Archive for the ‘Flash’ Category

Wreckers

Posted: October 28, 2013 in Flash, Stories

asteroids

Written for the Aphelion-Webzine August 2013 Flash Challenge. Space and pirates – what could go wrong?

-oOo-

The problem with dealing in illegal tech was that the clientele were both undesirable and untrustworthy. William Pearce reflected on this sourly as he waited near the berth of Captain Goodwin’s ship, the aptly named Reaper.

Get through this, he thought, and you can go home to Lara, to Earth, and never have to see this hell hole again.

Clovelly was a frontier system, right out on the edge. The edge of known space, the edge of civilisation, the edge of humanity itself. It was out on this edge that Will reckoned a man could make his fortune, if he had the nerve for it.

“Change of plan, Mr Pearce”, said Captain Goodwin by way of greeting as his men manhandled the goods from Will’s truck into the Reaper’s cargo bay. “I’ll be needing your technical services for this voyage. You’ll be rightly recompensed for your trouble.”

“Why can’t Gao handle it?” Will asked, remembering the Reaper’s chief engineer, the man who had methodically examined the device when this deal had first been struck.

“He had an ethical disagreement with Sawad”, said the Captain, nodding at his first mate. Sawad smiled like a shark, white teeth and hideous intent. Gao was dead, that was a certainty.

“My payment?” Will asked.

“In full when we return to port, plus a bonus. I give you my word”, replied the Captain with a carnivorous grin.

Under Sawad’s menacing glare Will had no choice but to followed the Captain’s men into the Cargo bay.

 -oOo-

Will stared out at the scattered rocks of the Stroma asteroid belt through the flight deck windows and shivered. Never ask why they want it and never get involved. Too late for that now. It was not hard to guess what Goodwin and his men wanted with a superluminal navigation beacon.

The Captain glanced his way and winked. “Not long now, Mr Pearce. Once our man at Launceston sends word, we’ll be seeing action. The waiting is always the worst part.”

The atmosphere was certainly tense. Goodwin’s men were anxious and ill humoured, suited up and ready for egress down below. Will ran a system check on the beacon from the console, for the umpteenth time, and fidgeted.

The Captain stiffened, the blue light of his ear bud indicating an incoming communication. “Mr Pearce”, he said, “power up the beacon if you please. Sawad, prepare the men.”

In contrast to the frenetic bustle around him, Will activated the beacon with the merest touch of his fingers on the console in front of him. It began blasting out its navigation signal into the superluminal ether, drowning out the real beacon at the Launceston space port and sending false information to any ship bearing down on the Clovelly system.

It was over so fast, the eye could barely comprehend it. The wormhole opened five kilometres to port, inside the edge of the asteroid field. The ship transitioned into real space in a blink and collided with the icy rocks spinning out eternity there. The impact was massive. Will watched in horror as the fiery blooms burst across the ship’s hull.

Captain Godwin grinned as he broadcast the doomed craft’s SOS over the ship’s intercom.

“Mayday! Mayday! This is the Napoli. We have lost propulsion and life support. Require immediate assistance.”

“Napoli, this is the Reaper, we are on our way to assist. How many crew and passengers. Over.”

The relief in the man’s voice was palpable. “Twenty-two crew and fourteen passengers. Over.”

“Get everyone to your aft airlock”, replied the Captain, “I’m sending crew over to assist. Prepare for docking and transfer. Over and out.”

The clang of the Reaper’s own airlock rang throughout ship as the Captain’s men exited the Reaper. Will sat impotently and watched as they jetted towards the torn hull of the Napoli. The Captain put the view from Sawad’s helmet camera up on a screen, and they watched in silence as the Napoli’s airlock drew closer.

“Napoli, open the outer door”, Sawad said over the radio.

The door cracked and brief burst of atmosphere vented into space before it slid smoothly into the hull. Rather than enter, as Will had expected, Sawad threw a satchel into the airlock and then quickly manoeuvred to one side. Will saw the camera shake and then gasped in disbelief as atmosphere, debris and human bodies burst out or the Napoli’s airlock. Sawad had blown the inner door.

“Law of salvage, Mr Pearce,” the Captain said as Will watched the crew and passengers of the Napoli writhe, then slowly becoming still as they floated away into the void. “No claim while an officer or passenger aboard lives.”

-oOo-

The sound of a gunshot catapulted Captain Goodwin from his sleep. By the time he got to the cabin it had come from, Sawad was already there, his white teeth flashed their shark like smile but there was a hint of disappointment in his cold eyes. William Pearce lay dead upon his bunk, his brains sprayed across the bulkhead, the gun still clutched in his hand.

“Damn fool could have pierced the hull”, the Captain grunted, checking the bulkhead for damage.

Something on the cabin’s comm terminal caught Sawad’s eye. He poked at it, bringing up the last message. A pretty girl’s face filled the screen.

“William, I can’t wait any longer”, she said into the camera lens, “I miss you so much and I couldn’t keep this surprise until you got back.” The camera shifted clumsily in her hand as she swivelled it to show the swelling bump of her belly then back to her face. “I’ve booked passage on the cargo ship Napoli. I hope you get this message before I arrive. Love you. See you soon!”

“Dump the body out the airlock”, the Captain said, nodding at the corpse and yawning. “And keep this between ourselves, unless you want to split his share with the others.”

THE END

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Scorpion Nature

Posted: July 9, 2013 in Flash, Stories

scopion-and-frog

Written for the Another-Realm April Thru May flash competition.

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”

Replies the scorpion: “It’s my nature…”

-oOo-

Marcus walked the centre line of the dark desert highway and tried to think of something other than the Eagles’ lyrics looping around inside his skull. He tried to guess the odds he’d get a ride before daylight instead, and ignored the aching pulse of hunger in the pit of his stomach. L.A. was a bust, Vegas had to be better.

Headlights caught the back of his boots, pushed his shadow out, reaching into the night before him. He turned and waited for the vehicle, its lights blinding, washing out the starlight that had lit his way.

An old school bus pulled up next to him, the door hissed open and framed him with electric illumination.

“You need a lift, hon?”

She was whip thin, late thirties. Her forehead was smooth but there were hard lines around her mouth. Marcus could see the tendons in her arms and hands as she gripped the steering-wheel.

“Heading to Vegas?”

“Sure, get in.”

Marcus didn’t see the prayer beads hanging from the mirror until he nearly brushed against them. He flinched way too hard.

“Make yourself at home, hon.”

Inside, the bus was full on boho hippy crap, tie-dye and beads a major theme. Marcus sat on the seat up in front, across from her. The door hissed shut again and the bus groaned into motion, the engine straining.

Marcus caught her scent beneath the cloying incense that permeated the bus. She smelled of lavender, musk and desperation. His stomach flipped hard and his hunger made itself known to him again. Her makeshift bed, a rumpled mess of sheets, was behind him. He turned his head and took a deep breath; More of her, the men that had been there with her, and something else, something familiar, something darker.

She was watching him over her shoulder. “You’re not the first, you know that right?”

“What?”

“The way you flinched. It’s almost laughable.”

Marcus shrugged, pretended he didn’t understand.

“I waited my whole life, and then two of you come along, one after another.” She shook her head.

Marcus let the silence stretch. The road hummed beneath the wheels, a steady drone, hypnotic.

“I’m pretty beat. You want to drive for a while?”

Her voice jolted Marcus from his daze. He shook his head. “Can’t, never learned.”

She looked at him, puzzled. “Yeah, I guess under all that road dust you’re kind of young.”

Marcus said nothing.

“I’m going to have to pull over then, grab a little shut-eye.” The brakes whined as the bus slowed. When she shut off the engine, the silence that followed was a void between them.

She stood up from behind the wheel. Marcus got to see how thin she really was, bone thin, painful thin. Only the sharpness of her hips and her long brown hair marked her as a woman.

She stepped up close to him.

“The one before you was much, much older,” she said and reached out to stroke his cheek. Her warm fingers felt good against his cool skin.

“I asked him to turn me but wouldn’t do it,” she said.

She undid the buttons of her blouse, her eyes on his, and then pulled it aside to reveal a livid scar; Brutal and ugly, the tissue raised and angry, crossing her ribs where her breast had been. She took his hand and placed it there. Her scar burned into his palm, hot and pulsing.

“Cancer,” she said, matter of fact. “Took them both.”

Marcus reached up beneath her blouse with his other hand and found the mirror scar, felt the same heat and, beneath it, the steady beating of her heart.

“I’ve been good all my life, never stepped out of line, never made waves. Took nearly dying to realise I’ve never lived. Now it’s too late, the cancer’s in my bones.”

She pulled him onto the tangled sheets of her bed, her lips hard against his.

“Make me,” she whispered in his ear. “Make me like you.”

“I can’t. I’m not old enough, it won’t work.” The hunger was reaching up through his throat, making his tongue thick, his control weak.

“Then take me,” she said staring deep into his eyes, her breath sweet on his face. “Take away the pain.”

“I can’t.” Marcus pushed the words through clenched teeth, fighting the urge to bite, to tear, to suck her wasted body dry. He’d never killed before, still too new, too human.

“Make me or take me, I don’t care.”

Her lips found his again. She pushed her tongue between them and into his mouth, running it across the clenched cage of his teeth. Marcus’ jaw ached with the strain of keeping it shut.

She pushed herself against him, hard and insistent. His hand found one of the jagged, pulsing scars again. Every detail, every ridge, burning into the palm of his cold hand. It was the final straw. He growled as he tore his mouth from hers, opened his jaws wide and plunged his teeth deep into her throat. Salt and copper flooded his mouth. His stomach spasmed painfully and then accepted the bounty. She moaned, low and sensual like a lover, and clung to him.

Marcus could taste it; The corruption, the cancer, in her bones and in her blood, a bitter after-taste. The hunger didn’t care. Only the sweet agony of each mouthful he could suck down mattered. The thick flow ebbed too soon. She started to convulse. Still, he sucked at the wound, drawing every sickening, delicious drop until he felt her heartbeat fade, stutter and finally stop.

His hunger sated, he lay there tangled in her bed, her cooling body beside him. If he’d been older, if he’d been stronger, if he’d fed before he left L.A. It was too late, it didn’t matter. The horizon already burned crimson across the desert sand, the sun was rising in the East.

THE END

The Last Communion

Posted: May 29, 2013 in Flash, Published, Stories

 

Written for the Santarium Magazine  weekly 500-word flash competition on Google+, which it won by a tie-breaking vote!. The only prompt for the competition was the word ‘Moon’. This flash fiction is also available to read on Wattpad.

He marvels at the moonlight, cold, blue-silver, as it washes over the congregation below him. The Reverend sways drunkenly, leaning out to look down upon his flock as they swarm around the cathedral’s mighty buttress. The half-full bottle of wine he grasps, clinks loudly against the stonework, drawing a groan of unearthly longing from below. A vile stink pushes him back from the edge. Instead, he sits on the lead roof and stares at the moon, so dead, so barren and yet so beautiful.

 ~~~

The cathedral had never been so full, his congregation swelled as fear of the contagion spread. When medicine and science failed to explain, when the authorities, police and army had failed to stop the spread, the people turned to faith, to him. The irony was, this apocalypse had caused him to lose his own.

Revelations, that’s all they wanted to hear. Now he finally had the audience he had yearned for, how could he refuse?

“The sea gave up the dead who were in it,” his voice echoed over those below him, the pews filled to overflowing, “and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.”

Shouts broke through his words, a commotion near the back. At first, from his elevated position in the pulpit, he thought the old lady was having a seizure or fit. Then he saw her rise up, those unfortunate to be nearby reeling back in horror. He saw the blood running down her chin, her face locked in a lunatic grimace and her hands hooked into claws as she reached for those around her. The plague had found them, even in the house of the Lord, it had found them.

His flock, fled. Pews fell, bodies tumbled, many were crushed in the stampede.

In their time of need, he abandoned them and escaped through the vestry door. It’s heavy oak planks and iron bolts would hold back an invasion but they couldn’t stop the screams, the fists banging with urgency and desperation.

As the screams intensified, the knocking faltered and stopped.

~~~

He’d watched the city die from the cathedral roof. At first the riots and sirens, then the fires, conflagrations that spread and polluted the sky with black smoke, bringing ash rain and blotting out the sun. A vision of hell.

As days passed, his congregation returned. The dead raised their faces up to him with longing as he delivered sermons of hellfire and damnation. They were beyond that.

~~~

The moon; so barren, so beautiful, so dead. Was that such a terrible thing?

The wine bottle is empty, he casts it away, over the edge, and hears it shatter, probably on the upturned face of one of his flock below.

He moves to the edge, vertigo turns the wine in his belly to vinegar. A sigh moves through his congregation, a low growl of hunger and need. How can he deny them?

He steps forward. It feels like flying.

The End

Doggeral-CoverIn part 1 of my adventures, I published my short story, Less Of Her, on Wattpad. As I mentioned at the time, I thought that the Wattpad site would lend itself well to publishing my flash fiction stories as it can be done a story / chapter  at a time.

Well, I went ahead, knocked up a cover on my own with my mad Gimp skillz and voilà!

All the flash stories I have already published here on this blog are also now under this ‘title’ on Wattpad for your viewing pleasure.

Doggerel – A Flash Fiction Collection.

The Things We Do For Love

Posted: April 9, 2013 in Flash, Stories

carnival

Written for the Aphelion-webzine February 2013  Flash Challenge.  Trading one monstrosity for another may not always be a bad thing . . .

-oOo-

Aileen walked with John along the dusty track to the Carnival lit up in the darkness of the meadow. She was thankful for the dark, people were less likely to see the bruises. Not that anyone would speak of it. She’d had bruises before.

The sign at the entrance declared, “Dr Simpsons’ Carnival of Curiosities. Entry: One Dollar”. John paid grudgingly while Aileen kept her face turned away. Once within, the place was crowded with townsfolk, laughing and shouting, their feet kicking up a little dust from the hard trodden ground between the garish tents and stalls.

“What’s it to be first?” John asked. “The strongman? The bearded woman?”

“Whatever you choose, John.”

John was acting conciliatory for what he’d done but Aileen knew his mood to be mercurial. The smallest slight would set him against her, and if he drank! Oh Lord, if he drank.

A shout from the crowd pulled them onwards to John’s cousin and friends. Aileen stood apart as the menfolk slapped each others backs. If she was lucky John would go off with them and leave her be but John was still acting sorry and broke himself free instead. Not before his cousin had given him a jar of something, a little shine from the backwood’s still. Nothing made John surly like his cousin’s moonshine. Aileen cursed her luck.

“Selena the Snake Woman,” shouted a Barker as they drew near. “Born without bones, see her perform feats that will amaze you, astound you!”

The board outside the tent had a caricature of a woman with a snake’s tail instead of legs and green, scaly skin. John pulled the flap aside and lead her in.

The woman on the stage had no snake’s tail but two perfectly formed legs from what Aileen could see. Her skin was painted green though. There was plenty of skin to see too, for the green woman wore barely a scrap of costume while performing her obscene act. Bending her legs over her head and pulling them wide, the contortionist thrust her hips towards an eager audience of men. John pushed forward, eyes gleaming with lust, lust that he’d put on Aileen before the night was done. Aileen pulled away, towards the back and the exit.

“She’s a snake because her blood runs cold even as it makes theirs run hot.”

The woman’s voice so close to her ear made Aileen jump. She turned and met faded blue eyes, faded like soft denim. The woman was faded too, although she’d been a beauty once. Now she was hard worn and threadbare. Aileen felt sorry for her, thinking how tough life must be travelling with the Carnival from town to town. Aileen saw the pity reflected back at her as the woman stared at Aileen’s bruises, studying them intently.

“Do you stay with him for love?” the woman asked.

Aileen nodded, not really believing it but then why else would she still be with a man who treated her so bad.

“The things we do for love.”

Aileen hurried away, desperate to be out in the cool night air again. The woman caught her hand before she’d gone a dozen paces.

“There’s a special show,” she said. “Invitation only. Some things are only for those who can appreciate them.”

Aileen would have protested but the look in the woman’s eyes hooked her curiosity. The woman lead her on, through the crowds, through the smell of dust, and straw and candy-floss, to a tent beyond the others, small and alone.

“This is my man,” the woman said with pride in her voice as she lead Aileen inside to near total darkness.

“You may be shocked at first but when you truly see him you’ll understand.”

“Understand what?” Aileen asked.

The woman lit an oil lamp and as the yellow flame caught and flickered in the soot stained glass, it reflected dully on the skin of another.

Aileen gasped, a sharp intake of horror. It’s flesh was grey, it’s head grotesque and large with two huge, glistening, black pools for eyes. No nose, but the small line of a mouth. In a fluid movement it stood up, towering over her on legs so thin it didn’t seem right. Aileen couldn’t move, she couldn’t breath. She could only stare in terror as it reached out and caressed her bruised face with soft, slender fingers.

Aileen’s heart skipped.

It didn’t skip with horror or fear. It skipped with joy.

She’d never known how empty she’d been, how lonely and alone, or how drab and dark her world. She knew now. Now she was full of love and was loved, she would never be alone again, and everything was full of color and everything was bright. Her sharply indrawn breath of horror was released as a tremulous contented sigh.

The woman stood by the tent opening, tears running freely from her faded blue eyes. “It’s hard to love and be loved so much,” she said. “I can’t bear the weight of it any more. He needs someone stronger, that’s why I found you.”

Aileen nodded, she understood perfectly.

Outside, John was shouting her name. He was still quite far away but he’d likely been calling for some time. He’d be angry when he found her.

“All that remains is to free you of your obligation.” The woman pulled a knife from the folds of her dress and held the tent open.

“The things we do for love,” the woman said and then was gone.

Aileen turned into her lover’s cool embrace, breathing deeply the musk of dust, straw and candy-floss that surrounded her. Somewhere outside, John’s shouting was cut off right in the middle of calling her name.

The End

A Digital Orange

Posted: March 27, 2013 in Flash, Published, Stories

orange

Quantum Muse let me get away with it again, this time with a short flash fiction story that I originally entered into the Aphelion-Webzine November 2012 Flash Challenge.

A Digital Orange

The story of a monster and the guilt of performing monstrous deeds.

Never Let Go

Posted: November 6, 2012 in Flash, Published, Stories

The October Flash Challenge on the Aphelion-Webzine was very unpleasant.

The challenge was to write a about a capable, likeable character coming up against their worst fear and losing. No Happy ending, no riding off into the sunset. 

My story ‘Never Let Go’ won the challenge but left a bad taste in my mouth. So, I wrote a follow-up story to right the wrongs, or at least to allow revenge. Is this was American’s call Closure.

Never Let Go

Dean swims up to consciousness like a drowning man through murky water. Opening his eyes takes all he’s got, brings him nausea and pain. His head feels sticky against the headrest. He sees the street lights flash by through a rain streaked window, blurred and doubled. Kayleigh is crying in the back-seat.

“Shut that little bitch up!” A man’s voice, unfamiliar, angry.

Dean tries to turn his head but the movement pushes him back under.

###

The doorbell rang just as Dean took his coffee mug to the sink. Susan was beside Kayleigh at the table, breakfast half eaten in front of them as Susan tested Kayleigh on her spelling words.

“I’ll get it,” said Dean.

The hallway was bright with the morning sun. Dean could see a female figure, blurred through the frosted glass of the front door.

“Wendy?” Said Dean, surprised to see his new co-worker at his home.

Wendy’s blue eyes had dark circles, she seemed nervous. She opened her mouth to speak, eyes darting to the left. A figure, unkempt hair, a beard, swung around from his hiding place beside the door and hit Dean between the eyes with the butt of a gun.

###

“You got it?”

Dean couldn’t look at the guy’s face. All he could see was the gun, the cavernous, gaping hole where the bullet would come.

“Create the loans, transfer them to the business accounts. Transfer the money from those accounts to the offshore accounts. Delete the transaction history,” said Dean, repeating back the instructions. Kayleigh sobbed loudly as Susan tried to comfort her, wrapping their daughter in her arms and hugging her close. Susan’s own face was red and puffy, her eyes wet

“Remember, if Wendy so much as thinks you’re trying something, they’re dead,” said the Goon, waving the gun at Dean’s wife and child

Dean nodded and picked up his briefcase.

###

Dean completed the last transfer, hands shaking. Wendy watched beside him as the completion message came up on the screen.

“If he so much as touches-”

“Shut-up!” Said Wendy, her voice a terse hiss. It was the most she had said to him all morning. “Now the transaction histories.”

Dean opened a new form and rubbed his forehead.

“That’s a humdinger!” Said Ericsson from Savings as he passed their desk, pointing at the growing bruise Dean was massaging.

“Walked into a door,” Dean said, his eyes pleading the man to stop, to make conversation, ask questions, anything.

“We’re kind of busy here,” said Wendy, her hand on Dean’s shoulder, fingers squeezing painfully hard.

“Sure, sure,” said Ericsson with a conciliatory shrug. “Be more careful next time, man.”

Dean nodded as Ericsson turned and walked away. Wendy’s painful grip relaxed.

“The transaction histories,” she prompted.

###

The shakes got bad again as they turned into the drive. Dean tried to stifle a sob, stifle the fear. “If he’s hurt them-”

Wendy gave him a hard look. “It’s nearly over. Keep it together.”

Dean could hear Kayleigh’s whimpers as soon as he opened the front door, audible over the TV noise of cartoons. He followed them to the family room. The Goon had his arm around Kayleigh as she sat beside him on the couch. Susan was slumped across the other side. Her nose a bloody mess, her bruised eyes swollen shut and her clothes torn.

Dean was barely aware of the growl building from inside as he lunged forward. The Goon was faster, more practised at violence. The gun hit Dean in the guts, took away his breath. He fell to his knees and tried desperately to suck air back into his lungs. Kayleigh screamed just as the gun crashed down on the back of his skull.

###

Noise reaches him through the static. Tires on a rain slicked road and wind-shield wipers. He’s so tired, almost slips back under again but he hears voices and knows they’re important even though he doesn’t remember why.

“You said, we’d let them go,” says Wendy

“You dumb-. They’ve seen my face. They know you’re with me.”

“You said no one would get hurt.”

“Hey, newsflash, I lied. Now shut-up!”

Road noise turns to the crunch of gravel, the ride gets bumpy, rocks Dean’s head. Black static takes him again.

###

There’s cold air against his face through the open window, the smell of water. Dean tries to open his eyes as the car rocks, someone getting out.

Incoherent words, arguing, a piercing scream and a meaty thump. Then the car rocks again. Dean turns his head, blinks away the red smear in his eyes. The Goon is pushing Wendy’s limp body into the driver’s seat beside him. Blood is running down the side of her face.

“Murder, suicide,” the Goon says, his voice quiet. He’s singing it, over and over. “Murder, suicide. Murder, Suicide,” and the man is grinning like a lunatic.

The door slams, the car moves, tires on gravel, accelerating. A jolt throws Dean against the seat belt, water splashes his face through the window. The shock of cold as the car fills up revives him. Dean raises his head, vision is clearing, thoughts are coherent. If he can get the seatbelt undone he can get out, escape, make it to shore.

There’s a sob from the back-seat.

Kayleigh sits there, her mother slumped by her side unmoving, the water is already around her little waist and it’s freezing. She can’t swim, she’ll never make it. It’s over.

Dean stops trying to undo the seat belt and reaches back instead, takes his daughter’s hand.

“Close your eyes, baby,” he says. “ I’m here.”

The black water is rushing in now, sucking the car down, he sees the panic in her face just before it rises over her.

Down in the dark, Dean can feel them sinking deeper and deeper. The cold makes him numb but he can still feel Kayleigh’s hand in his own. He will never let go.

THE END