Spirit Slips Away

Another flash fiction tale for you lovely readers. This one started life as an Open University Creative Writing course exercise, and then grew into a story for the local newspaper. Rock fans may guess who the fortune teller sees from the title and the image…

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Eva stared at the tattered card. ‘Gypsy Petulengro’ it read. ‘Fortune Teller to the Stars’. Of course, nearly every woman by the name of Petulengro called themselves that. You fell over them on every seaside pier and promenade. She had been the real thing. Both the famous and the ordinary had flocked to her for readings. Until it all went wrong.

She didn’t remember what she had been looking for when she went to the desk. Scrabbling in the drawer, pulling out pens, paper clips – and then the card. She used to have hundreds of these made up. She glared at the picture next to the writing. The woman in the photograph mocked her. The knowing smile. The hooped earrings – how predictable. The auburn mane framing a face that was more striking than pretty. The chin was too pointed, the nose too long. Yet the bright green cat’s eyes, sparkling with mischief, had fooled many an admirer into calling her beautiful.

Eva coiled a strand of grey hair round her finger. A brittle end snapped. Something snapped inside at that moment, too. Why was she hiding here, alone in her flat with only spiders and dust for company? It wasn’t her fault. Nobody except herself had thought so. Most people didn’t even believe in what she did. But she had never seen anything as clearly before. And when it happened…she couldn’t face something like that again.

Where had hiding away got her? Maybe it was time. She searched the drawer again. Yes – there it was! Still in date, thank goodness. The box of hair dye, luxuriant brown. That would be a start. There was something stuck to the box. She tugged the piece of paper away from the cardboard, and unfolded it. Her breath caught.

She remembered it as though it were yesterday. The curly haired young man, a musician, like so many who came to visit her. Laughing and asking: would he make it big? She had answered truthfully: yes, yes he would. His band would be huge, respected throughout the industry. But then she saw what came with the lifestyle: the partying, the indulgence. And after that…

How she had hidden the vision from him she would never know. He was getting ready to leave then, having heard what he wanted. He didn’t notice her face go white, her hands grip the table edge. Her body swaying with horror and pity.

Squeezing her eyes shut for a moment, she steeled herself, then opened them and faced the newspaper clipping. It was a story that had happened before, and since. Except this one was her bright young star. No more laughing. No more singing. No more music.

ROCK STAR, 27, DEAD OF LETHAL COCKTAIL OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL.

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The Sirens Call – Issue 25 – Things That Go Bump in the Night

I was very flattered to be offered the chance to showcase my photography in this month’s issue of The Sirens Call eZine. There’s a little interview with me as well. Thanks very much to Nina for thinking of me when it came to the artwork for this issue.
The eZine also features poetry, flash fiction, and short stories from an all female line-up, in honour of Women in Horror Recognition Month.

Click here to download your free copy!

Imprisonment

Here’s another little tale of Arith the dragon. No Ellie the witch yet; this is kind of a prequel to Don’t Cheek Witches and Through the Rainbow. There will be more to come, because of course we need to know how the two get together. 😉 This part of the story came about when writing to a prompt from my writers’ group. The prompt became the last line of the piece.
(This story originally featured in my local newspaper, the Falkirk Herald.)

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Arith’s chains rattled as he was marched through the town. The guards had left him enough slack to walk, but only just. The rest of his body was bound too, so tightly that the metal round his torso made no noise. He didn’t care. He deserved it. Deserved the mutters and curses of the crowd. Head down, he walked until a yank on his chains stopped him. The voices were louder now, angrier, and there were more of them. He had reached the castle courtyard.
‘Arith the Red!’ At that voice, he had to look up. He had expected the Mayor, maybe even one of the Princes. Now he understood how serious the situation was. On the platform before him stood the King himself.
‘Arith the Red,’ the King continued, ‘You have committed the most serious of crimes for your kind, the destruction by fire of the village of Lymeth, and the death of six villagers, and two unidentified others. Do you have anything to say?’
Arith tried to speak, but only a hiss escaped his dry mouth. Huge tears rolled down his cheeks.
‘What’s that?’ The King barked.
‘I’m sorry’, whispered Arith. ‘It was an accident…’ Then realising how ridiculous that sounded, he stopped.
‘An accident.’ The King spoke softly, terribly. ‘How can you call what you did an accident?’
‘I was angry…’ But Arith tailed off. It was no use. Whatever had happened before the village burned, it did not change the awful thing he had done. There was no point in trying to explain further. He hung his head again.
The crowd were murmuring again now, and a few brave souls jeered.
The King sighed. Somehow, he knew there was more to the story, but the prisoner hadn’t explained, and without witnesses, the explanation would be no help, anyway. For the creature’s own safety from the mob, (or indeed, the mob’s safety from Arith), he had to act.
‘Arith the Red, you are hereby imprisoned in the castle dungeons until I see fit. Your dungeon will be of ice, like the chains that bind you, lest you decide to disobey the law again and use your flame to escape. Take him away!’
Arith the Red Dragon of Rethmore stumbled forward as the guards pulled his chains once more. The crowd receded, some now cheering; others still booing and shouting insults. Through the inner gates, then down a winding stair that seemed to go on forever and was scarcely wide enough. As he stepped into the ice cave, his guard released the chains, coiling them and stepping back. Arith tried to stretch his wings, but could only open one at a time in his narrow prison.
The door shut, and he heard the key turn.

Fallen (A Creepy Flash Fiction For Halloween)

I wrote this nasty little tale for The Sirens Call ezine, last December. The story had to feature Death (with or without the capital ‘D’). With a tiny tweak, here it is for All Hallows Eve. Enjoy (although I’m not sure that’s the right word)…

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At first, he doesn’t believe he’s falling.

It’s only when the black-blue bruise of the sky is rushing away from him that he realises he’s gone over.

He grabs for something, anything, but she’d had more power than he thought possible. He can’t reach anything to stop his fall. How could something so small have such strength?

Forever and no time at all passes. The air is unforgiving as it gashes him with frozen knives. His body twists into shapes it has never made before; an echo of the pointless writhing and squirming she once did to escape. He tries to scream, like her, but his voice is pulled from him in a pathetic squeak. Fear savages his mind. The stars flash with laughter as they watch his final moments.

He evacuates all his waste as he hits the ground with a sickening thud. He doesn’t hear that, or smell the stench of his bodily fluids. He doesn’t feel the blood exiting the back of his head and pooling around his neck. But his mind is still working, in a body beyond repair. He wonders what happens next. Some primal part of him knows he is dead, or dying.

The sky changes from a bruise to a wound, as a red maw opens above him and regurgitates a nightmare.

Etiolated fingers reach for him, ragged lips stretch in a rictus of evil. The thing has his own features, warped into the face that truly lies beneath his own skin. He whimpers as it speaks.

“Come, Steve,” the creature whispers, “It’s just a bit of fun. Don’t tell Mummy, remember? This is our little game…”

His blackened soul yells and screams and begs, but his Death ignores him as it scoops him up and carries him towards the hideous rip in the night sky.

She still stands on the crag, little hands balled into fists at her waist. Smiling as she surveys his broken body below. Grinning at the creature that carries his soul to his ultimate fate. Her lips form words he can’t hear.

Death enlightens him, bringing its hideous mouth close to his ear. A putrid stench caresses his face, stinking of beer and chips and cigarettes. His own breath.

“She says, ‘Happy Halloween, Father’.”

No Extra Words Podcast Features My Story ‘The House’

I was delighted to be asked by Kris of ‘No Extra Words’ if I would allow my story ‘The House’ to feature on this flash fiction podcast. Of course I would! Check it out here.

Thanks you, Kris, for your lovely words about my story and my writing. In answer to your question: yes, you totally did the story justice! I loved hearing you read it. Even my hubby stopped decorating and singing along to rock music to come and have a listen. 😉

If you would like to read the original for yourself, click here.

Pic courtesy of urbanghostmedia.com

Pic courtesy of urbanghostmedia.com

Don’t Cheek Witches (Even If You’re A Dragon)

Recently I guested on the Beer and Bacon Babes blog with Through The Rainbow, a tale of a witch, a dragon and some magical mayhem. I explained that the two main characters were in my head already, and that was all because of the story that follows.

I have an awesome friend (who may or may not be a dragon) on Twitter, where he goes by the name Of The Wilds. He writes amazing dragon fiction himself. The ladies in his stories are NOT wilting violets enslaved by their dragons – quite the opposite. He was feeling a bit fed up one day and wondered if anyone would tell him a tale of a maiden kicking a dragon in the unmentionables, to cheer him up. How could I not oblige?

Have you ever tried writing a story on Twitter? it’s a great exercise, getting it to break at 140 character intervals. Anyway, here it is, edited slightly but very much the same as I tweeted it. Introducing Ellie and Arith… 🙂

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‘Arith!’

Ellie’s voice echoed round the cave entrance. But he didn’t appear.

‘Damn,’ she muttered. ‘Where is that dragon?’

A beating of wings and a roar sounded from above. With a flourish, Arith landed on the soft riverbank. His regal walk up to the cave was rather spoiled by the squelching of his talons in the mud.

‘What do you want, witch?’

Ellie glared at him. ‘Have you been talking to the castle firedrakes again?’

Arith swished his tail, red scales shimmering in the weak sunlight.

‘I am a noble creature. I should not be indentured to a mere spell caster.’

The young sorceress crossed her arms. ‘Firstly, you wouldn’t be indentured if you hadn’t done what you did. Secondly, that bunch of reptiles up at the castle has ideas above their station.’

The dragon flared his nostrils. ‘Do you mean the humans, or the firedrakes?’

‘Both. And thirdly…’

‘Yes?’ Arith was affecting a bored tone, one hind leg in the air, idly scratching an itchy shoulder.

He didn’t notice Ellie stepping closer. Until a fiery pain shot through his loins, causing him to howl and fall over in the sludge.

‘Thirdly, don’t ever call me a mere spell caster! I am Elenore, the River Witch!’

‘Oww!’ A few startled cormorants flew off their nearby perch on the rocks. ‘You kicked me in the balls!’

‘I’ll shrivel them off if you speak to me like that again!’

Arith curled up, licking his tender testicles and grumbling to himself.

Ellie suppressed a giggle. Arith was indeed a beautiful, noble creature, but right now he was just like any male after a kick in the stones. She knew it galled him to be in servitude to a witch, especially one as young as her. It wasn’t forever, though. She would demand his respect, but she also valued his friendship.

‘Oh, stop complaining.’ She gestured to the cauldron, already set up in the cave mouth. ‘Do me a favour and light this thing. Once the morning’s work is done, we’ll fly up to the castle and have some fun.’

Arith’s ears perked up at this. ‘Do you have some mischief planned?’

‘How about we go and annoy the firedrakes, and I damp down their fire when they try to flame us?’

A grinning dragon is a sight to behold. With a toss of his head, Arith flamed the branches under the cauldron.

‘At your service, Mistress Elenore.’

Fun With Flash Fiction (and Beer)

I had a moan on my blog the other week about my current writing slump. Big thanks to all who sympathised, encouraged, and suggested ideas to help. I love you all!

I’ve been looking back over what I’ve written in the past year. One thing that’s struck me is how much flash fiction I have – much of it written before I even knew what flash fiction was. A lot of it was written for my Creative Writing course exercises. Of course, some of it’s awful. But there a few stories where I’ve thought ‘Hmm, I quite like that!’

I think flash fiction may be my way back into writing. A word count of between 100 and 1000 is not too daunting. That’s not the only reason I like it, though. It forces you to be tight with your words. Flowery phrases and pointless waffle are out. Flash is a great way to hone your writing skills.

My next question to myself is: do I do the A-Z Blogging Challenge in April? I’ve had an idea for a theme for it since a couple of years ago, and it would be flash fiction stories that I’d be posting. Or is that me putting pressure on myself again? I’ll have a think about it…watch this space.

Here’s a 100 word flash I found from way back at the beginning of my writing course. We were given a random word generator by our tutor. The word it chose for us was to be our prompt – no cheating and changing it! I got ‘Pub’. How apt, those that know me cry. You should have had no problem writing about that.

So of course, my story wasn’t about an actual pub. But it was inspired by the word. And by hubby and his friends’ love of real ale. And their ability to spend a lot of time in the garage, with said ale. 😉

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Amber Nectar

George watched as Andy poured the pint. It was like seeing a mother hen with her chick. Andy had been fussing around his home brew kit for what seemed like hours, with George feeling more parched by the minute and wishing he had gone to the pub instead.

His friend was proud of his own beer, though, so George was in Andy’s garage, waiting to taste the new batch. He accepted the pint with due reverence, knowing he was privileged to sample it first. He took a sip of the smooth golden liquid.

‘Perfect’, he exclaimed.

Andy beamed with pride.