Tag Archives: original flash fiction

Wednesday Write-In #69

This week’s words for CAKE.shortandsweet’s Wednesday Write-In were:

monkey see :: attraction :: solid :: complete :: whisper

And here’s what I made of them…

Image: en.academic.ru

Image: en.academic.ru

More Than You Can Chew

It’s at moments like this that James wonders how he ever felt any attraction toward the woman who calls herself his wife. On all fours beside him, her hair askew, she looks like that nineteenth-century dragon carving he’d finally managed to flog, for a fraction of its cost price, a few years before. She even has the teeth, and everything.

‘It’s monkey see, monkey do with that child!’ she says, in a hoarse whisper. ‘He sees you cramming everything around you into your mouth, so of course he’s going to do the same!’

‘Just shut up and keep looking, will you? Greg’s barely eating solid food yet. I don’t see how, or why, he’d shove a jade figurine into his gullet.’

‘Well, I’m telling you,’ she says, sitting up onto her knees. ‘I’m telling you, that’s where it is. We need to get him to hospital, right now.’

James’ eyes fall on their son, gurgling happily in his high chair. His gummy grin beams across the room and he waves one chubby, grubby hand at his mum and dad who are, as far as he’s concerned, playing a very funny game. What a complete idiot! flashes across James’ mind, and immediately, he hates himself for thinking it. He blows his son a kiss, making the little boy dance with joy.

‘That figurine is worth more than our car,’ he murmurs to his wife, keeping his eyes on his son. He imagines a green glow sliding down into Greg’s stomach, working its way through his intestines, ever-so-slowly squeezing its way round corners on its long, long journey. God knows what state it’ll be in by the time it comes out.

‘All the more reason for getting him seen by a doctor, now,’ she grumbles, rolling to her feet with fluid ease. ‘Who’s a good boy!’ he hears her say as she nears the high chair, making Greg crow with pleasure. ‘Who’s the best boy? Come on, now, darling. Let’s go for a ride in the car! Yes? Come on.’ Greg stretches and bucks against his restraints as his mother starts to unstrap him.

‘I’ll go and get the keys,’ James mumbles, getting up off the floor with as much grace as a dying elephant. His knees and hips and ankles click and creak, and his heart races as he straightens himself. ‘See you outside.’

Grace is too preoccupied with the baby to reply. Honestly. You’d think I wasn’t even here, James thinks, swallowing a mouthful of acid. I’d like to see you keep this roof over our heads without me! He turns on his heel and makes for the hallway, grabbing the keys as he goes. Jasper is lying in his basket by the radiator, as always.

‘Hello, old man,’ murmurs James, risking a crouch. His knees pop again, and he balances himself against the wall as he rubs the dog’s greying head. Jasper looks up with eyes like two lost souls, feebly licking his chops. ‘We’ll be back soon, once this ridiculousness has been dealt with.’ James’ fingers lose themselves in Jasper’s dark, silky coat.

‘Get up,’ snaps Grace, suddenly appearing behind him, a quizzical Greg in her arms. ‘Or have you forgotten we have a sick child?’ She strides past him, yanking the front door open and leaving it to smack against the wall.

James turns back to Jasper, biting back his anger.

‘Don’t look so mournful, old friend. I won’t be long. When I’m back, we’ll go for our constitutional, right? Me and you, two men alone.’ He leans down and presses his face against the top of Jasper’s bony head. ‘Look after everything until we’re back.’

James gets to his feet, slowly, and follows his wife and son out the door. Jasper’s eyes follow his master, full of silent pleading. He takes another painful swallow as he watches James lock the door, and as he hears the car’s engine roar away. He flops his head back on his paws and tries to breathe.

It had looked like such a tasty treat, you see. Such a lovely colour, and the perfect size for nibbling. Jasper coughs, feebly, and closes his eyes against the pain.

 

 

 

Flash Fiction Friday

Image: wodumedia.com

Image: wodumedia.com

The Captain’s Return

Just as the movie got to the good bit, the first dull boom rang out. Barron stiffened in his chair. The hairs on his arms lifted right up, like they were listening; every muscle was taut.

‘What the…’ Barron put his steaming bowl of noodles down and hit the Pause button, trying to breathe quietly. Just as he swung his legs off the desk, the second boom shattered the stillness of the sleeping station.

‘Hell. Just my luck,’ he muttered, heaving himself to his feet. He’d been looking forward to the solo graveyard shift all week. Just him, the silent monitoring station, and the howling Antarctic outside, it had sounded like heaven on earth.

Boom.

He shrugged into his jacket and fumbled through the piles of documents and readouts for his flashlight. He dallied – just for a second – in front of the gun locker before swinging it open.

Boom.

The door was a long dark corridor away. He clicked the flashlight on. Its beam shook a little, but he stilled it.

Boom.

Something – something heavy – was pounding on the door.

He unsealed it with numb fingers, his weapon a reassuring weight at his side. It hissed open to reveal a fur-clad figure, his eyes like lost stars in the bitter darkness.

The stranger lowered his seal-skin glove, swaying on his feet. ‘I told my men I would be some time,’ he said, in a voice like the Aurora’s hiss. ‘But I’ve finally found my way back.’

Barron dropped his flashlight as the long-lost explorer stumbled into his arms.

(The above story is my Flash! Friday entry for this week)

 

Tamara de Lempicka's painting, 'Jeune Fille Verte' Image: internaute.com

Tamara de Lempicka’s painting, ‘Jeune Fille Vert’
Image: internaute.com

Jeune Fille Vert

So I saved for a green silk dress, second-hand, and stole Mama’s white gloves. She hadn’t worn them in years, and I doubted she’d miss them any more than she’d miss me. The dress was nice, but it wasn’t exactly like the one in the picture. It didn’t have a ruffled neck, or a bow at the shoulder. Come to that, it wasn’t quite the right shade, either – it sort of made my skin look mouldy. In a certain light, though, I looked all right. I’d pass as a fine lady on her way somewhere grand.

I found a hat at the back of my closet, more cream than white; it had a brim, at least, perfect for spying on the world without it hitting your eyes. The girl in the picture didn’t show her feet, so I just put on my black patent shoes, the ones I normally kept for church. Today, though, I left my socks off. It looked better. My feet would get sweaty, I knew, but I figured it couldn’t be helped.

I’d even found a small valise, an old-fashioned one. It wasn’t in the picture, but I thought it looked pretty. My things didn’t all fit inside it, but it hardly mattered. ‘They’ll give you everything you need in the hospital, girl. You’ll have more’n enough,’ Mama’d said. Mama never lied. Well – she always spoke the truth, but she didn’t always speak it with a good heart.

I checked my wristwatch. They’d be here to get me soon. I took a final look in my dusty old mirror; the glass was browned and blooming, but I could see enough to know the dress clung tightly in places that were new, and hung baggy in places that were old. I took a breath and watched myself, wondering. My hair, completely the wrong colour but at least it curled like the picture-girl’s, jiggled when I moved my head. My heart was as quiet as a sleeping baby.

Sort of what got me into this mess in the first place, I guess. My heart, and a sleeping baby.

Then, a flicker in the mirror told me they were coming. Angled right, my warped looking-glass was kind enough to show the road.

My valise was light. I threw it, and it landed in the bush, just fine.

I slipped my hot feet out of my shoes; they followed the valise out the window. My soles gave better grip on the downpipe. I had to grab my hat with one hand as I neared the ground, but I managed pretty well.

I didn’t wait to hear them ring the bell, or to hear Mama’s holler. She’d be mad to lose the money they’d have paid her for me.

Then I ran, just like the girl in the picture’d said. Run! she’d whispered, with her scarlet mouth. Run fast!

I didn’t slow until I’d reached the cover of the trees, as green as my green dress.

 

Image: indulgy.com

Image: indulgy.com

 

Unforgettable Things

These are the things I can’t forget: I was hurt, I am getting better, and I have to take my medicine.

They bring my medicine twice a day, and the glass – they call it that, even though it’s made of plastic – is pink. I think I like that colour. The glass holds the water (not too much!) that I need to make the medicine go down.

Sometimes the nurse sings a song as she hands me my medicine, and my pink glass, but I can’t remember what the words mean any more. I like her voice, though, so I don’t mind.

They are nice, the nurses.

At least, I think they are.

I can’t forget these things: I was hurt, I am getting better, and I have to take my medicine.

I remember other things, sometimes. I remember eggs, and how fragile they are, and how you have to be so, so careful when you carry them. My unforgettable things are like eggs, the doctor says. I stroke them gently and keep them safe, and carry them around inside myself so carefully, in case I drop them.

I was hurt, I am getting better, and I have to take my medicine. The doctor says if I repeat it to myself, it’ll stick to my brain like glue.

I don’t know what’s happening when the nurse wheels me into another room. This room is small and has a broken TV, and its window looks out over the carpark. The nurse says I need a bit of privacy, but I prefer the big room, where everyone else is. It’s warm, and it has a window with a view of the garden. But I have to go into the small room. I don’t know why. ‘Just for a while,’ they say. ‘Not for long.’

I’ve been in here before. I think it means I’ve done something wrong, but I never remember what.

So here I am, in the small room. It’s cold. It’s raining. There are a lot of cars in the carpark. I try to count them all, but I lose my place when someone comes in.  A Visitor. A gust of air follows them through the door. Inside it words are carried, carefully and gently, just like me and my eggs.

The words are another song. ‘Happy Birthday to you,’ they say. They sound happy. It seems wrong. I don’t know why.

‘Sorry!’ says the Visitor. ‘I’m just looking for the loo?’

‘Happy birthday to you!’ say the words again, and the world cracks.

‘Happy birthday,’ roared the fist. ‘Happy birthday!’ whined the belt as it flew through the air. I remember the buckle opening my face, digging into my head. I hear crunching, and snapping, and breaking, and I remember screaming I remember…

‘Come on, darling,’ says a nurse. I see my pink glass and my pills. My throat hurts.

I must remember: I was hurt, I am getting better, and I have to take my medicine.

 

 

 

A Little (Short) Friday Fiction

Some of you may know that, most Fridays, I take part in a flash fiction competition over on Flash! Friday; I’m not sure whether the stories I write there have actually been read by anyone but me, and my lovely fellow competitors. So, because it’s Friday, I thought I’d share some of my work in a blog post.

All of these stories are my own original work, and they first appeared on the Flash! Friday blog; the ones I’ve selected are some of my own favourites. The image that accompanies each story is the ‘prompt image’ supplied by the Flash! Friday crew, out of which the story was born.

I hope you enjoy them!

Image: vi.wikipedia.org

Image: vi.wikipedia.org

 

Inspection Day

By the time word of the Demonstration reached the Workshop, the Inspectors were already on their way. There was so little time, and so much to be done, and everyone knew what that meant.

‘Grigor must be recalled.’ It began as a whisper, from throats both flesh and iron.

‘The Collective has need,’ went the grey recitation, up and down the corridors of the Workshop, reflecting off the dull metal surfaces, absorbing into the grease. The words of the summons soaked into the threads of every bolt, and flowed like ichor through the pipes. ‘We are the Collective. Bring us Grigor.’ Every hiss of steam called for him, the hero-Worker.

Eventually, the call reached the Infirmary.

‘They ask for you,’ murmured the nurse at Grigor’s bedside. A machine hummed, removing the oil and filth from his body, making him fit to work once more. The nurse kept an eye on its readings, observed its pressure as though it was an Engine. Grigor’s eyes remained closed. He’d known, of course, that he was needed. He’d known from the first.

‘Will you go?’ The question was gentle, but Grigor said nothing. The nurse’s fingers flicked, adjusted, monitored, maintained; she saw the increase in his pulse, and realised she had been answered.

Without a word, she unhooked him from the equipment, and left him alone.

He returned to the Workers’ Mess carried shoulder-high, the Engines hooting and hissing their approval, and the Foremen allowed themselves a smile. Nobody mentioned the Breakdown, and nobody could find the words to ask him how he felt. Grigor was silent, and they were glad.

The following day, the Inspectors arrived.

They were welcomed with banners and the clanging of wrenches on pipes; they were applauded as they strode toward the Engines.

‘Productivity,’ said the Inspectors, ignoring the tumult. They were focused. ‘Commodity. Output.’

The Foremen gazed upon their inscrutable faces as Grigor stepped out of the crowd.

‘You are the Collective?’ they asked him. Grigor made no answer besides to pick up his wrench and settle his grip on its worn-smooth handle.

As he bent to his task, he remembered the pain, and the dark exhaustion. He remembered how it had felt to break and fail. He closed his eyes and took the strain.

The bolt was loosed before anyone could stop him.

Nobody stood a chance when the explosion came.

 Image: clayscowboychronicles.blogspot.comImage: clayscowboychronicles.blogspot.com

Standoff

‘Amelia!’ he roared. ‘Come on out here, now!’

She’d seen him coming, but not in time. No chance to get Baby out of her crib, bundled up and ready to run. She’d hesitated too long, and now he was outside her house, stalking back and forth like an angry bear. She couldn’t see his gun, but she knew it was there, not far from his hungry hands.

‘Amelia! I’m not gon’ wait much longer!’

Her breaths quickened, and thoughts began to pile up as her panic grew. How’d he even found them? She’d done so much to cover her tracks. Hadn’t she? Laid a trail to suggest she’d gone to Kansas City… Left clues she’d married, even. She must’ve made a mistake, somewhere along the line.

She could smell that old liquor stench. The moist heat of his breath, smothering her. The pressure in her chest almost grew too much.

Then, her burning eyes fell on her father’s old shotgun, lying in the corner.

‘I know you’re in there, woman! You and that brat both!’ He spat, sudden as a slap. ‘I’m comin’ in, Amelia. See if I don’t!’

Daddy’s gun was unloaded, she knew. She couldn’t reach the bullets, on top of the tallboy, without being seen through the window. Baby stirred, moaning in her sleep.

Fast and quick, Amelia slid towards the gun, cold and heavy in her hands. Two short breaths, and she pulled open the door. Stepping out, she levelled the empty weapon at his heart.

Dust storm, Texas, 1935.  Image: newrepublic.com

Dust storm, Texas, 1935.
Image: newrepublic.com

Stormbringer

Most nights, I’d dream about the cloud. Hard not to – I mean, it hung on the horizon, day and night, fair weather or foul, like the frown of heaven. Those mornings when I woke up feeling like I’d eaten my pillow, I could be pretty sure it’d been in my head all through the night, trickling in through my ears, through my pores. Settling inside me with every breath.

When I was a kid I used to think it was like a thick black blanket over the Old World, keeping everyone beneath it warm and safe. I’d say this to Ma as she tucked me in at night, and sometimes she’d give me a tight little smile, and sometimes not.

Nobody lives in the Old World now. How could they? No air to breathe, no light to see. It’s just us, over here. Far enough away to be safe, Ma said; close enough to be scared, is what she meant.

Some days it boiled, the cloud, like it was stirring to move. Others, it just sat there, placid, looking well fed and sleek. Sometimes it rolled like the sea, stirred by an unfelt wind.

‘What is it, Ma?’ I used to ask, staring out our tightly sealed windows, across the miles of barren land that separated us from it. ‘What’s it made of?’

‘Hush, now,’ she’d say, dragging me away with her poker fingers. ‘Don’t ask questions.’

There’d been lots of theories down through the years. ‘The will o’ God,’ some said; ‘the work of Ol’ Nick,’ said more. ‘The gover’ment,’ muttered others, ignoring the shushing noises from all around.

I woke one morning with my mind full up. Houses emerging from murky, inky darkness; people inside like husks, sucked dry. The cloud retreating, drawing up its roots and pulling free. A roaring noise, an angry howling. Rocks and twigs and bones flying, whirling. Blackened skin, sunken eyes, yellowed teeth gritted in a final, pointless battle against an enemy that couldn’t be fought.

I blinked the dream away and ran to find Ma, to tell her the cloud was coming, but she already knew.