Category Archives: Other Challenges

Stories from various other challenges I do from time to time

Sunday Photo Fiction – Trouble in Paradise

168-08-august-14th-2016A thin trail of blood trickled down his ring finger. At first the tiny wound had barely even stung – he couldn’t even remember how, or when, it had happened. Now there was a stiffness in lower arm. Slowly that sickening stiffness cascaded up towards his shoulders and then out and around the rest of his failing body. His legs suddenly gave way as he collapsed to the ground struggling for breath. These distant, hidden rainforests had been the photographer’s life; today they might prove his death.

His whole body and mind were now shutting down. Yet, it would surely pass. This was just a temporary shock: the primitive defence of some ancient flora defending its hard won territory. But as daylight began to ebb he remained on the sodden spot where he’d fallen. Drips of warm, sticky sweat covering his now fevered brow. In the distance desperate hopes were raised by shouts. Yet unable to respond, unable to cry for help the shouts soon faded – the piercing white searchlight of torches extinguished as his lonely vigil once more returned to clawing, suffocating darkness. In the near undergrowth something slithered in his direction.

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

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Sunday Photo Fiction – Next in Line

160-06-june-12th-2016Three red lights shimmered in the summer haze. The cars on the start line continued to rev, golden licks of flame shooting from the silver and black exhausts. One by one the lights went dark. Both cars screeched  from the start, flame and smoke trails in their wake. Before you could wipe the heat and dust from your eyes it was over. Dad had won again.

‘Well, he’s only gone and done it, Brad.’ I turned towards my little brother, but he himself was already turned away – lost in his own world. Brad had never really shown much interest in racing; he’d never really shown much interest in most of the things our family was known for in the county. I though loved all of it: the cars, the competition, the noise, the excitement. But I was a girl and girl’s don’t race.

The fans in the stands cheered as this year’s champion made his way back towards the pits. In a few years  Brad would be expected to take over the family concern – expected to become the next champion to raise the family name high.  I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Dad would be heartbroken, but in time I hoped he’d understand.

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Sunday Photo Fiction – The Grassy Knoll Files

spf050616Joel was a conspiracy theorist. He wasn’t the only one in his freshman year at St. McKenzies. In fact they had their own club. ‘Theories Unlimited‘ it was called, and they met once a week in each other’s rooms at the dorm house. So far this semester they had covered all the old favourites: JFK, Area 51, the Moon Landings. Tonight Joel was hosting the group. There would be plenty of room, there was only six of them.

‘That’s clearly not true,’ cried Emily. ‘Elvis isn’t dead, he has a ranch in North Dakota – I’ve seen the pictures.’

Joel nodded in agreement. As the discussion around the continued existence of ‘The King’ raged on, Joel got up and wandered across to the fridge. Having pulled together a pastrami sandwich he tipped the milk carton up to pour himself a glass, only to find the carton almost empty.

‘Hey, has anyone been at my milk?’ he asked the group.

The room fell silent, almost. At the far end of the settee Jimmy slurped from a plastic beaker. Looking up, the white foam ring around his lips was clear for all the theorists to see. Sheepishly he shrugged his shoulders and said ‘Err, the CIA drunk it? Aliens?’

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Sunday Photo Fiction – Natural Born Artist

spf290516I started messing around with paint when I was a kid. I painted everywhere; on walls, on floors on windows. I drove my old mum mad. If I weren’t leaving paint on something I had it all over myself. No matter how many baths I had, no matter how much I scrubbed, there were always paint under my nails. More than that it was under my skin, and everyone knew it. In the end they just let me get on with it. And I did.

There wasn’t a part of town where you wouldn’t see my tag. Fizz I called myself and the cops and the council hated me. They’d clean a wall and I’d be back. From time to time they’d catch me. It didn’t bother me: if I had to pay for my art then so be it.

Funny thing is last week I went back to one of those walls I sprayed as a kid. This time the council were there again, but to say well done and give me a cheque. Yeh, so get this, they’re now paying me for my art. ‘Urban regeneration’ they call it; ‘Fucked up’, some old fella called it. Call it what you want – I just love to paint.

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Sunday Photo Fiction – A Woman In Every Port

spf220516For fifteen years I worked as a Cabin Steward on various Mediterranean cruise ships. Before that I served nine and a half years in the Her Majesties Royal Navy – many months of which was spent under fire in distant combat zones. I loved everything about the life at sea. From a boy I’d dreamt of nothing else. I’d never suffered from sea-sickness, never once felt frightened by rough, foreboding seas. I actually enjoyed the feeling of being calm and in control when others around were unable to suppress their fears and worries.

Yet, as much as I enjoyed my work, I also enjoyed my time on shore. We stopped in so many places. I never had time to form lasting relationships: there was always another departure looming, another month at sea just around the corner. Instead I preferred to deal with my urges on a needs basis. I’m not sure when I lost the ability to control those urges; I can’t truly remember the first time I hurt someone. I didn’t mean to – I still don’t.

I was always glad to get out to sea again. However, no matter where we sailed I knew I’d never escape who and what I am.

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Sunday Photo Fiction – Weather Watching

spf150516The twisting pass between the lush valley floor and the steep sides of Col Lauran used to be filled with the sights and sounds of excited travellers. Ahead lay the end of the road and Val Deraux. You never travelled through Val Deraux, it was a destination; it was a journey’s end with one purpose –  the snow covered slopes of Col Lauran.

Today that road lies all but deserted, as does the small village at its end. Cable Cars sway gently in the late-winter breeze on lines rusted to shining copper. La Hotel De Marché last saw a guest over ten years ago. Its wooden shutters remain tightly shut. The small main street shows the same state of disrepair and disinterest as its Hotel. Crumbling potholes cover the narrow roads. Leaves drift and gather in piles which will never be swept. Only one window remains curtained, only one front door leads to a resident. Madame Felence was born in the village and refuses to move down to the valley.

‘Will the snows ever return?’ I ask her.

She smiles. A mosquito buzzes around her tightly-bunched grey hair. She shields her eyes from the blistering sun. ‘J’espere,’ she says. ‘J’espere.’

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Sunday Photo Fiction – A Change of Heart

129-11-november-8th-2015The knocking began in my dreams, but ended in the hazy, morning light of the car park.

‘Sorry mate, you’ve got to move – we’re closing for resurfacing,’ said the man in a Day-Glo orange jacket. ‘You been here all night?’ he asked.

I had, but I didn’t plan to admit it.

‘Oh, no,’ I said. ‘Just a couple of hours. I’ll be on my way.’

The workman nodded and returned to his van.

The squeaking wipers cleared fallen autumn leaves from the windscreen. The heater did it’s best to clear my view. I was suddenly freezing. My back was stiff, my mouth dry.

Slowly the tree line ahead reformed, the last few drips of early morning dew wiped to one side. A man and his dog ran along the path through the trees. Then they appeared, just as they always did.

I had it all planned – every word I was going to say. This was to be the moment I got my life back. But they seemed happy, happier than they had ever been with me. Without thinking I reversed and pulled out of the car park. I didn’t even glance back into the mirrors. They had their new lives, it was time I came to terms with mine.

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Sunday Photo Fiction – Property Slump

128-11-november-1st-2015The advert in the classifieds sounded too good an opportunity to miss.

Dream Homes In The Sun For Under £100,000!

We’d only ever holidayed in Eastbourne or Cornwall, but the glossy brochure they sent said Florida truly was paradise on earth.

“Exclusive Lakeside location, all year sun, and the ocean just a 15 minute drive away.”

It would take all but a thousand pounds of our savings to make it happen. Within a matter of weeks construction was underway.

Like I said, we’d never been to Florida before – I certainly hadn’t heard of sinkholes. Seems that they’re holes which just swallow up houses built on cheap land. Houses bought by fools like me from conmen who prey on fools like us. We’d only been over once and everything seemed fine. Now our dream is surrounded by a ten foot high chain link fence and signs which scream “Keep Out”. We tried everything to get our money back.

Read the small print” the agent said.

I read it and my mind was made up. The last few hundred pounds of our savings would get me one final trip to Florida. I just needed to work out where to get a gun.

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Sunday Photo Fiction – Moving In Day

126-10-october-18th-2015Gaius unloaded the last of their possessions from the cart. The dust and sweat of a summer’s day in Campania coated his once white tunic.

‘Gaius, Gaius, come and see.’ Aurelia took her husband’s hand and guided him towards the entrance vestibule of their new home – a home which had taken many long years of toil and sacrifice to earn. This was a move which was going to be a fresh start for Gaius and Aurelia. The child she was now carrying proof that a love which had shown signs of being on the wane was once more the compelling force that had first joined them as childhood sweethearts.

Gaius smiled: the mosaic was just as they had discussed.

Cave Canem’ it read.

See that Pinto? That’s you. Gaius knelt down to stroke his excited, young puppy on the head.

After dinner the house soon quietened. Gaius and Aurelia had long since retired for the evening, exhausted after their travels south. In the hallway a minor, almost imperceptible tremor woke Pinto. A small cloud of dust fell from the ceiling. Within moments all was calm again.

From a neighbouring mountain tiny puffs of steam rose and disappeared into the warm night sky. At its feet the people of Pompeii dreamt sweet and peaceful dreams.

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Sunday Photo Fiction – View From The Hill

125-10-october-11th-2015As kids we often climbed to the top of Kinney Hill. From there we could see the whole world. Africa, Australia, America, even China, on a really clear day, shimmered mystically on the summer horizon. We had plans to visit them all – to see the world. Sadly, those times of innocence and wonder have long faded to memory. Most of my friends from those days settled down to an ordinary life. An expected, safe  existence  in the town within which they were born and raised. Me? I decided to see if I could actually seek out  these places: those distant lands only those brave and hardy enough to climb the scree scarred slopes of Kinney Hill could usually hope to see.

Twenty years I served in all. Twenty years in lands far from home. In lands far from my wife and children. When I returned for good they were gone and I was once again alone. I still meet up with my friends from childhood. We swap tales, remember the days on Kinney Hill. I tell them of my travels. They all listen with respect and admiration. They then go home to their families; I return to silence, my empty flat  and my own thoughts. Thoughts for a better end to my life than this. Thoughts of a better reward for my sacrifice. Thoughts.

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Wasn’t feeling inspired today but then this story just came in a flash. Only took five minutes to write i.e. it’s very raw and not overly edited, but it’s what came to mind. Hope you find something to like about it.

Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Sunday Photo Fiction – Endings and Beginnings

122-09-september-20th-2015‘What is it tonight?’ asked Pete, my dorm mate.

‘Citizen Kane,’ I replied.

‘Not again!’

‘Come on, Pete, it’s only the third time this semester. Afterwards there’ll be a discussion on the film’s impact on 21st century cinema…and don’t forget the cheese dip, pizza and wine.’

‘Wow, hold me back, already. Come on, Joe, it’s Friday night and you want to sit in a dusty basement with a bunch of bores, watching a naff black and white movie?’

‘It’s a classic?’ I insisted.

‘Yeh, well go and enjoy your classic. If you need a drink afterwards you’ll find us at the Bier Keller over on Morrison.”  Pete buried his face into his pillow and returned to sleep.

***

Professor Muldoon loaded a reel onto the projector. Everybody else loitered by the free buffet – including her.

We were in the same Media Studies class, but had barely spoken. In our one, brief conversation she’d told me that Citizen Kane was her ‘absolute, absolute favourite‘. I hadn’t seen it, but of course agreed.

‘Places, everybody,’ said Professor Muldoon.

My breath shortened, and heart thumped as she smiled and took the empty seat next to mine.

The lights went out and the film began.

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

Sunday Photo Fiction – Solitary Confinement

121-09-september-13th-2015The piercing horn of a delivery truck echoed nosily around the early morning street. Up ahead, the single set of lights on 4th and Main had just switched from red to green – but the 30 year-old VW Beetle remained stationary. Despite its age, the car looked showroom new: every inch of chrome polished with obvious love, not a spot of rust could be seen anywhere on the pristine, blue body. Inside Eli Jenkins stared blankly towards the bright, green light – his eyes bloodshot, his face white and gaunt.

‘Hey, you in there, are you gonna move it or will I need to move it for ya?’ said the gruff, bearded man, who’d jumped down from the truck.

Eli ignored him.

The lights changed back to red; the bearded trucker knocked harder on the steamed-up window.

‘Sir, I’ll handle this’ said an approaching police officer.

The young officer opened the car door and slowly removed the keys, before gently leading a confused Eli to the safety of the sidewalk.

‘It’s his wife, Sir – she passed last week and he’s taken it real hard,’ said the officer, as he returned to the scene.

The officer carefully drove Eli’s cherished car to a vacant parking bay across the street; the delivery truck revved and trundled on its way. Meanwhile Eli Jenkins waited patiently on the sidewalk, still expecting his Nellie to appear.

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

Sunday Photo Fiction – Above and Beyond

119-08-august-30th-2015What do I remember?

I remember kissing my sleeping wife; hearing our one year old daughter start to cry as I hurried to leave the apartment. It was just after 1am, my own shift had only finished three hours before, but it was an emergency – all hands were required to attend.

Even though the plant was three kilometers away we knew it was bad. A fire in Reactor 4 is what they told us. As we arrived I backed up the fire truck. On the ground near to the Reactor building large lumps of debris peppered the road. Some pieces burned red hot, others gently smoldered. We didn’t really know how dangerous they were.

The men from my engine quickly climbed the steel ladders onto the roof. There was fire everywhere. More engines were on the way from Kiev, and we would need them all. I never again saw the men who climbed those ladders, but they got the fires out.

Did we truly not appreciate the dangers? Did we not know what was coming out from within the flaming reactor core?

Perhaps we knew more than history tells. However, we did our job. We didn’t look at ourselves and see heroes, despite the medals they pinned on those who lived to tell the tale. We never will.

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

In case you’re think…eh?…the picture brought to mind the fireman on the roof of Chernobyl Reactor 4 as they stared down into the melting core. Heroes every one.

Sunday Photo Fiction – A Show of Appreciation

118-08-august-23rd-2015For nearly 50 years he’d worked at the factory – everyone of Ted’s age went straight from school to the factory. Three wives had come and gone in that time, two divorced, one dead – only the last one did he remember with any particular fondness. Six healthy children had been raised in the same red-brick two up, two down on the Marlow Road – all had left, apart from Mary.

‘A gold watch? A gold fucking watch? Is that all I meant to them?’ he spat.

‘But Dad, it is a very nice watch,’ said Mary.

They’d all liked Ted. For 30 years he was Santa Claus to the children gathered at the Christmas party in the factory canteen. Every summer it was Ted who organised and ran the fete in the sprawling grounds of the chairman’s estate. If there was a living, breathing embodiment of a company man, it was Ted.

‘Sod them, and sod their fucking watch!’

Ted coughed, bent double in his armchair: his scarred lungs had paid a heavy price for his loyalty.

Mary handed her father his pills and a brandy. Neither would really make him feel any better, but at least they’d keep the worst of his pain, and disappointment, at bay.

‘A fucking watch,’ he spluttered, once more, as he threw the glinting retirement gift into the fire.

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

Sunday Photo Fiction – A Fisherman’s Life

82-10-october-19th-2014We’d watch from the top of Miller’s Rise as the village fleet headed for home. Through the choppy waves west of St Madigan’s Point they’d race the trailing gulls, and each other, back to the safe embrace of the harbour.

From each vessel colourful flags would flutter. On board tired, but happy, crews would share a joke and a song as their catch was iced and readied for market. Father won the race more days than not: the Mary Jane was the leader of the fleet – her engines would whine as my father and uncle steered her clear of the rest.

One day I hoped I’d be the one leading the fleet home.

These summers the harbour in Dunavan lies almost empty. Giggling children search for tiny harbour crabs as father takes the Mary Jane, and it’s crew of holiday fishermen, out beyond St Madigan’s Point. On their return, boisterous tales of ‘the ones that got away‘ echo long into the night within the warming snug of the Red Anchor.

From the top of Miller’s Rise today I watch with my own boy, as calm seas shimmer in the orange evening haze. The race for home nothing but a memory of childhood; a memory of a time lost for the fisherman and families of Dunavan.

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