Dark Doors

Ask. I will tell you a story.

Category: Writing (page 2 of 3)

Call for Submissions from Editor version of me

If you are a student at Leeds Trinity University, love to write and think you’ve got some flash fiction or poetry that the world just CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT, then click over to this call for submissions by yours truly, and her partner in crime, John Gledhill.

Deadline is fast approaching, but you’ve got time.

Why are you still reading this?! Go click the link!

Demon Relations

Day 16, and this was a tough one to write. It started differently, and ended in a place I didn’t expect. So much so, that the beginning didn’t fit anymore. I’ve edited it – something I said I wouldn’t do in this challenge – because the writing demanded it. I’m going to re-use the edited material, knock it into better shape. For now, you folks get the better part of today’s writing.

Trust me. I’m a writer.


She watched from the bench near the reflecting pool, counting the humans as they passed by, counting the demons carried. She stretched and resettled into a crouch. A breeze picked up and sent a faint tremor through her: she scented a clean human.

Her nostrils twitched and she turned into the breeze, working to locate the source. It was difficult work in an open and public space, filled the smells of burdened humans. The sweet-rot smell of sweat and brimstone tinged with sulphur swayed with the breezes, drowning out the flowers in the park and the cut grass all around. She stood and paced the edge of the reflecting pool, nose lifted high as she followed the hints. She was trying to find the gaps between the smells – the absence of scent – and it was a challenge.

One she wasn’t willing to fail.

More on instinct than on olfactory evidence, she left the open spaces around the pool and chose a path pointing east. She trotted, unseen, at the edge of the path. Though she could avoid contact with the humans, the demons saw her, and trumpeted a greeting as she passed. Some guessed at what she was up to, and would try to follow her. They were stopped by their humans – and their links – as their agitation made their humans anxious and eager to appease them. She left a wake of demonic disturbance behind her, but she couldn’t hide her purpose.

She was new – no colour, no detail – and wished for a human of her own. Too many humans could not cope with more than one demon, and the population she had been assigned were almost tapped out. But she was assured several times that there was a human for her – she just had to find it.

The scent-gaps were growing; she must be getting closer. She dared to pick up her pace from a trot to a jog, nostrils flaring the air as she went. Pain raked her back, and she stumbled. Recovering, she glanced over her shoulder to inspect her back. Even in a glance, she saw new bone structure pushing through two gashes on either side of her spine. She smiled and redoubled her effort – her human was close enough to be imprinting its preferred shape on her. There! She could smell only flowers and mud.

She angled her pace off the path, galloping across the grass towards a picnic blanket. Sharp points of heat stabbed across her head and neck, feathers sprouting from each, and her face sharpened, pulling itself long and shaping itself into a hooked beak. She stumbled as her back legs went numb, and rewrote themselves into lion’s legs.

She didn’t stop though – she kept dragging herself forward using her newly-clawed front legs. She stretched and shrugged her back to release some of the pockets of pain, and went tumbling forward in surprise at her sudden momentum. She landed in a tangled mess of new talons and wings – and a tail! – and stayed for a moment while she sorted out her new body. She closed her eyes, taking stock of every change. The sun warmed her as she lay quiet, then she was plunged into shadow. Her eyes opened, and she looked straight into the face of her clean human.

She couldn’t help it, but she was sad that she would never smell that scent again. For as their eyes met, and human and demon bonded, the flower scent disappeared, tainted by the brimstone.

StoryTime – 2

Day 13, folks, and here’s the second installment of StoryTime. Sorry for the suggestions of gore – don’t eat while reading, okay?

I’ll aim for something less icky for tomorrow. Promise!


‘Once upon a time, there …’

The knife twists again, then slices in, deeper. The trickle of blood is closer to a torrent now, but I can’t see it. I’m screaming against the hand over my mouth, straining against the solid mass holding me to it. The knife withdraws, the pressure goes, and blood pulses out. Feels like my breast is deflating, but the quiet part of my brain – the one that isn’t screaming – tells me I’m being ridiculous. Still with the stupid thoughts. Focus!

I stop the next scream before it starts. I breathe against the hand, smelling its salt-sweat, trying not to taste it. The hand releases incrementally, then disappears. The body disappears.

‘Too childish. Try again.’

That voice. I struggle to turn, the steel cutting into my wrists, blood trickling down. Great. I’ll bleed out before I get another chance. The warmth trails to cold as the blood slides down my flank and leg.

Pressure on my breast again, I flinch.

‘Stop struggling. I don’t need you light-headed from blood loss. Don’t worry, I won’t let you die until you’ve told me my story.’

The pressure returns, then a sharp stab. I bend away again, but another hand presses me still from the other side.

‘I’m packing the wound. Stop it.’

Another sensation of pressure, this one flat and even over the wound. The scritching sound of tape near my ear, and the hands fix the bandage into place.

‘Just this once, I’ll give you a moment to order your thoughts. But I can only be patient for so long.’

Shreds of stories – other people’s stories – tumble through my mind’s eye. Frantic, I grasp at thoughts and fling them away. No, he’ll know that. Not that one. Fuck, he’ll know them all. I’m going to die here. I clear my throat and try again. ‘There was a reek…’

A searing cold slices down my thigh. I allow a thin shriek out, clamp down before the hand can. I don’t need that smell on my face again. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…’

‘Shhh. You’re learning though. That’s good. I don’t want ugly. Make it beautiful.’

Cold wetness draws up the thigh, stinging the wound. Sharp alcohol fills my nose, cleansing it. Pressure, tape, and the punishment is covered. Think, think, think. Beauty. What is beautiful in any of this? Where can I find beauty?

A lancing circle of pain in my left foot. A snap, then a squelch with a metallic clank. Blinding searing pain filling my world my head tilting back voice throat torn with the screams against the hand covered in coppery blood.

‘You were taking too long. That needed punishing.’

A gobbet of flesh dangles before my pain-filled eyes. Too close, then I focus. My littlest toe. Not on my foot anymore. My eyes roll, looking backwards into my brain for the story that will appease that voice stop those hands from hurting. Don’t take too long, or it might be fingers next. Or worse. Play the game. Get writing.

StoryTime

Day 12 – here you go, folks. This one was inspired by something an agent said the other night: Write like your life depended on it. I may have taken it a little too literally with this, but hey.

There’s more to this, I’m sure. I will return to this twisted take on Scheherezade, because it’s just too… well, read it and you’ll see. 


Heavy, dragging on my arms. There’s a pressure weighing down on my chest. It’s difficult to breathe. My mouth is covered, can’t open it. My arms. So much hurt, I almost drift back to the blackness to escape. Bastard luck, it recedes and I open my eyes.

My arms are stretched above me, my bare toes grazing the concrete floor. I look down, seeing my own nakedness and the cold hits. I shiver, I can’t stop shivering now that I’ve started, and the cold is least of my worries.

A disc of light on the floor, surrounded by encroaching darkness. I see the faint outline of a chair on the opposite side of the light, just outside its influence. My greedy eyes drink in the light to stave off the fear. I can’t stop them, and when I finally force a blink, the afterimage is burned behind my lids. I turn my head, but my arms blinker my vision. I look past the light into the void of the dark, straining to see past the burning bright spotlight.

The dark keeps its secrets.

I struggle, but there’s no stability in standing on tip-toe. My arms burn under the burden of myself, and I can’t put my feet flat down. The pain increases, and I stop, allowing myself to swing minutely from the shackles. Tendons and ligaments groan; I think I heard it, but I can’t be sure.

How in hell did I get here?

‘It’s story time.’

A voice from the black, coming from behind me. I thought I was cold before; that was a walk along a beach in comparison to how I feel now. I try to turn, wrench my head around to see the puppet-master who has hung me out like this.

Laughter echoes. ‘You must save your energy. Don’t struggle. You’ll only dislocate a shoulder or two.’ The voice is distorted, altered by the space and probably by technology. No human voice sounds like that naturally. Unless you’re Christian Bale. Nice time for jokes. Jesus, I’m in trouble here, and I’m making fucking jokes. I must be going mad.

‘You’re my favourite author, you know that?’

Fingers crawl through my hair, scratching through the tangled falls behind my neck and shoulders. A delicate scrape of nails down the skin of my back sets the shivers running anew.

‘I want you to write me a story. Just for me.’

The fingers continue stroking through my hair; the image of my cat on my lap whilst I’m sitting at my desk rises and falls.

‘But we’re going to play a game with this story. This story that’s you will write just for me.’

My chest tightens and my pulse speeds up. The fingers sweep the hair to one side. Warm breath on the back of my neck as strong hands trace the outlines of my strained biceps. My skin reaches back for the warmth of the large body that stands just behind me. It comes no closer. Only the breath and the hands touch me.

‘You will start your story. If I don’t like it, I punish you.’

One hand lifts away from my arm. The sudden chill where there was a brief warmth makes me tremble again. That’s what I tell myself, but then I hear a metallic clink behind me.

‘I’m very imaginative, too.’

A chill line traces from the small of my back, around my waist to my stomach. I roll my eyes down, bending my head as much as I dare with the voice behind me. I watch as the tip of the filleting knife trails around my navel, and travels up my torso, circling the right nipple. I scream behind the gag.

‘Try to scream or do anything other than tell me my story, and I will punish you.’

The tip of the knife presses into the outer swell of my right breast.

‘Tell me a story I have heard before, and I will punish you.’

I watch – eyes wide – as a cherry drop of blood blossoms under the tip of the knife. Thank the gods it’s so cold, otherwise I’m sure that would hurt.

‘Take the story in a direction I don’t like, I will punish you.’

The knife pivots, twists, digs deeper, and the drop becomes a widening line. Pain sears through the cold.

I wish I was only shivering now.

On the Origins of the Dragonfly

Day 11 and the challenge continues. This one’s a little late today, because I’ve been out meeting a potential agent. (Who is awesome, by the way! But I might write about it tomorrow.)

Not sure where this came from. The first sentence (which became the title) was an errant thought galloping through my head on my commute today. The intention was to write it in an Attenborough-esque style, but this slightly drunken voice emerged instead, and I decided to run with it.

I’ll shut up and let you read now.


On the origins of the dragonfly:

It is a little-known fact that dragonflies are related to dragons.

No, wait. Don’t go. I’m really not insane. Listen, and you will understand.

Dragonflies were parasites – no, that’s not right. Dragonflies were symbionts to the dragons. They were a lot bigger then than they are now. They used to live on the dragons, nesting just under the wings. They took care of the cleaning. Honest. Most people think that dragons would just burn off any grime, but for those hard to reach places, dragonflies are perfect. Like those birds with the alligators, picking out gobbets of flesh in-between teeth, and keeping gums healthy. That’s what they’d do. Picking out the carbonized fragments of charred beast, because that corrodes dragon-teeth like nothing else does.

I know, right? Big fangs and snarly teeth like that, and you never think of dragon dental health.

But dragonflies were more than just dedicated dentists. They polished scales and claws, kept antlers (lung dragons only, of course) from splintering and snapping. A dragon’s beauty was down to its flies. Those evil dragons? They were just angry because their flies were substandard keepers, and dragons are vain creatures. And they teased each other mercilessly if their scales started going black with neglect. They would try to poach good dragonflies from each other, with varying success, because the flies are dumb. Loyal, but dumb.

But I said before that dragonflies are related to dragons. I’m getting to that.

Dragonflies looked like miniature dragons, but slimmer with doubled wings, and not much bigger than your hand.

After science started to replace magic, people gradually lost their faith in the existence of dragons. Like the Greek gods of old, the dragons shrank as belief in them faded. They got smaller, and needed less care. So dragonflies would leave, trying to find another host. That didn’t work, because the food source was shrinking. Literally. Dragonflies died off.

And the dragons got smaller. A few people believed, so dragons didn’t die out completely. Mainly because their original size – bigger than you can conceive, but think of a football pitch, and you’ve got enough room for the final sections of the tail – gave them enough time to adapt as they shrank.

After a few generations, dragons resembled dragonflies.

But faith still dwindled, and dragons kept shrinking. Thanks to the storytellers of the world, dragons would not disappear completely. They just shrank to a sustainable size.

And now, they’re dragonflies.

What? You asked.

Dichotomy

Day 10 and something a little experimental. I was caught in this conflict today – stuck between Librarian and Writer whilst at work. Felt like I was being torn in two. So, here’s my dual brain dichotomy. (Fingers crossed the formatting works…)


Don’t look at me.                                                                    Look at me.

These words are not me.                                                       These words are

I am not these words.                                                             everything I am.

When you read these words,                                                  These words define me,

you are not reading me.                                                          outline me, give me purpose.

I am not the mind behind that story.                                        I explore the darkening corners

Stop looking so frightened – as if                                            of my mind, root out the

I am the psycho in that story.                                                  Nightmares, put them on display.

Those are just words.                                                              Naming the fears gives them

Not me.                                                                                    shape, makes them known, so we

Don’t look at me like that.                                                        can all rest easy at night. Not

I wouldn’t do such awful things.                                               lay awake wondering are there

Why do you think I am capable of …                                       monsters in cupboard is that a

How can you think I could possibly … ?                                  killer huddled at the foot of my

That’s not me. It’s just a story.                                                 bed will I die in my sleep?

I’m a person, not a monster.                                                    I give breath and shape to the

Though I’m not much to look at…                                            creatures of your fears, so you

Stop looking at me like that.                                                     can know them and name them

I wouldn’t dream of hurting you.                                               and never fear them again.

I could never hurt anyone.                                                        These words let me be the hero,

I’m not that strong. Or vicious.                                                  take charge, be in control,

I just write down words,                                                             be daring, defeat the monster,

just ink on paper, or black marks                                               or be psychotic, become the

on a screen, words which are even less                                    Monster, and peel faces back

real, because they are virtual.                                                    to make them my own.

I am real, the words are only stories.                                          I breathe life into the stories,

Nothing more, nothing less.                                                        make the words dance across

Do not judge me by my words.                                                   your mind – the better the dance,

Do not fear me because of those words.                                    the better the story is.

I am more than those ideas.                                                    Judge my words for the story

But please, I beg you,                                                             they make.

do not believe that those words are me.                                  Each word is a piece of me.

Two-fer

Day 9 offering, folks.

On the radio, they were asking about people’s first kiss, which got me thinking about this. By the time I started writing it – twelve hours later – I realised I was heading to a dangerous place. Didn’t help that the kid was watching ‘Buffy’ while I was writing.

In my own inimitable style, I offer you a two-fer today, in which the second uses the first as a style model. With a twist.

Enjoy?


You kissed me.

So much happens in just those three words.

You kissed me.

You touched my face, just the fingertips resting on my cheek. Your eyes fixed on my lips. My eyes fixed on yours, I watched as your lips part with a breath. Shallow in, shallow out. My breath matched yours, my hands reached for your hips. Your left hand slid under my hair, cupped the base of my skull, fingers entwined in hair. Grasping, you pulled my face closer to yours. My fingers flexed and gripped your flesh, palms on hipbones, pulled you closer to me. Standing hip-to-hip, we felt the tremble of anticipation in the other. A hitched breath, a shiver down the spine. Your lips grazed against mine, light, fleeting. Grazed again, my lips opened to yours. I tilted my head back, leaned up, and then.

You kissed me.

I kissed you.

Anything more becomes Fifty Shades of mommy-porn.

***

I killed you.

So much happens in just those three words.

I killed you.

You stepped closer, circling closer as I clawed my way free of the dirt of my own grave. Your eyes fixed on my lips. I obliged you and – even as a newborn – smiled out my shiny fangs. Your eyes dilated. Even in dim lamplight, I watched the anticipation crank open your pupils. Though you pushed it down, away, I scented your fear. Tang of orange. Who knew? I breathed in, deep, breathed out, then realised – I don’t need to breathe anymore. I smiled, then swore as my teeth cut my own lip. Tongue darted out; waste not, want not. Wrong, actually; waste not, want more.

I freed myself, stood upright upon my grave, shivered through with the night chill after the warmth of my coffin. Errant thought – someone just walked over my grave – shot across my mind, memory of my grandmother explaining away tremors and chills. Not paying attention, as I stared you down, matched you step for step. Partners in this macabre dance before death.

As one, we leapt for each other, hands grasping gripping grappling. Hip-to-hip, we struggled in the other’s embrace. You grabbed my face, pushed hard to tilt me back. I bit down on the palm of your hand, forced into my mouth. Rookie mistake. My hands were free to seize your head, your hair, and I pulled you backwards, bending you further and further as my balance returned.

A snap. You went limp in my arms. But you lived. Your eyes screamed fear.

I bent and drank deep. You tasted of blood and orange.

I killed you.

Single Strand

I suppose this is for anyone who has been in a bad relationship. I don’t honestly know if I’m going to leave this posted – it’s quite raw, and may hurt when read. But… isn’t that what writing is meant to do?


In that moment when you realise a single strand connects you to hell, every detail, every event rushes from the depths of your mind. You thought you had it locked away, but this single connection in the present was enough to pick the lock and bring it all back.

It’s the pettiness of her revenge that irks you the most. The smallest incident in a series of much larger, more worrying events which she has brought to the fore. You wonder how angry she must be to flaunt this to the world. You worry that speaking of the whole sorry affair will give her power over you again.

But you have grown wiser since that doorway to hell slammed shut behind her. And you realise that you are no longer defined by her. She is defined by you. No. Even that isn’t correct. Her public face is outlined by her own petty vindictiveness, her own mistaken reduction of the entire relationship; a reduction that, in the grand scheme, is so minor as to be overlooked, forgotten. From a different perspective, it could have been a pivotal moment. It highlighted her selfishness, her inflexibility, her overwhelming and incorrect superiority: she’s right, and no one else is.

At least you forgot it.

But it is glaringly apparent that she has not.

You are free. She has wrapped and warped herself, twisted that passing comment into the fabric of her everyday life.

But you had to think of the children. They came first, and her poison pettiness was hurting them.

See? All of the details, which you wish were gone, wiped clean, erased from your life, roll in on the irresistible wave of memory. You feel yourself being dragged forward, into the surf, against your will. Your foot snags on the undertow, and it hooks your leg out from beneath you. You fall, but one foot stands on dry sand, and you twist as you fall, reaching out to claw your way back to light.

But there are hands there, in a blink, hands that grab your arms, scooping you up and lifting you above the venomous water of the past. Those who care about you bring you back, and lay you down, far from the grasping claws of the sea. They sit with you, let you stare – in pale, horrified memory – for a while. But they are the ones that won’t let you wallow. Won’t let you go under. They help you to your feet, dust the sand off, and remind you that you are strong enough to turn your back on that sea.

And you do.

That final, single strand which linked you to hell snaps like a gossamer cobweb as you walk back to your life.

The Walls of Freedom

No sooner do I post about postponing my post, and tech support (hubby) has fixed the problem. Sod’s Law, really.

Here is today’s piece, inspired by a suggestion from the kid. 


Sky and clouds tumble free-fall. All around, grass rolling up into hills and meadows, stretching beyond his failing vision. The horizon a dim line of green etched across the blue of the sky. No trees anywhere – just grass and sky and clouds.

He looks up – he always looks up – his face open to the open sky. He feels the vast emptiness press down on him. Knees crumple and he falls back, onto the grass.

Screaming.

Hands stretched up in front of him, he screams himself to consciousness. His fingers criss-cross the sky above him, dark shadows over the blue. His breath runs out and he gasps, tries not to sob with relief when he sees that the sky is only a circle far above him. The grey walls surround him in their familiar embrace, and his world shrinks to what he knows.

He gulps and hitches. His hands drop down and cover his eyes. A ghost of the nightmare returns – blue and white – and he fights the memory. Regains himself, masters his breath. Spent, he lies limp on his back in the dirt. He lets his hands flop out to either side. For a moment, he is crucified, encircled by walls, and he is at peace.

He does not want to move. Not just yet. The dirt beneath his back warms from his own heat, reflecting it back. A faint smile crosses his face. Just a dream. Not real.

With one deep breath, he rolls over and up, and is ready to start the day. He circles the walls, checking for cracks and any structural damage. He finds the tip of a root pushing its way through the wall. With ruthless speed, he excavates a small space around it, gathering the dirt and setting it in a neat pile. He digs in a few inches deep, a small circle around the root. Satisfied that it is deep enough, he reaches in, grasps the root and pinches with his nails, clipping it through. He sets it down, sneering at its feeble attempt to destroy his home, then scoops up the displaced dirt, and repairs the hole. Though there hasn’t been an earthquake in years, he knows that the only way a home will look after you is if you look after it. That scare from – when was it? – whenever it was, with that jagged break in the wall stretching up, even past his head, taught him to take nothing for granted.

Except the basket. He hears the squeak of its journey to him and steps back from his repaired wall, and watches its descent. He squints to see its blurry grey shape against the darker grey walls. He follows it, sees how it is no longer blurry when it is just a few feet above his head. He considers this for a moment, but sees no importance in it.

The basket has stopped at his chest height, and he steps forward, looks inside. A bottle of milk, some bread – good, the last bit has gone mouldy – a few apples, two thick slices of ham. Someone must be in a good mood. He removes the small feast, arranges it on the table at one side. He shuffles the items around, weighing up how long before the basket would return again, and how much he can allow himself each day.

He turns, and blinks when he sees that the basket is still there. This is new. He approaches it again, wary now, and looks in again. Down at the bottom is something new. He prods at it, but nothing happens. Tentative, apprehensive, he reaches in and grabs it.

It is cold, but only from the food. The plastic case warms in his hand, and he stares at it, turning it over and over.

He looks into the basket again, searching for some kind of clue of what this thing is. A white square of paper sits on the bottom. He picks it up. The basket has brought him books in the past, but he didn’t like them very much. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. The paper is folded, almost like a book.

He unfolds the paper and stares at the marks on it. He does not know what they mean, but a chill runs through his heart, and a flash memory of the sky in his dream makes him sweat.

Do you want to be free?

A Mother’s Love

Day 6, folks. This was a difficult day for writing, and I had to drag this idea out, a syllable at a time.

The opening epigram is something I was spitballing for ideas, and I liked the rhythm of it. Doesn’t exactly fit with what followed, but it did inspire it somewhat.

Not my best work – apologies. But I’m keeping up with my challenge.


Fear, elation, duty, obligation. Where is the joy amongst these things?

She lifted her daughter from the bed, resting the girl’s chin against her own shoulder. Gentle fingers, Marta untied the gown at Chloe’s neck and eased the gown open. The fragile music of the water from the sponge as it trickled down into the basin. She squeezed the sponge, the trickle increased to a temporary torrent. With firm strokes, she circled the warm sponge down the length of her daughter’s back.

Damp breaths warmed the skin of her shoulder. Marta grasped for some joy there. At least her daughter was alive.

Trading the sponge for a fluffy towel, she dried Chloe’s back. She shifted the weight and laid her daughter back against the pillows. Marta smoothed Chloe’s hair from her face, searching the girl’s eyes for some recognition. Blank grey stared back, showing a dull infinity.

She checked over her shoulder to ensure the door was closed behind her, and swept the hospital gown off. Firm but swift, Marta washed Chloe’s arms, torso and legs, pausing to dry each part, patting with tender care. She dressed her daughter, resentful of the institutional gown, convinced that this kept Chloe from returning to her.

If only she could bring Chloe’s own pyjamas in, her favourite blanket. Marta knew that these familiar objects would remind Chloe of the life she left behind. Her heart pounded in anticipation of arguing with the nurses again, and she even stood up from the edge of the bed. Memories of previous arguments resurfaced, and Marta sat down again, resigned. At least she didn’t lose those minutes with her daughter.

Sunshine filled the room, turning the dingy grey walls buttery with its light. It touched Chloe’s hair and the blonde blazed into honey gold. Marta watched, breath stopped, and witnessed Chloe turn her head to the light. Her face, a sunflower.

Marta picked up the old hairbrush from the bedside table, and shuffled closer to her Chloe. She picked up a lock of honey gold, and the brush glided through it, gilded by the sun. Marta hummed an old lullaby as she brushed her daughter’s hair, remembering when she was only five and fought against the brush. A smile warped the hum for a moment, and a tear travelled unchecked from Marta’s eye to the bed sheet.

She brushed and brushed until Chloe’s hair looked like spun gold, and Marta half-expected Rumpelstiltsken to appear in a puff of magic next to the bed, demanding her secrets. Marta parted Chloe’s hair, and smoothed the left side behind her ear. Gently, tenderly, and with accusatory regret, Marta brushed the right side over Chloe’s cheek, to hide the burned ruin of the girl’s profile.

The Hunter Moon – 5 Feb

Day 5’s offering. I’m a little concerned that I’m barely making my minimum word count, folks. I hope you like prose poetry, because that’s the only thing that describes today’s piece.

Enjoy?


The Hunter Moon sings a new language to me: all sibilants and fricatives, with the occasional shock glottal that makes me stumble. The song rolls through me. Did I know it once? Once upon a time, the Hunter Moon ruled us all, and we danced beneath its light. Free and wondrous, beautiful in our simplicity.

What was its song? My heart reaches out, straining to feel for it. The words resonate, off-key, and my soul ages with the pain. The pain of knowing and not-knowing, of chancing so close to meaning and missing each moment.

The song of the Hunter Moon fills the dreamlands with its memories and its dance. There in the dreamlands, I am freed from the ties that bind and hold me to this earth. Gravity is subjective and my feet float free from the earth, as I twirl up, reaching for the song and its once-known words.

Not new then, but age-old, before history was drenched in gunpowder and blood. Back when humans knew the worth of everything, knew the cost of all, and desired no more than what the earth could give. Desired only of love and health and happiness. Tied by seasons, not by possessions. Strived to be safe and warm, not richer than the next guy.

The Hunter Moon does not judge. It calls us back to what we once knew, to joy of living. Fear was clamped into superstitions, turned into stories to frighten children to goodness. To turn their faces and open their hearts to the song of the Hunter Moon.

Forcing myself to stop, to get outside, to listen to its song, I reach for the Hunter Moon and the message I have lost. Eyes closed, body relaxed, and soul open for knowledge, the lilting notes trip on the streetlights, sent awry, and my eyes open. There are tears, to my surprise, and my heart weeps too.

Alone, late in the dark, without distraction or intention, I sleep. And in my dreams, I drown myself in the song of the Hunter Moon. Reaching back into memory and across time to find the knowing of what once was.

The Fear in Living – 4 Feb

Day 4 of personal challenge. It’s a little more personal – an attempt to express even a fraction of the daily terror that resides within. Let me know how I did.

(Edit: changed the title: The Fear in Living. Mistake on my part. Sorry, folks.)


Dig down, find the vein. Where is it? Dig deeper, where the paranoia rests, stir it to the surface. Why do I do this? Do I make a conscious choice to make myself miserable? Tense and sick with worry? Dig down, stir it around, and find where the fear lies. Prod it, poke it to roaring life, and ride the wave of terror. It will last all day, boiling my innards roiling with acid nausea. Until I’m home, and I know that all of us are safe. Until I can hug my child, and know that a maniac killer hasn’t invaded the school, and shot my golden son into an early grave. Until I can hold my husband, and know he hasn’t been mown down by a drunk driver, swerving wildly to avoid a hallucination. Then, only then, does the fear settle and turn over into a restless sleep. But the spectre of family future ghosts through my mind, and I tremble with the fear of what puberty will bring us all. Will I still recognise the little boy I have loved? Or will I have to turn him over to the police one day?

The fear, it is never completely still. With mother and brothers thousands of miles away, I can only rely on the façade of email and the fakery of phone calls, to assure me that they are well and alive. The boys – I don’t worry as much about them. They’re vital, healthy, with families to support and protect them. They’re okay, and that fear has died for lack of oxygen and exercise.

My mother. Dearest to me, now she is alone. So alone, and so far away. Worry for her wracks my heart, almost as much as fear for my son. Worry for her – falling, hurting herself – shreds me. I try not to think of her, wandering through that house. For it is filled with memories and my worries and so many ghosts – of my father, of our childhood pets, of our childhood selves even, running and screaming and laughing and crying. All the tempers of our years linger still in every beam and fibre of that house. And the worry that these ghosts will overwhelm this tiny woman, and her tiny cat, in that big empty house, filled with ghosts. And worry.

Filled, finally, with love realised.

The Selfie of Gloriana Day – 3 Feb

Day 3 offering. I think I may have written myself into a corner with this one. But the idea still amused me.


She sat back, dumbfounded, staring. The screen flickered and died, she stared so long at her phone. Tapping it to life, she gaped – open-mouthed – at the photo she had just taken. And marvelled at it.

It was perfect. She had managed to take the perfect selfie. The angle of the camera in relation to her chin wiped out any suggestion of a second one hiding underneath. The sunlight streaming in from the bedroom window flooded her complexion with gold, tinting her brown hair with copper and bronze. Her eyes sparkled like gems filled with fire. Her body looked curvaceous – no hint of odd plumpness in her thighs, no suggestion of bony elbows that jabbed like knives.

She looked beautiful. The perfect version of herself.

A couple of fingertip-taps and her selfie was uploaded, online for all the world to see. She changed her profile on every site she had: this would be her new identity, her permanent face from now on. Even when I’m sixty, I’m not changing it! She wondered if she would ever look like this again.

Half an hour – and fifty likes – later, she stretched up from the sofa, setting her phone down on the table. She was a little bored with the beautiful comments pouring in, and needed a break. Besides, it’ll be better to see the number jump after I’ve left it alone for a bit.

She shuffled into the kitchen, scratching at her lower back, and opened the refrigerator door. Glanced over the contents, and settled on the last piece of cheesecake, near to withering in the back. She ate it quickly, from the package with a fork she merely wiped clean on a suspect tea towel, barely tasting any sweetness, trying to ignore the little voice that reminded her of her hips and thighs and how little help they needed to stay that wide. She pottered around, aimless, made a cup of tea, made a half-hearted attempt at cleaning up, then gave up and hurried back to her phone.

One hundred and fifty likes! But it’s only been ten minutes! And I only have 56 friends.

She stared entranced at her selfie, wishing she could always look like that. But she knew that it wasn’t the truth. And it never would be. She sighed, turned on the television, and settled in for another lonely night with Netflix.

***

Waking with a snort and a start, she half-sat up on the sofa and wiped a trail of drool from her cheek. The tv had switched itself off, the only light in the room from the streetlamps and a winking blue dot on her phone. She ignored it and staggered to the bathroom, her legs numb before the pins-and-needles hit. She winced in the sudden overhead light, keeping her eyes mostly closed while she peed and flushed. She washed her hands, her hair falling forward over her face so she couldn’t see the reflection in the mirror. I don’t want nightmares. But she caught a glimpse of her reflection from the doorway, her hand paused over the light-switch.

Even though her mouth hung open in a most unattractive startled-fish expression, the reflection in the mirror was … perfect. It was a perfect expression of wonder and amazement, and a twin to the selfie she took earlier. The fluorescent lights picked up the copper and bronze in her hair, and her eyes still glimmered like jewels.

She approached the mirror slowly, not wanting to frighten off the vision of loveliness before her. But it stayed. And it smiled at her with confidence. I’m not going anywhere, it seemed to say. She returned the smile. Stay as long as you like. I won’t kick you out for eating crackers in bed.

Oh, how they laughed.

***

Months passed. And the perfect selfie had become her face. She walked through life with the ultimate confidence, day in and day out. Nothing fazed her, because all she saw was the beauty of herself, shining through every pore. She didn’t settle for second-best anything now, and people seemed to go out of their way to help her succeed. This is what being beautiful does for a person!

Her life had become busy – with work, with colleagues, with friends – and she had little enough time for her online life anymore. The occasional group photo of a debauched night out, or too many drinks on the beach, but she didn’t stalk her own newsfeed like she used to.

It was a bit of a shock, then, when she happened to see that her profile pic – that perfect selfie – was no longer as perfect as she remembered. Her hair had lost most of the copper highlights, and there was a definite thickening around her chin area. She did not run to the nearest mirror, but she did hurry a little. Nope, nothing’s changed here. She inspected every detail of her face, stepping back and stripping to check for any sagging or expansion in her body. Nope, all is still … wait a minute.

She stared into the mirror, but this time she wasn’t looking at herself. She was running through her potted memories of high school and Literature classes at uni. No. It’s not fucking possible.

Is it?

She ran for her phone, rather than her shelf, and downloaded a copy of Dorian Gray. Knowing the set-up, she skimmed straight to the end, looking for advice on how to avoid the same downfall. The book was no help – oils and canvas don’t even begin to compare to pixels and digital images. She knew that his portrait was hidden from the world, but hers was out there for all the world to see.

She looked at the original selfie on her phone: a few grey hairs had turned up, and wrinkles were beginning to show at the corners of her eyes. Fucking hell! Look at what the shock of this has done to me! She checked her profile pic, and sure enough, everything was changing on it, and the perfection was marred. Everyone who knew her would see her deterioration and … what should she do? If I take it off Facebook, will all that crap land on me instead? If I leave it there, will I stay this way forever?

She tapped to edit her profile, and paused, finger hovering millimetres from the screen.

The Library – 2 Feb 2015

Day Two of my daily challenge. Here’s my new story, thought of on the way home from my job as a school librarian… Erm, yeah.

*ahem* Characters or events depicted in the following story do NOT resemble persons living or otherwise. Any resemblance is purely coincidental. Thank you. That is all. [/enddisclaimer]


Why won’t these kids just follow the rules?

Not for the first time today did this thought flit through Marg’s mind. Though she loved working as a school librarian, sometimes the kids just wound her up. It was the pretending to chew something that drove her mad. They would be so obvious about it when she was fifty feet away at the other end of the room, but as soon as she approached… And they always seemed to think that she wanted to see the inside of their mouths as proof. I’m a Librarian, not a dentist, she would say.

It was the minor infractions: phones out, no matter how often she told them to put them away; talking too loud when they should be studying, treating this hallowed space of learning as an extended social area. Marg could overlook that – but only to a point. And that point ended with break and lunch. She could feel her hackles rise in keeping with the noise levels, but she would count down from ten before she said anything. Marg stayed at her desk and tried to ignore them.

go remind them of the rules

Marg stood up, her chair rolling back and hitting the wall behind it. The clatter drew the attention of every student in the room. Brassing out her nervousness, Marg approached the furthest table of older students who had been the loudest for the longest. She looked the worst offender of the group in the eye and said, ‘This is a quiet study area, not a social area. Please be quiet. Or leave. Your choice.’ She turned and walked the length of the library, back to her desk, and did not look back.

A scuffle of chairs, a book dropped on the floor. Marg bent towards her computer screen, intent on ignoring whatever they had chosen to do to express their displeasure. An almost shout, cut off before the first word was finished. Another cry, also interrupted. Two more voices started and stopped without a clear word uttered. And still, Marg focused on her computer, ignoring the students.

Sounds of books being hastily gathered up, a muffled sob, chairs knocking into the tables, and Marg finally looked up, to see a mass exodus of all the students. Three girls headed the line, and Marg watched as their pale faces, streaming with tears and mascara, lips clamped shut, marched past her desk. But it was the expression in their eyes that surprised her. She expected – from the exaggerated pursed lips – to see haughty disdain and mockery.

She saw fear.

When the door shut behind them, she realised that it was directed at her. She heard gasps of relief from the hallway, but the students did not return. Marg looked around the quiet library, and breathed deeply. My library.

From the base of her skull, she heard a voice rumble inside her mind:

my Librarian…

Bird Brain


1 February 2015 – first day of daily writing challenge. I’ll admit, I nearly forgot that I was going to do this challenge. I didn’t tell anyone about it, and the date just kind of snuck up on me. But, I want to be more disciplined, so here we are.

Remember that this is a first draft, checked only for spelling and punctuation. Whether it’s good or not is up to you. Over the course of the month (and yes, I know it’s the shortest month), I hope that the quality will improve.

Read, enjoy (?) and please comment.


The scissored triangles flit across my vision. They swoop, grazing the road before me, then disappear before I can focus. I take my foot off the accelerator, slowing to avoid hitting whatever that was, long after the thing was gone. Should have been a bird, but the thing was so fast, I couldn’t identify it clearly. A shadow of paranoia drifts across my mind; I feel my forehead wrinkle under the strain of my eyebrows drawing down. Don’t be stupid, it was just a bird. Stop looking for weird things where none exist. You really are bored with your life. Moron.

***

Another crosses the path while I’m walking from the car park to the main university building. Same shape, same swooping motion, same swift disappearance. That was just the same as before. I stop, watch where it disappeared into the bushes at the edge of the path, but I can’t see anything. I turn and look behind me. Nothing. I turn back and start walking. What were you expecting? Ninjas poised to kill you? Like you’d be able to see if they were there in the first place.

The last one doesn’t cross in front, but swings in swift from behind, and lodges in the folds of my hood. I notice nothing. I pause to light a cigarette, huddling forward to protect the fragile flame from the wind that picks up. I stand under the designated shelter, inhaling and exhaling my expedited death, and my mind is empty. A flicker of moment from my left convinces me to look. I stare across the car park to the playing fields beyond – nothing there, except the scattered remnants of last week’s snow. There’s nothing else to look at, but I miss the snow, so I stare at it, flipping through memories of head-high snowdrifts.

A flutter of motion on my shoulder. I strain to turn my eyes to the furthest corner of sight. The scissored triangles are perched there, and it is a bird, the tiniest black bird I’ve encountered. Its claws are tangled in the lining of my hood, and though its beak opens and closes, it makes no sound. The triangle wings flutter and strain as it tries to free itself.

Without speaking, I drop the butt of the cigarette to the floor, and reach towards it. My hand moves slowly. Don’t peck my eye out, I’m just trying to help. Like a bird would peck your eye out. Even birds don’t think you’re that important. The wings go up, head goes down, and beak opens wide – aggressive stance. My hand approaches from above, and the tips of the trembling wings tickle my palm. The bird hunkers down again, beak opened wide, and my hand descends.

Under the gentle weight of the palm, the wings scissor closed, wrapped tight to the bird’s back as my fingers enclose it like a cage. I lift it up, and the claws untangle easily. Pedalling furiously, the silent bird pecks at my hand. Defence through attack.

I stretch my arm out, turning my palm to the sky. Though the bird is now on its back, I didn’t want to just drop it. I open my fingers. The blur of motion is incomprehensible, but the bird is gone. And here you thought you were seeing things, hoping to be assassinated by ninjas. I look at the single pinprick of blood on my wrist where the little beggar had made contact. Some thanks for my help. Honestly.

***

The sample is retrieved from the collection device, and entered into the system analyser. The man’s expression is unreadable behind his glasses, and his attention cannot be drawn from the machine. He has been waiting for this.

Daily Writing Challenge

I know I need to be more rigorous and disciplined with my writing schedule. So I came up with a fairly simple challenge: every day in February, write a flash fiction story. Minimum of 350 words, but no maximum. And post it – every day – to my blog.

These will be first drafts of random ideas. These will not be polished, except to ensure that spelling and grammar is accurate and consistent. These will not be linked, at least not intentionally. These might, however, lead me to the discipline I need and want. And hell, if they turn into a consistent story (not the original goal), then cool.

Your support is always welcome, dear Reader. So read my scribblings, and leave me a comment. I will try to do better for you.

The Dreamer and The Phoenix

I’ve been experimenting with a few different writing styles over the last couple of months – a direct result of the MA course I’m on. Normally, I don’t truck with writing down dreams, but this one forced me out of bed and down the stairs to write it. As is natural and usual with dreams, this has altered from the original – almost illegible (on which I blame the cat) – first draft, and almost doesn’t resemble the dream at all. As the Dreamer says: don’t waste your words by not using them. Here goes: 


The Dreamer of Dreams and Writer of Stories invited us to his home. One must tread carefully in the home of the Dreamer, for nothing is as it seems, and all is at risk.

With wide eyes of admiration, we travelled to London – though he does not live there – and were met with graciousness at the door. Welcomed indoors and given a tour of the dwelling – the flat house maisonette mansion penthouse shifted as fast as thought, first dark and dodgy, next light and airy open concept – we had to be open to the concept that even the flat of the man who Dreamed Dream would shift and twist as he chose. One thing remained constant: the entire dwelling was designed by a lunatic. One bed stretched across the stairwell, unprotected from the drop; one rollover, and it would be all over. Even the bathroom was doubled: two green baths set in violent purple tiles. Or was it the other way round?

Though the Dreamer had extended the invitation, he was unable to entertain on the appointed night. A forgotten engagement that could not be delayed or dreamed away, and we were left to our own devices. Settling upon the most inviting of the rooms available, I slept, though not soundly in this flat of ever-changing rooms, shunting me backs and forths to rooms not offered not picked not real, with glass and steel balconies of hot-house oranges and grass grown in glass boxes on tables.

The next day, the Dreamer resurfaced, white and wan though friendly enough. He invited exploration of his kingdom, letting me lead where I would wander, following behind, enjoying the reactions to the rooms he wrought with but a thought. I travelled through the house-mansion-penthouse with awareness dawning like a winter morning that proportions and location had shifted again. Huge rooms with prototype of white wolf puppets soon to come to life in yet another story amused us as we played, self-consciously, trying not to break anything.

The Dreamer followed, taking pictures, talking and laughing, taking his turn to lead us through rooms still knitting together by his devising. Until we reached the rooftop terrace – different from the glass-and-steel of before, more a New York rooftop. There, the Phoenix played, leaping back and forth and inviting the boy to join it. They danced, the rippling gold through red furred feathers illuminating their play, lighting my son’s laughter. I could not reconcile the existence of the creature, until I remembered who stood beside me, humming and smiling.
The tell-tale blue flash in his eyes gave away the Dreamer of Dream. Warnings from others – dreamed warnings planted from years days months ago – resurfaced, screaming the true motivation of the Phoenix and its summoning Dreamer. No benevolence here – the predator hunted my son, bewitching him to the edge where he would give himself willing as sacrifice and the Phoenix could feed.

And shit out inspiration for the Dreamer to pin down and call his own and sell and lure more sacrifices…
I ran to save my son, flinging myself between him and the Phoenix. A growl, a surge of wings and awakening followed.
Final words from the Dreamer of Dream: Do not waste your words by not using them. Write with any spare minute you have.

Tears dry on my face at words never spoken by this man I have never met who has never read my words. And I remember the last true nightmare I had was in the dreaming of Dream.

I write to pin the Dreamer of Dream and imprison his Phoenix, to save my son. To write my own words. To summon my own Phoenix.

Six Feet Above

Originally titled, ‘Deadpan’, this is another story written for the Bartleby Snopes dialogue only competition. I changed the title because I thought it was too macabre, even for my dark sense of humour. I apologize for the enthusiastic use of ellipsis. I may have gone overboard with it to show pauses. Sorry about that …

I’ve dithered for several weeks about posting this, because it is very personal. But if I’m not going to carve open my chest and show my soul to strangers on ‘Tinterwebs, who am I going to show this to? 


– Uh, how’ve you been? Oh gods … What am I doing? Talking to thin air and marble. I must be …

– You know, same old, same old. You?

– What? Um. Huh, I’m … okay, I guess. Sorry, I didn’t expect an answer.

– Well, ask a stupid question.

– Sorry, sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. It feels … weird, being here. It’s not right.

– Can’t do much else, unless you start digging. But then, that would look odd. And unhinged. Think of your mother.

– Yeah. You’re right. I— it, uh, it looks nice round here.

– Don’t lie, you hate it.

– What do you mean?

– You know what I mean. Tell yourself whatever you like, but you know this isn’t the place for me.

– I didn’t have a choice. It was decided before I got here. Before I could get here.

– Yeah, I know.

– Besides, do you think anyone would have listened to me?

– They might have.

– Don’t lie to me either, Dad. They wouldn’t have listened. They barely did for forty years, so why would they now?

– Is this the time to complain about your brothers?

– Suppose not. I guess I’m just jealous of them. Because they got to know you longer.

– Well, I tried.

– Did you? Then again, did I?

– We were close when you were little.

– Yeah, could hardly separate us during the summers. I always wanted to go along with you. And then …

– When you grew up, no … I guess neither of us tried after that.

– And now …

– Don’t make a fuss now. Don’t cry for me. There’s no point.

– Sorry, I can’t help it. Seeing you like this.

– Nothing can be done now. Don’t make a fuss, like I said. I never liked it when people made a fuss.

– It’s weird, the things you think of.

– Like what?

– I knew – we all knew – that you never liked a fuss. But I’ve just realised I don’t think you’ve ever said that.

– Said what?

– ‘Don’t make a fuss.’

– What do you mean?

– It’s like those movie or book quotations that seeped into general knowledge, but were never actually said. Like ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’ Kirk never actually said that. Or ‘Play it again, Sam’ was never actually uttered in “Casablanca”. There are others, Shakespeare mostly, which people misquote all the time, believing they’re true. But you never said, ‘Don’t make a fuss’, and we all believe that you did.

– You’re over-thinking things. As usual.

– Thanks, Dad. Criticism never goes out of style.

– Were you always this acerbic?

– Have you ever used that word in your life?

– Don’t mouth off.

– C’mon, Dad. Don’t feed me a bullshit line.

– Watch your mouth. I’m still your father.

– Yeah, and I learned most of my expletives from you and hockey. Couldn’t sit there and watch it with you some days. You got so angry at the television, and I hated that feeling of aggression. I’d go out, just to get away from it.

– What are you babbling about?

– Hockey and swearing, Dad. Oh, never mind, that was a long time ago.

– Not like there’s anything new we can talk about now.

– Stop. You shouldn’t be bitter.

– Why not? You standing there, and you get to leave. I’m stuck here, strangers on either side of me, and nothing else to do.

– Are you getting this from me?

– What do you mean?

– Is this just me projecting these thoughts onto you right now? Because I know I’d be bitter.

– Well, you’re the one standing over a grave talking to yourself, probably answering your own questions as well. So, I’m not entirely certain who is the most balanced of individuals right now.

– You are more acerbic.

– Yeah, well, you’ve got the vocabulary all right here for me to pick through.

– What?

– Makes it easier to be understood. I can use your own language, your usual patterns, to make sure that you get what I’m saying.

– Well, that’s both odd and creepy.

– Isn’t just? A bit of irony that we finally connect after my death.

– That’s not irony, Dad. Just an unfortunate coincidence.

– Huh.

– Yeah, I guess. When you first … left … (died)

– Speak the truth. It gets easier if you say it out loud. The first time is the roughest.

– When you died … I could hear you at the weirdest times. Saying the most random things. Mainly about stuff that didn’t get done. Mostly about making sure that Mum looked after herself, did nice things, took her mind off you. Off the absence of you. But, I gotta say, you were loud, insistent, and painful. And you had a really terrible sense of timing. Once, it was so bad that I nearly dropped in a heap when we were out. But I couldn’t, because Mum was there, and I didn’t want to hurt her. I didn’t want to tell her …

– It’s something to do with breaking ties. Right after death, we’re still mostly here, shouting to be heard. I guess I couldn’t control it. I was gone too fast and didn’t get to say goodbye …

– What was that? I can’t hear you. Your voice keeps fading in and out now, like bad radio reception. I can’t be sure it’s you or just me filling in the blank silence. Is it weird that I’m putting words into your mouth? (A mouth with lips sewn shut.)

– Don’t. Don’t think like that.

– You can hear that? Then why am I talking?

– I told you. I can pick through your head. Makes it easier for both of us.

– It didn’t even look like you that day. Lying there. You didn’t look asleep, just … waxy.

– Don’t dwell. Don’t make a fuss. Don’t think on it. The spirit is gone and what is left is just…

– Meat.

– Eloquently put. Think of the Klingons.

– Klingons? Really? Okay, Dad, stop poking around in the trivia of my mind. It’s freaking me out.

– I’m just trying to get you to understand.

– I know. It still hurts though …. Am I going mad?

– Nah. You’re as sane as me.

– Funny guy. I’m dying up here.

– Hey, don’t joke about that. You know what they say.

– Yeah. The dead don’t like the living.

– Bingo. I am glad you came to see me.

– Couldn’t come all this way just to visit Mum and not you. Besides, I’m not a coward.

– Never said you were. Never said that at all.

– You’ve still been helping me, haven’t you?

– Maybe.

– I can hear the grin, Dad, even if I can’t see it. Thanks for that.

– No worries. Go, before you make more of a fuss.

– Miss you. I’ll be back next year.

– And I’ll be here. Where else am I going be?

A LoveLess Ordinary

This is a dialogue-only short story, written for the Bartleby Snopes dialogue only competition. Though this did not make the cut, I found this to be an interesting writing exercise. Trying to juggle believable dialogue, distinct voices, character development, and include a story was difficult, and I think I learned a great deal from this. Enjoy. (Please excuse the formatting – sometimes WordPress doesn’t like me, no matter how nice I try to be to it.) 


Mum? Are you awake?

Hmm? Oh, look who’s finally decided to grace me with her presence. A high honour indeed. And me without my tiara.

Mum–

Don’t you ‘mum’ me, Juney. I’ve been withering away here, waiting for some company. Someone to chat with and take my mind off the pain. Maybe bring me a decent cup of tea and not the dishwater those nurses keep mistaking for it.

Mum–

It’s all fine and well, you strolling in whenever you please, but have a thought for an old woman who’s ill. It’s all I can do to sit up under my own power these days. Lord knows how I’ve struggled, looking after myself and that big old house without my only child to help me.

Oh, don’t start.

I’m not starting. I’m just saying that you could have helped me more before I landed in here.

What?

Say pardon, not what, Juney.

Mum, I tried to help, but you wouldn’t even open the door the last time. The time before that you were in a blind rage when I dared to pick up a mouldy teacup.

Mouldy! You always were one for exaggeration. It was just cold from that morning.

That’s what you said then. What I don’t get is how you can make yourself a cup of tea but can’t clear it up after yourself again. The dishes were piling up everywhere you went.

Well, let’s not speak of that again, then. It’s obviously a sore point for you, so we will discuss something else. Shall we?

I’m glad that you’re ready to talk. We need to discuss the house.

Always the house. You could ask how I am. You could comment on the weather, or make a disparaging comment about the staff here and how they aren’t looking after me well enough, but no. Straight to the house. Pleasantries and small talk wouldn’t go amiss once in a while.

I’ll never win with you, will I?

What?

Not what, pardon.

Stop muttering. I raised you better than that.

The house. I need to know what you intended to do with the house. Whether you had planned for any … contingencies.

Bloody vulture you are. I’m in hospital for a week, and you’re already circling. My body’s still warm, you bottom-feeder. You always were money-hungry, nothing else would satisfy you. Couldn’t wait to get a job of your own, but you wasted it on slutty clothes and cider, getting drunk to hook a man, get knocked up and lock him to you with a wedding.

Stop it. That’s not what – oh, fuck it.

Get back here, Juney, and watch that foul mouth of yours. What would your father think, you using language like that?

Where do you think I learned it?

Don’t you dare blame him for your shortcomings.

He’s been dead fifteen years! Stop trying to make out that he was a saint. You know damned well he wasn’t.

Again with the language. I never believed you could be more crass. But I can’t say I’m not surprised. That husband of yours–

Shut up. It isn’t anything to do with him.

–always cussing and effing and blinding. And your child is a feral heathen, running wild in the streets–

I’m not listening to this. I’m done. You can go homeless for all I care.

What? Wait! What are you talking about?

Apologise and mean it, or I’m gone. And you never had a daughter.

Don’t you threaten me, missy, I’m still your mother and I’ll–

Mean it. You know I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful son and you’re just so bitter and twisted that you refuse to see that I’m happy. Maybe it’s the tumour–

Yes, that’s it.

Or maybe it’s because you know I’m not yours anymore. To bid and grind down. To yell at and blame for everything that went wrong in your life. That I’m happy and it’s not because of you.

No, it’s–

I’m happy, away from you and your poisoned, venomous mind.

Juney, I …

I’m waiting. Fine, you stubborn cow, you want to know what’s going on? Here’s your truth before I go. You’ve been in hospital for six weeks, not one. The tumour has spread and multiplied, so ‘if’ has disappeared into ‘when’ you die. You’re going to be moved to hospice care, but I can’t afford it. With the extra hospital costs, and now the funeral costs–

What a thing to say!

Funeral costs! Get used to that. You’ll be hearing a lot of it. You’re moving to hospice, and I can’t afford it. That house–

Your home! My home!

Shut up. That house is sitting there empty, and you won’t ever be able to go back to it. You’re too sick, and you’ll never be well again. I’m selling it, to pay for everything. No, you don’t get to speak. You don’t get a say anymore. You lived there too long, squatting in filth because you couldn’t look after yourself. And even though you love bossing me around, you couldn’t bear to ask for help. Because that meant I would have been helping, as an equal – no, not an equal. I’m the able-bodied one, the strong one now, not your slave anymore. I would have been in charge, and you just couldn’t stand the thought of having to do what I say for once.

I asked you to come round, to visit, catch up.

Stop whining. You’re lying again. You know full well that you have used each visit to poke at me, to insult my family. Every visit has been that way.

It would have been different this time!

Why? How? The tumour? That would have made you nicer to me? You just said it’s been making you meaner. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t wring sympathy from whomever you want, using whatever reason you want. You haven’t changed a bit. You’re lying there, catheterized and–

Don’t be vulgar.

Why not? I can see the bag of your own bloody urine hanging right there in plain sight. You’ve got piss in a bag on view to the world, and you still feel you have the right to call me and my family a pack of dirty animals.

I–

I’ve had to pay an obscene amount to have the house cleaned properly after what you did to it – after what you didn’t do – in order to make it presentable for respectable human beings, and now it’s on the market. It will be sold. My only question is: do you want anything from the house?

You ungrateful little bitch.

Pardon? Did you just swear at me? How times have changed. Fine. If you don’t tell me, I’ll just keep your raspberry pantsuit and send everything else to charity.

Why that horrible thing?

To bury you in.

Not the pantsuit! The navy blue dress, with the white trim. And my pearl necklace.

What?

Not what, pardon. Say please.

Get out.

Raspberry pantsuit it is. See you graveside.

#GISHWHES2014 – ‘Kale-ing Misha Softly with his Thong’

Many apologies, dear Reader, for being silent for so long. Life, as they say, has gotten in the way, and time slipped away from me.

But this offering, I hope, will be cause enough to forgive me. This was born of the madness known globally as GISHWHES, and known more locally as the insanity of my oldest friend. (Not that she’s older than all my friends, but that I’ve known her longer than most.) One item on the scavenger hunt list was to get a published Sci-Fi author to write a flash fiction story of no more than 140 words containing the following elements: Misha Collins (actor extraordinaire), the Queen of England (though I believe she is technically the Queen of Britain, but we shall let that minor inaccuracy slide), and an elopus.

Yes, you read that correctly: an elopus. Which is a species hybridisation of an elephant with an octopus. Could be vile and frightening, but could also be cute as a button, depending upon genetic splicing. Or the scientist doing the splicing.

In any case, after a long day consisting of puzzle-solving, driving, kale-induced hilarity, family time and sleep deprivation, with these bizarre elements to work into 140 words or less, plus with extra restrictions from Team SuperSlackers to include in the story, I sat down to my trust iPad and wondered: how ridiculous can I possibly be?

I think this story answers that question rather decisively.

If, by some mad twist of fate, this story goes up for the GISHWHES Hall of Fame or even the Coffee Table Book, I hope you’ll vote for it. But I’ll keep you updated on that particular pipe dream as and when.

________________________________

Kale-ing Misha Softly with His Thong

“Ms Misha, what on earth are you wearing?”

Misha glanced down at himself, his eyes glazing over as the sight of his tanned, taut body caused him to bliss out.

“Misha!”

The shrill voice snapped him from his reverie. “Liz, darling,” he drawled, “it’s Kale Tuesday. You know I always wear my kale-bespangled budgie-smuggler on Tuesdays.” He simpered and struck a Playgirl pose to display his assets to his favourite queen.

Elizabeth II, mother of corgis, rolled her eyes and emitted a most unmonarchly nasal snort. “Not the kale again, you ponce. We meant that.” She directed an imperious finger towards his skull.

Misha caressed his new headgear. “Taxidermied elopus. It’s all the rage.”

The Queen of the Commonwealth Kingdoms crossed her arms, shaking her coiffed head. “You do realize that you have your head up an elopus’s arse.”

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