Tag Archives: writing flash fiction

Flash Friday – ‘Initiation’

Ye gods and little fishes be praised. It’s Friday, and I’ve actually managed to write a piece of flash fiction for the first time in weeks.

I might cry. Seriously.

Kenya Kittens. CC 2,0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Kenya Kittens. CC 2,0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

I had almost given up hope that I’d ever manage to pull the cat (no pun intended) out of the bag ever again, truth be told. My brain’s been a bit out of kilter lately. But this week’s Flash! Friday prompt stirred up several ideas in my poor old skull, and I went with the one that floated to the top.

And so, without further ado, here it is.

***

Initiation

‘What you waiting for? Do it!’

The pellet gun’s heavy in my hands, and there’s sweat pooling around my fingers. I stretch them out and resettle them on the trigger, but it doesn’t help.

‘You too chicken, man?’ Allen laughs. I can see his crooked teeth.

‘Poor widdle baby too afwaid to shoot?’ Dean pulls a face, all big eyes and pouting lips. ‘Poor baby afwaid Mommy’s gonna spank him?’

‘Shut up, you guys,’ I mutter. It’s not a smart move. Allen smacks me hard on the arm and steps in close, his breath invading me. I feel the stinging outline of his hand tingling under my skin like a barb. Like I’m in a pit, sides all steep, and there’s a lion coming for my blood.

‘You wanted this,’ he whispers. His words leave a wet cloud on my face. ‘Don’t forget that. There’s guys’d kill to be where you’re standing.’

I blink away. The kitten’s still tied, wide-eyed, too scared to even mewl. Allen fixed the stake down, so it won’t move. The wire’s already cutting into its tiny leg. It knows. I know.

Now.

Time the shot with my heartbeat. I’ve only got one pellet.

I swing and take out Allen, and then I run.

***

The photo prompt was the teeny little kitten, above, and we had to include the character of a ‘gladiator’ – perhaps not literally, but described in terms strongly enough to be evocative of a gladiatorial battle. I was struck straight away by the fact that the image was of a kitten (a baby lion?) looking fearful, and how that was such a reversal of the typical gladiatorial scene, and then my story began to take shape.

So, it’s not the best piece of flash ever written. It’s not going to win any prizes. But, you know? I think it might be the first piece I’ve managed to write this year. That’s sort of scary. Friday the 13th is lucky for some, I guess! Let’s hope this means my mojo is well and truly back… and happy Friday to one and all. Hope to see you on the Flash! Friday podium this week!

Wednesday Writing – ‘Angel, Interceptor’

Image sourced: https://unsplash.com Photographer: Ryan Lum

Image sourced: https://unsplash.com
Photographer: Ryan Lum

Angel, Interceptor

I’ve always found it easy to stay hidden. It’s being seen that’s the hard thing. I envy them, with their carelessness and their loud voices, their total comfort in this world. It was made for them, after all.

I envy that.

I watch from the shadow of St – I think – Ambrose, he of the scourge and the silent reading. Oh, yes; I remember him. In life, he was an uptight, sanctimonious creep, yet here he is, immortalised in stone and precious metal while I still stand, technically enfleshed, looking more or less the same as I did the day I appeared to him in his bedchamber. I let him think he banished me unto the Pit, but in reality I was simply bored. I found bigger fish, that day, someone with a soul so large she could have enveloped ten so-called saints inside it with room left over, despite its single stain.

She wept as I took her but I was young, then. I didn’t care. I had a job and I was doing it, and that was that.

I see them now, life bursting from every pore, the frantic spinning of atoms and molecules and the proliferation of cells and the humming hiss of blood, and I know that a thought would be enough. A simple thought, and their flow would suddenly freeze, or a cell divide slightly wrongly, or an electrical impulse go awry.

I am cold, dark matter; my heart beats, but only when it remembers to. My blood hasn’t stirred in centuries.

And so I watch. They laugh and take pictures, posing with their mouths open and their eyes wide, their laughter like shards of glass in my ears. I am here to take them, to destroy what I can and claim the rest, to lay waste, to burn what does not please Him… but still I watch.

They are moving off, arms around shoulders, warm kisses on warmer cheeks, fingers entwined, towards the old city. A straggler hesitates, capturing one last shot of the statue of St Mark, and I feel a pull in my muscles, an urge to take to the air and shred this bridge and all upon it with the force of my magnificence – but it’s surprisingly easy to swallow it back. The human gets to his feet again, stuffing his camera into its bag, before taking off after his friends, laughing as he runs.

He judges them too harshly. Flawed, yes, but irredeemable?

A pigeon lands on the head of the metal and gilt Ambrose and regards me coolly for a moment or two. Briefly, I consider reducing it to atoms, but I sigh, and it continues on its journey. As one winged thing to another, we pay our mutual respects.

I squint up at Ambrose’s impassive face and formulate a thought before turning away. A gust of heat wafts at my back, and I permit myself a moment of pride. As I walk, I picture the sun rising over this young, ancient city, and the confusion of the authorities as they try to figure out what could possibly have caused a huge metal statue to melt, and I almost smile. But I came to smite, and smite I have; let someone else worry about the technicalities.

I fold my wings tight and run my fingers through my hair. There must be somewhere in this city I can find a bar with a nice, shady corner and a server who asks no questions, I tell myself, as I vanish into the flow.

 

Flash Friday – ‘The Curtain Call’

Caruso with phonograph, early 1900s. Baen photo owned by LOC; no known restrictions. (www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ggbain.29837/)

Caruso with phonograph, early 1900s. Baen photo owned by LOC; no known restrictions. (www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ggbain.29837/)

The Curtain Call

Gracefully remove the disc… blow off the dust… smile at the words Caruso: His Greatest Hits… place it reverently on the turntable… and – ah! – that jolt of pleasure as the stylus settles… and finally, the sound. The sound. The sound, and the memories…

‘Enrico!’ Careful! Don’t scratch it!

‘Dorothy?’

‘You’ve got that blessed phonograph going again!’

‘Yes, dear?’

‘What have I told you?’

Caruso rolled his eyes.

‘We must let the past be the past, I’m retired, blah-blah-blah.’

‘Blah-blah-blah?

‘Sorry, dear.’

‘Come on, now. Come through to the family room. Oh, The Talent We’ve Got! is just starting.’

‘What a treat.’

‘It sure is. Tonight they’ve got a woman who can sing underwater – underwater, Enrico! Can you imagine? – and a little dancing dog. He’s called Puppy, the Pride of Poughkeepsie.’

‘He’ll find that hard to fit on a calling card.’

‘What, dear?’

‘Nothing, sweetheart,’ Enrico sighed, sliding the record back into its sleeve. ‘Nothing at all.’

**

This week’s Flash Friday was one where the story unfolded itself in my mind as soon as I saw the prompt. I knew that, sadly, Enrico Caruso didn’t live to see fifty, so he never had a chance to retire or to see the advent of television (though, as this story makes clear, perhaps that was no bad thing), but this prompt image, plus the required element of ‘a puppy’, just made sense in my head.

I wonder, often, about stars and their lives once the spotlight has gone out. Some, like Caruso, don’t live to see an end to their fame but others, sadly, do. It must be difficult to watch yourself be forgotten and your legacy vanish, and to see the cultural world you lived in change to suit the tastes of a new generation. I wonder what Caruso would have made of ‘talkies’, or of TV talent shows, and maybe he’d have joined in with gusto.

Maybe.

Anyway, this is my offering on a cold, wet Friday. Enjoy! And see you tomorrow for a review of a most interesting, unusual, and mind-boggling book. Ciao!

Wednesday Writing – Three Little Flashes

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.

Photo Credit: {Lina} via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: {Lina} via Compfight cc

The Good Girl

I’m a good girl. I always do what I’m told.

I have to try to be a better girl, though, because Mama’s still sad. I knew today was going to be bad because she was in bed when I left for school, and she didn’t answer me when I called out ‘goodbye!’

When I got home, she was drinking out of her special bottle again, the one I’m not allowed to go anywhere near. Her eyes were all funny, and it made me quiet inside when I saw her.

‘Get lost!’ she told me. ‘Go, on! Get lost!’ She called me a horrible name, too, but I know she didn’t mean that part, so I didn’t cry.

But she meant the other part. About getting lost.

I turned all the wrong ways when I went out through our gate. That way I knew I’d get lost as quick as I could, and Mama would be happy again.

I passed a lady with pictures all over her arms and lots of red lipstick on. Mama’s got a name for ladies like her, and it isn’t nice. So when she asked me if I was all right, I just put my head down and kept going, really quick.

Then I got to this huge park. There’s a river in it, and everything. I like the sound my feet make as I walk across the bridge. I sound like a horse or an elephant, and it’s funny.

My tummy growls, like a lion.

There’s a nice man up ahead. He has a suit on, and he has shiny shoes, and a shiny smile.

‘Hey! Hi, little treasure,’ he says. ‘You look starved! Lucky I’ve got some chocolate, eh? Come on over here for me.’

I’m a good girl. I always do what I’m told.

Photo Credit: squeaks2569 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: squeaks2569 via Compfight cc

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 the cloud 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 exposed 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.

**

Yes, all right. I admit it. These three stories are ones I originally wrote for Flash Friday, and all of them are at least a year old. However, I’m hoping this means that some of you won’t have come across them before, and that if you have come across them already, it’ll be so far in the past you won’t remember it. I’m tired today, and I tried to create something new.

I really did.

But it wasn’t happening.

So, then I thought: what about all those stories you’ve written which, like mayflies, flare and sparkle for one single day, and which are then never seen again? Some of those stories are reasonably readable. Some even pretty good. What about them?

And here we are. Three of my own personal favourites from the fifty or more stories I’ve so far written for Flash Friday, and ones which haven’t (to the best of my recollection) appeared on the blog before. I hope you enjoy them, if it’s your first acquaintance with them; I hope you enjoy renewing the acquaintance, if it’s not. Happy mid-week, and I hope you’re not in a slump, as I seem to be!

(P.S. Of course, as always, feedback on these pieces of flash fiction is welcome, and gratefully appreciated).

Flash Friday – ‘The Travelling Show’

Mr. Hydrick, county supervisor, and Mr. Melody Tillery examining mouth and teeth of his mare, which has mule colt. Pike County, near Tray, Alabama. Public domain photo by Marion Post Walcott. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Mr. Hydrick, county supervisor, and Mr. Melody Tillery examining mouth and teeth of his mare, which has mule colt. Pike County, near Tray, Alabama. Public domain photo by Marion Post Walcott.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

The Travelling Show

‘All right, Peggy girl. Sssh, now. Jus’ let the nice man examine ya.’

‘Is she normally this restive, Mr Appletree?’

‘Nah, Mr Kleeman, sir. She jus’ gets nervous around strangers, y’know?’

‘She looks in pretty poor condition, sir.’

‘Bin doin’ my best, Mr Kleeman. It’s hard, these days. Audiences are down. I’m on my knees.’

‘It’s difficult for everyone, Mr Appletree. But if this beast is suffering, I will have her destroyed, asset or no.’

‘Aw, come on –’

‘Look, let’s not drag this out. Wedge her jaws, please.’

‘Her teeth are fine, man.’

‘They’ll pass. She’s not as shiny as she could be.’

‘Who is, these days?’

‘Tail and mane a little lacklustre, too. Now – the wings. A bit tattered, maybe?’

‘She’s bin workin’, Mr Kleeman. It takes a toll.’

‘Right. Well, look. I’ll recommend she stays with the show, for now, but I’ll be back next month. And tell me, for the paperwork, is she ‘Peggy’ or ‘Pegasus’?’

**

This week’s Flash! Friday challenge was tough (hence the late blog post!) I had another story all ready to go, and then at the last moment I decided it sucked (it really did), so I decided I’d go and have breakfast and see if that helped the thinking process. Who knew? It did. The idea for this story came to me as I stirred my pot of porridge, and I had to come right back to my computer and get it down before I forgot it. (Don’t worry – I took the porridge off the heat first). I didn’t intend to write it all in dialogue, but that’s just the way it came out. Maybe I’ll try to rework the other story, too, and pull a twofer this week again – watch this space…

It’s been a long week. I’m tired. There’s a Bank Holiday coming up on Monday, which I fully intend to enjoy, and after that it’ll be time to get ‘Emmeline’ back where she belongs, i.e. in the hands of my agent. I’ve also got three stories in the publication pipeline (technically, four, but one’s on semi-permanent hiatus), and lots of other stuff to keep me busy, so there won’t be much time for gallivanting over the next few weeks. And then there’s Halloween to prepare for! Gadzooks, but it never ends.

Have a happy Friday, and I hope to see you throw your name in the hat over on Flash! Friday this week. Go on – give the judge something to chew on. Tune in tomorrow for a book review, and I’ll see you back here next week. But, for now, it’s goodbye from me, and it’s goodbye from this guy…

Hullo!

Hullo! I mean… Goodbye!

Write on, my lovelies. Write on.

Flash Friday – ‘Cornered’

Georgian writers Ilia Chavchavadze and Ivane Machabeli playing chess, 1873 St Petersburg. Public domain photo. NOTE: despite careful license checks, the earlier photo inadvertently violated copyright and has been removed. Thank you and apologies.

Georgian writers Ilia Chavchavadze and Ivane Machabeli playing chess, 1873 St Petersburg. Public domain photo. NOTE: despite careful license checks, the earlier photo inadvertently violated copyright and has been removed. Thank you and apologies.

Cornered

It’s like every move I make, he moves, you know, like he’s trying to, I dunno, match me or something, like I can’t even have a thought without him finding a way to criticise or pull it to pieces or tell me I’m wrong, somehow, and no matter how much I try to plan things out or think before I speak, that light, that light comes on behind his eyes as soon as I open my mouth and I know, I just know he already has an answer, already has a laugh brewing ready to spill over me like blood, and I hate him so much that it makes my heart hurt, knowing that if Mum was still here he wouldn’t dare talk to me like this but it’s just us, just me and him, locked in this stalemate with no way out, so it’s up to me to make one, whatever way I can. Right?

**

I decided today to try something different and write my entire story – or, well, nearly! – all in one sentence. It’s not a new idea, but it’s not something I’ve ever really tried before. I also wanted to take a non-obvious look at the prompt (we were given a big hint over on Flash! Friday not to use the word ‘chess’, so I tried to get away from that completely while still using the ideas of mind-games, strategy and being outfoxed by a superior player). I’m not sure why I got the ‘voice’ I did; I imagine it as a teenager, whether boy or girl is up to you, but maybe it was the mention of Bobby Fischer’s age (15) which did it. I don’t know. I’m unhappy with the finished product, as always, but maybe it will please the judges this week (though I’m not holding my breath!); perhaps I’ll even try to write a second piece, also something I’ve never done before.

Who knows.

Anyway, all I know is: it’s practically the weekend, and so it’s time to slow down a bit and do a little stretching. Lord knows, I need a break! Whether I’ll get one or not, now – that’s the question. My wish for you all is that you have a peaceful and happy end to your week, wherein you do much reading and imagining and happifying of your brain, and I’ll see y’all here tomorrow for a book review. Godspeed, lieblings.

**EDIT**

So, yeah. I did write a second story this week. You wanna read it? Well, okay then.

The Player

Ah, yes. There it is. The tilting head. The flashing smile, hints of dimple, and the oh-so-casual brushing away of the single golden lock trailing across her forehead. The tiny sigh, the puckered lip, and the thousand-yard stare that fixes, cajoles and accuses all in one.

I do not yield.

For little do you know I fenced in college, darling, and before that I was undisputed checkers champion from grades one through four, inclusive. I was unseated on a technicality when my time to fall eventually came, but I took it gracefully. Ish.

I know about strategy.

So I make my final move, place the winning piece, lay down the unmovable law, but therein lies my fatal mistake. I forget about the power play.

Maaaaa-Ma!

My wife scoops in, sweeping up the enemy – who pauses in her wailing to shoot me a triumphant look – and I wonder why I’m the only one who worries that we’re raising a new Machiavelli.

Flash Friday – ‘No Surrender’

1896 Olympic Marathon. Public Domain Photo by Burton Holmes.

1896 Olympic Marathon. Public Domain Photo by Burton Holmes.

No Surrender

He made sure to choose men from the places worst hit, places on which more bombs had fallen than there were people to kill, and where even the dogs in the streets were armed. Men who could endure.

Each carried a copy of the truce document. Communication lines had long been cut; this was the only way. But slowly, the King’s runners had fallen, until only three were left. The war raged on, but still they ran.

On a rubble-grey day, they rested. One of the runners drew out his copy of the truce. Sweat-stained and dusty, it sat in his hands like something already broken.

‘Can you read?’ he asked the others. They shook their heads. No.

Unfolding it, he saw his King’s signature. The rest was meaningless.

‘He chose his messengers well,’ he said. ‘Is it peace we carry, or eternal death?’

Silently, they buried the papers. They slipped, each alone, into the shadows. None looked back.

**

This week’s Flash Friday challenge was to write a story – as usual, anywhere between 140 and 160 words – using the photo prompt and the concept of ‘war’. Loads of ideas trickled through my head, most of them based around the idea of the Olympics being a time of truce, or the image of the runners being used as a motivational tool by a modern Major-General, or things of that ilk, but I discarded them all. I’m not sure why I plumped for a King, in the end, and a truce which may or may not have been all it appeared to be, but I’m glad I did. I know I enjoyed writing this piece, as I enjoy writing all my Flash Friday pieces. Have you tried it out yet? I reckon you should. The crew who write there every Friday are among the most welcoming and supportive bunch I’ve ever met, and the writing challenges are a great way to keep your skills fresh. Think of it as an investment in your writing future. Go on!

It’s funny, though, how a story can seem pretty good when you first write it, and then okay as you read it and re-read it, and then tolerable as you run your final wordcount and get ready to post it, and finally utterly execrable as you read it once you’ve posted it. Why is that? Perhaps familiarity really does breed contempt. In any case, I hope you found something worthwhile in my effort this week, and I look forward to reading yours. Whaddaya mean, you can’t do it? Of course you can!

See you here tomorrow for an old-school book review. Until then, I remain your humble and affectionate servant,

The Slightly Bonkers

S.J. O’Hart

Flash Friday – ‘Hands Across the Sky’

Gemini V, August 29th, 1965. Public Domain Photograph courtesy of NASA.  Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Gemini V, August 29th, 1965. Public Domain Photograph courtesy of NASA.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Hands Across the Sky

Re-entry was moments away, but Rick seemed troubled.

I glanced over. I couldn’t talk through my helmet, but of course Rick – or whatever his real name was – didn’t need one. His exoskeleton was better than anything we’d ever come up with.

He blinked, and lowered his orbs. I looked back at the bank of switches overhead. Everything seemed normal – except my co-pilot.

We’d worked hard to build trust with the Grac. Rick had been chosen to come back with me instead of Michael Bell, who’d stayed behind; ambassadors. Symbols of inter-species cooperation. Insterstellar peace.

Splashdown was imminent. We braced.

Seawater rushed in. I smelt my first Earth air in God knew how long. I lifted my face to the sun.

And something – something large – blocked it.

‘Welcome, Joe Ronson,’ a huge voice boomed. Grac. I looked up. The sky bristled with alien craft. I spun to face Rick, who blinked again.

‘You made Earth sound so good,’ he muttered, shrugging.

**

So, this week’s Flash! Friday competition centres around the image above – the re-entry of the astronauts from the Gemini V mission, which landed back home on this day in 1965 – and the inclusion of an alien. Not the simple mention of an alien, mind, but an actual flesh-and-blood (or bone-and-aether, or shell-and-ichor, or whatever) alien. As usual, you’ve only got 140-160 words to do all this in, and as usual it was a challenge – but a lot of fun.

In other news – well, I’m dealing with a huge dollop of self-censure this morning, as I left my editing in a precarious place yesterday evening. I reached a point where I just couldn’t take any more (after about six straight hours of work, mind you), and even though I knew I’d be kicking myself this morning I had to throw in the towel when I did. So, as predicted, this morning my leg is sore from kicking and my brain is sore from thinking and my heart is sore from all the excising of my precious, precious words.

But that’s the name of the game, right? Have a good (and, hopefully, alien-free) weekend, do plenty of reading, and I’ll see you all back here bright and early tomorrow morning for an old-school book review.

I, for one, welcome our mighty Grac overlords... Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

I, for one, welcome our mighty Grac overlords…
Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

 

Fictionful Friday

'Miranda - the Tempest', John William Waterhouse, 1916. Public Domain Image.  Sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

‘Miranda – the Tempest’, John William Waterhouse, 1916. Public Domain Image.
Sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Ariel

Nothing frivolous, you said. Nothing over-complicated, or stimulating – Logic forbid, the thought of a daughter with ideas! – and nothing besides Newton’s own English. Nothing humorous.
With one exception.

Shakespeare was your most axiomatic of proofs, your only belief. My bio-screen scrolled his words twelve hours out of twenty-four; he was my cloven pine, and you my Sycorax.

I read nothing else, but it turned out to be enough, in the end.

Of course I attended the ceremony. Not to be present for my father’s return? Unthinkable. The flagship was magnificent as it came in to dock. The first flash, and then the soundwave, struck the crowd dumb, but the screaming started as the fireball grew and as it became clear that all were lost.

I wept, because I had to.

The engineer I had smiled into sabotage soon met a poisoned end. I rather think you should have been proud, father. You, in your way, gave me the universe entire.

**

Phew. This was a tough ‘un. A story of between 150 and 160 words, based around the picture prompt and including the concept of ‘freedom’? No easy task. As always, however, it was a great brain-stretcher and an excellent writing warmup. Yesterday, I managed to get my WiP to 68,800 words (ish), and I’m about to start writing chapter twenty-nine. I always had thirty chapters in mind as a good length for this story, so that means I’m almost at the finish line. The hardest part, for me, is yet to come – but wish me luck. Perhaps, as this week ends, so will draft 1 of this book. Wouldn’t that be something to celebrate?

Have wonderful weekends, all. Remember to cherish your freedom, and how lucky you are to have it.

Wednesday Write-In #74

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

package :: jointed :: ribs :: monochrome :: wet ink

And, after much cogitation and deliberation, this story here is what I made out of ’em.

Image: damoselsprintersblocks.com

Image: damoselsprintersblocks.com

It Is Written

It was a dark and stormy night…

Yeah, all right. So I did that on purpose. What, you think because I live on the streets, I can’t be in on the joke? Get real.

Anyway, it was a dark and stormy night, that night. The sort of night that makes you think the dawn’s never goin’ to come, no matter how hard you hunker down and suffer through it. The sort of night that’s full of knives. It was late, too, when I first saw this weird old guy come huffing and puffing down the street, well past midnight. He was a bit like an insect in a suit, this bloke, oddly jointed and full of corners – his knees stuck out to the side as he walked, like he was on springs. He had a black umbrella, shining and wet beneath the streetlights, clutched in one knobbly hand. The ribs of it looked broken at the front, because they kept bashing into his face as he went – the wind was one of them capricious types, you know the ones. Can’t make up its mind what way its blowin’. In his other hand, he had a package tied up in brown paper and string, like somethin’ out of another century. It was biggish and squarish – looked about the size of a small paintin’, not that I’d ever seen one in the flesh. Whatever it was, it seemed heavy. By the time he got close to me, he was pantin’ like a man halfway up a mountain.

Anyway, on he came. I sat quiet.

He came level with my place – my ‘place’ bein’ a nice, me-sized nook in the brickwork in front of an old buildin’, used to be a bank I think before everythin’ turned to muck – and I watched as he stopped beside an old rubbish bin, out on the pavement. He looked up and down the street like a man afraid the cops are on his tail – that was what made me perk up and take notice, if I’m bein’ honest. Somethin’s not right here, I told myself. I want to be in on it, just so’s I can deny everythin’.When he was finished scopin’, he turned back to the bin. Mutterin’ under his breath the whole time, he jiggled the squarish thing he’d been carryin’ out from under his arm, and lined it up for shovin’ into the bin. He had a bit of trouble with it – the package wasn’t quite the right shape, and between the wind and the rain and the tricksy umbrella, he didn’t seem like he had enough hands to do the job right. I was on the spot of slinkin’ out and offerin’ assistance when he gave a yelp like a dog in pain and, with one final push, left the thing half-in and half-out of the bin.

Then he took off down the street like a rat out of a trap, and didn’t once look back.

So, I sat gazin’ at the bin. The package started to come open in the rain. I saw there was paper in it, paper with writin’ on it. Wet ink slid down off the paper, like the words were so new they hadn’t had a chance to settle in properly, and I knew that if I didn’t do somethin’, the message on that paper was goin’ to end up washed down the gutter. Bein’ a man of letters, I couldn’t have that.

So I got up, and I soft-shoed my way over to the bin. The place was deserted. The street was a howling hollowness.

I grabbed the package, and straight away sort of wished I’d left well enough alone. The old guy hadn’t been pretendin’ – it was heavy. Metal. It clacked, like it was full of movin’ parts. I realised then that there were loads of pages in here, all of ‘em printed with fancy letterin’, monochrome and crisp – and I’m talking printed, like Gutenberg. Old-style hand-carved letters, spiky and sore to the eye. Sathanas Dixit, I read, before my brain sort of went into a seizure. I blinked a bit, wonderin’ why I couldn’t see right, and tried to focus on somethin’ else.

Then, my eye fell on a handwritten page. I pulled it out and tried to angle myself so that I could read it in the glow of the streetlight without letting the rain rip it out of my hand.

Daniel, it said, the handwritin’ lookin’ breathless, if you know what I mean. The printing blocks and documents I mentioned are enclosed. I cannot have them in my home any longer. As I tried to explain on the ‘phone, they have started arranging themselves – you must believe me! I cannot tell you how often I have checked over the work and realise it says something I never intended; the mistake is not mine! I put the blocks in, and they print something different, something – horrifying. It is Him, Daniel. Him! His power is too strong, and I cannot bear it. Please, take these infernal objects and bury them deep, somewhere I cannot know about and somewhere I will never find them. Please, I beg you. And please, we must disband our group. We are meddling with power that no man has a right to. Believe me. Nathan.

Well.

I heaved the package, blocks and ink and paper and the lot, over to my cubby. My eyes recovered fine, and once they were workin’ again I read all night long, and never felt another drop of rain.

What a stroke of luck I had that dark and stormy night, eh? Or maybe it wasn’t luck so much as another part of His plan, slotting right into place.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide that one.