Tag Archives: Friday Flash

Apple?

“Pretend it’s an apple. Now, close your eyes and put it to your mouth. That’s it. Your teeth are pressing on firm green skin. Good. You feel a little resistance? That’s natural. Keep going until it splits. There!”

I clear my throat.

“Don’t worry, that’s sweet juice running down your chin. Best to keep your eyes closed and imagine wonderful flavours. Now bite off a chunk and enjoy, but whatever you do, don’t stop chewing.”

I see something pink, waving like a baby’s finger.

“The problem with apples,” I say, fighting back the bile. “Is that worms like them too.”

Doe-eyed Dictators

This is the eight story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and is inspired by a prompt from Catherine Russell (aka @ganymeder).

Although September is long behind us, I'm still going to honour all the prompts that came in (which may take a while :) ). If you want to see the full list of prompts or check out the other stories from that post then click here.

 

Doe-eyed Dictators

When the first ones came, mankind was curious. Though not a new species per se, the sheer grandeur of Giraffa Superior made her an instant hit with scientists and journalists alike.

The gentle giants ambled across the earth and people made them welcome, organising great parades in their honour. The giraffe’s didn’t care, so long as there was plenty of food and no surprises.

During one of these parades, a young man called Billy Gorgon set off some fireworks to celebrate. The gesture sparked a stampede that destroyed cars, houses and killed ten people. Nobody blamed the giraffe’s however; their anger was reserved for Billy Gorgon, who quickly disappeared.

Afterwards, the traumatised giraffe steered clear of human settlements and could only be watched remotely. It was decided the best thing to do was give them time and space.

Then the trees came and they changed everything. It’s not clear if the giraffe brought new seeds with them or if their interactions with the ecosystem altered it in some way. Fierce debates raged between those that favoured the ‘seeder’ theory and advocates of the ‘fertiliser’ idea. Such things soon became irrelevant.

In the space of twelve months, new species of plant spread across the globe, growing faster and bigger than anything seen before. Trunks like iron punched up through roads and homes, ending mankind’s dominance with disturbing ease. Efforts to halt the advance were hampered by human indecision. Some wanted to preserve the new species, most wanted to destroy them but the majority were too busy scrabbling for resources and rioting to care either way.

Not long after, the giraffe came back, their numbers swollen beyond all predictions. Never alone, they moved en mass in packs no smaller than a hundred. These new mega-herds behaved differently to the smaller family units. They were organised and confident and had little time for human beings. People found themselves ejected from their homes and forced into designated zones. Any that resisted soon found the rough side of a giant hoof.

Ten years went by in relative peace and then a man stood up to be counted. While his fellows had become meek and pale he was hot faced, his hair wild, like a storm. Billy Gorgon had returned and he had brought fireworks, lots and lots of fireworks.

He parked himself firmly in one of the giraffe zones and declared that he was taking back mankind’s right to go where they bloody well liked. When the giraffe came to move him on, he answered with two well-placed Roman Candles and a Catherine Wheel. Terrified, the long legged oppressors fled.

Humanity celebrated and named Gorgon their leader. They built a new settlement, square inside the giraffe’s territory. This too they named Gorgon.

Then one day a solitary giraffe arrived. She was old and lined, with a long scorch mark across her flank. The last of the first ones had come to bargain. Billy went out to meet her and that was his second great mistake. At the sight of the fire maker, her ancient eyes went wild, all thoughts of peace submerged beneath hate and fear.

Trapped in a flash-back the giraffe trampled and trampled until there was nothing recognisable left of Gorgon, or the town with his name.

Humanity crept back to its proper place having learnt their lesson. Never again would they play with fireworks.

 

(Original prompt: In a world where giraffes rule mankind with iron hooves, one man dares to stand up, risk getting trampled, and fight for the right to free parking in non-designated safe zones)

Limitless

This is the seventh story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and is inspired by prompts from Aidan Fritz (aka @AidanFritz) and John Xero (aka @Xeroverse).  I wanted the bonus points for a combo!

Although September is long behind us, I'm still going to honour all the prompts that came in (which may take a while :) ). If you want to see the full list of prompts or check out the other stories from that post then click here.

 

Limitless

I rest my spade in the ground and take a break.

Slowly, the sun rises, so full of colours I want to weep. As blue as the sea, as white as snow, lip red, bruise purple, a hundred shades and all that goes between. Dawn is my favourite time. It’s too early for disappointment and there’s everything to play for.

Reality pulls at me, dragging my gaze down. On the horizon I see the city of my grandfathers, overgrown and overrun by nature. The distinctive skyline covered by a scab of green.

And again the view drags down, to the bodies at my feet.

We came here to find out the truth, archaeologists of our own culture. Jeb was the first to learn why our ancestors fell upon each other so suddenly, so finally. After a week of trying, when the rest of us had given up, Jeb managed to access the records documenting civilisation’s end.

By the time Adam and I found him he’d killed six members of our team and had his hands at the throat of the seventh.

I don’t know if it was my bullet that ended Jeb or Adam’s. Maybe it was a combination of wounds that killed him, or a sudden heart failure, or a bolt of lightning. Here, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that he’s dead.

Jeb died with his eyes open. They stare up at me even now. Glassy sphere’s that declare me murderer, judge, hypocrite.

I cover them with earth and immediately feel better.

***

It’s a short walk back to camp but my breath rasps in my helmet before I’m halfway there.

Our home is made of blocks, some joined together to make bigger rooms, others held apart for sleeping spaces or storage. The structure is capable of sustaining thirty at a push and considered spacious for our team of ten. It is too much for two to bear.

I’m struggling now. A part of me doesn’t want to go any further but my stubborn feet have already taken that critical step, crossing into the borderlands that exist between in and out, what could be achieved and what is not, between Adam and me.

Above, the sun is yellow, banal.

***

I’m out of the suit and breathing recycled air. I should feel less restricted but I don’t. Pressure is building, pressing inwards, a gravity of the mind that eats dreams. For, if dreams are made of anything, surely they are made of light? Tiny electrical flares grow sluggish in my brain, each containing a universe slightly different to ours.

Soon I will forget; there is no room for them here.

I enter the kitchen to see a man with his back to me and feel the last flickers of resistance.

It is Adam. I love this man more than I love myself. He is father, brother and son made one flesh. The thought of him warms me, completes me, makes it safe.

He stoops to pick up something from a lower draw, a long slab of firm jelly. He begins to cut it into slices for our dinner. He’ll add the flavour later.

It is Adam. I hate this man. He is pathetic, he drags me down, he’s in the way, a mote in the path of god. The urge to take his knife and turn it against his eyes sweeps over me.

He pauses, having heard my entrance.

It is Adam. I feel nothing. The name is a label, useful only for identification. Is this man real? Does he even exist?

He’s turning.

Potential truths rush through me, desperate to be heard before extinction.

Adam bores me, infuriates me, intrigues me, makes me cold, hot, wet, anxious, malevolent, funny, wishful, bashful, murderous, insane, nostalgic –

His eyes meet mine.

And my many states fold inward, defining and confining. I just have time to wonder, what will be true today?

It is Adam. I feel conflicted. He isn’t a friend I’d choose but we are companions brought close by shared horror. I wish he was dead, I’m glad he isn’t. Guilt and frustration sit side by side in my guts, holding hands.

The truth is we are all things, held in readiness, until we are in company. That is the knowledge that I took from Jeb’s dripping neural net. Our grandfather’s learned that the only thing stopping them from ascension was each other. Each human being a living mirror to hold the shape of their neighbour, reflecting fragments of what could be and making those fragments real. A mutual stunting, a grand denial of greatness.

But mirrors can be broken.

Adam smiles, glad to see me and, as usual, I smile back. I’m no killer, it isn’t in me today.

Not today.

 

(Original Prompt 1: My prompt would be a world where quantum mechanics applies to people (in particular the idea of superposition). I'm particularly thinking of weakly interpreting this in a way where people can overlap in the same space and time (possibly unless measured). What implications does this have for the world and culture? Bonus points for combining this into one of the previous prompts ;))

(Original prompt 2: So my prompt is a use of the word 'borderlands')

Fat Cat in Cat Flap

This is the sixth story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and is inspired by a prompt from Tom Gillespie (aka @tom_gillespie). I'd actually written this just before we lost internet five and half weeks ago, so the poor cat has been stuck for a long time!

Although September is over, I'm still going to honour all the prompts that came in (which may take a while :) ). If you want to see the full list of prompts or check out the other stories from that post then click here.

 

Thomas charged down the garden, bounding up the three steps to the back door. He plunged head first into the kitchen but stopped halfway through.

Something was badly wrong.

***

Judy leaned down and picked up the saucer of cream. “No Thomas, only water for you.”

Thomas gave an indignant sniff.

“It’s for your own good.”

Judy ignored the mewling and went back to the phone. “Sorry about that, it’s our cat. John’s been over feeding him again so I’ve had to put him on a diet…I know, it’s a real first world tragedy! The silly old thing’s got too fat for his cat flap. He’s jammed in. I tried to get him out but he’s completely stuck…He’ll slim down in a couple of days though.”

***

Thomas hung suspended from the flap, his chin half an inch from the floor. Dark thoughts boiled behind his narrowed eyes. As soon as he was free, Judy was going to suffer. John would understand; they’d be much happier without her.

The house was quiet, so the scuttling was impossible to miss. His ear rotated to the source of the sound and saliva bubbled around Thomas’ mouth. He’d heard a mouse.

Soon, the delicious morsel ran into a view. Its fur was grey in the low light but Thomas knew it was brown, recognising it from a previous encounter. On that occasion the mouse had escaped, vanishing into its hole a moment before his claws came down on its tail, most of which now sat rotting with the rest of Thomas’ collection under the wardrobe; a frog leg, some feathers and a squirrel’s intestine.

Halfway across the kitchen floor the mouse paused, the silhouette of its nose held high, twitching as it tested the air. Thomas waited for the mouse to turn in his direction and let out an angry hiss. The little creature ran for cover, darting behind the leg of the breakfast table.

Thomas purred with pleasure. The look on the mouse’s face had been priceless! Then he remembered how hungry he was. The purring stopped.

A pair of small eyes peeped around the table leg. Thomas raised a paw threateningly and the mouse flinched but didn’t run away. They watched each other until Thomas got tired. He lowered his paw and his head, what he wouldn’t give for a hot meal and a warm lap.

A few minutes later he heard the mouse again but this time it was coming from somewhere above him. He looked up, puzzled, to find the mouse had managed to get on top of the kitchen table where that lazy slob Judy had left his saucer of cream. Was that the sound of lapping? The mouse was enjoying his cream. This was too much!

With renewed energy he struggled to get free, back legs flailing outside, front paws sliding on the kitchen tiles. It was no use, a furry roll of rat spread out either side of the flap, sealing him in tight.

A corner of saucer edged out over the table, like a porcelain moonrise. It was moving slowly, in incremental fits and starts. Thomas watched, mesmerised by the sight. Eventually gravity got hold of the saucer’s edge, tipping it over. A creamy waterfall flowed for a second before the whole thing slid off, tumbling end over end.

There was a crash. It was loud enough to wake next door’s idiot dog, Oscar, but not enough to wake that potato headed ogre, Judy. Fragments of saucer littered the floor. Thomas couldn’t wait for John to come home. He’d have been down the stairs in seconds to sort things out.

Cream spilled tantalisingly close and Thomas managed to get in a few licks before he noticed the mouse was back. It picked its way delicately across the floor. He growled but it just stared right back. Thomas didn’t like the look on the mouse’s face. It was smiling.

The mouse picked up a thin sliver of porcelain in its mouth and scurried away.

***

Thomas yawned and opened a grouchy eye. It was still dark in the kitchen but instinct was telling him that something was going on. He scanned the room, high and low, paying particular attention to the little nooks where a rodent could hide. Nothing.

Feather light feet brushed the step outside, and sharpness slipped between Thomas’ toes. He squealed and thrashed but the pain stayed. Exhausted and scared, he flopped down again and prayed for the dawn. Even Judy’s face would be a welcome sight. Thomas decided that if she came through the door right now, he might allow her to stay after all.

The mouse reappeared, still smiling and picked up another shard of porcelain.

***

When Judy came downstairs the next morning she found a lot of fluid had leaked onto the floor. There were several different types and colours, most originating from what was left of Thomas. She worked quickly despite the shock, keen to clear away the evidence before John got home. The only silver lining was that Thomas came free of the flap on the first pull. Judy told John that Thomas had run away and tried to block the image from her mind.

***

“It’s been two weeks, don’t you think it’s time to let go?” asked Judy.

John paused by the back door, bowl in one hand, double cream in the other. “He’s still out there, I can feel it.” John ignored his wife’s pity face. “When he’s ready he’ll come back.”

Judy bit her lip and watched him fill the bowl.

 

(Original prompt: Our cat's on a diet.. she got stuck in her flap last week and we had to leave her there for a couple of days until she slimmed down and we were able to pull her out..)

Missing Abi (Part 2)

This is the fifth story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and is inspired by a prompt from Ray Paterson (aka @newhack58). If you haven't already, it's worth checking out part 1.

Although September is over, I'm still going to honour all the prompts that came in (which may take a while 🙂 ). If you want to see the full list of prompts or check out the other stories from that post then click here.

 

Of course she was scared, this was the first time she’d seen Abigail without a head, but Beth didn’t scream or run away. The body in the cellar below had a strange dignity, demanding contemplation as much as horror.

Before fear had time to take over, Beth was creeping down the ladder. The naked bulb in the cellar’s roof dazzled her as she passed it.

After blinking rainbow spots from her eyes, Beth looked at the floor and noticed an absence of blood. No red circles pooled out from the neck, no slick glistened. Whoever had taken her friend’s head had done it somewhere else. She wasn’t sure if this was good or bad.

Beth stepped from the ladder and her gaze dragged to the far wall, where a row of headless figures stood. There were six in all, a range of heights, from four foot up to five and a half. Each was wrapped in plastic but Beth was convinced they were all women.

Movement to her right made her startle. A figure sat by a table, regarding her quietly. Beth struggled to make words. “Abi…is that you?”

“It’s me.”

Beth’s mouth hung open.

“This is my other secret. It’s my last one, promise! I’ll tell you about it if you want. But you have to promise not to tell anyone.”

Beth nodded drunkenly.

“Promise then, out loud.”

“I…promise.”

“On your mum’s life?”

“…Okay.”

“And your dad’s?”

Beth paused. “And my dad’s.”

“And on your own?”

“Abi! What’s going on? Why haven’t you been in school? And why do you have a fake body of yourself? And…and why won’t you look at me properly?”

“Truth?”

“Truth.”

Abigail looked away. “I dropped part of my face when you rang the bell. It’s on the floor somewhere. I was hoping you’d help me find it.”

“Oh.”

A few seconds later Beth dropped onto all fours and began crawling around.

“You’re being totally cool about this by the way. You see Beth, it’s like this: my embryo was all messed up when I was in the womb.”

Beth pulled a face.

Abigail didn’t seem to notice, getting louder and faster as she continued her story. “My body wasn’t growing properly and my heart was failing. My mum wanted to flush me. I don’t blame her.” Abigail shrugged. “I was only going to be strapped to some machines for a few hours and die. But then gramps, my grandfather comes and asks if he can have me instead and they say yes, and do this operation to get me out of mum’s tummy. Are you ok Beth? I mean is this too much? I can stop if you want.”

Beth looked washed out in the pale light. “You can’t stop now!”

Abigail smiled but Beth noticed she was careful to hide the open part of her face. “Okay, this is the freaky part. He grows me in this gunk tube and then when I’m born he scrapes out my brain and my eyes and nerves and stuff and puts them in here.” She tapped the side of her head for emphasis.

“Oh…” said Beth in a small voice. “I think I’ve found your face…It’s…still warm.” Beth passed up the missing plate.

“Thanks.” Abigail turned the plate in her fingers. “Gramps wanted me to have as normal a life as possible. My brain is alive and it ages like everybody else’s and he wanted to give me a body to match. But building a prosthetic,” Abigail pointed to the row of bodies, “that could grow up was impossible. So instead he made lots of them for different stages of development.”

Beth shook her head. “Sorry?”

“A bit like shoes. I change up to the right size as I get older. I’ve been a baby, a rug rat, a little girl, just like you.” Abigail’s smile was hopeful.

“Your grandfather sounds…special.”

Abigail shoulders slumped. “He was. Each time I got older he’d move my head to the next body up and then adjust my head to the right size. This is the first time I’ve changed up since he died. It’s been a disaster! I botched it so badly I broke the dial in my new neck. I can’t tell you how hard it is adjusting your own head! That’s why I had to make a replacement in the workshop.” Abigail stopped, suddenly nervous. “Do you think, I mean, if it’s too much then say and I totally understand, but would it be okay if you helped me put my face back on?”

Beth swallowed hard. “Okay.”

“Thanks. I’m glad it was you Beth. I wouldn’t trust anyone else.” She chuckled sadly. “Which is good because there isn’t anyone else.” They looked at each other, neither able to voice their thoughts.  Abigail cleared her throat. “Now I’m going to pull back the skin. If I’ve resized it right the plate should fit over the hole. The screws are on the table.”

Beth got to work. It was tough and her fingers ached long before she was done.

“Now smooth the skin along my jawline, and please, don’t leave any wrinkles! There’s a clip for the loose skin under my hair.”

“I’ve always liked your hair,” said Beth.

“Thanks! I do it myself. It’s easy when you can take it off.”

Beth smiled weakly. “Can you do mine sometime?”

“I’d love to.”

“Thanks Abi.”

“So,” Abigail said shyly. “Are we still friends?”

Beth squeezed her friend’s hand, surprised at its warmth. “Always.”

 

(Original prompt: Of course she was scared, this was the first time she had seen Abigail without a head.)

Missing Abi (Part 1)

This is the fourth story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and part 1 was inspired by a prompt sent in by Dom Camus.

If you want to see the current list of prompts or (even better) add your own then click here. Remember I'll only accept prompts that come in before the end of September.

 

Lunchtime was nearly over and the classroom was buzzing with the latest gossip. Krystal Williams turned from the whispering circle to lean on Beth’s desk.

“Jamie O’Brien says he tongued you on the bus.”

Beth’s cheeks burned against her hands. “He’s a liar!”

“He said your mouth tasted sour.”

Beth screwed her face deeper into her hands. Between her fingers she could see Jamie laughing with his mates. Her teacher would be back in a couple of minutes. Beth wasn’t sure she could last that long.

Then, two rows back, Abigail climbed up onto her chair, providing a welcome distraction.

“What’s that freak doing?” asked Krystal.

Beth dared to look up. She could see Abigail hopping across the desks, arms by her sides, hands out at right angles. One by one, the class were drawn in to the spectacle. Abigail stepped past Beth’s desk and kept going until she was standing in front of Jamie. The diminutive girl looked like a doll next to the broad shouldered boy.

Jamie struck a pose of practised nonchalance. “You want to have a go too?” He closed his eyes and pursed his lips. The class roared with laughter.

Abigail swung back her foot and kicked him in the eye.

Jamie’s scream cut through the laughter like a knife.

***

Beth hurried past the headmaster’s office.  Abigail was sat outside, working.

“Thanks Abi,” said Beth quietly. “I owe you one.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

Abigail face melted in relief. “Then I need you to get something for me.”

***

Mr Dean was closing up the workshop by the time Beth arrived.

“Sorry Sir, I left my coat inside.” She silently prayed he wouldn’t offer to get it for her.

Mr Dean sniffed loudly as he deliberated. “Alright, you’ve got two minutes and then I lock the door whether you’re out or not.”

“Thanks Sir!”

Abigail’s project sat on the shelf; two miniature chairs and a wardrobe for a dollhouse. Her friend had spent every night working on them for weeks and it showed. Beth thought of her own project, a block puzzle that needed a hammer to fit the pieces in, and felt a pang of envy.

She was also puzzled. Abigail had made a big deal about not being seen and being really careful. Why? She picked up the wardrobe, which was really a block of wood with painted doors and turned it in her hands. To her surprise, it rattled. There was something inside.

A closer inspection revealed that the wardrobe could open. The join had been hidden and sealed with paint.

Outside, Mr Dean cleared his throat. Beth tucked the wardrobe in her pocket and scurried out.

“Thanks!” she said as she left.

“Wait there!”

Beth tried not to panic. “Sir?”

“Where’s your coat?”

It took a moment to remember what he was talking about. “Oh. It wasn’t there. I must’ve left it in maths.”

Mr Dean sniffed again and waved her on her way.

***

That night all Beth could think about was what was in the wardrobe. Although she’d been grateful Abigail hadn’t told her anything.

It wasn’t the first time her friend had behaved oddly. Abigail was known to be eccentric. The whole school knew that she lived with her aged grandparents who never seemed to leave the house. One of the class bitches had started saying they were cultists, another that they were too ugly to come out in the day. Only Beth knew the truth.

They were dead.

For almost a year now, Abigail had lived alone, mostly self-sufficient. Sometimes Beth covered for her and once they’d had her cousin pretend to be Abigail’s grandfather on the phone but she did the rest herself, from the weekly shop to online tax and bills. Beth knew it couldn’t last forever but with modest outgoings and her grandparent’s savings, Abigail seemed fine for the moment.

Or was she? Beth wondered again about the contents of the wardrobe. Was her friend dealing or moving drugs? She resolved to confront Abigail the next day.

***

Abigail was absent the next day and for the rest of the week. Beth began to get nervous. On Friday afternoon, while her peers ran home with thoughts of Christmas, she went to her friend’s house.

It was an ordinary looking building, squashed in the middle of its siblings. One window was boarded up but the others were clean. The paintwork was fresh, the grass smart and even. It appeared neat yet unremarkable, much like Abigail herself.

Nobody answered the bell and the front door was locked so Beth slipped round the back of the house. On this side, away from public view, things were a picture of neglect. She went to the back door. It had warped so badly the lock didn’t work. Abigail had just wedged it against the frame. Beth wrestled it open and went in.

The blinds in the kitchen were down so she put the lights on. It was quiet enough that she could hear electricity humming in the ceiling…and something else. She couldn’t place the noise but felt its incongruity. Perhaps an animal had got in. Beth hoped it was a small one.

Furniture was piled in the hallway and the door to the front room stood open. She looked in to find the carpet had been rolled back, revealing floorboards. What was going on?

Beth edged closer, sweat prickling on her face.

Light shone upwards into the room through a trapdoor. Beth swallowed and peered down. The sound was coming from somewhere just out of view. She could hear it better now, a gentle scratching.

At the bottom of the ladder lay Abigail’s body. It was pale and too still.

And…

(Beth stopped breathing)

Something had taken Abigail’s head.

 

(Original prompt: The lead character is around 11-13 years old and due to some chance event discovers that his/her best friend lives alone with no parent or guardian. Not wanting to get the friend in trouble or reveal knowledge of this secret, further investigation is carried out without anyone's knowledge… but what is going on turns out to be something even weirder than it first appears and our protagonist gets unwillingly drawn into events…)

Pointy Problem

This is the third story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and was inspired by a prompt sent in by John Wiswell (aka @Wiswell).

If you want to see the current list of prompts or (even better) add your own then click here. Remember I'll only accept prompts that come in before the end of September.

 

“Where’s my normal doctor?” asked Yaser.

The small, suited stranger smiled apologetically. “I’m afraid they’re not available at the moment.”

“Doctor Evania didn’t want to see me did she?” Yaser flicked his head right, then left. “This always happens. She’s the third one! Is it me? Is it something I said?”

“No, no, nothing like that. Why don’t you come in?”

Yaser cantered nervously in the doorway. “I don’t see how you’re going to do the operation in here.”

“Operation?”

“Yeah, I need you to get this thing off of me! It’s driving me crazy!”

“Let’s start again shall we. Why don’t you come in and sit down.”

Yaser trotted in and sat awkwardly on the couch.

“Much better. Now, my name is Doctor Moriba. I understand you’ve been having problems for,” he glanced at his notes. “Six months now?”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s right.”

“Would you mind telling me how it started?”

“Again? I’ve been over this two times already.”

Moriba’s eyes were gentle behind his glasses. “I understand. It must be very irritating for you but I prefer to hear it straight from the…” he coughed. “I’d rather hear it first-hand.”

“Alright, fine. So it was back in November. It was cold last year, lots of black ice. There were all kinds of weirdos about so I was careful. I’d gone to see Janice.”

“Janice?”

“Yeah I know, ugly name. Poor kid’s got a tough start there. But don’t let that fool you. She’s a beauty, pure you know, like the ones in the stories, a real princess.”

“I’ve never heard of a Princess Janice.”

“Of course you haven’t, nobody has. That’s not her true name.”

“I see. And why were you going there?”

“You ask lots of questions, I like that, makes me feel like you’re paying attention. Evania never said anything. I’d just talk for hours and hours, trying to fill the gap, keep things nice and she’d just stare at me. Now I think about it she was one creepy lady.”

“You were telling me about your reason for visiting Janice.”

Yaser lifted his head proudly. “I’m her special friend that nobody knows about. I normally stop by every three months or so.”

“But something went wrong this time?”

“I walked the rainbow path through to her room like normal. The nightlight was on which was a shame as I could see the crappy bear pictures her mum had hung up everywhere. Seriously these parents have no class, no class at all. Janice was awake and smiling. She has the cutest smile. She’s going to be a total prince slayer when she grows up. So I go over and lower my head respectfully being careful not to poke her with my horn. And then…”

“And then?”

Yaser’s eyes screwed shut. “She likes to shake it up and down, like a handshake. I’m expecting to feel her little fingers pull my head up an inch, then down an inch and repeat three times. It’s our little ritual. But she doesn’t do that and after a while I look up and she’s giggling and I don’t understand and then I see it!”

Moriba’s pen paused over the paper, waiting patiently.

“She’s put a pencil sharpener on the end of my horn! A frigging pencil sharpener! Who leaves a pencil sharpener with a four year old for goodness sakes! Those things have blades. She could have killed herself!” Yaser tossed his head angrily. “I try everything to get the bloody thing off; jumping, shaking, butter, everything! But it won’t budge. You gotta help me doc, I’m going out of my mind here. I need an operation.”

Moriba said calmly, “Yaser, look up to the top of your horn and tell me what you see.”

“I see a silver pencil sharpener wedged on and…oh my stars, is that rust on the blade? I think I’m going to be sick. You gotta operate now!”

“We did operate. Look again. There’s nothing there.”

“It’s invisible!”

“It’s not invisible. There’s nothing there.”

“Then why can I still feel it?”

“It’s a phantom sensation, caused by the trauma. You’ve convinced yourself that it’s still present even when the evidence tells you otherwise.”

Yaser stood up. “You’re just a bad as the others. If you’re not going to help me the least you can do is give me some medicine for the pain.”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Why don’t we try something else?”

“Not the chant!”

Moriba ignored the eye rolling. “Repeat after me: I am a happy Unicorn.”

“I am a happy Unicorn.”

“My horn is pure and undamaged.”

“My horn is…Oh forget it. I need pills, strong ones.”

“I’m sorry, that wouldn’t be right.”

“Come on Doc, I’ll make it worth your while.”

“No I’m sorry.”

“I can make you live longer. You don’t fancy a few extra years? Or I could help you find your true love. All I need is a few tabs of the good stuff.”

“I’m already married.”

“Doc, I’m not talking about marriage I’m talking about love. Tell you what, you pick who you want your true love to be and I’ll make them fall for you. Who do you like?”

“No, this is completely inappropriate.”

“Kylie Minogue? Angelina Jolie?”

“Please stop.”

Yaser closed his eyes, tilting his head to listen better. “Ah, I’m getting it now! You like them younger. Sorry, I’d just thought given your age that, never mind, Megan Fox it is! She’s yours, just give me the pills!”

Moriba sighed sadly and pulled a bottle from his desk. “Here, take two.”

Yaser gulped them down without water. “Thanks Doc, I think you and I might get on after all.” He turned and cantered towards the door, lurched three paces to the right and passed out.

After Moriba called security he sat down to complete his notes. Delusional Unicorns were the worst liars but he’d check to see if Janice was a princess, just in case.

 

(Original prompt: I would very much appreciate a flash fiction about a unicorn that got itself stuck in a pencil sharpener and suffering panic attacks over how to dislodge the thing.)

Dying Wish

This is the second story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and is the first of two ideas sent to me by Rebecca Bohn (aka @citizen_word).

If you want to see the current list of prompts or (even better) add your own then click here.

 

Cygnus watched the candle flame dance. Like its three predecessors, it would take exactly an hour to burn. At last he could begin.

The room had no windows or doors. His order had built it around him, brick by brick, awed by their master’s quiet reserve. Truly, they’d whispered to each other, only the enlightened could make tea at such a time.

Already, the air lacked for oxygen. It tasted older. Soon, it would kill him. Cygnus accepted this; it was all part of the ritual.

He slipped out of his robe, to reveal a body covered in writing. A different revelation had been inscribed for each year of his life and Cygnus had just turned sixty. A lazy thigh muscle made one of the words jump.

Prothesis! It seemed to shout.

He pursed his lips. A lifetime’s work must not be undone by an aging quadriceps.

Prothesis! Prothesis! Prothesis!

With a sigh and a grunt, Cygnus stood. Everything ached. He’d sat for far too long but it was necessary. The order could not be allowed to see his frailty. That was the genius of the ritual; he only had to be perfect while the room was being made. It was an investment of energy. Now that the last brick was in place, the order’s belief would power the rest of the ritual. It would work because they would make it work. As the living sigil at the rituals centre, all he had to do was wait.

And make the perfect cup of tea.

It was said that if the correct preparations were made it was possible to perceive Death in your last moments. It was also said that if, in those moments, you offered Death the perfect cup of tea and he accepted, then Death would grant your dying wish.

Cygnus was the only man alive who knew the wishes of the previous masters. All but two of them had come true. They were written on a scroll that now sat in his study, waiting for the next master to read. His last act before coming to the room had been to add his own to the list.

For years he’d pondered what to ask for. What did the world need most? An end to war? Clean energy? Mass enlightenment? Cygnus had decided to aim lower, to have a better chance of success, something small that would nevertheless put humanity on an upwards spiral. Privately he was rather proud of his idea.

He began to feel lightheaded and looked again at the candle. It was burning low. Not long now.

He slipped a finger under the kettle’s insulating layers. The metal had gone from red hot to pleasantly warm. He smiled. It was just right.

After a muttered invocation for luck, he took the cup in one hand and the kettle’s handle in the other.

The candle sputtered, sending a line of smoke into the air. It curled with intent, weaving the shape of an eye.

Cygnus wasn’t sure whether to stare or avert his gaze.

The candle coughed and went out. Smoke hissed in the dark.

“Hello,” said a voice. It was old, crowlike. He’d hoped Death would manifest as a man, he found them less intimidating, more familiar. The order didn’t permit women to join.

“I have made you some tea,” said Cygnus. There was a pause. He didn’t know how much longer he’d be conscious so he risked adding, “Would you like some?”

“Yes please.”

He passed it over and felt the cup’s weight taken by something else. This was it, he thought, aware that his chest was starting to burn, everything hung on this moment.

He heard a slurp.

“Ahh, that was lovely.”

“Death, I have called and you have come. In the time honoured way, you have drunk with me, a guest in my house. You have accepted my gift and now I ask you, in my last moments, to grant me a boon.”

“I’m sorry, what was that?”

He was nearly out of air. “Death, I beg you, complete my life’s ambition…make my wish come true!”

“I’m not Death. Sorry to disappoint you.”

Cygnus was shocked into silence. A wave of dizziness came and he didn’t fight it, sliding gracefully forward onto the floor. He was dimly aware of the kettle, smouldering against his ribs but he didn’t care. What a pack of arseholes they were! All those wasted years!

“I am interested in your wish though,” said the voice. “What is it?”

The internal rant froze. Perhaps all was not lost after all. “That…from now…and forevermore…people will respond to…any deception by their leaders…with…” He forced out the last word. “…Violence.”

“Not one for peace and harmony then?”

Cygnus didn’t reply. He had passed out.

A few minutes later, smoky fingers closed his eyes for the last time.

 

(Original prompt was: In a room with no windows and no doors, the head of an ancient order serves tea. (to whom? is the order good/evil?)

Now You See It

This is the first story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post. If you want to see the current list of prompts or (even better) add your own then click here.

It was my mum's birthday this week so it seemed appropriate to start with an idea sent in by my parents. Happy Birthday Mum!

 

 

2012

Larry stared hard at the script. “After the accident he came to and tested his legs and arms, they were working fine…” he glanced nervously at Rex and his voice fell to a mumble.

“What was that Larry?” asked Rex.

“Alsohistailwasworkingwell.”

“Don’t make me come over there Larry.”

Larry sighed. “Also his tail was working well.”

“Hang on, tail? Tail! I don’t have a tail.”

“It says here you do.” replied Larry, pointing to his script for emphasis.

Rex drew himself up theatrically. “I’m the Mystic Marvel for god’s sake! And the Mystic Marvel would never have cast such a stupid spell in the first place, and even if he had it wouldn’t have backfired. He’s a serious magician; he wouldn’t use magic he couldn’t control, that’s the whole point of the character! The fans would never stand for it!”

“I know Rex but its only one spell. Isn’t the Marvel allowed one mistake?”

“Oh you have got be kidding me! Larry, get my agent on the phone and tell her I’m coming over. And that I’m not happy. Not happy at all.”

***

2015

The man was wrapped in a ratty brown sleeping bag and a cascade of mouldy cardboard. Rain tinkled against an old tin at his side, making the coins inside wink under the streetlamps.

***

2012

“For his own sake Larry, make him see sense. There isn’t much call for a super magician on TV these days, and everybody loves dogs…I’m sure he did but he’s got bills to pay like the rest of us…Pairing him up with Pudsey the dog will add zeroes to our ratings, have you seen him dance? You should get Rex to watch the video…Yeah, well he’s always upset about something. It’s only for the pilot and the first season of the show. After that we might be able to negotiate a plotline where he reverses the spell and they become a crime-fighting duo. And it’s easy work, all voiceover apart from the flashback scenes…Larry I need an answer, the right answer, by tomorrow. The money’s on the table, everybody’s waiting to go. It’s going to happen. That dog has a bright future on television. He’s already won the hearts of the British public. God Larry, I even heard rumours about a movie being made if the series takes off.”

***

2016

The three members of the Mystic Marvel Fan Club stood quietly. They had all replaced the purple lining of their capes with black silk. The men glanced at each other. As one, they removed their tall hats.

White gloved hands fluttered, and doves took to the air. For thirty minutes the men conjured, turning tricks, cheating eyes, dazzling the gravestones and September clouds. The finale was low key. Three coins plucked from the air and tossed into the earth.

 

(Original prompt was: After the accident he came to and tested his legs and arms, they were working fine also his tail was working well, hang on tail!! tail!! I don't have a tail.)

September Madness! (Or The One Year Anniversary Blog Post)

This blog has been running about a year now and it seems that the tradition is to do something about it.

So here’s what I propose:

I’ll write whatever you want for a month.

Anybody who wants to get involved can leave a story idea in the comments section of this post by the end of the month and I’ll turn it into a story.

The rules are you can leave any kind of prompt you like, from something as general as a genre to a specific plot idea. Or if you prefer you can list some words to include or a line that must be said by one of the characters. All comers in all forms are welcome.

Every prompt will be turned into some kind of story. It might be a drabble, a flash, a short story or maybe something more. But I’ll write something for every single one. No ideas will be rejected*.

I’ll post stories on a Fridays. Suitable entries will go into FridayFlash.

Don’t be shy!

*Unless it’s really, really, really sick. And gratuitous. Or likely to get me arrested. Or divorced.

 

UPDATE (07/09/12): First story is up. 'Now You See It'. (Prompt from Mike and Liz Newman)

UPDATE (14/09/12): 'Dying Wish' is up. (Prompt from Rebecca Bohn)

UPDATE (21/09/12): 'Pointy Problem' is up. (Prompt from John Wiswell)

UPDATE (28/09/12) 'Missing Abi' (Part 1) is up. (Prompt from Dom Camus)

UPDATE (05/10/12) 'Missing Abi' (Part 2) is up. (Prompt from Ray Paterson)

UPDATE (30/11/12) 'Fat Cat in Cat Flap' is up. (Prompt from Tom Gillespie)

UPDATE (11/01/12) 'Limitless' is up. (Prompt from Aidan Fritz & John Xero)

UPDATE (08/02/13) 'Doe-eyed Dictators' is up. (Prompt from Catherine Russell)