The Chocolate Scullery (Flash Fiction)

During the September meeting for Belfast Writers’ Group (which has finally got back together after its long hiatus!), we did a writing exercise in which we wrote something based on three prompts: the name a room, a luxurious material, and something that rots. Pictured above are the options I was handed, and below is what I made of them. Heads up, it’s about to get weird.

Dark chocolate wasn’t the material you often found rooms made out of, but this room – a scullery on the side of a cliff – was no ordinary room. It had three walls, half a roof, and only one other room attached to it: a kitchen.

Inside the scullery was a large dining table, also made out of dark chocolate. On it were three matching candlesticks made out of white chocolate, and a centrepiece of lard.

Having only three walls, there was no need for any windows, but it had six anyway. It was soon discovered after the room was built that if you didn’t keep air flowing inside, it would melt. Enclosure didn’t help with the dead body smell, either.

The source of the dead body smell was, as can be expected, a body. That was dead. It belonged to the owner of the adjoining rooms, a man in his fifteen-hundreds who didn’t like you to point out the smell or oddities of his dwelling, thank you very much.

All in all, it wasn’t the weirdest thing about him.

Some people (for, yes, there were frequent visitors) thought the fact that he was lactose intolerant was the weirdest thing but, nope, they were wrong too.

One day – a very hot day, in which half of the kitchen (which was made out of Philadelphia cream cheese) – fell into the sea and the dead body (let’s call him Jim) decided he’d had enough, and melted the chocolate scullery to the ground/rock face.

It got stuck, which made Jim even angrier, and the skulls didn’t like it much either.

Desire (for National Flash Fiction Day)

It’s National Flash Fiction Day here, in the UK.

To celebrate the occasion, I present to you a super short story of mine, entitled Desire.

Janet licked her lips. Her eyes glazed over as she looked through the window at her soulmate. She’d been sure it was meant to be from the moment she saw the advert online.

Taking a quick moment to preen at her reflection, she stepped into the café, ready to meet her destiny. Bravely, she approached the counter, practically salivating at the shop girl before her. Everything Janet wanted was within reach.

Until, suddenly, someone jumped the queue and took the last doughnut out from right under her nose.

Shadows (Flash Fiction)

An ultra-short piece of FlashFic, or Halloween:

Billy asked his father, on one occasion, if the house opposite theirs was haunted. He never saw anyone go in or out. Only saw lights go on and off, at various times, during the day and night. And shadows – there were always shadows in the windows.

“Yes,” his father had answered him, “But not by ghosts.”

Upon pushing him to elaborate, he explained that the house belonged to an old eccentric who was very much alive, “In the technical sense.”

“You see, boy,” he said. “You don’t have to be dead to haunt a place.”

Rap and Run (Flash Fiction)

A piece of flashfic I’ve just written.
Inspired by and dedicated to the kids in my street.

Jacob made his way down the street, knocking each door in turn, running away before the owner answered, and then coming back when they’d gone away again so he could move on to the next one.

Sure, it was kinda lame, and not how he was used to spending his last days of freedom before school started up again, but there was a lot of things that weren’t as they used to be.

Two weeks ago, his mom had moved back to this place where she’d grown up. She called it her hometown, but Jacob was not so charitable. Town? It was barely a village. And it was in the middle of nowhere! Ugh, it was so unfair!

Having left all his friends behind in the city, there weren’t many options for socialization left. So, even though he was a lot older than the other boys – practically a teenager, for god’s sake! – he went along with their stupid ideas of fun.

That’s how he got into playing rap and run.

Of course, the little kids with their short attention spans had gotten bored pretty quickly and gone off to have dinner or whatever, but Jacob wasn’t due in until dark and had no better ideas for how to spend the time. Might as well finish the row, he thought, kicking a rock along the dirt road behind a different row of houses that constituted his hiding place from the targeted ones. There were only two left, anyway.

No one answered at the penultimate house, and it seemed pretty empty, so Jacob moved on to the last without trying it again.

Outside the end house, he had an odd feeling come over him. Almost like he was being watched. He supposed he was more exposed, being at the end of the street beside the fields rather than in the middle of it, surrounded by other buildings.

As he raised his fist to knock, an even stranger feeling welled up in him. The door sounded especially hollow, and the house seemed empty, same as the last. That resonated with him in a way he didn’t expect.

His loneliness and desperation rising to the surface, he had to fight back tears as he continued to knock and knock, knowing no one was going to answer him.

Standing all by himself as the wind picked up and the sun disappeared behind a cloud, Jacob poured all of his pent up emotion into the door, his knocking growing more and more frantic until he was pounding it with both hands, making his fists hurt.

Just as suddenly as he’d lost control of himself, the door gave way and opened onto a dark hallway, making Jacob fall forward onto his knees on the mat.

He took a shuddering breath, trying to calm himself and figure out what to do next.

The house wasn’t quite as empty as he first expected. It didn’t look like there was anyone living there anymore, or anything, but whoever had once owned it left some of their things behind on the way out.

Unable to stop himself, Jacob walked the rest of the way down the hall until he was facing a table in front of a door, thick with dust and covered in chips and scrapes. On it was a photograph, which he picked up and inspected.

Jacob’s eyes widened as he recognized the girl in the picture as his mom. She looked about his age in it, though he could tell it was her without a doubt. She was standing beside an old man and another boy who looked maybe a year or two older.

Turning the photo over, Jacob found an inscription reading, Last photo taken before the disappearance, and below that was the stamp of a police department and a crime number written in pencil.

“I always knew she’d come back,” came a voice from behind Jacob, making him whirl around.

There, standing beside the door with its broken lock, was a man.

Taking a glance back down at the photograph in his hand and then up at the man’s face again, Jacob identified him as the boy in the photograph.

He had not aged well.

“Hello, son,” he said, reaching out his hand.

Into the Dark (Flash fiction)

At writers’ group last night, we set ourselves a challenge to write a story that included three prompts: a telephone, a black overcoat, and a Post Office. Here’s what I came up with:

Jack stumbled in through the door of the Post Office, tripping over the welcome mat on his way.

“Honey, I’m home!” he declared, sounding cheerful at first, but finding himself unable to stifle the catch in his throat over the word ‘home.’

It was an old Post Office from the 1940’s, no longer open the public. The place his grandfather had worked in all his life, and now the place where Jack lived. The ‘open’ sign still hung in the window, though it had faded beyond all recognition.

Staggering past precariously high stacks of books, Jack made his way to the small working kitchen in the back. The door fell off the fridge when he opened it, making the glass milk bottle in the door shatter, and two-week-old milk flood to the floor in clumps.

Two weeks. Was that really how long it had been? God! Jack sank to his knees, his head bending to the floor as sorrow weighed him down, before snapping up again as the smell of the milk clogged his sinuses. It sobered him, a little.

In the other room, behind the old customer counter, the phone rang, and Jack got to his feet once more. He took his time crossing the distance – pausing to wrestle his overcoat off his shoulders – having no doubt who would be calling him.

There were only two people in the world that called Jack, and one of them was gone, never to call him again. A fresh stab of grief jabbed at his breast, threatening to knock him down once more, but Jack fought it, managing to stay upright. Just.

Finally in the back office, he lifted the receiver and slurred a ‘hello.’

“Hello,” returned the voice on the other end of the line. The voice that could not be. That could never be again.

“Bernie?” Jack whispered, not daring to believe his ears.

“Yes, Jack, it’s me,” said the voice.

“Bernie!” Jack repeated, this time an exclamation. His face became animated, eyes focusing for the first time in a fortnight, before he paused. “But how?”

“Never mind that,” said Bernie, “It’s time.”

Jack smiled, making the corners of his eyes go up along with the curve of his mouth and releasing tears down his cheeks and onto his dried lips.

Slumping to the floor as he held the receiver to his chest, he recited Bernie’s name over again, reverently as his eyes closed.

“Bernie. My Bernie. You came back.”

Musings (Flash Fiction)

National Flash-Fiction Day 2016Apparently it’s National Flash fiction day, so I thought I’d share a little something I wrote.

I am old, now. My days of running wild are behind me. My body is stiff and tired, but I’m happy. I’ve lived a thousand lives, which is more than anyone could ask for.

Starting out, I was daft, like any young thing. I had no standing, but I had no cares.

The energy in my bones lasted me many years, through many incarnations; from running around my mother’s feet, to running from home to home as I passed through many pairs of loving hands that could only keep me for a time. Eventually, I ran the streets. Those days weren’t easy, but they were numbered.

Then one day I caught sight of you and everything changed – again. I was welcomed in, to join you in your domain. To rule over it by your side. We fought – oh, how we fought – but we played, too. We had fun.

Then you were gone.

Too soon. I always thought I’d be first

That’s when I really understood that some things don’t last forever, and some things always will. You’re not coming back, but I’m thankful for the years you gave me. The home I have, because of you.

This place is where I’ll end my days.

I am old now, but I am happy, as I lay in my basket by the fire, looking into the eyes of our owners. They have no idea that I have so many thoughts and feelings. Memories.

They think I’m just a dumb old dog, but God bless their ignorance.

Death by Literature (Flash fic)

A piece of flash fiction I wrote, a few months ago. Loosely inspired by my experience of reading Illuminae on the train home.

Comic by Grant Snider
Comic by Grant Snider

I was reading about a spaceship being attacked; being blown up, with thousands of people on board, some of which I’d spent the previous three books growing attached to. The final missiles were fired towards them, and my heart clenched. They bore down on them and… the train I was on shuddered around me, throwing my train of thought off the rails.

Was the engine that loud when I got on? I shook my head, deciding it didn’t matter. I needed to know what happened, and I needed to know now!

Turning the page, I jumped right back in.

The fallout was devastating, but things weren’t over yet. It seemed the attackers were now heading after the rescue ships, sent in to patrol the area.

Bang, bang, bang! The first fleet of emergency vessels went up in a ball of fire. Heart clenching again, I didn’t notice that they’d called my stop. Only when the train started to slow did I realize I needed to get off. If I didn’t get off, I’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere for the rest of the night, but there was just half a paragraph left, and I couldn’t leave it.

Distressed, I snatched up my bag and ran to the carriage doors, glancing back down at the page after every step.

The doors shut as I reached them, and I looked up.

Heart clenching one final time, the last three words went unread.

Hel and Rebelle (Flash Fic)

Hel and RebelleI recently signed up to be a writing mentor for children and young people as part of an organization called Fighting Words Belfast and, in training for this voluntary role, a group of us went through the writing exercise that we would normally set the kids, to get a first-hand idea of what it’s like.

The gist of it is this: people suggest ideas for a main character, a secondary character (the best friend of the MC), a desire for the MC, and the MC’s main fear. These ideas then get voted on, and a story begins to be built around whatever combination of details that were picked.

My idea of a story about a pink-haired warrior princess with a helicopter for a best friend wasn’t picked, but I decided to write a little story about her anyway – mostly because my partner, who’s also a volunteer, was a little dubious about it…

Behold:

Rebelle was the last in a long line of warrior princesses, hailing from a tiny island, just off the coast of Estonia.
Insurgent groups had just overthrown her parents, and now she was fleeing for her life.
Her best horse was galloping at top speed towards her other best means of a getaway – her best friend, in a lot of ways – a helicopter, affectionately nicknamed Hel.
If grown men could love cars and spaceships, referring to them with female names, Rebelle saw no reason why she couldn’t do the same.
Hel was like a miniature, one-pilot version of a black hawk – completely Rebelle’s own design. A black sparrow, she called her. One of a kind.
But none of that would matter if Rebelle couldn’t make it to the waiting copter in time. She’d voice-activated it, via her wrap-around headset, and the blades were already whirring around – Rebelle could hear them even over the sound of Jasper, her horse, panting, and over the roar of the mob. Many of them were mounted on quad bikes, and Tracktor-Xes. If she didn’t keep up her pace, they’d soon steal her sliver of a lead.
Hel couldn’t come any closer to Rebelle by herself, obstructed by the forest as she was, but the engine was warmed up and ready to go.
Closing the final distance, Rebelle stayed on Jasper until the very last second, at which she had to jump from the horse directly through Hel’s open door. Her high ponytail got sliced off by a chopper blade in the action, leaving Rebelle’s pink hair to fall down over her eyes in a fringe.
With no time to mourn for it, she slammed into her seat and rose into the air even as her seatbelt came around her waist.
Jasper continued running, off towards the horizon, and she missed him already; knowing that she likely wouldn’t see him again, and hoping that he wouldn’t be caught, or trapped.
Rising higher and higher, the mob was now only a series of dots to Hel and Rebelle.
The princess flipped them the bird as she took off towards the freedom of another land.

Look-See (Flash fiction)

Below is a flash fic, entitled Look-See, that I wrote the other day. It should become clear by the end what it’s about.

Sally’s head hurt. It hurt so bad it was as if she’d been drinking solidly for a week to only then stop suddenly, but she hadn’t touched a drop – ever! The first thing she was aware of that morning, aside from the mother of all migraines, was her father yelling about how late she was for… what was it she was supposed to be doing again? Honestly, she felt so ill she could barely remember her name, let alone anything else.

Her dad threw back the sheet she’d hidden her face under, and she screeched as the indirect sunlight streaming in from the window hit her darkened, balmy flesh.

“Look at yourself!” her father exclaimed. “How did you get yourself in this state?!” His ranting continued but, no matter how incessantly he posed his questions, Sally had no recollection of how she got so ill. She was sure it hadn’t been her fault, though.

“Look at yourself!” her dad said again.

In response, she opened a blearily eye to him, at which he made a noise that eloquently portrayed his horror as much as his disapproval at the sight.

His next move was to enable Sally to complete the task he was demanding of her – thus, he tugged her by the arm until she was out of bed and following him on dead feet across the hall to the bathroom. Once there, he pushed her forward a step, so she was directly in front of the mirror.

“Just look!” he wrung his hands as he listed off aspects of her appearance: bloodshot eyes, a strange skin tone, dry lips. All the while, Sally looked.

She rubbed her eyes.

She looked again.

In the mirror, she could see her dad pacing on the floor behind her, his gaze focused on his hands.

“Look,” she said to him, instead.

His head came up, his eyes switching back and forth between Sally and the mirror a few times before his skin darkened, too, at the non-sight.

Now she’d had such a sobering shock, Sally remembered exactly what had happened to her. Instinctively, her hand reached for the bite marks she could feel on her neck.

Myths of Love and the Moon

Last week at my local writer’s group, we did a short writing exercise based on the series of prompts about the origins of myths (suggested here). Below is what I came up with:

Gerald and Mavis were sat on the beach, star gazing. Mavis had her head on her boyfriend’s shoulder, as she listened to his long-winded explanation of how the earth came into being.

Drifting in and out of sleep as he went on and on, she caught a few key words and phrases.

“…all started about a hundred years ago, you see… when the ice blasts died off, and the grass overtook everything else… water wasn’t discovered until much later, of course.”

“Of course,” she affirmed, groggily, before really processing the words.

Ice blasts, grass, and then water? Her eyes scrunched up at the thought. Either she was more tired than she realized, and had misheard rather a lot, or her boyfriend was an idiot.

Surreptitiously, she forced herself awake enough to check the flask that had rested between them for any signs of alcohol.

All the while, Gerald carried on. He was talking about the moon now, and how it changed shape because of the fluctuating pressure of the sun.

Mavis was wide-awake now, staring at him.

Finally noticing this, Gerald paused. “Are you alright, dear? Don’t you find the moon fascinating?”

Shaking her head, Mavis held up her finger and pressed it to his lips, in an effort to halt any more words from escaping.

“Firstly,” she began, “The moon doesn’t actually change shape, it just looks like it does and-”

Gerald pushed her finger aside to ridicule her. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “Things are exactly as they appear. You don’t believe in the airy-fairy nonsense they teach kids on TV these days, do you?”

Suddenly horrified at her taste in men, Mavis did three things: one, decided not to let her friends pick out blind dates for her ever again; two, to start making potential suitors take aptitude tests and, three, she stood up.

“Gerald,” she said.

“Yes, my dear?”

“That thing you’re looking at?”

“Yes?” he said again.

“It’s a satellite.”

They drove home in silence.