The Dress

10 September, 2011 at 14:01 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

She kept tugging on her sleeve, hours after they had passed the shop-window.

“Please Mummy, please Mummy.”

Ella could feel the exasperation rising. Debbie had learned the word please only recently and seemed to think it was the magic word that unlocked everydoor. This wasn’t helped by Phil asking her everytime a ‘please’ was wanted – ‘What’s the magic word?’ Ella had grown more frustrated with that phrase as Debbie had grown more convinced of it’s literal truth.

“Please Mummy, please Mummy.”

Part of her wanted to turn around and shout at the pleading face. She wanted to shout ‘No! No Debbie, you can’t have it. It’s a dumb dress that you’re going to grow out of in months and it’s far too expensive what what it is. You can’t have it because I don’t want you to have it. You’re a horrible, whining little girl who doesn’t deserve a pretty sparkly dress. Now shut the fuck up and let Mummy pretend she doesn’t have a horrible whining child to satisfy all the fucking time.’
Part of her wanted to slap the child across the face. As she held Debbie’s hand waiting to cross the road she imagined accidentally-on-purpose tripping, sending the tiny girl sprawling across the path of the oncoming traffic. She imagined the tears she’d have to force to her eyes by digging her nails into her thighs and the sobbing way she would say ‘My baby’. She dragged Debbie hard across the road and looked, guiltily, into the eyes of a policewoman coming the other way.

***

“Isn’t it a bit expensive?” asked Phil, later on that evening.

Debbie spun around and around in front of him, delighted with her new dress.

Ella pasted a smile across her face.
“Anything for my little girl,” she said.

“I love you Mummy,” said Debbie, her joy evident in her eyes.

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Bedtime Story

8 September, 2011 at 22:30 (Flash) (, , , , , , , )

“Daddy, just one more?” she asked, her big blue eyes looking up into his.

He smiled down at her. “One more.”
Then he looked down at the book in his hand and read the next story, ‘A Christmas Angel’, this one was about an angel who ate too many christmas biscuits. She fell asleep when he was about half way through reading it. When he heard her breathing become even and slow he put down the book and let the tears flow.

The nurse poked her head through the door. “Mr Chambers?”

He looked up at her.

“There are some more papers for you to sign.”

He nodded and got up, leaving the book on the chair besides the bed. It had been her favourite book when she was a kid, when she had been about seven she’d recieved it for Christmas and he hadn’t been allowed not to read from it for her bedtime story. Now she was thirty-seven and here in the terminal cancer ward he read it to her again. This time though, when she closed her eyes and slept he didn’t wish for her to wake with her dreams fulfilled, he just wished for her to wake at least once more.

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Priests of Mithras

3 September, 2011 at 18:50 (Flash, Lace and Steel) (, , , , , , , )

He basked in their adulation. The roar of the crowds had him throw up his hands and raise the bloodied daggers far above his head. Droplets of the beast’s blood blessed his face and hair as they fell from the blades.

Soon the crowd would return to their seats, soon the curates and the neophytes would come and take the bull’s carcass to the sacred chapel for butchering but right now he stood, proud, basking in his glory as a Priest of Mithras, fresh from his first fight.

Sunday mornings in the bullring were what he had built his whole life towards, ever since that first initiation as a boy into the first mystery, as the bull’s blood had rained down upon him he had known he wanted nothing more than to be the one in the ring, fighting the bull with wits and daggers, he wanted to see behind the curtain and to know who truly moved the stars with his heart-beat. And he had done it. He basked in the crowd’s adulation.

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Hell

2 September, 2011 at 23:52 (Flash) (, , , , )

She sat on a tree stump, on top of the rise at the edge of the wolds, surrounded by corn. She gazed over the flatness of the fens that stretched out into the blue of the distance. Above her the wide sky pressed down.

Soon she would have to get up off the stump. Soon she would have to turn around and walk back the way they had come. Behind her sprawled, pressing down upon the golden stalks of corn, lay the bloodied form of the man she had killed.

Whilst the sky pressed down on her and she looked into the distance for some hope of salvation she could ignore his blood feeding the dry earth. There was no forgetting him though, and no getting past the number of people who had seen them come out here.

She blinked as she gazed out over the fens and into the distance, soon she would have to turn around and go back the way she had come.

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Freedom

1 September, 2011 at 22:46 (Flash) (, , , , , , )

“Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum” said the little girl, tugging at her mother’s dressing-gown.

“Not now dear, Mummy’s talking.” said her mother, not bothering to look down, “Do go on with what you were saying,” she said to the very attractive door-to-door salesman who’d explained that he was only recently out of prison and was in fact a door to door salesman in an effort to get into the army.

The little girl gave up on trying to attract her mother’s attention and walked back down the hall. She clambered up onto the kitchen table and then lent out to reach the lock on the back door. With no small effort she pushed down and the catch moved allowing the door to swing back open. Hoisting herself off of the kitchen table she looked back over one shoulder, her Mum was still talking to the salesman but it looked as if her dressing gown had slipped a little bit. This often happened when Mum was talking to good looking men. The little girl headed out of the back door, closing it carefully behind her.

She walked into the garden and crawled under the hedge until she wriggled herself through the dirt and discovered herself in the field behind the house. Laying down in the mud of the field she saw the blue sky stretching wide above her and smiled whilst watching the birds wheeling, high over head.

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The Last Dance

30 August, 2011 at 20:38 (Flash) (, , , , )

“May I have this dance?” he smiled at her as she sat, sipping the last from a glass of bubbly.

She stood and he took her hand and led her onto the floor. It had been a long time but his arm went deftly around her waist, and he still led like a pro. With a good lead she managed to spin in her new heels and the skirt of her purple dress span with her.

“Don’t they look beautiful?” he said to her as they waltzed gently past the happy couple.

She smiled up at him and nodded. “Better than we ever did,”

He deftly altered their direction, avoiding a drunken uncle staggering about. “Dave looks good too.” he said, nodding to her second husband, still stood at the bar.

“Hands off you,” she said. “Yours is right there.”

Steve, his partner, bent over a table talking to the bride above the music, didn’t seem to have noticed their dancing.

“I’m glad we got married,” she said.

“You are?”

“I like our kids. Besides, we couldn’t have divorced else now could we?”

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From The Cave

29 August, 2011 at 11:02 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

Jack Frost is a tall figure, tall and spindly and slightly blue-grey around the edges. If you were to see him walking down the street then you might think that he was very, very ill. If you were to see him sleeping upon a park-bench then you would probably think that he was dead. He wouldn’t be of course, it’s unlikely that a creature such as Jack would ever be found dead on a park bench. Unlikely, though not impossible.

Jack Frost is responsible for ice crystals, frost patterns and leaves frozen delicately into place on autumn mornings. It’s not exactly a well-paid job nor even especially rewarding, except in the most artistic of ways. The methods that Jack uses to supplement his income are spoken about in dark corners and beneath carefully warmed shadows. Most widely known about are the necklaces that he brings to markets on the edges of faerie, or those several layers beneath London and Baghdad.

The magic inherant in a baby’s first laughter is widely known, indeed there are merchants at such markets who, it is rumoured, have fathered many children to have ready access to such products. Who continually fashion the curious alchemical glassware needed to capture these things. Sometimes Jack does come to the markets with such a bauble, to the annoyance of the merchants he will often come close to giving it away. Those baubles are widely known, those magics are easily captured by the slightest practice of the hermetic arts. Jack brings something unique, necklaces of baby’s tears, bracelets of the impotent rage of children, earrings of toddler screams and the echoes of a child’s first swear-word. These things are unique to Jack, if a merchant is selling them and they are real, then he has bought from Jack.

No one knows how he gets them, though the whispers in the dark places tell of unspeakable things and of horrors in woodlands and the far places of a child’s world. There is talk tht Jack had a dalliance with a woman and that he took something from her and since that time has appeared at the markets with something to sell, something that men have killed for in the past and doubtless will again.

But whatever is said of Jack Frost, that cadaverous, slender man, it is certain that whilst he sells his merchandise, the old and young, the wise and the seekers will all continue to buy.

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Muse

28 August, 2011 at 18:38 (Flash) (, , , , , )

You’ve got her in your pocket
And there’s no way out now
Put it in the safe and lock it
’cause it’s at home sweet home

Red hair, swirling over my eyes, I blinked it away, there was a ceiling which bubbled like water and the roaring noise of the falls was in my ears.

Nobody ever told you that it was the wrong way
To trick a woman, make her feel she did it her way
And you’ll be there if she ever feels blue
And you’ll be there when she finds someone new
What to do
Well you know

“Well, there’s a first time for everything,” he said, pulling his shirt off.

“Would you like some music on?” I asked, sharpening my pencils into the wastepaper basket, as he unbuttoned his jeans.

“Ok,” he said, pulling down his jeans and pants.

“The CD rack’s over there,” I said gesturing, “Choose whatever you like.”

Whilst he bent over the CDs I set up my pencils, putty rubber and pencil sharpener on the desk next to me, then I opened my sketch pad. He put some CDs in the player and sat upon the bed.

“For the first pose,” I said, “Just sit comfortably, something you can hold for a while.”

He nodded.

You keep her in your pocket
Where there’s no way out now
Put it in a safe a lock it
’cause it’s home sweet home

Water rushing in my ears, bubbles escaping my nose as I tried to stop them, my fingers wrapped around his arm. His voice distorted as I kicked beneath the surface.

I unwrapped the cheese from it’s muslin covering and looked out over the woodland below the cliff. I cut myself a slice as I waited for him. The clouds raced across the grey sky and presently his sweating, muscular form appeared and threw itself on the grass besides me. I handed him the lemonade which he drank down immeadiately before tearing at the bread and cheese with his solid hands.

The smile on your face made her think she had the right one
Then she thought she was sure
By the way you two could have fun
But now she might leave
Like she’s threatened before
Grab hold of her fast
Before her feet leave the floor
And she’s out the door
’cause you want

My fingers running over the muscles of his back, red hair swirling across my blinking eyes as I struggled to see beyond the brightness of the summer light.

“We did it,” he said, looking out over the ruined city as the sun began to lay it’s rays upon it.

“Yeah…” I said, “We did.”

And we walked along the cobbled path down to the city.

To keep you in my pocket
Where there’s no way out now
Put it in a safe a lock it
’cause it’s home sweet home

Red hair, swirled across my eyes and the light in them blinding me as never before. My head broke the surface and I sucked in the sweet, fresh air.

“Come on,” I said. “Down here.”

“Ahh,” he said suddenly, “Now I know where we’re going.”

I laughed, “I just hope it doesn’t rain. I can’t believe I was barefoot the first time.”

He sipped his whiskey as we hurried along.

“I seem to remember socks weren’t the only things you were lacking.”

I looked at the lamp-posts as we passed them. “Here we are,” I said, “Number four.”

He sipped his whiskey before putting it down carefully.

“We should do this properly I think, if it’s going to be the last time.”

I smiled broadly.

And in your own mind
You know you’re lucky just to know her
And in the beginning all you wanted was to show her
But now you’re scared
You think she’s running away
You search in your hand for something clever to say
Don’t go away
’cause I want

The water dripped down my face and the light was too bright to watch him walk away, even shading my face with my hands. I could make out the length of his back but the redness of his hair had vanished in the distance.

I had his arm as we walked up the damp slabs of the pavement. She was sat in the window, smoking and we fell silent as we approached. I opened the door as he went to share her cigarette and walked inside, back to the party.

Red hair, swirling over my eyes, I blinked as the mist bubbled like water covering my eyes and the roaring noise of the falls was in my ears.

To keep her in your pocket

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Negotiation

27 August, 2011 at 12:55 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

“Babababababa” cooed the baby, clutching it’s toes with it’s fingers.

“No way, I can’t go higher than twenty, it’d be un-natural.” said the tall, blueish figure above the crib.

“Brrrrrrrrrp” sputtered the baby, wetly, one hand waving wildly, foot still stuck up in the air.

“I can go to thirty two for the second major sale, not the first. Anyway, we haven’t closed one deal yet, never mind a whole sale.”

“Ssssssssss” drooled the infant, letting go of it’s feet completely.

“We could go up to twenty-two, with two early molars to be replaced at two years with the usual type.”

“Babababababababa”

“What deal you broker with here is entirely between the two of you.”

“Gugagagugagasszzzz”

“So, for twenty two how much would I get?” asked the tall, slender man stepping back a little.

The baby rolled back it’s head and bawled, the cry echoed around the room and filled the house. Tears seemed to threaten to roll down it’s cheeks at any second. Then the baby stopped it’s cry and focused it’s gaze upon the tall, blue man.

“We have a deal.” he said, eagerly. “Look, can you hold onto the merchandise? I’ve got to make a call to the buyer?”

The baby wrinkled it’s nose.

“I can make a downpayment in good faith,” offered the man.

The baby might have seemed to nod to an observer. The man, in anycase stepped forwards and gently took the baby’s jaw between his fingers.

“It’s delayed, be a few moments before it kicks in. Right, I’ll be back tomorrow night.” said the man, then in a flurry of glittering cold he swept out of the window leaving some ferny patterns under the eaves and a solitary icicle hanging from the gutter.

The baby began to cry, the man would surely have cursed the tears that he missed, but the baby’s mother, snoring in the room below didn’t curse at all that she slept straight through. She didn’t even notice.

When the blueish figure returned he noted at once the smell and offered, tactfully, his services to change his client. His client was too proud, however, to accept. He did flash a sudden smile at his tall visitor, showing the beginnings of pearly, white teeth. Jack grinned back. Then, they got down to business and the baby cried.

Even Jack was tired when they had finished, but they were both pleased with the day’s work as Jack held up three long strands.

“Blackbird’s going to be very happy with this deal. If you can keep this up for the next couple of years you’ve really earned your twenty-two.”

The baby just lay back in the crib, breathing hard, all cried out.

“Not many can, you know,” continued Jack. “Even if they’ve got the lungs for it, they’ll be constantly interrupted.”

“baabaabaabaaaaa” burbled the baby.

“We’ll renegotiate in seven years then. Pleasure doing business with you.”

The tall, thin figure left a flourish of swirls on the window but the baby didn’t notice, nor did his mother come up the stairs before they had melted clean away. She did notice her baby’s new teeth though, and wondered, somewhat distractedly, how much a teething ring would cost.

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Out Of The Frying Pan

26 August, 2011 at 12:31 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

The Frying Pan was not your typical greasy spoon cafe although it liked to play upon the image. Ma, behind the counter, looked just slightly too young to be anyone’s actual mother, certainly not any of the patrons of The Frying Pan. If you looked closely at her you might suspect that was because of judicious botox rather than actual youth, nevertheless, Ma was what it said on her namebadge rather than a friendly nickname. It was all about image at The Frying Pan, a real greasy spoon would never have survived in the heart of The City, a real greasy spoon would have had the bankers and the PAs and the enthusiastic cyclists up in arms talking about health and safety or trans fats. The Frying Pan was talked about, but in glowing terms, terms that embraced it’s image and liked to extend it’s pretense that a family run, greasy little cafe had been in The City for generations patronised by those bankers who were down-to-earth and real men’s men.

The Frying Pan had been open nine months. ‘Ma’ had stood behind the formica counter and called unrecognisable terms to ‘Pa’ everytime one of the smartly dressed customers ordered.

The Frying Pan liked to play upon the image and did it very well. Ma liked to pretend that it wasn’t The City outside her plate glass window, on somedays it was Manchester or Leeds or even Sheffield and her shout backs would affect the trace of a Northern accent. The days she pretended it was Manchester her accent was better than the days she pretended it was New York, New Orleans or San Francisco.
Ma’s real accent came from the Home Counties but she didn’t use it much. Ma’s real hair was brunette but she hadn’t seen it in years. Ma’s real name was a lot less obvious than her real accent or real hair and hadn’t been used for half a decade before the brunette had vanished. Ma would quite happily have told anyone that she was a ‘Total fake, but a real fake, like Holly Golightly’ and she didn’t really think that much of herself.

This is why she was surprised to find herself inching along the ledge of the window in her bare feet. “I have my limits,” she’d say, her ‘northern’ accent oscillating from Lancashire to Yorkshire and back again. But her limits appeared not to matter today. She took a deep breath and readied herself for what must come next.

Ma had come in, around four thirty as she did every morning. She had expected Johnny (Pa’s real name) to come in around five, but for once he hadn’t shown up. She’d called his mobile and his home and then she’d gone into the kitchen to work out how to turn the ovens on so they’d be ready when he did turn up. Whilst inside the kitchen she’d been vaguely aware of a pouring sound, like water running in the next room over, but she hadn’t thought anything of it. Ma didn’t have much in the way of a sense of smell and so the fumes didn’t hit her as soon as they might have done a younger woman who’d never smoked. She also hadn’t heard the lock of the front door being forced, it had been done quietly, professionally, so that was understandable. Later she would be very glad that Johnny hadn’t come in to work on time or she’d have been in the front when it had happened. As it was she was in the kitchen in time for the sudden rush of hot air to hit her followed by the unmistakable roaring sound of flames.

Ma turned and the nylon in her skirt crinkled back, showing more fear than she did as years of lectures and training actually hit her. She dropped to the floor as the petrol fuelled fire roared above her across the ceiling. She scuttled, crablike, backwards as fast as she could across the tiled floor. Her shoulders hit the fire-exit door harder than she would have liked, but she knew she bruised her knees when she knelt up to push the bar to open the double-doors. She couldn’t fathom why they wouldn’t open, only that they didn’t and her exit route had been cut short. Side to side her eyes flicked, aware that outside was a few inches away if the door had not been blocked, the flames looked like some vast hot liquid in front of her, racing across the tiled kitchen, then she saw, to her left, the stairs leading to a small staff toilet upstairs.

The tiny staircase was hot and smoke-filled, back smoke that she tried not to breath into her lungs. As she crawled up the stairs the wood grew hotter under her palms until she felt that they were blistering, the nylon on her skirt had melted solidly together with the net petticoat.
It was the sanitary bin that she used to smash open the window in the pokey little toilet, it was solidly full and on the second try broke the glass with it’s weight. The high-heels she tried to use to clear the broken glass away from the edges of the window as she’d seen on television but it didn’t work so she flung them out. That was the first clue that the gathered onlookers had to her being in the building. The second was her eventual emergence onto the window ledge.

“Jump!” they shouted to her. “Jump! Ma! Jump!”

She looked down, through the smoke and the flames and knew that she’d have to do it. She knew that she’d break her legs on the street below, there was nothing to catch her, but it was either that or stay here and suffocate or burn.

She took a deep breath, then Amy jumped.

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