Category Archives: Other Writing

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.

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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 – Season’s Turn

124-10-october-4th-2015Marion looked down from the attic window. This was usually her favourite time of the year: that time when the leaves on the trees surrounding their white, timber house turned slowly from green to subtle peach-red. The dry, summer heat had always bothered Marion since moving south – she’d never really taken to it. The turn to Autumn brought with it a coolness which made her feel more comfortable and content. This year though was different.

Tom, her oldest boy, had moved down to Olsen City after graduation. He now had a wife and a daughter of his own. Marion didn’t see them as much as she’d like, but didn’t make a fuss – she still had Andrew. However, the falling leaves of Autumn would soon carry her youngest away too. His first semester at Lindale University started next week. Around her feet his cases lay packed and ready. On the walls, bare rectangular patches where his favourite posters had once been pinned. Downstairs she could hear Andrew and his father laughing in front of the TV. Marion closed the window and straightened the duvet on her son’s bed. She took a deep breath and wiped away a tear. Motherhood hadn’t prepared her for this.

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

Sunday Photo Fiction – Crossing the Channel

120-09-september-6th-2015We were camped near an all-night cafe on the outskirts of town. My mother and uncle have spent the last month bartering for our passage. My father is still back home. He says he will join us later. Mother is always sad, but I tell her not to be.

Some of the others say, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll only send us back. We’ll just try again!’

But they know it can be worse, we all do. Some of the drivers take the money and don’t spare a thought for the cargo. No air, no consideration. They play deaf until safely beyond customs at the other side. Perhaps that way they can convince themselves they really do have nothing but boxes of tomatoes or cherries at their back.

Mother looks tense: she says we are going tonight. There isn’t time to take anything. Not that we brought much with us from home. It’s a long truck, but it better be. There are 30 others waiting when we arrive at the pick-up spot in the early morning light. I’m worried – perhaps we should wait and try another day.

Before I can think any more, my mother’s hand leads me into the dark. The door slams shut behind us.

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

Sunday Photo Fiction – Time to Go

117-08-august-16th-2015Tommy Wilson and Colin McFarlane had been friends for as long as anyone could remember, and probably many a year before that too. From their prams, through to leaving Balmorran High at 15 to become apprentices at  Tait’s Distillery, they were rarely apart. They even found love together, Tommy married Helen McPhee, and Colin became the doting husband of her younger sister Mary. Holidays were always spent as one big family. Their children grew up in and out of each other’s houses. They never needed anybody else.

Mary, passed away two years ago. Cancer had taken her mother and Colin always feared it would take her too. For a while even Tommy couldn’t lift him from the blackness filling his world. But now Tommy has taken ill. The doctors say there’s nothing they can do – but there is something Colin can do: be there for Tommy. Tommy doesn’t want to suffer; doesn’t want to lie in his bed, crying with pain, empty of hope. Colin knows when the time comes he will be there to perform the last true act of friendship he can. He has promised Tommy that, no matter how much it will break his heart

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These words form my entry into this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge.
Not everyone can go to Switzerland, but it doesn’t mean they can’t still die with dignity.

Sunday Photo Fiction – A Cursed Inheritence

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Billy’s father had been the star of the convention circuit. You wanted a trick, then Frank Wizzleton had it in stock. Their stall always drew the biggest crowd; however, even Billy’s father knew why they were really there. Sure he’d sell enough to keep him and his sister in good quality second-hand clothes, but it was the pyramid they’d  come to see.

It had now been over a week since Frank Wizzleton’s last public performance, at Greendale Cemetery. In one hand Billy held a malt, in the other the secret he’d waited his life for.

“….I have no idea how it works, son. It just does” began the letter. “All I can say is you need to keep doing the trick. At least once every 20 days, and NO MORE than three times a month. For the sake of everyone you love don’t ask any questions; don’t look for answers…”

Superstitious old fool, thought Billy, as he placed the letter back into its envelope. On the coffee table the pyramid began to glow, its top slowly turning. Billy swallowed hard on his whisky.

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

Sunday Photo Fiction – The Old Place

81-10-october-12th-2014It was only my second week in accounts. I was the new boy – soon there would be another, and they would be the one taking the orders:

‘Two sugars, No milk.’

‘Three sugars, extra milky.’

‘Black.’

‘Nothing for me, son.’

The stained, wooden tray wobbled as I carefully weaved through the sea of filing cabinets. I spluttered as I placed a cracked Silver Jubilee mug on the edge of Mr Heaton’s desk. A muffled thanks barely penetrated the fog as an ivory pipe rattled against his yellowed teeth.

Mr Williams and Miss Foster laughed and giggled as I approached. He was married, happily they said. She was barely out of school – younger than me. Thinking back, it seemed so innocent; now it’s all so different.

The office closed in 1994 – it was turned into luxury flats within six months. Those of us still working there were moved to a new place in the new industrial estate on the other side of town.

Mr Heaton passed away last summer. His days wrapped in fumes eventually taking their toll. Mr Williams remains happily married – he’s now a grandfather of eight. Miss Foster left after just a few months. Heard she moved to Australia – I wonder if she remembers Mr Williams.

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

Sunday Photo Fiction – A Break in the Weather

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Baking hot winds forever whistle east to west through the arid, lifeless valley floor. The rusting vane on the clock tower steadfastly points south to north. The hands of the clock face move slowly; at times they move backwards – in other moments they stay still, vibrating with angst ridden indecision. Not a single bird ever flies over head. All forms of life seem to avoid the town, those already here never leave.

In the town square the lonely figure of Mr McAfferty stumbles painfully through the swirling dust. From the north the sounds of thunder roar. The red skies suddenly turn a worrisome ash; flashes of lightning streak across the darkening horizon. Mr McAfferty pauses to remove his hat and spectacles as heavy droplets of rain sink from sundered heavens. Steaming water runs through his once thick black locks; a wizened tongue reaching out to taste the moistened air. A subtle smile cracks his wrinkled face.

The old fool finally goes on his way, an extra skip in his occasionally arthritic gate. Ned McAfferty swore the autumn rains made you younger. Some still say he is mad,  maybe he is; however, after 173 years people have started to believe him.

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These words form my entry into this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge. Must confess I sat down and wrote this off the top of my head with no idea of the story, other than the wind vane pointing the wrong way. This may explain why it’s a bit weird!

Sunday Photo Fiction – The Unseen Enemy

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The watchtower on the edge of the plains was the planet’s first line of defence. On this one granite column, on this one man, everything else depended; everyone else depended.

‘Tower this is Defence Control. Tower, come in. Report please, over,’ the radio crackled.

In amongst the scattered maps, charts and bleeping radar equipment lay the warm, still body of Officer Davis. An increasingly strained message was eventually answered.

‘Defence Control. This is the Tower reporting in, over.’

‘At last. Davis, there are reports of movement in the inner systems. Have you seen or heard anything? Over.’

‘No, Defence Control. Nothing to report from the tower. Everything is calm. All is quiet out here. Over.’

‘Ok. However, we’re moving to level four. Keep us informed, Davis. We’re relying on you. Over.’

‘I won’t let you down. Officer Davis, over and out.’

With the voice now mastered the remaining physical transformation slowly filtered through his body. Where once there was a skin of mottled, pale blue the bleached, white covering that was once part of Officer Davis replaced it.

Today was only the start. One soldier in place. There would be more, and soon. They wouldn’t see it coming; they’d never suspect.

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

Alastair’s Photo Fiction – Trapped

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I’d only left him for a moment. When I returned he was gone, all I heard were his screams. For a second I couldn’t see where the heart piercing cries were coming from, until I looked up. There he was: pinned high against the wall of the mansion. With the rain continuing to thrash down, overhead the thunder cracks became steadily louder as I stood watching, helpless.

He tried so hard to break free – to escape what horrors the mansion had planned. Suddenly his neck jolted back, the screams stopped and a trickle of blood began to flow from his mouth. Now still, his arms and legs shrunk back towards his body. The skin on his face greyed and froze. Inch by inch, limb by limb his whole body turned to stone. Evil and fear locked in.

I ran.

The next morning they asked me what happened to him. I said I hadn’t seen him that day. They never did find his body. Of course they didn’t.

Every year I go back. There is a bench under the spot where it happened. Looking up I sometimes think I hear a whispered voice as a tear of flaked granite floats to the ground.

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These words form my entry into this week’s Photo Fiction challenge on Alastair’s WordPress site. The picture is copyright of http://kattermonran.com/.

Alastair’s Photo Fiction – Family Ties

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Tom was back again at Glen Morich Manor, the ancient family seat of the once feared Clan Macpherson. Tom had always known about his family’s shameful part in the Macphersons downfall – blood lines tied him directly to the man who triggered their gory demise.

All this fool had to do was let them know when the MacDonalds breached the horizon. Give a signal. A sign. Instead as he slumped into a drunken stupor the Macphersons were ransacked; the family all killed, their mutilated bodies then paraded through the village.

Walking into the main hall again there came the usual slow creep of guilt.  He knew he was being watched. The eyes on the painting. The face on the plaque above the fire. Even the bronze bust of Lord Macpherson seemed to be turned towards him with a look of icy cold contempt.

He bolted.

The only exit was flanked by a pair of Macpherson battle suits. The suit on the left suddenly stepped in front of Tom. He froze. Slowly a sword rose. The blade glinting. Higher and higher. Then it fell.

Tom woke with a start. The nightmare over for now. However, he knew the manor would be awaiting his return soon.

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These words form my entry into this week’s Photo Fiction challenge on Alastair’s WordPress site. The picture is copyright of http://kattermonran.com/.