Monthly Archives: November 2013

Black Friday Deals

orderconfirmationThe confirmation email made it clear:

Delivery in Seven Days. No Cancellations.

Eyes briefly flickered from the screen as the neighbour’s dog growled;

Watched as dark clouds tumbled past the window.

And waited.

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These 33 words form my entry into the Trifextra 96 challenge. I had this idea almost straight away, but it took ages for me to fit it into 33 words. I confess the premise is quite subtle so I hope people will get what’s going on/down!

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Friday Fictioneers – Embarkation

ff271113I’d been working the Bluevale ferry since High School. That early June morning in ’84 seemed like a hundred others: peach red skies mingling with gentle mists rising from the warming waters of Lake Carina.

As we waited patiently dockside, the Genevieve reversed into her berth. Twenty-Eight on board, according to the dispatcher over at Greenhill Point.

Behind the lowering ramp, the expected human wave failed to surge forward. Confused faces ran aboard to search the seemingly deserted vessel. Entering the wheelhouse I paused as the radio crackled and fizzed with interference; froze as woven into the static, echoed faint, pitiful cries of ‘Mayday‘.

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These words form my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Trifecta 105 – Matters of State

King Pondering

It was raining when they came. Four brutes on horseback spraying mud and scattering roadside beggars into sewer filled gutters. Children scurried into dark, smoky huts; frantic dogs howled while villagers screamed as thunderous hooves crashed by. These men were from the King, and they had arrived at their destination.

With steam rising in a fog from his grey steed, the leader of the band dismounted. It was a place he’d been before.

‘Get out here wench before we burn the whole rotting village!’ he demanded, preparing his scarred sword in readiness.

Slowly the door creaked open. Warily, a young girl inched her way out of the shadows. In her arms she clutched a gurgling infant. Alluring, unnervingly beautiful, but barely older than a child herself, she stood trembling.

‘Don’t hurt her, please sirs I begs,’ she grovelled.

In nearby doorways staring eyes retreated further into the safer depths of darkness. The captain moved in to pluck the wriggling child from his mother’s arms. A fearsome backhanded slap sent the young woman sprawling into the mud, blood oozing from her fatted lip. A mouthful of his spit followed into her already swelling eye.

‘Pick her up!’ the captain screamed in the direction of his second.

As the rain continued to beat down the skies greyed suddenly; thunder claps moved ever closer. Hurrying the woman and child onto horseback, the party left the village as they’d found it: cowering in fear and respect.

At the castle the King watched from his quarters as the Royal Guard finally returned. Behind them the gates were firmly bolted – his seat secured for the night. Feet away an open fire flickered and roared as a stooping  manservant shuffled in with his supper.

‘Has my Queen retired for the night?’ he asked.

‘She has, Sire.’

‘Good. Bring the woman and child to me,’ he said, nodding towards the drenched arrivals in the courtyard.

He knew one would have to die; he’d known it since the child was born.

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These 333 words, based on the archaic third definition of the word ‘pluck‘ , form my entry into the Trifecta 105 writing challenge.

Sunday Photo Fiction – Breaking Away

35-11-november-24th-2013Tension was mounting on the fence: feathers twitched, beaks pecked and eyes flickered as expectant, excitable pigeons gazed skywards. As dawn broke over the city, their inspiration was on his way; their hope for a different, better life. Suddenly a huge shadow blocked the sun’s warming rays: a dark, majestic form in the shape of a two winged God. Eyes stared, focused as he glided gently onto the vacant park bench. One or two of the waiting pigeons fled: it was too much, too awe inspiring. They simply weren’t ready for this.

‘Hello brothers and sisters. I am honoured to be in your presence,’ began the glorious beast. His golden winged majesty had flown down overnight from the Highland glens to be here today. For this moment.

‘You are more than you are. There is more to your world than the city streets. More than tourists and handfuls of tasteless grain. There is freedom, pray, hills, sea. There is a world. Join us!’

The assembled throng of the “Urban Pigeons For Change” faction cooed in unified agreement. One of their number remained impassive. Below his feathers a concealed wire recorded the day’s events. A tiny camera capturing those in attendance.

Back at Trafalgar  Square the ruling pigeon Junta scowled, as the faces and voices of those plotting escape played across their screens.  A press of a button was all it took.

Cats, feathers, blood, fleeing pigeons. The revolution quelled for another day; but for how much longer?

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These words form my entry into this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge. 

Trifextra 94 – The Cleaning Crew

AlexPardee_HeroesTheirs were the only three names on the list:

The only three not already dead.

As the Geiger-Müller clicked and crackled,

Three pairs of resigned, bloodshot eyes continued their work.

Death their reward.

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These 33 words form my entry into the Trifextra 95 challenge. We were asked to write a story containing a particular word three times. My chosen word was three.

For more information on the story behind the image please visit Alex Pardee’s Blog.

Friday Fictioneers – The High School Hero

ff201113Steve had it all: star quarterback of the Dragons, boyfriend of Maggie Greenberg – the shimmering haired goddess of the cheerleader squad. They were everybody’s “couple most likely to succeed“.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Steve flunked out of college after his freshman year, been pumping gas on Highway 835 ever since. Maggie stayed at home pumping out their five kids.

Steve hasn’t been feeling himself for weeks now: kinda disconnected, confused. His games of catch have had to be put on hold; the old cannon doesn’t quite sling like it used to, some days it don’t work at all.

“An old football wound,” he slurs.

Maggie is worried. We all are.

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These words form my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Trifecta 104 – A Life For A Life

Companionship__Kenya_Africa

I never asked to spend my life with him. It’s just what we do. The Prince must have his companion. He couldn’t be expected to cope on his own, not even for a minute.

Someone must be there. Willing. Forever.

That’s where I came in.

When the fourth Prince Danzal was presented to an expectant country I was already on my way to the palace. It was something our family has always done. My father spent his life with a King, my only sister never left the side of her Princess. I think it’s our dedication to the role – our uniqueness.  We do have our own lives, families, memories but we don’t bother our employer with them. We are here for their cares, not to burden their important lives with ours. Precisely the way it should be.

I can’t complain – not that I would think of doing so. The Prince led a glamorous life. I may have been in the background, out of sight, but I was there, just a nod or a wave of the Princes’ finger away. However, I didn’t always have to be told when I was needed. As I said we were especially good at this job. I knew when the Prince needed me, sometimes before he did. My whole family were the same.

I could see before anyone else that the Prince was dying. I sensed that cloud over his heart well before the damn fool of a court physician. I knew, could see, that there was no point in fighting it. It was time to make peace and accept the end with grace.

Both of us.

We never leave our charge, even after their life is over. As the Prince coughed his last bloody cough I was immediately sent to keep him company. I expected nothing less. My wife and son were heartbroken but understood. It’s just part of the job.

I’m still looking for him. He’s around here somewhere. I can sense it; sense him. I’m sure he needs me.

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These 333 words, based on the third definition of the word ‘companion‘ , form my entry into the Trifecta 104 writing challenge. The picture is courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media

Sunday Photo Fiction – One of the Crowd

34-11-november-17th-2013It had been another exhausting day of formality. As the King removed his crown the worry lines of 40 years were beginning to show. He had been on the throne since barely a child; the jewels and responsibilities of state thrust on him before he’d even kissed a girl. Such were the obligations of being of royal blood.

‘Duty comes before all’

It was what his much loved and sorely missed father used to say. In time his own son will be as aware of this truth. It won’t be long now: the years are straining, stressing, stretching. His son will need to be made ready. But not just yet.

‘Everything is prepared for you sire,’ came the voice, from a servant in the shadows.

One last look at his regal features in the mirror saw a small smile begin to form. This was his favourite moment of the day. The one chance he had to relax, be himself, be free. For a brief time at least simply be a man, and not a King. There truly were priceless, precious moments.

As the King stat down the heartwarming music had already started. The anonymity and escapism of World of Warcaft awaited; Sceptre25 was primed and ready for his latest quest!

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These words form my entry into this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge. 

Friday Fictioneers – A Necessary Evil

ff131111They started off as pimples. City engineers probed and prodded each one as it appeared. Hammers cracked and shattered on their knobbly crowns; diamond tipped drills blunted in increasingly desperate attempts to stop the swarming advance.

Soon the city streets were infested. Then on one unforgettable summer’s night they started to grow: each tiny island of rock straining to seek union with its neighbour.

As the city woke the metamorphosis was all but complete. Bemused traffic was now forced to slow down; the mad, crazy driving of yesterday a thing of the past.

The speed bump was here. Life would never be the same again.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Trifecta 103 – Bloodline

dystopiaMy mother was important. We knew that even as children – although we didn’t understand why. Each morning a silver car would come to collect her from our house in the hills overlooking the smog strangled city. Outside, the street would be deserted. Two other cars – black – parked a respectful, but appropriate distance away. Nobody else was allowed on the street when mother was leaving for work.

My sister and I would be waiting for her to leave. Always the same sterile, crisp, blue trouser suit, the flat shoes, the black briefcase bearing the party emblem. A kiss for the children. A cold nod towards our father.

“Remember who you are children. Remember who we are,” she would tell us.

Who were we?

All I knew was that the four of us lived in sprawling mansion filled with servants and snivelling nameless officials. While most of the city was overrun with poverty and resentment, ours was a life of obscene luxury. However, we didn’t complain. You don’t when you’re a child.

As we grew older we began to understand more about who we were; who our mother was.

***

Mother and I slowly grew apart. This was dangerous, but I survived. Her conceited grand plan and their utopian ideals eventually failed miserably. People starved. With what strength they had left they fought back.

They won.

As the city burned, party flags lay smouldering in the gutters; their headquarters were ransacked – people swarmed like ants over corridors and offices once only visited in handcuffed terror.

As we entered the last room on the third floor my second handed me the loaded pistol. The woman in the chair had her back to us. Even so she appeared unnerved and impassive, despite the chaos all around. Her perfect society in ruins; her family scattered.

“Is that you son?”

“Yes mother.”

“Do you remember who we were?”

“Yes I do mother.”

As the bullet echoed around the room a new leader was crowned.

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These 333 words, based on the third definition of the word ‘remember’ , form my entry into the Trifecta 103 writing challenge. The picture is courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media

Sunday Photo Fiction – Press Ganged

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAFrederick Bowmere awoke with a start. The room was pitch dark; a smell of stale sea water hung in the air. Everywhere voices. Loud, giant, deafening voices.

“When did you last see your husband Mrs Bowmere?”

Frederick stumbled out into a long dark, dank corridor. Eyes flitted by. In corners he could hear whispers.

No escape. No point in runnin’

“Last night. I went to bed and he was in here painting his ship. The one on the mantelpiece.”

Up ahead there appeared to be a chink of light. Clambering a slippery staircase Frederick pushed against the hatch. Locked.

“Ah, the HMS Vallaronza.  Some say she was a sacrifice, led the enemy astray, went down with 1000 hands. For the greater good they said. I’m sure the 1000 thought different.”

Around him the whispers were getting louder as he staggered desperately from room to room.

No way out. No way out.

At the end of the corridor appeared an open door. A shaft of blue light invited Frederick in. Rushing towards a crack on the far wall he pressed his face against the opening. Through what seemed to be a layer of thick blue glass he could just about recognise his wife talking to a uniformed stranger.

“Don’t you worry Mrs Bowmere. We’ll find your husband. He can’t have gone far now.“

Frederick screamed as he watched his wife and the stranger leave the room.

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These words form my entry into this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge. 

Trifextra 93 – The Quick Learner

universe“31, 32….hmm, 33 late AGAIN?”

“Sir!”

“Yeeess 25?”

“Sir, 33’s gone.”

GONE! Explain yourself 25!”

“Sir, he’d been, umm, creating his own, err, universe for a while, Sir.”

“Sit DOWN 25!”

“Yes, sir.”

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These 33 words form my entry into the Trifextra 93 challenge. We were asked to write a story containing 33 Gods. I hope you enjoy where I went with it.

Friday Fictioneers – Don’t Look Now

ff061113Hermes Pepperman’s friends had normal names. Being six years old it was easier to have a normal name. Just because his grandparents had been mad enough to call their own son Zeus, did his Dad really need to repeat the joke?

Walking home from school, Hermes was once again being teased by Susie Vernington.

“Hermes, Smermes, Germes,” she snorted.

From up ahead there came a faint hissing noise; the setting sun’s rays suddenly cast writhing shadows on the sidewalk. Hermes squinted to catch a glimpse of the approaching figure.

“Oh, hello Auntie Medusa,” he grinned.

Susie’s taunting froze mid-sentence; in its place followed the sounds of grinding stone and muffled, girlish squeals.

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These words form my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Trifecta 102 – Fight The Good Fight

als

“…Righto mum, we’re just off now, let’s hope for some good news. He needs it, we both do. Ok, you too, yep, love you, I’ll catch you later…bye, bye…”.

She doesn’t think I can hear her through there, but I can. The walls in this shoebox of an apartment are paper thin. I may be coming many things these days, but deaf isn’t one of them – not yet anyway. Perhaps that will be today’s news. Christ, I would laugh, if I could. Would I really? Maybe not. No, I wouldn’t.

I can see him out there again today. He’s another one who thinks he can take advantage of my apparently irreversible decline. Scurrying across the frost tinted lawn without a fear or a care. The little grey interloper shows the same cunning and craft I once did: when I was able to walk, talk. Be normal.

“Ready honey? I’ll be there in a moment,” she shouts through from the bedroom.

Yesterday I may have been able to muster enough movement for an answer. Not today. Today looks like it’s the first day of the next phase. I knew it was coming. You want to hear what I’m thinking you’ll need to get in here with me. Haven’t the heart to tell her, even if I wanted to.

Out there he sprints back and forth. Gathering, hiding, protecting. He is looking after his own. When I was playing football for the biggest team in the land I did the same. I had everything. Often wonder if I hadn’t been who I was would she have chosen me, stuck with me now? I’d be lost without her.

He’s now on the window ledge. Staring in.

“You ok,” he’s saying.

“Me? Not really,” I stare back.

“Come on honey, let’s get your coat on. We can’t keep the Doctors waiting.”

As we leave the apartment I look back: the squirrel is gone. I hope he’s there tomorrow. In him I’m free for a few moments at least.

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These 333 words, based on the third definition of the word ‘craft , form my entry into the Trifecta 102 writing challenge.

Fernando-Ricksen-1

This piece is dedicated to Fernando Ricksen, the former Rangers and Netherlands footballer, who recently disclosed, on live television, that he is suffering from ALS. The outlook for this condition is absolutely frightening. These 333 words are meaningless but as he was in my mind I felt I had to write something. Good luck Fernando. All of us here in Scotland are thinking of you.

Sunday Photo Fiction – A New Master

32-11-november-3rd-2013

The mysterious new squire at Branford Hall already had the locals talking: the village’s social highlight of the year had been moved! The previous squire had been a stout defender of tradition, and the longest day of the year always meant the Masquerade Ball. Through winter and spring the villagers, rich and poor, would work on their costumes. It was a night when, no matter who you were, you were an equal: the flower lady from outside the Green Goose public house was just as likely to be dancing with the squire as his good lady wife.

From longest day to longest night – the move certainly ruffled more than a few feathers. However, they all still attended, even battling through swirling snows to reach the manor. Once inside, the seasons were quickly forgotten. The new squire was a most obliging host. Roaring fires warmed once frozen bones, drink flowed merrily and freely. Lord and Lady, Mr and Mrs danced and laughed all night.

On the stroke of twelve it was time for the unmasking. As was tradition, the squire and his family were first to reveal themselves. A gasp went around the hall: the squire was as white as a sheet. His silk gloves peeled off to reveal pale boney fingers. His family were similarly off colour.

The squire slowly licked his cracked, red lips before two gleaming fangs clicked down into place.

‘Feast young ones,’ he ordered, as the warm, smoky air was suddenly filled with bloody screams and the aching of satisfied, thousand year old bellies.

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These words form my entry into this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge. It is over the 200 word limit, but as it’s the first story for the new site, and Al is a fan of the subject matter, I thought ‘what the heck’!