Appeal and logic. The most preventive medicine.>>

<<Didn’t even need a spoonful of sugar.>>

Mary Travers was gone. The mansion behind them vanished. The garden vanished. The wall vanished,

They were back in the dungeon, slowly floating down onto their beds.

‘OH CRAP!’ Polly shouted in surprise.

‘We got her to go, Polly. It would have been lucky had we gone with her.’

‘No. It means she isn’t returning to the real reality but in this steampunk reality.’

‘OH CRAP!’ Ludomere reiterated and more quietly, ‘Well, at least we have something to eat.’

‘And I have some wire.’

Ludomere scanned the door. ‘No need for that. Mary did us a favour. The door’s unlocked.’

‘Let’s eat first. Mary has all the dragons.’

The door opened and in walked Flamin’ Scobie. ‘What’s up, Doc?’

<<This is good, isn’t it?>>



Psi-Kicks, Polly Kettle, Ludomere Shear,

Mary Travers and Flanolla Flamin’ Scobie


© GF Willmetts 2018

all rights reserved

ask before borrowing


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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