My flash fiction ‘Trad Metal Blues’ has been published in Friday Flash Volume 2
Previously featured on this blog as part of the Friday Flash twitter meme, ‘Trad Metal Blues’ is part Dock Boggs part Animatrix.
‘Trad Metal Blues’ is also featured alongside a plethora of talented Friday Flash writers, and is well worth the paltry admission charge.
Xmas is obviously good for me, this is the second flash I have thrashed out in one day, both on a xmassy theme. This is my entry to @chuckwendig’s flash fiction challenge, ‘Christmas in A Strange Place’.
I open my mouth to allow a silverfish to slowly swim inside, little morsels such as this have become my only sustenance, for the weight of the rubbish had trapped my limbs some time ago. After twelve months here I have begun to merge with my environment, the damp newspapers, the rotting food and the everlasting crisp wrappers.
This is what I wanted, life had become to cruel for me to bear, and so, one year ago today, while the rest of the country celebrated with their family or loved ones, I walked into the municipal waste facility and allowed myself to sink into the landfill.
Now, here I lay, every day I sink a little further, I am human waste, used up, thrown away and left to decay.
It’s Christmas Day, I know this must be so as there are no trucks today, no sounds of rubbish crashing onto the ground, no clanking of machinery or shouting voices, just me and the gulls. This is what I wished for, to just give up, to take root in the rubbish that will one day become soil, regenerating the Earth.
A gust of wind, the temperature drops and something disturbs the gulls, they caw and flap their wings, wheeling up into the cold grey sky. I see a figure walking towards me, a woman, the way she holds herself reminds me of the way I had walked here a year ago. Body distorted, back bent, head down, as if the sights and sounds of the season, the bright coloured lights, Slade on the radio, was weighing down upon her shoulders.
She walks over to me, looking down at my head, now just peeking out as if I were treading water in a sea of decomposition.
‘Hello’ I say.
‘Hello’ she replies nervously, ‘Is it everything I hope it will be?’
‘So much more, for the first time in my life I feel like I belong somewhere. The gulls don’t judge me, I want for nothing and my body is weightless; I feel at peace’.
She takes off her shoes and works her feet into the rubbish. Breaking the surface layer she begins to slowly sink, first her ankles disappear, then her calves, her thighs, her hips.
She looks at me and smiles, ‘it’s nice to meet someone who understands’ she says.
I smile back; smile for the first time in… years.
Cold, white drops of snow begin to fall upon my face.
‘Merry Christmas’ I say to her softly.
‘Merry Christmas’ she replies, as her lips draw level with mine.
The potholes in the road throw us about the truck bed, the metal cage around us creaks.
Reaching the tall buildings on the outskirts of the city, Tommy kills the headlights and begins to skillfully weave his way through the abandoned cars.
As we near the hospital I tug the generator cord and it judders into life, I power up the projector and the VHS as Tommy pulls up to the hospital forecourt. Darren and ‘Shell climb up through the access hatch in the top of the cage. I bang on the back of the truck cab.
Now we wait.
This was our fourth run, at first it had seemed like suicide, but we seemed to be hitting our stride now. I try to think of it like corralling cattle, this stops me shaking enough to be able to function.
The sound begins, at first low groans, they multiply and multiply until it becomes a rush of noise, the roar of the crowd about to break over us like a giant wave.
I pick shapes out from the light of the projector, limbs flailing wildly, a few at first, then a deformed mass of twisted figures. As they approach I cover the light of the projector with my hand, reducing the light to a blue square on my palm. Above me Darren and ‘Shell ready themselves, dropping onto the cage top like sprinters on a starting line.
We wait for a hoard to mass around us, the weight of their bodies rock the truck, their hands clawing at the cage, behind each twisted form, another, then another. We wait until we dare no longer, I hit play and pull my hand away, the projector light hitting a concrete wall.
The wall bursts into life, a huge tolling bell swinging back and forth, the trucks PA booming out across the packed forecourt. Giant words appear, ‘Frank Capra’s It’s a wonderful Life’, well it is Christmas.
As the credits play out, our assailants are hypnotised.
The projector had been our second attempt at distracting the huge crowds that built up around the city. We had needed a diversion to allow us to scavenge for food and medicine. We had tried throwing out hunks of meat from the truck, but now meat is in short supply and fuelling a feeding frenzy was just too dangerous.
I had tried the projector having remembered during the final days, crowds of them would gather around the big public screens erected for the Olympics. Watching the rolling newsfeeds, as if reviewing their progress.
I tried recordings of TV at first, XFactor, Masterchef, Eastenders, but that hadn’t held their attention for long enough. I tried Night of the Living Dead as a sick joke, but when it worked, I twigged, like animals, their vision was black and white.
I tried Psycho next, this proved my theory, not only did it distract them from our activities, they were held spellbound.
Now they stand hypnotised by Jimmy Stewart’s eyes meeting Donna Reed’s across a crowded room.
Darren and ‘Shell jump from the top of the cage, across the forecourt and into the hospital. As the masses watch the movie, our eyes follow two flashlights spiralling up the floors of the glazed building. They had under 100 minutes scavenging time, then 20 to get back down to the truck.
Around 20 minutes from the end, Jimmy Stewart is running along the streets of seedy Pottersville, the once peaceful Bedford Falls; we’re out of time.
I bang on the cab, Tommy hits the horn, and I watch as the two flashlights stop their search and begin to wind fast back down the building. Fifth floor, fourth, third, second, first… the generator stops and the projection and sound stops. The voices of George and Clarence replaced by angered growls.
I tug at the cord of the generator, my feet slip in a pool of gasoline, the fucker had sprung a leak!
I watch the flashlights descend to Ground level, stopping inside the revolving doors at the entrance. Between them and us, the hoard, now in full frenzy, their attention fixed on our truck.
The gasoline was in a can a the end of the truck bed, I throw myself down and slide towards the can, the truck begins to rock. I kick at the cage trying to drive back the gruesome fingers poking through the mesh.
From the corner of my eye I see the two flashlights bobbing up and down, frantically signalling us. Grabbing the can I crawl back up the truck as it bucks wildly.
Tommy starts the engine, I bang on the truck bed ‘No! No!’ I scream, ‘They’ll make it!’
Tommy revs the engine, rolling back and forth.
I reach the generator, holding the can with shaking hands I pour gasoline into the tank, I take the cord in my teeth and yank, the truck rears up on one side, then falls hard onto the ground.
I jerk my head frantically until the genny shudders into life. The concrete wall illuminates once more, Jimmy Stewart by a bridge, seconds later the PA, Jimmy screaming ‘I want to live! I want to live!’
The two flashlights shoot across the forecourt through the crowd of frozen figures, they jump up onto the cage. Tommy guns the engine and we pull away fast, Darren and ‘Shell digging their fingers around the mesh of the cage so as to not fly off.
The projection distorts as we pull away, the hoard begin to give chase, but were too far away now, safe.
Over the trucks PA, little Zuzu’s voice, ‘every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings’.
This is my entry into @chuckwendig’s Flash Fiction challenge: ‘Thats right, I said Unicorn‘
‘Yeah, I was big in the 1980s, Legend man that was the big one *cough cough* that will be the movie I’m remembered for. Then there was Blade Runner, that’s right, man fucking Blad… huh? Yeah, that footage was on the cutting room floor for years before the director’s cut, and what’s worse, my shitty agent only negotiated a one-off fee, so no royalty cheque for me *cough cough* I got stiffed, but hell, I ain’t bitter’.
The Unicorn spits on the stable floor and takes a large gulp of whiskey from it’s trough before sparking up another cigarette.
‘Then there was all those fantasy art portraits of me, plenty of royalties for that gig, plus fees for life modelling, yeah, shit man *cough… spit* the 80s were good to me. I was on top of my game then. But the 90s, the 90s rode a cock horse, the early 00s weren’t much better, shit, if it hadn’t been for the money I made selling my likeness to Hasbro I’d have been royally fucked!’
The Unicorn tosses down more whiskey and then lifts his tail, allowing a hefty avalanche of faeces to fall to the stable floor.
‘Of course that wasn’t easy to live with; I mean my likeness on those prissy, plastic dolls, man, what do you think that does to a dude’s ego huh? Shit!’
‘I mean, I hate all that, when I was young, man, we were feared, like dragons or shit, I mean, have you seen those pictures of me fighting a lion? A lion man! Now people think of me like I’m a fucking Care Bear or some shit’.
‘Wassat? Sure, sure I fought a lion, but, hey even, even if I didn’t a-c-t-u-ally fight a lion, does anyone draw pictures of YOU like that, you fuck! Man, course I fought a Lion’.
Getting more irate, the unicorn succumbs to a fit of coughing; after more whiskey and another cigarette, he slowly recovers his composure.
‘Sorry man, immortality is a bitch! You get to do what you want, for as long as you want and you never die, but it don’t mean you wear well though, know what I mean?’
‘The others, nah, I’m the last… hunted down, you know, in the middle ages, all knights and fair maidens and shit. Nah, I don’t miss the others, fuck them, lording it over me with their granting wishes and looking enigmatic in the woods. I used my magical powers to get me some fine fillies, give them the horn, *cough* know what I mean?’
‘Nah, nah, *spit* I don’t want to talk about that, let’s just say The Last Uni-porn was a mistake, that movie was a low, low, point in my career, ’nuff said’.
‘Now? *cough cough… spit* Yeah, well I’ve hit upon hard times, people’s tastes change and shit. I got a bit part in that last Lord of the Rings movie you see that one? Yeah, Lord of the Rings man. But mostly it’s all CGI and shit now, they don’t use real performers like me anymore, times are hard Bro, times are hard’.
After that the unicorn goes sullen and silent, he bristles and wanders off to the back of the stable. I broke the recording crew for coffee; it was then, after the crew had left, that he started talking to me again.
‘Hey, hey, can a Unicorn get a cup of Joe round here? Yeah, that’s right, leave me out, I’m the star here, shit *spit* I want a double espresso bitch, nah, make that a quadruple’.
I held a cup of espresso up to the Unicorn’s mouth and lit him another cigarette; in this moment of intimacy, I seized my chance to ask the question that I had been dying to ask throughout the whole interview.
He went quiet again for a moment, I could see a faraway look in his eyes, and for that moment the crusty, alcoholic, emphysemic, prima donna fell away and I could see him for what he really was. He was an immortal, a noble and mystical creature, one that had lived through countless centuries, who was the very last of his kind.
‘Yeah, I don’t like to talk about that *spit* as I said man, times are hard… I cut it off and hawked it’.
After three psychedelic years of college, I had little to show for my education save for £50K of debt and a modest collection of stolen street furniture. £50K being one hell of a debt mind you and to make matters worse I had absolutely no intention of working year in year out to pay it off. Having postponed an ‘honest days work’ for three years, I was committed to delaying it further or bypassing it all together, what I wanted was a get rich quick scheme, and I mean really rich.
I realise that this may make me sound a little lazy, perhaps, but trust me, that is the least of my crimes, for you see I crossed a line.
I formulated a two phase plan, I was lazy yes, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t ambitious. I had my first brainwave while watching the movie ‘Trading Places’ (for my money Eddie Murphy’s second best film after the ‘Golden Child’). Unlike Murphy I didn’t have an insider tip on the crop report, what I did have was access to a number of economically savvy students who were reliant on me for the supply of another type of crop. Said students were more than happy to give me a few tips in exchange for the remainder of my stash.
One £25K post-graduate loan and some keen investments later, made a killing on high-risk far-east investments, my temporary sobriety giving me the edge, I was a one woman bull market in a china shop.
After rectifying my sobriety, I trawled the internet for inspiration for phase two of my plan. It was the recent contact with extra-terrestrial life on Europa that caught my eye; the powers that be were looking to the private sector to provide an ambassador ship to Europa, large contracts abound.
As my degree was in Film Studies, my only knowledge of space rocket construction was from watching ‘The Explorers’ what I needed was a rocket scientist. Placing a personal ad in ‘Soldier of Fortune’ magazine I hooked up with an ageing ‘Aeronautic Specialist’, lovely bloke, German accent, like a sweet old uncle, or so I thought.
With my rocket scientist in place I needed labour; rockets don’t build themselves you know and I certainly wasn’t about to. Perhaps it was wrong of me to source labour from the third world, at the time I thought it had been altruistic of me, fair trade and all that. In hindsight, the ex-army General that had originally contacted me via a spam email hadn’t been the best person to assemble the work force.
I swear that I wasn’t aware of the enforced child labour that went on during the rocket construction, and if I had had the time to visit the worksite, those deaths could have been prevented. Sadly, I was too busy sourcing the plutonium for the rocket engines, what with all those trips to the Middle East there just wasn’t the time.
For a while things were good, champagne, cocaine, hot young film stars and wealthy politicians clamouring for my attention. I had my picture on the front of The Economist, The New Scientist and even my local paper: ‘Romford Girl Mercer to Greet Europans’. I was hailed as an entrepreneur, adventurer and an ambassador for the human race. It was a lot to live up to and, to be honest; it wasn’t a surprise I messed it up.
As it turns out I’m not the most indulgent of people, not too bad a thing under normal circumstances, however, when greeting an extra-terrestrial race, especially one whose etiquette is based upon displays of aggression, macho posturing if you like; my impetuous nature was perhaps less than appropriate. You could argue in hindsight there was no need to mount guns on my space ship, but they looked so cool.
Upon my approach to Europa, I had been met by some rather threatening looking Europan interceptor ships, I now understand that it was just for show, it’s not like I simply ordered ‘Open Fire!’ without thinking it through. I did try to be diplomatic; I fired some warning shots first, unfortunately the problem with untested weaponry is that you don’t know what it’s capable of until you use it.
Perhaps it was then I crossed the line proper, or perhaps it was on my return journey.
I had been trying to think of a foolproof excuse as to how I had come to accidentally bring an entire race to near extinction. Thinking on my feet, I tried to make it look like there had been an attempted Europan attack on Earth. I hit somewhere, which I thought would have minimum impact on Earth, and then let off a few explosions in the sky, as if I had vanquished the invading alien hordes. I would then return home a hero and no-one would know any different. Admittedly it hadn’t been fair to pick Australia as a target, ok so I don’t like the accent, but I had only aimed to take out a bit of desert, like I say the capacity of those guns was quite surprising.
Of course if it hadn’t of been for that old Nazi bastard, my rocket scientist, going on TV to grass me up, no-one would have known. That sod just wanted to exonerate himself with his talk of how the damage radius of the blast was incontestably caused by my laser cannon. It was also around that time that the whole enforced child labour thing came out; you just can’t get the staff.
So now I am floating in the somewhat re-arranged orbit of the Earth, my plutonium cells depleted, that’s ok, I’m not in any hurry to get back to Earth. Well, not since the International (now Interplanetary) Court of Justice had put a warrant out for my arrest, crimes against humanity and extra-terrestrial life they say.
It’s not really until now that I have had time to think about it, that I realised that I had crossed a line, the thin line between ordinary girl and perpetrator of genocide. I had had it all, and now I was disgraced, hunted, and still not a penny of my student loan paid back.
‘Plaintive House’ was the brainchild of F.W. Barnard, heir to the fortune of a threaded screw empire established by his Father.
F.W. had very little time for his Father’s factories and would rather spend his time at fun fairs. F.W. had a particular fascination for the mystery rides, the tunnel of love, ghost trains and his favourite, the crooked house.
Upon his Father’s death, he entrusted the company to the board of directors and used his inheritance to purchase a beachfront fun fair. The star attraction of which, was the warp timbered crooked house that stood on a hilltop overlooking the colourful carousels and rides of the park below. He invested vast sums of his personal fortune into the crooked house, extending its labyrinthine corridors, adding a hall of mirrors and a number of curious waxworks depicting children’s fairy tales in stunning detail.
As F.W. costs mounted from his ‘no expense spared’ attitude to his widely celebrated attraction, the bottom suddenly fell out of the threaded screw industry. The development of alternative (and some would say inferior) fixings had left his company on the verge of liquidation and the factory employees facing the breadline.
Feeling the burden of his family name and not wishing to abandon the employees who had been faithful to his Father, F.W., with a heavy heart, took up his position at the head of the board.
F.W. truly disliked his work, his health suffered from the long hours and constant pressure of responsibility. Long gone were the halcyon days of his youth. Every day he felt himself being driven deeper and deeper into depression. The final twist was to be forced into selling his fun fair. He bid a sad farewell to his carousels, the ghost train, the tunnel of love, but he refused to sell his beloved crooked house. Alas with no time or money, the building stood empty, a sad reminder of the youthful innocence he had lost.
In his new-found diligence, F.W. showed the business talent of his forbears, developing a product that rivaled even the mighty Philips head. To this day carpenters and contractors alike rely on the Bernard head screw, or the ‘Bernie’ as it became known.
Success left F.W. busier than ever, in this time the only luxury he afforded himself was a high and foreboding fence around his crooked house.
As the business grew, so did F.W.’s sadness, he grew weary from work and felt increasingly alone in the world (‘for love does not come easy to one who’s spirit is in torment’). His only companions were the company board, whose greed left F.W. disheartened as to the nature of his fellow man.
F.W. became a recluse, many business journals speculated on his health. After a protracted absence from the boardroom, rumours became rife, depression, alcoholism and attempted suicide.
F.W.’s absence came to an end one overcast morning. The fence around his crooked house was removed to reveal the twisted building, now distorted beyond recognition and repainted a colour almost indistinguishable from the overcast sky. In bold letters carved from marble around the door, a new name for his once renowned attraction ‘Plaintive House’.
F.W. issued a press release to accompany the unveiling, ‘Plaintive House is a unique attraction, unparalleled in this or any other country. Rather than being an attraction for amusement, my former and forgotten passion, it is a place for solitude, somewhere for those of a melancholic disposition, such as myself, to go for quiet contemplation, to feel at one with their condition, wallow in their grief’.
Inside F.W.’s attraction, sounds haunted the labyrinthine corridors, the howling of a gentle wind, the cry of a lone animal. The mirrors had been removed (‘for one whose sadness is so deep, wishes not to see themselves’). The detailed waxworks had been re-modelled. What were once handsome princes or fair maidens were now images of Woolf, Kafka, Poe and Plath, writers that had given F.W. solace. The house, which had once echoed with the sounds of laughter, now resonated with his sorrow.
F.W. proclaimed ‘for those with the spirit for which Plaintive House is intended, admission is free’. And there were such visitors, those for whom the house was a place of melancholic beauty, constructed for the quiet reflection of the broken soul.
For the new owners of F.W.’s fun fair and the board of his company ‘Plaintive House’ was, respectively, an eyesore and an embarrassment. The two organisations plotted together to have F.W.’s house closed, convincing the local authorities that the house was detrimental to the mental health of both its visitors and its owner.
F.W. and ‘Plaintive House’ disappeared behind a new and even taller fence, withdrawing from the world completely.
F.W. remained hidden and the rumour mill once again ground into life. The board were quick to presume him dead, his corpse lost deep within a tomb of his own construction. They eagerly claimed his business interests, but left ‘Plaintive House’, as a ‘memorial’. In fact, they hoped that if F.W. hadn’t already died within, he wouldn’t want to leave the confines of his beloved house.
Time continues to pass, year upon year, ‘Plaintive House’ stands empty, the paint peeling from the walls, the marble letters weathered by the sea air.
There are stories, whispers that tell of those who have been asked beyond the tall fence. It is said that those who have lost a love, suffer from melancholy or like F.W., those whose duty has denied them their happiness, may one day receive an invitation to ‘Plaintive House’.
I found a rusty robot in an old car trunk, I fixed her up nice, but she brought me bad luck.
I set her to work building machines to farm; she built a harvester with a rotating arm. The arm was too long and hit an overhead line; the driver was injured and sued me for every dime.
I put her on a contract in car manufacture; she used mild steel and caused the chassis to fracture.
I sent her to work on an offshore rig; she severed a tension leg and caused the whole thing to sink.
I paid a feller to sell her off for scrap, I waved her goodbye but she found her way back.
I tried to destroy her with club, bomb and gun, chucked her into a furnace as hot as the sun. I danced as she burned, but I had forgot, the furnace’s safety valve was maintained by that ‘bot.
Now I’m broke and the explosion blew up my home and took my limbs clean off, leaving me dependant on this old robot that brings me nothing but bad luck.
I couldn’t help but notice that the subject of editing has cropped up a lot on tw*tter this last couple of weeks. This might be a result of the nanowrimo (if I have that right), lots of tidying up going on. In a timely coincidence I have been listening to Burroughs tape cut-ups and indulging in some cutting up of my own, on my (virtual) ‘wheels of steel’.
All of this cutting and mixing has me thinking about that old chestnut – editing. For my Friday Flash this week, in a painful and time consuming experiment, I have taken all of my previous #FF(es), pasted them into a word file, mixed them up, shook them about and remixed into a new flash. Hopefully it stands up on its own and if you’ve been kind enough to read my past posts it might raise a flicker of recognition and perhaps a chuckle.
‘We are in midst of a universal recession’, so they keep telling me. This is not the most reassuring phrase a girl can hear having drunkenly caned her inheritance on worthless deep space real estate. To be specific the ‘guppy’ shaped Mars moon – Phobos.
I figured there was two ways to resolve this knotty problem:
1) Slowly hemorrhage the last of my cash and settle back into a dope inspired agoraphobia and daytime TV addiction.
2) Take the last of said funds, hire a rocket ship, some terraforming machines and reconfigure the landscape of said real estate in to prime, radiation free habitat.
Despite the initial urge, to take the personal oblivion option, I plumped for the latter. In times like these one has to adapt ones practices, shit happens.
I found my ideal business colleague in Captain Tomaso, who I had met in a chance encounter in the bar of a cheap hotel in Kings Cross. The Captain had found himself in dire straits, having blown his deep space pioneering profits on a number of risky investments, sponsored celebrity breast augmentations and arms deals. He was my kind of guy.
Hastily putting together a cut-throat team of corporate astronauts, we took to the skies in Tomaso’s bright yellow spaceship with go faster stripes – jet engines engaged, flame on!
Space travel, as it turns out, is tedious as fuck! Off we boldly went through light years of tedium and copious amounts of fags. To pass the time Captain Tomaso and I liaised frequently and intimately, which ultimately resulted in our two kids Polly and Max. Deep space travel it seems has a strange effect on childbirth and our offspring grew at an accelerated rate. It was around this time that I stopped sleeping.
Some insomnia induced blackouts later , we reached my own little patch of the milky-way, Phobos.
Phase 1 of my business plan was to come in, remove any unwanted residue, unstable tectonics and former inhabitants, then get busy with the terraforming. The only spanner in the works was the mystical diagrams we found carved into the Phobian regiloth, no biggie.
Phase 1 started well, on program, on budget; so some of the crew disappeared, also no biggie, I could deal with that in Phase 2.
We first ran into real problems when Tomaso failed to co-ordinate properly with the crew in regard to their share scheme. Phobos is a long way for a contractor to go without getting paid, but you can’t do everything right?
After the crews first pop at a bloody mutiny, Tomaso requested that he return home to Bavaria in one of the escape pods. For services rendered, the corporation (me) promised to ‘make full redundancy payment at the statutory rate’. Yeah right.
Polly and Max were so very distraught to see their Mother upset at losing her colleague, business partner and lover. Maybe I shouldn’t have given the kids guns.
Following the sad demise of my former colleague; came that whole thing with the Great Gak, leader of the native critters, who, as it turned out, were the artists behind those mystical diagrams. I would of never have thought they could cause so much trouble, wrecking the machines, even killing the armed squad I sent in, I mean, seriously no-one could of seen that coming, I was in no way liable.
With the crew now dead, the machines destroyed, I guess the kids saw my business plan and their inheritance pissing away at a rate of knots. Not standing on ceremony they took off in the yellow space ship with the go faster stripes. I couldn’t blame them, if I hadn’t been detained at the wrong end of a spear, I would have done the same.
My internment consisted of many, repetitive, Phobian length days, constructing pyramids in honor of the Great Gak. The odds of my being rescued rapidly deteriorated 6:1, 13:1, 23:1, 100:1.
It was in this pit of despair that I had my epiphany, realising, in a moment of insufferable boredom and unrelenting fatigue, that the last moments of your life are no time for cowardice; I tore my right eye out. Holding the bleeding orb up to my captors’ cephalic eye, I screamed in defiance ‘no-one fucks with this bitch, on my patch!’
It seems the Great Gak responds well to self-harm in the face of adversity, after some physically agonising Phobian bonding sessions, Phase 2 of my business plan was enabled.
Phase 2 involves my private army of Phobian natives armed to the teeth and set to work on key strategic points across the United States of Mars. A few governmental takeovers later and bam! The subsequent inter-galatic wars that I have programmed will ensure that, what was once a worthless rugby ball-shaped rock; will become some prime-ass intergalactic investment.
This flash was brought to you by sentences, words and general steez from these previous posts:
Plus some words to fill in the gaps.
If you’ve read all/any of these then you have my sincere thanks and, when I see you, the drinks are most definitely on me.
X flicks a disposable lighter in front of his eyes obscuring the starlight with a bright orange flame. The echo of ignition leaves a visual echo of light across his retinas.
X’s girl D joins him in the garden she wears heavy plastic clogs and drags her feet in a way that her mother would have hated. D watches X repeat his star blanking ritual several times before interrupting, ‘got a light?’ she asks, planting a cigarette between her thin lips.
X lights her cigarette, then pulls a cigarette from behind his ear like a cut-price conjurer palming a coin, ‘ta-da!’
‘Your full of tricks tonight’ D mumbles from behind her cigarette.
‘It’s a magical night’ smiles X, he traces a figure of eight in the air with his finger, ‘behold’, a small spaceship appears on the palm of his hand. The ship is bright yellow with white go-faster stripes, the ships jets glow with a warm red light, illuminating his handsome face.
‘Cool ship, where’s it going?’ asks D.
‘The Cephalic region’ X asserts, pulling the car back as if primed to launch from an invisible catapult.
‘What’s Cephalic?’ D asks.
‘It means on or near the head!’ exclaims X launching the ship toward D’s head.
‘Hey!’ squeals D, the little ship bounces off of her head and ricochets off into the night sky.
‘That wasn’t very nice’ she said rubbing the side of her head, ‘no nookie for you tonight’.
On board the DSS Cephalic Rover warning sirens blare and red lights flash, plumes of smoke fill the bridge.
‘Damage report’ Captain Tomaso coughs into the comms mic.
‘Lost port engines in the collision sir, we can’t maintain containment stability’ Petro the ship’s engineer yells back through crackles of radio static.
‘Initiate emergency landing procedures’ the Captain cries, sweat pouring down his face. All Captains undertake emergency scenarios in training, but on such a cushy routine flyer, he had never expected to put his training into practice.
‘Emergency landing procedures!!’ Petro barked his orders across the engine room, ‘all crew to positions’.
‘All crew to positions’ the Captain re-affirmed, the crew stopped running chaotically around the bridge and braced for an emergency landing.
Duck tentatively slid his hand across the frost-stiffened grass toward the small of Karen’s back. This had been the first time they had been alone together, and where better than to be smoking dope on Perry hill. The hill he had always thought of as his special place away from the world.
Karen breathed a contented sigh, expelling a vast cloud of hash smoke into the cold air, this is the moment Duck thought, it’s now or never.
‘Captain, it’s Petro, the landing gear is blown, it’s going to be an uncontrolled land…’ Petro’s last words were snatched away by the roar of the ships engines exploding. The comm cut to a deathly silence.
‘Petro… Petro?’ The Captain strapped himself in, he had to be brave for his crew and for himself. The last seconds of your life are no time for cowardice. Taking a deep breath, he activated the comm. ‘Ladies and Gentleman, our engines and landing gear have failed, we are going to crash, may I say it’s been a pleasure serving with all of you… may the Gods help us’.
The explosion that had begun in the engine room shot up through the engineering ducts of the DSS Cephalic, engulfing the ship in a brilliant white fireball.
‘Karen…’ Duck edged closer to her, the alcohol and dope had fuelled him with an inflated sense of bravado and optimism. The voice of his consciousness had lost all sense of polite inhibition and now screamed at him ‘DO IT NOW, NOW MAN, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!’
Duck drew his arm back in preparation, poised to swoop around Karen’s shoulders in a grandiose romantic gesture. He would draw her to him in one swift and passionate movement, they would look into each other’s eyes, smile at each other and then…
‘Fuckin’ hell! Duck look at that!’ Karen shot to her feet excitedly pointing at a bright white light trailing across the night sky.
The light shot across the inky blackness and disappeared beyond the horizon of Perry hill.
‘Duck a shooting star, did you see? You have to make a wish Duck’. Karen waved her spliff maniacally in the air, showering the pair of them in glowing orange hot rocks.
Duck had already made his wish, but it hadn’t come true. It was in that moment that he knew their relationship would forever be platonic.
‘Buck up Duck!’ Karen laughed, thumping him on the arm, she passed him the joint and grinned, in the way only Karen could.
Perhaps, thought Duck, nursing the bruise forming on his arm, that’s a good thing.
I very rarely post anything that isn’t in some way a fiction, I normally enjoy writing stories that (hopefully) leave the reader with something to think about, maybe even alter the way they look at the world. For a change I am posting something that is autobiographical, but retains the same aims.
Today I was faced (as I have been every year for some years now) with six teenage boys, hair cropped short, regulation white shirt and black trousers, ready to embark on their two years service as missionaries. As I looked at the boys nervously clutching their box of pamphlets, I was reminded of me at their age. I remember that feeling of excitement mixed with the feeling of nausea at the pit of my stomach. Recalling that particularly uneasy feeling, I decided to tell the boys a story of my early days in the mission in an attempt to lift their spirits. I told them of the event that, not only helped me understand the great things one can achieve as a missionary, but also shaped the rest of my life.
Seeing the look on their faces after I told my story, I thought perhaps I should write it down to share with others, so I’m posting it here on my blog. I hope you enjoy it and maybe you might like to send a link to anyone in the community that you think might benefit from it.
At the time I was at college, living in a shared dorm. In the room next door to me was a student from Bavaria (I forget his name now, which is terrible I know). Things weren’t going so well for him, he was flunking class and homesick, he would go days without leaving his room. I remember he would always play Smiths songs over and over; the sound of ‘Hatful of Hollow’ would drift through the thin walls well into the night.
After my neighbor hadn’t turned up to class for a couple of weeks, I thought I would drop by. I was eager to do a good deed by lending an understanding ear and perhaps even share some of the teachings with him to help ease his troubles.
After knocking for quite some time he eventually came to the door. Although I don’t remember his name, I will never forget the way he looked, hair tousled, dirty clothes thrown around his skinny frame and heavy bags under his eyes. His room was bare save for a mattress, a pile of dirty clothes and take out cartons.
I had been studying the ‘Miracle of the Seven Sisters’ at the time. Considering the stutter I had as a teenager the ‘ssstory of the ssseven ssssissters’ wasn’t the most dynamic one I could have told, but I managed to get through it fast enough not to stumble over my words too much.
He listened politely, but didn’t seem very interested. However, when I reached the part of the story about the fifth sister, how she at her time of greatest personal success, had sacrificed so much for her sisters, his ears seemed to perk up.
When I parted with him that evening, the record stylus was slowly cutting a groove into the label in the centre of the Smith’s album, so I knew I had made an impression of sorts.
When I was told that he wouldn’t be returning to class I became very worried that my teachings had fallen on deaf ears, or worse still I had led him down the wrong path altogether. I feared for him and even added him to my nightly prayers.
I found out that the very day after I had talked to him, he had returned home to Bavaria. It turned out that he had several sisters himself, and his mother, alone after his father’s death, had been taken ill. Although I will never know for sure, I felt my teachings had helped him to make the decision to return home to care for his family.
It was this event that led to me moving into the community full time and some years later, taking the role of supervisor for the young missionaries. Not only had the miracle of the seven sisters had an effect on my neighbor, but also myself and (I hope) the many young missionaries that have been in my care since my graduation.