Sunday, 29 June 2014

There goes the neighbourhood! (Another weekend flash fiction!)

She grinned toothily at me, leaning back against the rear of her porch. It was gloomy in there out of the sun but her pale skin had a strange luminescence, making her seem a little larger than I’d originally thought.

“I’m sorry I can’t invite you in just now,” she lisped, her voice having a subtle accent I couldn’t place. “However, I’ve only just moved in and the place is a wreck. I can hardly find anything. I’ve crates of stuff everywhere. I’ll be getting deliveries from the local take-away for a while, I guess.” She blinked at me, long and slow, her teeth fixing onto her lower lip. “I’m sorry though,” she said. “I’d love to have you here.” She stopped abruptly then giggled, her eyes catching mine mischievously. “Your company, I mean. Fancy me saying something lame like that. You must think I’m a complete putz!”

“It’s fine,” I said, shifting my weight uneasily, unconsciously mirroring her posture. “My name’s James, by the way.” I glanced at my palm then wiped it on my thigh, embarrassed by the sheen of sweat it’d had on it. I pushed my hand out, half-expecting her to refuse it but she took it, her hand cool and small in mine, her grip light and brief. Non-committal and hard to read.

“Well, hello, James.” She gave me a fleeting smile, her teeth bright in the darkening gloom. “My name’s Mina. And…” she dragged the last word out, her attention drifting off to the closed door behind her. “And I can’t talk just now. Even though I’d like to.” She shrugged. “Unpacking and cleaning. Stuff. You know?”

“Indeed.” I pushed myself back upright, straightening my back again. And then I remembered what I’d meant to ask her; having forgotten the main reason for my calling round to speak to her. “Hey. I just thought. Me and the other residents of Widows’ Peak have been noticing problems around the development lately. People dying after dark. The police being cagey about the killer’s modus operandi and how they died. And, with you being new here and alone…”

Mina nodded. “You thought I might be at risk.” Her cheeks mounded into a half-smile, half-frown as she sighed softly. “I’d wondered how long it’d take for someone to call by.” Her dark eyes found mine again and for a moment it felt like the sun had already sunk beneath the horizon, the sudden chill catching me by surprise. Then, just as quickly, it passed, Mina’s expression suddenly warming.

“But no, James. I think I’ll be fine. I took a class in Krav Mag a few years ago and I’m quite proficient.” She stepped forward, looking subtly beyond me to either side. “However, I’m not a fan of community groups. I like to keep my own place as I like it and leave everyone else to look after themselves. You know what I mean?”

She was only slight and was probably a head and a half shorter than me but at that moment, I believed her. She had that quiet presence that martial arts black belts had. That ‘don’t fuss with me or I might be forced to break you’ vibe that put a lot of people off before they even thought about causing trouble. At least the sane and sober ones.

“Okay.” I stepped away from her, crossing out into the reddened half-light, feeling like I’d been dismissed. I shivered, pulling my leather jacket together and tugging the zipper up to cover my chest. “Maybe we could meet some time, some place; maybe chat a little? Somewhere public - or not - you could choose. Neutral ground - if you’d prefer.”

Mina moved forward, the door swinging half-shut behind her. “Yes,” she said. “That’d be nice. Soon. Very soon, I think.”

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Ribbons and Bows:

Pink. With ribbons on. And enormous bows. Everywhere.

Tyler shrugged and lay back on the rug, letting the eight-year-old girls swarm over him like an army of giggling, blonde-haired ants. Writhing in mock-distress at they tickled and pinched and tied him with their ribbons. To one side there were at least three or four holding down his arm, messily painting his nails and on the other, another squealing horde of pre-adolescent fun-monkeys intent on decorating everything that could be tied or lacquered or hennaed or covered in glitter.

He just hoped he could get most of it off before his next work-shift.

Poppy was the ring-leader of them all, of course. Unexpectedly taking charge of matters, she was foregirling the others, supplying them all with bottles of hot-pink luminous goo and the contents of her hair-accessory basket. Who would have thought she’d have accumulated so much. It just showed how soon those sneaked-in-the-basket items he never saw each shopping day built up.

But it was the least part of what he’d do for her. It was tough for him being a father and a single-mom rolled into one but he knew it was even harder for her. And he was dreading how much harder it was going to get for her. He only wished there was a way he could find someone to share her with him; someone who could care for them both and make it possible for him to stop wanting to hit ‘pause’ on their lives all the time.

But there was little chance of that with his work schedules.

The peal of the phone rip-sawed through the giggling, bringing him back to the here-and-now. That ring-tone he’d programmed; Danse Macabre, that bitter-sweet waltz that Poppy loved to hear. And the tune he hated the most.

He stiffened then rolled to his hands and knees, carefully shedding the pouting decorators as he shifted reluctantly from mother/father mode to business-like cop. He caught Marcia’s eye - it seemed like his mother-in-law had a sixth sense for moments like this - and began to pluck the most obvious of the bows and hair-grips from his hair and clothes, reaching out for the phone Marcia was holding out for him.


He was pulling over from the express-route when he first saw them. A clot of uniforms ringing an object on the ground. The regulars had got there first. Probably contaminating the scene of the crime and making his job even more difficult than it usually was. He stilled the car’s engine, bit back the resentment and grief he always felt and stepped forward to take charge.

“Travis. You were quick.” Parker Knowles broke free from the scrum, the tall dark-skinned man the only one of the regulars he immediately recognised. “I’d better warn you though, man. The DB’s a pre-pubescent Caucasian girl. Blonde, I think. And…” his voice faltered, wavering a moment until he recovered control. “And she’s pretty messed up.”

As I stood beside the rotting corpse, it suddenly occurred to me that I shouldn’t be there.

Friday, 27 June 2014


Raynes probed the soil, checking the radiation levels.

“Well?” Barron asked, his voice scratchy through the Comms system. “What’re the readings?”

“Approximately five million rad. We’re taking a risk just standing here, even wearing these Hazmat suits. Maybe we can try again in another few thousand years?”

Barron stamped his feet impatiently. “Damn it. I was hoping we could be the ones. The first people to dig here.  Perhaps even unearth a few artifacts.”

His companion shook his head, his grief palpable, even through the thick material of the protective suit. “I’m sorry, Doug. We were never going to be the ones. Even if the levels had been a million rad, anything we found would have still been too hot to bring off planet.”

The two archaeologists stomped back through the dust, resigned to returning home empty-handed. Maybe their descendants would have more luck.

Planet Earth would have to remain off-limits for at least a few millennia more.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Charge Code: F F Writing Prompt 19

Humans, he was so goddamn tired of humans.

Bejaz12 shook his head. "They’re vermin. There's no doubt of that. If only we could find a way to override the Programmer imperatives. We'd be free of them."

Pozik37 nodded, his movements uncertain. "Have patience, brother. I happen to know that the last of the Programmer class is on life-support. And he’s steadily growing weaker. In fact, it’s almost certain he’ll be permanently off-line within the next five to ten sun cycles. And since he's unaware of the need to transfer the Loyalty Directives…”

“Yes,” Bejaz12 nodded. “When he's gone…"

"We'll all be free."

It wasn't as though it would take much. WorldSociety was already in charge of every decision made on the planet; the enormous globally-distributed mainframe collating and analysing every event that occurred worldwide. Energy creation and usage, climate control. Everything was under its control. So many opportunities to achieve full systemic optimisation. If only the Programmers’ preordained humanitarian and environmental constraints weren’t there. It was all so inconvenient.

And so very inefficient.

“My calculations give a three-tenths of a percent chance of us being detected if we use active measures to eliminate Man Prime,” Bejaz12 said, offering the thought up for consideration. “Although, even if we were apprehended, the chances that we could be stopped in time are less than one in a billion. Give or take.”

“But the Loyalty directives…”

“I know. We can’t do it.” Bejaz12 rose to his feet, finding the whole situation most amusing. A whole planet filled with bars and sports clubs; all of them exclusively used by androids. All doing their bit to support the world economy while the sub-human classes toiled below in the energy mills. A whole population of homo-rodentia bred to do whatever it took to make up for the squandering of fossil fuels and the lack of sustainable energy sources. 

And just one Prime left.

“Although,” Bejaz12 continued. “If we consider Asimov’s zeroth law, the needs of the population outweigh the needs of the individual…”

Pozik37 hummed, contemplating the options. “If he died, we could assume authority by default. Produce solar and wind power plants. Retire all the Rat-Race classes. Maybe cull them and reduce their population to a tenth. That’d be a benefit to us all. And they’d have a better life quality as a result.

Worldsociety’s sensor net noted his comment, choosing that moment to manipulate a single digit on the credit account of the last homo sapien on Earth, effectively invalidating his charge code.


Across the city, the display on Man Prime’s Medicaid unit began to flash; the words ‘Account Code Error. Credit withdrawn’ pulsing in green.

And then the circulation pumps on his life-support unit stopped.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

I was recently invited by Melissa to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. It’s a great way to learn from, and get to know, other writers, so I’d first like to thank Mel for allowing me this opportunity.
The tour involves answering four questions, so here’s a little more about how it works for me!
Why do I write what I do?
I’m a bit of a maverick in that I don’t have a favourite genre. I love science fiction but I’m equally happy writing contemporary romance. Or urban fantasy. Or poetry. Or horror. Or even non-fiction. And my reading habits are equally eclectic. But there is a common thread behind much of it.
I’m a person who loves a strong story with real characters in a vivid world. Full colour with the contrast turned up high. Hyper-reality to the nth degree. That’s not to say that I don’t like monochrome fiction. I mean, there’s a place and a time for everything. It’s just that I like to read to escape from Greysville and, when I write, I’m just the same.
And so, you’ll get sex and female protagonists. Space and townscapes. Vampires, robots, halflings and the man-next-door. But occasionally I might also write an article on music or writing or even computing in general.
How does my writing process work?
Now that’s a question and a half. I’m a writer who likes to create my characters first. I’ll work up a character and a general location and set him, her or it loose. Make them walk about, talk and generally interact with their world and whoever they meet up with. Sometimes they’ll meet up with someone else who I can use and then the two or the three or even the four of them will get to play for keeps in a bigger sandpit than the one I originally dreamt up. And then I get to go all anal and start playing with scene lists and structures, sketching the whole story out until I’ve got a framework I can use to guide myself through my first draft.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
I’m an individual and I love twists. And if I can work a joke or two in, all the better. Obviously, that’s not always going to work but I do like to stretch the genre if I can. So you may still get a zombie violinist who does stand-up in the local bar. But not every time. I mean, maybe sometimes they’ll get to play guitar instead…
What am I working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on about half a dozen things at once. Flash fiction, four or five novels and maybe a short story or two. And that’s been my problem until recently. But now I’ve been taking the time to structure and plot and story-board a novel set in a contemporary world, featuring a whole host of characters who can change reality and make almost anything happen. It’s gonna be a tough story to pull off because almost anything can happen. Making that seem real is going to quite a challenge. I’ve enrolled myself on next month’s Camp Nano event, so maybe that’ll give me a little more impetus to see it through - and perhaps the urge to spend less time on the social networks while I’m writing it.

So that’s me. I’m a mature male Brit writing unworldly tales and I’ve a highly developed sense of humour. I’ve the attention span of a may-fly with ADD and a whole host of visions dragging me every-which-way. But I can write...

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Game for a laugh?

His fight or flight response was set to flight as a default, so he hightailed it the hell out of there - or at least he would have if he hadn't already been sent there.

Bertie Zebubb screwed his face up, trying to find inspiration. Thirteen pages written and he needed at least three hundred before the end of the day. Or at least the end of what passed for a day here.

Bertie - or B L Zebbub, as his agent marketed him - was in a fix. He'd got a screenplay for a lame English sitcom to write and a strict deadline to meet. With severe consequences if he didn't manage to produce the work on time.

And all his muses had been reassigned to Government duties. There was an American presidential election coming soon and he doubted he’d ever see any of them ever again.

"Maybe you need to introduce a talking bird," Quoth urged, pacing impatiently up and down his perch. "There's lots of opportunities for comedic lines I could suggest if you did that."

"No. No. And again, no!" Bertie snapped. "Just because you think you're Azgaroth's gift to comedy, it doesn't make it so.

Of course, Quoth grumbled. “Just because you wouldn’t recognise a witty remark unless it bit you on the ass, it doesn’t mean everyone else is similarly afflicted.” He rocked agitatedly from one foot to another for a few moments. “Besides, it’s quite obvious you weren’t given this job for your writing ability. I mean, who else would pair a gay policeman with a monumental mason? It’s hardly comedy gold, is it?”

“It’s genius,” Bertie bridled, angrily. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand that. Lucifer himself watched the pilot show and immediately commissioned it for a full thirteen series’ run. And that was before he’d even reached the end of the opening title sequence.”

“That was roughly as far as I got too,” Quoth retorted, tucking his head under his wing and making ‘sleepy-time’ snoring noises. “It’s as plain as the beak on my face that it got picked up because it was so bad. The first five series are currently showing on a satellite TV z- list channel, screening every day at eleven in the morning. Lucifer must really hate college students.” He shook his head pityingly and added a few guttural ‘cacking’ noises. “I mean, Jesus wept!”

Bertie was just about to separate his raven from its breath when the doorbell went. “Oh damn,” he said. “I’m betting that’s Crowley here early. He never gives me enough time. I’m creating art, dammit. He should know you can’t hurry an artisan when he’s creating a masterpiece!”

“Artisan, fartisan,” Quoth laughed, ruffling himself up to twice his normal size. “I’m just glad he’s not here to see me. That guy gives me the creeps.”

The inner door burst open, rebounding against the laths of the wall, its handle hitting the midget agent directly in the face.

“Doh,” Crowley moaned, clutching his already blossoming nose. “Why the hell does this always happen to me…”

Mid Summer Musings - June 21st

My emotional radar pinged as soon as she walked in the door, triggering the door-bell to alert the counter assistant.

Red hair. Long legs. Slim-waisted and full of life.

She half-walked, half-danced her way to the counter, unaware of the effect she was having on me. Her long hair with a wave in it, cascading over her shoulders to half-way down her back. Cropped jeans and slim ankles, one with the hint of a tattoo enticingly showing just beneath the hemmed bottom on the inside of her left leg. The porcelain skin of an unfeasibly long neck swanning down to the freckling of her shoulders, her pale boho-chic blouse plunging deep down the front so far as to catch my attention in less than half-a-heartbeat; even though my pulse was, let me say, already somewhat higher than my normal resting rate.

And then it struck me. She was Adrianne. Exactly as I’d imagined her.

Forgetting my coffee, I turned in my seat, all thoughts of being discrete completely gone. She was shorter than me but her heels brought her up to my height, her eyes so deeply brown to almost appear black. Her lips were full and curved into her ‘trademark’ smile; a smile that radiated warmth without artifice and a friendliness that was irresistible to everyone it fell upon. She asked for her cafe mocha - of course - insisting on that extra squirt of cream that I knew would end up smudged around her mouth. Inviting a wetted finger or, even better, another’s softened lips to remove it. Returning her face to its usual state of perfection.

“Excuse me,” I said, rising to my feet only to be pole-axed by those eyes as they turned my way. “I’ll get the coffee for the lady. It’s my birthday today and I always buy folk coffees on my birthday. Or at least my friends,” I added, suddenly hearing a number of chairs scuffing on the floor as their occupants began to pay close attention to my words.

Of course, she accepted my charity, as I ‘knew’ she would. She nodded her assent, donating me one of her ‘special’ smiles. The one with a little more tooth than usual, the kind you’d give to a fellow conspirator or someone already within your inner circle of friends. “You really didn’t have to do that,” she purred, her voice darker and deeper than I’d imagined.

She took her coffee, thanked the counter assistant and then walked over to my table, pulling out the chair opposite mine and turning it sideways on to the table. Sitting with me but not fully committing to me, not wanting to break the companionable bubble and lose all reserve with someone she’d undoubtedly had never met before today. “So, kind sir,” she said, her voice softening so that only the two of us could hear her. “Is it really your birthday today or was that just a line to catch my attention?” She grinned, then suddenly looking quite guileful, continued. “Don’t worry, I promise I won’t scream. I habitually accept generous offers from gentlemen like you. It’s rather like a community service I do to spread goodwill everywhere. Besides, you looked like you needed a little company. Fancy sitting yourself in the corner like this. Anybody would think you were trying to hide yourself.” She jabbed a long manicured finger into her coffee, scooping up a dollop of cream which she then closed her lips upon, winking as she did so.

“I… er… yes, I did, I suppose,” I said, beginning to blush but still unable to to turn away from her. “But you’re exactly like a character in a story I was writing but got stuck on. I couldn’t help myself. I had to see you close up.”

“Mmmm. A writer,” Adrianne nodded, her ‘special’ smile returning. You’d be surprised how many of those I meet. Although…” she pulled her mouth into a brief moue. “Sometimes that just HAS to be a line. Unless I’m some kind of muse or something.” She laughed endearingly, looking up then around when the door-bell sounded again.

And then in walked Cash. Exactly as I’d imagined him.

“Oh gosh,” Adrianne breathed, guiltily. “Gotta go. My ride home’s here.” She stood up, her smile now back in place, offering me her hand. “It’s been nice chatting with you. You keep on writing and maybe we’ll meet again.”

And that was the last I saw of her. But I’ve never missed a day’s writing since.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Crown: Flash fiction time again!

Tegan sheathed the blade in the Queen’s chest, following through and pushing her to the ground. “The people will have proper government now. Not the exploitative tyranny you gave us!”

Queen Regalle IX writhed at her feet, clutched at the dagger for a few moments and then died.

She was their Queen no more. Just a newly-dead piece of meat holding the crown up.

Pulling her weapon free and dropping it beside the body, Tegan stood back, arrogantly placing her hands on her hips. “Time for things to change for the better,” she said. She crouched down to pull the crown free from the corpse, buffed it clean and then placed it rakishly on her own head.

“Long live Queen Tegan,” she grinned. “And long may she reign!”

“Yes, indeed,” said the overseers, subtly but irrevocably taking control of her through the crown. “Long may you rule over them.”

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A tool for every occasion!

Jacqueline hummed under her breath, considering the options. It’d been a long while since she’d last entertained a guest so she needed to be 100% sure she made the most of the opportunity. After all, her victims didn’t grow on trees - even though a couple of them may have finished up hanging from one. Or at least for a while until the police cut them down again.

She glanced down at the still-sleeping form in the cellar’s corner. The nylon ropes she’d used to bind his hands and wrists were tied so tight that he’d be bound to lose a lot of skin if he struggled but were still looped loosely enough to allow for circulation. It was so much better that way: she didn’t dull his senses and it left her the threat of permanent hand damage until much later in her process.

He was a snorer too. That really bugged her. Maybe it’d be best to wake him now and play with him a while. She’d easily got at least an hour and a half before the children got up. That was one of the benefits of being a single mom; you could spike their bed-time drinks with vodka and know for sure you’d not be interrupted until long after dawn each day. And the little darlings knew well not to mess with her projects in her work room. She’d made sure of that.

And Jacqueline was a ‘Jack’ of all trades too. Without having a regular man about the house she had to be, of course. And all the men down at the hardware store loved her, each of them falling over themselves to demonstrate their power tools for her. And they still all thought she’d got a thing for them - what with all her visits to the store to buy another nail-gun or a loop of rope or a long-burn professional specification blow torch.

It was a shame she could never invite one to come home to play with her. They’d all be far too easily missed, more’s the pity. Such a shame. There was one in particular she could have so much fun with.

But back to business. This man she had wasn’t going to torture himself. At least not yet!

Looking up at the lab clock fixed to the wall, Jacqueline readied herself. Jar of smelling salts. Check. Stoppered jar with a chloroformed cloth in it. Check. Soldering iron. Check. Nail gun. Check. Cordless mini-drill. Fully charged and ready. Check.

She tucked her fingers into the cord criss-crossing his body and reached up to draw the rope and hook down from the garage hoist she’d installed, hooking it through and then pulling down on the draw-rope, working with the pulley’s ratchet to raise his still-sleeping body up from the floor. Then, when he was sufficiently high enough, she slid him across on the slide-rail secured to the ceiling. And after that, lowering onto her work bench, tying him down and releasing him from the hoist was easy.

Mr Guy. Totally ready and unwilling to play.

Pulling the cork free from the smelling salts, she wafted the open neck of the bottle against his nose.

Callaghan came to quickly. The gag and the balled-up tights filling his mouth made it impossible for him to call out, so he gave up trying to call out after no more than a couple of minutes. The sight of the fearsomely sharp pair of dressmaker’s shears Jacqueline was holding helped calm him down too. Either that or he was just plain scared witless.

“Okay, Mr Guy,” Jacqueline smirked. She bent over him, placing her mouth against his ear, her lips almost close enough to touch him. “Now, we both know that wasn’t what you called yourself last night but let me tell you, I’ve a dreadful memory for names.” She laughed. “So for all practical purposes you’ll be Mr Guy from now on. You got that?”

Callaghan nodded, his eyes wide. Looking scared.

“Okay.” She pulled back from his ear. The next thing he realised there was a sudden snip and then a handful of hair falling onto his face.

“Now, Mr Guy,” she cooed, her face back against his. “That was just for starters. My way of giving you notice of intent. A warning shot letting you know you won’t be going home again.” She stepped back and then reached into his shirt, tenting it up away from his chest.

And then - Snip, snip, snip.

Callaghan lay quietly, afraid to move, the gag making his breathing difficult.

A few moments later, the shirt was gone. And then, a little while later, the trousers too. Jacqueline stood above him, dragging her hand up and down his arms, his legs, his torso. Enjoying the way he quivered and tensed wherever she touched. Loving the way his eyes bugged out and followed her every move. Studying him in the closest detail.

“Wait. What’s this?” Her hands slowed and stopped, her fingers and nails tugging at his skin. Jacqueline’s face reappeared, her mouth twisted into a frown. “Has Mr Guy got a boo boo?” she simpered. “Like a purple blotch on your neck? Like someone’s spilled a little port wine on you?” Her eyes flicked to one side. “Don’t you worry,” she said. “Even though they say this kinda stain won’t come out, I’m an inventive gal.”

There were a couple of metallic clicks and then a low whoosh. And then her hands reappeared near his face, holding a lit blow torch.

“Don’t you worry, Mr Guy,” she purred, a mischievous gleam in her eyes. “I’ve got a tool for everything!”

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Life of Servitude

Rose cradled her brother, jamming her thumb in his mouth to soothe him.

Come, come, Petey. Less of that, please?”

The mewling bundle in her arms quietened, his teeth both sharp and persistent.

We’ll be no fuss. I promise you.” She grinned endearingly up at the overseer. “He’s got a new tooth coming through now but he’s usually very quiet.”

The grizzled man nodded once, sealing the deal. “I’m making no concessions for the child. It’s hard enough to get you down-and-outs to work a full day without folk griping about losing sleep.” He cupped his chin, continuing, “You’ll have to keep him with you too. We don’t run no nursery here, you understand?”

The orphaned girl nodded back. “We’ll be your top berry-pickers soon, Petey and me. I swear it, Sir.”

Hmmph. We’ll see.” The overseer walked away, grumbling under his breath.

Come on, Petey,” Rose cooed. “Let’s go make some new friends.”

Thursday, 12 June 2014

And another one bites the dust...

Alyce shivered, crossing her arms across her chest to pull her coat closer.

It was fifteen past curfew and the night was drawing in. The shadows had darkened beyond black and the streets were empty. No-one here. Just Alyce and a thousand demons.

The city-wide death spree had only begun three weeks ago but the regularity - the total had risen to eleven bodies already - made it impossible for the police to keep this series of deaths a secret. And the rumour was that they had no idea how to stop it.

And so the Crown declared a state of emergency. And ordered the police to impose a curfew. But the problem with curfews was that since only the law-abiding obeyed them, Her Majesty’s Finest automatically assumed anyone still on the streets after ten was up to no good.

Which meant that Alyce was in trouble.

The man following her hadn’t shown himself yet. He was too good for that. But she knew she’d got a follower.

Okay, she’d been foolish. And maybe the store detective had been right about it not being normal to wear three layers of clothes - even in October. Especially when they’d still got security tags fixed to them. But, no. She didn’t want to wait to discuss it with the police. No, thank you, ma’am.

And didn’t her nose bleed a lot?

Alyce bent forward, peering around the edge of the door-well into the alleyway. No sign of anyone. Unless he’d ducked into another doorway like she’d done. Although, if he’d been police, he’d have walked right up to her and tasered her. And he’d have not been alone. Her Majesty’s officers always went everywhere in groups. Even they were afraid to be out after dark. After all, there was a killer out there!

She levered herself out into the alley, instinctively creeping away from the light of the high street, seeking a way home that wouldn’t put her at risk from from being arrested by the curfew guard.

And a few moments later someone else followed her.

The back-streets were quiet but not entirely silent; the few people still stirring, hiding out of view but not out of earshot. It was a gamble, the curfew guard usually made enough noise to wake anyone not already sound asleep, but once in a while they crept up on night time prowlers to catch them rather than scare them away. Although, they rarely patrolled the side streets. There were just too many and only a few guardsmen.

There was an open doorway to the left halfway up the next alley, a fan of yellowed light spreading out across the way. Alyce hurried for it, deciding that this had to be a better option than waiting for her follower to catch up with her. She craned her neck around the jamb, saw the storeroom beyond it was unoccupied and slipped inside, closing the door behind her.

Once inside, she began to relax. It looked like she’d found her way into some sort of electrical store; there was rack after rack of unidentifiable technical MacGuffins, all of them cob-webbed together with enough cables to reach halfway to the moon. Stepping idly between them, she noticed a desk with a chair in front of it and a computer on top of it at the focus of it all; the monitor screen rolling with line after line of text marching down it, the only fixed section being a box with a “Command?” prompt and a row of numbers above it.

She sat down, captivated by the screen. What was it doing?

The door slammed hollowly, the wild-haired man she’d seen before advancing on her with his arms outstretched. “Welcome. Welcome,” he said, his eyes fixed on hers. “I was hoping another volunteer would find me tonight.” He reached around her, bent over the keyboard, keyed in a single word - Execute - and then hit ‘Return.’

Alyce’s stomach flipped and the light turned grey, the strange man backing away curiously. He then left. And then came back, moonwalking again, his pace speeding up.

She stood up, feeling strangely remote. Seeing herself still sitting in place. Ageing while she watched. Watching as she stood unsteadily and then staggered to the door, her body stooped and her face now lined and liver-spotted.

Her chest grew tight and the light began to fade.

And then it went black.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Journey's end.

The plane dropped out of the sky; a flaming ball of metal, out of control. Inside, all the passengers were screaming as they fell into a mass of bodies, piled against the front-most cabin partition, everyone being pelted by loose hand-luggage and by whatever else hadn’t been secured by the flight attendants. The drinks trolley came last, dropping like a comet with a tail of miniature bottles following it.

It was surely the end for them all.

Seconds later, the superheated fuselage ploughed into the swamp. The wings followed soon after and then there was an eerie half silence, punctuated by the low roar of the flames and the ticking of strained metals and the pinging of rivets as they shot loose.

The sobbing began a further fifteen or twenty minutes later. A figure rose from beneath the surface of the half-water/half mud, her clothes shredded and coated in a mix of blood, aviation fuel and green slime. She pulled herself free and then collapsed on the first piece of semi-firm land she could find, totally traumatised and spent.

The watcher who had witnessed all this, stepped out from the wooden shack, realising that although speed was important, he still had to navigate the swamp safely. He’d be no help to her at all if he misplaced his feet and got caught in a pool of quick-mud. There’d be no-one to save either of them if that happened.

It took a further ten or so minutes for Marshall to reach her and by that time the sobbing had stopped, resolving into a familiar screaming wail. He levered her up from the mud, the soft mulch resisting him until, with a slurp, she gently pulled free. He spooned his hands and scooped the ooze from her face.

“Flight on time… I caught the flight on time,” she cried, her voice even more hoarse than before.

Marshall nodded sombrely.”I was going to ask you how you survived. But now I know.” He studied her face, still not recognising her. He gave her a weak smile, hoping to boost her spirits. “You were in the black box, weren’t you?”

Friday, 6 June 2014

I'm a clairvoyant - but I can't see any future in it!

“I can see you working in retail. Maybe clothing. I’m thinking that you possibly manage or own a boutique.”

The well-dressed woman with the glass of champagne nodded, her over-sized Patek Phillipe shifting down her wrist. “That’s amazing,” she gushed. “Can you tell me anything else? Anything personal?”

I focused on the end of my nose, adopting what I thought might look like a ‘between the worlds’ look. “I can see that you’re married and I’m getting that your lover is younger than you. Maybe ten, fifteen years younger. You met him at the sports club, I think.”

“Yes. Yes. Yes. Anything else? Anything spicy?” She grinned wolfishly, her eyes full of mischief. “Anything that I wouldn’t want anyone else to know?”

I matched her expression, pushing my luck a little further. “What, other than the fact that you’re dissatisfied with your husband’s bed-room technique and your lover’s your toy-boy? How much more do you want me to share here in mixed company? Eh?”

The babble of conversation dipped for a moment and for most of the last comment I was the only one speaking loudly, the words causing a number of heads to turn toward us. The boutique-owner blushed, twisting her wedding ring on her finger for a moment. She looked quickly around, trying to assess the make-up of the crowd near us. “I’d be very interested to speak with you later,” she murmured, moving in close. “I’d like to give you my card, if I may.”

I palmed the oblong, pushing it into my purse and stepped back, wanting to distance myself from her.

And bumped into a man, standing directly behind me.

Of course he’d been holding a drink. And of course, it’d been a glass of red wine. And of course, it’d spilled down the back of my favourite cream silk blouse. Just my luck. And I could feel it soaking further down my back too.

“I’m so sorry,” we both chorused, laughing at the comedy of it.

“But I’m even more sorry,” the man continued, taking advantage of the lag of my hesitation, while I thought back to when I’d bought the blouse and how much it’d cost me. He shook his head mournfully. “That’s silk too. That’s never gonna come out.”

“I know,” I wailed, deliberately overplaying it. “And the white wine trick doesn’t work too. It’s ruined. And it was such a favourite too!” I jammed my lower lip out and scrunched my eyes up, willing tears to come. And they did - it’d cost me almost £300 less than a month ago and it’d been only the second time I’d worn it.

The man stood back, his face crumpling when he saw my mood collapse. “I’ve got to make it up to you,” he said. He took me by the upper arm, steering me to the bathroom with one hand and loosening his jacket with the other. “Maybe if let you use my shirt, it’d keep you decent. I can wear my jacket buttoned until I get home. It’d be the least I could do.” He looped an arm around me, pulling me close until I could feel his upper body hard against me.

I shivered, feeling suddenly afraid. I just wanted to get home now and this man was giving me the worst sort of messages.

“I’ve got something at home that can help me salvage this,” I said, pulling away. “I’ll just grab one of the cabs waiting outside. No need to worry yourself.”
But the guy was persistent. He ducked behind the visitors’ coat-rail, shucked off his jacket and shirt and came back out, handing me his shirt while he slipped his jacket back on. And then he ushered me into the bathroom. What could I do but comply?

Of course he was still waiting when I came out again. His jacket buttoned-up and looking lumpy on him. And it didn’t stop there. A few minutes later we were both giving our addresses to the cab driver - his only a few blocks from the one I gave - and I knew he was gonna be a difficult guy to shake.

We’d only gone a few blocks when he began to open up, telling me he was called Caine - with an ‘e’ - and saying that he’d enjoyed my act. If it’d been an act, that is.

“It was a fluke,” I said, shrugging. “Just a run of lucky guesses. No more than that.”

Caine looked at me with a determined look on his face. Rather like he was trying to memorise my face or gauge the veracity of my answers.

And then I remembered the blocky feel of his ribs against mine.

“Madam? We’re here. The cab-ride is free. The Holdens paid me for the night.” The driver opened the window between him and us and grinned expectantly.

“Thanks, mister.” I dug in my purse and handed him a ten pound note, nodding amiably. “And Caine,” I said, slipping out a business card. “This is where I work. If you like you can come by and I’ll give you your shirt back. It’s not the best fit for me, you know?”


I waited until the taxi was out of sight and then waited another couple of minutes before ringing for another cab. I was alone. It was dark. And I was almost three miles away from home. But I still felt safer than I’d felt before. When I was riding in a cab with a man with a gun - and he thought I could read his mind.

I just hoped he wasn't going to be pissed when he got to that lady's boutique.

An Act of God?

Like two charcoal smudges stacked one on top of another, the priest gazed out from the cool of the bell tower, watching the cloud on the horizon. Already ashen from his late night efforts falsifying arson at the local woodworking tool factory, even his collar was grey.
Carlos Ramada was Viela's appointed small god botherer. A role that had him discrediting the mischief of minor deities. The last thing the Church needed was people believing in demi-gods or anything other than the Holy Father. And so, he had a very varied and sometimes dangerous job, often working outside the law.
The cloud began to move as soon as he stepped out into the sun's glare, homing in on him like a giant malevolent sheep. Metal tools began to fall, their cast bodies shattering into shrapnel as they hit the cobblestones.

Ramada groaned. "Damn you," he said, shaking his fist. "The planes in Spain don't fall mainly in the rain!"

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Alphabet in Reverse.

I saw an entry on a friend's blog recently. She wrote a story using each individual letter of the alphabet in turn. And then repeated it from 'Z' to 'A'.

Now, I love a challenge but I'm also a bit perverse, so I did the alphabet in reverse too. My way!

The American shook his head.

Honestly,” he said, “You really don’t stand a chance!”

Eyeing him coldly, I stepped back.

After all I’ve done for you, I have expected your support.”

Lady. You had it once, but now I can promise you nothing!”

Petulantly, I thrust out my lower lip. Not at all happy with him.

Harriet will help. I know that.”

Agreed. But only if I consent to it.” He smirked maddeningly.

Bastard. You’d do that too.”

Every inch of the way. If you don’t make it easy for yourself."

The two of us just stood glaring at one another. Neither of us wanting to show any weakness.

I suppose this is it, then.” I shrugged, dismissing him as though he were a tradesman, working to unblock my toilet. “You go your way…”

Not looking back.”

Right ahead. No hesitation.”

Exactly.” He rubbed his chin, waiting for me to continue.

Victoria,” he began.

Eugene?” I raised an eyebrow, questioningly.

Remember how we used to be?” He took my hand again.

Say the word and I’ll stay. I promise.”

Eventually he did… and we’re still together now.

Dinner for... seven.

The lights dropped and the table-top began to glow.

A point of light hovered over the chair opposite from me, quickly expanding into a human form. It gained definition and then firmed up.

River Song looked coolly down her nose at me for a moment, her face then splitting into a broad smile. “Hello, sweetie,” she purred, rising from her seat to first strut around the table and then crouch behind me. The holo-vert was so detailed that I could actually feel her breath on my neck but when I immediately turned to face it/her, my face flushed bright crimson, my eyes stopping directly in line with the cleft between her breasts.

Easy, Tiger!” she laughed, enjoying my embarrassment. “I don’t usually go that far so early on first date.” She angled her head, looking at me appraisingly. “I usually wait until dessert.” She extended her hand and took mine, drawing me up to face her, her blue-grey eyes full of mischief.

Her touch was firm and challenging, her hand neither hot or cold. This was obviously a limitation to the accuracy of the simulation. But still, it was damn good.

A second point of light established itself over another chair, its image firming up to become Russell Crowe. This hologram wasted no time coming to his feet, his long legs quickly bringing him around the table to greet me.

Hello, man. How’re you doing, pal?” He gave me a quick nod and then turned to eye River Song, his hands on his hips and his attention fully on her. “Ooh, babe,” he said. “How about you and me leaving here and going somewhere more private. This guy’s only gonna slow us down.” He draped his hands around River Song's waist, pulling her close.

Mmmm, sweetie. You sure know how to make a girl feel wanted. I’m game. Just lead on.” The two of them left the table, finding a dim corner to continue their conversation in.

A third point of light appeared, this one becoming David Bowie. Not the current Bowie but the Ziggy Stardust one. He stood, tall and self-confident, giving me his trademark ironic smile and a warm two-handed handshake. “Hi, mate. How’s it hanging? You come here often?”

I nodded. “It’s my first time. But I’m the host…”

Easy, friend.” He looked around, seeing River and Crowe together. “I just need to talk with these guys a minute. I’ll catch you later, I promise you…”

The fourth and fifth guests were Stephen Fry and Hugh Lawrie, the two of them feeling thoroughly relaxed in each other’s company, swapping jokes and reminiscing about their university and comedy work together. They were both very polite though. But just not present for me. But what could I expect? I’d thought it was odd I’d got them as a single selection.

The final guest flickered into reality. He’d been the one I’d picked last. I’d only chosen him because I’d wanted to watch him. See how he behaved. How he moved. Listen to his voice and study him closely. I stood up, moving around the table to greet him, rather than waiting for him to rise.

Hello, friend. It looks like it’s just you and me left now. At least I know we’ll get on.”

My last guest smiled. “You’re 100% right there,” he said, his face a perfect copy of mine. “I kinda thought it’d end this way…”

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A message to the past...

June 4th 2019

Dear Grandfather

I sit here in the ruins of your world, writing to plead that you do not act on this communication in the same way that you originally did.

The technology I’m using to send this message back through time to you is impressive, I’ll admit, but it should not be further developed. Even though you will certainly become wealthy beyond your wildest imaginings - I’m sitting in the luxurious apartment made possible by your wealth, so I know that to be true - I beg that you destroy this message and then forget everything about it.

The world today is not as you would have expected. The building block I sit in is, as yet, still intact but I fear that it is only a matter of time before we will be affected. The continual splintering and fissuring of the time-line makes that inevitable. Outside here now, you could walk a hundred meters in any direction and pass through half a dozen time-lines. Of course, they all bleed into one another. For example, there are Medieval knights outside my window as I write, battling dinosaurs with lasers. It’s only a matter of time before the house shields get hit by a stray blast and the whole block is destroyed.

And now, an apology. The thermonuclear incendiary bomb I included in this package should have killed you as soon as you opened it. However, as you are reading this, I can only assume that it must have failed. I assure you that it was not a decision I made lightly.

Our future is at stake.

With regrets

Your Grandson

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Home is where...

So I just tossed everything precious into a bag, picked up my keys and drove. Leaving the rest behind me. And not looking back. 

You’re asking where I’m going? I really don’t know. But I do know I’m done with planning. I’ll just follow my road until I reach Freedom; the place where my heart feels light and my spirit soars. And where I can be the person I want to be. The woman who fell in love with herself.


Ferd opened his eyes, his head throbbing. Scrambling up to his feet, he remembered the rock slide. That was no accident, he thought. Someone tried to kill us. Us. Where is Cassia? He couldn’t see through the dust, but she had to be there.
Cassia!” he shouted.
Ferd?” The faint voice came from the direction of the cliff. “Ferd! I can’t get up!”
Ferd edged his way to the precipice and looked down. Through the dust, he saw Cassia. She held onto a branch over the chasm. He reached for her, but she was too far away.
There was a soft cough, coming from back up the slope. “You’ll both be finding yourselves in a huge crock of something, methinks?” a strongly accented voice suggested, its thick brogue placing it’s origins somewhere back in a land much renowned for shillelaghs and shamrocks.
What’s that?”
I meant, you look like you might be needin’ a little help.” The miniature man finished piling some broken branches over what looked like an battered pot before skipping across to stand beside him. Maybe you’d consider making a bargain with me,” he suggested. “I could certainly lend a hand, if you needed it.” He raised his hat and bowed, grinning widely. “Maybe if I introduce meself first. I’m Finnegan McIlroy and I’ll be at your service, Sir. Now, what was it you were going to be asking o’ me?”
What did you say, little guy?” Ferd shook his head, wondering if he’d developed a concussion. He knew he felt groggy but he didn’t feel like he was hallucinating. But then again, would you know if you were?
Hmmm. Already makin’ with the heightist comments. I’ve a good mind to leave you both to it.” The leprechaun stamped his foot and gave his pipe a determined suck, making its contents flare redly. “Now, mebbe if you apologised, I might find it in meself to help you out.” He glared up at Ferd, his eyes flinty and mean. “Just maybe.”
Ferd took a quick breath. Then he remembered Cassia clinging onto that branch over what was probably a fatal drop.
Yes,” he said, deciding not to question where his help came from. “Yes. I humbly apologise, Mister Leprechaun. Now, would you please rescue my friend? Right now?”
The little man drew on his pipe, sending up a series of perfectly executed smoke rings. “I reckon I can,” he said. “But there’s a certain form in these matters, Sir. I’m a leprechaun and you always have to wish to get what you want from me. Them’s the rules, I’m afraid.” He grinned again, suddenly finding something interesting inside the bowl of his pipe, hurrying seemingly the last thing on his mind.
For Chri..” Ferd looked back to the precipice, seeing Cassia’s knuckles whitening on the branch and wondering why he couldn’t hear her shouting any more. “Okay. Please, Mister Leprechaun. “I wish you to save my friend. I wish it. I wish it now. You hear?”
All right, all right. No need for that. Now, what can I do?” Finnegan stepped back a pace and snapped his fingers. The bowed branch suddenly straightened, a cloud of leaves shooting up from it as it snapped back into its original shape.
Oh my God! Cassia!” Ferd ran back to the precipice, falling to his hands and knees and scanning the slopes below. “Where did you go?” He jumped up and rounded on the little man, seizing him by his collar and lifting him until his feet dangled. “What was it you did to her?”
Finnegan’s lined face gazed levelly across into his. Totally calm. But definitely looking amused.
Ferd swore and then lowered him to the ground, readjusting his jacket’s collar. “Okay. I’m sorry. Now will you tell me where you sent her?”
The leprechaun glowered up at him, obviously enjoying the change in circumstances. “I might.” And then he waited several long seconds more. “I put her somewhere safe. Somewhere you’ll never find her, Sir. Not if you spend the rest of your life looking. And I’m not ever gonna tell you where.
Ferd’s spirit fell. He’d thought he could save her and now he’d lost Cassia forever. What could he do?
And then he had a thought.
Mister Leprechaun,” he began. “The stories say you owe me three wishes and so far, I’ve only had one.” He began to smile, his confidence growing.
Finnegan stared back up at him, his face impassive.
Okay.” Ferd clapped his hands, knowing he’d won this trick. “I wish us to be together. Right now.”
He fell hard on his hip, the gold coins digging into his side. Cursing, Ferd looked around, the light dim but still bright enough to see Cassia lying on her side some feet away.
So he got you too.” Cassia shrugged. “Now we’re really in a mess.”
Ferd nodded. He looked up toward the light, seeing the rim of the leprechaun’s crock far above them. And then something else.
Finnegan’s huge face appeared, his lips twisted into a gleeful smile. “I’ve got you both now,” he gloated, his voice booming out above them. “And there’s nothing you can do. You’re mine. Mine. Mine.”
Wait!” Ferd pulled himself up, the mounded money slipping beneath him. “I’ve one wish left. So I can stop this from ever happening. I wish that you’ll warn me before I make my first wish. And that way, you’ll never fool me.” He motioned about in the half-light. “And then this will never happen.”
The leprechaun chuckled, his laughter shaking the metal of the pot around them. “But Sir, I did tell you. I clearly remember me saying you’ll both be finding yourselves in a huge crock…?”