Flash Fiction

Juggling: The benefits and challenges of a full life.

When I first took up writing as a serious interest in my life I was single, bored with my day job and all my friends were rarely free to occupy me because they were busy being far more successful at having a life than I was. This meant that I had a lot of spare time and could focus it all on writing cool stories to wow strangers on the internet. As my love of writing grew, my enthusiasm for life in general also increased and all of a sudden I found myself motivated and focused at work and putting myself out there in the dating scene again – something I had been avoiding as a waste of time.

Without writing to help me channel my energies into something worthwhile, I would never have dreamed of signing up to study for a degree, I wouldn’t have had the energy and passion to aim for promotion, and I certainly would not have had the confidence to approach a total stranger on a dating site who I thought looked cute and, more importantly, sounded like a fun and interesting guy.

Thank you writing!

Just over a year later I now live with that cute, fun, interesting guy. We moved into a three bedroom house a couple of weeks ago and even though the smallest room is my study right now, there was talk of eventual munchkins sleeping in there… Oh yes, and we are engaged! Mr Cute, Fun and Interesting sneakily approached everyone in my immediate family and asked for their blessing first, and then took me out for lunch, taking the scenic route home around the lake near his former flat. We stopped and sat for a while, looking out over the lake and enjoying the unusually warm sun when right there by the lake, he got on one knee and asked me to marry him. Before you ask, no we haven’t set a date yet. We’re focused on getting the house to where we want it first.

So! At around the same time I gained a pretty ring on my finger, I also started studying for a BA (hons) in English Literature and Creative Writing. It started out fairly easy and I was able to keep up with the level of work required but it doesn’t half get difficult about half way in! I have sworn multiple times and deleted many MANY lines of text in an effort to get the best score that I can. I’m nearing the home stretch now and I can’t wait to have this year over and done with. I have one more assignment to complete on the study materials, one reflective assignment about how I have improved as a student this year, and then the Examination Assignment to submit. In Two months I will be free! Well, until October when it starts all over again.

A few days after the shiny ring and starting my degree, I was told I had been successful in applying for promotion. I know. It was one hell of a week! The work is more challenging and I no longer find myself twiddling my thumbs with nothing to do because I’ve done it all. Basically, my life is in a fairly good place right now.

The only problem is, this new fulfilling life isn’t leaving me a lot of time to write. I’m having to snatch a few minutes here and there. It’s not enough. I’m looking forward to the end of May when I will have finished this year of uni and will have a few solid months available to write again. I miss making up new characters and scenes on a regular basis. i miss writing sprints and flash fiction challenges.

I miss being here. I hope to spend more time with you all soon. x

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The Captive

I’m just about to flip the indicator to turn into my office car park when something sharp digs into my side and a deep voice murmers in my ear.

“Keep drivin’ bitch or I’ll open you up right ‘ere, right now.”

I wince and shy away from the knife pressed to my side, clenching the steering wheel tightly.

“Take the M1 towards Northampton and keep your damned mouth shut. That clear?”

I nod jerkily as I make my way towards the motorway. My mind is spinning with a million questions. What does he want? Where are we going? Am I going to survive this? His breath is hot against my cheek but I just put all my effort into driving.

Once we get out onto the M1 he relaxes slightly. He orders me off the M1 and on towards Northampton, but then at the last second forces me out into the surrounding countryside. I look helplessly at the emptiness as he directs me up a small overgrown mud track. My chances of getting out of here are rapidly shrinking and my control on my fear and panic begins to slip. I scowl angrily at myself as a tear slides out of the corner of my eye.

I pull up next to this group of buildings and people stream out of various doors, surround the car. My shoulders slump as they greet my captor with claps on the back and hugs. My jaw drops when I realise they aren’t all men. A handful of them kiss him passionately, not seeming to mind when he fondles each one in turn. I sit silently in the car, hoping they forget about me so I can leave. My hopes are dashed when he opens my car door and hauls me out, shouting to be heard over the clamour.

“I will take this woman as my thirteenth wife. Make preparations!”

He drags me towards the largest building, the other women in tow, as all the men disperse, chattering and talking. We pass a huge room covered in mattresses on the floor and I’m shoved into a tiny room next door with big bolts on the outside. My captor looks me over with two women draped over him, making my flesh crawl.

“Once I have had my fill of my other wives it will be your turn. Get ready.” As he turns to leave, one of the women slips a knife from a sheath strapped to her thigh and drops it, carefully, behind the door.

Days later the grunts and moans slow next door and he swaggers into my tiny cell. I don’t hesitate and plunge the knife as deep as I can, dodging around him out to freedom….

…and straight into the crowds of people there to ‘witness the marriage.’ The stunned silence deafens me as I stand before them, their master’s blood on my hands. My eyes widen as one by one they drop to their knees, prostrating before me, each one mumbling.

“Mistress.”

Life’s Too Short

I stand in the doorway of the plane as it hangs high above the fields. My legs are trembling slightly under me as I go through a mental checklist in my head. The parachute has been checked and re-checked and checked again but I run through it in my mind once more anyway. There is nothing left to do now but jump, but I’m afraid. Tandem Skydives are a thing of the past. This time, I jump alone.

 

***

 

I had always been a quiet careful girl. I didn’t play in the road, go out late or stray too far from home. I didn’t lie to my parents and sneak off to festivals or pretend to be at my friend’s house at night when really I was with a guy. I didn’t have unprotected sex with random one night stands met in nightclubs or drink until I was sick. I did everything right to make sure I was safe as I grew up. Then, 2 days before my 16th birthday I get the worst news.

Cancer.

Hodgkins Lymphoma to be exact. I just thought it was a silly lump. I was one of the lucky ones. The hospital had a Teenage Cancer wing and I responded really well to Chemo. Not everyone was that lucky.

I fell in love for the first time in that hospital too. Jamie was cheeky and fun and he taught me to take risks and have fun. He said things like “Life’s too short” and “Laughter is the best medicine”. We played pranks on the nurses and snuck out of the ward to wander round the hospital and talk to old people about their lives. Jamie once said to me

“Notice how they only talk about regretting things they didn’t do?”

The night before I was due to leave hospital I snuck into his room and we talked late into the night, curled up together on the narrow hospital bed.

“I’m going to miss you Jamie. I don’t want to go. I wish I could stay here with you.”

“What? Are you mad? You’re in remission. Going home means you’re getting better. You get to go home and see your friends. You get to walk in the park and watch the wildlife around you. You get to visit museums and art galleries and parks and zoos and other countries if you want to. Don’t waste your life away sitting in a hospital you don’t need to be in. If I was allowed out of here I would be gone so fast…” He trailed off, looking at me.

“Leanne, remember what that old man said to us? Mr Tompkins? Memento Mori. Remember that you will die. Make every day count. You might have fewer than you think.”

I never saw him again. He died a week after I went home.

 

***

 

I look down at the fields far below me and whisper

“Memento Mori. For Jamie”

 

I take a deep breath, opening my arms wide, and jump.

Shadow and Shine

I wander among the rocks of Stonehenge as the setting sun shines golden light around me, making my dark brown skin sparkle and shimmer. My pearly white dress flutters in the breeze. My jet black hair curls wildly around my head, crowned with fluttering moths.

I can feel their energy, like tiny sparks in the cool evening air. The earth beneath my feet vibrates with energy and life. I can feel it flowing through me, connected as we are; earth to skin. My soul sings in response to the heady rush. I feel so alive. I dance around the circle, spinning and leaping as the sun sets lower and lower. I am lost to the rhythm of the earth and the melody of the winds skittering and spinning around with me.

As the sun disappears over the horizon I come to an abrupt halt. Nature’s song morphs into a slower, darker tune of night. The earth still hums with life under my feet, but the timbre has changed. The new moon provides a weak silvery glow, giving just enough light for me to see. The Shadow Fae have been seen in the area and I have been chosen to keep watch and report back to the council. I fade back against the rocks and settle in the grass. I focus my magic, watching my hand fade in front of my face until I am barely visible, then I wait.

I feel energy approaching. The rhythm is of Fae and I scan the darkness, apprehension mingling with curiosity as I spot a male approaching the circle of stones. He peers cautiously around the edge of a stone, searching. I can feel my heartbeat accelerate slightly as I look upon a Fae of the Shadow for the first time. His skin is icy white and seems to faintly glow in the moonlight. A stark contrast to the Fae of the Shine. Our deep brown skin shimmers in the sunlight but looks dull by the light of the moon. He steps casually out into the middle of the ring and begins to dance. Time is lost as I watch his sensual movements, luring me out of my hiding place to join him. Our stories warn of the seductive powers of the Shadow Fae and I struggle to remain hidden as I watch him hungrily. His movements spark a longing and I move. I stand and take a hesitant step towards him, becoming visible in a sudden rush. He smiles and his eyes alight with triumph as he moves towards me. I stand, frozen by his mesmerising gaze. As he reaches out to grab me, the sun breaks over the horizon, flooding Stonehenge with light. The Fae before me gasps in shock as the sunlight touches his fragile skin and he flees, releasing me. I shudder at how close I came to disaster, even as longing settles in the pit of my stomach.

I must see him again.

The Psychic and the Catnapper

Sibyl was driving back to her little flat just off campus when her vision swirled before her eyes. Gritting her teeth, she forced herself to see the here and now until she could pull over and let the vision take her. When she finally succumbed, she saw a lock picked, a door swing open, a familiar room…

There’s someone in my flat.

Helpless to intervene, Sibyl watched through the eyes of the stranger in her flat as they wandered through each room, searched idly through drawers and, upon reaching her bedroom, stooped down to stroke her kitten Akiiki who was purring and winding around the intruders legs.

That cat would make friends with the devil himself. Scratch them Akiiki, they aren’t supposed to be there!

The unknown intruder picked Akiiki up and started walking back through the flat. When the front door grew closer and closer, Sibyl began to panic.

No! Not Akiiki, please don’t take him. Fight Akiiki, run away.

As though he had heard, Akiiki started to struggle. To Sibyl’s horror, the intruder walked through her front door into the corridor and pushed Akiiki into a cage they had left there. As the stranger carefully closed the front door, picked up the cage and began walking briskly out of the building, Sibyl struggled to get back to her own mind. She needed to get home. Now.

Two days later, as Sibyl lay awake on her bed trying to force a vision of where Akiiki was, she heard a slight noise from the corridor outside. Grabbing her dressing gown she slipped quietly through her flat to the front door and noticed a dark shape on the mat. Stooping down to pick it up, she found it was a folded piece of paper. She took it to the living room and switched on a lamp to read it.

Little Miss Psychic doesn’t know where her kitty is.

You better magic up £500 if you want him back.

Put it in a purse and drop it into the bin inside the ladies toilets in the entrance hall of your Uni by Midday tomorrow or you’ll never see your cat again.

Sibyl smiled with triumph at the note. It was handwritten. A person’s handwriting is…well, personal. With a bit of concentration she should be able to work out who wrote it. Closing her eyes and holding the note in both hands, she breathed deeply and forced herself to relax.

 

That evening, Trixie picked up her netball kit, glanced around and then froze. The cage door was open. Peering inside, hoping the cat was somehow still there, she found a folded note inside.

Little Miss Psychic took her cat back.

Tough luck.

Looks like you’ll have to find the money for that new dress you were looking at in town elsewhere.

It won’t help with Tom anyway. He’s distant because he loves someone else.

Don’t believe me?

Skip netball practice and go to Breaker’s bluff.

He’ll be there, making out with Andrew.

Hell Hath No Fury…

I sat quietly in the jury box, my hands in my lap, half-listening to the Judge. I glanced up and out over the courtroom, fighting the urge not to smile. Of all the times to be called up for Jury duty…

The people vs Andrew McMorran. He was accused of murdering his pregnant fiancée. They said he stabbed her repeatedly in the stomach and breasts, and pushed the knife up inside her over and over again. The details had made many physically sick. The nation had been in uproar, calling for retribution. Andrew was nearing 50, and Maria, she was a beautiful young wannabe, just 23 years of age, teetering on the edge of fame as a fresh faced young starlet of the screen.

He had protested his innocence, claimed he had been drugged and had woken with the murder weapon in his hand. He insisted he had found his ‘young-enough-to-be-his-daughter’ girlfriend brutally murdered in the kitchen. Unfortunately for his story, there was no sign of a break in and all the forensic evidence pointed towards him as a culprit.

Which is exactly how I had made it look.

Andrew clearly didn’t recognise me, I’d have been out of the Jury like lightning if he had. I’d changed my appearance a lot since before. Gone were the soft bouncy blonde curls he liked so much. My hair was pixie short and jet black. I’d gained a little weight too. He always had liked his girls painfully thin. It turned out a little meat on my bones made me look ten times better than the skinny rake I had been when I had once been his girl.

He’d promised me the world: Fame, fortune, parties and all the trappings of his lavish lifestyle. I was 18 and fell hopelessly in love with the then, 30 year old entrepreneur. When I found out I was pregnant I was so happy. I had visions of us getting married and having many more beautiful babies.

Andrew had other ideas. I watched his face turn dark as thunderclouds as I told him my happy news. I can remember him screaming in my face, spittle flying from the corners of his mouth.

            “I thought I told you to sort out contraception, you stupid bitch. You’ve ruined everything! I want some hot sexy beauty on my arm not a fat waddling pregnant chick. Get rid of it..”

He dumped me that night.

When I heard the news about Andrew proposing to Maria after finding out she was pregnant, something snapped inside me. He’d dragged me to the abortion clinic and made me kill my baby. What made Maria so damned special? I wasn’t going to let her have what I couldn’t and it was about time Andrew was made to pay.

I was brought out of my reverie by the Judges words.

            “…I sentence you to death, by lethal injection.”

I bowed my head further as the smile I had been fighting broke free across my face.

Trousersnakes

I was sat in my favourite booth at a local cafe, when two ladies in their seventies were shown to the booth next to mine. The booth backs were nice and high, affording some privacy between tables and I didn’t really pay them much attention until they spluttered into the kind of giggles you usually hear from teenage girls, not pensioners.

Curious, I focussed my attention to make out their conversation.

“Oh! Oh! My tummy hurts Dot, stop making me laugh so hard. I always wondered what happened to poor old Bill all those years ago. Did he really get it caught in a zipper?”

More snorting and snickering ensued for a few minutes until they could contain themselves. I heard them order coffees between bouts of giggling.

“That’s not even my best story Maggie. Do you remember Roger? I brought him to Andrew’s party the year before the war?”

“I vaguely remember. Only vaguely mind you Dot. If I recall correctly, you weren’t there for very long, were you?

“We weren’t, no. He wanted to show me something back at his tent. He was there with the circus of course. What better way to horrify my stuffy old Father than running around with a circus boy? Anyway. He took me back to his tent to show me his snakes. He was a snake charmer and he had all these tanks with his ‘babies in them. After that, well, there was a little kissing and a little canoodling….”

“A little canoodling? Is that what you call it?” Maggie’s teasing laughter made me smile as I waited to hear what came next.

“Shush you! I’m getting to the good bit. Roger was a ladies man. It was obvious by the way he kissed and caressed and teased me. He was a pro. I didn’t even realise what he was doing until I felt my bra loosen. Well, being the good girl I was back then….. don’t laugh! Okay, okay, despite being far from a good girl back then, I sprang off the bed, holding my clothes against me and scolded him soundly for being so presumptuous. The cheeky boy just told me he had one last snake to show me and unzipped his trousers. Well, Maggie, I was never exactly chaste and I have seen some big ones in my time but Roger? His one was huge! I was rather disappointed I didn’t get to try him out for size.”

“Oh you bad girl Dotty! What happened?”

“He hadn’t put one of his snakes away properly and it got onto the bed. His, er, personal snake springing out of his trousers must have caught the poor thing by surprise because the real snake…well…it struck and bit him, right on the end of his you know what.”

They burst into schoolgirl giggles again which echoed through the restaurant as they made their way to the door. I sat with tears of laughter on my cheeks. Those old ladies made my day.

To Eat Or Not To Eat

If you are stood reading this letter, then I am sorry.

You will never leave.

Make yourself comfortable.

            The note fluttered slowly to the floor as Jack raced for the front door. His heart was hammering in his chest as his hands roamed the door, looking for a handle. There was none. The inside of the door was perfectly flat under his frantically scrabbling fingers. His searching eventually gave way to  crashing blows from his fists until his hands and knuckles were bruised and bloody.

“LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT YOU BASTARD.”

Jack slumped to the floor, his head tilted back, eyes closed. He breathed slowly, deliberately, fighting to control the trembling in his hands. He leant forward, pushing his head between his knees as his head swam and panic threatened to overwhelm him.

After a few minutes he stiffened, and then scrambled in his pockets for his phone to try and dial 999. Nothing happened. He tried again; still nothing. Cursing loudly, the rammed his phone back into his pocket and hauled himself to his feet. His hands were sore, the fingers swelling up and turning delightful shades of purple and black. He winced when his jeans rubbed against his knuckles.

Jack walked down the hall, picking up the pizza he’d delivered and taking out a slice. He munched on it defiantly. If he was going to be stuck here he sure as hell wasn’t going to go hungry. His only thought was:

“If only I had a beer to wash it down with.”

He poked his head around every door he found that wasn’t locked. He was surprised with what he found. The lounge had a brown leather reclining sofa that faced an enormous TV screen. The gym had every cardio and weight machine known to man and the bedroom had a stylish four poster bed that sat right in the middle of the room. Finally, Jack found the kitchen and, ignoring all else, headed straight for the fridge. He was chanting under his breath.

“Please have beer. Please have beer. Please have beer.”

The fridge was crammed full. To Jack’s satisfaction, there was beer in the door. He cracked the bottle open and the lid fell to the floor with a light jingle as it bounced away. He stooped to pick it up and noticed tiny writing scratched into the painted surface of a cupboard door.

To eat is to be eaten.

Jack pondered the significance of the message while munching on another slice of pizza. His chewing slowed as the turned to look back at the cupboard. His eyes widened as he glanced down at the pizza in his hand. Understanding dawned on him like an energy saver light bulb; slowly growing brighter. His captor was a cannibal and all the food was to fatten him up for slaughter. He considered the choices before him. Eat and survive long enough to be eaten, or starve.

Jack retched and ran for the bathroom.

Help The Aged

I hesitated outside ‘Help the Aged’ and glanced down at the note in my hand. I’d found it tucked into the cover of Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals cookbook which I’d bought for a bargain £3 just the day before. The handwriting was thin and spidery. It must have been put there by the little old lady who had served me; otherwise I would have seen it whilst flicking through the recipes in the shop. I bit my lip and pushed open the door. The little old lady was there again, but there was also a younger woman with a shiny ‘Manager’ badge pinned to her suit jacket.

The little old lady looked up as I walked in, then threw a lightning quick, wide eyed glance towards her manager before dropping her gaze to the counter to fold some clothes. Her hands shook so badly that she kept dropping them on the floor. The Manager sighed.

“Dotty dear, do be careful with those, I don’t want to take any damage money out of your pay this month.” She laughed a false high pitch tinkle that for some reason made my skin break out in goose bumps.

I wandered around the store towards the manager.

“Excuse me; you’re the manager, right? Could I have a quick word with you?”

“Yes of course? Just give me a minute and I will be right with you.”

She disappeared into the office behind the counter, and the old lady limped hurriedly to me. She was glancing over her shoulder, grabbed my sleeve and began propelling me towards the door with surprising strength.

“You need to go. Go! Or she’ll get you too. You need to bring help. Real help. Please just go, you’re my only hope.”

I struggled with her until the manager re-emerged from the office behind the counter.

“Dotty! What is the matter with you? Let go of the young lady. I’m really sorry about that, she’s been acting a little strangely lately. Why don’t come into the office?”

As I walked past the counter, Dotty gave a muffled sob and buried her head in her arms on the counter. It was an odd gesture from someone so old but i didn’t think much of it at the time. The manager shut the door and turned to me.

“Right, what can I help you with?”

I bought a cookbook from you yesterday and I found a note in it. I think Dotty put it there. I’ll read it. It says:

‘Help me! I’m trapped here against my will. I’m really only 19 years old. She did this to me. I’m not crazy. Please bring help.’

“I thought you should know. It sounds like the poor old lady needs to…”

I looked back up at the manager and she was giving me this really weird smile. She grabbed me and everything went black. When I woke the first thing I noticed was the papery thin wrinkled skin on the backs of my hands.

Sculpted

“Now this is more like it”

My boyfriend rubbed his hands together and licked his lips as we walked into the room at the very back of the art gallery. I glanced at the picture nearest to me and sighed, rolling my eyes and shaking my head slightly. Reece had brought me to the gallery as a birthday surprise, and now I was stood in a room full of nude paintings and naked statues. He peered very closely at the paintings in this room. I scowled at him as he moved from painting to painting, a little smile playing at the corner of his mouth as his eyes roved over the naked ladies presented before him. I sighed again and examined the first picture more closely. He obviously wasn’t going to want to leave this room any time soon so I may as well get what I could from it.

As I turned to seek out where Reece was a few minutes later, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head and at the back of the room was a statue. My heartbeat sped up a little as I considered the impossible notion that the statue had moved. Reece looked up at me, then followed my line of sight to the statue. He grinned and made his way over to it. I followed him over to drag him back, a little unnerved by what I thought I had seen. It was just a trick of the light, I was sure, but we were the only two people in the room and I had a sudden urge to flee.

“She’s not bad for an older woman. I wonder why the artist sculpted her instead of some perky, nubile, young thing like you?

I glanced up at the statue, it was frowning. It wasn’t frowning before, was it? I couldn’t remember but it seemed a strange facial expression to have on a naked statue. My attention was captured at that point however, by Reece sliding his arms around my waist, his hands gripping my bottom lightly as he pulled me against him.

“I’d rather look at you naked. Then again…that statue looks a lot like you. Much older, obviously, but she looks like you.”

I looked closer at the statue’s face and my mouth fell open. I stared wide-eyed, backing away hastily. My hand flew up to my mouth.

“That’s my mum.”

“No way! I’m looking at a nude statue of your mum? That’s brilliant”

I’d just turned away and lifted my arm to smack Reece on the back of the head when a third voice made me freeze.

“Oh dear. You aren’t planning on marrying this guy are you? Tanya, you can do so much better.”

I swivelled slowly back to the statue.

“Mum? What the hell?”

“I told you I had a new job sweetie. I’m a living statue. Isn’t it great?”